“South fled the trodden and vanquished,
with darkness behind, with warmness and sunlight ahead.
A fortress they raised on the lowlands, a wonder of stones,
on the Guardian’s bones, storing the relics of Symbar.
But blighted and torn were their bodies.
The sins of the fathers echoed in flesh,
and darkness devoured them all.”
Act 1: Fire over Yndaros
The tablet from Karvosti reveals the following:
“When Lindaros had grown strong and powerful, a military force was sent back to the ‘crushed heart of the empire’ to retrieve the remains of ‘the Guardian’s Favored, the lord of lords’.
The symbol known to represent ‘Symbar’ seems to be referring to the emperor as well as the place from which his remains were taken – as if the city and the person were both named Symbar.
The remains, and the belongings/treasures which had been buried with them, were brought to ‘the people’s new home’ (presumably Lindaros) to be ‘sent out on the Sea of Eternity’.”
The sentence is followed by possibly damaged or crudely drawn symbols: “from the larders/bards bloom/womb to where the deer/it of Symbar was effect/bent to the time/as text/nest.”
At the Victory Vault in Yndaros, you meet with someone who may have information about the underground ruins from the days of Lindaros.
- For the Lindarians, underground construction was apparently as natural as raising structures on the surface – as a result, Yndaros rests upon a subterranean maze of ruins, many of which are both grand and well-preserved.
- Ordo Magica is currently conducting two major excavations: one beneath Old Kadizar and one on the fields just south of the palace. Rumor has it that another excavation is also underway in the Palace District itself, but this is not something that I can confirm.
- In addition, there are several people digging on their own initiative, often starting out in their cellars. Some do so in the hope of finding valuable objects, while others just want more space or seek to satisfy their curiosity.
- And then there are the smuggling routes – criminals use these passageways through the ruins of Lindaros to avoid having to transport sensitive goods (or people) right in front of the City Watch. Some say that the smuggling tunnels extend like a vast spider web, probably starting at the cargo docks.
- Master Ma…
But the meeting is cut short as flaming meteors come crashing down over Yndaros.
You rush to the meteor site and witness the destruction of the Cathedral of Martyrs. There you face a number of challenges.
You do battle with fire-possessed citizens. In the chaos, a nearby man, also fighting, tells you to knock them out instead of killing them.
Afterwards you witness the death of Grand Master Seldonio as he is engaged in battle with a sword-wielding giant.
Hariatma holds the grandmaster in her arms as he manages to wheeze a few last words before closing his eyes forever:
“The prisoner, you must… lord, he is free. You… The eternal night, night, ni–”
“Artel, it was Artel. His revenge.”
“Promise me, find them, stop them. Promise!”
“My fault. My… faaault…”
Hearing a plea for help, you pull a badly injured Duchess Esmerelda from the crumbling wreckage of the Cathedral.
As you exit the Cathedral, more giants have appeared from a nearby fissure in the ground. They have a brief look around, but do not get far before Pansar Captain Livia Arobel and her troops arrive. The Captain acts as expected, rushing toward the threatening giants in a thundering charge. One of Livia’s soldiers is killed instantly by one of the giants as seven burning humans charge toward the Pansars from behind!
Alderan protects the Duchess as the rest of you protect the Pansars from an attack from the rear.
Suddenly a thunderous roar rises over the crash site, in a deep voice. The sound makes the giants stop fighting.
A second shout, this time in broken Ambrian, causes the Pansars to react: “Lower weapons!” Ripe, the Eternal Executioner of Yndaros, emerges through a drift of fog and smoke while he finishes the remaining fire beings.
He then walks up to the others, nods to the giant warriors and turns to Livia Arobel, saying: “Leave to me. They brothers. Not fight.”
And so, a soothing calm sweeps over the disaster. The Pansar captain assumes command, ordering incoming reinforcements to form a perimeter around the crash site and stay clear of the ruins.
The Duchess calls you “her heroes,” and praises you. Finally, she asks you to investigate why an attempt was made on her life. She doesn’t trust the “fools of the City Watch” nor the “ambitious nobles of the Royal Sekretorium, whose conclusions are always influenced by politics and self-interest.”
- I was at the cathedral to rehearse my upcoming wedding.
- The event was supposed to be conducted by the First Father, but my sister called Jeseebegai and First Theurg Peonio to an emergency meeting at the palace. Consequently, the Queen was not present, though she was meant to be.
- The rehearsal was instead held by an ordinary liturg. I don’t remember his name, but he was apparently in charge of the practical arrangements.
- Other participants were my husband-to-be, Thabor; mine and Thabor’s bodyguards (four honor guards); and Grand Master Seldonio who, along with Korinthia and the First Father, was supposed to participate as a ceremonial witness.
- There were also a couple of low-ranking priests, as well as the Cathedral Manager and his two aides. Exactly what roles they would play in the wedding are unclear to me, but I assume that they were to assist the liturg with the practical arrangements. Twelve people, myself excluded.
- I cannot recall anything suspicious happening during the rehearsal, and remember nothing of the attack itself, other than the bang, the light, the pain and terror.
In a teary-eyed plea she says: “Please, I beg you; help me figure out what happened. You saved my life, but someone tried to kill me. Someone who killed my future husband and ruined what would have been the most important day of my life. Please, find out why I fell victim to such a fate.”
Before entering the crater inside the Cathedral, you discover the following:
- You find a member of one of the Noble houses of Ambria; Lugander Galeia. Alderan saw him at the Queen’s Legation on Karvosti. Searching his clothes you find a key with the letter X on it.
- A female assistant of the Liturg appears to have been moved. On her body you find a long thin dagger with an ornamented handle, and hidden in one of her boots is a leather pouch containing four shiny gold coins.
- The coins bear no mint marks whatsoever. They are probably worth about 30 thaler a piece.
- The dagger’s ornamentation on the button on its hilt is decorated with a golden bird of prey which seems to be diving. You recognize the hawk as the Vearra family sigil.
- One of the Cathedral Manager’s two aides has an Assassin’s Blade hidden between the man’s shoulder blades and a garrote sewn into the right arm of his coat.
As you enter the tunnel five meters down in the crater, Lomander feels that powerful protective mystical energies have recently been dispelled from the area.
Leaving the crater and the Cathedral, Alderan follows some tracks outside. You come upon the elven envoy Elori, who aided you against the fiery beings. He explains:
- It would take exceptionally powerful magic to tear the sky asunder, and more powerful still to direct its fragments toward a specific target.
- Such extraordinary magic torments creation, provoking its wrath and vengeance. It can be seen at the crash site; it is probably even worse at the place where the assailants performed their destructive deed.
- The power required to achieve the effect and endure the consequences can hardly be carried by a single soul, unless it is of an eternal or already corrupted nature.
- This incident will surely lead to further violence directed at groups which are being portrayed as enemies of the Ambrian realm – barbarians in general, the witches in particular, and not least the elves of Davokar.
Elori leaves you as twenty pansars enter the area with First Theurg Peonio in the middle, protected by four theurgs and a blessed shield.
You follow the tracks to two burned bodies. They are dressed as ordinary townsfolk, but stand out by lying on top of the rubble and, on closer inspection, by wearing the medallions of Ordo Magica (adept) in chains around their necks. One of them carries a rolled-up letter in a belt bag underneath his scorched clothes. The note reads:
Hariatma notices that the crumpled paper is of high quality; a single sheet probably costs more than most Ambrians make in a week. The letter also reveals a watermark; a diving bird of prey. The sigil of House Vearra.
Act 2: Fallen Stars
You head to Fina’s Bakery in the Bohemian Quarter. Along the way you hear a town crier yell: “Extra, extra! Yndaros in a state of emergency; curfew in force between midnight and the fifth glass of the morning; all violations to be punished severely.”
At Fina’s Bakery you question the goblin Buhuluk.
- I went down to get a bag of flour when the backdoor burst open and two of “the owner’s henchmen” stepped inside.
- I’m terrified of the owner, so I dove down behind the flour bags.
- The owner is a dwarf, but I don’t know his name or which family he belongs to.
- It was not long before more company arrived. I did not see anything, but I heard them.
- They talked about hiding a prisoner, and which route to take to “Plob 17.” I have no idea what Plob 17 is, but it was mentioned several times.
- They also mentioned the Steam Bath by the harbor.
At the Steam Bath, you get a hot bath for 1 thaler each. You won’t pay 10 thaler to see the manager.
You return to the Cathedral of Martyrs, but are not allowed through. As many as 50 giants are now standing near the fissure.
You decide to investigate Fina’s Bakery once more and visit the owners home upstairs. The dwarven Patriarch Pietero lives there in a luxurious apartment. It is empty, and it appears that the owner has grabbed all valuables and left in a hurry.
It’s late afternoon now as you pay 10 thaler to a staff member at the Steam Bath to see its manager, the changeling Grimorio Abramelin. His office is complete with a steaming hot pool, a desk nook, and four divans where he receives his guests.
Regardless of your payment of 10 thaler, Grimorio says that he neither wants to nor has to answer your questions; however, when you ask him about Plob 17, he makes you an offer: “You look capable; I could use your help with a small job, something my… employees have a hard time handling…”
In short: if you grant him a favor, he agrees to answer one question. One!
The favor is to bring back a small wooden crate containing eight small flasks from a storehouse near the harbor, and burn the building down. You agree to the task.
Inside are five guards demanding you leave. You don’t. It’s a tough fight against stilletos and cheap tricks, but you overcome them. However, one guard manages to escape.
Grimorio is pleased and gives you the following information:
- “Plob” is what the dwarves call the tunnels (or roofed alleys) running through the buildings, thus linking the streets, in New Town.
- It was the dwarves who numbered the Plobs, in the order in which they were built.
- He unrolls a map of Yndaros on his desk and points out where you can find number 17.
So the tunnel mentioned by the dwarves at Fina’s Bakery turns out to be located deep within New Town, near the riverbank. There you face the challenge of entering Plob 17 as it is heavily guarded by over ten dwarves, but with no weapons. Strange right ?
You enter Plob 17 from the roof without making too much noise, thanks to the cunning and savvy of Iqubus.
At the foot of the stairway in the sunlit courtyard is an iron-clad oak door with two lock casings. Behind it is a cellar. It contains ten wooden crates stacked on top of each other, roughly two meters wide and half as tall and deep. An emblem has been burnt into the rough wood – a grinning skull with two daggers through the cranium.
The crates contain tained dirt. Alderan touches it and feels a strange tingling on his skin. He is quick to wash as much of it off as he can.
One of the other passages down reveals another locked door. The lock is no problem for Iqubus, but the door is stuck and requires more strength to open. Daimei steps in. Behind the door you find a passage down and a tripwire. A rope ladder leads to a demarcated basement complex roughly four meters below the surface. However, Alderan manages to scrape his greatsword against the door frame just when everything was going so well and the dwarven guards are alerted to your presence.
You try and bar the door, but instead make a run for it and dive down the ladder. Alderan makes a quick decision to pull the rope ladder down with you.
Scouting ahead Iqubus finds your target; a large vault. Three dwarves can be seen and the voices of two women can be heard.
There is little furniture, other than the stool on which a prisoner is sitting, a table with chairs by the entrance, and a tool bench which reveals the main purpose of the chamber – pliers, struts, forks, knives, clamps and other instruments. Probably when dealing with reluctant sources of information.
Two female order adepts wearing simple, dark blue order cloaks are here. Mentalists! They adopt a defiantly arrogant attitude as they prepare to toy with you on the battlefield.
The three unarmed dwarves seem less of a threat – but you are sorely mistaken…
An extremely tough fight ensues where the odds very quickly shifts out of your favor as Alderan’s will is bent and Lomander is wrestled and struck down by one of the dwarves. By sheer will and a little luck you manage to turn the fight around. Iqubus dodges most of the mystics magic while Daimei effectively casts brimstone cascade on the dwarves. In the end the enemy surrenders; one order adept and a dwarf.
While keeping your eyes on the two remaining enemies you quickly steal a glance towards the prisoner at the end of the room, who watches you from deep within his hood. He rises on shaky legs, hands tied behind his back.
Lomander starts questioning him, but he interrupts with: “What do you want with me?” He speaks in a strange dialect, or rather an accent, as if Ambrian is not his mother tongue. He continues: “We can talk, but not here. We must go to a secure location, shielded from eyes, ears, and mystical perception. You and me, no one else. Now!”
You notice that where the prisoner was sitting is a Magic Circle.
Finding a trapdoor to the underworld you decide that going further down is preferable to meeting more of the highly battletrained dwarves. But maybe better the devil you know…
You bring the one surviving Ordo Magic adept Melea with you along with the other prisoner, who still hasn’t spoken much.
While trying to get some rest below, you question Melea, who is still upset that you killed her friend and colleague Lorenda:
- Until three months ago, we were working as teachers at Ordo Magica, but were also part of a group that met at night to plan an expedition into the depths of Davokar, preferably to the city of Symbar itself if we could find it.
- We used to meet at a tavern called the Mystic’s Apprentice in the Temple District, and it was there that our current master found us. He knew a lot about Symbarian history and the dangers of Davokar, and quickly became a frequent guest at our table.
- Once he had gained our trust, he introduced himself as Artel and offered to take us under his wing, as a teacher and guide in our search for the heart of Davokar.
- He did not answer questions about himself or his past, but we assumed that he really was the arch mage who crushed the Dark Lords during the battle of Haaras, but was sentenced to death as the side-effects affected a large number of nobles. Apparently, the sentence was never carried out.
- Artel was often absent for long periods of time, and regarding the events of today, we did not know exactly what he was planning; only that we would gather at a certain place, ready to perform a number of predetermined tasks.
- We do not know who the prisoner is, only that he is crucial in our search for Symbar.
- Over the past month, the Master has on several occasions said that we will soon be leaving Ambria; that he will soon know the way to Symbar.
You barely escape with your lives from the underworld as you are chased by darklings through the tunnels beneath the city.
Severely wounded in battle and corrupted from using too much magic and elixirs, you come upon a dwarf behind a small portcullis.
He agrees to let you through, but you must accept a coin of agreement first. Alderan takes it.
After a long walk through the sewers you are led up into an extravagant mansion belonging to the dwarven Patriarch, Artek Valotzar. He agrees to let you rest, eat and have a bath before letting you go on your way. He is not late to mention that the coin you received is a bloodcoin. The meaning is not lost on you. On one side is a handshake, on the other a noose.
He mentions that he heard about some troubles with the Vanoviz family in New Town. Hired muscle, without his knowledge. The family head being Pietero Vanoviz.
While taking a much needed bath, Melea escapes captivity. You search for her near the docks of Yndaros and in Beren’s Berth but to no avail.
Instead you decide to question your mysterious prisoner. After setting up the ritual Sanctifying Rite, he has the following to say:
- My name is Kalthar, but you will probably know me better as the Dark Lord, head of the Order of Dakothnic and ultimately responsible for the destruction of Lyastra.
- I got to know Korinthia during her imprisonment; after she was freed, I offered to serve as her adviser and have been locked up ever since, first in Kandoria, then in the cell below the cathedral where I was taken in year 8, according to your new calendar.
- I hope to stop Korinthia from repeating my own calamitous mistakes; get her to recognize and accept the omnipotence of Creation and learn to live in harmony with its laws.
- I am prepared to help capture the person behind the attack, but in order to do so, you must tell me more about what happened. You must also keep me safe in the meantime, and then return me to my prison cell – I am not done speaking with Korinthia.
He asks you about the ritual used on the Cathedral of Martyrs and says:
- It is as I feared: the person behind the attack has reawakened ceremonial magic, clearly for the purpose of shattering the protection around my prison, and possibly to kill the Ambrian monarch.
- I can disclose that both sides used ceremonial magic during the Great War, and that it always came with terrible side-effects. That is all I will say about it; knowledge is a weapon that must be handled carefully.
- You are clearly looking for a group of humans, at least one of which is a powerful/well-trained mystic.
When asked about “Creation” he asks if you have heard of Aroaleta, a barbarian witch. She describes the principles of the world:
”… and at the dawn of days was Wyrhta, the power that creates.
Where Nothing had reigned supreme, Wyrhta gave life to All;
shaped here and there, spawned now and then,
formed the one and in chorus the other.
And where attraction arose,
the wild thrived and multiplied …
… but out of the untamed Wielda appeared, the power that rules:
the power of willful violence, that bends here and there,
that curves now and then according to ideals and cravings;
that harvests the one and rejects the other.
With time, Wielda’s appetite grew,
and the birth was inevitable …
… because violence begets hate begets Wratha, the power that reacts.
Born of Wielda’s hunger for Wyrhta’s design, Wratha is everywhere and nowhere,
always close where mother meets mother,
always mounting in strength with the force of the violence.
The arrival of the black fruit is fated,
as inescapable as terrible …
… and it happens, has happened, will happen again,
that Wratha grows boundless, furious, blind in her hunger.
It happens that the blackness grows flesh and spirit and the sharpest of claws,
that the fruit sheds seeds that poison the first,
in the aim to suppress the second.
Then dies All…”
You return to your rooms at Zoltar’s Inn just before curfew. During the night someone sets fire to the inn. You manage to escape with a few burns. Guardsmen escort the surviving guests to another inn nearby.
The next morning you are stopped by some veterans recruited as city watchmen. They demand you follow them to Commander Alvo Steelneck as you were seen entering the Cathedral yesterday.
On the way to the City Watch HQ you hear a town crier:
“Greater powers for the City Watch; individual watchmen must be obeyed; the state of emergency grants them impunity for actions performed in the line of duty.”
After the Commander is done interrogating all of you, you are let go, but are told not to interfere with the investigation.
More town criers yell news as you walk through the city:
“Zoltar’s Inn and the Depth of the Titans in flames; all guests cut down before the fire; perpetrators still unknown, but presumed to be troubled citizens.”
“The elves’ Legation attacked; several dead; Envoy Elori missing; Black Cloaks responsible; witnesses accuse the Whip of Prios.”
You return Kalthar to the queen. You also send a message to Esmerelda.
With no response from either you decide to split up. Lomander goes to the refugee camp and are beset upon five thugs. He miraculously fend them off. He also learns that the theurg Ladisa and liturg Arieno and their families are killed. And Algon, also called Little Sarvola has been burned.
Hariatma searches the Library of Anearia and discovers some secret information.
Alderan is at the the Pansar headquarters; the Fortress Doudram.
Iqubus asks around at the Mystic’s Apprentice where Melea and company met with Artel.
At the triple tower of Ordo Magica, Daimei learns that a ritual expert, Farvano Kaldel, is coming to the city, but that he would probably prefer to stay in the outskirts.
Some commotion at the Vearra residence in the temple district quarter gets your attention. When you get there a neighbour says:
- My name is Lomunda, and like the rest of the gathering, I am a neighbor and close friend of the Count and Countess.
- Our worries have nothing to do with the Cathedral of Martyrs, but concern a homing pigeon that crashed to its death a couple of hundred meters from there, right in front of two youngsters living in the area. The rumor spread like wildfire
- I have not seen it, but the pigeon itself was said to be grotesque – with its head feathers replaced by pointy horns, puss-filled boils on its lower body, and eyes as black as tar.
- The message read something like this: “Help. The estate is under attack. Count Demetro lost in the Eternal Night. Everything is dying.”
- Both the pigeon and the message were handed over to the Countess.
- My husband sent his family away from the estate over a week ago, saying that they should be in Yndaros preparing the city residence for all the upcoming wedding festivities.
- Count Edogai Brigo arrived on the morning of the day when my son Heredo and I left the estate; he seemed stressed, only greeted them briefly and said that he would see them the day before the great ceremony.
- Lately, my husband has been gloomier and more withdrawn than usual, probably because of the wedding. It is no secret that he, like his ancestors, has always yearned for the throne; Korinthia’s alliance with the barbarians may be good for Ambria, but it is not something in which Demetro can rejoice.
- Furthermore, he has often been visited by an unpleasant fellow – aged, imposing, dressed in simple garb but with something wild in his eyes. I have not been allowed to meet him, but I assume that he has spent nights at the estate, maybe even lived there for a while. When I asked about him, Demetro referred to the man as “his friend and teacher.”
- The Countess concludes the conversations with a desperate plea: I have sent word to Colonel Esmunda at the Vearra Garrison, asking her to send troops to the estate, but almost the entire garrison has been dispatched north toward Karvosti; the ones who remain have no experience of true evil, true darkness. Please, save my husband. I’ll give you anything. Anything!
On your way to the Vearra estate you meet some people fleeing from the west – first lone riders, then wagons of farmers and landowners followed by servants (farmhands, housemaids, stable boys, and so on) on foot. One is willing to talk:
“It was a few hours after dawn; two of our horses had turned into monsters, real monsters. They started attacking the other horses, stomping, biting, tearing them apart. Our homestead borders on the Count’s seat; the paddock lies near the border wall. Something happened in there, something terrible; I didn’t get a good look before fleeing the place with my family, but it was black in there, the ground and the trees and everything, as if there had been a fire.”
Rescuing a small band of scouts from the nearby Vearra Garrison and a local group of farmers, stablehands and workers, you find the following clues. First among them is the tale of two servants hidden in the loft of the guest villa of the estate:
- That night, all servants were ordered to remain indoors in our quarters.
- Captain Adorna said that whatever happened, no matter what we heard, we must not go outside until the master of the estate said differently.
- We are certain we heard some kind of strange song just before dawn, but otherwise everything seemed normal.
- We thought it was all nonsense and decided to disobey their orders; we snuck off to the Little Villa to begin the monthly cleaning of its fourteen fireplaces. At the time we heard nothing but the whispering wind; all was still
- Suddenly the world shook, as if there was an earthquake, but only for a moment. We were both knocked off their feet, and it felt as though our bodies were on fire. We looked at each other – one with blackened, secreting mucosa; the other with hair falling off in chunks. Terrified, we immediately fled to the attic and pulled the ladder up behind us.
- We have been sitting here ever since. We did not see much, but we could hear – the monster dogs on the floor below, and the screams and roars from outside.
- We glimpsed the “Count’s guest” from afar, but we know nothing about him, as we only work at the Little Villa – where a group of barbarian warriors have resided instead. All we know is what other servants have told us: that he is “quiet, haughty, and has scary eyes.”
When you get closer to the ceremonial circle near the river, an eagle swoops down and transforms into the barbarian Keeper Miralba, a close confidant of the Huldra Yeleta of Karvosti. She was sent here by the Huldra because of a vision she had: “The plunging hawk, rips stones from the sky, hurls them at the sun below; darkness spreads from the hawk’s nest like a fever in the earth, in the flesh of the world.”
She describes the area of the ceremonial circle, before you are able to tamper with the evidence:
At the center of the circle lies a dead young bull, still chained to a massive metal ring which has been drilled into the rock. The bull exhibits no external injuries; it seems to have died quite suddenly.
Around it lie several dead bodies, nine to be exact. On closer inspection these turn out to belong to three factions – four have the tattoo of the Sovereign’s Oath on the inside of their wrists, two are wearing coats with the Brigo family crest, two have the symbol of House Vearra displayed on their tabards and shields. The ninth body (probably Count Edogai Brigo) stands out, due to the exclusive fur-trimmed coat with buckles of pure gold, the jeweled rings on his fingers, and the ornamented sword at his side.
An analysis of the various causes of death suggests that most were killed by massive claws, bites from bestial jaws or brutal blunt-force trauma – likely caused by one or more abominations. Two display deep stab wounds with burnt edges, the man with the golden buckles has had a sword thrust through his neck and one of the barbarians was burned to death. One can also note that everyone but the burned woman displays blight marks – glowing or bloody eyeballs, crater-like rashes, boils in the mouth, or similar.
You rescue the chambermaid Gringa from the dovecote. Scared and tearsridden she tells you:
- I work at the residence as a chambermaid, not for the Count, but for his guests. My job is to help them dress, do their hair, and make sure that they are comfortable.
- I have recently been attending to Count Edogai Brigo – usually a very pleasant man, but lately quite upset and irritable.
- Normally I sleep in the servants’ quarters in the residence’s basement, but since the Countess was sent to the city, all servants have had to sleep in the longhouse.
- There has been plenty of nighttime activity up there; the Counts have been preparing something, maybe together with the guest at the cottage and possibly the barbarians who Count Demetro has kept hidden in the Little Villa for more than six moons.
- Curious as I am, I have tried to figure out what is going on, but the Counts and their guests have been careful not to discuss it in the presence of us servants, and I have not found anything written down, either in Demetro’s or Edogai’s chambers.
- Maybe the guest at the cottage, Artel, has left something behind? I can tell you how to get there.
- Oh, and I noticed someone on the beach that night as I was leaving the residence. It was dark outside, and I was far away, but I am pretty sure that it was Artel – easily recognized by his unkempt mop of white hair.
Some of you remember that the fortune hunter Elmendra, was also called the “Senseless”.
Late at night, you come back to Yndaros with Gringa. She leaves you and runs toward the mansion of the Countess Vearra.
The next day all of the city’s priests, including Lomander, are arrested by city watchmen and pansars. Hariatma tries to speak his case while the rest of you report to the Countess Vearra. You receive the hefty sum of 90 thaler.
Walking through the city you hear a town crier yell:
“The First Father arrested, involved in unsanctioned attacks; brought to the palace dungeons to await the Queen’s judgement.”
You go cave spelunking near the Dome and you brutally kill a man tending the animals in the Domes basement.
Later you meet up with a man who claims to be working for the Duchess Esmerelda. He says the Duchess is safe and tells you to investigate the assassins trails; both Artel and the Cathedral Manager’s aide. He dismisses Lugander Galeia as being irrelevant.
On your way to visit the Galeia estate you hear another town crier yell:
“Mystics slain by the giants of Lindaros; one healer, three seers, and one wizard; the City Watch refuses to intervene.”
You visit the Galeia estate but Baron Laguboi Galeia is not interested in talking about his son.
Then you decide to investigate the origin of the key with X in the city’s many inns and you end up at the Seeker’s Fortune. Asking the owner reveals the following:
- He called himself Gander and arrived almost ten days ago.
- He had a taste for brutebrew as well as other strong spirits, often drinking himself into a stupor or picking fights with other guests.
- But he could also be entertaining. One night he got absolutely wasted and started pontificating about his secret and highly carnal relations with the Queen; he even claimed to be secretly engaged with his “black queen”; he called himself “the prince of darkness” and said that he would soon be exalted as king, then emperor; all while alternately sobbing, roaring, and singing wistful love songs.
Surprisingly the keys fit in room number X. Search Lugander Galeia’s room reveals an unfinished letter:
Lomander questions First Theurg Peonio at one of the bigger Prios Churches in the Bohemian Quarter. Peonio is quick to point out the following:
- I cannot imagine that any devotee of Prios could have committed such an act. No, the perpetrator must be a barbarian or an elf; it is most likely the damned Sovereign’s Oath who is trying to divide its enemy – the Ambrian people.
- It is true that the Queen, the First Father and I were supposed to be at the cathedral when the meteor struck, but Korinthia Nightbane summoned us for a meeting at the Palace.
He also mentions that the third aide of the cathedral manager is a girl called Maral living near Monger’s Square.
From her, you learn that the man you are investigating called himself Gundo, and that he was hired only three weeks ago from Kurun; he was competent, diligent and was lodging with a silversmith, Boska, just between the Southern Artisans’ and Laborers’ District.
Boska is very friendly to you and allows you to search Gundo room in the attic above his shop.
Several assassins’ tools are easy to find, but carefully hidden behind a wall board is a pouch with 50 thaler and a wax sealed contract.
You have seen the image on the wax seal before. And suddenly it dawns on you. It’s the symbol of Nobleman Dastan, the thief king of Yndaros. You also saw it on the storehouse that you burned down and on the crates in Plob 17.
You once again meet with the so-called confidant of the Duchess Esmerelda and tell him some of the news of your findings. Later, you decide to pay a visit to the Croft, the den of Old Kadizar. Entering the Croft you witness a display of power as a man has his hand cut off for stealing from Dastan. You just hear Dastan finishing the sentence: “… and I hate thieves… who steal from ME”! Followed by roaring laughter drowning out the screams of the thief.
Efter det ikke alt for givende besøg på The Croft, bliver vi enige om at gå hjem til The Tower for at gå til ro. På vejen tilbage ser vi – Daimai, Lomander og Alderan – en af de mystiske kæmper stå helt stille og observere. De få folk, der befinder på gaden, går i en bue uden om. Hvad er det egentlig for nogle kæmper? Der må være nogen, der kan fortælle mere om dem. Vi går til ro og natten forløber uden forstyrrelser.
Næste morgen bestemmer Lomander sig for at være ”inkognito” – han tager ikke sine Priosrober på, men helt almindeligt tøj. Dagens første programpunkt er at opsøge eksperten udi ceremoniel magi (ritualer) Farvano Candel. Han bor hos en kvinde, Ormolida i Berens Berth. Stedet findes uden problemer. Da vi banker på og døren åbnes, smutter en kat ud… ”Seldonio! Kom tilbage!” Lomander reagerer med lynets hast – Prios er tydeligvis med ham – og han hapser katten ,og tager den med ind. Det er Farvanos kat, og det er ikke den eneste. Det vrimler med katte…
Farvano er en flink, gammel herre, som fortæller os detaljeret om, hvordan ceremoniel magi udføres, og i særlig grad om meteorritualet, som er det, der blev brugt mod katedralen og sårede den smukke, dejlige Esmerelda. Det er feje krystere og kujoner, der griber til sådanne midler!
Pladsen tillader desværre ikke, at vi skriver alle detaljer, omkring hvordan ritualer udføres, men nogle vigtige pointér er, at…
Deltagere i ritualer korrumperes. Der indtræder ofte ikke-kontrollerbare side-effekter. Siden Den Store Krig har udførelsen af ritualer været stemplet som højforræderi – deltagelse straffes med døden. Skal ritualet påvirke et område, deltagerne ikke kan se, skal der etableres en trolddomsforbindelse (mystical link) til det område, der skal påvirkes. Det kan f.eks. være en cirkel eller lignende, der tidligere er lavet på stedet. Udførelsen af ritualer er så komplicerede, at det er umuligt at udføre uden en ”opskrift”, det kan være på en skriftrulle, en stentavle eller lignende. Sådanne opskrifter er gemt eller bevogtet. Hvor har Artel (hmmm…) mon skaffet sin fra? Et eventuelt tyveri er helt sikkert ikke foregået uden at blive bemærket.
En af deltagerne leder ritualet. For at kunne lede et ritual må man nødvendigvis være en magiudøver på mesterniveau. Meteorritualet kræver endvidere et særligt ceremonielt fokus – et knytnævestort stykke af et meteor.
Deltagerne i ritualet korrumperes som sagt i frygtelig grad. En måde at slippe for noget af denne korrumpering er, at man binder noget af korrumperingen i et offer, som enten kan være et dyr af (mindst) menneskestørrelse eller eventuelt en dæmon. På Vearas lystejendom var liget af en tyrekalv, der havde været bundet midt i cirklen.
Vi konkluderer, at såfremt Artel (hmmm…) og Demetro Veara deltog i ritualet (og stadig er i live), vil de være korrumperede og kan muligvis spores vha. magi alá Lomanders. Lomander har dog ikke set hverken Artel eller grev Demetro…
Farvano kender udmærket til Artel. Faktisk har han mødt en Artel for mange (omkring 50) år siden. Da var Artel elev hos Curriam Furia. Farvano husker Artel som stille, foruroligende stille… Farvano husker, at Artel blev dømt til døden (bl.a.?) for at have udført et meteorritual mod Black Haaras. Han har ikke selv set henrettelsen, men han mener at vide, at det har general Beremor Herengol, som er på vej mod Karvosti, men også Beremors adjudant Kathia Meleon, som vist holder til i flygtningelejren her i Yndaros.
Vi takker Farvano for oplysningerne og går mod Ordo Magicas Tripple Towers. Her spørger Daimai om kæmperne, og han får at vide, at de minder om Ripe. De kan mærke korrumpering, og de ”fjerner” det. Det sidste tolker vi som om, at de personer, de efter sigende har slået ihjel, har været korrumperede.
Daimai spørger også om det muligt at få adgang til udgravningen i Old Kadizar, men det er kun Marbella, der kan give adgang, og han er ikke at træffe.
Så går turen til flygtningelejren. Med Lomanders forbindelser finder han hurtigt en, der ved, hvor Kathia Meleon holder til. Vi skal dog iføre os hætter, mens de fører os derhen, så vi ikke ved, hvor det er. Det har vi selvfølgelig ingen problemer med.
Vi føres til en hytte lidt væk fra larmen i flygtningelandsbyen. Her sidder en kvinde, Kathia Meleon med en hætte over hovedet. Hun ved straks, at vi søger efter Artel. Hun har mistænkt ham lige siden meteoret faldt ned i katedralen.
Kathia ved, at Artel den gemene er live. Henrettelsen blev aldrig udført. Dronningen mente at Artels bøde var betalt, og han blev udstyret med en ny identitet. Han lever altså og er en del af dronningens vidnebeskyttelsesprogram. Artel er af familien Vereo, der er en adelsfamilie, vi har hørt om, og som stadig eksisterer. Kathias råd til os er: Slå Artel ihjel! I kan muligvis opspore ham ved at finde ud af, hvad hans nye identitet er. Kathias forslag til os er, at vi skal tale med:
- Kommandør Alvo Steelneck
- Dronningens sekretariat
Vi får hætter på og føres tilbage. Lomander bemærker tørt, at han sagtens kan finde tilbage nu, da han har set Kathia. Det bliver dog ikke nødvendigt.
Vi opsøger kommandør Steelneck. Steelneck ved udmærket, hvordan man skal håndtere sådanne forespørgsler: ”Jeg kan hverken be- eller afkræfte, at Artel er i live i dag. Såfremt han er i live, har vi ham selvfølgelig under opsyn, og han kan ikke have deltaget i nogle ritualer, der har krævet dagevis af forberedelser…” Mere får vi ikke ud af ham, men selvom han nok ikke selv mener det, så bekræfter han for os, at Artel er i live, og at han opholder sig her i Yndaros.
Herefter opsøger vi dronningens sekretariat. Vi mødes af klerken Karion Dresel, der gerne vil finde oplysninger til os, men eftersom det vil være forræderi mod dronning og fædreland at give os dem, må han desværre have 100 dalere for oplysningerne… Vi holder os i skindet. Han hverken tortureres eller slås ihjel, mest fordi sekretariatet er i selve slottets borggård og vi næppe vil have nogen chance for at slippe afsted med det. Efter lang tids søgen i hukommelsen kommer Alderan i tanke om, at han tidligere har mødt et medlem af Dreselfamilien. En Ioséfia Dresel ledte en gruppe Alderan og hans hedengange følgesvende mødte på øen Yeferon. Hun stod og påførte gift på sit sværd og var – vistnok – lige ved at angribe, inden kaptajn Marvello kom med en anden gruppe, og det hele ebbede ud i ingenting. Flinke folk i familien Dresel… (Det var vistnok også Ioséfia Dresel Precelsus skød en pil efter og forfulgte i et af de senere afsnit, men lige nu er han mærkelig umeddelsom.)
Før vi forlader slotsområdet benytter de to adelige ungersvende Daimai og Alderan muligheden for at få et glas vin med andre ædelblodede i Adelshuset (House of Nobles). Her får de at vide, at en Althos Vereo opholder sig i Yndaros vistnok for at ordne nogle ”sager af diplomatisk karakter”. Althos er søn af Vereofamiliens overhoved Mangi Vereo). Althos bor på Kohinoors.
På Kohinoors har Althos indkvarteret sig i en 3-værelses suite. En tjener åbner døren og vi vises ind til en ung flot fyr, omkring 40 år gammel. Vi spørger ham direkte: ”Kender du til et familiemedlem, Artel Vereo, der lever under en ny identitet?” Althos beder Lomander om at gå udenfor. (Så personerne med ædelt blod i årene kan tale sammen i fortrolighed.)
Althos: ”Jeg har et problem… Jeg skal bruge familien Elsbeths segl – bare et øjeblik. Kan I hjælpe mig med det, så vil jeg fortælle jer, hvad Artels nye identitet er. Det forholder sig tilfældigvis sådan, at Elsbethfamilien bor her på Kohinoors, de har værelser på 6. og 7. etage.” Selvfølgelig vil vi hjælpe, sådan siger vi, men ha! Vi snører ham med en snedigt udtænkt plan!
Vi er gode mennesker, der ikke slår uskyldige ihjel, stjæler eller hjælper mistænkelige personer med at snyde andre adelsfamilier! I stedet udtænker Daimai, Lomander og Alderan en snedig plan. Lomander vælger rollen som ”flugt-chauffør” og står klar med en drosche nede på gaden. Hvis det nu skulle gå galt…
Vi banker på hos Elsbeth. Også her åbner en tjener, og i suiterne er flere folk, tilsyneladende en form for festivitas. Vi beder om og får lov til at tale med familiens overhoved, en Urgle Elsbeth. ”Althos Vereo har bedt os om at stjæle deres segl i bytte for oplysninger – men sådan noget vil vi slet ikke deltage i! Vi vil i stedet foreslå, at de låner os seglet, vi går ned med det, får de oplysninger vi skal bruge, og at de så stormer ind og fanger Althos med fingrene i kagedåsen.”
Urgle er kun mildt overrasket over Althos uærlighed. De har en tvist om et stykke land, der ligger midt mellem de to familiers besiddelser. Han synes godt om idéen – ”Men jeg synes dog ikke, at vi behøver involvere byvagten. Det klarer vi selv…” Vi slår selvfølgelig til.
Seglet afleveres, Althos bruger det på et eller andet dokument, og så fortæller han os, at Artel lever her i Yndaros under navnet Mordel Garras. Han bor på en båd, der er opkaldt efter et familiemedlem – Elenora.
Urgle og nogle af hans folk stormer ind. ”Althos Vereo, du har bestjålet mig!” Mens vi andre føres ud (så Althos muligvis ikke opdager vores svig), hører vi, at Althos presses til at afstå landområdet til Elsbethfamilien. Alle på nær Althos er glade og tilfredse.
Vi tager med samme droschen ned til havnen, og får uden besvær udpeget båden Elenora. Den ligger for anker ude på floden, tæt mod Berens Berth siden. Vi færges over, låner en robåd, og ror ud til skibet. Der er lys både fra en dækslanterne i stævnen og i kahytten.
Det er et stort skib, omkring 30 meter langt. Alderan klatrer adræt og stille som natten op ad ankerkæden. Herefter følger Lomander knap så adræt, men lige så stille. Til sidst er det så Daimai, der godt nok klatrer op ad kæden, men slet ikke er stille…
På dækket er en trold (Aldrax), en goblin (Ott-Gol) og en ildsalamander (Smuldra) der – siger Daimai – er fra de sydvestlige Archapaelgoøer.
Ott-Gol: ”Forsvind!” Begge parter gør sig klar til kamp, men Lomander finder den allermest diplomatiske tone frem, og Aldrax beroliger Ott-Gol. ”Vi skal tale med jeres mester.” ”Følg mig” siger Aldrax, men mens vi går mod kahytten, lyder der et `klir’ af glas, der smadrer. Vi farer ned i kahytten og fra et af vinduerne hænger en gribekrog med et reb. Alderan farer derhen og når lige netop at se snigmorderinden Nightcape forsvinde i en robåd. Ved et langt bord sidder en utrolig fed, tydeligvis stærkt korrumperet, og enormt død mand. Han er spændt fast, tortureret og skudt med en bolt gennem skulderen. Aldrax udbryder: ”Endelig fri!”
Det er Artel, der sidder og er død, død, død. Altså den rigtige Artel; ikke ham vi har fået beskrevet… Aldrax fortæller, at for et par måneder siden fik Artel besøg af en høj, gråhåret mand med vilde øjne. Det lyder meget som ham, vi har fået beskrevet som Artel. Den rigtige Artel har ikke forladt skibet i mange måneder. Aldrax var Artels lærling. Artel har ikke haft andre lærlinge i mindst 5 år.
Vi undersøger skibet. Artel har et bibliotek, hvor der tydeligvis mangler en bog (meteorritualet). I en montre ligger en sten, som vi tager med. Det er sikkert et stykke meteorit, der kan bruges ved ritualet. Der er også en bog skrevet med den her symbar-kileskrift. Vi tager den med, men kan ikke forstå den. Det kræver en lærd.
Altså: Artel er fundet, død, død, død. Det var ikke ham, der udførte ritualet. Hvem er det, der går og udgiver sig for at være Artel? Og hvordan finder vi frem til vedkommende?