Session 79: Shine Bright Like A Diamond

Kendall Keep
The group returned to the keep loaded with treasure and two extra suits of half-plate armor. They took turns carrying Arpad as they escorted the five prisoners they had rescued from Tarlech’s cells.

At the gatehouse, Sabine was pleasantly surprised to hear how they found Arpad and were planning on reviving her.

While Jess escorted the five rescued captives to the One-Eyed Cat and made sure they were all fed, and Brother Martin went to find Vernim, the rest of the group stopped at the bank.

“Making a deposit, I presume?” Mouse asked, seeing all the treasure they were carrying.

“Both,” Valeria replied. “We will be making a deposit, but we’re also going to need that diamond back.”

They deposited all the treasure they had retrieved from the caves, and paid Mouse 500 gold coins using what they had deposited.

“Mouse, if you’re ever in the market for another diamond,” Philip mentioned, “we’d be happy to purchase that as well. So if you could keep an eye out for us, we’d really appreciate it.”

“Definitely,” Valeria concurred.

“So you’re in the market for a diamond, huh Philip?” Mouse teased.

When they were done at the bank, they brought Arpad to the chapel and waited for Vernim to arrive.

Brother Martin found Vernim making deliveries around the keep with Opal. “Vernim, we could use your expertise if you don't mind—hi Opal—it’s kind of urgent.”

“Brother Martin, yes,” Vernim greeted. “How have you been? I’m happy to, I think... I don’t think we should talk here though. I think we should meet up with the others. Opal, do you need any more help with this delivery?”

“Oh, no,” Opal replied. “I can carry this. I know you’re needed. You go and do what you have to do.”

Vernim and Opal said their goodbyes, and the two clerics made haste to the chapel.

“Do you remember how you were going to revive Dubricus?” Brother Martin asked.

“Yes, I do,” Vernim nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, there’s been a little bit of a slip up,” Brother Martin hinted, “a little bit of a loosed arrow, and we have someone else for you, so we’re putting you to work today.”

“Sure,” Vernim agreed. “I can do either, both, uh, I think we have some things to catch up on.”

“Preferably both,” Brother Martin replied optimistically as they entered the chapel.

“Friends,” Vernim greeted them. “How have you been? It’s so good to see you.”

“Good to see you too,” Valeria replied.

“Who’s this?” Vernim asked, looking at the woman Prynhawn had laid down on the altar.

“This is Arpad,” Valeria replied, adding when Vernim appeared confused, “Asham’s missing daughter.”

Vernim’s jaw dropped in recognition.

“Where did you find her?” Abercrombie asked. “Was she in the caves?”

“She was researching in Tarlech’s library,” Brother Martin explained.

“She was captured,” Valeria added.

“We think,” Brother Martin considered. “It was unfortunate.”

Abercrombie was grateful that they were going to revive her.

“I will do everything I can to make sure she is brought back safely,” Vernim promised.

Placing the diamond on Arpad’s chest, Vernim began his prayer, “Tymora, this innocent child, the daughter of Asham, has been an undeserved victim of a horrible conflict. Please, in the name of your luck, please bring her back so that we may continue the journey of luck in peace.”

Once Vernim had cast revivify and Arpad’s eyes opened. “No don’t—” she cried, lifting an arm before realizing the change of scenery. “Where am I?” she asked, looking around. “What happened?”

“You are alive,” Vernim assuaged.

“You are at the keep,” Brother Martin added, “You are safe.”

“Oh, um, yeah. It’s been so long,” Arpad pondered. “Did you…did you rescue me?”

“Yeah,” Valeria acknowledged.

“In a way,” Brother Martin added.

“It’s about time someone came to rescue me!” Arpad chimed. “Well, thank you.”

“Would you like to see your father?” Brother Martin offered.

“Oh, yes, yes!” Arpad replied eagerly. “I would!”

“I’ll go see if I can find him,” Brother Martin.

“Okay, great!” Arpad, asked, “Should I come?”

They encouraged her to rest at the chapel a little longer, and Prynhawn used lay on hands to heal her further. Brother Martin left to find Asham, and Valeria left to retrieve Jess.

“Tarlech?” Arpad asked. “Is he dead?”

“Yeah,” Prynhawn confirmed.

“What?” Vernim demanded.

“How did you get to him?” Arpad asked. “I didn’t see you…oh, I guess I did. I did. I saw you.” She pointed at Yanliz, who had been staring at her awkwardly from a distance. “I thought you were one of Tarlech’s creations.

“No offense,” she added. “It’s just that Tarlech deals with a lot of zombies, so anybody I see in there I assume is one of his creations.”

“Yeah, uh, um,” Yanliz stuttered, “sorry.”

“So you killed him?” Arpad reiterated rhetorically. “I am so glad to be rid of him! He had all these experiments going on, and he was making me help him, and forcing me to be his apprentice…”

“We’re also very glad,” Philip replied. “It was very disturbing. I can’t imagine what that would be like. I’m glad you’re safe now.”

“Ahem,” Yanliz coughed awkwardly, “Arpad, I don’t know how much you remember, but I sort of shot an arrow at you in the caves.”

“Oh, you did?” Arpad replied hesitantly. “I guess that wasn’t just my imagination. What did you do that for?”

“Sorry, I mistook you for a necromancer,” Yanliz apologized, “and I made a really bad mistake.”

“Alright, well,” Arpad conceded, “I guess that’s understandable.”

“I’m just sorry,” Yanliz continued, “and glad it worked out this way.”

“Well, I’m better off than I was before,” Arpad acknowledged, “so I thank you all. I’m just glad to be home. I just wonder, where’s my—”

At that moment Brother Martin soon returned with Asham and Naramis in tow.

Arpad jumped up from the altar and ran into her parents’ waiting arms.

“You did good,” Abercrombie said, placing a hand on Brother Martin’s shoulder.

“We all did good,” Brother Martin corrected.

“That’s what I meant,” Abercrombie concurred. “All of you. You’ve done good.”

“I’m not going to lie,” Brother Martin explained, “it was very close. It almost didn’t end up this way…”

“Good for you,” Abercrombie praised, “fighting the good fight.”

“Maybe you should join us,” Brother Martin hinted. “Actually get out there and do everything you talk about.”

“Perhaps I should return to the field,” Abercrombie conceded.

“I think it could do everyone some good,” Brother Martin intimated. “It’s nice to feel like you’re doing good, not just to wonder.”

Valeria returned soon with Jess who embraced Arpad. Abercrombie used the distraction to slip into a backroom unnoticed.

“It’s clear I’ve missed out on a lot,” Vernim alluded, “even though it’s only been a day. What has happened? You killed Tarlech?”

“We did,” Valeria acknowledged.

“Shot him right in the back.” Yanliz described.

“We did learn some things as well,” Valeria explained. “We can talk about that a little later when we’re in private.”

As they began to depart, Asham and Naramis expressed their gratitude.

Once they were done, they retired to Brother Martin’s apartment where they brought Vernim up to speed with the events of the last 24 hours and what they had found in the final cave, including Tarlech, Mendel, Chantel, Baricus, the zombies, the prisoners, the owlbear, rust monster, and the cat, which they concluded must have been mummified.

As they relaxed, Vernim provided some of Opal’s cheese, Brother Martin added some fresh bread Jenn had baked, and Philip spiced things up with some flavored oils.

Yanliz gave Prynhawn his enchanted hand axe and they soon began discussing their plans for returning to the caves, retrieving the body of Jude and the other prisoner, dealing with Bethany, and searching for Mendel, perhaps in the tower rumored to be somewhere to the south.

Philip and Brother Martin went to the bank, where Mouse let them in despite the late hour.

“Thanks for letting us in, Mouse,” Brother Martin acknowledged. “Those two chests we left here, do you think you could unlock them? We tried, but we had no success.”

“Of course,” Mouse teased winking at Philip, “I can try. Let’s see what I can do.” Mouse whipped out some tools from under the counter and began working the lock on the first chest.

“I can give you a little help if you need it,” Brother Martin offered. “I can give you some clerical assistance.”

“While I’m working these tools,” Mouse teased, “why don’t you pray for me.”

The lock popped open. “If you ever want to learn how to do this,” Mouse offered to Philip, “I could teach you some time.”

“Oh, wow, yes,” Philip replied. “That’s very impressive. Maybe. Maybe. I might have to ask you about that.”

“I’m sure there’s lots of things you could unlock, Philip,” Mouse teased some more, “if you try.” And with that, the other lock popped open.

Lifting the lids, they saw both chests were filled with gold and silver coins.

Brother Martin gave Mouse five gold coins for the service and retrieved one of the suits of half-plate armor.

They returned to Brother Martin’s apartment and gave the armor to a grateful Vernim.

They soon headed to the One-Eyed Cat for dinner, not noticing until later that Yanliz had slipped away to go foraging in the nearby woods.

While they were eating in the main room, Arpad arrived asking to join them.

“I know this sounds weird, but,” Arpad began, gladly taking the seat they offered her, “are you going back to Tarlech’s at all?”

Valeria and Prynhawn confirmed they were planning on returning to the caves the next day.

“Because there’s some things I wanted to get,” Arpad explained. “Do you mind if I come with you?”

“What did you want to get?” Valeria asked after a long contemplative pause.

“I had some personal items there,” Arpad clarified, adding, “Tarlech’s dead, right?” when she sensed their reservations.

“Yes!” Valeria confirmed.

“Yeah, you’re not in danger,” Brother Martin reaffirmed.

“Phew! Okay,” Arpad sighed. “So I was hoping I could retrieve some things. There was a lot of valuable information back there.”

“I’m sure,” Valeria agreed.

“Like what?” Prynhawn asked.

“I don’t know if you saw all those books there,” Arpad hinted, “but they’re probably pretty valuable.”

“Do you know what’s in them?” Prynhawn asked.

“I know what’s in a lot of them,” Arpad explained. “I helped catalogue them. I don’t understand everything that’s in all of them, but I have a general sense of what they are. It’s not like I read them all.”

“How about we make sure that everything is cleared out,” Valeria offered, “and then, maybe.”

“Alright,” Arpad sighed, clearly disappointed. “You said it won’t be dangerous. You said Tarlech’s dead…”

“Tarlech’s dead,” Valeria corrected, “but we don’t know that it won’t be dangerous.”

Brother Martin was sympathetic.

“I wouldn’t want to have to go there alone,” Arpad bargained. “I’m figured I’m better off going there with you than going alone.”

“Oh, definitely not. Never!” Valeria insisted. “You would be going with us. I’ll get back to you in the morning, before we leave.”

“Okay,” Arpad smiled, “you know where to find me. I promise I won’t be any trouble. I do know my way around the place.”

“You might actually be able to figure out what those skulls were for,” Lawrence added. “He had those strange skulls on his bookcase, and I was looking at them, but I had no idea what they meant.”

“Oh, I can explain the skulls,” Arpad proposed. “Why don’t I show you tomorrow?”

“It’s really Valeria’s decision,” Lawrence admitted, “but I would be happy to discuss it with you.”

“Of course,” Arpad offered. “I’m happy to share whatever knowledge I have. It was a dark place, I have to say. A dark, sick, twisted place… But how did you wind up encountering Tarlech? Because he had a lot of traps. How did you get past his traps?”

“We avoided them,” Valeria alluded. “We took some safer routes…and we’re strong enough to defeat them.”

“Did you come in through the back door?” Arpad inquired.

“Yeah,” Valaria admitted.

“Then it worked!” Arpad exclaimed. “I was hoping that would work. I disabled the lock, but I didn’t know it would work. I’d never disabled a magical lock before.”

“Very smart,” Valeria, Brother Martin, and Philip reacted.

“That’s very impressive,” Brother Martin added after learning it was a magical lock. “So you actually learned some magic from Tarlech. That’s very impressive…if not a little bit dark.

“I had no choice,” Arpad explained.

“I guess that makes sense,” Brother Martin accepted. “He didn’t threaten you, did he? He told us that he wanted an apprentice.”

“My entire imprisonment was a threat,” Arpad described. “I think it was pretty clear what would happen if I didn’t cooperate.

“But anyway, I’m glad that worked,” Arpad maintained, “and yes, I was forced to learn quite a bit. Some of it wasn’t all bad, but some of it was really sick and disturbing.”

“That’s very unfortunate,” Philip empathized. “I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I hope you take some time to rest and recover, and I’m really grateful that you’re back now.”

“Me too!” Arpad acknowledged. “I am very grateful! I’m very grateful for all of you. I always had hope that somebody would rescue me. And now I’m back. And I can’t even imagine the torment that my family’s gone through, not knowing where I was. The whole time I was worried about them and myself. In any event, I hope to hear from you soon. I’m eager to retrieve my things and happy to explain everything that I’ve learned.”

“When you say ‘retrieve my things’ was there stuff that you brought with you,” Valeria questioned, “or is this just stuff that you acquired while you were there?”

“I didn’t bring anything with me,” Arpad clarified. “I don’t even remember going there. It’s not like I got on a wagon.”

“If this was all stuff that you got there,” Valeria questioned, “What was it? Was it books?”

“There’s some books I’d like to retrieve, for sure,” Arpad justified. “You know I was living there.”

“Do you mind if you could tell me what kind of books you want to retrieve?” Prynhawn asked.

“She’s had a long day,” Brother Martin interjected. “I think maybe we should just let her get some rest. No need to press her. We can talk about this all in the morning.”

Vernim agreed.

“I can show you everything there,” Arpad volunteered.

“Alright,” Valeria agreed. “We’ll tell you in the morning.”

“Okay, well thank you,” Arpad thanked, “and thanks again.”

“Our pleasure,” Valeria replied.

They said their farewells and Arpad departed.

“That’s a little bit worrying,” Philip suggested.

“What’s worrying?” asked Jess. “What are you worried about?”

“If I had been kidnapped,” Philip explained, “the last thing I would want to do is go back to where I was.”

“Really?” Jess challenged. “It seems like some of the things that we’ve been through and we kept going back. Does anyone remember what Sylvester and his friends did to us? That didn’t stop us.”

Philip and Vernim acknowledged the point, but Prynhawn pushed back, “Yes, but that’s probably because we’re adventurers and she’s not.”

“I think you’re all normal people,” Jess argued. “I’m just a normal person. I was never an adventurer before I joined up with you.”

“But you were willing to be an adventurer,” Prynhawn pointed out.

“Maybe she is too,” Valeria responded.

“I’m going to get back to helping out around here,” Jess said, politely declining Philip’s offer to help as she headed toward the kitchen. Before they left, Jess confirmed that she would meet them in the morning to return to the caves.

They debated taking Arpad with them. Philip was the most concerned. Prynhawn and Brother Martin thought it was worth the risk. Ultimately, Valeria agreed with the understanding that they would have to keep a close eye on her for her own protection.

Later that night, Vernim approached Opal privately. “I want to reiterate how glad I am to have you back. It’s really great that you’re able to come back to us. As you know, I’m kind of thinking about going out with the group for a bit. I was wondering what you were thinking about doing. Do you have any interest, or do you think you just want to stay here working with your family on the business? It’s your choice.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Opal pondered. “Where are you going? You’re going back to the caves, right?”

“I’m going back to the caves,” Vernim confirmed, “probably just for the day, to tie up any loose ends.”

“And then you’re going to come back, right?” Opal put forward. “So I’ll wait for you here…unless you want me to join you…”

“No, it’s your call,” Vernim assured her. “And I think everyone agrees that they want you to do whatever you want to do.”

“Okay,” Opal approved. “Well as long as you’re coming right back…”

“Yeah,” Vernim replied. “That’s the expectation.”

“Alright,” Opal sighed. “Just make sure you come back.”

After dinner, the group found Sabine at the gatehouse and warned her about Mendel. They explained that it was Mendel who had abducted Arpad and suggested he should not be allowed back in the keep. Sabine stated that he would be arrested on sight. They emphasized how dangerous Mendel might be. Grateful for the information, Sabine added that she would make sure the warning was shared with Jadale and the rest of the guard.

After confirming with Valeria in Orc, Prynhawn suggested they search any cargo, alerting Sabine that Mendel had used barrels to smuggle captives out of the keep.

Valeria also mentioned that Baricus and Chantel, who had been working with Mendel, ended up as victims, and that others at the caves were possibly working for Mendel all along.

Brother Martin invited Vernim and Lawrence back to his apartment to look at the black book and the small red book, the latter of which they tried to use to decipher the tablets.

Using the small red book, Vernim was fortunate to stumble onto the proper cipher and deduced that the tablets told the story of Erishkigal and Nergal: his insult of her messenger, her luring him to the underworld, their resulting passion, his escape back to the sunlit world, her ultimatum to flood the world with undead unless her lover returned, his battle past the seven gates to rejoin her, and their union as queen and king of the underworld, reigning side by side as lords of the dead.

They agreed that the tablets were very important religious items, though they might not be useful to them.

Lawrence experimented with the black books, confirming that he could summon the pages devoted to Erishkigal and Nergal, depicted in blood-red cuneiform letters. But when he tried to do the same with Lathander, nothing happened.

Lawrence examined the great black folio he had retrieved from Arpad’s desk, but could only surmise that it contained research notes.

Philip led Valeria and Prynhawn to the chapel. Philip and Valeria thanked Abercrombie for all he does for the keep, and he reciprocated the appreciation.

Having foraged some berries in the woods, Yanliz was back in his room when everyone else returned to the inn.

Arpad ready to travel
The next morning, Vernim had attuned to the magic necklace with a crude, heart shaped gem, and determined that it was an Amulet of Health.

As soon as they were outside, Lawrence cast fly and rose as high as he could, but could not spot any towers in the distance.

Jess met them with Arpad, who was now wearing much more functional traveling clothes than the short black dress she had been wearing previously.

As they prepared to leave, Opal approached Vernim and asked to speak with him privately. She seemed distressed. Pardoning himself, Vernim walked off with Opal as they conversed. Vernim flipped a coin and returned to his companions.

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