After the battle, Malbert found a sack of coins in the the body of one of the hulking zombies covered in bodily fluids. Cleaning one bag of coins with puddle water later all of them went into the cave. It was a cold drafty cavern with white lichen growing on the walls. The cave was lit by torchlight. In the square shaped room fours life-like statues of human soldiers carrying javelins sat in each corner. On the wall opposite of the adventurers was a statue of a beautiful Elven maiden holding a hourglass filled with black sand. Next to her was a shadows of a bird with assorted pieces clinging to the wall like magnets, but they looked movable.
The tangram was simple enough to solve. As the last piece was set into place a stone slab started to rise. Voices drifted to the ears of the party. Arktor recognized one of the speakers using Giant.
“I swear to Kord when I get out of here I will shove that rock so far up your ass…” The Giant speaker roared.
“Shut up wench!” Another voice snapped back in Common.
When the rock slab finally fully retracted a fully furnished room came into view complete with statue of Vecna in the back. A cage sat in the back where a half-orc woman and several children were imprisoned in. The black robed priest dropped his stone and stared at the intruders, his eyes wide with surprise. Finally he snapped out of his stupor.
“Destroy them!” He roared.
Arktor yelled toward the cage, “Don’t worry we’re here to help you!”
Several undead leaped up from the other corners of the room ready to carry out their master’s command. Acolytes armed with scythes joined into the fray. Battle wights in heavy plate mail armor swung their blades. Each time the weapons slashed Zeetryder’s flesh he felt as if some of his life essence had left him. Simple melee attacks would not bring down the wights so easily so they were Antoinette’s main focus. Zeetryder turned his own attention to the undead spellcasters, an enigma of Vecna. Arktor decided that the death priest was his propriety.
In the cage the half-orc woman watched as the adventurers cut their opponents one by one until the scythe wielding acolytes were left standing. Fearful of his life one of them dropped his weapon and sprinted for the cave entrance. Arktor followed closely behind until through the darkness he saw a figure reach out for the escapee’s robe. The acolyte found himself staring into the eyes of a very angry woman.
Arktor rushed back to report his finding to his comrades. He came back to find them releasing the half-orc woman who introduced herself as Ownka. She told them she was captured by the undead a few days prior. The adventurers explained they had ran into her husband earlier. Ownka was relieved that he didn’t die nor kill her rescuers.
They all walked out together, voices from outside could be heard drifting into the cavern. Antoinette recognized the voice to be speaking in Elven saying, “I’ve been very patient with you…”
Not knowing what to expect they armed themselves and stepped outside the cave. Three figures could be seen, one of them was the acolyte that was chased out the other two were in gray robes one about human height the other was about thee and half feet tall. The taller own stepped forwarded and took off her hood.
“I followed you here,” Lek revealed, “But I see you told care of things.”
“Vecna will have your souls!” The acolyte screamed.
Lek rolled her eyes, went back over, and backhanded the worm, “Shut up, I’ll deal with you in a minute.”
The smaller figure took off her hood, revealing Pip, “Do not speak to Master Nohk in that manner.”
“Anyways,” The orphanage matron continued, “We should go back to the orphanage. It’s not safe to speak out in the open like this. I’ll explain everything.”
After a short walk, Pip erasing the memories of guards, and tip toeing through the abbey they all gather in Lek’s very impressive library. Books lined both floors though slightly dusty.
“I spoke…” Lek began.
“Intimidated,” Pip interjected.
Lek sighed, “Fine, I intimidated Holly to tell me what happened. I think you were sent to fine me and not her. Redgar was wrong with his information, which I would normally want to happen. I am a servant of Melora. I am what you call a saint.”
Arktor nodded in approval when she spoke Melora name. The other adventurers couldn’t quite believe that a person, who spoke to a little ordinary bird was the holy person they were looking for but she seemed sincere.
“I have long retired. The last thing I need is people asking me to do miracles everyday. Now I just take care of children until my goddess needs me again,” Lek explained, “But I digress let me see the stone.”
Antoinette handed the stone over. Pip and Lek studied it with great interested. Lek whispered a few things in Elven to which Pip nodded.
“The stone is a mithril alloy with adamantite and another unidentified metal, but I do believe this is of drow creation,” Lek placed the stone on her desk, “The item is of divine nature, as you know however drow items loss potency in sunlight. What is less common knowledge is the sae could be said if the drow item is near items of divine nature. The third metal is definitely an Everdark metal used as sort of a shield or buffer to block out the items divine energy until the magic item itself can be neutralized.”
Lek eyed the party, “It will take me a few days to identify this…”
At this the party audibly groaned since Holly said the same thing. Lek smiled, “I will need help.”
She pointed to Zeetryder and Antoinette, “You two had traning in the religious arts so you’ll be of some use, the dwarf more so for his knowledge of minerals. Now someone will have to run the orphanage for me while Pip and I are in here.”
Lek grinned evilly as she looked over to the dwarf fighter and the Goliath barbarian, “You two will do it!”
Malbert glared at the morning sun, “How did I get roped into this?”
A soft knock interrupted his thoughts and from behind the door was a small girl, “Hi Mista, Dwarf, will you play with me?”
“Uhhh,” The children were about to wake up and Axe had asked him to go to the kitchen, “Sorry kid I…”
The litte girl began to sniffle, Malbert sighed and place his enormous helmet on her, “You can play with that in the mean time.”
“Yay!” She sprinted down the hall and crashed into the wall and started wailing.
“For Moradin’s sake…” He trudged to the child and lift the helmet up, “Be more careful okay?”
She looked up at him in wonder and hugged him. “This is going to be a long day,” The dwarf sighed.
“Tommy won’t brush his teeth!” A little boy informed Arktor, “We can’t get him out from under the bed.”
Arktor shook his head and went into the children bedroom. “Which bed?”
Tommy pointed to the one farthest from them, “That one.”
The warrior nodded and stalked over to the bed, with is huge hand he fished under the bed until he felt a head. He then proceeded to grab the child’s head and pulled him out.
The child looked at the Goliath wide eyed, “Brush your teeth,” Arktor glared and simply said.
He nodded slowly and ran to the bathroom when his feet finally touched the ground.
“Start with those books other there on mineral,” Lek directed and turned to Antoinette, “The books over there detail magic divine items.”
“What about me Master?” Pip asked.
“Cast spells on the stone, detail reactions of each,” Lek said back, “I’ll be looking at some scrolls for information.”
“Metalsmithers Guide to the Astral Sea by Quarion Utilthl,” Zeetryder said aloud, “Maybe something on Everdark…So tired…”
“Using Mundane Items for Vengeance by Brook Wer,” Antoinette began through the tome, “The Fork of Truth…it makes you angry…okay…Where in Pondera did she get these books?”
“Uh mister barbarian?”
“Hm?” Arktor glanced at the little boy tugging at his clothes, “Susie climbed up the tree…now we don’t see her…”
He looked over at the tree in question. The massive willow tree climbed up about thirty feet and its branches hung over the wall surrounding the orphanage. Hoping for the best Arktor made his way up the tree trying his best not to fall.
On the top of the tree clung a little brown haired girl looking quite scared. Susie looked down at the ground far below her and whimpered. A rustling noise almost caused her to topple.
“Are you okay?” Arktor asked finally reaching the top relieved that she was still there.
“Okay…let’s get you down…” He scooped her up with one arm and placed her on his back, “Hold on okay?”
Malbert had dozed off in another part of the courtyard. His nap was momentarily disturbed by Donna tugging on his arm.
“Can’t you bother Arktor?” The drowsy dwarf asked.
“He’s busy,” At that moment Arktor came charging across the courtyard with a laughing little girl on his back.
“Great…so what’s going on?”
“Billy went into the basement even though Auntie Lek said never to go in there. He said something about cool armor he saw her take down there once,” Donna explained.
“Fine I’ll go fine the little rascal,” Malbert grumbled as he walked towards the basement door.
The basement was dusty and smelled of mildew. Large white or once white sheet covered pieces of furniture and other large objects. Malbert walked through the rows and rows of antiques until he found a large suit of plate armor. He gave the once over and then peaked inside.
“Oh hi mista dwarf!” A little boy said cheerful looking up at him.
“Zeetryder?” Lek called from behind a stack of books.
“What?” The paladin ground out, the old woman was really starting to get on his nerves…making him sleep deprived and all.
“Can you do to Dwila’s blacksmith and get me a few things?”
“Fine,” He said, anything to get away from her.
One trip to the blacksmith later, Lek was using the new tools that Zeetryder had acquired but they seemed like they didn’t provide the force she needed.
“Oi Zeetryder, I need you to hit this stone with your weapon.”
“Oh alright,” The paladin reluctantly took out his mordenkard.
“I’ll stand over here,” Lek inched away from the stone and went behind a bookshelf, “Swing whenever.”
He rolled his eyes and swung his weapon down. A bright light filled the room and a huge force knock the dwarf off his feet.
“Good now do it again!” Lek called from behind the bookcase.
“I hate her,” He mumbled and raised his weapon once again bringing the flat end upon the stone.
A resounding crack filled the library, but the dwarf braced himself not allowing the energy to knock him down again. When the light died down Lek left the safety of her bookcase and inspected the item. She froze…
“…I hate my life…”
Lek had summoned all the adventurers into the room. She lifted up the item which was a small talon on a thin silver chain.
She explained, “I know exactly what this it. It is a God Relic called Melora’s Talon. Relics are kind of like artifacts, but there are a few differences. Relics carry much more power than an artifact and have serious after affects. I have used Melora’s Talon once, using it enables the person to have immense power channeling it makes spells a hundred times stronger, but the after affects are too dangerous. Relics are linked to a certain god. You can only use one to its full potential if you have deep ties with that god. The side affect after using the talon for a while was that Lek’s mind went into madness, I became more animal than human. It took all of my friends to knock my unconscious and place the collar on to bring me back.”
She stayed quiet for a moment, “I don’t know how this ended up near Gen. Who were you supposed to give this to?”
“Naivara Riel,” Antoinette answered.
“There is no way she can get this item. She is the worst of the Thundrom archmages! She believes that the Fey races are superior,” Lek growled.
“Well aren’t they?” Antionette asked.
At that moment several of her comrades glared at her. Lek ignored her comment, “She believes what the Eladrin king believes, that the non Fey races and the drow should be wiped out. The only reason he doesn’t do so is because he doesn’t have the power to do so.”
“If we can’t bring her the item, then how are we going to get paid?” Malbert asked, “I wasn’t attack by bandits and stinking undead to get nothing!”
“Hmm…We can use her faults against her,” Lek commented, “May I suggest we make a forgery? Reheat the metal and make a cast around say a holy symbol? I think that’ll fool her.”
A couple hours later and one forged stone later the adventurers were preparing to go on the road again.
“From what you told me there seems to be a bad seed in the Thundrom Order. I have a friend, an archmage named Perrin Silverwind. Just mention me to him and he’ll know…Tell him everything that has happened to you, but reveal nothing to Naivara. Just tell the bitch that Holly says there’s a powerful holy symbol inside,” Lek ordered.
Arktor nodded, “Of course.”
“It was nice working with all of you…good luck.”
Pip watched them as they drove off, “Master Nohk?”
“This seed in the mage order sounds serious, why do trust them? Why didn’t you erase their minds?” Pip looked over at her master.
Lek sighed and leaned on the archway of the gate, “They remind me of myself and my ragtag group.”
“Do you miss the others?”
The Melora’s saint bowed her head, “Of course, but enough of that let’s attend to the children.”
The day was like any other in autumn. The sky above was as blue as could be. Hours past and it seem their cloudless day would remind to be that. A hunched woman appeared in the distance walking in the same direction they were. Closer up she looked to be around sixty years old, sporting thick gray hair and rosy cheeks. A sack on her back was full and a cane clutched between wrinkled hands. When their horse caught up to her she hailed them to stop.
The old woman looked at the cart for a moment, “Where are you youngsters headed?”
“Valido,” Zeetryder said eying the grandma-like figure.
“I’m headed that way myself to my grandson Elliot’s wedding. Unfortunately my horse went missing and with this bad leg I don’t think I’ll make it on time,” The woman cocked her head, “Could I bother you for a lift? I will compensate you of course.”
“Nah, just hop on,” Malbert waved his hand.
“Thank you,can one of you help me up?”
They lent her a hand and pulled her frail figure onto the cart. She told them she was Issa Terol. While traveling she spoke about her grandson how he wasn’t that much of a man using his time to write and play music. Issa was amazed that he found a woman to marry him, but then again maybe he was feminine enough for his fiance to relate to.
Dark clouds started to roll in casting a shadow over the land . A couple seconds later it began to pour heavily. Lightning flashed in the sky spooking the horse. Issa pulled her thin cloak tighter around her, but the flimsy piece of cloth was no match for the huge water droplets. In the distance a large chateau was spotted, its windows illuminated. Desperate for warm shelter they pulled up to the house.
Malbert knocked the dark wooden door and a few seconds later a tall bald mustached man answered, “Please come in out of the rain. You can stable the horse. I am Humphrey, Lady Monique Ivy’s butler. I welcome to Ivy Chateau.”
Arktor nodded and led the poor frightened horse to the stable. The other adventurers and Issa were led to the dining hall. The dining room was beautifully decorated with golden ivy leaves that line the walls. Already seated at the table were three other people.
“Lady Ivy will be down shortly. Please be seated,” Humphrey bowed and closed the double doors.
The other people at the table introduced themselves, as Tia (the human Bahamut paladin), Javier (human cleric), and Othro (halfing rogue). They were hired by someone to go to the Wilds to find an ancient human civilization. Like them they were caught in the rain.
Five minutes later a beautiful woman with long black hair and deep green eyes walked into the dining room. She had on a simply blue evening dress with a large pink diamond necklace which Ortho eyed with great interest. She introduced herself as Lady Monique Ivy. During the course of the meal the lady spoke about herself, how her husband Vassus recently passed away, her time in Valido as an opera singer, and just any topic in general.