By Deverian Valandil
[ 2:00 ]
A huge geyser of flame and magical energy blasted its way up, engulfing the entire balcony and knocking the Athkatlan ambassador several metres back. The fire did little more than singe the solid stone, but the accompanying concussive force breached the walls and caused the bottom of the balcony to quickly crumble and collapse.
Clouds of dust and chunks of brick and stone flew through the air into the room, forcing Korrien and Chancellor Thinder to cover their heads and bolt for the door.
Sir Treysen was still reeling from what Vellin had done, but snapped back to reality when he saw the Athkatlan ambassador's prone form on the ground. The knight of Torm raced to the man's side and helped him to his feet. A cleric, attracted by the commotion, appeared at the door and rushed to their side.
Treysen passed the ambassador off to the cleric, “Issue an order to all paladins and clerics in the building, our security has been breached, and all envoys are to be relocated immediately to our secondary site at the Greyhelm Tower,” he then addressed the Athkatlan, “Ambassador Siron, go with him. He'll guide you to safety.”
The cleric quickly showed Siron out of the room as the remaining flames began to consume their way across the carpet.
Before following, Treysen scanned the floor and noticed the Ambassador's black amulet lying near the fire. The knight bounded over and quickly snatched it up. Despite the heat and smoke that now filled the room, the amulet felt surprisingly cool to the touch.
Tucking the object away into a pocket, the paladin turned heel and exited the chamber, leaving the room to the wanton flame. [ 2:03 ]
* * *
Derrick sullenly stared at the family name that was engraved above the mausoleum door… his family name.
“I hope you're not going to begin waxing depressing poetry,” Cerdan said, “We should act, not wait.”
“Act or wait?” interrupted Ayva, from her sitting place on the ground, “The end result will be the same for all of you, regardless of what you do.”
“Quiet, you,” said the elf, watching her bound wrists to ensure she didn't try anything sneaky, “So what's the call, Derrick?”
“I can't go inside. I can't face her again.”
The elf nodded uneasily, “Fine, I'll retrieve the artifact. But you'd better be correct about this. I don't care much for grave-robbing… anymore.”
Derrick tossed his family tomb key to Cerdan and aimed his sword down in Ayva's general direction as the elf disappeared inside.
Ayva spoke up again, “So what's the story here? You entombed the Sigil for safekeeping?”
“I didn't even realize what your ‘Sigil' was until I saw this,” he tapped the hilt of Ayva's dagger, now held at his side, “I recognized the engraving on your weapon from one of the artifacts I was rewarded with after the Siron job. Orwin took most of the valuable items from the treasure we recovered and distributed the rest to Cerdan, Rombis, and myself. Needless to say, he made sure I received all the junk items.”
“Your boss didn't know just how important the Sigil is.”
“ I don't even know how important it is. I gave it to the only person who seemed interested in it… Syra, my wife. She began wearing it soon after,” Derrick's jaw went stiff and he stopped talking for a moment, “Turns out the artifact was cursed, and it slowly weakened her over the next few months. She died soon after, but at the time I had no idea why.
“Want to know the worst part? Orwin knew about the curse. One of the guild mages had told him, so he dumped it off on me . That's the real reason that I hated him. It wasn't because of Lorelei Siron's death… it was because of Syra's death. I'm damned glad he's dead now.”
“And you entombed your wife with it?”
“Syra actually liked it, though she had no idea what it truly did. I always thought it was a gaudy piece of wood, so I let her keep it.” He gestured at the mausoleum.
Before Derrick could say another word, Cerdan emerged from the building, “You know, for a former thief, you don't have much protection around your family tomb. Lucky it looks so shabby on the outside, or grave-robbers might have snatched this before I did,” He held up a black, wooden amulet adorned with the picture of a burning angel, “So, what now?”
“Now,” Derrick forced Ayva to her feet, “we issue an ultimatum.” He shoved Ayva toward the graveyard exit, “You will take us to your employer.”
Like hells I will , Ayva thought. She turned to face Derrick, “If you do this, we can be sure that you'll never hold your son's hand again.”
“Wait, are you talking about Bryn?” Cerdan cut in, “He's presently safe at my house on Southside Row.”
Both Ayva and Derrick were quiet for several seconds.
“What!” cried Derrick, “Why didn't you tell me this earlier?”
“Uh, because you never asked?”
Derrick stared incredulously, “… I truly hate you.”
“I assumed our mutual would-be assassins were a more pressing concern,” said the elf.
“Spike that,” Derrick pushed Ayva toward Cerdan, “it's your problem now. I just wanted my son back safely.”
“And how long do you think you'll remain safe until a second ‘Ayva' shows up to cut you and junior across the throats?” asked the elf, “for that matter, how long until Bryn angers someone enough to get his very own Ayva?”
“I don't – wait, what did you mean by that last part?”
“Long story, I'll tell you later. My point is, Bryn is fine, so you should be more focused on removing the head of this conspiracy here and now. Besides,” he gave a sly grin, “you don't know it yet, but you owe me a favour.”
Derrick frowned and tapped his foot, “Is your house still shrouded from magical scrying?”
The elf nodded.
“Fine. We'll deal with the conspiracy first, but come sunrise, Bryn and I are catching the first caravan out of the city.”
The elf nudged Ayva, “Your employer wants this amulet? Then take us to her.”
Muttering under her breath, Ayva shuffled off, leading them in the wrong direction. [ 2:16 ]
* * *
“What happened? Are they dead?” asked gold-mask.
Melik stared at the crystal ball with uncertainty. The last image they'd seen was of their pawn falling over the balcony for some reason.
Silver-mask snarled, “He has failed us again! We should never have hired this gnome or his psychopathic companion!”
“Dace isn't a psychopath. Psychopaths kill for irrational reasons. Dace kills for money,” said the wizard, his mind racing to find a way to appease his employers.
“Tell me, gnome,” said platinum, “How much gold would it take for you to turn on your comrade?”
“You want me to betray Dace?”
“The assassin knows too much, and has shown open aggression. He already threatened to kill us. The madman even slew your halfling companion.”
“I am hardly surprised, and I hardly care. But if you can guarantee sufficient reward, I'll gladly finish him off for you.”
“Well and done,” said platinum, “Once the assassin is dead, we will give you further orders on what to do about the summit situation. Begin your preparations.” [ 2:19 ]
* * *
Dace glanced about as he sprinted down the street toward the warehouse. With his head start, the cleric woman probably wouldn't be able to track him down any time soon. The assassin approached the warehouse, traced the Shield Knight rune to open the door, and stepped inside.
Melik stood on the opposite side of the room, the three Shield Knights lined up behind him. All four were facing the mercenary at the door as if they'd been waiting.
The gnome smiled, “Good of you to join us once again. My employers and I have come to a new business agreement.”
The wizard's tone of voice put Dace immediately on edge. He could tell that Melik wasn't experienced in slaying people on his own. Real assassins didn't waste time goading their target with chitchat.
Dace decided to draw out the conversation while slowly shifting his hand toward his sword, “They are going to stiff you, Melik. Those three do not have any gold in this building. What will they pay you with? Bales of hay?”
“I don't have any more reason to trust you than I do my employers. At least they've been straight with me. They told me what happened to Flink.”
“I see. Then I suppose I have nothing else to say but–” Dace's arm whipped a throwing knife at the gnome.
Melik didn't flinch, and the dagger came to a sudden stop in the air about a metre away from the wizard, then bounced off an invisible barrier.
“Ha,” said the gnome, pleased that his spell worked, “I am protected from missile weapons! Any advantage you have, I can take away with a simple spell. Your greatest asset is your speed. What happens if I remove it?” His hands moved, and a small ball of light fired across the room, striking Dace in the chest.
Immediately, Dace's body felt as if it was trapped in thick mud. Every movement was now an effort, due to the effects of the Slow spell.
“What say you now, blackcloak?” asked silver-mask.
“Time to end our partnership, Dace,” said Melik as he prepared a Firelance spell, “It's been a displeasure knowing you.”
Dace slowly closed his eyes and focused on his boots.
An orange-red spear of flame erupted from Melik's hands and blasted toward the assassin. Before it struck, Dace's eyes snapped open and he felt a sudden jolt of energy that worked its way up his body from his feet. He rolled to the side as the fire streaked past, singeing him across the arm and burning a good deal of armour and flesh. The mercenary howled and swore as he gripped his scalded shoulder.
Melik stared in wonder. Did Dace resist the Slow spell? In truth, Dace had activated the Haste enchantment woven in the new boots from the curio store. The boots' magic cancelled out the effects of Melik's spell, returning the mercenary to normal speed.
After grazing Dace, the flame lance struck a stack of hay bales nearby.
The assassin forced himself to his feet and pulled a short sword into his left hand. His shoulder ignited sparks of pain with every movement, but at least the burn wasn't on his sword-arm. He stalked across the room toward the wizard.
“I have slain greater men for smaller crimes. You have chosen this path, Melik.”
The Shield Knights suddenly scattered, running for the exits, leaving the gnome to face his dangerous opponent. [ 2:29 ]
* * *
This is the Maiden's base,” Ayva lied as she, Derrick, and Cerdan approached the harbour-side building.
“Funny,” remarked the elf, “it doesn't look like a fortress of doom. Looks more like a warehouse. And it smells like fish.”
The door had been left wide open, and they could hear cries of commotion coming from within.
“You stay out here,” Derrick said to Cerdan, “If this doesn't work, it will be up to you to keep the Sigil away.”
The elf nodded and went to find a lookout point to watch from. Derrick pushed Ayva ahead of him into the building. The Shield Knights were long gone, but Derrick could still hear Dace and Melik, who had moved their fight toward the stables in the back.
The top of the room was beginning to fill with grey smoke from the burning stacks of hay, but the fire probably wouldn't spread to the walls or ceiling for several minutes. Derrick began shouting at whoever was fighting in the back, “Maiden! We possess the Sigil you need. If you–”
Ayva threw herself backward, knocking Derrick to the dirt floor. With much difficulty due to her tied wrists, Ayva rolled over onto her knees, then rose to her feet, and gave a swift kick to Derrick's head. She spat at his fallen form, “Idiot. I can't believe you actually trusted me. Hard to believe you were ever a Shadow Thief; life as a pawn merchant must have truly dulled your skill.” She kicked him again as he attempted to rise, “So long, old man. Keep safe out there,” she added sarcastically before walking back toward the door.
As soon as she neared the exit, the ground began to tremble, like they were insects in a jar being shaken up. Ayva lurched for the exit, but tripped and fell. The beams along the ceiling creaked and cracked under the stress. Part of the roofing caved in and came crashing down, burying both Ayva and the bales of hay under a heap of old timbers. [ 2:36 ]
* * *
As the ground continued to shake from the Tremor spell Melik had just cast, Dace ducked behind one of the empty horse stalls and peeked around the side. Melik had tried to follow his employers' retreat, but he evidently knew that his stubby legs wouldn't outrun the assassin.
Dace looked up at the rafters overhead, wondering if there was some way for him to close the distance to the wizard without entering Melik's line of sight. Unfortunately, he'd already used up the Haste spell in his boots. A green arrow of magical acid struck the side of the stall and began to eat a hole in the wood.
From across the room, the wizard squinted at the newly formed fist-sized hole. Through it he could see part of Dace's black cloak. The gnome smiled and began to incant a Hold Person spell.
“I hope you understand,” said Melik, “this is all simply a matter of business. We all seize the most beneficial course to take. You should know that better than anyone.” He muttered the syllables and released the spell. A ball of light shot from his hands and through the hole in the stall, creating a brief flash as it hit the cloak.
Melik waited to hear if Dace would shout a reply. Not a sound. The gnome smiled and came forward, watching the cloak through the hole for any sign of movement. He began to focus on a spell of Lightning Bolt to finish off the assassin.
“Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed working with you and Flink on this job. But like the halfling and Terrence, you're just another stepping stone between me and my mone–” He stepped around the stall, expecting to see Dace crouched and paralyzed. Instead, he saw just the cloak, pinned by two daggers to the wall over the hole.
Dace jumped down from the rafters above, landing behind Melik. The gnome whirled about and began waving his hands for the spell. The assassin lashed out and snatched him by the wrist. Dace then slammed the gnome's hand against the wall and drove a dagger into the palm, cutting through tendons and bone. Melik wouldn't be casting any more spells for the short remainder of his life.
Dace then pressed his dagger against the howling wizard's neck, “You are correct. I do seize the most beneficial course of action. But if you truly understood that, you should have killed me long ago.”
And he cleaved the blade through the gnome's throat. [ 2:44 ]
* * *
Cerdan had wandered around to the opposite side of the warehouse to scout the area. The elf was about to return to the front when the stable doors swung open. A man dressed in black emerged, and even under the low lighting, Cerdan's sharp eyes could tell that it wasn't Derrick.
Whoever it was, he was in an awful hurry to get away. The elf sidled along the nearby walls and tailed the man as he darted into an alleyway nearby. [ 2:46 ]
* * *
Derrick was shouting for Cerdan, hoping the elf was still within earshot outside. The collapsed roof had blocked off the doorway, and the burning wood was releasing a cover of smoke into the air. With much effort, the ex-thief shoved aside another plank of wood, and he could see Ayva's bloody face through the pile at the bottom.
“Ayva!” he shouted down at her. She parted her lips and her left eye opened a crack, “Tell me where the Maiden is hiding and I'll help you out of there!”
Her lips curved upward, “You'll never find her,” Ayva rasped, “We've planned this for too long…” she coughed and red flecks appeared over her lips.
“Do you really want to die here like this? Burned and forgotten?”
“Die today, die tomorrow… it makes little difference to us. You speak of being burned and forgotten? This entire city will suffer that same fate by high noon today,” she continued to cough blood, and every breath was starting to become a labour, “All that you've accomplished… will be for naught…”
Derrick sighed out of disappointment and lowered his head.
Ayva closed her eye, “Verskul…” her voice trailed off, and though there was no visible sign, Derrick knew she was gone.
His eyes were starting to sting and water from the smoke in the air. Unable to climb over the burning blockade, the ex-thief covered his lower face with his sleeve and ran toward the back of the warehouse, hoping to find an alternate way out. [ 2:50 ]
* * *
The trail of red dust from the curio store had faded, forcing Selena to wander aimlessly in a westward direction through the side streets. Although it was obvious that the cloaked man had been heading toward one of the harbour district warehouses, she was afraid that continuing the pursuit would simply waste her time.
But now her quarry was running straight toward her from the opposite side of the alley. Dace's eyes hadn't fully adjusted to the dark yet, and he didn't spot the cleric until she was only a few metres away. The assassin halted for a moment and drew his short sword as he attempted to circle around the cleric.
“My name is Selena Shademoor, cleric of Tyr. You are hereby ordered to surr-” she stopped and turned as she heard a second set of footsteps approaching. Cerdan skidded in his place and stared at the cleric in white.
Selena pointed at him, “You there! Identify your–” Dace suddenly shoved her in the back, making her stumble forward and crash into the other elf.
Dace sheathed his blade and ran off through the maze of back-alleys. He didn't know who the male elf was, but he wasn't keen on fighting two opponents with his injured right arm.
“Get off me, I don't have time for harlots right now!” Cerdan pushed Selena away and got up, but she grabbed him by the wrist. His hand shot forth and the heel of his palm struck her in the forehead. The guild thief used the distraction to wrench free, then rushed away in pursuit of Dace.
Selena rubbed her forehead, then rose and chased after both of them. As she approached the intersection at the end of the alley, a thick wooden board came out from around the corner at eye level. The elf ran directly into it, and collapsed like a sack of oranges.
Cerdan tossed the plank aside, “Hm. The pretty ones never want to let me go.” He listened for the faint sounds of Dace's rapid receding footsteps, and continued his hunt for the mercenary. [ 2:55 ]
* * *
Elsewhere in the city, the Maiden was sitting cross-legged before a rune-covered altar of polished onyx. From the shadows at the side of the room, a tall, sickly-faced man emerged.
“What have you to say, Krevis?” muttered the Maiden from behind her green veil.
The man raised his pale arm, displaying a black bracelet adorned with five gemstones of different colours. One of them had a large, distinctive crack through it. The mage in green looked down at a similar bracelet on her own wrist. And identical crack had appeared on one of her gems as well. They both knew what the broken gem signified.
“Ayva has fallen. No matter, she served her purpose.”
Krevis nodded, “Your orders?”
“Arm yourself. There are others who must now die.”
He let out an unsettling guttural laugh that echoed through the hollow halls of the narthex. [ 2:57 ]
* * *
The young page pounded on the door of a small stone-built house, “Sir, please open up. I bear a message from the Ducal Palace !”
He let out a small yelp as a scruffy-haired man with bleary, bloodshot eyes finally opened the door.
“Well? What in the hells do you want?” snapped the man, scratching at the stubble growing on his face. He reeked of alcohol, and was no doubt ready to slam the door in the page's face if the wrong word was spoken.
The page held up a scroll, “Civilian Atamir,” he read aloud, earning a look of contempt from the man, “By order from the Ducal Palace, you are hereby reinstated in name, rank, and duty as Captain of the City Guard. Your presence is demanded at the palace posthaste, once you have been appropriately equipped. Order signed by Inquisitor Vellin Tenmarke, Knight of Tyr.”
Atamir stirred to semblance of attention and squinted at the page, “Bring me a horse. I knew it would come to this.”
The content of Upon this Fateful Day is the property and copyright of Deverien Valandil, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to the Upon this Fateful Day main page
Return to Campaign Logs