Stormreach has a few "little" problems!
Stalking past a score of orc guards, the halfling trader Gil felt a little jealous of his brother’s hired thugs. He had no love for Idomeneus to be sure, but the message stated that his business was “urgent.”
Gil did not like leaving his caravans for long, fearing his workers would steal from him. The last time he went on business, in fact, he’d come back to find many things out of place. He made a mental note, to beat every of his caravan manager’s when he got back, regardless of wrongdoing.
Entering Idomeneus’ inner most laboratory, he actually gasped at what he saw. Several freshly exhumed bodies were laid out on tables, side by side, along with unrecognizable skeletons whose features had long since rotted away. Gil tried his best not to look uncomfortable, knowing his brother would press any advantage he saw, and stood quietly with his stubby fingers locked together in front of his large belly.
Idomeneus, the halfling sorcerer, stood over one of the skeletons chanting an incantation. When he was done, he looked up at his brother and smiled an evil and sadistic smile. “My we certainly have let ourselves go…” Ido raised his brows a bit in taunt and question in regards to the amount of weight Gil had allowed himself to put on over the years.
“G’day to you as well brother.” Gil replied sarcastically. “Now what’s this all about, I got work to do…”
In reply, Idomeneus, said nothing. Instead, he picked up the bony arm of the skeleton on the table in front of him, and shook it experimentally. When nothing else happened, he seemed a bit disappointed, and moved to a desk drawer to retrieve several things.
“Tell me Gil,” Idomeneus began as gathered a bag, and several parchments, “How goes your trade business?”
Gil huffed, “could be better, competition and all, Andair trade ain’t what it used to be.”
“Interesting,” Idomeneus replied curtly cutting Gil off before he could elaborate further. It was clear the caster was only focussed on his personal agenda. “Here,” he said roughly shoving a small but heavy bag and some maps at Gil. “I have a bit of job for you and the boys.”
Opening the bag, Gil saw that it was full of gold coins, with instant mistrust he looked up at Idomeneus. “Speak brother, ye got my full attention.”
Allowing his brother to hold and fondle the large bag of coins had Idomeneus outlined his plans, “You are headed to Stormreach,” He added, “Meet Lerincho and Ryvis who are already in the city waiting for you.
Gil clutched his bag of gold protectively, “What do we need them for?”
“Ingredients, my dear boy,” explained Idomeneus. “Ingredients to start a war, to perhaps eliminate your competition, and make your trade caravans so ripe with business, you won’t have to kill your supervisors every time they steal from you.”
Gil shrank at the thought that his brother might be spying on him. It didn’t matter, he decided. A trade monopoly was just the thing he needed to make himself richer than any man he knew; even the pompous Idomeneus.
Both men were startled by a scratching sound then, and Idomeneus’ face lit up when he saw his first undead skeletal minion rise from the table. His Sinister laughter grew to a climax as the skeleton lurched over to him. Idomeneus did not even notice that his brother was already gone.
The Marketplace in Stormreach
Chapter 1: The Assassin’s Note
Rain patted softly on the widow of the modest apartment that overlooked the normally bustling Marketplace Area of the City of Stormreach. It was dawn now, or would be soon as the first dim rays of light were threatening to crest the city walls. In fact, most folk in the city proper were still asleep.
Lessah, however, was not most folk. Instead she sat in her windowsill, with her back against the frame and one knee bent under her resting arm. The window itself was nothing more than you would find in any affordable lodge room. It was small enough to keep out most large humans and big enough for Lessah’s Halfling form.
Tall for her race, she did not to admit to many people that she was half-human. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was pulled back in its customary half ponytail that allowed much of the under layers of her hair to cascade a bit down her back. Along with her unusual height, Lessah had inherited her mother’s sky-blue eyes. The girl’s facial expressions rarely ranged away from sober and serious.
In her hand she held an old coin with the emblem of a shield on one side and a sword on the other; normally carried by paladins in the service of Dol Dorn, the god of strength and arms. Lessah was no paladin, but her human mother had been, and the coin had been a parting gift to Lessah. She always carried it as a reminder of her mother’s strength. Turning it over and over in her hand in well-practiced repetition, the girl seemed to take no comfort from the ritual.
Outside the Marketplace was still and quiet. Only the open-air fruit vendors were just arriving to set up shop for the day. The pre-dawn light had chased most of the less desirable patrons in the city away save for the occasional odd passer-by.
Out of curiosity she glanced across the room to the halfling-sized bed in the corner, adjacent to her own. The bed was plain, well-made up, and unslept in. Lessah felt a slight pain of worry knowing her cousin had still not yet come home. Lessah thought to herself that the girl would very likely end up pregnant and in dishonor, if she weren’t more careful. It was something Lessah felt she did not have time to address however.
Removing her head from the frame of the window, she pulled out a note from her pocket and unfolded it. It was one she had read several times, but Lessah read it again as if some new information would come from it.
“kill her if she jeopardizes the mission
report to G.Y. in the morning”
The night before had been difficult, Lessah was hired by one of the local boys to hunt a giant spider and kill it in order to procure the creature’s venom sac, presumably to sell to one of the local alchemists at a profit. She was not accustomed to working within the city limits, choosing instead to act as a scout for many adventuring parties and caravans moving through the Menechtarun Desert. Thinking about her most recent trip to that unforgiving place made Lessah glance down at the still-healing scar on her forearm. A present given to her by a pack of roving gnolls, it was an encounter that had nearly cost the girl more than her favorite delving suit.
Lessah seethed at such carelessness--her own as well as the assassin hired to kill her and take what she had rightfully stolen. Only a cheaply-hired thug would carry a message that could so easily implicate his employer. That same thug had allowed himself to be caught after being discovered by his quarry. Lessah was not in the habit of assassinating anyone, but she had made an exception for last night’s cutpurse. Lessah felt a tinge of guilt thinking that the Stormreach authorities would soon discover him in an alley behind the Wavecrest Tavern. Closing her eyes, she tried to block out that thought. Instead she was more interested in who would have her followed or killed for something she had already planned on selling anyway. More importantly, why would someone go to such trouble to procure a spider’s venom that was pungent, but by no means deadly?
Her thoughts along with the quiet of the morning were disturbed by the giggles of a young halfling female. Lessah drew a deep breath, half relieved that Morah was home safe and half annoyed that her cousin would stay out all night. Stashing the note and coin quickly in her pocket, she readied herself for the conversation to follow. Her young and beautiful cousin would not get off so easily this time.
Lessah repeated a few questions in her mind: Where have you been? With whom? Why were you out all night? Don’t you know no self-respecting Halfling male will accept you as a wife if you continue to do this? With her feet firmly on the floor and her arms crossed in a gesture of disapproval, Lessah listened at what seemed like a herd of buffalo coming up the stairs.
Morah the Halfling bard burst through the door with a bright smile on her face and danced across the floor to her cousin. The pretty girl stopped after a too elaborate twirl and presented Lessah with a ripe pear that she no doubt had failed to pay for at the fruit vendor.
“Greetings Lessah!” She practically panted and held the fruit out in presentation. “I brought you some breakfast!” Morah, unlike Lessah, seemed by all appearances to be a full-blooded halfling both in size and demeanor. Her long blonde hair was always in perfect order, even now, after it was clear she had been running through the rain. She had beautiful beige and golden eyes that gave her a distinctive identity along with a well-proportioned figure and pouting lips, which she never failed to use in order to get her way.
Lessah made no move to retrieve the fruit, nor did she change her judgmental facial expression. The bard failed to notice any signal that she was in disfavor.
“Not hungry?” She inquired, her face still glowing. Morah dropped her arm after only a moment and placed the fruit in an empty bowl in the center of the small table of the girls’ common room. She produced another pear from the folds of her cloak, and bit into it. “Oh the night I’ve had cousin!”
“The night is over youngling.” Lessah finally spoke using Morah’s childhood nickname. “The sun crests the city walls as we speak.”
Morah glanced out the window and rolled her eyes at the rain that had calmed to a soft drizzle. She placed the partially eaten pear into the bowl with its mate. “Stupid rain!” the bard said more to herself than Lessah. She sprang up from the chair she had dropped into, all smiles again, “He kissed me last night Lessah!” The girl could hardly contain her giddiness.
Lessah tried hard to steel herself for more unwanted information. Gritting her teeth she asked, “and who is HE?”
Morah looked stricken for half a moment, then easily recovered and smiled again, “Saldez silly!” She giggled slightly and twirled around the room again, the elaborate dance ending in collapse on the girl’s small bed in the corner of the common room.
Lessah turned, arms still crossed, “I don’t approve of this Saldez, Morah.” Lessah began, “His family’s reputation in the city is precarious at best, and he is known for being…” she paused, trying not to say unkind words, “a ladies’ man.”
Morah gathered herself in giant ball of sheets and blankets, “you don’t approve of anyone Lessah that is YOUR problem--not mine.” Morah popped her head up from the covers, “I’m meeting him again tonight…” The bard’s beige eyes grew wide with mischief and anticipation and she pulled herself completely under the covers again, squealing in excitement.
Lessah turned frustrated and sat at the table. She could see out the window that the fully awake sun was lighting up the Marketplace, which had already begun to fill with patrons. Lessah reached into the bowl, grabbed the partially eaten fruit, turned it 180 degrees to the unbitten side, and tasted it. She had too much to worry about today and this situation would have to be dealt with very soon.
The note left her with many more questions than answers--answers she would have to dig up for herself. Lessah rose from the table, taking the fruit with her. She turned to her cousin.
“I’ll be back later youngling.” Lessah’s voice trailed off as she realized Morah’s rhythmic breathing meant she had already fallen asleep. A jumble of blankets and soft blonde hair, her angelic face was slightly visible and a smile, even in sleep, ran across her lips. Lessah’s eyes rolled to the ceiling, “Oh never mind!”
Lessah pried a floorboard of the common room up, taking care to not wake her cousin, and placed the spider venom sac inside the empty space there. She made her way out the door and down to the market, making a mental note to quietly pay the fruit vendor for his unknowing generosity.
Lessah needed to confer with someone she could trust for discretion and someone who was well versed in the official, as well as the sinister side, of regional politics. So she decided her first stop this morning should be to the Hall of The Order of the Sword and Rose, to see none other than the famous diplomat and ambassador Aribell Kross.
The Order of the Sword and Rose was an age-old organization charged with the protection of the queen back when the five human nations, known as the Kingdom of Galifar were united under one ruler until a vicious and bloody war tore the kingdom apart. The Order had been revived with the charge of reuniting the five nations and restoring order to the Kingdom of Galifar, which had thus far proven a difficult task.
Lessah had been hired on a few occasions in the past by the Order, to stealthily seek out information when their Council needed intelligence outside of the confines of local law. Lessah held the Mistress of the Order in great esteem and felt the woman was more likely to help her than to have her arrested.