The adventurers traveled away from Cloudmouth on their stolen mounts towards Chepstow, where they planned to search for the Fanjakana garrison they were heading for with the caravan. Jiantou’s thoughts were fixated on the lamp and the mystery as to why it was in his father’s possession all those years ago. S was lost in his own thoughts, pondering the message he’d received. Rolen was still frustrated with the lack of treasure discovered on his journey thus far.
As they neared Chepstow, their journey slowed due to large crowds on the roads. They were unaware that the Festival of Tem-Et-Nu was underway in Chepstow. After traveling for several days with various groups, including Tsy Mitombina Bazaar, a travel-weary circus with rough looking performers and large animals, the adventures arrived a large queue leading into Chepstow through a security checkpoint. Along the city wall and guarding the gate were soldiers dressed in Fanjakana armor, distinct with it’s polished silver and rich blue sashes.
As the group neared the gates they were approached by a Fanjakana captain who introduced herself as Yuldra. She was a striking woman with complete heterochromia, one iris was blue while the other was green. On her shoulder was an aged green faerie dragon. When the group asked to speak with a Fanjakana commander, informing Yuldra that they’d been a part of the caravan that had been hijacked several weeks before, she was in disbelief. Rolen and Jiantou showed their Falconier’s badges, but they meant nothing to Yuldra. However, after a short interrogation Yuldra lead Rolen, S, and Jiantou through the crowded streets towards the Garrison on the south bank of the Riandrano River.
Once they reached the colonel’s outpost, a large stone and wood mansion within the fortified garrison, Yuldra leads them up to the top floor to the colonel’s office. She stopped them at the door and informed them that the colonel is new to his job and that the only reason she brought them to him was that he is the only known survivor of the Tahotra raid on the caravan the adventurers claimed to be a part of. With that, she knocked on the door and opened it to a sparsely decorated room. A large desk, a table, and a few chairs were the only furniture.
Sitting behind the desk was Sebastian, the sergeant in charge of leading the caravan that set out from Cleeve and whom quickly fell after leading a failed charge against the raiding Tahotra. A new scar on his face mirrored a faded one and he wore a large eyepatch emblazoned with the Fanjakana crest. Sitting across from Sebastian was a finely dressed half-elf whom was introduced as Belegorn, the spymaster of the Fanjakana Empire.
As Rolen entered the room Sebastian immediately recognized him from the caravan and rose, exposing a wooden peg from below the knee on his left leg. He’d been exuberant when they’d originally met him and he seemed even more so now as he heartily greeted the group. Sharing the story of his miraculous resurrection at the hand of a wandering druid and his excruciating journey, crawling from the site of the raid to Chepstow where he was healed and made Colonel after the departure of the previous, incompetent colonel.
The group recounted their adventures since the raid, skipping over their meeting with Hwindock. Colonel Sebastian was completely taken with the tale and at the end congratulated the three on a job well done. Belegorn was less impressed, which infuriated Jiantou. Quickly taking his appearance, Jiantou surprised Belegorn with a deft move, tripping him and drawing his crossbow. Belegorn, wise of when to pick a fight, submitted and tried to hide his admiration of how sly the demonstration proved to be.
By this time, Colonel Sebastian was convinced that the Falconier order of the Fanjakan Empire should be continued. The group learned that from the raids, all the known Falconiers were dead or missing. The Emperor had desired the Falconiers to be under the supervision of Belegorn and the special operations unit of the Fanjakana army. With the return of Rolen and Jiantou, there was still hope for the group. Sebastian extended the offer to S, whom accepted the position, thus joining the Falconiers order.
Colonel Sebastian requested that the Falconiers assist in the investigation of a double-murder that took place in Chepstow the evening before. With the festival happening, nearly all the Fanjakana guards were occupied with crowd control. There was also indications that the murder had been conducted by the Mandrata. In addition to the brutal murder itself, there was a bust of Emperor Pholant found at the scene which Sebastian showed to the Falconiers. When he removed the black cloth that covered it, the bust spoke in a raspy voice, “Mandrata Rises.” Repeating the phrase until covered with the cloth again.
The Falconiers agreed to investigate and Belegorn was instructed to escort them to the special ops armory in the garrison. As they left, Sebastian extended an invitation to watch the festival fireworks from the colonel’s barge, “the best seat,” he promised. Thanking him, the Falconiers went to the armory and were loaned a variety of useful magical items. They learned that for years the Fanjakana had kept detailed lists of all the magical gear in their garrisons, but due to thefts by Mandrata, they’ve become very secretive about what they log and loan out. Finally, each member of the Falconiers received a set of credentials, signed by the Emperor and by Belegorn, granting them full authority to act on behalf of the Fanjakana Empire in service as Falconiers.
Before they left the armory, Belegorn entrusted the knowledge that the heir apparent to the Mandrata, Eric Ali, had arranged a secret meeting to negotiate a truce with the Fanjakana. The Emperor, wishing to see the plague of the Tahotra raids stop, had granted Belegorn the authority to broker a deal for a large section of Saikinosy to be given to Mandrata to form their own state. The hope was that this would ensure the support of Eric amongst the other Mandrata leaders and prevent Ruby Reid from taking control of the Mandrata. The meeting was set to take palace after the festival. Belegorn was apprehensive and confused, however, as the two men who had been murdered at the docks the previous day were his Mondrata spies. It was they who had infiltrated Mondrata and relayed secret messages to Eric Ali leading up to this critical meeting.
Expecting to spend a few days in Chepstow, the Falconers made their way to the Fat Chalice, a seedy inn that had one available room and stables for the group’s horses. After ordering some of the finest Chepstow Ale and renowned fish tacos, Rolen noticed a man drinking in the inn with a sword hanging on his side that matched the style of the Tahotra mercenaries that raided the caravan. Alerting the others, the Falconiers questioned the barmaid and discovered where the man was staying in the tavern. S remained in the hall while Rolen and Jiantou went to his room to investigate.
Quietly they stole into the room and discovered a sealskin backpack containing little more than a ritual scroll of water-breathing, Standing water on the floor near the window drew their attention out to the canal that ran behind the inn. It seemed to them that someone very wet had climbed into the room. The location of the window and some rickety ladders on the exterior of the building provided a very secluded way of getting in and out of the room.
Convinced that they should now investigate the scene of the murder the adventurers headed toward the docks. On the way, Jiantou could not resist the urge to case Belegorn’s room in The Swan, an aristocratic hotel near the Fat Chalice. Shifting his appearance to that of Belegorn, Jiantou convinced the concierge to let him into the room, perhaps the best in the entire hotel, and also to fetch a freshly pressed suit, which happened to be Belegorn’s finest. A bit of snooping confirmed Belegorn’s credentials, and Jiantou left to catch up with S and Rolen on their way to the docks.
Yuldra led the Falconiers to the sight where the bodies were discovered. She knew very little of what additional discoveries had been made which left the party to search on their own. Despite recent rains washing away most of the signs of the murder, Jiantou was able to track bloodstains back to the edge of the water. Diving under he discovered another sealskin backpack, identical to the one they discovered in the Fat Chalice. Inside the pack they discovered another scroll, this one for the ritual of Magic Mouth. Immediately their thoughts turned to the talking bust they’d been shown in Colonel Sebastian’s office.
Further investigations turned up nothing else and the Falconiers instructed Yuldra to fetch Belegorn and meet them at the Fat Chalice. Rolen returned to the inn immediately and began conjuring his familiar. S and Jiantou had personal business they wished to attend to. S headed towards the multi-temple, where he’d been told a priest of Helm may be found, and Jiantou went to the Tem-Et-Nu temple library.
When Jiantou arrived at the library he was allowed to visit the archives. He was shown the collection of books and artifacts by an old halfling named Kishi, who made sure to remind Jiantou to not touch any of the special collection. Many of the materials were indecipherable, written in what seemed to be an ancient dwarven script with illustrations of strange and forbidding landscapes. Scribbled in the margins were notes made in common that spoke of an ancient door between the planes of existence and a powerful presence that had aided its inventor in creating it. One of the artifacts in the collection was labeled as a piece of this ancient door and, despite Kishi’s warnings, Jiantou touched the shard of concrete. At that moment, Jiantou fell into a daze for several minutes. When he awoke, he felt as if something had probed deep into his mind and awoken a piece of him he didn’t know existed. Stumbling up from the artifacts and scrolls, Jiantou returned to the streets and headed toward the Fat Chalice.
After departing the rest of the group, S headed toward the multi-temple. On the way the pestering calls of the carnival barker pushed S into anger. Looking to stop the annoyance, he caused the fire juggler’s lit torches to explode and inadvertently caused, what he thought was, a small fire. The carnival members all rushed to put out the blaze while S continued to the multi-temple.
The multi-temple was an oval building with flags of the various gods of the realm hung from the awning. As S walked around he could not see anyone who appeared to be a priest of any god, let alone Helm. As he circled the building he was approached by a seedy looking man who claimed to be a priest. S demanded to speak to a servant of Helm, but the man, who called himself Mr. Coward, informed S that there was no priest of Helm here. Mr. Coward explained that he could perform prayers on behalf of Helm or any other god, and he flipped through a small box containing various tracts to each god. Frustrated at this news and still angry about the carnival, S conceded and pushed the man into one of the prayer rooms.
Mr. Coward put on a small headband emblazoned with Helm’s icon and fetched a tract from his box. He quickly muttered a quick prayer to Helm, finishing by asking for two silver coins as payment. As soon as Mr. Coward finished the prayer a bright light filled the room, causing Mr. Coward and S to cover their eyes. When the light faded a tall and frightening, angelic figure stood in front of them. He spoke only to S, stating he was called Alistair and that he was a messenger of Helm. Alistair told S that Helm was calling to him and that he should seek him. His ominous message was that the peace S sought would be forged in war. Helm was granted three questions. The answers solidified in S’s mind that he must track down the black claw mages to find the fiend which pulled at his mind to draw him here. Alistair gave S an amulet of Helm which would allow S to call on him in times of need and then departed. S exited the prayer room, passing Mr. Coward who was living up to his namesake, shrunken in the corner.
S met Belegorn and Yuldra as he arrived at the Fat Chalice. As he entered he told them to wait until they heard a scream, leaving them looking at each other puzzled. The man they’d come to believe as a member of Tahotra was still drinking in the hall. S approached the table and, without warning, unsheathed his dagger and drove it through the man’s hand into the table. At the sound of his screaming the hall went silent; the only noise was that of Belegorn and Yuldra rushing through the door.
The man refused to cooperate with the investigation and S called for Rolen’s assistance. Rolen, once again proving himself to be excellent at unveiling the inner thoughts of another, questioned the man and discovered that he was a member of Tahotra and that Ruby Reid was responsible for the mission to murder the men, whom he didn’t know were spies. Further questioning revealed that there was another member of Tahotra in Chepstow, but he did not know his whereabouts. The only useful information they received was that the other mercenary was quite disfigured and had only one ear.
Taking the mercenary into custody, the Falconiers, Yuldra, and Belegorn placed him upon one of their horses and paraded him through the town, hoping to draw the attention of his accomplice. Despite their intentions, they were unable to find the other member of Tahotra. They were, however, subjected to the aftermaths of the circus fire caused by S’s frustration. A peryton and two mammoths had escaped their shackles and were causing carnage to the festival attendees. A well-timed casting of a net and some creative mental manipulation allowed for the Falconiers to quickly subdue the threat, not without the loss of innocent life. Despite the somber mood, Tristan, a priestess of Tem-Et-Nu, declared that the festival must go on.
Once they arrived at the garrison, the group imprisoned the Tahotra mercenary and informed Colonel Sebastian of what they’d discovered so far. Torn between his desire to track down the other Tahotra and to watch the fireworks of the festival, Sebastian asked that the group keep watch while he took his place on the barge. S stood watch near the navy dock, Rolen went to the other side of the river and used his owl familiar to search the crowds for the one-eared man, and Jiantou climbed to a higher vantage point on the garrison wall.
The fireworks were spectacular, as always, and there were several loud cheers from the festival goers. One after another, Tristian set off the rockets which filled Chepstow with shimmering lights, smoke, and load noises. As she neared the end of the presentation there was a massive explosion from the colonel’s outpost. The noise drowned out the sound of the fireworks and the crowd while a large fireball rose into the air, eventually fading away into the black smoke.
Jiantou quickly raced across the garrison wall reaching the colonel’s outpost before most of the other Fanjakana guards. He discovered a grappling hook and rope slung over the exterior walls. S stood guard near the dock, awaiting Sebastian’s return to shore. They were rushing towards the outpost when S saw Rolen leaping from boat to boat to cross the river. He was unable to make it across before the Fanjakana river patrol forced the boats away. Flashing his Falconiers credentials, Rolen commanded the boat to dock and he joined S. They reached the outpost just in time to see Sebastian rushing into the fire to search the rubble for survivors.
Seeing the carnage and remembering that his familiar had seen some strange cloaked figures over Graham Fairmount’s estate, the site of the planned meeting between Belegorn and Eric Ali. Rolen suggested they investigate. Sending his familiar to find Jiantou, the two other Falconiers made their way through the crowd to edge of the city where the Fairmount estates sat. Jiantou joined them shortly after they arrived and informed them that Belegorn had died in the explosion.
The Falconiers, assuming that the Tahotra had learned of the negotiations between Eric Ali and the Fanjakana, decided to try and salvage the meeting without brokering the deal. Jiantou used the suit of Belegorn’s he had received from the concierge and shifted into his appearance. He knocked on the estate’s door and Graham Fairmount greeted him and took him to the barn, where Eric was waiting.
Rolen sent his owl familiar into the barn through the chimney to observe the meeting. Despite failing to say the password, Jiantou was able to persuade his way into the meeting, relying on the confusion as a result of the explosion to justify his appearance and not following the agreed upon meeting procedure. Eric was visibly disturbed and suspicious of Jiantou, but continued the discussion. However, his frustration continued to rise as it became clear he would not receive the expected granting of land. The only thing that seemed to please him was the idea that he might be able to meet the men that Ruby Reid was hunting, the ones who burnt down his camp. The ones who now had a price on their head and the Tahotra hunting them down.
Eric Ali abruptly stopped the meeting saying that he would make it worth it if Belegorn could convince the men Ruby was hunting to go to the last dock to the east of Chepstow and say to the boatman, “Destination Turbury.” With that Jiantou, disguised as Belegorn, was escorted out of the barn.