It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, check out the entire saga in order by reading the chapters organized on the DnD tab of this site!)
Days after the Bug Bear attack, Danaeryard and Alaria found themselves back in the regular routine of guard duty and combat training in the Barracks of Castle Drachen. They had been waiting to hear from Esmeralda about the translations of the ancient Orc writing that was on the building schematics they found at Lake Constant. Finally, one afternoon during guard duty, they were summoned to the Great Hall to meet Esmeralda!
“We are getting closer. I need you two to go to the Castle Bookstore, miles away past the outer courts, in the castle city district by the gate house. An ancient Orc specialist who runs the shop has finished the translations and will be waiting for you. Please retrieve the final translations and bring them back here. We are one step closer to ridding the world of this menace.” Esmeralda instructed the duo from her usual table at the Great Hall. She gave them an address and explained how to get there via the Drachen horse-drawn buggy service.
When they reached the city district, it was quite busy. Merchants and shoppers filled the streets. Delicious odors from various food stands wafted through the roads as the buggy took the duo to an upscale part of the city, with fancy stone buildings and shops. The driver pulled up to a shop with a sign that read “Castle Bookstore” above it’s open door. Dany and Alaria hopped out of the buggy and headed inside.
The scene inside was shocking. Shelves had been knocked over. Books were strewn all over the floor. But shop was otherwise deserted, and they found the coin box untouched; whoever did this was not looking for gold. Before they could discuss that their Orc translations might have been the target, a loud squawk interrupted the stunned silence.
“I know that voice!” Alaria cried out. Turning towards the door, a commotion could be heard outside. A child was yelling and the bird’s caws continued loudly. Dany followed Alaria out of the shop and saw a boy sitting on a barrel, and also fighting off a hawk with a red tail that was diving down towards him, flapping it’s wings and nipping with it’s beak. “Ragnar!”
The bird turned and squawked happily, swooping over to Alaria and landing on her forearm. Ragnar was an old friend of Alaria’s, her animal companion from back home! Alaria was overjoyed to be reunited with her hawk and she stroked his feathers lovingly. She wondered what would make Ragnar attack this child, so she asked him, “What happened at the bookstore?”
“I ain’t no snitch. Who’s askin’?”
“Do you want this hawk to peck your eyes out?” Alaria snapped back.
The boy jumped off the barrel, laughing nervously. “All right, all right, but keep that thing away from me! I was playing here a couple hours ago and I saw a group of masked people go inside the bookstore. It was just for about 20 minutes. Then they all left, but they had the shopkeeper and his family with ’em. But they all seemed fine to me.”
Alaria thanked the kid for the info and he ran off, not wanting to spend another minute near that hawk. Dany thought that Ragnar might be more useful than she realized! Alaria nuzzled with Ragnar, and as she looked at him more closely she noticed there was a slip of paper tied to his leg. She opened it up and the contents read:
Crispin Docks – Slip 5 – 1st of the Month – Midnight
The note was signed with an ornate “B” and immediately Alaria grew pale. It was the signature of Birolesh – Uncle Biro, as Alaria called him. He was a leader of a thieving guild and Alaria explained that Uncle Biro had killed her own parents, many years ago. Receiving communication from this man was ominous.
“The only good news is that we have two weeks before the first of the month…” Alaria muttered. “Let’s go sweep the bookstore once more for clues and report back to Esmeralda.” Carrying Ragnar on her arm, she led the way back inside the store. However, when Ragnar was inside, he started flying around and tossing books through the air. Dany cowered and felt a bit afraid, but suddenly Ragnar squawked victoriously and produced a dark black ring from under a pile of papers. He flew to Alaria and dropped it in her hands, and she knew all too well that this was the calling card of a gang called the Midnight Ring.
“The Midnight Ring?? Isn’t that the gang that Ezra was trying to recruit us into when we first came to Drachen?” Dany said with dismay. This was starting to get overwhelming and she wanted guidance, so she reached out to Esmeralda via chat ring. After Dany explained the situation, Esmeralda asked the partners to try to find another Midnight Ring recruiter at one of the taverns in town. If they could find where the Midnight Ring was hanging out, maybe they could find the stolen translations.
Once they were on the streets, Dany and Alaria were surprised at just how many inns and taverns were in the city district! They started at the Weary Traveler, where they had met Ezra many weeks ago, but there was no sign of her or any other Midnight Ring affiliates. They wandered up and down the streets to every tavern they could find: The Belching Bull, Liquid Gold, Thistledown, The Dented Mug… but they had no luck. Finally, as the sun was setting, they turned down Green Street and saw a big tavern at the end of the road.
As they approached, Alaria noticed a secret symbol on the tavern sign: an “M” written in Theives’ Cant. She pointed this out to Dany and whispered, “This must be the place.” Alaria slipped the dark black ring on her finger and confidently went to the door. However, they were immediately stopped by large guards blocking the entrance inside, demanding to know what their business was at this tavern.
Dany and Alaria asked for Ezra and said that they had been invited. The guards laughed at the partners and said that nobody was there with that name. But Alaria did not give up; she pointed to the black ring on her finger and said, “I have something that might interest you.” Without another word the guards stepped aside and let them in. One of the guards directed them to a staircase leading to the basement. All eyes were on Dany and Alaria as they walked through the tavern to the staircase. Dany began to feel weak and sickly as they walked down the stairs. Alaria pulled out her wand of magic detection, as she always does in new places, but the wand was not working.
They entered the basement chamber, which was filled with typical tavern storage: kegs, wooden boxes and crates, and bags of hops and wheat. Lurking in the far corner was a cloaked figure, standing with his arms crossed, peering at them from under a hood. “Oh, I guess you’re not as stupid as I thought,” he scoffed at them, while stroking a black crow that was sitting on his shoulder.
“Look at you, pathetic Expeditionary Guards. Running errands for that bratty princess, high up in her castle? She cares nothing for you, yet you break your back for her. What kind of life is that? Anyway, you can call me Tanar. What are you doing in our tavern?”
“We have reason to believe that you know where certain stolen documents might be,” Alaria replied. “And where a certain missing shopkeeper and his family might be.”
Tanar laughed, but looked a bit annoyed. “Oh, I don’t have that here. That is the truth, and even if you don’t believe me, don’t bother to try and fight me. You won’t have much success with my magic dampening field suppressing your magic. Not to mention the thirty gang members waiting to pounce on you upstairs.
“No, what I’d like is an exchange. That’s fair, right? Nobody has to get hurt. All I need is a simple tracing of an etching on Princess Pema’s crystal diadem. You can handle a simple task like that, right? Or do Tieflings and Dragonborn not know how to hold a piece of charcoal?” Tanar laughed mockingly. “Get me that tracing and I’ll give you the translated schematics.
“And one more thing. Don’t go running to your superiors for help, or tell anyone about this little arrangement. If you speak one word to the authorities, the shopkeeper and his family might meet an… unfortunate end.”
Dany and Alaria had no choice. They couldn’t let an innocent family suffer at the hands of the ruthless Midnight Ring. They agreed to comply with Tanar’s request, and they were instructed to meet up with an informant at a nearby barn for more detailed information on where the crystal diadem could be found.
They left the Green Street Tavern and made their way outside of the city district, to the barn where they would meet Tanar’s inside agent. The barn was empty except for a few bails of hay. Dany and Alaria waited inside, playing with Ragnar and watching him do parlor tricks with Alaria that they had clearly been practicing for years. Despite the dire circumstances, Alaria was in high spirits – the thought of pulling a heist in the castle was quite an alluring challenge. Dany on the other hand was very apprehensive. Her burly form made sneaking around and thieving a difficult task. It was hard for her to go anywhere without being noticed.
After waiting for twenty minutes, a man rushed into the barn carrying a sword and wearing a dark black ring, just like Alaria’s.
“Just received word from Tanar. I am Yawnax and I have some information on the handling of the diadem. I have learned that the diadem is only seen in the South Hall, in the Royal Vault, or on the Princess herself. She only wears the diadem on holidays, so any average day the diadem is on display at the South Hall. It is probably easier to access while it’s on display here during the day, despite the plentiful amount of guards. Each jewel is in a glass display case that has an alarm attached to it, so it cannot be lifted without the guards knowing. And the Royal Vault is impenetrable, so don’t even bother with that.”
Yawnax unsheathed his sword and began using it to draw in the dirt. He was making a map, showing the duo where the guards were positioned, and where the diadem was found in the hall. Alaria studied it and made sketches and notes on some parchment paper.
“You can contact me via the black ring for the next 24 hours. After that the connection is severed.” Yawnax tapped his ring onto Alaria’s and she felt it buzz with energy. “Now be gone from here before anyone sees you.”
Back at the castle, Dany and Alaria went to the South Hall to see the layout for themselves and come up with a plan. Since it was night time, nothing was on display and there were only a few guards stationed around the perimeter. They expected to see far more guards the next morning when the South Hall was open to the public.
After scouting out the area, Alaria began coming up with a plan. They went back to their room in the Barracks to discuss. Alaria suggested that since she was a master of disguises, that she would impersonate a Royal Jeweler. This would give her access to the crystal diadem and enable her to handle it without being questioned.
Dany was in a panic. She knew she couldn’t help with the heist, or the sketching. But she couldn’t stand the thought of her partner being at risk and doing all the work, while she sat by on the sidelines. Dany insisted that she would come along and create a diversion to keep attention off of the heist.
Alaria wasn’t so sure about this. Dany had a history of being accident prone. Was a diversion necessary? However, Dany refused to sit back and let Alaria do all the work, and she was acting really stubborn about it.
Alaria shrugged and figured a little diversion couldn’t hurt… could it??
And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂