Ambrose and Alton take a nights rest before reaching their destination. In the morning Ambrose prepares his spells while Alton watches. “That one looks interest’n”, Alton points out as Ambrose dips through the pages. “Which one?” He turns a few pages back and finds a spell he’s never seen before. It’s undeniably his handwriting, but where did it come from. All it reads: dark flame, for use on enemies. Curious, Ambrose keeps the spell at the back of his thoughts. They approach the town creeping closer in the distance. A donkey cart driven by a couple makes its way towards the hero when he notices a rustling in the bushes. Two highwaymen jump out of the foliage and take the cart drivers hostage .
The husband is pressed to the ground with the highwayman’s short sword, the wife held against the others knife. Ambrose attempts to take advantage by trying to daze the short sword but failed. This alerts the highwaymen and puts them on edge. “Don’t come any closa! I’ll gut imm I will.” Ambrose takes a step closer and the highwayman kills the husband.
After witnessing highway murder, Ambrose decides to unleash his new spell. The highwayman taunts, “What do ya plan on doing by yaself?” Ambrose points his hand instinctively at the short sword and the man bursts into black flames. Completely enveloped in dark inferno the man’s flesh begins to drip from his body. His screams transition from the horrid to a gurgle as now his skeleton stumbles across the ground until it breaks apart and burns to ash. The spectacle last for just a few seconds. Stunned and absolutely horrified, Ambrose turns to where the man with the knife stood only to see the wife cowering on the ground in terror and the back of the highwayman running through the trees.
“Stay away from me! Stay away!” The wife pulls the husband’s body onto the cart and rides away as fast as possible. Alton pops his head out from a bush and comes over to Ambrose, still petrified by his own actions. Both loom over the charred ground where the only remains of the man is his sword. Alton whistles in astonishment and suggests they hurry to town before anyone else shows up. They walk as calmly as they can up to the town gate. The wall reaches nearly two stories and looks like logs driven into the ground. Two guards stand outside the open gate and eye the Ambrose who is acting is best version of inconspicuous. They let him pass without any resistance.
Entering the town, Ambrose informs Alton that he needs to find an inn so he can recoup from his mental exhaustion. Ambrose extends his friendship and asks if Alton needs help getting a room. Alton declines and says he can find his own place to sleep for today, and they split. On his way to find his inn, Ambrose notices the crowd spitting to make way for three armored men, walking abreast. These men are known as Whitecloaks. A self-serving police force, the Whitecloaks hold their own country far away to the south but make it an effort to extend their reach to as much of the world as possible. The Whitecloaks often take it upon themselves to enforce their strict code on others and it’s rare that the local governance takes actions against them. Even rarer that the populace breaks the Whitecloaks laws.
The Whitecloaks main goals are to hunt down devil-spawn and their ilk and to stop the use of evil magic. After his recent actions, Ambrose thinks it best to make way too, and let the Whitecloaks carry on without incident. He is able to make it to The Elk’s Hole, the inn’s sign depicting the rear end of an elk, and takes himself inside. There he sleeps for the night. His dreams haunted by the imagery from that day. A Skelton in black flames screaming in a field of wheat. Edging closer until face to face. Ambrose wakens in a hurry that morning and decides it’s time to find Alton.
He makes his way back to where he last saw Alton and carries after the direction he left in. The town becomes poorer and dirtier the farther Ambrose goes until Alton emerges from an alleyway, clean as ever. It makes Ambrose think on how long it’s been since his first bath. There is an awkward moment when Ambrose asks if Alton slept in the alley, “don’t be ridiculous”. He quickly changes he subject to leaving the town and heading to Illivan, the next stop. It’s a three days walk from where they are so they stock up on rations and set out. Each night Alton offers to take watch ,“ I don’t carry much and I need you well rested in case something attacks.” That’s reasonable.
Upon reaching the city’s outer border they duo enters Low-town, the poor district surrounding the city proper. Every building in Low-town is built from wood, and gently sway in the wind. Ambrose attempts to find a place where he can sell off his treasure, the lantern, but instead finds that he has lost Alton. Searching back through the crowded streets, he catches sight of him. Alton’s typical happy demeanor is missing and is replaced with a stoic gaze. Alton hasn’t noticed Ambrose so Ambrose decides to watch Alton for a moment. Alton meanders through the crowd easily, never making contact with anyone while he surveys the area. Ambrose notices that Alton is making circles around him, but thinks nothing of it when Alton meets eyes with him. The smile returns to Alton. “What were you looking for?” Ambrose asks. “I was looking for you,” Alton replies, “I don’t think we’ll find what you want here.”
Both agree that it would be better to head into the main city. Ambrose’s search narrows as he hears rumors of an old man paying for mysterious objects of unknown origins. Perfect. Outside the address they were given, Alton announces he would prefer to stay outside, noting the door covered windows. Nevertheless, Ambrose knocks and is greeted by a bearded old fellow. He invites Ambrose in and guides him to a parlor filled with beakers and burners and twirling glassware. Ambrose tells his story and presents the lantern to the man. The crack has grown. They elder inspects the lantern and suggests his price, 10 gold. “I nearly died for this, I think it might be worth a bit more than that.” They argue until the man gives his ultimatum, accept his offer or leave. Ambrose gladly retrieves his lantern and meets Alton on the street.
The two explore again, hoping to find somewhere worth his time, Ambrose finds a small, alley shop devoted to odd magical trinkets. The shopkeeper informs that he cannot buy the lantern without knowing what its magic is. He suggests Ambrose take it to the arcane library in the city to have it studied. The portly shopkeeper bids Ambrose safety on his journey alone to see the arcane professors. Ambrose attempts to correct him but notices that Alton isn’t in the shop. Honest mistake.
Ambrose finds Alton alone just outside the shop. He suggests to Alton that they get a nice inn to stay at, as a preemptive celebration for getting to sell the lantern soon. They reach The Queen’s Grace, I quality inn with musicians and a bathing room. Ambrose pays for a room, with dinner and a bath. He takes his bath while the food is prepared. Re-entering the common room he sits down at the table where Alton is waiting. The waitress brings Ambrose his food. A platter of steaming, thick sliced beef dripping with fats, rich marbled cheeses and a short decanter of punch wine. “This is excellent, please bring some for my friend.” The waitress eyes him for a moment then leaves. Alton has a serious expression on his face, “I don’t think you should sell the lantern.” Ambrose is confused, “Why do you think that, the only reason I took it out of that ruin is to sell it!” The waitress returns, concerned, “Sir? Is everything okay?” “Why do you ask?” Well it’s just that you’ve been talking to yourself for a while…“ Ambrose looks Alton in the eyes, he’s pan-faced. Sudden realization fills Ambrose. He’s never seen Alton interact with anyone other than himself, he’s never seen Alton sleep or eat or bathe, and no one had ever seemed to acknowledge Alton’s presence. Ambrose slaps his hands to the table and points at Alton, ”Explain what’s going on! Right. Now.