Aphonion Tales (New posts 6/13, 6/15, 6/19)

Aphonion is the campaign world of one of the finest DMs I've ever played with. Currently, I only get to play with him a couple of times a year. This storyhour depicts adventures in the current campaign I play in, which has met for two long sessions so far. I'm going to start in media res by beginning a write up of the most recent game, but I'm going to leave a spot free in case I ever get around to writing up the first game.

These writeups are Copyright 2004-2008, the author. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without permission. The world design is Copyright 1975-2008, the DM. I hope people enjoy this storyhour.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Session 2:

Mahler Fife and Alistair talked quietly in one of the nicer taverns in Plurg in the City of Enclaves, which is to say a dive.

"The hags seem to do everything in threes," Alistair observed. "Stories always tell of covens of three, and at each of the two bases they were using for their slaving they had a triangle on the wall. When the guard hit one of the triangles, it triggered the alarm spell. I figure that the hags' actual base probably forms the third point of an equilateral triangle with the two we found so far. We just need to get a map, plot the points, confirm which one the hags are at, and turn it over to the Glordiadelian church troops to collect our reward."

"Sounds right to me. I bet we can get a map of the Enclave from the local parish church." Mahler finished his drink, dropped a copper for the tab, and stood to leave.

The two young men quickly reached the local temple to Glordiadel. A quick conversation with an acolyte persuaded him to show them a map of the Enclave- an authoritative attitude can be remarkably persuasive sometimes. A few quick moves with a compass identified the two possibilities. One of the two was at the docks of the Enclave, across from an Enclave filled with warehouses and not far from the notorious slave-holding Enclave of Zorplona-Argoni. The other possible vertex was far within the Enclave, in a nondistinguished section of streets.

Mahler looked at the two options. "The dock seems the best bet to check first. The hags seem to have some affinity for water, and besides, its position would make shipping slaves out to whereever they're sold easier."

"Makes sense. Let's check it out."

Mahler and Alistair travelled to the docks. Searching around pier by pier seemed a little two obvious, so they stealthily stowed away on board one of the many barges carrying the shipping down the canals. Crouched stealthily by the gunwales of the barge, they examined each pier as the barge slowly drifted past. Most of the piers were unremarkable. But as they approached the precise area predicted by the pattern, they noticed that one of the pier had an understructure enclosed in walls-- precisely what would be needed if the hags were using this area for a hideout.

Mahler dropped his heaviest gear and prepared to drop over the edge. "I'm going to take a closer look." Alistair gathered up a coil of rope near one hand, while keeping his spiked chain ready to hand but well concealed. Mahler slid lightly into the murky, foul smelling canal water, and quietly stroked over to the structure. When he arrived at the structure's side, he could hear voices within.

"Is dat de barge?"

"Naw, we gotta wait some more. But the ol' gal said it would be soon."

"And then she said we're supposed to clear out. I don't know why she wants us to leave, but I'm sure she'll tell us when she's ready."

Mahler maneuvered to where he could see into the structure through a gap between two planks. The two voices belonged to half-orc guards. The only other people in the structure were a group of scared human children-- kidnapped by the hags to be sold into slavery. Mahler carefully remained perfectly still while one of the half-orcs looked through a knothole. But as the guard turned back to his companion, Mahler pushed away from the pier and swam through the fetid water to rejoin Alistair, who hoisted him back into the barge.

"Definitely some more slavers there. The hags aren't there, though. We should act quickly, though. They're supposed to deliver the slaves soon."

"Hmm. I could create an illusion of one of the hags, based on what we saw before. We might be able to fool the guards into leaving without a fight. I can't make sound for the illusion, though."

"I can mimic the hag's voice. It'll be good enough to fool them."

"Let's send them back to one of the hideouts we already raided. The hags won't check back there, and we can capture them at our leisure. In the meantime, we can grab the barge that's coming to take delivery by calling in some reinforcements."

The barge captain burst in with a startled, "hey, wot's this, and who are you?"

Mahler looked up at the captain from under his cloak. "Uh... we're some of your crew. We got hired by the foreman..."

"No, you're not! I know all of my crew, and..."

Alistair tried a different tack. "Listen, sir, just be quiet and we'll explain." Alistair flashed a few silver coins to draw the captain's attention. He passed the coins over. "We're looking to rent a pier in this area for our shipping concern, and we wanted to get a view upclose without anyone the wiser. So we could know how much to offer, y'know?"

Satisfied with the bribe, the captain quickly began turning away. "Ah, right. Never noticed you on board at all..."

"Captain, would you mind dropping us off at that pier?" Alistair pointed at the pier next to the hag's hideout.

"Not at all."

"And actually, if you could block traffic for a little bit-- we don't want to be interrupted."

"Blocking traffic could get me fined!" Alistair handed the captain a gold piece. Moments later the captain skewed the barge across the canal and began yelling at his crew for having screwed things up. It would clearly be several minutes before the barges started moving again.

The two young men hopped off the barge onto the dock. Mahler dirtied up each of their faces to make them more convincing as employees of the hag. Mahler made some general noise to conceal the spellcasting, and an image of a green hag appeared. Neither paid much attention to a slight shimmering in the air nearby.

The hag strode imperiously into the slave center, trailed by Mahler and Alistair doing their best thug impressions. The two guards looked up in surprise.

"There's been a change in plans." Mahler threw his voice and changed it to sound like the hag's. "You two should head to the other base, beneath the pipe foundry, and wait for further orders there. These two," the hag gestured at Mahler and Alistair, "will watch these slaves until pick-up."

"Yes, mum. We'll go right then." The guards were confused, but they knew better than to argue with the hag and left immediately.

A slight breeze stirred through the structure, stopping as the guards left, but Mahler and Alistair assumed that it was just an unusual windpattern. Besides, they had more important things to worry about. As soon as the guards were out of earshot, the hag disappeared and Mahler and Alistair began releasing the children. "Don't worry kids- we're here to rescue you." While Mahler freed the last captives, Alistair fished a scrap of parchment out of a pocket, scribbled a note on it, and melted some wax. He drew a signet ring out of one of his pockets, carefully set the seal inside the letter while positioning himself so that Mahler could never see either seal or signet, closed the letter, and sealed it on the outside with a simple thumbprint. The ring dropped back into the same deep pocket it came from.

Turning to one of the oldest children, Alistair handed him the letter and said, "Take this to the temple of Glordiadel. Tell whoever you meet at the temple that you were told to give this directly to the priest." As the child ran off with the message, Alistair turned to Mahler. "That should get us some back-up. When the barge arrives to pick up the children, we'll be in a position to start following the slave trade the other direction by capturing whoever crews the barge."

Meanwhile, a ripple in the air continued to follow the two guards across the Enclave of Plurg. One said to his companion, "Did the ol' gal seem a little off to you?"

"I dunno. Maybe she's sick or somethin'."

"Hope not. Hate to see what could make 'er sick. She just seemed a little... off."

As they walked down the street, an old crone with a bag of bright, juicy apples looked at them in surprise and distaste. Transforming into her true form, a ten-foot tall night hag, she spun on the hapless guards. "What are you doing here? Why aren't you at your posts?"

The guards pulled up short. "One of your sisters told us to go to the base below the pipe foundry. Told us the new guards would watch the slaves 'til the delivery was made."

"Did she, now? Tell me about these new guards." The hag never noticed the shimmer in the air as it zipped back to the slave pen.

Moments later, a strange form appeared before Mahler and Alistair. The form had the torso of a man, but only a whirlwind for legs. Furthermore, the entire body of the stranger had a blue cast to it, and was vaguely translucent.

Mahler and Alistair leapt back, drawing their weapons. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"My name is Stithis," replied the djinn. "I've come to warn you. I've been watching your efforts, and you need to know that the hag found out that you had sent the guards away."

"She can teleport, so she'll be here soon." Alistair turned to the children who were still milling around. "You need to run now. The hag is coming back, so scatter." The children ran away from the dock in every direction. Alistair and Mahler clambered up to the top of the dock, where they each hid. Stithis simply resumed his invisibility.

Meanwhile, a group of Council of Opposition Canal Guards, resplendent in their many colored sashes, had arrived in a fast boat to clear the traffic problems. Knowing his cue to unblock the canal, the captain of the barge swung back into traffic, resolving the problem. But as a result of his delay, the Canal Guards were perfectly positioned to hear the hag cry out, "Where are my slaves?" The hag burst through the door at the end of the slave den below the pier, anger and hatred flashing in her eyes.

The leader of the Canal Guards turned to one of his companions. "Plurg isn't one of the Enclaves that permits slavery, is it?"

"No, sir."

"Pull for that pier!"

The hag looked at the approaching boat and called out some arcane words while gesturing. A lightning bolt ran the course of the guard boat, badly injuring many of the guards. Her magic attack only drew more attention, however. Alistair and Mahler continued to hide as best as they could on the top of the pier. A spark halfling sorcerer of their acquaintance, Delbon Glittercheeks, watched from a perch nearby. Stithis remained invisible. But most importantly, a group of Glordiadelian church guards, resplendant in their immaculate white surcoats, hurried towards the dock, followed at a little distance by a somewhat portly priest who could not move as fast now that he was no longer a young man. Seeing the lightning bolt, the Glordiadelians redoubled their pace, determined to engage the foe as swiftly as possible.

The hag recognized the threat that the Glordiadelians posed. Turning her attention back in that direction, she invoked another spell. With loud claps of displaced air, the two lesser hags appeared on the dock, between the night hag and the church troops. The lesser hags were both annis hags, with scabrous, mottled green skin, greenish black hair, and long claws at the ends of their hands. One of the green hags flung a clump of ivy at the nearest group of Glordiadelians, crying out the name of a major demon as the command word. As the ivy spun in the air, it expanded out into a net that ensnared three of the church soldiers and began slowly crushing the life out of them. The other hag pounced on one of the unentangled soldiers and savaged him with her claws, leaving him dead or dying in seconds.

Mahler could not simply watch any longer. He dropped off the end of the pier. As he fell, he stabbed the balck hag with one of his daggers and grabbed on as hard as he could, pulling her with him off the end of the lower level of the pier and into the foul water of the canal. The two began sinking quickly.

Delbon decided to help by conjuring a layer of grease under the hag that threw the constricting net, hoping to send her as well into the canal. She was unable to remain standing, but fell on the pier, not into the water. Stithis engaged the hag who was ripping into the guards. He slammed his halberd into the hag's back, but she continued on, oblivious to the new threat. Alistair, for his part, still viewed the situation as too dangerous to reveal himself, and quietly hid and hoped.

The black hag twisted out of Mahler's grip as they sank. She reached out and grabbed his head, turning it to face her so she could stare deep into his eyes. As she did, she unleashed one of her most fearsome powers, trying to use her gaze to snuff out Mahler's life, but his will was too strong. She did, however, carve a foul rune into Mahler's forehead with one of her claws. Mahler broke free of her and swam off towards the surface, hoping that she would be unable to swim and would drown.

The guards continued to battle the annis hags. The hag was too absorbed in her bloodlust to realize that the priest and Stithis each presented a greater danger than the church troops, so she ripped another guard apart. Delbon created grease beneath her as well, while Stithis continued to strike her. The priest gestured at her and held forth the sun symbol of his god. A bright beam of light shot out from his holy symbol and burned the hag. Alistair continued to hide, although he readied his spiked chain just in case.

The black hag, having lost her current prey, landed at the bottom of the canal and gave a mighty leap, travelling all the way out of the canal to land on the top of the pier. Mahler was not far behind, climbing up the side of the pier. Stithis and the guards continued battling the annis hags, who laid low another few guards. Fortunately, Glordiadelian church troops are determined and well-trained: they would die before allowing an enemy to reach the priest they guarded. A solid blow from Stithis caused the uninjured green hag to slip in Delbon's grease and to tumble all the way off the dock and into the water. Unlike the black hag, she both needed to breathe and could not swim, sinking worriedly to the bottom of the canal. After a few worried seconds, she remembered the stairs out of the canals some distance away, and simply walked along the bottom of the canals until she could make her escape. Still, she was out of the fight, which accomplished Stithis's main goal.

The priest, recognizing that the towering, extraplanar hag represented a much greater threat than the remaining annis hag, called forth a pillar of flame from the sky. His flame strike hurt the black hag, but she remained focused on vengeance twoards Mahler, who flung one of his daggers at her. As the hag began to cast another spell, Alistair decided that the time to hide had passed and struck out at her with his spiked chain. His aim was true and he hit a blow that should have been very heavy, but his weapon was unfortunately made of simple, unenchanted steel. The hag was not even distracted as the weapon failed to harm her. She finished her spell and bolts of magical energy streaked from her hand. As the magic missiles struck Mahler, he toppled over.

Stithis and the guards finally managed to overcome the remaining annis hag, and none too soon: only a handful of guards could still fight and protect the priest. Realizing that this was not a battle she could win, the black hag slung Mahler's unconscious, bleeding body over her shoulder and leaped back into the water below.

As she walked away on the bottom of the canal, Mahler began to drown. Stithis, however, possessed unusual devotion to his comrades for a djinn, and flew after Mahler hoping to perform a rescue. He skimmed invisibly along the surface of the canal. As his body consisted solely of hardened air, it was rather more malleable than most, and he shifted the lengths of his arms. Swinging his now greatly elongated right arm down into the water, Stithis scooped Mahler's unconscious form off of the night hag, and hauled his head above water, moments before he would have drowned. Stithis quickly flew back to the pier, and the night hag, although angered by the loss of her prisoner, continued on.

Meanwhile, the priest and Alistair tried to save as many of the guards as they could. Several guards were already quite dead, but the priest was able to heal several, and Alistair cut the net off the guards it entangled just before they would have died. After attending to his allies, Alistair stabilized the green hag before she would have bled to death. A prisoner, after all, is much more valuable than a dead enemy. Stithis carefully laid Mahler on the pier and made sure he was breathing. A quick spell by the priest restored Mahler to consciousness.

The priest looked around at the motley group gathered on the pier. "Where is he?"

Mahler looked at him in confusion. "Who?"

"Where is Lord Alistair?"

From his position behind the priest's back, Alistair shook his head emphatically at Mahler. Mahler looked at the priest seriously. "Lord Alistair? He, ah, he isn't here. We haven't seen him in days."

"But he sent us a message under his seal requesting aid! The Archduchy has always been among the most pious Glordiadelian realms, and we were happy to come to his aid, but we need to find him."

Mahler continued, "We are companions of his. He was working with us to break up a slavery ring, but he left several days ago. He left us a piece of parchment with his seal on it, saying that we could use it to get aid if we needed it. That's what we sent to you."

"Ah, fighting against slavery is just the sort of thing he would do. Still, we need to find him. He hadn't been heard from in months. And with his father's death, finding him is even more urgent."

Alistair interrupted, surprised and distressed. "His father's death?"

"Oh, yes, his father was killed some while ago. The efforts to find Lord Alistair have become much more urgent since then."

Mahler stepped in. "We could probably get a message to Lord Alistair. Let him know about his father's death and such."

"Yes, that would be best. If you go to the cathedral of Glordiadel and ask to see the Bishop in a few hours time, he'll be able to explain more and provide appropriate messages for Lord Alistair. In the meantime, we should move the bodies back to the church, and deal with the prisoner."

Alistair removed the hag's magical belt-- the Inquisition would not need the loot. "We'll need to have her interrogated."

"It's probably best if we turn her over to the Church of Paranswarm, then. The Paranswarmians have also been fighting these slaving rings, and they have an Inquisition that will be better at getting information from the hag, much as I'm loathe to have any connection to their Inquisition."

The surviving guards escorted the hag to a church of Paranswarm, where the Inquisition took charge of the prisoner, after promising to share whatever intelligence they might gather.

Having dealt with that matter, the small group retired to a convenient inn, where they paid the extra for a private room. Mahler carefully checked that no one lurked in the hall outside, and then shut the door securely. Turning to Alistair, he raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Lord Alistair, eh?"

"Indeed, although just Alistair will do fine." Alistair grimaced. "I figured that using my seal would get us some reinforcements. I didn't figure they'd be spending much energy looking for me this far from home. But then, I didn't know my father had died, either."

"Who was your father, anyway? And where's home?"

"Home is the Archduchy of Canberry. My father's the Marquis Belconnen. Or, I suppose, he was. More to the point, my grandmother is Her Sovereign Grace, the Grand Duchess of Canberry. My father was her heir-apparent."

Delbon looked at him in surprise. "Are you now?"

"It's a little complicated. My father didn't have any legitimate children, and I'm his only acknowledged child. But some of my older half-siblings are well known, and my grandmother had several other children. So, while I have a claim, so do a lot of people, and it's not clear that I have a duty. And it's not a claim that I've ever wanted."

Mahler nodded. "You don't have to worry about it if you don't want to. We could claim the reward, and you could keep living the life you're living."

Alistair shook his head. "I need to go to see the Bishop. I don't think he'll know me, and I want to hear how my father died and what the situation is back home. I can't let my country fall into a civil war, if that's likely to happen." He tugged at his long hair. "If we crop my hair short, I won't look much like any descriptions they may have of me. Back home I wore it long under a powdered wig."

Mahler nodded. "I can help disguise you." Mahler set to work with a disguise kit, changing Alistair's skin tone as well as clipping his hair short. When he was satisfied with his work, he nodded.

Stithis piped up. "You'll need a fake name, too. How about Jer Pardon?"

"Sounds good to me." Alistair paused as they prepared to leave their room and took out a piece of parchment. He quickly scrawled a note on it, and then sealed it before handing it to Mahler. "It's a letter explaining that the church troops who died fighting the hags were killed on Lord Alistair's business, and providing their families with a right to pensions from the Archduchy, or spots as squires for their children if any want to be knights, and that sort of thing. Grandma would approve..."

Mahler, Stithis, Delbon, and "Jer Pardon" walked to the Cathedral of Glordiadel. An acolyte looked them over suspiciously but quickly hurried them to the chancery when informed that the Bishop wished to see them. After a short wait in a well-appointed foyer, one of the Bishop's attendants entered the room and gestured towards the door he had entered from. "His Eminence, Bishop Humboldt the Holy, will see you now."

Bishop Humboldt turned out to be a middle-aged man, with a round body and a kindly smile. "The blessings of Glordiadel be upon you." Alistair kissed the bishop's ring, but none of the others approached.

"Thank you, Your Eminence," Mahler said, as the group took the seats by the fire that the Bishop indicated.

The Bishop gestured to another person in the room, a fit and well-dressed man of middle age. "I asked Earl Richard Sheffield, the Ambassador from Canberry, to join me when I first received the report that Lord Alistair was nearby. He is most eager to see him returned safely home."

Alistair quickly scooped up a wine glass and brought it in front of his face. He had never met Bishop Humboldt before, but Earl Sheffield was an old friend of his father's. Mahler's disguise skills would have to be good indeed to fool "Uncle Richard."

The Earl nodded to the motley group before him. "I am so glad to have made contact with companions of Lord Alistair. It is vital that he return to Canberry as quickly as possible. With his father dead, the situation is rather delicate."

Mahler nodded. "We understand. Unfortunately, Lord Alistair is several days ride out of the City. Pursuing a possible diplomatic marriage with an exotic country."

The Earl thought for a moment. "Couldn't be Ecsilias, or the dwarves... He must be searching for a bride among the elves then. That certainly would be interesting..."

"I'm sure we could get a message to him," Mahler continued.

Alistair couldn't stand to wait any longer. "How did his father die? I'm sure he'll want to be informed."

Despite his best efforts to keep a hand concealing part of his face, speaking drew the Earl's attention. The Earl's brow furrowed in thought, as if he almost recognized Alistair. Stithis averted the looming embarassment by allowing the wine glass in his hand to pass through his mostly air body. The resulting commotion and apologies thoroughly occupied the Earl's attention until Mahler prodded further. "Lord Alistair's father's death?"

"Ah, yes," the Earl's eyes grew sad. "He was on one of his adventures. Always trying to save the world, never minding the dangers. A Zorplona-Argoni valar sought to enslave many of the refugees from the fallen cities to the south of Canberry. The Marquis Belconnen and his entourage were crazy enough to fight the valar. It's not thought possible to defeat the fallen elves on one of their flying ships, but they managed to drive them off and save the refugees. Their victory came at great cost, however, leaving Lord Alistair's father among the slain."

"I assume that they attempted to raise him?" Mahler inquired.

The Bishop nodded. "Yes, but the efforts failed. Resurrection magic has its limits. Certain parts of the body must be largely intact-- destruction of the head and heart will prevent resurrection. And of course the subject must be willing to return. I do not know why the Marquis's resurrection was unsuccessful. I was not called on to assist."

"But his soul is safely with Glordiadel?" Alistair asked, worrying about the least pleasant reason that resurrection could be impossible.

"Indeed. I was assured that the divinations performed after his death proved that the Marquis's soul is safely in its eternal reward."

The Earl spoke up. "While I appreciate that Lord Alistair will want to know these details, I'm afraid that we must concentrate on the situation now. For all his virtues, Lord Alistair's father was somewhat .... inappropriate in his personal life. Why he couldn't have simply had a nice family with his perfectly nice wife and stopped his roaming is beyond me. But he did not, and we now need to deal with the consequences."

"Is it clear who is the heir-apparent now?"

"No, which is where the trouble lies. So far, Her Sovereign Grace the Grand Duchess has made no pronouncements on the subject. And there are several candidates with reasonable claims. The Marquis's next oldest brother, of course, is a strong candidate as the legitimate descendant of the Duchess with the highest claim. But so far, he has not indicated any interest in the office. The Marquis's children raise a particularly thorny problem. The older children are all by thoroughly inappropriate mothers and have little official standing, but some of them are well-known and have been successful as generals and the like. Lord Alistair, as the only openly acknowledged child and the only one of the Marquis's children with a vaguely suitable noblewoman, would also have a strong claim, but not while absent from the Archduchy."

"Have any of the Marquis's children taken steps to secure the inheritance?"

"So far, only Jerrabom, one of the Marquis's oldest children has declared his claim-- an act which probably offended Her Grace and eliminated him from true contention. Still, he has a strong military background, which could be particularly worrisome if anything happened to the Grand Duchess's health before the issue was resolved. None of the Marquis's other seven children are making public claims, although some of them may be advancing their cause privately, and all of them could make a plausible claim." The Earl paused. "I think that makes it clear why it is important for Lord Alistair to return home."

Alistair nodded slowly. "Especially if it was not just poor luck that his father's death was not reversible."

"Taking on a valar borders on the crazy... perhaps he knew the likely result and chose not to come back, although I would have thought that he would have talked to me before that. Or he may have merely been brave and unlucky. Heaven knows he was brave and lucky enough times in the past. But there may have been something more sinister at work in preventing his return, in which case the Archduchy may be gravely threatened."

Alistair spoke clearly and firmly, despite the hand that he insisted on holding in front of his face. "I'm sure that Lord Alistair will return promptly to Canberry when he understands the full situation."

Mahler looked sharply at Alistair and paused for a moment. "Yes, I'm sure he will. We will be happy to deliver the message to him."

Both Earl Sheffield and the Bishop looked relieved.

One of the Bishop's aides slipped into the chamber and whispered quietly into the Bishop's ear.

"You are certain that it was not merely misplaced?" the Bishop asked. The aide nodded and whispered a little more. The Bishop looked at the group with concern. "I fear you had best contact Lord Alistair quickly. The message with his seal requesting aid has been stolen. I fear that some enemy intends to use his seal to scry on him."

Mahler thought for a second. "Has anyone been making inquiries after Lord Alistair? It might give us some information about who these enemies are."

"A good question. Devon, please make some discreet inquiries about any unusual questions or strangers at either the cathedral or the church in Plurg." The aide immediately departed.

Alistair added, "We may need to travel incognito. If people are searching for Lord Alistair, using his name openly could be dangerous."

"A wise precaution," Earl Sheffield responded. "Here, take these. They state that the bearers have the favor of the Earl Richard of Sheffield, Ambassador from the Court of Canberry to the City of Enclaves, and are worthy of assistance. It should smooth your path, at least in some parts, without Lord Alistair needing to reveal himself. Still, I would use them sparingly and with caution-- while you are hardly the only people who bear messages like these, Lord Alistair's enemies might figure out why you have them." As Alistair reached forward to take his, the Earl stared at him. "You look familiar... did you accompany Lord Alistair from Canberry?"

All four startled in dismay, and Stithis decided on desperate measures. He flung the ornate silver carafe to the ground, soaking the Earl's fine garments. As the Earl patted at his clothes with a handkerchief, the Bishop stared more carefully at Stithis. "I say... are you an air elemental?"

"A djinni, sir."

"Ah, I see. And an unbound one at that. Most unusual... we rarely see your kind on this plane without being bound to the will of some mage."

"I travelled here on my own. I was curious."

The Bishop nodded. "I hope you are enjoying your time here." He paused in thought. "If you have a human friend who you can trust... you may wish to go through a binding ritual. As long as you are unbound, you could be bound by some evil wizard against your will. And if you were slain, it would be permanent. If you were to allow yourself to be bound by a trusted ally, you would then be immune to further attempts to bind you, and if you were defeated in battle, you would simply be returned to your own plane."

"Who could bind me? Would it have to be a wizard? And would I need to stay near them?"

"The person to bind you would need to have sufficient skill with magic to be able to perform the ritual but need not be an actual wizard. A mage, a bard, some priests with the right specializations, would all be capable. You could travel freely, as long as they did not exert their will against you, of course, and as long as you did not try to leave the plane without their permission."

"Thank you for telling me this. I know someone who may do well."

Devon returned to the Bishop's sitting room. "Your Eminence, I have the answer about suspicious questions." The Bishop waved for him to continue. "One of the acolytes on duty at the Cathedral reported a beggar asking after the high nobility of Canberry, ostensibly seeking to throw himself upon their mercy. He was told that the honorable Earl is the only member of the Court of Canberry anywhere near the City of Enclaves.
Upon hearing that, he departed."

"Does this beggar have a description?" asked Mahler.

"Yes, sir. He stood about five foot eight, with short cropped hair. The acolyte said that what he noticed most was the beggar's piercing steel-gray eyes."

"Sounds like someone from the Hidden Guild," said Alistair.

Mahler nodded. "In which case, we'd best be on our way. The sooner Lord Alistair is informed of the details and begins his trip home, the safer we'll all be."

The Earl nodded. "I will be certain to inform Her Sovereign Grace that her grandson will be returning. I know she will be grateful for the news."

The Bishop rose. "The blessing of Glordiadel be upon you-- may His Light guide your way safely back to Canberry."


First Post
Meanwhile, in another part of the Enclave...

Plurg was probably the least pretty enclave in the City of Enclaves. Certainly it was one of the ones with the least pretty name. And the least pretty part of Plurg was the docks area – broken-down tenements, seedy shops, alleys filled with smelly unidentified piles. That was part of the reason that the hag and the slavers had set up shop there. Nobody paid attention to what went on in the docks. Oh, the temples of Glordiadel did what they could when they could, but that wasn’t often – temples were always understaffed in neighborhoods like this.

That’s why Kit felt that she had to look out for the younger children. She’d been born in the docks neighborhood, and had lived there for all of her sixteen years, mostly making her way on the street. She could take care of herself – she was tough, quick on her feet, and unlike her neighborhood, she was very pretty, even under the scruffiness and dirt that came from living where she did. So she could flash a sweet smile and talk her way out of most situations. People just always seemed to do what Kit wanted them to.

And so she felt responsible for the other kids in the docks – the ones who couldn’t take care of themselves. She’d make sure the bullies wouldn’t hurt the kids who couldn’t stand up for themselves; she’d make sure they got home to their parents at night if they had parents, and to someone’s parents if they didn’t have any of their own.

Which is why tonight, she was creeping through the darkest back alleys, trying to track down where a few of her kids might have gone. These weren’t the type to run away, and even the bullies swore that they hadn’t touched them. Which left only one thing, according to the rumors that she’d overheard behind the tavern: slavers.

A sudden noise made Kit pause, holding her breath and flattening herself against the wall of a building.

“You think they follow?” came a guttural voice from right at her feet.

“Naw. We safe here.”

Ever so carefully, Kit edged away from the source of the voices, and slowly knelt down. A narrow window, its frame cracked and hanging askew, opened into a dim basement room. Two hulking half-orcs were clearly visible, their huge lumpy muscled forms seeming to take up the entire room. Then another sound caught Kit’s ear – a high-pitched whimper, unmistakably that of a child. She knew where her kids had gotten to.

“You sure they won’t chase?” the first half-orc persisted. “That priest – he look awful mad.”

“Told you, we safe here!” the second one answered. “Priests ain’t gonna follow. Dunno what’s gonna happen with the old gal, but we got the kids and we gonna sell 'em even if the old gal ain’t here.”

“Heh,” the first half-orc chuckled – an ugly sound that produced another whimper from one of the children somewhere in the shadows. “Yeah, more money for us.”

Kit pressed herself back against the wall, her mind racing. There were only two temples in this section of the docks neighborhood – one to Glordiadel and one to Paranswarm. It would be completely reasonable for anyone to be afraid of priests of Paranswarm following them, and they might get up in arms about something as illegal as slaving. On the other hand, the Glordiadelians would be much more likely to help if she went to them, even if they weren’t the same priests that the half-orcs were talking about. She took one last look around the alley, taking careful note of the surrounding buildings and their position, and crept off towards the nearest temple of Glordiadel.


First Post
thatdarncat said:
When will you be playing next?

In a few weeks. That's one of the reasons we're writing everything up - to refresh our memories before another round of Aphonion fun :)

I'm glad you're enjoying reading it! There should be another Kit update by the end of the day.


First Post
Meanwhile, Part 2

The temple of Glordiadel was hardly ever well-populated after dark – the god of the sun didn’t tend to get many followers who came by at night, even in this neighborhood. But Kit could still see a small light burning inside, and she decided to risk a knock at the door. One hand rested on her battered rapier; the other slipped into her pocket, giving her lucky rock a quick toss. Come on. Let me have chosen right this time…

“Just a minute!” a cracked but pleasant voice called out from inside. A moment later, the door opened, to reveal a bent, aged priest, with a broad smile on his wrinkled face. “The sun may be gone, but the light always remains! I’m Father Gavin. What can I do for you, child?”

Kit drew back skeptically. “Good evening. Father,” she added, remembering the title almost too late. “Um…this might sound a little odd, but…”

“Are you troubled, child?” the priest asked, giving her a searching, sympathetic look.

“No! I mean, it’s not me, it’s – look, there are some kids who have been taken by slavers. And I heard that you might have been doing something to help them.”

Father Gavin blinked. “Why, yes. Just this evening, we helped free a group of children from the foul slavers who came in from across the canal. Are there more of them?”

Kit nodded quickly. “Yes!” she cried. “At least two half-orcs, holding maybe four or five children. I know exactly where they are – I can take you to them.”

“Then let’s be off!” The priest shuffled off to the side of the door, then returned with a heavy mace brandished in one wrinkled hand, the sleeve of his robe slipping back to reveal chain mail underneath. “Where are they?”

“Whoa! Wait! Aren’t there – I mean – just us?” Kit frantically struggled to find words that weren’t ‘But you’re too old’ or ‘Are you sure you can lift that thing?’

Father Gavin patted Kit on the head with his free hand – if he noticed that she squirmed away from the touch, he showed no signs of it. “Well, there aren’t any other priests in the temple right now. Don’t worry, dear. There’s a Watch post along the way – we can stop there. And I can protect you.” He waved the mace unsteadily, demonstrating. It took all of Kit’s energy to not wince in pain as she watched.

The guard post, when they reached it, was similarly deserted. Even the authority of the ancient priest could only persuade them to give up one guardsman, and he had clearly drawn the short straw of the late shift by virtue of being the youngest guardsman in the district – he was barely older than Kit. Admittedly, what he lacked in experience he did make up for in enthusiasm – he was practically jumping up and down at the chance to go on such an exciting midnight mission.

An old man, a green guardsman, and her. Well, it would have to do.

It was fairly easy for Kit to trace her way back to the building where the children were. She led Father Gavin and the guardsman around to the front door. Fortunately, it was unlocked – Kit could probably have picked it easily, but it wouldn’t have been very wise to do so in front of a member of the Watch, even such a young one. They crept as quietly as they could across the dusty, creaky boards of the abandoned building – which for Kit, of course, was rather more quietly than for the other two.

“Hey! What that?” The thunderous voice of a half-orc rose up from below, freezing them all in place.

The guardsman was the first to move. With his sword raised high, he charged forwards, shouting, “Stop! In the name of the law!”

“So much for taking ‘em by surprise,” Kit muttered.


First Post
Meanwhile, Part 3

Kit slipped nimbly around the charging guardsman, battered rapier already in hand as she leaped down the rickety stairs to confront the half-orcs. Father Gavin trundled along behind her, with a tremulous shout of “Halt, foul miscreants!”

The basement was dark, lit only by a sputtering torch, but Kit’s sharp eyes could still spot the four children huddled on the dirt floor, chained to the wall. But between her and them was a half-orc, roaring and waving a club. She sidestepped the charging half-orc, stabbing out ineffectually. Her blade suddenly seemed very flimsy, next to the enormous mass of orc and club that was storming through the basement.

Following Kit’s example, the guardsman took a huge flying leap down the stairs…only to crash headlong into the slanted ceiling above, and crumpled to the floor at the foot of the stairs. Still quavering on about miscreants, Father Gavin started his own descent of the staircase. Before the priest could even reach the bottom, the second half-orc took a swipe at him with a massive club, connecting with the old man’s armor with a sickening crunch.

Kit gasped in shock and outrage. “You – “ Still having enough wits about her to remember that the priest and four children were within earshot, she cut herself off before she could say what she really wanted to call the half-orc, and settled on “ – miscreant! Beating up on an old man like that! Stop it!” she shouted, her eyes flashing with fury. If either Father Gavin or the guardsman had been in any condition to notice, they might have seen her eyes actually glow for a brief moment in the dim light.

And the half-orc stopped, club still raised, his eyes going vacant.

It was just for a moment, but that was all the time that Father Gavin needed to recover from the blow and swing his mace in a wicked downwards arc onto the half-orc’s shoulder. The half-orc roared in pain and staggered back, just as the guardsman pulled himself upright enough to swing his sword at him, catching the half-orc in the side and sending him to his knees, bleeding thickly onto the dirt floor.

Kit dodged around the struggling half-orc to intercept the other one as he charged across the basement, waving his own club so high that it nearly hit the low ceiling. “Stop!” she cried again, but to no avail this time – the half-orc kept barreling straight towards her. She frantically skipped back, thrusting out with her rapier. The half-orc let out a yell, so she must have made contact, but Kit was moving so quickly that she couldn’t tell. In and out she weaved, desperately trying to avoid the enormous club, aware at the edges of her consciousness that behind her the children were still crying. The guardsman sprang up on the other side of the half-orc, causing him to spin towards the guard in roaring confusion, and Kit seized the opportunity, slipping her thin blade straight between the half-orc’s ribs. Almost at the same time, the guardsman’s sword hacked down from above. The half-orc gave one final gurgling cry of pain, then slipped to the ground and lay silent beside his groaning companion.

Kit stood for one stunned moment, then rushed towards the sobbing children. “It’s all right – it’s all right – don’t worry – I’ll get you out – “ She kept up a steady stream of soothing chatter as her fingers worked over the locks of the children’s bonds. These are awfully tough, she thought, struggling to align her lockpicks in the tiny metal holes – until she realized that her hands were trembling from the excitement and fear of battle. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and started again. “It’s all right,” she said again, giving the boy whose manacles she was working on a steady, reassuring look. He blinked, nodded, and instantly grew calmer. Behind her, Kit could hear the priest murmuring some prayers – whether to heal himself, give thanks for victory, or make a proper end for the dead half-orc, she couldn’t tell.

A few moments more was all it took for her to pop open the locks on the boy’s wrists, and after the first one, the other three locks were much easier for her to figure out. Between them, Kit and the priest got the children calmed down enough to get upstairs, carefully shielding their eyes from the still-bleeding corpse; the guardsman stayed behind to take the battered surviving half-orc into custody.

Kit took a deep gasping breath of fresh air as they emerged into the night. She slipped a hand into her pocket and let her lucky rock spin between her fingers. The children were safe, and the slavers were caught – sure, it had been a bit more dangerous than usual, but still, it had been, on the whole, a lucky night.


First Post
Meanwhile, Part 4

The children were safely returned to their parents, the bells had long since chimed midnight, and Kit and the priest were standing outside the small temple of Glordiadel.

“That was very fine work you did tonight, child,” said Father Gavin.

Kit gave him a weary but honest smile. “Thanks.” She hesitated for a moment, then the smile widened a bit. “You too.”

“You know, there are others. Other people who want to work against the slavers as much as you do,” the priest explained. “I think they’d appreciate your help, if you’re interested in working with them.”

“Here? In Plurg?” Kit couldn’t believe that there had been something like that happening on her turf without her knowing about it.

Father Gavin shook his head. “Not exactly, although they do work here on occasion. I can take you to them, if you like.”

Kit’s head was still spinning from the fear and excitement of the night’s events. “Sure,” she answered. “I mean, if there’s anything else I can do to help get rid of those slavers and keep my kids safe, I want to do it.”

The priest beamed. “That’s the right attitude! Come – I’ll show you where they are. You can rest and get cleaned up when you get there.”

He led her through the winding streets and alleys of Plurg to the other side of the enclave, where the City of Enclaves ferry boats hitched up to a slightly more respectable set of docks when they weren’t shuttling up and down the canals that wove between the different island enclaves that made up the city. Even at this late hour, the ferries were running – there was always someone awake and doing business in the City of Enclaves.

The ferry floated gently through the canals, winding south towards the more affluent parts of the city, until it docked at Glitterdomes. “Um. Father? Are you sure this is the right place?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t steer you wrong, child,” the priest reassured her, giving her shoulder a paternal pat. “Come, follow me. I know exactly where it is.”

With a sudden, acute awareness of her blood-spattered leathers and grimy hands, Kit trailed behind Father Gavin through the well-groomed streets of Glitterdomes.

It was an enclave mostly inhabited by gnomes and halflings, and the small scale of the elegant houses lining the streets only made their ornamented facades seem more delicate and elaborate. Quite a few houses were to human scale, though, and it was at one of these that Father Gavin stopped. Kit made a vain attempt to smooth down her rumpled hair as the priest knocked on the door.

A tiny, aged man – whether halfling or gnome, it was difficult to tell under the wrinkles and layers of ruffled, out-of-fashion livery – answered. “Ohhhhh, honored guest!” he oozed, an obsequious smile pushing onto his face. “Please, tell me how I may be of service. I am Glimrod, and it is my humble honor to assist all those who come to the illustrious door of this family.”

Kit gulped, and reached into her pocket for her lucky rock. Butlers? And a place where even the doors were illustrious?

“Yes, yes.” Father Gavin waved Glimrod on with a benevolent hand. “Will you please tell the young master that I’ve got another helper for him?”

“Ohhhhh, certainly!” Glimrod gushed. “It would be my pleasure to take the…er…” He gave Kit a dubious glance, which she returned with a defiant lift of her chin. “…young lady to join the others. Once she has…er…rested, and changed her attire.”

“Thanks,” Kit interrupted, her voice coming out a little too loud in her attempt to sound confident and casual. “I’d like that.” She clutched tightly at her lucky rock, and pushed on. “So…uh…where can I get some of that attire?”

“See?” came the voice of Father Gavin behind her. “I told you that it would be all right.” He gave her shoulder another pat. She flinched away from the unexpected touch, but said nothing. “Go on inside, child. I need to get back to the temple – I’ve been away far too long as it is.”

Glimrod held the door open for Kit, and she followed him in, small and dusty in the huge clean expanse of a fancier house than she’d ever seen in her entire life.


First Post
Meanwhile, Part 5

“So…uh…where is everyone?” Kit’s voice echoed off the walls of the empty hallway – no, it was too grand to be a hallway, she thought. They probably called it a foyer, or an entry hall, or something like that.

“Oh, it is not for me to inquire about the doings of the mighty.” The aged Glimrod was somehow managing to both hobble and glide up the broad staircase, while at the same time turning around to answer Kit. “They are off about their business, and they do not deign to inform the humble Glimrod.”

Kit followed, running her hand along the banister as she climbed the stairs. Was that real gold leaf around the edge? “Oh. Right,” she said absently.

“If the young mistress pleases,” Glimrod oozed, when they reached the top of the stairs, “you may wait here while I go in search of some more suitable attire.” The butler gestured towards a room off the long, carpeted hallway. “Your bath will be ready for you in a few minutes, madame. You may find it through the left-hand door at the rear of the sitting room.”

“Um. Right,” Kit said again. She went through the door into a room that would probably big enough to fit her family’s entire flat into it, keeping her hands carefully folded behind her back. Can’t touch anything, she thought. Half the stuff in here looks like it would break if I breathed on it… And while she didn’t even dare think it, she knew deep down that if she kept her hands off things, it would be easier to resist the urge to slip a gilded knick-knack or two into her pocket.

With a start, she realized that Glimrod was still hovering by the door. “Thank you,” she tried. No, he was still there. “Thank you very much.” Still there, with that can-I-help-you smile on his face. How on earth did you get rid of servants? “Goodbye?”

“Goodbye, mistress,” Glimrod replied, much to Kit’s relief. “I will leave you to your business.”

Kit let out a sigh as he closed the door behind him on the way out, and then another one as she sat down on the sofa. Divan. Chaise. Whatever fancy name they would call it in a house like this. She unbuckled her rapier and let her sword belt fall onto the cushions, then started sliding the daggers out of her sleeves and boots.

As the last dagger left her hand, she felt a tap on her shoulder.

Instantly, she was on her feet, spinning around with a rapier in one hand and dagger in the other, blazing with fury. “Who’s there? Who is it?” she shouted. She darted this way and that, thrusting out with her sword with a look of wild, angry fear in her eyes.

From out of the nothingness of an empty corner of the room came a voice. “It’s me. I’m sorry.” A moment later, the faint outline of a figure appeared: first a head, then a torso, and then a misty swirl of smoke below that, all a faint translucent blue.
“Who are you?” Kit was still on edge, her voice coming out sharp and angry.

“I’m Stithis.” The bluish figure drifted backwards into the corner, away from the point of Kit’s rapier. “I’m not going to hurt you!” he added hastily, holding up his hands, both to show that he was unarmed and to keep her away. “I just wanted to see who was visiting. I heard the butler say that someone else had come to help out, and I wanted to see who it was.”

“Well, you can see who’s there by coming to the door and knocking!” Kit snapped back. “Don’t you ever do that again!” Only now, as she was coming down off the crest of her anger, did Kit realize just how high she had to look to meet the djinn’s eyes – he was enormous. Slowly, Kit lowered her sword, but she still kept it pointed at the figure in the corner. “You’re one of Father Gavin’s people?” she asked warily. “Helping work against the slavers?”

The djinn nodded, eager to accept the change of subject. “We fought off these awful hags last night. The others should be back soon – they’ll tell you all about it. Lord Alistair just had to…” Stithis stopped himself, remember Alistair’s concern about keeping his identity secret. “He had to deal with some family issues. I went on ahead. They should all be back soon,” he said again, but his hopeful smile was met with a hard, hostile stare from Kit. “In fact, why don’t I go see if they’re back now,” he offered, drifting towards the door as quickly as his insubstantial form could take him.

Very slowly, Kit lowered her sword back to the couch, closed the door behind her (disappointingly, there was no lock), and then headed in to the bathroom (whose door, fortunately, did have a lock).

The bathroom was astonishingly bright, with light from steady, smokeless torches radiating off of dozens of clean, shiny tiled surfaces. The tub was already full of water, with steam rising gently from the surface, and a huge pile of fluffy white towels sat next to it. Despite her lingering anger and nerves from the encounter with Stithis, Kit couldn’t help grinning at the sight. Real warm water! And enough of it to swim in, practically!

She could swim in it, she discovered a moment later when she got in. Or at least, she could submerge herself entirely, with room to spare, and even enough depth for her to blow a few bubbles, when she remembered to hold her breath properly instead of giggling with the pleasure of this amazing luxury. After a few minutes, though – during which the water had not cooled one bit, nor shown any signs of becoming dirty – she started to get down to the business of cleaning off the stains of battle and the grime of living in the docks neighborhood. She grabbed one of the sponges from the side of the bathtub and went to work.

And then she started to feel another sponge, not held by her own hand, moving up and down her back.

She leaped out of the tub, grabbing desperately at a towel. “STITHIS!” she shouted furiously. “I swear, when I find you…”

From the bathtub, a meek, bubbling voice answered, “Who’s Stithis?” A small face appeared, formed out of the water itself, next to a small watery hand that was holding a sponge.

“Who are you? What are you?” Kit’s voice cracked with the strain and shock of yet another strange being appearing out of nowhere.

“I’m the bath,” the bath answered. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. The lady of the house likes it when I help out…”

Kit stared, shaking her head in bewilderment. “You’re the what?”

“I’m the bath,” it explained again. “Called here from the Elemental Plane of Water. The faucet is a small portal, you know.”

“An elemental. In the bath,” Kit repeated, sinking down onto the edge of the tub with weary resignation. “All right. Why not? There are djinn in the corner and I-don’t-know-what at the door being butlers. Why not an elemental in the bath?”

The bathtub made an obliging little ripple. “It sounds like you’ve had a rough day,” it said soothingly. “Come back in. You’ll feel better after you have a nice bath.”

Too overwhelmed to do anything else, Kit nodded. “Yeah, probably.” She flashed one more wary look at the bathtub’s watery face, warning, “Just don’t look, all right?”

“All right,” the elemental agreed, and its eyes closed, dissolving into the gentle ripples of the bath.

Thankfully, the rest of the washing-up process was much less eventful, and Kit emerged several minutes later, entirely clean. After a moment’s careful surveillance of the sitting room door, she decided that there was probably nothing waiting for her on the other side, and ventured out. Glimrod must have come and gone while she was in the bath, because several sets of clothes were laid out on the sofa. She had no idea where he could have found them, but she wasn’t arguing – they were more finely made, and out of better fabric, than she had ever worn in her life. She couldn’t resist admiring herself in the mirror, once she was dressed and her hair tamed into some sort of order. She did clean up well, she thought with a satisfied grin.

And with that, she slipped her lucky rock into the pocket of her new outfit, and went out into the hall to see if the others had returned.

Alistair, Mahler, and Delbon returned to Delbon's family home in Glitterdomes. The wealthy Enclave at the southern edge of the city provided a perfect place to regroup and plan their trip back to Canberry, so after settling in at Delbon's home, the three of them had set off to arrange for mounts for the long journey. None of them, least of all Alistair, had any great desire to make it back to Canberry quickly, but the long overland journey would give them the opportunity to see the world and enjoy time away from the court while still preserving peace by returning eventually. After negotiating fair prices for two horses, as Stithis had no need for a mount and Delbon already had a rather more exotic steed, they returned, looking forward to an opportunity to relax in a home with all of the luxuries typical in Glitterdomes.

Glibrod, the gnomish servant who had inexplicably attached himself to the group, greeted them eagerly at the door. "Welcome back, good masters who treat Glibrod well. Come in, come in."

The three enter a sitting room. Delbon looks confusedly at Kit, who leaps up to introduce herself. "Stithis, what is she doing in my house?"

Alistair interjected with a smile, "Not that we're objecting to the arrival of such a lovely young lady."

"She said that the nice Glordiadelian priest had sent her to help us fight the slavers. So I thought that you would want her to join us."

Kit smiled awkwardly, wondering if she was supposed to curtsy, or hold out her hand, or something. She settled on just introducing herself. "I'm Kit. I hear that you've also been rescuing the kidnapped children and thought we should work together."

"An excellent idea. I'm sure that you will add a great deal to our efforts. I'm Jer Pardon, and this is Delbon Glittercheeks, who is our host, Mahler Fife, and you've met Stithis."

As the introductions were concluding, the clapper on the door sounded loudly. Before anyone else could react, Glibrod swung the door open, and bowed deeply, "Welcome, welcome, can I do anything for your ladyship?"

A proud knight, wearing a brilliantly white surcoat emblazoned with Glordiadel's Sun over her full armor, strode in. "Thank you. Please take me to see his lordship immediately."

Glibrod fawned at her boots. "Oh yes, wondrous mistress, right this way." He quickly led her into the sitting room.

The knight looked over the room and focused on the two human men. "May I ask which of you is Lord Alistair? My order has sent me to serve as his lordship's bodyguard on the return to Canberry."

Mahler and Alistair looked at each other in confusion and dismay. The secrecy of their location seemed rather less impressive than would have been hoped. After a moment, Alistair shrugged and pointed dejectedly at Mahler. "He is."

Mahler largely took it in stride. "Ah, hmm, yes, I am Lord Alistair." As Kit boggled at the new information, he continued. "I have been travelling incognito under the name 'Mahler' to reduce the danger to myself, my companions, and the innocents around us."

"Of course, my lord," the knight said as she knelt before Mahler. "I am Dame Brionna of the Order of Valor, at your service. The Church has ordered me to keep your lordship safe on your journey back to Canberry."

"I see. Thank you, although that will not really be necessary."

Dame Brionna arose. "I am afraid that I must insist, my lord. The Church considers this a vital mission."

"Very well, then."

Alistair leaned in to speak to Mahler. "M'lord, may I have a few words with you?"

"Of course. Let's step into the other room to discuss matters."

Kit, Dame Brionna, Delbon, and Glibrod all pushed to follow them, but Alistair quickly spun the door closed behind them and threw the bolt before they could follow. While Dame Brionna thought about how long she should respect Lord Alistair's privacy before breaking the door down to ensure his safety, Mahler and Lord Alistair quickly discussed matters in urgent whispers.

"We have to leave quickly. Far too many people know that we're here; it could be dangerous to stay here," Mahler began.

"It's worse than that. Somehow I doubt that a church knight is going to be fond of our plan to travel slowly back, and I don't really look forward to either of us being knocked over the head and thrown into an airship."

Mahler nodded. "Look, why don't you slip out quietly? She still thinks that I'm you, so she shouldn't be too worked up about it. But if you stick around, someone will slip and she'll figure it out. You can grab one of the horses and take off south, and Delbon, Stithis, and I will meet up with you in a few days. If Dame Brionna will be a problem, we'll give her the slip before we head out."

"Right. I'll find a place to stay two or three days south of the City, and I'll watch the main road and join you when you pass. Try not to travel late into the evening so I don't miss you." Alistair paused. "And if the cute girl wants to come along, too, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all. She seems like much better company than the knight."

"I'll see what I can do. If you don't contact us, we'll stop three full days south of the City and wait for you."

"Thanks, Mahler. I'll see you on the road." Alistair clapped Mahler on the shoulder, and quietly slipped out a window into the yard. Less than an hour later, he passed through the great gates of the City and rode south.

Yeah, well... it seemed like a good idea at the time. Alistair was just really, really worried that Dame Brionna would decide that duty required her to incapacitate him, throw him in irons, and haul him back to Canberry as quickly as possible. Which would crimp his style.

On with the story:

Glibrod took charge of arranging rooms for Kit and Dame Brionna, while Delbon attempted to minimize the disruption to his parents' home. After the many battles with slavers and hags, the group settled in for a well-deserved night sleep in comfortable beds.

In her room on the second floor, Kit awoke to the sound of light footsteps behind her. Behind her on the window sill, that is. She raised a hand to her throat with but a moment to spare as a dark-clad intruder tried to garrot her. He succeeded in encircling her throat, but Kit's quick response prevented him from strangling her. The two of them struggled for some time-- the attacker's grip over her mouth prevented her from calling out, while Kit's struggles barely managed to keep her alive.

A loud boom resounded from the front door as the second wave of attackers entered Delbon's familial home. Mahler reacted first and rushed to meet the intruders on the stairs to the second story. Three attackers rushed up the stairs and began slashing Mahler brutally.

Dame Brionna, wearing a demure but startlingly white nightgown and brandishing her sword rushed to defend her charge while Mahler struggled against his foes' superior numbers.

Stithis rushed in to aid Kit, forcing the would-be strangler to shift his attention away from wrestling with Kit. Kit responded by yelling at the intruder to "Stop!" Remarkably, her fervor stopped him momentarily. The two of them easily defeated their stunned foe.

Meanwhile, the other attackers struck at Mahler again, causing him to collapse on the stairs. Dame Brionna leapt forward, slashing at one of the attackers and standing protectively over Mahler.

The leader, a taller man in somewhat finer black clothes, gestured up the stairs. "We only need the noble to collect. Just finish off the rest of them and we can leave the corpses behind."

"You can't hurt the nice knight lady!" Glibrod flung himself down the stairs at the assassins, flailing wildly with a cudgel.

Delbon's Grease spell did a better job, causing one of the assassins to tumble down the stairs. Dame Brionna brought down the other assassin on the stairs and gingerly advanced across the greased stairs towards the leader. Stithis flew out the window from the upstairs and flew around to flank him, just as Dame Brionna called on the power of Glordiadel to smite him.

While still hampered by their lack of armor, the group overwhelmed the remaining assassins. Dame Brionna hurried back up the stairs to heal Mahler.

Kit turned her attention towards searching their foes. In addition to some quickly pocketed change, she found a charcoal drawing of Mahler. "They were assassins, your lordliness. From the Knockers, I'd wager," she added, naming a significant thieves guild dominated by ruffians and thugs. "Someone hired them and gave them your picture."

"But... why would they have Mahler's picture?" Stithis asked. "Why wouldn't they have had a picture of Lord Alistair?"

"Stithis... you weren't supposed to..." Delbon turned towards Dame Brionna. "What he meant was..."

"I think we all know what he meant," Dame Brionna replied testily.

"Oh, yes, we all know what he meant," Glibrod added helpfully. "Umm.... what did he mean?"

"Lord Alistair was actually disguised as that Jer Pardon, who I note has conveniently already left."

"Wait a minute," Kit said. "So Jer was actually the high mucky-muck, and you're not?"

Mahler sighed. "That's right. We couldn't trust you, Dame Brionna. You could have been an assassin only pretending to be from the Order of Valor. But the real assassins must have been scrying on us and were also fooled."

"But now you know that I am, indeed, loyal to Lord Alistair. And these Knockers show how essential it is that we be able to guard him and keep him safe."

"I know how to find Lord Alistair. But he doesn't believe that he can safely return to Canberry through one of the faster routes. I'll only take you to him if you swear that you will escort him on the route back to Canberry of his choosing."

Dame Brionna placed her hand on the tiny Sun of Glordiadel that she had never removed. "I swear on my honor and on the honor of the Order of Valor that, so long as Lord Alistair follows some path back to the Archduchy, I will follow the route he has chosen and will simply keep him safe on his journey."

"Very well. Stithis can travel faster than us, so we should send him ahead to warn Alistair of the danger. The rest of us will join you as soon as we can, Stithis."


Overlord of Chat
Well that was quick. But if Alistair is safe or if that trick works a second time I will be rather disapointed. I mean, I'd be scrying to see how well my assasins did. With a bowl of popcorn and everything :)

Ironically, Alistair deciding to run off on his own (really, fleeing a fellow PC) mostly had the effect of endangering the other PCs. I'm not sure how clearly it comes across in the Storyhour, but Kit and Mahler both came really close to death (Mahler in deep negatives, Kit running a significant chance of being knocked unconscious and strangled while alone).

I don't think Alistair ever found out about Kit's danger, but he still feels really guilty about Mahler-- he was trying to shirk responsibility, not shift threats against himself onto his friends. On the upside, this gave the party much better reasons to stick together and allowed us to integrate Dame Brionna (who is a great counterweight in the party).

Next update tonight! (Have to finish last year's session's storyhour before the weekend!)

An Advertisement