One prince wants them to steal the Branch. One prince wants them to speak to the Sages. A small town cries out for help. And the call of greed comes to everyone. Which road will the party travel, and will they work together, or at cross purposes?
A young dwarven lad approached Rayne and handed him a note asking him to meet with the local herbalist. When he had slipped away from the group and met with him, the herbalist told Rayne that the mayor’s son had engaged him to contract quietly with adventurers to obtain the Orian Branch for him, for the glory of the dwarven state of Nuppan. In return for this, Rayne’s party would receive a reward of 5,000 pp.
Rayne told the dwarf he’d think about it. When he told the group about this (at a moment when Magnus was occupied elsewhere), Nolt asked Rayne to point the herbalist out to him, which he did.
Nolt met with the herbalist and told him that the party could only take on this task if paid in advance. The herbalist said the mayor’s son hadn’t given him that much money, but that he could give an advance of 50 pp. The herbalist didn’t want to flash that kind of money in the tavern, so he and Nolt went out into the alley. The dwarf gave him the bag of money, and Nolt stabbed him with a poisoned crossbow bolt, killing him.
Grayson and Magnus went to the local authorities and informed to them against Owen Colgate, and Nolt and Ragnor traded the voucher for a ton of iron, for which they bought a cart and an ox.
Returning to Parvus on the 27th of Pentilis, they found that the village had managed to get a party of adventurers to go into the monster lair to clear it out, so the party turned east and made for the Hall of Sages.
As they passed below the mountains, they noticed something glimmering in the hills. Investigating, they found a pile of unguarded treasure. Or, so it appeared. When Nolt picked up a handful of the treasure, he felt a touch on his shoulder and heard some arcane muttering, and he was suddenly overcome with the need to dance. Magnus watched his dance routine and then covered his retreat back to the wagon. The pixie that had been guarding the treasure laughed at them and became visible long enough to make a make rude noise and gesture toward them. Nolt got away with a few small gems.
Finally, on the 31st of Pentilis, they reached the Hall of Sages.
The party discussed the situation with the sages, telling them of the attempts to buy the theft of the Branch and handing over the note Ursen had sent.
It was finally decided that the party would take the Branch to a dungeon in Mesarunde that Ragnor had heard about in rumors. The party also decided to use misdirection to protect the artifact. The sages agreed and provided them, after a week, with five fake copies of the Branch, indistinguishable except to the eye of those who had previously handled the real thing, each fake having a separate small difference in appearance, close enough to fool anyone who had heard of it but not close enough that the party might mistake the reall for the imposter.
Thus equipped, the party set out on the 1st of Hexilis toward Berit, leaving one fake in the vault for the sages to continue to guard along with the other valuable and dangerous things there.
By the time they reached Jocasta on the 2nd, the party had discussed plans and decided to send one fake to Julian, drop one overboard during the trip across the ocean, find places to leave the other two fakes, and locate the legendary dungeon that was built for another legendary object, somehow overcome its protections, and leave the Branch at its deepest recess. Nolt argued that they didn’t really need to send one to Nuppan.
(This was just as well, because, though no one in the party knew it, the herbalist was working for Owen Colgate, not the mayor’s son.)
At Berit, the party split up, with Rayne and Grayson returning to Kepita on Rayne’s horse, Ragnor disappearing into town on some unknown errands, and Nolt and Magnus taking the iron to the docks to find Captain Teagalley. The dockmaster told them that Teagalley was in port and was staying at the Empty Floor Inn. Teagalley paid them 900 gp for the iron and agreed to take them across to Mesarunde for the cost of their food. Nolt gave him 10 pp from what he’d gotten off the Nuppani herbalist.
Nolt decided not to visit “the Crow”, even though he owed the party for having the two Brigadines arrested.
They sailed on the evening tide. Just before the boat weighed anchor, Ragnor showed up again, with a half-elf sorcerer following him. The half-elf introduced himself as Drabear, a native of Rissen. The crossing was uneventful, and near the halfway mark, two and a half days into the voyage on the 7th of Hexilis, the party securely tied the second fake to a couple of heavy anchors they’d bought in town. They heaved it overboard, and it sank beneath the waves, never to be seen again. Magnus insisted on telling Teagalley’s sailors the major facts about the Branch and its history, and they gave him funny looks the rest of the voyage.
Their boat docked in Happort, Seashire on the 10th of Hexilis, and the party drove their wagon off the boat, thanking Teagalley for his help. As they saw one of the sailors heading into the local tavern, one of the sailors who’d seen the fake branch go overboard, they decided to get out of town quickly. Two hours later, they were in Centerville, where they got some information about the lay of the land and how far they would have to travel to reach Ragnor’s hometown, Portsmouth.