ALIND, Shadows of Edessa, ACT 1

 

SESSION 1: FIGHT HARD!

Mavrik

“I should have never taken you in, you’ve done nothing but brought me an early grave.”

Thus were spoken the last words of Edher Muldoon, the grandfather and caretaker of one Mavrik Hawksight. Mavrik waited for the mouth of the Sergeant to utter it’s last unkindness, and rolled the sheet up above his grandfather’s face.  He looked around at the cabin, covered in a finely thin layer of black soot. He stepped over the bad floor board, and opened Grandfather’s chest. There lay the sword he was never allowed to touch. The sword of his father.  He removed the weapon and placed it in his rucksack. Then, he went to the cabin door, opened it, and walked out, never to return.

 

Thunkeroy

“Screech, quiet down, would ‘ya?” The blacksmith removed his smeared goggles so he could see the end result of his namesake engraved upon his work. His thick hair and Dwarvish beard stuck out in all directions.  “Another fine masterpiece for that miserable scum, Grogue.” It was hard admiring this armor, not knowing how Grogue was going to use it. 

Not that he could guess. This was the third suit of plate armor that his “employer” had ordered, but the other two, only Patra knew what he did with them. Still, it was better than being in the mines. “One day Screech, one day, I’m going to make him pay for this suit. This one, and every last hammer blow.”

 

Abel

Abel never forgot that fateful day, the day atop the burial hill of Amador.  Too young to find his justice, and too old to forget his pain, he took out his confusion on the black rock veins.  His father’s axe, Dantes’ pick axe, his only souvenir.  What a legacy to be left with the instrument of a man killed for doing the very thing he now did.  Working for the man who killed his parents. The years passed, and Abel grew strong with the long days of labor. Grogue’s men made sure of that.

The day he stood alone in the mine, it took him nearly half the morning to realize there was no one else there, but him. In an instant,his axe was the only one still striking and ringing out.  He remembered, laying it over his shoulder, and walking out into the sunshine, to see the wheel at a stop, the water overflying into the dry earth.  Not a soul in sight. And just like that, the boy on the hill, was free. 

 

Lazuras

“I have often the lot of you told, I do not serve the soup when cold!”

Grabbing the handle, Chantecleer tried to lift his little elvish arms but found the enormous soup pot too heavy. This made him even more pink in the face, and made the tips of his elvish ears grow dark purple.  He was of course trying to show his customary protest of throwing “what could have been delectable, inedible” at his favorite target, one of the “Guardians”.  This one, a rather ugly mechanical and metal armored beast of a statue had been placed right in HIS kitchen.  It was a double protest, for him to hurl what he called “disgusting drival, and it ain’t trivial!” at it.  Today’s abomination was the roasted rabbit and eel soup he had perfected in his cooking school in Tyre. As he so often mentioned, this is why he was taken from a life he deserved, to the uncouth kitchen of the Edessan Palace. He was here to bring culture to the Papral House of Edessa, one bowl at a time. Not being able to lift the entire mess, he instead scooped it bowl by bowl and hurled the soup piecemeal at the metal statue.  Each bowl clanged off it’s metal plates, bits of eel and rabbit dripped down it’s joints.

Exhausted from his tantrum, he stood with his back to the statue, pointing at each of his underling chefs, all of whom shivered with fear. One Halfling actually hid under the central table.  He thumbed backward at it. “It’s bad enough I have the beast, I will not stand you ruin my regal feast!”

The cooks got the message, and quickly went back to work.  Chantecleer turned around, seemingly satisfied that this time the idiots who prepared HIS meals would do a better job.  He looked up into the empty darkness of the metal man’s helmet. For a brief moment he thought he saw a small red glow appear inside the deep hollowed recesses.  But he knew it was just the fire’s glow from the kitchen’s light, where they were heating a soup, for the King and Queen of Edessa, done right.

 

The Festival of Patrimony  

A man dressed in the Patrimonial garb, a cleric.  Many of those in attendance marvel at his motion as his robes part, revealing two magnificent feathered wings which sprout from his back!  “The House of Edessa wishes you, our most distinguished visitors a joyous eve of Papracy.  Let the Demons of Theta be kept at bay this eve.  Let the Angels of Edessa, guard you.

 

Distinguished Patral Lords, regal family of the Edici, Edessan nobles, welcome to the Festival of Patrimony, the celebration of our noble Lord.

 

In these dark days, we come together, Houses United will stand against the Sarasin hoardes. Houses divided will not. The Regal Family, the King, Queen, the two children, and Thoros, the aging grandfather.

 

And now, we call upon you, Jibral, Patron Saint, Patron Angel of Edessa, to appear and grant us your blessing for this night. Mist and energy swirls around you. A gigantic figure made of the mist appears.  It swirls around the guests, and when it comes by you, you feel at peace and a sense of harmony.  You know this is the actual Godly manifestation of the great god protector of the city, the Angel Jibral himself!

 

 

Atop the Edici capitol of Edessa, within the palace, lie the Halls of Patrimony. In the 23rd Festival were in attendance the various members of the Papral Houses.  Tyre, Dor Alayam, Antioch, Jafa, Aleppo, all the others as well. All were represented by various nobility, ambassadors and some of the Lords of the Houses themselves along with regal family.  Nobles gathered and congregated, the torches were lit, and the moon, always full on the festival night, shone on the magnificent city below where the commoner’s celebrated in their own ways as well.

The Edici family were seated in their reception area.  There was Xavier, Prince Regent. His wife, Mistress Gloriet. The King, although only in name, Lord Thoros was seated in his traditional place of honor. The Edici children played among the many Hospitaler soldiers and crowding nobles, who were shopping for wares, or eating from the feast tables.  The Festival was the one chance the Patral houses had of coming together, and even in the Time of the Omen, many treaties and agreements were being made tonight, that would otherwise have taken decades.  The benefits would be to the commoner’s under the various Houses’ care.  And of course, in this way, the cause to rid the land of the invading Sara’sins could be refreshed.

At one such booth was a lad of no more than 17. His name was Abel, and he had been hired tonight to make sure nothing was stolen from his Mistress’ table. All was going well until he caught a youth, who despite the alarming number of guards, attempted a theft, right under his nose. Abel promised his friend Arguille he would catch him later at the tavern, and followed the youth into the kitchen area.

As fate would have it, this particular youth was a boy of no more than 14 and he would have recognized Abel if he had looked hard enough. His name was Mavrik, and although he didn’t know it then, he and Abel shared an interesting connection.  Mavrik, being the thief he was, simply pocketed the stolen items, and blended in with the crowd.  Abel lost sight of him, as Mavrik continued to look for his second target. Like most of his work amongst the rich, he tried to maximize the score, but minimize the time.  He looked for an easy taking, and all too soon he saw one.  A man, making his way towards the kitchen. The fool didn’t know it, but he had a hole in his satchel and his coins were practically falling out by themselves!  With just a small dagger swish, he could make his monthly ale allowance, and perhaps more.  Mavrik moved in after the man into the kitchen, where smoke and yelling was erupting in that order.

Just as Mavrik was entering the kitchen, Abel caught him again in his sights. He politely moved in between a couple from Tyre, and accidentally bumped into a man who spilled wine down his Edessan tunic.  The man turned around, a large stain down his middle. Abel could tell he was a member of the Edessan guard, but he was no Hospitaler. His chain mail was rusty and gapped in many places.  And his face was covered in food stains.  He was holding two plates, both of which were full of bones picked clean of flesh.   Abel tried to keep sight of where his quarry went, but the man blurted out, “Oy! You lousy city dog! Who said you could walk amongst the nobles here! And what do you think you’re doing with THAT thing at the party?” He tried to point at Abel’s pick axe, strapped to his belt, but as he was holding plates, he only looked like he was offering food.

Before speaking, Abel had to stifle a laugh, “Excuse me Chief Carmine. I didn’t see you there.”

“I should say not you lousy spineless ooze. This is the Edessan court and it’s only meant for dignitaries. You need to get back to your wall!”  Abel looked at the multitude of stains covering the Edessan House crest. The Chief’s words, I contrast to his shirt, were not lost on Abel.  As if to make it even more pronounced, Carmine burped.

“Ay ay, Chief, I’ll head back right now.  The chef asked me to take out the trash is all, apparently some of the wyvern tail soup was still giving off poisonous fumes, but I’m sure you need to direct that project yourself. Thanks Chief…” Abel began to walk back but was stopped short.

“Trash? You mean the….you mean, Chantecleer?”

“Ay.”

Carmine looked at his plates, and then back at the kitchen doors, where the sound of crashing plates could be heard. “Get in there and take care of it, then!”

“Ay,” smiled Abel.

Thunkeroy had just finished pouring what he would hope to be his first of many fine pints of the evening, when he heard a noise like singing coming from the kitchen. Again. This was followed by a screaming, and one of the assistant chefs came running out into the party, looking distressed.  He searched through the throngs of people  until he caught the blacksmith’s form by the kegs.   Thunkeroy had tried to duck, but it was too late.

“Blast the light, that elf is gonna die this…”

“Thunkeroy!”

_____________________________________________

As if by some fate, the three entered the kitchen at nearly the same moment.  Mavrik the rogue, Abel the fighter, and Thunkeroy the blacksmith.  As if the odds weren’t incredible enough of this occurring, there, standing in a corner was one of the palace guardians, but this one, was familiar to all of them.

The three looked at each, and at the statue, and all said the one word that connected them all, “Amador.”

Then they saw the chaos amongst them.  In an instant, several things happened. First, the man who had led Mavrik in, was in the back of the kitchen being rather suspicious around a blank wall.

Chantecleer, the elvish chef of legend, was singing in his high pitched voice atop a table, flinging soup at a statue in the corner.

Suddenly, from behind them all came a voice and the kitchen doors swung open and two men strode in.

Not yet, you fool!”  And without hesitation, the man, dressed in Antichan robes withdrew a dagger from his belt and hurled it at the mysterious man fiddling with something by the wall, killing him instantly. The same man turned to his friend, “No witnesses.”  And they both withdrew swords. The kitchen staff were used to scare tactics from their kitchen’s general, but in this regard they simply stared frozren and before they could hide, they were set upon.

The men hacked down the kitchen staff, and made their way towards Mavrik, Abel, and Thunkeroy.   By the time they got to the back of the kitchen though, something else had happened!

If You Can’t Take the Heat

As if something finally released him from his imprisonment as a soup receptor, Lazuras’ red eyes glowed for the first time in many years.  With one hand reaching out to strangle the neck of Chantecleer, the other withdrew his weapon and fired a metal ball into the back of one of the heads nearest him.  Mavrik, Abel and Thunkeroy worked together and struck their foes down. While Mavrik discovered a door in the back of the kitchen that seemed to be hidden, a commotion was breaking out in the Hall of Patrimony. A swirl of mist surrounded the ceiling and coalesced into a mouth, which spoke:

Ladies and Gentlemen of Edessa!  Ladies and Gentlemen! Quiet, please.  We urge you to make your way to the central hall, and wait patiently for us to do our will.  Please do so now, before we kill you.

The voice was oddly pleasant, and even as the sounds of people screaming, dying and pleading for their lives erupted again and again, the voice continued to sound reassuring. Soon noises of whatever enemy had come was making it’s way towards the kitchen. They were rounding up the party guests, and so the newly reacquainted Amadons ran to the secret door in the back of the kitchen.

Trying to quietly close the hidden door behind them, they found several bags in a tunnel.  There in the sacks was revealed an odd clue: what looked like Sara’sin disguises, dozens of them, hid in the tunnel.  Why would these be here?

You Gotta Know When to… Cut the Rope Bridge!

“We can’t have them running through the lower dungeons! Get them so they don’t stumble across him before we do,” screamed the voice beyond the door.

On the party ran, their mercenary enemy released Sara’si wolves and fought them in the halls below the palace. The fight was won, and won again, but more of the enemy came. Led by Mavrik searching here and there, the party ran on until they found a large rope bridge and a cavern beyond.

The blacksmith, who was showing he was quite adept with creating fires and seemed to have a few tricks up his sleeve, waited until they had passed, and destroyed the bridge.

They ran on into the caverns, as a group of their enemy stopped on the other side.  A man wearing a hood walked to the fore.  “They’ve gone into the caverns, the guardians will take care of them.  I’ll discuss this with Gronk.  Continue the search for the cells.”

Pain and Abel

Down into the earth, they walked following the cavernous path.  Eventually, they came to a solid wall, and finding a secret latch opened a doorway into a chamber of stone blocks, with an immense metal statue.  It looked like Lazuras, but held two wicked swords, and wasn’t moving, thankfully.

“Is it like you, Iron man?”

“You may call me Lazuras, and it is not like me.  I am, like you, unique.”

“Well, then what is it?”

In answer, the metal statue’s gears began to spin, and two red eyes turned on inside. It slashed out at Abel and at Thunkeroy, both of whom teetered on their legs, slashed in their midsections.  Abel fell to the floor, and lay still.  The guardian came on, but Lazuras dropped it with a shot that penetrated it’s armor.

“Can anyone heal!” yelled Mavrik.  “Can anyone amongst us heal?”

“Well,” came the melodious voice of Chantecleer, who everyone thought was asleep, having been slumped over Lazuras’ back most of the melee. “Just swell, I can certainly heal, if you tell me how you feel!” And he spoke a few divine words they recognized from the Patral texts.  Jibral’s form appeared from the mist, and his hands moved over Abel’s wounds.

Abel’s eyes opened to see Chantecleer standing next to him, hands on his hips.

“Please don’t tell me that the singing chef just saved my life?” He looked at the others pleadingly.  Thunkeroy was looking at the innards of the great metal contraption they had just felled. He looked up and over at the awakening fighter. He wiped his hands off on his pants.

“Nothing could be finer than to heal a dirty miner,” he said matter of factly, and immediately he burst into hoarse dwarvish laughter.

“Hey, I’ve found another secret door!” yelled Mavrik. And I got a feeling this one, you guys are going to like!

The Laboratory of  Xavier Edici

 

“Look at all this loot!” squealed Mavrik.  He had found his fortune on the black market of Magi goods. He walked among various items, opening his rucksack.

The party had indeed found a treasure trove.  Inside the doorway, beyond where the guardian stood, lay a long, low, and dimly lit chamber. It was  filled with dozens of experiments, in all manner of disciplines.

Thunkeroy moved to the back of the chamber, passing clear cylinders filled with what looked like animals made from parts of more than one kind of creature.  Birds mixed with lizards, rats with snakes perhaps. In the end, a large cylinder in which lay a man with goat like hoofs and horns protruding from his head. They all paused to take in the extent of this research.  A lifetime of study here.  If the Edessans knew of what was here, Xavier Edici would be taken out into the streets and stoned, or far worse.

“This could topple the Edessan court, my friends,” said the blacksmith.

The dwarven blacksmith moved to a table and found a shelf filled with books. Here he found what he was hoping to find in a lifetime, a gift of knowledge beyond his wildest reckoning.  For Xavier Edici must be Magi, and here were his spell books. A lifetime of study, the way in which he took the forbidden power of Theta, and made the demons of the Shadowlands do his bidding.  Here he found books of all manner of description, of history, of forbidden knowledge on the Papracy itself. Of the words that would make the angels, and the demons, do his bidding.

Mavrik found a suit of armor unlike any he had seen before.

Abel’s eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing. There before him, a suit of armor to rival the best of any hospitalers. A one of a kind, creation. And next to it, a javelin perhaps of some secret cunning as well.

Lazuras, turned toward a bench covered in black soot and there found a weapon unlike any seen before. Like his fire weapon, but longer, with a horn like end.

Once more, a magic mouth appeared above them, this time it was followed by another!

To Be Continued…

 

Session 2: Shadows and Light

 

Chantecleer

 

“Look Thunkeroy, it sleeps.”

The blacksmith gazed over at the chef, who was laying on the chamber floor in a fetal position.  He looked comical here in this sort of macabre chamber of experiments.  The dwarf gave a hearty chuckle and crept closer to the elf, who despite the evening’s chaos was still wearing both his apron and his chef’s hat. “Listen, it appears as though he sings in his sleep too.”

Abel, Mavrik and even Lazuras leaned closer.

“Chantecleer, oh Chantecleer, you’ve given up your ring.

You will not speak, not to a soul, unless you wish to sing.”

“What in the name of the Shadowlands do you think that means?” Said Abel puzzled.

“No idea,” said Lazuras, “but perhaps, like us all, he has a past of some mystery.” The great iron man’s red eyes winked out, his elbow gears whirred as his hands came down along his sides.  The entire mechanism that he was seemed to settle into a sort of resting position.  And all was silent.

“Time for some rest, gentlemen. Just like the good ‘old days of Amador, hey Mav?”

“The good ‘ol days of Amador are behind us. What lays ahead, we’ll know soon enough.” And with that, the thief closed his eyes too, one hand on his shortbow.

 

Found in the personal journals of Xavier Edici.

(an unfinished note, with a wax goblet never embossed, this is an unsent letter to some unknown person. It was written on parchment, and tucked into a journal about experiments using various apparatus in the laboratory)

 

X,

Amador holds the key now. For more than just it’s mines.

For it is there that we have placed the blood of Edessa. All of it.  There it is best and safe, away from the demands of the capitol as you have asked.

May Patra bless them.

 

 

Narrative Interlude: The Old Man and the Sea

“Master Asawa, Master Asawa,” cried the children.  “The boat is tipping!”

“No children, no it isn’t.  It is just fine. Relax now, and enjoy the sun on your sweet faces. We’ll be there soon.”

The two younger ones did as their caretaker said, but the eldest, Daros, who was often honorary like his mother, crossed his arms.  He stood feet shoulder width apart atop the cross beams of the small boat. “I want to know where you are taking us! I have never heard of this island in the Edessan harbor!”

“Don’t be so serious, Master Daros, your father, my Lord Xavier, told me simply to cast you into the sea, one at a time. The island is simply a ruse to accomplish this goal.”

The children’s smiling faces began to grow fierce instead.  “You wouldn’t…”

“Oh no?” the stone faced caretaker replied, and he instantly shook the boat sideways, flinging Daros into the water.

Asawa’s face broke into a wide grin, and the long lines around his cheeks deepened. He roared with laughter.

‘Asawa!!! Help me up!!!”

Asawa grabbed the flailing boy and hurled him back into the boat. For a moment the yonng child seemed much older than his age. He looked like a lion about to charge, and then the lot of them, the children and their caretaker burst into bellyaching laughter.

“Children, you take things too seriously!  I am your caretaker, I would never let anything come to harm you.  Not if I had to give my life….”

 

Thunk’s Decision

A large quake shook the fortress. Stones rattled, it gave them all pause. What could have done something like that?

I answer to this unasked question, Thunkeroy said, “Siege weapons, kids. Good times. Looks like cavalry finally got here.”  A couple of minutes later a magic mouth materialized in the air, somewhere above them, followed by another.

A voice that was somehow amplified echoed into the laboratory.  It was followed by a second one.  One belonged to Lord Bowmund, Chief of the Edessan guard, the other they assumed belonged to the leader of the terrorists above. The terrorist, who speaking with a Sarasin accent, in the common tongue, called himself Gronk. He spoke first and he seemed to be speaking to them!

To those who continue to thwart me below in the dungeons.  I am sending reinforcements now to kill you. Give yourselves over to me or else I will instruct another ship into port and you will have the devils of Edessa to answer to!

“Looks like they’ve gotten the news of some of our earlier handiwork,” said Mavrik.

“Looks like they are psychopaths,” said Thunkeroy.

But then another voice rang out.

Who is this? Who are these lunatics loose in the palace? Whoever you are, you fools, we don’t need your help! Under his majesty’s laws, I command you to lay down your arms now and turn yourself in.

“Bowmund, you are the fool! Mosul has been angered by your interference. These fools have killed my men, and your idiotic attempts to infiltrate the keep have angered me.  We told you to give us the Edessan treasury keys and we would spare the rest of your hostages, but now you have attempted trickery instead, which is your Edessan ways. For that, we will kill one noble from each house, and for a moment, so that you may reflect on your deeds, we will extinguish the light for a full 2 minutes. But not ofcourse, before I have used it to call in the next ship!

No, you mustn’t!  They will be thrust upon the rocks in this gale!

Whoever Gronk was he was savage and brutal. He made sure to kill each noble so that they could beg and be heard dying. It was gruesome.  Finally, Gronk did as he promised and extinguished the light. While they searched the laboratory one more time. By the sounds above, he was cursed and called many names. It was Bowmund who called Gronk a monster. According to his lookouts in the wall towers, a ship had indeed been thrown upon the rocks in the storm. Without the light above, in the deep and treacherous entrance to the Edessan Bay, there was no way they would have made it into port. It had been a passenger vessel. Hundreds of men, woen and children from Tyre, murdered.

“He means business, this Gronk,” said Abel.

“Yes, he does, but hush,” Mavrik lowered his voice to a whisper. “I think they do too!” Soon, footsteps were heard outside the laboratory. Several men were talking about the living statue they had slain.  Someone hollered to the others.

“Tell me, I will not ask again!”

“I told you fellows, they couldn’t have gone this way, the construction isn’t done and there’s darker things down there you wouldn’t want to deal with.” This was none other than the voice of Carmine!

That bastard, thought Abel.  He’s helping them to find us!

“Then, you will go first!” And Carmine entered the laboratory being shoved by someone from outside.

The enemies entered the laboratory just as the three, carrying Chantecleer, who of course had still standing frozen looking in the direction of the noisy intruders, decided to exit the other side.  But Thunkeroy, who at that exact moment had found a secret closet in the lab, had no time to cover the distance to the other side. He slipped into the compartment and slid the door closed. The villains covered the room, peppering the others with arrows and bolts.  But Thunkeroy knew they wouldn’t make it, not without his help. “Blast this, what do I care for these dirty black rockers!” And he stepped out from hiding.

Mavrik, and Abel saw this, and instantly, stepped back into the lab. Drawing his sword and moving to the dwarf’s side, Mavrik slashed at one of the “Sarasins”. “I knew you’d miss us, Thunk.”

“Oh shut up and kill somebody would ya,” roared the dwarf, swinging his hammer.

The Prisoner

With Thunk’s help and Chantecleer’s healing they killed these foes, and left the laboratory, bodies littered everywhere. Eluding several deadly fire traps which had captured and killed some of the searchers for Gronk, they moved through the dungeon cautiously. Eventually they found the jail, prison.   They learned some clues from the bodies from those killed in the prison traps, telling them once again, that this was possibly an Antichan force, not a Sarasin one. Also, they were searching for something below the capitol! But what could that be? Treasure?

Trying to hide, but caught by their thorough investigation, a scout for the terrorists lay in the shadows of an alcove.  They confronted him, but like a rat trapped he fought to the death.  Around them were several bodies, pools of blood oozing from their bellies and throats. Ttell tales signs of a recent battle between Edessan prison guards, and more terrorists dressed like Sarasins.  With the scout dead and the prison secured, they searched. Finding little, soon however they heard an agonized moan coming from a cell, far in the back. There they found an old man, near death. He had been recently wounded, but was so very frail and old. His cell told of a lengthy imprisonment. Perhaps years.  His name was Asawa and he knew much of the prison.  With a bit of water, he was able to describe a youth brought to the cell within the last few days. He overheard the guards calling  this other man names and beating him. Primarily, they referred to him as “Prince” and his “Royal Drunkiness”.

Earlier that day after the guards were killed in the battle for the prison, the fake Sarasins came into his cell. They were not real Sarasins though, he knew.  Asawa was a Sarasin himself.  They were irritated when they discovered he was not the prince, so they injured him severely by kicking him and stabbing him with a spear.  Interestingly, whoever they were, they too referred to this man, brought in just days before, as the prince.  Asawa remembered the change in their voices as they reverently helped, and healed him.  Then, strangely, he heard a new man’s voice giving orders. It was regal, royal.  Asawa knew voices like that. Knew them well.

The party attempted to revive Asawa and kept him from Patra’s walk with the Angels.  However, Asawa declared it was his time to be one with Patra.  He had wanted this moment for many years, but couldn’t understand why it hadn’t come.  13 years he had been kept here, and in all that time despite the misery he had become like a father to some of the guards. Somehow, they had tired of beating him, starving him.  Some in his final years, although they could have been called into Bowmund for dereliction of duty, actually spoke with him at length, and for this reason, he assumed he kept on living.  Of course, talks like this were natural to him for he was once a teacher. His tale was sadness incarnate. He claimed that he was once the mentor of the Edessan children, the first sons of Xavier Edici. However, as all in the capitol knew, the boys and their mother were killed in a tragic accident, and as it was his fault. He was their protector, and instead he had failed his chief duty.  As punishment for the crime, he was left here, where he had remained for many years.

 

Able reached out to help him, something about his manner felt truthful and even he thought, oddly familiar. , He cupped the back of the man’s dirty head and brushed the hair from his face.  Mavrik poured water in his mouth from his water skin.  The old man swallowed and smiled. Wrinkles appeared in nearly every corner of his face, and the man squinted as if savoring the delicious treat he had been given. He gripped Mavrik’s hand and nodded a thank you. Then, with his other, he gripped Abels and in so doing, turned his palm over so that it lay just in front of his face.  Asawa then saw the mark upon Abel’s arm, a mark he had had since birth.  The old man’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened, but no words came out.  Instead, tears welled up and trickled down his cheeks. “You.” He breathed with the wisp of air he could muster.  He then struggled to turn and looked at Mavrik. “You.” Is again all he could say.

He then sank back down, into Abel’s outstretched arms.  Almost impossibly light, his eyes stared off into empty space. “I now know why I have been kept alive all these years, and suffered. Two of the three have survived. And they have returned.”

And with these words, Asawa, once mentor to the Royal bloodline, died.

The Guard

I have grown weary, Bowmund!  My demands have not been met. I want the treasury keys!  For your insolence, you will pay the ultimate price. Bring me Edici!

No, you coward! You will never walk free from this place if you harm the Lord of Edessa. The vengeance of Edessa will be upon you and all Sarasins from this day forth…

But Bowmund was silenced with a mere whisper. “We will see.” Somewhere in the background, a man spoke and said something. The voice was unmistably that of the King’s son, the Crown Prince of Edessa, Xavier.  The words sounded strange, almost like a chant. But then another man spoke, louder, and the voice was silenced.

“Unfortunately, Future King, you’ve grown too quiet to carry on your duties.” Then came the cries of many. Followed by shouts and insults that seemed directed at Gronk. “You bastard, you’ve killed Him!”

There was a long silence, while wailing and agonized screams continued. 

“The Lord of Edessa is next, as is the now only living heir to the throne. Trifle with me no more Bowmund. I am in charge here.”

Whatever Bowmund was thinking, he never said.  The mouths disappeared and all grew silent. Mavrik, Thunkeroy, Abel and Lazuras looked at one another. These once simple black rock miners. Simple slaves of the Amadon mines, decided right then and there, that they must stop these villains, or else they will die in the attempt!

“Follow me,” said Thunkeroy, I can follow the hallways here and discern the slope upwards.  “We’ll find a way to make ourselves useful.  Whoever these bastards are, they are starting to piss me off. Edici owes me money for dealing with that damn elf and his kitchen at least!”

In a chamber, they found a guard who had been nearly killed by the terrorists who scouted below. He told them of a second secret door into the kitchen above.  They heal the man, who ever thankful, offered to lead them to the door.

However, something seems off about the man.  It’s Abel and Lazuras who first notice, his wounds seem, trivial.

“Who are you really?” Asks Abel, but the man simply pulled a dagger. It never made it out of his boot though.  He was struck down by them all. “Search him,” the fighter said.

He has a few valuables, and something quite interesting. In a small satchel, is a folded up piece of parchment. In it, is a map and several bits of notes. The notes show the palace and what seems to be areas of the dungeons below. It is incomplete in places. Of interest, is the lighthouse above, where certain marks note placement of “barrels” in a pattern.

It’s Abel who notices it first.

“Thunkeroy, remember when Grogue had us work a new section of the mine. Take a look at this, and tell me what you see.”

Thunkeroy took the parchment from Abel.  Although he didn’t say anything, he looked up into his face, and mouthed the word, “BOOM.”

The Prince and the Pauper

Coming into the kitchen, quietly, cautiously wasn’t easy with Thunkeroy and Lazuras clanking behind.  With minimal spying, Mavrik found that the palace hall was vacant, accept for the bodies of those the terrorists had slain.  There was more, many clues revealed what must have happened.  The terrorists somehow entered the palace’s many magical protections from the enormous cake in the center of the room.  Footsteps clearly revealed that.  Additionally, a lone survivor, Abel’s employer, who had been hiding amongst the dead told them of the plot and plan.

“You must hurry! There is no way out of here, and the lighthouse will be destroyed. The tower will collapse and destroy the entire palace.  They intend to kill everyone so no evidence is left behind. They are not Sarasins, they are…”

“They are Antichans,” said Mavrik and Abel at the same time.

“But how did you know?”

She stood there watching them as they hurried to the stairwell and climbed the tower as fast as they could.

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