G: Denys replies-
‘’Certainly you may examine them. ’’
The key is of baroque design, with tiny arabesques etched into its flat surfaces. It appears to be made from a solid piece of silver. It isn’t tarnished.
The scroll is a piece of yellowed parchment covered with crabbed handwriting and weird diagrams of some sort. The writing appears to be either a cypher of some kind or else a foreign langauge. The back of the scroll is entirely blank.
Evangeline fairly leaps up out of her chair.
‘’ Oh, it’s late and I have yet to..’’
She darts out of the room, returning a moment later with a cheesecloth bundle.
‘’I went shopping with my girl this morning and found something lovely for Mesieur Norzak. I am sorry I don’t have presents for the rest of you gentlemen, but this was just something I saw and thought- aha, perfect!’’
She hands the bundle to Norzak.
‘’I trust you will like it, mesieur.’’
N: Norzak accepts the package as if it was a delicate flower. Placing it in his lap, he wriggled his fingers a few times, as if he was deciding the best way to open it. Looking at the young woman, he merely said “Thanks.”
Then he picked it up and brought it to his nose and sniffed. Then he weighed it in his hands. Yet again he lay it in his lap. Eyeing it with determination, he finally laid a hand on the wrapping and ever so carefully opened the package, wondering what he’d find inside.
G: The package smells of liquor and something sweet, a scent that seems oddly familiar.
It weighs several pounds, so whatever’s inside must be fairly heavy- not likely a paper thank-you note or an embroidered napkin.
Opening it, you find……
a fruitcake. Ah, but this is not just any fruitcake- it’s a dwarven fruitcake, just like Norzak’s mum used to make! The dark, massy, loaf is slightly sticky. A distinctive rummy odor emanates from its every pore. Blocks and wedges of dully glistening fruit can be seen partially buried in its slablike surfaces, like crystals embedded in a lump of rock.
Wherever did this human girl find a proper dwarf bakery here in Pont-a-Museau?
Evangeline waits expectantly, looking at Norzak as if hoping for some sign of his approval.
N: Norzak’s eyes open wide. He looks at the fruitcake, then at Evangeline, then back to the fruitcake. “Where did you….” he mutters and slowly , Norzak’s mouth cracks up into a …. smile! “Jess like me mum used ta make…..” He breaks off a tiny piece of this dwarvish treasure and brings it to his mouth and chews it slowly, savoring his most favorite treat. Well that’s not counting a good dwarvish ale. “Missy I dinna know where you got this here, but ye’ve got me thanks” he tips his fingers to her in a salute. “Now ye’ve got ta show me this here bakery in tha mornin!” He moves off to a quiet corner and merely eats another little piece of his gift, mumbling to himself, but smiling!
G: Evangeline smiles brightly.
‘’Oh, I’m so happy you like it, mesieur Norzak! Of course I will show you the bakery tomorrow. ’’
Denys rises to his feet, perhaps a bit usnteadily from his intake of wine, and addresses the party.
’’ Thank you so much for honoring me with your presence here tonight, gentlemen. Again, I invite you to remain here for the night. It is late, and the streets can sometimes be unsafe at night- as well you know. My servants have prepared accomodations for each of you.
Tomorrow morning, I have business to which I must attend, and after that I prepare for the grand masque to be held at the end of the week. I’m certain I can manage an invitation for any of you who wish to accompany myself and Evangeline. All the elite of the town will be in attendance, and it is the social event of the season. Not to be missed, no, not to be missed…’’
At her father’s mention of the masque, Evangeline looks over at Sir Cirdan, blushes faintly, and looks away demurely, casting her attention towards the night view of the garden through an open window.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Pont-a-Museau…
Between two ramshackle mansions, long since fallen into ruin, lies the pauper’s cemetary. Here are buried the city’s poor and forgotten. Around this forsaken plot of ground stands a sagging stone all covered in creeping nightshade. A single open corridor provides egress from the street. The gate that once hung there has rusted away, leaving only a pair of corroded hinges hanging loosely from the stones. Within the yard, the lake of upkeep is even more evident. In place of the nobly carved marble headstones and vaults of the wealthy, the pauper’s cemetary has only piles of rubble and hastily erected wooden poles to denote the final restings places of its inhabitants. Clumps of sickly yellow grass sprout between the stones and along the forlorn pathways. Here and there, a token may be seen atop a humble gravesite- a child’s doll or a bunch of wilted flowers.
One grave lacks even a humble cairn or wooden mast as a marker. No flowers have been left by the poor man’s family. Only this evening did the gravediggers deposit the site’s inhabitant. The freshly turned soil exhales strange vapours into the night air.
A man enters the cemetary alone and on foot. His black cloak swirls about him in the moonlight, so that an onlooker[ were there any such present at this unholy hour] might imagine him to be a great bat, swooping over the boneyard in search of prey.
The lone man pauses at the fresh and unmarked grave. He bends a knee and snatches up a handful of earth with a long, narrow hand. Holding it to his nose, he inhales deeply.
B: The mention of a party of rich potential patrons proves enough to draw Bennedict out of his train of thought long enough to mumble “Certainly, yes, I’d be pleased to attend.”
The acknowledgment of his host out of the way, the archivist was free to return to examining the items. More mysteries, he thought, mysteries upon mysteries. And some of them quite a bit more dangerous than I particularly prefer. He cast a nervous sidelong glance back to the mirror, images of a blue eyed woman calling to him again for a moment before his gaze turned back to the table. Shaking his head to clear it, he picked the piece of parchment up from the tabletop and unrolled it, staring at the symbols and trying to divine some meaning.
G: Evangeline excuses herself and retires to her chambers for the night, casting a coy glance over her shoulder at Sir Cirdan as she departs.
Denys gets to his feet and announces he is likewise going to rest.
‘’The evening has been altogether too short, my friends.’’
Servants arrive to direct those of you who choose to spend the night to your chambers, should you wish to sleep. If anyone is still hungry, wishes a bath, needs a candle,etc the servants will provide for that, as well.
B: “Incabulos…” Bennedict mumbles, squinting at the scroll. “Who is Incabulos?”
When a servant comes by to ask Ben if he needs anything, he asks for an ink pot and a pen, flopping a dog eared, weatherbeaten pocket journal onto the table and flipping to a blank page towards the back.
C: Cirdan bows silently to Evangeline, then uncomfortably steps from one foot to another.
Incabulos… I know that name… Back from home…
“Bennedict… I think I know that word you just said. From my home, in Darkon. I think it was…”
B: Bennedict’s eyebrow arches as he sets the quill down carefully on the table and removes his glasses. “Indeed? Perhaps you’d care to elaborate.”
G: Ambrose, a young serving-man, brings Ben his inkpot and pen. He also sets a pitcher of water out, should anyone need a drink. All the lights in the house have been extinguished, save for four candles in silver candlesticks, which stand atop the dining room table. The effect is that you all sit in a wavering pool of light in the midst of the great darkened house.
Ambrose begs you l;eave to go into the other room an lay down awhile-
’’I’ll be on my feet in an instant, if you call,’’ he promises. He draws up a couch upon which to take his rest.
N: Norzak grabs two tankards of ale before heading to his guest room.
G: [for Norzak]
The guest room is small, but well-appointed. A sturdy wooden bed, topped with heavy, soft blankets and feather pillows dominates the far side of the room. Next to this stands a little night table. A chamberpot sits at the foot of the bed. Above the bed is a window, the shutters open to admit the night breezes.
N: Norzak removes the matress and places it on the floor. He packed it with his hands a few times before finally satisfied he sat cross legged on it. He downed both ales quickly and rubbing his belly, he bleched rather loudly. He took a pillow and placed it under his head. Laying back, he closed his eyes and near a minute later was snoring.
C: Cirdan seems to hesitate for a moment, perhaps a bit intimidated by the scholar’s direct addressing.
“Near Nevuchar Springs, were I grew up, people used to tell tales of a demon with that name. A spirit of plague with skeletal hands, that brought pestilence.
- This superstition is farily common among humans there; when they eat chicken, they spare two bones and put them in their chimney, forming a small bone cross. That is said to keep Incabulos away.”
Cirdan reaches out for his glass of wine. “Maybe the artififact is Darkonian, then.”
N: Norzak wakes with a start. Rubbing his eyes he gets up and heads downstairs. Finding Benn and Cirdan he walks over to them and sits. “Couldn’t sleep.” He retrieves the stones and now inspects them. “Oh I think I can definitely help you with that mirror scroll and key if yer willing to listen ta me, Benn. I hear things and know things. But yer going ta have ta trust me.”
B: “Now that you mention it, Cirdan, perhaps I have heard of this being. Well, this certainly does seem dire. It is good we were here to take these things out of Herr Sancerre’s hands before they caused him or his family any harm.
But the hour is late, and I prefer to discuss demons of pestilence with a bit more daylight.”
With that he turns back to the scroll, scribing more notes into his journal. Norzak likely comes down to the table to find Bennedict face down into his journal, glasses knocked akimbo to one side and a smudge of ink dried on one cheek. At the dwarf’s address, he starts back to alertness, readjusting his spectacles. “Hmm, what, key? Ah, yes, the items. You know something of them, you say?”
N: Leaning in and speaking in a low voice, Norzak relates what he knows “The mirror shows you another land. The key opens a portal to this land. From what I remember, the portal used ta be here in Pont-A-Museau sonewhere on the surface, but is now in somewhere in the sewers guarded by some rat men. I have no compinction at all about killing some rats ‘n’ I doubt either a you do either. If I am right and I’m pretty sure I am, what do ya say we venture into tha sewers n have us a rat ke bob?” Norzak asks eagerly.
“Oh by tha way, these here stones are uncut onyxes ‘n’ I think they’re worth a lil bit ‘o’ gold Benn” Norzak adds as he removes them from his pocket and hands them over to the big man.
B: Norzak’s description of the stones barely even registers with Bennedict as his face narrows into a suspicious squint. “You’ll have to forgive me, Herr Norzak,” the wiry man begins slowly, “but, perhaps you could explain to me how it is exactly that you came to know of this? It was my understanding that you were from Darkon, originally.” He pauses as his eyes drift to the corner of the table, where the mirror is still resting, covered by Bennedict’s handkerchief. “It is possible that this place you speak so cavalierly of visiting may perhaps be dangerous.”
In the back of his mind, Bennedict tries his best to push away the image of deep, staring sapphire blue eyes…
N: “How do we come to learn things? We listen, we read. Yeah I read. Don’t lookit me like that, even I read. So though I am from Darkon don’t mean squat. I coulda learnt things there from me elders you couldn’t from yer elders. In case ya ain’t noticed dwarves live a lot longer ‘n’ you humans do but not quite as long as Cirdan’s folk do. So we know things ya don’t. We pray ta different gods you do ‘n’ perhaps get different information. So that being said, I did sleep but had a dream about this mirror, scroll ‘n’ key. I dont remember any of it cept that the answer is in the sewers ‘n’ that we might have ta kill some rat men. I ain’t got nothing against killin ratmen. You?” Norzak pauses then continues.
“I said you’d have ta trust me. I tole ya what I know. I gave ye back the stones ‘n’ tole ya what I knew about ‘em. This could be a good opportunity. And Benn, when you looked into the mirror I think ya saw someone with long hair ’n scantilly clad with a nice body but no beard. So what do yer say. I ain’t steered ya wrong yet.”
B: “Your knowledge of the being who attempted to ensnare me through the mirror does little to quiet my concerns, to be honest. Perhaps it simply seems a bit too convenient for my tastes.” He pauses for a moment to consider his options more fully. “I will admit, however, that thus far you have done little to engender my distrust.”
Bennedict rubs the bridge of his nose, clearly still tired. “In any case, I don’t see a reason to travel to this land you speak of and face these rat-men. If they are content to remain in the sewers and protect the portal you mentioned, I am more than happy to leave them to it. Besides, I believe Herr Sancerre is interested in retaining my services here in the city. I wouldn’t want to simply vanish so soon after joining his employ.”
To say nothing of simply not wanting to be eaten alive by rat-men in a sewer. The archivist mentally continues. Risking my neck for no better reason than to satisfy a dwarf’s curiosity isn’t exactly what I’d call a good idea.
C: Feeling that his knowledge is not appreciated the way he had envisioned it, Cirdan will politely retire to his bedroom and try to catch some sleep, while quietly cursing about arrogant intellectuals…
G: The rest of the night passes uneventfully. Servants rouse the sleeping members of the party, provide fresh water and other necessities, and inform you all that breakfast will be served in an hour, in the sun room.
The sun room is situated so that it receives plenty of warm sunlight through its many large glass windows. The shutters are all open, and several of the windows as well, so that a gentle breeze fills the room with balmy air and the scent of roses from the east garden.
Breakfast consists of ommelettes, crepes tooped with fruit preserves, soft cheese, bread, and little brown sausages. Tea with cream and honey is served from a tall silver samovar.
Evangeline seems quite animated this morning-
‘’ I am going shopping and visiting some of our friends today. Would any of you like to come along with me? I’d be glad of an escort, and I could show you all my favorite shops! Oh, don’t forget the bakery Mesieur Norzak!’’
C: Needless to say who will volunteer first…
G: Evangeline is obviously delighted by Sir Cirdan’s response.
‘’Oh! It will be fun! ’’
Denys finishes his plate [he was eating quickly!] , politely excuses himself and leaves the room, sayiing-
‘’Forgive me my friEnds, but I must attend to business matters now.’’
N: Norzak sleeps like a baby. Upon waking he is hungrier than a starving halfling! He gets his fill then when Evangeline asks him to ecort her he tells her “Yeah I’d like ta see this here bakery you got me fruitcake from, missy.” I’d like ta get these here men ta git down to tha sewers ta open that there door but thay ain’t too trusting. Bah! I’ll have ta convince em otherwise.
G: Evangeline finshes her meal, excuses herself, and goes to prepare for her outing.
A old servant woman is cleaning in the adjacent room- M. Sancerre’s study. She sings softly as she works.
’’Lolly lolly, rags and bones,
down the pipes where ratters roam,
I found a hat pin in the muck,
now in my chapeau it is stuck,
Lolly lolly, rags and bones,
down the pipes where ratters roam,
Far I wandered in the gloom,
till I found a lonesome tomb,
Lolly Lolly rags and bones,
down the pipes where ratters roam,
In the tomb – a door to Hell,
opened wide and through I fell
Lolly lolly rags and bones,
down the pipes no more I’ll roam..
C: “Strange song” Cirdan comments as he holds the door open for Evangeline…
G: Evangeline remarks-
‘’Oh, that? Hannah just likes to sing those old airs while she works. It’s a song for children, she used to sing it to me when I was little.’’
Evangeline soon returns, wearing a sun hat and a green dress. With her are Sir Cirdan and a servant girl who carries a basket and coin purse.
‘’Shall we go out now? It is a lovely day for walking, bright and sunny. ’’
While her mistress talks with Norzak, the servant girl regards Benn with a friendly smile. She’s a bit taller than her mistress, with raven black hair, fair skin, and hazel eyes. She wears a dress of blue cotton, a nice piece of tailoring but not too fancy, that shows the lines of her petite, well formed figure. Around her neck dangles a rabbit’s foot charm on a length of rawhide.
The girl leans over and whispers something to Evangeline.
Evangeline blushes faintly and supresses a giggle.
B: Bennedict politely excuses himself from the trip to the market, feeling a bit tired after spending most of the night transcribing the scroll into his journal. To say nothing of the exhaustion from listening to Evangeline drooling over Sir Cirdan, he thinks. However, he makes a gesture to Norzak, handing him what the dwarf had previously identified as a piece of uncut onyx.
“I am not completely aware of who would be best to go to for this, and perhaps you know better than I. I think this must have been Lady Evangeline’s abductor’s payment, so considering that both they and their employer are unlikely to bother us or her again, perhaps it would be best to pawn these and divide the proceeds amongst the three of us?”
He picks up his cup of warm tea, taking a short sip to avoid burning his mouth. He sighed, pleased as the smoky-acrid liquid went down his throat. Too many places in Pont-a-Museau tried to pass off watery dishwater as tea, and Bennedict was pleased to see that Master Sancerre’s tastes ran parallel to his own. He pauses, however, at the sound of the servant’s song coming from the next room. His face unwittingly took on the same slightly curious expression as Cirdan, though he did not vocalize his concerns. Now that’s entirely too coincidental. Benn thinks, recalling the discussions of the evening prior. Perhaps I’m being paranoid. All this talk of ratmen in the sewers and pestilence demons is making me jumpy.
As the others stand and depart, Bennedict walks towards the servant girl, flashing the what he thought passed as a winning smile, “You have a lovely singing voice. Might I be so forward as to ask you where you learned that song, fraulien? The tune sounds somewhat familiar.”
G: [To clarify: there is a old servant woman in the next room and a younger servant girl with Evangeline- two different people. The old lady was the one singing]
The old woman [ the one whom Evangeline called Hannah] is just about finished cleaning the study and is getting ready to begin the sun room when Benn addresses her.
‘’Oh , hello there. You like my song,eh? I learned it of my father. He used to sing it to me when I was just a li’l moppet. Old tune, old as the cobblestones, they say.’’
B: While Benn is busy talking with the old woman, he notices that one of Evangeline’s party has hung back- the pretty young servant girl with the raven black hair. She peeks at him from around the corner, smiling in a rather flirtacious manner.
Evangeline’s voice calls from outside,
‘’Charlotte! Come now, we must hurry. I don’t want to keep poor Norzak waiting- he’s ever so anxious to see the bakery.’’
Charlotte vanishes around the corner. Benn can hear her run to join the others.
Evangline leads the way. Just behind her walks her servant girl, Charlotte.
The weather is quite pleasant, not too hot but sunny and breezy. The city is busy, with many people out in the streets- buying and selling or just strolling the avenues.
The Clothiers Street , at the end of which is the Sancerre’s home, is the first leg of your trip. Evangeline does a little window shopping, but doesn’t buy anything.
‘’I like to look, but of course I’ve had my gown made already.’’
The next stop is a shop on Bakers Row, a short walk from the Street of Clothiers. The bakery is a squat single storey building, solidly constructed of stone and heavy timber. It looks [to Norzak, anyway] like it might be dwarf-built. Local materials, perhaps, but the syle is unusual for the city. A smell of freshly baked bread wafts out from inside. The windows and the front door are wide open, letting in sunlight, fresh air, and customers.
Evangeline enters the shop. She exhanges some pleasantries with the owner, a rather plump dwarf.
“Heavens begorrah! Who might you be, mack?” Norzak asks in his ususal brusque fasion. “I be Norzak. Norzak Darkender of Darkon. Out ta see these lands ‘n’ report back ta me clan.” Norzak puts out his hand for a handshake. “I was very impressed by ye fruitcake. It’s just like me mum used ta make.”
G: The baker replies in Dwarvish:
’’Name’s Brom Barrelhouse, from Tempe Falls, originally. Nice ta meet ‘nother ’un from the old country. Who’s the elf?’’
Brom shakes Norzak’s hand with a firm grip- leaving some flour on his fellow dwarf.
N: Norzak replies in Dwarvish:
“I dunno I met him in town two nights ago. Seems like most elves Ive heard of. The missus seems to fancy him fer some god awful reason as yet is incomprehensible to me. ‘N’ she ain’t got a beard. Where’s the attraction without a beard, Brom?” Norzak guffaws.
G: [in Dwarvish, of course]-
‘’I like mine cleanshaven, actually. Course, I’m eccentric. ’’
‘’Glad you liked the fruitcake- it’s me specialty. I cannot get the humans who work for me ta do it right, so I always make that meself. ’’
B: “Old as the stones, hmm,” Bennedict recalls Norzak’s tale of the subteranean rat-menace, “Perhaps even older.” He smiles once again to the cleaning lady and raises his tea glass before turning back to the breakfast table.
The unexpected attention from Charlotte the serving girl distracts Benn’s musings for a moment, but her absence brings him back to the present. To recap, we have no less than three unexplained magic items, rat people in the sewers, a portal to…somewhere else, and a pestilence god. To say nothing of the odd figure in the street the night we murdered Evangeline’s kidnapper…accidentally.Questions were starting to pile upon questions, and Bennedict was beginning to lose patience.
Which means it’s time to go to the library.
G: Leaving the bakery after Norzak’s coversation with Brom, Evangeline leads her small party to the Dockside Market.
The River Market turns out to be noisy and vibrant. The waterfront is lined with crates, barrels and chests. Stevedores are unloading more from the numerous rafts and boats tied up along the wharf. Hawkers and small vendors line the inland side of the street, all busily attempting to sell passers-by something or another. In the few vacant lots along the street, open-air auctions are being conducted- the goods are simply piled in stacks on the ground. The variety of goods is very great- bundles of cotton and tobacco from Arkandale, casks of Invidian wine, Elvish crystal-work form distant Sithicus,etc.
G: As you walk down the waterfront, you approach a cafe. Outside the door is hung a very large wooden board, roughly square, and quite weathered and nail-scarred. To this board are tacked scraps of parchment, posters,and broadsides of various sorts. Now and then, someone will stop at the board and read one of the notes, then hurry along his way.
N: Norzak will lean into Evangeline and ask in a low voice “I got these here stones I’d like ta change ta gold, miss” and he removes the stones and shows her quickly before putting them back “Kinna ya find me an honest jeweler or they don’t exist here?” Once she answers him he approaches the board and reads the notices at the café.
G: ‘’ Jeweler? Of course I know a good jeweler- it won’t be much trouble, Norzak. We can go there later today. ’’
Checking the board, Norzak sees a variety of ads, announcements,etc. Some look official, and many others have obviously been posted here by private citizens. One poster stands out:
Information leading to the arrest of two men and a dwarf suspected in the abduction and possible murder of Pierre Renault- last seen alive in the company of the three leaving the Sign of the Two Goats.
Suspect 1 is a dwarf, shabbily dressed and filthy besides.
Suspect 2 is described as being handsome, tall, and of noble bearing, dressed as a knight or gentleman in the fashion of the northern countries.
Suspect 3 has spectacles and gray hair. By his accent, he may be Lamordian or Falkovnian.
To collect your reward of twenty florins, bring information to the central gendarmie station.
CASH REWARD: 20 FLORINS
C: Cirdan stops to read the poster attentively, while his faces changes from red like a tomato to white like marble.
Witha theathrical gesture, he draws his dagger, and cuts the poster from the wall.
“We won’t stop until we find those vicious criminals, or will we, my filthy friend Norzak?
G: Evangeline and Charlotte stand nearby, discussing the possibility of eating at this cafe.
‘’It looks like fun! ’’
‘’My lady- they have a pig’s foot in a jar! That seems odd. ’’
Meanwhile, Bennedict has arrived at the store and home of Mattheo Barozi, a seller and collector of books of all kinds.
The sign outside the chipped and weathered marble facade reads ‘’THE MARBLE FAUN, BOOKS & SCROLLS’‘. Benn enters the shop and sees that it is much the same as when he last was here. Little motes and swirls of dust hang in the air, illuminated by the sunlight coming in through the leaded glass windows. The shop is crowded with tall wooden shelves, most of which are nearly full of books, scrolls, and parchment. Behind the front desk sits a harmless looking balding man of middle years- Mattheo Barozi, the shop’s proprietor.
[Benn knows Barozi both as a personal friend and as a business contact. Mattheo is an Invidian immigrant who arrived in the town a couple of years ago. He’s also a prominent collector of books on a wide variety of subjects. He is reputed to possess one of the better private collections of books in town. Incidentally, Benn know that Barozi lives in the upstairs loft and keeps his best books up there.]
B: Benn gives the doorframe a tap with his walking stick. “Good morning, Mattheo,” he greets the man, warmly. “Good to see the moneylenders haven’t closed you down yet. I happened to be in the neighborhood, and thought I’d stop by and say hello to my old friend.”
The archivist gives the older man a wide smile.
“Found anything interesting, recently?”
N: “Er no we won’t Elf. Cirdan yes, yes I kinna agree there.” Norzak overhears the pigs foot in a jar and rubs his tummy in anticiapation. He walks over to Evangeline and Charlotte and says “Missy ya t’aint ne’er eaten anything quite like a pig’s foot in a jar. It’s pickled I’m sure. It’s considered a delicacy amongst me people. This looks like my kinna place! I bet I kinna persuade them ta git me a nice ale ta boot! Whatta yer say missy? Wanna give the pig’s foot a try?”
G: [at the cafe]
Evangeline wrinkles her nose just a little bit. Charlotte giggles.
‘’Oh, well, I will try it.’’
She turns and enters the cafe, Charlotte quickly following.
The interior of the cafe is roomy and well lit, between the open window and a lantern suspended from a hook on the ceilling towards your left. Underneath the lantern is a long counter, with a set of wooden cabinets mounted on the wall behind it. The counter is topped with cotton napkins and the open cabinets contain wooden cups, jars of various things [including pickled pig’s feet, jam, peaches,etc]. Against the counter are several stools. Across the room to your right, facing the open windows and the riverwalk, are several small wooden tables with wicker chairs. The far wall has an half-door leading to what appears top be the kitchen. The whole place is very clean, and the walls are whitewashed. Someone has placed vases of flowers in the windows.
The place doesn’t seem too busy, at the moment, with just a few customers inside. A young girl is taking their orders.
As your party enters a heavy-set man with iron gray hair, dressed in simple workman’s clothes and a white apron, greets you thusly-
‘’Hello friends! Welcome to mah place. ’’
[at the Marble Faun]
‘’Interesting? Of course, Bennedict. I’ve come into possession of an illuminated Ezran hymnal from the early years of the church. Quite unique and very valuable. I may try to sell it to the church authorities here.’’
B: “Ah, well, if you think that is best.” The younger man steps up to Mattheo’s desk. “I’ve always found them to be a bit of a bore to negotiate with, myself. Very stodgy, and very tight fisted with their cash. Though I suppose they have enough of it that it’s at least worth feeling them out. I might like to take a look at it if you don’t mind. There may be some incantations worth noting contained therein. You know how such things interest me.”
He walks around to one of the shelves, glancing at the titles without interest. He knew well enough that Mattheo didn’t put the good stuff out front for the average consumer to bump into.
“While we’re on the subject, I was wondering if I could ask a favor. This town doesn’t have any public lending libraries, a real testament to their dedication to higher learning. I’m looking into something for a client, investigating the origin of some items he discovered. They may have something to do with matters of an occult nature. I know you have some texts that may be of use, so I was wondering if I could look through your private collection, to see if there is anything I can dig up?”
N: Norzak eyes the place with appreciation. It seemed a fair enough establishment, especialy if pig’s foot was made here! Then he spied the owner. Heavy-set also merant he enjoyed his own cooking meaning if he ate it, then the food had to be good! Not all cooks did that. Approaching the man, he extended his hand “Nice ta meetcha! I’m Norzak and I’m accompanying these here ladies” he points back over his shoulders at Evangeline and Charlotte “As well as tha elf. I saw ye had pig’s foot in a jar, bub. A man after me own heart ‘n’ tummy” he rubs his stomach before continuing. “Tha ladies wanna try it ‘n’ I wanna have some ‘n’ buy some fer me own personal use. Set us up with a table fer four!”
[at the Marble Faun]
‘’Research, eh? Of course, of course. Here, let me find the key. ’’
Mattheo digs in his pockets till he comes up with a large brass key.
‘’You remember to watch out for that fourth stair- I’ve not yet had it fixed. Take as much time as you need. I’ll be down here, minding the store.’’
Up the narrow stairs and beyond a creaky wooden door is a large room that doubles as library and quarters for the bookseller. Shelves of books line the walls, stacked nearly full from top to bottom. What doesn’t fit on the shelves sits in chests stacked in the middle of the room. Only a small space to your left is occupied by Mattheo’s concessions to bodily comfort and necessity: a chamberpot, an old cot with a heavy blanket draped over it, some simple utensils, and a little writing desk on which stands and oil lamp [unlit]. The blinds on the rightside windows are oopen to admit sunlight.
Looking at the books, you can see that Mattheo has made some progress at the task of organizing them by subject. It’s hardly scientific, but it does mean that you won’t have to hunt through the shelves at random.
‘’Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Norzak. Mah name’s Odall . ’’
The big fellow and the young girl set a table for you all, near the window so you get plenty of sunshine and fresh air.
The cafe turns out to be an ethnic affair- they serve Arkandaler cuisine: lots of garden vegetables [including many dishes made with squash and tomatoes], cornbread, catfish, and pork. Half the food is fried. The dessert menu includes various dishes made with peaches and berries. Drinks include some weird concoction called the ‘’mint julep’’, coffee, and also a line up of more usual beverages.
G: After you are seated, Evangeline turns to Cirdan and asks-
’’What’s that notice you cut down? ’’
The door swings open and two men enter, their green surcoats marking them as gendarmes. Both men are armed with longswords and have bucklers hanging on their belts. They take up seats at the counter.
‘’Hi ,Odall’’, says one of the two- a wiry looking man with a Van Dyke style beard and mustache.
‘’Jean and I will have the usual, please. Oh, and some coffee, too. It’s been a long shift.’’
[They are sitting with their backs to you]
B: Bennedict opens his bag, pulling out the dog eared journal and setting it on the cot with his writing implements. “And now, down to the business at hand.” He turns to the rows of bookshelves, brushing his hands along the spines lovingly. One day he wanted a collection this good. Well, maybe a little better.
“Ratmen, portals beneath the city, mirrors…” he mumbles, scanning the titles for anything useful. Finaly, his eyes settle on one that is of use, pulling it free form the shelves. “Incabulos,” he mutters, dropping it open and paging through.
G: The spine reads, quite simply:
The Incabulos Cult
Nothing fancy about the covers, just plain brown leather. Inside the book, on the first page, is the full title, handwritten in an old fashioned style:
The Incabulos Cult of the North Country, a true account of the dyvers strange and terrible superstitions of that land’s inhabitants, as regards the
veneration of the demon-god Incabulos, as given by Johannes of Egertus, Year of the Gray Mists-
[at the Marble Faun]
Leafing through the pages, you see that the entire book is handwritten. Although faded and sadly water damaged in spots [no doubt before it came under Mattheo’s care] , the manuscript remains mostly legible. It is the account of a traveller from the city of Egertus- presumably the city of the same name in Nova Vaasa, although perhaps not. The dating system used is unfamiliar to you. A scribes miniscule notation in the margins indicates that the book is a copy made from the original manuscript [listed as having been copied in the Year of the Bright Standard- whenever that was.]
In the first chapter, Johannes introduces himself as a merchant caravaneer by trade, the son of a silversmith in Egertus. He goes on describe his adventures on the way to the North Country. His travels north take him into the region of Arak, a place he describes as a green and pleasant land, but inhabited by ferocious savages who force chained captives to fight to the death in earthen pits- merely to provide an amusing spectacle at feasts. In passing, he mentions a few local curiosities, such as the custom of drinking wine mixed with mare’s blood, and the practice of divination by examining the entrails of specially raised temple doves. The people of Arak warned him of the demon-worshippers of the North Country.
In the following chapters, Johannes writes of how the caravan pushed through the foothills of the mountains and reached at last the North Country, a region of forests interspersed with moors and meadowlands. The Mists were never very far away there, and several members of the expedition went missing , swallowed in banks of fog. The people they encountered along the trail were simple farmers and herdsmen who told them of larger towns futher to the northwest, places they might be able to make a profit with the trade goods they’ve carried up from the southlands. Deeper into that unknown country went the little caravan…
Far through the wild woods, and along a rushing river, they came at last to the settlement of Karg, a palisade-ringed town and center of both trade and agriculture for the region.
The inhabitants, Johannes tells us, did indeed practice strange rites, as the Arakians had warned him. They sacrificed their own children to a demon-monster called Incabulos, entombing one child each year at the start of the harvest season in a place called the Pit of Nightmares. What exactly happened in the Pit, no one would tell, but they did say that no remains were found of the sacrificed children when the Pit was reopened after a fortnight. No remains, but only scratches left by the children’s frantic attempts to escape. It is believed , so Johannes records it, that Incabulos will become angry should the sacrifice ever fail to be made in the proper time and manner, and will send dooms down upon the people.