Cuana Chapter 8 Entry 1

5/18/08

We journeyed long from Nemedia into Ophir, riding with the mercenary band known as the Crimson Wolves, my Aesir friend Tullweim as their leader. Two others had joined our ranks as we were on the outskirts of Numalia – a Hyrkanian bowman named Xacksmith, and a know-it-all Stygian named Dhak. Our travels had been uneventful until we were in the Sarellian forest, about a half day’s ride outside of the city of Ianthe, where we came upon a merchant’s wagon beseiged by a band of brigands. At least twenty brigands led by a red haired woman were taunting the wagon’s last survivors….an Argossean, a woman with blonde hair, and a man of the east whose battle-rage was so intense as to leave him frothing at the mouth and seemingly unaffected by a multitude of wounds. Another Argossean was with them, but had been knocked unconcious and to our eye appeared as one of those slain by the bandits. Both the bandits and the merchants noticed our arrival at the same time. The red haired leader of the bandits called out a warning to us to not interfere, while nearly simultaneously the Argossean merchant called to us ‘all my goods are yours if you save us’. Apparently we hesitated for a fraction of a second before acting because the blonde woman chided us for being ‘armor plated baboons’ or something similar, before she began bellowing at the top of her lungs and charging headlong into the bandits.

The bandits attempted to stop us by slinging pebbles at us from the safety of their horses, but they were no match for the heavily armed and armored Crimson Wolves, and were soon forced to flee, their red haired leader calling back threats to both Tullweim and the blonde haired woman. Unfortunately her eastern friend had lost his mind from his berserk madness and all attempts to calm him failed. When he finally came after Dhak, swinging a large urn at him, the Stygian killed the man. It was then that the Argossean merchant revived his companion and introductions were made: they were the Lady Julia, an Ophirean noble without holdings and no family, and two Argosseans merchants, Katos and Darios. They had come upon eachother while travelling to Ianthe and stuck together for the added safety of eachother’s company.

In addition to giving us all the goods they were carrying, Katos suggested we come with him to seek employment with Baron Timeon, who was in need of an armed force. We were in need of a money source to continue to pay the Crimson Wolves’ salaries, so hiring ourselves to a local noble sounded like the perfect thing to do. We agreed, and we all rode out of the forest and to Ianthe. On the way we passed by a very sinister looking hill, rumored to have long ago been home to a evil god known as Al’Kiir. The natural monolith still bears the dark god’s name – Tor Al’Kiir. We passed uneventfully through the shadowed area and soon reached the city of Ianthe without experiencing any further trouble – no trouble until we tried to gain entry to the city, that is.

We approached the gate known as ‘the gate of Avanrakash’ and saw them promptly closed in our faces. We were advised by the gate keeper that the General Iakandrian had passed a new law forbidding armed troops to enter the city unless they had a noble patron, on penalty of having our lips torn off or some other facial disfigurement like mounting our heads on pikes and placing them on the ‘bridge of skulls’. Obviously some tension is present in this city. We were eventually admitted, but only ten of us could come in and we had to wrap our weapons and leave our armor behind. This we did, leaving our armor with the merchant’s wares given to us, and placing Enaro in charge of the Crimson Wolves in our absence.

At the suggestion of Darios and Katos, we went to an inn called the Bull and Bear since we were all going to need a place to say the night. The place was crowded upon our arrival, the patrons engaged in eating, drinking, throwing dice, or all of the above. I approached the bar as the rest of the group settled in to whatever they were going to do, and wound up acquiring the culinary services of a man named Fabio for the Crimson Wolves. Fabio had until recently worked for Baron Timeon, the man we were to see for employment in the morning, so I took advantage of his meager knowledge of the Baron to see what I could learn about our prospective employer. It was at this time that Xacksmith was accused of cheating at a dice game with members of the city Watch. A fight broke out, and nearly everyone in the place joined in the brawl. Tullweim remained calmly seated at his table while Xacksmith scrambled to try to retreive the silver coins that were scattered on the floor during the melee. In an apparent fit of Stygian battle-lust, Dhak decided to punch our new cook in the face, so I got up and began to guide Fabio away to a safer spot. Obviously spoiling for a fight, Dhak punched Fabio in the face again as I was trying to guide him to safety, so I decided to oblige the smarmy Stygian by planting a right hook upside his head. He staggered back with a look of pure surprise on is face, a slight case of jelly-legs showing in the way his knees wobbled for a second or so after after I’d slugged him. It took the two uncivilized barbarians – Tullweim and myself – to put an end to the brawl before it got too far out of hand.

While distracted by the fighting, Tullweim realized that he was being robbed by our serving wench. Terrified of his wrath, she began pouring forth informaton as Tullweim requested it, much of it about sinister goings-on, beautiful maidens being abducted, and rumor of necromancy, even with regard to the King. While in the common room of the Inn, I noticed a man sitting alone at a table looking as is he was waiting for someone. He had an odd look about him, his face looked almost rabbit-like. He was sitting with his drink, staring ahead, saying nothing to anybody. I approached him in order to strike up a conversation and possibly learn a few things about the city, but he ignored me completely. The only response I got out of him was a spiteful, sour look when I lost my patience and slammed my fist down on his table.

Shortly after the brawl was over, Katos and Darios left the inn. I noticed rabbit-face got up after them and began to head for the door, so I moved to intercept him to see why he was abruptly leaving. He simply glared at me, so I sarcastically wished him a wonderful evening and he left, pausing once more to glare in my direction. Rabbit-face hadn’t been gone but a moment when we heard a scream from outside the inn. As we piled out the door to see what had happened (I had grabbed a bar stool and smashed it on the ground outside, providing makeshift clubs for Tullweim and myself), we saw Katos fighting for his life with a mysterious dark-clad assailant, Darios lying dead in the street, another assassin standing over his body. I was impressed to see Lady Julia kill Darios’ murderer but the other got away. Was the other assassin Rabbit-face? Someone else who had received a signal from Rabbit-face that those two were targets? We helped Katos haul Darios’ body several blocks away to a secret room located down a stairwell in a filthy alley. Katos pulled an iron ring from Darios’ finger, much like the ruby ring he himself had and the one he had given Lady Julia, and placed it upon his own. Then he ripped out the lining of Darios’ cloak and pulled out what looked like a very old scroll. He told us the story of the defeat of the evil god Al’Kiir by a group known as ‘the Circle of the Right Hand Path’ whose only survivor of the battle was a sorcerer named Avanrakash. The staff, a great weapon of power was then presented to the first King of Ophir by Avanrakash, who then left the kingdom and whose eventual fate is unknown. Katos read the scroll to us, an apparent instruction for summoning Al’Kiir: ‘Lo, call to the great god, entreating him, and set before the Image the succedaneum, the bridge between worlds, as a beacon to glorify the way of the god to thee.’

We then quit the secret room and returned to the Bull and Bear, where they were just finishing cleaning up after the mess made during the brawl. We had an appointment to meet Katos in the morning before going to Timeon’s mansion to seek employment, so we went to our rooms to wash off the dust from the road and then bedded down for the night.

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Cuana Chapter 8 Entry 1

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