Dorak - The Hazy Steam

To Whom It May Concern,

The ship suffered damage from the incident – see my earlier report – so we had to dock and repair the mast. Ian and I tried to help, Ian with magic and I with intellect and a good disposition – as good as I ever have, at least. It wasn’t much help, however, because of the debris being scattered during the fight and because even with a cunning intellect and my dwarfen appreciation of crafting and a good set of tools, it is a daunting task without actual training in the profession.

Still, I think we got along with the captain well, and he called Ignatius over and gave us a refund for the time unused on our charter. I thought about tipping the man, but I don’t know the ways of his nation so well as to assume I would not give offense.

We did have one minor incident before we reached Phthyanopolis where a raven came and observed us, apparently under magical compulsion. Since we were traveling through the waters of the Ionian gods, had an encounter with a magical relic that seemed to want only to go home previously, have Kaidanese assassins on our tale, and a variety of powerful factions who are tracking us, either with our knowledge or possibly without, it is difficult to say where the intent was in the observation. Since Ian said that it was magic similar to the relic in terms of strength and intensity, I doubt it was the Kaidanese enemies, and likely not a mundane source, because that much power for the simple task of plucking an observer from the feast of a dead whale suggests an abundance of power – either a god or a relic .

We arrived in Phthyanopolis and discovered a new law had been passed demanding heavy taxes on foreign ships and arrest, inspection of goods, and interrogation of foreign nationals. The kind man who told us this, the Prelate Praetor, offered to help us all of these fates for the task of investigating a matter. Naturally, who were we to refuse?

He took us to the bathes, where Ian and Ignatius joined him to discuss business. Since we were nominally supposed to be his hired help, I asked to pose as a bodyguard, and was given a sash that denoted my position.

The story is fairly complex, and I am actually writing this as I half listen to the threads being unraveled, so forgive me if I skip the complex Pthyan names and use titles or nicknames.

An influential senator’s wife was killed and at her funeral rose up as undead and walked away, with no one willing to stop her out of shock. Our client is tasked to arrest the influential senator, who has fled. He wanted outside help, given the sensitive nature of the investigation, and how most natives would have a bias of some sort, either liking the man or disliking him, so that even an honest investigator may have difficulties with the investigation.

He’s good, too… he made it seem like it was merely happenstance that he approached us and had a job for us and basically had us over a barrel with the choice of a costly tax and an unpleasant interrogation or a possibly rewarding if dangerous investigation. However, I am no fool, and clearly he studied, and in studying, he must have learned that man is mortal, so as a member of the secret police of a nation with slaves and political intrigue, he likely has a web of contacts in all the ports that lead to the one he calls home. He merely had to use that web to check for a ship that was rumored to carry adventurer’s, ideally foreigners, to approach and offer the choice.

He gave us an underling with fewer days on the job than he has digits to chaperone us, and that left us with 4 people out of 7 who spoke Pthyan, and Dusky is ill at ease, being Bantami.

It’s good – plausible deniability that he assigned the rookie to an open and shut case, who in turn hired us as expendable muscle if the senator had allies who were in on the necromantic scheme. Heck, it’s possible that our real benefactor ordered the Prelate to approach us, so he could sit in the shadows, perfectly safe. Unlikely, perhaps, but all angles must be considered.

To that end, I am going to draft up a matrix to track who is innocent and who is guilty. Let me outline the elements, though:

  1. The victim – society fixture, daughter of a senatorial house, but a bit of a shrew. She enjoyed for a long time nominally clandestine affords with the most popular gladiators, and was married to an influential senator, suggesting she is attracted to power and trophies. Comes from a family who controls the allocation of certain government contracts.
  2. The senator – from a family of cotton growers, he was also involved in the government contracts, so there was a mutual need for his political career and his wife’s family, though who benefited more I can not say. Seen over the body with an unfamiliar look by the handmaiden.
  3. The sister – a really charming woman, for a victim’s sister she seems far from mourning. She is more concerned with planning her wedding, which seems gauche, even to me, and says she knows nothing. She does not name the senator as the murderer, so she may be innocent in all this, other than her involvement with her fiancé.
  4. The fiancé – An Aegyptian linen merchant, if the nationalistic taxes that would have protected his future brother-in-law’s wealth passed, his own prestige and fortunes may have waned. Then again, it is entirely possible with what little I’ve seen of his nation that the rich would have paid extra to have the imported Aegpyptian linens as a sign of their own prosperity and he has no great objection to the taxes.
  5. The caretaker – Ran off after the murder, suggesting guilt. If any leads come up about his current location, should pursue quickly, as that certainly will not waste our time to find out what he knows. Oddly, unlike everyone else, I did not get his name.
  6. The bodyguard – Failed in his duties, but kept his mistress’ secrets until he no longer served her directly. Promoted to replace the caretaker. Possible he killed the caretaker also and simply had a chance to hide the body. However, in a relationship with the handmaiden, so he’d have to be a pretty cold chunk of steel to send his lover to such a gruesome sight, knowing what suffering it would likely cause her, unless he’s also using her to throw off suspicion.
  7. The handmaiden – A slave who broke protocol by having a relationship above her station. I don’t know the punishment, but given the general evil of the Pthyan’s, I imagine it harsh. The sister disapproves of her familiarity and lack of decorum, suggesting she’s been well treated, and is unlikely to be the asp clasped to the bosom. Was caught trying to destroy evidence of an affair with…
  8. The gladiator – An extremely tall Aegyptian slave who had a longer-term affair with the wife/victim. Unclear what exactly she found out about him, but there was a blackmail demand. Odd that the nobles would blackmail a gladiator, but he was working with…
  9. The weapon school master – A man named Laurenth, it is possible his skill or the gladiator’s skill with weaponry allowed the victim to be slain in a way that baffled those who attended the body. The suggestion was poison, and there certainly is poison that could cause the sort of death that the handmaiden described. They could have used poison but a weapons master or his accomplice not using a weapon seems odd. Poison is generally a woman or old person’s method of killing – cleaner, less likely to result in a struggle, and if the attempt fails, passing it off as some bit of potato or other under-cooked item is possible, if not easy.
  10. The political opponents – Unknown, possible, and could have timed this all so the victim’s family will throw them assistance. Could ben conspiring with the Aegyptian fiancé, assuming that the Aegyptians are not all conspiring.
  11. The political allies – Possible, removing an embarrassment given how many people, including the wife of a merchant in her own domus, were gossiping about her affairs, but risky.
  12. Suffragettes – Unknown, but it could be equal rights advocates seeing the senator as an obstacle to their political goals.
  13. The Inspector – How better to get away with murder – be assigned to investigate your own case. Crafty but not cunning, overall, unless it is all an act.
  14. Our benefactor – Not likely, but possible, for the same reasons as above, and a good actor – very believable he didn’t hear about us beforehand, which I find doubtful, or he is a great fool, the sort who would choose the wine in front of him.

I think that’s the current suspect list. I may be mistaken, given that I only hear half of what is said.

I sort of hope that the weapon master is innocent or not well liked. I need someone to teach me agile strikes, and given how it went in Venchenzia, I doubt I’ll go back to the school there for instruction.

If he is innocent, and I can help prove it, what better introduction?

If he is not well liked, and I prove him guilty, a rival in the academy may be of some help.

We are going to seek the mages to ask about some details from the letters between the victim and the gladiator. Ian also wants to learn more about their magic system, which seems similar but has some odd spells.

Traveling with scholars is supposed to be increasing my understanding of the world, but since the mystery that intrigues them the most is the arcane, I find little useful information.

Ah well, at least I am learning about the people and places we go through.

Sincerely,

Explorer Dorak
Phthyanopolis

Dorak’s Letters Home
Characters
Journals
Logs

Dorak - The Hazy Steam

Crimson Skies Grusnik