An Empire In Flames

Session Three: The Lie

In which a lie is told, and a truth is made known.

GM: The store’s door closes behind the four, Barias having been noticably put off as you left his storefront with your new attire, the ill-fitting Centurian uniforms in hand. The sun has finally sunk beneath the horizon whilst you were within the building, the light fleeing the sky post haste. You attract noticably less attention from those walking down the streets although it is difficult to say if the fading light or the new attire is to blame. Either way, it is a pleasant relief, even if the air is decidedly less comfortable as the temperature continues to plummet.

GM: The sounds of the city likewise seem muted as the night draws nigh; the hammering forge so noticeable earlier has all but vanished, although a dog seems content filling the air from somewhere far deeper into the Outer City.

Riella looks down at her new clothes. It’s nothing much, and it’s missing the blood of her enemies, but she doubted the group would let continue to wear them. Tight chest bindings and somewhat lose pants and tunic gives her a gender-neutral appearance, a shawl concealing her foreign hair.

Riella: “What are we doing next, oath-keeper?”

Zuhur surveys the streets, giving their surroundings a momentary glance. “I would like to reunite with the liar.” She says, adjusting the long, plain shawl that hangs from her shoulders. “But inquiry might draw attention from the guard. If we’d had the time to arrange a meeting place before he ran off…”

Dekniss: “It might be a good idea to find an out of the way place to sleep for the night. Though, we still don’t have any money.”

Anemone: “I can’t say I support searching for him. It could get us into trouble.”

GM: Further in the Outer City, in a squat stone building huddled at the feet of the Inner City’s walls, the bear of the Captain leads Peilor into the barracks. It is a surprisingly barren building, with several rooms of cots and chests, each with a roaring furnace filling the room with a heat that seems all too warm after the biting cold outside. “You can sleep here tonight,” he says, gruffly. “I suppose we’ll have to find you something to wear,” he notes, looking the young man over.

Riella: “I don’t know too much about how to live in this Imperial shit farm. I’ll follow the oath-keeper’s lead.”

Zuhur: “I suppose there is little we can do. If he is as much a fleece and as snake tongued as he appears, he will survive on his own until he finds us again. And if he is not, there’s nothing to be done until our own stability is somewhat assured. Dekniss or Anemone, you understand these alien cities the best. Where would be our safest bet for lodgings with no coin and little of value to trade? I hope the answer is not a street.”

Dekniss: Dekniss thinks it over for a few moments before answering. “It’s possible that there are way-houses near the gate that may have rooms for weary travelers, but seldom offer real accommodations for free. Perhaps a stable or dry loft is the best we can hope for without coin.”

Peilor: He rubbed his ear as it burned in the prickly heat. “Yeah that would be preferable, and I’ll know better than to wear anything too fancy from now on… not that i can afford it.”

Anemone: “Agreed. We want to be as unassuming as possible. A stable may be a good choice.”

Riella perks up at the mention of it. “I can work for the pig-shits at a stable.”

Zuhur: “It seems our best option, if not our only one.” Zuhur says, glancing back towards the gates and the buildings arrayed nearby. “Not the most glamorous beds we’ve likely seen, but between the stables and the slave pens, I’d gladly take the stables. Let us be off then, hopefully one of the owners will allow us to spend the night with the horses for free, I’d prefer we not be total vagrants.”

GM: The captain nods, leading Peilor to a cot in the far back of the room, looking like it is barely managing to hold itself together. There’s only a single threadbare blanket on top, made from a coarse and scratchy material. “I’ll see if we have anything in your size,” he says, turning and starting back through the building. A few minutes later he returns with a tunic made of similar material. “This should last you for now,” he says, before looking considering. “If you’re going to be in town for some time, you’re going to need to find some work, and I could always use more men.”

Dekniss: “It would probably be a good idea to avoid the inn from earlier, but another place near the gates might be more accepting of poor travelers.”

Zuhur: “Yes.” Zuhur replies. “A free drink is a far cry from a free night, and I’d rather not push our Centurion’s ploy any further than we have.”

Anemone: “I don’t know that we could successfully pull that off again. Its not worth trying. It would be smart to check closer to the gate.”

GM: Glancing down toward the gate, you note the absence of any stables or structures which look particularly inviting. Further down the road opposite, closer to the walls, you can make out the broad doors of a stable tucked behind a large building.

Riella: “I’m still surprised that it worked in the first place. I knew the pig-dogs were stupid, but if they believed such a shitty lie…” She shakes her head. Stupid people in a stupid empire.

Zuhur: “Odd, that the stables are so far inward. A bizzare city indeed.” Zuhur says, heading towards towards the stables.

Anemone: “The city set-up isn’t necessarily logical,” Anemone responds to Zuhur. “Let’s hope we can stay here.”

GM: As you get closer to the building, you notice a sign hanging in front of the building shielding the stables. It reads, in carefully painted detail, ‘The Split Coinpurse’. The widows are lit from the inside, shutters drawn against the cold.

Riella: “All cities are built this poorly. I long for the day that my people come to cleanse this land of its stone shackle.”

Zuhur: “Hopefully not until we are far and away from this wretched place.” Zuhur says, approaching the door and pushing it open.

Riella follows her inside, trying to look meek and unassuming. Needless to say, she’s a failure at it, instead giving off an aura of pride and irritation.

Dekniss follows the others inside, looking around as he enters.

Anemone follows the others inside.

GM: The inside of the building is a common room, smaller than the Drowned Drake but significantly cleaner and more organized. But also more empty. A large man slouches in a chair next to the door, glancing sideways at the strangers as they enter the room. The only other occupant is a portly man, clad in carefully arraged falls of vibrant silks and wearing a single glove. And while his eyes light up as you enter, it’s only a moment for his mouth to curl into a frown.

Peilor: He pulled the tunic over his head then looked to the an with a dejected sigh at the job offer. “I think I have unquestionably proven my insuitablity for such work after seeing those men gutted in front of me i think a paper cut would make me lose my lunch at this point… But my father was teaching me the mercantile crafts maybe I can find work as a clerk or a delivery boy with some shop in town.”

Zuhur approaches the finely dressed man, bowing slightly, her closest guess as to an Imperial greeting. “A fine evening to you, Sir.”

GM: “Delivery boy?” he asks, before shaking his head. “I suppose it would earn you some little money. But I’d ask you to remember my offer, if you can’t find any work out here.”

GM: His scowl, if anything, deepens. “I am sorry,” he says in a nasal voice, “but we don’t cater to /vagrants/.”

Zuhur: “That is very much a shame.” Zuhur says, attempting the empty smile she had witnessed many times but never mastered. “You have no work that needs doing in exchange for a night in your stables? No guards or stable boys you’d like to go without paying for a night?”

Riella: “I can care for a horse better then any man, woman, child, and p- person around,” she offers helpfully.

GM: Diplomacy, Zuhur.
Zuhur: 9
Dekniss: 12

Riella: “So, can I help your houses be treated to someone who cares and shows them affection besides pig- pigheaded people?” She’s having a lot of trouble keeping the profanity out of her words.

GM: His sneer deepens. “Get out,” he says, disdainfully, waving his un-gloved hand at the party dismissively.

Peilor: “Thank you sir. Maybe once I am able to put all this behind me. Then I might be able to make a difference. But right now, I’m sorry…” He gave to man a sad reassuring smile. “What time is it? Is there any chance I can go walk around with my thoughts… see the town my family gave there lives trying to see?”

Zuhur sighs, somewhat deflated, and turns to leave.

Riella: “Oath-keeper, what about the rooftops? They’re out of the way, and we’ve enough clothing to make it through the night.”

Anemone: “Wait…your glove. You’re a member of Gleam.”

GM: “It’s the least I can do,” he says, offering a thin smile. “Just be sure not to wake the guards when you come back in.”

Zuhur pauses, watching Anemone and giving a nod of acknowledgement to Riella. The rooftops would be a suitable bed, at least until more comfortable lodgings could be found.

GM: There is a pause, the man’s eyes bulging, arm outstretched. It takes a few seconds for him to compose himself. “I am… I am /sure/ that I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He gives a weak glare toward Anemone.

Anemone: “I’m sure that you do. You’re a member. Its very clear.”

Anemone looks at the man expectantly.

GM: There is a moment’s pause, the bouncer’s eyes never leaving Anemone’s back as the portly man fidgets as he stares at her. “Who sent you?” he finally asks.

GM: (( Knowledge: History or Local to figure out what they’re talking about. One roll per person who has ranks. ))

Zuhur: “The Gleam?” Zuhur whispers to Dekniss behind Anemone. Is this an imperial matter?

Anemone: “No one sent us. We are simply looking for lodging for the night, and you were preparing to turn us away. However, it seems we are kindred, at least to a point. Care to reconsider?”

Dekniss shrugs to Zuhur and shakes his head.

GM: He licks his lip, glancing from Anemone to her companions. “Fine,” he finally says. “You can sleep in the stables tonight.”

Anemone: “Much appreciated. We’d appreciate breakfast in the morning, as well. If its not too much ask, friend.”

GM: His eye twitches. “Of… course not,” he says through gritted teeth, “ma’am.”

Zuhur: “The oats they give their horses are likely better than the slop they eat themselves.” Zuhur says to Riella, not bothering very hard to whisper.

Anemone: “Thank you kindly, sir. We do appreciate your hospitality.” Anemone motions to the others to head to the stables.

GM: Some blotchy red returns to his face, hand clenching as Zuhur asides to Riella, but he doesn’t say anything.

Peilor: “I promise I wont and once again thank you.” He gave a respectful bow, grasping the blanket from his bed he draped it over his shoulders like a cloak tying two corners together to fasten it. With that he made his way to the door and out onto the streets breathing a deep breath of freedom decompressing and he attempted to drop the role of the grieving youth.

GM: The cold is even the more bitter after having spent time in the warm embrace of the heat inside, but no one glances twice toward the youth in the deepening dusk.

Zuhur: “Let us make our way to the stables then.” Zuhur says, motioning to the others. “And find the least awful place to bed for the night.”

Anemone: Anemone makes her way to the stables. “We should be wary. He is unlikely to harm us…but you never can tell.”

Zuhur: “What is this Gleam he is a part of?” Zuhur asks as they near the stables.

GM: The door slams behind you as you make your way out of the building, and you easily bypass the low fence around the stables; behind you there is a crashing sound inside the building. The interior is dark, and smells of horse. Lacking any illumination you fumble around for some time before finding a ladder leading to the haylofts.

Anemone: “I’m sure you all are bit…confused about what just happened.”

Zuhur: “As an understatement.” Zuhur responds.
Anemone: “He is a member of Gleam, as was I. Its…an assassin guild of sorts. Its empire wide, and very secretive.”

Zuhur: “So it would seem.” Zuhur mentions, fumbling in the dark through the mounds of hay. It’s hardly a luxury, but she’s endured nights on far worse.

GM: The hay is at least as warm as it is scratchy.

Anemone: “And being a member seems to come in handy in a pinch. At least we’ll sleep tonight and eat in the morning. A bit of time to regroup will be good for us all.”

Peilor: He shivers harshly in the thin tunic and makeshift cape, he remembered talk of them sticking to the outskirts so thats where he would limit his search for the evening. If he had no luck he would return to to the warm bed and resume his search with renewed vigor come the morning.

GM: How’re you searching, Peilor?

Dekniss: In the darkness of the hayloft Dekniss digs himself into the warm hay. To the others he says, “Rest is welcome, and now, at least, we are free as well.”

Peilor: Common sense, were people with no money can sleep

Zuhur: “A trade off anyone would take, I think.” Zuhur says, settling into a corner.

GM: I mean, actually searching the buildings or asking people?

Peilor: probably a little of both, I’m a social creature but i know considering they are technically fugitives in centurion gear they arent going to do anything stupid like hitting up mead halls

GM: Hit me with a Gather Information
Peilor: 26

GM: It doesn’t take much asking around to hear the story about the Centurians coming out of the night to stay at the Drowned Drake. And it’s equally easy to find the building, especially with night falling.

Peilor: After finding out they werent as inconspicuous as he would have assumed he went around to the side of the stables and peeked his head in.

GM: The Drowned Drake has no stables, it’s a single building.

GM: Zuhur is shaken out of her sleep, covered in a cold sweat some time after they all have retired in the hay. She can’t tell how long has passed, but the air feels unnaturally still.

Zuhur lies stock still on her makeshift bed, listening carefully to the dead quiet of the night.

GM: Everything seems wholly natural, other than a cold stone in her stomache and an itch between her shoulder blades where the straw has been poking her.

Peilor: Peilor entered the establishment he was given and chewed his lip when they were not within, so he began to hit up the waitstaff certain they were one of the few people within that have been present all night.

Zuhur slowly raises herself, trying to make as little noise as possible. There’s little chance it will matter as she can hardly see, and the odds of this being anything more than stress and perhaps a fever dream are slim, but she has learned caution is rewarded far more than ignorance.

GM: A young woman with coppery hair offers a smile to Peilor. After he describes his quarry, her smile grows. “Oh, the Centurians?” she asks brightly. “They were here, all right, had a drink right over there.” She gestures toward an abandoned table on the far side of the common room.

GM: The hayloft creaks underfoot briefly as her weight shifts but otherwise doesn’t protest. The air feels clammy against her skin, wicking away her heat along with her cold sweat. There’s a soft scuffing noise beneath the loft, barely audible even in the near-silence.

Peilor: “Aw I was hopping to catch up with them here but i was delayed, I have a missive i have been sworn to hand deliver to them do you know where they were headed when they left? You would be doing me a huge favor.” He flashed his winning smile

GM: “Oh, I think they were headed to pay Barias a visit,” she says, thoughtfully. “If you hurry, you might just catch him before he closes his shop.” She proceeds to give directions.

Zuhur breathes softly, listening. Horses? Horse thieves? The fat, ill tempered owner? He can’t have been an assassin, surely? If that were true neither he nor Zuhur’s companion would have openly acknowledged their ties to such an organization. But, if they did… surely that organization, the… Gleam? Would have vested interest in disposing of any group that overheard of their existence. Wouldn’t they? Any decent band of ragtag cuthroats from her homeland would do as much, but Imperial assassins… surely they’d be at least as smart as that? Her mind was wandering into fantasies now. It was nothing. Might be nothing. Should she wake the others?

Peilor: Once he has the basic idea he starts for the door in a hurry but stops to give the young lady a wave and a wink. “You are a goddess of mercy to this poor messenger, thank you!” once out the door he rushes huriedly but not so fast to appear being chased or enough to flip up the skirt of his tunic.

GM: The silence has no answers for the dark-skinned foreigner, a soft breathing sound coming up from below.

GM: The streets nearly blur as he hurries to the building, the cold biting at his skin painfully from the quick retreat of the heat.

GM: Before long, he finds himself in front of a storefront, a warm glow coming from the window.

Peilor: He tries the handle, rubbing his thighs together for warmth as he waits.

Zuhur creeps forward, silently as possible. It’s clear that someone is below, perhaps will intent, perhaps unaware of their presence. Waking everyone would only cause a commotion, but venturing down alone might prove reckless and unwise. She inches silently towards Dekness’s sleeping form. While not the smallest of the group, he is likely quieter and more useful in close quarters than her barbarian… accomplice, and the red headed woman is likely unstable. She shakes Dekniss softely, whispering for him to remain quiet."

GM: The handle turns easily, allowing him entry into the storefront. Barias, the shopkeeper, looks at Peilor in surprise. “Er,” he says after a moment, “can I help you.”

Dekniss: Dekniss feels Zuhur shaking him awake and quietly opens his eyes. His body is tensed, unsure of what is happening.

Zuhur: “Someone’s moving downstairs.” Zuhur whispers. “Not sure if they’re after us, but we’d better make sure. How well can you see in this dark?”

GM: Once the sleep’s out of his eyes, he can see as well as Zuhur, his vision having adjusted.

Dekniss: Nodding his head in the dark, Dekniss quietly sits up and draws his sword from it’s sheath.

GM: The metal makes a low rasping noise, grating in the silence.

Zuhur crawls forward towards the opening of the loft, hand on the foreign blade attached to the belt under her shawl.

GM: You can’t make out anyone in front and below you, although a soft chuffing sound comes from directly below you, from outside of your view.

Peilor: “Yes, was there a group of people in here earlier.” He gave a quick description of each unsure if their centurion act had carried over to this establishment. " I have a message for them and i have been missing them by moments for over a week now…" Picking up that it was a clothing store he did his best to look as cold and miserable as possible, hoping to maybe stir up some sympathy in the form of a shoddy cast-off pair of pants.

Zuhur signals to Dekniss as she crouches above the opening. She will drop first and roll quickly out of the way as Dekniss drops down after her. Then, although the person below will likely be alerted, they will at least both be present and armed. Her hand motions are quiet eloquent, and worthy of song.

Dekniss: Dekniss nods his understanding and gets himself ready to follow Zuhur down.

GM: “Oh, the Centurians!” he says, delighted. “They were in here, all right. Apparently it’s been a hard time on them, with being unable to get supplies for their men,” he shakes his head slightly.

GM: On the count of three the two figures drop, the smaller nimbly leaping to the side, drawing the blade with a flourish as the Imperial man lands heavily, turning to face the stall and its dire inhabitant. A horse stares back at the two of you lazily, scuffing the ground with a hoof.

GM: From behind the duo comes the sound of soft applause. “It’s good to know that you’re not out of practice, Zuhur,” a soft, positively ancient-sounding voice says, followed by a low cough.

Zuhur turns, hand still clutching the handle of the blade beneath her shawl. She stares into the darkness towards the sound of that wretchedly familiar voice.

Peilor: “Yes, that is part of the message I have to give them… do you know where they were headed after their visit here?”

GM: The coughing subsides. “I trust you know why I’m here?” the voice asks, a shadow rising from against a nearby stall.

Dekniss: Dekniss looks questioningly at Zuhur and raises his eyebrows in the darkness.

GM: “They said that they had to investigate a merchant in the Inner City, but I doubt that you’re going to be able to get in there this late,” he says, frowning to himself. “I assume they’re staying in the Inner City, as well.”

Zuhur eased her stance, though only somewhat. She turns to Dekniss. “I… can handle this intruder. Thank you for your assistance, but… it would be best if you returned upstairs. I will follow you up shortly.”

Zuhur: “And, please…” Zuhur says after a brief moment. “Speak to no one of this.”

Peilor: He gave a weary smile. “Well I guess the hunt is on again. Do you mind if I warm myself by your fire for a moment?”

Dekniss: Dekniss shakes his head, still not understanding, but not willing to cause any problems at this time of night. He goes back up to the hayloft.

GM: “Oh my, of course not. It’s no time to be outside in the cold. Couldn’t this message wait for the morning?”

Zuhur watches Dekniss leave, hopefull that his would not reach the ears of the others. She turns back to the shadow in the dark, an edge creeping into her voice. “After the panthers and the snakes, your braying could wake me from death itself.” Zuhur relaxes, the sudden rise of emotion subsiding as quickly as her training allowed. “Name your price now, Witch, if that is what you intend.”

GM: “Such a simple price,” she says, warmly, before her voice twists into unhidden sardonism. “There is a new Commander in the nearby garrison; a rising star by all accounts. Loyal, dependable, and brave, he is the sum of what an Imperial citizen should aspire to be. I trust you know what to do.”

Zuhur: “There is more, I know.” Zuhur says, looking away towards the stables. “And I know it will do little good to try and pry the catches from you.” Her voice lowers, either through shame or malice. “Give me his name, and he shall die.”

Peilor: “It could, but knowing that group by the time i wake and make it to the inner city they will have wandered off to the gods only know where. They’re foreign legion you know, they dont think like you or me…” He warmed his bare legs in the fires glow trying to cut down some of the chill that had begun to permeate his bones." “Believe it or not this was a warm weather assignment when I started.”

GM: “His name? Commander Aurelius. I will know when you have finished with my price and then you are free.” Zuhur can practically /feel/ the smirk through the darkness. “And do take care, it wouldn’t do to replace you so soon.”

GM: “Indeed?” Barius asks, quirking an eyebrow slightly. “Where were you when it began?” he wonders aloud.

Zuhur: “No.” Zuhur says, turning away and approaching the ladder. “I suppose it would not.”

GM: “Don’t fail me, girl,” the woman says, coldly, to Zuhur’s back. “You’ll learn to appreciate my mercies before if you do,”

Zuhur climbs up the ladder to the hayloft, passing a glance at Dekniss as she returns to her resting spot. Now, of all times, to come calling. She had known this was coming, of course, and in truth it was less than what she feared. Murder, yes, but she had always expected that. That is why she was forged, in a way. It is what she was now. And the murder of a stranger… it was not so bad a price to pay.

Peilor: He stated the township he was arrested in, there was no way it could lead back to his true identity. Plus he was certain of Imperial presence and the fact that it was warmer there than it was here. But that thought process was not reflected on the outside and he said the name offhandedly as he attempted to rub the feeling back into his knees.

GM: “So far?” he asks, blinking to him. “You’re quite determined for a messenger. If this keeps up you’ll be having to travel through the snow.”

Peilor: “Well I am honor bound to deliver this missive, but I really hope it doesnt get much colder or i’m gonna have to soak my cape in pitch and walk around with it alight to stay warm.”

GM: “Why weren’t you given warm clothes? I’m sure if you explained your derth of attire to the Centurians in the Inner City they would be willing to clothe you…”

Peilor: “Well I definately didnt plan to be chasing them down this long. But you make a point, now i have two reasons to visit the inner city. Do you know if they lock up the gates at night?”

GM: He nods, “they do. I’m sure you’ll be able to get in tomorrow with proof of your identity, though.”

Peilor: “Well then I guess I will have to wait il morning anyway”
GM: He offers a smile. “I wish that I could offer you a place to stay for the night, but I should be closing shop up pretty soon.” He glances out the window momentarily, rearranging a few overstocked shelves.

Peilor: “I understand and i appreciate the sentiment, but all the same i should find a place to camp out thats closer to the inner wall. Maybe I’ll catch them on their way in, or their way out.” He gave the shopkeep a nod and started for the door.

GM: “Well,” the shopkeeper says, “I wish you luck in tracking down those Centurians,” he offers a wide grin. “And be sure to keep yourself warm tonight!”

Peilor: “I will definately try my good man!” He gave a wearly smile and headed out the door. He had run out of leads and it was getting late so he started back in the direction of the barracks.

GM: The barracks room has some soldiers resting in some of the cots, a few of them getting dressed for their patrol and grumbling to one another. But, most importantly, it has a cot in the back corner.

Peilor: Untying his makeshift cape he slipped into bed as quietly as he could. With a wide yawn he turned to jelly in the bed, even the lowest quality cot was worlds better than where he had bedded down the past short while.

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