A Friend in Need

Book 1-1: A Mysterious Message
An outsider's view on the start of things

A bird flew in through the north window and exploded. There was a dull “whumph” and a cloud of dark feathers that drifted and spun before settling to the floor. The man set down his book and rose from his chair to survey the aftermath. A final shred of black down fell into place. The man read the message spelled out in black feathers across the floor of the room.

My little spiders tell me that young Dellagato means to proceed with his plan. He will be a greater threat than his father, to be certain. Yesterday, Dellagato sent his man Sildar Highwinter to accompany the dwarf, Raynor Hammerdeep, back to Three Stones. Hammerdeep carries the map that Dellagato gave him – the one that supposedly leads to the Thundering Cavern and the Spellforge. Dellagato means to find it and revive it, as part of a greater plan to restore the prestige of Moorguard Mercantile.

Dellagato shared this plan with a group of his friends that he means to recruit to his cause. They are all fools and fops like him, minor noble sons playing at being knights or wizards or holy men. This morning, he sent the four of them, along with his valet, to follow Highwinter and Hammerdeep to Three Stones. They are transporting a wagon load of mining supplies to assist Hammerdeep in uncovering the Spellforge. According to what my spider says of Dellagato’s scheme, they will secure the Spellforge and partner with the Ironeaters of Mt. Illefarn to operate it.

I have already woven the necessary webs to snare the map to the Spellforge and turn these events in your favor, my lord. Queen Grolla has agents, crude as they are, that already watch the Triboar Trail. I have given her descriptions of our prey and instructions to capture Hammerdeep and the map and deliver them to me. She required less compensation than I would have expected – I always forget how unimaginative the Cragmaws can be. They are always after captives to use for food and sport, so I gave them leave to take Highwinter and Dellagato’s friends for their amusement, and promised gold and weapons if they deliver the dwarf and map unscathed.

I will contact you when the prize is captured. The Spellforge will serve your purposes well, and you can use it to crush the last vestiges of the Dellagatos at your whim.

Your Faithful Servant, – XS

The man tugged his earlobe and smiled. He returned to his chair and his book, crushing the black feathers beneath his fine shoes. The message slowly disintegrated, and was borne away on the breeze blowing through the north window. It smelled of rain.

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Book 1-2: Sending Stones
Sildar's alert to Trey that things went wrong

From Sildar to Trey:
Sire. Raynor and I captured by goblins. Raynor and Map taken to Cragmaw Castle – unknown location. Ryuichi and companions rescued me. Hurt but OK.

From Trey to Sildar:
Where are you now? You are OK? What about my friends? Any hint of Raynor’s location?

From Sildar to Trey:
In Three Stones. Situation here bad – bandits in charge. Iarno missing. Ryuichi, Lanster, Kheth, Unther, and Aldan OK. Wilfire badly injured, but alive. More later.

From Sildar to Trey:
Ambush planned by Silver Spider – who is that? Your friends found note on Cragmaw goblins. Knew we were coming. Be wary. Still no Iarno.

From Trey to Sildar:
Silver Spider is bad news. Very dangerous agent for hire. Be careful. You must find Raynor. You can trust my friends.

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Book 1-3: A letter from Iarno
Found amongst the papers on the Glass Staff's desk...

My gracious and kind Lord Spider,

First, I wish to thank you again for sending Mosk and his companions. Though we don’t need the bugbears to maintain order in Three Stones, they’ve been useful for transporting repackaged goods and carrying supplies to and from Cragmaw Castle. I’ve found suitable accommodations for them, and they’ve made themselves at home. They have even learned their way around the nothic, and have taken to calling it “Blinky”, as my men do. Ah, to be a simple soul, with a mind unfettered by the thoughts and worries that plague us greater men!

I also wish to convey that the ones you warned us of arrived in Three Stones two days ago, bearing a wagonload of mining gear. They seem as you described, foolish fops from Leilon playing at being warriors and wizards, and doing poorly at it, from the look of things. There were seven all told, six men and a strangely garbed half-elf. One of the men was near death, palid and barely breathing, and was given to the care of Garaele, the priest of Tymora. The rest were dirty, bruised, and bandaged. Seems they had a run-in with some of Queen Grolla’s subjects on the road. Two of my men overhead the story being retold in the taproom. Apparently they fought their way through and killed some goblins in the process. I suppose they may have some skill, or at least a measure of luck. Not that killing goblins is such a feat. It’s such unfortunate business, when one pretends to be something one is not and gets exposed as incompetent…

I’ve set some men to watch these newcomers and take measure of their goals and aims. My Bloodcoats know how to ask questions and how to get the right answers, and the townsfolk know better than to cross us. For now, the men from Leilon seem content to rest and recuperate. The half-elf hired himself out to scribe for the Miner’s Exchange, and the warrior spent the day lounging about the inn. The other four have been more disruptive, but I have already sorted that out. Two rode out early in the day and returned at sundown, looking travel-worn. Perhaps they seek the dwarf you wrote of, and hope to find him at Cragmaw Castle? Another was asking about after me, claiming to be an old companion from the Lord’s Alliance. If he’s who I think he is, he could become quite the nuisance, if allowed to continue his inquiries. The last, a dandy who fancies himself a marksman, actually had the gall to interrupt a bit of fun that two of my men were having with a local barmaid.

Considering this activity, and our desire to continue our current course without disruption, I sent some of my men to permanently resolve the problem last night. My men are reliable and their task was simple, so I am confident that they dealt with the matter. I will get confirmation after breakfast this morning. This should also help quell any doubts the townsfolk have about who is really in charge, and allow us to continue “redistributing” goods in the manner which has been so profitable to us all.

I thank you for the confidence you have shown in my men and I. We continue to be your humble and ever-faithful servants.

Respectfully,

Iarno Albreck of the Glass Staff

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Book 1-4: Toblen's Toast
Delivered the evening after the defeat of the Bloodcoats

My friends and neighbors, you know what kind of man I am. You know I don’t use fancy words or care much about fancy clothes. I’m a plain kinda fellow, and my inn here is a plain kinda inn. As long as we got good beer to serve, a hearth to keep us warm, and the fixins for a decent stew, then as far as I’m concerned, things here are just about perfect.

Problem is, we had those things and we were a long way away from perfect. Those red-cloaked ruffians had us all livin’ scared every day, like we were chickens livin’ in a fox den. Always felt like I was just countin’ the days ‘til I said the wrong thing or did the wrong thing or looked at one of ’em in the wrong way, and then I’d end up just like poor old Thel, stabbed dead in the street with my wife and kid lookin’ on. So I kept my head down and said life was good ‘cause I had good beer and a warm hearth and some stew. That’s what we all did, ’cause we were scared.

Tonight, I wanna raise a glass to a group of men who didn’t give in to that fear. These strangers – Lanster, Unther, Kheth, Aldan, and Ryu – they didn’t know us and had no reason to care about what was happenin’ here in Three Stones. But they saw that those Bloodcoats were the wrong kinda people, evil kinda people, and they said ‘No’ to that. When they stood up for our dear Elsa, and the Bloodcoats came after ‘em, I was still lettin’ my fear overcome my reason. I was gonna throw those boys out on the street because I didn’t want the trouble! I sure am glad they’re braver men than me…

To hear the tale, you’d think it was one of the stories Tril tells our little Pip when the fire burns down low. Five brave souls march into a dark cave in the forest, outwit the guardian monster, cut down goblins and bugbears and brigands, and capture the evil wizard Glass Staff in his lair. If they hadn’t marched the Glass Staff through the square in chains, I probably still wouldn’t believe it! But they did. And all of a sudden, knowing that the Bloodcoats are well and truly gone from our town, I feel like the sun just broke through the clouds for the first time.

So raise your cups, my friends and neighbors! Here’s to the boys from Leilon! We salute your bravery and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for reminding us that the perfect life is one where we live free from fear!

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Book 1-5: Sending Stones (the Enemy)
The Silver Spider receives a message from Cragmaw Castle

From Vyerith to the Silver Spider:
Master, I came for the dwarf. Grolla wants to know why they haven’t gotten shipments lately. She is demanding weapons before she will release him.

From the Silver Spider to Vyerith:
Give her gold and Orville’s brandy. Tell her if she drinks it she can tame the owlbear she captured. Once she’s dead, work with Bloodsword.

From Vyerith to the Silver Spider:
Castle is under attack! Sounds like Dellagato’s friends. Grolla went to fight. I’m taking the dwarf. Don’t want those fools to learn what he knows.

From the Silver Spider to Vyerith:
Move quickly. Use Glass Staff guise if you are followed, and tell anyone who asks that you are working for Dellagato. Bring dwarf to me.

From Vyerith to the Silver Spider:
Used bugbear guise to escape castle, but will switch to Glass Staff as you suggest. I hear horns. Cragmaws are summoning aid. I must hide.

From the Silver Spider to Vyerith:
Keep me informed. I have confirmed the location of the cavern. Vhalak and I are headed there now. Bring Hammerdeep there as soon as possible.

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Book 1-6: Another Mysterious Message
A report on the events inside the Thundering Cavern

Rain pattered on the slate roof. The man paced the room, oblivious to the stains his muddy shoes left on the exquisite Calishite rug. Every few minutes he would alter his path and tread over to stare at the leather-bound journal that lay open on his desk. The page remained blank. The man resumed his pacing. An hour passed, and the temple bells rang highsun. The man buttoned up his doublet and was preparing to leave, when he saw a small black spider scramble from a crack in the floorboards. It crawled up onto the desk and made its way toward the book. Stepping out on to the blank page, it began furiously spinning letters made of black webbing. They soon stretched across the parchment.

I have ill news to report – Dellagato has seized control of the Spellforge. His lackeys are more resourceful and more treacherous than I anticipated.

I had done all that I promised. I obtained the map from the dwarf Hammerdeep, located the Thundering Cavern, and fought my way to the Spellforge itself. I even convinced Dellagato’s men to help me, striking a bargain that appealed to their better senses. Together, we defeated the relic’s guardians and destroyed the vengeful wraith Mormesk, who sought to bend the Spellforge to his own evil ends. Alas, once I had dismissed the wards and reawakened the relic’s long-dormant power, Dellagato’s men broke their oaths and attacked. I barely escaped, and have heard not from any of my companions, save one. Based on the scenes of carnage he described, I can only imagine that Dellagato’s thugs slew all of the others.

Nevertheless, you should not lose heart. You knew my reputation when you hired me, and you know that I always see my client’s wishes fulfilled. Having experienced firsthand the deviousness and dishonor of Dellagato’s lackeys, I am more motivated than ever to make your dreams a reality. I am already weaving a plan that will both ruin Dellagato and grant you the Spellforge in one swift stroke. Be patient and trust in me, my lord. You will see your hated enemy writhe and suffer soon enough.

Your Faithful Servant,

XS

The spider scurried away once the message was complete. The man did not notice. He frowned as he read the words, then turned on his heel and strode from the room.

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