Maalbring 5, 1333 YS
From the Journal of Red Master Starig Stronghammer
Here sits I. It is a new year. 1333. Guessing its time for an entry. Not sat down to do this for some time. It feels like I lost most of me last year being on board the Second Wave, but that were only three month and seven days. Has it been that long since I have taken account of my time? Aye, it has been. Since I were in that briny port in the Tortugas. Flipped back a few pages, it were in that tavern in Ciudad de Orina, on the Burning Island. Three months, seventeen days. When I find a temple, thats one of the things I’ll confess in me offerings to Maal. Of course, Three Sister’s Mercy there might be a church this far south, in a seemingly godsless and heathen landscape.
I’d say the escape from the winter back home was worth the journey, but this seems more a leap from the frying pan of – cough – good old home, into the fire here down south. Yes this jungle clime might be steamier than me Aunt Lucinda’s hairy pits, but that iddint what I mean. Truth be told, this rough place ain’t no place to escape to. No escape at all. But its pugnacity… well that be one of its greater appeals.
Chuul is much like I expected. Lawless, savage, corrupted by so-called civilized men. This port town of Bloodeye, its like no town I’ve ever laid me eyes on; ramshackle buildings set atop and within weedy swamp trees, more wood salvaged from the carcasses of ships than from any proper native source. And they’ve a greater need of good wood than most cities I ha been to, for theres boardwalks, built over the bloody water, covering most of the city. They even got a couple of long, rickety bridges crossing that Vanji River, what flows red as blood into the Fever Sea. My last crossing of that river bridge this morning was nerve-wracking. The way it swayed and creaked, I thought fer sure I’d be in the drink again. I didn’t need to hear that the bridge, not an hour after I’d crossed it, had been lit aflame. The city was rife with rumors, from saboteurs out against the Aspis Consortium, to summoned fire elementals. In any case, I’ll not be taking that bridge again, nor will anybody till they get it shored-up. Whoever runs this town must keep a storehouse o’ timber, just for such repairs. I’d guess them jungles don’t provide proper wood fer building, so timber be scarce and expensive, I’d wager. Were I an investing sort of Dwarf, I’d consider buying a ship with a belly-full of wood, then sail down here, sell the ship, cargo and all. I’d make a pretty doubloon.
Speaking of wagering, three day ago I come across a wayward-type place, a wagering den where a privateer acquaintance of mine said I could find a ring where I could maybe test myself and make some coin. When I finally found the box, it turned out to be a scum-filled den of illicit medicaments, but they indeed had a fighting ring. I’ve now another sin to avow to Maal, whenever it is I find a holy-dope to hear me confess. Most Red Masters vow against smoke or drink, but Journal… as I’ve writ before, if Canelle calls a dwarf to her service, the Red Sister better expect a little line crossing now and again when it concerns ale and tabac. I’ll admit, that night I jumped farther over that line than usual, but Korak’s Balls it were sweet. I ain’t never tried Scour before, for all the railing against it. I had to try it at least once. By the Tree, it surely did a number on me… as much as any drug could. A sin? Pish. How could my sweet Runner of Heaven hold that against me? Me whole body pulsed with its invigoration, and so far, me dwarven mettle had fought off the sweats and cravings. I see that as a worthy challenge to me physique, not that most of the Order would agree.
Now, I am retuned to this den, called the Sanguine Pit, not for the Scour, nor even for the more harmless vices. Nay, I have taken a fancy for the pit fights, despite that they don’t oft let dwarves, or even humes or elfs, to battle it out. The ring ain’t big enough, nohow. Nothing like the Phthyan stadium and arenas. Ahh that takes me back. Yesterday, the fights was dogs, then cocks, and ended with a pair of Therathai Capira. Capira, I learned, are a fighting caste of slaves, who originally hail from deep within the Lyzi Expanse. These Therathai take their fighting seriously, and it is said there are Capria training camps all through those lands. In the end, both lizardmen killed each other. The bout lasted, amazingly, for over an hour. As they’d looked so closely matched, I’d taken the long money bet on a draw, with a kicker wager should they both die. On the one bout, I made the fare for me return journey, whenever I decide to return. It won’t be soon, what with the warrant pending.
I sit here penning me journal, enjoying the heady smells and exotic feel o’ this wholly disreputable dive. Men’re setting up walls for some great, transparent tank, from the looks of it. They be placing the walls of it upon the foundation of the fighting ring. As far as exotic goes, this is unique to the extreme. I love it.
The Sanguine Pit, strangely enough, hold their fights during the days, not at night. After the matches, they clear the ring, pull in more tables and rig-up a small stage. Harlots saunter in after the sun sets. The molls take their clients into tight rooms the house rents out. The women almost come to blows with each other, competing for the custom. The cat-fights even draw bets from the onlookers. They bet on anything in here. It was amusing to see what the book-makers would accept for what passes as contest in this place.
Last night’s official entertainment left me angry. The bard had no place here. To say he needed training was like calling a gnome giant. He was so atrocious the crowd rousted him out of the place, tied a stone to his feet, and tossed him in the dark red river. Of course, there was wagering at every step of the tussle. I hate being wet, but I could not let them just drown the fool lad. Slippin into the foul bloody water a space apart from the throng, I dove down and pulled the idiot up and to safety, put a few coins in his purse, chewed him up good, and sent him on his way. If he be smart, he’ll stay away from the Pit and the north docks. Smarter still, he’ll take up a new profession and escape this cesspool.
Chuckling to myself now. They got some hedge-cleric filling the tank.
An odd lady just come into the main room from the back. She is followed by what could pass for her twin, but looks like the double be a perfectionized version of her. They share matching, glowing runes on their foreheads. Hah. Five men just dumped a lobster the size of a Cymbrian coonhound into the tank. Not sure how long that thing is gonna live. God-made water ain’t of the salty variety.
Ahah! Not sure if the sack o’ salt they just tossed in is gonna do the trick, but we’ll see.
Through the haze, I see the owner’s in conspiratorial conversations with her book-makers; the huge doppleganger bodyguard scans the room for trouble. That thing is not from this world, I’d wager. I swear her gaze drives through like a stiletto.
The boss-lady, Lura Ichon (her name’s been whispered around), must turn a tidy profit on the bets, but I am sure her grand haul comes from drug sales. No doubt she knows spoon from fork and tells the bookies how to hedge the bets.
My, my. They just dumped a damn big fish into the water. That sucker is bigger than meself. And that is big indeed.
Placed a bet on the fish. That thing’s got teeth like a Water Wraith.
Dammit. I miss me eye. On me blind side, looks like a fracas has broken out.
The crowd’s attention’s divided. Watch the tank or… I certainly can’t watch both with me blind side.
Oh my, the Pit’s bouncers are getting into the fray, having at with their saps. There’re a few people at the entrance, armed and attacking. Blood’s gonna spill. I better stay out of it. I don’t need no more trouble.
Not sure whats up, but them intruders be deadly serious. So too, the enforcers.
Its over now. A complete mess in here. During the fight, the glass of the tank broke, punctured. The Cymbrian thug’s head went through it, compliment of the owner’s doppleganger. Water shot through the hole like a geyser, making the fight more interesting. It helped to clean the blood, for what that be worth.
The rest of the intruders’re now subdued. They be trussed up and taken into one of the whore rooms. The boss lady and a few others are in there with em. Most of the bets were settled up fast, and a good portion of the crowd’s gone. Bloodshed’ll do that to the weak-minded and craven. The die-hards still cling to the bar like leeches. No escape for them.
As much as they may deserve whatever fate comes, it sticks me sideways, and I know I can’t let it rest. They be well-dressed folk, including a halfling bard – one with scores better a voice than last night’s so-called songster. Why’d a group of northern adventurers walk into a seedy place like this and have-at with blades a blazing? Trouble or no, I’m gonna give it a look-see.
They just hauled the halfling into the back. He don’t seem to be struggling. I am gonna have to read him.
Ahh here we go. My curiosity got me into another heaping-helping of trouble, just like always. Must admit, these characters have stones, I admire them. Thats why I am gonna help them escape.