These are dark times for Urth. A shadow creeps across the land to corrupt, warp, and destroy whatever it touches. As the light dies and darkness reigns, the world speeds toward annihilation. Is this really the end? Is it the apocalypse long foretold by prophets and madmen? Or is the end not so certain?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Only time will tell..
Tales of the Demon Lord
Chapter 1: Harvester of Sorrows
Crossings is a small city of some nineteen thousand people, with half again as many living on the farms and small villages that surround it. The city spreads across a ring of hills whose lower reaches are the southern shore of the Dark Waters, a misty lake speckled with forested islands. A wall of stone surrounds the city, and older, lower walls rise within it, marking the boundaries of its districts or serving as mementos of the other settlements that once stood here.
The Emperor's Road, built by crusaders bound for the north, ends at the city's center where it meets the Grain Way headed east and the Iron Road to the west. Numerous smaller roads and trails lead in and out of the city by gates that pierce its outer wall. The river known as the Stream of Tears flows into the city from the Barrows, draining into the Dark Waters.
Thick clouds hover over the city most days, fed by the smokestacks rising from the Academy of Engineers crowning High Hill. Easterly winds move much of the smoke and pollution west over the Black Hills, but soot clings to everything and everyone in the city.
The district of Grievings is grim and depressing on most days, but the cold rain that falls today makes things even worse. The destitute residents that throng the streets huddle under patchy cloaks and blankets, scurrying about as they try to stay dry. On a dark day like this, it only seems appropriate that dark news has begun to circulate. Father Gregory has gone missing.
He's just the latest in a rash of recent disappearances that began about a week ago. The Brown Cloaks staged a half-hearted investigation when people started tuning up missing, but like always, they abandoned their efforts to let the poor folks fend for themselves. A true champion of the downtrodden, Father Gregory maintains a small shrine connected to the larger Temple of the New God in the district of Redemption. Unwilling to let the disappearances continue, Gregory set out to find the person responsible. No one has seen the priest since.
Father Gregory is a good man, and well-liked by each of you. If you want to find out what happened to him, it looks like you're going to have to take matters into your own hands...
Uruuna Lifestyle Roll: 1d20 - 1 - 1d6 ⇒ (17) - 1 - (4) = 12
Coppers Saved: 1d6 ⇒ 6
Finally earning enough to move out of the Grievings, Anophth had enjoyed his new apartment in Old Town. He had been living there for a month, and quickly secured a good relationship with Father Gregory. Not only was he one of the few that didn't judge Anophth for being a goblin, he had also become a regular customer of Anophth's findings. A solid business relationship was being developed.
When Father Gregory said he was going to look for the missing people, Anophth became concerned. Not just was there a potential to lose a burgeoning business, but there was the potential to lose a friend. Father Gregory was helping him come to terms with his rat issue, and there really wasn't anyone else that he could talk to about that. Cack, for sure, if he could ever find him. Maybe he was one of those missing people. Maybe Father Gregory knew more about that. Anophth should have inquired more, but he was just so busy with the move and the rat problem and setting up the new business that he didn't think about it. Did that make him a bad friend? To two people?
Well, it was time to remedy that. Step 1: Find Father Gregory. Step 2: Find Cack. Step 3: Bring life back to normal and set up the business. The business could even help fund a cure for him and Cack, and he could even give a safe and secure home for his friend while they worked together.
Sorry that the background of Anophth has details which change and alter. I'm still figuring him out, and not everything fits together as the story grows. They way I'm looking at it, Anophth is fine with being a little loose with the truth. :)
Intellect: 1d20 - 1 - 1d6 ⇒ (5) - 1 - (4) = 0
The time when Imedren was studying religions and beginning to learn the ways to practice various rites and ceremonies had him learn from a surplus of teachers and more experienced members of the old faith. So taken with his studies was he, Imedren eventually sought out members of all faiths, including that of the New God. This eventually led him to meet Father Gregory.
Gregory, as he had Imedren call him when he was not about his duties, was a kind man to all he met and was something of an inspiration for how to make an impact upon the local populace in regards for spreading the brighter aspects of the churches. Imedren spent hours consulting with the man, learning what he could of the rising cult religion among the empire. He got most of what he expected out of the man, much repeating of typical written scriptures, traditional rites, pomp and circumstance, but to his surprise, it turned out that Gregory occasionally indulged himself at one of the taverns every now and again. The older man saying that while it was fine to preach a single religion directly, that he was always a fan of Revel's traditions. It was also a way to mingle on a more approachable level and to get a feel for how the people were doing outside of the shrines and temples.
The two had struck up an amiable accord after that and had regularly begun to meet at the taverns with one another, often to discuss facts of religion, rumors around town, and events in their respective lives. Eventually the two became good friends. It went so well that he'd even had the priest oversee his wedding.
The rain always made Imedren feel cold and miserable, but today as he stepped out of the smoky tavern and into the open air, an unnerving chill ran deeper.
On their last meeting at one of Crossings taverns, The Wet Beard, Father Gregory had told Imedren his plans to look into the sudden disappearance of people. They'd planned to meet up again a few days after that to discuss what he'd found and what to do next. Then see if Imedren could help in any way. He'd missed the appointed night. Then he'd missed the night after that. Now a third day and without Father Gregory showing up to minister his own shrine, the whispers of him going missing had started spreading.
Imedren was worried and now he supposed he would have to do something more drastic if he wanted to find his friend. The first place he would want to check would be... his home?
|Uruuna the Halfling|
Seeing her partner's morose mood, Uruuna gives Imedren a gentle but firm punch on the thigh. "Hey, chin up, love. We'll find Father Gregory, don't you worry. If the damned Brown Cloaks won't do their job, we'll do it for them. Maybe we can try to track down one of them to see if they actually learned anything useful."
Father Gregory lives within the shrine of the New God in Grievings, so that is where Imedren and Uruuna go. The shrine features a modest worship area with pews, an altar, and an icon of the prophet Astrid. The icon depicts the robed woman pierced by swords.
As the pair arrive, they see a one-eyed goblin has just entered the shrine, seemingly having the same idea. Imedred recognizes Anophth from a few of Gregory's services that he has attended.
Imedren glanced at Uruuna and gave her a half smile. She always knew what to say to keep him on track. Suddenly the rain didn't seem quite so oppressive.
"You're right, but first I want to check at his shrine at the Grievings district. Maybe we can narrow our search."
Seeing the familiar goblin, Imedren walked walked over to him. "Ah, hello there. I believe I've seen you before at several of Gregory's services. My name is Imedren. This is my wife, Uruuna." he said gesturing toward the halfling.
He paused for a moment before frowning, his voice dropping a little lower.
"I don't know if you've heard about the rumors concerning the disappearances recently, but now the rumors are saying that Gregory's missing as well. We're actually looking for him ourselves."
Hiyo! Anophth says, while giving a small wave. Yes, I have heard about those. In fact, he told me he was going to go looking for them; I'm a bit worried he went without proper preparation. I've got a number of goods and services for him to, uh.. use which would assist. I am a but concerned that he hasn't come to call, and I'm here to check on his welfare.
Shall we work together? As the saying goes, a Goblin never works alone.
|Uruuna the Halfling|
The three of you search through the small shrine. A door in the worship area leads to a short hall with doors to either side. One leads to a small room with a pair of bunk beds for any of Gregory's flock who need shelter. The other is the priest's apartment.
The apartment contains a cot and a writing desk, on which rest a holy book, papers, a quill, a pot of ink, and a bag of fine sand. A chest holds Gregory's clothing, and a holy symbol of the New God hangs from a nail on the wall. Searching the desk turns up a scrap of paper bearing a sketch of a horned skull, a healing potion, and an incantation of the denounce spell from the Theurgy tradition.
Unforunately, there doesn't seem to be any clues regarding the priest's disappearance.
Anophth takes the proffered hand and returns the shake with business-like astute.
In the room, he surveys, thinking about what will get most useful for when they find Father Gregory. There is a lot of things here I would have expected him to take, if he left on his own. His book, the teeth (Holy Symbol), the potion, the incantation. As he says this, he grabs the items and puts them in his bag. I'm not sure yet left willingly.
Anophth looks for signs of a struggle. The other option is he was calling on someone, and he was taken there, or he was taken while he was out. None of this looks like someone who set off to find missing people.
And if we can never find him, at least these will turn a profit.
Imedren nodded at the Goblin's findings and assumptions.
"This is all what one would expect to find here on any given day. Quite normal, except for this." He said, picking up the piece of paper with the horned skull drawn on it. He stared at it for a moment an sense of uneasiness coming over him before he folded it up and put it in his pocket.
"But we know he was going to investigate the disappearances himself, so I think you're right. He must have met someone in a neutral enough location. Maybe we could check on his home first. After that, we can ask the Brown Cloaks what they have discovered in their investigation so far.
|Uruuna the Halfling|
"Gregory sold his house so he could afford to open this shrine," Uruuna gently reminds Imedren. "Should we track down the Brown Cloaks then?"
"Ah, right. I'd forgotten. Then without any other leads we should go meet the Brown Cloaks. One of them should be willing to tell us what they've found."
Asking around Grievings reveals that the city council of Crossings supposedly ordered the Brown Cloaks to abandon their investigation of the missing people, deeming it a waste of resources. Despite these orders, one guardswoman has still been patrolling the district every night, hoping to bring the culprit to justice.
You wait until night falls, but after that, it is easy to track down the Brown Cloak. She's a young woman in her twenties with thin brown hair cut short, plain features, and a well-muscled body.
"Good evening, citizens. I'm Sergeant Alyse. Is there something you need?"
Imedren nodded and spoke. "Good evening, sergeant Alyse. Um, yes actually there is something. Although we know it's something of a sensitive matter, we were hoping you could tell us what you know regarding the disappearances of late."
Imedren had plenty more to say on the matter. But he wanted to gauge how the sergeant would respond to an open ended request.
"Yes, of course," Alyse says. "I've been doing my best to look into them on my off-hours. I'm glad that I'm not the only one trying to help those poor people.
"Six of them have gone missing in the past week. If somebody is taking them, they've been choosing their victims carefully. Drunkards, petty criminals, others whose absence won't be missed. All were regulars at the Fallen Soldier, a rundown tavern on the border between Grievings and Tankards."
The sergeant provides you a list of the missing individuals, in order of disappearance:
• Asa Myn. An aging, down-on-her-luck prostitute with a reputation for being a drunk.
• Old Pete, a paraplegic who lived in the alley behind the Fallen Soldier.
• Trout, a young orphan who survives by picking pockets.
• Enid, a fortune-teller.
• Tyrus, an ex-soldier, touched by the mercurial god Revel.
• Vern, a blind beggar with a filthy mouth.
"That's all I've been able to find out. The Brown Cloaks have a bad reputation in this district, so there aren't many people willing to open up to me. Maybe you'll have better luck."
Anophth keeps quiet and inconspicuous as they talk to the guard. He's well aware of how his people are treated by them.
Huh. That's not what I would have expected, Anophth says under his breath.
Once they depart from the guard, he says, The Tavern maybe more your style, but I can see what the gutterfolk and alleyrats know. Which would you like to try first?
Sorry about the slow response but before we leave:
Imedren listened to Alyse's information.
"Thank you for putting a name and faces among the missing, sergeant Alyse. We'll see what we can do about it here." he said nodding to her.
"But there is another person we can add to this list. I worry this means things may be escalating, but we have reason to believe that Father Gregory has gone missing as well. He's a minister of the New God who lived in the Redemption district. When the disappearances began, he told me that he was going to begin his own investigation into the rumors. He planned to meet with me a few days afterward to discuss what he'd found but he never showed up. I worry now he's gone."
Imedren took a steadying breath and reached into his pocket.
"We went to his home and found it as though he was simply out for the evening. But that doesn't make any sense. We know he was going to investigate things and he's not been there for several days. We think maybe that he went to meet with someone. Maybe at a neutral location or someone he trusted. More importantly, have you ever seen or heard of anything looking like this?" he said, pulling out and unfolding the picture of the horned skull.
Imedren rubbed his chin thoughtfully at Anophth's question. "I think that is going to depend largely on who we ask about. Also why we're asking. I'm certain I've been here a few times, so it's likely I've even seen Tyrus before. They were all known from from the Fallen soldier, so there's a chance whoever's been taking his victims may still be there watching." he shivered slightly at the thought.
"We don't know much about them. It may be better that we try to learn what we can about them from your side of things before we go to the tavern, Anophth."
The Fallen Soldier is a rundown taproom situated between a burned-down tenement and a brothel. The taproom reeks of vomit and piss, and boasts a single bar with a few stools, a couple of tables, and a hearth that's never lit. A half-dozen rough-looking patrons glare at you as you enter.
Behind the bar is a portly man with shaggy black hair and a sweep of blisters on the back of his neck. "What're ya havin'?" he grunts.
We're looking for our friend, a priest by the name of Father Gregory. He is looking for some people who went missing around these parts. Know anything?
The bartender clears his throat and spits on the floor. "Aye, everybody knows Gregory round these parts. He's a good guy, even if he is always tryin' to get folks to moderate their booze.
"Ain't sure what's been happening to them missing people, but might have to do with an odd man in a hooded cloak who's been seen skulking around the alleys of Grievings. He always runs off when approached, but before Tyrus disappeared, he claimed he saw the boy Trout snatched by the hooded guy. Tyrus were half-barmy himself, but since he went missing too, maybe he were on to something."
Imedren smiled as the barkeep asked what they'd be having. He was considering their options and was working up to asking about the missing folk, but was surprised at the level of information they'd been given by Anophth simply being upfront. "Well, as Revel would teach, we should celebrate this immediate bounty of information. Perhaps a drink before we go." he said as more of a suggestion, than asking a question to the other two while he went to the bar to have a seat.
|Uruuna the Halfling|
Uruuna grabs Imedren's hand to steer him away from the bar stool. "Or better yet, let's hold off on drinks for now. Best to have a clear mind for these sorts of things. We can have a few to celebrate once we've found Father Gregory." She looks up at the ugly bartender. "Anything else unusual happen around here lately?"
The bartender scratches at his blistered neck. "There were one other thing. About a week ago, two guys came in the bar. They was wearing fancy clothes, far too nice for Grievings, and they had those spice-ball thingies what you use to ward off bad smells. Po.. par... mandy-something or other. I saw 'em talking to some local toughs about the old Moore House." He shudders and makes the sign against the evil eye.
Uruuna grimaces and mimics the gesture. Everyone who's been in Grievings for any length of time knows the Moore House, it belonged to an infamous demonologist and has been abandoned for decades.
"Heh... yes, I suppose that would be better." he said, sighing to himself while rubbing the back of head.
Even as the others made the signs against the evil eye, Imedren followed suit, covering his left eye with his hand and uttered a quick prayer. "May Father Death mark and end for such evils."
"One of the local toughs wouldn't happen to have been Tyrus, would it?" he asked after a moment.
Imedren rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm, I'm not sure that those two things are necessarily related. But without many other leads to go on I suppose we could look into the happenings at the Moore house. Though I suspect there won't be much left to find if those people have had a full week to check it."
The moonlight filters down through the smoggy air as you make your way to Moore House. Fortunately for Anophth, the narrow alleys provide enough cover for him to avoid stepping out into full moonlight. In the most rundown part of Grievings, Moore House stands as a two-story building of stone with a partly collapsed peaked roof. Dead grass chokes the small yard out front, and boards cover the house’s windows and front door. The boards that once covered the back door lie on the ground.
As you draw near, two rugged men step out from hiding places, brandishing long knives. "Oi, this place is under the protection of the Rude Boys. Ya best be on yer way," one growls.
Anophth steps forward, tipping hit fancy hat up and says, Now now, my dear lads, let's not be so hasty. I'm here offering a one of a kind deal that strapping young men such as yourselves can not, and I mean absolutely can not be without!
Now, look at you! Standing in front of a derelict house like guard dogs on the order. Imagine, if you will, in charge of your own gang, your own troop, your own company!
Anophth reaches into his bag and pulls out a vial of blue liquid.
I've got the secrets to health and strength! This panacae turned my friend here from a sappling other a man into the burly hunk ofuscle you see before you! Women flock to his side, and this young Dame still follows him about!
Can you imagine what you can do with such power! Such potency! Such verility! It can all be yours! Fame! Fortune! Women (or men, if that's your fancy; I don't judge)! It can all be yours!
He shakes the blue liquid in the vial and says, Now this here is just a small sample. Enough for me but not enough for such strapping young men as yourself.
I've got more at my wagon, but unfortunately, my axle slipped off, and I can't drive it over here. Come on by, it's just around the corner and you can try it for yourself. Only three copper pennies, a discount for helping me with my wagon!
|Uruuna the Halfling|
Imedren watched with utter open mouthed disbelief at the story that Anophth crafted in mere moments. He turned to look at how the thugs would react and realized as they weren't buying it, literally or figuratively, that he'd been directly implicated in it.
Perhaps the look on my face is part of why it didn't work.
He caught Uruuna's eye and took a deep breath, squared back his shoulders, stared at the two thugs directly in the eye and spoke
"The Rude boys, I see. Well, my odd friends sales pitch aside, I'm sure my friends in the Browncoats would be interested to know that a local gang is suddenly interested in the home of demonologists." his voice was stern and reprimanding. As though he was speaking to people who had done something bad and were admitting to it.
1st round, slow initiative.
Imedren's eyes widened as his adrenaline began to pump through his system. He'd hoped his words would have made them give pause, instead they were going to attack him. He took a deep breath.
"Run!" he said aloud, as he turned to grab Uruuna and start running with her.
Anophth follows suit. Good plan! Better part of valor! :)
After they flee (presuming we're successful), Anophth says, Well, shall we ask around for the man in the hooded cloak? Putting words to actions, Anophth heads for the back alleys of Grievings.
The Rude Boys laugh as you turn tail and flee. "That's right! Ya better run! And don't come back!"
Uruuna seems a bit put out by your sudden retreat, the halfling always eager for a brawl, but she defers to her husband's judgment.
Die of Fate: 1d6 ⇒ 5
You spend some time asking around the back alleys about a man in a hooded cloak, but none of the derelict people you speak to has soon the person you're looking for. The night wears on with no sign of your quarry. The sun will be rising soon...
After a full night of searching, Imedren was sore and tired. He looks at the other two and sighs heavily.
"I have come to two conclusions. First, I don't think we're likely to run into our quarry just by randomly running about the streets. I think I have an idea regarding that. Secondly, I know we ran from the Rude Boys who were waiting outside, but based on what they said, I don't think they're going to be leaving immediately."
He perked up with a tired smile and a shake of his head. "Third, Anophth, I didn't really think to congratulate you last night. That was an amazing tale you spun together in just a moment's time. Absurd to believe, but amazing nonetheless.
Back to my second thought. One of two things have likely happened now. If they're smart, the two gentlemen our barkeep mentioned will have likely up and vacated the Moore house. If they're determined, desperate, or confident, they'll simply set up more of the gang to watch for trouble outside.
I cannot stand by and allow the work of demonologists to continue. My bluff to them earlier may have to become real after all. We have to inform the Brown Coats. Perhaps we can convince Sergeant Alyse to act as she's looking for a promotion of sorts.
Now back to my first thought. The number of missing people seems to have been one a night since this incident started. While we were bumbling around in the dark looking for someone in a cloak, we overlooked the possibility that this individual was operating right around the Fallen Soldier directly. Also, if this theory holds, someone else is likely missing now."
He looked at the other two, realizing that he'd been talking for a long time.
"Perhaps we should go to bed and do what we can in some hours?"
"Oh no... Come on then. We should hear what people have to say about who has gone missing now. Then we should find when Sergeant Alyse is on watch duty. We're going to need her help in order to examine what's been going on." Imedren said. He'd hoped that he was wrong about the night before but the rumors proved that he had been in fact correct.
I think we should go to the Fallen Soldier and see what they have to say. Anophth says, carrying a backpack that is stuffed full.
Once we get there, I have some gifts for you both. After you went to bed, I went back to the mines and found some old ragged clothes that should fit everyone. We'll need to look the part if we want to blend in with the locals who are getting taken. I think it'll give us a better chance at seeing the odd man in the hooded cloak.
Took some liberties in equipment; figured it wouldn't be a big deal to get worthless clothing. :)
No changes this time, Anophth.
Sergeant Alyse is probably busy with her duties in another part of the city, but it should be easy to track her down after nightfall.
The Fallen Soldier is mostly empty at this time of day, but the blistered bartender relates that the person who went missing is Salle, an old homeless woman with a fondness for stray cats. Nobody saw who might have taken her.
A tall, lean man approaches the group with a small boy tailing behind him.
"I heard you were asking around for Father Gregory yesterday. Hello Anophth by the way, nice to see you. I've been looking for him as well but haven't gotten anywhere... and now Salle, the poor woman."
The man looks into the distance, you can almost see the memories playing behind his.. cat eyes?
"It looks like we both need to finding him, if you don't mind I'd like to tag along and help you. More hands makes for less work right? My name is T-Bog and this is my son Nutmeg."
He smiles, gestures to the child and then extends a hand to Imedren and Uruuna.
Imedren laughs at the sudden approach by the strange man and his son. But it is a laugh of appreciation.
"Well now, I can't say that I'm happy with the circumstances that have occurred for us to meet but it's nice to see that Father Gregory has affected the lives of so many. My name is Imedren, and this is my wife Uruuna." he said, shaking T-Bog's hand.
His eyes darted to the cat-like eyes and then focused on them momentarily.
"Nice to meet you as well." Imedren said to Nutmeg.
He then looked back to T-Bog's eyes.
"We certainly don't mind having you along. But I must warn you that there's a decent chance there will be some trouble. Do you have some place where your son can wait?"
Hey there, T-Bog! Nice to see you again. And you as well, Nutmeg! Anophth says, cheerily. He always seems to be able to pull the cheery voice at a moment's notice. I take it those charms worked as promised? No more nightmares, eh?
Looking back up at T-Bog, he says, We could certainly use the help. So far we have word that an odd man in a hidden cloak has been taking people. There's also a possibily unrelated event of two well dressed men talking to the Rude Boys and hiring them to guard the old Moore House. You know, the one where that demonologist used to live? Anyways, they're only connected because the men met the Rude Boys at the Fallen Soldier, the same tavern where all those people went missing. Could be connected, could not be. But that's all we have to go on so far.
Have you discovered anything?
"Uhhh... Yeah, about that. Father Gregory usually watches him while I work so for now he'll be tagging along. No need to worry though! I'll make sure he's at safe distance if trouble turns up. He's a quick in the feet and in the mind, just like his daddy."
T-Bog smiles a wide grin and winks, his canines look sharper then they should be but it's hard to tell without further inspection.
"I, unfortunately, have not found any leads regarding where Gregory might have gone but I can certainly assist in getting into the Moore House if that was on your list. What are you planning on doing next?"