Rhupert opened the envelope and read the cryptic message yet another time. As a rogue, he wasn't accustomed to strangers approaching him in the first place, and even more skeptical when accompanied by offers of help or riches - especially since he had pulled off a few scams just like that himself, luring unsuspecting travelers into Kithicor Forest so he could "unburden" them while they panicked. This wasn't the life he had chosen, but he had to resort to petty theft just to survive, as he awaited his older cousin Murddoc's return. Murddoc was the only remaining family he had left, raising him all by himself as a young halfling in Misty Thicket. The two of them didn't have much, but they always had enough to eat, and each other's back.
But it had been over a month since Murddoc hastily departed in the wee hours of the morning. "Rhupert, they know I'm here, you're no longer safe around me until I get to the bottom of this." Rhupert knew his cousin had been digging into something involving corruption with the League of Antonican Bards.
Rhupert rubbed his eyes and groggily asked, "Where are you going? When will you be back?"
"I don't know yet . Trust nobody, keep a low profile, and don't mention my name! Wait for my sign - you'll know it when you see it", Murddoc had said, flashing a grin before taking off with what appeared to be a dark elf bard, leaving Rhupert all alone to ponder what he meant, for almost a month now.
The mysterious letter had arrived two days ago - all it said was, "Come to Butcherblock druid rings alone in 2 days. Travel light, carry no food. Wait for package from the bard." It was unsigned, and contained no further instructions. On his own, he had never ventured beyond the Wall, and now he was considering traveling to an unknown land, with no friends or provisions? On the outside it sounded like a crazy idea - yet he couldn't shake the feeling that maybe Murddoc was somehow involved, maybe even in danger. But how would he know if he just ignored the message? Determined to find out, he sold off his meager possessions barely scrounging the fare - luckily he found a friendly halfling druid that was willing to listen to his plight and help. Rhupert took one good long last look at the Vale as it faded before his eyes while entering the mystical portal.
But that was hours ago, and it was getting dark now, as he folded up the mysterious letter and put it back in his pocket. Rhupert was fairly certain he was at the right spot, surrounded by dwarf skeletons that did not seem to mind his presence, though he kept a watchful eye nonetheless. Strange-looking menacing adventurers of all sizes and shapes passed through this area, barely glancing or noticing him, including a few bards - but Rhupert kept quiet, remembering his cousin's stern warning to not trust anyone. Hungry, he sat down dejectedly, wondering why he had foolishly followed his instincts, with no spare food or money left while alone, stranded in a strange land.
He had almost dozed off when suddenly a wood elf bard named Giddo appeared. "Rhupert? I have a package for you." Startled, Rhupert looked up, and studied the simple wooden box of elven craftsmanship. He sliced open the unbroken seal with his dagger, and cautiously opened the box, only to reveal.. a berry pie? With hint of jumjum? Famished, he began eating his favorite pie, before he had a chance to worry if it was poisoned. At the bottom of the pie tin, a message, "Follow Giddo, quietly." Rhupert stepped into the shadows and stealthily followed the bard, avoiding goblins and all sorts of unfamiliar creatures. The bard took a circuitous maze-like route, veering on and off the path, until arriving at the entrance of a majestic wall with a large statue of a dwarf up front. Inside the underground dwarven stronghold which was even more labyrinthian than the mountains outside, the bard meandered in and out of tunnels, shops, abandoned mines, and finally into an empty home. Rhupert waited outside a few minutes, and he was about to knock on the door, when it suddenly opened and Giddo whisked him inside quickly.
"I'm glad you got the message, and that you were able to keep up with me. Murddoc sent me to make sure you weren't followed. You're among friends now. Tomorrow you shall begin training, as there is much to do." Rhupert had plenty of questions, but he finally had a glimmer of hope, and a tummy full of pie.