Freeday, Sunsebb 14, 552 CY (50 AN)
Nasrin and Whislyrin find themselves in the backroom of The Satyr’s Congress, one of the seedier taverns in Vonseloth. Accompanying them is a dark-skinned, scholarly half-elf, having contacted them seeking them specifically for a job. Introducing himself as Nunalael Myrthneldth Alari, he explains that he heard they work discreetly, and that they have skills he thought might be useful for this sort of work.
He proceeds to explain. The Winter Solstice will be in a week, and House Myrthneldth Tyoro are throwing their annual Midwinter Masquerade. This year, they are celebrating the brokering of a new trade deal between their house (on behalf of Vonseloth) and the government of Vor Taluum in Anhak. As such, the festivities are going to be bigger, and will incorporate aspects of Anhak culture: they have rebranded it as the Midvinter Masquerade, and are including an Anhak-style Wunderkammer as part of the festivities.
As part of Nunalael’s studies, he is familiar with legends of the ten rings of humankind. The many varieties of folk in the world are said to have origins from various planes and gods, but humans are uniquely of the world, and the ten rings of humankind reflect this by acting as bulwarks against the incursion of extraplanar entities in the Prime Material Plane. Apparently, the Vor Taluum delegation are bringing a gift: an infernal puzzle box that Nunalael’s contacts indicate contains one of these rings. House Myrthneldth Tyoro is going to host the infernal puzzle box as the centerpiece of their Wunderkammer, presumably thereafter stuffing it in a vault somewhere to never be seen again for years, decades, or centuries.
His contacts have told him additional things about the foreign delegation. They are traveling in the company of one Bargle, a potent magus who is said to be powerful enough that they ought to avoid him at all costs, as he is likely too skilled for them to confront directly. The foreign delegation is traveling by ship, although he does not know their heading: they are either landing in Sorgforge and approaching Vonseloth from the south, or they are landing in Khuragzar and approaching Vonseloth from the north. Traveling from Khuragzar-to-Vonseloth is the shorter route, but takes them through dangerous back country; the route from Sorgforge-to-Vonseloth is longer, but safer, so he suspects they will take that route. Once they have arrived, he expects the delegation will formally present the infernal puzzle box to House Myrthneldth Tyoro, and they will likely install it in the Wunderkammer shortly thereafter. It will be open to invited guests once the party starts in late afternoon, as the sun sets, and the party will continue in a Yuletide vigil until the next morning.
Nunalael understands the Vor Taluum delegation are to have a large contingent of twenty or so guards with them, so security is likely to be tight. He also suspects they will have left some travel time in case of emergency, arriving in Vonseloth anywhere between one and three days before the Winter Solstice. And while he doesn’t know much about stealing — that’s why he hired these two ladies, after all — he notes that the pulp novels always say it’s easier to grab something in transit. The way he sees it, they can either steal it off the caravan, steal it from the house while it sits in the Wunderkammer the day or two before the party, or at the party itself. Given Nasrin’s noble contacts, he expects she should be able to secure an invitation if they wish to go that route.
With no further questions, Nunalael wishes them well, and says he took the liberty of securing rooms for them here at The Satyr’s Congress for the next week should they wish to use them. He is unlikely to see them again, but if they have any other questions, they can leave a message with the barkeep and he send word to Nunalael. Nunalael then takes his leave.
With a week to plan, Nasrin and Whislyr agree they should get more information. They decide to spend the evening in their respective spheres of influence, buying drinks and gathering information. Whislyr stays at The Satyr’s Congress, buying 2gp worth of drinks and learning the following:
- “There’s a Knight of Science inquisition hot on the heels of the Vor Taluum delegation, and they’re going to condemn the entire Wunderkammer.”
- “Watch your tongue among the aristocracy. Some of ’em are on the take. Too many eyes and feathers, if you catch my meaning.” (Whislyr is familiar with thieves’ cant, and so knows talk of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks’ organized crime syndicate when she hears it.)
Nasrin mingles with the upper class at The Silver Bell, dropping 10gp on drinks. She manages to secure an invitation for her and a guest to the Midvinter Masquerade, and she learns the following information from the patrons:
- “Back home, Bargle earned the epithet ‘the Infamous’ because he murdered a priest of the Church of Pelor-Who-Is-Paladine and got away with it.”
- “I heard the hand of Vecna is going to be on display in the Myrthneldth Tyoro cabinet of curiosities, so jot that down.”
- “Can you feel it on the wind? Foul tidings this Midwinter. I’m taking my family to the mountains soon; the cities aren’t safe.”
- “House Tyoro has about two dozen guards, but I heard the Vor Taluum contingent is going to double that number while they’re here.”
- “The Tyoros are loaded. I expect security there to be tight as a drum. They could probably even afford a theft deterrent system beyond just guards.”
- “House Myrthneldth Tyoro is part of some sort of devil cult. I bet they’re going to turn this Solstice into a bloodbath.”
- “I heard that House Myrthneldth Alari is part of some sort of cult. Trying to gather artifacts of the world to trap the gods themselves or some such. Can you imagine the hubris?”
- “My niece acted as a procurer for the Tyoros’ Wunderkammer. Seven words of advice: the owls are not what they seem.”
Whislyr is already home when Nasrin returns late in the evening, still somewhat tipsy but brimming with information. When they compile their information, they decide they ought to ride south as fast as possible, in the hopes of intercepting the Vor Taluum delegation. They’ll try to locate and take the infernal puzzle box by nightfall, although they’re concerned that Bargle will have occult protections in place that they will be unable to counteract. Still, they can at least get eyes on it, and they have party invitations as a fallback option. (Incidentally, the party dress code requires costumes or fine dress, as well as masks. Armor and weapons are largely prohibited, save for knives and rapiers. They decide that having Whislyr accompany Nasrin as her bodyguard might be the best choice.)
For tomorrow’s ride, they realize they will likely need horses. They lack the money to afford horses, but they can certainly “borrow” some. Whislyr runs out on that errand, heading to The Silver Bell. There are a half-dozen beautiful black stallions in the stables, guarded by just a pair of guards. Whislyr waits for the guards to be on the move, slips inside, unhitches the pens, and causes a great commotion to startle the horses into fleeing. When the guards chase after them, she takes two remaining horses in another direction. Noting that they have Patenaude Merchant Co. brands on their flanks, she travels to a coal bin to try to shade the brands so they are less obvious, and then stashes the horses near their own inn.
The next morning, Starday, Sunsebb 15, Nasrin, Whislyr, and their stolen horses manage to leave Vonseloth without incident, traveling the south road to Castow. Travel is uneventful, and not terribly anxious to enter into a settlement with stolen horses, they camp in the woods for the night, each taking six hour shifts.
As Nasrin’s shift starts and Whislyr falls asleep, Nasrin hears distant crying in the woods, sounding like a weeping child. Eventually, a figure steps into the light of their fire: a small halfling child wearing a nightdress and clutching a stuffed octopus. Introducing herself as Pryllia, she explains that she was following a road of rainbows and arrived here. (Nasrin notes that she was likely sleepwalking.) Whislyr, now awakened by the crying child, says she can mind the horses while Nasrin takes the girl back to town.
The trip the Castow is uneventful. Pryllia has fallen asleep by the time they arrive, so Nasrin is carrying her when they arrive at the gate. The guards on night watch don’t seem to know her, but they say they can get her to her family. Nasrin makes the trek back to the campsite, and nothing has occurred in her absence. The rest of the night passes uneventfully.
On the morning of Sunday, Sunsebb 16, they continue their journey after breakfast. A couple of hours out, they encounter a gnomish tinkerer with a cart and an old pony. He appears to have trinkets and mechanical objects. Introducing his enterprise as Rittenbaum’s Tinkering, he asks if they have anything in need of repair. They do not, but Nasrin offers to purchase something, and ultimately buys a child’s top that can be self-powered using boiling water in the manner of an aeolipile. He charges her 4sp for it. Rittenbaum thanks them, and when asked, does not know about any large caravans coming from the south, although it’s possible that he might have missed such a thing. He continues on his way.
A couple of hours pass as they continue along the road, and around midday, they encounter a cloaked traveler, a tall, willowy half-elf woman. She walks with a staff, and a ferret curls around her shoulders. The travelers greet her, and she introduces herself as Arwellas. She asks if they have any news, and reveals that she has heard of little that is troubling hereabouts. She has not heard of a foreign delegation the likes of which they describe; merely the standard sorts of merchant caravans that usually travel this route. She expects she would have heard some news from a rider or something like that had a political delegation come through here. When the travelers are satisfied, Arwellas continues on her way.
Realizing that the Vor Taluum delegation must have traveled via Khuragzar, Nasrin and Whislyr turn around, rushing back towards Castow. (Arwellas waves as they pass her again. She shouts, asking if they are lost or need something, but Nasrin responds that they’re just turned around. She wishes them luck.) Their journey is uneventful until they again enter the woods and make camp for the evening. However, just before supper, they encounter that same child again, crying and lost. (Pryllia claims she saw dogs outside the village gates. They looked like her dogs, but they seemed to disappear and reappear, and she wanted to pet them. Nasrin tells her those are probably blink dogs, and one must be very careful around them, given that they are creatures of Faerie.) At Whislyr’s behest, Nasrin is originally going to just send her back towards Castow, but thinks better of it and decides to accompany her again. She makes the trek to Castow without incident; this time, the guards on duty know Pryllia. Nasrin warns them about the blink dogs, and that such might mean fey activity in the woods. (They indicate that they see them from time to time, and they haven’t caused any trouble.) The guard says he’ll get Pryllia home, and then gives Nasrin a potion of healing for her trouble.
The journey back to the campsite is uneventful (and Whislyr encountered nothing further while she waited with the horses), so Nasrin and Whislyr have dinner and begin their watches for the evening. The evening passes without incident.
The next morning, Moonday, Sunsebb 17, Nasrin and Whislyr continue their journey. When they arrive near Vonseloth, they cut into the woods, not wanting to attract unwanted attention to their stolen horses. They again camp in the woods for the night.
Whislyr is on watch, and they are about to change watches, when she realizes that their camp is surrounded. Seven humanoid figures wearing cloaks and leather armor, armed with shortswords and shortbows, have crept out of the woods without her noticing. They a short for humanoids, and have crowlike features: kenku, by the look of them. One gestures with its shortsword and mimics the sound of coins jingling in the back of its throat. Whislyr awakens Nasrin, prompting the kenku to mimic a rooster crowing and to repeat the coins. Conferring among themselves, which prompts the kenku to make the sound of a ticking clock. Nasrin and Whislyr note that they have little of value worth stealing. The kenku nods, then looks at their horses and makes a neighing sound. Four of the kenku begin to take the reigns and begin moving the horses into the forest, while the other three cover them with shortbows. Whislyr and Nasrin share a look, and Whislyr leaps forward, drawing her rapier and stabbing the speaking kenku in the shoulder. He shouts and reels backward, moving to step forward while his fellows hold him back. The three bowmen fire: two arrows hit Whislyr in the chest and she falls, while one hits Nasrin in the leg. One of the kenku gestures to Whislyr and makes the sound of a heartbeat, and Nasrin lets them leave while she pulls the potion of healing from her pack and pours it down Whislyr’s throat. She gasps, awakening with a start as the kenku leave with the horses, now twice stolen.
Despite their annoyance at being robbed, Nasrin and Whislyr are aware they are lucky to be alive, and so decide to continue sans horses, as chasing the kenku is hardly worth it. They bandage their wounds and switch watches.
The pair awakens the next morning, Godsday, Sunsebb 18, and continues their journey north, into the Hoarfrost Ridge and the Sylernavian Pass. Around midday, they encounter a large caravan comprising four wagons with a fine carriage in the middle. Roughly a dozen armed guards walk alongside the caravan. Nasrin and Whislyr stand aside as the caravan passes, and realizing that it is likely their target. They continue north until the caravan is out of sight, then they double-back toward Vonseloth. They return to Vonseloth in the early evening, their target now inside the city gates, and likely approaching the manor house of House Myrthneldth Tyoro. They return to their rooms at The Satyr’s Congress, resolved to continue their planning on the morrow.