Adventures in Theia

Revenge of the Keepers
All hell breaking loose in Belthaar

The Fall of the Citadel

With some unknown army poised a mere hundred or so yards from Belthaar’s western gate, Yenyu, Coroebus, and Amon continue to wait and watch the spectacle unfolding around them in the market district — Hundreds of Keepers of Ershkigal clashing with the city-watch and the garrison of Belthaar at the gates of the Citadel. Arrows can bee seen raining down into inhumanly silent Keepers as they assail the massive wooden gates that separate the palace from the lower city. Amon from his perch on the roof of a nearby bank witnesses the Keepers falling under the withering hail of missiles, but also notes a circle of Keepers gather around a lone figure in the dimness of the torchlight square below him. Faint sounds of some incantation begin to rise on the wind and some seconds later a massive blast of thunder fills the air and knocks him backward. When he looks up, all that remains of the citadel’s once proud gates is a collapsing ruin of stone and bodies flying through the chill night air. The remnant of the Ershkigal cultists swarm over the rubble and resume their assault on the palace.

Curious, Amon clambers down the from the roof of the bank and pads along the battlements of the inner city wall and ascends the citadel walls to get a better vantage of what the Keepers are doing. When he reaches the top he arrives just in time to witness the spectacle of three great lions launching themselves into a score of Keepers who are rounding the corner into the western gardens of the grounds. Roars fill the air and bodies of Keepers can be seen flying around, but eventually the Keeper’s numbers overwhelm the lions and flashing scimitars rise and fall cutting them down. Done with their bloody business the Keepers quickly batter the palace doors open and pour into breach disappearing from view. Amon decides that there might be more to be seen at the rear of the palace and creeps through the shadows and eventually climbs the palace walls to get a good look at what is inside a 4th floor window that is ajar. To his chagrin he climbs the masonry only to be spotted by the King’s harem and a burly eunuch that charges him. In his haste to climb down he loses his grip and falls 60 feet landing heavily and awkwardly in some shrubs that barely manage to break his fall. He struggles to stand and realizes that his arms have gone completely dead. Seconds later he hears a rustle in the bushes near the citadel wall and spots a face emerging from a well-concealed trap door — a poorly disguised nobleman and his consort sneaking out of the city? Amon staggers towards them and introduces himself. Taken aback the man demands that Amon help him for the sake of the city and for the sake of King Simshattar. Amon assents and the trio exit the citadel through a postern door set into the clifftop gate of the citadel. After several minutes of descent they reach the bottom of the escarpment, but are immediately surrounded by soldiers of Ghezath and taken into custody.

Meanwhile, Yenyu and Coroebus notice a new commotion in the streets near the city’s prison. Screams of terror and cries of confusion can be heard echoing in the distance, from the eastern part of the city. From their perch near the Lion Gate the source of the tumult soon reveals itself. A beast something like a cross between an eel and badger the size of a small house undulates up the street. It wriggles and writhes on four long tentacles as thick as a man’s torso and seems drawn to the path of destruction left in the Keepers’ wake. It passes by them without noticing and proceeds toward the citadel.

Setting aside the threat posed by the mass of figures outside the city wall for now. Yenyu and Coroebus follow after the creature at a very healthy distance as it moves through the ruins of the citadel gate and creeps into the palace. With the beast inside the palace they ultimately decide to brave getting closer and ascend the steps to the great bronze doors of the palace. When they peer within the sight of a great battle greets them. The last dozen or so Keepers and their High priest are locked in battle with the crawling corruption spawned that looks like it was vomited from the deepest pit of Hell.

Choking down their fear and feeling their options about to run out, Yenyu and Coroebus quickly decide to throw in their lot with the Keepers and attack the writhing horror. The High priest utters a sorcery of destruction and rends the creature. Gouts of ichor spray over the polished marble tiles and the enraged the creature flails at the Keepers cutting them down like wheat and crushing them in its iron grip. In short order all that remains of the Keepers is their lone High Priest, now held fast in the vise-like grip of the badly wounded creature’s tentacle. Seizing the opportunity, Yenyu and Coroebus strike an opportunistic blow and fall the beast.

Dazed and bewildered by what has transpired, the duo begin to explore the eerily silent palace. Floor by floor they survey the building hoping to find some sign of the sapphire Sadmimmon/Ikhtanbu has sent them to retrieve. With few rooms left to explore the figure of Sadimimmon suddenly appears and interrogates them in Ikhtanabu’s strange, raspy and nearly disembodied voice. The shade seems consumed with its search and barely even registers their presence. The two look at each other and decide that now might be the time to abandon their association with the single-minded revenant and quietly and quickly exit the palace and make their way towards a slightly ajar postern gate set into the Citadel’s North Gate.

After several minutes of descent they reach the bottom of the escarpment, but are immediately surrounded by soldiers of Ghezath and taken into custody . . .

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Stirring Up Trouble
Keepers on a Rampage

Coroebus and Amon leave the Sage Eneru to do his research into I’Kanabul Zhul’s missing sapphire and head back to the Scriptorium. On the way there they meet a man smelling of fish, Yenyu a frequent patron of the dirty dog. He helps them make repairs to the shop. As evening draws near, they return to find out what the Sage has learned. It seems the Kings favorite concubine is said to have a large sapphire. Additionally, Eneru repays them for the dagger: something to improve Amon’s blade and a cup that supposedly fills with water if buried in the sand for a hour. The team returns, once again, to the Scriptorium to decide what to do next.

Breaking into the palace is considered and quickly discarded. Informing Abu Jumal or I’Kanabul Zhul of the gem’s location is discussed as well. Zhul was discounted for his lack of stability, Jumal for being untrustworthy and difficult to locate. In the end, it was decided to inform the Keepers (knowing they take a hard line to grave-robbing) as to the gem’s possible location and see what happens. Yenyu disguised himself as a beggar and paid a street urchin to deliver a note to the Keepers.

The plan of last resort enacted, the trio headed to the gate between the residential and craft districts. Waiting for some time with nothing happening, Coroebus and Amon moved to the Square of the Green Peacock to check the Keepers’ compound. The Keepers formed ranks and marched on the keep. The district gate guards would not open the gate so the Keepers attacked. They breached the gate and pushed on to the Grand Plaza. The guards held them off for a while, but the plaza was breached. Palace guards currently hold the Keepers at bay with arrows.

While this carnage was taking place, Amon watched from rooftops and followed the battle. He observed four men run to and open the Lion Gate, but didn’t intervene. Yenyu ran home only to return some time later for reasons of his own, meeting Coroebus who had lacked the western gate to the Prison. Sounds of a riot came from within. Yenyu and Coroebus cautiously followed the sounds of battle and noticed the open gate. Investigating, they saw a large group approaching. The closed the gate, but the bar was too heavy to lift without jury-rigging a pulley. The gate barred, they climb to the top of the wall and see what they assume to be an army approaching the city. They gather slings, despite them being nearly impossible to use untrained, and prepare for what may come.

This night certainly looks to be…interesting.

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Taking sides
New friends in old places

Puzzled and a little disturbed Coroebus pulls the dagger from the back of his belt and holds it in front of himself in the middle of the street. “Ummm . . . Amon?” He says uncertainly. “I’m not sure where this thing came from, but somehow I just reached down and this damned silver dagger was tucked into my belt.” Amon and Salazar both raise their eyes and a long pause hangs over the trio as they each grapple with the implication. Something untoward, perhaps even unnatural has occurred in their midst. Resolving to to let it unnerve them or distract them from their goal of finding Sadam they put the matter aside and head back to the trade district and Sadamimon’s scriptorium.

The troupe comes up the street and in the failing light and long shadows of the day, just minutes before the sun sets, notices something amiss. The door to the scriptorium has been broken into. Splinters around the door handle and the door frame make it clear somebody has forced their way in. Amon, followed by Coroebus and Salazar cautiously approach the door with weapons drawn and listen intently but are greeted with total silence, save for the slight squeak of the front door as it moves in the light breeze. Satisfied that whomever broke in is long gone they enter and take stock of the damage. The front room is a complete disaster, Amon’s cot is overturned, clothes are strewn everywhere and every drawer, cabinet or crate has turned out or turned over. Sadam’s office and quarters are in a similar state of chaos. Amon tries to sort out transpired, but it doesn’t appear to be the work of burglars in search of valuables. The only thing noteworthy is a missing ledger that was always on Sadam’s desk.

Suspecting the intruders might return, the three friends bar the front door, ascend the ladder to the rooftop porch and lay in wait. After an hour of nothing but the deepening of dusk, a guard patrol (strangely) led by a guard captain marches down the street directly toward the door of the scriptorium. The captain raises the butt of his spear and begins thumping on the door vigorously demanding to be let in. With quick thinking the three friends agree to throw a rope over the balcony in the back alley and have Amon walk up to the guards and try and nonchalantly engage them and get them to leave their ambush alone.

With Salazar and Coroebus hiding in the narrow alley along the side of the building, Amon comes out of a side street a bit further down the road and casually strolls up to the guards and asks innocently about what the problem is. A bit taken aback and then clearly annoyed, the guards point down the street, “Move along. This is none of your concern.” {TBC}

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"The Hangover"
The Silver Dagger and a Fistful of Shekels

When last we left our intrepid band they had just dispatched a band of muggers who had held up (and killed) the man they had been sent to meet by Amon’s foster father, Sadamimon

With one of the muggers held captive they hastily interrogate him and after much groveling and sniveling they conclude that the man likely knew nothing about why they were here to rob this man, he claims that they had all been hired by a man called Jahwar for a full silver shekel. Feeling charitable they let the man go and he quickly disappears into the dark back-alleys of eastern Belthaar.

Curious the three search the bodies. The scarred and bearded leader of the thugs possessed a handful of silver shekels and bronze pennies and a decent iron scimitar as well as simple, but decent hide buckler and a sweat-stained leather coat belted with a dirty linen sash. The man Tazziz (whom they were to meet and make an exchange of some kind) carries little of value on his person; just a handful of bronzes. But after bit more searching they discover a weathered and pitted silver dagger hidden in the folds of a belted sash near the small of his back.

The dagger has a handle made of the jawbone of some animal and its tarnished and notched blade bears strange marks or hieroglyphs along its length that are indecipherable.
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Satisfied, the group decides that this dagger is indeed what they were sent to collect and after a tense, but uneventful walk back to the Craft District and the scribe’s shop, they hand the dagger over to a delighted Sadam and are even rewarded with 10 silver shekels for their trouble (taken from the undelivered payment). Celebratory, the middle-aged scribe insists they go to the Dirty Dog and celebrate. It takes little convincing and without too much prodding they all consent to let him buy their drinks and get them very, very drunk.

Amon wakes up and rubs at his bleary and bloodshot eyes. He squints one eye open and looks through his fingers around the room unsure if it’s a good idea to wake, but quickly realizes that it’s much later than dawn – the time he usually wakes and prepares his master’s meal and gets the scriptorium ready to open. A moment or two later he rises and and quickly dresses fore he raps lightly on his father’s door. Surprised, the door is already slightly ajar and swings open but there is no sign of Sadam beyond. More concerning is the untidy state of the room; looking as though it has been rummaged through (although there is no sign of a break-in and no sign of a struggle).

Puzzled Amon exits the scriptorium and looks up and down the street vainly hoping for some sign of passage, but sees nothing. With nothing else to do he strolls several blocks away to the Dirty Dog to meet with his friends and ask around if anybody has seen something. When Amon opens the door he spots Salazar and Coroebus hunched over bowls of thin gruel, clearly nursing nasty hangovers. Amon strides over and hails his friends; a brief conversation reveals that Sadam never came in that morning for his usual breakfast. This break in habit is so unlike his father, Amon enlists his two friends to come with him and look for the middle aged scribe fearing that something very wrong has transpired.

The three split up and interrogate several of the neighboring shop keepers, including an odd soothsayer Lucia Tilki whose small shop lies just across the street from the Scriptorium. When Amon asks for answers she demands payment for a reading and the impatient Stygian reluctantly agrees, just eager to get an answer and move on. She takes his hand and traces the lines of his palms before stopping suddenly and shoving his money back into his hands and hastily forcing him out of the shop and cryptically declaring, “You’ll have a long life and you’ll be very happy. No go!” Mouth agape the young man stares incredulously at the door for several moments before his reverie is interrupted by his two friends running over.

When Amon rejoins Salazar and Coroebus he learns that the haberdasher definitely saw his father heading east along the Tradeway in the direction of the Square of the Green Peacock. The trio quickly jogs down the street and eventually comes to the edge of the square and hastily interrogates a beggar who palms Amon’s charity and divulges that he saw the red-robed scribe pass-by in the pre-dawn, probably headed into the slums of the foreign quarter just north of the Peacock. Grateful for a solid lead the three friends sprint along the narrow streets and eventually come back to the small square where the ill-fated Tazziz of the dagger was slain.

While examining the area for any signs of Sadamimon or something important they might have overlooked from the night before, they set upon by four local toughs; teenage lowlifes with crude clubs and bad intent. A volley of threats and insults quickly escalates into a deadly conflict and the three companions make quick work of the badly armed and poorly skilled muggers. Two die screaming and bleeding in the street, one bolts, but with the quick work of Coroebus’ vicious staff he bludgeons one into unconsciousness. Thereafter they drag the insensate youth into an abandoned house a few blocks away intent on interrogating him. When he finally rouses, the Coroebus and Amon imply that their inhuman friend, Salazar the Saurial, will eat the hapless youth if he doesn’t start talking. Clearly rattled he quickly divulges that he and his friends work for somebody named Abujamal and that they had seen a man fitting Sadamimon’s description earlier that morning. Hoping to rob him they had even tailed him into an abandoned building but when they darted inside to confront him discovered he had disappeared without a trace.

The three friends command the mewling tough to lead them to the abandoned building and generously let him go before setting about searching the abandoned building. After an hour of trying to sift through rubble and having little to no success they decide to head back to the Dirty Dog to regroup and consider their options before night falls and catches them out in this hazardous part of the city.

On the way back to the Dirty Dog, Coroebus reaches behind him to scratch his back and his hand brushes something hard and metallic that shouldn’t be there. He grabs hold and pulls forth a silver dagger with a bone handle and strange black runes.

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Beginnings
Start of the campaign

When and where an individual’s story begins depends upon whom you talk to. But our story begins in ancient Belthaar; not in the hoary temples of its dozen gods, and not in the high palaces of kings and beys. No. We start lower and humbler, where laborers, craftsmen and the down and out come to slake their thirst, lay their head for a few bronze pennies, look for work or idle the hours away out of the scorching heat of the dying orange sun. No place other than the notorious ‘Dirty Dog’ hostel and cornerclub.

It is the eighth month of Spring-year 778 A.E (After Erlik’s Revolt) Amon is called into his foster father’s study late one evening, “Amon, com here lad.” He says. “I need you to perform a task of some importance for me. Go into the Foreign District on Beetle Alley, just past the square of the Green Peacock and meet with a man called Tazziz, He’ll be expecting you. You’ll recognize him for the black turban he wears and the deep-blue and bronze studded leather jack he wears. Here, take these coins and go quickly . . . Though I would suggest you take a couple of your friends; that part of the city may not be the best place to walk alone after midnight.”

Ever dutiful, Amon takes the heavy pouch of coins without even bothering to look inside and goes to the Dirty Dog, where he finds a pair of recently acquired friends, the Phrygian Coroebus and the enigmatic Saurial Salazar. Eager to make a good impression on Sadamimon (and in turn earn a bit of coin perhaps?) the duo follow after into the cool night air and make their way to the slums of the Foreign District near the pleasure houses of Belthaar.

After a brief walk of no more than fifteen minutes or so, they carefully move down the alley keeping a watchful eye for muggers and other ne’er-do-wells, but encounter no trouble until they come to the small square where they are to meet Tazziz. Unfortunately they notice their contact surrounded by five men rough looking men and a large black bearded brute has him held by the throat with a scimitar leveled at his gut. Not wasting a moment the lizardman Salazar springs into action quickly scaling the wall of a nearby house, with a boost from Coroebus, and as quickly and quietly as he can, pads the flat rooftops hoping to get into a position where he can leap atop the muggers.

Meanwhile Coroebus and Amon skulk along the poorly lit alley and try to listen to the mugger’s demands, “Where is it Tazziz?” the large black-bearded man growls. “I know nothing Jahwar! I swear by Belit!” A moment later Salazar stands to his full height and shouts a taunt down to the muggers hoping to distract them from their quarry, but the large man Jahwar isn’t having any of it and runs his captive through the abdomen and rips his wickedly curved blade quickly from the man’s abdomen spraying an arc of crimson across the yellow bricks of a house.

With words done Salazar leaps down from the portico and plunges through a canvas awning to break his fall and lunges at the muggers with his spear, seconds later his companions Amon and Coroebus rush into the square and join the fray. The first to fall is the fierce-looking man called Jahwar; Salazar ducks under his guard and thrusts his spear cleanly through the man’s throat and he staggers backward gurgling and spouting dark fluid before falling and going still. Desperate but leaderless the muggers are disorganized and fight fiercely for perhaps a minute, but as two fall, one of the men runs and as quickly as it began the last mugger throws down his crude club and begs for mercy.

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