Campaign of the Month: March 2008
The Nemedian Chronicles
Dhak Chapter 9 Entry 3
In only a few moments the fighting had ceased and our would-be intruders lay dead, save for one that Cuana had brained across the head. The fighting had awoken the whole inn however, and the smarmy innkeep wasted no time in calling for the guard before I could think to silence him. In the few moments we had available before they showed Xacksmith tied the surviving man and carried him out the window to be hidden in the alley.
Indeed did the guardsmen arrive swiftly and demanded full disclosure, as if our doings were their own business. I wished to keep some control over the situation and convinced them there had been only 3 attackers, although some filthy commoner managed to see practically everything and tried to contradict my story, as well as making no mistake to hide that they sported amulets of Asura as well. How amazing, I thought. Myself with catlike eyes was hard-pressed to notice those talismans, yet this peasant easily spotted one through a doorway across a darkened hall on a man engaged in combat. Strange indeed.
The guards made themselves at home and decided to keep us prisoner at the inn. I strongly considered slaying them outright but reminded myself I needed no further trouble and this would play into the enemies hands. At any rate word would reach Publius and he would curry favor. Just after dawn I heard the northerner at my door bidding me come forth. He was quite adamant and soon enough I came out and to his room. His reason quickly became evident as we had an unexpected visitor. Gauwlan was he, and he introduced himself as a priest of Asura. I could immediately sense he was quite adept, the least of which in making his way effortlessly past the guard that was still posted at the stairs. He wished to assure us that the doings of late were not of the Asurans and we readily agreed that forces were acting to frame them. I reminded him that the enemy of one's enemy is a friend, and he agreed to lend us aid and supplies later, then slipped out the window.
Shortly after the head guardsman returned with a writ, surely enough Publius had leaned on them to cease their harassment. With a few choice stinging barbs left in their ears we made our exit. Good riddance to the Stag and Whistle.
A new day was upon us and I advised Xacksmith to seek specialized treatment for his extensive injuries of late. In Stygia we have perfected the art of surgery and medicine for hundreds of years, and although there would be no Stygian surgeons about there would be doubtless in a city this size at least a few healers skilled enough to operate on his wounds.
Not two steps had we taken from the inn however than did we see again Constanus' carriage awaiting, and again he bade us converse. Already highly suspicious, the Hyrkanian let him know in no uncertain terms that his treachery was exposed and he would pay for the attempt on our lives. I was equally suspicious but nowhere near as transparent as the eastlander and approached the priest under a friendly guise, apologising for the insults hurled. Constanus was taken aback but nonetheless willing to still converse. He blamed the Asurans and sure enough knew of the Talismans I had taken such pains to keep secret. I asked him where the best healers in the city would be – naturally this would be the Mitraeum. We parted and headed that way.
We doubled up on the horses, having only two, and made our way through the city. An unrest was on the populace and in the hyborian way they had retreated to xenophobia again. Easily standing out as foreigners a crowd gathered about us and commenced hurling rotten fruit and insults to our mothers. One wretched crone in particular wagged her vile tongue at Tullweim, and no sooner did the curse leave her lips did he pull forth and stave in the woman's brain-pan with the pommel of his sword. Knowing they could not let the insults brush off them I knew what was coming. Tullweim dismounted and I saw Cuana do the same – steel flashed and blood flew. No matter, this was their fight – if you could call it that. Xacksmith and I quickly took the horses and urged them away from the slaughter. There would be no honor lost in leaving the two barbarians to themselves, they were in no danger and could handle things easily. I urged Xacksmith to continue to the Mitraeum as now events had been needlessly complicated and we must act fast.
Soon we arrived having left Cuana and Tullweim to find their way here at their own convenience. I shuddered but kept my composure upon stepping into the temple of Mitra. We must seek aid for my comrade. After a few moments a priest approached and bade us in whispers to step into a darkened corner. Quickly I could tell he recognized us and would speak of our business. He was a friend of the fat priest Daphnis and told us of his interest in the matter. He was a minor priest of no great power, but had overheard a conversation between another he knew and one unseen, in which they spoke of the dead priest and how 'unfoturnate' it was he had to be stopped. This apparently is the brotherhood Daphnis spoke of and the one that betrayed and murdered him. He knew the one of the priests, a Barthius, and we agreed that he would arrange a meeting with me at the soonest possible time. Shortly we found a healer willing to work on the Hyrkanian and I left him to his ministrations as I made my way to a nearby hayloft that would be our meeting-place.
True to his word, he showed up with his friend Barthius in tow. I introduced myself and bade Barthius tell us of the Brotherhood. He was not forthcoming at first, and it took threat of violence to coax the details from him. As I suspected it was this Brotherhood behind the murder and behind the deeds attributed to the Asurans. At length he revealed that a powerful Noble, Nadinadus, had sponsored this group and they met in catacombs beneath his manor. Now Barthius chose to betray him as he did not trust this Nadinadus and believed him in league with another, hidden, evil. He produced a scale from some great snake that he said he had found in the catacombs. At this my heart well near stopped, for it could only be from one of the mighty serpents that were part and parcel of Set-worship. What would this mean? Are Stygians involved? I must know… I briefly considered immediately killing the two priests so that the knowledge would die with them, but stopped myself. One I could surely overwhelm and kill but the chances of subduing both were poor at best, even with the element of surprise. I would handle this my own way. Barthius informed me the Brotherhood would meet again tonight, and told me of a secret entrance to the catacombs through the sewers. He was still tight-lipped and beyond the existence of a guard-station near the entrance would say little else.
I returned to the Mitraeum to find that Cuana and Tullweim had arrived, though they were wanted men now. In another hour we collected Xacksmith, who looked even worse than before and was fully exhausted. I had clearly overestimated the skills of the temple's healer and benefit my companion had gained was marginal at best. Nonetheless we must move forward, and we made for a hiding-place that the Asuran priest had mentioned. After crossing the city (warily) we found it, and indeed the Asuran had left us a package; extra salve to dress our wounds. A token gesture I presume, but better than nothing.
I explained what I had found out to my comrades, and let them know that if indeed we meet no less than a son of Set, I cannot be part of its demise. If it got out that Dhakometri had slain a son of Set I would be utterly finished in Stygia and likely never able to join the ranks of the Black Ring. No sooner had I been able to share my findings than did a royal page spot us, and bade us return to Publius who now demanded an update on events.
Escorted by the page we returned the Chancellory. Publius again met us in his study, looking worn and haggard by stress. He was not happy with the slayings done by my barbarian friends and advised us we would have to leave Tarantia very shortly. We told him of our discoveries and that the Brotherhood would meet tonight below Nadinadus' manner. However the knowledge I had of the serpent and Nadinadus further involvement I kept to myself – but even before I had decided to, he sensed it.
Looking into his eyes I knew recognized the desire for control and knew he would not let the matter go. Indeed he would swear us to oatch and even imprison us if he felt I would keep knowledge from him. I considered calling his bluff. Who would solve this little problem for him if not us, tonight? Certainly no one else, and even if he found another group of men willing to stick their necks out for him it would be far too late. But would his ego let him? I could not take the chance, and so agreed to tell him what Barthius had told me, how he had sensed the corruption in Nadinadus and of the telling serpent-scale. I was conflicted but knew that ultimately only my own best interests would matter. If I do anything that could disparage my name further back in Stygia, I will simply slay every possible witness and burn their skulls.
My mind raced… what if there are Stygians involved? Maybe it's something else, myth tells of giant serpents in other parts of the world… Badly I miss Stygia… the food, the land, the temple-whores… many years have passed and though I have learned much I have seen of late only wretched Hyborian city after wretched Hyborian city. I have no love for this pit of fools either. I know not what lies ahead save for armed men, a den of deceitful Mitrans, and a giant snake. But only with Dhakometri and his comrades does Destiny side….