Dark Sun: The Tyrant of Tyr

Session 13 - Part 1
Excerpts from the journals of Eben the Executioner...

It is the morning of Haze 26, and aside from the growing decent in the wealthier portion of the city regarding the new higher taxes there is a general buzz in the air, for we are nearing festival week – the festival of soaring sun to be exact. Merchants are slowing down their shipments and beginning to take stock, for what happens in the next week will involve little trade and much celebrations…

Back at the inix we are discussing the state as to which we find ourselves. Abdiel is facing a threat on his life. I am either in imminent peril or about to be the luckiest Mul in Tyr. Solzak is pining his missing mistress? Orsk? Well he seems to battle on, mayhap he has troubles of his own but he has yet to voice them. Strong and silent type? Well that used to be me, but now im feeling an urge (or am I being pushed) to become a little more social. Last but not least (though it pains me to say of an Elf) Naraaku is in good wit as usual and plainly not on anybodies side but his own. Abdiel is understandably keen to ensure that the assassination attempt is not a success and so this strikes me and the rest of the group as a useful bargaining bit, always best to keep at least one templar on side in case of emergencies (always useful with an Elf around). He offers us a measly amount of ceramic (which he insists is all he has) but with the promise of more favour if things go to plan and he ascends the ranks of templardom. Solzak is recruited to try to research the possible identity of the assassin by utilising his underworld contacts, whilst Orsk will head to the city guard barracks to look for a disguise fit for Naraaku (no mean feat!). I pledge my allegiance to this band not just for the coin but that Abdiel owes me the favour to release Helandrez to me from slavery. To this he agrees on the assumption that surviving and exposing this threat will allow him to gain favour with his superiors.

With plan in motion I set aside the rest of my day to spend some time, and ceramic, in ensuring that my presence is more than agreeable to the lady Dorjan. The others head off on their individual errands and the plan is to meet back at the golden inix later. Fine by me, as there is only so long I can stand being round an Elf and his half cousin!

Much of what follows is based upon the accounts of my companions as I was not present at all these events, so therefore I cannot vouch for their completeness, or their accuracy…

Naraaku and Solzak leave the inix together with Solzak heading to Rheys (apothecary) and Naraaku heading through the Elven quarter, aiming to rendezvous in the Bards quarter, where their goal is the house of fingers. On his way through the Elven market Naraaku is stopped by Deryssa of the Sky singers who has some bad news regarding the singers and house Stel. It seems the singers are far too cowardly or stupid to move against house stel at this time, believing them far too powerful, they think if they can find more evidence such as more bodies or objects from singer tribesmen that are missing this might persuade them to act, but for now they refuse. Deryssa is angry and upset at this turn of events and proposes venturing south to the new Ianto fort not far from Tyr to try to confirm or deny any involvement that they may have had in attacks against Singers, or perhaps alternatively even gain a helping hand against Stel? Naraaku is unimpressed, but for now, there are much more pressing issues to attend to.

Rhey is more pleased to see Solzak on this occasion (due to it not being the middle of the night) and prepares for him a special herbal powder made from dried Go’Jaan cactus leaves. The highly potent poison has the effect of loosening the targets’ tongue half an hour after it is administered but only for a short time. Timing then, will be ever more critical if we are to successfully stop this attack and discover the identity of the attacker.

Naraaku and Solzak arrive at the house of fingers and it is as dark and drab as you may expect for a den of thieves and assassins. The wall of severed appendages that cover one side of the interior is enough to stop only the most foolhardy or blind drunk from asking how this inn got its name. The fingers are now so brittle with the passage of time that they crumble to dust at the touch. Shattering a finger in what is now regarded as a shrine is punishable by death. I am told that an uneasy truce exists in the establishment: No poison is administered, bought, or sold within its walls. Likewise, all thieves and assassins can consider themselves safe from others of their ilk. It may be a surprise to some, that while there is no honor among thieves, even assassins must have a place to go and be safe from their fellows. It is also said that the owner of the establishment, Sarkea, is convinced that the fingers protect her. To that end, she never leaves the dark confines of the inn. Little interest is paid to Naraaku and Solzak as they enter the establishment, save for a shaded Elf in the corner who gives a nod in Naraaku’s direction. During their enquiries in the bar and the inn itself the pair discover that an assassin named ‘Chontou’, once a thief with the toothcutter gang has taken on employment with a major templar in the city to assassinate another (abdiel). Their attempts to get him to identify or take them to his contact fail however and instead Chontou offers a possible meeting if the assassination goes ahead as planned. Its not an entire lost cause though as they gain some information, just how useful this will be we have yet to see…

Abdiel heads for the templar district, attempting to track down Gorask and perhaps confront him before the ‘event’. It is of little surprise that he is nowhere to be seen. Sending for Neebit, he sets him the task of trying to track him down or learn of his whereabouts and who he has been talking to. Whilst in the templar district (and again the details i have are limited) Abdiel discovers attempts to discredit his name and accusations of his association with the veil! Immediately springing to action he set to track down the source of the wildly inaccurate (and dangerous) rumors, discovering that it was a fellow templar of the ministry of state, ‘Hirik’ and the master of finance ‘Gennet’ who had apparently been originating these lies. Storming the office of Gennet, Abdiel blasted the man who calmly sat through his tirade without emotion, as if he expected this reaction all along. Gennets solution is just as bizarre in that to rid himself of the problem Abdiel should simply find a scapegoat, one who can be blamed for the atrocities rather than himself. It seems this was not difficult and within half a day an innocent man (if you can call any agent of Kalak such), would be put to death for nothing more than the sake of political face.

I catch up with Orsk again in the Inix after his successful location of a ‘slightly’ oversized uniform for Naraaku. “It will do” he replies to my enquiry and by his tone i can only assume that it wasn’t the easiest of things to get hold of. The others are yet to return so we pass the time in the inn as Orsk challenges Jaryx to an arm wrestling match. Unusually for a half-giant as confident in his abilities as Orsk his competitor Jaryx is triumphant, easily beating him in an arm wrestling contest. Orsk looks almost as surprised as Jaryx but this just turns to a wry smile and a remark from Jaryx that Orsk should ‘keep practicing’. Meanwhile I busy myself in conversation with Mila the barkeep. As I’m in confident mood I decide that Mila would benefit from the company of a warrior who was on the ‘up’ so to speak. After all, Dorjan would never check up on me, i’d be a fool not to. Rowan on the other hand did not approve, but with a stern look from Orsk he is put firmly in his place. I decide that enough is enough and take Mila away from the envious eyes of the locals so we can enjoy our own privacy…

Later, Mila and I return to the main floor of the Inn as finally the elves and Abdiel return, and with some urgency we decide on our next plan of action. On the evening of the party we will accompany Abdiel as guards and escorts with the aim of discovering and exposing the assassin. Orsk managed to source a city guard uniform so that Naraaku can join us without looking too out of place! Furthermore both Abdiel and Solzak have managed to get hold of some substances that will allow us to ‘loosen’ the tongues of guests and or the would be assassin hopefully before he strikes. From administering the substance there would be a half hour window before we could act and therefore we must take great care in our timing. As we retire for the evening Mila asks me to accompany her to the games tomorrow! I nearly say yes before my companions jog my memory in that the games are an extremely public event, and if anyone notices me it will get back to Dorjan, and then I might as well be dead! Mila doesn’t take the rejection well and spends the rest of the evening ignoring me, in time she will understand and I think nothing more of it…

Session 13 - Part 2, the Games
Excerpts from the journals of Eben the Courageous...

The next morning outside the window of my room at the Inix all I can see is a steady stream of people forming a path to the stadium. These ‘stadium scum’ as they are affectionately known are always the first to arrive and last to leave on any game day. They come from all walks of life, carrying banners and painting their faces all in support of the current favourite. Then there are the merchants and vendors, eager to make a quick coin or worse, as wealthy merchants or eager templars ‘sponsor’ a special modification to a meal or drink. Its a thieves paradise as the wealthier classes come out in force to parade themselves in front of their peers. Finally there is the rest of us, the free, the slaves, the general bulk of the population who hope there will be enough bloodshed to satisfy their thirst and a moment or two of relative escape from the oppression of their lives.

We enter the Gladiatorial Stadium attempting to keep a low profile, Abdiel especially warily keeping an eye out for his would-be assassin. Thaxos Vordon spots us however and waves us over, enthusiastically pointing to the seats next to him and shooing away the nobles nearby with a slight wave of his withered hand. Again we have little choice but to concede to his wishes and cautiously take up positions by his side. Naraaku seems to take to the life with more ease than most helping himself to more than a few skewers of spiced lizard meat even though he was enduring a barrage of insults from less privileged elves above us in the ‘cheap seats’. Already we could see the sun baked upper stand residents wilting under the relentless heat even at this early hour. There was a large group who were getting rowdy and jostling with each other, when two of their number were suddenly violently thrown down from the stand and into the arena! A huge cheer erupted from the rest of the crowd as the two panicked and dazed individuals recovered and were quickly surrounded by guards and captured, you could barely hear their frantic cries for mercy as the roar from the crowd began to build. Then at once the stadium (now almost full) erupted into rapturous applause and cheers as Banther, Tithians master of games strode in full ceremonial battle armour into the centre of the arena. His giant helmet was decorated in style with giant multicoloured feathers (surely from the ringing mountains or maybe Solzak’s bird buddies) and fleshed out with Iridescent giant scales from the hides of long dead desert creatures. A sceptre held in his right hand was raised in order that the crowd fall silent to let him speak. With a booming voice he announced today’s running order which would include such bloodbaths as the team gladiatorial matches, dritan – a recreation of Kalaks sacking of Tyr from the ancient barbarians, a ‘special’ creature fight, loop race and the Tyrants pyramid, so named due to the fiendish traps and tricks which threaten each combatant as they climb to the top. The first match however would be a special addition to the programme in that a member of the Templars would fight a match against a half-giant! Even though I have no love for them I don’t like the odds for the templar. Finally he runs through some of the names of today’s stars, none other than Rikus the mul and Neeva are amongst those mentioned, this should be good!

After Bather’s announcements the official opening ceremony concludes with a speech from the King. This is always a tense moment at the best of times but it seems today his majesty is in good spirits. A wizened and withered ancient man appears on the kings viewing platform, his long regal purple robes flowing around him and long twisted strands of white-grey hair fall below a lavish iron crown. No-one really knows how old Kalak is, but most dare not even think it, for this man is far greater than any mere mortal and all bow before him whether they wish to or not. He hails the crowd in typical regal fashion and announces how pleased with the citizens of Tyr for their loyalty and hard work he is and continues by saying that in four days time there will be an additional games to celebrate the start of festival week. This news is greeted with rapturous applause as only a bloodthirsty crowd could and without further pause the games begin with the ‘trial’ of the templar accused of consorting with the Veiled Alliance and the two unwitting victims who fell into the arena! As the huge hulking half-giant walks slowly from the underbelly of the arena floor his club glistens crimson under the throbbing heat of the sun. His giant feet crunching satisfyingly into the rust stained sand creating contrasting with the clapping and jeering of the hungry crowd salivating on the kill, chanting the words over and over ‘death’ ‘death’. We could see those taking and making wagers on how quickly the ‘trial’ would end. Like a rat caught by its tail the terrified templar tried to frantically prepare a spell as a counter attack but the half-giant was fast and with one sweep of his giant club winded the templar, caving in his ribcage and crushing his skull beneath his sandaled feet. The sickening crunch of broken bone and bursting of organs was matched with an excited roar from the crowd and very soon after the poor victims who had earlier fallen into the arena are dispatched in an equally inglorious way.

Frenzied betting ensued as the individual and team matches began. I put some coin on Rikus to win, pretty safe in the knowledge that there wasn’t much chance that he’d be beaten, he was a mul after all! Sure enough as fresh blood was spilt on the ground he triumphed and soaked up the deserved adoration from the crowd. I gained a few coin in the process too so overall a good day for mul-kind.

Next, the grand monster was revealed by Banther – now up on the kings viewing platform. The ‘Chathrag’ is brought forth, pulled by a dozen or so slaves as it roared and protested. It looked like an oversized tortoise, but with a back that was covered with reed like protrusions. As the contestants begin their battle the ropes holding it are cut and it roared once more firing its sticky quills into the fleeing guards, hitting and dragging a couple of them in before stamping on them or crushing them in its jaws. The monster made a brave effort at fending on the Gladiators brought forth to challenge it, but in the end there was only one outcome after relentless hacking and slashing and more spilling of blood.

Naraaku and I take a short break to get more lizard skewers as the Dritan event is set up, catching a glimpse of some nobles we recognise, chatting and plotting as usual, but we end up having to rush back as we see the firing of an arrow into the air that signifies the start of the event. Masked archers on various battlements play the parts of the defenders of Tyr whilst the contestants attempt to get from one side of the arena floor to the other. Several are shot down by the defenders after running just a few yards but as they near the ruined structures the defenders must take a different approach. From trapdoors on the arena floor more masked slaves wielding blades and axes spring forth and ambush the attackers as they pass and several more fall as the crowd cheer and jeer in equal proportion as attacker and defender fall. The eventual winner is revealed to be an Elf! Typical, he probably spent the entire time sneaking around whilst the rest of his comrades fell around him only to emerge at the end once everyone was dead or thought it was all over.

After a short interlude the arena floor is cleared to reveal a looped track marked by small pillars of stone. 12 contestants then march from below ground to take up positions on the starting line. As before, an arrow shot in the air signals the start of the event and all but two of the contestants begin a run around the marked track. The two left behind are a huge muscular Half-Giant and a nimble Thri-Kreen. As it dawns on us and the crowd what is about to happen a huge ripple of applause and cheering begins as the racers make the second loop and begin the run into the final straight. The Half-Giant takes out a large Carrikal (dual headed axe made from the jawbones of a mekillot and Jozhal) from his back as the Thri-Kreen begins to whirl a chain dexterously around his head and body using his extra limbs to steady himself. A look of horror appears on some of the runners faces as they realise what is going to happen and they try to evade the fate. With a quick spring of its clawed feet the Kreen jumps into action flinging the chain out towards a runner, wrapping it around their neck and causing him to fall to the floor clutching the chain and choking. The Half-Giant strides up and with deft accuracy and a clean sweep brings the Carrikal down on the helpless victim splattering his face in all directions of the arena floor. The crowd erupts and cheers the duo on who carry out their executions with brutal precision until there are no contestants left besides themselves. All that is left to do is to walk around the loop in triumph to the tune of rapturous applause.

As the applause dies down the stadium returns to a joyous murmur as bets are placed on the final event and the nobles make deals with nefarious characters and assassins, playing dangerous games to try to work the odds in their favour of their sponsored contestants. The final event is the Tyrants pyramid, a structure that resembles the infernal ziggurat but created of splints of wood and large bones strapped together in a loose structure with giant hair rope. Parts are sectioned off with planks of wood and others with simple leather canvas stretched between the frame. On top of the pyramid, chained to the floor but able to move its hands is a grizzled and half starved gith shaman. Its eyes wearily gazing around it half with fear and half fuelled with hatred for its captors. Then, as the gates are opened one more time and the combatants are revealed the gith launches with all its remaining strength what attacks it can, causing some contestants to fall before they even start climbing the pyramid. Then a roar and an explosion from one side of the pyramid as a huge gout of fire appears on one side, killing a couple of the combatants outright as the crowd gasp and coo. On the other side large serrated teeth shoot through the floor impaling another as the others scramble and battle with each other on the way up. Of the original 15 combatants the final level is reached by only 3 of them, of which one is launched off and killed by a kinetic blast from the gith. After a further struggle the gith is killed and the games are pronounced over as the champions are crowned and rewarded, some with coin and the lucky few with that rarest of all gifts – freedom. Banther concludes the proceedings and as the event draws to a close our thoughts move to our next task, one that is of critical importance to one of our own, Abdiel, the party at Blacksun villa. We slowly make our way out of the stadium and I spot Naraaku swiping some more of those spiced lizard skewers on the way out, I actually think about it myself, but I’m not going to sink to that level just yet. I am probably more surprised that the day went so smoothly, sure there was the odd fight and scuffle but nothing that would have broken a bead of sweat for the templars. We exit and part company as with only a couple of hours until we are expected at the villa we must make our own preparations. For myself I check into a nearby inn to freshen up and don the expensive suit that I am hoping will impress the lady Dorjan…

Session 13 - Part 3 Blacksun Villa
Excerpts from the journals of Eben the Lusty...

The Dark Sun dips low in the sky, and Ral and Guthay slowly raise their cold, alien faces into the purple haze of sundown. Blacksun villa towers above other mansions nearby in both grandeur and style. Its multi-leveled towers and the rooms within concealing far more than just opulence. The invites to a party at the villa are a coveted and mysterious rarity for any of the elite in Tyr as what goes on within its walls is as much speculation as wild rumor. In this occasion however the assortment of guests who gather within its walls seems almost democratic. The purpose of this of course, is all part of the mystery…

From the outside of the villa we can see that it stands on several levels and onf varying heights, each interspersed with palms and many green leafed plants. Of course, only the rich can afford to or even desire to water such things. Outside there is a slave wearing a turban and clean white linen awaits us, introducing himself as Hezzor and asking for our invitations whilst offering us a goblet of fine wine. The wine is not to my taste so I ask for Kank nectar, the look of distaste from the slave at this request clearly shows he has been brought up in the wealthier part of the city. Abdiel, Naraaku and Orsk head inside ahead of me as I am required to wait for Dorjan who is arriving later. Solzak is late as he had disappeared on a personal errand, but as his business is his own we choose to not delay in wait for him

Heading inside the main reception area the group are led to a huge two storey great hall with a balcony running around the second floor from a staircase on the west wall. In the centre of the room stands a giant sculpture of a tree, made with warped and dead wood but bearing golden fruit that seemed to glow with arcane aura. Elsewhere in the room halfling ‘savages’ dressed in little more than loincloths and covered in tangled vines and leaves carry polished bone serving trays filled with colourful fruits, flatbreads, lizard skewers (which Naraaku headed straight for) and other small foods which you could barely consider a mouthful. As Abdiel and his ‘guards’ wander the room a watchful eye is kept for the would-be assassin whom we were assuming would be either in a disguise or would strike from a favorable position.

More guests arrive in regular intervals and as I wait in the reception area I watch over the proceedings. We soon spot Lady Sycia talking with a group of nobles which includes the lady Shahram, owner of the villa. Sycia is wearing a huge gold plated helmet that partially covers her eyes which are painted onto the helmet in a distinctive large and heavy style that I have not seen in Tyr, though I could not tell you where from either. Our attentions are drawn by the announcement of the arrival of the Devani noble, Dor, dressed in heavy dark green robes with his face concealed with a mask of twigs and foliage. The costume was fitting to the party of course but it was his stature and frailty that began to give away his identity, he walked as a man does with age, with great care and there were times i could see him lean heavily on his companion. His companion was dressed more for the desert, in sandy colours but this too seemed to indicate more than he would have liked as Naraaku indicated that this was one whom he recognised from their meeting in the House of Fingers. Solzak – who by now had arrived after convincing the guards he was here to entertain – nodded too in agreement to confirm he knew who this was.

Just as I had begun to become frustrated at being left outside my lady arrived, wearing an outfit that would turn a weaker man to a mere boy. I strode confidently over as she took my arm in a vice-like grip and went inside. She was not one for long conversation as it was clear from the beginning her eyes were fixed on me as an object of her desire. For now this was acceptable to me, as it could, if I play my cards right, be every bit the advantage we were looking for.

As we are chatting I overhear Solzak in conversation with the lady Shahram and that she was asking at what point in the evening he would be performing. I was impressed how skillfully he was able to dodge her questioning but then he was asked to head backstage with the other minstrels and I knew if our plan were to be successful he would be needed here out front. He had, it seems procured a truth drug which when administered and period of 30 minutes had passed would enable us to question Gorask (or the noble we suspected to be him) to find their true motive and so expose them. Solzak was forced to act therefore and used a minor psionic movement to swiftly place the powder into the cup of Gorask without being seen. As luck would have it he was seemingly successful and was able to slip past unnoticed to go backstage. He is only there for a matter of moments before reappearing with a look of concern. The nobles look his way and he elegantly bluffs this into a performance piece, playing some local Tyrian favourites before a crowd of sophisticated listeners. He is a success, and while raising a toast to the party ensures Gorask drinks from his drugged wine. After his performance Solzak explains to us secretly that there are Veil agents backstage led by none other than Shalaya! Of course an opportunity to rid themselves of the silt cult would not be missed, we could have guessed i’m sure. Orsk now moves even closer to Abdiel to ensure he is protected from any sudden attacks.

The Minthur family arrive as well as representatives from House Asticles and Mericles. The obvious candidates from those houses Agis and Tithian respectively are absent as we would well expect and as the crowd of attendees increases it is clear that this is no small gathering. Many of Tyrs elite are here or at least well represented. The last to enter were a couple of nobles who were announced to little fanfare, dressed in dark robes our thoughts immediately turned to the possibility of a further assassin, Thus putting our plan into potential jeopardy! Naraaku was signalled to watch their movements and so he circled around to the outside of the party to enable him to quickly cover Abdiel.

At roughly 11pm or thereabouts Sycia is seen to get onstage and it is announced that she will be making a short speech. As she approaches the front of the stage there is a noticeable coldness in the air, as if the sun was suddenly snuffed out for a moment before being re lit like a candle. She begins to speak and although I hear words it is almost as if the crowd are in a trance, I had not been drinking the wine that had been offered but now we could notice a tiny purple glow in each glass that resembled the glow in the crystals we had seen common to members of the cult. Dorjan chose this worse possible moment however to take me someplace private and I was forced to miss part of the speech, which is probably a good thing. In talking to the rest of the group afterwards I can surmise her what was said. Sycia and her group see the future of Tyr as a free city, the first and possibly only ruled by the nobility and senate in the entirety of the known lands. This was met with a mix of confusion and fear for the wrath of the immortal sorcerer kings. Who can kill an immortal but another immortal? Good question, but Sycia’s answer came in the form of the primordial immortal Ul-Athra as we now know it is called, but we know better as the Silt Kraken. Sycia assures the nobles that this entity would work with the citizens of Tyr to rid us of Kalak and place the senate and nobility in control of our fates with Ul-Athra as our protectorate. This idea in essence has merit but that a primordial entity such as the Silt Kraken (Ul-Athra) would want anything other than our destruction is a mystery to me apart from as Sycia points out that she is close to finding the secret of how this creature can be made to do our will. They have found a temple to this god beneath Tyr and once it is unearthed and they complete the ritual, a pact with Ul-Athra will ensure a free Tyr for all! This all sounds like madness now but in the throng of the party and influence of foul magic the crowd were wed to the idea. The speech ended on a toast to the freedom of Tyr and served as an introduction to a dance and music.

Several dancers, male and females emerged from the back room, swaying and moving to a frantic tribal rhythm which seemed to emanate from all around without a source. They were dressed in light silks with face masks of dark wood representing spirits and animals. The sound was intense and built slowly, fading in and out as if weaving through the crowd. At the very height of the music one female came forward close to the stage, her long blonde hair instantly familiar as Shalaya. At this point Sycia was still onstage until she realised the true nature of the dance, which was an elaborate cover for a spell! The telltale arcane arm movements and incantations appeared quickly and as Sycia turned to flee she was struck by a bolt of radiant light, knocking the helmet from her head revealing a blindfold over her eyes and the top of her head covered in bandages. Sycia scrambled to her feet and fled out the rear of the mansion, with Shalaya and the other Veil agents close behind.

Dorjan and I had managed to find a private suite upstairs as the party was beginning to drag for us both, we held an intimate embrace and I could see in her eyes the intensity of the moment, but then the blast from downstairs came and the moment was gone. Quickly we both rushed out onto the balcony to see what was going on to see a room in chaos as noble trampled noble trying to get out of the villa and away from the danger. Then in the chaos the assassin struck, moving close to Abdiel before any of us could react and placing something on his neck, immediately turning and running towards the garden. Abdiel went stiff as death itself and our immediate worry was that we had failed, but then before we could react a shot rang out from the crossbow of the sand-robed assassin, making a painful thud in the neck of Abdiel. His partner threw off his mask to turn and flee and in doing so revealed himself to Dorjan and I who cursed the name Gorask under her breath. A second shot rang out but by now Orsk was in position with his shield to block and protect the injured templar. The assassin tried a further shot but this too bounced as Naraaku fired a counter attack. Seeing himself outnumbered the assassin fled into the crowd of fleeing nobles and disappeared from our sights. Orsk threw a hammer in desperation that seemed to connect but does not seem enough to deter the assassin from his flight.

Another crash was heard this time from above us as into the middle of the ballroom, crushing the tree drops a terrifying creature, a belgoi, a twisted tall, thin psionic hunter wielding a huge staff covered in runes and small bells that let off a chilling jingle as it walks on clawed feet, its large nostrils snorting like a bull preparing to charge with its eyes fixated on Solzak. It swings the staff around its head to point firmly at the petrified half-elf, Where is she? It calls, where is the witch and the one called Narissa! Solzak did not answer but the thing had already read his racing mind. You will take us to her, take us to Altaruk! With that statement it took another giant leap up to the second floor and out a balcony window. Solzak looked stunned but there was no time as we quickly attended to Abdiel. Orsk managed to find the cause of the paralysis in the form of a small scarab beetle that had inserted a needle like pincer into his neck which had caused the paralysis. Luckily for us, in removing the creature Abdiel stirred and moaned, enough that we were relieved. The party was definitely over, Abdiel was alive, albeit only just, there were the assasins to find, and the hope we would not again run into the Belgoi. Just the start of another long night in Tyr…

Session 12
Excerpts from the journals of Eben the Avenger

Realising their ambush was now uncovered and seemingly sure of their success the shadows slipped out of the now open windows. Orsk caught one on the way out but only just and it didn’t stop. In frustration Orsk let out a howl and turned and ran into the main room, both battle claws outstretched he leapt over the balcony to where the Ankhegs were attacking and I half expected to hear the crunch of his body hit the ground. Instead I saw the Anhead rear up into the air with Orsk on its back, stabbing and ripping into its shell as green ichor sprayed all over him and the balcony. Abdiel stepped back momentarily (presumably to stop the mess from staining his robe) and shouted more commands to the guards and slaves to maintain order. With a piercing squeal the Ankheg drove back underground as Orsk tried to hang on but he lost grip and ended up at the bottom of the tunnel. He told us later that he saw ab eerie red light further down the tunnel, similar to the light that was coming from those damn crystals. Then the other Ankheg surfaced once more, directly under chuck! With great agility the Kreen flipped and drew his rapier around and down, causing a large gash in the side of the carapace as Abdiel signalled for the guards on the balconies to attack. A hail of crossbow bolts rained on the wounded insect, causing it to squeal in pain once more. More volleys followed and blasts of eldritch energy from Abdiel until finally the Ankheg expired.

Orsk had chased the other insect beneath ground and again leaping on the back of the insect dug his claws in as it burst once more into the room. The guards sent another volley forth, wounding it greatly as abdiel concentrated and uttered foul words of arcana. The great Ankheg turned is scratched and bloodied mandibles towards abdiel, as if listening to his words, before its head exploded in a shower of green ichor and the body slumped lifeless to the ground. Picking up a discarded blade Orsk proceeded to carve up the body as a war trophy.

The two elves had been debating the ‘best’ method of patching up J’sek but what was clear was that he was not going to last long without some kind of antidote. Solzak was the one with the underworld contacts so it was left to him to slink off and source something else this was going to be a whole lot of effort for nothing! Naraaku had managed to keep one of the shadows alive for questioning so up came Orsk to put the pressure on. For a dedicated tribe of assassins he didn’t take much punishment before he squealed the name of his employer ‘Sycia’. It was no real surprise that she was the one behind it, but why J’Sek? I was half expecting the shadows would have been after us, but perhaps its more a case of destabilising Vordon and getting access to their assets.

We formed a posse and headed down into the tunnels to see if the trail would lead anywhere but it seemed that even if we did want to follow we had no idea what could be down there and in this condition we couldn’t leave J’sek. Just as we were starting to wonder what had happened to him Solzak returned, complaining about how much the antidote cost, but we can sort that out later, the life of a vordon agent is worth a lot more to us than any antidote would have cost that’s for sure. After the antidote was administered we could visually tell the poison effect seemed to fade enough that J’sek would survive. He came round enough to promise us that we would be introduced the next day to Thaxos, the head of house Vordon in Tyr! So we set about taking stock and organising the rest of the guards to keep the area secure for the rest of the long night ahead. We still hadn’t seen any sign of those Stel thugs which makes me nervous. We’d lost about another 100 or so slaves, still over 50% remained.

Morning came however with little incident and we were all relieved to see the burning sun rise above thr golden tower. City guards arrived to assist in the transfer of the slaves and you could see the look on their faces at the now quivering, frightened and broken slaves they were being given. Its a sorry end for them and I can imagine some might have even been grateful for the release of death in the pincers of the Ankhegs rather than face a slow torturous death on the ziggurat. Still, these were no worries of ours, we had earned a reward, of sorts – to be presented to his lord highness the grand master Thaxos of house Vordon. He truly lived up to his reputation at least, a man of luxuries and fine tastes, a world away from the blood and sweat of his trade. Before we meet him however we are taken to none other than Dorjan, the mistress of his majesty the mighty Kalak’s public works. I am struck by her beauty, and although
she has a reputation for her cruelty and wicked temper I cannot resist putting on the charm. To my companions amazement she seems to be quite taken by me, but whether this is a good turn of events remains to be seen. She congratulates us on our victory and for our loyalty to Tyr but then beckons Abdiel close, he seems surprised by what she tells him and a sense of urgency lights up his otherwise grim features. The lady bids us good day but not without inviting me to a gala ball the evening of the games! I’m not sure whether to laugh or take flight but luckily my survival instincts get the better of me and force a reply from my lips of “it would be an honour” for anything else would probably have resulted in death, or worse! Pity this fool or praise my stupidity, ha! I shall see that I do not fail to live up to my own reputation, onwards – to the party! Of course there is the small matter of the next couple of days but I feel optimistic at least.

On our way to meet with Vordon I suddenly spot a familiar face – Helandrez?! That old leather-faced-son-of-a-Jhakar, he’s still alive, sure he’s lost a few pounds but nothing he couldn’t afford to. For a moment I avoid his gaze, attracting the attentions of a slave is never great in public like this but he soon spots me and is frantically waving his arms around like a lunatic shouting my name. In the end I have no choice but to confront him and for a moment I pity the pathetic shadow of my previous employer. The slave life had not been good to him and my immediate thought was he would not last much longer as he may have been blessed with girth but not stamina. He pleads with me to get him set free and that my reward would be a share of a m’ke stash he knew of. As soon as this was said the other slaves nearby chimed in with similar pleads, each less believable than the last. There is a trustworthiness in him though and Helandrez has not double crossed me yet. His allegiance could prove useful still and besides I felt a tiny twinge of guilt at his predicament. Enquiring with the guards helped us little for they demanded a kings sum for his release, no surprise when it came to your average greedy or beuracratic aspiring guard. Perhaps there is another way to secure his release, Abdiel maybe? I palm Helandrez a few coins which should keep him alive for a few more days until we can figure a release. I’m not sure about his word but there was something about the words he spoke that rang true enough to try.

So we were taken to the home of Thaxos, lavish, opulent and decadent. The spoils of living like a king in Tyr, and a king is probably close to how he sees himself, descending the main staircase of his manor as we waited dressed in purple dyed cloths and weighed down with jewellery. He looked ancient beyond his years (which looked easily over 100!) but held himself well. After congratulating our efforts in the warehouse defending the slaves he offered us the position of house agents and all the benefits associated with that. I am loathe to be in any merchants pockets but the arrangement with Vordon has been quite profitable so far, so we accept – also not wishing to offend one of the most powerful and influential people in Tyr was a wise decision that did not need a seconds thought!

Heading back to the Inix we had a slight dilemma on our hands as to what to do next. Abdiel was now determined to go to the party saying that he had been told by Dorjan that an attempt was to be made on his life, and well, if I didn’t show up to the ‘date’ with the lady i’m pretty certain that my death would soon follow. The only problem being that Solzak, worried about the lady Narissa and her cryptic note, was becoming restless to leave for Altaruk. However we also knew that Sycia, the noble who has been causing trouble in her association with the silt cult will be there too, and I am not the only one who wants to know what she has to say. In the end we elected to stay in Tyr for 2 more days to see how things developed before we feel like we can head out into the wilderness…

So tomorrow it seems I’m off to buy a new suit!

Session 11

The apparent danger seemed to have passed as quickly as the winds that carried it and we hastily made our way to the Inix, fully expecting an ambush that never materialised. Jaryx was out front of the Inn as usual but seemed to be dealing with some troublemakers. From the looks of his clothing, attitude and entourage it was a fair bet this was a noble, and one that cannot handle his broy too i’d wager!

Orsk made the approach as I steadied my hand to within easy reach of my axe – i’ll be taking no chances. Jaryx remarked that this one – Verrassi of Minthur – was being refused entry on grounds of being too far gone for words. He recognised me which was surprising considering his state and stature. There was a brief moment of tension but then the nobles guards saw sense and moved Verrassi off, and good riddance! We left a warm broy out for Jaryx and entered the inn – always good to keep the bouncer happy and on our side i’d say.

Inside the Inix things were busy as usual and the lively hustle and bustle of the thri-kreen servants welcomed us to rest our weary bodies. Rowan was doing his usual job of staring down Mila – i’m not even sure what he is trying to achieve? Mila was in reasonable spirits and brightened up as we handed over good ceramic coin for re-filling our skins and stocking up for a night of guard duty at the Vordon warehouse. We decided not to waste too much time hanging around and aside from Solzak paying yet more money to keep his ‘birds’ in luxury we were done and out of there within a few minutes.

We returned to the Vordon warehouse just as the guards were beginning the first rounds of the night watch. We were met by J’Sek and given a brief tour of the building. Our immediate concern was the courtyard in which the slaves were being held, although it was secure from the sides and above, the floor was uncovered dust. Fine for slaves, but our past experience of these attacks had seen them come from underground. J’sek was concerned and although we tried to think of alternatives in the end there were too many slaves to move, we just had to make best use of the layout of the building to make sure if anyone did spring up they didn’t make it out alive! Orsk and Abdiel set to commanding the guards and co-ordinating the defence whilst Solzak and Naraaku headed up to the roof to help with lookout. Myself and Chuck went down to the forge to look after the armoury. Yes, the armoury! My eyes could seldom believe the magnificent reflection of light on real metal! It was glorious to see if only for a moment before the vaults were closed. I was given a key though, and it would be tough to resist sneaking another peek.

The night wore on, and after a couple hours of nothing happening chuck and I began to get restless. As if reading my thoughts everything suddenly happened at once and the whole building erupted into chaos! Chuck and I were first to feel a tremor beneath the ground – as if something huge had just passed beneath us nearly knocking us over. Quickly we rushed upstairs and almost knocked a guard flat in the process. He was babbling about ‘shadows’ in the building and that Orsk, Abdiel and Solzak had seen something? The situation was worse when I got upstairs as the filthy Elf had locked himself in the office with J’sek – for a moment I even half suspected him to be the assassin – but then a noise behind me took my attentions. An eruption of dirt and sand blasted into the air as the slaves screamed in terror into the faces of giant insectile Ankhegs! Almost instantly they seemed to be gathering bundles of slaves in their mandibles and pulling them back under ground. We had to act fast and Orsk was quick to bark at the guards to assemble on the balconies to rain a volley of crossbow bolts down on the bugs. Abdiel stood at the front of the balcony facing the slaves and bugs – commanding them to stay quiet and not attempt to run. He is fearfully commanding when he wants to be and so the job suits him well. Whirling around again a scream of pain coming from inside the office could only be J’sek!

Bursting through the door I could see nothing but Naraaku and his pet sniffing the air. J’sek was moaning and I could see several darts sticking out of his neck and green lines appearing across his skin as the poison worked its wicked way inside. Swinging wildly I tried to catch the assassins but they were quick and seemed to disappear into thin air. They don’t call them shadows for nothing! They struck J’sek again and after a brief cry of pain he fell silent – this was not good. Frustrated, Orsk tore into the room and swung his hammer wildly, smashing it into the wall with so much strength that the shaft splintered and sent the head spinning into the corner of the room. Then, a stroke of luck saved us once more as the temporary barricade J’sek and Naraaku had used to stop the Shadows from entering from the windows fell to reveal the twin moons of Ral and Guthay perfectly placed to cast their combined light into the room. Hoping we were not too late we sprung to attack.

Meanwhile in the main room the Ankhegs continued to gather slaves and take them below ground. The vordon guards put up a valiant fight, climbing onto one of them and ripping arms and carapace off in order to get to its vulnerable underbelly. In reaction the creature let forth a giant spray of pure acid, covering the guards whom I could hear screaming and shouting as the liquid dissolved through armour and flesh. I only hoped that they could hold on, at least till we could get back to help…

Session 10
Excerpts from the journal of Eben the Wanderer...

Vaulting himself over the side of the caravan and onto the deck the Thri-Kreen’s mandibles clicked and searched the air for signs of his prey. Instinctively he kept low and down wind so as to remain undetected. Moving carefully around the deck he slipped around the side of the firing platform only to instantly duck as the mighty swing of a sabre came crashing down smashing into the caravan wall – narrowly missing his skull. Lunging forwards his rapier stuck true and the Ssurran howled in pain and reeled backwards – preparing to strike again. I had been watching from a distance behind chuck but now took my opportunity, both hands firmly gripped on my Axe and charging full speed, for a moment I leapt clean from the ground and brought my full power down on the lizard. A crash of blades and the Ssurran fell backwards, wounded but seemingly more determined with a crazed look in its slitted eyes.

From behind me at the rear of the deck I could hear Solzak and the clash of blades as he engaged another raider but before I could turn to help the door to the cabin burst open to reveal a hulking monster of a Ssurran weilding a huge greatsword. He brought the huge weapon to bear and I braced for the strike but instead I saw before me the silhouette of a half-giant move in front and take the full force of the blow on his shield without even flinching! All i could figure was that he must have been a guard on the caravan who had survived the first wave of attacks. The other door to the cabin flew open and from the chanting I could only assume some kind of Ssurran shamen had joined the battle, flinging blasts of sand at abdiel who was now standing defiant on the caravan roof. I had lost sight of Chuck who had bounded off in pursuit of the shaman but then a piercing insectile squeal warned us that he was in trouble but we were otherwise engaged. Naraaku, frustrated after attempts to bring down the mighty Mekillots failed he effortlessly pulls himself up the caravan side and onto the roof, launching a couple of arrows to take down the Ssurran bearing down on Solzak. Unluckily the arrows only just wounded the beast and seemed to make it angrier as it hissed and spat its own filthy blood on the sizzling hot deck. Solzak cursed once more as his obsidian rapier struck scaly hide only to shatter into a thousand pieces. Just then Naraaku let out a warning as the defences from the caravan were activated and a hail of crossbow bolts shot across the deck, many of which found a home in chuck, who fell to the ground, green blood everywhere. My instinct was to go help, but we were being held back by the Ssurrans bearing down on us, curse Chuck for his recklessness!

Below us on the ground as the Mekillots began to pick up Redgar managed to finally scramble up the side of the caravan after nearly getting smashed by a roller after his first missed attempt. Using the powers of his mind he attempted to dominate the Ssurran shamen but all the Lizards seemed to be wearing strange purple crystals that shielded them from any powers that targeted their otherwise vulnerable minds.
The exchange of blows between the two giant warriors of Orsk and the Ssurran seemed to go on for hours, but Orsk was definitely winning through superior toughness and training. He is a sharp and deadly warrior and I for one was glad he was on our side as the final cleave from his mighty hammer sent the great Lizardman tearing through the roof into the slave hold below with a satisfying crunch! Probably would have taken a few slaves with him but those mattered not in the grand scheme of things.

As the battle continued we gained the upper hand, that is until Solzak called out a warning that more of the Ssurrans were on their way from the rear of the caravan train and heading towards us at increasing speed. The caravan was heading out of control off the road and I didn’t like the look of the badlands that were approaching in front of us. All of a sudden the caravan shook and jolted, sending redgar flat on his face and the rest of us scrambling for a handhold lest we get thrown overboard. I know not how it happened but it seemed that one of the Mekillots driving the caravans was beginning to tire and had stumbled, slowing us slightly. We were still on a course to ruin, but perhaps this would buy us more time and so we could take more of their scaly hides with us!

The crossbow turrets continued to rain misery on the deck, luckily Orsk’s shield seemed to attract the arrows, almost instinctively? Perhaps i’ll ask him about it later but for now I was grateful for the relief. Once free of the Ssurran raider breathing down his neck Solzak managed to disable two of the towers aiding those of us still on the deck and allowing us to breathe a sigh of relief.

Disposing of the Shamen, Abdiel and myself ran into the cabin to find the Caravan master – like a possessed demon cackling out-loud as he drove the mekillots as hard as he could towards the canyons. Abdiel tried to talk some sense into him but I could tell there was only thing that would knock some sense into him and that was my axe sunk right between his ears. I swung, but he must have sensed my move and preempted it, ducking out the way. What was worse is that he pushed the lever on the floor fully forward and snapped it off! I could only guess that might have been the only way to stop this thing! He laughed madly once more as Abdiel attempted to blast him into eldritch dust but tragically missed him entirely and vaporised one of the controller levers! This was not going to end well.

Outside Orsk helped to dispatch the last of the Ssurrans and barked orders for the rest to take up defensive positions to wait for the incoming second wave. Taking up the rear most firing platform he would be able to hopefully delay or even stop the Ssurrans from leaping from one carriage to this one. It was a slim chance, but the only chance we had.
The day wore on, and you could see even the Ssurrans were feeling the heat, the shimmering silhouettes of our bodies on top of the caravan against the stream of moisture leaving our bodies as we held fast against a relentless foe. Another bump and jolt nearly sent us off the side of the deck once more and the Ssurrans were close enough to Orsk that he could see the madness in their eyes.

The attack was launched and the Ssurrans leapt over the narrow gap between the carriages, arrogant in their fearlessness – it was 10:1 or so they thought. Orsk swung with all his might and connected! A Ssurran was sent flying far from the caravan with no hope to save himself and fell squealing to a death crushed beneath the weight of a runaway carriage. And another goes down with his next swing as Orsk poses defiantly. The Ssurrans look at one another and hiss loudly, bearing their jaws full of jagged sharp yellow teeth – i’m thinking these would make good trophies and I’m sure Orsk feels the same. All at once they then leap across the divide, aiming to drive their scimitars deep into Half-Giant flesh…

Back in the cabin the trade of blows with the crazed caravan master continues and I put it down to exhaustion that we do not dispose of him quicker, as he is a poor fighter. As I bring my axe to bear one final time to cut him down Abdiel is quick to leap on the controls, trying to figure out how to stop or at the very least steer the caravan away from imminent peril. He pulls one lever sharply and instantly the whole caravan lurches to one side sending us both sprawling – wrong lever! Considering the layout of the levers more carefully he makes a second attempt, and guiding it more gently this time begins to gain enough control to force us into a gentle turn, away from immediate danger and back towards the road.

Orsk, although extremely tough and capable a warrior is not immortal, and though he fought bravely and dropped many a Ssurran would not be able to hold them back forever, and as the Lizards hacked and slashed relentlessly he fell into unconsciousness just as I had managed to rush back to assist him. Bellowing a challenge I was able to divert their attention before they were able to strike a killing blow and the last few swarmed down upon us. Redgar attempted to keep them at bay but yet again the crystals flared into life and saved them from the worst his mind could muster.
We were not without aid as Naraaku and Solzak provided ranged assistance and just enough arrows and bolts to drop the rest of the raiders.

In a few more moments the last of the Ssurrans fell and we were able to quickly bandage the wounded and assess the situation. For a moment at least we seemed to be safe and Abdiel had managed to gain a rudimentary understanding of the controls for the Caravan. We still had the problem that we had no way to stop the vehicle until Orsk solved the problem with surprising ease by driving the huge greatsword from the giant Ssurran into the lever stand creating a fully working brake! I can only say that this day the spirits were on our side and we had rewarded their obedience with the blood of our enemies.

Slowing the caravan to a stop we were able to conduct a full search of the carriages. Cautiously proceeding through each we found that most of the slaves had managed to survive – aside from a single zombie which had managed to get into a slave compartment and feasted with horrific consequences. Grimly we dispatched those affected and continued, noticing how both we and the slaves were feeling weak and exhausted from the heat. The mekillots too were exhausted, so Orsk co-ordinated some of the slaves to ensure that what we delivered to House Vordon was of better quality than the disheveled property we saw before us now.

We decided not to rest for too long however, a caravan full of hot and wounded slaves would leave a scent trail for miles around and it would not be long before we would get attacked again and this time we might not be so lucky. Getting the Mekillots to move again we proceeded back to Tyr which fortunately was free from further incident.
As we approached Tyr the sun was low on the horizon and the heat of the day turned to the deep cold of the night and the twin moons of Ral and Guthay rose reassuringly once more into the sky. Silhouetted against the miles of fields surrounding the city was a group of Kank riders leaving the city and heading east. Despite the lack of light these figures were very dark skinned, the kind of complexion you can only get spending your whole life under the sun – or worse. Instinctively I grip my axe tightly – caution Eben.

Upon entering the city we have the usual 20 questions from the templar who bizarrely starts asking us if we are transporting warriors into the city? No, of course not! Just slaves as Abdiel waves the jobsworth official away back to his other menial tasks. We head down caravan way wary of more ambushes but are relieved to make it to the Vordon compound and see J’sek there with a large contingent of armed guards to relieve us of our duty. He is overjoyed to see that we have made it relatively unscathed and that about 75% of the slaves were in good enough condition to be saleable. Quickly they are taken out of the carriages and ushered into the well protected compound and J’sek informs us of his pleasure at our performance. We are rewarded with more favours of the house and asked back to watch over the slaves tonight. J’sek expects that as Stel did not attack the caravan earlier that they might do so tonight, and having trusted warriors at his side would reassure him that they would not be successful. We agree to the work as at this point having accrued the favour of the house we were not about to let our standing slip, but inform J’sek that we have some errands to run first before we take up watch and agree to meet back within the hour to attend the guard.

As we walk back up Caravan way to the golden Inix something odd happens, as Abdiel spots a flash from a nearby alley – like the reflection of light on glass. Concentrating for a moment he closes his eyes – visualising the alley to see if we are being lured into a trap, and he sees a face, the face of a Shadow! Naraaku through gritted teeth curses in Elvish as the Shadows are nothing but assassins for hire! Walking down that alley would probably see us walking onto a poisoned blade or worse!

Wisely we stick to the main path and continue cautiously up to the inix, wary of an ambush, but all is quiet apart from one thing. The wind blows, and on it we hear the faintest ringing of a tiny bell, nearly too quiet to hear, but definitely audible…

Session 9
Excerpts from the journal of Eben the Mercenary

The shifting sands clatter like stones on the hourglass wall as time slips ever onwards, and the warriors considered their next move against the cult of silt over a flagon of sweet Kank nectar…

We were decided, waiting for the caravan was not an option, if an attack were to take place — outside of Tyr would be the best place for it, and at worst we would ride out to meet them and just follow the caravan in. Now it was just a case of acquiring a means of transportation, we need to be mobile. Abdiel again proved his worth in this task by assigning the increasingly loyal “neebit” as a runner to get our mounts from vordon.

It was then that a familiar sight entered through the door of the inix, it was Shalaya and in her shadow was the hulking figure of the albino Dray we had seen (and possibly heard) the previous evening. He looked as if he had been in a fight as he was covered in scratches and his armour showed signs of recent battle.
Shalaya remarked that this Dray, called Drax had sought her out and the veil as he is trying to locate the temple of silt located beneath Tyr. Long ago his fellow clansmen had been the ancient protectors for the parts of the crown, keeping them hidden until such time as a way could be found to destroy it. Over time the crown parts have become forgotten as the clan has dwindled in size. The story of the crown has faded into legend and its apparent threat lessened and so the clan began to abandon the places of hiding and head out into the world. Now, some hundreds of years later Drax has taken upon himself to seek the protectors of the crown and find the parts for himself, hoping that with the help of the veil some way can be found to destroy it. It is a noble cause but for us at this time we have far too much to do on our own let alone go on any crusade with a wandering dragonman! He was able to impart some useful information however. It was indeed this Dray whom Naraaku heard the previous evening. The cry was made in anguish when Drax was unable to prevent the death of berrin, innex’s buddy as they had been ambushed by assassins — shadows to be precise! Naraaku was able to tell us of these Knives for hire, they are not cheap by any means and they are deadly foes, coming out of nowhere to strike and then disappear just as quickly. Innex was still alive and he had described very briefly how the cult had been subjecting slaves to experiments but that innex had somehow managed to escape by slipping away during some guard confusion, eventually finding his way back to his home delirious before being found by us. We agreed to help so much as to satisfy the two of them and send them on their way but right now we have a good thing going with house vordon, if we stop the cult on the way then so be it. Drax and Shalaya for their part would keep watch on house Stel and the cult houses through the veil with the aim to meet the following evening to discuss their findings.
Shalaya and Drax left and but few minutes later Neebit arrived with our mounts. Already much time had passed and we would have to hurry to get out of Tyr in time to catch the caravan before it arrived. We had chosen Crodlu mounts for their speed and subtlety but of course the templar could not be so subtle and decides to take a chariot! As far as i’m concerned they can travel out front. Abdiel left Neebit more money and assigned him the task to gather intel on house Stel and to spread the word to other street kids to create a network of ears to the ground. I believe that this could prove quite useful provided this ‘neebit’ is trustworthy (and stays cheap).
We mount the crodlu and quickly proceed to the city gates, only to find them blocked by a throng of squabbling and shouting merchants pressing against some angry looking Mul guards. The merchants seemed to be protesting against the Templar in charge who was attempting to turn them all away. Abdiel exercised his authority amongst the city folk and got in close in order to find out what was going on. It seems that a sandstorm had blown up just north of Tyr along the road to the Iron mines and so the templars were preparing to shut the city down to wait for the storm to pass over. Strange though as the more we listened the more suspicious and conveniently the apparent appearance of this storm became. We decided to hedge our bets in that it was no natural storm but a stel/cultist trap for the approaching caravan. With some negotiating we managed to get the guards to let us through via a smaller side exit to the gates. It meant dismantling the chariot which Abdiel was upset about but needs must and we had to leave the city quickly lest we arrive too late.

It was mid afternoon and the sun was blistering hot outside the gates and a gentle breeze gathered the more north we travelled. We could see in the distance the form of the storm slowly coming into view and so we prepared for the worst equipping our dust masks and or wrapping our scarves as tightly as we could. This was going to be difficult as the storm looked extremely thick and we could not see any sign of a caravan. Naraaku and Solzak headed around the outside of the storm to see if they could find a possible point of entry and or signs of fighting.

We waited with much trepidation as there was no way for us to even know what we could be up against. I have heard tales of caravans assaulted by hundreds of Elves in the past, leaving the guards as butchered meat for the Kestrekals circling above. This would not be our fate today though, as this storm covers our enemies tracks, but it will also hide our own and our enemies advantage will become our advantage.

Solzak and Naraaku hurried back and spoke of the shadowy shape of the caravan somewhere in the middle of the storm. It seems like the attack is already underway and some mounted troops approached from the north – probably to spring a surprise attack from the rear no doubt. Thinking quickly we decided we would approach from the west, and perhaps find the leaders and take them out before getting bogged down in an extended battle…

With Naraaku and Solzak scouting ahead we approached as close as we could mounted and then proceeded on foot. A flash of lightning alerted us to the presence of a mage and soon we were close enough to see that the foul being was in fact the very same necrotic sorcerer we had encountered in the Ianto warehouse – for he bore the same traits of grey screaming smoke emanating from his defiling hands! Quickly Naraaku closed the distance to him and took up a sniping position from where he could cover our approach. Then something happened, either Solzak slipped or the mage was alerted to our presence and a flash of lightning and an explosion ripped through the ground – sending rock and sand thick into the air. As far as I could tell Solzak was relatively unharmed but there was no time but to act immediately before the sorcerer had chance to raise another undead army against us. I cried out a call to the primal spirits for strength as Naraaku’s arrows struck true again and again. The sorcerer’s foul acidic blood polluting the earth with the stench of decay and rotting flesh as we struck him again and again but he would not fall. As axe and sword fell on his corrupt skull he called forth the last of his magic to summon some minions to defend him, but this day was ours and we struck him down and his black twisted staff clattered to the ground as his body collapsed into the sand.

Solzak was left exposed and suffered horrible wounds before chuck was able to leap to his defence cleaving Skeleton bodies left and right with deft swipes of his rapier. Meanwhile Abdiel and Naraaku had found the source of the storm in the figure of a druid chanting a ritual binding the forces of nature to his will. His eyes rolled back into his skull and veins protruding from his forehead as the intensity of concentration consumed his power and strength. A purple gem hung around his neck, glowing with foul necrotic energy. Naraaku sent arrows straight and true into his body, throwing him momentarily from controlling the storm before Abdiel called forth all of his power to send a huge blast of energy that half incinerated the old man. As he collapsed to his knees Naraaku swore he saw a spiritual version of the old man appear above his body – cradling it as he slipped into unconsciousness and screaming ‘NO’! It was too late for remorse – for no-one could argue with the choice to put a stop to such a dangerous foe. The sandstorm almost immediately died to a mere breeze, and we were once again able to see the sky. We also saw the true devastation, as a burning caravan blocked the road which had caused the Vordon caravan to stop. Sounds of battle from the other side of the caravan indicated that the fight was far from over, but our immediate focus returned to the threat that stood before us in the form of a group of several skilled Ssurran cultists.The scattered remnants of caravan guards were being steadily cut down by the foul Ssurran’s – each wielding savage sabres much like the brutes from house Stel.

Just then the caravan began to move and turn – It was heading north and although slow at first – the Mekillots that pull these giant slabs are much faster than us at full speed. The lead Ssurran cried a grating rallying call and the others withdrew to the caravan, leaping with great agility onto the canvas sides and clawing their way up. Chuck was quick to follow – hacking at the legs of one of them as it tried to slip away. The rest of us moved to catch up with Abdiel narrowly missing becoming crushed under the huge rollers by leaping from a nearby rock and missing his handhold. Luckily he managed to roll away in time, dashing back to recover his staff before the giant roller made it into a flatbread!

Chuck made the top of the caravan with ease (what I wouldn’t give for an extra pair of hands occasionally!) and from there was greeted by the wicked sabre arm of his prey (which he nimbly dodged). At the other end of the caravan train chuck could see several figures approaching at full speed. It would only be a matter of seconds before they arrived to reinforce the battle. The odds may be against us – but I like those odds!

Session 8
Excerpts from the journal of Eben the Freebooter

The morning of Haze 24 bursts through the shutters at the innix and its already blisteringly hot outside. I head down to the Inn bleary eyed with a craving for some sweet Kank nectar. Taking my fill I look around and see the Naraaku and Solzak puzzling over a piece of parchment scrawled with a random assortment of letters. It seems that after we retired they went out and returned to Narissa’s and found a note, I say found but it is more like the note found them. No sign of necromancy though as they both say they remember only silver dust and the scent of fresh flowers? Its not something I ever remember coming from Narissa’s…

We deliberate on the note for more than an hour, during which time we see no sign of Shalaya, it seems she has gone walking again. I think she is causing more trouble than she is worth – if the Cult want her they are welcome to her as far as I’m concerned! Eventually we decipher the note to say “SOLZAK. MEET ME IN ALTARUK. URGENT. NARISSA.” Solzak expresses the need to leave immediately, but right now there seems to be much that requires our presence here in Tyr and we elect to hold off for now and explore other avenues until we get time to make the trip. Altaruk is some days travel from here, and the rate at which events are accelerating here in Tyr there might not be much to return to!!!

As our discussion continued a group of gladiators arrived in the Inn, carrying a parchment indicating the games sign-up had begun and that all who were interested should go and sign up at the ministry of public games. There was a short discussion but so far no-one was willing to sign up, although the prize of 6000 gp for one of the matches I find very appealing.

Abdiel paid a street rat called ‘Neebit’ to send word to the man with emerald eyes to meet us at the inix as we had important information for him. He duly arrived and we told him about the house Ianto warehouse and silt cult activities and the necromancer. He was concerned about Stel’s apparent stealing or trading of slaves to the cultists and wondered what the cult was doing with them. He was grateful with the information and informed us that we now that we had accrued a form of favour with the house. We are not entirely sure what this entails but in Tyr favours are often far more valuable than gold. The man with emerald eyes also revealed his real name as J’Sek or at least the name he chose to give us. J’Sek then told us that a large caravan of slaves was heading for Tyr and was due about 6pm this evening. His concern now was for the safety of the cargo, which represented a size-able amount of house vordons slave assets from the Iron mines. Now that the cultists seem interested in slaves he requested we help with ensuring that those slaves didn’t fall into the wrong hands. He is unsure if his own agents have been compromised so now sees us as being able to provide the most reliable assistance in this matter and assures us of more favour with the house should the slaves be received as planned.

We then decided to go back to the asticles manor to see if Perseus had returned. Heading out to the noble district we found the mansion grounds to be deserted and the door was ajar. Everything was dark inside and the rooms had been ransacked – but in a destructive way rather than purposeful. We then noticed in the baths a body of a servant – severely decayed. I drew my Axe and cautiously approached when all of a sudden a flash of purple light flew from a tile on the floor that send a ripple of necrotic energy through the water. Immediately the body stirred and reanimated! Without hesitation I cleaved its head from its shoulders with one swing and fully prepared for more attacks we waited in silence a moment more but nothing came and so we ventured onwards. In the central area of the mansion there was an indoor garden and we found tied to the trees more bodies of servants, decayed and strung up like puppets, ready to spring to unlife. We then found another cursed arcane circle below them which we assumed would activate them. So with Axe and sword and magic ready we proceeded downstairs to find a huge cellar filled with barrels of a fine vintage of Asticles wine. Immediately I could see the Elf had the same thought as me, a large abandoned warehouse full of one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the Tyr region – all for the taking!!! We just had to make sure nobody saw us… Further exploration revealed another large arcane circle which would activate two more rooms full of ritually placed servant/zombies. Abdiel was able to deactivate this circle with relative ease and we headed back upstairs and up to the first floor. Taking each step one at a time we checked for more necrotic traps and sure enough at the top of the stairs we managed to avoid another which would have seen 2 house guards re-animated against us. The upper floor was deserted and ransacked also, but this time it looked like some of the rooms had been more carefully searched. The study had been searched in particular the study, and inside we found a small map detailing an area of the ringing mountains close to a halfling village named jalaka and the names of two individuals, chief ‘Zabul’ and a shamen named ‘Azeka’, both halflings as far as we could tell. Abdiel is taken by some of the books in the library detailing strange ‘histories’ of Athas, mentioning an incredibly powerful individual named Rajaat and a time when Halflings were one of the only races on the planet and when the rivers flowed with water?! It all seems a bit far fetched to me, but he believes it so much as there was an air of authority to the passages, enough to engage his interest anyway. As we finished our sweep of the upper floor we found a locked and barred room, the door was scorched around the edges as if a defiler had touched it and used it as a conduit for a powerful spell. We crashed in to find a room devoid of all life, sucked dry as if a necromantic leech had forcibly drained all the energy from every object in the room. It was a horrific sight, but we were able to discern a note written by the guard that indicated that he was sorry for failing his lord and master. A pity, but the weak will make way for the strong…

As we were leaving naraaku heard muffled sniffling from outside one of the barred windows, which on investigation turned out to be the servant Deacon! He’d run off when the attack began and only now had returned, feeling very sorry for himself and snivelling like a scorned child. We told him to pull himself together and tell the rest of the Asticles family in their vineyards outside of Tyr what has happened, and to not return until Agis does, at which he rushes off, still snivelling. Abdiel found another street rat called ‘nesbit’ (no relation) to summon j’sek to the inix once more, this time we had a business opportunity for him, and house Vordon!

Adbiel is met by a servant riding a Crodlu, dressed far more formally than your average runner and is summoned to the office of the head of state for Tyr – Gorask Tanik. From here we part company with Abdiel and head back to the inix, to await J’sek and the return of Abdiel (depending on what the templars want with him I suppose!).

I recount here what Abdiel chose to divulge to us, but the exact conversation was obviously templar business and not meant for our ears. I care not, for the templars’ will is their own, and as long as it does not interfere with us and our business it is of little concern to me. Tanik has knowledge of our investigations and of the cult of Silt. This is of little surprise as the eyes and ears of Kalak and the templars are everywhere, and it seems the incidents of deaths and activities has begun to raise some gold gilted eyebrows. Abdiel has been given the task to investigate the activities of the cult for the purposes of reporting to the templars so they can gauge the ‘threat’ to Tyr, and additionally it seems we have been invited to a celebration to be held after the gladiatorial games on Haze 27. What is of interest to the templar and us too is that one of the organisers for the party is Sycia – the illusive head of house Ur-Zola. She has been ruffling many feathers in Tyr it seems and I would relish the opportunity to do the same to her…

Back at the inix J’sek arrives shortly after abdiel returns and we waste no time in presenting him with our little ‘deal’ regarding the Asticles wine. Initially cautious, J’sek agrees and offers us 10% of the profits that the wine achieves when it is sold, of which he will try to go through the elves in the market so as not to arouse suspicion. Naraaku shows him the bow we found in the Ianto warehouse and asks J’sek if he knows of anywhere he can get it identified and repaired. J’sek points him to a contact he has in the market named ‘Chontou’ who is also a purveyor of potion-fruits. Additionally Abdiel hands J’sek the deeds from the Ur-Zola property to see if J’sek can assist in putting the correct heir to the Ur-Zola fortune back to his rightful place. J’Sek says that as templar Abdiel would have more luck with this but he would lend a hand if he could and would agree to accompany him to the office of the senior administrator ‘Gennet’.

Abdiel and J’sek set out individually to rendevous at the High bureau’s as Naraaku and the rest of us head to Shadow square to investigate the bow and try to re stock on fruits.

Again the shady business of the templars is beyond this simple chronicle but what I can gather is that upon visiting the High Bureau Abdiel met with some reluctance from the staff at his unscheduled visit and that Gennet himself was equally ill mannered and impatient. He seemed to care little as to the ‘genuine’ inheritor of the Ur-Zola mansion and offering minimum assistance. He would send a message to Sycia warning of her less than legitimate inheritance and attempting to locate Brevin, the rightful inheritor. Gennet revealed that apparently Brevin was disgraced after being caught in an uncompromising position with a local Elven minstrel, which could complicate matters, but it would still be possible to reinstall him as head of household were he ocated and his name cleared. J’sek seems to think that Gennet has been bought and will provide little assistance. A frustrating line of enquiry indeed.

Back in the Elven market, Naraaku speaks to ‘Chontou’ who examines the bow and immediately attracts the attention of the Sky singer ‘Deryssa’, one of the more important tribal members in the market. At first she accuses Naraaku of stealing the bow, but then she recognises him as a fellow trader and is more amenable – offering Naraaku to speak to a contact of hers in the veil named ‘Loubarra’ who haunts the house of fingers most evenings. The bow it turns out is a relic owned by the sky singers in Nibernay, who recently were subjected to a vicious attack by mysterious attackers. Seeing Stel’s handiwork in this Deryssa is outraged and vows retribution in blood. She will speak to the elders and contact Naraaku when they have made a decision on what they want to do.

So we leave and head back to the inix to regroup and discuss what the next plan of action is. It is now mid afternoon, still a good few hours until the caravan is due back in Tyr. Should we ride out to meet it or wait for it to come to us…

Session 7
Excerpts from the journal of Eben the Kingmaker

…The next few minutes seemed to stretch into hours. All I remember is that instinct took over and I gripped my axe with both hands and cried out to the primal spirits to give me strength, for what we faced was not of this world but from the land of trapped souls, the grey! The dust that issued forth from the basement of the warehouse seemed to be possessed by screaming souls, chattering and clawing up the walls until I saw not an illusion but the forms of skeletal warriors surrounding us. Not only that, but then the dead rose! The very guards we had just slain stirred and awkwardly jerked back to life, not in the same way as the previous zombies we had faced, but fresh undead, groping and clawing for our warm flesh! The trapped slaves screamed to be saved, but my focus was on our foes as we battled to send the abominations back whence they came! With blade and magic we prevailed, but not without our fair share of injuries. Wave upon wave of skeletons rush forth from the basement, and myself and chuck are stalwart in our defence, cutting them down almost as soon as they arrive. During the battle one of the zombies managed to get inside the slave pen and clawed his way through several of the poor wretches, a pity, but the majority were saved, not that they were going to be useful to us, what were we going to do with a couple dozen slaves? As quickly as the battle began it was over, and for the moment the stairs to the basement are silent. We contemplate investigating the foulness that must be down there, but in wise counsel from the templar we decide to retreat the way we came for only a master sorcerer could create such foulness on a whim…

Shalaya was rescued by our ‘hero’ Solzak, who seems to have a knack lately for getting all the girls, not that I’m jealous as she seems to be more of a liability at the moment than an asset. She insists on ensuring the slaves slip away into the night to safety and gives them directions to veil ‘safe-houses’. I’m sure I saw abdiel taking a keen ear in the conversation as again we are reminded that the eye of Kalak is never too far away… We must remain cautious.

Naraaku scouted our route back to the roof, and mentioned hearing the guttural call of a wounded humanoid, a ‘Dray’ to be precise. Something I know little of, but they are rumoured to be the descendants of a race created bythe dragon himself?! How much of this is to be believed is of course up to how much stock you take in children’s stories, but for now the presence of one of their kind in Tyr is intriguing. We reason that this could well be the Ivory skinned warrior we saw silently watching Innex in the Inn, but for what purpose we have yet to discover.

Quickly we scaled the roof awnings and rapelled down to the floor, where we met Shalaya and the slaves, now armed and then we parted company as Shalaya returned with us and the slaves headed out to the warrens. If they made it or not we will never know, but it is not for us to care. Cautiously we proceeded back to the Golden Inix, where we intended to rest for the night and meet with house Vordon on the morrow. Whilst walking up the caravan way we spotted some city guards carrying a body from a nearby alley. Abdiel called them forth to answer questions and it seems they had discovered the body of Berrin – Innexes drinking buddy?! His wounds were deep slashes, skillful cuts that no ordinary bandit would have made. There does not seem to be any sign of innex and this gets us thinking that the cult could be eliminating ‘the evidence’ so to speak. Back at the inn all is quiet and we retire, but not without ensuring that our doors are locked and secure…

Session 6

Haze 23 – a long night in Tyr

The Night sky, calm and sparkling as always, lights up with the reflection of Ral and Guthay shining down upon the warriors, but they notice its beauty only briefly, locked in debate as to their next course of action. The city is near deserted as the residents cower and hide away from the watchful eyes and minds of the Templars as the crodlu patrols stalk the streets, always looking and forever vigilant… For our own safety and the safety of Tyr, of course!

We were due to meet the Man with the Emerald Eyes from House Vordon in Sculptors Square at 10, but even as that time rapidly approached Solzak insisted that we took care of his Aarakocra first. Quickly and begrudgingly we stashed them at the Golden Inix, where he paid for a more ‘secretive’ room (no compensation for those of us who had to carry them however) and set off for the meeting. Naraaku scouted ahead and stayed hidden in case of an ambush and our route took us pass the oppressive monstrosity of a Ziggurat. Just looking at that structure gives us all a sense of dread and more than a mere ounce of suspicion. Wary as we could be we stepped into the square and saw the mysterious House Vorden agent waiting for us. He proposed we help them tackle the increasing aggressive House Stel and that our allies at M’Ke were no more, the House having surrendered when confronted by the prospect of a Stel assault. He had not seen Helandrez or his somewhat dishevelled servant which of course, means that we can kiss our payment goodbye, at least for now. After a negotiation we agreed to help him discover more information about House Stel’s operations in Tyr (in exchange for 100gp, 50 up front, each), beginning with their last ‘acquisition’ before the M’ke warehouse, a small compound belonging to House Ianto, who have since left Tyr entirely.

We returned to the Golden Inix via a circuitous route in case of tails and spotted smoke from the edge of the Noble district. We approached cautiously and saw soldiers; templar’s and slaves trying to put out a blaze affecting Narissas shop? Fire is not something that any resident of Ahas relishes, especially as they are extremely difficult to put out. Abdiel spied three of Kalak’s necromancers watching the building, staring intently into the flaming structure, as if looking for something through the blaze. Solzak questioned a slave and was told the fire started hours ago with the necromancers arriving sometime later. A feeling of dread and chilling cold crept over us as we watched them when all of a sudden they turned and pointed at us. Guards, responding to their commands, mounted crodlu and charged towards our section of the crowd. Solzak and Naraaku turned and ran off disappearing into the crowd, with Redgar and Chuck not far behind and the mounted guards leaped over the Elven river to questioned Abdiel and myself but we bluffed our way through (I am getting tired of having to always play his “slave”). I later discovered that the voice of a young girl conveyed by telepathy told Solzak to run (that or his cowardly elven blood, no doubt).

We meet again at the Golden Inix finding Solzak and Naraaku already there with the injured birds and considered our options for action. Earlier we had spotted the caravan master Innex drunk at one of the tables with his buddy Berin, but seeing him now, free and apparently untouched, decided that there was little to be learned from him, and his links to the Cult of Silt made him untrustworthy. Instead we agreed that the only reasonable course was to investigate the newly acquired Stel warehouse near the Ziggurat, and headed there in two groups to arouse less suspicion in case the guards were still looking for us. Our group headed down Caravan way and passed several guard groups but due to Abdiels Templar status we were able to walk casually by, a trend that is becoming increasingly useful.

The warehouse was a secure, two-storey, and flat-roofed fortified building and all the second storey windows were boarded up, giving the appearance that the warehouse had been abandoned. Seeing no other way to get in un-noticed Naraaku climbed a building opposite, and incredibly ran across the cloth awning onto the roof of the warehouse (the elf is more suspicious than I thought….merchant my sandy ass). Chuck followed and they threw us a rope so that we could climb onto the roof. Abdiel was then taken with something I can only describe as a kind of madness, at one moment claiming that the trapdoor entrance was covered in warning Arcane runes and then the next admitting it was a mistake. Thankfully it was not the opposite and we entered through the trapdoor with a surprising ease. A search of the upper floor revealed little of interest apart from two doors protected by magical alarms (this time it was no illusion). Using his distance hearing Redgar swore he heard a muffled crying below, but before we were able to descend to the ground floor, four hooded figures entered by the main doors, dragging a crying and struggling Shalaya. They continued and dragged her through a set of doors below us.

Listening further we heard guards talking below suggesting that others were coming, and of a slight discontent within the group as to the reason for their ‘arrangement’. We determined to lure the hooded men into an ambush. While half of us stood ready by the stairs, Naraaku and Solzak snuck down to the entrance hall and rang the front bell, at which several men emerged from a large door toward the back of the warehouse. The first appeared to spot our party and attempted to fire, but was quickly skewered by arrows from Naraaku. Abdiel, in commanding tone called on them to surrender, the authority in his voice caused one to waver, and Naraaku pinned him to the door alive so that we could question him later (elves are cruel even in mercy). Chuck and I charged the rest, and with sword, magic, and arrows our group pushed them back into the room beyond. But as we slew the last of our opponents, a chill blast hit us from the basement below, the vile magic of a defiler!


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