To the Chiseler of the Third Step in the Dun Tower in Kazildor,
We remain in the ruins of Akh-Verdul, what the flatlanders call Arden Vul. We have infiltrated the Cult of Set as you directed, though we are being paid for our service by Keko the Wise, spymaster of Narsileon, and my companions believe that the matter ends there. You’re welcome.
The Settites trade in slaves. One of my companions, the goblin Wick-Trimmer, impulsively bought some of them, but I convinced him not to free them while we were still in the complex. I mention this only to illustrate the reckless nature of this group, and to reiterate that despite whatever you may have heard through other channels, I remain as loyal as the dog who accompanies me. The situation is complex and ever-changing, and if I am to maintain my cover, I must occasionally do things that seem not to be in our interest — marrying a daughter of the Golden Band, for instance. Weigh the sum, not the individual actions. And now I offer you four valuable jewels, as a sign of my eternal fidelity.
The first jewel, and the most immediately actionable one, concerns the Cult of Set. Their chamber of mysteries is a pitiful construction. We could triple their income with nothing more than a silver boar that roars appropriately and swallows a glowing glass moon. This would weaken the slave market’s relative importance, making it so much easier to subvert. We will need their active assistance to insert an agent with Tikun Thane. The ape mage is otherwise too careful. Even after we released his pleasure slaves, even after we set fire to his tower, even with The Blue Buffoon blathering in his face, he respected the Market Peace. Which was fortunate for us personally, but bodes ill for your plans.
I would love to claim credit for my second jewel, but no matter how it shines, I currently believe it to be nothing more than a happy coincidence. Kerbog Khan is not lost, not dead! He is here! He hides in the tunnels below the Set Cult, at a distance I estimate to be about 500’ below the surface of the ruined city; despite his obvious madness, the Khan constructs automatons of surpassing grace – dragonflies that see and hear and speak with his rasping voice. If we incorporate his designs into the silver boar, or any other religious icon… People confess many things to their gods, so I’m sure you grasp the possibilities. KK cannot be relied upon in his current state, of course, but if he would teach, or if his designs are archived somewhere in the complex, they will be yours. KK is currently kindly disposed towards me and my party for disposal of the false Ptarmis (NOT, repeat, NOT a doppelganger as I first surmised, but some kind of fungal clone????). He demands blood for any service, and it remains to be seen exactly what he does with it. He may be drinking the stuff in his madness, or he may be saving it for targeting spells. In any case, as a measure of my own loyalty, I will reveal that he has blood from every member of my party, including me. He could potentially geas any of us at any time. This fact will be of intense interest, I am sure, as it may help with that sorcerous problem communicated to me before my departure from the Sparkling Halls. But how will that fact play with our own Khazul society? I wonder …
My third jewel may be a coincidence as well, although as we all know, two is a coincidence, three is a conspiracy. Doppelgangers have infiltrated the Cult of Set. At least one of the senior leaders has been replaced. I have no doubt that Axe will be able to sniff them out as well as his cousins in the mountains, but even if he fails, we know for a fact that their slavemaster – the leader of their so-called Guild of Service – was replaced. We freed the original from their torture cells, and he is now drowned (the Odin-priest saw to that). So we have our anchor point, a start. The difficulty will be in preventing my reckless companions from killing the first one we find and severing the web! Eternal vigilance against the rubbery face-stealers is necessary, of course, and for this reason your servant will endeavor to determine whether the substitution of the Guildmaster represents an isolated action by a rogue doppelganger or a new move in the long game of Kendak that has occupied our peoples lo these past centuries. I hope for the former, but I fear the latter.
My fourth and final jewel, totally unrelated, I am sure, concerns a servant of Keko the Wise, whom we also freed from the Cult of Set and sent back to Narsileon after the Ptarmis affair, a warrior woman named Callista. She drank deeply of the Jade Cup which I described earlier. It healed me of some minor wounds, but it returned her from the dead. She may have useful knowledge….
I must report one continuing failure, however. You tasked me from the start of my mission with recovering knowledge of the forge and resting place of Lohric the traitor. I assure you that recovery of his hammer and tongs remain among my highest priorities. I have seen little evidence that our revered ancestors plied the halls of Akh-Verdul aside from the generally high quality of stonework in some sections. Still, as you taught me, there are known unknowns in the world, and all our scrying sorcery pointed to the fact that the thief brought his knowledge of stone enchantments to this location. Still, because the site is much larger than we immediately imagined, I have yet to detect the odor of his passing on the local stone. Perhaps closer to the Center of the Stone, where the humans did not inflict their too-busy chisel marks on the natural beauty of the caverns, I will pick up his trail.
I end with a caution, and a request. The other goblin who travels with this company is an illusionist, who changes his appearance by spell and artifice, not a Doppelganger. Do not kill him by mistake.
Jasper Malachite, smith and forger, thegn of both Smoke and Steel
PS. Balthazar the Blue, on the other hand, is entirely expendable.