are a way to talk about our characters between games, advance the
story, have a little fun, and earn some experience points. In
a monthly game, it is a great way to make the game continue
throughout the month. Please add a paragraph. Add an
idea. Add a side story. Add what your character is
thinking. Add something that tells us something about your
character, the game, or where things are headed. I will edit
or change things where I need to, but I'll do my best to keep the
spirt of what you were communicating.
This Interlude takes place between
the April and May games in 2015.
The characters return home
from the land of
SHE at different times, run into new friends and old enemies, are
offered to Keep, and save Moriarty from slavers.
Oh, and they have two weird
Game Interludes are a way to talk about our characters between games, advance the story, have a little fun, and earn some experience points. In a monthly game, it is a great way to make the game continue throughout the month. Please add a paragraph. Add an idea. Add a side story. Add what your character is thinking. Add something that tells us something about your character, the game, or where things are headed. I will edit or change things where I need to, but I'll do my best to keep the spirt of what you were communicating.
This Interlude takes place between the April and May games in 2015. The characters return home from the land of SHE at different times, run into new friends and old enemies, are offered to Keep, and save Moriarty from slavers. Oh, and they have two weird house-guests.
THE HUNTERS - INTERLUDE FOUR
The party of adventurers had some so far on their hunt for SHE that suckles a 1000 undead upon her teats. They had fought their way through so many challenges...and here they stood, in a room at the top of a spiral staircase, with three black doorways running down each side of the room, and a large metal door in front of them. Venkat was fairly proud of himself...and the group.
This was HIS group. He had hand-picked them all, brought them together, and given them a reason to work together. Were they not the holy ordained Hunters of the Burners, as declared by the Law Keeper of the City of Order? Were they not interdimensional travelers, facing down a demon she-bitch of the worst kind? Oh, yes. They would be famous...and powerful. And it was his plan...his doing. All was going according to his vision of the future.
Venkat wandered over by one of the black doorways. They were black as black gets. Black nothingness. Interplanear gates leading to various destinations along the Crimson Coast. At least, that is what their captured map suggested. Venkat pondered how the doorways had been made, and by what means they were maintained. He pondered the advantage one would have, should they master the ability to make such a doorway whenever they wanted...going where ever they wanted. He pondered how he could wrestle this power under his control, and take further advantage of it.
The hand came out of nowhere. Venkat did not even have time to scream, or gulp, or even react. The hand pulled him into the black inky depths of one of the doorways. Venkat's mind raced. "Where had the map said this doorway led?" he thought. Before he could even come up with an answer...
The City of Order. Venkat stumbled and then caught his balance. He was standing in the town square of the City of Order, just to the West of the gallows platform. He spun around, trying to get his bearings and gather his wits. There was no doorway to return...no way back. He thought there would have been more of a reaction to a man appearing out of thin air in the middle of the town square, but no one had really noticed except a small child who stood just 10 feet away staring at Venkat with his mouth and eyes wide open in terror...
Venkat sneered in disgust. These common people with their common minds, plodding their way through their dismal lives. They didn't even hav the wits about them to notice a man appearing out of thin air in their midst. Only a small child to contend with...only a small child clever enough to notice his odd arrival.
Venkat walked over to the child, who seemed frozen in fear, and leaned down and whispered to him. "Child, I am a great mage...a goodly wise mage who wishes you no harm. I am the great Venkat. Tell this story to your childen, and their children." Venkat pushed a silver coin into the boy's hand, and gave him a little push to get him moving on his way.
Venkat poured over what had happened. Why had he been singled out? Why had it been necessary to remove him from the equation? What mad plan was at work here?
Venkat's thoughts were interrupted when Amadius appeared out of thin air just a a few feet from him, a startled look on his face. "What the Hell," muttered Amadius.
Venkat reached out and steadied Amadius. "It seems
that the two of us have been removed from the equation."
Amadius slowly turned in a full circle studying the town square and continued "Well, the way I see it, we have two options. We can go to the tavern and get hammered drunk, or we can find a way to help the party. I vote for the former." Venkat glared over at him silently and finally replied "Dude."
Amadius sighed "Yea I thought as much. Ok. Well. If we want to go back, it's a good day or two trek to get back to the gate room. And we have to not get eaten in the temple or killed on the way." He pondered the ground in front of him. "And what the hell was that hand?"
Venkat rubbed his chin. "We wait for at least 15 minutes to see if any of our friends also appear here. It is clear that for some purpose, we were removed from the situation. We may not be the only members of the party that are seen as a threat and removed through a gateway."
Amadius nodded. "I'm fairly sure I screamed when that hand grabbed me and pulled me through the portal. We didn't see what happened to you...you just vanished when we weren't looking. But, I believe I was able to alert the others. I imagine they won't get anywhere near the portals."
Venkat set the agenda. "Regardless, here we wait for 15 minutes and see what happens."
Amadius had a thoughtful look on his face. "If we go back to the portal in the Hall of the Black Wyrm, who's to say whatever removed us from the equation will even let us go through it? Even if we get through, we have to travel across the wasteland, across the bridge, through the underground levels of the tower complex, up the spiral staircase, and hopefully find the party."
Venkat grabbed the arm of an older lady carrying jungle fruit in a basket, who happened to be walking by. "How long ago did the rescue party set out after the hostages that were taken by the orcs?"
The older woman was startled, but attempted to compose herself. "Um...it was almost two weeks ago. Everyone knows that. Are you daft, young man?"
Venkat let go of the lady's arm without answering, and she walked away quickly commenting on the rudeness that permeated society these days. Venkat turned to Amadius. "We left two days ago...not two weeks ago. Clearly the passage of time between the two planes of existence we have traveled, does not exactly sync up. This would suggest the time we spend here, will not amount to much time in the plane where SHE is exiled. That's a benefit for us."
Amadius and Venkat waited in the square for a good half hour. Both of them bought some jungle fruits and sweet meats, and drank deeply of fresh water with a little wine mixed in. When the half hour was up, Amadius asked, "So, we head back for the Hall of the Black Wyrm and the portal?"
Venkat began walking toward the road toward the True Road. "Most definitely."
An hour later, Amadius and Venkat were well past the True Gate, and on the road outside of town. Another few hours, and they would be at the portal. Venkat nudged Amadius. "Traveler ahead."
Both of them focused in on the large dark hooded figure walking with large strides southbound on the same road they traveled northbound. The figure was still 200 to 300 feet away, but shortly they would be face to face...
Amadius and Venkat decided to pause in their travels and let the stranger walk to them. They did their best to appear casual and non-threatening, but were ready for anything.
The large hooded figure continued to walk forward at a steady pace.
Amadius spoke in low tones to Venkat, "There is something familiar about this traveler. The way he moves...his clothing...we've met this guy before."
When the traveler was about 20 feet away he stopped. His face was covered completely by his dropping hood and the shadows within. A dark laugh issues forth from the darkness of his hood, and it was followed by a rough deep voice speaking awkwardly in the common tongue. "Well, well, well. Some humans I know. I am glad to see you."
As the figure reached up to pull back his hood, Venkat knew who this was, and as the hood fell away his knowledge was confirmed. Venkat called out his name. "Dergerel...the Black Gorger who guarded the Gate."
"Dorgerel," the Black Gorger corrected him calmly. "Your friend, Moriarty saved me at the Bridge. Could have let me die...could have killed me with his own hands. But, that strange man saved me and let me live. I gave him information that hopefully will help him in return. But, I owe him quite a lot. You are his friends, so I'll start by helping you in whatever way you might need. Pay the debt a little at least."
Amadius and Venkat were a little taken aback by the appearance of this Black Gorger in this world, and his offer of assistance. But, both recalled that Dorgerel was looking forward to the day he would return to Kempin, and was fairly tired of working for SHE at the end of a bridge for the past few years. But, the face of this large humanoid was difficult to look at. it was black and slick. Unlike human faces, and even the faces of other demi-humans, it seemed like every muscle in the face showed through the thin black skin. This amplified or made more intense every facial expression the tall figure made. His gray teeth were jagged and sharp, but there was unmistakable intelligence in the depths of his eyes.
Venkat began questioning Dorgerel, "How did you get here?"
Dorgerel smiled, and it was an over-the-top smile. "When Moriarty saved me, he offered for me to come along with your party and help them. But, I was horribly injured still...and all I could think of was returning to Kempin...and having the sun of my father, and his father shine on my skin. I gave Moriarty some advice, and after your party left me, I hid...and skulked around a bit. I did what I could to heal myself further, and then...I found myself a gate."
Amadius jumped in, "A secret gate? Do you know of any portals that would take us back to the tower in a way we could help our friends?"
Dorgerel shood his large head. "The only gate that leads to that strange land from Kempin, is the gate you used. The one that forces visitors to run-the-gauntlet so to speak. And that way would be death for you now. Certain and absolute death. As I skulked about the landscape seeking the right moment to flee to Kempin, I saw a lot of strange things going on." Dorgerel paused, and his eyes seemed to unfocus a bit...as if he was taken back to the things he saw.
Venkat prompted him to continue. "Dorgerel, it is very important you tell us what you saw."
Dorgerel focused back in on Venkat's face. "Yes...yes. The Yagthorath...those translucent blobs...they were everywhere. They were snatching up Black Gorgers and eating them. Like my friends were just snacks to keep them going. They were gathering black stone...huge blocks of black stone cut from the cliffs beneath the tower. It looked like the makings for a powerful Keep or Castle. Big large stones, carved for building. There were hundreds of Yagthorath, maybe thousands...toiling and struggling without rest on the plain beneath the tower. If you took the only portal to the land of SHE, that virtual army of Yagthorath would most certainly make you into a snack as well."
Venkat made the decision that while he could not trust this Black Gorger, he had very little to lose from not sharing just enough information to make Dorgerel believe that he trusted him. So, Venkat told him how he and Amadius had been removed from the land of SHE, and brought back to Kempin unwillingly.
Dorgerel pulled a large flask of strong liquor from beneath his robes and drank deeply from it. He offered it to Amadius and Venkat with one of his over-the-top jagged smiles. "Drink my friends. Let us toast Moriarty and his companions, and pray to the Gods of our respective peoples that they bring down that horrible bitch and return to us soon!"
Venkat pulled something from his robe that looked like a folded piece of tanned hide. Amadius was dubious as to what type of hide it was. Venkat unfolded the hide smoothing it out on the ground. Taking a sip of Dorgerel's liquor. "Tell me my new friend can you tell me where some of these gates lead to?
Dorgerel knelt down by the map. "Ah...a map of the portals...and where they go. Nice. Where do you want to go...and from where?"
Well, I think to start with I'd like to just get the map labeled...you know mark what portals go where.
Dorgerel studied the map for a bit. "Once you've studied the map a bit, it makes it fairly easy to read. You just have to understand what some of the symbols and notations mean. I'll give you a lesson, and you should be up and running." Dorgerel gave Venkat one of his exaggerated smiles...the muscles of his face completely defined beneath his thin black skin.
Venkat smiled back. He thought to himself, "This Black Gorger may be a useful resource moving forward."
Amadius watched this exchange between them with interest. And he interrupted. "Venkat, there is no way they are going to tolerate having Dorgerel inside the City of Order. They'll try to capture or kill him as soon as they see him. And his hooded disguise is more frightening looking, than what he looks like without the hood."
Venkat nodded. "We need to work out a place for you to stay, Dorgerel."
(Mark and Mike wrote together)
"Dorgerel, thanks to our friend here I know of a burned out estate one of the farms inside the City Walls. The main building has lost much of its charm," Venkat says with a smile, "but I'm sure we could find a suitably intact outbuilding we could put you up in temporarily."
Amadius suggested another idea. "Hmmm. We'd still have to get him past the True Gate into the city to get to the Skarlbod estate. It would be a good place to hide, if we can get him there."
Venkat was deep in thought. "That could be difficult. You my friend," addressing Dorgerel, "Do not pass for human in the slightest in that get-up. You are fairly huge and scary looking, and I'm fairly sure the guards will want a peek under your hood before they let you in."
Dorgerel shrugged. "I could climb the wall in the night somewhere far from a guard tower. Then you could meet me there on the other side, and take me to this hiding spot. But, I worry about my ability to get away from the City, should I be discovered there within the walls."
Venkat threw out a few more ideas. "Well, there's the Eldermont Keep along the coast. Long abandoned, it would make a fine hiding place for a time. It is said to be haunted by the people of the City of Order, so few go within its crumbling walls."
Dorgerel nodded his large head. "I'm going to trust you gentlemen to put me up in the place most useful to you. I owe Moriarty a great debt, and I would be a fool not to trust your thoughts on this."
"Eldermont it is then!" Muttering to himself, "what day is it?...yes they might be coming by." Venkat throws his pack to the ground rummaging through it. He says "Yes, yes here it is" as he pulls a lantern from his pack. Standing up he gives Amadius and Dorgerel a perplexed look, "well lets not be lolly gagging if we're going to make the Keep by nightfall! "
On the hike to Eldermont, Dorgerel's face was beeming. "Do you smell that?" He laughed. "And look at that big glowing orb...making its way across the sky! It has been so long since I was home. So long since I've breathed the air of Kempin."
Amadius sniffed at the air. "Smells like a dirt road through a jungle to me."
Dorgerel jumped right in. "Dirt...fresh, rich dirt. Green plants...smelly flowers...shit...I think something died and is rotting over in the direction." And he pointed off to their left. "That life you are smelling. A living breathing world. Don't take it for granted my friends. There are much worse places...as you know."
"Well that wasn't nearly as far as I remember it", Venkat said as Amadius, Dorgerel and he came upon the ruins of Eldermont. They set about finding a relatively intact room for Dorgerel and cooking pots a bed and such to make him comfortable. Around dusk a peacock wandered out of the jungle and a magic missile spell later became dinner.
As night fell Venkat climbed to the tallest portion of the tower that still had a relatively intact floor. He had brought his lantern. He lit it and placed it in an open window facing the sea.
The sea stretched to the horizon. On this evening as flat as the best carpenter's floor. The fog started somewhere around midnight. At first far out to sea but by bits and pieces it moved towards the shore and Eldermont.
The watch was long and boring and Venkat had begun to doze, when suddenly he awoke with a start. The hair on the back of his neck advised him to turn slowly. There he saw the black clad figure of the man he was signaling.
"Jack Wolf! I wish you wouldn't do that, it will be the death of me. What news do you bring? "
Jack Wolf seemed to exist in shadow. He never seemed to come into the light. His voice, as low as a whale's and gravelly as the great North/South road added even more to his enigma.
"I have no news yet but I am on it's trail. We are on our way north where I hope to learn something. Expect me back in two days, three at the latest."
JACK SKULL RETURNS
It was a normal day in the City of Order. Vendors sold meats, and cheeses, and fruits in the town square. Children were playing. People were talking and gossiping. It had been two days since Venkat and Amadius had suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the town square.
Then the day changed. A red robed figure appeared out of nowhere in the exact same spot by the Gallows that Venkat and Amadius had appeared. His crimson robes flowed around his body, and a red hood covered his head. The robed figure spun this way and that, seemingly confused...and his hood fell back. His head was a bony skull, though his eyes were flesh, and moist with life. It was a grim visage, and the townspeople were not ready for it.
Screams rang out, and people ran to and fro. Children were scooped up and carried away by their parents. Vendors dropped their wares and fled. Chaos ensued.
The red-robed figure, this skull-faced man, bellowed out, "TAKE ME TO PORT TOROGA...JACK SKULL HAS RETURNED TO RULE HIS FLEET!"
Venkat had his head turned towards Amadius explaining why they needed to compare the map of gates from the realm of She with whatever books they could find at the Temple of Order when Amadius pulled up short. Venkat was annoyed assuming Amadius was ignoring him again. The scream of a little girl to his left followed by one from what must have been her mother alerted him that something was amiss.
Venkat turned his attention to what some of the townspeople were staring at, and what most of them were running from...and he saw him. The red-robed figure, with the skull for a head. The skull's fleshy eyes looked this way and that. "PEOPLE OF KEMPIN...JACK SKULL HAS RETURNED TO TAKE HIS RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THIS WORLD! WHO SHALL ASSIST ME AND EARN GREAT REWARDS FOR THEIR TROUBLE!"
Well there is something you don't see every day. Racking his brain Venkat tries to remember all he knows of Jack Skull. Wasn't he some sort of legendary pirate? Was he even a real person?
(DM's Note Venkat remembers that Jack Skull was the founder of Port Toroga, and built a powerful pirate alliance based out of that large pirate city. About five years ago, it is said that Jack Skull set out on a ship to a mysterious destination, and never returned. Since then, a council of pirate captains called the Council of the Skull has ruled in his stead.)
The red-robed figure seemed to gather his composure amidst the chaos his sudden appearance in the town square had caused. "People...people...calm yourselves. For fuck's sake. Whichever one of you fleshy morons can help me get to Port Toroga will become the richest man on the Crimson Coast...besides me. Is there no one here with the self-composure to snatch up my offering of treasure?"
But, the chaos continued.
"Ehhhh, excuse me my unusual friend. Did I hear you say you were the famous Jack Skull? Unless I totally miss my guess judging from where you now stand I have the feeling that you have just returned from the same place we were a scant two days ago. " Venkat gestures to show he means Amadius.
"Have you been trapped on that hell soaked plane for long?"
"Yes...I was held captive by that evil bitch...for
what purpose, I still don't know. You must know the men that helped free
me. There were three like you. Kind fellows, really..."
The place was nightmarish! You meet our friends?! Wonderful!
How is it we can help you? Although I would suggest we walk and talk. I'm afraid people from these parts don't often see your like and might be frightened. The vagaries of the mob should never be underestimated. I do know a place we could go to discuss your predicament and how we might help.
The skull's moist eyes seemed to smile for his whole face. "I sense a partnership in the making. Have you ever helped rule a city...an Empire, my new friend? Let's walk and talk."
Three guards ran into the town square with their weapons drawn. Venkat stepped up his pace, and waved off the guards, and they pulled back. The guards followed at a distance, but seemed to trust Venkat ' s judgement. He was a Hunter of the Burners...and they did not relish fighting the 7' tall skull-faced creature.
Venkat kept the three of them moving towards the gates of the city of Order, he could feel the eyes on them. He feared the good will he had accrued from these people would only last so long in the presence of such a frightening looking individual. The sooner he could get this Jack Skull fellow to Eldermont Keep the better.
"Well I'm not really the ruling type but I have been known to engineer the occasional Palace Coup." Venkat flashed Jack a knowing smile.
"That's exactly what I might need. A coup of sorts. I can't imagine whoever has ruled in my stead will give up their power easily. It likely I'll need to take my power back. No doubt, I'll have my supporters and allies in the struggle, but those in power will have built up support and allies of their own in my absence."
Venkat told the Skull what he knew about the Council of the Skull, a group of pirate captains that had ruled Port Toroga and the pirate confederation loyal to Port Toroga since Jack Skull had disappeared.
The Skull answered, "Some on the Council will likely rally to return. Others will need to be convinced."
The word "convinced" was said with such a menacing tone, that it sent a shiver down Venkat's spine.
Amadius, Venkat, and the Skull reached the True Gate. The guards bristled at the towering skull-faced figure.
Venkat raised a hand to them and said simply, "We're leaving the city. Open the gates and let us pass."
The guards scurried to get the gates open. The Skull nodded his bony head. "Nice."
Michael James Cross The heat of the jungle around the city of Order could be oppressive especially at the height of the day.
The hike to Eldermont Keep was draining for Amadius and Venkat but Jack Skull seemed to not even notice chatting the entire way. Venkat had not expected a pirate lord to be quite so conversational or so friendly.
What struck both Amadius and Venkat as interesting, was that the conversation they got from Jack Skull was very similar to the one they had with Dorgerel when they walked the same road. Jack Skull spoke of the beauty of the world. The smells, the sights. He even wondered at the beauty of the sun, like Dorgerel had. These two creatures had spent so much time in the land of SHE, that they had come to see even the most mundane things in the World of Kempin as something wonderous to behold.
"Do either of you have wine on you? The taste of wine is something I have only been able to dream about these years I've been gone?"
Amadius had a flask of wine on his belt, and handed it to the pirate king. "It is not the best wine, by any means, but perhaps it will do."
Jack took the flask, and put it to his lips. He poured a bit on his mouth, and it dribbled down his chin...and they could see a little of the wine running down the front side of his neck vertebrae. "It will do. It will more than do."
Venkat was hesitant to ask, but then he could not resist. "How do you drink wine...you have no flesh besides your eyes?"
Jack Skull laughed. "I don't as much drink it, as simply taste it. Much like I do with your flesh women."
Amadius looked puzzled. "You can only...taste...women." There was a long pause. "Oh! I get it!"
Jack laughed. "I enjoy them just the same."
Before they arrived at Eldermont Keep, Venkat warned Jack Skull that a Black Gorger was a guest of theirs as well. And he briefly told Jack Skull the tale of how Dorgerel had come to Kempin from the land of SHE, and why they were working together. Jack Skull took the news in stride. "I had plenty of contact with the Black Gorgers during my time in service to SHE. They are a duty-bound Race, and somewhat predictable. I might even know this Dorgerel. We'll see."
As they entered the Keep, Dorgerel and Jack Skull came face to face, and locked eyes across the room. Dorgerel said in a neutral voice. "You."
Jack Skull answered. "Yep. Me."
Dorgerel turned to Venkat, "Is this Skull to be your guest as well?"
Venkat nodded, not sure what the reaction would be to the answer.
Dorgerel turned and kept toiling over an old broken stove that he had gotten working. "Well, I not sure I cooked enough food for four people."
Jack quipped, "I don't eat much. We'll be fine."
And the four of them sat at an old water-damaged table Dorgerel had leaned up against a wall to share a meal.
That night, Venkat signaled from the partially intact tower with his lantern. There was a whisper of wind behind him, and he knew Jack Wolf had come. "What news do you bring me?"
Jack Wolf in a voice so low, it was difficult to distinguish from the crash of waves on the north side of the Keep below. "You told me to check on news of the Burners up and down the coast. I've heard a fair number of them took refuge in Port Toroga. But, I thought you might be interested in a little news from a little closer to home."
Venkat turned slowly to face Wolf. "I would."
"Varino...the town up the coast to the north of here. Persek Vincent, head of the Vincent Clan is there with two of his sons. They've sought sanctuary in a temple there. A temple with a very poor reputation. It is dedicated to some fire God...or a lava God. Bunch of godless primitives up in Varino...worshipping that god-damned volcano of theirs."
"Head of the Vincent Clan, eh? That's some good news, Wolf."
Venkat wasn't sure the exact path of action he wanted to follow, but he wanted to be prepared. "Wolf...if I wanted to make my way to Port Toroga...unnoticed. Let's say I wanted to smuggle myself and some friends into the pirate city. What method of travel would you suggest?"
Wolf shifted his weight from one foot to the other, still standing in the shadows. "Hypothetically, eh? Well, by sea...always by sea."
Venkat said, "Yes," with an expectant tone.
"You'd want to hitch a ride with a pirate. A pirate that is not particularly loyal to the Skull Council. A pirate who doesn't fear the council."
Venkat encouraged Wolf's train of thought. "Keep going."
Wolf now sounded more confident, as though the answer had come to him. "Captain Tengu...of the Jolly Murderer. He's got his ship anchored off the coast, near the town of Galar. I've had some small dealing with him. No love for the Council. Has never quite warmed up to them. Much preferred Jack Skull himself, and has been somewhat vocal of his distrust of the Skull Council that replaced him."
Venkat took all this in. "So, will he be anchored there long?"
Wolf took a step forward, partially out of the shadows. "Many of his men are in Galar, spending their hard-earned silver and gold. I spoke to some of them in Galar. They'll be there several more days...then back to the Empire's shipping lanes to take more treasure."
"Thank you, Wolf. Say nothing of this to anyone."
VALENDIL AND SQUEE RETURN
Valendil and Squee stood in the huge cavernous black hall. The 50 rescued hostages stood off to the side, still huddling together from the terror of recent days. These rescued townsfolk from the City of Order had seen things that they never expected to see...things they had never imagined even existed. Now they were confronted with the corpse of the Black Wyrm, its mouth wide open and a huge gaping wound in its side. Flies were buzzing around the gigantic corpse, and that unmistakable smell of death had begun to fill the hall.
Valendil reassured the rescued hostages, "Good men and women of the City of Order...the Hunters have brought you home. This terrible place is just two hours walk from your homes. We'll have you back with your families before you know it. You are safe!"
Squee had been keeping his eye on the lone figure that had been sitting on the stairs at the far end of the hall when they had come through the black portal. He appeared to be a guard from the City of Order. When they came through the portal, the guard had laughed and become excited, clapping his hands and standing up. Squee watched as the guard stood...and winded his way across the hall, careful not to fall into the many rents and holes in the floor. The guard called out to them, "YOU ARE BACK! YOU MADE IT!"
Squee smiled. They had made it. They had rescued
the hostages. They had saved the day. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Valendil came over and shook the guard's hand as well. "We were only gone a few days by our reckoning. Are you sure its been a few weeks?"
Gunnar looked a little confused by what Valendil said. "Yes...yes...definitely a few weeks. The guys started a betting pool on whether and when you'd come back. Its been 23 days. I have some money coming my way." Gunnar had a big grin on his face, and then thought better of it and tried to compose himself with a little more dignity.
Squee found this whole time contradiction interesting. "So, the wheels of time turn a bit differently depending on what plane one is traveling. If one knew what they were doing, they could use that to meddled with events in a fast moving plane over many centuries."
Gunnar seemed to not understand, and quickly changed the topic. "We killed the Black Wyrm after you guys went through the portal. One of our men...Vladbach...was swallowed whole by the creature...and our attacks seemed to be having no affect on the Wyrm. Then, Vladbach's sword came sticking out the side of the beast. He began hacking his way out from the inside, and we focused our attacks on the hole he was making. The Wyrm was dead a short time later...though he thrashed in his death throes for at least 15 minutes more."
Squee and Valendil both looked a little amazed...and didn't try to hide it. Squee spoke, "That is a pretty amazing accomplishment. We thought for sure that you guys would be forced to flee or all be killed."
Gunnar laughed. "So did I!" Gunnar looked a bit thoughtful for a second, like he suddenly remembered something. "Wait! Did you kill SHE? Did you end HER? How did you do it? I have to hear this story!"
Valandil and Squee glanced at each, and Valendil answered. "We slaughtered her like the beast she was. The battle was long and horrible, but in the end Moriarty stuck a magical blade into her, and sliced her rotten body wide open. She died shrieking...and cursing our name. Kempin is safe...SHE is dead."
Squee added, "Dead and gone."
Gunnar exclaims, "So...Moriarty is...dead?!" (Chris added)
Squee explains, "SHE was hideous. SHE had all these sagging teats. We had to check our guts to not let loose. Well, poor Moriarty thrusted the dagger into her. SHE moaned, 'I curse you!' Moriarty stumbled back, turned jet black and disappeared." (Chris added)
Squee continued, "But that desperate attack by Moriarty...possibly his last act...was what finished her."
Valendil added in a slightly correcting tone, "But given SHE'S ability to create portals and travel the planes...she might have just sent Moriarty somewhere really horrible. We're not sure, but hoping for the best."
Gunnar hung on every word...as did the rescued hostages. One of the hostages clapped...and then another...and within seconds everyone was cheering and clapping.
When the impromptu celebration died down, Gunnar
asked, "Well, its time to head back to the City of Order...right?"
After hearing their story Gunnar got busy rounding up the 40 and taking down their stories. Squee plopped down next to Valendil and whispered "do you think we will find Amadeus and Venkata? Valendil softly shook his head.
A grim shadow passed over Squees face. Suddenly, Gunnar announced to the group that they were all leaving to go back to the city of order. Squee jumped up and and honked Valendil's nose "come on long ears" he exclaimed cheerily. Not noticing Valendil's menacing scowl or his white knuckled fist on then pommel of his sword.
Valendil let his rage subside before standing and stating we should head back to town and get supplies before we head to port Tiaroga. Squee piped up "plus I wouldn't want to miss my parade." The walk back to the city of order was a welcome stroll compared to the whirlwind of the last few days.
This short reprieve allowed exhaustion to creep into Squees body. Valendil's easy stride didn't give away any weakness or wear. Squee decided to ask "are we still going to avenge Nyal's death or should we go kill something new, I've always wanted to go to Black Bay"
Squee, Valendil, and Gunnar led the walk back to the City of Order. In the world of Kempin, it had been three weeks since the party had set off to rescue the hostages. Many thought the effort must have failed. Many were already mourning their loved ones.
For Squee and Valendil, only a few days had passed. Exhausting, trying days...but still, only a few days.
Word of the hostages return had not yet reached the city, but cheers went up at the True Gate as soon as they saw the returning heroes and their 50 charges stumbling down the road toward the city. "ALL HAIL THE HUNTERS!" was cheered over and over by the guards on the gate. As the hostages marched back within the safety of the walls of their city, guards ran ahead with the news of their return.
By the time Squee, Valendil, Gunnar, and the hostages reached the city square, a large crowd had gathered. People had armloads of food and drink for the returning hostages, and again...people were cheering, "ALL HAIL THE HUNTERS!"
Venkat, Amadius, and Giovanni stepped from the crowd and welcomed their friends home. Venkat pulled them all off to the side, so they could talk. "My friends. You must tell me everything. I simply must know everything that happened after Amadius and myself were snatched."
The celebrating in the city square went on long into the night. Valendil and Squee shared the tale of the Death of SHE, and the disappearance of Moriarty.
Amadius was worried. "So Moriarty is dead? Where do you think he is?"
Valendil and Squee both shrugged. Squee answered for both of them. "He was most certainly cursed. We saw his flesh turn black, and he looked at us as though he was saying goodbye...and then he was gone. I suspect she sent him somewhere horrible. If I know Moriarty like I think I do, I believe he will struggle and fight...and make his way back to us."
Valendil agreed. "I would not be surprised to see him walk out of that crowd right now and embrace us, so that we could celebrate his return."
THE LAW KEEPER OFFERS THE PARTY A HOME
At dinner in the Wilding Bar, after learning of the Slave fights the next day by the coast, Giovanni brought up an interesting topic. "My friends. I don't know exactly what will come of this, but I was speaking with the Law Keeper today...and he has summoned us to speak with him tomorrow. We have a breakfast invitation from him...to eat at his home."
Venkat looked like his curiosity had been piqued. "Perhaps he wants to thank us personally for saving the hostages and killing SHE. It seems like some thanks to our group are in order."
Valendil drank a bit more wine, and then added, "That would be nice. For years I've felt a bit like an outside here in the City of Order. I mean, they've let me train their men on wilderness survival...and they've always been fairly welcoming. But, still...an outsider in other ways. We've done some serious good here lately."
Squee shrugged. "We've had a good time at it...who
cares if the old guy thanks us. We're freakin' famous."
As they ate, the Law Keeper spoke. "You've done a fine job, gentlemen. The City of Order owes you its thanks. I owe you our thanks. Things have gone well here since you made your home in our midst, and I want to make that something official. Something lasting. I wish to give you a home."
Squee had a piece of bread hanging out of the corner of his mouth, but he was so surprised he spoke anyway. "Wait...you are giving us your home?"
The Law Keeper laughed, almost inadvertently, and
then resumed his typical grim demeanor. "No...no. Not my home. YOUR home.
You deserve a place of your own. So, I come to you with an offer of sorts.
Will you hear my terms."
The Law Keeper pulled out a map of the City of Order and the land around it. It was of a small enough scale that even the coastline was visible along the top of the map. He pointed a long bony finger at a dot along the True Road, near where the True Road reached the coast. "There is an old abandoned keep by the coast. The Keep of Eldermont. Long ago, the Clan Eldermont made its home there. They have long since died out, and the Keep has fallen into disrepair. I will grant you the land, the Keep, and a budget to repair it...if you will make it your home."
Venkat began to speak, but was immediately cut off by the Law Keeper. "Wait...wait." He then moved his bony finger to a dot on the map that appeared to be the burned home of Njal Skarlbod. "There is the home of the fallen clan Skarlbod. The site of the burning of Njal. If you choose, i will grant you the land and holdings of Clan Skarlbod, and a budget to repair his home and out-buildings...if you will make it your home."
This time no one spoke, and the Law Keeper continued. He pointed a bony finger at a dot on the map that was to the south of the City of Order, in the Red Jungle. "There is an abandoned Temple to the South of the City of Order. No one is sure who built it, for it was hear when the settlers that founded the City of Order arrived. Some suggest it was built by a former settlement attempt. Some suggest it was built by Lizardmen. It is in disrepair, but I will grant you the land, the Temple, and a budget to repair it...if you will make it your home."
"And now I am finished. Three possible homes...three possible bases of operation for your adventuring party. You have but to say the word, and any one of the three can and will be yours."
Venkat leans into the group, "I vote Eldermont keep. It provides us the most flexibility and would keep our friend Dorgerel safe from prying eyes.
Squee frowned uncharacteristically. I didn't start this adventure just to wind up staying here. If we are to be given land let's make it something interesting like the temple
The Keep isn't in the city of Order, it's close to the coast. Something that might come in rather handy.
I guess it could be nice to come back to someplace closer to where they know you. I can can probably get free beer in town.
Regarding the home. Valandil, paused quietly to review the map of the Law Keeper and calmly, impressed with the offer, suggested that the party make their home either in Eldermont or the temple. "While the Skarlbod property shows great promise, I believe that either of the other locations might be more useful in our adventures." He then quietly whispering to Squee, "plus they will keep us further away from the sight of the City of Order, a freedom which might one day be appreciated." Then outloud for everyone, "Could we dedicate the temple to Silvanus," asked Valandil? "And perhaps build fortifications around such structure, as to make it a keep?"
The Law Keeper put his hands on the table to signal breakfast was over. "Gentlemen. We owe you our gratitude. Take your time coming to a decision if you want. Let us know when you are certain of your choice. And we'll get started."
THE TALE OF GIOVANNI AND HEATH THE ORACLE
Giovanni ate his dinner, keeping his thoughts to himself. He looked across the table at his dinner companion, a 15-year-old girl named Heath. He thought to himself, "When the Great Cleansing is complete, and evil has been vanquished from this world, it will be songs about this young girl that will echo in the Temples. She is a gift from our Gods."
Heath had come to him several weeks ago, as he lectured some beggers on the evils of sloth and greed in the town square of the City of Order. She had come to him with news of a great evil in the Red Jungle. A great evil that would spread across the entire world if it were not stopped. At first, he had thought her crazy. Next he thought perhaps she was mocking him to his face, a rare event in his life...and he was amazed at her bravery. But, the more she talked the more he believed.
"Inquisitor...I see things...evil things. And there is a great evil in the Jungle...an evil that must be stopped. There is a great monument to evil being built...a great temple to the darkness where SHE will be worshiped. For the sake of the good people of the Crimson Coast...nay...the good people of all of Kempin, you must do something Man of the Gods."
Giovanni had learned to listen to Heath. She was
never wrong. She knew when a man had murder in his heart. She knew when
greed was about to make a man commit a crime. She could spot the women
with lust on the the minds. And in every case, Giovanni listened...and
stopped the evil before it happened. "Yes," thought Giovanni as he chewed
his food, "It will be Heath's name that echos in the Temples when the
Great Cleansing is complete."
Giovanni shook his head. "No. Not yet. Inquisitor Jonas and his six men left only three days ago. It will take them another three days to reach the point in the Jungle that you warned me about when we first met. They are capable men, and they have faced much evil in their careers. They will meet the challenge, don't you worry. Those that worship SHE will be slaughtered, and whatever work they have done on a monument to evil will be pulled down and buried where it will never again rise. Don't you worry."
Heath smiled. "There is so much evil in this world.
But, we'll root it all out, won't we Inquisitor?"
Giovanni's days were spent in quiet discussion with Heath the Oracle. She saw evil. All evil. Her powers were nearly without limit. She would give names of people with evil in their heart, what they were planning, what they had done in the past. Some of the names were there in the City of Order, but other names were in other cities...other countries. She saw humans, demi-humans, undead, and monsters. Giovanni would write notes all day, until his hand cramped.
The evil she saw in the City of Order was easily dealt with. The Law Keeper's court was full for several weeks when the Oracle and Giovanni first started working together. The flow of criminals into the court had thinned as of late. The Oracle's sight was having an impact on hidden evil and chaos in the City...and Giovanni and the Law Keeper had become fairly close during their cooperation together.
The last day of the Oracle's powers ended like any other day. Giovanni and Heath sat and ate dinner together, and then he escorted the 15-year-old girl to her room. Giovanni stopped in the doorway, and said goodnight.
Heath turned to face the Inquisitor a broad smile on her face. "We're having a real impact together, aren't we Inquisitor?"
Giovanni allowed himself a smile. "Yes, my dear. Your gift has given the Great Cleansing the advantage in this world. You are truly a gift from the Gods themselves. Sleep well."
Giovanni tossed and turned that night. Something was bothering him. Inquisitor Jonas' men had returned without him just a few days before. They told the tale of a black demon in the jungle...and how the demon had bewitched them all into running around the jungle aimlessly while Inquisitor Jonas was forced to fight the demon on his own. All had turned out well, and Inquisitor Jonas reported killing he demon and vanquishing him to the pit. But on the trip home to the City of Order, Inquisitor Jonas had disappeared in the night.
Giovanni's sleep was difficult because he was worried. Heath had identified a great evil monument being built in the jungle...he had sent men...and they reported the evil destroyed. But, where had Inquisitor Jonas gone? Where was the monument? They saw a single black demon, and Inquisitor Jonas had said he had killed him. Why did this all seem so wrong?
In the morning, Giovanni dressed and went to Heath's door. He pounded on the door to wake the young girl up. Heath cracked open the door. It was clear she was tired and still groggy from sleeping, but there was something different about her. She seemed different in some way. Giovanni stepped into the room. "You don't look like you slept well, child. What's wrong?"
Heath managed a weak smile. "You don't look too good yourself, Inquisitor. I had dreams last night...disturbing dreams that maybe we should talk about."
Giovanni looked over at the bed. The sheets were everywhere, and pulled out here and there from under the mattress. But then he saw it. Blood on the sheets. A large spot of blood. “No, child...no.”
Terror crept across her face. “What have I done! I am blind! I am nothing!”
Giovanni tried to comfort her, but Heath spent the next three days in her room, in and out of delirium. It was said that townspeople over-heard her screams, and the gossip began.
A dark demon had come to Heath in the night and stolen her powers to see evil. A great force for good and the work of the Great Cleansing had been destroyed. And all under Giovanni’s watch.
Eventually Heath regained her senses, and Giovanni was able to question her properly. Heath made it clear what had happened. "Inquisitor...I no longer see evil things. It is too late. The black beast came to me in the night and took my innocence. I am lost...don’t you see, Inquisitor...I am lost.”
Venkat had a grim look on his face. "Giovanni, this story you have told me is very disturbing. A demon defiled your Oracle? She can no longer see and sense evil?"
Giovanni shook his head, and drank down another drink in its entirely. And he coughed. "Her gifts were a result of her innocence. Her purity. Her mother, and her mother's mother had the gift as well. It was in her bloodline. But, when innocence is lost...when purity is taken...the gift is gone."
Venkat poured Giovanni another drink. "I'm sorry to hear this my friend. What manner of evil are we dealing with that defiles a young girl?"
Giovanni downed another drink. "The evil kind, my friend. The worst kind of evil. I don't know what to do. I had the advantage...I had a real shot as cleansing this town...and this world...of the taint of evil. What am I supposed to do now?"
Venkat had a thoughtful look on his face. "Hmmmm. That is a problem. Perhaps we can work on an answer together."
Venkat spoke in hushed whispers. "It is my advice that you use the girl. Tell no one beyond myself that she has lost her powers of sight. Let her tell no one beyond the two of us that she has lost her powers of sight. She is useful yet...and we would be weak to squander her usefulness. Just the belief that she can see and sense evil is something that gives you the advantage in your war...in your cleansing."
Giovanni seemed a bit shocked. Mostly shocked that he hadn't thought of this idea himself. "Yes..yes. You are correct. This will work...at least for a time."
The next morning, Giovanni went to wake Heath, as was his morning ritual. She did not answer the door, and when Giovanni forced it open...she was gone. Her bed was made, her closet and drawers were empty, and she was gone...
THE SLAVERS ARE COMING...THE SLAVERS ARE COMING!
Valendil, Squee, Venkat, Amadius, and Giovanni were sitting together at the Wilding Bar. There had been three days of celebration since the return of the hostages, and word that SHE had been destroyed. A local stonecarver had even begun carving a runestone memorial in honor of Moriarty, and the party of adventurers that had brought her down. and brought their friends and family home. The Hunters were very popular. No one would let them pay for their food, or pay for their drinks.
Squee had a grin from ear to ear. "I could definitely get use to this level of adulation. I think I wear the whole hero thing fairly well." Squee winked at a girl across the room that had been eyeing him and giving him some knowing looks. "I wear it quite well."
Valendil laughed. "You do, my friend. You wear it well. It doesn't feel as good as it should though...knowing that Moriarty is out there somewhere. Cursed. Lost."
Venkat was all business. "I'm following up some leads. I have some feelers out. If there is a way to find him...we will find him."
An older man, with one gimp leg limped quickly into the Wilding Bar, a large grin curling the ends of his big bushy mustache. "The slavers anchored at our port! There's going to be some gladiator fights tomorrow!"
A loud cheer rose up from everyone in the bar. People were slapping each other on the back, and toasts were raised. "Grass makes the blood grow...Kill Kill Kill." And then everyone would drink.
Squee seemed a little disgusted by it all. "I've never liked it when the slavers come to town. I went to the gladiator fights they hold down by the coast one time. But, I've never gone back. Its not a sport...its just murder."
Venkat summoned the old gimp over to their table by holding a few coins in the air, and motioning to him. The old man came over, and Amadius recognized him. "Old man Guzzer. Buy one one me you old geezer." Amadius handed him a few silvers, and Guzzer laughed. He happily took Venkat's coins as well.
Venkat grabbed Guzzer's coat arm, and pulled him close. "Tell us more about the slavers. Where did they come for, and where are they going."
Guzzer scoffed a bit. "Shit...its just the Grinder boat that comes round every now and again. Same old boat...same old slavers. But, they are advertising quite the fight for tomorrow. They have a real-life lizard man from the depths of the Jungle. They say he eats his opponent when he wins. And they have a Death Dog from Paralo, born and raised in the gladitorial ring on that crazy beautiful island. And they say they have a man made of pure Obsidian. Jet black, and as deadly as they come. It is going to be quite a show!"
Venkat slapped the old man on the back. "Thanks a lot, Guzzer. Now I know who to bet on tomorrow..."
Squee chuckled. "I'm not sure I'd bet on the Obsidian warrior until we're sure its Moriarty, Venkat."
Valendil added in, "And I'm not sure I'd bet on him even then."
MORIARTY RETURNS...IN CHAINS
Moriarty says...no screams, "I didn't signup for this!" As chains are clasped around his wrists and ankles. His armor, weapons and gear are part of his kit. A slovenly fat jailer between bites of an apple says, "you'll get this back when your new owner buys you, to fight in the Grinder." Laughing as he walks off, "He won't last two minutes."
"I really didn't agree to any of this!" Moriarty stares into the darkness in his cell. He must be in the hull of a ship the way the slow undulation of the walls go. "I can't believe this is happening."
A small flame is struck in the adjacent cell as another prisoner moves closer and in a heavy gothic accent, "You are one ugly bastard! Who took an ugly stick to yer face... and body?" Moriarty's jet black appearance was woefully egregious to some.
He ignored the insult, having no choice in the
matter, he asks, "What are we and where are we going?"
Moriarty wanted to learn more about the man in the next cell. "Where are you from?"
"Ugly wants a friend, does he? Well, shit. You asked nice, so why not. I was born, raised, trained, and fought on Paralo. I'm an honest-to-goodness Death Dog from the Island of Paralo, Ugly. I'm going to kill a lot of unlucky bastards once they get me to the Grinder."
Moriarty shook his head, like he was trying to clear the cobwebs from his mind. "How the fuck did I even get here. Its all a haze. These horrible creatures were torturing me and interrogating me...and then I was being chained up and loaded on this boat."
"Ugly...you was shanghai'd. Grabbed up by the slavers. Probably saw the promotional advantages of having a fighter like you along. The Black Death steps into the Pit! The Ebony Man...no...no...the Obsidian Man. That's pretty catchy. My money's on that one."
Moriarty took a very deferential tone. "Look, man...you know what you're doing. You are a pro at this stuff. Give me a fighting chance here and let me know what I'm in for...."
The large man in the next cage leaned in close, and Moriarty could see the network of scars on his face. The muscles rippling beneath the skin of his arms and chest. "Yeah, okay. I'll take you in like a pup. I've never had a puppy. This is how it works..."
The Death Dog from Paralo explained to Moriarty that the Grinder was located on a large island surrounded by the black waters of the bay at the town of Black Bay. The Grinder was a coliseum, where slaves fought the most glorious battles for the delight and betting of the dark pirates and rich people of Black Bay. That was their destination...eventually.
Along the way, the ship would stop at various towns along the Crimson Coast, and put on gladiatorial fights at each town, buy new slaves, and even sometimes sell slaves. There was no reason to sail right by a town where there was money to be made, and slaves to sell and buy. Slavers were a practical lot.
Moriarty chimed in. "So, where were we loaded up?"
The Death Dog chuckled. "You were loaded up at Varino. We'll have a couple of stops before we reach the big time at the Grinder. Try to stay alive until then, pup."
The slavers stopped at their first port of call. This particular port was for sport and happened to be the port near the City of Order. It was far enough away that the law left them to their own devices.
It was the day of the fights and within a few hours a crowd was forming around two makeshift pits. Crates formed the walls and people piled atop them. It was a figure eight of crates. The crowd could walk between the two pits and watch both fights.
Squee quickly gathers Valendil and the others, "Come! You must see! I'm sure it is Moriarty. Who else could it be?"
The party makes their way to the port. They are in time to see a battle unfolding before them. Both men are breathing heavy and the one they call Death Dog taunts, "Come'on pup, what's ya got? D'ya hear that? Sounds like the lizardman is having his lunch. Beat me and you'll be mince meat. Why not bow down before me and live to fight another day?"
It appears the larger human has the advantage. Moriarty has but a flimsy whip and a mace, although he does have some strange black armor. Moriarty stands tall with his whip behind him lying in the dirt, he retorts in a thunderous booming voice, "I kneel before no man!" And with that, flips his whip, full of dirt, into the mans face, blinding him. He puts a crushing blow to the man's knee with the mace, felling the tall oak. Then with an extra surge, Moriarty slams his mace into the stumbling man's kidney. Blood lets loose from his bowels and he falls silent, twitching in his own pool.
The party is reunited. Moriarty is now facing the lizardman. He will need your help to defeat him. Any spells you can throw his way or other ideas?
Squee can cast Bane and/or Vicious Mockery without drawing suspicion that I am helping
The large upright lizardman wore the blood of his last meal...and his last opponent...on his mouth, and down his neck and torso. Moriarty and the lizardman were circling each other, assessing one another.
Squee began playing a song...a wistful song...and Moriarty looked up into the crowd and saw Squee. A smile crossed his black lips. And he turned his focus back on the lizard man just in time to avoid having half his face bitten off.
Surveying the crowd Venkat tries to figure out where the majority of the crowd hails from. Does he see the familiar faces of the citizens of the City of Order?
Yes. About 90 to 95% of the crowd is from the City of Order. The rest are the crew of the slaver's ship.
He is using both his mace and rapier on this creature. Moriarty takes advantage of the over extended bite and performs a reposte with his rapier across its torso. It reels in pain and charges, clawing and ripping Moriarty's back.
Venkat leans towards the Bard, perhaps now is the time for that piece on "the slayer of she that suckles" when special empasis on the verse about saving the City of Order. Don't you think? "
As the Bard breaks into his newest composition Venkat rises loudly proclaiming, "good people of the City of Order. Why does he who saved your city fight in yon pit? As a slave no less. Have we not more love for our savior than this?"
Not everyone in the crowd heard Venkat's words, due to all the noise and cheering. But about a third of the crowd did, and his works struck them like a bat to the head. There fell silent, and then a buzz began among them. "Savior" "Obsidian Man" "Completely Black...even his teeth." "Moriarty" "He who Killed SHE"
People tugged at the clothes of the person near them, or tapped them on the shoulder, and the whispers spread...until the entire crowd was silent...just listening to Squee play his song about the Death of SHE. They were swaying to rhythm of the song...and they quickly learned the chorus and were singing along with Squee.
The slavers were quite disturbed at the change in atmosphere, and had no real understanding of what had happened. Their leader, apparently the Captain of the slaver ship stepped forward and screamed, "By my balls, what the fuck are you people doing?"
Meanwhile the Lizardman and Moriarty continued to fight for their lives.
Venkat screams above the din "Stop this travesty! Let our Savior go!!!"
Venkat runs to the rail of the arena and jumps to the pit floor. Screaming again "Stop this travesty! Let our Savior go!!!
From the pit floor he leads the crowd in a chant of, " let our Savior go, let our Savior go...
The crowd began to press inward, and the chants and taunts of the crowd were deafening. A crossbow bolt flew from the crowd and went through the eye of the lizardman. He let out a loud screaming hiss and fell backward heavily onto the ground.
Moriarty scanned the crowd in the area from where the bolt had flown. There stood Eldrathskin, heavily hooded...but unmistakably Eldrathskin. He gave Moriarty a wink, and then melted into the throng.
The head of the slavers was no fool. He got down into the pit, ran to Moriarty, and raised Moriarty's arm in triumph. "The winner...your champion...the Savior of the City of Order...the Obsidian Man!"
The crowd stopped chanting, and began cheering.
The Captain spoke to Moriarty. "I hate to give up such an excellent warrior...you are a crowd pleaser...that's for sure. But this is your last stop. You are free." And he reached out his hand to shake Moriarty's hand.
During the chaos of the uprising of the crowd, Amadius could not help but have his attention drawn to the abandoned Keep of Eldermont towering nearby. The tan stone of its ruined towers casting shadows across the scene unfolding. He nudged, Valendil and pointed it out.
Valendil gazed at the Keep fir a moment. "I know...I know," and then their attention went back to the Captain of the Slavers walking Moriarty over to Venkat, a forced smile upon his sun-tanned face.
The Captain of the ship walked Moriarty over to Venkat, as the crowd cheered around the pit. “An impressive display of loyalty to one’s friend. I admire that.” The Captain had black hair, stubble on this thin face, and olive colored skin, making it clear he was born on the Island of Paralo. “I hate to give this one up, but he is clearly not mine to give. He belongs to the people, it seems.”
Venkat glared at the slaver. “How did you come to make my friend a slave?”
The Captain smiled slyly. “Like I do all my slaves. I bought him. Nothing personal. Just a matter of commerce. My name is Vito Timoni. Captain Vito Timoni of the ship Mirabella.”
Venkat chuckled. “A woman’s name for a slave ship?”
Captain Timoni did not miss a beat before answering, “Women...they make us all slaves, don’t they?” And there was that sly smile again.
Moriarty was glowering at the leader of the slavers. “I did not much enjoy your accommodations, Captain. I didn’t sign up for any of that.”
Captain Timoni took a step back from him. “Little did I know I had a celebrity as a guest on my ship. A ‘savior’ no less. You’ll forgive my lack of hospitality. Here is half of my take on your fight...to make up a bit for the harsh treatment.” Vito handed a coin purse to Moriarty, heavy with coins.
Moriarty was still glowering, but he took the bag of coins. “What so generous all of a sudden Captain?”
The Captain took another step in the direction of his ship. “It doesn’t pay to have ‘saviors’ for enemies, does it? If you ever come to the Grinder...ask if I’m in town. You’ll be my guest...you and your friends...and I promise to be a better host.”
Captain Timoni turned to walk back to his ship, and signaled his men it was time to pack up, and get ready embark for the next port of call.
Venkat turned to Moriarty and looked him up and down. “You are a different man than when I last saw you. Welcome home.”
"I see you have acquired quite a tan. It will take some getting used to and I'm afraid you're going to be rather conspicuous going forward. You haven't tried scrubbing to see if that will come off have you?" Moriarty laughs at the question. Venkat looks startled at the noise, "Oh the teeth too! That's quite disturbing."
"If you'll excuse old friend we'll do some catching up in a moment." Turning towards the departing Captain Timoni, "Captain, might I have a word before you depart."
The Captain paused in his return back to his ship and took a few steps back toward Venkat. He motioned for Venkat to come closer so they could converse. "Of course. I have time while my men prepare the ship. Let's have that word."
Captain Timoni, I have a proposal for you. I can't guarantee it will make up for your profession but it may well help balance your cosmic ledger. You travel to many ports and meet many people, see many things. I would like to request that you stop here at the city of Order when you pass by and give me updates. I can possibly make it worth your while from time to time. It's always good to have a Wizard for a friend.
(Mike wrote, Mark edited)
"I do have a specific request to begin with. I need information on the whereabouts of the remains of the Sunkar and Vincent clans. Any information you can find on the reasons for their betrayal of the city of Order and the burning of Njal Skarlbod and his clan would also be useful."
Captain Timoni replied, "The Burners. I'd be glad to help. I understand you find what I do to be distasteful. I get that. But even a man like me has limits. The burning of Njal was a cowardly act. I'll give you whatever information I come across. Gladly."
"And news of the coast?"
"I've heard that a fair number of the Burners headed to Port Toroga. They traveled by various routes, and reunited at a tavern there. The Lords and Ladies Tavern. There are forces sympathetic to their Clan in Port Toroga. Forces that will shelter and protect them."
"Tovar Jadenson of the Sunkar Clan, and a few of his men, are working as bodyguards for the Chieftain of the Town of Galar to the west of here. They are under assumed names, and it is unknown if the Chieftain knows he has these cowards among his guards."
"There are two Burners at the Placid Waters Inn and Tavern in the town of Wather. They are younger cousins, but they were there. Again, they are there under assumed names."
"I will attempt to get you more information, so that when we next meet...I will be able to share more." Captain Timoni patted Venkat on the shoulder, and turned to go to his ship.
THE PARTY REUNITED!
(Okay. Everyone has returned to the City of Order. Moriarty is free. You are all at the Coast, outside of Eldermont Keep. Both Dorgerel and Jack Skull are hanging out in the Keep. The Law Keeper has offered you Eldermont Keep (and 2 other locations) as possible homes, though you have not given him a firm answer. There's tons of other shit that has happened. I'll start pulling it all together in one story...that is actually in order. But, your characters are all there, and from a time standpoint, we are now in the present).
The slave ship had left the bay, and was disappearing into the distance. The crowd had started to thin, as the townspeople began to head back to the City of Order on the True Road. Valendil, Amadius, Squee, and Venkat all stood near Moriarty, talking and catching up. Venkat spoke loud enough for the party to hear, but not so loud that the linger crowd heard him. "Let's walk to Eldermont Keep as though we own the place. I'm guessing no one will say a word...and if we choose it for our home, they'll all know about it soon enough."
The rest of the party caught Moriarty up on the choices of a home that were offered to them by the Law Keeper. Moriarty surmises, "If ever there is need to defend the City of Order, advance warning shall be crucial." He points out to sea, "They will come by ship. It's the only way."
Squee, rather concerned, "Who's they?!"
"The they of the they... them. The gods only know. But be sure, they will come. I agree with Venkat. Eldermont should be staffed with watchers and it will save the City when the time comes."
The walk was a short one. There was an overgrown
road leading to a stone jetty that ran out across the water to the ruined
gates of the Keep. Venkat was correct. As they walked to the Keep, the
townspeople paid very little attention to where they were going. Perhaps
the news had spread already that they might make the old ruins into their
Moriarty smiled a black smile, his black teeth glistening in the sun. "Good...good. He seemed like a decent enough fellow. Scary looking, but he gave us information that helped us in the land of SHE."
Venkat looked a little uneasy. "Well, that's not all. A skull-faced fellow who says he is Jack Skull, came through a gate as well. We led him to the Keep, and hid him away as well. Valendil and Squee have suggested that he is not Jack Skull, but that you convinced him to get out of your way by telling him to come to the World of Kempin and pretend he was Jack Skull."
Moriarty was truly surprised. Yes, he had convinced a skull-faced creature to get out of their way by suggesting he come to Kempin and pretend he was Jack Skull. But, by what luck (bad or good) had this skull-faced creature ended up with his friends!?
Moriarty was quiet for a moment, as though he was thinking. Then he spoke carefully. "Here's the thing guys. How many skull-faced guys with living eyes are there? I mean, in the myths and legends of our world...Jack Skull is unique. He is a singularity. There is only one of them. How do we know that this creature isn't Jack Skull...severely damaged by the evil powers of SHE?"
Venkat considered this theory. "So, Jack Skull disappears from this world without a trace 5 or 6 years ago. Just gone. And then we go to the land of SHE, and find someone who looks exactly like Jack Skull guarding the tower. You convince him to come here and pretend to be Jack Skull...but you are suggesting that perhaps he really is Jack Skull?"
Moriarty nodded. "Possibly. I think we need to figure that out, before we assume anything."
Squee laughed. "That would be pretty weird. Like really weird. But, after everything we've been through lately, weird seems to be the norm. I'm starting to actually get used to weird."
Valendil spoke up. "We haven't confronted our skull-faced guest about the fact that Squee and I were there when you convinced him to pretend to be Jack Skull. But, he's been awkward around us. He clearly isn't sure what to do about Squee and I. Before the night is up, we need to confront this, and figure it out. We can't have this hanging over all of us beyond this evening."
Venkat smiled. "Fair enough. Let's go into the Keep together, play it cool, eat a meal, set everyone at ease, and then we'll use discussion and conversation to figure out exactly what we are dealing with. Even if this skull-faced creature isn't Jack Skull, he may turn out to be useful to us. There is no reason to over-react, until we are completely sure of what is going on...and what we want to do as a group. Agreed."
As a group, everyone answered. "Agreed."
(There is more to come in this Interlude. Party members...check our private Facebook group for any updates.)
This interlude is immediately followed by our May, 2015 game called, "Black Aftermath."
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