Dark Shards

The Speaker in Dreams 7

Brindinford, Goodmonth 1.6-1.7 BCY 14500

Session 24

DM When last we left our heroes, they had crushed the wererat criminals in their bell tower hideout. Now, surrounded by rat feces and some small amount of loot, they plan their next move.

Julian The end result is that Shael is left in possession of the bell tower, to look after Gequa, while Julian makes himself scarce along with Grag and Jaksun. He heads for the town watch’s headquarters to update the Lieutenant and drop off the pair.

DM Sergeant Brox Stonehammer is on duty, as it is late afternoon. Lieutenant Shella is just about to leave as Julian approaches. The pair stare at him as he draws near.

Julian “Good afternoon, Lieutenant, Sergeant.” Julian is unfailingly polite as he always has striven to be in the Lieutenant’s presence. He quickly summarizes recent events.

Shella The lieutenant sighs. “I suppose I was…inaccurate in my assessment, then.”

DM Sgt. Stonehammer hauls the pair off to some cells.

Julian Julian grins wryly. “Hopefully solving more problems than I cause, ma’am. I have wolfsbane and silver if they would be helpful.”

Shella She grunts. “Ah, yes, inaccurate on you as well. I meant regarding the rat problem…I would have staked everything on it being transients. As far as your wares, I suppose the budget can handle a few needed purchases.”

Julian Julian waves away any talk of payment and proffers the silver rapier and two doses of wolfsbane, hanging on to one dose. “The wolfsbane was given to me freely by the temple, so it would hardly be right to charge you for it. As for the rapier, my friend Kryss might drive a hard bargain for his goods, but this isn’t his work. Took it off the head gangster.”

Shella She looks it over. “It doesn’t look like much. Real thin. And is it…silver?”

Julian “Yeah. I guess he used it to keep the rest in line. I’m hoping that once they’re recovered you can break the curse with the wolfsbane, but if they’re any trouble between now and then, you should have a silver weapon on hand. Just in case.”

Shella “Silver…hurts them, then? They won’t heal from it?”

Julian “Right.”

DM Julian is briefly reminded that most people in the region are homebodies, and rarely get out into all the trouble that his heretical self does. Many of the things he takes for granted are tall tales to those in these urban centers.

“You fucking oppressor!” “Well…thank you. That’s…ahem. Hmm. I’m headed to the Stony Gaze for a drink, would you care to join me?”

Julian “Thanks for the invitation. A drink does sound good right about now.”

DM The walk over to the Stony Gaze is a few minutes, and Shella seems to be at a slight loss for words. Once in the tavern, the pretty waitress Ahal introduces herself to them, smiling broadly. “What will you boys be having?”

Julian The paladin labors to keep up, still suffering some aftereffects of his near-undeath encounter two days ago. “What’s good?” Julian orders what’s recommended to him.

Ahal “I suggest the duck, it’s great.” Ahal sweeps off after collecting their orders. Shella self consciously runs her hand through her short hair, frowning.

DM Light music comes from a minstrel nearby, as he strums his lute.

Julian Julian leans back and tries to put her at ease, asking a few small-talk questions to break the ice – “This the usual watering hole?” and so on.

Shella “Ah, this is…the best place. Sometimes that music guy over there, Nankiy will duel with acts from out of town. Always wins.”

Julian Or about the boss. “Out in the country they said he was a just and noble man.”

Shella “The Captain was…is…wait, are you talking about the Captain or the Baron?”

Julian “Well, I heard that about the Baron, but I’m sure the Captain is a good man as well?” Julian idly notes the past tense.

Shella Shella nods enthusiastically. “He’s the best. He’s really by the book, but he manages to be a people person too. Sometimes I, er…other officers have trouble pulling that off. They either go soft or hard. Captain hits the sweet spot.” Her face screws up a little bit talking about him, almost as though she is trying to fight back tears, but that’s unlikely for this severe woman.

Julian Julian nods. “That’s a good type of man to have around. My first lieutenant was that way when I was in the cavalry. Having that kind of person makes the whole squadron better.”

Shella “Something horrible happened to him, didn’t it? I keep having these horrible nightmares…that he didn’t leave me with this clusterfuck on purpose, that he’s…” she shudders.

Julian “You’re worried about him, I can tell.” He frowns into his beer. “I don’t know what to make of it, but I’ll try to help. Not sure.” Julian’s frown into his beer grows deeper. “I’ve been having strange dreams too, since I came here. Some of them seemed disturbingly real. But I’m not sure all of them are.”

Gell At that moment, a halfling comes over to the pair with a platter of duck, roast potatoes and peppers, and a cranberry sauce. “Your dinner, good sir and ma’am.” He bows. “Gell’s finest!”

Julian “Thank you, it looks fine indeed.” Julian’s appetite has been slowly returning – there wasn’t much for the first few days.

Gell “Well, anything I can do for Tal’s Pals, just let me know, my friend in shiny armoire!”

Julian Julian grins. “Tal’s pals, is it? Thanks, friend, I will.” He glances at the Lieutenant once their server has retreated again. “Did word of that business with Alein and the bookstore a few days ago reach you? I guess it must have by now.”

Shella Shella nods. “It wasn’t the clearest, but I sent some men by the bookstore. They came back and said there was nothing wrong with the place. Whoever was there must have packed up and left.”

Julian Julian nods. “Well, I mention it because you mentioned dreams. I’ve been having dreams. Squirm, the leader of those wererats, while we were fighting he kept talking about dreams. Some bandits tried their luck against us on the road and they talked about dreams. And at that bookstore, the Reality Wrinkle, Alein was lost in bad dreams. And that sorcerer Jellek couldn’t shut up about it.”

Shella “…you think the dreams are…real?”

Julian “I don’t know whether they’re true. But there’s something real about them, I do think that. And it seems certain that the different parts of this… clusterfuck, you say… didn’t happen on their own. Something in the middle causing all of them.”

DM An elfmarked man enters with a slightly burnt lute. He exchanges some words with Nankiy and the two begin dueling on their lutes. Nankiy’s clear and rich voice somehow does not immediately overpower the low and raspy tones of the newcomer.

Shella Shella blows out air towards her bangs. “This sort of thing is what the Captain was good at…piecing together separate issues to make a complete puzzle.”

Julian Julian refrains from stating the inference that this might be why someone made sure he was out of the way. “Well, my friends and I have a way of getting to the bottom of puzzles too.” Not necessarily via carefully piecing them together as much as hacking them apart, sometimes, admittedly. “I have faith that we’ll get to the bottom of this one.”

Nankiy “Fire on the mountain, run boys run!” Nankiy sings. The crowd stamps their feet along with the talented bard. Shella nods. “Well…I trust you. You’re…not like the other adventurers I’ve met.”

Julian “Thanks. I have a feeling I might need your help before it’s all through. But to get back to piecing puzzles together… where’s the noble and just Baron been during all this mess? The country folk couldn’t speak highly enough of him.”

Shella “He’s supposed to make a speech for the fair pretty soon. His sister has been doing most of the organizing these days though.”

Julian “Can’t they send reinforcements from their household? Help keep the law while things are so busy?”

Shella “Ah, the town guard and the house guard are sort of the same group,” Shella confesses. In the background, the challenger bard begins singing of the great and ancient Lady Durnsay, although his song appears to skip the part where she was burned as a witch. “We don’t have the manpower to have separate guards.”

Julian “Ah, damn, you really are flat out then.” Julian’s foot taps slightly to the music… devil’s in the house of the rising sun…

Shella “Yeah, we generally assign the best men to the keep.”

Julian “Ah, well…” Julian spends some time in thought as he digs into the duck.

Elfmarked Bard “Can you take me high enough….can you fly me over, Dur-urn-say…” the raspy throated bard sings on, holding the crowd spellbound.

Julian Julian asks a few more questions as they finish up dinner. He’s seeking a starting point on the Captain and any information on the murders he might have missed, though eventually it winds down to smaller talk or listening to the music.

DM The murders occurred in Southspur, while Chatterstreet Market was the last known whereabouts of the Captain. The murders seemed to have no pattern at all, though they were confined to a relatively small area.

Shella “It might honestly be a nest of some sort of…monster,” Shella confides.

Julian “Might be. I’ll take Kryss down when I go. He’s strong as hell, a solid man to have at your back when there’s monsters to slay. If a bit brusque.”

Shella “I hope he’s strong, as big as he is. Reminds me of Hargg.”

Julian “Oh?”

DM The door opens and a hulking man ducks under the doorway. He looks around, sees Shella, and for a brief moment, his face seems to smile. Then he notices Julian next to her and the moment ends. He moves over towards the pair. “What?” he demands of Julian.

Julian “Hello. Hargg, I guess? I’m Julian.”

Hargg He’s probably a few inches shorter than Kryss, but just as wide. The blade he carries is larger. He frowns at the pair. “I work. Here. I see.”

Shella Shella huffs. “Hargg, I told you, it’s not going to work out. You have to stop this.”

Julian Julian raises an eyebrow and wonders if he should stand up.

DM At that moment, Gell calls from across the bar, and Hargg gives a forlorn look to Shella, a half angry one at Julian, and moves away.

Julian “Yeah, he does kind of remind you of Kryss.” Julian relaxes. Not wanting to spend the entire evening on talking business and other cheerless manners, he makes smaller talk for a while. Wouldn’t do to leave the Stony Gaze having heard about everything except Lieutenant Shalla herself.

Shella Shella is a native of Brindinford, born and raised. Joined the guard as soon as she was old enough. Her parents died several years back.

Ahal Ahal comes over several times to check on them. Each time she makes some implication that she is serving two men.

Julian After the third or fourth time it earns a raised eyebrow.

Shella Shella just appears embarassed. Ahal does have a bit of a foreign accent to her voice, but nothing so severe that it would explain a real mistake.

Julian The paladin decides to shrug it off. “Well, thanks for showing me a good place.” he stretches out his legs as the last of the meal is cleared away – and he puts the coin on the table regardless. “If the monster doesn’t get me I might have to come back.”

Shella Shella smiles. “I’d like that.” She blushes as she realizes he said he would come back to the bar, not with her. “Er, I mean…it’s good a good place.”

Julian “Good company, too.” Julian smiles. “See you next time, then?”

Shella Her eyes sparkle. “Yes! Yes. I would…I already said that. Have a good night, Julian. Thank you.”

Julian Julian heads off into the evening with a spring in his step. At least briefly. Till the pain of the mana burn reasserts itself. Nevertheless, he hobbles cheerfully towards murder. As night looms, one of the arrangements they make is for a bed and a rest before poking around one of the most dangerous parts of town.

DM The Stony Gaze has rooms, as does the Shield and Shingle.

Shael Shael follows Julian’s lead once he’s caught up, having been handling quite different affairs earlier in the evening.

Julian Murder seems much more approachable after a good night’s sleep. Julian is still limping, but his hands are barely shaking at all any more.

Meanwhile, previously…

Shael Shael rings out a cloth dampened by warm water, different than the one he’s been using to clean up the place, and places it on Gequa’s forhead while allowing another small dose of healing energy to waft through her body like a gentle breeze.

DM The female wererat comes to, she’s in her human form currently, and she rubs the spot where the silver blade pierced her chest tenderly.

Shael “Good morning, Gequa.” Shael says soothingly, “I am Shael, I hope you’re feeling better?”

Gequa “How long was I out?” she asks, looking around. “What happened?”

Julian Julian is off keeping an eye on Squirm. Hard for Gequa to say how long she was out, but the paladin seems to be back. (Or maybe he hasn’t left yet?)

Shael “Ah, I’ve been cleaning up a bit.” he says, looking around at the much more spic-n-span clocktower. “I’d say it’s been a few hours, maybe? Got a bit of a prick; not t’worry. You’ll be about in no time.”

Gequa “You’re not really a rat.” She sniffs a few times. “I didn’t notice it before in the excitement. But you smell all wrong. Are you even human?”

Shael “I’m not.” he agrees, “And, I must apologize for the deception.” with a bow of his head, he seems genuinly contrite. “Human? Ah, well probably, yes. Some of the details are fuzzy.” he grins. “What about you? Are you happy with who you are, Gequa?”

Gequa “What sorta question is that?” she frowns.

Shael “The same sort as yours, a bit more depth than aquaintances should expect and a mite more personal than strangers might tolerate. But, we could be friends… if you think you might like that.” he shrugs and holds out his hand for the washcloth.

Gequa “You talk funny,” she hands him the cloth, “but you saved my life. It made sense when I thought you were a rat, but you ain’t. Why you wanna be friends with me? You ain’t some…pervo or something?”

Shael “A human wouldn’t save a rat’s life, eh?” He chuckles but it fades quickly into a grimace. To give himself a moment of thought, he stands from the stool beside the makeshift bed and goes to dampen the cloth again. Returning to her side, he folds the cloth carefully and then hands it to her, “I’m the sort that wishes the world was better – nicer. I’m just one man, but if that was a reason to give up… well, nothing would ever get done.” he shrugs uncomfortably. “You are looking for change, there is a chance that I could provide that. A different world for you to live in, one more to your preference… one that is not quite so harsh that it requires you to prey upon others.” He smiles comfortingly, “I would not judge those actions, I know that in this world they can be necessary… but, if it is in my power to make them unecessary…”

Gequa “Hey, hey, hey! I don’t gotta pray to no one, no how!” Gequa bursts out. “I’m an ay-thee-iz.”

Shael Shael chortles heartilly, “If that is your most pressing concern, I think we’ll get along quite well… no, my concern is in spreading lycanthropy without the consent of the recipient of your blessing. I’d like to curtail the thieving and extortion as well, but as I said… I am only one man.”

Gequa Her face puckers as she thinks about it. “I’ll stop exhorting people. And I’ll only bite for serious. Or fun. But you can’t expect a girl to stop stealin! How am I supposed to earn an honest living?”

Shael “Information is a valuable comodity. Enough so that it might put you in more comfortable fur than even the moon allows.” he motions to the building that they’re in, “This is an ideal location for that sort of operation, too… shielded from casual observation. How did you manage that, by the way? But, in truth, so long as the mark is not worse off than you – theft is not so ignoble, I think.” he shrugs expressing uncertainty.

Gequa “Information is vailable enough to who? You? Are you gonna pay me?”

Shael “I am uncertain, I haven’t decided how valuable information is to me… at least, information from this berg. But, if we were friends, I’m certain I could find an arrangement… or create it if it does not yet exist. Can you read and write? Or, are you willing to learn?”

Gequa “I know some letters, and I can learn others. I’m not some dumb bimbo, you know. I’m spectible.”

Shael He smiles brightly, “And, are you interested?” he inquires, leaning forward with anticipation.

Gequa “Well, you ain’t my usual type, but I spose so. Wait, you mean about letters. Yeah, yeah.”

Shael Standing up, he claps his hands together loudly, “Thrilling! Can you walk? Let’s go buy you something pretty. We’ve a party to crash and your first test to ace!”

Gequa “Ok. Are you going to buy me a pretty dress? And necklace? Or just one?”

Shael Tilting his head to the side he wonders, “I don’t know, is that the sort of thing you like?”

Julian “Hey Shael.” Julian is at the door. “Think we should settle up here before we run off?”

Shael Shael’s head swivels around, “Oh, huh, yes I suppose.” he furrows his brow and glances back at Gequa thoughtfully.

Gequa “If I’m sposed to be fancy and putting on bears ‘nsuch, I probably need ten bracelets and three necklaces and some of those panties that aren’t really panties with the air underneath, and a dress…”

Shael He glances at Julian as if to seek confirmation of this new intel.

Julian “If you need to get moving, I can ask any questions you have for you, I guess…” He looks quizzically at Gequa.

Shael Shael nods sagely, “Yes, yes, certainly.” it’s unclear who he’s answering, he still seems to be pondering. “Squirm is still alive.” he mentions to Gequa, “We’ll need to speak with him, we’re interested in learning more about the lady who visited him. Want to come along for a visit before we go shopping?”

Gequa “No. I hate him and I will kill him as soon as I can. I will melt silver over his head while he sleeps. No, wait, I’ll make him eat silver coins until his stomach esblodes. No, I’ll tie his tail to the bells and ring them until he dies.”

Julian “Your taste in women is as mystifying as ever, Shael.” Julian murmurs wryly. “Come on, let’s find out what he knows.”

Shael Shael frowns thoughtfully and nods, “I’ll be right back.” he says to Gequa.

Gequa “No, I’m going to tie bags of silver to his feet and drown him in the river!”

Shael Following Julian to their prisoner, “Certainly some useful insight… force-feeding him silver coins, very creative.” he says, invoking the spell to detect Squirm’s thoughts just before coming into view of the rat. “What are we going to do with him, though?” he asks Julian in full view of the prisoner while probing the creature’s mind.

Julian “Depends what he says. I do have another dose of wolfsbane.”

Shael With another sage nod Shael inquires, “So, what do you have to say?”

Squirm Squrim snarls. “You ain’t going to make me talk.”

Shael “Talk about what?” Shael inquires with a small smile.

Squirm “About what I was doing, about my dreams, about anything.”

Julian Julian flips a silver coin idly while Shael talks, letting his friend play the good cop.

Shael “About what you were doing?” Shael asks, again guiding Squirm’s thoughts so that he can pick them clean of useful information.

DM He gets an image of a hooded figure.

Squirm “I was taking over this town.”

Shael “Taking over the underground, you mean – who you gotta fight to control the town? In’t your gang the only one ’round?”

Squirm “We are now. Had to fight for it before, but it’s easier when they can’t do shit to you.”

Shael “So what’s left to take? And how’re you so certain you can take it?”

Squirm “Wait, what? I…look, you guys are either going to kill me or jail me. I’m not stupid.”

DM The image of a face in his mind.

Julian “What about this woman? What about these dreams?” Julian is more curt.

Shael Shael purses his lips and lets Julian take the lead, he walks around behind Squirm and out of his field of vision.

Squrim The image sharpens in Shael’s mind. “She ain’t going to let me talk. Or anyone.”

Julian “And just how is she going to stop you?”

Shael Shael glances up at Julian with a wry expression. Certainly his companion remembers how the last prisoner was stopped.

Squrim “I dunno. She just is.” The image in Shael’s mind’s eye seems to blur and swirl.

Julian “Well, if you aren’t saying who she is, how about what she wants?”

Squrim “It wouldn’t matter if I did tell you though. She’s got magic and could blast you apart.” Squirm’s nose twitches, a tiny droplet of blood falls from the nostril.

Julian “Give me something I can use, Squirm, you’re clever enough. You can think of a way around it.”

Shael “She’s being more subtle than the last one.” Shael informs Julian, “In seconds, he won’t even remember her.” he sighs and asserts, “I wonder how much else he’ll have forgotten. Squirm, this is your last chance – I won’t be able to save you after this.” he comes around to face him, “Help me help you.”

Squrim “She ain’t right, man. I don’t even know what I would say about ‘what she wants’. Some shit about a portal.”

Julian “Where is she?”

Shael Shael nods, “Enough.” he commands, calling upon the forbidden magic to seal Squirm’s mind.

Squrim “Gonna step through to the dimension beyond…” Squirm pauses as the forbidden magic seals his mind.

Julian Julian glances at Shael. “Who do you think she is?”

Squrim The blood dries up, and Squirm blinks. “I think she’s a…’walker.”

Shael Shael nods ever so slightly, but his concentration remains unbroken as he does what he can to protect Squirm’s mind from assault.

Julian “Like the mages of old? Step from city to city in the blink of an eye?”

Squrim “Yeah. And I think she wants to be one of the worldwalkers.”

Julian “No way to know where she is, then. Next best thing. Where’s this portal?”

Shael Shael steps back and considers this news thoughtfully.

Squrim “Within the Wrinkle.” Squirm blinks, the voice that spoke those words did not sound like his at all.

Julian “Figures.” Julian frowns. A few smaller leads to follow up on, too – he asks Squirm what he might know about the captain or the murders.

Squrim “We didn’t touch the captain, honest! He was poking around into our stuff, but he disappeared on his own! And it weren’t us in Southspur either. We don’t go there. Ain’t nothing good to steal, they’re so damn poor.”

Julian “All right, then. No… wait. One more thing. Back to this woman. Is she the Speaker in Dreams?”

Squrim “She is…the Blessed. She hears the dreams.”

Julian “And who speaks!?”

Squrim Squirm shrugs helplessly. “She talks to herself.”

Shael Shael chuckles with amusement.

Squrim “Look, I can see I’ve been scammed. She sends me these dream messages then shows up talking about hearing the dreams…I didn’t think I could fall for a confidence game, but she was playing me like a puppet.”

Julian “All right. I believe you. And cooperation isn’t worth nothing. Way I see it, it’s earned you a fair shot at making it through this. Wolfsbane instead of the fire.”

Shael Shael nods, “Acceptable.” he agrees.

Squrim “What the hell, man? That shit’s poison!”

Julian “It is. And you might live through it, with help, but the rat won’t.”

Squrim Squirm starts panicking, shaking his head. “No, man, you don’t understand, it isn’t like that!”

Shael “What is it like?” Shael inquires, holding his hand for Julian to wait.

Squrim “Look man, you want to kill me, do it clean with that sword of yours, but don’t…don’t pump me full of that. Burn me from the inside out.”

Shael “We want you to live – but we cannot chance your infection spreading beyond control. It is an infection, isn’t it?”

Squrim “I was born to rats, I wasn’t bitten. We ain’t a disease, man.”

Shael Shael nods, “When you are born, yes… and that changes things drastically.” to Julian the mage says, “He is a magical being, I cannot allow harm to come to him.”

Squrim “It ain’t magic, man!” Squirm sounds offended.

Shael “Unless it is absolutely necessary, that is… but, it isn’t. I can arrange for him to be taken into custody for protection at a secure location where he cannot do any harm, is this acceptable to you?”

Julian Julian shifts, uncomfortable about discussing the topic in front of someone else. “Oh?”

Shael Glancing at Squirm he asserts, “If it isn’t, than your life means significantly less to me. Are you sure it isn’t magic?”

Squrim Squirm looks like a scared deer. Caught between a rock and hard place, he shrugs. “I…I ain’t sure about nothing anymore.”

Shael With a sigh, Shael relents. “Look, Squirm.. this is what I know:” he holds up fingers as he illustrates each point, “1) You can’t stay in this city anymore, dead or alive you’ve got to go. 2) You’ve a powerful, mad traveler you just gave up whose reaction to that even I couldn’t predict, and 3) There is a place that won’t judge what you are, that will instead be fascinated by you, and where you will be safe.” smiling gently he asks, “What consequence do you prefer? I leave the decision to you.”

Julian “They didn’t start the burnings for nothing, Shael. You and I know what we know, but even so…” Julian frowns. “But. You do what you think is best. And if he preys on anyone again, I’ll do what I think is best.”

Squrim Squirm swallows. “I guess I could stay in a safe place until things cool off for awhile.”

Shael “I’m not doing what I think is best, I’m doing what’s right. A seed cannot grow without nourishment, a field not tended will remain fallow.” he looks at Squirm and nods, “Stay here, then.” the mage says, ignoring his bonds, “I’ll make the arrangments.” Collecting Gequa, the two head out into the night. It quickly becomes apparent that the sort of party Shael intended to infiltrate won’t be available tonight, but he still asks around to find a seamstress capable of dressing a spy-er, a Lady!-for any occasion.

Gequa Gequa quickly proves herself a lady of unpickable taste, as she describes it. She never passes up three pieces of jewelry when one will do, and enjoys caking makeup on thick enough to float down the river on.

Shael At some point in the night, Shael slaps a make-up brush out of her hand. “You’ll have to get used to someone else doing that for you.” he reminds her gently, “We’ll find a suitable maid next, until then don’t fret. You look fine.”

Julian Shael soon catches up, after making the arrangements. After rendezvous with Shael and Gequa, he leads the way towards murder once again. At least briefly. Soon he’s overtaken and following the way towards murder.

DM Though the fair really does not extend much into this neighborhood, at least one group of entertainers has decided to set up a stage in Southspur, hoping to find an attentive audience. Prancing about in the back of a wagon, a trio of actors are engaged in a lame farce, though the object of their lampooning is not immediately obvious. Passerby slow their pace for a moment, watching, then shake their heads and move on. Suddenly, the back curtain of the stage is torn open to reveal a massive, gray skinned humanoid with wild black hair and no eyes. It lifts an axe high over its head, apparently savoring the screams of terror this produces, while more of its kind spill onto the stage and surrounding street.

Shael “I don’t get it.” Shael asserts, tilting his head to the side, “What’s the joke?”

DM The other creatures are carrying what appear to be clubs fashioned from human femurs, and quickly hack into the performers. The massive axe cleaves the lead performer in half, and another one of the creatures smashes the brains out of one of the actresses.

Shael “Oh, gawsh, wow… that almost looks like real blood!” Shael asserts, fascinated. “How do they do that??”

Julian “That’s because it IS real blood, Shael!”

Shael “…oh…” He hesitates for only an instant before rushing into the fight, drawing Orcshy and sprinting into the thick of things.

DM One of the creatures is decapitated before it can move.

Julian Julian hobbles after him. Unable to close the distance quickly, he hurls a javelin straight at the leader. Maybe if he gets their attention they will come to him.

DM The monster never sees the missile coming, but it grunts as the javelin strikes. People scream in the streets and try to flee. The monsters converge, not trying to seek out any particular threat, but instead focusing entirely on those moving bodies proximate to them. One swings its club with a killing blow at the last remaining actor, only to have it strike a prop on the shitty stage. The others mob Shael, drawing some blood from the mage.

Shael Shael adopts a defensive posture, pulling out his shield and holding Orcshy in just one hand as he awkwardly parries and adroitly blocks attacks made against him.

Julian Julian unsheathes Lightbringer as he closes in. The sword comes around, then back.

DM The creature falls in two, the magical sword doing its deadly work. The mob surrounding Shael beats on him, as he wards off attacks. A bone club slips through, clipping him on the jaw.

Shael Shael touches his foot against one of the dying actors subtly channeling a spell to save them; it takes him off balance but that luckilly saves him from the worst of the blow that breaches his defense.

Julian Julian moves in on the leader harassing Shael.

DM As the woman’s crushed skull stops bleeding, Julian’s attack brings down the leader. A cut across his thigh sends him to one knee, a brutal thrust through the skull finishes him off. The remaining creatures continue to fight to the death, although their leader’s death has seemed to rob them of their morale. They fail to harm our heroes.

Shael “Oh, you made it.” Shael exhorts Julian, “Wicked.” he drops his shield beside the woman he saved and puts both hands around the hilt of Orcshy to bring it around in a lightning quick slash against his assailant.

DM The creature falls, blood spraying from a severed artery.

Julian “Sorry, it still burns pretty bad.” Julian moves to surround the final foe.

Shael Shael waves it away, a bit of the creatures blood spattering off into the crowd as Julian dispatches the final foe, “Pish-posh, all’s well, m’friend.”

DM Surround is a poor word to describe what happens to this would-be killer. His ruined body topples off the stage and into the street with a squishing sound that implies any remaining organs are non-functional at this point.

Julian “Suppose so.” Julian looks in on the two victims.

DM They have a few coins in their pockets, but not much of value.

Julian “Think we found our killers?”

Shael After cleaning his blade, Shael sheaths it on his back and recovers his shield. “The gent’s had it…” he mourns, “…but, I think I saved the gal. You want a go, or I’ll handle it so’s they don’t see.” he whispers as he kneels beside Julian. “Don’t think so.” he postulates.

Julian “I can handle it. Your stuff’s more useful here, best save it.” Julian mutters. He performs the paladinly miracle of laying on of hands.

DM The unwounded actor rushes the pair. “Unbelievable! You saved me!” As the actress lifts her head and looks around groggily, his eyes bulge. “Saved us!”

Shael Shael stands and raises his hands, drawing as much attention to himself as he’s able, and calls: “ARE ALL WELL AND NONE ELSE INJ…?” he flinches as someone from nearby rushes him.

DM The crowd surges on the heroes. “Did you see them? Rushed right in, not a second’s hesitation…that guy looks like someone in the cavalry…dark swordsman…owe our lives…”

Julian “Guess it was lucky we were coming along just now… Easy, miss, that was a bad blow you took.” Julian winces. Looks like these actors were hard off before losing their set and a third of their crew.

Shael “Well, yeah…” Shael asserts, surprised the man is surprised. The surging crowd doesn’t make him any less uneasy.

DM “My hero!” she throws her arms around Julian’s neck and plants a large kiss on him. At that moment Lieutenant Shella and another guardsman come running in.

Crowd “Where’d you get that sword…never seen anything like it…my uncle said you fight like Klysandral…is that a holy sword…is that a goblin sword…is that a giant knife?”

Julian Julian blushes as he helps her up. “Okay, …what? Yes, it’s a holy sword… little space for the lady, please…”

Crowd “He healed that guy. Get your sick aunt, run before they leave…I knew them years ago…”

Julian He looks to Lieutenant Shella for help as the crowd presses in.

Shella “Alright, clear out, folks! Back to the fair, we’ve got a job to do here,” Shella awkwardly disperses the crowd.

Crowd “Why don’t they have eyes…they have eyes, dumbass…the dead things not the heroes…”

Julian Speaking of the things without eyes…

Shael Shael smiles awkwardly and seems to look for a way to escape the crowd, but the sick aunt catches his ear. He frowns, “You don’t fetch a sick woman, we’ll go to her.” he hops off the stage and stalks towards where he heard that from.

Julian Julian flips over the leader with his boot, staring at its face. “What the hell are these?” he mutters. “It was killing people pretty well for something that can’t see.”

Shella “Myrddraal,” Lt. Shella states confidently. “I’m sure of it.”

DM Shael is led to the home of the sick aunt.

Julian “Huh. That’s some type of monster, I guess? You were right about that.”

Shella “Yeah. The no eyes is a dead give away.”

Shael Once they reach the home he wipes his feet and waits for permission before entering, “What’s wrong with her?” he asks while being led along.

DM “She’s old,” her brother observes.

DM “It’s her hip, it’s been bothering her for awhile now. Especially with this past winter getting colder.”

Julian “I wonder if that’s all of them or not. Hey, you didn’t see how they got near, did you? Where they came from?” This to the two actors.

Shael With a sad sigh Shael promises, “We may not be able to help… but, I will do what I can.”

DM The aunt coughs feebly. “Ok.”

Shael “What’s your name? I’m Shael.” he says with a comforting smile while he reaches out to take her hand.

DM The actors shake their head at Julian. “Came…from…behind.”

DM “Jemima,” the old lady responds, taking his hand.

DM “People’ve been killed in dark alleys, other times entire families were slaughtered in their homes,” someone informs Julian.

DM “No one ever really saw what was doing it.”

DM “Plenty of locations in the area could hide a band of monsters. There are abandoned warehouses, deserted homes, that sort of thing,” an old man tells Julian confidentally.

Shael “Jemima? I knew a lass by that name once – a sweet one, full of heart.” He says with a grin, “Now, close your eyes, Jemima. I want you to remember when you were happiest and hold that memory in mind. Tell me what you remember?”

DM “I…it was the day the riverboat came into town for the first time. Carrying Ben. He was so tall and handsome. I fell in love with him and I was just seven years old.”

Julian Julian asks a few more questions of the actors, until he and the Lieutenant are satisfied they have nothing to reveal. “All right. Best you get off the streets then. Here, take these.” A few golden coins. “After that I guess you could use a warm meal and a warm bed, and a marker for your friend. I’m sorry we couldn’t help him.”

Julian He glances at the other informants. “I guess these things could have done it. Let’s take a look around, Lieutenant?”

Actress “You’re sorry? What could you have done? Thank you so much for saving me! And my brother,” she adds pointedly.

Shella Shella chews her lip distractedly while the actress chats Julian up, but nods once he turns to business. “Let’s.”

Shael His smile broadens, “A fine memory, full of love and hope. Hold onto that, always.” he stands and pulls her gently towards her feet, “Is it any better?”

Julian Julian searches for clues after extricating himself from the rescuees.

DM Aunt Jemima blinks as Shael’s healing energy flows into her. “Oh. Oh my. Thank you, Son. Bless your heart.”

Shael Chuckling joyfully, Shael pulls her into a hug. “Of course, Jemima. I’m glad for the opportunity to be of service… be well, please? I’ve to go, we’re here to stop the killings… make the world a little safer, I hope.”

DM She nods, happy at the small increase in comfort he has brought her, and lets him go. Meanwhile, for Shella and Julian the trail has led back to an abandoned boarded up warehouse. It ends abruptly under the window in the southern portion of the east wall, the only window in the building that is not boarded over. Under the open window, a raised platform, fifteen feet square, stands about seven feet off the floor in the corner of this vacant warehouse. The stench of rot and decay fills the place, while dust and scraps of wood litter the floor below. I mean, it could be the place. Hard to say, really.

Julian Could this be the place? Julian wonders. If it is the place, Shael is probably about to show up again.

Shael Gequa and Shael catch up just as they finish all the hard work, “What’ve you found.” he asks, appearing quite suddenly.

Julian “Trail leads here. As for what’s inside…”

Shella “We think it’s the place,” Lt. Shella adds.

Shael “Wait, who’s she?” Shael asks Julian. “Wait, who’re you?” Shael repeats to Lt. Shella.

Shella “I am the law.”

Shael “Oh, thrilling. That’s either comforting or ominous, I suppose we’ll find out in time.” he says brightly.

Julian “Hey, Kryss, watch our backs, will you? I don’t want any of these sneaking up behind us when we’re in there.” Julian listens before trying the door.

Shael Shael unsheaths Orcshy while attempting to brush some of the dried up, flakey monster blood from his outfit.

Julian (Or the window, as the case may be)

DM Julian hears some muffled shuffling from within the building. Something is down there, although it is only just barely possible to even detect that it is from this range, let alone what it is.

Julian He glances to his friends, signaling them to be alert, and heads in.

Shael Shael follows directly behind Julian, a bit less alert – maybe even casual.

DM The window leads to a short drop onto the aforementioned platform. Within the deserted warehouse is a bonefield of half corpses and skeletons.

DM Two of the eyeless creatures, ‘Draal’ as Shella is calling them for short, charge.

Julian Julian steps into the first’s charge, meeting it with Lightbringer.

DM It dies, shrieking. The shrieks are echoed up through the crude piping in the warehouse.

Shael Gequa waits for Shael to advance, which he does – the mage vaults over the detrious and slips around behind the Draal to slash at him with Orcshy. The wererat then tries to follow after him and nail the beast with a flank.

DM His victim gasps as the blade withdraws from its chest. A silence momentarily settles over the room. The echoed shrieks continue to bounce back and forth.

DM The shrieks grow louder until a trap door opens on the floor, and more of the draals pour forth.

Shael “Convenient.” Shael blesses their luck and prepares to meet the advancing horde.

DM One of them does not hold the bone clubs of the typical draal, but instead a pair of axes. Even the light of Julian’s blade seems to dim when she moves. In the darkness, the true killer strikes. Gequa doesn’t have time to scream. One of the bone clubs connects soundly with Julian’s shin.

Shella “Damn it! Kryss, knock down that wall! Get some light in here!” Shella snaps.

Julian Somewhere in the darkness, Julian’s voice is raised in prayer. A light steadily grows around him.

Felga The darkness that shrouds the leader of the draal is driven back, revealing the dead and stiffened body of Gequa. Blood drips off the draal leader’s axes. She grins, made all the more horrifying from her lack of eyes. “The Speaker wants you gone…and you’ve come to us.”

Kryss Kryss makes his presence felt with a roar as he rushes the revealed assassin.

Shael Shael growls, “If he ever stops talkin’, he’ll hear your death rattle.” Orcshy is replaced by Sunstrider and shield, the former of which is casually whipped through the nearest assailant while Shael puts the wall at his back.

Felga She fights back against Kryss, though the giant draws blood from her in a rage that would have burried any one of her thugs.

Shael As he steps back, an image of Avenger slices through the Drall that flanked Gequa.

DM His opponent staggers, blood pooling at its feet as the shadows attack the other killer. Both of them are near death.

Shella Shella bulls through the warehouse to put the nearer one down, then backs off again, eyeing the assassin warily.

DM Her foe drops. The three remaining villains converge on Kryss, seeking to slay the massive warrior. Poison blazes through his veins, sapping his power.

Shael Shael directs the spectral form of avenger against another foe and then raises a shield of faith before stepping towards the melee and calling out, “Your enemies will pound upon the door of your defenses, but only you shall have the key, and it is the key of life.”

DM Avenger claims its victim.

Julian Julian works to protect Kryss’s flanks so that the big warrior can focus on the true foe.

DM The last of the rank and file falls to Lightbringer.

Julian Shella rattles off another crossbow bolt, tracking the assassin. “Damn…”

Felga It catches the blind assassin in her back. She whirls. “The Speaker wants you gone.”

Kryss Just in time for Kryss. He roars in pain and rage.

Shael “You’ll catch it if you leave us behind.. catch it hard, lass. Won’t hear nothin’ th’speaker has t’say no more.” he warns, “Best stick with this fight where you gotta chance.”

Felga “You care for it and it stands in his way. Dead twice.” She flips away from the group surrounding her towards Shella.

DM Her smaller ax catches in the guardswoman’s armor. She looks up as Julian moves in.

Julian Crates and debris are crushed as Julian rushes to Shella’s defense.

DM Lightbringer cuts through her evil visage as she moves her axe too slowly in defense. The blade flares as bright as the sun for a brief moment and when its light has dimmed, the villain lies dead, her sightless face blank.

Julian Julian takes a deep breath. “You all right? Kryss?” No need to ask about Gequa.

Shella Shella lets out her own breath, shakily. “Are…are they all gone?”

Shael Shael watches her fall without pity, that is saved for the werelass. Without preamble, he cures the poison Kryss is suffering and allows more healing magic to flow through the giant and himself before kneeling before Gequa.

Kryss Kryss looks at his wounds. “I have had more painful blisters on my ass from sitting too long. You worry like a human.”

Julian Julian looks around. “Maybe. We’ll make sure.”

Shael “We will.” Shael promises grimly.

Julian “Ha. I guess so.” he replies to Kryss, but the paladin isn’t in a bantering mood. He looks around at the carpet of skeletons. “Damn, they killed a lot of people…”

Kryss Kryss frowns at Gequa’s corpse. “Armor would have prevented her from dying. It is foolish to go so bare into a battle.”

DM A locked chest underneath the stairs holds the treasure of these foul villains. Three hundred gold, a black pearl worth twice that, a ring of force shield, and pages torn from a spellbook. The pages contain the enlarge, shield, tongues, hold person and phantom steed spells, or so they discover after they’ve read through them.

DM A pittance of treasure and for what? What awaits our heroes now? Find out next week!



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