This is a two-part short story of what happened to Calenor while the rest of the party was busy saving Rubia.
Part I: An ill-fated expedition
When the Imperium declared war on Rubia Calenor was in Dewport trying to persuade Count Ruxwin (in fact the doppelganger Roose) to allow him to take over the the wizard tower of the late Elfortz. While Calenor was willing to offer a symbolic sum (being one of the saviors of the city) the Count demanded its market price (200k). When Calenor learned of the incoming imperial forces he quickly changed his mind about purchasing any property in Rubia. Now that war has come to the Kingdom the rest of The Faultless Arrow will doubtless throw themselves into the fray but Calenor had no intention of fighting an unbeatable foe especially since they are his countrymen. As far as he was concerned Rubia had already lost the war. He thought he could try laying low for the time being, Dewport is out of the way and well defended, it is likely that the war will be over before anyone tries to assault the city. But once the war is over he will still be a wanted man in the Imperium and it would be quite unhealthy for him to hang around. The best course of action seemed to be to move to Cascadia as the dwarven kingdom is bound to be full of opportunities and it will likely take at least several years for the Imperium to consolidate power in both Rubia and the Land of the Cleavers making it safe for the near future. But how could he convince his companions to abandon Rubia and come with him?
He knew his companions were not do-gooders they were professionals (somewhat) who take commissions, so if he can secure some well-paying contracts in Cascadia they would follow him (in his opinion they were all quite greedy, except for Gruntz, he was just weird). He quickly formulated a plan:
- Go to Cascadia
- Get a job from some noble or other bigshot to establish a reputation
- Leverage said reputation to get a well-paying contract for The Faultless Arrow
- Convince his friends to move to Cascadia with him
The first question was how to get there. Traveling by horse was of course out of the question: the Cascadian Mountains are infamous for their treacherous paths and the large number of gnolls, trolls and other undesirables lurking there. He could pay for passage on one of the merchant ships in the harbor but the thought made him immediately seasick. Then he remembered: "Calenor, you are a wizard!", he could just teleport to Ironmar the capital of Cascadia. Just one problem: he had never been to Cascadia (for some reason the thought of a frozen wasteland was not inviting enough for him to visit) so he needed some more information than a map to teleport there. So he went down to the tavern part of the Wheel and Anchor where he immediately noticed a group of dwarf sailors with big bushy beards drinking ale from giant tankards, these were the most dwarven looking dwarfs Calenor had seen, they must have been to Ironmar before.
So Calenor offered to buy the dwarfs a few rounds and started chatting about Ironmar. He carefully memorized all the details so that he could use them to teleport to his destination. By midnight he felt like he knew Ironmar inside-out but the sailors were nice so he kept buying them drinks. He didn't remember how he got back to his room. In the morning Magdha the innkeeper brought him her special brew against hangover for which Calenor tipped her handsomely.
Calenor put most of his stuff in his bag of holding and cast the teleportation spell to take him to the Great Hall of Ironmar. Yet, when he opened his eyes he found himself staring into the Sun. He also quickly realized that he is falling, faster and faster. Fortunately his reflexes were sharp enough that he could stabilize himself and cast a Fly spell on himself. His descent stopped and he could finally get his bearings. It seemed that he is about 150 ft above a large body of water and in the distance he could make out some land with mountains. Unfortunately he did not have another teleportation spell prepared (at that moment he regretted becoming a wizard instead of a sorcerer) so the only thing he could do was to cast a Rope Trick and prepare one in his pocket dimension. While in there he also contemplated what could have gone wrong with the teleportation: he had so much detail about Ironmar how could he have ended up so off target. Then he finally understood the obvious: the dwarfs were willing to tell any kind of stories to keep him interested so that he continued buying them drinks. Maybe he should have told them he wanted to teleport to Ironmar so details matter... Anyways, he had to concentrate on the issue at hand: how could he still get to Ironmar? He could go back to Dewport and ask for directions again but that is something K would do, so instead he decided to teleport again, but only based on the reliable map he had.
Considering the circumstances it went remarkably well. He ended up at the bottom of a deep crevasse in a glacier, but he was definitely in the right Kingdom. For mage like him it took little effort to fly out and inspect the surroundings. He quickly realized that he had no idea where he was, but he also noticed a caravan in the distance so (with a heavy heart) he approached them and asked for directions. It turned out they were heading for Ironmar which was only two days away so Calenor sighed and decided to stick with them.
The road was very rough and Calenor had no horse so by the time he got to the underground city of Ironmar he just wanted to rest in an actual bed. He quickly ditched the caravan and made his way to a more-or-less respectable looking establishment. He spent the night there and the next day he started looking around the city hunting for a job. Compared to the Imperial City (where he grew up) even Oringrad felt a bit provincial for Calenor, but Ironmar really looked like some kind of backwater. Although the city was rich and highly ornamented with gold and gems, the people in it lacked any level of sophistication (or maybe Calenor just did not appreciate the virtues of dwarven culture). He passed by the entertainment district but neither the thugs guarding the casinos nor the bearded women in front of the brothels seemed too inviting. He made his way to the wealthier quarters but it quickly turned out that the local nobles and priests usually hire adventurer companies that they know and the only jobs Calenor could find were dirty mercenary work. He retired to his inn for the evening but as he was eating his dinner a well dressed dwarf approached him. He introduced himself as Naurim Whitbelly last descendant of the once prosperous Whitbelly brewer family. He had heard that Calenor is an experienced adventurer looking for a job and he might just have something like that. Naurim's family operated a brewery in a large cavern about a week's journey from Ironmar (the only place where the ingredients for the Whitbelly ale grew). This brewery had been overrun by goblins decades ago but he believed that a skilled adventurer party could easily drive them off and allow his family to restart the business. He had been saving money for 15 years now to start this and he needed good men like Calenor.
After a short negotiation Calenor received a small advance and the promise of a modest reward once the job is done (he didn't really push for more, he wanted to establish a reputation in Ironmar and helping a down-on-their-luck noble family is as good as it gets). Later that day he met up with the rest of Naurim's expedition. There was Zurbag an enormous half-orc barbarian (Calenor wondered what the other half was, giant maybe?) and Virginia a quiet human cleric (she did mention which god she follows, but Calenor immediately spaces out when someone starts speaking about the gods). Naurim was leading the expedition (only he knew the way through the underground tunnels) dressed in heavy armor (it was clear he is a skilled warrior). They traveled through a labyrinth of underground tunnels, many times Naurim insisted that they take side tunnels to avoid bandits or monsters. Calenor gave up trying to remember the way back, worst case he teleports back (before setting out he took great care in noting the details of Ironmar). On the road he managed to get to know his companions a bit more. Zurbag was in fact a quarter giant, quarter human and half orc. He used to work as a mercenary but he just couldn't stomach some of the things he needed to do so he quit and decided to become an adventurer who only does good deeds. It also turned out that Zurbag had some of the best and dirtiest jokes Calenor ever heard, it is a shame they can not be repeated in polite company. Of course Virginia acted like these were beneath her, but she was smiling a lot when she thought no one was looking.
On the sixth day of the journey the party entered a large cavern which had a number of natural alcoves. Naurim gestured for the party to stop and make camp as it is goblin territory onward from there. As Calenor was eating his jerky and listening to some joke Zurbag made about elves he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his neck. Reaching there he found a dart then he felt dizzy and fell to the ground. He could see that the same happened to Virginia but Zurbag seemed to have shrugged off the effect of the poison and he was fighting several white haired figures (probably drows, but what are the dark elves doing here?). Then everything went dark.
Some time later Calenor came to his senses but he was very tired and unable to move, his vision was clouded. He was in some kind of a cart and he could hear two people talking close to him in undercommon:
"I will give you 1000 for these two and you can keep their equipment," said a cold female voice in undercommon.
"You promised 5000! And what about the orc?" interrupted another, this one spoke undercommon too but had a thick dwarven accent.
"These two are not fighters but spellcasters, it is a nightmare to contain them, they are useless for the arena. As for your orc: he is dead and he has severely injured three of my men, you should be happy that I am paying you at all."
"These are highly trained adventurers, they must be worth at least 2000!"
"Fine, Naurim, 2000 it is."
At this point Calenor could not fight the drow poison any more and fell unconscious again.
Part II: The nature of elves Edit
Calenor woke up several hours later in a corner of a large cell surrounded by dozens of other prisoners (all elves and they looked like commoners, probably from some surface village). Looking around he quickly recognized the only other human as Virginia who was kneeling next to him, probably meditating or praying.
"Where are we? What are they going to do with us?"
"I would have thought a wizard like yourself paid attention during history classes." answered Virginia in a way that it was impossible for Calenor to tell if she was sarcastic (she was). "We are prisoners of the dark elves and they locked us in the same cell as the elves so my guess is they are going to sacrifice us to Lloth along with them. The elves are the standard offering so an imperial wizard and a cleric of Fharlanghn would be the dessert to the Queen of Spiders."
"Screw that! I am a wizard, they can't hold me here, let's teleport away!" but as Calenor tried to cast the spell he quickly realized that he is cut off from all forms of magic.
"See those fancy manacles they gave us? They're not like the steel ones these elves have, these ones have a personal anti-magic field."
"You mean we are stuck here like the rest of these peasants?!"
Calenor started to realize how much trouble they were in. His thoughts started racing but he could think of no way out. So he tried another approach: what would his companions do? Chad would probably just break the chains with raw strength, Haereldor would have his polar bear bust him out, Ravagella would likely charm a guard to let her go, while K would just pick the lock. As Calenor could do none of that he quickly realized that this task would require some out-of-the box thinking so he asked himself: what would Gruntz do? Then he stood up and addressed the elves:
"Children of Corellon Larethian! What would your Creator say that you allow yourselves to be slaughtered like cattle for Lloth's amusement. Where is your pride? Do you think he will welcome you to his realm if you give in to his greatest enemy? Rise up! Fight the drows!"
"But how?" interrupted a few voices from the crowd.
"I don't know, pick up a stick and kill them, it isn't that hard" answered Calenor but the elves remained unconvinced so he turned to Virginia: "These people are useless. Do you have any bright ideas?"
"Since you are done playing warlord, yes I do. We just need to use what we know about the nature of the drows: they are always potting against each other, just waiting for the right moment to gain power. So, we just let them know that we can grant them something extraordinarily powerful and they will fall over each other trying to spring us from this cell."
"And what would we offer them? Because last I checked we don't have a magic lamp with a genie", grumbled Calenor.
"True, but we have a Master Wizard from the Imperium who knows how to make Edicts."
"That is a very big lie. I did serve Archmage Efaris but he never told me how Edicts are made, I have no idea where to start".
"And that would matter if we wanted to hang around long enough to make one. Can you make up enough details to be convincing?"
"Of course", said Calenor and smiled.
Now that Virginia gave him something to start with Calenor quickly formulated a plan which involved having a fake argument where Virginia pretends to be his assistant and pleads him to reveal the secret of Edicts so that their life is spared. They made sure several guards overheard it, they will likely report it to different priestesses (their rivalry could provide the opportunity to escape). Neither Calenor nor Virginia were good at acting but this time they managed to pull off the performance of a lifetime (they rolled a 20). A few hours after they started the charade a priestess of Lloth showed up with a large armed escort to "transfer prisoners" (for some reason she took none of the elves). As they were being escorted out of the prison another group ambushed them. During the ensuing fight they made a run for it and managed to slip away. It was just a matter of time before the drows would realize what happened so they quickly ran up the stairs and barged into one of the rooms looking for some tools to remove the manacles. Unfortunately the priestesses of Lloth didn't really keep heavy tools around (in retrospect the plan seemed overly optimistic for Calenor, maybe they should have spent a bit more time to iron out what they should do after ditching their escort). As they were searching the room, Calenor found a small chest and he immediately recognized that it was portal chest, similar to a bag of holding. Of course it was tightly locked both physically and magically but Calenor was sure it contained valuables so he decided to take it along. Virginia was quite upset that her companion had insisted on bringing a 20 pound chest with him while they were trying to escape (Calenor's argument that "We should at least get something out of this." was not that convincing) but she couldn't persuade him to leave it. Their pursuers were closing in fast but fortunately the paranoia of the drow priestesses worked in their favor: they found a dagger hidden next to the bed and with it they managed to break the manacles. At the same time several armed drows entered the room, they were bloodied by battle, and not too happy about their prisoners running off. But Calenor just smiled and waved at them as he teleported away both himself and Virginia.
Now that they were out of immediate danger they had time to think about their next move. It took a few days to come up with a plan of action, during this time Calenor visited a place in Dewport where he stashed away some gold and a few useful items. After that he returned to Ironmar to meet with Virginia, and they started asking around for their "old friend" Naurim. After greasing the right palms they learned that Naurim had recently come by some cash and had moved into a room in one of the classier places in the city. He hadn't left the room for 2 days (although a number of "ladies" had come and gone).
Later that night Naurim was sleeping in his bed (alone, the girls left after he passed out) when he heard a strange noise. Looking up from bed he saw that the door of his room was slightly ajar. As he sat up he noticed that a weasel was climbing onto his bed. Before he could realize what was happening the weasel touched him and he suddenly felt weak and a few more seconds later he was paralyzed, he could barely blink. As he slowly fell back into bed the door opened and two figures walked in.
"It reeks in here" stated a female voice plainly.
"Sorry, that is a side effect of the spell. Anyways, I will get our stuff, you do what you wanted", said Calenor and immediately started going through the chests and drawers of the room looking for some sign of his stolen gear. Meanwhile Virginia walked up to the still paralyzed Naurim, stared into his scared eyes and said
"Did you miss us? We really missed you and all of our equipment too. Turns out the drows are not as hospitable as you thought. For that we should kill you now but you will get to live another day. Remember what happened today. We are giving you a second chance, if we hear that you squandered it we will be back and that time there will be no mercy."
In the meantime Calenor found a key with the distinct markings of the Royal Dwarven Bank of Cascadia, Naurim had likely rented a box for the gold and equipment he took. He gave the key to Virginia and gestured her to leave. As she was leaving the room Calenor took out a scroll and cast a spell on Naurim who disappeared without a trace ("Sorry Virginia, but I am not that much into second chances for backstabbers"). Virginia was quite upset but there was little she could do about it.
After a quick visit to the local branch of the dwarven bank both Calenor and Virginia recovered their equipment. After dispelling the wards from the chest he got from the drow priestess' room Calenor had a dwarven locksmith open it. It turned out his initial instincts were right and the chest led to vault in a pocket dimension filled with gold and other valuables which he quickly split with Virginia (he couldn't have escaped without her, swindling her was out of the question, even though it was a lot of money. Also, she was still upset about Naurim.). In the end Calenor was no closer to accomplishing his original plan of getting a lucrative contract for The Faultless Arrow in Cascadia but at least he got payed for his troubles. And since the war was still raging in Rubia he decided to have another go at it but now in the company of Virginia.