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Journal of the Souls of Legend

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Echoes of shame - 08/21/2020

Everyone learns things along the way. That’s just how life works, you experience something, and you internalize it for use later.

But sometimes you find you have retained something ugly or have a memory of something you would rather forget, and you wonder;

“What good is that?”



We stood there staring. I was trying to hold in my anger, and not let the fury I felt show on my face. Beepu’s treatment made the hobgoblins we faced looked civilized. The hobgoblins at least didn’t torture their slaves; everything was done with a brutal purpose.

But this? This was cold and cruel entertainment to a crowd. I hoped that the commoners only laughed because it made their daily plight bearable, and not because they truly wanted the gnome to suffer. But whatever the commoner’s thought, it was clear that the pirate thought that poking a gnome with a spear was entertainment.

“Start laughing,” I muttered to the brothers, as I forced a smile on my face. “Keep blending in.”

“This is hard to watch,” Iesa whispered in my ear and then started to laugh. Daneath simply guffawed and otherwise said nothing.

I reached into my pouch and pulled out a length of copper wire. I then quickly wound it round my finger into a crude braided ring. Then, with a forced smile I pulled on two small strands of light and dark and whispered under my breath.

“Beepu! We’re here in the crowd!” I whispered. I watched the gnome’s head slowly turn, looking at the crowd. Then the weave returned to me his reply, that no one else could hear.

“Thank the gods. Foggle just told me you were close. Get me out of here!”

I smiled and pulled on more strands to continue the conversation. “Hang on, who put you up there?”

“The owner of the brothel. They have my things as well!”

“You mean your spellbook?”

“Yes, I mean that! Also, a small smooth orange stone, that should be in my pouch of components.”

Well, sit tight then, we’ll get you out somehow.”

Very funny.”

Don’t go anywhere?”

Really?”

Hang in there?”

Myrai! Just get my things and free me!”

He’s mostly alright,” I whispered aloud to the brothers. “His mood is about where I would expect.”

Great. Now how do we get him out?” Iesa muttered between his teeth as he laughed, keeping up appearances.

“The key, and Beepu’s effects are inside,” I gestured towards the grey marble building.

“A whorehouse?” Daneath said dubiously.

I shrugged, “Beepu said the owner has his things, and likely the key to the cage.”

“Probably in a safe place inside,” Iesa said. “Any guesses where to start?”

“Not really, but if the owner has a room, I’d start there.” I said.

“That follows,” Daneath agreed. “But how do we get inside?”

I turned to look at him and blinked in surprise, before replying, “Well…I think my men are overdue some quality time with a woman.”

Daneath began to blush furiously, “You can’t be serious! I mean…they’re…um…”

I pulled in Daneath close to me, “Look, this is for Beepu here,” I hissed. “I’ve known jinkskirts, and some like their profession, but most are forced into it for one reason or another. We can’t help them right now, so be considerate, gentle and tip well to keep their mouths barred, and don’t get them into trouble. What you do…well…I leave that in your…hands. Same goes for you Iesa,” I said turning to him. He was already raising his hands defensively.

“Look, I’m sure I can work something out,” Iesa said. “But I will try to engage the owner in conversation and work out where things are first.”

“Sure,” I said thinking. “One of us will need to keep the owner busy so you can do that.”

“What are you going to do inside?” Daneath asked, his cheeks still flushing.

“Well…I’ll improvise,” I said. “If I need to hire a girl, I’ll do that, or I’ll keep the owner distracted, whomever he is.”

“What do you mean ‘hire a girl?’” Daneath asked bewildered.

I squinted at him in surprise, “D’ trust me things between women do happen, and we are NOT discussing the details of it right now. Just…just…worry about what you are going to do, so you can help Beepu.” I said. I was not expecting to have to educate Daneath on this type of topic.

“I’m not good at that on the fly stuff,” he said nervously.

“Then let Iesa and I do the talking.” I said flustered. “Come on, let’s see about buying you a girl, or at least an overpriced drink. Maybe both in your case.”

I quickly twisted the copper wire around my finger and sent Beepu a whisper, “We’re headed inside, have Foggle keep an eye out, but don’t let him be seen.”

“Thank you Myrai, and please hurry. My back is killing me.”

Gos, heading in. Stay out of sight and tell me if something comes up. Oh, and make sure Foggle doesn’t do anything stupid.

--What like make that ridiculous sound and hopping around like mad?

As long as no one notices I don’t care. But try to get close enough we can still talk though.




I swallowed and strode towards the house of ill-repute with the brothers in tow. I reached the carved wooden door, that had pictures of women in various forms of undress ‘frolicking.’ I pulled it open and walked inside.

The first impression that hit me was the rich, sweet scent of sandlewood mixed with the sharper edge of clove that hung in the air. The second one was that the inside was paneled in dark colored woods, with scattered oil lamps in the interior. There were no windows to the outside from here, and the suns’ harsh rays did not penetrate the room. While warm, there was a breeze as overhead fans spun continuously, using a system of belts that wound their way through a pair of holes in the ceiling to an adjacent room. In front of me was a long bar, where glass bottles containing liquor were arrayed in front of a mirror. And to my right was a wooden staircase with elaborate banister work, leading to the upper floors.

Around the bar were several pirates, but these men looked to be more senior, or at least wealthier. Three of them sat quietly, with a drink in hand, while one also smoked some type of herb from a pipe. Iesa and Daneath closed the door behind me, and I noticed that flanking the staircase were two guards in leather jerkins and armed with long curved swords. One of them noticed me and stepped forward, looking at Daneath. He reached his hand out to grab my left arm.

“Ah, a newcomer! How much for h—URK,” he exclaimed as Daneath’s fist lodged under the breastbone of the offending guard, knocking the wind from his chest.

“Do you normally treat your clientele this way?” I asked coolly. “Dan, if he touches me again, please retrieve his hand for an art project I have in mind.”

The other guard blinked in surprise and drew his blade, while his peer stumbled backwards, grasping at his own. The three pirates turned their heads to look at the commotion with a look of surprise.

“Dorin! Potro! These are clearly are guests of…intriguing caliber!” I turned and saw a woman approach. She was heavy set and wore a silk dress that clung tightly to her curvaceous body, while a tight leather bodice strained to support her overflowing bosom. Her face was powdered white, with tinges of red on the cheeks, and deep plum colors painted on her lips. Her eyes were a deep green, while surrounded in dark smokey rings, making them stand out, even in the dark light. Her hair was clearly a wig, but one that gave her an extra foot in height, and had hair in tight curls, while stuffed birds poked their heads from beneath the tresses.

Iesa moved to intercept her, “Ah madam, may I— “and found himself playfully slapped away by a folding fan across his lips.

“Now, now, I am sure your employer can speak for herself, as she boldly walks into my den,” she smiled as she looked me over with interest. “I had heard that a man was seen running for is life with his britches lacking support. All caused by a woman of skill and her two friends.”

“Small port, word travels fast,” I said smiling, while feeling on edge. The pirate before I didn’t need to talk with, more talk at. Here I needed to perform and be that person in charge. My stomach tensed into knots as I tried to maintain that smile and said, “And some men need to be brought to heel like a common dog. That’s why I invest in men of quality.” And I reached to caressed Daneath and Iesa on their cheeks, if not just affection, but reassurance that they were here with me.

The woman arched her eyebrows and continued to smile, “Indeed, and what brings a woman to my humble establishment?”

I looked around; the place had a touch of haphazard elegance. Planned and creative using whatever was at hand. I’ve been to bars where men would mount any old object on the wall as a trophy. This place had a woman’s touch. “This is all yours? You have done well. But my business is ensuring my boys are taken care of. I think some drinks are in order first, and then I am sure they will want to sample…other fare.”

The woman regarded me with uncertainty but smiled and nodded, “But of course, although I am…refreshed to see a strong woman who knows what she wants. But of course, it does beg a question or…more.”

Am I overdoing this? Maybe I’m trying too hard.

No. Relax. You can do this. We need to free Beepu, and find his things.

“My wants are…” and I struggled thinking what exactly I needed to say if pressed, “…complicated.” What did I want that would pass muster? I mean supporting ‘my boys’ was plausible I supposed, but I had her ear now and I needed to keep it. I needed time, and my stomach was still a bundle of knots.

“But let’s see to my boy’s satisfactions first,” I smiled. “Something dark and fiery from your shelf for my men and I, and I’m sure Dan and Ice here would like to see what your establishment has to offer.” A drink would be nice. Not too much, I needed to think straight. No I needed to relax, I wanted the bottle, not the glass.

No. Stop. Focus. Beepu.

“A woman that likes her liquor; I’d almost would have said you were a wine drinker,” the woman studied me, searching for something.

“I prefer wine when I am eating. Liquor is about the now.” I casually remarked. The madam nodded and waved at the man who tended the bar and motioned me to follow her.

“Come sit, while my man pours a whiskey that is well liked by the captains here,” she then reached across the bar and pulled on a rope, wrapped in red silk. “As for what we offer, we offer a fine sampling from across the realms, northerners from the Sword Coast, fiery ones from the Moonshae, dark and sultry from Calimsham and Amn. Anything in particular?” she probed. The barman slid three glasses full of something dark and with the scent of honey and spice, which we took into hand.

I sat down on the high seat at the bar, trying to relax or at least looking like it. “I’m sure my men, will be satisfied with whomever graces their presence,” I said and caught a flash of surprise on her face. “But I am sure one will suit their fancy. And if I am not mistaken, you have the only game in town.”

The woman smiled, “No one can offer anything finer. If you want to waste coin on drink and chance, I’m sure those…drow…in their damn cave can entertain. But a sure thing, warm and soft? This is the only place in town.” She drawled. As she spoke, I saw four women making their way down the stairs. They wore little to cover themselves; a skirt and bodice for modesty, with their arms, and most of their leg bare. All were human, with their long hair pulled back, baring their shoulders and neck. A blonde with eyes of blue, pale as if the sun never kissed her skin, another with a coif of honey gold, with hazel eyes and skin like bronze, the third had skin was the deepest brown I had ever seen, with dark eyes to match, and finally a one with fiery blonde hair and emerald eyes and skin that looked to be painted in freckles all across their skin. As they approached, I could smell the oils they wore that hinted at dark delights.

But their eyes told a different story; one of fear and shattered hopes. A look of a woman resigned to a cruel fate. Her will and desires no longer her own; a plaything and nothing more.

I knew this was the truth here; and I sincerely hated myself for playing a role that would do nothing to free them from their bondage. But there was little I could do. It was easy to say I was freeing a friend and that was what mattered. Not just because Beepu was in a cage, but because the whole reason for being here was to defeat the Kershak. The stark choice was uncomfortable for me, and yet I had to hide it. I needed something else to focus on to hide my distaste for the fate of these women.



“Ice and Dan, let me know what suits you; and madam…” I asked pressing for a name.

“Philandre,” she smiled.

“Philandre, what’s the ask for a night’s fun?”

“They say if you have to ask you can’t afford it,” she smirked at me.

“That is true, but it does make it hard to settle accounts doesn’t it?” I pointed out.

“Ten crowns will probably set your men’s mind at ease.”

I reached in between my cleavage and pulled out a small silk sack where I kept coins handy, and pulled out three merts, and lay them down one at a time on the bar. I watched her eyes grow wide as I said, “For the girls and the drinks.”

As I did so, I twisted the copper on my finger and whispered to Iesa using a strand:

“Get upstairs; I’ll watch for guards going up, and I’ll ask you in a bit how you are doing,”

“No problem. Find out about the key,” he responded. I smiled and said aloud.

“Enjoy yourselves boys; I’ll talk to you in a bit!” I said aloud and waved them on with my hands. Iesa moved toward the blonde, while Daneath chose the dark-skinned woman. Each man took their chosen woman in arm, while the other two sighed and looked at me with a look of confusion…or was it dread. I shook my head and waved my hand, and they slowly turned to regard the pirates already at the bar.

“Nothing for you dearie?” Philandre asked, looking at me.

“I’m a little more complicated as I said. But I do have to ask something. What drew me here, was complaints of the little runt in the cage. He doesn’t seem to fit your…stock.”

Philandre laughed, “Oh, I’m just holding him until tomorrow. Some of the Sea Devils brought him here. Said he washed in with the tide. Now a smallfolk with a long life will do wonders in the bilges of a ship I’ve heard. So tomorrow to the block he goes! Anyway, I hope my man at the bar can keep your glass full, while I check on the girls upstairs,” and she smiled and started to move down toward one of the pirates nearby down the length of the bar, on her way to the stairs.

I needed to hold her attention for a while longer. But I guessed that buying a girl wouldn’t hold it for long enough. As I sat there, thoughts ran through my head, when it struck me why this whole exchange was so similar.

A friend in need.

A friend in pain.

I realized I had another dice roll to make, on thoughts and experiences I had kept buried in the past. Experiences that made me ashamed. Experiences that made me afraid.

Pike it; to save a friend, any shame about myself, no matter how disgusting was worth it.

I quickly twisted the copper and cast out a strand toward the gnome, “Beepu, I need you to cause a ruckuss outside and it needs to be noisy.”

“What? Well I have some dirt here I can toss at that Kenku.”

While the room had no large windows, there were small openings around the room right were the walls met the ceiling and from the direction where Beepu was hanging, came some noise:

“Take that you filthy carrion lover!...YOUCH!!” he screamed, and I flinched a moment, and looked towards the noises direction.

“That’s annoying.” I said aloud, and I saw that Philandre had turned her head to look in the same direction.

“Seems he hasn’t learned to accept reality; he’s just tomorrows stock. I should tell Claptrap to not poke him as hard; can’t damage the goods.”

I thought a moment and took a breath.

“So, how much for some time with the runt?” I said forcing a smirk on my face.

Philandre looked at me incredulously. “You can’t be serious. You want him for a tumble?!?”

I quietly chuckled, trying not to force it, letting forgotten memories and experiences surface. Remembering how my tormentors acted. I smiled and shook my head. “No! No! Not for that. But I do want him. You see its been a while since I had an opportunity to…make someone scream properly.” I said looking Philandre dead in the eye, with a deadly serious tone.

I now had Philandre’s full attention, “I can have Claptrap hit him for you if that’s what you want,” she said with a curious tone in her voice. She wasn’t prepared for this conversation to turn this way with me.

I shook my head, “If I wanted that, I would buy him and let Dan and Ice work him over. But I don’t want to own him; too much trouble for mercenaries on the move. And I don’t want to watch. I want to personally, make him…suffer. To show him what real pain is like.” I pulled out my greensteel blade and turned it over in my hands, as Philandre watched.

“Its been a while since I had some free time to flense someone properly,” I said wistfully as images of pain replayed itself in my mind. “To slice the skin away in strips. To hear the…scream of the man as his flesh is pulled away from muscle. To watch him shiver as the warmth of his body fades away in the air.” I leaned forward toward the madam, and pulled down the cloth from my eyes, and I watched her gasp in surprise. “To see them look into my eyes hoping for mercy, only to see themselves suffering.” I smiled wickedly and pull back up the cloth and watched her. I prayed the mask I wore was good enough. That my self-loathing didn’t peek through a crack.

The madam looked at me and nodded a bit shakily, “We…we have some who enjoy arts involving blood. But that does damage his value.”

I smiled again, took the knife and gritted my teeth as I pulled the sharp blade across my arm, opening a small river of blood. I had cut myself before; by accident several times…and in desperation once, seeking solace before I got a grip on myself. But greensteel weapons are some of the sharpest known to mortals or fiends, so the superficial wound hurt less than you would think. But I needed to show her that I was serious. The cut burned like fire as I watched the blood well up in the wound. But I quickly whispered under my breath and pulled on a bright white strand and circled around the cut and closed the wound in front of her eyes.

“He might lose the ability to speak for a bit, but I doubt that’s a problem. Besides, to watch their hopes fade as they realize you won’t let them die is so worth it.” I smiled. I hate this. It is all an act; all a story. A story from the past to fool a cony. I’m not really going to do it. I just have to remember it and how it felt…

“Well…for a..a…a hundred crowns…I have a place in the cellar; we can’t disturb my clients here after all. I would just need to get the key from upstair—”

“Of course,…We’ll wait for my men to finish up before I have my turn,” I smiled and thumbed the copper wire as I faked taking a sip from my drink.

“Daneath, you get unentangled yet?”

“Ah…no…still negotiating,”

Negotiating? What is he talking about? I looked to the stairs, and the two guards were still there staring at the room in general. I twisted the copper again around my finger.

“Iesa? The key is upstairs somewhere.”

“Great. No other guards up here. I’ll finish talking to Sanatha here and find the madam’s room,” came the reply.

“Did you have tools, and a way to keep the room warm?” I asked Philandre. “Its amazing how quickly a man turns cold, when he loses his skin,” I said as gave her a level look.

“Of course,” Philandre said. She looked at me as if summoning the courage, as if somehow the woman that sat there now alarmed her. “So, where did you learn your…skills?”

I took a genuine sip of the liquor, needing it to steel myself. I still felt ill; my stomach was churning with the stress of the memories and the story I was trying to sell. I needed them to help Beepu. I wanted to drown myself in more of the drink here and deny and forget ugly truths. But I needed to hold it together for Beepu.

"In a place far from here, taught by fiends that had countless lifetimes to hone their skills,” I said trying to keep a smile on my face. “There are no finer practitioners on the arts of pain. Pain you can scarcely believe.”

I twisted the copper wire again.

“Iesa?”

“Found her room. In it now searching, already avoided one poisoned needle.”

I twisted it again,

“Daneath?”

“I’m…ah…negotiating…. still!”

Still negotiating? What was the man doing?

“Dorin!,” Philandre called to the guard. “Check on the girls for me, and then I will need you to get Claptrap down in the cellars to…arrange the furniture.”

I thumbed the copper wire again and cast a strand out, “Iesa, we have a guard coming up!”

“I need time! I’ve almost opened this chest.”

I gulped and twisted the copper more.

“Daneath! Iesa needs time, and a guard is coming!”

“Crap. On it.”

“Are you alright dearie?” Philandre asked me, noticing my distraction.

I quickly smiled, “Just savoring the thoughts of what I want to do to that gno—”

Suddenly there was a clattering and there tumbling down the stairs was Daneath, entangled with Dorin, until both landed on the floor in a heap.

“What in the hells are you doing, you idiot?” the guard barked as he untangled himself from the warrior. Daneath grabbed the guard to use him to stand, and as I watched him intentionally leverage his greater weight to cause Dorin to fall down on the floor again.

I kept my mouth shut as I brushed the copper wire again.

“Iesa! We may be out of time.”

“Got the stuff, heading down.”

“Excuse me Philandre,” I grimaced as I looked towards the pair of men trying to stand. “But I need to have a word with my…help,” I said between clenched teeth, as I was also trying to stifle a laugh. I got off the stool and strode over to the pair. Once there, Daneath and Dorin stopped and stared at me expectantly.

I turned my head glaring at both, before settling my gaze on Daneath. I reached down and grabbed him by the right ear and pulled him to his feet. I didn’t really pinch him hard, but he certainly sold it with the grimace on this face followed by him muttering.

“Ow, ow,ow!”

“You are embarrassing me!” I growled. “Outside! Now!” and I pulled on his ear, and marched Daneath towards the door, while twisting the copper wire again and again.

“Sorry Daneath! Just play along,”

“Not a problem…you can tug harder if you…OW!”

Twisting again I threw out a strand towards Iesa;

“We are leaving! You have it all?”

“Yep, Book, Stone, pouch and a key. I’ll see you outside.”

I pushed open the door to the outside. The sun had not yet set, although the buildings cast long shadows across the quay. I dragged the warrior by his ear, to a building directly across from the brothel, and flung Daneath against the wall.

“Dan, what do you think you are doing!” I said, trying to sound angry, and also badly suppressing a smirk, all while twisting the copper wire around my finger.

“Daneath, watch the door for Iesa, say yes ma’am a lot, and don’t make me giggle”

“Sorry your ladyship! I didn’t mean to be so clumsy,” he said aloud in a whiny squeaky voice, while I heard in my head:

“Oh please? You need a good laugh. Your glares could curdle milk.” Came back the reply which infuriated me. This was serious!

“You sound like a…a…fishwife you overgrown child! Pull yourself together!” I spat at him. As I looked Daneath in the eye, he nodded his head in the direction behind me. Turning, I saw Iesa trotting up and wagging his finger at the warrior.

“You stupid behemoth! You cost me time with Sanatha!” and to my surprise, he punched the warrior in the face. I was shocked for a moment, but then realized that he pulled it and had really barely touched him. Daneath however rolled his head back with the blow making it look like an impressive strike. Iesa then turned and pressed into my hand a metal key.

I looked at him and smiled. “We’re going to need to run once Beepu is free,” I whispered.

“And how are we doing that with that crowd?” Daneath muttered.

I twisted the copper and pulled more threads, but this time I talked to Beepu.

“Can you still make a fog?”

“Yes, I can. Does not require much, but I am still in the cage.”

“Tell Foggle to come to me and get the key and—”

“Ah hah! Alright. Meet me behind the brothel by the edge of the pier.”

“Guys, follow me.” I said. The brothers looked at each other, nodded and fell in behind me as I cut through the crowd, walking near the cage that held our gnome. As we walked, I saw a flash of blackend gold, and I saw Foggle swoop towards me. I quickly lifted my hand holding the key aloft and Foggle grasped it in his talons and flew to the cage holding Beepu.

The kenku, Claptrap stared at the owl in confusion. Once Foggle alighted on the top of the cage, I could see Beepu lips move.

“Run,” I said, and we bolted towards the water’s edge.

We ran and just as we reached the end of the pier, mists streamed up through the cracks between the cobblestones, and quickly our vision became obscured. The crowd that surrounded the cage was now no longer visible, and there were shouts of concern and panic as everyone now was functionally blind.

I stood there and listened and could hear the sound of something made of iron, hitting the stone cobbles with a clang. Then I heard running footsteps, and I smiled. The sounds ran towards me, the sound of boots stomping on stone growing louder.

Boots?

“Sodd—,” I muttered, and instinctively I raised up my rod. From the grey soup in front of me, a I saw the shadow of a spear, thrust towards my head. My rod just barely knocked the spear point from striking me square in the face, and instead cut across my scalp. I yelped in pain, and quickly my vision was clouded by blood pouring into my eyes.

I could barely make out the shadow of Claptrap and his spear as he twirled it, ready to strike at me again. But before he could do so, I saw the large shadow of Daneath collide with the kenku. It once again spoke with Beepu’s voice and said, “Ouch stop that!”

But it was too late for him, as Daneath pushed him past the edge of the pier, and I heard a loud splash of water as Claptrap found himself hurled into the dirty waters of the bay. As he splashed around in the fog, I then suddenly felt a hand grab onto mine.

Looking down I saw it was Beepu, wearing little more than some rags around his waist.

“Thank you Myrai. Can we leave?”

“Beepu is that you? Follow the water’s edge and let’s find somewhere safe to hide,” I heard Iesa say.

Grabbing the gnome’s hand, I started to run as fast as I dared without tripping, heading further into the fog, with the sounds of Iesa and Daneath doing the same. I just wondered one thing:

I hope we are going in the right direction.



Session notes:

Free as a bird, but not for free as we will soon see. The encounter was fun, feeling like I was in charge of Ocean’s 11 for a heist. The problem I had was the only reason this occurred, is that Beepu’s player missed a session, which forced us into a confrontation to save him. If it wasn’t for that, we probably would have handled the town very, very differently.
 

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That was some fast thinking on Myrai's part, in a situation where she had to be very uncomfortable. Nicely done!

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
That was some fast thinking on Myrai's part, in a situation where she had to be very uncomfortable. Nicely done!
Thanks.

I will say as a player this was not comfortable either. Writing a story or background for your own character that has unsavory or unfortunate elements is par for the course. (Question: how many characters do you know are orphans? A common trope, which can be brilliant or terrible. I digress.)

This was a situation where the overtones of slavery, and what was done to women/smallfolk/children (implied) was not a comfortable topic. Coming up with a player rationale for being "Bad Myr" was on one hand a challenge, but on the other hand almost not fun. While I admit to being "attached" to Myrai, the whole scenario was one that I would have been reluctant to include my daughter (now in high school, and an avid player) because of those depictions and overtones.

By comparison, everyone did love the Myrai and driving the communications of the 'Great Gnome Heist.' Let us say that for as dark story of the brothel's workers was, the "How do I get up stairs, and not sleep with the girls" was hilarious. There were many failed persuasion checks.

Now at the time, I had been binge watching re-runs of Game of Thrones. As you can imagine, the episodes "Dark Wings, Dark Words", "The Climb" and "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" from season three were on my mind, and during the three sessions, the tragic story of Markel and Myrai emerged, to fill in gaps of her backstory of isolationism and a bit more on her own self-loathing.

What tragic story? Well...I guess it must be time to tell it.
 

That brings up a logical follow-on question: who are the players in this group? All adults, I assume? (You had mentioned not having wanted your daughter to have been included in this session, and I think I recall you saying once you and your son once played lizardfolk brothers in a different campaign.) Are you playing with friends, family members, or a mixture of both?

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
So the group with Myrai, we met via an ad placed by the DM on a forum, for an in person game. All the players were adults, ranging from 25-35 (I'm the outlier, being in my forties). My son almost joined, but college schedules didn't make that workable for "Souls."

The OTHER campaign where I did play with my son and coworkers (Honel Evel) ran parallel to that one a different night (Sat vs Sun) and that had Ss'Thak and Ss'Tok the lizard folk eggbrothers. That then led to another campaign, which ended up adding my daughter to the table.

That other campaign I am going to write about VERY soon.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Cellar Dwellers - 8/29/2020

The problem with hiding, is that; you are only hiding. It isn’t safety, because a mistake will expose you. It isn’t security, because otherwise why did you need to hide to begin with? What it is though, is comforting. That somehow you outwitted or outsmarted someone on where you are. A lie you tell yourself that you are safe.

Sometimes it even works.



I blinked as the setting sun hit my eyes, as we emerged from the fog. The sound of an angry and confused crowd was a fair distance behind us, as we picked up our pace and ran. Beepu was limping, while Daneath fell to the rear, watching for pursuers. Iesa in the meantime, ran us between alleys of the shanty town, looking around for something. We didn’t stop, until Iesa ran us to a cluster of former shacks, now just piles of wood on the earth. He held up his hand, in a motion to stop us. He then started looking around in the debris.

Finally, he lifted up a flattened section of a former wall, revealing a rough hole, with a ladder descending into the earth. Without a word we all scrambled down. I flexed and gave Daneath’s shield a dim red light as he climbed. After a moment, and the sound of wood being moved, Mo bounded down the ladder, followed by Iesa, who was panting.

“I covered us a bit more,” he whispered. “If we keep quiet, we should be safe.”

“How did you know about this place?” Daneath whispered, as he set his shield down against the wall. The shield illuminated a simple cellar, with the remains of shelves, bottles, and a couple of barrels missing their tops. The floor was covered in flat stones, with some open sections of dirt in between the stones here and there. The walls seemed incomplete; rough earth, bordered, with some wooden beams, or panels. Some had hooks, and others supported empty or broken shelves.

“I saw Mo poking around here when we came into the port,” Iesa said. “He probably smelled something, or something caught his eye. So, I guessed. Otherwise, I was going to run back to the cave.”

“Well, it is adequate,” Beepu breathing was slowing. “My things Iesa.”

“Oh sure,” said Iesa. Out of a satchel he fished out a pouch and handed it to the gnome. Digging further he then pulled out Beepu’s spellbook and handed it to him.

Beepu kept nodding and held out his hand again. Iesa knitted his brow briefly, before remembering something, and dug in the satchel again, and pulled out a smooth glittering stone, which with a smile he handed to the gnome.

Beepu took it, and held out his hand expectantly again, while Iesa looked at him with confusion.

“What?”

“Where are they?”

“They?”

“The gems?”

Iesa blinked, “Gems? Uh…I didn’t see anything next to your book…and I wasn’t looking for them.”

“You fool! They were in a pouch next to my component kit here!” Beepu said angrily.

“Not when I found them. Those were in a locked box together, I swear!” Iesa held up his hands defensively.

“How could you miss them!” The gnome said angrily. “That as all my…my—”

“—I didn’t know!” Iesa raised his voice as he stepped towards the gnome.

“Guys!” I said, stepping in between them., motioning with my hands to lower their voices. “Beepu…you didn’t tell me anything about that; and we barely had time to get out of there. Blame me if you like; I’m sorry.”

Beepu’s anger melted to resignation. “I…I did not. I am sorry. And I thank you for saving me. It is just a lot of crowns lost”

“How much?” Daneath asked as he sat down on a dilapidated stool.

“About three thousand,” Beepu sighed.

Iesa hissed, “Ouch…yeah I’m really sorry. If I knew…well I guess, I’ll have to steal you some extra.”

“While you are at it some clothes as well.” Beepu said looking at the rags he wore.

I dug into my pack and pulled out the shirt I wore when we first arrived and handed it to the gnome. “Here, you can have this until we find you something.”

Beepu frowned, “Well…I do not want to hear about me wearing women’s clothing!”

I nodded, as Beepu pulled the tunic over himself.

“Well...it is softer than my own clothes,” Beepu said softly.

“You can keep it I suppose,” I said hiding my smirk.

--Well…you stirred up the whole port it seems Myr.

Wonderful.
I sighed and rubbed my temples. Gos, go hide. Warn us if they poke at where we are. Run if you need to.

“Well, Foggle mentioned that most of the port is looking—” Beepu started.

“—You think?” Daneath replied with a bit of annoyance. “Stole their stolen property in a port full of stolen things.”

“—For Myrai,” Beepu finished. I groaned and slumped down to the floor cradling my head with my knees. “Seems they are offering a large reward for her…alive.”

Everyone went silent and I could feel their eyes on me. I sighed and said quietly “One problem at a time. I need to rest,” and stared at the dirt wall across from me.

“Let’s all get some rest then. We are going to need it,” Iesa guessed.





Later that evening, Daneath was sitting on the stool, trying to focus and stay awake. It was very dark, with only slivers of moonlight coming through the rafters above their hiding place. It was times like this that Daneath envied Myrai’s ability to create light. Hells, she didn’t even need it; she could see better than Beepu without any light at all.

So, Daneath instead focused on what he could hear. And at some point, he heard the sound of someone digging in a pouch. Turning his head, he saw in one of the rays of light, that it was Myrai was pulling a small object out of her pouch. She looked at it carefully and then she started to tremble. Barring her teeth in disgust, she threw the object downwards, where it shattered on the stone floor like glass. Grasping her temples with her hands, she started to breathe deeply, as if she was trying to calm herself. She finally pitched her head backwards and beat the wall with it, slowly trying to work out something.

“Sodding Baator,” she muttered. She turned her attention to the glass shards, and she started to mutter an incantation. It took time but as Daneath watched, the object was slowly restored, and she now stuffed it back into her pouch. She then again rested her head against the wall looking upwards towards the ceiling, with an expression on her face that read like she was in pain.

“You know, if you want more things to break, I’m sure that Beepu has something fragile in his kit,” Daneath said. Myrai barely smiled and turned her head toward the warrior and regarded him with a tired look.

“Sorry…I didn’t mean to wake you; I broke a mirror while cleaning mysel.” She stammered, avoiding making eye contact.

Daneath looked at Myrai, her outline was framed in a ray of moonlight, causing her mirrored eyes to gleam in the darkness. She sat, slumped against a wall on the broken floor, her legs stretched out on the stone. But Daneath noted that she sounded tired, frustrated and almost angry. This bothered him for some reason. Myrai and he rarely spoke alone. It seemed between the four of them, that it was the other three that did all the talking. Whether Beepu was going off on some random fact that Beepu felt was vitally important, when it was clear it wasn’t, or his brother whose self-confidence and bravado could easily steer people away from topics he didn’t want to talk about. But Myrai was different. Certainly, it was because Myrai was a girl, but when she spoke softly, everyone would turn to listen. And when she raised it, her voice commanded attention.

But she usually spoke with purpose and not just idle conversation; Iesa and Beepu would monopolize that. And she rarely sought to be the center of attention. When she it did, it was with purpose like in the brothel as she played a role. But when they travelled together, she would tend to quietly drink strong alcohol, and really said very little. If it weren’t for the fact that they were together at a table, you would almost believe that she was lonely despite sitting there among them.

Daneath frowned and pressed a bit “Isn’t that used to help cast a spell? I don’t remember you breaking your stuff before you needed it. Or is this something new?”

Myrai grimaced and replied “I do use it for a particular spell but..it was just I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror is all. And I don’t normally look at myself in mirrors.”

“Why?”

“Because it reminds me of something…I want to forget.”

“I admit that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. You’re a pretty lady after all. Easy on the eyes isn’t capturing the words I have heard in the inns.”

“I’m pretty sure there are a lot of other words coming from the inns. It’s just…when I look into a mirror, I see myself very differently than how people see me. And I don’t like what I see.”

Daneath was trying to process this, completely confused on how someone like Myrai couldn’t stand to look at herself. “You’ve lost me with that.”

Myrai nodded, “I’ll try to explain but it isn’t a simple thing. Nor is it a pretty story for that matter. But honestly, after what just happened, it might have been yesterday”

“Only if you want to Myrai, if you don’t…”

“No…if anything perhaps you can take something away from it. Something I can’t. Just…just understand…” her voice trailed off in a sigh, “I’ve never told anyone this…ever. So please…don’t bring it up with others.”

“I won’t. I want to know what’s bothering you.”

Myrai took a deep breath, as if steadying herself and then began. “Something to think about as I tell this…even hear someone say, they would ‘rather die’ after committing some horrible thing? Every time I hear that, I keep thinking how if they, really, really knew what the other side had in store for their souls, that they wouldn’t be so casual about saying that. What I am about to tell you…might explain why.

“I know that sometime after we met, that I mentioned I am a member of a faction…or was I suppose now. Anyway, that I was a member of the “Society of Sensation” or a Sensate.”

Daneath thought a moment, “I seem to remember you saying that, but it didn’t really mean much at the time.”

“Well, the society kind of disbanded, and that is a long story itself. But a Sensate’s purpose is to understand the universe, by experiencing everything it has to offer because learning by experience beats reading it in a book. So, to progress in the Sensates, you try to experience as many different things you can. But experience isn’t limited to good things, you can learn a lot from bad things. In many respects, you can learn more from failure, from regret and from pain compared to success, happiness and pleasures. There isn’t a great mystery on why you like things you like.

“But among entrants to the Sensates who want to join the faction, you need to submit either five memories using each sense, or a single memory of all five. That takes some work, to find a quality memory, but that’s not all. Sensates had a bad reputation because, they would go off and experience all the fun things to the exclusion of everything else. Drinking, gaming, drugs, sex, any type of hedonism you can think of. It became such a problem that Erin Montgomery, the Facto…sorry, leader of the Sensates started to have recruits tested. Basically, a test of self-control; when you are faced with the pleasures of the universe, can you pull yourself back from the brink?

“So, did you pass that test?” Daneath asked?

“What? Oh, I did, and you could call it either a close call or a very keen control of self. I literally had almost lost perspective and yet I still managed to pull back from the edge. And that time it didn’t seem to matter which case it was.

“Anyway, before that, before I found a memory, there was this, guy at the time that was also trying to join and go upwards into the Sensates; Markel. I can’t forget him…cute, tousled dark blonde hair, blue eyes, and he was…well put together. Very easy on the eyes.” Myrai smiled as her eyes looked upwards as she recalled the memory. She then gave a light chuckle, “And I was absolutely enthralled with him.

Myrai then shook her head,“Who am I kidding, I thought I loved him. We were involved…a couple. I finally had found someone to spent time with…someone to share my feelings and heart with. Plus, he had jink and spent a lot it on parties. and he was exactly the problem that Erin didn’t want. And I didn’t realize how much it was a problem for me.

“So, while he was smart and he had the drive, he didn’t have that control. So, when they didn’t even let him take the test, he took it very hard. It sounds so trite; ‘they won’t let me in the club..I’m going to go cry.’ But the reality was that like Iesa and I, he had come from nothing and was raised on the streets. He wanted a path up out of the Hive and…like too many others, nothing to fall back on.

“So, how did he afford the parties?” Daneath asked beginning to suspect the problem.

“I didn’t know it when I met him, he but borrowed it all. And he borrowed…a lot. And as it turned out, he was in debt to the wrong sorts of people and the hourglass was nearly out. It was so bad; I had heard that he went to Suicide Alley—”

“--What’s that?”

“Oh…it’s a section of Sigil that you can actually get to the edge and look over it. All you see is grey though, but anyone that jumps off there disappears…forever. But its camped with fiends goading folks to jump, and spivs taking shorts, trying to kill them before they disappear. Not an uplifting place. So, I heard that he went there and stood at the brink of Sigil and stared. As the fiends and rabble always did, they jeered, they cajoled and egged him on to jump. But he didn’t…or couldn’t. But that was much later.

Daneath frowned, he had seen many like this; living on the edge of life itself, unable to improve their fortune. But many would endure, with faith, with will alone. But there was always that few who just wanted it to end. It was a story he had seen before.

“So, what did he do? He ask you for help?”

“No. He..he didn’t ask any of us that knew him. He was present the Festhall, but he was growing more and more distant. He didn’t tell us what was going on. I was concerned, but he brushed me off, over and over. Then it happened; and he was forced to make a choice. And he went to ‘The Tenth Pit,’” she said with tone of bitterness.

Daneath gave Myrai a puzzled look, and she explained. “Everyone has a favorite place to do things. You want to gamble and place a bet on Big “D” in the pit, you go to the Fortune’s Wheel, you want a place to make a dark deal and privacy, you go to the Styx Oarsman. But if you are fiend, a favorite place they like to go to is a pub called ‘The Tenth Pit.’ And there they cater to the whims and desires of the Baatezu, Tanar’ri and Yugoloths. And there they relax by, inflicting pain and suffering on others. And Sensates who…wanted to experience the worlds of pain and suffering, they could experience it…for a price.”

“Didn’t you say he was on his last legs though? And why he did want pain?”

Myrai, looked down and said grimly “I didn’t know why when I had first heard. But he went there to make a deal. And while everyone knew that making deals with any fiend never ends well, he still went. So, when I found out that he went there, I did the only thing I could do,” and she looked straight at Daneath with a tear in her eye.

“I followed.”

Session Notes:

So at the end of things, Beepu did lose a lot. Actually everything, but the spellbook really. There were some other items as well, most were minor, but I thought a scroll or two went missing. It was a high price for essentially being absent.

The next several installments, is actually a 'fill in the backstory'...and like many backstories, there is an important thread for later. Its a bit different, but hey...so is Sigil.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Refinancing – 9/3/2020

So, I was very different five years ago. At the time I was having fun and was avoiding paying off the Gatehouse.

Or I think I was. I can’t remember a lot of those nights.


Five years ago, Sigil, Clerks’ Ward.

I awoke and yawned. I didn’t even bother to open my eyes and instead stretched out on the bed and rolled over to my right expecting to find Markel’s warm body to snuggle against. Instead my hand patted the empty cold mattress. Confused, I propped myself up on an arm and looked around.

Markel had rented a nice apartment in the clerks’ ward, above an advocates’ shop. The room was of course a mess, scattered clothes were everywhere, as were empty bottles and plates of left-over food from last nights’ party. The lingering smell of incense, sweat, and bub drifted in the air.

It wasn’t even a good party, as many of the guest left complaining how boring it was compared to others. I honestly barely remembered it. I remembered drinking the last bottle of razorwine that we had, and I was feeling it now with my pounding headache. Sitting up, and clutching a blanket to my chest, I saw that there was another couple still here from the party, still asleep and embraced in each other’s arms as they snored in a large overstuffed chair near an opening to the balcony.

I wrapped the blanket around me, and padded my way to the pantry, looking for food, and perhaps a beer or ale to dull the pain. But I saw that Markel hadn’t restocked it, finding a single wedge of sour cheese, and a crusty loaf of bread. But nothing to dull the pain I felt. I grabbed the cheese and bit into it and returned to the bedroom to find my clothes. As I returned, I saw the couple had started to wake up, and they turned to look at me as I entered.

“Ow my head…. what time is it?” the male half-elf said looking around.

“I think it is getting near peak,” I said. “But I don’t really know…um…I’m sorry…we did meet last night, right?”

“Yeah we did,” the tiefling girl said. “I’m Trina and this,” and she pinched the nose to the male’s annoyance, “Is Drenae. Is Markel around?”

“Um…no” I said a little mystified. “I guess he went to…get stuff.”

“Well, thanks for the little party…it was…kinda fun. He’s thrown better ones,” Trina said sounding a little unimpressed.

“Have…have we met before? I mean before last night?” I asked still hazy on the prior night and wracking my brains on why she seemed familar.

“Myree, you say that every time we meet…although I think this is the first time we crashed here,” the tiefling said with a note of disapproval.

“I need to get going, or the foreman is going to sent me to chase the Lady,” Drenae said, slapping Trina on the bottom and getting her to stand up on her own hooves. Both then started pulling on their scattered clothes, while I went into the main room, looking for where my own were.

The main room was even more of a disaster; two chairs were broken, glasses, mugs and broken bottles were scattered around along with a couple of small open barrels. I looked at some of the intact bottles to see if there were any left-over drinks, but I didn’t find anything to scavenge. I did however, finally found my tunic and donned it, while I continued to search for my pants. As I was doing so, Drenae and Trina, were stumbling a bit off balance, and giggling a bit, heading to the door out.

“Say thanks to Markel for us,” Trina said waving to me as I was pulling on my leathers. “And tell him, that he lied; you are an awesome kisser.”

I blushed and smiled awkwardly, wishing I could remember what happened last night, “Ah…yeah…sure.” They then opened the door and Drenae said “Whoa.”

I looked towards the door, and there on the front door was a piece of paper, hung there with a crude set of nails.

Trina squinted at it a moment and whistled. “Oh my. Looks like Markee might be in a bit of trouble here.”

“What?” I said finishing pulling up my pants and walking to the door.

“Seems Markel is a jinkster…and someone wants him to pay up,” Trina said pointing at the note.

I grabbed the paper and tore it down from the door, “What are they…talking...what the?"

The lettering was fine and precise, and written in both common and Infernal, saying the same thing, unsigned.

“Markel,

“You are now 300 days in arears in payment on the loan. If you value your friends, you better show up today in the Tenth Pit to pay up on your contract.

“The Jinxsmith.”

I looked at the note confused. Loan? The Tenth Pit? Value your friends?

The pair looked at me and started to move in haste, “We…um…gotta go.” They suddenly looked nervous and they began to back away.

“What? What’s wrong?” I said concerned.

“Honey, the Jinksmiths are fiends that give out loans to cony’s and expect huge pay backs.,” Trina said nervously. “If he owes one of those fiend’s money…they take it out on the marks’ friends.”

“Wait, why?”

“Because if you hurt the mark to much, they may not pay it back. So, they hurt…we really got to go!” and the pair scrambled down the hallway to the stairs that led outside.

My hands holding the paper, shook as I looked at the note.

“Markee…what have you done?”




I walked down Iron Avenue trying to steel myself. I was afraid, but I wanted to help Markel. I was willing to do anything at that point to help him.

I turned down towards the alleyway, and I could see it. The Tenth Pit entrance was next to a Baatezu iron mongers’ shop. I heard they sold some of the best greensteel blades, and I also heard they did a brisk business with the patrons of the Pit before they partook in their chosen…diversions. The entrance itself was a blackened archway, with an iron gate and a very bored barbazu outside. This wasn’t the alley for random touts and sightseers, and anyone who lived in the ward knew what the place was.

The barbazu’s eyes narrowed as I approached. I was very much out of my element, but I was trying to look nonchalant, or brave, or at least not afraid. I doubt it cared about my fear, but I certainly did pique its interest.”

‘A lily coming to the Pit? Do the wonders of the Lady never cease? Come in and make yourself…at home,” it smiled with a hiss, and bowed floridly sweeping his hand towards the archway.’

I swallowed and glared at it. I would have thrown a retort out but, I’m not sure I could have said anything coherently. Then I stepped into the archway and headed downward, beneath Sigil. The wide staircase spiraled downwards deep underground, and then opened into a large domed room.

I expected darkness, but the bar was decently lit. Lit by fiery braziers suspended from the ceilings, large ones on the floor. It was, colorful as well. Reds, Greens, Blues, Orange and yellows burned brightly casting few shadows, and the braziers rotated color of the flames. The result as a regular shifting of the tone and feel of bar overall. It was divided into quarters, with a central hub serving drinks. Three of the quarters handled Baatezu, and Tanar’ri with a section for Yugoloth separating them, just like the great wheel. The last quarter seemed to be common ground, with a what looked to be inn keeper’s desks flanking another archway leading down. Above the quarters were platforms; some attached to the pillars, others suspended from chains, where winged patrons looked down from their eyries above.

And it was packed. I had never seen so many friends, so close to each other. With fiends, usually there is a bit of bickering, posturing, dand not a small bit of violence. Just like the Smoldering Corpse, when I crossed to the prime; all because an argument about the Blood War. Here, it was…calm, even casual. If you ignored the slitted eyes, the scales, the bat wings, and hooves you would think you were just at a busy anti-peak at the Golden Briaur.

But even I could feel tension here, it wasn’t really safe for the fiends.

It was even less so for me.

I could tell when I stepped out of the shadows and into the room properly. I could feel eyes turn to look at me. Looked at me with disgust, with bloodlust, with hunger. The bar seemed to quiet down, and the whispers and murmuring started.

That’s when I heard the screams. Faint, and coming from the fourth quarter, where the staircase descended, just beyond the array of desks. Swallowing, I made my way towards them, trying to ignore the stares. Sitting at one was a malebranche. He was bored, squinting at papers in front of him. Without looking up, he spoke in the Infernal tongue;

‘Hold your nightmares, I’ll get to you in a moment,”

“Nak’ta kuntz caacht Markel?” I demanded in Infernal.

The malebranche winced a second and slowly looked up from the desk, “Very close intonation. Not nearly harsh enough. And your vowels are far…too…sweet.” The Malebranche regarded me with an expression that was between bored and amused.

“’A lily walks into a fiend’s bar.’ Sounds like either an interesting story, or a bad joke. And since you are asking about Markel, I’m guessing you’re taking a story angle…Myrai.”

I was taken aback by this, “I was…expected?”

“Oh yes. Your…friend,” he said with a sneer, “had written a note for you to be delivered soon. I should thank you for saving me the effort of contracting a mephit to find you. Dealing with mephits is…tiresome.”

“Soon? He’s still here then?”

The Malebranche cocked his head and looked at the ceiling and listened, “Yes…for the moment. And you? What brings you here, little lily?”

“He has a contract with you doesn’t he. What is it?”

“Indeed…nothing in the contract proscribes me from talking about it generally. He wanted something specific…something we as a…policy we normally don’t do. He was very…very insistent.”

“For a soul? Seems a bit cheap,” I remembered spitting out in disgust.

The Malebranche smiled “Please. You are…new…here. The Blood War may be ever in need of resources. But Shemeshka…she doesn’t permit the establishment to engage in that type of deal. Best not to attract the Lady’s ire. But we do other types of deals and so, he made one with the Pit, not the hierarchies of the War itself.

“What deal?”

“He asked for his debt to the Jinksmiths to be paid off, and for three small things; an absolution, a death, and a letter delivered upon it.”

“He could have done all of that without the Pit’s help. Why here, why you?”

Shrugging the malebranche leaned back putting on a casual air, “Oh that has a lot to do with the loan he made and terms of non-payment. It seems that in recent dialog they started threatening…what’s the cant for it…’adams’ of his.”

I stiffened at the implication. “And you just, pay the jink off just like that? His life meant that little, that he has to beg to die?”

“No…a contract, cannot be done under duress like that. The Pact Primeval itself prevents that for souls, but here, Inevitables from the planes of law stand in for it here. We, who make deals are all subject to a contract signed with the constructs, and we will not break them. Still, a contract with a being’s own death is generally frowned upon by the establishment. But an exception was made in your adams’ case.”

“Why,” I was angry and almost in tears listening to the contempt in the fiend’s voice for Markel’s life.

“It’s for a simple reason. Certain…tears taste sweeter. It’s like a delicacy. We aren’t stripping his soul apart; We’re helping him ‘pay’ for crimes he believes needs settling. The Pit is a place for tasting and sampling such rarities. We’ll make more off of him, than the pittance that we paid. And he’s perfectly free to seek his absolution…but as we pointed out, it’s not up to us to find it for him.”

“He…doesn’t …know …what …he’s doing. How can this contract be broken?”

“I disagree. He knows exactly what he has done and is doing. He’s not under any duress from us. But as for the contract, breaking it, is bad for business in general, and my health in particular. The Inevitables enforce them to the letter, so a breach is…a serious matter. But we can play, ‘let’s pretend.’ What do you have to offer in exchange for breaking a contract?”

I remember standing there with a knot in my throat and closing my eyes, breathing deeply. “What if I took his place?”

The Malebranche didn’t react. It’s slitted eyes regarded me for a long moment. “A lily ready to take her turn at the end of a scourge? A noble sacrifice?,” it sneered. “An interesting thought. And why should I do that?”

“Well, you do get to charge for admission again don’t you? That would be twice what you get normally. That should be more enough to cover Markel’s time.” I said trying not to sound desperate, trying not to beg.

And failing on all counts.

But the malebranche smiled “You have me there I suppose. So, you serve his agreed time and what did you want in exchange?”

“You don’t kill him. I’m sure he can find absolution elsewhere.”

The Malebranche continued its smile, “Probably…we never guaranteed anything there. As for the letter…you could have that after matters were settled,” I nodded eagerly in response.

“I suppose…a loophole…might…be found,” the Malebranche drummed his taloned fingers on the desk and then gave me a wicked smile. “I think I know…no I know a way to resolve this. Very well then, let me get something drafted.” The malebranche reached into the desk, and pulled out some papers, and started to flip through them.

“Most of these are standard as far as limitations are concerned. I assume you can read Infernal better than you speak it. As a…courtesy, I’ll make sure that they…slow down…so we can conclude negotiations,” and he continued that smug smile and started working on a document in front of him. He waved his clawed hand, and an imp materialized, gave me a wicked grin, and flew off down the stairs.

I wanted to speed this up and finish this But, I had never entered a contract before, and I didn’t want to make a mistake that would cost me more than I could pay. I didn’t trust this malebranche, let alone any other fiend. I was on edge and it didn’t help that as I glanced around, that other fiends were pointing our way and they were whispering and looking in our direction. Sometimes paranoia was warranted.

“Here we are…read it and add any…limitations on the section at the end here. Take your time,” and the Malebranche, leaned back in his seat and watched me.

I regarded the contract…it was longer than I expected. Far longer than it should have been, based on the time that had passed. As I read, my discomfort increased. I felt in my stomach that tightening feeling of dread. I admit that I wasn’t sure what to make of the limits though. it seemed that this part of the contract was typical; nothing permanent mark wise. It mentioned that I would keep all my limbs at the end, which I found chillingly explicit. It was lengthy as well, with sections that were gender specific. No children, no intimate relations at all in fact. All the while I was reading this orderly contract, I got the feeling that I was missing something. It read that there would be pain, Markel’s pain would end, and they wouldn’t kill him, and I would get the note after the completion of mine.

It smelled wrong, but Baatezu contracts were very specific. I would walk away, with my soul still my own. The contracts base language was written for Sensates. Lots of Sensates came here, and they all walked away.

Then I realized what was wrong. It was not because it was a standard contract, but instead it was because Markel’s and my name were already dry throughout the contract. Like the malebranche had already written the contract ahead of my arrival. Like I was…expected.

I now really didn’t want to sign.




“So why did you?” Daneath asked. “You seemed to sense a trap. I can hear you obviously saying it’s a trap, and somehow this is a boring story if you didn’t sign it.”

Myrai looked at Daneath and sighed. “Well, they say that you do stupid things when you are in love. Turns out, you do. I signed it because of that, because I thought I could save him, and I thought I was smart enough to make a deal with a fiend and come out a head…or maybe just break even.”




The Malebranches smile never broke as I signed it, and he counter signed it. “Well, then shall we? I am sure that Markel will be…pleased…to see you again. Follow me then.”

I followed the Baatezu to the stairs. The flickering lights from the braziers giving me a headache. But as we descended, I swore I heard the nearby fiends chuckling, and it only grew louder as I descended deeper into The Pit

Below the main bar, the stairs turned into twisting passages. It looked like your typical dungeon; dark, dank, and doors. Lots of iron doors. I had no idea if this was just some perverse aesthetic or there were that many cells and rooms. After some time, we turned a corner and the malebranche with an exaggerated gesture, motioned me into an open doorway.

Stepping inside, my eyes adjusted to the bright orange and I saw him, Markel. He was hanging from a set of chains set into the ceiling. His body was a mess; signs of whips and sources, cuts, and a wealth of sores and wounds all weeping blood. I rushed forward to him, when I heard moving chains.

The chains quickly wrapped themselves around my arms, wrists, waist and legs, pulling me away from Markel. I pulled and struggled, but I didn’t have the strength to escaped from their grasp, and I found myself pulled upwards into the air. Turning my head, my fears became realized. A figure stepped out of the shadows; it was humanoid in shape. But the figure was draped in nothing but chains. Some small and fine, and others heavy; a Kyton.




“Wait what’s a Kyton?” Daneath asked.

“Kytons are the jailers and torturers from the city of Jangling Hiter in Baator." Myrai said. "A ‘devil’ draped in chains, like a shroud, concealing their bodies. And they are masters of their craft, since before there were tieflings. They are experts in…pain, simply put. Let me continue.”




This one just had that presence and command of the room and the chains that hung from the ceiling and lay on the floor were his tools. And in short order I found myself suspended in the air by those chains, that moved like metal snakes. All the while the Kyton regarded me with disinterest, instead focusing its eyes on the delicate teacup in its hand, slowly stirring a spoon within.

The malebranche smile again never broke, “Ah how quickly our replacement guest has assumed her position here. You can release the other one.” and I saw Markel’s body hit the ground with a wet thump. His eyes opened briefly and saw me. He had a puzzled look on his face at first and then a look of pain and sorrow. I struggled pointlessly, trying to reach him. But as I looked at him I could clearly him looking at me, tears streaming down his cheek whispering:

“For…give…me,”

His head slumped down on the flagstone, and he lay there with labored breathing. And I saw forming below him, a pool of blood, oozing and spreading slowly across the floor. I looked at the malebranche, “Well!?! You said you weren’t going to kill him.”

“Ah yes…our agreement was that wasn’t it?” the malebranche looked at his talons a moment, before glancing my direction. “And so, we will not. However, I also said that his contract wasn’t breakable either. And his stated that his death was required, not that we kill him. And so, we have a compromise. He will not kill him…but we cannot be compelled to prevent him from bleeding his life away on the floor. It seems likely that he will die from that…and so his contract will be fulfilled,” the malebranche said with a toothy grin.

At this point as the horror was unfolding, I realized what I had missed. I never saw his contract. Mine was dependent on his and I never thought to ask to read Markel’s. I had been peeled figuratively speaking. And now, I was looking at the prospect literally.

“I will say Myrai, that it has indeed been a pleasure to making a deal with you. Ever since your friend mentioned you, I had wondered if this gamble would pay off. After all, a pittance it was to pay off his debts, and his tears are of course valuable on their own right. But it was a slim margin. But you…a foundling; as close to the source as one can get as a mortal…”

I was shaking at this point; the chains were tight around me, but you could still hear the shivering in the links. I felt contempt for my foolishness, rage at the malebranche who expertly peeled me and anger at Markel for the entire thing. I tried despite what I had signed, tried to shake my limbs free from my bonds. But as I pulled against the chains, my feelings changed from anger, and started to settle into fear. The coney had gone farther that I thought was possible.

The malebranche strode next to me, and placed a single claw against my cheek, and I felt pain as he drew it down my jawline to my chin. “So, while, his contact called for as many signed up for within an hour, only six did so. A poor showing for his agreed time even with the extra fees for the one who drew the last straw, “he removed his claw and I could see my blood dripping from its edge.

“But you…well, granted I was not certain if you would come, and so I took a risk on advertising something I wasn’t quite certain I could deliver. But many others have been looking forward to it.” And then proceeded to taste my blood, never breaking his gaze into my eyes.

Gulping, and taking in air like it was the last I would ever taste, I asked, “And how many signed up for mine?”

“It has only just started; only once our signatures were on the page. But…word has spread. I will have to check on things and we must wait for its conclusion before…being entertaining the others. So, you can…think on it, on your friend, or…whatever you like. Nastanal will prepare you in the meantime. And the malebranche walked out of the room, twirling its tail and humming to itself.

The Kyton, walked around me sipping from its teacup, evaluating me, but otherwise staying silent as I hung there in the air. As for myself I was in sodding shock, but my attention turned to Markel. The pool of blood had been growing, but now I had a moment to see how bad his injuries were. His limbs were intact, but most of his skin was flayed exposing muscles on in back. Needles, hooks, and what looked like glass were embedded between layers of muscles, or below them. Most of the blood came from the areas where the glass cut deeply into him.

“Acheron Glass,” the Kyton intoned. “Sharp enough that most don’t feel it when they cut. But, when in contact with blood, it prevents clotting and converts blood into a very painful acid. A favorite of his patron from the prior engagement. The human will die shortly.”

Markel lay still only occasionally quivering less and less often. His death was upon him, and I doubted that I would speak to him again. My mind was an absolute panic, “The prior? so you aren’t partaking in this?”

I could hear from behind me the clinking of the spoon against the teacup. “No. I am master of the rooms. Your…keeper as it were. I will keep you here. I will keep you from dying as that is my charge. I will keep to the contract and call those to heal if needed and nothing more.”

“And for him?”

“A Collector has been called for, to take him to the Dustman. He made no request otherwise.”

“Let me down a moment…let me hold him! Let me help him!” I thrashed and screeched.

"I cannot. You will want to alter the outcome of his contract. That will not be permitted.” It intoned and I swore I heard sorrow in the deep baritone voice.

I heard and then felt chains moving across me. Slowly the Kyton, with great care and a gentleness I would not have expected, began to remove my boots and belt.

“Did he say anything?” I choked on my tears as I hung there helpless, unable to touch his warmth one last time. Desperate for anything.

The Kyton walked slowly around in front of me. The chains around it were in constant motion; each chain moved on its own accord in a clinking ballet. Some removed my outfit, and others drifting around the Kyton, like attendants. They shifted around the Baatezu, as if affected by a light breeze. It’s head and face were framed in layers upon layers of chains, which only allowed me to see its almost human eyes.

“The human said many things. Most were pleas. A name combined with begging. There was only one thing the Human did not say which is usually common.” The chains on and around me shifted constantly, and more clothing was removed. I noticed with some surprise; they were being organized neatly on a bench on the side of the room. The chains moved me as needed and were in constant motion to remove themselves from being an impediment. And I could do nothing to resist as I was slowly being stripped. It seemed to drawn out longer than needed, before I was wearing only my smallclothes, and yet I had barely moved.. And finally, even those were removed.

I hung there and cried. My sense failure grew as did the pool of blood; he would die, alone, with not even a warm caress, a kiss or any comfort. Eventually he made a final wheezing sound; a death rattle, and Markel was lost to me, forever.

I hung there, clothed only in my tears. I don’t know how long it was, my head bowed in defeat. After a long while, I heard the happy humming of the malebranche as it returned to smugly taunt me.

“You mustn’t cry now; you should save that for later for the patrons. But I suppose you are…eager to move things along. The final count has been tallied, and I am indeed impressed. My promises of who might arrive was one thing, but you striding in, with those noble intentions, cinched the deal for the doubters. My gamble has paid off far beyond what I expected. It appears that 133 patrons will have their allotted time of an hour with you. You should be…proud.” The grin and a chuckle barely registered with me.

“Over a hundred hours? Five days?” I was growing cold, and shivering. I was staring at the Malebranche with, what I assumed was horror or shock.

“Well, a little longer than that. Sleeping and healing does take some time, so it’s more than a week. We cannot afford an accident here, or it is my life on the line in Baator. And I am not willing to let that happen.” The malebranche knelt next to bloodied corpse of Markel and gently manipulated his head and arms. “Yes…quite dead. And, so his contract is nearly fulfilled.” He strode over to my things and laid a scroll upon them. “There, now it is done. You can read it…afterwards. And so, I will see you at the end. Nastanal will take good care of you I assume.”

I remember futilely trying to free myself. I was angry; at the malbranche, at Markel, but mostly at myself. I thought I could get the better deal. I thought I could save a man that needed it. I thought that fate and universe and maybe luck would help me.

I was wrong.

I hung there, naked, sweating, and emotionally exhausted. Barely comprehending what was going to happen next. But for some reason, I needed a single question answered. Something that the Kyton said that was turning over and over in my head.

“Nastanal, you said Mar—he said many things, but you said he didn’t say something. What was it?”

The Kyton’s chains in front of its face parted, allowing it to take a sip from the teacup. And it said a single word. A word that didn’t make any sense yet.

“Stop.”


Session notes:

So, we were on a small break when I wrote a draft of this specific story about two years ago as a writing experiment. Part of the reason I wrote it, was I was fleshing out Myrai’s backstory, when I had reread in one of the original sourcebooks, how Erin Montgomery was trying to change the perception of the Society from just a bunch of hedonists.

Considering Myrai was still in the hive, I realized she was, like way too many girls, someone with low self-esteem. I could see her going overboard, without a thought of the consequences, and how she would change into a much more grounded person later.
 

Daaaaaaaang. This is going to be the worst week ever. And yet this is something apparently some Sensates would willingly sign up for if they hadn't yet experienced it; that's one of the reasons the Sensates, as a whole, never made a whole lot of sense to me (no pun intended).

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Daaaaaaaang. This is going to be the worst week ever. And yet this is something apparently some Sensates would willingly sign up for if they hadn't yet experienced it; that's one of the reasons the Sensates, as a whole, never made a whole lot of sense to me (no pun intended).
You have the gift of both understatement and foreshadowing. :)

The location, The Tenth Pit, AND the comment about it being a 'Current favorite of the Sensates' going there for that reason are canon actually, covered in the supplement "In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil." (page 59). While Erin's desire to weed out undesirables by sending them to the Gilded Hall is covered in the DM's Dark in the "Factol's Manifesto" (page 141).

There is a subtle point though, a TRUE Sensate would turn down an experience if death or serious harm were the result; being a Sensate isn't Chaotic stupid. This is covered in the "Factol's Manifesto" Page 138 on roleplaying Sensates. But since that is DM's accessory, how would a player know that? So even if we assume that an evening's 'diversion' might be common, this contract isn't. I would posit, most Sensates would say no to this kind of experience. And Erin Montgomery, while realizing that the reason for the Sensates popularity in the Cage is because fun diversions is the only way to keep the poor and rich alike sane in a packed city. But going overboard, in any direction is a bad idea, and gives the Sensates a bad name.

But here, Myrai isn't even a Sensate yet. And this isn't the typical contract; she's been peeled after all. As a Sensate she actually would have said no to a normal 'session' mostly because growing up the in the Hive was an experience in pain enough. She is rational in in sense that this wouldn't open up a secret of the multi-verse (although it might open up secrets about the self.). If she was raised in the 'Lady's Ward' as part of a rich family, or was a worshipper of Loviatar from the Forgotten Realms/Finnish Mythos, she might have answered differently. A hiver's life is pain by comparison.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Nemesis - 9/6/2020

About fiends: They don’t think of us as equals. To them we are nothing more than a resource; souls to be collected, traded, used as fuel, used to create lesser fiends, and so on. They don’t share our goals, our values, or even our fears.

But the one thing we share is a fascination with each other. We see power to be leverages, and they see us as…playthings.

And to call it unhealthy is an understatement.



Beepu’s soft snoring continued, while Iesa lay there sprawled across the floor, with Mo nestled by his armpit. Daneath sat in the darkness, not knowing what to believe. He had seen Myrai as someone that was sure of herself. Someone in control. But the tale she told was about a person he didn’t know. Myrai’s lack of caution, her gullibility none of it seemed like. The part about being in love was the only thing that sort of made sense at all and even that didn’t sound like her.

“I’m having a very hard time following this. You talk about these races…what were they, Baatezu? They and the others, you make them sound commonplace. And why would anyone make a deal with…things…like that normally?”

Myrai turned her head to look at Daneath, “I’m sorry, but I forget what I consider common you consider extraordinary. The race of Baatezu are what you would call ‘Devils.’ And the reason why is simple; the Baatezu have power, and the ones seeking to make a bargain, don’t.

“And you can actually talk to Devils?”

Myrai sighed and then said in a rough voice “Perzackt! Nekim ninoc sek mondanach.”

“Ok…got your point. So, what does this all have to do with mirrors?” Daneath dreaded asking, feeling like it was almost too much to ask and unsure if he really wanted to know.

“I’m getting there. It…isn’t pretty. You…sure you want to hear it?”

Daneath nodded, “Yes, you’ve gone this far.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I found myself ‘entertaining’ Baatezu, Tanar’ri, what you call ‘Demons’, and ‘Yugoloths’ or ‘Daemons.’ It was…a low point. I suppose some part of me was perhaps eager for a new experience like a Sensate would be. But that faded, very quickly. All I wanted to do was help someone, and I didn’t even do that,” Myrai said while staring at the small mirror she had repaired.

“It seemed to be a never-ending parade of filthy, immortal, maggot grown fiends. I tried to keep count, but with the pain…I lost that and any sense of time very quickly. And I started to learn about the truth…about the lies in the contract.

“’Learn about the lies?’ Daneath asked, “Didn’t you cover that up front?”

“It was, but not like I had intended. When they talk about no marks, they only mean that at the very end. But before that…I was fair game for about anything.” Myrai pointed to her left forearm. “Look here, unscarred skin…now. But the first night, it was charred flesh after a Red Abashai put into a roaring fire. It just… crumbled away into ash right before my eyes. I couldn’t even scream.” Pointing down to her right leg she said “And I watched and was forced to converse with a Nalfeshnee as it…ate it… ever so slowly all while asking for recommendations on how my thigh should be seasoned. He even offered me a--”

Myrai stopped herself and stared the floor. She clutched her arms close to her as she started to recall the horrors. “It was a waking nightmare, a new fiend bringing, a new pain, a new horror. I remember being flayed. My bones broken. Acheron’s Glass being plunged into my flesh. Being cut to ribbons with greensteel knives or flechettes. I remember being disemboweled at least twice. I lost my eyes several times, in a variety of…inventive ways. Having my muscles fibers plucked like catgut on a lute. It went on…and on…and on.” She said, her eyes closed grimacing through the memory.

“That’s…just…horrible!” Daneath blanched as he heard the litany.

Myrai just nodded in agreement and continued…




Some of the fiends were just brutes, they reveled on causing indiscriminate pain. Others were far more…refined in technique and they had specific desires fulfilled. Some wanted to hear me scream as they worked me over, and others just wanted to watch my reactions. Each one was different, more intense than the last. Each one had thousands of years of experience in their…art. The difference between the Pit and their home, is they were free to do what they wanted, not just strip away the mortal coil till only evil remains.

Sometimes I would lose consciousness, only to have that Kyton rouse me. After a session, a healer would arrive and…fix me up. Occasionally, I’d be fed some gruel, roughly bathed and the process would start again. No two were ever the same. At the end of a day, I lay in a hammock of those chains…and I could only pray that my dreams would take me…anywhere else. A prayer that went unheeded. I wondered if I was being punished for not praying as often, I had before meeting Markel. That perhaps this was a twisted form of atonement.

All the while Markel’s dead eyes watched me. They left Markel’s corpse on the floor as a reminder for me and the malebranche had someone cast a spell on it, so it didn’t rot away. He said it was ‘to help keep my emotions at a ragged edge.’ His corpse stared at me blankly, as if judgment had been rendered and I had been found wanting. A constant reminder of my failure.

On the seventh day, something different happened. When I woke up in my bedding of chains, I saw some Imps bringing in some furniture. Five divans and five tables were brought in first. Then other objects; a pillory, a small table set to it, and finally something large and rectangular covered in red velvet that was set off to one side.

I lay the hammock, not clear on what was up. The chains that hung in the room were more than enough to control me, so the pillory seemed unnecessary. But the divans…I wasn’t sure what that was about. I noticed one of the imps talking to the Kyton, and soon it scampered away. Then, the chains moved, letting me down gently while keeping a pair wrapped tightly around my waist. The Kyton moved towards me and spoke.

“Several patrons have combined their time for something special. They are to take…care of you. You will comply. Stand and wait.” I stood there naked, my arms across myself shivering. Then I heard a scraping sound metal on stone. I watched as a pack of imps moved with great difficulty, a brass tub full of steaming hot water, with a small cage attached to one end, holding a mephit made of flames.

More imps appeared, Another brought in food, and another poured what appeared to be razorwine, into glasses. Then the patrons entered the room.

Not surprisingly, there were five of them. The first two were succubi, in female forms. Each with long dark tresses, and voluptuous bodies covered with only a minimal amount of leather. One of them carried a satchel with which they set on the table. Then the pair started to circle me, like wolves around their prey. They were evaluating, judging, looking me up and down.

I was afraid and confused. I had heard that succubi didn’t work together, that they would compete for souls, and even kill one another, rather than deal with a rivalry. They then touched me; poking, prodding and running their hands over me as they circled like vultures looking a fresh kill. But my dread increased when the next pair of fiends entered.

One was a glabrezu, a greater Tanar’ri. Normally they seduce with power to mortals willing to listen. Twice my height, and heavily muscled, he strode in into the room on taloned feet, giving me a only a sidelong glance. He quickly to and flopped down on the one of the divans and watched. Its two large pincer arms stretched out lazily above him, while the two smaller human arms pulled the wine to his lips. He just stared at me with those yellow eyes from the divan, saying nothing.

The next one surprised me; an erinyes. They were said to be fallen celestials, focused on twisted enforcement of punishments within Baator, and seducers of mortals. She was statuesque with skin like ivory. She wore armor, unlike the others, with a rope coiled at her waist and of course she had dark red feathery wings, not bat like ones the succubi had. I heard that they were also rarer than succubi who would typically be their rivals. And they were all beautiful in that twisted way and now I found myself standing there nervously, as the trio stood around me, and each touching me. They ran their hands along my shoulders, and down my back. They gracefully brushed my hair back to see my eyes. That they were gentle, which scared me the most, even as their wicked smiles showed malice, but they whispered to each other in Abyssal (which apparently the Erinyes could understand). And then the final of the five arrived.

And then my heart nearly stopped as stared with fear and horror.

She was the most gorgeous fiend I had ever seen but several features about her stood out. I noticed trailing behind her, was a tail split into four prehensile parts. Her dark green hair was lustrous and framed her face perfectly, as it cascaded down her back, between her wings that looked as if they were burned away from a great fall from Celestia. But it was the green halo of light above her head that told me who and what she was. I wanted to hide, to run, to be anywhere else in the multiverse. It was a Radiant Sister; one of the thirteen chosen of the Succubus Queen, Malcanthet herself.

Each Sister takes its name from its halo and based on the deep green color of here, I guessed that her name must have been Jade. I wondered what ill luck had befallen me, had I offended Kelemvor or another power altogether? Was I cursed? None of the other fiends had the presence or power that Jade had. And while I was sure the malebranche was very busy selling time to see me, I didn’t think I would attract this kind of attention.

Jade had come into the room with a drink already in hand and evaluated me with those smoldering eyes. But she never broke her slow strut to one of the divans, and then, gracefully lay upon it, her tails twisting and fanning the air around her. She leaned over and placed a kiss on the lounging glabrezu and whispered into its ear and playfully nibbled it. He gave a wicked smile and responded in deep toned growls and nodded. Then erinyes took her place on the other side of Jade, coolly watching the gambit unfold before them.

Without another word, the two succubi, each grabbed one of my arms and lifted me aloft into the air. And they slowly descended, and lowered me into the tub. At first, I thought this was an elaborate ritual that involved drowning. What they did was more unnerving; they landed, each standing in the tub with me, and began to bathe me.




“They gave you…a bath?” Daneath said disbelievingly.

Myrai nodded, “I had not yet been washed yet, it usually was a rag and a bucket of water thrown at me by a pair of imps, not a tub.”

“This sounds a bit different. What the--?”

Myrai nodded, “--And it only gets worse…please let me try to finish.”




The pair, playfully splashed the water onto me first and then they used soft cloths and soap. They took great delight in gently scrubbing me, cleaning away the blood and filth from the prior day. The divans were positioned so they could see the spectacle of my bath easily. Jade, the glabrezu and the erinyes each watched with smiles on their lips, as they watched their prey, me being prepared for something, all the while whispering to each other conspiratorially and sipping wine.

Before this, bathing before was a function of being clean, so that some fiend could make a mess however they liked. And being dirtied by something was a fairly consistent experience, blood, dirt, and other things. But this was anything but perfunctory. They were…gentle, taking their sweet time washing me. They took time to anoint me with scented oils and rubbed my muscles, and ran their hands over me, in an effort to calm and soothe me as I shivered not in the cold, but in fear. My body ached from the abuse given from pain and just from being stretched, and it responded to the kind attention they gave me.

Mentally I was guarded; I knew something was up, that this was a seduction. But my body wanted the soothing relief they granted me. That mephit below the tub was kicked a couple of times to keep the water warm, and the pair took their time cleaning off the blood and grime from the previous day. All the while grooming me by stroking and combing my hair and adding some fragranced oil into it. It felt all wrong in all the right ways. My shivers dissipated as the warmth penetrated to my bones. Mentally I was losing focus; it felt too good. It was everything the prior days weren’t.

The imps then flew in with trays, and then the succubi started feeding me fruits; some fresh, others candied and spiced. The flavors were sweet and tart at the same time and far better than the meager morsels of gruel they normally served me, most of which was barely edible. I bit and swallowed all that was given to me, eagerly. Usually it was the case I tasted my meal twice once going down, and after an intense session it coming back up again. So, my hunger was never sated, and I ate like the starved women I felt to be. As I was being doted on, the Abyssal conversation continued in whispers, with amused smiles on the lips of the Glabrezu and the Radiant Sister, while erinyes looked at me judgementally.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, none of this was making sense to me, and I noticed it didn’t make sense to my jailor either. Normally during a fiend’s session, he would sit and watch with ‘professional’…disinterest, stirring his tea. But now, he was standing on the side of the room his tea and spoon forgotten, and I could barely see furrowed brow on his shrouded face. Now if Kytons are indeed the masters of torture, then this was one was as confused as a monodrone in limbo. I could at a glance tell that he was trying to puzzle out the game being played.

As would have I; but the pair were too distracting. Being tag teamed and pampered by two was effective in keeping my mind away from questioning the circumstances. I couldn’t concentrate and discern what the game was. The positive stimulation from their caresses was a stark contrast to the pain I had suffered in the prior days. The care they gave me was a huge alarm in my head, and it was almost enough that I missed the next guest.

He, unlike the others, was a nobody. A male human wearing only a small loincloth, walked into the room flanked by a pair of imps. And silently he walked to the pillory and I then watched as he bent himself over and was fastened in by the imps. I could see that his back was covered in thick scars and it told a story. A story on how he was a regular here for the amusement of the patrons.

It confused me. Why did they pamper me, while prepare another for a session in pain? Where was my torture? Where was the pain I was going to suffer? Why were they doing this? It bothered me and my mind was no longer being rational. Was I jealous? But I’m the one getting pampered, so why would I be? Because I wasn’t the center of attention?

I seriously wondered if they slipped me a poison in the fruit.




Daneath sat there shaking his head. “I was beginning to wonder if your whole perspective was warped at this point. I don’t see how you wouldn’t have been a little scrambled.”

Myrai nodded, “I was a bit messed in the head, and that’s what they wanted. And I knew it. But after days of nothing but pain I quite frankly didn’t care. But this is where you see how it starts going barmy.”




The succubi then lifted me out of the tub and the used soft towels to dry me, and the imps slowly pushed that tub out of the room. Now the attention was on me and the man in the pillory. One of the succubi retrieved the satchel on the table and opened it. Inside were polished metal blades. Some straight, some with serrations, some with hooks. All sharp and clean.

The succubi picked a straight flechette from the set and handed it to me. I know I must have looked silly, with a confused look in my eyes as I stared at the instrument. The other one guided me to the man in the pillory. He was positioned so he was bent over at the waist, wearing only a loincloth, which was more than I had. She then traced on his back near the shoulder blade with a long-manicured nail, and then looked at me and spoke:

“Cut here,”

I was dumbfounded. My jaw dropped open, and I was grasping at straws on what to say. I never had thought about hurting someone intentionally for fun. And certainly not like this. And now a small group of fiends wanted me to hurt this man. I was shaking my head no, but she just repeated again with a slight admonishment.

But I wasn’t sure I could really refuse. This man wasn’t some prisoner, he had been here before. And certainly, I didn’t want more pain. I knew that I didn’t want to face another round of knives if I could help it. The back of my mind somewhere I was screaming no. But right now, after being well treated I was willing to do anything to keep it that way. I was being lured into trusting them.

And it was working.

I remember placing my hand on his back, and then drawing the flechette across his skin, following the ribs to his spine. My first attempt didn’t even break the skin. But the other succubus laid her hands upon mine and guided me with pressure. The flechette pierced the skin, and blood flowed everywhere. The man’s screams of pain echoed off the stone, and I almost dropped the flechette in my hand. The whole experience was unnerving, my fear returning along with more shaking. The three other fiends were talking among themselves. Pointing and nodding approvingly.

“Well done. Again,”

Encouraging me.

And so, I was being taught how to cut, slowly and painfully. The pair kept adding tools. Showing me how to draw out a scream. How to make the man howl. Each success was rewarded, with a soft touch, or soothing words.

Another scream, another complement.

The Kyton was looking at this and took the time to come closer to watch. And here I was, an aasimar being educated by fiends, and being judged by them on how to inflict pain. He watched, with curiosity at first, and then respect. I apparently had a feel for this.

But I was disgusted all the same. I didn’t want to do this, but the pair kept guiding, supporting, smiling. It didn’t matter that the man was here on his own volition. He probably voluntarily signed a contract, like I did. He probably knew the terms better that I did.

I kept cutting, poking, prodding, pulling, twisting. Small areas, and always slowly with precision. I have plenty of audible feedback when I struck the right balance, followed by a caress, a pat, even a small hug.

Complements were constant. The only criticism was for me to cut slower, to draw it out. As I was slowly shredding the man in front of me, the other fiends would each get up with their razorwine. They would put a hand on me, and my eye would meet theirs. They would complement and show me little things to improve on.

The Radiant Sister remained quiet with that knowing smile. She did walk around and would laid a comforting hand on my shoulder or a gentle caress occasionally, but otherwise said nothing to me.

This continued for I don’t know how long, and I kept listening and focusing. More cuts, more blood, more screams. I lost track of time when I heard footsteps of Jade move past me as I was working. And then I heard the movement of cloth.

I had forgotten about the velvet object in the room, and I looked up as I saw Jade, with the most innocent smile, revealed what was concealed beneath the velvet.

It was a mirror.

And within was an image I want to forget. An imagine that haunts my many nightmares today.

I saw myself in the mirror with that infinite gaze of mirrors in mirrors, standing over the man with a hooked knife in hand, ready to cut again. I was naked and covered in blood, none of it my own. It was spattered across my body, my hair and my face. As I looked myself in the mirror I shook, and the blade fell out of my hand.

I was smiling. A smile of pure bliss.

Jade then spoke in Celestial no less, “See? It’s not hard to convince a lily to dirty their halo. Especially when they are doing what they want to do anyway…”

No…what…no? My hands shook as I started to think back. When was the last time they told me to cut?

When did I start to do it on my own?

When did I start to take pride in my work?

When did I start to enjoy my work?

My hands shook violently, and I heard the knife clattering on the floor. My vision clouded as tears formed. I was shaking my head and mouthing the words ‘no’ over and over. I didn't want to do this. I didn’t enjoy it. I could have walked away. This wasn't in the contract. Why didn't I walk away? Why didn't I try? Why was I seeking approval, validation, confirmation?

What have I done?

And then I just sank to my knees in front of the mirror and screamed.

I had been screaming for six days, knowing the pain would end. This was different. It wasn’t pain that drove the scream from my lips. I felt like my soul was being torn asunder. I didn’t know who I was at that moment. It was during this primal scream my thoughts were wondering if I was tricked, if there was a spell that made me do it. But truth was in that mirror.

I did it all. And I was reveling in it. That I loved the pain I caused. That I felt empowered and strong because I was in control. I screamed at my own betrayal. I screamed in frustration on how I was manipulated here. I screamed at the ugly person I had become.

Finally, I heaved, and I vomited those tart berries on the stone, now bitter and dark as my soul felt. My screams had died down to whispers. And as I collapsed on the floor, I could hear the laughter of fiends echoing in my ears as they broke this simple mortal aasimar.

“Even lilies can be made to see the truth in themselves, they just hide it better. All it takes is some encouragement and some soap and even a foundling can fall.” Said Jade, this time in Infernal, which echoed in my ears as I surrendered to darkness.




Daneath’s eyes were wide. She had told them about the conversation in the bar where she had been playing up “cutting the gnome” with the madam. But he had no idea that she actually had done something like this. And he, like Myrai in the story was horrified at the implication that somewhere deep inside her, was a need to create and cause pain and misery.

Myrai wasn't weeping though. Her innocence was long gone, sacrificed in the Tenth Pit. She was slumped against the wall, no longer looking at Daneath, resigned to whatever judgment he had.

“When I came to, the pillory and other furnishings were being taken away by the imps. Only the mirror remained. But Jade was still there kneeling by me, looking at me with amusement.”




“All this drama,” Jade sneered, as she pulled my head up by the hair, so I could see my image in the mirror. “All this sanctimonious self-sacrifice, for a worm. A worm that betrayed her trust and sold her.” She tossed the barely remembered letter on the ground in front of me. “And pride and arrogance led you here, to find yourself. And there you lay in someone else's blood, someone else’s pain, feeling sorry for yourself. How rich. How typical. How…mortal.’ She let go of my hair, and my head sagged and touched the wet floor with my forehead.

“Your parents must be very proud of you,” and the five fiends stood and laughed. And with that, she stood and took the arm of the glabrezu, and the five of them left me to wallow in a new prison. One where I was the sole judge of its occupant.

I lay there stunned. My trembling hand reached for the letter and grabbed it. I pushed myself to a half sitting position, and I read it.



Myree,

By the time you read this, I should be dead. I didn’t realize that I had been peeled; that he was using me to get to you. It doesn’t matter now. I hope you don’t fall into the trap that has been laid for you. Don’t try to save me.

I owe you an apology; I spent time with you because you threw yourself at me. You were pretty and you just wanted to have fun. I hope you found some happiness for a while. But I didn’t have the courage to tell you I didn’t really love you. Everyone was just so impressed that I had a girl like you.

You deserved better. I guess the malebranche was right; I really did sell you to pay things off. It doesn’t matter they were going to hurt you anyway, because I couldn’t pay. I shouldn’t have been the cause.

I don’t deserve any favors, nor do deserve to ask anything from you. Not even forgiveness. I hope you walk away from this, because I don’t deserve to.

Believe well.

Markel


I crumpled the parchment in my hand. Falling forward back onto the floor, I sobbed uncontrollably.

The love we had together was a sham; I was nothing more than an ornament on his shelf. The things we did…no I did for him meant nothing.

My unwanted sacrifice was worthless.




“I was honey peeled three times over. By Markel. By the Malebranche. By Jade. The rule of threes in action.”

While he didn't quite get the phrasing, Daneath certainly understood a con. Sure, he had done shady stuff. But he didn’t play with lives. The harlot in the brothel he tried not to hurt while saving Beepu was an example.

But this was something else. He saw why Myrai could laugh at the anyone what wasn’t afraid of punishments for their actions in life. She had perspective, from the evilest beings straight from Hell itself.

Daneath, got up and sat next to Myrai. she appeared exhausted. She flinched when Daneath touched her, and she almost recoiled when he put his arm around her shoulders. She was tense at first, but she slowly relaxed and leaned her head on his shoulder. He could smell the fragrance in her hair for the first time, and the softness of her now unblemished skin. Her breathing slowed as she relaxed.

“I can only say sorry. What happened was horrible. But…how did you pull through that?”

She sighed, “I found something unexpected in the Pit.”

“Compassion."

Story Notes:

The last part is coming soon...and then back to the mess on the island.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Nature of Torment - 9/10/2020

There is a story floating around Sigil of a man that could not die and he suffers pain because of it. In that story, he collects to him companions for various reasons and then they all departed Sigil.

It would be an interesting anecdote, if I hadn’t of heard of one of the companions beforehand; a Sensate named ‘Fall-From-Grace.’ She ran a brothel not far from the Civic Festhall.

When I first heard the story, I didn’t understand why she might have followed him. I do now.



I lay on the floor of the chamber. In my hand was the crumpled note with Markel's betrayal. His corpse lay nearby, immune to any fury I could muster, staring at me with cold dead eyes. His soul long departed for whatever punishment he had earned for his sins. Because if what he did to me wasn’t one, I no longer knew what was. The mirror remained, impassively reflecting a twisted version of myself.

I was numb to the horror of it all, as I lay there in shock. My tears had dried, along with the blood. as my sobbing ended some time ago. I was done caring, about anything at that point. For the first time in six days I wanted to end it all. To run to Suicide Alley and jump. Jade had pushed me beyond my limits and showed me how ugly I was in the mirror. Shown to me that I was just a mere mortal, flawed and worthy of only contempt.

I lay there, wishing for an end, when I heard the chains move again. I closed my eyes and braced myself, not yet ready for more.

I felt the chains as slithered around me, the cool steel against my skin. They again lifted me upwards into the air, and carried me towards the Kyton and I hung there limply expecting to be told to prepare for another round. He was seated in a simple chair on one side of the room, the teacup on a table beside him, with the spoon perfectly balanced on the rim, the scent of sulfurous herbs wafting from it.

The Kyton’s red eyes regarded me, and it tilted its head left and right several times. I was dimly aware of the chains as they weaved themselves into a web fully supporting me, and brought me closer, and then lowered me down until I was level with the fiend.

My focus was returning. The Kyton had never touched me before, only the chains in the room. But now after hesitating a moment, the chains lowered my supine form onto his lap, and he lifted its arms and cradled me. I remembered shaking my head and then it spoke.

“There is nothing more today. Rest.”

I looked at the fiend puzzled unable to articulate anything. I blinked and barely shook my head

“Because it was agreed to let you fully rest before and after,” the Kyton said simply.

“No, why are you…” I said, my voice hoarse and ragged, as I gestured at the mix of arms and chains.

It was silent for a while and then it intoned, “It is…necessary.”

“Necessary? It wasn’t before, why now?” I croaked.

“Before, pain served no purpose but pain. Easy to dismiss. Pain with purpose and intent is meaningful. Consequences probable. Intent here to make you question self. To choose a path or belief when you believe it is against your nature is a higher order of pain. A torment.”

I twisted in the chains to look in the Kyton's eyes. “Believe against my nature? But is it right or true?”

Two small chains snaked from its shoulders and formed a pair of sideway curves, imitating the motion of a shrug. “Mortals suffer on choices to define their nature. Their nature not absolute. When nature conflicts with choice, torment occurs. Many outcomes possible; nature changes or change is repudiated. Torment then ends.”

Confused, I asked “What about immortals?”

“Torment is acting against nature by choice. Creatures of belief do not choose nature. Torment ends only with alteration of choice. Result, mortal pain is brief, but greater in intensity. Immortal pain constant, but less intense. Side effect: Mortals break easier because of torment intensity. Immortals take much longer to break, if at all.”

“So why are you helping me now?” I didn’t understand and was suspicious.

I couldn’t tell for certain, but I had the impression of furrowed eyebrows. “Because of choice made. You were forced to reconcile beliefs and are tormented. I too chose a path leading to torment. In this we are similar.”

I was curious at this point, “What torment?”

“Jangling Hiter, in the third layer of Baator. Few mortals visit. Wanted context to better inflict pain. To improve. Came to Sigil. To watch. Learned much. Still learning. Mortals driven by many things. Pleasures easy. Most who seek pain or give it, transform it to pleasure. Few seek pain for pain.

“Like me?” I whispered to myself.

“No,” it said, and I turned to look at him with confusion. “You looked for pleasure. Pleasure of altruism. But you found torment; of belief and perception of one’s nature.”

I frowned at that, wondering how this made us similar. It wasn’t enough, something else was there. “And you are tormented?

It shifted uncomfortably now. “Pain caused by a second choice made. Choice not to return. Found that Blood War was pain without point. A distraction of purpose. Do not wish to participate. But not returning means cannot do what nature should be doing. Purpose is to remove impurities from Lemures and others. Jail and enforce order. Cannot do functions in Sigil. Did not realize discontinuity of Blood War’s purpose until arrival in Sigil.

“True torments not common. Pain of petitioner or mortals common. True torment of petitioners or mortals rare.”

My head hurt, and I slumped to one side, “Why are you helping me?” I whispered.

The Kyton looked at me intensely as he said this. “The Radiant Sister was breaking…Myrai. Permitted by contract. Not…desired by...” And he averted his gaze from me.

“Why do you even care?” I said disbelieving raising my voice slightly, pushing myself upwards in my hammock, “How many fiends have been tearing at me? And now? Now you intercede? Why?”

“I…I…cannot explain,” the Kyton said simply.

I stared it and said, “Then what do I---?”

“--Nothing. For now. Address problem later with time. Avoid crisis now. Rest and for mortals, contact helps. Later can reconcile. Otherwise, Myrai will likely break.”

I slumped back into the chains, “What I saw… was it me or not?” I asked that more to myself than the Kyton. But I still was shaken by what I saw or felt or experienced. All of it.

“That…is up to you,” the fiend intoned.

I imagine to any fiend or any celestial walking in they would have been a strange site. A naked Aasimar, covered in blood and tears, laying in a cradle of chains, resting peacefully in the embrace of a Kyton looking on, sipping tea.

“Tha…thank you…Nastanal,” I said and closed my eyes, breathing deeply I fell into a slumber, feeling at peace.

The pain didn’t end of course. My time was not yet done. But the worst was over. Nothing compared to what I faced, although it was still horrifying. The other fiends continued their wretched fantasies of misery on me, using my body as a canvas to paint their pain. But each night I found myself being consoled by a nervous Kyton.

Three days later, I walked out under my own power. ‘The Pit’ kept to its side of the bargain, and my skin and bones were unbroken and unbruised as the day I walked down into the bar. And I have no doubt, no matter what was spent on fixing me, they profited handsomely at my expense. I stayed below only long enough to see a Collector take the remains of Markel to the Dusties for his final rest. I still felt bruised and battered, despite being unmarked and intact. At least physically.

Jade had done…more lasting damage by comparison.

Finally, I emerged from the playroom’s below and entered the bar. I strode through with my head high and ascended to the streets above, I ignored the sniggering patrons. I ignored the nasty grin from malebranche that orchestrated this nightmare. I ignored the fingers pointed at me from the bouncers and imps. All of them.

The only one I acknowledged was Nastanal who guided me out from below to the bar. And as I started to ascend the stairs out, I gave him the slightest of nods, and he returned the gesture. Nothing felt better than the light of peak on my face as I left the horrors below.




“And then I was free.”

Myrai’s head was resting on Daneath’s shoulder, as the hints of dawn started to peak through the slats of the floor above replacing the moon’s light to our hiding place.

“So, there you have it, mirrors, pain and more.” Said Myrai.

“Well the term boring doesn’t exactly come to mind,” Daneath replied. “But it is all resolved, right?”

“Sort of I suppose,” Myrai said sadly. “I took those ten days of memories, and I went to the Civic Festhall. I committed most of them to sensory stones, and it was…more than enough to become a member of the Society. One of them became a public stone, which I heard caused a ruckus. Meant a lot less curiosity seekers went to the Pit, and a little less money for them. The rest became part of the Sensates’ members only collection. All of them but that seventh day…that I recorded for myself and left there, and I haven’t looked at it since. I’ve heard that most Sensates have never been able to sit through all of what I recorded. Weeks later I travelled to the Gilded Hall in Aborea and took the test and passed it. Barely perhaps, but it was enough. And I became a full fledge member of the Society.

“But on other matters, no.” she said softly. “I thought I had put some of those questions behind me years ago. But…ever since I got dropped onto this plane and we started dealing with the Kershak…I wanted to outright kill Paradros before we entered the library; and now I want to let his and every other member of the Kershak’s blood run. The pirates here see me as a commodity, the sailors, that madam, everyone. And each one that looks at me or get close to me…I want to give them the most painful memory to remember me by. I didn’t care if they lived, died or anything as so long as we got Beepu free.

Myrai looked Daneath in the eyes “So you probably think I’m not a normal person. I’m just a fiend in lily’s clothing, right?”

Daneath stroked Myrai‘s hair and looked into her eyes. “I think you are exactly…what you are. Someone coping with what happens to them as best they can. For good or for Ill, better or for worse. I mean, you didn’t actually try to skin Beepu right? Talking about it isn’t the same.”

Myrai chuckled, “I guess there is truth in that, and maybe that’s enough. And I guess we should get up and find that Genasi. And besides, the others are awake listening to us.”

“You tell such horrible stories; how would I sleep?” Iesa said from his spot on the floor, eyes still closed. “And personally…if you are a fiend, you are the best fiend someone could know. Certainly, better than the Kershak.”

“I have to agre---” and Beepu yawned in the middle of his words. “—ee with Iesa. No matter what you feel, what you do I admire and can defend. You are not anything more than what you do, and that is enough for me.”

Myrai hung her head down and after a moment nodded and said, “You sound like a Cipher…and I suppose that’s not a bad thing Beepu. And thanks to you for your faith in me. I hope to be worthy of it.” Myrai untangled herself from Daneath, stood and stretched.

“That’s just it; you already are,” Daneath said giving Myrai a squeeze. “I wouldn’t worry about the rest. Just…do what you do best. Be you.”

Myrai looked at Daneath again with tears in her eyes, and a smile on her cheeks. Pulling out the white cloth she wore before, she tied it around her eyes. She unfastened Daneaths large cloak and took it. She then donned it, and wrapped the folds around her body, pulling up the hood, and tucked her hair within. Looking at the once shattered mirror she nodded satisfactorily, and she tucked it away in her pouch.

“I think we have a casino to hit; we ready?” And seeing the others nod, she climbed a couple of steps of the ladder, and pushed open the trapdoor, flooding their hiding place with sunlight. And the Aasimar ascended into the warm morning light, leaving her horrible memories below.




Epilogue

Five Years ago, Market Ward

Kelthsan was tired. He had just shooed a pair of urchins from his shop and was leaning against a ladder catching his breath, when a young woman entered. He straightened up, smiled and walked to the entrance to his shop to greet her. The woman was of medium height and had that radiance that instantly marked her as an Aasimar. As he looked her in the eyes, he remembered that he had met this woman before. She was working as a table host for ‘Sixes and Styxes’ at the Fortune’s Wheel in the gambler’s hall. He smiled inwardly remembered losing quite a bit of jink at the table that night as well. Dice never seemed to be in his favor.

But she had made him smile the entire night, as she plied her table guest with drinks, and they placed their bets against each other, and she with tips. She was worth every jink in it too, based on the little illusions she cast tracking the winners of the pot and based on the headache in the morning the house clearly won.

“Good day, and what can I get for you?”

The woman smiled, “I’m looking for a bag of red spindle bloom tea.”

Kelthsan arched an eyebrow, “An uncommon blend, but I do have some that I can part with for three jink.”

The woman rolled her eyes, “One and a quarter.”

“Now, now, two and a half.” Kelthsan said reasonably.

“Cross trader! One and seven stingers! You know it isn’t in high demand.”

“Can’t part with it for less than two. After all, it is a rare commodity.”

“Done.” She said with a smile.

Kelthsan, returned it, and moved the ladder along a rail to a corner of the shop. He then climbed up and pulled out a drawer, and carried it down the ladder, to a nearby counter. Using a large spoon, he scooped out leaves and needles from the drawer, causing a small cloud of dust with the scent of an earthy smoky tone, mixed with brimstone, and placed the contents into a small sack.

“I seem to remember you pounding ales after you finished your job at the tables, not sipping tea,” Kelthsan commented.

The woman shrugged, “It is more of what I like, but this is for…a friend.”

Kelthsan nodded and started to wrap up the dried leaves. “A good friend then? This isn’t exactly the cheapest herb.”

The woman replied. “I guess…but it’s worth it,” she said with a smirk.

“Here you are then. Remember you can only use the hottest water. A roiling boil, otherwise it won’t bring out all the essence.”

“I’ll mention that,” and the woman handed over two gold coins. “Believe well!” and smiling, she turned and exited the shop.

“Likewise,” and Kelthsan watched her leave.

Kelthsan thought to himself, it was an odd choice of tea. He had a tiefling that brought in a batch or two every so often. But as it came from the depths of Minauros, the swampy third layer of Baator it was rarely seen. It also wasn’t exactly popular with most of the natives.

Kelthsan stepped to the window of his shop, to watch her leave. It was moving towards anti-peak and the light was only starting to fade. But she didn’t go far; she moved to a nearby light post, leaned against it and waited.

It wasn’t long when another figure approached from the spireside direction. It was of medium height but with a broad shoulders, covered in a heavy cloak and robe. While Kelthsan couldn’t hear, he saw the woman call out to the figure and wave a hand. It then turned and approached her.

He saw the woman approach the figure with her head bowed down slightly, and then she offered the bag to it. From beneath the robe, a chain ending in a hook snaked out and pierced the upper part of the bag and lifted from her hand.

The figure cocked its head and regarded the bag then nodded. He reached out with its arm towards the woman, and she responded by suddenly embracing the figure. She then released it, and with an almost guilty look she then clasped the hand as offered. The woman then looked at the figure and said something, and if Kelthsan had a guess, it was a thank you.

The figure nodded slowly, and after a long moment together they both release their hands. They looked into each other’s faces for a moment, and then moved past each other, going their separate ways.

Kelthsan turned and to look for the broom to sweep the shop. He shook his head and wondered if what he saw was the opening to a bad joke, or an interesting story of why a Kyton and an Aasimar met in a marketplace.



Backstory notes:

Thanks for my indulgence…back to the adventures
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
A Mind’s Grip Tossed Asunder - 9/14/2020

I might be considered a bit of a control freak. I am in control. I must be in control. I feel at my worst when I am not, whether a pack of monsters are charging at us, or because I was strung up for the night with a fiend or hipped across the multiverse.

But those examples are physical manifestations. Mental ones are even scarier.



Crawling up out of the ruined hut it was nice to feel the warm of the sun in my face. I never really thought of the ‘north’ as cold, but there was a distinct difference on how the rising sun felt here. I stepped off the ladder and breathed deeply; the smell of the salt air was fresh and clean. I chuckled; this might be the last respite I would have for a while. I was a wanted…no hunted woman. And damned if I would get caught. Not to the pirates, and certainly not to Philandre. The idea of being kept as a brothel slave to that woman was sickening. I would kill them first or force them to kill me.

But now we had to survive, and find this casino run by drow. I looked around, as Iesa climbed up and Mo quickly bounded off, looking for a rooftop.

--Morning! You DO tell terrible stories. Enlightening but terrible.

It wasn’t for you. Anyone been nearby?

--No. Last night they streamed towards the cave we came in by. But I did notice that some came back with wounds. Looks like they might picked a fight. But that was early last night, nothing since.

That’s good.

--I wouldn’t count on that. A lot of blame was tossed your direction as they came back to town.


I winced. “Iesa, we’re going to need something to cover ourselves with.”

“I know. Stay here,” and Iesa stayed low to the ground and moved into the alleyway and darted out of sight. I then helped Beepu and the Daneath up out up off the ladder.

“Been talking to Foggle,” the gnome said as I pulled up Daneath. “Looks like there were three ships in harbor last night, but only one this morning. I bet they pulled out with the morning tide.”

“That might help, less pirate looking for us,” Daneath said straightening out.

“I hope so,” I said looking around for Iesa. “Being the object of the pirates’ affection is more than I can stand. The less pirates, the better.”

We stayed next to another empty ruin and waited, and soon Iesa reappeared. In his arms were a pair of sea coats.

“Well…that’ll work. Very piratey,” Daneath said as he took one and Iesa donned the other one.

“Yep, Myrai wearing yours should be fine, especially if he hunches like an old woman.”

“I guess,” I said scrunching my face on how my back would feel. “What did you get Beepu?”

Beepu looked at Iesa expectantly.

“Seriously, there are no small folk here. I haven’t even seen a child!” Iesa exclaimed as he raised his hand. “But…you are short enough to hide in Daneath’s cloak, as Myr bends over.

“You must be joking,” Beepu said his eyes narrowing.

“I don’t smell do I?” I said suddenly concerned about my hygiene.

“What? No! That is not the problem. The idea is ludicrous. How will that even work?”

Iesa knelt over to the gnome and looked him in the eye. “Look, no one looks an old woman shuffling. We’ll go slow so not to arouse suspicion. But what I need to do is get out there and talk to the locals. So, head inland, and stay next to Daneath. I’ll find you.”

“Iesa…be careful,” I said.

“I will…go!” he replied, and he crept back into the alleyway.

“I hope he knows what he is doing,” Beepu muttered.

“Same here. Hate to lose a brother now.” Dan said with a worried expression. “Look, I’ll follow behind you, that way I don’t accidently lose you.” I nodded, and crouched over Beepu with the cloak, and we made our way into the shanties.

It was slow going, and as I expected my back was killing me. Looking around I found a stick and basket. I gave my rod to Beepu and used the stick to lean on and put the basket on an arm. With my shield on my back I looked like a crouched robed woman. I just hoped it would do.

And it seemed to so just that. Iesa appeared to be right; an old woman was uninteresting, and no one tried to speak to me. But I with copper wire around my finger, could talk to Daneath easily:

“Heading to the left now,”

“I see you. I’m crossing to the otherside. No one is looking at you.”

“Ok, I’m shuffling forward, any sign of Iesa?”

“Not yet. Go into the alley to your left, a pair of pirates are near you.”

And so on.

It worked fairly well. We followed the alleys to the main road, and then turned inland, moving as far away from the quays and the brothel. The homes were slightly nicer, in the sense there was less sewage our front and they had real foundations. Finally, we came to a fork in the road, and there wasn’t a clear direction to go. I moved over to an alley and waited, while Daneath waited across from me.

After what felt to be an eternity, Iesa appeared behind me, scaring me.

“Iesa!” I hissed between my teeth. “Don’t DO that!”

“Sorry, can you get Daneath over here?” he said.

Looking across the way, I saw the warrior approaching, and I said “No need. What did you find?”

“Well, a couple of things. First you are very popular. Three thousand crowns popular, paid in jewels by the madam herself.”

“How nice…wait a minute. In jewels?” Beepu said from under the cloak I wore. “They are paying for your bounty with MY bounty! Those conniving pirates!” and he spat on the ground.

“Second, the search did reach the cave, and the drow shot them. They seem to think the drow are protecting us,” he continued.

“Why would they?” Daneath asked confused. “Didn’t we kill some of them earlier?”

“I’m guessing they didn’t ask, and the drow just let loose. They made up a story and went back to drinking. Apparently, the bounty isn’t enough to beat up the drow over.”

“Maybe, or they are plain scared of them,” I wondered aloud.

“Whatever the case, the Casino is uphill to on the left fork of the road. Enters a lava tunnel of some sort.” Iesa finished.

“Well to the left, I guess. Follow me and I’ll slowly hobble my way to safety,” I said in a mock-heroic tone.

We departed the alley, with Beepu and I sticking close, Iesa on the other side of the street, and Daneath somewhere behind me. I slowly tapped and leaned on my stick. It felt like slow progress as I slowly shuffled forward. It took a while, and the houses became slightly nicer. I slowly made my way to the top of hill and crested onto a plateau. There were the remains of a house that was perched on the slide of a bluff overlooking the bay.

Or half of it was, as it was clear that only half of it remained on the bluff and I guessed the other half was at the bottom. Frowning I looked around, and I saw that there were no passages into the hillside, just a couple of houses here at the top.

--Uh Myr. You have some pirate coming up and they are heading right for…Iesa?

I slowly turned, and indeed I saw eight men, seven with drawn cutlasses making their way to Iesa. A fifth man who looked like a painfully tall and thin scarecrow of man followed, calmly strumming a lyre, like nothing was amiss.

“Iesa?” I asked, twisting the copper around quickly on my finger. “Did you happen to get this all from the man with the lute?”

“That’s a lyre Myr and oh…crap,”

I grimaced. “Beepu, Try not to rip my shirt alright?” I said whispering below me, dropping the stick and grabbing the rod.

“Why? No. What did he do?” Beepu asked groaning.

“He led some pirates right to us,”

“I am ready then…foolish son of a—”

The man with the lyra called out aloud. “--Thanks for the tip friend. You led us right to them.”

“I don’t believe I sold them out, much as you sold me a bill of goods. I even tipped you for the song!” Iesa spat fingering his rapier hilt. Daneath had turned and had already drawn his sword.

“I think your lady friend wants to come with me, and not put up a fight. I think we will be dear friend from here on out.” He said as he casually plucked on his instrument.

I stared at him like he was mad. I straightened up and got my rod ready. But it was strange…the man’s words echoed in my head.

“…wants to come with me…”

“…not put up a fight…”

“…come with me…”

“…Not…fight...”

“Beepu…we probably shouldn’t fight them. I’ll just go with that man and take care of…things,” I said slowly. My mind was disconnected in a fog. But it was important I follow that man…

“What? Myr?” Beepu said in alarm. He turned around underneath me and jumped to slap me solidly on the cheek.

I stood up suddenly in confusion, “What was that for?” I said as I looked at the gnome in anger.

At the sound of the slap, Iesa was in motion, quickly drawing his rapier, and thrusting it into the man closest to him. The pirate groaned, dropping his cutlass, and then collapsed on the ground in a pool of blood. Iesa then spun away from two men slashing at him with their heavier blades, none finding their mark.

I started to run over to the man with the lyre shouting “I’m coming!” As I approached, of the pirates moved over to me and each gently took an arm. That was nice…nice that they would take me to the man that was walking down the street, playing that lute…er lyre…whatever. The men who had my arms were filthy and unwashed, but they were a help. One of them saying, “That’s right dearie. Fost wants you to follow him…we’ll keep you safe, so you don’t have to fight.” with a nasty smile missing more than a few teeth.

“Myr?!? What the hell are you doing?” I heard Daneath behind me say. The men pulled me gently along, as the nice man…Fost?...yes Fost, trotted down the hill.

“We need to catch up with Fost,” I said feeling this was urgent that I should follow him. I didn’t turn to look, but from behind I heard the whistling of a blade and a yelp of pain, followed by the sound of Beepu throwing fire at another pirate. I wanted to help, but I…I…I was tired of fighting. I shouldn’t fight. I should follow Fost…but he keeps moving away.

Fost continued to play his lyre calmly and spoke, “You know the plan, she’s a wanted woman. We should manacle her, so people think we caught her and keep her safe.”

As I was being jostled and following the man, they quickly clamped a set of manacles on my wrists.

“Hey, just let me get to Foss, I’m not going to fight you…this isn’t needed!” I said in alarm…but I had to get to Fost. I shook my head. I wanted to resist…but I didn’t want to fight. “We can work it out I’m sure, but I don’t want to fight you!”

From behind me I heard more shouting, of my name. But it wasn’t important. Getting to Foss was important. I heard more steel on steel, and steel slashing flesh.

The four men led me into a muddy alley, with Foss at the far end. Various wooded boxes and crates were stacked haphazardly along the walls here and there. Behind me I still heard fighting and I was glad that it wasn’t near me, and I didn’t have to fight. That’s good. Almost to Fost now.

Fost smiled at me wickedly and with a sneer, “Philandre said to give you a work over before we dropped you off—”

I was puzzled for a moment as two of the men pushed me against the wall and pinned my manacled arms above my head. Then a basket hilt smashed into my cheek almost knocking me down, followed by two two pommels to my ribs, cracking at least one, and a third to my gut. knocking the wind from me. The fog was fading fast.

What was I doing?

I felt ill, as they punched me again. I felt another rib crack and I was coughing up blood. Another blow to my face and another to my gut, and I lost control of my legs and collapsed gasping for air into the mud of the alleyway. I tried to pull my hands from the manacles in vain, desperately. The man, Foss stepped close to me with an evil grin, taking his place with the other four men that surrounded me.

“—And to take our bounty out of your hide. One at a time boys.”

I was scared. I never had been threatened like that. Not any spiv. Not any fiend. I lay there in pain as they grabbed at Daneath’s cloak ripping it away trying to get to my clothes and armor. I grit my teeth together in anger. I searched inside myself for the largest white strand I could find. I pulled it tight and mentally tethered it away from me. I looked at Foss and spat at him.

“Over your dead body,” I hissed and then I pulled the strand until it snapped.

A bolt of lighting streamed from the heavens, striking the point where I once lay in mud. The detonation of sound obliterated boxes and crates around the point and threw the four of the men lifeless to the ground. Foss stood there stunned, his hands on his ears, covering the blood that streamed from them. He staggered a moment in pain and looked at the ground seeing only the empty manacles there. He then turned around looking for me in desperation.

As for me, I was laying on my side on top of a nearby rooftop in pain. Not from the explosion I caused, but from the cracked ribs and beating I had received. Focusing I pulled myself up and stood on the roof looking down triumphantly. My blood was boiling, and I pulled on a dark strand. Around Foss’ neck a ghostly skeletal hand formed and started to pull his life away.

He glared at me and grabbing for his lyre he plucked a couple of strings smiling. But I could see the expression on his face turn from contempt to fear. The dark strands siphoned away the magic he used to try to heal himself. From the distance I could see him shake his head, his hands clasped together in a desperate plea for mercy.

My face was contorted in anger, and without a second though I pulled on the dark strand again. Foss stiffened and fell into a lifeless heap around the impression in the dirt and mud of where I once lay. I readied myself to pull on another strand if another emerged from the alley, all the while I cursed at my attackers.

“May Kelemvor damn your souls, for trying to—"

I was about to finish it, when I heard a whistling sound followed by the sound of metal sinking into flesh. I blinked and looked down, and I was surprised to find that a dagger had lodged itself into my chest. I gasped at the sudden rush of pain, as blood poured from the open wound. I grabbed and yanked out the dagger dropping it on the wood where it clattered and skidded off the roof. But the wound was now gushing blood.

From below me, I heard fighting, steel on steel once again. I wanted to fight. I wanted to hurt who threw that dagger at me. But I was so tired, I wanted to rest. I remember my body relaxing as I fell from the rooftop. I was so happy to get down, but the ground was coming up awfully—




I was warm.

The warmth spread through my tired limbs, numbing the pain.

I took a breath. On my tongue was the taste of wet air, salt and other minerals. The air was warm too…warmer than it was before. But it was so soothing.

I slowly opened my eyes and my vision started to focus. My head was tilted backwards, and I felt something under my arms. The chamber I was in was a natural cavern. Along the walls were lit oil lanterns, and the light played off the steam that drifted around them. I lifted my head and found that I was in a bubbling pool of water, perhaps a natural hotspring.

I turned my head and looked around. Behind me I saw the open mouth of a cavern, and more lamps leading off around a corner, and I thought I saw that this passage was one fork of at least two. But beyond the pool, and what looked to be a towel folded neatly on the floor near the spring, the chamber was empty.

I looked myself over. The dagger wound was already closed and only a bit of redness remained and touching my ribs I could feel only the barest level of soreness.

Wait my ribs?

Looking down at myself in the water, I swore that my eyes were about to pop out of my head when I shouted aloud:

“WHERE IN SODDING BAATOR ARE MY CLOTHES!?”



Session Notes:

So, in full disclosure; I have no idea what happened this session, because I wasn’t there.

So, I know that the pirates were trying to catch me, and the other players said, “they did something to your mind and caught you.” But the details were vague. And no one else took notes.

Now, I came back to the next session, and yes it opened with Myrai was alone naked in a hot spring. I admit to having a major problem with this. In my mind the suggestion of hot tubing in a Pirate’s port is a bad idea in principle. As you will soon see (foreshadowing) this wasn’t because we were safe either. It one thing with a spell being cast on Myrai and a saving throw being intentionally failed to keep things going while I wasn’t there. But making a character vulnerable, just because I missed a session (just like Beepu) I felt wasn’t right.
 

Well ... I miss a few updates and when I do check back in o_O !!

Going back a bit I can understand why you were ambivalent (to put it mildly) about what happened to Beepu as a result of missing a session. I'd be royally hacked off if I was Beepu's player. I'll hold off a bit on passing judgment over what's happened to Myrai in the last post - how bad it is depends on knowing your full situation.

As for the backstory stuff ... I don't quite know what to say. Dark barely begins to cover it. I'm actually a little surprised Myrai is as balanced as she seems to be after that.

Looking forward to more :)
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Going back a bit I can understand why you were ambivalent (to put it mildly) about what happened to Beepu as a result of missing a session. I'd be royally hacked off if I was Beepu's player. I'll hold off a bit on passing judgment over what's happened to Myrai in the last post - how bad it is depends on knowing your full situation.

As for the backstory stuff ... I don't quite know what to say. Dark barely begins to cover it. I'm actually a little surprised Myrai is as balanced as she seems to be after that.
Almost done with the post-hot-tub story part. So you can judge soon. I am interested to know if I was off base. Being attached to a character is one thing, but the suspension of disbelief is a bit much in my opinion (which is that; opinion)

Re: Dark backstory. It is; I blame Game of Thrones partially. And there is a question there: Is she balanced? She asks herself that. But I think that is the point; how DOES someone climb out, how DOES something like that shape your actions, how DOES someone really recover from trama. And, there is of course, more going on that meets the eye. So good news, I think everything for a while is in the present gaming, and less the background. Because we are going to have a fairly significant shift soon.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Deals from the Underdark - 09/19/2020

There are stories of the Underdark even in Sigil. But they are looked at by bloods and planeswalker as something akin to “Just another bad trip.” No Blood would let themselves get trapped on a plane, much less anever-ending series of caves. They are compared to other destinations with a shrug. How could it be worse than the howling winds of Pandemonium? The depths of Stygia? Mechanus when you’ve missed the window for using the privy?

It wasn’t until I asked Arnara about them, that I understood what it meant for primes. To them, it was a version of the Abyss that lurked far too close, that could reach up and swallow you at any moment. A nightmare that adults tell each other so they can keep their kids safe. To them, the Abyss is just a story of where your kids go if they are really bad.



“Hey! Myr’s awake,” I heard Iesa’s voice nearby. I looked around and Iesa came from around the fork, with only a towel wrapped around him. Mo, was bounding behind him sporting a similar cloth, and both of them were dripping wet.

“You feeling better?” Iesa said grinning.

“I uh…what happened?” I was very confused on why he was so casual.

“Well, someone knocked you down from a roof. Luckily, I grabbed you and fed you a potion I had. But you were still out, and we carried you here!”

“Here?” I said looking at Iesa dubiously.

Iesa nodded, “I realized that that guy with the lute—”

“—Lyre.—”

“—Whatever. Basically, gave us bad directions, it was easy to get here. We headed right, and there it was, a bunch of buildings surrounding a well-travelled path underground. And the drow at the entrance pointed us here to relax and get you back on your feet.”

I slowly blinked not quite believing it. “And they just…let you in with an unconscious me in your arms? Just like that?”

“Well, the other pirates didn’t follow us once we passed the pair of drow at the entrance,” Iesa pointed out. “It was like they didn’t want to stir up trouble.”

I stared at Iesa with what was probably an incredulous expression, “And Daneath and Beepu are just…soaking it up in another spring?”

“Pretty much. I mean beyond the potion I was at a loss on what to do, and one of the drow mentioned that the springs here are renowned for healing properties. Cheap too for all four of us.”

“So…let me get this straight,” I said trying to keep my voice even. “You took the advice of some random drow at the entrance, a number of which we killed what yesterday? And they recommended that we all take a bath so I would feel better? And you decide it’s a good idea to strip me of my gear and float me alone, naked in a spring?”

“Well, I made sure you were braced so you wouldn’t slip in!”

“And did you come up with that idea before or after you stripped me?” I said starting to let my anger show.

“Hey, you said I had already seen—”

I looked around and found a loose rock, and half emerging from the pool threw it at the man. He easily ducked, and it flew down the corridor. “Pike it you barmy leatherhead! We slipped the knot, and now you put us in a tub, while those unhende drow turn stag on us! What kind of a tanar’ri martyr are you?”

Iesa blinked a moment opened his mouth and then shut it. He was quiet for a moment, and then looked at me and smiled.

“I’m really sorry…what does that even mean?”

I seethed and said with clenched teeth. “It means that the drow have tricked us, and now we are sitting here vulnerable.”

Iesa looked shocked and defensive, “They seemed to be helpful. I think you are overreacting.”

As he uttered those very words, a dozen drow dressed in leathers, and carrying crossbows and swords at their belts ran down the hall from the main entrance. By the time he said ‘over-reacting,’ six of them aimed their weapons at us, while the other six went town the other fork. From the distance I could hear Beepu’s shrill voice piping, “What is this all about!”

Iesa didn’t even turn around. He closed his eyes and bowed his head in defeat. Mo raised his hands and the his towel dropped to the floor.

“They’re right behind me, aren’t they?” he said realizing what I had meant.

“You two are coming with us. The boss wants to see all of you. Now.” Said one of the drow in a no-nonsense tone.

Iesa raised his hands and turned around with a wan smile, “Hey I think there has been—”

The crossbow men all turned to point their weapons at his protests.

“—A completely reasonable ask made.”

I sat there in the pool fuming.

Gos, where are you?

--About time! Umm…I’m hiding near your guys stuff in a room above the pools.

Stay there, keep an eye on my things.


“Fine, once I get dressed,” I said.

“You come as you are,” the drow said to me menacingly.

I stiffened a bit and pulled myself out of the pool. I shook my head, and scattered water droplets around, sprinkling the guards. I then crossed my arms.

“No. I am getting dressed.”

The drow’s captain, stepped forward with the crossbow still pointing at me. “I don’t think you are in a position to make demands.”

I moved my hands to my hips, I was naked, and running a serious red one, ready to kill Iesa for them. But I spoke far calmer than I felt as my heart pounded.

“I am not going to be marched to your boss naked. If you want to shoot; do it. However, I am pretty sure your boss wants us alive, otherwise…you would have shot us already. But in the spirit of compromise, you can get my clothes and I will follow you peacefully.”

Iesa turned his head to look at me and then the drow captain uncertain how this was going to play out. The tension in the air was palpable, with neither side wanting to back down. Finally, the captain, turned to the drow on his left.

“Get princess here her clothes,” the captain snarled, and his subordinate lowered his crossbow and retreated down the main corridor.

Iesa turned towards me, “I think—” he started.

“Bar that and eyes up,” I snapped, and Iesa immediately looked up at the roof of the passage. “You don’t get to look, because you aren’t pointing a crossbow at me.” Several of the drow sniggered at my orders, while the captain regarded me coolly.

--Hey, there’s a drow here grabbing your stuff.

All of it?

--No just the clothes.

Keep watching, thanks.


The subordinate returned and tossed me my pants, boots and underblouse. As I put them on Iesa cleared his throat.

“No,” the captain said. “Only her.”

Iesa finally looked down from the ceiling and protested, “But why?

The captain looked at the rogue and said evenly, “Because the other pirates aren’t going to care if you are naked. Most of them at least.”




We were then marched out of the springs, and for the first time I saw where we were. It was a huge cavern with a vaulted ceiling that must have been hundreds of feet above us. The floor of the cavern had various buildings, that would have been home outside. The streets were straight and wide and not a twisty maze like the shantytown or even the cliffside dwellings. The streets were lit by smokey oil lamps, as were many of the windows of the buildings. Far above there was the glint of crystals, which reflected the light from below, creating a glittering firmament. It gave the feeling that we were in a town, that was trapped or was hiding in a cloak of eternal night.

The streets below weren’t crowded, but there was activity everywhere; drunken men swaying together singing shanty songs off (and some on) key, some collapsed on the ground in their own vomit, while another group were noisily brawling at a bar. It was a version of the port above, under stone.

We passed, two large buildings looked like warehouses, without walls. Large and open, tables to dice at and to deal cards. The tables were only partially full, which made sense with only a single ship docked in the quay. But like above, there were no small races, and I saw only a single old woman in the cavern. Unlike above, there were also guards; pairs of drow men patrolled together, their red eyes watching the pirate’s activities with a detached interest.

And as I expected, my passing with a loaded crossbow pointed at my back created a wake of whispers as we were escorted to not a building, but a passage that pierced the rock, opening into a smaller chamber. While I had managed to bargain for clothes, Daneath, Iesa and Beepu were being escorted in loose towels and Mo tagged along, staying close to Iesa.

Once inside the smaller grotto, we ascended a circular set of stone steps set on the outer edge of the roughly oval chamber. The steps themselves were covered in rugs; the stone walls were draped with dark tapestries. Unlike the other cavern, there was no set light source as the there were no sconces or lanterns mounted on the walls at all. Instead our escorts stopped, and lit a candelabra set on a table and carried it, so the humans could see their way through the darkened space.

As we started to ascend the stairs, the drow grabbed the arms of Daneath and Iesa, helping them to guide them up the stairs. I noticed that they didn’t try to help Beepu at all. But they were surprised when I brushed off their attempts to guide me.

“I can see fine,” I said looking at the captain. “But is that,” gesturing at the candelabra, “The best you have?”

The captain looked at me with a dirty look. “It will be sufficient,” he said bluntly. I thought about casting a light and decided not to push my luck and get shot in the back.

We continued our ascent, and entered another stone passage, lined with several oak doors. Finally, we stopped in front of a single door, larger than the others. The captain opened it, and we were prodded inside.

The room was dimly lit, but I could easily see the outlines. In the dark it might be foreboding and impressive, but for me I saw it for what it was. Bookcases lined the walls; each a repaired wreck of furniture and no two the same style. Only a third of them contained actual books, while the rest seemed to be a haphazard collection of cheap art objects, roughly carved statuettes and carvings, small coffers and chests with cheap fittings. It clearly was for show to folks that otherwise couldn’t see well.

In the center of the room was a large wooden desk, with signs of water damage. Cracks and fissures split the wood grain, and some of the panels appeared to be buckled. Two dilapidated but serviceable chairs were set before the desk, while on top was a lit oil lamp, and some scattered parchments. Seated at the desk was another male drow. This one while still having the young elven appearance, face seemed more weathered and worn compared to his peers. His white hair was cropped closely, and his ears sported rings and piercings like many of the other pirates we had seen. His arms were bare, and they were lined in white colored scars that reminded me of whip marks. He sat there and watched us being herded into the room. He looked at the men bemused, but his expression turned a little darker as he looked at me.

He leaned back in the chair he sat in and evaluated us each one by one. The look on his face was one of contempt.

“These are the ones Nymor,” the captain said to the drow sitting at the desk.

“So…you? You are the troublemakers? I’m surprised. Or perhaps I shouldn’t be. The pirates topside aren’t that bright.” He said coldly.

We stood there looking at each other, and I picked up that the other three felt a bit underdressed for the discussion. Rolling my eyes, I looked at the drow. “You should come up more often. It’s easy pickings.” I said and watched him.

He closed his eyes, and seemed to groan inwardly, like he didn’t want to deal with me specifically. “So…you are the one leading your…crew is it? Your ship must be very far from port, as I can’t place what ship would claim you as members.”

“I think that is obvious,” I said coolly. “You clearly are a busy person; so, let’s get to the matter; what do you want?”

“I can see why you are in charge,” he said in a droll tone. I almost corrected him, but I decided against it. “But you simply put, you are here to pay off your debt to me.”

“Debt?” Daneath spoke up. “What are you talking about?”

The drow sat back and rocked his chair on two of its four legs. “First you slay some of my men, and then we…covered for you. The bounty on her head is substantial, so not claiming it is a loss, in addition to keeping the more colorful pirates out. Then there is the cost of reviving my men. It all adds up.”

“As I recall, your men, shot first and shot poorly. We forgave them for their mistake and let them live, on the condition that the matter was settled,” I said watching him carefully.

The drow frowned, “I don’t recall saying anything of the sort.”

“Not you…the drow in charge in the caves. Apparently, he’s making deals you can’t honor.” I said, feeling like I was sparing with the male.

“And you believed him?” he said with a tone of mocking amusement.

“We gave you the benefit of the doubt,” I retorted. “And you paid to have these men brought back? Are you sure that’s a wise…investment in failure?”

His eyes narrowed, and I could hear Iesa hiss between his teeth, while Beepu tried to admonish me saying “Myr…” He then spoke again. “Loyalty like theirs is worth the price.”

“I guess it would be at that, considering the alternative. So, you haul us here to drip on your floor just tell us this, or did you actually want something?” I asked assertively.

“Watch your tone female,” he snapped. “As it turns out we have something that you can do as recompense. Do it and then matters between us will be clean.”

I frowned for a moment. I wanted more from him, and I wanted to keep him off-balance. So, I sat down on a seat in front of the desk and leaned up and propped up my boots on top of it. “It sounds like we might be able to help you with…something. Tell us more.”

Nymor’s eyes narrowed at me and continued, “We had an agreement with some dwarves nearby. They have been…remiss on its terms.”

“And you aren’t sending us to…renegotiate I take it.” I said.

“Indeed. I expect you to make a creative example of these, Duergar. All of them.”

I hadn’t heard that term before, and the word wasn’t elvish, so I turned to Beepu with a questioning look.

“Gray dwarves? Here?” Beepu said in a thoughtful voice. “So, there is a passage to the Underdark beneath this island. And I bet they are blocking it.”

“Our disagreement is none of your concern. What is, is that you remove them all from their holes.” Nymor replied testily.

“All of them,” I said aloud. “You seem to be pretty particular on that point. How many is all?”

The drow grinned, “Around twenty to thirty dwarves. I admit to not having a precise count, but that is your problem.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Well, that is an…ambitious ask. Any particular reason you haven’t taken care of it yourselves?”

“I see no reason to waste my men on them, when I can send you instead.” He said dryly. The light on his face was dimming, as the oil in the lamp was running low, moving the room closer to darkness. But for me, that only meant I could see him even clearer, as if the sun itself lit his face.

My brow furrowed as I gazed down at him. As I saw it there were several possibilities. The first was he was already stretched thin and couldn’t afford a confrontation with these dwarves. That also would imply that he really was concerned about us, and he wanted to have us perish in the attempt. A second one was that he was actually afraid of us, either because we would disrupt something that was already precarious on the island, and sending us to deal with the problem was a convenient way to dispose of us.

Either one would work out for them. Thirty vs four wasn’t great odds. But I could see us being victorious and them the drow turning stag on us. They could then solve their problem and collect on my head and maybe even sell Beepu for a profit.

“Well…that is quite a problem there,” I said nodding. “And I can understand your…reluctance to handling it yourself. We may be the right people for this kind of work. But I wonder if you can perhaps answer a simple question for us?”

“This is not a negotiation,” Nymor said flatly.

“No. It is not,” I replied. “One of your men mentioned you might have seen a Genasi. Being he was camped in the back of your cave; I assume he was an inconvenience. What happened to him?”

Nymor was taken aback for a moment, and quickly his face returned back to the inscrutable mask it was before. “Is that why you are here then? To track him down?”

“Track yes,” I replied. “It’s not like he has a bounty on him or anything, but we do have an interest in his whereabouts,” I deflected.

Nymor chortled, “Such a coincidence. He’s with the duergar as we speak.”

“Interesting. And where does he fit in your request with them? Is he included?” I asked, trying to see if he was important to the drow or not. But as Nymor answered, it became clear it was serendipity and nothing more.

“Kill him if you want. He isn’t really a concern to me.” Nymor said shrugging.

“Any other…requests then?” I asked. “This seems straightforward otherwise.”

“Other than we don’t want to see your faces until the job is done. So, we will be watching. If you come back too soon, or we find not enough blood has been spilled; we will claim you all as recompense.”

I looked at the others. I wasn’t real keen on being the focal point for negotiations. I was told I was effective at it, but I felt ill-prepared for them. Beepu returned my glance, gripping the towel in front of him and shrugged. Iesa’s face was scrunched up somewhere between anger and annoyance, but he nodded to me. Daneath was quiet, but he too gave a single nod.

“Sounds like solving your problems, are now ours. Fine, we’ll do it,” I said.

“You will leave then and get started now. Tanas will—”

“—Tanas will take us back to our things, and we rest and prepare. Then and only then, Tanas will take us there.” I said bluntly.

Nymor’s eyes narrowed, “I suppose we could just take our recompense now.” He said with a hard edge on his voice.

“If you wanted that, you would have done it already,” I observed. “So, I think you really want this problem taken care of. You can wait a little bit.”

Nymor chewed on that for a moment and after a long pause, nodded. “You are right; I do want this problem taken care of. You can have your respite then…but you will be under watch.”

I held up my hands, “As you like. I am glad you are being…reasonable. I guess we will, prepare ourselves.”

“Two words of warning female,” Nymor said. I wouldn’t leave the caverns here; seems that the crew of the Crows has taken an interest in your…activities. And I don’t think I need to say anything about going back on the deal you just made.”

I gave a hard stare. As I watched, I could see a single bead of sweat descent from his temple as we sat and looked at each other. I gave him a slight smile and stood. The captain Tamas, gestured to the door, and we filtered out from the room, the light in his oil lamp started to sputter. With my back to him, I looked over my shoulder and flexed a moment and felt the familiar warmth up and down my back as the wings appeared. On the desk, the lamp flared alive with a brilliant yellow light, and I could see him start to reach up to shield his sensitive eyes from the light, as I stepped through the door.

“I think that goes both directions doesn’t it?” I said. “My god is an active one in this world, and I think he would be…disappointed to see one of his servants arrive before he has called for her. Or you for that matter.” And with a simple gesture and pull on a small white strand, I made the door slam behind us.

“Shall we Tamas? I am certain you have…more interesting things to do,” I said to the captain, as we started downstairs.

Tamas regarded me with a dirty look, “I certainly don’t wish to have another fight with you.” Daneath and Iesa gave the drow a strange look, while Beepu simply shrugged, being he missed the fight in the cave.

I looked at him in surprise. I tried, but I couldn’t remember his face, on the corpses on the drow we faced in the cave days ago.

“It may not mean much Tamas, but I didn’t want to kill you,” I said trying to keep my tone even.

“The smile on your face told me a different story,” Tamas retorted. “But I was foolish. I remembered you breaking our bones. I charged at you to make sure you didn’t do that again, and never saw the sword strike me.”

I nodded and held my tongue. We had left the small grotto, and were crossing the main cavern, and all I could do was stare at Tamas.

For months, I could say that I was the only person that I knew that was brought back from the Fugue. And here was a person that I helped send there, and then was brought back. I knew what I had experienced, but I found myself desperately wanting to talk with him. To ask what he saw, what he felt in the Fugue. Could he even remember it? Did coming back change him, as it did me? Did he fear death anymore, or did he dread returning?

We arrived back at the springs. Right in front of the passage to them, was a building on stilts, that had a set of stairs that led up into them. The other drow took positions below the building and they waited for us to ascend. I turned to look at Tamas, wanting to ask those questions. But it was clear from the face he wore, that he wanted nothing to do with us, and with me in particular. I sighed, as followed the rest of my friends upstairs, with four drow in tow.

We arrived at the large room that I presumed that one of the others paid for and closed the door. There on four beds were our things and looking around at the rafters I saw Gossamer crouched, wings folded tight to his body, and probably well-hidden for anyone’s’ eyes but my own. Daneath closed the door, and I caught a glimpse of the drow taking positions just outside.

I sat down on the bed with the rest of my things, and found the copper wire, and wrapped it around my finger again, while Beepu said aloud, “Well this is an interesting mess.” In what appeared to be total agreement, Mo lept onto a bed and flopped making a small groaning sound.

“Well, I guess you can’t blame them for being a little angry with us,” Daneath said cautiously, as he noticed me playing with the copper.

As quickly as I could, I sent each of them the same message; “They are going to be listening obviously. Don’t mention anything more on why we are here for the Genasi. I personally think they are going to try to kill us when we finish with the Duergar.”

“Well, I think we should get the rest, and do what they ask,” Iesa said aloud, even as he and the others nodded to my message, that I had sent to them. And each one in turn gave me a different response:

Beepu: “Typical for a drow, and a very reasonable expectation.”

Daneath: “I agree with your instincts here, but all we can do is play along for now,” and he shrugged.

Iesa: “Do you think so? I caught that they are afraid of us…although they seem to detest you,” and he looked at me with concern.

I lay down on my bed, as the others finally put on some semblance of clothes and left their wet towels on the floor. As I lay there, I worried silently on how this was going to work out. We were in a den of cony catchers, and it scared me how we kept stumbling. Iesa becoming infected by that plant, losing control of myself and, my friend’s poor judgement here getting us caught, how easy it was for Beepu to get knocked out and put into a cage. It felt that nothing had gone as expected, and that we were just reacting, and not doing what we were supposed to.

“Hey Myr,” Iesa said. “Sorry about the spring earlier…I just didn’t—”

I sighed and interrupted, “—Look, I shouldn’t even have to say anything about stripping off my armor and clothes. You just don’t do that.”

“Yeah…as I said I didn’t—”

“Forget it; its done. Let’s just rest and get this over with.”

I lay there fuming a bit. I didn’t know if I was overreacting or not. I wasn’t safe here; well none of us were really. But I was dumbfounded on what had happened. Perhaps the power Tymora or Bes, or the Fates were watching over us. It was a comforting idea. But then I realized who I should be thanking. And I grasped my holy symbol that was on my neck and prayed.

Kelemvor, I thank you for watching over us and letting us finish this work. I hope that I…we are doing this to your satisfaction. That our battle, against another who thinks lives are cheap, and denies himself your embrace is. Tomorrow we will be outnumbered as we search for the final piece to end this.

No one should be alone, in life or death,

Death is a part of life, not an ending but a beginning

Death is without deceit and has meaning,

I will do anything to see this errand done.

I will sacrifice all that I am to finish it.

May you bless us on the next step of the journey,

Because Death is never an end, but a waypost,

A Destination and a Journey one and the same,

May our deeds live forever in You,

And let me be your instrument my Lord, as it is my desire in faith

May the end of the Kershak grant us all peace.






Session notes:

This felt like a shotgun wedding, and I just didn’t appreciate the setup. It also may have been fatigue on the theme, of the island against Myr’s gender. Or that the rails were showing.

In hindsight, I was a tad snarky in my dialog with Nymor, and so I might have contributed by overreacting, to a lot of negativity.
 
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