A Game of Thrunes

Bug Gets Some Info

Bug spends a moment running his eye over some symbols on the parchment. And I thought living on the streets was tough. Brother Vaelus had approached Bug after his shift a few weeks back and suggested learning to read these scribbles. He stated it would be a useful skill to learn now that Bug was no longer an urchin but one of the rebellion leaders. Bug was still getting used to how the symbols worked but saw the benefit in learning. He quickly realised how valuable reading was to the rich where a letter could be worth more than gold. That should satisfy the Brother, sometimes he’s worse than eating through some rotten garbage. I wonder if he would be teaching me if he knew what I planned to use it for…

Satisfied, Bug lent back from his humble desk and surveyed his small dwellings located opposite Belor’s stables. Although some in the rebellion laughed at his choice of accommodation with words such as being pathetic, cheap and meagre, it felt like a palace to Bug. They had never experienced what the streets of Kintargo offered as living arrangements.

As his eyes drifted out the window he noticed the signal, I guess it is time to meet and see what they’ve found. Although the formation of his gang was an accident it had proven itself useful in keeping an eye out and an ear open for the happenings in the city. He had tried to recruit for the homeless and non-descript to blend in and get to places normal folk don’t get to. Unfortunately they had still developed a reputation that was beginning to rival the Red Jills. I guess I sometimes went a little too far, but that’s what you get for learning how to survive on the streets. Sometimes you gotta do things those with homes and families would or could never do. Bug thinks as he remembers those few regrettable people he murdered; including his friend and chef, Sen.

Bug gathers his scribbles to give to the Brother later and puts on his street clothes before heading off to the usual meeting spot. He takes his customary precautions in getting around unnoticed, but he is not too worried, he has always been hard to follow when he wants.

The meeting spot was a non-descript alley with a view of the Opera house and park. He liked seeing and observing where the authority had their seat of power, and got a little bit of a thrill conducting his business right under their nose.

Bug places himself on a barrel just of the alley entrance and begins to clean his nails with his knife.

“How are you Jerry?”

“Not bad Bug”, an old homeless man sitting on the other side of the barrel says. Jerry was Bugs first recruit, he came across him by the docks in front of the Thrashing Badger. He was a former sailor that had lost it all to a smuggling captain and had proven himself very useful and capable in managing the others. He was now Bug’s second in the Black Mantis.

“Good, what have you heard on the streets? Was this latest proclamation just a way to get Rogatus?” Bug begins.

“Nope, some of the boys went to the Torrent Base and saw some Knights being taken away to the Holding House. Seems like the Order have really pissed the Thrune fucker off.”

OK, Rogatus is genuine then. We can trust him to a point…

Bug continues, “I don’t want any unnecessary issues hiding him. Has there been any whispers on the four hellknights killed on the street and his association?”

“Nothing serious, pure guess work. A few words about a giant with a glowing sword cutting then like butter, but no one believes that. The Dotarri have no idea and the Rack are being pretty closed lip. I suppose it doesn’t look good having four of their member killed so easily out in the open.” Jerry states.

“No it doesn’t, keep an eye out for any of them in our area, if you see them in a group heading towards me, signal.” Bug carries on “Did you get me that list of locations?”

“Yep” Jerry replies handing him the list. Bug planned to give the list to Aroldo as a goodwill gesture to help with the wizard’s proposal. In the process Bug hoped to improve the relationship between the two. Bug knew the wizard didn’t like some of his actions and Bug didn’t want to have a wizard as an enemy.

“What about the Red Jills? Was the message clear to them?”

Jerry shudders remembering the bags Bug told him to place in front of their headquarters. “Yeah, they got the meaning, they’re staying away from us, and we made sure the streets knew what happens when you attack Black Mantis. The Red Jills will stay away from us for a while. That’s a bloody way of getting peace Bug.”

“It’s not peace Jerry, but needed to be done to survive and get a moment of calm. Keep an eye on them for now” Bug replies.

“And that final matter, the Hell Bitch Nox, what did you find?”….

View
Speaking Easily

Aroldo lay still, enjoying that moment of peace one has just often waking. He can feel the sun streaming in through the windows and hitting his face. In the distance he can hear birdsong mixed with the sounds of the city.

But the short moment of peace cannot last long, for there is much to do. Rising from his large, comfortable bed, he heads to the water basin on his dresser and washes the sleep from his eyes. Throwing on an old, yet comfortable robe, he opens the door to his bedroom and heads down a dusty corridor and stairs and heads straight to his greenhouse.

Here, the air is thicker, the moisture and botanical smell of growing plants and herbs a cherished scent. Aroldo consults a note near the door, a list of requests for a variety of things, the wizard was well known for supplying excellent quality spell components, and understood the needs of wizards, being one himself. His reputation has him supplying a significant number of his colleagues at the Alabaster Academy.

After some quick watering and pruning, Aroldo heads towards the kitchen, intent on brewing some strong tea in an attempt to suppress his yawning. Opening the door, he is assailed by a strong minty aroma. Alaria is already awake and sitting at the kitchen table, nursing a mug of mint tea. The bard seemingly sat in a shadow, dressed all in black, with her new short, black hair.

“Good morning, "Aroldo tries to be as cheerful as he can, “I might go something stronger myself.” he announces as he vaguely gestures at Alaria’s mug. He merely gets a short grunt in reply.

Suppressing a wince, he places the kettle on the stove. As he goes about preparing the teapot he announces “I’m glad you’re here, I’ve been meaning to speak to you about something, actually.”

Alaria looks up from the spot on the table he had been staring at, and cocks an eyebrow at the big man. “Time for me to move out?” she says flatly.
Aroldo looks slightly shocked." No, no, not at all! It’s been nice to have someone else in the house, frankly!" He scratches at his stubble as he tries to think of how to best to talk to the despondent bard.

“The house has been quiet, without Livia or Aelia,” begins Alaria before stopping herself saying any more.

Aroldo feels fresh pain in his heart as the bard mentions his dead wife and child, but decides to ignore the comment believing Alaria is just lashing out in her own pain.

“And to continue to be frank, I’m a little worried about you,” he sighs. “You’re angry, I understand that. You’ve been tried and convicted of a crime you’re innocent of. You’ve lost friends and patrons. Your whole life stolen from you in moments…” The wizard pauses as Alaria looks away, her features battling over whether to show rage or despair.

“It’s left me with nothing!” Alaria hisses when she’s finally able to look back at the concerned wizard. “They will pay!”

“Yes. Yes they will,” announces the wizard with firm determination. “But you can’t do it alone. If you want to make a dramatic, but futile gesture, I can’t stop you – but there are other ways."

Alaria seems to be unconvinced by Aroldo’s statement, and eyes him carefully, not hiding her doubt. "You say that, but how come you haven’t told me anything since you and the others saved me from these hounds! Alaria’s eyes reflect the horror she experienced, not knowing that she had others who would risk their lives to save her.

Aroldo reaches over and takes one of her hands, ignoring the bard flinch at the contact. “I knew nothing when I went to the Courthouse that day, nothing but I had to get you out of there somehow.”

Alaria smiles sadly but she squeezes Aroldo’s hand, “If it wasn’t for the others, I don’t know how you would have done it. We might have both ended up dead.” the way the bard pronounces this gives Aroldo a sense of dread, and he has to suppress a shiver.
“It’s a…” Aroldo pauses for a moment and hides his lips.“…dangerous game. Even if you think you’re ready for everything.”

“Something has happened, hasn’t it? Don’t bother denying it, I can tell when you’re lying. What is it?” the bard asks.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you. Well, a few things. I’ve have received news of Pavo. He made it. He got out of the city, the Dottari didn’t get him. I’ve spoken to someone who shared a few drinks with him,” announces the wizard, a delaying tactic while he finds the right way to tell her about Rufus, Titus and Keldor.

“Thank the gods!” breathes Alaria and for the first time that morning the smile reaches her eyes. It fades away however, when she realises that isn’t the only thing Aroldo could be telling her. “What else? Please, tell me.”

Aroldo rubs his face with his free hand, the grief, shame and fear as fresh in his mind as the excruciation is in Alaria’s. “Most of the others that helped saved you are dead,” he finally announces flatly.

Alaria stares at Aroldo for a few moments, fresh tears welling in her eyes. “Why is this happening?” she asks forlornly. “Only a year ago things were better. Happier.”

“The House of Thrune!” exclaims Aroldo. “That’s why! We’ve been lucky before. Ignored because we’re at the arse end of their empire. But now they need all their resources, they’re showing us how they treat everyone. Damn those dirty devil fuckers!” the wizard exclaims, the heat of his emotions coming out in his voice.

Alaria gets up to see to the boiling kettle. “They’re already damned, Aroldo. We just have to send them to Hell to meet all their friends” Having filled the teapot, she brings it over to the table to brew.

This time it’s Aroldo’s turn to smile sadly. “Easier said than done. Trust me on this.”
Alaria pours her host a mug of tea and a fresh, less minty one for herself. “Well, all I know is we have to do something, I can’t just sit here anymore!”

“I know. I also know direct action is dangerous, and now is not the time. But we do need to take action, and I have an idea,” announces Aroldo.

Alaria sips her tea and leans forward, even more intent on the wizards words. “Well, I know you’re keeping a lot from me, but I am eager to hear what you are willing to tell me.”

By pure instinct, Aroldo lowers his voice and leans forward, matching Alaria’s posture. “Our new Lord-Mayor is over-reaching himself and upsetting many, many people. But they don’t necessarily know anyone else who feels the same way. They’re afraid to speak out. Afraid to find others who feel the same way. What they need is a place they can gather freely. Where they can speak easy and hear others in return. A place to be inspired and reassured.”

Alaria nods in agreement," Yes, many fear their neighbours- a single report to the Dottari and you can disappear, never to be seen again. Go on."

“Well, we just have to find a few places where it’s safe for people to gather, bar’s, coffee shops, forgotten basements. Places where people can express their feelings, tell their stories, a place…”

“Where people don’t feel quite so alone.” Alania finishes.

Aroldo smiles, "Exactly. A place where they can hear rebellious songs and stories of better times. When we were truly free.”

“Oh? And who’s going to sing them these songs? Did you have someone in mind?” Alaria asks, the hint of a sparkle in her eyes that has long been missing.

“I would be happy if a Little Black Swan would make the odd appearance. I know she has a wonderful voice that’s gone unappreciated far too long,” says Aroldo. “You may have to be a bit more discreet in your comings and goings though. I may know the odd spell that can help with that, and a few friends too.”

The wizard wants to keep his friend safe, and has been thinking of assigning a couple of the street performers and one of the freedom fighters as an escort and bodyguard. The thought occurs to him that he should perhaps ask Bug or Gaian about that, but realises that when it comes to Alaria’s safety, he doesn’t care what either of the two psychopaths think.

“Little Black Swan,” murmurs Alaria as she touches her hair. “Alright, I’m in. What next?”

“Probably the hard part,” admits the wizard. “The people I’m initially thinking of are students and faculty at the Academy, many who don’t dabble in the infernal arts hate their power and influence on the institution. And I’m thinking you may know a few artists and musicians who may be interested. We find a few places they can all gather, and spread the word.”

The bard smirks a touch, “As easy as that?”

“Perhaps not,” Aroldo lets out a low chuckle. “But we have to start somewhere.”

Alaria smiles, “And so the Free Kintargo Society was formed one morning over a pot of tea.”

View
Chasing Leads
Session 11

The Children disrupt the Red Jills’ silver smuggling operation and send a message not to mess with the Black Mantis (aka Bug’s Boys). The Children then discuss the rebellion and where it’s headed, and then chase up a few leads. Barzillai Thrune announces another proclamation, outlawing the Order of the Torrent. Finally, they rescue Sir Rogatus from the Hellknights of the Rack.

Full notes:

• The group enter the shack after completing their travels through the sewer and defeats the three thugs found inside. They find a ledger, but a large part of it appears to be in code.
• Returning back to safety, the group recap everything and discuss the rebellion.
• Meet Augus, the latest member. He was a junior member of the Order of Archivists, recruited by Brother Vaelus.
• They express their discomfort with how Bug is running his criminal gang.
• Aroldo suggests setting up a safe space for artists / intellectuals with rebellious tendencies.
• Bo suggests Baroness Balcara might be someone the Children can try to cultivate.
• Gaian brings up the fact that the Red Jill’s knows who we all are.
• The group refreshes it memory on its objectives:
• They should chase up Marquel Aulorian, the one with the withered arm who pointed the finger at poor Pavo.
• They should talk to the Knight of Torrent who wants to speak to Alaria regarding Shensen’s disappearance.
• Nidalese Embassy has been left ‘abandoned’ due to Glorious Reclamation.
• The Temple Hill Slasher is still out there. Thought to be responsible for many deaths around city. Do we want to stop him? Gaian will follow up with dottari who Rufus mentioned were trustworthy.
• Trailblazer Huni – he read the Book of the Damned
• Kintargo Contract and Odexidie, the devil who knows the Kintargo Contract.
• The Song of Silver – the imp didn’t know it, but knows the Lady Mialari who runs school for girls. Do we want to track her down?
• Do the group all need masks? Aroldo has been using his spells to disguise his appearance lately, he feels less paranoid about doing so these days.
• Jollytime girls – what to do with them? Suggestions that they be set onto the Red Jills
• The group decide they want vengeance for their deceased comrades and take down Nox – but they’ll need a lot of info to be successful doing so. Perhaps the performers can find out something

• Bo and Bug decide to visit the Baroness. Bo believes she is a follower of Cayden Cailean and is looking for some confirmation. Her interest in fine liquor is a bonus. They head to the Greens, but are interrogated by guards. They are let in by the guards after Bo introduces himself.
• They are brought in, the Countess is there to greet them, but advises she cannot stay long, she is going riding. Bo and the Baroness trade banter about Shadowsquare – where the temple to CC used to be. Baroness agrees the ways things used to be were good, but those time are gone. Bo and the Baroness effectively exchange secret handshakes.

• Aroldo goes to a church of Asmodeus to visit the library there. He is able to gain access to the library with little difficulty. Finds small book talking about summoning devils. You need a name to summon specific one. Summoning a devil will be beyond Aroldo, they will need a third party to summon one, but they will need to be quite careful in doing so and how they question the devil, being very literal. He also finds notes to indicate Hellknights often summon devils to fight against as practice.

• Gaian and Augus go to the estate of Marquet Aolorian, whose family interests include salt, silver and magic. Traditionally supporters of Kintargo, however the father has been increasingly pro-Throne, the son may disagree. Auxis is the head of the family.
• Get to gate and there are some guards. One of the guards knows of Gaian, his sister-in-law went on one of his tours. Unable to bluff their way through, claims to have news about disruptions to the silver trade. The guard will pass on the message.

• The group as a whole then go to Lady Docur’s School for Girls. It’s a four storey building surrounded by trees with a white gravel drive. Door answered by young, immaculately dressed half elf. Asked to see the Lady, are let inside.
• It’s like a fancy house, winding staircases and other doors. Can hear elvish singing in the background. Lady Docur is an elf, dressed in lilac, lots of jewellery. Her hair is rose red, it would be unnatural on human.
• The School is three centuries old, to teach ways of elves. Students are almost exclusively half elves.
• We told her the imp told us she took the song from the livery. She confessed that she went with treasure seekers to the livery and took some sheets of music.
• Gave a history lesson. Jackdaw was the leader of the Silver Raven’s. After her death the group fell into chaos. The next leader, Brakisi, kidnapped the Lord-Mayor Sarini’s son.
• A hellknight retrieved the kidnapped son, leading to the formation of the Order of the Torrent. Lictor Reya was assassinated by the Grey Spiders – worshippers of Norgorber.
• Docur says she will supply us the song.
• On the way back to Belor’s they find a large crowd outside the Opera House. Awaiting announcement by Lord Mayor. He appears before the crowd. Claims chaos is upon us. Where are the Order of the Torrent in these dark times?
• The Order of the Torrent stripped of their duties and holdings.
• Additionally, the 3 copper toll to cross Bleabridge is raised to 5 silver, to support the war against the Glorious Reclamation.
• They return to Belor’s only for Sir Rogatus (Hellknight of Torrent) to enter! He’s looking frayed, been on the run for some time it seems. A number of Hellknights of the Rack follow him and demand his surrender.
• The Children let the Hell knights take him, but set up an ambush a short distance away.
• The combat is over quickly, the ambush is effective.
• The group takes Sir Rogatus to the underground hideout below Belor’s.

View
Countess Sarini’s Party
Session 10

The Children attend the party of Countess Urora Sarini. There they make some new contacts, and impress the Countess enough for her to sign over the contract to Blosodriette the Imp. After, at Bug’s urging, they take the fight to the Red Jills, for the Red Jills have been spying on Belor’s and want to teach Bug’s Boys a lesson.

Full notes:

• Bodeen notices that someone has been watching Belor’s – it’s time to catch them!
• Bo proposes to cast a spell that will hold the person in place while Bug and Gaian take positions on roof. Aroldo volunteers to stay on the ground and act as bait.
• The spell fails, and the watcher runs. Bug’s short little legs won’t let him be able to catch the watcher, but he runs straight at Nightswarm.
• An attempt is made to trip the watcher with a whip, but it fails. Aroldo shoots with magic missile wand. Bo runs after Aroldo, Gaian commands the watcher to fall. Bug catches up and starts hitting him with face of sword (non-lethal).
• Gaian almost falls trying to leap between roofs.
• Bug continues to pummel the watcher
• Gaian finally trips him with a whip.
• This let’s Bug put in the final blow that knocks him down.
• They take him to the top room of Belor’s.
• They awaken him, he starts defiant but quickly realises he’s in trouble. He advises he’s working for Scarplume who is leader of the Red Jill’s. Bug’s boys have been in the Red Jill’s territory. The watcher advises that a ’message’ is coming from Scarplume. The watcher goes through Trevaro, the 2IC of the Red Jills. The watcher claims this is just business, and to let him go. Bug and Nightswarm want to kill him. Aroldo believes this is a bad situation, and Bug should keep his boys on his side of the line. Bug breaks his hand and releases him.

THE NEXT DAY
• Bo explains that word has spread to the world that Kintargo is suffering. One day when drinking he met a bard, told him he was heading to Kintargo. Pavo the bard tells Bo to go to Belor’s Beer Hall. Bo followed this advice and went to Belor’s and watched the place for a while. Titus was then killed. Bo introduced himself to the remnants of the resistance. He explained he had coin and wants to help. He bought Belor’s. Since this time, the resistance has grown to trust him.
• Belor’s has a new cook. Tappo. Tappo is a master at creating finger food that goes well with drinking, a nickname has quickly sprung up for the food: Tappo’s.
• Alaria has cut and dyed her hair black and has sworn vengeance on the Lord-Mayor.
• Leila, the pastry chef working next to Belor’s, arrives to introduce herself to Bo. He agrees to continue the business arrangements she had with Titus, which allows her to sell her bakes goods at Belor’s. Leila is pleased and hopes to get to know Bo better.
• Cato – a former employee of Aroldo’s father – has returned to Kintargo after travelling for many years. He has returned to find hard times. Aroldo took him on as hired muscle, and he is now in the resistance full time.
• Brother Vaelus decides to keep the order of archivists alive, and sets out to find other surviving members.
• Blosodriette the Imp appears and begins sipping at Aroldo’s ale. She claims we’re not moving fast enough for her liking, to get her contract.
• The Countess Sarini is having a small party. Gaian has requested an invitation. He has received a reply, asking us to dress appropriately. The event is held at the Sarini estate.
• At the party they are introduced to the Countess. She’s bloody rude.
• At the party are:

  1. Baroness Belcara Jarvis
  2. Baron Sendi Vashnarstill
  3. Bella – a Tiefling actress (not widely known)
  4. A half-elf woman, wearing the Red & Black of the Chelaxian navy.
  5. Professor Finkus. Aroldo goes to lengths to dodge Professor Boring.
  6. Tall, gaunt man with tied back hair following the Countess around. Arrogant and a bard. Obviously trying to impress her.

• Aroldo approaches Lt Iofiel Nones (wanting to know more about the Navy ship in port) and they flirt a little while he tries to get information. She’s a crewmember aboard the warship Scourge of Belial, which has recently docked at the harbor. The ship will be in port a few more days at least.
• Gaian and Aroldo talk to Countess, talk about the contract. They get the feeling that they need to impress her for her to take them seriously and have traction regarding the contract.
• As such, Aroldo quickly busts out his pencils and paper and sketches the Countess’ great beauty, she seems impressed.
• Cato flexes and tells stories.
• Bug performs some acrobatics, however the Countess seems to think such things are low-brow entertainment and fails to impress her.
• Gaian seduces the Countess with help from Wingman Aroldo.
• Aroldo talks to Baroness Belcara about architecture. She seems upset with the Lord- Mayor residing in Opera House, blocking its normal use. She appears intrigued by Bo, possibly a follower of Cayden Cailean? Bo has asked to see her later, maybe she can visit Belor’s and sample Bo’s best?
• On leaving, Gaian is handed a note from the Countess. She is willing to sign over the contract.
• Once that happens, the Children free Blosodriette… In return, she tells them to seek out Lady Mialari Docur, the elf who recovered the Song of Silver from the imp many years ago. The girlish imp them leaves, being free. Lady Mialari Docur runs a Finishing School for girls. It was founded hundreds of years ago to teach girls about elves.
• Young Bob – one of Bug’s Boys – is found tied up with massive lacerations. Dead from blood loss. Bug appeals to the group to assist him. Bo seems somewhat amenable to assist, likely over stabbing the other dude in the hand.
• Red Jills seem to know how to spy on Bug’s Boys. They’re likely looking for homeless dudes.
• Recon shows that silver goes to the cheese shop, but is not leaving – presumably it is left on site for now. Aroldo uses a disguise self spell to investigate, but it appears to just be a cheese shop.
• The rest of the group charge in to intimidate. Thugs rush from the back room. They are quickly overcome and they take one of the thugs captive. Bug kills the captive thug after getting information. Bug wants to burn the shop down, the rest of the party doesn’t seem to agree with Bug.
• Find small pile of silver down the trapdoor. There are wine racks. Find secret door behind the wine racks.
• The group hear running water. Behind the door is a tunnel that leads to the sewer system again. The silver is going out via sewer. As they travel down tunnel, they hear growls and then a yelp. The group encounters four hounds. The group dispatch them with little difficulty.
• Move on into some kind of cistern area. There are four thugs loitering here, one grabs piece of paper from table and legs it. Again, they are defeated. They find more silver here hundreds of gold pieces worth. Seems to confirm that this is the path the smuggled silver is taking. On the note is a crude map showing location of a shack – the silvers ultimate destination.

View
Rewarding Loyalty

Winifred rubbed her tired eyes as she came out from putting her young son to sleep, then jumped and felt her heart begin racing as a figure stepped out from the shadows of the room.

“I’m sorry to startle you, but there really was no other way.”

The woman gathered herself quickly and regarded the stranger. There was really very little to see, darkly clothed and cloaked as he was. What little light penetrated the depths of his hood illuminated only a carved mask, his face disconcertingly resembling a writhing swarm of wasps in the flickering firelight.

“Who are you?”

“I am known as Nightswarm. Perhaps you’d better take a seat.”

“Why? Is bad news any better taken sitting? I imagine you’re not here for anything good.” Winifred replied.

“As you will. I’ve always thought such formalities ridiculous.” Nightswarm paused for a moment. “You seem more composed than I would have expected, under the circumstances.” He said with a hint of admiration.

“My husband, who has been acting rather unusually of late, has not been home for two days. Clearly something unpleasant is going on. In light of that, a strange man invading my home in the middle of the night is less unexpected than it should be. So whatever you’re here for, I’d appreciate it if you just got to the point.”

Nightswarm nodded slightly in acknowledgement.

“I regret to inform you that Rufus is dead.”

Despite her efforts to the contrary, Winifred could not help but sink into a chair at the words. While she had suspected for the past two days this may be the case, a suspicion that grew as soon as she had seen the man in her home, there was a great different between suspicion and confirmation.

“How?” she asked softly.

“You know of course of his passion in tracking the so-called Temple Hill Slasher. Rufus found him again, and this time the encounter proved fatal.”

Winifred stared at Nightswarm, but the mask revealed nothing. Still, she was no fool.

“You’re lying.”

“Oh?” he asked, his voice somewhat bored. “What makes you say that?”

“I know of you. By reputation. You and your fellow rebels rescued the Poison Pen. You’ve been fighting the Thrunes. Killing them. Maybe if Rufus had still been with the Dottari I’d suspect you’d killed him. But he left, because he didn’t like what was happening. So if you know him…knew him…then-“

“Then it is best that he died pursuing his hunt for the Temple Hill Slasher. I would say that he died from the wounds he sustained previously; he was never quite the same after that as I understand it, and some type of residual fever could have taken him. But unfortunately if anyone sees his body, well, that won’t hold up.”

“His body? Did you bring it? Can…can I see it? Him?”

“I did not bring it here. To do so would not have seemed…decorous. Besides which, it is probably best that nobody is struck by the coincidence of him dying the same night as a group of rebels.”

Winifred looked disappointed.

“You will have his body, to lay to rest as you see fit. I will have it brought in another day or two. For now,” he continued as the woman looked slightly relieved “I have brought you this.”

Nightswarm brought a bundle out from under his cloak and passed it to Winifred. She unwrapped it and stared at the contents.

“Loyalty.”

“My understanding is that it has been passed down through Rufus’ family. He’d have wanted Tyrell to have it.”

“I’m not sure I want him to have it.” Winifred said. “It seems to have brought nothing but death.”

“It’s a sword.”Nightswarm replied with a shrug. “It will always bring someone’s death should it be wielded. Perhaps Tyrell will have no cause to do so.”

“Perhaps.”

Winifred sat for a moment longer, then stood.

“Wait there.”

The woman left the room briefly, returning with a letter. She handed it to Nightswarm.
“Rufus left this with me. He said that if anyone ever returned the sword…”

Nightswarm quickly broke the seal, scanning the contents.

“A reward for Loyalty? How very Rufus.” He muttered as he read.

The letter outlined where Rufus had left the rebellion’s funds. It also made a request that Winifred be left some of those funds to aid her in escaping the city, and named several Dottari contacts he felt were trustworthy.

“Well, this makes things less awkward.” He said, handing the letter to Winifred as he left the room. “It would have been a shame to have to come back tomorrow and ransack your home.”

Nightswarm collected the rebellion’s funds and returned to the room. He took the letter from Winifred’s hands, replacing it with a large handful of coins before making his way to the window.

“Whether you choose to leave Kintargo is up to you. Either way you’ll not see me again.” He said to Winifred “But I will ensure Rufus’ body is returned to you. If you choose to go it would make sense to do so after you give him his funeral, perhaps go to your parents. It wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. Hopefully one day you can return, and it will be possible to truly celebrate Rufus’ deeds in a time when your son does not grow up under the yoke of devils.”

With that, he climbed out of the window and disappeared into the night.

View
A book and a contract

Vaelus watched as Rexus pored over the recovered books for the third time, his eyes still wet with tears. “What is it?” Lentius asked quietly, appearing beside the cleric.

“Reading a soul tome is an emotional thing,” Vaelus responded, “especially when it’s your parents’.”

Lentius looked uncomfortable. “I know you explained this before, but I really didn’t get it. These books are like autobiographies from beyond the grave?”

Vaelus gave a small smile. “Not quite. They contain the thoughts and memories of the archivists – Rexus’s parents included. They were all tortured, and their thoughts recorded by the scrivinite-”

“That book ghost librarian?”

“Yes. Before they were killed. The contents are scattered and incomplete, as you’d imagine, but there is enough in there for Rexus to recognise his mother and father. It must be hard.”

Rexus wiped his eyes and stood. “Lentius, gather the others, immediately. This book – my mother’s soul tome – contains what could be our victory.”

Lentius took off at once.

“What is it lad?” Brother Vaelus asked, taking a seat at the table. His body felt sore and tired of late, stressed from the recent happenings. He made a mental note to meditate longer tonight.

“Two things. ‘Trailblazer Huni’ is mentioned several times, a wandering scholar. My mother was angry the archivists let him read a copy of the diabolical chapters of the ‘Book of the Damned.’”

Vaelus hissed. “I had no idea we even held that tome! A dangerous book. And we didn’t recover it, which means Barzillai has it now. What powers he can discover with that knowledge… Oh Irori save us from evil! Why wasn’t it protected?” the cleric spat in a rare display of anger.

“It was. This Huni is the only person to read it in years, and mother believed he charmed the archivists to allow him.”

“What’s also troubling is Huni knew where the archivists were hidden. But anyway, how does that help us?”

Rexus shook his head. “That doesn’t, it’s just a troubling piece of information we should follow up on. It must be important to my mother… was important to my mother. No, what I referred to as they key to our victory was something called the ‘Kintargo Contract.’ Have you heard of this?”

Vaelus furrowed his brow, then shook his head.

“My mother mentions it several times. She says it forms part of the Cheliax Covenant.”

“The infernal agreement binding Hell to House Thrune.”

“Yes. She says this Contract may be the key to Kintargo’s freedom. She doesn’t say how. We must discover its details. We must speak to its author – Odoxidie.”

“A devil,” Vaelus says grimly.

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The work of monsters
A farewell to friends

The room was a slaughterhouse. Blood covered the floor and walls. “The work of monsters,” Vaelus whispered.

“This is who we are facing,” Nightswarm replied calmly. He yanked free the spear pinning Rufus to the wall and lowered the ex-dottari to the ground; his body was pale and cold. It seemed he had fought on until the very last.

Lentius knelt beside Titus. The barkeep’s face was finally at peace after a life of struggle. Lentius wondered if somewhere in the afterlife Titus was embracing his young wife Cristanna. “Rest easy my friend,” the rebel whispered, closing the ranger’s eyes.

It seemed Nox had focused most of her anger on Keldor. Lying alone, his body was mangled. Rexus felt pity for the tiefling; he had hired him to face a danger much beyond their ken. He felt the man’s death burden him like a heavy cloak, adding to that of his parents’ death.

Brother Vaelus moved among the bodies, but his concentration was on what was scattered among them – the remaining books and scrolls of the Order of Archivists, the ones the redactors had not yet got their hands on. “Give me a hand,” he said to Rexus, who was glad to break from his angst and help the cleric collect the rest.

“Someone’s alive here!” Lentius shouted as he moved a barrel aside to reveal Bug hidden behind it. The halfling was gravely injured but still breathing. Lentius indicated for his men to get the halfling to help.

“Let’s get out of here, before they return,” Aroldo said, though by the look in his eye he almost wished the Thrunites to come rushing down the stairs.

They all felt the same burning anger, a desire for vengeance.

“Come on,” Nightswarm grunted. He took a deep breath and lifted Rufus onto his shoulder. Somewhere, way at the back of things, Gaian wept.

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A Hasty Meeting

It is a sombre mood that fills the hideout below Belor’s, where Aroldo has just finished telling his tale. Unsurprisingly, as the key figures of the Children of the Ash have just heard the wizard recount his belief that four of their number are in all likelihood dead.

“Well,” Rexus finally speaks sadly “Though I hate to say it, it’s better they are dead than captured. What they could reveal would assure an end to our fledgling rebellion.”

“Dead may not be much better.” Brother Vaelus says, tugging nervously on his beard. “The Asmodean priests will be able to elicit just as much, if not more information, from their corpses. Given time.”

Lentius quickly stands at this, hands on his weapons.

“Then we need to go back in immediately.”

“There is no doubt we need to go back in as soon as we can,” Gaian adds “But not without preparation. I assume you’re not ready to go straight back in?” he says with a glance at Aroldo.

“Not unless you want my usefulness to be limited to this.” The large wizard replies, thrusting his staff in the air for effect. “Not much use if Nox is still there. But give me a few hours rest and you can probably convince me to return.”

“Then that give us a few hours to prepare.” Gaian says. “Magdalene, Georgio,” he addressed the leaders of the Varisian performing troupe and the freedom fighters, “Ask among your members if any are prepared to take a more direct approach to combating Thrune. There will be no judgement if they don’t, after all that is not what they agreed to, but make it known that failure here will be the end of us.”

“Gerry,” he addressed the final man, his only known contact from Bug’s Boys, “See if any of your people know of anyone else in the city with strong sympathetic leanings.”

“And if they do?”

“Let me know as soon as possible, and Nightswarm will approach them. This is no time to be coy about recruitment. Regardless, we need to move quickly, and someone needs also to speak to the Jollytime Girls. As soon as Aroldo is rested we head back to the Fantasmagorium. We’ll find out for sure what has become of the others, deal with any bodies. And hopefully take out Nox.”

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The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 7

Damnit, get out of my head! I’ve got too much to do tonight to have you distracting me.

I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.

Really? It’s all your moping. “Poor Butcher is dead”. Blah, blah, blah.

Only Rufus? What about Titus and Keldor?

It doesn’t seem you’re too worried about them.

Why not?

Well, they have nobody relying on them. No little boy waiting for his daddy to come home. He never will.

You’re right. We should really do something about it.

We can’t. Not tonight. Too much to organise to get the fucking Asmodean bitch who did it!

And protect the Rebellion.

Yes, yes, that too.

And after that we can do something to give some closure to Rufus’ family.

Will that make you happy then?

It certainly will. As much as possible in the circumstances, anyway.

Enough to stop the damned crying in my head while I’m trying to work?

Hmm, not sure.

Why not?

Oh, because I call him Rufus, not Butcher. That was you.

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Aroldo lives to fight another day

The cries of battle follow Aroldo as he back tracks through the Fantasmagorium. His heart pounds in his chest, both from the exertion of running for his life, and fear for his life – his new friends seem to be unafraid of taking on powerful foes. The wizard reaches the entrance of the seemingly accursed museum, and pauses. He strains his ears, but hears nothing – has the battle ended? Or are the walls too thick and are blocking the sounds of further battles?

The wizard summons some of the last of his strength, and calls upon his magic one more time. As he does, his features blur and shift. When the magic is finished, a shorter, skinnier man has seemingly replaced Aroldo. Disguised, the wizard opens the door and slinks out. Knowing he has to report to the surviving members of the nascent rebellion, he considers heading straight for Belor’s, but wonders if the approaches there would be currently watched. Thinking that the chance is too great to take, Aroldo starts heading back home. It is a long journey, that feels even longer as Aroldo cannot help but flinch at every sound, and gaze at every shadow, expecting an ambush.

The wizard calms slightly as he stumbles in his front door, leaning against it as he performs some mental exercises to clear his mind, now he has reached safety. The quiet of his home, with the faint earthy smell of growing plants also helps. Hands still shaking slightly, he puts aside his staff, and unburdens himself of some of the items he thought may have come useful in the recent tasks.

Letting out a long sigh, he heads to his study where one of the silver raven figurines lie. Never having used the power within the figurine before, he is slightly nervous as he whispers a message to it. When he has composed his message, he takes the figurine to the window, where it comes to life, the metallic raven flying away to deliver its bleak message to Gaian and Rexus….

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