Path of the Not-so-Righteous

And so it begins....
"We'll just run our usual con."

The party managed to find more details for their map. Horace the Drunkard, while a talented artist, wasn’t the most accurate of cartographers. Rather than try to sneak into what was now a defensive stronghold for orcs, they offered their services to rid the abbey of ghosts.

Perhaps it was just as well. The walls of the stronghold were still capable of keeping out unwanted guests, and the surrounding forests and cliffs provided substantial natural defenses.

The Orc King’s right-hand man, a large formidable orc named Brom, told the party to rid the garrison and wizard’s tower of ghosts. Then, once they’d brought back proof, the party would be allowed to see the king, Brakosh, who may or may not offer a reward.

The garrison wasn’t just haunted by illusions, however. The spectre that spoke to them told of impending doom, speaking in random whispers, and mentioned the “lonely sword” of the fallen paladin Hrom. “Vandomar can break the seal,” was the other cryptic clue offered.

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A cold dinner awaits

Zada worked with the sharp blade, sliding it back and forth over the back of the material to remove any unsightly bits of meat. He could hear Eladra’s soft footsteps and smell her perfumes as she approached; he of course pretended he could not. Continuing his work on the materials he had retrieved from the sewers after leaving his companions and not letting on that he knew she was there.

She announced herself with a playful “Well hello” her Elven perfect in tone, cadence and pronunciation. Something he wished he was as skilled with, then again she’d had nearly a hundred years longer to let the words play across her tongue and lips. He turned, laying the fleshing knife carefully on the beam. “Hello yourself…”

Instantly her eyes studied him and she shook her head. “Zada, where were you this afternoon? The market was busy and you were no where to be found.” Stepping forward she gently runs the tips of her right hand fingers across a little line of bruising on his arm from where he fell earlier into magically perfumed sewage. “And, as usual you come home with some new mark. At least this time it is merely a bruise” looking up into his eyes half accusingly.

Zada’s memories of earlier that day come back to him in a series of vignettes. Gathering with the “Order” and venturing into the tunnels, encountering the well groomed Kobolds, slaughtering them with reckless abandon and then meeting with Capa Barsavi. The subtle, and not too subtle, threats made against him, the others and Eladra.

He smiled and waved over the scaled hides, most already in the salt baths, “I was dealing with this.” Picking one up to show her the fine dark red scaled skin, “… a merchant was coming into town with a few cages of these beasts and they broke free. I helped take care of them, and in return we were gifted with some of the pelts. “ Walking the skin to salt bath, “I think they will sell very well.”

Placing the basket down Eladra glides across the cobble stone floor to study the last not prepared. “They do look nice. You really think they will sell?” Chuckling he replies quickly “Of course, some human dandy will want to look the part of a hero with a new cloak or tunic accented with these.” He was thinking of the perfect person already, Davrish the talkative Paladin.

Eladra grimaced at his use of the word human, the vitriol and disgust in his voice. “Zada,” turning towards him with love in her eyes “you mustn’t judge them all like that. Remember, you lived among them for some time.” Interrupting her, lashing out till he can get his voice under control “Only because my mother made me and you know what that brought me… brought her. And everywhere we’ve been since has done nothing to change my opinion.”
Eladra sighs and steps over to him, wrapping her arms around him in a soothing embrace. “I know” are her only words as she recalls.

As she does Zada wishes he could share with her the truth of the day. Explain how using one of the smuggler paths they had come across the immaculate tunnel, the wrought iron cage that had fallen, how he had fought bravely. Even the humans had done well in their parts like the Paladin with his insipid talk that was at least inspiring, the insane Witch and her curses foiling the little beasts and the way the human thief had pelted them with sling stones distracting and unbalancing the foes. Zada had to admit some respect for their skills.

What troubled him though was their mission which required travel to a distant isle to look for objects of power. He remembered the two cards he was entrusted with, the power they held, and how much more power he could only assume a completed deck would contain. That power Barsavi planned to use to take the entire city. How easy it would be to pack up and leave, selling the cards he possessed along the way. Then again, he knew the Red Hands were everywhere. His only love trapped in a gilded cage she did not even see. He was the slave to this monster of a human in return for Eladra’s safety; at least for now.

He broke the embrace and stepped back. Caressing her cheek for a moment before delivering the news “Eladra, I must travel for a few days. There is a person that has hired me to help body guard some envoys. I may be gone for a week, or more.” Pausing long enough to remove his hand as the scowl began to grow across her face. “Do not worry, I have already spoken to Rurik and he will help look over you and the shop while I am away.”

She started waving her arms about as she spoke quickly “Why Zada? Do you need to go out and do this; we have a good shop here. I don’t want you to leave. What if you do not come back?” Her questions coming quick on the heels of each other, like a series of arrows from a squad.

“I do this for us Eladra,” turning back to prepare the last hide “this job pays well enough, and I thought I saw agents of Galt in the market. You know they still look for me.”

She had seen him like this before, secretive and lying. She resigned herself to the fact that he was leaving again for a few weeks this time. “And what if you don’t come back this time Zada?”

“Then go to the temple of Calistria and find someone there we trust, have them hide you. If I’m not back in a month’s time take our belongings and leave.” He continued to focus on his work. In part to not let the rot of decay take any of these from him, and also so that he would not have to see the look on her face.

After a few moments she shook her head, picking up her basket and went for the doorway. “Fine.” She left the room without another word. The blade paused and his head bowed at the sting of her parting shot.

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Seek and ye shall find
Fail and ye shall die slowly

With Fractal suffering the disgusting effects of the Denebian flu, the Order of Righteous Cleansing had no choice but to go see the Nomarch without him. The streets were clogged with throngs of people leaving the weekly market, or heading to see the hangings that always followed Market Day. Since they couldn’t risk being late, the party opted to take the sewer route.

To their surprise, they found the sewers both clean and scented, and not with the usual sorts of scents. Someone had been doing some housecleaning. The Shockclaw kobold clan had cleaned up the subterranean passageways to prepare for a summit meeting with the Blackfang Clan. Alas, detente will not be achieved for the kobolds, since the party managed to skewer Chief Altergrik and his bodyguards.

Arriving ten minutes late to their meeting, they found Capa Barsavi in a particularly jovial mood. After a demonstration of the power he held in the form of a partial Deck of Many Things, he tasked the party with the retrieval of three cards he needed: Flame, Rogue and Gem. With his completed deck, he plans take control of Absalom by becoming the next Primarch. And the Order of Righteous Cleansing will move up in the world, becoming his new guardsmen.

If they fail, however, his lieutenant, Marwyn the Merry, will devise new and glorious tortures for them.

Barsavi gave the party a map and loaned them two of his cards: the Key and the Fool. He also, very generously, put in a good word for them with one of the ship’s captains, offering them a reduced rate for passage to Stonespire island.

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An Invitation

A message is delivered to the cluttered home of Fractal Mandelbrot, bearing the seal of the Nomarch of Coins, Capa Barsavi.

sealed_message.jpg

The pleasure of your company, and that of your fellows, the Order of Righteous Cleansing, is requested today, at Eventide. Promptness is a virtue almost as prized as loyalty.

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The Order of Righteous Cleansing
A Second Chance

Capa Barsavi watched the group scurry out of the large wooden doors at the stern of his ship-turned-headquarters. Had he just made a mistake? If so, it was the sort of mistake that could end him. His hand went to his throat in a protective gesture. If those ragamuffins — what did they call themselves? The Order of Righteous Cleansing. If word got out that he’d spared a guild that broke the Secret Peace, his reign would be over. There’d be no controlling the guilds after that. But he was certain they’d prove themselves useful.

A tall red-headed woman came up behind him, pressing in close and whispering in his ear. “Why didn’t you let me have them? I haven’t had any fun all week.”

He looked over his shoulder, a grin of relief spreading over his face. She was all the insurance he needed. “My dearest Merry. Don’t worry. If they step out of line, you can devise new and glorious amusements with them.”

Marwyn’s pout faded, replaced by a sultry smile. “How about the one in the hold? Can I have him yet?”

Now it was Barsavi’s turn to pout. “He was supposed to be a surprise.” His eyes gleamed as he turned and took a copper curl in his fingers. He raised it to his lips and kissed it. “Now you’ll have to take care of whoever spoiled my surprise. Then, you can have him.”

Marwyn squealed with delight. “Oh, thank you, Capa!”

He caught her hand before she could spin away. “Don’t disappoint me, Merry.”

“As Calistria guides me, I will not, my lord.”

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