A Crimson Shore: 18.1 Putting out Fires

After discovering that Semelina, the first victim of the Raven was in actuality one of Humbolt’s daughters, and that two more had been killed by the Raven in the junk yard outside of town, the adventurers decide to track down the boy who once held a crush on Star, only to discover he had been viciously murdered as well.  There was only one clue left for them to follow, the second murder.  A man named Mange, killed just before they arrived in Areia’s Landing. But time was running short, not just for them but for the town.  Now, with the war forged helping to put out the fires after their alliance, and with the tenements on fire, the party raced to the poorest parts of town.  They needed to find what clues they could regarding how Mange died, and more importantly, how they could stop the murderer before she, like the smoke that covered the city, blotted out any hope of making the harbor a thriving port once again.

Warily, they approached the tenements.  “We’ve got little time,” said Frank. He set his shield down, tore off a strip of the inner lining from his knapsack and wound the strands over his right forearm. Then he picked it back up and held it in front of him, walking slowly towards the advancing heat.   “I know places like this, and they are made of wood, and wood, and more wood.  Follow behind me as the power of MY flame shields us, friends. This will burn fast, look!” He pointed to a coil of orange and red, wickedly flickering over the center of the long row of buildings stacked like firewood. They were burning rapidly and the heat was already like a furnace. Thick smoke was pouring out between slats in the side of the structure. They didn’t have much time, Frank was right.  “We must hurry!”

Racing under the tongues of fire that seeped and snaked around the supporting beams of the roof, they found Mange’s chambers, just as those they interviewed had described. Luck was with them. His bed, or what one would make of it, was stained red.  Areia set to work searching while the others fanned back the embers, and Frank kept the heat at bay. So usually full of humor, when it came to investigations of traps and treasure, she was like Iricah amongst her books, all business.  Within seconds, as if she could smell it there, she lifted a floorboard and pulled out two books. One, a rough covered journal, the other a tome, well bound and fairly new.  The book severely out of place here. Something like this belonged in only one place in a pirate town, the Royal archive. What was it doing here?

“This is all, we’ve got to get out of here,” she told the others.  She rolled her moustache, because she could, and Frank held the shield back in the direction they came.  A thin slithering tentacle of flame slithered through the gap in the door above their heads, and snapped outward like a hungry animal. Frank kicked the door out back into the tunnel, where it shattered into blackened shards. The flames curled around the door frame and rose high to the ceiling now. He chanted something, and Iricah stepped forward and sung beside him.  The flames eased, and he looked over the shield, then back at them, waving them forward and hopefully out of this demon’s oven. But just as he was about to step through the door frame, a tall figure made of fire himself, stepped into the path, right out of the very flames! It was like the fire had given birth to a being made of itself! He was followed by another, and another.  Like ethereal ghosts made of heat and hatred, with dark dead eyes of black, the ghosts advanced into the room, flames curling behind them, their arms reaching out to burn. Burn!

The apparitions stopped, and the first of them opened it’s mouth, a gaping dark and deep black hole.  It’s voice, like the sounds of burning wood come alive called out to them, “You are the villains! The murderers! You will be cleansed of your deeds, in fire.”

Frank held his shield aloft, and felt his hands burn. The heat was overpowering even through the linens he wrapped around the metal bracket at the back of it.

“It’s burning me, us, I can’t hold it back much longer! The Light take you back towards the Ketian hell you stepped from!  Be gone devils of fire!” He commanded, but the trio of figures kept advancing.

Iricah’s arms singed now too. She tried to find a place where the searing pain wasn’t cooking her, but couldn’t.  It was like her skin was roasting. The others were all in the same situation, they couldn’t move and couldn’t pass, they were being burned alive. Here in the middle of what was once a place for others to work and little else, they would die.

The heat from the demon ghosts radiated outwards and scorched her even more. “YOU WILL NOT HURT THEM AGAIN,” the demons roared. They were fire come alive now, leading the embers and heat, giving it an intelligence a way into the room, to burn them all. Now the fire followed behind them and fully engulfed the room, enveloping everything.  There was nothing left for them to do.  They were doomed to die in this fiery way!

But then, Iricah remembered a story she had heard from the men in the bar.  “Wait! Wait,” she called out, barely able to open her mouth for fear the air would enter her lungs. “You’re the men who died trying to stop this fire.  You lost your lives defending these people.  You are Fede, Mathius, Thomaso.  We came to help you! We come to find the killer, not to be one of them! We are here to stop the fire.  We are here to fight it!”

Somehow her words had an impact. Somehow, just as the heat and fire was about to consume them, the figures stopped.  Areia’s leather soles had begun to smoke.  Zy’an backed up into Thrak and winced. His scales were like the insides of an oven. Fire swept all around them.

Iricah knew she had but one chance.  “Hurry, Iricah,” yelled Frank, while fire washed over his shield. His skin was bright red, the metal tinged with a multi-colored effect one sees inside of a blacksmith furnace. It was ironic to a degree as Frank’s skin was now the same as when he would suffer his changes, and unlike the others, it wasn’t his skin that hurt, the fire did not affect him like the others. As a tiefling, or as some called it, a Child of Ket he had a resistance.  So this is what it really is like to be cleansed by fire he thought.

The others though, had no such immunity. Iricah, her clothes now on fire, stepped forward, her hands guarding her face as much as she dared.  “By all that is good in this harbor city, I swear to you that we come to help those who are innocent, those who cannot defend themselves.  We have come to cure the city of fire, and murder. I so swear it.”

It was a pithy speech, and after an eternity of pain seeping through her outstretched hands onto her face and skin, nothing had happened.  We are doomed, thought the bard.

But then, there was a sucking sound, as if the air simply flew out of the room of it’s own accord. The flames curling around them, burning their flesh and clothing, began to turn back onto themselves. As if time simply reversed itself, they curled backwards and out of the room. The figures stood there still, their ghostly forms, burning now only with ghostly flames.  Frank set his shield down, and prayed for healing.   A golden light radiated from his hands, cascading all around those in the room, cooling their flesh and putting out the fires in their clothes.  Frank directed the light towards the figures before him, but the light simply moved through them, and could not pierce the shadow within.

“It is too late for us, Servant of the Flame,” spoke the leader of the ghostly apparations.  His voice was melancholy incarnate.

“What happened to you?” asked Iricah.  “How did you perish?”

Another of the figures spoke this time, this voice was angrier than the first, and younger. “She who killed the boy there,” he raised his spectral hand towards the bed that Mange had slept on, “set fire to these buildings as well. It was she who began the fires in the mines.”

Well that’s important news said Areia. Looks like we have a cover up here my fellow adventurers.

“Many died.  We could not, we could not save them.”

“How can we help you?” asked the bard. “What can we do?”

“The place will burn, and we will remain to guard it,” said the first ghost. “We now return to the dead, you must attend to the living.”   The sounds of the fire roaring through the tenements had returned. Whatever power these things had was fading.

Frank stood before the figures and watched them fade into the ether. More determined then ever, the cleric called back to the others, his shield out once more, “Follow me!  I will lead you out!”

 

 

 

 

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