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The Provost's Office
"I have never made use of alchemist's fire before, but I am not averse to having some if it is required."

"I have no idea where they are. I had not met them before the encounter where we found the journal. I do wish them well, though."
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From the Provost's office...
"Madam," Thediar addresses Ynir using the formal tone appropriate for a skilled worker speaking to a client, "last evening there were two other people present:, a warforged visitor to Sharn and a seasoned investigator. They should both be brought into your pay as well. Otherwise, they're security risks."

Turning to Ozias and Korren, Thediar asks, "Do either of you know what became of our companions?"

Thediar is going to want to use the advance Ynir gives him to buy some equipment; he's been going around without weapons or armor since he was accosted in the Halls of Justice. And he'll make arrangements with Ranule to examine Ynir.
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The Provost's workshop.
"Two provisions. One, I'll be sending a halfling named Ranule to see you later this afternoon, and I'd like you to receive her and answer her questions as you believe prudence dictates. And two, we keep hold of the journal, in its currently readable form."

Ynir's body visibly relaxes and a smile spreads across her face.

"Yes, thank you, thank you," she opens the journal and hands it to Thediar, pointing excitedly, "This section details where the Provost thought the forge was and how to get to it. I will accompany you Kundarak bank of Sharn where I will withdraw your advances and arrange for the rest of your fee to transferred from Aundair. Finally, we should visit my friend Hershal, the Alchemist. The Provost is emphatic in his journal that whoever would travel forge would need fire. He doesn't explain why but, in my experience, some Alchemist's fire never goes astray."
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Lucien Investigates
The eyes narrow and Lucien hears the distinct creak of a bowstring being drawn back.

Initiative please :)
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A Chance Meeting in Alk Ahr

Biographer's Note: This letter was among Samuel Larkin Kendrick's personal correspondence and has been graciously donated to this author for the purposes of writing this biography.

Greetings my boy!

I trust that you are doing well at the Academy and that your studies are progressing. That you possess such great magical aptitude continues to be as much of a source of pride for your mother and I as it is a surprise. If not for the fact that you are tall and have my father's chin, I'd be turning a suspicious eye on my old friend Larkin. I know that he is due to present a lecture at the Academy soon so be sure to greet him for us.

In response to your last letter, I can tell you how your mother and I began our strange courtship. However, is your request due to simple homesickness, curiosity or have you an eye for a particular girl? Your mother has just struck me on the arm and told me not to ask such things, so on to the story.

I've told you before about my encounter with the dragon turtle, well, we begin just after we were fished out of the river. I awoke on the good ship Riverqueen captained by that soon to be infamous privateer, Kalya Swiftcurrent. Let me tell you, my boy, the stories about her do not do her justice. Her ship and crew were much sharper than Morris' lot, more....mercenary, if you get were I'm heading. Still, she took pity on the bunch of waterlogged adventurers that she fished out of the drink and offered to ferry us to Crow's Landing, the harbor point for Alk Ahr.

In addition, Captain Swiftcurrent was going to attempt to salvage what she could from Captain Morris' ship which might include our baggage. We arranged to meet up with her on the next night at the Fat Man Inn in Alk Ahr.

Luckily, I still had my purse on me, so we could afford to stay at the Inn when we got there. Larkin bemoaned the loss of his coins so I told him about my experience with the Bishop and his Bathtub. That night I would have been glad for a few coins to purchase some trousers, I'll tell you! Again your mother is objecting to what I've just said. When you return home for the holidays I'll tell you that story in more detail.

As we disembarked in Crow's Landing, Morris hinted that there was a task that we might perform for him, but that he would fill us in tomorrow night. We all readily agreed, I suspect because we were feeling guilty that his ship was eaten by a dragon turtle under our watch. We bade the two captains farewell and set off toward Alk Ahr.

I managed to secure us a ride on a supply wagon and soon we were trundling through the city gates. Alk Ahr sits high on a rise that overlooks the warehouses of Crow's Landing. The red plaster buildings are collected on a hill in a small plain nestled between mountains and river. As we approached the gates I could see Fyn's Path leading out in three directions from the city. Probably that's why they named the city "stop here" in the old tongue. Once again I had to keep my features hidden as we were ushered into the city. It would not do for some enterprising guard to capture "Roland Hode".

As we passed through the marketplace, Milicient decided to ply her craft to earn a few coins as if we had nothing better to do. Much to my annoyance, she snatched my hat from my head and used it to collect the bits thrown her way by passing citizens. As we left her there to perform, I told her that she could use the coins she'll be earning to buy herself her own hat.

The Fat Man Inn featured a sign of a large individual holding a steaming pie. That plus the mark of hospitality I spotted on the door indicated that this was the inn we had been looking for. It was a small but comfortable looking place next to a gambling house. Inside we quickly settled down for some food. The pies at the Fat Man Inn were (or are, I should say) amazing. The first thing you notice is the smell. It rushes into your nose like a heady hurricane of deliciousness. Let me tell you that the aroma of the pies is nothing compared to their taste. Like ambrosia. Presently, our errant bard returned and sat down to eat some pie as well. My hat was returned, somewhat dirty and muddy but a friendly barmaid offered to launder it for a few coins.

Round Roger, the fat man himself, was indeed a large fellow but quite friendly and soon I got him talking about local events in return for spinning a tale of our encounter with the Dragon Turtle. I did not hear anything new about the strange troop build ups, but I resolved to keep my ears open. Unsettling things were happening in my dear Argalia, and looking back, I wish I had pressed for more information in those calm months before the storm broke upon us. But we always wish we knew more when we look back upon past events.

Before we settled down for the night, we discussed buying cold weather gear and preparing spells to protect us against the elements now that winter was hard upon us. Then Larkin told us all about Mirror Lake (some of which I should have known from my studies as a lad, but I suspect that my tutor that year possessed a ravishing...personality, so I did not remember anything she taught me). Apparently, Larkin's estranged brother is running some kind of adventuring company near the lake and is up to no good.

Taking me aside, Larkin asked me to look into a connection between his brother (Fain) and a local gambling parlor so I slipped out that night to see what I could find. After much carousing and gathering of information, I learned a few things and told them to Larkin in the morning.

As we ate more fabulous pies for our breakfast I received a letter from my mother. This filled me with some apprehension as, at the time, she was not thrilled with my current choice of vocation. As you know, your grandmother was a force to be reckoned with. Fortified with some morning ale, I read the letter. Apparently, the girl I had asked mother about in a previous letter was indeed known to her. The fact that my mother knows Melina in some form or another both intrigued and frightened me. Especially since she wouldn't tell me anything concrete about the girl.

At that time, all I knew about Melina was that she was a very smart, very beautiful and was an accomplished ranger with some sort of tie to His Majesty. I would shortly know much more.

That morning we set off into Alk Ahr and purchased cold weather gear and rations. During our shopping, we happened upon a dirty old priest who was haranguing passersby that the old gods were returning. Sam seemed very interested in what the old man was saying, but I was more concerned with the number of guards gathered around. In trying to extricate myself from the area, I bumped into a guard who thought I looked familiar. I had to do some very fast talking to avoid being recognized by Alan the Guard as being "the Hode".

After the town militia broke up the crowd around the priest we headed back toward the inn. But at the point where Fyn's Path intersect, I spotted a familiar face among a group of female adventurers riding into town. It was Melina and she looked hard used. Rushing over to speak to her, I noticed that her whole group appeared to have been on the wrong end of a conflict. I remember her words as if it was yesterday.

Her: Am I destined to see you everywhere I go?

Me: I do hope so.

Despite her obvious exhaustion, this seemed to amuse her and she agreed to meet with me at the Fat Man later.

As we continued back to the inn, I resolved to remember to ask Melina about her parents. If they are the Meredith and Bradach that my mother's letter mentioned, I should endeavor to find out what that means.

As we sat down for lunch, Melina and her friends joined us. They looked much better having partaken of healing spells and hot water. As adventurers do, we regaled each other with tales of our triumphs and defeats; a seemingly never-ending series of "there I was" stories. I try to speak quietly with Melina about the military recruiting I've seen, but she stops me. We agree to meet later and talk privately. After lunch Melina left with her companions.

We spent the rest of the day at leisure. In the afternoon, however, Morris and Kalya arrived with our waterlogged baggage. We were certainly glad to have our possessions back. After the encounter with the red dragon we were all feeling a bit attached to the few things we had left. I pressed a reward of twenty-five gold on the captains for their services. Captain Morris then asked us to carry a small coffer to Five Roads and deliver it to Tom, an innkeeper at the Rusty Spade Inn. According to Morris, the coffer contains the last effects of Tom's mother. We agree and bade the captains farewell.

After dinner, Melina arrived for our private talk. She was dressed to the nines. I am not sure I'd ever seen anything so beautiful, nor would I until I saw your mother on our wedding day. For one of the few times in my life I found myself speechless. We set off into Alk Ahr and found a respectable restaurant where we could sip wine and converse in privacy.

I told her what I had seen in Caldyr, the troop increases, the nervousness of the guards and nobles and expressed my fears for the future of Argalia. Though she assured me that Caldyr's army is the smallest of the provinces and, no doubt, the increases are precautionary only, she seems worried.

Melina, like myself, was concerned for the state of the kingdom. The High King did not have much time left (perhaps only a month, according to Melina) and some of the nobles were gathering for...something. She is especially concerned with Kharkhan. For that matter, so was I, and not just because he was courting my mother.

Talking of that, made me remember my mother's letter, so I asked Melina about her parents.

Melina leaned close and told me I had a choice to make. Did I have the steel for the task, or was I still the teen in the Bishop's bathtub?

It was as if all the events that set me on the path of an adventurer had suddenly led to that single point in time. Looking back, I can see how I was a frivolous fop more concerned with himself and with flouting his family, than with anything important. But the rigors of the road, the wake-up call provided by the dragon, the realization that my idealistic view of the world and my companions was not the same thing as the reality of either, and my growing fears for my country, had changed me. Was I the same Roland who left the Bishop's daughter in a bathtub one step ahead of her angry father?

No, I was not.

I remember that boy. I remember what he cared about (himself, mostly) and what he thought was important, and I was no longer anything like him. The facade of the carefree and foppish noble-at-large that I had so carefully built up since my father died had finally crumbled away.

I looked Melina right in her eyes and told her that I was the steel, and I was ready to prove it to her.

She seemed relieved at this and told me that if I was serious then I would indeed have to prove it.

Arm in arm, we wandered back toward the Fat Man Inn speaking of little things and enjoying each other's company. Just before we parted, she gave me the name of a contact in Five Roads that I could use to contact her. Then she kissed me. I won't go much into that, if you don't mind. All I'll say is that it was like being kissed for the first time all over again. Magic.

In the morning, we ordered pies for three days of travel from Round Roger, then we walked out of town. On the way, I sent two letters; one to my mother and the other to Lord Enkhar. Once in the clear, Larkin used his magic to summon up some magical horses for us to ride. We were done with losing our mounts every week or so!

As we headed north along Fyn's Path we encountered a troop of Enkhar militia. We were all set to pass them with a short greeting when Milicient reined up and hailed them. Now, I would suspect that she did this just to cause trouble for me but no one would be that stupid especially since she would be arrested right along with me for just being my companion. We got away from that situation without further trouble.

Down the road a bit, Sam approached me with the idea that I should clean my name. Since I had already promised to do it for Melina, I agreed but not by involving my mother (as Sam wanted). Of course right about then, we were attacked by bandits.

Well, my boy. This letter has gone on long enough. I hope reading about those early days of courtship will help you somehow. Keep up with your studies and if things work out with the lady-friend you aren't telling us about, please do invite her to accompany you home for the holiday recess.

Your mother and I send our love,


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