It seems like I found my ticket out of this cesspool of a city afterall.
I’ve fallen in with a ragtag group of ambitious individuals who are competing for a chance to explore some so-called isle of dread for a shot at some real treasure. That’s right, no more playing lookout, messenger boy, fence, or errand-runner for me. I haven’t even told the guild I’ll be leaving permanently- as far as they know, I’m shadowing the party for info. Little do they know that I have no intention of reporting back once I find some real fame and fortune away from this dump. The guild is storied, but they’ve been going downhill for years. I doubt they even have any real reach outside the city, much less to the towns and cities outside the kingdom. And from the looks of it, we won’t ever need to be returning here. I’ve been playing the loyal associate the last few days just in case, but if I never step foot here again I won’t shed a tear. I have to admit I’ll miss my mother, the only real family I have here, but she’s content to retire here. I’m sure she’s had enough adventure of her own to last a lifetime, and doesn’t seem bitter or cynical despite getting kicked out of the church of Sarenrae. And I can’t help but feel this nagging guilt about it whenever I see her, being the reason for that.
As far as the party itself, they could show some real promise. The viking girl knows her way around a sword. The big brawler does too, though he’s already gotten on my nerves prattling on about social inequality. Why should I have to give away all my hard-earned money to some grubby kids just because they can’t fend for themselves? I survived on my own by being quick, smart, and talking my way out of trouble. If you can’t cut the mustard, you deserve to be living in a gutter begging for coppers. Any one of them could find a job with the guild if they wanted, but some people just don’t want to find a better lot in life for themselves. Not my problem. I’ll toss them a few coppers or a loaf of bread to the particularly destitue ones, but ALL my profit? Not me. The Wizard seems like a nice guy. Very smart. The gnome, too, but I wouldn’t mistake him for a wimpy nerd. I’ve seen his beastie in action, and you’d have to be very brave or very stupid to pick a fight with that thing. The druid’s a smart fellah too, but he doesn’t talk much. He looks a little out of place in the big city. I’ve already had to save him from one scam so far- the oldest trick in the book. You always have to watch your pockets whenever you’re in town, whether you’re watching some rope climber, fire breather, or haggling with a vendor. If you get your purse cut, the city guard’s just going to laugh and tell you that you have to be more careful. The oracle, now- he’s a real head case. Goes off and has tea parties in the worst alleys and talks to himself constantly. Says he can see ghosts. I’m amazed he hasn’t caught a dagger in the back yet, but he might just be too crazy even for the Slashers to mess with… and I can’t say I blame them. I’d hate to be locked in a confine space with the guy, I feel like he’d wear a pot for a hat and start chewing off my fingers just for fun. Gives me the creeps, honestly- and I’m half demon, so what does that tell you?
At any rate, we’re going to jump into the competition first thing tomorrow. Looks like the competition is pretty tough- most of them are just boastful drunkards who will probably get stuck in a pit on the first puzzle, of course, but there are some real pros here, too. We’re going to have our work cut out for us. And we signed up the Viking chick before she had a chance to rally us all and give us a pep-talk, so I’m sure she’s not going to be in the best of moods once we start. Heh heh. Hey, if you round up a party and
not expect us to take initiative every once in a while, then what’s the point? Sometimes people just need a bit of motivation to get rolling.
Also, she deserves it for bringing that bloody annoying spider along. I swear to the nine hells, if that thing tries to hump my leg one more time, I’m going to start poking its eyes out one by one.
Well, the tournament could have gone better. It could have gone a hell of a lot worse, but it could have gone better, too. We were the last party to run through, which didn’t give us any sort of advantage- we couldn’t snag any info from the other groups who went in before us, the society made damn sure of that. So we entered in blind. None of us had any prior experience with one of these things before, though I’d heard bits and pieces of information about it from fellows in the guild who attempted it in the past. I was expecting it to be tricky, and boy, I wasn’t disappointed.
We actually breezed through most of it, all except the first and last rooms which we needed to ask for help on, and one of the middle puzzles, which we failed entirely. I knew I should have climbed up on those walls, but I just panicked and tried to play by the rules instead of outsmarting the puzzle. That’ll teach me. All in all we finished fourth place- just out of the money. Not that there was any money to be directly earned, mind you. We’re out five gold apiece with nothing to show for it.
At least that’s what I thought, at first. Turns out we snagged /somebody’s/ interest. We wandered around a little aimlessly after the tournament until one of our socially-inept spellcasters found out that someone slipped a note into his pocket. I think it was the druid. I really should watch him closer. It just as easily could have been his purse missing, or a knife in the kidneys. At any rate, the note told us to meet a certain someone at a certain location. All well and good- I simply assumed it was a scam until I saw the address: the Puddles.
The Puddles is what you would call the ghetto of the bad part of the poor part of town. There’s no reason to go down there. Only murderers and the truly desperate ever go down there- the guild uses it sometimes to smuggle goods into the city, but even we don’t mess around down there for too long. There’s absolutely nothing of value whatsoever down there. So obviously, when I saw that someone wanted to meet us there, I suspected there was a chance that it could possibly be legitimate. There was also a possibility that we’d all end up as (yet more) corpses floating in the streets, but if you wanted to talk discreetly without risk of the neighbors listening in, the Puddles is where I’d do it.
On our way there we passed another party who seemed to be coming back from the same location. I tailed them to a nearby tavern where they looked like they were settling down for a drink for a good long while, so I high-tailed it back to the group to meet our contact. Seems a rich noblewoman from across the sea wants to hire our services.
Seems like I’m going to get out of this hellhole of a city sooner than I thought. Score!
We accepted the job and headed back to the tavern to see what the other party was up to. Seems like they got hired just the same as us. We played it dumb just in case there was a chance we’d be in competition with them, hopefully we don’t run into them on the ship over there. That would be a little awkward.
We set sail tomorrow, so we headed back to the docks and started preparing for the trip. Should be nice sailing weather. If not, I won’t have to worry about making any new journal entries.
I’ve attempted to sprinkle pepper powder in my boots to keep that damn spider off of me. No luck so far. I need to ask the druid how to assert my dominance and keep that spider terrified of me.
Seems our new boss is a wealthy landowner in Sasserine. Never been here before (or anywhere outside of Absalom) but I’ve heard it can be a wild place. Right on the edge of a jungle, and they’ve been having numerous guild problems, to boot. It’s a shame, really. We (I say we, but I don’t consider myself a member of Absalom’s guild anymore. At least, not until I run into one of them.) used to do a lot of trade in exotic, dubously-legal animal and fur trade with them, but it’s slowed to a trickle while they fight. Guild wars are terrible for profit. I’m not looking forward to negotiating my way through the underbelly of Sasserine- maybe I’ll just play it straight when I get there. I’ll have to scope the place out once I finish with this log.
As I said before, Lady Vanderborn is wealthy. The problem is, she can’t access her wealth, because she’s locked out of mommy and daddy’s trust fund. (Really, doesn’t that make me just as wealthy? I’d be rich as a king if only I could access someone else’s magic vault.) It seems her parents were involved in an unfortunate explosion and were blown to pieces. Shortly thereafter, the city dockworkers (no doubt under the direction of one of the thieve’s guilds, or one of a thousand other dubious organizations who knows about the Vanderborn’s wealth) comandeered one of their ships and are doubtlessly searching for the key to her vault as we speak.
The plan is to return her ship if possible, but to retreive the key by any means necessary. should be easy as pie.
No luck with the spider. I complained to Grims about it and she just laughed and said he was a good boy. I said that thing’s liable to get swatted if it’s not careful. She was not amused.
It wasn’t easy as pie.
Those goons were a lot more than I bargained for. Even though we took them by surprise, they still managed to thrash us pretty good. Sergei and Grim kept things together after me and Vendrilk were knocked out, and I suppose I have them to thank for not sleeping at the bottom of the bay right now. Apparently the goons stole the ship simply to smuggle some animals in, and weren’t looking for the key. At least that’s what we gathered, though I’m still not convinced. Grims found the ring and a slip of parchment with some clues on it stuck behind the bed in the captain’s cabin- why there? Why not just leave it safe and sound at home? The things nobles do to hide their wealth, I swear. If it were me, I’d invest half of it in exports, and divide the rest among…
I’m getting off track. In any case, we found what we were looking for along with quite a hefty purse of platinum, and Lady Vanderborn was dutifully pleased. If I had been conscious I would have probably taken my share of the money and run, but things worked out better this way. We’re on retainer to the tune of 100 gold a month! That’s right, I’m valuable. Eat your heart out, Absalom thieve’s guild!
The catch turned out to be that we would actually fetch the treasure from her vault. Why can’t these rich people just trust in a good old-fashioned lock, and not have a series of deadly traps lined up in front of their gold? That’s how people get hurt.
We dispached an iron snake guarding the foyer to the vault after opening the doors. I wouldn’t mind taking a peek around here on my own time, by the way. The sheer size of some of these vaults… no, I’m getting off track again. We killed the snake, and what was waiting for us in the next room? Why, a giant tumbler lock, of course. After banging our heads against the pillar for what seemed like hours, we finally solved the riddle on the piece of paper and found the correct combination to open the chest. It seems someone beat us to the punch- the piles of gold and jewels were all gone. All was not lost, however, as Lady Vanderborn found some IOU’s from other rich folk to get her by. She’ll be able to pay the rent, at least.
Our next job is to find her scumbag brother Vanthus. He’s the one who cleaned out mommy and daddy’s vault, and while I first assumed she wanted to go after him for the treasure, she actually seems more concerned about
him than the gold. I swear, family makes people do funny things, sometimes (myself included). So we’ve officially gone from treasure-hunters to bounty-hunters. Not a problem, I’m used to tracking people down who owe the guild money, this shouldn’t be too hard. He’s been missing for about a month, but anyone with that kind of cash can’t stay private for long. If he still has most of it he’ll have made quite a lot of “friends”, and if he’s spent it all, we should be able to follow the bill collectors right to his front door.
But the spider is staying at home. I’m putting my foot down on this.
After a lot of knocking on doors, we tracked down an associate of his, a boat-shop owner by the name of Panchus. It seems Vanthus is not the sort who inspires loyalty, and he was happy to point us in the right direction to find him, though what he gave us was bare enough.
Our door-knocking garnered some attention of our own, however. Shortly after leaving the shop, a shifty-looking fellow by the name of Shefton started tailing us without even bothering to hide his tracks. After confronting him, he claims to have overheard our conversation and offered to lead us right to his lair. Of course it was suspicious, but we had all had enough of empty leads, so we agreed to follow him. None of us are afraid of a straight up-fight with a rich boy, so after paying him a few gold pieces, he rowed us out to Parrot island and showed us a hidden trap-door leading down into the ground. Secret entrance, indeed.
He hadn’t tried to stab us in the back, yet, so we told him to wait for us and that we would be right back. The bad news is, Shefton was working for Vanthus the whole time. The bad news for Shefton was, Vanthus double-crossed him, sliced him up as soon as the last of us jumped down the hole, chucked Shefton down the hole, and pulled up the ladder. The good news is that we got the money we paid Shefton back. The bad news is that a horde of zombies was waiting for us at the bottom.
After much trial and error, we dispached the undead and found a pile of treasure waiting for us at the end, along with the corpse of Penkus, one of Vanthus’s other associates whose name came up quite a few times during our investigations. The poor bastard had long enough to scrawl out a note in blood swearing revenge on Venkus for betraying him.
Not to self: if we ever find Vanthus, don’t let him sweet-talk you into starting a business partnership.
In the end we had to use one of the magic gems to summon an earth elemental to dig us out of that death trap, but it was certainly worth it. Our wealth and fame continues to grow. We technically found Vanthus, but now this is personal. We’re going to catch the bastard wherever he tries to hide.
Today was quite a busy day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
We discovered the Lotus Dragons’ headquarters under dead dog alley. A little cliche, but not a foolish place to hide an up and coming smugglers’ hideout, with access to the bay and low presence of the cityguard here. Their front was the taxidermist’s shop, as expected, with a secret entrance leading right into the shop as well as several derelict houses nearby. We snuck down one of these trap doors, mindful of what happened the last time we did that.
I think we surprised the gator as much as it surprised us. At least, I think it was a gator. It could have been a crocodile, I always get the two confused, and we didn’t exactly have time to ask Vendrilk while it came at us. We managed to put it to sleep and I put it out of its misery with a quick stab. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t guarding a treasure chest, but then, that would have been a little too easy.
We encountered a few bandits while searching for Vanthus, and either killed them all or let them go. I think I talked a few of them into joining up with me when all this is over. New leader of the Lotus Dragons, perhaps? I think I could turn this place around into a properly profitable enterprise without all the murders and ship burning, given a few weeks of elbow grease. We’ll see how it goes.
Once we finally sniffed out Rowyn’s lair Vanthus was nowhere to be found, and she opted to running rather than sticking around for a real fight after offering us a job. Grim slapped her around a bit, but she didn’t seem terribly impressed, and slipped out by drinking a potion and floating out the pipes. A little unnerving, if you ask me, but it is what it is. I’m sure that isn’t the last we’ll see of her.
We did, however, score quite a bit of loot- a few liquid assets Rowyn had stashed away in her room. We unloaded all of it except the artwork, which will take a bit of time. With loot this nice, you have to wait for the right buyer to come along.
We also discovered Vanthus’s next move- ambushing a smuggler and burning his ship in a place called Kraken cove. This guy has no sense of honor among thieves. I’m amazed he’s still alive with these kind of dirty tactics, or that anyone trusts him enough to do business with him. It feels nice, however, finally being one step ahead of him. We’ll set out just as soon as this awards ceremony hogwash is all done with. I think I’ll try to sniff out a few contacts for this artwork while everyone else is wining and dining with Sasserine’s elite.
Things are starting to get a little weird. For the first time in my life I feel shaken, unsettled, and I’m really not sure what to do about it.
We found a skipper to haul us down to Kraken Cove after a bit of haggling. Turns out that isn’t the place most respectable sailors wish to be seen. No, they’re fine with drinking swill and dandying one-eyed wenches who look like they spend the majority of their profits at the healers’. No, that’s just fine. But say the word Kraken cove, and I swear you’d turn fewer heads if you shouted that the city guard was performing a surprise inspection on every ship in the harbor.
That’s not why I’ve been feeling unsettled.
He dropped us off about an hour’s hike away from our landing point, and even that took some bribing and promise of even more of our hard-earned gold. About halfway into the hike we were assaulted by a pack of monkeys. Not just any monkeys- some kind of plague-infested mutant monkeys with two elbows and extra heads. Ugliest monkeys you ever saw. I may be a city boy, but even I know monkeys aren’t supposed to look like that. Buggers fought us tooth and nail, too- they were just too ugly and stupid to know when to give up.
This is also not why I’ve been feeling a little uneasy.
Half of our party scaled the cliff down to the beach, and the other half braved a rickety wooden walkway down to the shore- which was exploded a few seconds later by a ship crashing into it. Only Franc fell into the drink, and he looks happier there than he does on land anymore, so he was fine. Unfortunately when we landed, we were confronted by a horde of pirates who looked worse off than the monkeys. Sharp biting teeth, tentacles everywhere, extra limbs- these guys had it all. We managed to drop a number of them, with more reinforcements sounding like they were going to come from the cave set into the cliff. Fortunately for us, a ship beached right next to us, and we were able to hop aboard to take stock of everything. Grimm and I decided to check out the caves and see what was waiting for us inside- hopefully just Vanthus and a few of his lackeys.
No such luck.
Halfway inside the cave we were ambushed by a mutant dinosaur. That’s right, a freaking dinosaur with tendrils and extra limbs and all sorts of other attributes I’d rather not get into in detail. The damn beast got the jump on me and bit me in half.
Still not what’s been bothering me.
I saw Grimm running out the cave right before everything turned black, hightailing it to the ship to warn the rest of the party.
This is where things started to get weird.
I was rather enjoying being dead. Nothing hurt anymore, everything was nice and black and peaceful… when all of a sudden, I heard this… disembodied voice. Gave me the willies. It sounded like it was asking for help, and the black began to recede to a misty gray. I could have sworn I was just beginning to see an outline materialize in the fog, but the silhouette turned into Grim, bringing me back into the damned material plane and a splitting headache, not to mention the dinosaur bite-marks. I sure hope they leave a scar that the ladies will go crazy over. It seems the rest of the group managed the dinosaur, and intelligent adventurers that we are, decided to continue checking out the rest of the caves. We found a few hellhounds chained to a wall, as well as a number of plagued animals stuffed into cages. I can only guess this was the Lotus Dragon’s smuggling outpost where they kept their wares before transportation, but… I really doubt anyone’s going to be buying jaguars or peacocks with mutant limbs and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Honestly, I feel pretty bad for them.
Deeper in the cave we ran into a trophy room, and more mutant pirates. We managed to off them before running into a pirate who actually /wasn’t/ mutated- not exactly the friendly type, but a damn good fighter. It seems she was the pirate that Vanthus was here to meet, and he’s the one who set this whole plague in motion when he swiped some magical artifact from her and dropped it into the bay. So not only is he a homicidal maniac, but he’s now a /mutant/ homicidal maniac. Joy. I sure hope Lady Vanderboern doesn’t see him like this, for her own sake. Not only that, but this pirate lass sent her second in command to take out the Vanderboern family, thinking that Vanthus was acting on their behalf. Sheesh.
We’re returning with the ship captain we hired back to Sasserine with all haste. Hopefully we can stop the assassination before anything happens to Lady Vanderboern. Not only will we be out a paycheck, but I’ve started to grow rather fond of the boss. After that, we can continue hunting Vanthus. He shouldn’t be too hard to track down in his current state.
That damn voice still haunts my nightmares, though. I wish it was just a dream, but I’ve got a very dreadful feeling about it.