The Shackled City - Golarion Prelude - Page 7
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    The Shackled City - Golarion Prelude

    The Cardinal had great plans for the upcoming Cauldron Flood Festival and required additional stocks of the rare imported ale’s and wines The Drunken Morkoth had become well known for. How he managed to sell such rare and expensive brews at the prices he did was beyond anyone’s guess. The Cardinal had place an order at the port town of Sasserine since it was the only place one could acquire such luxuries on the island. Since the Cardinal had to stay and mind the Inn, he had naturally offered the job of picking up the stock to one of the few people he could trust in the lake district, Valinnan.

    Valinnan had accepted his “holy” mission to retrieve the imported booze with gusto. Anything to get out of the city for a while. Plus the mission came with a nice reward from the old man. And, if a few bottles disapeared during the trip, he could always just write it off to breakage. While he was tempted to hitch on to a caravan by himself, he had chosen to enlist the aide of a few of his fellow ne’re do well friends, believing in safety in numbers.

    Svexyn had started dropping by the Inn most nights of late. It seemed like maybe he simply had no where else to go. There were rumors that he once worked for one of the various gangs in Cauldron, but recently he had had a rather violent falling out. The Cardinal didn’t seem to particularly mind him hanging around as long as he kept his dark brooding in check. It wasn’t unusual though for a ring of empty seats to form around the Tiefling at the bar.

    Marcus was a former Guardsman. The Cardinal had been offering Marcus a job as a bouncer on the odd nights the Drunken Morkoth was particularly busy. Being of modest means, he couldn’t afford to hire him on full time.

    Caytis was an expelled academy mage who had been given the boot for his short temper and lack of of focus. His interest in martial training was deemed a distraction by the stuffy academy masters. He started showing up at the Morkoth fairly regularly, spending what meager coin he was able to scrape together from working at Weer’s elixirs as an errand boy. The near sighted Weer was one of the few people that didn’t immediately recoil upon seeing the black scales on his flesh that marked his draconic heritage.

    All of them being in need of a little adventure, and more importantly, coin, they all decided to join up with the next caravan to Sasserine. Anyone able to prove they could handle a sword had the option of signing on as a guard. Any caravaner providing one guard to the common defense was allowed to travel with the caravan for free. Dead weight had to pay. The group hoped to provide enough swords to at least pay their fare, leaving more of the Cardinal’s reward for themselves.

    The caravan master was a fat Keleshite by the name of Adofo. The pungent aroma of exotic desert oils and spices filled their nostrils as he sized up their skills. After evaluating their kit and engaging each member of the band in a quick sparring match, he granted guard status to Marcus. Two of the group would have to pay their way. The party payed their coin and settled into a small, somewhat ramshackle wagon that they had rented from Surefoot’s Livery. A rather flea bitten water buffalo was harnessed to the wagon. It lazily chewed on some grass as they waited for the caravan to commence.

    They didn’t have to wait long, because not long after their testing, Adofo climbed onto a wagon pulled by two large water buffalo, and sounded a horn. The caravan, and the small group of adventurers, were on their way out of the city.


    Wilbur stumbled along the well worn trade road. Each footstep brought him inexorably closer to the city which had been haunting his dreams. Every night when he closed his eyes, he could see the great city built into the old bones of the a once might volcano. Somehow, he knew that his fate was intertwined with that of the city. The “Portal and the Key” offered glimpses of understanding, fleeting images and whispers on the wind. The fact that he could not piece together the meaning pushed him even harder to reach his goal.

    Wilbur’s shoes had worn out before he had even reached the island, and now his feet were callused and bloody. His money had ran out in Sasserine. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate and his water skin had dried out that morning. Still, he focused on the horizon and moved one foot in front of the other. Before long, he thought he could see a pale wisp of smoke in the distance. It had the friendly curling look of a cook fire and promised civilization. He wasn’t sure how far he had walked, but he knew he couldn’t have yet reached Cauldron.

    A few more hours passed and Wilbur could see the jungle breaking up. Ahead in a clearing to the side of the path, a rather sizable walled compound lay nestled up to the edge of the jungle. The eight foot limestone wall had a small guard post at each corner, and a wooden gate at each end of the enclosed courtyard. Two guards stood at the gate nearest him, idly leaning on their spears and chatting while they burned away the time until the end of their shift.

    Through the gate, Wilbur saw what appeared to be a roadhouse and guard barracks. The tantalizing smells of fried bananas and roasted fish wafted over the wind and made his stomach protest angrily. A sign over the gate depicted a troop of monkeys leaping and playing, performing all kinds of death defying tricks. In bold script, the sign declared this to be “The Lucky Monkey”.

    It was then, so close to salvation, that Wilbur’s body finally decided it had had enough. Wilbur’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and the ground rushed up to meet him.


    Nia had followed the strange city man for the last two days. Even the city folk knew that you didn’t travel the jungle alone. Nia considered her hypocrisy briefly, but decided Shelob counted as another person. The scarlet spider chittered idly on her shoulder, sensing its masters praise. Despite the fact that the trade road was well traveled, it still held many dangerous that could ensnare the unwary traveler.

    Nia had been on her way to the city of Cauldron to learn about the ways of her grand sire when she had seen the odd man stumbling his way down the trade road. More out of a sense of morbid curiosity then anything else, she had shadowed him. Perhaps he would have the good graces to die amusingly or distract any particularly large predators that might be roaming about. Unexpectedly, she sensed the wildlife was giving him a wide berth. There was some kind of power in him. Something strange and alien the wildlife didn’t like.

    She saw the cooking fire smoke before the city man did, and smelled it long before that. The familiar smells of Hillfolk cooking made her long briefly for her village. Perhaps civilization wouldn’t be so bad if they could cook a proper ox-tail. Not long after spying the walled village, she saw the city man finally give up and collapse in a heap.

    She stared at the body, and then at the village. The frolicking monkeys that covered the sign and the building’s exterior made her sneer in disgust. Only city folk would think monkey’s were cute. They were nuisances. They constantly stole food and damaged irrigation systems. In some ways they were worse then rats. She pondered the foolishness of the city folk a while longer before finally coming to a conclusion. Oh well, now was as good a time as any to meet these city folk, she thought. Maybe they will share some of that fish I smell if I drag their tribesman to safety.


    The trip had been, largely, a disappointment. Not a single lion or bandit attack the entire way to Sasserine. The city had largely been a bust too. The local wine merchant had moved the Cardinal’s order to a holding facility outside the city walls in anticipation of their arrival. All that remained for them to do was load the casks and bottles on the wagon and pay the woman. She shrewdly judged the weight of the coin purse Val handed her then bid the party good day.

    The trip back to Cauldron had been proving to be equally uneventful. However, things had just begun to look up. The caravan master decided to stop the troop at the only road house between Sasserine and Cauldron, “The Lucky Monkey”. The low wall and paltry guard complement wouldn’t stop an invading army, but it would keep out the local flora and fauna. The caravaners led their animals to water troughs inside the protective walls, then all piled into the Inn for some food and drink.

    Wood carvings of monkeys jumped out at the patrons from every corner of the large common room. They were carved intricately into hand railings and ran along the surface of the bar. Some climbed defiantly up bar stools or hung lazily from the rafters. The proprietor had opened up awnings that ran around the entire common room, letting whatever breeze could be found outside blow through the crowded room. It looked like they could easily be lowered again to keep the water out during the rainy season. Large reed paddle fans rotated slowly on the ceiling, connected to a long rod that ran into the kitchen. The sweet smells of bananas, garlic, fish, and pork created a bouquet that made everyone salivate.

    Valinnan, Caytis, Marcus, and Svexyn had just settled around a table near a large open window, when they noticed the room go suspisciously silent. In the doorway stood what appeared to be a native woman. Her black hair was cropped short. Bits of strange bone, small jars, and other fetishes adorned the simple woven reed halter and loin cloth she wore. Several of the Hillfolk in the common room not so far removed from their native heritage gasped and made some kind of protective sign. Attached to an improvised stretcher, she was dragging a robed man who was mumbling incoherently in his sleep.

    “Your tribesman needs water.”

    The barkeep rushed over to the man with a cup of water and gently lifted it to the man’s lips. After taking a few shallow sips, Wilbur’s eyes snapped open.
    Last edited by ahayford; Friday, 16th September, 2011 at 05:49 AM.

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