A Game of Thrunes

Gaian's Reignition

Gaian was sitting watching his wife Ereniel work late into the night on some piece of delicate elven embroidery when he heard shouts in the distance and the sound of heavily booted feet running past in the street. Unable to see anything through the shuttered windows, he was halfway to the door before he caught himself and returned to his seat on the floor.

He smiled wryly to himself as he considered his actions; what had he been thinking? For a moment there he had been going to run outside toward the commotion, overwhelmed by a desire to see what was happening. Whatever it was, it was nothing to do with him, and certainly nothing he would want to embroil himself in. Most likely it was the Dottari chasing down some miscreant, such a thing was not unusual in Redroof at night, and he was generally happy to hear the sounds of them going about their duties. He usually paid it no heed, but for some reason tonight it felt different.

As he relaxed, he considered that it had been an unusual week. The arrival of Lord Barzillai Thrune and his retinue had certainly put a few people in Kintargo on edge, which had not been helped by rumours of the Mayor fleeing. And seeing the Order of the Rack drag away Raiia’s teacher had brought home that they were going to stamp their authority on the city. Still, he knew it was more likely his own encounter with the Asmodean Inquisitor that Gaian’s interest piqued. Truth be told he had quite enjoyed speaking to the Inquisitor, his need to mislead the man about Pavo’s involvement with the missing books giving him far more of a thrill than his usual day-to-day efforts of creating false stories to appease his tourists. At least that was who he supposed the Inquisitor was after information about, given that he wouldn’t name the associate of Gaian’s who was supposedly linked to this missing shipment , and that Pavo had so recently come into possession of several questionable tomes.

Gaian smiled and shook his head as he thought about Pavo and his books. He didn’t believe for a moment the bard had some mysterious patron to whom he was supposed to deliver the books given Pavo’s own interest in such things. And while he would have been curious to know how he came by them, he wasn’t going to push the young man to reveal his secrets. No doubt the young man and his like-minded friends thought themselves very daring and clever, embracing the opportunity to rebel in this small way against their authoritarian rulership. What had surprised Gaian far more was that there seemed to be so much effort put into recovering the tomes, between the Inquisitor and whoever that Tombus fellow had been representing. Sure, the books were probably all outlawed (certainly he knew that Calistria’s tome was), but so what? Likely there were many such things floating around the city, and they had never caused any issue before.

In truth, Gaian felt a little envious of Pavo. How nice it must be to have such youthful enthusiasm for a cause. There was a time when he had been eager for just such a thing, awaiting only a hint at the Savoured Sting’s plans that he might leap into action to help in restoring her worship here in Kintargo. But no such thing had ever eventuated, and despite the momentary thrills he had experienced this past week, he was too sensible to embrace such a thing now.

Soft. Weak.

The whisper of a voice in the back of his mind was accusatory. For Gaian knew deep down that he had done little to engage himself with any cause. He looked again at his wife, the elf looking barely any older than she had down 20 years ago. It had of course been lust that had drawn him to her back then. The marriage had only occurred when he realised that dedicating himself to her would get him off the street for good, and of course also gave him the perfect cover for when his time to serve Calistria did finally come, for who would suspect the happily married man to be a servant of the decadent and erratic goddess? This was not to say that he did not care deeply for Ereniel, and he adored his children. But he could not remember when his ruse had in fact become his life.

Ah well, perhaps it was time to reignite some excitement in his life. From among the chests full of elven clothing he pulled forward a small box, this one containing the only valuable possessions he had from before meeting her. He kept them among his wife’s work as they were more easily explained away here should anyone come looking. Opening the box he drew forth a suit of leather armour. It appeared black in the torchlight (he never could quite get his head around how Ereniel was able to see clearly enough to work in it!), though he knew it was in fact darkest blue, and the bronze studs reflected the orange light. The armour was exquisitely made, the leather pliable enough and fitting well enough that it did nothing to hinder his movements. At least that had been the case when he had last worn it many years ago. He laid this carefully aside and drew forth the other item.

The dark red leather was tied in a tight coil, and as Gaian unfurled it he was pleased to see that it had not gone too hard from neglect. The whip was the favoured weapon of his deity, and its use had come to him easily back in his previous life. He had no need for such a thing now, but he and Ereniel had enjoyed using it from time to time before the children were born. Hopefull she was still keen, he thought as he moved purposefully toward her, smiling as he thought again how wonderfully the elves maintained their youth.

“Dad!” came the cry from behind. Ereniel turned in the chair, taking in the scene of her husband with the whip with a raised eyebrow, before Gaian dropped it to the floor and turned to his daughter’s voice.

“What is it Raiia? You should be asleep.”

“There’s a fire. Upstairs.”

Gaian quickly ran upstairs to the bedrooms in momentary panic, but saw nothing. Raiia led him through her room to the window on the far side.

“Out there!”

Gaian looked out the north-facing window. There was indeed an orange glow and what looked like smoke not too far away, likely just across the river, though he could not see it directly due to the buildings across the road. As he watched, he noticed another point of light higher up in the distance. The Greens?

Not the excitement he had hoped for, he reflected as he tucked the girl back into bed, but likely there would be some interesting stories about come morning.

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Journal of the Kothar Caex
The early entries

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry I

Mother told me that it might be beneficial to keep a record of my exploits, thoughts and experiences, the later in particular she emphasised could prove of great benefit as sometimes even the most minor event could have great ramifications.

I do not know what has happened to mother, the mercenary band that attacked our home included a powerful wielder of divine magic and it is entirely possible that she has been slain. I have read that in truth it is impossible to slay a denizen of the Nine Hells on the prime material plane. Instead the devil’s physical form disperses while their essence will reform on their home plane of existence.

I hope that this is the case and that the Sister of Storms still lives, but given the nature of her binding to our home I cannot bring myself to truly believe this to be the case.

Mother’s teleport spell returned me to the plains near father’s village, perhaps a weeks journey by foot. I have decided to return there only to inform father of mother’s possible demise, but I shall not linger. Father has a family and there is no real place for me there anymore.

I must journey forth and make my own mark on this world.

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry VIII

As expected, I did not receive a warm welcome in the village of my childhood. Father seemed glad to see that I had survived, my step mother and half-siblings were another matter however. All except little Diana, my youngest half-sister had always been able to look past my appearance and seemed genuinely happy to see me.

A pained expression flickered across father’s face when I informed him of mother’s probable death. I think he genuinely loved her…even all these years later…

My step-mother graciously allowed me to stay the night after extracting a promise that I would be moving on at first light…

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry LIV

After wandering alone, selling my sword for the better part of a year, I have fallen in with a band of mercenaries who (while not overly welcoming of me) appreciate my skill with a blade and simple enchantments, they have nick-named me Kothar Caex and I have come to like the name. Our leader is a Hellknight from a city to the north. He tells me that there are many of my kind there. Perhaps when our current mission is complete, I shall journey north and see this city of Kintargo for myself.

If it is true and others of my kind (which he called ‘Tieflings’) do reside there, perhaps I will finally find a place to belong.

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry LX

The more I hear about the city of Kintargo, the more I wish to go there. Apparently, it is part of the Chelish Empire, whose primary religion is worship of the Lord of the Nine Hells. As a first generation decedent of a powerful devil I imagine I shall be able to make a decent life for myself in such a place.

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry LXXXIV

I have finally arrived (by ship) in the city of Kintargo. The journey was long, I have come to the conclusion that I do not like sea travel…the constant pitch and roll…I feel ill again just thinking about it.

Kintargo is one of the largest cities I have ever seen, thousands of people all in the one place. It is rather unnerving.

I did not receive the warm welcome I had hoped for either.

It would appear that I have been miss-informed about the standing of Tieflings in Chelish society.

Still, it would appear that skill with a blade is welcome despite one’s appearance.

The city guard (called the dottari) are apparently in need of a combat trainer for new recruits. I have an appointement with their commander in the morning.

In the meantime, I have found a place to call home in the district known as ‘Red Roof’.

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry XC

I have obtained a position as the combat instructor for dottari recruits. It is a thankless job and I must endure jibes and insults from both the commissioned officers and the new recruits alike. The nick-name Grey Skull has grown popular.

Still, the job pays well…

I have tried to introduce Vaerir Ibafarshan as part of the training, but the way of the dancing flame is lost on most. Vaerir Ibafarshan is an infernal martial discipline that helps to strengthen and focus mind and body. It is similar to a combination of Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation. Unlike some martial arts it is readily translated into armed combat techniques, emphasising speed and precision over brute force.]

I find it interesting that vast majority of the other tieflings appear more human, with less pronounced infernal features than myself.

Perhaps it has something to do with mother being a full-blooded devil and thus I am closer to being a ‘fiend’…who knows…

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry CIX

Trouble today…

While trying to explain the subtleties of combat and precise application of force over brute strength one recruit became particularly insubordinate.

This brute of man who was half a head again as tall as I am, and at least twice my weight, heckled me from the beginning of the lesson until I could stand no more, so I called him out to compare his ‘raw power’ to my ‘precise application.

(I should point out that I insist we do not use wooden training blades as such things do not match the weight of a true metal weapon. Instead we use short swords bound in a leather sheath. The weight is correct and they will bruise rather than seriously wound.)

After two quick passes, I caused him to lose grip on his weapon with a side slap to the hand with the flat of my blade.

A second engagement ended similarly.

After a third defeat, the trainee lost all control and broke his weapon free of its binding, lunging at me with intent to kill.

I tried to sidestep the attack, but he still managed to gash my cheek.

Acting on instinct, I cast aside my practice blade and drew my own weapon. One slash to his hand disarmed him and a second to the tendon at the back of the heal sent him to the ground.

Needless to say, the captain was not happy, fortunately he had witnessed the entire exchange.

Still a stern warning was given and I think a lesson was learned – call me what you will, but attack my person and I will deal with you accordingly!

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry CXXV

The more I think about it and the more I see how my people (when did I start thinking of the tielflings like that? I cannot recall…) are treated I find myself angered.

The Chelaxians claim to worship Asmodeus and the Lords of the Nine and yet those with blood ties to the infernal realm, who are related by blood to the divine are so mistreated?

No, I think they pay lip service only…oh they may offer Asmodeus reverence (I myself do, after all he is not only a deity, but also family being the Father of Devils), but all the rest? These are just tools to be used!

That is not worship!

Something needs to be done…

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry CXXVIII

Today I met an angel…or at least a fallen one…

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry CXXXII

Her name is Evalyn, and she is quite possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever met. I have never been in love before, but I am certain that is what I feel.

She has haunted my dreams and waking moments alike, I find myself struggling to think of anything else.

We have begun to meet for meals regularly and there is a definite spark between us.

Perhaps, despite the insults, despite the way we are treated by the humans who rule this place, despite everything…perhaps I really have found my home.

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry CXLII

Tonight I attended a gathering for one of the more well-off members of tiefling society in Kintargo. I had completely forgotten, and Evalyn called me to task on it. I do not like such gatherings, I don’t feel comfortable, and as expected, my position with the dottari did not sit well with some. I shouldn’t have to suffer insults from my own kind, surely we all suffer enough from the humans?

Journal of the Kothar Caex – Entry CXLIII

The past week has possibly one of the worst in my life.

A member of the ruling family has entered the city and already it feels as though an iron fist is encircling us, ready to crush us all.

I have been dismissed from my post by a newly appointed captain of the dotarri, Evalyn suggests I try my hand in the fighting pits, but killing for sport? For the enjoyment of others?

Strange things are happening, Belor’s Beer Hall was invaded by a band of thugs and a halfing accosted, fortunately the proprietor was quick to diffuse the situation with servings of ale and flesh. Smart man…

Then came the fires and death…

I fear what the dawn may bring…

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The Night of Ashes
Session 1

The story continued with the characters intercepting a shipment of smuggled goods. To their surprise it contained many books and manuscripts. Pavo took care of these and hid them at Shensen’s house. The following day he researched some of the texts at the Records Hall and discovered discrepancies between the official records and the smuggled books. After speaking to Shensen, he realised those books may be worth a lot to someone – and may also get him in a lot of trouble with the government.

Soon after, Lord Barzillai Thrune, Inquisitor of Asmodeus, arrived in the city, along with his retinue of loyal dottari, Hellknights, priests and sellswords. His influence was felt almost immediately, as he took up residence in the Opera House, cancelling future plays. Personally, his arrival also affected the lives of the characters: Keldor was rudely dismissed as trainer of the dottari, and Gaian saw a reduction in income from not only a decrease in tourists, but also from the closure of the Opera House and the Greens. The latter ostensibly to investigate the disappearance of Lord-Mayor Jilia.

Suspicions were raised and accusations thrown when it became apparent an inquisitor, Brother Vizimir, was searching for the books, and that someone may have sold out those involved. Different groups questioned the characters, including Rufus’ superior, and a group of Chelaxian loyalists.

Eventually the goods were too hot to handle, and Pavo decided to contact Baroness Porcia Victocora, who he had discovered researched similar topics of interest. She organised to meet him in an abandoned building in Redroof. Alaria accompanied Pavo. Porcia’s eyes lit up when she saw the books, but especially when she picked up “In Defence of the Silver Ravens.” She also handed back The Urvis Family History Part Two.

But just after the books were handed over, Brother Vizimir and the dottari appeared. Pavo escaped only through his wits and skill.

The same night, Rufus discovered another murder, the one recently carried out. After being alerted to the gruesome job by harrowing screams and identifying similar signs of who Rufus thinks is a copycat killer of the Temple Hill Slasher, he chased the murderer, getting a good glimpse at his attire, slicked back black hair and moustache. However, his chase down was in vain as the unknown murderer got the best of him, plunging his glowing-red kukri into Rufu’s chest. Rufus only survived thanks to his companions who fell behind during the chase and a nearby healer.

A few nights later occurred what would later be known as the Night of Ashes. In separate attacks, three buildings were burnt down: The Thrashing Badger, a local pub used for political debates and rumoured meeting place of rebels; the Silver Star music store, owned by Shensen; and the Victocora Estate. In addition, several outspoken critics of Thrune are missing…

Rufus suffered his own loss that night. “It’s your father, he has had an accident.” Still weak from his injuries, the news was too much to bear and he fell to the floor.

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Introductions
Session 0

The story began with an ordinary day in Kintargo, and six ordinary lives.

First was Gaian Vespinus, tour guide of Kintargo, taking a small group of visitors to the sites of the city.

Next was Pavo Quinteselle, who enjoyed a dinner with famed bard Shensen. He agreed to pick up a special midnight delivery she had organised.

Third was Rufus Hilltop, town guard. He was briefed on the latest city murder, before beginning his patrol. He wondered if the murder was related to his ongoing investigation; the method seemed related.

Next was Bug, the halfling street urchin. His day was less-than-ordinary, having a run-in with the Basili Boys, who now believe he is responsible for the death of their leader. Bug escaped their wrath and met up with Lentius Dio, self-proclaimed vigilante of Kintargo.

Keldor, the tiefling magus, started his day with a training session with the new town guard recruits. In the evening he accompanied his friend Evalyn to a dinner party held by Sylus, a local up-and-coming moneylender.

Finally, Titus Scipio faced another busy night at Belor’s Beerhall. He could not know that the evening was about to take an interesting turn…

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Gaian's Tour

He stood in the shadows, watching those gathered in front of the temple ahead. In truth, the shadows were probably unnecessary; those he was watching were far too engrossed with the huge structure before them to notice the common folk passing by. Which was, of course, the reason he chose this place.

For those who were visiting from elsewhere in the Empire, it was a symbol of the power of the Church, even at this far-flung locale. It was, in many ways, the greatest obstacle to them relaxing, an act by which they often tended to be less careful with the contents of their purses. For these, it was best to watch them closely for signs of such relaxation as they left this place, to better time when and how to part them from their coins.

For those visiting from outside the Empire, the structure was even more effective. One could, if watching closely enough, see the varied emotions of intrigue, fear, and horror upon their faces. It was a good place to start, a place to give life to those primal emotions, and build on them to the point where they watched with a thrill for devils on every corner. And where the first group would relax as they moved through the city, these would become hypervigilant, their senses so attuned to external threats that a friendly face looked that much friendlier, and for such a friend the purse strings were that much looser.

Of course, with a mix of visitors present it could be difficult to play both games. Today most of the crowd were of that latter group, and he smiled; this made things easier, not to mention more fun. He waited a few more minutes for the tension to build, the questions to start, the men and women to naturally fall into their little huddles as he studied them. Then, with a sudden burst of speed, he sprinted through their midst, leaping onto a stone planter between them and the Temple, resplendent in his fine clothes, his features accentuated in the manner of the stage performers of the city.

“A marvel, is it not?” he asked, his voice ringing over the crowd. His stage voice was not up to that of the true performers, and the stage upon which he stood would be viewed with scorn by most such men and women. But it was his stage, and this was his show.
“The Temple of Asmodeus; once the domain of the great hero Aroden, now a place of worship of the denizens of Hell!

“I see your fear, I feel your secret excitement at what sights must lie within its darkest depths.” He continued in a loud, rapid stage whisper. After another pause for effect he continued, raising his voice again sharply enough to startle several members of the crowd as he smiled.

“Well fear not! I, Gaian Vespinus, will guide you unerringly through this great city, and show you wonders that make the denizens of Hell seem pedestrian. For this is Kintargo, the beating heart of humanity’s culture; here, even the Devils come to dance!”

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Just A Little Story

Pavo’s hands came to rest on the skin of his drum, his story ended; the metronomic beat that accompanied the final stanzas no longer needed. While his hands quivered slightly with exhaustion, he still made the effort to reach out and take his mug. It leaves behind a small puddle, the condensation having had time to build up and run down the sides of the cool mug to the battered table Pavo sits beside.

The beer, while warmer and flatter than Pavo would have liked, still falls upon his parched throat like rains on a dusty desert plain. The bard puts the mug back down with slightly steadier hands and clears his throat while rolling his shoulders, trying to ease his tiring muscles. Normally by now there’d be a smattering of applause from the audience in Belor’s Beer Hall, the odd clank of a deposited (or thrown) coin or two, and perhaps the odd request.

But not tonight. Pavo looks around for the owner, his friend Titus Scipio, but cannot see him – even with the smaller than normal amount of patrons in the hall. In fact, most of the customers tonight seem to be crowded away from Pavo, back turned. Pavo would feel like the crowd was deliberately shunning or avoiding him, but he knows better. It’s not Pavo they’re unconsciously avoiding.

Licking his lips, Pavo glances at the table where a solitary man sits, lounging almost panther like with his steady gaze upon the wilting bard. A gaze that has been nearly unbroken through the repeated recitals of the one story the man keeps demanding.

It is a good story, great even. The Heroes of Sandpoint. An epic, with plenty of action, violence, risks taken, world ending dangers, love, sacrifice, laughs, terrible evil foes and the valiant men that faced them down. But it is new to Pavo and tonight was his first performance. The bard was one who was capable of critical self-evaluation, and knew that it wouldn’t be his best telling.

And when he wound up the tale the first time for the night, he got what he expected – a few claps and whistles, a few copper coins and a beer. Until he was approached by a stern man dressed in black with haunted eyes. The man deposited several gold coins next to Pavo. “That story. Tell it again.”

Pavo had managed to hide his reaction to seeing so much money well, put a smile on his face and suggested a re-telling after a few different tales. The man leaned forward, “I’m paying. You tell.”

And so Pavo told the story a second time. And a third. The fourth time, Pavo begged off, despite the gold. Before he could blink, there was a dagger at his throat, the razor sharp blade caressing the sweating skin of his neck as delicately as lover. Pavo glanced around in despair, but as far as everyone else in the beer hall went, they didn’t seem to exist. He looked into the man’s cold, sad eyes, and saw no mercy there. So, he told the story a fourth time.

But it was a long story, and the bard had been allowed no rest. He could not tell the story of Sandpoint again tonight. Despite the pile of gold that lie on the table beside his beer.

So it was with trepidation that Pavo watched the strange man approach. This time he did nothing but look at the bard for a while before announcing “It is a good story, and you tell it well.”

“My thanks, milord,” Pavo replies. “I like it also, but, perhaps some stories end better?”

“Perhaps. But it ended better than how it would have been if I had been there,” replies the man as he places several more gold coins next to Pavo, before standing and walking out the door.

The bard stares after the man, his heart strangely racing. After a few moments lost in thought Pavo sighs and returns to the present. He seems slightly bewildered at how the crowd seems to have spread out throughout the beer hall after being huddled away for so long.

“Tell us a story, you lazy bard!” comes a cry, “You haven’t done a damn thing all night!”

Sighing deeply, Pavo goes to speak, but he can only think of one story. “Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you an epic tale of bravery and determination, against the greatest of odds. Let me tell you about some of the greatest heroes of our time. Let me tell you about the Heroes of Sandpoint!”

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