Edgewatch Cold Case #1556.1, Evidence A

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Edgewatch, Department of Investigation
Case File: #1556.1
Date Filed: 6 Arodus, 4720 AR
Case Type: MP14 (Missing Persons, Non-Resident)
Status: Cold
Detective Notes: Individual still missing. Relevant evidence [attached] was found under a table in the Tipsy Tengu tavern. (Food stains suggest it was there for at least a day before agents confiscated it.)

Dearest colleagues, friends, and family,

Greetings from the heart of the Inner Sea—the shining city of Absalom! It has been a stupendous day, and a rogue blackmailing a tavern owner would be hard-pressed to have filled her cup with more ale than I filled today with sights and sounds the likes of which I had never imagined. I’m sitting down for the first time since I got off the boat, if you’d believe it, to pen this letter to you all to be sent out tomorrow.

Sailing into Absalom’s harbor was an experience. I stared up, wide-eyed with childish delight, white-knuckled from gripping the portside rail as we passed ever so gingerly through a reef of sunken ships beneath the watch of Absalom’s walls. Fort Tempest on the western bluff looked like an ugly duckling with its two-toned fortifications, like mismatched building blocks set together by a titan’s toddler. I also couldn’t help but notice the floating prison—the so-called Black Whale—half a dozen grounded ships all lashed together. It seems the city reminds me at every opportunity to watch myself, lest I become a more permanent resident (in less than ideal living conditions)!

A wide-eyed, green-haired gnome makes her way through a crowd on the streets of a bustling fairground

Illustration by David Metzger

I’ve been parked at a tavern here in the Precipice Quarter for the past hour, and you’ll love the name: the “Tipsy Tengu”. The halfling owner has opened the place up to adventuring parties, and the ruckus, storytelling, and drinking has me tempted to ask if any are in need of a well-trained lockpick and confidence woman. All of those adventurers are here for a reason: Absalom has abandoned, treasure-filled siege castles dating back thousands of years spread all around its as-yet-impenetrable walls! How amazing is that?! Just outside the city walls and even running beneath it in Desna-only-known how many unmapped and abandoned tunnels, there’s a veritable adventurers’ playground!

Adventuring wouldn’t have me clapped in chains like crime within the city walls would, and I’ve had my ears chattered off by a bird—Runkles the Raven, the self-proclaimed flashiest familiar in the city—for the past twenty minutes trying to convince me of the benefits of joining an adventuring group. His mistress’s party is looking for a rogue to raid a particular siege castle, and I’m genuinely tempted to take them up on the offer. But first I need to get a better feel for this city and weigh my options. I don't know if treasure hunting on the city’s outskirts is any more or less safe than my usual work among the tourist crowds milling about, awestruck and not paying attention to their purse strings.

I spent most of the day walking through the city, its wide streets crowded past what I thought possible: every flavor of ancestry and culture from across the Inner Sea and beyond, all simmering in this great big stew of a divinely reclaimed island. I let my ears soak everything in, picking out anything on the locals’ tongues to guide my feet. I overheard a pair of street vendors talking about how they’d managed to raise prices due to the Radiant Festival. Now I’m well versed in history, but I’d never heard of this festival before, so I purchased a meat pie from one flashy cart called Mamma Middlepidge’s Delights and asked about it. I had planned to take advantage of the influx of potential marks in the wake of Absalom’s victory over the Whispering Tyrant’s failed siege, but what I’ve learned of the Radiant Festival has me giddy as a werebear in a trough of honey.

Apparently, thousands of years ago an evil wizard called Kharnas the Angel-Binder (pleasant sounding fellow, I know!) laid siege to Absalom. Since his defeat, they’ve celebrated each centennial with this grand festival. And oh my, do they go all out! They took the formerly abandoned, monster-haunted Precipice Quarter and remade it as the grounds for the Radiant Festival itself. All new buildings, pavilion grounds, exhibits, merchants, and crowds, crowds, crowds! It was all designed by a famed Absalomian architect by the name of Blune Bandersworth. Here’s the rub though: the entire district was literally a ruin-strewn waste filled with ravenous undead and monsters wandering up from who knows where beneath the city and here in less than a year it’s the newest, grandest part of the city and it’s hosting a massive festival! I don’t know how he did it. Neither does anyone else. It’s as if he conjured it from the ether by magic!

I’ve seen almost too much today to describe it all. The crowds were thick and at first I thought that I wouldn’t be able to see much, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of some of the exhibits! The ground trembled and I looked up as I entered the festival grounds and beheld a gigantic walking castle. Can you believe it? A Keleshite palace on great mechanical legs with people on the ramparts waving down at me, colorful banners fluttering in the breeze high overhead. That was just the first of the wonders I saw, and it wasn’t even the largest of them!

A block away, surrounded by an even larger crowd, was a gigantic beast of a machine called Graveraker. Set up on giant metal treads with a huge drill and whirling scoops, it’s the largest construct that I’ve ever seen! The festival is here to display marvels of ingenuity, art, and craftsmanship, and I wonder what this one will be used for. Perhaps it was used in the remodeling of the district from its previously ruined state? Based on the name itself, I figure that maybe they intend to use it to excavate and loot the treasures buried within the ruin and rubble of the Cairnlands, or even Tyrant’s Grasp? I’ve no idea, but the longer I looked at the menacing contraption, the more I couldn’t help thinking that should it ever be turned to war it could surely eat any random building and still be hungry, or feast upon the walls of any city—Absalom included!

What caught my eye most though was a building still being completed: a massive Minkaian pagoda fashioned like a great dragonfly. And the construction workers: a gang of kobolds! Absalom attracts all types, and as an outsider it makes me feel all the more welcome to see them skittering about, employed and accepted like anyone else!

The Precipice Quarter would seem reborn, though not completely. Not to one with as discerning a gaze as me. It’s a fresh coat of paint over a mostly rebuilt fence, but if you look hard you can spot the rotten posts. The local Edgewatch has done a good job of making sure that folks are safe, and feel safe, even if certain areas are blocked off and still ruined out of sight of the general public. Those blocked off areas? They’ve posted guards and I’d swear that they’re there not to prevent anyone from outside sneaking in but to keep something inside from getting out… It’s a grim thought to be certain, but even if the threat of hungry undead seems mostly reduced to ghost stories, the crowds here have absolutely attracted an altogether mundane threat, but one I’m much more familiar with: thieves and confidence artists.

All this time I’d been on the watch over my own purse because the crowd attracts that element. I mean, I’m that element myself! So it was just by happenstance that this plump, bearded banker of Abadar walks past, all sure of himself and the security of the city. In the space of a heartbeat some large bird I couldn’t see through the throng let out a squawk, distracting the gilded cleric, and I see a devilspawn woman walking the other way lift his coin purse with the tip of her tail, real smooth-like. In a city of strangers, she was a strange one: horns, goat legs, tail, all that racket. Well that priest, he didn’t notice a thing, just kept walking. For her part, she walked straight up to a stall selling strange figurines that could have been shrunken corpses for how real they looked and bent over the wares. Some Gebbite selling stuff to Urgathoans or somesuch. But I digress.

So, of course I walked over and introduced myself just as she slid the pilfered purse into the pocket of her cloak with the tip of her tail. I didn’t directly mention the theft, but asked about “career opportunities” in the area and she caught my meaning. Nisha Starweather was her name. She snagged us drinks and snacks from Pelmo’s Pickle Hut, likely with the very money she’d taken off the Abadaran just moments before. We talked for a bit and watched a number of other pickpockets ply their trade—and watched nearly as many busted by the Edgewatch. They were doing a genuinely good job of it. Sadly, I figured pretty quickly that Nisha wasn’t the foot in the door I’d hoped for. She was recently arrived herself, visiting from what she described as “nowhere remotely close to this place.” I think she might have slipped a bit and started to say “plane”, not “place”, but I could have just misheard her among the din of the crowd. Anyway, she said she was in town hoping to meet up with an old friend who might be showing up herself in the next while.

While she wasn’t going to be the in I needed to set up a burgeoning career in the city’s criminal underworld, she was the one who suggested the Tipsy Tengu, since the place catered to adventurers at night. She said I might make friends and ask around for a place to stay. A lot of the inns I’ve passed today have hung a no-vacancy sign, with the city packed to the brim with visitors, and it’s dangerous to wander about any city at night, especially as a visitor, so it’s a genuine concern and that has occupied my mind for much of the evening.

Desna smiled on me, though!

In the midst of my first drink, wondering if I’d spend the night sleeping on a roof or in an alleyway, a bar fight broke out! This drunken halfling insulted this one hammered Chelaxian, calling her a “devil licker” and she retorted with a local slur against halflings, and that started it. She got clocked, he got kicked in the face, and their respective companions launched into the fray. It would have gotten worse if not for the Edgewatch showing up and intervening with magic to hold the combatants in place and a smooth bit of diplomacy to calm everyone down. That would have been the end of it, until that Chelaxian woman shrugged off the spell. She would’ve stabbed the watch sergeant if not for quick thinking by this half-orc next to me at the bar who stood up and, cool as could be, crashed her stool over the “devil licker’s” head.

Things calmed down after that, and I paid the chair-wielding hero’s tab. Ralso, her name was, and before she left for the evening, she gave me a business card with the address of a hotel called the Dreaming Palace. She said it had empty rooms if I were in need. The place looks fancy—sounds fancy, too, like maybe Desna’s blessed it or something. In any case, it should solve my housing problem, if only for the moment, before I figure out what to do next. Do I lapse back into the life of crime that saw me exiled from all of you in the first place, or instead turn to the life of heroic sanctioned robbery and murder of an adventurer? A good night’s rest in my new palace of dreams and I’ll figure that out while I explore the wonders of the Radiant Festival over the course of the next few days. I’ll be sure to keep you all apprised of my decision (and other craziness of the big, scary city). Until then, there are wonders to see and I’ve eyes to gander with!

May Desna smile on you all,

Iliana Sarmiseth

About the Author

Amber Stewart (also credited as Todd Stewart) is a long-time Pathfinder freelancer with a predilection for all things planar and downright spooky and strange, with previous works including Book of the Damned—Part 3: Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Concordance of Rivals, and Planar Adventures. Outside of writing she has worked as a published cell biologist and is presently back in school full-time, working towards a PharmD. Her first adventure path entry, Pathfinder Adventure Path #162: Ruins of the Radiant Siege, the final volume of the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path, is forthcoming.

About Agents of Edgewatch

In the third Pathfinder Adventure Path for the second edition of the Pathfinder RPG, the guards of the so-called Edgewatch precinct must take down Absalom's sickest serial killers, brashest bank robbers, and cruelest criminal masterminds in order to ensure the safety of Absalom’s citizens and the success of a centennial celebration taking place in the revitalized Precipice Quarter. The first volume of this six-part campaign, Pathfinder Adventure Path #157: Devil at the Dreaming Palace, is available now.

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Tags: Agents of Edgewatch Pathfinder Pathfinder Adventure Path Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Web Fiction

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I love these stories! ("Devil licker"... ha.)

EDIT: oh, yeah... HUZZAH!

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Nice!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Nice story curious if any of these characters are in the actual adventure? (Got my copy but dont recognise any of them.)

Contributor

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Kevin Mack wrote:
Nice story curious if any of these characters are in the actual adventure? (Got my copy but dont recognise any of them.)

Some of them are, some are not. :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well done, Amber!

Liberty's Edge

Oh dear.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I love this cold case! Excellent detective work, Amber!

Hmm


Making notes for my campaign! Nice work, Amber.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

A pretty cool tale, highlighted Absolom as a colorful meeting ground of different peoples and cultures! The Black Whale sounds intriguing, very Alcatrez-esque.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

"Do I lapse back into the life of crime that saw me exiled from all of you in the first place, or instead turn to the life of heroic sanctioned robbery and murder of an adventurer?" -- win.

Contributor

5 people marked this as a favorite.
UnArcaneElection wrote:

"Do I lapse back into the life of crime that saw me exiled from all of you in the first place, or instead turn to the life of heroic sanctioned robbery and murder of an adventurer?" -- win.

That was such a fun line to write. :)

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Amber_Stewart wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

"Do I lapse back into the life of crime that saw me exiled from all of you in the first place, or instead turn to the life of heroic sanctioned robbery and murder of an adventurer?" -- win.

That was such a fun line to write. :)

And to read. Heroic murderhobos FTW.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Please, the proper term is 'death vagrant'. It's much *classier*. :>

Liberty's Edge

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Please, the proper term is 'death vagrant'. It's much *classier*. :>

I like this very much actually. Time to get the fabled Drifter class in PF2.

I will try to create a death vagrant character for AoE. Something like Lethal Weapon 1's Martin Riggs in Absalom.

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