Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED)
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  1. #1

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    Fairfield, CT

    Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED)

    Welcome to an experiment that turned out to be a lot longer than any of us any anticipated. This story hour takes place in Arcanis. If you're not familiar with Arcanis, check out Onara Online and LIVING ARCANIS Home Page to get an idea of how the world works. Hint: it involves lizard people, flintlocks, and Romans.

    Our game, which started as just a handful of people, has expanded to encompass friends and relatives across three states (NY, ME, CT). The cast varies depending on where and when we play. You can read more about my experiences with role-playing in my National RPG column for the Examiner.

    Most of the adventures are either from Living Arcanis modules, Cthulhu adventures, or Freeport adventures. We generally stay true to the material, but NPCs get switched out often, sometimes with PCs. Speaking of which, we don't usually include PCs whose players aren't present, unless it's to act as part of the plot (thus, Quintus and Kham have both been convenient plot devices when their players weren't present). That said, all of these adventures contain spoilers, so if you plan to play in Arcanis or Freeport, you might want to stop reading once you recognize the name of the adventure.

    The story hour is now completely written, but I'm still posting installments of the full 66 chapters, one a day. It's recommended you start at the beginning (that'd be uh, here), which will ease you into the universe. If you want to be reminded of updates, I post a copy to my blog at, which in turn sends an email every night to my subscriber list.

    The cast includes elements of the typical "five-man band" consisting of the Hero (Quintus), the Lancer (Kham), the Smart Guy (Sebastian), the Big Guy (Beldin, Calactyte, or Vlad), and the Chick (Ilmare or Bijoux). We also have the Sacrificial Lamb (Holden) and the Sixth Ranger (Nauris).

    For more information about the campaign, see the Gonnes, Sons and Treasure Runs Home Page.


    This story hour is a home game from the tournament module, "So Shall Ye Reap," written by Henry Lopez, set in the Arcanis setting. Our cast of characters includes:

    • Quintus Aurelius Ignatius (human Clr1), played by Mike Tresca (that's me):
    • Kham Val'Abebi (val Rog1), played by Jeremy Ortiz: Jeremy Robert Ortiz
    • Ilmare Galen (elf Brd1), played by Amber Tresca (my wife)
    • Vlad Martell (human Ftr1), played by Matt Hammer.

    (Clarifying Note: Quintus does not normally use his first name with folks he doesn't know that well. That changes after the first adventure).

    Our DM is the inimitable Robert Taylor, a gaming legend in his own time:

    This is an interesting exercise in documenting what happened before as well as flexing my writing muscles so I can take a break from my novel.

    What transpires below is very close to how the game took place, which does not strictly follow the adventure path. A lot of dialogue has been added as the characters were fleshed out later to help tie the plot together more tightly and extrapolate on each character's background.

    I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed playing it!
    Last edited by talien; Monday, 8th February, 2010 at 12:26 PM. Reason: New Story Hour Update

  2. #2

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    So Shall Ye Reap: Prologue

    "They pass that law, and we're out of business."

    Kham thrust one hand through his shock of black curls. The idiot next to him was getting drunker by the minute and spewing information like a fountain. A fountain of beer.

    "You mentioned smuggling," Kham repeated, slow enough for even the extremely inebriated to understand. "So?"

    Kham's drinking companion's face, an explosion of stubble, jowls of flesh, and scars, crinkled up in confusion. "We're in the same boat, mate. I know what you do."

    Kham fingered the green brooch at his neck. "Oh you do, do you?"

    "Right," the fellow said. Kham didn't even know his name. "You're…fond of doing what needs to be done, and laws be damned, right?" He jabbed Kham in the ribs with an elbow. "Right?"

    Kham nodded before he was bruised further. "So if the Senate calls for the interdiction of any ships in Coryani waters of piracy or smuggling, we're all kicked, is that it?"

    "Damn right," the drunk said, slurping loudly from his mug. "It's plebs like that," he gestured at a man dressed in a finely tailored toga at the far corner of the tavern, "that ruin it for the rest."

    Kham's eyes lit up. He recognized the jeweled brooch on the man's cloak. Kham adjusted his overcoat and slid off the stool.

    "You give him what for," muttered the drunk from the bar. Kham nodded over his shoulder but kept his eyes on the plebian. He was talking intently to three other people at the table.

    Kham could sniff out a mercenary recruitment drive from a mile away. He slid over to a seat nearer the four of them to get a better look.

    "I thank you for your quick response to my request," the white haired plebeian said. "Rest assured, you will be well compensated in assisting my master for this small matter. You each have been selected for your particular skills. I trust you will not disappoint."

    He nodded towards a large man, dressed in scale armor. "Master Martell will be your guide. He is a native Milandisian." The Milandisian thrust out his chin a bit but otherwise said nothing.

    Kham thought there was nothing quite so pathetic as a Mliandisian down on his luck. He must have been desperate to take on such work.

    "Mistress Galen's vast knowledge will serve you well. She has come very far from Entaris."

    The female was undeniably Elorii. She was also quite striking, with perfect posture and an icy gaze. She was an Osalikene, descended from the wind god, as evidenced by her pointed ears and silver hair.

    "If the child is still alive," she said in a monotone whisper, "we'll find him."

    "Yes, we shall!" shouted the third man, with a dimpled chin, angular features, and a bearskin draped over his armor. "I, Aurelius Ignatius, swear that the Legion of the Reluctant Warrior shall not fail!"

    The speaker was Coryani, like the plebian. Kham hated Coryani. He couldn't take it any longer.
    "Again?" Kham said.


    "I said, 'Again?' An entire century of legionnaires were dispatched to find the boy. They have not yet returned," he said defiantly from the nearby table.

    Aurelius' mouth opened in surprise—for once, no sound came out of it. His brows furrowed, but before he could come up with a retort, the plebian waved Kham over.

    "You must be Master Kham. I was not sure if you were going to join us."

    Kham stood up, smoothed his coat, and walked over to the table. "Why didn't you tell them about the century, Decimus?"

    Decimus stared at Kham for a long moment. Then he turned back to Aurelius. "Senator Tensen-Balin is a scrupulous man. He's also General Menisis' uncle. Master Ignatius is insurance that the glory of the legion will be retained, even in as secretive a task as this. To not send a member of the legion would be disgraceful."

    Kham smirked. "A signifer? The mighty Legion of the Reluctant Warrior sent their signifer? Why not a centurion?"

    Decimus put a calming hand on Aurelius' shoulder as the legionnaire's face turned red. "Because a centurion has already been sent. It is my master's hope that a small group can do discreetly what a century could not."

    "I didn't agree to him going along," said Aurelius, jabbing a thumb in Kham's direction.

    "You weren't asked," Decimus said firmly. "The Senator insists."

    "Let's go," said the Elorii before Aurelius could protest. "Every moment spent talking is more time for the Harvesters to get away with the Senator's son."

    "Good. Here is a writ of passage," he handed a scroll to Aurelius. "A priest waits outside to shepherd you through."

    Aurelius abruptly stood up and shrugged on a large shield over his back. The shield was emblazoned with the sign of a stylized warrior, shield held up and sword lowered. He snapped up the symbol of his legion, a spear in the shape of an open hand. Five medallions dangled from it.

    The Elorii shook her head and gracefully left the table. That left the Milandisian. He smiled at Kham and extended his hand. "My name's Vlad, by the way."

    Kham couldn't help but smile back. He shook the larger man's hand and followed him out the door.

    Outside, the Elorii was keeping her distance from the Coryani, who stood with hands on hips, scowling at the surrounding terrain.

    "So tell me Vlad," said Kham, keeping his eye on the legionnaire's back. "How does a signifer get caught up in this mess?"

    Vlad shrugged. "Never met him before," he said in low tones. "But he is a bit…loud."

    "He stumbled upon accounts documenting the missing century," said the Elorii, turning towards them. "They had to send him along to shut him up."

    "I didn't think you were in earshot," said Kham.

    A sly smirk slipped across the Elorii's lips. "I'm always in earshot," she said in the same monotone. "My name is Ilmarė."

    "Ilmarė," said Kham. "Pretty name."

    The Elorii turned away from him as a haggard-looking man approached them. A bracelet of thorns was wrapped around his left wrist. Kham recognized him as a Priest of Anshar, the clergy dedicated to maintaining the teleportation gates that could move anyone from one side of Arcanis to the other.

    "Wait," he said. "We're going through a Gate? "

    Aurelius turned around. "Of course. How else did you think we were going to get to Milandir?"

    Kham began patting himself down. "It's just that I wasn't…"

    "Prepared?" Aurelius watched as Kham silently counted to himself.

    "He's an Altharian," said Ilmarė. "He's counting his ammunition."

    Aurelius walked face to face with Kham. "I will not have you endanger this mission with your foolish 'gifts'!"

    Kham counted to twenty. "We'll be fine. I don't have enough powder to cause any problems."

    "Is there a problem?" said the priest.

    "No!" Aurelius and Kham shouted at the same time.

    "Then follow me, please. Time is of the essence."

    Aurelius harrumphed and followed the priest with a swirl of his cloak. Vlad fell in step behind next to Kham. "Why is Aurelius so angry?"

    "Because he's insecure?" he responded.

    "He's angry," Ilmarė said softly behind them, "because if too much powder goes through a gate, it explodes."

    Kham smiled sheepishly back at Vlad as the man's eyes widened.

    "Powder for what?" Vlad said after a moment.

    Kham shoved his hands into the pockets of his overcoat. "Altherian secret. You'll find out soon enough."
    Last edited by talien; Sunday, 10th October, 2004 at 07:01 PM.

  3. #3
    A nice start, this SH looks to be very interesting. I look forward to seeing what you do with it.

  4. #4

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    So Shall Ye Reap - Part 1: Deception

    The stroll through Coryan was far too long for Aurelius' tastes. The child was gods-knew-where and they were falling behind with every winding turn down yet another alley. If he was going to reveal their enemy's plans, he would have to do it soon.

    "You there," he said in irritation. "Guide. Have you gotten lost? Do you not know the way to the Gates?"

    The haggard-looking man came to a sudden stop, causing Vlad to nearly bump into Aurelius.

    "No, not at all. But I think we're being followed, so I took a longer route. It's down this alleyway right here." He pointed to their right. "Follow me please, it's not long now."

    Kham leaned around Vlad to address Aurelius. "Don't you live here?"

    "It's a big city," Aurelius said through gritted teeth. He kept his eyes focused on their guide. "Wait."

    Aurelius stopped so abruptly that this time that Vlad did collide with him. From the cursing that echoed behind the large man, Aurelius guessed that Kham got a face full of armor.

    "What's wrong?" Ilmarė asked, her voice tinged with concern.

    The guide's gaze flickered over his shoulder at the others, but then he turned away. Aurelius grabbed him by the arm.

    "This is wrong." He lifted the guide's arm up, showing the thorny vine wrapped around his wrist. "A Priest of Anshar should have scars from wearing a bracelet of thorns for so long."

    Aurelius shoved the man backwards and unsheathed the gladius hanging from a holster at his right hip.

    "We have been deceived!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, which was only marginally louder than his normal speaking voice.

    Three other men skulked out of the alleyway behind them, thumping clubs in open palms. They fanned out in a semicircle even as Ilmarė and Kham turned their backs to Vlad and Aurelius.

    The faux guide dusted himself off. "Clever observation. You seem smart enough to know better. So I recommend you drop this foolishness and forget the mission. It would be terrible," the guide sneered, "if yet another legionnaire were to mysteriously disappear."

    There was the distinct sound of metal leaving sheathes as Ilmarė and Vlad produced longswords.

    Aurelius took a menacing step forward. "You misunderstand. I DO know this city. I've been biding my time, waiting for the right moment to reveal your trap."

    "Pardon?" Kham said as he reached into his coat. "You thought this dark alleyway was the 'right moment' to reveal their trap?"

    The thugs wasted no more words as one aimed high at Kham's head, the other for Ilmarė's knees.

    Ilmarė lithely hopped over the clumsy swing and retaliated by slashing the arm of her assailant. Kham ducked backwards as two clubs whistled over his head.

    "You really don't want to do this," Kham said.

    Kham nudged what looked like the head of a small dragon out from under the bottom of his coat. He whistled and waved the barrel to get the thug's attention. The thug looked at him quizzically, raising his club again.


    There was a retort so loud that everyone, ally and enemy alike, reflexively stumbled away from the blast. When the smoke cleared, the thug that Kham had aimed at was still standing. There was a great rent in the brick face of the building behind him. Smoke trails pirouetted from the hole's center.

    "A handgonne!" shouted the faux guide. "Perhaps this will even the odds: Magicus telum!"

    A bolt of bright blue energy flashed between the guide's finger and his target. Vlad gasped as the bolt, unhindered by his armor, penetrated flesh and bone.

    Aurelius stepped forward and pointed at the guide with his gladius. "You dare to cross a legionnaire of the Reluctant Warrior?" His voice grew louder. "KNEEL BEFORE ILLIIR'S MIGHT!"

    The command was undeniable. The guide's eyes bulged as his body stumbled like a rigid puppet, forcing him to his knees, his head bowed. Sweat dripped from his nose as he struggled to resist.

    "That's better," said Aurelius. "Now you will tell us who sent-"

    With a mighty roar, Vlad's longsword flashed across the kneeling man's throat. His head bounced across the dirt of the alley and landed face up at Kham's feet.

    Behind Vlad, Kham threw back his coat to reveal two dragon-like sculptures, one in each hand. The handgonnes were carved to look like dragons, with their mouths ended in barrels. Smoke poured out of the end of one of the left handgonne. Kham pointed them both at the nearest thug's head.

    "Now, Jessica here, she don't like you," Kham said, waving the left handgonne. "But Victoria," he waved the other handgonne, "she likes you a lot. She's liable to give you a little lick."

    The clatter of clubs resounded around them as the thugs put their hands up.

    "I'd run, unless you want to end up like your friend on the ground here," Kham said.

    The men took off down the alleyway.

    "Well," Ilmarė said quietly, "that was gratuitous."

    Kham looked around to confirm that all the thugs had left. He blanched when his gaze connected with the head staring back at him from the alley.

    "Was that really necessary?" Aurelius said as he sheathed his gladius. "I was trying to interrogate them but this," he gestured at Vlad, "Milandisian got a bit overzealous."

    Vlad returned his longsword to its sheath on his back, unfazed. "That magic he used hurt," was all he said, as if the pain alone was enough justification. "In Milandir, if someone strikes you, you strike back twice as hard."

    "I'd say you proved your point," said Ilmarė, staring down at the head.

    "In the legion, discipline is life," Aurelius said sternly. "You must know when to strike, and when not to strike."

    Kham rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, and I suppose you had them drag us around all of Coryan for the perfect time to strike?"

    Aurelius met his gaze, glaring down at him. Kham wasn't that tall. "Yes, I did. I was looking for a weakness in their strategy and it revealed itself just now."

    "What weakness?" Kham said, pouring some powder back into the mouth of one of the dragon handgonnes.

    "There were at least another four men following us," Ilmarė said, "but we lost them only a few minutes before we turned down the alleyway."

    "You too?" Kham said in exasperation. "Did anyone else not know this was a trap?"

    "I didn't," said Vlad. "But then, I don't really trust any Coryani."

    Aurelius stepped out of the alleyway to call over a citizen. "By order of the Emperor, I command you to-"

    "Oh we don't have time for this!" Kham finished loading his other handgonne and returned it to the holster beneath his armpit. "There's a headless corpse in the alleyway, clean it up, would you?"

    The citizen nodded and scurried off to call for the watch.

    "We must hurry, the Gate is not far from here," said Aurelius. He stood in the square, hands on his hips, surveying the area.

    After a long moment, Ilmarė said, "if I remember correctly, it's in the southern quarter."

    "That's right!" said Aurelius. And with that he marched off southwards, splitting the crowded streets like a knife.

    Kham looked at Vlad. Vlad shrugged and walked after Aurelius. Ilmarė winked at him and followed suit.

    Kham took a deep sigh and ran after his fearless leader.
    Last edited by talien; Sunday, 2nd March, 2008 at 06:14 PM.

  5. #5

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    So Shall Ye Reap - Part 2: Through the Gates of Anshar

    The Temple of the Pantheon was a huge structure, part of the main temple of the Mother Church of Coryan. Besides acting as a means of transportation across Arcanis, it was also the residence of the Patriarch of the Mother Church along with hundreds of other clergymen, scholars, and scribes.

    Aurelius exchanged a few words with the priestess at the gate, who ushered them through to the smallest chapel of the Temple. Inside, 20 legionnaires, stood at attention.

    "Friends of yours?" Kham asked out of the corner of his mouth.

    Aurelius shook his head. "The Legion of Grim Lamentation is no one's friend. They guard the Gates with their lives. These are two way gates, you know."

    They passed the legionnaires to stand before the towering Gate of Anshar itself. It was an archway of marble, inscribed with benedictions and supplications to Anshar in Altharin.

    Aurelius unrolled the scroll and showed it to the priestess, who nodded her assent. Then she stepped back and began to chant a prayer, her hands caressing the side of marble gate like the sweet caresses of a lover. With each pass of her hands, the inscriptions became infused with a bright light. The chant grew louder and louder until suddenly, a glowing point in the center of the archway exploded into a shimmering wall of blue light. A great wind kicked up, billowing cloaks and robes.

    "Now you're sure you don't have too much powder?" shouted Aurelius.

    Kham held his coat closer around him. "Yes! I don't want to blow up either you know!"

    "Good," Aurelius said with a smile. "Then you can step through the gate first!"

    "Why should I go first?" Kham pointed at Vlad. "He's the native, shouldn't he go first?"

    Vlad shrugged. "If you're too scared, I can go first. Besides, I don't want to be here when you explode-"

    Kham pulled the collar of his overcoat closely around his neck. "Fine, fine! I'm not afraid…"

    Everyone waited expectantly while Kham walked towards the roaring gate, one hesitant step at a time.

    "Do not be concerned!" shouted the priestess. "The passage is painless and instantaneous!"

    "Unless you blow up," Ilmarė said with a smirk.

    "Wait are you waiting for?" Aurelius said. "Jump!"

    Kham patted himself down. "I just want to count one more time…"

    "Oh for the love of Illiir, come on man!" Aurelius grabbed Kham by the arm and they both stumbled through the portal together.

    Vlad looked at Ilmarė. "Well, nothing blew up. So I guess it's safe. See you on the other side." Then he jumped through, disappearing into the blue wall.

    "This day just gets better and better," Ilmarė said in her usual monotone. Then she too, hopped through the portal.

  6. #6

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    So Shall Ye Reap - Part 3: A Battle Lost?

    The passage through the portal was far from unpleasant. In fact, it was quite euphoric. The step was but a half-second even though the journey spanned hundreds of miles.

    Aurelius and Kham exited first, only to be shocked by a ferocious downpour. Aurelius nearly fell backward shielding his face from the unexpected precipitation.

    Vlad and Ilmarė arrived seconds later. The Milandisian seemed undeterred by the weather.

    He shielded his eyes. "Luchek is not far from here!" Vlad shouted over the rain. "This way!"

    Vlad began the slippery descent down the trail. They were surrounded by soggy scrub and worn hillside. The water poured more aggressively downhill with each passing minute.

    Aurelius yelped as he lost his footing. He almost slid the rest of the way down the hill were it not for Ilmarė, who stopped his fall by grabbing his bearskin cloak.

    Aurelius struggled to his feet. "Thanks," he muttered. "If you were wearing armor, you'd probably have the same problems."

    "I am wearing armor," Ilmarė said with a smile. To prove her point, she rapped lightly against her chest. "Osalian, Lord of the Storms, blesses his children. I am Osalikene—I have nothing to fear of wind and rain."

    "Well I do!" Kham was hunched over, his hands deep in his coat pockets. "Less talking, more walking!"

    Just then, something flashed in the direction of Luchek.

    Ilmarė skipped ahead and then slid down the slope past all three of the humans without the slightest misstep. They huffed to catch up with her at the bottom of the hill.

    The Elorii had her bow knocked with an arrow as Vlad squinted into the distance. "There's something in the marketplace. It looks big. And angry."

    "A howler," said Ilmarė. "It has killed many of your people and is about to kill four more."

    Vlad needed no more encouragement. He took off at a full sprint, unsheathing his sword and shield as he went. Aurelius shrugged off his tower shield from his back and removed three sections of his spear.

    Kham slid next to him. "Got a plan?"

    Aurelius screwed the bottom part of the spear into the center. "You and Ilmarė shoot at it, I'll back up Vlad."

    Aurelius screwed in the top part of the spear into the middle. Kham noticed the spearhead was in the shape of an open hand.

    "Great plan. They teach you all that in legionnaire school?"

    Aurelius hefted the shield. "Just use your iron dragons. We'll take care of the rest." He took off at a trot.

    Kham reached into his overcoat and pulled out the two handgonnes. "Forgive me ladies," he whispered to them. "I hate the weather too."

    There were four Milandisian cantons struggling to fend off a gaunt, bestial hound-like thing bristling with quills. The men were all armed with halberds. Dozens of corpses lay on the ground, some Milandisian, some Coryani, all with melee weapon in hand and quills sticking out of their chests. Other bodies were spread out further still, the ground ringed by black circles as if some terrible force had scorched it.

    With a shout, Vlad charged head on into the fray. The howler blinked at the sudden bravery in a new opponent and whirled to face him. It lunged forward and snapped at his face with a feral growl, missing it by inches as Vlad smashed his shield into the side of the howler's head.

    Vlad stabbed upwards at its exposed underbelly as the creature fell back onto one of the militiamen. The man slumped to the ground, four quivering quills jutting out at odd angles from his body.

    One of Ilmarė's arrows whistled through the air and bounced off the quills of the beast. The howler turned and snapped the halberd of one of the cantons, disemboweling him with one stroke.

    Kham lifted his handgonnes up. "Okay girls, let's see if we can do any better than the elf."

    He took aim and flicked the catch that would ignite the powder deep in the barrel of the dragon's mouth. It fizzled.

    "Dammit, Jessica, now is not the time to be ornery!"

    Vlad stepped backwards as the howler snapped at his sword. One of its splayed paws slashed upwards, knocking his shield back.

    Another canton stepped in before the howler could press its advantage against Vlad, stabbing at the creature's flank. It snarled and lunged with all fours on the hapless man, ending his life with one snap of its jaws.

    Kham kissed his other handgonne and aimed it at the howler. "Come on baby…"

    He flicked the catch.


    A patch of quills exploded off the howler as the bullet hit. It shrieked in agony and leapt backwards, its jaws snapping at where it had been struck.

    "LETUM INFIRMUS!" shouted Aurelius as he charged past Vlad with his spear outstretched.

    The creature lunged forward as it had before with Vlad, but Aurelius was ready. He lowered the spear just enough to catch the howler in the face. The shaft speared through its eye.

    The beast howled, its claws twitching in the air. Then it was still.

    With a twist, Aurelius shook the howler's head off of the end of his longspear.

    "That," said Aurelius, walking past Kham, "is what they teach us in legionnaire school."

  7. #7

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    Kham: A Portrait

    I just had to post this. Kham's player, Jeremy Ortiz ( just created a fantastic picture of his character. I'm totally blown away by it. Now I'm going to try to get him to create one for every character in the party.
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  8. #8

    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Someone should tell Kham that Altherians are dark skined.....

    Dagger of Cadic

  9. #9

    Kham's color

    Kham's back story is well....another story. sufice it to say he is mullato. 1/2 Altherin. hence the color. but thanks for the reminder many players sometimes over look it.

  10. #10

    Guide (Lvl 11)

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    So Shall Ye Reap - Part 4: Smoke and Mirrors

    "Near as I can tell," said Vlad in the home of their new host, "the century was escorting the boy and his teacher back to Coryan when a wizard struck."

    Kham was still shivering as he sipped from a mug full of mead. "Struck? Define 'struck.'"

    "He let loose a gout of flames from his mouth, as the cantons tell it," explained Vlad. "That took out most of the legionnaires. Then he read a scroll and the howler showed up. You know the rest."

    "A powerful wizard indeed," said Aurelius.

    "Oh, he had help," said Vlad. "Masked men attacked the century as well."

    "Aye, 'twas a near thing," interjected Aldous, their host. He was an older man dressed in long brown robes. Aldous was their designated contact in Luchek and keeper of the town library. "'Tis a good thing 'is teacher kept 'is wits about 'im, 'cause the whole damn place went to 'ell when the masked folks showed up."

    Ilmarė cupped a mug of hot mead in her hands. "Where is the boy now?"

    "Oh, he's inna private room. E's with 'is teacher, Theron. 'Tis a good thing too, 'cause the Harvester was 'ell bent on takin' 'im."

    "Harvester?" said Vlad.

    Kham's faced turned ashen. "Agents from the Isle of Ymandragore. The Sorcerer-King conducts raids on those who have the Gift for sorcery and wizardry. The children are adopted into Ymandragorian society." His shiver was not entirely due to his damp clothes.

    "But the Harvester got away," said Aurelius.

    "Aye," said Aldous. "An the town is lucky fer it. We'd 'ave twice as many cantons down if he stuck around."

    "I did not count a centurion's corpse amongst the bodies," said Aurelius. "Perhaps he was not with the rest of the legionnaires."

    Kham shook his head. "What, he took the long way around? Looks like the legionnaires didn't have any more luck than the cantons."

    "May we see the boy?" Vlad asked quickly, before the two began arguing again.

    "O' course, o' course. Follow me."

    The old man struggled to his feet and led them down to the lowest level of the library. Stone walls echoed with their footsteps, the sole noise in the cold tunnel. Aldous finally stopped before a wooden door and knocked. After a few moments, the door opened to reveal a powerfully built man in a long white toga and cloak.

    "Hello Aldous." Theron's aquiline features hardened as he peered past Aldous. "Who are these people and why have you brought them here?"

    "We are on a mission to retrieve the boy," said Aurelius, stepping forward. "I am Aurelius Ignatius, signifer of the Legion of the Reluctant Warrior. We have traveled far to escort Cassicus safely back to Coryan."

    Theron opened the door a little more. "Cassicus has been understandably shaken from the experience. I've been teaching him a meditation to calm him down. He's meditating right now, actually."

    "Excellent. May we see him?"

    Theron opened the door enough so that they could all peer into the room. Beyond was another open door to a smaller room. Cassicus was sitting in meditation at the center.

    "The boy should rest first. This room has no other forms of entry, so we should be safe, especially if you stand guard." Theron chuckled. "You all look like you could use some rest yourselves."

    Aurelius kept his eyes on the boy. "I would like to speak with him."

    Theron stood in front of Aurelius, blocking his view. " I would rather you leave him be, for the moment."

    Aurelius stepped into the room to get a better view of the child. "I must insist that I can confirm the child's health and state of mind."

    Theron turned to face Aurelius, his shoulder to the entryway. "This is a senator's son. I am his guardian and I will have final say in what happens to the boy."

    Kham slipped past Theron, unnoticed.

    "I can appreciate that," said Aurelius. "However, it is possible the child is harmed in a way you cannot detect. These are Harvesters after all, they're capable of anything."

    Kham made his way silently over to the open doorway where Cassicus sat in meditation.

    "And I repeat, I don't care who you are or where you came from, I am eminently qualified to determine Cassicus' health and state of mind! He is FINE."

    Kham whispered to the boy. "Psst! Hey, kid. You okay?"

    The boy showed no signs of even noticing his presence.

    "I am sure he is fine," said Aurelius, "but many men have died to guarantee the child's safety and I find it odd you are not willing to let us even speak to the boy."

    Kham blinked. "Uh, guys?"

    "I don't think you understand just how traumatized the boy was by the experience," countered Theron. "He watched that monster bite a man in half!"

    "Guys? There's something seriously wrong with the kid."

    Theron whirled. "There is nothing wrong with him. Please step away from the door."

    "Now there's no reason to insult the child-" said Aurelius.

    "No, no. What I mean is…he's not breathing."


    Kham jabbed a thumb in Cassicus' direction. "The kid. He's not breathing. His chest isn't moving. That's either one deep meditation or-"

    "An illusion," said Ilmarė, placing one hand on the hilt of her sword. "We've been tricked."

    Aurelius whirled to interrogate Theron, but only a gust of air filled the place where he had once been.

    "The dirty bastards!" said Aldous as he stepped into the room. "The Harvester must 'ave him!"

    Vlad nodded. "He's probably headed for the closest port city, Yarrvek. It's two hours ride from here."

    "You've got me horses," Aldous said, ushering them all out of the room. "I'll send word ahead to try to stop the bastard before 'e sets sail, but ya better leave now."

    Thunder echoed above them on cue.

    "Great," said Kham. "More rain."

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