Campaign of the Month: March 2008
The Nemedian Chronicles
Dhak Chapter 9 Entry 2
We stood in the still night with only the girl's screams ringing about us. Tullweim as always took the moment to seize and quiet another wench rescued from certain death. Quickly I examined the remains of our foes. They were posessed of a surprising amount of coin for cultists, and well-armed. One had a scrap of parchment with curious sigils, whose meaning I could not make out, inscribed upon it.
Suddenly the guard called out. Even though I cautioned they would soon arrive no one noticed until they were practically upon us. Evidently whoever was supposd to be watching out for them was clearly preoccupied! Our situation was compromising to say the least, and they waxed wroth until we agreed to accompany them to the nearest guardhouse to answer their questions.
For several hours we were kept, and repeated our story many times. I purposefully left out the role Daphnis' death had played in the matter, not wishing to immediately reveal all that I knew. Soon it became evident that this was no mere trivial murder of a priest, for after some time a Black Dragon guard of the crown appeared and all but ordered us to appear at the chancellory in the morrow.
We were released and allowed to get a few hours sleep before being summoned by the herald-boy. Soon we made our way to the Chancellory. Although I would at some point grow familiar with Tarantia's centers of power and influence I was surprised to be having business at one within my first day there.
Once we arrived we were obliged to remove our weapons. In my case that meant relieving myself of my sword, Ghanata knife, and a pair of daggers. No matter now, for my true powers lay behind my eyes. Still though, there is comfort in steel sorcerey will never wholly replace. Once escorted to a fine study room the chancellor made his appearance. Publius was he, and he occupied no small position of authority in the city. He wanted to know everything about the murder of the fat priest and the grim goings-on at the graveyard, while volunteering very little information of his own. Quickly I knew this was no fool but a veteran of affairs of intrigue. Being naturally shrewd in such matters myself I could however intuit that he understated his concern.
Although obviously skilled at in cautious discourse, he made it known that the murder of a Priest and murmurs of unrest had a disturbing potential, such that he would appoint us on the spot as his agents to investigate it. For this he provided a name, Esenic, who had been the assassin that sent the arrow into Daphnis' back. Interesting. He apparently knew naught but the name, and while he was certain this person slew Daphnis he could not have him arrested outright, clearly he meant to keep his participation in the matter hidden. A sum of silver was offered. Inwardly I balked at again playing another's agent, but I had learned much in my prior role as a noble retainer of sorts, and knew this time I could play the game as well as any of them now. Very well Publius, I report to you now. After all, we can't have priests being slain in the streets.
We began our search at the brothels, the very locale we had frequented the prior night. Like most mercenaries Esenic liked the ladies. I grew restless and moved about on my own to investigate. Already bored by the living I turned to the dead. I returned to our scene of carnage the prior night and sought the remains of the man I had slew. At length I uncovered his body and wove the spell. He spoke of having been paid to commit the murder of the girl but had little other important information. Bah, simply a pawn. It did not turn out to be, after all, a better strategy then combing the city for rumors.
I returned to the inn and grew restless. Knowing it would take far too long to wait for the others I used the Heart's power of visions to observe them. They had gone all the way to the docks on the Khorotas and had been able to locate Esenic with surprising ease. Watching in the scenes unfold I saw the Hyrkanian and Cimmerian approach a tall man in a seedy tavern. I cringed inwardly at their amateurish attempts at deception and guile, and in moments a melee had erupted. Esenic was no patsy and swiftly dealt near-crippling blows to the stout hill-man before they could press any advantage. At last exercising wisdom, the two backed away before the situation escalated further and proceeded to a washing-house shortly nearby.
In little under a turn of the glass I rejoined the others at the house, which turned out to be Esenic's own house complete with bitter wife. How fortuitous. I took one of his personal effects, a battered helm, and knew I could use the Heart's power to lay a heavy curse of ill-fortune on him. The spell came quickly, more easily than before and I knew Yag's power drove it. Now that we had the advantage it was time to snare our quarry. To ensure my powers remained at peak, I slyly lured and slew two Argossean seafarers in the streets before setting out.
As we came to Esenic's watering-hole I formulated a plan. Esenic was obviously a skilled fighter and no stranger to other fighting-men and rogues seeking to waylay him with some trickery. I thought of how he might be deceived. I could pretend to be a travelling sword-of-trades and display some minor fortune-telling trickery. I had served among mercenaries and know them to be a superstitious lot. While abject sorcery would be shocking, they would be perfectly intriuged with some rolling of bones or even entrail-reading. I would at some point reveal to Esenic that he is under a terrible curse – which was true! He would realize it, but not know from whom. It would then be easy to convince him his former employer or perhaps the spirit of the priest had cursed him, but the odd-mannered Stygian could help him… yes it would work – But I had tarried too long lost in plotting, for we had reached the tavern and the Aesir barbarian had already gone in with no intention of subtlety. Well, it would have been a good plan… I readied myself knowing that battle would soon come.
In only a few minutes Tullweim returned, followed by an indignant Esenic and two of his mercenary friends; apparently a duel was in order. The Assassin and barbarian faced off while Esenic's men stepped back to allow them room. Scarcely though had the two contenders drawn their steel than did the Hyrkanian materialize from the shadows and strike one of Esenic's friends with a single deadly blow. Esenic roared at the betrayal as the Aesir flew into his killing rage and the battle began.
I was determined to put a quick end to this. Few would keep their nerve after a demonstration of the power I was about to display. Having practiced it once on a wretch in Ianthe I knew how terrible it would be. Calling to Esenic I caught his glance, then channeled forth the most onerous power of the Heart. Before our eyes the knave shrank down, his cry of despair rising to a thin reedy shriek. In only a few heartbeats he was the size of a dwarf and still shrinking. In a vain attempt to escape his doom he turned to flee – but the Aesir's battle lust had been lit, and he gave no quarter. Before a bat's wing could flap Tullweim's massive battle-blade split the diminutive wretch from crown to crotch. Impetuous oaf! The sport I was to have with our quarry was yet to come! However I knew I could not blame the Aesir… it is his nature. And I still have powers over death.
The crowd had fled and Esenic's companion's had lost any remaining fighting-spirit instantly after his exceedingly bizarre and violent fate. Their pleas for mercy were met with steel and they quickly joined their fallen comrade.
Seemingly contrite for slaying our most promising source of information Tullweim made an uncommon attempt to assist in the foulness by trying to hold the two halves of Esenic's miniature corpse together while I once more cast the spell of the speaking dead. Esenic's eyes flew open, but as I feared his speaking-parts had been far too mutilated to produce anything other than a thoroughly hideous piercing warble so obviously unnatural it chilled even the bones of the unshakable Dhakometri. I bade Tullweim cast his parts into the Khorotas, hopefully to be picked clean by river-otters before discovered by some nosy dock waif.
Thoroughly dejected, I reflected on my actions. This was the man who rid me of Daphnis, even if he did so on another's command. Like Galbro, he was but a pawn, and it was foolish of me to waste so much power on bringing him down. I thought for a moment he deserved a cleaner death – but no matter now.
On the way back to the inn a carriage stopped near us and the occupant bade us approach. It was no less than another Mitran priest seeking to pry into our business. Constanis was his name, and he sought from us the details of his colleague's demise. I saw the sorcerous gleam in his eyes and knew he was no acolyte. I must be wary of this one. Carefully he questioned us and we allowed him to know that betrayal, brotherhood, and heresy was on the mind of poor Daphnis that night, likely those things are now on his as well. He offered us passage back to the inn, and I was too low in spirit from our failure to advise him leave us to our own affairs to refuse. Once at the inn we wearily retired to our rooms.
Now it was time to let the Heart bathe in the light of Yag, and renew its potency. I could not bear to let the jewel out of my grasp, and brought the bed to the window-side so that I might clasp it close in my sleep rather that let it be unattended.
A distant roar, like the lions on the desert plain, roused me. Just as I opened my eyes I was set upon by a villianous rogue who had snuck into my room! He struck for my heart but only gouged my ribs with his blade as I groped about to ward him off. Instinctively I tried to cast my dweomer of pain as he stood over but the tight quarters spoiled my effort. His blade struck hairs' breadths from my neck and I knew I had but one chance. Weeks ago I had acquired a single dose of a powerful poison – juice from the toxic Apples of Derketo. I had promptly (and at great personal risk) applied it to the blade of my Ghanata Knife and tightly sheathed and wrapped it knowing the venom would stay potent until needed. Now I seized the weapon from my bedside and in one motion I tore the blade from its sealed scabbard and sliced a ragged wound in my attacker. Wasting no time I rolled onto my feet, deflecting the rogue's increasingly feeble stabs. The exotic and expensive poison was worth its coin, for not more than a few heartbeats passed before the man's face drained of all color as it took effect. Tullweim burst the door in to assist, but upon seeing the wretch unsteady on his feet, bleeding and frothing from his orifices, he judged him dispatched. No sooner had he turned away did the would-be assassin collapse, dead as a stone, and utterly dispelling any doubt I had of that poison's potency.
I soon realized that each of my party had been targeted, 4 assassins had been dispatched in vain to still our stirrings. The battle was short but intense, and only one had survived to be knocked senseless, though he had succeeded in greviously wounding the Hyrkanian. The innkeep bound up, demanding to know the matter and spoke of raising the alarm, but I shot him a gaze that would chisel stone and he shrank away. I turned back to the matter at hand. Rest would have to wait. There were secrets to wrest from the unwilling.