Savage Lankhmar - Knowledge Unbound

Background
How They Met & Where They Leave Off

Respahlt ‘Relocks’ Lockshine is a crafty freelance thief in Lankhmar. Along with his faithful companion Gerkh, Relocks scours the city looking to profit from various heists and odd-jobs. Often times stealing the bounty from The Thieves Guild, Relocks has found himself in deep water with the Guild. The Guild has a conditional bounty on his head, meaning he either cooperates fully with them, or he is a dead man.
Gerkh, a simple, good-natured brute of a man unquestioningly follows Relocks. This loyalty stems from when they met. During one of his jobs years ago, Relocks freed Gerkh from a captor’s jail. Gerkh had been tortured, starved, and left to rot in a cell that fatefully resided in a dungeon of a wealthy and sadistic noble in Lankhmar that Relocks was tasked to plunder. It was at this time that Relocks not only found a lifelong companion in Gerkh, but also his trademark weapon Luckbrand.
The duo recently crossed paths with Bansaro Fairchild, the infamous ‘Death’s Hand’ of the Assassin’s Guild. Their fates intertwined when the Assassin’s Guild sent Bansaro to terminate a lecherous barbarian Kunkot who had been causing trouble with several courtesans of the Whore’s Guild. It seemed as though Kunkot had won more than a few enemies in Lankhmar, as Relocks was hired around that same time to ‘re-acquire’ several possessions that were in the barbarian’s abode in the Great Salt Marsh.
Unaware of the three other barbarians living with Kunkot, Bansaro ran into trouble during his job. As luck would have it, Relocks and Gerkh were casing the joint at the same time and saw a perfect opportunity to gain a powerful ally within the guild that would surely be hired to kill them should they find themselves under the attention of the Thieves Guild. After dispatching the barbarians, Relocks, Gerkh, and Bansaro scouted the camp and found an imprisoned courtesan named Kiana Ylagia.
This fateful convergence of four Lankhmar citizens from four different walks of life formed an uncommon alliance within the city walls. The friendship is indeed in its infancy, but the group has agreed that with cunning and cooperation, they have the opportunity to build a lucrative and secure life outside Guild control.

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Session -1
Hexagons & The Crystal Tower

Your daring crew of bravos has run up on hard times – jobs have been few and far between since the Thieves Guild put their foot down on unsanctioned thieving. Your spirits are low. Your wallets – and bellies – are empty. With just enough coin to buy a good meal and stiff drink, you decide to head to the Tipsy Tankard Tavern after an uneventful and barely lucrative day of pick-pocketing. Kiana suggests the group team up with a local magic user, Fenyrn Genshal, in the hopes of expanding the group’s skill set, and therefore employment options. She splits off from the group to meet up with him, and Relocks decides to follow. After a bit of snooping and sneaking, Relocks determines all to be on the up and up, and continues on to the Tavern.

On your way, a kindly but odd old man by the name of Percwick stops Relocks, Gerkh, and Bansaro. He offers to trade a story for an ale. During the exchange Kiana and Fenyrn meet up with the party, and Gerkh divulges that they followed Kiana to Fenyrn’s hut. After a bit of bickering, the group agrees to accompany Percwick to the Tipsy Tankard for some ale and stories.

At the Tankard, the ale is flowing and Percwick recants a nearly incoherent story, all while clutching his singular possession: a large leather bound book.

“There is a universe they say, within our own universe, composed of a perhaps infinite number of hexagonal rooms. Within these hexagons contains everything that is, was, or ever will be known. The inhabitants of this metauniverse unfortunately can’t understand such a complexity – and are driven mad by the vast amount of meaninglessness surrounding them. Yes, it’s quite the thought… to have access to everything, but to think you have nothing… Not unlike me! Although I have access to nothing, but think I have everything!”

It’s at this point in the story that the old man drifts off and apparently falls asleep where he sits. Perhaps you fed him too much ale…? With the man apparently unconscious, and greed getting the best of you, you decide to try to slip the book away from Percwick. You manage to lift the book with little issue and begin to pass it around the table. As Fenyrn inspects the book, the attention of several bar patrons begins to turn to your group.

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A surly but obviously well-to-do grain merchant by the name of Benfolds approached the table and confronts you about Percwick and his book. After a quick escalation that nearly turns into an all out brawl, some cunning and sexuality from Kiana defuses the situation and Benfolds backs down. However, not wanting to jeopardize your standing at the Tipsy Tankard you decide to slip the book back to Percwick and continue drinking through the night.

Relocks makes an attempt at finding work by asking The Dude (The Tankard’s head barman). HE says he doesn’t have anything, and is a but leery of upsetting the guild. He does however promise to keep Relocks in mind if he hears of anything.

Later in the night, Benfolds, drunker and more amiable, challenges the group to a hand of poker. Bansaro gladly accepts, and while the rest of the group distracts him for a moment, he trades his marked deck with the deck Benfolds provided. Bansaro handily bests the grain merchant and wins a good pot. Before making off with what he believes is his deck of cards, Bansaro successfully rattles the man and wins the deck of cards back.

Most of the group parts ways as the tavern dies down. Relocks and Gerkh head back to the hidey hole. On your way you notice a man following you. The man known as Binbin is nervous and almost resembles a rodent. As he stutters his way through his speech he divulges that he has a job for you; a simple task of stealing a book and returning it to him. He lets you know that the book can likely be found at the house of Aarth Priest, Fastian. You accept the mission and head back to the hideout for the evening.

In the morning your group meets up and Relocks shares the story of Binbin. Kiana and Fenyrn decide to see if they can learn anything about Fastian, while Relocks, Gerkh, and Bansaro go case Fastian’s house. Feeling a bit cocky, Relocks sees this as the perfect opportunity to get inside the house and grab the book. He easily finds his way inside and begins to look around. He immediately spots an interesting chest and proceeds to pick the lock. As he flicks the lock open a shadowy figure emerges from a large armoire and puts a dagger to Relocks. It’s at this point you realize that you’ve been made by the Thieves Guild. You recognize the man as Karm, and he lets you know that he has the house surrounded.

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Relocks, Gerkh, and Karm go back and forth a bit, and come to an agreement that you will perform a job for them in exchange for amnesty for taking this job unsanctioned. Karm head to the chest to grab the book, letting you know that they will ‘take care’ of Binbin. You notice the book looks an awful lot like the book you thought about stealing from Percwick. Right about now, Bansaro launched an arrow from the buidling over, through the window, and hits Karm. Bansaro rushes in and goes in for the kill. Before dealing the killing blow the situation calms for just enough time to allow Karm to plead for his life. He offers his rucksack full of rilks and gems, and makes haste.

While this is occurring, Kiana and Fenyrn approach the house and notice Thieves Guild members surrounding Fastian’s house. They mostly hang back to see what is happening, but in hopes of diverting attention from the house, Fenyrn casts a manipulation spell and forces one of the archers to jump from his spot on the room. He lands directly on a hired whore, their heads colliding at near terminal velocity, killing both on impact. Kiana is troubled by the death of a fellow guild member, and gathers her broach to present to the leadership of the guild.

The job presented by Karm is to steal a gem known as the Eye of the Universe from the top of the Church of the Book and return it to the guild. You make the necessary preparations and head to the tower that night to make the heist. Climbing to an open window on the third floor, Relock drops a rope down to aid the rest of the group. Sneaking down to the rafters Relocks and Gerkh make their way to the gem and grab it without alerting the praying priests below. You take note of huge aquamarine crystalline masses at each corner of the tower. As Relocks takes possession of the gem the crystal structures animate and take the form of human-like crab creatures. The Guardians attack and prove to be too powerful for your group to realistically defeat.

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After several minutes of combat, you successfully managed to push two of the beasts down below (noting that they did not attack the now panicked priests), and make your way down the tower. All the while, Relocks is being mentally invaded with images of a hovel down the road, and voices telling him to run. You make it to the hovel with the crystal beasts on your trail and see a huge mural on one of the walls with a hole right in the middle. After a second of two of hesitation, Gerkh grabs the orb and thrusts it through the hole.

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You find yourselves standing in the hovel, shaken and confused. The crystal monsters that had sprung to life were unlike anything any of you have seen before. It’s clear that this gem holds some importance to someone – or multiple someones. The immediate threat of the terrible crab-like creatures seems to have disappeared as soon as the orb was thrust through the center of the emblem scratched into the wall. The visions that were being shot into Relocks’ mind have faded, leaving an eerie quiet amongst the group.

Given a moment to inspect the room, you find yourself in an empty ramshackle building, the large wall mural appearing to to be the only thing of significance around. Consisting of two concentric hexagons surrounding what appears to be an eye where the gem was deposited, the mural certainly feels out of place. The gem rests, apparently inert, in a small puddle on the other side of the wall.

Karm, the spy from the Thieves Guild who sent you on this mission, will be expecting contact from Relocks by morning. Bansaro’s bloodthirsty attempt at Karm’s life gave you negotiating power at the priest’s house, but don’t expect that advantage to remain in tact – you’ve pissed off the Guild even more by attacking a member. Luckily no one died by your hand…. at least that’s what everyone else believes.

You think you have a bit of time gather your thoughts, regroup, and figure out your next move. There is a growing sound of ruckus just down the street, but it’s probably just the priests from the Temple of the Book trying to figure out what just happened.

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Three Paths Converge
The Order, the Eye, and the Church

The heroes had been chosen, however unlikely they may have been. A city guard fallen from grace, stricken by the disappearance of his wife. An escaped slave with a penchant for holding a grudge. A cunning whore with ambitions – and greed – far greater than that of her ilk. Each found themselves being summoned to a secretive meeting with grand promises of revolution; talks of overthrowing the establishment. This Order of Independence, as they apparently called themselves, obviously had a vision, delusional as it may have been. However, it seemed to speak to a certain part of each of them, however far-fetched it sounded.

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Guy Triston and Felix ‘The Fool’ were well acquainted. After all, it was Felix’s sister, Fauna, whom Guy had married. Their bond grew upon the disappearance of Fauna. When they both found themselves invited to the meeting of the Order of Independence they may have seen it as an opportunity to find some answers. Of course, they may have just needed an excuse to take their mind away from their failures. Prior to the scheduled meet, both men did some sleuthing to find out more about the mysterious scroll that has made its way into their possessions.

It seemed that the owner of the mill, Elden Westinghoff, had run up significant debt with the Thieves’ Guild. As a result, Westinghoff’s usual business partners from the grain fields wanted little to do with him. He had run up on hard times, and apparently found the bottom of a tankard of ale to be his closest friend. However, he hadn’t been seen for several days leading up to the meeting; and his mill had been boarded up with no activity.

Vera Nightlily was quite familiar with the area where she was summoned to. It was just down the street from the Plaza of Dark Delights, where she dabbled as a fence when she wasn’t being ‘rented out’ by the Whore’s Guild. She staked out in front of the mill prior to the meeting and looked for anything out of the ordinary. Save for the brutish man making his way for the mill and a crazy blind beggar, Guilded Court was quiet.

Guy moved toward the lit up door of the Westinghoff mill, and pushed the doors open with clear intent. He was the first inside, and he was greeted with an empty storage room and the smell of old grain. As he inspected the room, finding several locked doors, Vera slipped into the building. After a couple tense exchanges between the strangers they continued searching the room.

Meanwhile, Felix made his way around the outside of the mill looking for anything out of place. With nothing of any great concern sticking out, Felix stealthily entered the mill and hid in the shadows. Guy was startled when Felix whispered to him from the shadows and made himself known. The three invitees made idle conversation while starting to feel a level of discomfort as nothing was happening.

Curiosity got the best of Felix, he began picking a lock of a door leading to the unlit portion the mill. As the lock clicked open footsteps sounded from the other side of the storage room. Three hooded figures emerged and greeted the trio. Relocks was the first to lower his hood. He explained to the trio that he sought to topple the power structure of the city, starting with the Thieves’ Guild. He continued that he believed that started with gaining favor with the guild – which obviously was out of the question for him due to his checkered past with them.

He produced a grapefruit sized aquamarine orb from his pouch and placed it on the tidy table near him. The Eye of the Universe, he explained, held significant power in the city and was sought after by many parties. How they decided to use that power was up to them, he said. He explained how the stone had made its way to their possession, and how it once belonged to the Church of the Book and held an enchantment.

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By now the other two people by Relocks’ side had pulled back their hoods. Vera immediately recognized her good friend Kiana, who gave her assurances that Relocks was someone with an honor not too often found in Lankhmar. Relocks promised nothing but the stone, and an opportunity to do something for the betterment of the city.

However thin the hooks were, the trio agreed to join forces and began discussing their options. They floated between selling the stone outright, returning it to the Thieves’ Guild who would be expecting it, throwing the stone in the river, among many other options. Finally landing on the decision to act as a neutral third party and handing the Eye back to the originally intended recipient at a building on the Street of the Gods marked with the Sign of the Beggar (two hands, outstretched, palms up), the group departed.

Felix slipped upstairs to make his way out via the rooftops. As he approached the window he notice four burly figures staked out around the mill. Relaying the information to the rest of the party, Guy and Vera casually walked outside, weapons at the ready but hidden. Felix snuck back upstairs and posted watch on the roof of the mill. Immediately upon exiting the men began approaching Guy and Vera, emerging from the thick night smog, clubs in hand. Harsh words were spoken and the thugs ran wildly at the duo, weapons raised.

Guy motioned for Vera to book it to the alleyway. She did, and Guy follow close behind with sword and shield ready. As Vera used her wits to warn off the thugs, the four baddies converged on Guy, swinging their clubs with reckless abandon. Guy parried, dodged, and absorbed a number of blows and responded with his own frenzy of slashes. From above, Felix was throwing bolos and moving towards the ruckus. It wasn’t long before two of the weaker bandits were felled by Guy’s sword. A dagger flew by the big one, more swings from all parties, and then Felix leapt from the rooftop onto the apparent boss. Shaken by the stunt, the boss was caught with a vicious blow from Guy’s sword.

A pile of three bodies had formed, and one lone thug remained. He backed down after having been given the chance to surrender. A quick search of the boss’ remains turned up a copy of the scroll that had summoned the three to this location. Further questioning of the surviving turned up little. Felix asked the others if they wanted to ask anything else, and when the other two responded with a no, he ruthlessly slit the throat of the thug and added a fourth to the pile of dead bodies on Guilded Court. This clearly surprised Vera, who was visibly disturbed by the display.

In an effort to dispose of the bodies, they began dragging them back to the mill. Relocks confirmed that none of the thugs were the intended recipient of a fourth invitation that was delivered. Gerkh, Relocks’ right-hand man, lugged the bodies into the mill and began the arduous task of grinding the bodies down in the now defunct grain mill.

The trio parted ways for the night and went off on a fact finding journey. Aquamarine crystals, it turned out, were becoming quite the hot commodity on the Plaza of Dark Delights. Religious figures and guilds alike sought to buy the crystals, all for hefty sums. They discovered that a blind priest in town, known as Middark, was preaching to the poor of the Beggar King, Goro’mosh. This god is said to be devoted to the wellbeing of the poor, the hungry, and outcast; with a desire to enlighten the city’s wellborn. Middark had been one of the most prolific buyers of such stones.

When asking specifically about the Eye of the Universe, they learned that the Church of the Book spoke of its mystical powers. A priest of Aarth (the most well-known and powerful religion in Lankhmar) explained that the Church of the Book was inexplicably gaining favor in Lankhmar, and even taking followers from Aarth. He believed the Eye has something to do with that.

With that, the heroes were left with the fact that what they held in their hands obviously held a power far greater than a few thousand rilks. And they set off to hand it over to the Beggar King.

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Vera's Tale
Reflections, Revelations

Vera finished tying the adorable ribbon into a cute little bow atop the gift package, slipped the envelope bearing the title of the recipient in her best, flowing calligraphy securely into place, and then passed the package to the waiting courier. She repeated the instructions to the young man – he was to deliver the package to the open door of the thieves guild on cheap street, and leave it on the step. The people there would make sure it got where it needed to go; the package was addressed to the Night Master of the Thieves Guild; only a fool would cross him directly. The bright and flowery presentation was a stark contrast to the likely result of that package; in addition to dismembered body parts, it contained descriptions of two of the three individuals who had violated thieves’ guild rules on operating outside of guild consent, which they would likely deal with… harshly.

Vera didn’t care. She turned deeper into her own guilds hallways, heading toward a room in the back where she could get some rest. As she thought of the young woman – Leela – falling desperately back from the advance of those thieves guild thugs, the fierce anger flashed inside her again. The fact that they had coerced another young sister of the whore’s guild into helping drove the flame of that anger into an inferno. Why had they been allowed to do that? Why were those abuses allowed to continue?

She found a room, and then flopped tiredly onto a worn out mattress. She cast her gaze around the room, and reflected on the day’s events. The guild hadn’t been terrible to her, had it? It had given her shelter, income, and protection – all of which were valuable. But you can’t leave, Vera thought. To the Guild, you’re an investment – a tool. She grimaced. But if there was no guild, what then? It’d just be whichever pimp was powerful, dangerous, or threatening enough to control as many women as possible, and they’d have nothing at all to protect them. Vera wasn’t sure Relocks was right there, but…

But it should be different. The Guild’s should exist to protect their members, to offer them shelter and support as people, and allow them to pursue their dreams and find their way in the world. Now, they just used their members the fill the pockets of whoever was on top; in many cases, the larger guilds used the smaller ones in the same way, like how the Thieves Guild was using her sisters. It was unacceptable; it had to stop. Someone should do something, she should do…

Vera groaned suddenly, as if in pain. She got to her feet, and walked over to the wall, and then slowly and deliberately hit her head against it. She had just thought it, clearly and stupidly. She whispered to no ears but her own, “I should do something.”

She cursed softly, again and again as she walked back to the mattress. She thought it over in her head, examined her feelings on the matter, just to make sure she hadn’t gone temporarily insane. After a minute she was sure; she had just resolved to do something far more disgusting and reprehensible than anyone thought whoring was; she had just resolved to enter into guild politics. But she remembered her sisters, those who had been abused and died because no one had been there to stand up to the Thieves Guild spending their lives carelessly, no one had lobbied for better training and information to help them make better decisions, and the fact that no one had cared to think that maybe someday she might like to do something else with her life and stood up for her.

Vera sat up, and started thinking it through. She’d need allies first, then influence. Good gods, she’d probably need to consider trying to gain control of the guild. Could she even do that? But if she could… that would be an incredible position to try and battle for the sort of reform that Relocks probably wanted, if he had the vision for it. The Guilds didn’t need to run the city; they needed to look after their members. That fit, didn’t it? But the influence she’d gain there…

She considered also that the thief Karm now owed their compatriots a couple of favors; she needed to know more about him. If he were ambitious enough, he may be amenable to a change in the status quo, if it ended with him in a better position than he started; that was path that would need to be tread carefully.

Vera forced herself to her feet, and shook off her tiredness. She’d need to find something to help with that, but for now there was work to be done; she needed to start by finding out who her allies were and gaining their support; despite Leela’s inane comment, she was not old, and that wasn’t necessarily an advantage here. She wasn’t senior in the guild, so would start by seeking support from some of the more senior membership, which for her meant talking to Kiana and gaining her support. She’d also need to make sure to stick close to Guy, as she had no doubt that this path would contain some level of personal danger and that man was dangerous. She’d need to look into seeing if there was any way to cement a working relationship. The freelance thief, Felix also had skills – he had been disparaging, but damn if he hadn’t produced results. Marshalling herself, Vera headed for the door…

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The Path Splits
Favors beget further questions

It was a tense morning. The trio was still struggling with what to do with the Eye of the Universe. Was it really wise to give up the stone? Was it less wise to hold on to the stone after having asked around about it? There were still many unanswered questions, and the Eye seemed to be the key to start unlocking some mysteries. Giving the stone up, it seemed, led to the most answers.

Prior to convening back at the mill to prepare for the exchange, the group noticed some missing person flyers posted up in the city. It appeared that a priest for the Church of the Book by the name of Liam Scosbargh had turned up missing the day before. Felix asked around and didn’t turn up much. However, when he brought up the poster to Relocks, the thief grimly confirmed that Liam was to be the fourth invitee to the inaugural meeting of the Order of Independence. Liam, as it happened, had been expressing displeasure with his church. Word had gotten back to Relocks and he saw it as a prime opportunity to gain a powerful ally within the religious community.

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Further rumors were abuzz in the streets of Lankhmar. Overlord Radomix Kistomerces, eccentric as he was, was gaining a bit of notoriety among the nobles for having quite the harem. He had been seen each night with a different woman (or women) at his arm. Most people had been chalking it up to an ego-maniacal royal with a penchant for carnal pleasures.

After a good deal of discussion at the mill, the party set off to the Street of the Gods. They were headed to what they presumed was the Church of the Beggar King, the modest building on the East end of the Street of the Gods marked with the Sign of the Beggar.

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The street was bustling. It was midday at Cheap and the Street of the Gods, after all. In true ‘Felix Fashion’, the thief slapped on a quick disguise as a blind beggar and cased the joint. It had become clear to Vera and Guy that when Felix said that he was going to ‘case the joint’ it meant that he was going to walk right in.

The two-story building was a modest affair, with dark stone walls, few windows, and door wide open to the masses facing the Street of the Gods. There were two other doors, but less inviting than the main door that Felix casually strolled into. The church was quiet, save for the faint sound of chanting coming from the back of the room. It was a long, narrow building, with the main entrance feeding down into a hallway that led to another room. Felix felt around, peeking from behind his blindfold. He cam across an alter with a large ornate book. Flipping through the pages, he saw ‘Word of Goro’mosh’ on the title page, and the following pages appears to be scripture that spoke of the Beggar King’s mission to bring up the poor and elighten the wellborn.

Felix moved away from the alter with caution as he continued examining the room. Behind him was a book shelf. More books. But also small shards of unrefined aquamarine carelessly strewn about. This seemed strange, especially after all they had learned about the stones’ worth. Further down the hall Felix spotted a table adorned with large chucks of the crystal and accompanied by a pile of a couple human skulls. Nevermind, he thought, this is Lankhmar…what’s a skull or two…?

As he ventured further down the hallway, ever cautiously, the chanting became louder. It was about this time that Felix decided to turn around and head back to meet his compatriots, sufficiently creeped out. He explained what he saw, and advised that he hold onto the stone while Vera and Guy went in to talk with whoever was in the church. Guy begrudgingly handed the stone over to Felix with a sneer, “I thought that’s what we discussed earlier and you didn’t like the idea…?” Felix chuckled playfully and slinked back into an ally to change his disguise – this time to a shepphard.

Felix and Vera made their way toward the back of the church, eyes darting back and forth, ready for a trap. Surely the Thieves Guild would be there waiting… As the hallway opened up to an open room, the chanting became clearer, yet indistinguishable. “Au’chtre bvrre Goro’mosh. Da’sect uvre Goro’mosh…” It continued until Vera politely cleared her throat, standing several feet back from a man kneeled on the ground in front of a tattered wooden coffin.

A tall man, draped in common priest robes, slowly rose as the chanting stopped. He turned slowly and greeted his guests. His eyes were wrapped in bandages. This was clearly the Middark they had heard about. Guy remained steadfastly silent while Vera chatted the priest up. She had her doubts about the man even before arriving. She tested him throughout the conversation, giving non-verbal cues, nods, and waves to see if the preist would react. He was clearly either a good imposter, or he was truly blind.

Middark explained that the stone he sought was a symbolic gesture to his god, Goro’mosh. The more stone he piled into the church, the more favor he gained with the god. The more favor with Goro’mosh, he explained, the better the mission to help the poor raise up. He motioned toward the coffin that he was previously knelt at, “That is the ancient body of Goro’mosh.”

He went on, surprised that it wasn’t the Thieves Guild talking to him right now. He expressed his disdain for the Guild and his displeasure with their carelessness with his stone.He advised that he had already paid for the stone’s procurement, so he was unable to compensate the party should they return the stone to him. He did, however, have a proposition. There were more stones that needed to be found, and he offered the work to the group as opposed to the Thieves Guild. Vera and Guy stepped back to discuss their options.

It was around this time that Felix began to notice a change in the street. Crowds had begun to clear out. The shadows seemed to thicken. He felt eyes upon him. The man disguised as a shepphard was now mostly alone on the street. He approached the door of the church to signal for his friends, but when he caught a glimpse of a man lurking in the shadows as a rare bit of sunlight peeked through the clouds and smog, he began walking down the street away from the church.

When Vera and Guy made it to the door of the church Felix was nowhere to be seen. An uneasy feeling came over both of them and they made their way to the meeting location they had previously agreed upon. They felt a presence descend upon them as the arrived that he corner. Felix hid back in an alleyway, out of sight from any intruders.
From across the street a man cloaked in the telltale dark grey cloak worn by so many in the Thieves Guild approached the trio. The confrontation the party thought they were going to have never happened, though. The Thieves Guild spy, Karm, was convinced easily enough that their association with Relocks wasn’t at issue. Vera adeptly bargained with the spy, giving up the Eye of the Universe and Relocks’ last known location for a couple favors and a few hundred rilks. Relocks had already been privy to this option and was likely to have vacated the mill in anticipation. It seemed the Guild could maintain their reputation, find their man, and gain some anonymous contractors in one fell swoop.

To the tavern the party went, ready to discuss what exactly had just happened and what to do next. One of their best leads, they decided, was to follow up on the missing priest Liam Scosbargh. With that, they headed out of the tavern to find some clues as to the whereabouts of Scosbargh.

Fortune favors this trio, it seems, or they just have impeccable timing; because just as they exited the tavern a women came tumbling head over feet out of the alley onto the street. Following close behind was an unsavory couple of men and one women shouting, “Just give us the mask and you won’t get hurt.”

Recognition fell over Vera’s face… the women was a member of the Whores’ Guild. The ever-chivalrous Guy quickly stepped in to face the apparent leader. The fight was quick. Eyes were gouges, knees were bashed, egos were bruised. Danger reared its head when from up on the roof top an archer started firing off shots. At some point in the battle it came out that the women was hired from the Whores’ Guild, something that clearly upset Vera. In perhaps one of the most ruthless acts of vengeance in recent Lankhmar history, Vera handily removed the manhood of one of the thugs with a swift flick of her dagger. The dismembered member flopped to the ground and came to rest is a growing puddle of blood.

It wasn’t long after this that a couple off duty guards emerged from the tavern and broke up the brawl. Vera and Guy went in to talk with Leela. Felix ran off to chase the archer who was making a getaway. Felix deftly leapt from roof to roof making quick ground on the assailant. He eventually caught him, knocked him out, and brought him back to the tavern alleyway for further questioning.

Vera and Guy learned that Leela was given a mask for a party she decided not to attend. She presented the mask, a simple black affair with silver stitching adorned with polished aquamarines inset in the eyelets. She didn’t have much to say other than the man that gave it to her went by Fustan. Vera pleaded with Leela to let her buy the mask from her for her protection, but Leela was clearly resistant to giving up the mask.

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Once satisfied with the information he got, Guy turned to head out of the tavern. He grabbed one of the arrows that lay on the ground, walked over to the severed member, and with a quick stab down skewered it. Felix motioned for Guy to join him in the alley with the unconcious archer. They woke him up with a splash of water and began an interogation. Guy waved the sheesh-kabobbed unit at the now shaking man. They learned that the thugs were Thieves Guild members, however they were hired outside of guild protocol. Feeling quite proud of this moment, Guy stashed the member in the archer’s quiver, handed it to Felix, and told him to bring it to Vera. Apparently she wanted it, possibly as some sort of trophy.

Guy headed to the guard station where the head thug was lugged off to, archer one hand. A quick bribe sent the guards off to have a couple ales with the archer fiend, leaving boss man and Guy alone in the small cell room. The boss, Johnny, confirmed that the job was not sanctioned by the guild. Further, he named the man that hired them. His name was Fustan.

Not much could be garnered about Fustan, other than he was a ‘religious nutjob’ of some form or fashion. Johnny couldn’t give much more to guy, so the big man turn on his heels and headed back outside. Vera had left to escort the other two courtesans back to the guild house while Felix trailed behind. Stopped at the door of the guild house, Felix handed over the package as the door maid shouted for Vera. She quickly came by to retrieve her reward and turned with a smirk. Clearly she had a plan.

It was nearing dusk now, and with the idea in mind that getting an invitation to one of those masquerade parties might lead to some answers, he set off to acquire some formal wear. He was pointed toward Donticelli’s for the finest evening attire. He climbed the two-story shop near the Noble District and headed towards the chimney. He began shoving items down the chimney hoping to clog it up, but to no avail. He then simply covered the opening with a thick blanket and waited.

Its seemed like forever later that commotion sounded from downstairs. The occupant was grumbling about ineffective chimney sweeps and smokey clothes. Confident that the occupants were distracted, Felix slid into a second-story window and headed to the armoire. All men’s clothing. He shrugged and grabbed what he thought looked like a nice outfit for a man and began thinking. He peeked out onto the landing just outside of the room he was in and saw a vase. With a quick tap, the vase came crashing to the floor and ashy dust came flying up into the air.

Confusion sounded from below, footsteps sounded up the stairs, and Felix made a b-line for the window he had just entered. He jumped down and quickly headed inside the first floor while the man made his way up the stairs. He grabbed the first dress that looked decent as a voice rung out from above, “MOOOOOOMMMM!!! NOOOOO!!” Felix grimaced and darted out of the shop, a small feeling of regret growing in the pit of his stomach. “I hope Vera appreciates this…”

Meanwhile, Guy was investigating the missing priest, Liam. He approached the Church of the Book and wrapped his fist on the heavy wooded door a couple times. He was greeted by a pleasant, but guarded priest. Guy asked about the disappearance and requested to see his personal effects and living quarters. The priest kindly, but nervously declined the request, advising that they have been told to be cautious of who they trust and who to let into the tower. After all, not a few days ago they were robbed of a very valuable stone, and now a priest had gone missing.

Guy told the priest that a Sergeant of the Guard named Dwayne could vouch for him. The priest nodded and told Guy to return the next day once he had spoken to Sgt. Johnson.

With the day coming to a close, and the group off on their own missions, many questions still remain… many new questions have arisen. But just how many have actually been answered?

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All signs point to...
The Church, The Priest, The Marsh

It had been a while since they had regrouped with Relocks. Vera, Guy, and Felix had been a busy bunch, and it was high time they talked to the man who had brought them together in the first place. Relocks had let the group know that they could find him at The Tipsy Tankard Tavern in the evenings. For a man who was in hiding, it sure was strange that you could count on him to be anywhere with great regularity. But true to his word, he was there.

In the time before meeting at the tavern, the group had heard more rumors about Overlord Radomix Kistomerces, learned of the death of famed clothier Mario Donticelli, and sent pointed threats to Guild masters. Donticelli has died of mysterious circumstances, and was last seen at The Guilded Leaf Tavern speaking with a large, rich man whole gave him some token of condolences. It seemed that the recent string of missing women may lead all the way to the Rainbow Palace, but any news coming from The Lankhmar Press and Editor Danick Borden is usually taken with a grain of salt.

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At the Tankard, Relocks informed the crew that his best lead for them was Liam’s personal belongings in the the Church of the Book. He told the party about a tunnel connecting a popular tavern for clergy known as The Gods’ Mouth and the Church of the Book. Further, the church had a midnight mass that most members attended on the first level of the tower. The task, it seemed, was to sneak into the basement of the tower through the secret passage, find any clues about Liam’s where abouts.

Off the party went. Felix ran off to find some robes that could pass as priestly. He the headed off to the Gods’ Mouth to investigate. The tavern sat behind the Church of the Book, only accessible from some dark, dank alleyways. It was quiet around the time everyone had arrived. Felix was the first to scale through the kitchen window of the tavern. Vera followed, both gracefully slipping into the room. Guy brought up the rear, but his broad shoulders forced him to wedge himself through the window. Despite this trouble, Guy made it inside with very little drama.

The kitchen was very dimly lit. A gentle warmth emanated from a stove that hadn’t been stoked for a while. The faint sound of subdued patronage could be heard through a flimsy door leading to the common room. In one corner of the kitchen a sturdy trap door graced the floor. Felix quickly slipped over and began trying to pick the lock. He quickly found the lock to be quite advanced and began searching for some tools that could aide in his attempt. As he picked up a long sharp object, Guy doused the door hinged in cooking oil he found in the room.

With some stealthy brute force, Felix cracked open the lock and pulled open the door. Dust flew up and cleared away to reveal a dark stairway leading into an even darker tunnel. Felix grabbed a candle and headed down the stairs, followed closely by his compatriots. The tunnel had seen very little use recently. It was quiet, smelly, and dank. As the crew moved through the darkness they began hearing some scurrying down the way. Seemingly from nowhere, a dog-sized rat lunged toward Felix and bit at his ankle. It wasn’t long before several rats were crawling from the woodwork and going for blood.

A torch was lit, rats were slaughtered, and nerves were shaken. At one point Felix began ripping rats apart with his bare hands. When the the tunnel again fell silent, the picture of rat gore was gruesome. This was made even more disturbing by Felix, who took a rat carcass and ‘greased’ more door hinged with rat blood. Vera shuddered.

The basement of the tower was quite. The sound of worship was slinking down the stairway in the main room. It seemed as though there wasn’t a soul in the tower that wasn’t upstairs. Felix snuck from room to room checking for guards or priests. He found one sleeping priest, pale and gaunt in one of the sleeping quarters. With little hesitation, he sent a fist flying toward the sleeping man’s temple. Whatever rigidness the man had slumped into a further state of relaxation as he fell into a deep unconsciousness. Vera again, shook her head in disbelief.

The sleeping quarters were lined wall to wall with bunk beds. Footlockers with initials sat at the end of each bed. Felix found one with the initials ‘LS’, but it turned out to be someone else. The letter inside told a story of parents pleading for their son to come back home, still with the belief that he had joined some sort of cult.

Felix continued through the basement looking around for clues or valuables. He came across a heavy door with a rather impressive lock. Despite his best efforts he was unable to pick the lock. He looked at the mechanism and saw the workings of a lock that which he had never seen. Clearly whatever was behind that door held some bit of value to the church.

Felix and Vera found the other footlocker with ‘LS’ on the nameplate. Inside were standard priestly belongings. Further inspection of the lid of the chest revealed a hidden compartment with several sheets of paper. Two sheets were pages from a book, unintelligible writing and annotations covered them. The other was a tattered map with writing scratched across it, an ‘X’ marking a spot in the middle of the Great Salt Marsh.

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The group made haste to cover their tracks and leave the tower. They positioned the sleeping priest to look as though he had fallen out of bed, then began their exit. As they were leaving the ring of gongs sounded. Chanting concluded and it was obvious that whatever service was happening had just ended. The trio quickly snuck back into the storage room from whence they came, gently closing the door behind them just as a horde of priests shuffled down into the basement.

On their way back through the tunnel Felix decided to have a try at a chest that was tucked away. Clearly trapped, Felix took precautions to avoid tripping the mechanism, slid the lock open adeptly and grabbed for the contents. A book. Similar writings to those found on the pages from Liam’s belongings. They took their spoils and peeked back into the kitchen of the Gods’ Mouth.

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The tavern had picked up. The cook was hard at work fixing food for hungry clergymen. Getting out was going to be trickier than getting in. As with any problem Felix was approached with, he snuck up on the unsuspecting cook and knocked him out.

Once safely away from the tavern Vera wanted to follow up on Leela to make sure she was OK. She headed to the Whores Guild house and found that she was sent out to a job earlier in the evening. She checked Vera’s belongings and found a diary. In the pages, Leela wrote about her dissatisfaction with the social and political state of Lankhmar. She wrote about meeting Fustan Delante, a kind, rich man that she hated servicing, but respected greatly due to his understanding and sympathy. Vera grabbed the diary to avoid prying eyes from seeing Leela’s ‘blasphemous’ words.

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Vera asked Night Lady Gertrude Vindar where she was sent to. Night Lady Vindar was quite uncooperative to begin with, but Vera softened her up just enough to find out that Leela was sent out to Benfolds Babasti’s grain plantation. Before the end of the conversation Vera’s tongue slipped a bit and Vindar heard her mutter, “Bitch…” The two exchanged some uncomfortable words and Vera went off to the Babasti estate, bitter and determined.

She was greeted by the butler, who informed her that Leela had been there earlier, but was sent away hours earlier. Thoroughly concerned, Vera headed back to town to reconvene with her companions the next day.

Through conversations with Relocks, they determined that they could hire a barbarian wizard by the name of Fenyrn Genshal to guide them to the spot in the Marsh. This one map, it seemed, was their best lead to finding Liam… or some clues at least. They would head out the next day.

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Of Monsters or Men...
The Marsh

Fenyrn Genshal, the mystic barbarian the party had hired as a guide, pointed to Liam Scosbargh’s map. “The way I see it, you have two options. The long way, or the short way.” He explained that the short way would keep to the trail but almost certainly land them in the company of marauders with a reputation for getting what they wanted… whatever that meant. Vera asked around and got a different answer for every person she talked to. The long way, it seemed, involved a trek through the fetid bogs of the Great Salt Marsh, but safety from the marauders.

Fenyrn had his preference. He didn’t like people at their best, much less an unscrupulous bunch like Marsh thugs. Clearly out of their element either way, the group agreed to take the long way around, much to the barbarian’s pleasure. Fenyrn gave them a small window of time to gather what they needed, insisting that the sooner they left the better.

The cryptic scrawlings on the map confused the bunch. “Rat Meat”, whatever that meant, was written around the location of the marauders. Felix thought it wise to find himself a couple rats corpses to bring along on the journey. He gathered some salt for the inevitable slug, and donned his most convincing marsh thug disguise. Vera suited up in something less suited to a courtesan, and more so of an adventurer. Guy, stoic and consistent as ever, ventured on with chain armor covering his vitals.

As the group headed purposefully down the Street of the Gods toward the Great Marsh Gate they notice a crowd gathering around an alley near the east end of the street. Shouts and cries of horror emanated from the ever-growing crowd, and a feeling of dread fell over each of the trio.

The group hurried over and shoved through the crowd, now five people deep. As they broke through the mass of hysteria, their eyes were met with a gruesome display. Slumped over in a sitting position against a wall a couple feet away was the figure of a slight young women. She sat motionless, staring blankly at the ground with charred craters for eyes. Vera turned away in shock as she realized the poor women in front of her was Leela Utore, the young woman she had hoped to protect, and bring under her wing. Hatred began welling up inside of her as she tried to piece together who would be at the receiving end of her fury when she returned from the Marsh.

Meanwhile, instincts kicked in with Guy, who immediately took on the role of the still absent City Guard. He inspected the body of the mutilated courtesan. Clearly deceased. The wounds where her eyes had once been were expertly cauterized, in a manner that no man or object could have possibly accomplished without magic. Perfect right down to the almond shape that mirrored the hawk-like eyes the woman used to have.

Guy searched Leela’s body for anything of interest. Nothing, save for a pouch with a few gold rilks. While the Bear riffled through the dead whore’s body Felix inspected the alley. He headed down the dark side street toward the Noble District and dug through the piles of junk. Everything seemed I order, in that there was none. Lankhmar alleyways were known for their dinginess after all. What they weren’t known for, however, were pieces of ornate gold thread. And that’s what Felix found dangling from a pile of trash. It certainly seemed out of place.

Back down on the other end of the alley some tense words were exchanged between Guy, Vera, and the townsfolk. Things were getting heated, and Guy was clearly upset at the apparent lack of action from the Guard who were just then arriving. A pelt trader by the name of Cruzen was shooting hateful glances at Vera, while Guy was having words with the drunken Guardsman Philip Jowarski.

Eventually the crowd started to disperse, and Guy felt somewhat confident that Leela’s body would be taken care of. There were questions to be answered, but not until the trio returned from the Marsh. They recomposed themselves, made their way through the gate, and began their journey into the harsh Salt Marsh.

With Fenyrn leading the way, they trudged ankle deep through the thick, salt rich muck. About an hour into the trek they came upon giant rock spires jutting from the marsh floor in almost every direction. From each peak dropped a viscous green slime, forming pools and streams of murky swamp water. Fenyrn explained that the crags were formed by a sorcerer who had been corrupted by black magic. Nagagie, as he was called, was bent on power, and forming the land was the highest form of power in his mind.

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The barbarian knelt down and started picking some mushrooms as he continued his story. Felix cautioned forward to keep watch. From his right, in a thicket of bog trees he heard the distinct sound of a predator stalking its prey. As he turned to warn his companions, a jet black, lean, sleek feline figure leapt from the trees, massive claws outstretched, destined for his flesh. They tussled a bit, and Felix eventually landed face down in the muck as he attempted to handle the large cat like he did the rats. Fenyrn gathered some mud and mushrooms, muttered some indistinguishable words, and dropped a mixture of components tot he ground. Sharp spikes formed from the ground and shot toward the cat and shattered into dust as they hit the muscular body.

As the marsh leopard went in for the kill, Felix flailing to unblind himself, Vera came up from behind, and with an expert swing of her staff she snapped the predator’s neck. Another cat leapt from the tree line directly at Fenyrn. As the dagger sharp claws dug into barbarian’s flesh a flash of metal and wood pierced through the leopard’s neck. Guy lowered his bow and gave a quick nod to Fenyrn.

The marsh fell silent, save for the dripping of arcane goo, and bubbling of swamp gasses. Fenyrn expertly skinned the leopards, stripped the bones of meat, and pocketed a handful of teeth. This was not his first rodeo, it seemed. The group composed themselves and pushed on. They prepared to climb over the Nagagien Spires by readying some rope and finding the easiest route over. Fenyrn and Felix went ahead into a pool of slimy water to find somewhere to tie off to. The barbarian took cautious steps, but still managed to find a patch of quicksand. Felix reacted with cat-like reflexes and surprising strength, pulling him free in an instant.

From the other side of the spires Felix noticed an onerous buzzing sound headed their way. A massive cloud of undulating blackness crept over the crags, headed directly for Felix and Fenyrn. Vera saw the apparent swarm and made tracks to the nearest body of water. After all, submerging in water was a sure fire way to avoid a killer swarm of whatever was approaching.

The cloud descended on Felix and Fenyrn. Visibility waned to less than a foot, but what they could see was something more terrifying than any bug either had ever seen. Scarabs, only not, black as night. They entered their vision they lost all form, becoming mirrors of the amorphous black cloud they comprised. From every conceivable angle, little pinches, bites, and pricks covered the two men. Fenyrn had already began covering himself him bog mud, again chanting words not known to Felix.

Meanwhile, Vera had problems of her own. In the relative safety of the water, she was surprised by the unpleasant feeling of razor sharp teeth hunting for flesh on her leg. From the shore, Guy jumped into the water, sword pointed right at Vera’s leg under the water. He plunged into the murk and felt the tip of his sword dig deeply into flesh. Pulling the sword up and out of the water, Guy shook off what appeared to be a cat size leech, still squirming in its last moments of life.

The bog swarm had split off as Felix separated from Fenyrn. The bites were clearly getting to Felix, who at this point had fashioned a zip line to head back toward Vera and Guy. The sorcerer was fairing better, now covered in a mud armor, and pieces of earth were encasing each individual insect-like part of the now dwindling swarm. Guy was stabbing furiously into the water as more giant leeches accosted him and Vera.

Eventually all pests were eradicated, and the whole party was wet, stinky, and exhausted. The great Nagagien Spires stood before them, ready to be scaled. Felix and Guy climbed up quite adeptly, while Fenyrn and Vera struggle up the edifice. When all were safely on top, they looked out across a vast, fetid marsh. Their journey had only just begun, and the thought that they weren’t even halfway through sent a sickness into their guts.

To be continued….

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Vera's Tale, pt 2
Swamps and Sorrow

Vera ran her hands through her hair, for what seemed like the hundredth time, futilely trying to get it free of at least the absolute worst of the horrible swamp ‘water’ she had been forced to submerge herself in. The evidence of that whole swim was visible on the outside of each of her thighs; both legs of her waterproofed leather trousers had almost matching rings of tiny indentations or cuts where the monstrously huge leeches had tried to attach to her legs.

“The bugs would have been worse,” Vera whispered to herself. Slime would wash off her skin, and Kiana had some of the best ointments and salves – which had healing properties Vera actually believed in, to boot. Vera looked ahead at Felix and grimaced. He insisted he was fine after his time in the swarm, and that the deadly insects hadn’t hurt him. But where his skin was visible, it looked like a solid mass of monstrous bug bites. Vera had no idea how he wasn’t twitching like an epileptic in the mud at her feet; that must itch beyond the ability for words to describe it. The normal bugs were bad enough, but those things had been horrifying. The sound alone was beyond description.

Vera picked her way down the slope of the crag the party had been descending, carefully choosing each step. Her earlier synergy with the horribleness of the marsh was close to being replaced by raw fatigue; she felt like she should be in better shape, and blamed the intensity of the recent climb for it.

Vera was trying not to dwell on Leela’s death; ultimately, she hadn’t really meant much to Vera. She barely knew the girl… but Vera was worried that no one else would mourn for her. The Guild should care; another pointless death, another member, another sister dead. Or at the very least, an asset lost. But would they even notice? Or would they just move on, to another expendable piece of flesh? That needs to change – I need to change it. Plans, woman. Make plans. Plans… the only plan she was having much luck with at the moment however, was imagining the reckoning coming when she found out who was responsible for Lela’s death. She tried to tell herself she wasn’t going to enjoy delivering that helping of vengeance.

Think of better things, Vera thought to herself.

Her association with Guy was going quite well; he had practically fallen over himself to protect her when she had encountered those leeches in the water, and had been a perfect gentleman besides. Vera rather hoped that his wife was indeed ‘missing’ and not dead, regardless of what she thought of the odds.

Felix, ahead of her, was still somewhat of a concern to her. While he had made several overtures of what she could only assume were kindness or compassion, Vera still couldn’t decide if he was mad or not. Felix himself couldn’t seem to decide who he was; which Vera didn’t consider a metaphor. The man swapped faces like she swapped dresses. Which may, she considered, be a factor in his apparent instability. There was also the matter of whether or not he had unleashed an angry ghost that might even now be hunting down and murdering people with tenuous connections to her; it seemed more likely that Fustan and his mask were more related to the burned out eyes, but one could never tell when it came to magic or the supernatural.

Their guide, she rather appreciated at the moment. Vera had taken no time to prepare, and their guides supplies and expertise was looking to be a literal lifesaver. And, she thought, quite profitable on the personal level as well. The pelt of the beast she had killed was completely unmarred by blade or bow, beyond his expert skinning of the cat. While it would fetch a fair price, she rather liked the idea of a fur cloak; she wondered if the barbarian would think it appropriate for her to adorn herself with something she had killed herself. Probably? In any case, the dark fur would be both beautiful, and likely hard to spot in the shadows of Lankhmar.

Vera looked ahead at the apparently endless marsh ahead. As she carefully placed each heeled boot on the most solid looking piece of ground she could during their march, Vera couldn’t bring herself to feel bad about it; nor particularly good. Just generally tired. Somewhere ahead was an answer, however; one way or another, they’d find out what happened to Liam or they would not, and that line of pursuit would be closed, done with, and she could move on. Move on to justice, to political power, and to change.

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Vera's Tale, pt 3

Vera trudged through the marsh, her mind processing the last day at something of a numbed crawl. She was trying to stay as close as possible to Guy, and the safety he represented while at the same time paying careful attention to not be too close, as she sensed he was something of a powder keg of emotion ready to explode. His outward calm seemed a facade; he had just learned that his missing wife was likely not dead, but a prisoner of the overlord, held just out of reach of him. And the man who had been behind several of their recent actions may have known more than he let on all along. There was no telling what Guy might do to Relocks, but Vera intended to support him if she could. Depending on just how dangerous things became.

Vera wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about Felix’ death. The rogue had seemed dangerously unstable, pursuing more and more dangerous situations with growing disregard for his own safety, and it had finally caught up to him as he had marched off into the mist, disemboweled by one of the horrors of this accursed swamp. Had he been seeking death? Vera didn’t know, but the way he had died had been traumatic; Guy had been hurt deeply by it, she could tell, and she wished that it had not happened that way.

The priest, Liam, seemed to be in denial or something about his relationship with the insane hexagon-cult; it seemed they had been lucky to convince him to meet with Relocks before returning to the church that seemed to have it in for him, and he had only accidentally provided them with critical information. Learning about Fauna’s fate may have been worth the trip into the marsh; but beyond that, Vera wasn’t sure what value the man held for her or for Guy.

Somewhere ahead, Vera imagined she could see the lamplight of Lanhkmar in the night. She longed to return home, and dreamed of a proper bath and a night spent in a proper bed; maybe time spent with a friend to vent and confide in, if she could find Kiana or someone else she could trust. It had been a trying day, and the days ahead promised to be as bad or difficult. A few hours; an evening or afternoon to rest, then I can push on, Vera thought to herself.

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