Cuana Chapter 9 Entry 3

The innkeeper downstairs had been hollering for the watch, who are now presumably on their way here. At least they’ll see all the bodies and know that we were targeted for assassination. Both Tullweim and I went downstairs to keep an eye out for the watch and stall them if they get here too quickly, giving Dhak enough time to search all the bodies and enabling Xacksmith to bind our captive and lower him out the window on a rope, hide him in some bushes, and return by way of the window. Typical curs that they are, the watch showed up angry at us for not allowing anyone upstairs and for keeping other patrons in their rooms. With as much patience as I could manage, I told the fools that we had been victims of an assassination attempt and were keeping people away from the crime scene so they could conduct a proper investigation. You would think that being an assassin’s target was illegal by their demeanor because despite seeing the bodies for themselves they told us that were not to leave the inn and posted guards to be sure that we complied. One argued with me over my claim to have not been attacked, noting the fresh blood still dripping down my chest. I told him that my wound was from earlier in the day when the mercenary had nearly killed me, and that it had been torn open again during the assassination attempt, but he didn’t buy it. Xacksmith and Dhak watched out my window and noted the guards passing back and forth up the alley, counting the seconds that passed before they paced back into view. I decided to help them b y providing a little distraction, so I went downstairs and made for the stable saying I was going to check on my horse. Another fight almost started over that, and though I eventually relented I had bought enough time and distraction enough to allow my companions enough time to query and dispatch the last assassin. My actions had angered the guards even further, so they started hollering about increasing the number of guards keeping watch on us. We were all going to sleep in my room for safety reasons, with me keeping the first watch, but the guards were now pissing themselves in fear of us attempting escape. They commanded us in the usual ‘we are the authorities and you will do as we say’ fashion to each go back to our rooms alone. If we were to be stuck in our rooms, I wanted to know for sure that there would be guards directly below our windows to prevent more assassins from returning to finish the job they had blundered once this evening. I stuck my head back out into the hallway and teased the guard at the top of the stairs by asking him how he could be sure that we wouldn’t just climb out our windows tonight. You can add ‘sense of humor’ along with intelligence and testicles to the list of qualities these morons lack. The man nearly turned purple with rage and began hollering for more guards to attend him. I just smiled and closed my door, lay down on my bed, and waited to see what rank of officer would soon be coming to have a word with me. At least now no more assassins would be coming through our windows this night.

I awoke to a loud crashing noise coming from the room next door. Quickly glancing to the window I saw that it was morning. I had slept very soundly, which wasn’t surprising considering the extent to which I had been wounded the previous day. I was up and at my door in a second, expecting to see more angry guards and another round of their hissy fits, but instead saw the Nordheimer stepping out of his room and heading my way. An officer of the watch had shown up with orders to allow us to go, and the guards were grumbling their irritation as they began filing out. As I was gathering my belongings and putting my armor on, Tullweim and Dhak gathered both Xacksmith and I and told us in hushed tones about a visitor they had spoken with a few minutes ago. Apparently it was a priest of Asura, here to assert his priesthoods’ innocence in recent events as well as offer both information and assistance. Several guards had been posted in the alley outside our windows, at least two had been downstairs in the common room, and another at the top of the stairs leading to our rooms. Guards had been posted all around us, yet he managed to give them all the slip and come speak with Tullweim in his room? That right there should be proof enough of the Asuran cultists’ innocence, because if they can pass posted guards unimpeded then none of the ham-handed butchers we had previously encountered were of that bunch. Dhak told us that when shown, this priest had described the talismans worn by the assassins as being an Asuran symbol of neutrality, an odd thing for a killer to wear. Tullweim said that the priest was going to leave us a few things to help us, hidden in a place called Wren’s alley. The Nordheimer quickly traced out a symbol, saying that we were to look for it in the alley and dig below the spot which the symbol marked. We gathered our belongings and went downstairs to leave, encountering the innkeeper on our way out. He made it clear that we were no longer welcome in his inn, so I took the opportunity to suggest that he’d have less trouble with his patrons if they didn’t suffer attacks from assassins in the night.

Despite the grievous wounds I had suffered as of late, the Hyrkanian was in much worse condition, having been close to death twice is as many days. We resolved to report what we had learned so far to Publius, and while doing so see if there was some obtainable remedy for our companion. We left the Stag and Whistle and were starting down the street when a familiar carriage pulled alongside us bearing the priest whom we had spoken with yesterday evening, Constanus. By this time we all had dark suspicions about this man, believing him somehow to be involved in the murder of Daphnis as well as the late night visit to our rooms by the assassins. Before any real dialogue could begin, the Hyrkanian openly accused Constanus of sending the assassins and made as if to charge the priest. Tullweim made a grab for Xacksmith, restraining him from openly attacking Constanus as he continued to shout his accusations and pummeling the man with some mightily impressive profanity. Shock, innocence, anger, and hurtfulness all played on the priest’s face as the Hyrkanian relentlessly and belligerently harangued him, so he finally ignored our angry companion and addressed the rest of us. We would have preferred to keep our suspicions to ourselves at this point, but it was out of the bag now so we did our best to downplay Xacksmith’s outburst and change the subject. We learned that surgical healing was available at his church, or rather the place they call the Mitraeum. For a tithe, a priest skilled in medical and surgical arts would perform an operation designed to patch up physical damage and restore a measure of health to the patient. With the Hyrkanian still fairly frothing his anger behind hands firmly clamped over his mouth, Constanus bid us good day and his carriage continued on down the street.

Once the carriage was out of sight, Xacksmith finally settled down, a rather sheepish look creeping across his face as he met our gazes, seeing in them both bemusement and annoyance. We decided that a trip to this Mitraeum would be good for Xacksmith, provided he hadn’t offended Constanus to the point of guaranteeing a slip of the scalpel. We would report to Publius directly after.

Things had become visibly worse among the people of Tarantia overnight. Furtive glances were cast about everywhere one looked, rumors flitted from tongue to tongue, each growing more grim by the telling. Not all the public ire was aimed at the Assurans – foreigners were targets as well. We were about half way to the Mitraeum when the public ire suddenly flared into open antagonism as a piece of garbage – a rotten tomato I believe, arced through the air and struck the Nordheimer. As if that had been a signal to the rest of the crowd, more trash began striking us, curses and insults were hurled at us, and the miserable pack of swine even began throwing excrement at us. I should mention at this point that my reaction was later strongly criticized by my companions, but at that moment I couldn’t have cared less. I had already paid heavily for holding back the deadliness of my attack when confronting Essenic for his disrespectful words, and I would not make that mistake again. Urging Xacksmith to stay on my horse, I drew my sword and waded into the angry crowd, swinging with all my might and not caring a damn who I hit. Screams sounded from men and women alike, hatchets were pulled from beneath the robes of some of the antagonists, garbage and shit flew from all directions, and I kept my head down and continued to hack into the maddened throng of hateful Tarantians. Within just a few seconds the crowd broke, screaming at the pain of their wounds and for the loss of their companions. The Nordheimer had taken a few of them down as well, but he had employed a measure of restraint where I had not, hurting them but not killing them. For the first time I could remember, I truly did not care. Perhaps it was the culmination of the frustrations I had recently endured – being bested so easily by Essenic, wounds at the hands of assassins likely sent by a conniving, double dealing priest, the petty bullyings of the local watchmen, our inability to produce a single suspect for questioning, and now this foul abuse at the hand of this pack of scum. All I know is that I had had enough, and these people had picked the worst time and worst subject imaginable upon which to vent their anger. Even with the advantage of perspective, looking back upon it now I believe that I would again do the exact same thing. I am beginning to loathe cities. The majority of the people that populate them are, as I’ve already described them, scum. Had we done nothing – had we simply endured the abuse at the hands of the mob, the watch would surely have run us in for fomenting a riot. Tullweim would likely get into as much trouble as I for merely hurting his antagonists. It could be debated back and forth, I’m sure, but again – at the time I simply didn’t care.

As expected, we soon sighted the watch coming up the street. Xacksmith and Dhak had the horses and used them to put some distance between themselves and the melee. Once the watch shouted their requisite ‘halt!’ Tullweim and I broke and ran for it. The watch gave chase but we were able to stay ahead of them, and as soon as we rounded the first corner we came to the Nordheimer and I split up, each of us ducking into different alleyways and continuing our flight while doing our best to remain unseen. We knew the general direction in which the Mitraeum lay, so it became a sort of a cautious foot race between Tullweim and I to see who could get there without being arrested. No doubt that our descriptions – especially mine – were soon to be well-known if not already. In one alley I found some wash that had been set out to dry and from it plucked a dark bedspread to use as an improvised cloak. Whenever I arrived at the end of an alley and faced an open street that needed crossing, I did my best to crouch as if afflicted by a stoop or old age, or anything that might help me look other than I am. I eventually arrived at what could only have been the Mitraeum and saw the Nordheimer making his way toward the entrance of the building, so I hastened my pace and fell into step alongside him as we strode toward the entrance.

Once inside, Tullweim began making inquiries about the Hyrkanian, first asking one priest, then another about our friend who was supposed to be here ‘for the stitching of the skins’. As most everyone else in this city with whom we’ve made contact, the first couple of priests we spoke with were rather rude. One impatiently told us that the surgeon was located in a general direction that he indicated with a sideward nod of his head before hurrying out of the place on some hurried appointment. We soon found our way to where Xacksmith was recovering from some rather serious looking stitching, but he looked considerably better than he had before, despite looking as if he could use some sleep. We were soon joined by Dhak, who had gone out to meet with a Mitran priest in order to glean more information regarding the mystery in which we had become entwined. Tullweim and I retrieved our horses and the four of us were on our way to the alley of the Wrens to see what our mysterious Asuran friend had left to aid us.

It was a moderately short trip to the place we sought and once there we quickly found the mark that had been left to indicate where we were to dig. The others kept a watch while I dug into the loose earth and quickly recovered a container holding eight doses of what turned out to be very potent healing medicine. I applied all of mine to myself immediately, focusing on the nastiest of my wounds – the two dealt to me by the mercenary in yesterday’s fight at the House of Lions – and was amazed as they both nearly vanished. I was still far from being in peak health, but at least I was ready to fight again if need be. That little voice that sometimes speaks forebodings to me said that I would indeed be doing just that before the night had passed.

A voice returned me from my reverie, a voice calling out ‘thank Mitra I have found you! Chancellor Publius needs to speak with you immediately! Come, follow me, we must make haste!’. We did exactly that, following the young man through the streets and straight to the Chancellory, where we were quickly ushered inside and sat before a visibly disturbed Publius. Dhak related all he had learned earlier in the day regarding a noble named Lord Nadanidus, below who’s manor this group called ‘the brotherhood’ held their meetings, a sell-sword named Taspius who the assassin that had been questioned named as the one who had hired them, and of our suspicion of involvement on the part of the priest, Constanus. The Chancellor indicated that these were serious charges to bring against ones such as Nadanidus and Constanus, but he did confirm that Taspius was in service to Nadanidus, so he appeared to recognize our words as the truth. He could sense that Dhak was holding back something though, and after pressuring him to divulge all of his information the Stygian told of a large scale that he had been shown by one of the Mitran priests he had spoken with earlier. This scale was apparently similar to that of a snake, but much larger than would be found on any normal serpent. It was then that he told of the possibility of involvement by a cult of Set, the dark Stygian serpent god worshiped in his homeland. He spoke of giant serpents allowed to roam the streets, feeding on whatever citizens they encountered, left unimpeded to do so due to the holiness with which they were regarded. He named them as ‘the sons of Set’, and warned us all that if we were to see or encounter one, to leave it be and get away as fast as we were able. Mollified, Publius relaxed for a moment before becoming very stern, and primarily focusing his attention on me admonished that due to our actions in our dealings with some of the citizens of Tarantia, we were not to be given any formal thanks for our efforts if we were successful, that none of us would be held up and celebrated as heroes, and that we would have to leave the city immediately upon completion of our mission. We would be paid another large sum in silver for putting and end to this brotherhood and restoring peace to the city, but that was to be all. It was obvious that the murderous havoc I had wrought earlier in the day with the angry mob had caused serious trouble for him, and that were the circumstances different he’d see me leave the city without my head. I didn’t really expect anything else from him in the way of a reaction to what I had done, and there is still the matter of getting to Lord Nadanidus’ manor before this group called the brotherhood had time to conclude their meeting.

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Cuana Chapter 9 Entry 3

The Nemedian Chronicles Cuana