Lawkeepers: The Grinning Brand
Vertigo Caste: Active and Legal
Population: 22,000 - 26,000
Missing Persons Reported: 154
Registered Races (in descending order)
Human - Aasimar - Tiefling - Kenku - Kobold - Gnome - Goblin - Illithid (rare)
Income Spread (monthly)
40 sp - 500 gp
Districts: 7 (approximate populations)
*1: Feederstep - 2,000
*2: Railstep - 2,500
*3: Spyrescythe - 1,500
*4: Spyrelight - 3,500
*5: Grinraker - 3,000
*6: Utriena - 3,500
*7: Lunatic's Fringe - 4,000
Port Connection / Tourism Notes
Possible Gang Activity between Districts 6 and 7.
Possible Asher Market
Possible Strain Market
Vertigo Caste: Disbanded and Illegal
Missing Persons Reported: 5
Registered Races: Aarakocra - Genasi - Elf - Halfling - Human - Aasimar - Firbolg - Kenku - Dwarf (rare)
Income Spread (monthly): 50 gp - 1200 gp
*1: Fennrir - 4,000
*2: Entragon - 4,000
*3: Orelai - 4,000
*4: Siestra - 4,000
Features and Security
+ Controlled Population
+ Low Crime
+ Safe night life
+ High Artisan
+ High Tourism
+ Magical Protections
Lawkeepers: The Addikai
Vertigo Caste: Inactive
Missing Persons Reported: 0
Registered Races: Unregistered
Region: Briarios Fault
Faith Council: The Severed Wing
Income Spread (monthly): 3 cp - 100 cp
Respectfully submitted, VI - 484 - .57, Ermin Ferguson
Lo there do I see my transgressions,
Lo there do I see my flaws,
Lo there do I see, laid before me,
The path ever that was.
Lo there for my hands,
Lo there for my body,
Lo there for my brother, my sister, my heart,
The Old Ways follow,
And forgive me, my art.
Excerpt from the Path of the Strain, by Robyn Veit
"Kanastrixa!" The curse was a little louder than I wanted; I can feel the heads turning, the sneer and stink eyes already formed. "Yeah, yeah, 'Lo There' and all that..." I utter the rest under my breath, or maybe it's all in my head by now, but whatever the sentiment, at least the half-orc in full-plate isn't wearing the 'you-will-die-screaming' face.
Satisfied with the mutual feeling of contempt, I set back to work on my hand. There's a blasted spike through it.
I examine the wound, turning my hand around enough to get both angles. Yep. It is INDEED all the bloody way through my hand. Lucky for me, the nerves in this hand are shot anyway. Bogeys hate my right hand; every job, every time. Sometimes it's a spike, often a sword...one time it was a handshake-turned-fireball. Magic is the worst best friend of my right hand.
"Here ya' go, Izzy." A young lass appears at my right, sliding a shifter of firewater over to me with a wink.
"Thanks, Liv." I give her confident grin and a nod, which seems to brighten her face a bit before she walks off. I count the beats in her step, the grin fading. This is going to hurt.
I take a swig of the firewater, swishing it around my sore gums. It helps to numb the bruises; it's a good taste tonight. I feel my eyes glaze a bit, focused on nothing in particular. I make sure to focus my breath instead, exhaling in a thin and even column; the monks might say I was trying "dance the flame without snuffing it" if there were candle in front of me. I just do it to distract my brain from what I know is coming.
As I take one more swig of the hard booze, practically ignition fuel, I fish into my coat and pull a leather twill roll from within. Holding my hand aloft at the elbow, I unroll the twill quickly and carefully, checking to see if my Ashers and Strains have mixed; nope, no punctures, no cracks. We're good. In the far pocket I draw a small, thick rod of glazed oak. Fresh tooth marks already on it, I set my jaw and clamp my teeth onto it, calming my nerves.
As if ahead of my own courage, my left hand pours the remaining firewater unceremoniously into my grizzly wound. The feeling of guttural betrayal catching in my lungs, I rip the spike from my palm, warm blood pouring from it and lacing down my arm. Still seething, I slam the fresh spike - it's got bloody barbs on it - onto the table, as Liv rushes back with a fresh glass of firewater, worry painting her face stoic.
I stare at the hole through my hand only a moment longer, pulling a vial of Red Ash from the twill. I pop the cork and pour it into the hard liquor. The flecks of red begin to spin as I agitate the liquid, tiny pillars of choking smoke beginning to cyclone around fits of flame at the rim. With another sharp intake of breath, I neck the Asher.
The effect is instant. Infernal fire licks the roof of my mouth and sulfurous smoke leaks from my flaring nostrils. As the edges of my vision go red with chaos, I breathe. I breathe and watch...as the flesh, as if I were staring back through time of my own immolation, reforms from the edges of the hole in my hand. It is as if the devil himself has set my veins aflame, and it feels about as much, but it's over pretty fast. The hole disintegrates, new flesh and a fresh scar forming at the palm. With what I hope to be a manly grunt or two, I clench my hand into a fist, cradling the wrist to my chest and wait for the devil's sight to fade.
"That one looked like it hurt..." Something heavy sits next to me, and I wipe the manly tears from the edges of my vision as he passes me a cold glass of ale. The entity who bears my company wears a similar dark leather duster to my own, but with armored plates sewn across the arms and shoulders. A dark navy bandana holds back long tendrils of matted hair, beads, and feathers; marks of his tribe, he says, though I'm not sure what pack the mighty Rayph Hughes calls home. It seems to change every couple of months.
Never one out of his uniform, Rayph adjusts his black gloves, tan skin fading toward the shadows at the edges of the tavern light. After his icy eyes scan the room but for a moment, he pulls back his coat; always the intention to flash the Arcslinger fastened to his hip - an expensive endeavor that probably cost him a rib or two, but worth it to wield the wizard's bane.
I cough up the last of the smoke from my lungs, the infernal ash fading. "How's pickings?"
Rayph's gruff baritone slips out, like hard whiskey across heavy sapling, "Slim. The knights are moving, and Feathertongue just put up another gatehouse." He pauses strategically, measuring the shared privacy of mutual contempt in the room. A band of brothers, sure, but none that wouldn't turn for the right coin. Rayph sighs, pulling a bit of parchment from his coat. He pours Ash into its center, meticulously measuring - practiced, and precise - before rolling it tight and tying it off. He regards it with thought, like a piece of art, letting it dance between his fingers lazily.
I watch with a mask of indifference, then get bored. "Anything to pass on?" Anything no one else wanted.
Rayph snaps to, shoving the cigar into his coat, and pulls a fine duskweave envelope from within. Fresh trails of black displacement still fresh at its edges, he passes it to me.
I snatch the envelope eagerly. Duskweave means high brass, which is good coin. The fabric alone will pay my rent. ...I try to dodge Hughes's eyes as I tear open the seal and study. The ink is still wet.
"Shut up, torky. We can't all have an allowance..." Description's good, seal is legit. Looks like I'm cloak hunting tonight - and I'm the only one.
"You might have a rush on this, boyo."
"Oh?" I ask as I pull on my gloves, checking the rune thread on the back of the hand. The left one is fraying; piece of backstore junk...
"...I hear there's a Shiver that's picked up his scent."
I try to stop the chill from running up my spine. Appropriate, I know, but no bloke takes a decent job without some risk assumed. A Shiver means serious coin is involved, and though I'm one mean Sai in a dark alley, I'm not one to choose my death at the end of one of their blades. I'll have to move fast if I want to get ahead of his wolf. "What's the score?"
"Fifty hours. Fifty plat." Hughes whistles.
"Then what am I talking to you for?" I pocket the twill, donning my hat and sending a confident nod to Liv. She winks good luck; I'm gonna' need it.
Magic is a funny thing. Beautiful, but funny. The static between dreams and possibility; the time between a common man and a god. You could pluck it from the ether, a strand of a grander weave, tie it around your finger, and call it yours. Like a friend you've always known, it would stick with you, grant you insight into the world beyond, and protect you from those with ill wills. It is also volatile; like an open flame, if left untended, will raze the world. It became the great equalizer for the intellect, and a tool of the disciplined and dedicated.
But these days are gone.
Magic is a force of the rich, held behind a fortress of letters and laws. The weave diminishes, its threads severed and pulled back behind these walls. And with the Spirals looming, those of us born with gifts carry the curse of Io, forever poisoned by its chaotic fate.
You can spin magic too, boys, for a slice of your soul and a life of servitude. You might even enjoy yourself, as a bit of you slips away with every invocation. ...And you wonder why so many of them Shiver in the dark...
But I do not hold to these truths, my brothers. I am but a man of intellect.
I refuse this world order.
The Weave belongs to us all.
And Lo There Do I See the path is broken; my light, my fire, my blood, my vine - I see it still in my dreams. I dream of herbs, petals, the natural line. It goes back and back into antiquity. Bound by earth and stone, deep within the cracks, beyond the Edge; ashes of the Elderburn, hearts of fire and ice, dust and bone, a pound of flesh, and the ancient eyes of the beings before.
I see them all, my brothers. They do call to me. The six wings in their stead, we find them in need of our Will. A banner to wield in our hearts and minds - a rallying cry of a people unwilling to bow down to the Drowned God, who refuse those of Blood and Fire, and who laugh in the face of the Stormlord - for we, men of intellect, harness our own destinies; we are not bound by history - we make our own.
Those who deny intellect have forgotten the face of their Father, and as we know, I, like my brothers before me, was born of the Weave itself.
The old world beckons you, my family. It calls for its soldiers in the coming war of our redemption. Step forward, champion, and claim your Strain...
The last word and testament of Daniel Miller, Loremaster - Firma 117
Respectfully submitted to the Vertighast Division, Evidence Locker 341 - Stormwrack.
The Knight Owls are disbanded.
The Rooksmith floats in pieces, high above the clouds beyond the Edge, its fragments of stone and ruin casting shadows across the land of Wyrmrock; reminders not to trifle with the gods.
Those who bore the mark of the Owl have gone into hiding. Gone are their resources; their very existence disavowed. Raptors - fierce mercenaries - stalk the cities for signs of the "Broken Order," eager to snuff out the light they once represented.
This is an Age of uncertainty. After the Elderburn, beyond the industry of Cloudsinger, this world seeks Reclamation of its virtue.
This is Io-Firma, the 6th Age.
One Night in Stormwrack
Nestled in a rainy caern of the Wynnrik mountains, the cramped slums of Stormwrack are a bustle of activity. Buskers seek spare coin to offer up to the tavern masters, while merchant cruisers and shikaras weave through the tight waterways linking the city's dense districts. Rain hammers down as a couple races under a rail-stop, the lights of a Steamrail arching into view across the bridge. An engine fires and wheezes down the road, the gnomish rider peddling as fast as he can to keep it running in the downpour.
And as he whirrs by, a dark cloud of smoke and gas curling in his wake, a small cloaked figure darts across the road. The rich waiting assume an urchin, or a street child, as they are want to wander, and pay this creature little mind. But a keener eye would reveal that this is no child.
The gray hood, soaked and dripping, lays matted against green skin, obscuring long, pointed ears - sets of tiny spikes, piercings, and hooks running the length of them. Bright, yellow eyes gleam under the hood, darting back and forth as the creature enters an alleyway. A door opens in the distance; a rotund dwarf hurling a pale of fish bones into the alley. The creature freezes as a bundle of cats descend upon the bones, fighting until none remain. Only when the path is clear again does the creature move, padding quickly around the next bend and squatting down behind a set of crates.
The yellow eyes scan the alley in frantic bursts, keen to any noise nearby. Satisfied that no prying eyes shall see them, the creature pulls a bundle from a satchel. Unwrapping the dense silk folds, bright verdant light spills out, illuminating the smiling face of the goblin girl under the hood. Scars and scratches and scuffs of dirt line her face and hands, but her eyes smile and dance in the light. What mysteries does this artifact hold, and what dark powers can she harness? Or perhaps, she could just look at it a little longer...
A chill wind lances up the alley and the girl snuffs the light out, wrapping it tightly in the silken leather bundle. She catches her breath, noticing that she can see it, even on this humid evening. Her eyes widen with realization, and she gazes only for a moment at the spreading frost on the opposite wall. Sound has already begun to bleed away in the alley... At the crisp, slow clip of a pair of boots approaching, she sprints, knowing that hiding will do nothing for her.
Darting down the alley, the frost snaking down the walls as she runs, her muscles chill and tense, her gait slowing. "No..." The alley becomes tight with cold, her lungs fighting for air in the chill, and she is driven to her knees, gasping. She catches her breath as the slow clip echoes along the walls, directionless. Her yellow eyes narrow, scanning behind her. They are met with a growl, as claws scrape slowly on stone, and a massive wolf pads into view at the mouth of alley. It sits, its own patchwork leather armor hardening with frost, and waits.
"Good evening, little lady."
The girl whips her eyes forward to find them staring at a pair of duelist boots, jet black and cold to the touch. Her eyes rise and take in the features of the entity in front of her, each detail familiar and terrifying. The deep navy cloak, fitted officer's doublet, runic gloves, the edges of adamantine bracers under the coat... But the worst is the face; pale skin, pulled tight with magic, a black cloth tied over the eyes, the fabric seeming to bleed into the tri-corner hat on its head. It is always hard to tell the nature of a being with no eyes.
"You have something that belongs to our Queen. It would befit you to return it."
The goblin girl steels herself, seething, "It was never hers to begin with." She flinches from the familiar sound of ignition as a lance of cold, arcane fire manifests at the officer's side, coalescing instantly into a three-foot blade. Though it burns with blue fire, droplets of boiling water flow from its edge, darkening the chilled stone. A lesser being might dissolve into fits of sobbing by now, but defiance dances on the goblin's tongue. "...and it will never belong to a Shiver like you." She snaps her fingers...and her form disappears in a burst of violet mist.
Five hundred feet away, an old merchant shoves off from the boardwalk, kneading his sore hands from a long day of artisan work. His elderly ears ignore the slight popping sound and a few shaking barrels at the bow of his shakaras, and the night fog obscures the long green ears of a goblin ducking behind a crate as the ship begins its meandering path through the waterways...