When we arrived at Lady Lavinia’s, we were ushered inside to the second floor study with Lemmy in the lead directly behind Lavinia. As we entered, I saw a look of deep pleasure bloom on Lemmy’s craggy face. I glanced around to see what caused Lemmy to react so and my eyes caught on a very handsome, nobly dressed gentleman in a purple-trimmed cloak. As Lavinia left us, Lemmy turned to us and presented us to Paladin Arwal Swansson, a Purple Dragon Knight and the leader of the Sons of Mercy. He nodded solemnly to each of us as we were named and I felt a shiver pass over me when his glance crossed mine.
After introductions, we all settled around a large table and partook of the refreshments thoughtfully left for us by Lady Lavinia as Lord Arwal began to speak. We were told that two Red Hurst Wizardry Academy students have gone missing and that it may well have bearing on Violetta and her situation of all people. But then she is three and wise beyond her years. If we found them, we were to return them to the custody of Nimblame Elminster. Elminster! As it turned out, the legendary Arch Mage was the Dean of the School of Divination.
Red Hurst Wizardry Academy. The premier school of magic. The school traveled from plane to plane and from sphere to sphere, offering students an unparalleled academic experience. Though Xrng and I were eligible to attend as we were wizards, I hardly fitted the usual academic profile being from a family with no reputation for magic (shamanism doesn’t count), poor (tuition was 2000gp. Every half year.), and having few connections. And Elminster was a Dean there! And I might get to meet him if we catch two teen-aged humanoids, a boy named Jethrick and a girl named Thai. They had gone missing right before the Academy moved on to its next destination. If we caught the kids, I’d get to meet Arch Mage Elminster and perhaps he’ll see me as a talent worth cultivating, a diamond in the rough so to speak! But then again, he may not even notice such a lowly wizard such as myself.
It’s decided that we should ride along with Arwal Swansson, who had a Hammership called The Golden Dawn. We had a 24-hour leave before we set off to Arabelle, the capitol of Cormir, where the children had been last seen. Ibid began to prepare to go out, explaining he was to be formally initiated a Priest of Ptah. He kindly extended an invitation to watch his initiation and attend the feast that followed.
We entered the temple and wafts of sweet incense reached my nose. Torches mysteriously lit the interior of the chamber we entered and I saw Ibid kneeling between two of his brothers on a dais, setting the small group somewhat over the crowd. The ceremony was lengthy and the priests shaved his head during the course of it. After a last benediction (Finally! I was having a terrible time holding still and not prowling about by the end of it.), Ibid rose to his feet and raised his head. Two glowing blue ankhs shown in his eyes. When we asked about it, he said only, “I can see.”
We left Dragon Rock the next day. Arwal had 35 Purple Dragon Knights in attendance gathered on the foredeck. Arwal cautioned us to leave the Knights to their own devices and invited us to dinner. On the main deck, a formal dining table had been set with beautiful blue and white Shou china and heavy silver. Nine places were set but there were only seven of us. As we began to take our seats, two more gentlemen joined us. Arwal introduced a tall, rangy human male carrying a quiver with two wands as Merlin of Grey Hawk then turned to the second man.
Very old yet robust, the silver-bearded gentleman carried a wizard’s staff of beautiful make, clearly very old, and a broadsword. Arch Mage Elminster of Shadow Dale intoned Arwal solemnly. I nearly leapt from my seat in sheer panic. I found myself suddenly wondering if all my scrolls were in proper order. Arwal began to make the round of introductions but stopped once Elminster began to name us and tell us details of our own lives! Visions of being a “diamond in the rough” in Elminster’s opinion immediately disappeared when he came to me and referred to me as being of “barbarian” origins. Xrng was clearly smitten speechless, staring at Elminster with her multi-faceted eyes. I wondered if she wanted to take classes with Elminster like I did. I couldn’t blame her. He’s a genius and I bet he’s read the most books of anyone, EVER!
Elminster made an elegant flourish (I had to stop myself from trying to copy the gesture) and suddenly a lavish banquet was set before us. Accompanying it was a beverage the Arch Mage referred to as “German Beer”. Over dinner many things were squared away. Cazimir decided to leave the black pearl with Elminster, who kindly identified it for us as being the work of the Demon Prince Razzit. Merlin gave us a letter of introduction to Dean Sector, the director of Red Hurst and a map showing Cormir with the rendezvous point clearly marked. In the course of conversation as we finished dining, I realized that the kids were only a convenient excuse to get us into Red Hurst Wizardry Academy itself. With so many cross-currents of intent flowing, I decided to just focus on the missing children till other matters clarified themselves. After a boozy evening and the vocal stylings of Violetta (a very breathy, bosom-y aria of love while staring at Arwal. In her attempts to impress him, she nearly tumbled off the ship), we retired to bed.
We landed a half-day’s walk from Arabelle and immediately set out after making our rendezvous plans three days hence. A check with the City Guard was negative. So the children hadn’t been accidentally left behind. We proceeded next to the city park where they were last seen. We found a spider-silk merchant who had seen the kids a few days previously in good health and apparently happy. The merchant noted the odd gold Jethrick used to pay for a scarf for Thai. After some bargaining, Violetta managed to get some of the gold they had used. The sparkling coin we looked at had a spider on one side and a beautiful Elf maiden on the reverse. I groaned when I saw it. The maiden was the Goddess Loath and the gold was of Drow origin. Wonderful. We were chasing two teen-aged Drow.
During our search, we stumbled across a fortune-teller. When she looked at the coin, she saw wyvern rather than a spider and the maid had become an old man. Hmmmm. After more searching, we discovered the inn where the children stayed thanks to Ibid and his dowsing rod. The Innkeeper said that Jethrick and Thai had stayed the night with another party of two men going by the name of “Wheeler”. Ibid, Lemmy and I found an adventuring shop where our fugitives had stocked up on traveling gear that very morning. The owner said they were talking of heading east and look downcast. When asked for horses, the owner directed the pair to Rohan’s, “. . . they have the best horses.”
Off we went to Rohan’s where we purchased four horses for our party. I am a lousy rider (I mean, really, a cat person on a horse?) so I rode behind Ibid. I have had better journeys. It was dark (never mind that I have my race’s low light vision, it was still dark). I fell off the dratted horse. I couldn’t wait to get to the crossroads. About 10 at night, we arrived at the crossroads and found a small inn there. We had missed our quarry as the Wheeler party and “Mr & Mrs Erandale” (a common elven name) had left at dusk. As we were exhausted, we arranged for rooms and decided to set out at four in the morning.
By all the Gods, I am tired