Book One: Ordered by Gods
CHAPTER ONE:

Out of Riot's Gate

DM's Introduction


Frankie

You still shiver at the thought of having touched Mnemonium as she winced and tensed her massive frame. The surgeon Woden had found cut between her scales, deep inside her, guided by your best guess on how to trace, find and remove the tiny bits of shot. She had over forty pellets lodged in her hide, and many more wounds where shot had entered and exited her body.

The entire procedure was conducted in the Skybridge warehouse, while Thalazzar kept watch at the door. When all was done, and her wounds packed and stitched, she stared at you long and hard. The surgeon left nervously and quickly. Woden had departed to see to his own affairs hours before. You felt like cracking a joke to ease the tension, but you didn't. Thank the Constructor

Mnemonium spoke to you then. Her voice was sweet and melodious. Her tone, maternal and gracious. Her Naurie flawless and fluent. "A word and a token, Child of Kith, to express my gratitude and make plain my support of any endeavour undertaken to frustrate the One. I know what you've agreed to do for Woden, and it is well. From what I know, mortals judge his apprentice noble and kind. Know, however, the Masked Wizard serves only himself. Exercise caution in your dealings with him." She produced two small trinkets in her great clawed hand to give to you, though you have no idea where they came from, "For you, and the Dwarf. They may help you to avoid attracting the attention of the Servants of the One while you traverse their land. Do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the One. It is not as our gods."

She stretched then, with a sigh that made the rafters creak, and left the building. You and Thalazzar followed her out the door and down the street to the edge of the mountain from which she leapt effortlessly. Stretching her wings with a snap, she fell, flying North and low, in the shadows close to the treeline. And she was gone.

Thalazzar

While Frankie worked, Tallim's owl familiar, Tyconderoga, watched you with unnervingly human eyes. It would occasionally shift its weight from side to side where it was perched, but otherwise it was as still as a stone. "Follow her," Woden had said. "Great," you had thought, "You talk for an hour about politics and spend 2 seconds on instructions to find your apprentice."

According to the Skybridge clock, it was two in the morning before you and Frankie made your ways back to the Bell + Dragon. At some point, while you were in the warehouse, it had become overcast, and Seluna was only visible for her glow through the cloud cover. It must have rained because the cobblestone streets were slick and dark, like the colour of fear. The entire way back, you two hardly spoke, though not because of the animosity and mistrust that has existed between you. You were both listening carefully to the night.You occasionally heard a scream echoing down the empty streets. Glass breaking. Footfalls running. Swords clashing. Defiant shouts followed by unmistakable silence.

You arrived, finally, exhausted. Nimbus was awake, and had been keeping watch in the main hall. Frankie was too wired to sleep and agreed to take the next watch, she wanted to make some notes anyway. Nimbus returned to the barn to rest and you went to your room, and lit your pipe, though you took no pleasure in the smoke. Your mind was still racing when finally you fell into a fitful sleep. Tallim's owl perched atop your wardrobe, like an accusation.

Tiberio

You and Nimbus arrived at the Bell + Dragon hours before with Arek and Domaldi. Susan Kenna finally let you in the back door after your shouts and halloo's proved enough to convince her who you were. She and some of the other patrons had barricaded the windows and the main door.

You were severely wounded yourself, but Susan helped you to get Arek and Domaldi to bed for the rest they would need. She did not ask about Plake - which was a small boon, you suppose, because you do not know what you would have told her. As she cleaned and bound your wounds, in silence, you could plainly see the slave scars on the backs of her hands, and she paused briefly over your own. Her eyes searched yours a moment, speaking without speaking. A lifetime ago, she too had been chattle unto the River Baronies, though further down stream than you.

She finished her work competently and quietly and prepared some warm tea for you from a massive brass kettle - a recipe from her Quilombo she mumbled. You drank it and disappeared into a dreamless sleep.

Arek

Tiberio and Nimbus helped you and Domaldi back to the Bell + Dragon. Unity was hidden safely inside your robes, but you were as self conscious of the burden as you are of the overwhelming cavern of loneliness inside you. Ever since you were a child, you have felt the presence of Moradin, and now you know what it means to be truly alone. It is not simply a matter of no longer being able to channel His power - He is not there.

Wielding the great Steel Stone Maddock, meanwhile, ought to be an honour, the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, you tell yourself At least, it ought to be a comfort, but you find no pleasure in this new responsibility you bear. It was unearned, and the events that brought it to you are still too horrible to contemplate.

The streets of the city were choked with smoke and danger. Your path back to the Inn was twisted, indirect and uncertain. In the distance you could see Axes Bithtat brooding, wounded. You wanted nothing more than to rush to its defense, though you could hardly hold yourself up on your own legs. Your arrival at the Bell & Dragon was a blur of shouts and wincing pain.

In a room with Domaldi, you sleep fitfully and dream of your childhood on the mountain side above Lake Dakar, listening to lost tales of glory and Dwarven pride form Uncle Ulgar. Your chest burns with shame at what has become of your beloved Claimers but, even in your unconscious state, you begin to draw strength from your iron grip upon Unity.

Domaldi

You tell yourself you are having a nightmare. But that does little to assuage your fear.

Every one of your senses is alive. Your upper torso, right arm and shoulder are in a vice. You can hear your bones cracking. You tell yourself you should be feeling much more pain, but your nerves are making it feel like icy cold instead. The calm reason your mind has forged in countless battles tells you that the wounds must be very severe indeed.

You would shrug but, your lungs have been punctured. You know because you can hear them gurgle and wheeze when you try to breathe. More pressure.

You are wet and warm, wrapped in the smell of salt and iron, digestive juices and sulfur. Something tosses you. You fall like a rag doll across a dusty street and you drop what it was you were holding. A child, screams, and falls from your arms, and as it hits the ground as you awaken with a start…

Arek is in a bed next to you. He is awake and staring at the ceiling, but clearly lost in his own thoughts.

Nimbus

You are troubled by thoughts and worries of the Lunar Elves and the Nocturnal Temple, to say nothing of their Lunar enclave. Was it safe? How far did the magical null spread? Was Axes Bithtat the Centre? What of the great Spelljamming vessels with which the Lunar Elves plied the infinite traverse? You are meditating on these thoughts, trying to calm your mind when you realize quite suddenly that you are not alone in the barn. Someone is breathing heavily, as if he had just run, or were very anxious.

You were about to stir when the person spoke, "Have you seen them? Do you remember?" Woden? When you do see him move into the moonlight, he seems a shadow of the man you saw, earlier that evening. Diminished. Empty. A husk.

"Seen who?" you ask. Woden shivers and closes his eye, "Them. The In-Between Men." You are stupified by the reference. You have no memory of any such men.

"I didn't see it the first time I laid eyes on you," he continues, nearly oblivious to your presence, "That day that Tallim returned to gift you a coin while you begged…" he catches his breath. "But then, yesterday, when I saw you at the cable tram…" he cannot speak for a moment, and seems to catch his breath before he continues.You encourage him to calm down, and answer finally that you have no knowledge of what, or who, he is speaking. He replies, "You bare the signs of their meddling. If you do not remember, it may yet come to be that you will. They are looking for something. They are trying to understand."

"Does this have something to do with the Dream of Horrors?" you ask.

"I do not know if this (i.e. the Dream of Horrors - DM's note) involved them. If it did, what you have described is like nothing I have ever learned of their ways. You must try to remember everything you can about this event and search each moment to determine if they were involved."

When you asked, then, whether these creatures held any power over him, Woden clearly had a hard time formulating his answer. He fially replied that they held no power over Woden, speaking of himself in the third person, but the Masked Wizard added, "Before I was Woden, I too was taken."

You had many more questions, but when you asked who these so-called "In-Between Men" actually were, Woden became agitated and changed the subject. He looked out into the street. "The Dwarf is still here," he said speaking to the night, "The Unspoken are looking for us. I do not know how, but somehow they made the connection between me and Arek. They know a great deal already; I fear that someone has betrayed us to the Unspoken. I have bought you some time, but they will be here soon. I'm sure Grist will be done with his bit of fun shortly. You must get him away."

You spoke a while longer, but he always returned to the need to get Arek out of the city and away from the Unspoken as quickly as possible. After a time he returned into the shdowa with a spin of his cloak, and disappeared stealthily. Magic or not, Woden was as multi-talented as he was full of confounding mystery.

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