Marius Baradin Journal 2

Fireday, 17th Arodus 4709 AR (Continued) 

Only a few moments of respite were available to us after the confrontation with the zombies, then we were off again, navigating once more through the dark underground of the City of Twilight. We’d be on the move for several hours, and nightfall had already occurred on the surface. However, no shadow monsters had manifested themselves into the sewer, so it appears that the curse only affects the surface. As we continued, the next site we fell upon was rather unpleasant; a group of animated skeletons stood before us, hovering over a group of newly-dead armigers. Our approach did not go unnoticed, and the skeletons immediately charged towards us, their bony hands slashing away. I kept the creatures at bay, drawing out my mace to crush them, as Father Anzo had told me to do against such creatures. Attempting to slash or pierce at such creatures made fighting them difficult, as the weapon could strike true and still only graze off their ribcages.

Behind the skeletons lurked another creature. A javelin appeared from the darkness, appearing to target the skeleton but missing. As I looked to see the source of the attack, a hooded figure came into view, his features shadowy in the poor illumination of my torch. Thodin and I continued to bash the skeletons, while Jezzie drew a piece of parchment from her robes and recited her strange gestures again, covering the undead with a sheet of flame. As we worked to fell two of the skeletons, yet another javelin came from underneath his cloak, and then emerged a glaive from underneath his cloak, slashing down upon the remaining skeleton. 

The battle done, we approached this mysterious figure, his slender features and slightly pointed ears giving him away as a half-elf. He seemed only interested in identifying us as a group bound for Janiven’s safe house, and in making sure we got there on time, indicating that we were expected hours ago. Our request for more information on him went unanswered; his goal was to avoid chitchat and return us to the safe house, a goal that I too shared. We had been unable to find a crown symbol through the previous intersection, which we had informed our mysterious tracker to. He immediately wanted to return, and see if his superior senses could find what we had missed. Thodin objected to the idea of returning, pointing out our last attempt to do so had us encounter a group of armigers, and countered with the idea of leaving the way the half-elf had come in, and approaching the safe house on the surface. The half-elf immediately discarded the idea, saying that the route he had taken in was impossible to return through, and that we must follow the path that Janiven had intended.

The half-elf then started walking towards the way we had just come from, and Jezzie in tow, who seemed appreciative for any aid in this place. My own reluctance still remained, as trusting anyone down here could be dangerous. There was no reason to think this man might not just take us into a group of awaiting Hellknights. On the other hand, my belief that we could navigate these sewers ourselves was wanning. As the half-elf and the witch started down the hallway, I didn’t feel I could just abandon the girl either. I ran towards them, expecting that Thodin would follow, and took up a position near the front. If we were going to be ambushed, I would take the first blows.

Upon returning to the corridor, the half-elf proved able to locate what we had previously been not. A good sign that he was not working for the Rack, else they would have tracked us easily with his help. Following the half-elf’s directions, we continued our travels. A small clump of rocks was our only encounter for a while, hiding a small treasure of items. Odd trash that the aristocrats must flush into the sewers.

Another set of doors crossed our path; these were bound in iron, and seemed to grab the half-elf’s attention. We searched for the crown symbol that had guided us this far, but nothing was revealed. Giving up that the door had any meaning, we prepared to move again. As I turned to leave, a searing pain shook my entire body, as something pierced through my scale mail and into my chest. The last thing I remembered was the smell of rust and seeing the gleam of tiny red eyes approaching quickly…

*

I awoke with the odd taste of healing potion and blood in my mouth. The half-elf lay on the ground next to me, a pair of unstopped potions on the ground next to him, and a small pool of what I could only assume was my own blood. My instincts kicked in immediately, as I stood up, and placed my shield in front of me, preparing for an unknown foe. My torch lying on the floor, it barely illuminated the threat as it came in: Two goblins came in screaming; both carried rusty dogslicers as we had seen with their previous brethren. The first blow managed to penetrate my still hazy defense, but the new cut seemed to refresh me, as I deflected the other three blows. I countered with one blow, decapitating the little monster as his blood flew across the walls. The other was not deterred though, and came on with frenzy.  Again, I was able to deflect his attacks, and drove my bastard sword down through the vermin, cutting him almost in half. I turned to see the condition of the rest of the party. Jezzie and Thorin had both taken grievous wounds, while the half-elf had appeared to escape injury. It seemed I owed him my life for pouring the healing potions on my person down my throat. Whether it was for self-preservation or for keeping someone else alive mattered little. Barely two days in this have city, and already I owed two people my lives, a self-righteous dwarf and a mysterious half-elf.

Recovered from the ambush, we realized that our supplies of healing magic were nearly exhausted, and we needed to get out as soon as possible. We continued forward, I ever alert, moving forward with my shield out in front of me. A tap on my shoulder brought me to a halt. I turned to see the half-elf with his hand on my shoulder, his finger on his lip indicating the requirement of silence. I wondered what it was that his senses had caught. Only when I stood still could I hear it…the sharp, intricate language of the devils. Although I could not understand it, I sensed that the half-elf picked up on what they were saying, and was committing it to memory. My eyes peered towards the language, and all I could see were the fluttering of small, tiny wings, and the waving of scorpion-like tails. Imps.

My mind wandered to one such creature that had served my former master years ago, under the name of Nokkin. I had barely ever caught a glimpse of the creature, for it had the power to turn invisible. It enjoyed taunting the neophytes doing their daily chores, telling them that they were unworthy to serve the Prince of Darkness. For some reason, it seemed to ignore me, perhaps due to the fact that I was simply a slave, and perhaps not enough sport for it.

I was brought back to the present when the half-elf tapped my shoulder again, and I could no longer hear the infernal language being spoken. As we moved away, the half-elf informed us of the conversation the imps had been having: They sought to subvert one of the local Merchants, Jan Candor, through subversion and guile. Thodin expressed his immediately dissatisfactory of the situation, his righteousness boiling up inside him. I rebutted that imps had their uses, which he scalded me for, saying that I knew nothing of the creatures. Perhaps I’m not the only one who has had an experience with them. We continued walking, but my thoughts remained on the imps. Why would they be having secret meetings in sewers if they had permission to dwell within the city. Could they have escaped Hell’s notice, trying to evade the clerics of Asmodeus by dwelling down here? Such matters were again a matter for the church, but it was the duty of all followers of the Lord of Darkness to make sure that no such creatures escaped Hell’s constraint. If time allows, this might be a matter to check into personally.

The dampness of the sewers was getting to me, my body screaming for rest from this march. When I felt that surely we were doomed to continue navigating this place until the Hellknights had finally captured us, the corridor we were following ended at a single door. The half-elf confirmed a crown pointing to the door, which upon the other side contained a ladder leading to the surface. We quickly made our way to the surface. Darkness now covered the city, a certain gloom hanging in the air. We found ourselves outside a broken cathedral, abandoned and sickly. Although warn and broken, I could notice that this temple once served Aroden, the Dead God; he who had ruined the glory of Cheliax, and plunged our great nation into chaos. It took all my restrain to not spit on the steps of this place, such distain I had for this place. We approached the door, seeking refuge before we were forced to deal with the monsters that lurked in the shadows this evening.

Knocking on the door, a voice on the other side, sounding young and somewhat timid, asked what we wanted. Having just run for the last several hours through a city sewer evading capture, I had little patience for the matter, and bluntly stated that we were to see Janiven. The names seemed to strike a chord, as the door was quickly opened. We walked inside to find a young man, looking to favour one of his legs, let us inside, and introduced himself as Ermolos. Again, I undiplomatically demanded the presence. Young Ermolos apologetically proclaimed that Janiven had not yet returned, though he had prepared us with places to clean up after the ordeal. I could have strangled him at the news that my only lead was still loose in the city, and possibly captured. Resigned, I knew I should take the opportunity that was allotted to me and clean up.

The dwarf and the witch both went to their own areas to cleanse themselves, while the Finder simply stood near the entrance, seeming to take in his surroundings, as if he might flee at any time. He has the feel of a mercenary about him, one only interested in coin. I might not agree with the dwarf’s motives, but at least he has a sense of purpose other than greed. However, the Order of the Scourge does rely on those who can seek information. Perhaps further investigation is required to see if his services would aid me in my mission.

As I removed my blood-stained armour, Ermolos seem to be hovering by the doorway, studying me. As I prepared to clean the blood, Ermolos insisted that he clean it for me. I was in little condition to refuse such aid, and tossed the pile of scale mail towards him. He caught it without much trouble, and I could see that he was fairly strong. He began immediately polishing the armour with his sleeve as I looked to clean my bastard sword from its busy day. The sight of the weapon seemed to excite Ermolos, who began questioning me on its use. Most days, I would have preferred being by myself while I cleaned the weapons, but I felt badly for having lost my temper with him previously. And so we made small talk on the basics of martial combat. He seems interested in becoming proficient in fighting, and after he was done cleaning the armour, I threw him my flail in suggestion that he practice with it a bit while I rested and waited for Janiven to show. Eagerly, he took the weapon and ran off, the head of the flail bouncing off the ground a few times as he left.

*

Janiven showed herself some time later, and my anger with her having led me into my current predicament had not subsided. Still, I could not blow a chance to see what she knew about the Thieves guild, and kept my tongue as courteous as possible. Janiven called together all those present in the shrine, which numbed almost eleven additional people of various sex and race, Ermolos included (I have written these names down separately so that they may be identified later if needed). She wished to continue the conversation we had before the Hellknight incursion had interrupted us, and also to continue her tirade about the House of Thrune. The words she spoke continued to make my blood boil. Asmodeus help me if this woman does not lead me to stopping the corruption in the city. I will drag her to the Rack myself. Again I pointed my objection to her words, to which the dwarf asked whether I thought House Thrune could not have removed the corruption over the city already. I retorted that I knew nothing of the intentions of House Thrune or their power to deal with this curse. Something created by the death of a god could not be so easily fixed, could it?

Again, I tried to cut to the heart of the matter. What did she know about the Cabal of Shadows? Sheepishly, she replied that she knew little yet, but with her intentions to help clean up the city and help the citizenry, she would help me find the corruption. I bit back my anger still. What had I gotten myself into? Janiven continued to state that this small group, including ourselves, must bond together to fight the wrongs befalling the citizens. The girl seemed truly naïve to believe that a ragtag group, as well as a small group of adventures, would be able to affect such change. Discussions soon began about names for their group, and the colors they should wear. Are they such fools as to identify themselves so easily, simply to try and become a symbol? Actions speak louder than any name or any costume. They asked me to give them advice, but I could give them nothing useful. This is not my cause. My loyalty remains to the Empress, to the Scourge and to Asmodeus. Our goals may follow the same lines for now, but I seriously doubt that will always be the case. Our interest will have conflicts one day, and we will see how that plays out.

The discussion continued, with the dwarf giving advice about choosing a name that will not bring about visions of chaos and disorder, something I had to nod my head with. And so together, they named their band (which I find myself a part of, Asmodeus help me) the “Children of Westcrown”. Children seems appropriate, for their notions would be what I expect from youth. They wish to wear masks and have red armbands attached to their sleeves, as oppose to working covertly, as both I and the dwarf had suggested. They wish to play at being heroes. We’ll see if playtime continues when one is inevitably captured and sells out his entire group.

With the discussion concluded, I went back to my lodgings, irritated that for all the effort and almost dying twice today, I was no further ahead in finding my target. As I went to bed, Ermolos visited me one more time. He asked if I could give him a few pointers on how to properly use the weapon I had lent him. I could only smile at the thought. The boy seemed to look up at me for my combat skills, while everyone else here seemed to think me somewhat of a villain for my beliefs. Perhaps it was that kindness he offered that made me agree to spare with him for a little while, before finally, my body needed a full night’s rest.

Starday, 18th Arodus 4709 AR  

Asmodeus be praised! Today will be a day long remembered, and little did I realize what would occur. As I lay deep in slumber, still recovering from yesterday’s, Janiven brushed aside the curtains of my lodging and told me to get up, as she had important news to share with the “children”. Blurry-eyed, I grabbed my garments and threw them on hastily, wishing for a drink of morning tea to focus my head. Thodin and Jezzie also emerged from their respective lodgings, as we went into the main meeting area of the shrine. The half-elf, whom now referred to himself as Fin, stood in a dark corner, once again observing the entire situation. Janiven quickly revealed her news to us: Arel, the half-elf who was supposed to meet us for dinner last evening and whose capture led to our time running through the sewers, had been transferred into Rack custody. She proclaimed that he was the true mastermind of the newfound “children”, and that he would be required in order to make any progress in the future. As such, she planned for us to lay an ambush against the convoy of troops who were preparing to transfer him to Citadel Rivad, the home of the Hellknights of the Rack. If he made it there, we all were aware that he would not be coming back out in any conditions to help us.

The convoy consisted of four heavily armoured Hellknights on horseback, a group of armigers and a Signifier, a spellcaster who would be leading the convoy. Janiven had already found a suitable ambush site near an outcropping of rocks and heavily grown bush, as well as devised a way to remove the cavalry, so that we could fight the armigers and the Signifier. She would strike from a distance with her bow, drawing the faster horses into a field of caltrops in which to disable their horses, with a number of the children helping her set the traps. As they dealt with their fallen mounts, we would advance in on the convoy and free Arel. The plan seemed fairly standard, although I did not like the idea of attacking a lawful convoy to obtain this man. I hoped that my actions would lead to destroying the corruption of Westcrown, but this seemed like a slippery slope that I was on. I vowed that we should not kill any Hellknights, to which Janiven agreed. Although the Rack would not forgive us for attacking them under any means, I had no intention of murdering men doing their jobs for this group. Thodin seemed insistent that Janiven should help us with the assault on the convoy, but she told the dwarf that only she had the expertise to make the long distance shot that would be required to draw off the Calvary, and that the “children” needed her more than the group. With that, I could not disagree.

Janiven called for the young Morisimo to procure us a number of mounts so that we could ride hard and get ahead of the convoy, who was due to leave at any moment. I had not seen him since he disappeared yesterday, and was glad that he had also survived last night’s ordeal, although I hoped he learned his lesson about how to lose pursuers in the future. We found our spot and took up our positions, as Janiven ran off with more Children to set up their trap.

We waited for almost an hour before the troops showed up. I stood as still as possible behind a large boulder, the dwarf near me on another outcropping while the half-elf and the witch lay on the other side of the road. My muscles tensed and ready to spring, I waited for the sound of an arrow to whirl through the air and catch the Calvary’s attention. Janiven’s plan worked to perfection, as her arrow flew into the shoulder of one of the Hellknights.  Off they ran, overconfident and uninformed to the trap that they were falling into. One at a time, they each went into the deadly field of caltrops laid by the children, the horses bucking their riders as the metal pierced their hooves.

The chaos of the situation should have given us the advantage, but the Signifier, atop of a carriage holding the prisoner, caught a glimpse of one of the ambushers across the road. Immediately he alerted the rest of the convoy, and the armigers dropped to the ground, ready to prove that they were ready to become full-fledged members of the Rack. The Signifier, meanwhile, grabbed a large mounted crossbow attached to the carriage and began to load it. Thodin and I revealed ourselves to a group of armigers who had started moving in our direction, and began attacking them immediately, delivering glancing blows with the element of surprise that we had still maintained. As we battled, I could hear the cries of pain from Fin, as the half-elf had obviously been stricken. I could only hope that Jezzie’s magic could help them as we fought the armingers here.

The signifier took notice of our assault, and spun his deadly crossbow towards Thodin. The crossbow fired, barely missing Thodin as he ducked his head behind a large rock. The Signifier cursed something unintelligible, and reloaded his bow for another shot. We continued to battle the armingers, knocking one out as an injured one started running for his life. Such cowards, these initiates show. I’ve endured much more difficult tasks than an ambush to attempt to even obtain that position which they’ve been given. Such is the way of things.

The sound of burning could be heard across the way, followed by the sound of Jezzie crying for help. Their batte was not going as well as it was for us on this side. The sound of another crossbow bolt deflecting off the rock seem to prove Thodin’s fortune, as the Signifier grew increasingly upset at his aim. The pummel of my bastard sword struck the remaining armiger by me down, and I ran towards the other side of the convoy to help out my companions, while Thodin started to run towards the carriage, to engage the Signifier.

I pulled the last remaining healing potion I had from my belt pouch and dashed as fast I could towards Fin, his body broken on the floor. Jezzie continued to try and fend off one armiger by herself, as another stood between me and the half-elf. I ran pass the Hellknight apprentice, raising my shield to stop the blow as I walked by. His swing caught the back of my leg, injuring me slightly. I fell to my knees and slid towards Fin, pouring the potion quickly down his throat. His sudden coughing fit as his eyes awoke told me that I had repaid the debt I’d owed him for saving my life yesterday. My line of sight to Thodin and the Signifier was blocked by the carriage, but I knew the dwarf had his clerical magic at his disposal, and set off to handle the armigers beside me.            

Several quick strikes and the remaining armigers were running as had their compatriots previously. I rushed to assist Thodin. He was holding his own, though not without sign of injury. I flanked the Signifier, who now held a symbol of Asmodeus in his hand. Guilt filled me for attacking one of the Prince of Darkness’ followers, but he could not have fathomed the importance of my attack. My blade rung true, though I held back the power of the attack as to not kill the priest, and together the dwarf and I were able to subdue him. Thodin went to tend to the others, as I stabilized the priest.

As I went to grab his possessions, my hand briefly touched the symbol of Asmodeus. A small shock hit me as I touched the symbol, which I attributed to static of some type, possibly from his use of magic in the battle. I grabbed the remaining possessions I could, not wanting to wait around for another group of Hellknights to find us. A piece of parchment and a key were easily findable in his cloak, and I picked up his weapon for good measure. Going to the carriage, a half-elf of Arel’s description grabbed the door, looking at me cautiously. I undid the lock, telling the elf that we had to go quickly. He appeared ready to defend himself, demanding that I identify myself. The nerve! For all that I had risked freeing this man, he treated me like I was the enemy. I skulled him furiously, telling him to be grateful that he was rescued at all, and that we had to move before the Hellknights came back. He jumped out of the crate, staring me down as the rest of my companions made their way over. With that, he told me he would find his own way back to town, and started to walk away. Confused, Thodin and Jezzie went after him, I suspect to try and smooth things over. This whole ordeal seems to have made me lose my way with my words. I shall need to calm down in the future. I cannot afford to lose this lead.  

Fin thanked me for saving his life, and then seemed to follow behind them. I left for town on my own, trying to clear my head of all of the anger this mission had filled me with, and of all the laws I have to break simply so I can remove a greater threat to the law. The justification brings me no comfort. As I continued walking along, a flash of hellfire filled my thoughts, and all I could smell is the burning of sulphur. For a brief, terrifying moment, I have a vision of Him. Asmodeus burns in my thoughts and then is gone. I find myself on my knees staring down at the ground, not sure about what had just happened. The shock from the holy symbol…it was surely more than just random chance. Now I can feel a strange presence inside me, as if I have finally made contact with the Prince of Darkness.  I was glad that I was alone for this moment, for it fills me with pride as well as a small sense of dread. I know now that if Asmodeus paid no attention to me before, he does now, in some small sense. Praise be to the Lord of Darkness. May His power give me the strength to keep the order in Cheliax. 

Marius Baradin Journal 2

Dahkath's Council of Thieves Damonagus