Council of Thieves

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A gathering in Vizio's Tavern
A meeting with an unexpected visit to the sewers

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19 Desnus 4709 – Afternoon

During the last few weeks, a woman has regularly visited my street performances. She introduced herself as Janiven Key. She is a beautiful and charismatic woman with short black hair. She is some kind of mercenary as she walks around in the city wearing a breastplate and she carries a longsword at her side. Most often these kind of folk do not notice me unless it is the males who regularly provide undesired and sexually charged comments. Janiven seems genuinely interested in me and that captivates me. Sometimes she hints at things that are against the law, which makes me a little scared. I have witnessed up close what is done to those who oppose the system and I never want to see something like that again or become a victim myself.

A few days ago, I saw Janiven for the last time and she invited me to come to Vizio’s Tavern on 19 Desnus halfway through the afternoon. She will not say exactly why, but she tells me that she and some others are looking for a way to remove the nightly curse of this city. Just over thirty years ago, something entered Westcrown after sunset and people started disappearing. The Dottari could not solve the problem because they were understaffed and not up to the task. The role of the Hell Knights is unclear to me, but whatever they did was not good enough. After a little too many disappearances, a curfew was enforced over the city. Nobody was allowed outside between sunset and sunrise. Most of the people were too afraid to go outside anyway, but this made it official. From time to time some fools ignore the curfew and these people disappear forever. Often some parts of their possessions are found but that is it.

Because of this curse, Westcrown has no night-life. Everything has to close before sunset. The people manage to get by though and have cramped everything into the hours when the sun can seen in the sky.

Strong light sources seem to keep the monsters at bay, so several larger and important streets are lit every evening with lamps as tall as I am. People should be able to travel freely across these streets but it is not allowed. Only the Dottari, Hell Knights and some important people are allowed to come there. All the rest of the city is dark except where some people have put candles or oil lamps outside.

So, halfway through the afternoon of 19 Desnus, I find myself at the entrance of Vizio’s Tavern. There has been no rain for more than two weeks and the last week we have only had sunshine with comfortable high temperatures. The streets have become dusty and everything is dry. There is a soft pleasant wind.

The tavern has a dishevelled look to it. The paint is gone in many places, most of the ironwork is rust-eaten, in some places the wood shows signs of dry rot, the windows need to be cleaned, but the sign seems new. It is too dark inside compared to the sunlit street that it is hard for me to look inside. There is no sign that this establishment is open. I can hear some voices inside so I presume this must be the right place. I hesitate when I grab the rusted doorknob. I am frightened. Janiven insinuated that this meeting would be about breaking the law. About rebellion against the government and I fear the consequences. I still have nightmares from time to time. This is only an informative meeting though. Nothing will bind me to anything. And if I want the city to return to the times of before the curfew, I must put aside my fears. I open the door.

The inside looks as if the place is not yet finished. A lot wood lies against one wall, and most of the furniture is stacked in a corner. The bar seems functional and clean and so is one table with five chairs around it. Everything else covered with dust. There are five people inside, of which only three are human, and one of them is Janiven. So I am in the right place. Everyone looks at me as I walk through the door and close it behind me. Nobody addresses me and not knowing what is expected of me, I decide to wait standing somewhere between the bar and clean table.

I take a better look at the other people here. Janiven I know, but the others are complete strangers. One of them, seated on a stool at the bar, is tall broad shouldered half-orc. I rarely see them in Westcrown. This one has a pale green skin, coarse greying dark hair and his tusks are clearly visible. They point outward, suggesting a perpetual grin. In his face I can see some wrinkles around his deep set blue eyes, revealing that he is aging. Over a chain hauberk he is not wearing a tunic but a worn sun bleached white cassock, neatly buttoned up to his neck. These garments reveal little bare skin, but in his neck and at his wrists, tattoos are visible. Too little can be seen to get any idea of what they might mean. He is also wearing large brown boots. Next to him, leaning against the bar, is a huge spear that reaches almost to the ceiling. It must be eight to nine feet or something like that.

Seated next to the half-orc there is a disgusting looking skinny human. Or at least I think he is human. Even in the little light here in the tavern I can see he has not seen a bath for at least several weeks if not more. His once expensive blue robe is covered in dust and is stained everywhere, and he is wearing brown sandals. His half long black hair is greasy and he has large circles under his eyes. He has not shaven for some time. As I take a closer look at his face, it reminds me of my mother who has been through hell and never recovered. I cannot smell him at this distance, but from the old man next to him I get the impression that is must be bad.

The old man must be around fifty. His short hair, beard and moustache are mostly grey. He is wearing some kind of yellow robes. Where the other people in the tavern seem rather relaxed, this man is nervous and restless. He is constantly looking around him and makes random gestures.

The last man seated at the bar is a male elf. Another non-human that I seldom encounter in this big city. I recognize him by the small posture and his pointy ears. He has short black hair and is clean shaven like all elves. He has come fully armed, with a dagger and rapier at his belt, a quiver on his back and a longbow is leaning against the bar. He is wearing a chain shirt, green trousers, a blue unmarked tunic, blue narrow fitting boots and a green hooded cloak.

None of the patrons are wearing any kind of visible jewellery. Overall it is a very mixed company. I wonder where Janiven found them and if they have the same goal as I have. I can hardly imagine it. The elf is most likely not even a local and the half-orc must be some kind of mercenary priest worshipping a strange god.

When I look at Janiven, I can see that the old man is not the only one who is nervous. So is she. She keeps looking at the door. After a long silence, Janiven says, that she is still waiting for one person to arrive. He should have been here already. Subsequently, she starts explaining a few things about herself. She is a mercenary who has bought this tavern together with a business associate. Then there is a silence again. Most of the sounds I can hear come from the streets outside. The old man starts looking through the windows regularly. He is worried that he cannot back home before sunset. It is not even late afternoon though and during this time of the year the sun only sets late in the evening. Still, I may not leave too late as I have to cross half the city to get back to the mansion.

Janiven prepares some bread and cheese, and places it on the table. Then she closes the doors and shutters and takes a seat. She invites everyone to join her. We will not wait any longer. I take a seat next to Janiven and take some of the bread and cheese. The others join us. Only now that he is standing up can I see how tall the half-orc is. He is very impressive up close especially when compared the dirty skinny man. When the seats are taken, the dirty man is still standing, but Janiven tells him to grab a chair from the furniture in the corner. He grabs one, and places it between the old man and the orc. The old man clearly does not like it but the dirty man does not notice or does not care. I think it is the latter.

Once everyone is comfortable, Janiven starts explaining why she has brought us together. We all want things to change in this city. Not everybody wants the same change, but we want change nevertheless and we dare not speak about it openly. The half-orc is a cleric of Iomedae, but he has to hide it for lack of freedom of religion. The elves from the woods cannot safely cross the Rego Cader, the northern district of Westcrown, because the Dottari and Hell Knights do not have the manpower to keep the peace and order there. The dirty man also needs the system to change in some way to allow him to continue his business, and the same applies to the old man.

Janiven also explains to us why she wants things to change. First of all, she wants the common people of Westcrown to have a better life like the rest of the inhabitants of Cheliax. She also wants to lift the nightly curse that rests on Westcrown, which will help with her first goal. In addition, Janiven is also concerned about the halflings, and she asks me to explain why. I turn red in the face when everyone looks at me. When performing, I do not care how many people look at me, but in situations like this I feel uncomfortable. I tell the others that at the mansion where I live, we have two halflings who work there as slaves. Janiven takes over and says that all halflings in Cheliax are slaves and it is clear she does not like that. Before she can continue, the old man interrupts and says that it is for the good of the halflings themselves. Now they are well fed and have good houses to sleep in. Otherwise they would just be roofless beggars.

We all have our own reasons to be here, but what unites is, is that we all want change. What’s more, everything has the same cause, the current rulers of Cheliax. Some of them are more to blame than others or for different things. The current ruling family of Cheliax, house Thrune, is responsible for most of the misery. That house is currently led by Queen Abrogail II, her Infernal Magestrix. House Thrune lived in Egorian and when they were the victors of the civil war that ended seventy years ago, they moved the title of capital from Westcrown to that city. The fact that they ended the bloody and cruel civil war was good. Somebody had to do it because the normal people were suffering badly during those thirty-five years. The majority of the people in Cheliax still see House Thrune as the saviours of their country.

However, there was a steep price to pay. House Thrune had formed a pact with Asmodeus, the Lord of Hell. As a result Asmodeus has become the state religion. Everywhere temples have been erected, the largest in Egorian off course, but there is also a large one in Westcrown.

House Thrune fears opposition and everything that is not to their liking is forcefully suppressed or destroyed. One example is religion. Officially all faiths are forbidden except for Asmodeus. In reality, a few are tolerated like Abadar (god of trade and nobility) and Shelyn (goddess of beauty and arts). The curfew in Westcrown is a way of suppressing that city. It is to weaken the former capital in favour of Egorian. The monsters might be real and so is the suffering of the inhabitants because of it, but law enforcers have not given this any priority. In fact they do nothing about as they are not allowed to. If I look at it like this, it seems to me that House Thrune is not so mighty as they seem. They are terrified of their subjects even though they have absolute power. Fear rules their lives, otherwise this totalitarian regime would not be so extreme. I would almost pity them if it were not for what they are doing to the lives of the millions of people that live in Cheliax.

Not only the rules House Thrune has come up with are wrong. The local rulers of Westcrown have also made a mess of things. Most of the taxes raised in the city are used so that the nobility in the city can live their lives in abundance while the normal people hardly get anything. I try to object to this, as this generalisation is not conform reality. Janiven will not hear about it, which upsets me, but I will not press the matter. House Rasdovain virtually has no income and we need all the coin we can get to survive. This Janiven seems a little blind because of her ideals. Yes, many things she addresses are correct, but refusing to listen to others who try rectify her is a bad and dangerous trait which is similar to that of how the rulers of Cheliax think and work. Should she ever gain power, than we will replace one tyranny with another.

Janiven continues by stating that one of the worst of these nobles is the mayor, Aberian Arvanxi, who has transformed his estate into a luxurious palace that is called Aberian’s Folley buy the common people. Subsequently she says that house Rasdovain is beholden to house Arvanxi, implying that my family are as bad as them. I frown in anger. We are not. We get nothing from the wealth of the Arvanxi’s. Why did this Janiven drag me over here if she dislikes me so much. Is to degrade me in front of the others? To show them an example of the rubbish that claims to rule the city?

I keep my silence as I think about getting up and leaving this puppet show. Then I inquire why Janiven is doing this? She often references other countries she has visited where things are better, so why settle here and start an uprising? Janiven replies that she is from Andoran, a neighbouring country of Cheliax, where everything is better. Where slavery is forbidden. That is no answer to my question. The old man surprises me by stating that he will leave now. He has heard enough. I just want to follow his example when Janiven convinces the old man to stay a little while longer. To let her finish her story. I keep my silence and continue listening as well. But her flat refusal to answer my question about her motivation why a foreigner wants to change the world in Cheliax makes my distrust even larger.

What follows is some more stories about how the Dottari are only protecting the rich nobility and do nothing for the commoners but I am hardly listening any more. I know from my uncle that the Dottari do what they can with the manpower and budget they have. And the city guard have to obey the mayor who directs too much resources to the people who do not need it. Janiven has lost my trust and respect and I will not take part in her rebellion.

There is a loud banging on the door. Someone wants in. I am frightened. Have stayed to long? Are the Hell Knights coming to stop this uprising before it even began? Janiven takes a peek outside. She says it is Morisino, a boy she trusts. Janiven opens the door to let the boy in and immediately locks the door again. The boy looks about 15 years old and reminds me of an urchin. He has red hair and freckles. Morisino is long and lean, and has very long arms and legs. His clothes are unkempt.

Morisino is out of breath as he says that Arael has been arrested by the Dottari. They allowed him to leave because of his young age. Janiven inquires with the boy if he has been followed, which he denies. In the distance however, we can hear the approaching footsteps of marching soldiers. That can only be the Hell Knights who did follow the boy.

My throat tightens as memories come back from three years ago. I do not want to die. I came here unarmed, just to listen. Now I am in danger of getting arrested. How could I have been so stupid? There is a slight panic with everyone. Several people inquire with Janiven if this tavern has a back door so that we might have a chance of escaping. Before she can answer, there is heavy thumping on the door. Our doom has arrived.

Janiven peeks outside again. There are a dozen Hell Knights clad in black leather armour and another dozen in metal armour. All of them belong to the Order of the Rack. Who else did you expect, I think by myself. Members of this Order reside in citadel Rivad near Westcrown and are responsible for all Hell Knight misery in this city. In addition, they are the ones who rewrite history every few months so I know them well. Regardless of what that Order did, there are twenty four heavily armed and armoured soldiers standing in front of the door. Half of them are still Armigers, Hell Knights in training, but they are well trained and fanatic.

The old man’s courage gives way to stupidity. He says he will surrender and hurries to the door before anyone can stop him. It is one of the most unintelligent things you can do. Hell Knights kill first and ask questions later. The old man pushes back the bolt and opens the door. He has barely left the building when a crossbow bolt hits his leg. Janiven is the first to reach the door and closes it before any Hell Knights can enter.

As we hear screaming from the old man outside before it is suddenly silenced, Janiven says that we can escape through the basement. A passage into the sewers has been created there. Janiven opens a hatch door behind the bar. The elf goes down first and I am right on his heels. I want to get away from these monsters as fast as I can. Once everyone has descended to the basement, Janiven closes the hatch and a pitch black darkness surrounds us.

Janiven quickly lights a sunrod and leads us out of the basement into the sewer. Everyone follows her. The sewer is larger than I had anticipated. It must be about four meters wide and is surely more than two meters high as the half-orc can stand up straight without problems. In the middle of the sewer there is a kind of two meter wide canal through which all the sewage flows. On either side of the canal is a narrow path where you can walk. The smell is not as bad as I expected and the place is not as dirty as well. I presume that the canals frequently overflow during heavy rainstorms and that everything is cleaned then.

In the sewer, Janiven removes a tile from the wall which hides a secret compartment. She takes out several flasks and gives one to each of us. These are healing potions. I carefully put it in my pouch as I have no other place to keep it safe. In addition to that, a few people, including myself, get a sunrod which I tuck underneath my belt. I want to keep my hands free in case of trouble.

When the cache has been depleted, Janiven shows us a white circle with a sword pointing right that has been drawn with chalk low on the sewer wall. These provide directions to the official hide out. Someone remarks that if we can follow them, so can the Hell Knights who have just demolished the door to the tavern by the sound of it. After a short discussion, it is agreed that this sign will be reversed in direction and that Morisino will create a false trail as he knows the sewers well.

The boy is rather uncertain so I volunteer to stay with him. I am skilled at moving silently and wear no armour of any kind. That is overridden by Janiven. She will stay with the boy. As time is running short, I obey, but I do not like it one bit. The two people who are part of the organisation and have knowledge of the sewers head in one direction, and leave a group of total strangers behind who have to find their way to a base they do not know. Janiven’s reasoning is that if we get caught, we can claim total innocence and possibly name Janiven as a rebel. If Morisino and Janiven get caught we will still be safe.

I sigh. I do not know if Janiven has seen my reaction to her or not, but before we part she throws me her longbow and quiver. It is especially made for people who are a little stronger than average and I must return it to her when we meet again. I put the quiver on my back and pull the bow. It feels excellent, as if it was made for me. Janiven must be as strong as I am. I knock one arrow and take a second arrow in my bow hand. I thank Janiven and promise to return it in one piece.

After having changed the sign, Morisino and Janiven leave. While the two of them are busy, the dirty man introduces himself as Korvus. The half-orc is called Siras and the elf Elaith. I introduce myself last as Aeliana Rasdovain. Now that I have said it out loud in a dungeon, Elaith makes the link to the name Rasdovain that has been mentioned several times upstairs. Yes, I think, I am a Rasdovain and I am proud of it.

Janiven leaves with the burning sunrod. I just want to ignite mine when it seems Korvus has more up his sleeve than I expected. He casts a spell to create light in the darkness. Once we have the light, we depart as well. We keep to the side walks and even these are slippery. I have no problem with that as I am used to traversing unsteady terrain but the others are more uncertain. Siras goes first, followed by Elaith and Korvus and I am last. That way I am in the best position to shoot should the Hell Knights follow our trail in stead of the false one.

At the first T-junction we can go left or continue straight on. Elaith quickly finds the sign that tells us we must follow our present course. We erase it before we continue. At the next T-junction where we can turn right or continue, we have seem to have problem. Initially no sign can be found at all until Korvus finds something that has almost been erased. The sword is not visible any more so the others despair at what direction we have to follow. I tell them I know exactly where we have to go. It is not very hard. The sign is on the wall to our left. Drawn swords cannot point out of the wall to our right, so we must still follow the same path.

The distance between the different junctions is larger than I expected and we walk quite some distance. At the next junction we can find the sign easily and again we have to continue straight on. Some time later, we hear voices ahead of us. They are arguing loudly. Korvus puts off the light as we can see light ahead as well at a crossing. I carefully jump to the other side-walk to get in better position to shoot my bow.

We can hear three different voices, one female and two male. One of them is convinced that ‘they’, presumably us, will appear at our next crossing shortly. Logical reasoning has led him to that conclusion and he has drawn a map to prove it. Another one does not agree. It is clear that several large egos are forced to work together. In the end, the female ends the discussion. Because of the way they talk, we all presume that these three people must be Armigers, Hell Knights in training, who still have to prove themselves.

We keep as silent as we can. When Eliath whispers something to the rest of us, the Armigers hear. I have my bow ready when an Armiger appears around the corner. He is wearing chainmail and a helmet and he carries a light crossbow and a sword. Siras reacts immediately. He takes a step forward and strikes true with his longspear but the man still lives. Korvus casts a spell and says it will be easier to hit the man for next few seconds.

I hesitate. I have never shot at a living being before. All my life I have done target practice at which I have become quite good, but this is the real thing. I concentrate, aim and shoot. My first arrow hits the man full in the chest. He staggers but does not fall. I reload fast with the second arrow that I already had in my bow hand and again my aim is true. The man falls backwards into the canal behind him.

To my great surprise, we can hear laughter from around the corner. Somehow these Hell Knights do not care about their comrades. Then the other two appear at the same time. A man steps right in front of Elaith and a few meter behind him is the woman. The woman shoots at me with her crossbow. The shot goes wide and the bolt crashes into the wall in front of me. The man misses Elaith, who counter strikes with his sword and misses but follows up by touching the man with his hand. Bright lightning appears to enwrap the victim who screams out in pain. Before the man can recoer, Siras, who can reach past Elaith with his longspear, stabs the Armiger who drops dead on top of his dead companion. That leaves only the woman.

To get a better aim at the woman, I take a step forward and suddenly I stand up to my ankles in the sewage. It feels awful and I realise that I am standing in other peoples excrements and waste. I still decide to shoot two more arrows but both miss hopelessly as I am too much distracted. The woman has reloaded her crossbow before I can reload. Her aim is really poor again as another shot goes wide. She starts reloading as fast as she can but that does not seem very wise.

Elaith is less two meters away from her and without hesitating he steps in the canal to strike at the woman with his rapier This time he does not miss. Korvus casts another spell and says that it will be easier to hit the woman. Elaith already is a foot smaller than Siras but now that he stands in the canal it is that much easier for Siras to reach over him to strike at the woman. This time, she evades him.

I focus again. I am dirty anyway, so while I manoeuvre to get into a better position in the canal, I take two more arrows with right hand, take one in my bow hand and knock the other one. I aim carefully as I do not want to hit Elaith or Siras and release the first arrow. Another hit but not deadly. I immediately take the arrow from my bow hand and shoot it. Again my aim is true and the last of the Armigers dies. She just collapses.

With the immediate threat seemingly gone, I become aware of how fast my heart is racing from the thrill. This was the first time in my life I had to fight someone for real. I breath in and out slowly to calm myself down, just as Cohel has told me. My body is tingling from the excitement. The others seem to take it more calmly than I do. I step out of the canal and look at my dirty feet. I shake them to remove some of the worst and largest pieces that have attached to them. Then I go over to the others who have started checking the bodies of the dead. What I would like to have most is the map that one of them had drawn. It is found but not very useful. I put another sunrod in my belt. As I need money for a new bow, I check if the crossbows can be sold but it is too obvious that they belong to Hell Knights. Selling them would be dangerous.

When we have finished checking the bodies, I have finally calmed down and come to realise what I have done. I just killed two people, a man and a woman. Someone’s son and daughter who will never be coming back home. They must be my age, maybe even younger. Full of life and ambitions, and now I have ended that. Yes, they were to become Hell Knights, the most brutal law enforcement group of Cheliax, but they were still humans, with family and friends. Memories come back of when my father died. I can feel tears coming. I try to suppress them and turn away from the others.

With a slightly broken voice I tell them this was my first fight, the first time I killed someone. “Sissy,” is what I hear Korvus say, which hurts me. I am not a seasoned warrior who can kill without remorse. Not that I have not seen my share of pain, death and suffering, but I cannot just take lives like that. Regardless if they are Hell Knights or not. “A day without a fight is a day not lived,” Siras remarks, which can be translated to Korvus’s remark.

What company is this, that they can just kill or hurt others without second thought? Does that make me weak? No, I made two of the three kills. I had to. It was them or us. The thrill of the battle made me act the way I did to preserve our lives. The experience of many years of training took over. My body knew what it had to do. But that does not mean I should not feel anything afterwards. I take a few steps away from the others so that I can regain myself.

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The Sewers (Part 1)
Skeletons and a lot more

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19 Desnus 4709 – Afternoon

We continue following the signs that have been left behind for those who need to find the way the secret hide-out. I want to put as much distance as I can between myself and the dead Hell Knights. When those bodies are found somebody is going to be more than a little angry and I do not want to be around when that happens.

After some time we encounter a round cove on our left. At the rear end, there is a metal grid fence. Behind it we can see the sea and the island with the nobles. The sun seems to be setting but it still light outside. If we linger to long in these sewers however, we will be trapped here for the night. From our view and the way the corridor runs, I determine that we are travelling south.

We continue quickly as we do not have the power to remove the metal grid fence. We keep on erasing the arrows. Everything seems to be going smoothly until we are surprised by two walking skeletons carrying scimitars. They just appear from around a corner. I have heard and read stories about how some wizards or clerics have the power to raise the dead but never in my wildest dreams had I expected to encounter these walking corpses for real.

Elaith charges but his attack misses hopelessly. In a reflex, I try to shoot them. My arrows have no effect though. There is so little surface I can hit. Had there been flesh, one of my arrows would have pierced that person’s belly but now it just flies through empty air. Fortunately, Siras and Elaith quickly dispatch of these walking corpses and hopefully they will stay motionless for all eternity now.

I am less upset than our encounter with the Hell Knights. These things were dead to begin with, but the question is why they were here. Animated skeletons with scimitars are not just left behind. Close to where we encountered took place we find a small room with cleaning appliances. The gear is still quite new but someone made a mess of everything afterwards.

Except for the messy room, we find some small creatures called Torbles. I have seen images of them in a book and know they can be found in the sewers of Westcrown. Torbles are a kind of gelatinous cubes with legs and antennae. They are approximately eight inch in diameter. I have read about them and remember they are afraid of light and have no intelligence. They can be controlled by wizards but the ones in the sewers tend to move around freely.
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We cannot discover however where the skeletons came from or why they are here so we move on. We make some good progress. At one point we encounter a barrier made up of large material that got stuck in the sewers. Among the items in the barrier are two carts and I wonder how they got down here. Siras and I pull the barrier apart far enough so that we can pass it.

Not far beyond the barrier we get another surprise. As we approach another crossing, Siras can hear some moaning coming from one of the side corridors. Before we can decide on what to do, two people appear around the corner. Well, at first I thought they were people, but quickly it becomes clear they are not. There movements are weird and so are their looks. The bodies are decomposing, which can only mean that they must be some kind of zombies. They wear the clothing of regular workmen in Westcrown which most likely means that they were raised in a local graveyard.

I am abhorred by them. Not only by their looks, but also by the fact that some evil person raised these people from their last resting place. As these zombies move to attack us, I do not have much time to linger on these thoughts. My allies are already attacking these new enemies when I raise my bow and start shooting. My first shot hits. The arrow goes through the head. I see some pieces of brain and hair attached to the arrow as it continues its flight. I almost have to throw up at the sight but the zombie seems to be unaffected.

Subsequently Elaith stabs his rapier straight through the zombie’s head. When he pushes his blade up the whole heads comes clean of. The remaining zombie rushes towards me. Up close it looks much than at a safe shooting distance, and the smell is horrible as well. As my bow is useless, I use my free right hand to hit the oncoming zombie as hard as I can. My aim is true and the head comes of almost completely. It is only attached to the body with a few muscles or something like that. All my instincts tell me to split and run. I stand frozen to the ground as the hands of the nearly decapitated zombie reach for me. They miss and Siras kills it. I thank him as the zombie falls into the sewage canal and stays there motionless.

I do not know how they do it, but my allies start doing some research on the zombies. They discover that the zombies have arrows in their back which is what most likely killed them. In addition to that they have burn marks on their ankles, their boots have been burned through and their Achilles tendons have been removed. These things have most likely been performed when these men were already dead. Nobody can think of a reason why. All the time I stood at a safe distance.

We continue following the signs again. When Siras sees another of the signs, he suddenly recognises it, it is the resembles symbol of Iomedae. This most likely means that those who left them behind have some kind of connection to this goddess. Iomedae stands for Honor, Justice, Rulership and Valor, and that places this illegal organisation of Janiven into a slightly different light.
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As the sun must already have set above the surface, we continue following the symbols of Iomedae. In one of the side corridors we see another blockade behind which we can hear the sea but we do not have the strength to pull this one apart.

Just beyond that crossing, Korvus is shot in the back and falls to the ground heavily wounded. He is still moving though. Behind us there are two goblins. A combat begins. Elaith and Siras charge the goblins and I start shooting with the bow I borrowed from Janiven. During the combat, two more goblins appears from blockade. When the fight starts turning into our advantage, I manage to kill one of the goblins with an arrow. As I start to run low on ammunition, I put down my bow and continue the fight with my bare hands. These little green creatures are hard to hit for me, but Elaith and Siras finish them off. Siras kills the last one with his flail by smashing the goblin’s head against the wall which causes it to split open.

I look away at once but my allies are untroubled. Siras just wipes his flail clean. Maybe, when I have seen many more battles, I can be just be as casual about this, but I pray to Shelyn that that day will never arrive. That the gods have a different fate in store for me.

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The Sewers (Part 2)
A crying mage and troubled torbles

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19 Desnus 4709 – Evening

With little pieces scattered all over the crossing, there suddenly is a discussion. Elaith still wants to tear the blockade to pieces while Korvus and Siras want to continue. I do not really know what I want, except that I want to leave this hell hole. This means that the majority wins. We leave the dead goblins behind us and continue following the symbols of Iomedae that guide our path through these sewers. We found some chalk on one of the goblins so we hope that these foul little creatures have not set a false trail for us.

As we continue though, the sewers start becoming dirtier. Moulds and fungi start to appear as well as all kinds of vermin. It seems likely the Torbles do not come here. These small gelatinous creatures seem to be a kind of cleaners for the sewers as they secrete some kind of acid that dissolve all kinds of organic materials. A few minutes after we left the goblins behind us, we become aware of crying at a t-junction. The sound comes from a tunnel to our right while the symbol of Iomedae tells us to continue straight on. As far as we can tell the crying seems to come from grown male human.

I am too weak hearted to leave a crying man behind. Yes, it might be a trap, but that is all the more reason to turn right. Whether my allies join me out of compassion or curiosity I do not know, but in the end we decide to investigate. As I do not wear any armour and have some experience with sneaking around, I enter the tunnel first. In a bend I discover a thin rope hanging low over the floor going from one side to the other. Close to the ceiling the rope is connected to a flask with some kind of liquid. Clearly this is some kind of trap. I warn the others as we advance.

Around the curve, there is long straight tunnel but after twenty yards there is a metal grid fence blocking the way. In front of the fence we can see a few large wooden boxes and some materials scattered around and between them. In between the boxes we can see the crying man. We have no clue about the man’s intentions as he is seated in bent position. Using Detect Magic, Siras can see a magic ring and a scroll.

Suddenly the man gets up and casts a light spell and another spell. He yells at us that Sandor will not get his books back. It is clear that the man is terrified of this Sandor and he thinks that we are working for him. That we are there to retrieve the books. We try to convince him of our good intent but fail. In a last effort to show him that we are not here to harm him, I put down my bow and slowly proceed towards the man with my hands in the air. I am terrified but I step by step I move forward. I have covered half the distance when the man suddenly pulls a crossbow from behind a crate and shoots. I am too startled to react.

I feel an agonizing pain from my abdomen. I look down and see the bolt protruding from my belly. I am still surprisingly clear headed and notice that the man drops his crossbow. He seems startled that he has shot me. I run forward and jump onto one of the crates as the man stumbles backwards. Before I can reach him, the man is hit by a crossbow bolt from one of my allies as well as several magical missiles. Then I jump on top of the man. Partially to protect him from my allies, but mostly because I want to disable him with killing him. I get a fair grip on him but he is stronger than I expected and he manages to wrestle free. In that time, Siras has stormed towards us and knocks the man unconscious.

As I sit back and look at my belly, Siras ties the man’s hands together and Elaith strips him of his magical ring and scrolls. With the adrenaline gone, I really become aware of how much this hurts. When Siras is finished, he turns towards me. He says a short prayer. The arrow is pushed from my belly and the wound is magically healed. Out of gratitude I say: “Iomedae be blessed!”. Siras immediately starts to radiate from pride. I smile at him. This huge half-orc seems to have a smaller heart than I expected after having seen what he can do.

Still shocked about what happened a few minutes ago, I first collect my bow. When I return, I see that one of the crates is open and contains a pile of blankets. The others have in the meantime decided that they want to spend the ‘night’ here to recover their spells and magical powers. I do not object. I am too exhausted from what I have seen and done today. Using one of the blankets, I clean a part of one the sidewalks close to the fence, put a clean blanket on it and place the unconscious man on top of it.

While I was doing that, my allies were searching all the other stuff lying around over here. They found a few books including spell books. In one of them is written that it belongs to Pollido Ghival, so we presume that that is the name of our prisoner. The text was written in Draconic, the magic language. The dragons were the first inhabitants of this world, invented magic and started writing it down in their own language. To this day, most spells are written in Draconic.

As we plan to stay here for the night, I start distributing blankets to my friends and take one for myself. As the others have to sleep to regain their magical powers and spells, I take the first watch. That is the reason I give my friends. Secretly I am afraid of going to sleep. Of the nightmares that might await me if I close my eyes. I have seen and done so much today. For the first time in my life I killed a living being larger than a fly. To make matters worse, I killed a man and a woman I never knew. My thoughts keep me awake. A sun rod is burning brightly to keep me company. My allies just sleep peacefully. To my great surprise Korvus has settled in empty crate. He has to curl up but it fits.

Some time during the night, the man wakes up. He frees himself by burning himself and the ropes holding him. That wakes up my allies. There is a short combat and in the end it is Elaith who knocks the man unconscious again. As nobody knows how much time has passed, Siras offers to take over my watch. Somewhat reluctantly, I agree. I put down a blanket on one of the sidewalks in a corner between the wall and a crate. I pull another blanket over myself and curl up into a ball. To my great surprise, I fall asleep faster than I had anticipated and I am not troubled by nightmares.

I wake up to the sound of combat and yelling. Siras lies on the ground bleeding and Korvus is casting spells. It seems we are under attack by Torbles, four of them in total. Using some kinds of weird spell, Korvus kills two of them with his hair that suddenly grew longer. The remaining two start to flee. I shoot one of them and it explodes covering an area in acid. The acid reacts with the moulds and fungi. Some kind of toxic fume starts filling a part of the tunnel but is dissolves before it reaches us. The last Torble got away.

Korvus now tells Elaith and me that Pollido is dead. Torbles have killed him. Most likely the man, who was a wizard, tried to control the Torbles in effort to get free. All he wanted was for the Torbles to dissolve his ropes but in stead half his body is gone. When the fight with the Torbles began, Siras did something weird with his flail and knocked himself unconscious. Behind the metal grid fence there are dozens of Torbles.

As not everyone has had enough rest yet, Korvus takes the next watch, keeping a wary eye at the Torbles behind the fence. I curl up again in my corner and untroubled sleep comes to me again quickly.

20 Desnus 4709 – Morning

The next morning I wake up fully refreshed. I slept better than I had anticipated. While my allies start praying and studying, I meditate and practice few katas. When everyone is ready Pollido his pouches are searched in the hope that we might find some indication of where he lived. We find nothing of that kind. Some spell components are found and these all go to Elaith. There are also 26 gold pieces which we divide evenly among the four of us. Siras tells us that we must return this money to Pollido his family should we find them. I consent but hear nothing of that kind from Elaith or Korvus.

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The Sewers (Part 3)
More Armigers and an unexpected end

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20 Desnus 4709 – Morning

As we are at a dead end with dozens of Torbles behind the metal grid fence, we have no choice but to return to the last T-junction and continue following the symbols of Iomedae. Korvus casts another light spell and we are on our way again. Siras takes the front position on the side-walk on the right, followed directly by Elaith and Korvus. I am on the side-walk on the left just behind Korvus with a bow in my left hand and two arrows in my right. By walking on the other side-walk of the sewage canal I have a better position when I have to use my bow and these sewers seem infested with all kinds of monsters.

We proceed carefully. After a few minutes Siras notices that the sewer has partially collapsed. This part seemed older and in worse condition than the area where we started yesterday but I had not expected this. The corridors here are covered with many moulds and fungi, and up ahead near the collapse there is a spectacle of colours. Fortunately Korvus seems quite knowledgeable in this area and he informs us that there are purple shrieker toadstools up ahead. When they sense movement, these toadstools will start creating an ear deafening sound. Once set off it takes some time before they can shriek again.

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We decide to activate the shrieker toadstools from a distance of about ten meter. Korvus throws his light stone towards. As expected, the toadstool start making an ear deafening sound. What Korvus had not noticed however that there was another mould close to us that could react the shrieking by creating its own sound. I drop my bow and arrows to cover my ears but it is too late and the sound too hard. The hurt is incredible and I can feel blood on my hands. I do not know when the sound stops as I cannot hear anything any more. In addition to deafening us, the moulds send sprays of spores in all directions, covering all four us.

Siras and Korvus seem unaffected by the sound blast but Elaith is in as bad a condition as I am. Siras says something but I cannot hear him. Then he gestures frantically that we should follow him. I pick up my bow and arrows and follow him. We head back all the way to the dead end where we left a partially devoured Pollido behind. As we are safe here, Siras calls on the power of Iomedae to heal Elaith and me. Once we can hear again, Siras tells us that there are Hell Knights on the others side of partial collapse.

As we do not want to try and retrace our steps to Vizio’s Tavern of try to find an exit somewhere, we have no other choice than to face the Hell Knights. In addition, if the symbols of Iomedae do not lead us to an exit, another is likely to be close because of the presence of the Hell Knights, and I am more than anxious than to leave this dark damp infested hell hole. We start going back towards the partially collapsed corridor when we are taken by surprise again. The Hell Knights had crawled through the corridor and are closer than we expected. Fortunately for us, they are Armigers (Hell Knights in training) and they are as surprised as we are. Neither side hesitates and starts to attack.

Elaith and Siras move forward and I start shooting. Korvus starts casting spells as support to disturb the Hell Knights. My first two arrows miss. Elaith is more successful with his charge. Siras knocks himself unconscious again and this time with his long spear. It seems Iomedae does not want him to attack these foes as well. What is worse, even though fallen, one of the Hell Knights still stabs Siras to ensure that my ally will never get up again. This enrages me more than a little. I kill the man with my arrows before he can cause any more harm, hoping that Siras is still in such a state that the lesser magical healing that we posses works.

Elaith disposes of another Armiger and then he has to face the last one, which is giving him a difficult time. As my quiver is almost empty, I decide to drop my bow and charge the Armiger. Still enraged by what I just witnessed, I kill the last Hell Knight with a savage kick.

Korvus ran after me and cures Siras. I sigh from relieve. I feel like embracing him but hold back, not knowing what his reaction will be. When I calm down again as I return to collect my bow, I realise what I just did. In my anger I just killed two more men. What am I doing? How can I do this? I never used to be like that. How can I let my rage control me? Cohel has taught me better. As soon as I can, I must return to him.

Our next challenge is the small opening left by the partial collapse. Siras and I get through easily but somehow Elaith and Korvus get stuck. With a little pulling and pushing we get them through the opening. Directly behind the partial collapse there is a crossing where we continue following the symbol of Iomedae. We have no clue where the Hell Knights came from. A little further down the road we notice more purple shrieking toadstools. This time we keep a greater distance, ensure there are no dangerous other moulds or fungi in our neighbourhood and I shoot a copper piece at the toadstools. We enjoy a spectacular and loud show but that is it.

At the same T-junction where I just activated the toadstools a kind of brown mould covers the floor and there is no way we can cross it without jumping. Korvus recognises it and says it is very dangerous. Any living being coming within 5 feet is drained of all heat. If you stay in the proximity of the Brown Mould for too long, you die. This makes it quite certain that the Hell Knights did not come from this direction and I say we should go back to the last crossing and find the exit the Armigers used. Nobody listens.

Siras, who also seems fed up with these sewers and believes in the symbol of his deity, decides to take a gamble and tries to jump over the Brown Mould. He succeeds but during his flight all energy drained from him and he collapses as he lands in the corridor to the right. He does not get up again.

There is a little panic as Korvus, Elaith and I do not know if our ally still lives. We discuss what to do next. We cannot cross the Brown Mould to help him and it seems we cannot destroy it. The only option we have left to help Siras is try to find another way to him. My suggestion is that I stay behind with my bow so that I can guard Siras should any enemies appear, and Elaith and Korvus go back to the last crossing and turn left. As we were not paying attention to our surroundings while making plans, we are caught by surprise as arrows are suddenly shot in our directions. The arrows come from the direction of the Brown Mould. When we take a look in that direction, we notice four Goblins on the other side.

As there is no place where we can take cover the only option we have is to start shooting back with the little ammunition we have left. Only Korvus has quite a lot bolts left for his crossbow but his aim is not so very good. The first volley of Goblin arrows missed us but with the action going their aim increases. First Korvus is seriously hit and a few seconds later I catch an arrow between my ribs. I cry out in pain and retreat a few steps hoping that it will be harder for the Goblins to reach us with their small bows. As I am out of ammunition anyway, Korvus gives me his crossbow. By that time Elaith has killed one and disabled another Goblin. My first shot with the crossbow misses. I have only held one a few times and it certainly is not my preferred weapon. My second shot hits one of the two remaining active Goblins and then they decide to flee. We decide to let them go.

I feel horrible with the arrow still protruding from between my ribs. From my pouch belt I take the potion of healing we received from Janiven when we entered the sewers. The effect is the same as for Siras’s prayer to Iomedae. The arrow is pushed out and the wound heals. While I am healing myself, Korvus thinks of a way to kill the Brown Mould. Among the belongings of Pollido was a scroll with a spell called Burning Hands. I watch on as my ally casts the spell. Flames come from his outstretched hands that he points at the Brown Mould. To my great surprise, the mould starts to inflate itself as it starts absorbing the energy. The energy it gets however is more than it can handle and in the end it explodes.

The way is free for us now to go to Siras. I get up, pick up my bow and Korvus’s crossbow and join my friends. The corridor where Siras lies is a dead end, but at the end there is a ladder leading up to a trap door of some kind and next to the ladder is a symbol of Iomedae pointing up. By the time I reach Siras, he has already gained consciousness at the hands of Korvus. As my friends seem to be okay, I walk over to the ladder and start climbing it. My allies shout at me to not be to hasty. Who knows what kind of traps are hidden up there.

To all our surprise, the trap door suddenly opens up and we see the face of Janiven. She looks troubled and we have to hurry to safety. The Hell Knights are in quite a state now that some of them seem to have died. I climb out into a small alley where a tall bald strongly built man is the only other creature present besides Janiven. Next to the exit there is a building with the a statue of of the God Aroden. I recognize it at once. I have seen images in the history books I keep at home. Aroden died a hundred years ago and was more or less succeeded by Iomedae. The building seems to be some kind of old shrine of Aroden that has been forgotten over time.

Once everyone is safely inside the shrine, the strong bald man first closes the trap door to the sewers and then the door of shrine. He takes place next to the door as if he is some kind of guard and introduces himself as Ermelos. I hardly listen to him as I look into the central room of the shrine. There are a dozen more people present here next to my allies, Janiven and Ermelos, and most of them are looking at us. I feel very uncomfortable at once, in sharp contrast to Siras, Elaith and Korvus. There are people here from many different countries, and most seem commoners. To my surprise I also see a female Halfling and a female Gnome. Some people look at us with suspicion, others with disdain and a few seem more open minded. Among those present I only recognise Morisino.

Why am I here? I am a noblewoman who has the blood of several Hell Knights on her hands. They will never accept me and I am endangering these people. Even though dishevelled, I stand tall and proud before them. I cannot hide my heritage as it has been drilled into me and soon people will look past the dirt. More than a little nervous I take in m surroundings.

As my allies start acquainting themselves with some of the people here I turn to Janiven. I return her bow to her giving compliments about it’s craftsmanship and regret to tell her that I had to use all the arrows. She smiles at me and does not accepts the bow. I may keep it as it seems that I have proven my skill with it in the sewers. I feel uncertain but accept gracefully. Proven skill means dead Hell Knights.

Next I inquire if there is place where I can take a bath as I have been travelling through a sewer for the better part of a day. In addition to that, I have been wounded twice with no chance to clean anything so my blood is everywhere as well and my clothes are covered in sewage as well as mould and fungi remains. Janiven tells me there is bath in one of the rooms behind the central room. My intention to sneak out of central room unnoticed fails. A gypsy like man has overheard my conversation with Janiven. I might be pretty from a distance but many men shy away when they see the scar below my right eye. This one does not. With a big smile he introduces himself as Risardo and tells me he comes from a small town called Sandpoint which is located in Varisia. Not wanting to betray my heritage immediately, I tell him I am Aeliana, leaving out my last name. I might be impoverished lesser nobility and most likely name does not ring a bell but I do not want to take any chances. I respectfully decline his offer and hurry of to my bath.

The bath is cold but I do not care. First I clean myself and then my clothes. My clothes are the hardest part. I manage to clean them but I cannot fix the two holes. I wrench my clothes as well as I can but they are still dripping when I put them back on. I do not put my sandals back on. I hate walking on wet sandals so I attach them to my belt with the straps. With the brush from my pouch I comb my hair.

When undressing, I become aware of my signet ring of House Rasdovain. HouseRasdovain_Symbol_0300px_bw.png My thoughts go to my mother and my uncle Martius. They must be very worried that I did not return home last night. I have always been home before dark and now I did not arrive at all. When I am clean I must return home as soon as I can. I hope my uncle has not used his contacts with the Dottari to have them look for me. What am I going to tell him though? I cannot tell my uncle the truth, that I delivered the final blow to four Hell Knights. That I was down in the sewers all night because Martius will be sure to discover what happened down there last night. I cannot say I spent the night with friends because I hardly have any. Whatever I say, he will try to check out my story through his numerous contacts and he almost always knows when I am lying. He can sense it when someone is lying and he has told me I am an open book. In other words, I am doomed.

When I am ready and have no reason to delay any more, I sigh and leave the bathroom to join the others. Janiven is just informing Elaith, Siras and Korvus that the Dottari and Hell Knights are quarrelling over who may pass judgement over Arael. I can see it troubles Janiven, and she hopes it will the Dottari.

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