| Campaigns | In The Company of Witches
In The Company of Witches
©2011 Keith Haney
Next Session: Dec. 2, 2011 Dave's House
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Introduction

Sad news came today. A voice of splendid form and character was silenced forever. The great bard Acada DuLak is no more. From Ettenes in the north to Adraxus in the south and wherever the trade winds blow, he has brought music and story in his unique and charming way.

This news reaches you in the form of an invitation. Twofold is the summons, for there is to be a great funeral in his home town of Caseada. But more importantly he has named you in his will. There is to be a reading two days hence on the 4th day of August 1438.

Little is known to outsiders of Caseada, excepting that it is a small port town in the Five Sisters isles, sandwiched between Nessia and Thessalya. A place of little consequence in the region and largely ignored by the powers in Hadrias and Adraxus. Though the Magarchy claims dominion over the region, travel there by outsiders is limited. Its origins as a pirate hideout are a part of it history, but like many offspring it has failed to escape its roots and to this day it carries an unkind reputation (deserved or not). Those who claim Caseda as their home are stigmatized. It is for this reason that their celebrated son Acada is so beloved. He has given the town an association with greatness.

Sea captains and adventurers who have traveled to the isle tell of the warded lands beyond the sheltered cove of Caseda. It is hard to find anyone who has personally venturedinto these lands. It is sufficient to believe that the lands are unsafe, but there must be something of value hidden in the bosom of this land. Else why would they be warded...

Genre:
Fantasy
System: Pathfinder
Designer: Keith Haney
Players: Dave
Erik
Mark
Tony
Start Date: August 12, 2011
Status: Pending
Campaign Setting: The Shadow Empyre
Contact: keith@gamepointworlds.com
 
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Type Location Name Affiliation Party Location  
Florenta      
Thippus      
Affiliation Thessalya      
Affiliation Nessia      
Abraxus Nessia    
Apoxus Nessia    
Sea Village Caseada Independent  
Mediam Sea Port Ettenes Thippus    
Florenta City Florenta Empire    
Sea Village Gren'Ock Thessalya    
Hadrias Thessalya    
Port Village Il'Ire'E Llohna    
Myr'Dyn Llohna    
Nohn'Gwyn Llohna    
Sea Village Portaco Thippus    
Settlement Seawall Nessia    
Sea Village Storn Nessia    
Sea Village Tristine Nessia    
Port City Viletta Florenta Empire    
 Journals for Sept 9th session

Picture Nusurika  - The twig I had fashioned into a writing tool had been blunted and reduced in size by several inches. The small furrows left in the loamy earth were little more than worm trails in fresh mud. This would be the bulwark against the furies when they came. When they came, hell they were already here. They had been following us since we entered the forest. Tonight we would be caught in the open. The hours of practiced rune script now tested against these enigmatic creatures.
Small cuts and bruises marked me for the length of my body. The difficult terrain and the dogged pursuit of the orc hunters exposed my weakness. Like a helpless child I struggled to navigate the field of pit traps set to impede our escape. If not for the others I would have suffered whatever cruelty the orcs may invent for our trespasses. My tears of frustration only masked by my laboring sweat and the drizzle of rain.
My task complete, my body cried out for surrender. Effa locked eyes with me, her canine expression emoting a defensive aura. I had not the strength to comfort her or allay her fears. I clutched her to my breast and curled into a ball. Sleep would claim me without effort.
“Take my hand” Aebben said attempting to put greater distance between us and the orcs. “Get behind me!” Cried Vandrose placing himself between me and the curved blade of the rain-slick orc. “Quickly! this way. I’ll protect you.” Came Iason’s voice. These images carried me into my turgid shadowy slumber. Would my sisterhood have labored thus on my behalf?
My sleep was halted abruptly. The voices again nearer and urgent. The Furies were here and had made themselves known. Would the barrier hold?

Morning came without preamble. In the layered flora of the rainforest, light was seldom given its share, night and day were much alike. I rubbed my sore muscles as the others quickly packed their provisions. I had allowed a softness of flesh to seep into my routine. Even in my well worn travel boots, blisters had blossomed on my feet. I masked my discomfort from the others, but I fear my slackened pace betrayed my condition.
By midday we could smell the ocean breeze penetrating the jungle’s curtain. Vandrose and the others argued over our path to the sea finally settling on a sinkhole like chimney that emptied into a sea cave. The descent was slow. Iason was showing more consideration for the hazard than the others, insisting on casting deadwood into the water in advance of our arrival.
He is much changed. Serious and spirited. In the half light of the stone temple of Nyx he used his charms to purchase escape from the forest orcs awaiting us outside. It is not every man who can turn the tables on a priestess of Nyx. What secrets he must harbor to tempt the weavers of the dark tapestry.

We eventually washed out of the sea cave, little more that flotsam in the light, choppy surf. Clinging to the logs we contemplate our future. The Governor’s men, no doubt, have been detained by the stirring of our wake. Perhaps they will be well bloodied before they find our trail.

 


 Journals for Aug 26th session

Tony's Overview Narrative


PictureVandrose  - It all happened so fast.

Life moves in circles it seems, from light to dark and back again, just as the sun and moon race around the world in their endless dance of day and night. We all appreciate the good times for the bad, like a vivid sunset, whose vibrant hues take our breath away along with the day's last rays of light before we feel ourselves surrounded in the cold and helpless night.
The heaviness that was bestowed on my heart by the passing of my dearest friend was lifted by our sinful revelry in his name, and for a few moments through wine-colored spectacles, I felt that everything would be all right as I drifted off into a slumber that evening, even as the thought lingered in the back of my mind that perhaps the fires within the bay might indicate some other, more sinister plan. I can see now, that it was only too true. Just as the burden of grief had been lifted, a heavier burden was placed upon my shoulders. O Lord, willst thou not allow thy humble servant and shepherd but a day's rest in his undertaking?
We fled into the night, guided by the dark-skinned wiccan woman, who, I can only assume because of some previous debt to our own good Iason, came to our rescue. Though she might claim a repayment to us for recent good deeds, I know in my heart, as must she, that there were none. My actions on the night of our meeting were the actions that any good man ought to have taken, for better or worse.
Stealing away into the jungles and forests of Caseada, my mind was a furious of confusion, rage, and, I daresay, fear. What had we done to deserve the wrath and retribution of the government of Caseada? The truest friends and forgotten family of their very own Acada DuLak, the heart and soul (and commerce) of that fine city. And yet we find ourselves duped, baited, and run off for the sake of conspiracy. While it might be impossible to clear my good name in that place, then I could at least recover the Tetrachora and solve the mysteries behind it, discovering the man that had set us up. Then, the son of a bitch would pay.
Lord, forgive us our trespasses, for we cannot forgive those who have trespassed upon us.

From the early morning well into the heat of the afternoon, I doggedly pursued the tracks of those men who had stolen away in the night. I remembered everything I had learned about the natural patterns and flows of simple blades of grass, disturbed earth, and the sweet dew of the morning that could mark a trespasser just as easily as the first footprints through a snowy field. I conjured to mind everything that the old ranger had taught me nearly a year ago when I began my pilgrimage, my inquisition.
"Remember, Belamonte, as a predator, those you seek can only be your prey, and nothing can turn you aside from the hunt. Nothing shall deny you your kill. If your prey is weak, then you are strong. If they are strong, then you are quick, and if they are quick, then you are devious. And if your prey is devious, and they are always devious, then you shall be steadfast and unyielding, willing to hunt them to the ends of the earth and back."
When I saw the blood amidst the trail that was left to follow, I knew that our quarry had no chance of escape, and I doubled our pace. O Lord, forgive me for my pride, let it not be the downfall of these good men I now take company with, even if my folly might cost me my own life. Spare them thy punishment, for it was my own folly that brought that grave danger upon us. I remember crisply the hoarse shrieking sound of the first volley of arrows as they came upon us. We had clearly entered into orc territory, and I had ignored the signs of danger.

I remember standing in a daze, my mouth agape as battle began. Real battle. With real blood, real pain, and if my forgetting could spare its occurrence, even real death. My friends sprang into action as though they had fire flowing through their veins, with blades and magic at their disposal that would impress even the most battle-hardened of veterans. Even the meek and proper Keppel launched himself into the fray as though he were born for battle, whereas I, with a knotted stomach, reluctantly withdrew my crossbow and leveled it at the enemies that lay before us. I tried to breathe, and to focus on my training. I remembered countless hours and days on the firing range, launching bolt after bolt into haystack targets, until it had become like second nature to me.
But, as I held my hand over the lever preparing to fire upon the orcs for the first time, I hesitated, as though it took the strength of an ox to fire the bolt. These creatures lived. They breathed, ate, drank, loved, and felt pain just as I did, and they could die, and leave their families heartbroken and alone just as so many other families I'd seen. And as such, I know that it is because of this hesitation and softness that I failed my comrades. Each shot I fired hit nothing but rocks and dirt that day.
I could only watch in horror as my comrades fell in battle, kept alive only because of the pagan magic that Nusurika wielded with practiced ease on the battlefield. I have sensed the good in her on more than one occasion, and it showed today in combat. At one moment, she cured the wounds of the fallen, and at the next, with a thought, her magics melted and withered our foes with her curses and hexes. Were she not a creature of good, I would have reason to fear her and her pagan gods.
Brave men fought hard on this day, and drove our enemies back enough that we might find respite. Though they all took grievous wounds, they continued fighting on against all odds. I feel ashamed at the sick terror I felt, and while I knew that I could have been killed at any moment, it did not give me the strength I needed to kill our enemies in kind.
Perhaps I am not a killer then. If I cannot even drive back simple natives in an attempt to save our lives, then perhaps my quest, my inquisition is only a fool's errand. But I'll be damned if anyone dare think that I could let my brothers-at-arms die in battle. At the very least, my healing magics could keep them alive that we might fight another day. I can only hope that I will have another chance to prove myself.

We rest now within the tall stone monolith dedicated to an old goddess named Nyx. From what I have read, she is a patron of wily women, and those who would harbor secrets. Each of the pillars and statues here are all carved into feminine forms that ought to make even the most virtuous man turn his mind toward sin. I thank the Lord for guiding me to this place, and that the goddess accepted my gift of sacrament wine in exchange for her protection.
No violence is permitted within these walls, and as such we have left our weapons in the front hall, and slept by the fountain, still under the watchful eyes of those temptress statues, as though in our sleep they would walk out from their foundations and lay with us this very evening.
I sensed only chaos within this place, from one unfamiliar creature. She would not reveal herself, but spoke on the goddess' behalf. I wonder if we shall meet this mysterious Metatron before our departure, that we might be able to thank her properly.
Though I know she is a pagan, and not even devoted to good, there is much to be said for unrelenting peace, and the allowance of sanctuary for mercenary travelers. Perhaps she aids us because of the conspiracy that our lives have become entangled within, and she watches over us for no other reason than only to witness what will happen next…

 


PictureKeppel  - While I have a moment to scratch out some words. I can barely see in the light we’re in, but things seem safe enough now.

The funeral bash was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Anything might have gotten a party swinging like that in Caeseda, but knowing that it was about Acada DuLak, my father, makes me a little proud; and a little resentful. To know the man would have been priceless. In his memory, I decided to cut loose and celebrate, even if I had a hard time getting into it. This is not was I came to Caeseda for. And I am still not sure why I came.

During the party, a ship caught fire in the harbor. Aebben and Iason went to see what it was and proceeded to drag Vandrose and I along. We raced to the top of the bluff to get a better view of what was going on. At least that was what they said. I kept them back, still delirious and winded from the rapid ascent. We made it to the rear gate, bribed the guard there, and set out just shy of the edge of the jungle. Eerie feelings came from that place. This is where all of the talk of Furies came from, just past this line of rickety poles.

Beside the fire, nothing was obviously amiss in the city. The party still rang, but I was slowly coming out of my drunken fog. It was not worth dropping back into it. It was not only me who was finished. There was a consensus in the group that things were a tad too fishy to warrant more revelry. I, really couldn’t see the harm in what had happened, but they all called it a diversion. I need to learn more about this. Reading about subtlety and intrigue is much easier than participating in it.

Rude awakening the next morning. Nusurika pounding away at the door in discord with my pounding headache. She said they were after us and that we needed to leave the city now. We took what we had with us, our belongings and the strange gifts that had been willed to us from Acada. Aebben apparently slept in the bed and was the most rested he has been in years, which he told us liberally about. Nusurika won, and dragging us from Acada’s estate with her nagging persistence.

We hopped up alley after alley, going to where we went last night, in a strange twist of fate. We were in trouble because something was stolen from the Governor’s mansion: the Tetrachora. This is the long sought artifact that had my father wandering the world. The same which also led to his death. From what Nusurika said, the Governor was looking specifically for “the sons of Acada” not “who stole the Tetrachora” which suddenly made Caeseda a very hostile place. I will remember to stay home next time when someone dies.

Nusurika pacified the guards fantastically, sending the hair on the back of my neck to standing. It was a side of her I had not seen and it again made me realize how many sides one face can have. Within moments we were out the rear gate trudging through the same jungle that was said to contain the furies. It looked like six or seven others were a couple hours ahead of us. Vandrose said he spied their tracks and discerned this. We could not help but trust him, no one else could make anything of it. Trusting him helped, though. Vandrose did happen on half a dozen bloodied Orc bodies tossed into the weeds off the edge of the trail. This was not only distressing but I had never felt more vulnerable. I found a discarded club at the edge of the bodies and picked it up. I hoped it would make me feel a bit safer; It didn’t. I brought Ghost from his plane and had him keep watch. Even though I disliked the idea of using Ghost for violence, he was a weapon, and a good one. It was about then that I noticed that Nusurika had a new pet fox to replace her unfortunate first. It hadn’t dawned on me that the little beast loping along, following us was hers.

Iason forged ahead alongside Vandrose, followed by myself and Nusurika and Aebben taking up the rear. I still don’t trust her, but she has a kindness that is not feigned. Still, “Trust, but verify”, as they say.

A few arrows and a warcry later, Orcs were upon us from the left of the path. I froze up, felt confused and lost. I had not been in a potentially fatal fight and it dawned on me that I had no real experience with this. I watched as Aebben stepped up and brutally stabbed one of them, Iason drew is longsword and Vandrose pulled out a large crossbow. I ordered Ghost to sweep around and attack from the side, and emboldened by Aebben’s advance, I stepped up and noticed that two well muscled Orcs turned my direction immediately. Nusurika gasped while blades bit into me from all sides.

I woke to the still ringing sounds of battle with Nusurika looking down. She is … quite heavenly to look upon. It was almost like Vandrose’s talk of his God, Cuthbert. But she was away in as much time as she came. Aebben began to bristle with arrows, but still stood disemboweling the green skinned monsters in front of him. Now I understand why pain excites the man. I swore I could see him smiling with a trickle of blood coming from his lips. Iason and Vandrose worked to protect me. Nusurika had set off a few spells that looked positively painful.

Ghost was gone, as it was, disappearing when I lost consciousness. I did what I could, sending summoned creatures toward the remaining Orcish archer. The rest of his group had been laid to waste. He bolted from the scene with Vandrose and Iason in pursuit. It was only seconds before you could hear a shout from the Orc, and shortly after, war drums from an Orcish settlement just over the ridge line to the left of the path. Within moments, responding drums sounded in the distance. The whole valley knew we were here now.

I could have made a difference if I just sat tight. It was a stupid mistake to think I could walk into battle. Now I know better … and if we survive the night, I will make amends.

Vandrose and Iason mentioned jumping into the river to ward our trail and our scent. Apparently this was a way to get out of the mess we were in. We traveled downriver a ways and Vandrose found an ancient temple. He moved in, scouting it stealthily alone. Every time I see Vandrose work, he seems to be in the wrong profession. He moves like the shadowy men I could see from the tower, moving in and out of alleyways unnoticed. If Vandrose had less God, he and Aebben would get along a mite better.

Vandrose disappeared into the building for a while. I sent Ghost in after him, asking him to keep it quiet. Vandrose sent Ghost back with an all clear and proceed. I can see how odd it is for people to talk to Ghost. It was disconcerting at first, but I had Ghost with me in some form for almost my whole life.

Vandrose told us to shed our weapons and leave them inside the door. Apparently, the old God whom this was a shrine for was still very much present. The being inside was a avatar of Nyx; it was sacred ground. The Orcs knew of the place, but would never make war in such a place. At this point, I am too weak to care. All I know is that we found a secluded refuge that takes some of the danger out of the jungle, yet the men we were following are likely moving far far beyond us. The Tetrachora was on its way to where ever and there was nothing we could do about it. I shudder to think of what would have happened if we did meet them. They easily dispatched the previous Orc party, what would they have done with us?

Now we sit, bartering with the old god from the island; Nyx, a seductress, from what lore Vandrose recalled. I distrust anything that would use their wiles to control others. A lesson I had learned a very very long time ago.


PictureAebben  - Aebben sat back against the wall and sighed.  Today had not been a good day.  The fact that  he had a hangover most of it did nothing to help either.  He couldn't decide what the worst part of is was.  The horrible fight they had in the forrest was bad enough, the orcs that had waylaid them had almost killed him twice, but the constant running was almost as bad.  They had come through well enough though, at least they were all still here. 
    Aebben's eyes fell upon his sleeping companions; Iason the warrior who had cut a orc clean in two half sat sleeping against the far wall in front of him, the witch Nusurika had curled up into a ball with her head on his leg portrayed nothing of the horrifying savagery he now knew her capable of.  His eyes swept over Vandrose who slept in a position so stiff he looked dead.  He was odd for a holy man.  Aebben had never before met one that used a crossbow and tracked as well as he.... Maybe just the tracking he thought as he smirked to himself.  Finally he looked to his newly found brother.  The odd young man did have a few tricks he had never seen before, sprouting rats and other manners of animals from thin air. Though apparently he had never been in a fight before, he'd almost been done in only a few seconds into the ambush.  Yawning Aebben pushed himself up and stretched his arms.  Shaking his head, he looked once more upon him.  Aebben frowned slightly.  I'm going to have to keep an eye on him he thought. I've only now just gotten a brother, it would be a shame if I lost him.      
    He looked over his sleeping companions again and almost laughed.  What a ragtag group of beggars they looked.  Though their wounds hand been closed and bandaged, the signs of fighting and flight were still plain to see.  Bruises, cuts, and puncture wounds were plentiful about most of them, not to mention the filth they had collected while fleeing.  After picking a twig out of his hair Aebben dabbed at a few of his own wounds with a peace of clean cloth, though most of them had been healed by his new companions.  The soft sounds of breathing and light snores did little to cool his bad mood.  He half expected the doors to come crashing open at any moment.  Vandrose had gone back to cover their path multiple times, and he seemed able enough, but he was still uneasy.  The fact that they had strong walls to their back did little to ease his mind.  Running from the city guard was worrying enough, but now they not only had half a forrest of savages chasing them.  Also their was this creepy temple to worry about.  Though Aebben occasionally did leave offerings to the gods, he still felt a pulling tension at the back of his mind about this place.  The statue that had greeted them had told them they were safe, but how far could you trust a talking statue.
       He'd almost made up his mind to go and retrieve his weapons, but taking a quick glance at the sleeping Nessian witch made him think twice.  Being a sailor Aebben was prone to superstitious thoughts from time to time, that and coupled with what he'd seen from the girl earlier in the day made him stop dead in his tracks.  I really don't want my face melted off, he thought.  Instead he went to  his pack and produced a pen, ink, and piece of stained and torn paper.  Vandrose had told him that this temple was to Nyx, and explained in small detail a few things about her. After stopping a moment to smooth out Acada's letter of summons he turned it over and began to write.  After a few minutes of sloppy scribbling he stopped to look over his work.  Not pretty, but it will do.  If Nyx liked secrets, she would love the research that Acada had done before he died.  Walking to the alter he took one of the torches from the wall and burned the letter, letting the ashes fall to the floor. 


PictureNusurika  - I can still taste the blood in my mouth. Wisdom's salty wine has been one of my better teachers over the years. Around me my circumstantial cohorts recover from a fight in what must be for them a trial of unexpected magnitude. The weight of their situation is just now starting to sink in. I have labored to compose a plan that would spare these men the fate the Governor has planned for them.
I suspect that there are only a handful of people who know the Governor possessed the Tetrachora. The implications of this are clear. Anyone who is aware of this fact is at risk. Governor Pancost likely acquired the box at or durning the time after Acada's death. The fact that he had the box and kept it secret makes him a suspect.
The idea that the Governor suspects these men as the perpetrators of the theft, indicates to me that he is not aware of all his enemies interests. Regardless, If Remegius Pancost means to keep his crime silent he will assign his most trusted men to the job. The field of candidates for the position is small and deadly. If we are overtaken by our pursuers none of us will ever be seen again. Our only hope is that those whom we are in pursuit of have means to escape this island. We must overtake them and gain their vessel. This will give us time and distance from the Governor's assassins.
I find myself among strangers in the fight for our lives. In my experience there is no trust, no alliance, no friendship, that couldn't be sundered by greed, envy, or lust.

 Journals for Aug 12th session

PictureA Fateful Meeting https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1nOwgAROuDLsBYczskWGeTvlZ29Id8Ow62qK7MDJQBR8

Keppel - The city seemed to closed in around the boat as it approached the dock. It was an haphazard
but incredible panorama lining the bluffs layer upon layer of the Five Sister Isles. The seething
life on the streets was even apparent at this distance with a mixture of moving dark shapes,
bright colors and glittering metals in the afternoon light.
This was Keppel’s first real adventure being far from home. The thought made his skin crawl, but
he forced himself to take this quest even if his mother proposed that she send a trusted servant
to retrieve whatever was left.
This was his chance to break free from the island of Thessalya. He had found freedom on the
island after an enraged encounter after standing up to her. But, increasingly, he knew he was
being watched and followed. Likely servants of his mother lay in the shadows as he passed,
whether it was a street urchin or someone with more experience, he knew that coin was being
exchanged to keep an eye on him and keep him safe if trouble were to arise. It made Keppel ill to
think that even now he was free to move about Hadrias, pursuing the paths he had wished to for
so long; he was not, in fact, free from his mother’s watchful eyes and ears.
This adventure was his chance of evading that watchful eye. It was time for him to be his own
man, whatever that meant. For him, it was the ability to make mistakes and stumble around like
a buffoon--if necessary--just so he could find his own feet in this life. He had Ghost to protect
him, too. He had come to rely on him as a companion and a protector. There was little that they
did without each other, but the bond that once was there officiating his learning and keeping
track of notes and knowledge was not there. Keppel had to rely on his own memory and
knowledge, which he hadn’t ever needed to do until Ghosts first summoning. It was then that
Keppel realized that he wasn’t nearly as smart as he thought.
Now he was here, disconnected from The Tower and out in the world alone. It was a thrilling
experience with equal parts terror and wonder. He had been sick for the first three days of a five
day journey, but now he felt he was getting the hang of being at sea just in time to make landfall
again.
Fresh off the docks in Caseada, Keppel listed back and forth down the docks to the stairway,
avoiding getting his brain scrambled by a cart while still uneasily getting accustomed to being
back on solid ground. After nearly a week at see, this was something that may take a while. At
the base of the stairs, were two musclebound thugs were asking for contributions to “the
guv’nah”. Keppel had little knowledge of this area other than that it has had a fairly tepid history
with pirates, law and religion.
The man who spoke to Keppel did so with an attempt at respect, but it was difficult for his tongue
to approach something so unfamiliar. It was a noteworthy effort for the delivery, but the tell-tale
scars and a frequently broken nose along with the knuckle-cracking companion at his back
warned Keppel of any missteps.
“Where can I find Friar Benedicto?” Keppel spoke to the voice of the two thuggish men. This
question sparked a long and completely incomprehensible utterance of landmarks and directions
that left Keppel smiling, nodding and utterly confused. Two names stood out: Coral Street and
the Two Shekels. He tossed a gold their direction. It brought a crooked smile, showing chipped
and blued teeth on the spokesman, but strangely, a grimace flitted across the thug bringing up
the rear. Keppel didn’t want to see what the disgruntled thug had to say and moved on quickly.
It’s best to keep the natives happy, Keppel thought. But then he was unsure if he had just given
away too much in the process. He had very little in the way of smaller exchange on him. His
pockets were full of his mother’s gold and that alone made him exceptionally uncomfortable.
There would have to be a time where he could simply rely on himself.
Eventually. But the way he was dress, from a bright red robe with blue trimmings and edged with
silvery threads. It was his mother’s specialty: tailoring incredibly ensembles. He had been
dressed as garishly as long as he could remember. It was fantastic, sure, but he was going to
have to find a way to shed his mother’s influence. The clothes were going to have to be some of
the first to go.
As he ascended the stairs, it dropped him at the base of what was Coral Street. It zig-zagged up
the exceptionally sheer bluffs, allowing the road to merely climb steeply instead of being, frankly,
an impossible ascent. Those shuffling wagon-haulers had biceps to show for the effort and the
weary horses and balking mules helped the older folk along as long as they could get them
moving.
The staircase deposited Keppel nearly at the front door of the Two Shekels. It was a
tall-standing eatery with some rooms to lend on the upper storeys. They had a set of fenced in
tables that littered the entryway with three standing doors with accompanying hurricane shutters.
The place smelt of rust, sea-salt and a variety of aromas. Food was being served, but their were
many in the place who stunk of the sweat of a days work, if not seasoned for considerably
longer.
The patron of the Two Shekels was an exceptionally squat man with a rolling belly. He
approached what Keppel would assume was the size of a Dwarf without all the signature
Dwarven features. He was rallying people in as they came up the stairs from the docks, filling
the Two Shekels with visitors. The place was alive with people spilling both in and out of the
three open doors. More than a few times had the patron mentioned Acada’s name, and it brought
a tingling sensation that run rampant over Keppel’s weakened soul.
As he wandered near, he saw a stolid man standing with a large blade strapped to his back;
definitely a man of action. The man was looking contemplatively at the aged Two Shekel sign
creaking slightly while swinging in the breeze coming off of the waterfront.
“Have you stayed here?” Keppel’s offering at conversation was timid. He had neither found his
voice or his footing since making landfall.
“Yes, I have been here before. It is much the way I remember it.” He didn’t look to Keppel as he
spoke. It was as if he was talking to himself as much as anyone, being lost in thought and
memory.
That made Keppel hopeful. A local, maybe? Even better, a local that might not extort coin to get
him where he needed to go?
“What brings you here?” Keppel cleared his throat and presented himself with slightly more
spine.
“I am here for the funeral. As it seems everyone else is as well. I knew the man myself. He was
a great man. ‘Tis a shame that he’s passed on.” He spoke with a reverence that sent tingles
through Keppel.
A great man. He wasn’t surprised, but it only increased this longing inside of him. It hurt to be so
close, yet so very far away from this greatness.
“I am, too. But I never met the man.” It was a sullen response, reflecting Keppel’s own mood.
“Come, then, let’s talk of him. Will you join me?” He offered, pointing toward the door to the Two
Shekels.
“Gladly!”
9. The Two Shekels
“The name’s Iason”, the study man offered, while waving to a stool at the bar.
Iason’s great blade draw more than a few looks. Some wild, some slightly disgusted. Keppel
thought it was more than a worthy companion in a place like this. Besides the sword, Iason was
bundled in a traveling cloak of sorts with well maintained metal armor clearly visible through the
opened front.
Keppel introduced himself as well, bowing slightly as he offered his name and origin. A knowing
grin creased Iason’s face as he saddled the stool and put his weight on the bar.
A jovial pear-shaped woman with a winsome smile and bouncy-curly brown hair spun to greet
the new arrivals. There was another, more venerable, woman who tended the bar bustled in and
out of the backroom and kitchen area. A somewhat unpleasant stick-like, spidery girl was
serving at the far side of the tavern.
“What can I do for ye?” She poured on the charm with the smile. She was a catch simply for that
feature; her easy, naturally beautiful smile. A face one could wake up to and not wonder if one
made a very poor decision the night before.
Keppel looked at Iason. He already had a loaf of bread in hand and was tearing small chunks off
of it.
“What’s good here?” The question was meant for Iason, but the sprightly brunette pumped in
quickly.
“We have the finest of crab cakes, freshly baked and steeped in butter. Along with a variety of
ales and spirits.” She lilted through a singsong menu that she had likely said thousands of times
before.
“An ale for me,” Iason offered, “And I’d recommend the crab cakes.” He winked at her, but
Keppel was unsure of the intent. He hesitated.
“Anything less heavy? I can’t say that anything from the sea will put my stomach at ease just
yet. What about a solid, earthbound creature? Beef?”
She didn’t miss a beat. “We have garlic roasted chicken. Also very fresh, indeed, made by the
mistress herself!”
“That sounds delightful.” Keppel grinned, mostly for himself. The salted meats and lime from the
voyage was far from the trappings of home. Most of it had ended up off the bow of the ship as it
was. He ate very little for the last half of the voyage which seemed to work better. But this left
him voracious and the tugging of the aroma of food stirred his rumbling appetite to a painful
crescendo.
“So, you didn’t know the man?” Iason continued, “and by the way, good choice. I don’t actually
recommend the crab cakes.”
“The mention of that much butter made me second guess your recommendation. I’m glad you
have my back. You can never be sure who to trust.” Keppel looked askance at Iason’s fair
skinned, solid face and grinned.
In response to the somewhat facetious comment, Iason broke some bread from what was in his
hands and offered the still warm chunk to Keppel, “The street vendors can be trusted. This is
their livelihood, it has to quality or people won’t buy it.”
It makes sense, after all. Keppel mused. Establishments like this can prey on those who aren’t
locals, even if this one seems of worthier repute than those at his home in Thessalya.
A bell rung and the service clapped momentarily. Extra attention was being given to two fair men
with uncharacteristically narrow and finer features: all of which were telltale signs of Elven
descent. Keppel’s limited experience meant he had never seen Elven folk in the blood, but he
had read about them in great detail. His excitement around this adventure rose at the thought of
meeting people from such a variety of backgrounds.
This is exactly where I want to be. He thought to himself, with a satisfied smile.
Iason spoke of Acada again, recounting tales and shared experiences showing again the
reverence he had for the man. It unlocked Keppel’s own tongue, putting many a sensitive
subject about his origins right there on the tip, waiting to spill out. It didn’t take much urging to
explain that he was there for the Will’s reading and that he was a long lost son. This made Iason
grin, and seemed to prompt him to make a call to the remainder of the inn--in a fairly bombastic
maneuver--to call out those who were here for Acada.
“Who is here for Acada’s funeral?” This prompted many lifted ales and hands and a wave of
cheers.
“Who here are Acada’s sons?” Besides a drunkard at the back who slurred an “Aye!” and
sloshed an ale into the air. Keppel offered a slightly lifted hand and one of the Elven’s, who
clearly had his wits about him, did the same. They looked each other over, looking for a
resemblance that simply wasn’t there.
Iason clapped on Keppel’s shoulder. “See, you are in good company!” But Keppel wasn’t sure.
Acada had clearly gotten around, as it was. There’s no doubt there were more fatherless
children in the world because of the man. It made him feel insignificant, like an afterthought. This
set him to brooding as he had been wont to do.
Food was served, a fantastic roasted chicken smelling of garlic and spices served with some
slimy vegetables that were clearly not the specialty of the kitchen. It took his mind off of why he
was here and put his stomach in clear control of his mood. The deliciously prepared chicken fell
right off the bone. The Mistress sidled along the bar, looking out at the crowd in her
establishment. She spied her man in the crowd, with whom she was clearly still smitten. She
smiled slightly, seeing him move in and among the crowd. She seemed a bit misty from the lively
activity filling the place with a look that was lost in memory. Iason saw this and struck up
conversation with her.
“You’re as lovely as ever, m’lady Elenor.” Iason buttered the Miss.
“Why thank you! Do you frequent here often? I recognize your face.” She scrutinized him, her
heart-shaped face leaned in close in the attempt pushing her bosoms against the bar to near
bursting their containment.
“Just in off-times, miss.” He smirked, clearly keeping something back. He cast around for a
diversion and noted the well worn sword that hung on a rack above the bar itself. “That looks like
it has some history to it.”
She looked up at a dulled blade etched with grooves and wear. She turned back, her eyes lit up
visibly, and she flushed a little. After a moments effort of moving chairs about and placing a small
stepladder to retrieve the well-worn sword, she placed it on the bar and explained each and
every notch and blemish that her husband, Arno, had etched into the sword’s history. She often
glanced toward her mate, who was still busy with bringing in more visitors from the string of
docking ships.
Elenor’s excitement and chatter lasted well after their meal had been reduced to nothing, but the
drink never seemed to go empty with her deft hands filling and refilling seamlessly with the
stories she told. Keppel hadn’t gotten used to strong drink and it put him into a lolling semi-lucid
state making him further prone to personal disclosure. A few coins rolled onto the bar from Iason
and she scooted them in a two stage drawer that noticeably dropped them into a coffer far below
the bar. She smiled at the two of them with an “Our little secret” kind of a smile. Keppel
awkwardly palmed a gold to the Mistress as well who promptly slid it away and expertly plopped
it between her bosoms.
She leaned in after the token was procured, “Would you … be needing any other … services
this even?” She said with a wink.
Keppel looked up, seeing her bosoms again nearly popping through. “No, no, that is simply for
our meal and the time spent keeping us entertained.” Keppel flushed slightly, but with his dark
skin, he hoped she didn’t notice.
As the Mistress wrapped up her business, Keppel noticed that the two Elven men had also
joined them. One, a straight-backed man who was well kempt and maintained a proud
countenance. The other, slightly more withdrawn and seemingly having a bit of a cloud above his
head. This, Keppel recognized, was the man who was also a son of Acada.
Apparently, he was feeling a bit lost. Just as Keppel did.
The well kempt man spoke in a well formed, somewhat clipped tone and introduced himself with
a long name and title, but Keppel only heard Vandrose and Belemonte. No doubt he was well
educated and easily twice as sure of himself. With the introduction, instead of hands shaken,
glasses were raised around the table. Keppel’s glass wavered slightly in the air as he was
feeling a bit more tipsy than he realized.
“And this …” Vandrose continued gesturing toward his friend, but the other Elven man
interjected.
“Aebben,” he said, with a scowl toward Vandrose. His manner, still yet cloudy, was
exceptionally brief. His moodiness shown through in his manner and his countenance.
After a moment of conversation, it was shown that the two sons of Acada had significantly less
to say about the man who, in their eyes, abandoned them to fate then those who travelled with
the Great Acada DuLak. Keppel somewhat mirrored the bitterness that Aebben had, both were
admittedly named Bastards, albeit Keppel’s name and title was considerably more politely put
than Aebben’s.
They were half brothers and, in a sense, two who stood against the world that they had been left
in. Keppel’s life, though not at all difficult or rough, left him to brooding. Aebben’s was similarly
estranged, but much more desperate. This put a pressure on Keppel’s heart, a emotional pain
that made him ache deeply. He had a half brother. Even if they looked nothing alike, they had a
welling bitterness in common that defined them and their lot very clearly.
The jovial brunette closed in again after the Mistress retreated into the kitchen. The Two Shekels
was loud, but it was easy to get the attention you needed by paying a bit extra and apparently
these two Elven’s had done just that.
“So it was you that they rung the bell for?” Iason looked between Vandrose and Aebben, our two
new companions.
Ah, that makes sense now. Keppel was now slightly more enlightened by the way things worked
here.
It was clear that Vandrose was the man of means in this situation, along with the fact that
Aebben was deliberately motioning toward him. Vandrose was spending a lot of time scrutinizing
his company, weighing and measuring. Aebben couldn’t seem to care less, but with maybe
perhaps a little bit more hope in his eyes than before.
“Did you travel together, then?” Iason was making an effort to keep the conversation going.
A simultaneous countering answer came from the two. Vandrose clarified, “We came on the
same ship, but my friend and I did not plan this trip together.”
Aebben snorted as he gripped his ale again, “I really can’t stand the guy. Hope you to prove to
be better company.”
Vandrose’s mouth formed in a pinched smile. “His tongue often gets the better of him.” He
explained, prompting Aebben to glower with more acuity at the bottom of his ale. A strange
silence enveloped the group. Setting Keppel to shifting uncomfortably.
“So we are all for the same thing?” Keppel broke the brief silence, allowing the tension to
subside. “We all have a summons to the reading of Acada’s will?”
Iason pulled a slightly crumpled letter. Aebben’s was tattered and worn, sporting the round stains
of condensation from a glass and maybe a little blood. Keppel’s was folded and well kept.
Vandrose produced a tightly folded, but immaculate, summons of his own. Keppel was a little
surprised by Vandrose, thinking he really was just getting Aebben to where he was supposed to
be.
“How did you know the man, Vandrose?”
“He made me into the man I am today!” He presented proudly.
“Aye!” Iason nodded to Vandrose with the tip of a mug.
“At least you met the man,” Aebben slighted, “He couldn’t seem to be bothered with his own
blood.”
Iason and Vandrose were more annoyed with Aebben’s outburst than rightly offended. But even
Keppel himself felt a sting from the presentation. He had the briefest of inclinations to find
Acada’s remains just so he could give it a single swift kick. He didn’t hate the man, but he damn
well could have benefit from his presence at least once in his life.
Arno, the Mister of the Two Shekels came to the bar’s edge. Keppel had to revise his thoughts
on the man, he wasn’t Dwarflike. He was just an exceptionally squat man with a big round belly.
He barely seemed to be able to put an elbow to the bar without it looking almost painful.
“‘Ow’s El’nor treatin’ ya?” The man grumbled. It didn’t seem exactly in his nature to be bright and
chipry as the others, but he’d been doing a fair amount of glad handing himself. Now he just
seemed worn by the day.
“Good as always, Arno!” Iason seemed refreshed by the man’s presence and spoke with a
chipper attitude that seemed a bit out of place. This set Arno off slightly, he stopped and stared
at Iason while Iason continued to talk. It was a moment that faded into a certain discomfort
before a smile brightened Arno’s face again.
“Iason! From the Friar’s hand!”
“It had been a while, I didn’t expect you would recognize me.”
“Once I’ve seen it, it’s up ‘ere!” Arno tapped at his head, “An’ I remember you!”
“Arno, what’d it take to get a room here.”
Arno thumbed through a series of keys hanging on the wall with papers covering them. “We’re
done booked for most of these, “ Arno laborered at thought. “But... “ He stopped above one and
tore the paper from it a let it fall to the floor.
“Wait, there’s one here.” He said nonchalantly.
Vandrose added his own thoughts, “How much for two of these rooms?” While palming a gold to
Arno.
Arno shrugged and pulled another tag off and let it fall to the floor, “Aye, it looks like yer in luck!
You ‘ave two rooms or the night! Anything else for ye?”
“None yet, but we will let you know.” Iason spoke
“It’ll be a good night for ye! Ya be sure o’that!” The uncharacteristically short man spoke while
dusting off his hands making it seem he’d actually done some work with the little transaction and
moved deeper into the Two Shekels leaving the gathered company with the remaining ale.
10. All’s Well
There was a collective gasp and both Vandrose and Iason disappeared from their chairs. A pop
and a shower of sparks lit from outside, but left Aebben and Keppel none the wiser to what had
just happened.
Keppel was tipsy even from weak ale that was offered and it took a moment for his wits to come
about. Aebben waited a moment, but cleanly moved from his chair and filtered through the
crowd. Keppel got caught up on every chair and patron on his way to the center door to look out
onto the street to see what had occurred.
There were already words being shouted, the smell of burnt flesh and the hiss of a drawn sword.
The latter prompted cursing about a “blade being drawn” and “we’ve got trouble”. Outside, while
Keppel’s eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could see Aebben’s back moving toward the cluster
of posturing men all standing above a form hunkered down to the city street.
Ghost. I should have summoned you! Keppel thought.
“Stay your hand or suffer the wrath of Cuthbert!” Vandrose was clearly engaged with one of
them. Keppel could make out a blade wavering to and fro in the dirt with Iason engaging a dark
skinned man with his fists.
It sent a shiver down his spine. These were Nessian faces. Whispers through the crowd had
dropped the word “pirates” more than once. Nessian pirates. It brought about more than a little
fear in Keppel.
Nothing good could come from Nessia. He had only seen a few in his days and he had deeply
despised each one he had met and he had no reason to feel otherwise.
A whistle and a shout in the distance brought about another tumbling of whispered words. “The
guards!”, with that you could hear the distant jangling of metal through the streets. Keppel was
bewildered by it all, what was happening was happening fast. Keppel eyed Aebben engaged with
the third shadowy figure in the mix, swinging in with his shield, but taking a few blows from a
notched club in return.
The hunched figure became clearer now, a woman, another Nessian, holding a small smoking
bundle. It looked like a small animal, still smoking from where the fur had been burned off. It was
clearly the source of the smell that wafted in the air. It brought up a well of bad feelings in Keppel,
but the protection his new friends were offering could not be slighted.
The three of them were engaged and Keppel could only think of how to escape. Blood was
showing on all three of them. They had all taken a few painful scores from the handily wielded
clubs. The woman weakly called to Iason, “You should go,” and pointed to an alleyway tucked
alongside the Two Shekel’s. He was still readily engaged, though, and did not pay any mind to
her plea.
Keppel couldn’t help buy wonder why the sword was planted in the ground, but approached
Iason from behind, “You best grab your sword and go, friend!”
Keppel spent a moment and concentrated on summoning. One thing that he had learned was
that he did not only need to summon his own Eidolon, but could also attempt at summoning other
creatures as well. His mind brought about a visual of a large street rat that he’d seem moving
among the crates of the Dirty Row that was dockside just outside of The Tower. This creature
appeared at his feet and instantly engaged the leader of the rabble, but to little effect.
Vandrose’s ability to speak eloquently while engaged in combat was paramount. He spoke to the
group, vowing vengeance and pain if they did not follow their leader’s path. There was the tingle
of magic being used, but it was entirely unfamiliar to Keppel, stirring other senses that were
similar but tangential to his own. The leader’s eyes popped wide open and, without a moment’s
hesitation, he sped down the street. The newly summoned rat creature followed closely behind,
dogging his trail.
The other two, mid-attack, saw this and faltered in their own conviction and quickly took flight to
fall in step behind their once fearless leader.
During this moment of chaos, Keppel approached the woman and pulled at her. A strange look
had passed between Iason and her. She was bewildered and unsettled, but Keppel was unsure
of what had taken place earlier to prompt such a reaction. She clung to Iason briefly, but then let
Keppel pull her along toward the alleyway she had motioned to earlier.
After the Nessian pirates disengaged, Iason picked up his sword and quickly sheathed it then
bolted past Keppel, taking the woman by the arm and led her into the alleyway. Keppel moved
into the fenced seating area nearest the alleyway. Aebben was bloodied and scuffed with a large
swelling mound on his head. He nonchalantly moved into the crowd in front of the Two Shekel,
took a seat and said, clearly over the commotion, “Give me an ale.” Then and there, a patron
moved his ale over. Keppel could see a few people clapping him on the shoulder and other’s
moving away. Keppel whistled sharply toward Aebben, who flagged him to go on.
The whistling grew loud and a few people moved into the Two Shekels to avoid what was to
come next. A fair number of uniformed guards moved into view as Keppel mounted the low fence
and moved to the end of the alleyway to meet up with the others. Characteristic for the
sheerness that the city was built on, the alleyway had a large waste bin with a short ladder
pulled down that went to the next level of the city.
The group was clustered together just inside of the alleyway a short climb away from Keppel.
There was conversation going as he finally got within hearing range.
Vandrose was testing Iason’s wounds and under his fingers, and with a few spoken words, the
itch of magic again filled Keppel’s sense and Iason’s wounds began to knit and blood clotted
where it was leaking earlier. The blows they had both taken looked well on their way to mending.
Keppel hadn’t seen anything like this, but had heard of it from the churches and temples of the
area. Those who had a religious bent were much more inclined for this work.
It was strange, though, because Vandrose did not look like a mild healing sort. His manner was
far sharper and more apt to action than such would imply.
Iason was appreciative of the help and turned his attention to the Nessian woman.
“Are you well?” Iason said. He reached his hands out to take her shoulders, but thought better of
it.
She had a very timid nature about her. She was holding the corpse of a small dog-like animal
and cradled it close. It was something she clearly had affection for before its demise. The
sadness seemed to disable her and her decisions had been slow and clearly confused with the
emotions that had stirred.
“Yes. I don’t think I would have done well there without you.” She looked up into Iason’s face. “I
remember you.”
“Yes. From the orphanage,” Iason seemed lost in his own recollection, ”one day you just
disappeared.”
“The others were not … nice, but you? But you were nice to me. Distant, but genuine and nice.”
She spoke softly, in a way confirming these things to herself.
“I should remember your name.” It was after a moment’s thought as Iason plunged the depths of
his mind. The woman seemed to be urging it along, as if remembering her name would somehow
complete the connection. “Suri? Is it? Now that I think of it, it seemed longer.”
“Nusurika, but Suri for short.” She nodded, she looked down a bit sheepish as a slight smile
pulled at her lips.
In kind, Iason smiled to himself in the deepening darkness, perhaps unaware of it himself.
“We should find a place to lay low,” Iason boldly continued, pushing that moment of tenderness
aside, “Standing in this alley isn’t safe. Do you know of a place?”
“There is a place. The Fearsome Kraken, it is a moments walk up the street.” She took a few
steps toward the alley’s exit and looked down the street in the establishment’s direction.
It was a short time before they reached the establishment, it was a fair bit quieter than the Two
Shekels. Iason, Vambrose, Keppel and Nusurika all took sets around a small round table. A
smartly dressed, but unremarkable girl served them drinks while they began to muse about the
situation.
“What were they after?” Iason probed.
“I am not sure,” Nusurika furrowed her brow a bit, seeming to weigh what she would say about it,
“I had just come off the ships and these men seemed intent to harm me. If you hadn’t been there
…” She trailed off, knowing the answer. It was a grim reminder of the frailty of humanity. Even for
a Nessian.
“I will summon a new companion tomorrow.” She said, clearly stricken with grief. She took the
small corpse and funneled it into a burlap textured sack.
“Did you have anything of value? Anything they’d know about?” Iason probed further. Vambrose
nodded at Iason’s words; they seemed to be on the same page.
“I was making a delivery to the Friar. We had these made for the special occasion of the reading
of Acada DuLak’s Will.” She pulled out a satin wrap which nestled a finely wrapped leather case,
which she sprung open and showed the contents as a sparkling pair of crafted spectacles. They
were of phenomenal quality, as was the silk lined case. Keppel couldn’t help but nod in approval
of the craftsmanship.
Nusurika suddenly became aware of herself and looked at everyone who was looking at the
small treasure in her hand. She snapped it closed, slid it back into the satin and way from prying
eyes.
“I’ll be back. I must find what’s become of my recently discovered half-brother.” Keppel warned.
He had been itching to go and retrieve Aebben from the Two Shekels. He also wanted Ghost to
be here.
It was one of those things that only took a few moments, but it was more about other’s reactions.
He had done this in Thessalya in front of others and sent them scurrying off in fear. The whole
process was intimidating, and here, he just wanted it to be subtle. He went outside in the quiet of
an alleyway and, somewhat unceremoniously, summoned Ghost. The intelligent beast looked
around the area, doing it’s usual testing of weight and balance when he became physical.
Echoing his mood, Ghost had taken on a slightly darker tinge from the usual bright, glassy white
and blue that usually lined his fur and scales. Now it was more of a navy with gray and black
scales and fingernails. His mane was pepper with some of the same coloring and the creatures
eyes were more yellow. The obvious pictogram of the dreaded ice comet clearly show on the
beast’s forehead telling Keppel that the same was obvious on his own likeness.
“Trouble?” As Ghost spoke, he turned slightly toward Keppel and inclined his wolfish face in a
very human motion.
“There was, but not anymore.” Keppel tightened his lips into a grimace.
“Very well then.” Settling into his haunches and staring at the wall straight ahead. Keppel wanted
to speak, but sat for a moment with the beast briefly explaining the events of the night. Ghost
sat, unperturbed, but also much more distant than normal.
“You’re quite stoic, you know. And unnecessarily so, I might add.” Keppel added with a bit of
heat.
Ghost cocked his head slightly, but in a very humanlike gesture, probably something he had
picked up from Keppel himself, he did a wolfen shrug.
“You’re angry because I haven’t summoned you since I’ve been travelling.”
“Anger is relative.”
“Well, please, I beg you not to do this here. We’re here now and I think that people are more
likely to be able to handle … uh,” Keppel spoke, trying to put things delicately, ”Someone like
you.”
Ghost had become far more of an echo of Keppel’s own personality since he had gained a
physical form. Thus, he’d seemed to achieve all the same sensitivities, ability to like and dislike
and, most importantly, to brood.
Generally, Ghost was happy sort, but since this trip started, Ghost had been waiting patiently in
his other-planar realm, which was akin to a sort of solitary confinement. His adjustment to being
included in the human timeline, to which he was now acutely aware, hadn’t been quite as smooth
as one would have hoped. This was especially so since he did not overtly need to rest
and--apparently, from frequent tests--winked out of this plane when Keppel went to sleep.
Keppel shook his head, slightly fed up. One thing that did benefit Keppel, though, since the
creature had been summoned and taken on this form, he had the privacy of his own mind
without Ghost picking at his thoughts.
“Let’s go, there are some people I’d like you to meet.” Keppel moved to the mouth of the alley,
beckoning Ghost along.
“Very well.” Ghost spoke, in a tellingly flat tone.
Keppel moved back into the Fearsome Kraken followed by Ghost. The Mister of the pub
immediately stood and moved his way through the crowd toward their table.
“Iason, Vambrose, Nusurika, this is Ghost.” Nusurika’s face pinched with disgust at the mention
of the name. “He’s my … pet?” This brought a bit of a reaction from Ghost, who looked up a
Keppel with what could only be considered indignation.
“Sorry, I’m still not sure how to approach this, but I wanted him about if we ran into any other
trouble. I am going to fetch Aebben from the Two Shekels.”
“We’re not going to have any trouble here, are we?” The Mister eased in next to Keppel and
spoke low for only those at the table to hear.
“What? Oh. No. No trouble.” Keppel was intensely uncomfortable. This is most of the reason
why he hadn’t summoned Ghost until now.
“I have your word on that?” The Mister was deadly serious. “I’ve seen this trick before, so I just
need your word.”
“You could ask him yourself?” Keppel referred to Ghost, who again looked sullenly at Keppel.
“Ghost?”
After a moment of uncomfortable silence Keppel spoke again, “He won’t cause any trouble. He’ll
be here with them.”
Everyone at the table was looking at Ghost with a little discomfort, but since there didn’t seem to
be trouble, the Mister moved on.
“I’ll be back.” Keppel announced then he looked at Ghost, “Stay. With them … I mean.”
Keppel left, shaking his head. Ghost is going to be incorrigible after this.
11. Bumps and Bruises
Keppel lit down the alleyway and took the ladder down to the large trash bin tucked in to the alley
near the Two Shekels. Two guards were loitering in the alleyway, talking amongst themselves
until they caught sight of him.
“What’s your business here?” One of the guards barked, which put Keppel off of his already
tepid mood.
“I have a room at the ‘Shekels.” Keppel announced while continuing to light down the ladder.
“You should use the street like everyone else!” The guard had an increasing edge in his voice,
showing his displeasure with the nonchalant exchange, perhaps he thought that being a guard
would demand respect and perhaps Keppel should have been a tad more aware of it, but at this
point, he didn’t care.
“Why? It takes two shakes instead of long walk.” Keppel’s tone insisted they listen to reason,
while feigning an off-putting ignorance to the guard’s need for respect.
“Just … be careful getting down, then.” The guard immediately grumbled to his compatriot while
Keppel padded past them and rounded the corner. Aebben was still in place, the bleeding had
stopped, at least. The ale he had been drinking from that had been refilled at least twice, and
likely on the neighborly offerings of others.
“We’re up at another pub, called the Fearsome Kraken.” Keppel eased into a vacant seat at the
table. He looked in the mug. There was a chunk of blood clotting in the bottom of the drink
making it look wholly unappetizing.
“But we have rooms here?” Aebben slurred slightly, but still quite lucid.
“Yes, we are coming back. We’re just walking that woman home and then visiting the Friar’s.
You should join us.”
“Very well.” He groaned and hefted himself on his feet. His brow pinched as either too much ale
or a massive headache from the goose-egg tried to push him back down. He steadied himself
and followed Keppel.
They made their way through alleyway where the guards had now departed, then up street
leading up to the Kraken. There was slight commotion from the left side of the street as an
armorer’s shop, open far later than normal. There was a torch lit and it looked as if it was still
welcoming business.
A tall, stalwart being nearly fell as it stumbled from the shop and into the path of Keppel and
Aebben.
“Watch were yer goin’!” The gruff female bellowed at Aebben.
This sent Keppel’s hair on end. A woman? The torchlight from the store had masked her face,
but it was now readily apparent that she was yet another mix of human and … something else.
Pale green skin with standing wolf-like ears with large teeth curving up from her bottom lip. She
was quite curvaceous but with incredibly solid shoulders and back. All composed on a well
defined body. It was clear you were looking at a woman, but the amount of raw power and
potency she possessed was frightening and disconcertingly attractive to Keppel. He’d had this
problem before.
The stocky, gray-green skinned woman stalked back into the armor shop she had stumbled out
of, a loose fitting legging was hanging by a strap and likely the cause for the mishap.
Keppel nudged Aebben and tried to give an approving look, but Aebben had already moved into
the armor shop. It was late, torches lined the inside of the shop and a sweating man of some heft
was looking on at the woman with more than a little fear crawling through his eyes.
“Fit these vambraces!” She shoved a well-muscled smooth arm sporting a loose bit of armor at
the sweating man.
“I don’t fit the armor! I just sell it!” He was beside himself. His eyes rolled, and you could see
they were rimmed with red. Each time they orbited, it was as if he was about to faint.
“Let me help with that.” Aebben offered. An angsty smirk graced the woman’s face and Aebben
carefully kept his eyes attentive to her most important details while working the leather bindings.
He pulled the leather thongs tight clearly pinching the skin, which didn’t even make her eyes
flutter with any sort of pain. She turned to the shopkeep and slyly jabbed Aebben in the stomach
while she was turned away. He winced slightly, but it seemed to only embolden him in his
attempt.
“This’s a man who knows how to fit armor,” She slammed her newly fitted vambrace on the
wooden counter, leaving a nice dent to work out later. “I’ll take this.”
While money changed hands, Keppel stood at a distance. Whatever lessons in courting Aebben
had taken, they were definitely a bit more aggressive than Keppel was used to. He wasn’t much
for pain. He’d learned that lesson a while ago from a woman who was far better fit, as well as
more attractive, than this behemoth.
“What happened to you?” Her raspy voice was low. She practically palmed Aebben’s head with
her large hands and pressed on the large bump that was still oozing from his early advance into
battle. She brought her bloodied fingers to her own lips.
“Nothing I couldn’t take.” Aebben’s nonchalant response was a tad labored, he had taken some
decent blows from the Nessian vagabonds in defense of Nusurika.
Keppel felt a bit sheepish, or disgusted, he was unsure which. He turned away and moved out
into the street, spying a few wandering beggars moving amongst the shadows in the street. It
had gotten dark very quickly and he was wondering what his other companions were doing. He
looked back into the armor shop from a distance just in time to see the woman hit Aebben
across the face with her open palm. It was far more than a slap, but a concussive blow that had
to have him ringing. Keppel winced from a distance, but Aebben looked back into her face and
they exchanged words riled from lust more than anger.
Aebben strode out with a conquering stance, holding himself straight and high. It was something
he’d not seen from Aebben’s closed in nature since he met him. Apparently, conquest has its
benefits.
“Katra. That’s her name.”
“Oh? That seemed … painful.”
“Yes, oh by God yes.” He smiled to himself and moved ahead with renewed vigor. “Where are
we off to again?”
“That, uh, the Kraken right up there.”
Aebben and Keppel walked through the door to the Inn. Everyone still sat at the table speaking
quietly. The pub had slowed a bit and some had filtered out into the night air. It looked as if Iason,
Nusurika and Vambrose were just about to stand up. Ghost remained at the same spot, sitting
unnaturally still.
“He said he could sense you coming,” Vambrose said, eyeing the great, brooding frost wolf.
“It was about time, too. We’re taking Nusurika home and making the delivery the Friar.” Iason
said flatly. He was ready to move on with the business of the night.
It was a short walk with some conversation to where Nusurika resided. It was a large, stately
structure. As they approached, ravens lifted into the air in an unnaturally uniform way, and
swung around the area in a large loop overhead. As the group stood at the base of the wide
steps, the ravens settled back in, with hundreds of eyes and feathers glinting in the natural and
magical torchlight that lined the approach.
Great banners draped from high places announcing the Bin Cabal without words but symbols
and bright colors. And, though the doors were open, there was a tension in the air that kept one
from advancing. Something about the building, perhaps its history, made it deeply foreboding.
The itch of magic consumed Keppel, even at this distance. It felt incredibly dangerous to be
there.
Iason and Nusurika exchanged a few words that were tenuously bound with a thread of
tenderness. She was a striking woman, but Keppel’s senses had built up such a prejudice for
those of Nessian descent that it was hard to see her little more as yet another dangerous
woman who’d likely try to gut you if you got in her way.
Nusurika had no issue ascending the stairs and being swallowed up in those grand, open doors.
Keppel could just make out the lines upon lines of text and runes etched around every portal and
every path leading into the grand hall beyond, there was an incredible amount of magical warding
infused with the wood and stone. It might as well have been bars, guards and the most
dangerous mercenaries one could hire lining these walkways and paths. Keppel shivered at the
thought.
One misstep and you’re done for. It was likely that it wouldn’t happen exactly like that, but with
the brutality this city had already seen, he wouldn’t have been surprised.
“They killed the members of the church and desecrated this; a once holy church of Cuthbert.”
Vambrose said quietly, but with enough force for all close to hear. “They felt the church had …
overstepped.” There was a tension lining his words and his frame as he spoke.
“These are good people, but the cost …” He trailed off, his leather gloves protesting slightly as
he cranked his fists.
Iason watched as Nusurika slipped into the darkness, paying little attention to Vambrose’s
musings.


PictureThe bard’s song:
Nicholas, uncover my harp
Let it now sing its song once more.
One refrain let it play now in vane,
Let the ferryman know me my song.

Papa ‘tis true this life’s over for you,
What wonders your eyes have beheld.
If I could but see what is open to thee,
A much better man I would be.

Of all that I’ve done treasures taken and won,
Its the poet who’s richest by far.
A man in his prime is beguiled by the shine,
Of the trappings of women and wine.

From this bed I can see nothing dearer to me,
Than the reflection of my own journey.
Son treasure these things that I hand down to ye,
There is something in nothing you’ll see.

From the mountain, a flower,
Bathed in winters white coat.

The grape under maids foot,
by the sun’s late repose.

A gift of silk edged in lace,
With the sweet scented memory of a woman’s grace.

From the bow of a ship,
Neptune’s breath I did whiff.

Ah the memory of youth’s first melee.
The briny taste in my spit, thats the mere sum of it,
Now that life comes to claim its great gift.

Remember that my good boy,
Fill yer life’s cup with joy.
My Nicholas fill the cup O yer life.

Unknown Author

 


Tale of the Bard - Picture
If this letter finds its way into your hands then it is a sure sign that my story is at an end. As of this writing I am on a rare visit home. Though there are many that would embrace these storied bones, there are some who would see me, well -- in the condition you now find me.

Alas, I have (it seems) strummed my last note and shared my last verse. In my past we share a common chord and it is through that harmonic resonance that I bid you lend your ear one last time as I share with you the pieces of my life that persist when the vessel of my voyage has sailed to the undiscovered country.

If you find this letter in your hand, I have had occasion to cherish your company, hold you in high regard, have had opportunity to lay with you (or your mother). Whatever the case. I now offer you a token of remembrance. I have met many in my travels who would claim unpaid debits on my part, but I never shirked a duty or tithe. Rest assured that none may lay legitimate claim on my bestowal, your inheritance.

Friar Benedicto will preside over the reading of my will. In all my travels I have known few who possess his unwavering foundation for fairness and honesty. It was he who helped me find my gift for music and story. Though I did know my own father, Bernardo is the man to whom I credit my kinder aspects. Thought no man should be blamed or credited for my more nefarious deeds. I expect to make my own deal on that score as the saints judge my contributions in this life.

Remember me well,

Acada DuLak

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Player Characters
Temp Character Name:
Class Level:
Date Created:
Race:
Keppel
Summoner 3
Aug. 5, 2011

Human
Player:
Email:
Erik
elcman@gmail.com
Temp Character Name:
Class Level:
Date Created:
Race:
Iason Veyron
Fighter 3
Aug. 3, 2011

Human
Player:
Email:
Dave
webshade@hotmail.com
Temp Character Name:
Class Level:
Date Created:
Race:
Aebben
Rogue 2/Fighter 1
June 6, 2011

Half-Elf
Player:
Email:
Mark
mark.nordberg@yahoo.com
Temp Character Name:
Class Level:
Date Created:
Race:
Vandrose Belamonte
Inquisitor 3
June 1, 2011
Half-Elf

Player:
Email:
Anthony
blackchance@hotmail.com
Schedule
  Date Location Time Notes Current
Aug. 12, 2011 Dave's House 6:30 - Midnight Bring 2nd level character ready to play.  
Calendar Icon Aug. 26, 2011 Dave's house 6:30 - Midnight Erik will provide dinner  
Calendar Icon Sept. 9, 2011 Dave's house 6:30 - Midnight Mark will provide dinner  
Calendar Icon Oct. 14, 2011 Keith's house 6:30 - Midnight Keith will provide dinner  
Calendar Icon Nov. 4, 2011 Dave's house 6:30 - Midnight --  
Calendar Icon Dec. 2, 2011 Keith's house 6:30 - Midnight Dave will provide dinner
Calendar Icon Dec. 16, 2011 Dave's house 6:30 - Midnight    
Calendar Icon Dec, 30, 2011 Dave's house 6:30 - Midnight    

 

Mole'