Iago's apartment is of Average rank. It sits on Burden Street in the Incudine, and is attached to Madame Burrfoot's pipeleaf shop. The space is a former cobbler's shop, with a ground floor suitable as a workshop and an upstairs apartment. Iago has carefully removed the sign from the space so that he cannot be accused of attempting to sell goods there, as he is forbidden from practicing alchemy within the city as he is not a member of the Alchemist's Guild.
His part-time "servants" include his landlady, Madame Burrfoot, and his father, to whom he sends money. The former provides meals when Iago is home, and both keep an eye on the place when he is away adventuring.
Iago entered his new home. Madame Burrfoot, the halfling landlady, had done a fine job of cleaning it after its last tenant, and the half-orc had spent so little time there it had acquired no clutter or dirt of any kind. Indeed, the place looked downright sterile. Iago wondered if he should have made an effort to make the space more inviting before inviting his guest. The furnishings were comfortable enough, but the place did not look like a home.
Indeed, he reflected, looking over at the racks of flasks and strange apparatus in his work area, the only space in which he had invested any time at all was his workbench.
"Well, let's see tha' place, then," came the gruff voice behind him in orcish. A larger, older half-orc made his way in, weathered features locked in a perpetual scowl. He wore the faded work clothes and leather harness favored by Venza's longshoremen, and he walked with the slightly crooked gait of one who has spent a lifetime carrying goods in and out of the bellies of ships. The effect was exaggerated by the the wooden stump that replaced his right leg where it ended below the knee.
"This is my work area," said Iago, gesturing helplessly. "I'll be sleeping on the cot over there. The apartment upstairs would be yours."
But the old man seemed to ignore the alchemist's words, instead stamping over to look at the work area. "You put 'dis in?" he asked, gesturing to the shelves.
"Most of them," replied Iago. "Some of it is left over from the old shopkeeper. He was a cobbler."
"A human?" asked the old man. "Thought so," he added, at Iago's nod. "Still has his smell."
"So, your room would be upstairs," Iago repeated politely. "Madame Burrfoot would make your morning and evening meals. She's a good cook," he adds. "And she buys her ale from a cousin of hers, a brewer. It's good."
"How's her leaf?" asked the old man, still looking over the workbench.
"I don't know," answered Iago honestly. He did not partake of pipeleaf, though he supposed it was harmless enough. At least compared to the rotgut whiskey the old man favored. "But she's got a big stock in the shop. I'm sure there's something you'd like."
There was an awkward pause as the older half-orc looked Iago up and down.
Finally, Iago broke the silence. "Pa," he said carefully. "You'd like it here."
"Ha!" Answered his father. "You didna' think I'd leave de docks, did ya'?"
Actually, Iago had been surprised when his father had agreed to come look at the place. He'd held out hope he could get the man to leave that cesspool behind and live in a part of the city with decent sanitation and safe food. "So why did you come," he asked.
"Ta' see that," answered the old man. "I wanted ta' know sumthin'. Ya never made much sense ta' me, but now I get it."
"What do you mean?" asked the half-orc in confusion. "That's...my alchemical gear." His father had never had much patience with it before, and Iago could not fathom his sudden interest.
"Is it now?" asked the old man sardonically. "That fer alchemy?"
He was pointing at Iago's falchion, which hung with his other weapons on a rack beside the workbench.
"What? I mean, of course I need weapons," he said, confused.
"O' course you do," chortled the old man. "But da ya need 'em right there?"
Iago blinked as his father laughed, seeming to savor some joke. His son tried to process the exchange. Why did the rack of weapons amuse his father so? Everyone had weapons. When he was growing up...
When Iago and his brothers were growing up, the family had kept their crude stock of weapons in a cabinet, near the door. Why had Iago hung his with his alchemical tools? What did that mean?
"C'mon, let's get a drink," the old man said, patting his son on the back. The pair made their way out, Iago still frowning in confusion. As the door closed behind them, the faint light that flickered through the gaps in the shutters played off the weapons and the strange glassware alike.
In the early hours of the morning, Iago set out with an armed band to defend his town.
Word of the bandits had reached Blasingdell in the dead of night, when the teenage daughter of a local holder arrived at the gates with two smaller siblings in tow. The horrors she spoke of, and the grisly bodies discovered by the militia, were shocking even to a frontier town amid the violent mountainous woods.
The mayor took counsel from militia leaders and declared the need for citizen volunteers. The bandits had covered their tracks and there was a great deal of ground to cover searching for them. Militia members would mix with small groups of townsfolk and local farmers, to ensure that whatever party encountered the brigands would have the numbers to face them. Iago had volunteered.
He had not been sure he would be accepted. He had only lived in the town a matter of months, and was still regarded as an oddity in the largely human population. He had hinted his willingness to serve in the militia but had never been asked, presumably because he was not fully trusted. But that morning, in the cold, pre-dawn light, the militia captain had nodded and told him to get his gear.
Iago had drawn stares coming back from his home, walking into the town draped with the weapons and armor of his adventuring days. Folk were used to his bow and his falchion, and he had always carried some alchemical gear with him. But the myriad implements of alchemical and physical destruction strapped to his body had been a shock to those who knew him as a quiet and scholarly stranger. The captain, a glint of concern in his eye, assigned him to a party led by a logger and sometime militia sargeant by the name of Makan.
As they set out, Iago found he was not impressed by Makan. He knew the woods well enough, but let the men spread out seemingly at random rather than arraying them in a defensible formation. When Iago had unshouldered his bow and slipped into a rearguard position, Makan had chastised him for falling behind and jokingly accused him of cowardice. Iago cared neither for Makan’s tactics nor the sniggering of his fellow loggers.
The half-orc received more sympathetic looks from the townsfolk who knew him better. His time within the town’s walls had earned him a measure of trust and respect as an honest patron of the local establishments. His little alchemical shop did not do much business with the locals, a fact that had initially left many of the town’s residents distrustful, but Iago’s months of quietly courteous relations with his neighbors had convinced them he was a decent fellow.
They had been prosperous months for the half-orc. The surrounding forests were rich in rare plants and fungi, and he knew how to extract their valuable essences. It had surprised him how little value the town extracted from the surrounding forests, doing nothing beyond hacking down trees for lumber and space in which to farm. To Iago, the mountains were a treasure trove. He spent pleasant days wandering the woods in search of valuable growths to carry back to his shop for processing. They made their way to Venza to be sold in the market, likely bought by Guild alchemists for other uses.
It troubled Iago that he was making life easier for the Guild, but he did not let it dissuade him. He made a fine living here, and could spend his evenings drinking good mead or ale in the tavern. He was invited into card and dice games, and could join in the singing of drinking songs if he chose. He did not have close friends among the locals, but that might come in time. And if he continued to prosper, it was even possible a wife might be in his future.
Iago caught sight of something in the woods to his right. “Makan,” he called quietly.
“Sargeant,” the man corrected him, scowling through his heavy beard.
“Sargeant,” Iago corrected neutrally, gesturing to the forest floor. “A group of men passed here.”
It was not much of a trail, but the forest loam was disturbed over one stretch between two patches of rockier ground. Makan started to say something biting but stopped, realizing the half-orc had found something. There were many bootprints overlaid, a group traveling in single file and choosing its steps to minimize its trail. It might not be the bandits, but they were the most likely explanation. “This way,” Makan called.
The men fell in, and the gaggle threaded its way through the forest growth. The group was a dozen strong, all hideously loud to Iago, but he said nothing as the group made its way forward.
It was late morning when the troop spotted the clearing. The trail had become more obvious now that the bandits were further from the town, and wound its way up a mountain slope toward a campsite. The camp was visible just a scant hundred yards away, thinning trees revealing a scattering of tents emblazoned by the symbol of some obscure Barony of Landadel. The bandits themselves moved among them, engaged in various tasks, and a few bowmen seemed to have been detailed as sentries.
Deserters from a Landadel army, Iago realized. They were a long way from home. He judged their numbers to be similar to those of his own warband, but suspected their skill outmatched that of his compatriots. The half-orc grew concerned.
His worries were not allayed when Makan pulled the group into a huddle and gave his instructions. One of his logging compatriots was to take half their number to approach from the east, while the rest of the group waited here. While they were moving into position, Makan would lead his party closer to the camp. When both were ready, they would rain down arrows on the bandits.
The half-orc did not like the thought of splitting a force he already judged to be inferior, but said nothing. He waited as Makan let the other group advance, taking advantage of the time to make preparations of his own. He slipped into cover behind a tree where his fellows could not question his actions, and began going through the assortment of vials and flasks at his belt. Two flasks of acid were jellied and smeared onto arrows. Potions were downed, one to strengthen his throwing arm, another to improve his reflexes, and another to protect him from arrows. He hesitated for a moment at an old clay vial, then slipped it back into his pouch. He would be fighting from a distance, if Makan had his way, Iago rationalized. There was no need of it.
Abruptly, Makan signalled the advance. Iago frowned. He had been tracking the other group’s progress, and did not believe they were in position. A glance at Makan’s face confirmed his fears. The man’s nerves had gotten to him, and he could not bring himself to wait.
There was nothing Iago could do but cooperate. Six erstwhile warriors advanced, Makan leading the way. The loggers and townspeople had some skill with woodcraft, but it was no surprise to Iago when one of the bandit sentries cried warning.
Things happened very quickly. Makan gave the order to fire, and Iago obligingly sent several shafts into the camp. But the bandits reacted with a high degree of discipline, rallying to the call of a rough-looking red-haired man and charging into the brush. Iago and his fellows fired gamely from the cover of the forest, but the distance and intervening trees made their shots unsure.
As the bandits made their rush, the townspeople’s volleys began to falter. Makan was shouting something useless to try and inspire his troops, but Iago sensed the group was within seconds of breaking ranks. The alchemist ignored them, drawing a vial from his belt as the brigand vanguard came to within a scant 20 yards.
He threw. The woods exploded in anguished screams and orange fire. A burning figure staggered out of the flames in panic, surrounded by fallen comrades. The living dived for cover only to find themselves in the center of yet another conflagration, and then a third.
The red-haired man stepped forward from the flames, urging his men forward into close range where the bombs could not be used. Iago drew the jellied arrows he had readied and let fly. Two shafts took the man in the chest, and he died screaming in agony as the reagents burned away the flesh where it touched the shafts.
Where moments before a dozen brigands had charged, now a scant trio dropped their weapons and darted off into the woods. Iago rose and let fly, whooping with joy as he managed to bring down one more to lie among the dead and dying. He gave a triumphant scream and turned to face his comrades.
They were staring at him in open-mouthed horror.
The half-orc blinked, triumph evaporating in a moment of deadly silence broken only by the crackling of the flames behind him. He looked back at them uncertainly.
“They deserved to die,” he told them defensively.
Each stare seemed to drift in a different direction. Fear, horror and revulsion flickered on each man’s features in different measure. But none spoke.
“They deserved to die,” repeated the half-orc more forcefully, becoming angry. “It’s what we came here to do! I just did what needed doing!”
He stopped, glaring back. Another moment passed, then Makan said something Iago did not care about. The group set about patting out the fires and gathering valuables from the site. There would be something for the children of that lost home, at least, someone said.
Iago moved with the others, aiding in the process of piling the bandits’ bodies into a pile. At a look from Makan, he set them on fire.
The group watched the pyre burn for a time, then turned and began making their way back to Blasingdell. The men were no longer dumbstruck, and there was some chatter. A few thanked various gods that all twelve of them were safely on their way home.
But Iago was not among them. He was returning to Blasingdell, but the half-orc understood he was not going home.
It was no longer his town.