Wiki Update: Collision Course
I try to reward people for taking extensive notes, because I like having that kind of data on the game, and can’t always take my own. The idea was that I would then take those notes and transform them into some kind of narrative that was interesting to read, but then grad school and assignments and other things got in the way. This is the first installment of what was to be though, and I have some things in place that will, with their permission, get some things up about subsequent sessions on the wiki in beautiful prose. For a look at the rest of the wiki, you can visit http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/ilderantales.
Some said that Satu Mare was the cultural centre of Temir, the gem of the Lankaeran sea. Home of the Cathedral of the Ivory Throne, it was renowned for its fine marketplaces and inns, its many shrines, and the races and entertainments provided at its coliseum. A great grey fortress, the Rhiast, loomed over the harbour, the home of the lords of the city who exerted their power over both land and sea. Deeper in the city but no less great in height rose the spires of the cathedral, stretching up into the heavens. On this night though, just a month after the end of the brutal war between the cities on the sea and Scything Crag, our story leads us neither into the Rhiast or the cathedral, but down into the city itself, where a few select people struggle to conduct their affairs under the cover of darkness.
Everything was going smoothly. The alley was just the right kind of shady for this sort of deal. Hopefully Nix would be on time and bring the sample he’d promised. Terran Brandy was a somewhat illicit commodity sought after by spellcasters for its ability to increase their connection to the forces of the arcane for short bursts. The Spellbinders’ Ring wanted to explore its uses as a battle drug. Ever the loyal member, Kalaquinn Vance had come to Satu Mare to act as their agent in the matter. He spent the day enjoying the sights of the city, which had been spared the ravages of the war. He bought a few spells in the Market of Silks, lost a bit of money on a race in the coliseum, and even managed to avoid hearing a single sermon. The gods were someone else’s concern. His was the TSR, himself, and little else. Besides, it was the first vacation he’d had in three years, since before the war began and he took the field with his unit, the Conjuror’s Contingent. In battle he’d earned many honours, clearing ambushes with sustained fire and summoned creatures, but he didn’t miss it. He preferred making a few gold in situations where people weren’t liable to shoot at him. Besides, he’d always wondered about the taste of the brandy.
His fingers tapped against his purse in anticipation as the hour grew late, until finally a candle in the dark indicated the approach of Nix, his contact. A thin, weaselly fellow, with greasy hair and crooked teeth, Nix slipped through the alley as though it were home, presenting the small vial of the sample with a silent smile. His product was good, and he knew it. This was going to be a profitable night for everyone.
Everything was going smoothly. She’d just gotten paid and was halfway into the subsequent bender with little to no interruptions. It just wasn’t the world that it used to be. Where once her sword was in demand, now she had to step over five barely blooded bravos just to get a job to provide beer money. Gone were the days of glory, of blood and honour, where she fought beside real soldiers and actually made a difference. Her laughter rang through the quiet market as she realized she was probably the only person who missed the war. Alexandra Dean, the best at what she does, but only does one thing. That’s what they said when they thought she couldn’t hear. The rattle of her rapier could quiet the whispers, but not without making them true. Spitting out a mouthful of cheap wine, she began the hour-long stagger back to her room, as per usual. She’d stay like this for three or four days, then clean up and hire out to the next merchant who wanted to look important with a bodyguard, or an extra guard on the road to Radcerinaburis, the safest road in Temir. A fellow drunken traveler murmured an apology as he brushed against her, staggering away in the opposite direction. In a flash of paranoia, she checked her belt, to find her coinpurse missing.
Growling, she whirled and gave chase, hurtling through the market after the thief, who fled in turn. She drew her sword as they slammed through a stall, waking the merchant who slept there. Part of her relished the challenge of the chase. A lantern tipped, setting some silks ablaze and casting her smile in a devilish light. As the thief darted into an alleyway, she could hear the whistles and calls of the guards in hot pursuit of both of them. They wouldn’t catch this one, she thought. She’d collect her own justice from him. In that moment, nothing else mattered.
Everything was going smoothly. The magus-craftsman Sabir would have his wares taken to the tribes of the Five Lakes by the carts of House Desh’aa. The only pity was that she wouldn’t be accompanying them. Satu Mare was a wonderful place, full of colour and intrigue, but she’d grown bored, especially of the watchful eye and constant proselytizing of her aunt Maratha. She was and would always be a priestess of Gulnur, Guardian of the Road, and hold He and His father Serik high in her heart, as the Ashkel do. Her aunt, herself a highly placed cleric of the Ivory Throne, would never understand. She had no roots in the wild, no heart for adventure. Alarael had been raised with her mother among the tribes of the Ashkel, the elves exiled from Scything Crag so many years ago. She had walked the whispering paths and had the marks to prove it, though she didn’t wear them openly anymore. It was better to be a Lirasi in the city, though in truth she barely knew what it meant. When her time with her mother was finished, she stayed with her father in the east, and he told stories of his youth in Liras Tiniel, the old homeland. His tales of thick forests and relaxed living were empty words to her. She’d vowed not to while away the centuries in obscurity, but to live them to the fullest. During the day she was a scholar, a visiting priestess collecting stories of other saints and religions. But in the moonlight she crept out, brokered deals, and made friends in parts of town which would have scandalized her aunt.
With this particular arrangement completed, she sought out a bar for a glass of wine and some quiet celebration. It was hours until dawn, and no one would be looking for her. Pausing in the moonlight, she retrieved a thick book from her satchel, a history of the Nirmala, the seafaring minotaurs of the south. Licking a finger, she thumbed through it as she walked, caught up in the vibrant illuminations and oblivious to her surroundings.
Then a lot of things happened at once.
The would be thief, with Alexandra hot on his heels, collided with Nix, making Kalaquinn’s simple sniff of the vial into a snort that pulled half the dose into his sinuses. Immediately after, Alexandra slammed into him with brutal force, sending him tumbling to the ground. Nix was the first to recover and, hearing the guards in pursuit of whomever had set the fire in the market, collected all the pouches in the vicinity, making off in the darkness with both Kalaquinn and Alexandra’s funds, an unexpected but profitable turn of events.The thief rose quickly as well, hurrying through the maze of alleys, only noticing blocks away that he had lost his prize. Arcane syllables began to slip from Kalaquinn’s lips as he struggled to his feet, drunk on the power of even a taste of the brandy, and ready to conjure a hellborn centipede to punish the woman who had interrupted his meeting. However, a punch to the throat from Alexandra ended that particular debacle before it began, and she angrily hissed “Guards! Run!”
Meanwhile, Alarael, utterly unaware of the frantic chase which was rapidly approaching, wandered along the boardwalk of the harbour. Pausing to make a note in a margin, she was bowled over by Kalaquinn and Alexandra, the force of their impact sending the book spiraling into the air as the three of them were knocked over the edge of the dock, to land in the sea. Now, Kalaquinn and Alarael had never been strong swimmers, and being surprised and out of breath didn’t do them any favours. As they gasped and choked, Alexandra sighed, turning back and dragging them to shore with long, powerful strokes. Scooping up her book from the waterline, Alarael squared off with the other two, waving its soggy pages in their faces. “My book!”
“My money!” Alexandra exclaimed.
“My deal!” Kalaquinn responded, conjuring a light to get a better look at his antagonists. He was revealed as a tall, lanky human in soaking wet robes, short black hair sticking out in all directions. His icy blue eyes peered at the pair of women as he raised his gloved hand.
“This book was priceless,” Alarael interjected. She was a slim elf clad in finery, long honey blonde hair tangled with seaweed and harbour debris.
“You know what was priceless? My money!” Alexandra was the only armed one, a rapier and dagger at her hip. Sobered by her dunking, the lithe brunette warrior stood half a head above Alarael, but still a few inches shorter than the wiry Kalaquinn.
“I can fix the book, but you can’t fix my deal.” Kalaquinn’s eyes crackled with arcane power as the part of him still drunk on the brandy yearned to unleash his abilities and incinerate them.
Alarael’s eyebrow arched sharply. “I bet you I can. And I can get her money back, too.” Her lips curved into a tiny smile, with just a hint of smugness. This was her town. “But first, who are you people?”
His thoughts of fiery doom vanished upon the realization that she might be able to help him. Manners, not fireballs, were required here. “My name is Kalaquinn Vance, though you may call me Kal. I’m a mage with the Therengrad Spellbinders’ Ring.”
Alexandra rolled her eyes at his formality, but spoke up. “I’m Alexandra. I hit people.”
“And I’m Alarael, a priestess of Gulnur and a scholar. Now that we’ve met, maybe we can help each other. What was this deal about?”
Swallowing his reluctance, Kal explained, giving her the minimum amount of information. It wasn’t illegal, but it was controlled. Nix had a supply, and his organization wanted it. As he spoke, they walked up the steps to the boardwalk, Alexandra trailing a few steps behind. Wizards. Scholars. She was falling in with a bad crowd.
With the explanation over, Alarael pointed at a bench on the boardwalk. “Why don’t the two of you stay there, and I’ll get in touch with some people I know to find this Nix fellow. It shouldn’t be too long. Just…Nevermind. Stay there.” Alexandra took a seat reluctantly, and Kal sat on the other end, watching her from the corner of his eye as Alarael vanished into the lonely alleyways of the docks.
An hour passed in stony silence. Finally, Kal spoke. “So…Hitting people…How’s that going for you?”
“Just fine. Want to see?”
“No. You do realize she’s probably not coming back?”
“She’d better. If she doesn’t, I’ll have to get angry. She wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Alarael slipped through out of the shadows. “You’re probably right. But I found your man.” It hadn’t taken long. There were only a few people with access to that quantity of semi-illicit materiel. She’d called in a few favours to find out where he was staying, but had an inkling that it would be worth it. Gulnur was the guardian of travelers, and she’d been travelling in a manner when they…Met her. It was kismet, in a way.
Cracking a smile, Kal rose to his feet. “If you’ll tell me, I’ll fix your book, and we can all go our separate ways.” The swordswoman’s money was of little concern to him. She had crashed into him, after all.
Alarael shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. Why don’t we go there together and make sure that your deal goes through. Some people may need to be hit, and I did find him for you, so you can cut each of us in for twenty percent of whatever you’re getting, which will compensate Alexandra for her loss as well.”
As though by some transmutation spell, Kal’s smile turned into a frown. It’s not that it wasn’t a good deal, it just wasn’t his deal. “Twenty percent, but you split it.”
“Fifteen each.” There it was again, that tiny smile. It had a sinister innocence to it.
Alexandra stayed quiet, watching the woman negotiate on her behalf. She needed the money, and wasn’t about to complain, but it was still just muscle work. There wasn’t any glory in it.
“Fine. Fifteen. Each.” Every word hurt him a bit, but it was the best deal he was going to get. She’d seemed so nice before…
“Excellent. Follow me, please.”
She led them to the Crimson Veil, a notoriously shady brothel, its windows decorated with red silks. They found Nix in the common room, lounging in the arms of three scantily clad ladies of the evening, obviously celebrating his success. Eyes glazed over, he puffed on a hookah, bolting upright when his lazy glance settled on Kalaquinn. Ushering away the ladies, the three erstwhile business partners cornered Nix, who began to stammer excuses. “N-now Kal, I was gonna come and find you, just as soon as things quieted down. Nobody got hurt, it’s fine…” His voice trailed off as he stared over Kal’s shoulder at Alexandra, who had drawn her dagger and was spinning it in her palm. “There’s no need for any unpleasantness.”
Kal’s temper flared, and he grabbed the collar of Nix’s tunic. “You stole my money and left me with nothing!” The air around him began to heat up as he started to utter a spell which would reduce Nix to little more than ash. He was stopped by a soft hand atop his own, however.
Smiling nicely, Alarael interceded. “There’s no need for that. We can work something out. Nix, I think Kal needs you to compensate him for his loss, and apologize.”
Nix shivered in fear, feeling the heat. “Y-yeah, I can do that. No need for this.”
“So what you’ll do for him is give him half again the amount you promised, at three-quarters the price. Not only will it calm down Kal, but it will mean that you’re the first person the TSR will come to if they want more. That could be quite lucrative.”
His eyes bulged, eyebrows shooting up. “Half! I can’t—” Alexandra stepped in to press her knife against his chest— “I mean yeah, I can do half. I’ll give you back a quarter of the money, and that other purse I found, too.” Reaching for his bag, he extracted Alexandra’s purse, and she snatched it away from him. “Mine!” Returning the some of the gold Kal had paid, he sighed in relief as they backed off.
Outside, Kal counted out their money, a smile on his face. For once, things had worked out. “Where are you two bound now? I have some business in Malkara, northwest of here…”
A playful smile crossed Alarael’s face. “I could be convinced to participate in some more business. I’ve been looking for a reason to leave town anyway.” Turning to Alexandra, she prodded her. “And we could probably use someone with your unique skillset.”
Alexandra shrugged. “I guess. It beats guarding caravans. Can we at least talk about it over drinks?”
“Of course.” Kal pointed to a nearby bar, which was slightly unworthy of the title of dive called the Unwashed Sparrow. “After you.” As they began to walk, Kal stepped between them, slipping an arm over each of their shoulders. “Ladies, I believe this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Turning to him with a grim smile, Alexandra nodded. “I’ve always wanted to be friends with a one-armed wizard.”
Kal removed his hands. Everything was going smoothly.