Winter was here, it was cold in Elventree and snow wasn’t far away. There were bets being taken what night the snow would actually fall and stick.
The cold weather meant people stayed indoors more. Which meant there were more people for Minimus to interact with. As usual during their downtime, Minimus spent most of it carousing, playing and winning at cards enough to comfortably cover a luxurious lifestyle. Shaniqua was often by his side, sometimes involved, sometimes just observing.
Marie took another trip to the Hillsfar Mage’s Guild and kept the Master Nash Sorinius updated of what was happening. While she was there, Marie researched familiars, and on her return to Elventree used magic to seek out a pseudo dragon familiar, a female named Ciele. The pseudo dragon was young and mischievous, and had an established fondness for sweet pastries. It seemed to show respect to Chauntea though, and they even snuggled up together after a period of acceptance of each other.
Cundall decided to use an awaken spell on a tree, which gave the tree some mobility and intelligence. He named the tree Thistlelock, and was often seen around Elventree, usually on the outskirts or surrounding forest not too far from Cundall’s shrine to the goddess Chauntea.
Cundall also announced his intention to draw another card from The Deck of Many Things. On the night he chose to do it, the others gathered around to watch, horrified but fascinated at the same time.
“You really want to risk this?” Zelda asked. “You could lose everything.”
“Risk makes life worth living,” said Cundall, trying to project a calm that he did not feel. He looked around at the others who had come to his shrine home to witness the event. He knew if it went bad, they would not be able to help, but it was comforting having them there. It also meant he was less inclined to back out.
“I AM TAKING ONE CARD!” he announced, and drew a card and turned it over. Again there was the glow from the card and Cundall.
“The Throne,” said Cundall, showing the others. The glowing card dimmed and turned to dust in Cundall’s fingers.
“Nothing’s happened,” said Minimus, looking around. “I am guessing the Throne was a positive card.”
“It grants a small keep, plus the drawer becomes more glib,” said Marie, looking at her notebook where she had noted as much information as she could find out about the Deck of Many Things last time she was at the Mages’ Guild of Hillsfar.
Zelda laughed. “Even more glib, in this case.”
“So where is the keep?” asked Minimus.
Cundall looked around. He opened up the bag of holding and rummaged around. He pulled out a few trinkets and items, and then found and unfurled a scroll. It was a title deed to a small keep to the east past Elmwood on the River Lis.
“Bound to be riddled with monsters,” said Minimus.
“Bound to be,” agreed Cundall. “Probably sunk into the swamp too.”
“Probably burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp,” said Marie, quoting a famous troop of comedy bards.
“We should go look,” said Minimus. “When shall we go?”
“The weather is going to be bad for the next few days,” said Cundall. “After that maybe?”
“Sounds good,” said Zelda.
The weather for the next two days was bad, as Cundall had forseen. Snow appeared overnight and stuck this time, making some of those who had bet that night happy, and others not so much. Minimus spent time visiting friends, and Marie spent it tutoring Jerrard. Cundall tended his shrine and engaged with Thistlelock, and Zelda met some of the Knights of Myth Drannor who were having a rest in Elventree after spending time in the Underdark doing raids on the Fire Giants of Maerimydra. Zelda and a paladin of Torm from the Knights of Myth Drannor named David Williams were seen in the Tree Spirits tavern talking nearly all day, setting some tongues a wagging, as happens in small towns around the multiverse.
On the second day the Heroes of Hillsfar were summoned to the Hall of the Unicorn, where they met with some members of the Moonsea Emergency Council.
“Huum, the mindflayer emissary in Sporedome has asked for our help,” said Elanil. “I think this is a good opportunity for us to cement in our alliance with the illithids, because they will be very handy when it comes to taking back Szith Morcane and the final assault on Maerimydra.”
“This is about this Rogue Thought character, isn’t it?” asked Cundall. “We heard about a mind flayer who had allied itself with Graz’zt.”
“I believe so,” replied Elanil. “Whatever it is, Huum has asked for you specifically. Seems he is still unsure about the rest of us. But as you are available, it seems that his wishes can be accommodated. You are available, aren’t you?”
“Yes we are,” said Zelda, and the others nodded. Cundall’s Keep could keep for a bit longer, it had lasted this long without Cundall’s attention thus far.
“Good. Now the mindflayers have created a permanent teleport circle in Sporedome. It means it is easier to get to now, no more having to get past the Red Plume keep over Cundall’s Hole or travelling all of the way to Yulash to get down that way. We can send more supplies straight there. Sporedome has become a bit of a staging post. Anyway, I can give Marie the magical key that will allow her to teleport you all there.
They spent the rest of the day getting ready, and then assembled at the Shrine to Chauntea. Marie cast the spell, using rare chalks and inks and crushed gems, and the heroes disappeared.