A Game of Thrunes

The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 2

On Plans of Rebellion
That club to the head must have shaken me more than I’d thought; to have not only agreed to join some kind of rebellion, but play a role within it is ridiculous! Usually I’m far better at keeping…errant thoughts…unvoiced!
Errant thoughts? My thoughts are far more directed than yours have been for years. I take charge when you can’t. You lost control when you were clubbed to the head because you needed me, not because of the blow itself. This meeting was no different.
You haven’t been here for years. I buried you.
Buried? I take the things you can’t handle, so that you can live your happy family life.
What things?
What things? You didn’t remember the slaughter at the statue. You forgot about the executions father took us to. I remember everything from the streets you have forgotten. Haha, you don’t even remember the hellhound!
The others said I was attacked by a hellhound, I didn’t know what they were talking about. You shouldn’t keep things like that from me.
I can let you remember it if you like. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, though .You never buried me; bored me out of existence would be a more accurate description. I’m not going to bother showing up for your mundane life. But now things are getting more interesting, I think I’ll stay awhile.
You’ve dragged me into a rebellion! I’ve made a very deliberate effort to stay out of the attention of the authorities for the past 20 years. Why should I change that now? I have a family to protect, and no skills to fight in a rebellion!
We have no choice. Even your blind optimism can’t hold up in the face of Barzillai’s actions. You love this city, would like to see it restored to its former glory. I don’t particularly care for the city, but our goals are well aligned. But don’t worry, you don’t need to do anything overt; I signed us up, I’ll take care of it. We have plenty of skills, they’re just rusty from disuse. I haven’t forgotten how to use them as you have. I’ll help you relearn them, as I did when you were making those pathetic attempts to throw daggers at rats. You saw how much better things got when I took charge.
Sure. That’s why I’m sneaking home in the night, after curfew, dodging patrols while carrying three dire rats and several small dogs. Seems perfectly reasonable to me!
Haha, it’s true that you were always stronger on the planning side of things, action suits me far better. But until you wake up from twenty years of complacency I’ll have to do that too. The vermin are for Ereniel’s benefit. We tell her that tours are suffering and we have to hunt vermin to supplement our income. This will explain our absences on those night when I’m…otherwise occupied.
I told Ereniel that the tours are going well. She’s worried enough as it is.
Ha, you’re just pissed off that my lie is more truthful than yours. But it serves more than only justifying us to our wife. If you want to keep your family safe then you need to continue to live your life as normally as possible. That means your tours are suffering and you’re running out of coins. You are hunting vermin to keep your family. You’ve already approached Songbird Hall about schooling for your daughter, which is expensive. Thus less questions will be raised when you enquire after her old teacher, Brother Vaelas.
That makes sense, and I do regret not having acted when he was arrested. But why do you care about Brother Vaelas?
Call it a gesture of goodwill to you. Besides, a man of learning may be a valuable addition to the rebellion if we can locate him.
Only if we can retrieve him. And even if we can, if he is freed shortly after I have enquired about him it will do little for the safety of my family.
You don’t retrieve him. I do. As I said, the best thing you can do is live your daily life as normally as possible, and do what you can for the rebellion in that guise. Anything outside of that is down to me. The way to keep you safest is for me to be prominent. Spread rumours of me, speak of me on your tours. Anything you hear of that works against house Thrune and its operations in Kintargo, promote as my doing.
You really think that will work? No matter how much autonomy you think you have, you may have noticed that we look a little alike. What are you going to do? Wear a mask?
I’m thinking a satin veil.
Subtle.
I admit it’s not ideal, not nearly as memorable as I’d like. But it will do for now, and may capture the attention of the Asmodeans. I will work on something better to build my persona. The Nightswarm will be feared as an agent of rebellion!
Nightswarm? That’s what you’re calling yourself? It sounds ridiculous.
Of course it does. Until the Nightswarm has slaughtered a Dottari patrol, flayed a Hellknight, and burgled the castle. Then it becomes something feared by the authorities. And something so far from the life of Gaian Vespinus that he need not fear discovery. Which is why you need to make sure that the name is known, and not thought ridiculous! Fabricate some stories, you’re good at that. Make them outlandish but believable, and then make sure you attribute everything I actually do to me; if some of the stories can be verified, the rest will be more easily believed.
It’ll still be risky. And I’m not sure about fooling Ereniel; she might find it strange that we’re leaving home armoured and carrying several daggers to hunt mice.
I’m not fighting Thrune loyalists with daggers. I think I’ll take that elven blade you’ve been playing with, it will both look more impressive and be more effective when used by someone half competent. I’ll store our gear under Belor’s. The only person Ereniel will see coming and going from home is you. Of course there will still be risk; we’re aiding in leading a rebellion against an Asmodean empire! But remember also have still have the favour of the Savoured Sting, something you gave up for your family life with your token worship. That counts for much. Now, let me take charge and get us home, you’re terrible at sneaking while you’re thinking.

The Day After
Nicely done! I knew you’d be useful once you started thinking again. Enquiring after Brother Vaelas immediately after dropping Raiia off at Songbird Hall seems perfectly natural, and your horror at the news of him having been arrested for teaching false histories was perfectly believable.
Well, it seemed best not to actually show any interest in what had happened to him after that. Far safer to assume another guise and research standard punishments for crimes elsewhere. The change of appearance was certainly helpful in avoiding any links between the two.
I’m glad I could be of assistance. You see what you’ve been missing by straying from our Lady’s favour? Now we know Vaelas is likely at the Salt Works, we can plan our rescue!
Not alone though. I will inform the others at Belor’s, it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince them of the benefit. Perhaps they will then take me more seriously as a member of this rebellion; I’m not sure they feel the local tour guide has much to offer.
So you want to build their trust in you? What about our trust in them?
If we can all work together on such an undertaking it will no doubt help us all to build trust. But I do admit to some reservations with certain members. Rufus certainly seems passionate about his causes, and of course I trust Pavo. But the tiefling would have no real love of the city, and I know little of Titus’ motivations, nor those of Bug.
Hah, don’t let your friendship with Pavo blind you, the bard is the most likely to cut and run. All very well to sing songs of revolution, but his kind would rather talk than do. The halfling will likely be right behind him; if he can’t even get himself off the street he’s unlikely to have the motivation to stay the course on this! Titus has potential, and he was under the tutelage of Lentius. And you misread the situation with the freak; he is scorned under the Thrunes, and feels personally slighted. He will stick, and his sorcery will be useful. I agree that the Butcher is the best of the lot, both dedicated and competent. Plus he has more balls than the rest of you put together; other than me he was the only one prepared to take the fight to those loyalist thugs.
You? What did you do?
Threw knives at loyalists. Of course, it was more fun before the Hellhound noticed, but those are the risks we take, are they not?

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Planning
The Devil is in the Details

Keldor sat at the table in Belor’s Beer Hall silently fuming. Who in the nine hells did these people think they were, to question him so? Had any of them been cast from a job just because of the accident of their birth? Had they had to sleep in the streets? To not know where their next meal would come from? Had their entire species serve as a source of ridicule?

He had come to this city hoping to find a place to belong, now here he was offering to help free the city from tyranny and still this pompous tour guide still insult him? After he saved his miserable life? And if anyone might be a spy, surely the ‘former’ town guard was more likely?

He should…

No, he thought bitterly, biting down on his anger, no…if this were to work, they would have to work together. Each of them playing an important role. While he had never fought in an uprising before, he did have battlefield experience and campaign knowledge that would be of benefit to the group, whether they accepted him or not. With the end goal in mind, he would weather their insults for as long as we was able.

He looked over the Guide to a Successful Rebellion these Silver Raven’s had penned and rolled his eyes. Clearly their advise should be carefully weighed before being taken. After all, if they truly knew what they were doing, they would have succeeded and none of them would be in this predicament.

No, if this rebellion is going to succeed, it will not happen quickly and will require extensive planning and contingencies anticipating all eventualities. Collecting some parchment and writing implements, he tuned out his companions and began to make notes.

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Terror in the park

Returning to my family at the end of the day I quickly stashed what we had acquired that day below some floorboards in the pantry, before heading upstairs where my wife was putting my baby boy down for the night.

Sitting in next to her as she gently rocked him to sleep set my heart at ease. She was singing my favourite lullaby. It was just what I needed after the day I had.

I was hoping to observe that the stories and information that I had been informed were not as bad as described. However I was horrified to find out that they were in fact worse. The way that the thugs turned on the crowd, who were just voicing their opinions was unjustified.

The fact that they seemed to enjoy it was worse. The one glimmer of hope was running into some acquaintances whom ,after I let go of my feeling of personal grievance with some of them, I found that they had like minded thoughts. They just needed to be reminded of them.

I see great potential in them, if they are able to see past their need to put themselves first.

I also have found hope in the knowledge that we have not been the first to embark on this journey of justice. The silver ravens laid the ground work for our rebellion all those years ago. Now it is time for us to pick up the torch and run with it.

So the stories and information that I had received personally and by word of mouth were far understated. Slowly we must turn the tides of the city back to the way it was before. But we must do so quietly, so as not to draw attention to those we cherish the most….family.

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Seeds of Revolution
Session 3

Pavo was first to arrive at Aria Park, wanting to be early to soak up the atmosphere. He was soon joined by the others, all expecting to meet with Rexus while the citizens vented at the lord-mayor, holed up in the Opera House.

But things seldom go to plan. Angry at the Kintargans’ lack of respect, and eager to disperse their protest, Barzillai Thrune ordered his henchman Nox to clear the park. She led the dottari forward as hidden agents loyal to House Thrune revealed themselves from among the crowd and proceeded to mete out “justice” to the ungrateful mob.

At first some brave citizens resisted, using their greater numbers to push back against the dottari and Loyalists. The violence increased however, and only the more stalwart citizens still held their ground, all the while shouting anti-government slogans.

Viewing the violence around him, including against women, children, and the defenceless, Rufus had had enough. He drew his weapons and turned to stand his ground. “This is not the time to make a stand!” Pavo cried over the crowd. Titus paused but considered the situation too dangerous, and followed the bard through the park.

Across from the crowd, Keldor attempted to strategically withdraw, escorting Rexus to safety. Gaian ran with him, pausing long enough to defiantly throw a dagger at a nearby Loyalist.

Screams of anger turned to terror when Nox encouraged her hellhound into the throng. Laughing at the chaos, she watched her pet run down victim after victim, viciously mauling them or breathing fire on groups of resistors. Gaian attempted to flee as the beast tracked him, pouncing from behind and knocking him to the ground. Flailing wildly the tour-guide managed to hold off the snapping jaws for a few moments before the hellhound clamped down on his face. The beast then breathed a stream of scorching flame over his prey.

Keldor and other brave citizens beat the beast off while Rexus dragged the unconscious Gaian to safety. Eventually the group made it to the safety of Belor’s Beer Hall.

After recovering, Rexus stated Barzillai had played his hand, first with the Night of Ashes and now with setting his goons on the common people, attempting to quash any spirit of rebellion Kintargo might have. But now more than ever Kintargo needed that spirit of rebellion to stay strong. Barzillai had driven into hiding those who would resist. And those who could once rally the city to a cause were missing or dead.

“Will you aid Kintargo? Will you save the city from the devil?”

Those gathered had a heated discussion on what to do. Rexus was adamant: now was the time to make a stand against injustice. Gaian was worried about the safety of his family, but others pointed out nobody was safe in this environment. Pavo decried it was evident the bourgeoisie was unfit any longer to be the ruling class and to impose its conditions of existence upon society. “Let the ruling classes tremble at this revolution! The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win!”

Rexus confided that his mother was a member of the Secret Order of Archivists, a group dedicated to the preservation of history, countering the imperial narratives and propaganda. He directed them to the Fair Fortune Livery, an abandoned stable which his mother had discovered was once used by the Silver Ravens, a rebel group in an age gone by. In the basement of the livery the group recovered documents written by the Silver Ravens, many in code. Rexus began deciphering them, but admitted he could use the assistance of a specialist.

Other documents laid out blueprints on how to start a revolution – the Silver Ravens once hoped to spread their revolutionary zeal to neighbouring cities. The group read it with interest. They then swore oaths of secrecy, and entrusted Rufus with their joint treasury. They took upon themselves roles of recruiter, spymaster, and demagogue, and discussed how to plant the seed of revolution among the citizenry of Kintargo…

Vive la revolution!

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The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus

After the Night of Ashes:
I am greatly concerned for my friend Petronicus following the fire that gutted his family’s estate. I had been looking forward to see what excitement the new day would bring after seeing the fires last night, but I care not for this. Nobody seems sure whether anyone survived the fire, but it seems unlikely that Petronicus would have made it out, frail as he had become. I don’t truly understand how such a thing has happened. And the other fires at Shensen’s shop and the Thrashing Badger on the same night, could the three be related? As if there could be any other explanation. If deliberate, then who? The Inquisitor had suggested a connection of mine could be associated with these missing tomes everyone seems so concerned about. I had assumed Pavo, but could it have been Petronicus?
Or perhaps it was Raiia’s teacher. I wonder where he is now? Probably I should try to find out, see if I can help. Should have done something when he was taken. No, there were Hellknights, and I had Raiia nearby. Coward. I hear they’ve reopened the Holding House. Perhaps I could go there some time and follow it up, surely it was all just some mistake.

Fight Night:
How do they expect me to do my job when they won’t even tell me who is fighting? Completely unprofessional! The tiefling freak fighting the gnoll was a farce, who allows sorcery in a fight? Does Titus not understand how quickly the crowd could have turned? Ah well, I stopped that quickly enough, and if it meant that Titus copped a belting and loses some profits then that’s the price he pays for not setting things up better! Maybe I went too far. Hopefully he doesn’t hold me responsible; with tours becoming smaller since Barzillai came to town, I don’t really want to lose those discounted meals…

Kintargo:
Things are starting to change now. I had hoped Barzillai’s presence here would have little impact on daily life. A foolish hope. Tour profits have been declining with news of the rebellion, but this toll on Bleakbridge is too much! If this continues I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to provide adequately for my family. Today I had to cut the tour short to avoid the issues at the Holding House (perhaps asking after Raiia’s teacher is not such a good idea), which of course meant I had to discount the tour. I need more coin. Or less mouths to feed. No, that won’t change, more coin it must be. But now with these proclamations it will probably get even worse, a curfew will hardly encourage visitors! Maybe I can use the proclamations to my advantage though. Perhaps Ereniel could start doing business removing embroidery from clothing, there will surely be a market for that. So the wife solves all the problems? Pathetic. Well, I guess at worst I can turn my hand to killing vermin for the copper. Ah, now we’re talking. So many vermin in our city lately, and many worth more than a copper!

The Hidden Basement:
Well, that was an interesting evening. Having Mercia run up and throw her arms around me was certainly an unusual start to my visit to Belor’s. Though not unwelcome, a shame she can’t see her way to being one of the ladies working upstairs! Now that would be worth a few coins! But no, that would be a betrayal of Ereniel. Ha, Ereniel is the betrayal, and a lie besides. No matter, none of that is as noteworthy as the fact that there was indeed something down there. I’m still not sure how I found the switch to that door, it was almost as if there were another force drawing me down from the start. About time someone competent was in control. I cannot help but feel pity for those tengu, or at least that would be the case had they not betrayed us with Chough. Pathetic, directionless creatures huddling in the dark, too fearful to act. Fortunate for them that I was able to come along and give them back their sense of purpose. Hahahahahahahaha, the irony!
The statue of Calistria though, that was truly interesting! I don’t think any of the others noticed my interest. Of course not. None of the fools would have a clue about the Lady in the Room, just another statue to them. Pavo might know, and I did select Calistria’s tome in front of him at Belor’s. Bah, if the bard ever noticed such a thing he’d be too caught up in his own self-importance to think it was anything but brought about by him introducing you to such forbidden topics. No, Pavo is better than that. Irrelevant; the young will always believe the domain of rebelliousness belongs exclusively to them. True enough. I wonder at the bodies around the statue. Could father’s disappearance have had anything to do with this? That’s not a genuine question is it? That can’t be a question! This scene does nothing but confirm what I already knew, as soon as I saw the scorched statue it was obvious! I didn’t even need to see the bodies! I’d forgotten about the burnings father took me to. Forgotten? Impossible. The fires of Hell tend to burn themselves into one’s memory. Haha! Then the Victocora Estate… Those fires are always hungry. Things must change. All the more reason I should have left that holy symbol under the statue. It was foolish to bring it home. But it was time for it to be brought forth from the shadows.

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Loyalty

I was having a beautiful day, one of the best in recent times. I was at the greens with my family, my son was on a swing attached to an old Oak Tree with my wife was pushing him very carefully. Father and mother were over by the pond, throwing some bread crumbs from our recent picnic into the water feeding the ducks and swans.

Suddenly lunch seemed to be making a re-emergence. Grabbing my stomach in pain I began to feel something. Suddenly a blade came through my stomach and made its way up to my chest. Then following the blade came a hand, then an arm, till the gruesome figure of the madman from his nightmares came climbing up. There was blood everywhere, so much blood. I suddenly looked to my family for help only to find that the Oak tree had become a giant figure of Barzillai Thrune and my wife and son were dancing for him at every pull of his finger.

I turned to my father, to find him being pulled into the pond by masked Dottari, my mother crying out and trying to save him. It became all too hard to keep conscience and I fell to the ground. As I hit the ground I sat upright in bed shouting. Instantly regretting it as in part to the pain from my recent stiches and the fact that it obviously was not a bad dream after all.

It had only been a day since I got news that my father had died in a tragic accident, or so I had thought, till one of my father’s oldest friends and fellow Dottari member, took me aside after fainting at the news of my father and told me that he believed it to be no accident.

Ensuring that we were alone, he then explained that many of the loyal Dottari had either been asked to move on due to what was perceived to be standards below expectations or put into far lower or more dangerous positions, which was hard to believe. The few who refused to stand aside either have not been seen again, or have met with some accident. My Fathers patrol was renowned for honesty and upholding the laws better than any other. He was very respected by many of the great families. He then explained that he believed that my father was one of those accidents. It was hard to believe, but my father’s friend said he has heard that other patrols have had the same happen. Even the recruit trainer had been dismissed, to be honest he probably got off lightly considering what happened to the others like him.

It made sense as my father has been handling animals his entire life and knew not to put himself into harm’s way. If only I had been with him and not bedridden due to the madman’s attack. My father’s friend left not long after this, leaving me with a warning. I think that it is time that you took some leave of your own from the Dottari. You have too many responsibilities now that you are the man of the house.

After he left, my mind returned to the madman in the apron. Gee my chest hurt, but I can count myself lucky I suppose. The blade had cut deep and long, but luckily for me a healer was close by and the old man whose house it was, was also skilled in some healing arts. The face though, I will never forget and I will get my revenge on him. I along with Titus now both have a reason more than duty to ensure that this animal is stricken from this existence.

After all this time searching for him, I finally found him, but I was not ready for him. My patrol who caught up with me could no longer write the attacks off as a random attack either. They saw firsthand what damage was done and saw him fleeing. None willing to give chase after seeing what he did to me.

For now though I must rest, soon I will be back in the yard practicing my fighting arts, I will be ready next time. Especially since my family’s honour is at stake, my method for training will need to be adjusted though as I will have to take up “Loyalty” my father’s sword. After all every first born boy has been handed the family sword down from generation to generation. I just didn’t think that I would receive it so soon.

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Proclamations and a Hidden Basement
Session 2

It was the day after what later became known as the Night of Ashes. Pavo and Alaria visited the smoking ruins of the Silver Star, looking for their friend Shensen. They noted a young, well-dressed man poking around the ruins, as if looking for someone or something. He left empty-handed.

That night Titus held his first Fight Night at the Forum Sodalitus. He was kept busy running Belor’s, supplying the food and drink for the spectators. Gaian had accepted the offer to MC the event to earn a few extra coins. He introduced the first animal fights as the bookies shouted the odds.

Evalyn convinced Keldor to attend the fights, partly to get his mind off the events of the previous night. Taking advantage of the alcohol, she then goaded him to enter the prize fight. “Really honey, what is the point of all that training if you don’t use it?” In a brief battle Keldor defeated a gnoll warrior, winning the main prize and staving off poverty for a few more weeks.

During the night he was approached by a young man who introduced himself as Rexus, with an offer to hire Keldor as a bodyguard. Keldor’s first task was to accompany Rexus to speak with Pavo.

Meeting in a private room with Pavo, Titus and Bug, Rexus explained he is Baroness Porcia Victocora’s son. He calmly stated his family is dead, killed in the fire which burnt down their house, and that almost everyone else he knew had been killed or is missing. He said the night was some kind of purge, and that the burned buildings and missing/killed people were all related somehow. His mother left him precious few items, but an important letter – it seems she foresaw what was coming and prepared. Rexus asked for Pavo’s help, as the bard had worked with his mother before, albeit unknowingly. At this stage, Rexus said, he had nobody else to turn to. He needed help recovering something, and asked Pavo to meet him in two days and to bring some stout allies.

The next day Barzillai made a public announcement. Under the inference of protecting the people, the new lord-mayor enacted martial law and a curfew, and announced seven proclamations which many Kintargans found troubling.

Although the majority of Kintargo’s citizens felt confused and anxious, some took matters further. Small incidents occurred: students from the Alabaster Academy vandalised a statue of the empress; disgruntled merchants blocked Bleakbridge and had to be forcibly removed; tiefling thugs assaulted an Asmodean priest; and several spontaneous protests were quickly dispersed by dottari. One report had a large group of angry rioters capture and torture a dottari patrol, though rumour had it this was actually spread by the dottari themselves to give the impression they are the real victims. Uncertainty permeated the city.

Gaian’s tours were suffering. Visitors from within Cheliax had all but stopped due to the rebellion, and from outside the nation had dwindled. Furthermore, the Greens was still off limits. More annoying, however, was the three copper per person toll placed on Bleakbridge, which ate into his small profit. After his last tour he barely made enough for a few meals.

Meanwhile Titus asked Bug to try to discover the whereabouts of Lentius – the vigilante hadn’t been seen since two days earlier. Bug headed to the Holding House, which was recently re-opened to due overcrowding in the city’s prison. Bug barely escaped being arrested himself once he admitted knowing Lentius. He reported to Titus that Lentius had been arrested, and is possibly dead.

Back at Belor’s, Mercia alerted the bar to a ghost in the cellar. Gaian was nearest, and rushed to the lady’s assistance. He discovered a secret door in the cellar which led to dark rooms beyond. Accompanied by Titus, Bug and Pavo, they found a pool of water which joined the sewer and ultimately emptied into the Yolubilis River. A large albino crocodile lurked nearby.

Gaian noticed dead bodies, brutally murdered years ago, and burn marks on the walls and the statue of Calistria. He found notes of “…hunted, they will find us hiding here soon but we will face their fire unflinchingly…” This was an old, makeshift temple to Calistria, obviously destroyed by Asmodeans. He remembered as a child his father taking him to see Calistrians burned for heresy. He felt he had been led to this place by some other power.

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The Morning After Pt 2

At the edge of the Devil’s Nursery, Kintargo’s most notorious slum, stands a set of old, wooden double doors. Behind is a long hall, filled with long tables along one side, and a dozen bunk beds the other. A hostel for those down on their luck, or those just setting out in the city, the Cloven Hoof Society has been assisting tieflings with nowhere else to go for years.

On this morning, however, the hall stands empty apart from a small group of tieflings huddled near the doors. No two share the same physical features, but they all share the same sombre mood. Between them on the floor is a blood-stain, still damp.

Hetamon Haace, one of the respected members of tiefling society, clear his throat. “The details of last night are still unclear. What we do is Strea was kidnapped – perhaps arrested, though no formal notification has been provided.”

Keldor remembered Strea from his brief stay here when he first arrived in Kintargo. With no contacts and nowhere to stay, he spent a few nights in the hall with other tieflings needing assistance. In his case he could provide some coin for his lodgings, and remembered Strea, the manager, being grateful for the donation he provided upon departure.

Hetamon continued. “Her abduction was violent. Braeus was killed,” he momentarily glances at the blood-stain, “and several others brutally beaten. The armed men – Hellknights – were ruthless. Also, Garleth’s young son Garend is missing, and he fears the worst.”

“What next?” a tiefling opposite Hetamon asks. “What do we do if Strea doesn’t return? What do we do with the hostel?”

Hetamon slumps “Board it up.”

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The Morning After

Belor’s was still closed this early in the day. Titus poured another drink for his father while Bug cleaned the previous night’s mess off the tables.

“Damned if I know who burnt it down!” Aleus grimaced, gulping another ale in as many minutes. Titus passed another drink to the old man. After losing his establishment in the fire the night before, the least Titus could do was help the man drink himself unconscious.

Aleus paused part way through his third drink to belch. Lentius, leaning calmly against the wall, took the opportunity to ask some questions about the arson. “So you really have no idea who might have done it, or why? Nobody has it in for you?”

Aleus shook his head violently. “Everyone liked the Thrashing Badger. We had the cheapest ale on the harbour!”

“But what about you, anyone not like you?” Lentius continued his investigation.

Aleus peered into his empty mug before Titus filled it up. “Me? Nah, everyone likes me.”

Lentius stroked his chin. “Well if not you, who then?” He glanced at Bug, the only other person who was at the pub at the time of the attack. Would Basili’s Boys have gone to that much trouble to get revenge on the halfling? Unlikely.

“There were two other buildings burnt down last night,” Lentius thinks aloud, “The Silver Star music store and one of the estates in the Greens. How are they linked?”

Aleus throws a handful of peanuts into his mouth. “That Shensen’s a troublemaker,” he says between chewing.

“And so are half your patrons,” Lentius adds. He and Titus share a glance. “Yeah, maybe that’s it. The attack didn’t target you, but your customers. Without it, where will they meet?”

“At that bloody Clenchjaw’s, that’s where,” Aleus curses his old friend and long-term rival Rinston.

“The Badger and the Silver Star, both locations frequented by critics of our fair empress.” Lentius grabs his cloak. “I’ll go ask some questions – discreetly. Let’s see who’s to blame for these attacks. Then we’ll mete out some unofficial justice.”

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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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