Aksambul: The Queen Widow

From the Journal of Ser "Brassy" Bronn Gentrose
[a transcription of the ravings of Bronn the Brass Bravo, following a severe blow to the head]

It is not mete for great knights to be mislaid, but mine twilights hath been plagued by grim portensions….

I dreamt I was* _low_*: a sellsword, cutpurse, and beguiler; of low birth and sinking station; seeker of winesinks and high herald of debauchery. A treasonairre. A craven.

These past days’ deeds blur and blend… All is but a dream of swords and fire and flight. I recall great darkness, and then a fire, little more…visions of foes and friends… An old, grim, shadow, dark and all in armour, glowers over all; his visage is familiar and yet…glamoured somehow. I know this shade, and yet know it not at all. I name it foe. But I stand not alone before him…

A shadow darker still, in cloth of black and bearing attic arms whirls and whirrs and wars and speaks of puzzles, speaks of justice, speaks in schemes, and is ever silent; the smell vengeance clouds his wake, foul and rich as nightsoil. A changer of skins juggles coins of fire, and the coins fall from his hands and change to songs, and the songs burn the ears off all who hear, and he changes skins once more and laughs. A creature born of rock and rebellion wrends the earth and just as soon becomes fleshed of fog and is gone; in the light, this one could be a bear, telling by the fur, but he is dwarf, marked by beard and stature; foes tremble at the wrath of him, break , and die. And a fighting man, a would-be knight and noble fellow appears and bleeds and is brave and wise and simple through the darkness and the shouting… this raw diamond wrested redly from a rough frontier- he will acquit his station well in service to our City…._ Gods Save Eternal Askambul!_** Gods save her from this Shade in Armour! My life will ever be her shield! A glory to my house!

My house is proud as it is ancient, though I am but a poor son of the branch most sinister, strong of arms and solemn of words: Through the Thorns…__ The Gentroses have ever been stalwart defenders of His Lordship the Mayor – for centuries. Generations unbroken in their service to the city and it’s ministration. Through the Thorns. Eternal Askambul has certainly seen its share of briar on the road to eternity: dragonflights and necromancer kings; plague and pestilence; hazed bouts with cults among commons and gentry alike; even an incursion by mind flayers from distant planes. When the Gardens of Askambul need pruning, a Gentrose oft as not has served as shears. Brassy Bronn Gentrose, Knight of the Casbah Gardens and the Wayfairer’s Steps, would greet the dawn with blade in hand, alongside my comrades, the noble Knights of the White Glove. Forward to the Front, Fell Comrades! No mere blow to the head will ever lay low Brassy Bronn! On to the breach! Through the Thorns!

Bronn's Note
composed in haste upon departure from Askambul

Three days with these lackadoodle catspaws and it has finally dawned upon me… I have died in prison and been re-embodied as a minor imp, great loser of the natural order, doomed to roam the earth with fools for allies and fiends for foes! I only dreamed I was a bravo bard, beloved by the city! I’ve faced the brink of death as many times as days have passed beyond prison, and still no sign of an opening or mein to recoup what was lost – my tavern, my circle, my… __My Life!_ Hrenn took all and goes on gloating from the shadows, while humble Bronn suffers prisons, fires, and flight. And the watchmen go on watching, spears in hand, readying poor and noble Bronn for the final slaughter. All I’ve ever asked is feather beds and fine distractions, but Amusement takes its wilder forms of late – the clash of sword and spell in allies, mad dashes through treacherous paths, cowls, coffin-nails, and the sights of crossbows. It won’t take long before enough nests have been kicked and all the snakepits wake. A breath of country air is said to cure what it doesn’t kill. My lungs should risk some time apart from the city; Onward now, t see what will befall my brave companions – Brassy Bronn will make a profit of the day, in town or out!

When the Lord Mayor Died
A Recollection of Pavel

“Sure enough, I was in the city when that Lord Mayor from Casbah got killed. I was in that rich feller’s place, you know, Brixx, when we heard them bells start ringing. We ran outside and can you believe it, there were guards were pillgain’. I tried to tell em’ to stop and do their job, but them city folk get a madness when they can get a couple of coins. Brixx and I had to bring em’ down. Wasn’t too much of a fight. "

:"Where was I….oh yeah, So Brixx and I figur’d it’d be a pretty tough place to be in prison right about now, considering half of the city was on fire and lootin’ eachother. Brixx and I hadn’t learned about that Lord Mayor’s killin’ at this time. All we knew is that the streets was on fire. We headed through the sewers underneath the Ramparts, and ended up comin’ out by the canal by the Casbha. Ohhh Dag, you sure would have hated it. It smelled like the city, but was all smokey on the account of the whole damned canal being on fire. It was hell, boy I tell you what.

When we came out of that tunnel, we ran into some more city guard causin’ trouble on the streets. Brixx wanted to leave, but you know me, heh, I had a hankering to fight. So we made short work of the these city folks, except for this big fellah. I couldn’t beat em, so I pushed him in to the river and high tailed it to the coast. Brixx and I finally found a boat, and rowed out to Regart Island.

I know you ain’t ever been in Regard Island, but Knut, I wouldn’t recommend it. We got there at the right time, as those fellers I was tellin’ you about yesterday, Bronn that dragonling, Dest that devilfolk, and Thurik that Dwarf fella, they was on their way out. Brixx and I helped take down some thugs, but those boys had most of the fightin’ done anyways. So we headed to Maryara first, to camp out in those mountains, to try to breath a little.

We set out the next day, lookin’ to get back to the villages. Thats when we tried goin’ through Fort Herad, but apparently the Lord Mayor was killed, and the whole city was goin’ beserk. They wouldn’t let us leave, and arrested us. I tried giving them the Salmon of Peace…but they didn’t accept. These Cityfolk sure can be rude sometimes. They threw us in some cells, but as I was tryin’ to tell one of the soldiers that we Kindfolk also died in the battle against the orcs, that Brixx just clocked one silly and Bronn opened the door with some kind of magic. The others scared the guards off with some magic, but we had to hit one of the boys a few times. Sure feel bad about it, but we had to get out of there.

When we got to home, it sure was good to see the old lady. We had ourselves one hell of a supper, had Kojak over, and read about some of those letters that Erden left behind. The other fellas were talking about a tawnteen but It all kind of confused me. All I remember is that there was a whole lot of fancy pants relics from another time, and I thought Grim Marga would know. So we saw Marga, she’s still makin’ that good gumbo, and she thought that there was somethin’ funny about this part of the swamp up north, and that we should check it out. Might of had somethin’ to do with that tawnteen.

So we went up north, and we got attacked by some assassin and a druid. Can you believe it, a druid attackin’ us in our own swamps? Sure enough, we done stumbled on some kind of boat that had all these masts stickin’ out from the sides. Ain’t ever seen nothin’ like it. We went in side and found this metal thing. It was about, ohhhh 4 foot tall and 3 foot wide. I touched it, and I am tellin you, swear on my mother’s grave, feathers started poppin’ out of my arm, and I wen’t a little crazy. Ended up attackin’ the other fellers, who tried to restrain me, bless their hearts, but they couldn’t. I started to see visions of Erden and things started screamin’ at me. It sure was scary. So I hit th canister with my axe, but it made everything worse…took me damn near the entire day to stop seein’ feathers and talkin’ like a fool. Shiit, I couldn’t even say a damn sentence. Just came out like a bunch of mush.

But I better get back to my old lady. Ever since that day, I’ve taken a likin’ to hunting. Now we got too much dear meat to get rid of, and the damned kids can’t eat it fast enough. hah, ah well. Guess that just means they been a little lazy during this harvest. Better work them harder. See you around Dag, Knut. Tell your Ma’s I said hello, and that I’ll be visitin’ them in a week or two. Gotta get rid of this deer meat somehow."

Thurik's Journal — Session 2
Intruders in the night. Unease. A pact. Death in the square.

Intruders in the night. Pavel and Dest took the worst of it. I too have gained new scars.

Something is wrong, I have felt it since the attack in the Casbah Square. The natural order is amok, as though the moons themselves have forgotten their orbits and begun a perverse dance through the night. Chaos is Askambul’s natural state, but the magic I witnessed in the square— the young races frozen to time—it is something else entirely. What depraved ritual could cause such foul harbingers? Death should be for the weak, culling flaws to strengthen the herd. That is the song of life, death, and time. Any force with the power and intent to will dissonance into the song is my enemy. I must forge bonds with this group of adventurers in hopes that we can find and defeat the source of this evil and set the natural order to rights.

Bells tolled as we broke our fast at daybreak. Alfred left and returned, bringing tidings of a mysterious pact from his past. A tontine, of which Alfred is the last member. Our group, my new clan, has decided to investigate the square where Alfred’s compatriot fell victim to the foul magic. To the sewers we went, all but poor Pavel who had been overtaken by ill humors, to better stay undetected from unwanted attention.

Yet our covert intentions were for naught. As we made our way through the sewer under the Palace, an explosion blossomed through the cavernous system of tunnels. The enormity of the blast set my ears to ringing, then silence. I had gone deaf, temporarily I hoped. Upon investigating the blast, we were set upon by guards who surely thought we were the culprits. We had no choice but to engage them in combat. I called forth my wild form, transmuting to the shape of a brown bear to incapacitate our foes. I was pleased by the deftness at which our group performed in battle. All but Brix, whose fingers seemed to have changed to wood and dropped his implements at every opportunity of attack. I had seen Brix perform admirably in combat, indeed he is well known for it, yet here he was helpless as a newborn babe.

In the pitch of the battle, Minotaurs, possibly thieves who orchestrated the blast, descended from the ceiling. Brix pursued them down the tunnels as the rest of the group remained to regroup. Dest, that disgusting little creature I find myself calling a brother, looted the corpses. Under different circumstances, I would have cursed this act of depravity. Death is to be met with solemnity, not opportunism. Yet, we find ourselves in need of resources, both of the martial and the material sort. I looked the other way.

We continued on our way, encountering only some filthy sewer-dwelling goblins and a troupe of guards. Dest proved his worth here, using deception and spell-trickery to avoid more bloodshed. When we reached the square, we found it closed off from above. A more pedestrian approach was needed. Upon reaching the gates, we found the area still under investigation from the previous day’s attack. A tall, brooding figure led the investigation team. He was identified as Inspector Kimble. Why would he be here instead of Maddox? Better to avoid detection rather than facing an unknown force.

Seeking a stealthy approach, I again transmuted, this time into a cloud of gas. Hubris, pure foolish pride to think this disguise was adequate. Kimble, recognizing the shimmer in the air, raised the alarm. Showing a flair for the scatalogical, Dest attempted to provide cover for my gaseous form by passing gas himself. Instead, he shat himself. Kimble was not amused, nor was he fooled. In a last ditch effort to remain undetected, and changed form again, this time to that of an owl. Spying the corpse of Alfred’s comrade, I flew to him and searched for any thing of importance. Documents, Sealed around his neck. But, no sooner than I plucked them from the corpse (Dest must be rubbing off) I found myself cornered by guards. With Bronn and Dest nowhere to be seen, I was naked, desperate. Again in my corporeal form, it was all I could do to dash for the exit of the square. I made it halfway before Kimble turned his full attention to me and unleashed a spear. No spell could have been enough to protect me from its terrible impact. I lay there, broken, meditating on death, I would become one of countless names in the, beautiful, sweet litany, the song of life and death.

Instead, I wake here, a dank cell, not dead yet. I am with my clansmen, save for Brix, and all is not yet lost. We hold steady in our resolve. There are deeds that need doing.

Brix Journal 2
Brix's terrible horrible no good very bad day.

Woke to alarm roaring through manor. Alford must have been up all night reinforcing defenses. Still managed to serve breakfast to guests. The clamour didn’t stir Pavel. Should have been more careful serving spirits. Remember to tell Alford. He begged off morning with a burp and groan. Left him to Alford.

Bless Alford. Door was for him anyway. Ominous news. Felt rested but unfocused. Too many wheels turning. Regretting my young blood. Sometimes forget Alford’s age, life before us, several lifetimes before me. A tontine. Great old cache. The gambit of a younger man, not the sort of thing I’d expect of Alford. Suspect he has a great deal of thinking to do. Read face, didn’t ask. Vermin Tiefling practically soiled himself in an effort to swallow greed. Relics of past rarely bring but gnashing teeth. Glint Holderheck, penultimate tontine member, dead in the Casbah. Too many wheels, only one to turn. New allies useful for now.

Sewers obvious path. No objections. Took Palace district route, less likely to meet unsavory sewer dwellers. A clear mistake. Bad luck. Blast in a junction. Probably someone important above. Intercepted a guard response. Private. Why not city guard? Follow up. Thought us responsible. Had to put them down along with young noble leading. Unfortunate. More bad luck. Hopefully no one important. Probable corrupt spawn of some family suckling Lord Mayor’s teat, but no time to follow up. Posse of Minotaur thugs appeared from their newly blasted hole. Thieves. Clearly organized. A bold or stupid place to do thieving. Didn’t stick around to fight. Six avoided the scrum and fled. Gave chase. Lucky to have Thorik, showed great courage. Loathsome Dest showed some skill. Thankful but wary. Bronn’s activities elude mind’s grasp.

Tracked thieves into Palisades. Never split up. Seemed determined to reach destination. Taitor feet betrayed me. Caught tracking. All stopped to intercept. Thieves seemed distracted; hurried; not looking to fight. Lucky to escape and stay on their tail. Can’t focus. So many missteps in one day. Master would beat black for so much carelessness. The minotaurs made to exit in Palisades. Surprising. Counted to ten and followed. Nearly ran into Jamahe Gordesh himself. Let me stay out of sight. Trustworthy, but not sure if good or bad fortune. Watch managed to wrangle thieves. In custody. Not comfortable with what passes for law getting any useful information there. Gordesh promises best effort. Follow up.

Arrived Casbah by rooftop. Been seen enough. Reached perch in time to see others bite off more than can chew. More than a pride of lions can chew. First sight Bronn struck down by fire. Detective Kimble more than seems. Why Maddox not here? Why Kimble on this case? Follow up. Spotted by guards and fled before capture. Live to fight another day.

Bronn last seen: unknown condition. Possible deceased.
Thorik last seen: struck down by spear. Possible deceased.
Dest last seen: pleading with others to retreat. Probable capture, possible deceased.
Follow up.

Dest Files 002
Everyone Loves Sewer Levels

I knew we couldn’t trust that insane son of the dog of many mothers. We were all awoken by an alarm tripped by a delivery boy, carrying news of great fortune for his manservant. Instead of investigating this, he pressed that we travel back to the scene of the crime. Through the sewers, even. Apparently we couldn’t risk some of the most non-descript people I’ve met in the city being noticed on the streets. Sheriff Shit seems wealthy beyond measure, he could have arranged a vangaurd. Seven Hells, he could have arranged for wizards to port us there. Instead he chooses to dredge through the undercurrent, through piss and shit and brigands. And everyone agrees to this. And in the face of brigands, he chose to abandon us.

What an asshole.

I won’t complain about the encounter beneath the palatial estates. We were lucky to be where we were, when we were. The guards were but children, and the leader of the brigands kindly delivered us a small fortune, thanks to yours truly. Brix ran off as we were wrapping up, chasing after some worthless no-name thugs…. I kept an eye on him as best I could throughout that fracas. I didn’t see him land a single blow. Wouldn’t put it past him to be a part of all of this.

Same for Pavel. I thought him a simpleton, and I didn’t think much of his illness this morning. It was obvious from last night that he isn’t able to hold his liquor. And yet, here I sit, bound in chains. while he remains free…

The courtyard was not a good place to go. We went there searching for hints regarding Alfred’s treasure and the attack last night. After the brigands, we passed by dwarven guards and goblin workers without incident. But the courtyard was another matter. Guarded at all entrances, I did what i could to get the rest of the group in without incident. Suffice to say, Duke Gordo won’t be around until i can find some appropriate fine pants of his size.

It wasn’t worth the cost of the pants. Thurik and Bronn seem to be true to their stated intentions thusfar, but it wasn’t enough. Our various deceptions eventually failed, and they chose to fight the guard instead of flee. And I chose to keep an escape route open for them instead of fleeing myself. And by the time I did decide to flee… it was too late.

The commanding officer of those guards was not what he seemed. I didn’t detect anything coming off of him, but that didn’t matter. I saw him flying through the air, wielding a great sword in one hand and shooting great balls of fire out of the other. No common half-elf lieutenant is capable of that.

None of that matters though. This entire operation is bust. I’ve had enough time to rest, and I’ve noticed guards making regular rounds. We’re in a standard jail. Foolish of them to put me here. Soon enough, I’ll be far away from all of this. And good riddance.

Still though… I did see Thurik find a document pouch which seemed to be of importance. And I want that platinum from the Minotaur back. We’ll see what happens.

Brix Journal
Festival of Lilies

This filthy city is ready to burst. Kindfolk don’t know any better than to hang from the strings of their corrupt masters. Patrolled Casbah. Might could find someone to squeeze for information on which soups Hrell’s been fingering. Looks more like he found an elf to finger instead. Note: get information on Queen of Lillies. Most likely waste of time. Nothing but time.

Surprised by such a brazen attack. Someone slipping. Don’t know who. Shouldn’t be so rash; quick to intervene. Put down three Heirocrux Puritans. That’s what Maddox called them. Follow up. Can trust Maddox but Maddox wasn’t there. Note: find out why the watch took so long to respond. Had to dirty hands. Show Hrell I was watching. Don’t want to interfere with the running of the ship. Just sink. Only young races harmed: several dead. Old races frozen. Hrell nowhere to be seen in chaos.

Several assisted in putting down the attack:

Pavel: Human. Seems simple. Strong, New to the city so probably honest, good in a fight.
Bronn the Climber: Dragonborn (brass). Information said imprisoned. Follow-up. Heart in the right place, fingers in the wrong pockets.
Thurick: Dwarf. Raised Underdark, little else known. Watch close. Druid, probably safe Good in a fight.
Duke Gurdo: Flabby whimpering sleaze. Not much in the fight. Turned out to be a tiefling goes by Dest Plound. Follow up. Caught up or covering for own activities?

Brought all back to house. Followed by Maddox. Remember to cover footsteps better next time. All came inside. Thought best to keep close. Tried to hide discomfort. Lucky to have Alford. Too much talking, not enough learning. With all the guests bedded down, thought I could keep an eye on things. Mistake, blindsided in the night. Maddox attacked in streets. Guests attacked in beds. Manor compromised. How? No alarms sounded. Gold masks. Drow. Follow-up. Dest uncovered note “Kill Maddox. Kill Interlopers.” Someone watching. Who? Never seen this seal before. Follow-up. Too many wheels turning.

Dest Files 001
Festival of Lillies

I’m not exactly certain what happened at the festival, but I am certain that whatever it was has entirely fucked over our chances of intercepting the Delshtan family Coldsteel shipment. First, Salf Delshtan was killed by whatever blast went off before the portal opened, and his knockoff spidersilk robes did little to protect him or the documents he carried within them. Second, I was attacked by the Casbah’s very own shit sheriff during the aftermath (after being stabbed in the ass by some sniveling gnome, mind you), and forced to join his merry troupe of do-gooders in order to maintain my disguise. Third, the new girdle I got from Nowhere isn’t worth its weight in wyrm droppings, and busted in full view of everyone. The jig is up, as far as Duke Gordo goes with this group. I’ll need to have words with Nowhere next time I see her… if there is a next time. Not looking forward to that.

Currently staying the night at the home of Sheriff Shit himself. The rooms don’t smell as bad as he does, but near it. Also mixed up with a halfwit from hay-ville, a dwarf who just crawled out from under a rock, and a dragonkin who I think would fall over if I looked at him hard enough. Ain’t life grand.

Oh, and assassins are being sent after us as well. The lot of us were assaulted over night by Drow thugs wearing golden masks. Almost didn’t make it out of that one, the rest of the group is lucky I was here to make sure we pulled through. If it weren’t for the fact that I seem to be on someone’s hit list, I’d be out of here already. Not that the security here is great (obviously after tonight), but considering my circumstances, I’d prefer to surround myself with people who seem to be willing to die for any fool’s errand than those I actually care about.

Speaking of security, and the lack thereof, perhaps I should make use of this night. One of those constructs carried a fancy looking wand of explosion that he could recharge with simple hand motions and common reagents, on the fly. I could make good use of such a thing.

A Memorable Night at the Festival
A Recollection of Pavel

“It was not but my first day in the city, while trying to find Ryssa when it all happened. I was just lookin’ to see the elf lady that won the crown, but there was a big blast. A strange one, at that. The old races were frozen in place, just like they were statues, while the young races all got burnt up by what one of the other fellers I met called a fireball. Out of nowhere, the air seemed like it split in two, and out came three things that looked like armor, but shot little bolts, and one had this pipe that would explode things. Another one of the fellers I met said it might have been something called a Piztal. I aint never heard of it before, and I don’t want to see one again. “
“Anyways, these things came out and I helped out some city folk kill the things. When we finally killed em’, they just balled up into a little bundle of metal and disintegrated. Damned strange times, I swear. It was here that I met a feller by the name of Brix, a bit squirrely but an honest guy – good hand shake, who was actually a count. Boy if I sure was embarrassed to have gone nearly a day callin’ him by his name, and not by lord. Sure enough, there was another lord there , but I found out he was just lyin’, and went by the name of Dest Plound. I know Willard by the River says things about them devil folk all the time, but he seemed all right to me. I’m not sure if Willard has all his tools in the shed, anyways. I met a dwarf, too. This one practiced the old ways, kind of like old Knut’s first wife used to be. His name was Thuskin. Can you believe it though? I met a dragonling! His name was Bronn the Climber, but I never saw him climb nothin’.
“After we killed all them armor things, we didn’t want to have a problem with the city guard. I guess some of these fellers didn’t seem to think that the guard were ok, and we hightailed it to Brixs’ home. I tell you what, those Gardens sure are somethin’ to see. Dag, I sure has hell know you’d like it. Them city girls were pretty good lookin’. Anyways, we headed up to Brix’s home, and we ended up running into Inspector Maddox. Remember that funny little gnome? He wanted to know all about the fight, but we didn’t know too much once we put our heads together. One of the fellers knew someone with a group of actors or somethin’, I guess they’re called the White Masks. The city is a weird place, right?
“Brix offered us some food and drink, and allowed us to stay in his house. I ain’t never seen a house that big, and lordy was it somethin’. I wasn’t too keen on their food though, they drank this sweet blue stuff. Got me pretty drunk though. Anyways, when we were sleeping, we got attacked by some daggummed drow. Can you believe it? A few thugs came into our rooms and tried to kill me. I didn’t have time, and, I shit you not, I fought off a dagnammed drow in nothin’ but my skivvies. We ended up killin’ about four. One of the fellers found a note on one of them drow, and they said somethin’ about killing Maddox. Maddox came to us around the same time, and he was attacked by the same group. Fearing further violence, Maddox ordered his guard to help protect Brix’s home. It was one hell of a day, I tell ya.
“We coulnd’t tell our head from our ass when it came to that situation. At that time, all we knew was that some people attacked us and one of them was drow, and that these things that killed all those people were using stuff we’ve never heard of, and that they was people we aint never heard of. It was then I knew, this was going to be a crazy trip to the city. However, the rest of that story is gonna have to wait. That wheat aint’ gonna thresh itself. Come on boys, time to work.”

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