Prologue: Gates of Stone
CHAPTER TWO:

“The Claimers Are No More”
Tirna Umberfreeday & Cuthberta Eoselunday

Arek's account of his exchange with the Unspoken

When Arek returns to the Watch House in the Dock Ward, to turn Bruiser, Scuz and Phillip to the proper authorities, he and his companions are directed to the Steel Ward main Watch station for the Eastern District. Riot's Gate City Watch as been working double shifts on a fraction of its staff - several watch stations have been consolidated in the Steel Ward to serve the entire Eastern District of the city (the toughest part of town). The political troubles on the coast, the crisis with the Monotheocrate Order and the Invasion of the Horde has put an enormous strain on the resources of the still young federation.

At the District Station, Arek's compaions wait outside. He was surprised to find himself detained for several hours in an interview room after he made his statement. It is clear that the resources are starined, and some administrator may have forgotten of him, but he is an Inductee into the Claimers after all. He was more than a little irritated that Phillip the Goblin left before he did. He couldn't see him but he could hear his voice saying "you'll be hearing from my lawyer" at one point when the door opened. His Dwarven pride is scuffed, but not so much that he does not notice his growing sense of unease with the length of his detainment or his treatment.

After another half hour, two sets of Watch officers came into the interview room in rapid succession and re-took statements from Arek. Both sets asked several of the same questions, though in different order. They ask standard questions of where Arek was born, relatives, lenth of time in Riot's Gate etc. They were also very interested in what he had been doing the past week or two, where he had met his current companions, how long he had known them and who they were. They ask for all of their names.

Arek answers:

"By Moradin, am I being accused of anything here? My companions are honest folk. Honest enough for a Claimer! They have done Riot's Gate no small service by helping me bring in the goblinoid scum you seem to be treating so lightly. Their names are not relevant to what transpired earlier. If you have reason to suspect them, let me know and I will give you my own opinion.

You have heard my report often enough now. If I am to suffer further interrogation, let my watch-sergeant know about your intentions. I must report back in anat case. We will then deal through the regular channels of communication between your organization and mine, if you require anything else.

This is beyond me. So much time for such a trivial matter. I suggest you file your report as I will not be saying more than what I have already said unless I get some answers."

Your words hang in the air. The second set of officers to question you exchange glances. One, a dwarf, closes his files and fixes you with a long hard stare, the other continues to write something for several minutes. When the second finally finishes and closes his files, the two get up to leave with hardly a word between them and none at all to you, until they reach the door, "Someone will be with you shortly."

Bureaucrats, you spit.

The door was locked. You waited two hours, perhaps longer. You woke up and found you were no longer alone in the room. You did not remember falling asleep.

A Dwarven man and a Hobbitish woman sat across the table from you. Both were clad in plain clothes, and looked utterly unremarkable, but for the hard look in their eyes. You remember this well, because you had never before seen a hobbit with a hard look in its eyes, but there she was, sitting across from you. You also remember thinking that you could have walked past either of this pair a hundred times in the streets and never wondered or cared at all who they were, but you knew immediately here.

The Unspoken.

It was clear without their having to say a word, which they did not. They simply watched you and waited.

They were nothing like the hulking Dwarf who had spoken to the new Inductees to the Claimers about security issues. He was the portrait of a secret agent as heroic adventurer, meant to inspire awe and obedience. He gave a performance, standing on a dais speaking to a room full of people. That was a rote speech and he had been intimidating.

This was no performance. These were not people who put on airs. This was personal and it was intimidating as hell.

Of course, you were no longer in the Watch Station house.

(You win, I blink first.)

Arek sits up from where he had fallen asleep (if it was on a table, he sits back in his chair. If it is on a cot, he sits on it, facing the dwarf and the female hobbit. In both cases, he rests one leg on the other and grabs his chin.) He looks at them intently, a slight smile finding its way after a moment.

"Well, I must say that after all this, I am not surprised to find YOU here. Wherever HERE is." Arek looks around and then back at his interogators.

"I am curious why a small row with a goblin, a half-orc and a few humans would be of interest to such as yourselves. We Claimers know a bit of what you do and this hardly qualifies." Arek drops a foot to the ground and brushes the dust off his tunic, his armor jingling as he does so. Trying to act as casual as he can, fighting his increasing unease, he looks at them again waiting for a response. Not getting any, he sighs softly before saying:

"I am ever a servant of Moradin and a Claimer in training. Up to now, my deeds have spoken by themselves and Moradin has smiled upon them. If I am guilty of anything, I would like to know and perhaps have a chance to explain this obvious misunderstanding. Surely I have not done anything to upset the Unspoken."

Arek crosses his arms and says no more.

The Hobbit with the puckered lips and the pug faced dwarf looked at you a while longer after you spoke. Should you say something else, you wondered.

"Arek XXXX XXXX XXXX," said Pucker, "What do you know of Anupkaz?"

What?

Pug looked on. Did he smile? By Moradin, the she-Hobbit had uttered your secret Dwarven name! Who knew what fell creatures of the depths might have overheard! But you calmed yourself down. Pucker was playing with you. Trying to catch you off-guard.

Pug spoke then. "Anupkaz, Zaram Dakar, to whom do you owe your loyalties? The Maddock or the Federation?"

Pucker seemed to soften somewhat. From ice queen to Dwarven nanny, you thought. She looked at her hands, and questioned softly, "Anupkaz, Arek."

What, by the Pillars, was going on?

Arek gets up at the mention of his full dwarvish name. He looks intently at both of his interrogators. Thinking as he speaks, he says:

"What is this? Who are you and what do you want from me? If you know of my ancestral name, why interrogate me? Surely you must already know what you need to know."

Not letting them immediately answer and finding courage in hearing his own voice,he turns to the dwarf:

"As for you, you know what role the Claimers play. There is your answer. My hammer strikes for Moradin and Moradin`s heir."

"Either my memory has been affected by your sleeping magic or I am loosing my dwarvish, but I have never heard of Anupkaz."

Sitting back down on the cot, Arek looks at them again: "By Moradin, I have nothing to hide. In your own way, you uphold the law. Ask me what you will and perhaps I can better understand what is happening as well."

Pug's eyes are icy lumps of coal that betray nothing.

"Yes, we know who you are. Speak plainly, now, so that you leave no room for us to try to interpret what you say. "Heir of Moradin?" Either the Maddock or the Federation could be interpreted an "heir." You are not giving a sermon to a bunch of country folk who will argue over the entrails of your meaning. Moradin is not here.

"Now that you understand the rules, I shall ask you only one more time, and I shall speak slowly, in order to make sure. Just between the three of us now...

"Maddock or Federation?"

They wait.

"As I have told you, the Maddock has my allegiance. I am a Claimer to be. That should convince you where my loyalty lies. Besides, I was not aware that fealty to the Maddock was considered treason to the Federation."

"What does this have to do with me, my colleagues, and some trash from the gutter I brought in?"

Pug grunted. Pucker sighed audibly, and suddenly seemed very old and very tired.

A show of sympathy, perhaps? No, you have to remind yourself, this is all theatre. Like the great romantic image of the Dwarven Agent of the Unspoken advising the star-eyed Inductees of the Claimers with a conspiratorial wink, as though they were brothers in some secret society. Was that only three days ago? Had you not been taken in yourself, then?

"Enough," the she-Hobbit said, regaining some composure. "Arek, you may go. Things, however, will not be the same."

Pug grunted again and then began to speak. What he said burned a hole in your soul.

"Attempt to contact any former Claimer and you will be charged with treason. Seek out other former Inductees and you will be under suspicion for sedition. Exercise any of your former responsibilities as Deputy of the Watch and you will be prosecuted as a vigilante. Stay in Riot's Gate. Come and go as you please, but, from this day forward, Axes Bithtat is closed to you."

And in response to the disbelief in your face, he said, "The Claimers are no more."

You felt as if you had just been hollowed out.

It suddenly occurred to you that this Dwarf had no clan accent when he spoke. He spoke Common without a hint of brogue. You are no Dwarf! - you bit your tongue as you remembered the Steel Dwarves' ancient admonishment of the Maddock before sending him into exile and sundering the Dwarven Nation.

Pucker puckered, "This meeting did not occur, Arek. Speak of it, and we will learn. When we learn, we will find you. When we find you, we will not be so," a pause searching for the word, "cordial."

Again, they stared.

"Good day, citizen."

They stood up, Pucker and then Pug, and turned to leave. A concealed door opened in the seamless stone wall as they approached. You immediately began to feel overtaken by the urge to sleep. Pug stepped through the door, but Pucker paused and turned. "Choose you friends carefully, Arek. Company kept speaks volumes about a man's character."

The Dwarven nanny again. You could not help smiling, even as your tearing eyes closed, and oblivion swept you away to a dreamless sleep.

Next!
“Moons Ascendant”
An account of the Third Session, by Thalazzar

(A Brief Interlude Over Breakfast)

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