A message arrived at the Copper House Inn from the Temple of Moradin, addressed to Delwyn in a neat dwarvish script. When the dwarf opened the note, he found not the expected message from Priestess Torbera, but the neat handwriting he recognized as Lord Burl’s.
The wizard Quantum has informed us of your aid to him, and we are yet again indebted to you. However, I fear we must once again ask for your assistance against the Zhentarim. Please meet me tomorrow evening at 10:00 at the Temple of Moradin. I will explain then.
Lord Cedric Burl
The following evening, the party arrived at the Temple of Moradin under the cover of darkness. They had taken a circuitous route from the Copper House; Beau was reasonably sure that no one had followed them.
A knock brought Tobera Ironfist to the door; she smiled in welcome as she admitted them into the temple. After locking the door behind her, she led them to a small meeting room behind the sanctuary where Lord Burl waited. The man rose and greeted the party, and gestured for them to take a seat in the chairs around the room as he moved behind a table that held notes and several drawings.
“First, let me thank you for coming, and apologize once again for the circumstances of our meeting. It seems we only speak when we’re asking for your aid. I wish it was otherwise this time, but I fear it is not.”
He looked down at the table, and shuffled some of the papers around before continuing.
“A small but valuable statue is currently on loan to the Lastfall Mining and History Museum from the Amalgamated Mining Coalition. It is a relic believed to be from the lost city of Earthfast. Rumor has it that the statue may be the key to finding the dwarven city.
“We have it on good authority that the Zhentarim plans to steal it. We believe they wish to examine it more closely, hoping to discover Earthfast’s location. The city may yet contain relics of power, ones the Zhentarim hopes to recover for themselves. We cannot allow that to happen.
“We believe they will make their move when the relic is being transported from the museum back to the Mining Coalition. In the meantime, the Zhentarim has paid a hefty bribe to the Thieves’ Guild to designate the relic as ‘hands off’, meaning not only will no member of the Guild dare to make a move on it, but the Thieves’ Guild will actually be providing extra security protection to ensure no one else takes it either.
“Normally I would ask you to assist us in guarding the statue as it’s returned to the mining guild. However, since the Thieves’ Guild is taking a direct hand in this, we feel there is a unique opportunity presented to us. We know that agents of the Zhentarim have infiltrated the Guild, and we strongly believe that its new Guildmaster, Soren Radcliff, is Zhentarim.
“So instead of preventing the Zhentarim from stealing this valuable relic, we want you to steal it first.”
Carric listened intently to Lord Burl. When Burl had finished, he leaned forward in his chair. "A unique opportunity to do what? Capture this Soren person? Kill him? Or just learn more about the Zhentarim activities?
“If the statue is stolen after the Guild has given its bond to protect it, Radcliff will lose much face within the organization. It’s almost certain he will not remain Guildmaster. Should this occur, it’s likely the Zhentarim will impose an even more… strident punishment upon him.
“If this is the case, he may be quite willing to talk with us in exchange for protection. In this way, we could potentially learn much about the Zhentarim’s operatives and future plans.”
“Fair enough. Now what about this statue… how large is it? What does it look like? Is it dangerous in any way? Do you know how heavily guarded this caravan will be?”
“The statue is approximately 18” tall and made of gold. It should be easy enough to transport. But you won’t be taking it from the caravan; you’ll be stealing it from the museum."
“Can you tell us anything about the security at the museum?”
“The best chance to obtain the statue is when the museum is closed. Besides the reduced security at night, it obviously also greatly lessens the chance that you are identified as the culprits.
“The mining museum is located in a dwarven-constructed stone building. As well as attractive, it is no doubt one of the most well-constructed structures in the city. There are three possible approaches. Approaching from the street, while the most direct, is also the most dangerous. The museum will be well-guarded, and no doubt the Thieves’ Guild will also be on alert. Luckily, there are a couple of other options.
“One is to approach via the rooftops. We have a safehouse nearby from which you can make your way to the museum and enter. However, the network of rooftops in the city is not called the “Thieves’ Highway” for nothing. It is likely you’ll encounter representatives of the Thieves’ Guild tasked with protecting the museum.
“The other option is to approach from beneath. There is a branch of the city’s waste removal system that runs under the museum, and there is an access hatch that opens into the museum’s basement. This branch of the sewer is used primarily as overflow and isn’t regularly patrolled by maintenance crews. It’s likely that traversing it will present its own set of challenges.”
Xiang looks upon the group. " we are now thieves stealing at relic ? And if we get caught ? Will you lord Barl take full responsibility for this plan?"
lord Barl smiled at Zang " If you are caught the responsibility of justice will fall to the duke " " I am sure in such a case he would be most lenient "
Carric turned to Lord Burl. “Lord Bart, one more question, at least from me. Why are we meeting here at the temple?”
“For the same reason we met in a gardener’s shed last time, Carrot. Until we know the extent of the Zen-harem’s infiltration within the Duck’s government, we shall err on the side of caution.”
Beau leans forward from the shadow he had found and from under his black hood, “You’re asking us to do thieves work?” The grin on Beau’s face can be seen through the shade of his hood. “I thought I gave this up” He chuckles to himself. “A solid gold statue, you say? That’s going to be a little heavy. What happens if the guards, not the thieves guild find us? Not that they will.” He chuckles again. “This should be great fun!!” Beau leans back into his shadow.
Avienda laughs and addresses the halfing. “How do you plan on executing your plan with us in tow Beau?” She gestures towards the paladin and cleric, their armor glinting in the candlelight of the temple. “I couldn’t get them to take that shit off to sneak through the woods, even out of his armor I think Starch’s scales make noise when he walks!! Or were you just planning on doing this without all of us again?”
Bea chuckles, “first of all that statue is damn near as tall as i, and those two” Beau laughs as he gestures toward starch and delwyn, “they are what makes this a challenge. Brings me back to the days in Calimport. Oh, this going to be great!” Beau lowers his hood revealing his smile to the group.
Lord Burl looked towards Beau’s shadow. "The statue should easily fit in your Bag of Holding, where its bulk and weight will not be a problem.
“I cannot help you regarding the museum’s defenses, as they are unknown to us. I will tell you that if you kill a living being employed by the museum, you will face charges. There’s nothing I can do about that, but I would hope restraint is something you would practice regardless in a situation such as this.
“I realize what we’re asking is difficult. Were it easy, there are any number of ‘independent contractors’ I could use for the job. You lot have proven yourselves to be resourceful and successful under the most difficult circumstances. That is why the Duke is requesting your aid.
“Whoa man this sounds like fun… I think I can be like pretty stealthy man. But uh… I kinda was lost in a day dream there for a bit. There was like this giant metal thing with water pouring down it and it went over a cliff toward a lagoon and you could like slide down the thing and take a swim. It was so much fun man. In like my head that is. Maybe I could build one. Anywho, back to the infatuation at band. Who owns this statue now? Are we trying to like steal it from the stealers for the Duke? Or just get it before like they do?”
Starch looks up heavy in thought, “Lord buryl what would happen to the statue after we have the information we need? Would it be returned to its rightful owners?”
Avienda winks at the paladin. “That’s it Starch, look for a loop hole. That’s what I would do.” She grins broadly, and leans back in her chair.
Xiang again looking around at the table of would be heroes about to pull off a crime. “Why the secrecy ? Do we fear the dukes allegiance? If so then again we trust our fate to his leniency if or when we get caught?” " I find the blind acceptance for law breaking a bit concerning I must say"
“I don’t think we like question his allegiance. I think we question some of his like visors and stuff. As for being OK with breaking the law and all that, as long as the relic is returned then were making sure its fate is better than the zennytarim guys would have for it man. If its going to be stolen anyway, mine as well be stolen by us right? At least that’s sorta where I’m at”
Avienda shrugged. “Exactly what Delwyn said. Besides, rules were made to be broken right Starch?” Trying to maintain a poker face, Avienda looked over at the dragonborn.
“So , stealing , thievery, is fine as long as what we are stealing is for a worthy cause?” Xiang thinks for a moment " So we put away our own beliefs and convictions and follow blindly this man and his causes and do whatever it takes to stop the zhentarim. Let me ask , when Good mirrors the actions of evil, what does that make the good? You stated that the zhents are murderers and thieves and now we go to steal something from the thief? what does that ,make us? "
Avienda rolls her eyes, “Come on Xiang. It’s not like we’re really stealing it.” She makes quotes with her fingers and emphasizes the word ‘really’. “We’re just borrowing it for the Duke before the Zhents steal it. Right Starch? What’s the big deal? We’re not going to kill anyone. Nobody gets hurt. Think of it as a sneaky treasure hunt. A chance for us all to see what it’s like to be in Beau’s shoes! It’ll be fun!!”
Xiang looks to her then to Starch and then to the rest of the group " When a creature stops following its path it becomes lost , I fear we are becoming lost "
Straight faced this time, her voice lowered, “seriously Xiang what does it matter? We all wind up dead outside this stupid town anyway. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts, I don’t see myself relocating my path anytime soon.”
Lord Burl held up his hands. "Please. As I said, the statue is the property of the Amalgamated Mining Coalition. This is a union of miners, primarily dwarves, humans and gnomes. They have lent the statue to the museum to be displayed for a period of time.
“If we are successful in obtaining the statue, of course we will return it to its rightful owners. Should the tales be true and the statue give us some clue to the location of the lost city of Earthfast, then the AMC will share a claim in that as well. And as Delwyn said, you would be taking the statue temporarily to prevent it from being stolen permanently.”
He looked at Starch, then Xiang. “I know it seems strange, committing a crime in the name of good. But you must see that it is a greater good we strive for. Things here are not as clear-cut as they are in a temple or a monastery. In a city of tens of thousands of people with dozens of competing interests, sometimes the path we must take to govern is a rocky one in order to achieve our goals.”
He looked again at Starch. “You may think these words come easily for me, being a lord in service of a duke and head of a powerful militia. But trust me when I say that I once shared your convictions, and your doubts. I have made the sacrifices necessary to keep our people safe, healthy and prosperous.”
“Xiang I know you may have a hard time believing me but I think this is a case of choosing the leader of two evils. I for one trust the Lord and think that the good of the city outweighs the good our few. I also have faith that bahamut sees that even though this deed breaks the law it is done with good intent and for the good of all.”
Avienda chuckles after Starch and Lord Berl finish their moving speeches. “So Beau, what’s the plan?”
Carric shrugs. “It’s not really stealing since we intend to keep it safe, and return it to it’s rightful owner. Seems pretty simple to me.”
Xiang sits back "simple is not the word I would use and the fact that you use it with such simplicity should draw concern. "
Xiang looks to starch " I don’t claim to know the tenants of your god, however words like honor, justice, are woven with in his name, I don’t remember seeing lesser of two evils or thievery anywhere in the readings I saw. You will be the one judged, not I "
“Yeah man, thievery and stealing are fine if they are being used to right a wrong… Or like kinda in this case prevent a significant wrong from being done man. And if it is at the request of the guy who like makes the laws here then doesn’t that like sorta make it lawful? It’s not like we’re gonna go steal the thingy and sell it or give it to the dukey to put away in a room of treasures man. So yeah I’m pretty OK with it man. And I don’t think we are lost. I mean, I’ve been to this temple a bunch of times. I’m pretty familiar with the area. Did you forget where we are man? Where do want to go? I can get you there I bet!”
Beau chuckles at the conversation, "who is to say what is truly right or wrong, good or evil. Sometimes evil is not seen as evil in the ideals of the evil doer. I come from a place where most people are thieves, those who are not are just easier targets. For me, life is to short… " Beau pauses and looks around to build drama “as we all saw while we traveled through time, to worry about the details. I have been asked to remove something from somewhere by someone and this is what I have been trained for.” Beau sits back and relaxes again. “I would recommend the sewer, we will have to deal with rats and other creatures but it is less likely for us to run into the guild or the gaurds. We go in late, fast and quiet. We will be out before anyone knows we were even there.”
“Xiang I agree with you that from a narrow objective point of view stealing is both unjust and unlawful. We however live in a world where the bigger picture must be taken into view. In that world the zhentaarim aim to steal this artifact and use it to increase their power. This would in turn increase the strangle hold that they already have the city in hurting its innocent citizens even further. If we have the chance to prevent this by, admittedly unlawfully, borrowing the statue to keep it out of their hands and at the same time potentially gain Intel on or enemy and their intent then I would say that this is too great of an opportunity to pass up. For this reason and the good we will do I accept the judgement of bahamut either way he should decide with no shame or remorse for my actions as out intent is pure and our cause just.”
“Well said, Starch.” Burl turned to Xiang. "Obviously I cannot force you to do this, nor would I want you to do anything that goes against your beliefs. If you do not trust me, or the Duke, so be it. And I will not lie, this mission IS dangerous, and not without risk to us all.
“Your companions seem willing to help. If you decide not to, I will understand, as I’m sure will they. If everything goes smoothly, they should be able to still succeed, even without your aid.
“But I do not ask this of you lightly. This mission gives us the opportunity to strike at the Zhentarim, potentially keep dangerous information out of their hands, and protect private property. If you do not consider those worthwhile goals, I don’t know what else I could say to convince you.”
Grinning broadly at the monk, “See Xiang! Breaking the law for the force of good. Very worthwhile.” She turned to Lord Berl, “I’m convinced. When do we start?”
Xiang looks and smiles at Avienda " you are right, my judgement has been clouded. I am on board"
Smiling back at Xiang Chi, Avienda will speak up, “Lord Berl, what does this statue, key thing look like anyway? It doesn’t by any chance look like a golden ram head does it? With big loopy horns,” she makes loopy horns with her hands above her head as she describes what she remembers of that part of the vision to Lord Berl. “Oh, and have there been any rumors of the Zhents masquerading as clowns? Just,” she shrugs, “curious.”
Burl looked confused. “Ram’s head? Clowns? No… the statue is of an armored dwarf, approximately 18” tall and made of silver, with cut stone inlays. The detailing is extremely intricate, in the dwarven style." Burl shuffled through the papers on the table and produced a pencil drawing of the statue and showed it to the party.