A Game of Thrunes

Wine, Poetry and Illusions

Aroldo and Marius both sink back into the comfortable chairs in the manor’s sitting room.
“Is it over?” Asks Marius quietly.

“I certainly hope so," replies Aroldo. With a glance upward, he reaches for several clam shells and starts to study them intently.

For his part, Marius begins patting himself, ensuring each and every weapon is in its rightful place. After several rounds of this, he clears his throat.

“I dabbled a bit in the Arcane area myself you know.”

Aroldo glances up from his shells, “Oh, really?”

“Yeah. Didn’t really stick with it though.”

“I see, why not?” asks the wizard, hiding his exasperation at being disturbed.

“I’d say I lost interest in it, after I learnt a spell that made me a lot better at stabbing people!”

Aroldo purses his lips for a minute as he considers the statement. Finally he replies “Fair enough.”

Deciding he’s on a bit of a roll, the usually quiet Marius continues “She always like that?” asking with a glance upward.

“No, I think she’s just a bit nervous. Well, perhaps more than just a little bit. She doesn’t get out much these days, I think she needs to blow off a bit of steam.” answers the wizard.

“Fair enough,” responds the rogue, before both men exchange a smile.

With the household generally still, it’s quiet enough to hear someone come down the stairs.
Both men rise from their chairs moments before Alaria appears in the doorway.

“Sorry I took a bit long getting ready,” she announces the bard as she stops forward. She’s wearing a tight black dress that fits her perfectly and it is heavily embroidered, flaunting the Little Black Swan’s disregard for the Lord-Mayor’s proclamations.

“What do you think?” she asks the two as she gives a small mock curtsy before twirling once, showing off.

Marius let out a low whistle as Aroldo smiles broadly. "I’m sure you’ll have all their attention.

“Better cover that up for now though,” advises Marius, stepping forward with her disguise and helping her cover up.

“I’ll see the two of you there, even if you don’t see me.” says Aroldo as he moves to the door. "I have to get ready yet, and I’ll have a disguise!”

Aroldo moves to his greenhouse and begins tending to his plants for a time until he hears the front door open and close – Alaria and Marius are on their way. Wiping his hands clean, Aroldo heads up to his bedroom to get changed. As he’ll be using his magic to disguise himself, he worries little about his appearance; his choices are based on comfort and convenience.

As he finishes wiping his face he glances down and spots the Harrow deck Alaria had dug up. He reaches for it and places a hand on top of the deck, considering performing a reading. Deciding against it, he casts his spell, nodding to the stranger’s face that now appears in the mirror before him. Disguise in place, he too heads out the front door, on the way to the same destination as the bard and rogue.

  • * *

The tall half-elf with flowing silvery-blonde hair smiles beatifically down at the girl on the final layer of security. Handing the invitation over, he steps through the doorway. All in all, Aroldo was pleased with the layers of security, seen and unseen. The location seemed secure, a sub-basement in a rarely used warehouse. The owner kept two guards on staff so the Dottari rarely patrolled. That the two guards were sympathetic to rebellious ideals and nicely bribed by The Barman was the icing on the cake.

The impromptu stage had been set up at one end of the rectangular room. Standing upon it, Gruckalus was on stage swallowing a sword, an impressive act that resulted in some cheers and claps from some of the attendees. The street performer then fired back at a member of the audience whose heckling was describing a completely different type of sword swallowing. The crowd roars with laughter as the heckler is subdued.

Alaria is seated in a corner, surrounded by a small group, seemingly entranced by one of the bard’s anecdotes.

Most of the crowd has clumped into groups large enough to form energetic conversations, most regarding recent events in the silver city. Some wear masks that Aroldo and the other distributors of the invitations had spread around. Others, no masks at all. A few even wear elaborate costumes of their own devising.

Arriving at the bar, he leans against it and makes eye contact with The Barman. He saunters over as the disguised wizard scratches at his right eyebrow.

“What will you have?” he asks, scratching at his own right eyebrow.

“Star wine from the Tehithal Valley,” sniffs the half elf, "but I don’t expect you to have heard of it.”

“Coming right up!” The Barman announces as he fetches the bottle. When he returns and begins to pour a glass he leans forward slightly and adopts a lower tone. “All good so far. No signs of any Dottari or anything yet. Eyes still open of course.”

Nodding, Aroldo turns and leans against the bar, back to surveying the crowd. The air is tingling; he’s very obviously not the only one utilising illusionary magic here, unsurprising, given the Alabaster Academy was one of the places he had discreetly placed invitations. Students were likely to attend, but infernal influences were opposed by more traditionalists amongst the faculty also.

It is still a little surprising when the figure of Professor Volonari stands next to him at the bar. If one of the students was imitating the head of the Divination School, and it got back to the professor…

“Not a bad illusion. Wrapped the outlying threads past the vertical vortexes. Very nice. You must have paid attention in your illusion class. Somewhere between say seven to ten years ago? Old Veymich taught that method, I remember!” the professor announces after sizing Aroldo up.

“Don’t worry,” he chuckles as Aroldo draws back a little in alarm. "That’s all I can easily tell,” He leans forward and sniffs at the wizard. “And that you stink of Harrow.”

Aroldo smiles at one of his old teachers, "I didn’t expect to see you here, I admit Professor. “And definitely not to just go Gandalfing,” referring to Kintargan slang for a wizard openly patronising a less than reputable drinking establishment.

“I’m just a worried citizen, concerned with the direction this city is taking,” the Professor says in a serious tone. He goes to say something further but movement in a corner of the room distracts him.

“Oh here she comes,” the Professor announces, “The Little Black Swan. My oh my, isn’t she magnificent specimen?”

Aroldo watches as Alaria heads towards the stage, to the murmurs of the crowd. She pauses to hug Gruckalus and exchanges a few words with him. She then ascends gracefully up the stairs to the stage.

“She is indeed,” Aroldo responds, gaze flicking between his friend and the crowd, seeking any threat. He does see Marius, across the room, doing the same.

Alaria stands right at the front of the stage gazing out as the masses attending quieten down to an expectant silence.

A city of free souls
Chained to fierce devils
Who pursue their own goals
And in their dark revels
They ignore the cries of the people
That go unheard and unwanted
Devil priests laugh from their dark steeple
But people remain undaunted!

After her recitation the crowd cheers and applaud, pleased with the performance so far. Some whisper to their neighbours, discussing the feelings behind the poem.

Alaria looks around the room, seemingly soaking up the approval the way a man stranded in the desert drinks water. Her gaze finally comes to rest on Aroldo, and she raises a hand slightly to quieten the audience before beginning her next poem.

Aroldo, however, is wondering if Alaria can somehow see through his disguise, it would appear her gaze is fixed upon him, and he’s growing more and more uncomfortable.
She begins the next poem, an emotive piece about someone’s feelings towards another, and tying it in to their feelings of a Free Kintargo. It’s impactful and tragically romantic, but Aroldo has trouble taking in the words, Alaria’s gaze on him has disconcerted him. It is unwavering, and the wizard’s anxiety moves beyond feeling that he is without an illusion, but more that he’s standing there naked and exposed. The voice in his mind that thinks Alaria can see through the illusion only grows louder. It begins to wonders if her rescue from excruciation and the sacrifices the Children of the Ash were ready to make has inspired her.

The poem moves to its crescendo, the subject explaining the danger they have decided to go into is all for their love for the other. Alaria’s delivery is perfection, her silky voice seemingly caressing the listeners ears. At the word ‘love’, Aroldo finally looks away, gulping at his wine.

He’s unable to look back at the stage, so he looks around. The crowd in the speakeasy seem to have been invigorated by the Little Black Swan’s poetry, talk around the room has spread from complaints to people beginning to ask one another “Well, what can we do?”
With this Aroldo has some small sense of accomplishment, perhaps this idea is one that will work.

Signalling at The Barman, who responds with a small pointing gesture, Aroldo heads through a small door, into a dark and dingy corridor. Casting another spell, the wizard disappears from view, before heading down the dark corridor back out into the dark and lonely streets of the oppressed Silver City to head home and ponder the nights events.

View
The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 9
Uncle Nightswarm

Quick! There are a couple of loyalists over there, heading toward that alley. Perfect opportunity to take them out and instill a bit more fear in the organisation. Give me control!

You’re joking, right? No way.

Since when do I joke about things like this? Now, dammit.

There are two very good reasons why that’s not going to happen. The first is that you’ve nearly had us killed several times in the last few days, and I’d like a break from that for a bit.

Okay, I’ll admit some fights haven’t gone as intended. But not against Thrune’s lackeys or loyalists. What the fuck are we even doing fighting xorn and skum, we’re supposed to be taking down Thrune and his Asmodeans!

You know very well what we were doing fighting xorn and skum; we need a base of operations that doesn’t involve the same group of us all going out through the back door of Belor’s, which is already under suspicion. And as I remember it, you were running away from loyalists on the docks.

Manoeuvring tactically to a more favourable battleground is what that was, perhaps you’d understand it if you did any of the hard stuff. And while I’ll grant you we needed to clean out the Lucky Bones, what’s this shit about helping aquatic elves fight an aboleth? Whatever the hell that is. How does that help us?

Allies. Despite what you seem to think, you can’t take down this whole city yourself.

Bullshit. It’s just because you all see a naked elf and offer your “weapons” to her. It’s nothing to do with us.

Hardly a fair assessment.

An accurate one. Or was it just coincidence you went home to your wife and had her bound hand and foot for your games that night? You may as well have painted her blue.

You’re not supposed to be present at those times. We had an agreement!

I really don’t have any interest in what you do, just making the point that your judgement is compromised. I’m the one who’s focused on our agenda, so your second reason for not going after those loyalists is going to need to be better than your first.

It is a pretty damned good one, actually. You’re not taking us off running after loyalists when I’m here playing in the park with my children!

But that’s why it’s perfect! I’ll be gone a few seconds, then back playing with them again, and you’ll be under no suspicion. We should really use them a bit more.

Absolutely not. There is no way I’m letting you use them as some kind of cover for our activities. They shouldn’t be exposed to that.

Really? But isn’t that what you’ve been doing for the last dozen or so years? Sure, you didn’t do anything worthwhile for most of that time, but the fact remains that your concocted background and subsequent marriage were all a distraction from your true self. My suggesting that our children can be used to deflect attention from us is merely an extension of that.

It’s hardly the same…hang on, what do you mean “our” children? You weren’t around when they were conceived, nor to raise them. They’re nothing to do with you.

Come now, let’s not get possessive. I’m you, you’re me, we’re just a little better at separating different aspects of our personality than most people. I will accept your wife as yours, as it is your personality for some reason she decided to marry. But we have the same body, the same substance from which our offspring come. Thus, the children are ours.

And what? Uncle Nightswarm now wants in on parenting? Bullshit, you’re just trying to use them.

Uncle isn’t really accurate, but I’ll allow it. Yes, I’ll use them to aid the Rebellion, but I’m not speaking of sacrificing them. I’m not likely to have any more, so if I want my legacy to live on I’ll have to make do with what you’ve given me.

Never knew you were interested in carrying on the family name.

Not the legacy I was speaking of. What happens if we fail in overthrowing Thrune? Who will continue the fight? And if we succeed, who will be there in twenty years to stop the Empire reclaiming Kintargo? Who will deal with the Asmodeans? We need to start preparing them for the fight to come!

So I’m supposed to start weapons training with Revin? He’s three!

I’ll admit Revin’s too young. Alaost is old enough to begin training. He’s what? Six?

Seven. But I still don’t like the idea. We had no training at that age, not formally anyway.

And a few years later we were on the streets struggling to survive.

Which we did, and it really wasn’t that bad. Why don’t you just have faith that they’ve inherited our resourcefulness and will cope with whatever comes?

Not that bad! Sometimes I feel like letting you remember everything in full so you understand. But that would defeat the whole purpose of me having splintered you off in the first place.

You created me? I created you to store some of the worse memories.

We’re the same person, remember? There’s no point in arguing which of us created the other, as neither of us existed in our present form then. Regardless, you’ve just admitted it was bad enough we decided to split apart so that one of us could give us a worthwhile life. There would be no children at all otherwise. So I think it reasonable we prepare them better.

Fine. I’ll let you do some training with Alaost, but Ereniel can’t know. We’ll see about Revin once he’s older.

Agreed. No Revin, just Alaost and Raiia.

No fucking way. You leave Raiia alone. I don’t want you corrupting her.

Tsk, tsk. You’re not supposed to have favourites.

It’s not about her being my favourite. She’s older, and already has skills from her education and joining me on my tours. She doesn’t need you.

You’re kidding yourself. At her age I had the skills granted by several years living in the streets. And I was sucking fat merchants’ cocks to get a few coppers for food to survive.

Which just confirms that you’re not the best person to teach her how to be self-sufficient. Besides, she’s at Lady Docur’s. That place has been around for hundreds of years, she’ll be fine there.

Come now, the girl’s hardly going to be content serving tea for her livelihood, she’s too talented and ambitious for that. You stifle her and she’ll come to hate you.

Raiia has no hatred in her.

You still think of her as a child. She’s a teenage girl, she probably hates most things. You can either direct it or be a victim of it.

This is not open for discussion. You can train Alaost, you’ll not even speak to Raiia.

Fine. I can work with those terms.

View
The Loyalists and the Skum
Session 17

The Children thwarted a plot by a group calling themselves the Loyalists by stealing a crate of supplies which had been delivered ‘off the books.’ The Loyalists, led by Sigio Tanessen and a woman called Ambria, chased the Children through the dark streets of Kintargo. A brief skirmish left Sigio dead.

The Children then finished clearing out the ruins below the Lucky Bones, discovering a group of aquatic elves had been captured by the skum. The elves had travelled to Kintargo to find assistance for their village.

View
Snacks and Secrets

Aroldo rolls his shoulders and supresses a sigh as he comes to Bleakbridge. The exorbitant toll has reduced the number of those seeking to cross between the two halves of Kintargo. Perhaps another reason is the increased attention from the Dottari and the occasional Hell-Knight keeping things backed up.

Observing the crowd while he queues, he notices more than a few people wearing sour expressions until they come under the gaze of the authorities. They go straight-faced then, with perhaps the odd sideways glance at a companion, the meaning of which Aroldo would like to think is displeasure at this turn of events, but he cannot be sure.

The wizard has a strange ambivalence about this. On one hand he’s pleased that people are beginning to feel the strangling grasp of the Lord-Mayor, on the other, a dull anger that most of these people have taken no further action.

The rational part of Aroldo’s mind soothes the emotional with the thought that the Free Kintargo Society might help change things. Still have a lot to do, is the consistent thought in his mind. Not long to go now, though.

Handing over his silver, the wizard is mercifully left alone by the Dottari and crosses the bridge in peace.

Making his way through Old Kintargo towards Belor’s, the wizard keeps his eyes and ears open, observing the crowd. He gains little from this; even the lower classes aren’t speaking of rebellion openly.

He does pause at the sight of a ragged poster he sees, recognising the crude sketch. He scans the writing below, a vague expression of confusion on his face. This is not the work of the Dottari, he is certain.

Another thought occurs as to who may have placed the poster. “By Calistria’s cold cunt,” he murmurs quietly to himself, rubbing dejectedly at an eyebrow. The poster’s author craving for infamy could very well be the Children’s undoing.

Aroldo pauses outside of The Sweet Tooth Patisserie, stomach rumbling and mouth-watering. His sigh as he opens the door is tinged with disappointment.

His eyes linger on the displayed treats, as appealing to the eyes as they are no doubt to tastebuds. It takes him a second to realise the proprietor, Leila, was asking him a question.
“Oh, I’m fine, just fine. Yourself, Leila?” he responds.

“Very well, I must admit. Lately life has seemed so… invigorating, I must say,” Leila admits with a bright smile.

“Well, that’s nice,” Aroldo responds, looking for a better response and coming up short. Rather rudely, his stomach interrupts by emitting a low growl, clearly audible over the other noises in the shop.

“Sounds like someone isn’t satisfied though,” laughs Leila as she pokes at Aroldo’s belly. The wizard hides his discomfort at being touched by a stranger with a polite chuckle as he takes half a step back.

“It’s going to be making that noise for a while, I’m sorry to say. Time to lose a bit of this,” Aroldo confesses, rubbing at his stomach where it was prodded moments ago.

“I think you’re in the wrong place!” the baker taunts. She glances down at Aroldo’s hand and spies his wedding band. “The wife on your back to lose weight?” she asks with a wink.

Aroldo clears his throat while he thinks of something better to retort with than “Mind your own damned business?”

With a slightly downcast face, he decides on "No, no, my Livia went to the Gods some time ago now.”

The baker pauses for a moment, having lost the initiative in the conversation. “Oh, I’m so sorry…” she begins but Aroldo waves at her as if it is no matter, and any attempts at a hug from the personal space invader.

“Well, perhaps there’s someone on the horizon, then?” she asks.

Aroldo shakes his head, thinking that it is perhaps for best he doesn’t explain that he’s concerned his weight may be a distinguishing feature for the Dottari to home in on.

“Oh, just some general self-improvement?” the baker asks, managing to inject the slightest tone of disbelief.

“Something like that,” Aroldo mutters, thinking it’s none of her business. In fact, Aroldo realises then that there is something about Leila making him uncomfortable, apart from touchy-feely way, although he can’t place his finger on it.

In an attempt to get Leila away from asking him questions, the wizard points to the display, “I was wondering if I could have one of those please?”

“Sure, but you’re not going to lose any weight having one of those!” Leila chuckles as she places a pastry in a brown bag.

“It’s not for me,” responds the man, forcing the slightest of smiles back onto his face. "It’s for a friend of mine, Bug, he works next door.”

“Oh, the little halfling fellow, from Belor’s?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” responds Aroldo. "I was also wondering if you could have, oh..” he trails off as he looks at the price of one and does some quick calculations, "say, one hundred and fifty more for pick up tomorrow?

Leila blinks as Aroldo slides over some gold coins. “What’s happening? Is there a party or something happening tomorrow? And I wasn’t invited?”

Aroldo casually wanes a hand in dismissal, “No, no, nothing like that. It’s for Bug’s friends.”

“Oh, Okay then. I wondered if Bodeen needed them to cater for the beer-hall.”

Aroldo shrugs non-committedly. “I suppose he’d have Tapo take care of that, but I’m honestly not sure. I have to admit I don’t know Boden as well as the old owner, Titus.”

“Really? That seems a pity. I mean, Titus was nice enough, in his own way, he could be a bit drunkenly boorish and crude at times though.”

Aroldo keeps the smile on his face as he shrugs slightly. Bodeen may be a little more polite, perhaps, but he seems just as fond of a drink as much Titus was.

“And Bodeen is much cuter than that Titus fellow. When Bodeen smiles…” Leila trails off with a sigh and seems lost in thought.

Again, Aroldo shrugs and smiles as he heads towards the door. “I’ll, um, tell Bodeen you said ‘hi’ then,” eager to get away from the clearly infatuated woman. “Bug will come past tomorrow.”

Thankful to have escaped the Patisserie, Aroldo heads next door to Belor’s, keen to say hello to some of his co-conspirators and complete another task for the day.

Walking into the beer-hall without any disguise, he’s clearly recognisable as himself, so he nods at a few of the regulars drinking, giving Mercia a wink as she waves cheerily at him. Sliding onto a bar stool, he makes eye contact with Bodeen, who finishes polishing a mug and saunters over to the wizard.

“And how are you today, Aroldo?” asks the priest-barman.

“Good, my friend, no problems but a little thirst, which you can help with,” smiles Aroldo, his response letting Bodeen know there isn’t any pressing rebellion business. “Just the usual.”

As Bodeen turns to fill a mug with Aroldo’s favourite ale, the wizard looks around the tap room for Bug, but fails to see the halfling.

Bodeen brings back the filled mug and Aroldo slides over some copper before taking a long pull from the mug. Letting out a satisfied sigh, he asks in the most casual tone says “Leila says ‘hi’, by the way. And where’s Bug?”

“He’s out back, Tapo has him peeling vegetables.” replies Bodeen. “It’s his break soon, though.”

“Can you send him my way when he’s free?"

“Sure, no problems,” replies Bodeen before he heads down the bar to serve others in need of a refill.

Aroldo only manages to make it halfway through his ale before Bug emerges, wiping his hands on a rag.

Aroldo gets up from his stool and waves Bug over to a vacant table.

Clambering up to seat himself on a chair, the rogue greets the wizard, “Hey Aroldo, what’s up? All good?”

“Yeah, all is well, just thought I’d stop by and say hello, as well as show my gratitude.”

“Oh? Gratitude?” responds the halfling, suddenly sitting a little straighter.

“Yes, I’ve been told that this list of places that you gave me for those… meetings have come in very useful.” Aroldo smiles as the nods and gives the thumbs up.

“I thought I’d give you these,” the wizard reaches into one of his pouches and retrieves a small pile of cards, as well as a smaller pouch.

Bug picks up one of the cards and flips it over to find the words. His eyebrows furrow slightly as he reads the words. “An address?”

“As well as an invitation,” The wizard leans forward, and lowers his voice slightly, "For the Free Kintargo Society. Pass them along to those who you think would be interested, as well as trustworthy.

Bug then picks up the other pouch, hiding his disappointment at the lack of metallic clinking. He peers inside, partially removing a decorative mask. He shoots Aroldo a questioning glance.

“To go with the invitations. People may understandably reluctant to reveal their identities at first.”

Bug nods in understanding at this, before pocketing the lot. Aroldo then hands over a paper bag. The halfling reaches in and withdraws a large apple and raspberry Linnorm pastry.

Bug eyes it greedily before beginning to stuff it into his mouth. “There will be one hundred and fifty ready for you at the sweet Tooth Patisserie tomorrow morning. I’m sure you know a lot more deserving people who could use a bite, or a tasty treat at the very least. I’ll leave that to you.”

The wizard pats Bug on the shoulder as he gets up from the table. He waves goodbye to Bodeen and Mercia and walks out of the beer hall, onto his next distribution point for the invitations.

View
Open Turquoise Malachite
Session 16

The Children decide to leave exploring the Lucky Bones, and then stumble upon a shady operation at the docks to funnel supplies for the war to a group of loyal Thrunites.

FULL NOTES

  • The group rest, get themselves prepared to re-enter the Lucky Bones.
  • In another pit room they spot a yellow mould growing around the pit (that has a giant skeleton of a snake at the bottom). Knowing that the yellow mould is dangerous, Aroldo burns the yellow mould with a flaming sphere. Nightswam goes down, finds secret path into the other pit room. Group moves on to the disco room (green, Yellow, Red, Blue tiles) Nightswarm steps onto the wrong tile, a Xorn comes out! Appears to be hungry.
  • Defeat Xorn, go north, final guildmaster’s office, ledgers, etc.
  • Find a short poem. Written by Boswyth. Rumours of Boswyth worshipped Norgorber, native of Vyre. Also find ledgers and maps (see below)
  • Find an opium den, search bodies some loot.
  • Go to last room, bad smell. Ghasts. FIREBALL. Aroldo kills 6 of 7 ghasts.
  • The room also has a well-cap studded with gems.
  • Aroldo’s detect magic finds conjuration and alteration on cap stone.
  • Nightswarm attempts to follow Boswyth’s poem. Capstone opens. Reveals well. Shaft with rusty ladder descending into water.
  • Casting light on a rock and dropping it shows it sinks 10 feet before hitting bottom.
  • Head down to flooded room, find Skum. Defeat Skum, although Augus almost drowns!
  • Explore further, find Shell Sentinel. Defeat it, decide to leave and go back to the surface, back to Belor’s.
  • Cato runs into Burrus. An old friend. Explains that dock work has gotten difficult. Lots of muscling in by other groups. Became smugglers. Will be useful.
  • Giovano bumps into several youths with red sashes. They appear to be dog-housing. Rescue the victim. The Children place a dummy dressed as the Lord-Mayor in the dog house, for the public to find. Crocodile is used for corpse disposal.
  • Cato and Aroldo go to Clenchjaw’s to meet Burrus. A ship has come into harbour with supplies for the war. Strangely it is scheduled to unload some of those supplies in Kintargo. They are destined for a semi-secret organisation calling themselves the Loyalists. The Children remember some of these loyal Thrunites from the original riot, agitating the crowd and becoming violent.
  • The ship, the Serene Maid, is at docks and is taking on supplies. Gaian sneaks aboard with a sailor’s disguise. Gets to hold, large amount of supplies. Approaches two people on deck arguing, one is a dock inspector, one the captain. Cargo has been unloaded already.
  • Gaian and Aroldo go to the harbourmaster’s office. The cargo was taken to Warehouse 12. Tried to bluff, also stole documentation. The crates are marked with a winged serpent.
  • Documentation indicate Sigio, younger son of the Tanessen family, has organised this.
  • Scout out Warehouse 12, plenty of guards, workers, etc here. Aroldo makes Augus invisible, he goes in, Gaian pretends to be giving tour to Giovano and Aroldo.
  • The Children regroup to decide what to do.

LEDGERS:
The ledgers found in the Lucky Bones are mostly ruined but reveal the extent of the Grey Spiders’ impact on Kintargo—their thievery and abduction activities were quite profitable. They also had numerous links to the city of Vyre, and it was to this city that most of the abducted victims were sent—many appear to have been scheduled for sacrifice or sold into slavery. One particularly interesting ledger is a set of deeds for a number of warehouses and waterfront buildings in Vyre that name one Molly Mayapple as the legal owner. Other notes with the ledgers indicate that these deeds are stolen, and that the Grey Spiders intended to use the deeds to blackmail Miss Mayapple. In one note, a particularly interesting bit of text, written in Tien, reads, “Mayapple may be a fellow rat, but that doesn’t exempt her from being fed on by a Spider!”

View
The Lucky bones
Session 15

The Children begin exploring the Lucky Bones, the sealed and forgotten hideout of the Grey Spiders.

Full notes:

Augus has been helping Brother Vaelus reform the Secret Order of Archivists

Bodeen, is there such a thing as falling for the Baker Next Door?

Gaian puts daughter into Lady Docur’s School. Using Rebellion funding. Feel like that should be fraud.

Group decides it’s best to go clear out the Lucky Bones, old hideout of the Grey Spiders. Turn it into a warehouse/small market.

Go to site, find trapdoor leading down. Appears to have been used regularly. Opening, smells of smoke, body odour and a latrine. Stairs lead down into basement, squatters down here. Don’t seem too interested in us. There’s a locked door.

Bug approaches the squatters and they inform him, they’ve been here some time. They haven’t been past the door. Bug offers them roles in the Black Mantis. Bug tells them where to go for food. Aroldo Detects Magic on the door. Door isn’t magic, but finds Pearl of Power. Divine, so Bodeen takes it. Bug looks at the door, finds nothing. He attempts to open the lock, a blade comes out and stabs him. He’s poisoned. Bodeen identifies poison as fast acting. Group can’t heal Bug. But he eventually get over it. Augus opens door after Bug fails.

Grows cold and damp as the party heads down. Gaian comes to a door, listens but hears nothing. Bug detects traps, finds nothing. Nothing on the magic sensors. Opens into large room with stone pillars, many doors. Tables and chairs. All very dusty. Far west, stage, with torch sconces. Meeting hall, perhaps? Skeletal figures emerge from doors. Five in total. A fight ensues, the skeletons are resistant to damage. However they are dispatched.

Double doors head east, passageway turns to the north. Bodeen casts Hide from Undead. Moving on, they come to a room with a pit. Small walkways around. Edge of pit made of jagged metal and glass.
As Nightswarm looks at pit, edge gives way, he falls in and takes 17 points of damage. Was 20’ down. Bug finds a small lever. Makes the edqes stable. Get Gaian out.

Go back to door they bypassed, it is a storeroom. Augus spots a cloak and pokes at it. Find it is a Cloak of the Manta Ray. Door to south is secret, leads to one of the bedrooms. Heading south, another room. There’s an old stuffed chair, with a devil sitting in it. He rises as we enter. His beard twitches. He tells us he is bored, he’s bound here though. Guild Master Baccus is a name he gives away. The devil’s agreement means he has to stay and guard the guild master. Guild master spends all of his time in the temple. He has been the guild master for over 100 years. If Baccus falls, the devil is released from his contract. Aroldo asks and is informed the temple is of Norgorber. Guild master is undead. Door leads to cell behind where the devil is confronting us. Some of the prisoners were ransomed, some were sacrificed.

The group left, had a conversation about what the right action to take was. They decide to fight him, killed him quickly. Cell is empty.

They go east from the pit room, find another set of double doors. One set of doors is marked with Order of Torrent and infernal writings. Magic is detected.

Go south to room with statues of priests of Norgorber. Figure here, he turns and faces us, wears a mask with one eye glowing bright red. Screams that he will have revenge, other skeletons come forward. This is Baccus. Fairly tough battle, and it seems Baccus is fond of ice magic, but the heroes prevail. Find a great deal of loot.

After some rest, and Rexus deciphering the script, Aroldo dispels magic eventually and the group go through. Air is cold, and they hear groans in the distance.

The group find some bedrooms, nothing important, then a gambling room. There’s a halfling body here in black armour, holding bone dice. Bug approaches and her ghost appears and asks for a game, betting part of Bug’s self. No one else can be seen thanks to Bodeen’s magic and she introduces herself as Guildmistress Lorelu. Bug decides to play the game.

Round 1: What danger ahead? Those ahead, they hunger for flesh.
Round 2-GM: She reaches out for Bug’s head and starts going through his memories.
Round 3-Bug: How do I get your loot? Find the hidden passage past the flooded chamber.
Round 4- GM. She feeds, taking some of Bug’s strength
Round 5: Bug: Greatest Danger ahead? Baccus summoned a demon to guard the water entrance. Shurgashot is a foe to be reckoned with.
Round 6: GM: Bug loses constitution as the ghostly Halfling feeds.
Bug: What are weaknesses of foes ahead? Need magic, silver. (usual undead stuff).
Next Round: GM: Bug loses 1 CON.
Next Round: Bug: What is the loot? Gold, gems, jewellery, magic items, all within the Grey Vault.
Bug loses even more ability scores, so Bug cheats. Fumbles. Busted. Uh oh.

The group give up with invisibility to fight the ghostly guild master, and manage to beat her after almost succumbing to her powers.

View
True Lies

Gaian walked briskly down streets and alleyways, keeping up a steady stream of chatter as he went; amusing anecdotes, historical facts, and concocted versions of both of the above. Anything, really, to fill the silence that would otherwise reside between he and his companion. They were halfway to Belor’s, and Ereniel had spoken not a word to him after agreeing to accompany him only to avoid arguing in front of the children. Gaian had known that his increasingly frequent absences from home overnight would have been taken rather poorly, but knew also that elves were far more patient than humans given their longer lives, and thus his wife would have more tolerance. This was one of those occasions, he was quickly realising, where knowing something did not necessarily make it true.

Suddenly Ereniel stopped to look at something, and Gain stopped beside her, following her gaze to the notice stuck in the shadowy corner of two walls.

“What does it say?” he asked curiously. “My eyes couldn’t see clearly in this gloom at the best of times, and those times were at least ten years ago!”

Was that a slight hint of scorn as she glanced back over her shoulder at him? Surely not. He was more interested in studying her demeanour than listening to her words as she read from the note. Truth be told he could read the notice quite clearly, having delightfully discovered recently that his goddess had blessed him with excellent vision in dim, or even completely dark, conditions. Not that he needed to read it regardless; after all, he was the one who had written it, along with several similar spread about the city. Neither fact, of course, was something that he wished for his wife to be party to, so he feigned attention as she read aloud:

“There’s a sketch of a masked person, and it says ‘Reward offered for the capture of, or evidence of the death of, the criminal knows as Nightswarm. This criminal has been complicit in interfering in the lawful excruciation of the Poison Pen, conspicuous in the assassination of Nox, and cocksure in his assertion that he was ridding Kintargo of the Temple Hill Slasher when murdering one of its citizens. Likely a member of the Rebel organisation calling itself Children of the Ash.’

“That doesn’t seem right.” Ereniel said with a small frown. “There’s no way they’d put up something like that. It has to be some kind of joke.”

“Joke?” Gaian replied, almost laughing out loud at the fact that his posters had not only aided in promoting the notion of Nightswarm, but also in prompting his wife to speak to him. It seemed luck was truly with him today. “I’ve heard mention of this Nightswarm during my tours around the city, and he is attributed with all those deeds and more. I think he’s probably real.” He whispered gleefully.

“I’m not questioning whether he’s real,” the elf replied “It’s just that this reads more like propaganda for him than a true wanted poster. And appears to authenticate a rebellion.”

“Only if one was sympathetic to rebelling against House Thrune!” Gain hissed in false alarm, taking the opportunity to move closer and place his hand on Ereniel’s arm. “Best to keep such thoughts to yourself. Such words could be interpreted poorly in present times.”

They continued on to Belor’s, Gaian choosing to remain quiet now lest Ereniel remember the frostiness she seemed to have relaxed in the wake of their conversation.
Arriving at the beer hall, Gaian led his wife to a table, giving a small wave to the man behind the bar as he entered and sat down.

“Who’s that?” Ereniel asked curiously.

“Bodeen. New owner.” Gaian replied simply.

“What happened to Titus?” she asked, her tone implying that she didn’t like the look of this newcomer.

Gaian paused, having forgotten momentarily that he had not brought his family here for some time.

“Nobody knows for sure.” He said softly. “But, well, you remember Rufus?”

Ereniel nodded. “I saw Winifred yesterday. Poor thing, stuck now raising that child alone. Still says the Temple Hill Slasher killed her husband.” She turned thoughtful, perhaps contemplating again the wanted poster.

Gaian nodded.

“It was Titus who stoked Rufus’ pursuit of the Slasher to start with. Believed the Slasher killed his wife, wanted revenge. Anyway, no body’s been found, but Titus disappeared the same time as Rufus. So one can assume.” Gaian shrugged.

Presently Mercia walked over with a bottle of wine and asked to take their orders.

“I’ll have the seafood stew.” Ereniel interrupted coldly as Gaian warmly greeted the woman.

“We don’t have that any more miss.” The waitress replied apologetically. “It’s all Tapo’s now.”

“What on earth is ‘tapas’?” Ereniel asked “And why would Sen stop doing his speciality?”

“Sen disapp…left.” Mercia said. “It’s Tapo now.”

“That the Slasher too?” Ereniel muttered, and Gaian almost choked on his wine at how very close to the truth that was.

“Huh?” the waitress asked.

“Don’t be facetious.” Gaian said with a forced smile. “I’m pretty sure Sen left to further his craft. Get a more personal experience as to what seafood is all about.”

The last sentence Gaian said in a voice that seemed somehow wrong. He tried to both clamp his mouth shut and gulp his wine at the same time, with predictable results.

“I’ll just get you some of everything.” Mercia said as she sauntered away from the table, throwing a strange glance back over her shoulder at Gaian as she went. Gaian watched her closely, wondering not for the first time if she suspected more than she let on.

“So, it’s her is it?” Ereniel asked coldly.

“What?” Gaian replied.

“Come on, you’re very cosy. The over the shoulder glance. You can barely take your eyes off her as she walks away. I admit I had my suspicions with all those nights you were delayed here past curfew. And there’s the new look; first that fancy cloak, and now that silly silver headband! But really,” she said angrily “Trying to take me out for some kind of reconciliation dinner to the place where she is? Are you trying to mock me?”

Gaian would have been tempted to laugh, had it not been for the narrowed eyes and stern mouth. Yes, women often were beautiful when they were angry. Beautiful in the way that a viper rears up majestically right before it puts its fangs through your heart. Thus he remained earnest in his demeanour.

“Ah, my dear, is that why you’re concerned? I assure you, you have nothing to worry about on that front. It would take a Countess to draw my attention from you, even for a night!” he smiled as she seemed to relax slightly. “You are correct though, in that I brought you here as a conciliatory gesture. I have been away too much lately, but things will hopefully soon change.

“As I’ve said, quite honestly I must maintain, my night-time activities have largely involved hunting down vermin in the city, due to the impact of recent changes on my usual business. But of late we have run into some good fortune, for there are a good many things buried under this city, and we are recently profiting more from our work.”

“We?” she asked, still far from placated. “Who is ‘we’. And don’t dissemble.”

“Business partners, who I do not wish to implicate at this time. It is far too dangerous to travel the sewers alone at night. While the Dottari do little to maintain curfew down there, there are all sorts of other undesirables.” Seeing she wanted more, he threw in “Pavo was formerly a part of this group. And Rufus.”

Throwing in the names of former companions she had liked, and who had met questionable ends, did the trick of turning anger to concern.

“And Titus?”

Gaian nodded solemnly. “But have no fear, their pursuit of the Slasher was nothing to do with me. Besides, it seems the murderer has met his end now, according to that poster.”

“I’m still worried. Think of the impact on the children if something happened to you. You said yourself the sewers are dangerous.”

Gaian was very aware of the impact of losing one’s parents, not that Ereniel knew that story.
“Well, put your worry aside. As I said, we’ve recently stumbled onto some good fortune, and have now invested in a business in Old Kintargo. All being well, things will improve and be back to normal soon. And,” he added “I’ve also managed to put aside some funds to send Raiia to Lady Docur’s in Velligre!”

“What’s wrong with Songbird Hall? She seems to be settling in there okay.” Ereniel replied.

“Sure, but remember the reason we initially sent her to Vaelus was because her head was already full enough of romanticism without Shelyn’s influence. And,” he said, lowering his voice “I’d rather not have her there in the current climate. Cheliax has never been too keen on Shelyn, and the way things have been lately…” he trailed off with a shrug.

Ereniel nodded. “I suppose. I wouldn’t think they’d be at risk. But then, I heard about what happened with the Knights of the Torrent.”

“Exactly. And won’t it be nice to have her learn more about her elven heritage?”

“I guess it will.”

The food came and the meal passed pleasantly, before the two left to ensure they returned home before curfew. Gaian smiled smugly at his own cleverness. He had essentially answered honestly to his wife’s questions without her realising the true meaning of his words, there to be seen yet beyond notice, like truths stacked against the wall. So pleased was he, that he only felt mildly annoyed when he saw Dottari taking down his wanted posters during the walk home.

“Gaian?” Ereniel asked just before they reached home. “To be honest, I really like the headband. It seems to give you a certain presence. In fact, perhaps I’d not have come around as easily without it.” She teased.

Gaian just smiled.

View
Rexus' Revelation

Rexus couldn’t sleep. Something had been bothering him, but he couldn’t place his finger on it. He sipped at his mint tea – if you are going to face the government, may as well go all the way – and tried to clear his mind as Brother Vaelus had tried to teach him.

Breathe in, hold, breathe out, he thought, concentrating on the simple action. The smell of mint wafted through his small room. Outside, a night owl hooted.

He absently picked up his quill and starting doodling. The pattern of whirls gradually turned into letters, then words – a name.

TRAILBLAZER HUNI

Rexus stared at it for several moments, not thinking about it. Breathe in, hold, breathe out. He began scribbling again, the letters rearranged to make others words.

BIZARRE TUNA HILLL

Breathe in, hold, breathe out.

He began scribbling again, rearranging the letters once more.

Rexus gasped and leapt out of his seat. He reached for the door handle and ran down the hall.

Upon the page was written another name…

BARZILLAI THRUNE

- – -

Lentius massaged his temples. “So what does this mean?”

Vaelus tried to steady his hand as he sipped his tea, while Rexus continued to pace up and down, speaking nervously. “It means… it means we’re facing someone perhaps more powerful than we could ever imagine. Trailblazer Huni – Barzillai Thrune – visited the Secret Order of Archivists and read the Book of the Damned – years before he was assigned to Kintargo!”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Vaelus said firmly.

Rexus nodded. “Which means Barzillai’s assignment was planned long before the Glorious Reclamation’s rebellion.”

Vaelus nodded. “Martial law was just an excuse to send him.”

“So what was the real reason?” Lentius asked.

His question hung in the air.

View
Revelations
Session 14

It was a week of revelations.

The Children rescued Marquel Aulorian, with Bug almost falling to the devil-dog Gorefangs.

Back at Aroldo’s house, they are surprised to find that Marquel is none other than the Poison Pen. Aroldo does not take the news well and asks the man to leave.

Nightswarm and Bug, however, see the advantage in ‘resurrecting’ the Poison Pen and urge him to continue writing, and in fact to spread propaganda for the rebellion.

Next the Children are contacted by Hetamon Haace, who reveals he is the leader of the Rose of Kintargo, a secret cult following Milani, goddess of uprisings. After pledging his assistance he asks for the Children’s aid: one of his members was murdered by the Slasher, and he asks they track him down.

They do, and discover the murderer was using a powerful dagger, Balgorrah, with its own intelligence, which urged him to kill. The murderer and the dagger are also involved somehow with a cult of Father Skinsaw, the murderous followers of Norgober. They are seeking out the ruins below the Lucky Bones.

Lictor Octavio reveals the Lucky Bones was shut down by his Order many years ago, after its inhabitants, thieves and murderers by the name of the Grey Spiders, were destroyed. Ever since, the Lucky Bones has been sealed – lost to history, and still filled with the loot of the Gray Spiders.

Full notes:

Marquel wants to leave the property immediately, he’s very concerned, he believes Gorefangs is spying on him, and it’s been seen conversing with a devil.

Bug does his best to signal to the others of the situation, but the best they can understand is that there is some kind of trouble.

Getting him out is difficult, considering Marquel’s withered arm, he and Bug go one floor down to a guest bedroom, and Bug tries to lower him down using bedsheets

Marquel falls trying to leave his home but he doesn’t have time to nurse his injuries, Bug ushers him towards the fence. Gorefangs spots them and begins approaching.

Combat begins as the noble runs for safety. Marquel continues to run, Cato fires his bow at Gorefangs, Aroldo casts a flaming sphere, Bug goes hand to hand.

Guards appear, but only watch for now, they don’t seem to be approaching.

Bug gets munched. Cato lands the killing blow, taking one head off completely with a wild slash.

With guards alerted, the Children end up hiding in the ruins of the Victocora estate. After this they end up getting to Aroldo’s estate.

There, Marquel admits to being the Poison Pen.

Aroldo, his suspicions confirmed, resists the urge to physically beat the coward, and leaves the room in disgust. Advises he must leave the next day.

The group question him further: Why was the dog watching him, if they don’t know he’s the Poison Pen. Marquel is sure it is due to suspicions that he is the PP. Gaian suggests that he could write propaganda pieces. The group will re-home him after Aroldo’s lack of welcome.

The group the next day leave him with Rexus. They head to Olmer, the dwarfish blacksmith. The workshop is open to the sky- human, and there are many assistants. Olmer explains that he is tasked with making weapons for the war. Olmer will help as best he can, feels he owes a debt to the Order of the Torrent. Can make magic weapons and the like.

Later that day, Rufus’ two friends approach Gaian at Belor’s. A tiefling has come forward with information and needs questioning. Hetamon of the Devil’s Threads is the one with the info, Gaian volunteers to go question him.

The next day they visit the Threads. There they meet Evalyn, Keldor’s girlfriend. She asks Gaian about Keldor, the group claim he went out into the night, breaking curfew. Never to be seen again…

Hetamon admits to being the Rose of Kintargo. Bug asks how he knows they’re the Children, Hetamon advised he found it easy to piece together all the bits of the puzzle. He is leader of the followers of Milani. H warns the government is closing in on the Children. Only a matter of time before they get them.

Changing the subject, he also knows the Slasher’s latest victim. The last victim was a member of his congregation. Has corpse here… Takes us out back to it. Many stab wounds, as if frienzied. Corpse not mutilated otherwise.

The description of the Slasher is that he has dark greasy hair, moustache and a glowing red kukri. Dark leather apron with many pockets, like an artisan would wear.

Hetamon casts Speak With Dead. The first question asked was ’can you supply a better description?’. Answer- was a Varisian man, smelt like rancid cheese. Walked with a limp. Rancid cheese is used to described slurk grease, used in the making of clockwork. Also confirmed there was a glowing red Kukri.

The group head down to Old Kintargo Art space where clockwork would be worked upon. They are shown around the place, don’t see anyone matching the description. Questioning others, they are alerted to someone who lives nearby, hadn’t been in for a while. Got the address. Name is Wex.

Group go the tenement where suspect lies. It is dilapidated. Old woman at the front. Bug goes up and asks if Wex is home. She advised that he isn’t home. He is in room 303. Group goes up to room 303. Bug gets us inside. There are flowers in here and some books.

Aroldo detects magic, as well as looking at the subjects of the books, Identified magic coming from other room (There are two doors). Most books on clockwork, some medical and alchemy. ‘Magic room’ is bathroom. Spell leads to one corner.

While investigating the bathroom, Cato is in the main room and notes a few drops of dried blood on the window sill, and scattered around the room. Drops of blood lead to bathroom. Aroldo has found secret door.

Bug checks other room, is a bedroom. Not much in here.

Secret room carved out of pillar. Carpets and cushions, with books around place. Kukri, is on the stand. Faint necromancy magic. Aroldo checks books- more off topic- alchemy and medical matters. Grisly, nature of blood, destination of souls, etc. Also notes of historical times of Temple Hill Slasher. There is a note suggesting the original Slasher was acted on by outside force. Balgorrah is the name above a drawing of the dagger.

Different handwriting on one note. Notify us when you gain access to the Lucky Bones.

On back- Father Skinsaw has given me the dagger to carry on the Slasher’s work.

Wex appears and stabs Cato in the kidney. A fight breaks out and the group manager to subdue him.

The first time it’s a trap, and he stabs Nightswarm in the chest as he goes to tie him up. The group actually subdue him for real the second time. They take him back to Hetamon, who organises a public execution where he announces that the Children of the Ash were responsible for the capture of this villain.

View
Speaking of the Past, Present and Future

“Where are we going?” Alaria asks of Aroldo, breathing fast as she strives to keep up with the wizard.

Aroldo looks over to his friend and only then notices how fast his stride has gotten, a result of his nerves. He can’t also help but notice Alaria’s shockingly red hair and terribly applied make up. Her teeth were stained brown from the tobacco she was chewing, and the public were oft to look away in disgust every time she spits brown.

“There’s a couple of people I’d like you to meet,” grins Aroldo as Alaria glances around, soaking up the outside in one of her few recent excursions from Aroldo’s manor since her excruciation.

“Alright then,” Alaria responds, unable to disguise the curiosity she’s feeling. “Do we have much further to go?”

Aroldo doesn’t answer, he just gestures slightly with one hand as he suddenly heads down an alleyway. The alleyway smells of piss and rotting garbage, and the view isn’t much better.

The wizard finally pauses at a battered wooden door. He glances back at Alaria, who is wearing a puzzled look. He shoots her a reassuring grin and knocks on the door three times, pauses, then knocks twice more.

A woman’s voice can be heard for a moment, then a few seconds later there is the sound of a bar being lifted and tumblers in a lock turning. The door opens and the pair is confronted by a stern faced crone, the smells of a kitchen wafting past her.

“Good day,” announces Aroldo, bowing ever so slightly. "I have heard your kitchen was home to the best Kintargan Pudding in the whole city!

At this pronouncement, the woman nods slightly, before looking over at Alaria. Her eyes narrow, as if she doesn’t like what she sees. Suddenly a moment of realisation passes across her face. The crone glances at Aroldo who simply nods.

The old woman steps back, opening the door further, gesturing the pair in. As they enter Alaria’s eyes widen at the sight of a man sitting quietly in the corner.

He rises as they enter, and only Aroldo’s hand on Alaria’s back stop her from taking a step back. He’s about 7 foot tall and bulky, an intimidating mixture of fat and muscle. On seeing Aroldo he grins revealing a mouth of perfect teeth. “The mint man!” he exclaims in the voice of a child as he engulfs the wizard in a hug.

Aroldo extract himself from the hug and puts a finger to his lips. The giant claps his hands over his mouth. Aroldo reaches into his haversack and extracts a handful of green candies shaped like leaves. He hands them to the man who puts one quickly into his mouth, the smell of mint mingling with the other scents wafting around the kitchen. From seemingly out of nowhere the old woman appears and smacks the large man with a wooden spoon.

“What did I tell you, Marco?” she asks firmly, holding her other hand out.

“No sweets before dinner,” he mutters, handing his grandmother the lollies. Pocketing them, the woman moves over to another door, waving Alaria and Aroldo over. As they walk over, Alaria is almost certain she saw Aroldo sneak the giant another lolly with a wink.

Alaria is a little surprised to find herself in a small enclosed courtyard. She jumps slightly as the door is slammed shut behind them.

“Which door now?” she asks of her friend, gesturing at the three other doors leading out if the courtyard.

The wizard simply grins, and goes over to a pile of rubbish in the corner. Kicking some away, Aroldo reveals a trapdoor. He opens it, and gestures for Alaria to go down into the cellar.

With some trepidation, the Little Black Swan heads down, only to find herself in a warm, brightly lit room, rather than the dark cellar she was expecting.

There are several rows of stacked benches along one wall, disassembled truths against another. Along a third wall, several large barrels of ale rest, with several crates of bottles – wine and spirits.

Three men sit on stools near the drinks as if on guard. They rise at Alaria’s entrance. Aroldo moves between the men and the bard, grinning.

“Little Black Swan, I’d like you to meet some friends of mine!” Aroldo announces, waving slightly at the men. “They’re the other part of the Organising Committee of the Free Kintargo Society.”

Alaria smiles broadly at the three, and looks around again, as if re-evaluating the room.

The shortest of the three men steps forward, his ragged clothes reminiscent of a jesters. He begins juggling two balls with one hand as he elaborately bows. “I’m Gruckalus, noble ebony swan. I have the privilege of being your announcer, warm-up man, and all round second pair of hands.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” murmurs Alaria, who then claps as Gruckalus reveals 3 more balls and adds them to his juggling.

“And this here is your guide and bodyguard, Marius. Keep him close, and he’ll keep you safe. He can be salty sometimes, but it’s not a surprise, considering where some friends found him!”

The tall, sinuous man raises an eyebrow slightly at the introduction, but nods respectfully at Alaria. “Wherever you want to go, I’ll get you there. And no one is going to lay a hand on you without losing it.” As if to punctuate his statement he produces a dagger and throws it at the opposite wall, where it strikes a candle, snuffing it out.

“I don’t doubt it,” breathes Alaria, before saying more loudly. “If you can do that consistently, we could probably make you one of the performers!”

One corner of Marius’ mouth twitches upwards as the third man steps forward. "You can call me The Barman. Capital T, capital B.”

“No name?” asks the bard.

“Not yet,” replies the heavyset man, as he rubs his bald head." I find the venues, get the drinks, get word out. And sniff out Dottari spies and informers."

“A pleasure,” says Alaria, slightly put off by the lack of a name. “So, are we here to get things started?”

Looking around, she sees all four men nodding. They rustle up two more stools for the new arrivals…

  • * *

“Well, that went well!” Exclaims Alaria once back at the manor. “I can’t wait to get started!”

All Aroldo can do is smile slightly, sadly thinking Alaria may be underestimating the difficulty of their venture. Then he remembers the excruciation, and realises Alaria knows what’s at risk.

“I can’t wait to see you perform again,” Aroldo tells her as he uncorks a bottle of wine. “To our new venture,” he announces raising his glass.

Alaria takes a sip, “Can I ask a favour?”

“Of course,” replies the wizard. “What is it?”

“One moment,” she responds and leaves the room. A minute later she returns, putting something on the table in front of the man, before returning to her seat.

“Where did you find these?” Aroldo asks her as he picks up the deck of worn Harrow cards.

“Oh, just around,” Alaria responds, unwilling to admit rummaging through the house after giving in to her curiousity.

Aroldo flicks through some of the cards, then begins shuffling absentmindedly." I haven’t performed a reading in… well, since Livia died. She bought me this deck when we were courting. She believed in the Harrow, and she thought me being a wizard would add heft to a reading."
“I know. She used to tell me about them sometimes. She used to put great faith in them. Both pause for a moment in reflection on the woman who in a small way that has put them on this path.

“I was hoping you would do a reading for me. On how successful I will be in this Free Kintargo Society.”

Aroldo looks the bard in the eyes for a few moments, licks his lips before nodding. He stops shuffling and picks through the deck, removing all the Key cards.

“Choose one of these,” Aroldo waves at the Key cards, “It will have a message for you.”

Alaria reaches over and chooses one from them the wizard has spread before her. The bard reaches out and slides one away from the rest, before flipping it over.

“The Peacock,” muses Aroldo, “A card representing great beauty, but a reminder that beauty of that nature is fleeting. It normally indicates a change of belief or held ideals. It can also signify times of social development or change.”

Alaria blinks several times, as if she was expecting little and had received more than she expected. She clears her throat several times before managing to find her voice." Wow, Ok. Um… yeah I think I already know that message."

The wizard is gathering the key cards up and shuffling them into the rest of the deck. “We don’t have to continue if you don’t want to,” Aroldo mentions.

“No, go on,” replies Alaria, cutting the deck when the wizard offers it.

He deals out 9 cards, three rows of three. “The first column indicates the past. The top positive, the midde unclear and the bottom negative."

Flipping the cards the wizard reveals the Idiot, The Empty throne and The Locksmith. Alaria looks at the cards, taking them in before looking to Aroldo for interpretation.

“The Idiot, misaligned. Likely to indicate someone has been hiding their true talents. When the time is right, their strengths will be revealed, but until then… " the wizard trails off and shrug.

“The Empty Throne. Seeing past the obvious to the deeper thing. Situated there, it could mean you’ve realised what you thought was right is wrong, but you’ve yet to see the ultimate truth. Often, someone who is now passed was trying to show this to you, but you didn’t see at the time.”

Alaria scratches at her nose a moment. “Yeah, like realising Kintargo has problems. I see that now.”

Aroldo makes no comment, pointing to The Locksmith. “The Locksmith provides the tools to unlock your destiny. He won’t tell you what to do, or help. Just provide access.”

Neither of the two say anything, but both think of Alaria’s excruciation, a negative event that has put them on a new path-is it their destiny to free Kintargo? Or to die trying?

Aroldo coughs slightly, and moves to the column indicating the present. “The first card here is The Cyclone. A destructive, indiscriminant force that cannot be stopped,” At this, the bards shoulders sink. "But positioned here, well, it indicates the possibility of renewal. That sometimes you have to destroy the old to create the new”

Alaria looks a little buoyed by Aroldo’s interpretation.

“Next is the Hidden Truth. Well this card is hidden to me,” he announces as he gets no feelings from it regarding the Free Kintargo society. Still, he thinks to himself, could this card be for me? Why did I think of the Kintargo Contract immediately?

“And presently opposing you is The Bear. Brute, raw strength. Those who stand against you will use their fist, not their head. But all is not lost. The Bear cannot be controlled. If the blow goes astray, there may be opportunities to strike back.

Alaria nods slowly as she ponders what has been revealed so far." Alright then. So what does the future hold?"

The wizard reveals the last three cards. On seeing them Alaria goes pale.

“Yes, The Liar. Sounds bad. But, in this position, perhaps not so bad. Here, it indicates friendship or love, but the beginnings of such disguised, or coming from an unlikely place.”

“I’ll be sure to keep on my toes.”

“Good idea, regardless of a Harrow reading,” smiles Aroldo." Next, The Tangled Briar! Aroldo pauses and considers the card. “Something from long ago is going to have an unexpected impact on someone close to you.”

“Impact, what do you mean?”

“Hard to say, but… it’s not likely to be positive, being the Tangled Briar,” Aroldo doesn’t give the bard much time to digest this and moves on to the last card.

“The Betrayal,” the wizard licks his lips I wondering if there’s any kind of positive or even ambiguousness he could use in an interpretation. But there is not. Not in this location.

“Before the end, someone will turn against you.”

Alaria says nothing, just reaches for the wine bottle with a shaking hand to refill her glass.

Finally she speaks. “Well, I did want the reading…”

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