Taking Care of Business

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Ten

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

9-12 Goodmonth, 570

For Babshapka of the Silverwood, the village of Saltmarsh had been an unwelcome chaos of noise and foul smells. Seaton, he was certain, could only be larger and more repugnant. Though sworn to guard Aurora, he resolved to entrust her safety to Tyrius and the viscount while she was in Seaton itself. By nightfall they had passed several outlying thorps, but they were not yet within sight of the lights of the town proper. They pitched a camp alongside the road and divided up the watch. The next day, several miles before they reached the city itself, the wood elf set his eyes on the last true stand of forest near the city, made arrangements for a rendezvous a few days hence, and bade his companions farewell. Tyrius and Aurora took a final inventory of the gems, trinkets, and coins recovered from the house, and went on their way. The wood elf watched them until they disappeared from sight around a bend in the road.

When Tyrius and Aurora reached Seaton, they went directly to the palace of the viscount. The staff there seemed to have been prepared for their arrival, or at least to have been briefed on recent events in Saltmarsh, for their letter of introduction from the Saltmarsh Town Council was accepted without any questions and they were shown to a waiting room in the palace and offered refreshment while the letter was being read by someone unseen. Tyrius also turned over the shield of the knight he had originally showed to the Town Council; the armor remained still in Saltmarsh and he retained the emerald for the time being.

After some time, they were told that a meeting with the viscount himself wouldn’t “be necessary.” Tyrius received directions, and the offer of a page for a guide if he desired, to the city’s Temple of Sol. Aurora took a small but comfortable guest room in the palace (of a kind that might be afforded to the retinue of someone important rather than an important person herself). At her request, she was granted access to the library of the viscount’s court wizard, supervised by one of his apprentices, and possibly a meeting with the Wizard himself, at his convenience.

Aurora took full advantage of the opportunity and quickly found herself so engrossed with her studies, with the Court Wizard visiting with her more than once and her even permitted to attend the lectures he gave his apprentices, that she had no time to visit the markets and sell the smuggler’s treasures individually for the best price each as she had planned. On the tenth of Goodmonth she visited Tyrius at the temple and gave the valuables over to him, asking him to take care of them. The paladin was in the midst of devotions, fasting and praying, and he considered such worldly affairs a distraction, so he immediately met with a merchant of the Saltmarsh Town Council, in Seaton on business, turned everything over to him, asking only a fair price for the goods.

A day later, Aurora again visited Tyrius briefly.

“I asked you to take care of business, not to entrust our things to a Salter,” Aurora objected in exasperation when she discovered how Tyrius had disposed of the party’s goods. But she could not really argue further as she did not have time to do the haggling herself. Besides, the purse seemed heavy enough with gold.

“Now we need to consider how to best invest this money for the good of the whole party,” Aurora said. “We will need a number of magical supplies. After all, nothing is available in Saltmarsh. I will need some of this coin just to identify the properties of that stone we took up from the dead alchemist. We know it’s magical in some way, but we don’t know who should have it or how to use it until we identify it, and for that I have to buy a pearl worth 100 gold lions! I will also need 25 gold lions to buy the materials to write the spell ‘Message’ into my spellbook, which may come in handy if I ever need to speak to one of you in combat, or secretly, or through a door or something. And, if I can spend another nine gold lions on incense, I can cast an involved spell allowing me to call a creature to me as my familiar. I was thinking that a hawk would be a good idea—we can use it to scout the ship once it comes in, as I will be able to see and hear through the hawk.”

“You really are a spellcaster,” Tyrius said, obviously impressed. “All this time I took you for merely a dabbler in the arcane.”

Aurora sniffed, “A dabbler?”

“How much do you need for all of that?” he asked. After some discussion, Tyrius agreed that she could use party money of 200 gold lions to purchase two “Identify” pearls, 27 gold lions for a brass brazier and incense for three future “Find familiar” castings, and 25 gold lions for her to inscribe the spell “Message” into her spellbook. They had also talked about purchasing building materials to improve the haunted house, but when Tyrius did the math for splitting what remained of the party treasure six ways, he decided the others should explicitly approve of that purchase first. They planned on meeting early on the morrow to make these purchases in the markets of Seaton and then returning to Saltmarsh.

By evening’s end, Aurora finished her “historical accounts” of the events in Saltmarsh—three copies on different sheets of parchment—and she presented one to a secretary of the viscount. She had also copied some spells (both ones taught by the court wizard and some from the alchemist’s book) into her own spell book and made a complete backup spellbook in the event that something should happen to her own. She considered specializing as a diviner (like her master and patron), but ultimately decided that if she was to continue the adventuring lifestyle rather than that of a sedate researcher, the field of enchantments would serve her better. The wizard made sure she had the training she needed to enact her decision, and he gave her a list of enchantment-based spells appropriate for her learning and experience.

“Is there anything else?” he asked her. With or without use of any magic, the attractive young half-elf had clearly caught the older man in a web of enchantments.

“You don’t have a spell that would allow me to detect a man’s thoughts, do you?” she said with a suggestive raise of the eyebrows.

“For that, no spellcraft is necessary,” the wizard conceded flirtatiously. “But in fact, I do not have such a spell in my possession, though I have heard that some do.”

In the morning, Tyrius rose early, and at dawn he received a solemn blessing from a priest of Sol. “By the virtue of this blessing,” the priest told him, “Pelor grants you the ability to invoke his name for miracles.” The clergy of the temple wished him well as he took his quest back to the world.

There was one more matter that concerned him before he could leave Seaton. He went to the palace to ask after the coat of arms on the shield that had belonged to the dead knight. “We made some inquiries about the insignia,” the viscount’s chief scribe said. “The armor could only have belonged to a landless knight, one Cyrus Stanforth, in the retinue of his Lord Viscount. It seems that this same knight disappeared a month ago while on assignment patrolling the coast road from Seaton to Burle, scouting for highwaymen and monsters. The Lord Viscount will much appreciate the return of the armor to the heirs of Stanforth.” Tyrius grimaced at this news, for the armor did fit him well, and hadn’t he already earned it by defeating those fiends who had slain Sir Stanforth? Nevertheless, he could scarcely act so selfishly after having just received the blessing of Pelor. While the family of the landless knight could offer Tyrius their gratitude, they were in no position to grant him a reward. Tyrius turned over the emerald to the viscount’s scribe with assurances that it would be given to the family as pledged. Tyrius promised to send the full suit of armor as soon as he had the chance. He was also given a sealed letter from the viscount to deliver to the Saltmarsh Town Council.

Then it was off to find Aurora, and when he did, they visited the marketplace and quickly acquired the brazier, incense, and pearls Aurora wanted. The inks and materials she needed, she had already purchased from the court wizard and used for spell copying.

“I don’t think we have enough money left to worry about putting it into a merchant bank,” Aurora said. “But I did manage to find one which promises confidentiality for holding the alchemist’s spell book in a deposit vault. I’ve already copied the spells from it that interested me, and I’ve made a backup copy of my own spellbook for safekeeping as well.”

Their business in Seaton concluded, the pair set out on the coast road. They had not been walking an hour before Babshapka appeared silently from the brush and joined them. They were traveling lighter than when they came, and had had an earlier start, and they managed to arrive at the haunted house by dusk. Checking the basement, they could see that Thokk and Larry had been using the food stores, but they did not find them on the premises. Even calling for them and searching the house revealed nothing.

Babshapka circled about the house until he found obvious tracks on the other side of the road which led him to hunter’s nest in the woods where the half-orc and dwarf had created a concealed campsite from which they could observe any comings and goings at the house. Babshapka found both of them so engaged in their conversation that they had forgotten to watch the house.

“We left you with a job to do. What are you doing out here?” Aurora demanded.

“I’m not an indoors type of dwarf,” Larry said apologetically.

“I know, I know. Sky and stars and wind and leaves and all that,” Aurora sighed with exasperation. “I was always told dwarves preferred tunnels and holes, but you are as fairy-headed as Babshapka here. Really I don’t know what we will do with you! And what is your excuse, Thokk? Did the ghosts and skeletons frighten you away?”

Wounded by the remark, Thokk snarled and pointed to a new string of wolf’s teeth he wore on a cord around his neck. Then he held up his arm, displaying a nasty-looking inflamed wound on his forearm. “Does Thokk fear anything?” he growled. “I went hunting. Wolf tried to take my kill! Bigger than any wolf ever seen. I battled it, axe and claw, tooth to tooth, and I spilled his blood not but a few paces from here. His bite was deep, but I sealed the wounds with the tip of my own knife, heated in the flame, and I strung his teeth into this amulet. Does Thokk fear ghosts and bones?”

Aurora could see that she had gone too far, so she made peace as quickly as she could. “It’s a very handsome necklace, Thokk. You have a real skill. It looks exactly like the power totem that an orcish chief might wear.”

The half-blood’s demeanor changed, and now he beamed with pride.

“But you will return now to the house and spend the night in the basement,” Tyrius ordered. “We will be with you the whole night,” he added by way of assurance, not unlike a parent calming the fears of frightened children.

The party made dinner from the goods that remained in the basement, and they indulged themselves in some of the brandy they had retained. After dinner, Aurora addressed the group, explaining to them how she had spent both the party booty as well as some of their collective reward money. No one seemed too concerned. Babshapka showed little interest in treasure, Larry valued acorns and herbs above wealth, and Thokk was better satisfied with the wolf-tooth necklace he had created than he had been with the whole storehouse of contraband. Nevertheless, Aurora assured them, “We should have enough to keep us well-fed and housed for the next three to five weeks, at least until the smuggler’s ship comes in. And we’re bound to find lots more treasure on the ship. I realize that my use of party funds for seemingly selfish ends might appear to be asking a lot, and I’m sure I’ll be asking again in the future, but most of us are going to need help beyond our individual means as some point, and my magics will benefit us all.”

Everyone nodded disinterestedly, but she continued, “Tyrius, I know your donations to your god and the cost of votives will be expensive for you. Babshapka, Larenthal, and Thokk, you will likely need to … um … pay for companionship occasionally since … well … your social graces are … I mean to say …” It quickly became clear to her that no one other than Tyrius had any notion of what she was talking about and none of them seemed particularly concerned about the money anyway. Larry and Thokk had little use for it, and Babshapka was honor-bound to guard her, not as a paid mercenary. The hard sell, she realized, would be with Barnabus—who was still in Saltmarsh. She was still considering the best approach to pacify his inevitable objections as they drifted off to sleep.

Used with permission. Adapted for Greyhawkstories.com from the original article posted to Canonfire!

Don’t miss chapter eleven of It Started in Saltmarsh, “Swimming Lessons.” Follow greyhawkstories.com for the next exciting chapter. 

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