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Journals for Our 5E Adventures
Solare Nights 7
From Clues to Kidnappers
Erath, Watersday Melwid 16, CY1031

I was in a daze for many hours.  My mind buzzed with uncanny thoughts such as: I should go offer my neck to this forlorn father so Rodor would be spared his wrath, or, I should turn myself into the city guard for justice and clear Riardon of these dark charges.  Eventually, I think Wolf mentioned something about investigation, and I realized that instead of assuming I was guilty I should find out what the watch and Wizard’s Peak knew of the theater attack.  If it was proven that someone else attacked the crowd and stage then I would know that blood was on my hands, but if the clues pointed the right way my innocence would be announced.  Thinking of this course of action helped me focus on the Skulkers and their threat to our landlord.

My friends have gathered me into their confidence, and they have pointed out a true thing.  My journals suck.  Even though it was stated to me in such language, Leiya Tevorova (who does not use words from the vulgar vulgate) nodded with fervent agreement.  My words were meant to seal us into the pages of history, and after reviewing a few history books, I realized that my attempt has failed miserably.  My words were without art, they lacked appeal, and they have left you readers feeling barren and cheated.

Recently, I underwent training where I was taught that the letters of most all languages are naught but a road map for combat.  Each word is, or can be either the flourish and flow of a blade in action or the actual footsteps one uses to flow through their attacks and defenses.  I was tasked with taking up the calligrapher’s pen and learning how to treat each letter of each language I know as a lesson in the fighting arts.  Maybe I can take these lessons and apply them to the telling of our tale.  So I try anew to inform and amaze you with the dangers we face….

Leiya watched her new friends all take a turn for the dramatic.  Blaylocke Anvilarm, whose voice always seemed to carry, drowned out the morning birdsong coming in from the open window.

“An old friend of mine is in trouble and was asking if I could help him out,” the Dwarf intoned.  She just looked in her journal wishing that some of these new friends had been women, the symbol the Sister of Melwin had drawn in her book burned her with urgency.  Yet Leiya could tell Blaylocke was feeling for his friend.  “Our landlord, Borman, the owner of the Rusty Bedpan here rousted a drunk a few weeks back.  Turns out the man was in with a group of ne’er-do-wells that call themselves the Skulkers. They put a threat out on Borman’s head, and I was wondering if you lot would help me figure out how to get these cutthroats to back down?”

This is important work, my Great Lady would probably approve of this, she thought.  From his seat on his rented bed, Riardon, the one who was sometimes called Rodor, scratched around the neck of his mouse Giz with a single finger.  The rodent huddled in the Elven man’s other hand with it’s eyes closed in sheer pleasure.

“If we could find out who leads these Skulkers, then we may be able to make or force some sort of agreement with them.”  Riardon did not look up from his fluffed up mouse as he spoke.

Near him, the strange foreign man Enkili shocked her with his words.

“If we were in Mandagar, we would take the heads of several of them and put them up in display.  That usually makes our enemies fall back from the giving of threats.”  Although the Mandagar Human smiled with mischief, she was not entirely certain that Enkili was making a morbid joke or not.  His fierce face often made Leiya think of the horrible stories she had heard about the backwards cultures of the far south.

“Tha does nae sound practical, as they are fifteen an outnumber us.”  Jolrael intoned, giving the big swordsman an eye that questioned his sanity.  Offering Giz some little dainty from one of his pockets, the little mouse took its prize and scuttled into an inner pocket of the Elf man’s worn jacket.

Repositioning himself on his bed made Riardon notice a note that had been tucked under his pillow.  Glancing up and finding she was the only one watching him, Rodor gave her a disarming smile before he opened the folded paper and began to read.

“We should find out if these Skulkers have a reputation among the guards, we may want to temper our response to the level of danger these ruffians pose to the community.”  Wolf looked up to scowl around the room.  The former guard often did not seem to realize that he seemed to be judging people as he glanced overlong at them.

Enkili nodded, then spoke again.  “In the wastes it is always good to learn what you can about your enemies before you draw steel upon them.  We need to find out what we can about these Skulkers.”  His tapped “R’s” and thick dentated “T’s” and “Th’s” almost made it hard to understand his trade tongue, the only language they all shared in common.  “I received word from one of Huxeley’s people last night.  I was told that there is a scrying device in Darsta that may lead me to the Sainted Sword of my family.  Would any of you be interested in helping me find this mysterious city?”

“We hae to help Borman First, Enkili,” Jolly pointed out far too quickly.  Though he looked like the idea of killing was always on his mind, the desert man nodded and blinked.

“But of course.  We help our landlord first.”

As the others fell back into debating how best to deal with the gangsters, Leiya watched Riardon hand Enkili the note he had found.  She looked back down at the symbol inscribed in her book.  A pair of wings bound in chains met her gaze, seeming to blaze with an imperative beyond the ink used to form the picture.  The words of the Melwenite sister also burned Leiya making her look up and open her mouth, she would need these men to help her-  Before the words could even begin to pass Leiya Tevorova’s lips Enkili sat down hard, his face turning pale with a hint of green.

“Oh no, this is what I feared the most.  I thought the Tiefling was guilty because he ran, it wasn’t until later that I realized I too would have tried to defend myself if I was innocent and being chased by strangers.”

Riardon flinched from his bedside seat, he also rolled his eyes as if he could not believe his larger friends histrionics.
“He almost gutted you, and that was reason enough for you to have killed him.”  Almost speaking over the Shandeeran, this time she spoke, then immediately wondered if it were appropriate for her to do so.  Sometimes assertiveness was viewed as a mortal flaw in the teachings of the goddess, especially in the old tales she had learned in Onastia.

“What is it, what is wrong?”  Enkili had always addressed her with politeness, though he had called her ‘lady sad eyes’ once.  He had been the only one of her new companions to see the loss that still cored her out and left her hollow.  An emptiness she could not shake.

The Mandagan held up the note to the window’s light and read.

“’I know you now, murderer’s, and I will have my revenge.  My son only wanted to see the play,’” Enkili paused to swallow, his eyes stricken.  “I only chased the Tiefling because he ran.  I never saw him attack the play….  I thought he was guilty because he ran.  I did not think he may have just been a frightened kid from a race of people who always bear the brunt of blame and accusation.  Now my fears are reflected back upon me.”  She sat back and felt herself frown, have I accidentally fallen in with bad men?  Is the goddess testing my faith by making me doubt my course of action yet again?

Rodor shook his head and rolled his eyes again.

“So are you going to turn yourself in and allow yourself to be hung?” he asked asked Enkili.  At first the Mandagan seemed to be pondering that exact course of action, then he shook his head slowly.

“I would see if I were truly guilty first, then be hung.”  The big man’s grin was not as certain this time, nor as full of playfulness.  “I suppose we could check to see what the investigation has turned up, Riardon, the guard may be able to tell us if the killing spell came from that roof, or if anyone else saw more than we had.  Maybe Wizard’s Peak has investigated these things, too.”

Smirking slightly, Riardon shook his head.

“I don’t do well around the guards, and the guards don’t do well around me.  How about you and Wolf go check that out.  I’ve got some things I want to look into… I suppose I could make a side trip and question that Wellborne Huxely fellow.”  Finding her nerve again, and feeling a flash of anger at the room in general (because she felt the necessity of being assertive), Leiya blurted out her mission.

“There is districts in this city where many children and young people have disappeared.  Children go missing and this symbol crops up within the neighborhoods where these offenses are happening.  I think we need to find out who would do such malicious things?”

Jolrael took her journal book and studied the symbol for a long moment, then he handed the book off to Blaylocke.

“I hae ne’er seen such a thing.”  With furrowed brows, the Dwarven bard passed the picture to Wolf, who passed it to Rodor, then to Enkili at the end of the chain.

“This symbol may be from a rare religion, but I have never seen such a thing in my studies,” she offered as Enkili rose and walked her book back to her.

“That symbology seems full of meaning, but I do not know it nor it's meaning,” the dark fighting man admitted with a thoughtful look, his kinky black hair needed to be bound back as the mass seemed to be bushing out in its own slow accord...

When Leiya had envisioned presenting her quest to this group she had feared that she would be dismissed.  A lowly acolyte, even one dedicated to a prominent goddess such as Melwen was, never seemed given the time of day by even her social peers in other fields.  These men, fractious though they were, were already placing the missing children as the task they would follow after helping Borman, the owner of this...quaint little inn; Enkili's quest for Darsta was secondary even to the swordsman.

“I was wonderin’ if I could help you out with what you’re doing, Riardon?” Jolly queried.  Rodor’s pleasant mask did not break, but she imagined a suspicious stiffness affected the Shandeeran’s demeanor for a moment.

“I am perfectly capable of carrying out my investigations without assistance,”  Riardon answered, cutting his eyes away from the sorcerer.  There was a dismissive quality in the Elven man’s tone, but there was also a subtle hint of threat that almost seemed as though it were not truly there.  In her youth she had seen an actor playing a Drow Elf who used such a slight inflection and facial tick to pull off a stunning moment of veiled malice in a play.  This was going on in real life, this very moment in her life.

Jolrael did not miss a beat, the former sailor looked her way with a grin.  The man did not act as though he had been threatened moments ago.

“How abou’ I visit the docks ta see about thae symbol, lass?”  She shrugged, then realized how noncommittal that gesture had been.  Leiya put some emphasis in her nod and tried to send a ‘thank you’ with her eyes.  His grin seemed to say he had received her intent the second time around.

Journeying to the site of the last abduction made her ponder hiring a coach.  This of course was not the sort of thoughts Leiya expected from herself, and this made her feel guilty again for falling in with these foreigners and their violent form of problem solving.  She thought about how much her frugal ascetic life felt tossed and tumbled now, how she now doubted if she were serving as a proper example for the goddess to Erath.  This made her thoughts turn to quitting the work she was now doing with these strange men and returning to the simple life of contemplation she was used to….  Yet….  Yet the thought of going back to her simple cell in the monastery, returning to reading about life, felt… hollow.  What was happening to her, Leiya was used to doubts, especially now that she was a widow, but never had she doubted in such a manner.

Prayer helped Leiya remember that sometimes Melwen required her followers to get out and do the hard work while getting their hands dirty.  That idea seemed to sink in when she came across the first site where children had gone missing.  Most of the people she met knew little to nothing, some folks knew naught but rumors, an alarming few knew of the symbol of chained wings.  Like herself these people had no clue who or what the symbol belonged too.  Her legs were aching by the time she reached the second neighborhood, but that pain and all her doubts evaporated when she ran into the mother of a missing little girl.  Leiya felt something hot and angry set up behind her eyes when she listened to the woman’s horror at finding her little girl gone, and how sleep has become rare and elusive behind the frantic fear the woman now felt all the time.

Leiya did not feel her legs ache anymore while moving on to the third district in her quest.  As earlier most people passed her by while she asked her questions, the few who stopped had no new information for her.  This was despite the fact that everyone in the neighborhood knew of the abductions.

“Hello, have you seen this sign before, these chained wings?” she asked a passing man, who rolled his shoulder as though shrugging away from the touch of a leper.  That man hustled away without once meeting her eyes.

“What?  What’s that symbol?” a weak raspy voice sounded behind her.  Leiya turned and fully looked upon a woman in rags.

This woman had so much dirt caking her person that the priestess could not tell if she were talking to a crone or a maiden, even the clothing was so worn and faded that they could not speak of a recent era.  On a whim Leiya turned her open book to the homeless woman to show her the wings and their binding chains.  Shock filled the derelicts eyes, too many teeth were missing from the gaping mouth.

“Tha- that’s the sign of the Slave Lords of Aeril, that is,” Leiya was told from the wide eyed wreck of a Human.  The homeless woman stood up then and looked ready to walk away.  Leiya lurched to prevent this source of information from going.

Startled, the wretch turned back because of Leiya’s grasp.

“Please, what do you know of these… Slave Lords?”

“The Slave Lords of Aerill are all over the continent.  They come into a region and make folks vanish, but they leave these papers and parchments with their symbol all over.  They want people to fear them… and wise folks do,” the filthy woman whispered, shrugging away.  She did not try to hide the terror in her orbs as she glanced around to see if anyone was taking an interest in their exchange.  Leiya startled herself with her own boldness as she stopped the woman yet again.  This time she pressed coins into the poor woman’s paws.

She found her hand turned over and less than clean lips were pressed onto the back of her hand.

“Thank you, Great Mother, thank you.”  That thing in the homeless woman’s eyes, that gratitude and wonder….  Leiya felt some of her earlier doubts fall away because of what she read in those faded eyes.  Her gesture, little though it was, would not have been possible if she had not acquired that money while adventuring with her new friends.  A difference had been made.

Somewhere a ships bell was dinging away at a steady rhythm.  A ship had slipped its moorings and was telling everyone that they were pulling away from the piers and seeking the deeper channels of the river.  Dock hands and stevedores conversed and argued in their scores, and men with sacks or barrels on their backs moved onto or off of ships.  Not the big ships of the sea, where the water smelled of brine, but the smaller river ships that ran from this inland city to the vast eastern ocean.  Jolrael Symara was missing that brine scent and the cries of the gulls, but deeply glad of all the other familiar sights, scents, and sounds provided by Solare’s dockyards.

When I work the river boats, I miss the sea.  When I work at sea, I miss the river.  I wish my feet were on a storm tossed ship, Jolrael thought as he strolled onto the docks.  If slavers are working this area, the best way to move people would be by ship… or wagons.  Someone knows something and I bet they’ll give themselves away when I ask ‘em about this emblem.  Feeling bold with his plan the former sailor, stopped and described the symbol to a dockworker who was bent over trying to catch her wind.  She glared at him as she denied ever seeing such a thing, then added a suggestion on what he should do to himself.
He asked a Half Orc painting a bowsprit a few steps away to no avail.

“Would ya ken the countries thae still deal in slaves?”  That question did stimulate the painter into speech, they discussed the various forms of slavery that still remained within the northern kingdoms of Erath, and they both agreed that Bhel would be the kingdom most likely to still have an active slave trade, while Angiertha still had thralldom.  After thanking the sailor for his time, Jolrael spent many more hours wishing he could have equally productive conversations with some of the other being walking the piers.  There were many moments where the sailor-turned-sorcerer pondered going to one of the many dockside taverns he spotted.

Tempting as the thought of washing his disappointment away with some ale was, the idea of returning to the Rusty Bedpan without news seemed to scald his pride.  If there was a slave trade, it had to use ships as the most efficient way to move bodies.  A ship could haul in one hold what it took scores of wagons to carry.  A stout older Human sailor with faded stripped pantaloons and a red bandanna started to pass Jolrael carrying a coil of medium girth hempen rope.  The type of rope usually used to tie down an emergency boat or an average size river anchor.

“Hey, ya ken a symbol o’ wings bound in chains, mate?” he asked for the billionth time.

Jolly was almost caught off guard with the reaction his question garnered.  The sailor’s face had that momentary freeze, his body a quick tautening of musculature, before the man blinked away his guilty surprise.

“Never heard of that shite.  How about you get the fuck outta my way?” the man said before brushing passed Jolrael.  That sailor never turned back to give him the eye again, which would have been more revealing of a guilty conscious.  Jolrael continued to amble down the row of boats he was currently on, but he made sure that he did not lose track of this sailor.  From the corner of his eye he watched the sailor with faded black and white stripped pants stop at the gangplank of a ship and exchange words with the man standing there.  After their exchange, stripped pants walked aboard that ship. The Torrent was painted in dull yellow midway up the stern castle and presumably in bolder type across the aft.

Faces from The Torrent began to peep at odd moments Jolly’s way.  Okay, I’ve just guaranteed the fact that I’ll be followed home, he smiled to himself.  This ought to put a smile on Miss Tevorova’s fancy mug. We should be able to nab whoever follows me and get some answers out o’ them.  Whistling a jaunty tune he began to aim his steps back to his place at the Rusty Bedpan.  I’m going to get back in time to hear Blaylock start his set tonight.  Maybe I should ask if I can accompany him through a song or two?

“It would be best if you did not remind these guys that you were the one who ran down the Tiefling who attacked the play,” Wolf advised.  Enkili cocked his head with the obvious question on display.

“Why is that?”  The ex-guard smiled the briefest of smiles.

“They would find it suspicious.  You would place yourself well within their list of potential criminals by showing too much interest in this case, especially because you already took a sword to the only suspect they had.”

Enkili felt himself blinking at the pointed look the former guard was giving him, yet he gave Wolf a nod to show that he would do as requested.  His fellow fighting man pointed them down a short alley and when they came out on another side street, Wolf pointed at a building at the end of the block.  It was a station house for Solare’s watch, the nearest guard station to the Rusty Bedpan.  How is it that this northerner knew where this place was? Enkili Harbhamit Pesar Al Madii asked himself.  Wolf is as new to this city as I am.  However the northerner had done it, they were at their destination now.  On entering the building Enkili began trying to organize the questions he had, he ignored the words Wolf used to pass the guard at the desk.  After a short wait, and two more attempts by the guards to oust them, Wolf got them a face to face with the Lieutenant in charge of this station house.  Enkili almost felt panic when they got around to why he and Wolf were there.

“You have some questions for us?” the Lieutenant asked as he cut his gaze over to bore in at Enkili.  I don’t have an order established for the queries I have nor a complete list!

“I was wondering if you know of a group of criminals who call themselves the Skulkers?”  Enkili had to repeat himself due to his Mandagar accent, but when the officer understood the question a sour twist came across the man’s lips.

“Oh, the Skulkers.  They’ a bunch of petty hoodlums trying to make it big in Solare.  A bunch of kids that brag about how bad they are, but their crimes are so petty that we can’t bother with ‘em.” 

Waving his hand dismissively, the Lieutenant still looked like his kahve had been flavored with urine.

“Where do these Skulkers base themselves?  Where do they operate, and do you know who leads them?”  Enkili could see that the guardsman wanted to ask why he was curious about these criminals, but the man refrained from indulging his own curiosity.  Was this from a fear of additional paperwork?

“We don’t know who leads them ‘cause there ain’t no criminal mastermind in the lot.  I can tell you that they operate out of Suther’s Alley.  That is where they’re seen by most folks anyway.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Enkili pondered for a moment then asked his next question.

“I was wondering if there has been any more information turned up about that theater attack twelve days ago?  Have you or Wizard’s Peak unearthed any clues?”  This time Enkili felt his eyes widen when the officer waved dismissively with his off hand.

“It was a Tiefling that did it.  Someone from the audience chased it down and saved us the coin from having to hang the piece of shit.”

This is not good, Makhim judge me, I thought this would be how I proved my innocence from murder!  Keeping surprise and dismay off his face was hard.
“Has any survivors verified that this Tiefling actually attacked the theater?”  This next answer was just as appalling as the first.

“Listen, Mister Al Madii, this was an open and shut case.  It was the Tiefling.  A lot of people saw it running from the scene of it's crime.  Killing it was a very good start in ridding us all of a big Tiefling problem.”  Feeling his brows draw down he gave the Lieutenant a hard stare.

“Do you know who this Tiefling was, have you questioned his family?”

Emphasizing the Tieflings gender seemed lost of the Guard leader.  Sighing heavily the officer pulled a file out of his desk.  He only perused the front page for a moment.

“The Tiefling was named Baredel Mourgan.  Son of Ethorm Mourgan, disgraced high-born merchant from this city.”  Enkili had never heard someone emphasize that word in that way before, but it allowed him to read the Lieutenant’s meaning.  A new way to fall from favor had been invented five years ago during the great revelation… the day that Tiefling’s and Aasimar had been revealed by the gods.  The Mourgan’s had lost their lavish life the day it had been shown that an ancestor of theirs had extraplanar origins.

Feeling worse than how he had started his day, the Al Madii soldier kept his face neutral.

“Lieutenant, could you tell me where I can find Baredel’s family?”  Looking vexed for the first time, the officer let his lip show disdain.

“I just told you that they were disgraced didn’t I?  They don’t have a home no more.  They plague the gutters of the city now.”  Rage flashed through Enkili for a moment, but he held himself in check by remembering his captivity among the Efrit.  Following his anger had seen him beaten almost to death back then.  Now he used the memory to equalize his emotions the way a good soldier or good officer had to.

Leaning over the desk and pinning the guard officer with his hardest look, Enkili used his skills at intimidation to address the man.
“I am an envoy from Al Madii, the brightest jewel of all Mandagar, Lieutenant.  I was at that theater and was nearly slain.  How do you know this Tiefling was not part of a broader conspiracy.  Most of the audience who was killed came from the more affluent members of your citizenry, Lieutenant, will they not wish to know why they had been attacked?  Will they not want to know that everything that can be done, is being done?  In my city I would have you hung for your dereliction of duty since you have let a trail of evidence grow cold because you assumed something that may not be true.  If I were you I would remind your superiors that there are many more questions you all should be asking.”

At first the Lieutenant looked as though his ire was rising, but Enkili’s onslaught of words steamrolled on.  The man turned paler at each truth the dark foreigner made manifest.  At Enkili’s side, Wolf raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips until after the tirade was over.  His nod reassured the Mandagan that he had not pushed too far out of bounds.

“Uh…,” the Lieutenant strove for some form of eloquence but had been unseated too thoroughly.  “I guess you are right Mister- uh-  Mister Enkili.  I think we will have to look into this further.”  Please do!  By the gods, I need to know whether I am guilty of murder or not.

Deft hands flashed over the head of the drum, thumb sides striking, fingertips tapping, fingers dragging and smacking, and on their turn, his palms muffling and banging, Blaylock ran through intricate drum scales to limber up both his hands and his instrument.  In his head he organized the sets of songs he wanted to play this night.  Almost as automatic as a nervous tick, his hands roamed the surface of his drum wring forth beats that normally required two drummers to produce.  Pausing at the door to his room, the lovely Leiya from Onastia paused and peered in.  For a moment it seemed as though she wanted to unburden herself of something, as though they had not agreed to share their days work with each other after his evening set here at the Rusty Bedpan.

Nodding to the Dwarven man instead, the tall woman passed on into the inn’s common room.  Blaylocke Anvilarm reviewed what he had done this day and felt a wee bit of guilt.  He had followed Riardon around thinking they were going to ask about the Skulkers who were after his friend Borman, or that chained wing symbol their priestess was curious about.  Most of the day, the Elf had made him wait at the mouth’s of alley’s or outside of taverns and houses of ill repute.  These mystery tasks of the shabbily dressed Rodor remained unanswered questions to Blaylocke as the day had progressed; each of his queries had met a raised
eyebrow and a tight shut mouth.  The only time the bard had felt part of the investigation was when they stopped at the school where Wellborne Huxleigh resided.
There they had asked if Wizard’s Peak had investigated the magical attack on the theater.  A representative of Huxleigh’s informed them that such an investigation was not within their jurisdiction.  Wizard’s Peak would be all too happy to help, but that help had to be requested by the mayor or the king first.  So he had parted from Riardon’s side and returned empty handed to the inn.  He did not want to report that he had no report, after all, these people were going to help him help Borman with the Skulkers.  His hands beat out an old Elven tarantella while Blaylocke’s mind raced elsewhere, it was the smell of cabbage stew cooking that broke him out of his reveries and reminded him that his show was fast approaching.

This was the hour where he would have to “set his stage”, so to speak.  While the stew was stewing, he had to perch himself up on a stool with a beer and tap out a montage of drum music to draw in the evening crowd.  Many of the inn’s regulars greeted Blaylocke by name, trying to make early requests before his set was supposed to start.  Wolf joined Leiya at the corner table she had scouted out almost an hour earlier, she had a steaming cup of tea at her elbow as the two of them observed the people drifting into the Rusty Bedpan.

A few minutes later Enkili, followed by Riardon entered the common room from the suites of rooms in back.  The desert man smiled and nodded at Blaylocke in passing, but it was evident the Mandagan was agitated.  Rodor’s smile and nod was much friendlier than any other expression the damn Elf had offered him through their day together. after a brief exchange with Wolf and Leiya, Enkili turned and marched back down the hall where their rooms were, his agitation now fully revealed.  Just by craning his head a little, Blaylocke watched the dark fighting man exit through the back door rather than go to his room.  For a moment he worried about Enkili, then remembered how the Human and Riardon had slain that cultist fighter that had almost killed them all down in the Catacombs of Valgen.
Those memories were almost too fresh, even though their group had surfaced from the catacomb’s victorious.  Death had been that close, and being struck down in a single blow still haunted him.  That remembered fear almost manifested as tension in his hands, so Blaylocke felt a little resentment when Borman motioned to him from the bar.  The hired help and Borman’s teen daughter were already shuttling out bowls of stew or platters of bread and cheese and taking orders.  It was time for his music to begin!  And that memory of close death flooded out in rythmic beats as firm as all life!  Fear?  Joy?  Doubt?  Confidence?  These were fuel for the music and he was ready to tap and beat out staccato pulses that motivated forges and made feet dance!

I chewed out that lieutenant of the guard as if he were but a mere recruit, but I did not do so for the right reasons.  I reacted with wrath and fear because I… because I expected to be exonerated of the guilt I feel for killing that Tiefling man, Baredel Maurgan.  I want to feel innocent of murder because….  Enkili knew the error of his expectations immediately.  Only a Harbhamit that was pure would be worthy of finding the Sainted Sword, and charging after Baredel without proof showed that just from impetuosity alone he was not worthy.

Enkili paced to the end of the Inn then back again trying to burn off the fear energy in him.  He paused near the mouth of the alley watching men and women bend their steps for the front door of the Rusty Bedpan.  The Dwarf had been beating out some impressive sounds since his show had started, and his voice was not half bad… except he played northern music and sang northern songs.  There was no call to the sighing wind in either voice or drum and that made the music feel off to Enkili.  He turned back and began pacing to the back corner of the inn, alone with his thoughts in the alley.

Where the light from a Rusty Bedpan window ended in shadow two glowing points caught the desert man’s attention.  A pair of eyes burning an orange red, like fire, stared at him at the same height as himself.  Those eyes did not waver, nor did they blink.  Grasping the hilt of Dandân Va Panje slanted across his shoulder, Enkili did blink, and in that fraction of a second the eyes vanished.  He shrugged out of the swords harness to hold the sheath in his left while his right hand was ready to pull the Mandagan Great sword forth, and he strode to the point in the alley where he thought the owner of those eyes might have stood.  There was no one there.

That, more than the glowing eyes themselves, made Enkili’s kinky hair stand at the nape of his neck.  The man from Al Madii backed up until he saw the inn’s back door from the periphery of his eyes.  Barging through that door, he halted long enough to secure it then swing his sword back into place across his back.  A momentary frown crossed Blaylocke’s face when he read Enkili’s expression, but did not let that inform his playing.

Riardon was wedged into the back corner of the table talking to Giz who perched in the Elf’s bowled hands.  Wolf was busy reading the room and did not acknowledge Enkili joining them.  Jolly was swinging a mug of ale in time to the music and seemed intent on both Blaylocke and a pair of dancers stomping between tables at the center of the common room.  Only Leiya caught Enkili’s ghastly expression.

“What is it, Enkili, what is wrong?” she asked turning in her seat to center upon him; all the others caught onto the alarm in the priestess’ voice.  Enkili sat near Jolrael for a moment, but immediately did not like the fact that his back was to the rest of the room.

“I saw something out back…,” he started before trailing off to gather his wits a little more.  Agitation pulled him out of the less than perfectly placed seat and he half leaned on the table so that everyone could hear him.  “I saw a pair of red eyes in the alley, on a height with my own.  No one was there when I moved up close”

Leiya’s eyes expanded appreciatively, Wolf frowned with what seemed skepticism, Jolrael looked around at everyone else as though he were seeking clues on how he should react.  Rodor raised an eyebrow, but did not take his gaze off Giz.

“I would bet that was an agent sent by the dead Tiefling’s father.”  Alarm had been spreading across the Onastian woman’s features, until Riardon calmly intoned his opinion.  Enkili fond himself considering this thought and found no flaws (it was not until later that he considered that it might have also been an agent sent to retrieve the map to Darsta, those cultists were already steeped in dark magic as indicated by all the evidence they had uncovered in Valgren’s Graveyard).
Much calmed now, Leiya made sure to catch the eye of each man at the table before she spoke.

“I too have much to say, but we need to wait until Master Anvilarm joins us.  There should be no need in repeating ourselves.”  Enkili nodded as he pulled around to the only empty seat at their table that still had its back to a wall.  Gaining that seat next to Leiya seemed to spark the innkeeper’s daughter to come for their order.  Cabbage stew or a bread and cheese platter were the only offerings of food the Rusty Bedpan offered this night, though the selection of beverages only lacked kahve, a ground bean drink from Enkili’s homeland.

The teen girl blushed mightily when it came time for her to take Riardon’s order, she seemed greatly delighted that the Elven man stopped paying attention to his rodent long enough to order some cabbage stew.  That eye contact seemed to feed the girls exotic fantasy, but Riardon was an Elf and Elves seemed built to feed people's fantasies.  All at the table seemed surprised when Enkili asked if they had partridge pie.  Borman’s daughter’s face fell into a suspicious frown; she had dealt with difficult customers before.  She did make it quite clear that the bread and cheese platter was the only thing they were serving other than the stew.  Bowing to the inevitable, Enkili went with the platter and a mug of tea.

Blaylocke had played a tune that had left the crowd cold a few minutes back, but the one he played while his friends placed their orders made up for it as attested by the applause.  Bounding out of his seat, Jolly pulled forth some sort of contraption and walked over to the Dwarf.  Enkili realized that the sorcerer had a musical instrument in hand as the Human engaged the bard in a quick conversation.  With a sweep of his hand, Blaylocke seemed to accept the accompaniment Jolrael was offering.  Together they launched into a song that was much better than the fanciful song Enkili had heard earlier; that had been a bunch of nonsense about a priest of the sun who was born over and over again because of some cosmic curse.

This last song, however was much more believable and brought the house roaring in acclaim as the last note faded.  Both Blaylocke and Jolrael seemed astounded, and grateful, for the reaction.  Following Leiya’s example, Enkili stood as he applauded, that song had not sounded all that alien to him for once.  Both men joined them after soaking up the common rooms admiration, at the same time Borman’s girl and another serving lady began to set bowls and plates on the table.  Enkili found that it was best to eat the breads and cheeses separately, the foreign fare did not seem compatible on his palette as a set.

After eating only a couple of spoonfulls of her stew, Leiya looked up and reported what she had found out about the strange symbol she was investigating.  Which lead Jolrael into imparting those things he had learned about slavers, and a possible slave ship, at the dockyards.  Blaylocke blushed and looked down as Rodor explained about Wellborne Huxeleys lack of investigatory participation in the attack upon the theater.  When it came his turn, Enkili tried to keep the emotion out of his voice upon finding that the city watch had also not investigated the attack.  Yet at the end he made Leiya and the others do double takes.

“I did not think to ask the guard where Suther’s Alley is, but that is where the Skulkers gather.”

Incredulity lit the Dwarven bard’s face.

“Lad, that is the alley right behind this Inn, where you saw the eyes.”

“What?  It is that close-”

Their conversation was stampeded by a scream from the kitchens.  Borman who had come out from behind the bar to help serve food, dashed for the back.  His wife reached the bar first, her apron awry as though from a recent tussle.

“They took her!  They stole our baby!”  Even Riardon came to his feet as the adventurers watched the drama unfold.

“Love, what happened?” borman asked with fear fevered features.

“A tattooed man just stole our daughter.  He was a big man with a pair of chained wings tattooed on his neck….”  Jolly turned pale first as he visibly flinched at the words.  Enkili’s hand touched the hilt of Dandân Va Panje, then he held himself back.  Charging after danger had not served him well the last time.


Solare Nights 8
Rooftop Melee
Erath, Watersday Melwid 16-17, CY1031

The longer Enkili hesitated the louder and more distressed their landlord, his wife, and the staff became.

“Which way did they go?” the man from Mandagar asked.

“I know where they are going,” Jolrael said looking grim.

“They took her down Suther’s Alley,” the distraught cook admitted through her tears.

“We dinna stand a chance, ‘less the lass be struggling?” Enkili could not tell if the bard was making a statement or making a query.

A hint of pride and hope peeked through Borman’s distress at the cook’s next tearful statement.

“Oh, the girl was struggling.  Struggling and carrying on.  Those men won’t be going far fast.”  Some of his companions shot other questions, which Enkili did not catch over the sound of his feet pounding boards and Dandân Va Panje singing out of it’s sheath.  He raced for the backrooms and the door to Suther’s Alley beyond it.  Riardon and Wolf piled up behind him as he flung the door open, they even shoved him through the door so he could regain his momentum all the sooner.

When Enkili drew abreast of the place he had spotted the red glowing eyes, he cast his eyes over his shoulder while pointing.

“This is where the eyes were.”  He could see all his new companions strung out behind him, all of them stampeding into the darkened alley.  Distant light filtered in from his left, revealing that they were rushing in upon a ‘T’ intersection.  Riardon, who had been bouncing ahead or falling just behind Enkili suddenly halted and began tilting his head this way and that.

Enkili heard an angry hum then a crack as a magically lit sling stone ricocheted off a building to bounce down the left branch of the intersection.  Which is the way they chose?  He had to swerve around his Elven friend, but he too halted trying to use his ears to hear their quarry.  At his feet was a storm drain, and since all he could hear was his own breathing and the footfalls of his comrades, he knelt and began to check for recent use involving the steel grate leading to the sewers.  There was a lot of sign that this drain cover was lifted and closed, just no indication that it had just been used.

Leiya’s voice covered the thudding of his heart.

“Which way did they go?” her Onastian accent had thickened due to excitement.

“Look, a girl’s shoe!” someone said.  Following the herd who followed a finger Enkili could not see, all eyes noted the bright little object that was at the right hand corner of the intersection.  That was enough clue for their whole pack, their living clump all surged to the right branch almost in unison.  Enkili’s ears did not register the twang from above until the crossbow bolt shattered on his chest plates.  Wood shards and cracked enamel sprayed away from the desert man.  Riardon spun away from the bolt that embedded in the wall next to his head, as another missile shattered on the paving stones; Wolf staggered, a missile falling from a fresh hole punched into the pectoral plates of his armor.

Enkili glanced at his friends first, his mouth agape, then he thought to look up onto the roof around them.  Four tough but poorly clothed men popped up and fired their crossbows again, each of them perched on a different building around them.  Riardon’s leather armor flexed from a hit, though it kept the Shandeeran from being punctured, enough power was transferred through to bruise his flesh.  Leiya cried out in pain.  Jolrael was the first to shake the stupefaction afflicting the party.  Lighteng arched up from his fingers that attempted to lasso the attacker on the north east building; the spell failed to entangle and pull the man from his perch, so Jolly ran partially down the right hand branch of the alley.

Growling something Elven under his breath, Riardon shrugged the bow off his back and sent a shaft into the calf of the shooter on the south west corner, he too sought a place of cover too the right and found there was none.  Enkili suddenly found his mind clear which allowed him to dodge one shaft from the villains third volley, his friend Rodor was less than lucky as a second bolt made a whapping noise off his hardened leather.  This time, since they were now taking return fire, the ambush party sought cover using peaks and chimneys.  Behind Enkili, Blaylocke darted a little back the way they had come, and scrambled up stacks of crates to the roof of the south west building; pausing to catch his breath upon clearing the eave.  As though he had coordinated with the bard, Wolf dashed across the alley and used a stack of crates to gain the north west rooftop.

Though the crates creaked and cracked from the abuse of his weight, the former guard swung himself up, gained his feet and hurled one of his hand axes across to hit the thug who abandoned the north west roof rather than share it with the former guard; that man ran to crouch behind the chimneys on the north east building.  With an ax stuck in him the would be killer crumpled against the chimney in pain.  Casting his eyes about for a route up any of the goon infested buildings, Enkili noted a figure that was humanoid, but with rat features rise from the building above him to shoot at Leiya with a hand crossbow.  A barrel below the right hand corner of the north eastern building struck the Mandagan swordsman as the best rout up, so he pelted across the alley.  Yet as he leaped to the top of that barrel, he saw that springing from that barrel to the wall of the building next to it would allow him to bounce off that wall to grab the eaves of the building he wanted; this was a superior route to just leaping upward to a dangling position.

Just seeing the two crossbowmen huddling around the chimneys keyed Enkili up, he used the new techniques he had just learned to push himself beyond his normal physical bounds.  He surged up the slope to the nearest bad guy and brought his man tall sword down with a furious blow.  A half split Human body face planted and partially slithered over the tiles.  Two more steps put Enkili next to the second assassin sharing that perch, yet he felt the threat of the rat man and the crossbowman across the alley, so Enkili threw himself prone rather than present his back.

Down below Jolrael only had a clear shot at the attacker Enkili was next too, and seeing the swordsman drop on the far side of that roof slope was the opening he needed.  His hand gestures gathered power, his words shaped it into an elemental energy he could use, then blowing his breath between his fingers launched the magic.  Billowing clouds of frost and ice crystals lanced up and coated the already injured man with a frostbite spell; amazingly the guy glanced at him, then at Enkili on the other side of the roof, then he dropped his crossbow.

“I surrender!  I fucking give up!  Just don’t kill me!”  He shouted those words then shrank down next to the chimney with his hands raised.
As Jolly was casting his spell, Blaylocke was using his own brand of magic on the sniper on the same roof as he.  He pulled up a tone with his voice and fixed the hoodlum with his eyes, a slight shift in octave and he forged a connection with the Human’s mind.  Smiling slightly at the bolt pointing at his heart Blaylocke used calmly stated words when he spoke.

“You dinna need ta shoot us no more, man.  Why do ya want to harm us anyway?”

“Oh man.  Those tattooed guys pay us good coin to do their work for them.  Sometimes we scout out likely kids for them to nab, and sometimes they hire us as muscle,” the sniper answered back looking crestfallen.  “Sorry I tried to kill you.”

Across the alley from Enkili, the half rat half man missed it’s shot, then decided that with half it’s friends down, that discretion thing was called for.  It threw it’s arms out and swelled, then hunched upon itself to tremble and shrink.  The hand crossbow dropped from its grasp as those digits receded from hands into paws, it became a rat the size of a dalmatian.  Enkili looked over at equally wide eyed Wolf, the other fighting man was just as shook as he; even though the creature slipped over a far eve and vanished between buildings.  Even the enemy shooter who had shared the south east roof with the creature seemed taken aback.

Making a short leap from his roof, Wolf ran up to the surrendered sniper, grabbing the dropped crossbow in his approach.

“I got this guy, Kili.  Catch those guys before they all get away.”  There was a ten or twelve foot gap over the alley, between the north east and south east building.  Calling on all that physical training he had received growing up, Enkili pelted across the roof and flung himself across landing on his feet at least five feet beyond the south east roof’s terminus.  He was just about upon that last belligerent crossbowman when the quarry flushed and ran, stumbling on his jump to the building just east of Enkili’s new rooftop.  At that moment Jolrael retrieved his light spelled sling stone and sent it careening down the eastern section of alley, it was evident from the way he hefted his sling that he was hoping to see a large rat.

Seeming to shoulder his bow and flow up onto the north west roof, Riardon sprinted, leaped onto the building where Wolf was holding the prisoner, and almost gained the building just east of that, that bow was coming back off the thief’s shoulder just as fast and fluid as all his movements.  As all this was going on, Blaylocke was chatting up the magically charmed sniper.

“Where did they take the lass?”

“Oh man, You know they took her that way,” the enchanted villain stated pointing east.  “They took her to their ship, The Torrent.  They’re going to cast off and leave come dawn.”

Blaylocke nodded, smiling at the man as though they were long time friends.

“What was that rat creature?” he asked.

“Oh man, that was Boscar, Boscar the rat.  He’s second in command in The Skulkers.  You don’t wanna mess with that guy.”

“The Skulkers?  Where’s your base, how do we find it?”  Without missing a beat or questioning himself, the Skulker soldier answered.

“You can get there through that sewer drain here in Suther’s Alley.  Oh yea, there are other entrances….  There’s one in the warehouse in Ballard’s Row, and another sewer grate near the riverside drain; that’s near Westshore.”

Feeling the first sweat break out from all the running, climbing, and jumping, Enkili gave chase to that last would be assassin.  Easily he made the jump to the next building and caught up to his prey.  Though the curved sword of his was not great for thrusting, that is what he did.  That point entered at the kidneys and pierced through with a push, then Enkili twisted the blade.  His next quick move was to half leap to the right, using the sniper’s body as a fulcrum for Dandân Va Panje to open the man’s abdomen up from spine to navel on the right side; gutting him as promised.

“Give me that back.”  Wolf demanded of his prisoner after confiscating the miscreant’s case of crossbow bolts, the injured man still had the former guards hand ax in him.

Feeling the ache of the shaft he had taken in the back, and hating the cowardice of sniping attack in general, Wolf was less than gentle when he twisted his hand ax out.  This was too much of a shock to a man who had taken the ax throw and a freezing spell prior.  After crying out in pain, the villain’s eyes rolled up and his body rolled down the roofs incline.

“Hey, he killed Kinny!” the charmed sniper protested from the south west perch.  With the combat over, the companions shared glances with each other, panting and processing.

“If the Skulkers are this close to the inn, we should warn Borman… have him call in the guard to protect the inn,” Jolly volunteered as Wolf, Riardon, and Enkili began to go through the dead men’s clothing.

Before letting himself down, followed by his pet assassin, Blaylocke shared the information he had acquired with his fellows.  Leiya, who had not contributed to the fight, was part way down the right hand intersection of Suther’s Alley.  She showed all the signs of someone fighting impatience, shifting foot to foot and casting scowls back at her male companions.

“Okay, friend, here’s what ye going to do.  Ye are going to disarm, then haul yerself to the nearest guard outpost.  Ye have to tell’ em that ye’ve been up to no good, trying to kill folks and such.  Do you understand me?” the bard instructed his charmed captive.

Everyone in the party gave Blaylocke Anvilarm a strange look, Wolf even hefted his hand ax as though thinking about giving it another cast.

“Oh man!” the sniper complained setting his crossbow down, then working the bolt cast free to set on top.  “I never thought going to prison would ever be fun.”  With shoulders slumped, the would be assassin ambled away scuffing his feet and cursing under his breath.

“Will he actually turn himself in?” Riardon asked; he was already down off the roof.  The bard shrugged.

“He should, lad, the spell lasts an hour and the nearest post is closer than that.  Someone may talk him out of it if he runs into any of his friends tween here and there.”

Enkili was just dropping down to street level when Jolrael returned with two guards in tow.

“The guard were already at the Rusty Bedpan,” he informed before turning to the city watchmen.  Quickly he sketched the ambush for the law enforcers, leaving out his spell casting and the fact his friends had looted the fallen.  Those two men did not try to hold the group back after they learned that they were going after Borman’s abducted daughter.  Enkili milled about while this was going on, observing the guardsmen as they worked, his friend Riardon was in the alley with Leiya, keeping her slight body between himself and the watchmen’s distracted eyes.

Glib Blaylocke made their excuses to the law men, and got the group heading toward the docks.  This time they moved slower, keeping an eye on the skyline over the rooftops.

“It would be good to take a small rest when we get to the river,” Enkili said, hoping for mass approval.

“If ye wanted a rest, ye should have done so back there, at the Bedpan.  Or we could have rested in the alley.”  Jolly statement caused a short debate, and a slowing of the step of the whole group.

“If we rest, we should rest overlooking that ship, The Torrent,” Riardon reasoned, a point of view that took hold with everyone but Jolrael.

Outvoted the sailor turned sorcerer grumbled a little as he directed his companions to the same docks he had been to earlier.  Bare wood shanty’s made way for a stand of trees with a single paved path weaving through.  That path had carved steps in a slight switchback going down a six foot drop to the riverside beach.  Paving stones made way to river stones and pebbles, an indentation in the gravel from generations of foot traffic made it’s way to an ‘L’ shaped pier.  Three skiff style fishing boats huddled in the lantern shine coming from the one bigger river ship that was moored at the dock.  Several men slowly paced on that ship, and even from the trees their weapons were evident.

In the trees they stopped and rested for a while, watching that ship and despairing.  There was no clear way to approach without coming under fire from that crew.

“I feel my bow can shoot an equal distance as their weapons,” Enkili observed, glancing at Blaylocke’s short bow which was the same size as his own.  Wolf frowned at his axes and shook his head.

“Me sling cannae reach that far,” Jolly said while patting his pouch of stones.  “None of me spells can either.”  The frown lines beetling Leiya’s brow was a clear statement of her ranged ability.  Riardon expressed the situation well.

“We know their crew will be trickling in through the night, so the sooner we move the better.  Unfortunately, we ain’t going to sneak up on those jokers.”


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Journals for Our 5E Adventures - by frenzied67 - 08-24-2020, 04:52 PM
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