Thick As Thieves

WHAT'S MINE

"Nakk Upon the Rooftops," Symphony for the Dead

Our heroes had freed Trapistown for a time.  Out from the yoke of Count Ephraim Hart, they celebrated their freedom.  With the aid of a passing merchant, our heroes donated their one hundred coins – all the money they had in the world – to buy three kegs of beer that were marked for Warren, the prison from which they escaped. 

The Con Man – now calling himself Jerart Batner – went to the butcher's shop.  There he convinced the Butcher to leave, and drained the Sheriff's body of blood into Kunail's waterskin, hoping to keep the elf's thirst for blood under control.

Kunail, in the meantime, set to fashioning a new handle and hilt for the Sheriff's saber, using the antler from the deer he had caught days before.

Jin got the party started early and sat down at a gambling table in the local inn.  When he was caught cheating, a muscled blacksmith named Young Buck flipped the table over onto him. 

Nakk walked across the breadth of the town to the burnt down church tower of Trapis, and there found Okren Chandler, the town's priest, digging graves for the recently deceased mercenaries.  Without a word between them, they dug eight graves each – six foot deep – and filled them, until the sun went down.

Come nightfall, Kunail bid that they start the party without him, and ventured into the northern half of the White-Bone Forest.  There, he found the four of Hart's mercenaries that escaped.  Hoping to take one of them hostage to interrogate, he shot one with an arrow before the remaining three rushed him – he loosed another arrow into the belly of one, before two mercs tackled him to the ground.  Drawing his new antler handled saber, he killed one before the other stabbed him in the hand.  He felt the hunger come upon him, and ripped the merc's throat out, drinking deeply… before he realized his bloodthirst had killed them all, leaving no hostage to interrogate.  Cursing himself for losing control, he wiped the blood from his mouth and headed back into town.

Not ones to delay a celebration, Jerart cracked open the first of the kegs and let ale flow like water.  Soon the whole town was soused, maudlin with freedom and strong beer.  As Virtue tried his best to pry Nakk's backstory out of him, the young buck blacksmith approached their table and challenged Nakk to a barfight.  The bar moved the tables out of their way, and thus the song "Nakk Upon the Rooftops" was born.  They fought on the bar floor, they fought on the bar top.  They crashed out of the bar windows and fought in the street, then fought upon the rooftops, leaping from building to building as the town cheered on the moonlit silhouettes.  Finally, one massive uppercut sent Young Buck flying off the roof of town hall into a wagon of hay, before Nakk leapt into a flying kick that shattered the wagon into kindling.  "Nakk Upon the Rooftops" would pass into legend, and spread like wildfire through the Pathless County…

Finally, Kunail returned to town, his wounds already healed from the blood he had drank.  He found his comrades getting drunk and drunker around the table.  They were talking about the distinct lack of men in the town.  Mayor Annish shakes her head and tells them about Silverflame Mine, where Count Hart had conscripted their husbands, fathers and sons (and not a few daughters, wives and mothers) to work the mine.  With their crops failing, there was no other way to make a living.  She and Virtue ask that the party go and rescue the sixty-odd miners from Silverflame Mine.

Nakk and Okren had struck up a cautious friendship based on their work from earlier in the day.  Taking careful stock of Nakk's character, Okren suggests that they could take  short cut – a rope bridge across the the Chasm, that would save them a day in their journey.

Mayor Annish Franca and her bookkeeper Virtue, clanked their mugs and toasted our heroes (though Virtue grumbled that one hundred gold could have been better spent).  Annish unwound, letting her mayoral manner slip, until Jerart found her head on his shoulder.  He turned her face toward his and hesitated for just a moment… then he kissed her.  She kissed him back, before slapping him.

Finally, in the dull hours of the of the dark morning, all lay asleep and dreaming save Nakk.  He climbs the hill up to the burnt-out Church, thinking about the wife and child he lost to Krev the Unclean, fifteen years ago.  Wtih starlight shining through the cracked open roof, Nakk pleaded with the silent ancestors.  "I've spent fifteen years in prison.  My wife and daughter are gone.  What do I have to live for?  Why am I still here?"  

To his surprise, a deep voice answers.  "If you dedicate your life to something larger than yourself, if you work for the greater good of all who still live in this world, will you not have purpose?  Sometimes destiny is not thrust upon us.  Sometimes it must be chosen," the voice says.  It is not a god, or a saint – it is Okren standing behind him.

At dawn, Jin is woken up under the table by a young girl with sad, golden eyes.  She gives him a single silver coin and asks him to kill her father, a man named Delan.  Jin takes the job…. his first as an assassin.

The others wake up shortly thereafter make their way to the shortcut Okren showed them.  Unfortunately, years of hard use and little maintenance left the dangling rope bridge very precarious.  Unwilling to leave their possessions behind, the party agreed to cross one at a time… however the seemingly bottomless nature of the Chasm paralyzed each in turn, rallying the others for help until – bearing all their weight – the bridge snapped.  Luckily, Jin had tied everyone together with his rope, so Kunail and Nakk were able to keep Jin and Jerart from falling to their deaths.  Straining against gravity, the elf and the boxer climbed onto the cliff edge, where they pulled their friends onto the grass.

When they found the opening of the Silverflame Mine, they saw that it was dug into the roots of a Covenant Tree – an ancient and magical lightning rod that was the cause of the smell of ozone and the constant threat of storms.  Kunail knew that the elves named it a Covenant Tree because of a story about the war between the anima of the Sky and the anima of the Earth, where lightning was used to great effect to scar and scorch.  They forged a peace, and wherever grows a Covenant Tree lightening will only ever strike in one spot.  Jerart knew from his business dealings that Covenant Trees were intensely magnetic and often drew metal up out of the ground, making the area around it rich with mining prospects.  

From a distance, they saw a haggard man running out of the mouth of the mine, chased by men with strange, silver coloured limbs.  They leapt into action and rescued him… His name was Artzell, foreman of the Silverflame Mine.  Kunail's interrogation techniques undid the rest of his lies – they found out he was really a wizard working for Count Ephraim Hart, designing weapons of great destruction to deter the elves from ever attacking humanity again.   The party ties him up and head into the cave, hoping to discover his lab as well as rescue the Trapistown citizens.

Inside, the party continued fighting more of these "quicksilver men," as they continued interrogating Artzell about his work.  Kunail got increasingly angry about the horrors that Artzell would inflict upon his people, but Artzell began to turn Nakk against Kunail by revealing the awful war crimes Kunail himself committed during the War.  Rivenwood, Algeron and all the other innocents slaughtered by the elves.  

When an undetected trap was sprung, Artzell seized the oppourtunity to slip away, but not before making one final speech: That in order to prevent the horrors of war, Artzell would commit any crime, die any death.  

With Artzell fled, they were lost in the middle of a vast mine.  The party took turns trying to navigate through, Kunail with his hunter's eye, Nakk with his climbing strength, Jin with his light feet.  Jerart searched the body of a dead miner and found that they weren't just mining the quicksilver substance, but also lightning itself – bottled and weaponized.

Finally, they found themselves in Artzell's laboratory, filled to the brim with his experiments, the utility of some of which were inscrutable.  There was a frosted mirror that would show a slightly out of sync reflection; there was an arrow frozen in time, hanging in mid-flight; a saddle and reins the size of a wagon; a bird skull the size of a man's head, hanging by a string; a totem poll crackling with lightning; and a stone bath of bubbling quicksilver.  

Jin quickly swept the contents of Artzell's desk into his sack, hoping to sell it later.  Kunail, fascinated by the arrow, walked towards it… Jin, seeing the tripwire was able to stop Kunail just in time.  Having avoided the tripwire, Kunail plucked the Arrow of Time from the air.

Jerart was able to find The Traveller's Notebooks, a way to communicate across long distances – written inside it were details of the many experiments in the Silverflame Mines, but also correspondence between Artzell and Count Ephraim Hart.  Jerart analyzed the book, and decided to try and inmitate what he knew of Artzell to con Count Hart into revealing his plan to him.  Jerart wrote in the notebook…

Nakk, curious about the metal-limbed quicksilver-men they had fought, approached the stone basin of bubbling liquid metal.  No heat came off of it, though a simple corked oil lamp sat on stone ledge.  Nakk went to pick it up… and a massive chrome hand grabbed his wrist.  Quicksilver splashed everywhere, and an eight-foot tall Chrome Man steps out of the metal bath, slamming his massive metal fist into Nakk's chest.

It was uncannily large, inhumanly strong and seemingly impenetrable.  Kunail was thrown across the room, crashing into a stone wall.  Nakk spit blood from his mouth.  Jin was kicked aside like a rag doll into the tripwire… but luckily the Shade had built up an immunity to that particular poison.  Finally, Jerart took his Bottled Lightning and tossed it against the Chrome Man, electrocuting it.  Though the others were struck by the lightning as well, it seemed they had found the Chrome Man's weakness.  

Nakk, Kunail and Jin picked up the massive Totem Pole, hoisting it on their shoulders like a battering ram, and shot a white-hot beam of lightning. The Chrome Man's silver skin rippled in pain, and warped into heavy hammers.  Kunail and Jin found their legs swept out from under them, leaving only Nakk carrying the Totem Pole.  Nakk strained under the heavy weight of the Totem, but its heaviness was no match for his tree trunk legs and rock hard shoulders.  He braced himself and shot another white beam, just as Jerart tossed his last Bottled Lightning at the Chrome Man, and the two collided in a brilliant flash of light.  

The Chrome Man fell to his knees, silver skin dripping, but still alive.  His face shifted and ran, dripping off his chin, until the face of a man was revealed.  And there came Jin, running towards the Chrome Man with steps so quick and light that no man could tell whether his feet touched the ground.  "Symphony for the Dead,", Jin murmured.  One moment his sword was sheathed and then his blade was out.  The Chrome Man lifted his hand up to protect himself, and Jin smirked.  "First movement!" Jin cried, and leapt into the air, flipping the sword to point downwards.  "Death from Above!"

The sword entered the Chrome Man's hand and twisted through his shoulder and into his chest.  He dropped dead and the quicksilver bled away, revealing a large man missing all his arms and legs.

Though they were battered, bruised and bloody, they caught their breath and came back together to read what was being written in the Traveller's Notebook.  Ink scrawled in urgent penmanship.

Bring the quicksilver to Trapis and move on to Phase Two.  And hurry, Artzell… otherwise the Gorons will not be pleased.
 

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