The Nazhor Chronicles/Chapter One

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The Nazhor Chronicles: Chapter One is a storyline by GameMaster Quilic set in Mist Harbor that had preamble events from December 19, 2018 until the official start on March 3, 2019. The storyline is ongoing. Characters from this story previously showed up in Those Aren't Tears.

Summary

  • To be completed when storyline is over

Persons of Note

Timeline of Events

Preparation, Preparation [Vignette from Sarmoya] (2/7/2019)

Vignette: Sarmoya Seeks Mazorn
Workers filed in and out of the warehouse on the shoreline of Rivers Rest. Some carried crates in, others out to waiting ships. Sarmoya stood some distance away, watching the day laborers go about their work. Once an object of much discussion and some concern among the town's residents, he had heard little talk of it recently. As the months passed since the last sighting of the Green Lady, talk among the town became more normal. Who is marrying whom. Who chopped down their neighbor's tree. The usual rumors about the Guard Captain. This also meant less outward hostility toward the imposing Half-Krolvin walking the main streets of the town. Sarmoya cherished the normalcy, even if he understood its fragility. He also understood what he was about to do could break that fragility. The words of his master came to mind: Some things are meant to be broken. And some things must be broken so they may be remade stronger.

He identified a man who could be the foreman. Two things hinted at his status. One, he was sitting on a stool, clipboard in hand. Two, what appeared to be a mug of ale openly sitting on the barrel next to him. One of the rumors Sarmoya had heard involved the trader Mazorn and a new habit. If it was true, it would make sense to trickle down to his subordinates. A dangerous trend. The man did not look up from his clipboard as Sarmoya approached, only sighing, "I already told you, Jer, we're not going-" he stopped short as he raised his head and saw whom he was speaking to. Hastily, he jumped out of his stool and placed his clipboard on the barrel. It did not escape Sarmoya's notice he attempted to hide the mug. "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were... sorry. Yes. How can I help you?"

Sarmoya bowed politely. "Good morning. Forgive me, I do not mean to intrude or interrupt."

"No, no. It's fine." A tone of nervousness in his voice. Did he have ideas as to why Sarmoya was here? Or was he intimidated?

"I must speak to Mazorn. Is he here?"

The man frowned. "No, sir, I'm afraid he is not."

"Do you know when he will return?"

The frown deepened. "I wish I did. We haven't seen him in a while."

"I understand. If he does come, would you inform him Lord Sarmoya seeks him? He will know where to contact me."

"Yes, of course. Is there... anything else?"

"No. I shall not keep you from your duties." Sarmoya bowed. "Farewell." The man returned the bow in his own way, then watched as Sarmoya turned on his heel and strode back toward the middle of town. When the swordsman was out of sight, he took a long draft from the mug.

Not surprised, Sarmoya was still disappointed. He knew little, if anything, of what the voice urged of him. He has never met this Nazhor, or a Scion, or Elspie, or anything else he heard. He had only even made the acquaintance of Darcena on a handful of occasions. And he did not know what to make of that strange bard. The only thing that made sense to him was Mazorn had a connection, so he was obligated to inquire. But if he cannot find Mazorn, he has no road. Surely, the voice must know that. But why visit him again? Why would it not answer his questions? And why would it not give him any information? It is clear someone needs help. But who? Where are they? What is a Scion? Why will the voice not tell him anything? He worried the voice was misguided, that it is seeking something Sarmoya cannot provide. He is not an investigator, a seeker. It is strange, how not being able to provide help makes one feel so helpless. It is a feeling he has trained for so long to prevent. But his problem solving always uses a sword and there's no target he can see. It said to prepare. He only knew one way to prepare.

Originally posted on the official forums by VICIMER on 2/7/2019 at 3:26 PM.

A series of replies ~ The Nazhor Chronicles preamble (2/13/2019)

Letters: A series of replies ~ The Nazhor Chronicles preamble
To Ilsola Tuulikki,

I received your last letter while I was passing through Pinefar, and thank you for your kind words. However, I can not in good conscience return until my home has been restored. The workers that I contracted have informed me that they have been unable to secure materials to begin the project, and that things remain much the same as they were when I departed. This is untenable for me, and I will stay away until my home has been restored.

I also have struggled to let go of my anger towards the town as a whole, and you personally. While I intellectually understand that you have done all that you can, it does not change the fact that my husband was murdered in the middle of town, my home was ransacked, and a secret prison cell was created behind my husband's gravestone. All of this happened while you ineffectually stumbled around, and this is a fact that my heart has thus far been unable to reconcile. I truly question whether you are the right person to lead Mist Harbor through any sort of crisis that does not involve trade.

Please do not take this to mean that I intend personal offense of any kind. I do appreciate the lengths you went to, gathering individuals to try and do the best that you could. I merely look upon the preponderance of evidence and feet the pit of rage inside me open wide once more.

For all these reasons, I must decline your request to return to the Isle at this time. I shall continue my travels, and my healing. In time I hope to return, but I would be no good to anyone in my current state of mind.

Regards, Elspie

To Sarmoya, the half-Krolvin

One of my workers has mentioned that you came looking for me recently, and he suggested I reach out to you. I do so here and now, but only to inform you that after the complete debacle that was the result of interacting with any of you 'adventurers', I am not feeling particularly inclined to entertain any more 'audiences'. I suggest that you spend your time instead hiding as best you can. When that madman uses the power of the artifact that 'your kind' helped him to steal from me, thereby RUINING my family's legacy, and rendering the life's work of GENERATIONS COMPLETELY USELESS..............

Do not contact me again. Find your solace where you may, as have I. I recommend the rum. May the Gods preserve us.

~Trader Mazorn

To Cendadric,

I am pleased to hear that you are willing to put the boy up for a time, but I must remind you of his standing with the family. He will need appropriate quarters as soon as possible, ones that befit his station.

With his able assistance, we fully expect this matter to be resolved, as the impact on profits must come to an end. As to your offer of assistance, I believe you remember the last time you tried to 'help' us. It's why you ended up where you are, after all. Keep your distance from the boy's work, lest the stain of your failure tarnish his bright future.

~C

To Ilsola Tuulikki,

Your previous report was well-written, thorough, and completely unacceptable. You have been charged with keeping trade flowing on a tiny island, and in even this you have struggled. You have ignored resources at your disposal, and you have been duped at every turn. This is troubling on a great many levels.

We have dispatched Socius, my son, to assist you. He is to be an assistant only, and you will take every care to keep him far from any danger. He has the full support of the Families, and all our resources are at his disposal. Take advantage of this marvelous boon and resolve these issues with all haste. Fail to do so at your own personal peril.

~C

To the Citizens and Friends of Mist Harbor

I am pleased to announce that we will be hosting a dignitary in our fine town for a time. Socius shall be arriving in a few weeks time, and he is going to assist me with mundane administrative matters. When Socius arrives, I should like to invite you all to welcome and meet him. I am ever so proud of our fine town, and would like to show him the warmest welcome we can.

I am further pleased to announce that since the disturbance of a few months ago, there has been no sign of any further troubles, though we are of course being vigilant. We are doing our level best to make sure we are prepared, but at this point optimism has taken root and is growing rapidly. If, as I so dearly hope, these troubles are behind us, I owe you all my deepest thanks for all your assistance in ridding our fair town of that horrible threat.

Warm Regards, Ilsola

OOC portion:

Hope to see you all on March 3rd!

The next chapter of this ongoing storyline will run Thursday nights from 830pm to 10pm, and Sunday afternoons from 4pm to 6pm (all times EST). I'm also fairly active on the official Discord, in the Premium channel, if you'd like to discuss theories, conspiracies, or even just provide feedback. I'd love to hear from you guys as this lurches forward once more.

Originally posted on the official forums by GameMaster Quilic on 2/13/2019 at 9:02 AM.

Darcena Writes a Letter (2/22/2019)

Letter: From Darcena
A messenger walks in with a crumpled piece of thick paper dotted with jagged holes. As he tilts the parchment in his hands, heavy, oversized, angular script can be seen sloppily meandering across the page. The letters are ill-formed and several are written backwards.
Deer Ilsolah,

I am mad. U hav the eer of the ritch famlees. Will S - o - c - i - u - s <here the letters are very carefully formed> hav powur? <several smears obscure the next sentence, which is also ridded with holes, but the text resumes> Hav meet at the partee. Need snaks. Trubbles not dun. Hoo is the Sion? Y am I heerin wispurs agan? Y can I not kom to meetin wif u? I no I sed u wer inkomp <here a big hole exists in the paper> the wispurs. Elspee needs her hoam. Dis is not okay. Ficks it. DaRcena

Originally posted on the official forums by ARMYJEN on 2/22/2019 at 5:49 PM.

Ilsola Replies to Darcena (2/22/2019)

Letter: Ilsola Replies to Darcena
Dear Darcena,

Thank you very much for your letter, and thank you for putting forth the effort to prepare it for me. First and foremost, I wanted to reassure you that I do not take your accusation of 'incompetence' personally. I very much appreciate the passion with which you aided the town in our efforts, and accept that that same passion can lead tongues astray with great ease.

To discuss the meat of your letter, however. Socius is coming to assist me with some of the administrative tasks that are part of my duties, so that I might focus on rebuilding and strengthening the town as a whole. While it is true that he comes from a powerful family, his role is that of an assistant and advisor, as I understand it. He has resources and connections that I simply do not, and I am sure that in that regard he will be a great boon to the town as a whole.

While I can certainly understand your sentiment about there still being some lingering danger from Nazhor, in the time since we discovered Duvainiel and Elspie locked away, there has been no sign of him at all. And it is certainly curious that he chose to leave behind Duvainiel, given the... well, the nature of their relationship. This would make sense, however, if he were intending to leave and not come back. All indications are that that is exactly what he has done.

I am unsure where you heard the name 'Scion', but would ask that you prudently not mention it in Socius' presence. It is a nickname of sorts granted to him at a younger age, when he exploited his family's wealth and power with somewhat of an iron fist. I'm told that he has mellowed considerably since those tempestuous years, and he would likely not take kindly to the flippant reminders of his youthful exuberance.

As far as the meeting you refer to, I'm assuming you mean to meet with Socius? I'm pleased to say that we will all be able to greet him at once! I'm given to understand that he's a little more than a week away from arriving. It's my intention to welcome him with open arms, and I shall be glad to ensure that we have meat available at the occasion.

Mage Elspie and I have been in contact via letter, and she has expressed to me her dissatisfaction over the state of her home. The simple matter is that we are somewhat stuck as to where to put Duvainiel, given her... disposition. She's been quite recalcitrant, refusing to speak aside from requesting nourishment. All questions go unanswered, and it's my personal opinion that she has information which may become critical should Nazhor return some time in the far future. It's my hope that when she recognizes our resolve, and that she will not see freedom unless she works with us, she will opt to do the right thing. It's only a matter of time.

As far as whispers, you are not the only one to report such things. I cannot say that I have experienced them myself, which only lends further credence to my theory that Nazhor has left us and traveled far from this place.

I thank you again for your letter, and I hope to see you when we greet Socius!

Warm Regards, Ilsola Tuulikki Town Administrator

Originally posted on the official forums by GameMaster Quilic on 2/22/2019 at 9:11 PM.

Socius' Arrival [Vignette] (3/2/2019)

Vignette: Socius' Arrival - The Nazhor Chronicles, Chapter 1, Precursor
Cendadric sighed, rubbing his forehead in a vain attempt to relieve the headache he'd been fighting for the better part of a week. He slumped in his chair, staring up at the ceiling of his pawnshop, and wondered what tomorrow would bring.

"Loafing, as always, I see," said a neutral voice from the doorway.

Cendadric bolted upright, putting on his best face for a prospective customer, but relaxing when he recognized the face of the man who'd spoken. Though it had been years, the man's eyes were unmistakeable.

"Socius," he whispered.

Socius nodded once, his gaze neutral, and visually perused the pawnshop.

"This is where some of it happened, is it not?" he asked.

Cendadric nodded slowly, and replied in a halting tone, "It is... though I don't remember a great deal of it. They claim that's part of the whole thing. They said-"

Socius cut him off mid-sentence, his voice even. "I'm aware. The reason I've come here early is that I'm attempting to gather information."

Cendadric squirmed uncomfortably in his chair, a flush coming over his face. "What... what kind of information? Ilsola is planning a greeting tomorrow for you! She thought... that is... we all thought-"

"I very much doubt that you could finish that sentence with anything I could believe. I'm aware I was expected tomorrow. Do you not think I have my own means to get here? This is my home, you dolt." Despite the strength of his words, his tone remained even and calm.

"I... know. I remember, Socius. I was just trying to... help?"

Socius stared silently for a long moment, his eyes unwavering. Cendadric bowed his head after a moment, resembling a small child in every mannerism.

Socius responded, his voice never wavering, "You had your chance to help, Cendadric. You had it long ago, and you blew it. You were put here under the misconception that you couldn't do our family any harm from this place. And yet somehow you managed. Do not help, Cendadric. Don't interfere, don't help, don't suggest. Do nothing but run your little shop and keep your nose out of my business while I'm here."

Cendadric glanced up at him tentatively, a question in his eyes. "What is your business here?"

Socius raised one eyebrow, his pale green eyes boring into Cendadric. "Why... I'm here to help, of course." And with that, he turned on his heel and was gone.

Cendadrice slumped into his chair once more, his headache pounding harder than ever.

Ilsola became aware of the presence in her office with a start. She hadn't heard the door open, but there was a man there, staring at her with a neutral expression.

"Can I help you?" she asked out of habit.

"Good afternoon, Administrator. My name is Socius, and I believe you had been warned to expect me."

Ilsola blinked in surprise at this, and stammered out, "Y... yes, yes we were. But the expectation was... tomorrow?"

Socius gave the slightest hint of a bow in apology and stated, his tone calm and even, "I apologize for any inconvenience. I wanted to make you aware of my arrival and to reassure you that I will do my best to assist you in your management of this settlement. I have the full resources of my family at my disposal, should they be required, and we will set things right in short order."

Ilsola cocked her head at the man, her eyes narrowing the slightest bit. "Did I detect a hint of a threat at the end there, Socius? I had been told that you were coming here to assist me with administrative matters, and nothing further."

Socius remained completely implacable, his tone never wavering as he replied, "Administrator, your performance has been putrid, and you know it. Under your watch the town was attacked, individuals were murdered in the streets, and profits have plummeted. I am here to assist you in rectifying the situation. If that proves to be beyond your ability, then other measures must be taken. None of this is a surprise to you, as I am fully aware of your ongoing correspondence with my father."

Ilsola flushed red before responding with heat in her voice, "Socius, you are very right that I've been in contact with your father, and it was HIS words that assured me you are here in an administrative capacity! Nazhor has gone from this place, there is no danger to the settlement any longer, and I will not hesitate to go to the rest of the Five Families if I need to! I will not be supplanted from my position so long as I am able to keep my people safe!"

Socius never wavered in tone or demeanor, his gaze remaining rock steady. "Administrator, you had best disabuse yourself of your demented notions before they are the end of you. We deal in reality here, and that is where your actions will be judged. Your disillusions do nothing but hurt your position, and it won't be allowed. Get your head right while there is still time. I will be happy to assist you in any way I can, but my first loyalty is to this settlement. This is my home, Administrator, and I will protect it with my last breath, even if I must protect it from you."

Before Ilsola could respond, Socius gave one more slight bow, his pale green gaze never leaving hers, and turned and left the room.

OOC Note: The Nazhor Chronicles, Chapter 1 kicks off tomorrow (Sunday) at 4pm EST. Storytime, which has been dubbed #QST (Quilic Standard Time), will be from 4pm to 6pm every Sunday afternoon, and from 8:30pm to 10pm on Thursday nights. I will endeavor to make Sundays the "bigger" day, but the story will take precedence.

One final note: Please feel free to join us in the Premium channel of the official Discord server, as I'm fairly active there, and there's ongoing discussion of the storyline as a whole (no spoilers, but it's fun to theorize!)

Thank you, and I hope to see you all for QST!

Originally posted on the official forums by GameMaster Quilic on 3/2/2019 at 2:54 PM.

Arrival of Socius (3/3/2019)

  • The events of the night kick off with a vision. Suddenly, the air in front of you begins to waver. As the disturbance grows, occasional flickers of strange scenes are visible between the ripples. A candle. A temple. A waterfall. And then... a large island, with a heavy layer of mist across the northern edge. The image slowly fades, to be replaced with a new one... A wide, toothy grin in place beneath a heavy red cowl. After a heartbeat, your vision returns, leaving you slightly disoriented.
  • Ilsola arrives at Gardenia Commons and greets adventurers. She seems nervous and tries to pass off the vision as imagination and the weather playing tricks. She says Socius will be along presently and that he intimated he had something else to do first. She said Socius arrived yesterday and they were on the same page that everything that happened before was in the past. She also stated that Duvainiel is still in the cell.
  • Socius arrives and immediately says, "I'm pleased to see so many here, willing to assist with the troubles plaguing our town. Ilsola whispers something to him and he glances at her and says, "For those who have not heard, or who have been misled by those who are... deluding themselves..." and he glances at Ilsola again. He then says madman Nazhor has wrought havoc in Mist Harbor and is at large and a threat. Ilsola tells him to wait a minute, he tells her to remember their conversation of the day before, and she stomps off.
  • Socius continues that Nazhor has acquired a pair of significantly powerful artifacts (a necklace of great power and a chest that was the property of a trader from River's Rest) and has made severe threats. Adventurers challenge this. Socius replies that Nazhor "has threatened to cause chaos, and unbalance. He has shown no hesitation to kill to achieve his means. He has beguiled many, and there is some foolish talk about mind control floating around." He lists off the First Sergeant, Cendadric, and Penre as people affected. He also answers Elysia's question of whether or not he's under mind control by saying, "I have resources at my disposal that prevent such a thing." Socius quietly says, "This town is my home. I was born here, and lived here for most of my childhood. I will not stand by and see it tainted in any fashion."
  • Socius coerces Naamit into helping by stealing a deep black bracelet of finely polished glaes from her. At the end of the night, Naamit requests an eonake dagger from Socius as collateral for the bracelet he stole from her. He agrees and hands it over.
  • Socius announces that he is putting out a bounty on the merchant Penre. Anyone who brings him in alive gets 250,000 silvers from Socius' pocket.
  • Socius announces that he is reinstating the Mist Harbor Militia.
  • Adventurers begin to have visions (Elysia, Maylan, Khobra, Avawren, Amalara, Roblar, Ysharra, Rohese, and Jahadeem)
Maylan and Roblar saw: A whisper reaches your ear, though it is muddled and indistinct at best.  Glancing around, you are unable to discern its source.  After a heartbeat, the noise returns, still somewhat garbled, but with increased volume.  Another cautious look around reveals nothing that might be causing the whispers.  Suddenly, you flinch back as a panicked scream sounds in your ear!  "WVOSOSQMMPRVKE!!"  As the echoes fade away, your ears ring loudly, but a quick look around reveals no sign that anyone else heard anything.
Elysia and Ysharra saw: Your vision grows hazy at an alarming rate, and the air in front of you begins to waver, as stone might on a particularly hot day.  Through the wavering, shapes can be seen, though the details are impossible to make out.  The rippling air halts for just a moment, and one of the shapes resolves itself into a skeletal figure, its skin intact, but stretched taut across its bones.  Its lidless eyes snap to yours, and it opens its mouth and screams!  The instant it does so, the ripples start once more for a heartbeat, then your vision clears completely, leaving you shaken.
Jahadeem saw: At the edge of your vision you see a scarlet-clad figure enter the area.  Its features are indistinct at best, but its posture and gait are... wrong.  One shoulder of the vaguely humanoid form is higher than the other, and it proceeds forward with a severe, painful-looking limp.  Its progress is slow, and you look around to see if anyone else has seen it.  Noting the lack of reaction from those around you, you turn back and notice with a chill that the figure is much closer to you than before, still proceeding at the same plodding pace.  You can just make out a sneer across its face before it disappears.  You blink in surprise, then feel hot breath on the back of your neck, whispering "WVOSOSQMMPRVKE".  When you whirl around, there is nothing to be seen.
Avawren saw: Your head suddenly begins to throb, pulsing with pain.  You grimace slightly and put a hand to your head, then feel your equilibrium begin to waver.  The throbbing continues to steadily increase, becoming near unbearable!  You close your eyes and feel the world spin underneath you, then as quickly as it began, the sensation stops completely.  You note that there are no ambient sounds around you at all, and then you hear a very faint whisper, "...wvososqmmprvke..."
  • Twice, adventurers see a ripple streak across the sky overheard, the ground rumbles, and then a popping noise. They also find a creeping miasma and a dark sludge. Both are killed before anything is learned.
  • Darcena takes the adventurers and Socius to the Sunset Cay Dock where she and Avawren met a ghost a few days previous. While there, an indistinct entity arrives. The indistinct entity has tough, leathery hide, as black as midnight. Bat-like wings sprout from its back, but they do not look large or strong enough to support its weight in flight. The entity's claws are long, sharp and appear to be stained with the blood of many victims. Its eyes are eerie, solid green orbs that seem to glow with an inner power. It shudders, in obvious pain, throws back its head, screaming in agony, before vaporizing.
  • The adventurers take a tour of the Sunset Cay cabin. A discussion occurs around the bedroom door with red runes on it. Khobra posits they are fire runes to trap water magic and counter Elspie. Darcena says maybe they were a warning of the fire and cell inside. Naamit states they resemble the red runes all over Socius, which he denies and says they are different. As adventurers talk, they hear a deep laugh among the thunder far in the distance.
  • Socius refuses to release his last name or his family's last name. Khobra asks if the name is one among the five families. Socius retorts, "What are the five families?" Socius tells Khobra that his father is the sole owner of the island and he purchased it from the Chronomages.
  • In the bedroom, Nazarr unlocks the hatch and the adventurers enter to find it... empty. Duvainiel is not there. Darcena suggests the footsteps and rustling noises they heard when Ilsola was presumably locking up Duvainiel may instead have been Ilsola helping Duvainiel escape. Socius wants to question Ilsola. The group heads to Hale Hall to find Ilsola.
  • Ilsola comes out at Hale Hall and states that Duvainiel is in her cell. Adventurers state that isn't so. Socius states "This is pointless." and he fishes a small whistle out from under his tunic and blows it. A low note sounds through the room. Two large men step into the hall and seize Ilsola by the arms, dragging her away as she starts to protest. Socius justifies this by saying, "She lied on her reports. She refuses to even admit that Nazhor is still a problem. She's a coward, a weakling, and an amateur. She would get us all killed." He states he will hold Ilsola and will question her in four days; he states that in his experience, that's the appropriate length of time for individuals to have their tongues loosened. He also states Ilsola will not be harmed in any way during her incarceration.
  • Maylan challenges Socius to a duel, but he sadly does not partake.
  • Socius says, "I can no more keep her safe than I can keep any of us safe from whatever that phenomenon might be. This is why we Must. Find. Nazhor."
  • Darcena asks Socius if he only tells the absolute truth and only the truth at all times. Speaking quietly to Darcena, Socius says, "I am completely capable of lying to suit my purposes, as are all." Darcena states Luukos is going to eat Socius' soul if he keeps it up.
  • Socius quietly says, "For tonight... I have a report to write. Thank you all for coming out. I will see you in four days, for Ilsola's questioning. A messenger will be sent with the location and time."

GM Cast: Ilsola, Socius

Adventurers: Amalara, Apsaras, Lady Avawren, Brewyte, Lady Darcena, Deyoni, Lord Dracnoir, Lady Elysia, Ensayn, Eoghain, Gnarles, Greng, Lord Iian, Great Lord Jahadeem, Khiya, Khobra, Historian Khylynnia, Scribe Louaryne, Maleisse, Land Pirate Maylan, Misun, Mistress Naamit, Great Lord Nazarr, Great Lord Nehor, Relic Hunter Ordim, Ponclast, Qafziel, Raljein, Ragz, Arena Hero Roblar, High Lady Rohese, Lady Saphriel, Schultz, Spoetzel, Sothog, High Lord Talinvor, Ysharra, Zamnier

Player-submitted Log

An Encounter to Remember, A Night to Forget (3/7/2019)

Vignette: An Encounter to Remember, A Night to Forget
Mist covered the cobbled paths of the dimly lit harbor town, and the three figures moved through it like ghosts. Thick robes and masks obscured their identities, and they moved with deliberate care. Any catching a glimpse of them through the mist and the moonlight might well have wondered if their eyes hadn’t simply been playing a trick on them.

Stoic and solid, a pair of twin guard towers rose up through the mists ahead of the trio like obelisks, the stone providing a sense of stability in the fluid, near-illusory night. As the group moved in, they slowed, taking care to stay out of sight of the guards that patrolled the gate to the western tower. Lanterns, like wisps floating in a sea of fog, jangled and bobbed as the guards made their rounds. The three turned to each other and drew close. Gloved fingers flashed furiously in a byzantine cipher of silent communication for a few moments, then fell still once more.

One member of the group, wearing a waxed leather mask that bore a striking resemblance to a Raven stepped forward, leading the way through the fog. The other two, their masks similarly portraying the likeness of an Owl and Vulture respectively, fell in behind Raven, keeping close to avoid losing line of sight through the misty darkness. Through the mist and darkness, a multihued undulation rippled through the air around them, causing them to fall still as it passed. When the vision ended, the group exchanged glances, then proceeded onwards.

Raven led the trio through a circuitous route, pausing at times, scurrying forward at others. Owl and Vulture matched pace, watching nothing but Raven’s lithe form, trusting their compatriot’s judgement implicitly. As they neared the entrance, Raven slowed, looking around in apparently confusion. The other two drew close, and a rapid exchange of flashing fingers ensued. After the quick exchange, Owl and Vulture both nodded slowly to Raven. Raven, after a beat, dipped their own head in a quick, decisive nod, then turned and began to lead on. The Raven mask, though, turned side to side as the group moved, clearly restless. This was too easy.

The trio slipped through the gate without attracting a second glance from the guards, Raven’s guidance timed perfectly to avoid the roving patrols. Once inside the jail, Raven guided the group from cell to cell, pausing to listen at each door. The town had either very few criminals, or very lenient laws, for most of the cells lay empty… though the ingrained stink of urine and rot would be familiar to any who had spent a term in the more traditional dungeons of an Imperial town.

As they passed betwixt another pair of empty cells, Raven came to a sudden halt and slowly turned towards an unremarkable section of wall. It bore no torch or ornamentation… but also lacked any sign of dust or wear. Owl and Vulture took up positions on either side, keeping watch for any signs of movement, but the three were alone. Raven caught Owl’s eye and nodded at the section of wall, and Owl returned the gesture. Stepping forward, Owl muttered a curt phrase and gestured at the door. So stealthy had the group been that even this mutter seemed to echo off the walls, but soon faded. The section of wall vibrated slightly, then started to tilt towards the group. Vulture nimbly caught it before the false panel could crash to the ground, and eased it down silently.

The area behind the false wall was anything but empty. Directly before them was a small room with a pair of extinguished torches, one to each side of the entry, and the strong smell of fresh cooked meat. The trio entered carefully, and Vulture attempted to refit the panel behind them, though from this side it could not be made a seamless fit. Owl’s fingers flashed, and Vulture abandoned their efforts to reconvene with the others.

The three stood before a heavily reinforced iron door. A large opening in the middle of the door was covered by heavy iron bars, but they in no way restricted vision onto the adjacent room, which was well lit. The group looked at each other, and at a nod, they began to chant quietly. As their chants continued on, a low, unnatural fog began to fill the room, pouring through the opening into the chamber beyond.

Vulture clasped hands with Owl and Raven, then muttered once more. The trio disappeared and reappeared beyond the locked door. In a muffled voice, one of them quietly states, “Where the fog goes, so mayest we.” The trio bowed their heads in reverence as a startled cry issued from across the room. A young lady, hair askew and tangled in fine linens, struggled to sit up and dash the hair from her face, clearly having just been awoken. The room was larger than the one before, and contained a number of items not commonly seen behind barred doors. A fine mahogany desk sat in the middle of the space, with an ornate candelabra atop it, providing light. Next to the candelabra, the remains of a rich meal of roasted rolton and candied dates could be seen, as well as a small collection of books for leisure reading. Off to one side, the young lady sat on a thick down sleeping pad topped with plush pillows.

The young lady struggled to her feet and cried out, “What is the meaning of this? Who are you? Socius told me that-“ She was stopped mid-sentence by the back of Owl’s hand cracking harshly across her face. A husky, not-quite-feminine voice issued forth from the masked figure. “We care not what Socius wants or might have told you. We are not He, nor are we beholden to him.”

The young lady rubbed at her jaw, a bruise already forming where the masked figure had struck her, and stepped back onto the sleeping pad, up against the wall. “This is outrageous! I will call for the guards, so help me, I will! Just… Just leave! Now!” Vulture whispered a sibilant word, and the candelabra dimmed as an unnatural darkness descended on the room. The young lady stared at the figures in growing terror. The one in the center wore grey robes cinched tightly about its waist, gender or race impossible to discern beneath its heavy folds and the glassy eyed, waxen Owl mask looking out from the hooded cowl. A toweringly tall Raven figure stood to the right of the Owl, one hand gloved, the other bare and shockingly pale with delicate, feminine features and a myriad of crisscrossed scars visible on the flesh. To the left of Owl stood a diminutive Vulture-masked figure, cold orbs of glass where eyes should be regarding her, head slightly tilted.

She began to tremble, opening her mouth to cry out for help... to scream for the guards... to demand answers... but she couldn't quite find her breath. The three figures just continued to regard her, motionless, as the unnatural darkness took hold of the room, combining with the fog to create an unnatural scene.

The figures turned to each other, and the young lady caught the flash of fingers, but could not even guess at what was happening. Why were they here? What did they want? Where were the guards?!

The tall Raven stepped gracefully towards her and she tried to back away, but the cold wall prevented her from doing more than pressing herself further against it. Suddenly with firm, unbelievably strong arms, she was hoisted into the air in some macabre embrace. Raven whispered softly into her ear, "Shhh now child, do not struggle. Only give the answers we seek... and they won't hurt us." The young lady stared in confusion and incredulity, unsteadily whispering "… Us?" before the Raven forcefully turned her around, holding her close as she felt something slithering over her legs. She glanced down to see a collection of musk thistle brambles, thorny and strong, begin to entangle her and the figure both. She winced in pain and struggled, trying in vain to break free of the Raven’s grip. "What is going on? What are you- ow!- What are you doing?! What do you WANT?? Let go of me!" The Raven just shivered as the thorns pierced both of their bodies, the tall figure’s breath catching along with her own.

Owl had taken a seat behind the fine desk, Vulture standing to one side. Raven grabbed both of the young lady's wrists and extended her arms to lay flat against the wood of the desk, hand in hand as the vines continued to wind their way up both of their arms, linking them together in a parody of a loving embrace. Owl steepled gloved hands and watched, silently, as Vulture took out a roll of soft suede cloth from its robes and opened it up before them on the desk. The lady's eyes widened and she struggled further as she noticed the myriad of sharp, surgical instruments.

""You...you can't do this! Socius promised I would not be harmed! He-" She choked back her next words as Vulture withdrew a long, narrow steel filet knife from the tool roll. A brief, deliberate pause was followed by a quick slash, leaving a long red line across the woman's forearm that extended into Raven's robed sleeve. The lady screamed, and the Raven hissed in twinned agony. "Please, just...just stop!" she wept, terrified.

Owl calmly replied, "As I said, we are not with Socius, nor do we care what promises he has made to you. We are here, he is not. I dislike repeating myself. You will answer our questions. If you do, you will not be harmed. If you do not, well...." As Owl trailed off, Vulture lashed out and sliced further up on the same arm with even more force. Blood flowed freely, Raven's and the lady’s mixing together and soaking into the wood of the desk as she screamed and struggled. The wounds received by Raven had not lessened the strength of the grip, and Vulture had taken care not to cut the vines. After the weeping died down, Owl nodded and in a cold, professional tone, spoke:

"Question one: Where is Duvainiel, and why did you release her?"

The lady stared at the Owl, blinking once as confusion seemed to overcome her pain. “I didn’t release her! Is that what this is all about? She was there just the other day when the guards brought her food and water! Are you with the Scion? Tell him that I have no idea what happened to Duvainiel!"

Owl sighed in exasperation and Vulture paused, putting down the cloth they had been using to clean the fillet knife. The lady began to plead "No, no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" Owl cut her off, a hint of exasperation in his tone. "Once again, I am forced to repeat myself. We are not with Socius or this Scion, or anyone else." Another scream punctuated his reply, as a thin and sharp scalpel cut her unwounded arm deeply, from wrist to elbow, blood welling up. Raven tsked in disappointment "Not so deep now..." a soothing, feminine voice offered from under the mask "…she’ll give voice to nothing but her death rattle soon, at this rate." Vulture regarded Raven in silence, then gripped Ilsola's arm. The wound vanished from her flesh, while speckles of blood began to spread along Vulture's sleeve, accompanied by a sharp, hissing intake of breath muffled only somewhat by the mask. Only then, after the silent assertion and demonstration, did Vulture reorient on the prisoner.

The lady cried "Please...please! I didn't release her! I have the only key to that cell, and it hasn’t left my sight since I locked her in there! See? Here it is, around my neck!" She wiggled, trying to draw attention to the metal object dangling from a string holding what is indeed a key. Owl nodded once.

"Question two: Where is Penre? Why does Socius want to speak to Penre so badly? Do you know where he might be found?"

The lady looked perplexed for a moment, then hesitantly answered, “Isn’t Penre that merchant that was helping Nazhor? We had him questioned by Drehod, and it seemed like he had more information to divulge, but Drehod was killed before he could draw the information out. As to where he is now, I have no idea. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t been seen in town since that night.” Vulture and Owl exchanged glances. More finger movement. Finally, Owl turned back to the lady.

"Very good. See? If you answer honestly and swiftly, we can avoid any pain."

Behind her, Raven let out a small little sigh and whispered "And I’ll know if you lie, Ilsola. We share so much now.”

"Question three:" Owl continued, either not hearing Raven or pretending not to. "What others would possibly know of the whereabouts of Duhviarel or Penre? Where can they be found? How can we contact them?"

Ilsola took a long, ragged breath, trying to think, to remain calm. “It’s… Duvainiel, as I mentioned. And I have no idea where she might be. We were led to believe she had no one left in her life, which is why she threw in with Nazhor. Without knowing who might have assisted her in breaking out of her cell, there’s no way to tell her whereabouts. With regards to Penre, he’s always been a shadowy one, as I understand it. He’s been seen in River’s Rest and in Wehnimer’s Landing in the past, but we caught him skulking around the jail here in Mist Harbor.”

As Ilsola finished her answer, a muffled shout came from beyond her cell door. "We've a breach! Alarm! Alarm!"

Owl sighed, wearily. Vulture and Owl conferred with more finger speech as the sound of booted feet could be heard from beyond the door. A gruff voice called out, "Someone get the Key!" A reply came immediately, "Socius has it!" "Well, get an axe you fool!"

"Apologies," Owl drawled "...but we will have to hurry this along. Terribly impolite, I know." He nodded to Vulture, who withdrew a sharp razor blade and cut Ilsola swiftly across the face. She screamed in pain and protested, "But I've answered everything you've asked! Please! Stop!"

Owl ignored her pleas as the sound of an axe thunking into the wood could be heard from beyond the cell.

"Question four! No delaying now, or we'll be forced to take you someplace a bit more...comfortable...but a bit more permanent to finish this up. It would be most...unpleasant. Socius: What do you know of him? Why his animosity towards you? Is there anything from his past you are aware of he would not wish discovered?"

Ilsola screamed wildly "Help! Help! Please!"

Owl simply repeated his question, only now each word was punctuated by Vulture stabbing into Ilsola's fleshy bits with the business end of the wickedly sharp scalpel. "What. Do. You. Know. Of. Socius. Tell me now!"

Sobbing, Ilsola replied: "Socius… is a dangerous man. He was a dangerous boy, even. I’ve heard the stories. The Scion, they called him. Ruthless and cold as ice, on his best day. Never cruel or unreasonable… simply unrestrained by any sort of an internal moral code that would keep others from going to the lengths he did to get what he wanted. His animosity? As I said, he’s ruthless. This island is his home, and he feels I’ve done an inadequate job at protecting it. There’s no telling what he might do."

Fingers flashed. The axe continued to descend on the heavily barred door. More yelling could be heard from outside, calling for more axes. "Question five: What do you know of the layout/disposition of Socius's guards, what are their capabilities? Where are they quartered? Where does he sleep, what are his personal defenses and capabilities?"

Having abandoned struggling and dissembling, Ilsola replied between gasping sobs "Socius has the resources of his family, which are hard to… enumerate. He’s got wealth, access, influence, and the backing of the Five Families. Add to that he knows the island better than most. I have no knowledge of where he sleeps, but I thought someone told me he was staying with Cendadric? As far as Socius’ capabilities… well, those knives of his have always been his hallmark. He’s deadly with them, and he’s a very capable magic-user on top of that.”

"Question six: Who, or what, are the five families? Why does Socius seem to be ignorant of them?"

Ilsola stared, unable to believe the figure’s words. “There’s no reason Socius could be ignorant of them, he’s PART of them! The five merchants who were on the council before they took a step back and appointed me administrator have each extended their influence, and their lineage, and I answer to them. Socius is part of that line. If he’s telling you otherwise, then he’s lying.” At this, even through the mask and the robes muting any body language, Owl seemed taken aback.

"Interesting...these five families...do they have a rank structure? Where does he fall within that structure? Do they have many agents on the isle? What about in other towns and cities? Are they a monolothic group, or are they factional? Which faction does Socius work for? Are there factions that oppose him?"

Gasping, still in pain, Ilsola pleaded "Slow...slow down. I'll, try. Try to answer you..." Shuddering, doing her best to compose herself, she continued: "The Five Families run everything. They take the majority of the profits made from this island, and they directly employ all of the merchants in town. They maintain the town, and the island. Aside from that, all I know is that they have vast reach. They have spread far from this island, and have influence in other parts of the world. My understanding is that they all share information and resources, while each goes after their own 'pet projects'. Socius is the son of the head of one of the families, and I believe it's the same one as Cendadric."

A loud crack sounded from the door as it began to give way. Ilsola started to struggle once more, yelling and screaming, and Vulture sighed audibly, beginning to pack up the 'tools', cleaning them swiftly and professionally and putting each back in their proper place.

Raven cood "Time to fly, my feathered friends." Owl retorted, "One more question. Untangle and release her from your vines, but if she lies or does not answer, grab her and we will take her with us, consequences be damned." Owl turned to Ilsola and assured her, "We can protect you, if you cooperate..."

Ilsola laughed bitterly. “From the Scion?! There are few friends you could have that could stand against him, though… I confess I’d like to see you try it.” Fingers flashed and a consensus was reached.

"Final question: What else should we know? What information do you have that one might deem important that we have not asked about yet?"

Ilsola wailed in despair "Who ARE You? How can I even ANSWER that?! Without knowing what you’re looking for, how could I be expected to understand what’s important to you? Do you want money? It’s there, but you’d be stealing from the Five Families, which is surer than the hangman’s noose to get you killed. Do you want to kill Socius? That’s nearly as deadly an undertaking. I don’t know what you WANT from me!”

Owl made a theatrical twirling motion with his hands as he stood up, and Vulture moved forward to catch the wounded, weak Ilsola as Raven released her from their intimate, horrific embrace. A shudder ran over Ilsola as her wounds vanished from her body, a euphoric flood of relief overcoming her...at the same time as Vulture staggered and gasped. Owl snapped "Control yourself, Sister!" and Vulture stared back a moment, regarding the Owl masked figure much more like a hawk, at least in Ilsola's mind. Suddenly, the tension between the two eased as Vulture stood straighter and nodded at Owl, motioning for them to come closer. Owl complied, and the trio joined hands as Vulture chanted a mystical phrase. The door finally gave way, armed and angry guards spilling into the cell the heartbeat after the three vanished along with the fog and strange darkness.

(OOC NOTE: Thanks to Quilic and Vulture and Raven's players for helping edit/write this. It was fun working with all of them. Any mistakes are mine.)

Originally posted on the official forums by FUDGEHJ on 3/7/2019 at 9:48 PM.

Ilsola's Break In (3/7/2019)

  • Adventures arrive for the scheduled questioning of Ilsola to find Gardenia Commons filled with a clamor of guards trying to find Socius. They inform those gathered that there has been a break in at Ilsola's holding cell and they have been unable to locate Socius and confirm that the administrator is alright.
  • A guard leads the group to the lockup and then to a hidden cell used only by Socius. There they find a reinforced iron door and a magical mirror that allows them to peer into the cell itself where they see Ilsola.
  • Noticing activity on the other side of the door, Ilsola begins to cry for help. She informs the adventurers that someone else had been in there and harmed her while asking questions. The guard is questioned about how to gain access through the door, but the gaurd informs them that only Socius has access.
  • After many creative attempts to thwart the door, the guard asks if anyone has an item that belongs to Socius. Ilsola remembers that he had left one of his knives behind with her. She slides the knife under the door but only guard is able to pick it up, explaining that it is warded to everyone but "Socius' people". The knife is then used to unlatch the door.
  • Once inside Ilsola begins to tell everyone about three birds who had just been there and hurt her, and to answer questions. In the middle of her explaining who the Five Families are another ripple is seen in the air and Ilsola suddenly is confused by the questions, claiming she has never heard of any five families. The adventurers also realize that the door has locked behind them.
  • At this point several adventurers begin seeing visions. Avawren and Nehor are rendered motionless while words are carved into their faces, leaving the last phrase behind across their cheeks and nose. The wounds are unable to be healed by an Empath.
  • A confused guard opens the door, allowing everyone to finally leave and after some discussion, it's decided to lead Ilsola somewhere more comfortable, and get her drink, before more intense questioning can continue.
  • Ilsola is poisoned shortly after arrival and taken home by a family guard.

GM Cast: Ilsola

Adventurers: Apsaras, Lady Avawren, Ceyrin, Lord Crime, Lady Darcena, Deyoni, Lord Dracnoir, Lady Elysia, Great Lord Jahadeem, Khobra, Kynilir, Scribe Louaryne, Maylan, Naamit, Great Lord Nazarr, Great Lord Nehor, Relic Hunter Ordim, Ponclast,

Player-submitted Log

Night Watch (3/11/2019)

Vignette: Night Watch
The guard looked around surreptitiously before turning the door's handle. The darkness combined with the mist did a reasonably good job of camouflaging late-night dwellers, but the guard knew that with his bulk, he had to be extra cautious. Especially this night, at this place.

The door swung inward, and the guard stepped into the darkened entryway of the cottage, gently pushing the door shut behind him. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, then made his way towards the back room, where flickering shadows on the wall revealed the presence of a candle. As the guard stepped into the room, he looked to the candle perched atop the bedside table. Then at the bed itself, and it's occupant.

Administrator Ilsola Tuulikki lay, pale as a ghost, under a pile of blankets, shivering. Her eyes were wild, flickering in every direction, but completely unfocused. Her mouth moved occasionally, but no sounds were emitted. She hadn't spoken for four days, according to-

"What news?" came an even-toned voice from behind the guard. The guard closed his eyes and waited for his pulse to quiet. The man unnerved him greatly, and had an unnatural ability to be completely still. The guard finally turned to regard the man in the chair.

"No sign of the krolvin, Socius. They came in waves, but retreated shortly after you sent in the reinforcements."

"And the drunkard?"

"No sign of him either. He may be holed up somewhere, but I daresay he'll be better at hiding than we will at finding him."

Socius gave no kind of visible reaction to that statement, but the silence that followed it quickly became oppressive. After a long minute, the guard cleared his throat.

"Of course, we'll keep looking. I'm sure we'll find him."

Socius nodded once, then turned his green-eyed gaze back to the form in the bed. The guard quickly took the hint and hurried out of the room, letting himself back out into the night.

When the man had gone, and the only sound in the room was the wind outside, Socius opened his mouth to speak, then paused. He began again, but again no words would come. Finally, he managed it, his voice a pale echo of his normal, controlled demeanor.

"I'm sorry, Ilsola. So, so sorry. I thought it was safe. That I had it all under control. I knew you were struggling with materials for the cottage, and that was something I could actually DO. I knew you were comfortable, and so I left. And while I did... they came for you. I thank whatever deities might be listening that the adventurers found you, and got you out of there... even if it comes to pass that one of them was responsible for putting you into this state. I failed you, Ilsola, and I promise you I will make it right. Here, I can protect you. Here, you are safe. Rest easy, Administrator. The Scion guards your bed until you arise from it. Then... we will fix things."

His voice, so vulnerable and unsure at the beginning of the statement, had hardened back to cold steel by the end. Socius sat, focused entirely on the bed, and did not speak again.

Originally posted on the official forums by GameMaster Quilic on 3/11/2019 at 1:46 PM.

See Also