To my employer
(name withheld for our mutual safety – we both know who you are, so why commit it to parchment?)
I am not a writer. I am a performer. I am a speaker for those who cannot be heard.
That being said, I am finding myself hard-pressed to pen my experiences with this gaggle of slipshod heroes. I, by my own choice, have been a loner, a wanderer who keeps my own company. And happy doing it at that. Never before have I been in the company of such a disorganized, misbegotten band of adventurers. I stand. mouth agape, with no words coming forth. Where in Hades’ domain do I begin?
I mentally sigh, and muster… nay, wrangle (as an Espanish horseback-mounted vaquero would tangle with his wayward herd), with the words you so require. Yes, you compel a report, and my fate lies in your ever-so-powerful hands. So… I am attempting to do as bidden.
I met up with them outside Alhambra, as you said I would. They were very cold to me at first, but later accepted me into their group. It seems another oracle, or soothsayer, has placed me in their midst at the onset of this journey. The High King of the Free Kingdoms himself included my name on the ‘invitation’ of an audience. This I discovered whilst I visited the Alhambra Explorer’s Lodge. I also discovered that the group was carrying around a Kaidanese mask with a demon trapped inside. They actually freed the demon spirit, but I believe it is stuck on the spirit realm, unless someone knows its truename, or has a way to summon it. I sure as hades wouldn’t even attempt it. I am fairly certain the thing won’t be able to cross over into the realm of men.
It was a nasty thing, and caused half the flipping city to come to its side, akin to Aedysseus’ Sirens. It had the power to summon every living creature for miles around. The weak-willed ones, in any case. Lucky for the Lodge and the party, who’d split themselves up to go shopping, of all things, that I was present. I not only aided in identifying the demon in the mask, but also was able to disperse the crowd with my fascinating personality. You know that is the true reason I am here – my charm and beauty and ease of personality. Who else could have so easily and readily sidled themselves into becoming a bosom companion with such adroitness?
We were next whisked away via magical portal to Venchenzia in the East Realm for our royal audience. The grande city was at once as fascinating and disgusting as I remembered it. The High King gave the party a sack of diamonds and leave of one of his mercantile vessels (wonderful, another sea voyage). The party is heading to Io, as predicted, and they will indeed be consulting the Oracle of Meridimnus. I have shown them my… ability, and let them know I am on my way to the temple of Dionysos to have it ‘removed’. They bought the story as I knew they would. As I say, lies shrouded by the truth are easier told.
The morning after we saw the King, we were party and witness to an illegal duel between some emotionally damaged woman and her swordmaster. The man belligerently toyed with her, having obviously taught her the moves she tried against him, to little effect. He was quite obnoxious, and insulting. In the end, the girl, who was an old… or young… friend of Dorak’s, reverted to a different, older school of training, and she showed the Cavalieri not to be so cocky. In three slapping blows, she knocked the man senseless, and gave him a nice scar to remember her by as well.
I was thanking Tyche for her blessings that we were not molested by the dottari while bearing witness to this… the only word I can think of is… Drama. It was laden with whine and cheese, and I was on edge the entire time. This quarrel had nothing to do with us, yet custom demanded a witness, I guess. That, and Iz’alma, the wanna-be oracle, did a card reading and insisted that the party intervene somehow. This Lydia, now expelled from her swordsman’s school, was invited to accompany us. Of course, she accepted. Oh, joy.
I thought we had cleared the worst of our stay in Venchenzia, with plans to leave on that morrow’s tide. By Ares was I mistaken. I am sure the news of that night’s events will be arriving your way very soon, but I shall tell you first hand what transpired.
One of the party – the monk named Smriti, from Kushar – while in a tavern, overheard some felonious plotting between a patron and his hired assassin, and was noted by the pair. Later that night, and we all suspect this assassin as the culprit, Smriti’s bed linens were infested with a parasitic insect the Azurai Coteel (sp.) called a rot grub. I guess where he comes from (and I hope I never visit there), these worms are very dangerous killing vermin that burrow their way into the flesh, working toward the brain and eventually killing the victim, who then plays host to their offspring.
They must have been very dangerous, or the savage would not have used his most destructive spell trying to eliminate them. That or he was just a power-hungry idiot. So powerful was this volcanic ash spell, that in addition to the incinerating the little wormy bugs, Coteel also killed a noblewoman who was on a floor directly above us. Also, he destroyed a significant portion of the Inn, including the roof gardens of Vors Kyniar (The Caspian ambassador’s residence). Did I mention this place was the Tricalista Inn? Yes, this heathen, barbaric, snake-loving imbecile laid waste to the oldest and most expensive inn in all of the Realm of the East, and maybe all of the Free Kingdoms. Knowing what he’d done, the vile little animal vanished and left us to take the blame. Or so it seemed.
Before we had a chance to do anything (like get the hades out of there), the authorities arrived. In great force. Were it not for me, I think things would have come to blows, which would have worsened our circumstances, bleak as they already were. Dorak was his obstinate, paranoid self, arguing with the Dottari. Smriti was near to tears, in pain from the now-dead bugs still occupying her flesh. Kumori wanted peace and diplomacy, but would not give up his precious sword to anyone less than the rank of High King.
As you might guess, the place was a tumultuous ruin, physically and socially. Emotions ran hot, as blood seemed to boil. More and more of these thug/mercenary constables arrived, and as we tried to explain that Smriti had been the target of foul play, they were intent on arresting us all. Finally the Condottieri Regale arrived, the elite poliziotti of the city. These men have a dark reputation, and I informed our group that we were in serious trouble, and we needed to comply. Immediately! The Condottieri mean business. Serious business.
Next we spent six and a half hours separated from each other, in an upper level of The Grande Tower, interrogated each in turn by The Black Cloak – the Grand Inquisitor of Venchenzia, chief official of the Condottieri Regale. Appointment to the office of The Black Cloak is a term for the rest of the officer’s life, and the selected noble gives up family, name, and titles for the office, known (and feared) evermore as The Black Cloak.
For a time, I was certain we would not see the light of day. The cells were cold and reeked with mildew. There was not even a sign of a hearth fire, though there was a firepit in the room in which I was being held captive. Oh but I feared Hestia’s wrath! Not even an ember glow to brighten the room. I only pray my humble offering of the hard-crusted bread went a small way to ease her displeasure. It was not her wrath that had visited us that night, I am sure. It was another force pushing us to our destiny.
As it was, we all (I assume) turned on the savage elf. Did I mention he had frightening, under-worldly tattoos befitting a servant of Hecate herself. To desecrate his body in such a manner proves his lowness and heathen upbringing. Or perhaps he was a scion of Ares, for he carried a behemoth snake wrapped around him, like another, larger layer of tattoos. I renounced him before The Black Cloak, and repeatedly stated the destruction was all his doing. I was sure the others did the same. To my shame, in desperate fear for my life, I begged for mercy and forbearance from the heavy justice of that wicked city. I did not, however, call it wicked when I was being interrogated.
Were it not for great fortune, likely some God’s intervention – I am thinking Apollo (I bow thrice to his great mountain temple and shall sacrifice a virgin lamb upon his altar) – as well as the beneficence of the High King of the Free Kingdoms’ intervention, we would be rotting for a lengthy time in The Cellars under The Grande Tower. Those cells, I have heard, make the musty tower cells seem as comfortable as the luxuriant rooms at the Tricalista. In the end, we were set free. We were given a good tongue-lashing, but released all the same.
We did not see the savage again. I heard some whispering as we left, that he had been apprehended, but despite the death and destruction the bestial man inflicted, he was to be sent home and never to return. I am dubious of these rumors. But it may be for the best, if not a bit lenient. Good for him, to get away with his life. He was certainly out of his comfort area here, in civilization. His kind are ill-suited for adventuring.
Upon returning to the Tricalista Inn to gather our belongings, lucky to find anything left, the servants told us of a pile of treasure deserted on one of the room’s beds. Dorak was insistent on immediately rifling through these items, greedy dwarf that he is. It was clear (from the dwarf’s rumblings) that someone had helped themselves to a good portion of what turned out to be Coatl’s treasures. Dorak was fuming, and once again had to be convinced that only by our good graces and the Gods’ will were were not chained to a filthy wall to live out our days (and a dwarf’s days are longer than most).
It was only later that Dorak (paranoid… greedy… what have you) found a note jungle-boy had left us left us telling us he was going to turn himself in. I had no clue the man was literate, let alone eloquent. Why he left the letter under the bed… well there is no accounting for some folks.
It is now the morning of the 15th of Shal, and none of us has been to bed. We were, for lack of a better term, thrown out of The Tricalista, not that I blame them one bit. We have been shivering in the frigid Venchenzian night air, during the coldest time of night, sitting dockside waiting for an Adelolier to rise for work. We will have him ferry us to Midpier where The Westering Moon awaits us. Tide is at eleven, so we still have seven or so hours to kill. I sure hope none of these fools take that sentiment literally.
Faithfully in service, like it or not,