Reidoth helped Nundro out of the entrance of the forge towards the squat, abandoned homes. “He’s not well,” the elderly Druid explained, checking the Dwarf’s pulse. He was barely conscious, and his brow was coated in sweat.
“Take care of him,” Gundren told him solemnly, watching the two as they limped away.
Falkrunn said a quiet prayer of strength for her uncle, and for the Druid in whose charge he was laid, then turned her attention back to the door.
“The Forge of Spells,” Keyzana said in a satisfied sigh. “We finally found it, eh Dwarves?”
Gundren and Falkrunn both nodded, their attentions on the Dwarvish script inlaid in gold.
“I guess we check for traps?” Olara asked and Keyzana moved up to the door and scanned it with her fingertips.
When her skin touched the door, the writing in the wood began to glow in bright blue lettering. It pulsed with a hidden energy, and they watched as there descended from the ceiling a floating humanoid skull bathed in green, fiery light. It opened its bony jaw and, with a clack of teeth, recited a few lines in the common tongue. “Long ago four races set aside their differences and came together to create order from chaos. Those with the rights to enter the Forge of Spells will answer this: in what order was the Phandelver’s pact signed?”
“What does that mean? How should we know?” Keyzana hissed as Lorskan stepped around the floating skull towards the door. On the left side of the door were written the words Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome. On the righthand side glowed similarly a set of four names: Sudeiman, Malcer, Sefris and Tommeth. Lorskan whispered the names aloud.
“I think we need to match the names to the races,” Falkrunn said, eyeing the words for a pattern. “Is anyone familiar with these names? Are they clan names, perhaps?”
Gundren shook his head and Flavio shrugged. “Sefris is definitely not a Dwarf name,” Gundren added, but that was all he could ascertain.
“Can we get a hint?” Keyzana turned and asked the skull hopefully. It floated there without a sound. Keyzana raised a hand and pressed it to the glowing word of ‘Elf’ before anyone could stop her.
“Intruders. Intruders,” the rhythmic words echoed from the skull as the green fire around it flared up. “Intruders, intruders.”
Behind them, Falkrunn could hear the snap and crack of bones, and she turned to see the dry, stray bones of long lost victims begin to construct and fuse together. Some bent and picked up impossibly rotted crossbows and bolts, while others raised extremely rusted, pockmarked short swords. “Oh shi—” a bolt whizzed past Falkrunn’s head and she ducked just in time.
“You two, focus on the riddle,” Gundren yelled at Keyzana and Falkrunn, raising his hammer, “we’ll take care of the dead ones.” With that, he charged the rising skeletons.
Falkrunn and Keyzana looked at one another for a second, then quickly began reading the markings on the door over and over. Falkrunn read the names out in Dwarvish, and turned as she heard a shout from Flavio, who was drawing out his own warhammer. She removed her lute from her side and began to strum it, directing her bardic magic in the human’s direction. A second later, Flavio took down the first skeleton while Lorskan engaged another with sword drawn. Gundren smashed another to pieces and Olara drew her longsword and stepped into a duel.
“There!” Keyzana shouted, pointing upwards to a spot at least fifteen feet high on the door. It was a carved piece of crystal, and from this angle you could just barely see a roll of parchment resting inside. “That must be a clue.”
“Can you reach it?” Falkrunn asked, tilting her head as far back as she could.
Keyzana looked at her hands and began to pace, thinking.
More skeletons appeared from the floor and joined the fight. Flavio barely dodged from the slice of a rusty sword before the skull emitted a massive green fireball and shot it straight towards the human. He dove, and the flame consumed one of the skeletons, which shrieked and turned to ash.
Falkrunn stood behind the skull near the door, and it was caught up in watching the fight. She tested its magical strength by pushing a spell against the force around it. The spell vibrated, then dissipated. Cursing, she strummed a few more notes on the lute and directed them again to Flavio.
Lorskan breathed a wave of flames on three of the skeletons, causing two of them to vaporize immediately. The other continued forward, scorched but unimpeded. Another two skeletons grew up from the rubble and shot their crossbows. A bolt skimmed Gundren’s armour and another pierced Olara’s thigh. She plucked it out and cast it aside, ignoring the wound. Gundren ran up and smashed down the undead creatures with a ferocious bellow.
Another skeleton raised a sword to attack Lorskan while his back was turned, but Olara took it out with a slash of her longsword before diving away and somehow disappearing into the dark edges of the room.
“I know!” Keyzana said, and with a flurry of hand gestures she summoned a massive spectral hand, which floated in front of her with a deep red glow. She pushed the hand higher into the air with coaxing, glowing hands and the fingers curled into a giant fist and pounded into the crystal above them. A tiny crack appeared.
“It’s not enough force,” Falkrunn said, desperately searching the pictorial carvings around the top part of the door for any clues. There was a relief showing four figures standing over a table, a shorter one holding a writing utensil, but it was too faded to determine the exact races of each figure.
Keyzana revoked her mage hand with a flick of her wrist.
The green skull shot another fireball, this time at Lorskan, who heard the incoming projectile and stepped, almost casually, out of the way. His sleeve caught fire and he gently patted it out, then raised his sword as another Skeleton hobbled toward him.
Flavio took down a skeleton as it climbed from the ashes of its fallen comrades, but his victory was short-lived as another two rose from the grave.
Falkrunn took out her pockmarked throwing hammer, the one that had been nearly consumed by a monstrous creature of goo, and hurled it at the crystal encasing. The crack widened, but only slightly. “This isn’t working,” she told the Elf and looked back at her companions frantically. Gundren was bleeding from a wound on his shoulder.
Falkrunn again strummed a few notes on her lute and watched as Gundren began to glow with an energy only she could see. He picked up his hammer with renewed vigor and charged at another dusty skeleton.
Lorskan released platinum-coloured flames from his hands and they consumed the foe nearest him. Using the distraction, two of the newly formed creatures attacked him from behind, one stabbing through his armour with a short sword, the other jumping at him unarmed. Lorskan roared and shook them off, and as Flavio turned to help him a sword thrust up into his back from behind, drawing blood to his lips.
The human drew a rattled breath and fell to one knee as a skeleton slid its dripping blade from his back, broken teeth clacking with pleasure. Then, with a burst of strength, Flavio drew up his warhammer and spun around, smashing the skeleton to bits.
“I’m such an idiot!” Keyana cried, slapping a hand to her forehead, then drawing out the Black Spider’s staff from where it was slung at her back.
“Spider climb?” Falkrunn asked.
“Spider climb.” Keyzana confirmed, casting the spell over herself and stepping onto the door as if it were now the floor.
An arrow shot from the darkness of the cavern and speared a skeleton through its gaping eye-hole, casting it to the ground in a littering of bones. The skull, noticing the silent attack, turned to the darkness and shot another fireball in the direction of Olara, who just barely managed to dive from the flames as the darkness was cast in a sickly green light.
When she stood, the right side of her face had been partially melted by the flame, and she raised a hand to the burn in shock, not yet feeling the pain.
Keyzana punched the crystal and the crack grew slightly, her knuckles now bloodied.
“Look out!” Falkrunn yelled and threw her fallen hammer a second time. The hammer struck the crystal and was wedged into a newly created crack. Keyzana yanked it out and jimmied the scroll out of the hole that was just created. She tossed the hammer back down to Falkrunn with a smile, then leaped towards the ground.
When she landed she looked up and pointed at Olara, who had just been hit by a massive fireball. Without hesitating, Falkrunn raised her hands and cast healing over the Elf, whose face immediately smoothed over as flesh knit back together.
Olara looked over gratefully as Flavio shot radiant light at another skeleton, and her gaze drew the attention of two skeletons, who leveled their crossbows at Falkrunn.
A bolt tinged off her armour and the second merely grazed her hand, leaving a bloody mark. Falkrunn growled, but before she could take the fight to them, Flavio and Gundren took them down. Flavio stumbled but stood, a streak of blood running down his chin and into his beard. He needed healing desperately.
Hands shaking with anticipation, Keyzana unrolled the parchment and began to scan the page silently. “Well?” Falkrunn asked impatiently, too short to see the scroll herself.
Boom. Another giant green fireball roared towards Lorskan and Flavio. Lorskan managed to duck out of the way again, but Flavio was hit and fell back, unconscious and smoking from the force of the flames.
Falkrunn raised her hands a second time and cast healing on the human from where she stood. She saw him sputter for a moment and move his head and felt content that he was still alive. “We need to get rid of this skull!” she said to Keyzana, and drew out her longsword, approaching the floating skull from behind. So long as the skull remained, the skeletons would continue to rise.
A sizeable hole appeared in the back of the skull where her blade connected with bone, but it did not turn to her, and nor did the flames around it cease to glow. Seeing what she had done, Lorskan charged up to the skull and smashed into it with his own longsword, causing the flames to flare up in anger.
Again from the darkness came an arrow shot by Olara, and it hit the skull in the jaw, which unhinged on one side and began to swing uselessly in the air. “Intruders, intruders,” the skull managed to say, jaw no longer functional.
“Here!” Keyzana yelled, and Falkrunn ran back to her, leaving the skull to Lorskan, who she knew to be at least resistant to fire seeing as he was a Dragonborn. “At the bottom of this letter are the names signed in order.” Keyzana raised the parchment and read aloud: “Sudeiman, Malcer, Sefris, Tommeth.”
The names in the door began to fade until the blue glow surrounding them was gone. The four races remained.
She scanned the parchment again, then read: “Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome.”
The floating skull flared up before the flames seemed to be sucked inwards. The skull shook for a second, then dropped to the ground, lifeless. The remaining skeletons broke apart immediately and clattered to the floor.
The rest of the words on the door faded, and there was the distinct sound of grinding gears and clicking locks. With a faint, underwhelming sound, the massive door creaked open.
Gundren kicked a fallen skeleton with a triumphant nod, then marched in with the rest of them.
“Thanks for healing me,” Olara said quietly to Falkrunn, touching a hand to her cheek.
Falkrunn smiled and said, “next time, let’s pick someone else to work on the puzzles, because that was just sad.”
Gundren chuckled as he passed.
The companions entered a long chamber lined with alcoves, containing scattered, broken furniture and empty stone shelves. The ceiling glowed with thousands of embedded white stones which cast a soft light over the entire hallway. Falkrunn took a deep breath, admiring the starry ceiling with wonder.
There were odd skeletons along the passageway and the walls were marked with black scorches, more evidence of the battle fought long ago. The battle spanned even this deep, Falkrunn thought in admiration. They truly defended this place until their last.
“Over here,” Keyzana whispered, waving to her comrades. They all stepped over to where she stood inside an alcove. There was rubble obscuring half the room, but pounded into the wall were thick chains wrapped around a large, metal chest. “Olara,” she looked over, “do you think you could pick the—”
“Mine,” a deep, raspy voice issued from behind the wall.
Keyzana jumped and shrieked “ghost!”
As the tall, blue-haired Elf leapt out of the alcove, a shimmering form appeared in a haze. It was a tall, dreary-looking man with long, decorated robes and sallow, pale skin. His dead eyes danced with animosity. “My treasures, not yours,” it hissed.
“Uh, hey mister ghost person,” Falkrunn said softly, stepping in front of the spectral figure. “What sort of treasures do you have in there?”
He glared at her. “Not for you.”
“Of course not, of course not!” she said, feigning a smile. “I merely want to help you, great spirit. What can I do for you? Are you trapped in this cavern?”
The ghost tilted his head appraisingly at the Dwarf while the other companions peeked around the corner, watching the exchange. “I want—I want the abomination—dead.” He spoke slowly, as though each word was a labour to pass from phantom lungs to ethereal lips.
“Which abomination is that?”
“The creature guards the Forge of Spells,” the ghost told her. “It keeps me from more treasures.”
Falkrunn hesitated. “If we do kill this abomination, what can you give us in return?”
The ghost raised a pale hand to stroke his beard. “I am—willing to part with one thing, I suppose.”
“What can you tell us about the creature we are to kill?” Lorskan chimed in, stepping up to the entrance.
The form appraised the Dragonborn for a moment. “It has—five eyes. I suggest you don’t—look into them.”
“Very well,” Falkrunn raised her hands peacefully and bowed slightly as she stepped back from the room. “Thank you, great spirit. We will destroy this abomination for you, and I will return for my reward.”
“We will see,” the ghost sighed, fading from sight, “if you survive.”
Flavio removed his breastplate and touched a hand to his back, where the stab wound was not yet fully healed. “I could use a rest,” he told them, his hand beginning to glow over the wound.
Olara nodded and they all agreed. They found an alcove a few rooms down and sat down for a rest. Feeling energized, Falkrunn began to strum her lute softly, humming her Song of Rest.
The approached a door at the far end of the chamber, the white light of the stones overhead guiding their path. Lorskan placed a hand over the door and cast an enchantment, eyes closed in concentration. “I don’t sense anything undead in here,” he told them as he moved away. “So, it’s clearly not an ‘abomination’ in the sense that we know.”
Falkrunn turned the large doorknob and peeked inside, scanning the room within.
The large chamber was also lit by white gemstones, so it was easy to see across it. In the centre of the room stood a solid stone platform with a large anvil placed on top. The anvil glowed with a soft green light, and Falkrunn felt drawn to it. Around its pedestal were runes written in faded gold and silver, but what drew her attention next was the huge, floating figure in the corner looking over a table.
It was a massive, spherical shape floating above the ground, and it had four long tentacles surrounding it, each tipped with a bulbous yellow eye. All the eyes were currently focused on the table.
Quietly, Falkrunn closed the door and relayed the information to her companions. “It’s a creature known as a Spectator. I’m sure of it. Should I try blinding it?” She asked.
“We should try speaking to it first,” Keyzana advised.
“We don’t know if we can trust that ghost,” Olara agreed. “I say we speak to it.”
“What if it tries to eat us?” Flavio whined.
“I’m inclined to agree with the human,” Gundren grumbled.
Falkrunn opened the door and stepped through, cautiously approaching the giant creature, hand ready to cast blindness. The massive body turned as she entered, and she immediately dropped her gaze to avoid eye contact.
“Hel-lo!” A deep, friendly voice said. “How can I be of service to you today?” The Spectator spoke with a smooth, electric quality.
“Hello,” Falkrunn greeted, keeping her eyes down. “I am here to see the Forge of Spells.” She held her breath expectantly.
“Ah, yes. The Forge of Spells. You have arrived! Welcome to the Forge. How may I be of service to you today?”
“Well,” the Dwarf shifted her feet uncomfortably, “can we use the forge?”
“I am sorry,” the Spectator said, “do you have the proper authorization to access this room?”
“Hello great Spectator!” Keyzana’s voice came from behind Falkrunn. “What is your name?”
“Hel-lo!” the Spectator said happily. “My name is Henry. I am the guardian of the Forge of Spells. How may I be of service to you today?”
“Henry,” the Elf woman said appreciatively, “my friends and I would like to use the Forge of Spells.”
“Do you have the proper authorization?” Henry asked kindly.
“Henry, would you mind if we looked at you? We were told we could not look into your eyes.”
“You may look at me!” Henry answered. “My eyes are only for protection against intruders. Do you have the proper authorization?”
“Here it is,” Keyzana said, and Falkrunn turned to the Elf and watched her unroll the parchment they had found in the door. “Will this do?” The Elf was looking straight at the Spectator and seemed unharmed.
Falkrunn gazed up, and he tilted his floating head at the scroll. He gave a huge, sharp-toothed grin. “You have the proper authorization! Welcome to the Forge of Spells.” He seemed to bounce where he hovered. “Are there any other services you require of me?”
“Not right now, Henry, thank you,” Keyzana smiled, stowing away the scroll. “Do you mind if we look around?”
“Certainly!” The Spectator said, then turned and hovered back to his corner to watch the table. Falkrunn could now see that there were pieces of armour on the table, but it was the Forge that drew her attention. She stepped toward the green glow, enchanted, and after about ten steps, her lute began to vibrate and hum.
She continued to walk as if in a trance and unlatched the lute from her side and began to strum it. Without thinking, she played the Song of Home. As she drew nearer to the magical aura, the lute vibrated more. Keyzana glided up beside her, seemingly unaware of the trance that held her, and leapt easily onto the platform holding the anvil. The green glow came from cool, flickering flames. The Elf gently held her sword over the flames and turned it, pulling it out a moment later and gazing at it as it glowed.
Falkrunn was transfixed by the flames. Slowly, she climbed the dais and stood over the anvil, strumming her song softly. When the song ended, the vibrations grew to a loud hum, and Falkrunn plunged her lute into the cold flames.
Her vision went white.
The image of a dark room was blurry, but came into focus as she heard a soft, familiar voice speaking to her. “Falkrunn, my dear.”
Falkrunn felt tears on her cheeks as she gazed up at the auburn-haired woman who was lightly strumming her lute. Falkrunn was younger here, her short legs dangling over the stool on which she sat. “We are so proud of you,” the woman smiled, playing the Song of Home.
“Mum,” Falkrunn said sadly, letting the song fill her heart. “Mum, I miss you. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, love,” her mother smiled again, and stopped playing. She handed the lute to Falkrunn. “It was never your fault, dear.” She touched a soft hand to her cheek.
With a white flash, Falkrunn was standing over the anvil once again, looking down at her lute. The lute her mother gave her, just before she died. She pulled her hands from the cool flames and glowing golden runes appeared in the wood along the instrument. She read them with a smile and hugged the lute to her chest.
Then, she raised a hand and wiped a single tear from her cheek before descending the dais to join her friends.
Lorskan approached the guarded table warily, eyeing the giant Spectator. It stared at the items with dogged fascination. “Excuse me, Henry?” The Dragonborn said.
Henry turned, his many eyes alight. “Yes! How may I be of service to you?”
“This armour here, can I have it?”
“I am sorry, but you cannot have this armour. It has other buyers who will return shortly to receive their purchase.”
“Other buyers?” He muttered, then louder said, “very well, do you mind if I look at it?”
“You may certainly look at it,” the floating creature smiled and hovered back to make room for the Dragonborn.
Lorskan stepped over to the table and examined the pieces. On the left lay a giant brass mace. On the right was a thick golden breastplate inlaid with the design of a dragon. Bahamat. Lorskan reached into his pack and pulled out his crest, pressing it to his forehead. “Henry,” Lorskan said, looking up again. “Are you sure I can’t have this piece?”
Keyzana approached the Spectator as he explained, in detail, his purpose for being in the Forge of Spells. “I have been employed to guard these items for their buyers.”
“Yes, but,” Lorskan was saying, his patience clearly growing thin, “these buyers of yours will not be coming back. They clearly bought these items years ago and are long dead.”
“Henry,” Keyzana interrupted, and the creature turned to smile at the Elven wizard. “Can I ask you, who made these things?”
“Wizards created these pieces. Wizards such as yourself! I was employed by Master Lorenz.”
Keyzana nodded, her suspicions confirmed. “And when is it, exactly, that these items were purchased? Do you remember the year?”
“Why yes, of course! The year was 894 DR. Just last year.”
“Oh, Henry,” the Elf said sadly, moving closer to the giant floating head. “The year is 1487. These buyers are long gone, I promise you.”
The Spectator’s eyes seemed to quiver, and he looked around at the room, then up to the starry gemstones in the ceiling. His mouth sank. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t think you are employed by the wizards anymore, Henry. You are free to leave this place if you want to!”
“L-leave? And go where?”
“See the world,” Gundren suggested, coming into the conversation. “Or stay here and be employed by the Dwarves. My brother and I will have this Forge up and running soon enough!”
“One last thing, Henry,” Keyzana smiled as he turned again to her. “Do you know the ghost in the room just beyond here?”
“Ghost?” The giant face looked confused again.
“Never mind that,” Gundren said with an encouraging grin.
“So,” Lorskan said finally, still eyeing the golden armour, “since the buyers are most certainly not coming back, can I purchase this?”
Across the expansive room, beyond the anvil, rested a stone archway. As Keyzana, Olara and Falkrunn approached it, the sounds of rushing waves came even louder than before. Olara stepped through first and they saw a huge black pool with surging water that echoed through the chamber.
It looked as though the lake had once been much fuller but had lost some depths and could no longer pass through a grate in the wall up above. Falkrunn surmised the grate would carry water through to the outer waterwheel at the entrance of the forge.
Falkrunn cast a tiny, flickering flame to pass over the surface of the lake but saw nothing. She tore off her boots, dropped her bags and weapons, and dove into the water.
It was ice cold and shot through her body in needles. She surfaced, spluttering and gasping, and waded in the water. She could feel the pulsing of the water, the current passing through and pushing, then pulling.
She came back up out of the water a few minutes later, shaking her head at the Elves. “If there’s something magical in there, I’m not the one to tell.”
“Need a quick dry off?” Keyzana asked, and Falkrunn nodded gratefully as the Elf cast a warmth spell over her entire body, drying her clothes.
She picked up her belongings and they returned to the entrance where Flavio, Gundren and Lorskan now stood. “I can sense magic here,” Lorskan said quietly, eyes glazed over.
Without any word of explanation, Lorskan unfurled his wings and, for the first time, they all saw him take flight. He glided over the surface of the lake until he was near the middle, then rose up high in the air, twisted his wings against his body, and dove headfirst into the surface of the water.
They waited with bated breaths as the waves crashed against the rocky shore.
Lorskan found a wand at the bottom of the lake in the skeleton hand of a wizard long deceased. The skeleton broke apart as he tried to bring it to the surface, but the wand remained intact. He examined it as they left the lake, then gave it to Olara as he again approached the Spectator alongside Gundren and Flavio.
“Come with me,” Falkrunn whispered to Keyzana and Olara, allowing her uncle to go with the others. “I want to get that chest.”
They nodded and followed her through the door across the chamber and into the hallway.
They once again approached the alcove where the ghost haunted the chained chest.
“Hello, great and noble spirit,” Falkrunn said as the wraith rose up from nothing.
“You—again,” it said, lacking all enthusiasm.
“I have achieved the feat. I have killed the beast, the Spectator, within the Forge.”
The ghost eyed her casually, passing a hand into his out stomach and scratching a phantom itch. “Dead, you say?”
“That’s right,” Falkrunn told him proudly. “It’s dead and gone, so if I could just get what you offered me—as recompense?”
The wraith’s eyes finally gleamed. “It is truly dead? The treasures are mine?” He hissed wickedly, rubbing his hands together. “Take a handful from the chest. It’s yours to keep for this great deed.” He waved a hand over the chest and it opened to reveal piles of platinum pieces. An insane wealth.
Falkrunn reached a hand into the chest and scooped out a healthy amount of coins into her jerkin before backing away, bowing her head. She quickly stuffed the platinum into her coin-purse, which was now bursting to the point of tearing the leather lining.
“Now I shall go claim my treasures,” the ghost said, and suddenly disappeared into the wall.
Falkrunn looked back at the Elves and said, “let’s empty this chest, quickly. Take everything you can.”
The Elves and Dwarf soon had their pockets and bags stuffed with their rich find. Across the chamber, they heard the screeching wail of the wraith. “You’re supposed TO BE DEAD!”
“All part of the plan,” Falkrunn smiled at them.
Keyzana slammed the empty chest closed and they charged back towards the forge to defend Henry.
Lorskan rebuked the wraith as it charged him, and it pulled back, hissing. Keyzana leapt through the doorway and shot an acid arrow at the phantom, which flew threw its insubstantial form and hit the wall behind it, spraying acid everywhere and causing the wraith to shrink back further.
As Falkrunn’s short Dwarven legs took her into the large room, she cast blindness onto the wraith and it grabbed its face, screeching and clawing. Falkrunn then pulled out her lute and, still moving so the wraith could not pinpoint her, send her bardic inspiration to her uncle as he pulled out his hammer, ready for a fight. Flavio swung his own hammer and the wraith barely managed to avoid it as it sailed through the air.
Henry, floating high above the rest, locked his four smaller tentacled eyes onto the wraith and shook as a bolt of black energy shot from them and hit it straight through the chest. The energy seemed to pass right through the wraith, who was unaffected and still swinging around blindly.
Lorskan stabbed his longsword into the wraith with a burst of divine smite and it electrified the phantom’s writhing body with light. At the same moment, Olara’s arrow passed through the wraith and pulled off a chunk of its insubstantial form, and Gundren and Flavio’s hammers sliced off another piece. The wraith wailed again and grasped blindly at Flavio, but the human jumped out of its reach.
Henry dipped down and tore the phantom’s robes in his sharp teeth and Keyzana shot out a ray of frost that narrowly avoided it. Finally, Falkrunn leapt up to the floating wraith and stabbed into the form with her longsword. The blade somehow caught the middle of the wraith’s abdomen and, with a final cry of fury, it spread out its arms and exploded in a flash of darkness. Falkrunn landed across that, sheathed her blade, and turned to Henry. “Thanks for the help.”
Henry smiled a huge smile, looking like he’d had the most fun he’d had in centuries, which was probably true.
“Oh, and we checked the chest,” Falkrunn said, looking at the others, “and there was nothing in it.” She shrugged and walked away, grinning as she passed the Elves.
“Henry, I, Keyzana the wizard, hereby release you of your contract of employment.”
The Spectator tilted, looking at the small troupe before him, then smiled his last and disappeared from the chamber with a final dip of his head.
Lorskan picked up the golden armour and exchanged it for his own with reverence. Gundren picked up the mace and tried a few practice swings, then placed it at his back next to his hammer. “Anyone else ready to get out of here?” He asked, and they all nodded gratefully and left the Forge of Spells behind them. Falkrunn turned at the door for a final look at the flickering green flames surrounding the anvil before stepping away.
On their way out of the vastness of Wave Echo Cave, they found Reidoth and Nundro resting in one of the stone buildings and helped Falkrunn’s uncle to his feet. They filled them in on their adventures as they made their way across the stone bridge. They took a moment to again glance in at the room with the glowing plants, and also found a barricaded door that held nothing of interest, before moving on.
Finally, they reached the opening they had used to enter the cave and returned to the body of Falkrunn’s other uncle. Nundro and Gundren picked up the body and began their Dwarven chant of mourning, digging into the stone to put him to rest in the proper way. With that, they swore to make the Forge of Spells alive again with the sound of Dwarven pickaxes, Gnomish tinkering’s and the spell-songs of the wizards.
They slept deeply that night by the firelight, thankful to be back under the stars. In the morning, the companions began their march back to Phandalin.
As they neared the town of Phandalin they spotted plume of smoke rising into the clouds and growing thicker as they approached. “Is it the dragon?” Reidoth asked frantically, quickening his pace. “I never should have left the town. I must find the villages and see if anyone escaped.”
They crested a hill that overlooked the town and took in the scene. Keyzana cast her hawk into the air to survey the area, and relayed back what she saw. “On the farthest road there are six wagons at least, loaded with supplies stolen from the villages. Near the centre are ransackers going through the buildings and taking whatever they can carry, and in the town’s square are many of the townspeople surrounded by swarms of black cloaks, same as the cultists we saw in Thundertree. And—wait—yes, there is the green dragon. It is in the town’s centre as well, and it looks as though they may be feeding it with the civilians.”
Falkrunn held a hand over her self and cast a disguising spell. The illusion was of a person a foot taller than herself, standing nearly six feet off the ground and wearing a draping black cloak. With a nod to her companions she said, “I’m going in. How do I look?”
When no one answered, she made her way to the wagons at the edge of the city.
“Sure wish we got paid more for this,” Falkrunn grunted in a voice that was her approximation of a young man with an urban accent.
The mercenary beside her was helping her stack expensive cutlery out of the inn’s kitchen and throwing it into bags. He turned to her at that comment. “Wha, ya don’ think ten gol’ pieces is enough?”
Falkrunn shrugged. “It’s a lot of work, getting all these screaming civilians out of the way. Say, where’d they put all the townspeople, anyways? You know, our leader…” she trailed off and waved a hand.
The man glared at her for a second, his scruffy mustache quivering as he took in her long black cloak. “Yuh, Favrick that’d be, righ? Townsqurae, o’ course.” He hesitated, giving her a long look. “Why’s you helpin’ us empty houses anyways?”
“Because,” Falkrunn said, leaning over the man with her taller illusion, “I don’t trust mercenaries, and I don’t trust you won’t pocket this for yourselves. You can finish this up, I presume?”
The man nodded, looking befuddled as he hoisted the heavy-laden bag onto his shoulder and trundled out of the doorway. Falkrunn followed, rushing towards the town’s centre, her illusionary black cloak flying at her ankles.
“Oi, Favrick!” Falkrunn shouted at the man pacing the town’s square. He had just finished his speech to the townspeople, thanking them for their donations to the Dragon Queen. The townspeople, who were surprisingly few in number, looked at each other in fear and huddled close.
The man named Favrick turned to her. “I found something really good in one of the houses over here. You’ve got to see it!”