Chapter 1, Part VI: Books and Battles

The next morning, the boys awoke and headed straight from their campsite to the docks around the western side of Gilding. The docks were built to receive shipments from the man-made canal that was created to bring more commerce to Gilding decades ago. It took them about 2 hours to make it to the docks outside of the high, thick walls of the city. At 7am, the docks were bustling, crowded with people getting their shipments and their fishing ships ready for departure.

You actually have to go around the outside of Gilding to get to the docks. As you approach, you can hear the running water from the canal, the groan of the wooden ships pitching while anchored at the dock, and the squawks of gulls overhead. You cross under a large stone archway which opens up into the docking area. There are a few large ships in the port, and a dozen or so smaller ones. You see people bustling about, readying their vessels, unloading, loading, carrying fishing poles and nets and shouting at each other over all the noise. You head to the dock space that Evard provided for you in the job contract, and as you pass a covered wagon, you see a sizable ship with maybe a dozen or less large crates stacked beside it. You see a rather wiry looking golden Dragonborn standing at the ramp to the ship wearing a captain's jacket. He's checking a clipboard in his hand and muttering to himself as you approach.

The captain of the cargo ship checked the party in and explained to them the process for moving the boxes to the Inkling Bookshop shipment wagon at the top of the docks.

"Welcome, Gentleman. Evard told me you five would be unloading the shipment for him. Since this is your first time unloading a shipment, let me explain the process for you. The crates are about 250 pounds each and will require two people to carry each one. Be careful not to drop the boxes or you could damage the merchandise, which might come out of your pay, knowing ol' Evard. But I will say, just between you and me, it's not like they are boxes full of glass or nothin'. It's books. They're pretty sturdy, so don't worry too much if they slip a little. Don't tell Evard I said that though… Anyway, my crew moved most of the boxes to the dock for you before they had to get to preparing for our next voyage out. There are two boxes on the ship still that will need to be removed. The ship'll be here for another 15 minutes, so you'll want to get those soon. But all 10 of these crates will need to be loaded into that wagon over there at the head of the docks."

Once explained, Leozumin decided that the best way to transport the boxes was by utilizing the two strongest members of the party, and only them. Due to this strategy, no boxes were dropped or broken during the transition of the first 5 boxes. Artem decided to use her time to fish with thorn whip, and Chief Paws attempted to make friends with the ocean dwelling creatures below. Corky kept a look out across the docks, monitoring to make sure they were operating in relative safety during this mission. Booger, the Wizard from the night before was there at 7am as well, and nodded to the party before leaning back against a barrel and waiting to be summoned into duty.

Once the team was about halfway through with transporting the boxes, Corky noticed another ship land at the dock a few hundred feet away from them. He realized very quickly that at least one of the faces was familiar: the brutish Bandit from Holcroft Cavern with the magical axe. He and two other bandits hopped off their boat and stealthily moved to attempt a surprise round on the rest of the party. Due to his careful observation of the scene, Corky was able to alert the rest of the party to the bandits' presence, stripping the enemies of the element of surprise.

The bandits hit hard, doing some pretty immediate damage to the team. The Bandit King's Axe, glowing pink with power, was even able to breach the armor of the usually impenetrable Leozumin. Outside of physical attacks, the axe was also able to inflict psychic damage with a brutal magical attack that bypassed Leozumin's armor.

The other two bandits had smaller, sometimes effective physical attacks via crossbow or blade, and were more susceptible to damage. The leader appeared to take damage without much affecting him through the first half of the battle. While avoiding damage with their sweet feline agility, Chief Paws called into the ocean for help, a cry that was answered through a bubbling static in their brain that made them feel as if help would soon be on the way.

Gyome attempted to intimidate the bandits into ending combat, but there seemed to be no stopping them, specially since the Bandit King recognized the party from the cave where his friends were murdered, ostensibly making negotiations pretty strained due to the party's involvement in the aforementioned murdering.

Getting a sense of unease, Artem made her way to the top of the docks to keep an eye on the wagon filled with the cargo crates. As she reached the edge of the dock, she noticed another three bandits sneaking up behind the party. One bandit had a crossbow, one had a blade, and the third was a caster.

The caster hit Corky hard, landing a hit that, combined with the rest of the damage he had taken during the encounter, knocked him out cold and left him on the brink of death.

It was then that Gyome called Booger into the fray to try and flip the odds in their favor, knowing they were going to have to pay Booger whether he helped them fight, or stood there with a bucket of popcorn to watch.

Booger cast a devastating fireball attack that hit all three of the bandits at the rear of the fight, nearly killing them all. To ensure they could not escape, Artem cast Entangle from her left hand. Weeds and vines sprung forth from up through the cracks in the dock, rooting them to where they stood. And with her right hand outstretched toward Corky, the knuckles on her fingers widened and the nails shortened back to the quick as it became the hand of her counterpart, Airmed, who shot a burst of Healing Word, reviving Corky and keeping him from taking his very last bow.

On the other side of the dock, Leozumin, Gyome, Chief Paws, and Stefano Romano were trying to take out the three bandits on their end. Stefano, being small and made of wood, did what he does best. He climbed the bandit with the crossbow and wrapped himself around his head, effectively blinding him. The second bandit was dispatched fairly quickly as the party tried hard to avoid the Bandit King's attacks, which grew stronger and stronger the more damage he took. The bandit at the very edge of the dock, with Stefano wrapped around his head, managed to free himself from the puppet. Upon seeing his friends at the other side of the dock take killing blows from Booger and Artem, he decided it was time to give up the fight and dove off the end of the dock and into the water.

Chief Paws called into the ocean again, telling whoever their friend was under the surface that the party had provided a "Snackrifice." With a fizzling crinkle of an affirmative response, two white tentacles breeched the water around the swimming bandit and dragged him down to the depths. With a final crackle of thanks, the connection between Chief Paws and the creature went silent.

Artem cast heat metal on the axe that the Bandit King held, hoping to make him drop it. And while it burned him, he held tight to the axe and took another swing at Leozumin. Stefano then climbed onto the head of the Bandit King to attempt to blind him as well, but was ripped off and thrown off the dock, taking damage and disappearing into the ether (for now). Corky took an undercover position in the rest of the cargo crates and fired a well-aimed surprise arrow into the chest of the bandit before ducking back down and maintaining his cover.

After seeing the Bandit King take a few more chunks out of her party, Artem threw herself into the heart of the battle and punched the wounded Bandit King's chest, casting Inflict Wounds as she made contact. A black, necrotic wound formed under his leather armor, and as it ate away at him, part of his body breaking and rotting away, the bandit leader fell and the nearly neon flame that was engulfing the head of his axe extinguished as it clattered to the dock.

With the last of the bandits disposed of, the party began to check for loot on the bandits and in their ship. They found a bounty poster for the Bandit King Thurg (Wanted Dead or Alive) and a few daggers and crossbows. The axe, after inspection from Corky and Leozumin, appeared to be just a regular battle axe that was used as a focus for the bandit's casting.

Booger was dismissed, and told the party he would meet them back at The Guild, for his payment. before leaving, he recommended that the party work on being a more cohesive unit and playing to their roles and strengths.

They also found a letter tucked into a bag left on the ship to someone named Arcturo, asking them to get a specific item from Inkling's Bookstore. It was a handwritten journal written by Professor Benson Ulysses, and was expected to be in crate 105. The letter was signed by "The Knightingale" with a strange unfamiliar symbol beside it, and within the text, it held a puzzle directing the reader to a specific location.

i knoW there is nO talking you out oF this new path you have chOsen. i have asked yoU to be patient and to play by my Rules enough. my position is unchanged, but if you Think this is the best way to make a change in tHis woRld, so bE it. that bEing said, i would like to ask you for a final favor. before you leFt, you mentiOned that you wouLd be inTercepting sOme important shipmeNts from some of the merchantS in gilding. if thaT includes inkling's, theRe is a one-of-a-kind journal that will bE in crate 105. it is the resEarch journal of professor benson ulysses and iT contAinS invaluable Kinds oF infOrmation Regarding the forMation and contAinment of maGical snarls. it is a Pressing matter and i need the book, arcturo. i won't say that you owe me, but... you know. if you can get thIs for mE, consider us square.|the knightingale

Quick work by both Leozumin and Chief Paws discovered the hidden words in the message: TWO FOUR THREE FOLTON STREET ASK FOR MAGPIE.

After reading this, the party asked Professor Benson, who they had in an orb in their bag, to verify if this was one of his journals that was being spoken of. He confirmed it was, and explained the importance of the information in the journal. He explained that his previous work with Gericho had been on Magical Snarls, and their nature. He explained that Snarls were instances where magical currents within the world physically collide and create dangerously powerful entanglements. He told the party that the snarls had been previously responsible for some devastating and destructive storms that had occurred across parts of the world about a century before, which led to the founding and establishment of Strixhaven, an educational institution based on the idea that magic was dangerous and unpredictable when crossed.

The party asked what might happen if someone was able to use the Snarls, to which the Professor insisted it could be catastrophic, but at the very least, would give an incredible amount of power and energy to the person who was using it.

Hearing that, the party decided they did not want this journal falling into the wrong hands, and so hatched a plan to liberate the journal. Leozumin, who had developed a working relationship with Evart, the owner of Inkling's, decided to recuse himself to have plausible deniability to the party's scheming, and thus be able to speak to the proprietor without lying.

Leozumin went to the front of the wagon to drive it while the rest of the party crammed themselves into the back with the 10 large book crates. Gyome used his crowbar to open the crate and the Professor pointed out his journal. Wanting to make this look like an accident, the party dumped the crate into the water.

They pulled the wagon around the back of the bookshop, and Leozumin stayed to return the crates. The rest of the party went off to city hall to turn over the bandit's corpse for the bounty to the Gilding Guard, for which they received 250 GP.

At the bookshop, Leozumin spoke to a teenage half-elf named Zeb, who was working the back of the house at Inkling's Bookshop. Zeb was thin and gangly with a narrow face and a crooked nose. His light green eyes are small, but hidden behind glasses which make them look comically large. He is an anxious and awkward kid, who checked the manifest against the returned cargo and uncomfortably mentioned that one of the crates was missing. Leozumin, not knowing exactly what happened to the crate, said he didn't know what happened to the crate. Zeb, voice and face full of stress, said they would have to let Evart know about the missing crate.

Despite Zeb's insistence that he would be very angry, Evart seemed rather understanding regarding the news of his lost cargo. He told Zeb to use the manifest to get a list of the missing books, and to hurry up and get things unpacked and out on the shelves. His demeanor was much brusquer with Zeb than with Leozumin, and Evart still paid him the 80 GP per person for the unloading job.

The party reconvened again to talk about how they wanted to handle this next. There was someone looking for a powerful journal that they were in possession of, and there were many avenues to take: Corky wanted to dip into the criminal underbelly of the city to see if any of them knew anything about Arcturo or The Knightingale. Chief Paws wanted to question Zeb again. The rest of the party wanted to better understand the Snarls, through reading the journal or talking to the professor. And although it was still squarely morning in Gilding, the party was still fairly beat up from their fight. Also, Booger was waiting for his payment in the Adventurer's Guild.


Occurrences of Note:

  • Bandit Battle at the Gilding Docks.
  • Completion of the Cargo Crate Carrying Puzzle: No merchandise accidentally damaged.
  • Second successful battle with Thurg the Bandit King.
  • Second successful battle with Thurg's bandits.
  • Assistance from hired ally (Booger) during battle - Payment not yet rendered for services.
  • First mention of The Knightingale.
  • Completion of Secret Message from The Knightingale Puzzle.
  • Discovery of the existence of Magical Snarls.
  • Criminal activity performed: Purposeful damage of Inkling's Bookshop property, theft.
  • Meeting of Zeb.
  • Net increase in Gold Pieces.

Completed: June 2022