The Flower in the Sepulcher

Mina's Notebook, pp. 64-67

Busy, busy day today. I ran a few errands in the morning. After last night’s entry I figured it would be fitting to make a small donation and sit a candlemark at the Temple of Wee Jas. I’ve never been especially religious, particularly not with regard to the Ruby Lady, but the quiet and the candle were… calming. It seemed an appropriate way to pay my respects.

I also went to the Cabinet of Curiosities, which is still just as wonderful as I’d imagined it being. Ok, the tea and lunch help too. They didn’t have anything more on tsochars than I already knew, unfortunately. I looked up some general information about plant creatures but didn’t get much more than I already know – they’re not very susceptible to electricity, and it’s not very easy to keep an eye out for rotting heaps of vegetation in the world’s largest rotting heap of vegetation.

Shortly after I returned, a messenger showed up at our door, bearing an overly elaborate message with a refreshingly straightforward postscript, courtesy of the Four Corners Free Company. They hosted us for dinner at the Full Quiver to talk about a business proposition, which I’m quite agreeable towards – cross-contracting between the free companies of the city, sharing our (demi-)human resources as it might be.

The core members of the Four Corners are also a balanced band of four, and I’d guess that they’ve been together for quite some time, if the lovely sigils they bear and their sense of camaraderie tell true. Speaking of, we could do with putting our device somewhere other than on our sign. (Maybe we can talk Cyrus into getting that shield decorated with a compass rose?) I did at least get the keys distributed. It took a little practice but electric jolt is controllable enough to perform small engravings. Mine is definitely the sloppiest, the S is extremely angular. I’m not sure if Cyrus’ looks the best because I saved it for last or because an N is just an extremely angular S on its side.

The auteur of the elaborate letter was Krog Fitzpatrick-Cavendish, half-orc lord of the southern Horse. I swear, there is nothing funnier than an extremely dignified half-orc mooning over some girl. Apparently the “some girl” is pretty interchangeable, but this particular one works with Owain and Maman. I offered to write a letter of introduction but he claimed he didn’t want to seem indirect.

I did get a smile out of Spelter Blackforest when I pointed out that Krog is clearly anything but indirect. She’s another craftswoman, and between her ambient aura, her northerly origin, and her lack of clothing, I’d peg her as a cold specialist. She also offered Galen an introduction to the Alchemist’s Guild.

Alain, who we briefly met at Moss Point, is their cleric and their in with the Order. That’s why they were the ones to summon us, I suppose – apparently the Order is trying to keep a bit more of a leash on us free companies, making sure we’re working in some level of loose cooperation instead of outright competition. Essentially, the deal we agreed to is that we can loan out our members to other free companies if one of their jobs requires it, in return for the standard share of the pay.

I took the opportunity to ask Makan about dragons… I didn’t hear much of the folklore of the Orange Pips at the Passageway, since the Trinity isn’t well-established there. The legend holds that a great golden dragon flew to the islands from the Jungle Penumbral, and from there became the ten kinds we know today… even the gold dragons are but a reflection of the original one’s beauty, and the dragons’ obsession with gold is said to be an expression of their longing for that original, perfect form.

Many of the noble houses of the islands claim to have dragons as their ancestors as well, and it is rumored that some still have contact with their draconic ancestor. Makan thinks it likely my father traveled well south in the Pips, to the lands tied to the water dragons… or my mother was from there and traveled north. Amalia is a name of the far south, and that area has ties to bronze and black dragons.

I know for a fact that the child of a true dragon is obvious, but maybe I am one of those naturals who can legitimately claim to be born of dragons. Hopefully bronze. The stories I know of bronze dragons are all good ones, wandering sailors taking pirates by surprise by revealing their true forms, sea serpents rescuing foundering ships, valiant warriors lending their services to noble causes, and kindly old men who mind the docks in small towns for decades on end, bringing good luck and fine fishing. Perhaps I’ll investigate this further.

Cyrus had to go meet with the rest of the exiled lords tonight. Evidently he’s not only a lord, he’s actually the firstborn of his family. Great. He is starting to loosen up around us, though. Heh. “Pluffing.” It’s too bad I only have magical feathers on me, I don’t know if mundane pluffing would even work.

Point being, he missed out on our discussion of Galen’s condition. No offense to Cyrus, but that’s reason number 26 that I no longer feel the need to visit the Empire of the Horse. Resurrect a kid to testify against his parents and botch the fucking spell to boot? If there’s a paladin left in that church I hope they fuck a succubus and fall. And catch syphilis for good measure.

I’m concerned, as I suppose I very well should be. Galen seems to think that some very rare Mosquito Kingdom scrolls could hold the key to repairing the damage the botched resurrection did to his soul, and he also seems to think they’re at the Death gem. It’s far off, farther than we’ve ever gone into the swamp, and if it’s the library of a powerful Mosquito Kingdom ruler, it’s going to be some kind of hell. I’d go through it to help him.

The Order wants to meet to discuss strategy eventually, but since eventually doesn’t appear to be now, we answered that ad we saw in the Quiver two weeks back. Apparently no one else had the balls to walk into St. Clarion’s Hospital and introduce themselves as an intelligent adventurer.

Magnus Schnabel surprised me a little bit. From the note, I expected someone with a faster temper or a higher opinion of himself. Maybe he does and I just didn’t set him off? He does have a certain force of personality, the sort of authority that comes with a lot of experience. I’d suppose the sharp tone comes from the combination of being both very accomplished and surprisingly young – older than me, certainly, maybe older than Cyrus but not by much. His eyes look harder.

The expedition is going to be a long one, and due to the limitations of our boat, we can only take three of us free company members. Galen and I were pivotal to the contract getting offered to the company, and Finn’s newfound navigational skills were a strong selling point too, so I guess we’ll have to leave Cyrus behind. I don’t really like that. Mostly because I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have at my side during a fight. Finn doesn’t count, she shouldn’t be at my side if she’s going to be at maximum effectiveness.

Fascinating camping spot tonight, on the weathered stump of a tree as big around as a room – Magnus called it a titan tree.

Magnus is an interesting one for sure. He’s also from the northern Horse, although he’s got a stronger accent than Cyrus. And quite the story to tell, also known as reason number 27 I don’t feel the need to go to the Empire of the Horse. Any story that ends with “everyone starved to death except me” doesn’t paint a flattering picture of one’s rulers.

Galen pointed out his unusual holy symbol – the briefest description I can think of is if a Pelorian sun disk was imitating an Olidamarran mask. The common term for it is the dualist heresy, the idea that the sun can bring life but also death… I can respect that. I’m astounded he kept his faith in a god of good at all.

I’ve heard bards compose songs of summer that sounded like laments. The Pelorian church might not approve of Magnus’ philosophy, but I think there’s an element of truth in it.

It feels good to be awake this morning. I’m glad Finn said it first, but I miss Cyrus… there were lots of times yesterday I’d have traded my pay to see a shield and flail out of the corner of my eye. I wonder how his expedition is going.

We encountered some new-to-me and decidedly unfriendly creatures yesterday. I vaguely remember someone doing a report on mudmaws in second year xenobiology, although seeing one in person was entirely different. They’re well-specialized for the swamp, incredibly territorial, and rapacious. It has some limited magical abilities it uses to ensnare its prey – it can cast slow, and turn ground into mud. I got completely trapped in the mud, which made me much less helpful than I should have been against it.

Magnus also taught us a good way to make money – harvesting metamagic components from the creatures of the swamp. I’d heard of metamagic components before but never really paid attention to them – they’re incredibly expensive and only work for one particular spell. Apparently mudmaws have glands that improve slow spells greatly. Hopefully they make it back to Treff, we could use the cash.

After we crossed the river, and were immediately charged by a pair of giant stag beetles. I suppose they probably scavenged whatever the mudmaw left behind. I was pretty badly hurt, but I pulled through well enough because I learned a new trick – whenever I was hit by the beetle, I felt a surge in my magic, and I was able to send electricity shooting through it. For someone in my line of work, this is the best trick ever – yeah, I might get hurt, but I’ll at least hurt back.

Last night wasn’t bad, at least. Magnus is also quite skilled at surviving in the wilderness, so we set up a defensible camp and even had the energy to socialize. Of course, we also learned a good way to lose money… dice poker. It’s much more luck-based than normal poker – unless you’ve got some sort of edge, but still. No odds to weigh, no bluffs to call? Magnus ended up with five of my gold, Finn with three, but it’s not like I’ll miss eight gp. Probably won’t be rushing to play anywhere other than around the campfire, though.

The “graveyard/treasure chamber/garden” description of the site we sought proved to be entirely accurate.

First off, the graveyard. It was covered in an unhallow spell, which was fortunately offset by the combined divine talents of Galen and Magnus. Nothing better than walking into a group of undead with two clerics at your side – the front line of wights scattered before I could even process that they were there. One of the wraiths did a number on me, sneaking up from below and sapping my strength… fortunately, my electricity took it down, and Magnus quickly restored my health. After all of that, there was a giant’s skeleton that almost knocked me unconscious with a single boulder. Finn tried to use the wand of magic missile against the skeleton but didn’t quite get it. That’s ok, though. I’m sure she’ll pick it up eventually.

The treasure made it incredibly worth it, though. Lots of coin, some art objects, and an incredibly magical divination ring. I’m very glad Magnus is getting us a break on tariffs this go, even before identifying it I can guarantee that thing is worth some serious cash.

In the garden where we’re camped, we found the mushrooms we were looking for – and also a chimera. Galen’s incredible talent for alchemy helped make incredibly short work of it – not every day alchemist’s fire deals more damage than weapons. There was also more treasure – a potion and a hearty pile of gold.

As far as we can tell, this was primarily a poisoner’s garden, and most of the things in here are marketable as drugs or poisons. I completely concur with Magnus’ reaction – uprooting them and covering them in coals. Compared to almost everyone in the city, we’re wealthy beyond imagining. I couldn’t sleep at night if I made even more preying on people’s inability to cope with their lives.

It’s good to be back at the Rose, and several thousand gold richer. I’d definitely travel with Magnus again – he’s an incredibly adept fighter for a doctor, and his healing abilities bailed me out more than once. He’s also ridiculously smart. I think I might be able to pin him down in a game of strategy. But ridiculously smart and ridiculously intelligent are very different things. He is of course not looking for employment, but I made it clear that he’s always welcome at the Rose. Someone needs to help us with this infestation of scones, after all.

I did finally get a letter back from Owain, shoved under the door with a black feather stuck under it. It did not appear to need pluffing. It gave me reason number 28 to never visit the Empire of the Horse – they deal with slavers? I’m not really sure what to think about their work with our collective friend… although going on rescue missions is noble and all, this is the Smuggler’s Guild we’re talking about, and they’ve got to be working some sort of angle. It seems all too much like playing dice poker blindfolded to me. For all you know they’re not even the right set of dice.

Also, it was kind of amazing, seeing more than two thousand gold in one place, and having it all be mine. I spread it out on my bed, just to take a look at it all at once… and maybe Finn scolded me for putting holes in my sheets. And maybe Cyrus walked into the guildhall right as I was expressing my confusion with that statement. Yes, maybe I did spread it out on my bed. Yes, maybe I did consider just lying down in it. No, I won’t be sleeping on it, because seriously that would hurt. No, that wouldn’t put holes in my sheets because putting holes in things doesn’t work like that. And no, it wouldn’t even matter because I could fix it. And yes, maybe that dragon thing isn’t the craziest idea. Oh, and the haul from the hospital job that wasn’t mine made enough money to get ourselves a boat, a Treff catfish boat. We’ve named him Edward T. Catfish. Or Ned. According to Cyrus, it’s not all that much different from dealing with a cow. I’ve asked him to teach me a little bit about managing the catfish.

It was really good to see Cyrus again, terrible hoard-based embarrassment and all. Considering he was the first one to suggest needing a beer, I’m pretty sure that the past two weeks were not terribly pleasant for him. And we were the ones traveling with the plague doctor. Poor man… I’ll ask about it later. Fortunately my first batch of beer turned out pretty good – as good as any beer I’ve had in the city so far, maybe even a little better. I’m not going to rush out to wholesale it, but between my beer and Finn’s cooking, maybe we could impress some clients.



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