Trail of Blood
March 14, 2020
It is so strange that this reminds me of our former life. Before Zero. Before everything. I wonder where my sword rests now.
Morning came once again. I scanned around the Chateau, looking for any sign of trouble. As of yet, we had not heard further of this strange person looking for Luna. Petra did not come back last night and she was nowhere to be found.
What were our plans for the day? We discussed various things. I intended to return to work with Zerrick, and Eclipse planned to come with me. Luna and Hebo wanted to tag along because I told them of the magical items that Zerrick might have in store that we could purchase. We did not end up purchasing anything at the time. Zerrick had a cloak of protection he was willing to sell to me, but suggested that it would better serve me to make one myself instead of buying it with gold. Luna and Hebo left Zerrick’s tower, awestruck by its magnificence, and said that they would contact me later when the Great Ones had a plan. Eclipse chose to stay with me, keenly interested in the craft of magical engineering.
Meanwhile, Ezio and Oromis returned to Say’ri to discuss a plan to apprehend Karama. The leader of the Yellowjackets had bad news: another city magistrate, Kilma Ozhov, had been taken in the night and six Yellowjackets had been murdered. Say’ri was troubled about this development. Previously, Karama had not taken anyone unrelated to his murder trial. Ozhov was not involved in the trial or his incarceration. As such, she suggested that perhaps Karama either had nothing to do with Ozhov’s disappearance, or he is targeting random magistrates. What was worse is that only a select handful of people in the Yellowjackets knew about the missing magistrates, or the fact that the magistrates and High Judge Dai’Chi were hidden in safe houses at all!
It dawned on Ezio and Oromis right then, just as it dawned on Say’ri when Ozhov disappeared: there is a traitor in the midst of the Yellowjackets.
Oromis tried to explain his plan to Say’ri - the plan of starting a rumor about moving Dai’Chi to a secret location in order to trap Karama - but Say’ri rejected it immediately. She explained that they had tried variations of that plan already and it always resulted in death. The number of Yellowjackets was dwildling and they were no closer to finding Karama.
Say’ri then suggested her plan, a continuation of what they were already doing: put more people in Karama’s way. Ezio and Oromis could not reason with Say’ri on the subject. Her plan was not working either, but she was desperate and out of ideas. Ezio did not relate the full details to me of the rest of the conversation, only that he and Oromis accepted the plan. Say’ri said that one of the magistrates was in Lowtown, the more impoverished district in Everdusk, and that we would be added to the patrols for the night.
The Great Ones met again that night. Ezio told us Say’ri’s plan and no one was happy with it. This plan required less subterfuge than which we were comfortable, and would put us possibly in the front lines of combat with a maniac that could eviscerate with a single movement. Still, what else did we have to go on? Hebo helped camouflage each of us as best as he could and we set out towards Lowtown.
Lowtown, unlike the Dockside district in which we resided, was a wreck. The pavement of the roads of Everdusk ended when we entered the district and we strode on dirt and weeds as we patrolled the streets. The district was quiet and dark. The only light here was the soft glow of candles from within the houses here and there. The houses here were no more than simple shanties held together by wire or twine, made of wood and little else. We noticed strange symbols carved above a couple of doors; an insignia of a sickle, subtle and crude, marked certain houses from their neighbors.
Eclipse noticed the flash of fire before any of us.
“Look!” she cried. “Up on the roof! There’s a figure-”
She couldn’t finish the sentence before the house erupted into flames. The rest of us instinctively stepped back and towards the shadows, eager to hide ourselves as best as we could. Eclipse tried to point at the rooftops again as the figure moved to another house and dropped something into it. Within a second or two, that house was aflame as well. The figure moved on, lighting more and more houses.
“We should help them,” said Hebo. The silence of Lowtown had been shattered by screams as panicked residents fled their burning homes and filled the streets around us.
“We cannot do anything for them,” I replied. “Our task is with the Slasher. This fire is a distraction.”
“I agree,” said Ezio. With a quick set of jumps, he set himself up onto the roof of a house near us. While the crowd and we looked on at the fire, he looked around Lowtown. Many houses had sprung into flames, some nearby and others further out. But one section of the district was still cold and quiet. “Over there!” he shouted. “There are no flames to the northeast!”
We all agreed that Karama (or his conspirator, if there was any) set the flames to distract us and the Yellowjackets. He must have been moving to that quieter neighborhood! We ran towards it as fast as we could, hearing the cries for help from the people we left behind.
Our path led into the quiet part of Lowtown to a particular house with its door wide open, unlike the rest of the houses that were shut and locked. Ezio and Eclipse went to sneak into the house, moving quietly and disappearing from our sight. The rest of us looked on at the chaos of Lowtown and saw that the fire was now spreading from house to house, and it was coming in our direction.
Ezio and Eclipse returned. They said the house had been ransacked. The room was torn apart, tables and chairs and bookshelves broken, and the bodies of four slain Yellowjackets were staining the floors with blood. Ezio had found what appeared to be a trapdoor leading underground and suggested we follow its tunnel. As we moved, I quickly repaired the door to the house and locked it. We uneasily descended into the tunnel below the house, following a trail of blood.
The trail led to a large room, not unlike a courtyard of sorts. This place was strange, though. Light illuminated the room, despite the room being entirely closed off from the surface. Beams of light came from certain stones just out of view, causing the light to appear almost natural. The courtyard was filled with ivy, growing hungrily across the floors and walls, reaching nigh to the ceiling. Rooms were carved into the stone walls, each locked by heavy wooden doors. In the center of the courtyard was the statue of what looked like a human head, save for the four sockets for eyes instead of the standard two. The eye sockets were empty.
“Over there,” whispered Ezio. “More blood.”
We followed the trail to a small corridor. In front of us were four more Yellowjackets, some with missing limbs, others with their innards torn out, all without any breath of life. At the end of the corridor was an old statue of a gargoyle with a strange emerald eye. Luna asked me to remove it and place it in the four-eyed statue in the courtyard, to which I complied.
We decided that there might be more gargoyles with gems for the rest of the eye sockets, so we began to search. It wasn’t long before we discovered a topaz, a sapphire, a ruby, and an amethyst gem. Five gems, but four sockets.
“First yearns for the sea,” muttered Hebo. “Second seeks flame. The fourth begs for the forests.”
“What does that mean?” asked Luna.
“It’s a clue! The first eyeball thing gets the blue gem, the sapphire! I read it on the wall.”
In an instant, we all understood. The first socket took the sapphire. The second took the ruby. The last took the emerald. But the third socket remained and we still had a topaz and an amethyst. Oromis grumbled and placed the amethyst into the remaining socket. The room began to rumble and shift. The ivy on the floors reeled back and forth from the movement. And five gargoyle statues, from which we had taken the gems, sprung to life and set upon us.
One lunged for Hebo but Hebo and Luna cast spells at it and caused it to stumble. Another began hunting Ezio, so the elf quickly moved behind a corner and readied his bow. One stumbled down the hallway and towards Oromis. Another got behind me and racked across my shoulders. In the scuffle, we had lost track of Eclipse!
Shoving my gargoyle off of me, I quickly adjusted my Masterwork Eye and cast an enlarging spell on Oromis, increasing his size, strength, and rage. He brought his axe down onto two gargoyles, reducing them to rubble and dust. Ezio began loosing arrows, striking down another. Luna and Hebo teamed up, striking down another.
We all took a moment to breath (well, those of us who breath, anyway), but wondered. What had become of Eclipse? Before we could set about to find her, she came from one of the rooms nearby. She was bruised and her shield was dented, but she held up the head of the gargoyle that had attacked her, happily cheering for herself.
Relieved, we replaced the amethyst with the topaz. A room behind us slid open as the a stone door’s locking mechanism was released. From within, we heard a low, raspy voice.
“More company,” it said. “Too bad I don’t like witnesses.”
How funny. That is exactly what Number One used to say.Back to The Tales of the Great Ones