Saturday 13 June 498
Having finished their late-night raid on the headquarters of the Kirvin Merchants' Guild, Orbin and the rest of the party returned to the Ilvar Inn while it was still dark. They had succeeded in retrieving Javius's stolen merchandise, as well as liberating a great deal of gold and gems, as well as the Guild's ledgers (not to mention killing several Guild guards). The ledgers recorded the fees paid by the merchants in town, as well as the merchandise that had been seized from those who couldn't pay.
The party knew that within hours the raid would be discovered. It seemed to be a good idea to get out of town as quickly as possible. There would be time later to go over the ledgers and decide how to return the money to the merchants. Orbin pointed out that he, at least, had a perfectly legitimate reason for leaving town: he was expected in Katon, a small village to the north, to make a delivery of wooden boxes from Thomas & Tepworth. Although he was supposed to meet his contact alone, there was no reason why the others couldn't travel with him, making their departure less suspicious.
Most of the rest of the party was eager to go, especially Tagart, who had been directly involved in the theft of Javius's merchandise. Nigel was initially reluctant to leave because he had been learning a great deal from the two local Church factions, but eventually decided it would be best to go. It was clear that Katon was an important lead in their investigation in their investigation of the conspiracy against the Church. "I must admit," he said, "we're getting close to the people who are behind this. And I want to be there when we find them."
Orbin pointed out that in Katon they might learn something that would lead them somewhere else, rather than back to Kirvin or to Darian. Nonetheless, he knew that he wanted to return to Kirvin eventually, since he felt that he had unfinished business there. "It's time for the merchants in this town to stand up," he said.
After some quick preparations, the party left the Ilvar Inn along with Orbin's two mules and Victor, the Abbey's donkey. Orbin hid the stolen ledgers inside the rolls of wool he'd acquired in Randa, while the gold and gems were divided up among the party members for additional security. They did not check out of the hotel; instead, Orbin left a note at the front desk along with payment for another ten days' lodging. They made a quick pre-dawn stop at the Thomas & Tepworth shop, where Orbin picked up the cart and boxes for delivery. They also went by Javius's boarding house, where Tagart employed his Spider Climb spell to quietly return the stolen jewelry to the dwarf's room.
At 5:30 AM they rendezvoused with Katra at her camp outside town. Since no one had yet slept, they decided to stop there for a few hours before embarking on the journey to Katon; this also gave Nigel a chance to pray and Tagart a chance to study his spell book.
At 9:30, Katra woke Orbin with interesting news. Asa, the local ranger, had seen some strange armed men prowling in the forest nearby; they did not appear to be local, and he didn't like the look of them. Asa wasn't sure, but he got the impression that they were pursuing someone. Orbin decided this was unusual enough to warrant investigation.
Janis, Autumn, Jalafin, Nigel, and Tagart joined him as they followed Katra through the forest. Soon enough she found the trail of the strangers, and shortly thereafter they all came to the edge of a ravine. Beside the stream at the bottom of the ravine, they saw a single Elf being attacked by a group of soldiers in orange tunics. Katra, Janis, and Jalafin hurried down and attempted to defend the Elf, but they had come too late. They killed all but one of the soldiers and immobilized the survivor, but the Elf was already dead. They also found that he had been doused with oil; it appeared that one of the soldiers had been planning to set him on fire.
The surviving soldier spoke only an unfamiliar language, so the party was unable to get any information from him. Unsure what else to do with him, they bound him and put him in the wagon. They then searched the body of the dead Elf, hoping to determine who he was and why the soldiers had been pursuing him.
Among his possessions they found an unusual magical lantern, permanently alight (though it could be shuttered) and ancient in appearance. The lantern bore an inscription in Elvish: "From the light of knowledge all shadows flee." Nigel recognized this as the text that appeared above the entrance of the Trevallian church in Kirvin; Tagart meanwhile recognized the lantern as being identical to one carried by Lamara, the mysterious Elf who had joined them on the road from Randa to Kirvin (she had shown it to him because she knew he was interested in magic).
The dead Elf had also been carrying a journal, which read:
One day out from home. Weather has been mostly pleasant. I have decided to head E. around the coast of the Bay for a while before turning N. If my task is to observe, it makes more sense to me to stay in areas where I am likely to see something.
Rain most of day today. Decided not to travel and instead took shelter here in a cluster of trees. I don't mind a summer rain, but I'd rather sit it out than try to go further. Besides, the Ridge looms up on my right -- soon I will no longer be able to see the Bay. I would hate to miss the last of the scenery by traveling onward in this weather.
Drawing near to some more settled areas. The human town of Katon is ahead. I have not been there in over a year, but at last report it was still a peaceful and pleasant place. I think I will stay a day or 2 there -- the people of Katon welcome strangers, even Elves, & rarely seem to get many visitors. I am more worried about what I may find when I get to Kirvin, since I have heard unsettling reports from there -- violence & unfriendliness toward nonhumans.
I am outside Kirvin now. Stayed several days in Katon, but something strange is happening there. Signs of activity at Katon House, but when I asked I got some odd answers. Then today I met Lamara headed other way. She told me she has seen signs of the Convergence in Kirvin! -- but who among the K. of P. has not thought that at some time? Still, what she told me makes me wonder -- Dwarves and Elves and humans together, magicians and human priests openly cooperating. Could it be?
Katon still troubles me. Could be important. After talking to Lamara I think I must go back to find out more. She has started me thinking.
Perhaps I have made an error. Tried to learn what I could in Katon ... I know that our task is to observe & gather info, not to become involved. But one can cross that line without meaning to. I am now certain that Lamara is right -- the Prophecy may be unfolding. The triangle is forming. I fear that I may be pursued, but I must try to bring what I have learned back to the other Keepers. They may not believe Lamara.
But I am troubled ... if the Convergence is happening in Kirvin, should not the humans there also be told about what is happening in Katon? Or do they already know? The Prophecy cannot make itself come true, & if the humans do not know about Katon, what will bring them there to see? Am I to guard the Prophecy or help it along?
Arva teaches us that knowledge is salvation. Maybe now more than ever. Secrets could mean the end for us.
But it is not for me to decide such matters, and there is no time. I cannot rest any longer. I must move.
Everyone was silent for a moment as they absorbed this and tried to figure out what it all meant. Suddenly Nigel spoke, saying "The Elf is right. Secrets are dangerous. So I should tell mine." He revealed that there were those in the Church who disagreed with its anti-magic policy, and he was one of them. So was Abbot Everam. "He believed that to close our eyes was dangerous," Nigel said. "To turn away from knowledge of any sort is foolish."
Nigel explained that Everam had been the overseer of a secret project to collect and study the remnants of magical knowledge from the Ilvian ruins. Nigel was also involved, as was Gilth the librarian. In fact, Nigel had used a magical healing potion from the Abbey's stores to heal Janis after she was nearly killed by kobolds near Sendara.
The party was stunned by this revelation. Janis said only that she didn't know what to think because too much was happening too fast.. Tagart, meanwhile, became very quiet. Eventually he began pulling things out of his backpack: an empty vial, a wand, and a scroll. "These are yours," he said, holding them out to Nigel. "I stole them from the basement in the Abbey. I'm sorry."
"Thank you for returning them," Nigel said. "Now, take them back. If this party is the Convergence, we must work together."
Suddenly Orbin spoke. "If we're all talking here ... perhaps we ought to say a little bit more." He turned to Tagart and asked him to bring out one more item: another magic wand Tagart had concealed. Orbin explained that he had been in the marketplace on May 2, the day Abbot Everam died, and that he had found this wand and kept it. This was the wand that had killed the Abbot. "Maybe this is an opportunity to turn the weapons of the enemy against them."
Orbin also confessed that he had, at various times in the past, bought and sold magical items. And in particular, he had sold magical items to Drasp, the mysterious man who had also ordered wooden boxes from Thomas & Tepworth and was apparently involved in the conspiracy somehow. "I know that I have sold him things that ended up in the gnolls' possession," he said. He also added that he had been with Tagart in the Abbey storeroom.
No one else seemed to have any revelations, so after a brief ceremony to burn the body of the Elf, they continued on their way to Katon.
At dusk they camped near the road. During the night, as Tagart sat under a tree studying the wand Orbin had found in the marketplace, a large snake suddenly dropped on him. Panicking, Tagart screamed and ran for the horizon while the rest of the party awoke and attacked the snake. Katra, Jalafin, and Janis killed the snake, with the help of Nigel's Sound Burst spell, while Orbin pursued Tagart and brought him back to camp.
Sunday 14 June
The next afternoon they saw a dark line on the horizon. As they came closer they realized this was the Ridge, the massive rock formation that ran along the coast of the Bay in the vicinity of Katon. Soon the road turned north, running parallel to the Ridge, and topped a rise. Below, in the distance, they could see the Ridgeview Inn beside the road, and the town of Katon some distance beyond that.
After some discussion, they decided that most of the party would camp outside town while Orbin, Jalafin, and Autumn (the three Thomas & Tepworth employees) stayed the night at the Ridgeview Inn. The three took the T&T wagon with them, but left Orbin's personal property with the rest of the party outside town.
It was too late for Orbin to attempt to rendezvous with his contact, so instead he spent his time at the Inn chatting with the innkeeper and trying to learn what he could about Katon. He learned that, like most Ilvian communities, Katon was a farming town, but it was more prosperous than many because of its proximity to the large marketplace and shipping business in Kirvin. Unlike most Ilvian towns, Katon was also very old, predating the War; the stony outcropping of the Ridge, which had withstood Heyraud's blast, had given the town some protection. Consequently, there were some structures in Katon that survived from the Kingdom of Ilvia.
Orbin was surprised to find that the beer at the Ridgeview Inn was among the best he had ever had. The inkeeper told him that it was a local brew produced as a hobby by a local farmer named Donald. As far as he knew Donald had never tried to sell it to anyone outside town.
Monday 15 June
After staying one night in the Ridgeview Inn, Orbin and the others rejoined the rest of the party so they could all go into Katon and explore the town. Orbin wanted to visit the home of Donald the brewer, and Nigel was curious to see whether Katon had a church. Together they headed into Katon to have a look around.