After arguing over the ethics of deception, Dusk concedes and gives his silver scale over to Susannae.
“It’s best that I maintain my reputation, rather than pretend to be captive. With all of the betrayal about the crusader orders, my apparent cooperation with cultists, although forced, could cause a mistrust of us in the future, if we are seen by anyone on our side. Besides, you are best equipped to watch our backs in case demons or cultists try to flank us.” Susannae explains, summarily.
Dusk agrees begrudgingly and slinks off into the shadows of a nearby alley to keep watch. Topaz Solutions has a carving of a bundle of herbs and a bubbling potion. The windows are shuttered but the door hangs open.
After about twenty minutes, by Dusk’s estimate, a group of soldiers files out of the building through the front door. They look worse for wear, dirt on their faces and ill-maintained armor. On each shoulder they sport a badge- a black raven, with feathers turning to ashes. The expression on their faces look more worried than defeated and they haul a few bags of clanking loot with them. They do not see Dusk and make to leave down the street.
“Hmph. ‘Maintain my reputation.’ You got that right, sister Susa,” muttered the demon. “Only, it was a different reputation she’s worried about. She must have caught the gleam in my eye when I was about to bind her wrists. Women… always spinning it around. Yeah, she’s probably worried she might like it.” He chuckled and started letting his imagination drift.
“Stop your incessant grumblings, Dusk,” answered a voice in his head. “Do you think I was forged to listen to your adolescent lust? Why are you not wreaking vengeance?”
Dusk frowned down at the sword on his belt. “Sphex, this isn’t how things are going to go down. You are not going to be my nanny. You’ll get your vengeance. You’re getting it now, in fact. It’s just that my part of this particular piece of vengeance involves me sitting in a dark alley mouth watching the door and their backs. In the meantime, let me have a little fun. Calistria’s the goddess of carnal thoughts, too. Pretend I’m praying.”
“You have not been praying. I do not pretend or feint. I strike and strike true and taste the blood of my foes!”
“Settle down, already. I’m surprised no one else can hear you. And anyway, you might get your chance soon. It’s been almost twenty minutes. That’s several lifetimes in a fight. I don’t trust those guys to talk their way too far so the arrows and swords and mayhem should have been in high gear already.”
The door opened and he crouched down to watch the soldiers begin to leave.
“Well… that’s no good at all. So, those schmucks either just finished off our friends, Sphex, and are off to deliver their gear to some boss or are up to no good. That look on their faces might mean they’re concerned their password is out and they might warn the other locations. What the hell are those icons?”
Dusk can’t quite place the patch, but thinks that based on the look of the group- their practical armor and rough appearance -they may have be part of one of the many mercenary companies brought to Kenebres to assist the crusaders. It is not the wing of the dried Vrock wing that represents the Blackwing on their shoulders. None of their loot is immediately recognizable, but the bags are large and would require closer inspection in order to confirm that they have not robbed Susannae, Halved, Kostner and Neva. They’re headed down the road, so Dusk is forced to leave his post in order to do so.
“-somewhere new to hide out.” One of them, a tall and thin, tawny male finishes. “There’s got to be a lot of loot out there to re-purpose. Between all the rich traders and the crusaders that fell in the attack, I can only imagine what got left behind.”
“Maybe we should just go,” Says another, a short and stocky woman with a slight lisp. “First we’ve got demons to deal with, now there are survivor do-gooders heading about. We’re lucky we got out of Topaz Solutions without that big fella back there cutting our heads off. He looked like he was itchin’ for a fight and only didn’t cause of that follower of Iomedae.”
A third chimes in: “On my way to meet with you, I saw demons carrying that big silver dragon out of the city. That big demon that killed it was ordering his peons to carry it west, back to the Worldwound. There’s things at work here much bigger than us and we’re lucky to be alive, I think. If we ain’t careful, we’ll get stepped on.”
“You’re a bunch of cowards. Look at what we already made, there’s got to be more to be had. Let’s search around ’fore dark.” Says the first.
“Let’s find somewhere new to hold up before dark, at least. I swear the sun is rising later and setting earlier each passing day. Soon it’ll be forever night…”
Remaining undetected, Dusk uses Detect Magic to scan their loot. He detects three individual magic auras, one of which is an amalgamation of three smaller versions of the same aura. However, before he can try and identify the schools of magic involved, they walk out into a square, necessitating that he reveal himself in order to continue his spell on what they have.
“Well, Sphex, sounds like the others are alive at least.”
Dusk dropped back, letting the looters gain some distance on him, but he continued to follow, sneakily with wand in hand.
“Now, we just need to find a nice place where I’ve got some clearance and then we’ll see if we can settle this without bloodshed.”
“Don’t be weak, vessel of my will. Blood shall be spilled.”
“Well, let’s a least make sure it’s more of theirs than ours, sword.”
After following them for a short while, waiting for the opportunity to strike, Dusk sees another group making their way down the street. As they near the mercenaries, Dusk can make out their heavy armor and talbards- most likely crusaders. The mercenaries are startled by the approach of the crusaders and look about frantically as if to make to find somewhere to hide or make their escape.
“I don’t wanna deal with crusaders, they might be just as desperate as we are. Let’s split up. Meet at the North entrance to New Kenebres.” Says one of the mercenaries. The rest nod and they split off into three groups of two, two of the pairs towing a loot bag each. Each group darts into smaller roads on opposite sides of their current path.
The crusaders continue their way down the street. There are four of them in total, three in armor and a fourth in a robe. They are all human, the robed one is a frail looking male.
“Weeeelll… this is interesting, isn’t it, Sphex? Now, I could go ahead and alert these crusaders about the looters.. but chances are they’ll believe me less by telling the truth than those jerks can get scared. And in any case, they’ve done us the favor of splitting them up. Let’s see if can divide and conquer.”
“Finally, blood will feed my taste for vengeance!”
“I might just use my crossbow.”
Dusk attempts to hide from the real crusaders and takes after the pair carrying the bag of loot that he detected the magic auras from.
Dusk follows a pair with a loot bag down a side street and around a corner. In the sky, Dusk can seem some vultures circling over an area to the south. He hears the far away droning of some strange beast, a noise that, if Dusk didn’t know better, would say was a sort of calling from a beast not quite demonic.
“Stop day dreaming!”
The pair of mercenaries slip into an abandoned house at the end of the street where it meets the wall separating New Kenebres and the Gate District. Dusk calculates that he is still somewhere south and east of the entrance to New Kenebres of which the mercenaries spoke.
Dusk creeps closer to the house, checking if there is more than one entrance and seeing if there are any windows.
It’s a small, unassuming house with a single front door and a single window. No light is coming out through the window and the place seems to be abandoned, other than the mercenaries that just went inside. A large hole has been torn in the roof, revealing part of a short storage attic. The front door is closed and the house is flanked tightly on both sides by neighboring houses.
“Aw, they’ve got a comfy little hidey hole, Sphex. That’s damn cute.”
Dusk lit a cigar and crept to beneath the window. Sliding the black blade out of its scabbard, he touched a finger to its tip and said a brief word in the tongue of the Abyss. Darkness spread, then, twenty feet in every direction.
He stood and gazed through the window under cover of dark and intoned, in a threatening voice, "Listen up, scum. You were paid to defend this city. Instead you’ve looted its fallen guardians. Now, I know humans are weak. I’m half human myself. So I’m going to give you one chance. You have six seconds to drop that loot which will be returned to those still fighting the demons and who will rebuild, come out of there, and get the fuck out of my city. Your friends are being dealt with as well so don’t bother waiting for them at the gate. Get. The Fuck. Out.
“Or, you can stay in there and Sphex and I will kill both of you. He wants to drink your blood. Me, I’m just gonna watch you die. Then, since I’m half-demon too, I’ll probably get to feast on your cowardly, worthless souls in the Abyss some day.”
Then, he watched.
Dusk sees them drop the bag of loot and hears a loud clanking thud and then some hurried whispering. Among incomprehensible words Dusk makes out “ain’t worth it, you fool.”
“Well if you go, I’m out.” Then there is a silent pause. Suddenly, the front door bursts open and the looters shoot out of the house and take off sprinting down the street.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” one shouts. As they reach another road they turn down it and out of sight. Dusk still sees the Vultures circling in the distance, but the bestial droning cannot be heard any longer.
After they leave the house sounds empty. The darkness hangs in the air, like a cloud of underwater squid ink, but insubstantial.
Dusk slips inside and inspects the bag of loot, casting a Detect Magic cantrip.
“OK, Sphex. Let’s find somewhere else to hide the rest of this junk before returning it to the Defender’s Heart and let’s see what’s going on over there by those vultures.”
He slammed the blade back into the scabbard, extinguishing the darkness and headed south over the blade’s protestations.
The trove consists of 122 gp, 418 sp, a set of silver cutlery worth 125 gp, a brass goblet worth 15 gp, a portrait of a young man in fancy dress cut from its frame and rolled up worth 55 gp, a flask of acid, a flask of alchemist’s fire, two vials of antitoxins, three vials of holy water, three magic bolts, a magic elixer, and a magic potion of Barkskin.
As Dusk heads south towards the place above which the vultures are circling, he begins to hear the bestial drone again. The weather remains a dull and stark color with a faint red from the west lingering in the openings in the clouds. The noise increases in volume as he makes his way carefully down the street, until it becomes unnerving. It’s not clear from where or what the noise is coming.
Dusk shrugs off the effects of the droning. Keeping to the shadows, Dusk continued south.
Dusk follows the wall between him and New Kenebres until it suddenly ends, having had a hole blow through it, by some rampaging demon no doubt. The hole spans some forty feet wide, lowering the road on which Dusk currently walks about ten feet down into a rubble filled gully that leads east clear through the city and west towards Clydewell Plaza.
The vultures circle above, but beneath them, suspended in the air on a column of clouds is Neva with her ranseur brandished. She descends towards the rest of the group, who brace to defend themselves against a quilled beast, which darts out from beneath some of the wreckage. From his vantage on the upper road, Dusk is about one hundred feet away from them.
“It’s hungry for your friends. Those vultures will join in, too,” says Sphex.
Suddenly, Dusk feels a pain explode on the back of his head. He wheels to see a hulking man standing behind him, wearing a black robe trimmed with orange flames and a symbol of Iomedae shining brightly on the front of it, his face obscured by a drawn up hood. In his hand is a sap, no doubt the source of the pain. “Surrender, fiend-blood!” he says in a aggressive tone.
Behind him, standing further down the road Dusk had just traversed, stands another figure clad in the same robes. His hood is down, revealing his bald pate and he is gesturing with his hands, speaking strange syllables that echo like metallic chimes in the wind: “अभी भी रहो । आप एक दिव्य नौकर के फैसले में खड़े हो जाओ।.”
A third man stands beside the second, dressed the same the first, holding a crossbow trained in Dusk’s direction.
The demon put his hands up in his most non-threatening way. “Whoa, whoa there, asswipes. I’m sure you think Iomedae at least owes you a handjob for that sucker punch with 3-on-1 odds, shit-for-brains, but I’m on your side. Those are my friends over there that need help.”
“Friends. Hah! I be- shit! We got ourselves a slippery one.” Says the one with the sap as Dusk Vanishes. He looks around, surprised.
The hunter with the sap takes a step forward and swings blindly at where Dusk was when he disappeared. Although the strike is in the vicinity, Dusk dodges it easily on his guard.
The hunter with the crossbow dashes over to a single story house to his left, across the street from the houses beneath the wall, and begins to scale it, crossbow slung over his back.
The third spell casting hunter jogs forward to about thirty feet from Dusk, holding out a steel holy symbol of Iomedae and casts an incantation on it, which causes the symbol to glow a bright blue color.
“Calistria’s cuddlies, Sphex, these motherfuckers are seriously into it,” thought Dusk. “When there are actual demons attacking people just a hundred feet away. Wait a minute, that gives me an idea.”
He turned his head and yelled out, invisibly, in Abyssal to the spined Howler menacing his friends below the cliff, “Hey boy! Fresh humans up here! Delicious unarmored humans! Come and get it! Here boy!!”
Then he drank the healing potion held in his tail and stepped silently fifteen feet away, trying to gain cover from the rooftop sniper and distance from the spell-user, drawing another potion bottle, of Invisibility.
“He’s on the move,” shouts the bald hunter holding the holy symbol. He catches up to the sap wielding hunter. “Be careful. If he is one of the so called Ivory Labyrinth Templars, he will have assistance nearby. That howler below notwithstanding.”
The hunter with the sap turns and walks slowly down the street. “C’mon out, demon spawn. We just want to talk. Back in our place where it’s comfortable for you. And where you can’t slip out on us!”
The third hunter finishes his climb to the roof, out of Dusk’s field of vision. Dusk hears the howl of the Howler rise up again, but he recalls that Howler’s use their drone to disorient prey before a fight. Meaning, there might be another nearby. Dusk watches as the hunters in pursuit shake their heads at the sound and try to focus on searching for him. The sound grows louder, until it feels inescapable.
The road running south along the wall ends where it meets the rubble slope down into the gully. A east-west running road dead ends into the north-south road, making nearly a right angle intersection. Houses and other buildings run along the streets here, leaving only a few ally ways. Dusk steps onto the east-west road and up against a building, about fifteen feet down. Above him, perhaps a building or two to the north, the hunter with the crossbow has climbed to the roofs. The other two hunters make their way south on the north-south road and have reached the intersection. They are looking around vigilantly, favoring the western direction, but having no sense of where Dusk is, except for what their intuition allows.
“No point in dicking around here, Sphex. There’s no gain in fighting these turds. Win or lose, it’ll turn out bad for us.”
“Thanks but no thanks for the invite, Numbnuts!” he cried aloud, taking off down the street. “I guess the prison and mentally-infirm asylum must have gotten wrecked in the attack if Hulrun has press gangs out for us heroes of Kenebres to join up. Just bring an application by the Defender’s Heart — well, I guess you guys wouldn’t have a written portion, would you? — and ask for Cuddlewith, first name Amanto.”
Abandoning all strategies, Dusk bolted at full speed west down the side street, potion still clutched in his tail.
“Fucking humans. I’m sick of them. Looters and bullies all. I need my fucking magic dragon shingle back. Let’s find Susannae.”
Frustrated, the hunters scramble about trying to find Dusk before he escapes, but they fail.
Dusk makes his way down into the gully to find that his “companions” have begun their climb up the other side of the gully.
In the gully he finds the corpses of a single howler and four vultures. The vultures look to have fiendish influence, with carrion caked on their beaks and odd spines and scales jutting from their twisted bodies. They are filled with arrows and dismembered by the cuts of blades.
By the time Dusk catches up with the others, they’ve reached the Tower of Estarod, which rests within sight of the gully. They are speaking with someone at the door, Susannae disguised as Hosilla using the magic scale.
“Wasting our time! I doubt any demon wretches call that structure home.”
Dusks waits to see how it plays out, deciding against bringing his bad impressions into the conversation. For now.
Hiding across the street, he can hear Susannae, disguised as Hosilla, use the passphrase “We have new materials for the archives.” The group is let inside by a cultist at the door, who looks about on the street after them, then closes the door.
The tower is round and some 50 feet wide with the top cleared away, likely by some rampaging demon. Although Dusk can see from here, he suspects the first floor is exposed to the sky. The stones constituting the tower are well made but in the older half of buildings in the city, meaning at one time it was an outlying structure. It might be possible to scale it, due to some of the stones being dislocated.
Nothing stirs on the streets nearby. The sky remains a dull red and grey overcast.
“Back to our original business, I guess, Sphex.”
Dusk finds a place to hide in good sight and hearing of the building in case his companions need assistance.