Path of the Not-so-Righteous

House Hunting is Such a Drag

Alinor was more worried than she wanted to admit at how easily the city guards found her in her hides hole. Armed with a sack of fresh-baked honey cakes from her favourite bakery (the best investment she ever made!), she made her way into the red lantern district to find a new place. She had something special in mind; something that would hopefully keep her hidden long enough to make an escape if it was necessary…she visited several houses (did she see Davrish just around the corner?), and finally settled on one, negotiating with the “madam” for the rent. “Are you sure you want the place?” asked the dusky, yet curiously muscular lady. “there isn’t a proper door you know” she added, licking honey off of her fingers in a way that caused several cases of whiplash on the street. “I like to keep myself in shape,” Alinor reassured her, offering another honey cake." so I’m paid up for the next six moons, and you’ll let me know if anyone comes sniffing around, agreed?" Madam Domina accepted the treat; “throw in a weekly delivery from the bakery you got these from, and you have a deal, dearie. Although what I wouldn’t give to be young and your size again.” Alinor figured the cost against her investment in the bakery and agreed “Done. I’ll make the first one happen tomorrow first thing.”
She took her leave and wandered to the Superb Pie to let them know about their new delivery. As she removed her belongings from the stash at the Merkin to her new place, she thought that having a back-up hides hole couldn’t hurt. Even if it seemed unlikely that many people could gain access to attic rooms with no doors leading to them through a Brothel of big burly men dressing and acting like ladies. She stifled a giggle and pondered other possibilities as she took a roundabout path over the rooftops to see what the gnome had been up to…

Interlude: "Dear Mother"

Davrish Thule putters about his luxurious living quarters at the Prime Bull Inn in Absalom, combing his hair, polishing his armor, checking the padding on his heeled boots’ soles, brushing his hair, making a minor devotion to Ahd’mohr and Droch’rath, checking the door’s latch, and brushing his hair.

Finally satisfied with the state of all important things, he settles down at the room’s fine desk and withdraws a sheet of pristine white paper, an ink bottle, and a peacock feather quill. He looks at the window for a moment—curtains closed—and begins to write.

“Dear Mother,

I hope this finds you well.

I had a very exciting day today, and I met a lot of new people. I think that they all liked me, which made me very glad; I was polite, just like you always say.

I was awoken by the attendants of a very important man, Lord Deere Deyan, a Lord of the city. He had a special job for my friends and I: another man died last night, and—steady yourself, mother dear—they suspected foul play!

Of course we made haste to the poor man’s house and found him in a very sorry state. His attendants were so helpful, of course, but very sad. I think one young lady will miss him very much indeed; it was very touching.

We then learned that another man had died and were taken to his place of work. It was a lovely temple mother—you know how you love the temples, with all their artwork and lovely priest’s outfits—and he had been killed in a very terrible way. It’s much like other deaths around the city—don’t worry, I’m keeping safe!—and my friends and I have many good ideas about how to help. I think we will be able to very soon.

Unfortunately, one of those deaths I learned about was a woman. Now, you wouldn’t approve of her line of work; it was very wicked, of course. But some people say that despite all that, she was a good woman—like how you talk about father, you know?—and that she was very famous for helping the poor children of her district.

In fact, she was the sort of woman who might come across a young lad, lost and frightened and angry and alone in the wake of a terrible flood in the city, and very much on the path to becoming a not-very-good sort of man, and take him in and teach him to be better and help him learn to deal with all his hurt and anger. She’d probably even show such a boy the way to another lovely temple—a better place to grow up, surely, than her place of business—and keep in touch with him as he grew to make sure he turned out alright.

At least, that’s the sort of woman people say she was. If she were, then it’s very sad indeed that she is gone now.

I hope things are better where you are, mother. I do so hope they sing you the lovely songs, and that you can join them. You are a very good singer, mother.

Your good boy,

Davrish Thule nods to himself curtly, and folds the paper into a clever envelope with a few practiced gestures. He goes to his large bed and lifts the downy mattress, withdrawing a large, leather-bound case. He opens the latch on it with another swift, deft motion, then pulls the lid off. He carefully slides his letter into place among the others—the newest ones are at the very back—and notes that the box is nearly full. He smiles slightly, closes the lid, and re-engages the clasp. He pushes the box back in place among its 20 or so like fellows, and then re-situates the mattress atop them.

He returns to the desk and cleans up his writing area, blows out the lantern there, and climbs into bed to sleep, for a few hours at least.

Time for a Nice Explore
No need to go looking for trouble

When Zada woke Alinor for her turn on watch, he seemed to be a bit more introspective than normal. “Worry the gristle off a bone, that one,” as her mum would say. As Zada went to his own bedding, she gave a stretch to put a cat to shame, looking around to see if there was anything else up besides the moon. Ser Respen, one of the elven knights was also on watch. She decided to work on her “charm” as some would put it. She never really worked with the marks during an “exorcism,” usually working behind the scenes.

Ser Respen was polite and kept his amusement fairly well hidden, even indulging Alinor her fascination with the clockwork dragon. She didn’t see even a hint of a frown cross his face until the flash nob, Tabra Marto, practically appeared out of nowhere, startling them both. He offered to take her exploring, and she agreed when Ser Respen told her he would inform her friends. She decided that as long as they were back by breakfast, it would be okay. Her stomach seconded that notion….maybe there would be honeycakes!

She and Marto moved off, him trying to impress her with what he knew of rare species, and she chattering about nothing really..while she studied him out of the corner of her eye. He said he captured rare creatures for a collector, claiming the adventure kept him in the game rather than the money, but his clothes would definitely go for a pretty penny, even second hand. Though he did move fast enough she wouldn’t have attempted the ketchin’ lay on him, even with her old crew of street rats. She was impressed by his claim that the Dragon in the Abbey was very well read, but she really would have thought the clockwork dragon much more interesting. She did need to remember to tell Fractal about the reading dragon.

As they were wandering, the noise of crashing underbrush became louder and louder. As Alinor ducked behind a bramble bush and Marto skittered behind a tree, a creature that looked suspiciously like a rabbit on two legs, and dressed as a courtier, burst into the small clearing. Marto and the princely rodent spoke, but she started counting rounds and looking for the tall tree when the word "hellhound’ started to be exchanged. She had already pulled her sling out when Marto indicated that she should find a nice tall tree. She scrambled up and looked down in time to see three slavering hounds of ginormous size with what she was pretty sure was acid for drool burst through where the rabbit had come through. She saw Marto prepare a stance like a swishy-type gladiator, and could’ve sworn the “prince” ducked into the bushes and ran off. As one of the beasts headed in her direction, she wished for some sorcery or magic spell, or even one of Larissa’s ice-spears or something to help her with this….

To flee or not to flee!
A farewell to Orcs

Brom sat in the large throne chair, one leg slung over the arm, talking quietly with the Shaman, Khavra, while their chieftain slept off a hangover. A squad of Orcs entered and one stepped forward to give his report. Brom signaled him to speak, but continued his conversation with Khavra.

“Can we hunt them now?” asked Carac, his nose ring quivering in anticipation.

“They’re where?” Brom turned his attention from the shaman to the Orc sergeant.

“Up a tree, Brom. They chucked some ice off the Wizard tower then ran away and climbed a tree.” The Orc adjusted his grip on his axe. Perhaps now he’d be allowed to remove these human pests.

“All of them?” Brom sat forward, elbow on knee, his thick brow furrowed in thought.

“Not the girl. She’s not with them.”

Brom’s eyes flicked to the shaman, then back to the Orc. “Bring them.”

The party realized they wouldn’t find Alinor while up a tree, at least, not up this tree. They set out but soon heard foot-stomps alerting them to several Orcs headed their way. Telling themselves that hiding was prudent, Zada, Fractal and Larisa stepped off the path while Davrish wondered if perhaps he shouldn’t have paid more attention to the game of Hide and Seek as a child.

A large Orc with a ring through his nose confronted the erstwhile Paladin, telling him that Brom wanted to know if the ghosts had been dealt with. Rather than trying to convince the Orcs that finding Alinor was more important, they fled, concealing themselves with one of Fractal’s spells.

Their expeditious retreat brought them to the plateau where the Abbey proper sat, no longer in splendor. Zada and Davrish took advantage of the silver and platinum ornaments still encrusting the marble to fill pouches with the dust. Larisa, disappointed that the gems had already been pried from statues on the building, spent a few minutes to cast a fortune. When the cards alerted her to a commotion in the woods below, Zada confirmed that their friend, Alinor, was indeed the center of the clockwork dragon’s attention, and in need of their help.

Scrambling down quickly, they discovered a clearing with three enormous beasts surrounding Tabra Marto. One of the beasts was slain and they saw Alinor stuck in a precarious perch in a tree. Zada used the Key card to rescue her, while Davrish boldly chose to smite the Hell Hounds.

Once the battle finished, Alinor started searching the bushes for signs of a large rabbit she had seen. The boot prints from the rabbit disappeared and they determined it must have gone through some sort of dimensional door. According to Tabra, the rabbit was a prince named Brambleson whose whiskers twitched whenever he had a good hand in poker.

They decided to go see Brom, before he sent out another search party. As a show of good faith, or perhaps to assure their safe passage out of the Keep, the group presented him with a Hell Hound pelt. Even rent in two, it would make a fine cloak. Brom told the group that their presence at the next night’s celebration was required, either to toast a job well done, or to provide entertainment in the Pit.

With the heat of the day receding, they set out to find someplace safe to spend the night, and to decide just how to vanquish the ghost in the Garrison.

The Ice Man Cometh
Ride 'em, Ranger!

More than the unique architecture of the tower, it was the high-pitched scream of terror that got the group’s attention. A dark-skinned elf ran from the tower, his long white hair streaming behind him. Fractal tried to stop him with a Suggestion, Zada tried shooting at him, but it was Larisa’s tentacled spell that finally brought him to his knees, literally.

It took a great deal of coercion, but the group finally got the elf to tell them that a dead wizard was turning his friends into ice statues. He also mentioned they should look out for a large, ugly woman.

Fractal sneaked ahead to peek inside the bottom floor of the tower. He could tell that magical traps were laid into the floor, making the path to the stairs complicated. Avoiding the traps and the large, snoring being laying on a table would be tricky. The group decided instead to climb the tower. While on the roof, Fractal was able to use a spell that allowed him to see inside. They could hear tuneless humming, and someone muttering about how nice it was having visitors.

Fractal was sent inside, but was too frightened to gather much information. With an exasperated groan, Zada volunteered to go in. He was granted invisibility by one of Fractal’s scrolls and quickly moved around the tower unnoticed. There he found a newly-frozen half orc, dwarf, and two human females.

That’s when things got interesting. Using the Key card loaned to them by Capa Barsavi, Zada straddled one of the prone ice blocks and teleported up to the tower roof. Once there, gravity took over and he rode the icicle as it plummeted, getting a little bruised as it shattered beneath him.

Zada repeated this feat, each time enraging the wizard more as he realized his precious friends were disappearing. The wizard’s shrieks woke the large figure from downstairs and heavy footsteps hurried up. Zada paused in his endeavors long enough to see the ugly woman the dark elf had mentioned. Tattered cloth hung around the giant, fleshy being, giving her a semblance of modesty. Long rows of stitches held the skin together, like a poorly made suit of skin.

The party quickly searched the shattered ice and splattered bodies — these could only have been their rivals, The Thrashers — and found the lost sword, as well as the Flame card.

A hunch on Zada’s part led him to find another card, Gem, and urging from Fractal and Larisa made Zada make one last trip, to try to extract the wizard’s bookcase. A hasty grab from the broken shelves, and the group headed to the safety of the forest to catch their breath.

While Fractal and Davrish read their new books, Larisa cast a fortune. She shook her head and clucked her tongue. Once again, the Illusion card came up, and for the second time, the fool. Perhaps their young friend, Alinor, wasn’t as safe with Tabra Marto as they thought.

It wasn't bats in the belfry
tasty, tasty kitties

Morning broke over the elven camp and the party discovered their young rogue had gone exploring with the professional monster hunter, Tabra Marto. After some deliberation, the Order of Righteous Cleansing prepared to set off. Berrian Velfarren offered them each a drink from the Font of Irori with a caution against being greedy. Fractal knelt reverently and scooped a handful of water from the fountain. He saw a vision of a pair of paladins locked in mortal combat with each other. Davrish offered his penitence and received a vision of the Abbey monks going about their business of growing grapes and making wine. Larissa recited a prayer and saw a vision of the construction of the Abbey, including the additions and renovations over the thriving years.

As they traveled along the semi-cleared pathway towards the Abbey bell tower, Fractal got the distinct impression they were being watched. Then, bones under the bushes were spotted, bearing teeth marks. It wasn’t long before they discovered just what was watching them. The large cat-like beasts had a taste for magic and decided Larissa and Fractal would make tasty morsels.

Zada did his best to calm the beasts while Davrish defended Fractal. In the end, retreat seemed the smartest option. Between the distraction of some Celestial Eagles and the brave sacrifice of Mister Grimmlekins, who will no doubt repay his human familiar with some furballs in his slippers, the party managed to escape. Not at running and screaming; definitely in a brave and stalwart way.

Next stop: The Wizard’s Tower

Spider, Nymphs and Elves Oh My

Zada has learned a few things on this trip so far.

The first being that he was never meant to be a sailor, the rocking of the high waves against the ship doing the opposite of being soothing.

Second, these people he has been bound to travel with are not that bad. Getting them out of the city, where all they do is con people and play them as fools, has shown those skills to be useful. He may actually miss a few of the humans when their old age strips them from the world, if they live even that long.

That is the crux of the issue, they are now on a strange island where Orcs have set up camp and take taxes from travelers. And, that is just the beginning of this oddness.

After entering the island’s fortress walls by running their typical con of walking up and saying “We’re here to help with your ghost problem.” It worked, they were allowed to enter and speak to some of the leadership who said not only would they get paid but would not be bothered by the Orcs while working on their little quest. All under the guise of ridding the island of ghosts.

Then the hiccup in the plan started, it really was haunted. Never having dealt with speaking ghosts or lost swords before the troupe was slightly confounded.

The ghost at the garrison told them the lonely sword would be needed to enter and unseal the building. And that the sword was somewhere in the forest behind the Abby. What was there was a large walled overgrown orchard filled with spiders.

Making their way through the thickest of the brambles Davrish gained the attention of the spiders leaving Annie poisoned. Luckily another traveler, a “Professional Monster Hunter” was there and said he knew where some nymphs were in the woods that may be able to help.

Arriving at the lake the very beautiful sylvan creatures offered to help us by playing the secret game. Whispering secrets to them, the Order gained insight into the island and help curing Annie of her poisonous condition.

The questions they answered helped with knowledge of where the missing cards were on the island. One with a fancy man by the fountain, one was moving and hurt their heads, another with the Wizard in the blinking tower we observed and yet another was with another group of mercenaries led by what we now know is a Drow.

One Nymph though, looked remarkably like someone that Zada knew and whispered a secret back to just him. One that he is pondering telling the others more about.

The closest was with the man by the fountain, so they traveled along the paths to that person. Along the way noticing tracks of a single person with small feet heading further South on a different trail. Upon their entering the region of the fountain it was discovered that there was an Elvish noble, and his four knights, who lost the noble’s sister earlier that day in the thick woods.

The Order assumed these were the tracks that they had observed earlier and offered to help find her in return for his card. An agreement struck they followed the trail to find the noble’s sister engaged in conflict with two Owl Bears. With 11 people fighting them it was no match.

Returning to the fountain to setup camp a night watch was determined and everyone settled in for some much needed rest.

To the Forest!
Where's the forest? The trees are blocking the view!

The party climbed the high wall around the Inner Garden easily. Some even managed to look quite dashing as they did so. The orchard was a piece of cake to navigate through — wait, are those spiders following Davrish? A small skirmish and a bit of poisonous bite later, the party introduces themselves to their new friend, Tabra Marto, Adventurer Extraordinaire.

Tabra was more than happy to guide the party to see the Nymphs and they spent the afternoon quite happily conversing with the beautiful females. With information that there are not just 3 cards, but 4 on the island, things were looking up. And The Thrashers? Certainly they won’t cause any problems.

The party headed to the Fountain of Irori and found Berrian Velfarren along with his 4 men at arms. Zada told the stately elf that he knew where his lost sister was, and they should head out at once to get her.

Analastra was soon found, fending off a pair of overly-friendly owlbears. The party earned the gratitude of Berrian and he rewarded them with a card from the Deck of Many Things — the Idiot. They settled down for the night, trading stories with the elves, and each agreeing to keep watch in a 2-hour shift.

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.

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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