|The Wicked GM|
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The stage is dark and silent. Soft whispers begin to carry through the crowd; a susurrous wave that stirs and rolls. Suddenly, a pale glow is seen far upstage--the sickly light of a lantern escapes the inky depths. An inexplicable fog creeps along the stage floor. The audience sits in rapt attention, most not daring the breath they desperately want. Slowly, the light begins to float forward. The figure of a hooded man takes shape. He wears a black eyepatch over his left eye.
”Ah, you’re still here, are you?” he asks, casting his lantern out over those sitting nearest the stage. ”Couldn’t resist, mm? I thought as much. The lure of the city speaks to you, just as it does to them.” He points behind his back with his thumb to you, the actors unseen. ”The poor fools. Do they even know what waits for them within the bowels of this city? Do you? My advice? Run home now, back to the peace and safety of your warm beds, your disinterested lovers, and your own dark thoughts, for there is only trouble for you here.” He pauses a moment, then grins wickedly as no one stands. ”You persist in your folly. So be it.” He turns to exit, stage left, then pauses and turns back to the crowd. ”But don’t say I didn’t warn you. There are secrets within this city that no virtuous man should know. But, perhaps you are not virtuous men. Perhaps you are fools. A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man; a truly wise man...Ah...He knows himself to be a fool.”
The bard cackles at his own cleverness as he disappears offstage. The audience remains in uncomfortable silence--in anticipation of the first act, perhaps, or do they ponder the truth of the words? ”Don’t fret over them too much, my dears,” the bard whispers to you with a smirk as he passes behind the curtain. ”We wouldn’t want you to forget your lines.”
You breathe deeply, trying to calm your nerves. It’s opening night, and it’s true, the pressure is great. But whether you are prepared or not, the show is about to begin.
|The Wicked GM|
”Boundless intemperance in nature is a tyranny; it hath been the untimely emptying of the happy throne and fall of many kings.”
Korvosa, the Jewel of Varisia, has long sparkled on that nation’s southern shore. Established 300 years ago by Cheliax at the height of that empire’s expansion, the city now commands its own destiny. A line of Korvosan kings and queens emerged to rule the city, establishing an infamous seat of power—the Crimson Throne.
Rulers have sat upon the Crimson Throne for more than a century, and the city has flourished. Yet the monarchy always seems on the brink of disaster. The Crimson Throne is not a prize to be won—it is a curse. No monarch of Korvosa has died of old age, and none have produced an heir while ruling. Even though King Eodred Arabasti II controls Korvosa more fully than any previous monarch, many secretly count the days until their latest king falls to what they call the Curse of the Crimson Throne.
Today, King Eodred is feared by all the right people. His ability to navigate the rocks and shoals of Chelish diplomacy earned the city favorable trade agreements with the Old Empire, but rumors persisted of the king’s womanizing habits and his spendthrift ways. Despite his fondness for a soft touch, he has to date produced no heir to the throne, the latest in a line of rulers affected by the Curse of the Crimson Throne.
Though those well-to-do may mark Korvosa as being prosperous, as being well on its way to reclaiming its glory it once enjoyed in years past (before war robbed some of its glimmer), the downtrodden have quite the different opinion. Though the King has often spearheaded public works projects, those less fortunate (when in a foul mood) refer to him as the “Stirge King” - someone who takes more than he gives. Overall, though, his reception is generally positive - especially the farther away it gets from tax collecting season.
Whispers of Eodred II’s taste for scandalously young companionship have dogged the king throughout his rule, and thus when he finally wed, it was no surprise that his bride was barely a third of his age. The impossibly young and beautiful Ileosa Arvanxi arrived in a whirlwind of activity, was involved in mere months (3) of courtship, and wed the King at the tender age of 17. In the four years since wedding the King, Queen Ileosa Arabasti has grown quite the reputation as a vain, petty thing that holds much of Korvosa in contempt. Most nobles of the city were initially scandalized at the placement of a trophy wife at the foot of a throne that cannot be held, but with the King’s more-than-capable Seneschal, Neolandus Kalepopolis looking after the Crown’s interest, most of the hubbub has died down in the upper echelon of the city. No one else seems to be appeased, though.
Most problems having to do with Royalty are often out-of-sight, out-of-mind. No one has that luxury now. King Eodred has fallen deathly ill, and no cleric seems to be able to cure what ails him. The city seems to be holding its collective breath - as though everyone can sense that their fate hangs in the balance of one man’s life.
Curse of the Crimson Throne - Book 1, Act 1: Haunted Fortunes
You sit bolt upright, realizing that it’s much too late. Why, you hadn’t even meant to fall asleep. Yet here it is, almost sunset. Deep shadows creep across the room. You rub your eyes as the days’ events come back to you. Perhaps you spent it deep in study, or rapt in pious contemplation. But at some point, as you reached for your favorite ale, or even your favored weapon, there, in your hand… A note. No, not a note, a card.
It’s hard to remember what happened after finding it, but that card suddenly seems very urgent to you now. You pat your pockets, trying to remember what you did with it. Ah yes, there, in your pocket. Retrieving it, you recognize it to be a harrow card, one used by the Moth fortune-tellers. Do you believe in such things, anyway? Tag PCs.
Turning the card over, you see that there is a note scribbled on the back.
In this first post, feel free to “set the scene” for yourself, including describing what you might have done today. Then, transition into the current scene, finding the card, reacting to it and its mystical implication, and describing your actions.
Calcedon woke in a cold sweat, bolting upright from his upturned bed. His eyes turned to his window and it was still dark. Images of blades and darkness and inhuman detachment plagued his mind as he rolled out of his bed exposing a cavalcade of scars in the moonlight. Quietly in the distance a baby was crying, and the still undressed man stood, transfixed by the sound.
He reached for a box on a pedestal near the bed with a three-fingered hand, pulling out the instrument inside. It was a darkwood 4632 Velakapsius, a relic of the renaissance of music that occurred in Cheliax the previous century. Absently, he plucked at the strings with a lonely forefinger until a strange sound came to his ear. His eyes confirmed his ears' suspicions as he noted the card stuck between his strings.
Pulling it out, he laid the violin back in it's case and reached over to the nearby lamp to bring it to light. The room was filled with papers, desks and shelves to hold the papers and a few glass cases with trophies and family heirlooms. A curved polearm from his Ustalavan great-grandmother, his mother's ballet tutu from her childhood, and the infamous breaching shoe. The card was inspected and then sat propped picture side out as he retrieved his beloved instrument.
The head of House Fordyce padded in bare feet toward the balcony, opening the glass doors to the scene overlooking the river. The barest lights of dawn mingled with the night time torches and lamps about the city. He stepped up on the wide railing and brought the instrument to his chin. He began his song, sorrowful and low, gradually building in intensity. It was written by Grompft about three hundred fifty or so years back, and was not particularly well known amongst his works. The baby ceased it's crying as he played atop his balcony facing the rising sun.
As he played, slowly the life in the house began to stir. Children whispered out of their holes to scamper across the courtyard underneath him, lights appeared out of some of the windows, and the smell of freshly baked bread emanated from the basement kitchen. As time progressed, and light began to spill into the city and creep over the walls, other instrumentalists made their way to the center of the courtyard, next to the well, quietly warming up and tuning up their tools of the trade.
When he finished the Partita, a smattering of genuine applause reached up from down below and a playful voice shouted up to him. "Are you done playing the cock?" Chuckling despite himself, joining with the scattered laughter from the ground level, he hopped down and reentered his room. "We're going to start without you!" he heard in a slightly different tone as he straightened his hair and climbed into some clothes.
The loud cellist from before began the song they wrote together not more than a week ago. The band began playing the morning salad as they called it. They just took whatever was fresh and threw it together. Some of the more magically inclined could pull off some musical cantritps to fill out the sound, but the number and composition changed depending on who was there, as some played late in taverns, and some who couldn't get steady work there had to play the streets during the day. The streets were harsh, not merely for the general business of the common man, but also for imps that loved to thrash a musical instrument. The pseudo dragons kept them in check a fair amount of the time, but couldn't always be counted on.
Before he headed downstairs, he noted the card, still propped up on his lamp, holding the image of a fake dragon. He grabbed the card and put it in his waistcoat and moved to unlock his door. What indeed has Lamm done to me? he thought to himself. Whoever put this here must have had quite the trouble getting it here. The least I could do is return the favor and ask how she did it.
Knowledge local: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
Yes, Madame Zellara. He had a few questions for her. He emerged from the grand doors, violin pinched in his hands in time to play his part when the rest of the salad hit the bridge. The finished together and played a few more upbeat songs before cheerfully heading out in the city to seek their fortune.
The young noble stood, the smile from his day's greatest joy fading into the brightness of the day and the noise of the East Bank. There was still the business to uphold, the household he had to bear alone. So much to be done to restore his family name that he knew was an uphill battle. But he owed it to their memory. And the young man sighed and headed back into his house.
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
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After working since before dawn unloading a cargo ship at the Old Dock, Mouse was tired. But her newest treasures still bounced around in the roomy pockets of her baggy smock - two books, one an alphabet primer with dogs cavorting across the top of the cover and the other a thick paperbound tome of fairy tales, a castle bathed in light painted on its front. They'd take a while to work her way through, she knew, but she was eager to begin. Her friend Silvio had taught her her letters, enough at least to read a few signs, but that was before she left, and life on her own hadn't left her much time to practice, or money.
But slowly her long days of hard labor were paying off, and word was beginning to spread among the dock workers that the half-elven girl had gone straight, turned things around for good. The jobs became consistent, and now she could go to old Calphas at the dock almost every day and have some work waiting for her. And the few silver coins it earned her had begun to add up - sometimes there was even a gold piece or two to be had, if a merchant had had a successful voyage and Mouse worked quickly and carefully.
So she gathered treasures up in her worn leather backpack - a slate and chalk to practice her letters, the blue paper-covered book proclaiming itself "a guide to Korvosa's entertainments" that had been her only reading material for a long time, the shield made from a giant skull that had inexplicably appealed to her as she passed the armorer's cart a couple of weeks previous. Everything stayed with her, of course, her backpack rarely leaving arm's reach; the dank, drafty tenement she called home for now had no lock, and she never knew when another Lamb might come calling to finish the job he had started.
Untying her lumpy bedroll from her backpack and unrolling it on the bare floor, she leaned against the wall and began reading the primer.
To Absalom town, Aroden's crown.
By Boat, By Bay, we go today...
But the day's labors had worn on the young girl, and soon her head drooped, the book falling in her lap.
With a start, Mouse's head jerks up, and she sits bolt upright, realizing that it's much too late. I ain't meant t'fall asleep... she ponders sleepily. Outside, the sun grows red and dim, and inside, deep shadows begin to cross the floor. But her greatest treasure could deal with that.
From the pouch at her belt, she withdraws a small stone, a pebble really. Fairly unremarkable - except for the wreath of flame surrounding it, twinkling merrily in her hand with no apparent discomfort on her part. It casts a warm, flickering light against the gathering shadows, and Mouse can't help but smile. She'd saved long and hard for that tiny tongue of magical flame, but having light inside at night without having to worry about an upset candle or lantern was a luxury she'd never even dreamed of before.
With a flick of her wrist, she throws the stone deftly into the air, and it begins to whirl around her head, occasionally bouncing off the wall as she leans back again. She re-opens her book - but wait...this marker ain't been here 'afore, an' I flipped through the whole thing...
She examines the curious card, looking closely at the picture of the strange castle with its metal arms and legs. Where've I seen it...oh, Kemia! The girl had been a passing acquaintance, a Lamb several years older than Mouse, whose specialty had been distracting passers-by with a fortune-telling while an accomplice picked the pockets of inattentive watchers. The Harrow cards had been one of her favorite props, popular with the Varisians passing through. Kemia ain't never thought nothin' of it...she ain't done it thinkin' she could read the future, she said. But this jus' showin' up outta nowhere...right strange...
Turning it over, she notices the writing on the back. The elegant script is difficult to decipher, but eventually she makes it out. Instantly, the mention of Gaedren's name puts her on her guard, and her hands tense into fists as she glances nervously around the small, empty room. But no one jumps from the shadows, and if anyone had come to harm her, they'd have had plenty of chance when she drifted off to sleep...
3 Lan-ket Street. Mouse's curiosity now seems thoroughly piqued. She'd had a chance for a nap; by the look of it, a few hours' nap at least. A little bit of asking around, scoping out the place some, seeing what other sorts of people showed up - I ain't gotta go in if somethin' seems fishy 'bout it... The promise of justice rings in her mind, and she sees a face as familiar as her own in her mind's eye...the one she lost to Gaedren, as fully as if he'd been killed. He's gone. And it's Gaedren what did it, took 'im, ruined 'im...
Throwing her backpack strap over her shoulder, she sets off into Korvosa as the city settles down to sleep, ducking through alleys and back streets. What if it is true? What if I c'n 'elp take Lamm down...maybe...get 'im back?
The door swung open, the smell of spilt drinks and herbs of different legal status being smoked filling Garvid's nose. He took another look towards the clouding sky, the flaky old paint on the worn tavern sign showing an incredibly fat mother pig and a row of tiny pink cylinders, supposedly piglets, sucking on her teets. Why is it called the Pregnant Pig, when she obviously has piglets?, Garvid thought, his eyes catching the familiar sign. Why should I care?, he shrugged, stepping over the doorstep.
The Pig's crowd was the usual combination of people from all four surrounding neighbourhoods. Slummers enjoying a rare night of spending in a better inn than usual, students out to town going to an exotic place, the odd noble coming to slum it with the 'salt of the earth' and many others. Always thought, every one of these people has their own story, and I'd greatly appreciate not being told any of them., he thinks, heading towards a somewhat torn and worn couch, bearing the sign of the Acadamae's administrative council, the table and chairs around it currently overtaken by a couple of robed students passing along a suspicious pipe.
"Feet off the couch, kid.", he muttered at the too-comfortable student, whose eyes quickly made the connection between the man's broken nose, the City Guard insignia on the halberd in the man's hand and the tired look in his eyes. The connection between his feet and the floor only barely lagged behind.
Garvid tossed his heavy coat on the hanger, leaned the polearm on the wall and sat down on the freed up spot. "Don't mind me, gentlemen. I'm not working right now.", sending a disturbing grin around the table. You know, in a couple of years one of these schmucks could probably burn me to a husk before I can even open my mouth. He took a long sip from his mug of ale and leaned back.
He woke up to the horrible sound of an incompetent bard's performance of a popular song, only made worse by members of the crowd joining up in the crescendo. Two hours after sunset already? "Great, and my ale's probably warm now, too...", he grunted, reaching for the mug. The students had left, replaced by a pair of broad-shouldered Shoanti whispering to each other in their melodic language. He reached over to grab the mug, but stopped at the sight of a piece of paper on top of it. "What the...", he grunted, before reaching over and taking a look at the card.
Heh. Always thought that the bear's pretty funny. Dad always said there's some sort of magic in the Harrow, and us Varisians should all go and see our fate in the cards every once in a while. His thoughts drift back to his early days in the jailor's tower, learning the craft. He snaps out of it after a while. Well, Harrow's a bunch of h&%&&&*~+. I'd get it if you went to a wizard, if you can find one, but if you're that good at guessing what's going to happen, you aren't going to live in a dilapidated caravan.. He slapped the card on the table, front down, and then he saw the text on the back. He picked it up, taking a sip from the mug, before frowning.
As he reads the note, his mouth transitioned between an incredulous smile to a bloodthirsty grin to a calm smirk in between words. I guess it could be a trap, but I don't care. Saves me from looking for the Lambs myself. He stood up, put on his heavy leather coat and grabbed his halberd, tossing the mug in his other hand, and pointed it towards the Shoanti. "Well, boys.", he grinned, the Shoanti reacting with raised eyebrows. He raised his drink, warm as it was. "To justice and vengeance. May they always be one and the same." The cold, sweet ale tasted like revenge.
The morning's cast had been a strange one. As always, the first thing she had done after waking and washing. Spread the cloth, the black cloth with the crude stitching of skulls and bones that had belonged to her great-great-grandmother. Throw the tokens, the carved bone discs rolling, clattering, settling. Strangers, a meeting of ways, old blood on the scales, death looming. She puzzled over it for a few long moments, then shrugged and went on with her ritual. The prayer to Pharasma, head bowed to the south where Her grand cathedral stood. The offerings of flowers and food to the tribal totem in its niche on the north wall. The prayer to the spirits, the gestures long and measured like a slow dance.
"Our Father, the Sky, hear us
and make us strong."
Our Mother, the Earth, hear us
and give us support.
O! Spirit of the East,
send us your Wisdom.
O! Spirit of the South,
may we tread your path.
O! Spirit of the West,
may we always be ready
for the long journey.
O! Spirit of the North, purify us
with your cleansing winds."
Then she clicked her tongue and extended an arm to the side. In a flash of fur, claws and jet-black eyes, a weasel leaped on her arm and climbed it lightning-quick until it was curled around her neck, riding high on her shoulders. "Alright, Slinky, let's see what this day brings us."
"She's to stay in bed for the next few days. Get her venison to eat, cooked rare. And leafy greens, if you can trade for them. If anything happens, call for me." Speaks For The Dead talked over her shoulder at the big Shoanti man as she rinsed her hands in the cracked earthen bowl, blood rinsing off to mix with the water in swirling patterns. To her right, the man's wife lay in bed, exhausted, their newborn mewling faintly at her breast. It had been a hard birth that had lasted all night. Drinks The Heart's Blood stood at the entrance to the shack, hovering and awkward, the early morning sun behind him. "Um, I would have to go hunt and I thought I might stay with Weaves the Moonlight until she feels better, honored one..." The man trailed off uncertainly; it was their first child and he clearly had no idea what to do. "Yes, yes, very thoughtful, good husband, you. But the women here will take care of her much better than you could. The most useful thing you can do for her now is to go hunt food." Speaks For The Dead finished washing her hands, dried them on her blood-spattered apron, picked up her satchel and shooed the man out of the way. "Off with you now, don't stand there like a tree." She strode past him and was almost twenty paces down the east road when Drinks The Heart's Blood caught up to her and pressed a pound of venison jerky in her hands, spiced as she liked it (he said) and wrapped in rough cloth.
That had been yesterday. Was it then when she'd gotten the card? Was it him who had passed it to her, tucked in with the payment for her services? The obvious connection was there, but she had a hard time imagining Drinks The Heart's Blood, this simple hunter, meddling with Harrow cards and secrets.
A shrieking cavalcade outside wakes Yaziyah with a start. She had dozed off over a tattoo design, the brush fallen from her hand and trailing ink over the floor. The sound of the children's game fades a bit and the woman blinks sleep out of her eyes. Straightens her back, vertebrae cracking. She wasn't young anymore, that was a fact. The gloom shrouding the small room tells her the sun is close to setting, and that brings to mind another matter. She reaches down between the sheets of parchment on the floor, the topmost one bearing her unfinished design. Flips it over a few times, debating with herself. And why not? If there's a chance, even a slim one... I owe it to them. Her decision made, she gets to her feet, careful not to upset the ball of fur comfortably curled up in her lap. The weasel clings to Yaziyah's bright orange skirt until she drapes her city cloak over her shoulders, at which point the animal slinks into the specially sewn inner pocket of the cloak. The cloak is deep red, its edges embroidered in patterns of white. Blood and Bone. Tucking her very long braid inside the cloak, the Shoanti woman picks up her satchel and the walking stick leaning in a corner by the door; she would need to hurry to get there in time, but she knows the city inside and out - no trouble for her to pick the fastest path.
Diplomacy for Gather Information: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7
She gets to the address on the card just as the dying sun shades the western sky in a riot of orange and purple. Strides up to the door, knocking sharply once, then twice more.
Li shot up into a sitting position. It was dark and it takes a moment to realize that she is back in the orphanage cellar but she can’t remember how she had gotten home. The last thing Li remembers was sitting in The Chicken Foot Tavern scoping out her third mark of the evening. She had learned early on that drunk people were not very good at keeping track of their belongings. It was fairly standard practice for her to enjoy a drink herself at the back of the tavern, back against the wall of course, and carefully study the other patrons. When one of the nobles wanted to slum it in Old Korvosa or someone would boast of a windfall, Li would make sure she bumped into them in the street after they had a few drink and relieve them of their purse. Most of them didn’t mind being bumped into by a young woman and some got a little handsy but it was all worth it in the end. It may not be much of a living but it was enough for Li. For now she was content with hiding out in the orphanage cellar that she had called home ever since she had been nearly beaten to death by Lamm’s goons. Thankfully the orphanage was an unsanctioned one in Old Korvosa so no one was regularly checking the facilities making it easy to hide because people minded their own business in this district.
With a chunk of her memory of the evening missing, Li’s hand immediately goes to her belt pouch to see if the coins are still there. She breathes a sigh of relief as nothing seems to be missing. Her first thought is that someone caught on to what she had been doing but she quickly dismisses that as possible because then she would either be dead or in jail. She knows she is always careful to make sure there is no way to track her movements and she always goes to a lot of trouble to make sure she isn’t memorable - but she can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right. To make sure no one took anything, Li lights a lantern and carefully goes through her belongings. After meticulous inspection, her blood runs cold. She accounts for all her belongings but there is something extra that Li doesn't remember seeing before even though it seems important somehow. This means that someone had managed to out-manoeuver her which doesn’t sit well with the rogue. Along with her money, she finds a harrow card. Not knowing anything about what it could mean, Li thinks someone is making fun of her. Why would someone make a point of giving her a card with a rabbit prince on it, erase all memory of receiving said card, and then write a note on the back of the card. To Li it made no sense. She reads the note again on the back of the card and feels both anger and surprise. The anger was expected because it was a trained response for her whenever she heard or saw Gaedren’s name. What surprises her is that someone else knows of her existence. Li worked so hard to be invisible in the city of Korvosa so that she could get stronger and eventually strike out at Lamm without anyone else being the wiser. Gaedren believed her to be dead and she had purposefully kept herself from making any friends so that she stayed dead. After all, the dead aren’t expected to kill and being dead would give her the ultimate element of surprise. To realize that someone knows of her and where to find her is unnerving and Li knows she needs to find out who gave her the card and what it means.
knowledge,local: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 5 = 12
Since it is already near sunset, Li gets all her things together and leaves the cellar. Li recognizes the address and had heard the name Zellara as the one who works there but has no personal connection to the woman. Even more curious, she makes her way to the fortune telling shop and then hides in the shadows and watches to see who comes and goes before deciding whether she has the courage to follow the rabbit prince down the rabbit hole.
This is a bit long so I put it in spoilers it for ya.
“Don't tell me you're feeling nostalgic now.” came a sultry voice from behind him. The voice belonged to an elven woman, standing tall and dressed in an elegant black and red robe with a head of raven black and a face normally filled with pride and contempt, though now if harbored playful curiosity. “I would think you could only feel pain after what this city did to you.” Leitana continued, placing herself comfortably next to Jamros.
“Pain my dear? I'm not certain I feel anything.” he said grinning, but keeping his eyes locked on the horizon. “Such is the nature of this city. It has a way of draining you, like a leech, until theres nothing left.” then he looked at the elf sidelong. “Sounds like someone I know.”
“Ooh little one.” Leitana cooed “I'd be more careful what you say. Without my…” she smiled “...talents, you would have never received this mission in the first place. You should be thanking me.” she said, daintily placing her hand on Jamros’. He made no move to stop her, but gained no comfort from the gesture.
“Perhaps I should. After all, it's not every day someone gets to play a pompous fool that you call an ambassador.” he replied with a chuckle.
“Well luckily, you're perfect for the part.” she retorted, but she suddenly lost her smile. “Just remember that I am your only link to the church. Do what you must to arrange a meeting, but if I find even one toe out of line, you can be assured they will hear of it. Am I quite clear Lightouch?” she said, her black eyes boring into him.
Jamros pushed himself from the railing, pivoted on his heel and began sauntering away. “Clear as the water, my dear.” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
He neglected to mention that Korvosa’s waters were hardly sanitary.
The branding iron sizzled softly as the robed figure held it in the fire. “I am most disappointed Jamros. I had…..hoped you would be more receptive this time.” he said in a deep yet soft tone.
Jamros spit out more blood, grinning at the man and revealing his red stained teeth. “Sorry to dissapoint, but I've always been a bit of a handful.” he said confidently, but his darting eyes betrayed his fear.
The figure sighed, a sound like a bellows, and removed the bright orange pentagram from the flames. “Do not worry my son. There are still many things for me to teach you and when we are done with you.” he said, grabbing Jamros’ restrained arm “You will rise from the ashes.” The iron pressed against tender flesh and Jamros knew only pain. He threw his head back against the wall and howled. The pain was enveloping, wrapping him up in it's cold embrace. “Cold…..so cold.”
“So very cold.” Jamros’ eyes shot open and saw the painted ceiling before him. “Just the past” he sighed aloud then groaned. His back was in pain and he discovered why when he turned his head to the side and saw the under side of his bed. He slowly sat up on the stone floor, stretching gingerly. One of these days, Steven Will put a pillow on the floor. he thought and looked about the room he was given at the Chelaxian embassy. There was so much red in the decor, much more than necessary Jamros mused, but his train of thought was interrupted when he looked out the window. Wonderful, midday. Steven will be fuming I'm certain.
Jamros’ muscles felt sore as he dressed, but it was a feeling he learned to become accustomed to when he realized his mornings were going to continue to play out this way whether he liked it or not. He caught a glimpse in the mirror of an upside down star as he three a light shirt on. The flesh was sore even now and Jamros avoided the sight promptly.
“Just the past.” he muttered.
“Perfect” Steven said with profound satisfaction as placed the folded napkin next to the dish. One of several similarly perfectly placed napkins.
“The final piece of the puzzle then?” Jamros said with a yawn as he entered the private meal room. “And they call me crazy.”
“You're late.” the squire stated flatly. “You were supposed to meet with the queen today, do you remember that? The thing that I said would look really bad for you if you missed it.”
“Well you know me, fashionably late and all that.” Jamros said, strapping on his weapon belt.
“Its too late now! The queen is a very busy woman with many matters to attend to and you snubbed her. These situations can be very delicate so we can't afford to make these kind of mistakes.” Steven gripped a spoon so tightly, Jamros feared he might snap it in two. However, he relaxed, placing the utensil back on the silk table cloth and rubbed his temples. “And now you're just going to leave without a proper meal? Dressed for battle no less.”
“I'll eat on the road. I have-”
“More business to attend to, of course. Why did you even bother changing your mind about the mission if you were just going to keep misbehaving?”
Jamros gave a sly wink, and donned his favorite hat, preparing to leave, but he stopped when he saw something sticking out from the corner of his vision. Reaching out with his hand, he pulled out a queer card. He took a moment to examine the cards image of a jester tormenting a child, then turned it around to read the message scrawled on the back. Then he turned back to Steven, tipping his hat. “Let's just say fate played its hand.”
knowledge local: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (12) + 3 = 15
|The Wicked GM|
West Dock, Lancet Street, Dusk
The reek of dead fish, rancid meat, and worse assaults your nose as you venture down the filthy cobblestones. West Dock contains few residences, though it does house an extensive number of warehouses, fish processing facilities, and a meatpacking industry. The prevailing winds usually push the meaty stink of the ward southeast, providing Citadel Volshyenek and much of High Bridge with unending waves of unpleasantness. But tonight, the brine air of the Jeggare River is most definitely not behaving in your better interest.
Avoiding the ubiquitous herd of unwelcome druids proselytizing the evils of civilization and the impoverished draggle desperate to leech from it (”Alms for ‘da poor, sir? My baby girl, she’s sick, Miss!”), you keep your head low and your feet moving. You pass the weathered walls of Bailer’s Retreat, the rough tavern frequently serving recently-released prisoners of Citadel Volshyenek’s jails, along with the bleary-eyed Korvosa guardsmen pursuing their love-hate relationship with its acrid coffee. As usual, vulgar shouts and jeers escape its depths, though any fisticuffs therein have not, as of yet, escaped into the street.
The “home” located at 3 Lancet is barely deserving of the term, a derelict hovel crammed defiantly among the district’s typical industrial facilities. A flat tin roof adorns a rotten wooden frame, while a single, closed door offers the only portal providing ingress or egress to the pitiful dwelling.
Those of you keeping to the shadows or otherwise hesitating may arrive in time to see a tall, thin figure sporting a scarlet cloak and a walking stick stride up to the door and knock sharply. Yazi is the first to arrive. From here, you arrive in the order you post.
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
Ducking through the back ways, Mouse had made good time through the city; after all, she was used to moving quickly, avoiding the Korvosan guard's major patrolways. Moving through the street wasn't illegal, she knew, but still - best to keep prying eyes away, if possible. No one had tried anything since him, but Lamm was hardly one to give up so easily.
But she couldn't avoid the city's corruption entirely - after all, she had to cross the Narrows of St. Alika somehow, and the only option besides swimming was one of the bridges that gave Bridgefront its name. Though she knew which ones had the most traffic, none of them were empty, and as she was waiting for a cart to pass, a woman barely older than herself clutching a baby only a few weeks old tugged nervously on her loose shift. Please, miss - it's 'is father, he done threw us out...said Tagan weren't 'is, I musta been foolin' 'round...
Mouse had heard every plea under the sun; she'd known some of the finest cons in the city, and there was no shortage of true poor in Korvosa. But a silver coin found its way from Mouse's hand to the woman's anyway. She'd been one of those poor - still was.
Asking for "number 3 Lan-ket Street" drew only a confused glance from the shopkeeper she asked, until she wrote it for him. No, it's "Lans-et" Street, like the lances the Sable Company carry... He pointed the way with a few rough gestures, and she could hear him mumble as she left. Stupid, no-good little street rat...Palt, make sure she didn't grab anything. Looking back, she saw the shopkeeper's boy look over the outside display, pocketing a piece of costume jewelry as she turned the corner. She'd be blamed, she knew.
She followed the rough directions, sounding out names on the street signs. Finally, she found "Lans-et" Street, and began counting down the numbers she saw on the factories and warehouses. 86...78...62... When she finally reached number 3, the contrast had surprised her - what was a house like that doing among all these industrial buildings? Still, it looked non-threatening enough...so she settled in to watch under cover of the low fence across the street.
The tall, thin figure walks up the steps, giving a solid knock on the less-solid door. Mouse watches as she makes her way up, leaning on her walking stick. Well, she ain't no Lamb, that much's sure, not usin no walkin' stick. The figure looked strangely familiar for some reason, but Mouse couldn't quite place her - until the image came to her in a flash.
There was a woman in Bridgefront, she remembers, a horser derogatory term for Shoanti lady that worked as a doctor, or at least as much of a doctor as anyone in Bridgefront could afford. Word was she sacrificed to evil barbarian spirits and had once made a deal with a devil to blow up the entire North Point, but Mouse didn't know anything about that. All she knew was that the woman had a cloak just like that.
She'd never spoken to the woman, but she'd seen her around from time to time, and the woman didn't look like a dangerous terrorist. An' now she's goin' in there alone? Is she who I'm s'posed t' be meetin'? But then why we meetin' all the way here? She waits behind the fence for a moment, torn between nervousness, curiosity, and a strange, sudden desire to protect this woman she'd never met and barely seen...and then, steeling herself, she makes her way across Lancet Street and steps timidly onto the porch, still glancing about warily.
'Scuse me...'scuse me, miss? Did y'leave me a...a note of some kind?
The Shoanti woman whirls around at being addressed, a look of slight surprise on her face. Mouse can see that she is middle-aged, tanned skin slightly lined and weathered. Her walking stick is just for show, as she holds herself tall and straight and her movements are quick and unhesitating. A small pink nose framed by long whiskers peeks out from underneath the collar of her cloak, sniffing in Mouse's direction. When she speaks, her voice is deep and gravelly. "Ah, ah. You must be the first of the strangers. Although you do not seem that strange to me. Have I seen you before, girl?" Before Mouse can answer, the woman produces a Harrow card from a pocket of her cloak, holds it up in two fingers. "A note like this you mean? No, that wasn't me. What's yours say?" Tag Mouse.
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
Mouse takes the card from the woman, looking it over and puzzling over the difficult script again for a moment before pulling out her own card. Yeah, jus' like that. Look - even the writin' looks all the same. But... She glances around nervously again, then peeks through the crack of the door. ...this's gonna sound strange, but I dunno how I got it. Jus' showed up inside a book I bought, an' I'd paged through the whole thing 'afore I got it. I thought maybe since you...
She stops, looking slightly embarrassed, though her blush is difficult to see in the dim light under her coppery skin tone. I live in Bridgefront too, an' I seen ya goin' round doin' your doctorin' an' stuff, though y'prob'ly wouldn't notice me, I ain't no one important. It's jus'...some folk said y'had some spooky power...an' I just wondered if it was true, if you could'a make it appear like that. Tag Yazi.
The weasel seems to have finished its inspection of Mouse and, with a final snort, disappears inside the cloak. As the second card is produced, the woman examines it at length, turning it this way and that. She then spends even longer gazing at Mouse, her dark eyes unreadable. At the suggestion that she might have planted the card, she throws back her head and laughs. "Hah! No, no. I have some powers, true, that the spirits bestow upon me. But I don't do appearing tricks. It wasn't me, who did this. And I have a feeling that more cards will appear ere this day is done. The bones have showed as much." She continues her scrutiny of Mouse for a little longer. "You have the blood in you, girl. One of your parents was of the People, am I right?" In Shoanti:"Lithini igama lakho?"
Seeing that Mouse does not appear to understand Shoanti, the woman nods, apparently to herself. "My birth name is Yaziyah. The name by which my people call me, the name I have earned, is Speaks For The Dead. You can use either." She looks at the girl expectantly. Tag Mouse.
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
At the woman's question, Mouse is confused; at the other language that begins to roll off her tongue, she grows even more confused. Still, she listens to her words, trying to put the pieces together. But when the woman looks at her like she's expecting something, Mouse has little to offer in the way of fresh insight.
Uhh... she stalls for a moment. Ain't meanin' t'be rude, I just...ain't quite sure what people you're talkin' 'bout. And I ain't never really known much 'bout my blood. S'pose I musta had a mom 'n dad sometime, but I ain't never known nothin' 'bout em...prob'ly just empties like me. She pauses for a moment, still trying to put the older woman's statement together - then it seems to hit her. Oh, the People - y'mean the horsers like you? Was that horser language y'were talkin'? It sounded nice.
Seeming completely oblivious to the effect her slang could have, she continues. I got two names too. Most folks call me Mouse, on account of I'm so little. An' so scary despite, when I got heavy in a shakedown or a fistfight... But the name I had 'afore was Marial - 'least, I think that one was mine. Things is kinda fuzzy 'afore I got to Korvosa, but that name's one o' the things I do recall a bit.
Jamros quietly ate a stale loaf of bread as he eavesdropped from his prone position on Zellara’s roof. Two so far have fallen into the honey. They are likely the first of many I presume. he thought, stiffling a giggle. After all, what busy bee could resist such sweet nectar. He played with his harrow card as he waited for more fresh arrivals.
Is she serious with that word?: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11
Yaziyah's eyes go wide at Mouse's first use of the offensive slang, but then a look of comprehension replaces her shock. "Ahhh, I see, I see. An orphan. Well. What I meant was that one of your parents was very likely Shoanti, or else one of their parents. I was asking you what your name was in the Shoanti language, but that you have already answered me." She shakes her head, a half-smile on her lips. "As a piece of advice, Marial Mouse, do not ever call a Shoanti 'horser' to their face. I'm only an old woman", and her smile deepens a shade, the tiniest trace of sarcasm in her voice, "but a hot-blooded brave will make a very serious attempt at tearing your head off your shoulders for using that word. It is very insulting for us." Her voice softens as she pats Mouse on the arm. "But you couldn't know. You don't know your roots, all lost in this big great place with no-one to teach you. Without eyes and without tongue of your own, a little blind mouse. Sad, very sad." Her face has taken a saddened expression indeed as she looks down at the girl.
A moment later Yaziyah seems to recollect herself and straightens up, gazing up and down the street, then turning to look at the door behind her. She places a hand on the weathered planks, her intention of pushing it open quite clear. "But we are here for a purpose. I don't see any other likely card-bearers about, or perhaps they are lurking in shadows to see what we do. I have no patience for these games. Are you with me, Marial Mouse?"
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
At the chastisement, Mouse's eyes go wide, and this time her blush is evident. I ain't meant nothin' by it...it's just, you're the first I met, an' everyone else I know used the word. I ain't thought it was bad, and I ain't known another word...sorry. You said the word was Show-awn-tee? At the woman's - Yaziyah's, or maybe Speaks For The Dead's - smile, a matching one crosses her face, and she subtly pushes her way between the door and the woman, as if intent on making sure she's the first to face any danger within.
Yeah, I'm with ya. Seems better out than in, at any rate, an' that flower smell sure is pretty. But it's strange ain't no one come t'meet us, innit? If they wanna see us so bad as t'call us here? Setting her hand next to Speaks With The Dead's, she pushes the door open to see what lies within, her other hand unconsciously tensing into a fist next to her.
Li observes the derelict building from the shadows across the street and listens to the two women talk. She is able to hear the majority of the conversation even though a few sentences fade here and there as the wind picks up and dies down. The younger of the women looks vaguely familiar to Li but she can't readily place why. She doesn't have the look of the type of person Li usually targeted so she doubts she had marked her at any one time to steal from. Curiosity continues to grow but Li still isn't completely convinced that the building isn't a trap of some sort. She watches and waits to see what happens as the women attempt to go inside, keeping an eye on the building's surroundings.
What number is Li looking at to see if she notices Jamros on the roof?
Garvid's steady, learned steps carry him swiftly towards the Old Town. It's surprising how you almost never get used to the smell. Or it just escapes your mind when you leave the place... Making his way across the bridges, he takes in the scenery of buildings of various state of disrepair, and narrowly avoids stepping in a pile of human refuse. Frowning, he continues slowly through the still-familiar paths.
Nearing the house, he notices the two women standing outside. Huh. Trap's looking less likely now. Doubt Lamm's got many Shoanti friends. Especially those of the non-spike hammered persuasion. He chuckles lightly. Gold star for noticing the lack of an earthbreaker, Krein. As he walks, he stares at the younger one. She looks a bit off. Wonder if the kid even knows what her parents are. And I'd love to take a look in what's in that bag. He draws even closer, changing his view on the other participant in the dialogue.
Probably the smallest Shoanti I've seen so far. Carrying all sorts of trinkets too. Maybe a mystic of sorts. But what the hell's a Shoanti mystic doing in Old Town? He smiles to himself, again. Maybe I should ask.
His hand raises in the air in a greeting as the two are carrying on with their conversation. "Evening. Guess you're here for the same reason as I am?", he says, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a card with a funny bear on a unicycle. "Wonder if all this Harrow s#@& was necessary, though..." Tag Yazi.
Li isn't sure how much longer she can wait. The smell is starting to wear on her as the smell of rotting fish always makes her think of her near-death. She still can't eat seafood to this day.
She sees another approach, this time a large man. He appears to have a similar story as the other women and Li contemplates joining them - if for no other reason that to get inside and away from the smells. It was then that she sees movement on the roof and catches sight of a small humanoid. Thinking that they need to be warned in case it is a trap, Li makes sure her dagger is within easy reach and separates from the shadows. She quietly makes her way over to the others.
stealth: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (9) + 8 = 17
"There be movement on tha roof. Whoever ya be, might as well join us below."
tag Jamros (others if Li startles you)
“Oho, looks like someone finally had the good sense to look up.” Jamros said with a giggle. “Don't you worry busy bees. I'll be down in a jiff.” True to his word, Jamros picked his way down from the roof, and landed near the group.
“Salutations, I am Jamros Lightouch.” He gave an exaggerated bow, then pulled out his card. “I presume we all have something in common, wouldn't you say?”
Jamros looks exactly like his portrait.
It was nearly sunset when the young nobleman finished his work, glad to have gotten enough done for the moment. No matter how he sliced it, or figured it, they weren't making any money. Not that he minded so much, keeping from hemorrhaging the family funds with as much charitable work as he was involved in was actually doing quite well. It wasn't likely to get him anywhere, but he couldn't just let artists starve and get stabbed in the night for the few copper they could earn. He almost forgot about his evening meeting when he returned to his violin and found the card laying atop his case. Glancing up at the light, he quickly made himself ready and headed out the gate. "Roland! he called out as he made the gate. "I'm heading out."
"Very good sir." was heard echoing out of the courtyard as he shut the gate. He often went out at night for gigs and to hear music in the nearby taverns, and Roland would keep things going in his absence. He was lucky to have him, not to mention that he was one of the best flutists he'd ever heard.
A few minutes later, a light humming is heard coming from the street as a fairly well-to-do is walking down the street alone. Longish blond hair accompanied by deep brown eyes, he had a willing smile and wearing decorative studded leather and a heraldic shield on his back bearing his family's coat of arms, he strode confidently down the avenue. He passed by the house once, and then came back by the opposite direction, passing by the small gaggle of people on the porch a second time. At last, he discovered the building as his destination and his face lit up with recognition.
"Ah, hello good people. I don't know why you've decided to congregate on this particular doorstep, but if you wouldn't mind letting me through, I have an appointment."
Jamros looked the handsome noble in the eye and smiled mischievously. Well well, it appears as though the peacock has come to feast as well. he thought giggling behind his hand. He dipped into a ridiculously low bow. “By all means, enter milord.” he mocked, removing his hat with a flourish and producing his card. “Though I pray you won't mind a full house.”
|The Wicked GM|
As the door creaks open, Mouse tenses, ready for a fight, but what greets her is something else entirely. The cozy chamber within this small home is filled with a fragrant haze of flowers and strong spice. The haze comes from several sticks of incense smouldering in wall-mounted burners that look like butterfly-winged elves. The smoke itself seems to soften edges and gives the room a dream-like feel.
And this is just as well, for the walls are draped with the stuff of nightmares--thick brocaded tapestries, one showing a black-skulled beast juggling men’s hearts, another showing a pair of angels doing battle a snow-blasted mountain. A third tapestry on the far wall depicts a tall hooded figure shrouded in mist, a flaming sword held in a skeletal hand. Several brightly-colored rugs cover the floor, but the room’s only furnishings are a wooden table covered by a bright red throwcloth and seven elegant high-backed chairs.
A single note sits on the table, weighed down with a stone, while a basket covered by a blue cloth sits under the table.
The Shoanti woman raises an eyebrow as Garvid approaches, then laughs as two more converge on their group. Calcedon's presence seems to surprise her and she looks him up and down for a few moments. "I wouldn't have thought your kind can't afford justice against the likes of Lamm." Overall, she seems amused by this mottled gathering and she gives each of them a weighing look, a half-smile rounding off the edges of what might be otherwise construed as a rude sort of appraisal.
As Mouse opens the door, Yaziyah strides in after her, taking in the room. She makes a slow circuit, gazing at the hangings and lifting them away from the wall a little with one end of her walking stick, perhaps to check for doors or niches behind them.
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
At the table, she reads the note with a slight frown, pokes at the basket with her stick and then settles into one of the chairs, her back to the door. "What a collection we are... I have already met Mouse here," she says, gesturing at the half-Shoanti girl, "but the rest of you I don't know". She settles back in the chair, long legs stretched out, a hand idly playing with a Harrow card showing a rather gruesome birth. A moving lump in the folds of her deep red cloak emerges - first as a whiskered pink nose sniffing the air, then as the rest of a red-brown weasel which promptly curls up in her lap and goes to sleep.
The bard looked at the gnome giggling at him behind his hand and regarded his mocking voice. He knew a heckler when he saw one. It seemed that there are more cards, and they weren't quite ready to just go in, except for the small half elf that looked like she was ready to breach an orc stronghold. "I prefer full houses to empty ones. The liveliness of such is far more entertaining. Wouldn't you agree?" He gave the gnome a genuine smile. Putting hecklers in their place was tempting, but winning them over was far more satisfying in the long run. He'd bide his time until then.
When questioned by the older woman, Calcedon regarded her as well. She looked Shoanti, and had their typical view of his class. Again he was used to having to deal with such ideas. He gave her a wink. "I'm full of surprises."
As they moved into the room to the warm if not somewhat foreboding environment, the young nobleman lounged on one of the chairs. Looking about at each of the people there, some of them looked familiar. He was pretty sure he'd never seen the ones that spoke to him, but everyone else afforded him a bit of deja vu.
"If you're looking for introductions, I'll start. I am Calcedon, from House Fordyce." He reached into his waistcoat and revealed his own card, that of a fake dragon scaring a knight on stage. "Whoever brought me this is fairly resourceful. I wouldn't mind finding out more of what she knows."
Li follows the others inside but isn't about to sit down. She paces the room, looking around for why they had been asked here. She looks for a window through which she can keep a look out on the street.
perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 23 for unconcealed items
perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23 for concealed items
"Who invites a bunch of strangers ta their place and then ain't there ta meet 'em? Then leaves 'em food 'n drink? That don't seem suspicious at all. Name's Li, by tha way."
unable to relax, Li listens to the others introduce themselves. The mystery grew as the others reveal they also obtained harrow cards under weird circumstances. She keeps on her feet with her back against the wall and watches the door as well as the others.
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
Mouse mirror's Li's movements, staying near the edge of the room. At Speaks For The Dead's mention of her, she gave a slight nod; she didn't mind the older woman handling her introduction for her. Still trying to size up the home's other inhabitants, she stays mostly quiet. Clear 'nuff they was all called by the same person, whoever 'tis, if they all got cards, too. But there ain't no other person here...an' none of these folks is what give me the card?
As she watches, she realizes that the bread and half-stale cheese she'd bought on her way home from the docks was several hours ago now, and the work had burned through more energy than she realized...she's famished. Making for the basket, she tears off a heel and bites into it, though she foregoes the wine. She'd never had much in the way of alcohol before, just a splash in her water to make it more drinkable, and she didn't intend to lose her senses in this place.
Her castle darts back and forth between the fingers of her left hand as she nervously surveys everyone; finally, she speaks out timidly. Mebbe this is, I dunno, a test or somethin'. Like we're s'posed t'figure out what's goin' on t'show we'll fight Lamm good. That's what this is about, right? 'Least, my note said somethin' 'bout... She begins to read, haltingly, from the back of the card in her hand. Gaedren mus' face 'is fate, an' jus-justice mus' be done. 'Less your cards say somethin' diff'rent, an' I know Miss Yaziyah's was the same.
Garvid crosses his arms. "Well, that's just about the most colourful band of people I've seen in years." He shrugs. "Garvid Krein, at your service, I guess." He looks over the room, shaking his head at Li. "Doubt it. Either it's all an elaborate trap to take out a number of Lamm's enemies at once, or just someone who still respects hospitality in Korvosa... So, I'm guessing the odds are about the same."
He steps into the house and pulls a chair. "Might as well get comfortable. We may be waiting on our host for a bit."
Mebbe this is, I dunno, a test or somethin'. Like we're s'posed t'figure out what's goin' on t'show we'll fight Lamm good. That's what this is about, right? 'Least, my note said somethin' 'bout... She begins to read, haltingly, from the back of the card in her hand. Gaedren mus' face 'is fate, an' jus-justice mus' be done. 'Less your cards say somethin' diff'rent, an' I know Miss Yaziyah's was the same.
"If it be a test then someone don't know what they be doin' 'cause a rabbit prince with a broken sword is not very dangerous. What do harrow cards hafta do with fightin' Lamm?"
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
Mouse wrote:Mebbe this is, I dunno, a test or somethin'. Like we're s'posed t'figure out what's goin' on t'show we'll fight Lamm good. That's what this is about, right? 'Least, my note said somethin' 'bout... She begins to read, haltingly, from the back of the card in her hand. Gaedren mus' face 'is fate, an' jus-justice mus' be done. 'Less your cards say somethin' diff'rent, an' I know Miss Yaziyah's was the same."If it be a test then someone don't know what they be doin' 'cause a rabbit prince with a broken sword is not very dangerous. What do harrow cards hafta do with fightin' Lamm?"
Despite the strangeness of the situation, Mouse can't help but smile as she flashes her card. Somehow I bet Castle Korvosa ain't growin' arms an' legs to help us none, neither.
|The Wicked GM|
3 Lancet Street; Sometime After Dark
The conversation carries on, each participant sizing up the next, and all of you musing as to the meaning of your cards and the motives of the one who beckoned you here. Outside, the wind picks up. It whistles through the holes in the walls, carrying the stink of West Dock through the room. The candles flicker and the light pales, but does not expire.
From the darkness outside, slow footsteps approach. They stop abruptly at the door. Slowly, it begins to creak open.
An attractive, middle-aged Varisian woman with long, dark hair hastily tied under a handkerchief enters the home with a smile. ”Greetings,” she says in a thick Varisian accent, ”I am Zellara.”
Without another word, she takes a seat at the table and withdraws a Harrow deck from a pocke. She begins idly shuffling the cards. Her skill with the deck is apparent by the way the cards seem to float and dance over her hands and the table. As you reach for your own Harrow card, you find that you are unable to locate it. Wherever did it go? Tag PCs
With a nod of her head she indicates that you should all sit. Conveniently, six empty chairs surround the modest table.
Once everyone has claimed a seat, she speaks in a soft but clear voice. ”Thank you for coming, my friends, and for putting up with my, ah, unconventional method of contacting you. I have reason to remain hidden, you see--a terrible man would see great harm done to me if he knew I were reaching out for help. This is a man you know, for he has done something terrible to each of you as well. I speak, of course, of Gaedren Lamm, a man whose cruelty and capacity to destroy the lives of those he touches are matched only by his gift for avoiding reprisal. You see, a year ago, his thieves stole this, my Harrow deck, from me. It is important to me, an heirloom passed down through a dozen generations, and also my sole means of support. When pickpockets stole it, my son, Eran, tracked them down. While he was able to return it to me, the thieves were in the employ of Gaedren Lamm. They tracked him down and, in reward for finding them, Gaedren murdered my son.”
Tears form in Zellara’s eyes as a look of anguish overtakes her proud features. A single teardrop flows down her cheek, reflecting in the soft candlelight. ”I sought help from the Guard, but they turned me away. And so I asked around. I paid bribes, such as I could afford. I consulted the cards for advice. And recently, I was...rewarded. I found out where Gaedren dwells. He can be found in an old fishery not far from here, just north, at Westpier 17, where he trains his abducted children to be pickpockets and counts his stolen treasures.”
“And now, I need your help. I cannot hope to face this man on my own, and the Guard moves so slowly that if I were to go to them, Gaedren would certainly know of their coming well in advance. Even if they did arrest him--what guarantee would I have he would be punished? This criminal has evaded the law for decades. But you know of these frustrations as well, for word on the street has it that Gaedren has wronged each of you, too.”
Her eyes pass to each person sitting around her table. ”So there we are, it is time for him to pay.”
She wipes her nose on her worn sleeve and returns to shuffling her cards, adding, ”By way of reward I fear I haven’t much to offer. What little coin I held was spent in locating Lamm. But, I can offer you the wisdom of the Harrow, free of charge, to guide you on your way?”Tag PCs
Jamros sat backwards on a seat, his grinning face resting on crossed arms. It was beginning to look as though his face was stuck that way. “I suppose these do wonders to keep burglars away from here.” he said, gesturing to the intricate designs. “Frankly I'm surprised there aren't more rumors of witchcraft in regards to madam Zellara.”
An attractive, middle-aged Varisian woman with long, dark hair hastily tied under a handkerchief enters the home with a smile. ”Greetings,” she says in a thick Varisian accent, ”I am Zellara.”
Jamros merely watched Zellara as she entered, silently scrutinizing her.
As you reach for your own Harrow card, you find that you are unable to locate it. Wherever did it go?
Jamros whistled appreciatively as he leaned forward on his chair. “My, that is quite the magic trick madam.” ..and one I wouldn't mind learning more about.
arcana: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
Jamros listened quietly to Zellara’s tale, his expression now passive. It was a familiar tale and one that was common in this city. It was a story Jamros needed to end. “There is no wisdom in the harrow my dear, only the mists of possibility.” he said solemnly when Zellara finished, but then he chuckled suddenly. “But I suppose there's no harm in trying.” he relented with a shrug.
Before Zellara's arrival.
At Li's question, the Shoanti woman shrugs. "Who would set up a scene like this? Someone who enjoys mystery and drama, I suppose." After everyone has introduced themselves, she repeats their names, pinning each of them in turn with her gaze as she does so and all the while stroking the weasel in her lap - which is now awake and alert, ears pricked forward and pink nose sniffling. "So. Jamros. Calcedon. Li. Garvid. And Mouse. Very good, very good. My people call me Speaks For The Dead. You can call me Yaziyah."
After Zellara's arrival.
As Zellara tells her tale of woe, Yaziyah gives a bitter laugh. "Justice in this city always turns away the likes of us, eh, sister? And then they are surprised when we get fed up and seek to make our own." For a moment, there is a dangerous glitter in her eyes and her voice takes a hard edge. Some of the others present may know some of the history of this Shoanti woman sitting before them, the acts of terror and death that she was a part of, almost 20 years ago. Some say she was actually the leader, but at the trial someone else claimed that part, so it was them who was tortured and executed, and not Yaziyah.
"Yes, it is high time for Lamm to get his due. I don't need any sort of reward for helping bring him down, but I am very curious about this Harrow of yours. My own divinations have shown me... interesting things this morning. This is a day of convergences, a fulcrum." Yaziyah tilts her head back against the chair, watching Zellara.
|The Wicked GM|
|Marial "Mouse" Redfist|
At Zellara's story of woe, Mouse could only nod - unfortunately, she'd seen too many similar acts play out. Even been a player in far too many of them. Gaedren had taken years she would never get back, and him...
I ain't needin' no reward neither, Miss Zellara. She sighs, and a storm of emotions rolls behind it. He foun' me, taught me fightin' an' sent me 'gainst folks what crossed 'im. Afterwhile it started feelin' wrong - didn't like it, didn't wanna hurt people no more. I run for it, an' he sent... Cracks begin to form in her stony demeanor, and for a moment, it looks almost as if she's on the edge of tears. Sent my best friend Teron t' stab me in the back. He'd said he loved me, then tried t'stick a knife in me jus' 'cause Lamm said to.
Left out a name, Miss Speaks For The Dead, when we was talkin' before. Redfist: it's what Lamm called me, t' make folks afraid o'me. The name "Mouse" come from Teron - 'e said no other creature was so tiny but made folks so afraid, an' that was me as well. I didn't have nothin', didn't have no clue who I was - an' I become a monster. So'd Teron. Lamm takes innocent kids an' makes 'em monsters. Ain't gotta reward me none t'stop 'im doin' that, I get half a chance.
After several moments' pause, she regains her composure, and the fire of her determination begins to fade back into shy reservation. Sorry - I ain't meant t'interrupt none. You c'n read the cards if you like, miss - I don't know if I ever seen someone read 'em what actually believed in it, an' wasn't makin' it up t'draw a crowd. I'd like to.
The wind blows in the smell of rotting fish and the docks causing Li’s stomach to do flip flops. The rogue swallows hard to settle her stomach and switches to breathing through her mouth to minimize the smell.
Li mentally repeats the names along with Yaziyah as she summarizes their motley crew. Turns out misfortune at the hand of Lamm was widespread without discrimination.
Li’s hand grasps the hilt of her dagger as she hears the footsteps approach. Once Zellara makes her entrance, Li removes her hand but doesn’t fully relax.
Realizing the card was now gone, Li said, ”If ya wanted yer card back, ya just had ta ask. Ya don’t hafta use tricks.” Seeing Zellara’s motion for them to sit causes conflict for Li. She knows she needs to sit to be polite but she doesn’t like being told to sit. In the end she chooses a chair facing the door and sits on the edge of the seat, ready to flee if this thing went sideways.
Zellara’s story is sadly predictable. Knowing how Lamm operates, Li isn’t surprised at all that her son was now dead. What does catch Li off guard is Mouse’s story because now she knows why Mouse looked vaguely familiar. Addressing Mouse she says, ”That’s why ya look familiar. Ya were one of Lamm’s enforcers. Ya left shortly after he brought me in.” Li’s voice turned cold. ”Ya be happy ta know yer friend is still one a Lamm’s trusted enforcers. He be part of tha team that almost done me in. Him and Kesh put down a beatin’ on me when Lamm thought I weren’t pullin’ me weight. ”
Turning to Zellara Li adds, ”Fer what it’s worth, I’d never be takin’ your harrow deck. Sadly, not all of Lamm’s lambs be havin’ standards. They be more scared of tha beatin’s than listenin’ to their conscience. Sorry fer ya loss. And I don’t be needin’ payment neither. Ya helpin’ me by givin’ me a chance at Lamm now that I’m strong aga’n. But if ya think yer cards will help then I have no objections.”
Garvid crosses his arms as the Harrower walks in. He nods at the story, listening carefully. I'd like to argue about the Guard, but it's all to often we discard things in Old Town. Few give a damn about the folk from the slums.
He grunts as she mentions the Guard. "I know better than any of you what a bureaucratic bunch of nonsense is going on in the Guard. No one thinks about what's going to happen when the entire Old Town is in the control of a maniac." He stands up, stretching his back and leans on the table. "Lamm had a bit of a problem about a month ago, some noble scum used to come in the Old Town to have fun with the locals, and it's not the usual sort of fun. I took him in a couple of times, showed him the error of his ways...", he makes a fist. "Then he decided to mess around with some of Lamm's little s#$*s, and ended up dead. Lamm thought he could take two birds with the same stone, mentioned how I'm responsible to his inbred family and they used the leverage to kick me out of the Korvosa's finest.", he chuckles. "So, I really want to get back at the man who cost me a decade and a half of my life. If you really want to get justice though, I'd drag him out into the square, and let the people of Old Town have their fun.", his smile turns predatory.
At the mention of a reward, he crosses his arms, a sceptical look on his face. "Never believed in the Harrow, despite my old man telling me it's in my blood. Then again, I never had someone perform it for free, and you've got better card tricks than all the sharks in Northgate."
He takes a long look at Jamros. Gnome, Cheliaxian accent. Smartass, means he's probably not a slave. Decent threads, so he's either a con artist or actually works something well paid in town. I'm going with con artist.
The broad-shouldered man nods at Mouse. "You know his workings best. When are the 'lambs' out the most? What's the best time to go and push his s#$# in?"
|The Wicked GM|
“There is no wisdom in the harrow my dear, only the mists of possibility. But I suppose there's no harm in trying.”
Zellara smiles at Jamros, her eyes distant, wistful. "The cards have different meaning for everyone. Take their message as you will, of course."
"Justice in this city always turns away the likes of us, eh, sister? And then they are surprised when we get fed up and seek to make our own."
"Yes, it is high time for Lamm to get his due. I don't need any sort of reward for helping bring him down, but I am very curious about this Harrow of yours. My own divinations have shown me... interesting things this morning. This is a day of convergences, a fulcrum."
Zellara nod respectfully to the Shoanti woman. "Myself, I only wish it would not have come to this. Eran and I lived a simple life. We didn't bother anyone, and only sought to make a life for ourselves in a city such as this. Lamm is a cruel man, and has brought this "justice" on himself. As a fellow believer, I hope that the cards can help illuminate your true path."
I ain't needin' no reward neither, Miss Zellara. He foun' me, taught me fightin' an' sent me 'gainst folks what crossed 'im. Afterwhile it started feelin' wrong - didn't like it, didn't wanna hurt people no more. I run for it, an' he sent...Sent my best friend Teron t' stab me in the back. He'd said he loved me, then tried t'stick a knife in me jus' 'cause Lamm said to.
Sorry - I ain't meant t'interrupt none. You c'n read the cards if you like, miss - I don't know if I ever seen someone read 'em what actually believed in it, an' wasn't makin' it up t'draw a crowd. I'd like to.
Zellara places her hand over her breast as Mouse speaks, clearly moved by her story. "Lamm is a thief of the worse order. He takes and uses without regard for the lives he destroys. You have my deepeest sympathies."
”Fer what it’s worth, I’d never be takin’ your harrow deck. Sadly, not all of Lamm’s lambs be havin’ standards. They be more scared of tha beatin’s than listenin’ to their conscience. Sorry fer ya loss. And I don’t be needin’ payment neither. Ya helpin’ me by givin’ me a chance at Lamm now that I’m strong aga’n. But if ya think yer cards will help then I have no objections.”
"OF course," says Zellara. "My divinations have shown me that we are all victims of Lamm's treachery, and I do not doubt that he is capable of bending even the best of us to his dark will. The cards, as I say, speak differently to everyone. As a speaker of fortunes, I can only pray that they whisper truth to your heart, as they do to mine."
As the others spill precious bits of their stories, of their lives, their misfortunes and hopes, Yaziyah just nods, her eyes unfocused.
"My divinations have shown me that we are all victims of Lamm's treachery"
At this, Yaziyah's gaze becomes sharp again and she sweeps at across all present, lingering a shade longer on Garvid. "Lamm didn't do anything to me personally. But he's been preying on my people. Because to those who run this city, we're not worth protecting. If we get robbed or scammed, it is no less than we stupid barbarians deserve. Because he thinks no one is going to miss a few horser brats when they go missing." She leans slightly on the offensive slang word, her voice so cold it burns. This is not some new anger though, but only a facet of an old, old grievance, polished and smoothed and honed razor-sharp.
|The Wicked GM|
"I know better than any of you what a bureaucratic bunch of nonsense is going on in the Guard. No one thinks about what's going to happen when the entire Old Town is in the control of a maniac."
"Of course," says Zellara, "I mean no offense to you or any other man in the guard. But you must understand, for people like us," her eyes drop to her hands. "For...a person like me, with no one else to rely on, I have had to learn to fend for myself. Many in Korvosa have learned this. The city is a cold lover, an indifferent mother. With such a life comes a certain suspicion of the very agents of that authority. The poorest of the city know that neither the Crown, nor His Guard, truly care for our well-being. I am sorry if this offends, though it sounds as though you are, what is the word? Self-aware."
"Lamm didn't do anything to me personally. But he's been preying on my people. Because to those who run this city, we're not worth protecting. If we get robbed or scammed, it is no less than we stupid barbarians deserve. Because he thinks no one is going to miss a few horser brats when they go missing."
"This is true for we Varisians as well. Though our ancestry is traced to different peoples, it seems in this we share a common ground. The mother of a Shoanti babe should feel as lost, I think, as I have felt since Eran was killed. But Lamm doesn't see the colors of our skin, he sees in shades of gold and silver. And in red, of course, the color of blood."
Calcedon sat forward in his chair, listening to every word spoken. He steepled his gloved hands in front of him and furrowed his brow in thought. It wouldn't do to bring up the guard had served him well in the past. He even had some friends there. What happened to Garvid was unfortunate, tragic even, but it didn't mean that the guard didn't do more good than naught in staving off anarchy. Lamm isn't the only lifelong criminal in the city though, but it would do very well to have him ended. But the question is important. Did Calcedon want to subvert the law in order to bring a criminal to justice? Or had Lamm really been involved in the only other crime that's affected his life in the past nineteen years?
"I don't have evidence of Lamm's injustices toward me. I am interested in helping this city though. I have suspicions and whispers. You have your divinations, and I appreciate your skills as well as your story, but it may be just a story. I am considering your offer, mind you, but I'm not quite ready to commit to something that is going to jeopardize my responsibilities without just a touch more proof. I need to be able to trust you."
He stood from his chair and walked over toward the fortuneteller, looking down on her a little from his statuesque height. "I'll tell you what. You do your harrowing for me, and if it's good, and I know good, I'll join your little crusade and rejoice in the opportunity to remove this tumor from the city, and possibly even give some of the orphans a new home until they can learn a new trade. If not, I'll tip my hat and go my own way."
The violinist sat down in front of her ready to receive her fortunetelling. "Though you call this city an indifferent mother, it is still my mother. I love her, and I will take care of her as she ages."
|The Wicked GM|
"I'll tell you what. You do your harrowing for me, and if it's good, and I know good, I'll join your little crusade and rejoice in the opportunity to remove this tumor from the city, and possibly even give some of the orphans a new home until they can learn a new trade. If not, I'll tip my hat and go my own way."
”Calcedon, my dear! Your presence here tonight is perhaps the most important, for you stand to learn the most.” Zellara appraises Calcedon and actually smiles--a true smile, the first since introducing herself. ”For a believer of the Harrow, it is never a question of being ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ for the cards tend to speak for themselves. Having an openness to mystery, yes, that is important, and you have already shown yourself a believer in possibilities. Otherwise, you would not be sitting in front of me now, yes?”
She gives her Harrow deck one final shuffle, then offers the deck to the bard. ”First,” she whispers. ”The Choosing. While many believe they can control their destiny, the truth is that our fates are chosen at birth. The harrow is a guiding light through the fog of destiny, however pale it’s glow may be. Let it speak to you now. Calcedon, all of you, our fates have brought us together on this night, of all nights, to face a man named Gaedren Lamm.” She continues, her voice barely audible, her eyes aglow with expectancy. ”Let the Harrow guide your actions. Unlock your destiny. Just pick a card.”
She offers the deck first to Calcedon, then to each of you in turn.
Li looked at her card and suppressed the urge to snort. Trying to be somewhat polite she simply asked, "Was I suppos'd ta get tha same one? Didn't understand what it meant tha first time an' I still don't understand now."
Calcedon smiles right back at Zellara, his brown eyes sparkling. "No, I meant good as in authentic. For everyone with a true calling there are many pretenders. Those riding the tails of power and talent. I've seen Harrow done right, and I've seen it done wrong. We both know that it is an art, and as a connoisseur of art, I can tell if it's worth my time. The card in itself is nothing but a medium, and any con would tell the most skeptical they have the most to gain. So dazzle me. Show me your art you've spent your life in pursuit."
Once he received the card, he gave her a quizzical look, as if asking her to elaborate.