A Game of Thrunes

Three Meetings

The room was dark, almost too dark to see. It hid the details of those seated around the table.

“I have summoned you all here,” Hei-Fen spoke quietly, “to inform you we have made contact with the Lucky Bones.”

“He did it!” someone announced with a little too much joy for Hei-Fen’s liking.

Her brows furrowed slightly. “No, ‘he’ did not do it. In fact, my Ears report he – Varl Wrex – is dead.” Hei-Fen let that news sink in, and waited for the quiet murmuring to begin before continuing. “Along with our agents.”

“But who…?”

“We don’t yet know,” Hei-Fen snapped. The attendees realised her temper was rising and fell silent. “But I know, through other means, they have found the Lucky Bones and accessed its vault. Our vault.”

Now only silence, as the others waited for direction. Eventually Hei-Fen spoke, some having to lean forward to hear her words. “I have arranged a meeting with the one who gained access. My Ears will discover who they are. Until then, as much as it pains us, we wait.”

+ + +

Across the ocean, another meeting was taking place. This one occurred in an atrium. A glass roof sheltered a number of rare and exotic plants, some climbing toward the sun, others creeping across the tiled floor. Several chains of perfumed red flowers trailed down from large glossy leaves above, shading a simple satinwood chair. Upon the chair sat an elderly woman.

A young, blonde woman with deep blue eyes made her way through the plants toward the seated lady. A tendril from a passionflower caressed her shoulder but the woman absently brushed it aside.

“Mistress, I have information on the Children,” she said, coming to a standstill in front of the seated lady.

The lady gestured for her to take a seat opposite, and poured her some tea while she did so. “In Draconic, please, Rili,” the lady requested.

Rili paused for only a moment before switching her language to the ancient language of dragons. The words were difficult to pronounce but Rili spoke it with ease.

“The Children of the Ash have found a new hideout. Even now they gather strength in an underground complex in Old Kintargo.”

The lady nodded. “Good. Infernal.”

Rili changed flawlessly, now speaking the language of Hell. It was a concise language replete with homophones, but Rili conveyed her message precisely. “The Children saved Archbaroness Aulamaxa from Lady Ambria Sarini’s assassination attempt. I think they will approach the Archbaroness for an alliance, much like they did with Lord Aulorian and Lictor Sabinus.”

“Ex-Lictor,” the lady corrected with a wry smile. “Very good. Speaking of the Order, what of Sir Rogatus? Elven.”

Rili once again changed, this time to the poetic sounding elven. “He has left the city, this time headed to Citadel Enferac.”

“So they intend to go ahead with the ritual. Interesting. Thank you, Rili, you may go.”

As Rili left the lady leaned back, holding a sprig of mint under her nose, lost in thought.

+ + +

Rogatus spurred on his horse, hoping the last few miles passed quickly. His destination was close, he could see it. In fact, he couldn’t miss it. Citadel Enferac, home of the Order of the Gate, the only order of Hellknight dedicated to employing magic to enforce its vision of law.

From the outside, the mountain’s habitation was clear. Towers, smoking chimneys, iron balconies, and fortifications of black stone protruded from the snowy slopes. Over the decades, the citadel had grown from a single structure to encompass the entirety of Mount Nyisaid. Legend had it the citadel didn’t simply cover the mountain, but also filled it: the Order of the Gate had carved vast caverns within the mountain, halls, barracks, meeting chambers, some with fortifications and structures all their own.

Ahead of Rogatus, a massive flight of stairs rose from the valley. There’s always a catch, he thought. Dismounting, he passed the reins to an stablehand. Taking a deep breath, he began his ascent.

Legs aching and breath coming in ragged gasps in the mountain air, Rogatus eventually reached a mighty crimson door. Two gargantuan iron statues of Hellknights flanked the gate. Although motionless, Rogatus had no doubt they would animate if necessary.

He reached out for the large knocker but the door opened silently before he could touch it.

“Welcome, Sir Rogatus,” a grinning man in a crimson robe greeted him.

Rogatus waited a moment to catch his breath. “Sir Hybriano… Greetings… It’s been… a long time.”

Hybriano grinned and ushered Rogatus inside. “I forgot how tiring the stairs can be,” Hybriano said as he led Rogatus down a hall. “You know we rarely use them.”

Rogatus had by now caught his breath. “I don’t suppose you could provide me a way of passing them by next time, a magic carpet perhaps?” he half joked. It was his third time at Enferac, and the climb had definitely not become easier with age.

As he passed down the hall he noted the murder holes and arrow slits lining the walls. He couldn’t help but compare Enferac to his Order’s own keep in Kintargo, humble – no, meek – beside this marvel.

With a grimace he remembered that humble abode was now the possession of the Order of the Rack, thanks to Barzillai Thrune’s proclamation.

Hybriano opened a door to a small meeting hall as two Hellknights walked by, dressed in the crimson robes and vortex-patterned armour traditionally worn by the Gate. They turned to Rogatus, perhaps wondering who the stranger was, though their expressions were hidden behind steel face masks.

“Water, wine perhaps?” Hybriano offered as Rogatus slumped into a chair.

“Wine, thanks,” Rogatus replied. He took a long drink, rubbed the exhaustion from his face, and turned to Hybriano, who had also taken a seat at the table. “I suppose you know about the Torrent?” he asked.

Hybriano’s expression remained neutral. “Of course. Word travels quickly.”

Augurs of fantastic potency, the Hellknights of the Gate cast their gazes across the world, witnessing crimes and presaging chaos. There was little that escaped them, and Rogatus had no doubt that word might have travelled quickly but in no mundane way.

Hybriano spoke cautiously. "It is unfortunate, but know there are many in Enferac whom sympathise with your plight.”

“It’s temporary,” Rogatus offered with a grin, but it slowly faded as he contemplated his position. Although outlawed from Kintargo, not even the Lord-Mayor had the power to completely dissolve the Order, so he was safe and welcome at Enferac. Planning to overthrow the lawful government of the city, however, was probably beyond the pale for the Order of the Gate. How much they knew about that Rogatus wasn’t sure, but he had no intention of mentioning it.

Considering their power of divination, however, they did know, in which case they had provided their unspoken blessing for the rebellion – for otherwise Rogatus would already be in chains.

“Do you know why I’m here?" he asked.

“You need us for a summoning. I’m happy to report Paravicar Astratius will do it himself.”

“Excellent!” Rogatus replied. That was the first good news he had heard for quite some time.

“Just as soon as your men assist ours, we will be ready.”

There’s always a catch.

Hybriano passed over a letter detailing the assistance required.

“Agreed,” Rogatus stated after reading it. He summarily threw it into the fireplace, having memorised its contents. “One more thing. This is more personal. The Lictor tasked me with finding Shensen, but all leads have gone cold. Perhaps you could help…”

View
Bug Moves In

Bug was quite happy with his new rooms in the former thieves guild hide out. He had been quite quick to claim the rooms just off the first pit they had encountered. Although the others had said he should have been happy with cupboard, Bug wanted the space. He had cleared out all of the fine study furniture and replaced it with a simple bed and desk. A long the wall he had gotten Jerry to get him a wooden pole that held his armour and finer clothes. The small room next to the former guardpost clearly used to be a holding cell. After a quick examination of the cell, he had discovered there was a secret door that led into the former shrine to some God. Bug was quick to disable the door so that it could only be opened from his side.

The last of Bug changes was the installation of a rack. In recent times he had started to own quite a few daggers and shortswords and enjoyed having them displayed. Although Nightswarm had commented that his shortswords were nothing more than human daggers bug used them like a shortsword. There was one particular spot on that rack he had reserved for that teleportation dagger Aroldo was holding for him. He wanted nothing more than to have that in his grasp again. “Such a fine cutting edge…” he thought to himself.

As he took off his final bit of finery he thought about all that had happened that day. He was a bit worried he had caught the eye of the inquisitors, he was amused by the rumours of the flying Halfling but was not happy at the attention it had drawn. As he was thinking of possible ways to mislead the authorities there was a knock at the door.

“Come in” Bug said. He knew it was Jerry his second in command. Jerry had proven to be incredibly good at his job. He had gathered useful information and done everything that Bug had asked of him, and had become a friend of Bugs.

“Hey Bug, I was told you were looking for me”

“Jerry, today has been a shit, I got stabbed pleny, and the inquisiors harassed me. We’re gonna have to think up a way to distrac them. But that’s for later. I’ve got some ideas that need to be done Jerry, reckon you can help me out”

“Sure thing Bug, what’d you need”

“first up lets get some money Jerry, As you know there is an old smugglers port under this hide out, we’re gonna get into the importing business. I need you to find some of your old buddies by the dock who know how to sail. I need them to go to Vyre and bick up some mint for us. We’re gonna start pumping it into this city.” Bug had thought up this idea when he heard the Tengu gang were harassing Aroldo’s local seller.

“yeah I should be able to find some boys that can go get it for us bug, what else you need”

“you seen those items being shown in the Opera park? Reckon it is a stupid idea to send some boys to get them? Some of the newer guys. Ones that don’t know me or where this place is.”

“Bug, you know those weapons aren’t right”

“yeah, I just want you to send some boys to have a look and see what happens”

“I’m not sure Bug, but if you think it’s right… I’ll send someone, anything else?”

“yeah, I found out whats happen to the Red Jills, the Inquisiors took ‘em out. Time to claim their dirt as ours. Also while I think about it, you reckon we got the numbers to get the markets as well?”

“Hmm those River Talons have Bleakbridge locked tight, Bug, it will be tough to move in. Perhaps we should make them an offer to join the Black Mantis.”

That was the list of the things Bug wanted to get done for his Gang, now it was time to hear what intel Jerry had gathered. “before you leave Jerry, what info you got for me that the rebellion should know?”

“There was one thing, Bug. A young woman with blonde hair, athletic looking. Some of the boys caught her watching Belor’s. She’s good Bug, she lost the boys in the crowd. Might be worth keeping an eye out.”

“Wait, wha’d ya mean blonde? Was it white or blonde? Blue eyes?”

“Yeah Bug that’s her, golden blonde with blue eyes.”

“Well shit.”

View
The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 10

You’re awfully quiet.

Unlike yourself, I’m a man of few, yet valuable, words. Was there something in particular you wished commentary on?

Well, I’m surprised there’s been no mockery of my day at the horse festival. But what I’d really expected to hear was your plan for how you are going to take that sword Thrune has so nicely left out for you.

Oh? You think I should?

Of course not! But it is exactly the kind of thing you’d do, and damn the consequences.

It is exactly the kind of thing I’d do. And the kind of thing you wouldn’t approve of, thus my silence. I wasn’t going to tell you how I am going to climb down the opera house and grab the sword unobserved, then sneak in and use it to lop off Barzillai’s head.

Really? That’s your plan?

Of course not. I’m not stupid.

Blinded by hatred and a need for vengeance, though.

Ispired by hatred and a need for vengeance. Fear not, I’m not about to take the sword.

I’m glad you see the risk.

I don’t care about the risk. I’m quite certain I could manage it with no adverse consequences. However, there is no way I will allow Thrune to claim us as his pawns in the eyes of Kintargo.

Agreed. In fact, I think we really do need to respond to this offer, make it clear to the people that we will continue our work to free Kintargo and have no interest in Barzillai’s misguided attempts to claim us.

Indeed. Perhaps a response thanking Barzillai for acknowledging the good work we are doing for Kintargo’s citizens, and reiterating that we are clearly perfectly capable on our own. And that he and the good citizens of Kintargo may rest assured that we have only just begun in our efforts to improve this city.

Yes, and perhaps mentioning that given his clear interest in supporting us in aiding Kintargo, we would prefer him to keep the items he offered us and invite him to use the funds to their value to more directly aid the citizens of this fine city.

How?

Hmm. Well, for a start that amount of gold going back into the treasury would remove the need for a toll on Bleakbridge.

Or perhaps the funds could be used to buy him his very own home, allowing the Opera House to be returned to the people?

I like that one. How about using it to reinstate the city’s beloved Knights of the Torrent, and paying them to discover the whereabouts of certain persons missing since the Night of Ashes, such as Shensen and our former Mayor?

All good suggestions.

And probably appealing to the middle class of Kintargo. The poor already like us, it’s time we moved up a rung in society.

You’re better with words than I. Prepare the notices and I’ll put them up tonight.

We’d better run it by the others first; I don’t think they were all thrilled with our last run of posters.

Come now, we don’t have to gain approval for everything we do. Do you see Bug asking for approval every time he wants to do something?

No. And as a result he is often viewed with suspicion, and accused of placing his own interests ahead of those of the rebellion. I do not wish to be viewed in similar light.

Fine, go and ask them all for permission if you wish. I suppose there’ no harm in throwing them a bone in the illusion of choice.

Illusion? I see. I’d best be convincing then, so that they don’t see the illusion for what it is.

Is that not the primary role of the illusionist? Now get to it, the sooner we counter Barzillai’s propaganda the better.

View
Warhorses and Warbulls
Session 18

Ambria and the Loyalists plot to kill Archbaroness Eldonna Aulamaxa and blame Baron Canton Jhaltera, hence taking care of two pro-Kintargo noble families. However, the Children of the Ash work out the plan and foil the attack at the last moment.

Following that, Lord-Mayor Barzillai Thrune publicly praise the Children and offer personalised rewards for their dedication to the safety of Kintargo. The Children suspect things are not what they seem and do not attend the ceremony.

FULL NOTES:

  • The Children fix the magic pump, pumping the water from the lower level of the Lucky Bones. This reveals the secret vault; inside is lots of loot.This includes four strange rings. Bug wears one, a strange lady’s voice appears in his head, says she will meet him soon. Ominous.
  • Lentius and Octavio walk through, assigning roles to rooms and the like.
  • Aroldo drops into Fine Flowers to find 3 tengu are here shaking the owner down for proptection money. Gaian and Augas with him. River talons. Shaking the locals for protection money. Aroldo promises that he will help with this.
  • Red Jills in chaos.
  • Arms and armour safely at Aroldo’s Manor. Weapons in colour Jhaltero house, however the leader of loyalists was Sigio Tanessen. Ambria Sarini was wizard when we stole the items. All different houses; political intrigue likely.
  • Archbaroness Melodia is hosting a horse race. To Whiterock and back. Whiterock is held by the Jhaltero Family.
  • Get info. Like the Royal Show, but more horses. Watch horses leave, watch horses come back. About as fun as the Adelaide 500. ZZZZzzzzz
  • Festival held outside the walls. Farmland and food stuff. Largest building is the Rookery. Opposite is Whisperwind Stables. Merchant stalls, equipment, tents, etc. Dr Barnabas owns the Rookery, Head of Aviation at Academy.
  • Aroldo and Gaian start enjoying themselves at festival. Augus, Bug and Green spot interesting people in the crowd.
  • Bug follows one, grabbing a fish stick. He’s approached by one of the people he has spotted, he calls him Bug. Says the inquisitors came, took Scarplume (Red Jill). Inquisitors asking about the Flying Halfling. Watch out for tall woman with white/silver hair.
  • Bodeen follows a woman, loses her.
  • Aroldo and Bug spot a Dottari high up riding huge black warhorse; it’s Vannases, Duxotas of the Dottari.
  • Augus follows another, who seems to be talking to others.
  • Gaian goes to the Sarini compound with 2 glasses of wine. Countess’ greeting towards him gets Gaian admitted. Warm greetings. Flirting. While talking spots Ambria. Discuss other night with Countess. Sarini is having a party, invites Gaian.
  • More Dottari arrive, cavalry. Bodeen spots girl with blue eyes. She spots him, Green plays coy. Doesn’t get anywhere. Goes to see Baroness Belcara. She’s won 3 of last 5 races. Usually go for sail on barge to watch. Bodeen queries why change this year. She mentions Aulurian family shifting support to Thrune from the city. Thrune will be hosting costume ball at Opera House. Menador’s Gap has been closed.
  • Aroldo goes to the Rookery to see Dr Barnabas. Helping sick warrior. He’s a guard of House of Aulamaxa (poodle woman). Serving girl dressed as imp gave him a drink. Was poisoned, Augus confirms.
  • Halfling in taproom approaches Bug. Calls herself Juno. She’s an informant to the Inquisition, selling out the Bellflower network. Bug knew nothing, they couldn’t pin shit on him.
  • Hallflings storm the place, calling for glory to the Reclamation. A play / performance. Sarini guards start moving in. Seems to be what the mystery was about.
  • Barnabas says there were 6 men early for breakfast at the Rookery, armed.
  • Bodyguard was poisoned by girl in imp costume. He wants to race off to find his liege, the Archbaroness Eldonna. She might be in danger. Children assist.
  • A few miles out of the city, we spy men dressed in black. With women and children but they appear vacant and disinterested. Pass them.
  • Augus spots a bloodstain and trampled grass. Find two wagons in grass, with 3 dead men, half naked. Clothes taken, other groups likely wearing clothes. Go back, fight them, save slaves.
  • Haste twice on the way back to catch up, then attacked by giant bull. He’s a giant problem, Bug almost dies but they are victorious.
  • Ride on, get to barge, under attack. MantaMan engages. Fight ensues, the party clamber on board the barge and are attacked by men, Ambria reveals herself, she is the leader, summons her winged serpent.
  • The battle is fierce, Sir Callum is a great help. Bug wounded gravely again, eventually Aroldo’s magic causes Ambria to find the whole thing ridiculous (Hideous Lauhgter) her laughing results in her capture, others killed. Eldonna takes her away.
  • Return to city. Lord-Mayor issues posters that children of the Ash are awesome, we should be rewarded. Massive ceremony on Opera House steps, no Children show. Barzillai says kind words, leaves gifts behind. Gifts seem to be tailor made for each of the head Rebels.
View
Wine, Poetry and Illusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 9
Uncle Nightswarm

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

You’re joking, right? No way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardly a fair assessment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agreed. No Revin, just Alaost and Raiia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raiia has no hatred in her.

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

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

Fine. I can work with those terms.

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The Loyalists and the Skum
Session 17

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

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

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Snacks and Secrets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Open Turquoise Malachite
Session 16

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

FULL NOTES

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

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

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The Lucky bones
Session 15

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

Full notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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