Not the children!
Jan 14, 2018 — DMJ
The desert heat struck Tierra for only a moment before her cloak washed it gently past her. “Thank Sophia for this comfort,” her quick prayer whisper lost in the warm breeze.
An hour after rising the sun already punishes this place, she thinks. But the sun doesn’t distinguish slaveholder from slave, rich from poor. It punishes all and the masters of this place make sure that their servants take the brunt of it. Sophia, friend of the bound, is needed here.
A quick discussion among her companions leads to the conclusion that the market is open in the evening on this, the day 8 of 10, and so morning tea with the pathfinders is this morning’s business.
Tea and some other, not unpleasant soured milk drinks are shared with Goulion, the wizard; Rochelle Cartonbrass, the ranger; and Vice, the fighter while Tiran presents on the demiplane of the Nicely, Nicely pub from a paper that appears to have had a few too many.
Silence fills the room and the three pathfinders glance back and forth at each other. Finally Goulion stands. “Friends, we must leave you for some moments for a quick meeting. Please have more refreshments. We will return shortly.”
With that Rochelle, Vice and Goulion shuffle past the companions into the back room.
Tierra helps herself to more soured milk as her friends have a bland discussion of markets—which is where, selling what in what coloured area.
Less than 10 minutes later, the meeting room door swings open and the pathfinders return.
Rochelle beams. “We’ve decided to let you in. All of you.” She pauses, “of course you need to swear in, but we don’t believe we need to send your application in to be approved, we have seen enough to know that our superiors will be very pleased with your recruitment!”
Tierra watches Gam and Gar look at each other and shrug. She glances at Hanlon and they have a similar reaction.
“We will swear it.” Garion announces.
Roark squawks, in his crow-accented elvish, “I will swear it too.”
Rochelle glances at Vice. “We’ve never had an animal companion request this before, you may be the first.”
“Animal companion? I am no animal companion!” He shows his magical helmet and claws. “How many animal companions have these? I am a familiar!”
“Familiar, than. We’ve not had one such as you be a part of this society. You will be the first.” Rochelle stands firmly, but her mouth holds a gentle smile.
As a group the companions recite an oath while the experienced pathfinders look on, grinning, Tierra thinks, widely. You’d have thought they’d won a prize. Well at least we seem welcome here—hopefully this group proves to be what they claim.
There are hugs and celebration. Tiran pours himself a drink and Goulion pulls out a device.
“It’s called a Wayfinder,” his voice is tenor but rich and easy to listen to. “It can hold an ion stone, and the ion stone makes the device do different things—enhancements of the ion stone’s normal action. It is something that you should consider buying, and eventually all of you should have one. We also use Wayfinders as one way of identifying other Pathfinders. If you choose, you might only have one as a group to start with, but you will want more eventually.”
Tiran pours a drink, toasts the group, and pours another.
After some more conversation, the group finally leaves the other pathfinders and wander outside. An hour inside and the sun’s punishment grows. Tierra thanks Sophia again for the cloak.
Gamalian seeks the concierge at our inn. “What do people here think about the affairs of married people?”
The concierge raises his eyebrows and shuffles slightly. “It is looked down upon, but it is more common than one might think—if done discreetly, many will avert their eyes from it.”
“I see,” Gamalian shuffles through his pockets. “Please ensure that the Lady Matillia recieves this note.
You brought me sunshine when I only saw rain.
You brought me laughter when I only felt pain.
Allow me to bask in your presence today, for I grow weak without sight of you.
“What is there to do in this town?” Hanlin asks, his face stoic.
“Why, the water and garden are beautiful. Many wander and look at these marvels. It is not hard to find rub downs nor to eat fine food.” The concierge watches Hanlon who frowns, slightly.
“Of course,” continues the concierge, “those who prefer less …refined entertainments visit the southeast quadrant of the common city to watch the fights with the scorpion—lots of betting, lots of blood.”
The companions leave the Inn and wander around the pond. Tierra speaks up, “this place is full of slaves. Do you think they are wanting to revolt?”
A lively discussion ensues about whether the slaves have anywhere to go if they escape and on what would happen if they won but stayed, or lost and were executed en mass. It is decided that the group will attempt to spend energy finding out if a revolt is likely and what they could do to help if that is indeed what the slaves are aiming to do.
The fountain pond is beautiful: excess in white marble with mist off the water. A city oasis. Surrounding it are people getting sun, showered by little misters, fanned by servants.
Here and there are 6’ by 8’ metal sheets sunk into the ground. People seem to ignore this, walking over the sheets as though they are identical to the stone around them.
Lightson discreetly casts detect magic on the area and finds that the metal does not shine magically, but the marble pond does.
Garion stops a passer by, a middle-aged man dressed reasonably well but not excessively, and asks, “what are these metal sheets for?”
“Why they are the market stalls. They are brought up from the ground every market.”
Hanlon asks, “where can I buy one of those nice lion head symbols?”
The man points vaguely, “they are from a stall over there, it is not hard to find during the market. I must go.”
The companions gather around to discuss this information when a lad comes by and slips a paper into Lightson’s pocket. He scrunches his forehead slightly, reaches into the pocket and pulls out the note to read. He looks up glances around and reads it,
Come to the Southeast
Fighting Pit in Lower
Bankhar tonight at
Sundown – you’ll be sad if you miss it.
The group decides to walk through the area of High Bankhar and then to the lower area to find out about the fighting pit. The walk quietly and Tierra takes notes which read like this,
Red area – Kefflan
- guards carry guaives
North West quadrant
- Thacker guards in black
- Similar neighbourhood in some ways
- Magical area
- Same 6×8 platforms
- Guards wearing weapons
- Quarter staffs
- white dressed
- great swords
- weaponry and armour
SE – Surumpter
- solicited for many things
- feels dirty
Perhaps an hour before noon, the group finally heads down to Lower Bankhar. They pass the High Bankhar guards, allowing themselves to be checked for their hand mark and enter into the ‘lower’ city.
Tierra notices from the first moment that they are watched. Garion is unnerved by a ruff-looking teenager, but growls at the boy’s gang and they back away.
Eventually they find the fighting pit neighbourhood and look about. Hanlon walks up to a second son graffiti tag, scoffs and pulls out a charcoal to write his own tag over it. Passers by stop to gawk at this act.
“Let’s go there.” Lightson nods toward a sign that says “drinks”.
The companions duck into the bar, and the whole room turns to stare at them. Garian walks to the barkeep. “I’d like a drink.”
The barkeep puts a glass on the counter and fills it. Everyone continues to stare.
“We’re looking for work. Do you know of any for some folks who are quick with a blade?” Garian asks, with a nonchalant grace.
“None you would want to do.”
“Have you heard of any dragons to the northeast of here.”
“Aye, heard of it, but don’t know anything about ‘em. Biggest monster here is grabbers.”
“Aye, it’s a scorpion. A giant scorpion. Killed a lot of slave fighters.” The Barkeep relaxed into his story, “it has pinchers that’ll take off a head, and it’s tail stabs the fools who don’t watch it.”
One of the other folks in the bar walks over to tell us, “last time ‘e killed two at ‘nce. He’s a right nasty piece of work that Grabbers.”
Gamalian asks, “How do they get people to fight it? Is it slaves? Do they get released if they win?”
“Aye, if a slave wins 3 fights in a row they get a ticket out of slavery. But it does not happen often. There are a few who love it an’ keep fighten’ after they’ve won 3. Like knuckels Maldoon!”
“Aye, ‘es a slave who’ll fight ‘em other slaves an’ ‘e wins his share of fights. Word is he could leave the ring but don’t do it.”
“When is the next fight?”
“Tonight, grabbers is goin’ ta fight against 7 slaves. 7! And the bookkeepers will be there from 4-5 PM to take bets, but fight’s not til 7:15. It’ll be a good one. Slaves don’t stand a chance if ye ask me.”
The companions sit for a drink. Garian suggests, “that fight, the one with grabbers, that’ll be against our friends in Lower Bankhar.”
Now with less enthusiasm, the companions slip out of the bar and walk towards the arena. It is a few hours past noon when they approach the main entrance gate.
Tierra asks the guard to see the combattants. “Oh, no, I cannot let ye do that now.”
She hands him 5 gp. “I want to see those combattants ‘cause I might want to bet on them.”
The young guard looks down at the fortune in his hand and says, “let me show you, but we’ll have to be quick.”
They walk through the stands, looking down at the bloodstained sand of the arena before turning in toward the cages. In one is a cage containing a scorpion, perhaps 6000lbs, crouched in the back of it’s cage. In another cage is an ogre who scowls at the companions as they examine him.
The guard then walks them to the other side of the arena where more cages decorate the stadium interior. Among the slaves are Stewart and Kita.
“Do you know,” Tierra asks, “which of these wretches dance with the scorpion tonight?”
Tierra takes a moment to call on the favour of Sophia to heal the slaves. At least I can make sure they’re not hindered by injury, she thinks to herself.
The guard nods towards the cage holding Stewart and Kita. “Aye, these poor bastards. And the odds are 10 to 1 favouring Grabbers. It’s not the only fight either, there is a whole event where other folks fight each other including knuckles here.”
Knuckles has fists that are much darker—almost black coloured.
The guard glances around, “you’ve been here long enough, we need to get back before we’re noticed.”
The group leaves, and walk back into the oven passing for a street. Within a few blocks a group of children suddenly start to press forward toward the group asking for signatures on clay tablets.
“We’re not fighters!” Lightson argues.
Tierra notices that the children are strong and acting odd, but in that moment the children attack the companions. They are quick and Garian, Hanlon and Tiran are all stabbed before anything can be said.
Tierra notices illusionary signatures shimmering around the attackers, and yells, “These are not children, they’re adults! Grab their hats.”
Garion swings, hitting one ‘child’ with what should have been a killing blow. The child looks hurt but stands firm.
Gam calls the sand to shoot into the eyes of one of the boys, succeeding at that and Hanlon punches another.
Tiran activates his cloak and lets out a diabolical hyena cackle and the children widen their eyes. Apparently they weren’t expect exactly what they’re fighting and numerous children start to flee.
Tierra trips one and Hanlon jumps on him, grappling and pinning him so that the hat can be removed. The ‘boy’ calls for help.
Tierra glances around at the windows up and down the street where the residents are leaning out of their windows gawking at the fight.
“Act like the adults you are, not the children you pretend to be!” She starts swinging her meteor hammer, charging it for any ‘children’ who might dare return.
Garian holds a sword to the pinned boy’s throat and Hanlon removes his hat. As predicted, the illusion fades and a young man remains pinned where the boy once was. Garian uses the immobile rod to hold him in place.
Gam sees one boy hiding in an alley and makes moves to intercept him.
Roark flies up and is able to see that 2 have truly fled while the rest wait and watch us.
Gamalian finally catches up with his prey, and feints and punches with convincing results.
Garion holds a sword to his captives chest, intimidating and questioning him. He smirks and takes a pill. Hanlon tries to stun him and take the poison away, but the young man quickly succumbs to the effects of the poison.
Tierra calls out, “come on, …boys… let’s get this fight going.”
Meanwhile, Gamalian knocks his opponent out and takes off his magical hat revealing another man beneath.
A quick search of the two would-be attackers reveals that each carries
§ Oil of magic weapon
§ Potion of cure mod
§ 2 vials of dark liquid
§ cap human disguise
§ MW studded leather
§ MW dagger
The companions stuff the unconscious guy into their bag of holding and head back to Higher Bankhar. There they hog tie and gag him in their room while Gamalian heals Lightson and himself.
Tierra looked out at the sun. “It’s about 4PM, betting opens at the arena.”