Serpents of the Frost Blade: Part 4

Page 81 With a furtive glance back in your direction, the hooded stranger disappears among the commuters. Damn, she definitely saw me, you think to yourself in a flash of panic. You briefly consider charging after her, but something tells you she's adept at getting lost in a crowd. Something also tells you this won't be the last time your paths cross. Alas, a problem for another time. Besides, Brennick won't wait forever. You dart through the turnstile and head upstairs to the surface.

A sign above the stairs points the way: "Union Square — NW corner."

Stepping out into the sunshine, you see that you are indeed on the corner of a park. Trees spring up from the square like an oasis in a desert of asphalt. It's the first patch of grass you've seen since your arrival. This particular corner of the park is occupied by an open-air market. Merchants have set up white tents, and are selling fresh crops and meat. As you weave through people shopping for apples, corn, potatoes, and chops of porcine, you can see that the merchants have brought their wares in greatwagons from outlying farms. One of the merchants has posted a puzzling poster that says "Think Global, Buy Local." Probably some kind of incantation, you think. My goodness, Farmer Gillett's squash would have them lining up around the park.

One end of the park looks to be under construction, so you head the other way. (Roll D20 Trailfinder check to determine direction from position of the sun. SUCCEED — You are heading south. FAIL — You are unsure of your bearing. CRITICAL FAIL — You cannot find the sun, and believe it to be nighttime.)

As you walk, you scan every face. After two years here, who knows what Brennick might look like? Will you even recognize him? You pass a pen where several hounds are running about on a gravel surface. The size disparity among the hounds is both comical and disconcerting. At its far end, the park blends into a stone plaza. Broad, curved steps lead up towards a statue of a general on horseback. You look up at the man, wondering who he was or what he did, when suddenly a hand grabs your shoulder. "There you are," says a voice, with a familiar twinge of irritation. "We really have to work on your definition of 'first thing.' I've been waiting here for like two hours, I thought the goblins had gotten you."

Relief hits you like a sunbeam. You whirl around, and look up at your big brother.

He definitely looks older than you remember. His features are leaner, his brown curls cut short. You figured he wouldn't be in his cloak and hunting gear, but to see him in a button-down shirt is still odd. The bag slung over his shoulder is the same type that you've seen used by the messengers who speed by on bicycles. But the weirdest thing about him is his face, and it takes you a moment to figure it out.

He's wearing glasses.

"Brennick! Oh, thank Garonash!" you blurt as you grab his arms, and the rest streams from you in a torrent. "There were goblins in your apartment and they ransacked the place and then kobolds attacked me on the subway and I fought them off but then I got lost in the Financial District and there was a creepy guy sitting next to me on the bus and your neighborhood's really expensive and oh did you see the farmer's market??"

"Yeah, uh, we'll get to all that, relax" Brennick says. His tone is a bit awkward. As he steps aside, you see why.

"Linda, this is my brother ___________." (Write in the name you chose at the beginning of the adventure.) "___________, this is Linda." The girl who steps forward to shake your hand has shoulder-length red hair, glasses almost exactly like Brennick's, and a countenance that seems like it's forgotten how to smile.

"Hi there," she says. "Glad to see you're okay. Nick was pretty worried about the gobblers or whatever."

"Goblins," Brennick quickly corrects her. For a moment, you all stand in silence. His discomfort at the forced intersection of his two worlds is painfully evident. "Well then," he says at last. "Let's get you some breakfast."

He leads you down a street away from the square, to an establishment that's a few steps down from street level. An oversize replica of an icemilk sundae — easily as tall as Brennick — stands sentry by the door. The others pay it no mind, but you give it a wide berth just to be safe. Inside it's cozy, with strings of colorful lights along the walls and decor that appears to have been chosen specifically because it looks a few decades old. (1% chance that skeletal warriors burst out of the kitchen — roll for initiative and turn to page 103.) When Brennick asks for a table, the server makes it a point to ask if everyone in their party has arrived, despite the fact that the place is almost entirely devoid of customers. She seats you at a table below an old-fashioned sign that reads "Mace Bugen: Notary Public."

"Won't Lord Bugen be upset if we're at his table?" you whisper to Brennick. He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes with a sigh.

"Sorry we couldn't pick you up from Port Authority last night. It was best not to know exactly when you were coming, all the less for Maelorin's seers to detect. Truth be told, I wasn't entirely sure you'd even come."

"So what's the deal with this Maelorin guy again?" Linda interjects. "You told me but I don't really get it."

Brennick's eyes meet yours for a moment. The server brings some coffee, which he sips. "Maelorin is a mage, a sort of wise man who used to live in our village. He had the 'friendly old man' thing going — we used to do chores for him. About five years ago, when I was 18 and my brother was 10, we were hiking around the forest north of the village when we came across a horse that was saddled but had no rider. As we led the horse back home, Dipshit here started poking through the saddle bags. What he found was a book. It was in a language we'd never seen, except for the first page. On the first page was scribbled a note."

You know it by heart as clearly as Brennick, and can't help mouth the words as he recites it.

"Frost Blade, Burning Hammer End of Day, Begin the Night First Son of a Last Son On the Weapon Will Gleam the Words of Garonash"

"Yeah," says Linda, poking at her coffee with a spoon. "I don't really get it."

The server returns to take orders. Brennick and Linda have already eaten, but you're famished. The menu items are written in cryptic phrases, though you're pretty sure 'Eat It and Beat It' has something to do with eggs.

"Anyway," Brennick continues, "we brought the book to Maelorin. I figured that was the end of it, but he started to get obsessed with the book, and kept asking us questions about how we'd found it. He made us take him to the exact spot we came across the horse. Eventually we found out that he thought the note in the book was some sort of prophecy, and that it pointed to me. My dad's the youngest of four brothers, and I'm the elder of two. First son of a last son. The whole thing was starting to creep me out, and I was sick of village life, so I came here to join the Rogues Guild, figuring I could disappear for a while. But now Maelorin's here as well."

"So are you really a rogue?" you ask with a burst of excitement. "What rank are you? Lemme see your cloak, is it full of hidden pockets?"

"Uh, well ... " says Brennick, giving Linda a hesitant look. "She kinda got me hooked up with this web design firm, and that's been cool. Technically I'm still in the guild, but the rogue thing has sorta been on the back burner."

On the back what now? "Oh. Well I think there was a rogue in the subway station as I got off the train, a girl in a black cloak who saw me and then vanished." Brennick flinches.

"Really?" says Linda, crossing her arms and staring intently at Brennick. "SOMEone at this table said that particular young lady was out of the picture. Was it me who said that? I don't think it was me. Who was it? Wait, don't tell me ... "

"Look, I-" Brennick protests, but Linda mutters something about needing to use the restroom and excuses herself.

"So does this mean Linda's your girlfriend?" you venture after a pause.

"Sort-of girlfriend," he snaps. "It's complicated. Just be careful around the girl in the cloak if you run into her again. Avoid her if you can. Trust me. She's dangerous, and I don't mean break-your-heart dangerous. More like stab-your-face dangerous. But enough about that. Did you bring it?"

With a quick look to see if anyone's watching, you sling the scabbard off your back and hand it to him. He unsheathes the sword part-way, examining the blade. "How'd you get it out of the armory?"

"I told Sir Lackworth that the mages needed it for a ceremony."

That earns a chuckle out of Brennick. "Oh man, he must be throwing a tantrum. Nicely done. This is crucial, but we have to be quiet about it. When I said in my note that the mages were right, it was a deliberate half-truth. They were right about the weapon gleaming with the words of Garonash, but they've got the wrong weapon. I believe that Patience is the weapon. And I believe we can prove it."

"What? But there are no words on it! What are you talking about?"

"Well, like I said, I haven't completely given up the rogue thing. I found out some tidbits that Maelorin and his Frost Blade cronies don't know. The thing is, I can't really track down the leads. I've got pretty good cover from Maelorin as long as I stick to my desk at mDyne, but if I start poking around with a sword and cloak he'll find me for sure. It has to be you. So here's the deal," he says, and pulls a letter out of his bag.

"There are two people who might be able to help us reveal the writing on Patience. One is a curator at the Museum of Natural History. The other is a professor at a school called Columbia. I don't know if either will be able to help, and I don't know if either is trustworthy. You'll have to figure that one out on your own." He hands over the sword, and sits back. He looks very tired.

"It's good to see you, little brother. Mum and Papa okay?"

"Yeah, they're fine. Papa's taking Dwarven language lessons." A pause. "Your sort-of girlfriend seems nice."

"Mm-hm. She's an optician. Sorry, an ocularist. Once you get used to their words for things, it's hard to switch back and forth."

"Is she ever coming out of the restroom?"

"Probably not. Welcome to the long, slow hell that is dating."

And with that, the server arrives with your 'Eat It and Beat It.'

-A curator of antiquities will know how to decipher the sword. I head for the Museum of Natural History. Turn to page 77. -Someone in an academic position can solve this. I head for Columbia. Turn to page 115.

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