As dawn breaks a trio of Captain Munro’s troops several days overdue wearily walk back into town. The trio are disoriented, disheveled and splattered with slimy black mud that has a pungent sour odor. They seem to have lost some of their gear as they have no weapons and some armor is missing but strangely they are each carrying several woven baskets; some small, some large, with tags on them.
They wander throughout town placing baskets at various locations. They place Two large baskets at the Dragon, A large basket at the stables, and yet another at the Reprieve, then small baskets at the long house, bank, the Last Chance, the Forge, White Rabbit, Ecumenarium, and the Keep. At the stables one of the trio breaks off and rides out to the manor house delivering four large baskets there as well.
Once all the deliveries are complete each member heads to the keep and the instant they cross the threshold of the gate they instantly collapse from exhaustion.
The card on each basket is made from high quality vellum. The lettering is embossed and the ink is a glossy black. Each is individually addressed, with personalized notes.
Bael Messages everyone he can and then Sends ahead to the Dragon and Reprieve:
DO NOT touch or open the gift baskets! They are oozes and jellies from the Naga! DO NOT TOUCH OR OPEN! Keep Out! Malicious intent!
Lunan hears the message as he was taking one of the baskets to the local potion maker to determine what the contents were as he hears the message and delicately goes around and collects the baskets and puts them one by one out of town starting with his own. He doesn’t think its a good idea to leave them out in the open where regular townsfolk might happen to come across them.
Al holds the small dark vial from the bottom of his basket while reading the attached note. As he comes to the end of it, he regards the stoppered glass as one might a particularly potent explosive. He *gingerly* sets it back amongst the baskets other contents and then stops, looking up then west.
“Oh now you tell me,” he mutters and turns back around just in time to see Lunan making a bee-line for his office.
“Ciao, signore,” he says, raising a hand in greeting as the very tall man approaches, clearly all business. “Did you receive a care package from an unkillable evil as well?”
Lunan sees Al as he approaches.
“Hi Al I was going to ask those at the estate what to do about this meeting that was requested and then go drop these vials off with our local potion maker to find out what they are until that message I assume you got as well.
Right now I am gathering up the ones I can find and dropping them by the big rock out past the estate that we found sin tied to until I know where we should dispose of them. Feel like anywhere is better than in town and they seem to be all over the place. Been collecting the notes though” He says as he pulls a bunch of them crumpled up from his pack.
Al considers his basket, then Lunan and then holds out a hand for the proffered notes. His face clouds as he peruses them.
“If one of the notes I received is to be believed, whatever is in that dark vial at the bottom of mine has a will of its own,” he says peering down into the basket owlishly.
“I’d hate for whatever it is to get sicced on dear Hannah. Perhaps we might consider moving them to the estate? They will likely fit in the vault until we can figure out what to do with them.”
He glances over towards where a similar basket sits in front of Leon’s door. “I’m not even sure if mio fratello has even seen his yet.”
”You can add one more to the pile” Merrick says from the open doorway, holding his own large basket.
“This was left for me this morning at the stables. Also noticed that one of the horses had been ridden and had a stink on it that neither Pix, Bael, or myself will soon forget.
Seems this creature likes to toy with us. Once I got that message from Bael, I saw Lunan checking doorways thru town and thought it best to bring you mine.”
As he gingerly places the basket down, he adds “wise move to gather the whole basket. It wouldn’t surprise me to find not just the “preserves” to be hostile, but everything in this basket a hazard you one’s well-being”
Leon walks in with a scowl on his face and a basket in hand.
“This thing. After what Bael and Pix told me, this is going too far. You said they were all around town,” he asks. “Sounds like we need to find a way to get rid of it. First an undying death god, now a Naga we can’t kill,” he says putting the basket down.
“Maybe we should see if our friend in the castle knows how to get rid of this thing. Or Sequoia since apparently she is the one who trapped it first,” he grumbles.
Lunan nods and says “I have no idea who the naga or Sequoia are but will do my best to help in whatever way I can. If the estate is where we want to store these I can take them there.”
Al looks up at the others as they approach, then waves a hand over his basket, muttering a quiet prayer in halfling.
“You make a good point, signore Merick, but for what it’s worth, only the dark vial in mine appears to be actual poison.”
He looks between the others and shrugs. “Still be damned if I’m eating any of it.”
”Shame. That looks like good cheese…” Merrick sighs as he helps gather up the baskets.
Lunan shrugs. “On the bright side once we identify everything and take care of the creatures or poisons that might be in the baskets we can use everything else”
“I wouldn’t use any of this if you paid me,” Leon says looking at the basket. “That thing was making abominations of nature and corrupting the land around the waterfall.”
Lunan gulps at that. “Well nix that idea then” He says while looking at the basket in disgust. “So how does this Naga know of even those it has never spoken to or met?”
”Have to agree with Leon here, even if it wasn’t poisonous. I understand thru Pix and Bael that it was able to establish a mental link to them with the barest bits of information and the most triflingly small bits of materials linked to them. Eat any of this, and who knows what doors to our person would be opened to it”
Merrick suddenly starts to chuckle despite himself.
“Although, I cannot help but laugh at the thought of that Naga having to cast ‘LOCATE CHEESE’ to track us…”
Lunan seems a bit worried. “So what is everyone’s relation to this Naga that seems to be calling for a meeting? Or at least for me it invited me to afternoon tea and seemed to invite the others I read as well.”
Al shrugs. “I personally haven’t met the thing, though it knows a great deal about me. From what I can gather, it’s managed to touch Pix’s mind so I’m wondering but what that isn’t where it gained *some* of it’s knowledge of me.”
He scowls down at the basket again. “Though that doesn’t explain some of the family details it seems to know – or its use of the Halfling for my family position.”
“Well for me I was there when we originally met it. Along with Bael, Pix, and Ursa. We killed it and then Pix may have been a bit braggadocios and spoke their full name while leaving a bit of themselves behind that I thought I fully destroyed. I burned it until there was nothing left,” he says with a shrug.
“Outside of that, I haven’t heard about it again until Merrick, Pix, and Bael ran into it. Now this. Or the implication that it knows my middle name,” he says pulling the note out and dropping it on the table.
”Has anyone checked the library to see if there is any information on this specific naga or how to deal with them?” Lunan inquires to those that have gathered.
”I tried after my first meeting with the thing. Afraid that the Amber library is a few hundred years out of date. Best I could find was nothing more than a page in a bestiary.”
He paused for a moment. “Now that I think about it, the thing DID spy the rune that Sequoia had gifted me and told me to give her his regards, in not so pleasant terms. Perhaps she’s the one to talk to.”
Pix lands and heads towards the group with a basket under each arm and adds them to the growing pile.
“Is everyone okay? I’m sorry I’m late.” Pix throws the crumpled up note on the table “That son of a bitch left one for Cora. This asshole will never be dead enough in my book!”
“It is good to see you Pix – and I’m glad you’re safe,” Al says, picking up the note and comparing it to the one he’d received.
“This fucking thing was already deep on my lista di merda and I understand this thing can come back, but I really would like the pleasure of killing it a time or twelve,” he all but growls through gritted teeth.
“Well, if it’s any consolation, I recall reading in that bestiary that they are extremely territorial. So we’ll only need to deal with this single one.” Merrick notes.
“Apart from that, it didn’t tell me anything we already didn’t know: powerful spell castors, focus on charming, manipulation, domination magic. And the whole coming back from the dead within a week thing.”
Merrick tried to recall what else the tome he had found said that might help them. “I believe it mentioned that there were benevolent ones as well as the devious type we are suffering from. I doubt it would help seeking out such a thing, since it didn’t mention anything about those kinder varieties keeping the maleficent ones in check. It *did* mention strife with beings called… Yawning… Something? Yarn-tee? That might be worth looking into.”
“Well, no sense waiting around. I’ll fetch a cart and horse from the stables and get all these loaded up to take to the estate. Any more you find you can take there and we can figure out our next move.”
With that, Merrick scoops up about 3 of the baskets and heads out the door and across the street.