Key names, places and concepts are in bold.
Game 1: First Impressions ∞
After a long journey Intan the Tinker, Sarv the Tamaa Dancer, and Dr. Alala Bravestar encountered Venya Askeson, steward of Allfrerhem, at the northern gate to the city. Recognizing each other due to a shared dream, but reluctant to acknowledge this, Venya the Steward proceeded to subtly seek information on the visitors using his official authority. After a short encounter with the forthright Sarv and an even shorter encounter with the slightly cranky Intan, Venya directed the Tamaa and the Tinker to Aia’s Flask, a local Brothel and Inn. While the two southerners proceeded Venya, acting on some suspicion or distaste for the Luxi, led Alala to King Rotta’s Tavern. There Venya introduced Alala to Balek Rotta, the tavern owner, a gruff and short tempered man missing an eye and several fingers.
Alala, certain they had been set up, called out Venya, accusing him of being Balek’s lackey and the tavern-keep of intending to rob Alala. Balek, with little tolerance for the bullshit of either Bureaucrat or Visitor snapped at them, causing both to reconsider their tactics. Venya offered to pay for Alala’s room but Balek suggested that, while no premeditated harm was afoot, he couldn’t guarantee his drunken patrons would take kindly to a Luxi visitor. He suggested they go to a local flop-house owned by Balek’s friend Danee. Venya and Alala agreed and left the tavern.
Meanwhile, as soon as Sarv and Intan realized the true nature of the Flask they headed on to Rotta’s, meeting with Venya and Alala just as they were leaving. The character’s, growing increasingly frustrated with Venya’s behaviour, nevertheless followed him to The Red Circle Tavern, a high class establishment, largely due to the promise of drink.
Arriving at the Circle, Venya ordered the group round of drinks and they sat down. This offered the first real opportunity for the characters, and the circle’s barkeep Edricck Allusson, to notice the shared marks. A brief comment prompted a conversation where Venya, having concealed his mark, pressed for some additional information. As they spoke, young Sarv spotted a frightening figure in the corner, a tall, sinewy entity cloaked and lurking in the shadows. Her panic drew the attention of Intan and Venya who also saw the creature. Venya quickly ran outside, flagged down a guard and asked that they summon the guard captain, Aylan Jaghund. Back inside, Venya found Sarv and Intan in a stupor, roused only by the arrival of Aylan. Attention shattered, the creature, apparently invisible to the other patrons, vanished from their own sight and Venya, hoping to regain control over the situation, tried to explain, requesting that Aylan take the group into custody. Aylan, suspicious of the circumstances probed the characters only to find out that each had a mark they attributed to the dream. Asking Venya if he had one prompted the old man to evade and Venya pointed to his lack of mark as evidence of his exclusion from the foreigners, raising his arms in protest. Unfortunately for Venya displaying his bare wrists offered the observant Sarv an opportunity to point out the makeup covering Venya’s arm. Despite Venya’s best efforts to prevaricate his way out of Aylan’s attention the guard captain, now suspicious, approached, ready to clean the Stewards wrist with a wet ale cloth. Venya relented, admitting to the mark, and the group was escorted to the Barracks and Jail in the lower city; all except Alala Bravestarr who used the chaos in the bar to slip away unnoticed, heading for the road out of Allfrerhem.
Venya, Sarv and Intan found themselves in an interrogation room where Aylan proceeded to probe the characters for more detail. In return Venya, once again trying to gain control over events, questioned the guards capacity to handle the situation, and directed Aylan to summon Vahnin Ilmarinen, the lorekeeper. The old stewards behaviour and suggestion, clearly irritating to the captain both for its tone and rightness, earned him a rebuke but nonetheless prompted Aylan to summon the lorekeeper while he continued his interview.
Each of the characters recounted the creature at the tavern and some small portion of their dreams, conveying the general mystery and menace and the the sudden appearance of the mark afterwards. Venya, producing quill and parchment, once again tried to steer the conversation, prompting a rebuke from Intan and a stern glare from the Captain. Fortunately, before the captain could decide what to do with the officious steward, Vanhin Ilmarinen the lorekeeper of Allfrerhem arrived, slightly annoyed at the interruption to his research. Asking for a reason for his summons, Aylan motioned to Venya, suggesting sarcastically that he was the true authority in the room. Venya, either ignoring or unaware of the jibe, proceeded to introduce the characters and their situation. When Venya mentioned the term “Signarem” which none of the others had yet said, Aylan spoke, pointing out that no one had yet used that term. Venya explained derisively that Aylan was not informed of all the details, once again tweaking the guard captain’s ire.
Vanhin, intrigued, activated his Luminar and proceeded to inquire for greater detail. Upon mention of the mark Vanhin scanned Sarv’s wrist with his Luminar and began parsing thousands of lines of dense Urul script-code, a form of first-age language. With Vanhin lost in thought Aylan, impatient with the whole scenario, asked if there was really any danger in shadows and dreams, one’s not seen by any but a drunk and a child. Vanhin warned him to keep an open mind and vouched for Venya’s caution.
Venya piped in to remind Aylan of the Ruthless, a local gang, who might not be plaguing the city if the right cautions had been taken. Aylan, clearly taking this as an insult rose and moved towards the old man, his eyes full of barely contained rage. He stopped at the last moment and excused himself, attempting to mitigate the risk of doing anything rash to Venya.
Vanhin’s efforts bore some small fruit in the discovery of records linking the mark to the fall of the Urul empire and he again questioned Venya for more detail. Venya suggested that he had no dream he could recall and simply woke up with the sigils on his arm and was perhaps overcautious when he spotted others with similar markings. Asking Sarv about the dream, prompted zer to describe it as terrible but also to mention the appearance of the others in the dream and struggle to recall further details. Venya haltingly and reluctantly offered additional detail on the horde of shambling monstrosities which Intan confirmed. Each recounted the vision of their family, skewered and warning them with the word Signarem.
Vanhin, keying in on this explained that the word Signarem was Old Urul for “the entity that marks” and offered that perhaps the dream was a warning, simply given too late. Without additional detail, but concerned with the mention of the Urul cataclysm and some dark entity, Vanhin recommended the group be brought before the Thane so that he might decide how to proceed further, particularly in light of the Thane Olinn‘s interest in the local Urul ruins. Venya, concerned with the perception of his involvement, reluctantly agrees.
Aylan returned to speak with Vahnin, leaving the marked three alone, whereupon Venya promptly blamed all the trouble on Sarv. Intan called on Venya to confess to seeing the same things they did, prompting a clearly frustrated Venya to sputter and blame the outsiders for all the trouble and declare the southerners bad news.
This prompted Sarv to lock eyes with Venya saying clearly and directly “But you saw it, and it scared you didn’t it?”
Venya at first seemed unable to respond to this, gesturing madly as he tried to find the words to refute the Tamaa. Finally getting his footing he warned Sarv “not to tell him what he did and did not see, and especially stop telling anyone else!” cradling his marked arm and triggering a huffing pout from Sarv.
Aylan returned at this point, obviously weary and unsettled, expressed his displeasure at the outcome of the interview, and announced a stern warning for all to behave themselves. Venya declared his offense at the idea he might act improperly, once again testing the patience of the captain who spat his disdain for the Steward’s officious and insulting tone before demanding silence from the group and proceeding to escort them to the Thane.
Game 2: A Brief Isolation ∞
After a brief wait during which a curious Sarv gently pet Aylan Jaghund’s Urpan cloak, Intan, Sarv, and Venya, in the custody of Aylan Jaghund and the company of Vanhin Ilmarinen were transported up the Maurlog Crag towards the keep of Thane Olinn Einarr, master of Allfrerhem, for further discussion. Transported by carriage the group gained a glimpse of the Trade District and the Kahstrand or Noble district. This latter, not often traveled even by Venya, was an opportunity to view the history of Allfrerhem via the great reliefs carved into the Maurlog crag.
Upon arriving at the Thane’s Keep[doesn’t exist] the group noticed two carriages as well as a party of armored riders preparing to depart. Venya also noticed the increased guard presence, and several exotic looking horses tethered in the courtyard. Intan on the other hand was intrigued to see the novel construction material of the keep; a sturdy amalgam of first age and later materials. Recognizing the signs of an occupied Thane Venya suggested to Aylan that they not disturb the lord of Allfrerhem, but Aylan insisted on proceeding.
The group entered the first hall of the Keep, with Aylan at the lead intending to bring the issue directly to the Thane but intercepted by Lisken Bekkr, the High Steward of Allfrerhem. Bekker advised the group that the Thane was indisposed with other urgent business and that he would make a judgement on how to proceed. He prompted the characters for information on the situation with the marks.
Venya vigorously denied any imminent threat, downplaying the testimony of Sarv and Intan and advising Bekkr that the situation was largely a misunderstanding but that he was deferring to Vanhin’s judgement by proceeding to the keep.
Sarv observed Bekkr carefully, trying to measure the man, but the stewards demeanour was largely inscrutable revealing only a solemn professionalism. Queried by the high steward, Sarv apologized for any commotion they had caused, acknowledging that ze did not know what had been seen or if any others had seen it, but professing zer good intent and willingness to depart if required. The steward doubted the need and spoke briefly with Vanhin to get additional detail before asking Intan for his view.
Intan dismissed the vision as a figment of his imagination, unworthy of the attention of the Thane.
Bekkr directed the party to wait nearby while discussing the situation with Aylan and Vanhin. While they waited the group caught sight of Hakon Einarr, son of the Thane, clearly irritated, departing the main hall in a hurry. Venya prompted a nearby servant for information, learning that the Thane and his son had a great argument, possibly regarding a young female visitor.
After deliberation Bekkr announced his final decision; for the safety of the city and the party, he placed the group in temporary isolation under guard outside the city at The Old Western Tower until the Lorekeeper could complete his research.
Venya expressed his reluctance to leave the city, arguing that he should be guarded at his home but was overruled by Bekkr on the grounds of the shared mark likely meaning a shared danger. Agitated, Venya blamed the situation on Sarv and Intan once more, before being casually dismissed by Bekkr. An annoyed Intan and frustrated Sarv, equally leary at the prospect of captivity, questioned the imprisonment which Bekkr preferred to characterize as a temporary isolation for the sake of safety, advising the group they were all welcome to leave the city, but not to re-enter it until Vanhin had completed his study of the mark.
After some further negotiation by Venya to get access to his home and work while isolated, and sniping between Venya and Aylan, an irritated and impatient Intan prompted the group along towards their next destination.
The group was escorted back to the Barracks to await the arrival of their guard. While waiting, Intan brusquely interrupted a smith to show him how to better handle the forge, making friends with the man by showing him several techniques to save time and improve the quality of their work. Meanwhile Sarv overheard a conversation between the guards regarding an incident at Aia’s Flask, something involving a noble named Stakkyr
Eventually their escort arrived, an affable and thick chested guardsman named Voga Otagon. The ever hungry Sarv requested a stop in the trade district for pastries, earning her a stern rebuke from Venya for failing to recognize their situation. Voga stepped in to the squabble offering the young Tamma some candied almonds and making a friend.
After gathering goods from Venya’s chambers the cadre, now under the watchful gaze of of Voga departed, walking for a hour to The Old Western Tower a dilapidated structure used for storing supplies and housing overnight patrols outside the city.
The group whiled away the days in the company of Voga, a genial and somewhat insouciant fellow fond of dumb jokes and dice.
Venya filled his time attending to his duties as steward.
Sarv recovered a sewing kit and spent zer time embroidering a pillow with a copy of one of the reliefs in the Kastrand to limited success at first.
Intan spent his time tinkering with his collapsible staff, drinking ale and scrutinizing Svertheim architecture.
After three days of isolation, Venya approached a slightly drunk Intan to discuss their situation, their marks, and dreams, in an attempt to determine the common cause and purpose of their marks. Discussing their dream and the depiction of Intan’s mother within it, Intan revealed his unfortunate family history; the death of his family at the hands of thugs hired by a rival Tinker. When Intan revealed that his family had crafted an invention of note that was stolen by a rival tinker, Venya inquired on the nature of the invention. Unable to recall, Venya prodded the Selenian by suggesting he lay off the alcohol, prompting a cold response.
Meanwhile Sarv wandered upstairs to try on guard armour but was interrupted by the sound of an approaching horse from the west. The Tamaa rushed downstairs, clattering in zer oversized armour, pointing the sound out to the others.
Outside the tower the characters caught sight of two travelers approaching. Venya woke Voga, cautioning him about lone travelers but receiving little concern.
Upon closer inspection the travelers revealed themselves to be an Ossandrian woman on horseback being led by a man draped in Nehepi robes. The woman wore an embroidered cloth across her eyes, suggesting her blindness while the man was almost entirely concealed, save for his tawny arms covered in scars and a familiar mark on the left wrist. Venya concealed his mark while Sarv puffed out in an attempt to project some level authority from behind zer ill-fitting second-hand armour.
Questioned by Voga and Venya the travelers indicated that they had spent weeks on the road, apparently seeking Allfrerhem out to greet the Thane and take advantage of some unspoken ‘opportunity’.
After a brief moment of tension when Venya attempted to shake the Ossandrian’s hand only to be intercepted by her guard, the woman introduced herself as Isirin and her guard as Nashak. The moment revealed that only Nashak bore a mark, a trait apparently unnoticed by Voga.
Isirin spoke a friendly Subinese greeting to Sarv, identifying the Tamaa’s true nature and revealing her own nature as one of the Kaeki. The action startled Sarv, but she replied in Subinese, acknowledging Isirin’s blindness and ability to see more than most. With little else said, the travelers departed towards Allfrerhem.
The next night, when the guard arrived with Venya’s paperwork, the old steward prompted him for information and gossip from the city. The guard passed on wealth of information including:
– a murder in the warrens, chalked up to a drunken fight
– a rising feud between the Alar Stakkyr and the Veor family
– increased tension between the Stakkyr mine and its workers over pay and security
– Hakon Einarr riding north-west in search of a bandit clan
– petitioners seeking an audience with the Thane
– and rumors of the Thane departing the city for his villa near Eirundfell.
Sarv made a second attempt at embroidering the pillow, generating a request from Voga to assist with his uniform in trade for him taking the pillow back to the Keep.
Character Excerpt for Venya
Written by Joel
On the last night of his exile, Venya sat in a corner, by the crate he’d adopted as a makeshift desk. Various papers lay sprawled before him, lit by flickering candle light. The night air whistled through a nearby arrow slit, and the air was permeated by the smell of wood and dust. His pen could be heard scrawling from across the room, rapid and sharp, stopping only as he paused to think.
“It would be problematic if he was not allowed back in the city,” he reflected. “Very problematic. He needed to think of a way to get back in.”
He logged the imports and exports of the Eastern gate, tallying tax rates and calculating projective product sales. He copied them twice, once for the books, the other for his personal ledgers, as was his habit. In the latter, he added his own, personal notes in the margins.
“Dried meats; Inspection of wares recommended, disposal may be necessary but not ideal. Contraband?”
“Vanhin had damned well better find something good, or even better, nothing at all,” he thought.
He had known this mark would cause trouble the moment it appeared, but he had expected more time to get informed. If it had not been for that damned sugar-fiend… The drunk, he wasn’t worried about. He spent too much time drinking alone, deep in thought. Haunted and broken men are only dangerous to themselves. The Tamaa was another matter. How did it know he had seen the shade? Perhaps it didn’t, and simply guessed? No. No, it had seen the mark, though it was covered. This thing was clever, and perceptive, and innocuous, and worst of all, unpredictable.
Shipment of wheat, 10% rate, ~40 bushels.
Oak barrels, 40% rate, unknown.
Luxian fabrics, 20% rate, ~30 unaccounted for, smuggled? Contraband?
Red circle: possible buyer.”
And then there was that Ossandrian woman, if she was a woman at all. He had seen no crystals on her skin, but she had seen despite being blind. A kaeki, in all likelihood. But it bore itself like nobility, and was clearly of Ossandrian descent. A noble’s guilty pleasure perhaps? But why would a concubine be so far away, traveling alone? No, she, it was something else. And that guard. He bore the mark. Which means as a kaeki it didn’t matter that he had hidden his, it probably knew.
“Isirin,” he muttered. It would know something, and it would probably be waiting for him, if he was ever allowed back into the city. He would need to take time to go see it, sooner rather than later.
His pen hovered over the page for a moment as he contemplated this. An Ossandrian Kaeki, traveling with one who bears the mark. This could either be a devastating foe or an essential ally. He thought back to the Tamaa and the Selenian, who were both also locked up, and seemingly ignorant of the mark’s origin. The Signarem. Perhaps he would need to keep them around for a while yet.
The thought was discouraging, so he put it aside to think of other matters.
He underlined the word to distinguish it from the others on the page. For a moment, he simply watched the ink dry, reflecting in the candlelight. The prospect was terrifying, but exhilarating. For a moment, he thought of the young man he had once been, and what had been taken from him.
The anger reflected in his eye as he blew out the candle.
Another four days passed, before a messenger arrived to advise the group the enter the city and speak with Vanhin the Lorekeeper. The group said farewell to Voga and happily departed the tower back to Allfrerhem and Vanhin’s Library.
The group was welcomed by Vanhin who relayed the details of his research, limited though they were.
According to Vanhin the fragments of text within his library referring to the marks indicated that they were last seen during the Cataclysm, the fall of the Urul Imperium, and were a symbol of membership in some form of righteous order whose name he could not recover. The related texts were badly corrupted but there were suggestions that the wearers were specially chosen by a great lord of the first age, figures of great destiny and fate, though their purpose unclear. Vanhin’s theory on the sudden appearance was that the mark was applied via some form of ‘blood sorcery’, a form of Urul Technology that, according to Vanhin “marked the veins of the bearer and could be borne through generations”. He suspected the group to be descendants of these ancient figures.
Vanhin conveyed his findings to the Steward Bekkr and Guard Captain Aylan. Satisfied there was no further evidence of danger or threat, they had agreed to release the group from custody.
Vanhin offered the group the use of his library, suggesting that, while his efforts had been thorough, there might be more to find. He also suggested that additional Luminar based records might be found in one of the local the ruins, though the Thane’s ban on entry certainly posed a difficulty.
Venya asked Vanhin if the Thane was still planning to leave the city which Vanhin confirmed. Venya also indicated his intent to return should any additional information be revealed.
Intan, intending to conduct his own research, asked Vanhin for some guidance on the organization of the library only to discover that whatever organization existed, did so primarily in Vanhin’s head.
The group, freed for the first time in a week, began to plan their next moves. Before dispersing the group discussed meting at the Red Circle Tavern and Venya pointed out the high cost of the Circle. This prompted Vanhin to suggest that Intan might find work with the Allfrerhem Master Tinker, Olo Niva and earn coin enough to fund his stay. With the rough outline of plans made the group split, with Sarv heading to the Warrens to obtain a dress, Venya heading to the Thane’s Keep to speak with Steward Bekkr, and Intan remaining at the library to start his research on the mark.
Venya found Steward Lisken Bekkr in his chambers and the two chatted. Venya expressed his relief to be back in the city and Bekkr his appreciation for Venya’s studious attention to his work while isolated. Venya advised Bekkr he would be conducting his own investigation of the mark to supplement the research conducted by Vanhin, which Bekkr agreed was a reasonable course of action. Venya’s inquiries turned towards Isirin, the Ossandrian lady he encountered outside the city, and asked Bekkr if she had obtained an audience with Thane Einarr. Bekker advised him that they had not and the pair was staying at the Red Circle in the meantime. Bekkr also confirmed that the Thane would be departing the city for some time, probably for at least two weeks.
Venya, seeking more information on the mark, requested an audience with the Thane, hoping to gain access to the ruins. Bekkr replied by explaining that the Thane restricted the right to access the ruins due to the danger of doing so and politely pointed out that Venya did not seem well equipped for such exploits. Venya offered that Hakon, the Thane’s adventurous son, already eager to delve the ruin, might lead the expedition, but Bekkr cast a shadow over the suggestion by explaining that the recent schism between Hakon and Olinn was due to the same suggestion by Hakon himself. Bekkr, clearly growing uncomfortable with the conversation, began to disengage, though he offered one final response to Venya’s inquiries on Hakon, advising him that the Thane’s heir had headed northwest to work off his frustration with his father by hunting bandits. Venya thanked Bekkr for his assistance and then headed back to Vanhin’s Library.
Back at the library, Intan noticed that Vanhin was utilizing a Node, a piece of first age technology, to house the ephemeral documents displayed on his Luminar. Intan, familiar with the technology and its proper state, repaired the Node, restoring it to full operation. An impressed Vanhin observed that the repairs had caused the Node to rebuild lost indices, likely opening up access to additional information. He offered Intan the use of a spare Luminar, a semi-functional back up, as a reward for his assistance with the node.
Meanwhile, Sarv headed to the warrens, locating a particularly hungry looking young woman feeding a baby. The Tamaa set down next to her, offering up a somewhat stale sweet-roll for the woman’s children. The woman thanked Sarv for xer generosity.
Sarv asked the woman about Thane Einarr and the nature of the city’s Thane. The woman spoke of the Thane with admiration for his generosity and defense of the city in his youth. She referred to stories of the Thane’s exploits with awe.
Sarv chuckled and pushed further, trying to find more about what made the Thane happy. The woman replied by talking of the Thane’s love for his family and distress at Hakon’s disobedience. She also mentioned the kindness of his wife, Lady Idira Einarr.
Pressed further, the woman nervously revealed that while the Thane was kind and tried to ensure the needs of his people were met, the noble landowners of Allfrerhem often took advantage of the people and the Thane’s generosity, using their power and influence to bolster their own wealth while often showing disregard for the rest of Allfrerhem’s people. The woman pointed out that she had herself seen the Thane in the warrens once, sharing a drink with Rotta, clearly considering it as evidence of the Thane’s connection to the people.
Sarv laughed at the familiar story of nobility and offered the woman one of xer bangles. The woman, reluctant to take another gift, agreed to trade for an old dress, to help Sarv better fit in. With a thankful blessing upon the young woman’s children Sarv departed with the dress, heading towards King Rotta’s Tavern.
Sarv, in her new attire, entered King Rotta’s to speak with Balek Rotta, the owner and barkeep.
“Business doesn’t seem to slow here” said Sarv
“There’s always some dirt hand or forester eager to waste their pay” replied Rotta.
“Even special vistors?”
“You’ll need to define special.” replied Rotta
“I hear that the Thane comes here. Is that true?”
“Someone’s been gossipping. Einarr doesn’t have time to come down to the Warrens.” said Rotta, eyes trailing to the door.
“Too bad. I was hoping to meet a celebrity.” said Sarv
Balek chuckled, “I’d hardly call the Thane a celebrity… an old man at best.”
“But there’s so many stories!”
“Clear the stars from your eyes girl. He’s a man like the rest of us.”
Sarv frowned, “Then he must not be nice either.”
Balek objected, “I didn’t say that. He’s a fine fella, but a grumpy old sod.”
“I know all about grumpy old men…” Sarv grinned.
At this point Sarv noticed a bounty on the board behind Rotta.
Under the Authority of the Victran People and By Order of the Lord Rit of Victra
Wanted for Murder of Ser Caden Obrais, brother of Lord Gavan Obrais
*The picture of Sarv is a rough match, but just off enough to cast doubt*Description: 5 feet, 6 inches tall, blonde, white of skin.
An amount of 500 gelt is offered for the apprehension of the subject, 100 gelt for information leading to capture or 10 gelt for information deemed valuable.
The subject is to be remanded to the custody of an agent of the Obrais Trading Company as empowered by the Victran People, to be returned to Victra for trial and punishment.
“Why would a little girl be wanted for 500 gelt?” Asked Sarv, coyly
“The lad who brought it in was some Victran pomp, talking about murder of some noble.”
“But little girls can’t kill some one.”
“Anyone can kill. Doesn’t take that much.” said Rotta.
Sarv asked for the handbill which Rotta passed to the Tamaa, advising xer that the bounty was being handled by Swain Morten who was staying at the Red Circle Tavern.
With the bounty in hand Sarv headed back to the library.
Character Excerpt for Sarv
Written by Natascha
Sarv slipped through the warrens largely unnoticed, a poor woman scurrying through the streets wasn’t an uncommon sight here. On xes chest and clutched tightly by folded arms was a sheet of parchment, fluttering in the breeze to read “wanted” across the top to the eye. Dipping into an alley, the Tamaa leaned xes back against the wall, closing golden eyes and giving a deep sigh before loosening xes arms and looking down to what xe knew was xes own face, the face of a naive and fresh faced young thing, drawn with a very serious and piercing look, shorter curly blonde locks, skin shaded a bit darker than an artist would portray now. The Tamaa slid down the wall, and started to fold the parchment carefully, first in half, half again, with crisp and well defined folds as many times as the creature’s slim fingertips ran down along the newly created paper spines. Only a moment or two passed as xe stared at the fold until xe stood up, took a deep breath and sharp exhale, and wiped a slightly off-colored tear from its face. Sarv wriggled in the dress a little, wondering if perhaps xe should just take it off and fold it, but decided instead to fill it out a little better perhaps, the way the poor mother had in her own. Sarv then shoved the parchment into the bodice, taking care to shove it deep enough that no corners or such popped out. Murder. Murder. Sarv never thought this would catch up here. Not this fast. Not now. As the tamaa made xes way back to the library, the thoughtful look seemed to melt back into a seemingly oblivious smile, just a young woman with a rare moment of happy freedom, stepping light and unburdened through the crowd.
Game 3: Travelers, Dancers, and Machines ∞
Intan, having received a broken Luminar from the Lorekeeper Vanhin, quickly returned it to working order using his considerable technical skill. Watching as the indices began rebuilding Intan started his own research on the marks.
After a few hours of research Intan discovered that much of the data held in the Library Node consisted of scans made by Vanhin and his apprentices over the past century, though a core set of data from the Node remained, the base info recovered when the Node was dragged from its original home in the Aarnivak ruin. Despite considerable corruption to the data, Intan was able to derive the following:
- The author of the contents in regards to the marks is unknown. The information that Vanhin has to identify the author is very likely a mis-attribution due to corruption.
- The original text is actually missing, and the current version was edited as recently as the past few decades.
- The data is derived from some form of religious document rather than a historical record as Vanhin suggested.
The data on the marks likely came from the original data recovered from the Aarnivak ruin rather than Vanhin’s tomes and scans.
These facts cast some doubt on Vanhin’s findings but also suggests an ancient origin for the gathered information.
Venya, and Sarv returned once more to Vanhin’s dusty library. Afternoon was beginning to fade into evening and a light spring snow fell outside. The library was drafty and somewhat chill but smelled of fresh bread and cheese which Vanhin was dining on as he parsed line after minute line in his luminar. Intan’s work on the node had left the old man deeply engrossed as the system recovered portions of index and text he had long thought lost.
Venya returned first, and Sarv shortly thereafter, entering the Library with a slightly different appearance than when xe left, xer body shape altered to better fill in xer newly acquired dress, making xer look more mature. Xer cheeks were marked with trails of a pale green stain, the marks of tears made by xer unique biology. Xe found Intan and Venya studying and a perceptive Venya noticed Sarv’s stained face and asked where xe had been. Sarv showed off xer new dress, asking Venya if it made xer fit in better.
“Only if you intend on sleeping in the Warrens.”
“But I stand out far less now”
“You’re Tamaa. You’ll stand out no matter where you go.” said the old Steward.
Sarv stuck xer tongue out at Venya and walked through the stacks searching for resources xe might be able to access regarding the marks. Unable to find anything relevant xe settled for a cookbook of interesting recipes.
“You’re pretty handy with that Luminar” said Venya.
“Well someone has to do the research, you’re both off doing your own thing” replied an impatient Intan, “and I have stumbled across a clue on the marks. The data is somewhat corrupt regarding the author, but I do have a lead on where we might be able to find more info…”
“And that is?” asked Venya
“The ruins of Aarnivak, to the north” replied Intan.
“What makes you think that?” Venya pried.
Intan, rolled his eyes,
“My research” said the Tinker
“And it mentions Aarnivak?”
“Yes” Intan said, pointing to an array of characters unfamiliar to the steward.
Venya hummed and pulled out pen and paper and began to carefully copy the characters.
“… Aarnivak.. that is unfortunate.”
“What is wrong with Aarnivak? Why is that unfortunate?” asked Intan
“It’s no matter…” Venya said, shaking his head and quickly changed the subject.
“You recall lady Isirin who we encountered a few days ago? The man she was traveling with bore a mark much like our own. I suggest we speak to them and see if perhaps the man has experienced the same thing as we. I believe the woman, Lady Isirin, is a Kaeki and those beings tend to know and see things in a different way. I believe we may glean some information about the mark and the shadow being Sarv keeps running on about.”
Intan nodded, “Very well. I agree. Let’s go speak to them. But first I need a drink.”
“So we’re going somewhere again?” said Sarv, hearing xer name, and unceremoniously tossing xer book aside.
“Well, Intan and I are. I suppose you’re free to join,” said Venya.
“There may be sweets” offered Intan.
“Well I’m in.” Said the Tamaa.
“To the tavern then. Intan can get a drink and we can speak with Isirin and her companion,” said Venya.
“Wait, which tavern?” asked Sarv.
“The Red Circle” said Venya
“We’re not going there… I’m not going there, I’m going to stay here. You guys can go, that’s fine, but I’m going to stay here, I’m not going.” said Sarv in a sudden torrent of words.
“Are you okay Sarv?” asked Intan
“I’m fine.” said Sarv
Intan pulled his flask, noted the level
“Well perhaps we can skip the Tavern” he said
“There is no skipping the tavern” said Venya, frustration evident in his voice, and picked up his cane, heading to the door.
“I’m going to Aya’s Flask” said Sarv.
The group parted ways, with Intan and Venya heading to the Red Circle and Sarv heading to Aya’s Tavern.
At the Red Circle Venya spoke with Edrickk Aulisson, the barkeep and proprietor.
“I’ve heard that an Ossandrian, Lady Isirin, is staying here.” asked Venya
“Past few days yes,” replied Edricck.
“She stays with a Nehepi”
“Maybe? Fellow keeps his face covered so it’s hard to tell. Darker skin though, probably Nehepi”
“You can always tell a Nehepi by the smell.” said Venya,
“Didn’t smell that weird to me.” offered a slightly confused Edricck.
Venya snarled at the tolerance.
“I would speak to them,” said Venya
“Why are you so interested in these folks?” asked Edricck
“That’s my business” replied Venya
“Well.. it’s sort of their business and I’m being paid by them, not you Venya” said Edricck
“I met them whilst they were on their way into the city.”
Edricck eyed the old Steward carefully before replying.
“I can let them know you want to talk to them.”
“I would appreciate it.”
With a questioning look at the old Steward Edricck headed upstairs.
Meanwhile, Intan wandered the tavern, catching sight of a slender, pale skinned fellow dressed in the Victran style; expensive black long coat, short brimmed top hat, riding boots, but all slightly dusty and worn. His face was clean shaven save for a slightly ornate and waxed mustache. He smelled of something vague and pleasing and Intan could see he carried a canna holstered on his hip. The man was speaking to one of the other barkeeps.
“I have a few copper for you if you’d kindly post this somewhere visible. 10 gelt for information and the reward to anyone who can deliver the subject of interest.” the Victran said
“I can put it on the board but the bounty says for murder in Victra… bit far from the scene to be posting bounty innit?” replied the bartender.
“Indeed. I thought similar. Received the notice from Obrais to post these across Svertheim. Suppose someone caught sight of the crow boarding a ship north. In any case I’ll not turn down a few coin to move paper. They’re paying me extra to make a trip east along the coast, posting these.” He shrugged.
The bartender looked at the handbill.
“Caden Obrais? Whosat? Related to the company?” he asked
“Indeed. Brother of the company head… rumor is the girl was a gift from his brother if you catch my meaning.” replied the Victran
The bartender shrugged taking the handbill to post on one of the boards.
Intan approached the man, his eyes watching the canna on his hip.
“Some pretty impressive hardware to be in a tavern,” offered the Tinker.
The Victran turned, smiling. “You noticed. Not many understand what she can do. She’s powerful indeed.”
“Seems like a rare type. Mind if I take a look? asked Intan.
The Victran smiled slightly, appraising Intan with a glance before nodding, drawing the weapon, cracking the breach, and removing the ammunition, handing it over.
Intan inspected the hand-canna and, noticing some burring on the barrel, quickly buffed it out before handing it back.
“Looks like the rifling was a bit burred. That should help.”
The Victran’s eyes opened wide and he smiled holstering the canna once more. “Mighty fine! Buy you a drink?” he asked, signaling the bartender
“Sure, why not. What brings you here?” replied Intan
“Working for the Obrais company. They have me posting paper. I suppose technically I’m bounty hunting, though I doubt I’ll find much here… Swain Morten by the way” he said, holding out his hand.
“Intan” said the Tinker, shaking it. “What are you doing here? Given the skill and your look I’d guess Selenian? You’re far from home.”
“I’m looking for interesting tech. Want to make a name for myself,” said Intan, tugging his sleeve to hide his mark.
“I’d suggest you’re a distance from your goal friend. These folks take interior plumbing for high technology,” said Swain dismissively.
“You’d be surprised. I have run in to some interesting tech. Nothing too impressive, but it could spark my inspiration.”
“Fair enough. I hear there are ruins nearby. Might find something there I suppose,” offered Swain
“We had heard about those. We were thinking about taking a gander,” said Intan sipping his ale.
“I petitioned Lord Einarr several years ago for license to delve but never could get it,” said Swain, shaking his head.
“Why is it so off limits?” asked Intan
Swain shrugged, “From what I understand the Thane had some bad encounters there in his youth and on top of that I believe he has some sort of relationship with the Selenians that has caused him to reconsider delving old places.”
“And you said it’s hard to get a license?”
“Yes. He seems to reserve them for a very few. Those he trusts or those who prove their value. It’s all very northern and incestuous if you ask me.”
“You said you don’t think you’ll find your bounty here?”
“Well, it’s a bit silly. We’re half-way across the continent. I can hardly see some little girl surviving this far inland,” said Swain.
“Little girl? How do you get a bounty for a little girl?” asked Intan.
Swain leaned in, his voice slightly lowered, “The whole thing’s a bit torrid. Apparently Ser Caden Obrais, brother to the owner of the Obrais Trading company, was murdered in a brothel. The girl was to be a gift…I’m sure I don’t have to spell it out. In any case, it’s a hefty bounty, 500 gelt. Apparently Lord Obrais had a greater fondness for his brother than anyone thought,” Swain took a deep draft from his mug and continued, “They tell me to post paper, I’ll post paper. It’s good gelt anyways. My suspicion; she never made it past Ossandria but I’ll post wherever they ask me too.”
“Mind if I get one? In case I happen to stumble across this ‘little girl’?”
“Certainly,” said Swain, handing Intan a handbill from his bundle.
Venya watched this conversation from afar, seeing Intan chat with the well-armed and overdressed Victran.
Around this time Edricck returned downstairs with Lady Isirin, her guard Nashak in tow, and the two travelers approached Venya. Summoning Intan the four headed towards a private booth at the rear of the inn with Lady Isirin kept a few feet apart at all times by a wary Nashak.
Venya placed his cane against the bench and slid into the booth.
“I’m sorry that we met under such unfortunate circumstances” said Venya
“It seemed an odd living arrangement, your accommodations at the tower,” replied Isirin.
“A misunderstanding. The same misunderstanding which brings us to you now,” Venya grasped Intan by the shoulders “This man entered my city some days ago and began spouting some drunken nonsense no doubt about a dream and an army and shadow beings and Signarem, which, as I’m sure you would understand, made me, a gate official, somewhat nervous. In investigating this matter we were deemed an unnecessary risk and placed in the tower for the time being. During that time I noticed that your companion bore a similar mark,” Venya’s gaze turned to Nashak, “I was wondering if you had any information about that mark? How you came to get it, how long.”
Isirin looked at Venya, reaching across the table and placing a painted finger nail on the back of Venya’s hand, “Are you sure you did not experience something similar yourself?” she asked tilting her head.
“Comparable, perhaps,” said Venya, a hint of irritation in his voice.
Isirin nodded, “In any case, my friend here is unable to communicate it with you. He lacks a tongue. An unfortunate reality of Ossandrian slave-holding. He suffered grievously when taken. I can communicate for him, with his permission,” She said, turning to place a hand gently on Nashak’s face.
Nashak nodded and Isirin turned her face back to the pair.
“If you’d like the whole grisly story I can convey it, or I can shorten it to what I’m sure you’re interested in, the mark the three of you share.”
“Perhaps we should begin with this, yes, although my interest in his story, grisly though it may be, remains,” said Venya.
“Well, to be blunt, you and your friend have been marked by something of celestial origin. An arcana that is difficult to explain in terms most would understand. I see threads that you cannot, threads that connect each of your marks and this place, that run throughout Allfrerhem and further afield. I believe the threads are connected to the nearby ruins, we’ve been trying to get license to delve. In short, you three seem to be connected to this place, and I believe there may be more, all drawn here for some purpose.”
“And what role do you play in all this? I see you do not bear the mark.” said Venya
“Whether that’s fortunate or not I’m not sure. I’ve yet to determine whether it is a curse or a boon, but I travel with Nashak because he is owed a great debt by my people.”
“You’re an apologist then?” said Venya
“As if there were any other way to be towards the Nehepi. Do you know much of southern politics?”
“I try to keep my mind on immediate, relevant, problems. I know only that the Nehepi and Ossandrians had a… scuffle.”
“I’d hardly consider thirty years of occupation a scuffle. Nashak has fought his entire life against Ossandrian occupation. Second generation. He’s waged war against my people for as long as I’ve been alive and when they captured him they were not kind.”
“Nashak had a dream, I’m sure you’re familiar with, a dream bearing images of his ancestors and some dark army in the north. It was this dream that led to his capture. A dream so real he was left distraught and disoriented, easily ambushed in the night and put in bindings. He was brought north to fight in the arena in my city. But I saw there was more too him.” said Lady Isirin, turning to Nashak with a grim smile.
“When exactly did this happen. You speak of this as if it were some time ago,” asked Venya
“Nashak has borne his mark for three years.”
“Drunkard, how long have you borne the mark.” barked Venya
“Recently. Obviously the same way as the rest. A strange dream with a shadowy figure.”
“Yes… and I hear you seek an audience with the Thane,”
“I have asked with the Steward Bekkr for an audience but he has delayed. I’m advised the Thane is indisposed.”
“What reason do you seek to speak with the Thane again?” asked Intan
“To gain access to the ruins. I have no desire to make new enemies by delving ruins that have been banned.”
“What’s your interest in the ruins?”
“The threads that connect your marks, I’m certain they connect to the ruins. I believe if there’s someway to discern the purpose or remove these marks it would be found there.”
“We’ve also found some ties to the ruins and would seek entrance…”
“I’m sorry, Lady Isirin, you are clearly born of nobility are you not?” said Venya, suddenly seeming impatient.
“Yes, I am.. why?”
“I’m having difficulty understanding why an Ossandrian noble such as yourself would leave her home for some slave…”
Isirin’s eyes lit at the dismissal and she leaned across the table, her face contorted in anger.
“He’s not merely a slave. He’s a person, just like you or I,” with a quick motion she pulled down Nashak’s mask to reveal a face covered in scars of every type; layers of painful history written in fire and acid and steel. Nashak’s eyes looked away, filled with rage and hate, but Isirin placed a hand on his rough face. The two shared a moment before she turned back to look at Venya.
“He’s no different from you just because he was unfortunate enough to be taken by the Ossandrians.”
“I didn’t mean any offense, I simply meant that… those born of privilege rarely abandon it for the benefit of another,” said Venya
“What privilege?! I was an Ossandrian Lady, destined to be married, to bear a brood, and to live in a nation that doesn’t care for me” spat Isirin.
A moment of tense quiet passed before Venya responded.
“Perhaps I am too disassociated from the strange culture in the south. I understood that things were different there. I meant no offense… now as far as your venturing into the ruins is concerned, I may be of assistance.”
“Indeed. How so?” asked Isirin.
“The Thane is unlikely to return for at least several weeks. He has left the city. His son, however, may be convinced to allow you entry in his stead.”
“His son has that authority?”
“It is his son, the heir and given the Lords absence and the urgency of the matter, it may be best to seek out the young Lord?”
“Where would we find him?”
“These days he ventures north of the city, looking for bandits. I see your friend there, Nashak? He seems capable. You could send him to seek him out.”
Nashak’s eyes widened and he looked towards Isirin.
“It would be best if we stick together, but perhaps we will pursue your suggestion and seek out Hakon. Thank you for this information.”
“If you do come to find him and he does grant you access to the ruins, I request that you send news to me. I would be interested to see how your ventures proceed.”
“What about yourself and your friend? Do you not wish to learn more of the marks you bear?”
“I would, but as you can see, I am an old man… ruin delving… I don’t think my physician would approve.”
“And your friend?”
Intan perks up, “The possibilities within a ruin… of course!”
“My sight suggests both ruins, and even Allfrerhem are connected. The threads are unclear but…”
Intan chimed in “My research suggests Aarnivak ruin.”
Lady Isirin nodded, “When we find Hakon, and if we can secure passage, I will ask that you be permitted to join us. Have either of you encountered any others who have borne the mark?”
“Our friend, the Tamaa you met.”
“Ah yes, where is xe?”
“Xe decided to stay at Vanhin’s library. Xe’s waiting for our return from this conversation.”
“Well, give her my greetings, I will include her in my request to Lord Hakon.”
“Thank you,” said Intan sipping his beer.
“In any case, I have no more I can share with you.” said Isirin, placing her head on Nashak’s shoulder and motioning for him to signal a server.
With the conversation apparently at an end Intan and Venya excused themselves.
Meanwhile, Sarv found xer way to Aia’s Flask, presenting herself to Virva Kallio as a dancer. With a learned shyness, Sarv approached the Matron, introducing herself. After setting out xer terms and providing very impressive demonstration of xer skill Sarv was granted regular employment at the Flask. Xe discovered that Virva had recently lost a dancer due to the behavior of a local noble son. Sarv expressed the sentiment “Nobles have given us plenty of money but they have never been our friends”, gaining full agreement from Virva. After introductions with the various employees of the Flask, Sarv was led to the dressing room where she overheard the primary gossip in the dressing room, a conversation regarding Alar Stakkyr, the son of Albin Stakkyr, a powerful local noble. He was banned from the flask after beating up a former dancer and has since been harassing patrons and dancers away from the flask. Sarv also learned that six months ago Hakon laid Alar low after the young Stakkyr sucker punched the Thane’s son. The argument was precipitated when Hakon caught Alar tormenting caged hunting Clanbars. Hakon called the young Stakkyr a “cowardly shite-monger, destined for a shallow grave’ and Alar punched him in the back of the head. Hakon proceeded to beat Alar’s face swollen and threaten to end him. The young noble also won’t go to King Rotta’s Tavern after he was forcibly removed by Rotta, tossed on his ass in the mud by an old man. Apparently Stakkyr’s father brought the issue up with the Thane but was laughed out of the court.
After a short conversation with Viktoria, the lead dancer, wherein Sarv offered her services to dance as male or female and revealed her nature as a Tamaa to the shocked group of dancers, she learned that most Svertan’s consider the Tamaa to be a southern myth. Realizing that not all the dancers were open to Sarv’s true nature, she asked Viktoria to keep her nature a secret from Virva.
Back at the Circle, Venya left Isirin’s booth, thanking her for the information, and suggesting they keep in touch, before and after leaving for Hakon and the ruins.
Venya turned to Intan “Well then, we’re in the same boat it seems, care to share a drink or two while we mull this over?”
“I’m not one to turn down a drink, so sure” Intan said as the two moved to find another table near the wall in good view of the door.
“Aye, I figured as much,” said Venya, flagging down a server “A round of your strongest mead, my dear.”
“Are you trying to take advantage of me?” asked Intan
“I think you overestimate your handsomeness,” said Venya, eliciting a chuckle from the tinker.
Venya grunted as he set himself down, accommodating his bum leg, “So, tell me, what do you think of all this?” he asked.
“I am growing more curious of these ruins of this mark. What does it mean?” Intan said, smiling at the arrival of his mead. The two men nodded, raising their glasses before downing a drink.
“Do you think we can gain access to the ruins?” asked Intan
“Yes, yes. Very mysterious, all that. Tell me, you intend to venture into the ruins then? Simply answering the call of this mark then?” asked Venya, ignoring the question.
“Yes, all of this has me curious, but it doesn’t hurt that these ruins might have some interesting technologies is a significant bonus. Seems win win to me,” said Intan
“I don’t mean to dissuade you in this effort, but have you considered the threat the ruins pose? I hear they’re quite dangerous and… given your rotund figure I’m going to guess that ruin delving may have been easier in earlier years.”
“Maybe we can hire someone? A guard perhaps?” asked Intan
“How much money would you have to spare for such an endeavor. I have little savings I’m afraid…”
“This is why I need to find a job”
“I doubt that Niva will have enough work in a short period of time to hire someone willing and capable to delve into ruins in your name. No, this is why I suggested we pursue Hakon. He can’t be far from the city at this point and he’s a capable warrior in his own right.”
“So you suggest that we take Hakon with us? The Thane’s son?”
“I suggest we bring the matter to him and he can decide for himself whether or not this Signarem problem is sufficiently disturbing to force him into the ruins.”
Conversation devolved into discussion of hiring mercenaries and additional rounds of drinks but was interrupted by a commotion as crowds gathered outside the Circle. The source of commotion quickly became clear; the crowds were waching a great clatterjack, nearly three meters tall, marching down the main road, from the Haggen towards the trade district. Venya recognized the machine as Kalevan, a clatterjack leased by the Stakkyr family for logging.
The humanoid machine looked akin to a giant in heavy plate armour. It had only the outline of a face; a pair of lense eyes, a broad flat mouth, and the rough curvature of cheek and nose. One of its eyes was dim and one of its hands hung limp at its side. The other ‘hand’ appeared to have been replaced by a great rotary saw. The machines joints were filled with saw-dust the snow turned rain hadn’t yet washed away and dozens of cords of artificial muscle, each as thick as your arm, propelled the automotan forward, following a short man, with thick brown hair, a ruddy complexion a shaggy moustache and a pock-marked face whom Venya recognized to be Olo Niva. Behind the great machine a horse pulled a cart covered in a crude tarp. A single hairy inhuman foot stuck out from the back of the cart.
Game 4: Blood and Rain ∞
Intan followed Kalevan to Olo’s workshop. The workshop was a long three story building composed of a combination of brickwork and iron, with a tower on the northern side. At the front of the building was large walled in courtyard and as Intan entered it is obvious that the walls were for the protection of those outside the workshop, evidenced by the dozen bolts embedded deeply in the thick stone, too deeply for any normal bow or crossbow, along with a scorch mark trailing across one wall. The two great iron and wood doors, 3 and 1/2 meters tall, were open and Intan watched as Kalevan marched into the workshop accompanied by the sound of metal on metal resonating from within.
The hall was filled with machinery and equipment; forges, small smelters, tread-hammers and anvils are arranged in neat areas and Intan could see more exotic equipment further down the hall. A half dozen apprentices and servants darted forward to tend to Kalevan and guide the machine to a stool and metal frame where it settled. A pair of the Thane’s guard, armed with powerful looking crossbows, watched Intan’s entrance with keen attention and the tinker watched Olo shake his head as he inspected the machines. One of the apprentices turned to Intan with an appraising look.
“Can I help you sir?” asked the Apprentice
“I was just admiring your clatterjack. I’m from Selene and I was a tinker back home. I was curious to see your contraption,” said Intan
Mention of Intan’s Selenian origin caught the attention of Olo, who turned to invite the tinker further into the shop, dismissing the apprentices.
Intan approached Kalevan, inspecting the massive humanoid automaton that had clearly been rebuilt and reforged numerous over a long life. The clatterjack was entirely still.
“You come from the silver city so you’ve worked with these before?” Olo half asked and half stated.
“Ours are in slightly better condition, but yes,” replied Intan
“No conceit in your family, you have it all,” said Olo
Olo considered Intan for a moment, apparently coming to a quick conclusion.
“I’ve need of someone to work with first age tech, assist with fixing tools and clatterjacks. Would you be interested?” he asked.
“If there’s coin in it,” replied Intan
“Well you’ll have to prove yourself first,” said the master tinker, motioning to a work bench atop which sat a long series of segmented metal pieces, springs, loose myofibre and a set of tiny optics.
“Fix that and we’ll talk pay.”
Intan recognized the first age toy for what it was immediately; a children’s example of the same type of technology as Kalevan. With a few minutes work Intan had the parts arranged and reassembled and handed the device over to Olo who inspected it with an impressed nod. Olo opened a chamber in the devices head, producing a tiny sliver of Helion and setting it into place. Nothing happened.
“Well… looks like no luck…” suddenly the tiny mechanical serpent springs to life, coiling in on itself and slithering across the bench. It rears slightly, tiny emerald eyes scanning the room, and makes a slightly musical sound before coiling up and watching the group silently.
“Never mind,” Olo said, his lips curling into a smile, “You’re hired. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have a work list for you. By the way, that’s Torald, the Thane’s son,” he says pointing to one of the apprentices, “he’ll be working with you.”
“Sounds good to me. What sort of work will I be doing?” asked Intan
“Fixing what’s been recovered. I expect with the skill you’ve just demonstrated I’m going to need your assistance with Kalevan her,” replied Olo.
“Sounds very intriguing. Can’t wait to start,” said Intan.
“I appreciate the enthusiasm. Be here at 7 sharp tomorrow,”
“I’ll be here,” answered Intan.
Intan departed the workshop, stepping into the cool night air he realized suddenly that he had no clue where Sarv or Venya had gotten too. In lieu of any group plan Intan headed towards The Red Circle Tavern, planning to spend the night.
Intan woke to the final day of the work week in the Allfrerhem calendar before the two day rest period provided by the Thane. The snow had turned to chilly rain and the sky was grey and overcast. The temperature hovered around 10 degrees. The roads were muddy and the city smelled of hearthfires as Intan awakened to the rain-muted sounds of the city. Exiting the tavern he encountered Venya and the two men greeted each other brusquely, speaking under the eves of the inn.
“You find what you were looking for with Olo?” asked Venya
“Yes, worked out perfectly. Followed the clatterjack, got a good look at it and… employment ” replied Intan
“Good, good, you’ll need it. You really plan on staying at the red circle?” asked Venya
“Gelt’s right and it’s close,” replied the Tinker
“I mean, yeah but if you plan on working for Niva it doesn’t really leave that much behind after a hard days work,” said Venya, appraising the tinker before continuing, “Bit on the expensive side… it’s your business. It’s just if I were you I’d seek alternative lodging… something cheaper if you intend to spend any significant length of time in the city,” the steward finished.
“I’ll search for more later. I just needed a place to stay for the night,” said Intan
“So be it. If you need any recommendations you know where to find me. And what about the Tamaa? You know where she is…he..xe… it?” asked Venya.
“Last I heard she was in search of employment herself. I’ve yet to see her this morning.”
Venya closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead in frustration bordering on solid contempt, “Lord knows what she’ll find,” said Venya.
As their conversation trailed off Intan took notice of several watchful locals; miners and foresters whose eyes seemed to follow him in particular. Intan mostly dismissed the attention as due to his foreign origin.
“So you working at Niva’s today, or will you be joining me in preparations for our future endeavours in regards to,” Venya motioned to his wrist.
“I would love to join you this morning however I’m due to start my shift at Olo’s, ” replied Intan
“So be it,” said Venya, letting out an exasperated sigh, “Your going to need that money and, to be honest, you really can’t afford to be spending that money and too much time at the Red Circle, given that you’ll undoubtedly need to hire someone for protection if you’re heading out of the city”
“Duly noted,” replied Intan.
“Alright. I guess I’ll try to find the Tamaa. Enjoy your day,” Venya said, limping away towards the library, hoping to find the wayward Tamaa, Sarv.
Sarv had spent xer evening and into the morning dancing at Aia’s Flask earning a small handful of coin before finding xer way to Vanhin’s Library and passing out in a chair. Venya found Sarv a limp mess of arms and tentillium, clearly exhausted, possibly dead.
Sarv woke to a tug on xer belt bag and the sound of Venya’s voice.
“Morning sleepy head.”
Sarv rubbed xer eyes and wiped a line of greenish drool from xer lips and the chair, staring around before fixing on the old man waking xer.
“What… time is it?” asked Sarv
“It’s late, you should be up by now,” declared Venya, voice stern.
“How late?” Sarv groaned, unable to determine the actual time in the eternal twilight of the library.
Venya smacked xer bed-chair with his cane.
“Up and at em. You can’t be sleeping here. You’re going to get in trouble with the guard.”
Sarv let out another groan and sluggishly reached out with one of xer tentillium, intending to grasp a nearby book but only slapping it feebly. A second tentillium reached out to assist but only managed to flip the book over.
Venya grimaced, “Enough of that. You’re going to get in trouble,”
“You don’t even have to tell anybody I’m here,” Sarv cried, plaintive and exhausted.
“No but Vanhin is an old man, and old men, early to bed, early to rise. If he notices you here he’ll be upset and, despite our limited association, if you get in trouble, it affects me,” Venya scolded.
Sarv rolled xer head, rising with a lilting “Fine,” and stumbled towards Venya, clumsily attempting to climb atop the old man’s back. Venya brushed xer aside with his cane.
“Enough of that! You’re not a child, stop acting like one,” Venya said, barely able to contain his disgust.
Defeated Sarv slumped and reached into xer pouch pulling out a handful of coins before tossing them at the old man, “Fine, do something with this then,” said the Tamaa.
“What?” replied Venya, clearly confused.
“We have to buy bodyguards right? Do something with it!” Sarv said, xer voice cracking from exhaustion and stress.
Venya looked stunned for a moment before replying, “With all due respect, that’s hardly going to cover even your lodging and, given that you’re sleeping in libraries-”
“It’s free right?” interrupted Sarv
“It might be best to keep of that first,” Venya said and motioned to the coins.
“Pick up your coins and follow me. Best be on.”
Sarv dropped to her knees, a pout on xer face.
Venya closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead. He could feel the vein bulging at his temple.
“Come now. Wouldn’t you rather sleep in a nice warm bed, instead of a chair? Particularly after a… wait where were you all night?” asked Venya.
“Work,” answered Sarv, tersely.
“Where did you…” started Venya, but before he could finish the question Sarv’s eyes were elsewhere, her stiffened posture telling Venya he wasn’t going to get an answer to that line of questions.
Suddenly, like boiling kettle Venya boiled over, words coming in a stream, “No matter. Enough of this pouting. I’ve had enough. We have a long day ahead of us and much to do, and what comes after the day is the night and if you intend to work again that’s your business, we don’t need to go into that, but you will need appropriate lodging, you can’t stay in the library. I won’t have it.”
“Can I stay at your house?” asked Sarv,
“No!”, cried the steward, reflexively horrified by the idea.
Sarv blew a rasp at the old man as he continued.
“No, that’s out of the question… Unbelievable,” he said stammering.
A long pause.
“So will you get up and cooperate or am I going to have to get someone else involved?” asked Venya.
Sarv gave a long sigh before rising, xer motions an exaggeration of xer exhaustion.
The Tamaa flipped a rude gesture at Venya before retracting xer tentillium.
In return Venya shook his head and muttered something about respect for one’s elders as he left the Library.
Sarv gathered up the coins xe had cast aside before slogging outside after Venya.
The pair stepped out into the thick rain and cool air of the trade district, with Venya’s leading the pair. Both pulled their cloaks tighter to fend off the cold rain.
“So you made that last night?” asked Venya
“Yeah. I could make more, but it’s not as much as I’d hoped. There’s not much to make here is there?” asked Sarv in return.
“Yes, well, without knowing what your… assets are, I can’t really suggest anything better than what you’ve already found. That said, how frequently do you expect to work? I need to get an understanding of your relative income in order to find suitable lodging, you understand?”
Sarv bumped Venya with xer hip, eliciting a scowl from the old man, “I could make money all the time, but I’ve got to sleep some time,” xe said, suggestively.
Venya furrowed his brow, unimpressed, “Well.. Rotta’s it is. Follow me,” he said, limping towards the Warrens.
Intan finished his morning’s work at Olo’s, having spent most of the time becoming familiar with the facilities, rules, and apprentices. With the morning’s work at an end, and Sarv having rested a few hours in the relative comfort of a bed in Rotta’s tavern, the group met once more under the eves of Vanhin’s Library. Venya, concerned about their overuse of the library and a potential lack of privacy suggested shifting their meeting to the Red Circle, an idea which met with ready agreement from Intan , and the old man led the group through a shortcut that shielded them from the downpour, speaking as they went.
“Why do you always want to go to the Red Circle?” asked Sarv.
“To have a drink,” replied Venya, generating a sound of approval from Intan, “Besides we need to discuss funds. I take it you’re both interested in heading into the ruins for answers about that which binds us. If that’s the case then we must head to the north to find Hakkon, and for that we need protection which means we need money.”
Walking through the alley-way shortcut to the Red Circle, Intan and Sarv were suddenly aware of a group of followers. Four men shadowing them from behind and another two crouched atop a nearby roof. The trio began quickening their pace towards the end of the alley, when suddenly another pair of figures stepped from the main street blocking the path forward, the contrast of the noon-lit street and the darkness of the alley cloaking them.
One of the shadowed figures stepped forward, club in hand, “You’re in the wrong place. Everything you got, on the ground now!” barked the man.
“A-o-okay…a-a, t-there’s no need to resort to violence,” stammered Venya, panic in his voice as he fumbled with his pouch. Sarv retreated, hiding behind Venya while Intan watched the thieves carefully. At their approach Venya fell backwards into Sarv’s arms, dropping his cane. Sarv deftly slipped from under Venya’s collapsed form, crouching over the old man defensively and producing a feral and inhuman hiss as xe pulled back her cloak, uncoiling xer tentillium, flesh suddenly an undulating wave of rippling, hairs bristling, teeth bared, and eyes a visceral red. The two attackers paused and backed away but the leader pressed forward despite the display.
A crash of distant thunder accented the sudden arrival of a new figure, appearing from the end of the alley. He was broad shouldered with fists up like a boxer and without warning he rushed the thieves. Falling upon the leader he landed a heavy blow across the back of his head and with practiced skill he placed a hard right on the face of the next nearest, laying him flat. He rushed the third, with a body blow, causing him to stumble back, scramble to his feet and flee from the alley.
With the new figure dealing with the muggers, Sarv stood over Venya, shielding him with xer body as she watched the boxer make short work of the robbers. With the battle at an end the boxer knelt beside one of the figures, taking a pouch of coins from the body before standing and approaching the group, the drizzle from the eves above cascading off his shoulders.
Close up the man was clean shaven save for the dark stubble on his chin, with hazel eyes and yellow teeth. The group caught a glimpse of a serpentine tattoo curled up from beneath his scrap-work armour, onto his rain-wet neck and face. He removed a pair of knuckle dusters, smiling at Sarv as he stepped forward, slipping them into a belt-bag.
“You’re lucky,” said the boxer, a strange smile on his face as he leaned down, assisting Venya to his feet.
“Oh dear lord,” Venya said, turning to look at the Tamma, “Many thanks Sarv,” he said as the young Tamaa, returned to xer normal state, wrapped xerself around Venya’s leg.
The man placed a hand on Venya’s shoulder, “Nothing broken? You alright?” he said, brushing a mixture of sweat and rain from his brow.
Venya shook his head, obviously bewildered, “Yes, yes I think so. Many thanks. Who are you young man?” the steward asked, pulling his cloak closed once more.
“Hensio Salem,” said the man, reaching out a hand to shake.
The greeting was interrupted by the abrupt snap of a crossbow. A spray of blood blossomed from the boxer, Hensio’s, throat as a bolt ripped through his neck, dropping the man to his knees, a dull splash in the heavy mud of the alley. His eyes were wide and mouth gurgling.
Looking up the trio caught sight of the two figures that had been shadowing them from the roof above. A mechanical sound warned of a second bolt being loaded, prompting the group to take cover behind an nearby rain-barrel just as another bolt was cast. Intan barked in pain as the bolt pierced his upper arm, burying itself in the wall. A long breath and a howl of pain, as Intan fought the impulse to try and flee the stationary point of injury. With adrenal strength Intan snapped the bolt-head off, pain causing a shower of stars in his vision, but the effort releasing his arm from the wall. With one arm disabled Intan fumbled to load his own crossbow as he heard the enemy reload once more. Sarv, seeing the tinker struggle, scrabbled over, cocking the mechanism and lifting the barrel, steadying it on the edge of the barrel to assist Intan. The crack of the crossbow followed by the pained cry from above told Intan that he’d hit his mark and the sound of footsteps retreating across the rooftop confirmed it.
Venya was first out of cover, moving to Hensio just in time to hear the man gurgle a final epithet through a blood filled mouth. Crouching over the man, Venya searched his body, scooping the pouch of gelt coins from his hand before retreating to the rest of the party.
“Is everyone okay?” Venya asked.
Sarv, suddenly aware of the blood spatter across her face, was trembling.
“We should get out of here… w-we we should get out of here…now” Venya said.
With a groggy moan one of the muggers Hensio battered regained consciousness, struggling to his feet.
It took the would be thief a moment to focus, and Venya took the opportunity to swipe his cane at the man, shooing him like an alley cat as he regained his senses.
Finally conscious of the scene before him the man stared at Hensio, a look of horror and something else which Sarv recognized, crossing his face.
“What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck…” the man repeated the words like a prayer as he stumbled down into the darkness of the alleyway. Sarv called after him to wait, but the mugger was gone.
Venya stammered out direction to the group “We need to, we need to get out of here. Now. You-you’re covered in blood. This is…” he trailed off for a moment, gripped by fear before shaking it off.
“Follow me,” said the old steward, pushing back against his nerves with as much authority as he could muster. Venya led the trio through side streets to his own home in the noble district, the heavy rain washing Hensio’s blood from their cloaks as they went.
Within a few minutes the group had reached the safety of Venya’s home, barely more than a main room with a bed and a table, a pantry and a water-closet.
Venya struggled to find words as Sarv tapped the old man on the shoulder
“They knew each other. They all knew each other,” xe said.
“What do you mean they all knew each other? asked Venya, eyes narrow.
“I’m pretty sure. The punched-man.. he knew… he knew the arrowed guy…” replied the Tamaa.
Venya’s confusion was obvious, “What?”
“The one with the arrow in his neck, they knew each other,” repeated Sarv, struggling to identify the victims but avoid recalling the actual event.
“So you’re saying that this was a pre-meditated murder? Someone killed someone they knew?” the steward asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if it was pre-meditated. I just know that they knew each other. I don’t know if we were supposed to be there at all,” Sarv cried, her voice raised in frustration at trying to make some sense of it all.
“What?” Venya was lost
“I don’t know if we were supposed to be there!” xe tried again to get Venya’s understanding.
“Well, supposed to be there?! We were just going to the tavern!” Venya cried,
“And we almost died!” shouted Sarv, xer cheeks suddenly red.
“I know, I know… I know,” Venya replied, his voice loud and his tone frustrated.
Intan burst into the conversation with a shout “First you send us to a strip club, and now we almost die in an ally,” the tinker laughed, like a man in the gallows before grimacing “I’m bleeding here. Can we do something about this?”
“Welcome to Svertheim,” said Venya, before acknowledging the wound. Sarv tore a strip off the bottom of xer peasant dress, a makeshift bandage of wet cloth which xe handed to Venya who searched through the bottles under his counter. Venya cleaned the cloth with water and alcohol and began to wrap the Tinker’s arm.
Intan cried out in pain as the alcohol set the wound on fire once more, “Easy man!”
“Sorry! I’m a clerk for ayr’s sake!” Venya cried and held a hand up in frustrated apology, “Bleeding people and muggers and murder.” Venya shook his head as Sarv stepped forward.
A single thin tentillia slipped from the Tamaa’s sleeve, and Sarv gently pressed it against Intan’s wound. The Tinker’s breath slowed slightly, the muscles in his neck un-clenching as he felt the pain ebb slightly.
“Okay, that was better than the alcohol.” said Intan, his face somewhere between a grin and a grimace. With the pain subdued, Sarv cleaned the blood away. The bolt had pierced the meat of Intan’s shoulder cleanly, and more through flesh and fat than muscle. It was painful, but it could have been worse.
With Intan bandaged and resting, Sarv turned to Venya.
“Do you have anywhere to take a bath?” xe asked
“I’m afraid not,” lied Venya, casually stepping between Sarv and the water-closet containing a brass tub.
“Okay,” Sarv said, head down.
“I’m sure they can arrange something for you at Rotta’s,” continued Venya, “now if you’ll excuse me, this has been a rather trying day. I would very much like to be left alone now.” said Venya, opening the door, his hospitality suddenly at an end.
Sarv and Intan looked at each other,
As Sarv stepped out into the rain xe looked at Venya, eyes wide, “I’m sorry we’ve brought all this trouble,” xe said, her voice small and hurt.
“Yes, well, all the good that does me,” Venya replied, ice hanging from the words.
Intan stepped forward, “If you’re going to be smug, it was your ‘shortcut’ that got us in this.”
Venya scowled and watched as the pair trudged off into the rain, Intan clutching his arm and Sarv pulling her cloak tight. He waited until they were out of sight before closing the door.
It was early afternoon and the rain was still driving as Intan and Sarv stepped out of the noble district.
“Where are you staying?” asked Intan.
“King Rotta’s,” replied Sarv, eyes drawn to the alley’s and roofs.
“I’ll escort you there and we can get some rest,” said Intan.
Afternoon turned to evening and Intan and Sarv found a semi-private room at King Rotta’s. After a simple dinner they both passed into sleep.
Venya scrambled, fitting himself to his disguise. Within minutes he was no longer Venya, he was Gurka and he pulled his cloak up, heading out into the rain. Gurka nee Venya strode towards King Rotta’s and Jarvi, his jaw clenched. The tavern was busy, but Jarvi was easy to find, sitting in his booth, his thick belly pressed against the edge of the table, and a pair of blocky men on either side. Gurka could see he hadn’t left the tavern since their morning conversation; his bright red hair was dry as bone.
“Evening,” said Gurka.
“Good evenin’ ta ya,'” replied Jarvi, “What brings ya back so soon?”
“You get news about that thing I asked?” asked Gurka.
“They were following your targets last I heard,” said Jarvi.
“Last you heard wasn’t exactly what happened,” snapped Gurka “Everything was fine, Hensio did his part, as did your boys, and then someone else showed up,” Gurka paused.
“What the fuck are ya talking ’bout?” barked Jarvi, his face twisted in confusion.
“What the fuck indeed. What happened? IS this the Ruthless?” Gurka pressed.
“What do you mean Hensio’s dead?!” Jarvi shook his head in disbelief.
“I mean he was shot in the throat with a crossbow,” said Gurka.
“Twas supposed to be fake! A couple of lads, just rough em up!” Jarvi cried.
“I know! There were two more on the rooftop and they killed him!” Gurka said, eyes locked on Jarvi.
“No, no,” Jarvi’s seemed to be pleading, though it wasn’t clear with who. The man’s breath hitched before he continued, “I-I’ll find out what happened, leave it to me. Where’d… where’d it happen?”
Gurka provided the location.
“It had the be the Ruthless… or the Ambactus. One of them. They did this. I’ll find out,”
“In the trade district?” Gurka
Jarvi nodded, his frown wide. Gurka was right, the location didn’t make sense. The Vidar owned the district.
“Gurka, this is not good. If this gets tied back to me… Sirtan will have my skull for a cup,” Jarvi’s voice was reedy, his ruddy skin a shade paler than usual and Gurka was quiet.
“Go. I’ll look into it and let you know,” Jarvi waved a hand at Gurka and another to summon some unseen servant.
“You’ll leave the mark in the usual place?” asked Gurka
“Aye,” the thick man said, pulling himself from the table as Gurka turned to leave.
Intan woke to a memory that is was not his own.
He stood in a forest on a path paved with interlocking bricks. The wood was filled with ancient oaks and elms. The air was rich with the smell of spring; fresh earth, grass and moss, a clean breeze. In the memory he heard bird song, the rustle of leaves. He was walking beside someone. An older man with a shaven head. His grey robes were lined in sapphire trim and he wore a short beard. He remembered a long history written in the lines of the man’s face. When he spoke it was in a language Intan didn’t know. Nonetheless he understood.
“And you are still struggling?” Vicara asked. Vicara… that was his name…
“Yes Proctor,” Intan spoke quietly, face growing warm under his gaze.
“Speak plain Elaios,” he said, watching.
Intan sighed, the words rushing out, “I can’t seem to get this Ayr-damned shaping,” he said in a voice not his own, “I’ve read the script a thousand times. I can see the equations in my sleep. I’ve meditated, written it out…”
“And you cannot stop the stone,” his tone was patient, practiced.
“Did the bruises give it away…”
“It is not the words, it is the focus,” said Vicara, ignoring the sarcasm.
Intan nodded, not understanding.
“You come from the Sige,” he said, as though it explained everything. The look on Intan’s face told him it didn’t and he continued.
“For those not born into the Arcana it is often simple to speak the words but difficult to use them. You see the world as it is, perceive only what your senses tell you. You accept this with your heart and when you are trying to Shape you are trying to remake the world itself,” he stopped, crouched, and placed a hand on a brick that composed the road. He whispered word and it began to rise, as if bouyed by some invisible wind.
“I am focused though… and isn’t the whole point of Shaping to control the world with words?” Intan asked, gritting his teeth and voice cracking in frustration.
Vicara shook his head, “You cannot force the world to obey… not yet. Your focus is on the end, on the result. Attend to the cause,” the old man waved a hand and the brick split in two, “I do not tell the stone to float, I do not command it to split,” another gesture and the brick split again, and then reformed, and then split into a hundred pieces and then whole again. Vicara stopped and the brick floated back to the path, inserting itself in the road once more. The old man turned, placing a hand on a shoulder that was not Intan’s, “When I Shape I am not Shaping the subject, I shaping the action. My will is not commanding the world, it is, by the words, bending the forces beneath the world. I speak to the hidden, give direction to the unseen. This is the truth of Shaping; our equations do not change the world, they simply apply a different balance.”
Then the Proctor turned, and with a gesture the world seemed to bend, a doorway open, and Intan returned to the Turning Tower.
Intan remembered now. Remembered understanding, remembered turning the stones away with a word. The Tinker remembered the word and the equation, the gestures and the feeling.. and other things too… blades turned aside, bullets halted, and a great vessel hovering in the sky, a hundred canna aimed at him, at his cadre. A barrage, seemingly endless, battering a vast barrier, held in place only by Intan’s will…
Intan remembered all of these things, and they were not his memories.
The following morning was much like the previous. Rain, chill, and the sounds of Allfrerhem at rest.
Intan and Sarv awoke. The morning after violence akin to a hangover and the stress of the previous day taking on a new character; less visceral but also less filtered by adrenaline and fear.
Intan sat in the dusty leather chair, hands darting across the luminar he had repaired. The quiet of the library worn like a heavy coat as he spent his morning in the distraction of research. He had parted ways with Sarv this morning and he wasn’t sure if that had been a good idea, but he also wasn’t in a place to argue; the Tamaa did as it pleased. He had chosen the library instead, hoping to find something more about the mark. It was late in the morning when he found the listing in the index. Just fragments of text, a historical document of some sort, and itself not directly connected but tagged by proxy with the word Signarem. Intan scanned the results, allowing the Luminar to translate.
“…even during the golden age of the Imperium the North was sparsely populated, home to a relatively small number of cities and settlements and culturally dominated by the clay folk [term unclear; rough translation] who ruled from the city of Hellioth [location unclear; does not match known cartographic resources]. Those of iron blood [term unclear; rough translation] survived in the settlements of the Sige [translation = Silent]. There is little evidence of witch [term unclear; rough translation] presence in the north.
During this great age the people of the North were rugged individualists, seeking to escape the opulence and grandeur of their southern neighbours. Here the old arts thrived and the ancestors of our people were sustained on the bounty of the risen world, gifted by…
[CORRUPT SECTION] …the cataclysm of the first age started in the south but reached the North soon enough. The people of the Imperium were laid low by a ruinuous array of disasters. Disease, technological failure, natural and unnatural disasters, and intercenine conflict, all reducing the already small population to a fraction. The loss of links between the hubs of the south and Aynar brought even greater suffering and…
[CORRUPT SECTION] …as the great iron minds [translation = Artilects] retreated from the south, seeking shelter from the Beast in isolation, they too fractured giving rise to echo-thief [term unclear; rough translation] who brought great ruin through unity to …
[CORRUPT SECTION] …the revelation of the role of the black tongue [term unclear; rough translation] in the fall drove many to follow the Arcane [term unclear; possibly proper name, title, organization, or deity?] in the attempt to stave off extinction. Even the Echo Thief sought alliance and by Naritsu [term unclear; possibly proper name, title, organization, or deity] the people were guided to march against the rising armies of the broken people [term unclear]…
[CORRUPT SECTION] ..the deaths of Ayek and Ivit-ka turned iron and clay-blood alike against…
[CORRUPT SECTION] Author – Perdis Nestori, Rigvori of … [CORRUPT SECTION]
Gurka entered King Rotta’s once more. The night had brought sparse rest and dreams of home. The damned chill seemed to catch in his bones. He had seen the agreed upon sign and Jarvi was waiting for him.
“What news?” asked Gurka.
“It wasn’t the Ruthless and it wasn’t the Ambactus, we’ve turned the screws and nothing. We can’t figure out who did it. Bodies dealt with, and the guard is none the wiser,” Jarvi’s voice was low, filled and his hand was clenched around his mug, knuckles white.
“I don’t understand who did this,” he finished.
“Nor do I,” said Gurka
“We’ve got lads following the Tamaa. Last seen she was headed out into the warrens. Not sure where, but we’re on it.”
“Good,” said Gurka, “Figure out what she wants, what she’s doing here,” he didn’t Give Jarvi time to respond before continuing, “It’s vague but what about the other thing? The ‘Signarem’?” Gurka asked.
“Blank stares all around,” replied Jarvi.
“There was word of an organization tied to it. A cult. Ancient history, not active for ages, not anything I know about. If I remember, this Isirin, lodged up in the Red Circle, she made mention of it,”
“Who’s this?” Jarvi asked
“More names tied to this phenomenon,” said Gurka.
“Look, I don’t get involved in mythology,” Jarvi said, hands up. Something in his face recalled the look of a man holding on to the edge of a fast river.
“I know, but I’m telling you, something is at work here and I don’t want anything to do with it, but I’m in the thick of it and now you are too. We’ve got to work together. You’ve got more ears on the ground,” Gurka said.
“Alright, alright, I’ll see what I can find out” Jarvi said, defeat in his voice, “There’s something else going on here, beyond us,” he waved his hands at the table, “and I don’t like things that are beyond the Vidar.”
“We’re agreed there, but this is bad for business,” said Gurka.
“No joke,” replied Jarvi,
“It might be best, to expand, and make this problem known to some others in the Vidar. Maybe not Sirtan, maybe not yet. But if he doesn’t already he’ll know soon, I’m sure,” said Gurka.
“Blast man, what have you gotten me into?” Jarvi shook his head.
“I don’t know yet. I’m hoping this Tamaa can reveal something about that.”
Sarv didn’t entirely know how but xe found xerself at the Ayrhof. Xe couldn’t remember if xe’d even talked to Intan about it. Xe knew the Tinker had headed to Vanhin’s Library to continue his research but the fog of stress seemed to have worn the morning down to actions without context. Xer intention had been to find the woman who gave xer the dress, but the Warrens were well named. Finding her way back had proven impossible and so xe had found the temple instead.
The Ayrhof was one of Allfrerhem’s oldest structures, sitting between the Haggen and the Warrens. It was built into the Maurlog crag, beneath a great relief of the Ten Ayr. A long vaulted stone hall stretched above xer, wood and stone walls as solid as any in the city. A great golden chain hung over the gable, glimmering even in the dim drizzle of the day. Statues of all ten Ayr stand in the hall.
Sarv found xer way to Aia’s statue, curling xer feet under xer. There was a calm there, in the shadow of the Libertine. It was xer parent’s Ayr, and that brought a sort of comfort all its own. Hours passed, not quite asleep, not quite awake. The taste of devotion creeped at the edge of xer consciousness, the presence of others in the temple equally distant. The sound of the noon-bells echoed, dragging Sarv out of xer reverie and xe stood, stretching and heading for the door.
Exiting the long hall xe caught sight of a pair of figures, men in rain cloaks. Their eyes seemed to set on xer as they stood. Xe continued, wanting to believe it was coincidence but when she paused so did they. A few more steps forward… and there they were.
A mix of fear, frustration, and anger boiled over in Sarv’s belly and xe turned, stomping a foot. Xe clenched xer hands. “What! What do you want?!” xe shouted.
The two men looked at each other, confusion and surprise in equal parts. Without a word they turned away, fading into the crowd around the temple.
Sarv shook xer head and stomped towards the library, keeping to the main streets. It was impossible now to ignore the glances. Were they watching xer because of the bounty? Was it the muggers? Was it the cloaks? Sarv’s stomach knotted with each prying glance until finally xe was at the door to the Library.
The library was quiet, as always, as Sarv entered. The only sound was a gentle snore that drew xer towards Vanhin’s couch. The old man was dozing and woke himself with a start as Sarv approached.
“Hello again! Everything alright? You look pale?” asked Vanhin.
“I don’t think I want to be here anymore,” said Sarv.
“Why not?” Vanhin’s thin fingers pulled at the dust in the corner of his eyes.
“Last night we were robbed, and today people are following me. I hate this town! I don’t want to be followed! I hate this place,” Sarv’s eyes were wet.
“Do you know who’s following you?” asked Vanhin,
“No. They’re wearing cloaks and hoods. I can’t see their faces,” replied Sarv.
“That is concerning. Sounds like you need some protection my dear,” the old man nodded, “Here,” Vanhin moved to his desk, pulling a thin sliver of parchment and a pen from the cluttered workspace and scrawling across it in spidery lines. He passed the paper to Sarv. It was a short note with a set of directions and a name; Helgi Theregar.
“That is the keeper of the warrior’s hall. Perhaps you can speak to her for assistance. She’s trustworthy, I’ve known her for an age. When I was younger we used to…” the old man’s bushy eyebrows crept up his forehead and he seemed to drift into a pleasant memory, his words trailing off.
Sarv giggled conspiratorially and moved behind the desk, wrapping xer arms around the sitting lorekeeper before tucking the paper into xer bodice.
“Tell her I said hello. She’s free to stop by whenever she’d like,” Vanhin’s face was a wide grin.
Sarv wiggled her eyebrows, “Should I say you have a bottle of wine?”
“Oh that would be excellent!” the old man’s face flushed.
Sarv found Venya and Intan sitting on the second floor, in the middle of some conversation.
“Do you know anything about that name?” asked Intan.
“Absolutely, I know a great many things about Perdis Nestori,” Venya lied, “Particularly in that we should probably pursue it,” he continued. Intan’s look told him that the sarcasm had fallen flat.
“No, I’ve never heard the name before unfortunately,” he finally answered
“There’s more of a lead than the ruins. Perdis Nestori is the author of the research I’ve been doing. They may know more about the marks.”
“Do we know how old that text is? Couldn’t they be dead?”
“Very true, but at least it’s another lead.”
Game 5: Shadows Above ∞
Sarv practiced her healing on Intan’s still sore wound. Venya found other things to do.
Intan accidentally dropped Sarv’s bounty handbill which triggered him to ask Sarv about it. Sarv denied this but was obviously lying. Sarv and Intan went to Olo’s workshop to discuss the bounty on Sarv’s head.
Meanwhile Venya investigated the scene of the attack and discovered a trail of blood leading into the Kahstrand. He also learned that the attackers were skilled enough to pick a spot with excellent sight lines.
Intan and Sarv visited the Drengr Skali.
Sarv sang a bawdy song making herself welcome in the hall.
They arranged a meeting with Eclipse for later in the evening at Venya’s house before heading to the trade district do so some shopping.
Venya visited the Red Circle and chatted with Edricck about Isirin. He discovered that there had been an incident between Isirin and Nashak and a drunken gambler named Viljo Reyor. He then went to the Guard Barracks seeking out Voga and was directed to the Bazaar. Venya found the guardsmen and asked him about Viljo, learning that he spent most days going from bar to bar looking for suckers to gamble with. They noticed Sarv and Intan and Sarv greeted Voga with a hug and got some candy.
The group noticed several figures wearing cloaks very similar to the ones worn by the attackers. These individuals were watching from across the Bazaar.
The group headed to King Rottas, seemingly losing their followers. They spotted them again on the rooftops around the courtyard in front of Rottas. The group entered and Venya went to talk with Viljo while the others drank. Venya obtained some intel on Isirin and Nashak before returning upstairs. Meanwhile Voga was poisoned by someone pretending to be a barmen who escaped out the front door. Venya and Intan pursued. Venya scaled the side of the buildings nearby in an attempt to track the attacker from high but jumped off the roof to avoid getting shot. His fall was broken by Intan who used his Barrier and the two of them hid inside a nearby hovel, preparing for an attack.
Game 6: ∞
Intan and Venya escaped the hovel through the trap door, crawling to a nearby alley.
Sarv accompanied Balek and a crew of brawlers outside to confront the cloaked figures.
Venya and Intan headed towards the crypt, inadvertently following one of the shadowy figures.
Sarv crawled out of a melee that ended with two of the cloaked figures dead, two injured brawlers, and two of the cloaked figures fleeing into the alleys.
Balek had the bodies dragged to his office, an outbuilding near the tavern and inspected them. His crew searched the bodies and uncovered a micro-slate. He also recognized one of the bodies as Unn Haugabrjótr, a local forester. No one recognized the other figure, a pale-skinned man with sunken eyes. One of the other brawlers advised him that he recognized one of the figures as a guardsmen, Toril Neva. Sarv took a coin from one of the dead men with Balek’s permission, and deftly pilfered the micro-slate (natural 20) before leaving.
Intan and Venya heard running feet approaching them from behind and hid as the two passed by, likely heading to the Crypt.
Venya, recognizing the extent of his injuries decided to turn back and warned Intan not to talk about what happened.
The group reassembled on the stairs of King Rotta’s tavern. Sarv offered to help Venya who resisted, looking for Jarvi to find a street-doc. Jarvi was nowhere to be found forcing Venya to accept Sarv’s help. Sarv examined Venya’s injuries and, recognizing the extent, suggested finding someone else. She also handed the slate to Intan who recognized what it was.
On the way out of the tavern they noticed that Voga was recovering and the guard offered to assist Sarv however he could. With a friend they escorted the group to Arjan Iyen’s, the Thane’s physician.
Iyen examined Voga and Venya and patched them up. She believed their stories. She detected something off about Sarv who was revealed to be a Tamaa by Venya.
Iyen was thrilled at the chance to meet a rare quasi-human and asked Sarv if she could examine her. Sarv suggested a trade; Iyen train her as a physician and Sarv would answer her questions. Iyen agreed.
The group departed, Sarv, Voga, and friend heading to Voga’s house, and Intan and Venya heading to Venya’s house.
At Venya’s house Intan and Venya met Eclipse who had dispatched a pair of cloaked miscreants and was waiting to be interviewed. Eclipse, chipper, foreign, and apparently disinterested in asking questions offered to dispose of the bodies. He easily carried two grown men over his shoulder out the door. Venya and Intan got a nights rest.
Sarv met Voga’s sister, Eela, and settled in, catching the odd sight of a figure leaping over the city wall before going to bed.
In the morning the characters attended their respective commitments, Venya and Intan at work, and Sarv with Iyen.
Sarv learned that the Urpan killed by Kalevan had been badly injured before the incident, their skulls pierced and their brains threaded with some sort of wire.
Venya learned that a Luxi woman had been killed on the road and her hand removed.
The group met up once more at Vanhin’s Library.
Intan scanned and decoded the slate, recovering the journal of a cultist. Venya left to seek some other information.
Sarv went upstairs and encountered Eclipse, apparently waiting for her, and distressingly skilled at not being seen. Eclipse presented the contract and Sarv feigned literacy in order to sign it.
Sarv approached Vanhin with the coin and he recognized it as an Urul coin. He didn’t notice the leather thong until Sarv pointed it out which triggered him to become frightened. He tried to convince Sarv to drop the subject and sell the coin, not to wear it but she started to put it on and he stopped her. He showed her a book and told her about the Naraja, an old cult that plagued Allfrerhem and preached a different history of Svertheim, worshipped dark things. Vanhin scuttled off to try and make a connection between the Naraja, Signarem, and the marks.
Game 7 ∞
Otrey, Sylla and Myst (Sylla’s large wolf companion) are travelling through the wilderness when they come across a well-groomed but bloodied warhorse. Sylla calms it, and together they lead it back along the bloody trail it left behind. They find a bloody battle site, with 3 distinct parties: Urpan with gory heads, cloaked figures, and armoured guards. Otrey’s inspection reveals that the Urpan and cloaked figures seem to have fought side by side against the armoured guards. Otrey places makeshift grave-markers at the heads of each corpse, not knowing which side was honourable. He notes a blade of good quality with a bear hilt, but it is damaged. It becomes evident that some of the fighters got away, so Sylla hitches the horse to a tree and the traveling companions follow the new trail.
At the end of it they find a wounded man holding the weight of an even more wounded man, fighting off a number of Urpan. Otrey, Myst and Sylla make quick work of the creatures, who all have damaged heads. After a quick exchange, the gravely wounded man is identified as Hakkon Einarr. He is placed on the horse, and the lot of them rush to Alfreheim, several days away.
Back at the city, Venya is followed to the Red Circle by Sarv and her bodyguard, on their way to inform Isirin and Nahsak of the potential danger to their lives. They find that they were escorted away by guards the night before. Concerned, they go to the barracks, and find that they were never brought there. Knowing this likely means the cult of Naraja took them away, they go pick up Intan and catch him up on the situation. The return to Rotta’s tavern to find him unavailable. The waitress and patrons Venya speaks to are uneasy at how freely he brings up the night of the attack, but he manages to get an appointment with him for the night after. Venya then accosts another young patron, looking for his friend. He learns that he was in a meeting with others, and would have to get back to him.
With the day’s business done, it is clear that Venya is nervous to return home alone, and Voga (who they bumped into) invites him to spend the night.
The next day, by happenstance (or design) Voga, Intan and Sarv are all stationed at Venya’s gate. Off in the distance, the other party arrives with a dying Hakkon, and the marked ones all identify each other from the dream. Voga and Sarv rush out to confront them and take care of Hakkon, but she can’t take care of his wound with the folding armour on. Intan shows up next, showing her how to remove it. Once it’s undone however, he begins to bleed more rapidly and she needs to work quickly to save him.
From the crowd that gathers, Otrey detects hostile intent from some, and moves between Sarv and the crowd, making them change their minds, it seems. Venya tries to get Sylla and Otrey’s attention from the other side of the wall, and motions for them to hide the marks on their wrists, but the message is lost or ignored.
Eventually Hakkon is taken away to be taken care of by the thane’s physician, and Sarv goes with him. The rest of the party moves to the guard tower, where Venya quickly takes control of the situation. He interrogates the new arrivals about how they came to be there, who they are, and what they know about the mark. Voga, angry at their ill treatment, attempts to intervene, but Venya silences him, making it clear that their lives were all in danger and this was more important than anything else.
Venya then gives a short explanation about the nature of the threat in the city, and suggests they hide their marks, before leaving to get the tools he’d need to mask them. Sarv meets him at the door, and she takes care of masking the marks with inks and bangles before Venya returns. He assesses the job is “passable”, and no more is said on the issue. That’s when guard captain Ayan Jaghund appears, thanks them for their service, and makes venya responsible for their safe and proper introduction to the city before leaving.
That’s when the group finally has time to take a breather and actually introduce themselves.
Finally, the session closes with Venya asking that they pretend their goals in the city were initially to visit the crypts in the name of an old friend, should anyone ask.
Also Sarv suggested food for the weary travelers at the very end
The Morning After the Night of Ashes ∞
The fire burned through the night, only held at bay by the desperate toil of the people of Allfrerhem and the clatterjack Tursus. When the sun rises it is through smoke and ash. The great fire has eaten its fill and left misery in its wake. Much of the warrens has been destroyed, including the Ayrhof and thousands are homeless. The streets are filled with the dead and wounded, those who fell before the Naraja, the fire, or the chaos of the night. Many carry the remainder of their lives in their arms, seeking shelter in the Arena, or common yards, hiding beneath simple tents in the chill of morning. Torald and Olo, with Tursus at their side, lead a small handful of guards and warriors from the Drengr Skali trying to re-establish some order and bring some semblance of stability seeing small success in rallying groups of the displaced towards the hard work of clearing away the wreckage of the Warrens. Unfortunately the effect of their presence is limited and many parts of the city remain in chaos.
What cultists were captured, including Unn Haugabrjótr, are taken into custody by Torald and chained in the courtyard of the keep to prevent the people of Allfrerhem from lynching them. Torald brooks no argument on the subject and if you push he orders you to assist Olo and says nothing more.
You do hear word from witnesses suggesting that the remaining cultists fled north after their failed attack on the Arena, followed not long after by the monstrosity called the Nargul that cast itself off of Korkea Tower.
The counting of the dead begins and many familar names are among them: Vanhin Ilmarinen, Balek Rotta, Lisken Bekkr, Aylan Jaghund, Elis Harðfari, Luukas Vámúli, Tarja Hafr, Albin Stakkyr, Gora Sjona, Hakon Einarr. The list seems to grow, each hour revealing new dead. Voga Otagon and Iyen also remain missing, though no bodies are presented.
The story of the night evolves quickly, and though there are a dozen variants, the common narrative is that the city was attacked by cultists who were in control of a great monster that had breath of fire and slaughtered the people and burned the Ayrhof in the name of dark gods. Other, more accurate but perhaps complicated truths can be heard in some circles.
Questions of Loyalty ∞
A record of the meeting at Einarr Keep…
The group, all except Fang, arrived at the keep to find that the keep guard had been reassembled in the wake of the night of ashes, more heavily armed and armoured than before. The group was led into the keep by the guard, past the wreckage of the lower bailey and the keep door, into the main hall where Torald was waiting.
The Thane’s son was clad in folding armour and armed with a blade and hand canna, and attended by two dozen grim faced soldiers who watched the group carefully. With a simple gesture he motioned the group to take a seat.
Otrey did so reluctantly, leaving his weapons nearby. Sarv, seeing Torald’s hand canna hesitated and grabbed Sylla’s hand. Venya and Intan both sat and Sylla motioned for Myst to sit next to Venya. Torald motioned to Sarv and Sylla, two hold outs and they both sat.(edited)
“Thank you for coming. I have been preoccupied since the night of ashes, trying to assemble as much informaiton as I could, trying to determine the movements and motions of our enemies. And I say ours, pointedly because they are ours,” he said, fixing his gaze on Venya who smiled coldly at him.
“Feel free to eat; I assure you I haven’t poisoned it if that’s what you’re thinking,” and everyone began to pick at the food.
“As you know, the Naraja have attempted to destroy this city, and they have done a distressingly admirable job of it. They’ve burned down the heart of the cities lower class, infiltrated the nobility, and from what I can tell, spread a virulent plague amongst the people. This leaves me in a difficult position, as I’m sure Venya has already told you. As the only Einarr left to command the city I need to find some way to maintain order and ensure that no Naraja are left while seeking out some manner of cure for the illness they have inflicted. From the notes I’ve been able to gather I have no more than three weeks before this city is a charnel house, piled high with the corpses of the sickly dead and shortly after that, either swarmed by beasts or conquered by the Naraja themselves,” explained the young Einarr
Venya, clearly distant, asked Torald to relay compliments to the cook.
“I have called you here to ask for your assistance,” Torald continued
“You have mine,” said Otrey immediately
“What assistance were you needing?” asked Intan
“I need your assistance in going to Aarnivak ruin.” replied Torald
“I’ll go!” said Sarv, half choking on a pastry.
“Are you alright?” asked Torald
“Good, it’s delicious. I would be glad to go, that’s.. north right? The north one?”
“Yes,” said Torald, “And I can supply you with horses and maps to get there,”
“Will you be going?” asked Sarv
“I will not, I need to be here to lead the people,” said Torald
“Okay good,” said Sarv
Torald continued “And I suspect that the Naraja will not wait until the sickness has fully claimed the city before they make their next attack.”
There was a pause
“I’ve heard two assents. Are these two speaking for the rest of you?” asked Torald
“Can we have more information on these ruins?” asked Intan
“Aarnivak is the remains of a first age city, and sprawls over a vast territory north of here. The ruin itself contains all manner of relics and danger. I can provide some notes and information but it will be up to you to navigate and traverse the no doubt deadly terrain. As well, I am led to believe the Naraja have their own base of operations there.”
Venya, chewing on food, asks “Edifice Imperium?”
“I do not believe it is there. The Imperium is further north,” replied Torald
“If the Naraja base of operations is there maybe we can find a cure for this plague,” said Intan
“That is what I’m hoping,” said Torald
“I’m in,” said Intan
“What suggests to you that the cure is in the Aarnivak ruins? And why are you employing this motley crew to this purpose?” asked Venya
“Iyen’s notes regarding the disease and notes from my father’s journal regarding the last outbreak all point to the best hope being in the technology that is housed in Aarnivak. Potentially there is a Surgeon artilect there that may be able to concoct a cure. This is, at best, a longshot. As for the reason I’m using you, it’s because you’ve proven yourself capable, and because, quite frankly, you’re disposable to me,” answered Torald.
Sarv gave Torald and his weaponry a look.
“Disposable?” asks Sarv.(edited)
“If you do not come back I am no further behind than when you left. I cannot say the same for loyal guards that I have tested.”
“Hmmm. Funny how disposable people come to those with power,” replied Sarv
“Indeed. Beyond the irony though, I suspect this will be of benefit to you, because if any answers are to be found for the questions you have regarding those marks on your wrists, it is likely they are to be in the Aarnivak ruin. We have a mutual benefit here. If you can find a cure, perhaps you can save those of you already infected and learn something more about the marks. And if you don’t, I have lost nothing but you in the effort,” continued Torald.
“I take it that Olo’s machines will not be coming then?” asked Otrey
“No, I will need those in case the Naraja attack,” he said
Sarv sighed “So, nothing but a child, a Tamaa, a drunk, an old sick man,” and was interrupted by Venya.
“No,” said the old man.
“No?” asked Sarv
“No,” the old man repeated, dipping his bread in the stew, chewing on it.
“Having a fit of pique are we Venya?” asked Torald
“No. I’m merely considering. I see no advantage in going to Aarnivak,” replied Venya.
“No advantage?” Torald scoffed.
“None whatsoever.” replied Venya.
“I can think of at least one for you Venya,” Torald’s voice is laden with caution.
“As far as I can tell, Torald, there’s very little I have left to do here, very little that I can do. But…”
“You mean for your masters?” asked Torald.
“I mean, for the Emperor. But if I can do anything to stop your city from falling into plague, I don’t see how that would be part of my engagement at all,” replied Venya
“Well, you have a choice Venya. You can continue to serve the Emperor for a very very short time, or you can make a change in who you serve,” Toralds caution took a new and harder tone.
All eyes set upon Venya as he pushed his chair back and stood up, placing his hand on his heart.
“I am Tilius Silius Cominius and I will die in the name of my Empire before I serve the likes of you,” Venya said in Ossandrian.
The dining hall is filled with a resounding boom as Torald fires his hand canna, shooting the man you knew as Venya in the chest.
Otrey stands up and grabs his sword and as he does so the soldiers arm themselves, but they do not attack.