Istaleus overheard Elazarin Nanther after the most recent meeting of the Council of Magisters and after one of his lengthy self praises, making mention of his upcoming name-day celebration. Oh, how the old man went on about who was coming Istaleus thought; naming the individuals he knew to be traveling all the way to the Citadel of the Raven for his nameday. It was hard to stomach to the old man, but Istaleus listened intently trying hard not to be noticed.
There had to be something else, it was no secret Elazarin Nanther was not well liked among his peers, but the Magister of Potions was loquacious when deep in his cups and let slip something special was arriving on Hearthyard’s slave wagons, a book of alchemical formula. Meanwhile Istaleus was not the only one interested in what Elazarin was eluding to, his son Ampherd too was hiding his own interest in what was being said.
So a few days later Istaleus enlisted a Dylan, a colleague of his understudy's to watch, wait, and see. And after Dylan returned and described what he saw to the Ink Mage, Istaleus showed the young knifemaster several images; circular stencils common to house banners, church sects, and merchant crates. Dylan identified several symbols branded into the small crates that were secreted under Heathyard’s slave wagons; Istaleus thought about what Dylan’s information could portend, but as busy as Istaleus is he could still read the intrigue like ink drops in kettle.
The first symbol was a horn, a device commonly used by House Malagar. As Istaleus remembers, Malagar was a foremost family in Zhentil Keep that gained renown in the High House of the Hunt by hosting several of the most prestigious hunts of the land from the past decade. Despite the church’s chaotic nature the faith appealed to survivalists and those who thrive on the thrill of the hunt. The second sigil identified was not a house symbol or mercantile brand that Istaleus recognized but a character commonly used in alchemy referring to the human condition or perhaps the human soul. There was a second unknown symbol featuring an upraised fist grasping a lightning bolt upon one of the secret crates, but on the final box Dylan clearly saw was what he described as a scribe’s take on the traditional symbol of Bane, a black hand superimposed over an open tome encircled within a thick black ring. Dylan furthermore said there was a many as ten similar sized crates seen before he risked discovery.
Elazarin Nanther’s nameday? the Ink Mage mused. If that were true then Istaleus should give up his aspirations on becoming the Grand Magister. No, this nameday celebration was a disguise for something else and Istaleus was very curious about it all.