The Keepers Of Treasures And Secrets

Arthus stayed at the inn where he had first “met” his new companions for the next three days. The others put him up in Talas’ room while they waited for the halfling to fence the recovered artifact.

They kept their distance from each other over the next few days as to not arouse any suspicion. Cort and Micah made burial arrangements for their fallen friend while Arthus waited impatiently for his share of the profits.

At noon on the third day Talas entered the inn, as promised. He made his way up to one of the rooms and one by one the each excused themselves from the bar room to meet with him. First Cort, then Micah, and finally Arthus.

As he entered what was his room for the past few days, he saw Talas sitting on a stool, smoking a long pipe. He looked rather different than when Arthus had seen him before. He was dressed rather nicely, though not flashy, and he wore an earring and two rings on each of his hands.

Arthus looked him up and down as Talas ushered him in and offered him a seat.

Arthus closed the door behind him, and sat on the lumpy bed.

Talas tossed a black cloth pouch towards him, and Arthus caught it with both hands. It was rather a bit heavier than he anticipated, and that fact alone made him grin widely. He made to stand up and take his leave, trying to play the role of an experienced tradesman.

“Now that that’s out of the way…” Talas stopped him in his tracks. “There is another matter I wanted to speak to you about.”

Arthus looked quizzically at the shireling not sure what to say. “Uh, another job?” was all he could think of, or hope for.

“Not quite, an introduction. As you may have guessed, Cort and Micah weren’t running this show.”

Arthus nodded remembering Talas’ journal and the few subtle looks they exchanged in the catacombs.

“There was more going on than they were aware.” Said Arthus in a half question. “Maybe more than you were aware…” clearly leading the halfling.

Talas nodded in impressed approval. “True, it wasn’t my journal. It was given to me by an associate who had acquired it from a small group of men operating between here and…” Talas trailed off leaving Arthus nearly falling off the edge of the bed anticipating the rest of that statement.

“All that isn’t important. What IS important is your meeting with Galen.”


“Yes. He is my contact and the one who set me up with this job.” Talas stood up and walked toward the window. “This was a big test for me, and I’m not ashamed to say it will mean big things in the future. I also am not ashamed to admit that it would not be so if not for your help.”

Arthus nodded as if to say “Anytime.”

Talas nodded back and said “Whatever happens from here is up to you. You will be contacted by Galen’s men soon. If I were you I would use that to get cleaned up and make myself presentable. Good luck!”

Arthus stood up and waved awkwardly. Unsure of what he should do he sat back on the bed and counted his share. Once, twice, a dozen times, each time he counted he expected it to be less, but each time was the same 50 Royal Crowns! Emblazoned on the face was the crest of the Dragon King himself and Arthus felt as though he had enough in his pouch to found a kingdom of his own.

Arthus mused for a while as to how he would spend his newfound fortune, but in the end, he made his way to the tailor shop and purchased a new set of clothes. The outfit was not overdone, but sophisticated and fashionable enough to look the part of a successful entrepreneur.

He went back to the inn set his things out on the bed, and commissioned a bath and a hot meal. He enjoyed each of them, as it had been some time since he had either, and it made him appreciate the consistency of farm life more than he had in his youth. If nothing else, hot stew and a warm bath could be counted on every day.

Evening wore into night, and Arthus found himself sitting at a table staring out the window. He was still energized from the day’s events, and thought perhaps he would go for a walk. The wench came over and began taking away his plates and goblets. Arthus stood and left her five shillings, a sizeable tip by any standard, and as he passed her on the way out, he slipped five crowns into the pocket of her apron. Oddly, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. That should more than square his debt of conscience.

Stepping out into the cool night air, Arthus found the streets quiet. He took a deep breath, and before he could exhale, both of his arms were being held and a hood was secured over his head. Arthus struggled, but it was no use, he was caught.

His mind raced as he tried to construct an alibi for his last week in town. He struggled occasionally, but let up as he was hopelessly overpowered. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but when he was jarred to a halt there was a knock on a door that soon opened and closed behind him. They ascended a flight of stairs, then another door opened and closed. He was thrust into a chair and the hood was removed.

Arthus whipped his head around the room, terrified and furious, he had no idea what to expect. Then a calm voice spoke. “Good evening Arthus, I am Galen.”

Galen was a tall slender man with fine features and long dirty blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. His ears, which betrayed his Elven descent, were pierced with golden earrings and he wore jeweled rings on both hands. He dressed in a dark red silk shirt with matching pants and shined half boots. Everything about him gave the impression of a well to do minor noble, although his mannerisms left Arthus wondering if he was a pirate or a fop… or both.

“Calm down, calm down. I know it’s a terribly unpleasant way to make a first impression, but secrecy is an important part of our organization.”


“We’ll get to all that. Drink?”

Arthus nodded, still a bit bewildered, looking occasionally over his shoulder at the two large men who had dragged him here.

Galen presented Arthus with a crystal wine glass filled with a sweet smelling golden liquid.

“Have you had Elven mead before?” asked Galen.

“Uh… no.” Arthus replied.

“Then to new experiences and new friendships! Cheers!” Galen raised his glass and took a healthy sip.

Arthus did the same, savoring the rich honey wine. Galen asked him many questions about himself, his past, and his dealings inside the town. Arthus kept his responses vague, but remained engaging enough as to not seem evasive.

They spoke for some time, and polished off several bottles of Elven wine before Galen gestured to a metal-bound chest at the back of the room. Just seeing it filled Arthus with a dread and despair he had only ever felt inside the D’ Argo Crypt. His face certainly betrayed his discomfort and Galen nodded sympathetically.

“You didn’t open the pack… did you?” asked Galen eyeing Arthus critically.

“Ungh… no. Something told me that it wouldn’t be in my best interest.” Replied Arthus.

Galen smiled, approving of his young recruit’s restraint.

“Well, I’m sure as hell not going to open it either!” Galen laughed. “But you deserve to know what it is you retrieved.”

Arthus’ shoulders eased a bit as he forced his eyes off of the chest.

“The story is a long, sad, and misunderstood tale, my friend.” “You see, the family D’ Argo was once a proud and stout bloodline with many glorious deeds connected to its name. Unfortunately, along the way one of their number came across the item you recovered.”

Arthus tried hard not to look at the chest again.

Galen continued as he studied Arthus’ expression. “A young knight named Lord Richard D’Argo intent on earning his name and living up to his impossible birthright decided that he would launch an offensive into Morrowind itself!”

Arthus thought perhaps that Galen was having some fun at his expense as he watched the half-elven privateer pace around the room enraptured with his own storytelling. The truth, however, was that fact or fiction Arthus was just as engrossed.

“He and a few other foolhardy highborn who followed him, not to mention the poor souls who made up their retinue, breached the walls of the Line and plunged headlong into the accursed lands. The stories diverge from there, but the group was thought lost after none had returned for nearly thirteen years.”

Arthus sat back in his chair, his eyes fixed on Galen.

“Then one day Lord Richard arrived at the family’s palace gates. Even the guards didn’t believe who he was, and it wasn’t until the Lady D’Argo came down from the house and embraced him as her son that he was permitted entry.”

Galen sat down in a chair close to Arthus and poured some more wine for both of them.

“Richard explained his foolish errand to his parents, and confirmed that he was the only survivor. The details of what they saw and did in Morrowind were sketchy, but the Lord and Lady D’Argo attributed this to shock and exhaustion.”

Galen swirled the Elven wine in his glass and continued.

“What he didn’t tell his parents was that he did not come back alone. Tucked tightly in his pack was the foul relic you recovered from the tomb.”

Arthus rolled his eyes up and sighed “Of course.”

“As the months passed after his return, Richard D’Argo acted more and more strangely. He would leave the grounds for weeks without word, and rumors about where he went and who he was with drew a great deal of anger from his father.”

“It seemed that wherever Master D’Argo went, mystery and despair followed. He was becoming cruel in his dealings with others, and was known to lash out at anyone for even a slight misstep.”

“The once impressively built young knight was becoming more gaunt and frail looking every day. Rumors circulated about illness, dementia, and of course, a curse brought back from Morrowind!”

“It’s hard to tell where rumor and reality split.” Galen interrupted the tale. “The accounts of bizarre chanting, insane rants, wild attacks, and even murder were numerous, and as much as there was no evidence of Richard’s direct involvement, his name was connected in some way with too many of these events for it to be coincidence.”

“Well, a couple of years passed this way with Richard spiraling out of control to the point where the Archduke began restricting his son’s movements. This did little good, and the reports he received from his agents only frustrated him further.”

“Finally, Archduke D’Argo decided to follow his son, and to his surprise Richard led him straight to the family crypt.”

“This was the last time the Archduke was seen alive. There is no knowledge of his true fate that we have uncovered, but we can guess his son had a hand in it. Over the years we have put together what we could and uncovered the rumor of the Rod of Sorrows. The foul object is said to have many abilities related to the “unlife.” Galen shivered a bit.

“Of course, with any such power there is certainly… corruption.” “The Rod itself might go a long way toward unraveling this mystery and perhaps putting those poor souls to rest.”

“We assume that the chamber you found was constructed to keep Richard’s activities from being further revealed, and perhaps to unhallow the sacred grounds of the family tomb. Certainly we can assume that Master D’Argo was involved in some sort of cult. The question is whether or not they are still active…”

“Welcome aboard, initiate!” Said Galen with a wry smile that left Arthus shocked and wondering what he had gotten himself into.

The two shook hands and the door to Galen’s study opened. One of the large men who had “abducted” Arthus earlier stood waiting.

“Follow Drax, he’ll settle you in.”

“Right.” Replied Arthus as he eyed the brutish man. Drax stared blankly but still managed to convey his impatience for the new recruit.

Drax led Arthus down a wide, warmly lit corridor that opened to a balcony and a grand staircase. Arthus took in the rich details of what he now assumed was Galen’s manor house. Drax continued down the stairs and then led Arthus to through the back of the house. Eventually they arrived at the door to the cellar.

Arthus followed his guide down the stone stairway, through an archway and into the storage room. Drax pushed a large crate aide to reveal a trap door. He pulled it open and stared at Arthus until the latter was compelled to follow the stairs down below the floor. He looked back when he heard the door close above him and the crate sliding back into place.

Arthus shrugged and moved toward a dim light below. The stairs landed at a small hallway the other end of which had a stone archway. Beyond that was a small table with a large candle burning on top of a plate.

Arthus peaked inside at the empty room and sat down at the table. He helped himself to the bottle of wine on the table and took in his surroundings. The room was a nice sized sitting room with a few chairs and couches and had one exit into what seemed to be a larger room beyond. Though Arthus still didn’t hear anyone else, it seemed this place was meant to accommodate several people.

He took the wine bottle and the candle and moved to the next room. This room was even larger than the sitting room. The floor was hardwood planks, and there were several mattresses piled in the corner as well as a number of wooden practice weapons.

Beyond this was a barracks style chamber that could house a dozen or so people. There were cabinets, dressers, and footlockers in between the cots. Arthus was about to turn back when something caught his eye. His armor and gear was placed on top of one of the cots. He didn’t know how he should feel, so he just shook his head and took a drink.

Arthus settled in to his new home and lay down on the cot. He stared at the ceiling until the candle burned itself out. Then he drifted to sleep, completely uncertain of what the dawn would bring.

Arthus awoke with a start the next day, unsure of the time. He saw light from the sitting room and could smell food. He sat down at the table that had mysteriously been set with eggs, bacon, fruit, and bread. He ate his fill and lounged on the couch a bit.

Suddenly he heard some noise from outside the room, and perked up at the prospect of someone to talk to. Two men entered, sat down, and barely acknowledged that Arthus was even there. They looked a bit worn out and bore the signs of a good scrap, but other than that they were no worse for wear.

The next day they were gone, and another man was sleeping on the couch when he came out for breakfast. His eye was bruised and his arm was in a sling. He didn’t look like he would be much company for a long while.

Days passed in this fashion, strangers coming and going. Few of them offered any real conversation, but Arthus did manage to coax some details out. This was a safe house for the Keepers, and he would be there until he was called on. The prospect of waiting indefinitely for any action wasn’t appealing, but what choice did he have?

Arthus kept himself busy training and wondering, sometimes aloud, what the future had in store for him. Regardless of what answers he came up with he assumed that he would need to stay sharp. One day while practicing with his trusty – and rusty- shortsword, a woman’s voice interrupted him.

“Watch your footwork.” The soft voice carried even over his exertion. Artus was so surprised that he almost lost the grip on the hilt.

“Wha- oh, right!” he replied. Turning to look in the sitting room he saw her sitting at the dining table facing the training room. In an instant Arthus knew she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Slender and athletically built, dressed in a fine though simple silk dress. Her long blond hair had a thin braid and was held out of her face by a delicate gold and silver circlet as she ate.

Arthus placed his sword in one of the racks (suddenly a bit embarrassed at the state of his gear) and entered the sitting room. He knew enough from observing Fizbin and the few other elves he had ever met that his usual flirtations would not be appropriate with her. They were fine for bar wenches and farm girls, but an Eldarin maiden would certainly find it crass and obvious.


“Arthus, yes I know.” She interrupted. “My name is Velenia.”

“Pleased to meet you.” He replied with a nod and a slight bow. “Would you mind if I asked how you know my name? I don’t remember seeing you here these past few weeks.”

“I have been watching you.” She answered. “Who do you think was bringing the food every morning?” Still not taking her eyes from her plate.

Arthus raised an eyebrow and couldn’t help but smile just a bit.

“That would explain the wine.” He said, catching just a hint of a lightening of her expression as she seemed to appreciate his recognition of the Elven wine.

They ate in silence for a while until Velenia spoke again. “So have you figured out how this works yet?”

Arthus stared vacantly without an answer. He wondered if she meant to address him at all.

“Sure, I’m all set!” he answered looking like he was anything but.

“Selection, training, acceptance, denial. You do know where you are, no?” Velenia said softly, now looking in Arthus’ eyes.

Her soft blue eyes were captivating and unsettling enough, not to mention that he still had no answer for her question.

“I am in a Keepers’ safe house, waiting for an assignment.” He said hoping desperately that he had the right answer.

“Assignment? No. You’re not nearly ready for that. Your technique is fine for chopping wood, but in the field you’d get us both killed.”

“Ouch.” Said Arthus feigning a bruised ego, and hoping she couldn’t see his frustration.

“So how does this work then?” he pressed.

“You wait here until a Seeker decides to take you on as an apprentice. Then you train with them until they decide you are prepared for the next step.”

“So how long does one usually have to wait?” he continued.

“Days, weeks, more sometimes.” She replied.

“I’ve tried to get to know some of the men coming through here, but they-“

“They didn’t know you, didn’t trust you, and so they wouldn’t talk to you, right?”

“Pretty much.” Arthus said with a bit of a shrug. “So now what?”

“Don’t worry, as I said, I have been watching you.” Replied Velenia.

Arthus looked relieved and puzzled at the same time.

“Many of the recruits who are brought here never even get this far.” She continued.

“They get frustrated and leave, or force the issue with the wrong Seeker, we’ve even had a few try to rob Galen’s manor!” Velenia laughed and shook her head as she said this.

“You’re joking!” said Arthus in a playful exclamation, sensing that his companion was starting to warm to him.

“It’s true! But I knew you weren’t that stupid!” She said with a playful look back.

“Give me some time!” Arthus said hoping to catch another smile from her. He did.

“So, ready?” She asked.

“Uh… sure!” Arthus replied cheerfully. “Ready for what?”

Velenia stood up almost silently, gently moving her seat aside. She moved gracefully into the practice room taking her things off the couch as she passed. Arthus noticed a pair of scabbards on a belt and watched as she cinched the beautiful weapons belt around her thin waist. She drew an Elven saber and shortsword, obviously a pair, spun each with an understated flourish, and waved him on with the long blade.

Arthus smirked and trotted into the room. He went for a wooden practice sword when Velenia stopped him.

“We fight with steel so we train with steel. Let the children play with these toys.” Her voice was still soft and lilting, but her eyes were sharp.

Arthus begrudgingly picked up his pitiful blade glancing back at the pair of masterworks moving effortlessly with her delicate motions, and said “Alright.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll sort out your equipment soon enough. En garde!”

They sparred for hours, but when they decided to stop Arthus found that the time had gone far too quickly for his liking. He sat down on the floor, sweating and slightly out of breath. Velenia knelt across from him and smiled. Arthus had just learned more about swordplay in a few hours than in his whole life to date.

“You have some potential, now we just need to get you a decent blade.”

“Thanks, I could make do with a pair like that.” Arthus nodded to her swords.

She drew the saber and held it out to him. It was the first time he was able to study it. Arthus was by no means a master smith, but he knew he had something special. It was as much a priceless work of art as it was a masterwork weapon. Even after hours of sparring, the blade was gleaming with a high polish and there wasn’t so much as a scratch on it. The silvery blade was engraved with intricate Elven runes and artwork in a contrasting black.

All Arthus could do was look in awe and hand it back. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” He said sincerely.

“These were a gift from the master who taught me. They are my most prized possessions.” Velenia answered with a hint of pride and nostalgia in her voice.

“So I have to ask, why did you decide to train me? You don’t even know me?” Arthus asked, this time in Elven in an attempt to impress his new teacher with his worldliness.

“You speak our language!” She exclaimed. “I knew you had some brains in there!”

Arthus smirked and stood up. “I learned from a friend and from observing the few others I have ever seen.”

“I have to admit, you don’t butcher it like most men. Just a bit of an accent though.” Velenia replied. “We can work on that as well if you like?” “As for my interest in you… You have that certain something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched you training on your own, and Galen seems to have taken a shine to you, but that’s not enough. You have real spirit, real passion, and the heartfelt desire to explore and uncover life’s mysteries no matter how small.”

Arthus smiled wondering exactly how much she overheard while he was talking to himself.

They trained for weeks, working on swordsmanship and gymnastics, as well as discussing every topic that they could conjure from ancient history and legends, the Keepers, world politics, music, magic, and everything else. While his new mentor was obviously brilliant and well trained, Arthus was happy to see that he could hold up his end of the conversations and even teach her a few things. Suddenly this underground safe house felt like a second home, and when the odd stranger passed through, Arthus was perfectly happy to ignore him right back.

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