Fireday; 19th of Palesun; 456 Anno Imperii
Cast of Characters
Flynn – Thief & Master Of The Subtly Blunt Innuendo
Granwell – Magi & Latest Initiate Of The Only Order That Would Have Him
Gregory – Paladin & The Latest Boss Of The Holy Urchin Street Gang
Nathaniel – Fighter & He Who Must Be Carried Once In A While
Olympia – Priestess & One Armed Angel of Fire & Mercy
Taran – Scout & The One Who Doesn’t Really Want To Be Seen With Them
Uzel – Barbarian & Babysitter
Dungarth – Grounded Ship Captain & Curmudgeon
Rhoane & Tenara Rills – Rescued Children & Saviors of the Human Race (?)
Arhus – Watcher and General Pain in the Butt
Syalasu – Watcher’s Assistant and Dedicated Mime
The Story So Far
Having rescued the Rill children from certain doom our heroes are now faced with a conundrum. It seems that Arhus was not the kidnapper that everyone thought he was. Instead he and the Rill children claim that he rescued the children in Seer Hill. As a member of the semi-secret society known as the Watchers, Arhus was sent to keep the children safe and to spirit them away to the East where they would be safely brought up to become the true inheritors of the Ancients which they are eventually destined to be. Do the heroes dare believe Arhus and allow him to take the children or do they insist that the Rills must come with them?
In a fit of unusual wisdom the party decided to sleep on it and to take up the issue again in the morning. After a night of blissfully uneventful and fairy free sleep the adventurers awaken to a sunny new day…
As the sun breaks over the marshes camp begins to stir. Granwell, the last person to stand the night’s watch, nudges Gregory awake. Each moves to another and soon everyone is awake except for Olympia, who insists on another 30 minutes shut-eye to give the men time to “freshen up”.
The usual grumbles and jests break out as rituals are followed. Gregory does morning calisthenics as Nathaniel grouses about being strapped to a travois and the itch under his bandages. Granwell dresses in his clothes and fake beard after completing a page in his journal “for future generations”. The two children are loaned soap and a wash rag behind a small pile of boulders on the hill. Olympia checks Arhus’s bandages, and even Syalasu, Arhus’s foreign companion, is finally let out of his ropes in time for breakfast.
A meal of the portage and jerky left on the coals overnight and the group packs and mounts up on their newly “acquired” warhorses courtesy of the Sphyre army. The travois of Nathaniel and Arhus are hitched to the horses and they move out for Ostwin.
The night before the party had decided to travel to Ostwin, a large port city, along the river in hopes of find a boat and a faster trip. There they would decide the final outcome of the Rill children. Until then there was an uneasy truce with Arhus and Syalasu.
Gregory’s voice echoed from within his new full helmet “I still say we should seek out the council of the Patriarch of the Church of Maskius in Ostwin. We can find shelter with them and the Patriarch will know more about these Watchers and whether we can trust them.”
Replying “I tell you my friend that going to the church would be a bad idea. The church of Maskius has fallen far from it’s days of glory and honor. There are now members who only think of themselves at best. I assure you that I have nothing but the best interest of the children in mind.” Arhus shooed a fly from his forehead.
“Maybe we should listen to him here Gregory. Lets at least not go directly to the church.” added Granwell.
“But sending them off on their own, with no one but a foreigner who doesn’t even speak their language?” grumbled Gregory.
Arhus “It’s in their best interest. A large party would only draw attention, and this area is simply not safe for them”
After this the party traveled in relative quiet. Flynn’s jests and broken snatches of song were missed but there was much to think on. Luckily this wouldn’t to last long.
As the travelers moved along the riverbanks there came the sound of wood creaking behind them and a flat bottom fishing boat rounded a bend up river. Just as Nathaniel spotted the boat from his travois there was a shout from the deck.
“That’s them! Hey guys! Is me, Flynn!” and a figured bounded from the deck onto a tree truck protruding from the shore. As the rest of the party rounded their horses Flynn came running into the center of them.
Granwell: “We thought you were lost to the underground river!”
Flynn: “No! I was washed out of the caves and managed to pull myself ashore just short of a small fishing village. I managed to talk these gentlemen into letting me hire them for a ride hoping to catch you in Ostwin.”
Gregory: “Well we’re glad to have you back. By the Saints I knew you couldn’t be stopped by a simple swim!”
Uzel: “Yah, and those puffy clothes you wear should have floated well.”
Shuffling loads and saddles between the 10 horses they had, Flynn mounted and travel resumed. All agreed that it would have been nice to take the boat Flynn had arrived in to Ostwin but there was no way the 11 of them would have all fit in the small fishing boat, not even mentioning the horses.
About noon Taran, who had been wandering ahead to find an easy trail, reigned up and called the group to a halt. He had found a small walled town ahead along the river and something didn’t feel right: “It’s to quiet. There wasn’t any noise or movement. Something isn’t right. I think it might be a plague town.”
After a brief discussion it was agreed to ride close to the town but not to enter right away. Gregory and Olympia felt impelled to offer whatever aid they could, so they would approach the town counting on the protection of Maskius and Corion to ward them from whatever hazard might be found. The others would hold back at a safe distance for one hour. Only Flynn was curious enough to follow Gregory and Olympia to the gate after they paused to call for survivors and then entered the desolate town.
Inside it was eerily quiet. The streets showed signs of the town’s occupants but there was no one on them. The pair moved through the town, Gregory in front in case they met trouble, as they called out to anyone still alive.
Moving past a small hut they heard a thump around the corner of the central long hall. As they turned the corner towards the door they saw a body in the street. Approaching carefully they found a man, desiccated and curled into a fetal ball. Olympia squatted down for a closer examination “He’s missing all of his blood and I don’t see any obvious wounds…”
Suddenly with a wet yowl a gray figure sprang from the shadows under the long house onto Gregory’s back. The paladin thanked his god for the new armor he had received as it’s claws left rents in his helmet and back plate. Knocked to the ground the creature landed on its feet and glared balefully at the two adventurers. The stink of sickness and rot wafted in its wake.
It was a thin, lean gray feline, easily 80 pounds and 5 feet long from nose to tail. It’s flesh hung off it’s bones as if it hadn’t eaten in months while patches of fur gave way to sores and tumors. Green eyes stared past roomy, weeping lids and its teeth showed an unhealthy yellow and green froth. Both could feel the malevolence it radiated.
With a wet cough it leapt again, this time for Olympia. “Stay behind me!” Gregory’s cry echoed in the alley as he intercepted the creature and batted it away with his shield.
The creature whirled and came at him. Once, twice and it’s claws found the space behind his greaves but Gregory landed a telling blow to it’s haunches with his mace. Circling it feinted and went again for Olympia but missed. Stepping in Gregory swung hard with his mace and the creature went flying into one of the long house main timbers. With a crack it’s back broke and it lay limp.
Gregory and Olympia waited long minutes expecting another attack. When none came they looked at each other and then continued into the long house where someone could be in need of aid or where more creatures could be hiding.
Inside the town’s supplies and the tavern’s ale kegs were untouched. There was no answer to their calls so the two started to look around for what may have caused the noise. At the other end of the long house they climbed a ladder leading to the open second floor and found an platform with a single door facing them.
Gregory paused, cautious and concerned for the safety of his companion. As he concentrated he felt Maskius whisper to him. Chaos lurked behind the door. Readying themselves Gregory kicked in the door as Olympia took a better grip on her staff and wound up for whatever may emerge. Within darkness pooled in the air and lapped at the threshold.
With a whispered prayer Olympia called forth holy light from Corian’s grace and cast it into the room. Instantly the darkness snapped out as if it was never there and sunlight again claimed the room. Within there stood a makeshift altar formed from an up-turned barrel painted in blood and holding grave moss covered bones. Around the barrel were scrawled obscure symbols and across the protective circles sprawled a bloated corpse, it’s face frozen in a mask of horror.
“By all that is holy… “ whispered Gregory “Do you know any purification rituals?”
“None that would handle this.” replied Olympia “We’d best fetch the torches.”
An hour after entering the town it was left a smoldering ruin as the party quietly moved on down the river. There were still hours in the day and they all wanted to put some distance between themselves and the tragedy behind them.
As night closed in Taran noticed light in a clearing along the river. Drawing nearer he heard the raucous jokes and singing of an encamped riverboat crew. Taran returned and soon Gregory and Flynn approached the group intending to arrange a ride. After a short stint of haggling the ship’s captain agreed to the ride and for some of his crew to follow behind with the half of the horses which he did not now own.
The arrival in Ostwin was uneventful. The travelers disembarked from the barge and, after taking advice from the captain, sought out a hostel that was suggested as clean and reasonably inexpensive. With two rooms rented the party settled their equipment, slept a good night off the rocky ground, and went out to see the city.
Gregory was torn. He could not in good conscience decide the fate of the children but he couldn’t consult his church due to his loyalty to his friends. He had already decide on the barge though: He would instead seek the council of his god. Now that the party and the children were safe he would prepare himself with purification and stand holy vigil to find a path through this problem.
Selecting a smaller church to Maskius in one of the secondary neighborhoods of the city Gregory requested and received hospitality from the Abbot. He spent the day cleaning and fasting, blessing and decorating the armor he had received from the chaos pawn, and cleansing and flagellating his own flesh while reciting prayers and holy canticles to Maskius.
He stood the night before the altar, meditating on the question and imploring inspiration. After several hours on vigil voices slowly began to intrude on his attention.
“… got five boys and four girls this time. They’re young and should fetch a good price. They’re at a very trainable age.”
“I don’t know. Orphans are usually somewhat scrawny my friend. The last two you sold to me barely made it out of town to the market. I’ll have to see them before I can set a price.”
“Fair enough. Over this way. They are in the dormitories. We can say …”
Fury filled Gregory as he recognized the voice of the Abbot talking to another man on the second floor above the nave. But then he recognized the situation for what it was. What luck cast the whispered voices to his ears so far down by the altar? It was a sign from his god and proof that indeed the church of Maskius had been corrupted and needed cleansing. But most importantly it was a test.
An hour later Gregory heard the slam and click of the Abbot retreating to his room. Waiting until he heard snores Gregory quietly left his position at the altar and passed outside. Walking around the outside of the church he approached the side dormitories and quietly opened a shutter.
“Look! A Paladin!”
“Sssh… Quiet children. How would you like to help me on a holy quest for Maskius?”
Gregory lifted each child out of the window and, carrying the 4 year old girl, they all made their way across town quiet as church mice. Once the children were safely ensconced in the second room with Uzel Gregory awoke Arhus next door.
“Maskius has given me a sign and a test that will tell me if you can be trusted. If you can help the seven children I rescued tonight then I can also trust you with the Rills children.”
Arhus stared at Gregory for a minute, one eye brow raised, and responded “Challenge accepted my friend.”
The next day, at the behest of Arhus, Gregory approached a small tavern in an alley off the Street of Tin Workers bearing a letter for a man he had never met. The room went tense when the Paladin entered and became more so when he insisted on delivering the message, but later their inn was visited by an older, slightly shady character and a number of dock thugs carrying toys and sweets. From them Gregory learned the name of a Brother in the Church who was said to be a good man. The next day, after walking through town with the Brother, Gregory handed over the children and told him of the corrupt Abbot. (Later however, when the church sought the Abbot out he was found hung by his vestments on the butcher’s gibbet outside the church.)
Meanwhile Granwell realizing his master might have arrived in town before the other refugees from Seer Hill so he set out to find Tio. After exhausting all of the taverns on the first day he started to check the various wizards’ guilds and colleges. Of course Tio had been kicked out of most of them, but it stood to reason that this meant he must have been in all of them at one point. Perhaps they would know where he was or Tio might have sought lodging with one. (Tio could be a bit of a mooch…)
Granwell decided to start at the top figuring Tio would roll down hill. Passing through the better parts of Ostwin he drew several suspicious glances from the City Watch as he strolled through more and more prominent neighborhoods but his obvious be-symboled robes and long grey beard were enough to allow him to pass. He was even able to get directions from one or two of the guard along the way. (Although that one in the feathered helm seemed to disrespect him some. That one was on his list should Granwell see him again.)
Walking up to the Hall of the Selene Moon, the most prestigious Magi Gentlemen’s Club and Repository of Lore in the city, he knocked on the door.
“What do you want?” said a deep, booming voice from coming from the ornate golden knocker.
“Look, cut the voice please. I’m a mage, not some delivery boy.” snapped Granwell.
The door open and out stepped a 4’2” Halfling dressed in an expensive suit of clothes with the glyph of Selene in silver on his breast pocket. “Sorry. What do you want?”
“My name is Granwell and I am apprentice to the master mage Tio. I was to meet him here in Ostwin and I am trying to find where he might be lodging. Could you tell me if he is here?”
“Tio? A master mage you say? Afraid I’ve never heard of him. And that means he’s not here. Sniff Try the Guild of the Ouroboros. I hear those potion makers always have a few rooms to let.”
“Look, Master Tio was a member of your hall. Could I have just a SHORT amount of your time to go check?”
“He’s not here. Please leave.” as the Halfling glared up at Granwell.
Now Granwell was getting indignant. This servant and obvious non-magi was trying to give him orders. “Not until you go and check. You can’t make me leave before.”
Turning the doorman went through the door and slammed it shut with a determined THUD! “Please Leave.”
“No. As I said, you can’t… “ CRACK! A small lightning bolt leapt from an ornate brass knob set into the face of the door and struck the metal inlay set into the marble between his feet.
Taking a step back in surprise but quickly gathering himself, Granwell drew himself up to his full 6’ 1” and smoothed his fake beard. “Look! I’m not leaving until…” CRACK! A second bolt leapt out further and singed his shoes as part of it grounded through his metal buckles.
“Right! I’m going but you can’t treat me like that! I AM a mage! I’ll be back with my master after I find him!” and Granwell tried to walk calmly back down the granite stairs as his shoes gave off small wisps of smoke.
He didn’t have much more luck with the other fourteen or so assorted colleges, guilds, cults and organizations of spell-crafters and lore-men located throughout Ostwin. However, much to his surprise, the Order of the White River seemed to remember his master Tio somewhat favorably (aside from an incident they called the Night of the Concubines and the Distilled Liquor) and the organization offered him membership if he could complete a small assignment for them. As he walked back to inn he contemplated how best to convince his friends that they wanted to go visit the abandoned tower of a mad wizard.
Flynn mainly stayed around the hostel for the first day or two. He was fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the inn and the nearby taverns, so much larger and busier than home, but he always came back to the room.
Whenever he returned he would wait until Arhus was awake and then ply him with questions. Slowly Arhus opened up to Flynn regarding some of the knowledge and the appointed mission of the Watchers. Finally, in order to convince Flynn of the truth, Arhus truly confided in him by showing Flynn a book that few outside the order had seen. The tome was old, dating back to the age of the ancients. The text was faded to the point of being hard to read and the language was archaic but the illustrations were well preserved and showed much of the original color and detail drawn into the scenes. On one well marked page, under the thin paper used to protect the drawing, was a depiction of a score of young men and women. Clearly displayed among the center four, slightly stylized and dressed in archaic clothes but very recognizable, were Rhoane and Tenara Rills. Flynn was convinced: Arhus was in the right and should be allowed to direct the fate of the children.
After that Flynn came to trust the older man and to even begin to look upon Arhus as a role model. He told the older man about his own life and his indecision about which path to take now that Flynn was out of his aunt’s tavern and making his way through the wider world. Arhus looked kindly upon this younger man and decided to return the trust obviously placed in himself. His response to Flynn was the each man must find his own path and cleave to his convictions. However Arhus also advised Flynn that sometimes one man working from the shadows could be worth a hundred soldiers with swords and armor.
Flynn took these words to heart and began to consider where he might be able to acquire strength and resources which could help with the coming conflict which was prophesied now that the descendants of the ancients had been found. As he sat pondering in a tavern courtyard he saw a shadow moving through the crowd. As it passed one particular drinker after another he saw the shape of pouches changing owner and heard the quiet snick of a sharp knife. Flynn had an idea…
It took a few days of hanging out in alleys and bars, observing the crowds, and of covertly following shady characters but Flynn thought he had found one of the front businesses for the Thieves’ Guild. He had always heard about them. Most people in his Aunt’s tavern swore there was one in every big city. Many swore that the thieves were almost as bad as those gypsies. Most said you should stay away from them if you valued your money and your life. Flynn was about to try to join one to take it over from the inside. It would be hard. It would take time. It would take intelligence, skill and cunning, but Flynn could already image the information that must flow through such a group. Or the power of an army of thieves and assassins at his beck and call. (Flynn was unaware that the Assassin’s guild was really more of a loose affiliation holding meetings in the senate building once a month.)
Tightening his belt, squaring his shoulders, and checking for his knives, Flynn entered the bar and looked around for the man he knew must be there. Someone well kept, someone with influence, someone radiating authority in this room. Ordering a beer he stared over his drink and evaluated each customer until he settled on his choice. Finally, his determination iron, he strode up to the man and asked bluntly for a job. After not getting killed in the first 30 seconds he also thanked his luck as, after the man glared daggers at this raw hick in from the sticks, he was given a task: Bring 500 gold coins worth of valuables back to the as yet unnamed man and there might be a position for him.
Two hours later he was again thanking his luck when Arhus didn’t kill him after Flynn told the older gentleman about his decision. This night was going to be a long one…
Olympia and Nathaniel walked down the streets of Ostwin making their way to the Temple of Corion. It was said to be one of the finest buildings in town, a gleaming white marble structure dedicated to the the goddess of healing and a refuge for the sick and injured within the city. Pausing every couple of minutes as Nathaniel grew winded from his injuries, they worked their way into the town proper.
Finally there before them was the temple. It’s arches and columns were crowned by ornate figurines which shone in the light and its great doors were thrown wide. Inside could be seen an invitingly cool shade and the quiet burble of a fountain escaped from the walls. Olympia walked up the pink and gold veined steps to the door keeper: “Greetings sister. We come as supplicants seeking an audience with the Holy Matron.”
The wait was pleasant in the cool of the Matron’s waiting chamber, with a chilled tea and small sandwiches to snack upon. At first Nathaniel wasn’t quite sure how to handle the delicate porcelain cups, feeling that he could easily crush them in his callused hands, but conceded that the tea wasn’t bad even if not something he would care to swig with sausages. Soon they had their time before the Holy Matron of the temple and Olympia pleaded their case for healing to another member of her order and a superior.
In the end the Holy Matron was sympathetic to the two and set a fair price as a donation to the temple in order to continue its works within the town. The two were told that the preparations for the cure they sought could take some time. They were to return in two days, with Arhus as well, at the first light of dawn. By then the Holy Matron would be ready to ask the Goddess to heal their grievous wounds.