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October 25, 2008

Interesting Times

Salma's Journal

I am atanapratta, an unwanted daughter raised by the girls’ school in Absalom for the Vudrani who live here and follow traditional practices. I do not know my parents; I do not know my caste. Normally, I would have learned some useful trade and not questioned my role among my people, but, as some of the teachers lament, living among so many other cultures has had its effect on us. On me. I have prayed to Irori so many times to help me find my own path to enlightenment!

Perhaps as a result, Irori has blessed me with clerical abilities. We had classes in self-defense at school, but I must admit I would rather heal than fight. Since I have finished the education that the girls’ school offers, without wishing to take the employments they can give me, I have been somewhat at a loss for what to do next. This, then, was the state of mind I was in while wandering the city during one of the many holidays...

It’s not unusual to see various retainers for the Council families squaring off in the city; one is safest to stay out of the fray. It was obvious, therefore, that something out of the ordinary was happening when I saw people clustered at an alley to watch a fight! I saw that people were on the ground, bleeding, and worked my way through the crowd to help - such a public breach of the peace was bad enough without someone getting killed!

Once I reached the front of the group, however, I saw that it was worse than I first thought: not only were several House retainers in very serious shape, but three strangers were doing all the damage! I shouted at them, “What are you doing?!” while stabilizing the closest injured man. The male stranger was shouting, “Leave, or die!” while two women kept stabbing people. It was a chaotic mess, and then two retainers of an opposing House showed up - at least the original combatants had the sense to flee.

Except, of course, the three who had just gotten off the boat and wandered into Absalom. I checked the other wounded, horrified to realize that at least one was beyond saving. There was a man who had been beaten up, but he would be fine - yet the stranger was using this as justification for killing people!

The second House’s retainers thanked the strangers for interfering, and promised to “take care” of the mess. I was wishing myself invisible at this point; to be so publicly attached to both sides of a fight like this cannot be good. All I wanted to do was help.. and then, the strangers asked ME to guide them to the Golden Griffon Inn. Glad to be out of the immediate area, I agreed, on one condition: please don’t kill anyone else!

Once inside the Golden Griffon (including the man’s dog), I was invited to stay for a drink, and felt it unwise to refuse. I did decline the strong alcohols that the entire party ordered, apparently trying to outdo each other for exotic and potent effects! The man, Zandu, bought several rounds for the half-elf, Tythe and human woman, Astrid. They discussed many things, and I found myself interested in their plans despite myself. They nearly invited themselves to stay at the girls’ school with me, as well: impossible, but at least Astrid freely admits she hasn’t any idea what other cultures’ habits may be.

They’re all quite curious about Absalom, and had some rather impertinent questions about who I am... which is a sore spot, I must admit, as I do not know the answer myself. I’m also not sure they would understand or be interested in the quest for perfection that I have been raised to aspire to, and thought it better to leave the subject be. Meanwhile, it turned out that Zandu owns a mysterious map, and has come to the city to seek help from the Pathfinders’ Guild about it...

..which is how I ended up leading a half-sober party across the city by midmorning. I stood back while they parlayed with the Guild members, and eventually the Guild agreed to interpret Zandu’s map, if they would pick up a book from an old man living in the Puddles district. Blessed Irori, what message are you trying to give me?

The others talked freely as we set out across town a third time. Tythe is from an ocean-going family, while Astrid is from a cold northern land that does not approve of the use of magic. Zandu is following the advice of an old man with a Harrowed deck, which led him to the Pathfinders’ Guild. The neighborhoods slowly descended into poverty, and then we reached the Puddles, where the locals made some propositions that Astrid took quite literally (but no violence resulted).

We were knocking on the door of the dilapidated home when an old woman poked her head around the corner - then disappeared. Of course, Zandu and Astrid had to investigate while Tythe and I kept trying to get an answer from the house. Rather, I was knocking on the door, while Tythe was knocking back a bottle of rum she’d produced from somewhere on her person...

Zandu and Astrid returned with the news that the old man we wanted to talk to had actually been kidnapped half an hour before! We ran as fast as we could in the direction given by the old woman, catching up at the cliff’s edge to several tattooed men and not just one, but four old men, chained together. As we shouted to them, one of the tattoed men shoved the first old man off the cliff! Astrid made an amazing leap through the crowd, catching hold of the last man as he was pulled over the side. The rest of us had to fight.

I used my staff, but couldn’t blame the others for using lethal force. Arrows were flying, and swords swinging; Zandu’s dog was worrying at a tattooed man, while Astrid swore most creatively as she pulled the old men back up from the cliff’s edge. When she took one too many hits and went limp, I leaped forward to grab the chain instead! Thankfully, the last of the tattooed men were soon down, and Zandu was able to get Astrid on her feet while I checked on the old men.

Now to find out: what is going on?

Posted by Kate at 13:24 | Salma’s Journal