Prologue: Gates of Stone
CHAPTER ONE:

Dream of Horrors
Tirna Umbersularday & Umberfreeday

Being an account of the strange occurrences in Riot's Gate
during the Festival of Two Moons, in the 19th Annum Independencia
as told by Thalazzar

It seemed ironic to Thalazzar that Riot's Gate had seemed so tranquil after the phantasms that had plagued his sleep the night before. He had smoked through almost the last of his pipe weed clearing the horrors from his mind. With morning and Plake's best breakfast the horrors seemed less real but remained vivid. Savouring his meal, Thalazzar considered two things that intrigued him in the early hours of the dawn.

Firstly, the host of horrors impressed him with its mindless power. Such aggression and violence! It was all tentacles and maws but there was a sinister, driving presence behind those masses of yellow eyes... If such abominations could be turned to ones own purposes, what power would they bring.

The other issue that intrigued him was the strangers from the dream. Were they companions, adversaries, or linked to him somehow? He had never seen any of them before, and some of them he didn't care to see again. Yet, from the first conversation he had that morning, they were real and some of them were there with him in Riot's Gate. And if they were real, so too were the horrors and the power they could bring.

The Zularian, Tiberio, seemed the most reasonable at first glance. He had been the first one that Thalazzar encountered that morning. Apparently he was spending his life singing songs. He had also been the one most concerned with his well-being in their shared phantasm. The dwarf and the knight seemed to share a sense of law and justice, but the worst was the beggar. It was obvious that there was more to this man than simply scars and rags. He moved too fast, spoke with too much authority and the others seemed to follow his lead. Thalazzar didn't trust him but at least he respected his strength. The gnome, on the other hand had lived up to everything he had heard about their kind - devious with their devices and tricks, yet foolish with their irritating, incessant babble.

There was some talk of Orindish wizards, exiled royalty, priests and ancient dwarven legends but, in the end, it was Thalazzar's memory of a tapestry depicting the portals in the dream that seemed to be the first clue. Rather than taking the tapestry, the beggar sent the group of them off on a mission of mercy to rescue the merchant's daughter from a group of local thugs. No sooner had they tracked the thugs to the Dregs of Humanity bar, than the beggar had them doing another damn fool errand to protect the honour of some orc who had more fleas than the beggar did. What was worse, the errand was to a part of town filled with gnomes.

Thalazzar had immediately regretted his decision to remain with this group of misfits but was convinced that there was some connection between them and the power of the horrors in his dream. Even still, encountering the pathetic Scuz and his less than challenging accomplices was risky. Thalazzar didn't know the extent of the Dripping Blade's network in this city but he had already come to their attention once for smuggling as a free agent and now he was going to come to their attention again by harassing some of their low end thugs. Thalazzar only hoped that this crew was too pathetic to warrant much attention if they disappeared. Unfortunately, the justice leaning elements of his new companions decided to spare their lives and turn them into the authorities. This made Thalazzar very uncomfortable because not only would the pathetic worms they captured squeal to the authorities but the ones that got away, Whitey and Gotek, would certainly report the incident to their Dripping Blade masters.

Again, Tiberio the Bard seemed like someone Thalazzar could work with as he very effectively managed to force some information out of the pathetic Scuz on the location of the merchant's daughter. Arek the dwarf could fight at least, having backed Thalazzar when he went up against the large half-orc.

According to Scuz, the Hankuan girl had been traded to the Gluttony Cultists who practiced their foul rituals in the city sewers. Thalazzar presumed that his duty-filled companions would next drag him into the muck in their quest. He could only hope that his companions would be less averse to the disappearance of Cultists than they were to the so-called "Viper's Watch". Thalazzar craved power and was willing to risk the wrath of second-rate thugs to get it. Flesh eating cultists, however, he was pretty sure he didn't want to risk leaving alive to come looking for him later…

Next! Chapter 1 Continues with
An Account by the Gnomish Tinker, Frankie


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