Adventures in Eberron> Chapter 32 posted 08-08-05>


First Post
Complications, Chapter 14

Sweet Lips went for his war-cleaver as soon as he saw the skeletons. The Sergeant signaled a stop and had the men wait around the corner. The idea was to let them pass. Their orders are to get to the enemy as quickly as possible, everything else is a distraction. Sister Niabelis had a different opinion. She charged.

“Be thou cleansed!” She exclaimed as her mace crushed the lead skeleton.

The Inquisitors spread out. They destroyed the other two skeletons and then ran down the tunnel in case something else needed cleansing. Their glowing, divinely empowered maces filled the tunnel with light, giving away any shred of surprise. They found a wagon being pulled by half a dozen zombies. A pair of unnatural four armed goblins are holding the reigns. It is a horror to behold. The faithful of the Silver Flame lifted their weapons and rushed at the abominations before them. The dolgrim teamsters tried to run them over. Behind the wagon a dolgrim war party sounded a charge.

Sgt. Ironson sent a silent prayer to the Host. He sent some men to help the Inquisitors and had the others set up a defensive position. As they rushed to meet his expectations, he tapped young Sweet Lips and sprinted to save his mission. In a perfect world, idiots should have the decency not to plague decent folk like the Dog Soldiers. Sister Niabelis is an epidemic.

“You there, back off! Let them come to us!” He ordered them once he realized the amount of trouble facing them.
“Sweet Lips, cover their withdrawal! I will get the cow!”

Sister Niabelis had managed to halt the charging zombies. Two of her Inquisitors are beating into them as she holds them at bay only by the grace of the Flame. The wagon is blocking the tunnel, but the dolgrim will not be barred for long. She can feel the sweat beading on her forehead. Somewhere down the tunnel she heard chanting.

“What are you doing? This many dolgrim do not travel alone!” The sergeant hollered at the Sister. “Call your men away!” He commanded as he grabbed hold of the back of her collar and dragged her away. She is heavy.

A blast of heat, light, and choking smoke knocked them flat on the ground. The wagon was reduced to ash and splinters. The zombies are burning, but it isn't a problem for them. The two Inquisitors did not fare so well. One is dead, the other is out cold. He is in the path of the now charging dolgrim. Sweet Lips sprinted over to Sgt. Ironson. He rolled the Sister off of him and then ran over to the Inquisitor that doesn't look like a dragon spit him out. They had to out run a flight of crossbow bolts to get to safety.

“Healer!” The sergeant hollered. “Get ready men! There's a heap of them and they've got a spell slinger!” He propped the Sister against the wall and drew his battle axe. Sweet Lips held the unconscious Inquisitor up with one hand and poured a potion down his throat. Sgt. Ironson barely had time to bark out another series of orders before all hell broke loose. The dolgrim came en mass.

The Dog Soldiers are the only Sharn City regiment that was allowed to remain fully intact after the treaty. Despite the loss of nearly 75% of it's original members, their exploits earned them a permanent place with the City Watch. They were originally a prison detail, veteran city watchmen leading convicted felons. The chance to clear their names inspired the soldiers to fight like heroes. Despite common prejudices, it became a privilege to serve as a Dog Soldier. Sgt. Ironson would rather fall on his sword than to dishonor his fallen brothers. His men feel the same way. Dog Soldiers do not retreat, they do not falter, and they do not fail.

The dolgrim rushed the soldiers. It is a four way intersection, the Dog Soldiers control three sides. Shields and spears protect the crossbow men, the Inquisitors and healers are backing them up. The dolgrim are fighting on three different fronts, they can hold. The magic user hasn't made an appearance, but the Sergeant is on top of it.

“Wake her up!” the Sergeant ordered the chaplain.

The Sister blinked. She saw Sgt. Ironson glaring at her. Not far, she can hear the sounds battle.

“Keep yer mouth shut, woman.” The Sergeant ordered. There is something dangerous in his eyes.

“Chaplain Odus, Inquisitor Pallas, you are my witnesses.” The grizzled veteran nearly growled. “You have put my mission in jeopardy. By the powers invested in me by the Sharn City Council I intend to execute you here and now. Unfortunately, this isn't war time, so you have some options. The Chaplain will speak to you now, we have very little time, listen to him.” The Sister tried to speak, Inquisitor Pallas shut her up.

“Sister Inquisitor Niabelis, I can record your final words and ease your conscience, or I can offer you a commission. With a commission, your Field Execution will be suspended in exchange for five years of service with the Dog Soldiers. I was a criminal once, now I am a man. You have the same choice.”

“I hold a council seat!”

“You are a commoner by blood, you have no noble privileges. The seat belongs to the Silver Flame and not you. Choose now.” The chaplain tossed a scroll at her.

“Why aren't you helping!?” She begged Inquisitor Pallas.

“These are matters of City Law, the Church must follow it's Charter to uphold the law of the land. The Sergeant is within his rights. You promised the Bishop a victory, do you turn away?” His eyes are sad, but he holds no pity for her. He has already passed judgment. “You can still keep your word.”

The scroll made her hands itch. She opened it, the script is alive with magic. A Binding Contract, her ears burned with outrage. She touched her thumb to the wax seal at the bottom and spoke her full name. It hurt, but she didn't flinch. She still has her pride. The Sergeant is looking at her again.

“Private Niabelis, you start with the same amount of respect everyone else gets. I assume you understand discipline, and I assume you have an idea of what it means to serve something greater than your lowly self. The Dog Soldiers fight and win. That is the first thing you should know. The second is that our honor is your honor. Do you understand?”

“Yes....sir.” She managed to say without choking. She could feel the other inquisitors staring at her. It is almost unbearable.

“Good. There is an enemy caster pushing these wretches at our throats. Our blood has been spilled. You will take some men, find the hell-spawn, and administer just retribution. Do your duty and earn your name back. Your brothers and I will keep this filth busy. Here's your map.”

“Sweet Lips, Pallas...and you two there, go with the Sister.” the Sergeant snapped over the din of battle. “Sweet Lips, take this. You are in charge of the new recruit, keep her alive.”

Sweet Lips threw the Sergeant's necklace over his head. He lifted the heavy war-cleaver and followed the Sister. His head is spinning. His paw told him all about war, it doesn't make sense, just follow orders and don't get killed. He can do that. The young man shouldered through the others to keep pace with his charge. He is a Dog Soldier, he will make his family proud.

Now back to Theodyl and Friends....

Pook shifted to his natural form in mid stride. Paragon and his men wasted no time. The map traveled from hand to hand as the changeling recited all the important details. Paragon, Theodyl, Pook, and a war-forged named Javelin will each lead a squad.
Paragon and Javelin will take on the renegades, Pook will rescue the hostage, Theodyl will support them with missiles and magic.

“Brothers, today we fight our own kind. We were built for war and there is no greater challenge. Strap up and make your peace. We leave in 3 minutes.” Paragon 152 to 3 finished his little speech by striking his chest three times with his fist. Theodyl shook his head. He will have to teach Paragon how to give a speech.

The gathered war-forged did not share Theodyl's opinion. Every single one of them saluted. They split into four squads and silently made their way to the enemy.

Paragon and Javelin led their men through the main tunnel. They ignored the goblins. They are too small to be a challenge and too stupefied to be a good fight. Three or four of the goblins remembered about the bell. They stood there staring at the empty space where the rope should be. Once inside the great pumping chamber, Paragon 152 to 3 hollered a challenge. The lich-staff called it's master.

Pook made his way in through tunnel partially blocked with refuse. He found it during his first scouting mission. It wasn't guarded. The enemy are either idiots or they just don't care if they are found. Pook is more worried about his gang. Ivor, Patter, and Siff risked a lot by staying behind.

Theodyl and his squad waited for the fight to start. They exchanged names and details about their individual talents. They all agree that Paragon 152 to 3 is an inspired maniac. It will be fun to watch the fight.

Skullstaff looked up from his spell book and cursed. There is more trouble in the pump rooms. His compatriots all sighed at once. The damned goblin meat bags are useless. It is time to exterminate them. The archer, Slammer, hefted his Artillery Bow. Chet the juggernaut grunted as he lifted the giant mace he calls Kruncher. Sarok, their commander started for the pump room. Skullstaff followed. The three other war-forged in the hallway drew their swords and paced behind them. The hostage gnome isn't going anywhere. The goblin prisoners are too starved to escape. They will die soon enough.

“Skullstaff, I trust you can make something of their corpses?” Sarok asked as he flexed his battlefist.

“You kille'm I bring them back, yes sir.” The mage replied.

“Not if I hit'em with my Kruncher.” Chet piped in.

“Who cares?” Slammer hissed as he limbered up his arm. “They are meat bags, they are just as useless when they are dead!” The three war-forged behind started to laugh. The others joined in.

Paragon repeated his challenge as the enemy made their appearance. Sarok made a spitting sound as he noted the House Cannith tabards they wore.

“You are slaves! Join us and you shall be free! Defy us and you shall die like dogs!” Sarok answered.

Slammer didn't bother with talk. He pulled the string back and set an arrow as long as a spear speeding towards the Cannith fools. Skullstaff commanded the lich-staff to attack the intruders and dove into the workings of a spell. Chet broke into a run, he has to get up close to use his Kruncher. Sarok called the the three others to his side.

“204, I want you to keep watch on Skullstaff while he casts. 167 and 308, I want you to spill the crates into the sludge. Don't let anything stop you.” Sarok commanded. The war-forged grunted and moved out. Sarok lifted his blade and cursed his enemies as he ran after the juggernaut. He'll be damned if Chet has all the fun.

Paragon dodged sideways as a cackling skull thing spat a thunderbolt. One of Javelin's men just went down with an artillery arrow piercing his middle. Javelin pointed at the juggernaut and tapped his chest. Paragon sighed and concentrated instead on the leader coming straight for him. He's got a fancy sword. Paragon started to sing.

Theodyl marked the floating skull. It seems to be hovering around a staff, so it's range may be limited. The war-forged with the artillery bow is a problem, he can range the entire pump room without much of a problem. The spellcaster needs to be stopped now. He cast a sending to Patter. He signaled his men forward. The fight just started and he is already smiling.

“Pyrus,” Theodyl said to the fire mage, “you know your business, go and have your fun.” The cloaked war-forged planted his uncomfortably warm palm on the half-elf and hissed the words to a fire ward. “I go for the mage.” Pyrus said as he jogged away.

“Argus, Pennelocles those crates over there look like a good place to set up.” Theodyl announced. Argus is carrying a great bow, Pennelocles is weighed down by a heavy repeating crossbow. The overwhelming amount of ammunition carried by the two makes Theodyl feel naked.

Siff found a corner to empty his bladder. He was alone in a room full of crazy war-forged; just listening to them talk made him sick. If he gets a chance, he is never doing anything this stupid again. He can't even steal anything until he gets the bloody gnome woman. The war-forged were guarding the end of the hall. He will start there.

Pook led his men to a place just behind the enemy archer with the ridiculous looking bow. He is very impressed with his squad. Every single one of them is as quiet as a cat. Their boots have padded soles, every item they wear is fixed as to produce as little noise as possible. They even wrapped their bodies in dull gray-brown cloth to match the sewer tunnels. Pook waited until the war-forged archer concentrated on a target and skulked into the structure. The larger pump rooms all have a blocky tower structure at their center to house the men that once supervised their functions. They are no bigger than two or three rooms with a stairway leading down to a sort of service room with levers and valves. Pook wonders how they were built, few know how to even repair them anymore.

Pyrus launched a fireball as soon as he was within range of the enemy caster. The tiny seed of fire flew true only to burst against an invisible barrier just in front of the war-forged mage. On the other side of the barrier, Skullstaff completed his incantation.

“Mourn Mist, answer my call!!” Skullstaff growled as the magical energies bleed from his frame. He fell to his knees.

A wail filled the pump room. The sounds of battle followed. Screams, words, the clashing of steel against steel echoed from wall to wall. A mist rose and flowed out of seemingly nowhere. It filled the center of the pump room, obscuring friend and foe alike. The phantom sounds of war became more persistent and soon those caught within the mist lost all track of time and place.
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First Post
A hard battle, Chapter 15

Theodyl watched the mists fill the battle field. He ran forward, but found his way blocked by two laughing war-forged. He can see shapes moving in the mist behind them, this is bad.

“Get out of my way!” Theodyl growled.

Argus and Pennelocles began to fire over their heads into the mist. He did say he would cover them. Cursing, Theodyl drew his sword. The short sword once belonged to his captain during the war. It is a heavy thing of adamantine steel, leaf-shaped like the old style bronze weapons kept in library display cases. It never needs sharpening, Captain Thersyl der Sadelis said as he died. Theodyl felt his blood ice over as a grin stretched his lips beyond his control. The mist stinks like a day old battle field.

“Alright, which one of you dies first?” The half-elf barked at his opponents.

167 threw off his cloak and hissed. His large ovoid head was immediately noticeable. One arm is bigger than the other, the wooden bits are actually bulging over the metal plating. His other arm is shriveled, but it ends in a crude three fingered claw holding a sword. 308 followed suit. He's got four arms and his feet are clawed. He is equipped with two short swords and two bucklers. They watched the meat bag intently. They will wait until it moves, it is weak, the real challenge lies with the traitor war-forged behind it. They are young, but they have been taught all about meat creatures.

Theodyl took a side step then slid in the opposite direction to slash at the war-forged with the longsword. He's got reach. Better to start with the biggest problem. He's never seen anything like them. They look somehow, incomplete.

167 reacted faster than the meat. His swollen right arm swung towards it's head stretching to twice it's natural length. 308 moved towards the crates.

Theodyl let his knees bend and threw his head back. He slashed his sword at the arm and let the momentum spin him about to avoid getting stomped. The longsword sparked against the floor just between his legs. This thing may be a freak, but it knows how to fight. Theodyl lay still, the war-forged raised it's sword to finish him. His eyes focused on the blade, he released a powerful shriek. The blade shattered. He rolled to the side and tripped the one with four arms. He sat up and stabbed the other one in the leg, just where the knee meets the hamstring. He didn't see the fist coming.

167 grunted with pain. The meat bag has wounded him twice already. He pounded it pretty good, but it is already getting to its feet. He pulled 308 to his feet and pointed at it. They are going to kill it.

Theodyl shook the stars out from his eyes and started to sing. He doesn't do hymns like Paragon. The music comes from within. A few short notes make his movements just a fraction faster. The aches and pains fall away and time slows down. It is as if he is tuned in to the world. The war-forged with four arms is rushing towards him. The one with the weird arm is moving to his flank. Spear, he spoke to his sword. It thrummed in his grasp, stretching to just under 6 feet. It will be heavier, but he has had plenty of time to master it. He moved forward music leaking from his mouth as he charges at the one with four arms.

308 watched the spear spin as the meat bag half-danced and half-ran at him. 167 threw a punch, but missed. 308 bent his knees, and waited to meet the charge. 167 took a swing at the meat bag's legs. Somehow the meat avoided the blow and managed to wound 167. The spear blade actually tore out a chunk of his brother's plating. 308 is starting to think they underestimated the meat bag.

Theodyl tried to balance his movements with the music. Years back, when he had first joined the Cyre's 1st, he had faced a war-forged instructor on the practice fields. He called himself Thrust. His one lesson, which he repeated everyday until every recruit either took it to heart or choked on it, was simple, “In the field of battle, it's either them or you.” Thrust was convinced that a soldier was not ready until he understood that one, he faced certain death, and two, he didn't want to be the one to die. It didn't matter whether one fought out of fear, patriotism, or determination. A soldier needs to find the will to survive and to overcome. Master Sergeant Thrust made a lot of Longstriders into soldiers. Theodyl made a flying leap towards the four armed war-forged. He isn't the one about die here.

308 eyed the oily black fluid staining the floor. 167 is bleeding out too fast. Even with their limited intelligence 308 and 167 understand about dying. They had to prove themselves for battle before leaving the mournlands. For every new born war- forged that the Lord of Blades accepts into his service more than ten had to die. Imperfect as they are when compared to the others, 308, 167, and 204 had a will to live.

Theodyl drove the tip of his spear into the enemy's neck. He failed to penetrate the plating, but he gouged out a thin line upon the metal. The war-forged tried to get in close with his blades, but he used the spear to keep him at bay. The first war-forged is trying to creep in closer. It is noticeably slowed. It is bleeding black water, more so than he has ever seen a normal war-forged bleed. Maybe they aren't so tough.

167 took a running start and tried to drive his fist into the half-elf's middle. Meat bags are soft there, and broken ribs inhibit their breathing. The meat bag somehow twisted away at the last moment. 167 felt the spear blade lance beneath the plating on his wrist and then travel up towards his elbow. He bit back the pain and tried to draw back his arm. It made the damage worse. The metal holding the swollen mass of his arm together tore away. The wooden fibers that gave his arm its unusual flexibility, burst through the wound and unraveled unto the floor. 167 screamed and fell to his knees. 308 rushed forward, but the meat bag used 167's body as a shield.

Theodyl sang a the syllables to a Flash/Bang spell. As soon as the two war-forged were close enough together he released the magic.

308 tried to wipe the glare from his eyes. His ears are ringing so much he can't hear his own screams. Shaking with outrage he took two steps back and took a defensive posture. This magic trick can't last long.

Theodyl jammed the blade of his spear into the fallen war-forged's neck. The adamantine cut deeply. It tried to pry the blade off with it's shriveled limb, by it didn't have the leverage. The other arm flopped about, but it was useless from the elbow down. Theodyl used leverage to force the blade deeper and then wrenched on the spear shaft until it's head popped off like a wine cork.

“I get to go home.” Theodyl thought out loud.

308 heard the meat bag speak. It turned, shifting it's stance to face the voice. It still can't see more than a blur, but he was right about the effect not lasting very long. 167 isn't making anymore noise. 308 put the knowledge away for later. In the mournlands, failure means death. 308 doesn't know how to deal with death other than to fear and avoid it. It can feel the loss of it's brother, but there is nothing there to speak for the feeling. The fight is still on. It can hear the meat bag singing again.

Theodyl kept his distance from the remaining enemy. The song is coming easier now. Maybe killing the first freak gave him the necessary confidence. Maybe he just remembered what Master Sergeant Thrust had beat into him so long ago. Either way he sees his opponent much differently now.

308 lashed out with his blades, weaving a deadly pattern as he moved on the meat bag. It doesn't fear the meat or its weapon. 167 was weak, the weak must die to make way for the strong. The Lord of Blades spoke those words and they echoed through the training halls until they had forced their way into every new born struggling within. 308 will not soon forget them. The meat tripped, there is blood on it's leg. 308 sprung to take advantage. The spear lashed out. He caught the blow with a buckler and attempted to trap the weapon with one of it's sword arms. The war-forged started kicking. Its clawed feet are tearing through the enemy's weak armor. The meat bag pulled the spear back and rolled away to avoid getting stomped. 308 hissed, the spear blade gouged through the buckler and left deep scratches its short sword. It must be very sharp.

Theodyl rolled over to his belly. Blade, he commanded his weapon. He is on his knees with his back to the on coming war-forged. His shoulder is burning with pain. He nearly pulled his arm out to reclaim his spear from the war-forged. There is blood dripping from his mouth, his ribs are broken. He held the butt of his short sword against the ground and waited. The war-forged drew close. Theodyl coughed and made to crawl away, the enemy grunted and started to laugh. Idiot. The pause was just enough for him to mark it's position, he turned his wrist. Spear, Theodyl commanded.

The adamantine spear pierced the war-forged's breast plate and burst through it's back. It had been moving hard and fast to take out the half-elf. The momentum did most of the job. Theodyl wrenched the spear out one-handed. Blade, he said as he walked onto it's back. It's legs are kicking feebly. It's trying to get up. Theodyl jumped up and plunged the blade two-handed into the back of its neck. The war-forged started to fight, pushing off the ground with its four arms. Too late, Theodyl tore the blade out and hacked until it's head came off.

“Paragon said you were good,” Argus spoke, “ If the mist does not clear, perhaps we should join Pyrus?”

Theodyl looked to his men and tried to ignore the taste of blood in his mouth. The gnome rushed out of the tunnel and pulled him down to the ground. A potion was pressed against his lips. A hand slapped against his face.

“Wha-what do I do n-now?” The gnome asked.

“Don't ye know? A warrior needs strong drink!” the beer stein replied from the gnome's belt. “Get him some beer, and pour yerself some too!”

Moro Taller looked like he needed a drink. Theodyl let him drink first. He looked to the mist shrouded area and tried to identify the dark shapes moving within it's boundaries. The half-elf can't even guess at the spell used. He thought it must be a sort of illusion, but the mist is real. He brought the beer stein up to his lips and drank just enough to soothe his nerves. They will not be leaving their position. They have to cover the rescue team, and they have to stay where Paragon expects them to be. Theodyl eyed the dead war-forged and then caught some of the writing on the crates where the archers set up.

“Moro, get the hell away from those crates!” He snapped. “Argus, Pennelocles, does that say what I think it says!?”

Pyrus summoned some chips of obsidian onto his palm. The enemy spell caster is still recovering from whatever magic it used to summon the mists. It is protected by a wall of force; basic magic, not very imaginative. As magic goes Pyrus is very hard to impress. Once the fire touches your soul, very few things are ever impressive again.

204 charged the enemy. The sores on it's limbs burst painfully as it moved, it is a fact of his existence. 204 fixed it's eyes on his target and poured it's will into adding another victory to it's name.

Pyrus nearly dropped his spell as the sneak crashed into the wall of heat that surrounds his form. He watched it roll on the ground, attempting to put out the fire spreading over it's frame. Pyrus opened his palm and spoke to the fire. The obsidian chips flared to life and took to the air. As the pyromancer strode away, the burning missiles put an end to the war-forged. The stone paved floor blackened and cracked beneath his steps.

Skullstaff coughed out a gout of mist and struggled to keep a tight rein on the lich staff. The lich is hunting through the mist, slaying at will. He can feel the lich trying to overcome the binding with every spell it casts. The Lord of Blades would not forgive losing such a valuable servant. Skullstaff poured his will into the talisman about his neck. The lich will obey.

Pyrus stopped just before he wall of force. He looked up and to each side to gage it's size. He then leaned down. His hands melted through he paving stones. He scooped up some of the molten slag and rolled it in his hands to form a sort of cylinder. He spoke to the fire, filling the softened stone with heat and magic. The cylinder hardened and grew into a javelin of fire and molten lava. At the culmination of his spell, Pyrus took a few steps back and launched the weapon over the wall of force. It arched high and dropped like a hunting falcon.

Skullstaff screamed as the burning javelin pierced his body. The war-forged mage lost control of the summoned mist. He is burning, but he still has enough sense to call the lich-staff to his side. Sarok and the juggernaut will have to handle their fight on their own.

Slammer heard Skullstaff screaming. He shifted his bow and knocked an arrow in time to see a burning shape fly up and land next to the wizard's body. Slammer took aim and sent a deadly missile towards whatever the hell it might be.

Patter took the shot just as the enemy archer took his. He is supposed to watch for the Pook's rescue team, but he can't let the archer hurt anyone on his team. The arrow did not have enough power behind it to pierce the war-forged's armor. Patter knocked another missile and fired.

Slammer turned and sighted the meat bag on the pipes overhead. It knocked an arrow and sent it speeding towards the nuisance. The meat sprouted black wings and took to the air. The artillery arrow punched through one of the pipes and sent water streaming down over the mist shrouded parts of the pump room. Slammer cursed the Gods that made such creatures and tried his best to kill the meat bag.

Pyrus lay still and allowed the burning fluid that runs through his veins to consume the arrow. The impact knocked him hard against the wall of force. He can see the enemy wizard reaching for a staff that wasn't there before. Pyrus called to the fire and pointed to the mage.

“Burn!” Pyrus hissed. The fire responded.

The lich watched as Skullstaff caught fire. It laughed within it's prison as the fool called and called. It was too weak to utter a command. The lich felt no compulsion to help. Slammer heard Skullstaff scream again and again. He turned with just enough time to see the enemy make a clawing motion at him. He tried to knock an arrow, but a great burning claw took hold of him. The artillery bow snapped. Slammer felt his composite plates crack, then the smoke filled his vision. He burned.

Patter saw Pook exit the tower. Siff is with them, they are carrying him. He swooped down to see if he can help.

<Tell them to leave quick! You are all in danger!> Theodyl's sending screamed through Patter's mind. The panic in his voice was compelling. The changeling just about screamed the warning as he crashed in front of his friends.

Ivor crawled through the mist with a rope tied around his waist. He can't tell which way is which. Even sound can't be trusted. The mist dampens some noise and enhances others. He can hear people fighting, sometimes right next to his ear, but they are but phantoms. It is as if he is in some sort of maze, the only thing that he can hold onto is the rope. Ivor felt something through the floor. He froze. He felt it again. The changeling remembered the hulking juggernaut carrying the very large mace. Something has got a hold of his rope.

Paragon 152 to 3 eyed the changeling suspiciously. The war-forged doesn't like surprises. The changeling should have stayed out of the mist. It is dangerous. Paragon is bleeding from a multitude of wounds. Somehow the enemy war-forged can see much better through the mist than he can. Paragon has trained in complete darkness, he is sure that is the reason he has survived thus far. The mist is a poor trick to fool the senses. Ivor has been jabbering non-stop about phantoms and echoes. The lad is much too green. Paragon has been through the real Mourn Mists, this is a lesser imitation. He's found some of his own men, unlike the real Mournlands, the corpses did not attack him. He put Ivor down and told him to draw a weapon and hold on to the rope.

Sarok plunged through the mist and slashed at the enemy. Unlike the others he's killed, this one has proved to be a problem. Sarok does not take it personally, he is sure this is the traitor scum that issued the challenge. It is only polite to put up a good fight after uttering those words. He can see his hand in front of him. The mist is starting to thin, perhaps Skullstaff has met with a distraction.

The enemy came hard and fast. Paragon dodged without giving way. His mace smashed against its armored shoulder, while the cutlass dug into the area beneath it's other arm.

“I am War-Captain Sarok, race traitor,” the enemy spoke “I have claimed your men. You too will die!”

“My name is Paragon 152 to 3!” Paragon growled before punching Sarok in the face with the hilt of his cutlass.

Sarok drove his battle fist into Paragon's middle and then lunged with his heavy saber. Paragon was already gone. Sarok cursed, a mace to the back of his head answered. The war-forged spun away and tried to clear the spots in his vision. He felt a sharp pain on the inside his thigh. He slashed downward with his saber, but found nothing. Paragon materialized out of the mist and cocked his head at him. Sarok charged.

Paragon noted that Sarok favored his left shoulder. The mace must have had an effect earlier. The enemy commander is fast, but his fighting form has not improved much since the Cannith training halls produced him. He is using a standard sword style, probably augmented by a bit of magic. The battle fist could be used to much better effect. Sarok is predictable and unimaginative. Paragon side-stepped the slashing saber and hammered his mace into his wrist. Sarok dropped his weapon and swung his battle-fist at the spot where Paragon's head should be. Too slow, Sarok lost his balance as his heavy limb swung through empty space. A split second later Paragon 152 to 3 kicked Sarok in the stomach. The war-forged back pedaled. Paragon smashed his mace into Sarok's face and kicked his legs out from under him. The enemy commander fell flat on his back. A heavy foot pinned his battle-fist down. Paragon drove his cutlass through the enemy's shoulder, the injury took the entire limb out of commission. Before Sarok could even think to move, Paragon landed on his chest. Sarok tried to speak, but Paragon kicked and kicked at his head until it fell to pieces. A compartment on Sarok's chest popped open beneath Paragon's foot. It felt as if something is trying to get out. Laughing, Paragon squatted down and caught the final messenger before it could get away. He crushed it and tossed it over his shoulder.

“Paragon 153 to 3!” the victorious war-forged roared.

Javelin shook the lights from his vision, the big mace hits very hard. The juggernaut is a tough opponent. His entire body is tingling with the warm sensation that the war-forged has come to associate with excitement. The giant mace fell out of the mist again. Javelin flipped sideways and charged at the spot where the juggernaut's legs should be. The mace swept back and forth, but Javelin was already too far away. He came up right in between the enemy's legs. He drove his fists into the juggernaut's knee in an explosive burst of violence. The wood and metal shattered under his blows, the juggernaut screamed.

Chet felt his knee fall apart. He looked down at the flea that bit him. With a feat of enormous strength, it pulled the mace up and smashed the floor nearly crushing his own feet. It turned, favoring his good leg and struggled to bring Kruncher to bear.

Javelin jumped up and kicked at the juggernaut's hands. Armored fingers broke, the mace dropped. Javelin flipped backwards and then jumped up to kick the juggernaut in the face. The enemy swung it's massive fists, but it was too big and too slow. Javelin targeted the other knee. His hands and feet moved too fast for the eye to follow. He crippled the juggernaut and then he broke one arm and then the other. When Javelin was done destroying the clutching hands he moved on to the enemy's weapon. Chet watched the war-forged monk destroy Kruncher with his bare hands. Afterwards, he watched the monk stalk towards him just before the lights went out. Javelin found some of his squad's remains while he was hunted through the mist. Vengeance will do little to assuage his guilt, but vengeance is better than nothing.

Pyrus reached out to the fire within his breast. He sang in the hissing and crackling tongue of elemental flame. Heat flared out from his form. His cloak was consumed along with the few rags he wore. A swirling pillar of flame rose up around him. Pyrus rose from the stone floor, held aloft by the fire he commands. A finger of flaming death reached out to the mists, then another. The fire is hungry, Pyrus can barely keep it from consuming the entire room.

Pook watched the pillar of flame rise just as his men disappeared into the tunnels with the gnome woman and the goblin prisoners. Siff nearly lost his pretty head when he defeated one trap and set off the second, followed by a third. Pook and his squad came upon him while he struggled to climb out of a pit lined with spikes. The war-forged rogues made short work of the rescue. Three traps on one door, Pook shook his head. So, this is the Big Time, he mused.

Paragon 153 to 3 watched the flames consume the mists. Pyrus is a war-forged to be feared. It is a miracle the city allows him to remain within its walls. There are bodies in all directions. The mists had split them up and sowed confusion. They were hunted down as they wandered blindly about. His squad is down, as Sarok had said, but not all of them are dead. Javelin survived as did one of his squad that only got his legs crushed. Most of them can be repaired and revived. The others will receive a proper burial. The club made provisions for such a thing. He strolled over to the broken juggernaut and examined it's wounds. Javelin is a deadly opponent. He then noticed how the war-forged monk is looking at the bodies of the fallen. Paragon approves. He walked over to Javelin and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Come, we must take away the fallen. The Sister and the Watch cannot be far away now.” Paragon spoke softly. “We need to hurry.”

It took Theodyl only a few moments to show Paragon their new problem. The war-forged stared at the crates for a long time before he ordered Pyrus to incinerate them all. They kept one box as evidence. The goblin guards were killed as well. They are smugglers, and they let the wolf in the door. There was a time during the war when some desperate nations delved into the study of plagues and diseases to be used as weapons. They went far past dropping rotting bodies in a well or catapulting plague victims over city walls. Each crate holds three glass flasks. Each flask holds a dead fish in a yellowish fluid. Once in the city water supply, the plague would have spread and thousands would have died. The filth in the sewers would allow the plague to survive for decades. The Cyre manuscript must have been very important to them. They could have murdered the city in the time they spent waiting for it.

“They come, they come! We have about half an hour!” Patter announced as he returned from the tunnels. Pook must have sent him out to scout for the Sister.


First Post
Dog Soldiers, Chapter 16

Private Niabelis and Inquisitor Pallas shared the blessings of the Silver Flame with the others. The Dog Soldiers introduced themselves as Bashful and Point. Sweet Lips, she already knows. Private Niabelis prayed for deliverance. It is likely that they are all convicted criminals.

“They are around the corner! There's a monster with them.” Sweet Lips whispered.

“I don't care what they've got. They will die!” Private Niabelis hissed.

Sweet Lips charged. Private Niabelis ran close behind with her mace ready. A horribly mutated ape fell upon the young man. Behind it, a thing that could only be a dolgaunt stood next to another twisted thing that might have once been human. A shimmering door flashed open behind the monster. The dolgaunt gestured at her and then disappeared. Private Niabelis felt a wave of darkness and terror flood through the tunnel.

“Black Magic!” Inquisitor Pallas announced.

“I will feast on your tender flesh!” the enemy growled as the waves of foul magic caressed his body.

Bashful and Point bent under the magic, but they did not break. Inquisitor Pallas called upon the flame to bolster all of them against the corruption. Private Niabelis shook off the darkness and lifted her mace. The dolgaunt's companion peeled a bit of flesh from a nearby zombie and stuffed it in it's mouth. The zombie mewled and cried out like a child. The ghoulish mage made a rude gesture and invited her to die at his feet.

Sweet Lips kicked the ape away from his throat. His blood is flowing freely from too many wounds. The rage is gnawing at the back of his mind. The young man gritted his teeth and held on to his sanity. He batted the ape away with his war cleaver and started to look for a way to kill it. Private Niabelis is fighting the witch. The Inquisitor and the others are probably busy keeping the dolgrim back while Niabelis kills their leader. Sweet Lips dodged a claw swipe and wounded the monster. The enraged beast only came on stronger and faster. Sweet Lips fought back just as hard. The ape drew back and took a flying leap at him. The young man was overwhelmed.

“Sweet Lips is down!” yelled Bashful.

“Watch the line!” snapped Inquisitor Pallas.

The ape dug into his arms and thighs with it's claws. Sweet Lips had no leverage to wield his cleaver, but he managed to keep it from biting his face off. Pain flooded through his senses. The young man started to foam at the mouth. Sweet Lips head-butted the beast. He let go of the cleaver and struggled away from its grasp, fighting like a demon. The ape recovered quickly. It charged the young man again. Sweet Lips grabbed hold of his cleaver and met the charge screaming. The ape died. The berserker continued to hack at the broken corpse until something else drew his attention. Sweet Lips turned and charged the monster fighting Private Niabelis.

Point pulled Niabelis out of the way as the raging Dog Soldier charged past. The ghoulish mage sent him back with but a gesture. The berserker rolled to his feet and charged again and again. It's magic was foul, leaving cold and darkness in its wake. The rage filled him, none of the magic seemed to stick. He wounded the monster with each charge, but the creature just would not give. Private Niabelis used the distractions to smash into the enemy as well. She called to Flame for strength, but the enemy laughed at her efforts. It's resistance is beyond anything she has ever experienced. She used the Flame's gifts to keep the berserker alive until she could figure out a way to hurt the thing. It's fell gaze made her feel dirty.

Inquisitor Pallas poured his last blessing into Bashful. The dolgrim are pushing hard. His mace arm is tired and slick with blood. The battle rages behind him, though he can't tell if they are winning. He is convinced that they are over their heads.

Private Niabelis felt weighed down with fatigue. The evil creature before her is somehow responsible. She reached for the small spark of Silver Flame that she carries within her breast and struck out with a beam of searing light. The enemy screamed out of rage and pain. It dropped to the floor trying to put the flames out. Sweet Lips drove his cleaver through it's chest. The witch continued to fight, striking out with its clawed hands and sharpened teeth. If Sweet Lips noticed, he didn't show it. The berserker ripped the cleaver out and tore into the monster with renewed vigor. The thing screeched a spell and sent Sweet Lips flying backwards wrapped in tendrils of cloying shadows. It should be dead twice over. Every time it gets a chance the thing pulls another strip of flesh from it's zombie companion. Her eyes grew wide, Private Niabelis did not hesitate. The Sister Inquisitor kicked the zombie away from the monster's reach. She then dove in and crushed the enemy's skull with her mace, calling on the Flame to smite the unholy terror. It mocked her even as it died, calling out obscenities that would haunt her dreams for months to come.

Sweet Lips rose to his feet and eyed the dolgrim surrounding him. His eyes are bulging out of his skull. His face is flushed red and his teeth are clenched so tight that his jaw threatens to crack. The young man's skin is covered in angry red boils from the witch's latest assault. He just stood there wavering slightly. Point waved the Inquisitor back away from the young berserker. The Sergeant had told the men what to expect from Sweet Lips. Bashful sat very still. The young man had bowled him over just a moment ago. None of them want to set him off. An idiot dolgrim jabbed Sweet Lips with a spear. The other Dog Soldiers breathed a sigh of relief.

The berserker growled and swung his cleaver like a scythe. Point and Bashful fell in behind the young man, killing with only a bit more sense. They will protect his back while he fights for them. The gawky young man is gone, his features are unrecognizable. There is no stopping Sweet Lips now, the two Dog Soldiers only hope that the Sergeant knows how to calm the boy.

“We need to bless the corpse.” Private Niabelis told the Inquisitor. “This filthy thing dared to laugh at the Flame. It resisted most of my prayers.”

“Verily, that was not a natural creature,” Pallas agreed. “A ghoul mage, I think, it should be burned. What about that one?”

The zombie stood against the wall, begging to be killed. It was once a young woman, approaching maidenhood. The voice was that of a child very much younger. When Inquisitor Pallas demanded it's name, it just started crying. Private Niabelis felt her skin crawl at the sound. Pallas raised his mace and held unclean thing in place with the power of the Flame. Niabelis lifted up her holy symbol called for judgment. The zombie screamed and fell to ash. A dark shadow, like a smudge upon reality hung in place for a moment, then it too was destroyed.

“It was evil.” Private Niabelis frowned. “Let us move on. You saw the dolgaunt, did you not?”

“The Bishop will know what to do. We must finish this mess first.” If Inquisitor Pallas saw Niabelis flinch, he did not care. “Chances are, you will not be free to pursue it.”

Private Niabelis sprinkled some holy water upon the corpse of the ghoul mage. It sizzled as it touched the unnatural flesh. Her mace crushed what was left of it's head, she then circled the corpse and destroyed its hands. She took a step back and held the holy symbol of the Flame before it.

“Be thou Blessed!” She intoned, “Be thou Cleansed!”

The corpse twitched and then started to writhe obscenely. Niabelis heard the thing laugh as if from a great distance. She girded her heart against it, her mind grew hard and cold with the hot burning will of the flame strengthening her resolve. The ghoul mage resisted, but not for long. Private Niabelis felt something give within her breast, a new strength poured through her body. She poured the last of the holy water upon the ghoul mage. The water set it ablaze. Niabelis stood there holding the holy symbol of the Silver Flame until it was over.

Sergeant Ironson barked out new orders when the dolgrim started to panic. The Dog Soldiers started tossing tangle-foot bags. A moment later, several bottles of alchemist's fire and acid followed. The Sergeant made sure none to the filthy dolgrim could get away. Sweet Lips and the others capped the other end of the trap. It was bloody, the dolgrim fought like trapped rats. The Dog Soldiers fought harder.

At the very end, Private Niabelis held Sweet Lips down while the others held on to his arms and legs. By rights he should be dead. The battle is done and yet he continues to hack at the fallen enemy. She channeled the Flame's blessing into him and tore out the bolts from his chest. The wounds from the ghoul mage are festering, he is shaking with fever. Two more inquisitors had to spend their blessings to save him. The young man's eyes rolled back into his head and he suddenly burst free. He blinked at them with no recognition in his eyes.

“Down boy,” Sgt. Ironson commanded. The necklace about Sweet Lips' neck sent a burst of electricity through the boy's body. The berserker collapsed, this time for good.

“He will need to stay in bed for a week, at least.” Niabelis said as one of the Dog Soldiers helped her up. “Has he been checked for taint?”

“No, he is a berserker, not a lycanthrope.” Sgt. Ironson replied tersely.

“The Flame will tell.” Inquisitor Pallas said.

“He is a follower of the Host, touched by Dol Dorn. His strength is a blessing. Keep yer bloody Flame to yerself, Inquisitor.” Sgt. Ironson barked.

“The boy is obviously cursed. Can you not see that?” Niabelis demanded.

“He bears a heavy burden, that is true, but he is a man. No gift from the Gods comes without a price. Test him if you will, but the Chaplain must be present. He is a Dog Soldier.” Sgt. Ironson ended the conversation by giving them both the evil eye.

The Sergeant counted the wounded. Six men are too wounded to fight, but no one is dead just yet. The rest bear assorted wounds and scratches, nothing to keep them from taking a few heads in the next fight. The Inquisitors kept his lads alive, that much is undeniable. The Sister is going to be trouble later. For now, she is bound to her commission. The law is very clearly on his side, let the City Council deal with the politics. Potions and divine healing will allow them to drag their feet to the objective. However, he doesn't know if the men will be able to fight effectively if he forces a march. Sgt. Ironson hissed a curse and kicked at a dolgrim corpse.

“Chaplain Odus, contact Captain Rolland. Tell him we ran into trouble, and that we will be delayed. Give him our current position and an estimate of 45 minutes to the pump rooms.”

Odus pulled short rod from his belt. It is an advanced communication device from the war; the kind of thing generals get to play with. It is expensive, too expensive for even the City Watch. The Inquisitors looked at one another and then to the Sergeant. He shrugged his shoulders at them. When the Nobles issue equipment, Sergeants don't ask questions.

“Sir...the Captain said he is five minutes away!” Chaplain Odus called out in shock. “He's got a watch mage flying ahead to meet us! They were scrying us, sir!”

“Oh, this is precious!” the Sergeant snapped. “Private Niabelis, front and center! Chaplain Odus, Inquisitor Pallas, you too. You, start counting dolgrim heads! Is Sweet Lips awake yet!?”

The Watch Mage swooped in with a wand in each hand. He is wearing an auxiliary badge and a University tabard. The Captain must have pull, accomplished wizards do not just drop classes to answer calls to the sewers. The mage started asking questions, the Sergeant answered as best he could. The Captain marched in minutes later with his reserves.

“Well, Sergeant, I see that you are aiming for a promotion. We haven't killed this many dolgrim in ten years!” The Captain spoke cheerfully. “Is there anything left for me?”

The Dog Soldiers lined up. The Chaplain had to physically pull some of the wounded out of the ranks. The Captain authorized healing for the more stubborn soldiers and then ordered a fast march. The Watch Mage tried to scry the pump rooms before they left. He was blocked. The Captain thinks that means a good fight is brewing, the Sergeant just shook his head. The Watch Mage actually said something about looking forward to wielding his power without restriction.

Private Niabelis is keeping her mouth shut and her head down. This should be her day. She did everything in her power to get to this place and now it is all crumbling to dust. Maybe she should have let the Sergeant take her head. Inquisitor Pallas should have backed her up. They are both Inquisitors, yet he looked at her as if she were a stranger. The Bishop is her only hope now. Private Niabelis took a calming breath and tried not to grit her teeth. She will endure, her day will come.
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I really like the way you handle the description of magic in this story. You've stripped away the 'metagame' portions of the spells and powers and made them your own. Very nice. Great battle scene, as well. I got a little lost on who was who, but you had so many combatants on both sides that you probably couldn't avoid a little battle confusion. The scene where Niabelis was 'recruited' was absolutely brilliant.

Keep it up!


First Post
ragboy said:
I really like the way you handle the description of magic in this story. You've stripped away the 'metagame' portions of the spells and powers and made them your own. Very nice. Great battle scene, as well. I got a little lost on who was who, but you had so many combatants on both sides that you probably couldn't avoid a little battle confusion. The scene where Niabelis was 'recruited' was absolutely brilliant.

Keep it up!

Thanks Ragboy, I didn't know what to do with Sister Niabelis at first. I have her at Lawful Neutral, she is loyal to the Flame, but she is also arrogant, vain, and power hungry. Having her pressed into service in exchange for her life made me feel good. I have to admit that I modelled the Niabelis character after an ex-girlfriend. I found the Ghoul Mage in an old 3rd party supplement from a garage sale, eating flesh gives it power. It was disgusting enough to make a good target for Sister Niabelis and Sweet Lips. The berserker he plays is closer to the actual Myth than the D&D version, it just feels better.

I am glad the fighting came off the way it did. I wanted to challenge my characters but my lack of experience led me to take some short cuts. The next fight will go more smoothly, I hope. What did you think about the malformed war-forged? Should I tone-down Pyrus the Pyromancer? Should Sister Niabelis suffer some more?


skullsmurfer said:
The next fight will go more smoothly, I hope. What did you think about the malformed war-forged? Should I tone-down Pyrus the Pyromancer? Should Sister Niabelis suffer some more?

Tone down nothing! Keep it big, loud and pulpy.

Depends on what you want her story to be, I guess. To keep interest, you may want to consider bringing her back to the 'sympathetic' fold. I like the character, but I think she probably needed to be put through Sharn's grinder to get that pride where it belongs.

But, don't be afraid to keep kicking your characters in the teeth. Lester Dent has excellent advice on that front.


First Post
Of Lies and Bigger Troubles, Chapter 17

Paragon had Ivor and Theodyl take charge of looting. He and the other war-forged hurried to clear away their fallen brothers. Pyrus guarded against scrying, while making preparations to burn away all magically traceable evidence. The pyromancer took the time to ward the tunnel being used by Sister Niabelis. It will buy them another ten minutes at most.

Moro Taller waited just inside the tunnel. He is in charge of the healing and repair wands. The gnome is in a bit of shock. Reading about a fight and actually seeing one are two wildly different things. The gladiators at the arena, were putting on a show of that, he is now certain. He doesn't know what he is going to do once he is back with his wife and children, but he is sure that it will be nowhere near as horrible as what he has witnessed.

“Ho there, young gnome! There be someone approaching.” The beer stein warned.

Moro drew a Wand of Missiles and turned. His hands are shaking, but not so much that he will miss. He recognized Pook. The changeling still had to give the password. The beer stein took care of the rest by ordering Moro to have another drink.

“What are you doing back? W-where's my w-wife?” the gnome asked in between gulps of Theodyl's beer.

“She's fine, the others took her to the private box at the arena.” the changeling replied as he disrobed and put on a fine set of women's clothing.

Pook started to speak in a woman's voice as his body changed to match. He now a she, threw a luxurious silk lined cloak over her shoulders and had Moro tie her hair back with a jeweled comb. She uncorked a visually striking perfume bottle and dabbed an absolutely delicious rose scented oil onto her neck and just beneath her breast line. Moro's hands started to shake under the effects of the heady aroma. He blushed as he found his eyes traveling over her neck line. Pook winked at him. She then put on some earrings and a necklace to match her comb on her head. Pook put on the shoes last. They look great, but they pinch after a while.

“You will address me as Lady Eunice Nigma, Ser Gnome.” Pook said with refined noble accent. “Now stay out of sight, you are supposed to be dead.” She kissed him on the cheek and left him to trip over his feet in a hurry to get under cover.

Theodyl sniffed at Pook's neck as she strolled past and ignored him with just the right swing in her hips. The half-elf copped a feel and hurried away to join the gnome in a side tunnel. Ivor rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out. Paragon 153 to 3 noticed something, but he doesn't care enough to ask. Theodyl's bed habits make his joints ache, flesh people are crazy. The war-forged handed Lady Nigma his creator's signet ring and adjusted his tabard to House Cannith regulations. Pyrus summoned an impressive aura of flame. Argus and Pennelocles joined Javelin just behind Paragon. The crate lay safely within a warding circle drawn in living flame.

“Hold!” Sgt. Ironson ordered the troops. “Squads 1, 3, 4: I want three wedges in front of the Captain. Number 2 squad, form up around the mage. Inquisitors, Pallas with the Captain, all others will each go with a Chaplain. Private Niabelis, squad number 5, you are with me!”

Captain Rolland Sevin raised his falchion and spoke. The magic woven into the blade generations past took his words and carried them to every ear within the pump rooms. “This is the City Watch! Lower your weapons and stay where you are!”

“Oh Rolland! How wonderful to see you here!” Lady Nigma exclaimed, her voice as delightful as bird song. “Have you a wizard? My boys found something of great import!”

The Captain did everything but run to her and give her a kiss. He strutted up to the woman like a peacock, leaving his men behind. Inquisitor Pallas scowled, he called on the Flame, but could detect no deviltry. The woman is surrounded by an impressive aura, however, centered on her jewelry.

Sgt. Ironson kept a weary eye out for Sweet Lips. The young man kept a straight face, but the crimson color of his skin said a lot. There is no doubt in his mind, this is the woman he saw with the war-forged escort earlier in the week. Private Niabelis could have bored a hole in the Captain's back. The Sergeant sent the Watch Mage and his squad up to Captain Sevin. He then ordered the crossbows to cover the Lady's escort. The war-forged with the cloak of fire must be a mage of some sort.

Private Niabelis surveyed the battlefield. The broken juggernaut is an impressive sight. There is another body, this one with it's head crushed. There are bolts and arrows littering everywhere. A broken pipe overhead is pouring brown water onto the floor. Not far to her left she can see the smoking remains of perhaps two more war-forged. Against the far wall a pile of crates is smoldering along with something else, maybe goblins and more war-forged. House Cannith got here first, but why? It doesn't make sense.

Sgt. Ironson nearly gave the order to fire as a small commotion broke out. The Watch Mage took to the air and sped towards the pile of crates smoking against the far wall. A bright green ray swept from is wand, reducing the crates to little than dust. Captain Sevin signaled the Sergeant to approach. The war-forged mage with the cloak of fire stood up and joined the others behind the woman from Cannith. The Captain let them leave and then turned to stare at the lone crate sitting within a warding circle of fire. Inquisitor Pallas drew his mace and called his Inquisitors to his side. They surrounded the circle, ready to kill anything that approaches.

“What the hell is going on here?” Niabelis screeched.

“Shut it, Private! The Captain can still have yer head if he don't like your tone.” The Sergeant snapped.

Captain Sevin turned to his Sergeant and told the news. His face was pale, several beads of sweat glistened on his forehead.

“Hag's Plague, Sgt. Ironson.” He said with a tremor in his voice. “They were going to pour it into the sewers.” The Captain turned away. “From the sewers it would have spread to the bay and from there, who knows? We don't even know how far the pipes reach down into the earth. Our water comes from below. Gods, they could have murdered us.”

“How did they get it in here? The goblins are smugglers, but the ship still had go through the docks. This could start a panic.” Niabelis said while trying to think away the shock.

“There won't be a panic.” Captain Sevin cut in. “Sergeant, we camp here tonight. I will make arrangements with the City to search every pump room between here and the docks. Inform your men, I am declaring a quarantine. I trust they can keep a secret?”

“They are good men, sir.” the Sergeant replied.

“Then I don't need to say anything more, Sergeant.” Captain Sevin said locking his eyes on the officer, “Instruct the men, then turn over every stone in this place, I have had far too many surprises today.”

The Sergeant jogged away with Private Niabelis in tow. He is scared, but that is between him and Dol Dorn. His duty is clear. There is trouble and the Dog Soldiers are once more in the middle of it. He put on his best Wrath of the Gods scowl and started barking orders. The men jumped the proper height and moved like the devils are nipping at their heels. They just don't know. Private Niabelis realized the Captain had just threatened all of their lives. She turned to the Sergeant, he told her to shut up.

“Cities run on blood...” the Sergeant quoted from a poet turned activist now rotting in a City dungeon. “What did you expect, a medal?”

The Arena, an hour or so later......

Moro blubbered like a baby as he rushed to his wife's arms. Theodyl and the changelings gave them space, but did not go away. Ivor and Siff stayed close to the door. Pook and Patter stood ready to catch them if they tried to jump into the arena. Paragon is taking care of his men, Javelin and Argus stayed behind to act as bodyguards. They are outside. There is an owlbear fighting a slow, armored dinosaur in the arena below. It is too noisy for their business to be overheard. Theodyl is waiting for the couple to calm down before he starts asking questions. The beer stein is sitting on a ledge brimming with beer and screaming down to the savage combatants.

“So,” Theodyl interrupted their embrace, “which one of you fine upstanding gnomes set me up?”

Moro grew silent. His wife looked up to Theodyl and met his eyes. The half-elf did not waver. Moro made to speak but the woman shushed him and told him to go watch the fight. She is very pretty, or cute as humans would say. Fat, rosy cheeks and curly blond hair give her an almost cherub like appeal. She is also obviously older than her husband, but no more than a few decades, though. To Theodyl's thinking, she would be the perfect kind of woman to seduce a young, but well placed mark. No one looks at the wife, not unless you are an expert in the spy game. The dragons ran into complications, though, Theodyl could tell just from the way they gazed at each other. There is love in those eyes, that cannot be faked. Theodyl sent the changelings away to set her at ease. It isn't personal, yet.

“It wasn't supposed to happen like this,” She began. “I was supposed to use the Cyre Manuscript as a distraction while I used some hired mercenaries to steal the other file. The Mercenaries I hired had their own ideas. The one named Sarok said he would drown my babies in sewer sludge...”

“I understand,” Theodyl calmed her, “Tell me, who is your Master? Vergris? Dothon? Blackscale?”

“Dothon.” She answered after a long pause. “Vergris is crippled, she won't allow anyone to see her face. She is in Thrane, last I heard. Blackscale and Dothon are in charge of operations in Sharn now.” She looked up at Theodyl. “What are you going to do? They said you would go to them, they planned on it.”

“Fat chance of that happening.” Theodyl laughed. “I want to set up a meeting at a neutral location. Will you take care of that for me?”

“You are crazy.” She said looking to her husband. “I can't....”

“What's your name,” Theodyl interrupted, “I never asked.”

“Dulcimella,” She replied, and then recovered, “I really don't think...”

“I am only a little bit crazy,” the half-elf interrupted again, “besides, you need help getting out of Sharn with your children. They think your husband is dead, but you will not have it as easy.” Theodyl locked his green eyes on her. “I doubt the dragons will help. You failed.”

“Don't say another word, either of you.” A voice hissed and twisted out of empty space.

Mooneye the Necromancer made his entrance. The lights dimmed, every shadow in the room suddenly spread like a stain. A clammy chill crawled up Theodyl's spine. The lights sprung back to life and suddenly Mooneye was there. A gnome sized skeleton wearing black and red silk cocked it's head and waited for everyone in the room to remember to breathe. Theodyl could do nothing but clap.

“I would like to be join these negotiations,” Mooneye announced. “In a few hours there are going to be City Watchmen crawling through the under city like rats on a corpse. I stand to loose a lot of business.” The red dots of light within his eye sockets flashed. “You, Mrs. Taller, and you Mr. Vair, will help me make up for those losses.”

“Master Mooneye, I found six renegade war-forged with enough Hag's Plague to kill the city and then go on to kill everything that touches the bay waters. I think the City Watch is justified.” Theodyl addressed the lich.

“Hag's Plague? In my City?” the lich snapped. “Tell me more.”

Theodyl felt the pressure of the lich's gaze. He started talking, describing every detail of the pump rooms, the goblins, the war-forged, the fight. The lich wormed his way into the half-elf's mind and tore out the details even as his mouth continued to speak
them. Theodyl's natural defenses shook beneath the relentless mental assault. The lich hissed, Theodyl focused his mind on telling everything he knew. The constant detailed stream of information kept the lich from digging any deeper. Mooneye made him hurt for his effort, however.

“Now, it is your turn, Mrs. Taller.” Mooneye said almost politely. “Talk or I will just reach in and drag it all out.”

Moro rushed the lich only to be struck unconscious. Dulcimella fainted. The beer stein assaulted the lich with a stream of expletives in several different languages. In some way, the curses struck Mooneye like physical blows. The lich blasted the beer stein to pieces spraying beer in all directions. The ghostly form of a heavily armored dwarven fighter took shape over the debris. The spilled beer froze solid beneath his feet. A great otherworldly howl erupted from beneath his helm. His long braided beard moved as if buffeted by a great wind. An urgosh, as immaterial as the ghost, cut the air in front of Mooneye, followed by another stream of expletives.

“You will NOT touch them!!!” The dwarven spirit cried. “Thou walking corpse! By my beard I shall SMITE thee!!!!” The world shook with his voice.

“Peace! Peace!” Theodyl leapt between the two. “Master Mooneye, I think that we can come to a profitable arrangement. Ser Dwarf, please stay thy rage.” He is bleeding from his nose and ears. It is obvious he can barely stand. “Let us order some refreshments, some strong drink to calm our passions.”

“I want Bourbon.” The dwarven spirit said through his teeth. “and I want a new vessel. Silver, I think, with jewels!”

“Bourbon it is then.” The lich agreed.

The lich snapped his fingers and Moro woke up as if from a nightmare. His wife was startled awake at nearly the same time. Theodyl rubbed at his temples in a vain effort to make the headache go away. A table laden with food and drink rose out of the floor. The lich called a name, a shadow crawled out of a dark corner and lay at Mooneye's feet.

“This is my apprentice, his new name is Fletch,” the lich said to Theodyl, “I think you get the joke, yes?”

Theodyl cringed as the image of his arrow sticking out of the horned goblin's head came unbidden to his mind. Mooneye kicked at the shadow and demanded Bourbon. The shadow sank into the floor and soon returned with a great cask. The shadow then produced a set of glass tumblers for Theodyl and the gnomes. The lich waved his hands and the tumblers filled with clear amber fluid. He waved his hands again and a mist rose out of the barrel it traveled lazily to the dwarven spirit and then to the lich.

“I can taste it.” The dwarven spirit whispered, “Bourbon, hot as fire and cold as a mountain breeze.”

“Good,” the lich chuckled as the shadow returned to it's place at his feet “Theodyl, you can start talking now.”

“I have a certain bit of paper that someone else wants.” The half-elf started to explain.

“Bah! Pedestrian trade, hardly worth my time.” Mooneye interrupted. “I want something more interesting than that.”

“Dothon the Wise and Blackscale Stormbreaker are both very interested, the problem is that I am entirely too fragile for aggressive negotiations.” The half-elf said as he sipped from his glass.

“Nadothon Talonwise and Blackscale Terrorwind are not the kind to deal with anyone.” The lich spoke as he considered Theodyl's words. “I understand that a certain King of Galifar had to bribe Blackscale in order to save a year's worth of crops a few centuries past.” Theodyl pouted as the lich's superior knowledge became immediately evident. “Nadothon raided the Elven lands with the same trick. Blackscale destroyed their crops just so Nadothon wouldn't have to break his word after collecting the bounty. The elves called a blood debt on them both. They work together those two. The elves started a rumor that they are mated. Nadothon incinerated an entire forest out of spite.”

“They can afford your prices,” Theodyl added, “and they can't kill you permanently. You might even gain a new client or two.”

“What is on that bit of paper, exactly?” the lich asked.

“Names, dates, locations etc. Somebody has been trying to track stray Dragons through our lands.” Theodyl drained his tumbler and held it out for more. “I assume they want to either put a stop to it or they want to use it to some advantage. I wouldn't be surprised if they took over the operation and then sold the information to the highest bidder.”

“I will need to know for sure if I want to make a solid deal. The negotiations will drag until I have a firm grasp on their motives.” the lich mused. “You will give me sixty percent.”

“I want our freedom and my master's spell-shard.” Theodyl stated, waving towards himself and Dulcimella, “You can ask for whatever else you want, they probably have artifacts and wonders beyond words stashed in their hoards.”

“You only play at magic,” Mooneye snapped. “what could you possibly want with a spell-shard?”

“Only to stop playing at magic, Master Mooneye.” The half-elf replied. “I am tired of ending a fight tired and bloodied. I see a better way, just within my reach.”

The lich started laughing. His head came off and flew to a stop not an inch from Theodyl's face. They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Theodyl felt his skin go clammy as the lich bored into his mind again. He didn't resist this time. He waited until the lich was too deep to get away and triggered the most potent spell he knows. The notes to a sad hymn sounded. A sharp pain radiated from his heart and his body spasmed once and then twice. Theodyl smiled and then slipped away into darkness.

“No! You can't do this to me!” the lich screeched. “Damn your tricks! I will bring you back. Death is no escape with the likes of me!”

Moro and his wife held each other as the lich raged over Theodyl's body. The dwarven spirit moved to stand between the lich and the gnomes. Theodyl chose to die, there is nothing to avenge. The lich stopped his diatribe and decided to launch a spell instead. The words each shook the room as the necromancer spit them out through his teeth. The room went dark again as every light bent and wavered streaking towards the lich and the corpse in front of it. The light soaked into Theodyl's body until the gnomes had to look away from the glare. A scream echoed from very far away, then it came closer and closer until the gnomes realized it was Theodyl screaming.

“My mind is my business.” Theodyl rasped at the lich's red glaring eyes. “You got what you deserved.”

“I saw enough.” Mooneye snapped. “You are an accident waiting to happen. I will let you keep your secrets, but if I even smell another trick, you will join my apprentice at my feet.”

Mooneye continued to rant and threaten for about ten minutes. Theodyl stayed conscious the entire time. He gambled on taking the lich with him, he vaguely remembers the bastard snapping back at the very last moment. The lich had an anchor, something to hold on to. The phylactery must do something other than just hold a lich's soul when it's missing a body. Live and learn. His mouth tastes like dust. He is so tired he can't even pass out.

“I think that I might get to like you again, Theodyl.” The lich said as his head settled back upon it's neck. “My apprentice only tried to assassinate me after five years of service, you only shop at my store. Your will is strong, your mind is sharp, and you take risks, big risks. You have a chance at becoming a wizard.” The lich laughed again as if it had told a joke. “We meet at midnight tomorrow. Don't look for me I will find you. Oh, and don't bother trying to sleep, you won't sleep again until you suffer enough to give me an honest apology. You hurt me.”
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First Post
Aftermath, Chapter 18

“You are three times an idiot!” the war-forged scolded. “I can't believe you did something so stupid!” Paragon 153 to 4 cursed and kicked the crate in front of him until it fell apart. “I couldn't protect you. Do you know how that feels!?”

“He was rifling through my head,” Theodyl tried to explain for the hundredth time. “I couldn't stop him, so I tried to take him with me.”

“Do you realize how crazy that sounds?!” Paragon ranted. “Look at yourself, I barely recognize you anymore! You look like a ghost!”

“I gambled and I lost,” Theodyl grumbled. “You have your standards, I have mine. Do I harp about you training guerrillas and picking fights with things that can kill you with a twitch? How many times have you been to the arena? Dol Dorn guides your steps, Olladra does the same for me.” Paragon glared at him, Theodyl decided to try a little honesty. “I am sorry to try your patience. You are my brother, please let us have peace.”

“You are an idiot. I am going to pick-up some things, Javelin will be outside. He's got permission to knock you unconscious if you do anything other than drink beer and talk to your cup. He killed that juggernaut barehanded, please don't try his patience.”

“I am sorry about your score!” Theodyl called at his best-friends back. The door shut and he was left alone.

The mirror isn't going anywhere. Theodyl stared at his reflection for over an hour, he is too lazy to move. Kicking the mirror over would take the same amount of energy. His eyes are many shades lighter, glassy olive, like those of a cat. It doesn't look right. The color is gone from his hair. That looks many times worse. He feels broken inside, as if something is missing. Theodyl can't stop thinking about what he could possibly be missing.

“Are you guarding me too?” He asked the dwarven spirit. “I see you looking at me. I am not senseless.”

“Ye usually don't see me at all.” The dwarf complained. “The shell-head told ye to rest.”

“Don't you like your new Beer Stein?”

“It's very nice. The diamonds are a fine touch.” The dwarf admitted. Only his voice carried emotion. “I used to collect beer steins before I died. I miss them.” The dwarf's face is hidden beneath a helmet, beard and mustache. He is wearing a round buckler on his left arm and holding an exotic urgosh on the other. It is a wicked looking weapon. The spiked gauntlets match his spiked boots and shin guards. An iron skirt ends just bellow his knees. The dwarf looks unassailable, noble and dangerous at the same time. He is a dwarf from a different age girded in armor of Black Iron.

“Quit staring at me, damn it!” the dwarven spirit growled.

“I just trying to get to know you.” The bard teased. He reached for a dwarven box-horn from a shelf next to his bed. It is made of rich, dark brightly polished hard-wood. The instrument produces deep bass notes, a resonator built into the box enhances the sounds further. Dwarves play them as one would recite poetry. It is a spiritual experience to hear the dwarven priests play them in the towering underground cathedrals within the Mror Holds. Theodyl knows only three compositions that he can play comfortably. The Path of the Morning, written by a long dead priest, is the shortest one.

“My mother named me Roarynn Morgani Vair, Ser Dwarf. I died to keep this name. Allow me to entertain you.”

The composition is paced. A lone priest stands vigilant deep within a mountain hold. The notes rise and fall slowly as a beam of light travels over a solar calendar carved onto the living stone of a temple. Theodyl taps a hard-wood stick against the side of the box to imitate the droplets of condensation falling from a cold stone ceiling. At the same time he deftly turns the polished air valves to adjust the resonating bass. The notes are serene, insightful, and moving. The notes move slowly with the ray of light around the hard unyielding floor. The priest taps a bell with every hour that passes, Theodyl rings a chime. With every chime he turns down the bass. The light fades, the bass dies away and only the droplets of water remain. It took over an hour. Theodyl's cheeks are burning and his ribs ache. It was designed for dwarven lungs.

The dwarven spirit lay his hand across his beard. It looked at the floor and then at the wall. It shifted and tapped it's weapon against a heavy shoulder pad. The spirit took off his thick Black Iron helm and scratched a bald spot. He misses the halls of his people.

“Ongred Narduur Ironshanks, of the Iron Eaves in Noldrunhold, pleased to meet you.” The dwarf donned his helm and faded away.

The polished mithril beer stein glimmered as the dwarven spirit took residence. It is decorated with a complex maze of classical dwarven scroll work leading to a large water opal set into the metal. A ring of large blue diamonds adorn the base. Their shade matches the blue from the water opal. The rim is accented by tiny white diamonds. The cap is etched with dwarven symbols for fortune and prosperity. It opens and closes smartly, with help from a spring loaded thumb lever. It is ostentatious, rich enough to be fit for a king. The jeweler had a commission with Theodyl to be paid in trade. The half-elf had his heart set on an emerald ring to match his eyes. The grumbling and moaning of a dwarven spirit crying for a beer stein changed his mind. He sent a letter with Paragon to Hercsztone's Treasury in the marble paved streets of the High Quarter. Paragon spent a little extra, just to irritate the half-elf.

The jeweler had needed help with his marriage. Theodyl had been entertaining a small wedding party months back, when a fight broke out. Some men from the groom's party were feuding over a business transaction. Theodyl wove a calming effect into his song to promote more singing and drinking. Master Hercsztone's wife had stopped nagging him at the very same time. The jeweler, an experienced Magewright, recognized the magical trick. The half-elf's solution was Birdsong. It is a whistle carved from a banshee's thigh bone with three holes for three different notes. Whenever Master Hercsztone plays it, his wife remembers that they are in love and stops nagging him, for a while. It is just a Calm Emotions spell, but the jeweler acts like he's got an artifact in his hands.

The whistle was in fact, his fourth most successful attempt at magical item design and enchantment. The only thing that irks him about it, is that if it is played for too long the whistle grows progressively cooler. Even the air blowing through it feels cold. His first creation was the Ring of Indifference. It stops functioning for a month after he uses it. While active, no one is shocked or surprised by anything he does. It is an absolute life saver when he is trying to impersonate somebody or when he is picking a King's pocket in front of his generals. Sadly, once a month for 5 minutes is not enough fun.

Theodyl's second magical project was a Purge Stone. It is an aquamarine stone that when held in one's mouth removes the effects of poison and intoxication. The enchantment was successful, but half the time it also causes vomiting, diarrhea, profuse sweating and a runny nose; all at once. Success number three was a Wand of Steam. Paragon was looking for a way to stay clean without having to go to a body shop as often. The shiny brass pipe projects blasts of cleansing steam. Unfortunately, sometimes the pressure is a little high and the wand flies out of one's hand.

Theodyl sighed as his thoughts returned once more to his predicament. He can't sleep and he is bone weary. Maybe he should read. To his right is a lap desk with a mess of scrolls, forgery tools and magical formulae. To his right his master's appointment calendar and traveling spell book lie in several pieces. A set of round brass plates were hidden within their bindings. It is an astrological tool, the plates fit together and the symbols engraved on their surfaces match up to decode star signs. All of Stargazer's codes and cyphers are based on astrology. It is the key to a spell-shard, a sort of Master Spell Book imprinted on a dragonshard. Apart from a key to a House Kundarak Deposit Vault, it is the only thing his master ceded to him upon death.
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First Post
The Hazards of Politics, Chapter 19

Captain Rolland Sevin has been staring at the thrice cursed crate for the entire shift. The City Council promoted him to the rank of High Captain and sent him four irritating assistants. He is now in charge of 120 men, 4 warrant officers, 8 Sergeants and a horde of volunteers from the various crews that work in the underground. A contingent from House Cannith is due any moment to cart away the remains of the enemy war-forged. Two of the bodies drove one of their Artificers into a frenzy. He's been dotting over the remains for nine hours now.

A bearded wizard from the Twelve took one of the plague jars and left the other two behind. He had a letter from the Seat of Breland. The Council sent word that any one else that attempts collect a sample should be arrested, lethal force is authorized. The Inquisitors of the Silver Flame have been rotating on five hour shifts. They have already killed a changeling impersonating a guardsman. Flamers are entirely too obsessed with the idea of Smiting. The real man's corpse was found in the goblin refuse pile. A request for another Watch Mage has been denied.

Lady Eunice Nigma has all but disappeared. He received a letter claiming she has been assigned to a field office. She didn't apply the rose perfume to the letter, but she sent a lacy, scented handkerchief with a separate courier. It is an old fashioned gesture, typical of mature Nobility, he is flattered. Captain Sevin assumes she is in some sort of trouble. An agent from House Cannith denied her existence altogether. When the Captain pressed and asked how they knew to come to the pump rooms, the man refused to speak any further. The Council is demanding that he make a report on his relationship with her. The Captain requested a Writ from them. Even as a minor noble, his private life is his business.

“You! What in blazes is your name?” The Captain barked at one of his new assistants.

“Roanberry, sir.” the man replied.

“Well, Roanberry, that fine blade in your hands is named Lucy. It has been in my family since the last king of Galifar. Don't ever touch it again, or I shall have you flogged.” Captain Sevin took the heavy falchion from the underling's undeserving grasp. He stared the man down until he was sure the threat had time to sink in. “Now go and get me Sgt. Ironson, Private Niabelis, and Private Grimmson. After you do that, find out why you are here irritating me while your other fellow assistants are nosing about my camp. I loathe spies, killing them was my exclusive duty during the war. I expect a written report in, say, three hours?”

The assistants may be spies, but as a High Captain he can probably have them executed for looking at the plague box for too long. First, he will test them some more, if he can turn them to some use, all the better. If not, he will play with them until he gets bored, then he will assign them to camp duties. The thought of a bunch Council toadies handling chamber pots makes him smile. The Inquisitors have yet to cross the line, but as soon as they do, he will replace them with Dog Soldiers. It is the mother of all ironies that as a Noble and and a Superior Officer, the only folk he can put his trust in are common soldiers.

“Sir! Sgt. Ironson reporting, Sir!” The grizzled officer saluted smartly and then stood at attention until acknowledged. The other two soldiers held their salutes two steps behind.

“At ease. Pull up some seats, I have read your reports and I want to ask you all some questions.” The Captain said, trying to be as friendly as possible. He is too tired.

The biggest problem, Private Niabelis, was actually the easiest to solve. She decided to stay with the Dog Soldiers despite the Council's order for her release. As far as the Flame and the Sister are concerned, she signed the contract. Sgt. Ironson gets a medal for the battle with the dolgrim, the men will receive commendations. Private Grimmson, known as Sweet Lips among the men, is a different kind of hassle. The Silver Flame wants to have him examined for taint. They went through the City Council so he didn't have a chance to intervene. Inquisitor Pallas will perform the rite at the end of his shift.

“That zealot is getting on my last nerve.” Sgt. Ironson spat. “They should have cleared out hours ago!”

“I don't mind.” Sweet Lips stated. “The Chaplain will be there, won't he?”

“It takes three Inquisitors to perform an examination.” Niabelis spoke up. “It is uncomfortable, so if he is a Berserker he may not keep his composure.”

“What do you mean IF !?” The Sergeant grumbled. “Woman, ye should get yer priorities straightened out.” Private Niabelis looked stricken at those words. Her face turned a deep crimson. Sgt. Ironson immediately felt bad, but he gave her the evil eye anyway.

“I can do it, Paw taught me how to keep the rage back” The young man admitted. “He wouldn't let me leave the farm until I could.” He turned to Sgt. Ironson.
“Tell him, uncle, I can do it.”

“Wait, Red Face Grimmson married your precious baby sister!? I thought you hated each other!”

“He asked me very politely.” The Sergeant said as he shrugged his shoulders. “Willamina threatened to become a cloistered handmaiden if I didn't give him an answer. I had never seen fear in that man's eyes before that day. That was the only thing that convinced me of his sincerity.”

“Wow. What about you Sister Niabelis?” Captain Sevin raised his eyebrows. “Any last minute revelations?”

“I no longer hold a council seat for the church and the Bishop suggested I take some time to think about my priorities. He described my political activities as morally suspect.” She said while she stared at the floor. “At the moment I am training to become a regimental Chaplain.”

“Alright then.” The Captain ended the conversation. He forgets that her type take things literally. As a Superior Officer, she merely obeyed his request as she would an order. Maybe the Sergeant will teach her how to think. “Let's hear about the ghoul mage you incinerated. I understand it gave you all a hard time.”


First Post
An Apology, Chapter 20

Javelin broke through Theodyl's door to find the half-elf cranking the printing press. The contraption seems to be passing sheets of paper under a cylinder, the sheets come out with writing and drawings at the other end. Theodyl kicked a lever to cut off the paper feed. He continued to crank until the remaining sheets were fed through. Afterwards, he wiped his brow with the hem of his night shirt. He snatched a Sharn Anonymous off the stack and handed it to the war-forged.

“I'll be damned if this isn't my best work.” Theodyl said wearing his best smile.

The war-forged tucked his steel batons into his belt. He made to bring the rag sheet to his eyes, then tapped the half-elf in the jaw with a serpent kick. Javelin picked him up and put him to bed. The beer stein started laughing. After tucking the bard in tight, the war-forged dragged a chair in from the other room. Javelin lay his batons across his lap and started reading.

Theodyl scowled at his guardian from his bed. He is drinking brown Witch's Mead. It is sweet, with hint of honey. He likes it for its potent alcoholic punch, the effects of the dream root are an added bonus. He can't sleep, but the root is sure to keep the edge off and keep him sane. Theodyl snatched his Lute from the shelf over his head and set about tuning it. He can already feel the edge of his vision growing fuzzy. The instrument came to life under is dancing fingers. Every sound rang with a ghostly slash of color within his vision. He used the music to guide his trance while he considers how to get out of Sharn without anymore complications.

Paragon returned four hours later. He kicked at what is left of Theodyl's door, and walked over to Javelin. Javelin handed Paragon the rag sheet, pointing out a cartoon at the bottom. They both laughed. The changelings arrived with large wooden tub. Argus and Pennelocles each have a barrel of water.

“He's intoxicated!” Paragon complained. “Is that good?”

“It shouldn't make a difference,” Pyrus replied as he strolled in bearing his new lich-staff, “as long as you hold him under the water while I recite the incantation.”

“Hey guys,” Theodyl beamed as he welcomed his friends, “wanna throw some dice? I'm feeling lucky!”

“Sure, after your bath.” Paragon said with barely hidden amusement.

“I already took a bath.....” the bard slurred, “in mead!” The half-elf giggled like an idiot.

Pook and Ivor sneered at each other as they stripped off their leathers. Ivor shifted into a pouty lass with chestnut brown hair. Pook shifted to the familiar features of Lady Eunice Nigma. They both took a moment to daub some rose scented oil in all the best places. Ivor rolled her eyes at Pook, she is putting on jewelry. She commented on how real women don't need enhancement. Pook just turned her back on the other girl. Ivor caught Theodyl's eyes and coaxed him towards the tub. Patter and Siff shrugged their shoulders and decided to rummage through Theodyl's property. Pook has just called Ivor a slut. The war-forged can watch the fireworks, it's old news to them.

The women kept Theodyl distracted while Pyrus painted symbols on his skin. He was too busy talking romance to the two knowing nymphs at his arms. Pyrus sped through the ritual preparations. The war-forged pyromancer signaled Paragon and Argus. They have to hold Theodyl under the chemically treated bath for the last three mystical phrases of the spell. Pyrus channeled the fire through his hands and into the patterns painted over the half-elf. He pulled the changelings away as the bard's temperature soared and only the war-forged could stand to carry him. The look on his face as they dropped him in the water was priceless.

“It's going to be alright, Theodyl, we are brothers.” with that, Paragon pushed the bard's head under the bubbling water. “I forgive you.” He laughed as Pyrus channeled fire directly into the tub.

A pillar of dingy gray steam rose out of the water. Theodyl's head broke the surface. He gasped and gripped the edges of the tub as a greasy back shadow crawled out of his mouth. Pyrus snatched it off the bard's face and held it his grasp until it burned away to ash. The three war-forged watched as Theodyl's hair returned to it's normal dirty blond shade. His eyes remained a watered down green, however. Theodyl watched the blue twinge disappear from his creamy white skin. He called for mead, the changelings threw a towel at his face.

“The magic that resurrected you was tainted.” the pyromancer commented as he examined the half-elf. “I used the potency of fire to sear away the corruption and quicken the fires of your spirit.”

“Have I joined a cult?” Theodyl quipped.

“No, ” Pyrus laughed. “but you and Paragon owe me a service.”

“I still can't sleep, and now I'm sober too.” Theodyl pouted. “What the hell was that thing that came out of my mouth?”

“Taint, Necromancy is an unclean Art.” Pyrus began to lecture, “You are quite lucky that Fire......”

The changelings started to giggle as Theodyl dragged them off to bed. Pyrus continued to speak. Paragon drew the pyromancer's attention and convinced him to join the war-forged in the other room. Pyrus turned to see Patter and Siff curled up with one another on a pile of Theodyl's cushions. He then turned to see a pile of what should be Pook, Ivor and the half-elf. Somehow, Theodyl managed to sip from a bottle, while simultaneously wrestling with the others. Flesh people are damned strange. Paragon blocked the bedroom with a bookshelf as soon as Pyrus made his exit.

Theodyl forgot about his troubles for a while. Ivor and Pook can be very sweet when they want to. They fight too often for it to be simple recreation. They play him as often as he plays them. Changelings do not think the same as humans, so he can get away with quite a lot. Despite his fickle, wandering attentions, he understands that they have something worthy. Theodyl is proud that he can tell them apart no matter what face they wear. He saw their eyes when they understood what transpired with the lich. Theodyl can't bear to hurt them again. He kissed Pook in the forehead and gently pulled a blanket over Ivor's sleeping form. The alcohol slowed the dream root, but he's drunk way too much of it to avoid the dreams for long. He fixed his gaze on the colorful mass of swirls and shapes intruding into his reality. Theodyl left his flesh behind and let the dreams take him away.

Patter blinked the sleep away from his eyes. Siff has the blanked pulled over his face, it won't save him, he's supposed to be awake. Patter looked to Theodyl's bed. Ivor lost his shape in his sleep. Pook is still playing a girl. Changeling physiology scares the hell out of most humans, Theodyl either doesn't understand, or he doesn't care. As long as he continues to treat them well in any shape, Patter won't have to put a knife to him.

“Um, Patter....” Siff nudged his lover.

“Yeah, what?” Patter asked trying to imitate Theodyl's voice.

“Trouble, I think.” Siff's tone cut through Patter's playful mood.

The lich waved at the two changelings and helped itself to Javelin's chair in front of Theodyl's bed. Mooneye waved his hand at one of the half-elf's bookshelves and called forth a few choice volumes.

“I am early for my appointment,” the lich spoke at the two lovers, “please, don't let me keep you from your fun.”

Patter, stared at the lich for several long moments until Siff smacked him in the back of the head and sent him out to get Paragon. Siff walked over to the bath tub, scooped some water out with a bucket and started calling Theodyl to see if he would stir on his own. His eyes are open, but he is not in residence. The changeling gave his friends fair warning and then immediately splashed them with water before they could get away. Pook managed an incredibly lady-like scream, Ivor shifted to a male form to better punctuate his insults. Theodyl blinked, looked around and then rolled over to cuddle against Pook. She snapped her fingers in his face until he said something intelligible, then forcefully turned his face towards the lich.

“, what time is it?” The addled half-elf tried to speak.

“It is now three minutes to midnight, I decided to come early.” The lich answered as it looked through Theodyl's spellbooks. “You aren't feeling a thing right now, are you? I half expected to find you at a church, or behind a warding circle.”

“Hey, are those my books?!”

“Your notation is rather advanced.” Mooneye commented, ignoring Theodyl's outrage. “I see also that your education is incomplete, you need a Master. One that can recognize your obvious talent.”

“What do you mean by that?” Theodyl stood naked on his bed.

“I mean that I can offer you that which you need most.” Mooneye replied. “Knowledge and Discipline.” The lich jabbed a bony finger at the half-elf and sent him into painful convulsions. “You need a strong hand to mold your talent.”

Pyrus put an end to the small talk by dispelling the magic over Theodyl. Paragon dared the lich to kill Theodyl again. He meant it in the very best way possible. Pook and Ivor drew blades, and pulled the half-elf back. Theodyl sipped on some wine to clear his head. Pyrus and Mooneye stared each other down. Alternating waves of blistering heat and numbing chill battled within the room.

“Hey, I have an idea. How's about you all go into the other room and allow me to get dressed?” Theodyl spoke up, drawing the center of attention back onto his person.

Paragon 153 to 4 took some convincing. Pyrus helped by not setting the building on fire. The lich followed along, but mostly out of amusement. The girls gave Theodyl a smack a piece. He's pushing his luck again. The half-elf shook off the dream root and hurried to get organized. A brilliant plan formed in his mind sometime during the last several hours. He grinned stupidly while he struggled to get dressed before Paragon called the lich out.

“Good Morning!” Theodyl's voice sang as he sauntered out his room with the beer stein in hand. The dwarven spirit told everyone to shut up and let him sleep.

“Enough, Idiot! Get this taken care of already!” Paragon snapped.

Mooneye broke away from his death stare with Pyrus. The changelings pulled their hoods away to show Theodyl their support. He planted a kiss on each and every one of his mirrored faces. Pyrus shook his head. Paragon harrumphed.

“Master Mooneye, I have decided to apologize to you publicly.” Theodyl spoke, “Read this, it is my hope that this makes up for my trespasses against you.”

The lich grasped the crisp new copy of the Sharn Anonymous. He pointed at Theodyl and held him in place with a spell. Mooneye read through the rag sheet once and then twice. The necromancer fixed his red unyielding gaze at the half-elf and then decided to read through the Sharn Anonymous once more. Pyrus looked to Paragon for a sign of how things are progressing. The war-forged pyromancer is way past the point where he would have let the fire have it's say. The lich seems like a worthy challenge however, tossing fire about may not be his best option.

“You are serious about this?” the lich asked, allowing the full terror of it's gaze to weigh on Theodyl. “Tell me, why did you try to kill me?”

“Because you were taking what is mine and I couldn't stop you any other way.” Theodyl replied firmly.

“Are you willing to do that again?”

“Only if you try to steal from me once more.”

Mooneye sat back and shook his head. Paragon's jaw hung open. The lich chuckled, then started to laugh. The unpleasant sound made the changelings cringe. When the necromancer finally stopped, even the war-forged were much gladder for it.

“Sleep, Theodyl.” Mooneye rasped as if winded. “When he wakes up, tell him that I am waiting for the file.” The lich chuckled at the unconscious half-elf. “He is not afraid of me, not one bit.”

Mooneye the Necromancer summoned a dirty gray snow ball and tossed it at the pyromancer. By the time Paragon drew his blade and Pyrus shook the snow out of his face, the lich was gone. The changelings saw the shadows in the room swallow their unwelcome visitor. Paragon spent an hour poking every corner in the room with his cutlass. Pyrus read through the Sharn Anonymous. The changelings dragged the sleeping half-elf to bed and tied him down. Paragon has errands for them, the new rag sheet has to hit the streets.

By the end of the week, Mooneye Rocco is going to be a household name throughout Sharn. Theodyl devoted the entire news sheet to the lich and how it saved the city from certain doom. The details about the Hag's Plague will cause trouble. Mooneye's biography will have the local clerics calling for his permanent destruction. It is as good an apology as Theodyl could give. The lich gets enough credit and notoriety to satisfy even his ego. The City Council is going to have fits. The bard gave the City Watch credit for wiping out an invading army of dolgrim. Theodyl even drafted a song to glorify their deeds. A simple, yet comical caricature depicting a Dog Soldier hacking away at a twisted goblin is included with the song. It is a series of lies so outrageous that there is no doubt the City of Sharn will believe them all. Even if a skeptic manages to find a hole in the story, they would be fighting an uphill battle to say otherwise. Sharn City Council is barely in charge of the city, they will go with whatever keeps the masses happy.
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First Post
More Trouble, Chapter 21

The Dog Soldiers on watch heard the rumbling steps of the juggernaut for several long minutes before they caught sight of it. They held their posts along with the unhappy Watch Mage and a dozen or so men they managed to drag out of bed. The hulking juggernaut came to a stop ten paces from the entrance to the pump rooms.

“Foe Crusher reporting for duty!” It's voice boomed as it pounded its massive fist against it's chest.

The Watch Mage made an angry sound and left. The Dog Soldiers stared at the juggernaut until the Captain came to see what the hell was going on. He took one look at the war-forged and immediately sent it to guard the box. The inquisitors did not exactly welcome company, but the war-forged didn't notice.

“Guard the contents of that box, Foe Crusher.” The Captain ordered as he read over the juggernaut's paperwork. “Absolutely no one is allowed to touch it, and it doesn't go anywhere without my say so. You are authorized to use lethal force.”

“Sir! Yes, sir!” Foe Crusher saluted. “I will not fail in my duty!”

Captain Sevin waved down Private Grimmson and sent him over to the new war-forged recruit. Sweet Lips is now in charge of another private. Niabelis is trouble enough as it is. She is snobbish, cranky, and she prays entirely too much. He looked up at the juggernaut. It has got to be taller than an ogre. The spikes on its shoulders arms and legs are scary. Its massive fists are dented and scarred. Sweet Lips can't help but wonder what could possibly have gotten in it's way.

“Um, hello, my name is Grimmson,” he said, “but you can call me Sweet Lips. I am here to get you oriented. What are you called?”

“Foe Crusher,” the juggernaut replied. It drew back it's arm and tapped the hard stone floor with it's fist. The mechanism built into the arm tripped, releasing enough force to crack the stone and leave a small fist sized crater behind. “I break the enemy, what do you do?”

“I am a Berserker.” Sweet Lips answered, “This is my war-cleaver.”

The two Dog Soldiers got along nicely. Foe Crusher wants to know everything about being a Dog Soldier. The juggernaut claims to have just returned from Service, he successfully guarded a door for 41 consecutive years. For the next shift, Sweet Lips talked his head off. The others have been keeping their distance since the big fight with the dolgrim. Foe Crusher actually seemed impressed to meet a battle-rager. Before he knew it the shift was over.

Private Niabelis jogged through the camps following a cold feeling of dread. She sensed a evil presence just as she finished her morning devotions. She nearly called out, but then it disappeared as suddenly as it came. She hurried to dress in her new Sharn Issue Equipment. The Church is recalling her polished steel cuirass and her blue and white vestments. Despite her current state, she's been feeling confident that she is where she needs to be. The battle with the ghoul mage somehow made her stronger. This morning she gained several new blessings from her prayers. When the feeling returned, she did not hesitate to lift up her mace and charge straight forward.

A sewer crew is at the north tunnel. The guards are having a hard time with a man dressed as a priest. While the guards are distracted by his loud and obnoxious behavior, the other men are walking towards the box. Private Niabelis invoked the power of the Flame and raised the alarm.

“Intruders at the North Tunnel! Intruders at the North Tunnel!” Her voice sounded loudly over the camp.

The priest acted before the Dog Soldiers could react. He stunned the entire squad by speaking Blasphemy. After that he used his staff to murder the unconscious soldiers lying at his feet. Private Niabelis summoned a beam of light to chastise the intruder. It struck true, but it only made the evil priest pause. She called for divine sight and raised the glowing symbol of the Flame before her. Her foe's true form was revealed to her eyes, a great obscene worm-like monster. Worse, the men she thought were a sewer crew are nothing but animated corpses. Private Niabelis called for strength and ran towards the monster. She has never felt such evil.

Sweet Lips and Foe Crusher moved towards the city crewmen. The young man can't recognize any of them, and the way they are moving doesn't look right. The juggernaut called to them and demanded they account for themselves. Inquisitor Pallas called a warning. He said something about dead people. Sweet Lips smelled rotting meat just before the illusion disguising the zombies fell away. The two of them planted their feet and waited. Foe Crusher flexed his arms, charging the pistons that drive his deadly fists. Sweet Lips held his war-cleaver ready and stared down the walking corpses. He can hear the inquisitors calling to the Flame somewhere behind him.

As Private Niabelis came within reach of the monstrous priest another set of raiders made their entrance. Captain Sevin started calling out orders as soon as he saw the skeletons and the loping predatory forms that could only be ghouls. He sent a squad to back up Private Niabelis and then started screaming at anyone who didn't move fast enough. His eyes caught movement along the wall behind the inquisitors. He raised Lucy, his falchion, and used her magic to warn them.

“Pallas, behind you, on the wall!” The Captain hollered across the pump room.

Inquisitor Pallas turned in time to avoid a crossbow bolt. He is now facing five great spiders saddled with dolgrim. He chastised them, using the power of the flame to strike at their minds. Some of the dolgrim were affected, but not for long. The enemy responded with a flight of crossbow bolts. As Inquisitor Pallas fell, he caught sight of a monstrous spider hanging just over the box and its warding circle.

Foe Crusher ran back towards the box. The Captain's orders were to protect the item, the zombies can wait. The juggernaut drove his fists against the wall. The impacts dislodged several useful chunks of stone. Foe Crusher grabbed hold of the biggest one and launched it at the spider descending from the ceiling, just above the box. The projectile hit the spider with enough force to shatter it's carapace and kill the dolgrim rider strapped to it's back. The two corpses hung there for a moment and then suddenly dropped.

Inquisitor Pallas had just enough time to pray that the Flame take his soul before the dead spider shatters the box and the deadly flasks within. One of his brothers managed to drag him back, but it was too late.

“We have failed,” Pallas rasped bitterly.

“Maybe not,” his brother inquisitor said as he pointed back towards the circle.

A shape composed entirely of flame stood within the ward. Two blazing eye jewels focused on the intruder. It is holding the spider corpse in its grasp, burning it to ash. The fire elemental must have been tied to the warding circle. The box is gone, Inquisitor Pallas can just make out the two flasks floating within the elemental. The dolgrim are firing bolts into it as fast as they can load their crossbows. The fire elemental dropped the first spider and turned to face them.

“Brothers, back away!” Inquisitor Pallas heard his brother call out. “The elemental is going to...”

A blast of heat and a great rumbling explosion finished the inquisitor's sentence. The elemental roared, a trio of fireballs put an end to the giant spiders and their dolgrim masters. The warding circle grew bright and a pillar of superheated air arose to protect it's contents. The fire elemental stood within and waited for more trouble. The heat blackened the floor and ceiling, soon the stone will crack and melt. It cannot leave the original circle, but there is nothing to stop it from seeking comfort.

Foe Crusher picked up another chunk of stone and tossed it at the oncoming enemy. The zombies are boring, they don't even stop to notice they are being killed. He watched Sweet Lips hacking at the corpses while dancing about their clumsy reaching hands. A flash of bright light caught the juggernaut's attention. There is a hard battle being fought at the North tunnel, he can see reinforcements running to support the lone soldier. The problem is that there are more undead headed his way; skeletons, four across and several ranks deep.

“Sweet Lips, disengage!” the juggernaut hollered, “Get out of the way!”

Sweet Lips back pedaled away from the undead. He can hear the juggernaut driving his fists into the wall again. A chunk of stone bigger than a man's head sailed over his head and into one of the zombies. More projectiles followed, one after the other. The undead are getting closer so the juggernaut's aim can only improve. It wasn't until the pack of ghouls broke away from the marching skeletons, that Sweet Lips started to worry.

“Pallas! Ghouls coming fast!” the young man hollered as he ran towards the inquisitors.

“They won't get that box!” Foe Crusher growled.

Inquisitor Pallas stood shakily on his feet. Two of his brothers are dead, the dolgrim poisoned their bolts. He is ready to fight something that he can hit. The Inquisitor gripped the Holy Symbol of the Flame in his left hand and readied his mace with his right. The young berserker is running fast, yet the ghouls that got past the juggernaut are catching up. The inquisitors started their prayers.

Foe Crusher picked up another stone and threw it at the last of the zombies. The force of the impact decapitated the undead wretch. The juggernaut retreated to form a line of defense far in front of the inquisitors. The skeletons are marching steadily and stupidly towards their doom. Foe Crusher flexed his arms and limbered his legs. He intends to earn his place among the Dog Soldiers.

Sweet Lips ducked in between the inquisitors. Pallas and his brothers reduced one of the beasts to ash with the power of the flame, sending the others cowering to safety. An inquisitor named Fromm tapped him on the shoulder and gifted him with a blessing. There are five more ghouls and soon they will come loping back. Sweet Lips shook off the aches and sores from his fight with the zombies and stepped boldly in front of the flamers. He is bleeding from more than a few gashes, the ghouls will come to him first.

“For Breland!!” the juggernaut cried as he charged the oncoming skeletons.

Despite his size, the war-forged juggernaut can manage a lot of speed. He hit their lines with his arms out stretched, dragging several skeletons into a pile and crushing them with his fists. The skeletons fought back, but the juggernaut was not impressed. Rather than use his fists again, Foe Crusher rolled his spiked body at them. As he regained his feet, more skeletons charged him. Foe Crusher dove at them. The juggernaut stood up shook the bone bits off his frame and started running towards the men behind him. Foe Crusher can see two of the ghouls are still standing. The juggernaut watched the men destroy the creatures and cheered.

“A great battle!” Foe Crusher exclaimed. “We are victorious!”

“We've paid a heavy price,” Inquisitor Pallas grumbled, “and we have lost good men.”

“Tell me their names, so that I may honor them.” the war-forged offered.

“Sennek of Woodhelm and Noit of Ardev, Servants of the Silver Flame.” Inquisitor Fromm spoke when Pallas would not.

“Sennek and Noit, Warriors of the Silver Flame, I salute you!” the juggernaut stood at attention and beat his fist against his chest three times. Sweet Lips did the same.

Inquisitor Pallas said nothing more. He is tired, but there is still much to do. The fire elemental is still there protecting the flasks of Hag's Plague. The waves of stifling heat did not stop him from dragging his brother's bodies away. Inquisitor Fromm tried to help, but Pallas waved him back. He understands his duty, and the sacrifices his service calls for, but he still feels responsible for the deaths of his brothers. Inquisitor Pallas gently closed Brother Sennek's eyes and placed his hand over his brow as he administered the last rites. Inquisitor Fromm arranged the dead man's hands over his chest and tucked the Holy Symbol of the Flame into their cold grasp. Inquisitor Pallas moved on to Noit, he was the youngest of them all. Fromm arranged the body and Pallas administered the rites.

“I'm sorry.” Inquisitor Pallas whispered.

Private Niabelis felt her skin crawling with revulsion as the foul cleric struck out with a wave of hatred and darkness. She refused to give in. The Litany of Purity poured from her lips. The words have new meaning to her, faith gives them power. Her mace came up and she took a step forward. The murdered soldiers at her feet began to stir, the enemy laughed. Niabelis raised her Holy Symbol and called for retribution. The bodies dropped like puppets with their strings suddenly cut.

“My faith is my Armor, cleansing fire is my Shield!” She intoned, her voice filled with power.

A pillar of light and silver flame poured over her body. The enemy cleric screamed. Private Niabelis charged the monster, even as it lost control of its shape and returned to it's natural form. An alien worm-like abomination gargled and wretched before her. She struck out with her mace, quoting scripture to punctuate each attack. The worm lashed out with clawed tentacles. Viscous stinking slime poured forth from its foul skin. She can see where the Holy Flame wounded the beast, but it still has plenty of fight left.

“Fall! Thou unclean thing! Fall!” She growled.

The heavy mace smashed against the monster's flesh. The monster lunged at her, knocking her back and pinning her down. She stared down it's massive maw and fought to shake off the sounds and images of horror pouring into her mind. An arrow struck the beast, then several others. The Dog Soldiers are attacking the thing with everything they've got. A distraction is all that she needed, Private Niabelis reached for her mace and prayed. The abomination is casting again, she can't understand it's words, but she can feel the taint of evil emanating from it.

“Be thou Silent! Be thou Still! Judgment is upon thee!” Her voice struck the thing like a thunderbolt. It staggered and shook violently in place. Niabelis fought to maintain her hold on it. Her vision is dimming, her legs shake and her muscles are knotted and cramped. She called to the Dog Soldiers, she can't fight anymore, it is too much.

The Dog Soldiers poured over the monster hacking and slashing to bring it down. Niabelis lifted the Symbol of the Flame and continued to chastise the abomination. The Captain called for alchemist's fire, but the fire failed against the thick covering of slime covering the disgusting worm. Acid had a much better effect. Private Niabelis collapsed before she could see it die.

Victory came with a price. Twelve city crewmen are dead, the enemy slew them and raised them as zombies. Fifteen Dog Soldiers died at the entrance to the North tunnel, two inquisitors fell defending the box, and the Watch Mage was murdered at his tent. It is almost a disaster. The Hag's Plague is safe, but in the care of fire elemental no one in the pump room can command.

Captain Sevin doubled the guards at all the entrances. He then called his officers to a meeting. The Watch Mage was murdered right under their noses. There is an assassin in their ranks, possibly more. He formed five squads out of soldiers he knows personally and ordered them to search every inch of the camp. Afterwards he had his so-called assistants arrested, along with anyone that drew suspicion. The man named Roanberry was within his sight the entire time, but the other's will have to be accounted for before he lets any of them go.

“Sgt. Ironson, we are going to see about this elemental.” Captain Sevin ordered.

“This business is getting out of hand. The council is dragging it's feet while we fight and die.” The Sergeant complained. “By rights the plague should be destroyed, we can't risk breaking the treaty for this.”

Captain Sevin agreed with his officer, but continuing the conversation may lead to sedition. He will weigh the man's words, however. Even with a token promotion to High Captain, he doesn't want to risk what's left of his career. A smart man lets his enemies hang themselves. The fallen will speak for him, nothing riles a city like underground horrors and dead soldiers.

“That kind of talk will get you hanged soldier. Worry about your men and I will handle the politics.” Captain Sevin said, bringing the theme to an end. The Sergeant spat, but managed to keep his mouth shut. “The troubles here will cause a lot of problems, they will be looking for a scapegoat soon.”

“What about the fire spirit? It isn't ours, who knows what it's here for.” Sgt. Ironson commented. “As I recall, fire is the only way to destroy the Hag's Plague anyway.”

“You have been around the criminal elements for entirely too long Sgt. Ironson. Without a mage, we have no way of controlling such a creature.” The Captain smiled, Sergeants are a Captain's best friend.


First Post
A Bard's Touch, Chapter 22

Theodyl stared at the ceiling for all of three minutes. He doesn't know how long he's been asleep, but he is damned grateful. The lich seems to have accepted his apology. His ego still smarts, he would have loved to take credit for the job in the sewers. The lich isn't getting a free ride out his sacrifice, though. While Mooneye deals with all the extra attention, he will be taking his leave of Sharn. The half-elf tugged on his restraints to see just how well his friends wanted him to sleep. It didn't take long to escape.

The panel behind his bed hasn't been tampered with. The lead lined crawlspace behind it leads to a long buried suite of rooms. In times past, someone put a lot of effort into a very private hiding place. Theodyl found it while exploring. He discovered an access tunnel while climbing the shaft for the inn's dumbwaiter. The Long Night's Rest has been in business since the days of Galifar. He chose the place for it's legitimate reputation and the fact that it is built like a fort. His earlier research into Sharn's service tunnels and sewers led him to an old subbasement just below the location. Theodyl was looking for a way down from the inn when he discovered the hidden rooms.

The strong scent of wood and varnish filled his nostrils. Theodyl reset the counter-balanced blocks to seal the crawl space. A lead lined panel sealed the exit, it is cunningly crafted to halt even the flow of air. The hidden suite is ventilated through small rune carved openings that move fresh air through the rooms. Antique sun crystals provide lighting. All of the doors are constructed of iron and wood, their frames are very sturdy and they close so tightly he can't even fit a parchment through the gaps. He's replaced all of the locks with modern equivalents. It never occurred to him that he would have to leave Sharn.

The rooms were fully furnished at one point, though only a few of the larger more durable pieces have survived. The half-elf looted everything else of value years ago. He chose the largest of the chambers to serve as a sort of work room, laboratory and library. His collection of magic wands is carefully tucked away behind one of the book cases. Theodyl can't figure out how he is going to take all of his treasures with him. Telling Paragon about his private sanctuary is probably the only way, but he won't do it until the last minute.

He dug out his spellbooks, they are spares, he doesn't trust the ones Mooneye touched. Anything else of real importance is in his head. The lich hasn't touched that, not yet and not ever. Theodyl chose a selection of spells to match the activities he's planned for the day. When he was done he donned a fancy set of clothes and tucked a number of useful items about his person. He left his bow-harp behind in favor of a golden flute and an ornately carved lute.

“Olladra smile my way,” he prayed as he made his way up to the surface.

Paragon 153 to 4 harrumphed at the dwarven smith. The war-forged lay three heavy platinum trade bars in front of the smith along with a mix of jewels and coins. The dwarf wasted no time in counting. Paragon drew his new weapon from it's sheath and moved towards the practice dummies. The weapon is a short hafted glaive better known as a horse cleaver. Paragon broke into a series of spins, parries and thrusts to judge the weight and balance of the weapon. As he worked he complimented the smith on his work. The dwarf looked up from his money just long enough to watch the war-forged slice through an armored dummy and then through the wood and stone that held it in place. Paragon examined weapon's edge with a critical eye.

“A fine weapon, Ser Dwarf,” the war-forged said, “I will tell my friends about your forge.”

“Just tell them to bring lots of money. I don't come cheap.” The dwarf growled, without even looking up.

As Paragon strode onto the street he noticed several familiar faces. Someone is following him. If he could, he would frown. This is one of the lower levels, the watch doesn't come without a good reason. For the most part, local gangsters run the show. He can tell they are neither one or the other. Paragon took a round about route through the market, browsing through shops and trying to mark as many of his watchers as possible. He will not be returning to Theodyl. The war-forged drew a fancy tin whistle from his belt. He pictured Theodyl's face in his mind and crushed the instrument with his hand.

<Trouble, Followed, Enemy Unknown, Meet Arena, Stay Alive Idiot>

The High Market is just like every other market in Sharn. People browse, people haggle and people steal. The difference of course, is in prices and appearances. Many shops make use of glass store fronts. Others provide a sort of illusory display case to reduce the risk of theft. The very best open their doors only by appointment. Theodyl was being fitted for a fine silk vest when Paragon's message slammed into his mind. For the magically impaired, the war-forged has a will like a sledgehammer. Theodyl made his purchase and hurried to find a private corner.

<Idiot, Received, Arena, Dol Dorn Bless Thy Blade, Olladra Smile Upon Thee>

Paragon isn't one for platitudes. If he doesn't get to the arena, it will be because he is dead. Theodyl is betting on the war-forged, of course, but his kind die just like everyone else. He still has to contact the dragons. The House of Shadow can help with the Cyre Manuscript, but his contact won't be available until dark. The half-elf sighed and pursed his lips. Loffandiir's Hoard is just down the street. The shop has been around for so very long, that even the ancient Kings of Galifar can be counted as customers. The sign features a tiny drake wrapped around a scepter. To those who know, the stylized draconic rune for sanctuary is clearly evident in the negative spaces around the cunning graphic.

“Do you have an appointment?” A voice rang through the shop as the bard crossed the threshold.

“I would not presume such a thing Wise Master.” Theodyl said, bowing slightly towards a closed curtain behind the counter.

“What do fools know of Wisdom?”

“Nothing, Wise Master, that is why I seek thy counsel.”

The man behind the curtain started to laugh. Dragons love to play with words, their language is full of subtlety and hidden meanings. Theodyl managed to turn an insult into a jest and a compliment. Loffiir, Son of Loffandiir is not one to laugh so often. The Council of Scales has yet acknowledge his birth. His sire mated while in exile, a clear violation of some law or another. He has no status among his people living in their far off continent, so he bides his time among the savages. Loffiir is the “man” to see about dragons, and he is one hell of a fence.

“What dost thou seeketh, elf-blood?” Loffiir asked in High Draconic. He made eye contact, keeping his chin just so high. A dominant posture.

“Elders Nadothon and Blackscale, Kind Master.” Theodyl lowered his gaze and took a step backwards. He displayed his empty palms, but did not kneel. He is a free man, not a dragon's servant.

“Bagh!” Loffiir scowled in distaste, “Thou art a fool, youngling. Dost thou seek thy own death?”

“Kind Master,” Theodyl pressed, “I beareth a prize, for them.”

“And what of me, youngling? Dost thou bear a prize for mine trouble?” The dragon showed his pride. Theodyl's submissive posture served to encourage the dragon's demand. The bard smiled inwardly, it is just as he had hoped.

“Most Forgiving Master, I offer thee the opportunity to examine the Elders' prize.” Theodyl replied as he drew a heavy sheath of papers from his vest. “Thus, dost the early bird catch the worm.”

Loffiir did not hesitate to snatch the prize away from Theodyl's hands. The dragon flipped through the pages hungrily. No doubt, every word is being committed to immortal memory. It was a calculated risk, but as an ambitious young adult, Loffiir wouldn't hesitate to grasp every advantage available. An opportunity to get one over on his betters is worth the danger. The Elders are overbearing, even for dragons. Theodyl retained his posture until the dragon invited him to have some tea. He is no longer a petitioner, but a business partner.

“Thou art lucky,” Loffiir spoke, “Stargazer rarely shared his wisdom with any creature. Thou bearest his mark. I will contact thee in but a few hours.”

Theodyl exited the shop and continued on his errands. The lich's token is weighing heavily on his belt. The bard pretended to browse through the streets until he found the right alleyway. A particular group of scratches at the edge of a building, barely inches from the ground led him to a small door. He tapped the code upon the wood and soon he was in the tunnels below. He is starting to think he will miss Sharn. The City has layers upon layers of very interesting places to see and things to do. Theodyl sighed at the thought of leaving. He drew the lich's token and rang it against a sewer wall. It only took a few moments before a shadow rose from the floor.

“I bear a package for your master, shadow.” Theodyl said.

“I hate you.” The shadow hissed as it took the dragon file from the bard's grasp. “You should start watching your back.”

“In that case, may I know your name?”He asked.

“Krogger,” the shadow replied.

“Well Krogger, does your master know you deal with dolgrim?” Theodyl struck back. “He is no fool, maybe you have things to worry about other than me.”

The shadow did not deign to answer. Theodyl watched it sink into the floor and then made his way back to his lodgings. He will need to send a message to his friends, he doesn't want to go to the arena by himself. Besides, when Paragon is involved there is always some damage. Theodyl decided to plan for the worse and hope for the best. He will need to return to his apartments for better weapons. Paragon crossed the Mournlands by himself, whomever is following him is in for more than a few surprises.

Somewhere else in Sharn.........

“Nobody holds me!!!” Paragon 157 to 4 screamed from within his iron bound cage. “You don't know who you are messing with!”

Paragon kicked the door repeatedly for an hour straight. He isn't angry anymore, he has discovered an entirely new emotion. The war-forged doesn't know what to call it, but it feels like a storm raging inside his chest. The clockwork soldiers that escorted him into his prison are little more than scrap now. There was a war-forged with an iron bar, and a human with a spiked chain before that. They died. Afterwards, he remembers getting chased through the tunnels until the wizard caught up with him. His memories aren't very clear, but whatever happened hurt a lot. His new armor plate is dented. The golden dragonne on his chest is marred by some sort of scorch mark. Paragon woke up just as the door shut and the clockwork soldiers were attempting to chain him to a wall. He thoroughly dismantled them both. It was a good fight.

“Wizard! Do you hear me!?” Paragon screamed at the ceiling. “I will feed you these chains before I turn you inside out! Mark my words, I am a Longstrider!! You will regret putting me here!!” Paragon shook the rage from his head and began to search his cage. Theodyl will find him, there is no doubt. The catch is whether or not he will still be locked up when it happens. Paragon has his pride to consider.
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First Post
An Ambush at the Long Night, Chapter 23

Pook and Ivor toiled hour after hour within the crowded common room. The Long Night's Rest is full for the first time in decades. A odd crowd of men arrived with the fifth bell and attached themselves to the bar. The changelings managed to be at just the right place when the cook was looking for extra help. They are playing the part of sisters, farm girls from Wroat. The patrons can't get enough of their company. Despite their bright eyes and sultry lips, they are not happy. These men are scary. They are dressed like natives, but they talk and grope like soldiers. Pook overheard them talking, they are looking for a blond half-elf with a harp carved like a bow. They say that they already have his bodyguard. It took a lot to pretend that everything was alright, her smile never wavered.

“Eva quit flirting and get them dishes!” Pook snapped, playing the shrew.

“Coming!” Ivor replied while sucking her teeth and rolling her eyes. Her new friend copped a feel as she hurried away.

The girls disappeared into the kitchen. The cook tossed another tray of food at them and sent them right back out. Ivor had just enough time to tell Pook about the wizard with the wandering hands. It is really the last thing they need. Wizards don't travel with soldiers unless they are marching under Breland's flag. Watch Mages have to wear badges, civilian wizards wear robes and act like they are important. Ivor put on her best smile and delivered a steaming bowl of soup to her new friend. Pook made her rounds through the tables refilling tankards and clearing away dishes. She doesn't know how they are doing it, but she is pretty sure none of them are as drunk as they pretend to be.

The cook rang the bell again. Pook hurried to the kitchen. Moments later the cook hollered for Eve to pick up her orders too. The wizard, a dashing young man with an eye for the ladies slipped a silver piece into her bust just so she would hurry back. It is a miracle she hasn't cut him yet.

“Hey what's with the crowd?” Theodyl asked as he strolled in to the common room. The men stood up virtually as one. The bard did not hesitate to start running.

As the men scrambled to give chase, the wizard knocked over his own table. A pair of soft female hands dragged him into the kitchen. Eve tickled his chin with a stiletto and slipped his silver coin into his mouth before they gagged him. The real Theodyl bonded his hands with copper wire. The cook is snoring softly in the linen closet. The soldiers will have a good time sparring with Javelin. The bard disguised him with an illusion. The war-forged martial artist promised not to break any of them. Theodyl is just glad Javelin didn't knock him out before he could explain everything.

As soon as the wizard was blindfolded, the three of them carried their captive to the basement. From there they made their way to the sewers and to a conveniently hidden door. Argus and Pennelocles are gathering more of Paragon's friends. By then they should have all the information they need.

“Listen well,” Theodyl whispered into the wizard's ear, “I am missing a friend, will you tell me where he is?” The man shook his head violently. Theodyl whacked his left hand with a wooden mallet. “How's about now?” The man shook even more violently, though it was still a no. “If you don't reconsider, I will break your hands and boil them in oil. After that, I will cut out your tongue and heal the wound so that it can never be restored. I learned how to deal with wizards during the war. Think about it.”

Pook interrupted Theodyl just then, she pulled him away and made enough noise to convince the wizard they were arguing. Ivor put the man's lights out with a sap as soon as it was obvious that he was trying to listen in. An eternity later, a splash of water brought the man back to consciousness. Eve, looking like she's taken a beating, ripped off his blindfold and attempted to free the wizard while blubbering incoherently.

“He's gone mad!” she cried as she struggled to undo the mass of knots holding the wizard. “He thinks that you are trying to kill him!” The wizard started to struggle in earnest. Eve made sure to press her chest into his face as she undid his gag from the front. She then started to undo the wire binding his broken hand. His eyes rested warmly over her, the rose scented oil is having it's effect.

“Ish okay,” he said to her, “Iesh goths frendth ath hosh kanidth.” The silver coin had an extra coating of some concoction from the cooks kitchen. They saw the cook using it to soothe his rotten teeth. The man's tongue is numbed. “helpsh me iesh helpsh!”

“Where can we go? He is dangerous!” She started to cry. The man's eyes softened. He wiped her tears and used his shirt to clean her face. He told her everything.

Ivor led her new friend up to the streets and then promptly lost him in the teeming crowds. Theodyl and Pook met her in an alleyway. They dodged three different watch patrols on the way back to the inn. Theodyl ended up taking the girls through his secret tunnels. All hell is breaking loose, he can find other secrets to keep. The changelings were very impressed, they never found any secret doors while rummaging though his things. The bard decided to mage lock his next living space.

Javelin led the men on a merry chase. Only the hardiest of them managed to catch up. By then the illusion Theodyl had cast had worn off. The men came at him like war-forged. They fought hard, like veterans. Javelin was bleeding from several deep wounds by the time he made his escape. He kept one of their blades, it bears the Royal Shield of Breland. He was fighting Elite Hussars. Paragon and his friend are in lots of trouble.

An expeditious messenger caught up with Theodyl as he crossed one of the markets in the lower levels. It looked like a cross between an eagle and a cat. Pook and Ivor nearly stabbed the poor creature before Theodyl recognized Loffiir's sigil on the scroll it carried. The draconic script vanished as soon as his eyes read it.

“Young one, thy request pleases the Elders. Thou shalt meet tomorrow at noon within the Sharn Trade House, Room 6. Please, keep a civil tongue, and be on time.”

“Please extend my gratitude to thine master.” Theodyl addressed the creature.

The rest of the trip came without interruptions. They found Patter and Siff in a low level flat tending to one another. It never occurred to Theodyl that the two were so domestic. The small shrine to the Traveler was less of a surprise. As they moved they argued about how to rescue Paragon and even if he needed rescuing at all. When they reached the warehouse that served as the meeting hall for Paragon's club, there was more trouble. At least one hundred angry war-forged were strapping up for war.

“We need to have a good talk before you say anything.” Pyrus waved Theodyl down. “The lads are ready to burn down the city, Paragon has quite a following.”

“That is not a good idea.” Theodyl said, feeling a chill down his spine.

“No it isn't,” Javelin cut in as he jogged in holding a sword in his hand, “The Hussars are hunting you.”

“Hag spit,” Theodyl cursed. “I didn't get out fast enough.”

The warehouse full of warriors waited patiently while Theodyl, Javelin, and Pyrus sat and discussed their options. An army of angry war-forged is just the thing to scare the hell out of the city. It can't happen, there are enough problems with war-forged in general. The jump from Elite Soldiers to Civilians was troublesome from the start. Two out of ten don't make it. Some join the first military organization they can find, others just kill any fool that gets in their way. The worse ones seem to lead perfectly normal lives until they crack. No, the lads will have to find another way.

“Paragon is being held in a Cannith property just below the High Quarter. The man we interviewed was to deliver me to a man named Caras.” Theodyl told his friends. “It was a depot during the war. I must have walked past the place hundreds of times in the last few years. There is a tavern called Lucy's Basement right next to it.”

“I know Lucy's. I've met with clients at their booths.” Pyrus stated. “It is run by House Cannith. The barkeep is an unmarked cousin, but very loyal.”

“I will take some of the scouts to examine the property.” Javelin volunteered. “Be ready for when I return.”


First Post
Rescue Me, Chapter 24

Marat crumpled the Sharn Anonymous in his hands and cursed. The Twelve sent him to find out how the Lord of Blades managed to sneak Hag's Plague into the City of Sharn. Well, that is what the City Council thinks, the Treaty of Thronehold is more important than even that. All it would take is one nation blaming another and war could break out again. The Hag's Plague is just the thing to stir up just that kind of trouble. He needs to find out where it came from. The Twelve want whomever is responsible incinerated. Breland volunteered an entire division of Hussars to assist him. It was a surprise, but his first loyalty is to the Twelve Houses and their continued health, without war.

“Tell me, who is responsible for this!” Marat demanded.

“How the hell should I know?” Paragon rasped. He is strapped to a large metal table. Three Cannith Adepts have been working on him for over an hour. “Did I tell you that I was going to turn you inside out?”

“We were able to salvage a Final Messenger from the pump room.” the wizard said as the Adepts continued to torture the war-forged. “You gave Sarok your name. Who commanded you to raid the pump rooms? Who is the gnome woman? Where is she now?”

“I am under contract to Thersyl d'Morgain,” Paragon responded as the world started to spin, “you should ask him before I catch up with you.”

The Cannith Adepts channeled pain into Paragon's frame until he passed out. The wizard, Marat sat and stared at the war-forged. It is a stubborn bastard. For some reason the Adepts have trouble controlling him. Thersyl or Theodyl, whatever he is, has eluded them so far. Paragon killed his best man-catchers. Sixteen Hussars are bedridden due to an ambush at the inn. His apprentice is missing. Marat signaled the Adepts to wake the prisoner. Despite their inhuman composition, war-forged fear death just like everything else that lives. Paragon will break, it is just a matter of time.

“What is your unit number?!”

“Your Mother.”

“Who is your commander?!”

“Not you, that's for sure.”

“If you don't cooperate you will be dismantled!”

“I will die laughing at you.”

“Where is Eunice Nigma? Who does she serve?”

“I am getting bored. When my friends get here, I will feed you my chains.”

Marat let the Cannith Adepts work the prisoner over until he was unconscious once more. Paragon is probably crazy, if that's possible with his kind. The Adepts want a freer hand with the interrogation. The war-forged is exhibiting a unique resistance to House Cannith control. The fact that he is associated with an unknown, possibly a rogue Cannith, is driving the local Heirs into a panic. The rogue war-forged from Cyre are enough of an embarrassment to them. They just can't seem to live that down.

Paragon lay still and listened to his interrogators. He's never felt pain on that level. The Adepts are hurting him and he is helpless to fight back. The odd sensations of pain and discomfort are doing little to ease his distress. The strange emotion he experienced inside the cell earlier has not gone away. If anything it is getting stronger. It feels like every emotion he's ever felt burning through him all at once. The wizard doesn't know about the wand sheaths in his arms, neither does he know about the golden circlet just beneath the metal skin over his head. His body aches, but deep inside he knows he can take a lot of them with him when he makes his move. The chains holding his torso are loosening.

Pyrus led fifteen war-forged into the sewers. Theodyl took only five, he's got the changelings with him too. A game of rock, paper, scissors eliminated most of the eager volunteers back at the warehouse. The bard does have a surprising amount of talent, then again, this trouble is his fault. Somehow, the bard cheated to cut down on volunteers. As a mage, Pyrus finds it extremely disturbing that he can't figure out how Theodyl did it. It occurs to him that the half-elf is playing a big game and that only he knows the rules.

The Cannith Depot is the tallest building on the street. There are no windows, the street lamps reveal nothing but stone and brick. The sign for Lucy's Basement is the only thing anyone would pay attention to. Theodyl had his friends line up behind him in the alleyway. Argus and Pennelocles helped their friends from the club. The changelings had the instructions down pat. They helped the war-forged keep pace. Theodyl drew his flute. As it touched his mouth, he placed his right foot forward. The men lined up behind, did the same. He started to play stepping deliberately as the music took shape.

The Fey have a way of traveling between places by means of a magical dance. Theodyl has been working on a similar kind of magic. As the music speeds up so do his steps. The others fell into the music and followed his every move. They danced into the Etherial. The walls of the depot are like mist in that world. Theodyl and his friends drifted through the building like ghosts leaving a trail of faint music in their wake.

Marat sat with Commander Caras discussing the progress of their joint investigations. There is another copy of the Sharn Anonymous lying between them. It is a bigger problem now that Mooneye Rocco has been identified. The Necromancer hasn't been heard from in decades. Apart from playing a minor role in Sharn's defense during the war, the creature is pretty much an outcast. The Lich's true role in the Hag's Plague Affair is in doubt, however. Marat and Caras have found a thousand holes in the rag sheet's story. The Twelve require answers, not mysteries. Marat sighed, he was about to say something, but an eerie sort of music filled the room.

“What the hell is that?” The wizard wondered out loud. A great rumbling sound was his only answer.

Pyrus blasted a hole into the Depot's floor from the sewers below. The war-forged did not waste a moment. They formed a ladder from their own bodies and swarmed the building. Some of them are laughing, it is just like the team building exercises at the Cannith Training Halls. Their weapons are padded, but the Hussars rushing to defend the property could care less. It is going to be a fight.

Theodyl ended the music when they reached Paragon. The war-forged took care of the Cannith Adepts. Even among their own kind, torture is repugnant, it is the complete opposite of fighting. The bard had to remind them not to do anything permanent. He is thinking that he's got enough enemies without angering an entire House.

“Hurry up and set me loose!” Paragon demanded. “I have promises to keep! That wizard is going to learn not to mess with a Longstrider!!!!”

“Err, Paragon....”

“Shut it! I will have words for you later Theodyl.” the war-forged growled.

Paragon 157 to 4 snatched a Wand of Repair away from his friends and jogged away. The lads followed. The bard turned to the Cannith Adepts and started asking questions. They have been thoroughly intimidated, it didn't take long to figure out what Paragon was talking about.

“We can't let him kill one of the Twelve!” He said in a panic. “We have enough troubles! Gods, if the Hussars call a blood debt, my life is over!! Hurry up and find him!”

The fight in the depot is in full swing. Pyrus has sealed all the exits with sigils of writhing flame. The Hussars are fighting like the Elite Soldiers that they are. The war-forged are fighting to subdue the men, while the men do their utmost to kill the enemy before them. Pyrus expected many casualties, but somehow Theodyl has them convinced that killing Hussars is a bad idea. This is yet another sign that Theodyl makes use of strange talents. Mayhap, Mooneye the Necromancer is justified in his pursuit of the half-elf. Pyrus wants to know more.

A knot of Hussars shielded Marat, Caras did his best to protect him. Breland has commanded it, that is all that matters. Paragon started to bellow threats and curses as he caught sight of the wizard. Caras and his men placed themselves in between the wizard and the war-forged maniac.

“Paragon, that's enough!” Theodyl's voice cut through the din of battle. “I remember the Hussars, they fought along side our ranks in Karrnath. They are comrades, a Longstrider would not dishonor such a bond!”

“Bah! I don't want them, I want the wizard.” Paragon snatched his blade from a weapon's rack. The thought that a hand other than his touched his new weapon added to his rage. He used it to slice through an innocent column just to scare the hell out of the wizard.

“The Hussars are guarding him, are you going to kill them too?” Theodyl pressed. “Caras, call your men off, this fight is over! Paragon hold! Please, you can still have your vengeance. Trust me, killing will just make this worse. Let me work.”

“You have until I count to a thousand.” The angry war-forged waved his lads back. The Hussars did not press the attack, it is a chance for them to catch their breaths.

Caras took a good look at his men. They are surrounded and trapped. Half of them have been knocked senseless. The others are still out combing the city, it will be hours before they return. Marat is no warmage, he is a librarian and his magic is no match for the flaming demon warding the doors. Marat wasted his best magic subduing the war-forged as second time for the interrogation. It nearly escaped. Words may have a better chance of ending the conflict.

“Marat, I suggest we speak to the half-elf.” Caras spoke to his charge, “I don't think this will end well otherwise.”

Once the negotiations were open, things took a turn for the better. Theodyl may have given away his credit for the actions below, but he still wants to brag. Marat couldn't take his notes fast enough. Paragon 157 to 4 sat and stared at the Hussars. His men did the same. The Hussars did their best to hold up under the inhuman stares. It is something that they may never admit to, but they would have died fighting. Their commander, Caras, is the only reason they will not attack.

“Tell me, who is this Eunice Nigma woman?” Marat asked. His head is starting to hurt. Theodyl should be working for the Twelve instead of wandering the continent causing trouble. Paragon's droning count isn't helping, either.

“She is an independent contractor, very skilled.” The bard replied, “I'm not free to discuss her business. Rest assured, she is no threat to Breland.” Pook beamed at Theodyl's compliment, Ivor rolled his eyes. Patter and Siff signed to one another. What a crock the first said. He must be made completely out of hot air, the other agreed.

“What about House Cannith?” The wizard pushed. “She was wearing their colors and using their retainers.”

“Politics, hardly my problem.” Theodyl shrugged. “Let them deal with their own, I say.”

“There is a lie somewhere in there,” Marat frowned. “Where does the Necromancer fit in?”

“Master Mooneye is fiercely protective of the city of his birth.” The bard sighed, “He was very upset about the Hag's Plague. I took the opportunity to let the city know of his greatness.”

“Just how upset?” The wizard leaned into the bard. “There are a number of rather disturbing events that I am concerned with. Why did you attack the renegades in the first place? And who is the gnome woman they were holding hostage?”

Theodyl smiled. He demanded a hefty sum of gold in exchange for his candor. It is then that the wizard popped his lid. The bard weathered his rage somehow. In a matter of minutes they were arguing about the price. Theodyl is very skilled with words. Pyrus struggled to keep up with all the verbal maneuvering. He gave up trying to tell the lies from the half-truths. The war-forged pyromancer will memorize the exchange and then take it apart at his leisure. At first, he thought the half-elf was amusing, now he is starting to think that the bard is very dangerous. Paragon calls him a brother, but Pyrus can't trust the half-elf.

“Granted, Moro Taller and his family will come under my protection. A position at the Khorvaire University Library will become available to him once his new identity is in place.” Marat shook his head. “Now, what about this Cyre Manuscript? Do you still have it?”

“Sure, I will give you a free copy.” Theodyl said with a wide smile. “The fools at House Cannith will have to pay for the original. Lady Nigma would not be happy otherwise.”

“So her agenda, then, is to embarrass her rivals?” The wizard looked to Theodyl's face for some sort of confirmation. “What about House Sivis? I am sure that you had something to do with the fire at their Scribe's Guild.”

“Master Marat, how could you think such a thing?” The half-elf said with a pained look in his eyes. “As I understand it, the Fire Salamander they imprisoned on their property broke loose. Perhaps, the gnomes could have been nicer to their guest.”

“And what about the Iron Golem? Surely it wasn't a coincidence that it was sabotaged. The more I talk with you, the deeper you drag me in.” Marat grumbled as he eyed a copy of the Sharn Anonymous. “The manuscript came from the Scribe's Guild Library, we both know that. Yet, you keep dodging my inquiries. How can I be sure you are not lying to me about other things?”

“Master Mooneye would be most glad to meet a Learned Scholar such as yourself. He never lies. Inquisitor Niabelis hired me to track the war-forged, she still owes me for delivery. I am sure that she would love to talk about me.” Theodyl smiled as he spoke. “Torture won't work with them either, just so you know.”

“What about your friend Paragon?” The wizard shifted in his seat. “Are you going to let him kill me?”

“Not at all, Master Marat.” The bard's smile turned predatory. “He dreams of starting a Mercenary Company. It seems to me, that a Letter of Recommendation from your esteemed person could help his efforts along. Pride cuts deeper than steel, the elves say.”

“Are you crazy?!” Marat pounded the table with his fist. “He killed by best trackers and destroyed some very expensive Clockwork Soldiers.”

“He is Dedicated, Forthright, and Nigh Unstoppable once properly motivated. His men are exceptionally trained and disciplined. Twenty-five of them overwhelmed your sanctuary without a drop of blood.” Theodyl paused long enough for his words to sink in. “You have seen his talent, he works every moment of everyday to live up to his name. Paragon is the best.”

“He's a killer! Tell me, what is he to you?”

“He is my brother. We served with the Longstriders at Karrnath.”

“If I am giving you a letter I expect certain things. Will you accept my terms?” The wizard demanded.

“The letter in exchange for your health Master Marat.” Theodyl corrected the wizard. “I work for gold, not paper.”

“No, that will not do!” Marat fumed.

“It will have to. You picked a fight with us and we won, not the other way around. You are lucky that I am willing to talk at all.”

“The Hussars do not negotiate with criminals.” Caras interrupted. Paragon skipped from 846 to 947. The wizard twitched.

“Quiet Hussar! You kidnap innocent men and put them to the question! I say you are the criminal here!” Theodyl hollered, “Are we to be criminals for saving our home from an enemy you should have kept from our borders!? I think not!!” Several of the war-forged joined the protest. “What say you wizard?” Paragon started spinning his blade.

“Alright, I will agree to the letter, but you will have to collect the gold tomorrow. I don't carry trade bars about.” Marat relented.

“I understand. A letter to House Kundarak shouldn't be too much trouble for you, would it? I think Paragon is done counting.” The bard closed the deal. Twenty thousand gold is enough to make up for their inconvenience. Caras made a sour face as the wizard placed his mark on the parchments before him.

Paragon 157 to 4 roared. The sound shook the depot, spreading dread through his enemies and bolstering his allies. The war-forged turned and jumped down into the sewers. His lads followed, turning their backs on the Hussars, adding insult to injury. Paragon understands now, the storm raging within him just needed release. He is elated, he is sure that it is a sign from Dol Dorn. Theodyl bowed politely and made his exit. The changelings kept him covered. Marat and Caras looked at each other for a long time. It will be a while before they get themselves sorted out. They can't give chase and the bastards are counting on it. The Hussars will not forget.

“Worry not Caras, I wager those two will be easy to find.” The wizard said.

“I have never been so humiliated.” Commander Caras spoke through his teeth. “They caught us with our eyes closed, it won't happen again.”

“Have someone look into Theodyl Vair's Millitary Records, do the same for Paragon at House Cannith. We must get to know them if we are to beat them.” The wizard patted the Hussar on his shoulder.

“They mentioned Karrnath, only the best came back from there.” Caras reminisced. “The Longstriders served as special scouts and infantry. They formed teams to hunt vampires and ghouls, they kept us alive while we slept. I don't like this. They often went mad from such work.” Caras sheathed his blade. “That bard, I think he is dangerous.”

“I want to meet with the Inquisitor Niabelis tomorrow.” The wizard shook his head. “The Necromancer may prove difficult, but we must arrange to speak with him as well.” Caras made a face. “If the half-elf's story doesn't hold up, I will personally sign his warrant. Espionage, Blackmail, Tampering with State Evidence, and Trading in State Secrets, will do for a start. The Hussars will of course take care of his capture.”

“It will be done.” Caras walked away wearing a dangerous smile. Every single one of those charges calls for an execution.
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First Post
Loose Ends, Chapter 25

“You did well,” Paragon said to Theodyl, “the Hussars have never failed to avenge themselves once they call a blood-debt.”

“Screw the Hussars, the problem is the Twelve,” Theodyl shook his head, “They are worried about the Hag's Plague. Killing their agent would have been the end of us!”

“Screw the Wizard!” Paragon made a rude gesture, making Theodyl grin at his rapidly improving talent for expression. “Have you made the arrangements? Our ship leaves Sharn at the end of the week.”

“It's all set.” The bard confirmed. “and our ship leaves tomorrow. After the meeting at noon, we are leaving for the Mror Holds.”

“What about my lads” Paragon grumbled.

“The first fifty left already.” Theodyl smiled. “The others are waiting to leave with us. The dwarves have the best equipment for sale, and we can probably start work right away. They have no end of trouble in their tunnels.”

“Is Pyrus coming?” the war-forged asked.

“He said he might, he's got obligations at Morgrave University, though.” The bard replied. “And I don't like the way he looks at me, truth be told.

Paragon 157 to 4 harrumphed. Pyrus has likely discovered the wonder that is Theodyl Vair. The wizard Stargazer purchased his contract directly from his maker and then planted him where he could protect Theodyl. The Longstriders were a hard outfit, but it is there that Paragon first discovered his true self. Keeping Theodyl alive wasn't easy. Keeping the strange half-elf away was even harder. Theodyl made every Longstrider his friend. He smiled through the worse of battles, singing to keep his brother's hearts from breaking. Often, he took risks so that others would not. Sure, he gambled and cheated them of their pay. Sure, he often told tremendous lies for entertainment. The bard toed the line between mischief and summary execution. But he never failed the Regiment.

The bard was the first to make friends with the war-forged, before even they realized that they needed friends. He stood up for them and saw to it that they became his brothers, just as any other. Paragon remembers watching Theodyl cry as he mutilated the bodies of the fallen to keep them from the Karrnathi Necromancers. The half-elf made sure to seem cheerful once he reached the squad. It was then that Paragon broke his own rules and decided to befriend his charge. A good thing too, Theodyl would have gone mad otherwise. He's never looked back, despite his frustrations.

“I knew you would come,” Paragon spoke as he patted his friend's shoulders. “There was no way for me to escape.”

“Of course,” Theodyl grinned, “You said you wanted a family, The 1st Dragonne Expeditionary Company needs it's Patriarch.”

“War Captain.”


They made for the basement below the inn. After the other war-forged took their leave, Theodyl introduced Paragon to his secret rooms. Pook and Ivor got into an argument while they packed. Patter and Siff ambushed Theodyl and threatened to use the Traveler's Blessings to neuter him unless he took more care to keep the other two happy. Paragon decided to write a book about the wonders of flesh people. He spied on Theodyl as he tried to make peace. To his surprise, Pook and Ivor turned on him. Siff pulled the war-forged aside and explained everything. Patter sat down, drank the bard's wine and watched the fireworks he helped to start. Siff smacked him in the back of the head, but only because he was choking on a chunk of Theodyl's cheese and the other was hogging the drink. Paragon clapped his hands and took charge of the packing, the gang has brains and talent, but he is going to have to take the lead.

Hours Later, at the Sharn City Trade House....

Mooneye Rocco eyed Theodyl and his gang. He isn't happy, and that is not a good thing when a lich is concerned. Marat interrupted a very expensive experiment in his zeal to get the Truth. It wasn't a total disaster, though the man from the Twelve will likely never grow his hair back. Still, Theodyl is responsible. The lich is running out patience with the half-elf.

“So, Theodyl, what did you say to my apprentice?” The lich asked, almost casually.

“Oh, nothing,” Theodyl shrugged, “I pointed out that he needed to worry about something other than me.”

“He tried to kill me again.” Mooneye hissed. “What exactly did you point out?”
“Well....” Paragon glared at the bard. “I thought that instead of fitting me for a knife in the back, he should worry about the fact that he's been dealing with dolgrim and that you, likely, have noticed.”

“Did you expect to replace him or did you just do this on some random whim?” The lich's eyes flared for a moment. “I had to destroy him.”

“Random whim?” Theodyl replied. Krogger was dumber than he thought. There are beads of sweat on his brow.

“You are in for a surprise then. We shall have a talk after this, nothing fancy, your friends can stay.” The lich decided to ignore the bard until the clients arrive, maybe it will encourage Theodyl to consider his options.

Back at the Sewers......

Lady, as Private Niabelis is now called among the Dog Soldiers, stared at the letter in her hands. She doesn't know how the Bishop found out, but her latest exploits have drawn his attention. The three holy texts lying on her cot scare her. She is commanded to study, even as she continues to serve under the Dog Soldiers. Lady is not happy.

Crazy as it sounds, she would rather remain an exile. Now that she can clearly see the path that lies before her, Inquisitor Niabelis would rather remain foolish and ignorant. The Bishop, no, The Silver Flame calls for a Champion. Lady stared at her reflection in the mirror and wondered. The last battle left her scarred. The Flame bleached her hair, her skin, and her clothes; she will never be the same. She can feel where the Holy Fire touched her, there is power there now. Her mind, though, is the same. The doubts, jealousies, and pride are still there. Is she worthy? Could she ever be?

“You can't sit there and mope all day.” Inquisitor Pallas frowned as he entered her tent. “Come, you have to exercise your leg, you will end up with a limp if you don't start walking everyday.”

“Is the Chaplain at his duties?” She asked, while trying to figure out what to do with her mace. “I was supposed to assist him.”

“Yeah, but he's still angry about the Berserker. I don't know why, we proved he was free of taint. He acts like we were out to kill the boy.” He helped her up and handed her a sturdy iron wood staff.

“Don't worry, they treat everybody like that, outsiders, I mean.” She said. “We are guilty of the same. I see that now.”

“Did the Flame grant you a sense of humor to go with that wisdom?” The Inquisitor smiled.

“I'll let you know.” She frowned, but her brown eyes were smiling. He watched her blush for the first time since he's known her. He considers it an improvement.

The wizard Marat is waiting in the Captain's tent. She has permission to make the man wait. The contingent of Hussars escorting the wizard was too pushy for the High Captain's liking. His apprentice, the young man with the broken hand, said the wrong thing to Foe Crusher. If Sgt. Ironson hadn't taken charge, there would have been another fight.

The grizzled veteran is like a mother hen when it comes to the Dog Soldiers. She remembers seeing him at her side when she woke up after the fight. His eyes were so very soft. He carried her to the healers praying under his breath the whole time. They were prayers to his own Gods, but she felt the impressive strength of his faith. Once, it was clear she wasn't going to die, he went back to being a bastard. She won't forget what she saw, however. Private Niabelis smiled, feeling like a girl for the first time in years. Sweet Lips will know about the Sergeant. They are family. She will start asking questions next time she sees him.

Back to Theodyl, Sharn City Trade House....

“We have arrived.”

Neither of the men seemed like anything out of the ordinary. The first was dressed like a frumpy warrior reaching middle age. The other is dressed like wizard. The Necromancer did not bother speaking until they were both seated. Theodyl kept his mouth shut, as instructed. The lich is in charge.

“I see you have Stargazer's pet with you, when we are done I want to see it do some tricks.” Nadothon laughed at his own joke.

“I met your mother at a whorehouse, she could do tricks too.” Blackscale sneered. “She tried to sing her way out of a burning building. Dumb trick, even for a human.”

“You will address me,” The lich cut in. “I will be conducting negotiations on behalf of Ser Vair. Do you have anything to add?”

“No, Master Mooneye,” Theodyl gazed at the two dragons, “please continue.” Stargazer's ghost told him about his mother's death. Nothing these animals can say will make a difference. When the time comes, he will not kill them in anger.

Mooneye placed the Dragon File on top of the table. Nadothon made the first offer. Blackscale waited to pounce with a counter to Mooneye's reply. The lich remained silent. Nadothon sneered and made several more unpleasant comments. Blackscale laughed. Mooneye continued to wait, a tactic used mainly by older dragons when dealing with lesser relatives and petitioners. Theodyl did not expect to find a student of dragon lore wearing a skeleton. He is impressed.

“Well, is the offer acceptable?” Nadothon broke first.

“No, not at all,” The lich replied. “It isn't enough.”

“You dare?!” Blackscale growled. “I used to hunt monkeys in the hills where your ancestors were born! They would cower in their holes, offering up their children so that I might spare them!”

“You don't dictate prices to our kind.” Nadothon hissed.

“It is enough that you want this.” The lich tore a page from the file and reduced it to ash. “Can we please begin?”

“What is it that you want?” Nadothon crossed his arms. He is radiating anger, the room is starting to warm. Blackscale is openly staring at Theodyl, the fact that he can't get a response out of him is starting to irk the dragon.

“Forget this!! Let's just take it.” Blackscale's acrid breath punctuated his words. Mooneye destroyed two more pages.

“No! Stop! I will negotiate. If you destroy anymore pages I will kill you both.” Nadothon's eyes are alight with fire. His every word is like a fist.

Mooneye Rocco has dealt with devils and demons. Once, he dealt with a God to save his soul. An angry dragon is a pleasing novelty. The lich stated his price. Blackscale lost his temper, his tantrum went largely ignored. Nadothon sat there for several minutes before he decided.

“Stargazer's Spell-shard, The Crown Jewels of Galifar, The Pearl of Zandros the Wise and Freedom for the two monkeys.” Nadothon forced the words through his teeth. “The trade is acceptable.” The dragon grinned like he's just won a game of dice. Theodyl felt a chill.

The lich waved his had over the Dragon File. The sheets fell to dust. Theodyl placed the original on the table along with several items his Master wanted to pass on to the murderous pair.

“Stargazer named you both in his Will.” Theodyl spoke. “The books are for Elder Nadothon. The box belongs to Elder Blackscale.”

Blackscale and Nadothon argued for a bit. Theodyl made no sign that he can understand their words. Nadothon finally snapped his fingers to summon some sort of genie. The creature nodded and disappeared.

“My servant will return with your property shortly.” Blackscale snorted rudely. Nadothon crossed his arms again. “Tell me, what do you intend to do with the spell-shard? You have to know it is useless, it's light faded with Stargazer's passing.”

“It doesn't matter.” Theodyl said. “He left it to another, it is enough for me.”

The dragons both turned to look at the bard. He felt their eyes boring into him, but he gave no sign of discomfort. The jeweled necklace beneath his collar will keep them from his mind. The two dragons cannot read anything from his neutral posture so they will hesitate to act rashly. Wizards and sages who speak draconic rarely master the subtleties of the language, fewer still understand the physical components of draconic communication. Posture and expression are just as important as pronunciation.

Perhaps, it was a mistake to say that others will also benefit from Stargazer's will. The druidess in the Aldeen Reaches and the dwarf in the Mror Holds are unknown to him. The dragons may know more, but he doesn't want them paying him anymore attention. He's already made the mistake, now he must pretend it never happened so that they don't pounce on the opportunity. The servant returned. The dragons claimed their prize and promptly left as quietly as they came. Mooneye claimed his treasures, wasting not a glance at Theodyl's new spell-shard.

“We have to leave quickly,” Theodyl said while looking very nervous. “ It went too easy, I don't think this place is safe anymore.” The lich hissed.

“What do you mean?” Mooneye wove a spell. “I can't detect anything out of the ordinary.”

“They agreed to our trade, just our trade. There is nothing to keep them from reclaiming our payment!” Theodyl snapped.

Theodyl didn't pause to explain, he wrapped the spell-shard in a cloak and invited the lich to make haste. He can't put the feeling into words, but he knows he's got to leave the Trade House. Paragon and the Changelings were waiting outside of the room. The bard told them trouble was coming. It was enough. Within minutes they were running through the sewers. They felt the tunnels shake, then a wall of dust swept from the direction they came.

“That will be far enough.” The Necromancer snapped. “It is time for our talk.” Theodyl froze in place. He could see, from the edge of his vision that his companions are trapped as well. “I have a task for you half-elf. Take these books, I give you five years to master them before I seek you out and put you to the test.”

“nnnnnhmm rephush!” Theodyl forced through his teeth.

“No. I prayed to my Lord Aureon and His Wisdom confirms it. You may resist even me, but you cannot deny the will of a God.” Mooneye placed his cold hand on the bard's chest. “By the Will of my Lord, I charge thee with this task. In five years time you are to master the lessons held within these three books. Do not Fail.”

The necklace failed to protect him. Theodyl felt the Will of a God touch his soul and leave it's indelible mark. He resisted, but it meant nothing. He prayed for Olladra's smile. Nothing. The Geas became part of him. He felt it take root within his mind despite his Will, despite his Rage. The half-elf broke the Hold Spell imprisoning his form only to collapse. The lich cocked his head. He leaned in close and whispered into Theodyl's ear before fading away.

“I admit I was forceful at first. Such things do not work with people like you, for that I apologize.” The lich hissed. “You have drawn the attention of the Sovereign Host. Weather it is for good or ill, I do not know. It is enough that it pleases my God. I look forward to your test, do not disappoint me.”

Paragon lifted Theodyl off the ground, the Changelings took up his equipment. If it weren't for the others Pook might be crying. Ivor is worried too, but she'll be damned if she admits it. Patter and Siff are smiling, with the bard, something incredible happens every day. They traveled silent and fast. Whatever happened at the Trade House is now the least of their problems. They have to leave before anything else goes wrong.
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First Post
Falling Rocks and Lightning Rails, Chapter 26

The Sharn City Watch called an emergency muster. The City Trade House Building has been demolished. A four story tall statue of a dragon is lying atop of it's ruined foundation. Only six people died, but only because it happened during luch time. Unfortunately, one of them was a representative of House Vadalis. The City Council is in a panic. It is one disaster too many, they are petitioning the Seat of Breland for help.

“Please excuse me,” Marat said as he suddenly walked out of the Captain's tent.

High Captain Roland Sevin's ears filled with a noisome buzzing. During the war, the mage assigned to his office used just such a trick to keep his conversations private. It seems that Private Niabelis isn't impressed either. She's biting her lip. The wizard Marat hasn't had much luck with his interview, perhaps it is a ruse to shake her resolve. Private Niabelis has changed since the meeting in his office. Her tongue is as sharp as before, but there is more than attitude behind her eyes now. Marat needs to tread lightly. The Dog Soldiers are still cleaning up the last demon fool enough to stand before her. Captain Sevin smiled while holding up a bottle of wine. She nodded, they almost finished the bottle before the wizard returned.

“A very large statue of a dragon has just landed on the Sharn City Trade House.” Marat announced with a straight face. “Your City Council has petitioned the Seat of Breland for assistance. I am, for the moment, in charge of yet another investigation.”

“He speaks the truth,” Niabelis confirmed. The wizard was not happy to fall under her gaze.

“Does this mean you are leaving then?” Captain Sevin asked cheerfully.

“Provided she has not lead me false, I will not be returning.” The wizard frowned. “You should know captain, that the plague within the elemental has been rendered useless. When the flasks finally melt, my guess is, that it will leave this world.”

“And what of the plague flask you took?” The Captain snapped. “Is the Seat of Breland planning to use that abomination? I didn't fight a war just to start another. Tell me.”

“For what it's worth, you are doing an excellent job here. I will see to it that you have a future.” The wizard said as he left the tent.

Marat never answered the question. They heard the Hussars line up outside of the tent and then march away. Private Niabelis refilled the Captain's empty cup. He emptied it without saying a word. She felt the truth of Marat's words, but she didn't say anything. Likely, he already knows.

“You are dismissed, Private.” The Captain ordered. “Please inform Sgt. Ironson that I wish to see him.”

Above, at the Train Yards......

The Lightning Rail station is in shambles. A delegation from House Vadalis has bought out three rail cars. The City Watch forcefully emptied them of passengers, if they don't ease off, there's going to be a riot. The Vadalis retainers are carrying a coffin.

“What's that all about?” Theodyl whispered from beneath his cloak.

“A Vadalis Heir died in the Trade House, My Lady.” Patter responded, “It seems they are the cause of our delay.”

Theodyl is made up to look like an old widow. His wheel chair was enough to get his group to the front of the line, but no further. The changelings are dressed like her attendants. Paragon is playing the part of hired muscle. His fine new skin and blazing blue eyes are hidden beneath a veil of illusion. If things don't change, the bard is going to have to renew the spell. The Watch Sergeant, a young man named Henry, has been giving them just enough attention to keep them on their toes.

“Where's that dashing young man Patty? I can't stay here, I'm an old woman I'm too tired for this!” the old widow whined loudly.

“No worries ma'm! My boys will see you to your compartment.” The Sergeant rushed to her side. His lads all made faces at the mixture of odors emanating from her person. The Sergeant, however locked his gaze on them until they did precisely as she demanded.

“Oh thank you! Thank you!” the old lady beamed at the young man. “You remind me of my son. He was so very kind......” The old lady seemed to fade as if digging for some long buried memory. “I can't seem to remember his face anymore.”

The old woman started to cry. She drew an expensive picture frame from her bag and spoke to it as she sniffled. Her attendants worked to distract her from her grief, but she blocked them at every turn. One of them, a young woman with pouty lips, turned to the officer.

“Please, her heart can't take it, talk to her,” She almost begged, “I know she'll listen.” He almost refused, but her eyes spoke to him. A heady scent of roses filled his senses.

“Come now, mother, don't cry.” The Sergeant said gently, “Tell me about your son, maybe we can remember together.” The attendant, a girl named Patty, took the opportunity to wipe the old woman's tears and remove the picture frame from her gnarled fingers. She eyed the officer in a way that made his heart speed up.

The war-forged bodyguard entered the compartment first. Once he was satisfied, the attendants made it comfortable for their mistress. The Sergeant stayed a few minutes until the old woman fell asleep. Afterwards, Patty walked out with him. Pook, Ivor, and Siff made a show of looking the other way. The war-forged only had eyes for his client.

“Patty's a slut.” Pook broke the silence. “I never would have thought....”

“Now now, Posie. He was a handsome boy,” Theodyl said with his old lady voice. “and he was so very very kind.” Ivor and Siff shook their heads while grinning from ear to ear.

Paragon Harrumphed. Fifty of his men are squeezed into two freight cars at the other end of the train. He's got no patience for masquerades or bed games. If the rumors are to be believed, the dragons dropped a statue the size of a building on top of the Trade House. He can't wait to hit the fields again. Honest fighting, that's what he wants. Maybe, with the City of Sharn behind them, Theodyl will cease his games and act like the soldier he knows him to be.

The whistle blew. A ringing alarm sounded in every car on the train. Patty, looking a little bit disheveled, made it to the compartment just before the train started to move. She gave Siff a big kiss before she said anything. Apparently, the kind young man wasn't as innocent as he looked. Theodyl wriggled out of his costume. He set up a Privacy Ward so that they may speak freely.

“What did you find out?” The bard asked while passing out glasses. A bottle of wine had been waiting for them in his bag.

Patter giggled, he can't help it, he rarely plays a girl. The Sergeant told her about the House Vadalis contingent riding the train. The City Council is trying to stay on their good side, they have some sort of business with them. He also told her about a group of people he's supposed to look out for. One of them, their leader, is a bard. They made love in the baggage compartment. She picked a passenger list out of his pockets as well as a conductor's skeleton key. Patter gave them all the details.

The information is a boon. It's a good thing Theodyl didn't carry any of his instruments openly. His flute is hidden within the wheelchair along with a set of pan pipes and a tin fife. They don't make stringed instruments that are easy hide. The harp bow is too unique, anyone looking for him would have recognized it right away. His voice is his greatest asset, though. He's never without.
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First Post
Something Strange, Chapter 27

Something Strange, Chapter 27

“May I see your tickets?” The stiff conductor bowed slightly as he made his request. These are the kind of passengers he likes, Old Money. “During our brief stop at Passage, a few of our larger suites will become available. Those Vadalis savages inconvenienced quite a few of our clients. I have been told you would have preferred better accommodations?”

“How considerate of you....” Theodyl's old lady voice crooned. The conductor reached out for her gnarled hand and planted a kiss on her ring.

“Juno, Madame, at your service.” The conductor said as he palmed his tip and handed her a new set of rail passes. “The Thrane authorities will expect to see you identity papers. A minor inconvenience...” The old lady's attendant handed the man a purse. “...but I will see to it that you are not disturbed. These chits will allow you access to the Dining Car. Please don't hesitate to call me if you require anything else.”

The conductor hurried away. The cloying scent of old age and nameless medicinal unguents made his head spin. Still, his pockets are full. The Lightning Rail offers steady work, but it won't make a man rich. The secret lies in Service, the rich always want a little extra and Juno makes sure that they get it. As he strolled away he made calculations in his head. His supervisor gets a full cut, the girl at the Dining Car gets a tip , and the Inspectors from Thrane get another. His retirement fund gets fatter by the day.

“That was easy.” Siff mused.

“Basic Economics,” Theodyl grinned, “everybody wants to make a coin.”

“Yeah.....” Everyone but Paragon sighed.

“Money is the least of our problems, we need to get to the Mror Holds without anymore trouble.” Paragon worked to keep his friends on point. “That means no games, schemes, or bright ideas from any of you.”

All of them agreed with the hulking war-forged. Paragon 157 to 4 let his unwavering gaze weigh over all of them. Experience tells him, this isn't over. He will have to keep watching for the rest of the trip. They might be smarter, but they don't have his focus or his patience.

“So....” Theodyl smiled through his make up. “Who wants to play some dice?”

Paragon confiscated five sets of loaded dice from his companions. He then removed a harness from Theodyl's wrist containing another two sets. The changelings had a good laugh at the bard's expense. The war-forged harrumphed. He drew an honest set of die from his belt and tossed. Siff called his bet. The game is on.

Elsewhere on the Lightning Rail, House Vadalis..........

“All clear, sir.” The Vadalis retainers turned to face the doors of their rail car, weapons ready.

The coffin lay on its bier. Morel lay his hand on it and prayed that the House will not hold his men responsible for the boy's death. Lodit d'Vadalis was young for an Heir. He was born in one of the many farms of the Eldeen Reaches. The House adopted him just two years ago. It was just a minor negotiation. A training run designed to help the young heir's training along. His escort died within the Trading House, there is no way to know what in blazes he was doing there. Sharn City Council has been more than helpful. Morel has no respect for their machinations, he assumes that they are afraid to loose on whatever deal he was working on.

“Morel, we've identified the spy.” One of his men interrupted his thoughts.
“It's Kreen, we found this in his luggage.” The burly guard gritted his teeth as he spoke. A letter and a bag full of gems hung from his fists.

“Bring him to me.” Morel growled. “Post sentries in the hall, there is going to be a lot of noise. Find that suck-up toadie Juno and pay him off if necessary.”

Kreen was Lodit's best friend. They had been together since before the boy bore a mark. Was it money, jealousy? Morel will find out. He felt a chill crawling up his spine as his ears picked up the struggling prisoner being led to his rail car. Once, before House Vadalis, he was a ranger and a Bounty Hunter. Asking questions was a specialty he was ashamed of. Kreen is about to learn a harsh lesson.

“Strap him down to that chair.” Morel ordered, not deigning to look at the young man's face. “Olriff, did you find this?”

“No sir, it was the new man from Owl's Perch.” The big man answered wiping the sweat from his brow. “Eriol, he just signed up a year ago.

“I want him here for this then.” Olriff twitched. “Be ready to kill either of them.” Every one of his men stiffened at his words. Morel doesn't care. His instincts guide him as much as his educated mind. He draws the line, though, at having to explain himself his men. They know who's in charge.

Kreen made noises through his gag. He's been tied up tight. His hands are further bonded in stiff leather gauntlets. He's no mage, but you never know. Morel sat and read through the letter found in his luggage. His eyebrows went up. House Vadalis has plans to marry off the young Heir, he already knew that. The relationship between the two young men, is something he did not expect. On hindsight, he should have noticed. Morel glared at the Kreen, he made a distinct sniffing sound and then turned away. Olriff is on his way back with the Eriol fellow. He can hear them chattering away. Eriol is a nervous talker, good to know.

“Shut the doors.” Morel snapped. His men are nervous, but they are on point. One of them is conveniently close to Eriol's back. He removed his prisoner's gag and got things started. “Tell me, where were you at noon today.”

The young man spat. His next few sentences weren't very polite. Morel drew his long knife. It is sheathed in silver, and it is very sharp. Kreen eyed the blade, but he didn't budge until he saw the guards turning away. Lodit was leaving him. The letter broke his heart, but the bag of gems set a fire in his blood. He wasn't about to be dismissed like a tavern whore.

“What was he doing at the Trade House?” Morel pushed, his knife tracing an imaginary line across his throat. “I checked his itinerary, he was supposed to be at the House for a 1 P.M. Appointment.”

“How the hell should I know, I was waiting for him at the station!” the young man snapped, “He wanted to make sure I got on the Lightning Rail. I was going to make a big show of it to embarrass him.” Kreen sniffled and bit his lip. “I never wanted any of this.....he's the one who talked me into tagging along!”

“Stupid Poof,” Eriol sneered, “Didn't I tell you?” Olriff started to laugh loudly. Morel has been watching Eriol, the cruel jive aside, the man has a relieved look in his eyes. Twice, he's seen the man wipe his palm on his tabard. His palms are very sweaty.

“Olriff, when precisely did Eriol tell you Kreen was a “Poof”?” Morel cocked his head towards the two.

“Just as we was walking here.” Eriol answered. “Isn't that right?”

“No, he was making jokes since last week, Sir.” Olriff corrected. Almost everyone he meets assumes that he is stupid. Morel is the only person who's never made that mistake.

“Did he read the letter when he found it?” Morel turned his blade towards Eriol. The guard behind him is ready for the man to bolt.

“No Sir, I read it.” Olriff bit his lip. “But Eriol wasn't there, I sent him to watch the exit, just in case, Sir.”

“How did you know Eriol?” Morel growled dangerously. “Did someone else tell you?”

The man moved so fast none of the guards had time to react. A knife flew across the room and sank into Morel's chest. Another knife bit into Olriff's belly. The Vadalis retainers drew steel and moved to put a stop to Eriol. The man didn't stand still long enough to let them. He was moving too fast to be human.

“Leave him to me!!!” Morel barked, “watch the doors, don't let him out!”

Eriol lunged towards Morel, but nearly tripped as a pair of bestial orange eyes caught his gaze. Morel grinned through a set of gleaming white fangs. The spy back pedaled, trying to halt his own charge. Morel caught him by the arm and slammed Eriol into the floor. His arm bent at an unnatural angle. Something broke. The man's good arm lashed out with a knife, but it did nothing to stop the werewolf. Morel caught his wrist and wrenched until it broke. The man tried to kick away, his legs are moving superhumanly fast. Morel grinned, soaking up the damage. In one swift movement he trapped an offending limb and broke it at the knee. The man passed out. He then picked him up by his shirt and tossed him onto a sturdy chair.

“Tie him down!” the werewolf growled. “Strip him, search for magic and anything else of interest!” His blood is running hot, he took a moment to pray and calm his raging heart. He's hungry. “Olriff, set his bones and bandage his ribs. No healing until later, though. I want some answers first.”

Kreen stared at the House Vadalis Retainers with open mouthed shock. In all his life, he's never seen the like. Morel stared back at him as his features slowly regained their ruggedly human appearance. To his credit, the young man did not flinch. It isn't everyday that happens. House Vadalis will have to decide his fate. A tale about werewolves would not be convenient for the House.

“Are you going to untie me, yet?” The young man demanded. “I'll be damned if I soil myself in front of you bastards!”

“Untie the boy.” Ordered Morel. “Keep him here, though, he might want to see this.” Somehow, the ranger was a lot more terrifying when he spoke in a calm voice.

“My father calls me boy, and no one else!” Kreen spat. He always did have a temper. “Let me at my sword and I will teach you a lesson!” Big mouth, little sword the soldiers say. He was politely ignored.

The men held Eriol down as Olriff wrestled his limbs back into their proper shapes and bandaged them. He mewled like a baby. Morel asked him some questions, he passed out again. They feed him a minor curative to bring him back to consciousness.

“Whom do you serve, traitor?” The questions started again.

Now back to Theodyl's room........

Theodyl woke up to find the dwarven spirit staring at him. He shook the sleep from his eyes and reached for a bottle of wine. It was empty. Now fully awake, the bard crawled out of his bunk and snatched a bottle from Siff's sleeping arms.

“How goes it, Ser Dwarf? You haven't been around much.” Theodyl said as he uncorked his new bottle.

“I've been at my Post.” The dwarf puffed out his chest. “There was some trouble, some thief has been at me door.” The dwarf's anger made the room cold.

“I can't imagine anyone giving you trouble.” Theodyl raised his eyebrows and wondered what could be so important to keep the dwarf from his grave. Was it an oath? Is he cursed? Could it be a powerful sense of Duty? He briefly thought to ask. Would the spirit be offended? It would make a great song.

“They didn't.” The dwarf growled. “But that isn't what I came here for. I've somebody who'd like to speak to ye. It is another spirit, but not here.” The dwarf's answer shook the bard out of his thoughts. The spirit has never asked for anything other than beer and a good fight.

Theodyl dressed, careful not to wake the changelings. Paragon is probably with his lads in the freight cars. He snatched up his flute and Patter's cloak on his way out. A good thief should sleep lightly. The half-elf almost snickered.

“This way.” The dwarf waved just before slipping through a wall.

Theodyl used the skeleton key Patter acquired earlier to gain access to a state room. It is immediately obvious to him that it's been searched and ransacked. There are clothes everywhere. The dwarven spirit is standing in the middle of the room and a hazy shape is hovering beside him.

“This is Lodit,” the spirit said, “he was pretty upset when I found him. He's got a friend that's in trouble.”

The ghost of a young man took shape before Theodyl's eyes. He is wearing a House Vadalis Sigil on his vest. The bard felt his heart sink as he remembered the coffin and the House Vadalis retainers. Six people died when the dragons crushed the Sharn Trade House. He feels more than a little guilty.

“What can I do for you?” the bard asked. The spirit did not speak, rather a swirl of images, words, and emotions invaded his mind. It took a few moments, but as soon as he understood, Theodyl made for the House Vadalis suites on the Lightning rail.

Olriff let the half-elf in after searching him for weapons. Apart from a bottle of wine and a flute, the bard carried nothing of interest. Morel looked up from his prisoner with interest as the half-elf spoke the password. The werewolf caught the scent of too much wine and a little bit of nervousness. No lies.

“I don't know you, what the hell do you want?” Morel growled. Eriol mewled. His face looks like a potato, he probably thinks he was being asked another question. “Heal him, let him rest for an hour. No food, but water is fine.”

“I bear a message for one Morel of Vadalis and another for Kreen of Mossmantle.” Theodyl spoke as he emptied his wine bottle. “I would prefer to do it all at once.” The room grew noticeably colder. A ghostly shape drew everyone's attention.

“Lodit d'Vadalis wishes to say that the Hag from Aundair has taken an interest in House Vadalis trade in Sharn. He would like to warn the border towns to watch for mercenary raids paid for by Aundair Nobles. She wants your Lands.” Morel looked a bit shaken, but he hid his expression almost instantly. “He further advises you not to kill Eriol, he is working for some other House Vadalis interests. They intended to gain control of the young Heir through Blackmail. They found out about Kreen. You will find some letters to that effect in Eriol's room, inside his bed cushion. Lodit was lured to the Sharn Trade House to meet one of their agents. Your men were not at fault, though some would say otherwise.”

The room was silent. Morel's hands shook with rage. Lodit's hazy apparition drifted towards a young man staring fearfully at the bard. Theodyl felt sorry for him, he would be scared of ghosts too if he had any sense. When the bard gets a chance, he intends to beg, borrow, or steal some.

“Kreen, Lodit says that he's sorry. He was trying to get you out of danger, he didn't have time to be gentle about it. Lodit loves you and he hopes that you can forgive him. He says that you would have been happier if he hadn't talked you into leaving your home town.” Theodyl cocked his head as if to listen to some far away voices.

“Here is a gift, more befitting My Handsome Swashbuckler from the Reaches.” Another spoke through Theodyl's mouth. Kreen's eyes filled with tears at the sound of his Lover's voice. The bard shook the presence away with a shudder. He felt the ghost's emotions for just a fraction of a moment. “Lodit says that you should still watch your temper, even if you now have a blade to back up your sharp tongue.”

A heavy bundle hit the floor just in front of Kreen. It simply fell out of nowhere. Morel growled looking about nervously. The young man shook the stone dust from it and unwrapped it with unsteady hands. Theodyl realized it must have come from beneath the rubble in Sharn. An intense feeling of shame made his face burn. He watched Kreen examine his gift with bitter sweet delight. It is a jeweled dueling saber, in a green snake skin sheath. The young man drew it and blinked at the polished blade. He sniffled, but he did not cry.

“Thank you...” Kreen choked. “I'm sorry I was mad at you. I didn't mean what I said. I am not sorry I left Mossmantle, not one bit.” The young man swung the blade, testing it's balance. He gave the prisoner a very unpleasant look. Morel stepped protectively in between them.

“He heard you, Kreen.” Theodyl said helping himself to the luxurious bar.
“He says Thank You and Goodbye.” The ghostly shape faded away.

“That's some of my best bourbon, damn it,” Morel complained, “At least pour me a glass.” Theodyl ended up serving everyone in the rail car. The prisoner wore his drink. “Disinfectant,” Morel said cruelly.

Introductions followed more drinks. Theodyl answered what questions he could, to tell the truth, he wanted to leave. Once he started talking though, he forgot about his troubles for a moment. The House Vadalis men were very suspicious. To their credit they coaxed their answers out of him rather than being pushy. Lodit's spirit is gone. He could still see the dwarven spirit, even if they could not. Theodyl was very safe. Kreen sat quietly nursing his drink. He stared at the coffin mostly. The men from Vadalis did not include him in their jests. Neither did the young man try to join their conversations.

Once boredom set in, Theodyl left. Morel told him to look him up in Niern, if he ever visits the Eldeen Reaches. The bard is feeling strangely worn. He needs to think about what just happened, but he is too tired. He didn't even say hello to Paragon as he collapsed into his bunk. His dreams were not pleasant. He twisted and turned frequently in his sleep.
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First Post
Troubles at Passage, Chapter 28

Note: Thanks to Ragboy's Advice, our hero will now feel the cruel squeeze of the Wheels of Fate and then some. Please don't cry, near as I can tell he should survive to reproduce. I hope you enjoy this as much as I....Oh, and I would like to thank all my readers. Bye.

Pook settled uncomfortably into the wheel chair. Apart from the fact that she didn't need the layers of make up that Theodyl wore to play the role of an old widow, everything else is a hassle. Paragon is in the freight car, Theodyl can't renew his illusory disguise he's too sick. Javelin is taking his place, his frame matches the old disguise with just a few adjustments. The fact that most people can't tell a war-forged from another is a blessing.

“Where can we find a healer?” The old lady asked her attendants. “I don't suppose there is a House Jorasco Hospice about?”

“Pardon me, Madame,” A young man approached the party. “but I can't help but overhear that you have need of a healer.” Javelin took a step forward, the young man's hand moved towards a fine looking saber at his side.

“Javelin, please.” The old woman interceded. “Don't mind him, he's very loyal. My attendant is sick with a fever, he's very dear to me.” The old woman made like she was going to cry. Her attendants started to make a fuss.

“Where do you think you're goin'?” A man bearing House Vadalis colors grabbed the young man by the arm. “Morel is cranky, you don' wanna push him.”

“Hands off, Olriff!” The young man snapped, “Our friend from last night has taken ill. I was just trying to help.” Ivor pulled Theodyl protectively towards her. He is sleeping on a bench. He passed out just as they were leaving the station. The other changelings moved behind the two strangers.

“Easy now, my name is Kreen.” The young man made introductions, “this is Olriff. Theodyl helped us out last night, we just want to return the favor.”

“Ye can trust them,” the dwarven spirit's gruff voice interjected, “the elf-blood needs help soon. This be no normal fever, or my pappy's a gnome.”

Kreen went a bit pale. Olriff's eyes went wild. Pook had no choice, the dwarf rarely speaks around strangers. It is Theodyl's friend and that is good enough for the changeling. The old woman allowed the young man to lead them to a less crowded location. Olriff helped to carry Theodyl. He can feel waves of heat emanating from the half-elf.

“I can guess you don't want to draw attention.” Kreen spoke to the old woman, and then looked around afraid the ghost would speak again. “There is a healer named Doonah not far from here, very discrete. She's a friend, so if you have trouble following I need to know now.”

“Our troubles are behind us.” Ivor blurted out, “Please, I can't wake him up, let's hurry!”

“Alright then,” Kreen sighed, “we are going to need a coach.”

The ride was less than comfortable. Javelin rode on the outside, hanging from a set of straps. Olriff sat with the driver. Everyone else squeezed into the cab. They traveled to a set of warehouses along the waterfront. The smell told them that they were being used as stables. A small House Vadalis sigil graced their gates. Kreen paid the driver and took the time to help the old woman out of the cab. Her attendants made sure she settled comfortably into her wheel chair. Javelin was glued to her side.

Doonah turned out to be a old female half-orc with a club foot and an oddly twisted back. She was tending to a wounded Pegasus when Kreen called out to her. She limped over cursing under her breath. The young man tried to assist her, but she whacked his shins with her walking staff. Kreen cursed like a sailor, she whacked him again.

“What's wrong with him?” Doonah demanded as she made straight for the unconscious half-elf. “Get him to my chambers.”

Olriff dragged Theodyl into a large room with a massive operating table. Jars of herbs and reagents lined the walls. Doonah had Olriff lay the half-elf on a smaller padded table and commanded one of the changelings to strip him. As they hurried to help, she passed her hands over the hot, burning skin and sniffed at the humors rising from the body.

“I smell magic,” She said, mostly to herself, “Something else, too...Does this one bear a Mark?” Her hands brushed over his chest searching for the source of his distress. “Mmmm, I feel something odd here, it is very hot.....This is Vadalis business, yes?” Kreen shifted uncomfortably. Olriff coughed.

“Mistress Doonah, please do what you can. He's done us a great service, Morel will take care of you.” Olriff spoke up.

The orcish woman made a face. She dug out a wand from a drawer and picked out a small pouch from one of the shelves lining the wall. Doonah eyed Kreen suspiciously before turning again to her patient. She started to drone a song in her native tongue while shaking the pouch over the half-elf. As the glittering powder from the pouch hit Theodyl's skin a snaky pattern of reds and a blacks was revealed over his heaving chest. It's a Dragon Mark. Doonah cursed. She resumed her spell, shaking the pouch over the rest of her patient's body. His belt buckle started to glow, then a ring hidden in his left pocket. A silvery bracelet on his ankle lit up like a star, Doonah nearly jumped away.

“Take the rest of his clothing,” She snapped at the others, “Be careful of the magic, I don't know what it does.” Doonah sucked her teeth as the Dragon Mark faded away from his chest. She used the wand to identify the item. “The bracelet is strong magic, a veiling, I think. It is potent enough to completely hide a Dragon Mark. I don't like how it feels.”

“Is he going to be alright?” the old woman demanded, her voice sounding very young. “What's wrong with him?”

“He used the Mark, maybe.” Doonah answered while glaring at Olriff, “It happens with young Heirs learning to use their gifts.” She lay a wet rag on Theodyl's brow and opened his mouth to sniff at his breath. “The Mark grows hot and they get sick if they use it too much. This isn't a Vadalis Heir, though. I don't know that Mark and I don't want the trouble of knowing.”

“What does that mean?” Javelin asked.

“It means that you people lied to me.” Doonah growled. “I know that veils don't always work with Dragon Marks. I remember that the House has a ring that will hide a Least Mark, but it makes an Heir with a stronger Mark sick. They can't use a Mark while wearing such a thing, it is very bad. Your Lodit had that problem, yes?”

“Lodit is dead,” Kreen told the woman, “there was an accident in Sharn, a building collapse.” Olriff shook his head, Kreen glared at him.

“Tell me everything, I don't need this kind of trouble,” the woman threatened. “I am lucky they let me work as it is! Morel be damned!”

Olriff left to go get Morel. Kreen told the old woman everything that has happened in the last three days. Talk of Blackmail made the woman hiss. The letter and the bag of jewels sounded like something out of a romance novel. The pain behind his eyes, though, was real enough. Doonah went to pat him on the shoulder but he moved away. He talked about the accident, and of the investigation immediately after. Doonah wasn't surprised that Morel was able to catch the spy. She was sorry about his methods, however. When Kreen started talking about ghosts, things started falling into place for the healer. She examined his saber and hugged him tight. Lodit did love him, she knows.

Once the story was over she asked several questions about Theodyl. His parentage came up more than once. Theodyl has a true elven father, Doonah made a point of confirming that. The fact that he could talk to ghosts seemed very important as well. Theodyl never made a fuss over the dwarven spirit. The changelings got the feeling that Theodyl was in even more trouble, than they had thought. The woman's mood did not improve either.

“Tell us what's going on, please!” Ivor begged. “Is he going to be alright, the Lightning Rail leaves in three hours.”

“Your man needs rest.” Doonah finally answered. “He might get better without the bracelet, but I won't touch it. It is strange magic.”

Patter tried to remove the item from Theodyl's ankle. He got his fingers singed for his trouble. Siff fiddled around with the bracelet until he found a keyhole behind the clasp. Ivor spent an hour picking at it. Pook couldn't figure it out either. Finally, Doonah offered to cast a spell for them. Kreen haggled over the price, but the woman would not budge. Pook offered to pay the difference. She shifted to her own natural form out of frustration. Luckily, Theodyl had plenty of gold in his purse. Doonah produced an aged scroll and made a good show out of her preparations.

“Keep away, this might be dangerous.” She said just before she began to read.

The words turned strangely as the magic took shape. The bracelet started to glow again. It's light flashed with the rhythm of Doonah's voice. Theodyl stirred, moaning as if in a dream. A loud snapping sound marked the culmination of the spell. Siff moved quickly to tuck the bracelet into a small lead lined box they found in Theodyl's pockets. The healer swooned. Kreen helped her to a seat. A strangely beautiful pattern took shape over Theodyl's heart. The lines are black, like a birthmark or a tattoo. It's outer edges are an angry red, like a welt. The changelings examined their friend all of them ended up staring at the Dragon Mark.

“It is a Lesser Mark,” Doonah sighed unhappily, “It is small, but the Mark has finer lines and a more complex pattern. The Least Marks are much simpler and the lines are thick.”

“What kind is it?” Pook asked. “He never told us about this and we've known him for a while.” The changeling sounded bitter. “He likes to keep secrets, but this is too much even for me!”

“I don't blame him. The Houses aren't very nice about Strange Marks. I would keep him covered until I am out of town, if I were you.” Doonah replied without answering the question. “I mean it, don't let anyone else see the Mark.”

“Nobody's gonna touch him!” The dwarven spirit growled literally out of thin air. Kreen jumped and drew his saber. A cool breeze swept through the room.

“Another Ghost?” Olriff stammered as he entered the room. Morel is right behind him. “I'm starting not to like this business.”

“Neither am I. Doonah, can you help him?” Morel asked. “Their train leaves soon and I want them away from here before the Heirs come to claim the body. I have a strange tale for them, we don't need another complication.”

“I can wake him, but he has to rest.” the woman frowned at the ranger, “If you help me up, I'll be getting to it.”

Doonah was true to her word. The bard woke up thirsty, and demanded something to drink. Ivor helped him out while nagging him about how much trouble he is. Pook emptied Theodyl's purse ensuring their anonymity. Morel didn't ask any questions, but he watched them all very intently. The ranger openly sniffed at the air around them. Creepy.

“You tell him, no showing off.” Doonah admonished, pointedly ignoring her groggy patient. “Bad Marks make a man sick even if they don't over use them. Above all keep it hidden!” Doonah took a firm hold of Theodyl's chin forcefully meeting his eyes. “Don't come back here.” She said. And she didn't let go until he understood.

Ivor dressed Theodyl as an old lady and filled him in on the latest details. He was too tired to make a show, but it was obvious he didn't like the news. His eyes darted nervously about the room. Ivor could tell that the normally unflappable bard was very afraid. Patter and Siff went outside to call a Coach. Javelin watched the Vadalis men with his three fingered hands within reach of his batons.

Doonah handed Pook, now Posie a satchel of herbs and dictated instructions on Theodyl's treatment for the next several days. His cover as a feeble old lady is taking a whole new dimension. He is as weak as a babe and his eyes are heavy for lack of restful sleep. They gave their thanks to Kreen and Olriff. Morel rudely ignored them. Theodyl was asleep before they climbed into the coach for the trip back. Though relieved, the changelings have a lot of questions. The bard will not be able to avoid them.


First Post
Woops, I messed up

I forgot to post Chapter 25, I was just reviewing Chapter 29 when I realized that I was making references to something that happened before, so I decided to double check. I couldn't find it. If you guys are interested, please look for Post#35, I just squeezed it in and shifted everything down. Sorry. My brother's wedding is coming up and as the oldest, I am tasked with puting up with my mother while my brothers hide and pretend to be busy.


First Post
On the Edge of Madness, the Plot Thickens, Chapter 29

The voices come and go at all hours. His dreams are haunted by faces and images not his own. Theodyl looked up to his companions, his friends. They want answers he can't give them. He just doesn't know where to start. One of the books Mooneye tasked him with is open on his lap. It is an ancient tome on Necromancy, the seal of the Royal Library of Galifar is stamped inside the cover. Paragon 157 to 4 is not happy about the newest and latest turn in events.

“These belonged to my mother.” He said while laying the matching necklace, earrings and comb into a felt lined jewelry box. Pook threw them at his face just a few hours past. “I was picking them up from the jewelers when she died. She had them cleaned every month.” The bard shut the box and locked it. His thumb slid almost casually over a knob set within it's hinges. A needle trap. “I found out later that the necklace hides the wearer from divinations as well as the kind of magic that invades the mind. The earrings are enchanted with a spell called Eagle's Splendor. The comb, I have yet to figure out, but it somehow makes it easier for people to believe what you say.”

“None of that is an answer to my questions!” Paragon growled. “I am still waiting.”

“My mother was hiding. She wore these jewels constantly, except for a few hours every month.” Theodyl looked off into space. “I guess that she was being hunted, but I still don't know why, the dragons at the Trade House made some disturbing comments.” The bard lay the box on his lap, he drew a silk kerchief from his vest and lay it over the item. He waved his hand and then put the kerchief away. The box is gone. “I am not ready to believe them, but Blackscale claims he was there to see her die. He said she tried to sing her way out. The problem is, I thought I heard her singing as I ran towards the brothel, just before I realized it was my home that was burning.”

“You are avoiding the question.” Patter cut in. Theodyl frowned.

“I took sick around my fourteenth birthday. It was a surprise, I had never been ill before.” Theodyl closed the tome on his lap. “Stargazer discovered the mark on my chest two days later. It was smaller then, with thick lines forming something like big hand print just above my heart.” He held up a mirror and opened his shirt to examine the mark. “Stargazer said it looked like a Dragon Flower, he didn't make a fuss over it. A month later he gave me the ankle bracelet. I didn't realize exactly what it did, he just told me never to take it off.”

“You have a Dragon Mark. Are you telling me you just forgot about it?! I can't believe that.” Pook looked to Paragon, they both turned to glare at the bard.

“I just put it out of my mind after a while.” The half-elf shrugged. “The auto-gnome kept me busy, and Stargazer always had something for me to study. I didn't think it was that interesting, or even that important.”

“What about after?” Paragon continued to question him. “You went to school in Cyre, yes?”

“A boarding school attached to the University. It was part prison as far as I'm concerned. My free time was taken up with an apprenticeship with that Master Inquisitive I told you about before.” Theodyl picked up his beer stein, then put it back nearly dropping it. He felt the dwarven spirit in residence, not unpleasant, but not comfortable either. The bard drank the beer straight from the skin instead.

“You've been drinking too much.” Ivor nagged. “That can't be good for you.”

“When the war broke out he joined, and I joined with him.” The bard pulled a worn medal from his vest. His lieutenant's badge is pinned to it's ribbon. “I would have died if I hadn't left when I did.” Theodyl smiled strangely. “That was a strange decision, I really don't know what would have been worse: Years in a hellish war or a few years of safety before a terrifying catastrophe consumes me and all my friends.”

“You were examined before the Tribunal, how is it that they didn't strip you of the bracelet and uncover the Mark.” Paragon brought him back to the subject at hand. “I know about their methods.”

“You were in prison?” Siff interrupted. “What did you do?” Patter asked right after.

“My duty.” Theodyl replied with a nasty gleam in his eyes. “They had me in the same set of irons for all of eight months. They stripped me of everything and kept my hands in mage proof gauntlets. I don't know why they didn't find it, it doesn't matter now.”

“An ambitious General from Cyre took command of our unit during the fighting in Karrnath,” Paragon started to explain despite Theodyl's obvious displeasure. “He had a knack for winning battles....”

“He was a murdering bastard!” The bard growled. Years later, he can still feel the hot anger.

“.....but his men paid the price. His Captain, Thersyl d'Sadelis, Theodyl's best friend, found out the man was using an artifact to encourage his men to die for him. A crime punishable by death in all of the five nations. Theodyl witnessed his murder at the hands of the General.”

“The craven scum had a mace that allowed him to overcome the will of his soldiers and throw them at the enemy as if he were driving cattle.” Theodyl is speaking through his teeth. “Hussars, Dog Solders, Longstriders, it didn't matter, he went through hundreds of men just to claim a chunk of rock and win yet another medal.”

“He used our own brothers to hunt us.” Paragon continued. “For three days we ran. The battle went on, meanwhile....”

“We circled around and hid until the fort was broken and yet another battle was won over piles of murdered soldiers.” Theodyl drew a signet ring from his vest and played with it. “I found him drunk, he was writing a report on my desertion. He blamed me for Captain d'Sadelis' death. I almost killed him.” The half-elf's face split into a terrible smile.

“I didn't find out what he did until the trial.” Paragon told the rest. “He traded his life for the General's location. He refused to speak though, until the Tribunal agreed to destroy the artifact. It was a Rod of Command, I think. We thought it was an enchanted mace the way he treated it.” The war-forged handed the bard a bottle of bourbon from the suite's bar. “Theodyl had turned him to stone with a scroll he stole out of a war-mage's tent. He buried the general in a corpse pit the soldiers were using to dispose of the enemy dead.”

“They never found his hands or his nose.” Theodyl spoke again. “He lives in a Thrane Hospice now. He needs a servant to feed him and wash him.” It is a living death for a prideful soldier, he thought. He polished the signet ring after breathing on it. Theodyl smiled at it's sigil and then put it away. “House Deneith managed to save their cursed Rod by saying it was a valuable heirloom. They could never fix their General though.”

“The House managed destroy Theodyl's career. He will never serve in the military again.” The war-forged glared at the half-elf. “Sharn City Council made him take an oath before they let him operate as an Inquisitive....” Paragon cocked his head and pointed. “Was that the General's signet?! Don't tell me that....!”

“Story time is over!” Theodyl growled and threw the bottle of bourbon against the wall. “Get out. I want to sleep and you all need to leave.” He stared at the shattered glass until the last of them made their way out. Ivor gave him a hurt look. Pook, Siff, and Patter glared at him to no avail. “They can all got to hell.” The bard hissed as he opened the tome on his lap and started to read. The Geas is driving him hard because he's managed to ignore it for over two days. He is letting it. It is a better escape than thinking his way to madness or drinking himself to oblivion.

“Go to sleep,” Paragon told the changelings, “I will watch his room and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.” Pook made a snide remark. Patter and Siff said something else. Ivor cursed.

Paragon 157 to 4 has seen his friend in a foul mood before. The changelings, however, have not. Perhaps, it was a mistake to push him. Theodyl has been strange of late. The war-forged watched the door to their room close. Once he was sure that he was alone he closed the curtain to the lounge. He opened the door to a small pot-bellied stove and tossed in a bundle of rune carved kindling tied with gold wire. A few sparks from his tinder box set it ablaze. Paragon filled the tea pot and then sat and stared at the fire.

“What is it?” Pyrus asked through the flame.

“There's been a problem with Theodyl.”

“Another problem, you mean. What do you require?”

“I need to know about a Dragon Mark and I need an item examined.”

“Do you want your name written across one of the moons as well?”

“It's important. Should I ask someone else?”

“Oh, very well, what about the item?”

“It is magic. I want to know what it is, what it does, and who made it.”

“And the Dragon Mark? Which one do you need to know about?”

“The kind the Houses don't like. Isn't there a book or something?”

“There are three hundred in the University shelves alone. Most of them are restricted. House Vadalis may have more, they were researching the breeding of Marks before their man in charge was excoriated and later silenced. What predicament did he get you into now?”

“I can provide you with a drawing of the mark and the names of both his parents as well as their places of origin.”

“I don't like the way that sounds. The research alone will draw unwanted attention. Do you realize that I could get killed just for asking? We are talking about Theodyl right?”

“He's my brother.”

“I just knew there was something strange about him....Place the item in the fire. Contact me tomorrow night after the tenth bell about the other matter. I will need to secure my chambers. He would die for you, it's the only reason I have any contact with him. This better be worth it.”

“Thank you.”

“Try not to die again.” The fire went out. The small lead lined box is gone along with the wood and ashes. The iron stove looks as if it has been cleaned.

Paragon harrumphed. He poured the hot water from the teapot over some of the herbs the healer from Vadalis gave Pook. The war-forged wasn't surprised to find Ivor hiding in the shadows behind him. She is wearing a female shape beneath a woman's linen night shirt. It is strange the way the changelings can do what they do. War-forged don't have to deal with having a sex. The concept is alien to him. The bond Theodyl shares with the changeling is strange as well. Sexual relations have to do with reproduction, according to Theodyl's books. The concept of romance has to do with convincing a mate that one is interesting to copulate with. The fact that Theodyl seems to seek intercourse as a sort of entertainment adds to the confusion. Paragon is happy he doesn't have those kinds of needs.

“Here,” Paragon handed her a tray loaded with tea and biscuits. “Make sure he eats.” She tried to apologize for spying, he ignored her. “I don't think you should push him with any more questions. It takes him a while to act civil after he throws a fit.” The war-forged harrumphed. “If he gets nasty let me know, I'll smack him for his trouble.”

Ivor let herself into Theodyl's chamber. The bard didn't bother looking up from his reading. The room is humid and it stinks of sweat and spilled bourbon. Theodyl is going to need a bath soon. She set the tray in front of him and opened the windows. She threatened him with Paragon if he didn't eat or drink his tea. The bard made a face, but he reached out for a biscuit and stuffed it in his mouth. Ivor told him to wash before she crawled into his bed and curled up in his blanket. Theodyl scowled at her as he sipped on his tea.

The tome is a treatise on the lower valences of necromantic study. For the most part, it deals with magic useful in the battle field. It covers all of the basics, however. It can be used as a stepping stone towards serious study of necromancy. Of the other books Mooneye saddled the bard with, one deals with spirits and extra planar subjects, the other deals with protective valences and shielding magic. Theodyl isn't very happy now that he can think more clearly. It is as if Mooneye and the Sovereign Host knew about his problem before he did. He can believe that Olladra guides his path. The bard likes the idea that he can pray for luck, or that the smile of his Goddess can inspire his songs. What he can't accept, is the kind of influence over his fate that the Necromancer and maybe the Gods seem to want. He lives by his wits, not by some divine muck-a-muck's will.

Theodyl sighed. He looked to Ivor's peacefully sleeping form and finished his bitter tea. He's got time to transcribe a few spells. The bard can't see a clear path to freedom just yet. He needs an edge, he is surprised that he can't seem to find one. The bard sighed again. Work first, worry later, he thought.

Ivor woke to the sounds of Theodyl having a nightmare. At least, he doesn't stink like he did before. She will take that as an apology. His skin felt clammy, yet the Dragon Mark on his chest felt uncomfortably warm against her. She held him close and sang a silly song her mother taught her as a child. He calmed a bit, but his dreams weren't anymore pleasant. It is then that she noticed another in the room.

“Peace, it's only me.” Siff whispered. “How is he?”

“He's having a nightmare,” She replied. “something bad.”

“You've fallen in love with him.” It isn't a question. Ivor could feel Siff's frown in the dark.

“No...I...” Ivor started to say.

“We were both born to womanhood, you can't fool me.” Siff interrupted. “Pook and Patter are playing at this. Even with the Traveler's blessings, it will be a long time before they truly understand what it is to have a woman's heart.”

“What am I supposed to do then?” Ivor's voice squeaked.

“Love him if you must, I don't have a problem with it.” Siff reached out and lay a Holy symbol on Theodyl's brow. “He will sleep better now. When the time comes, I expect you to tell him about the Traveler and how through Him, he will find what he desires.”


“No buts, you prayed for love and you found it.” Siff's voice turned edgy. “Everything has a price, do you forget?”

“How did you know?” Ivor trembled.

“I know because I must, just as you will know when to speak to him about our God.” Siff tried to ease the fear from her friend's heart. “You aren't going to hurt him, don't fret. There are only choices and consequences to choices. He will need to find his path soon and you will be there at the right time to offer him an option.”

“Just an option?” Ivor's voice is heavy with suspicion. Siff nodded from the shadows. “Why me?” Ivor asked.

“Because he will love you back and it is through that love that he will trust you enough to listen.” Siff replied.

Paragon pretended to be at his practice as Siff skulked across the hall and crept into her room. The sapphires implanted in his eyes allowed him to see her despite whatever trick she used to hide. His glaive whistled through the air as he practiced a complicated series of parries, thrusts and slashes. He's heard everything. A shiny stone hidden beneath the bard's bed is all that it took. Paragon found it while packing Theodyl's laboratory, it was labeled as a Listening Stone. There is plenty he doesn't understand, but he's got the gist of it. The changelings have an agenda. Their God wants something from Theodyl. The half-elf is hard to handle as it is, with them pulling him in another direction, things are liable to get more complicated.

Paragon cannot trust them with Theodyl's life. The war-forged still holds to his final contract to protect the half-elf. His freedom doesn't change the fact that he swore an oath and took his payment. They are friends and brothers, but he doesn't see a conflict of interest. In all modesty, there is no one that can do it better. The imaginary foes in his mind shifted to resemble four changelings and one gnome sized lich. His deadly glaive cut into them over and over again. If, and when the time comes, Paragon 157 to 4 will not hesitate. Practice makes the Soldier perfect.
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