Diamova

Shades and Echoes
Session 44.5 October 799

A solitary elf leans back in his chair in the bustling taproom of The Tipsy Stone. His mood appears light and the fancy bottle of mulled cider he fills his cup from belies a celebration.

‘Gather ’round and I’ll fill you in a bit on where I’ve been the past few days. There you go, there’s plenty of space at the table and the inn is light on soldiers this evening.

Well. Where to begin. I guess you could say that we have all been fortunate to be having an otherwise boring week following some of the other developments and revelations Erathik holds for us. I found myself wandering a bit, that old familiar twitch in my palm.

Following a somewhat portly fellow who appeared well-off, I found myself outside of a money-changing house guarded by soldiers of the Empire below the sea. A curious thought began to worm its way around my mind and I bought a few necessary provisions in order to stay well-fed and alert in the coming hours and what turned into days.

Snagging a shabby traveling cloak from a laundry line a few streets away, I studied the odd building that the Empire had appropriated for their own use. Aside from all the usual telltale markers of a bank controlled by the city, there were some stables attached to the rear of the building and the building itself sprawled over much of a city block.

I’ve a trick of the trade for you now: as you settle in to a classic watch ‘n wait, don’t worry too much about keeping a sharp focus on every detail. Let your eyes wander, let your thoughts wander, but stay awake! In those drifting moments things out of the ordinary or conversations you might not have overheard will float to the top of the mug.

I was in this rhythm for the better part of two days, taking breaks to circle the block or climb a nearby building for a better vantage point. Breath in the air of a place long enough, you get to learn its own rhythms. If you can grasp that, feel that, you’re left with a choice: either shrug and move on in your own way or you can decide to let go of the shore and let the tide pull you along as it will.

This is one of the keys to disappearing in a crowd or making a friend wherever you go. You have the choice to be whoever you want, which will help you do almost anything you want. Mark these words in crystal but never forget who is underneath. That way lies madness.

Mid-day on the second day I decided it was time to get the final pieces of the puzzle. Following the basic rhythms of those I had seen coming and going, I entered the moneylender and surprisingly found myself speaking to a dwarf by the name of Ra-ku-ta.

He changed a bit of my coin out and gave me the basic rundown on Empire currency that I already knew (but it seemed to make him feel good, which is important). While he was speaking I took as many glances around the room as possible and made a mental map of the room before taking my leave.

Night fell. When it was the deepest hours of the night, I set into motion.

Climbing the wall and slipping in through an upstairs window I found myself in an occupied guardroom. This was fine, their gentle snoring belying a deep sleep. Moving through the hallways there was a surprising amount of activity, card games and dinners running against the divide between morning and night. Bending with the shadows, it wasn’t much of a task to find my way around and downstairs near the rear doors facing the stables.

Moving away and towards the lending room, I slipped the door open and found two guards hovering near my prize. Getting them to look away wasn’t too difficult, you need only create a distraction suitable to draw their simple minds. Producing the sound of a dog barking in the alley was enough to dart in behind the counters but not without squeaking on a floorboard.

Honestly, these old buildings will be the death of me one day. But not this day.

Avoiding attention from the guards as they settled back into their musings I set to work on the bank of chests lining the counter. Muffling my picking, the lock was eventually defeated and the lid raised to get a peek at what I was working with.

Unfortunately I was dealing with so much that there were a few noisy coins that shifted and clinked around. Thinking as quickly as I could, I projected more noise outside the room, this time of the dwarf Ra-ku-ta asking for assistance out back. When one guard took the bait, it was then or never.

Moving as quickly as I could, I slid behind the one remaining guard and dispatched him before he could raise an alarm. Unfortunately for him, seeing my face that night was the last thing he did on this world. Freeing his keys from their captivity, I likewise went about opening the vault.

Rows of chests greeted me, but all with the same locks I had already beaten on the open chest. Knowing that the hourglass was losing precious grains of sand I flipped off the shabby cloak and laid it on the open chest and dumped the contents inside.

rogue-assassin.jpg Bundling it into a makeshift bag and leaping over the counter I made for the front door, beginning to hear the noises of approaching footsteps from the direction of the stables. A steady hand is the difference between life and death in these moments and even flipping through keys to find the right one I was sure and smooth in my motions.

Finding the right one and flipping the tumblers of the lock, I started to instantly run and charged the door with my shoulder, slipping into the night and back here without anyone the wiser.

You saw me counting the sums earlier, but it was easily the largest single heist of coin I’ve had in my charmed lifetime. Soak in this story, little sisters. As I promised, next time you’re coming with me!

Calbur, friend! A few cups for my younger kin! And a quiet round on me for those not sporting allegiance to the Empire…

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Black: The Shade of Leech Stones Past!
Session 42 - October 799

In Progress

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Red: The Skin of Makla Men!
Session 41 - October 799

Following an informative chat with Colbur at the Tipsy Stone, we operated on some of that information by heading to the southern regions of the city to find some street with the name of a flower…dandelion? dogbane? daphne? I don’t recall, one of those “D” blossoms.

Unfortunately, there were a few guards between us and our destination in the form of one of those pesky checkpoints. We chose one to our liking—meaning with as few guards as possible—and proceeded to try. Our estimable burglar had the papers we’d procured earlier and was willing to give it a try first. He did tolerable good, managed to convince them he was an “apothecary” and even learned the name on the papers: The Gay Sriracha Ma unless my ears deceived me—it was a fair way back. We should remember that for later. Eventually Madam Stabby was able to get the rest of us through with an uncharacteristic amount of blood left inside the obstacles of our passage. Turns out she can spin a fair tale if the need arises.

So we came to The Complete Blacksmith with no further to do and found a chained orc and his little “master”. It didn’t take long to be assured we could have a crowbar ready for a clandestine meeting later in the eve.

Now, as we had a few hours to frivol away, we decided to peruse the local fauna for a spell, and we weren’t disappointed. Before long we got to see a bloody little brawl in the streets and even joined in a bit. The resistance certainly seemed to be alive and kicking in the city.

Back with our orcish host, we were treated to a stroll into the side of a stone wall and a regular treasure of gifts: papers and weapons befitting a spy or some such.

We had one more visit to make that night and it was to an old friend. This time Wally was in and almost took our heads off in more ways than one. He’d learned a few things it seemed since last we met. The first thing we noticed was his impressive ability to quaff the ol’ broth as “they” say. Secondly we realized he was a bit more handy with his, well, hands, but in a beat ‘em up sort of way if you follow me—there are but a few that can manhandle Kaia like that is what I’m saying. Well I think Wally might have begun to tell us something about it, but suddenly my not-so-faithful steed was occupied with personal grooming and a nighttime stroll. He took us for a quick frolic over the city walls where we spent the night.

The next morning we flounced up to Cliff Gate (supposedly the most lax in security) like a fattened calf parading to the butcher on feast day. A master at speaking meaninglessnesses, Draz did quite well trading air-headed statements with the guard, but when that creepy fellow “inspected” him for magicability I could actually feel the kid’s muscles tighten like harp strings—and for someone of his build that’s downright disturbing.

But we made it alright and got a brand new set of papers: Rat Will Envy To Leer was born!

I wonder what the other’s were doing…eh, can’t of been anything too important. At least I know them wouldn’t have brought up that whole bother about Mysttelah; that would be even more terrible than thinking her dead.

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Got Nothing
Session 40 - October 799

Following our nice jaunt into Erathik, it didn’t take long to find our way to troublemakers of one sort or another. In this case, at least, the folks seemed to be makers of our kind of trouble. The incongruously named Gilded Rose—well it’s cellar at least—served as a quite passable refuge for the night, but with our luck you must know that couldn’t last long.

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Early the next morning most of us were woken by the sound of and smell—well only some of us noticed the scent I suppose—of an empire soldier tumbling down the stairs. Kaia soon dealt with that little problem, and with the second wrestling with our hostess at the top of the stairs, who rather too calmly offered us breakfast before bidding us to take the bodies and leave.

Now we have one or two members of our party with a straight-thinking head firmly planted on their necks, but it took us an unacceptable amount of time to decide what to do with those two corpses. I, of course, came up with a number of feasible plans at once, but we finally went with J’s idea to put them in the potato sacks. That was plan three on my list; not bad for a two-footed whelp.

Our stroll to drop the bodies off the wharf was remarkably unremarkable and soon after we determined we should try to seek out ol’ Wal Wal. Actually arriving we didn’t find much of use. I mean, someone seemed to be living there—messily—but no saying it was him. Our infamous illiterate did his best to leave a number of not so subtle clues about for the man to find. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on that one. Something of more interest—to me at least—happened on the way to the erstwhile abode of our friend. TheDry-Addle Brained Missy seemed to take a bit of a shock upon sight of the old temple, which could use a good whitewashing incidentally. Stood stock still mumbling something like “That witch’s never-sad husband stuttered” which is undoubtedly of great importance. I’m devoting most of my considerable mental faculties to unwinding this puzzle.

With no better recourse we decided to head for the Tipsy Stone because, as you must have learned by now, whenever we don’t have a better idea we go to the local watering hole. This led us to a string of blunders—all caused by trying to avoid an empire checkpoint (understandably)—starting with the scrawny lad’s inability to climb hand over hand and culminated by the loud-mouthed rebel’s inability to keep a civil tongue in his head or follow his big brother’s example and bluff his way past the guards we bumped into.

Thankfully the fight was really more of a scrap followed by a flight. Sure was lucky those stray dogs showed up. I never much cared for mongrels like that in Tych, but I’ll think better of their kind hereafter. A little better at least, promise.

Leaving a few bodies—empire—in our wake, we managed to make it to the Old Windmill, one of the J’s hideouts from back in the…year has it been?

We realized that we’d made it past the checkpoint after all, so, after a little disguise work, Kaia, Fenrin, Draz and I slipped off to the Stone after all.
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We nosed about for a while, Kaia did some jaw flapping to pick up some information, Draz liberated a few purse-indentured items to do the same, but it was Fenrin that really did something of worth. He slipped into the kitchens shortly after me—what, you think I’m stupid? I know best room in an inn—and spoke to the barkeep, Calbur, beyond the eyes and ears of the empire in the common room. Between his conversation with the ol’ fellow and the subsequent one we had with his granddaughter thanks to Fen securing us a room and an alliance of sorts, we learned about empire currency, a bit about their identification system, and gleaned hints regarding what happened to the temple.

Hopefully we learn more soon. I want to see how that witch and her optimistic spouse fit in with the other strands of this web.

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Experience of a Lifetime
Session 38 - September 799

Well our avoidance lasted all of what seemed five heartbeats before we were right back in the trap. Two massive ships were sweeping up the riverbanks. The gray of pre-dawn was beginning to give way to a gentle light. No where to hide.
We decided to go right for one of them, hoping to squeeze past and speed downriver before they could turn. At the last moment we got the warning, something between the ships! Virash must have slipped and fallen on the tiller, because we cut sharp and almost avoided them, but unfairly their floating isle rammed itself betwixt us and the shore, the chain connecting to the two ships cutting off our escape, but not before we gave ’em a broadside of their own thunder-pipes!

One of those cocky Makla sorts called out for a couple of cretins with strange face fetishes to board us and “have fun”. Probably not a good sign. Of course, we weren’t going to stand there and take it. Lady Mae transformed into a creature of much greater loveliness than her usual unnatural self, and of frightful strength. Grumpy also morphed, and the fighting was begun.

The Makla smoked us out with some kind of swinging pot—I think it did something to the urchin cause he was more useless than usual. It was hard to catch everything that went on, but I know that at some point Mae, Chay, and one of the boarders fell or were cast overboard. Then we were sending an answering boarding party! The pirate, the cap’n, and the thief got over to their deck and set to work…doing…something.

Next thing I know Chay, Fenrin, and Kaia are back but Virash stayed a moment to rip the massive winch off the deck and drop it in the river! I’m not sure I’ve ever been more terrified—and think of the other tales I’ve told you!

We got moving then, pulling away from the enemy ship. I think it was that overly zealous, talking beard that somehow managed to snag ol’ Virash with a rope and haul him after us and aboard. Of course, he ranted for the next hour about how it was the “Great White Shark” or whatever it is he calls his imaginary friend.

Now, I think—desperately hope!—we’ll have smooth sailing for a bit. At least the last day or two has been nice, nothing more exciting than picking up some peddler with a few baubles for sale. After procuring a few things (legally or otherwise) we continued on, though, since we no longer have wares to give the alliance—their camp being obliterated and all—one might ask what’s our motive now? But maybe it was good for us to be aimless for a little while, I feel that we’ve been so frantic lately that we didn’t have time to really absorb our experiences as we should. After all, it is the experience of life that helps us grow, right? The adversity that makes us stronger?

I certainly hope that’s true, because I have the sinking feeling we’ll need all the strength we can dredge up in the days to come.

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The Bigger They Are...

I have arrived many places to find myself in the middle of all manner of bother, but today ranks among the most odd. It seems, though it spanned only a heartbeat, we came during a shadow of an interlude in the mayhem as some Mock Law (why they name their demons after false legal documents I have yet to discover, but it promises to be an interesting revelation), face to face with the Madam Scoundrel. Something was passing between them and it was anything warm or friendly. Though I found this out later, I’ll now refer to this Mock Law as MystLaw, as explained by her query before our arrival, “Kaia, why do you have my sword?”

Well that pause in the action, if it was more than imagination, didn’t survive long after we arrived. Kaia lashed out with word and blade at MystLaw, ineffectually. Steel flashed and blood sprayed, and then MystLaw was suddenly upon the Tree-Croc-Kitty Lady and pummeling her like a butcher tenderizing meat. Then I’m not certain she was a lady anymore, in a manner of speaking that is, for I swear her scent changed. She smelled…darker, I think. In any case, the black void she summoned to swallow herself and MystLaw certainly was dark.

Our Entertainer arrived even later than I and the Waif, but he lost no time in shouting out encouragement to his fellows and heaping insults upon his foes. He also managed a few tricks with fire that reminded me once again he was good for more than a tune or tale.

Things were not looking good for Dark Mae, though truth be told I couldn’t actually see her, but suddenly that Shaggy Brute emerged from the murk with the unconscious sprite flung over his no doubt smelly back.

Meanwhile, I had forsaken my normal means of transport—just in time for it was shortly thereafter airborne. Draz, apparently showing off, soared into the melee beside Kaia, lighting exploding out from him to dart around friends and stab through foes. That fight was going well, but Mystlaw had proven a match and more for Aiden and Chay, neither of whom could hinder her. She strode back towards Kaia, dropped Abar with a precise blow and demanded her sword back. Kaia tried to oblige, at least the sword was definitely headed in MystLaw’s direction, but then it seemed to disappear. I’m not quite sure what happened next, maybe she was intimidated by the sight of a woman ramming a fire hawk down her companion’s throat, but MystLaw retreated.

Aiden made chase, but only to hurl a final vaguely classified statement at her back.

In the aftermath, as we checked bodies and tended to are wounded, Muambu’s cry of pain and outrage drew our eyes to the prone Abar. The bear of a man made no response as Muambu tried to waken him, and after a moment the reality finally penetrated into conscious thought.

Abar was dead.

I’ll admit I will miss that lunk. He was always too slow with his hands to stop me from sharing his plate at supper.

We tended to him as best we could and then finished the job we came here for, chopping down a bloody tree. Some folk complain that lumber costs an arm and a leg. We paid two of both and more besides.

With some help from the Tree-Croc-Kitty-Pony Lady and the Urchin we managed to get our burden to the ship and confess our bad news to the rest of the crew. Not all of them took it lightly.

But at the end of the day there was still work to be done. We prepared the ship for disembarkation and in the meanwhile, Aiden prepared for a conversation with our latest guest, invited by the other party. He surely put in the effort, managing, with a little help, to dress the part, but his tongue was more like lead than silver that night if the news he reported in the morning was any indication.

Finally, as we were about to depart, we caught sight of an empire ship. Shortly later, a second and a third. They were patrolling the river. With a bit of luck and a touch of fog, we managed to slip past them. Then we were on our way south again.

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Dear Diary - Revisited
Session 34

A dwarf sits with his back to a ship’s mast. With one hand he works a spell upon a breastplate made up of more rust than good steel; with his other he jots down lines of text in a small book.

Most auspicious of annals, I, most great in humility and devotion to the Great White One, as surely served his will with flawless sincerity and interpretation. Upon this day I saved the life of a poor unfortunate and gave succor to the crew with which I grant the honor of my conveyance.

It came to pass that the prodigious strength of both my spirit and my arm was sought in order to reap timber from the savage wild. Joined by a few others, we soon located a fine supply of lumber in the form of a wrecked ship, yet, ever vigilant for the acting of deeds of good to others, I saw a soul in need. The unfortunate’s body was also in disrepair. Alas, though I found the wretch’s flesh simple enough to mend, his soul was more resistant to my gentle ministrations. I sought to instruct him in my incredible importance, though as soft-spoken as ever.

Well, the man was clearly full of perfidousness, for he denied our trustworthiness—despite my declarations that we were no brigands! Therefore, I most benevolently set to aiding the man in salvaging what of his cargo might be saved. Even in this he gave only distrust and malevolent suspicion.

We had just begun to extricate several choices timbers, aided in no small way by an inspired use of my most modest talent in waterbending, when word was passed of an Empire longboat.

Naturally, we would not fly from so pitiful a foe! I, a devout servant of the Great White One, have naught to fear from the fire and steel of such mortal miscreants as they!

We arrayed ourselves before them, and, of course, carried ourselves in honor and courage. We beat them back with many a gallant blow and heroic strike, though, I am ashamed to admit it, I was sullied by way of a lie. In the exigency of the instant allowed myself to be caught up in the deceit of that mistress of criminals.

In the end, by our strength, our cunning, and our—ahem—deft fingers we gained victory over the dastardly attackers. All flew before us save one that I cowed into capitulation by the authority of the Great White One.

After that we collected a few items of interest and disembarked the wreck. Whilst retracing our steps to our own ship, my eyes, blessed by the Great White One with perception beyond mortal powers, took note of a turmoil of tracks. It seemed clear to me that these must be those same fellows that once belonged to the ruination of that ship which we hallowed by our shed blood. Naturally, I informed our new fellow of my most reasonable conclusion and bade him well upon his reunion with his mates, which I was sure he would find if once he followed the spoor.

And that, most just journal, is the tale of how, by his most modest servant’s faithful hand, the Great White One saved a man’s life and set him on the path not only, it is to be hoped, to reunification but to piety and to faithfulness to himself.

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Sailing down the river
Session 34 - September 799

Where a makla says “Kaia? Why do you have my sword?”

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Aterra
Session 33 - August 799

Selling the gem of Inristus

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Bumps on a Log
Session 31?

What a boring couple of weeks!

Just floating on down the river. Not doing much of anything. Oh, Kaia seemed to love being “captain” of something and Fenrin had no shortage of timber to gnaw at with his tools—I think the faces of at least half our troupe could be found graven in decidedly unflattering portraits. Mae gawked at everything…Every. Little. Uninteresting. Thing…and chatted in an unmitigated stream that put the current of our river to shame. Aiden griped occasionally about the loss of his instruments and occasionally played spoons with several of Draz’s “souvenirs” whilst singing snatches of something to himself or others. Thankfully the pooch stayed rather aloof, from me at least.

The first real event of note happened when Draz got the sudden urge to reach shore. No one knew why, but Mae at least was happy to help. So she took a dip, transmorphosizing into some sort of crocodile. Of course, Draz took a moment to realize what was going on. Fenrin—trying to be helpful?—roped CrocaMae rather expertly. But the need must have been strong because Draz leapt—over water!—to her back, gallantly slashing the tether as he did so. At least I expect that was his aim, instead he made quite the splash and he overshot his target and plunged into the water. I swear, one day that boy has to learn to swim! I have half a mind to just push him in and let him learn or die.

Anyway, CrocaMae got Draz to shore alright, and Fenrin jumped in after him. I was smart enough to have waited on the raft. The details are a little hazy after that, but when they came back Draz—who just happens to know how to fly now?!—was even more air headed than usual and CrocaMae wasn’t saying much of anything. The urchin confided in me later that he’d been there before, and he fiddled with a battered top in a distracted manner. He thinks he used to live there, which might even be true. I don’t remember much from my days before meeting Draz, but he did seem less streetwise than the other orphans—at first.

Speaking of our meeting, we soon found ourselves back in Tych. What a difference a few months of good leadership makes! Maybe I finally see what Wasp and Draz and those other idiots were trying to do.

Draz and I went to see old friends, but the others actually had a more interesting time of it, which I heard about later. Apparently there was a big wedding going on. Fenrin, Kaia, and some others paid their respects, and even got conscripted to do a little escorting. Fenrin came back before the others. Seems he made a new friend and they did some serious celebrating. I don’t know what the world’s come to when people start poisoning themselves as a leisure activity.

Oh right! We met ol’ Rotgut. That was a jolly reunion. I’ve missed the seclusion of his larders, usually so well stocked. It was on the familiar Smoke that we departed, continuing our journey south. With the minor—and largely pointless—detour to the Spectral Rooster at the Holiness his Loudness’ bidding.

They didn’t find anything. Why should they expect to? That massacre happened ages ago. I suppose they did figure out a little of what may have happened and how. Some ancient friend of the Blessed Airbag still lives, but who gives a fish egg over that?

And then other than a brief period of unsettlement in which several of our folk dallied in mental discourse with a deity, it was smooth sailing all the way to Aterra.

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