Chapter 1: Entering Khazan, Part 6   Leave a comment

Turn 6:  Perry

“Look in the crystal,” commanded the fat woman.  “What a curious image!  What is that lizard?  I have never seen one like that before.”

 Perry looked at the glass and had a fleeting image of a horned toad glaring up at him out of it.  Then Madame Zolgah dropped a black handkerchief over the scrying crystal.  She moved her hands in what looked like a swimming gesture above the two candleflames and they suddenly burned blue and a strange thick aroma filled the air.
“Give me some gold,” croaked the witch.  “The more you give me, the more I will show you.  I could tell you what you want for no charge–yes I see the question in your mind about your father–but even a fat old witch like me must eat and pay for her own wine.  How much is this knowledge worth to you, lad?
Perry thought to himself that knowledge seldom proves to be worth less than the price. He licked his lips in anticipation. Madame Zolgah seemed the real deal – he was on the right track already! Even as a specialist mage himself, the novice conjuror was impressed by the old woman’s aura of khremm-laden wisdom. He slipped a deft hand into a pocket and laid 10 gold pieces out on the table in front of Madame Z.  He leaned back in his chair, agog to see and hear all that she could tell him…
The witch reached out to him with both hands.  With one hand she scooped his gold off the table and it disappeared into a pocket in her dress.  The other hand cupped his.  Her flesh was surprisingly cold and strong.  “Think of what you want to know,” she told him.  “Verbalize it and say it out loud.  When I remove the cover from the scrying crystal, move your hand to touch the base of the sphere very lightly.  Try to focus.  If your thoughts are jumbled, the images will be jumbled.  I will be able to see them with you, and I may able to tell you more.
Turn 6:  Edurin
Edurin sighed a heavy sigh of relief. Bowing politely to the young citizen (someone he inwardly dubbed the Sneak), he calmly sheathed his dirk and once again secured the blade with its leather wrap (for the curious, a bit of leather meant to keep the blade in place should a Sonan Ie sailor fall overboard or otherwise find himself upside down). “Well said, young man, saving the life of a stranger is brave act.” Keeping aware of the crowd’s reactions, Edurin turned and headed toward the Watch Building. Even though his heart hammered from the passion of battle. Only the guilty run away. He would have to work harder to keep eyes open for future problems.Entering the building, he was surprised to find his original goal within. What was her name? Her long hair was very pretty, and her temperment showed at the gate intrigued him. Flirty, fiesty, attractive, and daring were all good qualities.Business first, he wanted to report the incident with his two muggers, but the minotaur clearly dominated the situation. Instead, Edurin removed his pack and spear and patiently waited for the right moment. He listened carefully to everyone’s words and examined their body language for veracity and earnestness.When the sargent asked for his business, Edurin replied, “Is it customary for muggers to greet people just inside the main gates to Khazan?”
To his surprise the sargent and a few of the guards inside the station house burst out laughing.  “Why, yes it is,” said the sargent.  “What better time to separate a newcomer from his cash than before he has a chance to spend it?  Do you wish to enter a complaint?  I warn you.  It won’t do any good, but if it makes you feel any better . . .” the sargent shrugged.
Edurin looked around and saw quite a crowd in the Watch station.  Two Minotaurs were stamping and bellowing at each other in the Bovine tongue off on one side.  Two Dwarves were standing near the door.  There was also a northern barbarian, a stout wizard, two women, one of them an elf, the woman who had caught his eye talking to an older man in one of the gaol cells, the sargent, a skeleton man emerging from a back room, and three other guards, two of them uruks, and one a human.

He waited for a reply before responding, “I did not expect crime to be so readily present. What inn might you recommend for humble travelers seeking to spend time in the city?”

Turn 6: Weslynn
       Weslynn grasped her new friend’s hand firmly, heartened by her willingness to follow her into the lair of a vampire, and then led her to the main chamber of the Watch Station, where she found a free flat surface to write a brief letter to her brother and uncle, at the family estate, explaining the events that occurred to her at the inn a days walk from here, from the night of her ensorcelment or drugging to the morning’s finds, and her intent to buy river passage in pursuit if she can find friends with coin in the Market, else she would raise the coin herself somehow.  She ended the letter with a postscript instructing whoever received this letter in the family to see to it the bearer is paid 10 gold for its safe and timely delivery.  After writing the letter and sealing it as best she can without her wax and signet, she asked to speak to the Watch Captain.
     “The Captain doesn’t need to see your letter,” said the sargent, and by the way, “there’s a 2 silverpiece fee for the use of pen and paper.  The Watch is not responsible for delivering correspondence.  NOT. OUR. JOB.”  Her emphatic diction made it clear Weslynn would get no help with that in this station.  “You can find a messenger service in the Market.  If you want to talk to the Captain, get in line.  He’s just finishing with that stout wizard.  If you hurry, you can catch him before he goes out on the morning patrol.  He’s already a little behind schedule because of all the questions you citizens are asking him.  He won’t be happy, so be sure what you ask is important doesn’t waste his time.”
     Lumlas made a sour face behind the sargent’s back.  Weslynn repressed the grin she felt rising.  (Kevin, phrase what you want to ask the captain as a conversation.  Don’t speak for him.  Just say your piece up to the first real question.  Remember, the Captain doesn’t know about Weslynn–the sargent has been handling everything, and the Skeleton Man.)
“Okay, first off I have my own ink, quill, and papyrus to write with.  I was just using a flat surface.  I am going to tell the Watch Captain about what is going on, so after I get eaten by whatever Ghargs are, or staked by my companions, or whatever happens to me first, and my family comes looking, the Watch Captain cannot claim honestly to not know of the situation.  Then I am going to ask if he has anyone who might want to help.”
“Good luck with that,” said the sargent unsympathetically.
When the captain had finished with his other business, Weslynn stepped forward, bowing slightly in respect from the waist, and introduced herself.
“I am Weslynn Janoum, of the Janoum Vintner Company.  I have come to inform you that three days ago, an entire wagonload of our best wine, on route to Khazen, was stolen at the Sleepy Badger inn, a days walk outside your gates.  I was…mesmerized, drugged, or charmed, along with, I believe, my guards and the inn staff.  I was left in a stupor for three days before I recovered, to find that the thief, who I never got a name from, had worked his ill upon the staff, enough that they found no strangeness in my lying abed senseless for three days, nor to resist for find strange someone besides myself and my guards – who seem to have gone completely missing – riding off from the secure stabling there for merchant cargo.  I felt the thief would make for Khazan to sell the wine before I recovered, I pursued here when I regained consciousness.”
“I found, from your guard records here, that a man falsely claiming to be Kagleo Janoum – there is no one by that name in our family – arrived here days ago, with a wagon full of our wine, and claimed to be headed for Castle Greybat.  Your guard said he would most likely have hired a riverboat yesterday to travel upriver.   I am now headed to the merchant square to seek friends who might be in town who might be able to assist with raising the funds to for me to pursue.  If I do not find myself lucky with meeting sympathetic merchant ears then I will do whatever work I can to either raise funds or barter crewing for passage upriver.  No matter what I must do, I will pursue this thief.
“I will be couriering a letter home to my family informing them of the matter, but should the letter not arrive, or if they do not hear from me again and come looking, I want you to be informed, before my family beings brining complaints or seeking after me.”
“I advise you not to go to Castle Greybat, Citizen Janoum.  “You will throw your life away, and likely be converted into a bloodsucking vampire yourself.  The Watch will not aid you in such a foolish undertaking, and if your family comes looking for you, they will be told that you were warned and advised against this foolish course of action.  There is no law at Castle Greybat save the will of Count Arakul, and to walk into it demanding justice would be the height of folly.”
“Secondly, I am here to ask if there are any you know who might be willing to aid me.  Your skeleton clerk has warned me off pursuing due to a Vampire and Ghargs that are said to be in this castle I am bound for.  Though I have by chance met a friend – Lumias”, and she gestured now to her friend, “who has offered her aid, I feel we are, if word of monsters is true, headed into something difficult enough that it is prudent to ask for aid along the way.”
“Will you aid me, Sir?”
“I cannot aid you beyond the walls of Khazan,” said Grynosk.  “I advise you not to go, and if you do, take companions with you.  A fighting man like Wulf would be a big help to you.’  The Minotaur looked over at the barbarian.  “Yes, I see you listening in on this.  If you accompany this woman to Castle Greybat and manage to bring her back alive, I guarantee you a place in the guard right here with this post.”
“Now, if you will all excuse me.  I need to go on patrol.  The sargent or Hargbuk can answer any other questions.”
Turn 6:  Wulf
“Wulf acknowledged that he understood, noting the place and time. Then he turned his attention to listening to the other groups to see what was going on. In the back of his mind he wondered where he would find a place to stay in with his limited monetary resources.  Maybe he could find work in an Inn or Tavern with his experience as a barkeep or bouncer.
Noting that the Dwarves were speaking in their own  tongue which he did not understand, he focussed on what the two pretty ladies were saying, while trying not to give the impression he was eavesdropping.”
He was still hanging around when the door opened and an old comrade stomped into the watch station. It was Gronk the Minotaur.
Turn 6:  Mensa
“I’m Mensa. Is that a real minotaur? Mensa, son of Samuel, of Tent-In-the-Rock. Wow, that’s a natty beard! I hope mine can get that long when I get older. Do you do your own braiding? Tent-in-the-Rock, up north, I think. Past the two little waters. Where’s a good place to eat around here? I hate cooking my own kills, don’t you? Does this metal seem funny to you?” (tapping the bars of the door).
Silvertongue listened to Mensa ramble.  “You are correct,  young one.  The metal is not the best, but it is adequate for the prisoners we get here.  Welcome to Khazan.  I believe you would enjoy the food served at Griselda’s.  She knows just how to flavor the real cave moss in her stews.  Griselda has a booth just inside the gates of Thrindol.  That is the Dwarf city that lies under the northern parts of Khazan.  I am surprised that  you did not enter that way.  If I give you a pass, do  you think  you could pay attention to members of the Watch and other Persons of Authority (literally Golden Ones)?
After another exchange or two, Silvertongue stepped away and went over to speak to Captain Grynosk.  “This ia a young Dwarf named Mensa from the ancient ben Samuel clan.  I believe he meant no harm at the Gate this mornng.  He is single-minded, and was thinking about food.  He is what we call a Simple One, and he has the Protection of Gristlegrim.  We should let him go, and perhaps mark him so that other Watchmen don’t bring him in again for some trivial offense.”
“Then do it,” said Grynosk.  “I hope we don’t see him again, because if I do, I’ll enroll him in the Death Horde.”
Silvertongue went back to the cell, opened it up, and led Mensa out.  He handed Mensa a cheap copper bracelet.  “Wear this, and the guard will not bother you.”  The bracelet was a plain band of copper with a raised halbard blade embossed on the top.  Engraved inside were the words “Slave of L.”  “Follow Wolf Street until it reaches the Market.  Go to the northernmost point of the wall, and find the Gates of Thrindol.  The food  you want will be at Griselda’s.”  He pulled Mensa out of his cell, made sure he put the bracelet on his arm, and aimed him at the front door.
Turn 6: Algris Srog
Algris said, “My name is Algris Slog. My brother, also a wizard, came to Khazan seeking magics to help our farm. He did not return–I thought it was due to shame, or a woman, or both. Now I hear of wizard killings: what do you know and how can I help you?”
Grynosk gave him a sympathetic look, if one can get such an expression from a Minotaur.  “Your brother may well be dead.  I cannot say for sure.  Twelve low level wizards have been slain in the city within the last two weeks.  Several of them were drained of blood–it looks like the work of vampires, but we cannot prove it–no marks were found.  The murders were shrouded from all attempts to scry them–high level magic is involved.  The guard is on the watch for anything suspicious.  The robbery experienced by Lady Janoum may be tied into the mystery, but if it is, I cannot say how.  Why would vampires or ghargs want wine?  In any case Greybat Castle is beyond my jurisdiction.”
Algris heard all this with a sinking feeling.  “Ours is not the only farm to have several bad harvests. Were my brother still alive, I’d say it was just paranoia, but someone may be trying to weaken Khazan. Who might know better affairs of the whole city’s supply chain?”
“You should seek out the records keeper at the main Courthouse in the center of town.  If  your brother was found dead, the records will be there.  They may even have the body.  If you wish to speak to someone in authority, you might ask for an appointment with the Dragon Vellashnar’xx.  He is the City Ruler at the moment, and he has the ear of the Goddess.”
Gronk’s bellow about being robbed interrupted the Captain’ speech.
“I think I had better handle this,” said the Captain.  He turned and walked over to see the angry bull.
Turn 6:  Gronk
Gronk trotted up Wolf Street with his eyes on the crossed halbards sign of the Watch Station.  The little not-bull people of the city scattered before him, as was only right and proper.  The place smelled wrong.  Too many people.  Not enough cows.  He reached the watch station and shoved the door open roughly.  Stepping in, he paused a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dimmer light inside.  Then he saw a Bull–like himself, but even bigger and older with a wider horn span.  The herd leader was listening to a hu-man.  Gronk smiled.  This job had been easy.  Now he reached for the pouch where he kept the written message from village elders.  But it wasn’t there.  Nor was his money pouch.  With a rising feeling of anger,  he gnashed his teeth and stamped his feet.
“I HAVE BEEN ROBBED!” he bellowed.
Captain Grynosk walked over and said, “Stop bellowing!  Why have you come to see me?  Do you know what was in the message?”
Gronk also saw his old companion Wulf standing nearby.
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