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  #1  
Old 05-01-2017, 02:59 AM
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Prologue: The Red Dragon Mask


Prologue: The Red Dragon Mask


Alaeros Margaster woke up with a headache, lying next to a dragon. A dead dragon. "Ha! Hahaha! *Cough* *Cough* I warned you not to fight me," he said, patting the monster's head. He was a red-haired giant of a man, one of the north's finest fighters, and an agent of the Lord's Alliance. Dagult Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep, had charged him and his companions with the task of halting the Cult of the Dragon in their search for the lost dragon masks. They were in Tuern's lone volcano, the latest stop in their long chase of a group of cultists. They started on an excavation site in Icewind Dale, and now they were here, led into a lair of dragons and kobolds.

"Get up." That was Barrowin Undurr, devoted dwarf cleric of Gorm Gulthyn. She was standing on top of the dragon's hoard, with that annoyed look on her face, that Alaeros had been seeing more and more often. "If you've got energy to laugh, you've got energy to search. Assist us. It has got to be here somewhere." She had always looked down on him, despite her stature. Perhaps it was because he reminded her so much of her lost love - hairy, loud, and full of himself.

"Fine. Fine," he gave in, as he slowly got back on his feet. "Some gratitude this is for slaying a dragon."

"No. We killed it."

"Bah! Details."

Barrowin was already out of sight. She had - he assumed - gone behind the little hill of coins and gems.

Alaeros joined Ratshadow by the western wall. "Any luck, friend?" he asked, draping his arm across the halfling's shoulders. Ratshadow was not one of the people that Lord Neverember had hired for the mission, but Alaeros was glad he and his ranger guide, Talon, were here all the same. They had saved the day back in Icewind Dale, and if not for their trickery, they would have had to fight two more red dragons that evening, siblings of the one they slew.

"No, unfortunately," Ratshadow answered, scratching his nose. "Do you remember what the dragon had said? What is it with you little folk always being in places where you shouldn't be? Perhaps the reason we cannot locate the mask is because this was the wrong place."

"Be that as it may, we must still scour the entirety of this lair. Those cultists dug a portal to this island for the mask. The ones we captured said so themselves."

"Guys?" A voice echoed through the entrance tunnel, followed by light, yet urgent-sounding footsteps. It was the elf wizard, Nymmestra, the oldest and most childlike among them. "The cultists. We've spotted them. They're gathering towards the portal. Talon went ahead to scout. Where's Barrowin? Barrowin!"

~~~

right-aligned image
Severin Silrajin stood in front of his faithful, holding the red dragon mask. It was the fourth in the Cult of the Dragon's possession. They were one step closer to fulfilling their ultimate goal. Soon, the world will come to kneel before them.

The cultists cheered his name as he raised the mask up for all to see. Even Tuern's barbarians did so. They, who have long lived in fear of the island's three dragons, now turned to the cult and its leaders. Promises of power and of riches have swayed them. Not all believed at first, but eventually they all began to see. Glory and riches beyond their dreams awaited.

A half-elf, wearing purple, approached Severin and whispered something in his ear.

"Tougher to get rid of than roaches, I see," he said with irritation. "Destroy this portal, once I'm through, Talis. And take care of Neverember's lackeys."

Talis did as she was told. The only quick way out of the island was turned to rubble. Long, she and those who remained fought with the so-called heroes, but alas none of them emerged victorious. Two red dragons appeared in the middle of the battle, burning everything in their sights. They had found out what happened to their brother, and they were out for blood, charred or otherwise. Alaeros and his companions disappeared in the confusion.

Almost all of Tuern went up in flames that evening, a sign of what may come to the Forgotten Realms.

 

Last edited by Osse; 09-22-2017 at 09:50 AM.
  #2  
Old 05-01-2017, 10:59 AM
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Lord Valmaeros was a pitiful man in the opinion of one young Szador of House Anteos. Willpower: nil. Money: nil. Ambition: middling to nil. Power: nil. Such an appraisal made Szador wonder what the cult wanted with them. But who was he to question his Master? He sensed he was simply being tested and this poor fool and his family were the trial. He supposed that if he did well he may gain a promotion of sorts and he knew he wanted to grow in power within the ranks of the cult. The secrets of magic that some of the cult leaders were purported to possess were immense.

So Szador set about ‘feeling out’ the man to see what made him tick. Having heard the rumours of their failing fortunes in the monster trade he laughed to think how lacking in foresight Valmaeros was in regards to the outdated habit of keeping monsters. As for housing… did the cult not require property and the income derived from it? And money-lending… Ha! The oldest profession bar one. Szador felt that he would target their financial errors one by one to see how he could gain some kind of control over the man.

Szador and Valmaeros first met at a ball in honour of one of the great Ladies of Waterdeep. That celebration was looked on in scorn by Szador thinking with spite that with but a small company of men he could turn the affair into a bloodbath of murder and destruction. Instead he made small political commentary with those that could stand the passive aggressive nature of the caged lion they stood with. Valmaeros, blind with drink, saw in Szador a man with whom he could be a comrade- or a drinking partner. Szador made show of drinking but really he was just taking small sips. He hated being befuddled by drink when there were others around. He carefully probed and asked leading questions of the man who was willingly lead into revealing secrets of his family and finances.

Szador learned that Valmaeros was indeed a poor business man as he cursed the one who owed him money. 'This man, thinks he can take my money on not repay! Another leaves Waterdeep without mention of his new address!'

Szador thought, “If only he knew how much power his curse had in the real world with me as his ‘assistant’.”



Szador took it upon himself to act as Valmaeros’ one time debt collector. As his debtor was a merchant and not a noble he would have no idea who Szador was. He could simply wear a set of common clothes, with maybe a hooded cloak, and descend upon them to wreak mighty intimidation and injury upon them.

Going to their shop at closing time he waited in the deepening shadow watching and remaining still, just a man resting against a shopfront watching the world go by. Waiting for his chance when he would not be seen he moved quickly across the street and burst in through the door. Drawing his longsword he grabbed the merchant’s son and held him in an inescapable grip by the neck whilst pointing the sword at his father.

"You owe money… a lot of money… You will pay now and never speak of this meeting or your son will be gone. No… no. Put your hands up. I am… deadly… serious.”

The sound of that voice, like the sound of the corpse freshly rising from the grave, made the merchant's courage and water drain out of him. Strangely he considered that he might sacrifice his own son to escape the doom this man represented. Horrified, he shook himself to relieve these evil thoughts. “Yes I’ll pay! Please let my son go! Please leave us alone!” his voice squeaked out although he strived to maintain his manhood.

Szador followed him into the back room where he uncovered a small lock box hidden under a side table. With shaking hands he undid the lock and handed the box to the man with the lid open and the gold showing from within. Szador released the boy slowly, took the box and said the final words,

“You never want to see me again. I will see you though and I promise… Your word for the boy’s life.”

His words held an unmistakeable meaning.

Returning to his home through dark alleys he quickly changed into proper clothes before joining Valmaeros at his home. His doorman let him in and they met in the study on the lower floor of the noble’s home. Wasting no time Szador handed the merchant’s gold to him, now in a heavy soft bag instead of the discarded lock box. “Your debtor has now paid with the agreed interest. My colleagues ensured that he properly understood his obligation to pay that he hitherto had confused. As I have boasted my lord, I have a knack with business and am glad to assist you in your endeavours." Feeling the weight of the bag Valmaeros’ eyes widened, his pupils dilated and he licked dry lips as if he had been parched from the desert.

“Thank you Szador. This… is… thank you. But I realise that your service does not come freely. What would you ask of me..?”

“I ask for nothing that is not to your own benefit. Simply that we work together to reach common goals.” The man was so pathetic it seemed he had won him already. Surely not so easy!

“I will hear you Szador. But I have bigger problems than my own finances, difficult wife and wretched children. Heh heh…”
the man laughs at a private joke. “I can’t stop drinking… and my coin goes on girls. Younger the better. I’ll need to do better than this,” he hefts the coin bag. “What can you do for my sickness of the soul..?”

“Ah… this sickness you speak of is but a normal state of mind for a man with passions.” He waves his hand in dismissal. “Remain my ally and we can produce enough coin, wine and girls for even the healthiest appetite.”



Over weeks Szador worked his wit, persuasiveness and contacts to ensure that the prospects of House Phylund burgeoned. Where those skills failed he would use intimidation or murder to achieve his ends. Valmaeros’ appetites were fed and the man kept sated and stupefied. He would not have known what Szador was up to whilst he kept well away from the other Phylunds. Valmaeros’ family disgusted him as much as the man himself. And then it came time to seal the contract.

Szador had spent long hours researching something that he had heard rumours of but wasn’t sure existed. It was the Elasathia Worm, the larval stage of the Elasathia Butterfly, native of Turm. The butterfly laid its eggs upon decaying organic matter. The newly hatched worms were vigorous but short-lived (Three days until sundown to be precise) and they burrowed into the darkest, most moist location they could find. The tiny worms had strong mandibles capable of chewing quickly through flesh and there were tales of them being introduced to human hosts as a torture method. His research revealed that they were rarely fatal but extremely painful.

Szador made contact with a fence in the city who could obtain a living colony of the butterflies. This was transported to Szador’s manor and he made the arrangements to keep the creatures alive and thriving.
One night whilst carousing with Valmaeros at a house of ill repute, Szador carefully introduced a newly hatched worm into his ear. At once it moved out of sight into the man’s head. Valmaeros cut short the drinking claiming a headache. Szador waited until the afternoon of the third day and when he next visited the Phylund Manor the lord was in bed. "Such pain, Szador! You have helped me in every part of my life! Help me with this pain!”

Szador came in close to the man and said, “You have a worm in your head. It now is eating your brain. Only I can stop it with my magic.”

“Please Szador you must help me!”
exclaimed Valmaeros clutching his head in agony.

“Wait while I prepare.”
Watching the man askance and enjoying his pain Szador makes a great show of focusing his mind. As sunset approaches he mumbles the incantations of a spell he had studied in his Mother’s grimoire, minus the word of power. He then laid on his hands to the suffering man’s head and waits while the sun sets. Valmaeros sleeps and when he awakes his pain is much less.

Getting close to the Lord, his pale green eyes like daggers, Szador says,

“I have made the pain in your head. I can make this pain again… and I can stop it. You must do exactly as I say or the pain will come again. My master will ask of you a service… and you will comply…”

Last edited by Niyaga; 05-20-2017 at 09:40 AM.
  #3  
Old 05-01-2017, 12:57 PM
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PrologueAlyssandra sat in the covered horse-drawn carriage as it approached the manor of House Snome and felt a strange if familiar mixture of emotions. Disgust at having to deal with the most self-important noble she had had the displeasure of meeting, but also a thrill of excitement at the ease with which she had been able to manipulate him in the past and would most assuredly do so again today.

Rorid Raztaerart Snome was an idiot with a large ego and a lot of money: all perfect ingredients for the newly minted Lady Vivicar to begin molding into a pawn with a combination of flattery, gifts, and business partnerships. That was five years ago, and House Vivicar still maintained a friendly relationship with House Snome, and Alyssandra had had to deal with the snide whispers of other nobles who thought her a fool for maintaining a 'friendship' with such a man as Rory Snome.

Alyssandra could barely stand the man, but his wealth made him a prime candidate for subversion. Given his small brain and loud mouth, he would likely not do well to be fully inducted into the Cult. His lips were too loose for that. Directing his attention and resources towards the Cult, however, would gain the same benefits without any fear of betrayal.

The high, smooth outer walls of House Snome's grounds came into view, and Alyssandra stifled a chuckle as she recalled Rorid's obsession with making his home the envy of the entire Sword Coast. She was more than happy to stoke his ego if it got her what she wanted.

The carriage stopped outside the main entrance, and Alyssandra waited for one of her fellow cultists in the guise of a servant to lower the steps and open the door for her. She hated that she had to pretend to place herself above her brothers and sisters in the Cult, but it was necessary to advance their agenda, so they did what they must.

Another cultist, this one a manservant, accompanied Alyssandra to the front door where a pair of guards greeted them silently and opened the double doors of the manor for them.

House Snome's trusted butler of longstanding, Flynn Bannon, greeted them. "Lady Vivicar, welcome. Lord Snome is expecting you. Please follow me."

"Thank you, Flynn," Alyssandra said with genuine courtesy. Flynn was highly competent, and Alyssandra had come to respect him as a man whose talents were wasted on an idiot like Snome. He tended to seem happier when she arrived than when she departed, which told Alyssandra that her influence over Rorid Snome was something that eased tensions within the manor while she was present. "How is your family?" Alyssandra asked.

"Quite well, thank you, Lady Vivicar," Flynn replied, his mood visibly and audibly lightening. "My eldest son, Dorian, just advanced to become a journeyman jeweler."

"Congratulations! That is indeed cause for celebration. Andar," she said to her manservant, "please take a note to send a bottle of '38 Red to young Dorian as a congratulatory gift. And another one to the Bannon household here." She turned back to Flynn. "I am happy for you, Flynn. I hope you get at least a few joyful toasts out of your son's accomplishments."

Though Flynn kept guiding them, his face did flush red. "You are too kind, Lady Vivicar. I shall not forget your kindness, I promise you."

"The pleasure is all mine," Alyssandra said, and she actually spoke the truth. Men like Flynn were the gears that made great noble houses operate. In addition, Flynn and his family were no threat to the Cult, either directly or indirectly, and becoming a journeyman was no small accomplishment. The entire family deserved to celebrate as far as Alyssandra was concerned. Gaining Flynn Bannon's gratitude could also come in handy later if she ever needed something from him.

A minute later, after passing through grand hallways lined with nearly nothing but gold-framed portraits of Rorid Snome, Flynn brought Alyssandra and her manservant to the audience chamber.

"My Lord Snome, I present Alyssandra Cymetria Vivicar, Lady of House Vivicar."

Alyssandra looked up the small set of steps to the ornate golden chair upon which sat the large figure of Rorid Snome, and she bowed from the waist.

"Stop! Please stop, Alyss," Rorid Snome said as he waddled his way down from his seat to greet his 'friend' of five years. "No need for that between friends. How've you been, Alyss?"

Alyssandra stood up straight and smiled a charming white smile and clasped his arm with her own. "I am quite well, thank you Rory. How are things here with you?"

"Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful," Rory said, his robust attitude undiminished since last they had seen each other. "Flynn over there, great man, Flynn. His son just became a journeyman jeweler, isn't that right, Flynn?"

"That is correct, Lord Snome," Flynn said far more formally than he had spoken to Alyssandra.

"Well, that is wonderful news!" Alyssandra said. "I'll be sure to have some of House Vivicar's best wine delivered here for you to celebrate, Flynn, and also to your son. Congratulations."

"Thank you, Lady Vivicar," Flynn said with a knowing twinkle in his eyes.

"You see?" Rory Snome said with traditional bombast. "Things couldn't be going better. Did you see the walls outside the grounds on your way in?"

"I did indeed, Rory," Alyssandra said with a smile as Rory directed them to a sitting area. "I remember that most awful day when that careless stable boy knocked that stone loose and brought down a section. Such a stupid mistake for that boy to make, but even worse was the foolishness of whoever must have built a wall that could come down so easily."

"I know! That's what I've been saying all this time, Alyss. So what did I do? I hired people. Very, very good people. Gave jobs to these wonderful builders and I told them that I wanted a better wall. A great, big, beautiful wall surrounding my estate. And look now? The wall got built. I said it would get done, and it got done. Oh, I'll have a cup of coffee, Flynn. You know which blend. Can I get you a drink, Alyss?"

"Your leadership is an inspriation, Rory," Alyss said. "And I'll take a cup of green tea if that's not too much trouble, Flynn?"

"I'll return shortly with your drinks, My Lord. My Lady," Flynn said as he made an expedient exit.

"Now then," Rory said, "to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Alyss?"

Alyssandra sighed. "Strictly business, I'm afraid. In my dealings with Tavus Drake, he warned me that my friendship with you could be costly, as he has been secretly building the foundations of his own business to import and distill fine spirits. Naturally, I had to inform you as soon as I was able. I'm so sorry the news isn't better."

"Drake! Always Drake!" Rory Snome fumed, his orange face turning darker with anger. "That man has it out for me, and he's turned so many others against me. They used to be good, wonderful people, so many nobles did. Then Drake goes to them and suddenly, 'Oh, we can't do business with House Snome anymore.' Bunch of two-faced arseholes. I used to have so many wonderful friends, but that's not what they really are. 'Fake friends,' I call them now. Fake, phony, no good at all, all because of Thieving Drake. That's what I call him, since he steals everything that belongs to me. Thieving Drake."

"Yes, he certainly is that," Alyssandra said with a sympathetic pat of Snome's arm. In truth, Tavus Drake had been the man who had first recruited Alyssandra into the Cult of the Dragon, and he was her oldest and most trusted friend. He too played the part of a nobleman when the need arose, and that connection would prove valuable today.

"There is a bright spot, however," Alyssandra said carefully, letting her words linger for Snome to pick up on.

"Is there? What bright spot?" Snome asked, clearly attentive.

"Drake may be a thieving scoundrel," Alyssandra said, hating that she had to lie about her father figure, "but he has a tendency to underestimate those he doesn't see as threats. House Drake has been very kind to House Vivicar over the years, no doubt in an effort to control me and my resources, but he doesn't expect me to have the wits to turn the tables on him."

"What did you have in mind, Alyss?"

"Ever since I became aware of Drake's intentions, I've been working secretly to undermine him," Alyssandra lied, pouring charm into every syllable. "I've identified the businesses he plans to purchase to start up his wine empire, and I've been keeping tabs on them. The deals aren't finalized yet, and are still open to bidding. Drake is arrogant, and his offers are insultingly low. I've taken the liberty of discovering those bids, and now I give them to you. Andar, if you would?"

"My Lord Snome," Alyssandra's manservant said as he produced a scroll. "House Drake's bids for various business looking to divest."

Snome took the scroll without a word to Andar and read it, his eyes widening with greed.

"As you can see, Rory," Alyssandra said, "you can easily match and exceed Drake's bids. You can not only expand your business empire, but you can cut into Drake's territory in the process."

"Yes, this is great! Fantastic! Alyss, my dear friend. What would I do without you? You are so wonderful to me, so wonderful. You're a real friend, not like those fakes and phonies who only pretend through false smiles."

"I'm honored to count you as a friend, Rory. You know, if I were you, and someone like Drake had taken so much from me, I would want to take as much as I could back from him. If you move just enough of your current business down to these holdings once you acquire them, you can maintain your profit margins while simultaneously, forgive my language, shoving your arse in Drake's face."

Snome let out a bark of harsh laughter at that. "You're right, Alyss. But really, you're always right. It's not just time to expand, it's time to make a major, major move into new territory. This is gonna be huge, I tell you, Alyss. Huge," he said, pronouncing the word more like 'yuje.'

"It was the least I could do for a friend. Ah, thank you, Flynn," she said to the butler as he returned with her tea and Snome's coffee.

"Hey, Flynn! You may want to pack a few bags. We're going to be going down south a bit to check out some new acquisitions, and humiliate Tavus Drake in the process. Isn't that terrific?"

"Most terrific, Lord Snome," Flynn said approvingly.

"And Flynn knows when something's good," Snome said eagerly.

Alyssandra spent the next two hours in conversation with Rorid Snome about any number of things that the latter hoped to accomplish while humiliating his enemies. Alyssandra agreed with them all and promised to do all she could to help.

Finally, just as she thought she could stand Snome's presence no longer, Andar whispered into her ear that it was time to go. "Please forgive me, Rory, but business calls me back to Chateau Vivicar. No rest for the weary, I'm afraid."

"That's true. I spend all my days working, working, working my arse off for the good of Waterdeep, but nothing is ever enough. Well, I'll just have to satisfy myself with all the help you've given me today. Until next time, Alyss."

Alyssandra smiled. "Until next time, Rory. Take care."

Flynn escorted her out of the audience chamber towards the main entrance. "Thank you for putting him in a good mood," he said to her in a hushed whisper.

"You're most welcome," Alyssandra said to the butler. "And once again, congratulations on your son's accomplishment. I know Lord Snome can be difficult sometimes, so take this joy and savor it."

Flynn blinked, seeming taken aback. "Thank you, my lady. You are too kind. I'll be sure to keep that remark private, for the sake of your friendship with Lord Snome."

"Your discretion is most appreciated. Give my fondest regards to your wife and daughter."

"I shall. Safe travels, Lady Vivicar."

Alyssandra nodded back to Flynn and stepped up into her carriage and let the drivers carry her back home.

The deals that Drake had made had all been superficial, only meant to draw out Snome into buying them out. Most important was that all of those businesses stored their money at the Bank of Barissan, which had very strict policies regarding its accounts. If one stored one's money there, it was expected that they would keep it there. The various fees to move funds to another bank were many and steep, but the quality of the bank's services were such that few ever felt the need to move their money out of the Bank of Barissan.

Alyssandra had her own account at the Bank of Barissan, which was only fitting as the bank was owned by the Cult of the Dragon through legitimate intermediaries. By directing Snome's attention and funds to the businesses that House Drake had not truly tried to acquire, he would be transferring a significant portion of his wealth into the hands of the Cult of the Dragon.

And now, it was time for Alyssandra to head home for a pressing need. Just being near Rorid Snome made her feel unclean. She needed a long bath. Thankfully, she felt that she had legitimately earned such a luxury.

I pray that I have pleased you, My Lady Tiamat, Alyssandra thought as she dipped her head in silent supplication. All glory to you.
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  #4  
Old 05-01-2017, 01:56 PM
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Food for ThoughtWhen they upper echelons said they didn't have anyone to spare on the Stauntun mark they weren't kidding. A pudgy street rat, a scrawny cowardly guard and withered old Agnes sat staring at each other on rotting barrels behind dirty old tavern in what must have been the most embarrassing example of political intrigue to ever hit the city.

“So you are like a witch and what not. So you can summon ghosts and stuff?” The plump street rat said with witless expression on his face and high voice yet to crack that did not match his build.

Agnes just stared at the dull lad and sighed, recruitment standards had sure fallen as of late. “That is beyond my power son.” She replied as she looked over towards the guard. His head jerked around like a nervous chicken as if they were about to be ambushed by Harper agents any moment. That was unlikely to happen, there is no way any Harper agent would expect this pathetic crew to be Cult agents plotting against the nobility of the city.

She looked at her list other agents had passed to her. Ghosts were a tricky business, especially when you wished to manipulate them. The people with the skills for this job were few and far between. Agnes was one of the few low level cultish with paranormal expertise that the cult could spare on such a mission. The skills needed for this were far beyond her, but she did know what was needed. She had spent the past months scouting the potential. One by one she began whittling them down to the few that could actually do the job. Even out of the few she found, only one was viable. The others were too well known, too connected, any oddities by them or against them would attract too much suspicion.

This only left Armuld Gloathen of the Gate, a dottling old wizard who raised and trained Griffons near the edge of the city. She handed the notes over to the other two.

“Your thoughts?” She said sternly as the guard gave the notes only a passing glance and the street kid stared at them intensely trying way to hard to hide his illiteracy.

“The locals in the area are always complaining about his bird, lion things. I could offer to brush the complaints under the table if he helped us” The guard tooted off in a loud whisper, continuously staring around the corner as if they were being watched.

“I doubt that is a worthy trade for collusion and fraud.” Agnes said trying mask the disappointment in her voice. At least the guard was thinking, this was far better than her other companion.

“How about you abrakadabra his food?” The boy said, his dumb face brimming with an idiots pride.

“He is a powerful wizard dear.” Agnes replied with a tone of astonishment that the boy did not grasp the situation.

“So..?” the lad replied confused.

There was a splash of excitement in the puddle next to Agnes as if there was a child dancing, trying to get the attention of his mother. The guard and the street rats eyes opened wide in surprise at the sudden commotion. Agnes just bent her ear down and as if someone was whispering into it. She kept nodding and saying “Uh huh” over and over again. Each time her face grew more gleeful at whatever silent idea was being passed through her ears.

Finally she lifted her head. Her snaggle tooth grin and saggy eyes wide open with excitement and staring at the dull lad. “I think you are onto something there boy. We can poison his Griffons, his beloved pets. Go to the butcher and bring me some horse meat. Meet me outside Gloathan’s Pens, the side near the street.” She said to the boy in as approvingly motherly voice as she could muster, her shrills awash with false sincerity.

She the looked towards the guardsman. “I believe it is time for your patrol, lest I remember wrongly you were schedule to patrol that same street this eve.” She said with a wink, filling her voice with as much confidence as possible. She needed the guard on his game most of all.

“What are you planning?” The guard asked.

“Just be there and follow along sonny.” she snapped as she grabbed her walking stick, picked herself up and hobbled out of the alley.

She met the lad some ways down the street. The wizard's pen was an impressive complex but one part sat open to the street, a rusty old gate brick wall being all that separated passers by from the fierce beasts inside.

The boy had done his part and brought an armful of horse meat.
“My deer lad, I hope this did not set you back too much.” She said, feigning awe at the boys deed.
“I didn't buy it.” The boy laughed idiotically his high pitch voice that slightly cracked as his giggle snorted out of his nose.

“Now it's time for the curse. Would you be a darling and unwrap it and hold up for me?” She said kindly as she put her stick down and raised her hands. The meat was heavy so the boy had to bear-hug it against his body. Agnes began a slow deep humming and awkward dancing motion with her hands.

“Mehaira, Misarha, Hikawhaqua …..” Agnes muttered over her humming, each down beat hitting the horse meat hard with her palms, its juices splattering over the lad as she chanted her curse. The curse was really just a cooking recipe for oats in a dirty form of Sylvan. When she finished she made an over-dramatized gesture with her hands and paused for a moment to add effect.

“Now boy, I will open the gate. Sneak in and place meat on the ground, but be quick.” She said as she padded the street rat on the head, pretending to be the loving mutter he never had.

The plump lad skulked up the street, he was from the street and knew better than most how to stay hidden in the shadows. When he got to the gate Agnes stared up at a latch where the wall met the gate. She gave a little nod and like magic the latch undid itself. The urchin with his pile of horse cadaver quietly lifted the unlocked gate and snuck inside. Only she could see the ghostly figure re-locking the latch once the plump boy was through.

The street rat dropped the meat. Above griffins roared and cawed, there hungry eagle eyes darting down towards the boy as the scent of the meat flooding their nose. Quickly the street rat dropped the meat and turned, ready to dart for the gate, but instead his eyes locked with the ghastly spectral figure of another boy. The ghost boys are were empty black voids, his flesh blue transporal and rotting. The apparition stared at him with dark empty eyes and the street rat froze in fear unable to move.

Agnes sat on the other side of the fence and mouthed ancient words. A minor illusion surround the portly frozen boy, a dead horse carcass. The Griffins cawed with joy as the smell of meat and the delicious site appeared before them. They descend as one ravenous flock upon the poor dumb boy, before they realized this warm flesh was not their favorite delectable horse meat the deed was done and the urchin was a bloody mess. Strips of his flesh rested in the griffins beaks as they consumed their meal.

Across the fence Agnes put on her best poor old woman face and screamed for the guards. The cowardly guard came running down the street, just as planned. Any beast in the city that killed a human would have to be put down, if Armuld wanted to keep his pets alive he would work with the cult.

As the guard came close Agnes noticed one of the Griffen. As soon as the boys flesh entered its beak it jolted back in revolt, shock covered its face. In a translucent phasal shift the Griffin transformed into a man, returning to its true form as Armuld Gloathen of the Gate. Trauma covered his face as he pawed at his tongue trying to wipe the taste of death away. The boys blood and flesh stained his robes as he feebly huddled, watching his beloved pets consume an innocent.

Agnes looked up to the apparition of her grandson, a cheeky grin sliced across his ghastly face. She smiled back, this planned had turned out better than she could have ever imagined. The wizard was theirs.

Last edited by gotha; 05-01-2017 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 05-03-2017, 09:35 PM
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Prologue: To Secomber with Love
Marluck was uncomfortable wearing this heavy armor, the metal plates were not a problem, they only made rolling his shoulders more difficult. It was the burden of weight all the metal stacked together which plagued him. A gift, it was given to the half-orc by a stout dragonborn with a fiery temper after the slaves had been returned to their barred homes. Marluck, unused to the gesture had resisted at first when the damaged gear was given, but under the watchful eye of the towering statue blinding him with it's radiance, a beautiful depiction of his new idol, the slave obeyed.

He obeyed again when he was told to head for Daggerford and again when Lady Malaria had given him a direct command to go to Secomber. He needed to find Belsz Harramavur, a spymaster with a wide network who had been rocking the boat too hard as of late. The young always did.

The clang of steel-on-steel drove Marluck from his thoughts as his sword, a large and unwieldy thing, rapped against the chain hanging off of his travel bag. Each hair on the half-orc's neck rose and his head shuddered. With a deft motion Marluck swiped at the offending object and plunged it deep in his bag, rattling all the way down as the metal became crudely strewn about the meager provisions offered by his once prison. An idea, not a wise one. I'll sell the chain as soon as I can. Nodding at his assessment of the offending object Marluck began to notice the shape of a city wall peaking over the horizon of his vision.

Secomber. First, find Illerios. The bird must have gotten to him by now.

Prologue: Welcome, Greetings, Go Home
Sitting at the end a long-table within the town tavern, The Seven-Stringed Harp, Marluck was out of his element. While he had been unchained for weeks at this point he had also been hidden from sight. In an alleyway nobody was going to question you, no one would care, but in the ramshackle tavern he had been propositioned to drink among the frequent customers ranks a litany of times. He was assured that this was a part of Illerios' plan. To make him uneasy, make him prone to action when pushed and loosen his lips if he was questioned... and it was working.

The rhythmic tapping of wood coming closer drew his gaze, but he diverted it as soon as the figure stepped within his sight. Here he was, an old friend, the only one he truly had from his younger years. Illerios was a wiry halfling, touched by whatever god had cursed his body to convulse at odd intervals. While Marluck had aged poorly the halfling seemed almost immune to time's effects. The grey hair atop his head was the only inkling someone would have to consider his age higher than fifty. A filthy grin, still present within Marluck's mind had been smelted there, it would never leave and the halfling would look wrong without it, not that he looked right ever.

"Hello there. Looking like always, Grim." Seating himself beside the forcefully retired thug, Illerios boxed the man in with both body and presence. The lilting accent grazed his ears only barely, the conversation inaudible to the pub-goers who had taken to a drink-off. "I got your bird," the halfling laughed out, eyeing the side of Marluck's scalp as he continued, "You're working for the cult, huh? Quite the group you've found yourself in since I last saw you." A mocking gesture was made towards the half-orc, five fingers extended and spread.

His sources were grotesquely good at their job, even back in the day. How the halfling knew his status was beyond Marluck. What had been happening in Waterdeep that allowed Illerios of all people become this informed? After mulling over the thought for a long recess he could only think it to be the bird. It must had been the bird. A hand stuck to his face as Marluck cleared his throat before speaking, "My status is the same as it has always been. I need information." One brow of his long known contact's eyes raised, questioningly.

"And what payment do you have in exchange my dear friend?" The corners of his lips rose, greed overtaking his form as the halfling began sorting through his mind, coming up with things that might have been the hired killer's objective.

"We can talk payment when I get my source. What do you know of the man known as Belsz business dealings?"

The halfling stopped smiling as the name was drawn to his attention. "What would you have from him? Belsz has connections you know; some of which I am tied to." Illerios nodded his head as he reaffirmed his staunch opposition to unveiling any information. What could be determined as a nervous tick escalated over the half-orc, could be, but Marluck knew he didn't have any nerves in his damaged body. The shorter man was wasting time, fighting an intellectual battle that Marluck had no experience in for the past few decades. Each second that passed seemed to further nail in the distaste that the halfling had for selling out on a useful contact. Though a rictus grin crawled violently upon his maw as Illerios' hazel eyes glinted with a light that the half-orc, Marluck, had not seen in many years. A cruel play that the halfling was known for had brewed and he had been waiting. Dealing with Illerios was profitable only if you were willing to sacrifice something... and that something was never the same. "But," with a pause for effect the halfling stared directly at Marluck, unconcerned with secrecy beyond their thin illusion of friendship, "... I could offer the details if you were willing to do something for me. A favor for both me, and... I'm quite sure my friends. Sorry... our friends."

Glaring at the halfling now, tired of his game, Marluck waved a hand in a circular motion. "Get on with it."

"Well, I am more than willing to divulge what I know. You just have to head to Waterdeep, greet Lincoln for me while you're there, will yah? I hear he's been lonely without you... so do go soon. The whole of the Grey Cloaks look to you as a martyr, no reason to keep them in the dark." Illerios' voice was cut off as he laughed to himself, a cacophonous laughter that drew too much attention and made Marluck's ears ache. A room of eyes, glazed over from liquor, glanced over and lost sight of their objective almost immediately, returning to their tankards or drinking games. The laughing halfling becoming less noisy as their minds stirred other thoughts about.

Unluckily for him, Marluck was not drinking enough to join them as his grimace reflected back to him from the liquid in his tankard. Maybe he was swayed by it to some effect however as the half-orc raised his voice again to the criminal beside him, "Tell me what you know."

Prologue: In A Cloak of Shadows
Whaaaaaa... pish. The lure landed again, near a sunken log in the Greyflow river beside Secomber. An array of boats and ferries were settled at the docks that Marluck now found himself on, hiding in plain sight, fishing for szorp. The river was known for them, at least, that was what he had been told as he arrived earlier in the day to scope out the place. As the time closed into evening the pretend fisherman prepared himself to board an unassuming boat tied off on the dock by doffing his cumbersome armor in favor of a dark set of clothing and acquiring his new fishing pole.

Illerios had given him his information, the boat would be on this dock holding a crate of worms from some far off continent. They were said to do something or another, but he wasn't here for them particularly. They could be traded to one of his refreshed list of contacts for all he cared, but they needed to be on short supply when Belsz came next morning to deal them off to a Shadow Thieves representative. Before sunrise the deal was going to take place so Marluck had only the time between now and then to take care of his job. Else-wise he was going to have to find another way to get Belsz killed.

After reeling in his last line and dragging his weapon from under a bush, the half-orc began closing in on the unassuming boat. The outer section of the vessel was unguarded, though the innards were likely not as various individuals streamed in and out of the ship. At this very moment there were the least amount he could get with time being as it was.

Stealthily climbing across the rope mooring the watercraft to the docks, Marluck listened intently for the withheld individuals to say something, to make a noise or to give some inclination that they were on the vessel. This precaution went unwarranted as the half-orc entered the lower decks to find it strangely absent. No guards, not a good sign. As he raised his alarm his search became cleaner. The few boxes that he did find were full of various fish, likely the szorp he had been trying to catch earlier, but when he opened a crate underneath a bucket of bait the prize was unveiled. The usually wriggling insects were frozen by some means, without ice. Each was stuck in some un-ageing trance, likely to keep them from becoming some sort of abominable creature of a high measure.

After carefully placing a swathe of them within his bag he did what was only right - crushing the containers that magically held them in time and resealed the box. That should do. A product with a time limit won't do a stealthy organization any good. Much less the heathen.

Finding his way out of the ship detained, Marluck grimaced as he saw coming down the dock, his target's customer. The drow, a female with leather armor hidden by her various cloaks quickly strode down the boards, apparently in a hurry. With a quick glance as he propelled himself off the side of the ship gripping with a loose rope, Marluck noticed the daggers at her waist as well - unclean.

As the drow woman boarded the boat he secured himself, gripping fast to the single hempen rope that kept his frame from dropping into the water. Her steps on the ship were light, barely audible even to the observant slave, as she propelled herself below deck. Knowing what was coming Marluck braced himself as sooner than even he expected the drow was above deck, furious about something only he and her knew about. Cradled in his backpack, was a portion of her treasure and the rest was useless now.

As drow were prone to do, she was gone without him noticing.

Prologue: Task, Effectively Complete
The next day a body was found within the peaceful town of Secomber. Within The Singing Sprite was the corpse of a wet behind the ears Dwarf, known only to his sect of the world as a brilliant spymaster. Likely to his kin and contacts this was horrible news, but to Marluck it was only inevitable.

His goal to have the dwarf dead by the hands of the Shadow Thieves was complete, sort of. He would have died by their hands either way, he supposed. But his job was complete, Belsz Harramavur was done in by his own merit, without the cult's involvement. The female drow had killed him before their arranged meeting - a cruel fate,
but it was to be expected that at some point in a game of criminals, well... one day you would be the one in the casket.

For now though, Marluck had to find a buyer for these insects.
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Last edited by Maskain; 05-15-2017 at 11:57 PM. Reason: removed para. breaks (why they were there, I don't know)
  #6  
Old 05-05-2017, 08:39 AM
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The MessageVenicka looked at the scrap of paper in her hand, her mind going blank. ~ I... They... She looked up to see that the young human who had brought the note was watching her. She gave him an annoyed looked that asked; 'You're still here?' She then nods curtly, and changes the mask to one that says; 'I understand. Now go!' She looks once again at the note in her hand, confused. ~ I'm a archer, not some spy or thief. What do I know of such treachery? Venicka crumples up the note and tosses it carefully into the fire. She sits and watches it burn. Now only she and her Masters know what her mission was. She hoped that she wouldn't fail this test.

EntranceVenicka stepped out of the Reaching Woods and approached Scornubel, walking along the bank of the Chionthar, over her shoulder she carried a freshly slain cougar. From experience, she knew that giving a tavern owner a portion of the meat would help pay for her stay. The more exotic, the better the deal was for her. She entered the third inn she came to, looked around, then found someone who looked to be in charge. "Who do I speak to, to get lodging for the week?"

The man looked at her, a quick appreciative eye giving her a looking over, and stopping on her prize. He nodded his head toward four people playing cards. "Ask Tabley. He's the one who's winning."

She approached the table, waiting for the hand to finish. When it did, Tabley looked up at her, his eyes widening when he caught sight of the catch. "I suppose you want a room, and the use of a stable?"

"For a week, maybe more. I'll give you half."

Tabley looks up at her, evaluating who he is dealing with. After not too long, he waves his companions away, who take their money and wordlessly go. "All of it, and you can stay for a month for all I care."

"All but a day's worth, and I get a morning meal and warm bath each night."

"Deal. Tell the clerk to give you room 2C and a lock. He'll know what to do."

With a nod, Venicka takes her leave. Later, after locking the cougar away, she watched as the maid brought in one last pale of hot water. Venicka dipped a toe into the water, and determined it was warm enough. She tossed the girl a silver, which the girl quickly made disappear into her hair. Venicka decided she liked her.

Finally, after making sure the door was secure, Venicka slips out of her leather, and into the bath. With a sigh she had not realized she'd been holding back, she finally relaxed. She leaned her head back, and started to sink into the tub, when she heard the clicking of the lock, someone was trying to break in.

Venicka carefully raised herself out of the bath, grabbed up one of the handaxes that lay beside and the mace. She then crept up to the door, hiding behind it, and ready to spring at her intruder. There was a silence, then the door flew open, and her would-be thief ran into the room. Venicka surprised the girl, bringing the mace down to crush her skull. The girl let out a short scream and covered her head with her hands, cowering on the floor.

The wet, naked ork breathed hard as she stood over the maid who'd just filled her water. The adrenaline was still pumping through her, her hands clenching tightly to the weapons in them. She tossed the handaxe toward the others, and reached a hand down to help the girl up. "Stand. I will not harm you."

The girl stood, clearly still shaking of fear. And yet, she did not look away from Venicka as she handed over the message she was given, and waited as Venicka opened the note. Venicka raised an eyebrow at her, and the girl bowed her head slightly. "He said to wait for you to dismiss me, Miss." Venicka considered the girl, then went back to reading the note.


The PreparationThe next day, Venicka visited Preszmyr the Herbalist's shop and began to look around. Finally, she approached the shopkeeper, her hand indicating her lower back. "Sir, I sent a young girl here last night, with a note about my pains?" she inquires.

"Ah yes, I believe I have exactly what you are looking for." Preszmyr turns away and begins heading toward the back of the shop. "Follow me, young huntress." And he leads Venicka to a back room. "My assistant will help you." He then holds open the back door for her, and after she enters returns to the front.

Inside the room, very little light shined through the curtains. Thankfully, this did not hinder her, due to her darkvision. She made her way to the back, then searched along the flooring until she found the symbol of Llira on the wall. Venicka rolled her eyes at the use of the Goddess of Joy's marking in such an endeavor, but lifted the hidden panel, and climbed down the revealed ladder.

As soon as she began down, she could see a dim light emanating from her destination. At the bottom of the ladder, she followed a tunnel that led to another room, the door to it partially opened, inviting her to enter. "Ah good!" A young-looking Gnome, wearing bright orange and white striped pants, with a blue overcoat, called out as she entered. "I am just about finished. This is my finest work, yes it is. I think your friends will be pleased indeed. Pleased indeed." As he chattered away, he continued to work.

Venicka looked around the room, hoping for a place to sit. She was just about to sit down on a short barrel, when the Gnome leapt up, a book in hand. "Finished! Not bad for only have three days to finish it, if I don't say so myself." He rushed over, holding out a book for her. "That'll be four platinum, young lady." he said, holding his other hand out, palm up.

Venicka yanked the book away, glaring down at him. She looked over his work, honestly not sure what she was looking for. The book was a ledger, listing all the incoming and outgoing trade goods, and everything looked to be in order. She looked down to the Gnome, a bright smile beaming back up to her. "What good is this!?" she asked, frustrated.

The Gnome, shook his head sadly up at her. "Don't you understand? This ledger has incorrect numbers. You switch it out with the real ledger, and when the surprise inspection occurs later that day, they'll find that Drenneth has been under-reporting his earnings. Especially in certain items that are highly regulated, like laethkiss and carrion crawler mucus. Which reminds me..."

The Gnome scurries off, past Venicka and up the ladder. Venicka starts to follow, supposing she is meant to follow. But before she can even begin up the ladder, the Gnome is already coming back down, a sack in one hand. He impatiently waves for her to follow him back into his room. "Here. You also need to break into that grumpy Dwarf's poison locker, and plant these with his others poisons. This will seal it, with the authorities. He'll have more than he is legally allowed, by Scornubel law." He once again holds his hand out, waiting for payment. "That'll be six platinum."

"But you..."

"That was just for the book, y..." He presses his lips together, suppressing what he was about to say. "Six platinum. I know you have it."

Venicka reaches into her pouch, and pulls out the platinum and a few of the gold pieces the Cult gave her for the mission. She was not told what it was to be used for, only not to spend it all. She slips the gold back, then places the six platinum in the greedy Gnome's palm. And with that, he hands over the poison-filled sack.

Nodding once, she turns away to leave, when she feels the Gnomes hands suddenly up the back of her shirt. "Almost forgot!" He says, as she stiffens from his touch. She almost turns to swing at him, but his hands begin to rub something on to her lower back, and soon she finds herself beginning to relax. "You came down here for back pain, didn't you?" he says, his voice sounding good to her suddenly.

When his hands begin to reach down the back of her skirt, she pulls away quickly, then spins to glare down at him. He shrugs, a wide smile on his lecherous face. "That was a freebie. Enjoy."

She wanted to wipe the smirk off his face, but instead left without further incident. She had what she needed. Now, she needed to finish this, so she could go home. Well, back to the Cult, at least.


FinishingOver the next two days, Venicka worked on the Cougar, preparing it for the innkeeper. She would often take breaks to visit Drenneth's shop, buying things as she needed them. As she waited for the Dwarf to help her, she paid attention to the layout of the trading house. On one occasion, she made her way to the back and located the hidden panel the Gnome had informed her of. She was almost caught, but Drenneth did not seem particularly suspicious.

On the second night, Venicka cloaked herself in dark garb, quietly sneaked out the window of her room, and climbed down the backside of the inn. From there, she was able to cling to the shadows and make her way to Drenneth's. When she reached the window she intended to climb through, as it was the one she knew to have the least amount of goods placed before it, she swallowed hard, closed her eyes, then opened them with renewed determination. Using the pry bar she had bought on her first visit, she began to force open the window. With a little struggle, the window suddenly popped open. Reacting quickly, she reached her right hand up and caught the bottom of the window sill just before it slammed open, catching two of her fingers between the frames.

Venicka bit her lower lip and gnashed her teeth to keep herself from crying out, then took a moment to regain her composure. Careful to not knock over anything that was in the way, Venicka quietly slipped through the window, then breathed a sigh of relief before slowly lowering the window back into place. Lightly she walked across the main parlor, remembering where all the squeaky boards were from her previous visits, and made her way into the back room. There she encountered her next great obstacle, the lock.

Drenneth was no fool. The lock he used was a very good lock. And while Venicka had been given instruction on how to open one without the proper key, it still took her more than a few tries before she succeeded. But succeed she did, and unloaded her gifts into the hidden safe, making sure to remove the proper ledger and replace it with the new one. Once locked up once again, Venicka made her way back through the room, only stepping on a squeaky board one time, and freezing in place as she listened for anyone coming to investigate. No one did.

The next day, right on time, an unexpected Auditor arrived at Drenneth's and began to look into his records. By the end of the day, Drenneth was being removed from his store, a sign placed over the doorway showing that it was closed for business for further review by the Government. It was only then did Venicka truly relax. She finished curing the cougar hide, slept soundly for the first time in days, and left the next day. She would report back to her overseer, and await her next job.
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  #7  
Old 05-18-2017, 08:43 PM
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Brain GamesThree days. It had taken Gregori that long to connect to the dots. To follow the web of creditors and patrons that formed from that puzzle and decide which ones were worth harassing. Holdrark had dug himself quite the hole of back debt and fresh loan. The dwarf had seen this situation dozens of times back home, though back there it was caravans. The captain had made promises and now he was reliant on several profitable runs to make good. That left Gregori several avenues to exploit, and in the end he decided to pursue a three step process.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First there were the goods for Holdrark's next shipping run. He kept them under lock and key in a rented warehouse on the waterfront, but he didn't have the funds remaining to pay a proper team of mercenaries so he made do with local toughs that wouldn't ask for much more than ale money. Accordingly, they weren't the most perceptive lot and when Gregori approached they saw nothing more than a drunk dwarf and an easy mark. Their baser natures got the better of them when they stepped away from the warehouse door to hassle him about money, demanding a share to let him pass.

"Money? Of course!" Gregori'd said, making sure to slur just enough. "Hold my wine." He shoved the bottle into the hands of the nearest thug and started patting down his pouches, looking for coin that he knew wasn't there. The man holding the bottle took a sniff, enough of an inhale to note the pungent acid scent of it, before the dwarf yanked the truncheon from under his coat and shattered the bottle with a deft swing. The man hit the ground in sizzling agony, his chest and arms coated in the caustic fluid. It bought Gregori time to put his instincts to work, bringing the club in a downswing toward the knee of the other thug. Bone broke, cartilage tore, and the man hit the ground with a howl. A second clubbing shut him up.

Setting the fire was simple enough, then. Two vials of alchemist's flame at either end of the row of crates and a single bolt from across the room. The whole lot of it went up like yule logs in a winter hearth. Expensive linens, fine recreations of local art, and bottles of wine all succumbed to the flames. Gregori was gone when the watch arrived, and they were too busy containing the fire to set off after him. He drank heavily to a job well done, then settled in for a proper night's rest. Step one, cut off the mark's supply.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gregori spent the next morning going over his notes on who Holdrark owed money to. Two names stood out as having debt substantial enough to make a difference while also lacking a connection to any significant nobility or underworld figures that might come back to bite him. He flipped a coin and Yurgen Folswith came up the lucky sod. As much a loan shark as a financier, Yurgen wanted nothing more than the appearance of a gentleman. Unfortunately, he had neither the breeding for nobility nor the stomach for crime, so he lived in the purposeless miasma of the merchant class.

"You have the money but the lack the vision." Gregori was standing by the man's office window, eyes following a beggar as he stumbled back and forth up the road in search of coin. Yurgen cleared his throat, shifting in his chair enough that the base squeaked its displeasure. The man was wide at waist and shoulders, probably muscular once but that had changed years ago. "I know some people in Hagdersport who have the opposite problem."

"Criminals, you mean. Hagdersport is a haven for ruffians and cutthroats." There was disdain bristling in the pawnbroker's voice. Gregori felt a flash of anger, his face reddening beneath his beard, and he worked hard to choke down the urge to knock the man out of his chair. Such judgement from a man who lived on the interest payments of people who had no other means of getting through life but to beg at the feet of someone like him.

"Their money spends same as yours, old man. And I guarantee they don't eat beef liver porridge for dinner." The dwarf swept a hand in the direction of the man's plate, left on the end table where he'd likely eaten it the night before. Nobody to clean up the mess, and a poor man's meal. Yurgen clearly had more outstanding debts impinging on his finances than just Holdrark's. Yurgen bristled at the implication, but made no move to contest it. Gregori stalked over to the man's desk and set a folded parchment on it, the names he'd scrawled on it dark against the inside. Yurgen hesitated, then eased his hand toward it. The dwarf caught his wrist as his fingers grazed the paper.

"Holdrark's debt, then. In exchange for new prospects." The pawnbroker nodded, though his face showed no joy at the decision. Step two, take ownership of your mark's affairs. Now there was just the face-to-face meeting remaining.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Holdrark was half-drunk when he staggered into his cabin that evening. News of the warehouse fire left him in quite a state, and he'd spent the evening working up the courage to run. Just take to the open sea and flee his debts. Maybe piracy would suit him. He closed the door behind him, leaning heavily against it as the knot of fear and anger tightened in his stomach. The voice from behind him make him leap near out of his skin, his hand jumping toward the knife on his hip.

"Tough week? I understand, the whims of fortune can be cruel." Gregori was seated at the man's writing desk, his feet resting on the unconscious sailor lying beside him. Holdrark's eyes were drawn to the body first, his face draining of color at the prospect of a corpse on his floor. Gregori put a match to the pipe he'd loaded for this occasion, letting the glow of the flame illuminate his features. Theatrical, but such things worked well on suspicious men. Moreso on drunk, suspicious men. "Don't fret. He's sleeping, though you'll probably want to have a chat with him about stealing from your hold."

It had been his biggest obstacle for the final part of his plan. How to get on the ship of a man who was paranoid by nature and now doubly so due to his debts. No simple request at the gangplank would work. Rather, he put to use a smuggler's trick he learned in his younger days. Securing himself in a crate alongside others that were destined for the man's hold, and accompanying himself with enough stone to make the weights seem proper. He hadn't counted on a crewman's betrayal, though, and had to knock the sailor out when the man popped the crate in search of goods to steal. Dragging the body up to the captain's cabin was more work than he liked to engage in, honestly, but he saw it done with some small amount of disdain.

"Who..." Holdrark began but Gregori cut him off. It was easy to know what the next question would be. It was the one people always asked when they found a stranger in a place they'd presumed to be safe. He knew the next one also, so he answered them both.

"Who am I? Gregori Kelvorikav, formerly of Restov. What do I want? To make you an offer. One that you'll accept. Oh, you'll hem and haw and bluster before you do. They always waste my time that way. But you'll accept because you'll realize that moving goods for the Cult of the Dragon in exchange for blood money is better than being the man doing the bleeding on said money." The captain's swallow was audible even across the yards between them. He hadn't pulled his hand away from the knife, but he hadn't drawn it either. Gregori shifted, lifting his feet from the body and propping them up on the desk. Papers slide beneath his heels, several fluttering to the ground. After a moment,
the alchemist pressed his advantage.

"Leave the knife be." He nodded towards the bottle on the edge of the desk. "And don't bother calling your men. You won't reach me before I tip that bottle and neither will they. Everything you own, this ship and all its contents, will burn like the brothel pox and you'll find that outstanding debts are the least of your worries." Plucking the folded letter from inside his vest, he tosses it across the cabin where it lands askew at Holdrark's feet.

"What is this?" Suspicion etches lines into the captain's face, but he picked up the letter despite it. Gregori knew at that moment that he had him. Take your eyes off the stranger in your cabin to sate your curiosity about a folded parchment. The man knew he had no leverage here.

"Your debt to Yurgen, every copper to the last, absolved by myself and the Cult of the Dragon. You sail for us, you owe nothing. Follow orders and you could be a rich man. That is, after all, why you got into this game in the first place right?" There is silence. A beat of nothing, then the popping of a seal as Holdrark opens the letter and crosses to the window to study it in the moonlight. His eyes are shining as they turn back to the dwarf, his jaw set tight.

"Do you take your wine red or white, master Kelvorikav?"

Last edited by PopCultureBard; 05-18-2017 at 08:44 PM.
  #8  
Old 09-23-2017, 05:18 PM
Rylus Rylus is offline
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Vesh's grip loosened on the acolytes neck and dropped him, He walked away leaving the boy gasping for air and rethinking his life choices up to this point. An hour later Vesh sat in the darkened dining hall as his superior walked in, Vesh didnt make a move to get up or to show any respect as the man entered which was something that would have gotten most beaten but Vesh didnt care. "you will leave for baulders gate, once you arrive locate and eliminate Emryl Elarask, a member of the harpers. Do not use your normal brute force tactics, Emryl always has several trainees watching him and they will report any incidents. This needs to be done without connection to us, understood?" The last part came out as more of a squeak which made Vesh chuckle...this man, this superior was afraid of him. But after his assault on the acolyte he thought better of pushing this one and simply nodded.

**************
Baulders gate was a very busy place filled with crooks and the corrupt which made this job slightly easier for Vesh. Still he had been told not to use brute force and so he waited and watched. For several weeks Vesh watched Emryl without being noticed, this man was either completely confident in his abilities....or an absolute moron Vesh thought to himself as Emryl entered the same tavern he had every other day. Vesh followed him in a few moments later and took a seat at the end of the bar with a clear view of everyone. It had taken some time, coin, and a few broken bones but Vesh had set a little entertainment up tonight and when he took a drink of his ale, catching the eye of a man near Emryl for a moment he knew it was going to be worth it. Benny stood up and stumbled over close to Emryl where he tripped and spilled his ale all over Emryl who yelled in protest, a slight bit of rage peaking through the mans calm facade. "Oy you owe me a drink pops." Benny said a bit louder than was necessary while jabbing his finger in Emryls chest. "You spilled your own drink you bar rat, now get out of here before i have to call to guard and have you hauled away." Vesh figured he would call for the guard instead of threatening Benny but he wouldn't get the chance. Several other men stood up around the bar, Bennys friends. When they did three other patrons started to draw hidden blades "Got ya." Vesh said as he identified the trainees. He finished his drink in one swig and laid a coin on the bar and left in a hurry, as several others who didnt want to get caught up in the brawl did.

Vesh waited, he heard the crash of tables as the fight started which brought a smile to his lips. When Emryl stumbled out of the bar a minuet later Vesh caught him as he fell, blood dripped from Emryls head but he would live or would have if Vesh wasnt there. "Thank you my friend, now we need to get the guard immediately." Emryl said but Vesh smile and whispered "The cult says goodbye." as he slipped a dagger between Emryls ribs and into his heart. Vesh left the body face down in the street and vanished into the darkness of the night. The next morning Vesh heard the cries of a paperboy "Tavern brawl gone wrong, death of one." and that signaled to Vesh that his job was complete and no one suspected the cult, it ever left the other harper trainees alive to tell there organization that he was killed in a random tavern fight.
  #9  
Old 09-24-2017, 10:05 PM
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To Baldur's Gate and Beyond!Hatal sits in the local library, shifting through the various books. A stack of 5 books to his left, and 2 others to his right, with one open in front of him opened to a page titled "The Rituals of Dragon Summoning". Lost in the stories, Hatal forgets about keeping track of the time. Hours pass before he is finally disturbed. An elderly robed man taps the young scholar on the shoulder. "It's half past closing time Hatal. I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You can come back in the morning." he asks the elf.

Hatal frowns as he stands up to put the books away. When he finally finds where the last book goes, he notices a small note resting in the place the book was to go. His curiosity peaked, the bard opens the note, reading "Dark Horizon: Gustarlus Harounshar, master of the great galleon wave walrus, berthed in baldur’s gate. “gusk” is a massively fat drunkard and gambler who makes good profits but lately loses them all at the gaming-table."

Any normal man would've had no idea as to what the note was trying to say; Hatal knew otherwise. The message was one from the cult, directed at Hatal: a mission in need of completing. Pocketing the note, the elf places the book into its spot, and leaves the library so the owner could finally close it. Wasting no time, he traverses the dark winding streets to the docks.

With the ship to Baldur's Gate just leaving the doc, Hatal picks up his speed. Quickly jumping from the docks onto the side of the boat, he climbs the moving ship to reach the deck. Immediately one of the guards stops him "This is a private ship, what are you doing here!?"


Hatal stands there blanked faced for a moment, just staring at the guard. "You al right there?" the concerned guard asks the strange elf, who seems to be a thousand miles away.

The bard cracks a smile and bursts out laughing at the guard, waving his hands and muttering in the laugh "Casting: Charm PersonLeporem Persona". The disguised spell quickly alters the guard's attitude and perspective on the situation. "You don't recognize me? It's me: Hatal! I bought passage on this ship last week! We talked all night over stories of our different naval adventures at the tavern!"

Confused, the guard looks at the strange moon elf. "You did? Huh, I must have drunk more than I realized. That night's a bit fuzzy to me. You seem like a kind of person I would drink till I forgot everything with though." Chuckling the sailor sheaths his weapon and hooks his arm around Hatal walking towards the cabins. "Sorry I didn't recognize you at first Hatal, you just scared me with your odd stare."



The Games BeginAfter a week's travel, the ship finally docks at Baldur's Gate. Hatal waves goodbye to his new friend he met on his voyage, and continues down the docks. Moving slowly through the dockway, he carefully listens to all those around him, finding info on almost every ship and crew docked in the harbor before he finally gathers enough information to encounter Captain Harounshar.

Walking into the local tavern, he pinpoints his target at one of the gambling tables. After a brief moment, he recognizes the Captain as the same who ran the ship he rode on to get here.

Hatal rubbed his chin, "Yes: definitely pay more attention in the future. The common ground will be useful." he says looking directly at the captain from a distance. "But how should I proceed?"

Smiling the bard bursts out "Brilliant! That would work perfectly, just like all your ideas." A few of the nearby patrons look at the strange elf for talking to himself, but quickly go back to what they were doing after a brief moment of silence. Moving over to the table, Hatal takes a seat and pulls out a few gold pieces allotted for his mission expenses. "I hope you don't mind if I join in your game."



Closing the DealThe large man slams his fist on the table. "Damnit! I was doing bad enough before Knife Ears decided to join us and clean everyone out! I swear he's cheating! Nobody is that good!" with rage the man reaches across the table to grab the bard before one of the local security officers at a nearby table loudly coughs.

His face red, and eyes filled with rage, he stands up and wobbles towards the door, muttering to himself. Chuckling, Hatal looks over to the rest of the players, "It was fun cleaning you out of your monthly wages, but I must get going myself. Enjoy your night." With a wide grin of pride, the cheating elf stands up and follows the massive drunkard out the door.

"Captain Harounshar, wait up! I have a proposition for you!" he yelled, quickly pursuing the fat man. The captain quickly turns around, grabbing Hatal by his collar and pinning him against the wall of one of the buildings.

Pure hatred and rage burned in Harounshar's eyes. "I've been swindled out of enough money today Knife Ears! There's no guards around to save you this time and I'm not in a good mood after that! Give me one reason not to snap your neck right now!"

"Shut up and I'll tell him!" the crazed bard yelled out. The captain tightened his grip, but before he speaks Hatal continued, "Ahhgg! Sorry not you! I have an opportunity for you. I am willing to give you back all the money you lost today, plus what most of your opponents lost! You'd be tripling what you came in with! Me or my associates can do this for you every few months, increasing your wealth, and pleasures greatly."

One of Harounshar's eyebrows raised in interest to what the bard was saying. Lowing the elf slightly and loosening his grip the captain asks, "You have my attention Knife Ears. What will I have to do in return? Give a portion of my profits? Testify in a court? Sell my soul?"

Chuckling at the mention of the last comment, Hatal straightens his face and his tone turns serious before continuing. "We need access to your ship. When your needed you will transport people from location to location. You will receive compensation for your travels on top of our generous bid. But our requests for transport take priority over any other jobs you acquire. If you're confronted by any officials, you've never heard of us before."

Letting go of the elf, Captain Harounshar smiles for the first time all night. "So smuggling people--I've done worse before. You have yourself a deal Knife Ears. I'm assuming you'll also want transport back to your cult since you stowed away on my ship here?"

"Indeed, he is resourceful." Hatal says surprised at the fat man's words. "I will gladly take up your offer of transport back. Welcome to the Cult of the Dragon, Gustarlus Harounshar."
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