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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

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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 Calcedon 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 Calcedon probably belonged.

The final invitee walked through the door soon after Calcedon, 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.

Last edited by The Sub-Creator on Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:56 am; edited 1 time in total

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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 Calcedon, 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 Calcedon, then Glannin, Syrical, Merethyl, and finally myself.  Upon receiving our cards, she instructed us to place them face-up on the table in front of us, then commenced reading the providence of each card.  I’ve summarized each below:

1) Calcedon: 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 face down 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.  Calcedon 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 Calcedon’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, Calcedon 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, Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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.  Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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, Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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.

Last edited by The Sub-Creator on Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:59 am; edited 1 time in total

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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 Calcedon 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, Kraken’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 Calcedon’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 Calcedon plunged downward into the bowels of the ship slowly.  Having just been attacked by a drain spider, few doubted what awaited us among 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.  Calcedon 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 Calcedon’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 Calcedon’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.  Calcedon 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 Calcedon.

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 Calcedon, 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 Calcedon 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 Kraken’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 Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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 Calcedon 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, Calcedon’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, Calcedon 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 guaranteed 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.

Last edited by The Sub-Creator on Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:03 am; edited 1 time in total

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

Post  The Sub-Creator on Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:09 pm

16 Gozran, 4715 – Midnight

After Merethyl’s disappearance to check on the Sable Company rider, the four of us who remained at the fishery discussed the quick workings of a plan for moving forward.  In the midst of a city in bedlam, we had four prisoners in need of cells and a dozen children alone and scared at the investigator’s apartment.  Already I’d heard Glannin idly commenting on dispatching Lamm, fearful that he might escape justice in the current climate, when the Korvosan Guard had plenty of other worry on their minds.  Naturally, I was against any such execution.  I don’t fault Glannin, Merethyl, or Syrical for their desire to meet out swift justice with their own hands; the rules of their society—dwarven and elven respectively—were constructed with different considerations of civilization than our own.  Perhaps more to the point, they put less value on human civilization, and, therefore, less value on human life than the Last Azlanti teaches.  For men such as Lamm, who have committed unbearable atrocities against the weak and strong alike, they see no point in not disposing of him immediately, and truth be told I can’t say I don’t sympathize.  But this isn’t a matter of desire . . . it’s a matter of right and wrong, and we haven’t the authority within this city to take Lamm’s life before he stands before those who do have authority to make that decision.

Thus, wishing to see this through to its proper conclusion concerning the criminals, I was forced to suggest we split up when Calcedon proposed his House in East Shore as a safe harbor in which to ride out the rest of this night.  Glannin and I would see to the disposition of the prisoners—I tended to them while Glannin stood guard, and Calcedon and Syrical would hike to Merethyl’s apartment to retrieve the kids.  We would then meet back here and take the whole lot to House Fordyce, where the children would be safe, and the prisoners could be interred until things slowed down enough to turn them over to the Guard.

What follows is a reconstruction of events based solely on discussions I had with those involved after the fact.  For the purposes of posterity, I’ve attempted to make it as accurate to the accounts as I could.

Merethyl was successful in saving the Sable Company rider’s life through the administering of potions located upon the rider himself.  Unfortunately, the hippogriff proved beyond help, both from taking the brunt force of the crash upon itself and from the crossbow bolt lodged deep within its throat.  The rider, who reported his name to be Arzen Kale, proclaimed it urgent that he get to the castle immediately, as the riots occurring through the streets of Korvosa originated from that location, and the Queen was still in some danger.  It appeared that the people failed to take news of the king’s death with any grace at all.

Apparently, the Sable rider sought to continue his hurried jaunt to the castle when he discovered quite swiftly that the drinking of four healing potions still had done little to mend his broken leg.  So impaired, he finally accepted Merethyl’s aid and headed back to the investigator’s residence where it could best be dispensed.  Now hampered in movement, it allowed Calcedon and Syrical to catch up to them, and the four men made their way together.

As their small company drew near the apartment, however, one of them noted the dangerous glow of firelight coming from within a local chandlery business, called Illustrious Illuminaries, which resided only a couple structures away from Merethyl’s home.  A sign boasted this shop—owned by a man named Lachlan—to be the official chandler of the Queen, which evidently made it fair game for looters or rioters that had come by.  Recognizing the inherent danger to not only this business, but also to the buildings to either side of it should any flame spread, Syrical began calling out for aid to put out the flame.  Merethyl, having the Sable rider still draped over his shoulders, hastened home to drop the man off and return to aid in fighting the fire.  Calcedon had recollected that Lachlan had a wife and three children, and so rushed inside to help where he could.

Lachlan the chandler laid sprawled out behind his counter, beaten and bloodied, but Calcedon quickly let him be after learning the man still respired.  Not far beyond the unconscious man resided a second room with stairs leading to the second story, a large vat filled with hot wax, and the fire source, which was just starting to liven and threatening to get out of control.  The nobleman swept the cloak from his own shoulders and began beating at the flames, successfully putting out a portion of it.  Regrettably, other portions of the flame licked at the wood of the floors and walls and spread far faster than could be anticipated.  Unable to beat out more of the flames, and actually attacked by the fire as it spread onto his cloak and the floorboards upon which he stood, Calcedon leaped to the stairs and ascended to search for any of the chandler’s family that may yet be inside.

Having deposited Arzen Kale in his apartment building, Merethyl darted back to Illustrious Illuminaries, past where Syrical’s calls for help had finally commenced getting replies from the habitants of the next apartment building over.  The investigator checked upon the fallen chandler, who was coming around to consciousness of his own accord.  He turned his attention to more pressing matters, then, snatching a tapestry from the room’s wall and madly trying to smother the flames, which had spread far enough to completely block off the stairs.  His many attempts to smother the fire were foiled by his inability to properly get a handle on the sizeable tapestry, which he learned to his chagrin was not finessable.  Eventually, Syrical arrived to help him with a second tapestry, after the elven wizard had managed to organize a bucket brigade outside and helped Lachlan come around and slowly make his way out of the burning business.

On the second floor, Calcedon came upon the rest of the chandler’s family amid the billowing smoke funneling up the stairs from the fire below.  One of the children, a three-year-old named Ollie succumbed to smoke inhalation just as Calcedon moved them all into a separate room with windows and shut the door to keep the smoke at bay.  He recognized their only chance to be escaping by a window, so he ordered them to strip the beds of blankets and shattered out the window to eliminate any obstruction to their flight.  With smoke chugging in like a living thing through the bottom of the door, Calcedon helped the mother out the window and to the ground, then began lowering one of the little girls.  One-by-one, the nobleman let each child down to safety, even the unconscious boy, whom he wrapped carefully into the blanket, then eventually climbed down himself.

Below, the epic struggle against the flames continued, and it failed to go altogether well.  Merethyl had gotten too deep into the room and permitted the fire to spread around him, essentially surrounding him on all sides.  He suffered some burns from the predicament, but prevented the fire from igniting the vat of wax until Syrical successfully beat out enough of the flame to let the investigator abscond from his entrapment.  Lachlan (despite his injuries), his son, his wife, and the neighbors formed a bucket brigade from the nearby well to douse the flames soon after.  Deciding he could do no more good from within, Syrical exited the burning structure when smoke started to become a problem in the lower floor, as well, and shouted encouragement to those passing buckets along the line.  Despite one of the neighbor’s inebriation while handling the buckets of water, the fire was beaten down and the business saved with no lives lost.

Merethyl swears that he required no compensation for this good deed, yet Lachlan was so appreciative for the saving of his business and family that he thrust a coffer into the elf’s hands that contained some gold and a magical candle still yet to be identified.  When a man is that thankful, it’s best to accept his generosity, or you’ll have a fight on your hands trying to push it away.

A short time later, the lot of us met up again, Sable Company rider, children, and prisoners in tow.  In fact, due to a pair of the prisoners still being unconscious, it obligated the two still awake to carry them, which was easiest since the four were still tied together to restrict any attempted getaway.

The Korvosan Guard headquarters, Citadel Volshyenek, resides near the High Bridge, which was our only way of crossing the Jeggare River into East Shore.  That proved fortuitous, as we decided to slip in and see if we couldn’t unload Lamm and his cronies to the Guard.  The Citadel felt a microcosm of the city: a collection of people flitting about in sheer chaos, orders and questions shouted about with none listening or understanding, wounded strewn about everywhere in need of attention . . . . These men and women, supposedly the authority for keeping the citizens safe on the streets of Korvosa, exhibited a complete lack of structure or poise.  We were favored just to find a guard able to speak with us, though whether said guard held any sort of rank was uncertain.  He agreed to find a cell for the four criminals, but seemed hesitant about knowing where to store the evidence we’d collected to ensure Lamm would never run free again.  Merethyl inquired about our keeping the evidence until things got less frantic in the city, to which the guard readily agreed.  On the one hand, it concerned me that the evidence might well get misplaced amidst the chaos, so I felt relieved to be holding onto it for safekeeping.  On the other hand, I would hate for Lamm or the others to get released accidentally when no evidence for their incarceration could be found.  We shall need to check in repeatedly with Citadel Volshyenek to make sure they remember why the man and his accomplices are there.

Arzen Kale resolved to stay at the Citadel, as well, stating that he would seek out care for his leg there.  We bid him farewell and went onward across the High Bridge to arrive at House Fordyce.

Though weather-beaten and unkempt, the House Fordyce compound revealed itself to be quite impressive.  In size and scope, Calcedon’s home easily eclipsed the Temple of Aroden that I call home at least three times over, and the entirety of the structures inside the walls—though constructed in the ancient style—displayed apt defensive capability.  Interestingly, I witnessed no true sentries or house guard at all, and the servants of the nobleman looked as rough around the edges as the buildings they called home.  None flaunted the House coat-of-arms, nor were they in any way coordinated in their appearance or manner.  If I were to give this compound a single suitably descriptive noun, it would undoubtedly be “individuality,” for everyone here looked and acted distinctly of their own character.

Calcedon had one of his peculiar servants escort us to the front parlor, while he worked at getting the children settled in.  Glannin’s constant parlaying for food finally won out, and two baskets of sustenance awaited us when we were ushered into the cozy chamber.  Seeing the burns on Merethyl, the dwarven warrior approached him about a need for healing.  After gaining agreement from the elf, Glannin rather unorthodoxically (essentially using spit and marmalade jam) rubbed the burns nearly out of existence, once again lending credence to my notion that there remains something unique about this dwarf that he has not told us.  I wonder—after viewing this most recent display—if the dwarf himself understands the significance of what he does?

When we had all dined, and Calcedon had rejoined us, an earnest discussion about the Zellara phenomenon took place.  We all agreed that it made little sense for someone to impersonate her, as none of us knew a thing about her before our meeting last evening.  If that were true, however, the only other explanation for her presence was supernatural.  Strongly wanting to get to the bottom of this mystery, the five of us consented to go back to 3 Lancet Lane this very night to uncover it.

The fortuneteller’s abode appeared empty, as though abandoned for weeks.  No furnishings, no food, and no trace of Zellara.  There existed footprints in the dust at our feet, and, upon careful observation, it could be seen that those footprints matched our own from when we had inhabited this place hours ago.  Just because we wished to leave no stone unturned, we spent a few minutes searching the room and came up empty.  As a final test before departing, Merethyl pulled her harrow deck from his pouch, and behold, an apparitional manifestation of the Vistani woman coalesced before our eyes.

Her first words to us were by way of apology.  She hated the idea of deceiving us, but believed it the only way to ensure we’d do the job of chasing down Lamm.  As she explained it, she had been killed by the unscrupulous Lamm—a fact uncovered by us in his hideout with the discovery of her head, and she desired him caught and, inevitably, destroyed.  I’m unclear as to whether she would have taken the news of his fall so well had we confided that we didn’t kill the man, but we consciously determined to leave his fate somewhat nebulous, explaining that his mechanizations had been neutralized and the man himself taken care of.  That seemed enough to appease her spirit, and we chose not to elaborate any further.

The state of the city unnerved her, if such a statement can be made about an apparition . . . . She imparted having never seen such a violent reaction to the death of a king in Korvosa, and she worried that this city she had called home would tear itself apart.  Due to her great love for it, she extended an offer to help us when she could should the city need saving from its current happenings.  Granted, I’m a bit skeptical about what we five newly gathered folk might be able to do to help the city with the death of a king, having been here as I have for only a few years, but if there lies power with us to aid the poor through appealing to Queen Ileosa by the brooch we discovered in Lamm’s “treasury,” I’m more than happy to do what I can.  Why we would need an apparitional Zellara’s help with that, I again don’t know.  Grasping her strong inclination to help, however, we all agreed to accept it, although I warned her that I’d be careful to watch her closely for any sign of malevolence to come.  To this point, she hadn’t shown any desire to harm anyone except Lamm, but when dealing with spirits or undead of any kind, one had to be mindful that their outlook might change at any time.  She assured me that she understood my point, albeit a little condescendingly, but I cared not for how she took my warning, so long as she took it in earnest.

On a final note about this strange situation, we questioned her about relatives that yet lived, so we might return the harrow deck to her family when this whole thing was over.  It felt only proper, being that the deck was a family heirloom for ten generations!  She stated that a sister and a niece lived in Magnimar, a place I’d visited only a short time ago, and to return the harrow to them after.  When we concurred to do just that, she said that she would indicate to us those times when she could be of help and dissolved from sight.

With the enigma of Zellara solved, we returned to House Fordyce to rest for the night.  Feeling a pang of guilt for leaving the Brothers of Aroden alone during this time of unrest, I requested of Calcedon that he might send a couple runners to Old Korvosa in the morning with the intention of checking on the conditions there.  The worst of the rioting occurred in the western and northern portions of the city, so I was a bit troubled as to the state of the priests.  Graciously, the nobleman Fordyce agreed to send a runner at first light, so long as it was safe for them to go.

Additionally, I should add here that before parting ways with Glannin on our way to the compound for the evening, Calcedon requested that he look into the possibility of being put on retainer for the next day’s services.  The dwarf affirmed that he’d bring the point up to his superiors and left it at that.

16 Gozran, 4715 – Late Morning

I learned upon waking late that morning that Calcedon’s runners didn’t make it far to the north before coming to the conclusion it was simply too dangerous to approach that portion of the city.  That put me ill at ease from the start, and I desperately desired to go check on the Brothers’ health.  The runners conveyed that there were Korvosan Guard and Sable Company contingents active throughout the city, as pockets of rioting had continued throughout the night and into the daylight hours.  Also, the Hellknights had been called in to help quell the problem.

Though anxious to see the Queen, return the brooch that Merethyl had known was so important to her, and see how we might help the city at large, we all came to the consensus that it was unlikely the Queen would be taking visitors this day.  With all the trouble having erupted throughout the city at her new status as sole ruler of Korvosa, it wouldn’t look appropriate for a small band of unknowns (well, mostly unknowns) to openly request a meeting.  More likely we’d be seen as possible assassins, detained, and who knows what else!  Best to leave that alone until things have quieted down a bit.

Instead, the lot of us decided to go north to check on the Temple, Merethyl’s nephew rescued the night before, and the general condition of the city.

Our first stop was to see about Merethyl’s nephew, who lived in the triangular portion of the Midlands tucked between University Way, Harborview Boulevard North, and the North Point district of the city.  I’ll admit to having never seen a man pick the lock of his relative’s door rather than knock, but based upon the exasperated greeting the investigator received upon entering, this wasn’t the first time he’d done it.  Confirming that all was well, the elf told them to not only lock the door as we left, but also slide a heavier cabinet in front of it for safety.  We departed to the sound of scraping furniture; they apparently chose to accept the advice of the investigator.

From there, we picked a road that would lead us into North Point and to Jeggare Circle—a relatively easy path to find.  From the Circle, we could travel Mainshore Boulevard north through the gate in the wall there, and it would take us straight to the only stone bridge crossing the Narrows into Old Korvosa and directly to the Temple of Aroden.

Last edited by The Sub-Creator on Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:07 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jul 29, 2018 4:05 pm

16 Gozran, 4715 – Noon

The journey through North Point proceeded without struggle, though the farther north we went the more palpable the tension in the air. The streets lack any significant presence, and those that do roam about seem either touched or up to no good. A great many workers were absent from their jobs, which will spell doom for the city’s economy if it maintains for long. The Groetans had appeared, as well, and we were lucky enough to hear one of his doomsayers preaching the god’s ridiculous message of apocalyptic ruin in Jeggare Circle.

Old Korvosa, as I feared, looked ransacked. The poorest of the poor in this city live across the bridges, and the worst of Korvosa’s problems are only magnified there. More than our fair share of crime bosses exist in the district I call home—none worse than the dubious House Arkona, who strive to make a charitable name for themselves in the public eye, yet have their hands in some of the darkest corners of the district. With the sheer amount of political and economic strife happening in the city currently, the poverty-stricken citizens of Old Korvosa would be oppressed by the worst of it, with little help from elsewhere except possibly the Hellknights, whose particular brand of fear-inducing justice receives ample execution there.

The temple doors were locked tight upon our arrival—a clear indication of how bad things had gotten. Pellonius heard my knocking and graciously admitted us. He escorted us to the small common room so we might communicate on our intentions going forward. Baltos visited us soon after Pellonius departed our company, with Nevarius—a young ward of the temple—close on his heels. It’s always a blessing to see the boy, who performs his chores throughout the temple admirably on all accounts, and worked hard helping the numerous refugees that had flooded into the temple to escape the riots in the streets.

Brother Baltos—after taking a moment to point out my absence the night before at a time of need for the church—filled us in on the goings-on in Old Korvosa. The working class poor were those rioting in the district, and their blood filled the potholes and gutters that we had passed by getting here. He verified that this kind of rioting had never occurred before after the death of a royal persona, and he appeared to share my fear about the criminal element of the district posturing to take full advantage of the chaos and increase their standing through diabolical means. We all agreed it very likely that someone or something significant pulled the strings behind all this unrest. As we discussed how best to help alleviate the pressure building in the city—with mine own pleas being to help those in Old Korvosa, and Syrical’s pleas simply to help the poor and not permit their oppression, we all decided it most useful to aid the Korvosan Guard however they felt it best for us to do so.

I bid the good brothers of Aroden farewell, with verbal commendations for their fine work in support of the people, and our crew left the temple to head back toward Citadel Volshyenek. Along the way, we intercepted a passel of dock workers rousing their own ire against the political faction of the city. Calcedon and I immediately went to speak with them about their intended goals and implored them to make better use of their energies by helping their neighbors and their community by repairing the massive amounts of damage done by the many riots.

As we drew closer to the Citadel, at the corner of Warehouse Way and Guard Street, a homeless man on the corner suddenly sprung up as if on youthful legs and proclaimed that he’d seen Syrical in a dream. Apparently, in his dream, Syrical was incredibly sick and near death. I listened intently, sizing the man up to see if this was some sort of street trick, but I sensed the man believed these things he spoke. In an effort to convince the elven wizard, the homeless man grabbed Syrical by the shoulders with some urgency, and so tightly that even Glannin couldn’t pry him off. A few quick words by Merethyl found the man releasing the mage, who abashedly asserted he merely wished to warn our companion of the dream as he plopped back down on the corner and permitted us to continue on without further hindrance.

Citadel Volshyenek proved in better order than we had left it the night before. There weren’t near so many people walking about the place—guard or civilian, and the one guard we did see appeared absolutely exhausted from the long night. My first question sought to confirm Lamm’s continued incarceration, and I was pleased to hear that no mistake had been made to let him out during last night’s disarray. After informing the guard of the evidence we maintained possession of due to the Citadel’s turmoil, we were told to leave it behind now, and they would take good care of it. We did so, but Merethyl bragged about being able to break the code of Lamm’s journal, and the guard bid him please do. Though he professed the journal rather easy to decode, it ended up taking him the better part of six hours to actually do so.

In that time, the rest of us were invited to speak to Field Marshal Croft. She informed us that well-meaning adventurers were to report to the Queen at Castle Korvosa for assignments in helping the city. We expressed some trepidation about being considered adventurers, but eventually thanked her for the information and decided we’d visit her Royal Highness in the morning. When we left, Merethyl still worked on that journal, which he’d later crack and turn in. We even got a reward for it, just as we did the evidence for Lamm which we turned in earlier.

That night, back at House Fordyce, we agreed not only to depart for the castle first thing in the morning, but also to put forth some of the reward and treasure we’d collected for use in helping the economic woes of the city. Calcedon assured us that he had connections with merchants and others, and that he could put the money to good use. After this important discussion, we all retired for the evening, eager to begin with our aid efforts for the city upon the morrow.

17 Gozran, 4715 – Morning

Our venturing through the Midlands to Castle Korvosa revealed no improvement after a full day’s time. As we neared the west side of Field Marshal Avenue, yet another small group of men and women had gathered with distasteful intentions, though this time their vitriol was aimed at a specific individual. Derision and jeers of “Die, dandy!” met us from the opposite side of the avenue, where the tiny mob believed their anger and hatred could overpower a nobleman of the city. Obviously, the nobleman wished no conflict, as his weapon remained sheathed, and his silver tongue sought futilely to dissuade the commoners from their current action.

Once again, we chose to intervene, although our intentions were nearly poisoned at the start by our own dispositions. Calcedon’s words toward the minute mob were rather biting, and my opening questions toward the nobleman were not much improved in attitude, I’m afraid. Though I meant no offense, perhaps my working amidst the poor for so long caused my initial words to be biting. I’m not proud of how I handled this opening discussion, let me just say that plainly.

That said, the nobleman—whose name we discovered to be Amin Jalento—held his temper and his tact quite admirably. The mob only grew more enraged at seeing yet another nobleman coming to the defense of their intended prey. A great many threats were leveled toward Calcedon, specifically, as well as myself and the others more peripherally. Thank Aroden, we eventually succeeded in talking the mob down using multiple plains of reasoning that layered one another quite well: Calcedon assuring them that open murder of nobility in the streets of Korvosa would only encourage a deeper level of Hellknight intervention; myself appealing to the love they bear their families by reinforcing that their incarceration or death would do nothing to help their spouses and children; Merethyl pouncing up that opening to convey that the city needed no more orphans.

When the small mob had dispersed, Amin Jalento thanked us for our intervention. I have no doubt the man could have killed the lot of them had he determined all options spent, which caused me to appreciate him that much more. He affirmed his desire to help the city’s merchant woes and told us that seeking a solution to this problem was his current endeavor, in fact. After rewarding us—unnecessarily—with a signet ring for our help, Master Jalento went about his way, and we continued to the castle.

The castle guard weren’t particularly glad to see us approach and demanded our business, to which Merethyl informed them of its dual purpose: First, to return a piece of the Queen’s stolen property, and second, to learn how we could help the city, as Field Marshal Croft had instructed us that the Queen had put a call out for those who wished to aid in the current plight should come to Castle Korvosa. Skeptical at first, after revealing the brooch in question, they seemed placated. They mandated that we lose all our weaponry, to which we capitulated quickly and without fuss. My only reservation was to give up the blade I keep carefully wrapped but with me always. I’d discovered the blade hidden at the Arodennama, a giant statue of the Last Azlanti located upon Aroden’s Rise in the city of Westgate, and though I’d not uncovered anything of true significance concerning the sword, it acts as a constant reminder of my time there. One might say it’s a keepsake of my visit, but, to me, it’s a symbol of my faith . . . a beacon of strength to prompt my thoughts toward Aroden’s constant presence. Gratefully, the guard handled the shrouded weapon almost reverently.

With that preliminary business out of the way, the guard escorted us up a 20-foot-wide stair, across a landing that appeared to circumnavigate the castle—though we didn’t follow it all the way around, up to the third level, and through a passage with murder holes and opened portcullis. Awaiting us at this gate was a woman in full plate armor detailed in crimson filigree and cloth, who picked up the escort from the four guard. She inquired as to our names and titles for the introduction to come, and we all answered her in our own way.

Upon reaching the spacious throne room, the impressively-armored woman formally announced us to the Queen, who resided in her black mourning dress upon the Crimson Throne. Massive and exquisite tapestries of unmatched workmanship decorated the chamber, and behind the throne were a trio of magnificent stained-glass windows depicting past kings of Korvosa. Most hauntingly, however, with exception of us, the woman in full plate, and the mourning Queen, the entirety of the throne room was empty. One could only believe it possible at such a tragic time as this.

The woman warrior presented the stolen brooch to the Queen, then took her proper place beside the monarch. Queen Ileosa then regaled us with a fine speech about the recovered piece of jewelry, equating it to hope for Korvosa. Admittedly, I found the speech moving because of her professed love for this city, which I’m grateful to say held no lying signatures that I could see. She rewarded us quite handsomely for the precious brooch’s return, then explained that we were to report back to Field Marshal Croft immediately.

Turned back over to the woman in full plate to accompany us out, we graciously turned away a guard escort back to the east side of the city, quite secure in our own capabilities to make that journey again. Besides, if we were to come across more trouble like that which we encountered coming, it would be best to not have representatives of the Queen there that might turn the situation into a bloodbath. Thus, we struck back out into the Midlands, heading to Citadel Volshyenek and Field Marshal Croft, where we might get our first mission to help fix this beloved city.

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:54 am

17 Gozran, 4715 – Afternoon

As our small band crossed back through the city in the opposite direction from whence we’d come less than an hour ago, it seemed impossible to miss the roving flocks of imps making a terror of the skies. While this isn’t necessarily a rare sight for the Korvosan skyline, it happens to be the wrong time of year for it to be this angry overhead. I know that the Academae is the primary purpose for it, though I’m not privy as to why it tends to have seasonal variants. If I were to grow curious enough—and lost value in my own wellbeing, I could certainly go to Syrical for an answer, I’m sure. Virtually the entire way back, the vitriol that escaped his lips about the Academae was scathing and varied, though it tended to center around the uselessness of a school that continually called forth the little devils above but were incapable of controlling them. This spurred Calcedon to regale us with how a past member of his household had shamed the Academae during some event they hold in the city periodically. Honestly, I’ve heard of it somewhere before, and I recall it being a popular thing, but know little of it myself. Syrical took some measure of appreciation at the embarrassing history. The elf is normally very mild-mannered, if not momentarily calculating, but I’m sensing that he also tends to hold grudges . . . .

Upon returning to the Citadel, we’re met by a couple of guards that say we’re expected. News does travel fast here. They escorted us to Field Marshal Croft, who’s accompanied by the commander of the Sable Company, Marcus Endrin. Immediately, the field marshal sang our praises—more than a little surprising to a couple of us—and explained how happy she was to retain our services on behalf of the city. The guard have been stretched understandably thin with all the chaos in the city, so we’re to be of great help to her. She assured us we’d be paid for our service, which most see as a kind gesture on her and the city’s part, though none of us really asked for it. Even so, the Church has expenses and needs, and it’ll be good to have another outlet to aid them.

Naturally, our “deputizing” into the Korvosan Guard elicited the question of lethal force usage by our dwarf friend. With exception of a spot or two, I’ve been pleased that we’ve sought to end conflict with minimal loss of life on either side, but we’ve a couple among our number that are trained warriors—namely Glannin, himself, and the nobleman, whose early training in the combat arts occurred amidst the Hellknights themselves. Thus, I can see how the difficulty of pulling punches in a fight might seem less apt for them, though both have done well enough to this point in doing so. Thankfully, the field marshal stressed it best if criminals were kept alive for the justice system to handle, though she admitted to understanding the necessity of lethal force occasionally. I was pleased, Merethyl appeared agreeable, and the others tentatively accepted it.

Unexpectedly, it was Commander Endrin who stepped forward to offer us our first assignment. He’d heard of Merethyl’s valor in aiding his fallen Sable Rider on the night all the chaos began and praised the elven investigator for his work in saving the man’s life. He followed this with a report of another Sable Rider and hippogriff that had gone missing over North Point this morning while chasing looters. The commander knew nothing further about the rider—not even where he’d gone missing, but mentioned the Sable Rider’s name to be Lucius Gavros, and his hippogriff to be Burt. As it happened, Merethyl and Calcedon were exquisite information gatherers due to it being the former’s job and the latter’s disposition, so we accepted the mission without a second thought.

Having not eaten since breakfast, Glannin was growing a bit temperamental. We stopped in at Baylor’s Retreat for a bite. Though a tension-filled tavern—mostly owing to the fact that the clientele were primarily Korvosan Guard and recently released individuals from the Citadel dungeons, the food tasted satisfactory enough, and Calcedon graciously sprang for the meals. After a half-hour at the Retreat and another half-hour traveling north, it was just after 1 pm when we arrived in North Point.

We decided to split up for the information gathering, though not far, mind you. As Merethyl and I were more acquainted with The Shingles from our time in Old Korvosa, we ventured to the rooftop path, and the other three remained firmly planted on the streets. The groups kept the other in sight at all times just in case anything should happen . . . and surprise, surprise, something did!

After Merethyl had gleaned information from a beggar who had seen a hippogriff flying over the warehouses in the northeastern portion of the district, we started forward to where we knew an easy way down to be. Making a bend in The Shingles, we stumbled upon a dead man being feasted upon by a horde of rats—I mean, there had to have been hundreds of the things! The swarm was ravenous, and we’d just left another man not fifty feet behind us. Should we bypass this and that man get attacked by these villainous creatures . . . no, I’d not have it worrying at my mind. So, I rushed in—drawing my blade as I went—and swept it through the mound of vermin. The swipe killed a dozen or so, but such a number proved insignificant when there were so many. Having a weapon more adept at piercing than slashing, Merethyl was a bit uncertain as to exactly what to do when the feasting swarm surged at us from the dead remains. Rats practically buried the two of us in scurrying feet and biting mouths, temporarily paralyzing my companion from action with disgust, though he had enough wherewithal to catch a bottle thrown up to him by Syrical below. Glannin and Calcedon had located a ladder that only came halfway up and were racing up to join us.

I noted the effect the voracious swarm had on Merethyl and sprang away in hopes the vermin would follow me. I haphazardly cut at them as I went—seeing within that cloud of tooth and claw and fur was harder than you might realize!—but failed to kill any, hard as that is to believe! Luckily, I succeeded in getting them to follow, and Merethyl applied whatever it was Syrical had thrown him to his body rather hastily. By this time, Calcedon had hoisted himself onto The Shingles, though poor Glannin had his hands full with the ladder. It looked rather rickety, and the heft of the dwarf in his armor threatened its integrity!

I hacked away at the insatiable swarm until I saw Calcedon motioning for me to get clear. Able to separate myself from the biting vermin, I scrambled behind the nobleman to where Merethyl stood, now covered in some form of glistening concoction. Facing the fast approaching rat swarm, Calcedon broke out his instrument and played the most discordant note one could ever imagine hearing! Magic struck out from the violin to blast into the rodents, slaying hundreds of them in a single instant! A few survived the impressive spell, but fear overcame hunger, and they fled into the dark crevices and crannies of The Shingles.

I watched as the investigator examined the body and admittedly blanched a little upon the discovery of a rat’s nest constructed within the dead man. I’ve seen a great deal in my time working with the poor of Old Korvosa, but this was a first. Truly grotesque. The body possessed a few copper coins and a tarnished silver ring. Our nobleman cleaned up the ring with a quick cantrip and discovered a phrase written on the inside of the band, “From Ellie May, with love.” As I perused these happenings, Glannin had come up and healed my wounds using tobacco chaw. There’s no doubt in my mind that the dwarf has somehow inherited divine magic, though he has yet to determine that fact for himself. I know not its source, but it’s undeniable at this point. I chuckled when I watched Merethyl squirm as the dwarven warrior rubbed moldy bread against his wounds to heal them completely. Part of me wishes that Glannin will never realize his talents, if only to see how creative he might get with his remedies!

The gathering of information culminating in the combat with the rat swarm required a good two hours, leaving us only in the middle of the afternoon and with plenty of time to search the warehouses where the Sable Rider was seen. Our inquiries there—this time discovered by Calcedon—pointed us to the specific warehouse where a hippogriff crashed after another couple hours.

The warehouse in question appeared run down, though someone attempted to maintain its integrity against theft of what was within by a locked chain protecting the doors. Regrettably for the owner, but fortuitous for us, a side door farther down an alleyway had been broken open and permitted us easy admittance. As we peered into the darkened office-like room that the busted door led into, a couple of the others heard faint laughter from somewhere deeper in. Our initial entry into the dust-covered room transpired cautiously . . . until the terrified screech of a hippogriff rang out from behind another door in the office. Spurred on more quickly now, we threw open the door where the screech originated to reveal the larger, spacious chamber where the hippogriff resided—tied down and with six thugs stabbing at it using long poles with daggers tethered about the ends. Lucius sat securely fastened in the far corner.

Calcedon immediately ordered the lot to stand down, but the looks on their faces when they turned to meet us clearly indicated they had no intentions of obeying.

I believe that’s exactly what Syrical was looking for, as his voice called out from behind us all, “Lasting political change can’t be achieved by violence!”

A shimmering bolt of force flew by a second later to smash into one of the criminals.

The fight began in earnest, then, as we all charged into the room. Merethyl and Glannin attacked a pair of them, but neither succeeded in connecting. I moved near one but used Aroden’s divine power to strengthen my fighting skills. Behind us, Calcedon began a rousing tune upon his violin that stirred the adrenalin within us—or me, at least—and bolstered my attentiveness to the fight further. Two of the thugs dropped their makeshift polearms and drew out daggers to attack the elf and dwarf—the former proved too slow, while the latter connected with Glannin but failed to penetrate his armor. Keeping themselves at distance, the others poked at us with their dagger-tipped sticks, but only one managed to strike Merethyl with little true effect.

Merethyl used the aggression within him from taking the wound and stabbed the dagger-wielder through the heart. Another force missile jolted the thug squaring off against Glannin, which dazed the man just enough that I pommeled him to the back of the head and knocked him out cold. I heard Calcedon demand one of the enemy on Merethyl back down and saw the dwarven warrior move past me to cleave a vicious wound into the one that had struck out at me a brief moment ago. All but one of the daggers-on-a-stick were thrown down as the melee became more discombobulated. These fellas demonstrated themselves more accurate wielders of the dagger and accomplished successful strikes against both Merethyl and Glannin, but neither score hit hard. Indeed, the dwarf’s riposte with his axe hacked far harder, separating arm from shoulder. Whether due to the wound or the shock of it, the man was dead before he hit the floor.

Admittedly, it pained me to see two men sprawled dead on the floor, and that may have thrown off my own nonlethal attack on my opponent. Others around me failed to connect, as well, friend and foe—indicative that the entire fight went more defensive after the gruesomeness of the second death.

Syrical decided to put away the force energy and fired the frost rays which had almost become his calling card in combat. The first flew wide of its target, but the second formed a small welt of frozen skin on the back of Merethyl’s attacker. The investigator attempted to bludgeon the man with his sword cane and failed. Hoping to use the bloodied mess upon the floor near me, I warned the three left to drop their weapons and give up lest more of them wind up dead. The thug before me appeared quite rattled at the thought of ending up like his two compatriots. Glannin tried to intimidate the second criminal on Merethyl, but the distance between them took some of the sting from his words. Or maybe not, as all three of them bolted right after. Calcedon tripped one of them before he could get far, and Merethyl tried to grapple the man to keep him down, but the thug wriggled free from the elf’s grip. This prompted the nobleman to whack the thug upside the head with the haft of his polearm, and the man toppled like a stone.

Glannin and I chased the other two out the door, through the alleyway, and into the street. One of them simply had too great a head-start and got away. With a burst of speed, the dwarf and cut off the other’s escape and again warned him to give up. The man seemed too frightened to listen to reason, however, and he tried to withdraw past us. I hamstringed him to end his flight far more painfully than if he had simply given up. Glannin hoisted the lout—who had gone unconscious from the pain—over his shoulder, and the two of us went back inside the warehouse. There, Calcedon had already begun healing the hippogriff, and Merethyl was in the act of untying Lucius, who embarrassingly admitted to falling prey to a rope trap that brought he and Burt down into the grasp of the men we’d just defeated.

Once Lucius gained his feet, the man proved eager to be gone. Can’t say I blame him. After the ordeal he and his mount suffered here, I’d be desiring to get on my way, as well. On his way out, he told us to visit the Great Tower, home of the Sable Company. Apparently, our deeds this day warranted an additional reward beyond our guard pay.

Calcedon tidied up the thugs all snug in a rope while I performed a little first aid to bring a couple back around to consciousness. We had three prisoners, and I thought it only fair that they carry the unconscious one back to the Citadel themselves. Our work was done. Merethyl confirmed that none of these men belonged to any of the gangs in Korvosa, so there would be no follow-up attempts on our lives by silly hoodlums thinking vengeance was a good idea. Again, the investigator had received the worst of the fight, so Glannin crushed up some old chicken bones he happened to have stored on him somewhere and used the marrow within to heal the elf’s wounds. I’ll concede to liking the moldy bread better.

We escorted our prisoners back to Citadel Volshyenek and provided our report of all that happened to complete our assignment. As there were no other current tasks for us to fulfill for the evening, we decided to retire to House Fordyce for the night and check back in the morning.

18-21 Gozran, 4715

The next four days went by rather uneventfully. One of the mundane courier missions issued by the field marshal took us near enough the Great Tower to collect that small reward for saving Lucius and Burt, but that settled the only real excitement in that stretch of days. We were able to sell some of the valuables we’d recovered in the days previous through Merethyl’s contacts on the street, since doing so in shops was impossible in the current economic climate. At the nobleman’s residence, we divvied up the spoils of the last couple days, sans the one thousand gold we’d agreed beforehand would be given to Calcedon to use in stimulating the economy however it could be done. Glannin grumbled a bit at relinquishing such a sum, but I’ve heard dwarves gripe louder than others at giving away their gold.

Merethyl also managed to collect a fair amount of interesting information from his streetwise contacts throughout, as well. The conditions in Old Korvosa continued to deteriorate. I was able to drop off some funds at the Last Azlanti’s temple in that time to help with the feeding and clothing of those taking refuge there. I hadn’t time to do much else for them, but I informed Brother Vectorion to send word to the Citadel immediately if the temple needed aid of any kind. I would receive word there and come the moment I got the message.

It seemed that a butcher sought to aid the district as best he could be giving away free meat to those in need of food. I am grateful to hear that those who have the capability of helping their neighbors continue to do so. Aroden teaches the importance of such charitableness for the betterment of civilization, and its benefits can be easily pointed to throughout the centuries.

Unfortunately, that was the last of the good news he learned. More distressing news soon followed. Word has gotten out that the Hellknights have given up on the city altogether and are leaving. As mercenary authorities paid by the city’s coffers (specifically by the royal coffers), their departure provides a good indication of Korvosa’s dilapidated economy. Even worse, Eel’s End—a quintuplet of docked boats of vice run by the ill-reputed Devargo Bavarsi—is being hailed as the safest place in the district because they still have loyal guards to keep watch at the place. Lastly, rumors have that small, strange creatures known as chokers are infesting The Shingles in Old Korvosa. Some report having seen the malicious little creatures often upon the rooftop paths, which bodes ill for certain. The time fast approaches that something will need to be done in the district that I now call home, whether the Guard wish to do it or not. I’ll not stand by why the poorest lives in the city suffer immensely from worse neglect. Civilizations do not prosper when so many who are ailing and incapable are left to fend for themselves against such great dangers. The Hellknights were rarely my favorite enforcers, but without the presence of the Hellknights at all, Old Korvosans have no chance of overcoming such threats on their own.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:35 pm

21 Gozran, 4715 – Evening

At the end of our patrol this evening, we paid a visit to the Traveling Man tavern to ensure that the Otyugh plug remained in fine working condition. Since the start of this chaos in the city, all authority have been overworked and unable to perform the rather common task of feeding the sewer beasts, so some concern had arisen that perhaps the otyughs below had grown hungry enough to attempt an uprising of their own. Upon inspecting the plug, we identified no issues with it, thankfully.

In the midst of our examination of the plug, a rather inebriated man in the uniform of the Korvosan Guard called out to our dwarven colleague, “Nefi!” Apparently, Glannin resembled a dwarven friend of this fellow, though his drunken condition may well have assisted in the mistaken identity. Baffled, Glannin started to inform the drunkard that he knew no one by that name, but then the man offered to buy us a round for his long-lost friend, Nefi, and our dwarf’s tune instantly changed—as, evidently, did his name.

Merethyl recognized the fellow as we followed him in: Grau Soldotto, a relatively well-liked Watch Sergeant among the Guard. As he informed us of this tidbit of information, it wasn’t at all difficult to hear the strain in his voice. Our investigator disliked the finding a Watch Sergeant drunk in a tavern rather than doing his job to help keep the people of Korvosa safe. Honestly, I can’t argue with that, though I’ve seen enough people hit hard times and lose themselves there to be completely jaded against the man.

Grau provided us an abbreviated version of his life story, starting with his beginnings in Sandpoint as a youngster. Adventure and the pride of youth brought him to Korvosa, where the love of a woman—a red-headed lass, named Sabena—kept him from going elsewhere. He trained in martial combat under van Carlo, who still owns and operates the sword academy in the city. Sadly, the woman cared more for prestige than him, and she also got involved with the academy master, which led to a falling out between the two men. While Grau obviously sounded pained by the lost relationship, he was convinced too much animosity remained for any reconciliation. Thus, he did what so many love-scorned youths tend to turn to in their despair: He joined the military . . . or the Korvosan Guard. Close enough.

Now, he spent his days lost in a drunken stupor at the Traveling Man, his will all but broken by the current tragedy within the city. As so often proved to be the case, a man who lost his way years ago and had yet to find it lacked the strength to overcome adversity when it struck home the hardest. Merethyl saw only a man turning his back on the city when it needed him most—especially a man respected and appreciated by his subordinates, and he denounced the man severely for that poor choice. Grau emphasized having never seen the city turn on itself like this in the past, and he admitted to being disillusioned in its ability to recover due to the harsh, deadly riots and rebellion, which only increased the vitriol thrown at him by Merethyl. Glannin and I sought to offset the sting some by also impressing upon the man the importance of his getting back to his duty, as there were a great many people counting on him—both the common folk and his fellow guard. It took a great deal of convincing, but eventually the man came to see things our way, and he made the journey back to the southern part of the Midlands to report again at the Citadel Volshyenek.

22 Gozran, 4715 – Morning

This morning, we reported back to the Citadel for our allotted mission from Field Marshal Croft, who first made certain to thank us for bringing Grau back to the Guard. Immediately after, she explained about a man named Varik Vancaskerkin, yet another member of the city guard who renounced them due to his dislike of the new queen. What’s more, he convinced others of the guard to follow him in this desertion. The lot of them were holed up at an old butcher shop in North Point, known as All the World’s Meat, handing free food out to the poor. His motivations confused her, as Varik had never cared much for politics, yet this move smelled of political insurrection at its core. Our mission, then, required us to apprehend Varik and discover the true purpose behind his odd decision to give up on the Guard. Naturally, I was glad that the Field Marshal stressed her desire that we take the man alive.

As we neared 22 Stirge Street, the long line of starving poor that extended down the street in the opposite direction promised another riot if we marched in the front doors to close this operation down. Granted, we weren’t convinced yet that completely ending this charitable giveaway was necessary, but we decided to peruse the entire shop for another way in just in case. A fenced pen to the side held a pair of cows and a trio of pigs—probably the first fresh meat I’d seen in the city since the troubles began. The sight raised questions as to where the livestock came from? How did they get these animals into the city without word spreading far and wide? Perhaps the most important question: Who supplied them? I’d seen the brand on the cattle before, so it must have been from one of the nearby farmers, but I couldn’t recognize exactly to whom it belonged.

A gate resided just after the livestock, with a set of doors beyond it hidden well enough from the street to serve as a viable entrance for us. Neither were locked, so we ambled on in like we owned the place.

Calcedon kept a cordial and even tone with the three butchers that worked the back of the shop, explaining to them that we were here on behalf of the Korvosan Guard to claim Varik Vancaskerkin. We wanted no trouble, he assured them, and had no design on the rest of them—Calcedon had met us on the road, so had not been present for the briefing, and he knew not that all of these men were deserters of the guard. Even so, I saw nothing wrong with his case, as Varik had been the ringleader according to the information we received, so apprehending him seemed the best option for us. The largest of the men spoke for the rest and refused to acquiesce to Calcedon’s request. Whether simply misguided or insanely itching for a fight, the men spurned our nobleman’s peaceful overtures. Noting their aggressiveness, Glannin sighed with grief or glee and warned them, “If any die, I lose gold, so just lay down your weapons.”

I, likewise, told them not to draw their weapons, as we wanted no bloodshed, and my words were laced with power. As I spoke them, however, I drew mine own sword and maintained a low, nonthreatening guard as I moved to cover the nearest of them. I felt it best to get close since they each had a bow nearby. Glannin did the same, but moved toward the larger man that considered himself the leader, and the dwarf spewed threats the entire way that actually appeared to rattle his opponent’s confidence.

Not enough, unfortunately. The man took a shot at Glannin, as did the farthest foe with his bow, but both proved inaccurate. Likewise, the man I’d closed on forsook his bow and drew his sword, stabbing at me. That’s exactly why I’d kept my guard low, and I successfully parried the quick lunge. Inspirational violin music filled the butcher shop as Merethyl entered the fray with a swing of his cane but failed to connect. Words of power escaped Syrical lips—I’m not sure his target with them, but if they were intended for my opponent, I’m sorry to say they had no visual effect.

I used Merethyl’s miss as a distraction to step around the enemy and clock him in the back of the head with my pommel. It rattled the man, but not enough to help Merethyl’s next attack. I couldn’t have been prouder of our dwarf, who stalled on an attack against the big fella and demanded the man back down and surrender. Again, the man spurned the command, but the fear of Glannin’s words etched clearly upon his face! He dropped the bow in his hand and fetched a sword, but swung it wildly at Glannin and whiffed just as wildly. The bowman at the back of the room stuck an arrow in the dwarf, though I’m uncertain he even felt it. Syrical’s words were almost drowned out by Calcedon’s playing, but in an instant the music went away, and the nobleman passed by us to help Glannin with the larger man.

Merethyl and I circled our foe. The enemy cried out for Baldrago, and when he took his eyes away from me for a split second, I struck low and hamstrung the man. He crumpled to the ground with barely a sound and passed out from the pain. Now freed from an opponent, the elven investigator pulled out a potion and consumed it.
I turned in time to see Glannin crack the big man over the head with the flat of his axe. His bell rung, the large one staggered back a step and made a half-hearted swing at the dwarf that came nowhere close to him. The third man’s confidence was badly shaken behind them. Rather than launch another arrow, he flung away his bow in favor of the longsword, but instead of attacking anyone, he sought to flee the area. Calcedon had positioned himself close enough to the man that he stuck out with his fauchard to hit the enemy combatant hard, though not hard enough to prevent his retreat to the door leading toward the front of the shop. Calcedon whipped about to trip up the big man, then repositioned to within reach of the one fleeing. Merethyl ran up to stop the man from getting away, as well.

Our elven arcanist came over to check upon the unconscious one on the ground, so I followed in the footsteps of the investigator and tried to grab hold of the retreating man. He saw me coming and took a reckless swing that forced me to duck out of the way, which foiled my grapple attempt. Behind, Glannin clocked his oversized opponent nonlethally again, and after a few hard knocks from the dwarf the big man looked about ready to fall over with his next exertion. Obviously stronger than he looked, he managed a swing at Glannin without dropping into unconsciousness, but the bad miss only confirmed him in no condition to fight any longer.

Two doors flung open, the first by our fleeing butcher, but he failed to get far before Calcedon tripped him up, and I pummeled him upside the head to dull his wits. The second opened to a newcomer—probably Baldrago, who bellowed out, “What’s going on in here?” Calcedon attempted to trip Baldrago quickly, but the newcomer leaped over the low swipe. Merethyl confronted the man and said simply, “Looking for Varik.”

“Busy at the moment,” Baldrago replied, then beat a hasty retreat from whence he came.

Back where we came in, Syrical noticed the man he’d just helped to stabilize coming back to consciousness, so the wizard snatched the man’s longsword and told him to stay down. With eyes as big as saucers, the defeated figure merely nodded in agreement and failed to move.

I recognized that the arrow wound in Glannin’s shoulder bled more severely now and rushed over to help him. That turned out to be easier than expected, since the big man remained beaten bloody and on the floor. I cracked him alongside the head with the flat of my blade and ended his part in the fight. Glannin only nodded at me, then felt at the wound and healed it.

Merethyl chased the fleeing Baldrago into a hall with stairs leading to the second floor and a door that exited into the front shop. The last I heard, the investigator asked if Baldrago was Varik.

Calcedon nearly followed the elf after Baldrago, but noticed at the last second that the one I thought I’d knocked unconscious was actually crawling sneakily through the door. He smashed his fauchard into the floor beside the man as a warning against his leaving, but the man panicked and slammed the door in his face, shouting through it that “they made him do it.” With a small shake of the head, the head of House Fordyce opened the door to find the frightened enemy still on the floor. In a nonthreatening, almost bored tone, he told the man not to move, to discard his weapons, and, if he did those things, the nobleman would spare his life and listen to his story.

Unsure as to how long he could maintain his masquerade with the longsword, Syrical requested aid with the man. Instead, Glannin tied up the big guy, while I cast a quick orison to ensure none of the meat in this room was poisoned. Seeing that our wizard still had the situation well in hand, I tipped my head in salute at the elf and exited the room through the door where Merethyl had gone after Baldrago. The investigator pointed at the stairs, so I accepted the cue and headed straight towards them, though he beat me to them and started up before me. I cast a spell of protection on myself and followed.

By the time I reached the top of the stairs, Merethyl had already traded weak blows with the man he thought to be Varik. I swung around the elf to provide a second front, if necessary, but before any additional attacks would be made, a second man in the uniform of the Korvosan Guard entered from a side office. There was something of a Katapeshan standoff at that point, with everyone wielding weapons, yet no one truly wanting to use them until we all knew who was who and what was what. The new arrival turned out to be Varik, in fact, and he accused us of attacking his butcher shop. I set the man straight by telling him that we did no such thing. Truthfully, I explained that we entered with no weapons unsheathed and expressed our will to conduct our business peacefully. When he nodded toward the blades in our hand, I informed him that we hadn’t drawn blades until the men downstairs became aggressive toward us when we said we were here for you. To prove the validity of our intentions, I told him there wasn’t a single dead man downstairs, though I don’t suppose we would have been given the same courtesy had roles been reversed.

The situation diffused a touch at that point, with Varik motioning for his guard to back away and lower his blade, which he did. Merethyl and I followed suit. We learned that the livestock outside came from farmers in the countryside, as we’d thought with the brands, and that it’s moved under guard through the city at night. The cost of it paid to the farmers is exorbitant, and since this meat gets passed on to the people for no cost, that begs the question: Who’s backing it? I’ll make note the point’s in present tense because we’ve still not learned that bit of information.
While carrying on this discussion, Calcedon joined us with some disturbing news: some of the meat being served to the masses was human in origin. Hearing that infuriated me, I’ll admit. Varik denied the very possibility of it, but I peered to the other man in the room and asked him about the validity of the report. He denied it . . . but he was lying. This man knew, and it disgusted me. He disgusted me, and I told him as much. Varik demanded proof, and Calcedon relayed that one of the men captured below had spilled the truth of these butchers. So, we decided to go down and listen to the story of the prisoner. Descending the stairs, I made it evident to the second man in the room that I knew he had lied, that he had provided me with every tell I needed to determine the truth from him, and that only my belief in civilized courts adjudicating the law righteously currently permitted him to maintain his life. He read the truth in my eyes, and it frightened him. It should. I am grateful for my faith in the Last Azlanti for precisely situations like this.

The confessor disclosed the entire ring to us below. How these men were mercenaries. How, on their missions, they butchered people and brought them back to this shop for use as additional meat to provide for the masses. So, there it was, laid out before us in all its nauseating detail by a man whose guilty conscience could not abide the corruption he squatted in. The bile that built in my stomach and threatened to overflow it sickened me, and though I would neither condone nor request leniency for this man’s crimes, I will acknowledge appreciation for the strength and courage it took for him to admit these wrongs that incriminated himself and all around him.

With my knowledge of human anatomy, I substantiated his report by identifying the differences between human and animal meat that—to his credit—turned the stomach of Varik. He had been honest with us above: he knew nothing about any of this. After being enlightened of its occurrence, however, Varik placed his wrists together in submission to authoritative action. We bound him and placed him with the others, keeping the one that reported it all separated from his former compatriots.

Regrettably, two of these monsters fled the scene before we could apprehend them: Baldrago and an accomplice that had been working the front of the shop. After their escape, the shop had been left unattended, and people pretty much cleared out the meat up there. The thought of what some of them will be eating was revolting, but there’s nothing for it now. Calcedon announced to those gathered that no more meat could be handed out today, which was met with many grumbles, but he assured them that whatever remained would later be handed out at no cost at a later time. The crowd shuffled away crestfallen.

Deciding to perform a thorough search of the butcher shop so no evidence to this heinous crime would be left behind, we performed a room-by-room inspection. In the primary butchery room, we discovered the grate loose, as if it were constantly opened for something more than just runoff. Glannin, Merethyl, and I climbed down into it expecting to find blood and filth. Instead, we observed an area of cleanliness unprecedented anywhere else in the shop!

A moment later, we met the cleaners—a trio of reefclaws that attacked Merethyl from beneath the water’s surface. The space was cramped, so Merethyl faced the brunt of the threat himself. I attempted to meditate and aid him through the help of Aroden with a pecular power granted me by the Last Azlanti to speed up one’s combat effectiveness for a short time. Calcedon used the reach of his fauchard, and Syrical blasted one of the creatures with his wand of force bolts to aid the investigator. After the first two creatures died, Glannin and I pushed forward to aid, though I succeeded in doing little else but getting struck by one of their wicked claws. There must have been something secreted from it or something, because I have not felt right since. A weakness has come over me that I just can’t shake.

The third marine monster died from Calcedon’s blade.

We uncovered little of interest in this area, so it’s entirely possible the reefclaws purpose here was to clean the area of any incriminating evidence of their human butchery. One piece of evidence left behind in a crack was a finger bone wearing a mithril ring with slivers of obsidian. Perhaps a victim?

We escorted the prisoners back to the Citadel and dropped them off in custody of the guard before being dismissed with a pat on the back for a job well done. All went about their business separately, as we each had things we desired to do. I’m trying to rest from this weakness that overtaken me since the reefclaw fight by writing in my journal, but I’m not feeling any better. Maybe in the morning.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:55 pm

23 Gozran, 4715 – Morning

Calcedon looked into the meat situation last night to consider keeping a flow of beef and pork moving through the city for cheap, but learned that those farmers giving up their cattle and swine were being paid a handsome sum for it. This, of course, raised the question again of where that large sum of money was coming from. Those pathetic imposters of men that we apprehended certainly had nothing to do with that, so who? Perhaps someone like Amin Jalento could have afforded such an expense, but I certainly hope it wasn’t he, as I had respect for the man when we spoke to him, and I would quickly lose any semblance of it if we discovered he financed the selling of human meat for the poor. It’s possible the backer failed to know of the atrocity his or her employees were performing, but it’s also difficult to hold such high idealism in the face of what was happening. Finding the backer could easily become our top priority in the days to come.

Merethyl also worked through the night in his own way, collecting rumors as they spread throughout the city. Apparently, there’s talk that agents of Magnimar have come to Korvosa to sow dissent among its populace and make the riots worse. Having just come back from Magnimar a few months ago after receiving a tip from a young Pathfinder scholar that a man with some knowledge of Aroden was currently stationed there at a new lodge, I hope such a rumor proves false. My visit to the City of Monuments was a short one, but I’ll admit to liking the place. Sadly, the subject of my journey there confirmed the sorrowful hypothesis that a severe lack of faith remains in the world. I know Aroden has a plan with this silence to validate the importance of faith . . . I persist in holding out hope and adapting my techniques to bring the Last Azlanti back to the forefront of this world’s religions, but I still struggle to win many converts back to his ways. Humanity would thrive with the truths taught by him if only they would listen and put their faith back where it belongs.

Of less significance—though Merethyl seemed to dwell on plenty—was information about a past criminal of Korvosa known as the Keylock Killer. He overheard a couple old men bantering about this serial killer that vanished after slaying nine in the city. They thought him one of the arbiters of Korvosa in his day, which our investigator reminded us was 4697 AR. He spoke of a lot more on the killer, but I’ll admit to tuning it out after a while, since my responsibility aimed more at the present than nearly 20 years in the past.

We all gathered at House Fordyce come morning and set out for Citadel Volshyenek to acquire our daily duty. Word everywhere on the street proclaimed the return of the Hellknights to Korvosa, which, for the first time in my stay here, I reacted to positively. In drastic times like this, Old Korvosa needed their presence in the city to stop from tearing itself apart.

Once again, Field Marshal Croft hosted a visitor to her office when we entered: Vancarlo Orisini. Yes, the same sword master whom Grau Soldotto had spoken about just the other day at the Traveling Man in North Point. He appeared embarrassed when I brought up his old friend’s name, but also thanked us for helping the man. In an effort to change the subject, the sword master inquired as to our thoughts on the return of the Hellknights, to which both Calcedon and I spoke up in favor of them, despite our common disagreement with the mercenary band normally. Perhaps tangentially here, I suddenly wonder why the Hellknights returned? When they disappeared from Korvosa, there were rumors about how the money had run out, and, without pay, the mercenaries not only refused to participate in helping the city but decided to wash their hands of the city all together. Yet, now, they’ve returned. It must be considered where the money to bring them back has come from, then. The city has made a turn for the better, I believe, but it’s not improved significantly yet. It leads me to contemplate a connection between the money that fueled All the World’s Meat and the resurgence of the Hellknights . . . Might it come from the same source?

Those thoughts aside, Vancarlo mentioned a certain Chelaxian ambassador by the name of Darvayne Gios Amprei that has threatened Korvosa with economic sanctions and embargos that would further cripple the already listing economy of the city. He’s learned that this ambassador tends to frequent Eel’s End, where the King of Spiders, Devargo Barvasi, has tendrils in the underworld that stretch out far and wide. I’ve had dealings with Eel’s End more than once, as it’s one of the criminal establishments in Old Korvosa that pays the Vice Tax to operate unhindered, and that fact sits ill in my stomach. Thus, I’ve occasionally gone there to voice my displeasure to the employees and inform them of the great wrongs they commit against the city and civilization. When a connection between this corrupt Chelaxian ambassador and the King of Spiders was brought up, I tingled with anticipation that perhaps this would be an opportunity to bring down the whole operation.

Regrettably, my hopes were to be dashed and stomped upon for good measure . . . .

Instead, the Field Marshal wished to dig up dirt on Ambassador Amprei and believed that Barvasi would have the dirt she required in his possession. Rather than close up Eel’s End, she ordered us to waltz in there as unknowns to the Korvosan Guard and obtain it. She even granted us a thousand gold coin to help sway the villain of Eel’s End into giving up the desired information. Just like that, what started as a dream come true had become a waking nightmare. We were to work with a “lesser evil” to bring down a greater one in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” ploy. Let me make this abundantly clear to any that might one day read this: I hate this “means-to-an-end” ridiculousness. You cannot do the wrong thing for a right reason, no matter how much good you may think may come from it, and when you settle for one evil to stop another evil, it’s important to consider that you’re still settling with evil. Even when you succeed, no good comes from it, because you capitulated to the wrong, and the wrong will come back on you somewhere down the road. I voiced my displeasure of this course of action, but the Field Marshal--though sympathetic to my argument—commanded the deed be done.

And, so, we headed north to Old Korvosa. Vancarlo accompanied us, since his academy resided in the same district. He questioned us about our thoughts concerning Queen Ileosa, though I’m not so sure he received many satisfying answers in return. Calcedon praised the skills of Merethyl and I in detecting lies when we had met her at the castle and explained that he had no reason to believe her anything but grieving due to our perceiving no lie from her lips. Merethyl believed it suspicious that the economy collapsed so quickly, but he issued no blame toward the queen directly. Vancarlo responded to our answers by informing us that rumors have the king dying from some form of incurable leprosy, but the lot of us refuted that as making no sense at all. Royalty would have enough money to easily cure any disease, no matter how strong, and I’ve not yet heard of the disease that powerful magic couldn’t cure. Admittedly, Merethyl won this round of conversation when he brought up lycanthropy as a possible disease that couldn’t be cured, though I refuted that possibility as well. He saved face when he admitted that lycanthropy might be curable, but it would at least give the king pause (paws). I had no response to that.

Vancarlo departed our company after crossing the bridge into Old Korvosa. We wished him well and continued on our way. During the last leg to Eel’s End, I confided in the others that I’m not much liked at that establishment. Calcedon also admitted that he had ill experience there as well and knew not if it might come back on him during our visit. I explained that I’d not be speaking much in our current endeavor, because I despised the idea of giving the King of Spiders any money at all to be used for his nefarious purposes, and I believed myself incapable of not jeopardizing the mission if words escaped me even once. The nobleman sounded as sympathetic as the Field Marshal had towards my take on this, but, likewise, set his sights on successfully completing this goal. He assured his intentions were to keep as much of that thousand gold out of the crime lord’s hands as possible. I wanted to say that any additional gold in his hand would be too much, yet I battled with myself to not outwardly sound too defeatist. Instead, I merely accepted that and let the no-win situation commence.

A relatively quiet Eel’s End met us at the pier with only a few guards and loiterers walking about the boardwalk. We bypassed them all and progressed to the deck of the primary ship that the King of Spiders frequents. Though the guards outside the cabin door tried to impede our passage with the argument that Barvasi would be indisposed the whole day, Calcedon’s rebuttal that he sought to trade secrets and came from old money persuaded the guard to permit us entry.

We entered into a throne room almost as lavish as that in which the Crimson Throne resides. Half-a-dozen men entertained themselves at a pair of tables, and the King of Spiders sat upon his throne in the center of the back wall. Huge numbers of spiders—some the size of a fist—scampered along the walls and ceiling, helping to solidify Barvasi’s nickname. There’s speculation that the crime lord has the blood of fiends coursing through his veins, enabling him to communicate with those spiders. A caged house drake looking quite the worse for wear acted as a central decoration to the room.

Calcedon took the lead in our dealings with the Spider. The negotiation was rather straight forward, as Calcedon chose to deal relatively quickly and to the point. We sought scandal on the Chelaxian ambassador; the Spider boasted of having just such a delicate matter on hand but demanded payment of 1,500 gold for it. He assured us that gold in hand interested him more than a healthy economy for the city. Truly, the words of a patriot. Our initial offer had been 400 gold, and I cringed as Calcedon raised it to 900 gold—nearly the entirety of our allotment. I fought to stay quiet in that moment, knowing that anything I said would ruin any chance for a deal, despite not at all wishing to make a deal. The stain this entire affair puts on my soul will require atonement of some significance, I fear . . . . How could I sit idly by—or even participate!—with this corruption happening right before my eyes. Nothing about this affair felt legitimate to me. To make matters worse, Barvasi spurned the offer as the nobleman laid it out. Needing to pamper his bloated ego, the crime lord necessitated entertainment at our expense in addition to the payment. A game of knivesies, he called it, would be required. I’d heard of the game in passing but knew nothing of its rules.

I watched as Merethyl volunteered to participate, and one of the men in the room before us did the same. Naturally, there existed a gambling element to this violent game, as I learned when my companions started tossing gold coins—save for Glannin, who cast a few copper—upon the table behind the investigator, and the Spider’s cronies did the same, but in greater monetary increments. Then they placed a dagger at the center of the table and told them to get on with it. For the record, this entire escapade had covered me in enough layers of filth that I resolved to stay out of the betting entirely.

The dangerous game failed to go well for our companion. His opponent snatched up the dagger, leaving him to swipe up coin, I suppose. It seemed a silly game to me. Merethyl managed to dodge the stabbing dagger twice to scoop up gold coins, but then the Spider’s man lunged forward and knocked him off the table. Thus, the game ended. Rather quick, anticlimactic, and uninteresting the whole thing.

Naturally, pride had to get in the way, and we couldn’t leave it at that. Our noble took it upon himself to defend the honor of our investigator and another wager ensued. It’s entirely possible that Calcedon believed a victory to be important to impress the Spider and pride had nothing to do with his decision to repeat this ridiculousness. Either way . . . Whatever. The only difference between the two matches was Calcedon got the dagger, more blood spilled, and our side proved victorious.

Barvasi grinned his congratulations to Calcedon for the victory and agreed to the 900 gold for letters that showed proof that Ambassador Amprei had an affair with a noble’s wife. We’ve since read the letters, and they were . . . well, embarrassing, to say the least. Certainly enough to stop the man from his plot to blackmail Korvosa economically.

Just when I thought the job completed and the way opened for us to leave, Syrical petitioned the Spider about purchasing the beaten house drake. Amused, Barvasi enticed our wizard with the possibility of a transaction, then slammed the door shut by setting the price at five thousand gold—a staggering price he undoubtedly knew impossible for Syrical to match. To his credit, Syrical attempted to reason with the man, but the Spider only toyed with him by lowering the price to three thousand—still an astronomical figure. The elven wizard considered the number for a short time before acquiescing that the price point remained too high and, with his common stoicism, informed the crime lord that perhaps he would be back at a later time to meet the asking price if he would simply keep the house drake in healthy condition. No promises were forthcoming.

All talking points now concluded, our party began filing out of the room to Barvasi’s mocking invitation for our return at any time we’d like. I could hold it in no longer. Our job done and the documents in our hands, I stopped in the doorway to turn about on the Spider and remind him briefly of his mistake. “I’ll remember that,” I said, voice even but with underlying hostility, “You invited me back.” I observed a quirk of his eyebrow as I about-faced and strode away.

On our way back to deliver the letters to the Citadel, Merethyl suddenly spoke up in the middle of the street that someone just told him to leave money on the road and go. Having heard nothing of the sort, we all stared in confusion at the investigator until something openly suggested the same to Glannin from the rooftops . . . and the dwarf complied! We all gawked as he continued up the road, when out of nowhere a quartet of imps appeared and attacked.

The little devils struck at all of us save Syrical—almost ironic considering how often the wizard speaks scathingly of them. A barb slipped between the links in my chain shirt just below the neckline, and I felt poison course into my bloodstream. Glannin’s armor actually performed its task admirably, unlike my own, while Merethyl and Calcedon successfully dodged their attackers. Calcedon displayed some handy fauchard work by cutting deeply into the devil that closed on him, then stepping away from its poking tail to slash the imp on Merethyl. Syrical’s wand of missiles exited its place at his belt and struck one of the little creatures hard, which he then followed up by informing the rest of us that silver acted as a foil to the unnatural hardness of their skin. I left the longsword in its sheath at my side and went for the silver dagger given me a couple days ago instead, but the silvered weapons bypass nothing if they don’t make contact. The others fared no better than I on their opening salvo.

The frenzy of battle continued in a chaotic whirlwind, with the imps lashing out with barbed tails but scoring no significant hits, and our party obliging them in kind. Only two notable exceptions occurred: the imp that attacked Glannin successfully entangled itself in his beard, and Syrical blasted away with his wand repeatedly, battering our foes this way and that with those force missiles. I recognized a growing hitch in my step, probably induced by the poison, and moved away from the fight to incur judgment on the little devils and pray for the divine favor of Aroden on myself. Just as I finished my quick prayer, a pair of tiny creatures swooshed by me in a blur to strike repeatedly at the imp on Merethyl.

The Korvosan War of house drake versus imp spurred immediate retaliation by the devils against the newcomers. They traded blows, but the imp received the worst of it and fell dead to the ground. The devil pestering me accomplished its task a second time. My legs rejected all calls by my brain to move, and my arm barely held enough coordination to thrust the dagger. It practically goes without saying that it missed the mark. Calcedon’s fauchard sliced the air before me, attempting to cut down the imp making it a bad day for me, but it dodged out of the way. Glannin growled at the touch of a barbed tail and retaliated in kind with a mighty swing of his axe that nearly cleaved the creature in twain. Being a devil, it somehow survived the wicked hit.

Staggering away from the little beast making a pincushion of me, it attempted to follow immediately and took three hard shots from a nearby Glannin, Calcedon, and finally me. As noted, my dagger is silvered, yet it failed to penetrate the devil’s skin. Taken aback by the failure, the imp stabbed me again with a gleeful cackle. Calcedon took a barb in the back, and I’ve never believed myself to be as much a liability to my companions as I did at that moment. The dwarf screamed at my opponent with surprising malice that appeared to actually hurt the thing! I shouted that my silver dagger had no affect on the thing, yet stabbed out with it again at the imp, only to miss poorly. In frustration, I threw the small weapon to the ground and almost followed it! Recognizing weakness, the imp rushed in to finish me, but Calcedon proved the quicker of the two, and the noble’s polearm ended the devil’s corrupted life.

The remaining imps failed to barb the house drake or Calcedon, while taking damage from the respective might of Glannin, Merethyl, and Syrical, whose magical missile barrage continuously pounded the one wrestling with the drake. Finally having enough, our last two mischievous attackers fled the battle. Glannin clipped one on its way out but did nothing to it. The force missile from Syrical’s wand indisputably did, however, as the tiny devil dropped from the sky. The house drakes hurried off into the night after the lone survivor, not wanting their mortal enemy to escape.

Seeing the last of the imps dart off, I stumbled back against the wall trying to take a step away from it. My heart unceasingly pumped the poison throughout my body, and while my strength remained, my coordination had all but departed from me. Glannin moved to support me, and I noted the undeniable warmth of his unrecognizable healing magic flow through me, though it did nothing to restore any deftness to my musculature. Merethyl almost nonchalantly handed me his sword cane, which I traded my longsword for additional aid in walking. Even so, I required my dwarven companion to help balance me, and the travel to the Citadel yet abiding went by extraordinarily slowly.

The letters given to the Field Marshal were exactly what she had hoped they’d be, which is all I care to write about this mission anymore. Never have I been so disappointed with a success in my life.

Field Marshal Croft mercifully gave us the rest of the day off, despite the early hour. We retired back to House Fordyce, and Calcedon summoned a unique Shelyn cleric to heal some of the poison damage done to me. She was Shoanti by ethnicity, and her name was Eats-With-Sparrows. Though her language was a bit rough, she proved immensely cordial and helpful. She even passed on a rumor to us that we’d previously not heard about House Ornellos seeking to depose the queen.

Later, Calcedon and a couple of the others went back to the Citadel as I rested from the ordeals of the day. They questioned the helpful prisoner there about who bank-rolled the operation at All the World’s Meats. Though reluctant to say at first, the man eventually caved and conveyed that the primary backer was none other than House Arkona . . . Yet another enemy of mine from Old Korvosa.

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

The Sub-Creator

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

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Sep 29, 2018 9:52 pm

24 Gozran, 4715 – Morning

Syrical called us all together first thing in the morning, clearly an elf on a mission. He wore . . . something . . . resembling armor, yet before a single question could appropriately follow the quizzical stare we all fixed on him, he assured us the . . . armor . . . was intended to throw off attackers from his being a magic user. Glannin practically guffawed and would have, I suspect, had the dwarf not been baffled by the wizard’s choice of weapon: a club. Apparently, Syrical chose a simple, wooden weapon over Glannin’s preferred axe due to weight distribution. Clubs were wood and light, while axes were heavy and unwieldly for an arm that had never swung one. Of course, the elf blanched at the thought of every having to use the club, as well, but it proved lighter to carry around, and so it won out.

Explanations for the new equipment aside, Syrical informed us that after extensive research on the imp from the day before by a plethora of sources he knew and trusted explicitly, there appeared nothing out-of-the-ordinary concerning the devil’s makeup that made it immune to silver. He postulated, then, that the imp had been protected by magic—magic not inherently possessed by them. This led him to speculate that the Academae was to blame for it. Almost since I’ve come to know the elf, he’s had a grudge against the Academae, and while I sensed he earnestly believed this logic chain, he tried far too hard to convince us of the connection. Such adamance is typically indicative of one who wants desperately for something to be true regardless of reality. A leap in logic unsubstantiated by any sort of real evidence to back it save for a strong conviction borne from a heavy grudge.

A conversation about whether the silver dagger was actually silver followed, but Glannin quickly put that issue to bed when he verified the weapon as silvered.

Then came Syrical’s giant leap: Due to his tirade against imps before the Spider, he claimed the crime lord sent the tiny devils to assassinate us. Honestly, he didn’t even believe that argument, which made it incredibly easy to see through. Next came the catalyst for the preceding argument: Rescue the forlorn drake caged in the Spider’s throne room, and we could discover the validity of the far-reaching conjecture. Thus, the debate about stealing Barvasi’s little dragon began. “Theft is illegal.” “The drake is a sentient creature. Can you steal a sentient being? It’s akin to freeing a slave.” “Slavery is legal in Korvosa, so the law wouldn’t side with us if we swept in and took the drake.” Not much arose from the discussion. Everyone else agreed that the time for such a heist wasn’t now—I disagree with it on principle of it’s breaking the law, but there existed talk of scoping out Eel’s End for a future raid. I don’t believe I could participate in such a raid. As much as I abhor slavery, the proper way to tackle such a deplorable practice continues to be through proper, lawful channels. Theft of the Spider’s property may vex him, but it would also make him a victim and possibly raise sympathies for him amidst the populace and law enforcement. That’s certainly not what I desire for a man that routinely destroys the lives of others.

Tabling that conversation, we gathered our things and departed for the Citadel to acquire the day’s mission. Upon arrival, we collected our pay for the week of patrols we performed in addition to our other assignments. I thanked Field Marshal Croft sending mine directly to the temple to aid the brothers in their endeavors with the poor in Old Korvosa. That business completed, the field marshal apprised us that the city has been quiet with the return of the Hellknights, and that our regular services wouldn’t be needed after today—though she requested to keep us on retainer should a situation arise with which could help. She confided in her next breath that the Queen was displeased with how the Korvosan Guard and Sable Company had handled things, so she needed to conserve funding as best she could. We all recognized the difficulty of her situation and agreed to be available should she call upon us. In gratitude, she beamed as she conveyed that the dirt we collected on Ambassador Amprei worked to silence him so it wouldn’t get out in Cheliax.

Joy. I’m glad for the city, of course, but I could have gone the rest of my natural life without being reminded of that job. Thinking of it just covered me in grime all over again.

While on our last patrol through Old Korvosa, we decided to make it a dual-purpose trip. Merethyl and Calcedon worked the rumor mill throughout our route, but to little effect. With all the money poured into the district, the poor held up House Arkona as a champion of virtue for the working man . . . which I’m highly dubious about, of course. It’s not a stretch to believe that they’ve nefarious motivations behind their charity, and I’m waiting for the hammer to fall. Furthermore, it seems the people of my home district suspect the Queen of murdering her husband. No great surprise there. In the midst of all this, however, a grand surprise did happen: the skies opened up, and the deluge came down. Since it hadn’t rained in Korvosa for weeks, the hard precipitation arrived with a certain amount of fanfare.

After we crossed the bridge back into North Point, a sudden disturbance rumbled in the very street beneath our feet. Taken somewhat aback, a mighty roar erupted even as the road cracked open and a hideous monster rose out of the sewers. Three waving tentacles—one covered in eyes at its end—splayed out above a massive, gaping maw and the grotesque stench of fecal matter. It bellowed out in broken common, “Is hungry!” as it climbed from the sinkhole.

Still not entirely myself physically, I called upon Aroden’s protective energies and judgment to shield me, then interposed myself between the great monster and the closest of the bystanders to shield him in case the beast—an otyugh—turned its hunger against him. My companions quickly readied themselves in their own ways—Merethyl with a potion, Syrical with a spell on his crossbow—and closed ranks on the disgusting creature. Calcedon moved close enough to get a swing on it, and the blade of his fauchard cut deep into its toughened hide. Thankfully, the people fled quickly before the otyugh opened up with a flurry of attacks against the lot of us. Though the others dodged its attacks, a tentacle pummeled me, then latched on with an iron grip and dragged me closer to it.

The constriction of that tentacle sapped my breath and stole all strength from my attempted swing, which bounced off the beast like a child’s toy sword. With its attention so focused on me, however, Merethyl, Calcedon, and Glannin managed to take chunks out of its hide with repeated strikes. Unappreciative of all the blood-spilling damage, the otyugh dropped me from its grasp and flurried on the others, with Calcedon being the unlucky one to take the hit this time. Still trying to catch my breath, my sword bounced off its leathery skin without even leaving a mark yet again. Calcedon, now in close, raked at the beast with his thorn bracer and left such a deep gash behind that the otyugh undoubtedly regretted pulling him close! Syrical—thus far unsuccessful with his crossbow—fired a third bolt, and a resounding clang ensued. I failed to see where that bolt struck, as it happened on the opposite side of the monster from me.

Merethyl and I attacked simultaneously, grazing it enough to at least blemish the hide with each schmuck. Calcedon showed us up yet again with a ferocious swing that cleaved into the otyugh with tremendous force that slaughtered the beast.

I backed away from the sinkhole in case any other such monsters were nearby and wanted to surface, carrying myself somewhat awkwardly from what felt like a pair of crushed ribs. Not desiring to depart with this new opening to the sewer prominent in the street, I suggested we stand guard until someone else who knew what to do about it arrived. The others recognized the merit in my recommendation, and Calcedon convinced a couple of the people to fetch city officials to do the job. Glannin worked his healing magic on myself and the nobleman with chewed up root paste, spit, and bacon grease. After, the dwarf managed to yank a crossbow bolt that had lodged in the back of his plate armor, examined it for a moment, and observed the fletching appeared much like Syrical’s. He offered the bolt back to the wizard, who denied it being his. Upon commenting about the similarity of the fletching to those in the elf’s bolt quiver, Syrical commented on the likelihood of it being an assassin’s cleverly disguised attempt on Glannin’s life. Listening to this interplay, I couldn’t help but shake my head at the comical absurdity of the exchange.

A stonemason finally showed up with a host of Korvosan Guard to handle the rather large problem in the street two hours later. We left them to it and reported the incident upon returning to the Citadel. Afterward, we escorted Calcedon and Glannin on a short shopping foray, then retired to House Fordyce for the evening. I hired a messenger to run north, learn of the happenings at the Temple of Aroden, then report back to me before the night was through. The brothers disclosed in the return message that the temple remained busy as they fed and clothed those in need. I thanked the boy for his promptness and retired for the night.

25 Gozran, 4715

A lax day . . . the first of its kind for us since the chaos of the king’s death. Still somewhat reeling from the filth fever we contracted at some point earlier, Glannin and I spent the entire day resting peacefully. I did request of Merethyl that he check in with his network of spies in Old Korvosa and see if he could uncover the nefarious workings of House Arkona. He agreed to do so but turned up nothing new. Calcedon spent most of the day down at the docks, toiling at his newly-acquired pier. Later, he sought to get the theater doors opened for the city’s entertainment. They remained skeptical, afraid that they’d not sell the tickets necessary to make it worth their time with Korvosa still suffering from economic woes. Syrical—remembering himself to be a student at the other arcane university in Korvosa—attended classes.

26 Gozran, 4715

We woke to the second heavy downpour in three days. No one from the Guard had arrived to summon us, so it appeared we had another day off. Word around the Fordyce compound was that the Bank of Abadar had reopened its doors, and Calcedon had put Syrical on retainer. That makes two, if you’re keeping count. Only Merethyl and I remain our own men, though I belong to the Last Azlanti . . . so I suppose that leaves only Merethyl. I wish him all the best.

Calcedon continued his dealings with the entertainment industry, now working on the amphitheater. Syrical spent another day with his studies. Merethyl attended the Elven Enclave to hear their take on the goings-on of the city. They admitted the riots were as bad as they’d seen in Korvosa after the death of royalty, but it left them unphased. The enclave stayed locked down since immediately after the whole situated started and waited for the rest of the city to—as he put it—get it together.

In the meantime, finally feeling myself again for the first time in a couple days, I departed from the lower city and went back to Old Korvosa to help the people there. Glannin decided to join me. It felt good to get back out on the street and help those in need again. A part of me feels guilty for all the time I’ve spent away from my brothers-in-faith and the people here that lack so much. I know the work we’ve done in the south has been important, but the inhabitants of Old Korvosa suffer so much from neglect that it’s a battle to leave them for too long regardless of the reason.

Passing out food on the streets, I heard more about how the poor look up to House Arkona due to the high expenditures given to help ease their suffering. Hopelessness has set in with the resignation that the government has abandoned them to their fates here, and drug use has escalated because of it. I evangelized to all I provided bread to, making it clear that faith in something greater would take one much farther than any drug. I’m happy to report that six chose wisely and agreed to attend the temple services.

27 Gozran, 4715 – Morning

Eager to get back out onto the streets, I had awakened at the crack of dawn to load the bread wagons for distribution. An hour later, Brother Pellonius visited me when the job was nearly done, but the cleric appeared white as a clean sheet. When I asked what was wrong, he confided that something he’d seen last night had rattled him to the core. The brother explained that while on his normal bread distribution route near the Traveling Man, he heard a cry of distress from a nearby alley. Normally, being a man of pacifistic nature, he would be reluctant to heed such a cry for fear that he’d be incapable of helping, but, for some reason, this time he peeked into the alley. Glowing orange eyes glared back at him from within the darkness. Terrified, he retreated in all haste from the darkened backstreet. Upon finding his courage again, Brother Pellonius went back, but nothing remained that he could see. When his curiosity found him checking out the alley again earlier this morning, he located blood near a sewer access point. He retreated back and requested that I (and by extension the rest of us) investigate the matter.

I promptly dispatched a runner to retrieve my companions. In thanks for our help, Brother Pellonius provided us with two antitoxins and an antiplague, which I divvied up between Syrical, Merethyl, and Calcedon when they arrived an hour later. I asked the good brother if he would guide us to the particular alleyway where he’d seen the orange eyes and bloodstain, and he agreed to do so.

The Shingles sprawled everywhere overhead in an intense labyrinthine latticework that virtually blocked out the cloudy sky. Despite the rain that Korvosa had seen throughout the night, this umbrella of second-story passages served our needs this morning, enabling us to make a sweep of the area for clues left behind by our mysterious perpetrator. Merethyl easily found the blood stain near the sewer access and reported that the amount of blood present probably meant a wounding rather than a killing, at least here. I discovered two sets of tracks near the blood—one belonged to a human no larger than an adolescent, the other to something far smaller and tipped with claws. Unable to identify what would have left the latter, I pointed them out to our investigator, who speculated their owner to probably be a tiny fey creature of some kind.

The preliminary investigations now completed, we descended into the most popular sewer in all of Avistan. In the dim lighting around the access, I spotted blood from a body obviously dragged north along the sewage passage. Calling attention to it, we all then recognized a massive monstrosity moving through the tunnel toward us—albeit slowly.

Yet another otyugh.

Noticing our attentions turned its way, the large creature suddenly through a temper tantrum . . . Its tentacles smashed in chaotic fashion around the sewer tunnel all around, its feet stamped upon the ground, and its maw gaped in an ear-splitting roar. Thinking back on it, I believe it possible the thing was attempting to intimidate us.

Kidding aside, I must give credit where credit is due: This otyugh reserved some modicum of intelligence wherever a brain resided within that hulking mound of feces-infested flesh. Rather than outright attack us, the creature introduced itself with, “Tog want food!” Not overly keen on fighting another of these beasts after yesterday’s encounter, Calcedon—the only one of us to regularly carry food with him to pacify our ravenous dwarven companion—pitched it a loaf. Of bread. I’m terribly sorry . . . that should have been beneath me.

Tog apparently enjoyed the bread, which bought us the information that some “meat” had passed by here some time ago. A promise ensued that if we fed him more, the otyugh would let us pass too without a fight. Calcedon tossed it more bread, much to the disgust of Glannin, who growled at the munching Tog’s luck. The bread proved insufficient to satisfy the creature, however, which demanded meat or drink and stared down our dwarf as a possible morsel. Not concerned at all, Glannin pulled out some dwarven stout and threw it to the otyugh. That fired up its taste buds so incredibly that Tog praised the “little meats” for the gift and agreed to let us pass.

Apparently, the stout impressed the massive monster so much that it also felt compelled to reward us with “treasures” it had collected in a hole in the wall, which turned out to be a small room. Glannin inspected the room as the rest of us watched Tog for any sort of possible treachery, and he called out the discovery of a leg sticking out of the other useless debris inside. Having learned above that an adolescent had been dragged down here, the thoughts of every one of us immediately darkened, and I pushed forward to get a better look at the appendage. Unable to see in the darkness, I first summoned light into the dug-out chamber. A quick look at the leg provided me with two important bits of information: first, it had belonged to an adolescent, and, second, it had been here less than a day.
Tog sounded concerned that we might take its meat away, and I have no doubt that the otyugh would have fought us without a second thought if we’d given any indication that we planned to do so. The thought of a human being consumed by one of these creatures disgusts me, but it’s tough to blame the thing for its nature. I’d be just as disgusted by a wolf or bear that did the same, but I don’t blame the wolf or bear for doing what is in their nature to do. All that remained here was a leg, so no reason to take it away now. Instead, I inquired as to how this “meat” got here. It responded that Poffoff (some small creature, though to it any of us would be small creatures!) fed it meat to pass freely. Thus, we know now why this otyugh chose to negotiate with us rather than just attack us, like the one on the streets of North Point. It’s trained for this.

We left Tog behind and progressed to where the tunnel ended and perpendicular one crossed it. On the left resided a gate, which the sewer designers placed throughout as a way to keep the otyughs from gathering together. This gate had been intentionally broken, allowing us to go that way if we wished without any difficulty. The tunnel also went to the right without any sort of obstruction. After a short discussion, we decided on the broken gate, but it led to an empty circular chamber a hundred feet on that had once been a lair for another otyugh, or so the remnants of it professed. Tog had stated that there was a brother he’d eaten, and that brother had no doubt lived here.

So, we traveled east along the open sewer tunnel, which terminated at a giant rat statue with strange writing scratched all over it and a large pipe that permitted passage through the southern wall if one chose to squeeze through it. Merethyl moved ahead to examine the statue when an echoed voice projected through the pipe asking if we’d rid the tunnel to the west of the otyugh. We told them to come out, and two men crawled into our sewer line. Named Marixiti and Pellius, they were initially undesirous to tell us what they were even doing down here. Both were terrified when we informed them the otyugh still lived, and in their resignation explained that they often traveled through the sewers because they were safer than the streets. Considering the otyughs that inhabited the sewers, that answer made little sense to me. A little more conversation revealed they worked for the Cerulean Society, the only legal thieves’ guild in Korvosa, as well as a belief by the men that their employers set them up.

I questioned the men about what existed on the other side of the pipe, but they stated they hadn’t explored it very far, so I asked Glannin if he might be willing to investigate, and he agreed.

Unfortunately, while he explored the other side, the rat statue’s eyes began to glow red, and it shouted gibberish at us. Merethyl conveyed the gibberish to be Undercommon. Whatever the language was, it panicked the two men, who immediately attempted to bolt from the statue . . . directly through Calcedon. When the nobleman stood his ground, Marixiti struck him with a staff. Calcedon retaliated but, luckily for the man, missed. Noting his partner’s lack of progress, Pellius jumped across the sewage to my side of the tunnel but failed to bypass me. I placed a hand on his chest somewhat harshly and pushed him against the wall, then growled for him to eliminate the hysteria. The tone in my voice must have registered, because he became noticeably cowed.

That’s when Merethyl cried out from a crossbow bolt to the back. Taken off-guard by the sudden attack, he rushed around the statue to find the culprit we’d come down here for: a tiny creature with glowing orange eyes . . . and a crossbow, apparently.

Calcedon shamed Marixiti for being such a coward and looked to be changing the man’s mind about fleeing the situation when Glannin exited the pipe.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Oct 07, 2018 2:54 pm

27 Gozran, 4715 – Morning continued

The little fey—which Merethyl would later recall as a gremlin, specifically, a Jinkin—proved remarkably difficult to contact. Glannin, Merethyl, and Calcedon ganged up on the Jinkin and failed to connect a single time. Pellius refused to heed my advice to calm down, jumped into the sewage and swam dozens of feet away; the other simply stood there watching but did nothing else. Obviously not liking the numbers gathered around it, the nimble gremlin darted around all of us and disappeared. Syrical—who had just pulled out his wand of force missiles—informed us that it had used a dimensional door to exit the fight, which he explained was a rather powerful spell.

With the danger past, we gathered to discuss how to proceed. Marixiti and Pellius—who had rejoined us after his little swim—desired nothing more than to get out of the sewers, but the rest of us knew there remained work to be done. That Jinkin had brought an adolescent into the sewers as food for Tog, or some other nefarious purpose, and we needed to find the creature and put an end to it, else more kids would die. Syrical confirmed that the Jinkin hadn’t gone far, as the dimensional hopping spell it used had a limited range to it. Thus, we crawled back through the pipe to track down the gremlin, whom we considered could be working with the wererats here in the sewers. Our two newcomers chose to stay in the pipe where the otyugh couldn’t get to them until we returned.

I immediately found tracks on the other side, and we followed them through a small collection of sewer tunnels until coming to a large patch of plant matter that dangled down nearly to the water’s surface. It hardly looked natural based simply on what we’d seen of the Korvosan sewers; however, Merethyl pointed out that the conglomeration of plant life appeared groomed in some way, as if it were a garden. In his next breath, the investigator warned against our advancing farther until a newly-discovered problem could be dealt with: a deadly plant with a skull on the petals known as a xatabay. The plant releases a toxin into the air within ten feet of it that will put prey to sleep, enabling it to crawl leisurely across the floor and drain the life out of the unconscious body.

We called Calcedon forward, remembering the dissonant spell he used to eliminate the rat swarm that troubled us in the Shingles and hoping he could do the same to neutralize this threat. The plan worked, as the intentionally-sour note ripped from the noble’s violin and caused the petals to fall to the sewer floor. With the death of the xatabay, I immediately recognized another of the plants behind it, but this one looked far enough back so as not to be a problem if we chose to pass by. That’s when a strange puffball flew by me and missed its intended target, Calcedon. The origin of the odd attack showed itself afterward to be some sort of fungal, mushroom beast the likes of which I’d never seen before.

Again, I noted that Syrical pulled out his trusty wand, though, again, he did not use it. All for the best, as it turned out. One thing I’ve grown to appreciate about our elven wizard: he conserves resources until he knows they must be used.

Merethyl tends to be a bit more impulsive . . . . The elf leapt across the sewage channel and right into a third, unseen xatabay. The toxic cloud burst around the plant, but, luckily, he was immune to its sleeping effect. He landed a scrape on the xatabay and identified the mushroom creature as a fungal leshy.

Syrical surprised again as he spoke some strange language to the leshy, and the fungal beast replied in kind, except far more irate! After the quick correspondence, he told the rest of us that it just wanted us out of its garden. We all agreed that the best option. We had no idea what awaited us ahead, so avoiding a fight here would be a prudent move. Within seconds, the lot of us had escaped the garden’s confines, though Merethyl lingered just long enough to request (I discovered later) whether the leshy had seen any bodies dragged through this area. It sounded as if it hadn’t.

As we continued through the sewers, the investigator located tracks that I had missed, which led us to a natural cleft that breeched the sewer wall. Merethyl rushed up to the entrance to the cleft and spotted a garden ooze squatting in the center of it, almost like a watchdog. I prayed for the shielding protection of Aroden, then joined Merethyl at the cleft, where I pointed out a pair of gremlins hidden deeper in—one near the back corner of the cleft, and a second one within a small passage on the opposite side. As I cautioned him about the gremlins he hadn’t seen, he stated that the tracks we’d been following entered into this cleft . . . then charged the ooze . . . with all our companions still on the other side of the sewage stream. Dare I say, we must invest in some ranged combat capability. Our investigator will get himself killed if he continues rushing headlong in when the others aren’t yet in position to aid.

Merethyl’s attack connected, but hardly hurt the ooze. A fungal tendril escaped the creature and lashed out at him but missed. Calcedon leapt across the sewage to take up a position behind the elf, while Glannin peered skeptically at the feces-laden waters and called that he’d stay back and guard “Axe,” as he affectionately calls Syrical. I heard the dwarf’s sigh from my position when the wizard deftly jumped the manmade river to get in close to the fray behind Calcedon. Worse, the pair of Jinkins launched bolts at Merethyl, and one of the tiny projectiles sank deep into his neck. I called for Glannin’s bacon grease to help the investigator, then provided a glancing blow upon the ooze as I rushed by to corner a Jinkin. The ooze sought to strike me for the scrape I carved in it, but the tendril swept by without impact. Calcedon subsequently hacked the ooze in two.

The gremlins flung a couple more bolts toward myself and Calcedon, nicking both of us, but not significantly. Behind us, I noted Syrical casting a spell and Glannin—having successfully crossed the sewage—tending to the bolt in Merethyl’s neck, which he required the use of haggis and honey for, apparently.

The Jinkin in the tunnel easily dodged my semblance of an attack, though it gave me a second chance at it after dropping its crossbow and lunging at me. It proved unfortunate this time, as my sword bit into it deeply! My attack jarred the tiny creature enough that its stabbing short sword failed to penetrate my chain armor. Its partner’s crossbow bolt lodged into my exposed side, however, which I’ll admit stung more than a little. Calcedon joined me, but, in being careful not to strike me, missed wide with his fauchard. As I sought to maneuver myself into position to take advantage of the nobleman’s presence, a magical bolt zoomed in and killed the gremlin! I couldn’t hide a grin. Our studious wizard knew exactly when to use that wand of his to fullest effect. Yes, he conserved when necessary, but Syrical understood how to read the situation and expend resources at the best possible time.

We converged on the second Jinkin, now completely cornered and with no way to avoid us. I believe it realized the dire straits it was in when the tiny gremlin pitched aside its crossbow and unsheathed the short sword at its side. My sword lacked accuracy on two separate occasions, yet I danced around to the left side as its sword poked at me, opening the way for Calcedon to slash the Jinkin hard across its miniature torso. For the second time, a force missile from Syrical’s wand finished the job.

The fight now over, Glannin came to seal my pair of wounds in similar style to the treatment Merethyl had received: yogurt, honey, stout, and the added bonus of casting plaster about the injuries. As ever, all was healed completely when he had finished.

The investigator searched around the area where the short passage led and discovered a secret door there. Like the gate in the sewers back near Tog, the mechanism that worked this door had been intentionally destroyed. Calcedon attempted to open it, but the door refused to budge. A tiny hole existed at its base, just large enough for the gremlins to pass through unhindered, but nowhere near sizeable for us to squeeze through. Some evidence remained that the Jinkin forced other bodies through the hole, as well, which settled poorly with my stomach. This validated our continued search for the macabre little beasts, as this proved they brought the adolescents here, though I somehow doubt they could be alive by the reaching of this portal.

Our inability to open the door was infuriating, but there was nothing for it. We couldn’t get through this way, yet all knew that this led to the gremlin lair; guards left outside indicated what resided behind that door was still occupied. So, we agreed to wander the sewer tunnel a bit in an attempt to locate a different way in. Just a short way down the eastern way revealed exactly what we were looking to find! A small stair ushered to a stone door decorated with a horsehead emblem with a ruby red glass eye and Shoanti pictures all about it. Calcedon’s eidetic memory worked for more than just noble houses in Korvosa and Cheliax, as he recognized this to be the symbol for the Sklar-Quah Shoanti tribe. Merethyl uncovered a javelin trap cleverly hidden in the door and disarmed it.

We entered into a carefully-constructed chamber of stonework walls and corbel ceilings. Old doors lined the chamber north and south, with a hall in the center of the northern wall. Glannin mused that this must once have been a Shoanti burial site, which the sewers of Korvosa were quite literally built upon in a most disrespectful fashion. I checked the first door in the southern wall and found a bunch of dirt, dust, and musty blankets of a cell-like room that hadn’t been used in a long while. Upon examining the scratches, nicks and cracks in the back wall of the cell, I pieced together the elements like something of a puzzle to unearth the unholy symbol of Zon Kuthon hidden there. These rooms hadn’t been used in decades, which felt like something akin to a blessing if the faithful of Zon Kuthon had once inhabited this area. The news struck Calcedon particularly hard, it seemed, as his face became somewhat ashen, and he showed reluctance to even enter. All the doors revealed the same type of room, though only a couple hid additional symbols of Zon Kuthon.

The perpendicular hall directed us to another small stair that climbed to another door. Through it, we entered into a torture chamber of much more recent use than the rest of this small site. Zon Kuthonian instruments of torture—such as a table with chains to properly secure a victim—dominated the chamber, and a ridiculous amount of blades, sharpened shards, and other such detritus littered the floor to make every step incredibly dangerous.

If Calcedon went ashen upon hearing of the mark of Zon Kuthon when first we set foot in this place, the sight of the torture chamber brought about a ghastly transformation in the nobleman. I have only ever known him to be confident in mannerism and sure of speech, but that Calcedon was not the man that peered into that secret chamber within the Korvosan sewer. There stood a man before me of fear and doubt and defeat. A horrific caricature of a proud and noble man whose past still held more sway on his present than certainly he desired to admit. When asked—I don’t even recall now by who—if he was all right, he lifted his right hand, now missing two fingers, and replied hauntingly, “I shall bear the marks of Zon Kuthon for the rest of my life.”

My heart sank at the sound of those words . . . but, at that moment, a different battle required fighting. We shall return to this one at a future, more appropriate time.

As this chamber was filled with a dark spiritual presence, I felt the need to lead into our group of companions into it with the light of the Last Azlanti ahead of us. The chamber was expansive, much larger than the light of my spell could encompass, and the darkness outside of Aroden’s light weighed heavily with an oppressive intent. Merethyl entered behind me, his elven vision able to see farther in the conjured light than mine own. As I moved to the right of the torture table, he went to the left. His eyes scanned the floor and walls of the chamber, which meant that the creature clinging unseen by any of us to the ceiling dropped upon him with swift stealth to swallow his head into its maw. I heard his muffled cry and saw him stagger about with the strange monster enveloping him, but before I could react at all, a giant centipede suddenly appeared beside me and clamped onto my shin with oversized mandibles. My reaction brought the sword in my hand down and through the head of the gigantic insect, and it disappeared after the killing blow. That immediate threat eliminated, I became aware of a haunting melody drifting through the air, and only later discovered it not to be an enchantment of the room, but a musical enchantment of Calcedon!

What followed was an irritating game of cat-and-mouse with the ceiling hopping creature, known as a darkmantle. Glannin tiptoed through the sharp debris across the floor to aid Merethyl and forced the thing to release the elf. As the dwarf tried to pull the direly-wounded elf from danger, I engaged the hideous creature in combat. It refused to stay and fight, however. Instead, the darkmantle used a tactic of retreat to the ceiling, then launched itself back at me in what seemed a never-ending cycle of maneuver. I struggled to hit the thing with my blade; Syrical struggled to hit it with his inexhaustible supply of frost rays; the darkmantle struggled to wrap me up in its maw, though it succeeded in scoring a feeble hit or two in the process. Finally, Syrical managed to strike the aberration with a freezing ray that slowed it just enough that my blade bit heavily into it when it swooped down to attack me. It repaid me with a slam of its own, but I got off easy by comparison.

That’s when the gremlin decided to join the fray with its powerful magic. I heard strange sounds emanating from the corner of the room; right after, Calcedon’s haunting melody and Glannin’s healing touch stopped as the two valued members of our party fell unconscious to the floor. Merethyl acted quickly to kick Glannin and awaken him, then moved into the chamber again, apparently hearing what I had heard and heading towards it. My attempt to kill the darkmantle ended in disappointment.

Syrical turned his attentions to the newcomer in the room and threw a frost ray its way that succeeded only in leaving a small bit of ice on the wall behind it. Two balls of force emitted from the gremlin’s tiny paw-like hand to smash into the wizard’s chest, which staggered him backward a step. Not used to feeling pain, the elf screamed in agony and fury, and the Jinkin witch covered its bleeding ears from the screeching pitch of it. The two spellcasters began throwing force energy back-and-forth across the room in an attempt to pummel one another into submission.

Somewhere in the midst of this magical duel, I managed to deal the death blow to the darkmantle, and Merethyl hopped the table en route to the gremlin witch. The elf’s close proximity to the Jinkin led to a second game of cat-and-mouse, as the tiny fey had no problems moving across the dangerous debris about the floor, unlike us. Whenever any of us got close to it, then, the annoying creature would zip to a different location in the room that required us to chase at a much slower pace. Glannin unleashed his divine skills on Syrical, who had taken an incredible beating by the witch’s distant attacks, then rushed to join in the chase. After summoning a ball of electricity to partake in pursuit of the Jinkin, Syrical got to the sleeping Calcedon and shook him back to consciousness.

We’ve Merethyl to thank for ending the game, as he cornered the witch next to a desk the tiny fey couldn’t climb to get away. Glannin, Calcedon, and I converged on that corner to trap the Jinkin there. The elven investigator accepted a small scratch from the gremlin’s blade to scoop it up into a grapple. He endured another stabbing as the rest of us either failed to hit it or penetrate its hide—well, all save Syrical, who punished it with a last force blast before putting the wand away. Glannin’s axe virtually severed its upper torso from the lower body just after the gremlin had tasted freedom from Merethyl’s grasp to complete the day’s most difficult fight.

We carefully searched the chamber afterward, though Syrical searched the Jinkin instead, and Calcedon removed himself from the area. We located the small hole in the secret door from earlier, and also a hole in the floor that had to descend all the way into the Darklands, which may have been where the gremlin infestation came from. Four doors along the back wall held gnawed-upon bones of adolescents and a small stash of other riches collected by the witch and its lackeys. Syrical removed a small journal from the witch but wasted no time yet in reading it, if we even can do so.

This threat to the city now eliminated, we collected the two men from the pipe to make our way out of the sewers. They paid us what was promised, though not without a little persuading from Glannin when they were caught in the lie of scamming us from the agreed upon payment. Merethyl fed Tog a severed leg with meat still on it from the torture chamber to guarantee free passage.
On the way back to the temple, the change in Calcedon’s demeanor was as night and day. He explained a bit about the deprivations of his uncle, whose zeal for Zon Kuthon had caused him incredible suffering in the past. Clearly, that past had never fled from him.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:15 pm

27 Gozran, 4715 – Afternoon

We arrived at the temple of Aroden, and Pellonius met us the moment we walked through the door. To his credit, the brother gave no indication that our extended stay in the sewer bothered him at all despite the stench that wafted from inch of our clothing. I explained the nature of the creature he saw in the alley last night, their vile use of the adolescents for a food source, and I assured him the threat was eliminated. Pellonius appeared quite relieved to hear we handled the problem.

Meanwhile, Merethyl located one of the very few quiet chambers currently in the temple and deciphered the chicken scratch of the Jinkin witch’s journal. For reasons yet unknown to us, the witch seemed to have a fascination with Thassilonian lore. Nothing written factored into anything that we were doing, and the poor explanations of the gremlin’s findings meant the journal was virtually worthless even to a collector.

Our heroism finished for the day, we all split to deal with our own business for the rest of it. Glannin and I saw to the cleanliness of our clothing and armor, and I washed myself, as well, which included tending to the minor wounds still dotting my body. Merethyl checked in on his family for the first time since the problems in the city began. Syrical reported back to school, while Calcedon played for the small shrine of Shelyn and informed them of the temple to Zon Kuthon that we discovered in the sewers.

Late that afternoon, I received a runner from Calcedon with news that Lamm was scheduled for the noose tomorrow at noon. I rarely witnessed executions—my preference always resided with building up civilization, not watching those unfit to live in it taken out, but now and again there’s an individual that has caused so much harm in the lives of those around us that closure is required. Lamm sacrificed the betterment of those in Old Korvosa for his own personal greed and shattered the lives of countless men, women, and children over the years, including that of Nevarius, our own ward at the temple, whose mother—whom I worked with much throughout the years—was a casualty. For her memory, I needed to see justice done.

Additionally, the nobleman invited me to dinner this evening at House Fordyce, where the guest-of-honor was to be Vancarlo Orisini. Naturally, I attended, because it offered me an opportunity to speak with the celebrity of Old Korvosa about how he might help bring some hope to the poor of the district. Hopelessness ran rampant in the district, which led to the need for orphanages. Also, any chance to work with children and single mothers or fathers concerning their own self-defense could save lives and provide inspiration to these individuals. I appreciated that Vancarlo sounded quite open to all these possibilities and more.

28 Gozran, 4715 – Afternoon

A series of executions were set to occur at the Long Acre Building starting at noon, with Lamm among the first few to hang. The rather infamous Hanging Judge pronounced judgment over all these criminals—and there were plenty of them lined up with all the riots throughout the city in the last couple of weeks. When given his last words, “No regrets!” proved the best Lamm could conjure. Hardly surprised there. The man was as predictable going into death as he had been the way he lived his life—with redemption, or any thought of forgiveness, farthest from his mind.

We met with the Field Marshal there, and she informed us that the Queen had summoned her to a conference this evening at the castle. She openly confirmed her concern about the meeting. With rumors spreading about how displeased the Queen was with the Guard and the Sable Company, the Field Marshal had reason to be worried. Having worked with Korvosan Guard these last couple of weeks, I saw no sign of bad decision-making on their part. They worked hard and around the clock to put this city back together. Mistakes were made, of course, but that’s being human, and exhaustion certainly played a strong role in that, which the Queen could have alleviated by opening the emergency coffers even just a little. Regardless, we wished her luck in the meeting and went our own ways for the day.

Later reports by my companions confirmed that Glannin picked up more healing supplies at the bazaar, Syrical caught up on his studies, Calcedon worked on getting the amphitheater running again for city moral, Merethyl acted as a practice dummy for Vancarlo (I kid), and I fed the poor on the streets of Old Korvosa. While out there, I heard a new rumor prevalent on the streets that a local, young, and pretty woman artist was responsible for the King’s death.

29 Gozran, 4715 – Morning

I awakened early that next morning to an emergency runner sent from House Fordyce. We had agreed the night before to meet at the Citadel at nine sharp to learn the results of the Field Marshal’s meeting with the Queen. It appeared that meeting time had been moved up by necessity. As I headed south through the city, the Midlands were crowded with huge mobs scouring the streets in search of the King’s “true” murderer—a young female artist named Trinia Sabor, and each head amongst them had dreams of the Queen’s favor and gold dancing within it.


The Field Marshal met us with disconcerting news: She believed the Queen trying to start the riots up again. Though uncertain as to why, she argued that this new wave of mobs could have been avoided had the monarch not released Trinia’s name to the public. She also found this situation unsettling because there had been no attempt at ascertaining the guilt or innocence of this young artist. One of the Queen’s guards professed to seeing Trinia—who had been hired to paint the King’s portrait—slip something into the King’s drink. Conveniently, this guard committed suicide by launching himself off a castle tower this morning.

So, Field Marshal Croft hired us to find Trinia Sabor before the mobs or the Hellknights, who were also out looking. She gave us a lead on the others by providing the last known whereabouts of Trinia: 42 Moon Street in the Midlands. We promised to find the girl and bring her back. As a parting bit of news, she stated the Queen continued her grudge against the Guard and Sable Company, even threatening to shut down the latter completely and form a new military order within Korvosa to take its place.

Not desiring to take a chance moving amidst the crowds, Merethyl used his amazing knowledge of the city to maneuver us through it via back alleys and lesser-traversed roads. The Shingles predominated this entire area of three-story tenements, and when we arrived there was a woman lurking about 42 Moon steering people away from the residence. Calcedon led the way in persuading this woman, named Brey, to get us into the tenement and tell us where Trinia resided. Despite his, mine, and Merethyl’s adamant prognosis that Trinia stood no chance of escaping the mobs if she stayed here, Brey remained hesitant. A loyal friend, she feared for the young girl’s life, and rightly so! However, our pleas finally gained us admittance and, eventually, a specific location on the third floor where Trinia holed up. Brey also warned us that the residents on the second floor would be hostile to us for love of the young artist, as well.

We thanked her and assured that we’d get Trinia to safety. Nearly a dozen neighbors stopped us on the second floor, but we convinced them all of our good intentions, as well as the necessity to reach the girl as quickly as possible, which getting halted every few seconds hindered greatly. Trinia had barricaded the door of her room, but Glannin and Calcedon shouldered through it; we’d wasted enough precious time talking. Quickly spreading through the small tenement, I immediately slipped over to the window to find the artist skillfully working her way through the Shingles.

Thus, the chase began.

All but Glannin clambered up a steep roof onto a landing, with another crumbling rooftop to scale across to get on the same path as Trinia. Go figure, the moment we make progress in her direction, she disappears through some shortcut impossible to see from our vantage. Now fixated on getting to where she was, all of us attempted the unsure footing along the rooftop, but only Merethyl succeeded in hopping across. Unwilling to slow, the elf discovered a gap in the wall before him and scampered through that, as well.

By the time Glannin reached most of us on the landing, the poor dwarf found himself falling behind again, as all but Calcedon bested the rooftop on our second tries. Merethyl proved keen of eye, and he bolted through the same shortcut Trinia had seen to get out of our sight. Syrical, not to be outdone by his elven counterpart, strode hastily past me and through the gap in the wall in hot pursuit. With exception of Calcedon reaching the same gap that I struggled to get through, all the non-elves remained stationary as we attempted to decipher the trick to that silly gap.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side, Merethyl successfully grabs ahold of Trinia, who thrusted a wand in his face to force his release of her, but he shrugged off the magic. Unfortunately, the wiry young woman slipped from his grasp as he sought to tighten it. Syrical popped through the shortcut at that moment and reached out to grab her, but she sidled out of his reach easily. Now two-against-one, elves verses the human waif of a girl . . . and she outmaneuvered them to repeatedly before finally finding and exploiting a hole in the wall to escape. The two elves watched through that same escape route as Trinia leapt over a gap between buildings to widen her lead over them.

Calcedon followed me through the gap, but I lost him enough that he didn’t note the shortcut I took to reach the two elves. As they fought to get through the hole in the wall, I decided simply to go over it and saw a massive swarm of stirges before me across the gap in buildings. Apparently, the young artist had stirred up the clinging threat. With a short sigh to calm the nerves, I leapt over the gap and into the waiting stirge swarm. Turned out I would be there for a while. Trinia tried to ensorcell me with her wand, but I shook off whatever spell it possessed.

Stuck inside those stirges for what felt like forever, the others slowly made their way through the obstruction-laden Shingles. It was impossible to see anything through those buzzing insectoid things. When finally I steered through them and out the other side, Merethyl awaited me on the other side, obviously not having the same problem with them that I did. Trinia had only managed to get a short ways ahead across a hanging clothesline but was failing to get over another wall in the way. Both Merethyl and I walked the tightrope in quick succession. I failed to catch the young woman, but Merethyl grappled her and refused to let go for anything now. Rather than try to pin her down, he simply waited for me to come over and tie her up further. Realizing her getaway had concluded in failure, Trinia broke down in sobs, pleading with us to let her go because she didn’t wish to die. That proved fortunate, as we had no intent on killing her. I pledged that fact to her and pieced together a rather compelling argument as to why she should return to the Citadel with us post haste. After a bit, she capitulated to the idea. Calcedon (who had caught up) and Merethyl worked their magic to disguise her so she wouldn’t be recognizable on the streets below.

We all escorted this young woman that appeared nothing like herself through the same back alleys we’d taken to get there. With no need to speak to the Guard, we shuffled her past them and directly into the Field Marshal’s office, where she sat doing paperwork. After a little discussion, in which it was relayed that none of us had magical truth-finding capabilities—though I do tend to come close to that when it comes to determining lies, the Field Marshal explained that Trinia would be placed in the capable hands of Vancarlo until her guilt or innocence could be proved. In fact, he alone would know the location where he put her, so there’d be no doubts about her safety. It pained me a little to think her outside our protection, but we trusted Vancarlo as much as anyone in Korvosa, so no one started a fuss.

The mission complete, I headed back to Old Korvosa for the remainder of the day. Merethyl later reviewed that he disguised himself and floated amidst the patrons of a popular tavern for the Queen’s guard. There he learned that Talfen—the name of the guard that “jumped” from the tower—would never have jumped from that tower, at least according to those that knew him best. Further hearsay probably wasn’t the best evidence, and it certainly wouldn’t stick in the courts, but it offered legitimacy to the notion that this tragic accident might well have not been an accident, as all of us believed virtually unanimously.

30 Gozran, 4715—Morning

The next day began the same as most: I went to work with the poor, Merethyl investigated, and Syrical studied. Syrical sought to learn more about what this new Queen’s guard might be all about, but essentially got shunned for his efforts. Merethyl’s investigations into the guard turned up something interesting, though not about the guard himself. Instead, he gained the eye-opening news that the assassin had been caught, tried, and would be executed in two days.

Again, runners were dispatched to gather us all at the Citadel, where the investigator conveyed what he’d learned. Summoned with the rest of us, Vancarlo guaranteed that Trinia remained secure in his safehouse. Thus, we have a mystery before us. If the Queen doesn’t have Trinia, then who does she have? More disturbing, perhaps, was why they were set to execute a young woman they knew not to be Trinia. This reeked of corruption . . . badly. An innocent woman might just be paying an unfair price for another’s political gain, which, from what I could see, had no reason for happening. The city had been calming down, with things getting back under control. Why stir the pot again? Was it so important that the Queen get this new order of guard instated that she needed to somehow discredit the Sable Company through this blatant act of duplicity? What exactly was she trying to gain, otherwise? And why spill innocent blood to attain it when she already held the most powerful position in all Korvosa?

As the debate continued, I heard a loud noise outside the chamber. Curious, I opened the door to find Thousand Bones waiting there. The elderly man served as the Shoanti ambassador to Korvosa from the Skoan-Quah tribe. He appeared quite agitated. The Field Marshal requested that we depart for a time so that she could hold a meeting with the Shoanti ambassador. We acquiesced with no argument.

The meeting advanced nigh on forty minutes before the door opened and we were asked to reenter. All that time had not improved Thousand Bones’ disposition at all; he looked as gruff and frustrated as ever. He described that his grandson was killed yesterday by the large mobs seeking Trinia. They beat the boy to death in the street. I understood the old man’s disgruntled nature now, as he blamed the Guard for the boy’s death, though he remained diplomatic enough not to say it aloud. His son desire to leave Korvosa and head on the warpath, but Thousand Bones convinced him not to do so—at least for the moment. What’s worse, they could not even perform the proper funerary ceremony for the boy, since his body was stolen and sold to a necromancer in the Dead Warrens, where the spirits questioned by Thousand Bones said the boy’s body currently resided.

To make matters worse, this particular necromancer was a man name Rolth, Lamm’s son, who had been kicked out of the Academae for twisted experiments involving the attempted construction of a flesh golem. We agreed to get the body of Thousand Bones’ grandson back and put an end to Rolth’s corruption. The others will probably disagree, but my intent is to bring the vile man back to the Citadel alive and in chains to face justice. I’ll be purchasing a set of manacles as we head to question the man that sold the body to Rolth, whom the Field Marshal stated was in custody. He should be able to give us more information.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:50 pm

30 Gozran, 4715—Afternoon

Our little band set out from the Citadel just a short time before noon. As noted, we first stopped in the bazaar for manacles, but Calcedon decided to purchase some holy water while there, as well, since we were facing a necromancer. Through discussion as we traveled, we deduced exactly where we needed to go based solely on all the information provided us via the Field Marshal and Thousand Bones: Potter’s Ward within the Grey Ward—the final resting place for the poor and homeless.

We located the fallen, headless gargoyle statue described to us in the meeting as the place where the illegal transaction took place and found tracks indicative of a man and wheelbarrow around it. In addition, Merethyl uncovered a separate set of prints in the area that he identified as belonging to a derro. The tracks led us to an empty mausoleum, which immediately raised flags that some sort of hidden door must have been present. As expected, we revealed one in the floor. Calcedon played a jovial tune as we set about opening it that spurred us on to a faster pace.

Below, we entered a domed room with four equidistant pillars bracing the ceiling at its center. Bones littered the floor all over, and two large pits filled with hundreds of them existed to the right and left, with a hole pounded through the south wall. The Pharasmans had ossuaries in this part of the graveyard—undoubtedly, we resided within one of those now, though there were clear signs of Shoanti construction here, as well. Movement caught my eye to the left, where I viewed a large collection of bones shift and rise from their settled companions: An owlbear skeleton. More bones rose up from the right, though they appeared to be just normal skeletons, albeit nearly a handful of them.

I called out a warning to the others even as I charged into the room. My immediate goal was to draw the attention of the skeletons and give my companions a chance to gather themselves for the fight, but I had no real wish to square off against that monstrous, undead owlbear on my own, so I positioned myself within the four pillars nearer the humanoid skeletons. If that owlbear closed in on me, it would need to squeeze through the pillars, thus slowing its initial progress and permitting my companions to strike at its flank. My final preparation once within the pillars was to call upon the power of Aroden to shield myself, then await the undead.

My plan worked . . . mostly. The humanoid skeletons clattered toward me, but the massive owlbear shifted its gait towards the entrance instead. The others readied themselves in a multitude of ways: Glannin grew to twice his size (which I’m not sure he intended to do), Merethyl downed a potion and moved to cover Syrical, who subsequently tapped the investigator on the shoulder as a reminder that he was there, and Calcedon broke out his violin to play an inspiring tune.

As the others entered the chamber, a pair of the skeletons shuffled away from me to attack them—specifically, Merethyl and Glannin. Neither struck successfully, but the skeletal owlbear—seeing a target as large as it—ambled over to the giant dwarf and ripped a chunk of flesh from our companion with a heavy swing of its claw. Not to be outdone, the heavy dwarf unleashed a powerful swipe of his waraxe that cleaved clean through a handful of bones. The pair continued trading blows back and forth that would fell significant-sized trees. Occasionally, a normal skeleton managed a feeble claw against the dwarf, as well, but to little effect.

Merethyl stabbed at the skeleton before him but failed to make contact against it. There’s nothing easy about wiping out a skeleton with a thrusting weapon! Syrical passed him the club the wizard’s been using to appear as a warrior amongst us, which the investigator used to crush the skeleton into shards.

For the first time that I can recall, the inspiration that filled us throughout the battlefield maintained despite Calcedon putting away his violin. Instead, his voice sang out strong and clear as the nobleman slid out his silvered mace and waded in against the skeleton still clawing away at Glannin’s back. The three of them ganged up on that lone skeleton after that, with Syrical first throwing a frost ray at it, then a force missile from his wand. In the end, Calcedon reduced it to broken bones with his mace.

Throughout, I traded blows with the two animated undead that remained on me. When my longsword bounced off bone with little effect, I resorted to punching the things with my gauntleted fist. That proved far more effective. I smashed the skull in of the first, but as it toppled to the floor as nothing more than component parts, the second scored a vicious hit with a claw to my ribs. That skeleton took a pair of blows to fell. Seeing that Glannin had pounded the owlbear hard, yet the creature continued to give as good as it got, I quickly entered into a prayer to Aroden that bestowed a short burst of speed and quickness to the enlarged dwarf. With the aid of the Last Azlanti, Glannin pummeled the monstrous skeleton into dust.

Immediately after, we took a moment away from searching to perform a little healing. I performed mine in the more mundane fashion this break, though Glannin came over to apply some plaster, honey, and something else I couldn’t even recognize to speed up the healing process. I noted remnants of yogurt smeared on his own wounds and merely nodded at the simplicity of his own self-correction. I think he’s just starting to enjoy this a little much now.

With the curative necessities out of the way, Merethyl pointed out a secret passage in the left-hand pit. The hidden door led to a narrow tunnel that we decided to follow. The investigator entered first, with me following with a light spell providing light that enabled him to see farther. Derro tracks crossed both ways throughout this hidden passage, which branched one time, but we chose the left corridor, since the right appeared to lead us back in the same direction the hole in the wall of the ossuary would have gone. That passage ended abruptly, and we searched that final wall to locate the secret door we anticipated would be there and was.

A long, tall hall of yawning skulls greeted us on the other side. The wall to the west indented with a five-foot cubby, and a door rested in the eastern wall opposite it. We followed standard protocol and went to the door, not wishing to leave any chance that an enemy might have the opportunity to attack us from behind. Though Merethyl checked the door for traps without finding any, he triggered something upon opening it that caused all the skulls to hiss and shoot acid at all of us in the hall to devastating effect. The elven door-opener positioned himself in the only place in the hall free of the acidic blasts, and he viewed what appeared to be an alchemical chamber through the door. Unfortunately, he was given no time to examine it beyond a cursory glance that revealed some tables, beakers, vials, and three cauldrons, because a pair of skeletal snakes ambushed us from the small cubbies—the one behind us and another farther in that we’d not yet seen. Rather than snake heads, each of the skeletal snakes carried a human head upon the serpentine vertebrae. A simple skull resided atop one, but the second fastened the preserved head of a redheaded woman upon it . . . one that looked vaguely familiar, but that I could not place.

Syrical spotted the seemingly undead snakes before any of us, and his alert prompted action from Merethyl and myself, though Glannin and Calcedon were caught off guard. Somehow, the wizard materialized between us with wand in hand and blasted the far creature with a missile from it. I recognized these things not as undead, but as a type of construct called a necrophidius. I called out that their bite contained poison, that bludgeoning weapons worked best against their reinforced bone structure, and to watch out for a death dance they performed to daze those who saw it . . . then promptly fell victim to the dance of the necrophidius right in front of me. The construct assaulted by Syrical slithered right up to him and elicited a quick clubbing from Merethyl. Our wizard chose not to take his ruse as a warrior too far and withdrew back through the opened hidden door into the tunnel beyond. Calcedon stepped in to fill the elf’s place, permitting he and the investigator to simultaneously pummel that second necrophidius with the preserved head. Glannin quick-stepped around Calcedon to chop down on the first necrophidius that had dazed me with its dance. His waraxe hit the construct so hard it should have severed the thing in two—and would have had it been a normal skeleton, or even a normal snake!

Despite the useless position I found myself in, I earnestly believe my companions could have handled the constructs rather hastily. However, the alchemical chamber we’d only peeked into harbored an enemy none of us had noticed: a derro magic-user. A sudden snap of sonic power erupted in the midst of us that hurt a bit, but, more dangerously, stunned all of us front-liners save Glannin, who immediately slashed the standard necrophidius again, cracking its skull in spiderweb fashion, but not putting it out of commission. To make matters worse, the redheaded necrophidius entered its death dance and enchanted everyone but myself and Glannin.

Coming out of my dance-induced daze, I swiftly examined the two constructs for damage. A crossbow zinged by, barely missing Merethyl and ricocheting off the wall just behind me. Luckily, the derro wizard matched Syrical in accuracy with the weapon. Often, when Syrical showed such inefficiency, it wasn’t long before he switched to spell use again, so I knew we hadn’t much time. I assessed the redheaded necrophidius to be more damaged, so I charged forward and smashed in the side of its skull. As it collapsed into a pile of reinforced bones, I turned toward the other still trapped in the corner and shouted for Glannin to go handle the wizard in the chamber. This necrophidius had also taken a significant pounding, so I figured I could handle it until the others came around, and the dwarf probably had the best chance one-on-one against a spellslinger, as his race was best known for their magic resistant nature. He acknowledged he’d heard me, delivered one last powerful blow to the hideous creation before him, then withdrew into the chamber with the derro.
The next dozen seconds or so of combat between the construct and I wasn’t pretty. Not a single blow landed either way, which proved fortunate for me, since I had friends coming out of a daze. A bolt of force slipped by my poncho and dipped below my elbow to cave in the face of its skull, ending its threat.

At this point, the action moved into the alchemical chamber. By the time I had retrieved my dropped sword and swept into the room, Glannin, Merethyl, and Calcedon had the derro cornered in the back near the three cauldrons. Not seeing a place for me amidst them, I circled to the right in an attempt to seal off the only other exit in the room to the south. Syrical situated himself in the western exit we’d all passed through to scrutinize the scene, but his wand stayed silent.

The blades of Glannin’s and Calcedon’s weapons dripped with derro blood, indicative that the two had already gone to work rather effectively on the small wizard. As I watched from my position to the south, Merethyl danced in around them all and wetted his blade, as well. All the magic worked by the derro up to this point had failed to weaken anyone, so it wasn’t appreciative of its current predicament. In desperation, the little thing navigated its way through a hail of attacks to reach a secret door in the north wall and opened it. As I watched that door in the wall swing wide, I abandoned my place guarding the south and charged at derro, but it dodged my slashing sword. Glannin, likewise, missed with his mighty swing. Merethyl used the stocky dwarf to mask his thrust, and his blade sank deep into the derro’s ribs, then up into its heart.

After removing all the magical equipment from the derro and searching the chamber to find whatever alchemical concoctions might be useful to us, Calcedon located a crowbar to start pulling the board off the southern door, while the rest of us exited to the skull-laden hallway to search it. Farther up the hall existed a second passage to the west. Merethyl studied the head of the red-haired woman for a time, trying to place who it was but still coming up empty. Convinced the head might need identifying, he detached it from the rest of the construct and placed it in his magical haversack.

Once we’d all gathered again, Glannin bashed open the door that Calcedon had freed to reveal a broken-up pantry with a stitched monstrosity standing in the center of it holding an arm . . . an arm covered in Shoanti tattoos. A sickly stench radiated off the thing that proved overpowering, causing Syrical and I to become nauseated. Glannin breathed in the stench and cracked a huge grin as he peeked back at the lot of us and reminisced, “Reminds me of a dwarven barracks.”

As you say, friend. As you say.

Undesiring of getting any closer to the thing, Syrical fought through his nausea to unsling his crossbow. I braved the dwarven barracks and staggered in to get a better look at the beast, which I deduced to be yet another construct, known as a carrion golem. Immediately, I pointed back at the mage and gagged out that cold would slow its movements. Glannin marched right up to it with that wide grin still intact and drove his axe right into the stitches of its shoulder. Merethyl appeared none-too-eager to enter the chamber either, though he studied the golem rather closely. Calcedon waded in, as well, but his fauchard bounced off the toughened, deathlike skin of the construct. The carrion golem finally sprung to life and slammed Glannin right in the chest. Not wanting to see that happen again, I said a quick prayer to Aroden and protected the dwarf with a shield of faith.

It worked. The carrion golem flailed twice more at the dwarf but missed both. The same could not be said of my companions, save for Syrical, whose frost ray shot high. The other three rained down punishing blows on golem that actually caused its knees to buckle for just an instant. Another ray of frost flew wide of its mark, but a handoff of the club once again between Syrical and Merethyl was successful. I prayed to hasten Glannin for a short burst of attacks, which he used admirably to wreak havoc on the golem with two heavy chops. Merethyl bounded in to clock the monstrosity hard upside the head. The already weakened stitches there gave way entirely, the head flopped backwards to land between its shoulder blades, and the golem leaned and leaned until it fell over and never again stood up.

The investigator stuffed the tattooed arm—which we all knew to be from the Shoanti boy that we’d come to recover—into his haversack, then we performed a cursory search of the pantry before fleeing from the debilitating stench still overpoweringly present in the room.

The next logical progression pointed to exploring the secret passage revealed by the derro in the alchemical chamber. We followed a short passage that led into a library full of books. A quick perusal of their contents uncovered a collection focused on diseases, plagues, necromancy, and golem creation. Everything about this place seeped with the knowledge within those books.

Another door resided in the eastern wall, so we passed through it into a surgical chamber. A pair of surgical tables sectioned the chamber into thirds. One of them contained the makings of another hideous creature, with body parts and surgical tools all around it. The head of this unfinished golem was that of our Shoanti boy, which Merethyl collected and placed with the other parts of him we’d located. That I must write a statement such as that both disturbs and disgusts me. Anything that would do this to a boy—whether human or otherwise—deserved the full punishment of the law. Thus far, we’d only come across animated undead, constructs, and derro in this place, but if all of this was by design of the human necromancer, Rolth, then he needed to be subjected to the heavy weight of justice for it.

Another short passage led west into a bedroom with a desk that had a keywork dagger upon it, almost exactly like the one we’d discovered in Lamm’s hideout. Merethyl grew perceptively excited with the find of the weapon, though he didn’t elaborate as to why. There’s something about that ancient case of the keynote killer that fascinates him greatly, however. In addition to that little token, our search of the bedroom uncovered a secret niche behind the room’s mirror that contained a set of masterwork thieves’ tools, some dust, and a spoon. The latter two were magical, making them worth taking.

An eastern passage took us into another bedroom, but this one contained a true threat in the way of a derro and its pet zombie. This derro certainly gave the impression of being a necromancer. The zombie provided the first hint—this particular one was Gaedren Lamm himself, stretched neck from the hanging causing its head to bobble like some poorly-stitched doll. Additionally, the derro wore a robe with the outline of a humanoid’s skeletal structure, complete with spell pouch dangling from its waist. Finally, on a table pressed up against the south wall laid a half-pieced together body that—despite being only the torso and arm—still writhed around in unlife. The arm displayed a series of Shoanti tattoos.

Syrical got the ball rolling with a terrible, high-pitched scream directed at the floating derro in the corner, though it appeared to shrug off whatever affects the screech incurred. I followed by attacking the zombie, but my sword barely nicked it. Glannin stepped in beside me and sheared deep into its torso with his waraxe, but the Lamm zombie retaliated with a strong bash to the dwarf’s own shoulder. The derro cast a spell that induced drowsiness, which I overcame, but Glannin dropped to the floor with a loud snort that may have been an immediate snore in his sleep. The dwarf’s rest hardly lasted long, as Merethyl kicked him while moving in, then inquired as to Rolth’s location from the derro, which was met with only silence. Calcedon’s fauchard made short work of what remained of the zombie after Glannin’s blow.

With the zombie now dead again, I charged the derro, whose flight kept it within reach of my sword due to the low ceiling. Syrical’s frost ray struck the derro over my right shoulder, but the spell fizzled away into nothingness. Its magic resistance couldn’t dissolve my longsword, however, and I spilled first blood. That’s the last thing I’d see in this fight. Immediately after, a ghostly, transparent hand swept down from behind the necromancer to touch me and steal my sight away.

Now encased in a world of blackness, I had no idea where the derro resided if it were to move, and even if it stayed where I’d struck it last, I didn’t have a confident feeling about doing so a second time. Thus, I turned my concentration inward and fell into my faith. I prayed for the power of the Last Azlanti to aid my companions in destroying this affront to civilization. It took a little time—I couldn’t tell you how long, but eventually they succeeded in doing so.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:40 pm

30 Gozran, 4715—Afternoon continued

Discussion that followed the victory against the derro necromancy revolved around how to continue: Should we push onward despite my blindness or usher me to the Grand Cathedral of Pharasma only a short distance away to cure my blindness. They quickly decided to escort me to the cathedral, with Calcedon accompanying me and the others remaining in the mausoleum until we returned. Merethyl offered the only real resistance to the idea, but only because he hated the idea of leaving this underground complex without Rolth in custody . . . or, perhaps, dead. Something about the investigator’s voice rang with excitement every time the subject of this necromancer came up, as if he realized more about this man than the rest of us did. Tough to say why, exactly, but there’s definitely something there. Regardless, I’m glad they agreed to cure my blindness first, as I’d hate to be relegated to the outskirts of this one.

I would later be told that the animated torso and arm of the Shoanti boy lying on the table would attack Calcedon as he sought to put them into the haversack. The lack of a head must have hindered its attempts. He successfully stashed it away, as I understand it.

The trip to the Grand Cathedral and back required a half-hour of time and 150 gold to cure my sight. I’m grateful to the Pharasmans for their swift aid in the endeavor.

During our absence, Syrical identified the magical spoon found in one of the past chambers and learned it to be a sustaining spoon. What a magnificent turn of luck, as our good dwarf has quite the ravenous appetite, and a spoon with the magical capability to replenish a container with nourishing gruel may work exceptionally well to help curb that hunger. The wizard rumored that the gruel tasted poor—cardboard was the word that he used. The usefulness of this particular item will be determined by how refined Glannin’s pallet might be in the end. We shall soon see.

We descended into the underground complex again and retraced our steps to the stitching room, where the next passage existed for us to explore. As we progressed, Merethyl and Glannin collaborated on the fashioning of these tunnels and agreed that they were dug out by ghouls. This passage accessed a larger cavern with three large pits that smelled horrifically of mold, fungus, and feces. Some mutated abomination stood in the midst of the three pits, and when it perceived our arrival, the grotesque thing exclaimed how Rolth would reward it richly if it could deliver us to him. So, there’s confirmation that Rolth had something to do with this graveyard compound and the denizens herein.

Ogrekin. That’s what this thing before us was; a disgusting offspring of the depraved ogres that more often than not had a worse disposition than their horrific parentage. I brandished the favored weapon of Aroden before it and told the beast that it did not belong here. I darted to its left and hacked away a pound of its flesh, which barely phased the inhuman mutant. Merethyl had been on the move even as I spoke against it, and he moved into a flanking position, but his thrust struck only open air as the ogrekin launched a mighty slam upon me, then retreated before I could regain my wits. However, Syrical froze a small, circular spot at its neck, and Glannin flanked it with Merethyl and carved off another large chunk. While it reeled from the dwarf’s massive blow, Calcedon used his polearm to trip it.

At that point, the fight was all but over. It required a couple handfuls of seconds to finish it, as the armor and blubber acted as the perfect shield to protect it from half of our attacks. It flailed enough in that time to crunch Merethyl’s ankle with a loud crack before Calcedon’s fauchard slayed it.

A pair of kidnapped people languished within each of the pits, so we lowered ropes and aided in their escape from them. Glannin helped set and heal Merethyl’s broken ankle—I fear I wasn’t watching, so I can’t tell you the strange concoction thrown together to “assist” in the healing process. We led the six kidnapped prisoners above ground and instructed them to make their way to the Grand Cathedral, where the Pharasmans would get them cleaned up and help them however else they could. One of the prisoners—a girl named Tiora—recognized my holy symbol to Aroden and talked of the need to change her ways. She spoke to pick-pocketing a greasy-looking man with a big nose, rat-like eyes, in his 40s and attributed her abduction to the deed . . . one of those wrong men at the wrong time situations. The fear of death within the pit made her rethink her eternal destination. I spoke with her for a short time, referring her to one of the three brothers at the temple and explaining that any one of them would be happy to aid her with any questions or fears she might have. I also told her that I’d be more than willing to meet with her again in the near future.

The prisoners set on their way to the Pharasmans, our lot returned to the skull-laced hall. Deeper in resided another passageway going west that led into a chamber dominated by three tables—the last of which held a dead body with three stirges atop it, and a nearby derro that placed a fourth. Upon detecting Merethyl’s entry, the derro shrieked with surprise and outrage.

As if startled by that high-pitched scream, the large collection of skulls regurgitated acidic bile upon Syrical, Calcedon, and me, burning our skin and equipment. I quickly rushed into the table-laden chamber to provide enough lighting to see a pair of passages exiting it to the north and south. Calcedon had entered on my heels but darted to the right, where he lined up the derro and all four stirges for a spell that destroyed all the latter and hurt the former with a discordant note. Glannin and Merethyl wasted no time in pressing the attack on the derro, as well. Syrical identified a position to the south—behind the first of the three tables—for cover and blasted our enemy with the conjured ray of frost.

In response to our sudden onslaught, the panicked derro stepped back to throw the latch of a wicker cabinet behind it. Two additional stirges flew out of the containment directly for Glannin and Calcedon. Glannin splattered the first with a single mighty swing from his axe. Unfortunately, Calcedon had his back to the hutch and only realized the danger upon seeing the dwarf cut down one from the air. As he turned to weigh the new threat, the second stirge latched tightly to his face and sank its proboscis into his left cheekbone. The derro attempted to use the new stirge menace as a distraction to attack Glannin with its aklys, but the dwarven warrior would have none of it, imposing his shield to block the strike.

A brisk survey of the situation revealed the derro’s only real escape from my companions would be west, so I cut off that route, closed on the derro, and cut it deep with a hard slash. Merethyl stabbed it in the gut from the other side.

As we scored a pair of strikes on the derro, Calcedon and Glannin busied themselves on the final stirge feeding on the nobleman’s face. Slightly alarmed, Calcedon swiped at the creature with his thorn bracer but failed to connect. The skilled dwarf lined up a steady cut with his axe and sliced the stirge away. It literally exploded at the blade’s first touch, and Calcedon’s face was doused in his own blood.

The surrounded, hysterical derro attempted to flee beneath the occupied table, but that left it open to attacks by four of us. Calcedon, Merethyl, and I put blades into it at the same time to finish it off.

Syrical identified the derro’s armor as being magical, which we determined would be useful for Merethyl to put on. As they went about taking off the armor, Glannin healed the wounds of Calcedon (with stout) and Merethyl (with snot). I decided to patch up my own wounds the old-fashioned way—with knowledge and bandages.

All business done, we chose the southwest passage to continue our search through this complex. This short tunnel ended in a muddy sinkhole, complete with a wheelbarrow, a pile of bodies, and an otyugh feeding on the bodies. It swiftly dispatched of the leg it had been munching upon after seeing fresh meat entering the dug-out chamber and bellowed out in anticipation of the veritable feast we represented to it.

Merethyl charged in as Glannin, Calcedon, and I worked magic on ourselves and followed. By the time we confronted the beast, the investigator had scaled the hideous mound of bodies and poked it with his swordcane. Syrical’s frost veered wide of the otyugh, and the creature lunged with its gaping maw to engulf the entirety of my left arm and almost severed it at the shoulder. I don’t recall having ever felt pain like that before.

Another frost ray flew by without hitting the intended target. I hacked with all the strength I possessed in my right arm and must have struck hard enough, because the monster’s teeth slackened enough for me to pull my arm out. Glannin clobbered me with a poultice right on that injured shoulder, which initially burned like the Nine Hells, but then the pain washed away and relief followed. Merethyl must have been sticking it effectively on the other side, because the monstrosity swung its bulbous head about to bite at him, but the elf proved too nimble. Waving tentacles flung every which way in a tornado of savageness, but the none came close to any of us. Calcedon ducked through one of those waving tentacles and buried his fauchard deep into its leathery hide.

I successfully slashed it again; our investigator successfully stuck it; a line of frost discolored a couple inches of flesh . . . none of those attacks turned its attention away from Calcedon, who took the brunt of its next bite, though his armor appeared to protect him from the worst of it. Glannin batted aside a tentacle and cleaved down the center of its spherical body with that wicked axe of his. It keeled over into the mud of the sinkhole, its tentacles and eyestalk splatting into the muck beside it to quiver a few times, then lay still.

I immediately recalled the last time we fought an otyugh and suffered from filth fever because of it. I’ll need to treat both Calcedon and myself for the disease, since we were bitten by the great poo monster. I might also be required to check on Merethyl, who practically dove headfirst into the pile of corpses in search of more body parts of the Shoanti boy . . . which he promptly located buried on the north edge of the pile—the hips and legs specifically. A couple treasures were discovered in the macabre scene, as well, including the ring of swimming that now resides on Glannin’s finger.

With no other exits unearthed in our combing of the sinkhole, we doubled back again to the triple table chamber where we’d fought the derro and stirges to take the northwest passage. A tight tunnel, it slowly curved around into a cavern with straw pallets and a table where a pair of derro played a game requiring dice, pliers, hammer, and a rat in a maze. Merethyl was so surprised to see this particular game that his fascination got the best of him as he mumbled the words, “Rat squish.” I honestly believe the investigator desired to see the game played to its completion, but the derro quickly moved to attack us.

Glannin and I converged on the nearest derro and opened up a pair of wounds on it. Having pulled a crossbow from its back, the derro dropped it, stepped back, and pulled out its aklys. The second derro threw a sonic spell our way that echoed in my head so badly I couldn’t hang on to my sword. I recognized Merethyl and Calcedon hurrying past me, though their trajectory hinted that they sought the second, spellcasting derro.

Our dwarf refused to permit the derro to run away, and I heard it release a terrible shriek from the fall of Glannin’s waraxe as I continued to collect my wits. Calcedon bloodied the second derro as it pushed open a secret door in the wall. Merethyl, likewise, speared the same derro as Calcedon, but the toughened thing denied death. At least for another moment. The accumulated efforts of Glannin and Merethyl felled the derro only seconds later.

The other derro slipped past everyone to withdraw through the opened door, and the chase was on. Calcedon and Merethyl pursued it, while Glannin and I hurried down the opposite corridor to swoop around and hopefully cut it off from escape in the triple table room. The others caught up to it quickly, as I heard the familiar cries of frustration and pain ring through the tight passage. We managed to successfully seal off the northwest tunnel from escape and closed on the derro, whose retreat had been slowed by our companions. It got a spell off at Calcedon—who shook it off rather easily it seemed—before Merethyl sprung forward and shoved his sword through its throat.

We returned to the small barracks and searched it for any sign of secret passages leading to rooms we’d not yet uncovered. No such luck. This complex had its fair share of secret passages, as the derro had already revealed, but none that we found took us to anything new. The reality began to dawn on us that Rolth wasn’t on site. While that knowledge disappointed all of us, it affected Merethyl most significantly. He believed Rolth to be the Keylock Killer, and coming so close to finding the man that had eluded authorities for almost two-and-a-half decades rubbed him the wrong way. I scoured the tunnels where it looked the derro had burrowed into this area to find any tracks indicative of someone shrinking themselves to flee from the complex in hopes that we might pick up on Rolth’s trail, but no such tracks existed.

Our investigator beheaded the ogrekin with intent to pay the Pharasmans to question it via divine magic. Thus, our next stop was the Grand Cathedral. The inquisition of the dead provided no new information, but our coming enabled us to remind the Pharasmans of the complex and their need to clean out all the unburied bodies and body parts. I’m certain they’ll know enough to consecrate the ground again, being that they deal with this sort of thing regularly.

And so we trudged back to the Citadel successful in our mission to recover the Shoanti boy but somewhat dejected at not having the opportunity to eliminate an old and serious threat from Korvosa. The Field Marshal required a full report, which we dispensed in detail, being sure to include all we’d unveiled concerning Rolth and Merethyl’s strong proof as to the man’s actual identity. She instructed us to place the deconstructed body of the boy on a table, so she could have it pieced back together before turning him over to Thousand Bones.

Our conversation turned to the young artist being executed for killing the king—the woman Vancarlo currently had hidden away. The Field Marshal informed us that the trial had been closed to everyone, so no one had a clue as to who was getting executed. We knew it wasn’t who they said it was, and we knew there was something dirty behind all of this, but the rhyme and reason remained a mystery. All of us believed it inevitable that the Queen had to know something of the wrongdoing, but was she culpable for it? This farce of a trial also verified that a murder certainly took place—the king had been killed; the death could no longer be viewed as accidental or natural. Some of the noble houses of Korvosa may have gone along with it to stabilize their powerbase in the city—perhaps even participated in it! I believe it possible that House Arkona may well be such a house, as it fell right in line with their general practices.

For all this conjecture and government shadiness bandied about, the only thing we could do in the end was attend the public execution on the 2nd of Desnus and see what answers could be determined there. Watching an innocent woman die hardly struck me as a delightful way to spend an evening, and a part of me wanted to explain to someone in the government that hey had the wrong woman . . . but how do I do that without giving up another innocent woman? I’d be possibly saving the life of one at the expense of another that I’ve promised to protect until guilt or innocence could be proven. This whole situation reeked of political corruption, so there’d be no guarantees that any life would be saved in the end, as whomever was behind it all wouldn’t wish for the woman wrongly accused to escape either, else she might say something incriminating. This kind of corruption comes when people take it upon themselves to act in accordance with their own desires and not abide by laws of civilization. Peasant or king, artisan or noble; Aroden spelled out exactly how mankind was to live in accordance with moral law that provided justice for everyone. When we do what’s right in our own eyes, we tend to muddy the waters of virtue with selfish designs. Right and wrong no longer remain objective, but become subjective, and society suffers from the corruption that inevitably follows. The only way for us to fix all that’s gone wrong is to do what’s right—what’s truly and honestly right, and not what we think is right.

I weep for a world where everyone believes themselves above order. No good can come from it.

We parted ways from the Citadel, with each of us going about our own business for the rest of the day. At the end of it, I journeyed south again to House Fordyce, so I could collect any further information gathered throughout the day and treat Calcedon (and myself) for filth fever. The following is what they relayed to me:

Calcedon worked to get more completed down at the docks now owned by his house, then successfully aided in getting a musical opened at the amphitheater on the 8th of Desnus, in which the various musicians at his home would play. Syrical checked in with college sources concerning whether they’d heard anything more about the Queen’s new guard, but only learned about her dissatisfaction with all the current law enforcement of the city, from the Korvosan Guard to the Hellknights. Merethyl sent a message about staking out the Dead Warrens to catch Rolth should he come back—doubtful he will. However, he confirmed what he’d found in the vaults of the Citadel: The red-haired woman’s head attached to the necrophidius was the first victim of the Keylock Killer 24 years ago. There’s no longer any doubt of Rolth’s identity. Calcedon and Syrical went back to the mausoleum and removed the library we located beneath it, bringing it back to House Fordyce for the foreseeable future.

As for me, after bathing and scrubbing my clothes clean, I spoke to Brother Vectorion about Tiora. I conveyed that she might well come see us, and that we should help her to see the benefit in changing her ways. We needed to reinforce proper behavior in the face of difficult choices, and the absolute importance of seeking to live a righteous life for her betterment and for helping society flourish.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 10, 2018 3:20 am

1 Desnus, 4715—Morning

All things considered, what a terrible day. There were highlights to it, mind you, that assured it wouldn’t be the worst day, but I cannot deny that I’m incredibly disappointed in those I’ve almost come to consider friends . . . and I say almost because of the events of this day. Make no mistake, I’d die for any one of these men, but they’d no doubt consider that an indelible flaw in my character associated with my antiquated and “dead” god. Admittedly, I’m not innocent in all this. I came on strong and far harsher than I had any right to, and for that there is no defense. My only excuse resides in the expectation that these men were greater in character themselves, or at least capable of understanding reason. Ach! I don’t mean this to sound as degrading as it’s coming out—a sure sign I’m not over the whole ordeal even now.

Our illustrious wizard decided to take it upon himself to “steal” the house drake of the King of Spiders, which looked in quite poor shape when we visited the crime lord’s ship a short time ago. I’d consider the action impulsive, except for the extraordinary amount of planning and cunning that went into the breakout. Naturally, his inclination to free the house drake was commendable. I, likewise, hate to see an intelligent creature abused for entertainment, but to knowingly—with unrepentant heart—break the law as he did . . . the act only differentiated itself from what the Spider himself would do by compassion for the creature’s life. While admirable, the willingness to throw aside society’s laws against theft—even against a crime lord—for compassion’s sake remains inexcusable . . . especially since there were other lawful means of accomplishing the same task.

This whole thing began because of an attack against Syrical within the confines of House Fordyce for taking the drake, indicating that somehow his well-designed plan had a fatal flaw in it somewhere. Indeed, most crime does. The Spider sent four of his namesake to either eliminate the wizard or—what is more likely, judging by Syrical’s ability to destroy the creatures before any help arrived—to warn him that his caper had been recognized and unappreciated. This, of course, could mean that more attacks may come in the future, putting the inhabitants of House Fordyce in danger and earning Calcedon an enemy with impressive resources available to smear his name in Korvosa through well-placed lies and well-paid officials.

The nobleman accepted all this pretty much in stride, I’ll add. One should probably expect that considering what he’s conveyed about his past experiences—not much outside of Zon-Kuthon fazes the man. Merethyl and Glannin proved far less commendable in their own reactions, which encouraged and applauded the wizard’s criminal activity with one notable exception: Both desired to be a part of it and were disappointed that the caper was carried on without them. My apologies. Merethyl did comment that his fellow elf’s actions were a bit rash and suggested that next time they scope out the crime lord more significantly, so that a more professional job might have been done.

I get the feeling that a “rob-the-rich-to-feed-the-poor” caper awaits our future. It may well be to Calcedon’s benefit that the wealth of his house is currently lacking.

That was derisive and uncalled for. Calcedon is a worthy man that already uses what he owns to aid the poor. It’s doubtful they’d run such a scheme against him.

Aroden give me strength . . . My dander is up, and very soon I’ll be repeating myself if not careful. My attitude isn’t charitable at the moment. Looking back on this, I’m certain there will be words written here that I’ll come to regret. Rather than continue what has become a saddening diatribe, let me just report the last few points from when the drake arrived and bed one with this farce altogether . . . Well, at least until the next one.

It was obvious the drake viewed Syrical in a highly positive light. The creature pledged its service to the wizard for a year-and-a-day for saving its life, which I again believe commendable. Ironically, such an agreement might be considered by some as indentured servitude, arguably another form of slavery acceptable by most due to its voluntary nature. With Syrical’s proclivities toward the poor and downtrodden, however, I’m sure he’ll be a benevolent master for the little drake.

According to the drake’s testimony, he was kidnapped from a rooftop by a foreigner with a net, then given as a gift to the King of Spiders. If this is true—and I have no reason to believe it untrue, as I could not detect a lie be spoken—then the liberation could be condoned within a court of law. Granted, the testimony wouldn’t stand up in a court of law, because an enslaved creature would be expected to say its not a slave, but an unlawfully kept victim. The use of magic could help determine the truth of its story, but such magic is far from unbeatable. We would need additional witnesses and evidence to back the drake’s story. Perhaps if there were other drakes held prisoner by the same means, or other reputable drakes that saw the crime and would testify to it. Even getting one of the Spider’s thugs to corroborate the drake’s story in some fashion would help verify its authenticity a bit more.

If only we knew an investigator capable of looking into all of this and tracking the evidence wherever it might lead.

Again, I digress. Perhaps it would be best if I left this journal for the moment and came back to it a little later. Clearly, I need more time to pray for peacefulness.

Let me end this entry by saying that Calcedon gained sentinels for his House, as the drake seemed to agree to get its kin to keep watch over the compound in exchange for the rights to stay on the grounds.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Nov 11, 2018 3:27 pm

1 Desnus, 4715—Morning continued

My last entry only proves that I’ve a long way to go.

It can be difficult for me to slow down my thoughts at times, but I had no right to be so ungracious. Every one of us remains capable of making dire mistakes in our lives, and I do a great disservice to them—and myself—if I dwell on those errors at the expense of being a continuous example in the lives of those who need to see it. I must apologize for my lack of candor and good sense in how I’ve tackled this situation. I had no right to say the things I said about my companions, and a great deal of what I said held no constructive value in the least, which made it useless on the whole. I will also side with doing the right things for the right reasons, and that must extend to saying the right things at the right times and knowing there will be ridicule and disgust thrown my way because of it. If I lose my temper over what I know will happen, how can I ever expect anyone to take what I have to say seriously? I’ll chalk this most recent confrontation with my companions up as a failure and learning experience.

Now, let’s move on with things, shall we?

The conversation shifted (thankfully) to what we planned to do for the woman wrongfully accused of the king’s murder. We concluded that our options were woefully limited. It’s impossible for us to speak up about their hanging an innocent woman, because they would then have obvious reason to wonder how we knew. Thus, if we do anything, there’s a better chance that we’d get both women killed in the blowback. We lacked any actual information about who was behind all of this, so we needed to work hard at stopping future lawlessness, even at the highest levels of this city’s government.

Somehow, this discussion deviated into the necessity of a group name for us. Admittedly, I can’t recall the connection that led us in that direction, but after whittling the choices down to two, we eventually settled on Knights of the Phoenix.

With that business completed, Calcedon brought up seeking the aid of Zellara, whose spirit had inhabited the Harrow deck now kept by Merethyl. The investigator withdrew the cards from his pouch, shook them, placed them upon the table, and called out the Vistani’s name. After a moment of nothing extraordinary happening, the cards spun up into the air as if picked up by a miniature tornado, and Zellara appeared before us. She had nothing to tell us, at first, explaining that she held no knowledge of the king’s assassination. When Calcedon inquired as to what she had meant before about the coming darkness she’d predicted, and how knowing that information might help us to handle the current trial before us, Zellara decided to perform a reading for us. She split her deck, proclaiming that what we sought dealt in the realm of wisdom, which was the suit of Stars. After shuffling, the spirit inquired as to which of us would be willing to draw the first card, and Glannin quickly chimed in that he’d do it. He drew the Midwife.

She reclaimed the card and reshuffled, then spread out the cards into three columns and three rows—the standard array for a Harrow reading from what I’ve witnessed. The first column represented the past and included the Serpent, the Courtesan, and the Snakebite. These cards told her that trauma had been suffered, but that it would be for the good of all. The second column, dealing with the present, included the Twin, the Liar, and the Bear. These pointed toward someone orchestrating the current events for their own gain. The final column spoke for the future, and in it was the Midwife, the Foreign Trader, and the Cyclone. The placement of the Midwife here seemed quite important, as Zellara informed us that she was a conduit for creation. Therefore, the card predicted that change would come from circumstances beneficial to us, but that it would be problematic for some. All-in-all, the harrow explained the need to keep faith that we’d learn from what’s happening now (ie. The trial) and use it for beneficial purposes in the future.

We thanked the spirit for the reading, and she departed back into the cards. Armed with that knowledge, we agreed to meet back here mid-afternoon tomorrow and went our separate ways. Before exiting, I inquired of Syrical about his availability to teach me the ways of spellcraft, to which he agreed with some disbelief that I’d waited so long to seek such knowledge. Undoubtedly, he was correct in that I should have come to him earlier about learning it.

Upon returning to the temple, Brother Pellonius met me with a package that had been delivered for me earlier today by a young woman, and, by his description of her, I believed it to be Tiora, one of the prisoners we set free from Rolth’s cemetery prison. I’d spoken to her about the truth of Aroden and invited her to visit the temple so we could talk more. It seems that my words—combined with her life’s experiences—helped to convince her of the all-important truth that the Last Azlanti is very much alive. Her note explained that she had things to make right before she could return to the temple, but it provided definitive proof that she intended to come back. Additionally, she offered a gift of a wand, which Syrical later identified as being an item of moderate healing. A magnificent gift, indeed!

2 Desnus, 4715

I woke up this morning a victim of the filth fever, as I’d feared since our last encounter with an otyugh. I would learn that both Calcedon and Glannin fell ill from it as well—the former not surprising, as he had been bit but the otyugh just as I had, but Glannin had surprised me. His affliction must have been from an earlier encounter with something, though it slips my mind exactly which encounter hindered him. Luckily, the dwarf’s magical prowess continues to impress, as he possessed a spell that enabled him to counteract the effects of the disease. He successfully treated Calcedon’s physical ailments with the usage of some dwarven stout, and my own in the same way when I arrived that afternoon from my work in Old Korvosa. Having discovered his own affliction with the disease and recognizing that he still suffered from the malady, I treated him for it, as well.

We set off for Castle Korvosa soon after. Enroute, Merethyl informed us that tonight’s new moon marked the first of a two-day holiday for the depraved followers of Norgorber called Ascendance Night. There existed some fear that this sham of a hanging could have something to do with a ritual killing for the unholy deity. As horrific as that would be if it resembled any sort of truth, we have only conjecture to go on with it, so it’s impossible to attribute this sad event to the mechanizations of Norgorber.

We arrived at the location about 4:30, and many others shared the same idea. Those gathered were dressed garishly, as though they had confused this political execution with a ball thrown by the crown for its court. The wealthiest claimed positions nearest the raised dais sipped their wine, and laughed at bad jokes told at the expense of the innocent. The whole scene had the air of a tragedy disguised as bad comedy.

We stationed ourselves about 50 feet from the dais ourselves—the closest Korvosa’s nobility would permit us to stand. Queen Ileosa’s promptness befitted her royal station, and she walked out before the crowd with the pomp, posture, and full mantle of royal leadership evident in her delicate face and white gown worth thousands of gold. Behind her stood dozens of women in immaculate plate armor and full helms with a crimson plume. Certainly, we viewed now the newest branch of the Queen’s guard that had not yet been announced.

As the Queen sat upon the makeshift throne erected for her on the raised dais, I could hear the whispers spreading throughout the crowd in anticipation of what was to come. Interestingly, other whispers also accompanied them about heroes that had recovered the body of a Shoanti boy and eliminated the tragedy of a butcher’s shop selling inappropriate meat. Drums cut through the gathered assemblage as the accused traipsed hooded and manacled across the stage. At the Queen’s command, the executioner removed the woman’s cowl to unveil a young woman that resembled the Trinia we knew only superficially at best. Either broken or prideful, her visage betrayed no sign of sorrow at her predicament, but something of a resigned acceptance had crept in there.

The Queen rose up and provided an impassioned speech. It conveyed her empathy for the pain of the people within the city, and how she herself suffered from it as well. The nobility—of whom every house in Korvosa was represented here—appeared to have mixed feelings about her words, though the general mood felt upbeat and celebrational. She ordered the executioner to perform his duty and reclaimed her seat for the show.

It proved to not be the show our Queen hoped to see.

As the headsman raised his axe to take the innocent woman’s head, a dagger imbedded itself in his back, causing him to stumble and lower the weapon. A second dagger pinned his foot to the stage. A masked vigilante appeared from nowhere next to them, and within mere seconds, he held the woman beside him in a stabilizing arm. The vigilante shouted down the Queen, insulting her and the “justice” she brought to Korvosa. He served true justice, and not a corrupt royalty headed by a corrupt queen.

The executioner had recovered from his initial shock by this point, and a shout rang out from the crowd, “Behind you!” even as a fog billowed out from around the man to conceal him from all outside eyes. Shouts of “Blackjack!” and “He’s back!” heralded in a new excitement from the crowd at the reappearance of this apparently long-unheard-from hero of the people. Admittedly, I’ve never heard of this man before.

This Blackjack materialized on the wall of the castle, clambering up a banner with the woman upon his back. He shouted something about the Queen again, which I could not hear through the ruckus of the angered crowd that had come this day for an execution now denied. He drank a potion and released the banner to fall back toward the earth, but vanished midfall.

Merethyl and Glannin had disappeared into the general chaos, and Calcedon requested that I accompany him. As he began asking questions of the various nobility about what was going on—and in a round-about way how they felt concerning it, I quickly caught on to his methods and began reading them. Most of the Korvosa’s nobility had bought into the lie of Trinia’s guilt. However, one particular noble from a house in Old Korvosa, whose name was easily identifiable as Arkona, cared less about the foiled execution and more about the return of Blackjack. Yet another reason to speak with this vigilante . . . and, yes, you know the Knights of the Phoenix were going to seek out this Blackjack to find out what he knows that we don’t. Obviously, it’s a great deal.

When the crowd dispersed without riot—but with general excitement on their lips, we reconvened at House Fordyce, where Blackjack became the central subject of our conversation. I’ll not recount much of it here, because it revolved around the necessity to find him, as I noted earlier, with some conjecture about who might know the man. General ideas were Field Marshal Croft and Vencarlo. Regardless of that, we verified that Queen Ileosa was involved in all of this, as she vehemently desired the assassination of the woman that wasn’t actually Trinia. If Trinia had worked in the castle for so long before the king’s death, she must have known exactly who Trinia was and what she looked like. Blackjack may know how she was involved in all this, which made finding him and gaining that knowledge imperative.

Syrical desired us to be out on the streets this night with all going on, to which the rest of us agreed. Thus, we spent the rest of the evening taking in the feel of the city. Every authority group in Korvosa—including the newest formed by the Queen—scoured the city in search of Blackjack and “Trinia.” The lower class celebrated Blackjack’s reemergence after a decade gone. Even more interesting, the legend of the man acted as a direct foil to the Queen’s rulership, as now a great many that had sided with her ascension began to doubt it. A severe distrust of the government was growing, which, depending on what they chose to do with that distrust, could be a good or bad thing.

3 Desnus, 4715

This morning, the Knights gathered at the Citadel at 9 a.m. to meet with the Field Marshal about last night’s happenings. Castle Korvosa has been closed since the new Queen’s Guard—which Miss Croft referred to as the Grey Maidens—rushed the Queen back into it with the appearance of Blackjack. More news involved the Seneschal of the castle, whom, she informed us, had been missing since the 16th of Gozren. That meant he disappeared at roughly the exact time the king died, and the city imploded. Those that knew of the situation tout the Seneschal had been killed in the riots, but his body had never been recovered. This news was important because the Seneschal was next in line for the throne should anything happen to the Queen. In situations such as these, monarchs that desired no questioning of their position on the throne often assassinated any that could lay claim. It feels likely the missing Seneschal was the subject of just such an assassination.

Again: conjecture . . . but the puzzle pieces fit too well into place.

The Field Marshal explained that it would be better if she kept her head down in the present political turmoil, which meant distancing herself from us in the public eye. Not in severing the connection completely, however. She desired a way to surreptitiously stay in contact, as she believed the city and the people would need our services many times before all this ended. All of us being in this for the people, we agreed to aid in any way we could. She completed her official time with us by explaining that a royal bounty had been placed on Trinia worth 5,000 gold.

We had thought to go our own way at that point, but an interesting note was left at House Fordyce that brought us all back together again soon after. It read:

“My friends, I hope this note finds you in good health in these dangerous times. In light of the recent unrest, I feel that I could provide some tips on self-defense to adventurers such as you and would be most gratified to meet with you for these lessons, offered gratis, at Orisini Academy; 16 Hillcrest Street. I eagerly await your arrival. – Vencarlo Orisini”

Sure enough, upon our arrival at the academy, Vencarlo revealed that Trinia now resided within his home, but it had grown too dangerous to keep her within the city. He wanted us to get her out of the city at our earliest convenience. He also brought in a second woman, poorly disguised, that he introduced as Sydri Coyle, the innocent woman that Blackjack had saved from the executioner’s axe. Naturally, this brought up immediate questions as to whether Vencarlo knew Blackjack, was Blackjack, or now worked with Blackjack. He budged only so far as to say he knew the vigilante, that he certainly was not the vigilante, but had dealings with the vigilante on rare occasions. One of those rare occasions just happened to be now.

Blackjack professed the innocence of both these women, and Vencarlo wished to call upon us to help see them safely from a city that actively hunted them. Twelve miles out from Korvosa sat an inn, called Trots, at which he had contacts from Harse awaiting their delivery. He suggested that we go out by way of the North Bridge in the evening, when larger crowds are leaving the city, and we could blend in with them. He gave us a pouch with 20 gold pieces inside and told us to hand it off to Jasan Adriel upon our arrival at the inn.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:24 pm

3 Desnus, 4715—Evening

We set out from the Orisini Academy that evening. Merethyl disguised Trinia, Sydri, and everyone in our group besides Calcedon and myself—the former disguised himself, while I went simply as myself. Very few know who I am outside of Old Korvosa, where I do the vast majority of my work, so I didn’t anticipate that any of the guards working the North Bridge would have any idea of whom I was. Syrical and Glannin had successfully acquired a dog corpse for the journey, so the elven wizard could use his corpse sculpting spell to turn it into Trinia’s body should . . . in case of . . . because if . . . I honestly have no idea its purpose. He had magic and wanted to use it. I’m certain it was for a commendable reason this time.

The citywide search remained in full swing as we departed the academy. The Korvosan Guard had incorporated a new element to their uniforms: a crimson cloak. Perhaps the Queen intended to capitalize on the color crimson to emphasize her ascension to the throne of Korvosa, and so required all those working for the throne to don it. Her knew guard, the Grey Maidens, made liberal use it in their look, with splashes of crimson mixed in with their plate armor, and the recognizable plume apparent on their helms. Those same Grey Maidens stopped us and tested our disguise as book merchants as we crossed the North Bridge, but they permitted us to pass without any problem.

The journey to Trots Inn would take roughly six hours, but we encountered our first—and only real—difficulty of the trip an hour-and-a-half out of Korvosa. The wagon filled to the brim with the women and my companions, I walked alongside it. A broken wagon resided upon its side in the middle of the road ahead of us. Smelling trouble, Glannin swiftly exited its confines to reconnoiter the east side of the road, while I performed a similar action on the west. Merethyl halted the wagon and maintained vigil from the driver’s seat. As I reached the tree line, I spotted a quartet of men hiding amidst the trees—two on either side of the road—just beyond the overturned wagon and loudly exclaimed their positions to my companions. Their ambush foiled, the four roadside bandits sprung from their hiding places to attack.

I placed their uninspired head covering as the conventional trademark of the Bloody Bandanas, an infamous gang of thieves and ne’er-do-wells that preyed on lone wagons and small groups of travelers in this neck of the woods. They released a hail of arrows at Glannin, as he scrambled from the open road to the wood line, but only one of the missiles located a chink in his armor. Merethyl sped up to me, having leapt off the wagon with the appearance of the enemy, so I vacated the area and plunged toward the Bandanas to take some of the pressure off Glannin. I commanded the nearest of the bandits on my side of the road not to bother reaching for his blade as I approached and explained how it would be much easier on everyone if they’d just lay their arms down now. I wished to save as many of their lives as I could, and while I would seek to injure and not kill, I knew my companions to be a bit more ruthless in that area. Yes, I told them this openly.

Naturally, they didn’t listen. How difficult it is to save a life these days . . . .

Behind me, Calcedon shrieked an awful-sounding note, and I watched the bandit’s bowstring snapped. At the same time, Trinia began an insulting tirade against the Bandanas thick with comedic intent, but raunchy enough to make a sailor blush. Merethyl used the wagon as cover and sprinted across the road to the east side with Glannin, nearly dropping into a small pit meant to break his ankle, but he saw it at the last minute and avoided it.

The bandit with broken bowstring tossed the weapon aside and tried to unsheathe his sword, but quickly learned that he couldn’t pull it out. I shrugged at him—noting as I did that a fifth bandit with a bloody cap charged out of the wood to the east to attack Merethyl—and reminded him not to bother with his sword. I attempted to swat him upside the head with my sword, but he ducked it and stepped away. As I moved to follow, I recognized a spear trap hidden by the wagon and took an alternate route. The extra time opened me up to an arrow shot through my left arm. Another note from Calcedon ended that ranged threat to me with another broken bowstring.

On the other side of the road, Glannin appeared beside the bloody cap bandit and cleaved him heavily with his waraxe. A shower of blood sprayed against the wagon and one of the Bandanas there, and it shocked me how the man managed to keep his feet after such a blow! Merethyl used the dwarf’s surprising arrival almost as a feint and drove his blade through the guy’s gut, but still he refused to fall—even retaliated with a handaxe that skinned the elf’s shoulder. A bandit swept around the side of his companion and attacked Glannin, but the dwarf knocked the sword wide with the handle of his axe. Calcedon had moved near that combat shortly after snapping his second bowstring, but the bandit hadn’t noticed, which left him wide open for a fauchard to hew through his left clavicle and down into his gut. The nobleman appeared almost surprised by how easily his blade slipped through the man’s bones. Regardless, that bandit fell in a bloody mess to the ground, never to move again.

On my side, one bandit still wrestled with his sword, while the other spilled my blood with his. That sudden wound stole all power from my strike against the man unable to draw his weapon, and he easily ducked me a second time. Even so, I warned them about their inevitable fate if they refused surrender and nodded toward the bloody heap of their companion at the feet of Calcedon. I noted the Bandana fighting with his sword paid no attention to me, so I clocked him with the flat of my blade, then received another biting stab from the second bandit’s sword. I grabbed the man’s wrist as he pulled it out of me and smacked him upside the head with my pommel.

Meanwhile, Glannin’s axe finished its horrendous work on the bloody cap by practically carving the man in twain at the waist. Viscera spilled out of him without so much as a word escaping his lips, and that powerful display pretty much spelled an end to the fight. The other bandit beside that massacre gawked at what remained of his companion, and Merethyl, having some pity on the man, pulled out a sap from his belt and clubbed the Bandana on the back of the neck, knocking him out cold.

Both bandits on me decided to cut and run, but I pommeled one just as he cut out and toppled him to the ground in sweet unconsciousness. Glannin threw an axe at the last retreating bandit and missed. Merethyl and I pursued the criminal, not keen on him getting away. I succeeded in passing by him, then, noting him to be the one unable to draw his blade, convinced him to simply give up. As the two of us walked back to the others, I questioned him concerning the whereabouts to their camp. The bandit attempted to barter his freedom for the information, but that got him nowhere. The man proved to be a horrible liar, so deciphering his falsehoods required no amount of real skill, and I learned their camp resided about 30 minutes north of our current location, that no other bandits were left there, and that they had killed the merchants in the overturned wagon they now used to block the road. Rather than detour now, wasting time to find it, and possibly put the two women we protected in further danger, we resolved to check on the camp on our return trip. The bandits were manacled and roped to the wagon, which they walked behind for the rest of the night until we arrived at the inn.

A barrel-chested man greeted us at the door. He turned out to be Jasan, Vencarlos’ contact here. We inquired as to whether any law enforcement holed up nearby, but he assured us none stayed out this way. We’d need to either take them back to Korvosa with us, or head to the constabulary in Harse. Jasan said he’d take them that way if we wished, but the thought of the three criminals traveling with him and the two women he was meant to safeguard hardly seemed an optimal solution. Thus, we opted to accompany them to Harse. It would add a couple days to our travel, but we probably had some time to spare, and it wouldn’t do to take them back to Korvosa with us, as they could identify that we escorted two women. It wasn’t worth the chance.

The proprietor of Trots Inn provided us with room for the gold given us by Vencarlos, as well as horses for the journey to Harse. He was also kind enough to give us a closet to lock our prisoners in. I asked for a shovel to bury the two dead bandits with about a hundred feet off the road and received one. Glannin aided me in the task, so it only took about an hour.

Upon our return, Merethyl felt Zellara’s harrow deck twitch in his pocket. He placed them on the table, and a whirlwind twirled them into the air, which called the apparition of the Varisian harrower out of the cards. She explained that she sensed something dire in our future and wanted to perform another reading. First came the Choosing. As before, we all chose a card and received an interesting bit of information from Zellara based on the selection. The result of the Choosing follows:

Calcedon—“The Mountain Man” She told him that he came upon a force . . . a physical power outside his control. Though acceding to that force might seem wise, surviving it was paramount to achieving his goal.

Glannin—“The Tangled Briar” Someone in his past has been lost, and in that loss his purpose has been sparked, which reverberated through his life and destiny in a way that he has yet to know.

Syrical—“The Sickness” He found himself assailed on all sides by corruption—both body and soul. She warned him to take care that he not become one of the afflicted and disaster may be averted.

Merethyl—“The Trumpet” He felt within himself a desire to act . . . aggressively, she said, in a righteous cause. His motivations were noble, but he should take care that they remain so or his actions will bring only pain and crumbling strength to those around him.

Myself—“The Waxworks” Though surrounded by those who are petrified in their helplessness to change morality and circumstances, I would find that in a crucial moment, I will summon the vitality to provoke much needed change.

I should note here that there’s something about the words of this woman’s spirit that I find very intriguing. I can’t put my finger on it completely, but she continues to speak wisdom with each reading that I do believe we should adhere to, certainly.

Next came the Spread, when she shuffled the harrow and placed them in three columns and three rows. The first column dealing with the Past: “The Brass Dwarf”—a partial match—others fall, but we remain strong; “The Sickness” (Syrical’s card)—partial match—stands for disease, famine, and corruption of the soul; “The Dance”—partial opposing, a misaligned card—a dance that was once beautiful and intended for the good of all has turned . . . sour . . . still hypnotic, but only seeking the good of the select. She interpreted this set—looking directly at Syrical as she spoke: Where others have fallen, you remain strong, yet there is a dance in the periphery . . . one you must identify. This order was once intended for the good of all, but it has been corrupted, as strange flesh knit together in a cacophony of patterns.

The second column dealing with the Present: “The Demon’s Lantern”—partial match, a misaligned card—though darkness closes in around you, there are guides to show you the way, you need only seek them out; “The Betrayal”—envy twists the spirit and leads ultimately to devastation; “The Trumpet” (Merethyl’s card)—a misaligned card—motives which are seemingly noble bring injury and crumbling strength. Her interpretation of this set—looking directly at Merethyl as she spoke: Your present circumstance will test your motivations. Darkness closes in around you. Envy of those unseen twist the spirit leading to devastation, but there are guides on your path to show you the way out of the darkness. Do not allow your pride to keep you from seeking their wisdom.

The third column dealing with the Future: “The Uprising”—partial match—you will be caught in the clutches of something with such strength as to crush all that come into contact with it; “The Waxworks” (my card)—a place of helplessness and physical entropy, the mind may be willing but the flesh will be frozen in this place of horror; “The Hidden Truth”—a misaligned card—a secret will be revealed to the detriment of all. Her interpretation of this set—looking directly at me as she spoke: A dark secret will be revealed that will be to the detriment of all, and you will be caught in the clutches of something with such strength as to crush you utterly. You must find the will and energy to move, when those around you are frozen by the horror to come.

At the conclusion of the reading, the apparition disappeared again into the deck. A dark and cryptic reading, with warnings and moments of purity throughout. Having absorbed her words and finding little to say about them without first giving them more thought, we all retired to a good night’s sleep before the travels of the days to come.

4-5 Desnus, 4715

These days were occupied with travel to and from Harse. Jasan took Trinia and Sydri with him upon our arrival, and we turned over the three bandits to the constabulary with a full report of their crimes, as witnessed by ourselves and admitted to by the Bandana I questioned.

That evening, I began my instruction in spellcraft with Syrical. Merethyl and Calcedon went out into the town to dig up any rumors about the goings-on in Korvosa. They learned that the people here knew Blackjack, that there were rumors of cult worshipers of Norgorber in Korvosa, and the deplorable performances at the Exemplary Execrables. Otherwise, the travel went peacefully.

6 Desnus, 4715

Relatively early in the morning, we started back to Korvosa, making only one stop along the way to track down that bandit camp. Not a lot was stashed there, but we found enough that it should help with the needs of Korvosa. Rather than enter the city through North Bridge, we veered south and went through the East Shore Gate. That enabled us to drop off the books we’d used to sell our story as a merchant caravan at House Fordyce, and, while there, we learned that a ship had sailed into the Jeggare north of Old Korvosa. The guard hailed it, but it gave no response, so the trebuchets sank it, anticipating it was a pirate vessel. Other whispers in the city proclaim it a ghost ship, but people will talk and stir up stories that are more fantastical whenever they can.

We spoke to Vencarlos about other news in the city, but he generally told us that nothing new had occurred outside what we already knew. Therefore, we split up for the night.

7-8 Desnus, 4715

Nothing spectacular to report for the 7th. Just a normal day for all.

The 8th was the day of Calcedon’s performance at the amphitheater, which I had intended to attend. However, a visitor to the temple may have changed those plans.

Grau arrived to see me, clean-shaven, and with the new crimson cloak of the Korvosan Guard. He explained that his niece had taken ill with red pox that covered her skin, and he remembered me from the Traveling Man. He thought that perhaps I could look at her and find a cure for her condition. Apparently, an Abadaran priest had been tending to her with little effect, and he hoped that with my experience tending to the unfortunates of Old Korvosa, perhaps I’d seen or understood more than the fellow. I expressed a sincere desire to help his niece, so he led me outside the city walls to Trail’s End. On our way, we crossed paths with a local gang of toughs known as the Bashwater Boys, but they only stared, wanting nothing to do with the law of Korvosa.

I accompanied Grau to the home of Tayce Soldado, a squat two-story building that’s in dire need of repairs. Within, the home was clean and well-kept, with the scribblings of children on the walls in places. Two boys played in the a living room, and I noted the Abadaran Grau had mentioned brewing something in the kitchen. The Korvosan Guard had nothing nice to say to the priest, which caused a side conversation between he and his sister-in-law. As they discussed their disagreement, the Abadaran came over to speak with me. He introduced himself as Ishani Dhatri, and he appeared absolutely bedraggled to me—in temperament, if not in physical attire. He explained that he dealt with ailments and illnesses of all kinds but had never seen anything quite like this. I listened intently, wishing to acquire all the knowledge I could from this man until a terrible coughing rattled down the stairs from above. At that, I asked if I might see the girl, to which he agreed to show me to her. Grau and Tayce joined us then, seeing us moving up that way.

We entered into a bedroom loft, where a young girl of roughly nine summers started into a fit of horrific coughing that brought her weakened body sitting up in her bed. When the hacking concluded, she flopped back down, completely devoid of energy. What’s worse, that racking cough had done nothing to ease her breathing. Angry, red splotches covered her skin. I grew studious, examining her closely in an attempt to analyze what I was seeing. Unfortunately, even after racking my brain, I had to admit that I’d seen nothing like this before. That frightened me, as I’d seen a lot in my time and travels across the Inner Sea. What I did know was that this little girl would die if she received no aid within the next couple days.

I retreated from her bedside to discuss the situation with Tayce, Grau, and Ishani. Tayce verified that her daughter, Brienna, had begun with this illness a couple days ago—it started with a small cough, then itching, then the hideous rashes spread across the young girl’s skin. I asked if she had been with her daughter since the start of it, to which she naturally affirmed she had. That gave me some hope, as Tayce showed no signs of having contracted the illness. Perhaps it wasn’t passed by breath, so if one were careful in their attentions and kept the room clean, it might be capable of containing it. Grau growled that the Abadaran—by which, he meant the present Ishani—refused to help the girl with any kind of magical healing. The cleric looked abashed at the accusation, as if sorrowful that the man’s assessment was correct. He assured me that he desired to help, but the tenets of the Abadaran faith required payment . . . he was forbidden from permitting healing aid without it. With a nod of my head, I told him to go get a cleric of his order capable of healing this little girl. I would pay for the curing. Ishani’s eyes lit up almost as much as Tayce’s. He rushed out the door to retrieve one of his fellow faithful.

While awaiting their return, I questioned Tayce about where Brienna had gone the couple days before coming down ill. She had no definitive answers for me but stated that her daughter had friends in North Point and Old Korvosa. She works long hours and can’t keep tabs on the girl during all that time. I understood, of course, but I explained that anything she could affirm could be immensely helpful. She offered me the names of Brienna’s friends, which I thanked her for issuing.

When the cleric arrived, I paid him for the healing, and he performed it. Praise Aroden, the spell worked, and the little girl’s complexion cleared up of the rashes, and she took on a healthy hue to her skin. The deed done, the cleric promptly departed.

I felt terrible having to question the girl immediately after her recovery, but a situation as dour as this required quick answers. I asked Brienna where she had been those couple days before she got sick and with whom. She informed that she spent time with her friends in North Point, and that they often gathered on or near 3rd Street. I could easily tell that she was hiding something, so I impressed upon her the need to tell me everything she remembered. She reiterated what she’d said before, but still withheld the information I could tell she hid. The girl was embarrassed about something. Perhaps her mother being present kept her from speaking about the truth of it. So, the second hard decision: I requested that Tayce leave the room for a few minutes. She argued, of course, but I convinced her to do so in short order.

After another failed attempt to get Brienna to open up, I remembered thinking that I may have to stall this situation and send for Calcedon, who had more experience talking to children. I knew he had a performance that he prepared for, however, and didn’t wish to bother him about this right away if I could help it. Thus, I tried again, pressing the need for truth in this, and that I would not tell her mother if it was something she was so embarrassed about.

The Last Azlanti must have aided my plea, for the young girl finally opened up with me. It seemed that Brienna had discovered a pouch of silver coins. Having probably never seen that much money in her life, she did as any nine-year-old would do: went on a spending spree. She spent the money at a sweet shop, a toy shop, and a street food vender in Jeggare Circle. Her embarrassment came from spending the money so frivolously, as she knew that her mother could have used that silver to help with bills and food for them. I applauded the young girl’s conscience—at such a young age, Brienna grasped the importance of doing right, even though the temptation of so much money had caused her to fail in that trial. I thanked her for being honest, then told the girl how important it was that she tell her mother what had occurred. She was frightened, but I attempted to convey as patiently as I knew how that honesty was imperative in the world, especially among family, who needed to trust one another always. I explained that I would not say anything, as I had promised her, but that I believed with all my heart she needed to explain the situation to her mother. She bashfully agreed to do so.

Before leaving, I talked again with Tayce and Ishani. I told her to eliminate that bedding—destroy it utterly, and I gave her ten gold pieces to pay for new bedding for her daughter, and to use the rest however she had need. She was grateful, naturally, and invited me back for dinner, to which I thanked her, but had much work to be done, so I would need to take her up on that offer at a later time. She extended an open invitation to come back whenever I wished.

I said my farewell to her, and Ishani accompanied me back into the city. We spoke about the disease and concurred that this could easily become an epidemic in the city if something wasn’t done soon. In fact, he stated that he’d seen signs that this disease might be spreading through the city. We agreed to meet the next morning at the Grand Vault, after I had an opportunity to do some investigating in North Point with the information I’d gathered from Brienna.

I started toward House Forsythe, but quickly changed my mind. If, somehow, I had come into contact with this disease during my examination at Tayce’s home, I didn’t wish to spread it through Calcedon’s home. Instead, I altered course to 3 Lancet Lane. I’d send runners to gather the others to me.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  Magyc on Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:27 pm

Prime Magister Geezlebottle,

If these pages made their way into your hands via a friendly and personable house drake, you may assume I have perished after looking too deeply into the web of lies and menace that permeate this city.  Please look after him, and give him a place to stay on the grounds if possible- I went to great lengths to give him salvation and I would like to know that it wasn’t for naught.  
I know you entertained my theories about the Academae quite recently despite my lack of certain proof. Let my demise here stand as evidence that the Academae and their infernal dabblings only represent one facet of the rot and decay within this city.   The findings of myself and my group of new friends, the ones I told you about who were trying to stem the tide of violence and corruption here, are detailed below.

It started the morning of the 9th.  Chazon, the Arodenite I told you about, gathered us together that morning to tell of a new disease he came across.  The a relative of one our contacts in the Guard had a little girl afflicted by a some kind of disease, a disease  that both Chazon and the priests of Abador had never seen before.  Divine magic was able to cure it, but all of the other remedies had failed.  He had questioned her about her activities in the days leading up to her infection, and anxious to prevent an outbreak, thought we should look into the matter to ensure the disease did not spread.  

We proceeded to Northpoint, as the girl had told us of her activities in recent days- she had found a bag of silver, and quickly found ways to spend it.  We arrived around 1 and found nothing relevant- except a greater than usual number of people coughing in the street.  We decided to start checking the temples to see if they were seeing victims of the disease.

Our first stop was the temple of Shelyn.  Some sick people congregated around the entrance to the stunningly beautiful building.  We met with Eats with Sparrows, and we found that they Temple to Shelyn was indeed aware of the new disease. The afflicted had been trickling in over the past two days.  We asked her to have her priests keep records of where the sick came from and their movements over the past few days, in hopes of tracing an origin to the outbreak.  We did our own interview of a couple we found as we left, and recorded their movements- but without a larger number of records, trying to find commonalities in people’ activities was pointless.  

We discussed theories enroute to the next temple.  One was that the “Ghost Ship” which had been sunk in the river by the city’s defenses on the 5th was the origin point, in that perhaps a survivor afflicted with the disease had swum to shore and made his way into the city.  We considered the idea of investigating the ship even though it was at the bottom of the river, though we knew that would be a costly endeavor.  

We arrived at the Grand Vault of Abador about 5 pm.  This time the scene was much more chaotic. Dozens of the afflicted crowded the entry, trying to get in and begging to be cured.  We interviewed some and found representation from all over Northpoint.  We decided we could not wait for the result from the temple and Merithel led us in conducting our own quick investigation, talking with as many sick as we could- and it was fruitless.  We got many stories, but could not link up any common sources of exposure.

We proceeded to the Temple of Asmodeus.  Moderate crowds of sick waited at their doors.  My skin crawled every second we were on the grounds, but my allies seemed unpeturbed.  Despite my revulsion, I realize they are not foremost in the list of those I hold in contempt.   The presence of this faith here would be nothing but a mere indecency if not for the Crown and the Academae elevating it to its perverse stature.

We requested that they keep records of the afflicted, and naturally found out they were already doing so, in greater detail than we had been asking for.  Evil here is ruthlessly efficient.  They reported sick from southern Midland, the Narrows, and the Heights- most of these got sick on the 7th.  

Next on our stop was the Temple of Sarenrae.  They were treating more than the Asmoedites were, a line had formed.  Temple priests reported victims from East Shore, and they had various victims coming down with the disease on the 6th, 7th, and today.

We made a quick stop at the Temple of Many.  No sick visited the shrines there, as it was apparently known the clergy there were incapable of helping in this regard.

After visiting the major temples, we went to see Kroft at 10 pm.  She was not there, and the guard we spoke too knew less than we did.  We decided to break for the night, and regroup at the Abadoran Vault in the morning for a renewed effort at investigating and stopping this disease.  

On the morning of the 9th we met at the designated spot.  Chazon was in bad shape, and bore the tell-tale signs of the disease.  Had he come down first because he was exposed first, or was it due to his seemingly extraordinary vulnerability to poison, disease, and curses?  We had the means to have him magically healed, but we had a fresh obstacle in front of us in the form of now throngs of diseased Korvosans in front of the Vault, crying and screaming for relief.  Many seemed to lack the finances to pay for the healing- a certain prerequisite for the Abadorans.  

We started to make our way inside, Chazon and Merithel getting slightly separated.  I followed very close to Glannin as he made a path, while Chazon tried to reason with the crowd.  Glannin, quite surprisingly, he stopped to aid one of the stricken.  He clearly posseses some potent divine power that he himself is still unaware of.  In this instance, whatever he did cleared up the symptoms of the afflicted, though it did not appear to me as if he removed it.  A few other of the sick begged him for relief, and though I fully support such mercy in the abstract, the potential for some bad outcomes remained when his power was exhausted.  He healed all he could- perhaps his (very) gruff exterior hides a compassionate spirit- but when he could heal no more, they rest of the sick fell upon him, grabbing and pulling for his attention.  At that point I had to extricate myself as I doubted my armor would survive the imminent crush of bodies.  

Seconds later I heard a booming voice from the dwarf as he doubled in size.  I’ve seen this a few times before from others, and I cannot wait to hear how our dwarf rationalizes away what just happened after he unconsciously enlarged.  The dwarf, now weighing close to a ton, is able to easily bluster his way to the door as the guards clear a path for the rest of us.

After we made it in, Chazon paid to have himself cured, and Merithel paid to have his nephew cured.  Both attempted cures were successful.  We talked to the priest and heard some very disconcerting news about “Bloodveil” as it was now known.  Three brothers had come down with the disease AFTER being healed without contact with other afflicted.  We have no idea what we are dealing with.  

The ranking Abadoran priest asks us to escort him to Citadel Volshek so he can speak with the Guard and plan a joint response with the Temples and government.  Lacking any other ideas, we agree to escort him across the city.  Merithel, ever cautious, disguised him so he would not be accosted for healing as we made our way.  As we made our way, the streets actually seemed to be more subdued- a incipient plague seems like a good deterrent to a mob.  

We were admitted into the Citadel in time to see Kroft begin her address to the Guard.  Beside her stood 3 veteran grizzled guards, a Gray Maiden, and a middle aged gentleman with a doctor’s case.  She made a pronouncement to her guards that they will be escorting the Doctors wherever they go.  She also said that any order of a Gray Maiden was to be obeyed by a guard as if it was issued by a guard officer.  

After her pronouncements, she moved to leave, but spotted us.  We made our way over and Chazon introduced the Abadoran cleric.  She in turn introduced us to Dr. Dardus, leader of the Queen’s Physicians.  He teleported in from Egoran two days ago, and while he hopes to ease the citizen’s concerns, he never saw anything like this disease.  He brought his assembled team of doctors from villages and towns outside Korvosa.  (He also let slip that he treated the King before he died, and that his disease presente as leprosy.)  The Abadoran and the rest of the retinue then proceeded indoors.  Kroft handed us a proclamation that would be issued this day, and it was quite extraordinary:

Physicians will have access to any home or building.  Anyone impeding the Doctors or Gray Maidens will be imprisoned.  Impersonating a physician is punishable by death.  Spreading the disease is punishable by torture, then death.  Hiding an infected is punishable by death.  

Truly a harsh response.  After we took leave of Kroft, Glannin actually beat me to the conclusion- that these events played extremely well for the Crown, and may in fact be a conspiracy.  Unlimited access for the Gray Maidens to everywhere in Korvosa to root out the Queen’s enemies, and after a sufficient amount of suffering and death, the Queen’s physicians miraculously produce a “cure” and in one swoop all her distrust is swept away as she becomes the savior of the city.  Glannin and I see it coming, and I think the others are receptive as well.  Unfortunately, even if we were able to predict her plans exactly…I currently see no way to stop them.  Anything we might do would probably run afoul of the new laws…which is why I’m recording our efforts as a failsafe in case something happens to us.  

We broke for the day, dispirited, and did not reconvene together until the morning of the 11th.  Merithel had received a coded missive from an unknown informant that advised us to visit the ship.  Lacking any better alternatives, we made preparations.  The magic required to get some of us to the bottom of the river will be somewhat costly, but if it gives us a new lead, it will be money well spent.  Several of my comrades plan to make the delve, whilst I stay on the surface to coordinate their efforts.

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Post  Magyc on Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:01 am

Lord Fordyce rejoined us before the dive commenced.  We planned to rent a rowboat to reach the spot in the river where the city’s trebuchets sunk the quarantined Nidalese merchant ship, but no expenditure proved necessary, as Chazon’s fame and reputation in this part of the city afforded him free use of the boat.  After reaching the spot and ensuring everyone had the magical enhancements needed for the dive, my companions went overboard as I watched the boat (as of course a spell artist has no business being underwater).

From my perspective on the surface, the mission proceeded flawlessly.  Underwater, as I learned when my companions returned, it was a bit more hazardous.  The ship was 80 ft beneath the surface, on the floor of the river.   They first explored the forecastle and were attacked by eels that had already set up a nest of sorts.  They were quickly dispatched, but did cause some nasty wounds to Chazon.  

They next moved to the galley and hold, where the side was caved in from the trebuchet.  The hold contained boxes, but they were empty.  They moved to the crew quarters and found a room containing a floating haze of gore.  They encountered a large shark within the ship, and its first move was not to take a bite out of them, but to swim past and solidly thump a door behind them.  The shark apparently sacrificed its life to warn (as I came to suspect after consulting the College) its apparent master.  A sea hag then assaulted our group, causing massive damage with her claw and shortspear before she was finally killed by Calcedon.  

They search recommenced, and they found a bedquarters with a drowned man.  He had a head injury, apparently sustained in a fall and hitting the corner of a foot locker.  He did not have the symptoms of Bloodveil.  He appeared to be a worshipper of Urgathoa based on the symbol around his next.  With the ship searched, my comrades returned to the surface with both the corpse and the foot locker.  

After returning the boat, we opened the foot locker.  Aside from some minor valuables, there was a pristine and very valuable holy book of Urgathoa within.   Strangely, every mention of “Urgathoa” had been struck out and replaced with the name “Andaisin”.  Chazon recalled a cult of Urgathoa that decimated a Nidalese village with the bubonic plague several years ago.  The “Andaisin” was thought to be leader.  She was never caught and made to pay for her crimes.   We consulted with the Pharasmans to see if they could use their magic to speak to the deceased- the priestess assured us she could, (even though he was missing a tongue) tomorrow.  The temple had exhausted the divine energies they had been blessed with this day attempting to stem the advance of Bloodveil.  The mounting body count demonstrated they were losing this fight.

We then split up to cover more investigatory leads.  Merithel attempted to find out more information about the Nidalese ship (the Direption).  Chazon took the Urgathoa book to study for the night before we sold it to the Pharasmans to destroy.  Calcedon and Glannin went to tell the Guard of our findings.  I was charged with investigating the sea hag’s presence.
I returned to the college and enlisted the services of some third years with the promise of a finder’s fee.  Based on what they told me of sea hags, her presence was likely more of a coincidence than having anything to do with the ship’s mission or the Bloodveil plague, a fact I reported to my comrades the next morning.

We reconvened at daybreak.  Chazon reported a guard came from Harst with a reward for turning in the Bloody Bandanas.  I was preparing to leave the manor when I saw the Pharasmans visit the manor- apparently Calcedon had arranged for a house visit for treatment of a little one under his protection who was afflicted with the disease.  Although I would not tell this to his face, I greatly respect the man’s vision and drive to restore his House and remake  Korvosa itself to a more stable, civilized, and humane place to live and die, particularly considering the corruption he endured as a youth that left him maimed.  

We reconvened at 9 am the Pharasman Temple morgue.  It was almost overflowing with Bloodveil victims.  The priestess attempted to speak with corpse, but her magic failed.  It must be a frustrating problem for those who rely on borrowed power.  
Down to no good leads once again, Merithel revealed that a contact had requested to speak to him at night near the Bailor’s retreat- and his friends were invited.  We made plans to meet up and head there as a group.

During the day, Chazon set up shop at his Temple to do what he could to assuage the suffering, since he did not have the power to cure it (and even the cures seem temporary).  Calcedon found out that the Queen had locked herself in the castle. He also heard that in Old Korvosa (the hardest hit area) people were giving up on the churches and turning to the occult for relief.  Shiver use was on the rise, abetted by a new player- “The Cult of the Spider”.  I wonder is another one of the Spider’s operations- if so this time perhaps overstepping his arrangement with the Guards and giving an opportunity to take him out….lawfully.

We met at the Bailor at night.  The contact was there- she quickly revealed she was a wererat.  Apparently a wererat had been lynched by a mob a few days earlier, and a wererat demagogue was stirring up the wererat population to declare war on the Korvosan surface population.  The wererat Gririgz lives under the Midlands and thus far has killed a few street people, but he has higher ambitions.  She asked up to stop him to prevent the inevitable reprisals against her people, and to leave unharmed those wererats who do not attack us.  She provided us with a map that showed our most convenient point of access was in the Heights.

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:45 am

12 Desnus, 4715 -- Night

We descended into the sewer yet again about 8:30 that night. The entry point—though most convenient to access them—left us nearly an hour away from our destination. Our journey was interrupted by a ripple in the slow-moving water, originally detected only by Merethyl. After he conveyed the disturbance to the rest of us, I scanned the area under what feeble light we had through our spells, but found no sign of tracks anywhere. As we moved up to it, however, the investigator noted a strange transparency within the water that proved quite impossible to describe.

A clear, fluid-like pseudopod emerged from the sewage, which I immediately recognized as a grey ooze, mindless hunters of underground terrains. They can be quite dangerous when undetected, but with Merethyl’s heads-up, we were able to converge and pummel the ooze to death and continue on.

Eventually, we discovered a cleft in the sewer wall that emitted the heavy smell of smoke from within. A small rivulet of sewage flowed from it, as well. We entered the small cavern beyond, with alcoves cut into the stone riddled with hay and tiny animal bones. The stench was eye-watering, worse than the raw sewage we’d been traversing for the last hour!

A pair of wererats watched us with beady eyes as we filtered into their home. I quietly removed the small vial of silversheen should things turn violent, but I openly proclaimed that we had no intention to harm any of them; we desired only that they permit us to see Girrigz. One replied that Girrigz wanted only our blood . . . or, at least, I think that’s what it mouthed, as just before it spoke, a mushroom-like creature tucked into one of the dark recesses of the cave-like room shrieked so loudly it became impossible to hear anything else.

Their intentions were made clear as three dire rats converged on Glannin from the north and attacked, though none had teeth powerful enough to penetrate the dwarf’s plate armor. I applied the silversheen to my sword, but took a stab from one of the wererats for my trouble. Merethyl stepped in to thrust at my attacker, but it deftly shuffled aside from the strike. However, that shuffling motion brought it right into the downward blow of my pommel. In retaliation for that pain, the wererat stabbed me again. Merethyl had abandoned his position by me to help Glannin to the north, where a swarm of rats had erupted from one of the hay stacks to pile on the dwarf. Calcedon’s fauchard swept in past me to trip my enemy, but the lycanthrope leapt over his weapon.

To the north, Glannin had been bloodied by the wererat nearest him and the swarm that managed to find every crease of his armor, but he valiantly continued to fight on without complaint. After his attack against my wererat failed, Calcedon moved back from my position and through a spell to aid Glannin that slayed a pair of the dire rats and thinned out the numbers of rats in the swarm, as well. The wererat broke off its attack on the dwarf due to a tactical benefit against Merethyl and stabbed the elf.

Battle lines quickly became blurred as we maneuvered around and through one another. Calcedon succeeded in eliminating the last of the swarm and dire rats with a second spell thrown in that direction. Merethyl poked a small hole in the wererat that still sought to incapacity Glannin, yet had eluded every powerful blow the dwarf sent its way. I had called upon Aroden’s power to make my sword a bane to lycanthropes and struck a mighty blow against the one opposite me. Reiterating that we weren’t here to kill them, I told it to cast down its weapon and surrender. It deposited its sword upon the ground and fled from the haven. Because we honestly wished to allow as many wererats to live as we could, I chose to let it go.

As if to remind us that this wasn’t going to be so easy, a pair of new wererats rushed into the chamber from the east, shortly followed by a second new pair from the north! In an attempt to stem the flow, Merethyl pushed the couple from the east back through the entry arch and bottlenecked them there. He reemphasized that we only wanted Girrigz, but still they protected their brutish master, and the fight carried on. To aid him in his vulnerable position, I used a wand in my possession to summon a spiritual weapon.

Back to the north, Calcedon nearly decapitated the original wererat that had been causing he and Glannin no end of trouble there. Unable to help Merethyl any longer from my current position, I swept up to the north to aid our dwarf and passed by Calcedon, who decided to reposition behind the investigator with his superior reach. And he put that reach to good use, tripping up one of the wererats attacking Merethyl. I warned the wererats against working with Girrigz in a threatening manner and punctuated the threat by calling upon Aroden to bless my faith with purifying fire, and the blade of my sword erupted into a green-gold flame!

For a brief moment, I thought perhaps they’d listened, as the battle’s ferocity suddenly paused . . .

Then I heard Merethyl talking to someone in the other room from his bottleneck: “If you’re Girrigz, we’re here to arrest or kill you.”

From the other room: “Ah. Continue.”

And the battle resumed. Such irreverence!

Merethyl stuck the wererat immediately before him, then my spiritual weapon impaled it through the neck to kill it. Calcedon feinted a stab with his fauchard against the second wererat at the bottleneck, then applied a backswing that clubbed it with the flat of the blade. The unexpectedness of that blow knocked it off balance, and Merethyl took advantage with a thrust through its ribcage that doubled it over and knocked it out of the fight. Girrigz closed the distance between them remarkably fast, slipping past the elf to reach the nobleman. “You are an infestation in this city,” the wererat rebel growled at him, then stabbed the head of House Fordyce with a beautiful rapier.

Glannin and I fought ferociously against the pair of wererats in the north. I scrapped with one for some time without any real advantage gained by either of us. In that time, however, Glannin delivered two immensely hard axe swipes against his opponent, the second of which cleaved an arm off at the shoulder to end the wererat’s life. A misstep caused me to overextend, and the wererat penetrated my mail shirt with its sword point just below my armpit, then bit my forearm. Concern immediately flooded my thoughts at he possible ramifications of that bite, but I hardly had the luxury of dwelling on it. Instead, I cracked its head with the flat of my blade and seared it with fire. Howling, the wererat danced away from me, thrust at Glannin to no avail, then cast down its weapon in surrender and fled area.

Meanwhile, Girrigz had taken Calcedon and Merethyl to task—the former more so than the latter. The nobleman dripped blood from four different wounds, and the two images he’d summoned to deflect attacks from himself were eliminated in short order. Merethyl looked in slightly better shape, with fewer bleeding wounds, but a couple located in the precise positions of an expert swordsman. I watched Calcedon accept another thrust from Girritz’s rapier, combined with a bite from the wererat boss, and rushed to change places with my wobbly companion.

Glannin tended to the nobleman, while Merethyl and I squared off against the surprisingly deadly Girrigz. I parried off the wererat’s bite with my gauntleted hand, but the investigator felt the wicked jab of that rapier yet again. The elf repaid that hit with a vicious thrust to the wererat’s gut, and I accompanied that with a hard slash that bit deep into its shoulder. A rope fluttered in between us at Girrigz, but the wererat proved too nimble, and it landed harmlessly on the filthy floor. Admittedly, I’m not sure who tossed it or why. Reeling, the lycanthrope rebel buried its rapier hilt deep in Merethyl’s gut, then used its close proximity to bite down on his shoulder. The elf toppled to the floor without so much as a cry of pain. His unconsciousness dragged Girrigz’s rapier down with him, however, and I landed a second powerful blow against the leader right between its shoulder blades. Glannin replaced Merethyl and chopped down in an attempt to decapitate our enemy, but the wererat warrior proved too elusive and dodged out of the way. Unfortunately, that also put it out of reach of the rope that lobbed back in a second time. The process of deduction confirmed that Calcedon was the one tossing it, so I’m sure he had a good reason for it.

Girrigz bounced away from our onslaught to quaff a potion of healing. I called upon Aroden again to bless my faith with his purifying fire, then stepped up to keep the pressure on the wererat. A great deal of healing occurred behind me, and I would be in need of some myself after the rebel leader pierced my mail twice with his rapier. Naturally, I returned the favor with a wicked slash that dipped beneath its blocking arm and sank blade-width deep under its armpit. Calcedon healed me, thankfully, and I nodded my appreciation.

Glannin and I double-teamed Girrigz again, but he eluded both our attacks and stabbed each of us once for our efforts. Merethyl—now recovered thanks to the dwarf’s magic—stepped in to close off the wererat’s only escape route and stabbed it for good measure. I attempted to hamstring it, but Girrigz hurdled the attack, which slowed the rebel just enough to permit Glannin’s war axe to bury into its hip. The wererat retaliated with a quick thrust that found the chain in the dwarf’s plate and wounded him. Merethyl had the last laugh though, as his sword cane punctured the elusive Girrigz through the heart.

Our mission now completed, we looted the dead and collected what little treasures the wererats had scattered around their haven. One last surprise inhabited the place in the form of an otyugh, but, luckily, the wererats had trapped it in one of the sewer tunnels, so we didn’t have to fight it. Not desiring to let the creature just die in there, however, Glannin and Calcedon fed it rats and explained where a piece of the wall was weak and could be broken through with enough time and effort. We backtracked through the sewers and departed where we’d entered them.

Our job finished, we separated to our own places of residence to clean and recuperate from our venture.

13 Desnus, 4715 -- Morning

Most of us worked early on to help those we knew suffering from plague symptoms. Brother Pellonius contracted the disease, so I used a new magical vest I’d procured to heal his body, then treated him for the disease, so as to give him the best chance to fend it off naturally. I then set about evangelizing about the importance of faith in Aroden in these times, while treating as many of the people as I could.

Glannin healed a woman and baby inhabiting House Fordyce, and Calcedon bought healing for others of his household, though I heard that for one of them the healing failed to take.

Merethyl checked his drops while selling some of the treasure we’d recovered in our last mission. He must have gotten some information at one of those drops, as well, because near noontime, I received a runner from him saying that he’d learned that a local business known as Lavender’s Linaments had discovered a cure for the plague of the city.

As I finish writing this over a piece of bread, I’ll be heading south to Merethyl’s house to learn more about this new revelation.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:52 pm

13 Desnus, 4715 -- Afternoon

The Proprietor of Lavender’s, a woman named Vendra, possessed a penchant for hoaxes and scams it seemed, or so my companions expressed to me, and I have no reason to doubt their knowledge in this matter. The consensus was that this rumor about her miracle cure would be no different from her past schemes, such as the rather infamous “receive an imp with every purchase” dupe that Merethyl can’t stop going on about. It appears that one truly disappointed him.

We departed for Lavender’s a short time before noon. The business resided in the Heights, quite close to the Academae, and when we arrived people lined the streets outside its door for blocks. Having dealt with something similar at All the World’s Meats—I grow more and more frustrated with the immoral desire of people to play upon the hopes of the desperate in dire times, we chose to move around to a back entrance in an alley behind the store. That proved unfruitful, as the back entrance still led into an entryway that saw the line leading out the opposite door at the front, so we gained no ground regardless.

However, it enabled to us to hear the pathetic lies of a man named Solt earlier . . .

Obviously paid by Vendra to spew out untruths about the miracle workings of her false drug, Solt loudly proclaimed how this “cure” had helped his wife from the bloodveil. I discovered at least four different tells in his face, voice inflection, and posture alone that professed his claim to be lies. As I questioned him on it, he continued to speak more lies, and I grew quite frustrated with the man—too frustrated, perhaps. I attempted to expose all these untruths, but in my disgust at how blatant they were, I succeeded only in making a scene. A guard of the store investigated, and I inquired of him how much this Solt character was getting paid to con these poor, desperate people out of their meager earnings. That failed to go over well.

Most disappointingly, only a few people actually departed because of it. I have worked exceedingly hard in Old Korvosa to help the people there, to express the importance in putting their faith in the right place—that of the Last Azlanti, whose words and actions built human civilization and continually prove truthful toward the betterment of humanity, and all goodly races, to this very day. The difficulty of earning the trust of people whose lives have been full of despair, anger, and fear remains one that I commit myself to, and I expected such hardships when I gave my life over to Aroden those years ago at the Arodennama in Westcrown. I continue to carry the memento of my commitment from that place to this day, though its significance remains a mystery to me otherwise. Yes, I have seen some fruits of these labors, Aroden be praised, but the struggle has been real and eye-opening.

When I witness how quickly and easily con artists like this Vendra and Solt earn the hopes of a despairing people, it can be demoralizing. I know it is because these people hear the promise of immediate relief in a wretched time in their lives and yearn for it to be true, while I offer them the promise of suffering through trials but acquiring a strength through faith that will make their lives greater in the long run. When faced with the choice for prompt benefit or benefit gained over time and for the long-term, the nature of mankind tends toward the former with its flawed logic. Yet, I know I speak truth, and I know the security my message offers to those who accept it. So I continually pray for these people to stop being misguided by the tropes and frail promises of their mortal natures, just as I pray that my companions will give up desires to do what they desire in favor of what is morally right . . . And, in addition to this, that my message will grow in clarity as I pursue a better handle over mine own emotional state in expressing the truth! Don’t think for a moment that I don’t understand my own infirmity in all this!

Calcedon found someone near the front of the four-block line to purchase a sample of this false hope for us, that Merethyl could use his skills to analyze what’s there and prove its uselessness. I walked through the entire line, listening for anyone else that might be proclaiming lies about this miracle drug; I gladly heard none others talking so, with exception of the hopeful excitement and rumor that comes with earnestly desiring a cure for themselves or family or friend. Naturally, as I progressed back toward the front of the line with the intent of actually helping these poor people—demeaning this ridiculous drug the whole walk, whom should I happen upon working his own way to the back of the line but my dear friend, Solt. I stopped him a second time and exposed his lies again. Finally, Calcedon and Glannin claimed the man and explained that they’d help him if he took them to his home in Old Korvosa and showed them his “healed wife.” I think he agreed to it just to get away from me.

I later learned that he attempted to escape them just after the Bridges of the Narrows, but they caught him. He then confessed his lies to them and agreed to do the same to the Korvosan Guard.

For the rest of the day, I positioned myself near the door of Lavender’s entryway and evangelized the significance of believing in a higher power—the Last Azlanti—and not in con artists that only seek their money. I treated every man, woman, and child that displayed symptoms of bloodveil in the line as I preached, asking for no payment. Offering them the message of truth and helping their pain provided payment enough.

While I went about my work outside Lavender’s Linaments, Merethyl and Syrical examined the “miracle cure” and discovered its ingredients to be a strong dose of sugar, river water, and a small dose of cheap perfume. Afterward, the investigator joined up with Calcedon and Glannin to uncover where this useless concoction was being created. Upon receiving a couple tips about Vendra’s apartment being in the alley we originally sought to find the back entrance to the shop, they apparently checked it out. They were somewhat vague on the details of the situation, but they located the mixing station, along with a bit of trouble, I gathered. The Guard were provided with the evidence Field Marshal Croft had requested us to find, and I witnessed them arrive at the shop around four o’clock that afternoon to lead Vendra away in chains.

Eventually, with the shop closed, the lines dispersed to bring an end to my work there for the day. I hiked back to the Temple of Aroden, where Brother Balto met me as I entered. He confessed some appreciation for the work I’d been participating in concerning the plight in the city, for which I thanked him honestly. He had never trusted my faith in the Last Azlanti—the powers granted me by Aroden had always been more suspicious for him than evidence, but I sensed no doubt in his admiration of our work. The Brother then asked if I might investigate rumors that plague carters have been dumping bodies in dangerous alleys of Old Korvosa rather than taking them to the Grey as they were supposed to be doing by order of the Pharasman church. If these rumors proved true, such negligence would cause the epidemic to only become worse in Old Korvosa, and the district hardly needed that, so I agreed to look into it swiftly. Before separating from Brother Balto, I explained what I’d been doing all day, and that I invited people in need to visit the temple, so we could help treat them for bloodveil. I commenced to discuss the treatments I’ve come to know work well on the disease, most of which he already had a grasp on.

I sent runners to Merethyl’s place and House Fordyce to request my companion’s presence at the Traveling Man this evening for a most urgent matter. Upon their arrival, I explained the situation and warned them that the four locations in question—Racker’s Way, Ghorok’s Way, Puddle Path, and Rancid Oyster Alley—were well-known for their unlawful inhabitants. Obviously, that bothered them none at all.

We decided to take the locations in order, which meant checking on Puddle Path first. There, we perceived the grisly truth of the plague carters’ irresponsibility firsthand. Plague-ridden bodies had been dumped unceremoniously in the alley, the diseased filth of their decomposing bodies running sickly into the street. A shared belief had arisen as we discussed the situation at the Traveling Man that perhaps the necromancer, Rolth, had something to do with this, so I was certain to investigate the scene for additional tracks or secret doors that may have proven more to this existed. Thankfully, I found nothing.

We analyzed each location in turn, running afoul of some vermin that had infested the bodies at Rancid Oyster Alley but having very little problem eliminating them.

As we reached Racker’s Way, something proved different right away. Dozens of dead from the plague littered the alley, as with the others, but before we got close to them—near the beginning of the alley, a single body resided, and it showed no signs of the plague. What it exhibited instead were twin puncture wounds on the neck and wrist . . . .

A vampire had been here—probably more than one, and that didn’t bode well.

With a grunt that sounded as a thunder clap in the silent alley, Calcedon staggered forward as though struck from behind. A creature of pale darkness stood there in the shadow, its movements halting yet fluid, like time knew not what to do about something so unnatural. Merethyl had already consumed a potion, and I called upon the protection of Aroden to help me against this great evil that had descended upon us. With blinding speed, the vampire struck Calcedon a second time, and the nobleman’s knees weakened from the blow. His skin grew pallid almost instantaneously, and he swiped at the vampire with his silvered mace but missed badly. Merethyl quaffed another potion, then placed himself between the undead and Calcedon. It screeched in unholy protest at being separated from its prey, then Glannin’s silvered Warhammer gave it something to screech about! A line of fire streaked at the creature and scorched the wall beside it. I grew fearful that an enemy spellcaster had appeared behind us, but then suddenly realized that powerful, arcane effect had originated from our very own spellcaster, Syrical! Where has that been all this time?!

Now prepared, the lot of us converged upon the vampire with a series of attacks from all angles. It deftly avoided the majority of them, though Merethyl’s newly-acquired mithril rapier scored a hit that would have killed a mortal being. Glannin fended off the vampire’s claw with an armored forearm.

Multiple shrieks echo down the alley from encroaching enemies, and I realized that this one’s screech earlier wasn’t one of anger, but of communication with others of its ilk. A quick prayer sent the power of Aroden against vampires coursing through my blade and sped up its slice toward the unnatural creature. Unable to dodge the holy power of the Last Azlanti, my sword cleaved in the side of its head and felled it to the ground. I quickly implored my companions to decapitate it, and Glannin obliged.

Already, my companions turned their attention down the alley to where we knew a group of vampires closed on us, and they began preparing for that malicious encroachment. I just recognized a mist forming where the bloodied body resided, and it creeped along the side of the alley, barely perceptible to even eyes that watched it retreating. I’m certain the others failed to spot it, and I could not blame them for missing it.

After all, something exceptionally deadly this way comes . . . .

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jan 20, 2019 2:59 pm

13 Desnus, 4715 -- Night

Unfortunately, that something came from a different direction than any of us expected . . .

The shrieking suddenly stopped, and the alley grew eerily quiet. My companions quaffed potions or cast spells upon themselves that would aid in the fight to come. I awaited the vampires at the head of the line, and my heart sank when I heard the injured cries of Calcedon and Glannin behind me! The undead had descended the walls behind to strike at the heart of us. Syrical waved his hands through a few arcane gestures and a thundercloud formed over the vampire nearest him, lightning erupting within its dark confines. It failed to do the damage one might expect from a self-contained lightning storm, but the creature showed scorch marks, so it hadn’t been absolutely ineffective. Glannin swung wildly at the abomination nearest him, but its supernatural speed allowed it to duck away easily. Merethyl pierced the heart of a second vampire, but it refused to acknowledge what should have been a mortal thrust. With a wave of his hand, our elven wizard redirected the thundercloud to smother the vampire that had just torn at Calcedon’s armored body, and the nobleman used that cover to step away from the undead, remove a healing potion, and drink it. Syrical then pointed a finger at the beast closest to the dwarf and prompted us to attack its weaknesses, which instantly brightened on the vampire’s body!

How could I refuse? Calling forth the power of Aroden to make my blade anathema to these vile creatures, I swept in and inflicted a mighty wound right where Syrical’s spell directed I should. That attack drew the vampire’s ire, but my god’s power had shaken it to the core, and its halting claw missed the mark. Glannin unleashed a vicious cut that the vampire ducked, and, immediately after, Syrical renewed his spell that highlighted its weak points. This time, the creature batted my blade aside, but I repaid that favor in kind by slapping away its claw with my offhand gauntlet. Glannin stepped in with a wicked uppercut swing from his hammer and pulverized its torso just under the armpit. The thing remained standing, but now it could not hide the agonizing pain from showing through on its face.

Calcedon—who appeared pale and weak from three blows by beast that hounded him—struggled to hold his ground. On legs practically shaking from weakness, he barely achieved a twist of his shoulders to avoid a fourth strike that probably would have ended him. However, it shattered his concentration on a spell, and the power fizzled harmlessly into the air around him. Nearby, Merethyl continued to dance around a vampire’s attacks and riposte to amazing effect. The head of House Fordyce scrambled away from another life-threatening claw to successfully weave a spell this time, which he imbued upon the investigator. The elf feinted an attack at his opponent, then twirled around the creature to thrust at the unsuspecting vampire that Glannin and I had been working on. He pinpointed a brightened location with his mithril rapier and penetrated dead flesh. The spell’s lit markings faded, only to flash alive again with a resuming word from Syrical. I concentrated on the thin line that formed along its neck and slashed to devastating effect! Its head lolled back, attached only by strands located at the back of the neck, but its body evaporated to mist before it even hit the ground.

Merethyl’s former adversary hissed at Glannin to flee . . . and swiftly received the dwarf’s answer with a hammer blow to the face. Another vampire turned to mist!

The third feral vampire revealed no signs of fright or concern at the loss of its two companions. It continued to press its advantage on Calcedon, smelling the poor nobleman’s weakness from a trio of life-leeching strikes. In a display of defiant desperation, however, the canny musician pivoted away from the next attack and backhanded abomination across the jaw with his thorn bracer. A thin red line formed where a single point of the bracer damaged it. Immediately after, the creature jolted as a rapier shredded its shoulder. It circled with the penetrating rapier, yanking the investigator off balance with the speed and sheer ferocity of the movement. Wasting no time, the vampire sank its jagged teeth into his neck, and blood swelled and spurted from the feeding.

With its back now turned to Glannin, he flipped the head of his silvered hammer to the pointed spike and drove it straight into the beast’s vertebrae. Its back arched reflexively with the impact, permitting Merethyl to slip free of its grip. A blast of frost flew wide of its position, but the same could not be said of my sword, which landed the misting strike upon the top of its head. Its body blasted into mist, which creepily rolled away from us and into a hole in the wall of an alley building . . . the same place the others had disappeared into!

Armed with the knowledge that a misted vampire took time to rejuvenate before they could come back from their wounds, we gladly utilized a short span to heal the wounds that could be healed. Regrettably, we had no magic to help Calcedon with the worst of his plights. The power of the vampire to wrench free a mortal’s life force proved their most destructive powers—though in no way was that their most insidious power, which I believe to be their ability to destroy the mind through fear and dominance, and Calcedon had accepted three such life-draining attacks! In a day’s time, it’s possible he may revitalize some of the essence ripped from him, but whether he will be capable of healing all or any of it remained a mystery currently. I informed him of this danger, and he took it in stride, as a man whose mind had suffered the ravages and uncertain futures of devilish torture in the past. Somehow, I can’t help but consider that had these vampires worn the unholy markings of Zon-Kuthon, his reaction may have been different. That is no slight to the nobleman . . . Our minds attach significance to specific nightmares of our past. I pray the Last Azlanti will heal those scars that even the most beautiful Shelyn has managed only to mask through his musical talent. Her efforts—as ever—are graciously appreciated, of course, but none know the rigors and rights of a man’s soul as Aroden does, so I believe he must be the one to heal Calcedon completely of that unforgettable past. I long to be the Last Azlanti’s servant in just such an endeavor . . . as soon as I gain the wisdom of how to approach it properly.

Our magical recoveries finished, we squeezed through the hole in the wall in search of the incapacitated vampires and entered into a doll shop. A collection poorly-disguised amalgamations of nightmarish fantasy sat upon shelves lining every wall in the room. Then Merethyl suggested that we’d just walked into Giotorri’s Toys, and I realized these things as nothing worse than the attempts of one with no talent for toymaking. Better than walking into the lair of some demented cult—which I’ll admit had crossed my mind when first I witnessed whatever these dolls were meant to represent. Suddenly, I somehow appreciated this foul handiwork, as Giotorri was a man seeking to change his criminal ways with an honest trade. Strange what perspective can do.

We had just invaded the toymaker’s workshop, which meant the door at the side of the room probably led to the front of his store. Two things struck me most as we began to look around: First, that I had seen one of these dolls in the room of Brienna—the little girl upon whom I’d first discovered infected with bloodveil—and recalled her mentioning that she’d bought a toy at Jeggare’s Circle; second, that the body of this ill-fated toymaker laid strewn out upon the floor near the opposite wall. I went immediately to it, noting both observations to my companions as I strode toward it, then examined the body for any clues it harbored. It displayed some early symptoms of bloodveil, but I distinguished cause of death clearly from the eight jagged bites on and around its neck. The state of the body indicated death as no less than a week ago. Again, I conveyed this information, and Merethyl replied that he’d found a set of keys.

We prolonged our search into the front shop, where we found nothing of any real interest except a brass key in the shape of Abadar’s symbol with the number 261 engraved upon it. Again, the investigator identified this as a lock box key from the Temple of Abadar. Its contents might prove important, so we decided to confiscate it, but left what meager earnings the poor man had collected here alone, that they might help to pay for his burial when we report this to the authorities.

Back to the workshop, we opened a trapdoor found there earlier that dropped into something of a large crawl space. Four coffin crates were hidden there, and it required little imagination to know their purpose. I asked Glannin to acquire us a quartet of table legs and fashion them into stakes, while Merethyl gathered holy water we’d procured from our time in the Grey. I divvied up jobs—I would stake them, Glannin would decapitate them, and Merethyl would apply the holy water, and we sent these abominations to their final, tormented rest. As difficult as our fight against these primitive creatures proved to be above, I admitted to the others my belief that these were mere spawn, and I had hoped we’d find their master tucked away here too. Merethyl agreed with my sentiment, and he also concurred the likelihood that if the master wasn’t here, it most plausibly occupied some other den within the city at this current time.

I also mentioned my hypothesis that these vampires might very well have something to do with the spread of bloodveil throughout the city. Perhaps Giotorri’s toys were being used as incubators, since it was quite possible the disease could be spread through touch. If that were the case, then it also remained possible that there were other incubators used throughout the city, as we’d discovered in our investigations thus far that bloodveil had erupted in various parts of Korvosa, not just in the north. The deduction was a reach based upon limited evidence but having unveiled that a brood of vampires might be infesting our troubled city led me to consider the possibility.

Our group exited the toy shop back into Racker’s Alley and worked out a plan on where to go from here. Having connections with the other temples in the area, we determined that Calcedon and I would make a trek around the city to visit each of them and tell them what we’d uncovered regarding the vampires and the possible implications of their presence in other parts of the city, which we derived to via the missing master. The other three would hide themselves in an observation point here and watch for any of the plague carters to dump another load of bodies into the alley or for another vampire to visit and see what it might do.

Our circuit started with my home temple of Aroden, where I recounted our endeavors and postulations to Balto, as well as inquired of him to keep an ear out for any other news that might somehow connect in with what we’d learned, and then we traveled to the Abadarans, the Pharasmans, the Sarenraeans, and the Asmodeans. Ishani met with us quickly when we called, and he cooperated by handing us the names of the plague carters that operated in Old Korvosa. Due to the mentioned dominance power of vampires, I feared that perhaps some of the plague carters had been enthralled to dump those bodies in the ally and had not simply succumbed to laziness. Granted, the vampires we encountered appeared quite feral; probably not the sort to concoct a scheme of such deception, but that’s not to say the master hadn’t set it all up itself. The other temples thanked us for the information and agreed to keep an eye out and ear open for any further information conceivably tying into this enigma, though the Pharasmans only perked up after we revealed the presence of vampires in the city.

Additionally, it should be noted, Calcedon and I had a grand conversation along the way in regards to some of the events of our pasts. I spoke to where and when I discovered the truth of my faith, as well as to the memento I found there that remains something of a mystery to me even now. He spoke to his faith in Shelyn, how she’s helped him up to this point, and some of his desires for his wards and his city.

While we were away on our short journey, Glannin dreamt about a small swarm of dream spiders that had pinned him to the ground, crawled over him, and threatened to devour him just before he woke from the nightmare. He confessed to the awkward realism of the dream, which stuck with him throughout the waking night, and swore he had never dreamed such a thing before.

Apparently, his ranting sounded such that Merethyl analyzed him for shiver, and, having found no symptoms of it, Syrical played upon his vendetta against the Spider to try and convince the dwarf that his subconscious was using this dream as an avenue to warn him about the danger posed by the crime lord. An interesting deduction, no doubt, and just as imaginative as the nightmare itself! I do enjoy hearing our scholarly elf’s presumptions, save when they lead him to openly disregard the tenants of law, of course.

A short distance from Racker’s Alley, Calcedon and I came across an abandoned plague cart. We watched it for the time it took the nobleman to magically send the others a message about our location and their subsequent arrival, but no one else materialized to offer an explanation as to why the cart rested there. Inspections uncovered that the cart had been used for the transportation of bodies, and I discovered barefooted tracks leading to and from the alley that were a couple days old. Merethyl theorized the dead man we happened upon in the alley to be the plague carter, and that either the vampires killed him after he’d done the job they required of him, or his death occurred after he stumbled upon them in the alley. Whichever might be true—or even a third option yet unspoken, it seemed likely that our list of plague carters meant little now, except possibly to find which one that man might be.

The night had been a long one, so we each split up to our respective residences for the night.

14 Desnus, 4715 -- Morning

A busy morning for the lot of us, with sickness abounding.

I had been remiss in identifying the bloodveil that had taken hold of Nevarius, but when I checked on the child this morning, I found him practically on his deathbed. I dispatched a runner immediately to Ishani that detailed the lingering death of the boy and implored him to bring healing immediately for both the disease and his faculties. I would pay the cost gladly. Pellonius had developed a cough, as well, so I treated him for bloodveil too. I had contracted it again, which surely had come from that giant bastard of Urgathoa we fought last night, which had been crawling around the plague bodies. My mind had initially thought it a carrier of filth fever, but clearly I had not given an iota of thought to the actual scene. I recalled Calcedon also being bit by one of those giant flies and feared he may have been infested as well (I learned later that he was indeed).

I departed the temple for House Fordyce, where I passed by Ishani coming north after having received my urgent letter. I reemphasized my willingness to pay whatever price necessary for the healing of Nevarius, but the kind cleric told me to keep my money. He was done charging people for magical curing of this tragic epidemic. I don’t know what his god might do in response to this heretical thought, but if such kindness earns him a black mark in the church’s directory, I shall be happy to begin teaching him the ways of the Last Azlanti, where the betterment of human civilization remains the goal, not just the treasury vaults of that civilization.

More news awaited me at my destination. Merethyl had paid a visit to the elven compound this morning, where he was assured by the elven guard that no new visitors had been permitted inside. He hoped that meant the master vampire his elsewhere, though he conceded it impossible for him to outright determine if these guards had been dominated. Elves typically held a higher resistance against domination than the other races of Golarion, so we shall endeavor to hope right along with him. Having been out in the city, walking through its plague-infested streets, the elves refused him entry, as well.

Also, Calcedon was visited by the sister of the boy in his troupe that had gone missing recently. She informed him that Carowyn Manor—the location where her brother had been hired to perform—was boarded up, and a sickly smell emanated from within its premises. All the runners the nobleman had sent out in search of information on the boy came back empty, which made the sister’s report his best and only clue as to the boy’s last whereabouts. So, it seems that shall be our next destination. Glannin has said that he’s “contrived” a way to treat bloodveil—which I take to mean his divine power has grown strong enough that he can actually defeat the disease through it now, and Calcedon has already benefitted from it earlier this morning. When he’s rounded up the ingredients he needs for it the attempt and performed the necessary ritual, we’ll all depart for Carowyn Manor.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Jan 26, 2019 11:48 pm

14 Desnus, 4715 -- Afternoon

Goodness, but it burned going down!  Glannin assured that this concoction worked to drive out bloodveil, and I could understand how . . . by setting fire to your throat as it traveled that confined passage, erupting into a fireball in your gut, and bleeding flames through your bloodstream to incinerate whatever tendrils of disease existed within your system.  No ailment known to man—mundane or magical—could withstand the intensity of that inferno!  By the time I was done stomaching it, all signs of bloodveil had disappeared.  His treatment worked wonders . . . and by treatment, I mean the power he covered up through that unforgiving dwarven catastrophe of a drink!

Two chasers later, I felt amazingly better, and we departed for Carowyn Manor.  The renowned home of Lord and Lady Carowyn awaited us in the South Shore District, where the two-story mansion arose behind a ten-foot-high hedge wall.  A servants’ residence pressed up against the hedge to the right of the manor.  Large draperies had been erected for the celebration expected to occur a few days ago.  A brass banister rose to a balcony over the main door.  All of the windows were covered and inaccessible.

Merethyl approached the door and covertly pulled out lock picks from his possessions to open the front door.  After standing idly by for nearly a minute as he failed to better the lock, we decided to take a stroll around the hedge wall, as our presence before the door began to feel rather conspicuous with all the citizens of this fine city looking at us as they walked by on the main thoroughfare.  We circled around to the back of the estate, where Calcedon used a hook and rope to climb over the hedge fence, then secured it on the opposite side, permitting the rest of us to have an easier time of it.

We perused the property and located nothing moving out there at all.  Relatively certain that no threats were imminent, we worked our way up to the servants’ entrance.  Upon first trying the door, Merethyl determined it to be stuck, so he deferred to the collective strength of Glannin and Calcedon to break it open.  Mighty man and dwarf threw collective shoulders against the portal and failed to budge it.  Disbelieving that the servant door could be so sturdy, the investigator examined it one more time and realized that a jammed lock proved to be the culprit.  He waved off the brawn almost apologetically and dismantled the lock entirely within a dozen seconds, then pushed the door open to reveal a very short entry hall.
We passed through the small hall to the door opposite, and it opened into a sitting room.  The unmistakable stench of death assailed us there, almost overpowering, but no signs of its source resided anywhere within.  Goblets full of wine awaited party-goers on every flat surface, all untouched.  Merethyl announced that none of them were poisoned, and I seconded his assessment after checking their contents with poison-detecting magic granted me by Aroden.  Again, after conducting a quick search of this chamber, we moved through it to the opposing door.  The mere cracking of this door revealed the source of the troubles here by the amplification of the stench alone.

Unfortunately, it showed a great deal more, as well.

The front door sat undisturbed to the left, but to the right sprawled over a dozen corpses mutilated and bathed in their own blood.  Their withered, pallid flesh demonstrated the very well-known signs of bloodveil.  Just beyond them, three couples danced in fumbling and halting motions to music that could only be heard in their own heads.  Obviously dead, their appearances matched that of their perished companions littering the ground beside them.  Immediately, I recognized them to be zombies—animated dead that only performed their current task because they’d been ordered to do so.  Though I made no effort to hide myself from them in the entryway, the abominations kept to their faltering dance steps as if I were in no way present.  That simply would not do.

I quickstepped toward them and drew my sword along the way.  Having entered the room fully now, the undead broke off their mock celebration and shambled toward me, as well.  I swung my blade at the neck of the first, but my step found an uneven body of the dead below me, causing me to lose my balance and all effectiveness on the swing.  Merethyl wasted no time in following me and stabbed his rapier into the gut of a second zombie beside the first, but his attack accomplished nothing against the undead corpse.  Glannin moved through the small space available to my left, which deposited him into the adjoining room, where three more zombies lingered--two in the dress of nobility and the last as a servant.  His mighty axe chop splatted one of the “nobles” into nonexistence before even the thing could rise from its seated position.

A stair ascended to the right of Merethyl, its destination the balcony overhead.  The elf positioned himself at its foot, which forced him to deal not only with the zombie he’d ineffectually skewered, but also a second trapped just behind the stair, yet within reach of him.  I squared off against a third before me, and, beyond them, the other three dance partners pressed forward to get to us through their companions.  None of them succeeded in even scratching us.  Calcedon arrived with fauchard in hand and cleaved deep into the rotted muscle tissue of the zombie hidden behind the stair.

From atop the balcony, a sweet, feminine voice called out to us, “Have you come to join my party?”  In the next instant, a crossbow bolt drove straight into my sternum.  I swear I felt my breastbone crack from the impact, and though the bolt penetrated my chain shirt, I believe that armor the only reason why the missile failed to penetrate directly into my heart.  The brutal impact and immeasurable, stabbing pain of the bolt foiled my next attack against the zombie before I even managed to get it off.  The only fortune from that wound was it forced me back a step, out of the reach of the zombie’s slamming claw.  Unable to catch my breath, I looked to Merethyl’s position to my right only to find a second zombie had shuffled into it as the investigator bounded up the stairs.  I raised my left arm in desperation and felt the undead’s hammering claw shred my forearm behind the gauntlet.  Glannin said something beside me, and a wave of healing energy washed through me, making the chest wound bearable, at least.  With a host of zombies now collapsing in on me, I had no time to thank the dwarf for his aid, though he probably wouldn’t have heard it anyhow, as he disappeared farther into the other room.

From behind my position and to the right, a horrific pealing sounded from a violin, and a handful of the zombies surrounding me shook from the reverberation of the violent note.  The assailant of my forearm sloughed in pieces to the floor in a series of grotesque slurping sounds.  I called upon the bane of Aroden to make my sword anathema to the walking dead, then sent the blade into a forehand strike that parted half a zombie’s torso from the rest of its body in a shower of putrid viscera.
That sweet and sinister voice again spoke up from above, this time with the words, “You are more fun than the last!  You put up a fight!”  Though she hadn’t giggled, I could hear the semblance of such giddiness prevalent in her tone.  The click of a crossbow and the short, sharp scream of an injured Merethyl cast a haunting fine upon that jingling timbre.

I ducked and weaved away from two undead attacks, but Calcedon’s grunt indicated a failure on his part to do the same.  Glannin’s victorious laugh was quickly drowned out by another ear-blistering screech from his instrument that blasted apart the remaining zombies from around me, yet, ironically, left the one directly before him untouched.  I dispatched that one for him via decapitation, then bounded up the stairs to aid Merethyl upon the balcony.

By the time I reached the top, Glannin and Calcedon had eliminated the last couple zombies in the dwarf’s room and had started up, as well.  Merethyl had situated himself at the far end of the balcony, directly opposite me, an empty potion vial in his hand, a small crossbow bolt buried fletch-deep between his third and fourth rib, and a frustrated look upon his countenance.  A quick glance around the balcony revealed nothing but a trio of zombies trying mindlessly to hedge the investigator in, so I recited a prayer for Aroden to fill me with a fraction of his divine favor before rushing around to help him.  Across from me, the whispered sounds of a disembodied voice barely audible over my heavy breathing from this night’s exertion caused a door to open.  Within, I witnessed a zombie dressed as some kind of Osirion princess.
Merethyl discarded the empty vial and replaced it with another, which he emptied the confines of into his throat, even as he danced around the flailing undead to move toward the sound of the whispered voice I’d heard.  Just below my position—on the stairs, a soothing melody played upon Calcedon’s violin.

I closed in on the trio of zombies and slashed one down with the baneful energy against undead gleaming on my sword yet again.  Now the closest target, the other two zombies forgot about the elf and turned on me, as planned.  The first missed me with a clumsy swipe of its clawed hand, but the second lashed out more swiftly than I’d given it credit for being capable of doing, and I endured the jagged pain of its broken nails gouging the side of my neck.

The investigator sped up to the opened door to reveal the master bedroom.  Inside, he saw the same princess zombie I had, but also called out that the Lady Carowyn lingered within, quite undead, and dressed as a Galtan Queen.  He reached in and slammed the door shut in the face of their shuffling groans, leaving them inside and out of our immediate concern.  Calcedon’s playing suddenly shifted from that soothing melody to something more akin to a march, and I sensed my leg muscles oblige the upbeat music by loosening and become more limber.

I hacked at a zombie and virtually lopped off its left arm, but it paid no attention to the ghastly wound.  The door nearest me unlatched to reveal a study or office of some kind; thankfully, empty.  Merethyl maneuvered behind the zombie I’d just attacked and drew its attention away from me, while Glannin double-timed it around the balcony railing to get next to the injured elf.  With a single zombie on Merethyl and I, we deftly evaded their lumbering attacks.  Calcedon caved in the chest of the undead facing me, and I grasped the opportunity to cut down the last of them.

“You know, bard,” the sing-song voice announced from behind us, “You would make a beautiful corpse if you weren’t so shoddily dressed.”  The customary click of a crossbow launched its deadly bolt square into the breastplate of the nobleman, puncturing a hole there that bit into his sternum, as well.  Now uncloaked from the shadows, I recognized the possessor of that melodic voice to be a female elf attired in motley.  Exposed in the open, she dashed to and down the stairs.

In a masterful maneuver, Merethyl hurtled the railing to land upright on the floor below, then rushed up the stair to the landing, blocking her retreat.  “Party’s not over.  Where are you going?” he mocked her, then thrust his rapier into her shoulder.  Having just witnessed the one he had come all that way to heal leap over the balcony railing, Glannin growled in frustration and hurried back the way he had come to follow and trap our enemy upon the stair.  Meanwhile, Calcedon stayed on the balcony, but slid down a short ways to get right above her.  Taking out his violin again, he plucked a single string in a staccato fashion, and the string of her hand crossbow snapped.  Not a fan of that performance, the golden-haired elf jeered at him with a pouty frown upon her visage.

I identified a dagger on her belt and told her to keep it sheathed.  She listened to me, but instead pulled out a smoke bomb and threw it on the ground right beside her.  It erupted into a billowing smoke that caused her to begin hacking and coughing.  Most notably, what was obviously intended to aid in her escape actually hindered it, and she failed to get by the investigator.  Merethyl attempted to pierce her with his mithril blade a second time, but the smoke stung his eyes, and he missed her all together.  From above, Calcedon requested that she end this merry little chase, and I sensed that his words were laced with power beyond simply his uniquely convincing manner.  That power successfully took hold of her mind, and she agreed to stop.

As it turned out, there was much more involved conversation that followed, filled with innuendo and the promise of dark pleasures that passed between the nobleman and the elven jester . . . I found it very disconcerting to say the least, but I also determined—through the help with magic theory given me by Syrical during our occasional meetings on the subject—that Calcedon played along to her whimsical nature because of the spell he had enchanted her with, which compelled her to see him as a trusted friend.  I don’t know if that made the banter okay, but it at least provided a bit of much needed context to the circumstances.  If seeing this noble residence turned into a charnel house of the undead hadn’t been enough to require a shower this night, listening to this elf’s conversational manner certainly would demand it.

She introduced herself as Jolistina, and by the dust that lingered there on her lip and nose, she was a pesh fiend.  I handed Calcedon my manacles and asked him to confiscate her dagger, as well.  I don’t wish to elaborate on how he accomplished these tasks . . . let’s just say he did and move on with it.  As she led us to the kitchen to show us another of her “artistic” set pieces, she explained to Calcedon that she was able to create all these zombies because of a wand given her by Rolth, then sulked that this Rolth had not been around for a while to see all she’d done here.  The nobleman acquired the wand too.

I’ll not bother to rehash the combats that followed in this journal.  Needless to say, we performed the necessary duty of destroying all the undead remaining in the manor over the next half-hour or so.  These fights were rather mundane and of little true consequence.  What truly matters from this point forward is what we learned as we went about the monotonous task.

Merethyl discovered that Rolth had sent Jolistina to kill all the nobles gathered at the party, which she happily indulged in while in a drug-induced haze.  Apparently, the lord of the manner, Ausio Carowyn, had managed to elude her thus far, even though she’d looked high and low for him.  She also admitted to turning over a Varisian boy to Rolth alive.  Though we have no hard evidence to back the theory besides the lack of a body anywhere in the manor, most of us believe that boy to be Calcedon’s missing ward.  In this revelation by Jolistina, we also ascertained that Rolth worked with the bird mask doctors . . . Yes, the Chelaxian plague doctors brought in by the Queen to help with the bloodveil epidemic.  They are working with the necromancer.  It’s not damning evidence concerning the Queen, as it still offers no definitives on whether she knows anything about their duplicitousness, but the news certainly fails to cast her in a favorable light any way one looks at it.

At one point, disapproving of our handling of her precious body of work (our destruction of the zombies), Jolistina attempted to pick the lock on the manacles and failed.  Merethyl tried to steal her lock pick, but also failed.  Eventually, he and Calcedon convinced her to give over the lock pick willingly as part of a game to get out of the manacles without it.  More innuendo got bantered about, and I looked hard for more zombies to destroy . . . This woman’s drug-addled mind centered on the sick and sexual, it seemed.  Let that be a lesson to anyone who thinks to put pesh up their nose!  Drugs are bad for you, and this elf could be the poster child for that statement!

Eventually, we brought up trying to find the master of the house, and I suggested a place he might be hiding, such as a wine cellar, should this manor have one.  She grew quite excited at the thought and increased our pace in her hurry to get there.  In the cellar, we came upon a securely locked door.  Jolistina knocked upon it and taunted its poor inhabitant mercilessly.  Merethyl caught the faint scent of urine in the air soon after.  I can only imagine the terror Ausio Carowyn lived through this night.

Calcedon dropped a rope and used a minor spell to have it tie up Jolistina tightly, then he and I talked Ausio out of the safe room.  He explained that he’d hired Jolistina as an acrobat for the masquerade ball, but she went crazy and began killing everyone.  He alone escaped to his studio and locked the door.  In return, we explained our reasons for coming to his home—a point he had inquired about.  At the time, we’d had a few more zombies to clear out, including his wife, sadly, so he told us where we could find the guest list to the party and secured himself back in the studio until we completed our endeavor.

The mission done, we gathered Ausio back with us and stripped Jolistina of the valuable equipment she still had on her person.  Naturally, the chore was accompanied by a great deal of innuendo . . . The woman is relentless and hopeless.  We turned her over to the Korvosan Guard with a full explanation of what she did at the Carowyn manor and left Ausio with the Guard, as well, to be a witness to her horrendous atrocities.

Truly, this has not been the greatest of days, and it’s not yet evening . . . .

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:53 pm

14 Desnus, 4715 - Evening

After departing the Citadel near to 3 pm, we split into a couple groups to learn what we could concerning the plague doctors (Merethyl and Calcedon) and the lock box at the Temple of Abadar from the toymaker (Glannin, Syrical, and myself).  The latter group invoked the name of Ishani for easy access to the temple, and when we explained our purposes for coming, the cleric permitted our perusal of the lock box.  Within, we discovered a pouch holding roughly 60 gold, a plethora of papers with poorly-designed toys, and a pair of incredibly well-made boots, which Syrical quickly deduced to be a magical pair enabling their wearer to move more swiftly and leap farther than the average person.  It’s entirely possible those boots were worth more than everything else Giotorri owned.  Being that the man had no final will, and all knowledge about him indicated no next of kin, Glannin made use of the boots, and Syrical maintained the toymaking papers should there be some secret message or clue interspersed somewhere within all that design.  The gold we turned over to the temple to help in the cost for burial of Giotorri.  I told them to accept whatever was left over as a donation to their church, and also informed them that a small sum also resided in the toy shop coffers, which he or we had no real use for, if they should like it as a donation to help the poor coming to them for care.  Ishani explained that things have gotten quite bad within the temple; they’ve lost so many priests that they can’t afford to help anyone else any longer.  It’s gotten that dire wherever you go in the city.  We must figure out some way to help soon, or there may be little left of the city to help.

Upon completion of that task, Glannin raged about his hunger, and he desired to find food and drink in short order.  Not having much appetite myself, I wished them both a good evening—we’d be meeting again tonight at the Fordyce residence—and went to work in Old Korvosa.  The nobleman and investigator excelled at information gathering, but I’d built up something of a repute in the district of Aroden’s temple, and the thought of relaxing now when the city was in the midst of imploding seemed a poor use of my time, so I grabbed some bread and went door-to-door in an attempt to learn more about the plague doctors from the people where the plague had hit worst.

I spoke most intently with those whom had personal contact with the doctors within their homes.  I wished to know what questions they were being asked, what the plague doctors did upon entering their residences, and if there were anything suspicious about their activity—though, please note, I didn’t ask this third point openly . . . It would not bode well if these men were actually trying to help, and I spooked the people into distrusting them!  Obviously, the presence of the plague doctors is heaviest in Old Korvosa, because the ravages of the disease is hardest here.  Cautions abounded, however, and the residents I spoke with explained that usually there were two plagued doctors accompanied by a pair of Korvosan Guard or Grey Maidens for protection.  Within their homes, the doctors wrote notes about what they found, checked bubos and other symptoms on those who had contracted the plague, or appeared to have done so, and took the worst of the plague-bearers with them.  Most interestingly, a few of the people revealed that the healthy Varisians had also been taken from their homes after being exposed to the plague, yet who had shown no signs of being carriers themselves.  The plague doctors explained this away by assuring the families that these Varisians were being analyzed for a possible cure.  None of them had yet returned home.

The Knights of the Phoenix reconvened at House Fordyce between the hours of 6-8 pm, where I learned what the others had unveiled about the plague doctors.  It seemed most people have little-to-no trust for these doctors, and the majority of that number believed the doctors to be the problem!  Others worried that if the doctors were truly in Korvosa to help, why was the plague growing worse instead of better?  A caretaking facility known as the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden has been erected in an old warehouse in the West Dock, and they ascertained that most everyone gave the place a wide berth, as the sick were taken there, but none ever walked out of the place.  Admittedly, I found this to be somewhat disconcerting, as well, since we’ve been able to cure—or at least combat!—the disease with a modicum of success, so why weren’t these doctors likewise able to perform some effective measures?

I imparted the knowledge uncovered about the healthy Varisians being taken by the plague doctors, which raised an eyebrow or two amongst my companions.  This raised additional questions, because none they had spoken to had addressed having seen healthy Varisians going into the hospice.  Why might that be?  There existed a stigma against the Varisian ethnicity in some circles, of course, but might it also be true that they never actually saw these healthy folk brought into the hospice?  And another thought: How were the doctors analyzing them for cures?  What were they finding?

Glannin stumbled upon the great religious conspiracy: That all the temples in Korvosa were in on the epidemic’s start and used the plague as a method of clearing out society’s undesirables.  Doubtful that logic held much water in reality, but tavernkeepers were known for their wild rumor and gossip.  It helps to keep the clientele coming back.

Field Marshal Croft arrived somewhat clandestinely around 8 pm, and we shared all our findings yet again with her.  One point I’d forgotten earlier to disclose, so I brought up here, was the closing of Eel’s End—the place had stayed open through everything thus far, but the plague had forced the crime lord to lock his doors, as well.  I inquired as to whether the behaviors of any of the plague doctors might reveal a vampire in their midst, as we are still relatively certain one resides within the city.  She could think of no indicator for that notion, which I accepted.  We discussed the Varisian question, which led to Glannin blurting out a plan Syrical had confided to him about kidnapping a plague doctor to force answers from the man.  A flustered Syrical quickly spoke up that this was simply one angle he’d considered among a myriad of possibilities he wanted to bring to the group.  Though left unspoken, I believe he also rethought his decision to confide in the dwarf on future occasions . . . Merethyl requested that the Field Marshal make certain Jolistina be kept from any executions in the foreseeable future, as her knowledge of Rolth the necromancer—and probable lock key killer—would make further interogations of the woman useful.

Eventually, it became apparent to all that we needed to get inside that hospice to determine what the plague doctors were doing in there.  At that point in the dialogue, Field Marshal Croft decided to excuse herself for the evening, as she wished to know nothing of our plans, lest they be incriminating to her in any way.  Wise thinking on her part, I’m certain!  Our best opportunity resided with Calcedon, who could put on a disguise and enter the hospice as a nobleman from outside of Korvosa whose Varisian slave had been taken from him.  Via magic he knew and the disguise capabilities of he and Merethyl, there’s no doubt they could make it convincing.

When the particulars of the story were hashed out, we all left for the residence used by the others to stake out the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden earlier in the day, where we performed the exact same function throughout the night.  Syrical persuaded his house drake companion to enter the hospice under invisibility and get us a good look at the interior workings of the establishment before Calcedon entered.  It’s always best to have a working knowledge of what one’s about to get into before getting into it.

15 Desnus, 4715 – Early Morning

The house drake returned to us at 5 a.m. with a report of all he’d seen.  There existed a large room—the central portion of the warehouse—where the sick resided.  To be expected, the stench in that room was horrendous.  Catwalks crisscrossed above the room.  A contingent of plague doctors and their grey maiden guard inhabited the building—four doctors in all, the drake told us, and they worked in pairs and in shifts throughout the night.  He explained that the doctors appeared genuinely interested in the disease.  A large, “brutish” woman operated as receptionist just inside the outer doors, so she would be the one Calcedon would first interact with upon entering.  Stairs led to an upper chamber guarded by Grey Maidens that he couldn’t get into, though he swore to hearing a lift somewhere in the hospice that went into this locked room, but never located it.  

Roughly an hour later, the drake helped Syrical to know exactly where he could place a clairvoyance spell to see within that chamber.  What we saw in there nauseated us.  Fifteen Varisians restrained upon as many beds, all unconscious, and not one of them exhibiting a single physical symptom of bloodveil.  Nonetheless, all had either been operated upon or were prepared to be operated upon, except for one poor soul, who currently was surrounded by a trio of plague doctors cutting into him.  Syrical described their procedure in detail, and it sounded to me as if these doctors sought the four humors within the Varisian—essentially, they operated on the man to find out how he had not contracted the plague, despite his being exposed to it.  They wanted to find the purpose for his immunity.

These unfortunate men and women were guinea pigs, taken from their homes without knowledge of what these plague doctors intended to do with them.  A disgraceful act by those who should have known better.

What followed was an intense discussion about what we should do after learning this horrible truth.  Many different ideas were brought up, and I believed that we had to go in and stop this whole medical farse.  Glannin sponsored the idea that required us to tread carefully . . . legally.  These plague doctors, he stated looking directly at me, were legally in their rights to do whatever they deemed necessary to find the cure for bloodveil, which meant that these twisted operations also were legal, by order of the Queen.  If we acted against them, it would be we who broke the law.  When I protested that these men and women had been confiscated for these purposes—taken from their homes—without sufficient information as to what was to happen to them, the slave argument was thrown back at me.  I grew silent, because Glannin had a point there . . . but I still felt—and feel—wrong about this.  What these doctors were doing to the Varisians was legal, but not lawful.  There’s a distinction between the two separated by morality.

I had no desire to slaughter these men, but I had every desire to stop them.

Even so, Calcedon expounded upon Glannin’s legal argument by appealing to what good we could do should we be executed for interfering with the hospice.  Thus, our efforts hinged on the plan to infiltrate the hospice.  The nobleman disguised himself and Syrical, who would accompany him as an aid, and the pair entered through the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Feb 17, 2019 3:49 pm

15 Desnus, 4715 – Morning

It was nigh on an hour before the duo emerged from the hospice again, which started to feel a little long to those of us waiting. Apparently, there had been six others in the waiting room when they walked in, and after a brief exchange with the receptionist, they resided there for a half-hour before the first of that half-dozen got called in. Believing they had paid their proper penance, Calcedon reengaged the receptionist about needing to find his “slave” boy—the Varisian ward that had been taken from the massacre, or that was the name being used anyhow. Though the woman initially refused them entry, she finally broke down enough to let them speak with Dr. Davolus. Five minutes later, they received the summons from a Grey Maiden, who escorted them into the primary section with all the truly ill.

As they maneuvered this large ward, they verified the house drake’s information from earlier in the night—four plague doctors maneuvering about the sick and two Grey Maidens watching from the catwalk overhead, with a third escorting them. The Maiden led them to a door at the opposite end of the facility and ushered them through it, then up a couple flights of stairs to where Dr. Davolus, a pair of additional Gray Maidens, and three more plague doctors awaited in a medium office. There, Calcedon inquired about his Varisian slave that “he’d heard from numerous reports had been brought to the hospice,” and he sought resolution by scouring the room beyond the office—to which there were no windows showing what went on in there. Dr. Davolus checked his ledgers but found no indication of a Varisian of the boy’s description or name anywhere in his records. He forbade Calcedon from inspecting the other room but permitted them to investigate the main floor below. Both left for their cursory perusal below with the genuine indication that Dr. Davolus truly desired to help these people. In all likelihood, such a desire held a grain of truth in it, yet we all knew the man covered something up, and despite whether his to search to aid these people was genuine or not, his methods lacked any semblance of morality. They needed to end, and sooner rather than later.

In the next few hours, a great deal of discussion occurred about how we would go about getting those innocent Varisians being operated on in the “hidden” room out. Generally, it we all agreed it had to happen, though the legality of it was again brought into question. I cannot argue that it does, and, admittedly, I’m happy to hear others thinking along those terms! Lawfulness—and along that line, also goodness—needs to be examined regularly so as not to become arbitrary. In this case, the truth of it could not be clearer to me: Though the Queen of Korvosa instituted law to give Dr. Davolus and his plague doctors permission to do whatever they desired to cure this disease, their handling of this law was unequivocally immoral. Within The History and Future of Humanity, Aroden provides us with higher, moral laws by which all should abide. When men—and, for the scrutinizing reader, by “men” I am referring to everyone, realizing in this case that our current ruler is a woman—create a law antithesis to these higher, moral laws, then men are wrong, and therefore the law fashioned by them is wrong. Thus, what we are faced with regarding this current law’s execution. I’ll grant that it could be more noble had its edict been carried out more nobly—had the situation been explained clearly and without deception or coercion to the Varisians, then the choice left them to volunteer, and, finally, their decision honorably upheld, for instance . . . but that’s not the case. These Varisians were not given the opportunity to stay in their homes, but were taken nonetheless. Dr. Davolus and his staff were absolutely in the wrong in this situation and it needed to end.

After much theory-crafting about how to get the Varisians out unharmed, we finally concluded that the best way would be to simply walk through the front door. Our clandestine ideas were creative, undeniably, but we lacked the sufficient skills to pull them off with any degree of certainty. Even so, we decided to acquire a couple of the necessities of those earlier ideas should they become useful at some point, such the purchasing of simple illusions for Syrical to transcribe in his book and the procurement of a scroll of invisibility. Calcedon retrieved the abandoned plague cart we’d discovered in Old Korvosa after our dealing with the vampire spawn there, while I purchased the scrolls listed above. We would wait for the cover of night, when the streets weren’t so crowded, and enter the hospice as plague carters seeking to take the diseased, dead bodies south to the Grey.

While we performed these actions, Merethyl and Glannin braved the sewers yet again, seeking a basement or lower level of the hospice hidden there. They discovered nothing, but it felt a proper precaution to take. The investigator also bought holy water and vials of antiplague from the Pharasmans and paid a visit to Vancarlos in Old Korvosa to keep the man abreast of our current goals, so, should we perish, our mission won’t perish with us. Syrical used this intervening time to rest, then copy the scroll of illusion that I purchased for him into his spellbook.

At 8 pm, we donned our plague carter disguises and traipsed with the cart—which we’d use to haul the unconscious Varisians from the hospice after rescuing them, having Syrical cast an illusion over the cart to make it appear like we carted plague victims—to the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden. The elven wizard performed another cursory check of the hospice using his clairvoyance spells to give us an up-to-date idea as to the positioning of the doctors and Grey Maidens within. No receptionist remained within at this hour, so Merethyl tried to quickly open the locked door using a skeleton key given him by Syrical—I can only imagine procured by the wizard for his illicit operation at Eel’s End a short time ago. When the skeleton key failed to open the lock, however, our investigator reverted to his own master skill at picking locks to get us in.

Once inside, Merethyl peeked behind the curtain to get a good layout of their current positions again, then informed us to wait 30 seconds while he attempted to cross through the large room of diseased occupants stealthily. He wished to reach the door leading up to the catwalk, where he could draw the attention of the two Grey Maidens above and lessen the arrows raining down on us should this turn into a brawl. I reiterated that this need not turn into a bloodbath, that we need not kill these doctors or Grey Maidens. It would be best to let them live and not condemn them for doing their jobs. I received the obligatory look from Merethyl, Syrical, and Glannin, as well as the half-nod from Calcedon. Perhaps they fail to realize that I would not continue to remind them of the need to not kill others if their actions in combat habitually found them leaving the enemy breathing. Or, perhaps they do already know that, but my constant reminders annoy them because they simply do not care and just get tired of hearing it. Children get tired of listening to what they should do, as well, but that doesn’t mean we give up on telling them when they refuse to obey what’s right.

The four of us gave Merethyl his moment, as requested, and the lack of deadly commotion within indicated that the elf succeeded in his harrowing endeavor of crossing the large room without notice. When we passed through the curtain to inquire about any dead that necessitated taking to the Grey, the room exploded into action! We took them by surprise, but according to their actions, they obviously had no desire of discussing business with us. Quite the bad sign of their true intentions, I must say.

In that opening moment of surprise at our sudden appearance, the lot of us seized the opportunity to better prepare ourselves for the fight coming, though Calcedon had moved all alone to the center of the room to further garner the attentions of everyone else in it. And he got it, might I add.

The nobleman-turned-plague carter pleaded with the good doctors to hand over their dead, that he might have the opportunity to feed wife and children through the proceeds we’d receive. Truly a remarkable performance! So much so that a plague doctor revealed a club from beneath his robes and smacked him on the shoulder with it! The rest of us were inspired, however, as the other trio of doctors closed on us from other parts of the room—one more at his position, and the other two bearing down on me. Syrical appeared in the curtained entry, pulling it back so that Glannin could step up into the opening and cleave at the doctor rushing to me. It looked as though he attempted to use the flat of the axe blade, but it caused the swing to be so awkward that the doctor dodged it easily. I could see the frustration in the dwarf’s face and knew it heralded bad thoughts in his brain. The next swing would not seek merely to maim, I feared! Thus, I landed a pommel shot to the skull of the same doctor, staggering him briefly, and deftly maneuvered out of that space where the second had tried to hedge me in between them. The sudden sound of heavy footfalls echoed through the cavernous warehouse room, as Merethyl charged through the door on the catwalk above to slam into the surprised Maiden leveling a bow at Calcedon. Unable to set her feet, she careened over the railing and plummeted ten feet below, luckily missing any of the sick beds! Despite the fall, the Grey Maiden hopped up to her feet without so much as a pause and rushed the nobleman, drawing her sword on the way. The second, still on the catwalk nearest me, struck me in the gut with an arrow. It failed to penetrate my chain mesh, but its impact still stole a breath from me.

The pair on Calcedon flanked him, and while he proved able to duck the first’s attack, the second struck a devastating blow to the back of his head. With true warrior grace—no doubt taught to all those who trained to be hellknights, Calcedon rolled with the blow, reducing its effects, and letting it reposition him away from the flanking opponents. As this occurred, he retrieved his fauchard and hooked the ankle of the doctor whose attack he’d escaped, sending the man—or woman, behind those masks and thick robes, it was impossible to tell gender—to the ground.

By the entrance, Syrical thrusted his crossbow into a ready position with some surprising quickness, but the doctor standing immediately before him witnessed it and clocked the wizard with a clubbed backhand. Incensed at the affront to his dignity, Syrical fired his weapon, and, for the first time since I’d known him, landed a bolt into the enemy’s left shoulder! The shock of the wound froze the doctor momentarily, but that’s all Glannin required to bury his axe into the other shoulder. The man collapsed to the floor in a spray of blood. The lethality of the blow caused me to cringe, which slowed my reaction to the club-wielding doctor before me, and he took advantage of an opening in my defenses to pummel me in the left hip. He meant the hit to cripple me, probably drop me to the ground where he could finish me swiftly, but the shield of Aroden I’d received before this began softened the strike enough that it barely hindered me. Well, it threw off my attack, granted, but I maintained my feet.

Calcedon made short work of the Grey Maiden, successfully smashing her alongside the helmet with the blade of his fauchard. While drawing no blood, it dropped her instantaneously to the floor. As the happened, the tripped plague doctor tried to use the distraction to stand, but Calcedon struck him too, foiling his attempted attack at the last moment. Again, the second doctor provided a damaging hit to the nobleman’s back, and, by his movements, it was easy to tell these heavy blows had started taking their toll on him. In fact, Glannin, who had initially started toward me, noticed the wavering Fordyce, and moved to help him instead, occupying the doctor’s attention that had been issuing those tremendous batterings. With only one near me now, and the Grey Maiden above more worried about Merethyl, I squared up and went to work on the good doctor, batting him upside the head with the flat of my blade. He managed a weak parry against my subsequent attack, but the third hamstrung him. After falling in agony, my boot discovered his jaw and he descended into blessed unconsciousness.

Syrical removed a coin from his money pouch and launched it at breakneck speed across the room to strike the plague doctor harrowing Calcedon square in the back. Choosing to ignore the menacing dwarf in lieu of flanking the nobleman, both doctors attacked him. He warded off the second with a thorn bracer, but the one on the far side bruised him again. Nearing the end of his reserve—and, possibly, consciousness, Calcedon turned and heaved his fauchard with all the strength he possessed. No flesh and bone anywhere had a chance against that slicing weapon, and just like that a plague doctor was no more. Glannin strided up beside the delirious nobleman and forced a potion down his throat, not caring about the second doctor that remained standing there. He accepted the potent drink willingly enough and retained his wits, stepping forward and past the dwarf to intercept the doctors club with the haft of his fauchard. He then backhanded the doctor with his thorn bracer, though carefully, so as not to pierce him with any of the thorns. Glannin followed up with a jab of his axe at the enemy, but the doctor bounced away from the thrust . . . and right into the point of my sword. Rather than stab him, however, I ordered him to drop his weapon and surrender.

He opted to flee toward the door leading upstairs instead.

Calcedon performed a quick march on his violin that surged our adrenalin and quickened our step, which enabled Glannin and I to follow the doctor easily and incapacitated him.

Meanwhile, Merethyl had entered into a warrior’s dance with the second of the Grey Maidens still on the catwalk. His sap had done some work to weaken her, but that armor she wore effectively blocked much of its bludgeoning strength. Syrical had continued to harass the Grey Maiden from the floor with his coins, and he scored a couple strong hits on the Queen’s guard. The elf succeeded in dodging most of her precision sword strikes, though one managed to get through to leave a nasty cut along the investigator’s right bicep.

In the midst of that fighting, Syrical realized that the first plague doctor we’d knocked unconscious had suddenly disappeared and deduced that the figure must have been seeking escape out the front of the hospice. He yelled to Glannin for help and left Merethyl to fend for himself against the Maiden, so he could catch the fleeing enemy. The two of them disappeared behind the entry curtain, and I’m happy to report that the doctor failed to get outside the building.

I rushed up the stairs to the catwalk to help Merethyl, but a solid strike to just the right point on the woman warrior’s helm dazed her, and the elf finished his work with the sap to knowck her into unconsciousness, as well.

With the first of these inevitable conflicts now over, I used my manacles and Calcedon’s rope to tie all the doctors and Grey Maidens together at the back, while the others searched the premises for secret passages and the lift. They discovered none of the former, but upon finding the lift, they saw that its controls had a button missing. More than likely, that button permitted the lift to go to a secret location unknown to anyone not belonging to the doctors that worked here. None of the four we’d downed had anything that fit the space, so we surmised that Dr. Davolus probably kept it upstairs. Thus, that would be our next destination by necessity.

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

The Sub-Creator

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:14 pm

15 Desnus, 4715 – Night continued

Merethyl crept up the stairs ahead of the rest of us and stealthily opened the door there to peek inside. He determined by the nonchalant positioning and conversation of the room’s three occupants—the daytime receptionist and two Grey Maidens—that none had heard the fight below. Aftern filling in the rest of us to this fact with a few subtle hand motions, the investigator slipped into the room with nary a sound. Regrettably, the rest of us weren’t near as silent as him, and, knowing this fact, those of us able to call defensive magic upon ourselves did so. Calcedon entered the room and proclaimed our arrival to “stop unethical practices” performed by the plague doctors. Syrical, feeling unusually brave this night, rushed through behind him to take up a position in the room’s corner.

Glannin and I prepped a little longer for combat before rushing in, though I arrived just in time to see Merethyl sap one of the Maidens with a loud clang off her helmet. Her partner shuffled about with drawn sword to flank him, but deft moves by the investigator kept his flesh from shedding blood. The receptionist jumped out of her chair and commenced to loading a crossboe, which she just managed to complete before Calcedon tripped her up with his fauchard. The nobleman also positioned himself right before me, closing off any sort of escape between the black double doors that we knew led to where the plague doctors practiced surgery on those 15 Varisians. A coin flew by us at great velocity and imbedded itself into the wall just behind where a Grey Maiden stood. Our wizard flinging coins again!

I quickly navigated the labyrinth of companions to help Merethyl with the pair of Grey Maidens, smashing the nearest of them so hard with the pommel of my blade that it dented the back of her helm. Merethyl struck at the other Maiden with his sap, probably hoping that the one I’d just pummeled would turn against me, but his blow deflected harmlessly from her armor, and the other refused to be dissuaded from him. Oddly, with a choice insult from Glannin, the first bailed on her flanking partner in obvious fury and charged after the dwarf! That enabled Merethyl to spot the second’s swipe and dodge it. And a good thing he did, too, as another coin shot past right through the space he’d been standing to splinter the wall behind. Should our dear wizard not grow more accurate with those things, I do pray he becomes more thrifty, at the least!

A quick glance spied the receptionist’s bolt plugged into the shoulder of Calcedon, but the woman was still splayed out on her back and sporting a new bruise atop her forehead. Right beside them, Glannin’s axe parted steel armor to cause a bloody gash in the angered Grey Maiden’s midsection. He wasn’t concerned about the lives of these people at all! Thankfully, Calcedon was, as he reversed his fauchard and thumped her noggin with its butt end, knocking her out cold.

Just then, the double doors beside our nobleman, Fordyce, were thrown open, and a trio of plague doctors stood there with clubs in hand. The first to attack rocked Calcedon hard in the same shoulder that harbored the bolt, and he winced with the extreme pain of it. It awakened him to the new threat, however, and he slid away from the second attack.

It’s a delicate game saving lives, especially when one must look out for his enemies and not just his friends. Though Glannin’s position put him closer to the newcomers, I couldn’t trust that he would spare them, and the plague doctors had a shortage of protection against powerful axe blows that even finely-crafted plate mail proved incapable of stopping! Thus, having to trust in Merethyl’s combat prowess, I bashed ineffectually into the back of the Grey Maiden in an effort to divert her attention from his next attack, then darted away to fill the gap beside Calcedon in the doorway. Both Maidens slashed at me with their swords, but the close confines and additional threats aided me in parrying or missing their blades. I parried an additional club by a doctor as I settled into my new location, but not wide enough, and his weapon scratched my arm ever-so-slightly. Another missed with an attack on Calcedon, then both of our attackers sank back to either side of the door, as if beckoning us to to give chase into the surgical room. I happily obliged, hearing the noteworthy ding of a soft, malleable coin penetrating steel plate behind me.

I stepped after the doctor into the other room, then ducked the swing of the waiting doctor beside him. Turning my sword over, I backhanded its pommel under the chin of the first, snapping his head back with the unfortunate sound of cracking teeth. Calcedon followed me into the breach, where we fought back-to-back to prevent these plague doctors from their usual flanking tactic. Unfortunately, his tripping tactic of the third doctor in the room went awry when the man hurdled his fauchard. Unappreciative of the combat maneuver, that third doctor carefully maneuvered around me and tried to clobber Calcedon in tandem with his partner, but their positionings permitted the nobleman to see both clubs clearly, and he batted them aside with a single swipe of his fauchard haft from right to left. I fell for a quick feint by the doctor before me, but his altered swing took a poor angle and deflected off my chain shirt. I felt it, but barely.

Though unable to peek at the happenings in the office due to being surrounded by doctors here, the sounds of combat announced enough. Merethyl’s grunt of pain, Syrical’s arcane-laced words, and the tremendous heave of effort in Glannin’s growl, followed by parting steel, shattered bone, and the heavy crumpling of plate armor splaying out upon the floor revealed the efforts of my companions, as well as the loss of yet another life.

My heart breaks a little each time I hear human life expunged through such extreme measures. I do not doubt that their own choices led them to such an end; I only wish we—as sympathetic men destined to teach the world the nature of goodness through our actions—could find mercy within ourselves to not play the same role as these foolish people seeking to uphold the destruction of so many. It does not mean these foolish people don’t deserve destruction; only that we must ever be mindful about who has the right to carry out that destruction and who hasn’t that right. Civilization cannot flourish when even those who strive to do good perform it through merciless and unforgiving action—through self-proclamation of the right to slaughter according to our own whims and sense of justice. Evil must be stopped, and sometimes from outside the bounds of an unlawful law, as this situation has led me to better understand. How imperative it remains, however, that we who seek to uphold the moral law which usurps the laws of state don’t twist that law of morality into the misguided notion that we then have the right to do as we please to those on the wrong side of it—to those whose hearts and minds hold the capacity to see the error of their ways one day in the future and become something more than they’ve currently chosen to be. We who choose to fight the good fight must be extra careful about how we fight it, lest we become nothing different from those whom we fight. Degeneration of the righteous heart too often begins there.

Glannin appeared beside Calcedon, who had just punctured holes into the left arm of a doctor and drove the blunt tip of his war axe into the face of the same doctor. Somehow, that fellow fought through that powerful blow to land one on the bard, as well, but Calcedon retaliated by bashing his knee, then following up with a solid crack to his head, sending the doctor into blessed unconsciousness.

I trade a series of hits and misses with the plague doctor that I’ve been battling all this time in a stalemate. With one of the doctors now out of the fight, and with Glannin having joined us in it, Calcedon stepped away from his position at my back and tripped the doctor on me. The opening at my back, however, allowed for the second doctor to slip in and flank me. I recognized the tactic and used my gauntlet to bat aside his club, but the prone doctor landed a crushing blow to my shin. The pain was agonizing, and even after its healing, I’m sure I’ll be walking with something of a limp for the next couple days, at least. Rather exasperated, I clapped the prone doctor with the flat of my blade upside the head. His body went limp, and the club dropped from his hand. Even so, I heard his raspy breath through the mask, which assured me he remained very much alive.

The fight in the other room against the final Grey Maiden had pushed to the lift. With the push of a button, the lift had startd to climb up to our level, meaning she sought to make an escape and warn others of our invasion. Merethyl’s sap had proven ineffectual against her plate armor, but her sword had bloodied him enough for sure. With only a single doctor left conscious in the surgical room, our dwarf performed a rapid plaster job on the elf in his unorthodox healing method, but, as ever, it brought a bit of color back to the paling investigator’s skin. Merethyl, in a move that undoubtedly confused the Maiden a great deal, broke off his attack on her and charged the last plague doctor. Yet aware of all his surroundings, that doctor witnessed the surprising maneuver and side-stepped the sapping. Taking advantage his new position, he swung his club about and pounded me clean on the tip of the shoulder. Had I not had chain mesh there, it certainly would have shattered bone.

The lift arrived, but the Grey Maiden never had a chance to enter it. An overzealous Glannin, eager to prevent her escape, brought his axe to bear and buried it half a blade deep into her chest. The third death tonight.

As I turned my attention fully back to the plague doctor, I recognized that the door on the opposite side of the surgical room now stood wide open. Someone had passed through it during our fighting here, but a quick sweep of the room with my eyes revealed no one new had joined the fray. I called out the anomaly to my companions as I attacked the plague doctor, but he bounced away from my sword . . . and right into Merethyl’s sap. His head lolled just a bit, as if the unidentified strike had dazed him. Suddenly, there was Glannin again, clocking the doctor upside the head with the haft of his axe and sending the enemy sprawling to the ground—this time very much alive.

Syrical, whom I’m told had disappeared for a short time during the battle, approached the surgical room, when the house drake on his shoulder inquired about “the new guy standing at the lift.” The only one near the lift by that time had been Calcedon, who had gone to it to peek inside. It took but a brief moment for us to realize the connection here: Davolus had somehow made himself invisible and snuck through us to the lift!

I rushed inside the lift and discovered the button that had been missing earlier pressed into the lever. Our conniving doctor had already made it here and intended to escape between our fingers. The house drake had given his position away, and soon Merethyl and Glannin joined me on the lift before the lever pushed down, ratcheting the lift into motion and leaving Syrical and Calcedon on the outside.

With the lift being so small, a frantic attempt at incapacitating the invisible Davolus began. When none of us could find the man, Glannin got the brilliant idea of dumping stout on the floor and watching as the liquid revealed the footprints of where the invisible doctor resided. That gave us a better clue upon which to center our attacks. I repeatedly used the pommel of my sword, Merethyl continued on with his sap, and even Glannin attempted to use the blunt portion of his axe to drop the man. Calcedon arrived atop the lift cage as we neared the bottom but was unable to penetrate its mesh with his available weaponry. Just as the lift grounded to a stop at least four levels below the hospice, both Glannin and I connected hard with our respected weapons, and Davolus splashed down into the stout. Apparently, one of our edges must have sliced the man, because blood oozed out to mix with the alcohol.

I requested that Glannin smear some of his plaster upon the invisible man so we could see him, as I jammed the lever back into an upward position, which caused the lift to haltingly start back upward again. With the good doctor’s help, we now knew of a secret level to this hospice deep below ground, and we would return to it soon. I’m uncertain if anyone down there heard the lift arrive, but there existed no indication that they had, so, to the best of our knowledge, this mission to stop whatever these plague doctors were doing remained clandestine from the outside world.

While we battled to incapacitate Davolus, Syrical had begun his work to uncover what these men were doing here . . . and it turned out to be truly horrific. In the back office, where Davolus had been working when the fight broke out, the wizard uncovered a vast collection of vials and beakers filled with humors from the human body. This had all been extracted from the Varisians on the operating tables—whom, I might point out, Glannin and Calcedon were working on healing while this digging took place. In notes left behind by the escaping Davolus, Syrical unveiled that these doctors were acolytes of Urgathoa, the goddess of undead and pestilence! They weren’t here trying to discover a cure to bloodveil . . . they were here trying to figure out how to strengthen it! Aroden be praised that Syrical and Merethyl both believed enough information existed within these notes to commence with earnestly find a cure. Neither knew how long it would take, so the city remained in the dark woods of bloodveil for the time being, but certainly this proved good news that perhaps we could see the end of the trees at the woods’ border.

With the ministrations of our dwarf and nobleman, the Varisians had begun coming around to consciousness. They continued to be weak—who knew how long these men and women had resided upon these operating tables, but many were strong enough to be moved to chairs so that we could use the straps on the tables to tie down Davolus and his workers.

Through his magic, Syrical revealed that the plague masks worn by these Urgathoans made them immune to the disease, as well as hid their dark intentions from any kind of magical interrogation. A search of Davolus located a pair of keys.

It felt cruel to keep the Varisians here, but we weren’t yet ready to leave. An entire secret portion of this place remained below that we had to investigate, and it seemed a poor idea to let these people wander out into Korvosa where they’d likely come across more Grey Maidens or plague doctors, thus bring more trouble this way. So, we provided them with the ability to perform the service of tending to the needs of the plague victims below, who had no one to care for them. Should anyone enter the structure, however, they were to drop out of sight and stay hidden until we returned. They agreed to all of this.

Having rested some during our inquiries above and regained some of our fighting form, we gathered near the lift to begin our foray into the bowels of the hospice. Time to see what and who the Urgathoans were truly hiding from the sight of the city.

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

The Sub-Creator

Posts : 534
Join date : 2009-09-19

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