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The Faith of a Few - The Crimson Throne Journal of Chazon h'Besorah

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The Faith of a Few - The Crimson Throne Journal of Chazon h'Besorah

Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Jun 01, 2018 10:49 am

(Players note: I wish to apologize to any and all for any misspellings of names or confusion of events in the pages that follow.  If it's possible for me to edit this in the future, I'll make an corrections necessary as they are brought up to me!  Additionally, concerning this first installment, all of my notes for the session started with the entrance of the fortune teller, which will actually be the 2nd entry into this journal.  Thus, for this first entry, it's all pretty much on memory, which you'll recall mine can be tricky at times!  I'll seek to post the second half of our first gathering either later today or tomorrow, as soon as I have the chance to finish writing it!  Thanks, and I hope you all enjoy this journal throughout the adventure!)

15 Gozran, 4715

       It was a day like any other . . . except it truly wasn’t.

       The city prepared for its annual Tax Festival, destined to liven up three of the plazas when evening arrived, though if past years proved accurate there’d be plenty of additional locales enjoying festivities of their own.  The Abadaran Church—by whom this illustrious celebration of tax collection was established—sponsored numerous activities for the gathered crowds, as well as used this opportunity as a conversionary tactic by catering free alcohol for any that attended their services within the next month.  Obviously, they decided to take a page out of Cayden Cailean’s dogma.

With hours to go before the Tax Festival officially kicked off, I attempted to ease the suffering of bleeding money pouches for those barely capable of supporting themselves at the best of times through the charity of freshly baked bread.  Somewhere about noonday, the newsies materialized with the newest edition of The Korvosan Chronicle, and I couldn’t help but purchase a copy.  I’ll admit to being a sucker for those kids hawking the pamphlet.  They do a fine job day-in and day-out, so, as ever, I found myself turning over a silver I probably couldn’t afford to give.  The Tax Festival dominated the first page, of course, along with some faux charitable giving by the crooked Arkonas, an accident at the Ironworks—complete with argument by its workers concerning the lousy working conditions at the factory, the continued—or oft-repeated—peace talks with the Shoanti, and a few other fluff stories to round it out.  On this particular day, however, the cleverly written stories of The Korvosan Chronicle failed to be the most shocking part of the purchase . . . .

As I buried a hand in my coin pouch for the silver payment, it brushed against a card placed undetected within the pouch’s confines.  Though not verbatim, the general message written on the back of a Winged Serpent harrow card invited me to 3 Lancet Lane, where apparently a few guests of like mind to my own were being invited to deal with a troublesome criminal figure known as Gaedren Lamm.  Without going into too much detail on the situation, Gaedren was a man I maintained some interest in tracking down, as I’d recently learned his part as a major drug supplier in Old Korvosa.  While that alone required his removal from the streets of the city, his profiteering had cost a special young mother her life, making the man’s capture more personal for me.  That the criminal had wronged others enough to be wanted by them came as little surprise.

Unfortunately, all I knew about 3 Lancet Lane was that it didn’t reside in Old Korvosa.  Therefore, I pocketed the harrow card and continued my work until the bread supply in the wagon ran dry, then escorted the wagon back to the temple of Aroden and inquired of Brother Pellonius as to its location.  He graciously informed me of its existence in Midland, near the southern end of the docks.  I filed this away in my memory, already determined to make the trip into central Korvosa this evening and learn what I could about this new opportunity.

When the proper time arrived, I found myself walking the short and nearly empty lane toward the address of the clandestine meeting.  Despite the lack of any real foot traffic, a homeless man sat conspicuously across the way of the exact locale to which I traveled.  This struck me as odd, and I’ll admit to growing a bit wary at the sight.  If there were a trap awaiting me here, it stood to reason that this conveniently-placed beggar might be watching for me—or us, if it remained true that others were coming—to enter so as to spring it.

Not wishing to let on my suspicion, and believing it likely that whoever invited me here would know my tendency to be gracious to the poor, I greeted the apparent beggar with a charitable donation of a silver piece.  I questioned him some about his knowledge of the area, seeking to garner his purpose for being here, but his answers were intuitively vague.  Realizing it improbable that I’d defeat this man in any verbal trickery—such is not my strong suit anyhow, I reminded him that the Abadarans were handing out free food at Jeggare Circle and headed inside as directed by the note.

Within, a trio of tapestries easily caught the eye—not necessarily because of their value, though they were finely crafted, but due to their subject matter, which depicted celestial and demonic images.  A table with six chairs centered the room, and upon it rested a basket which had at one time kept loaves of bread and a flagon of wine for the anticipated guests.  I’ve no clue exactly how much bread actually occupied the basket before, however, as the lone dwarf sitting at the table had consumed a majority of the fare, leaving a third of a loaf for those of us to come.

His greeting to me was to solicit whether I was Gaedren Lamm.  He had imbibed a significant amount of drink, as well, so it’s difficult to anticipate if this line of questioning was facetious or legitimate.  I assured him I was not, which assuaged him thankfully, and apparently positioned me as a favorite amongst those to come.  The dwarf looked hardy, as so many of his race tended to do.  Certainly a fine warrior, I feared for the man that chose to go toe-to-toe with that ax.  We introduced ourselves—his name was Glannin, and I helped pass the time by examining those unique tapestries as the others filtered in over the next few minutes.

Following me—and welcomed by a thrown ax into the door from the dwarf, who was unimpressed by the newcomers opening words of warning that battle mages would come searching if anything happened to him—was an elven wizard of comparatively few words considering the introduction, named Syrical Emeright.  He presented a confident demeanor, an air of academia, and a steady hand capable of wielding spell or the crossbow slung over his shoulder.

Shortly after, a fourth man of noble bearing and an inspirational disposition entered the chamber.  Polite, amiable, and completely at ease in this gathering of strangers, he heralded himself Calcidon Fordyce, and sat comfortably across the table from where I had settled in after the appearance of Syrical.  I fathomed that the others recognized the man’s name as being important within the city, though, admittedly, I failed to do so myself.  That, I must concede, was a shortcoming of mine.  Having spent so much time amidst the city’s poor in Old Korvosa, I lack even a rudimentary knowledge of its nobility, to which I discerned Calcidon probably belonged.

The final invitee walked through the door soon after Calcidon, and unlike the noble, this one I had heard about, as he had something of a reputation in Old Korvosa.  The elven investigator, Merethyl Eyrianor, whose work against the criminal element of the city boasted quite a noteworthy resume, examined the room’s occupants with a keen, intellectual deduction.  What impacted me most about his scrutiny was that he hardly seemed surprised to find any of us here, as if he knew each of us before ever he entered the building.  He even analyzed what little food remained before tearing off a piece of bread!  The effort was nonchalant, and so quite brilliant in its thorough simplicity.

We’d located a note on the ground earlier—presumably dropped there in Glannin’s rush to scarf down the bread!—which indicated that our host had needed to step out for a short time.  Some small talk between us helped pass the time.  Through it, we uncovered that each of us had received a harrow card with the same message written on the back, and that we all indeed harbored a strong inclination to find and stop Gaedren Lamm.  My deepest concern upon listening to the others express that eagerness was their willingness to work around the justice system and play the role of executioners themselves.  I cannot say the thought never crossed my mind, but Aroden taught an established society of order, in which the laws were carried out by those with authority granted to them.  It’s true that Gaedren had done much to deserve death, but it’s also true that the slope of justice gets increasingly slippery the more individuals believe they have the right to carry out punishment themselves without involving societal authority.  The line between justice and vengeance—lawful execution and murder—can too easily be erased by the mere scuff of a boot in the minds of many.  I had no interest in seeing this line blurred in the case of Lamm and made it a point to speak up when the time came.

This is my word, and, as such, is beyond contestation.

The Sub-Creator

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Re: The Faith of a Few - The Crimson Throne Journal of Chazon h'Besorah

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Jun 02, 2018 12:16 am

15 Gozran, 4715 continued . . .

      A young Varisian fortuneteller turned out to be the thread that drew us all together.  Zellara was her name, and Gaedren had wronged her in a couple ways, it seemed.  First, the criminal had stolen a harrow deck that had been a part of her family’s possessions for over ten generations.  By reputation alone, it’s known the importance placed upon these decks by the Varisian people, and one owned by a family for so long possessed incredible sentimental value, if not great economic worth—though the fact Lamm stole it may be indicative of the latter, as well.  Her son, unwilling to take the slight quietly, successfully recovered the deck and returned it, though Gaedren murdered him for the trouble.  Now, she sought justice for her brother’s death, but ever the master manipulator, Gaedren left no recognizable clues behind tying him to any of these nefarious dealings.

      That’s where we come in, you see.

      In her research to discover a way to apprehend, or kill, Gaedren Lamm, Zellara apparently uncovered our own connections with the man who’d also harmed each of us, and the soothsayer brought us together for the chance to right those wrongs.  The dearth of evidence prevented Gaedren—guilty of so many crimes—from fear of consequence by the law, she explained, but we could do something about that.  I took that to mean we could find the evidence to put him away.  I believe most of the others interpreted it differently.  Zellara then proclaimed knowledge of Gaedren’s whereabouts, which she would tell us if we agreed to stop him.  With all of us needing questions in our lives answered by this man, and preferably these chapters closed, we consented to help.  Now assured, she revealed his base of operations as a fishery near the thirteenth pier.  As it happened, Calcidon knew exactly the spot she spoke of, and Merethyl owned an apartment very near there.

      Zellara then asked if we wished for a reading to start us on our way.  Naturally, I was skeptical.  Too many times, I’d heard that Varisian fortunetellers were nothing but charlatans using the cards to dupe their customers with bogus readings.  The others gave their assent to it, however, and so I kept quiet about my misgivings and went along with the charade . . . .

      . . . Except it wasn’t a charade, which I would learn over the next few minutes of studying her tells carefully and deducing no trickery there!

      She shuffled the deck, placed them on the table before us, and bade that we each take from it the top card in order.  Glannin moved a touch faster than the rest and snatched at the first card, only to be met by a sharp, verbal reprisal from Zellara!  The first at the table to her left—where she’d indicated we should begin—was Calcidon, and evidently the dwarf had just grabbed the card the fates had in store for him.  After a swift admonishment toward the dwarf’s hastiness, the Varisian woman dealt the harrow a second time and replaced the deck in its original location on the table.  The lot of us stayed true to the order of things this time, and each took the top card when our turn arrived—first Calcidon, then Glannin, Syrical, Merethyl, and finally myself.  Upon receiving our cards, she instructed us to place them faceup on the table in front of us, then commenced reading the providence of each card.  I’ve summarized each below:

1) Calcidon: The Locksmith—the past kept keys to the future, she told him, but as yet those keys remained a mystery.  If he stayed attentive and identified those keys, his future could be bright indeed.

2) Glannin: The Crows—something had been taken from him through violence, but this might be a blessing in disguise that would yet be beneficial to him.

3) Syrical: The Rabid Prince—this was seemingly an indicator that he was—or should prepare to be—agile in both body and mind.

4) Merethyl: The Juggler—a great many things occurred with and around him at once.  This sounded as a confirmation that he played with many lives, and thus he must be careful or something gravely terrible would happen.

5) Chazon (myself): The Cricket—indicative that I’ve been on a long journey in search of some treasure, either literal or figurative, and that I mustn’t give up my pursuit of it.

      Looking at the reactions on their faces as Zellara pronounced these readings divulged that each found their message significant in some way.  I easily connected mine own to my life’s work: finding a revelation to prove Aroden still lives, and that his ways are the best and only option for the future success and prosperity of human civilization.  Luckily, I’d had no intention of giving up my pursuit of that goal!  How reassuring that fate and I agree on the matter!

      Zellara reclaimed our cards, reshuffled the deck a third time, then laid out nine facedown upon the table in three columns of three rows.  She illuminated that the first column delineated the past, then overturned all three cards to reveal the Hidden Truth, the Twin, and the Demon’s Lantern.  The latter two cards specified that we’d been put in a bad situation, but the first card evidenced that all had picked the path of greater truth upon which to tread.

       The second column, analogous with the present or neutrality, displayed the Desert, the Vision, and the Crows.  The soothsayer frowned at Glannin with the returning of his fate card and warned him that he can’t hope to survive without aid.  Likewise, she then peered at the lot of us and assured that we’d find aid from within and without.   More reassurance from the cards, I suppose.  Perhaps we were the aid Glannin would need to keep from perishing, though that might be too easy a reading of them since I’ve not idea one on their magnitude of individual and collective meaning.

      The fortuneteller expressed that the third column’s importance resided in the future and chaos, so clearly not my favorite combination, as I put very little stock in the worth of chaos.  This time it was my turn to endure the evil eye—perhaps a poor word choice, granted—of Zellara, as she unveiled the Owl, the Forge, and the Cricket.  My journey would be perilous, she predicted, and if I strayed but a little, the treasure I sought would be lost forever.  More dour than reassuring that.  Guess I’ll just have to verify that I don’t deviate from Aroden’s path, then!  The cards of Owl and Forge portended that we could overcome the imminent dangers together, by using our various sources of strength.  Good news there, certainly, as we were a group of eclectic talents and beliefs.

      Upon completion of the harrow reading, Zellara removed herself from much of the conversation to come.  To the credit of all, there was no requirement of payment for the deed we’d been hired for; maybe because the idea of finally getting Gaedren Lamm off the streets proved reward enough.  Calcidon immediately turned to Merethyl for how best to proceed, being that the elf was an investigator and probably had more experience at this sort of thing than any of the rest of us.  Good facilitator, that one, and accurate in his assessment.  Merethyl began piecing together our best strategy concerning the fishery, which began with the necessity of scoping out the place to be confident Gaedren was even there.  None of us save the investigator being the stealthy sort, however, we agreed to stay an hour or so at his apartment while he checked out the lay of the land and looked for habitation.

      We said our farewells to Zellara, who assured us that she’d not take more adventures this night from the meeting place so we could report back our findings—and Aroden willing, our success—when the job was done and Gaedren in our possession.  She wished us luck as we set out the door, and we reached Merethyl’s residence a short time later.  Glannin wasn’t altogether happy about waiting an hour for the elven investigator to do his work, but the food in the cupboards at least gave the dwarf something to do in the meantime.  I’ve heard dwarves can carry any load and not tire; now I know why!  This dwarf packs food away as though his stomach were an endless pit, yet never seems desirous to rest!  When Merethyl returned from his detective work with certitude that the fishery was currently in use and that Gaedren was most likely there, Glannin sprung up with great eagerness to take the fight to their door.

      Before he got to the door, however, I took this opportunity to speak up about how we should deal with those we’d inevitably come into conflict with at the fishery.  I stressed that Korvosa is a city of law, not a wild frontier, and that it wouldn’t be acceptable for us to kill the people who came against us.  If we were to do so, the authorities of the city may well condemn us for the same crimes we were condemning Lamm and his people for!  I felt it imperative, then, that we take our enemies alive, to be handed over to the proper authority once we had defeated their network.  Truly, I expected we’d find evidence at the fishery that would help us to incriminate Gaedren and permit the authorities to slap whatever punitive measures they saw fit upon his head.  Just to be clear: I’m not against Gaedren Lamm dying for all he’s done . . . I’m simply against us being the ones to do it.  We have no lawful authority upon which to stand for such an execution, and if we commit the act by our own hand, it makes us no better than him from a morally objective standpoint.  Granted, I’m elaborating my thoughts into this journal, as our discussion hardly delved this deep, but note that I did focus upon my desire to keep these people alive in spite of their crimes and character.  Praise the Last Azlanti that my words were heard and—by and large—heeded.

      I hung back about twenty-five feet when we reached the fishery, hoping to give Merethyl some space to silently pick the locks of the door for easier and quieter entry.  Syrical stayed back with me, but the others ventured up with the investigator, so in retrospect, I suppose the distance meant nothing.  It mattered little anyway, as the early attempt to pick the lock failed, and a watchdog from within began barking to warn of our presence.  So, best laid plans fell away to our contingency: Glannin simply busted open the door.

      Even from my position in the rear, I was the first through the smashed portal.  I deemed it necessary to silence the dog, else it draw further attention from the streets upon our endeavor.  When the dog saw an intruder within the room, it attacked.  I slashed as it darted past a chair to get to me, but the furnishing moved as the canine went past it, and my strike damaged wood and nothing more.  The guard dog might have boasted about its better battle prowess than mine after it bit me rather hard just below the left knee, but Calcidon’s descending polearm nearly sheered the animal in half.

      As the others entered—well, all save Syrical, who kept vigil at the front door to prevent any unsuspecting enemy from getting around behind us, a command was heard through the northern door in the room for its occupants to keep quiet.  Whomever issued it should probably have listened to his own advice.  Merethyl made to the door and opened it to expose a sorrowful sight.

      Beyond the portal, a handful of children shoveled foul slop into water chutes that exited the structure below.  I wouldn’t dare a guess at exactly what went into that slop, except to say that it looked disgusting and reeked far worse.  I prayed for it to contain only fish parts and nothing more sinister.

      Glannin stormed through the doorway seeking something to fight but finding only children.  At first glance, I saw the same . . . until I inspected them more carefully and realized that one of the children was truly a gnome in disguise!  I exposed him to the others and took a slash from the kukri that suddenly appeared in his hand.  The slicing blade caught me just above the knee on the same leg as the bite, but the wound felt only superficial.

      Like before, Calcidon showed up behind me, but this time, rather than severing the gnome in half as he did the dog, the nobleman reached out with the weapon and tripped our enemy.  At that point, something of a brawl broke out.  Merethyl effectively kicked our prone enemy a couple different times, while simultaneously speaking to one of the children directly to keep safe against the wall.  I believed he referred to this child by the name Liam.  Glannin joined in by pouncing on the gnome, who exhibited a fine bit of agility from the ground for a short while until the dwarf grabbed hold of him and started headbutting his face.  For such a small frame, that gnome endured quite the beating!  I was able to disarm the kukri while the others continued to try and knock him unconscious.  Witnessing those futile efforts, Liam shouted angrily and lunged with a pitchfork to skewer his captor, but the wiry gnome shifted just right and avoided the impaling.

      At about that time, back in the first room we’d entered, Syrical offered a short alarm as a second man made an appearance.  I heard the newcomer exclaim, “What’s going on in here?”  Just after, Calcidon turned from the northern doorway back toward one of the eastern doors we’d yet to check, and I heard the man grunt with pain.  With the enemy in this room beaten, disarmed, and grappled on the floor, I made the executive decision to help with the new threat.  A part of me worried that with only Syrical and Calcidon in that room, the man’s life may well be in danger.  Syrical used magic, which rarely could be wielded in a nonlethal capacity, or a crossbow besides.  Same problem.  Calcidon had concurred with allowing them to live and had shown his willingness to abide with that decision by tripping rather than slaughtering the gnome.  Recollections of our discussions around the table at Zellara’s place brought to my attention that Calcidon had trained once as a hellknight, and hellknights didn’t train for incapacitation.  They believed themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner.  If that training mindset kicked in for Calcidon with the abrupt entry of a new threat, it’s entirely possible that the nobleman would kill the man without realizing exactly what he was doing.

      I couldn’t have that.

      So, I bolted into the first room to see the man there with a gaping, red line from right shoulder to the left side of his sternum and knew I’d made the correct decision.  I shouted at him to drop the wand held in his right hand and not speak—a spur of the moment command derived from seeing the wand and fearing him an arcane caster of some kind.  He promptly ignored my warning, stepped back and threw a glob of acid at me from the wand.  It just barely missed my left thigh.  I closed and managed to grab the wrist of the wand hand, while shoving the man up against the wall with all my weight and momentum and pinning him there.  Yelling sounded from the other room that another of Gaedren’s lackies had joined the fray, and again Calcidon departed to help against the new danger.

      I shook my head, knowing there was nothing I could do for that one, as my hands were already full here.  I demanded his surrender a second time, and for the second time he ignored it.  The tip of the wand flashed green, but he was unable to point it directly at my face because of my hold on his wrist, and the glob shot wide again.  A thin, pale blue ray of frigid cold blasted the man straight in the face from over my left shoulder.  For a third time I ordered his surrender, accentuating that I had no intentions of killing him, though my companions may if he didn’t throw the wand down and give up.  Finally, the man complied, pleading with me that he was just trying to run his business.

      The fighting persisted in the other room for a short while longer.  It was impossible for me to aid there until I was given rope to tie up this prisoner, so I interrogated him a little more.  I asked what they did here, and instantly discerned he was omitting the whole truth when he replied they just sold fish guts.  I confronted him on the fact, and he clammed up after, obviously weighing his options.

      When Glannin brought me a rope less than a moment later, I knew the fight to be over.  As we tied the man up, I repeated my earlier question of what they did here, but this time I had the intimidating glower of my dwarven companion to entice a more acceptable answer.  He worked for Gaedren Lamm, and he confirmed that Gaedren was on the premises.  Before we deposited the bound man on the floor, he had elaborated that his boss resided below the fishery, which could only be gotten to via the ship docked behind the place.

      Calcidon had lowered himself to the children’s level and was diplomatically convincing them to go directly to Merethyl’s apartment when I entered the site where the combat had started.  Thankfully, neither the gnome, nor the half-orc I’d yet to see until now, were dead, though both displayed bleeding wounds.  Broken but not dead . . . more than acceptable.  Even better, by the wounds I saw, Calcidon was responsible for the half-orc still breathing.  That elicited a small smile.  Despite the training, his goodness shone through.

      Syrical located a ledger in the eastern room where all three criminals were now tied up to one another, two of them unconscious.  In the document were poor forgeries of purchases and taxation numbers that made virtually no sense to anyone even half-looking.  This provided proof that this business was corrupt, which may be of use to us later.  Still, I do pray that more incriminating evidence can be found, as I’m unsure whether the testimony of children would be credible enough to prosecute.  I’d hope so, of course, but the more we find, the better the chance that Gaedren won’t be able to slip the noose this time.

      After we finished our work inside the building, the lot of us went through the eastern door used by the half-orc to join the fight.  Outside, the slop chutes emptied into a small reservoir, and more children hid beneath the landing that circled the area.  Before Calcidon convinced them to take refuge with the others at Merethyl’s, we learned that a girl named Anna had recently been taken below by Gaedren.  They lamented that when a child went below they never came back up and begged us to rescue her.  Additionally, the children hinted at a terrifying beast kept by Lamm that we needed to watch out for.  Once sent on their way to safety, we commenced on toward the ship.

This is my word, and, as such, is beyond contestation.

The Sub-Creator

Posts : 512
Join date : 2009-09-19

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Re: The Faith of a Few - The Crimson Throne Journal of Chazon h'Besorah

Post  The Sub-Creator on Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:54 am

15 Gozran, 4715 continued . . .

Seeing no apparent way onto the ship from the fishery floor save for a wooden walkway above us that circled down to it from the fishery, we ascended the stairs back into the structure. However, when Merethyl opened the outer door to the rickety walkway constructed of rotted and creaking wood that barely seemed capably of holding him, there were some harbored fears that this path served as little more than a trap for unwelcome visitors such as ourselves. Unwilling to venture onward until all other avenues were thoroughly examined, the lot of us went back down to the fishery floor to search for any hidden doors buried behind the plethora of barrels and crates beside the vessel. Our only discovery proved all these to be completely empty, but no entry to the ship.

So, back to the ramshackle walkway we went.

The group quickly decided it best to take the walkway one at a time. Merethyl set out first, with an eager Calcidon next. While we waited, Glannin took me aside and inquired about my injuries. I conceded that my leg remained quite sore from the dog bite and kukri slash, then asked if he had battlefield wound treatment experience. He merely shrugged, inspected the wounds with what felt like unpracticed hands, and suddenly the pain drained from my leg completely. I stared at the dwarven warrior in surprise. The relatively instant relief of harm made no sense unless magical healing was involved, but he hardly struck me as one that possessed such a talent. Admittedly, it shocked me enough that I said nothing to him, and he held no desire to explain either. Without another word, he escaped out the door, onto the walkway, and disappeared.

I followed the same path to the door and peeked out to see the dwarf tentatively working his way down the gradual slope of weather-beaten wood. Turning back to Syrical, I offered to let him descend next, but he deferred. I cast a glance to our three prisoners tied up in the corner of the room—two unconscious, the third glaring at me—before slipping out the door. What a harrowing descent! Each board bowed beneath my weight, and I heard them crack and splinter with each cautious step.

I walked along at a gingerly pace for nearly half-a-minute and hadn’t even gotten to the ship yet when there were shouts from the deck! Glannin managed to find a weak point in the deck and nearly fell through it, though he felt the boards giving way under him and reflexively leapt to safety. This proved doubly fortunate, as Merethyl elected to walk through the door into the aft cabin before we had all congregated, was promptly attacked by a spider the size of a cat, and required the dwarf to smite the vermin from atop his head. It may be wise if, in the future, we wait on exploration of a dangerous locale until the entire group arrives to best handle whatever comes. In the investigator’s defense, I’m certain he believed there to be very little room on the deck, especially after Glannin’s close call. Additionally, the elf typically works alone during his investigations, and so rarely needs think about accommodating others while on the job. Had the threat been greater than simply an oversized spider, however, there would have been no way for Syrical or I to hurry along that walkway to aid him or the others.

The name, Krakon’s Folly, was painted upon the hull of the rundown vessel, which our dwarf had already discovered to be treacherous. Based on its horrible condition, it’s unlikely this ship has traveled anywhere in recent history. A red fish decorated the door that Merethyl had opened, precipitating the attack. We learned that the elven investigator had recognized tracks that led into the small cabin and down the stairs to its hold, so when we all gathered our only choice was to follow them.

I placed a light spell upon Calcidon’s person, since he stayed close on the heels of Merethyl, and the light enabled those of us without darkvision to see the filthy conditions and thick strands of webbing below deck. The steps were steep and narrow, so Merethyl and Calcidon plunged downward into the bowels of the ship slowly. Having just been attacked by a drain spider, few doubted what awaited us amongst all those webs. Sure enough, not a moment after the elf’s foot touched the floor, four of the pesky vermin dropped down from their cover to attack. Calcidon reacted quickly and sliced one in half with his polearm before any of the rest of us even knew the large critters were there. Unfortunately, a second that he hadn’t noticed perched upon his shoulder and bit into the base of his neck.

In the midst of this anticipated ambush, both man and elf cleared the stairs to make room for those of us yet to come down. Glannin gleefully made it to the midway point of the stay and hacked at the spider on Calcidon’s shoulder with his axe. Though the precision strike hewed part of its bulbous abdomen, along with a couple of its legs, the little creature held on to life. I squeezed past the dwarf and slipped to the side of the stair before taking a jab at the creature in an attempt to finish it, but failed to connect. Likewise, Syrical sent a freezing ray at it from above and missed wide, causing frost to form on the edge of a step. Holding on to life through multiple attacks with only half a body, and already having located the weak spot around Calcidon’s armor, the spider bit him again. The marks hardly looked painful, but who knew what poison the thing injected into that wound!

The other two drain spiders attacked Merethyl and Glannin, but neither had any luck scoring hits against them. The elf successfully dispatched his on the second stab of the sword cane. Calcidon brushed the creature off his shoulder, stepped away, and sought a killing strike on the dwarf’s enemy without a favorable outcome. Syrical’s next ray of numbing frost nearly struck the leg of the wounded spider, but settled for the step again. Not appreciating its precarious position—I’m dramatizing here, as spiders are obviously incapable of such complex thought, the six-legged vermin scuttled toward Glannin, only to be vengefully squashed by Calcidon.

The last of the spiders resided too far away for me to attack it, and rather than press through the cramped hold for the opportunity, I instead bowed my head in silent prayer for Aroden to aid us. The prayer was answered through a burst of speed by Calcidon, who assailed the thing with a pair of strikes in quick succession. Though both missed their mark, a third crashed down upon it when the spider attempted to go after Glannin and killed it. Admittedly, I smiled to myself after that final kill, amused that none would ever accept from whom that sudden quickness given Calcidon came, and I chose not to bother with enlightenment at this time. One day, perhaps curiosity would dawn inquest, but our current need to push forward and find Gaedren Lamm required our full attention.

After the fight’s conclusion, Merethyl confided that he’d lost the trail that led us here and urged those of us that could to search for it. I pinpointed it and noted that the prints disappeared at the hull of the Krakon’s Folly. Merethyl swiftly came over to search and uncovered a secret door, which opened onto another wooden walkway beneath the fishery. This constructed path appeared far safer than the one leading to the ship—its boards solid and strong. Above, the hole in the fishery floor could be seen about fourteen feet up. Anything dropped through it would splash down into the water here, where a dark shadow in the depths swam undisturbed and undoubtedly hungry.

The sturdy walkway started south, then angled west and ended at a two-and-a-half foot, square door. A quick check verified the door as locked, but Merethyl opened it without much problem. It necessitated some doing to fit through the small door, and as the elven investigator worked his way through, he was ridiculed by the room’s occupant . . . Gaedren Lamm. Each of us was hit by a similar salvo as we entered. None are written here because I’ll not glorify the man for making light of his crimes against us.

A large portion of the underfishery’s floor was open water, with only a single five-foot path running the east, south, and west perimeter to where Lamm resided in its northern portion. Several pilings acted as pillars for the ceiling above. An intricate block and tackle pulley system weaved through these pilings and terminated in a set of rusty manacles, which currently held the young girl we knew to be Anna above the watery opening. Below her swam a badly scarred crocodile—the forewarned of Gobbleguts. Lamm gripped the rope of the pulley system in a left hand shriveled with age, and in his right hand he brandished a loaded crossbow. A wreck of a human being, Lamm was jaundiced, filthy, long-faced, and fragile. He obviously favored his right leg. Besides the crossbow in his hand, he also owned a companion dagger on his belt and adorned himself in padded armor.

Clearly, holding that little girl’s life in his hands emboldened the old man to believe he had us where he wanted us. He extended an ultimatum to us: let him leave this place alive and unharmed, and he would let us take Anna in similar fashion. If we should seek to inhibit his escaping, however, Lamm promised to release the rope and let her plunge into the water with Gobbleguts. I watched the old criminal closely as he spoke and detected no trace of a lie, which I’ll confess surprised me more than a little. It shouldn’t have. A man with a strong survival instinct would do whatever it took to stay alive, and I have no doubt he thought to avenge this hit to his pride at a later time. He’d already gotten to each of us once, after all.

Glannin moved toward Lamm with axe menacingly before him and promised there’d be no way the old man was walking out of here still standing. Inside, I agreed with the good dwarf in principle, but I wasn’t so keen on it costing a little girl’s life. Thus, when I noted Lamm take a step back and raise his crossbow at the crocodile—a threat that he’d anger the beast and drop Anna right on top of it, I spoke up for Glannin to not be so hasty in disregarding the trade. It pained me to even sound out the words. This criminal had caused the harm or death of innumerable people, and we had him dead to rights here and now. Letting him go was a bad idea, but we needed time to work out a way to get Anna safe.

As luck would have it, Merethyl and Calcidon had already worked that out between them.

Glannin’s threat—nay, promise—had unsettled the man, wiping that smug grin off his face. Intimidated, he reissued his ultimatum, and that’s when the two heroes made their move. Merethyl charged, erasing the distance between he and Gaedren in the blink of an eye. The onrushing elf startled Lamm, who shot the Gobbleguts in the back, but he still held fast to the rope! I can only imagine poor Anna’s thoughts as she watched all this unfold before her, terrified that at any moment her captor would set free the rope and plunge her into the frigid waters of scaly death awaiting her below.

Syrical screamed at the man—or, at least, that’s the facial expression he made, though no sound emitted from it. Gaedren recoiled in pain, and I thought for sure he’d release the rope, but the criminal only gripped it tighter! So tight, in fact, that when Merethyl grabbed for it, Lamm refused to let go! Glannin and I both hurry around the water—he straight at the man he wants dead, and I the long way round to the west, then north, all the while shouting for the others not to kill the man. An enraged Gobbleguts surged right at me but wasn’t able to clear the lip of the floor. With all of us collapsing on Lamm, the noble Calcidon merely stepped forward and jammed his polearm into one of the pulleys, making it impossible for Anna to fall even if our enemy were to let go of the rope.

Desperate to get to Lamm, especially after seeing the dwarf bury his axe into the man’s shoulder, I rushed forward and paid no mind to Gobbleguts. Ice formed in the water beside the crocodile from one of Syrical’s frost rays, and the reptile launched from the water to snap at me as I departed, just missing me. I reached Lamm and slipped my sword in the crooks of both his arms in an attempt to grapple him. I wanted to pull him away from the dwarf’s lethal strikes and subdue the man. To my surprise, Gobbleguts lunged out of the water at its master, though I pushed the man forward just enough that its strong jaws couldn’t clamp down on him. The maneuver set me off-balance, and Lamm twisted about and grappled me instead, pushing me to the very corner I’d intended to put him!

With distance between the two of us and my compatriots now, most everyone turned their attacks on the crocodile. Syrical managed to frost the lashing beast, causing Glannin to swing wide of his intended mark. Merethyl wisely tied Anna’s rope off so Calcidon wouldn’t need to keep his polearm lodged in the pulley the entire time. Lamm’s grip on me was tentative at best, so I easily reversed it and slammed my head into his nose. At that exact moment, Gobbleguts—ignoring the attacks of all the others—swept up out of the pool and latched onto Lamm’s leg! The shock and pain of the attack slumped Gaedren into unconsciousness, allowing the crocodile to easily rip him from my grasp and into the water.

Merethyl and Glannin attack Gobbleguts, though only the latter connects with a solid hit, and the water around the crocodile bursts into a cloud of red. From across the room, I hear Syrical addressing me concerning Lamm’s fate being taken into the hands of nature. In the heat of the moment, I couldn’t judge if the words were mocking or pragmatic, but I noted that no freezing ray struck croc or water at that time. I retorted that it was man’s duty to preside over nature, not the other way around, and that Lamm deserved to stand trial and be convicted in a civilized court of law. I followed those comments with a swing at Gobbleguts, but the creature had already released the comatose criminal due to Glannin’s deep cut into its flank, and my attack went nowhere near it. When the crocodile surged at the dwarf, I heard him cry out, “Cal! Get in the fight!” The wounded reptile failed to clear the lip of the landing, leaving Glannin untouched anyhow.

Even still, Calcidon’s brilliant response: “Not now! I’m saving the Princess!” While we had concentrated our efforts against Lamm and Gobbleguts, the nobleman had rescued Anna from her precarious position above the water and gotten her out of harm’s way. Aroden bless that man.

I fished Gaedren from the water so he wouldn’t drown and perched him in the corner where his nonsensical form would be safest. Meanwhile, Glannin, Syrical, and Merethyl made attacks against the crocodile, with the former two landing theirs. Gobbleguts’ thrashing from the vicious gash of the axe and freezing blast of the spell accidentally parried the investigator’s blade, which also provided an opening for the frenzied beast. Its powerful jaws snapped shut on his leg, and he shredded more flesh when he lurched it from the crocodile’s iron grasp. That extra wounding probably saved Merethyl’s life, however, as it prevented Gobbleguts from dragging him into the pool with it.

By this time, Calcidon had Anna freed, healed, and tucked away from the fighting in the back corner of the room. The elven investigator jabbed forward with his sword cane and scored a hit in neck, just behind the crocodile’s opened maw. He then hobbled back away from the fight where the nobleman helped heal his wound, as well. Gobbleguts focused its attention on Glannin, which enabled it to twist away from the warrior’s axe, but I used that diversion to step in from the side and hack with my blade into the space behind its eyes. My sword sliced through hide already weakened by Glannin’s earlier attacks and killed it.

With the last threat done away with, we tended the wounded, or at least confirmed that all would live. While I ensured that Lamm still breathed and stripped him of his weapons, armor and a trio of keys (brass, iron, and rusted iron), the others saw to Anna and the three tables of paraphernalia in the northeast part of the room. Not much was found there, with the most interesting being some letter in a bottle dated a handful of years ago. It read:

“6th of Arodus, 4710
To whom it may concern . . . please disregard earlier bottles.
Corrigan Desmond.
Formerly of Smuggler’s Shiv, Survivor of the Jenivere
Presently a guest aboard a South Arcadian whaling vessel.
P.S. We lost Sasha on the island . . . She went in search of carnivorous dinobird pet . . . Never seen again.”

That extraordinary find out of the way, we moved on to the smaller room in the northwest corner—Gaedren Lamm’s chamber. There, we located a few very interesting things. First, resting upon a strongbox resided a journal. A brief look through it by Merethyl disclosed that it was written in some form of thief’s cypher, but the investigator could break just enough of it with his short perusal to be certain that this book would incriminate Lamm for all he’d done to us and a great many others. It was exactly what I desired to find here! Within that journal was situated the evidence that guatanteed the criminal couldn’t work his way out of a conviction. Aroden be praised!

Second was the lockbox itself. One of the keys taken off Lamm’s unconscious body opened it readily enough, so the elf wasn’t needed to put his lock-picking skills to work again. Many expensive treasures were securely hidden in there, the most of which I’ll not bother to itemize now. Three pieces caught my attention enough to be notable: 1) a two-pound gold ingot bar with the Chelaxian coat of arms upon it (this struck me as something that might come directly from a noble house treasury), 2) a unique, masterwork dagger with a blade shaped like a key and the inscription “For an inspiration of a Father.” written upon it, and 3) a masterfully-crafted—and incredibly expensive—brooch depicting an intertwined imp and pseudodragon. The last was of the utmost importance, as Merethyl recognized the brooch as a personal possession of the Queen of Korvosa! He mentioned a significant reward being offered for its return, but, more importantly, it means that there’d be no hope for Lamm escaping justice now . . . If his journal wasn’t proof enough, this highly unorthodox theft would certainly convict him.

The third, most baffling, find was a hat box, which Syrical looked into and saw a severed head rotting away in there. Enough detail remained for him to identify it as the head of Zellara! We’d just left her at her own fortune-telling business not hours before, and this head appeared easily a couple weeks old, if not more! But, if she’s been dead so long, then who hired us for this mission? Why would someone go through the trouble of disguising themselves as this woman to meet with us when not one of us knew her at all? What were they trying to hide? The harrow deck used to perform the readings for us all—or one that gave the impression of being that same deck!—laid in the hatbox beneath the head. Upon questioning the possibilities concerning the “Zellara” we met, Glannin spoke up that it could very well have been her spirit, and Calcidon agreed that he’d heard stories of benevolent spirits doing such things in the storybooks. That sounded a strange and unlikely event to me, and I’m not so sure Merethyl bought into it either. Syrical struck me as ambivalent to it regardless. It seems very much that there’s a conspiracy here, and we shall seek it out before the end!

With exception of the dagger key and royal brooch I noted above from the lockbox, we agreed (somewhat tentatively by a couple) to leave everything else here for the coming investigation by the proper Korvosan authorities. I’d hoped that any reward that might be offered would cover all that we left, or perhaps they’d give us what wasn’t required for evidence against Lamm. I didn’t wish to remove something that might incriminate us along with Gaedren from this stockpile, and thankfully Merethyl backed my play on this.

We carried Lamm above and tied him with the other three. I fine bunch of prisoners they’d be for turning over to the Korvosan Guard, some of whom Merethyl knew from past investigations. After a quick search of the fishery rooms we’d not yet looked through—in which, we found nothing but a few small pouches with what appeared to be payment for the ones we’d captured, Merethyl stepped out to find a runner meant to deliver the message of our success to the Guard and bring them to us swiftly.

What he—and by extension, we—witnessed upon throwing wide the door was something far beyond the realm of normal! The screams of the terrified and the dying erupted over the constant din of fighting in the streets. Fires burned everywhere, casting the city’s horizon with a hellish glow. Somewhere, a voice shouted out that King Eodred was dead, and long live the new Queen of Korvosas: his widow, Ileosa. Cheers ensued from some; jeers from a good many others. A hippogriff and rider of the Sable Company fell from the burning sky to crash on the ground nearby.

Merethyl ran to see if the man was in any condition to receive aid. The rest of us joined him without, in a city currently inflicted with chaos that threatened to consume it.

This is my word, and, as such, is beyond contestation.

The Sub-Creator

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Join date : 2009-09-19

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