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Journals for Our 5E Adventures
**Suspended due to lack of readership.

*In Solare Nights I am showing Enkili Harbhamit Pesar Al Madii as he grows. He likes history, but the love of something does not make you an expert in it. His writing style is to start stilted and lacking in expertise, however in his growth he will acquire the skills necessary to improve his level of writing. In game that skill improvement will start with Enkili's new tool set gained when he branches into the class archetype of his third level choice. To my fellow gamers who read this, there will be liberties taken as Enkili imagines the thoughts and feelings of your characters. This may not be even close to accurate. If my/his errors are too egregious please let me know; rewriting for more accuracy is something I am willing to do, this is your story too.

Journal Entry 1
The Theater That Yelled Fire

Melwid 4th 1031, Erath

I intended this for my personal journal, but my thoughts now tell me this is not my tale alone.  Makhim and Ahme would want me to acknowledge that this is now a journal for all of my new friends, and though they do not consider themselves bold as I do, their deeds carve upon the world most boldly.  There is another journal I have that I often wish to consign my friends too, it reads “My Deepest Thoughts”.  No matter the medium, ink, coal, or paint, it drinks the print away and remains blank.  There is much irony in that strange magical book that a Djini gave me when I was just a child.  Though we argue at times, these people who have become a part of myself deserve to have their tale told in a book all their own.

So for My friends Riardon, the Gray Elf from Shandeer, sour eyed Wolf, Leiya Tavorova devotee of the gods, Blaylocke Anvilarm who drums and chants, and Jolrael Symora of the Storm, this book is for all of us.  I am Enkili Harbhamit Pesar Al Madii and it shall be my brush that scribes, this is my gift for all those times their skill and courage pulled me from dire moments.

I shall not describe how I fled Al Madii, making it seem as though I betrayed city and dearest family, that tale is in my personal journal (some of which I may transcribe into these pages in the future, if it seems relevant).  I seek the Sainted Sword that Makhim gave unto my ancestors to defend the people with, the blade that Makhim took away and hid until we atoned for the sin of one ancestor who tried to rule with it.  A secret lost to history but still potent enough that our rivals could topple the whole Harbhamit clan for.  Only my Grandfather, the Harbhamit leader, my beloved uncle, General Mardus, and myself know this secret now, but I have other family who will have me killed because I have left Al Madii; a crime to my people.

I have developed a weakness of character since learning of the Sainted Sword.  I would strike out at my family and fellow citizens for their lack of knowing what I have learned, but that would reveal this secret Harbhamit shame, thus I cope in another way.  At time it comes upon me to slip away and smoke hashish and play with prostitutes, and for a moment forget this ugly secret thing that has upheaved a life that was almost a balm for the loss of my mother and father.  I felt the urge to smoke and accept the touch of a woman as I entered Talmain, and in Three Borders I found a brothel that serviced Humans and carried the flower of hemp and milk of poppy extract.

In my purse and saddle I had carried seven great bags of gold and silver, two thousand coins.  When I woke I found that a thief or thieves had taken all but a few of my coins.  I faced debtors prison so I sold away my silk clothing, my battle trained horse, and the trappings and furnishings that were for my horse.  Destitute and afoot I sought to leave Three Borders not knowing what I would do for coin to further my quest.  An Elven man who claimed the name Rodor came upon me and wished to travel the same path as I, he even offered to help pay for some food and lodging if I agreed to his company.  I was in no position to drive him away, nor did I wish to as his company was more than acceptable; and not just for the offer of assistance.

Through the days that we traveled together, I noticed that Rodor was very facile with fibs and lies; a trait most Gray Elves are notoriously bad at.  This did not anger me, I was fascinated by this glib talent of his, but I wore him down by stating the truth at all times.  He did not start trusting me with real insights into himself until I admitted that I was wanted by my people and that I fled the blades of killers who were supposed to silence me forevermore.  I discovered that his “grown up” name was Riardon and that he was wanted in Shandeer.  He was fleeing the law of his people, which he claims is unjust.  I do not know enough of Shandeer to gainsay Riardon on these laws, and his proven friendship means that I will never pry or question his word upon this.

In the towns and villages we came upon we each gained coin in our own way.  Though the more north I travel, the more I have had to deal with kubb as a team game, these northern people do not like one on one kubb games.  Thus I have had to resort to asking Riardon’s help in gambling upon this outdoor game (his accuracy with tossing rods is greater than my own, though I only rarely miss).  In return I help Rodor acquire funds his way.  Riardon liberates money from those who are not astute enough to protect their belongings in a significant way.  I aid him in this by playing the easily noticed oaf plowing through the crowd or in some other back up capacity.  We have developed a small repertoire of plans that allow him to pilfer in relative safety, though I often must prove that I carry no stolen funds on my person to those who enforce the law.

That is how Riardon and I made it all the way across Talmain and onboard the first of several ships. Along the way we began to meet a few interesting fellow travelers, such as the sailor Jolrael Symara who turned out to be much more than a man of the waters.  We shared drinks with a Dwarven jongleur named Blaylocke Anvilarm on another ship.  These two stood out to us for some reason, and we reasoned that they shared more than a wandering spirit with us.  In waters where many pirates preyed upon vessels such as ours, we met another spirit close to our own.  Though this man, Wolf, was more standoffish than the sailor and bard, he lodged himself into my memory.

In Talmain, Riardon had mentioned the grand library of Solare, Sedaria.  He had claimed that I may find information on the Sainted Sword there as it was possibly the greatest repository of history and lore in the known world.  Thus I wished to go into Sedaria and see this great and grand center of knowledge, and I was blessed to find Rodor more than willing to accompany me.  Our journey of convenience had truly become a friendship where traveling with each other was a bountiful endeavor.  So in the port of Sulport we left the heaving sea behind and began to make our way inland following a great river.  I was in as much awe of this river as I had been with the sea, in Mandagar a river dries up as soon as it leaves the shadow of the Dragonspine Mountians; it does not run for days nor for hundreds of miles; I found this long flow of water unnatural and more beautiful than most maidens in gowns of flowery color.

As we followed this great river inland we began to notice those men we had met upon the sea, Blaylocke, Jolrael, and Wolf at odd intervals.  They too were moving inland, though we rarely actually met to talk.  I find Solare to be huge, a city that could swallow Al Madii a dozen times or more.  Though we arrived with just enough money to pay our way for a few days, I immediately sought entry into the library.  They spent a few days pondering my petition, even though I spoke as a historian speaks when I asked admittance.  In that time (from the 1st and 2nd of Melwid) Riardon and I played kubb and conducted other activities to fatten our purses.  This was a wise thing to do, for on the 3rd day of the month they let me into the library and I spent all my waking moments there.

I gleaned some basic local history but made no headway on the Sainted Sword I seek.  I did see a very beautiful woman each day at the library, and I thought to flirt with her.  When I drew close I could see the sadness of someone who has a too recent loss upon their heart, then I noticed that she kept the symbol of her god on her person and not in the manner of one seeking a deities solace.  I was disappointed that I could not express an interest, but grateful at the same time that I had not made a fool of myself and put this woman priestess in an awkward position.  Her Name is Leiya Tavorova from Onastia a far northern land, and she has been nothing but kind to me.  I now feel as though I have a sister to look after and who looks after me in her own patient way (but that is a relationship that has been growing since the terror attack where we officially met).

Ever since our arrival, we had noticed all these bills posted on fences, on information boards, back alley walls, and upon the lips of pedestrians of all classes advertising a play called  “Lion of the Ancients”.  Not only did the description of this play excite Riardon and myself, it sounded exactly like a play that could have been written in my land, which is a place that I do miss.  So on the 4th, I left the library early and met my Shandeeran friend.  Riardon expressed an interest in casing some of the more affluent audience members, so I started to play the clumsy oaf and began bumping people and being vociferous and obvious.  I think we both got caught up in the play though, not much thieving was done that I could tell.

At an ascending moment in the play, at a point of highest drama, a burst of fire erupted on the stage that killed the players and many of the richest audience members who sat up front.  I shied away, shielding myself from the heat, but Riardon rolled back and spotted a devil man fleeing across the roof to our south east.  I remember the cries of the injured, they burned me more than the fire had, and I knew the right thing for me to do was try to intercept the killer.  I am not a healer, I am a soldier and the son of men and women who preach a duty to those who cannot protect themselves.

I chased after the red skinned, flange tailed, assassin with his yellow eyes cast over his shoulders.  For some reason Riardon followed me into the alleyways which we raced, he tumbled and rolled where I vaulted and leaped and we gained on the killer.  I thought that was very brave of Rodor, for he is not wise to the ways of heavy armor and combat with great weapons, but he came with me and plied his bow with great skill.  We ran down the Tiefling though Riardon tried to feather him with an arrow before I closed into tackling range.  That creature, who turned on me with a short sword when I failed to grab him was about to stick me in my bowels.  Before I was skewered (a just desert for me for not wearing my armor), my friend’s second arrow sank deep into the devil man’s shoulder; throwing that one off stride.  This gave me an opening to strike with my father’s Mandagan greatsword, Dandân Va Panje.

My father had always said that his blade was the ‘whole beast’, that is why you get both the teeth and the claws when you attack with it; a great curved blade and 'S' shaped hilt.  Dandân Va Panje (pronounced dan*done vah pan*jay) means ‘tooth and claw’ in my peoples tongue.  My father’s sword cut deep and ended the Tiefling’s threat.  My intent had been to capture the creature, but I had no choices to do so when it… pardon, when he pulled his blade.  Taking this life did bind me to this sword in the old traditional way; I can now call Dandân Va Panje my sword that came from my father, rather than my father’s sword that I carry.  I am proud to have this four and a half foot blade and its eighteen inch hilt and pommel, it is the greatest of my possession (although it is being worn by much recent use, I may have to commission another blade to fit this furniture soon).

I intended to strip the body of valuables as my mother taught me (I do come from a harsh land that will kill lesser people and we do need every resource we find), but the city watch descended on us demanding that we disarm.  Wisely I noticed Riardon dropping his weapons even as I did so.  We answered questions and then were released.  We woke in the Rusty Bedpan Inn to find official summons addressed to us calling us to attend.  Rodor and I both thought these were official papers that came from the city magistrates or government officials of Sedaria.  We arrived at a house of scholars and saw many people there that we have had brief contact with before.

Wolf was there and we found out that he had almost been killed by the assassins fire.  Lovely Leiya had also been called because she had healed many of those hurt, Blalocke the musician, and “Jolly” Jolrael had also received these summons for aiding the stricken though they were not chiurgeons.  We were led through a house full of books, and I think some drool must have escaped my lips.  In a drawing room of some sort alien to me, we took seats and waited.  Before long a self important northerner strode in with a rich leather coat and started trying to overawe us by stating they knew things about us.  He was no magistrate nor lord, so this treatment made my ire rise, but before I could vent my spleen on this little puff of a man, he admitted he was from Wizard’s Peak.  Even my people half a world away know of Wizard’s Peak, so I sat down and payed attention.

Wellborne Huxleigh, who may be the number two wizard in charge of the Peak, claimed they needed a skilled team of people to take care of dangerous tasks.  His words were “I wished to greet and thank you, but also to seek gainful use for your talents”.  I was not enamored of that phraseology, but accepted that he was not trying to become our agent to skim off the top of what we took.  Wizard’s Peak is seeking to replenish the things it lost in the savage war of five years ago, the same battle that some countries still fight.  Our first job was to quell the undead in a local graveyard.  Our pay was to be a piddling 75 gold pieces, a small sum that all but I jumped at, I had to remember how much I lost and how little I had left before I agreed to this dangerous task.  I had always had much more money to draw upon at home; even when I thought we were poor for most of my childhood.

If it was all about the money then I would care very little about this job, but I think Huxleigh said the graveyard is in the city.  That means that people are not safe.  However, this also means the local graveyard will have been observed, and witnesses may help identify the nature of that which stirs so restless.  Scouting out the quality and quantity of our enemy is an idea I had to advance to those I now work with.  Wellborne also intimated that other than coin we may seek favors or knowledge in payment, and against protocol I blurted out a question about the Sainted Sword.  I did well not to mention what my request was about (A secret that I believe in my heart does not show the gods our penitence) but my question was met by a turned shoulder and silence.

Entry II
The Catacombs of Valgen's Unruly Tenants

Melwid 5th 1031, Erath

Wellborne Huxleigh did not recognize my description of the Sainted Sword, but then he was being hounded by the questions of all these familiar strangers.  We did manage to procure a 25 gold piece discretionary fund.  Leiya Tavrova dipped into that fund to buy an extra healers pack for me to carry.  Now I can help any of us that fall in combat but do not perish outright.  Again I am getting ahead of myself.  We made the purchase the next day, but we separated that night to “think about the offer”.  When Wellborne left, Leiya had to seek the Melwenite priests she stayed with for permission to go, and Wolf had to make arrangements for the person he had been body guarding.

Riardon and I tried to scout the graveyard, but the gates were locked and the natives had heard only very vague rumors or old lore from ages past.  Evidently this Valgren graveyard had been overrun by undead for over a hundred years.  This was stopped not that long ago, but recently the dead have become restless again. We reconvened the next day at the same house/school we had met at the day before.  This time Wellborne arrived with a priestess of Gurthen named Cassyt, a junior groundskeeper.  Cassyt claimed that one Brother Rasoran had gone missing, he had been another groundskeeper.  Sister Bethel had disappeared during catacomb maintenance, 12 days ago they found her chewed up remains.

Sister Cassyt agreed to be our guide to and through the catacombs, though it became clear that she would not raise a hand to help clear out the undead.  We found Valgen to be very well maintained park like area in the midst of a poor section of Solare.  The mausoleum to the catacombs looked like a recently constructed building, as compared to the stairs down, it had no doors just open archways.  On the first landing we came to heading to the southeast we found a room where they lowered the dead to the vaults below, a dumbwaiter for the deceased.  I noted the block and tackle the lift used and told the others to mark the location in their minds in case we may need the rope and pulleys below.  Leiya cast a light spell upon her shield and the spike of my khula khud... uh helmet.  Past that room we found a stair that descended for two levels, but a door west was inset into the wall one flight down.

Beyond this door was a short hallway into an ossuary, which was little more than a pit full of humanoid bones.  One foot wide ledges skirted this pit to a continuation of the hall beyond.  Wolf, Riardon, Blaylocke, and I easily skirted around the pit, but Leiya, Jolrael, and the useless Cassyt remained behind.  The hall bent south into something that was like a crematorium.  Soot covered everything except a small pile of some chewed upon corpses.  Wolf and I advanced on these gnawed bodies so I could investigate the wounds to determine what had been mauling them.  I never had a chance to kneel down to make my examinations.

Three creatures that were dead bodies twisted out of true by some malevolent magic charged upon us with long tongues wagging.  Wolf had stepped five feet beyond me and all three surrounded and hounded the poor Human man.  Riardan tried to shoot one as they loped at Wolf, Blaylocke began beating a drum.  At first I thought this was a useless thing for the Dwarf to do, but the music buoyed my spirits and gave me a strange confidence.  Instinctively Wolf lashed out with his blade, but I could tell that he regretted that action when he lost his chance to draw back a little; his attack missed and he remained encircled.

I think I heard Jolly racing towards us, but could not take the time to wait for him.  I stepped around the closest ghoul (that is what we discovered these things to be) putting it between Wolf and myself.  Dandân Va Panje bit deeply into the creature doing much damage that limited its abilities.  At that point I believe I heard Leiya calling to us, promising that she was speeding our way.  Rodor sped another arrow, sinking his shaft deep into a ghoul but not doing enough damage to drop it.  Then the ghouls clawed at Wolf and myself, their dirty fingers sliding off our armor; I later learned their touch can paralyze most creatures including Humans.

A sling bullet hummed between Wolf and myself, striking the twisted figure I had mauled with the sword that had been my father’s.  With a horrible exhalation the monster fell dead.  After seeing Blaylocke’s music lift my fellow fighter, Wolf chopped deeply into one of the two remaining ghouls but did not slay it.  I darted in, and blocked our archers aim at the monsters inadvertently, in order to strike the same monster Wolf had injured.  My thought was to take the beast out of the fray, but it did not die.  I suddenly found Leiya at our backs looking both fierce and scared.  Riardon and Jolrael still managed to fire between Wolf and myself to further injure the two remaining ghouls.  Again a creature clawed at me and fortune continued to smile on our party, neither of us fighters were struck by the vile claws of the tongue dangling monstrosities.

With a shout, Wolf struck his foe down which gave me the opportunity I had been seeking since flanking the first creature.  Protecting myself with Dandân Va Panje I skirted around the last ghoul until it was pinned between us Human’s.  Then I let the Bards music guide my strike.  I hewed the ghoul aside as though it were a man of straw.  There was no loot for Riardon and I to find.  Wolf and Blaylocke sought hidden doors but found none.  So we marched back to where Cassyt had waited at the stairs.  Some of us teased the  useless Gurthenite, maligning her courage for not defending her catacombs with us.


Solare Nights 3
Stairs of Dubious Stability
Erath 1031, Melwid the 5th

The next set of stairs down we came to were in a terrible state of disrepair.  Warped wood, worm eaten boards, and missing planks met our gaze.  Borrowing a rope from Riardon, I tied it to myself the climbed down the rickety flight; there I acted as an anchor so that the others could climb down.  Though it creaked and swayed, we all made it to the next flight of stairs down.  These stairs were worse.  I set myself as top anchor this time while the other preceded me down.  As the last down the bad steps swayed alarmingly, but my foot placement was true, and I felt like dancing when I joined my friends.  Blaylocke Anvilarm pointed out how rotten the stonework was, the walls were not strong.

We had all seen the statue from up top, but up close it proved most disturbing.  I think it was a four armed goddess with insectoid features.  One hand was empty, one had a scroll, another a quill, and the last a skull.  Cassyt  had never seen such a thing before, that told me that this was a foreign object (human tall) that someone of something had placed in Gurthen’s catacombs.  Beyond the statue was a door that led to the “Sun Room”, a place where Cassyt’s predecessors chained up vampires to await the morning.  Sixty feet up I see a gap in the grating where the sun would peer down, at our feet a fifty foot rope and grappling hook.  Before I could move the sound of a bare foot stepping came to my ears.

I started sounding a warning before the first zombie fast-shuffled into view.  Though I had intended to meet them at a choke point where the “sun” room’s northern gate stood, they crowded in alarmingly fast.  There was a lever that someone could have triggered to separate the zombie pack, but they swarmed through and were upon us very quickly.  I believe Jolrael illuminated our back trail so that we could not be surprised in a pincer move, he had Cassyt watch that lighted bullet.  Blaylocke drew his longsword then performed some magic where he appeared to make a demand of the undead; he looked frustrated when the zombies ignored him.  Riardon, who was directly on my right grabbed a zombie and… and lightening leaped from his fingers and into the undead creature; he retreated from the front line them.

Wolf steps into the gap my Elven friend left and chops violently into the shambling dead thing, surprisingly the zombie remained upon its feet.  Dandân Va Panjay danced in my hands and delivered as deep of a cut as I have ever seen, but the vacant eyed dead cared not at all.  From behind us, Blaylocke Anvilarm makes his demands of the dead again with the same result.  Like Riardon, Leiya and Jolrael snipe at the zombies from behind us; Leiya Tavrova also uses a magic that blunts the zombies attack upon my person, she altered a strike that would have hit me in the head so that my breast was struck instead.  Still, both Wolf and I took injury from the zombies before us; through my pain I see the former watchman rally himself and strike his foe through his pain.  I too grit my teeth and strike out, lopping my foe in two after setting the pain aside in a compartment I then ignored.

Jolrael then ran between Wolf and myself, his eyes throwing sparks and his hair whipping about in winds no one else felt.  He unleashed a furious bit of magic that threw him back ten feet but also boomed like thunder.  The zombies seemed to take some damage from the magic, but so did the walls which collapsed upon us.  My friends and I had to dodge large blocks of stone that would have pulverized us, one of the zombies was crushed.  Not the creature before Wolf, he had struck it savagely many times, Riardon, Jolrael, and Leiya all had peppered it with bolts, arrows and bullets… and still it refused to fall.

I finally notice that Blaylocke, though willing to help, did not have a ranged weapon, so I slipped my bow to him but suffered a minor hit from the foe who staggered to the fore.  I dealt another terrific blow with Dandân Va Panje but failed to drop my undead foe; though Wolf and another flurry of missiles finally strike that one tenacious zombie low plus one other.  Though I was about to strike the last zombie, Wolf lunged over his dead foe and struck true, ending the last zombie with his straight bladed greatsword.

Felling six zombies felt good in and of itself but we found three dead grave robbers who had a total of 4 hemp ropes of fifty foot lengths, one of which had a grapnel hook (I claimed that rope and grapnel as my own, because it saved me from buying it myself, though I pondered selling the hemp rope and get something lighter).  Other than the ropes we also found two kits with picks, rods, and files; those things that robbers and rogues use to break in and burgle with (Blaylocke and Riardon split those tools up).  Also there was a bag of little round steel balls that is used to help people escape pursuers, I guess the bag is emptied behind you so that it makes the footing treacherous to followers.  The last item is a flask of almost empty whiskey.  I would like to claim the flask when it is emptied, but I may have to be happy with my rope and grapnel, my friends are as I in our need for more and better equipment.

After two fights and moving passed those tricky stairs I was feeling a bit winded.  I may have mentioned taking a rest, but my friends stampeded in with hearty agreements.  So we rested, and in that time we came to the conclusion that the thieves were not responsible for stirring up the undead; they have not been dead that long.  They broke in and found the dead they sought to steal from ready for them.  That means we have to finish exploring the level we are on, and possibly go down that other stairwell to deeper chambers….


Solare Nights 4
A Skull's Ticket Home
Erath 1031, Melwid 5th

As we rested it came to me that the catacombs were growing ever more dilapidated the deeper we delved, then I remembered the block and tackle lift up above; the dumbwaiter for the dead.  But I dithered as we spent our hour resting; by the time Leiya Tevorova finished administering her healing kit, my bruises looked a faded yellow as though many days had passed.  No one wanted to hear my idea of lowering the dumbwaiter, but the next steps we crossed were not as deteriorated as the ones we had passed.

In the room to the south we found an obelisk with celestial writing upon it.  This room, unlike many others did not look as though ransacked or looted for cadavers, and though we could not read the stone we thought that the heavenly writing may hold evil at bay.  We then went west then north down some stairs that were strong and sturdy.  Near the bottom of the steps Riardon thought he found a trap, but it just turned out that the work of one mason was taken over by another; his senses were so sharp that he could tell the work apart.  In a chamber north of this stair we found a room where the bones of the dead were plastered into the wall and ceiling, almost like decorations.

Across this room we saw some sturdy stairs heading south, but as we crossed the room, skeletons, animated by malice and magic, dropped from the ceiling to beset us.  A total of six dropped, but the initial drop brought us only three of them.  Jolrael hits one with a magic lightening whip that he produced from nowhere.  Blaylocke cracked some ribs with an arrow from the bow I lent him.  One of the three attacked Cassyt who zipped away with great cowardice, then another skeleton attacked me.  I dodged then scattered its bones with one great stroke of Dandân Va Panje, my sword that my father once carried; I then rushed over to help Rodor and get hit for my effort.  Leiya rushes up with her mace and missed the dead bones Jolly had zapped.

More Skeletons drop from the ceiling.  One of the new ones shoots Jolrael, but only grazed the sorcerer.  Jolly stomps his foot and his magic tosses 2 skeletons about but does not kill them.  Blaylocke got surround by two skeletons and has to resort to his longsword, one of skeelton rushed him and the other was tossed to him by Jolrael’s magic stamping.  Riardon and I damage the Zombie after I maneuvered to flank the animated mass of hate.  Wolf and Leiya surround one of the two skeletons harassing Blaylocke.  Another skeleton drops behind Rodor and fortunately misses its strike.  Another drops between Leiya and Cassyt and also misses its attack upon Leiya.  Jolly uses his lightening whip again, killing one of the two skeletons he had damaged with his thunderous foot stomp.

All of a sudden, Blaylocke scatters a skeleton with his blade.  Riardon drops our foe, and Leiya says something sharp in her native tongue and bashes her enemy to bone splinters.  I flank the last one that was attacking Riardon but miss on my attack.  It does not miss me and I fell back in great pain.  I believe Wolf missed his attack though he had flanked his victim first.  I notice the bullet that Jolly uses does more damage than the arrows some of us tried earlier, his shot kills that skeleton which had harmed me.  I realized at that moment that I should carry a mace or hammer with me so that I can have a weapon that crushes and smashes in my arsenal.

The last skeleton between Blalocke, Leiya, and Wolf is dropped by Rodor when he ran up and slashed its spine with his short sword.  And all was silent.  I had to draw deeply upon my willpower to stave off the pain I was in until I could move about without wincing.  We took the stairs down and found a room that had stacked bones along the wall.  On shelves above those bones was a shelf full of skulls both along the north and south walls.  Webs and dust partially concealed writing on the walls, a door to the west and a hallway heading south from the end of this room were also evident.

We cleared the webs and dust and found trade language of an old old written dialect hidden under; there were extraneous ‘e’s’ attached to words and ‘y’s’ where ‘i’s’ now stand in words, yet we could still understand what was conveyed.  “A question speak you, and answer will these departed”.  We tested this of course.  Jolrael asked what was causing the unrest with the dead in these catacombs.  He received a whole lot of ‘I don’t know’s’ from the skulls lining the shelves, yet one made it clear that they could only answer questions from the time of their deaths or from times older than that, just not recent events.  We could tell they had been dead here for a couple of centuries at least.

Leiya asked about the insectoid statue we had climbed passed on those rickety stairs.  She was told that that was a statue of Jergal who had been master here before learning to serve Gurthen.  Evidently these catacombs had been dedicated to many gods and goddesses through its time.  I knew I was being self serving, but I asked after the Sainted Sword of my family, “Where can I find Makhim’s gift, the sword of the Harbhamit’s that has seven winged bulls, with full moons cradled in their horns, and moons are enscribed with the magician’s star”?

I received no answer but one skull called out to me.  “Alas you man, I know not.  I am a traveler from the far lands of our people….  Please… I am Almarihm of the Sacred Oasis… long dead and far from home.  Will you return me to my family?  Return my skull to our Homeland so that I may finally know peace?”  I could not refuse a fellow child of Hamaam the Pure.  At first Leiya and Cassyt were aghast at how I bundled up the cranium and set it within my pack, but I translated what we had said.  They now know that Al’Marihm seeks his real place of rest and Cassyt was more than reasonable with the fact that my brother from Mandagar needed to return home.

Some humor occurred next, beyond the doors that clever Riardon picked.  Inside was a 20’x30’ room.  A mummified figure in magnificent apparel sat upon a throne that was inlaid with ivory and semi precious stones.  A golden crown hovered “magically” over her head and she clutched a gold dagger in one hand and a balance in the other (these northerners see the scales as a mystical means of weighing the souls of people, rather than a merchants tool to foster trade, but who am I to judge.  I am sure the ways of Mandagar would be mind boggling to these wetland people.).  Cassyt claimed this was the body of Sedrair II, a noble who had died thinking she was a goddess.  We discover her hovering crown was suspended by a wire and not magic at all.  Equally funny was the fact that Cassyt produced keys to lock up the mummy when we left her room.  This was our test after all.

South we found another display chamber, where the dead were made to mimic life.  Instead of the scenes of everyday life, as the room above us had held, these were scenes of murder and butchery.  Three skeletal children were strangling a man in an easy chair.  A wife poured poison in (I presume) her husband’s ear.  There were too many scenes and all more macabre and bizarre than the last.  Riardon and I both had our southern sensibilities offended by these displays, our friends did not like us commenting to each other in Elven, they thought we mocked their ways.  Truth to tell our new comrades also seemed a little dismayed at these scenes to, so I should not label this as belonging to their normal custom.  Evidently these were chambers from another deities reign upon these catacombs.

Down the south hall, beyond the display room, we found an intersection heading west while a large chamber seemed to open up further south.  The west hall bent to the south west ten feet in for fifteen or so feet before twisting due west again into a chamber.  Rodor/Riardon peeked around the corner then darted back the way we came.  He yelled “Zombies and Kobolds” or something to that effect.  I saw too many similarities to this room and the room where we had our last fight with zombies; we would again have been in a position where three or four zombies could attack two of us while our comrades could not bring their archery skills to bear.  I convinced Wolf to fall back, though he did not seem to remember how badly he had been damaged during that last zombie fight.

I wanted to get back to the intersection where we could get the two to three on one odds against the undead, but that plan fell apart and Wolf and I had to clog the east west entrance to that hall.  The first zombie slouched up the hall to us and arrows and bolts thudded into the walking carcass.  I am wondering if I should record this, but Cassyt actually cast a spell upon some of us that made my spirit and confidence soar.  Wolf chopped into that injured zombie with force, enough force that it should have lost its animation, but tenaciously it refused to fall from his blow.  Dandân Va Panje was not to be denied when I swung it, I hit hard and flattened that zombie, splitting its torso crosswise from its left shoulder to its right waist.

Wolf pointed out that the dog leg in the hall would make it so that all five or six of us could attack one zombie at a time so I straddled the dead zombie and strove to kill the second zombie with Wolf and the others, but the third zombie smacked me solidly…. 

Something is happening outside.  I have to stop this account at this midpoint to find out what is happening.  I need to catch these journals up so that I am not relying so much on my old memories for these entries.  I am sure that I will have time after these training sessions to catch this journal up so that my entries are hours fresh rather than months behind the times
Solare Nights 5
Jolrael’s Big Fail
Erath, Melwid 5 and 6 1031

After I stumbled into the wall from being struck, or as I was rocked awry, Riardon pulled his sword and filled the space I had stood.  He is a stauncher friend than I had thought to that point, or I had never judged the Shandeeran male correctly; he stood at Wolf’s side trading blows with a fell and horrific foe and did not falter.  I too failed to drop the second shambling horror despite my strong strike.  Rodor’s old spot was claimed by Jolly, who finally deigned to join the battle though his sling did not drop the second zombie.  Blaylocke sped a shaft true and Wolf smashed his blade into this zombie, yet it maintained its feet.  Vexed, Wolf dropped his sword and shield and pulled forth two axes with forearm long hafts, but he had to sway back from the second zombies clinging grasp; he was warded by Leiya Tevarova’s able magic again.

The third zombie sought to punish my rash decision to wade into their formation, but luck rode upon my shoulder and kept me from harm.  Even though Riardon struck true again he failed to remove that one pesky zombie from its foul animation.  Finally I struck it down, letting Dandân Va Panje cut it like an unwanted fillet; through the bones rather than around them.  A stone from Jolrael rocketed into the third foe with a smacking sound that made me pay attention.  Inexplicably, as Leiya shot number three with her crossbow she called for me to fall back so she could tend my wounds.

I had to explain our tactical situation to her even as Blaylocke sank one of my arrows deep into the third zombie.  If I fell back, the zombies would continued to face us on a one for one basis, but if Wolf took the place where the now dead second zombie had stood, we would have a two on one… no a six on one advantage (two fighters and four archers).  Plus I was not injured that badly, or so I thought.  Meanwhile, Wolf did step up to my side and almost dropped the third zombie with his two ax attacks.  Cassyt again broke away from my expectations of her, she cast a spell upon me that made my enemies eyes shy off of my form and favor other targets.  Though I stood in the zombies way as did Wolf, they mostly ignored their chances to strike me and aimed their attacks at him instead.  After we slew the zombies I did beg Cassyt’s forgiveness for maligning her character, that spell saved my life over and over again, even against the enemies we faced after the undead.

Cassyt also cast a spell of light on the third zombie, burning it but not killing it.  That animated corpse struck Wolf true, making my fellow warrior turn white from the pain, he did not look as though he were faring well.  Because we two armored fighters were as a cork in the angled passage, Riardon sheathed his blade and applied himself to his impressive archery skills; his arrow almost passed through the third zombies cranium, dropping it there and then.  Number four Zombie starts shuffling forward and got a slung stone in the thigh.  As Jolrael’s missile ripped by, Leiya straddled Wolf’s discarded weapon and board and used her first aid kit to bring color back to the stern man’s features.

Waiting side by side, Wolf and I both hit the fourth zombie when it arrived, but we failed to kill it.  Ignoring my person due to the magic upon me, it tried and failed to maul Wolf.  Rodor fired between our heads and dropped that fourth foe with another shot to the rotten head.  Though I had time, I felt it best to wait for the undead to come to us, our terrain was too good to make an advance be a wise choice.  Bullets and arrow lashed out at the fifth zombie, and even Leiya had time to patch me up before that monstrosity reached the arc of our blades.  My sword and his axes ended number five’s threat before it had more than a chance to reach for us.  Still the sixth zombie was right behind that one and it did get a chance to strike at Wolf after turning away from an attack upon me.  Leiya’s spell Shield the Faithful again kept Wolf from harm, a very strong magic in its own right.

Both Riardon and I struck zombie six hard, but its ability to shrug off true death kept it coming for us.  A stone from Jolly was what was necessary to slay that sixth undead menace.  Leiya pierced zombie eight while Blaylocke shot the seventh one, they did not cause enough damage to even slow those two zombies.  Cassyt used that light spell on zombie number seven and left it blackened and burned yet hale enough to continue after us.  Wolf hacked into the seventh one when it reached us but failed to overcome its tenacity.  The zombie began to reach for me but changed its mind mid grasp, Wolf was not harmed by the switching of attacks.  That seventh zombie absorbed arrows, bolts, bullets, and my blade and did not fall, but Wolf’s second attempt with his twin axes finally rid the world of its ambling carrion existence.  Cassyt magical light crafted flames on the last zombie but did nothing more than burn it slightly.  It lunged at me but turned to claw at Wolf in the middle of its move; that attack came to no effect.  A Shandeeran arrow punched into number eight just before Dandân Ve Panje hewed that putrescent horror and left Erath cleaner in its steel wake.

At this point most of us were panting, dead on our feet, and though we talked about that Kobold only Wolf had seen, very few of us were in any shape to want to do anything about it.  I was too busy apologizing to Cassyt to have stopped him, but Jolrael had decided to take matters into his own hands.  Despite our discussions to fall back and take a nice long break, he advanced back into the room where we had first met the zombies and lone Kobold.  I do not know what transpired, but I was not made aware of Jolly’s folly until I heard a wall falling upon his head around the bend in the narrow hall.  I next heard a meaty smack and Jolrael’s outcry.

Though I was in no mood to strive again, I knew he was a being in dire peril from the noise he made being struck.  Bravely, Leiya led the charge through the narrow fallen zombie clogged hall.  When I saw her next she was tending the sorcerer in the fallen scree of a roof and wall that had choked the passage with loose gravel.  Cassyt was right behind lovely Leiya, she used magic to help draw Jolrael from the brink of his mistake.  Wolf was skirmishing with a Kobold where the hall entered the chamber beyond and I could see another Kobold with a sling in its hands across from the ten foot wide aperture.  I had to double time it around my friends and through the tumbled stones of the fallen masonry, I ended up flanking the nearest Kobold, but I was trembling from fatigue and could not strike at that moment.  A third creature was just north of me spinning a sling to fire a missile.

One of them hit me with a bullet even though its eyes were trying to find another target, the second Kolbold with a sling bounced its bullet off the north wall, having changed targets mid sling.  All three of the little dragon/dog like creatures fell back from us then, even the one I had tried to pincer between Wolf and myself.  They gathered together in a group at the exit of the little room just north of where I stood.  Leiya hugged the eastern wall as she darted past me, her brows furrowed as she thought hard.  She shouted a warning about letting the Kobolds gather in a pack, they are able to coordinate with each other to bring more savagery to their attacks while they cluster it seemed.  They did seem to be attempting to draw us to their location rather than escape.  Leiya took a bullet for her efforts to warn us.

His short Dwarven legs churning, Blaylocke stumbled through the rubble to pass me by but he hesitated as a human figure in robes charged through the Kobolds to assault our Onastian healer with a wicked scimitar.  I was shouldered aside by Wolf, who windmilled his axes at the man.  The robes this malign attacker wore had fell religious decorations upon it, which told me he was a priest or cultist of some sort.  I believe Cassyt fell upon the same idea as I, fore she brought that Sacred Flame of hers upon that man and burned him badly enough to make him drop in place; a smoldering wreck.

As that cultist fell, another figure in plate armor barged passed the Kobolds.

“Enough of this!  You will die!” he declared.  The armored man then made two strong attacks on Wolf and injured the former watchman severely.  I attempted to intervene and strike the armored man low, but a blow from Dandân Va Panje that should have removed his head was shunted aside instead.  Jolly tried to shoot the man but his stone careened off the armor.  Kobolds that started to shoot at me shifted their aim on Leiya and Wolf instead; Wolf fell prostrate from his wounds.  A second bullet at Leiya struck true and the lovely lady crumpled.  I saw my own fear mirrored upon my friends features.  Her healing abilities and protective magic had made us feel nigh invulnerable up to the point where she fell, now we realized how dire our situation truly was.  Two of us were down!

Wisely Blaylocke and Cassyt ignore the melee going on and administered aid to Leiya and Wolf respectively.  I try to occupy the dire knight but he easily parried my attacks.  Jolrael realized his little sling would not harm the armored man, so he sent his next shot into the Kobold formation instead; his stone killed one of the little creatures sending shock through the other two.  That did not stop one of them from shooting the stout Dwarf even as Blaylocke struck the knight with his blade.  Cassyt tried her light spell upon the armored champion but the vile man shrugged the magic off easily.

With a flick of his two handed sword, the evil man tried to attack me but changed aim to knock Blaylocke off his feet to lie bleeding upon the ground; now we were really hurting as a group, three of us were out of the fight.  Though the knight tried to dodge back and parry my powerful swing, my blade finally found the man.  His armor crumpled into a crease that leaked blood when Dandân Va Panje was withdrawn.  Again the armored man drew back to strike at me, but the Sanctuary spell on me made his eyes shift over my shoulder.  He darted passed me again and felled Jolly with a single strike of his big sword.

With anger on his exotic features, Riardon fired an arrow from around Cassyt that punched a hole just off from the evil knights heart, staggering that vile man.  Again I landed a lucky blow across the armored man’s back, crumpling his armor into his flesh.  I praise the blood of Hamaam that flows through my veins, and the virtue of Makhim that granted me that ounce of luck we needed, for the knight fell from my aggressive blade and moved no more.  The remaining Kobolds milled uncertainly until I charged them with an intimidating yell.  They scattered and ran down a new dug tunnel heading west.

At first we were not sure what we had stumbled upon but our investigations… I should say Cassyt and Riardon explored a ransacked room to the north and a barracks to the south.  They found maps and documents that confirmed that the knight and cultist were the force behind the undead in Valgen’s catacombs.  There were maps of the catacombs labeled in Draconic script, of which none of us could read.  There was also a set of orders from “the Freehold” ordering one Roreth to raise an army of undead to dig their way to the cache leading to “Darsta”.  Another set of papers stated that Daketh (the armored knight) had been assigned to protect Roreth through their activities.  Daketh succeeded for we never faced this Roreth creature, he escaped ahead of the Kobolds.

In a small chamber south off the barracks hall, a circle with silver runes had been inscribed into the floor.  This had been a single use transportation spell, possibly an importation magic to bring Daketh into Valgen.  We found eight coins of platinum, twenty of gold, ten coins of electrum, and a full fifty coins of silver in a lock box that had been left behind.  Daketh had carried forty five gold pieces on his person, the fanatic had twenty five gold in a pouch, and all together the dead Kobolds yielded five more gold to our purses; this was loot we could take since it had not come from the dead guarded by Gurthen’s able clergy.

We also gathered to ourselves a fancy hairbrush, a ceramic pot of healing salve, a tinderbox, the damaged plate armor, the greatsword of the knight, some damaged leather armor, and a decent looking scimitar. high quality writing set.  We brought all of this with us when we reported back in with Wellborn Huxley.  He heard our report and not only paid us our seventy five gold each, but granted a minor healing potion to each of us as well.  That potion alone was worth two thirds of the coins we were paid, which made that one bountiful bonus.  I will tell you of how we apportioned our spoils in the next entry in these logs; I warn you, the next entry will be filled with exploits in shopping….


Solare Nights 6
Noted Fears
Erath, Melwid 20 1031

For ten days we saw little of each other, except for those of us who spent our evenings in The Rusty Bedpan; and even then we were much too tired to do more than grunt an acknowledgment to each other then seek our beds.  We each took training in our respective fields.  New spells, new abilities, and new knowledge was gained by all.  I figured out how to “burst with sudden purpose”, a skill that allows me to surprise my foes with quick movement and savage attacks beyond what I normally can do.

I purchased a new heavy mace, short bow, and a pair of quivers for myself, letting Blaylocke keep the bow and quivere he had borrowed in the catacombs.  His archery skill proved able and steady when the danger was around us, so I thought it an apt gift.  Wolf purchased a wagon and a team of mules, then the two of us joined our funds to buy tools to repair the wagon if it breaks down on us; he seemed most pleased to learn that my time in the army taught me the skills to do such repairs.

Riardon bought himself a mule and bags to carry his excess gear.  He told me I could stow some of my extraneous items on his beast.  I believe Leiya Tevrova spent time gathering books of knowledge into her new personal library.  Jolrael made purchases, I’m sure, though he did not crow about those acquisitions.  Blaylocke Anvilarm purchased smithing tools and set himself to repairing that suit of plate armor Wolf and I coveted; though a light went off in everyone’s eyes when he mentioned that we could sell that armor for a thousand and a half golden coins once the repairs were made.  That sort of coin would bless our entire crew instead of benefiting just one of us.

After training, the bard set himself to trying to repair that plate armor so I had several days to myself.  I went to the library once, but was little able to concentrate on learning Sedaria’s history.  I had asked Leiya, in a round about way, if my family had to make atonement for our long ago transgression against Makhim, and she said that atonement had been made.  This made my brain buzz for I finally understood that I may have a real chance to be worthy of finding the Sainted Sword, but I sullied myself instead by gambling my remaining free days away so I could spend a night flying upon hashish and knowing a raven haired woman for hire.  For the first time I felt guilt instead of guilty pleasure.

When we gathered together to dispense with the loot we had acquired, we ended up keeping the map to Darsta (later someone from Huxley’s entourage told me that there is a scrying device in Darsta that could show me where my family’s heirloom resides.).  Leiya purchased the scented oil from us when we voted to sell that item.  We also let her take the fancy hairbrush, which she shipped north I believe; I think this is a gift sent to a sister or mother in Onastia at the top of the world.  The ceramic pot of healing salve we incorporated back into Leiya’s healing kit, so we did not have to spend as much money replenishing the kit she carries.  We all voted to keep the tinderbox as we all see it as being handy, yet it is not an item any individual has claimed.  Like the rovers of Mandagar, we are keeping it as communal property.  The greatsword and scimitar were sold and the funds distributed.  Jolly was given the damaged leather armor and he had it repaired.

We also voted to see if we would continue to band together on such jobs as we could get.  At first it seemed we would fly to different parts of the world, then it seemed as though we declared to each other with great acclaim.  It was a confusing moment for me, so I do not write this with the degree of clarity I feel it deserves.  Almost immediately Blaylocke tells us that our landlord is under threat from a band of 15 criminals known as the Skulkers, and he (the owner of The Rusty Bedpan) would like our help to calm or stop these criminals.  No one thought my Mandagar solution was the right idea, they wanted something that did not require the taking of heads and displaying them to the survivors.

I believe we were talking about singling out the Skulkers leader and making an arrangement, though I thought we should investigate the reputation of these criminals to see if a harsher form of justice is required after all.  I did not have a chance to state this to my friends for Rodor handed me a note that had been addressed to he and I.  “I know you now, murderers, and I will have my revenge.  My son only wanted to see the play.”.  Seeing those words made all of my fears and misgivings crash in on me, for I had harbored a doubt about the Tiefling I had slain the night of the fiery massacre in the middle of "Lion of the Ancients".

No one had actually seen the Tiefling man throw fire, but he was the only one who had run.  I did not think that night, I pursued as a beast would have, and like a beast I had brought my prey low when I had chased it down.  It was not until a day later that the thought struck me that the Tiefling had ran because they tend to have accusations thrown their way.  To be honest, enough of them do take to crime and evil ways for the label of instigator to stick, though I know not if that held true for the Tiefling man I had slain.  It does not matter that he tried to gut me when I ran him down, I would have fought too.  These are the thoughts that troubled me because of that note.  I will drop our tale there and take it up again another night, I am close to drawing even with our current timeline where the memories are clearer.

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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