The Journal of Marius Baradin - Entry One

 

Fireday, 17th Arodus 4709 AR

I have started this journal to record my findings in Westcrown for Mistress Runario, who has sent me to the cursed place in hopes of discovering information that will help root out whatever criminal organization that seemed to have taken over the city. Little did I think that I would end up in the city's sewer system, on the run from Hellknights from the Order of the Rack.

I arrived in the city nearly a week ago, and immediately began talking up the local citizenry, trying to discover what I could about the city. My former master told me the tale of the god Aroden, and his supposed manifestation for his crown in Westfall. When the so-called Age of Glory was supposed to start, the God apparently was swallowed up in a terrible storm that lasted weeks. Once he was gone, a horrible curse was laid upon the city, monsters of shadow stealing people's souls. It was only by Asmodeus' will that his diabolic agents were able to form order from the chaos. I never doubted that my master's knowledge was not true, but it was one thing to hear about a cursed city, and another to finally walk its streets.

There is…something unnatural about this place, even to an outsider such as myself. People toil in their daily tasks, and the city runs as a metropolis should. But they fear the night. It is hard to think that an entire city could be so superstitious, but clearly there is something out here that scares them. The curfew is wise, to keep the scared in their homes, and stop them from rash actions. Once my duty is concluded here, I hope never to have to return to this wretched place, though for the sake of Law, I hope that The Prince of Darkness will see fit to remove this shadowy threat from this place. Fear brings chaos, and I have seen it already since I have been here.

A night ago, I was approached by a muscular woman by the name of Janiven. Apparently my requests for information about the corruption of the local government had reached her ears, and so she had tracked me down. After a brief conversation with her, she revealed to me that she and her compatriot, a Half-Elf by the name of Ariel, were to be discussing ways of ridding the city of such troubles, at a small establishment known as Vizio's Tavern, in the Rego Scripa of the Parago Sepra.  As my only lead thus far, I could not refuse. Some research into her character revealed her to be a former bodyguard. Stern by reputation, apparently she had gone so far as to drag her charge out of a local brothel when he refused to leave. I believe now I was blind by her mannerisms, though her true nature revealed itself not long after.

The meeting was to be scheduled for 4 o'clock, in time for early dinner. Apparently the eating schedule of the Westcrown populace also is victim to their fears of the dark. I decided to come early, as I had little else to do, and hoped that this lead would start me in the right direction. I arrived at the door at the same time as a short stocky man also sought entrance.  Upon further inspection (the beard was a dead giveaway), I realized that a dwarf stood beside me. In my sheltered life, I'd not yet seen one of the mountain folk before. There was something shocking about such a short humanoid beside me. He passed through the entrance, and I afterwards. Janiven sat behind the bar, cleaning up from the day, and bid us towards a table near the back, where another woman sat. A dark haired woman, dressed as an entertainer, she absently placed with a small insect before noticing us approaching. The insect seem to skirt under her sleeve as we got closer. I'd heard of spellcasters and their familiars…I could only assume that's what I had seen. The dwarf sat down beside her, and introduced himself as Thodin Almek. He eyed me over as he settled himself and clearly his eyes fell upon the symbol of Asmodeus around my neck. His face soured a bit, but he returned to talking with girl. She introduced herself as Jezzie Brightgaze, which Thodin seem to recognize. Apparently, her father had been involved in an "accident" (she later revealed this to be as a murder), after a show several years ago. She had been tracking her father's killer, but had been unsuccessful yet. I offered my services in tracking the killer down on an off-handed remark, hoping for something that might keep me busy if I were unable to find any information about the organized crime occurring in the city this night. I steered my conversation towards Thodin, trying to get some knowledge of him. He was elusive, saying only that he'd been a resident of the city for over 100 years, and that he and his family were craftsmen in the city. I never did get a chance to ask him about the events surrounding Aroden's death in the city, as I was more concerned about what the dwarf was holding back. Something about his mannerisms immediately put my nerves on edge.

However, before I could press him for more information, Janiven sat down, and joined at our table. She served us a cup of ale, as well as dinner, as we sat waiting for her half-elf friend to show. Thodin noticed her nervousness as we ate, but she dismissed it, saying that she was just waiting for Ariel to show. An hour passed and dinner finished, the Half-elf had not shown. Janiven came close and began discussing her concerns about the city. Her speak reminded me a little too much of rebellious talk. Her fear that the common citizens were scared and that government would listen if they could rally the people. Then, she had the audacity of cursing House Thrune, and the Glorious Empress of Cheliax. Madness! Any other day, and I would have cast stones at her for such treason.

The mission for the Order mattered more though, and sadly all I could do was listen to this heresy. I retorted plainly that no attempts to change government would work, if the rumours of the corruption running through its veins were true. I pressed her for what I really wanted: The information that might lead to seeking out my enemy.

Before she would say another word, a loud knock could be heard. She leapt from her chair and opened the door, revealing a young boy, whom she referred to as Morisimo. Almost out of breath, he blurted out a half-coherent message that the Dottari had snatched up Ariel, and that the Hellknights of the Rack were trying to gain custody of him. As she ushered him in and locking the door, my senses were on alert. I immediately went for the bastard sword strapped to my back. If the boy was out of breath, he was running from someone. And as luck would have it…he led them straight to our little rendezvous.

The clattering of armour soon confirmed my suspicion, and a heavy metal hand knocked loudly. The voice on the other end demanded an immediate surrender. Normally, I would have accepted such conditions, but my mission was too important, and was more important to the cause of keeping order in Cheliax than me being dragged away and beaten by those members of the Rack for unlawful assembly. I cursed myself for getting into this situation.

Janiven reacted quickly, breaching a set of floorboards for us to enter the city's sewer system. Jezzie went quickly down, and I after her, while the dwarf seemed content to help Janiven erect a barricade to delay our pursuer's entry. The darkness of the place struck me immediately, and I went for one of the torches in my pack. Drawing it out, I searched as quickly as I could for my flint and tinder to light it, but Jezzie felt it was an excellent time to show her gift. Whispering a few unintelligible words, a tiny spark leapt from her hands, lighting the torch aflame, and confirming my initial thoughts about her knowledge of the arcane. Janiven and Thodin soon joined us in the sewers, Morisimo in tow. We made our way pass a wooden door and into the sewer proper. It was hard to track distance down in the dank sewer. The dwarf seemed comfortable enough, considering we were running for our lives, and casually remarked on the craftsmanship of the place as we travelled.

It didn't take long for us to arrive at the first of many intersections within the sewers. Janiven knelt down next to the wall, looking for something. My eyes strained to see what she was looking for, and then suddenly, it was revealed: A small crown, pointing to the right. Turning to Morisimo, she told the boy to run forward towards our final destination, to scout for any immediate threats. Nodding, the young boy disappeared into the darkness. Impressive bravery for one so young. He reminds me of myself at that age. As we prepared to move on, Janiven gave us each a series of vials, healing potions to be used to keep us alive for what she expected would be a difficult journey. The, we were off again, slowly due to the dwarves slow legs and my encumbering armour. We continued to make our way through the sewer system, but the steps of our pursuers grew louder and louder.

At the next intersection, Janiven's face becomes more desperate, yet more determined. She told us that she would try and lose the Hellknights on our trail, by creating a distraction, and leading them through another part of the labyrinth underneath Westcrown. As she looks around for something to make noise with to drawn the Hellknights, my hand goes to my backpack, and grabs the shovel off one of the loops. I toss it to her, nodding in approval with her plan. It is only right that she who brought this fate upon us deal with it. She ran off into the darkness, and something inside of me hoped that the shovel would not be used to bury her body. My only lead to the corruption of the city now gone into the unknown, we strove forward, looking for more crowns to guide our way.

Our success in the task was minimal, at first. Thodin suggested he take the lead, as his vision in the darkness would be greater than that of the witch or my own, as we were both of human descent. We had barely been out of Janiven's care for 5 minutes, before we had been unable to locate the marker needed to navigate. Doing the only thing we could, we moved slowly towards the next intersection. Finding no marker here as well, our newly found party found its first conflict. The dwarf seemed to want to go forward, without any sense of direction. Jezzie, on the other hand, wanted to turn back, and see if the symbol might be in the other direction. As the two bickered about the idea, I stood to agree with the magic user. Blindly travelling into the sewer was a poor idea, and despite the fact that we might encounter resistance, if it meant that we put ourselves back on the right path, it was an acceptable risk.

As it was, fate seemed unkind to us for having turned back. A group of men stood in our way on the way back, arguing and fighting amongst themselves. The certainly looked like Hellknights from our vantage point, but something was off…There wasn't enough noise echoing in the corridor for their armour to have been made of plate mail. Immediately I recognized them for what they were. Armigers of the Rack, initiates of their order, appeared to be arguing with each other over which direction to seek us out. The dwarf tensed up, and appeared to want to rush head first towards him. Killing Hellknight initiates was not my desired course, however, and I attempted to put out the torch I was carrying, in hopes of hiding our immediate position from them. I tried to slowly place the torch into the sewer water beside us, but to no avail: The sizzle of the torch going out alerted them, and they began making their way towards us. The subsequent battle was chaotic, as I exchanged blows with the armigers as they approached. One of their blows penetrated through a weak point in my armour. I continued to fight on, delivering several powerful blows in return. One thing struck my senses during the combat, however: They seem to be fighting each other as much as fighting us, using each other's time of weakness during the fight to advance their own goals. Is this what the Order of the Rack is teaching their armigers? Such chaos could never be tolerated by a true Hellknight order, or so I would hope. Had they worked together, I think they could have done more damage to our escape effort, if not defeat us all together. This is indeed very disturbing. As much as it pains me to write it, I wonder if the chaotic nature which seems to have taken over the government has not infected the Rack as well.

This thought had overwhelmed my senses so much that my wounds from the battle had been healed, magically. I remember a brief instance of the dwarf touching my shoulder. He must have the power of some deity behind him in order to have pulled off such a feat. His discomfort of my holy symbol was now seen in a different light. Could he be some kind of heretic, worshipping a chaotic god? His previous mannerisms made me dismiss a demon worshipper. Something to make note of.

We stripped the armigers of their weapons an unconsumed potion, and continued through the passages, struggling to find the crown markers needed to navigate our way. Strange, foreign things dwell down here that I've never set eyes upon. A one point, we crossed paths with an aberration of some type: A giant bloated body with skin like a boulder, two long tentacles flailing around as a third leaf-like tentacle protruded from the top of its head, with three eyes scanning us. But all my eyes could focus on was the maw of teeth that seemed impossibly wide. It seemed to be guarding something, a lair or a treasure, from which a glow of light emerged. None of my more educated companions could inform me of its nature, and since it seemed bound to the area it was guarding, I hoped simply to pass by it. The witch seemed to want to study it, even thinking she might be able to bind with it. I'm not sure what her fascination with the beast was, but we are lucky we were not killed because of it.

As we continued, more threats got in our way. A swarm of bloated disgusting maggots ambushed Thodin, crippling him instantly before he could raise any kind of defense. As I raised my shield and prepared to defend Jezzie and myself from their incoming attacks, I could feel a wave of heat as fire flooded over me from behind. For an instance, I was shrouded in a great jet of flame, the heat scorching my back, but not as greatly as I would have expected. The bugs that had jumped upon me fell to the ground, their charged remains a testament to the witch's mastery of the elements. Quickly I helped beat out the flames from the dwarf, as Jezzie un-stoppered one of the potions of healing that Janiven had given us and pouring it down his throat. Although some of his injuries disappeared, he still did not regain consciousness. She took another of the potions, and poured it down again. This one seemed much more effective, and the dwarf shot up. Realizing the menace was defeated, he began whispering another chant, again unintelligible to my ears, but different sounding than that of the witch. An aura of comfort fell upon my body, and my wounds seem to heal better themselves. I noticed that the same effect had been felt by my other companions. I knew the feeling of clerical healing, and although I'd never felt anything like this, I knew now that the dwarf was definitely a cleric. Immediately, I demanded the identity of the deity he followed. He refused to give it, stating that his deity would be seen poorly upon by a follower of Asmodeus, before continuing down the hall. The dwarf's decision to hide the truth from me makes me only more concerned about what company I'm being forced to keep. Perhaps it would have been better for the Rack to have gotten their hands upon him, if he worships a heretical deity. It is not something that I can concern myself with for now however.

A group of goblins would be the only other resistance we would find for a while, though they proved easier to dispatch then our previous encounters, their weapons and tactics both of poor quality. Jezzie's powers, other than simply burning things, seem to focus on distracting our foes. Many times they stood there for several seconds in a stupor, as if wondering what to do. This gave the dwarf and I the time needed to delivered deadly blows to the foes. The dwarf, as with many clerics that I trained with in the monastery, is proficient in martial attacks. His attacks are measured and patient. Surely someone who fights like this cannot be of a chaotic disposition, can they? I have been in the sewers for merely three hours with these people, and already there are more questions than I care to deal with.

Our final encounter was indeed the most difficult. As we continued through the corridors, we stumbled across a maintenance room. Hoping for supplies that might help us out, we opened it, only to discover that the workers seemed to have been turned into zombies of some type. I was not unfamiliar with these types of creatures, but I have never engaged them. The face of men, rotted away by carrion, their slow movements lulled me into a sense of false security. One swung its arm at me, almost bowling me over with the power of its blow. I viciously sliced at it, eventually bringing it down, but its attacks had taken their toll, as its partner slammed down upon my head, knocking me into unconsciousness.

I awoke to that same curious aura again, feeling slightly renewed. I stood up to see Jezzie securing the door, as Thodin tended to my wounds. I owe him my life, and yet, everything in my conscious I know about this dwarf makes me think that he would gladly see the Oder of the Empire fall, everything I believe in. It seems that this mission will force me to make some strange alliances, and although it goes against all my instincts, my desire to achieve my mission and to be initiated into the Scourge will win out. As I conclude, we remain in this room, the door barricaded as well as possible. Both of these magic users have indicated that they have drained their resources for the day. It seems that if any trouble comes through that door, the day will be won by force of arms.

I would not have it any other way…

The Journal of Marius Baradin - Entry One

Dahkath's Council of Thieves Damonagus