On the way to Hollowfaust, Eve sequestered herself away, cramming in the last moments she had before the Master’s Exam. I’d heard of the exam before. Most people actually interested in Hollowfaust have. Guildsmen looking to take the exam are expected to have knowledge capable of making them a master in any of Hollowfaust’s guilds. A task made harder as time goes by and knowledge grows. From what my Aunt Millie and cousin Sarah say, the average age of exam takers is 36 and failing the first time is not considered a bad thing. Eve is barely eighteen. I wonder where that puts her in Hollowfaust’s history?
She came out on deck when we approached the city, eyes gleaming and happy to see her home. And not for the first time, I wished that every citizen of Greyhawk City had just an ounce of the same pride that Hollowfaustians had for their home. It would solve quite a few problems.
The ship docked in the Second District, or Garden District, behind the main city. There was a group of people from customs to meet us specifically. We were given silver curfew tokens, which is quite a step up from the standard copper ones. It looked like a shinier version of the one Gavin VII carried when in Hollowfaust. Each were marked on the back with Grandmaster Baryoi’s name.
Mortekai wandered off to the First District while Belle, Vane, Bannik, and Delwin took up the offer of a tour from a guide. Eve went off in the company of a very attractive female half-elf who was waiting for her. I hailed a carriage to the Upperfaust to call on Aunt Millie and Sarah, who were excited to have me visit. After a bit of settling in, I went out for some shopping and met up with everyone at the Bone Market. Mortekai and Al were following up on the trade of animal parts attempting to pin down were Vayne was getting his supply. Parts have been hard to find lately and it seems like the Pomarj leadership is restricting the supply by reducing the amount of infighting among orcs. That’s a typical sign of marshaling warriors for a future strike outside the confines of the Pomarj. However, no one has actually heard of anyone coming to power there. Which means it isn’t just the supply of body parts that’s being restricted.
A member of the Black Guard came by after breakfast to escort me into the Underfaust. Sarah had prepared me a little for what I would see, since the description in the Journal is 300 years out of date, and I was still blown away. The tunnel leading down into the Underfaust was lined with shining, copper trees reaching up into the darkness. The tiny copper leaves on the trees moved gently on a breeze, chiming when they touched another leaf. Pocket gardens of plants enticed into growing underground under strange glowing lights appeared in every alcove. Every available wall space was carved or painted with incredible detail. An astonishing mural depicting the first flowering of the Ghost Quarter here. An ethereal carving of ghosts swirling through the air there. It was absolutely breath taking in its ever autumnal beauty.
It made the offices of the Grandmaster Baryoi look plain by comparison. Eve was already waiting in the office when the rest of us came in, a massive portfolio case leaning against the back of her chair. It was almost like seeing her for the first time. In Greyhawk City, she was plainly from Hollowfaust in the way she dressed. But here, she looked like a Guildsman and carried herself with the grace and dignity of her class. Her midnight blue coldweave coat gave off little bits of light picked up by the intricate silver embroidery covering it; skulls set in snowflakes.
The Grandmaster himself wore a hat of disguise, though it didn’t prevent the cold that liches exude. I suppose that what I saw was what he looked like in life. Which is a shame. He was rather attractive. While speaking, he walked around the room in a well worn path. Seriously, the carpet looked brand new and already there was a marked trail. Well, everyone has their teacup. But just like every other undead we’ve come across, when his path went by Eve, he would pause for a moment, hand resting on the back of her chair or her portfolio, and once even on her head, before moving on. Not once did Eve indicate that any of this was the least bit unusual.
Am I the only one noticing this?
After a short round of introductions, Master Baryoi expanded on Frederick Wolfsmith’s case file. The Talons of the Mother is a cult born from the ashes of the Sulm empire when Tiamat stood on the verge of victory and the God Pact was endangered. Bahamut met her on the field and brokered the deal we saw in the mural. Bahamut swore to leave Oerth at a specific time, giving Tiamat’s followers the chance to prove that humanity was as greedy and selfish as a dragon and deserved Tiamat’s rule. At this time, five chromatic dragons or their chosen would play a six way chess match against one human serving as hope for humanity. If that one person wins, he can bring Bahamut back. If he loses, well, that’s it for us.
Suddenly, the ‘Chess Lesson’ is a far more important event than just the new generation meeting our Great Ancestor.
The Talons of the Mother attempted to force the situation before its time by locating the chess set and attempting to destroy it. Jeremy Moonrise, Frederick Wolfsmith, Quinten Tarella, and Serena Hollis intercepted them and scattered the set so the cult would not have a chance to destroy it or manipulate the odds in their favor before the time was right. Master Baryoi indicated that after each destination for the pieces was chosen, the information was erased from his memory. The only one he knows of would also be the place hardest to access: Itar. The clues are in Frederick’s case notes, and those are hidden as well. But we do have a big clue. The Hollis’ are a Sevestrian family. Serena Hollis was a Sevestrian messenger during the time of Gavin VIII and IX. I know where to find her journals and notes.
Mortekai, who’d been unusually silent until this point, wanted to know why the chess set wasn’t just given to a metallic dragon or split between several.
That was when I wondered exactly what they were teaching people at Grey University. The assumption that any dragon, metallic or no, would give a rat’s ass about non-dragons is so stupid it’s dangerous. The idea that a dragon’s definition of good is anything like a human’s is laughable. And with Bahamut gone, how long before ‘good’ dragon hearts turn cold? At what point will humanity realize that dragons do not exist to be our very special friends?
I bid Eve good luck as she went off to her test and spent the afternoon writing out the report Addie should be writing for Chalk. Speak of the devil, I wondered what Addie is doing back in Greyhawk City. I hope she isn’t harassing Aestrella. The diva has the kind of clout to make life hard for Chalk’s little team.
I really wish I could talk to Gavin right now.