The City at the Center of the World

Chapter Three
A Bad Night for Borl

Accompanied by Enos Corwin, Denrik Frostshield and Maral Helvetica hurried through the streets of Absolom in order to intercept Borl, the slaver employed by Droda Strush’s House of Bright Wings. Borl and his guards had arranged to meet with their hired muscle at an abandoned and dilapidated warehouse in the Puddles, and upon arriving the heroic trio found that they had beaten the slaver gang there. Sensing an opportunity, Maral, Denrik and Corwin concealed themselves as best they could.

Borl soon arrived, accompanied by his guards. The hidden heroes noted that the mysterious jug that he had carried earlier in the evening was no longer in his possession. Maral stepped from hiding and demanded that the slavers surrender, which was met with sneers from the newly arrived slaver and his companions. After a brief exchange of words between the two groups, it was clear that their differences would only be settled by a swift application of violence, and blades and bludgeons were brought into use. Borl and his men fought fiercely, and a savage hit from one of the slaver’s guards dropped Corwin, bringing him to death’s door. Denrik and Maral redoubled their efforts, dispatching the guards, but Borl quickly devised a plan to make his escape, holding his blade to the unconscious Corwin’s throat and threatening to remove the Andoran’s head if Maral and Denrik tried to prevent his escape.

Maral, knowing that she had only heartbeats to act if she wanted to stop Borl, called upon her magical aptitude to restore Corwin to consciousness and some measure of health. In a flash, the Andoran soldier drew up his blade and slammed it into Borl, knocking the slaver senseless. The group bound Borl before awakening him, and began asking him questions about the House of Bright Wings and its defenders as soon as his senses returned.

Understanding that his only chance for survival was cooperation, Borl admitted that the House of Bright Wings was a front for a cult of the parasitic demigod Ghlaunder. Droda oversaw the operation of the cult, using select slaves as hosts for his parasitic swarms at the direction of his witch advisor. When pressed, Borl revealed that the jug that he had been seen carrying earlier in the evening housed a malign spirit that could be called upon for information and advice. The slaver confessed to being afraid of what might happen if the spirit were ever freed from the jug.

Made certain of their purpose by Borl’s admissions, Denrik, Maral and Corwin decided to make haste back to the Coins to pursue the final confrontation with the House of Bright Wings.

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Chapter Two
Brutes and Bottles

Returning to the Coins, Denrick and Maral stopped first back at the Second Vault inn, where they spoke to the young night clerk about some of the locals. First asking about the missing watch member Hrotha, they were told that she was often used as a source of information and a go-between for criminal elements, including a group of Sczarni that operated out of the Puddles district. When he was asked about Auntie Gust, the teen replied that she was a midwife and worker of minor magic who might or might not be in her right mind. Maral thanked the clerk and tipped him quite generously for the information.

Departing the Second Vault, Maral and Denrick staked out positions to watch the House of Bright Wings. Before long, the witnessed the departure of the sales clerk Borl, who carried a stoppered jug and was accompanied by a pair of bodyguards. Following unseen, Denrick and Maral watched as Borl and his companions made their way to a nameless drinking establishment in the Puddles, where Borl conducted a business meeting with a group of four inebriated toughs. During the conversation Borl was seen to remove the stopper from his jug, and seemed to speak into it and listen for a response. Eventually, the parties went their separate ways, with Borl and his bodyguards appearing to be headed back towards the House of Bright Wings. Suspecting that Borl had set the toughs to kidnapping, Denrick and Maral followed them to the a hostel in the Foreign Quarter.

Moments after the four drunks entered the hostel, shouts and crashes were heard. Maral and Denrik rushed through the door to find the proprietor unconscious and bleeding, while his wife shouted that his armed assailants had made their way up to the second floor. As Denrik and Maral raced up the stairs, they saw that the criminals were attempting to bash open one of the doors. A skirmish erupted in the hallway and the untrained thugs quickly succumbed to the onslaught of Maral’s blade and Denrik’s mace.

Denrik made effort to keep one of the attackers from dying of his wounds. Subduing the man, he and Maral interrogated him about the service that he was performing. The badly injured bravo admitted that they had been hired by Borl to snatch the room’s inhabitant, a young Chelaxian scholar named Jornic Rael. Although they had no knowledge of the House of Bright Wings’ operations, the thugs had performed freelance services for Borl in the past, and Borl had arranged to meet with them in a few hours’ time to pick up their quarry. When asked about Borl’s mysterious jug, the man said that he had on occasion seen Borl whisper into it and listen as though receiving an answer, a sight that had caused the ruffian to feel great unease. After Denrick and Maral extracted the location of Borl’s planned exchange, the trio left the thug in the custody of the recovering innkeep and his wife.

Making their way back to the Hand of Glory, Maral and Denrick met with Enos Corwin, to whom they explained what had transpired that evening. Upon hearing their report, Corwin decided that they should move against Droda Strush’s operation immediately.

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Chapter One
To Market, To Market

Maral Helvetica and her companion Denrick Frostshield arrived at the Hand of Glory tavern, responding to an request to meet from Corwin. The request came as a surprise, as the young Andoran soldier had previously expressed disdain for Maral due to her Chelaxian origin.

Once Maral and Denrick were seated, Corwin explained that he was acting at the Colonel, who had declined to come himself out of concerns that his movements were being watched. Maral inquired as to whom it was that the Colonel suspected of surveilling him, but Corwin said that the Colonel hadn’t divulged the subject of his suspicions. Corwin went on to state that the Colonel had wanted to ask Maral for her assistance in taking down the House of Bright Wings slaving operation. The Andorans had reason to believe that Droda Strush, who headed the House of Bright Wings, had been mistreating slaves in a fashion that contravened the laws of Absalom. The Eagle Knights had been making use of a member of the watch named Hrotha to keep an eye on the House of Bright Wings, but she had disappeared shortly after informing the Colonel that the slavers were taking more product than they were selling.

Agreeing to investigate the matter, Maral and Denrick departed the Hand of Glory and made their way to the Second Vault, an inn located close to the House of Bright Wings in the Coins district. Maral assumed an alias of “Lady Corvus”, a wealthy Chelaxian noblewoman in the market for slaves, and Denrick assumed the role of her bodyguard. Traveling through the Coins, Maral and Denrick spotted an elderly woman who was glaring in their direction while spitting and making the sign of Pharasma, as though to ward off evil.

As the pair approached the House of Bright Wings incognito, Maral noticed carved above the doorframe the inconspicuous image of a red fly, with wings of gold and a golden crown placed above its head. Upon entering, they were approached by the salesclerk Borl, who extolled the virtues of the House’s stock. Maral, in her guise as the Lady Corvus, told Borl that she had a most specific purchase in mind, but that she would discuss it with none other than the establishment’s proprietor. Borl at first demurred, but eventually acquiesced out of fear of losing the sale. As he left the showroom in order to retrieve Strush, Maral and Denrick quickly questioned the slaves on hand about what information they could provide about the operation of the House of Bright Wings.

The slaves said that they made no attempt to flee because Strush was harshly punitive to those who ran. When questioned about the image of the red fly crowned in gold above the door, they said that they had seen that same image tattooed on some of the guards, and that a similarly shaped birthmark (or “mark of the gods”, and the speaker believed) adorned the cheek of a witch who served as Strush’s advisor.

Borl returned, accompanied by Droda Strush. Maral and Strush discussed the purchase that the “Lady Corvus” was seeking, a strong, educated Chelaxian with a penchant for languages. Strush said that the request was a most specific one, but that he was certain that he could fill it given a little time. They agreed to meet again the next day to see what progress the House of Bright Wings had made in the acquisition.

Upon departing the House of Bright Wings, Maral and Denrick caught a carriage to the temple of Pharasma to see what information the priests there might have regarding the image of the red fly with the gold crown. The priest to whom they spoke was unnerved to note that he believed this symbol to be associated with a cult of Ghlaunder the Gossamer King, the demigod of parasites and infection. Denrick also asked about the old woman that they had seen in the Coins, and he was told that it was likely Auntie Gust, a long-time fixture of the area, who was alternately said to be either mad or possessing supernatural vision. With this new knowledge, Maral and Denrick determined that they would return to the House of Bright Wings, to see if Strush or his men would expose part of their operation in the attempt to fulfill the request that Maral had made as Lady Corvus.

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