The Flower in the Sepulcher

Volume 2, Page 35

We’ve arrived at the inverted pyramid. Owain Greenwood caused a distraction to allow us to rush across the no man’s land between the tree line and the great old stone door to the facility. Inside a group of aberrations commanded by a skeletal druid tended to some dark experiment on orc flesh. The arcanavores, these aberrations, were equipped with a number of anti-magic capabilities and were on loan for the druid’s research. The Evocatii, whose symbol is a mosquito on a summoning circle, and oversaw outsiders and aberrations in the old caste system had loaned them to the Numutarii (mosquito on skull) who oversaw life and death.

Experimental findings on the pods in the room used to incubate the orc creatures show that the Arcanavores failed to trigger their usage. We recovered more extensive experimental data from the skeletal druid, but it will take time to examine.

Reflections Under The Moon

As Owain sat looking at the waning moon, his mind felt like a branch bowing under too much snow. Of all the weights, the first he noticed was a shame at not recognizing the giant plant creature. Perhaps he had been too long removed from the woods, too far distanced from the natural world. Well, not even perhaps. It was simply so. He had been focusing on the Mosquito Kingdom and the Order of the Moss-Covered Sword, which were worthy tasks, but wondered how appropriate they were. He thought of the Black River Uprising, of the Marches, of Naila daughter of Saqui. He thought of his dreams of revolution, his faith, and how these ancient mysteries fit into all of it.

His traveling companions did not make things more simpler. The gulf between Naheeda and Abad’s ethics and his own was real, but he was beginning to question its dimensions. They were certainly at odds with the laws of Treff, and often of Nature, but only out of fervent opposition to the Mosquito Kingdom. Even if their personal motives were less than selfless, was that not worthy? And were they not, in some sense, right? This city of the unliving was an abomination against Nature and her gods. Of that there could be no question. But if it could serve to defeat these evil whispers in the darkness, would that not be for the better?

His oaths felt like solid stone, and he felt his branch bowing further. His oaths to freedom, the gods, nature, and the Collective, but it seemed clear that reservations were inevitable. He made up his mind to talk to the Bailiff about this city, and to see this quest through. The swamp murmured under the waning moon, and Owain sighed tired relief.

Volume 2, Page 34

My return to the Treff hinterlands was met with an icy reception by the guards, but they allowed me to leave once the Traveler’s Collective arrived. I’ve filled in the company regarding my trip to the City, and the promise of aid in return for our assistance with their crisis. In my absence it appears that Naheeda has discovered a way to unite the Anophelian orcs under one banner, and free them from subservience their Chief has tied them too. The smuggler’s have even informed Abad of a way to gain the aid of an army from the North.

We came across Owain with Alain Makonnen in the swamp en route to the life focus doing battle with one of the various deadly flora of the swamp. It was easily overcome, and its taproot was harvested for its metamagical effects. We’ve set camp outside the life focus, and we’ll begin our delve come sunrise.

naheedas jurnal 12

wuz wondering wen wed see that bastard haf elf owain again. turned up in the midel of the swamp. so did gan. havent seen the old man in wile eether. have to say im surprised. thought he roted away and died. mit have tried one to manee freeky necro magics. why did we al end up here at this shit post. onlee the gods no. the swampland is wont to do that. its got a mind of its own.

after discusing with abad at length. i told the others my plan. im going to unite the anofeelean orcs. there numbers are grate. they no the swamp beter than anee one. beter than the druids. they bring strength skils and nalege. abad warned me of the dangers. the three items are cursed. it is nown. but i must save the swamp orcs befor the creeping kingdem eats them hole. now is the time to reunite the wet land hord.

abad sed hes has to get a baner. like wat the nobels put on there fancee poles. has something to do with the brand on my bak. the old gods make me unesee. gods that both men and orcs feer arent not to be taken litely. he hinted there mae be sacrifise. the desert blud runs in my vanes and his. i hope it wil be enuf. insert god name is a hungree god.

gan also spoke of his plan. i didnt understand much of it. something about a ded citee or a citee ful of the ded. shadows from the creeping kingdem. things lost past and beings forgoten.

im sure lars and his red headed friend wil have something to bring to the war efort. as for owain onlee the gods no. im not serten he even knows. the green gard play things close the chest.

Mina's Notebook pp 97-99

While I was out the other day, a messenger came to ask us to speak with the Grandmaster of the Sawgrass Rangers. Galen said that he didn’t seem like a ranger at all – his boots were too new, and the dirt on his armor was stage makeup bad enough for Galen to notice. Furthermore, Cogsworth greatly disapproved of this visitor. I’d put good money on this fake ranger and our uninvited houseguest being one and the same. Cogsworth is such a good little automaton, and I’m proud I got him working – even if he really has a stronger affinity for Finn.

Interestingly enough, the Grandmaster had thought to send for us, but we received the message before he’d sent a messenger. I am incredibly interested in the job he has for us, even if I’m less than interested in spending any additional time in his company. Galen and Finn probably got an entirely different impression from the Grandmaster of the Sawgrass Rangers than I. Finn knows his brother -perhaps one of her mother’s friends – and they had a fairly congenial conversation about that. I just got looked at like a piece of meat, and not in the usual way… more like a butcher preparing to break down a side of beef.

Strange enough, the master dragonslayer is sending us after a dragon. It’s the same dragon I’ve been wanting to go after for ages, but there’s some interesting complications. It had been behaving much like you’d expect an older green, moving in, raiding trade routes, setting up a dragon cult among the local lizardfolk. Suddenly, its behavior changed. It’s not entirely strange that it went into near-total seclusion; for all we know, it could be minding a clutch. It’s also not unheard of for the odd dragon to resist its inborn tendencies towards evil. The part that I can’t wrap my head around is that it only comes out to give away vast quantities of gold from its hoard. A dragon giving away its hoard? That’s like… birds not flying, fish not swimming, Finn not sneaking, Cogsworth not cleaning, Bantam not scheming. Hoarding is so innate to the nature of dragons that the first thought I have is that whatever’s in there isn’t a dragon anymore.

I’m thinking that whoever our uninvited guest is working for has a vested interest in this green dragon. Finn thought it was crazy but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if we’re dealing with a younger dragon in human form. Golds and silvers can change their shape right out of the egg, and although he looked like he was in his twenties, his level of awareness is what you’d expect out of a six-year-old child.

On the way back, I learned that Galen has another idea for repairing the damage to his soul. There’s a rumor he’s been investigating, a possible relic of the Pariah. There’s an old story and a rare one that says the Pariah’s shackles did not sink into the ground with the Monolith, but floated into the swamp. All his studies of the currents in the swamp suggest that if such a thing existed, it might not have ended up too far from the Death focus. I think that we should search for a place to stash the Death focus while we look for the shackles, and if we can’t find them, attempt the ritual the Matriarch suggested.

Made it to the Death site today. We left Isabella a good half a day up the river, and good thing too; at the edge of the dead zone, I felt a powerful chill in the air, and we found two very familiar skeletons treed by the chilling fog we’d let flee from the White Tower. We took out the spell, and they gave us some more very useful reconnaissance – evidently we’re heading to where they were created. They’re a failed experiment in using the Death focus, but apparently they’ve been learning from their mistakes and getting rid of the pesky free will element. They warned us off the basement, saying that there’s something horrible down there and not much of interest. They asked about going to Treff, and I immediately shut that idea down. Even if we weren’t traveling with Isabella, I’ve got better things to do with my life than drown. I did tell them to keep an eye out for Ghann – he’s Jasidin, he’d probably have better ideas than we do.

We’re making camp at dawn in the foyer. Finn got us in with only minor damage from an acid fog trap. The place is crawling with undead, but between the time of day and the thick walls, I think we’ll be able to get rest enough here. It’s been too long since we’ve fought in close quarters, and it shows – we were about as limited by the bottleneck formation we set up as our opponents were. I tried to throw them off by breaking formation and going after their leader, an undead cleric, and promptly got a bloodmote swarm grenade thrown at me for my trouble. We found four more in a crate. Cyrus suggested that we drop them down the deepest hole we could find, I’m not even touching them unless that deepest hole is filled with fire and sealed up tight.

The entire place is under a desecrate spell, and I’m going to spend the rest of my time between closing up my journal and forcing myself to sleep through the morning trying to figure out how to proceed. Reg and Fitz said there was a chapel here, and if the spell’s tied to that at all, it’ll amplify the effect. They also said there was something zombified, female, and loud guarding it. So the real question is if we want to take out the desecration effect and sound the alarm, or if we’re going to continue letting everything in this building have an advantage over us but keep the element of surprise. With any luck, we’ll get our bearings fighting as a team again, and soon. We don’t exactly have much of a choice in the matter, seeing as we’re camped at Death’s front door.

Mina's Notebook pp. 95-96

Finally had that conversation with Cyrus. Smart man, coming into the conversation and immediately acknowledging that I’m incredibly angry with him and have every right to be. Smarter still, waiting for Finn to get home so she could scold us whenever the conversation got remotely heated. I wish we could have gotten into a proper argument. I desperately needed some catharsis, and all I got was Finn’s agreement that not lying to my face is not the same as not lying to me. Or, to put it in the most amusingly absurd fashion, the graverobber has higher standards for honesty than the nobleman.

I have missed Finn more than I can put into words. She brought us an interesting job – apparently she’s been recruited to work for a certain personage you might see on a Stag Kingdom coin, and was charged with raiding a tomb for some powerful artifacts that they need to rally an army to aid in pushing back the storm. Apparently this sort of thing, along with being much better at dinner parties than I will ever be, is the Tawaren family business.

Between Finn and Bex, I think I have a better idea of the lay of the land as far as this party goes. I know I’m paying for Bex’s services in giving the entire city a direct line into my flailing attempts at a love life, but they’re worth the cost. In one conversation, she agreed to teach me how to dance, committed to providing the music, and gave some fabulous advice on who would be appropriate additions to the guest list. Gaspard, surprisingly enough. Being a professor counts as respectable, and Bex promised to get Xante to lean on him. I would not have pegged him as a pyromancer, all the ones I’ve known have been meticulous about keeping their books and papers picked up. To be fair, they were all at the academy and we really discourage turning the entire building into a raging inferno. She also pointed out the emissary from the Beylik of the Eel is in town, I’d met him when I spoke with Krog, and he’d clearly see the point of the dinner and do me the favor of attending so he can make nice with the family that controls the border between his nation and the Empire. Bex also set Finn up with a date for dinner… aquatic elven noble named Passeran Fastpike. He can’t be all bad, he was talking with Bex in the Doublecross, and for that matter, he’s a Sawgrass Ranger. And to speak objectively, he’s fairly easy on the eyes for an aquatic elf. Maybe they’ll hit it off and I’ll be able to bug Finn about her love life for once!

Since I wore my only nice dress to dinner with the Lords in Exile, I have to get a new dress. Maybe I should stop by the Quiver, whine to Kaleena for a bit, and get the name of her tailor. I think the fact that I’m considering talking to a gnoll for fashion advice means that I’m really not cut out for this high society claptrap. At least I still have that absurd letter Krog sent us all those months ago and can use it as a reference to fake some very formal calligraphy.

I’d been waiting for the next sign of the storm. It had been looming on the horizon too long.

We were summoned before the lizardfolk Matriarch, and with her were two interesting characters – the aquatic elf Prince Consort, and a masked Moss-Covered knight with a false name, who did not speak. He seemed to be some sort of observer, and I firmly doubt that he’s one of the Order at all – they’ve dealt openly with us in the past. The Prince Consort brought us news of a dead zone in the southern swamp, a stretch of water where nothing lives. I stated that the focus must be active, I was immediately told it was being used.

It’s a dangerous thing, this focus, so dangerous that retrieving it is not an acceptable approach. Futhermore, we can’t just disrupt the focus as we did with the focus of Air – we have to get it far enough out into the swamp to keep it away from the city and make our adversary spend precious resources searching for it. Of course, there’s a complication – this focus could cure Galen. The ritual described does firm up my conclusion that the foci are planar foci – the particular trick the Matriarch suggested wouldn’t work if it wasn’t an incredibly powerful connection to the Negative Energy Plane. If we could link Galen and the focus, we could draw the powerful death spell off his soul. The complication, of course, is that this link would draw in the largest, nastiest undead creature nearby, and making a retreat wouldn’t be an option.

The plan is this: we’ll base the entire company out of a fur trading camp a short trip from the dead zone. Cyrus will come with us to retrieve the focus, then will wait for us at the camp while Isabella helps us defend against what horrors may come. Then we send Isabella back upriver, and Cyrus and I will take care of our questionably honorable errand. Lots of things to arrange; supplies, another transport. Depending on the qualities of the dead zone, it might do us well to borrow a war canoe or sailing-boat, so as to not trouble Ned. That’s the kind of thing I’m good at organizing, and all the formal calligraphy required is already done and on that very nice letter of mark exempting us from taxation on the king’s business.

I’m cheerfully facing down an army of death and quaking in my boots at the thought of a dinner party. My mother would be so proud of me.

Back to the Bayou

Quarter Moon of Harvest

The bones this night were exceptionally prescient. They showed success on this very night, and it was in that instant that the beast appeared. What kind of a beast, I cannot say, but it was of the strangest sort. For starters, it was invisible but for its eyes and the medallion it wore. We could see it only for the water dripping from its frame. And a massive frame it was, tall as a house, like a mountain giant. We managed to sink a tracking dart into its hide, which I hope and pray shall provide us more information about the thing, without the thoroughly terrifying danger of being near it. For now, I have not the time nor mental strength to wrack my brain for any scrap of knowledge of the creature, and so it remains a mystery.

I must say that I rather like this Owain character. We spoke as I cast the bones, and I was struck by his interest in Delleb. I do not think that he shall become a devotee any time soon, but he seems to still be seeking something. What, exactly, I am not sure, and it is probably not a new faith. As we were setting out, the Order of the Moss-Covered Sword offered him membership in return for his assistance in tracking down this beast, but I do not think that the Order is where his heart lies. Perhaps he is pondering this question himself. I wish him the best, and pray his road is always well-lit.

Alain Makonnen

Mina's Notebook, pp 91-94
in which Mina realizes the Mosquito Kingdom is the least of her problems.

Looking back through the past few months, I know there’s plenty of times when I felt like I was in over my head, and I know that I’ve come out of them more or less intact. This time is different, though – when we raided the White Tower, I knew it would be risky, but I also knew it was the right thing to do. What I’ve gotten myself dragged into? I know why I’m doing it, and what I’m getting out of it is important, but what I have to do to achieve it sets me on edge.

I could have chosen to let what happened at the outpost go. Heh, that’s a funny thought, me letting something like that go. My curiosity’s always gotten me in trouble, and I keep on dancing to its tune. Magnus sent the translation on to me, and it was a pretty straightforward status report. Nothing that I’d consider worthy of packing up a well-maintained post in a hurry.

I followed my next lead, finding Krog in a teahouse in Moss Point. In the future, I really must consider never having an important conversation in a mostly empty room in a high-class establishment. The Quiver at dinner rush would have been a better choice – enough activity to garble the conversation, at least. I’m starting to think that my quarters are the only place I can speak in confidence, and I’m fairly sure that if Krog and I had a conversation there, Naheeda would have some very strong opinions about the matter.

So it’s well-known (to the people who care) that I know a good amount of details about this developing plan. Thenex the Bastard was older than the legitimate heir, giving him a fairly strong claim to the throne after Ceraxus II met his fitting end. Rumor always ran that Thenex had a twin – a female twin. Although House Anaxamander normally only allows for succession through the male line, there’s a quirk of law that states that a female twin and all her line inherit as if she was the same as her brother. If said female twin existed, she’d have likely fled a long time ago, to the Venom Deserts or the Kingdom of the Ram, taking with her some of Thenex’s considerable wealth. This fits quite nicely in with finding that coin – her heirs would be incredibly more likely to have one of those coins than anyone else in the known world.

Krog also introduced me to some rather circular logic at the foundation of Imperial governance – the Anaxamanders have a divine right to rule, proven by three relics that choose the ruler based on their claim to the house of Anaxamander. Point being, there are three relics – two of which (a crown and a sword) are in direct possession of the throne at Quelldawn, one of which, a bridle, was kept in trust by the Church of St. Cuthbert. If you wanted to get that bridle out of the Empire, now would be the time. This assures me that this isn’t all smoke and mirrors, making a rightful heir out of thin air to press a claim. I almost wrote “reassures”, but I don’t feel particularly comforted by that knowledge. Fake heir or real, result’s the same – I’ve been asked to start a war.

Lysander Bantam had someone listening in on that conversation – I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been the man himself. In less time than it took me to cross the city, there was a messenger at my elbow proposing a meeting at the Water Clock. He is stunningly skilled at disguise – I was looking for him, I know his voice, and I barely knew him when he brought me my beer and sat down at my table. As far as I can tell, it’s not cheap transmutation, highly impressive and and neatly sidestepping a simple detect magic. I wasn’t entirely certain what was going on when I sat down, but after he gave me the translation of the invisible ink cipher and I kept him talking for a while, I know what’s going on “better than Bishopsgate”. Although apparently about as well as someone I will be having very sharp words with very soon. Clyde deserved that cookie for pointing out that I was making a terrible assumption.

They’re after a descendant of Thenex’s twin, a girl who can’t be older than I am. She’s headed straight into an ambush, and the Exiles’ best attempts to pre-emptively ambush her have been thwarted by her two companions – a bodyguard of sorts from the Venom Deserts and a gnomish mage. From the intelligence I was given, he’s an incredibly powerful transmuter, surely more powerful than I am. They’re headed towards a full Imperial platoon, two mages, two clerics, two scouts, fourteen soldiers. Lots of manpower, but they’re going to have the same problems Cyrus bitches about so profusely after leading expeditionary forces – low mobility, little understanding of the terrain. So my task is this – foil the Imperial ambush, convince the girl and her companions that this is the least bad of several bad options, get them back to the edge of town and meet up with the Collective Friend. Deliver their casus belli, and in return, the exile army will defend the city. I know they’ll need that bridle as well, but I have this sneaking feeling that this opportunity isn’t immediately following the chaos at the Church of St. Cuthbert by chance. It’s headed this way, I’m sure of it.

At least I have enough to worry about for the immediate future, even setting aside our upcoming excursions in the swamp. Before I found out he’d been playing me like a catfish on a line, I was considering finally making a move. I probably still will, because he’s just as handsome and charming and utterly infuriating as ever. It will come with some very deep caveats. If it’s going to be anything more than physical I need to know what his motives are, and I am not desperate enough to put up with all this protocol just to get laid. Everyone from Krog to Lysander Bantam keeps assuring me that Cyrus is a good man, and all that makes me think is that everyone thinks I can’t see what’s right in front of my face. And that makes me wonder if they’re right.

How to make a move, according to Krog, is entirely ass-backwards from how this works with normal people. Usually, two potential lovers meet, they actually tell each other that they’re interested, they test the waters to see if they’re compatible, and finally they introduce each other to their families. I thought that was pretty universal, but no, that’s not how it works with nobility. I should have asked Krog how his relationship with Naheeda fits into this paradigm, but he’d probably have correctly pointed out that he’s not the heir apparent to his house and his family isn’t just down the street from the Collective.

Apparently, the way that you start a courtship in noble circles is to demonstrate your ability to fake social graces for long enough that your prospective mate’s family agrees that you’re not going to utterly embarrass them. I thought I pulled that off well enough at the feast we attended, but a slightly more personal gesture is going to be required. I have to host a dinner party. I haven’t even talked about it with anyone other than Krog and Clyde, and I already feel like I’m in way over my head.

Krog very helpfully suggested that I keep the guest list to the Drylands and one other family, and that the Limbers would suffice. He also instructed me on the very basics of noble manners – essentially, figure out who cares most about protocol and copy them. We also determined that I am very much not the ideal match from a traditional perspective. Lack of nobility is one thing, but my total lack of family history is problematic. The best way he could figure out to spin it is to play up a “mysterious past” and prominently wear my “family heirlooms”. In the strictest sense those are both true, but it feels a bit disingenuous. I don’t know a thing about my mother, save that the brooch and vest came from her, but as far as I’m concerned, the most mysterious thing about my past is a vague memory of island breezes and warm sands. I’d love to know more about my mother – what she looked like, how she met my father, why she sent me to Stone Table. Knowing that wouldn’t change who I am.

Who I am, for the record, is someone with nothing polite to talk about at dinner. I knew that it’s not considered polite to talk about politics at dinner outside Stone Table, but it’s a bit intimidating to find out most of my interests would be considered equally crass. There’s a short list of things that I can talk about, provided I carefully obscure the more colorful details: the mundane aspects of my study at the Academy, my interest in language and dialect, and my experiences traveling (editing out the bits where I was working as a tinker or caravan guard). Literature would also be acceptable, and knowing that Finn is a connoisseur of Elven poetry, that might not be the worst direction to steer a conversation. I don’t think I’ll have to master the skill for this party, but Krog pointed out that I’ll have to learn how to dance, “and not to a fiddle at a tavern”. Gods of mercy, isn’t it enough that I’m an accomplished arcanist, practiced tactician, and starting a damn war for them? I have to dance like a trained bear too?

What I have been very soundly assured of is that everything is about the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it. All I have to do is show that I can play by the rules until dinner is over and drinks are served, because no one cares if you’re actually proper, just that you can wear the trappings of propriety when someone’s looking. As an attempt to make me seem somewhat more respectable, Krog is drawing up a coat of arms for me. I’d thought that was something you didn’t just get because your friend decided you needed one, but because I own property, I’m rather wealthier than much of the petty nobility, and in an incredible loophole my Republican citizenship guarantees my family has never been “serfs” by their reckoning, I’m actually eligible to have one. I’m interested in seeing what he comes up with. He also introduced me to a very important insight – this is a con game like any other con game. In my line of work, who hasn’t paid with a “favor to be named later”?

This is about the last thing I want to do, and I’m going to do it. I’ve just been feeling rather vulnerable lately, and something inside me is lashing out, clawing and flailing and trying to do something to make anything happen. It might be the storm coming. Everyone feels it. I call it a storm. Isabella called it war. I think Jack saw it long before I arrived. “He doesn’t have to watch everyone and figure out who’s important… he just knows what threads to pull, without even looking at the ball of string.” So his “real” power is way less than he’s projecting, but what does that even mean? Jack’s not exactly counting his firepower by arrows and bullets, last time I checked. How he knew a traveling sorcerer for hire had something there that made her able to get mixed up in all this, I haven’t the faintest. Hell, if I walked up to the caravan a year ago and told myself what I’m capable of, I wouldn’t have believed me. I still don’t know what he wants, and that scares me.

Isabella showed a tiny bit of personality today. I looked through her holy book to investigate the inheritance laws, and when I went to return it, I noticed her prayer beads. She made every one of them. They’re her personal history, the one thing she took with her when she fled that wasn’t standard issue. I’ve been such a twit about having her around. I may not understand her, she may not understand me, but she’s gone through some significant traumatic experiences recently. I can be better about showing some damn empathy and trying to make her feel like she’s welcome here. I’m going to have to take an invitation to the Limbers soon. I’ll ask if they have any off-cuts from the titan trees we secured for them. That might not be proper, but with a name like Limber, I very much doubt they’ll look down on me for an interest in craft.

I thought I’d processed most of the events of yesterday fairly well, but upon reflection, I can’t reconcile something that happened while I was talking with Bantam. He slipped up. Told me he’d met the Grandmaster Diviner, asked if he’d ever told me that. This, may I note, was the first time we’ve had a proper conversation. He’s been tailing me a while, and somewhere that crossed over to forgetting we don’t actually know each other. I have this sense that he spends so much time on his work that he’s missed out on a lot of things. Blames himself for not having a relationship with his sons. Blames that for how much of shits they became. A sad tale.

The only thing is, Lord Bantam, because of your work, I will never be entirely sure whether I caught a genuine moment of vulnerability or if you showed me that for a reason. What that reason might be, I haven’t the faintest. I might be a sentimental fool when it comes to Drylands, but all that performance evoked in me was a mixture of pity, discomfort, and suspicion. I’m going to stop assuming that the twins are useless shits. I’m fairly sure that my read was good and they’re empty-headed cads, but if their father is trying to reinforce that view, I need to plan for the contingency that they’re merely playing a part.

I’m also going to hear those words in my head when I’m staring at the ceiling at night – “I have this feeling I would have done very well for myself in the Republic. Maybe I’ll still have the chance.” It was tucked among a litany of regrets, but I still feel ice in my veins when I think about it. I may have snatched the bait from the snare, as it were, but I have this feeling all I did was walk into a larger trap.

Volume 2, Pages 32-33

The Fire Giant Skeleton, which the rest of the collective calls Skelly, but which I refuse to refer to as such lead me into the Swamp in the night. There we tread the old paths until we came to a clearing with a place of reckoning. There a representative of the City spoke to me. Councilor Paleaomonatis, one of the 9 that forms the pyramidal governance of that necropolis. In exchange for recovering a royal permission for them to ascend the ziggurat at the center of the City they will throw open their vast coffers, provide an army for the defense of Treff, and perform the ritual that will make me a citizen of their City, a Necropolitan.

The city is a strange mirror of Treff itself in many ways, circular, radiating out from the ziggurat as Treff does from the flower. Set perhaps a month’s journey from Treff in the foothills of the mountains the City is well defended by an expertly drilled army of the undead, and advanced magics. I walked strange shadow paths to move through the Swamp rapidly without any displacement or teleportation occurring, and they claim that as the creators of the mystical injunction on magical communication between the Swamp and elsewhere that the sending stone they’ve given me will bypass it. Certainly the dead have little use for the currency of the quick, and the gold bar I’ve taken to motivate the company bears the insignia of the City a 3 tiered pyramid of dots. 1 over 3 over 9, depicting the organization of the city’s power. The Exalted One rests atop the ziggurat, and he may be approached only by his or a royal summons. Beneath him is the Supreme Circle of 3, and responsible to them is the Circle of 9 or the Circle of the Pure.

The library of the City (and they refer to it only as the City) is quite lacking. A fact which makes sense I suppose, the immortal have little need to put down words to paper. And for a city of exiles and refugees of the Mosquito Empire it is well provisioned. While they debated a response to the rise of Treff and their persecution of the undead of all types the “Interlocutor” arrived, the pretender to the Mosquito Throne, the woman I wrote about previously. (I recall nothing of her now, beyond what I wrote as though from a third-person source.) Now they are in turmoil at just the moment their aid and Treff’s acceptance of their state is most needed to fend off this dire threat.

They deal occasionally with a halfling merchant in Treff, through intermediaries, and he should be able to get us back to the City’s agents when the time comes. First, I must return to the company and unearth the royal seal from near the Death foci.

What follows is a rough sketch of the city’s geography based on what I saw

A Brief Letter, Ragged and Stained
In which Finn is homesick

To Mina Brewer, fearless leader, beloved friend and much-missed companion: greetings.

It has been, I fear, long and long since last I trod the streets of the City of Keels and Piles. It has been longer still since last we roved together into the forests and marshes surrounding her. How fares the company in my absence? I trust—

Good grief, I’ve been home too long. I sound like a flowery noble git.

I miss all of you. There isn’t much to speak of here— as I’m sure you recall, my father called me home to help keep things in order when my mother fell ill. She’s just about recovered (thank the Lady, if I have to fold another tea towel I’m going to stab someone). Things are as adventurous as they’ve ever been in Rathien’s Ford, which is to say “not at all adventurous, not even slightly”. I used to hound travelers for stories when I was growing up, and now I hound them for any news of the outside world.

Your last letter made it sound like you’re rather bored back in Treff as well, though you’ve had more to do than I have. I’m glad you’re keeping us in business, though how you manage to navigate all of that social-political-society muck is beyond me. It’s a good thing you’re the face of the company, as I’m definitely more sneakthief than socialite! How goes things with the other mercenary band? Tell Bex I’m looking forward to hearing all the recent balladized adventures when I get back, and I’m dying to know how the budding relationship between His Noble Orcness and Her Mighty Un-Lady-ship is going.

Oh to be back in Treff once more, under the sign of the Compass Rose! Give Galen, Cyrus and Clyde my love, and a sturdy but purely platonic handshake to our… erm… staunch and righteous Isabella.

I’ll be home soon.



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