posted Dec 8, 2019, 11:36 AM by Stephen Pliska-Matyshak   [ updated Dec 12, 2019, 7:16 PM ]

Nonotina 7th, Year One of the Reign of High King Ran

Stygian wakes up, exhausted, in utter darkness with water and vermin rushing around and over him. The stench of offal permeates his sense of smell. He is soaked, has a terrifying headache, and no memory of his past.

He realizes as he rises that he is in a low, masonry tunnel. Based on the other things he has already sensed, he must be in a sewer.

He checks out what he has for possessions and finds he is dressed in leather, armed with an assortment of light weapons, and has a loaded backpack with a lantern and rope attached to the outside. He fumbles around in the pack and finds a tinderbox in a side pocket and uses it to light the lantern.

The light reveals that he is, in fact, in a sewer tunnel that is about five feet square with a foot-deep trough running down the middle of the floor.

He crawls along the tunnel with the inches-deep flow of the water running through it until a peal of thunder and a flash of lightning reveals an opening in the upper right corner of the tunnel.

Stygian squeezes through the opening into a cobblestone street where an armored watchman bearing a coat of arms or, over a pale gules an estoile or stands nearby.

"Hoi!" the guard calls. "What be you doing in the sewers?"

"I have no idea," Stygian says. "Someone cracked my skull I gather from the bump on my head and tossed me in there. Where am I? I cannot recall any memories."

The guard regards the rogue suspiciously, "You be in 'The City.' The heart of human civilization."

"Oh," says Stygian. "Will you direct me to an inn?"

"West down the street and take the second alley north," says the guard. "Down this alley, ye find The Fiery Stag."

Stygian trudges along the street until he finds the second alley north. Following the alley, it opens up into a shallow market place in front of a seating area, a large bulletin board, and a sign indicating that this is The Fiery Stag. He enters the inn, which is sparsely populated, but warm from the heat of multiple fireplaces full of glowing embers. He walks up to the bar where a bartender, a considerable ugly, young elf awaits.

"What can I do for this wet night?" says the elf.

"A room and a meal. If you could bring the meal to the room, it would be helpful."

"The room for what remains of the night is seven silver, and the meal will be five silver, five copper," says the barkeep. "I will show you to the room and then warm-up some food for you and bring it up."

He leads Stygian up the stairs next to where he was sitting and shows him to a room with a bed, a chair, and a dresser.

When the door closes, Stygian begins to empty his backpack and inventory his belongings. He searches through the pack and finds a hidden pocket within that contains two pieces of folded up parchment. The first parchment is a letter from the Lord High Inquisitor Aetius Aurelius granting the bearer permission to bare weapons and enter private property with 'The City.' The second is a scrawled note from one Halvar Ove stating that the assassination of the artist should be prevented.

After reading the notes, there is a knock on the door. The bartender enters and places a tray with food and drink on the bed next to Stygian's strewn equipment.

"You have been here before," says the barkeep. "You hang out with that thug...Halvar is his name."

"Yes?" says Stygian. "I need to find him. So, you know who I am?"

"Of course, Stygian. Who are you kidding?"

"Someone cracked me over the head, and I am having trouble remembering things. Describe this Halvar for me."

"He is very similar to you in attire, though has paler skin. He has a scar over his lip. There is not much else to say."

Stygian tips the bartender with silver for the information, and he leaves.

Once the barkeep has left, Stygian locks and barricades the door with the chair. He takes his meal, clears off the bed, and goes to sleep.

He wakes up several hours later to light streaming into his room from the window and the clatter and chatter of activity in the tavern below. He packs his gear and proceeds down into the tavern, where he turns immediately toward the exit, avoiding eye contact with the patrons now present.

Before he gets to the door, his attention is drawn by a finely dressed fellow in an isolated area of the tavern beckoning for him to approach. His memory being what it currently is, Stygian only acknowledges the beckons with confusion. The patron becomes more insistent. Stygian relents and approaches the patron.

"What is going on with you, Stygian?" says the man.

"A good question," says Stygian. "You know me, but I do not remember you or much of anything for that matter. Someone tried to crack open my skull.

"So you do not know what your latest mission was or that you work for the High King?" says the man. "Well, I am the one who makes sure you get paid. I am Reggot Octavius, the King's Herald. You remember nothing about the assassination then?"

"Just that I was supposed to prevent one."

Reggot narrows his eye and stares at the rogue, "You were supposed to ensure that it happened, not prevent it."

Oh, no. Where is that note from Halvar from then? Am I playing both sides?

"Is this not the order?" says Stygian, handing the scrawled note from his pack to the herald.

"No," says Reggot after reading the note. "We need to find Halvar and figure out what you have gotten yourself into."

Reggot packs up his things and pins a note to the table with a knife before leading the way out of the tavern. They retrace the steps Stygian took the previous night and then continue along the street where he exited the sewers. After passing several alleys, they turn down one to find a cloaked figure sitting on a crate.

"Halvar!" says Reggot. "What have you been up to?"

The man starts, surprised to be addressed so abruptly. He looks up to see the King's Herald and Stygian just behind him. He is unable to hide his discomfort.

"About that..." he sputters.

"I have become aware of a disturbing development, and, unfortunately, this one cannot remember the particulars since he took a blow to the head." says the herald.

While Reggot is talking, Stygian signs in Thieves' Cant as much as he knows to Halvar.

"Oh, that," says Halvar. "It is only a jest."

"I think not," says the herald. "You have him serving two masters. Who is the other?"

"It is a third party," says the thug.

"No kidding," says Reggot menacingly. "What faction? Which guild?"

"Someone from outside 'The City,'" Halvar confesses.

"So some petty king is behind the insults and wanted to protect their foil," says Reggot.

"This is about the assassination, then?"

Stygian hands the note to Halvar.

"This is not my handwriting," says Halvar. "And, it is not from one of my guys as none of them writes. We do not write things down because it causes issues like this."

"You are being set up, Stygian," says Reggot. "We need you to get your memories back and now."

Reggot pulls a shawm from his belt and plays a short melody. A glow suffuses the rogue, and the lump on his head recedes to a small tender spot.

Memories of his past suddenly flood back into Stygian's mind. He recalls the assassination plot against a young, up-and-coming artist Anthoine Ethor that had created some unflattering sculptures of the Lord High Chamberlain. He recalls a second patron requesting that he prevent the assassination for double what he was getting to see that it happen. He recalls the artist pierced in the throat by an arrow and his collapsing in the street just before he was struck on the back of the head himself. He recalls not pulling on the rope that would have caused a wagon to lose its load because something distracted him at just the moment he needed to pull to alert the artist to the danger he was in.

"The artist died," says Stygian as he holds his hand out to the herald waiting for payment.

"A shame," says the thug. "Saving him was worth double."

"Someone was willing to pay you forty gold to prevent it?" says the herald while producing a small pouch from inside his doublet and setting it in Stygian's hand.

Stygian quickly pockets the pouch.

"So, double-agent," says Reggot to Stygian and then turning to Halvar. "It is time to take advantage of this situation. Halvar, you need to see if this mysterious benefactor is willing to give Stygian here another mission. We need to find out who is behind this. In the meantime, stay safe."

The herald exits the alley and turns to return to The Fiery Stag.