Dark Sun: The Tyrant of Tyr

Solzak's Journal 1
Excerpts from the journal of Solzak, the shadow of Tyr...

Haze 22.

Having left me to guard Innex in the M’ke house I contemplated just leaving the poor wretch to babble on, but he might yet prove useful if he snaps out of it. The operative word being IF. Quite why my benefactor wants me here is beyond me, but he seems to believe it to be of enough interest to the fate of Tyr for our involvement. Perhaps finding out more about this cult will shed more light on their intentions, and I expect this runs deeper than it seems at the moment.

I wait around for a couple of hours and hear nothing from the others, so I decide to do some digging for myself leaving the creepy Halfling and Helandrez to tend to the Caravan Master. Heading out into the mid afternoon sun I keep to the shadows, as always, the Stel thugs could be around here, as is their want. I see a group of them emerge from the Stel emporium heading for the Warrens, they look heavily armoured, so considering that I now find myself alone and weaponless I’ll save that battle for later.

The Elven Market is bustling as usual, despite the earlier riots in the square it almost seems as if nothing has happened in this part of the city, with the exception of a heavier presence of Crodlu patrols, although even escaped slaves would have to be desperate to hide out here. I start speaking to the local traders, concentrating on those I know and trust and find very little of interest. The cult are known, but no-one speaks directly of them, everyone seems a little afraid, more than usual, and less willing to talk about anything that might implicate them in anything. Its more self defence I guess, no-one wants to be blamed for anything in this city, it usually means the end. I speak to some of the ‘cutters as I still have contacts there and get a little more out of them. It seems there are a number of veiled alliance activists searching the city for something or someone, after a couple of them arrived in the city a few nights ago there has been a frenzy of discussion in the underworld. These two are hot subjects, not only because the veil and cult are after them, but because they have something else with them that’s got a few people either really excited or really worried i’m not sure.

Just then i’m approached by a messenger, I know exactly who from as he always sends a psion. It is my benefactor; he must have news for me. The Psion passes, we lock minds and he’s gone. Its’ always an uncomfortable experience, but necessary in the times we live.

Into the warrens I head, past several more Crodlu squads. It seems a lot of the escaped slaves headed for this part of the city, hoping to hide out. Unfortunately for them the templar’s can find a panicked slave from half a city away. If I was them I’d go underground. Sure, you’ll probably meet an untimely death from something or someone, but you have a hell of a better chance of survival than up here.

We meet in the usual place and in the usual way. There is a sense of urgency about him today though I find unsettling, as if there is something he is not letting on. He tells me that agents of the Veil have been in touch with him as they have been tracking the movements of several cult members in the city. It is not usually a veil policy to be directly involved in events that don’t concern them, but it looks like they have no choice as he tells me one of their number has disappeared, one of the two both of whom had travelled here from Raam (no easy feat). He wants to know why this individual is so important to the cult and the veil, and so has tasked me with finding this out as he believes it could have an impact on his own plans and therefore my future. His informants have told him that the rest of my companions are in the noble district in the care of the Asticles manor. I shall go and meet with them and then perhaps we can find this veil member and discover what is really going on here…

As the sun begins to dip over the horizon I decided to stop by Narissa’s to stock up before I rejoined the others. She seemed unusually glad to see me and requested that I stayed and watched over the house while she attended to some business. I explained I was quite busy but she looked very worried, so I decided that as I owed her a favour I’d help her out this time.

She was gone for hours, during which time the shop remained empty. I half expected some kind of ambush, but that was not the case and by the time she returned, exhausted, it was in the small hours. She had a spare room in which I was able to rest, as by now it was too late to venture across town, even one versed in moving in shadow such as I. I tried to question her about what she was doing, but she just avoided my questions saying she was very tired and that she would explain it to me soon.

Haze 23.

In the morning I awoke early, but Narissa was gone, with a note explaining she was ‘sorry’ but to help myself to the pantry, which I did, and slipped out onto the rooftop and headed out across the city.

By the time I had bought new weapons and reached the Asticles manor my companions had already left, Perseus offered me the help of his servant, but I declined. I work better alone…

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Session 3
Excerpts from the journals of Eben the destroyer

…It is another day and as I woke in House Asticles to the powerful rays of the Athasian sun I felt alive again, fully rested and revitalised…

Haze 23.

It was a long day yesterday, our mysterious hunter-Thri Kreen nearly met his end at the wicked end of a House Stel thug. They’d been tracking us since the altercation at House M’Ke and ended up pouncing on the group as we followed the Half-Elf Veil agent to the Asticles estate. Luckily for us the veil agent was able to heal him. Her abilities are like nothing I have seen before, and seem to be enhanced by a strange amulet she carries which at dinner she and Perseus seemed reluctant to talk about. They talked about ancient relics of worship from a eons ago, but I lost interest in such tales when I was a child. In this world the only things you can rely on are your wits and your axe, which reminds me I need to pick up a spare axe too as yesterday I shattered one on the skull of a Stel thug. A shame to waste such craftmanship on that Kank scum, but it was either him or me, and well, I won of course.

As we tracked closer to the manor we had another ambush, but this time from above, and none other than a small squadron of Aarakocra?! Flying high they were able to get the drop on some of us but they seemed only to be interested in Shalaya, the veil agent. As the wicked birds swooped and clawed and distracted us, the others tried to carry Shalyia away, kicking and screaming. Some well placed shots from the Templar and the Elf soon put a stop to that and with their advantage gone the rest of them went down fairly easy. It was unfortunate for them of course as it appeared from the bodies that they were but hapless pawns of the cult, and it seems had been sent to retrieve this girl. I expect they hadn’t counted on meeting such strong opposition!

At the Asticles manor we were greeted by a dwarf servant by the name of Deacon. Taken into the typically grand reception of a noble house we were offered a fine wine and moments later introduced to Perseus, son of Agis of Asticles. The wine was too fancy for my taste, but it seemed to have a remarkable aroma and effect that refreshed our weary bodies. Shalaya explained how we had helped her and we explained we’d been hired by M’Ke to find out about the recent attack on their warehouse. Believing (at least for now) that we were relatively safe and in the presence of someone we could trust we traded the knowledge we had so far gained. As we talked about our discoveries of the cult symbols and Yarnath Perseus confided that he believed the cult are looking for a temple hidden under Try which could help them to recover the parts of the crown of silt, which in turn would give them the power to control the dust kraken. It all sounds a bit far fetched, but there are enough people interested in this to make it worth all our whiles, even if at the end we just sell it to the highest bidder!

Perseus believed that a noble house has been helping the cult since their arrival in Tyr and that also they may have Abram at this moment. His agents and men had been tracking their movements in the city and narrowed down the two possible locations of the cultist’s lair. He then asked us to help him for a rather modest fee of 500gp plus the favour of the house to find out if it was Ur-Zola (matriarchal, based just outside city, iron mine interest) or Stigius (old house, thought abandoned but mansion now showing signs of life). We decided to target U-Zola first. Rather than leave right away we decided to indulge in the hospitality offered us at the Asticles house and bathed and drank our fill until it was time to retire. It has been a while since I have enjoyed such luxury, and something I feel like I could get used to on regularity.

And now to the task at hand as we woke and were greeted by the servants of Asticles manor who had already returned bearing fresh supplies and good quality weapons. We ate once more with Perseus who offered us his servant to take us to a secret tunnel exit out of Tyr which would take us as close as possible to the Ur-Zola mansion. Shalaya had also imbued some fruits and herbs with healing qualities which we gratefully took and so said our farewells and headed off.

Outside the mansion there was a small commotion of nobles who were debating the state of Tyr. As we negotiated the crowd the clumsy Elf fell over (he maintains he was pushed) into a fruit stand owned by the noble house of Minthur. Vernassi, arrogant snob that he is, protested that the Elf had offended his honour and ruined the days trade, demanding recompense. It was about to get ugly, but the Templar Abdiel proved his loyalty and authority by talking down the noble and promising the Elf would get a stern hiding and that Vernassi would be compensated through the appropriate channels… City bureaucracy is one thing I care little of, but in this instance words did more than any blade could, and so quickly we went on our way. Redgar the Psion maintains he saw a Mul disappear into the crowd after the elf was pushed, but of course it’s all too easy to blame the Mul.

The dwarf led onwards to the secret exit from the city, and although the way was tense through a section of under Tyr as we could hear screams of unknown horrors in the distance we made it through without incident and emerged in a field near the Ur-Zola compound. The place was guarded (12 men) and a few slaves tended the fields. Approaching the walls we had to silence some slaves, a pity, but necessary for us to remain undetected. Reaching the north side of the compound we spied a basement entrance and as our psion distracted the guards on the battlements with his powers we rushed one by one towards the entrance. No sooner had we entered we were confronted by a few guards in the basement, we silenced them quickly and now wait to see if more will follow…

Redgar seems to be complaining of feeling a slight pressure on his head, as if someone or something was trying to invade his mind. I think perhaps he has over exerted himself, but even so, I wonder what we have walked into…

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Session 2

…The dust from the riots had settled momentarily and the guards had left, leaving us to ponder our next move. Just as we had resolved to return to House M’Ke and report on our progress we were stopped by a Templar, the famous Banther, Lord of the Games. Impressed by our martial prowess he offered us a job assisting in the search for and capture of the remaining escaped slaves running riot in the city. Seeing the unhappy looks upon many of our faces, and the urgency of our own agenda, our own Templar Abdiel declined for us all.

Rushing through the streets and back to our employers we briefed the House M’Ke Merchant, Helandrez, about what we had found: the slaughtered guards, the rifled papers, the cult symbol, the undead, the damaged ledger and the tunnel beneath the warehouse. Helandrez carefully checked his own copy of the ledger, finding the missing page contained little of interest (mostly standard trade goods), except for the presence of two passengers (which was against the rules of the house, meaning the caravan master would have taken a bribe). The first passenger was a old man called Abram Verath, the second a girl called Shalaya, both of Raam. The caravan master’s name was Innex Lauros. According to the records, the passengers disembarked before the caravan arrived in Tyr (presumably so they could slip in relatively unnoticed) so we resolved that the Caravan Master would be a good person to speak to next. However, as per our luck the Caravan Master is nowhere to be seen and hasn’t been seen for a couple of days. He is a known frequenter of the local bars and Inns in the area though, so if we’re lucky we might find him under a table, sleeping off a broy induced hangover, but that might just be too much to ask for.

Just as we learned all this we heard a commotion from the main entrance, a group of House Stel thugs burst in and accused Helandrez of spreading false rumours of their attack on the warehouse. Harsh words were exchanged between Helandrez, the Stel thug Gorek and then several of us at Gorek. They left while issuing the threat that they would return the next day to seek retribution for the insult unless there was tangible proof of who the real attackers were. The Stel’s seemed to be under the impression that M’Ke had faked the whole thing to try to smear their reputation. I know M’ke and this is not their handiwork, and I will be here when they return and I vow that if a fight is what he wants his blood will stain my axe and his entrails will be fed to the ravenous halfling! With time now striving against us we headed out towards the Golden Inix Inn on Caravan way to see if we could track down the caravan master.

We left House M’Ke and were once again stopped by a stranger in the shadows (what is it with all these shady characters we keep meeting?) who claimed to be called “The Man with Emerald Eyes” (which he did indeed posess) and an agent for House Vorden. He told us his house believed M’Ke to be in league with the Veiled Alliance and offered us money or favours in exchange for information. We agreed to meet him in Sculptors Square tomorrow night (some of us grudgingly, some of us for the money and others clearly recognising the benefits of House Vorden owing us a favour) opposite Karlen’s eye.

Arriving at the Golden Inix inn we entered, passing the sturdy Goliath guard and were met by the gentle female half-elf owner Milla who served us broy, water and wine (depending on our taste). She knows Innex, he was a regular but he hadn’t returned after last night, when he had been in and was looking troubled. She directed us to a drinking companion of his called Berin who said Innex had told him that he was being followed by several hooded men whom he had also seen hanging around his caravan only the other day after Innex had arrived in Tyr. We found out Innex lived in the Warrens and agreed to set off for the address. Before we left the Golden Inix we were approached by a shady-looking drunk, he said he was called Rowan and was a member of the Toothcutters Gang and he wanted us to convince Milla to sell him the inn, we declined as we’ve already dealt with enough scum this day and I would be more inclined to beat him senseless than help him.

Arriving in the Warrens we headed for Innex’s house, once there we found a Thri-Kreen called Chuck who claimed to be hunting this man too, looking for a bounty connected to Innex which, once he had described what he was after turned out to be the same two characters we were looking for too (These two have definitely made an impression in Tyr already). After some discussion with it (either due to language difficulties or because it’s not too bright) we agreed to work together to find him and the mysterious caravan passengers (or “hunt” as the Thri-Kreen said). The front door we noticed was branded with a cult symbol painted onto it but faded so that it was barely visible. Cautiously we looked inside and saw that it appeared to have been crudely searched or either that Innex was an extremely messy person. Then the Elf heard a moan from behind the closed door at the rear of the house. After our last experience with the warehouse we expected trouble, but beyond instead lay a slumped Innex; mumbling incoherently while scratching the image of the cult symbol on the table in front of him. He was delirious and needed the attention in one more skilled in the matters of recovery, so We wrapped him in a floor rug and returned to House M’Ke for assistance. Upon returning to the M’ke house the Halfling surprised us all by being more than capable as a healer and was able to bring M’ke back to semi consciousness. Innex rambled and ranted about the “Master of the Silt” who was “coming” but was otherwise insensible. As we sat watch over Innex, Abdiel travelled to the temple district and the great libraries there. Consulting ancient texts he learned of an old fable of a Dust Kraken, a powerful creature controlled by a Sorcerer through a magical crown who once terrorised the Silt sea hundreds of years ago. So great was the threat is presented to Tyr that the Dragon of Tyr intervened, the beast and Sorcerer were vanquished and the crown sundered into many parts, now lost and until now, forgotten. Abdiel returned and shared this with us.

Left without any further leads we decided to head back to the warehouse and tackle the tunnel. Before we had walked much further than a few yards a hooded half-elf stepped from the shadows and asked us in a very coded way if we would like to donate some money to the poor of Tyr. Perplexed, we wanted to continue on our way, but she was quite insistent, urging us to follow her. On Abdiels lead we cautiously followed behind, wary of ambush, but it was as we walked that she instead warned us we were being followed (a check revealed this to be true) and that she knew of a safe place where we could go. She led us through the alleyways to a house in a strange back alley. Not knowing if we were walking into a trap we continued, but something about her felt reassuringly truthful for once, and once inside she revealed herself as Shalaya, the daughter of Abram! It seems they are both members of the Veiled Alliance and that they had fled Raam because they had been opposing the Cult of Silt there and thought Tyr to be a relatively safe haven in comparison. They had not counted on the cult following them here as they believed they had no way to travel such a great distance, but obviously they have found a way which concerns her greatly. They have friends in the Asticles noble household here in Tyr and this is where she was headed now as her father and she were separated from each other between the city gates and the house an evening ago and he was now missing. She was not able to tell us who the men following us were however, other that they were thieves. It is Shalayas belief that the plight of herself and her father and the attacks on house M’ke are linked and she suggested that we ally forces for now as we both seem to want the same things and if we can track down her father she says he would surely be able to help sort the mess out with House Stel without bloodshed. She suggested that we might accompany her to the Asticles mansion and consult with the son of Agis of Asticles, Perseus, on helping to track down Abram, as she seemed to think he might know something of the activities of the cult in Tyr.

We thanked her and decided to resume our journey back to the warehouse, and rather than slink about the shadows like cowards we would confront our enemies head on if they dared. Almost immediately we had departed the safehouse a fight ensued with the thugs who had been trailing us. They revealed themselves to be under the employ of House Stel, and that this would be a “message” from them that our meddling in the business of the merchant houses was not appreciated. A desperate fight ensued, as we faced well trained opponents who fought a tough battle but ultimately fell to our combined efforts of blade, psionics and hails of arrows from the elf. Shalaya also proved herself a capable healer, helping us both during the fight and healing the injured afterwards.

Leaving the scene as quickly we gathered what useful supplies we could from the bodies and continued on our way, ever wary of who else might be out there in the city but emboldened by our success…

We stood there in the alley, the bodies of our murdered enemies around us, we gathered their weapons and valuables as rightful spoils of battle and decided what to do next.

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Session 1

As the blistering sun crept its way up the horizon, a new day in Tyr began with all haste. It is the month of Haze, just past the hottest month of the year, but if you are out in the heat it matters not for only madmen and slaves choose to remain exposed in these hottest of months. The slaves working on the ziggurat toil and die on a daily basis. Perhaps they had loved ones once that would shed a tear for their loss, but now this is all that many in the city know as life, and will be for as long as the mighty Kalak chooses to make it so.

All stories have a beginning, and this is one such beginning for the Mul barbarian named Eben. We begin his tale on the 22nd day of Haze, as he joins 5 others of vastly different backgrounds and aims, to embark on a new venture with the troubled House M’ke

The following is an excerpt from the chronicles of Eben the conqueror…

A new endeavour.

Summoned in response to a House M’Ke request I travelled to the lavish offices of House M’ke. There Helandrez, a merchant of the house commissioned myself and 5 others to find evidence of a suspected House Stel attacks on House M’Ke.

My companions are an untrustworthy elf ranger, a tiefling who claims to be a Templar of Tyr (but who trust’s a tiefling’s word), a half elf who claims to be a minstrel and a pathetic burnt man. House M’Ke’s poor fortune clearly attracts the scavengers and detritus of the city.

We were led by the merchant’s verminous half-wit Halfling assistant to a House M’Ke warehouse which had been sealed since a recent attack. We entered and found guard animals and guards slain by scimitar (House Stel’s favoured weapon) and fire magic as well as papers strewn about. The invaders were clearly searching for something. We probed deeper into the warehouse, seeing the deal of an old cult upon the floor and then hearing a rapping at a cellar door.

I attempted to proceed cautiously as per training, wary of a clear threat but the foolhardy elf pressed past and threw open the door. More than half a dozen undead spewed forth and attacked us. A battle ensued. While the elf fled like a coward at first he proved his mettle in the combat that followed, as did the rogue, psionicist and templar. The undead were foul decayed Silt Zombies! I had only heard talk of such hideous defilements of human flesh, to see one in the ‘flesh’ so to speak was unnerving to say the least. The poor Psion Redgar at one point had one of the beasts at his neck, taking a chunk out of his already badly burnt skin! I shall have to keep an eye on him for signs of infection…

We descended into the depths of the cellar and found another looted record store, between myself and the burned man Redgar we found an underground tunnel, carved by claws. Above ground we found evidence that a lich lord of the Tablelands was linked to the undead (his sign was on their hands). The so-called Templar seemed to know much of this creature. Yarnath is its name, and he rides the Tablelands in a giant animated undead fortress called ‘slither’. He can slide back to whatever stone he crawled out from under for all I care. Quite why these minions were under the control of another power we have yet to discover.

We heard a horn sounding outside, warning the city that an important announcement was about to be made, taking as evidence the torn papers and a marked hand of a former guard with us. We proceeded to the city square and heard the King’s Templar Tithian announce that a day of games would be held to celebrate the hard work of the people on the pyramid. They cheered. Then Tithian announced that the slaves would be taken from the iron mines and put to work on the pyramid. This pleased less people and the merchants the least. We spotted a small group of hooded figures in the crowd acting suspiciously. Within moments these figures let loose a series of explosive objects against the nearby guards and chaos ensued.

We were caught between some panicked slaves and guards as the rest of the crowd either tried to flee or contribute to the chaos. Initially our attempts to talk our way out came to no avail. Eventually between the half-elf asserting his apparent authority and The tiefling announcing himself as a Templar the slaves realise we do not side with their kind. We fought and they died, a fitting end for the rebellious and the weak. The guards had accepted us as allies or at least not enemies and as we caught our breath the remaining slave was taken off to a fate probably far worse than that of his now dead companions.

As the sun begins to creep above our heads its time to move, lest we get caught in another crossfire…

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Prelude
The trouble with House Stel

Tensions between House Stel and House M’Ke have been at an all-time high of late due to House Stel taking over more and more of the warehouses just off Iron Square to provide ‘storage space’ for the ever increasing demand of slaves for the Ziggurat. The space has been taken mainly from the smaller merchant houses by the use of force and bullying tactics. They have been forcing them to sell up by sending round groups of hired ‘thugs’ armed with their trademark scimitars in increasing regularity asking for ‘protection’ money else ‘bad things’ happen, which materialises usually with raids or assassinations of house members eventually scaring the house into submission. Even the other large houses Inika and Wavir who normally operate at a similar level to Stel, are feeling the pressure as the wealth and presence of House Stel increases. As long as there is a continued demand for slaves, Stel flourishes. House Ianto and House Vordon are both doing well from slaves but their tactics of expansion have been much less violent (but equally as successful some say).

The latest event in the conflict is that just over a day ago there was a brutal attack on one of House M’Ke’s store houses in the merchant district just off Iron Square. The attack was said to be the most gruesome yet and the M’Ke members who have seen the scene have been said to have been horrified by the barbaric brutality of the murders. House Stel are heavily suspected of being involved, due to hallmarks of their handiwork found at the scene such as the Scimitar cuts and beheading of the bodies, but so far they have denied all involvement.

House M’Ke have sent several messengers out into the cities inns and shadier spots looking for mercenaries and investigators. They want to keep this to themselves without alerting the authorities for as merchants they operate outside the realms of the laws of one city state, so they have been very selective, trying to find those individuals who have very little connections within the city, have worked with M’Ke in the past or who are relatively new to Tyr. Among those who answered the advertisement are 6 warriors whom M’Ke have settled on due to their diversity and mix of skills that would perfectly compliment their interests.

Abdiel – Tiefling Templar with a thirst for adventure is aware of the power of ‘favours’ in the city. You scratch a merchant houses back, they will return the favour, for if not now but in the near future, he will need allies.

‘Chuck’ – The Thri-Kreen was seen as a ‘wild-card’ by the M’Ke household. A bounty hunter could be very useful if it came to tracking assassins from a rival house and his neutrality was seen as a bonus.

Eben – An ex soldier-slave who, through the Scarlet helms has worked with M’Ke in the past guarding one of their many caravans of nuts and spices from Raam to Tyr under the sponsorship of House Atrius, whom although he still has good relations with them they have no ownership of him any more.

Naraaku M’Ke were hesitant about letting an ‘Elf’ anywhere near their warehouses and half suspected that Elves were to blame for the entire incident, but this one was different. Nearly all the Elves they had encountered before were mere traders, but this one had something darker about him that they liked and was very interested when the words ‘House Stel’ were mentioned as a possible connection to this attack.

Redgar – Redgar has done some work for M’Ke since coming to Tyr and has the majority of (at least the low ranking) household members absolutely convinced of his advanced telepathic ability and immediately sought him out for this mission, knowing that although he did not work cheap, he would prove to be a valuable asset.

Solzak – With a reputation for discretion and efficiency, he came as a name recommended and feared by all who knew of his exploits. Quite why he was involving himself in the petty squabbles of merchants instead of his usual more lofty political aims was a mystery to them, but they would not question his willingness to see that their sentence would be carried out (for a price of course).

The six looked warily over each other, after only brief introductions (or what information they chose to tell one another) they were led by the Mul Slave Durr-Gan into the chamber of Helandrez, master of House M’Ke

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