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CotS: Any Port In A Storm


Heritage367
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Heliopolis. Two Days before Ventres, in the Month of the Seeress, 848 IY. The First Month of the Flood. Mid-afternoon.

 

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A city of red tile roofs and white stucco walls rising above a majestic harbor, its entrance marked by a lighthouse three hundred feet high. Home to dozens of brightly-painted temples, libraries filled with thousands of scrolls, and markets bustling with trade. Three hundred thousand souls were safely encircled within its fortified walls.

 

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The heavy rain had come early this season, spattering the raised sidewalks still hot from the morning sun. Damp pedestrians caught in the sudden downpour huddled under awnings and balconies, watching the rainwater run down the cobbled streets and into the storm drains. Most of the shops were closed for the holiday, but the taverns and food stalls were still doing good business; after all, a little rain wasn't going to stop the Festival of Hathor! What kind of celebration of the Rising of the River would it be if people were afraid to get a little wet?

 

Nearby the Produce Market (today a ghost town of colonnades and wet canvas stalls snapping in the wind), a young tortle girl wearing a vest and a simple skirt was rocking from side to side in the entrance hall to the Imperial Arms, an impressive insula a full five stories high. She wore a wide-brimmed straw hat trimmed with colorful wildflowers, which contrasted with her mournful expression as she surveyed the near empty street, singing softly to herself.

 

"Oh rain, oh rain, I wish you'd go! I want to go and plaaay!"

Edited by Heritage367
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Aelia licked the olive oil  that she had spread on her breakfast bread off her finger after tearing the pita in half and offing it to the little tortle in the door way. "You should go on and play. the rain won't hurt you and when your friends see you having fun by yourself, they will join you." The little girl took the offered bread thanking the human woman and pondered the words it was true the water wouldn't hurt her and she could splash in the puddles.

 

Aelia watched as the child ran and jumped into the biggest puddle she could find and hoped her parents wouldn't be sore. She glanced out into the wide street, the rain had put a temporary damper on the festivities, but she didn't think it would last long.  She took a bite of her bread. She was growing restless, perhaps it was time to move on? Maybe after the festival. She turned back and returned to the table and her wine, an extravagance but one she didn't like doing without.

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The tortle girl, spotting a really good puddle, took a big leap and landed with both feet at once, sending a spray of water everywhere. Her laughter was cut short when she felt a hand on her shoulder from behind. With a startled squeak, she whirled around to see a young woman in a rain-slicked cloak, dark of skin with eyes like flecks of jade in the shadow of her cowl. Where had she come from? She hadn't seen anyone since that nice lady with the bread left!

 

"Shh... The storm brings shadows, child, and shadows hide danger. Here." The stranger pressed a small silver coin into the tortle's hand. "If you have a home, bring food back to it. If you do not, buy a room for the night and stay off the street until the clouds part. Mithras' peace be upon you."

 

The quiet lady then released her shoulder and stood up again, little more than a silhouette against the grey and troubled sky. As the tortle girl hurried away, the lady glanced around the market square and slipped across to the sign of the inn, the Imperial Arms. It was a humble place, she thought as she passed through the door...but then she was humble as well. Was that not what she'd been taught?

 

Her garb was shades of charcoal and ash, save her cloak which was a deep dark burgundy-wine color; of finer make than the rest of her clothing. Though hungry and thirsty, the quiet lady sought out a fire first, to dry and warm herself, and to get a sense of the clientele, before spending money. In the end the closest thing she could find was an iron stove in a room off to one side, which glowed merrily with fires within and gave off a baking heat. She stood near it, turning where she stood to keep an eye on the entrance to the room.

Edited by SalmonMax
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A few days before, Arrick had been sent to study and pray at the Great Temple of Apollo, here in Heliopolis by his Uncle, and like any other dutiful Cleric, Arrick had done so.  Some funds had been provided, as normaly he'd have stayed at the Temple, but there was a shortage of rooms currently,  and with them he'd secured a room at the the Imperial Arms for himself.   Not the best of rooms, but it was at the least a private room and economical, he had settled in nicely.  
 

He had come down to eat with others staying there, or at least their potential company, and sat quietly alone at one of the tables, enjoying his meal.   The woman sending the girl to play was surprising, but he detected no malice from her, and the youth seemed happy to do so.   Then someone else came in and made straight for the stove.  Obviously seeking to warm herself and her wet clothing.   
 

Once he was done eating, he'd have to head to the Temple, though if things got worse, he would remain, should he be needed here.

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The room Ankabut found herself appeared to be a cluttered yet cozy office, with an old simple desk, two chairs and rack full of scrolls. The desk held an oil lamp, various papers, an abacus, inkpot and quills. The plastered walls bore painted scenes of a jungle filled with exotic animals, but the paint was faded and the plaster had cracked and fallen in a few places. A threadbare Parnathi rug completed the impression of a well-loved but perhaps indifferently maintained personal space.

 

After a few moments of warming herself, the young woman heard the sound of a man approaching, singing to himself off-key, and she could soon put a face to the voice as he entered the room. He was a small but stocky fellow, probably in his mid-fifties, with salt-and-pepper curly hair and stubble, and expressive, jet black eyebrows. He wore a simple brown tunic and sandals, with a think wool cloak pulled over his head to keep out the rain. 

 

Once he was inside the office, he closed the door, shook out his cloak, and turned to nearly walk directly into Ankabut, but stopped just in time with a start. "Ahh! You startled me, my dear!" He spoke the Common Tongue with a local accent, more than likely a lifelong Heliopolis resident. "But I can't blame you for being drawn to my stove; best money I ever spent!"

 

He stepped behind his desk and draped his cloak over the back of his chair. "Are you looking to rent a room? Our rates are very reasonable!"

Edited by Heritage367
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After receiving her silver piece from the nice mysterious lady, the wide-eyed tortle girl stared at in disbelief for several seconds before quickly tucking it into a vest pocket. Now very happy and feeling quite rich, she skipped through the open archway of the Produce Market's colonnade to play hide-and-seek with herself among the empty canvas stalls.

 

A few minutes later, she started screaming.

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The food was forgotten at the sound of the young girl's scream.   Arrick rose from where he ate, and made his way quickly  towards the sound of the screaming, hands ready to cast whatever of his spells might be needed, and heedless of the rain.  
 

Spoiler

 Arrick has Healing word x2 and Command prepared

perception check
Shameless Roll: [13] Result: 16


 

Edited by Shameless
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"Are you looking to rent a room? Our rates are very reasonable!" 

 

Ankabut nodded at that. "I would, yes. In fact..."

 

She paused on hearing the distant scream, then smiled apologetically. "...in fact I must resume this conversation momentarily. Please pardon me."

 

And she'd just started to warm up again too.

 

On light feet that barely splashed the puddles, Ankabut darted back out to the doorway into the inn proper and surveyed the scene. Someone else was hurrying off into the rain as well, she saw, and going in the right general direction. She followed...it would be best to ensure he was reinforcing the correct side, so long as doing so got her to the girl's aid quickly.

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Kimmiz was making his way down the unfamiliar roads in the capital, heading towards a place one of the guards at the gate had told him about. the water, gently dripping off the edges of his water-proof leather cloak. His eyes were looking down at the piece of paper the kind guard had given him with the name of the place on it when he heard the scream of fear. He didn't even hesitate. The monk took off as fast as he could, trying to locate the source of the scream. The sound of the rain was replaced in his ears with the blood rushing through his body. 

 

His stride carried him at a pace that would make many marvel, and his staff was held to one side, so as not to interfere with his run. Once he arrived near the source of the scream, Kimmiz slowed his pace, and put both hands on the quarterstaff, the grips of which were well-worn. He began to look around for the scream's maker, his eyes scanning all around him. 

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Aelia had just plopped a nice juicy olive into her mouth and was savoring the salty taste when the air was punctured with a tiny scream. It was a a sound of fear and sent shivers down her spine, she spit the olive pit into the small bowl and looked around.  The short fat man...no not a man, a dwarf, had jumped up gathered his robes and darted toward where the sound seemed to come from.

 

The scream came again others were staring after the dwarf but none moved yet to follow. Aelia glanced up and down the street the few people she saw were looking but again one were yet responding. She glanced harder, the child who had been skipping in the puddles was no where to be seen, a third shrill scream in as many seconds this time it froze Aelia's heart. 

 

The child!

 

With a bound she was on her feet, coins flew from her fingers to the table top as she raced after the dwarf!

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Four strangers quickly made their way through the market colonnade and between the rows of empty stalls, all ears straining for the sounds of the child's cries. Her now muffled sobs led the four to a disturbing sight in a secluded corner behind the fountain: the tortle girl, her head and limbs drawn protectively into her shell, beside a pale and bloody corpse.

 

It appeared to be a dwarven male, middle-aged judging by the hints of gray in his hair, laying flat on his back. He was conservatively dressed in the Northern style, which must have been warm when he was alive. Thick dark blood was clotted in his beard and soaked into his shirt and cloak, and his blank pale eyes stared unblinking up into the pouring rain, which was washing thin streams of blood between the cobblestones and into the nearest sewer.

 

Spoiler

Feel free to roll either Investigation, Medicine or Perception; the first two will involve touching the body, and each skill will reveal something different.

 

Edit: disregard the now-removed comments.

 

Edited by Heritage367
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Aelia took in the scene at a glance but left the offending matter to the other three who had arrived at the same time as she.

 

Instead she went straight to the terrified child huddled in her shell and picked her up cradling her as best she could whispering sing song to comfort the little girl who had witnessed such horror. Aelia moved off to the side making sure to keep the little girl from the sight of the corpse if she came out of her shell, but where she could still see what the strangers were doing.

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Kimmiz moved quickly towards the fallen Dwarf. He skidded the last meter or so on the slick ground, coming to a stop right next to the corpse. The Genasi kneeled in the rain, his pants becoming soaked with the water on the ground. He slowly reached out toward the corpse. His hands were trembling, and his eyes were half-closed. Moving with atypical timidity, Kimmiz slowly moved his hands over the corpse looking for what caused the blood, and with it the dwarf’s death. His hands, however, were trembling from the cold rain, and his eyes were missing things, due to his mind taking him back to the last body he dealt with in this condition. When he finally noticed the others, he shook his head as if to clear cobwebs from it, and then looked down again at the corpse. 

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Spoiler

Medicine

DC 5 Cause of death appears to be the throat slit with a very sharp blade

DC 10 Tongue cut out post-mortem

 

Investigation

DC 5 A considerable amount of coin is still in his belt pouch, as are his folded ID papers (noted by both Ankabut and Kimmiz)

 

Perception

DC 10 The body has been dragged to its current location, but the rain makes it hard to tell where from.

 

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It was dark, and raining. The conditions for working out what had happened were poor. Fortunately, whoever had done this had acted quickly and was slipshod. Or perhaps concealing their tracks hadn't been a concern. Regardless, there were signs, even if unfortunately hard to trace.

 

She went to the dwarf's side after noting that the girl was being seen to. The djinblood was inexpertly searching the deceased, though not it seemed to rob him. Ankabut looked over the body in more detail. His boot had worked its way partway off his foot and his cloak was stretched lengthwise under his back rather than flared out. She also didn't miss the jingle of coins as the djinblood checked his pockets, nor the small fold of papyrus sealed with a dab of wax.

 

"Excuse me," Ankabut said softly, and knelt by the stricken dwarf's cadaver. The rain was washing blood away, but there was a straight line across his throat that in good light would have been livid red. There was the fatal wound then, though the rain made it hard to judge how long ago. Something was odd about the set of his jaw as well...

 

She reached out and pried his lips apart, then his teeth, opening his mouth. Inside was a bloody stump where his tongue should have been.

 

A narrative formed in Ankabut's mind then. The dwarf, hurrying across the square, looking around as he went for fear of pursuit. As ever though, those who try to leave their fates behind are doomed to meet them face to face...and so too his killer steps out from in front of him, or perhaps from above, and with one clean slash cuts his throat. They dragged him then to a more discrete spot, where he wouldn't be seen too quickly, and then cut his tongue from his still corpse. The murder was too clean for that touch to be anything but a warning message to others.

 

"He was wealthy, this dwarf, and important enough to need proof of his name and self. Not dressed particularly richly though; perhaps in hiding. Killed quickly, moved to another place and mutilated. The dwarf knew something, had spoken to someone he oughtn't have. Or someone was afraid he would."

 

Ankabut looked at the others there. "Did any of you know him?"

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While he'd also taken note of the wealth of the dwarf, and the presence of his papers, Arrick had overlooked the cause of death and removal of his tongue, more in his quest to discover the identity of the dwarf.  Hearing the woman's assessment of things, it did certainly fit.   "I believe you are correct.   Did you happen to discern what faith he follows?   I can perform certain rights, but as a fellow Dwarf I'd like to make sure those he'd prefer are performed."  

He looked down.  "We may need to send a runner for the Watch, Though With her screaming and the commotion, they'll arrive shortly I'm sure."   He noted that one of the other market patrons, the one who'd told her to go play was comforting her, and that made him smile under his bushy beard.  "Far too young to see such a thing."

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The tortle girl's cries dropped in volume as Aelia comforted her; nearby, her festive straw hat lay on the stones, crumpled and stained with blood.

 

Arrick did notice a few details on the wax seal on the dwarf's papers; the runes 'OF', within a stylized image of a mountain. Could this poor soul have been a member of the Frostfinger banking family? If so, his wealth could not save him.

 

A few moments later the conservus from the Imperial Arms arrived at the scene, his wool cloak once again over his head to keep out the rain. The color left his face as soon as he spotted the body. "He's one of my tenants. Mr. Overlook, room twenty-two," he noted in a voice that struggled to leave his throat. "Uch, what an awful thing!" Seeing the sailor cradling the frightened child, he moved to Aelia's side, crouched down and rested a hand on her shoulder.

 

"Her name is Danika," he said softly, indicating the tortle with a nod.

Edited by Heritage367
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Arrick took note of the markings, of the symbol, and remained silent. If this dwarf were truly a member of that Clan, then this was going to get somewhat messy.    Still after the Conservus, and the name he gave, which from the sound of it wasn't his real name, Arrick sighed.   "This is going to get complicated."

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Aelia nodded at the conservus, "I am going to take Danika inside away from all of this, I will watch over her until the watchmen come."

 

She side steps away and coos to the liitel girl. "Everything will be alright Danika, let go see about getting you a new hat okay?"

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Kimmiz looked around at the various people taking in the scene with him. Upon hearing that his tongue was excised, Kimmiz said, "Perhaps there may be a clue to his death in his room. I am looking into the death of someone killed in this exact manner. However, i do not know if there is a connection. If there is, I would investigate further." He turns to the dwarf near him, "Could he be a dwarven Noble in hiding for some reason?" Kimmiz then turns back to the Conservus of the Imperial Arms, "Perhaps we could get a look at the victim's room before the watch comes? I think this death may have something in common with my recent experience. Do you know if the Watch is known to be impartial towards one's wealth and status, or more upon the side of the wealthy and noble?" He cracked his knuckles absent-mindedly and awaited a response.

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Was it true those of spirit descent were so divorced from the human condition, Ankabut wondered. She looked back at the dead dwarf and put her hand to her heart, then moved it to her forehead in a quick, respectful gesture. Fly home, pilgrim. Be welcome in the halls of your fathers. 

 

Then her hard, flinty eyes went to Kimmiz.

 

"Is anyone impartial to wealth and status?" she asked dryly. "It doesn't matter now. The message has been sent, and it was not meant for us. We would do best to move on. His story is not ours, and we are better for it I think. Someone of his means may have people eager to look for answers...or at least to divide the spoils."

 

Ankabut went to kneel down beside Danika then and let her gloved fingers trail along the top of her head affectionately. She had tried to warn her, but children were children. Their lessons were hard, even for the hard-shelled. Even so, Ankabut felt a peculiar desire to apologize, as if she'd sent her to see the body on purpose...or had produced the body herself. That thought brought about a sudden flash of images in her mind, and she drew her hand back.

 

...his face, contorted in terror, so unlike its usual self...gone was the arrogance, the contempt...a mute plea...a whimper...

 

"You can see to her here for tonight," she said quietly to the conservus. "No more walking at night for now. If you know where she lives, I can take a message so her family knows where she is."

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The conservus looked from one face to another, nodding his head. "You can bring her into my office; it's dry, and I can make her some hot hibiscus tea. Would you like that, Danika?"

 

The tortle had finally allowed her little head to pop out of her shell, just far enough for her tear-stained eyes to be visible, and nodded her head.

 

"Good! My mother always said things are brighter after a cup of hibiscus tea." He turned to the two strangers and nodded. 'My name is Galavrakas, by the way. Cosmo Galavrakas." In response to Kimmiz' question, he merely sighed and shrugged, and to Ankabut's, he shook his head sadly and mouthed 'orphan'.

 

The inevitable gawkers had finally showed up, drunken revelers staring slack-jawed at the sight of the victim. Then the shrill sound of distant watch whistles pierced their foggy minds, and they began to hang back.

 

'Come," said Mr. Galavrakas. "Let's get out of this rain." He lead them all inside to his office, where he filled a copper kettle from an amphora and placed it on the stove to heat. Then he sat behind his desk and wearily rubbed his face. "Please, warm yourselves up; the watch will know where to find us."

Edited by Heritage367
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Kimmiz sighed, pushed himself up off his knees, shook his cloak slightly, and followed Cosmo to his office. Once there, he took a seat close to the stove, and used it's warmth to dry his shivering hands and legs. "Hibiscus tea? Haven't had that in many a year. My father used to make that occasionally, but that was long ago." He took in the familiar scent as the tea warmed. Kimmiz smiled a bit at the recollection forced by the smell, his eyes closed. Once his eyes reopened, the cheer had gone from them, and the smile was a bit more like a grimace. He sighed and looked over at Mr Galavrakas, "I guess I'll need a room to stay in while i'm in town. I was recommended to seek lodging at this insula. Do you have open rooms? I can pay."

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Aelia took the little tortle girl, Danika, first to the market stall which sold hats and let the little girl pick out the replacement for her ruined one. “Go ahead Danika, which ever one you like.”  The two tried on several and finally Danika shyly picked one which Aelia, paid for with her dwindling supply of coin.

By the way Danika,” she said to the little girl as they headed back to join the others, “my name is Aelia, and I am going to make sur that your are ok, so that you don’t have to worry about any of what you saw.”

 

Danika shivered a little at the memory and clasped Aelia a little tighter. “It’s alright sweetling, I am tougher than I look. And I will be right with you when the watch come, they are going to want to ask you questions. But you only answer if you want, okay?”

Danika nodded.

 

They entered the Consrvus’s office and she nodded to the Conservus and went and sat by the Genasi, who had just asked about a room. Danika sat on her lap.

"Hello everyone, I am Aelia and this is Danika. Perhaps you would all like to introduce yourselves to her?”

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