Saturday, October 26, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 6

Welcome to the Slums.

The party arrives at the Parkside Gate, leading to the slums and other uncivilized sections of Phlan. The palisade wall here is heavier than on the sea-ward side, easily four-feet thick, comprised of several sharpened spars stacked together and reinforced with stone salvaged from older buildings. The double-gate is just wide enough for a large wagon to pass through and guarded by ten soldiers in heavy, double-linked chain coifs and hauberks. A heavy wooden bar rests to one side, ready to drop into slots on the gate to bar it, and several angled braces for additional support also stand nearby. Seeing you approach, one of the guards steps forward. "Papers please."

Donovan hands the gate-captain their charter, looking at Amara distractedly. "How much does a candle cost?"

Amara shrugs at Donovan.  "I dunno."

Lyra shifts her backpack to her other shoulder.  "It depends really.  They can be pretty basic, or fancy and dyed with incense embedded in it, or marked to tell time.  Mother has a lot of that kind."

The guard looks at the charter for a long time, pulls out a quill and punches a small hole in it, then hands it back. "First day, huh? If you're going shopping in the market, keep a tight hand on your purse. And keep a sharp eye out--the last group through mentioned that the Redhands have been out in force of late..." The guard sets his halberd against the wall and draws a broadsword from his belt, another does likewise. The two then take hold of the large iron latch-bars and begin to pull the gates open, as the others fan out with their halberds ready and pointed towards the gate, as if expecting a rush of enemies at any moment. When the gate is opened, your noses are assaulted by the stench of garbage, mud, and offal, carried on a sickeningly warm breeze. A press of beggars--children, the blind, the infirm, goblins, orcs, half-breeds, and other unrecognizable things--waits immediately outside the gate. The guards lower their halberds and march three steps forward in unison, forcing a break in the crowd. The guards with the swords wave you through. "Good luck..."

When the gate is opened, Amara wrinkles her nose.  "Ew....stinky!"

"Maybe it will smell better if you're a little above the crowd," Gendry picks Amara up and places her on his shoulders again. He then walks through the gate and begins edging his way through the press of beggars, one hand steadying Amara, the other on his sword. He begins scanning the crowd, looking for anyone shifty among the beggars--anyone hanging back and not pressing the alms-bowl hard (spies), anyone near the front keeping the hand not holding the alms-bowl low and hidden (ready to pick a pocket), anyone playing up their injuries far too obviously (faking an injured arm or leg or peeking out from under a blindfold), or anyone with a the tell-tale bulge of a weapon hidden under their rags...

Donovan tucks the charter safely into his left, inner vest pocket, says "Thanks," to the guards and follows Gendry's wake through the gate. Seeing the press of the poor and downtrodden, he reaches into purse and tries to press a silver piece into every outstretched hand and bowl he can reach--while keeping a tight grip on his backpack where the actual valuables are stored.

After detailing his schematics for the self-cauterizing-bone saw to the clerk and following the group to the gate, Shuddup grimaces at the stench of the masses takes a deep breath and follows in Donovan's wake.

The guards gently nudge everyone past the gate with their pole-arms, then quickly shut the gate behind them, leaving the party adrift in a sea of unwashed humanity.

As Donovan begins handing out coins, Gendry notices a man in the middle of the pack edging towards Donovan. His hands are down, out of sight, rather than upraised in the typical begging posture. His face is horribly scarred and his left ear is missing.

Donovan continues to press coins into every upturned hand and bowl, quickly exhausting his supply of silver. You are fairly certain that some of the beggars received two or even more, as there is no way to keep track of individuals in the forest of outstretched hands. As it becomes clear to the crowd that the purse that held the silver has been emptied, they begin to disperse. One ancient-looking goblin tugs on Donovan's sleeve and croaks out in Common. "Huafk has a school. Behind the horse-seller. Tell him Huafk sent you. He'll teach you to fight good." You're certain, contextually, that he said two different names there, but you feel that you don't know enough goblin to distinguish them...let alone pronounce them correctly.

The rest of the party looks around, past the crowds. A twisted warren of shacks, lean-tos, and crumbling ruins stretches out in all directions. The palisade on this side is covered with graffiti--lewd drawings and slogans in a hundred languages, carved or drawn in chalk, blood, feces, or whatever else was available at the time. The ancient Parkside Road continues to parallel the river here, running north-west, but shows minimal upkeep. The cobbles immediately outside the gate are cracked and worn, and just a few blocks on it dissolves into a mud path with the occasional island of old paving. The road looks barely passable, choked with garbage, debris, and people. Indeed, just a cursory look at the people (and things) milling about on this one street leads you to estimate the population on this side of the wall at at least ten times that of "New Phlan".

Gendry steps directly into the crowd towards the skulking man with the unfortunate face. As the beggars scatter, he grabs one of the man's hand and presses something into it--a black silk domino mask wrapped around a single copper piece--and whispers to the man, "The Shadowlord must have his due. Where shall I dump my cargo?" He then lets go and takes a long step backwards out of the mob.

When the man sees the minotaur coming towards him, he turns to flee. The big meaty hand grabbing his wrist nearly pops his shoulder out of joint, then he notices the bundle he's been given and stops. He turns back and gives Gendry a quizzical look. "Ah, guv'na bull, if'n ye wants t' be makin' a donation, finds yerself a well and don'tcha be afraid t' take a swim, eh." He jerks free and bolts. Gendry's superlative ears just hear him whisper, "An' he sees all 'at 'appens secret..." before the man vanishes down one of the numerous side alleys.

Lyra's eyes go wide in shock as she follows closely behind Donovan, and holds her pack tight against her chest under her cloak.  "How long has it been like this here?  That smell....  Is it because the river is fouled and there's not enough water?"

Donovan finishes handing out coins, and pushes his way past the crowd before turning to Lyra. "Oh, three centuries or more, at least. Phlan has been sacked, burned, and rebuilt more times than I can count, and most of the old city is just ruins on top of ruins on top of more ruins." He walks, carefully, up the road as he begins lecturing. "These slums are the result of the last few years. When New Phlan was started, the Council came in with military force and retook the old docks and quickly fortified the reclaimed section of the city. Settlers started trickling in, overland from Zhentil Keep and the Dales to the west and Melvaunt, Thentia, and Thar to the east, or else by ship from the south. Civilized Phlan soon reached a limit on space, and expansion seaward has been slow work, so newcomers were forced to build their homes outside the wall--or occupy and try to renovate existing ruins more often..."

He pauses talking to step over a pile of refuse, then resumes. "Any progress the new settlers have made here is quickly washed away by the old city's long-time inhabitants. Several gangs of monsters run these slums--like the Redhands the guard was talking about. Orcs and goblins have infested these ruins for hundreds of years and they don't know any other way to live--filthy creatures. Walk around here long and you're guaranteed to see goblins crapping in the streets. Settlers that manage to build a half-way decent house outside the walls quickly find that they are targets for burglary, vandalism, arson, and beatings. Everyone living out here pays protection money to one gang or another--though I here the goblins are more likely to actually deliver than the Orcs of Kobolds. The adventurers occasionally manage to get rid of one gang or another, but unless someone can make a concerted effort to knock out all of them in short-order, more beasties will just keep coming to fill in the gaps..."

He ducks a low-hanging beam jutting from an old building. "The Council claims that clearing the monsters out of the slums and civilizing it are their top priority right now. BUT, the Council is made up of a bunch of old merchants--not real governors. They refuse to levy taxes (even though they have a few on paper, none have ever been collected), have only one full-time municipal employee, Deborah...maybe two now...and are willing to invest only in the military endeavor of reclaiming the city. Well, that, and building nice public buildings for their own use. Even the military occupations they prefer to carry out via contractors, like us. Which leaves the settlers, citizens, and creatures of the slums to fend for themselves."

He gingerly steps over a goblin corpse, covering his mouth and nose with his hand to avoid inhaling one of the many flies buzzing around it. "The Council is making progress though. Most of us are just waiting for more of the city to be 'civilized'. We figure once a sufficient number of people and sufficient land are involved, then progress will accelerate, the people will organize, and the Council will have to concede in favor of a more traditional, service-providing, form of government."

"For now, most people out here try to keep a low profile and get on with their lives. Citizens can pass through the gates rather freely, but most real day-to-day commerce happens out here in the Market. Adventurers from the City, either passing through to go raid the richer parts of Old Phlan, or else actively slumming, provide the main way of transferring funds from the Council to the Slums. It's the worst for those wretches by the gates though. If you get injured or orphaned out here, there isn't really anyone to help you. Luckily the beggars are easy prey for the bigger monsters, which helps keep the population of the completely impoverished from getting too out of hand...."

"Luckily?!" Lyra says. "That's terrible!  Handing out silver, yet valuing their lives so little?"

Gendry reaches up to steady Amara again and make sure she's okay, "Let me know if you see any wells, eh?" Then rushes to catch up to the others.

Hearing Donovan's speech he grins. "Sorry Lyra. Really, the Council's politics sound a lot like my father's. It seems to me like being nice to the beggars is a good way to stick-it-to-the-man, by which I mean, redistribute the Council's wealth in a way they would disapprove of, which really has nothing to do with whether or not you care about the beggars' lives. Plus we just bought two good bits of intel for a handful of silver."

He looks around, trying to keep a lookout for any possible assailants, while trying to breath as shallowly as possible to avoid the stench. "If the Council isn't concerned with infrastructure or services, fixing thousand-year-old drainage systems seem the least of their worries." He grins evilly. "Hey Shaddup? Do you think you could design a drainage system that would deposit all of this soilage right next door to the City Hall?"

Donovan looks a little shocked at Lyra's outburst and back-pedals a bit, or thinks he is, though his tone continues with the same lecturing quality. "Miss Lyra, don't take it that way. I just meant that, you know, they aren't really contributing anything to the improvement of the city or our society. Sure, its sad that they are disabled and a lot of them are kids, but they are beggars, leaches really. You help who you can, but you can't save them all."

He steps around another pile of trash and smiles, as if enjoying a personal joke, or just recognizing the irony of his next statement. "Come on. Let's go find Amara's uncle and ask for that money he owes us for services not-yet-rendered..." He begins laughing a bit too loudly.

As you walk along, dodging trash and listening to Donovan's political rant, Gendry suddenly shouts a warning. At the same time a high-pitched, scratchy voice yells out in some unrecognizable, guttural language. "Pooš! Sovetkot!" Donovan turns a little too quickly to see the source of the noise and trips, landing seated in a large tub of filthy water. An ancient-looking woman with waist-length white hair, the sleeves of her dress rolled up past her elbows with a soaked apron over it, stands over him, pointing a loaded crossbow at the bridge of his nose. She continues to scream. "Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!"

The road here is filled with large tubs of water, some dark and filthy, others with a heavy head of soapy foam. Above, the area is criss-crossed with a spiderweb of ropes, from which hang clothes in various states of disrepair, all soaked and dripping. From the old-woman's stance, you can easily tell that she is trying to block you from approaching a ramshackle old wooden and stone lean-to around which the laundry supplies appear to be arrayed. Her home, such as it is, has a heavy, moth-eaten, woolen blanket for a door and a cloud of black smoke coming from a hole in the roof.

She keeps the crossbow leveled at Donovan's face and continues to scream. "Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!"

Lyra slips a dried apple out of her bag carefully, so as not to spook the old woman with the loaded crossbow in Donovan's face.  She smiles apologetically, and holds out the apple for the old woman to take, holding up her other hand to show she's unarmed.  She speaks softly, with an apologetic smile.  "We're sorry, we didn't know this was your home.  If you'll just let him get up, we can be leaving."

Donovan looks from the woman to Lyra and back again. He then looks at his clothing, dripping with the filthy water of her used washtub. "Excuse me, Ma'am. But, how much do you charge for a cleaning?"

He slowly extricates himself from the tub, sliding himself awkwardly backwards, away from the readied crossbow. He then says, quietly, in Elvish to the others, hoping that at least one of them understands--and that she doesn't. "I think she's speaking Orc...or maybe Gnoll...you might want to keep your eyes peeled..."

The woman takes a step back, her eyes darting around. She half-lowers the crossbow, but keeps it pointed in Donovan's general direction. "Sorry miss," she addresses Lyra, "I heard this'n talking..." she gestures at Donovan with the crossbow, "...and thought ye were 'venturing types come t' steal me laundry agin." When Donovan addresses her, she finally lowers the weapon completely. "Oh, ye're cust'mers!" She takes a step back and looks at the horrible purple-brown splotches covering Donovan's clothing. "Giv'n that ye just dumped yerself in a tub o' discharge...a copper if ye wants it t' be brown, or a gold if ye want it to be whatever color it was fore ye took yer bath. An' I can't'nt make no promises on the secon' 'un..."

The woman's voice is cut off by several deep voices shouting "Sovetkot!" as four orcs come charging from the alley behind her house. "G-ube!" The woman looks absolutely shocked that anyone actually responded to her cry for help...

Gendry swings Amara down off his shoulders with his left hand, drawing his sabre with the right, the perfectly sharpened silver blade gleaming in patchy sunlight peaking through the smog overhead.  "Everyone stay behind me," he yells.

Lyra moves between Amara and the oncoming orcs and continues trying to de-escalate the situation rather than killing orcs that were nice enough to respond to an old woman's cries for help. "She was just calling for help, and they came!  Either they're here to help an old woman protect her home or she's all paid up on protection money and they're upholding their end.  Either way, they aren't the kind of orcs we need to be cutting down in the street!  Gendry!"

Donovan circles around towards the middle of the washtubs and clotheslines, hoping to put some obstructions between himself and the oncoming orcs.

He then casts a Sleep spell at the orcs, whispering softly under his breath, dropping some sand to look like dirt he kicked up, and concealing the gestures in his dodging--trying not to draw attention to himself as a caster. Three of the orcs stumble and pass-out, their momentum carrying them forward, leaving one face-down in the washtub from which Donovan had so recently extricated himself, the second tangled in a clothesline, and the third snoring peacefully at Gendry's feet.

Lyra breaks out into song to try to calm the orcs down. Amara lets Lyra be her shield and peeks around.  She waits to see what happens, tapping her foot to Lyra's tune.

_Step one: wear a smile._

_Step two: say hello._

A bit late, Shuddup follows the very sensible advice of getting behind the large minotaur, works his back to a corner and drops to a crouching position readying a large metal and wooden tube across a wooden beam jutting out about knee high in the ruins, and touching a match to an opening on its top.

As the lead orc runs past Gendry, the minotaur executes a perfect, deep sideways lunge, driving the point of his sabre into the back of the orc's left leg. He then slashes upwards, tearing through muscles and tendons to sever the orc's femoral artery. The orc collapses to the ground in a heep at Lyra's feet, blood spurting in all directions.

_Step three: introduce yourself,_

As the last orc falls to Gendry's blade, a massive ogre runs, skidding around the corner into the alley behind the orcs. It bounces off the wall of an old house, knocking several stones loose, then fixes its gaze on Gendry, its blue-black eyes bulging grotesquely.

To someone you wanna get to know.

Step four: have a conversation,

Ask a question or two.

Making friends can be so simple,

All you have to do is just be you.

You gotta have friends to make you laugh,

Help you feel better when you are sad.

You gotta have friends to make you smile,

Help you feel calm when you are mad.

You gotta have friends so don’t be shy,

Go out and give it a try,

Anyone would be lucky, ooh-ooh,

To have a friend like......

Lyra's song is cut off by a deafening bang that leaves all of your ears ringing. With a small flash of light, something whizzes out of the end of Shaddup's tube-thing, right over the heads of the fallen orcs, and catches the oncoming ogre in the stomach. The huge creature is knocked backwards, crushing a small lean-to.

The ogre claws its way upright again, looks at the gaping hole in its midsection and the orcs lying on the ground, and runs weeping back around the corner from which it came...

The old washer-women faints, her crossbow splashing into a foamy washtub beside her.

Gendry steps over the hamstrung orc, casually stabs it in the throat to put it out of its misery, and begins going through its pockets. "Sorry Lyra. I think you're right about the latter--the old woman probably paid them protection money. Armed gangs don't just help little old ladies out of the kindness of their hearts. Demanding protection money usually just translates to 'pay us a regular fee or we burn your house down.' Dad used to demand 'protection money' from merchants all the time. I've been involved in my fair share of extortion rackets, and 'protection' tops the list of the classics." He kicks the dead orc for emphasis. "No finesse..."

Everyone can see Gendry's mouth moving, but all you hear is a high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and the low-pitched, thrumming echo from Shaddup's portable explosion device, .

The orcs each appear to be wearing makeshift armor, made by sewing or riveting bits of scrap metal to a hide backing, and are carrying a variety of weapons. In addition, each appears to have a bloody rag tied around their left hand. The one Gendry slew has armor that appears to be made from the recently harvested hide of a black and white cow, not even cured, with a large number of nails shoved through it, is wearing a pair of nice steel bracers, was carrying a spear (more a long, pointy stick with no real head on it), and has a decent quality shortsword tucked into its belt.

In the orcs pockets you find 4 electrum coins, 8 silver, and 7 copper.

Donovan slaps his hands over his ears a little too late to avoid the blast. He stands, dizzy and confused, for a few minutes before he starts asking, "Can you hear me now?" When the ringing has subsided sufficiently, he kneels down and begins stripping the orcs of their cash and grabbing the crossbow, and, as an afterthought, fishing the old woman's crossbow out of the tub and taking it too. "Never hurts to have a spare..."

As he looks to see if they have any ammunition beyond the one bolt each, he addresses (more yells at, since he still can't hear well) the others, "That boom will probably attract a lot of unwanted attention." He looks meaningfully at the heavily guarded gate, less than three blocks away, and the, presumably, fleeing mob of beggars. "And the ogre might come back."

"Anyone want the bracers?"

Amara blinks and sticks her fingers in her ears trying to figure out why she can't hear.

Lyra stands there looking shocked as Gendry finishes off the fallen orc and starts rifling through his pockets.  She shakes her head, and seems to come to her senses, motioning for Donovan to hand her a crossbow.

As you look around, you see the guards up on the wall holding their ears and watching you, but they otherwise have the unconcerned look of people who have to watch killing in the streets from a perch where they cannot intervene every day. The beggars and other slums residents on this street dispersed to whatever hidey-hole they crawled out of as soon as the flow of coins from your purse ceased. Looking up and down the Parkside Gate Road in both directions, the street appears to have been largely vacated, save for a few brave souls peaking out of huts a few blocks up to see what the noise was.

Donovan hands Lyra the better-looking of the two crossbows, and three of the bolts. He pauses for a second, then hands the other one to Shaddup. "Here, you might try using this...it'a a lot quieter and if you keep it loaded you can usually count on getting the shot off before they all drop."

Lyra hands the bolts to Shaddup, and places the crossbow down next to the old woman, glowering at Donovan.

Donovan looks disapprovingly at Lyra. "Whatever..." he sighs. "You're going to be wishing you had that once we're crossing the swamp." He grabs the bracers and tries them on, then starts walking.

Amara tugs on Gendry's tunic.  "I gotta pee!"

Shuddup eyes the crossbow for a moment, "I need a small glass or ceramic ball no more than two inches in diamiter, and pea-gravel or ball bearings. Anyone want to drink a potion, or six?"

Gendry grabs the shortsword and tucks it in his belt, "for backup" he says to himself. He checks the other orcs weapons, casually holding the one orcs face in the washtub until it stops bubbling, but finds them all to be lacking some way. He then tears down a clothesline and ties the two, still-sleeping, orcs back to back in the middle of the road before heading after Donovan.

As he starts walking he looks down at Amara tugging on his tunic, then waves a hand at the refuse in the road. "Go wherever you like, I guess. Looks like that is what everyone else here does..." He then jogs back and grabs the practice sword, thinking maybe he can teach Amara some basic moves while they are traveling.

You hurry away from the old washer-woman's house. While the road officially runs strait, you find yourselves forced to divert down alleys and back again to bypass numerous sinkholes, cesspits, collapsed buildings, and areas where people have built their shacks right in the middle of the road. The overall feel, as you skirt around streams of filth and hastily slapped-together buildings made of litter, is one of completely, unrepentant chaos.

Rounding a corner back onto the Gate Road, Aumry's Tower comes into sight just a few blocks further on. The tower rises seven stories, each floor smaller than the one before, like a circular ziggurat, but leans precariously out over the road. A large scaffolding has been erected around the thing, and numerous workers and guards hang about, most idly chatting, a few sleeping on elevated platforms, and only two or three actually appearing to be engaged in any serious labor.

Nearer at hand, perhaps a block before the tower, on the right-hand side of the road is a relatively new-looking wooden building with a large fenced-off yard, filled with herd animals of all kinds. A triangular sign by the road declares horses, donkeys, cattle, oxen, sheep, and camels for sale.

Nearer still, between yourselves and the stables, five orcs with ashen-gray skin, dressed in rags stand over a body lying in the middle of the road. A large pool of blood spreads out over the ground around the man on the ground. The orcs are arguing loudly in their own tongue, one of them waving a fistfull of papers.

"...eda od ove ora da bde toa!"
"Ḱe se ovde!"
"E, vescte se o!"
"Što? T dur e ože da se pročta!"
"Zošto treba da se od da g ubJat a sveštekot?"
"ToJ e b n g zleč!"
"Da g odese do Mace, toJ ḱe zaat što da pravat."
"E, Mace ḱe g prezee ste ple za sebe."
"O ožeb Mace ože da se zleč."
"A Xvimlar kogaš e se zleč ekoJ bez zeaJḱ aaluvaje..."

Gendry looks around at his companions, "Ok, guys, two questions. One, does anyone speak Orc? Two, there seemed to be some tactical disagreement last time. Anyone care if I charge in there before that guy bleeds out?" He draws his sword.

As they walk, Donovan's pants and boots make a quiet sloshing sound. His gate widens as he tries to keep the wet cloth from clinging to his nether-bits and chafing, and his face seems to have adopted a permanent scowl. "Drink potions for what, Shaddup? Do you have potions we should be drinking?"

When they round the corner and see the orcs, he scowls even more. "Sorry Gendry, no, I don't speak Orc. Given that these ones are not charging us, and we don't know the situation, I vote that we try non-lethal measures first." Donovan begins casting another sleep spell at the orcs.

All five of the orcs collapse mid-argument.

Shuddup looks at Donovan, "No, should I have brought potions ? I just need the bottles." He raises the crossbow, "I'm inexperienced with this type of weapon and can't vouch for my accuracy.  With some small bottles I could have modified some arrows to compensate.  Nothing to  extravagant, just some powder, pea-shot, and a fuse.  It's not like I was going to try to replicate uncle Aldrich's void arrow experiment."

Gendry blinks, "Woah you're fast at that. How often can you do that?"

As the orcs drop, Gendry runs forward. He gently rolls the fallen man onto his back and leans in to check his breathing (and his pockets). He begins chanting a prayer to Mask, to stabilize the man.

Lord of Shadows, Father of Thieves, He who sees all that happens in darkness, hear my prayer.
Look with favor on your servants, these brave souls who would come here to this dark town so that they might line their pockets.
Give us this day our daily loot, and let your will be done in light, as it is in darkness.
Lead us into temptation, and deliver us from the hands of the law-men.

A man lies fallen, gloriously wounded by the treachery of your servants.
Let your grace fall upon him and let him be healed that he might live to steal again.
Staunch his wounds and fill his pockets, that he might in turn fill your coffers.

On closer inspection, the man (who is indeed human) appears to have been stabbed several times, though he is still breathing shallowly. You turn him over to find that he is dressed in, now badly bloodstained, white robes with the holy symbol of Tyr emblazoned on the front. As you pray, the worst of his wounds close. He appears stable, though he remains unconscious and his breathing weak.

The orcs lying asleep around him don't look much better off. Their skin has an ashen-gray pallor and is rough, and scaly, almost like tree-bark, with small chalky-white splotches and lesions. Three of them have knives loosely gripped in their hands, one of which is still wet with the man's blood.

Searching the man, you find a silver chain around his neck with the silver hammer and scales of tyr, a long-handled footman's mace by his hand (apparently unused in his recent altercation), and a scroll case that looks like it was opened a little too forcefully, which is empty.

Lyra picks up the fallen set of papers and looks them over.  "I can understand a little Orcish.  There were a lot of orcs in Waterdeep.  But there was a lot of everything in Waterdeep.  Poos is 'help'.  Mace is a name.  Does it sound familiar, Mr. Donovan?  The closest thing to a sentence I could make out was "Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.", and a word I think is 'heal' came up a lot.  I'm pretty sure I misheard the bit about food and dances."

Lyra shakes her head and hands the papers over to Donovan.  "Can you make anything of this?  It's not one I'm familiar with."

Donovan gives Shaddup a sideways glance as he's examining the orcs. "You seem to be a pretty good shot, and the principles of the thing--point and click--seem reasonably similar to your boomstick. In cases where being quiet is preferable, it may make a reasonable back-up. Also, anything involving powder and a fuse seems likely to defeat the purpose of being quiet..."

"No I have never heard of this Mace fellow," he says turning to Lyra. "What was that about food and dances?" Donovan accepts the proffered papers and takes a look. It appears to be some sort of clerical notation. He hands the scrolls to Gendry, "You should probably keep these. Just let me know what pocket they're in--I have some facility with magical devices and might be able to use them if you're the one that needs healed."

Lyra replies, "As far as I could tell their conversation was something like:
'...food from these dances be it!'
'He will be here!'
'Well, something about!'
'What?  Major something something to something!'
'Why should that of Mr. something something?'
'It is something heal!'
'To go to Mr. Mace, he will something you to make any.'
'Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.'
'Oh something Mace something to heal.'
'A something something be heal something without something something.'
"I don't actually speak Orc, but I've heard enough bits and pieces to pick out that much.  I'm mostly worried about the "He will be here" bit, which implies they are expecting someone, and the 'Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves'.  Is this Mace trying to organize the orc tribes?  And what does any of that have to do with stabbing a cleric of Tyr?"

Gendry takes the scrolls, returns them to their case, and attaches it to his belt. He begins searching the orcs, casually kneeling with his full weight on one's throat as he goes through its pockets. "What should we do about this fellow?" He gestures to the unconscious monk. "I'm not a big fan of Tyrants, but having a few grateful contacts in the law is always helpful..."

Amara goes over to look at the orcs and inspect their odd pallor.  She sets Whiskers down, who sniffs at one of the bodies and then looks at her.

The orc that Gendry kneels on quickly suffocates. The orcs wear only rags and have no valuables. Between the five of them, you come up with a half-dozen knives, one a long skinning knife, none of good quality, a butcher's gut-hook, and a flint-bladed dagger for weapons. Getting this close to them, Gendry's superior bovine nose detects a smell of decay about them, strongly vegetative, almost like peat or compost.

Donovan, nods to Lyra, "I thought I heard something about "Xvimlar". That's a common appellation for worshipers of Iyachtu Xvim, a significant rival of Tyr's...being the actual god of tyrants." He scoops up a few of the knives. "If this Mr. Mace is a priest of Xvim, and is organizing the orc tribes..."

Gendry sighs and picks up the unconscious monk. "Alright..." He draws his sword and stabs the other four orcs. "Let's get out of the street and revive this guy...see if he knows what's up with this Mace fellow." He looks around. "Coast clear? There seem to be a lot of orcs on this street...any ideas where to take him?"

Lyra gestures towards the large tower.  "Professor Aumry's tower is where we're headed anyway, and appears to be well guarded."

Shuddup upon hearing "well guarded" gets excited and moves to point.  "Ooooh, well guarded usually means traps.  What kind do you think we'll see?  I hope they have spring-razors they have some of the most fascinating clockworks..."

Gendry shrugs and heads towards the tower.



Archivist's Note: This attempt at a more cohesive prose will be abandoned in future posts as being too time consuming.