And so we mourned, each in our own way. And yet work still had to be done.
Captain Carsen was at a loss, but struggling to fill his brother’s shoes. The militia had its duties, and the investigation into his brother’s murder was paramount. Back then it was an all-consuming task that no one wanted. Secrets needed to be uncovered, but as with all secrets there was the prevalent danger of uncovering too much and causing a structural collapse. And cave-ins do not care whether you are innocent or guilty, part of the affair or not.
Fireday, 17th of Gozrun 4715
We head back to the lower quarter, to the establishment of Morninghawlk’s fine steel. The shop that made Rorin’s replacement hopekife. The shop is tiny, with only a single anvil. The shop’s nick-name “clamour”, is apt. The master smith is one Sarah Morninghawlk. She’s a prodigiously large half-orc who’s known to swear as much as swing her hammer. She’s bald and stands over 6’ tall. Dressed in rough work clothes, she does not seem happy to see 5 dwarves from Blackhammer hall clustered in her shop. I can’t blame her. Dwarves visiting blacksmiths come either with condemnation or contempt. This time, we had neither.
Tiva Blackhammer takes the lead, asking about Rorin’s Hopeknife. Sarah admits she gave it to Urnsel, a ½ orc newcomer, to be polished. The task was given sometime late last week. She is startled that we have Rorin’s Hopeknife, and identifies it as her work. The blade is about 3/4’s done, and the polishing is not quite finished. Sarah hasn’t seen Urnsel this morning. Sarah describes Urnsel as being a head shorter than Sarah, and rather scrawny. Sarah is reluctant to give us Urnsel’s chit number, but eventually she digs around to try and find it.
Seamus detects a few magic auras in the shop: he detects that Sarah’s earring is magical, an axe on the wall, and there’s something under the table. He mutters this to Stinna, as he finds that Sarah has any magical items in her shop deeply suspicious.
Other than being defensive and quite protective of Urnsel, we think Sarah is being as honest and open with us, or at least as honest as she can be.
We head across the square to the Sanctuary. The sun is casting long shadows over the palisades. The large white-washed building dominates the north side of the square. The tin roof reflects the light, giving the place a glow. Their holy symbol is a large sword, pointing down. This is the temple of Iomede, where all are welcome.
We enter into a long nave where an acolyte greets us. We ask to speak with Katrezra. The acolyte leaves and, when he returns a woman and a man are following him. Neither resemble Katrezra (who we know to be a ½ orc). We learn Katrezra is not in residence at the moment, as he left after morning services. They guide us into the rectory and takes us to a small sitting room.
Brantos Calderon, the man and Tyari Varvatos, introduce themselves. Brantos spoke with Katrezra last, but do not suggest to us where we could look to find the seer. They ask after the funeral and offer condolences to us on Rorin’s passing.
We converse as soon as we leave; their behavior suggests something is amiss, but whether it is simple concern for the seer or something more we cannot decide. Standing near the fire-tower, Tiva and Stinna notice a scuffle in a nearby alley. A taller human grabs a shorter one by the waist and pulls the shorter one backwards while covering her mouth.
Sif gets there first, but Torva realizes that it’s an ambush when she turns the corner behind the building to see more men coming up behind us. The attacker lets his “victim” go and draws a sword as the “victim” steps easily to one side and draws free her own blade. As we watch this display, one comes from behind and strikes my poltroon hard; but the armour deflects it with relative ease. Sif is not so lucky. One attacker scores a hit when her back is turned.
The strike enrages Sif, and with a mighty roar she draws forth her giant axe, striking the human woman and killing her instantly. Torva whips up her ancestral chain and it strikes one of the ambushers in the back of the head. The hammer blow stuns but does not fell him. Tiva, almost equally enraged as Sif, draws her blade and lets it bite into an ambusher’s shoulder, causing him to fall over. I threatened my attacker. He glances around at his fallen foes and tries to leg it, tripping over his own feet as he goes.
Just then the watch’s guard dogs start barking. The runner turns tail and starts to run back towards us, away from the dogs. The beasts have muzzles covered in foam and mad red eyes as they run at us, barking and growling with malice.
Torva’s ancestral chain manages to trip the runner anew, but the dogs do not care; they lunge towards the runner with glee. They are as enraged as I have ever seen them. We gather together to face down the dogs, who immediately attack the runner.
Torva, Sif and I have no choice. We step forward and attack the dogs to try and defend the fallen. We are, after all militiamen. The runner tries to kip-up, but only manages to flail about. He stays barely out of the dog’s hungry maws, but can’t quite get away. In the end of a mad scramble, a dog gets hold of him and pulls him back off his feet, while tearing at his ankle.
As citizens are drawn to the noise, Tiva peels off to try and keep them clear. The rest of us work on stopping the dogs. Torva frees the runner from the dog’s bite, and then provides what first aid and cover that she can.
The owner of the dogs comes out and demands to know what’s going on. One dog is still alive, but unconscious. His owner is livid and claims that his dogs wouldn’t hurt anyone. Seamus checks their kennel and finds strips of jerky strewn about everywhere.
The priests of Iomede, drawn by the noise, are able to stabilize two of the would-be assassins.
Torva lays all the bodies out and examines the weapons. She identifies that there’s a poison on their blades. Each attacker has light crossbows and quivers of bolts. Seamus detects a glow of magic in a flask on each waste. The bottles have an aura of conjuration (healing potions). They have other little vials among their possessions as well. We confiscate the lot. They each have a small sack of tools, a yellow gemstone, and a small handful of gold.
Torva decides we gather everything together and take it away on a cart. Tiva tries to deal with the crowd. What were curious and outraged individuals this morning are now quiet and muttering. Whether they are for or against us is the least of my concern. The dog-master is beside himself in grief and anger; alternating between shouting at me for killing his dogs, and mourning their loss. That the dogs were drugged seems obvious to him, but the explanation for their actions provides no comfort. He carries the unconscious dog back to the cells and starts clearing out the jerky strips.
Seamus notices a glint of metal on the edge of the palisade beyond the alleyway. It’s a grappling hook and the rope leads over to the other side of the wall. At the base of the palisade, some 12 feet down, is a ditch full of spikes. No weight seems to have sunk the grappling hook into place; and he doubts it was used. This then would have been their escape route. He unhooks the grapple and coils the rope, taking it away.
We head up to the Long Hall. Things are still in a bit of disarray, but Chief Defender Halgra of the Black Blades, Master of Stores Kessen Plumb, Agrit Blackhammer, and Patrol Leader Carsin are in a meeting. Carsten comes out when he learns we have arrived.
Torva tells our tale with Tiva interjecting important things like facts and details.
The prisoners are stripped down to their small clothes and the survivors are placed in the storerooms below the Long Hall. The rooms are not quite jail cells, but their doors are stout and their windows small and barred. The boxes that fill the room contain lesser goods (blankets, replacement parts, the odd plate or cup) and so provide neither weapon nor leverage.
We meet with the councillors. Over half their number are missing, but those that are here are interested in our tale. Torva tells them everything. Carsen doesn’t want to stand with us but Tiva stops him from stepping away. He is still uncomfortable with holding his late brother’s rank. The grief is plain in his face.
Carsen followed up on the people staying at the Ramblehouse, which included Urnsel. Her arrival coincided with that of the labourers in the graffiti room, and Urnsel’s room was next door. Melira is the name of someone who stayed at the Ramblehouse as of about a week ago. There’s no sign that either Urnsel or Melira have left the city.
By comparing the list from the Ramblehouse’s registry and Carsen’s list of chit number, we learn the assassins checked in a couple of days after the ½ orcs, but they were at the Ramblehouse until last night.
Halgra wants us to try and track down the remaining names (Urnsel and Melira). She gives Carsen the edict to calling in out-of-duty watchmen. They talk for a bit, and seem to come to a consensus. Agrit and Plumb leave while Halgra tells us to report to her tomorrow morning in the Iron hall. If we have no news we should find her by mid-day.
Tiva, Plumb, Carsen, and Sif go down to the basement to talk to the prisoners.
They list their point of origin as Freedom town and their occupation as labourer. They list their names as Malon and Valon. Tiva charms them and she learns that Malon’s real name is Graff. He was hired as regular. Graff knew only to look for a bunch dwarves leaving the Sanctuary. His partner’s real name is Leggly. Graff knows nothing about his employer (“Griffon”). Griffin told Graff and Leggly to leave the Ramblehouse last night. They knew about the ½ orcs there last week, but they were grateful when the ½ orcs checked out. Today Griffon sent a ½ orc to talk to them. Graff never learned the ½ orcs name. So the ½ orc must have seen us go into the Sanctuary before fetching Graff and Leggy.
Torva, Seamus and I go to visit the Apothecary and general store manager: Gorkus and Jess Meeson.
It takes some negotiations before we can convince Gorkus to let us in as it is the middle of the night. Jess is gruff and unhappy at our presence at this unseemly hour. Seamus asks him to identify the jerky and the toxin on the assassin’s blade. The store is fairly large but cluttered with goods. He leads us to the back, where he has his workshop. Once there, Gorkus starts trying to answer our questions.
He identifies the substance as “blot rot”. Orcs call it “blood fire”. It makes your blood boil. Orcs use it before battle, but it drives you senseless with rage. It gets in the blood, if you use too much of it, and then it doesn’t go away. Anyone handling this inappropriately could get bleeder’s disease. Seems the assassins were carrying both the poison and an anti-venom.
The last time he sold oil of Tagget was a month ago. He sold it to the Sanctuary as they had to set someone’s arm. The oil takes only a minute or so to take effect. Diluting the oil would reduce the potency. Seamus and Gorkus discuss several points regarding application and care of use.
When Torva asks about anyone buying supplies, Gorkus remembers someone bought raw supplies about a few weeks ago. It was rare that someone was buying raw materials, which is why Gorkus remembered him so well. The stranger said his name was Ackrin (and we collect the chit-number). He was a tall human with brown hair. He seemed a little skinny to Jess.
After questioning the prisoner, Tiva goes to talk to Carsten. After they toast to Rorin; they go back to Blackhammer Hall.
The group meets up at Black Hammer Hall. Akrin’s chit number matched one of the ½ orcs on our list. It would seem that Griffin might be Ackrin although we have reports that one is a ½ orc or a human. Either it is one person or Ackrin is changing chits with someone.
We still need to find Katrezra, Arkin (Griffin?), Urnsel, and Melira. We don’t know how these people are connected; but we’re seeing the start of a pattern of something larger.
Rorin’s body lays on one of the anvils in the Iron works. The funeral pyre should be sometime tomorrow night. Between now and then is a period of mourning, when most dwarves take down their braids and stop wearing jewellery. Years later, I remember Tiva’s face more clearly than the scene of Rorin’s visitation. It was like watching a light go out, and not being sure it would come back.
Starday, 18th of Gozrun 4715
We break our fast in the mess hall of Blackhammer hall. Most of the dwarves around us are in mourning. And yet, breakfast does not change. That slop is eternal, served every morning the exact same way. Still, Thori doesn’t mind. We gear up and head out. The morning is overcast and there’s a chill in the air, and frost on the ground.
Local gossip says that Omast Frum has fallen off the wagon, and that he was on a bender last night at the Killing Ground. The militia got involved when the Barkeep tried to cut Omast off, and Omast strenuously disagreed.
We check in at the Bank of Aabadar and learn that Rorin had left nothing to be printed. We learn Rorin was in 4-5 days ago when he asked about renting the press in the coming weeks. Seems he might have had another play in the works.
As we head into the low quarter, there’s a small gathering between the tower and the Sanctuary. There are already a few militia people on the edge of the crowd. About 15’ off the ground someone has painted a white cross (or perhaps a sword) on the cliff face. No one seems to know what the symbol represents.
Locals find another cross on the Barter stones, just outside of town. Even the Iomedians aren’t sure if they are swords or not. Someone mentions that a farmer’s boy disappeared a day or two ago. His father was making a fuss to try and get someone to pay attention to him. The boy’s name was Ofthen. Apparently the father took his the case to the Long hall, but was having trouble being heard.