Adventurers of all shapes and sizes shuffled out into the night, leaving the Stumbling Pebble II a bit worse for the wear. Only a handful of people remained, still just as varied in appearance as the crowd that had left, but lacking the numerous overlapping voices and concerns. Muffin crumbs lay scattered around the floor, gathering densely in, under and around a small chair upon which sat a small figure covered in various colored clothes from around the world. The pile of fabric would bouncy in time with a giggle and send more crumbs cascading to the ground.
A sharp-dressed Nalfien shot daggers across the room with her eyes as she smiled and said her goodbyes. Missing the direct route to the exit, she stopped to whisper empty threats to Ordim. At least he hoped they were empty threats. “Shame if I had to kill my only delivery person” he thought to himself as he ignored her and instead occupied himself with the subtle hand motions he was making. He gave a curt nod to no one in particular before standing up.
“Good night everyone!”
Producing a strange metallic contraption from his satchel, Ordim said his goodbye and found himself standing in front of a bright yellow painted building back in the landing. He walked in through the door, past the counter and under the dark arch, down the stairs and into a corner of the basement, sitting down next to the strange corpse that still stood silently after all this time.
“Tonight was a bit too close Cookie, but I did what had to be done.”
He nodded his approval to the corpse and let out a long sigh.
“She was talking too much!” He added, as if the corpse could either respond or have any understanding at all. “I think it’s time to bring the Triad back around, that should provide enough of a front in case things go very wrong… or very right.”
Ordim nodded again to himself and took out a decorated stationary box. He had a lot of letters to write, but only one very important one.
Be on the lookout for news about The Triad Gaming Commission reopening, catering to gamblers of all kinds but specializing in those who speak with their hands
The sound of gurgling water mirrored Ordim’s giggle as he watched the many insects darting in and out of the water of the fountain pool. Every so often his hands would become a flurry of nearly imperceptible movements, a well-orchestrated symphony of movements that only a few would ever notice, let alone understand. A tall figure across the fountain joined in the motions, before taking over and holding their own performance. Both Ordim and the figure gave small talk to those around them, all the while secretly passing news between each other. After a time they stopped and staggered their leave from the fountain, knowing full well they would see each other again later that evening. Ordim set off from the Library and headed out to the edge of the town. The shops gave way to small homes and gardens before finally surrendering to the thick rainforest on the other side of the fence. Finding a quiet spot, he sat down and set about writing a letter:
Brothers and Sisters, Long have we all worked individually for our own goals under the watchful eye of the Council. Like embers from a dying fire, some will try and reignite the blaze that should rightfully burn, only to end up smoldering and fading away. Let it be known that these embers drift once again upon the wind and have found dry kindling on which to feast. More of our brothers and Sisters are called to The Isle’s of Four Winds to help us fan the flames. Seek out the signals and offer up your support. Together, for the glory of the Council, we can ignite a wild fire. In service of the Kraken.
The letter soon found itself resting upon the meeting table, hidden deep in the basement of a once grand manor, nestled square in the heart of the port city of Solhaven.
The adventurers slowly shuffled out of the Pebble Pub around the same time as the fire retreated into embers in the fireplace. A small pile of clothing sat upon the couch, watching the embers dull glow as it nodded goodbyes and farewells. Shortly after the last person left, Ordim stood up and dusted himself off, sending a shower of muffins crumbs tumbling to the ground around him. He surveyed the nearly empty pub one last time before setting his sights on the fireplace.
Various fabrics ruffled against each other as he strode over to the stonework chamber filled with dull glowing embers.
“Better make sure everything settles in safely!” Ordim said to himself as he grabbed a metal poker and stirred the embers. A few tiny flames flared to life briefly before giving up their last breath – a handful of sparks drifted into the air around Ordim. Content that he had ensured the safety of the pub, he turned around to leave, only to be distracted by the bowl of peanut shells left on the rug in the center of the pub. Giggling to himself, a brief detour to pick up the bowl was made.
“Gerth! Someone left the bowl of shells in the middle of the room, I’ll get it for you!” A swift motion brought the bowl up into Ordim’s hand and on its way back to the bar where it belonged. Along the way a terrible thing happened, a nebulous emerald setting caught itself on the rim of the bowl and fell open, sprinkling the contents it was hiding away inside the bowl and dusting the outside edge. A strange mix of yellowed roots ground up into a fine powder, the “spice” mixed itself nearly invisibly into the discarded shells and thinly coated the outside of the bowl.
“No charge for helping clean up!” Ordim gave Gerth a wink and a giggle as he dropped the bowl onto the bar, further spreading a faint amount of the poison. Ordim hummed happily to himself as he set out into the night, discreetly cleaning his hands on his clothing and wondering where his muffins had gone off to. A single though lingered on his mind – “That should take any possible heat off me!”
Ordim shuffled over to a long dark platform and grabbed an empty goblet from inside a small nook. He glanced around nervously before filling the goblet with wine from a decanter of oddly fresh wine. He didn’t put much thought into who, or what, was coming around to refill the decanter, it was probably in his best interest not to ask too many questions anyway.
LISTEN TO US
The voice echoed in his head loudly. It had been a long time since the call had been this strong and unavoidable. He took a long drink from the goblet and hoped it would go away.
LISTEN TO US NOW
LISTEN TO US NOW. WE HAVE LOTS TO TELL YOU AND WE ARE NEVER WRONG
Knowing full well that they wouldn’t stop until he listened, Ordim set his goblet down and cleared a small spot on the cold stone floor. Content, he sat down and settled himself comfortably. Various pouches and satchels rested on the floor and Ordim had to shuffle through all of them before finally finding what he was looking for – A small tanik box that had once been painted red. Holding the box carefully, he lifted it to his ear and sat silently for a moment. His head nodded in understanding, his face switching from confusion, to shock, to exhaustion before he moved the box to his lips and whispered a near silent question.
“Will our ventures be successful?”
As the words plunged into the stillness around him he deftly lowered the box and withdrew a single painted card from the top of the box.
.----------. |* +| | -|- | | _|_ | | ( | ) | | )|( | | | | | -|- | |~ o| `----------'
The card is labeled "Skullduggery" in an archaic, looping script.
Once vivid paint now stood faded on the heavy parchment card forming a forked dagger dripping with blood. What little light shone into the room reflected off the drops of blood and scattered, giving it a life like appearance. Ordim smiled to himself and set the card back into the box. He knew the meeting tonight would go well.
WE ARE NEVER WRONG. LISTEN TO US ALWAYS. WE ARE NEVER WRONG.
Ordim sat alone in the center of an endless darkness. Strange groans and shrieks were the only sounds that occasionally shattered The Quiet. Ethereal glimpses of figures danced in and out of focus on the edge of the inky blackness, ghosts only hinting at what might really be hidden in its depths.
“Beings brought over that have no match. Beings that should not even be here.”
The words of Nezhor repeated themselves in Ordim’s mind, but he didn’t concern himself with the details. The specific means of Nazhor’s goals were immaterial to the ends, the promises, the power, the future. He had enjoyed sitting alone for some time, having been the first to solve the riddle like entrance method, but soon sent word to the other members of The Flock. Hints really, just enough to get them closer than they had been previously in their search areas. Even with the additional assistance, it was some time before other figures materialized next to Ordim.
In time, three others sat with Ordim in The Quiet, discussing the coming battle in a silent flurry of hand motions. Soon the discussion moved on to what the future would bring, the chance to shape the world in their image, desires, and wants. Almost as if in response, the growling intensified and a massive winged beast flew overhead. More wings and talons than body, its identification eluded all present. It was at this moment that Ordim felt the mood of the room split in twain.
Ordim would only ever admit to himself that for the briefest of moments a terrible thought crept through his mind; was he now as bad as the Elves of the past? The ones who summoned demons recklessly to do their bidding? The ones who used powerful magic to destroy all of the ponies?
“No, those sorcerer’s were but children playing with fire. This was different, this was a Meek commanding beings lesser than itself, not the other way around.”
As the discussion continued of what the future would bring, the moment of guilt faded quickly in Ordim’s mind. They spoke of who and what would be saved, what would be rebuilt and how, the power the Council would have when they were reshaped at their discretion. Only one voice spoke up in protest, arguing that ruling over rubble would be short and pointless.
“Such a weak and unimaginative mind”
Ordim looked upon the voice with sorrow, saddened by their inability to see the opportunity in front of them. The endless options they would have to make a perfect world. The voice made one last call to caution, questioning the means being used. They spoke their peace and left. Those that remained in the darkness all agreed, the dissenter would need to be watched but there was little they could do now to stop the future. Things were too far along to be stopped now.
So many enemies would be crushed before him, wiped from history forever. Their page in the books cleaned and written over in better, perfect form. He envisioned the plains full of ponies again, the Truefolk back where they belonged and everything ‘right’. One final glimmer of doubt and guilt welled up into Ordim’s eyes as he thought of all the friends and places that he might not be able to save at first. The terror and destruction that would reign down on the world. Ordim’s face twitched uncontrollably, shaking the guilt and doubt from his eyes, and taking with it what light of life remained in them as well.
“We’ll just pull better versions of them from other worlds. We will be as true Arkati, better, more involved. It will be a perfect world”
The belief burned strong inside his tiny body, pushing him forward, ignoring the horrors around him.
Robed figures sat hunched over rows of scroll-covered desks. Each one quietly shifting through arcane knowledge that spanned millennia, only occasionally would they neatly roll up their work before heading into the dark corridors of shelving that housed even more books, tomes, scrolls and loose parchments. Sometimes they returned quickly, others might spend more of their time searching the shelves than reading, and the rare one would give up in frustration and never be seen again.
Ordim giggled to himself as he watched the library “bustle” with activity. “Bustle” was the wrong word, it was more like toiling. He had made the decision long ago that he would only do as much direct research as was necessary. “After all,” he thought to himself, “why waste time relearning something when you can just take that existing knowledge and apply it differently?” Which was exactly why he found himself in the guild library now, paying a clerk to find what he knew existed already but couldn’t be bothered to find himself. Muffin crumbs tumbled down the front his clothing as he snacked happily and set off through the row of desks in search of his scribe.
The damp, old brick hallways of the guild twisted inwards upon themselves as they snaked upwards towards the workshop areas. Subtle at first, mixtures of burning regents and exotic ingredients drifted on the air, tickling the nose and watering the eyes until the body adjusted to the strange new environment. Ordim paused for a moment and glanced again at the parchment in his hand. Old, that was to be expected, but tattered as well, he hoped it was enough of the recipe to be able to assume the rest and complete his task. Grumbling, he reached up and retrieved his quill and made a few quick notes on the old parchment, filling in the missing pieces with his best guess.
“Glad I’m not actually making this thing!”
He covered up his grin with the best “serious” face he could muster and strode into workshop where a young Dhe’narsi woman sat working with various alchemical contraptions. She nodded slightly to his presence and extended her hand, awaiting the recipe. Ordim passed the parchment to her but held it for a moment longer, “Be sure to follow this exactly! Like making a pie!”. Snickering softly, she freed the parchment from his hand and looked it over, “Good, we have everything we need already.” Deyoni turned around and set to work.
Ordim watched as she set about preparing the ingredients, grinding herbs and infusing mana into various materials. She lit a small cauldron and began entering each one by one, double checking her actions against the recipe, unaware of a faint green glow that started to emanate from the mixture. The sight did not go unnoticed by Ordim, who began to nervously take a few steps back. He knew that glow, and what it meant would be happening any moment now and wanted to be nowhere near it. He swiftly turned around and made a dash for the door, he could hear the shocked gasp and cursing coming from Deyoni as she realized what was happening as well. It was too late though, the explosion ripped through the workshop and ejected Ordim through the door. A magical ward stopped it from spreading any further, but also funneled the full force into the room where Deyoni still stood, screaming in agony. Furrowing his brow, Ordim stood up and dusted himself off while scribes and helpers ran around him into the workshop to tend to Deyoni and clean up the mess.
“I suppose we’ll just have to try another method instead!”
Ordim shivered violently as he repeatedly ran his hands up and down his arms, checking that the wounds had been healed completely. There were times where he had worn the illusion of terrible disease and rotting flesh, but he had never truly felt the pain and discomfort of such wounds. Not until the other night, when he and other members of the Flock set upon Nezhor in retaliation for his failure to pay for their services.
The situation had gone about as he had expected, initially doing nothing but being a distraction and receiving a painful lesson on not attacking a Meek, until an unknown power intervened and managed to chase off Nezhor and recover a strange gem he dropped during the scuffle. Ordim hoped they’d be able to leverage the gem in a way to get them back on track. Nezhor had betrayed them, but he was the only one at least offering them power in return for their services. As he pondered his options, an unexpected voice suddenly filled his mind and invited him to meet in secret on the island.
A few whispered words and subtle hand motions were the last anyone saw of Ordim in the cellar. He made his way out into the streets of the island and made his way into the jungle. He slipped invisibly down the stairs and into the grand central area where the owner of the voice stood waiting for him.
“I have something for you, Ordim” She offered while waving around a strange beaker of fluid.
Ordim released the spell of invisibility and greedily snatched the beaker from her hands, offering his thanks. He eyed the voice suspiciously but appreciated the gift.
“There is something else as well…” She paused a moment before asking “Do you still speak with Nezhor?”
Taken aback, Ordim stuttered the response “Of course!” His mind raced, what was she aiming at now, he had already caught her playing all sides against each other.
“I’ve got an artifact that you can offer up to him.”
The plan revealed itself, clearly she was trying to once again turn around and benefit somehow. Ordim thought quickly, she’d have to give up the artifact and there would be nothing stopping him from just taking it and running off to enjoy it along with some fresh muffins and maybe a pie. Nodding slowly at her, he held his hand out waiting to be rewarded with a powerful artifact all for himself.
A slight snicker escaped her as she tapped her chest. “it’s here, he can try and take it, if he even can.”
Ordim’s heart sank, how could she think such a thing was an artifact, let alone one that might be strong enough to draw out Nezhor? He had worked tirelessly to create the bait used earlier that night, even that came at a cost, not paid by Ordim, but a serious cost no less.
“That might work…” was the best he could offer. Unaided, he added “And attacking a Meek doesn’t usually end well, I know!”
His eyes opened wide as the words tumbled out of his mouth before his hands could make their way up to cover it.
The voices eyes narrowed upon Ordim, “Did you an Nezhor have a falling out?” she inquired, a grin starting to cross her face.
Panic filled Ordim’s mind. He glanced around nervously looking for any excuse to end the conversation. He sniffed deeply and proclaimed, “My muffins are burning!”
The sound of flailing and running filled the silent temple as a small figure was seen running through the jungle before suddenly disappearing.
Two burly guards grab your bound body and haul it atop the gallows. One of the guards gets a piece of rope and fashions a noose, which he then slips through an iron ring set into the top beam of the gallows. Slipping the noose around your neck, he ties the other free end to a similar ring set into a brace beam.
A soft looking town official steps forward and says, "Ordim, you have been found guilty of a number of crimes in our fine city. To demonstrate that your actions are intolerable, and your kind are not welcome here, you will hang for your crimes. Though no doubt a cleric will come to your service, know that you are no longer welcome here. If you've anything to say before sentence is carried out, say it now."
You exclaim, "I'm an Ordim!"
A soft looking town official says, "Very well. Let the sentence be carried out." The official nods to a burly guard, who reaches for a rope that is attached to the gallows' false floor.
A burly guard pulls hard on a rope that is attached to the gallows' false floor. The false floor drops away, and you fall quickly through it. Just before the fall comes to an end, you feel the noose tighten on your neck, and then suddenly snap it like a twig!
Your body sways back and forth for a bit.