The Flower in the Sepulcher

Mina's Notebook, pp 51-53

North Dockside:

Appears to be a primarily dwarven district in Treff. Foundries, small squat homes, shipping, the biggest crane I’ve ever seen in my life.

Flux:

The central district, and I’d guess the priciest – although maybe Port Willow compares? Lots of extravagance in the inns, a truly ancient amphitheater/apiary(/lizardfolk temple?), listing of the laws of the city of Treff. Also, Lemuel’s Blossom: revered by the lizardfolk here, who I heard chanting in Draconic (probably a prayer?). As amazingly scented as I’d heard, taller than most buildings in Stone Table, and it keeps the mosquitoes away.

Another thought about lizardfolk religion: I met a boatman named Saresh who says he “reads the ripples of the river” – as far as I understand, he’s some sort of contemplative, seeking knowledge (and apparently rather practical knowledge) through the act of traveling the waters of the swamp. Lizardfolk are matriarchal in general, and their priesthood is really more of a priestesshood, so my best guess is that this is the corresponding masculine role in their spiritual life. Like a nun in the Cudgel church, just with more boats.

South Fen:

I like it here! Working-class district, smells like brewing in places. Points of interest: adventuring gear shop with a very friendly older gnome from Stone Table (Big), the Knight of Nails statue (and adjoining inn), a bakery next to the inn (see Clyde, I told you I’d write that down), the Full Quiver inn/adventurer’s guild. Good beer, friendly proprietor (Xante) who you do not want to mess with. That bow on the wall in the bar is dragonbone. There aren’t many master archers who can pull a dragonbone bow, much less aim one. I’d put five silver on those quivers being full of magic arrows too.

Merchant’s Guild:

Something is a bit fishy about these guys, or at least the one we were dealing with. First, smuggling – seems to be poor form if you want to maintain an air of respectability like he was putting on. Second, not really sure what the story is with that box. I’m going to have to learn how to take off arcane locks one of these days.

Traveling in the Swamp:

This isn’t your usual tromp through the forest. It’s wet – thoroughly waterproofed everything I own, except Mom’s vest which didn’t seem to need it. Bugs EVERYWHERE – the mosquito netting Miz Charmaine gave me as a parting present may now be my second-most-prized possession. I’ll also have to ask Maman Bayou about how this verminbane works, I might be able to make some. Mobility is extremely limited in places – I can’t count on getting out of range and blasting. Might have to poke at the magic until I figure out a solution – anything that I can use without having to deal with being attacked while casting. I am glad that I figured out how to enhance my swimming abilities with magic, though.

New Companions:

I happened to be on a boat with three other adventurers answering the same job that was put out.

Maman Bayou is a lizardfolk from the swamp. She’s got a touch with divine magic, a conviction that she needs to help without getting paid (although “gifts” are always acceptable), and she isn’t bothered by the bugs or water, unlike humans like me and …

Lars is quite skilled with a sword, a bit slow on his feet due to the heavy armor though. He’s a horseman so really we’ve got less in common than I do with…

Owain is a half-elf from the Stag Kingdom. Extremely proficient woodsman, great shot with a bow, apparently has amazing fingernails, according to…

Ahuizotl:

Someone told me about these when I mentioned heading for the swamp, and if I didn’t know for a fact that there are such things as owlbears, I’d have called them on their bullshit right there. Well, at least until I saw a deformed giant otter with a prehensile hand-tail with my own eyes. And heard it express its weird fingernail fetish… maybe it needs additional keratin in its diet to maintain those enormous tail-hand-nails? I can confirm that it speaks Common (not sure about other languages) and can mimic voices perfectly. It’s clearly intelligent enough to play mind games and set up ambushes, using said mimic abilities to cry for “help”. They can hide in shallow water – I’d guess just enough to come over their heads, if the water’s murky enough – and will lash out with their tail-hand if enticing prey passes near.

They’re extremely strong, with nasty teeth and a tail-hand that’s specialized for grasping (and drowning!) prey. Fortunately, all of their abilities seem to be physical. They can mimic voices and bite and grapple, but I’d guess if you keep a good 15 feet from the water, they’ll have to come on land to get to you. Thirty feet, and you can pepper them with arrows and spells to your heart’s content. Spells work especially well, in fact – no apparent arcane resistance, and they’re big and not too swift so hitting them with an orb is about as easy as hitting the narrow side of a barn. No problem shocking it either.

Speaking of Shocking Things:

Still not really sure why I have such an aptitude for that. Lots of times today when it would have been nice to have fire on tap, but I just can’t get a hang of burning hands. Maybe I’ll just give up on that and try to do… something with electricity? Yeah, there has to be something that’ll work. I’ll get back to you on that.

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Words with the Spider

The spider knows that these ones are untrustworthy. No sooner had they pledged their aid to the smuggler than they began discussing reneging on their agreement. These ones are Lars Blackenwood, bogged down in the fake scale, Bosou Koblamin, the warrior, hears his desires, Mina Brewer, who traffics in the dark magicks, and who Sogbo, loa of lightning, watches gleefully, and Owain Greenwood, who carries some issue with the armed ones and the favor of Ogoun. These ones accompanied me and the RiverWalker to recover the goods of the Mosquito Empire, who trafficked in the Dark Magicks, and fell for their hubris.

The people of Treff have many problems. The spider foresaw them in the cards, as I sat with them in the dirt and the dust of the city streets. Rats in the cellar, caravans that will never arrive, boats full of loved ones which will sink into the bog and rot away, like all that enters the swamp rots away.

Waste not, want not is the way of the people, and yet the preparations to find this artifact were for naught, so good was the direction of the RiverWalker that though Legba waited to seek out the artifact and lead me there his direction was unnecessary. More useful would have been Kalfu’s afflictions to bring night to the aberration which waylaid the caravan.

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Free Association

This one has been grouped with a number of additional adventurers. It appears the one who required this one’s assistance has left town. That one’s box was not its own, and yet this one swore to recover it on that one’s behalf. The box, of apparent dwarven make, has been seized for the time by the Moss-covered ones. This one sought the guidance of Grezzü to interpret the inscription of the box, but it was beyond even that one’s great knowledge to interpret the dwarven script. This one suspects it to be in a cypher. The scribe of the Moss-Covered ones believes the box will return to these ones, and perhaps this one shall run across the false merchant, to deliver the box to that one.

This one’s destiny may be approaching. This one has never had a home before, but the Moss-Covered ones have tied my fate to that of the Half-Orc Naheeda Sand, certainly an impressive figure, tall for a pink one, that one needs incline its head only slightly to look this one in the eyes, and carries a bow which appears to be built to be drawn by someone of immense strength, perhaps stronger than any creature this one has come across in its wanderings. This one is impressed, but wary of that one’s anger issues, though they appear to be directed towards the pink ones, that one seemed quite welcomely forward and pleasant with this one. That one travels with the one who may be a harbinger of destiny. Abad Ibn Mousa Al-Arakis trafics in the loa of the northern deserts, the djinn. That one, however, wears the mark of the spider on both head and hand. This one will keep a close eye on that one to determine in which one’s domain it falls. That one greeted this one as a member of those who have fallen away from the old ways, it is possible that the ancestors no longer care for that one’s actions. The dead care only for those who care for them.

These ones now join together in voluntary association to assist the residents of this city. Strange, disgusting place that it is (at least the one known as Naheeda understands the disturbing nature of cities). We shall embark to the hive in order to assist the collective friend, and this one hopes, to find out who it is that calls itself this ones friend. This one helps all who ask faithfully, though this one would not claim any friends.

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In The Elven Way

The moon was partially hidden behind a plume of cloud, which would have been disappointing had it been less beautiful. As it stood, the low illumination gave Owain more space to think.

This new association he found himself in was unsettling in some regards. They were all very clearly capable, of that he was sure, but he was less sure about their intangibles: their motivations, their aspirations, what made them tick, how they worked as a group. He had felt some connection with Mina and Lars, but they had not even returned to Treff together. Of those who had gone to the house, Naheeda seemed like perhaps the most kindred spirit, but Owain did not have her temper, nor her apparent deep-seated distaste for all authority. Maman Bayou, too. Her selflessness was a thing to which Owain could only aspire, but she was so… detached from everything. Then there was Abad. Owain did not trust Abad.

Iolar’s silhouette flashed across the partially obscured moon, some kind of rabbit in her claws, and Owain was glad to see her again.

Most of all, Owain was unsure about their purpose. It was a marvelously varied group, and banding together was a better way to thrive and survive, but what would they do? And why? It did not help that Owain was a loner in many regards: the only follower of the Trinity, the only woodsman, the only one of elven stock, the only one who did anything in the elven way. It seemed that their next task would involve helping some merchants of questionable moral standing. But Owain knew that looks could be deceiving, and would reserve judgment on these merchants for now. And if this task prepared him for a return to the Imperial Marches, all the better. That was how he could live with himself. Always walk humbly with the Trinity and fellow travelers, and always prepare for the Marches.

A breeze brought a burst of fragrance from the Blossom, and Owain breathed deep. This city would do just fine for now.

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Chapter 5: City of Flowers, City of Factions

An excerpt from the autobiography of Abad Ibn Mousa Al-Arakis

And so, dear readers, I finally arrived in Tref, the city in which I was to make my destiny. In those days the city was a supposedly free and touted as anarchic jumble of boards over a fetid swamp, authority over which was contested just short of openly by factions ranging from the smugglers, to the merchants, to the self appointed law. Obviously, this situation could not hold. Scratched in the margin of the page: Leave this section in. If things change significantly it will look prescient, and if they stay too much the same it will seem ironic The factionalism became readily apparent before myself and my oldest friend could even enter the city, with a representative of the thieves and smugglers who rally under the name of ‘Jack’ warned us to avoid a raid by the rangers and water elves against the captain of our vessel at the behest of the merchants, only to deliver us to rescue another 2 brave souls tricked by the same offer as us from yet another law enforcement authority. At first, it was enough to make one’s head spin! Things were so much simpler in the Venom kingdoms, where the only thing one needed to know about the law were the identity, morality, and disposition of one’s Sultan. I resolved immediately to retain legal counsel, one piece of advice from my Father that I till recommend to any adventurer or other quasi-legitimate professional to this day.

Of course I eventually learned the laws of Tref well, as anyone in my profession must when setting up shop in a new city, and the bonds forged by the smuggler’s machinations proved useful immediately. Owain immediately struck me as an asset in the infernal bog that surrounded the city, and while he was ideological he appeared rather benign and harmless in his beliefs, and I doubted they extend to preventing the scholarly and business advancement of his comrades. Maman Bayou, on the other hand, was a bit of a mystery. Although, from the looks she gave me, I suspected I might be much of one to her as well. We all eventually became fast friends, of course, but there at the beginning I am sure each of us had their doubts.

Our very first contract as a free company was continuing in the employ of Jack, now truly our mutual friend, and I saw no issue in this. What better ally to have in a city where the primary employment seems to be either evading or enforcing rule than those most adept at making a profit the old fashioned way; dishonestly?

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Mina's Notebook, pp. 54-55

Jacobius Wellborn:

Oh come ON Mina, why didn’t you even think to ask around about this guy first? Not affiliated with the Merchants. So not affiliated with the Merchants, and so skipped town, leaving me with a load of spices that aren’t mine and no money to pay the tariff.

I was helped out of this bind by Cyrus Drylands, an exile horseman (is there anyone left in the Kingdom of the Horse to be exiled?) who hooked me up with some new-ish friends.

I’d met Finn Tawaren before, we always stopped at her family’s inn on the way through the Stag Kingdom. She’s sharp. Her mom is probably having kittens at this point, seeing as how she’s in Treff and not helping out behind the bar. Elves don’t change fast.

Galen Dwyer is a new one… an alchemist and priest, very intelligent, lived in Stone Table before I was born… maybe he knew dad?… nah, not likely, I mean, it’s a huge city. Still. Apparently Dad knew a thing or two about alchemy. Hells, a thing or two about everything, except for I guess not getting the ship swept up in a freak storm? I’m glad to stick with Marta’s name for now, if I styled myself Wayfinder I’d probably set myself up for a similarly ironic end in the swamp.

We’re going into the swamp after Wellborn. I’ll write more then.


I’ve got to put out this light before it attracts any more vermin, so I’ll refrain from writing a missive to every single god I can think of and try to narrow it down to the especially relevant ones… Boccob, may my analysis of that thing be correct, because if it isn’t, we’re doomed. Yondalla, protect us – especially since one of yours is with us this time. Oh, and Traveling Siblings, help us make tracks tomorrow morning.

We’re camped all of half a kilometer from an obelisk full of eldritch engravings, guarded by what I’m pretty sure is an elder eidolon. They’re constructs, ancient ones, and beyond rare. This particular one is two stories tall and looks like some sort of twisted humanoid… I’ve never seen anything like it. And I don’t want to see anything like it again, thank you very much.

I’ve sketched it as best as I can recall and had Galen make a map of how to get back here. Maybe someone will find it useful – at least as a point to avoid at all costs.


I said a prayer to Wee Jas tonight. When I attended services at school, I’d go to the Trinitarian chapel or to Boccob’s reading room. The Stern Lady seemed all too somber to me then, but I can think of no other god to charge with Jacobius Wellborn’s soul.

He died because he was looking for knowledge, you know. I’m going to honor that. I’m going to figure out exactly what’s going on with this “Commanding Syllable”, these body-stealing tsochars, the demons, the shouted threats that “we’d pay for this, the kingdom would rise again-”

(only to be silenced by three magic missles and a passing catfish. Does Olidamarra or Garl Glittergold get situational irony? Either way, thanks. I needed the laugh.)

I’m going to figure out what’s going on, and I’m going to put an end to it.


No reward money today, but we did get reward property. A brewery, no less! It was dusty and in slightly poor repair, but cleaning and mending were the first two tricks I learned. A few hours later, all the dust was gone and the immediate repairs were made, and now I’m settled in a room overlooking the canal. I should write Marta and Jens, tell them I have an actual address now. Tell them I went to an actual church for the first time in as long as I can remember. Ask after the Passageway, see if anything’s happened with that girl Adam’s sweet on, send along a little pocket money for the twins. Maybe I’ll wander down to the market and buy a trinket for Becca, she always likes getting small gifts.

Perhaps I’ll even get Marta to disclose the secret to her perfect ale. Hah. Like that’ll happen.

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Friends of Friends

Several of these ones who have associated, though not the Warrior, the Orc, or the No-Longer-Associated, sought out the collective friend to provide the assistance requested on the board. The number of people in need of help in this city is immense, this one should think that it will be bound to the city Treff by their pleas more than by some property. These ones were not the only ones who sought to help. These ones will be joined by yet another new friend, Lucio da’Nicchi. That one is arrogant, and it will be its downfall should it not learn humility. The swamp is not kind to those ones. This one sought out the RiverWalker who will secure these ones passage to recover the missing smuggler and to the spirit which is bound to that ones guardian. Those ones who accompanied this one to meet the smuggler chief spent much time investigating this guardian, and discovered it’s one weakness is adamantine. These ones do not have weapons of such a fine quality, nor the funds to procure such. This one beseeches the ancestors to grant it power to compel the spirit which drives this construct into submission.

This one again has gone amongst the cities idle and hopeful to foretell the future as seen by the spirits. The merchant whose business shall flourish left this one fine alchemical gifts. This one fed the one who will not eat the next two days.

This one has not yet seen the scribe of the green ones, nor heard what happened to the favored of Sogbo, who has a penchant for the storm.

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A Letter
In which Finn apologizes profusely

Dearest and most beloved Father:

I apologize for leaving in such haste— the boat was leaving and I made a snap decision… I won’t be returning for some time, I’m afraid. Don’t fret, though. I am safe and well, I’ve arrived in Treff, the City of Keels and Piles. Remarkable place, really. Much bigger than Rathien’s Ford, and infinitely more interesting. I’ve made new friends here. Do you remember the traveler who passed through the inn a while back— a human girl with an ermine for a companion? She did a few repairs while she was there. Her name is Mina Brewer, I’ve fallen in with her and another adventuring sort (he goes by Galen Dwyer, he’s an old human holy man). They’ve both proven themselves good companions thus far!

We picked up a bit of work assisting a man by the name of Cyrus Drylands, an exile. He wanted some help in finding an acquaintance of his who had gone missing— Jacobius Wellborn. We found him all right, but he’s not with us any longer. I’ll explain that in a minute. I have to tell you about the swamp first.

It’s much different from the marshy spaces near the river in our Kingdom. Here it’s dark, overgrown, and full of all sorts of vicious things. Bugs that will eat away at you, plants that are edible (or might bite you), catfish that will eat anything, and Mina and I ran into a large and terrifying thing that she called an elder eidolon. It was fascinating— tall, purple and impossible. (It may be an old Anophelian construct. Things seem to point that way, anyway, as the things we found when we sought out Jacobius sort of reinforced the idea.) Anyway, after we made our way into the swamp a ways, we snuck into the building where Cyrus thought we’d find him— and sure enough, he was there. Not really himself though. We found out he had been… ah… pressed into service. A demon was working with him to summon something, and speaking through the poor man was something called a tsochar. It’s a parasite of sorts, it steals your whole body (especially if you use magic) and manipulates you like a puppet. Nasty-looking, awful thing. It left Jacobius little more than a wretched shell. It’s a mercy he passed away shortly thereafter.

Anyway, we made it back all right. No deadly diseases, no poison, just a few scrapes and bruises, plus memories of various and sundry terrifying creatures and a handful of treasures. Not bad for a couple of days’ work. We’ve set up shop in an old empty brewery in Figaro and are working on forming a free company. Seems my skills for getting people into rooms they’ve locked their own keys in will be useful here.

Give my best (and my sincere, loving, groveling apologies) to Mother. Don’t tell her about the demon, or the tsochar, or the elder eidolon. She’ll have fits. (You can, however, tell her I went to church the other day.) I’m sending a box along with the letter, though— it should have a pipe for you and a scarf for her. If you’re inclined to write back, you can send letters to the return address on the envelope. Let me know if there’s anything from the city you’d like me to send.

Love,
Finn

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naheedas jurnal

somehow im thinking that the littel bastard abad had this planed from the very begining. he and i mayde a deal. i said i would join him in his “epic and destined jounrnee” to tref if he didnt order me around. i was sick of that shit in the arrmy. it was fun pretending to be dumb and laughing behind the offisers backs but for 2 years… they taught me some good stuff but really i was bored outta my skull. i guess that is y i went with him, the clossest thing ive got to a fryend.

we mayde it to tref finaly. even before we got there we ran into truble. the boat we were on was carrying some sort of blue drug. all i know is my kind dont get looked on to kiendly if were around drugs. a fellow named jack helped abad and me get off. note to self: right hand raized behind head = innocence. good custom to remember. the jack guy kept sayin something about our colective fryend. i dont have fryends. he may have been confused. ill have to ask abad bout that.

not after being in the city for long enough to a horse to take a shit. we were taken to some keep. everybody there was a asshole. especially the grey bitch. i dont know wat the fuck was her problem. i tried to be polit and she just went of. nothin new. im half-orc afterall. we were forced into some free companee by these moss covered humans. ill have to ask abad about that to. there i met the 2 others in r littel group. both of them surprised me in diferent ways. first off i aint never seen any female taller than me. that was quite something. and she was lizard folk to boot. i sense maybe shes a kindred spirit. and then maybe not. its not like ive never been wrong befor. the other guy was half-elf. i really hope we dont have a problem. they luv geting up in peoples busines. thugh his garb sugested ranger. so maybe hes okay. hes stil part elf. and this in the elven way shit is really gonna pis me of. doesnt he know that he aint an elf nor is he human… hes somethin else completly. us halfbreeds dont fit in those wurlds. but that is somethin well have to work out later.

tref is stil a citee. and ive yet to find a citee i like. abad seems hopful. but thats not diferent from usual. its stil beter than the armee. in a long time i guess i feel excited. weve got new digs. new companions. and some possibel missions. this journee to the swamp lands thing maybe be full of adventure and mysteries just like abad told me.

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This Ragtag City
in which Galen outlines his first impressions and aspirations

At last I have made it to The City of Boards, a ragtag collection of floating buildings with a ragtag collection of denizens that reside there. I haven’t seen such a variety of citizens since I was in the Venom Kingdoms. On the ferry I ran into two charming young ladies. Finn Tawaren is a charming young elf, I use the word “young” loosely as I am sure she has seen more winters than I. Her proficiency at opening locks and disarming traps, while dubious, will be very useful in the future. Mina Brewer is a kindred spirit from the Ermine Republic. I would say that she is too young to be venturing out on her own, but I was even younger than her when I started my travels.

Within the city we met up with Cyrus Dryland, an exiled nobleman who proved to be quite the adept fighter. He enlisted our aid to apprehend Jacobius Wellborn, a smuggler who Mina had had a run-in with. The poor soul had become the thrall of a tsochar, who in turn was summoning a creature that was not of this plane. I will need to brush up extraplanar creatures so that we can fully understand what transpired in the swamp. Below is also a diagram of the summoning circle that was being used, the transcript of the inscription on an acolyte’s robe regarding a “commanding syllable,” and a map of an obelisk with an elder eidolon guarding it. All of this information will surely help us learn about what is happening in the swamp.

As a token of gratitude, Brother Cyrus gave our newly formed free company a residence. Now I will have time to explore the city. I still have yet to visit all the temples or the local hospital. I also hear there is a merchants’ guild, I am sure I can learn some useful alchemical recipes.

Before any of that however, I must find time to visit the libraries to search for a cure. My condition continues to worsen by the day. I will need to find a cure soon. This ragtag city of keels and piles shall be my salvation, or it shall be my grave.

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