The Streets of Ardent’s Fall
The murmurs of the crowd begin to permeate the area, and so to does a light rain. You feel the rain wash over townsfolk and cobblestone alike. As you look at the crevices in between the bricks you notice the trail of blood riding along the rain water.
You notice a number of guards making their way towards the estate in formation with weapons and shields drawn. You can still hear whispers of panic throughout the crowd, and among many of the low-ranking guards. You wonder to yourself what this commotion is coming from, but your thoughts are quickly tuned out by the sounds of familiar church bells. Their melancholic song rings throughout the city, and overhead a flock of crows seek refuge from the intense sounds.
Upon looking again towards the Viceroy’s Estate you see it. It’s marvelous antiquity serves as an oxymoron or some kind of cruel joke. It is an affront to the onlookers for what seems obvious now. Investigating the building you notice the window to the Viceroy’s balcony opened wide with the drapes dancing like wild fire in the wind, and hanging from the balcony is Viceroy Cadby himself.
His shirt is torn, nearly off, exposing his gut as abrasions and cuts dot his exposed skin. His eyes are rolled back into his head, lifeless, and his face stained with a blue tint.
Lucilia pushes her way through the crowd of people, her armor still clung to her body as she finally broke through the crowd and looked up at the dead viceroy. She looked around, the guards were in a panic and as were the people. This was a delicate situation, a most delicate situation indeed. The Wolfram turned towards the crowd and raised her hands to try and get the people to become silent before raising her voice, ”Please remain calm! I know this situation is dire, but we must remain calm and collected if we want to know what happened. Now please, we will launch an immediate investigation into the situation.”
Baffled at your presence, the distinguished guard turns to Lucilia. “Ah, Lady Wolfram!”
In a hushed tone the guard continues, “I had heard of your arrival. I am truly sorry that it has come at a time such as this.”
The soldier quickly realigns his posture, now standing straight with a fist over his chest.
Her head turned towards the decorated guard with the cape, and ordered ”I have been in company not twenty minutes ago with the Viceroy and Lord Caldwin, can you find me the Gudeiur?”“M’lady, I assure you that we are investigating the matter. I implore you to seek refuge in the barracks tonight. I will assign an active patrol to your care. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to stand down in this matter. We are searching for Caldwin. Here,”
the guard turns whistling to some of the guards patrolling the area. “I’ll have my guards escort you to safety.” ”I am not some defenseless dame! And furthermore it is likely that the killer is still around. I want all entrances and exits to this city covered! No one in or out until we find this noble killer.”
Lucilia snapped, unafraid of the situation nor the guards and his men. This city may not be claimed by the Wolf Pack but she would have to find the swine who did this or the peasantry would panic. A panicked sheep is one not easily controlled.
The guard captain looks on at Lucilia completely unsure of the protocol for this situation. Puzzled, he nods his head before standing back behind Lucilia. He motions towards the guards that awaited his orders. The group of them head inside of the Viceroy’s Estate through the public entrance.
The crowd, however, still seemed panicked. The presence of a Wolfram surely wasn’t helping matters. Had she just said that she was with the Viceroy just minutes ago? Whispers stirred about the crowd as the eyes of the common folk pierced right through Lucilia.
Falk could almost feel the nervous energy among the crowd, like electricity jumping from one person to the next. He didn’t know the man whose body was on gruesome display, but judging from the crowd’s reactions, he was a man of great importance. Not anymore
Falk mused. The man’s blood was dripping into the streets, suggesting that he’d been killed only just recently. The killer couldn’t have gotten far. Falk gripped his sword tighter. He spotted an authoritative figure in glistening wet armor push their way through the crowd and address the sordid lot. A woman, judging from his figure. She addressed the crowd, and Falk couldn’t help but feel a mixture of admiration and jealousy; the woman possessed the confidence he once had, to stand before a crowd and rally an investigation, despite not having any real jurisdiction in the matter. The woman didn’t even wear the ridiculous captain of the guard hat. The rain began pulsing down on his heavy cloak as Falk moved closer towards the scene of the crime, vigilant eyes scanning the crowd for any sign of the killer. He caught the exchange between the woman and the captain, shocked she wasn’t put in chains on the spot; but then he recalled the value of a royal name. The woman was practically untouchable, even if she held the bloody dagger in her gauntleted hand. Nevertheless, they were on the hunt for one Gudeiur, and Falk’s purse was feeling empty. “Blood’s starting to congeal. If you don’t hurry, porky’s killer there will be back home before the rest of these yokels. You’re gonna need a hunter,”
Falk said coolly from beneath his mask to the armored woman. “Or a spare blade, from the looks of this crowd.”
As if sensing the timing was all wrong, the now-soaked raven perched on his shoulder croaked “Heh-low.”
Falk turned his head and quickly shushed the bird before turning back to the regal woman.
The noble woman gazed upon the man who had come up, not knowing whether to be offended that he referred to a noble, whose corpse he stood in front of, as ‘porky’ or to be amused that a crow could talk. She raised an eyebrow before looking to the guard and back to the man. Lucilia walked towards the man, ”Firstly, you will refer to Viceroy Cadby as that, as a peasant should. Secondly, it would seem that we may need help in the investigation, while I shall hire you, momentarily as a bodyguard-““But my lady,”
The guard captain tries to interject. Stepping forward he looks on before him at this apparent mercenary with disdain. “My men are more than capable of-””Let me finish, fool!,”
Lucilia snapper towards the interrupting guard captain, before continuing, ”I wish to employ your served because I feel that the guards men will need their manpower for searching the city for the one who could have done this.”Peasant?
Falk’s blood boiled. He fists clenched his fists so hard his thumb popped out of place, which brought him back to the moment. Who was he, really? A disgraced noble, no royal name, no holdings, nothing, dressed in rags fit for a beggar. So, peasant was not far off from the truth. Falk let this slight pass. The guard attempted to interject, but the woman cut him off with even more scathing remarks. It seems he’d landed a job after all, though he certainly didn’t enjoy the title bodyguard. Falk didn’t have time to celebrate his little victory, as the crowd began edging closer despite the shield-bearing guards digging their heels into the ground. “Well, my lady, we might need the whole city guard here to make sure you’re not strung up with Viceroy Cadby.
” Shouts of murderer filled the air as the drunken citizens flew into a violent fervor, throwing sticks, rocks, and whatever else they could get their hands on, though the trio were shielded from the debris by guards. Falk finally drew his bastard sword, though he kept the steel pointed at the cobblestone.
Aria had decided to get some rest after the excitement of the festival only to find Az-Set laying nonchilantly on her Cot after she had locked the door behind herself. Or was it the seductive kind of lying down. She couldn’t ever tell, casualy dangerously sexy was basicly his default apperance. His only appearance now that she thought about it. ”What are you doing here, now?” ”Town and a night like this is bound to have something interesting happen. I, my dear servant, am simply making sure you don’t sleep through it.” ”What makes you so sure that...”
And then the screaming started. ”Ah, there it is. Now, on you go and investigate. And before you try to worm your way out of it, I’ll remind you that you swore to 'find out what this talon company business in Artend falls, that you find so interesting for some reason, is all about'. This could be related to that could it not.””It could also not be relevant at all. Do you want me investigating every vaguely unusual sound I hear now? Because I can, and it would be really boring for both of us.””Not at all. Only the ones I find it interesting. It’s in the deal, I remember even if you do not.” ”Oh fuck me. 4 years and I’m still...” "What was that first bit, hmmm?”"Nope. No. Not dignifying that with a response. I am going.”"Heh."
The Streets of Ardent’s Fall
Raux ambled her way slowly down the street with a sweeping swagger to her step. She walked a straight line like a fly could fly straight. That was all over the place. But that did not matter, most of the streets were full of drunks. And at some point… the cat had found a fresh bottle in her hand. How strange. Regardless, she bit down on the cork and twisted it off.
The cork was dropped to the ground to make way for the fluid to brush against her tongue. The sweet taste of honey was quickly overpowered by the foul taste of alcohol. She retched, quickly spitting up what had made its way into her jaws.
“How do people drink this horse piss…” she mumbled to herself, her blurry eyes fell on the people shuffling on the streets. Like her… they had the pleasures of experiencing alcohol. Unlike her… they were roaring drunk and wandering aimlessly. This was quite pitiful to the Brith, who felt they could use a cause to help take up their time.
So… she inhaled. And with a surprising lack of slurring in her voice, she chanted out with a musical fever a few words that’d quickly gather the attention of both brithians and sailors. For that moment, her soprano voice echoed in the air over, and silenced all the bothersome noises while her hypnotic bardic performance began. Oh how sweetly and gently would her song pull at their attention, and draw them in with a desire to follow and sing along in merriment.
“OOo-ooo-oh we’d be all-llll-lll right, if the wind was in our sails,” Her voice rang out. She playfully rolled a few words, turning her voice into a beautiful yet rustic instrument of its own. One born of a long lived sailor. Somewhere down the line she had emptied her current bottle, and picked up two more bare ones. They were worn on her fingers and cracked rhythmically into a tempo.
“OOoooooh we’d be alllllllll right, if the wind was in our sails!~” As she repeated herself, a few men walked up beside her. One, a human with leathery skin burned repeatedly under the fury of the sun over the seas. He was beating on his chest and drunkenly humming a tune. The other, who Raux now leaned on, was a fellow brithian belting along with the chant.
“OOoooooh we’d be alllllllll right, if the wind was in our sails!” Come the third, quite a group had lifted themselves from the sides of the streets or pulled themselves away from the back alley and their… various reliefs… to join in the song.
“AND WE’LL ALL HANG ON BEHIND!” It was a motley group… but it did exponentially swell in size as sailors from various races and backgrounds took to the streets to join in on the merriment wherever this brithian lead. Together their song was resounding through the air, assisted with various methods of creating musical sounds. Chest beating, tapping on glass, or carrying empty barrels to drum on with their knuckles.
And we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
We'll ro-o-oll the golden chariot along!
We'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
And we'll all hang on behind!
Following along behind the swelling crowd of drunken singers with a look of bemusement on her face. Az-Set, she imagined, was loving every second of this ridiculous display. When the cat’s herd wobbled into the confrontation in front of the Viceroy’s Palace
she clambered her way atop one of the market stalls to get a better look at what all the commotion was about.
There was a weight in the brith’s lyrics that was difficult to ascertain. It was one part liberating and another part constricting if such a feeling was even possible. While the sailors and the drunkards felt bound to Raux’s enchanting rhythmic magics the growing animosity within the crowd was still palpable. As the brith guided the sailors towards the mob it seemed that some of the tension was alleviated. Ceasing the storm of rocks that had pelted the guards’ shields many in the crowd had turned their attention to Raux and her singing. Everything was quite contradictory; what an odd night indeed.
Among the confusement a man ushered his way through the crowd gracefully. His hand glided across backs and waists as if each member of the crowd had been familiar. His was a complexion the color of sand. He wore loose fitting garments: a white long sleeved shirt with modest ruffles lining the collar and buttons, a slim black coat hugging his thin frame, and a red sash that covered a good portion of his lower body looping around a brown belt.
The man made his way toward Lucilia and the guard captain. As he did so it became apparent that he was missing his left forearm completely. The sleeve of his black coat was tucked inward neatly at the bicep. He eyed Raux and felt himself smirking at her antics.
And seeing the effects of her efforts, with the crowd drawing to a calm, if not confusion. Raux, slowly began to lag behind her group before the attention fully settled on her and made her more memorable than she would like. The singing cat’s body disappeared within the shuffling sea of singing drunks. She stopped singing, but that did not stay the merriment her little herd had.
He stood behind Lucilia nodding to her in greeting before stepping out ahead of her. “Good people, of Ardent’s Fall, I hear your cries for justice”
he began. His voice managed to echo throughout the plaza. “I assure you that the Talon Company will be working diligently to get to the meaning of this and bring those responsible to justice for their heinous crimes.”
He looked out at the crowd his hand extended. “While I understand your pain and your frustration it is imperative to the pursuit of justice for our fair city, that you all return to your homes as the guards have instructed. We do not yet know of where the perpetrators of this crime lurk or if they still roam among these streets. Protect your families, and stay inside until further notice is provided to you.”
The lull of Raux’s performance managed to pacify the bewildered crowd well enough that they were in no condition to protest the man’s words. After all, Mikael ibn Da’ud was a protector of their great city. His Talon Company was a great boon to the city, and if they were investigating the matter then surely it’d be resolved promptly.
And speaking of Raux… she was temporarily nowhere to be found. Temporarily being that she was not seen inside crowd. Instead she seemed to be stumbling in from a direction that did not make much sense from her last location. A good choice for someone not trying to be publicly known as much more than a common minstrel. “Lassy… mind…” she paused as she moved to cover her muzzle with a hand. Quite an audible belch could be heard leaving her jaws. “...mind tellin’ me how in the blazin hell you threw a lynching party for yourself.”
Lucilia let out a very clear look of disgust at the bard, taking a step away and looking back towards Mikael.
Raux raised a brow to the glare she received from the noble, and clicked her tongue. Though her head was starting to clear up as the alcohol started to work its way out of her body… it still was quite a chore to stand on her own. So she pulled the longsword and sheath from her belt, and tacked it into the ground like a cane to prop herself with. “Riiiiight… well my obnoxiously assertive lordling... locking down a town by -your- orders after seeing that mob of pissed faces? Looks like a downright good idea if you plan on having your head kicked about like a ball.”
Her eyes snapped to the cat, narrowed and judging of the words that the bard had presented. ”I am Lucilia Von Wolfram, peasants such as yourself and the crowd should not question what is best for the situation. And-“
she took a step towards the bard and raised the back of her hand to slap her, but she hesitated, not wanting to touch the dirty creature before her, ”-and I would recommend you watch your tone in front of me unless you want to be the one whose head is rolling.”
“I know who you are, and frankly your title ain’t worth a pitcher of piss to me. I’m not of these lands sweet heart, and you’ve got me to thank for calming the crowd enough to keep them from decking the streets with lordling giblets like a blood fueled holiday, ye highness,” The Bard drawled, freely letting her own annoyance poison her words.
The crowds began to disperse slowly as various weapon-clad guild members, all doning uniforms with a color pattern similar to Mikael’s, consoled stragglers. Among these guild members was the elf you’d met before, Talis Cleverfoot. Her red hair was tied back in a ponytail, and her small crossbow hung from her belt. Her larger ears distinguished her as a wood elf. She, and many others in the group looked less than thrilled to be walking the streets so early in the morning.
Mikael turns to Lucilia with an expression of bemusement staining his face. “I suppose staying out of trouble wasn’t an option…”
He sneered, but his tone was at least somewhat jovial. Looking out at the whittling crowds, the man continued. His gaze remained fix forward now, but his attention was turned to the guard captain. “Asher, your men will follow Lady Wolfram’s instruction to the letter. Understood?” “Yes, m’lord,”
Asher nodded in compliance before straightening his stance. “Good, and by the ten, get that damned body down.”
Asher again nodded to Mikael’s commands before rushing off to rendevouz with his men.“Any commands in particular, m’lady?”
Mikael’s eyes playfully wandered to Lucilia as he feigned respect for the formalities of nobility. “Other than establishing a retainer for drunken sailors all out of wars to fight,”
he noted as he studied the raucous swelling crowds of seafarers.”I have already made my instruction clear, the city is to be under complete lockdown until we find this noble killer. Now, tell me, Mikael, why might the Viceroy have disliked you and your company? He spoke very ill of you before I departed back to the inn,”
she inquired before continuing, ”Do not assume I am pointing fingers at you or your company, but it is something I must confirm.”“I rarely make false assumptions, m’lady,”
his voice was sharp, but there was a coyness to it. “I’m well aware of who you’d see hang for this. Under normal circumstances locking down the city might work. Unfortunately, it won’t do any good here. With the festival having come to and end our guards couldn’t possibly house the absurd number of travelers that now occupy our docks.”
Sighing to himself, Mikael’s hand traced the outline of his jaw; unlike many men in Astoria, he was clean shaven. “As for the Viceroy’s distaste for me and my guild?”
Mikael looked to be recalling a particular memory. “That requires time we don’t have. Sadly, for the people of Ardent’s Fall, Viceroy Cadby wasn’t the most... apt politician. He prefers, or rather preferred, the art of swordplay over wordplay. He sought to let his prejudice and his pride take hold of this city, and cripple it. Luckily, for Cadby’s legacy more than anything else, my company and I did his talking for him. It often left his pride bruised, and his perceived wisdom threatened.”
The noble let out an aggravated sigh before turning to Mikael, ”Keep those at the docks entertained, I will be investigating this matter personally. Newly hired guard, come with me and we shall investigate his office personally.”
With that she motioned for Falk and the guard captain to follow her into the palace. “That’s not how our arrangement will work, I’m afraid. Falk, here, for example is already working for the Talon Company- same as you.”
Mikael nodded to the armor clad warrior before turning his attention back to Lucilia. “I’d had other work for you all to carry out, but this must come first. Admittedly, starting with the office might prove fruitful. I’ll have the body sent to the mage academy, and it’s possible going there could provide some insight.”
If Falk still had eyebrows, one would be raised. “So, I guess that makes us partners, my lady,”
he said at her side, obviously humored by the notion. Still, something in his posture suggested his words weren’t entirely true; he lent her more respect than the hunter would to most. Despite his scathing words towards the viceroy, he still respected regal titles. “Will I be paid for services rendered? I’m sure the mob would have ripped you to shreds had it not been for me.”
Falk’s concealed face made it difficult to determine whether or not this query was in jest. ”Frankly, you just stood there and drew your sword and the guards held the crowd back. Thus the answer is an astounding no.”
Before Mikael can continue, Talis walks towards the group. Her hazel eyes study Lucilia, Raux and Falk. She wasn’t quite sure what she should make of these new allies. “Gudeuir’s personal guard Evangeline is staying at the Temple of Cristo, in the merchant district. The guards say that Gudeuir is nowhere to be found.” “I see... any other word, then?”
Mikael, looked to have a decade on the elf. His deep brown eyes met hers with a trusting gaze. “Cadby’s children have been notified of what’s happened. They’re at the guard barracks,”
she responded. “Good work Talis. This...certainly postpones what I’d intended for our new friends.”
Mikael walked forward motioning for Talis to follow. He turned back to Lucilia. “I’ll leave following up on a few of the leads to to you all Lady Wolfram. We can’t do all of the work for you, after all. Meanwhile, the myself and some of our other guild members will work on finding Gudeuir and maintaining order at the docks.” “I expect consistent progress reports. I’d recommend, at least, getting some rest before you begin the investigation.”
Mikael and Talis headed off to the west, no doubt back to the guild or the docks. “Oh, and do try not to kill each other. This city’s had enough murder for one day.”
Mikael’s hand extended lazily over his head to wave off the group. ”Oh, how convenient. So, in addition to our original debt, we get the pleasure of investigating Viceroy Cadby’s death, and free of charge I’d assume. I can see why the man wasn’t fond of your little company,”
Falk grumbled as the two walked away. His voice had a peculiar quality about it; though the Vicelles accent and regal air were mostly restrained, what struck one as odd was the lack of natural pauses in a sentence. Falk didn’t drone, perse, but something was certainly lacking in his cadence. “Mikael’s right, though. We’ll need our strength for tomorrow, the gods only know what they have planned for us.”
Lucilia stopped, everyone would seem to be insistent that they went to bed and get rest when there was much work to be done. It would be a lie if she had stated that she was not feeling the effects of exhaustion, especially after having traveled to the city for most of the day. With an audible inhale, she turned back to Raux and Falk then proceeded to walk past them, ”I expect everyone to be up at first light. I will not wait to begin this investigation.”
The ragtag group of adventurers made the short walk down the battered cobblestone road back to the tavern. As lamplighters went about extinguishing street lamps, the coastal city was illuminated only by the sliver of dull moon peaking from behind the rainclouds. They passed a small city watch patrol on their return journey bearing torches and steel, but aside from that, their trek through the dark city was quiet and uneventful. Each of the members wordlessly went their own way after passing through the tavern’s foyer; though they knew not what tomorrow held for them, they were certain the day would not be easy.