I awoke to the sound of Rukh’s voice, informing me it was my watch. He gathered up his things and was headed off again as he usually did every morning. I asked him where it was he went and what it was he was doing every day before the sun came up. He replied he was making his ablutions. I did not understand what that meant or entailed, and asked as such. Rukh explained it was to clean himself, and I wondered why he did not simply say he was going to take a bath. Then again, his armor and weapons are always very shiny, perhaps that’s included in his ablutions. Anyway, with Rukh gone, I am ashamed to say I fell asleep during my turn to keep the watch, I feel as though I am not used to all this travelling by foot. I was wakened by a strange noise; something was going through our things, my pack to be specific. As I peered over to the source of the sound, a grey squirrel popped its head out my satchel. Berries and nuts I had collected the day before were scattered on the ground. It looked at me curiously as squirrels do; I reached into a pouch on my belt and pulled out a handful of foragings it seemed to like and offered them to the tiny animal. The squirrel immediately ran off and up a tree. Rukh came back a short while later, as I was cleaning up the mess the squirrel had made. He asked if anything had happened, and I told him of the mischievous squirrel. He then asked if I had a quill and parchment, and suggested I put up a wanted poster for the thieving animal. I smiled, it was good to see my orcish companion’s sense of humor.
The rest of my companions were up and about thereafter, and we set back out on our journey. Nothing of note occurred, we chatted idly as we walked together. I did some more foraging to make up for what the squirrel had eaten or thrown on the ground, although we had plenty of food to spare. As dusk approached, we came upon yet another clearing with a ruined building in its center. I asked why there were so many ruins on this path, and Rukh explained this road was commonly used for travel, and inns were placed far enough apart that travelers could stop at each before nightfall. I wondered why they had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair, perhaps it was the bandits I had heard of before? And were we just fortunate not to encounter any?
I was woken by Rukh to take my watch, as had become regular practice. Unlike the morning before, no visitors came to rummage through my sack. Once my companions had gotten up and ready, we continued on the path. Our next stop was Coldwell. The trip was uneventful, except as we neared the city, I took notice of the foliage. The bushes were flattened, branches broken, and tracks that looked like that of a bear. I pointed it out to my companions, but we could not make out for certain what had been through the area. Gaervesk took the opportunity to suggest to Rukh that he wear a cloak to disguise himself, as being seen with a half-orc might draw unnecessary attention. Eisenheim disagreed, saying it was no problem of ours what others thought of us. Perhaps for the first time I agreed with Eisenheim, telling Rukh he should not hide who he is, for he had fought with us courageously and honorably. Rukh did not don a cloak, and we continued onwards toward Coldwell. We were stopped at the city gate by two guards, and we handed over a writ stating we had an audience with Lord Stern. We asked for directions towards an inn, and the older guard told us of two. The younger of the two guards looked at our party and seemed genuinely intimidated by Rukh and Gaervesk. We all took notice and it seemed all but I made a comment to him in passing.
We finally entered the city, it was unlike any I had seen before. Larger than even Fordsmeet, buildings constructed three or four storeys tall. It was quite amazing, although seemed to be born out of necessity, as limited space within the city and a growing population required citizens to build up if not out. We came to a crossroads, and went our separate ways. Eisenheim, Gaervesk and Rukh followed the guard’s directions to The Silver Dragon, described as a very nice inn, compared to the taverns we were used to. Al’Der’eth and I went to the temple. It was a sort walk from the inn, we would meet up with our companions later. We found the temple and saw it was devoted to the entire pantheon of gods, or at least the gods not associated with evil and chaos. Al’Der’eth went to the statue of Ioun, myself to Pelor’s statue. I knelt and said a short prayer to Pelor, thanking Him for granting us safe journey to Coldwell. I peer over at Al’Der’eth, he was talking with an acolyte, and handed her a good sum of gold. After speaking with Al’Der’eth for a moment, she saw me and walked over. She said her name was Janocin. I greeted her with a prayer, explained who I was and asked if there were any services I could render, healing and such. She replied there was not, but she would put the word out and asked if in two days time I could return. I agreed, and gave her five gold pieces for the maintenance of Pelor’s shrine. She thanked me, and I said goodbye with another short prayer.
Al’Der’eth and I headed to The Silver Dragon, and entering the establishment, were greeted by Gaervesk who said he had gotten rooms for us. I thanked him and immediately paid the gold I owed him. I asked where Rukh had gone, and Gaervesk said he had left to find a tailor. Feeling tired and somewhat dirty, I went to a half-elf man at the front desk who seemed to run the inn, and asked if the rooms had baths. He replied that one could be brought to me for an extra cost, and I gladly paid a few silver for it and a laundry service for my robes. During this time, Eisenheim was arguing with Gaervesk about a name for our adventuring band. Eisenheim thought we had become important enough to have a formal title, whereas Gaervesk said titles should be earned, not self-given. I agreed with Gaervesk, as was more usual for me, telling Eisenheim it was not noble to make up titles for oneself. He handed me a list of candidates and told me to pick my favorite, but I saw none worthy, as the page contained only presumptuous or plain ridiculous names for our party.
Anyway, the inn itself was indeed quite nice, very clean and with pleasant decor. I sat down at a table and ordered a meal; a salad and warm milk. I saw Gaervesk about to sit for dinner, and I waved to him and asked him to join me. He did so, and I admitted I had something to ask of him. As he was the voice of our adventuring party now, I said I wanted to be of help, and offered to be his negotiating assistant. Using my insight, I could tell him my sense of the other party in negoiation, and if words were inappropriate to use, I could give him a small gesture. He replied that he was not without awareness, but I mentioned that perhaps I had greater empathy for others. He said he would consider my offer should be require my feelings in talks with others. I felt sheepish, as though I subtly insulted him, but my intention was merely the desire to prove useful. I hope Gaervesk understands this.
Rukh arrived a little while later, and ate a hearty supper. Eisenheim was still trying to find an agreeable name for our group, and inspiration finally hit him it seemed. He suggested we call ourselves ‘Keepers of the Golden Star’. I thought for a moment; the ‘golden star’ may represent the sun, symbol of Pelor. I admit I liked it, and said I would not mind being part of a group under such a title. The others seemed amenable to referring to ourselves as such, and thus we became ‘Keepers of the Golden Star’. The business at hand finally concluded, I went to my room, seeing the warm bath had been delivered. The room was especially first-class, with a large soft bed and exquisite furniture. I immersed myself in the bath, and after a lengthy period of relaxation, changed into fresh robes and returned my soiled robes to the front desk to be cleaned. I went to bed, sleeping much better than I had the past few days.
I awoke the next morning, well-rested and refreshed. The sun was bright and shining, and the sound of people going about their morning business came in through the window. How good it felt to be among civilization again. I stretched my body before putting on my outer robe and going downstairs to collect my laundered clothes. They were outside, no doubt hung up under the sun to dry faster. I picked up my bundle and went back to my room to change into the fresh-smelling robes. Collecting my things, I went downstairs yet again, and saw my companions had all gathered. Rukh appeared different, his clothes were new and clean, and his red hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. I commented on how handsome I thought he looked. He seemed uncomfortable at this compliment. My other companions all seemed ready, and not stopping to eat breakfast first, we went straight to the keep to see Lord Stern.
We were greeted by one of Lord Stern’s servants, Lord Jolar. We showed him the writ that had been given to us, and he led us to Lord Stern’s throne room. It was a large room, with, appropriately enough, a throne at the far end. Sitting upon the throne was Lord Corith Stern, a human in his mid-thirties. We bowed before him, and he stood to address us. He thanked us for stopping the attacks in Northbridge, and offered a reward of twenty-five gold pieces to each of us. I hadn’t helped the people of Northbridge for monetary compensation, but apparently Eisenheim wasn’t satisfied with the Lord’s offer and haggled with the man! He asked Lord Stern if perhaps the Lord would pay for our lodgings at The Silver Dragon, and Lord Stern graciously replied he would see what he could do. Gaervesk apologized for Eisenheim’s behavior. The Lord then went on to explain a series of recent disappearances of patrols he had sent out along the road we ourselves had taken from Northbridge to Coldwell. So far, three patrols had gone missing, thought to be the work of wolves, and the Lord was asking for our help. Gaervesk asked some questions about the patrols, when they were sent out and such, but I thought back to the flattened and broken brush we had passed on the way to Coldwell. Could there be a connection between the two? I asked this of Gaervesk, and he thought it might be a possibility. For the time being however, we would look more into the matter.
We split up; Gaervesk and Eisenheim went to the royal library for research, Al’Der’eth and I went back to the temple, and Rukh decided he wanted to shop about town a while longer. Leaving the keep, we made our way through the marketplace, which was bustling with activity, far busier than it was the night before when we arrived in the city. It was apparent anything one could want could be found here, if you could find the appropriate shop, that is. We finally made it to the temple, and Acolyte Janocin noticed us come in. We said we were in search of information, and she led us into a small but cozy office. We told her of the disappearances and of the broken brush I had seen in the forest, and asked if she thought they might be related. She thought for a moment or two, before replying she remembered hearing about an incident many years ago, before she was even born. There were a couple of disappearances similar to these recent ones, though not armed patrols, perhaps just a town official or two. It was discovered a dire wolf was responsible, and the town banded together to dispatch the creature. Shortly after, Lord Stern’s father, Darius Stern, ordered all dire wolves in the area to be killed on the spot. Even so, she said wolves were still prevalent, although there have not been any dire wolf sightings in the area for some time. She apologized for not being able to help more, but I thanked her for all she was able to tell us. I myself apologized for not being able to assist the temple in healing of ill citizens due to being requested for this task, but Janocin said that by accomplishing this charge, I was doing enough for the people of Coldwell. I nodded, and handed her five gold pieces for the care of the poor and sick. Al’Der’eth and I left the temple and went back to The Silver Dragon.
We were met by our companions. Gaervesk recommended we move to one of our rooms to discuss what we had found. A ritual for silence was performed; I wondered what was of so much consequence that we needed absolute secrecy to even talk about. Gaervesk went into detail of what he and Eisenheim had found in the library. It appeared they suspected Lord Jolar had something to do with the recent attacks. Access to the library was highly restricted, and their search had found a section that had been set alight by flame. Eisenheim had managed to pilfer a burnt book, and a ‘make whole’ ritual later, it turned out to be a bestiary catalogue. Albeit incomplete, for some pages were too far gone to be recovered. I related the story of dire wolf attacks Acolyte Janocin had told Al’Der’eth and I. We decided to go back into the wood the next day. Eisenheim said he would purchase a chicken to attract the wolves. I was not entirely comfortable with sacrificing a poor farm animal to wolves, and I voiced my feelings. Rukh retorted that he was not comfortable wearing his armor, but he did so because it protected him. I pondered his words for a bit; Rukh chose to wear his armor, I’m sure the chicken would not choose to be used as bait, but I did not vocalize my thoughts to Rukh. Our plan decided, we ate supper and then went to bed. I was not looking forward to encountering whatever may have been responsible for attacking armed patrols, and I had my doubts it was the work of mere wolves.