Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Pages From the Cthonique Library: Lord Assur Requiem

Music composed by Lord Assur Cthonique for his own funeral.  Reportedly it took twenty men to carry his coffin.  The requiem is well-respected, and widely viewed as his finest work of music, though some favor his variations on peasant dances.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Comb of Lady Inarra

A comb, belonging to the Dark Lord Grendel's consort, the Lady Inarra.  Made of ivory, it is inlaid with gold and precious stones, and includes a scene of the marriage of Lord Pwyll and Lady Rhiannon.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pages From the Cthonique Library: Staff of Bel

Property of one of the great Nightfolk mystics, Bel's staff is one of the largest relics in the Cthonique collection, the personal property of the Dark Lord Ashareus, who became very desperate to discover such items as he believed they would aid his recovery from the mysterious wasting disease he suffered from.

He would have done better to make certain his nephew Sargon was not at hand.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pages From the Cthonique Library: Feather of a Roc

The massive feather of a roc bird, said to be the largest bird in the world, which preys upon elephants, in the mysterious Isles of Pearls. 

Of course, as none have visited the isles in centuries, this is largely speculation.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 51

Nina played her lute, in the square as the crowd passed by, occasionally tossing her coins.  "Oh, Lamkin was a good mason, as ever laid a stone, but when laid the lord's castle, payment he got none.  He builded up the castle, without and within, but he left a passage, for himself to sneak in..."

A boy came to her and whispered to her ears.  For a moment, she seemed discomfited.  But then she started to sing again.  "Oh, we shall prick, we shall pinch him, we shall stab him with a pin.  And as he does cry out, the lady will come to him..."

She finished singing shortly after that, having left out half the verses.  Nina couldn't help but feel a little offended that no one seemed to notice.  She had her pride, after all.

Not much, but some.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 50

Grunewald sipped his drink.  "We have to do this, right?"

Ulrich gave a fervent nod.  "No choice.  Orders from the Ancients.  Can't be ignored."  He gulped down a drink, and then signaled for another one.  Old Reliable quickly poured it.  Ulrich glanced at him.  "You know what we mean, right?"

The older man looked at him.  "I understand the idea, certainly."

Grunewald frowned.  "That didn't sound like a yes."

Old Reliable frowned back at him.  "Lamplighters should not turn on their brothers without a righteous cause.  Lamplighters should not turn on their guests, and those who look to them for aid.  Doing this is a violation of the Oath."

"And is not the word of the Ancients a righteous cause?" snapped Ulrich.

Old Reliable stared for a moment, then turned away.  "To my mind, that would depend.  But then, what do I know.  I'm an old man.  My day is done.  Now's the long dusk, before the night truly sets in..."

"You served well, in your day," said Grunewald.  "Any Lamplighter should be proud of such service."

The older man gave a smile.  "I thank you for your kindness."

There was a noise from the doorway.  Morell entered, somewhat unsteady.  "Orders from the Ancients have come.  We need..."  He glanced at the group.  "You're still drinking?"

"We feel circumstances warrant it," replied Grunewald.

Morell considered for a moment, then sat down at the bar.  "A drink then. Actually... make it two."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 49

Lily regarded the Erl before her, eyes narrowed.  "So... what's your fiancee like?"

"Nice," said Sacripant.  "In a tough sort of way."  He shrugged.  "She's also in the Guard.  If you're wondering."

The Seamstress blinked.  "You have women in your... Guard?"

Sacripant considered that.  "Some," he said at last.  "More than you might think...  Though Quiet's... well, hiding out.  Sort of."  He smiled at her.  "She's a princes.  Kind of."

Lily considered things.  "She seems like a woman with a lot of qualifications."

"Oh, yes," agreed Sacripant.  "And she can skin a man alive, if she has to."  He glanced at the Lamplighter slumbering in a chair nearby.  "So, if we're swapping stories, what is this about a favor...?"

Lily laughed.  "Oh, Nathan's an old friend.  When a Seamstress is out late for... reasons, he lets her walk with him.  To keep safe.  Not all Lamplighters do that.  And he's done a few other services for girls who work for me.  Always told him he had a friend in me.  Always knew I'd pay up eventually, just... never thought it be like this."  She shook her head nervously.  "Bad things are happening, aren't they?"

"Yup," said Sacripant leaning back in his chair.  "I'm hoping I can stop them, but... it'll be tough."  He shook his head.  "I think what's happened here is... your city just got used to running this way for so long that sometime ago, it became impossible to keep track of it all.  And now the people at the top are moving to betray you all.  I don't think they see it that way, mind you, but that's the fact of it."

Lily looked away.  "I... it was horrible when the Eremites were here.  I wouldn't want them back."

"From what I hear, they wouldn't be back," said the Erl.  "It'd be someone worse.  These are terrifying times, really.  Amfortas may down, but the places he's got left... well, they aren't going to turn against him soon.  It's a long fight ahead, and... that makes people get nervous.  Especially with everything else that's going on..."  He waved his hand.  "Ahh, well.  Just going to do my job, try and come out the other end of it.  Really that's all you can do."

The Seamstress nodded in agreement.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 48

The boy sat at the doorway, apparently asleep.  This made people ignore him, which made it easier to keep an eye on the goings on at the Lamplighter's Hall.

They were interesting today.  A woman, and two children had been escorted into this building, where women did not go, and children seldom did.  Apparently, there was some controversy about this--angry words were being exchanged, words that he could hear, even if he couldn't understand them.  The boy glanced at the shadows.  About an hour had passed.  It was time to go. He rather doubted the woman and the children would be coming out anytime soon.

And so much was happening that was interesting where the Ancients met.  The Beggars kept track of these things.  The other Guilds didn't like them, after all.  So they had to be made to understand that they needed them.

Sometimes, quite forcibly.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 47

Monica smiled brightly at the men in her kitchen, as she kneaded the dough before her.  "Well, I'm surprised to see you all here again."  She coughed.  "Especially so soon."

Grunewald smiled back at her, Ulrich and Morell standing behind him.  "Well, you know, we were just wondering if you knew where Nathan is?"

"Out doing his duties, no doubt," she said quietly.  Her eyes focused on the dough before her, as if the task took every ounce of concentration she possessed.

"If that were the case, we would know where he is," snapped Ulrich.

"Nonsense," said Monica.  "It's a large city, after all.  And this isn't the first time you've been confused on the matter."

Grunewald stepped towards her.  "You know, Monica, how the responsibilities of our order stand.  We must all look out for each other, for our own good, and the good of our guild.  Indeed, the good of Talossa."

Monica bit her lip.  "I keep hearing the word good a great deal of late.  Somehow... somehow it doesn't reassure me very much."

Morrell coughed.  "We just want to help Nathan.  That's all.  We worry about him.  Think that he might have lost track of what's important.  And we might need your help to remind him."

"Well, I'll be sure to tell him the next time I see him," replied Monica, a harshness in her tone that belied her words.

Ulrich looked around the kitchen.  "How are the children?"

Monica froze for a moment, and then went back to her work.  "They are fine.  And they will remain fine."

Grunewald smiled.  "Of course they will, Monica.  Of course they will.  That's what we all hope."

"Of course," said Monica acidly.  "You are making it so clear."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 46

Nathan knocked on the door.  "Now, be polite," he said quietly. "I'm only trying this because I'm owed a favor. The Seamtresses don't like company during their off-hours."

Lamorac looked up at the sky.  "Hey, you don't have to tell a Knife-Grinder about the honor of Seamtresses.  Respecting it is a matter of pride among us."

"Like following procedure for disciplining members?" asked Sacripant.

"Yes!" snapped Lamorac. "Damn it that is what has me so angry about all of this!  There are rules!  There are things that must be done!  Or we wind up killing members in back alleys on a whim!  And when that happens--well, why bother being a Knife-Grinder at all?  You might as well be a random hoodlum.  The fees are less, after all."

The Erl glanced at Camber.  "How long did you have to deal...?" he began.

"Too long," said the one-legged man.  "Even if I agree with him now..."

Lamorac nodded.  "Yes, we need to have a formal meeting about the Grand Master.  I don't care if this was a Council-mandated mission, lines have been crossed!  Dangerous lines!"

A bleary-eyed woman opened the door.  "Listen," she said, "I don't care how horny you are, we are closed now, so that means you can go..."  She blinked.  "Nathan?"

"Hello, Lily," said the Lamplighter.  He gave an awkward cough.  "That favor I thought I was never going to have to call?  Calling it now?"  He gestured to the men behind him.  "We need shelter."

"Hmmm, I might be able to swing this," muttered Lily, "but I'll need assurances you'll all be on your best behavior.  Especially the Erl."

"Happily engaged," said Sacripant.

"We're both Knife-Grinders," said Lamorac, taking Camber by the arm.

"Well, we were," muttered Camber, pulling away.

"We still are!" said Lamorac grandly.  "It's the Guild that's gone off."

Lily glanced at Nathan. "There's an interesting story behind all this, isn't there?"

"You could say that," he replied, looking away.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 45

The Grand Master rubbed his aching skull.  "So... we have lost the Erl, we have lost the Lamplighter, we have lost Lamorac, and we have lost Camber, correct?"

The Knife-Grinders nodded in unison.  The Grand Master frowned at them.  "So, this is an utter failure, then?"

One of the Knife-Grinders glanced at him.  "Well, sir, whose fault is that?  We did all this under your direction."

The Grand Master turned to the prentice.  "Your examination for Journeyman is now."  He gestured to the man who'd spoken.  "Kill him."

"What?" said the man.  "You can't do this!  I have rights!  I'm a Journeyman in good standing!"  He looked at the others.  "By the Holy Light, we don't run this way.  Tell him that!"  They glanced awkwardly at their feet.  "What?  This is... You... he'll come for you ne--"

He pitched forward, the prentice's knife in his back.  "Well done, journeyman," said the Grand Master.  "We'll celebrate later.  For now, pitch the body back away.  No need to offend anyone.  Then we'll go notify the Council."

"Sir, do you think... they'll... understand?" muttered one man, staring at the corpse.

"If you mean will they not lose their tempers, they most surely will," replied the Grand Master.  "But they need us.  So we will be fine."

"They need us," muttered the former prentice.  "Just like the Grand Master needed him."

"That's a bit rich, considering..." began one.

"Didn't see any of you moving to stop me," he noted.  "Just as I don't hear any of you disagreeing with me now."  He grabbed the body by its shirt.  "Now come on.  He had a point there, and I don't want to do this by myself."  Two others followed, taking the body by the feet.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 44

"...And then Talos declared that the figs were the tastiest he had tasted, and that being so, he would settle his house here," the Reciter repeated.  "And this being so, there was great rejoicing, and great celebration, and great eating of smoked meats...."

The Ancients grumbled among themselves.  At length one of them raised his hand.  "Couldn't we skip this bit?" he asked.

Several other members nodded enthusiastically.  "We always used to," one noted.  "Just declared 'remember the deeds of great Talos' and moved on." 

The enthusiastic nods were joined by favorable murmurs.

The new Master of the Yellow coughed and stood to his feet.  "I know I have not been long a member here, and thus humbly beg apologies if I presume," he declared in confident tones that presumed a great deal, "but would this  not be an example of exactly what was wrong with the Council of Ancients in the past?  We all of us, from the Outer Hall to the Inner Circle, forgot and passed over the grand traditions of our forebears, and in so doing, forgot the gods to whom we owe all.  And this has made so much ill possible."  He turned to the Reciter.  "And so I say, for myself, read the deeds of Great Talos in full!  Leave out not one jot, not one tittle.  Read them all, so we revel in the glory and the holy word."  He sat back down.  "Well, go on," he said to the Reciter, who stood there looking puzzled.  "Read."

The Reciter nodded and began anew.  "...And pickled fruits, and yea, fine wine and good olives. And the men and women danced and made merry, and their clothes were of silk, and gold, and fine linen, and..."

The Ancients groaned among themselves.  One glanced at his fellow.  "I miss the old Master of the Yellow.  He wouldn't have put up with this."

The other Ancient hushed him, and then turned back to feign attention to the lengthy description of the people's footwear that the Reciter was beginning.

"Well, he wouldn't have," muttered the disappointed Ancient.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 43

Camber stared at the door before him, and took a deep breath.  He placed his hand on the handle and pushed it open swiftly. 

The room was empty.  Taking a relieved breath, he turned back and trudged his way back up the stairs, weighing on the one hand the fact that he was still alive, on the other this would doubtless make the Grand Master angry.  And that was the bad thing.  Arguably bad enough to outweigh still being alive.

When he reached the top of the stairs and looked across the street, he saw something rather interesting.  His fellows had found the Erl, who was presently fighting the whole lot of them and doing rather well.  As Camber watched, the mouthy prentice dived for the Erl, only to be knocked aside and left sprawling on the ground.

The Grand Master saw his subordinates fall with increasingly panicked eyes.  "I warn you, Nightfolk," he said, drawing his knife, "you may think that the Knife-Grinders are nothing to fear, but our power lies in our reach, and our..."

A club struck him on the back of the head.  The Lamplighter regarded the man's slumped over form in dull surprise.  "I thought he'd be tougher than that."

"Most people don't react well to a heavy blow to the skull," said the Erl.  "No matter what the title is."

"But he's a master assassin!" said the Lamplighter.

"Well, sure, but what sort?" asked the Erl with a shrug.  "So far as I can tell, these guys more or less sneak up on people and knife them in the back, or jump in alleys.  That stuff doesn't take a lot of skill, it just takes license from on high."  He poked the Grand Master.  "Damn.  He's out cold."

"I thought that was the idea," said the Lamplighter.

"Well, yeah, but not this cold," replied the Erl.  "I wanted to ask him questions.  Especially as I don't think we'd get a lot of time..."

The Lamplighter looked across the street.  "We could always get Peg leg over there."

Camber gulped and turned to run. 

Unfortunately for him, the stairs remained as treacherous as ever.