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 Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones

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The House of Ainsley
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Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Feb 19, 2014 4:32 pm

Hennbauer immediately turned to face the rising form.  "Raven Murder?  Is that you?  I was beginning to suspect the worst...."

The coarse voice curtailed his words.  "This is the one you seek, da?"

"Indeed," Hennbauer duly answered, bringing the lantern between himself and his erstwhile ally.  "If you please, Raven Murder, allow me to intruduce you to Valdasmir Tetrov and his band...."

"...Oily Tetrov, the Watch calls me, and I yet have the rope burns on my neck to have earned such a name."  The towering and wiry figure emerging fully from the undergrowth came forth into the light to greet Karnoz, his scarred, twisted and one-eyed face warping with a dry smile twisting beneath a broad and battered three-cornered hat and a crushed nose.  "We tried to rob your man Hennbauer here roughly three years ago, but...let us say that his silver tongue and his fancy footwork convinced us to leave him be.  He will not accept my offer to join us, yet the offer still stands."

Hennbauer shrugged.  "Sorry, my friend, but picking through old bones turns up better gold than robbing wagons any day.  Perhaps you could consider joining me instead, eh?"

Tetrov snorted with disgust.  "Bah!  You are a fool to court tomb curses and the hungry dead!  I will remain with my highwaymen, and thanks for aught."

Two half-orcs had sidled up to Tetrov in those moments, one a man, one a woman and both sporting the same letter "R" branded into their foreheads: a mere portion of Trock Reik's penance for those convicted of highway robbery.  The gallows awaited those who committed further robberies, as these two surely had.  The half-orc woman whispered something into Tetrov's ear, and he nodded curtly in reply.

"My friends, perhaps all of us should move down to the river's bank, where we may be less visible from the road and from Trock Reik.  So...Raven Murder, one of the more noted sellswords of Kurvoss.  How did you come into Mister Hennbauer's acquaintence, if I may ask?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:54 am

"Raven is fine." he said flatly. "Just Raven, and I don't consider myself a sellsword. Sellswords fight for gold. I just kill people."

Karnoz saw no reason to hide his position or ideas; not to these people who largely already knew...and didn't have anyone to tell in any case. Still, he was ever wary and observant. Arno and Tetrov had all the advantages and leverage now...and Karnoz didn't like that.

"If there is a place that has a bit of food and warmth, let us go and  I'll tell you everything." Karnoz said. "In exchange, Hennbauer tells me his side and we deal with our mutual betrayer afterwards together. That is still the deal, yes?"

Obviously, keep my eyes and ears open. What is Tetrov, Niri and Bera wearing/ have for weapons?...where are we going? How many goons do I see...and so on.

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:54 am

Tetrov smirked wryly, beckoning them over the bluff to the shore below.  "Sellsword...assassin...what is the difference?  The only difference is whether you are paid to stab someone in the front or in the back, I should think.  They die all the same, eh?"

The half-orc male, whom Karnoz had recognized as Niri Maknanik from the wanted notices, briskly trotted to where Karnoz stood, snatching up the hatchet in mid-stride, wiping the dirt from the bit with his fingers and returning it to its frog.  That done, both half-orcs fell in behind Tetrov as he sauntered downhill through the show.  Two more highwaymen emerged from the scrub and placed themselves behind Karnoz and Hennbauer, goading the two onward in subtle suggestion that the gang's "guests", while welcome, were yet far from trusted.

"If there is a place that has a bit of food and warmth, let us go and I'll tell you everything." Karnoz said. "In exchange, Hennbauer tells me his side and we deal with our mutual betrayer afterwards together. That is still the deal, yes?"

"Truly so," replied Arno duly, snuffing his borrowed lantern with a twist of its wick knob.  "And I expect that we'll have much to exchange indeed."

Tetrov's hat bobbed with his nod of assurance.  "It seems as if you both have come into quite a...predicament, and I have begun to understand why.  I had long heard that Yorgo Pavamoski was a man of means and, shall we say, a very flexible moral code.  So last year I sent three of my fledgelings with a trusted fellow from our gang to peddle a sack laden with the week's harvests to your man Yorgo, who had assured me in good faith that he would meet them on Kurvoss' docks and pay earnestly to gain my future business.  But he must have taken quite a fancy to something in that sack, because the four of my highway-lads came crawling back to me the next morn, badly beaten, near to naked and stripped of all their gold and the sack.  Even their boat was not spared from the taking!  Now, too many scoundrels and gangs in Kurvoss hunger to slash my throat: some to earn a name for themselves, others to fatten their own pockets; they cannot rob wayfarers in the town if I rob them before they reach town, da?  So I cannot show my head in Kurvoss without having it taken off at the neck.  That is why I send my more unknown robbers to fence and pawn my takings, wherever I can find the people for such trades, which have included Mister Hennbauer here: just as my hills and rivers are too dangerous for the gangs and the Thieves Guilds, their streets and alleys are too dangerous for me.  And alas, Yorgo knows that.  So he hides in Kurvoss, safe from me yet knowing that the moment he sets foot beyond the town's boundaries, I shall gladly chain him to a tree and take my sack of gold out of every inch of his skulking, cowardly hide!"

He quickly recovered his temper, seemingly embarrassed with his flare of anger.  "Anyway, we are here.  This is our camp, at least for the while.  I bid you welcome."

Karnoz and Hennbauer plodded out of the snow and onto the soft, damp river soil where two campfires were blazing, sequestered behind a boulder and a tent to hide the flames from the eyes of Trock Reik.  A low, rumbling snore from within assured Karnoz that the shoddy, drab tent was not empty, while highwaymen armed with crossbows, cudgels and oiled blades perched on boulders, behind logs and on the sandbar jutting into the river, keeping sharp eyes alert for any who would approach the robber camp.  Behind the clandestine motley, the two robbers who had followed Tetrov's guests into the camp retreated, one to resume his lookout post behind a dead oak, the other to take up a discarded broom and sweep snow into the fresh footprints, covering the party's tracks.

Leaning over the nearest campfire, Niri bared his long canines and seized the spit with his meaty green hand, turning the skinned hare spit-skewered from one end to the other while casting a displeased eye at the robber idly seated across the boulder in neglect of his meat-tending duties.  Lingering at the other campfire but a stone's toss away, two more canters of the road played an idle game of chucking a dagger at--and occasionally into--a small copper ring laid on the rocky sediment between them, with amused grins and odd guffaws yet bashful, curled feet wary of having their toes nicked by a wayward fling.

On reaching the water's edge where several dinghies bobbed and rolled in the waves, moored or anchored where they could be so affixed, Tetrov mutely thrust out his heavily leathered left fist, waiting.  He waited no longer than a second before a red-tailed hawk lifted from the dead oak and silently glided to him, rippling the air as it foiled his wings and alit on his hawking gauntlet, clamping into the thick bullhide with black talons.  Tetrov rewarded the bird with an approving and almost fatherly stroking of its mane feathers, turning to address his guests again.

"And while we talk, Mister Hennbauer, I would like to know how our...associate Peluko fares.  I just sent two of my people to retrieve what appeared to be his favorite boat, coursing down the river among the floes.  But his boat was overturned, and I expect that we shall not find much but the boat itself.  Given the great haste with which you and your new friend fled Trock Reik, you could say that I am truly intrigued with these...very recent events, and how they may be joined.  What say you, eh?"

Hennbauer huffed at the revelation, fixing Karnoz with a dejected gaze at realizing that what goods had remained on the abandoned boat were by then lost to the river's bed.  Dared Karnoz answer Tetrov's question in Hennbauer's stead?




From what Karnoz can see, Tetrov is clad in belted leather which bristles with a number of blackened metal studs; the exact metal used in the make of his studded leather armor is indiscernable.  Unlike most of his robbers, Tetrov sports a shortbow strung and holstered over one shoulder and a small quiver of arrows lashed to his left thigh, with a scabbarded scimitar clapping at one hip and a well-made, double-bit handaxe frogged at the other.  Two small belt pouches with unknown contents hang from the belt on either side of his buckle, while what seems to be a pack of thieves tools is looped over the belt at his lower back.  His body is shielded against the winter winds by furred boots and a green woolen cloak draped over his left shoulder, and his medallion appears to be some manner of glyph woven from wicker and mistletoe sprigs.  Without the use of magic, Karnoz cannot determine which of Tetrov's possessions may be magically imbued.  But given Tetrov's equipment, demeanor and apparent rapport with his hawk, it would seem that Tetrov's proficiencies lie somewhere between those of a Ranger and those of a Rogue.

The half-orc Niri bears a thrice-banded greatclub across his back, a bearded battleaxe frogged to one hip and three throwing axes frogged to the other.  Buried beneath Niri's woolen garb, Karnoz can spot some manner of dull steel breastplate...unusual armor for any sort of Rogue.  Perhaps, given his armor and the less-than-graceful greatclub, Niri's talents veer somewhere between those of warriors and those of Rogues; a pure Fighter or Barbarian would also be possible, though unlikely, given his occupation.

Bera's thick cloak is entirely black, as is her leather armor beneath it.  Unusual about her armor is the assortment of bold runes burned or branded into it and inlaid with poured, ruddy copper; Karnoz is unfamiliar with the runes or what language they originate from, and though they suggest that her armor may be enchanted, they could just as easily be mere decoration.  A blackened short sword hangs scabbarded at each hip, each flanked by two sheathed daggers for a total of six blades.  A small, double-tined grapnel is tucked beneath her belt at her back and knotted to a coil of thin cord hooked next to it.  The bandolier across her chest sports two pouches which may contain lockpicks, thunderstones, vials or other small tools of her trade.

Most of Tetrov's highwaymen are unremarkable, clad in an asssortment of leathers and winter garments, and armed with a variety of light crossbows, clubs, saps, nets, quarterstaffs and light blades.  Karnoz cannot see inside the tent, but the rest of the camp is littered with various sacks, chests (including a few emptied and discarded treasure chests), small coils of rope or chain, rolled-up bedrolls, rations of hardtack and dried meat, and miscellaneous minor, portable items.



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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:45 pm

Karnoz let the group talk and absorbed the chatter, filing away the tidbits of information for possible future use. Tetrov seemed a man of some capability to be sure. Karnoz had already suspected that, considering he had been successfully preying on the countryside for more than three years now. But he seemed quite willing to exist and work within an established structure...even though that structure was a criminal underworld. That could be quite useful if needed...assuming he lived through the night of course.
Eventually as suspected, the conversation turned again towards the events of tonight and eyes turned towards Karnoz, waiting for him to relate his tale.

"Well," he began, settling in near the fire. "As you already know, yes, Yorgo hired me to kill you Arno. Offered 200 Desyatka to end you and return a white crystal bowl he claimed you stole from him. Whether the bowl exists or not, I really don't care now obviously. Regardless, the deed was to be done in three days’ time and I started the hunt two days ago. In that time, I was able to get a lead on your plan of escape, Peluko's home and assumed his place for the river ride. Humbly speaking, had I not been betrayed when I was...well, I don't think we need to discuss that now."

Karnoz smirked behind his mask. While it might never be known what -would- have happened. Karnoz as Peluko, sitting at Hennbauer's back on a boat in the middle of a freezing river painted a rather clear portrait of just how close Arno had come to a rather unpleasant...and quite possibly final, predicament. As always, there was method in Karnoz's actions aside from the obvious. The rogue doubted that his words would impress Hennbauer, but they might impress Tetrov...and was he not the real power in this situation?

"Anyway," Karnoz continued. "Yorgo clearly has you being watched. He knew where you were staying, knew about the Stali, your associates you sent to Brustagg and so on. What he did not know, were my methods or how I was going to get to you. He clearly had his stooges jump too early when they tipped off the guards. I find it strangely coincidental that a certain guard captain knew just where to intercept us on the river, expecting to find a corpse and killer all wrapped up with a neat little bow, so Yorgo's probably got a few tin pigs on his payroll in Trock Reik as well."

Karnoz offered a shrug to Hennbauer. "You know the rest. If it makes you feel better, I never killed Anyaska. I don't even know who she is, aside from an assistant of yours. No, Yorgo confessed to that deed and his grinning stooge Ballarg happily admitted to aiding in it. From what they joked about doing to her, I think it is a good thing he is no longer living...for her sake."
Again, there were other goals in play. Karnoz could not trust Hennbauer...and by proxy, Tetrov, seeing as Hennbauer had a history with the bandit and Karnoz did not. By relaying Anyaska's fate, he hoped to redirect some of the anger Arno might feel from nearly meeting a knife in the back towards Yorgo and Ballarg. Karnoz also took that moment to slowly remove Peluko's cloak and turn it right side again, clearly revealing Raven-as-Peluko, save for the black mask he wore.

"I also did not kill Peluko." He clarified, pulling the cloak back on. "While I doubt he is very happy with me, I arranged it so that neither he nor his son is a threat to me. Your people will find them both safe and sound come morning I’m sure. I do not kill for pleasure or without reason. That would damage my credibility and reputation."

Again he looked back to Hennbauer, Karnoz's eyes meeting his. "I have nothing against you Hennbauer, it was just business. As I see it, Yorgo broke our deal, making my contract null and void. But he still owes me 200 Desyatka for services rendered...and I intend to collect."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Feb 24, 2014 1:21 pm

The firelight played across Hennbauer's seated form as he held his silence for a long moment, well after Karnoz had concluded his words.  Even against that light, his lowered brow had darkened quite starkly as Anyaska's name was mentioned.  But he raised his hand gently in a gesture of peace, and in that gesture he answered.

"I understand.  I thank you for subduing Peluko and his son, and for leaving them their lives.  Perhaps when the watchmen break down his door and find him in such a state, he will be exonerated of all charges.  As for you, I must commend your talents with the arts of disguise and with methodical planning.  Though I like to think myself competent with a blade, I do acknowledge that I court death and defeat with every time steel sings in the wind.  Hence, I strive to avoid such threats where I may, and were it not for the clumsiness and ill timing of Yorgo's allies, perhaps I would have indeed lain perished at your feet."

"But though I pride myself as a learned and commonly jovial knave, I fear that I must draw steel once more.  Yorgo bears the burden of Anyaska's torture, murder and revenge denied.  He has sent you and others to put an end to me, for no nobler cause than his own greed, despite what years of partnership and frr...well, what I thought was friendship, passed between him and me.  And you?  He has now also betrayed you, as you know very well indeed.  And I suspect that he merely offered to pay you such a handsome sum for my death because he had never once intended to pay you at all."

Indeed, Karnoz considered, Yorgo had seemed a mite too quick to agree to his increased bid.  And how much--or how little--had Yorgo paid whomever exposed him to the City Watch at the scantest threshold of his dark deed?  Well under 170 Desyatka, he could soundly wager.

This time, it was Tetrov's turn to lean into the firelight and speak.  "And what of the bowl which Raven mentioned?"

"A mere diversion, I'm afraid," came the reply.  "I believe that the bowl in question was a bowl which Yorgo had...acquired from the Mannremmer baronial estate.  A bowl of white beryl, sculpted and etched with dwarven craftsmanship, and once kept lovingly in the bedchamber of Baronial Princess Jurgrid Horstodt of Brustagg.  Yorgo had fallen on an empty purse since his cohorts and hirelings abandoned him and his camp in the face of a northern typhoon, snatching what they could as they fled.  More over, he had been badly burned by an errant fire trap in the Mannremmer crypt, so I generously offered triple the gold on what he asked for that bowl, that he might have coin enough to salve his burn-scarred skin and yet ease the pangs of poverty."

"Hmmph!" snorted the bandit chief.  "More salt for this wound of yours, I should think."

Hennbauer nodded sullenly.  "Truly.  I did keep the bowl with me since, both for its value and for its significance.  But now it lies in the belly of the Zelezo Kanvica, secreted in a recently purchased cask of Brezzi di Montagna which I never had the luxury of finishing.  And if Yorgo truly wants that bowl, then he can dive for it himself.  But I expect that he does not truly want it, that he merely related his tale about the bowl to you, Raven, by way of baiting his trap.  I can but guess at the details of what tale he spun for you, but had he not asked for the bowl or any proof of my death, would you have still taken up his task?  Or would you have grown suspicious, and warily so?"

Yorgo had also asked a piece of Hennbauer's body as proof, Karnoz recalled.  But were Karnoz a less honest sort, he could have cut the ear from any common lug, presented it as Hennbauer's own, collected his reward and made himself scarce before Yorgo caught on.  No, the bowl was thrown into Yorgo's tale of bereavement and vengeance simply to keep Karnoz honest.  To ensure that the deed would be done.  To ensure that Karnoz would be right where he was supposed to be when Yorgo sprung his trap.  To ensure that Hennbauer would be dead, Yorgo would be hied away with what scroll he had taken from Hennbauer, and Karnoz would be too imprisoned--or too dead--to stop Yorgo from fleeing and demand his due....

"And what of the scroll which Yorgo took from you?  The scroll for which he was willing to betray so many and leave you in a pool of your own blood, that he might have it all for himself?"

"Ah...that.  I fear that you have quite a tale to hear for your answer, Raven."

Without seeking permission, Hennbauer leaned in with dagger bared, slicing a browned strip of meat from the large hare's carcass.  The lanky orc-blood Bera paused, then skinned her own dagger and followed his lead as he resumed his tale.

"Years ago, back when the Imperial Civil War was young and the gramrs of a then-unified Hrothjurgan traded their axes and spears with great violence, I trod another half-forgotten burial ground in Southern Nellowswann, and another half-forgotten crypt beneath it.  I made my way with terrible fright, anxious of being found out by the sudden and unexpected arrival of a great clutch of spectres wreathed in the ghostfire from what tragedy had befallen them in life, all simultaneously manifested throughout the crypt at what must have been the stroke of midnight.  And with that terrifying moment, the mystery of why the floor of that crypt lay littered with so many uninterred bones--yet in their mouldering armors and garments--was answered.  But too much gold I had spent--and too much had I risked to that point--to turn back then and there.  So foolishly I gambled with my life and continued on my intrusion, plodding lightly, clinging to the shadows and creeping well around the twice-damned haunters, knowing true and well that, the very moment one of those spectres turned and beheld me, I would be finished...and, if legend held true, my shade would soonafter rise and join them in their everlasting torment.  Truly a fate worse than death."

"See now?" Tetrov spat with the thrill of affirmation, shaking his fist at the heavens over his head.  "What did I just say about your graverobbing, Hennbauer?  You are lucky to be sitting here at all, relating your tale!  So relate it further.  What came then?"

Choking down his chagrin with a half-shrug of feigned indifference, Hennbauer did as bidden.  "Soon--but not soon enough--I found myself before the final resting place of the elegant Madame Ducas ap Galahleigh, the seat of my prize.  Seizing the right moment, I reached over her bier and pried up the mahogany lid of her coffin, no less wary of her spectral guards yet salivating at the ideas of what gold and goods had been buried with her.  By what accounts I gathered from the local folk, she had been interred with the greatest treasure of all her life.  But what was it?  Coins?  A jewel-crusted tiara?  The key to a hidden vault steeped in emeralds?  An enchanted mirror which would reveal the truth of all who gazed into it?  I simply needed to know!  So I silently lifted the lid away and set it to the floor, then looked in to behold the lady's bones."

Hennbauer stilled his tongue, frowning sharply as he formed his next words.

"There was naught but a worn wooden symbol of Sune laid on her chest, and a simple brooch of copper and red onyx affixing her gown in place...a very simple white gown of cotton, at that.  Naught else.  Naught else but bones and dust."

From the corner of Karnoz's eye, he noted Tetrov nodding his head with a knowing smirk, again convicted in his derision of those who would disturb and plunder the houses of the dead.  And Niri nodded and smirked with him.

Hennbauer resumed.  "In my disgust with my futility, having risked so much for so little, I unpinned the brooch from her gown and tucked it into my vest.  I then considered whether the holy symbol would be worth claiming, but before I could come to my decision, a black...mist formed from her bones and rose over them.  I leapt a step away, shocked as the mist congealed into yet another spectre: hers.  And this spectre was looking at me...into me, as if taking measure of my very soul.  And she...it spake in a voice rising for all to hear: 'Defiler!  Defiler!   Defiler!'  And the alarming chorus of wails which then erupted from the corridors of that crypt told me all too clearly that my accuser had been heard."

"Casting all pretense of stealth to the wind, I ducked as the lady's spectre swiped a hoary, ghostly claw at my throat, then fled as if a thousand devils were on my heels!  The spectral host emerged from coffins, flew through halls and passed through walls, all of them converging on me, and each of them with hell and malice in its burning eyes.  So near to panic as I was, I leaped, I ducked, I rolled and dodged so fervently that I scarcely breathed.  And from her coffin to the great bronze door parted to the cemetery outside, I almost evaded my restless assailants to the last...almost.  But one of them cut me off, leaping and passing bodily through a thick stone column to greet my breathless flight face to face.  And as its wan arm passed through my breast, my very core shuddered with a powerful chill sharper and more resonating than any cold mountain gale I had weathered in the northern lands!  The crypt's door exploded outward with the thundering of greened bronze against crumbling stone as I barrelled through it to the outside, screaming like a fevered madman!  And I ran, and ran, and ran more yet, all the way to the hamlet of Buttermead, never once daring to glance behind and see if my unhallowed hounds yet gave chase.  And I did not stop until I reached the tiny chapel of Yondalla, where it was my turn to startle someone: the halfling priestesses of the chapel, by barging through the chapel door and taking two steps before collapsing, pained for want of breath."

By then, Tetrov's cocky smirk was as dead as the wealthy lady of Hennbauer's tale, drowned beneath the grim, brooding eyes of Tetrov's own fears.  And Hennbauer's tale continued heedlessly.

"For two days did I languish there, cold, clammy of skin, wracked with vivid, waking nightmares: nightmares of that chase, and nightmares of being shoved into my early grave, wailing with death-fright as the shovelfuls of earth fell in on me...cramped in a bed far too small for human bones as those priestesses attended me and intoned their prayers over me, day and night.  They knew too well my malady: a measure of my soul and my lifeforce, torn away by the hungry grasp of the undead.  But they never asked how or why I had come to be so wounded to my very essence, and I never dared to offer those answers.  Soonafter I was well enough to walk around the temple; within the week I was well enough to leave, so I paid the chapel what I could for their charity in drawing me back from the grave, and I took my leave."

"But as I did, the elder of the priestesses asked me at my back, perhaps too knowingly: 'Was it worth it?'  And I had no answer for her; I simply left with no further word.  But as time proved, her words would cause me doubt most grave."

"The odd persisting nightmare aside, the brooch was all I had from that horrid night, and with what torment I had earned with it, I would have my profit.  I sought to trade it to jewelers, and to sages, and even to lords and merchant-princes, but those who did not reject my offering outright offered far too meager coin to compensate me as I hoped.  So I returned to my room at my choice of inn, despondent yet wondering if I could yet find a buyer anywhere in Nellowswann."

"As fate had it, I could not, for my buyer held court elsewhere.  In the dawning hour of my fifth week with that accursed brooch, the barkeep received a messenger: a graceful, sable-haired sylvan elf clad in green and black-trimmed finery, bearing a proposal for me, and so he ushered her to my room.  It came to light that a nobleman, Lord Heward Ainsley--the sovereign of the Lordship of Bardosylvania--had somehow caught wind of my attempts to peddle my plundered brooch with Nellowswann's elite, and he would pay quite generously for the brooch if it truly was what he suspected it was.  I quit the inn at once, and the elf escorted me to a dashing carriage outside.  I chatted with the messenger as our driver finished trading his horses for fresh ones from the local stables, and from there we embarked on our passage to Bardosylvania."

Bera curled her orcish lips in a silent snarl.  "That Bardosylvania?"

"And none other, madam.  The carriage interior was quite comfortable, and fortunately so, because we reached the broad, old bridge which joined Nellowswann to Bardosylvania as the sun gave way to night.  Our driver immediately made for the side of the road and halted his horses, and I was truly concerned to see several other carriages, wagons and saddled horses stopped there with us.  Before long, our driver produced down pillows and woolen blankets from the carrybox and entered the carriage to give them to us, bidding us to get some sleep and promising that our journey would resume at first light.  I protested, saying that our horses should be fresh enough for a few more hours of moonlit travel at least.  But he shook his head in vehement refusal, and the elf, in agreement with him, gestured for me to comply with him without explanation.  So I did as bidden, and the three of us settled in for what sleep we could have, as did so many other travelers huddled there in the starry twilight at the very foot of the bridge to Bardosylvania."

"Sunrise came as surely as it would, and the throng of wayfarers began to stir for the resumption of their journeys.  Our coachman returned to us with a flavorful repast of white wine and smoked fish, and in finishing our breakfast we returned to the road.    I still remember my first sights of the Bardosylvanian countryside, of the towering oaks and twisted yews flanking so much of our highway, of swaddled peasants raking and picking in their fields splashed with the vibrant colors of melon and pumpkin, green and gourd...of the deer leaping and prancing from the road at our approach, and of wolves of many furs and many colors gathering at the road's edge to watch us mutely.  By noontide, we reached the town of Dark Grove Hollow to change our horses again.  And for the first time I felt less than awed or compelled with this new land, because so many of the commonfolk of Dark Grove Hollow wandered listlessly, some as pale as spun cotton, and all in a state of trepidation.  I approached a number of local folk to speak with them, and perhaps to ask them about their fascinating land, their people and the warrant of their land's reputation, but, to my surprise, each commoner would promptly identify me as a foreigner and, at so recognizing me, greeted me with fearful prayers and religious gestures of warding even as I stood facing them.  I came away from Dark Grove Hollow with two new holy symbols, one of wicker and one of wood, both of them consecrated to the Ruby Goddess and both of them pressed fearfully into my hand with such cryptic words as "May She be merciful" and "For the shade hungers for us".  Now with my nerves set wary, my party returned to the carriage and sped on our way."

The highwaymen shifted in their seats and stances, intrigued with this reach of Hennbauer's account.  And the account continued further.

"We reached the hamlet of Halfward before sunset, and our coachman drove us to a rustic roadside inn for the night.  My elven escort led me inside as the driver parked our carriage and stabled our horses.  I came unto another curious local custom on entering that inn, for the stooped and well-aged innkeeper abruptly stopped us at the door.  To either side of us, mounted to the wall on each side of the entryway, was a long mirror, and the innkeeper peered into each mirror, looking high to low at what reflections of us he beheld there, before he nodded with a faint smile and led us inside.  I suspected why such mirrors and such taciturn greetings had been set in place, but I dared not lend voice to it."

"We brushed through a pungent curtain of hempen cords simply woven through rowan beads and dried bulbs of garlic to enter the inn proper, and there my escort presented the innkeeper with a writ: the Seal of the House of Ainsley, as it seemed.  The innkeeper demanded no coin of us and ushered us to our rooms at once...rooms quite lavishly laid and outfitted for the surrounding hamlet, I might add.  The rising moon shone boldly through our window, and then did I notice a drooping garland of garlic bulbs hung low from that upper windowframe, much like nobler folk would hang a curtain or a valance.  Our coachman soon joined us in the room across the hall and we slept again...none too soundly, for twice through the night was I awakened by frightful choruses of wolves.  I know enough of wolves to know when they howl to greet the night, and when they howl to call forth the hunt.  What wolves I heard that night seemed to be doing both, together at the same time."

"We returned to our carriage and our fresh horses shortly after sunrise.  The next day passed as the last one had, with graceful meadows, lush fields, humbly garbed peasants and their quaintly charming cottages, and mighty trees laden with common wildlife--and the occasional elf--shuffling and cavorting among the higher boughs.  I remained enchanted and delighted with this hitherto unexplored land, yet I could not escape the creeping and ominous suspicion that something dark and very dangerous lay sleeping beneath it all.  And as all days must end, so too did that one.  I grew alarmed as our coachman, without warning, lashed our horses to a reckless gallop as that day neared its close and the sun hung heavy and low in an autumn sky.  Several times did I fear that our carriage would overturn or fall to pieces, so rough and twisting was our highway through the forests and highlands.  But soon before nightfall did we arrive at Ainsley Manor and I breathed a breath of relief, knowing that my journey was at an end, and my fears about the brooch would end with it."

"Hmmph!  Why do I expect that you were to instead trade one set of fears for another, eh?"

"On the contrary, Mister Tetrov, I was greeted in the manor's foyer by Lord Heward himself, attended closely by his two fine and elegant children, strapping Darrovan and comely Lyria.  Lord Heward clasped my hand strongly and shook it in a most vigorous and delighted salutation, and then, with his children never straying from his side, he pressed a pouch of coins into the elven messenger's hands and bid her to depart with his blessing.  From there, he dismissed his children and led me into his study, where his steward had already poured wine and buttered a small loaf of barley bread yet warm from the oven.  And there we sat for the better part of the night, discussing what I had acquired."

"Why, it turned out that Lord Heward was an avid historian like myself, though learned enough in the lore of the past to shame my own knowledge by leagues!  He related to me the tale of exactly what brooch I then held in my hand, how it had first belonged to the gentle and winsome milkmaid Minigrett of Gallenheim, who saved her hard-earned coin to buy the brooch in hopes of earning a higher state of elegance and rising above her lowly origins, and who would instead earn the fancy of the Dragon-Knight Zargardanmundroth, whose abduction of the maid would lead to the upheaval of Brustagg-on-Arbister.  How a band of knights, led by Sir Walericht of Ganamoth for the sake of a mere peasant lass, would emerge as raging commonfolk burned their towns against each other and take the battle to the scarlet dragon in his castle of fire-wreathed garnet spires and, in the end, would lose all but Sir Walericht himself, who would take Zargardanmundroth's head at the final hour before the dragon forced Maid Minigrett's hand in marriage.  How Minigrett had cast the brooch from her tower as the knights approached, leading them to her straightaway.  How the brooch had been lost during the battle with the dragon and the rescue of the milkmaid, yet was found by the greedy dwarf Grobb Steinbart, who gambled the brooch, his house, his land and--as the legend says--his own spirit and soul in a game of dice and great stakes against a visitor to his home: a ruddy and wiry-thewed man who, as it turned out, was a chained devil wearing the thin guise of a man.  How Grobb's wife emerged from her slumber the next morning to find no mark of her husband or his visitor, save for a jumble of iron chains, blackened with soot and looped around the favored chair where Grobb had sat to play his game of chance...."

"Da, da!  We understand!" Tetrov barked with impatience.  "The brooch passed through many hands and held a goodly measure of historical worth!  Get on with the tale already, man!"

Hennbauer indignantly yanked the lapels of his coat straight, soured at the man who would be so rude with his impudence and his disregard for a good yarn.  But Tetrov was the host, so Hennbauer swallowed his pique and leaped forward in his tale.  "...so anyway, Lord Heward told me the great history behind that brooch, a history which no other person whom I had approached had recognized.  And Lord Heward awarded me two-thousand Lupdinte for that brooch, thanking me fervently for adding that brooch to his collection of historical relics.  In that moment of gold and gratitude, the harrowing terror of that crypt and its gathering of baleful spectres seemed so far behind me, and I felt vindicated for what I had faced and suffered.  How great was my relief at finally earning some new gold for old bones!"

"Thenceforth, Lord Heward was swift to send for me whenever he read about some lost bauble, book or artwork lost to history, bargaining with me that I should find what artifact had stoked his desire and bring it to him.  And when I succeeded in his errands, he paid me handsomely for them.  Soon, I was so busied with his demands and the demands of other nobles that I had to conduct my affairs with the House of Ainsley through messengers and intermediaries...which suited me well, as my latter journeys into Bardosylvania had grown increasingly...troubled, and I was not so eager to set foot on that provincial soil again.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed a good working relationship with Lord Heward and the House of Ainsley ever since...or at least I did, before Lord Heward suddenly took ill and died over two years ago."

"His son Darrovan was his heir and his successor, but he inherited none of his father's love for history.  Instead, Lord Darrovan harbored an interest in gods and religion, and so for the first half of his first reigning year he would send for me with requests to acquire goods and relics of that ilk: a Tyrian holy book here, a corded belt from one of Ilmater's monks there, a vial of unholy water consecrated to Nerull somewhere else.  Once, he had enough faith in me to send me after one of the Books of Vile Darkness written by Vecna's own hand; naturally, I failed to find what he sought, and he grew so incensed with his missives to me that our relations were ever strained afterward.  Soon, then, he began to call for me and send me after more questionable finds: family heirlooms, writs of treaty to be burned, the tabard from a fallen Karkovan knight, the left hand from a specific man perished to the gallows...then came the requests for poisonous plants and rare, exotic herbs.  Crestfallen with this growing distance between that present time and my fond, enlightening adventures in service to Lord Heward, I came to question of myself whether my ties to the House of Ainsley were worth maintaining."

Hennbauer again bared his dagger and leaned for the roasted rabbit again, speaking darkly as he did.

"But before I could decide on that answer, the House of Ainsley fell."

Gravity followed, and then more of the tale.

"Those of the lordly bloodline were said to have perished to the last, and Lord Darrovan was said to have perished with them.  Few escaped what calamity had consumed the House to speak of it, but, whether they were gripped with fear, with catalepsy, with overwhelming despair leading so far as suicide or with fevered, raving madness, not one of them did.  And so, a year later, the House's fate...the exact hours and occurrences of that calamity, are lost in a sea of guesses, speculation and naked lies.  No one knows who lived, who died or precisely what befell the House of Ainsley on that unholy night.  But perhaps that soon shall change."

"How do you mean?  The dead do not talk, and the depths of madness of which you speak are loath to release their thralls."

"This is true, Mister Tetrov, very true," Hennbauer answered, pausing to chew his rabbit meat.  "So imagine my surprise when, two months ago, a missive arrived for me, stamped with the signet seal of the House of Ainsley.  I broke the seal and read to find that the letter was from none other than Lord Darrovan.  In that letter, he claimed to have survived the demise of his House, yet had returned to his estate to find himself no better than a pauper-king of an empty field.  He then conveyed to me his deepest and sincerest apologies for having taken his abuses with me in the past and gave me his word as a gentleman that he would forever honor me more fairly, for he needed my aid in rebuilding his House and regaining his dominion over Bardosylvania, which has since fallen into chaos with the destruction of the House...much like fair Karkova has.  He ended the missive with promises of great wealth and higher station--perhaps even land, a title and an estate to call my own--if I succeeded in serving him with this one great and final task, and that I should answer him in person at the chapel of Saturninity Hill, where he yet rued his loneliness and mourned for the spirits of his family, so horribly taken by death too many and too soon."

"I yet harbor wonderful memories of my first times in Bardosylvania, so how could I refuse Lord Darrovan in this request?  So elated, I showed Lord Darrovan's letter to my friend--our own Yorgo Pavamoski, with whom I had embarked on many adventures since I first hired him as a guide upon my first arrival in Karkova--and confided in him my hopes and ambitions riding with that letter, as well as my fears: foremost among them, that so many years had passed since I set foot in Bardosylvania, and so much more time since I last beheld the debonair face of Darrovan, well before he took his father's throne.  Would he recognize me?  Would I recognize him?  How kindly had the interim treated both of us, and how should I most properly greet him on my return?"

"It was then that Yorgo took a darker turn.  My scroll...my missive from Lord Darrovan disappeared two nights hence, and neither my stalwart Sadu nor myself noticed the cunning theft in the doing.  I rode back to nearby Kurvoss and, after questioning others who availed no help, asked Langastoro the pawnbroker if any might have taken the message to him for appraisal.  As fortune had it, Langastoro is another man in Yorgo's acquaintence, and Yorgo had visited him to purchase and to retrieve several goods for a long journey, bragging that he had been promised a great fortune by the last Lord of Bardosylvania.  To myself, I scoffed at Yorgo's foolhardiness; how could he hope to pose in my stead and claim Lord Darrovan's offer if I arrived and proved my history with the House to Lord Darrovan myself, leaving Yorgo's deceit and ambition naked before the lord's scorn?"

Hennbauer cast the leavings of his hare meat aside.  "Yorgo himself must have realized that likelihood then, for soonafter his first assassin came for me.  I caught the flash of the bared blade in a window and drew my rapier in time to run the dog through his neck.  He had no answers for me, but the boast of the second assassin proved quite well that Yorgo wanted me dead.  He never quit Kurvoss for Bardosylvania, despite what the pawnbroker said, and from that I gathered his urgency: he wanted to remain around just long enough to see to my death--and to make absolutely certain that I was dead--before embarking his voyage to Bardosylvania, that he might safely thieve what station I had earned with the House without fear that I might one day arrive to stop him from taking my due and bring him before Lord Darrovan's justice."

"That second assassin fell to Anyaska's blade in her valiant defense of me and, in a fit of wrath, she immediately howled for Yorgo's head and rode for Kurvoss, leaving me to retreat to the safety of Trock Reik once Sadu, Erainyn and I had failed to stop her.  From there...well, I believe that you, my fellows, already know the rest of the story.  And that brings us back to the present, where we hunt a dire betrayer who seeks to end us, to tie up his loose ends and sail to the heart of Bardosylvania to claim what is rightly mine.  You, Tetrov, cannot enter Kurvoss and put an end to the betrayer without risking your own head.  But I believe that Raven and I can do just that.  Yet the questions remain: how can we catch him, when will he learn that his plan to leave both Raven and myself dead has failed, how might Yorgo try to stay our vengeance, and would he be so terrified at the prospect of facing both Raven's blades and mine that he would immediately flee Kurvoss for Bardosylvania, even if he risked courting the vengeance of Oily Tetrov in the doing?"

Those questions hung in the fire-sparked air for a long and pregnant moment.  Even Tetrov furrowed his brow, considering his answers.

Perhaps the one called Raven Murder would be equally perplexed.

Perhaps he would not.


Karnoz >


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:17 pm

Karnoz leaned contemplated Hennbauer's story, secretly amused at his correct guesses about little tidbits...not that they were overly important now.

"Everything that I have seen and heard tells me that Yorgo is arrogant, sloppy and most of all, a coward." Karnoz started. "He will not leave Kurvoss until his man tells him that you are dead and the way is clear. I think it more likely that Yorgo will simply wait until then, probably praising himself about how clever he is all the while."

"Trock Reik is locked down at the moment. Yorgo's agent is probably stuck in there until morning. Then he will beeline straight for Kurvoss." Karnoz looked over towards Tetrov. "Something you and yours could intercept if you were willing. Either that or it was this agent that set the guards on us too early. If he did so and then bolted, then he will be telling Yorgo false information even as we speak."

"In any case, we have the advantage for the moment. If we move and strike, I think there is a strong chance that Yorgo will more or less be vulnerable. Once he finds out the truth however, he will likely burrow deep into a rat hole and send a string of fools to stop us without ever coming out himself."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:59 am

"And Yorgo is betrayer as well," Niri added unbidden in his thick tongue, though earning Tetrov's approving nod as he did.  "He betray our band.  He betray others before now.  Betrayal comes to him as wind and snow come to mountains.  But now, he has invitation from Lord of Bardosylvahnya.  He betray many more, stab them in back for his...convenient.  He do so because he think new wealth and new life await him in new land, da?  Old life can be taken by Nine Hells, for what he cares.  So...who else he betray before he leaves?"

"A valid concern, that," Tetrov sniffed.  "So he may not be as protected as he once was.  As for what messenger brought the Watch on your heads, even if he is trapped in Trock Reik for the night, we have no assurance that he will stay trapped.  Whether by climbing a wall, crawling through a sewer tunnel, speaking with a guard who is in Yorgo's pocket or bribing one who is not, he may yet escape and flee for Kurvoss.  And as you proposed, Raven, I and mine shall wait for him.  The Pokorny Bridge is a brisk walk to the Southeast.  The road to Kurvoss is to the West.  And with time weighing on him as it surely is, he will not take an indirect path...not if he would avoid being further delayed by goblins, wolves and other such threats.  So we will lay our ropes across those avenues.  We will trip any horses who come unto us, and we shall see who they are and what they have.  And that should give both of you what time you need to slip into Kurvoss.  So there is no need to warm ourselves by this fire further, is there?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:45 am

"Then we must be going." Karnoz said. Let me know if the spy turns out to be a red-haired dwarf, will you?"

"Before I go, may I have another cloak? Peluko can have his back then." In reality, Karnoz's charity was more because the guards had a clear picture of his disguise. He would need to change it later, but for now, they needed to get to Kurvoss.

"So Hennbauer, I met Yorgo at the Gilded Prince, but he must be allied with at least one of the mayors or guilds in the town in order to send Trock Reik soldiers towards us. Do you know anything about Yorgo's allies or contacts?"

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:14 am

The boatman's cloak was readily accepted and promptly taken in Bera's sinewy clutch, and a lowly highwayman with a dusky red cloak and a lazy eye acted at Tetrov's behest, unpacking a woolen cloak dyed in the gray of the raining heavens, then presenting it to Karnoz in exchange.

"One more favor that Peluko owes me, I should think," Tetrov nodded.  "When next a hunted scoundrel has need to escape Trock Reik, Peluko shall surely aid him and bring him to me.  So has the boatman helped my gang keep their numbers.  And for that, he has our protection when his oars drive him beyond those streets and walls."

Tetrov turned away with Peluko's cloak, then amended his words with an afterthought.  "Come to that, one of my road-hunters has, for nigh a week, failed to give word of how his apprentice fares.  So if you are accosted by any robbers on the road, greet them with the present pass code -- 'On lavender rides the sceptre' -- and ask if Borskas is among them.  If he is, then advise him that I am displeased and would have words with him at once.  Now, follow me."

Three of the brigands fell in behind Karnoz and Hennbauer, who in turn fell in behind Tetrov and his half-orcs as they wove through the bank's shrubs and sleet-laden trees.  A single roan charger stood tethered to a lone birch near the water, chewing the aromatic barley from a feed bag bound over its muzzle as its bit and bridle lay nearby with its armsman's saddle, all spread across a discarded suit of ring mail barding and a caparison stitched with a sergeant's insignia at the shoulder, and the great Seal of Trock Reik behind it, its embroidered relief frayed and worn in an arc befitting the many harsh caresses of a rocking stirrup.

"I regret that I have but one horse to offer to you," Tetrov sighed, "but the mare is yours, if you meet my price: the assurance...nyet, the promise that Yorgo Pavamoski shall not live to see the next sunset.  And I believe that you have already tendered such an oath to me, in so many words.  Take the mare and her riding gear, if you would, but leave the barding and the caparison for us.  I may yet have use for them.  What say you?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sat Mar 22, 2014 8:20 am

The revelations about Peluko made Karnoz doubt that the river man would be quite as useful as Karnoz had hoped, but depending on how this night ended, a new, more valued ally might be won over. in any case, the issues with Peluko were secondary at best, even if he did manage to meet with him over lunch as planned. No matter, there was another knife to be struck before then.

"I think I can safely say that by morning, either Yorgo will be dead, or I will." Karnoz said. With a quick move, Karnoz palmed one of his many knives and with a snap, sent the blade zipping towards the ring Tetrov's highwaymen were playing with.

"And I do not intend to die."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Jun 09, 2014 1:17 am

The highwaymen reacted with jolt and start as Karnoz's dagger bit into the hoary earth between them, disrupting their game of deftness.  Rewarding their guest's disturbance in answer, a bitter brigand frowned a deep frown through a burn-marred cheek and plucked the offending dagger from the ground, hurling it pommel-first at its giver.  The pommel glanced off the toe of Karnoz's boot, evoking a hearty guffaw from Tetrov himself.

"Clearly you have spirit, darkfellow," Tetrov surmised.  "You shall need it, for here is what you face:"

"Yorgo is said to keep a number of safehouses among the Hlina Hrnca River, useful for his smuggling work.  He shall surely seek to quit Kurvoss by river and not over land.  Unless you are a skilled boatman, he shall likely escape you once he reaches the rapids near Oreska's Lament, a sharp bend in the river nearly ten miles south from Kurvoss.  My advice would be to enter Kurvoss and make your way directly to the docks, lest he take to the water before you can stop him."

"But he is not without his debtees and cohorts, and they may rise to defend his escape.  Avoid the Singed Serpent tavern; it is a tiny watering hole near the temple of Yondalla, and it is frequented by a band of the Nevergreen Bingers, a pack of scoundrels known for fetching doomed men from the headsman's clutches.  They are as capable of slipping people into gaols as out of them, and more than one of their enemies has met his end in the hangman's noose, having wrongly taken the rightful place of a lowborn dog who earned his fate for him."

"But Yorgo has also earned the wrath of one gang, and the Bingers have earned the wrath of another.  If you have time enough, find the Pine Street Corbies and Milleva's Taxmen.  The Corbies hide beneath the floorboards of the Silvery Thread tailor, and the Taxmen keep the abandoned custom house near the docks.  I know not how to earn the Taxmen's trust, but greet the Corbies with 'Vorog regards us with leaden eyes and a crow's heart' and they will open their hands to you.  I know not the root of the Corbies' beef with Yorgo, but the Taxmen are furious with the Bingers over a loosed vigilante with a number of dead Taxmen to his name.  Use them to keep the Bingers from you if you must."

"Yorgo is also said to be a personal friend of Burgomaster Mivus Sellvanich, one of the three disputed burgomasters of Kurvoss.  Create any disturbance in his North Quarter and expect the town watch to come for you as swiftly as thought.  But fortunately for you, the watchmen's numbers have been winnowed by pay hikes and dwindling coffers as each of the burgomasters bids against the other two for control of the Town Watch and everything else.  So while the watchmen of Kurvoss may be few, they are no less well-armed, well-trained and steeled by years of Kurvoss' constant air of criminality.  And they have found it simpler to kill a scoundrel and explain things to a magistrate later than to go through the trouble of holding him for trial and judgement, so take care to not give them too much resistance should they give chase."

"But also know that Yorgo is a cowardly and superstitious man, and he has been known to take counsel from a weirdful old woman, questioning her before he undertakes any new errand or venture.  Starting a new life in Bardosylvania with Hennbauer's losses would surely count for such.  She is Magda of Magda's Fortune Reading, and you can find her in a tiny niche of a shop in Garmann's Alley.  I have heard talk that she is simply an old and senile card-reader playing guessing games with the universe and putting on a good act of it, and that she has afflicted people with grave losses and misfortune over bad soothsaying and convincing showmanship.  I have heard other talk that she is Vistana, that she has a genuine gift for seeing the future, for seeing auras or other queer, unseen things.  For reading a man's fate as surely as the words on what coins he hands to her.  Perhaps she knows Yorgo better than we ever could.  Perhaps she is a mere fraud.  Perhaps you may find out for yourself if you happen that way, hmm?"


(Karnoz - Knowledge (Arcana) check (DC 15): ???)
(Karnoz - Alchemy check (DC 15/20/25): 17 )

The Vistani, Karnoz knew, were enigmatic nomads and travellers across all the lands, peddling hand-brewed potions, ointments and charms with effects ranging from the mundane to the fantastic to the unearthly.  They had long been said to have court with the supernatural, to have a natural talent for clairvoyance and fate-reading.  To have the gift of laying dread curses on those who anger them, laid by elders among them...elders said to be psions enough to rival the mind flayers below.  To open mystic paths between this world and any other, and to travel freely among the many planes of existence.  But perhaps this old woman was a mere deceiver and swindler, for why would a genuine Vistana keep a wretched alley-house in a fallen, desperate, crime-plagued town like Kurvoss?

Even if she be a fake, perhaps she could yet be a source of information on Yorgo, the better to deny him his refuge and see his moves before they were made.

Tetrov resumed.  "And do not forget his plains warrior, Ballarg, who rarely leaves his side.  Engage him blade-for-blade at your peril."

"So...have you any other querries before you and Arno speed on your way?


(Having lived in Kurvoss for enough years to learn his way around, Karnoz can easily find any of the places which Tetrov has mentioned.  He himself may have called on the Silvery Thread to mend the garb for his varied disguises, the customs house was (until recent months) a useful place where exotic foods and other goods could "disappear' into the pockets of passersby, and though Karnoz is the sort to forge his own destiny rather than wait for the gods to assign one to him, any number of Karnoz's past associates and contacts--being as much the "cowardly and superstitious lot" as Yorgo is--may have also given Magda their ill-gotten coins for a chance at perceiving the future, then related their revelations to Karnoz.  If naught else, Karnoz may have paid Magda's Fortune Reading the occasional passing glance and approving nod, knowing a good racket when he sees one.  And, of course, there is the Gilded Prince, Yorgo's preferred place to conduct business and the place where Karnoz's winding quest of murder, skullduggery and betrayal began.)

(So while geography isn't Karnoz's greatest enemy in this quest for revenge, time is.  He will need to choose his movements shrewdly and carefully if he is to stop Yorgo from escaping the town with Karnoz's chance at revenge...and, perhaps, Karnoz's prize, should Hennbauer prove unable to reclaim it for himself. Travel swiftly, but not too swiftly; one can never be certain what traps Yorgo may have set for any who would chase him down and rob him of his one chance to seize a princely fortune and a far loftier destiny.)


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:48 am

Karnoz retrieved his dagger and after wiping the blade on his waistcoat, slipped the blade back up his sleeve.
"The horse shall indeed be useful."Karnoz said. "By chance, do you have a ball of twine I might have as well?"

Karnoz also had the idea to replace some of the materials for his disguise kit as he would likely need them very soon.
"We will likely have to split up in order to maximize our time." He said to Hennbauer. If you can go to the taxmen and convince them to aid our cause , I will go to Magda and then to the Corbies. If you can convince the Taxmen to deal with the Bingers by causing a ruckus in the northern quarter of the town, then we might earn a two-for-one this night."

"Aside from that, what are your insights Arno? You know Yorgo and Ballarg better than I, do you have any additional insight or plans?"

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:53 pm

Tetrov nodded, his eyes hinting at uncertainly yet his jaw convinced of an unvoiced purpose behind Karnoz's request.  "We have yarn.  Mardu!  Our cloaks and leggings need no mending for the moment, do they?  Hand your yarn to the man."

Though yet chagrined with Karnoz disrupting his motley's dagger game, Mardu adjusted his battered sable fur cap to stoop and pluck a small skein of brown yarn from among the contents of his thigh pouch.  After the bandit had drawn the curved needle from the yarn and thrust it through the fabric of that pocket for keeping, the skein's applewood core cast a light rustic scent into the passing breeze as it changed hands.


(Karnoz now has a skein of brown yarn, roughly five yards in length.)

Nods were exchanged, and Karnoz, for the moment, mutely considered what fabrics and garments he would need from the Silvery Thread for the sake of future disguises.  Briefly after, Karnoz gave voice to his plan as Tetrov and his gathered scoundrels listened, occasionally expressing their approval with further nods and thrusting thumbs.  So bidden by the man called Raven Murder, Arno Hennbauer offered his counsel:

"Aside from what insights have already been offered, I have been to two of Yorgo's nearest safehouses down the river from Kurvoss.  One is a half-flagstone hovel which was abandoned because its root cellar fills with water so commonly and draws all manner of wildlife and vermin; what manner of buffoon decided to dig a cellar so near to a river, I do not know.  But it can be seen from the river; one must simply look for the copse of cherry trees and the stylized face of Obad-Hai painted on the house's riverward face.  The other is but half a mile beyond Oreska's Lament, a red-roofed stilt cottage whose elderly keeper went to see Wee Jas and left no heirs; when last I checked, Yorgo was still convincing the local fishers that he was the old man's long lost son and that the cottage was rightly his.  I see no one refuting his claim any time soon.  Should Yorgo succeed in escaping Kurvoss before Raven and I can put an end to him, he is likely to take refuge in either house and stay low while he plans his next move."

Tetrov smiled a crooked, grizzled smile.  "I know of the flooded hovel, and my men can easily find the stilt house.  If we go swiftly, we can ensure that Yorgo's throat will be slashed before he can take three steps into either place.  But...that need not happen, because both of you shall surely stop him from leaving Kurvoss alive, da?"

"With everything in our power, yes."  With that answer, Arno returned his attentions to Karnoz with a further answer for the ears beneath that black cowl.  "You may also wish to know that, when last Anyaska saw him--soon before she met her horrible end--he kept a teakwood shoreboat, its stern reliefed with the name 'Silver Wake'.  He may have acquired a new boat by now, or the Silver Wake may have already been stolen from him.  But with what comelier boats as there are around Kurvoss, I have my doubts about the Silver Wake ever being stolen, leaving only Yorgo's thirst for ever fancier keepsakes and embellishments.  So if one of us can reach Yorgo's boat at the docks before he does, that may improve our odds further."

A glum gaze crossed Arno's eyes in a moment of reflection.  "It was good that she decided to report back to me before taking a star-crossed run at Yorgo's heart, for I may avenge her yet.  But what of you, Raven?  Have you anything more to add before we get under way?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:49 am

" I have nothing else." Karnoz said, gathering his remaining items and mounting the horse behind Hennbauer.

"If possible, I urge you to take Yorgo's messenger alive. I would like to hear his story, but better yet, I have an idea that may prove very profitable for all of us it it works out. What say you Tetrov?"

As they moved off into the night, Karnoz again commented to Arno; "Convince the Taxmen to deal with the Bingers by causing a ruckus in the northern quarter of the town if you can. If you find that you have the time or opportunity, scout the docks. I will deal with Magda and the Corbies, then meet with you for a final plan."

Karnoz slid off the back end of the horse as they neared Kurvoss.

"There is an abandoned farmhouse near the southernmost potato fields. Meet me there after you have completed your work. Oh, and I wouldn't recommend you use the front door. That would be...bad."

With a wink, Karnoz disappeared into the darkness, heading towards Garmann's Alley.


_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:21 pm

The roan mare bore the two onward through the fields of fresh snowfall, onward towards Kurvoss and onward towards vengeance.  With a grim smile, Tetrov clapped his hands twice, calling his brigands forth with him as he, flanked with the half-orc siblings, followed the river bank to where they could lay their traps for their quarry, in case the two rogues should fail.

But Karnoz had thus far proven to be a man who scorned failure.  By his given word, Yorgo would not escape him.  And Yorgo would not live to profit from his betrayal.


• • •

"I assure you that whatever traps you have laid for intruders shall go undisturbed," Arno Hennbauer assured.  "As for the Gilded Prince, I believe that it lies nearer to where you shall be working.  If you should happen across that perfumed rat nest and find Yorgo there...well, you may have time to call for me, or you may not.  We shall see, I suppose."

With fleeting words of parting, Arno dug his heels into the horse's ribs, driving the beast towards what passed for Kurvoss' stables.  With his rusted lantern flickering against the walls of weathered plank and gray flagstone, a lone constable passed near along the outermost lay of Merrith Street, regarding Karnoz with an acknowledging nod without pausing in his stride.  Hoar crunched beneath the watchman's heels, masking Karnoz's stride as he fell in ten paces behind.  Twin plumes of smoke wafted from the Gilded Prince less than a block west-by-northwest from where Karnoz stalked, but he would not be returning there...not just yet.  He plodded on, and when Garmann's Alley yawned at his side, he disappeared from Merrith Street as silently as he had come.


"Magda's Fortune Telling
Fortunes and Destinies Read
Talismans against Evil Sold Here
Curses Laid or Broken
No haggling, please"

The weathered sign creaked against its brazen bonds and clapped against the frost-draped facade behind it, mutely proclaiming what services were for sale therein.  The door beneath that sign was too bold and too elaborate for such a squallid alley, cut from green-stained rowanwood of no meager quality, etched with copper inlays and set with a single large, garish amethyst in its dead center.  That no passing scoundrel had dared to thieve from the door in over seven years was testament to how profoundly the local underworld feared Magda's supposed powers.

Karnoz's ears keened to a murmuring exchange of words beyond that door: one voice of a confident crone likely to be Magda, the other voice guttural, uncertain and unknown.  Shrewdly, Karnoz crept away into the throat of an adjoining alley, hoping that Magda's guest would not be long in staying.

Luck was with him, for Magda was never one to entertain visitors for over long and suffered their presence but for however long she needed to milk as much gold from them as she could.  Within ten minutes, the copper-etched door shuddered ajar, opened by the hand of a limping dwarven graybeard loosely garbed in the tattered leathers of a craftsman.  In the doorway, the dwarf briefly turned to gratefully shake hands with a flash of swirled violet silk and a pleasant old voice behind him.  He then stowed his coinpouch brusquely beneath his vest, took up his crutch from beside the door and hesistantly descended from the oaken stoop, turning southward to whatever hovel awaited him.

Seizing the moment, Karnoz emerged from the side alley and casually made for the door.


(Karnoz - untrained Spellcraft check (DC 17): Automatic Failure)
(Magda casts an unknown spell....)

The tongue on the other side of the door stirred again, this time droning in what Karnoz could vaguely guess to be fragments of an alien language.  Something about the words raised the hairs on the back of his cowled neck, and instinctively he checked his sheaths as he hastened for the door.  The snapping breeze blasted into the shop, sputtering a score of candle flames, dispersing languid clouds of incense smoke and swaying the shop's many talismans and dream wards on their hooks as he yanked the rowan door open, though too late to catch the crone in whatever incantation she wove.

The rogue was astute in guessing that he himself was the prompt for her unseen magic.  Though Magda's anticipating eyes had been fixed on that door well before Karnoz entered, she knocked her simple throne aside in leaping back from her soothsaying table all the same, staring at her black-clad visitor as though no less than the hosts of the Abyss had come calling.  And though he had spoken cordially enough with the old fortune teller some three winters past, this time her tone was far from that of a welcome reunion:

"Leave me be, O man of death!  You have no place in this house!  You, who would plunge an empire into lamentation!  You, whose tongue cools bones and whose touch breeds maggots!  You have grasped a black star and you chase a pallid path which lies not here!  You cannot enter!  I'll have no part of you!  Now leave me!"

His eyes fleetingly followed her crooked, thrusting finger to the wooden floor, naked between the door and the lavender carpet's fringes.  On passing the threshold, he had stepped into some manner of arcane seal or magic semicircle, burned into the floor and traced with coarse salt and a scented oil which his nose could barely discern among the shop's many aromas and odors.  Such patterned wards were commonly laid by anyone from high magicians to lowly peasants hoping to keep various unearthly evils out of their homes, as any veteran burglar knew.

But how useful could such a ward prove at stopping an evil which was entirely human?  Was Magda merely a bluffing, gesturing, babbling charlatan, as he had long suspected?  Or was there perhaps something more to her, something which he had not yet perceived, let alone gauged?  And would he dare to test it here?



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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:56 am

"Man of death." Karnoz chuckled quietly. "I rather like that one." The assassin stepped forward slowly, making sure to drag one toe across the border of the circle, scattering the salt and breaking the circle. Karnoz was not overly familiar with magics, but even if the circle was a superstitious gimmick, Karnoz could play that game too by 'countering' it.

"But stop trying to flatter me, Magda. I have come on business, business that ironically might offer Kurvoss a touch of what so many wish for...."

He slid forward with slow, silent and methodical steps, easing the center seat back and sitting down, all the while never letting his eyes off of the old woman.

"Justice." he finished, gesturing with one hand towards Magda's throne, offering her the seat.

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sun Aug 17, 2014 6:32 am

Though her visitor spoke with a civil tongue, Magda's horrified eyes bore first into the disrupted circle before her door, then to the cloaked man beckoning for her to sit and share words with him.  Perhaps her interests were not purely mercenary after all, for she snubbed Karnoz's offer with a turn of her jaw and scornfully remained where she stood.

"Justice?" she hissed.  "Justice?  For a man who balances mere gold against the lives of others? A Nerull-sired grave-filler who defiles such a virtue merely by speaking its name?  What know you of justice?"

Clearly Magda was clinging to her preconceptions.  Perhaps she could be gently coaxed out of her preconceptions with persistence.  Or perhaps a more forceful tone would be warranted.  No small choice it was, for so much rests on mere diplomacy, and so much can be gauged and meted with mere words.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:00 am

Karnoz half-smile remained under his mask. By the Powers, he was going to have to remember some of these curses, they were golden!

"Oh, I am just an instrument. I never claimed to be more than that. But if i am evil , then I am a necessary evil in these times. How else will the common man deal with their woes, gain justice against those that have wronged or betrayed them? The Constable? The guard? The Burgomasters? No dear Magda, they come to me for the same reasons they come to you and I accept their coin for the same reasons you do. Don't think that you are so different than I just because my solutions and remedies differ from yours."

Again his eyes fixed on the old woman's. "Call me what you will, but we are not so different you and I, as you might wish. Keep your values, I have no qualms with them or you, but it is justice that I am here to see you about. I hunt a betrayer, a liar and deceiver. I think you know him and by helping me, you might just help keep a few people who don't need to meet me alive and you get paid for it."

There was a moment of silence before he continued.
"Or you can choose to snub me in which case I will still kill my target, but I might have to extract information from a few others who would probably never want or need to meet me. Your choice Magda."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:06 am

The crone drew her shawl about herself, realizing an uncomfortable truth.

"You mean to kill Yorgo Pavamoski, do you not? He is a man who has given much of his coin for my counsel over the years. Why should such a man meet your blade, if indeed he be your quarry?"

Karnoz looked over his steepled fingers, taking note of the seven cards arranged in a half-circle on Magda's side of the table. Even if there was nothing supernatural to her intuition, it was a damned keen sense of intuition nonetheless.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:21 am

Karnoz offered Magda three, slow claps of his hand.

"Very good Magda! Maybe there is something to your prowess after all. Yorgo has angered one too many and now he intends to flee before he meets his retribution. I know that Yorgo is a bumbling and superstitious fool and has likely come to you for council. I would like to hear that council please. As well as what else you might know about him."

Almost absently, Karnoz leaned over, reviewing the cards set before him.

"I do hope that he has not promised you anything to be paid in the near future." Karnoz added. "Even without my intervention, he has no intentions of paying you. He has cut his ties and does not plan to return....You do know that, right?"

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:09 am

(Karnoz - untrained Diplomacy check (DC 5/15/25/40, +2 synergy bonus for Bluff): 14)
(So close!  Magda remains Unfriendly towards Karnoz.)

Magda nodded a grim, heavy nod.  "Yes, mankiller.  I know sat he has quit sese lands for good...against my counsel, I would add.  He has his stolen prize, but he is in no great hurry; confident to hear his spy inform him sat his bygone friend and his hired blade--you, I expect--were no longer dangers to his claim, he now heeds his thirst for gold and for power and goes to answer seh fallen lord's invitation.  I would sooner dance seh Dunarene with eight bone devils san answer Bardosylvania's call, but...perhaps he will do well sere.  He still has his brute to hide behind."

Keeping a wary and weathered eye on Karnoz, she crept near to the table and leaned at its edge, taking the Tomb card from the center of the semicircle.  "...da.  Upright, sis card means nussing more than change...good change, perhaps, and I would wish him well on his journey.  But...sis card came inverse."

With the sharp exhale of resignation, she returned the Tomb card to its place on the table.  "Perhaps you will meet your own death at seh hands of Yorgo and his brute.  Perhaps you will spare him a worse fate san what Lady Fate has ordained.  But he has been good to me for all sese years, and I shall not give him to you gladly.  He paid ten Ruble for my counsel sis night. Ten Ruble.  How much more would you pay me to see his destiny unraveled?"


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(Silly me for forgetting up till now that Magda has a bit of an accent.  Soft "th" = "s" and whatnot.  My bad.)
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:33 am

"Ten Rubles?" Karnoz asked. Reaching into one of his many padded pockets, he drew out five gold rubles and added another five, laying them out in a line for her to see.

"Matched." he added. "Plus I see another six cards on this table, I will offer you five more for each glimpse into his future."

"I can even add to your reputation. I can keep silent about your involvement with me...and even subtly encourage the whispers of your talents to others."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:17 am

(Okay, I think that deserves another Diplomacy check....)

(Karnoz - untrained Diplomacy check (same DC's, same synergy bonus): 12)
(Magda remains Unfriendly.)

"Hmmph!  You could do better san sis," the old woman snorted, "but...forty Ruble should be enough."

Magda took her throne by its back to drag it from the table.  But then she furrowed her brow and paused.

"But know sat my spirits are with me, man of death!  Calamity shall befall you if you seek to cheat me or betray me.  So let us see to it and be done!"

The throne was scooted out far enough for her to sit, and sit she did.  Her thumb stroked the Tomb card once more.

"We have already seen seh root of Yorgo's problem: He would flee from his death and seek his fortune beyond the sea.  But what sis card says is sat he shall greet doom or grave loss.  I expect sat he is trading one grave for another.  But seh spirits say not how he would be undone, only sat his is a fool's quest.  He disagreed, of course."

Perhaps Magda was slave to her own prejudices, Karnoz noted.  The inverted Tomb card meant death, doom or loss; Magda had made that much certain.  But she was not clear on whose death, doom or loss it would be.  Perhaps Yorgo courted his own doom, or perhaps he courted the doom of another...someone who was waiting for him on his arrival, perchance.

Her thumb moved leftward and settled on what card was there.  "But...sis card may be why he persists: seh Second Coin, upright.  He shall have his fortune, and he shall have many ways--and many choices--by which to take it.  It would seem sat a skillful dealer and manipulator can seize a grand destiny in Bardosylvania..."

Her thumb briefly flitted back to the Tomb card.  "...sough not without great risk.  If he does not win sis game, he shall die.  Surely he must have some ally or refuge..."

Magda sniffed, moving her thumb further to touch the Wizard card.  "...and here it is: seh Wizard, a soul of truly majestic knowledge, wisdom and insight.  Yorgo would do well to curry sis erudite's favor and to heed his words of wisdom, for sey shall arm him against his enemies and preserve him when all else falls to waste.  But what of sose enemies?"

Back across her hand went, settling on the Three-Starred Wand.  "Oh, his enemies are threefold!  He must fear seh mundane, seh unearthly and himself.  His own failings are as much a threat to his success as any baleful ghost or shrouded blade shall be.  But if sose adversaries are bested, what stands as seh keeper of his fortune?"

Magda's hand raced to the left end of her spread, to where the Burning Knight rested, but with his feet facing Karnoz and not Magda.  "Oh, sis is not good," Magda bleakly intoned.  "Just as Yorgo shall journey far to claim his reward, one grave soul shall return from oblivion to thwart him.  From where he writhes in damnation, he watches and he waits.  Seh soul who watches Yorgo from afar is a knighted soul of oath, of nobility and of great power, and he shall not be swayed.  He shall guard what is his.  And he shall not suffer Yorgo or any other interloper to cross him without greeting his anger.  But...what does sis enemy from Beyond truly want, of Yorgo or any other?"

From there, her thumb drifted to the extreme, stopping at the Burning Servant.  Like the card before it, this one was inverse.  Magda paused grimly, then exploded in mock surprise.

"Servants!  Doomed, hapless servants, to be consumed when seir usefulness is ended.  He bears seh worst of intentions for sem.  And sis powerful lord knows neisser friends nor kin.  All souls in his dominion are his to claim.  Friends.  Family.  Enemies.  Interlopers.  Innocents.  Let every one of sem beware seh lord of seh land!  If death does not claim Yorgo, sen seh dread lord of Bardosylvania shall."

But unexpectedly, Magda's age-marked face fell to uncertainty as her hand darted from one extreme of her spread to the other.  "But...seh meaning of sis card escapes me.  Sis card signifies seh end of his quest, and it is seh Throne of Swords.  He shall persist.  He shall face his enemies.  And he shall face seh hidden lord, come from obscurity to stop him.  And sen...repose.  Contemplation.  A place of peace and power from which to seize greater fortunes yet.  But...who is seated in seh Throne of Swords?  Be it seh Lord of Bardosylvania?  Be it Yorgo?  Or be it someone else?"

The old soothsayer settled into her throne, drumming her fingers on the table and piercing Karnoz's eyes with her gaze, anticipating any response from him.

"So...now you have heard what Yorgo has heard, man of death.  What you take from sese revelations is yours to decide.  I shall take my forty Ruble and send you on your way now.  You have haunted my home for long enough."


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Aug 20, 2014 12:38 am

Karnoz let the woman drone on as he silently mused, picking out what relevant information might be gleaned from Magda's fortune telling. Mostly, Karnoz thought she was a fraud. A good fraud perhaps, but still a fraud. After all, if Magda's fortune for Yorgo was worth a damn, why was there no mention of him in it?
Magda was clever. Her words alone revealed that, but when her curses had turned into a veiled threat, the old woman's tongue ceased to amuse Karnoz.

The reading done, Karnoz leaned back and stroked his chin once in thought. "I rather like you Magda." he said casually, but his eyes regarded the soothsayer with cold indifference. "But if you ever threaten me again, you will be gambling your spirits against my knives. Then we shall see on whom the greater calamity falls."

Then as quickly as the assassin's mood had chilled, it warmed again as if the prior warning had never existed.

"I thank you for your insight." he said, placing the required coins on the table between them. "but I am curious; Yorgo is an arrogant braggart and fool. I do not believe he just sat here in silence."

"So what was his part of the conversation? Then I will go."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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The House of Ainsley
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:57 am

In silence, Magda heard her threat countered and her answers give seed to one question more.  And when that question ended, she spoke.

"You are true in sat he is...assured of his own success.  He claimed sat my Tomb card had already been fulfilled in many ways: Hennbauer's woman was dead by Yorgo's hand.  Four ossers who heard of his prize and sought to take it from him died too.  Sen Hennbauer died, and...you died with him.  And his host who extended seh invitation...his House is dead as well.  Furthermore, as he made note, seh inverse Tomb speaks of change...great change...and bad change.  He spoke of how seh invitation had changed hands from Hennbauer to himself, and how sis was the beginning of seh affair of which sese cards speak...a beginning, seh place of seh Tomb card in my spread.  So he has no fear of seh Tomb card and its meaning, for he believes sem to have already passed."

Slowly she collected her cards from the table, slipping them into a tidy stack of seven cards as she reached for their deck recessed under the table.  "I also mentioned, in confidence, seh vivid dream which woke me in seh dark hours of yesterday's morn.  In it, a neglected tomb stood in a dead forest.  Seh tomb burst open, and from sat tomb emerged a black wolf with his breast cut open and no heart inside.  On sat wolf's shoulder was perched a black bird...a raven or a crow, perhaps.  Seh wolf and his crow came to a river, and at seh far bank of sat river was a most beautiful swan hen with feathers of gold or yellow.  Seh wolf hungered for seh swan but he could not reach her because of seh river, and seh swan began to laugh at him.  But sen seh crow flew from seh wolf's shoulder, and seh one crow became many.  And seh crows, as one, descended on seh swan and snatched her, sen brought her to seh wolf, where she lay very still.  And seh wolf ate her, and he shared her meat with his crow.  And sen seh wolf walked across seh river--as if seh water was solid ground--to where seh swan had made her nest.  Sis dream, I related to Yorgo, and I asked him if my dream meant anysing to him.  And do you know what he said?"

Knowing that the answer was forthcoming, Karnoz kept his words as the crone shuffled her fortune cards, shaking her head dismissively.

"He said sat my dream meant sat I should not drink so much wine before I go to bed, and sat I should keep to my crystals and my cards!  I had no wine sat eve, and I did naught to earn his derision!  More seh fool he is, for I do not believe sat my vivid dreams come without reason.  I have had sem for all my days, even if seir meaning does escape me at times.  But too often have I ignored sem only to later look behind and see how true sey had become.  I will not doubt seh spirits or what messages sey leave for me.  Usually, Yorgo heeds sem as well, but...he has his prize--seh promise of a grand life, seh reward for which he has skulked and schemed and connived for all his years.  Seh fallen lord's gold is already Yorgo's gold, eh?  Or so he believes."

With the fortune deck returned to its nook beneath her table, Magda concluded her words.  "And so I will answer you and your threat with seh same advice with which I answered his arrogance: We walk seh shores of seh Second World now.  If you would kill people, you should take care, for sey do not always stay dead."


(Karnoz has paid Magda 40 Gold.)

With a thin, satisfied smile, Magda took the proffered coins from the table.  And she spoke without looking up from them.  "Yorgo is at seh Barley Dock with his boat and his oaf, slipping from your grasp even now.  His ship quits Salzanagrad in ten days, with him, without him or with another in his stead.  Spend more words here and you could lose him forever.  How shall you claim your 'justice' sen?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   

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Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones
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