The Prankster

The Cloak-Tower

The doors slide to the sides and you are able to enter an ante-chamber. You are greeted by a warm female smile possessed by some sort of magician in the same dark blue robe. “Welcome! Welcome! Please, allow me.” she holds out an unremarkable cloth bag “Please, place your belongings in here. It is just for security measures. Feel no stress. Just standard procedure while you are in the tower.”

The doors you came in through slides shut behind you.

“Why, hello there!” says Arnald and bows. “Aren’t you quite the begger, holding out your bag like that! Of course you may have my belongings, you little sunshine you!”

He lifts up an imaginary thing from his pocket and pretends to drop it into her bag, and adds: “There you go! One miniature battle axe! I expect to get it back in the same condition! And I – WHAT IN MY SWEET MOTHER’S NAME ARE YOU DOING PUTTY?”

Putty looks up at Arnald with a suprised look. He has stripped down almost completely, with only his underwear left for removal.

“I’m handing over my belongings”, he says and turns to the woman for help.

The woman start scratching her head with her index finger, not saying a word instead looks nervously in different directions. She obviously is thoroughly confused which has led to this odd displacement act. Her cheeks grow slightly red and at last she manage to speak without looking at anyone of you.“Yes, yes. E’hem. Yes go right in!”

The second door in the ante-chamber then opens and you can see yet an ante-chamber.

“Thank you, darling”, says Arnald and bows slightly. He stares at Putty with raised eyebrows, and nods to the clothes and armour on the ground. Putty puts them on without a word, and they head into the second ante-chamber.

The host of the first ante-chamber darts your eyes when you proceed into the second.

Once in the second ante-chamber you see the door close behind you and you are closed off in this quarter. It is lit by soft magic lights, but that suddenly turns off to total darkness and you experience a vibrating feeling and you hear a swooshing sound6. It all lasts for some ten seconds and the lights are turned on again. A door in front of you opens up and you are presented what should be the interior of the cloak-tower.

You see a round hall, walls and floor made of stone, about 40 meters in diameter and about 5 meters to the ceiling. To your right looks to be an administration desk that extends as a table with lots of stuff on it. Across the floor you can see a closed wooden door which is to the right of a spiral stair case. To the left of the spiral staircase there are two other closed wooden doors. To the sides of the wooden doors you can see high candelabras with lit candles in them. What strikes you as rather odd, is that there are no one in here. It is empty and the tower is filled with silence with only the faintest sound and scent of burning candles.

“Aah, it’s like my last date”, says Arnald and pulls in air loudly through his nose. “All alone with my lit candlelights…. No, please” – he stretches out a hand to Putty – “don’t cry for me, Aglarond!”

Putty corrects his clothing and takes a look around. “It’s abandoned?”

“No, don’t go down that road again! We’ve done this ‘oh look it’s empty, I bet it’s abandoned!’ thing one too many time, mister. Remember Mr Grumpy Elf and his beastfriend? No, I’m not doing that again. Mmm-mm.”

Putty examines the area carefully with a troubled face.

“I don’t even know what we’re doing here”, he says after a while.

“And you ask me that? I followed you here, remember?”

“I followed you.”

“Oh great.” Arnald sighs, and crosses his arms. “We’re like those funny shows at the theater. Only that it’s not funny.”

They stand silent for a moment.

“And why oh why did you undress?”

“I followed her instructions”, Putty answers.

Arnald breathes heavily through his nose, and says (mostly to himself): “A funny show at the theater. The Naked Jesters. That’s us.”

Nothing overly exciting happens as you stand in the round hall. Unless, you count the echoing of your own voices to be a spectacular phenomenon.

“Well we can’t stay here all day, can we?” says Arnald and takes a deep breath. “HEEEEELLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO?”

“heeeeeellllllooooooooooo” it she echo you hear back but no other living soul is responding. Short there after you hear a rustle from the other side of the room but you see no movement.

“It mocks me!” Arnald says irritated.

“What does?”

“The echo! My own creation, mocking me! I shall never speak again!”

He stands proud and silent for at least three seconds, before adding: “I shall never speak again, after I’ve examined this desk! Come, Putty!”

They walk over to the administrator’s desk and starts poking around the stuff.

The administration desk holds many things: Scrolls, wands, gems and stones, intricate contraptions, figurines, religious symbols and a book. The things are not put in order but it rather looks like they have been put in this random formation by people who has been in a hurry.

You measure the table to hold 5 scrolls, a dozen gems and stones of various colors, 3 mechanical contraptions, 4 figurines: an Angel; an elven woman; a bard playing the harp and a woman with a upward-stretched arm holding an orb, 3 wands and 2 religious symbols, the first in the form of an open eye with a blue pupil depicted on the back of a right-hand war gauntlet. The second, a circular platter with nine blue and white stars painted around red waves perspectively painted to disappear in the distance.

“Stealing is wrong”, says Arnald while his finger wanders over the items.

“Yes, I know”, answers Putty.

“These gems… Glittering, it’s like… It’s like you could almost taste them… But those are also wrong to steal. Just so you know.”

“I wonder where everybody are. Maybe we should head upstairs?”

“Look at these figurines… Stealing them is wrong.”

“Yes, I know. I’m not planning on taking them, Arnald.”

“No, because you shouldn’t. It’s wrong!”

Arnald says all this without looking at Putty. Instead, his grace wanders around the table like a hungry dog at the butcher.

“Come”, says Putty. “Let’s go upstairs.”

“Yes, yes. We’ll leave these things alone. Goodbye…things…pretty….valuable….”

They start traversing the spiral staircase.

I quiet voice whispers in Putty’s subconsciousness…

…child. my child.

the experienced hands may touch my skin

caress it with the old fingers that Knows the earth

the secrets buried beneath will hold,

rough cuts that you will find within

to polish it to find it’s worth

but take me not here you are told

in the depths of the largest stones you may find

a brilliant gem of the finest kind

As you take your first step on the spiral stair you instinctively stop because you think both of you just heard something. You cup your hands around your ears and indeed there is a soft clamping noise coming from further up the stairs, yet the clamping sounds near. The next seconds reveal to you that it is most certainly the nervous footsteps of another being slowly climbing the stairs ahead of you.

Arnald points with an inquiring finger upwards, while ogling Putty, who shakes his head.

“WHAT?” whispers Arnald hoarse.

“What?”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

“About what?”

“ABOUT THAT!” says Arnald and pokes his finger upwards.

“I don’t know!”

“BUT YOU SHOOK YOUR HEAD!”

“Yes?”

“SHAKING YOUR HEAD MEANS ‘NO I DON’T AGREE WITH YOU!’”

“No”, Putty says annoyed while trying to keep his voice down, “it meant I don’t know where or who those footsteps belong to.”

“WELL YOU SHOULD’VE SHRUGGED IN THAT CASE!”

“Why are you whispering in that voice?”

“I AM TRYING TO BE STEALTHY, UNLIKE YOU, WITH YOUR VAGUE GESTURES ANDANDBEARD AND EVERYTHING. COME ON!”

They hurry up the staircase in a somewhat stealthy manner.

Once you sneak forward the footsteps gets quicker and louder. At last you here a door opening and closing. You follow the spiral staircase up and with light steps you arrive at the second floor of the tower. But there is no one here!

This floor is differently decorated with ten doors in total along the wall. The floor is dressed with a round carpet by oriental design of muted colors red, yellow, white and black. On top of it, several sofas are set in a half circle, each with a dark wood sofa table next to it. There is a faint smell of something burnt and tobacco. On one of the sofas, the one closest to your left, there is a scroll that has not been rolled up properly. The spiral staircase you came up from does not continue, instead there is a new spiral staircase to your left.

“MAYBE IT IS AN IN-”

“There’s no need to talk like that”, Putty interrupts.

Arnald clears his throat, and starts over in his normal voice: “Maybe…we’re followed an invisible gentleman to his club of invisible gentlemen.”

“Why would they set up a club of invisible gentlemen in the Cloak-Tower?”

“Why not? They’re invisible, after all!”

Putty ignores him and starts examining the room instead. He walks slowly over to the sofas and inspects them.

“Don’t sit!” Arnald bowls.

“Why, what?”

“It may be taken!”

“What are you talking about?” Putty says and scratches his beard.

“You know, by an invisible gentlemen! I wouldn’t like anyone to come sit on me, while enjoying the company of other invisible gentlemen. But I do wonder how they address each other… I’ve never heard of such a spell.”

Putty shakes his head and continues around the sofas, over to the scroll. He points at it and says: “Have you seen this? It looks like a scroll.”

“You don’t say”, Arnald answers and walks over to Putty, with big gestures as if he’s walking over invisible legs stretched out before him. “Oh, you’re right, it is a scroll. How charming! Let’s see what it says…”

Without touching, Arnald inspects the scroll.

During your inspection you can see that the scroll is not supposed to be rolled up but instead it has several folds which would point to that it was once folded into a smaller piece. This is not a proper way to handle magic scrolls and you are quite sure it should be harmless.

There is text written on the scroll and this side is naturally facing upwards. You read:

Day 176 – Phase 3

The two patrols of H400 are stationed just outside and to the west of The Sunken Gong. Suspicious howling sounds has been heard on the very bottom of the Daughter of the Sun Sea. If this is due to men in panic is not known, however that is probable. We cannot afford any risks. Reinforcements are on their way.

Day 178 – Phase 3
Another patrol of H406 has arrived and dived. They are now stationed to the east. Howling sounds of the same character has been reported by this patrol as well. We need to increase the level of alertness. Reinforcements are on their way.

Note to self: Remind Adalon to properly fill in the reinforcements reports.

Day 179 – Phase 3
The Sunken Gong has been spotted clearly now. However, the howling has increased and we need to be extra cautious. It seems, from the reports, that the howling becomes strong closer to the “gong”.

Day 182 – Phase 3
H400 has found the “gong”. With dismay the report states it was not the correct “gong”. H400 will now continue east. Possibly meeting up with H406

Day 183 – Phase 3
The reinforcements to patrol H400 and H406 has not reported back. We know they entered the depths but their exact location is unknown.

Note to self: Remember to calibrate scrying equipment

Day 185 – Phase 3
Good news and bad news. Good news are that we have received a fresh report from the reinforcement teams. They have not located H400 and H406. This should not be this difficult and I wonder what is making this so difficult.

Bad news is, that we have received a report from H406 but the report mentions four de….

Here the note stops abruptly. It looks like the author left the note in a hurry because there is a black stroke that looks to be accidentally drawn where the text ends.

You further can see that the the burnt smell and tobacco must be coming from the (visible) pipes that are resting on complimentary ash trays, placed on the sofa tables.

Arnald stops reading after the first line, picks it up and holds it with an outstretched arm toward Putty, saying: “Bla, bla, here, you read, my little library.”

Putty finishes the note, and hands it over to Arnald again who returns it to the sofa.

“So?” Arnald asks irritated. “Any juicy gossip?”

“It looks like a journal of some kind, but I don’t understand the details.”

“Soo…nothing about this club of invisible gentlemen? Who’s plotting against who, that stuff?”

Putty shakes his head. “Not that kind of journal.”

“Hear that bell? Bo-ring!”

“It seemed quite important.”

Arnald picks up a pipe and sniffs it.

“This”, he says and takes a puff, “is more important. The good things in life, not bla bla on a paper.”

“Maybe we should advance?”

“Ab-so-lut-e-ly”, says Arnald and blows out a thick cloud of smoke. “Maybe the club of invisible gentlemen have moved their party upstairs? Forward, my minion!”

They start traversing the second staircase upwards, pipe in hand.

By your feet, you are taken up to the third floor of this empty tower. To no one’s surprise, this floor is also uninhabited.

You are met by a room that looks like an exotic garden or forest. On your second thought you become unsure if you are inside or outside, for the room looks like a jungle, even the floor looks authentic. The staircase does not continue and another staircase is not visible. All you can see is bright green leaves and brown stems, entwined with each other, and a prominent sound of birds chirping.

View
An innocent stroll in the city

Putty takes a firm grip on the door and pulls it open just enough for them to exit the building. Putty puts out his torch by dipping it into the snow, and puts it back into his backpack.

“Now what?” says Arnald and flaps his arms around him.

“We could always see if the Moonstone Mask has opened early.”

“And if they haven’t?”

“There must be some other establishment opened. It’s a rather large city.”

“As long as we don’t run into any more crooked dwarves with phoney dice, or elves that break into other peoples’ homes!”

“We don’t know if the elf did live there or not. And we were none the better.”

“Yes, we were.”

“No, we weren’t.”

“He broke into and entered that home first! Therefore, we could’ve not, since the building had already been broken and entered.”

“I don’t believe that’s how Lord Nasher would see it.”

Arnald doesn’t answer. He flaps his arms around his body a couple of more times before heading off down the street. Putty, not unfamiliar with this situation, follows his friend into the town centre again. 4

Well out in the fresh air again you notice that there are many more people about. From the sun you estimate time to be some hours past noon and you have a few more hours to kill before free alcohol potentially flows through your veins.

You move yourselves forward and very much like tourists you feel forced to stop and watch the ingenious architecture and inanimate beauty that this town has to offer. Buildings look similar at first glance but offers the eye skillfully crafted details which at second glance distinguishes the buildings. It is not without a feeling of some sort of pride that Putty strolls along the now snowy streets.

You reach a river that looks to be running through the whole city, at least as far as you can see. Even though the snow is falling into the river, the man-made banks bares no snow. You understand quite quickly that it must have defrosted considering there is a radiating warmth that comes from the river.

You take left at the river and manage to end up in front of an impressive tower, both in size and grandeur. The tower offers a fence surrounding an outdoor academy like area. Though the fence itself is so exquisite that it is welcoming rather than threatening. At the bottom of the tower two gates are providing an entrance. Arnald’s “sausages” seems to have gotten a life on their own as a result of a tingling feeling in their tips.

“So…what do we have here?” says Arnald and looks up.

“A tower”, says Putty.

“Nooo! Really?”

“Yes. It’s a tower.”

“Who could’ve guessed… I mean, my first guess would’ve been -”. He interrupts himself, and adds after a moment: “You know what? Nevermind. You’re immune to that stuff anyway. Let’s just examine.”

They walk up the gates and enter.

Before you are able to enter, even touch, the gates you are stopped by two guards. They both wear a dark blue robe with an emblem of five stars on their chest and each of them has a golden circlet on their heads. They lean on a long wooden stick, perhaps a good tool when you are stationary all day. They look anything but intimidating.

“Well met but please halt. Do you have a pass or do you seek membership?” one of the guards, an elf, asks while the other, a human, leans somewhat tired on his stick.

“A membership?” asks Arnald surprised, but suddenly shines up. “Ah, I see! A membership for the Bored Guards? Order of the Tired? Of the Stick?”

“We do not have a pass”, Putty adds.

“Order of Those Who Do Not Speak Their Order’s Name? If this is about a membership for the Men Who Dresses in Fabulous Gowns, I’m already in, thank you.”

The guards inspects arnald from feet to head while showing no emotional response to Arnald’s mockings. Quite seriously they respond “Forgive us. We are used to people knowing what guild they have come to. You are tourists, we take it. Yes?”” the elf then stretches his back and neck and to announce with a ceremonial tone of voice “Behold, then. Before you stands the Cloak-Tower, the home of the order of the Many-Starred Cloaks. The Good must prevail where evil fail! You may become one of us if you share our vision. You may walk our halls if you are a follower of the Good. You may seek the knowledge residing in our benevolent tower, should you wish to pursue our goals.”

“And those who only wish to take a peek?” asks Arnald. “Does the guild offer a day-pass for me and my little friend here? And we’re good, no question about it. We’re so good, women call us tasty!”

“I have never heard that”, says Putty. “Nor do I understand why they would.”

“Perhaps they don’t like beard in their dessert, my little pudding!”

Putty doesn’t answer, and grins as if he didn’t quite followed everything his friend said. Arnald turns to the guards and says: “Yes, my gentlemen, we’re friendly natured, or good as you say. Gooder than that, actually. I wouldn’t hesitate to call ourselves the best of the good! Unless, of course, that’s against the law in your fair town. If so, we’ll settle with just slightly-less-than-best-good, or second-to-best-good. At least we’re not evil. Right, Putty Pudding?”

“What…” The elf is interrupted by his human colleague “Allow me!” The guard then speaks a sonnet of holy words while bending down to draw an invisible circle on the ground.5

A faint white glow can be seen gleaming from the guard’s finger in concert with a low frequency vibrating “hum” as he draws the circle. He then rise and says “You are Good alright! You share our vision and may enter. However, we need to hold your belongings for the moments you walk our halls. Here takes this!” he hands you each a soft star-shaped stone. “The pass will last for 24 hours. You are now welcome to enter the tower.”

“Told you so!” says Arnald with a pointy finger at the guard, after accepting the stone. Putty receives his without a word, and follows Arnald into the area surrounding the tower. They walk around casually, inspecting it.

What the surrounding area provides your eyes with is visually impressive but is skewed in a way that makes it somewhat unnatural, as usually is the case when humans try to recreate nature. Some unremarkable trees has been planted here and there, some stones and rubble as well. A quite large pool can be seen to the left of the giant tower but it seems to be devoid of any life forms. But who knows?

There are no others than the guards, who let you in, in the vicinity. Perhaps people here are too sensitive to the cold.

“Maybe he knew him?” Arnald says while flapping his arms around him, trying to keep warm.

“Who?”

“The elf.”

Putty takes a long look at the guard at the gate, and then turns to Arnald again.

“The guard?”

“Yes, Putty, the guard.”

“Whom did he know?”

“The guard?”

“Yes?”

“Maybe he knew that strange elf in that house into which we did NOT break and enter since it was already broken and entered…”

“Why would he know him?”

“I don’t… Whatever, come on, you barrel you”, says Arnald and starts walking toward the tower.

The gate of the tower is daunting in a sweet way, having both cute animals and other ornaments on it. There is a star-shaped niche in between the two doors that makes up the gate.{2}

Putty walks up to the doors with confidence (and because Arnald is helping him with a “friendly” hand), and opens them.

Try as he may, the gate does not want to open in any common manner. The doors remain shut.

“Hmm”, says Putty and steps back. “That is strange.”

“What’s the matter, my little door opener?”

“I can’t get the door to open.”

“Oh my, skipped our greens, have we?” says Arnald with a meaning look. “It’s alright. I’ve read about this in a book. Behold!”

Arnald steps up to the doors, stretches his arms towards the sky and utters the word: “FRIEND!”

Against everybody’s hope, the door remains unbefriended. One of the guards runs up to you. He seems excited and alert with a touch of paranoia when he addresses you “Is something the matter? Are you hurt? If it is those Luskans…!”

Arnald steps back, and while lowering his arms he says: “Only my pride…” He then turns to Putty, and adds: “Well, it didn’t hurt trying. The door in the book was a dwarven one, so maybe that’s why. ”

“Maybe it’s the stones?” says Putty and picks up his from the backpack.

“Yes!” says Arnald excited with eyes wide open. “We should absolutely bombard the tower with these little rocks! That’ll teach them a thing or two about having stupid doors! Take that, you lousy tower!”

“Are we supposed to use the stones?” Putty asks the guard, while clearly ignoring Arnald.

“No Luskans, eh!” he says disappointedly. “Anyway! Place the stone in the niche there.” he points to the star-shaped niche in the gate and gives a eye-rolling look at the other guard, who acknowledge with the same eye movement. “One at the time, mind you. Place the stone in the depression. The door opens and you step in and the door close behind you. Your friend here then does the same. Easy as pie!“

“Yes, that was my next guess”, Arnald mumbles and places his stone in the niche and enters, closely followed by Putty.

View
The Prisoner

A chilling wind pushes out as you open the door. Almost as if the building had held its breath. You peer into a dark building, the interior walls looks to made out of stone with no visible furniture around. You need some light if you want to see any further in here.

“It’s dark”, says Putty.

“Really?” says Arnald and squints into the dark. “Is it really now? Dark? You’re sure?”

“Yes. Don’t you have any magic for that?”

Arnald sighs, and leans tiredsome against the wall.

“What now?”

“It’s just…” says Arnald and stares sadly into the distance. “I don’t like casting these petty spells. These hands were made for greater things! Light this, read that, flare those… It’s like doing the dishes, and you know my stance on that!”

“Not everyone can create light out of thin air”, says Putty. “I can’t.”

“Yes you can. You have torches.”

“That’s not the same.”

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“Is too!”

“Is -”

“Don’t make me flare that beard of yours! Again!”

Putty gives Arnald one dark look before pulling out flint and steel and one dry torch of his backpack. Seconds later the flames are dancing in the dark.

“After you, my little candle!” says Arnald. Putty doesn’t answer, and steps into the building.

When you have lit the torch you immediately take notice of a not so ordinary detail under you. Directly on the floor inside the building there is a mat with three words printed in quite big letters:

“Remember Keys, Money and Who you are”

You take some further steps in and are shown a quite clean interior and indeed some furniture can be seen here. A wooden bench with a table next to it is seen on the wall on the other side, some pillows are randomly assigned to the stone tiled floor in the corner to your right. Some books, opened and closed, are also scattered around the pillows. What catches your eyes attention, however, is that there is a valved opening to your right that bleeds soft flickering light into the room you are in. A distant clinking sound , like a maid cleaning the dishes, comes along with the flickering light.

Arnald signs to Putty to stay put and be quiet. Sneaking over to some books, Arnald picks one up at random and bounches back to Putty.

“HERE”, he whispers and holds out the book to Putty. “READ IT. IF IT’S MAGICAL, I’LL KEEP IT. IF NOT, YOU MAY HAVE IT AS A PREMATURE BIRTHDAY GIFT.”

Putty takes the book with his free hand and flips it open.

The book is old and has an eerie feel to it, however, not magic. There is a title on the book “The Future” and on the spine the author has proudly put his name “Tarragon Balm”,

Upon flipping the pages randomly Putty ends up with what seems to be a sub-chapter title in bold text saying “What will happen with the Undead?”

You hear a slow but not so loud bang from behind. When you look back you can see that the door you opened has now shut.

“DID YOU FART?” Arnald whispers and nods towards the now shut door. “OR DID SOME OTHER GASEOUS BEING CLOSE THE DOOR?”

Putty tucks away the book in his backpack, and inspects the room.

“Let’s take a look in there”, says Putty and starts walking towards the valved opening, torch first.

“YOU FIRST”, whispers Arnald, and follows after.

The book fits fine in your backpack. As you come closer to the valved opening you sense that the clicking sound becomes stronger.

You reach the valved opening and peak in. To your surprise, perhaps, you can see two men washing dishes over a big metal pot. One of them, a character with pointy ears, washes plates while the other, a beast or human you do not know, dries the plates.

You believe you have come to the kitchen of their house for here is a dining table with some left over food left on the table. A working bench with knives and other domestic tools is extending from where they stand washing the dishes. The light comes from a fire place to your right. A large cauldron is fitted over it.

Both of the characters do not seem to notice your presence.

“DID THE BOOK MENTION ANY OF THESE?” whispers Arnald, although his hoarse voice is rather easy to hear.

Putty shakes his head.

“NOTHING?”

“Why do you believe that?”

“IT COULD’VE BEEN A DIARY. YOU KNOW, MAYBE AN ENTRY OR TWO THAT SAYS ‘TODAY I DID THE DISHES AGAIN WITH MY BEASTFRIEND, AND I LOVE THAT WE ARE BOTH VERY FRIENDLY AND EASY GOING AND NOT INTERESTED IN EATING INTRUDERS.’”

“Do people write like that?”

“THEY MIGHT!”

Neither Arnald or Putty moves, and continues to inspect the two characters in front of them.

You get to watch the elven man jump in surprise, throwing a plate in the air, as he turns his head a little just to see you two.“By the Powers, you almost scared the life out of me”.

The beast monster, slow as a snail, turns around some seconds later. He does not speak but manage to get out an “AAAooorr” painfully slow. Seeing his features more clearly now, you are quite confident it is a human but there seem to be a balm covering his entire body, except his hands which has tight leather gloves on them holding a cloth to dry the plates with. Underneath the balm you see a dull gray skin.

The elf addresses you further with a clear and bright but hesitant voice “What? When? Who are you? How did you get in here?” his face expresses thorough confusion.

“If you don’t know how we got in here…” says Arnald and points slowly at the elf. “…then how did you get in here? Hmmm!”

“We knocked”, says Putty.

“Several times!” adds Arnald. “And really hard! Not just knock, knock, but KNOCK KNOCKELY KNOCKETY KNOCK.”

“I assume you have the habit to assume that if no one answers your knocking you are free to open a locked door? I also assume you also were not taught to greet and introduce yourself before you ask the questions?” he smiles and shakes his head

“See!” Arnald says turned to Putty. He then turns to the elf and continues: “So stubborn these little fellows are, I told him just the same thing… Ah well.”

“My name is Putty”, Putty says and pulls up his leg, showing his iron cast foot. “I have an iron foot.”

“Not much of a swimmer either”, Arnald adds.

“And this is my companion Arnald. I’m sorry for our intrusion, elf. We seek only refuge until dusk.”

“And a nice meal of course, unless he’s the cook”, says Arnald and points at the beast.

“You are both forgiven. Refugees, you say! Have you escaped from something? Death perhaps?”

“Oh, I wish”, says Arnald and rolls his eyes. “Only dwarves, I’m afraid. And that wasn’t even an escape, more like a slow walk out of beardhood. And dice. And something-something. It’s difficult to hear with all that…you know…” He makes a circular gesture around his mouth.

“May I ask of your name, elf?” says Putty.

He turns his eyes to Arnald “Dwarves…hmm. I see.” and then to Putty “My name is secret. And, you , i assume are the dwarf here? Did you follow the taller gentleman here? I think not. You look to be companions of some sort. No details needed, please! But I have had enough of chit-chating. This is not a shelter for refugees and certainly not a restaurant but still I do not know why you are here. Pray tell.”

“Oh, he’s not a dwarf”, Arnald says and pats Putty on the head. “Not even remotely. He’s…my child. Yes. My beloved son. A com-ple-tely normal human child.”

“I’m not…” Putty starts, but Arnald interrupts him quickly:

“His mother was a whore. There, I said it! Don’t judge me, we all make mistakes!”

Arnald hides his face with his left hand, while stroking Putty over the head with the right.

“I’m not his son”, says Putty and brushes off Arnalds hand with a frown.

“He’s rejecting me!” shouts Arnald and turns away, with one hand stretched out back. A second later he turns back again with his usual look on his face. “Alright, he’s not my son – and will never be!”

“We’re not refugees”, Putty continues, ignoring Arnald. “We’ve just arrived here in Neverwinter, and waiting for the Moonstone to open. But we will take leave now.”

Putty turns around and exits through the valved opening. Before Arnald does the same, he whispers hoarsly: “SHE WAS A WHORE, YOU KNOW!”

As soon Putty utters “Neverwinter” the elf puts his hands on his ears and sings “lalalalalala” monotonously. His helper stares as blankly as his balmed skin. When you leave the kitchen they do not try to stop you.

You arrive out in the darker room where you first entered. The door which you came through is closed and likewise the outside, there are no locks nor handles on the door.

“That went well!” says Arnald and pats his friend on the back. “Out of two encounters we’ve made zero friends – at least we’re consistent!”

“I’d rather feel cold than to stay here”, Putty mumbles. “Please open the door.”

“How?”

“Use your magic.”

“I can’t. These little sausages are all tired and need to sleep” he says and wiggles his fingers in front of Putty. “At least those who wishes to open locked doors.”

“Don’t you have anything else you can use?”

“Let’s see… Ah, yes! Stand back, or be forever engulfed in flames!”

Arnald stretches out both his hands towards the door, flips his head backwards and starts chanting: “GIBBELY GIBBELY HOBBELY HOBBELY GAMMA GAMMA HEY!”

He slowly lowers his hands again, sighs and says: “Of course, that was just crazy talk and not a proper spell. Ah well, can’t blame me for not trying!”

“I’ll ask the elf if he’ll let us out”, says Putty and goes back through the valved opening.

“I’ll stay here and guard myself!” shouts Arnald and stays put.

The elf spots putty and the question comes without much delay “Back again. What is it now?”. “AAAooommm” the other confirms.

“We do not wish to disturb you any longer, elf”, says Putty and sighs. “But we have a problem with the front door. It will not open.”

“That is because it is not meant to be opened. You want me to open it for you, I suppose? Yes? But before you inquire any further dear “mate-in-shackles”, allow me to know: WHY are you here?”

“Yes, I would like you to open the door”, says Putty monotonous. He breathes through his nose a couple of times, and adds: “Please.”

“I can’t open the door! I don’t want to open the door! You got in here, I am sure you can get out as well. Excuse me.” The elf then leaves rather annoyed, seemingly, to the right of the fire place and disappears behind a wall. The strange gray-skinned humanoid stays put.”

Putty sighs loudly. After a moment of settling his thoughts, he returns to Arnald only to find him flat on the floor.

“So?” says Arnald without looking at Putty. “Did the kind elf agree to let us out?”

“No, the elf didn’t. Nor did it seem like he would know how to.”

Arnald sits up as if pulled by an invisible hand, and says: “I knew it!”

“Knew what?”

“I suspected it the very second I laid my beautiful eyes upon him. I knew it!”

Arnald gets up on his feet, and starts wandering with his hands gesturing.

“You knew what?”

“He doesn’t live here either! Who locks themselves up so badly that they can’t leave? Hmm? Of course! He came in here a century ago, hungry, cold, young, naïve – oh, jolly youth with your ignorance, tripping through life with a childish smile! But of course! Peeking inside – who wouldn’t? We did! Peeking inside, a bit more, a bit more, a bit… BAM! Door closes, elf caught. History repeats itself, and again, and again…”

Arnald stops in front of the door with a big smile on his face. He stands upright, legs together, like a soldier waiting for commands.

“So who lives here?” asks Putty with a sceptical look on his face.

“Don’t know, don’t care! The sooner we get out of here, the better!”

“But we need…”

“As a matter of fact, we don’t. Seems I miscalculated earlier – there’s still some meat in my sausages!”

He wiggles his fingers, and turns towards the door. He starts whistling on a simple melody while waving his left hand. 3

As earlier, the door just opens and you get a glimpse of the falling snow again on a white city landscape. It is a fresh breeze that is sucked into the building, gently touching your pants so they make a slight flapping noise.

The door needs to be pushed open a little bit further.

View
A curiously ancient door

Coming from the warmth, the outside cold now feels more cold than when you arrived in Neverwinter. That children have an exceedance of energy is proven to you when you can see the them still making angels in the snow.

Some 30 meters in front of you a large sign saying “The Moonstone Mask” is placed in front of a big wooden building. There does not seem to be much commotion going on at this point.

When you look right you can see the upper plateau of the city core but nothing much seems to be going on up there.

To your left is a row of houses, one of which looks old, almost ancient. Looking at it for too long gives you a creepy feeling, not that you both can¨t handle a little creepiness once in a while. What more is distinguishing this house from the others is that it has no windows, only dull gray flaking paint.

“Cheerful little bugger, ey?” says Arnald and flaps his arms around him a couple of times. He casts an eye of disgust at the childrens’ play.

Putty checks his equipment; pulls a strap harder, brushes off some snow from the mace, and kicks his boots against the building a couple of times.

“I find no pride in cheeting another man, even if he’s done the same”, Putty mumbles through his beard.

“I believe we got that standpoint through ab-so-lu-tely clear… It’s always refreshing to go all religious on people!”

“It wasn’t a matter of religion, it was common sense.”

“Oh, really? Common sense? Really-really?”

“Yes. Common sense. Taught from my dear mother.”

“And the bit about Dumathoin and ‘finding hidden’ treasures and ‘I won’t lie you big meanie!’?”

“Well, that’s… That is…”

The words fades from Putty’s mouth, and he goes silent. He looks proud into the distance; anywhere but Arnald’s face.

“Yeah, Dumathoin my a-”

“Let’s find somewhere warm”, Putty interrupts with a sharp voice. Arnald smiles, and with a slow gesture with his right hand, they set off down the street, towards the ancient looking houses.

You walk into a U-shaped set of houses, like a lagoon, where the ancient door is furthest in. The closer you get the stronger the sensation of eeriness. Once close enough you notice that the door has no handle and no lock. No signage and no traces of recent use. It literally begs to be opened!

You think you can hear the wind howling but your inspection of the falling snow reveals it is falling straight down.

“Looks warm enough”, says Putty and coughs.

“Hmm…let’s see”, says Arnald and leans forward, pretending to read on the door. “Yes, yes, it’s the house of Mr Trap and his brother Mr Ambush – I wonder what they have in store for us!”

“I know nobody of that name.”

“It’s not… I was… Nevermind. Let’s just go inside, my dull little friend.”

“There’s no handle.”

“Let me…”

Arnald steps up to the door and taps a melody with his fist against the wood. Putty pulls out his axe, and weights it in his hand.

You hear short distinct sounds when Arnald almost hurts his knuckles by knocking. The door is not made of metal but is hard as diamond. Neither anything spectacular or mundane happens.

“It’s abandoned”, Putty says and coughs.

“I’ve refused to open my door more than once”, says Arnald and steps back, “but that doesn’t mean my home is abandoned. Step back, my bearded barrel, and behold…”

Arnald whistles a short melody while waving with his left hand. 2

When Arnald has finished the harmonious melody you can see that the door in front of you just opens but it needs to be pulled to be opened further. Strangely enough, you do not hear a locking mechanism clicking open, as would be expected.

Arnald stretches out his body with a cheerful “aah”, steps back and leads Putty towards the half-opened door with a gentle hand.

“We’re a team, after all, my little chipmunk!”

Putty fastens his axe in his belt again, and takes a firm grip on the door with what his fingers can reach, and pulls.

View
Dwwarven Brothers

You manage to traverse the snow only a couple of meters before an even stouter man to your right, the man just beneath the sign “SHINING KNIGHTS ARMS AND ARMOR”, calls you “Hey, yue, Brother!” the sturdy little man points and looks at Putty, unmistakably a dwarven brother. “I havn’t seen ye arround her’ before, I havn’t. Where ye from? No, no need standin’ ther’ in the cold. Come in an’ we’ll share a drink. Bring yer friend too, of cuers’ ye can.”

“Don’t stare, Putty”, says Arnald and looks away. “The poor fellow clearly has a speaking disability!”

Putty answers the man under the sign by nodding, and steps inside the establishment. Arnald follows.

The man laughs discretely with a somewhat booming voice. “Durga be me name, lad. Who do I have the pri’lege to meet?” He sweeps his short arm inwards his home to invite you both. For a Dwarf he seems unconventionally jolly. Perhaps it’s the snow. “

As soon as you enter his home you are met by a radiating heat. Maybe a couple of degrees more than is tolerable.

In his home you are met by another short sturdy man, a foot sole shorter, sitting by a simple wooden table to your right. His full protective beard is foamed with beer, or Bitter Ale as dwarves would call it. A strange square piece of wood is lying on top of the table. It has many smaller squares in it and there are some small statues randomly scattered on the board.

On the left side of the building a whole range of war tools can be found. Everything from dwarven battle axes to some odd looking spears. Some pieces of basic armour also clad the walls.

“So, what yer names lads and wher ye come from?” Durga finally asks

Putty, while staring in awe at the walls, mumbles something while pulling up the right leg of his trousers, revealing his foot of cast iron.

Arnald rolls his eyes, pats Putty on the head, and says with a smile: “What my not only short but also slightly dull friend is trying to tell you, is that his name is Putty and that he has a foot of cast iron. Yes, yes, I know, DRA-MA! However, more importantly” – he stretches out a swift hand over the table, bent like a wave – “my name is Arnald Wellit, my dear Durga.”

Arnald leans slightly to the side towards the other dwarf without releasing Durgas hand, and whispers: “LOVE the foam, it really reflects your watery eyes!”

The dwarf at the table attempts to mock back at Arnald “Luv yer gait but I bet ye hear’t all the time from other poofters.!” he bows his head down “No, sorre lad. Didn’t mean to be mean, ye know! What ye sayin tall fella. Up for a game of Goblins n’ Orcs, are ye?”

Durga on the other hand pays his attention to Putty “Oh my. How’re ye runnin ‘round with a leg like that lad? Me dad’s dad had e leg like yers, he had, only ‘twas wooden. No matter. Yer likin me axe over there do ye? It’s not mine, it’s Marrak’s” and he points with his hand over at the beerded (all puns intended!) dwarf at the table.

“Gurgly-burgly-boll, something something….” Arnald says and returns to Durga. He pats Putty on the back and whisper: “Whatsa ‘poofter’? One of those dwarven clans you’re always talking about?”

Putty corrects his trousers and says to Durga: “That’s fine craftmansship, Durga. Mighty fine.”

You can hear a short grunt, its intent indistinguishable, from Marrak’s end.

Durga takes a stool from under the table and places it under the racks of weapons, steps up on it and dismantles an odd looking axe. He returns to Putty holding the axe in his both hands “Ye wanna try it, do ye? Here ye go, have a swing with it.”

The axe looks very odd, is made up of a long wooden shaft with a long blade attached to it. The blade is not as protruding as your axe.

Putty retrieves the strange axe from Durga and weights it in his hands. A low, rumbling sound is heard from his throat.

“Now’s not the time for spitting”, says Arnald with a raised eyebrow. “If that’s what you’re preparing for…”

“Hmm, mighty fine”, mumbles Putty while inspecting every corner of the impressive weapon. The rumbling sound in his throat comes back in intervals, like a more guttural way of saying “hmmm”.

“I’m not cleaning it up if he does”, says Arnald and turns to the two dwarfs. “I’ve seen him spit, you know. Poor house, the walls didn’t have a chance!”

Putty sniffs the axe, pats it a couple of times, and then returns it to Durga with a nod.

“Mighty fine, Durga. Mighty fine.”

The axe feels at home in your hand, even more at home than the axe you already got.

“Half-axe, we call it. 2000 gould ‘n it’s yours, brother?”1

Before Putty gets a chance to answer, Arnald interrupts.

“Suuure, here” – he makes a pouring gesture with his empty hands over Putty – “take it aaaaaaaaaall! Why not…a million gold? No, wait! A million gold…and one electrum!”

Arnald leans against the table with arms crossed, and a sceptical expression on his face.

“Never mind him”, says Putty stoichal. “He doesn’t have a million gold, nor any electrum.”

“Hel-lo? Joking gesture!” says Arnald and repeats the pouring sequence.

Putty sighs, and takes one long look at the half-axe before giving his answer: “It’s a fine deal, I think, but I have to pass. Perhaps another day, Durga.”

Marrak gulps a sip from his beer and silently observes.

“It’s a great deal, mind ye” both of you can feel that Durga quickly took the role as a salesman when the chance was offered to him. However, he quickly returns to his friendly manners.

“Tell ye what. I’ll consider handin it to ye if ye do me a favour. Just a trifling matter. Are ye interested?”

“Slay a dragon? Swim to Luskan? Give birth to a child?” Arnald says inquiring. “With a price like that, I expect no less!”

“I have to agree with my friend”, says Putty. “What favour do you require for such a valuable weapon?”

“Hehehe. No! No! Not at all” he shrugs “It is just a matter of helpin me with somethin I’m not able to do meself. I expect ye both are goin to the Moonstone Mask tonight? Ther will be a gentleman in ther I need to get to. It is not so serious, just a little joke. What say ye both, intruiged?”

Putty turns to Arnald, who starts making swimming gestures. With no sane help from his friend, Putty turns to Durga and says: “Tell us more about this gentleman.”

“Me ‘n Marrok here, we go to the Mask ‘n play poker,but ther has always been a’problem a’ours. The problem is called Douglas ‘n he always wins. He is cheatin o’course but we can’t prove it. I have a weighted dice here that will up the chances of winning. It is just that me ‘n Marrok can’t play with it, cos we’ll be caught cheatin. Sooooo. If you two play against him ‘n win me ‘n Marrok here will give you this axe ‘ere for your troubles?”

“My good friend Amaunator says no-no…” mumbles Arnald with crossed arms.

“I will play”, Putty says, “but not with your dice. If I win, it’s because Dumathoin wanted me to find that hidden treasure, and not because of cheating.”

“Good boy! You tell them!”

“Then I’m ‘fraid lads, ther wont be an axe for ye if ye win. The cheatin’s part o’the fun. But be sure to get back to us if ye change yer mind. Unleeeess, o’course ye find out how Douglas is cheatin. Then I’d gladly give ye me axe ‘n me arm. No, I’ll keep the arm.”.

Marrak finish his bear and leaves the table. When he reach the end of the house he opens a door which you did not see before. Out comes a yellow and red glow and a wave of heat. He doesn’t say goodby for he seems to have become busy all of a sudden.

Arnald follows Marrak with a curious look, but doesn’t say anything.

“A farewell to you, Durga”, says Putty and nods. “Maybe we’ll meet at the Moonstone Mask later.” He then sets off to the front door.

Arnald smiles and nods at Durga, turns around with a small piruette, and catches up with Putty as he leaves the building.

“Nice to meet ye lads, indeed it was” are the last words you hear from Durga.

View
The invitation

The snow crunch under your feet as you shuffle were you stand. The air is crisp but not too cold and an earthy and fresh scent fills the atmosphere.

The paper you received is written in a fine script and it looks to be an invitation. You read: {1}

Citisen of Neverwinter,

It is with my greatest pleasure to invite you to the upcoming winter
party. The Moonstone mask has gone through a renovation and has been
transformed into a place where all citisens of Neverwinter are
welcome. I want you all to take part of the grand opening of the new
Moonstone Mask.

The feast will provide you with drinks (yes, all the alcohol you can
bare), food and a surprise performance. I hope to be able to delight
you in celebrating the winter and the grand opening of the new
Moonstone Mask.

Please take place in my now humble lodgings the 6th of
Hammer/Deepwinter. Doors open at dusk.

Welcome,
Ophala Cheldarstorn

Putty puts away the paper by folding it into a narrow tube, and tucking it away in his backpack.

“So, my dear Putty”, Arnald Wellit says while inspecting his nails, “what did the little leaflet tell? It looked duller than my aunties face.”

“It’s a feast”, Putty answers. “At Moonstone Mask.” He doesn’t move, and looks more or less like a sturdy piece of furniture.

“That name spells B-O-R-I-N-G, I tell you. YAWN!”

“It says ‘all you can drink’.”

Arnald looks up from his nails and stares silently into the horizon. Tall and thin as he is, standing next to Putty only enhances this. The Tall and the Stout, as they have been called several times before.

“All you can drink?” Arnald repeats. Putty nods, and coughs violently.

With a overly dramatic gesture, Arnald bends slightly forward with one foot ahead of the other, and while stretching out his arm he says in a lean voice: “Lead the way, my small friend!”

And with that, they head off to the Moonstone Mask.

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Prologue
The adventure is introduced

Prologue

It is said, that when Io willed it, the other gods came into being. It is said that Io “gave birth” to all of dragon kind. In him, all of good, all of evil and everything there between, all the laws and all the chaos existed in him. In creating the worlds, the realms and the whole of the multiverse, he released all of that which was within him to make all that which came to be. It is also said, that in a single bite, all he released can be undone. But what matters the gods, when the winter has finally come to Neverwinter?

“I can’t believe my eyes!” a shouting voice can be heard from a woman passing by. The town which was fated to never see this natural phenomenon of white crystals floating down from the sky, has now come to experience the winter that so many times have been talked about by travellers from the north. A bright white layer of snow blankets the trees, the streets, the roof tops and the ones without a roof. But even the homeless seems to be in good spirits.

A group of children can be seen playing some harmless game in the snow. Making angels perhaps? The militia guards cannot resist the delight and a smile can be seen on every mans face. Under the sign “SHINING KNIGHTS ARMS AND ARMOR” a short man with a rugged beard, his fists on his hips, spectates the falling snow “I’ll be damned! Marrok! Ye have to see this!”

The faint sound of a bell can be heard from a distance. It is coming closer and soon you see the source. A man holding a bunch of papers under his one arm and a bell, excitedly swung, in his other. He manage to stop in front of you for a couple of seconds and hands you one of the papers under his arm. He scuttles off with almost singing words “Winter in Neverwinter! It’s nothing less than Magic!”

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