Phaedra's Journal Pt. 2

Phaedra couldn’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment when Wendika left them shortly after entering the city, but her disappointment was short lived. The sights, smells, and sounds of the city buffeted her sensed and filled her with a joy and longing that made her blush with excitement. Her eyes darted from the bright colors of banners and clothing to bustling merchants selling their wares… And the food! Food was everywhere. Little Marian pastry’s, Marian spices, soups and roasts and… Home. It felt like home.
She shook her head again to reign in her attention. She looked around at her companions who looked nearly as overwhelmed as she felt excited. She felt a pang a pity when she observed Erol’s clear discomfort with the city. He was quiet and not always particularly articulate, but she felt a sort of attachment to him, and trusted him more than their other companions.
As much as Phaedra would have loved to take some time and explore the city on her own, she knew that their first order of business would be to find Paraashk. It would be foolish to wander around too long with his chest full of gold without expecting to also receive some unwanted attention. So, she did her best to recall the general layout of the city from her childhood, and led the group away from the gate and into the heart of Trikala.
Unfortunately, childhood memories are often unfaithful. Before long, they were off the main road wandering through back roads. At one point, Phaedra found herself on the bank of the Gold River. She stamped her foot in the muddy ground and let out a groan of frustration. However, she became distracted as her eyes soaked in the sight of the Aethusa rising out of the opposite bank. It’s beauty and grandeur took her breath away. The gleaming dome towered so high that she had to squint her eyes against the sun to catch a glimpse of its apex.
Unbidden, images flashed before her eyes of what her life could have been like if she had married her father’s colleague all those years ago. She could have been one of those women who spend their lives carefree in the shadow of the Aethusa. Content to explore, shop, and gossip all day before returning home to roaring fireplaces, servants at every turn, adoring husbands and children… Children. She could practically see their glowing faces…
She was startled from her thoughts as a flock of birds burst into flight from the roof of the Aethusa and soared towards the sea. For about a minute, Phaedra watched them twist and turn through the air, dipping low over the water before shooting up to the clouds again. As she watched, a ghost of a smile flashed across her lips. She could have had those things. This was true. But she would never have felt fulfilled by it. She would never have been satisfied. Her mother had often told her that she’d had a wanderer’s soul, and in this she was correct. While there may be a small comfort in stability, that life had no freedom. In its own way, a home on the banks of the Gold River is just gilded cage.
Phaedra watched the flock until they disappeared on the horizon, and then, with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose, she turned back to face her comrades and beckoned them to follow her back up to the road and onward to the Daedika.
After one or two more wrong turns and short stops, the crew eventually found themselves at the massive bridge. As they got closer, Erol pointed out that a rather unpleasant group had been following them for quite some time.
Despite the crowd milling about the Daedika, Phaedra, Gillam, Erol, and Lingen were unable to lose their trackers. Erol then devised a plan in which Lingen would distract them by creating some kind of musical diversion with his awful instrument.
Lingen and that “awful instrument”, however, somehow managed to do more than just distracted the crew following them, but attracted a whole crowd. Something about him changed in the instant he began to pluck at his lute. Suddenly he became… magnetic. Phaedra felt a twinge of uneasiness that she couldn’t quite place, but brushed it off. “At least the dumb bastard is good for something.”
Leaving Lingen behind, they continued to weave their way through pockets of people along the Daedika. It wasn’t much further until Phaedra spotted a man she recognized as a member of Paraashk’s caravan. Before long, he had led them to Paraashk’s guild hall (regrettably picking gathering Lingen up on the way).
There was a lot of talk between them all recounting the expert raid of the menagerie and the travel on the road to Trikala, but Phaedra found herself quickly losing interest. It was piqued, however, when Paraashk explained to the schedule for the festival. The very next day there was going to be a feast! A massive feast with free food for everyone in the city, and a plethora of opportunities for gambling. The excitement of it was almost enough to distract Phaedra from the unpleasant twinge she felt in her gut when it came time to return Paraashk’s gold.
That night, for the first time in what felt like ages, sleep came easily to Phaedra as delicious food, bouncing dice, and clinking mountains of gold danced through her dreams.

Nykta a makeri

Alten leans back in bed, reveling in the weightless comfort of is bed, the softness of the covers, and the glow of the candlelight bathing the flawless milky skin of the woman next to him. She was alright, he decided. Not bad, but he had had better. Sighing, he turned over to drink some whine, but the decanter was empty. Idly, he fingers the pendant hanging around his neck. It was a tree, made of stone, and worked with gold filigree It was hard, and always felt cool.

Past the decanter, on his bedside table, as if divinely ordained to ruin the mood, was the account ledger. Alten sighed again and rolled back to stare at the ceiling, but his mind could not be derailed. They were in dire straights. No ventures had gone well recently. Three ships were unaccounted for. The deal in the north had gone sour, and they had had to write off all the bribes and favors called in to make it happen. Then there was the menagerie. That damned menagerie. It hadn’t been his decision to fund the damned thing, but he had to balanced the books on it anyway. Half the Animals had died before ever reaching Trikala. a fifty percent loss is hard to swallow as is, but that fool Throm had to stir up more trouble than he could deal with and had not only lost half his men en-route, but had let a get tiger loose in the city! The whole batch had had to be put down after that. Noone would trust that operation enough to buy from them.

Alten realized he was holding his breath. He slung his legs over the side of the bed and slowly let it out. He was supposed to relax. It was the festival after all! Let work lay till the morrow. He stood up and shuffled to his desk. Fishing a deep purple stick from a drawer, he held one end in the candle flame until it caught alight. Taking a deep breath of the sweet smoke washing over his face, the weight of the world seems to get farther away. Alten takes another deep breath-

The door flies open with a bang, and the lad gets three steps into the room before realizing his circumstances. He stands for a moment, trying conspicuously to both not look at the creature on the bed (of which he was failing), and to not meet the gaze of Alten. Red blossoms on his cheeks.

Alten throws down the incense in rage. “Laras, You’ve been here almost six. months. When are you going to learn to knock?! You’ve better got a good reason for this or I’m gonna make you wish the fucking mother herself was here to soothe you!” Alten breaks off his tirade to look up and whisper, “No offense, milady.”

He takes a deep breath, sits down, and waves a hand to Laras, “Alright, what is it?”

Laras snapped to upright and fixed his gaze forward, “The Alpha… um,” he clears his throat, “the Alpha is dead, sir.”

“What?! Dead? When?! How?!”

“This very evening, I don’t know, but the manor was attacked. They’re all dead! I came as soon as I heard!”

Alten’s bolted upright, mind racing. This is terrible. If the Alpha’s dead, then the organization is unstable. They’ve enough enemies as it is, but with their leader dead, there are those that will surely try to take advantage of their compromised circumstances. The wool guild for one, the Gulls for another. They will not sit quiet, for a variety of reasons. This is the worst timing possible. Well, hopefully the festival will delay things, and stay the hand of violence for a short while. It will have to be enough. After all, you play the hand you’re dealt, not the one you wish for.

He took a deep breath, and surveyed the room, a plan forming. The first priority must be to secure the organization’s assets. Fingering his pendant, Alten mutters under his breath, “May the builder preserve us, and hunter watch over us. We’re going to need it…” And then at a shout, “Laras!”

The boy jumps at the word.

“Get out of here! go find Dilay, Demirk, and Baran. Have then assemble their men and secure the warehouse! I trust you know where to find them?”

He nods vigorously, and bolts out of the room, “Right away, sir!”

A few short minutes later, Alten himself leaves the room, dressed for business, and moving quickly in the brisk night air.

A short while later, he ducks down an alley and knocks on a door. Knowing it isn’t locked, he pulls it open and steps inside. The man inside is pulling on his sandals.

“Skilos, the Alpha is dead.”

“I know.” The other man finishes tying his laces. “We need to get to the warehouse.”

“My thoughts exactly. Let’s go.”

The two men disappear into the night, and race through the streets south towards Ployo.

“I’ll have to act fast to maintain order and unity. I’m counting on you, Skilos. Some of these dogs will betray anyone at the merest sniff of an opportunity.”

“You don’t need to worry about it.”

“And what about pressure from above? The Alpha had allies in the Gaerusia, after all, we’ll have to treat with them and their interests, too.”

Skilos shrugs, “the enemy of my enemy?”

“I suppose, but what about—”

They come around the corner into the square, and a grisly sight. The northern end is littered with bodies.

Hurridly, Alten makes to step gingerly over them when one moans.

Alton freezes. He knows that voice. He drops down and pulls the man up to sitting.

“Demirk! What happened?!”

The man jerks, head lolling, “Alten… sir?”

“What happened?!

Blank eyes stare past his face, and blood bubbles over his lips, dribbling down his chest, “Ah… ambushed. Elya-ladi…” He coughs wetly, and gurgles.

“What does the collegia of oil merchants have to do with anything?! Demirk!”

Shaking Demirk, at first he doesn’t notice the men standing around, rugged and brutish, bearing ruddy clubs and axes. Dropping the body, Alten grabs for his sword, his hand wraps around it, sure and true and—

A blade blossoms from his chest.

Alten looks down, not quite believing. He reaches out and taps his finger on the end. It’s hard, and cold. Abruptly, It vanishes, and crimson gushes forth in its stead. He turns around.

“Skilos, ho-what? Why?”

“I told you, we need to get to the warehouse.” He gestures at the men around. He cocks his head and frowns. “I didn’t say anything about you.”

The blade flashes out, and Alten can no longer speak. He clutches his throat. It feels wet. His legs buckle, and he slumps to the ground, watching Skilos and the men leave, as strength flows from his body, and the weight of the world leaves his shoulders.

He turns his head towards the milky white dome of the Aethusa, gleaming in the first rays of dawn, but his eyes no longer see. The air of his last breath is thick with the acrid scent of smoke, blue lips murmuring, “I’m sorry, milady…”

Part 10 - G-Pov
That's Alpha today, goodbye

Wendika took the three to an inn in Ergasia district where he claimed they would be safe to discuss matters. In the back room he reserved he firstly assured them that he would cancel the contract he had with with Wolves to kill them. He then asked them about their situation with the Wolves and Al’Qeri. They kept the information they imparted to a minimum but did tell of the raid and the Dockmaster. He knew little regarding the former, though, and even less of the latter. But he did know much about the Wolves’ base in the Asimi district from his few meetings with the Alpha there. Notably, he knew where to make an entry should they choose to launch an attack and described the Alpha himself as a man of words, not strength.

None of them truly wanted to killed the Alpha, because that was the very thing the Dockmaster wanted and giving him what he wanted made everyone’s fists clench, but a breaking in might yield them clues to the raid on the Al’Qeri and the whereabouts of the Asatae-Gaya and if things came to pass that the Alpha had to be killed, so be it. This was one of those times when Gillam would allow the clear transgression of breaking-and-entering for the greater good – in his mind, they had been out here for too long, messing with these thieves’ politics and they were barely getting any closer to getting an answer from the Al’Qeri. If there was evidence in that building, he would find it.

Wendika proposed they make there move the night of the following day, when he would be making a house-call to the Wolves. This gave them a day to rest, recuperate and prepare.

They returned to the safe-house to sleep and during the night an Al’Qeri emissary visited, this time properly knocking on the door before entering. The emissary inquired about their progress, also hinting that her sisters had also found leads. But Erol had a request of them: to have them watch over as they made their infiltration of the HQ the next night. The emissary agreed to pass on the details of the plan.

The next day, as Phaedra rested, Gillam and Erol decided to take a stroll in the city and enjoy the festive activities – today being a day of performances. No longer fearful of assassins, they walked towards the Aethusa in the center of the city without cover. They had feasted beside the immense dome a few days prior, but today they intended to visit the complex beneath it. As they approached they found the grand square empty of the tables and masses of food and drink of the grand feast, but gathered just around the circumference of pillars that held up the grand white dome were hundreds of market stalls and traders selling wares.

Beneath the dome were gathered the five temples that each represented one of almost all of the grand pantheon. Each was built in stone that attempted to replicate the delicate white Paesh and each was open-roofed, protected from weather by the dome.

While Erol went to visit the temple of the Hunter, Gillam entered the temple of the Builder. The walls were emblazoned by His Sun motif and lamps burned with white fire. Gillam followed the Builder’s path but rarely entered His temples, so he was quite stunned by the decor. At the center of the temple a play was being performed which recreated a tale Gillam knew well – the War in Heaven where the Builder, the second of the six Children of the Void, lead the fight against the first, the great betrayer, the Dead God. Though Gillam could not understand a word, he knew exactly what was happening and when to join the cheers and jeers.

After returning to the safe-house, they prepared for the night ahead, and when they set out they found three Al’Qeri warriors waiting for them, ready for command. Erol took Gillam’s signal whistle and told them to follow but hold back unless they heard the whistle blow. They rendezvoused with Wendika and saw him enter the front door before they sneaked around the back and climbed an adjacent building.

They waited a short time before the window in front of them opened. In the small bathroom within they saw Wendika, pointedly not seeing them and making noises to suggest he was answering a call of nature. He left the room, flanked by guards, and, after making sure it was safe to do so, the three leaped across the gap into the window successfully – Gillam immensely proud of achieving this in what would later prove to be his only success of the night.

Phaedra lead the way out of the bathroom, gingerly stepping out into the hall, followed by Erol, then Gillam. From the room next door came snoring so they continued sneaking down the hallway to the next door. Phaedra picked her way into a study, where they found various books, jewels and figurines, but no plant or clues to its whereabouts. The room across the hall was a finely decorated bedroom and further down were yet more bedrooms, though somewhat less well-furnished – none of these had anything of note.

In the very last room on this floor, however, Phaedra heard the sound of whistling and the buckling of boots. Hastily, they hid in the closest bedroom and waited with bated breath as the man went by and on downstairs.

There was nothing on this floor so Gillam took point and poked a head downstairs. At that moment, Wendika emerged from a room, still flanked by guards who swiftly lead him out of the main doors.

Waiting a few moments, the coast seemed to be clear and they ventured downstairs. The first room they listened at had many drunken men’s voices, a woman’s voice and a squelching sound. Down the entrance hall, the sound at the next door was of one man grumbling to himself about work.

The aim was to slip inside and quickly clasp a hand over the man’s mouth – simple enough – but instead Gillam slipped inside, stumbled and bumped into the man. He, a slave, was about to call out, but Phaedra quickly calmed him, flashing a gold coin or two in her hand. His eyes grew at the sight and kept his mouth shut as he snatched them up. They questioned the slave about any strange plants, but he reported nothing odd. With no useful information to give he scuttled off to his quarters.

They returned to the entrance hall and crossed it to the final door, the one Wendika had previously exited. Phaedra listened and reported on the conversation within. There was the voices of Throm, the woman they had seen at the caravan and a man who could only be the Alpha. They were clearly angry and cursed Wendika’s cancellation of contract. The discussion turned to who to hire next. This seemed a good point to make a move.

Gillam kicked open the door and charged inside. In a flash, Phaedra sprinted by him, straight to where the Alpha sat. In a swift movement, she buried her sword into the back of his chair, piercing through it and the man’s chest like butter. Just behind Gillam, Erol entered, growling “Throm” as he shot a flurry of arrows at his present nemesis. The three Wolves reacted, the two men jumping from their seats and the woman standing at the back of the room fired off arrows, one of which hit Phaedra. As Gillam’s threat to kill the Alpha was laughed off by the woman, Throm made to throw one of his stinky goo bombs, but before he could complete his move, Erol had peppered him with arrows and he was dead.

The Alpha called for his men in a panic before Phaedra lunged at him and held him down. As the men reacted quickly to their master’s call, Erol reacted by blowing on the whistle. Guards burst in through the door; Al’Qeri burst in through the windows. Phaedra continued to grapple the Alpha down but it was clear to Gillam that her strength was weakening and soon she had lost her grip and slipped to the floor in slumber. The Alpha pushed her away, and the Al’Qeri close-by saw this. She reacted in a split-second, smoothly striking her spear up the man’s middle until it came out of his mouth. He was very dead.

While this was going on, the woman continued shooting arrows, now targeting the Al’Qeri that burst in. Two were struck and they quickly weakened. On seeing this, Erol focused an arrow on her that struck so true it pierced her open mouth, pinning her lifeless body to the wall.

The Wolves’ men continued to fight, and while Erol picked them down one by one, Gillam found his particular opponent quite deft at dodging his attacks. Finally, that man made a misstep and Gillam satisfyingly sliced him clean in two.

All that remained was one man, who came out stumbling in a drunken stupor, late to the party. He soon collapsed on the floor and puked.

Then the entrance doors swung open and in strode Wendika, swords covered in blood and at least four men laying dead outside. Inside the room, one remaining Al’Qeri lamented her fallen sisters, who were in a critical state from being shot by the woman’s poisoned arrows. Erol rushed over and was able to keep one alive but the other succumbed to the poison and soon died. The Al’Qeri’s cries were like desperate croaks. Meanwhile, Phaedra slept.

Gillam and Wendika made another search of the building. They first found the cook quivering in the pantry. She had no information about the plant and so they let her go. They found the slaves in their quarters and sent them on their way too, with a gold coin each for their trouble.

Next, in the study, they found the Alpha’s journal. Being written in Marian, Wendika read. It told of the meeting of the three thief cartels and Phaedra’s infiltration, of the loss of men from the caravan, and of their plans to kill Gillam and the others, but nowhere was there any mention of a raid on the Al’Qeri village. It became clear that they had hit a dead end – they had reached the tip of the wrong branch of the tree and they would have to turn back. But they did have a sample of the poison that was so potent and one of Throm’s stink bombs. Those with, the one remaining Wolf, might prove to have some value.

While Erol escorted the Al’Qeri back to Mahala with sisters, Gillam, dragging along a drunk and manacled Wolf, went with Wendika, carrying a sleeping Phaedra, back to an inn he had prepared for them. When Erol returned Gillam interrogated the man, learning that the Wolves kept their stocks and slaves at a warehouse in the docks area – east 13. Their attack that night had shown them they were still clutching at straws, but maybe this one last clue was golden thread.

Erol's Journal - Trikala Arc


This entry will briefly cover session 7-10(?) concerning the story arc within Trikala.

Part 1 Phaedra's POV
Arriving in Trikala

As the party travelled from Lugard into the countryside of Laegen Mar, Phaedra felt her excitement building at the thought of reaching Trikala. She had not visited the city since she was a young child, but it had left an indelible mark on her memory. She clearly recalled the grandness of the Aethusa and the Daedika, as well as the incredible magnitude of the Prok’Maeya.
Her excitement, however, was mingled with a bitter sadness and anger as she was bombarded with memories of her family and early life. She remembered travelling these same roads with her father on one of his trading expeditions before everything went horribly wrong. She’d played around in the bolts of cloth with her sisters as they took turns playing dress up. She remembered running into the comforting arms of her mother when her older sister had inevitably teased her for dressing like a boy…
“Stop this. They’re gone and you can never have them back,” she thought to herself harshly, in a desperate attempt to stem the flood of memories. Phaedra had largely been able to keep thoughts of her past life from burdening her since leaving Laegen Mar, but something about her homeland seemed to break through the wall of her feigned indifference, a fact which hurt and frustrated her on a deeper level than she would ever be willing to admit.
As Trikala finally came into sight, these painful thoughts were driven from Phaedra’s mind. Brimming with excitement, she spotted the great dome of the Aethusa peaking above the landscape and smelled saltwater on the breeze. No more bland Lugardian food, rough Lugardian people, or treacherous Lugardian weather… They were nearly in Trikala!
As the day wore on and they travelled closer to the city, it became clear that something was amiss. Massive crowds had gathered around the gates of the city. Phaedra smiled in dark amusement as Gillam and Errol attempted to gather information from the Marians, who clearly could not understand a word of the coarse Lugardian tongue.
At long last, it was discovered that the gates were locked to prevent overcrowding in the city, due to a Midsummer’s Festival that would feature, among other things, free food!!
Upon receiving this information, Phaedra turned her determined eye out into the crowd, pointedly ignoring Gillam’s stabs at convincing the city guards of his authority. It wasn’t long before she spotted a lone man weaving his way deftly through the crowds. He was dressed finely and carried a masterfully crafted dueling sword, not unlike the one Phaedra herself wore. This man, who walked with such obvious purpose and authority, could surely help them, but how…
Then all at once, an idea came to her.
Phaedra maneuvered her into the man’s path and just as he was about to pass, she collided with his shoulder and threw herself back onto ground as if he had knocked her over. The plan seemed to work for a moment, as the man helped her up and apologized, but when he noticed her sword, a look of confusion passed across his face and he commented that it seemed odd that a duelist like herself should be caught flatfooted.
Fortunately, Phaedra managed to play it off as a painful misstep after a long journey, and in short form was walking alongside the man towards the gates of Trikala. As they walked, he introduced himself as Wendika and agreed to help Phaedra and her companions enter the city, as it would be no problem for him, although he did not clarify as to where his authority came from. As they talked, Phaedra found herself admiring the man’s poise and his air of strength. She felt draw to him, somehow…
Much to the chagrin of the city guards, who had already turned away Gillam and Lingen, Wedika came through on his promise and had the gates opened.
At long last, they had reached Trikala, the greatest city in all of Aria.

I will add more and hopefully be able to catch up by the next time we play! I’m sorry for the delay, guys.

Part 9 - Gillam's PoV
Adventures in the dock

The leader of this band of Al’Qeri, Mahala, was keen to know how the group had found themselves in this position, and so Erol regaled her with their story from Aaren until the present. Now that they had shared their tale, Gillam felt it was only fair that these frogmen should tell a little something about themselves. Mahala, though, was unwilling to reveal much information about the village, its location and population. The rest of her ‘sisters’ seemed amused by his incessant questions.

She agreed that she and her sisters would work together with them, promising to return the next night to update on any information they may find. The Al’Qeri left and Gillam, Erol and Phaedra got back to sleep.

In the morning, they wrapped up in cloaks (though Gillam was adamant that his watch-issued armor should be showing) and made their way to the eastern docks of the Prok’Maeya. Phaedra seemed to be getting much more familiar with the city and they didn’t take a wrong turn hardly at all…

Unlike the west part of the Prok’Maeya on the far side of the river, with its enormous jetties, made of gleaming white unspoilt paesh stone, harboring great trading ships, this area was cramp, dirty and squalid with small fishing boats docked without any order and suspicious closed warehouse doors. The paesh was there under their feet but it was covered in a layer of grime – like most of the dockworkers and fishermen here. It reminded Gillam of home. For a moment he felt homesick and thought of his old guardmates.

They were here looking for information of the Wolves, though, and Gillam was shocked out of his thoughts when Erol pointed out a man sitting with his legs over the harbor wall with a thick short stick and line descending into the water. Erol could not quite put a name to him, but Phaedra soon did.

“It’s Wendika,” she cried, before hopping over coils of rope and crates towards him. Gillam and Erol followed at a distance. The man sat there looking down out of luck, despite still wearing his most fashionable of clothes. When he turned at Phaedra’s call, he he beamed a smile. They began talking – she asked where he had been and what he was doing here. He gave vague replies, indicating to his as-yet empty crab crate. He kept the conversation up, despite Phaedra’s obvious nervousness, focussing solely on her. Even when she indicated her companions, he merely glanced at them before returning to her.

It was so damn obvious, it made Gillam want to vomit…

Then, out of the blue, Wendika asked her to try getting a crab with his fishing line. When she took it, everything happened very fast. Nets flew out of nowhere at Gillam and Erol. Erol managed to dodge them, but Gillam took them head on, finding himself hanging in a net over the water, strung between the masts of two nearby boats.

Upon looking around, he found that Erol had ended up in the water somehow while Wendika, sword in hand, now stood facing Phaedra, sword in hand, with a grin. “Let us talk.” They began duelling. The assassin moved swiftly – it seemed like his actions were twice the speed of Phaedra – but she kept her own, dodging, parrying and striking back. Despite being overwhelmed by his moves, there was a distinct glimmer in her eyes. Gillam scowled.

He could do nothing tightly bundled in this net. Below him, Erol was screaming at a Marian man in one of the boats. Regardless of the language gap, the man was slow to take the hint that he should throw a rope for him, and when he eventually did the bloody fool accidentally threw the entire thing in. Gillam and Erol both cursed in their respective languages.

Erol eventually climbed aboard and the man cut a rope holding Gillam up sending him tumbling down, nets and all, into the other boat.

In Phaedra’s fight, Wendika managed to sweep her off her feet, but she rolled and struck back. This move left her open however, and with a another flurry of strokes, her sword was on the floor ten feet away and she was on her back.

But the assassin did not deliver a final blow. Instead, impressed by her skills, he offered her a choice: die or let him teach her. And he would aid them. From the boat Gillam grumbled loudly as he tried to disentangle himself from the nets. Like a fox, Wendika pranced aboard the boat and cut him free with a single slice. He turned back awaiting a reply from Phaedra, who now had Erol beside her demanding explanation. Now Gillam saw a chance to deal with these criminals in his own way. He brandished his manacles and clamped a hand on Wendika’s shoulder.

Seconds later, he was tipping over the edge of the boat backwards at the end of the assassin’s arm. He had made his point.

Part 8 - Gillam's PoV
Nice weather for Dock(master)s and frogs

It wasn’t a pleasant way to wake up. Was it his imagination, or did he still stink of the horrible goo Throm had chucked all over them the night before? He washed his body again before breakfast, but the memory of it still made his stomach churn.

At breakfast, Paraashk told them about the day’s events in the city. Today was a holy ceremony where priests would assemble in many small boats and circle the city three times through its canals carrying holy relics. Even if this had interested them, they could not enjoy the rest of the festival as they had done. They had to keep a low profile, plus Paraaskh was keen to be making tracks out of the city. But before he did, he had a favor to ask and that was to deliver a note to an associate down in the docks.

This seemed like unnecessary work to Gillam and he didn’t hesitate to ask why they should be running errands for the merchant, now that they had repaid his gold used to rescue them, with interest. Paraashk calmly explained that the docks were likely a good place to acquire information about the Al’Qeri, also adding that they had been receiving free board at this guild hall thanks to him…

Chastened, they set out to the docks and, despite the crowds that were already swelling, soon found the captain that Paraashk had directed them to. Gillam had thought Marians dressed flamboyantly, but this man, Aitor, with his white hair, wore fine flowing clothes. When even Erol and Phaedra commented on them it was clearly this man was not from Aria; and when they asked they found he was from far west in West Altae.

Before leaving him to prepare his delivery to Paraashk, they asked if he had seen any Al’Qeri around. Happily, he just so had – one was working the docks at the far end of the Prok’Maeya.

She was easy to spot: well above six feet tall, smooth grey-blue skin that glimmered under the sunlight, and carrying a barrel as if it was a dinner plate. For a moment, Gillam was stunned. All this time he had thought they had just been chasing fairytales and that they would just find some gutter-dwelling humans – he had seen plenty of them around Lyden, so covered in mud it was like a second skin – but this frogman was truly something else.

Now that they had found one, there was nothing to do but talk to it. They approached, introduced themselves and, through Phaedra, started asking. Phaedra later told them it had an odd way with words but it all sounded the same to Gillam. All he and Erol could do was take on Phaedra’s translation from Marian. The Al’Qeri looked increasingly irritated with each question, but when Phaedra asked about Mikel the Fatherless there was a noticeable change in its expression which quickly shifted back to its usual scowl.

The Al’Qeri finally had enough and simply walked away to return to her work, leaving the group at a loss – they had finally found a frogman but it was unwilling to tell them anything. They decided to wait. When they asked around some co-workers they learned that “she”, as she preferred, had come looking for work only a few weeks ago and that her demeanor only ever changed when she got her wages. From what Gillam and the others had learned, the Al’Qeri tend to keep to themselves and self-sufficient, so it seemed strange they would be in the city working.

A few hours later, the Al’Qeri’s shift ended. As she headed off, the three of them tailed her. With her refusal to answer any question, it seemed to be the only option, and it was easy to follow undetected with so many people around. After winding through streets they had the brief satisfaction of having her cornered by the river, but this was soon crushed when she dived into the water and swam swiftly away. They could only watch her figure disappear.

They had lost their target – all they could do was head back to the guild hall. But as they were returning they passed a man pulling a cart. Nothing special, it seemed, until Erol spotted a lute – Lingen’s lute. The slave willingly let them take it, saying he was simply cleaning up after yesterday’s feast. They had Lingen’s lute, but the man himself was worryingly absent.

That evening, Gillam went to bed with an odd sniffle he had picked up during the day.

The next morning, sniffle gone, Paraashk thanked them for their work and they thanked him for everything he had done to help them. The merchant had his merchandise and would be leaving today. Out of the blue, there was a knock at the door and one of Paraashk’s men told them there was a boy at the door. The bright-eyed and eager boy was insistent that the Gillam, Erol and Phaedra accompanied him to his master. While Gillam was unwilling to comply until boy gave a name, the others were keen to follow and deal face-to-face with whomever knew about their whereabouts so well – was it Throm, was it Wendika, was it even Lingen?

They were taken across the city in a small boat, and into the district called Asimi. The buildings around here were decent – not high-class, but not slum, just average. There were some nice-looking houses here and there. The boy, though, lead them down a street and to a building that was clearly once a restaurant but had seen better days. The door was rotten and the sign was tipped at an angle. He brought them inside. At the musty tables and from the empty bar, men armed with swords look up at them but they did not threaten. The group went to the back and entered the storeroom.

Inside, a well-dressed but masked man sat surrounded by guards and an aged counselor. The man introduced himself as the Darkmaster Dockmaster. He told them that he had connections with the Wolves, the thief cartel to which Throm and his men belonged. He warned them that an assassin, called the “Wind”, had been hired to kill them. He informed them that Lingen had been captured by the Wolves. And, he had a request – to have them kill the leader of the Wolves, known as the “Alpha”, so that he could take his place.

Both Gillam and Erol were unhappy, to say the least. They were being dragged further and further into the world and political games of criminals. They were in a very dangerous place now – Gillam had to hold back his watchman urges to arrest this Dockmaster on the spot – and the man seemed the only “ally” they had right now. The man accused them of bringing it on themselves, to which Erol rightfully countered that they had started it, but with Phaedra in the group they were guilty by association.

The Dockmaster told them they could make a base here and advised them to do whatever they could to find and dispose of the Alpha while not being killed themselves. And with that, he and his men left.

They boarded up the windows, set out bedrolls and set watch. During the night, as Erol kept an eye out on the dark room expecting an assassin to enter any minute, sure enough a loose board over one of the windows creaked open and tall, lean, dark figure slipped inside. Boldly, Erol spoke. The figure reacted and replied, speaking in Mrissan, but with the odd manner of speaking that Phaedra had mentioned before. It was an Al’Qeri, who called herself Mahala, and there were more all around the building.

Erol was allowed to wake Gillam and Phaedra and they were able to explain why they had been questioning the Al’Qeri by the docks. It seemed this act had raised suspicions and they had suspected the three of being part of a raid that had attacked their settlement, killing a male and stealing a sacred plant called Asatae-Gaya. Mahala thankfully believed them when they said they were no part of that raid, but Erol sensed that the Wolves were somehow connected…

Part 7 - Gillam's PoV
Best dressed festival guest

After two days walking through lush fields the group finally found themselves staring at a pair of closed gates and a very large badly-formed line outside it. The gate stood just in front of a simple stone bridge that crossed the canal which enclosed the main part of the city. On the far side of that gate lay the sounds of hustle and bustle of a busy city. So far on this journey through Laegen Mar, Gillam had felt uncomfortable, but now they were back at a city his mood was lifting ever so slightly.

Erol approached a friendly-looking old woman and asked her what the trouble was. It soon became clear she did not speak Lugardian and the realization that they were truly in Laegen Mar struck them. The woman’s son told them that the guards were saying the city was full because of the midsummer’s festival and would let no one in. Gillam reckoned he could reason with his fellow guardsmen and march straight to the front of the line. They recognized his Lugardian armor immediately and sniggered at his request to be let through. His desperate attempt to bluff them into believing that Lingen was an invited musician fell flat as he utterly failed to impress them and broke a string in the process.

Meanwhile, Phaedra was keeping an eye on the crowd and eventually spotted a likely target: a finely-dressed man with a strong presence. She casually approached him, bumping against him and letting herself tumble to the ground. He apologized profusely but recognized her swords labelled her as one skilled in acrobatic arts and thought it strange she should fall over so easily. However, he accepted her words and as way of compensation lead them passed the guards and into the city. Clearly, Phaedra had an eye for them.

The man, who called himself Wendika, left immediately. The stood there, looking around at the square packed with people. The noise of a hundred voices chatting, bartering and trading was almost deafening, especially so as it reverberated between the tall buildings that butted up against the edges of the plaza. Gillam was suddenly in his element, looking sharply around like a hawk, searching for a crime. There must be a crime happening in a place so full of people and sure enough a woman cried out, “Pickpocket!” and he bolted off.

He was soon passing information to the city’s watchmen and only just heard Erol shout across the square, “Gillam, we’re going!” Erol was clearly not comfortable here and muttered irritably as they dragged the chest of gold through the streets. Phaedra was leading the way, certain she could navigate these streets which she had visited only once before, as a child. The trouble was Paraashk had failed to inform they where to find him when they did arrive in the city and this was surely the largest city Gillam knew of. Sure enough, they soon found themselves off the main road and by the river. It was the Gold River that came down from the hills of Lugard and across on the far bank stood the huge magnificent dome called the Aethusa, its white stone glinting in the sunlight. Its was probably the tallest building Gillam had ever seen. He had heard about it but never did he imagine that it would be so grand. To its left stood the grand palace and between the two great buildings was the grand square were festival preparations were in full-swing.

But they were getting off track. Phaedra lead them on in the general direction of the Daedika, the famous immense bridge of Trikala. However, Erol with his keen senses noticed a gang of thugs were following them. With quick thinking he got Lingen to create a distraction with his music, while they slipped away and found some guards. The plan worked and they were soon with some watchmen beneath one of the gleaming white towers of the Daedika.

There was no time to admire though. Phaedra spotted one of Peraashk’s men approaching and they called out to him. They were soon being lead back to Peraashk’s guild hall (picking Lingen back up on the way). Once there, they returned his gold back to him, put him at ease that there actions would not be traced back to him and inquired into the make-up of the city. He also told them about the festival which would last a whole week, recommending them to take some time off and enjoy it. Gillam would have preferred to be getting on with work, but Phaedra was excited at the suggestion and Erol seemed interested too. There was no helping it.

The next day, Gillam was shocked to come out of his room and find a beautiful woman stood before him. Her hair floated down over her shoulders; she wore a fine silk dress. His eyes bulged and gingerly he said, “Good morning.” only to have Erol punch him on the shoulder, “It’s Phaedra, you fool.” He felt sick suddenly.

The headed out, intending to go to the grand square to experience the parade and the great feast. But they soon got lost. Luckily for Erol, the back street they had found themselves on had a Mrissan specialty store and he hurried inside. While he shopped, Phaedra tried to get her bearings and Gillam exchanged small talk with Lingen. When Erol did eventually come out, well over half-an-hour later, his arms were full of bags and he was clearly drunk. Gillam sniffed the Mrissan horse-milk wine he carried and grimaced.

The man in the shop advised them to take a boat down the canals and soon they had enlisted the services of a old man with a boat and they were on their way, crossing the Gold River and disembarking in the rich part of town by the palace. The parade had begun. They pushed into the crowd that lined the streets and watched the floats and dancers go by. The parade culminated in the speech by the king and his son. Gillam didn’t understand a word of it.

Soon the king announced the feast was open and the crowd swarmed into the grand square and everyone grabbed food, beers and found seats along one of the long tables. They ate, drank and conversed. Erol found himself in a drinking contest with the locals, winning when he brought out the Mrissan wine. Phaedra got into some gambling and won a tidy profit. Meanwhile, Gillam enjoyed supping at his beer and smoking his cigarettes while munching on Marian cuisine, which wasn’t all that bad after all.

Hours passed and twilight set in: it was time to head back. They stumbled drunkenly through he streets with the throng, but Phaedra, high on the excitement of the festival, somehow lead them down a alleyway. Suddenly, it was just the three of them. Gillam suddenly realized he hadn’t seen Lingen since the parade – he must have slipped off at some point with not so much as a farewell… Phaedra was sure the alleyway would led them back to the main road, but as she turned a corner she found herself looking at an unwelcome face. It was Throm with some of his men as well as a tiger of all things! Throm looked at the three of them with a sneer. With them walking freely in their own clothes with their own weapons, he quickly understood who had attacked his caravan and killed his men. With that, he did not hesitate to give the order to attack and soon they were scuffling in the alley. They fought hard and killed a few men. Gillam also managed to use his odd empathy with animals to pacify the tiger, until it leapt out on one of Throm’s men as he fled the scene.

With most of his men dead, Throm turned to run, but left a present. He threw a bag which landed in Gillam’s face and sprayed out its contents all over the three of them. The gunk to them and stank of dead fish. It made Gillam and Phaedra feel sick. Erol ignored this and roared at Throm as he gave chase, but the man disappeared into the streets and Erol had to give up. With the Throm gone and a pile of dead bodies, it was not a good idea to linger here and so they hurried to the river to try and wash themselves before returning to the guild hall. All the way back Phaedra bemoaned her beautiful dress which was now in shreds.

When they explained to Peraashk that they had come across Throm, his face turned white. His fears had come true: Throm must surely know Peraashk’s involvement. Despite there being six days left in the festival, he told them to keep their heads low from now on. It had suddenly become dangerous in this city.

(still WIP – I want to work on the descriptions of the city and the parade/feast more)

Erol's Journal - Journey to Trikala Arc

This entry covers sessions 4 through 6.

After returning the book the Perrol, the old man thanked us and told us he would need some time to decipher it. I took the opportunity to head out to the woods and try and practice my magic. It was always best to train away from the prying eyes of the public, and I never liked the crowded city life anyway. About a week later I was just on the verge of making some real progress when I received my summons to the manor.

When I arrived I found Phaedra already there, while Gilliam appeared a few minutes after me. Again we were left to wait while the lords made themselves ready. Gilliam got to questioning Phaedra about what she had been up to. Phaedra told us about how she had opened up a “bakery” in town and that business had been good, but keeping her very busy. The lie seemed the set the guardsman off and he began intensely questioning the Marian. She simply smiled and brushed off his questions, eventually I had to intervene and reminded Gillam that we would have to work together. Our lives were in each other’s hands. We had little time to discuss however as we were soon brought before Dhonyl. As we entered I noticed that several of the nobleman’s small council was absent, only Perrol was present. Dhonyl explained that Alvyarin and Yahn the captain of the guard had gone ahead to Sallen to make preparations. Perrol looked at our confused expressions and began to explain. He was pleased to announce that he had successfully deciphered the book and that it had been quite enlightening.

He began to explain that the book contained a story about a brave and just man who fought against a cruel tyrant. In the end the man was forced to fight against the evil kings strongest men in battle and prevailed. old_man.jpg But before the evil champion died he cursed the man and “exploded in rage.” While it was an interesting story, I failed to see how it helped us, both the man and the kingdom in the story were nameless. I couldn’t understand why the old man looked so damned excited. There must be something I was missing. Perrol went on to say that while the explosion of rage seemed similar to our incident, the important piece of information was in the author of the tale. It was penned by someone named Mikel “the Fatherless.” This broke the pattern of all the other authors in the collection of tales. The rest of the writers all listed their fathers and homelands. This Mikel had neither of those. Again I was lost, as were Gillam and Phaedra.

Perrol, sensing our confusion, explained that he theorized that Mikel was an Al’Qeri. I had heard only tales about the frogmen, so I was confused why he believed this. He began to describe, in excessive detail, about Al’Qeri breeding habits. I tried to pay attention, but his long winded explanation began to bore even me. Eventually Dhonyl stepped in and told the man to wrap it up. Eventually Perrol simply, that due to the Al’Qeri life-cycle he believed that Mikel the fatherless must be one of the frogmen. Dhonyl seemed to agree with this conclusion and asked if we would seek them out, claiming that they were rumored to reside in southern Lagen Mar.

I was intrigued, if only for the chance to meet an Al’Qeri. Their knowledge of magics might be vastly different, and hopefully deeper, than those I had encountered. Maybe they could help explain, or even help me to control, my dreams. Though I was still less than thrilled to be at the apparent beck and call of some nobleman, I was too intrigued to refuse. I agreed quickly, as did Phaedra though she seemed much more excited at the prospect of returning to her homeland. Gillam, however, was not so quick to agree. Amusingly, he seemed to doubt the mere existence of the Al’Qeri. I assured him they were very real, and besides it seemed as though our task had been decided for us regardless. The Lugardian sighed deeply and agreed, duty called and he was never one to shirk his duties.

Dhonyl told us that he had sent Alvyarin and Yahn ahead to Sallen to make preparations for us to take a ferry down the Snake Water River to Trikala. From Trikala we were to seek out information regarding the Al’Qeri and then meet the mysterious frogmen to find out what, if anything, they knew of Mikel the fatherless and the exploding man. Upon hearing out method of travel my gut sank a little, I had only traveled by boat once before, and it had not been a pleasant, but I would do what I had to in order to see these Al’Qeri. Pleased that we had agreed Dhonyl asked us to depart as soon as possible. We made our preparations and departed the next day.

Our journey to Sallen was quite uneventful. When we arrived Alvyarin and Yahn had already found us a ferry, Merida’s Run, that would take us to our destination. It was good to see Alvyarin again though he looked understandably distracted. We exchanged a few words and he again reminded me to be careful when using my magic, as most of the common folk remained superstitious and fearful of the arcane. I thanked him for his advice and wished him best of luck in his endeavors, I was certain he would need it.

We boarded the ferry the next day and I almost immediately began to feel ill. Our first few days of travel were rather uneventful, outside of my illness. martas_run.jpgThe ship’s captain, a man named Yahn seemed enamored with Phaedra and also had some experience with the Al’Qeri. He couldn’t fathom why we would seek out frogmen that he called “thieves and freaks.” I attributed this to his ignorance and fear, but kept quiet. The first few nights were uneventful, though very unpleasant for me. I took the chance to speak to both Phaedra and some of the crew. Phaedra was excited to be returning to her homeland, she had been away for a very long time. I understood the excitement of returning to her homeland, but it felt like there was something more to it. I decided not to press her further on it, but I told her that as companions we depend on each other, our lives are in each other’s hands and that while her past is her own I would appreciate it if she would speak honestly with me. She contemplated my words and, apologized for her deception, stating she would be more forthright in the future. I thanked her, and continued our conversation.

By the third night I was starting to really feel the effects of my sea sickness, so I was pleased to hear that the ferry would be taking port in a small fishing town. I took the opportunity to stay at an inn, which had some very delicious roast peaches. I made sure to grab a few jars for my companions. Little did I know that that would be the last night of proper sleep I would get for some time…

Returning to the ship, we set off early in the morning. I noticed right away that things were slightly off, the water was rougher than it had been, and the skies were overcast. It looked like a storm was coming. The crew seemed to sense it too, as they worked to tie things down on the upper deck. However, we managed to travel the day with only a few slight showers before long evening had fallen. I went to bed, feeling uneasy, and my dream did nothing to help that feeling.

As I slept I found myself at a familiar camp, staring at a fire. But this dream had a very different feeling than the rest I had ever had. Something about the fire, that I had made, seemed off.
Something about the color or the way it moved. Next the fire I saw a small wooden toy boat. I looked at it but before I could pick it up I heard a strange, yet somehow familiar, voice. It said “You…” Looking down I saw Reva, my familiar. She looked up at me, quizzically, and asked “How did you get here?” I explained that I had gone to sleep on the boat and then found myself in this wood, wherever here was. Reva, just said “You… sleep” She went on to explain that I was within the dream world, and that I must have gotten there “by accident.” Upon hearing this words a million questions filled my mind, my heart raced, how had a come to such a place, even by accident? How could I leave? How could I return? Before I could ask any questions to Reva however, she lowered her head to the ground and said.
“There is a storm coming, don’t you feel it?”
I told her that I felt nothing. She gestured to the small wooden boat and commanded, “Wake up!” I grabbed the boat and the suddenly I was back in my bed, feeling sicker than ever. I looked at Gillam, fast asleep in the bunk next to me and grabbed his shoulder. I told him he needed to get up, the crew would need our help.

I rushed to the top deck and saw that the Snake Water had transformed into a raging current. The crew yelling at each other as Yahn tried to control the ship. I was shortly joined by Phaedra and Gillam. No sooner had they reached the deck that a huge waved crashed over the side of the boat. We braced as it washed over. In the waves wake were three enormous crabs. The men screamed seeing the crabs, as the scared and agitated crustaceans moved in for the attack. Gillam, Phaedra and I did our best to defend the crew. One of them managed to grab my arm, leaving a huge gash, but in the end we could kill the beasts. Unfortunately our victory was short-lived as one of the crew at the front of the boat cried out. A huge river alligator had been washed aboard. Just great.

By the time we had moved to engage the beast it already had one of the poor crew in its jaws and had battered another overboard with its tail. We fought bravely, with Gillam doing his best to taunt the beast, keeping its focus all on him. However Phaedras precise strikes on the beasts’ underbelly drew its ire. As she stabbed the beast in its lower jaw it began to twitch. Death spams. Unfortunately Phaedra did not realize the danger she was in until it was too late, as the beasts jaws snapped down on her chest. The Marian, trapped in the jaws of the beast, fell unconscious from the injuries she had sustained. Gillam and I both rushed to try and pry her out. We had barely removed her when we heard a loud crash and we heard Yahn yelling. I looked up at the front of the ship. The men that the alligator had dispatched had been serving as spotters for the captain, and without them, Yahn had little idea of where to steer the ship.
The ship lurched forward and then stopped suddenly with a loud crash, as the sound of wood breaking filled the air louder than thunder. I grabbed a hold of the railing, and braced myself. As I held on, time seemed to slow down for a moment. I felt the ambient magical energy in the air go absolutely crazy. My hair stood on end as though the air was electric. I had never felt anything quite like it. Suddenly I saw a bright golden globe fly through the air past me. I could see the silhouettes of Gillam and Phadrea inside. However, I could only catch a glimpse as the globe raced across the sky and crashed into the woods, sending trees and branches splintering in its path. I heard a loud crash, as it made contact in the forest. I didn’t know what to make of what I just saw but I didn’t have much time to consider it as I noticed the ship was quickly sinking.

Pulling myself up on to the guard railing I leapt for the nearby trees. It was close, but my grip stayed true. As I climbed into the tree I looked back at the wreck of the boat for any other survivors. I only saw one, Yahn. I was able to get a rope to him and he made it to the tree line, safe. Though clearly distraught at losing his precious ship. Having saved the captain, my thought turned to my companions. I told Yahn I would return for him shortly and then turned to make my way across the trees. Leaping from branch to branch, tree to tree, I slowly made my way toward dry land. When I finally made it, it didn’t take long to find Gillam and Phaedra, I merely had to follow the line of destruction.

When I found them, the two were both unconscious in a large crater roughly the size of the golden globe. I grabbed my friends and pulled them to higher ground. As I grabbed them I noticed the ring on Gillams finger was faintly glowing. I knew the ring held magic but never in my wildest imaginings did I think it would be that powerful. I quickly set up a bivouac and set to treating their wounds. It was a long and exhausting night, but I would not let myself rest while my companions remained in danger.

When morning came the storm had passed and both Gillam and Phaedra awoke slowly and groggily. The storm had made hunting nearly impossible but I had managed to scrounge up a few mushrooms and mixed them in the pot with my remaining rations so that they could have some semblance of a breakfast. We would need the energy. Yahn had also managed to find to our camp. Once they woke up I asked what they remembered. Phaedra remembered the alligator and Gilliam remembered everything up until the crash, he didn’t seem to recall the golden globe. Though he could see his finger was badly burned. I explained what had happened and Gilliam found it all remarkable, and slightly unbelievable. We agreed that we would have to research it later, we had much more pressing matters. We needed to find some kind of settlement, so we could properly rest and then continue on our journey. We were in a very dangerous situation. The storm and river water had soaked my bow leaving it in a less than ideal condition and Gillam and Phaedra were greatly weakened. Under normal circumstances I would be fine out in the wild. But my tools had been swept away down the river and this part of the forest seemed especially barren, I had almost no luck finding any game.

We set off up the river coast in the only direction available to us. The journey was hard and treacherous, but we managed to make our way. Game, however, remained scarce. On our second morning I lucked out and managed to catch a rabbit and some fresh water, but we needed something more substantial. On the second day we happened upon several dead bodies that had been washed up, one of them was a member of Yahn’s men. We agreed to build several cairns for the bodies, to put their souls to rest. A gesture which was appreciated by Yahn.

On the second night we were attacked by several mountain lions. It was a fierce battle, made even harder due to our exhaustion. Fortunately, Phaedra and I managed to kill one of the beasts and we scared off the other. However no one escaped the fight uninjured, least of all Yahn and Phaedra. Freshly wounded we were under more pressure than ever to escape these barren woods.
The next day as we were traveling Phaedra and I overheard some talking in the distance. As we made our way to the voices we moved up slowly and saw a small camp and two men with horses. The seemed to go by the names Thaylen and Markus. Cautious we told Gillam and Yahn to stay back while we investigated.

As we broke the tree line, we clearly startled the men. I could hardly blame them, we must have looked quite the sight: dirty, tattered clothes, and starving. We identified ourselves and explained our situation. Reacting quickly the men went to help us. The one named Markus hopped on his horse and said he would go get help and told Thaylen to help us and give us some tea. As the other man rode off, I gestured for Gillam and Yahn to join us. This seemed to startle Thaylen even more, but he once again reacted quickly grabbing more blankets. Phaedra offered everything that was given to her instantly. I was less than thrilled. The men seemed a little too helpful. It struck me as out of character for Phaedra to be so naïve. Had the forest dulled her senses that much?

Thaylen explained that he and his friend Markus were traveling through the area with a caravan and that they had just rode into this area to do some hunting ahead of their people. As he told us this story he prepared some tea, I noticed his hands were shaking ever so slightly as he prepared it. Everything about this set off alarms in my head. Something just wasn’t right here. He presented us with tea, which he said would help warm us up. Phaedra drank it eagerly, I took it and drank, though grudgingly. I hadn’t even set the cup down before I began to feel the effects of the drug. It was no ordinary tea, and I had been right to be nervous. Gillam and Yahn collapsed on the ground next to me instantly. Phaedra and I stood up, if wobbly, and reached for our weapons.

Thaylen seemed surprised that we had managed to resist his drug, if only temporarily. I shot as many arrows as I could at the man, who tried to run and hide. Though many of my shots missed, luckily one hit true. Thaylen cried out and collapsed with Phaedras knife in his belly and my arrow in his chest. His crumpled body was the last thing I saw as my vision went black.

When I woke I immediately felt the cold of iron around my neck, wrists, and ankles. I had also been stripped and thrown in some rags in even worse condition than my old clothes. As my vision slowly cleared I saw the rest of my companions chained up the same as myself. They seemed to have just woken. Along with being chained up, we were in a small prison cart with very little in the way of windows making it quite difficult to see out. Though we could see just a little.

Gillam and Yahn both looked incredibly confused at what had happened. I explained to them about our betrayal. We quickly assessed that our welcoming hosts were slavers, and we had proven to be something of a small windfall for them. Gillam seemed furious at the situation, as was I, while Yahn seemed to sink further into despair. The poor man had lost his livelihood, his crew, and now he was a slave. Phaedra on the other hand looked incredibly nervous. I notice that she had been glancing back and forth out of the window, as if confirming what she was seeing was really there. I asked her what the matter was, reminding her that if she knew something then it would be in all of our interests to tell us. She looked at Gilliam and I with nervous, almost begins eyes, and then told us her tale.

Apparently she had been working under Perrols direct command to establish a spy network within Arren, and Phaedra was set to be in command of the network. Perrol’s aim was supposedly to use criminals in this network as a way of “repurposing nefarious minds.” What was more, Phaedra had just recently carried out a task for Perrol in which she had raided a summit of criminal cartels. She said that the Wolf, Raven, and Boar cartels had all joined this meeting. The names meant nothing to me, but it was clear they were all very powerful organizations. Phaedra went on to explain that she was certain that this very slaver caravan was run by the Wolf cartel, and if their leader, the “Alpha” discovered she was here it would turn a bad situation even worse. As she finished her tale, Phaedra looked somewhat relieved to have shared the information. Keeping secrets is taxing, something I knew all too well.

I had suspected Phaedra might have been working with Perrol though I could never have imagined it to be on such an extensive level. Gilliam looked furious upon hearing that all this had happened “right under his nose.” Though I calmed him down, telling him he was in no position to arrest Phaedra and that we were companions. Yahn, just looked completely shocked, he had no idea the kinds of people he had been transporting…
Suddenly the cart door opened. Apparently our argument had made quite a ruckus. Opening the door was the other man who we had met in the woods Markus, standing next to him was a large many with many scars. The man was identified as Throm who informed us that we would do well to get used to our new position as slaves. I spit in his face and he responded with a punch, I grinned. I would be sure to make these bastards pay for enslaving a Mrissan. He laughed and said I could struggle all I wanted but it would only make things harder on myself. With that he ordered Markus to keep a watch on us and left. Soon after the cart lurched forward and the caravan was on the move.

We traveled for several days through the woods and between the mountains. Escape was fruitless but I still gave the guards trouble at every opportunity. I earned myself a few beatings, but it was no matter. I would bide my time until an opportunity presented itself. Gillam continued to curse the slavers, saying he would arrest them all. Phaedra struggled with the locks. Unfortunately without any tools she had no luck at getting out. Our situation seemed hopeless.

The next day the carvan came to stop midday, this was different from the last few days. We heard some commotion, and Markus muttered something about another caravan. Sounded like they were making a trade. The cart had been stopped for at least an hour and a half when we heard voices approaching from outside. It was the bastard Throm, he was spinning a sales pitch to the other man, about us. As I listened I grew steadily angrier. However, nothing could prepare me for what I saw when the cart door opened again.

Standing next to Throm was Peraashk – the merchant we had met in Sallen. Peraashk looked just as surprised as we did, though he quickly gestured for us to keep quiet, lest we alert Throm. Throm went on, doing his best to sell us to Peraashk. The merchant played his part well, nodding at the slavers words. He finally entered the cart, grabbed my face and looked at me. He asked if I could be a good and obedient servant. Such a question to ask, through gritted teeth I agreed. He smiled and said “very good,” and agreed to pay 3,500 gold for the purchase of Gillam, Phaedra, Yahn and I.

We moved quickly, returning to Peraashk’s caravan. As we moved however I saw a large cart in the center of the slavers camp. It was elaborately designed and brimming with loot. Likely ill-gotten gains, and the probable location of our gear. One item stood out to me though. A set of opulently colored clothes. They were strikingly similar to those worn by Lingen, the bard I had guided from Aaren to Sallen. Had he been caught as well? There was no time to think on that however as Peraashk hurriedly brought us into his tent. We had much explaining to do.

We joined up with Peraashk’s caravan and quickly explained our predicament. The man nodded and said that it would be best if we waited until we reached another village to fully discuss as there could be ears listening nearby. We agreed and headed with his caravan to a small town called Kayappa. Peraashk’s caravan was much smaller than the slavers so we were able to move much quicker.

After about three days travel we arrived in the small village. In that time Peraashk had managed to feed us, clothe us, and help us recover from our wounds. We were truly in his debt. I did notice that his muscle, Dolk, was missing. Peraashk said that he was fine, but still recovering from his wounds. He was thankful that we had helped save his life, and that was why he had felt obligated to save ours. I nodded. Rare to find a merchant with such morals.

When we arrived in Kayappa, Peraashk took us to the local tavern and secured us a private room in the back where we could figure out what we should do. We had barely gotten to discuss our plan of action when suddenly there was a loud commotion in the taverns main hall. Then without warning a familiar face stepped into our room being chased by the innkeeper. Lingen.

Though I could tell that he didn’t recognize me at all. I was hardly surprised. I also noticed that the bard was in tattered rags, much like those that we had worn. I looked at him and said “Lingen? What happened?”

He looked at me in shock and said, “Oh! A fan! You won’t believe all of the terrible luck I’ve been having. Caught by slavers, and now this fool doesn’t believe that I’m a bard simply because my instrument has been stolen! Look her old man, this fellow knows me!” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the fool. Phaedra looked like she wanted to strangle him, and Gillam and Peraashk just seemed confused. I explained to the innkeeper that Lingen was indeed a bard and that we would have words with him. He seemed disappointed but accepted my words and left us.

We spoke with the bard and apparently he had been caught by the same slavers as we had, but he had managed to escape somehow. There had been a “sneaky woman” and another that fit Throm’s description. As he told his tale something didn’t quite fit, how had this fool managed to escape them? Dumb luck? I could feel Reva tighten around my arm. This man was more than he appeared. A yet I did not sense him as a threat, simply a very talented man.

After long deliberation we decided that we would raid the slavers caravan to retrieve our goods, with Lingen. Peraashk agreed to fund our operation under two circumstances. That we completely cover ourselves, and that if we are seen we are sure they do not recognize us and if they do we are to kill them. I nodded and silently hoped that Throm happened to spot us so that I could put an arrow between his smug eyes. Gillam and Phaedra were also onboard with the plan, though clearly less than thrilled about our fourth wheel. But without Lingen’s expertise in applying a disguise we would be hard pressed to mask ourselves. With a plan in place we set out the following day.

I was able to track the slavers without much difficulty. Figuring that they might also be en route to Trikala we found an excellent spot to ambush them. A clearing on the side of the road that appeared to have seen use for countless caravans following the path to and from Trikala.

We scouted out the area and set up a plan to ambush in the night, taking out the guards quickly and quietly. The operation proved quite successful over all, though Throm never showed his face to my great disappointment. Phaedra proved several times just how deadly she could be with her dueling sword as she killed several guards with terrifying efficiency. During our ambush however, Lingen also showed that he indeed was more than he first appeared to be.

At one point two guards approached our hiding position at the same time. We knew we couldn’t dispatch them both before the other would have a chance to cry out and alert the rest of the men. As they drew closer I looked at Phaedra, panicked, unsure of what to do. When suddenly Lingen stepped out of the woods, waved at the men and started to sing a quiet lullaby. I wanted to strangle the bard right then, when I noticed that the men were listening, a little too intently to Lingen’s song. He had them hypnotized, or enchanted. I could sense magic, real magic, behind his voice. He truly was not an ordinary bard. However this distraction was all we needed to finish off the men who stood their dumbstruck.

After that, we managed to sneak into the camp, dodging patrols, and sleeping guardsmen and managed to reach the loot cart in the center of the camp. Phaedra’s deft fingers made quick work of the locks and Gillams strong back managed to carry the carts contents almost single handedly. As we left we thought about trying to steal a few horses to ease our escape. I would have refused to submit myself and ride one of the beasts. Though ultimately that was no problem at all as the horses proved too restless and startled to ride. Horseless, but with our gear intact we made our escape.

We decided to stick to the back trails and hills as we worked towards the great Marian city of Tikala, hoping to avoid detection. After a few days we came to a great clearing, and saw the mass of Trikala before us. Pheadra seemed as if she might jump for joy upon seeing the alabaster stone walls of a Marin city. I became very nervous, especially upon seeing a large crowd outside the city gates. Aaren was already too big of a city for me to take, and this mass of stone before us was at least three times its size. I felt sick. To make matters worse, we and told Peraashk that we would rendezvous with him at Trikala. Seeing the massive size of the city and the huge number of people I had no idea how we were going to find him…

Part 6 - Gillam's PoV
Sorry sir, you're Bard

Just a day or so had passed since Peraashk had saved them from slavery. They had been traveling non-stop with his caravan – moving through the mountains, trying to keep ahead of the circus caravan of Throm.

Now they were in a tavern in a town called Kayappa. This town was in the foothills on the Laegen Mar side of the border and Gillam realized that this was the first time in his life he had ever been to one of the other countries in the Arian alliance. This was a different land, with different customs and rules. Already it felt strange: the beer here tasty watery, they ate fish with rice instead of normal potatoes. It didn’t help his mood that he was in borrowed clothing, without his trusty armor and badge, and Phaedra, the suspicious little rogue, was looking happier each kilometer closer they got to Trikala. They were getting deeper and deeper into her world now – leaving his – and he didn’t have his sword…

Peraashk had rented a small private room in the back of the tavern for them to replenish and discuss. The consensus was to get revenge on Throm and his men and to get Peraashk’s money back, but the method to do so was the item of contention. Peraashk was quite adamant that any action they took would not be traced back to him, so that clearly ruled out Gillam’s idea of storming in blades swinging. It had to be done stealthily. Gillam didn’t like that at all – sneaking and spying were not his thing. Though, if it was the only way to retrieve his stuff he could only go along with it.

But how could this be done? Just as Phaedra and Erol shared ideas, a great commotion sounded on the other side of the door: the taverns main room. A clatter of stools, an angry booming voice and a different timid voice urgently begging to be let off. Where there was commotion, there was a crime, and he was still a watchman even if he was a long way from home. Gillam hurried to the door, but just as his hand went to the handle, the door burst off its hinges and a body flew through. The bartender stomped in after, wielding a rolling pin, raging about getting paid, and it was quite tough for Gillam to hold him back.

The small, lithe man picked himself and Erol cried out upon seeing his face, “You!” The man, already shaken from being thrown through a door, looked at Erol startled. Then he smiled, “Oh, a fan!” Erol shook his head, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

When the bartender was gone, Erol explained how he had once had a troublesome time guiding a bard to Sallen, and that untrustworthy man was here – Lingen. It was clear this bard was on hard times – he didn’t have his instrument for starters, and Erol remembered him wearing much more bright and gaudy clothing the last time they had met. Lingen told them he had been captured by a band of men who took his possession and enslaved him, much the same as what happened to Gillam and the others. He told them he had escaped thanks to some astonishing good luck, with the wagon toppling over and the commotion allowing him to get away. No one believed him.

The man was clearly skilled however, as Erol’s story testified. He had quite the knack for disguises and this ability fitted perfectly into Peraashk’s plan. If they could attack the caravan in disguise, they could retrieve their possessions and gold and it could not be linked back to him. The plan was set and Peraashk knew just where to do it.

The next day, they found themselves in a clearing, deep in the forest, alongside the road to Trikala. Peraashk’s caravan had dropped the four of them off and continued on with good wishes and hopes to meet again in the city. The clearing was surrounded on each side by hills, apart from a small cutting that lead to a creek. The expectation was that Throm’s caravan would follow some time later and make a stop here, and that would be when they strike.

They scouted the area for the rest of the day. In the end choosing to lie in ambush in the trees by the creek ready for any man that went to get water, communicating with Erol’s strange long-distance whispering ability.

The caravan arrived, circling around the central firepit, and Erol scanned it with his Mrissan eyes – fourteen men, including the big guy, Paet, their guard, Marcus, and a vile woman that Lingen had met, but no Throm. That didn’t matter because the cart that contained their stuff was there, with Lingen’s flashy clothing hanging off the back.

But no man came to the creek alone, and the four of them waited until night fell. The band were put on watch duty in groups of five – two by the road, two around the back, and one by the fire.

After an hour or so passed, one man decided to make a call of nature in the woods. He was easy pickings for Phaedra and Erol and his friend that went to look for him suffered a similar fate. With the back of the camp clear and the man by the fire asleep, it was easy for all four of them to sneak to the treasure cart. Phaedra smoothly broke the lock and grabbed their gear. They hurried back to the trees arms full.

Gillam was glad to back in his armor – not good for sneaking, but ready for a fight. The watch changed and the men were too dumb to notice that anything was amiss. Again, the men round the back went off for a wander, this time to the creek, presenting another golden opportunity. All of them sneaked after the men, but Gillam slipped a little down the hillside. The men turned and for a second all seemed lost, but then Lingen approached them, face on, casually, and started playing his lute. Instantly, the mens’ attention was on him and they could not break away. Lingen smiled at Phaedra as she stepped up from behind. The men didn’t even glance behind them. It was all too easy for her to plunge her swords in, and Erol and Gillam both attacked too with no resistance. The men were dead in moments.

Phaedra was able to sneak back to the cart and get the gold and now it was time to be making tracks. Gillam went to the horses to attempt to use his odd affinity with animals to untie a few. However, the horses were frightened and whinnied as he approached, alerting two men awake. As Gillam fled, they came out to see the trouble and followed him into the trees. That’s when Phaedra planned to strike, but she clumsily tripped on a root. The men turned, but a perfectly timed owl’s hooting distracted them – so much so that they were simple targets. It was Lingen’s doing.

The next day, once they were satisfied they had walked far enough off the road to not be followed and made camp, they quizzed Lingen about his odd techniques, suspecting the lute had some magical quality. However, Erol’s examination found nothing odd with it and Lingen seemed to genuinely believe that it was normal for his audiences to be so enraptured, despite the music he was playing being so gratingly awful to Gillam’s ears.

It was another question yet to be answered, and they still had a good days walk to Trikala ahead of them.


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