Monthly Archives: October 2006

Theosius

pintglass

“Hey you there! Want some work? I need strong bodies. Theosius is my name. You look brave. Do you want to earn money?”

At these words, Nicolai almost turns round from his beer, but relaxes and stares even more intently at the table. But he is now solely concentrating on the conversation at the table behind him.

* * * * *

Saeth bristled. This was not how you went about hiring men-at-arms. You didn’t do it loudly, you didn’t do it publicly, and by all the immortals, you did not do it drunkenly! She glanced left at the dwarf Feldard, then right toward the priest. “You know how this works. You want to hire a man, you put your money on the table, and make your plea.” No, that wasn’t how it was supposed to work at all. In more refined parts, he’d be stabbed even for thinking about it. But if the boy across from her had half a head, he’d nick a few coins as the table rejected him roundly. The balding fellow looked drunk enough that he probably wouldn’t notice.

Maruc glanced at Saeth she must be making assumptions about the nature of the work this chap wants, how can she tell? Or is all of her type of work, that type of work? Maruc wondered whether it would be such a wise idea to go long with someone like this elf. But Elves live a long time and there is no telling exactly how old she is. Or how much experience she has of the world. Maybe life is much cheaper beyond the confinds of the cloister. Perhaps she has placed herself in the position that everyone will make the same assumption as myself – namely that she is some sort of assassin or thief. It was also brash to assume that because someone needs to be ‘brave’ or ‘strong’ does not immediately mean that the job is in anyway underhanded and therefore require secrecy. In fact it very much denotes the opposite. Before we make any decision we must first be aware of all the facts.

“Master Theosuis, please be seated. Have an ale,” Maruc offers, jumping in. “Please forgive Mistress Saeth’s somewhat forthright manner. Not only are we new to the city we are new to each others company. So we ask for your forbearance and understanding.” Maruc continued. “Firstly, I know not what significance the green liveried men have within the city. Do you perchance know of these men and what loyalties they hold?”

“Secondly, what are the details of the service you require of us? Will you cover remuneration, out of pocket expenses and guarantee there is nothing in the task that requires me to go beyond the teachings of the church?” Maruc turns to his comrades, “Otherwise, I for one am available to help folk in need.”

Theosius raises his eye at the cleric’s question. “I see we have some newcomers to the Mirror City,” he chuckles as he gratefully accepts Maruc’s pint offering. “The men of which you speak are well known throughout the city. The green livery is the uniform of those who serve the Vorloi family. They’ve done a proud job of managing these unruly Traladarans today. Maintaining order between the Torenescu and Radu seems to be keeping them quite busy of late.”

“Now, onto business,” continues the loud-mouthed Thyatian, “I have need of trustworthy souls who can perform occasional duties for me. I assure you that I will ask nothing illegal of you. You can ask around, and you will find my reputation is that of an honorable craftsman. As an honest man, I must be clear that there is an element of risk in these endeavors. This is why I’d like to offer you 3 royals each as a retainer for your future services.”

Miklos sat gazing at his partially sipped pint. He wondered if opening his mouth while these obviously more worldly individuals negotiated some sort of business contract. He felt he’d missed out on the business side of his family’s dealings and wasn’t at all confident at broaching his own thoughts on striking deals. Everything had happen so quickly this morning he felt out of his depth. He’d mastered the finer intricacies of nature of the arcane and come from one of the most foresighted families in the country, yet it had prepared him very little for a situation such as this, this market trading. He needed to learn about this and he was a very capable learner according to his old Master, but as his Master said, “’Tis better to be thought a fool than to speak and put it beyond doubt.” So he’d kept quiet and observant.

He looked around the table, Feldard and Saeth where both so far beyond his experience it was impossible to evaluate them from a human perspective. They were strange and alien to human culture, no matter how integrated into human society demi-humans became – they where always a race apart. The Halavist was almost as much a mystery, but at least he was trying to hold some kind of sanity over the group, but Halavists are not renown for their sanity and he wondered what agenda drove the cleric on. It might be worth researching it for his own safety. What had driven this strange group together? Perhaps it was fate, perhaps it was the Immortals? Not the Miklos trusted the Immortals, he trusted in knowledge written in ancient books and proven theories that worked. He did not rely on luck, or hope.

But part of the reason that he hadn’t just drained his pint and walked away was his strange fascination with co-incidence, and his somewhat morbid drive to see things that he started through to its conclusion. Now there was this open proposition of work. Coincidence again?

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An Opportunity

theosius

Carefully lifting the four cups brimming with ale, Saeth made her way back toward the table, where the dwarf, his friend, and the unfortunate youth were already talking. A pity, the boy had ended up in the seat across from her, too far to kick if he opened his mouth. Distributing the mugs, she waited for a pause in the conversation, then announced to nobody in particular, “I’m Saeth Tegau of Callarii, free sword and free spirit.” She failed to notice how pompous it sounded, certain of its poeticism. She looked at the priest. “If you could scoot in a bit, that I could slide back to my seat?”

Maruc stands allowing Saeth to sit herself as she wishes. “It would be my pleasure to move for you, Miss.”

“A free sword and a free spirit?” The dwarf said gladly taking the cup and upending it “If y’ask me wielding a weapon with anything but a serious heart and stern sureness of spirit is an insult to the craftsman! You elves with your pretty dancing…” he pauses to let out a warrior’s burp “…with your pretty dancing wouldn’t last a lick in a battle with a real dwarven warmaster! Heh!” He leans forward and leans a hand on his knee. See what the elf woman would say to that!

Skirting neatly over the dwarf’s obviously agressive nature toward the elf, Maruc, ever the peacemaker it seems, would have his work cut out for himself mediating between these two if Saeth chose to rise to his comments. He effected a broad grin and chuckled, “The infamous Dwarven diplomacy at its finest! I congratulate you both, Seath for her elven calm and superior repose, and Feldard for his robust stoisism. Indeed I am humbled by so mighty -a-gathering. Its a pleasure to meet you Mistress Saeth Tegau of Callarii. A fortunate man would I be to have such excellent travelling companions.”

“Certainly, any true dwarven warmaster would cut down elves like felling saplings. Fortunately…” Suddenly, seeing the priest looking about drove his words home.

“Thank you most kindly for the ale, however my vows from my cloister do no allow me the consumption of alcohol. If it will not cause offence I will gift this ale to a passer by?”

“You don’t drink ale? Being a holy man must be thirsty business! Can I grab you a glass of port, then?” In her surprise at the man’s odd habit, Saeth completely forgot to finish noting that dwarven warmasters were somewhat rarer than treeclimbing moose.

Maruc turns to look around for some deserving person to take his ale, he notices a Thyatian man approaching the table. The group’s conversation stops when they hear a loud tipsy voice directed at them.

“Hey you there! Want some work? I need strong bodies. Theosius is my name. You look brave. Do you want to earn money?”

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The Toothless Gargoyle Resthouse

tavern

As Miklos followed the dwarf through the crowd he wondered where he was leading them. The selection of uninviting names taken by the local establishments didn’t add to his confidence.

Crowds like this always made Saeth feel uncomfortable. No room to swing a blade, no room to move about. And a crowd, so easily become a stampede. Why wouldn’t that red-faced dwarf just hurry up and pick a tavern? Wasn’t one the same as the next? Saeth touched the hilt of her dagger, just for comfort. And then her pouch of silver, because one could never be too careful of thieves in a city.

Feldard was sure the tavern he had checked into yesterday had been right down here…positive. The trouble with the landscape had become clearly apparent. It was made of livery of various different humans and they flowed around him changing from moment to moment like a blasted river. None of the establishments’ names sounded familiar. He couldn’t even see that infernal rainbucket he had been forced to climb. Nothing! It was like being trapped in an everchanging maze made of garish colored fabric!

“Are you such this is the right sort of area? I know a lovely spot o’er the other end of town…” asked the young mage. Miklos had read that dwarves had an uncanny sense of direction so he guessed that he knew where he was going. Passing the first public house he read the name.

Feldard trudged on, unable to allow himself to admit that nothing looked familiar, for well he knew how much a dwarf could be judged by others based on his sense of direction–no matter the people couldn’t be bothered to make a city that was navigable! Now they had an elf in tow, there was no way to admit that he’d gotten lost now.

“The ‘Joyful Fist’ Taproom sounds like a delightful and welcoming place.” Miklos wondered whether sarcasm was known to dwarves, and hoped that he did not take him seriously. There were few places in this busy city that were entirely free of noisy rabble and he was headed in the opposite way. “Perhaps a left here?” He hoped to turn the general course, but looking left the ‘Dancing Goblin Inn’ spewed its gap-tooth inhabitants out on to the street. “Perhaps not. I’d suggest a different city?”

The crowds pressed ever closer around the Inns and proved difficult even for the redoubtable dwarf to make way but toward the back end of the street the it eased and Maruc noted the Toothless Gargoyle Resthouse was possibly least patronised, at the moment.

“Master Feldard!” He called to the dwarf. I spy a free table over by the ‘Gargoyle’, I suggest we make our way over there.”

Feldard felt rescued a bit when his cleric friend picked a place–the Toothless Gargoyle for what it was worth. He hurried across trying to keep pace with him, bringing his shield and heavy footmace up onto the chair to add his own aura of polite menace to the cleric’s. It seemed to work and soon he found himself a good three feet higher and with a mug in his hands. Things were indeed looking more favorable. Still he would have to sneak away at some point later to see about his possessions–wherever THEY were…

Maruc lengthens his stride as he spots someone else trying the bag the free table. Maruc casted his heavy traveling bag onto the table as the man sits down. Macus drags his heavy cloak around revealing the Halavist ceremonial shield and armour. He allowed the man a few seconds to see his clerical garb and his wide implacable grin. “My friends and I have traveled from many corners of the land to experience the generosity and welcome of the folk of Specularum.” Maruc left the words hanging as the rest of the party approached. The man was about to say something but slowly withdrew muttering something under his breath.

“Blessed are the folk of Specularum!” Maruc called after his retreating back.

Loosening her bandoleer as she stepped quickly, Saeth managed to reach the table before the priest moved his gear from tabletop to a seat. She tossed her great blade across the table. With a deep thud, it claimed for her a seat on the bench that leaned against a wall. She had many years yet to live, and had no desire to get a drunk’s knife in her back, as fearless Lord Bornhold did, way back in Callair. But, with her seat claimed, further introductions could wait. With a curt nod, the sellsword elf turned her attention to finding the innkeeper. She wasn’t lying when she’d told the boy she needed a place to sleep. And she’d need to order ales for the table from him as well. She counted on her fingers to be certain; four ales should do to start. The prices for rooms here were highway robbery! Saeth supposed, however, that this was to be expected during festival season. At least she wouldn’t be in a stable again tonight, even if this wasn’t the Duke’s keep.

As the others approached the cleric said, “Sit! Sit my friends and let us all be known. I am Maruc, a servant of the people of Karameikos. The stern Dwarven Lord Feldard I already know, so whom do we have the pleasure of the company of?”

* * * * *

A Dwarf and an elf together? Not natural, something up. Add in the youth and a Halavist, and something definitely worth keeping an eye on. Nicolai orders a pint of the second worst ale available, and sits at a table adjacent to the unusual grouping.

Not an easy task to follow and listen to a group such as this. Dwarfs and Elves are too observant. Need to change appearance if they stay here for too long or move on.

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To The Bar

street1

Ach! Just when it was getting interesting. Two amusements for the price of one, thought Nicolai. Then armed men in green livery. Nicolai recognized them as being members of the Vorloi family, one of the three prominent Specularum families. The trio of factions, the Vorloi, Radu and Torenescu are in a constant struggle for power in the city. The Traladaran families, Radu and Torenescu, were clinging to what’s left from their old days of glory. Meanwhile, the Vorloi family, being of Thyatian descent, were ably to quickly rise to prominence by aligning themselves with Duke Stefan, and are resented by their Traladaran rivals. Best not to interfere.

* * * * *

Feldard huffed out a short growling breath and hooks a finger toward the clumsy human.

“Fine. A tavern. I know of one. He’s paying.”

The sour expression hadn’t lifted from the Dwarfs face. As he started to shoulder his way though the crowd, which he did remarkably well considering, it was like watching the parting of the waves. Miklos followed in his wake, wondering if he had enough money to buy his way out of this. It didn’t occur to him just to disappear into the crowd.

His look was sour, curdled rage turned to the smelly cheese of helpless bitterness in the pit of his stomach. He was thankful, somewhat that he’d drifted out into the crowd still wearing his adventuring gear rather than take the time to get changed. It was less comfortable, and hot with all these bodies pressed together, but it gave him a more serious, fearsome appearance which he hoped these humans, tall and flimsy as wooden beams, were taking mind of.

As the trio makes their way into the crowd, a dark-haired, female elf steps in their path.
“Boy, you’re not planning on fighting him, I hope? He’ll rip you apart. And maybe eat whatever’s left.”

Miklos stopped, startled by this one-eyed figure. And what was this ‘Boy’ bit? She must be younger than he was! This was not his day.
“What? No, no… I mean… I thought I’d buy him a drink… or somesuch.”

Saeth chuckled. At least it wouldn’t be dehydration this time. “You know how much dwarves will drink, I trust?” The youth nodded with a show of confidence. But the way his hand crept to his money-pouch betrayed him. Saeth supposed she could help him when the dwarf drank away his entire savings–a kindness she likened to that shown by Bideven Broadleaf in the twenty-fifth stanza of his tale. But all the better to let him save face. “Well, as long as you’re prepared for it, that sounds as good a plan as any. This tavern you’ll be visiting, do they rent rooms as well? I do happen to need a place for the night…”

* * * * *

Nicolai thought it might be worth his while following this mismatched group, a Dwarf, an elf, a cleric and the youth, to a suitable tavern. A slow ale at an adjacent table might at least learn a story or two. Or a couple of easy marks when they fall asleep in their beer. Nicolai followed them, easily blending in with the crowd.

* * * * *

Between the Traladaran Festival of Lucor, and the yearlong millennial festivities celebrating the crowning of the 1st Emperor of Thyatis, the inns are very crowded. After snaking through the jovial crowds, the unusual group finds a street with an assortment of taverns with only their colorful names setting one apart from another. The Dancing Goblin Inn and Grogshop, The Joyful Fist Taproom, The Broken Knuckle Meadhouse and The Toothless Gargoyle Resthouse are all filled with patrons in varying stages of intoxication.

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Trouble at the Festival of Lucor

Lucor
Seeing the scuffle ahead, Maruc pulled his over-robe over his ceremonial emblazoned Halavist shield and took a closer look. In the conversation about the crowd about he catches the words ‘Radu’ and ‘Torenescu’. Who would be opposed to a celebration of Lucor? Who are the Radu? A priest has two ears and one mouth – he listens twice as much as he talks….time to listen.

Looking at the cleric standing near him, Feldard noted the cleric’s interest in the goings on. Likely he would know something of worth. He reached up a hand to the mans shoulder to shake him from his reverie.

….“I am Feldard Scarredbrow…”

Maruc glances left then right. Odd he thought, I swore someone was addressing me.

“…son of Bulenar of the Buhrodars, and well-met stranger.”
Feldard’s voice was overloud, more appropriate for shouting over the crowds earlier than for the current tension. “From the looks of you, I trust you can tell me what is the matter here? Who are these men, and what idiocy causes them to bray at one another so? After all, this is a celebration is it not? To stand in the middle of the street and shove each other…disgraceful…”

Maruc followed the voice down. A stern, lantern-jaw featured and bearded dwarf with a huge shock of raven black wiry hair stared up at him. He didn’t look very happy, but it didn’t carry in his voice so Maruc guessed he wasn’t about to start a fight. Although by his build and somewhat unpleasant looking mace he had the look of a mercenary. Burnished chainmail glinted beneath his grey tabard and the kite shield he bore had a curious device emblazoned on it. The dwarf had shouted so he might me slightly deaf like Maruc’s old calligraphy teacher. Not entirely sure what the correct way to address him without causing offence and still uncomfortable with the situation unfolding before him he leans down and shouts.

“Maruc. At your service master dwarf.”

“From the looks of you, I trust you can tell me what is the matter here?” continued the dwarf.

Maruc felt that explaining the intricacies of the theological differences between the two religions would probably confuse the dwarf and possibly lead to an awkward situation with the clerics nearby. Anyway, Maruc had tried to conceal his priestly symbols and paraphernalia, now was not the time.

“Sadly I am but a pilgrim and new to Specularum.” Maruc tried to make himself heard over the noise, “I arrived here but a few moments before yourself. It seems that the local priesthood do not consider themselves servants of the people. By their actions they seem to believe they are some sort of nobility. They don’t seem to enjoy the respect my cloister has. Sorry, had.”

“Who are these men, and what idiocy causes them to bray at one another so? After all, this is a celebration is it not?” the dwarf carried on. “To stand in the middle of the street and shove each other…disgraceful…”

Maruc smiled to himself, if this was the state of the clergy here it only served made the Halavist position that much stronger. “Aye, ‘disgraceful’ it is my short friend.” He wondered if the term ’short friend’ might have caused offense but it was said now. The unfolding drama in front of him held his attention.

* * * * *

He cut down a dark alleyway, scattering rats before his quickened pace, and burst out onto the main street. He barely had time to register the crowds, far more than were here this morning. He slid to the left, narrowly avoiding a pilgrim—and tripped over the child standing to next to the pilgrim. They tumbled into the street, right at the feet of the stationary shrinebearers.

 

Rubbing his head, Miklos looked about. It seemed he’d stumbled—quite literally—onto the afternoon’s procession. And the child he’d run into, was the boy hurt? It took Miklos two glances to find the fallen figure. To his surprise, it was not a child a all, but a dwarf, and not nearly as disheveled by the fall as Miklos felt!

Feldard had tried to square himself against the blow, but was several seconds too late. Bottom-heavy enough not to go bowling over onto the ground, rather he is flattened to one side, losing his helmet and going to a knee. The human who ran him over rolling overhead. He springs up to his feet again, looking around wildly and smoothing down his now wildly matted hair before securing his helmet again. First he fires a burning glare at the cleric, a dare to have noticed any of that–and then stalks after the human who stumbled over him grabbing him by a handful of shirt and pulling him down to his level.

“By my beard! You miserable, lanky, stumbling, dreg-sucking lout! The next words out of your misshapen head had better be an apology!”

* * * * *

Saeth one good eye darted back and forth, observing all the activity taking place. The clumsy city kid was in trouble. This dwarf had the same look in his eyes as that berserk Saeth had fought near Ardelphia. They said that it was maddness brought on by dehydration. But seeing the red-faced dwarf here, the elf wondered if it might just be the dwarven blood. Of course, that was long ago, and this boy was here now. And even further outmatched than she’d been. She rather pitied him his situation.

* * * * *

“Miklos you fool,” the young apprentice mage thought to himself. “If Master Acrision could see you now!” He started to gather his fallen equipment in awkward, hurried movements. He could feel the embarrassment start to show on his face.

“Oh I’m terribly sorry, young man…” the words tumbled automatically from his mouth, then he gazed into the eyes for a very angry looking Dwarf. “Oh um, sorry, Mr Dwarf. I really didn’t mean to cause…” Miklos could feel that a simple apology was just not going to be enough. He was about to continue when he thought that perhaps talking on his knees to a dwarf might be considered discourteous.
The rush of activity before him took Maruc several seconds to read the situation. In his minds eye he could see the attention of the crowd shift from the fight to this scuffle then the guards would come, then there would be a night in the cells and most likely a fine for brawling in the street. Maruc had no desire for the first and no money for the second. And, worst luck, he was already involved. Best to smooth things over and by the look the dwarf gave him this must be done as quickly as possible.

Maruc leaned down hand helped the man to his feet. Light humour normally alleviates such problems. Catching the dwarves words before he has time to start a fight and more for the crowd than the fallen man I say, “Ahh, bless me! A man with two left feet I see.” He dusts him down a bit. “I’m sure there’s plenty of room to see the procession. It’s nice to see the enthusiasm for the rites of the church.”

In much quieter and more urgent tones he whispered to the man and mostly to the dwarf, “I’d take it as a kindness it you would make your peace somewhere less public, but for now I’d like to see why this first fight has taken place. Then perhaps we can discuss at our leisure our little accident in a nice warm hostelry. Perhaps you know of one here abouts?”

* * * * *

Nicolai observed the procession. He noted a priest and a Dwarf discussing the procession. How unusual, he thought. He’d seen Dwarfs from Highforge, and he’d never seen them talking to anyone, unless it was related to business.

Out of the corner of his eye, a youth running through the crowd. The youth is looking up high, and doesn’t see the Dwarf. As if in slow motion, the youth collides with the Dwarf and tumbles over him. Right in front of the procession…Too funny. But Nicolai doesn’t laugh out loud, that would not be wise given there appeared to be a fight breaking out at the front of the procession as well.

* * * * *

The shouting at the front of the procession grows. As the volume of the mens’ voices rise in anger, it is impossible to make out the words as they scream over one another. Just as the fighting threatens to escalate into an all-out battle, men dressed in green livery interject, separating the sides. As they plead for restraint, the appearance of city guardsmen at the edge of the crowd have a calming effect. Suddenly, no one seems eager to violate the Duke’s Law, and the procession continues along its path.

(Note: Unless eldersphinx returns, the character of Miklos is open. Unless Liz returns, Bellassia will not be in the party and that slot will be open if another player would like to join and submit a new character.

The Prelude and Into the City posts have been updated with the character’s actions incorporated into the story.)

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Into the City

specularumport.jpg
A century ago, Marilinev was a flourishing trade village of 500 residents and the chief port of the Traladaran civilization. After Traladara was conquered and claimed as a protectorate by the Empire of Thyatis, it was renamed Specularum (“The Mirror City”) after the reflective quality of its sheltered bay. Over time, the population grew and city walls were erected. Now, under the rule of Duke Stefan Karameikos III, Specularum is a crowded city of over 50,000 residents of Traladaran and Thyatian decent. It is here, on crowded, dirty, narrow streets, that fate will bring together six young strangers who will set in motion events that will change the course of history.

* * * * *

On the morning of the sixth day of his walk Maruc spied the outskirts of the city he was more weary than hopeful. What astonished him more than anything else was the noise. The cloister was deathly quiet and his journey was solitary. However the city shouted its existence to the skies. The gates where open and people in colorful robes bustled about in gay abandon. Maruc couldn’t help a smile creep across his face as he watched the pantomime of city life unfold before him.

Unsure of watch the gate guards would ask of him as he approached, he paused expecting to be questioned. However nothing happened, so not tarrying overlong he marched with purpose through the gates. Maruc thought a purposeful man would be less likely to be troubled than anyone else.

What manner of people conducted themselves like this? Thought Maruc. There must be no restraint here. Indeed if Lord Stefan dwelt amongst such folk no wonder he does not know himself. How anyone is to achieve quiet meditation in this throng is beyond anyones guess…

* * * * *

Counting them a second time, just to be certain, Miklos once again wondered what he would do once his small stash of coins emptied. After all, he couldn’t go running home anymore–not for a year, anyway–he was supposed to be self-reliant, after all.

Fortunately, they would last for a while, and and were certainly more than enough to enjoy himself for the duration of the festival. In fact, he rather looked forward to meeting up with Gregor for a pint or two that evening… and looking at the sun, he’d better get moving. Wouldn’t want to keep his friend waiting! Miklos broke into a run, hoping he’d make it to the Roaring Lion in time.

* * * * *

Hmm… A day in Specularum. What to do?

First, some fresh water and bread to take the edge off the hangover. What was that rotten Hin spirit he’d been drinking last night?

Then a walk through town. Try and find an honest day’s work. Too late to try the market. Maybe the docks, or a tavern.

He walks east towards the docks, and comes upon a crowd of people. So tempting, so many people obviously straining to see some religious procession or other.

Some hero priest called Lucor. It rings a bell from somewhere, but it’s been so long since Nicolao had been to church that he really could not remember.

But the temptation of so many easy marks. Looking round he saw three other dippers working the crowds. He’d heard rumours of the guilds in Specularum. The Kingdom, now he’d be probably be allowed to join if they caught him on their territory. The Veiled might let him join, or they might dump his body in the harbour. The Iron Ring. Now there was a reason to be afraid. Tales of slavery and the Black Eagle reached even Fogor Isle.

No. He wasn’t going to take any marks until he’d at least worked out who ran which area. That meant an honest days work. Down to the docks then.

 * * * * *

The gate is open. A few soldiers with spears lounge near the entrance. They wear tabards of red and blue with a device of a ship on the front. The narrow muddy streets are choked with people. Most dress in their best clothes and many wear brightly-colored outfits. Jugglers and fire-eaters are scattered throughout the crowd. The noise from whistles, drums, singing, and happy chatter make normal talk difficult. People jostle each other, straining for a look at acrobats, knife-throwers, dancing bears and minstrels. The smells of sewage, grilled meats, breads, sweat and wine mingle in a strange but inoffensive order. This is the Festival of Lucor, a religious celebration honoring a legendary local cleric named Lucor.

Suddenly, the crowd sways to the sides of the street. “The procession is coming!” shouts a young boy. The music fades and changes to bells and chanting. Statues carried by several men seem to float above the heads of the crowd. A sedan chair, borne on the shoulders of clerics, follows.

Saeth glances up toward the street, but the swarming mass of commoners blocks her view. With a shrug, she leans back agains the wall and takes another bite of her grilled corn. She didn’t even know who this Lucor guy was, so how exciting could his procession be? And where did that juggler from a minute ago disappear to?

People jolted and bustled into each other, and Maruc, as he elbowed his way through the press of humanity and to his surprise – inhumanity. (If that is the right way to address elves, dwarves and suchlike). Maruc had never been in contact with anyone else other than humankind. In away he was quiet looking forward to meeting, and talking to, a Dwarf, or maybe an Elf. Maruc wondered which Immortal shepherded folk of such strange ancestry, surely they believed as he believed? But he wasn’t so foolish as to hope for that. Perhaps they were Godless? Maruc had never been racist between those of Traladaran and Thyatian decent so he wasn’t about to start being inter-racist. Here and there in the throng he spotted non-humans, but he didn’t get much opportunity to stare. There was music, shouting and people praising Lucor. Who was Lucor? A local hero or dignitary? No matter, but wait. Maruc instantly recognised the robes of the clerics coming down the street. Those pedlar’s in the easy answers to the real truth, pale followers of the stayed Traladaran clerical tradition selling false tales to the uneducated populous. They do not understand what Stefan will become! Soon they will be shown for their misguided faith…now is not the time though.

Through the procession, interesting as it was to watch the humans worship, Feldard found himself watching little more than a field of waistcoats and waggling sashes and ornimental belts. He found himself caught in a human current, swept along through the streets, able to smell food that smelled quite passable for foreign food but was quite impossible to get to. Finally in fury he found himself climbing to the top of a rainbarrel, his head breeching the crowd with a roar of satisfaction. Hardly anyone noticed–there was a good deal of roaring. At least he could see the swordeaters.

The procession stops. Something is happening at its front. Three men are arguing. A general hush falls over the crowd as everyone moves back from the procession. Two men, one small, plump, and pockmarked and the other tall and lean, are arguing with the lead bearer of the sedan chair.

Angrily, the small, plump man says to the lead bearer, “Bald-headed fool, do you Torenescu think you own the street? There’s space for all of us, without your ape-like behavior!”

The lead bearer contemptuously waves a rod in the small man’s face. “Out of the way of the Procession of Lucor, Radu rubble!”

Saeth the elf stands in a flash. How exciting could this procession be? She might not know who Lucor was, let alone Radu, but this sounded like it could be far fairer sport than bearbaiting or any of the other cruel games from this morning. Dropping the half-eaten corncob, she squeezes through the crowd, ducking around people and under arms, seeking a front row view of the coming confrontation.
The tall, lean man spitting on the statue of Lucor says “That old fool? You make me laugh!”

The lead bearer strikes the tall man, knocking him down. The smaller man tenses ready to lunge.

(DM Note: The characters happen to be in the crowd while this is occuring. At this point it is not required that they interact with what’s going on. It’s up to you players.)

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Prelude

The nights sleep in the inn was a welcome change to the road side. Maruc pulled out his neck pouch and poured the 2 golden coins into his calloused hand. He cast his mind back to last night, the hot food the watered wine and praise the Immortals the armour fitted.

It must be a sign.

Maruc made his way to the Innkeeper and paid for the lodging and carefully placed the change back into his pouch.

He blessed the landlord and asked where the nearest Halavist church might be found.

The landlord, having only local knowledge, shrugged his shoulders and told Maruc that the his best hope was to try Specularum, the great city not one weeks travel along the road from here.

Maruc thanked him, and purchasing food for his onward journey he set off along the path set before him by the guiding hands of the Immortals.

* * * * *

Backbroken, Feldard Scarredbrow sat with a mug and thought back on the trek that had brought him here–one hundred and seventy miles through impassible mountains, though thankfully over half the journey was through the dull, but well built Darokin Tunnel. Still he had managed to almost be driven insane with frustration by the overcautious gnomish guides sent to guide him along. On those few brief occasions where it looked like a little action might break the monotony, the gnomes were careful to stop and watch for hours before travelling miles around out of their way. Unbearable.

Since reaching the road south past Selenica he had been left to continue his search alone and he was grateful. He was less than eager to meet Hernane again, and had been told–more or less, that it was mainly important that he look for her, not so much that he find her. The concensus, and Feldard agreed wholeheartedly, that she would not be long away from the glories of Rockhome before the homesickness would goad her back on her own. Feldard’s errand was mostly to assuage the anger of her father.

He thought it good, because she was impossible. Every time he had spoken with his betrothed he found himself redfaced with anger chewing on his beard. Besides she could be anywhere. Still undaunted he had asked those he met along the way directions to the regional capital. It seemed fair that she would make her way to a large city where the presence of a dwarf would cause less stir amongst the populace. He was lucky enough to encounter a trade caravan headed to Specularum.

Expecting action, or at least some interesting conversation with colorful foreign craftsman, he was suprized how lazy and uneventful the journey was–and exhausted he began to sleep a lot. He’d never get used to sleeping in a wagon, bumping along a good three feet off the ground. No thank you. It was a long and dreary trip and he was glad it was over with, and good riddance.

Now safely in the foreign quarter of the city, with an inn to sleep in by a busy port, he felt as if finally his journey had begun in earnest. He sat drinking in the common room, lost in thought, listening to the bard strum a lyre and sing. He felt a tingle of excitement. Any time now…adventure and glory.

* * * * *

Probation. A straight job, and reporting to the Town Hall twice a week. Severely hampers the lifestyle. Two months of this. Ach!

And then! A chance to escape this grind! On one visit to the Town Hall, an offer! Or rather an order. Take a message to the main Church in Specularum.

“But I’m not in the Church of Karameikos,” Nicolai replied to the official.
“I know, but you do this, and you can consider yourself released from your probation.”

Too good to be true! To the centre of things and then … freedom!

A peaceful journey south with the monthly caravan. Walking all the way. Sore feet. Aching knees.

After delivering the message, look up an old friend, and a night drinking. Then, tomorrow will take care of itself. Just try to stay on the straight and narrow.

* * * * *

Dejected, Saeth trudged away from the great keep of Duke Stefan. The nerve of that guardsman. “Too young to join the brigade.” Why, she’d been learning to hold a sword before that farmboy was out of split pants! And she’d come so far to join, even enduring the nonstop chattering of that balding ship captain—walking down the gangplank into Specularum had seemed like walking out of a prison.

Still, the swordswoman knew that it couldn’t be helped. The Duke’s men made the rules, and if they wouldn’t accept her fealty, she’d find something else. Their poor judgment was their own concern. Fingering her pouch, she figured she could rent a room for some time, and then… well, she could always hire onto a mercenary band, or find some merchant in need of a guard. Something would come along. It always did. And if she couldn’t find a suitable tale elsewhere, she could always come back to join the Callarii brigade in a century or so. In fact, she could come back even if she did write an epic about her exploits elsewhere—composing two great poems would be even better than one.

Comforted by that though, Saeth turned her attention to finding lodging. As long as she was in a great city like Specularum, she might as well find a comfortable bed. Humming a stanza from Kaourantin the Unlucky and the Three Ogres, she continued down the muddy street.

 * * * * *

Counting them a second time, just to be certain, Miklos once again wondered what he would do once his small stash of coins emptied. After all, he couldn’t go running home anymore–not for a year, anyway–he was supposed to be self-reliant, after all.

Fortunately, they would last for a while, and and were certainly more than enough to enjoy himself for the duration of the festival. In fact, he rather looked forward to meeting up with Gregor for a pint or two that evening… and looking at the sun, he’d better get moving. Wouldn’t want to keep his friend waiting! Miklos broke into a run, hoping he’d make it to the Roaring Lion in time.

* * * * *

A subsistence diet of root vegetables and mushrooms does nothing for the soul Maruc decided. Day after day of toil on the road made him realise the hardship of the occasional pilgrim that had happened upon his lonely cloister. Frugal use of his food and water saw that he did not weaken over the journey but his muscles weren’t used to the abuse he was subjecting them to now. Especially the extra weight of armour. He’d tried to carry it in his back pack, but it was easier to just wear it in the end. At least it kept him warm what with all the padding.

Specularum was a coastal town he’d discovered from a traveling tinker. The ships where a marvel apparently and the sights and smells where an experience like no other. The architecture and marketplaces where you could buy anything you could think of, it sounded marvelous.

It sounded unbelievable to Maruc, whose life had been somewhat restricted in comparison to others.

As he’d drawn closer to the city the tales that he heard of it became darker and more sober. Tales of muggings and dark guilds of whom it would be better not to cross. Certain people to avoid, areas and inns in which not to linger….

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