It was very late but the moon and the few scattered street lamps provided enough light for the three cloaked figures to lead their donkey-drawn cart through the town of Blackstone. The main street was cobblestone and the donkey with its cart would have clattered in the night, had they been following it. None of the cloaked figures carried a lantern. One of them knew the way through the side streets and alleyways. They preferred to not draw attention to themselves. The leading cloaked figure turned onto one last alleyway that ended at a small corral with a small stable attached. Across the even smaller yard was the back of a two-story shop. The leading figure looked up. In the upper floor window that looked out at the yard, a lamp gleamed with a gentle amber light. "Here we are," the leading cloaked figure said. He walked to two doors laid on their long edges and leaning against each other to form a peak. He pulled them open on hinges set in a stone foundation until they reached the end of sturdy ropes that kept them from flopping to the ground. Beneath the doors was a set of steps leading down. "Let's get everything unloaded and your donkey seen to while no one is watching," the leading cloaked figure said. "Then we can get you settled in and a spot to drink. The ale in the cellar is very good."
Two hundred three years ago, the cellar began as an oversized storeroom beneath the Oddes Shoppe. Selling various types of paper, blank books, inks, and writing implements, the Oddes Shoppe needed a large cellar to fit inventory and a workshop for mixing ink into little jars and vials. Obsidius died some sixty years later. He had willed his shop to a friend named Duno Deerwest and nothing seemed to change. It was still run as a writing shop with a modest supply of simple charms and magical trinkets. But, down in the cellar, changes were happening. Duno was the leader of a secret organization called the Brethren. He was a man of vision and he planned for the cellar to serve as more than a mere storeroom. The first thing he did was have the cellar made larger, explaining to any curious townsfolk that he felt the cellar would also make for a fine place to keep his library. He went on to explain to any nosy townsfolk that he was a busy merchant, traveling to make great trades, but his brothers were more settled and would be running the shop for him. These fabrications worked as intended, satisfying the gossips, which left him and his Brethren unbothered as they worked to make this their secret headquarters.
Going down the steps leads into the storeroom. It is a long room whose back third is lined with shelves.
At the far end of the library, is a remembrance mantle. The scent of sage burnt in offerings often lingers here. A long tapestry hangs to cover the archway.
Behind the tapestry is an iron gateway into the taproom of the hidden tavern. Here the scent of hot bark used to mull ale greets all who enter.
Beyond the taproom and to the left is a barracks with enough bunks to sleep twenty people. The scent of the cedar wood keeps vermin at bay.
Beyond the taproom and to the right is the kitchen, whose hot teas and stews bring a feeling of warmth and welcome.
The Secrets in the Cellar
The simple shelves behind the bar hide even more shelves of scrolls, papers, and books that are the records of the Brethren. In it are the reports of every demon, bitter entity, and rogue mage they have encountered. There are also journals of retired Brethren who spent their elder years sharing their knowledge.
Beyond her chapel, there is a sturdy vault containing many useful things. However, the very reason for the vault to have been made is for some truly horrible things that should never be out upon the world. These things either cannot be destroyed or no means has yet been found to destroy them. Because of the vaults, the cellar is protected against all scrying magics. This is possible as every wall and floor and ceiling in the cellar is lined with stones of plumbum ore.
Behind the remembrance mantle is a chapel with an altar to Boki, the goddess of secrets. She is their patron goddess and to whom all the Brethren have devoted their faith and their lives.
It's been one hundred fifty-some years since Duno died and the Brethren still carry on their secret work. They come to the cellar by humble means, either as working passengers on a river ship or keelboat or as simple tradesmen with donkey carts. Nondescript, they are barely noticed by the most sharp-eyed folks then quickly ignored.
While Father Burnyrd sees to the shop above, it is Brother Symel who sees to things in the cellar. He will discreetly lead arriving Brethren to the cellar where they can relax and even receive healing should it be needed. Playing placards, reading books, and having good conversations without the worry of being overheard is precious to the Brethren who spent most of their lives watching their words and perfecting their humble covers. Coming to the cellar is like coming home for them, and Symel works very hard to ensure the cellar provides them that feeling.
Burnyrd "Deerwest" runs the Oddes Shoppe with his "nephew" Symel. What their actual names and familial relations truly are is a tightly protected secret they never divulge. To the Brethren, they are Father Burnyrd and Brother Symel.
"Ale from your cellar sounds good," one of the other cloaked figures said with a woman's voice. Her arms were filled with bundles from the cart."The road has been long and ... lively." Having put up the donkey in a stall, the last figure joined them. Only one arm carried bundles as the other was in a sling. "We do have a library to go with the ale," the first cloaked figure said, a hint of humor in his voice. "An unlively bit of reading as I drink fine ale sounds divine," the cloaked figure with an arm in a sling said with a weary man's voice. He followed them down the steps. "Let's get you that ale. Then, after I bring in the rest of your cartload, you can tell me all about the lively road." "Ha!" The woman laughed. "You'll be writing a book!"
Table of Contents
The Oddes Shoppe is in the town of Blackstone where there is the Cragjumper's Alehouse. Cragjumper's makes one of the finest ales in all the Miribex kingdom. This fine ale is called Peak Ale and holds up well when its mulled with hot bark, a particular favorite of the Brethren.
The Brethren are scattered about the world, but they do manage to keep in touch through the use of Argenti Ravens. These are little raven figurines no taller than a pinky finger is long and magically deliver spoken or written messages anywhere around the world. It is through the Argenti Ravens that the Brethren maintain their worldwide reach. Every Brethren has their own Argenti Raven. They had been delivered to all of them at once as a warning three years ago. Newer Brethren have also received theirs in the same manner though no longer with the terrible message from that time. These ravens are sent from the cellar.