Our tale begins with Anakui, a shulassakar of the Blade Desert, arriving in Flamekeep as part of a round-about, wandering pilgrimage. She had the unfortunate turn of luck to have one of her first experiences in town be a visit to the Chapel of the Preserving Flame, a very staid and lifeless congretation favoring the tennets of the Pure Flame sect. He meets an equally bored young lady there nodding off in the back row, Jaela. After the service drags to its passionless conclusion, Jaela offers to take the unusual visitor on a tour of town.
Another pilgrim, the half-elf Ferore, has a chance encounter with a talkative gargoyle named Albert. As is his custom, their discussion is wide-ranging and long-lasting, culminating in a stop at a nearby restaurant and inn, the Graceful Gargoyle. While there, Ferore meets Thunvark the Talespinner, a half-orc by the look of him, and also one Owen Goodwyn, famed founder of the Eldricth Knights and prince (by marriage) of Karrnath. The latter gives her some rather spectacular lessons in electrical sorcery outdoors, drawing the attention of Jaela and Anakui, as well as Kuurigar, a hobgoblin who was in town to complete a mission on hire from the Eldricht Knights.
Kuurigar, Ferore, Anakui and Albert return to the Graceful Gargoyle and engage in some ice-breaking conversation. Suddenly, several bursts of black smoke appear throughout the tavern, and from each patch steps out soldiers clad in black armor and with swords bared, with trained dogs at their sides. Another cloud appears just outside the door, and the door slams shut. At that point, one of the soldiers pulls a crossbow and shoots a specific patron, who moved with ready quickness to defend himself. After some horrified scrambling by the patrons, the proprietor demanded the soldiers leave. Striding toward the door, the leader of the soldiers calmly said, “There can be no witnesses. Kill them all.”
The reaction was predictably swift. Thunvark quickly moved to shield the children gathered around him, drawing a blade from Elsewhere. Anakui strung her longbow, taking an arrow from an alert soldier for her trouble. Kuurigar engaged the soldiers more directly, while Ferore cast a subtle illusion over their leader, inflicting pain and confusion in equal measure. Suddenly a rather confused-looking elf appeared at the top of the stairs leading to the rooms; as he lept over the banister to engage a soldier, he transformed into a snow leopard, much to the (brief) startlement of the soldier.
Next week: the conclusion of a fight, an unexpected connection, and an intriguing job offer.