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Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 1 — Keltar
~ third-day, 13th of Hammer, The Year of Wild Magic, afternoon

There had been no further disturbances during the night. They had all risen early and packed up. The guards dragged the bodies of the gnolls to the fire pit and burned them. They all boarded the barge once again, picking up three more passengers who arrived at the docks at dawn. It was an ugly, drizzly morning, but it cleared up after lunch. The river was clogged with boats now, many of them fishermen. Heading north against the river, many crafts were being towed by beasts of burden on the shore.

   While on the boat, an argument arose among Leokas, Jayce, and Mythlos regarding the distribution of the loot from the previous night's battle. In the end, Mythlos admitted that, yes, he had taken not one but two gems for himself, and Jayce finally agreed to divide up the 170 silver pieces among the five of them once the value of the gems had been ascertained. But Vashti refused her share. "I have a long way to go before I have paid my debt to all of you," she said. Perhaps because he was feeling guilty, Mythlos gave a silver piece each to the three other passengers, none of whom seemed comfortable being on board the craft with the strange group of adventurers.

   Near to dinner time, they saw Keltar in the distance, built right alongside the river, with mud-brick walls and countless minarets. The boaters guided the craft into a large off-shoot canal that led directly to the main northern gate of the city. They stopped among a multitude of other river craft at docks. The canal waters, continuing past the docks, plunged through a massive sluice gate underneath the walls of the city.

   "Welcome to Calimshan, companions," said Vashti. "Now, follow my lead and do try not to get us all killed." She pulled her cloak over her head and veiled her lower face as well. "One of you must lead the way; I'll stay close behind and give directions. We will stand out even more if it appears that a woman is leading a group of males."

   "Well, I am the obvious leader," said Jayce. This resulted in collective eye rolls from everyone else.

   "We will cross all the way to the other side of the city, where the slave market is," continued Vashti, "and see if we can learn any news from the amlakkar there."

   They passed through the ornate archway that served as the gate to the city, bumping shoulders with throngs of brown-skinned, barefoot, shirtless men with baggy pants, vests, and headscarves and fully concealed women in cloaks and veils. They could see that the city was divided by many shorter inner walls into precincts. Along the tops of these walls were walkways, and men and women of clearly richer standing walked along them. They also observed a few litters being carried on the shoulders of slaves, which bore upper class citizens within. All along the walls, in layers two to five stories tall were mud-brick, flat-roofed row houses and larger, domed houses with second floor balconies and gardens. Many of the homes contained high-arched windows with intricately fashioned stone screens.

   Magic seemed everywhere. They saw brooms sweeping the streets of their own accord and ghoulishly carved djinni ornaments on roof corners with eyes that followed them as they walked past. They even spotted a few more flying carpets in the air above.

   They passed into a large open square and beheld a massive work of breathtaking architecture. "The Steps of Istishia," said Vashti. The Steps were a monolithic, flat-topped square pyramid. Water bubbled out of the top and flowed in magically shaped patterns down the stepped sides into a large, clear reflecting pool that surrounded the whole structure.

   "Istishia is the god of water, by the way" said Jayce, mostly directed toward Vashti.

   "Of course, you dolt."

   "She didn't know that until I told her," he said to the others, who ignored him.

   "There to the west," said Vashti, pointing, "you can see the walls and minarets of the House of the Broken God, which fills the entire area of Sabban Northwest and spills outside the city walls proper into the fields. But we are heading southeast; you may wish to plug your noses."

   They soon understood why. In stark contrast to the pristine beauty of the Steps of Istishia was the awful smell of the precincts they soon crossed into.

   "What is that?"

   "That," she said, "is why Keltar, though older than any city in Calimshan except Calimport, will always be one of the smallest Calishite cities. A third of the drudachs in this city contain slaughterhouses and tanneries. And you should thank Akadi and Shaundakul; it would be a far worse smell were it not for all the windmills."

   There were windmills everywhere, but these were not in fact mills at all, nor were they being driven by any wind; there was not a natural breeze to be felt today. In actuality, a series of narrow canals passing through the drudachs of Sabbans Northeast and East powered the spinning blades in an attempt to blow the unpleasant odors of offal and tanning hides out of the city. While a fascinating accomplishment of human engineering, the windmills were clearly only moderately effective.

   Water wheels also drove grinding mills for the production of grains, which Vashti informed them were another of the chief exports of the city.

   Jayce noticed that Mythlos looked a little sick. "The smell is really getting to you?"

   "I hate the smell of meat," he answered. "I only eat plants. It disgusts me that so many animals are being killed."

   "You are aware that you are wearing leather and that leather comes from cows?"

   Mythlos looked shocked. "This armor was passed down to me. I would never kill an animal myself!"

   "But goblins and gnolls are allowed?" asked Belvin.

   After about 15 minutes of walking, they were cut off by a train of cattle being led toward one of the slaughterhouses. "Beshaba's breath," Vashti cursed. "If we wait for all these cows to pass, we won't make it to the slave market before nightfall. Follow me, we'll take the back alleys."

   They hurried through mostly empty, narrow alleyways, which twisted this way and that, at one point taking some stairs down into the ground through a tunnel and then back up again to the surface. A few steps further, and they found themselves in a little square, surrounded by several tall apartments, with laundry hanging out to dry above their heads.

   "By the hells!" Vashti cursed again, because suddenly, five youths, no older than 15 years of age, stepped out from behind barrels or piles of trash, each bearing some improvised weapon in his hands. The party was surrounded.

   "Well, well, well," said the oldest boy, "Not one, not two, but three 'pointy-ears' invading our turf!"

   The other boys laughed.

   "Look, they are the 'rainbow hair guild', black, yellow, blue, and orange," said another, pointing at their heads in turn.

   Vashti threw her cloak to the ground and set her hand on the jambiya at her thigh. "Go back to your mommies, children. You've bitten off more than you can chew."

   One of the boys whistled crudely. "Yeah, she's taking it off!"

   "I'll take your tongue off, orcwit."

   "Ah, I like my women feisty," said the oldest boy. "We'll have fun with you after we hang the elves' ears on these clotheslines. Come on boys! Let's show these barbarians how we deal with intruders!"

   None of the boys had noticed the strange breeze now blowing trash around the little square.

   Jayce also tried to warn them off, but his warnings were also unheeded. "Fine, we'll hang your ears from the line too; your loss."

   As combat seemed inevitable, Jayce rushed to one of the nearby staircases and ascended, as his right hand searched his spell pouch for a pinch of wool. The oldest boy lunged toward Vashti, who easily avoided the punch from his spiked gauntlet, but she took a blow to the shoulder from a second boy's club. There was a rush of wind, and suddenly Vashti shot up into the air, floating a story above everyone else, from where she cast down a beam of frost from her palms, covering the gang leader with icy snow. "Ach!" said the leader, wiping ice from his face and shivering, "She's a witch! Get them, boys. Come on!"

   Mythlos stepped toward the gang member with the club and swung with the side of his blade, hoping to knock him out. When the blade made contact, he heard the familiar humming sound that the sword made when it healed him. Clearly, such a tactic was not going to work with his moonblade.

   A boy with a crowbar threatened Belvin. Without hesitation, he cut him down with his scimitar, leaving a deep gash diagonally across the boy's chest.

   "Belvin!" protested Leokas. "These are just boys. What are you doing?" He then spun and took aim at a boy with a sickle, yelling at him in Common. "Hands in the air!"

   Having seen his friend fall, the youth obeyed.

   "Murderer!" screamed the boy with the club, and he charged toward Belvin, striking him with a blow to the kidneys. Belvin ran him through in response.

   The gang leader, dodging another blast from Vashti, still hovering above the fray, ran at Mythlos but pitifully missed.

   "Why are you just standing there?" the leader shouted at the others. "Avenge your brothers!"

   The one youth was just standing there because he was in a stupor. Unbeknownst to him, Jayce had cast an enchantment spell on him, holding him in a daze. By the time he came out of it, Jayce was beside him, his crossbow pointed at him. "Hands up! On your knees!" He obeyed and laid his katar on the ground.

   "Drop the sickle!" commanded Leokas of the other youth. He also obeyed. "Now turn and run and do not come back." But as the boy turned to run, Belvin swung around the corner and struck him across the lower back. He dropped to his knees and fell forward. "No!" yelled Leokas, and he ran to the boy.

   Mythlos dodged several more feeble swings from the enraged leader, warning him to cease his attack, but his attack was finally stilled by the hovering Vashti, who froze him solid with magic ice.

   Leokas was trying to stop the one boy from bleeding to death by applying pressure to the wound, but Belvin was pushing him away. "What are you doing? His lot in life fell unfairly. He is just a child."

   "No, let him die."

   Mythlos came over and joined the wrestling over the boy's body, trying to pull Belvin away from Leokas.

   From the other side of the square came a firm voice. "Halt! What is going on?" Two armed guards stood at the alley entrance.

   "We were mugged," said Jayce to them in Alzhedo. Vashti had floated back to the ground and was donning her cloak again as the guards had arrived. She turned and joined the conversation, somewhat surprised to hear Jayce speaking in her own language. "These elves... and this man... defended me from this gang," she added.

   "We will have to ask you to follow us back to the shyk.

   "We cannot do that, syl," said Jayce firmly but politely.

   "Where do you think you are heading then?" asked the guard, taken aback.

   But Vashti said, "Um, dear, we were heading to the amlakkar anyway, remember?"

   Looking somewhat embarrassed, Jayce said, "Yes, she is right; we will go with you. But look after the three fallen boys. They are sorely injured."

   The guard shrugged and turned to his fellow officer. "Look after the boys if anything can be done and the situation warrants it."

   "Please," said Jayce. The one boy still conscious began crying quietly.

   Unable to understand the conversation happening behind them, the three elves still struggled together and argued in elven. The second guard strode toward them and called out in Common, "Leave that criminal to me; you are to follow the musar to the shyk."
Session: 7th Game Session - Monday, Apr 29 2013 from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
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