Three preserve me, Drylands, what have you gotten me into this time?
The actual taking of the outpost went far more smoothly than I expected. When you’re given no information other than that it’s important, that normally means a long, hard fight ahead. By our standards, that part of this job couldn’t have been simpler. Just some swarms of particularly nasty beetles and a stray behir. The door was locked and the Collective seems to be without an expert, but I found an unlockable trap door in the observation tower and we were able to get in easily enough.
What concerns me is that this place has been recently used. The pier’s maintained and the channel freshly dredged. We found ashes in the fireplace, cool but dry, clearly from after the most recent rain. The stores were fresh, and judging from the quality of the ale, they weren’t just trying to stock the place on the cheap. We also found two things of particular interest – a very rare coin and a cipher.
Abad recognized the coin as being of particularly unusual mint. Obviously I know about the Miracle of the Monolith – our own damn inn’s named in honor of the Pariah’s words. What I didn’t know – well, let’s be honest, I probably did know before I forgot more than I ever learned at the Academy – was that Ceraxus II died without a clear heir. The coin we found was minted under the authority of one claimant, Thenex the Bastard. After the current branch of the Imperial House gained control, these coins were melted down en masse. Abad also mentioned that Thenex died childless, but there were persistent rumors of a twin.
The cipher is similarly confusing. We found it in a strongbox under the floorboards beneath the behir’s hoard, and it’s just layer upon layer of obfuscation. It seems to be written in the Celestial alphabet, but not in any particular language. I thought it best to make a copy, and noticed a second cipher, written in the Common alphabet but in invisible ink between the lines. I haven’t the faintest idea of what to make of it, but I can think of some people who might be able to help. Fiona at the Sole Exception, but I don’t know her well outside of our mutual scholarship. Magnus strikes me as a better person to ask. I’ve worked with him, he’s trustworthy, and I’m sure he has no reason to aid the Empire.
The troops sent to relieve us came today, accompanied by Cyrus and the elder Lord Bantam. Lysander Bantam scares me. Maybe that’s the wrong word. “Scared” is too unsubtle of a description for the powerful gut feeling that the rapier at his side is his least effective weapon. He started by greeting each of us in a different language, in the most proper style. His Halfling’s good, I was more taken off guard by his Draconic. It’s not Arcane Draconic or Lizardfolk Draconic, and it’s not far from the coastal dialect I picked up at the Academy. He also addressed me by my full name. My full name, which I haven’t gone by since I was old enough to insist on Mina, and and which appears on exactly three pieces of paper that have ever been in this city – our free company charter, my ballot, and page 62 of this journal. He’s been keeping tabs on me. In descending order of likelihood, he either read our charter, badgered Cyrus into giving him my full name, read my mail, or paid Finn to read my diary. Joke’s on him if the last one’s true, she reads this thing for free.
He did, at the very least, have the courtesy to apologize for his sons. He also requested that I send his regards to Finn for the much-deserved kick in the shins. I’ll try to remember to tell her, but if I don’t, she’ll probably read it here anyway.
He also instantly recognized that I’d used the good tracing paper on the note. I admit to being merely a talented amateur when it comes to forgery, but I thought I was better than that. Makes me wish I’d used the cheap stuff, so he might underestimate me. He didn’t mention the invisible ink, and if he noticed the residue from my tracing paper, there’s no way he missed that. The moment we’re downstream, I’m telling Cyrus.
Strangely or not, Lord Bantam seems to approve of my tracing. Told Cyrus he’d chosen well. The direct wording was that I’m an intelligent traveling companion, but in the greater context, it’s only adding to the feeling that every time I meet with a Lord in Exile, I’m being sized up. Well, I can make it through a dinner party without major embarrassment, I can put up with the Bantam twins without insulting them to their faces, I’m competent in battle, I’ve got a good sense for intrigue, and I can sufficiently distract their spymaster to be able to completely omit a very interesting piece of evidence. What next? Is someone going to pry open my mouth and look at my teeth?
I trust Abad to keep that coin well out of sight – he’s not about to turn over something that valuable. I also fervently hope that sleeping in the top bunk, keeping my diary in my haversack, using my haversack as a pillow, and having Clyde sleep on the opening of the haversack will sufficiently discourage anyone from reading my entry from yesterday until I’m safely back in the Rose and the only spy I have to worry about is a certain light-fingered elf.