Torix and Constantine

The Giant's Pocket
The End of the Beginning

SubstanceD64: aight
SubstanceD64: so
SubstanceD64: torix and constantine saw a notice on a wall
SubstanceD64: offering 1000 gp for the return of stephan the younger alive
SubstanceD64: or, failing that, evidence of his death and the head of whoever killed him
SubstanceD64: also it said that the last place stephan was seen was near the giants pocket
SubstanceD64: so
SubstanceD64: with that, the brothers go to the neighborhood
SubstanceD64: they go to the inn to see whats goin on
SubstanceD64: talk to the innkeeper, who says he remembers stephan checking out and he last saw him going into the tavern
SubstanceD64: so they go into the tavern and see a bunch of dudes playin pool
SubstanceD64: then they talk to Simon Dreier, the barkeep
SubstanceD64: who says hes pretty sure the last place he saw Stephan was going back up to his room
SubstanceD64: and they should talk to Morrison, the innkeeper
SubstanceD64: so
SubstanceD64: confused
SubstanceD64: they went out to the market to ask around
SubstanceD64: got nothin
SubstanceD64: then headed over to the gallows
SubstanceD64: where there was a drunk bandit sitting and raving and a man watching the bandit
SubstanceD64: then they checked out the abandoned police station and couldnt get in
SubstanceD64: so they went back and checked into a room
SubstanceD64: specifically stephans former room
SubstanceD64: fought a rat swarm that came out from the bed
SubstanceD64: got a refund because of the rats
iamgmh15: lol
SubstanceD64: then found stephans journal in the nightstand
SubstanceD64: so
SubstanceD64: they read that
SubstanceD64: found out that Morrison and Stephan had grown close
SubstanceD64: and that Morrison had a son who died
SubstanceD64: James
SubstanceD64: and that Stephan thought Dreier disapproved of his friendship with Morrison
SubstanceD64: for some reason
SubstanceD64: then it ends
SubstanceD64: so like
SubstanceD64: they go ask Morrison about his son
SubstanceD64: then he almost cries
SubstanceD64: so they awkwardly stepped out of the hotel
SubstanceD64: and went back to the market to ask about James
SubstanceD64: they found out that Morrison had a son who was killed in a robbery
SubstanceD64: which happened after city guards abandoned the neighborhood because of the crime problems
SubstanceD64: unsure about what do with that info
SubstanceD64: they decided to talk to the drunk guy
SubstanceD64: he was raving about some evil man who roves in a hood at night and does terrible things to people in "that building"
SubstanceD64: which they decided must mean the police house
SubstanceD64: but they still didnt know how to get in
SubstanceD64: and they asked the man on the bench what his deal was
SubstanceD64: and he said he was watching the drunk guy to make sure he doesnt hang himself
SubstanceD64: so they return to the inn
SubstanceD64: and
SubstanceD64: more or less out of ideas
SubstanceD64: they decided to get drinks
SubstanceD64: Dreier then offered them a second round
SubstanceD64: but they got suspicious and started walking away
SubstanceD64: so then Dreier yelled that it was on the house
SubstanceD64: so they had the drinks
SubstanceD64: under which there were napkins
SubstanceD64: eric decided to perception check his napkin
SubstanceD64: and found an illegible message
SubstanceD64: in was getting dark so they went to their room to get better light
SubstanceD64: while they were doing that they heard footsteps outside
SubstanceD64: and opened the door to find dreier carrying a halberd
SubstanceD64: they found out that he sleeps in the inn in a room adjacent to theirs
SubstanceD64: so when he got to his room they listened through the wall
SubstanceD64: and heard him mumbling "They might be the ones, they might be the ones"
SubstanceD64: (the look on eric and marks face in response to that was priceless)
iamgmh15: lol
SubstanceD64: they decided to sleep
SubstanceD64: they got woken in the morning by Morrison
SubstanceD64: who was "checking to make sure they hadnt had any more problems"
SubstanceD64: after he left they managed to read the message
SubstanceD64: it said
SubstanceD64: "Go hang yourself."
SubstanceD64: at first, the brothers were offended
SubstanceD64: and were planning to go fight Dreier
SubstanceD64: just because hes a dick
SubstanceD64: and then
SubstanceD64: Constantine (eric) thought in might be interesting to follow the napkin like its instructions
SubstanceD64: so they did
SubstanceD64: they went to the gallows
SubstanceD64: asked the dude watching how long ago they were used
SubstanceD64: and when they found out they havent been used since the police left seven years ago
SubstanceD64: they decided to try the lever
SubstanceD64: then they dropped a sunrod into the trap door
SubstanceD64: heard squeaking noises
SubstanceD64: and decided to jump in
SubstanceD64: they had to kill some rats
SubstanceD64: but then they realized they were in a tunnel
SubstanceD64: so they followed it
SubstanceD64: first they found a heavy metal door, whose cracks had been sealed "as though to prevent anything from leaking through"
SubstanceD64: so Torix(mark) kicked it, denting in badly
SubstanceD64: it
SubstanceD64: then they moved on, since they didnt want to leave too much evidence of their arrival
SubstanceD64: they found a dumbwaiter at the end of the tunnel
SubstanceD64: which they used
SubstanceD64: placing them in a jail cell
SubstanceD64: they left the cell and realized they were in the abandoned police house
SubstanceD64: they searched all the cells but one
SubstanceD64: in one there was a rat swarm, which they killed
SubstanceD64: in another, there was a rat chewing on clotted blood and a pool of blood leaking in from the adjacent cell
SubstanceD64: finally, they opened the last cell to find Stephan the Younger
SubstanceD64: tied to the wall
SubstanceD64: with his legs sawn off
SubstanceD64: torix made a healing check to stabilize him
SubstanceD64: they tried to talk to him to figure out what had happened but he was useless
SubstanceD64: so they performed one last search of the building
SubstanceD64: found a Bloodclaw Fullblade +1 on a weapon rack
SubstanceD64: which torix took
SubstanceD64: then torix picked stephan up
SubstanceD64: and constantine dropped down the dumbwaiter to scout
SubstanceD64: only to botch a stealth check and be seen by a man coming down the tunnel
SubstanceD64: he retreated up
SubstanceD64: and Torix hastily stashed Stephan in a cell
SubstanceD64: the brothers waited on either side of the dumbwaiter
SubstanceD64: and were surprised when Dreier's body flopped out of it
SubstanceD64: unconscious
SubstanceD64: confused yet again, the brothers hoisted the body and brought it to another cell, then hid there as Morrison came up the dumbwaiter
SubstanceD64: saying something about "needing to find a snack for Jamesy"
SubstanceD64: he went behind the police counter
SubstanceD64: pulled a lever
SubstanceD64: and a trapdoor opened, but the brothers couldnt see what was inside
SubstanceD64: so they waited as Morrison looked for Stephan and Dreier
SubstanceD64: and just before Morrison went after Stephan with an axe
SubstanceD64: they intervened
SubstanceD64: Torix almost died as constantine tried to get behind Morrison
SubstanceD64: meanwhile, the discovered that what Morrison was calling "James" is an ochre jelly in a pit
SubstanceD64: so they knocked Morrison unconscious
SubstanceD64: then Dreier came to
SubstanceD64: they checked on Stephan and found that his wounds had reopened
SubstanceD64: and Torix horribly messed up a healing attempt and accidentally killed Stephan
iamgmh15: hahaha
SubstanceD64: yea
SubstanceD64: it was great
SubstanceD64: so they took a pendant off of Stephan as evidence of his death
SubstanceD64: then waited for Morrison to wake up while Dreier made an improvised halberd out of a meat cleaver, a pole, some nails and rope
SubstanceD64: when Morrison woke up they tried to interrogate him
SubstanceD64: but they determined he was insane
SubstanceD64: so Torix throttled him and Constantine gave him a stern talking to
SubstanceD64: then they beheaded him
SubstanceD64: and fed the body to the ooze
iamgmh15: a stern talking to?
SubstanceD64: yea
SubstanceD64: eric basically said "No."
iamgmh15: you know mr morrison you really shouldnt have killed those people
iamgmh15: now say youre sorry
iamgmh15: lol
SubstanceD64: similar actually
SubstanceD64: just a bit more sarcastic
SubstanceD64: yea
SubstanceD64: after that things got weired
SubstanceD64: weirder
SubstanceD64: they decided to feed stephans body to the ooze so it didnt rot
SubstanceD64: then the brothers and Dreier went back through the tunnel
SubstanceD64: and decided to kick down the sealed doo
SubstanceD64: r
SubstanceD64: and realized too late that it led to the chamber with the ooze
SubstanceD64: Dreier marked the ooze with his guard mark and offered to stay behind
iamgmh15: lol
SubstanceD64: but the brothers stayed behind and prevailed against flanking and acid damage over time
SubstanceD64: then, after spending healing surges, all three exited up the gallows
SubstanceD64: and were confronted by the drunk guy, the man on the bench, and their bandit posse
SubstanceD64: who suspected Dreier was at the bottom of this all along
SubstanceD64: and now felt vindicated since Torix was carrying Morrisons head
SubstanceD64: Dreier took off running
SubstanceD64: then
SubstanceD64: Torix and Constantine
SubstanceD64: realizing that the bandits were listening to a drunk man
SubstanceD64: decided to take off back down the tunnel
SubstanceD64: and were chased
SubstanceD64: and ultimately cornered in police house as the bandits chased them up the dumbwaiter
SubstanceD64: they each were down to below their surge value
SubstanceD64: when Dreier comes up the dumbwaiter with his posse of tavern regulars
SubstanceD64: and bullrushes half the bandits out of the way
SubstanceD64: and tells the brothers that this time, really, they should run
SubstanceD64: and meet him at the bar
SubstanceD64: so they drop into the ooze pit
SubstanceD64: go out the door into the tunnel
SubstanceD64: run back through the gallows
SubstanceD64: and to the inn
SubstanceD64: and realize they left Morrison's head in the police house because Torix had to drop it to hold his fullblade
SubstanceD64: they decide its not worth it to go back
SubstanceD64: spend surges
SubstanceD64: then search Morrison's room
SubstanceD64: find little boy's clothes (presumably James') pristinely in a wardrobe
SubstanceD64: and find Morrison's journal
SubstanceD64: which catalog's his failed attempts at finding a replacement son
SubstanceD64: then they go to the bar
SubstanceD64: and
SubstanceD64: a few hours later
SubstanceD64: Dreier shows up with Morrison's head
SubstanceD64: explains that he is the only guard that didnt abandon the Pocket
SubstanceD64: and that he felt bad for Morrison
SubstanceD64: but shit happens
SubstanceD64: and then all three have drinks
SubstanceD64: on the house
SubstanceD64: and thats the end of the first adventure

View
Small World
What does it take to get paid in this town?

Torix and Constantine went to the address on the notice to find Stephan. 

There was a fat mustachiod man, Isador St. John. He freaked out when they dropped Morrison's head on his desk and told them to put it away. He then explained that he couldn't pay the 1000 gold as the notice indicated since business got bad for him in the last month.

 So the brothers explained just how much hell they went through in the Giant's Pocket just to answer the god damned notice, with Constantine noting "[They] almost got lynched!". The brothers looked violent and determined to obtain a reward, so Isador obliged them in the only way he could. He gave the brothers a trinket a client gave him, a monocle with strange abilities to gauge people and illusion.

 Isador got another handy idea. Based on the bro's adventure in the Giant's Pocket, he figured they wouldn't mind a few more jobs and they might be less likely to kill him if he were able to pay. So he tore out a segment of his book with three names of people that each owed him around 1000 gold: James Caliban, Reynald Gordon, and Cassius Kramer.

 The book had rough addresses for Caliban and Gordon, who both lived in the same apartment building in the Northeast Market. The bro's found and entered the building, and took a staircase up to the second floor. They didn't know which door to check first, so they began with the nearest one. They interrupted a man who was apparently in the middle of something inappropriate, but ignored his nudity and asked him where to find Caliban.

Based on what he said, they knocked on the door of the man they thought should be James Caliban. He cracked open his door, which had a chain lock, to talk to them. Torix put his foot in the door to make sure the man couldn't shut it. They decided to tell him that they'd come to collect. He asked if they were with "Thule". The bro's didn't know who Thule was at the time, but they said they were and the man let them in. Once they were in his apartment, they explained that they were really with Isador and needed 1000 gold from Caliban. Caliban explained that this wasn't possible, not since he needs more money to keep himself okay now.

 Throughout the conversation, Caliban scratched, itched, and coughed repeatedly, and was showing serious signs of heavy drug withdrawal symptoms. Torix and Constantine were able to learn that Caliban gets opium from a man named Thule, who drove up his prices to a degree that people like Caliban can no longer afford to be addicts and lead a functioning life otherwise. After some strange arcs of conversation, Caliban asked Constantine about the value of his monocle. Constantine insisted that it was fairly worthless, but Caliban was unconvinced and tried to take it. When Constantine stopped him, he got a crazed look in his eye and walked over to the door to chain it shut.

Having dealt with crazy men before, the brothers quickly sprang into action and attempted to flank Caliban. His wild clawing and biting made it difficult for them to move around him, but after a drawn out exchange of blows they were able to knock him unconscious. They left him next to his bed and left the room.

They talked to an oily man next door who told them that Gordon was just a door down. Unsure who to say they were working for, the brother's were unable to get a weeping woman on the other side of the door to let them in. They were, however, able to learn that Gordon was missing and this Thule guy was involved. They returned to Caliban's room to see if they could find any leads on Thule. They found half a bag of opium under his bed, with a golden label saying "Thule's Den" on it. They also found a dead rat. They pocketed to opium and returned to the oily man's door.

 He said that he didn't know of any Thule's Den but gave them directions to a Thule's Tavern. So they went to Thule's Tavern, where they met a belligerent barkeeper who said his name was Joe Schmoe. Suspicious, they investigated him further but learned that his name is Joey Milbank, not who they were looking for. Joey spoke in some kind of code which seemed to indicate that a poker game and a little bit more was going on downstairs, and by indicated(as best they could) that they wanted to opium the brothers convinced Joey to let them go down to what they believed to be the den.

They were hit with a thick cloud of opium smoke as they descended into the den. The bro's were able to discern quite a scene through the haze: thuggish looking figures stood around and sat on couches, with two especially big guys sitting on either side of a table. In between the big guys there was a well dressed man sitting in a large chair, and a smaller, innocent looking man having his finger broken by the man on the right. They also noticed that there was a particularly smoky, jittery man behing the couch, but they gave him no heed.

Everyone in the room gave them a piercing stair and the man in the chair asked them what business they had. Constantine considered spring an attack on everyone in the room, but Torix calmed him down. They said they wanted to buy opium. The man replied, "How much." The brothers knew little about opium measurement, so they said they needed to take a rain check on the purchase and left the Den awkwardly. One of the bigger thugs followed them all the way out the door of the tavern.

As soon as they had gotten all the way outside of the tavern, the bro's turned to confront the thug. "Why are you following us?" said Torix.

"Because Thule told me to." Now that they had established that the man on the chair was definitely Thule, Constantine decided it would be a good idea to goad the thug into losing his cool so they could have a valid reason to attack him.

So Constantine let off a string of insults, including one that called the Thug's mother an ogre. He launched into attacking them, and though he was able to bloody, slow, and mark the brothers, he realized he couldn't win and ran back into the tavern, shouting "You're gonna get it now." The brother's braced themselves for bloody conflict.

They were surprised when the same thug from before came out, and asked them not to attack. He said that if they had business with Thule, they should just go downstairs and explain it. Before they went down, they asked to see if the man with broken fingers was Gordon. He was. So they went back down and explained to Thule that they needed to collect money from Caliban and Gordon, and they would really like to talk to Gordon alone if he wouldn't mind letting him go.

Thule said that he couldn't just release Gordon, and he would have wanted to have Caliban too but got his hand bitten the first time he tried to kidnap him. So the brothers offered to bring him Caliban in exchange for Gordon. Thule accepted the terms, and the brothers went back to Caliban's apartment.

There, Caliban agreed to willingly follow them as long as they promised they would "make Thule bring his prices down." Torix just wanted to get the payment from the bookie as soon as possible, so he said they would and escorted Caliban back to Thule's Den. Once they had him there, Thule instructed Torix to knock Caliban out, so he did, Then Thule handed Gordon back over to the brothers with only four unbroken fingers remaining.

Once they took Gordon back to his apartment to reunite with his wife and kids, he pulled them over to an empty room to explain his living situation. He explained that he owed multiple debts to Ivan Thule and Isador St. John, and that his debt to Thule for opium has only gotten worse as he recently jacked up his prices seemingly for no reason. He theorized that if the brothers could find a way to make Thule bring his prices back down, there would be a way to clear all the debts and they could get their money.

They stepped outside to think about this, and, for lack of a better idea, decided to investigate the third name on the list, Cassius Kramer. They found Kramer at his post on the slum wall, near a patch of other guards. They approached him carefully, and tried to explain without giving away their involvement with the drug trade just how dire the straits they were in were. Kramer was unsympathetic and told them that he had no interest in paying any of his debts back since he is a guard and has the government behind him. So they asked if one of those debts might be to an Ivan Thule. He replied, "Maybe."

The brothers exchanged a knowing look and pulled out the half bag of opium they were carrying it on them. "We'll give you this," said Torix, "if you come with us to talk to Thule. If you help us take him down, you can have all of the opium in his stash. We just want to get our money and get out of this."

After a few long moments of consideration, Kramer decided to follow Torix and Constantine, whom he dubbed "spritely fellows." The two shook their heads, both because they were annoyed with Kramer's word choice and because they ceased to be surprised by the low quality of Eisenreich's guards. They went back to Thule's Tavern and were headed for the bar when the bartender stopped them.

"Whoa whoa whoa! Who the hell is that?" said Joey as the bar regulars fixed their eyes on the unlikely trio. Few people in Eisenreich are comfortable with the less that friendly city guards coming in on their business. Quickly, the brothers launched into deliberation as Kramer prepared to fight the surrounding customers. They did not notice that Joey had been yelling something down into the den, and their decision making was interrupted by Thule, the smoky guy, and two thugs coming up the stairs.

"Goddamnit Kramer…" was about all Thule had to say. He invited the party to join him down stairs and get to the bottom of whatever was causing all the confusion. Thule asked the brothers to explain themselves as Kramer busted out the half bag of opium and joined the other smokers in the room. When they were done, Thule launched into a story of his own.

He explained that several years ago, he negotiated a deal with an elf druglord by the name of Alphonse Delacroix to receive opium shipments which elf drugrunners would slip through the human border and Eisenreich walls. Business built up very well and even though a few people like Gordon, Caliban, and Kramer owed him money he was able to maintain positive profit margins so he seldom had to use force to collect outstanding debts.

Things started going sour about two months ago, when the opium shipments stopped coming. Thule figured he could ignore the problem as long as the shipments arrived within a week or so of when they were supposed to. They didn't, and he had to start selling his reserves. He had to jack up his prices just to make sure he could support himself on his gains, and continued to raise them as his reserve ran low. Because Delacroix's plantation was so far away, he couldn't risk his business by taking a week to go by himself to find out what's going on. In the meantime, he's had to start breaking fingers and collecting debts from those that owed him the most the earliest, as they could see.

At that point he pointed to the now dead James Caliban, who was slumped against the wall with a large, slick bloodstain behing his head.

He concluded by saying that if the brother's and this ass of a cop Kramer could go to Delacroix and find out what happened, he would pay them for their troubles and help get them out of this mess. If they were to solve it as well, he'd pay them even more handsomely and maybe give them a cut of his business.

Seeing an opportunity for big dividends, Torix and Constantine accepted. Thule gave them some money to procure transportation, and the trio rented riding horses to take them out of Eisenreich and into the wilderness of the Elf borderlands. They came to a long cobbled rode in the trees and continued on.

And awkward conversation about Kramer's drug history was interrupted by the thundering of hooves in the distance. A large boar was coming down the road full speed. The brothers and the cop quickly dismounted and prepared to kill the beast. Each brother stepped into the trees on either side of the road, while Kramer merely took a few steps forward and braced himself to receive the boars charge.

It hit him very, very hard, sending him sailing ten feet backwards and landing him flat on his back, bloodied but far from broken. Torix jumped out of the forest and struck the boar with a powerful heft of his sword. Meanwhile, Kramer was standing back up and preparing to show the boar who's boss. Kramer charged the boar, smashing it hard on the nose with his shield and causing it to rail back several feet and fall on its side. Constantine joined with a deft and tricky strike of his rapier and the party proceeded to cut the unwitting boar down.

Just before its death, however, another, louder thundering of hooves heralded the arrival of a second boar. They noticed that the boar they were about to kill was female, which meant that the one that had just arrive was probably its mate.

The second one blindsided Torix but did not knock him down. Once again the party members surrounded the boar but could not kill it before it did severe damage to the sword wielder.  In its death throws, the bull gored and almost killed Torix with his tusks, but once it had done so, it fell in a heap of blood, fur and sinew. Torix used his limited knowledge of field healing to tend to his own wounds, and fortunately did a better job stopping his own bleed than he had with Stephan the Younger just a few days earlier.

After another few days of uneventful riding, the party came to a river, which they followed off of the road until they came to a large white mansion situated next to a poppy field.

To be continued… 

View
What's Mine is Yours
Kramer...

The crew approached the Delacroix plantation. Asked a field worker where to find Delacroix, then approached the large white mansion they were directed to. An elf servant answered the door and sat them down in the foyer. Kramer was getting antsy and wanted to search through Delacroix's stuff, but the brothers managed to calm him down and keep him in line. Nonetheless, he opted to peak through a pair of double doors at one end of the room and met face to face with Delacroix, a fancily dressed elf druglord. He entered the foyer, at which point they respectfully rose and he invited them into his office.

 There, they explained their business from Thule and he offered them payment in opium to go retrieve his drugrunners from the last place he sent them, a dwarf mining community called Kaspargrad. He handed them a down payment of quality opium and a map to get there, and left them with the parting words to watch out for the stirges, which can carry diseases. Constantine stashed the opium to keep it from Kramer. Nervous about any stirge attacks, they rode out to the Dwarf outskirts to find Kaspargrad.

 They came upon what appeared to be a large fence, lined with guard towers, that stretched from one cliff face to another facing it. This matched their description of Kaspargrad's front, so they sauntered up to the gate and were told to halt by two dwarf guards. The guards asked them what business they had in Kaspargrad, and after deciding that saying they were working for an elf druglord was a bad idea, they said they were just looking for work. The guards let them in to Kaspargrad.

There, they observed underling workers being abused by dwarven industrial overseers that forced them to cart around iron ore that the underlings were mining. They asked around to find out where they could find the Boss, and were directed to a fortress in the cliffside. They approached the guards that were standing out front.

"Mercenaries huh?"said one of the guards after the crew explained what they were doing in Kaspargrad. "If you're mercenaries, then you kill people for favors right? Tell ya what. We'll let you in if you kill this scum bag that wouldn't do what he was told." At that point a dwarf approached with a bound underling worker who was badly bruised and beaten. The party members looked back and forth, but they had come too far to turn back now. Torix reluctantly stepped forward and cleaved the disobedient worker in twain with his fullblade.

"Let us in now?" said Constantine. The dwarves let them in through a portcullis and into a hallway. They then entered through another portcullis to a room with four guards. The guards once again questioned their business in Kaspargrad but let them pass nonetheless.  They walked to a set of double doors, which was locked. A dwarf from the other side barked "What is password?" The party returned to the first room in which a dwarf made Torix pay a gold piece to learn the password, which was "smalshna." Upon retrieved the password the crew was let into a lobby where they waited to see Boss Misha.

When they finally got to see him, they decided it would be better that they did not bring up their motives immediately. Instead, they offered themselves to Misha as mercenaries looking for work. It just so happened that they had come upon Misha at a time when he could use a few mercenaries, so as far as they were concerned they were in luck. He said that there was an imminent underling uprising, and if they had any experience in "quelling," he could use them. He offered them pay and further employment, so they willingly accepted.

An underling servant saw them out as another halfling walked opposite to them to take his shift. As their paths crossed, the halfling handed Torix a note. The crew quickly got themselves in the middle of the shifting mass of underling workers to read the note. It read "Meet Alex and Peter in mine. Password: Red Metal."

They trekked accross Kaspargrad and once again had to explain their mercenary status to dwarven guards before they were let into the iron mine. Once they had gotten out of the site of any dwarves they said the password to the first underling that would listen to them, who in turn showed them a hand signal so they could indicate their intentions more covertly. By flashing the signal whenever the dwarves weren't looking right at them, they were able to get the underlings to lead them down a series of lifts and to a chamber where they could meet Peter and Alex.

The meeting was a strange one. Realizing that they did not have much time, the brothers and Kramer quickly explained that they were mercenaries and were willing to help people on any side of a conflict. The underlings took the note from them and revealed that there was a map of Misha's headquarters and the vents of the headquarters on the back. They also told the crew that although they could not provide them with any underlings, they could provide them with three explosive charges that they could use to sabotage the foundation of the building.

Kramer, Constantine and Torix spent the entire evening making a plan to assassinate Misha. When the sun was completely set, they knew it was time to act.

THey approached the front gate of headquarters and split up, with Torix and Constantine going into the vent and Kramer approaching the guards in the front. Several things did not go according to plan from the beginning. Although Kramer was let in smoothly by the guards and the brothers easily made their way through the vents, Kramer was shocked to find Misha wide awake in his office.

Misha gave Kramer a warm look. "Ah, so I see you have come by yourself and left those other two," began the dwarf, "you did well to do so. Do you like opium, Mr. Kramer?"

"Uh… yes," replied Kramer.

"Would you please step into my room? You see Kramer, I think you are a man after my own heart. You want business, no? Power…" as he said this, Misha coaxed Kramer to start playing billiards and waved opium under his nose. "There is more of this for you if you are interested. Would you like to see?"

"Uh… yes." In response, Misha tugged on a pool cue which made the billiards table rotate to the side. As he did so, a vent grate on the wall burst from its frame, and Torix leapt out with his sword drawn.

Meanwhile, Constantine had made his way through the vents into the bathroom. He stealthily exited the shower, lit and prepared to throw an explosive charge.

As Constantine was preparing the charge, Misha asked Kramer to leave the room through the hole revealed by the billiards table. Once he was gone, Misha and Torix launched into a tense discussion. Misha asked Torix his name, and Torix said his name was Chris. Misha proceeded to explain that he had been a fan of pit fighting, and that he thought he might recognize Torix. The conversation got tenser and tenser, with each person clutching their weapon. As Arcangelo the wolf began to growl, an explosion leveled half the room. The wall between the bedroom and bathroom was gone, and in the hole stood Constantine. A brutal combat ensued. 

Underground, Kramer was drawn down the passage by the strong scent of opium poppies. He followed his nose to a small, heavily guarded room with an opium patch in the middle. His addiction was beginning to take a toll on him, so he dove headlong at the opium. The guards caught him, but just when he thought he was about to lose his life, the explosion went off above. "Uh… maybe we should check that out," he said.

Above, Torix and Constantine were overwhelmed by Misha and his wolf. With Kramer nowhere in sight, they did their best to flank Misha and just hoped they hadn't been betrayed after all. Kramer eventually emerged from the rubble with opium guards tailing him, but it was too late. Torix had fallen unconscious, and Misha was about to make Constantine surrender. Kramer had a chance to stop him, but, not being one to cause trouble, he just stood inactive.

Misha had his guards escort the brothers to a holding cell in the jail. As they were being transported, they saw two elves in a cell out of the corner of their eyes. Even though they had two remaining mining charges, they felt defeated and were not in a mood to make things worse. So when guards approached them and said that Misha had a proposition, they bowed their heads and went to confront him without protest.

"I am a businessman," said the Boss as they arrived, "and as such I can forgive as long as it makes me money. How would you like to get back in the ring,  Torix? And you, whatever your name is?"

"His name is Constantine," replied the fighter, "and sure. We'll do it." Misha handed each of them a piece of cloth with his logo on it. They were to fight for him in various pitfighting ring, and advertise for him as they did so. It was not the ideal situation, but it beat sitting in a cell waiting for something to happen. At about this moment, Constantine realized that Misha had abducted the elven drug runners to start his own opium business and outsell Delacroix.

"First, I need you to prove your loyalty to me," as he said this guards led Torix and Constantine out of the headquarters and to a pit in the middle of the quarry. Several other guards brought two injured underlings, which the brothers recognized immediately as Peter and Alex.

"Kill these traitors," barked one of the guards at the brothers. All four combatants were thrust into the pit, but before the combat began, Constantine looked the underlings in the eyes and mouthed, "We're sorry." As the underlings were already injured, the brawl was brief, and Alex quickly fell. Torix knocked Peter on his back, and Constantine hovered over him with his rapier. He let out a cry of "Red metal!!!" as he thrust the blade into the helpless underlings heart, and then collapsed in grief.

The guards all laughed, and promptly escorted the brothers out of Kaspargrad for their first assignment. To their surprise, they were taken to Eisenreich. Then Torix recalled that Eisenreich was and had been the hub of pit fighting. They began to think about what must have happened to Kramer, but their thoughts were cut short when they were thrown into a rectangular pit wit a grate on each short side. There was a clapping crowd that whooped as one of the grates opened and a crocodile crawled out.

The brothers were adept and taking on foes of this kind, and despite its size and the water that began pouring in from the grates they were able to pin the beast down long enough for Constantine to slit it down  the back with his rapier. Some in the crowd seemed disappointed, but the brothers were just getting warmed up. What the had not prepared for was who walked into the door of the pitfighting house next.

Ivan Thule and his posse had some pit fighters of their own that they wanted to put some money on. They took their seats as their two fighters stepped down into the ring to confront the brothers van Rijn. This time, the ground in the center of the ring began to heat up. These fighters were adept at slipping from the brothers' vision and slicing at their back with blades. To make matters more tedious, when the first one went down, a gout of black smoke erupted from under his cloak, blinding Torix for killing him. Despite the setbacks the brothers were able to outmaneuver these shady fighters, with Torix  swinging wildly with his fullblade and Constantine throwing the remaining fighter onto the burning ground. When the second man was too fatigued to go on, the brothers bore down on him and sliced him to pieces, only to be blinded by smoke once again as he died horribly.

At this, Thule began to laugh and clap, and told the brothers and the dwarves to meet him outside. First, he wanted to know where Kramer was. In response, the brothers took turns explaining everything that had just happened. At that, Thule, with his gang at his back, was able to negotiate a new deal: The brothers were to stay with him, and, if they accepted, fight for him now. Thule would start buying opium from Misha, solving his price problem. In the meantime, if Misha wanted the brothers back, that was his problem.

They didn't quite have their freedom back, but Torix and Constantine took some satisfaction in knowing they were at least working for humans again.

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Loose Ends
At least we're working for a human

Thule let the brothers get a good night's rest before they got back into the ring. He informed them that he had lined up a bout against a team of pit fighters that belonged to two cousins from House Van Dam, one of the noble families of Eisenreich. The match would be at their personal ring near the inner circle of the city.

Torix was excited to be fighting again, and although Constantine didn't like the idea of fighting on someone elses terms, he welcomed the chance to impress his brother. The cousins, Maurice and Raymond van Dam, revealed their team of six fighters. Four of them looked like they had been pulled off of the street. The other two, however, appeared much shadier. The ring had a spiked pit in the middle a wall on either side of it. There was a set of stairs leading down into the ring for each side.

The brothers decided that the best way to approach the fight would be to stay on the stairs and keep each other's backs covered. When the fight began, each of the shadier guys disappeared behind one of the walls, while the other four charged headlong for the brothers. Constantine's crossbow cut one of them down before they were even able to close the gap. When the shady guys finally burst out of hiding to attack the brothers, they were unable to catch them in the back and as a result their technique with their daggers was severly hampered. Torix's blade skimmed the clothes of one, but continued through the air and into one of the street thug-types, decapitating him.

The brothers never stopped guarding each other, and one by one the opposing pit fighters fell. Despite the yelling of the rowdy cousins in the stands, the pit fighters turned and fled when only two of them remained. Constantine caught one of them in the calf with his rapier, sending him hurtling headlong into the spike pit where he died horribly. The other, however, disappeared behind the wall. He was nowhere to be found, and, reasoning that he must have escaped, Thule declared the match over and demanded pay from the cousins van Dam. Raymond was smoking something strong, however, and in his angry haze he made a new wager.

"Maurice and I will take you on, double or nothing!" Thule, of course, was enthusiastic about this, so he encouraged the brothers to take up their offer. They took their place on the stairs. The cousins smirked as they hit a lever on their way into the ring. The walls began to heat up, forcing Torix and Constantine off of the steps. Startled, the brothers quickly decided to enact a plan they had been working on for some time. They nodded to each other, and Constantine drew and lit one of the mining charges the Red Metal halflings had given to them. He threw it at the nobles accross the ring, and the explosion severely rattled Raymond but left Maurice unfazed. It also leveled about a third of the ring, and shocked everyone in the crowd including Thule.

Maurice whipped out a mean looking blade and charged headlong at the brothers, while Raymond took a deep hit off a long pipe and approached more cautiously. Torix and Constantine tried their best to meet the assault, but Constantine was blinded by a thick gout of smoke from Raymond's mouth. Nonetheless he managed to throw Maurice to the edge of spiked, where he caught himself, but only barely. Raymond let out another gout of smoke at Torix, burning him badly. Torix ignored him however and slashed at Maurice instead. Maurice got an insane look in his eyes and brought his cleaver across Torix's chest. Torix, already weakened by the smoke, fell to ground and began to bleed out. Maurice and Raymond surrounded Constantine and began to taunt him. Raymond jokingly beat Constantine with his pipe.

Constantine, with his horrid memories of his father's death surging back at the sight of his bleeding brother, turned cold. He swung his rapier under his arm and cut the bloodied Maurice down even as Raymond continued laughing. He then feinted a blow at Raymond, startling him and ending his laughter. Raymond swung his pipe at Constantine and missed. As he tripped and threw his weight past Constantine, the fencer caught him with his rapier, driving it through his right eye and out the back of his skull. When both of the nobles had fallen, Constantine dropped to his knees in hopes of saving his brother. Torix was barely holding on, but it appeared that he would make it.

Thule stepped into the ring to stabilize his fallen fighter. Constantine, having snapped back into reality, noticed that the crowd was buzzing with chatter. He asked Thule what they were talking about, and was informed that the stunt they had pulled had shocked everyone and could cost Thule something. When Torix came to, Thule told them that it would be a good time to visit Isador St. John again while he figured out the implications of the use of explosives in a pit fighting match.

On their way there, Torix and Constantine asked around about House van Dam, and learned some shocking news: Stephan the Younger had been a van Dam as well. This made their next encounter even more tense than it already would have been. They found Isador's door locked, so Torix bashed the door open. Inside, they saw a redheaded man whom they presumed to be Stephan the Elder threatening Isador with a spear. Isador was beaten badly and tied to his chair. Stephan was threatening to kill Isador for what he had done to his son, but Isador was insisting that it wasn't his fault. He told the van Rijn's that he would have a connection for them if they could help him out, so they tried to pacify the angry redhead.

When their efforts to calm Stephan down failed, they had to step in and fight him. They hacked at him with fullblade and rapier, and knocked him unconscious next to Isador's desk. When they untied Isador, he leapt at Stephan and stabbed him in the heart with a short sword, killing him quickly. He said it served Stephan right for threatening him like that, even if his son was dead. Torix and Constantine tried to leave the body with Isador and have nothing to do with him. He stopped them, however, by pointing out that there were rapier and fullblade marks all over the body and since they had killed so many van Dam's, it might be in their interest to help him dispose of the body.

So they took the body back to Ivan Thule, who instructed them to cut it up, wrap it in a bedroll with their remaining mining charge, and detonate it somewhere remote. The brothers obliged and Torix set about dismembering the corpse while Constantine prepared the explosive. When their work was done, they wanted to follow up on Isador about his connection. He took them back to his office and handed them a book with a bookmark in it. He told them to follow the notes to a good hookup to the Eisenreich Mafia, or the "Book Club" as it was affectionately known.

The notes on the bookmarked page led them to a china shop at the border of the Northeast Market and the Circle of Eisenreich. There, a man by the name of Vincent Violet asked them how he could help them. They showed him the book and related an abridged version of their story so far, and explained that they were looking for work. He asked them a series of strange questions which they answered awkwardly, but truthfully. He eventually asked them if they were interested in helping their city. When they answered yes, he made a most peculiar proposition.

Violet explained that while he was in fact a member of the Book Club, he was also a member of an organization called the Night Watch. The Night Watch, he explained, is a plainshirt arm of the City Guard that infiltrates criminal organizations or operates to fight crime from a civilian status rather than a military one. Intrigued, the brothers volunteered to help Violet. His first assignment for them was to spy on Ivan Thule, specifically, to give details on his drug trade. Violet also indicated that he was interested in getting a sample of Thule’s opium.

The brothers went back to Thule, who quickly gave them an assignment. First, Thule asked what they thought of Isador St. John. The brothers felt that while he was essentially the start of the most recent set of problems that they were experiencing, they did not dislike him. Thule explained that he felt that Isador had too much knowledge of his operations, and that he had to be eliminated. The brothers tried to get out of killing someone who they had just saved, but Thule came back with the fact that they were mercenaries, and that they were under his protection (basically, if they didn’t do it, they might be eliminated, and he would just get someone else to kill Isador). Sensing an opportunity, Torix asked if they could be paid in opium instead of gold. Thule was willing to do this, but was disappointed that the brothers were getting into drugs.

They headed out for Isador’s office. Holding to the phrase, “if you’re gonna rob a bank, you gotta take all the money”, Torix and Constantine planned to both kill Isador and steal the money that he used for placing bets. They walked in, and told Isador that they wanted to place a bet on themselves, and that they wanted to put the money into his stash themselves. Somehow, this got past Isador and he showed them into his back room, where they proceeded to fight him to the death. They found a few hundred gold in his stash for moral consolation. They also found a book, the calling card of the Book Club. This was a troubling find as it meant that Isador had probably been a member of the Book Club, not just a man with connections to it. More troubling however was what they found inside the book: details of plans to assassinate Ivan Thule.

They returned to Thule, and gave him Isador’s head as proof of completion. He gave them their opium and told them the rest of the night was theirs. He needed to make battle plans: the Book Club's plot meant war.   They took the opportunity to go back to Vincent Violet’s shop and give him a sample of the opium as he had asked. He said something about having it analyzed, but Torix and Constantine didn’t really pay attention. After a long day, they bought some flowers and paid respect to their late parents' graves. Then they went back to the pocket to have a drink with Simon Dreier. They told him what was going on, and asked him what he knew about the night watch and about the book club. He didn’t have any new insights, but reminded them to watch their backs when dealing with either of the groups.

After staying overnight at the Giant’s Pocket, they returned to the market to check in with Thule. As they approached his tavern, they became increasingly aware that something was very wrong. To be more specific, there was a sizeable chunk missing out of Thule’s tavern, and smoke was coming out from the rubble. Constantine asked what happened to passersby, who told him that the story was that cloaked figures had planted explosives around the building, during the night, and had killed Thule and most of his gang in the explosion. Torix and Constantine stood there stupefied.

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Roses are Red
And dangerous. Or are they?

Torix and Constantine were stupefied by the sudden death of their employer. Although they were growing increasingly used to the idea that people they associated with could perish without warning, Thule's death unnerved them. After asking around and learning that "cloaked and hooded figures" had rigged Thule's Tavern with explosives by night, they began to wonder who was responsible. They reasoned that it probably was the Book Club, given their recent plot, but it also could have been the van Dams trying to settle the score, or maybe even Boss Misha trying to get his pit fighters back. They wanted to know or at least have something to do in the meantime, so they headed over to Violet's china shop to get a lead.

Violet said that as far as he knew the Book Club wasn't responsible, but he'd have to find out. In the meantime, he recommended that the brothers take "this book" to the Book Club members that meet at an abandoned library and do whatever work  they asked for. He also said that they should report to him before they carry out any task in case it carries some information relevant to the death of Thule. He handed them the book and saw them to the door.

They took the book to the abandoned library and showed it to mobster guards at the front, who showed them to a hallway where they could find their next employer, Israel "Izzy" Valentine. After a brief discussion with Valentine a mobster brought a man named Mr. Bardeaux down the hallway to meet them. Valentine explained that Bardeaux was a trafficker that the Book Club often dealt with, and that he had come requesting bodyguards to help him move his most recent shipment. Bardeaux explained his reasons: He was taking a crate full of opiates into the Circle to Jack van Dam of House van Dam, and needed assistance in case things got hairy with nobles from House Grimm.

The brothers shot glances at each other. They knew that if they accepted this assignment and their identities got revealed along the way, they and Bardeaux would be in great danger. Valentine insisted that the pay would be good, and since the brothers had nothing else to do, they accepted the job. Bardeaux, Valentine and the brothers shook hands to seal the deal, and the party was off.

First, they stopped off at Violet's china shop and left Bardeaux outside while they explained their assignment. He said they should go through with it, but they should use aliases and watch their backs. He said that he had heard of Mr. Bardeaux and did not know of any foul play on his part, but they should look out in case he was working with the van Dam's for some higher purpose. He also said that he had determined that the Book Club was not responsible for Thule's death, meaning it was probably either the van Dam's or Misha. In case it's the former, they should do some investigating.

Finally, the party travelled to the Circle. The wall surrounding it was infested with guards and the crew had to travel through a portcullis, so rather than fight or sneak Bardeaux used his connections to pay his way through at a low price. Once they were through, the trio and their cargo travelled straight to the home of Jack van Dam. They explained that they had business to do with Jack and had no affiliation with House Grimm, and the front guards let them in to a foyer and asked them to take a seat on couches and wait. While they were waiting, Constantine entertained stealing some of the fancy rapiers that were being kept on a rack on the wall, but Bardeaux kindly asked him to stop. Torix seconded the request, as he didn't want to give the van Dams more of a reason to hate them.

A door into the foyer opened, and a gorgeous redheaded woman entered the room. She introduced herself as Rose van Dam, Jack's sister, and seductively sat down on the crate of opiates. She was puffing a long cigarette and making eyes at Bardeaux. The party did their best to avoid distraction, and when she invited them to come dine with her while they waited for Jack, they sensed that she had some ulterior motive and told her to leave them alone while they do their business. She kissed Bardeaux on the cheek as she left the room, but he stood cold nonetheless. A few minutes later, Jack entered the room.

He asked Bardeaux to meet him in the other room and negotiate payment. This left Torix and Constantine alone in the foyer with the crate of opiates. They listened through the door and heard Jack and Bardeaux talking a bit strangely. Namely, Mr. Bardeaux was putting a strange emphasis on the word "cargo," like he was trying to imply something about it to Jack. In a fit of paranoia, Constantine began to think they had been set up, and that he and Torix were in fact the cargo, being delivered to the van Dams for execution or worse. Torix calmed him down, and said that he would hold the the door if Constantine checked to see what was inside the crate. The crate proved very difficult to opened unnoticably, but when Constantine finally did open one side of it the contents shocked him: it was full of mining charges marked with the Kaspargrad Iron Co. logo. They realized this meant that the van Dam's were likely to be responsible for Thule's death, but they had to end their speculation when the door opened and Jack returned to the room to take the cargo to the stable.

While Jack was gone, the brothers took the opportunity to question Bardeaux about his package. They asked him if he checked everything he transported, and if he was sure that what he was transporting was in fact a crate of opiates. He answered yes to both questions, but rather than make a scene and call him on his lie the brothers decided to let things go. They realized that they were in hostile territory and if things went sour they would probably be the first to go. The issue was put to rest when a guard entered from the dining room and escorted them to a breakfast table.

Jack sat across from them with his sister, and asked prying questions about Bardeaux's bodyguards over some shrimp coctail. They explained that they were bodyguards, mercenaries, or even pit fighters for hire – they could handle any job where heads might start rolling. Jack said that it wouldn't be half bad to have them help the van Dams in their feud with the Grimms, and he asked Torix and Constantine what their last name was. Constantine, fearing that they might be recognized as the murderers of Maurice and Raymond van Dam, or worse, the Stephans, lied and said their last name was "Gordon". Jack said that that was funny since he has a distant cousin living in the Northeast market named Reynald with that last name. The brothers said he'd had an accident and lost a few of his fingers.

The conversation grew tenser as Constantine and Torix shot back with their own prying questions to see if Jack knew anything about the explosives. They got nothing, and Jack, seemingly offended, stood up and left to the stable. Rose apologized for her brother and resumed hitting on Mr. Bardeaux. The brothers simply enjoyed the shrimp cocktail. The whole affair was rudely interrupted when Jack burst back into the room with a crossbow bolt through his chest and collapsed on the table. Torix and Bardeaux quickly stood to aid him while Constantine and one of the guards barricaded the door. Torix fumbled and almost made Jack's injury worse, but Mr. Bardeaux managed to, for lack of a better phrase, stabilize the shit out of Jack van Dam. He then ordered guards to escort Rose and Jack to a back room while the trio went to the stable to meet whatever threat was still there.

They were alarmed to find that the crate was gone and the horses were all missing, ruining any hope of pursuing the attackers. Instead, they went back to the guards and Rose. They reasoned that House Grimm must be responsible, and Rose begged the party to get vengeance. She even gave Bardeaux a nigh irresistable puppy-dog look. The brothers were aching to kill someone, but Bardeaux was more than hesitant. He agreed to pursue the Grimms, but only to recover the package, as he wanted to maintain good business with both noble houses. The next order of business was to procur horses to make the pursuit easier. Torix thought Violet, with his Night Watch connection, would be the most able to provide them with such transport. He and Constantine urged Bardeaux to come back with them to Violet, making especially sure not to hint at any Night Watch connection and suggesting that they would be getting horses from the Book Club.

They hurried back to Violet's china shop and explained the urgency of their situation. There, it came out that the brothers had peaked into the crate and that Bardeaux had known that the crate was full of explosives but had questioned neither Misha nor Jack about them.  Violet said that the news was incredibly troubling, and raised a lot of questions. For one thing, why would Jack van Dam want explosives? Was it to attack House Grimm? Or perhaps he killed Ivan Thule after all. But then, how would House Grimm have known about the shipment? And how were they planning to use the explosives now that they had them? Violet said that he could have the horses in about an hour, and in the meantime the brothers and Bardeaux should go back to the van Dams and bring Jack, whatever his condition, back to him for questioning.They should say that he needs to leave the Circle for special medical attention, and they, being trained mercenaries, can take him to it.

So the trio returned to the van Dam residence. As they approached the front door, they were halted by what they saw: the front guards were bound and unconscious. They were no longer in the mood for subtlety, so Torix ran for the door and kicked it open. In the foyer stood four brown haired men. Two had swords and crossbows, while the other two had heavy chains in their hands. On a couch next to one of the crossbowmen was Rose, bound and gagged. Constantine asked who they were. The same crossbowmen replied that he was Adalbert Grimm, and these were his cousins. He then asked them who the hell they were. Torix and Constantine was the reply, but it was Bardeaux who immediately initiated the combat.

He used his glaive to send Adalbert flying towards and back wall and barked a command at Torix to move forward. With Mr. Bardeaux covering their backs, the brothers quickly outflanked and slaughtered two of the nobles and badly injured a third. One crossbowman fled through the front door and swore vengeance on whoever these mercenaries were, and the remaining, injured chainfighter fell to his knees. Bardeaux approached him and drove his glaive between the ruffian's shoulder blades and into the floor. He apologized for his overkill, commenting that he had not been in combat for a while.

At issue still was the escaped crossbowman. After calming the screaming Rose down, Torix, Constantine and Bardeaux ran out the front door to catch the fleeing Grimm. Constantine caught him with a crossbow shot to the back of the calf, which made him stumble and fall and let the trio catch up to him. Seeing this as the ideal moment to get information, Torix picked him up by the collar and let the others talk. He said his name was Franz Grimm. They asked what the deal with the explosives was, or the opiates, or the attack earlier, but Franz seemed to have no idea about any of them. He said that the attack that happened just now was the only attack that the Grimms had been planning for the day, and he didn't know anything of an attack in the morning. They were able to determine that he was being honest, which was more frustrating than anything else. Constantine had had it, so he asked Franz if he had a wife or children. When Franz said no, Constantine drew his rapier and slit his throat. It was just as well since they didn't want to risk any information getting back to house Grimm anyway.

They took the body back to the van Dam house and explained to Rose why they had come back. They then explained to her why she needed to play along with the idea that the guards had killed the House Grimm raiders, and not them. They awoke the delusional Jack and asked him about his attackers, but were only able to clarify that they had been cloaked figures that he could not identify. They woke up the guards, who provided them with a stretcher to transport Jack. They then asked if there was any way they could make one of them look more like a doctor to convince the guards to let them transport a half-conscious noble out of the Circle. They said that the van Dams used to have a house doctor and that his professional hat and coat were still in a closet. Constantine got into disguise, and once again the trio was off.

To get past the guards, Constantine artfully pretended that there was a desperate emergency situation and that they had to take Jack out to a special facility quickly, or he might die. Being thoroughly convinced by Constantine's ruse, the guards let them pass. They took Jack back to Violet. Violet said that he had the horses out back, and thanked them for bringing Jack to him. He said that it would be a big help in the long run. He also said that the news that the Grimms were not involved in the attack was troubling. He handed them a marked book and told them they should take it to Izzy Valentine and ask him for a new job and some protection while he takes Jack his superiors and gets more information about the shipment.

They hurried to the library to meet Valentine. He asked them how the shipment had gone, and they explained some, but not all, of the conflicts that had arisen. They continued to make small talk with Valentine until he asked them why they had come back to him. Torix handed him the book, and as he read it, a grim look shot over Valentine's face. He explained that he had been working with Violet for several years, and that they had a system in case anyone should try to betray them. He said that wasn't too surprised that people like Torix and Constantine could be double agents for Night Watch after all, but he was ashamed of Mr. Bardeaux. All three were horribly shocked, but Torix and Constantine quickly tried to throw the accusation back at Violet, to no avail. Valentine said that he trusted Violet, but since they seemed so desperate they might get a chance to plead with the Librarian, the leader of the Book Club, if they didn't put up too much of a fight. He included, however, that since they were an imminent threat, they must be neutralized first, whatever that should mean, and questioned later. He signalled the mobsters around him.

Valentine and two mobsters held one end of the hall, while two more mobsters blocked the exit. The party drew their weapons and, by focusing their attacks, were able to quickly kill one of the mobsters and injure another. Valentine and his wingmen quickly consolidate on them however, and things turned ugly quickly. Constantine managed to throw one of the mobsters behind him, and Bardeaux had to use his glaive to push one of them back so he could make a break for it. Torix simply put up his best defense until he was able to drive his executioner's blade through one of the mobster's chests and break into a run down the hall. He made it to the end more or less unfazed, with the injured Bardeaux tailing just behind him. Constantine was alone fighting the mobsters once Bardeaux and Torix had escaped, but he too was able to make it out, if only barely.

Hurt and out of breath, the party took a breather to get their energy before going to Violet's shop to confront him for double-crossing them. They were concerned at this point, not just for their own fate, but for Jack's as well. After their quick rest they hurried to Violet's china shop and were alarmed to find the door locked. After a few good kicks Torix was able to break the door in and the party rushed inside. All they found was china on the shelves and Violet's desk in the middle of the room. No one was there, and the door slammed shut. Torix walked back to the door to find that it had locked from the inside. Suspicious, Constantine observed the desk and heard a ticking and hissing noise inside. He opened the top of the desk and was horrified by what he found: two rigs of mining charges ready to explode. In a frenzy he tried to disarm the bomb while Bardeaux and Torix tried to break the door down. The struggle was brief, and Torix was able to break the door into splinters and run out in one swift motion. Bardeaux and Constantine weren't so lucky however, and were still in the china shop were the bomb triggered. Constantine was launched into the back wall and Mr. Bardeaux was sent flying out the front of the shop. Both were badly shaken, but for the most part unharmed. Constantine's hands had been burned by the blast, but he was still able to use them. The shop, and any evidence it may have contained regarding Violet's whereabouts, was completely destroyed.

The brothers, fearing for their lives, invited Bardeaux to come with them to the only safehouse they knew: The Giant's Pocket. There, the met with Dreier and explained the events that had just taken place, then stayed in a room that they shared with Bardeaux. They took the opportunity to explain their story so far to him. When they were finished, Bardeaux shook his head in astonishment at the mess he had gotten himself into. He had never wanted to have anything to do with the Night Watch or whoever, and he certainly didn't want his contacts to die all the time as seemed to happen to Torix and Constantine. Now that he was in this deep, he realized there was little hope of turning back and he said he, being fairly well off, could serve and the brothers' new employer. After all, they were his bodyguards.

After a good nights rest the crew brainstormed ways to find Violet before he found them. They also discussed who he must work for and asked around about any strange Book Club or other activity. They learned that there was allegedly some plan to overthrow the Kaiser, but no one knows who was making that plan. The brothers wondered if maybe Violet was part of that group. Or maybe he was never part of the Night Watch, and he was really just part of the Book Club all along and they had been set up. Either way, they decided that the best thing to do first would be to collect information on the Book Club so they could get the drop on them and learn more about Violet. And there was one man they had been recently involved with who might have more information on the Book Club, specifically of the written kind. That man was Isador St. John.

The brothers brought Bardeaux with them to visit St. John's office. Naturally, the bookie himself was nowhere to be found, but the whole office smelled like death. The brother's tried to play it off like they didn't notice anything, but Bardeaux caught on that they were responsible. There was nothing to be done about it at this point, so he followed along with their plan. Constantine found and pocketed a piece of Isador's ledger, which had several names on it. The hope was that at least one or two of the people that had owed Isador money had links to the Book Club. The first name they followed on the list was Isaac Frost. They found Frost in a crappy apartment. He had a raspy voice and was rather lacking in information about the Book Club, but he did know that they frequented abandoned buildings in general. Another name on the list was Azrael Hammerstein. They found him in a poorly built shack that smelled strongly of opium. Constantine snapped on the poor addict and probably would have killed him had the other two not held him back. In his outburst, he was able to learn from Hammerstein that a particular nearby basement was a hotbed for Book Club activity. They also learned that he was a buyer from Thule, which they found to be a sad coincidence.

Drained from their search and still concerned about having Violet hot on their tail, not to mention what he may have been doing to Jack, the three decided that the only logical action would be to take the fight back to Valentine and settle the confusion. They ran back to the library and were shocked to find a crowd surrounding it. They asked what was going on and learned that the guards had caught Valentine red-handed with the dead body of a noble, and now the hammer was about to come down on the Book Club. Torix forced his way through the crowd and the trio's fears were confirmed. Two city guardsmen stood over the dead body of Jack van Dam, taking notes, while another held Israel Valentine to the ground with his knee, allowing a fourth guard to bind him. The guards asked why they were so close to a crime scene. Constantine piped up at this and said they had circumstantial evidence to contribute. He said that the Book Club was in fact responsible for Jack's death, and was actually planning to usurp the noble houses and the Kaiser and take power itself. The crowd was shocked by these words, and a rumor had been started.

Torix and Bardeaux asked Constantine what the hell that had been about, and he said he had a plan. If they could turn the noble houses against the Book Club, thay could create enough chaos to keep them safe from Violet and let them find out what was going on with Violet, Misha, and the Kaiser. They hurried back to Rose van Dam and her guards and explained their version of what had happened. In response, Rose sent one of her guards to go inform her father and mother of recent events. When they heard screaming outside, the trio was both alarmed and relieved to see that four more nobles from House Grimm had cut the guard down and were approaching the front door. Torix brandished his sword and shouted threats, and their fear the nobles sheathed their weapons. Constantine called Rose and her guars outside and told everyone to hold back while they explained the situation.

In a masterful bluff, Constantine blamed the deaths of both Stephans, Maurice, Raymond, and Jack van Dam, as well as Adalbert and Franz Grimm and their cousins, on the Book Club. He said that they needed to make a truce in order to challenge the Book Club and prevent them from gaining a hold on the  Circle of Eisenreich, lest they attempt ot take over the entire city. He sent one of the guards to get the Rose's father, the leader of House van Dam, and one Grimm's to get the leader of House Grimm to negotiate the truce. Rose smiled…

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Enemy of my Enemy
Indeed...

After several minutes had gone by the guard and the Grimm returned with the Lords of their respective houses. Each had a similar question: "Where is my son?" Apparently Jack was the son of Lord van Dam and Franz was the son of Lord Grimm. Constantine did his best to reiterate his last bluff to the new audience, but fumbled in his wording. Bardeaux tried to step in, but still found it difficult to convince the Lords that the Book Club was in fact responsible for all of the murders they had just perpetrated. Torix didn't think it would be worth it for him to try to explain.

Instead, Rose cut in. The trio was startled by this but was thankful nonetheless. She told the story to Lord Grimm and her father just as Constantine had told it to her, including blaming the killing of the Grimm's that she herself witnessed on the Book Club when she knew otherwise. Bardeaux, Torix and Constantine smiled and nodded,

Rose topped the explanation off by proposing that the Houses put aside their differences to wage war on the Eisenreich Mafia to prevent them from disturbing the balance of power. After a few uneasy minutes of deliberation Lord Grimm bade them all step aside. He approached Lord van Dam with an extended hand. "Enemy of my enemy?" he asked.

"Indeed," responded Lord van Dam as he shook his former enemies hand. They turned to the trio and spoke almost in unison. "We will begin our plans to assault the Book Club quickly and decisively. Do you have any previous battle experience?"

"Yes," said Torix for the first time since the Lords had arrived.

"Then would you like to help us?"

"We'd like to spearhead the attack."

"Then meet us back here in an hour." At that, the trio decided to return to the one place they could count on to be safe, the Giant's Pocket. They carefully watched their backs to make sure no one, especially Vincent Violet, found out about their safehouse as they did not want to put Simon Dreier or any of the tavern regulars in danger.

On their way to the Pocket, the trio encountered one of the tavern regulars, apparently hurrying to deliver them a message from Dreier. It read, "Come back quickly. There may not be much time. You're going to like this." The brothers and the smuggler thought it rather convenient, and picked up their pace on their way to Dreier.

When they arrived, they had a brief round of drinks (on the house, naturally) before Dreier took them upstairs to a hotel room. He led them in and asked them if they recognized the horrifically burnt man in the bed. When they could not, Dreier stepped out of the room and let them talk. The man opened his mouth and said hoarsely, "I hope you boys aren't already addicted to that stuff."

The brothers were startled and relieved to know that Thule was still alive, if only barely. He explained that when he had told them to take a leave for the evening, he set about investigating the plan against him and uncovered much more than he expected. He learned of a plan to assassinate the Kaiser by followers of some powerful individual known only as the "Man in Gray." He said that Vincent Violet, a contact of Isador's, was part of the organization, and that in his investigation of Violet, he found love notes and other documents linking him to a certain Izzy Valentine and Rose van Dam in Violet's china shop. He had been able to leave Violet's china shop before being confronted by Violet directly, but he must have been caught. Either way, he barely survived the attempt to kill him, which he believes was by Violet and this shadow organization, not the Book Club.

The trio tried unsuccessfully to get more information from Thule as he died quietly in his hotel bed. Dreier returned to the room and asked them if they wanted anymore alcohol. Torix happily drank some more before the crew headed out to meet with the nobles.

The Lords informed them that the attacks had already begun, as they wanted to preempt the Book Club, and if they wanted to participate, they should go to the nearest abandoned library, where Jack was found dead. The crew said they would, but took a detour to try to find Izzy Valentine first. They went to the state prison of Eisenreich, but were denied access owing to a recent decree by the Kaiser.  They did not question the details of the decree, which would have yielded information regarding the recent declaration of martial law in swift response to noble-instigated street fights ordering death for any caught in such brawls.

After deciding that impersonating the Kaiser or breaking into the prison would probably be fruitless, the trio decided to help the nobles in their attack on the library. When they arrived, they found scattered rubble, fire, and a badly beaten force of four nobles attempting to take out six mobsters, who had holed up behind fallen carts. The trio leapt into the fray on the side of the nobles, outflanking and brutalizing two of the mobsters that were carrying chains. In a particular show of gore, Constantine drove his rapier through the skull of one of the mobsters, showering Bardeaux in bone fragments and brain matter. Three of the four nobles died in the exchange as the mobsters behind the cover fired crossbows into the melee. The remaining noble turned and fled as Torix, Constantine, and Bardeaux charged headlong to meet the crossbowmen.

The ensuing combat was even more brutal than the previous one. Constantine fended off longsword attacks from two of the men while Bardeaux and Torix took on the other two. Bardeaux managed to pin one man's face to the cart with his glaive, giving Torix time to bring his executioner's sword through the his neck. The other mobster, who stood in between Bardeaux and his freshly decapitated friend, cringed as he was showered in blood.

The combat was briefly interrupted as the fleeing noble came running back, saying that the Eisenreich soldiers were headed straight for the library, saying something about martial law and a decree for the arrest of all unlawful combatants. Bardeaux commanded the noble to join the fray so that it might end quickly enough for them to escape before the soldiers arrived. The trio successfully slaughtered the remaining mobsters, but the only remaining noble died in the process.

Unfortunately, they took too long in their efforts. Six soldiers and a visored officer arrived just in time to catch the trio bloodsoaked and standing in a pile of fresh, warm corpses. Constantine tried to think of a way to bluff his way out of the situation, but was stifled by the shocked. The officer commanded them forward, and the six soldiers surrounded them as he walked forward slowly.

As the officer lifted his visor, Torix's heart sank. It was Dominic Meyer, now Lieutenant Meyer, his old rival from the military academy. Meyer clearly relished the opportunity to arrest Torix and his associates, but was put off by the trio's almost comfortable compliance. What he did not know was the parties earlier intention of getting into jail to see Valentine, somehow, anyway. Annoyed, Meyer struck out at Torix with his longsword, but missed in his frustration. Constantine and Bardeaux laughed, and in his humiliation the officer commanded a soldier to fire a crossbow bolt into Torix. Torix took the shot unflinchingly, and even as he kept a smug look made a comment about Lt. Meyer's mother. The now enraged officer ordered his remaining underlings to fired at Torix, and most hit their mark. Torix still did not flinch, but was hurt and decided not to talk back. Satisfied that he had put his rival in place, Lt. Meyer ordered his soldiers to take the trio to jail. They went willingly.

Each of the three was placed in a different cell in the same cell block, deep in the prison. They looked intently for any sign of Valentine, and, to their surprise, found him in the cell next to Torix, asleep. When their guard left the cell block, they quickly woke Valentine up and began to question him about his involvement with Violet and the Man in Gray. He was not particularly cooperative but asked them questions in return, which they answered. He seemed satisfied to know that chaos had erupted between the city guard, military, nobles, and mafia. He then resumed sleeping.

The brothers and Bardeaux were frustrated and decided to try to break out as the long as the guard showed no sign of returning soon. While they were attempting this, Valentine perked up and asked, "Do you guys want an easy way out? The others in the block have been less than cooperative, but if you help me I can help you."

"Sure," responded the three almost in unison.

"Okay," he said, "Then draw as many guards to my cell as you can." Constantine shrugged, and, employing his talented acting, exclaimed that Valentine was making a successful attempt at escape. He was so convincing that six guards barreled down the hall with halberds, longswords and crossbows, and two burst into Valentine's cell and pinned him to the ground, on his stomach. "Thank you for your help boys," he said as he slipped his pinned hand out of the guards grip and into his clothes, "Torix, get down."

What he did next shocked Bardeaux and Constantine, who had a clear view of his cell. Valentine wrenched himself from the guard's grip and rolled onto his back as he drew a shiv from his shirt and used it to slash out the eyes of the two guards that had been pinning him. He threw the shiv aside and reached into his shirt with both hands. He yelled "Death to the Kaiser," as the crew heard a clicking sound they had become familiar with, which made them duck in their cells.

Half the cell block exploded in a fiery mess of rubble and dirt, killing Valentine and all six guards and badly injuring Torix. The walls and doors of most of the cells were gone, so the trio quickly consolidated into the rubble despite the shock to meet the two guards that came down the hall to respond to the explosion. Without their familiar weapons, they each found the best substitute they could among the rubble. Torix grabbed a guards longsword and Bardeaux a halberd, while Constantine found Valentine's shiv.

The fight was more a brawl than anything else, with most of the combatants spending as much time on the ground as they did standing. There was much trading of blows until Constantine broke the monotony with an insane but exceptionally gory and successful combat maneuver. Once Torix had been tripped by the halberd of one of the guards, Constantine leapt accross the rubble and over his brother, onto that guard's shoulders. As the ruffian and the guard fell, Constantine drove the shiv deep into the guard's face, killing him painfully. Torix and Constantine quickly outflanked the remaining guard, but it was Bardeaux that delivered the finishing blow with his glaive.

Tired and fearing that reinforcements would arrive soon, the trio began looking for a place to hide. Their search was cut short by the approach of two individuals down the hall and into the cell block. One was Meyer. The other was no one they had seen before, but he had a colonel's badge and the insignia of the Inner Guard on his armor. Meyer tried to speak, but the high officer silenced him with a wave of his hand.

"Drop your weapons," said the colonel. The trio, slackjawed by their awe and terrible luck, willingly complied. The high officer bade them forward, and briefly questioned them about their involvement in the explosion and killing. They tried their best to explain, but could not come up with good words. More inner guardsmen came down the hall and surrounded the trio, and the colonel ordered that they each be taken to a seperated interrogation room in the Kaiserheim. Meyer whispered something to him, and he ammended his order. Torix and Constantine were to be interrogated together. Rags were slipped over their faces, and they breathed deep.

Torix and Constantine awoke in a dimly torchlit room, shirtless and chained to the floor, but still able to stand. One guardsmen stood on either side of them, and they could feel the breath of two behind. The high officer stood, barely visible, in front of them. They could hear a faint, unnerving sizzling noise behind them. As  they tried to get situated, the high officer spoke.

"My name is Colonel Metzger," he said, "I am an officer of the Inner Guard. I have the power to have you tortured and killed as I see fit. I also have reason to believe that you are instigators or otherwise offenders attempting to destabilize Eisenreich's or the Empire of Man's government. You are here together, because we are trying a new torture technique that we have heard one of you may be very familiar with. I will ask eash of you questions. I don't like the answer, the other one gets burned, like so," each of the brothers cringed and let out a sharp cry as they felt hot metal burn their backs. "That's all the information you're getting from me, now its your turn."

He proceeded to alternately question the brothers about terrorist activity, and they did their best to explain the story without incriminating themselves, emphasizing in particular the role of Rose van Dam and Vincent Violet in the plot against the Kaiser. Colonel Metzger's expression remained cold throughout the explanation, and occasionally the brothers got burned and had to try to steel themselves against the pain. "That's the end of the easy questions," he said as he turned his eyes to Torix, "now I need to know important things.  Are you willing to give your life for your nation.

"Yes," the fighter replied.

"Good. Now," began the officer as gestured a guardsmen to aim a crossbow at Constantine's head, "would you give his life for your nation?"

"That's not really my decision."

"That wasn't the question," the guards burned Constantine and he cried out.

"But really, do you mean if I were him?" Constantine got burned again, but did not make a sound. The crossbow was touching his temple. "If I say yes, are you going to kill my brother?"

"Answer the question," said Metzger coldly. They burned Constantine again, and this time he broke and cried out. He was sweating horribly, and Torix could see that he may lose his brother anyway if he didn't just answer.

"Yes. Yes I would gives Constantine's life for my nation."

"Good," said Metzger. "Unchain them and give their shirts back." As they got their clothes back on, Torix shrugged and looked at Constantine. Constantine's burns hurt like hell, and he only returned a glare to his older brother. Because of his immense guilt, he could not hate or even resent his brother, but he was almost at his breaking point.

"You're coming with us to the Kaiser," said the officer. Torix and Constantine were excited and afraid to have a live audience with the leader of their nation. The guardsmen corralled Torix and Constantine through the interrogation hallways of the depths of the Kaiserheim. They tried to catch a glimpse of Bardeaux, but could not find him.

When the arrived in the Kaiser's office, his appearance was exactly as they had seen in pictures of him. He wore a spiked helmet, a greatcoat, and epaulets, and had an enormous moustache. Metzger explained the new information to the Kaiser and the two talked for a great while before they finally addressed Torix and Constantine. "You said you're willing to give your lives?" asked the Kaiser in his thick accent.

"Yes," said Torix.

"And you have experience in investigation and combat?"

"Yes."

"Then here is the plan. In forty-eight hours time, I will be having a parade, allegedly to demonstrate my military power and quell the fighting. In reality, I want to invite these terrorists to make their attack, and they the Inner Guard and military will spring a trap on them. We need you to go out tonight and gather as much information for us as you can about this Man in Gray and his people as you can by nightfall tomorrow, then report it back here. There will be Inner Guard agents in the field to back you up if you need more information or assistance. Based on the new information, we will give you the second half of your task. If at any time you betray us, you will be captured, tortured, and killed horribly. Do not doublecross us. I am giving control of you to Colonel Metzger. Consider yourselves conscripts to the Inner Guard."

Fed up with being pushed around, Constantine started to mouth off to the Kaiser, mocking his accent. Appalled by what his brother was trying to do, Torix suckerpunched Constantine with a mighty blow to the face. The punch dropped Constantine unconscious, as he was already weary from the interrogation. There was an awkward silence, but then Metzger shook his head.

"Thank you Kaiser," he turned to his Guardsmen. "Wake that one up, then take them both to their weapons." Torix and Constantine were given their weapons, and escorted to the front gates of the Kaiserheim. "Go," said Metzger, "and good luck."

View
I am the Kaiser
Eight reasons to look behind a wall

While Metzger explained the finer points of the Kaiser’s assignment to the two brothers, he walked them to the equipment room, where he gave them their up front payment in protective gear. Metzger led them to the gates and said that they would make contact later in the day to monitor their progress.

Torix remembered that they had not been able to go inside the library that the book club was operating out of, so he and Constantine decided to check it out. It was much the same as they left it, except one of the mobsters that they thought they had killed was clinging onto life next to the entrance. He said to them “Hey, I recognize you two.” The van Rijns were just getting used to people saying that, so they reacted badly. With his dying breath, the mobster yelled for backup, which appeared almost instantly.

A brief but bloody battle ensued, with Torix being the focus of most of the attacks. The brothers defeated the last of the mobsters, and took a while to recuperate. Then a voice came from behind one of the barricades, “Hey, are you Torix and Constantine ?” Constantine was quick to reply, “What’s it to you?” The man said that he had something for them, if they would kindly step behind the barricade, he would show it to them.

Instantly sensing a trap, the brothers looked around to see if there was something they had missed while approaching the library. They saw nothing, but they were still suspicious. “Give me eight reasons why I should come over there” Constantine said. The mobster gave three mediocre reasons, with the last five being “Just get the hell over here!” With a nod to each other, the brothers attempted to sneak around quietly to catch whoever he was by surprise. Constantine kicked a piece of rubble loudly, and the mobster knew he was coming.

In unison, the brothers popped out onto the other side of the barricade, flanking the mobster. Just as Torix came around the corner, another larger mobster sprung from the rubble and grabbed him with a garrote. Constantine lunged at the smaller mobster and the battle began. Torix was going full strength against his assailant and almost defeated him, except that his companion came to the rescue and downed Torix. Invigorated by the fall of his brother, Constantine fought the two and downed the smaller one. The larger mobster and Constantine stood panting as their counterparts were bleeding on the ground. The garrote was around Constantine's neck and Constantine had his rapier ready.

“Wait!” the larger mobster said. "I don't want my friend to die and I assume you don't want your friend to die. I've got a healing potion and I'm willing to split it to save both of them. I'll put down my rope if you put down your rapier." Constantine agreed to the terms. The mobster said “Let me explain. We were sent after you by the book club, and we were told to bring you back unconscious so as to pose no threat to the Librarian This got Constantine’s attention, and he helped the larger mobster (Marcus “Brutal Mark” Dutchman) revive Torix and the smaller mobster (Edward “Sly Eddie” Gordon) so that they could proceed to the Librarian’s office in the Fountain District. When they got there, they were taken through the back door of a small shop run by an unfamiliar man, which led into a large office with tall bookcases on either side of the room.

“Word has it that you’re the ones who got everyone attacking my organization.” The Librarian started. A man walked out from behind the book case. “Ah, this is my associate, Adrian St. John. ” The Librarian explained. The van Rijns asked if he was related to Isador St. John, and he said he was. Adrian gave the impression that there were no hard feelings because he didn’t really like his half brother Isador. He went behind one of the book cases, saying something about looking for his hat.

 The Librarian dismissed Sly Eddie and Brutal Mark allowed Torix and Constantine to speak so they could explain themselves. Adrian walked to the other case, still looking for his hat. As the brothers continued to talk, he crossed a third time, which stirred up bad feelings for the brothers. Before they could get to thinking, the two book cases were knocked over by explosions, crushing the Librarian’s bodyguards.

Adrian flashed a strange look to the brothers and spoke. "Librarian, thank you for delivering these two to me. Torix, Constantine , I'm going to step outside. Please kill the Librarian and meet me out there when the job is done."

He left, and the brothers looked to each other. They had just gotten used to the idea of making friends and weren't so sure that they wanted to attack the Librarian, who was still sitting in his seat, stunned. So they went to the door to leave and meet Adrian without violence, but found it locked. Constantine was unable to pick the lock and made enough noise that Adrian spoke to them from the other side of the door.

"Look," he said,"consider this: I knows Rose, which means I knows what Rose knows, and since I knows the Librarian he knows what Rose knows. And, being who he is, since he knows what Rose knows, anything goes. So thoughs you may wish to spare him now, it will only hurt you later. I assure you that it is in your interest to kill the man behind you, and meet me when you are done. I say again, kill the Librarian

This time, Torix and Constantine were mad. Constantine , in particular, was getting tired of all the gratuitous bloodshed that he and his older brother had gotten wrapped into. He looked for a way to justify the action he was about to take. "Perhaps, when we are done with the Librarian he began, "we should take out Mr. St. John as well. That way no one will know we're responsible and we can wash our hands of this."

Torix shrugged and approached the Librarian, who still seemed shell-shocked from the explosion. Torix, still hard from his years at military school, was ready to fight as always, but gestured to his brother to seek one last solution. Well versed by now in dealing with criminals, Constantine made a last offer.

"If you can give us a good reason to kill him instead of you, we'll take it." The Librarian did not respond, but instead reached for a weapon under his desk. The brothers leapt into action and made short work of the aging man as Torix bounded over the desk and Constantine circled the fallen bookshelves. In their well practiced ballet of death Constantine leapt headlong through the air and pushed the Librarian out of his seat in perfect time to meet Torix's blade with his throat. Years ago, Constantine thought, that man may have had a chance, but leadership grows weak in a group like the Book Club.

They tried the door again, and found it unlocked. Adrian was nowhere in sight, but the shopkeeper had a crossbow bolt through his chest and lay crumpled in a puddle of drying blood on the floor. On the wall, scrawed in charcoal, was a message: "Meet me at the Giant's Pocket, -Adrian it read.

Warier than usual, they proceeded towards The Pocket, but were intercepted by some normal-looking men who shoved a piece of paper into Torix’s hands. It read: turn left. They turned left into a nearby alley, and Colonel Metzger and an Inner Guard officer popped out from two trash bins. The brothers were not sure what they had just com upon in terms of Adrian as a lead, but they did tell Metzger that their search was going well. Now that the Pocket was involved, however, they didn't want to put forth any information that might threaten Dreier. He was their friend. Perhaps their only friend at this point. After an uneasy conversation Metzger told them to meet him at the Kaiserheim when their information was more complete and disappeared into the barrels with the other officer.

When the brothers arrived in the Giant's Pocket they were alarmed to find that Dreier was not at the bar. Adrian was shooting pool at one of  the tables, so they approached him as he had requested on the wall of the shop. He directed them to the abandoned police house, so they went there via the gallows passage a few minutes after he did.

There, they were confronted by just under a dozen people, each wearing a gray hooded cloak, as the came up the dumbwaiter. Behind the far counter were five of them, whom they presumed to the leaders of the group. Four of them were familiar faces: Adrian St. John, Rose van Dam, Vincent Violet, and Hieronymous Steinfaust, a blacksmith from whom Constantine stole a rapier once. At the center of the five was a figure wearing a crow mask under its hood. They presumed he was the man in gray.

The floor was open to Torix and Constantine , and they asked the first questions. "Who are you?" "Are you trying to kill the Kaiser?" and "Where is Dreier?" was the extentt of what the brothers wanted to know. The Man in Gray bade Adrian and Violet to oblige them with answers.

 The cloaked figures were an organization called Penumbra. They had formed because the government of the Empire of Man had grown decadent and needed a change. Furthermore, the stalemate between the three Empires had been falsely extended for several decades and the military of man would be more than capable of expanding the border with the right leadership. As such, Penumbra's goal was to instate a new government and bring a golden age to Eisenreich and the Empire of Man, whatever the costs.

As for Dreier, they were holding him in an undisclosed location and had already sent an order to torture and kill him at nightfall. If Constantine and Torix complied with Penumbra's goals, they would send an order to postpone Dreier's fate for another night. This way, the brothers have no incentive to attack members of Penumbra if they want to see Dreier again.

Constantine was seething at being so manipulated, but Torix found the opportunity to serve a high cause for his country rather exciting. The Man in Gray told them they could have some alone time in a cell if they needed to evaluate their decision, and they were free to ask any questions before they received their orders.

Torix and Constantine stepped into a cell and deliberated. Torix was ready to play the two sides against each other, but Constantine was extremely reluctant to work for Violet. They decided, ultimately, to work for Penumbra but only after they clarified as to what had been going on for the last few days.

They went back out and asked about recent events: Jack van Dam, Ivan Thule's death, Izzy Valentine, the repeated murder attempts against them by Violet. Violet, Adrian, and Rose explained.

Jack was a necessary sacrifice to get Valentine into prison where his fanaticism would be more useful, and to get explosives delivered. Rose and Violet had helped get the explosives delivered to Adrian and Steinfaust, who brought them to the Man in Gray. The brothers may have recognized Adrian's crossbow bolt. Ivan Thule was murdered so Torix and Constantine could be recruited into Penumbra. The repeated attacks against them were intended to separate them from Bardeaux. In fact, Penumbra had been trying to recruit them for quite a while but needed to get them into a situation where they loyalty would be assured.

Torix and Constantine , shocked by all this as they were, took the opportunity to explain the mission theyed received so far from the Kaiserheim. They also explained what they knew so far regarding the parade. The Man in Gray instructed them to continue with their Inner Guard mission, but reveal as little as possible about Penumbra itself except that there was in fact an imminent assassination attempt. He then reminded them of their close friends situation, and apologized for the brutal method but said that it was necessary at this point given the time contraints they were under.

The brothers headed briskly back to the Kaiserheim, as it was now the evening and they didn't want Metzger to get the feeling that something was wrong. They had an audience with Metzger, the Kaiser, and General August Fleischer. After confirming Metzger's fear that an attack was imminent, Torix and Constantine received their task. They were to act as the Kaiser's and Metzger's doubles, respectively, and impersonate them to draw out the assassins during the parade while the Kaiser and Metzger stayed deep in the Kaiserheim. There was an uneasy moment in which the Kaiser asked Torix if he would really give his life for his country. His response was simple: "I know where my loyalties lie, Kaiser."

They were told to report back to the Kaiserheim in the morning for a final rehearsal and suiting up before the parade. They left the disguises in the Kaiser's office and headed back to the Giant's Pocket and into the abandoned police house to explain their mission. The Man in Gray asked that they bring the disguises to Penumbra. Constantine said that that probably wasn't an option, so the hooded men proposed a new plan.

Rose, with her skill in poison making, could make a concoction that would cause the drinker to start vomiting after an hour or so. If the brothers drank this before getting in costume, they could swap with other Penumbra members in an alleyway at the last minute. This would be necessary as Torix and Constantine , with their excuse to enter the Kaiserheim through the from door, would be instrumental in hunting down and killing the Kaiser during the parade. The Man in Gray bade Adrian and Violet to leave and get ready for the plan tomorrow, and sent Torix and Constantine back to their room, which happened to be Dreier's old room.

There, their sleep was interrupted when Adrian St. John burst into their room, and pulled them close without warning. "Just so you two know," he said, "I hate Violet. I'm not dumb enough to do anything to jeapordize the movement, mind you, but as soon everything's over, I'd be perfectly happy to take him out." Torix and Constantine didn't know how to respond to this, and really could only say that they could see where Adrian was coming from. Adrian left, and the brothers went back to sleep, only to have it interrupted again, this time by Rose.

She, in her typical fashion, sat seductively on their nightstand and asked them prying questions, which they avoided answering to the point of being rude. They knew that she wasn't in power here, and offending her a little bit couldn't hurt. After she left, they were finally  able to catch some well deserved sleep.

View
Death of a Salesman
Bwaah?

They woke with a start.

The Man in Gray was in their room. It was only about four or five in the morning as far as they could tell. Days were not supposed to begin that early. He spoke to them.

"Are you prepared?" he asked.

"For?"

"Today you'll be getting your very own cloaks and white masks.  Come to the police house before you leave this morning." With those words, he left.

Torix was excited to be doing something to shake things up, but Constantine was not as happy. They took a few hours resting up more and steeling themselves for the days mission. When they finally thought it would be worth it to see the light of day, they headed through the gallows and to the abandoned police house.

They had walked into a tense situation. Adrian was standing in the center of the room, where the trap door had been boarded over. The man in gray was learing over him, and the rest of Penumbra's leadership stood behind the counter. Violet looked angry, and had a large bruise and wound near his right eye. It looked fresh.

 "Are you responsible for Violet's injury, Adrian?" said the Man in Gray. Adrian denied any intentions of ever harming Violet. The Man in Gray then turned to the brothers.

"Has Adrian ever expressed any intention of harming Violet or disrupting the organization?" They paused. "If so, it is urgent that we settle the matter now. The parade is today and we can't afford any unneccesary squabbling. Does anyone here have any reason to believe that Adrian is in fact responsible for injuring Violet?"

They thought that Adrian had had some bad timing, which was  shame. Unfortunately for him, they had no intention of getting on the Man in Gray's bad side and revealed Adrian's anger at Violet that they encountered last night.

The crow mask glinted in the lantern light as the Man in Gray turned to Adrian. "You were one of my better lieutenants Adrian. I hate to have to do this," he said as he motioned for Torix, Constantine and other Penumbra members to join the leaders behind the counter. "I don't believe in executions. I'll give you a chance to live. If you want to start something within the ranks, you'd best fight me yourself so that you can actually gain something from winning." As he said this he walked to the far side of the room from Adrian and brandished two long, curved swords from under his cloak.

"I'll give you a little room to shoot when we start," he said. Adrian, clearly unnerved by the circumstances, fumbled with his crossbow as he drew it. He tried to fire at the Man in Gray but was unable to stop hi master's inexorable advance. Finally, when the Man in Gray had crossed the room, he knocked Adrian's crossbow aside and cut him down without fanfare.

"Let that be an example," he said. "Now, we need a replacement for St. John. Torix, Constantine, you two are well-connected enough to fill Adrian's position as lieutenants on short notice. Do you accept?"

They nodded.

"It's settled then," he said as he motioned for other Penumbra members to give Torix and Constantine their uniforms. "Now go to your room to prepare for the day. And don't forget, we have Dreier."

They went back to their room and gathered their gear and their wits for the day ahead. The door opened behind them quietly, and in slooped the Man in Gray. He shut the door behind them.

"Before you go, you should know who I am, if you haven't already guessed," he said in a low tone. The brothers looked to each other and back to the Man in Gray, not picking up on what he was getting at.  He showed them his scimitars again. They still did not understand him. He sighed and looked over his shoulder, then looked back to them, and began to pull the crow mask off. Time slowed down and the brother's vision seemed to tunnel as an eternity broke itself over the visage of the hooded figure. A world was shattered as the crow mask landed with a muted thud on the nightstand.

Prospero. Alive. The Man in Gray.

Constantine's eyes widened. Torix merely cocked his head to the side and stared. "Bwaaah?..." was all the younger brother had to say.

"I don't have any time to explain," he began. "I'm so sorry. I thought you should know in case anything goes wrong today. My journal explains everything after I 'died,' and a lot else you didn't know. I'll see you at the parade." He left a dirty leatherbound book on the nightstand in place of the mask as he fled the room like a wraith.

They stared blankly at the journal for a few moments. Finally, after a long and uncomfortable silence, Constantine walked over to the book and pulled open its leather covering. In the muted morning light that crept through the hotel window, he read.

Prospero used to be a pirate merchant, sailing the Southern Sea and the western Sea of Torrents in search of good trade accross the known world of Fortuna. When he was engaged to be married to his beautiful fiancee, Miranda, he met an elfen woman on Isla Este named Tara Danesti. They had a passionate week together before he sailed back to Eisenreich.

After he returned, he had two sons, Torix and Constantine, and never spoke of Tara. He was proud of his older boy and sent him to military school on the Maritime Islands, while he kept Constantine at home. As time wore on and business got worse, he took his shame out on Constantine and sometimes Miranda. He wondered whether it was because of his economic troubles or maybe because he wasn't happy to have settled in Eisenreich with Miranda. Either way, it did not sit well.

 Then Constantine was exposed as a thief and Prospero's name as a merchant ruined. Things deteriorated quickly after that, and though Torix returned he slipped into a deep depression. Prospero took up a habit of binge drinking in the slums of Eisenreich while alleging that he was trading at lower prices, until finally, in a fit of drunkenness and disappointment, Prospero decided he wanted to leave Eisenreich and find Tara in the Empire of the Elves to start a new life.

He exchanged clothes with and proceeded to kill and maim a vagrant beyond identification. He left the body in a visible location, and stole into the night to ride the Westward River into the Zonne.

At this point Constantine and Torix stopped reading to catch their breath. "He… faked… his death?" stuttered the rogue.

"Eh…," was all Torix could say. They continured to read.

Apparently, after searching for almost half a year Prospero was unable to find Tara and began to think he had maybe made a terrible mistake. So he returned to Eisenreich to explain what had happened to Torix, if no one else.

Upon his return in the shadows, he learned that his death had already been brutally avenged by his sons, and his wife had fallen ill in his absence. He was unable to face his sons. His wife had lost all of her senses but her hearing, so he broke into his old home to tell her he loved her and that he was sorry before he fled to the countryside of Hommeland.

There, he lost himself in a farming community and became somewhat numb to the world around him. It was in this state that the original Man in Gray found Prospero van Rijn and recruited him into Penumbra, a small organization intent on freeing the Empire of Man from unjust rule by organizing a concerted peasant uprising in the country and marching east.

Prospero became one of the Man in Gray's lieutenants, and led raids with a newfound fervor and passion for doing what he believed was right. Maybe, by following this new cause, he could repent and one day face his children again.

Then, in a peasant revolt gone very very wrong, the original Man in Gray was killed with Prospero by his side. Rather than let his new passion and mission die, Prospero exchanged masks with the original Man in Gray's corpse and decided to take the role of leadership on himself.

He had a new plan, to destabilize the government of Man from within. He began establishing a network of connections to old friends from his past life, as well as newcomers he found valuable to the organization. It was during this restructuring of Penumbra, about two years before the plan would come to fruition, that Prospero recruited Hieronymous Steinfaust, Vincent Violet, Rose van Dam and Adrian St. John to begin destabilizing Eisenreich.

Prospero never revealed his identity to his followers, but he learned of his son's whereabouts via Isador St. John, Adrian's half brother, and set Violet up to contact them. He gave an order to induct Torix and Constantine into Penumbra at any cost, alleging that they would be instrumental in a successful coup. Really, he wanted his sons to be on the winning side of the revolution when it happened.

That was where the journal ended, and, despite having just had their minds completely blown, the brother's grabbed Rose's poison and went to work. Torix drank both his and Constantine's cordials to ensure that it would work as necessary, and they were off to the Kaiserheim.

There, they went through a once again uneasy discussion with Metzger, the Kaiser and General Fleischer before they got suited up. They handed Torix a decree and explained the plan to him: He was to lead the march from the Kaiserheim to the Northwest Market, and once there he was to read from the decree and hope that it would be long enough to draw attackers. In the meantime, the Kaiser, Metzger, and a retinue of guards would be waiting to ride out the attempted coup.

Torix and Constantine dutifully accepted their mission and went out with Fleischer to greet the soldiers. Among them was Lieutenant Dominic Meyer, who proceeded to kiss up to Torix, whom he believed to be the Kaiser. Torix decided to play along, although Constantine nudged him to be crueller to his rival.

 The parade began, with several thousand soldiers in attendance and Torix leading from near the rear. The poison was just barely starting to work.

"You don't look so good," grunted Fleischer under his breath.

"Eh."

"I think he's going to be sick," said the disguised Constantine. "He might vomit."

"If he vomits, that will look terrible," responded the General. "Take him to an alleyway quickly to get it over with, I'll stall for as long as I can." With that, Fleischer began to yell litanies of patriotism at soldiers and bystanders as Torix and Constantine retreated into an alley.

There, two masked Penumbra members, Steinfaust, Violet, and the Man in Gray dropped from walls to meet the brothers. "Quickly," said Violet, "swap clothes with us and head back to the Kaiserheim. Tell them that urgent developments have happened and you need to talk to the Kaiser immediately. As you get doors voluntarily unlocked several Penumbra members will fall in behind you to breach the defense and clean up if necessary."

They were nervous about jumping into a dangerous social situation so soon, but the brothers had no time to ask questions. They swapped clothes with Violet and Steinfaust and hurried towards the Kaiserheim with the masked radicals as the Man in Gray went in the direction of the parade with the new doubles.

As usual it was a matter of appearing urgent and letting Constantine do the talking to get past guards and deeper into the Kaiserheim. "We need to get the Kaiser immediately. Chaos has broken out and we must tell him to get to further safety," was the line the rogue had settled on. They were moving quickly enough that they did not look back to see if they were being followed by Penumbra members, but this was not an issue as most of the guards seemed to trust them.

That was, until they ran into Colonel Metzger in the anteroom of the Kaiser's chamber, along with several of his own guards.  The look on his face was grim.

"I should have known," he said softly as his fingers curled around his bastard sword. The brothers knew there was little point in arguing with him, especially now that his suspicions were raised. They drew their weapons as Metzger's men drew theirs.

"We're sorry it had to come to this," said Torix. He leapt on Metzger with unrelenting fury and pinned him down so Constantine could handle the other guards. One of the men retreated to the Kaiser's chamber, while the rogue cut the other two down and received only a few minor flesh wounds in return. Torix still held Metzger pinned in place, and their stalemate was broken when Constantine bound accross the room an sliced the lower half of the Colonel's mouth off, leaving him to what they could only assume was a very painful, garbled death. They had mixed feelings about the killing, although Constantine assuaged Torix by pointing out that he had been torturing them just two days prior.

With Metzger out of the way, Torix and Constantine were preparing to approach the Kaiser himself, but wanted to regroup first. As they did so, a Penumbra member enterred the room and unmasked to reveal himself as Prospero. The brothers were a bit confused by this.

"If you're you, they who is the Man in Gray?"

"Right now, its Rose. I need to be here for the Kaiser's death myself. The other man I with was killed near the foyer. Are you ready boys?"

They nodded.

The reunited van Rijns  approached the Kaiser's chamber and smashed the door open. As they did so, they thought they heard General Fleischer running down the hallway to the anteroom.

View
Full Circle
When the ropes break, run like hell

The leader of Penumbra whips out his two swords and says he will handle the Kaiser and his men, while T&C will handle Fleischer and his men. Reveals he made arrangements for T&C to success him in the Penumbra faction as leaders. T&C follow Fleischer out double doors into corridor.

Fleischer: You two! Are you responsible for Metzger's death?

Torix:  Just Constantine.

Fleischer: This must not be allowed to happen! Men, forward!

INITIATE COMBAT

Fleischer hella whips around corner into war room (including horrendously large table and four soldiers in the far sides of the room). T&C follow. Combat ensues.

Fleischer: Who the hell are you two working for!?

Constantine: The revolution!

Fleischer is de-legged.

Fleischer is killed.

T&C proceed to wipe out the rest of the minions, and decide, despite their low health, to run back into the Throne Room to help Prospero. They enter and see the Kaiser on top of desk fighting Prospero and all minions are dead. At some point in the fight, their weapons have been switched so the Kaiser is using double scimitars and Prospero is wielding the Kaiser's greatsword. Kaiser charges at Constantine and inflicts major damage including deadly poison from his blade. Melee ensues.

Prospero: I thought I told you two to stay out there!

Prospero kills the Kaiser. Prospero gets his scimitars back.

Prospero: Can't say this was any more difficult than I expected it to be. But I thought I told you boys to stay outside.

Constantine: Yes, but we provided the necessary distraction.

Prospero: Now we have to get out of here and rendezvous with Rose.

Prospero goes out alternative door. T&C go out front, encounter four soldiers in entrance room. Combat ensues. Soldiers whine about T&C killing Kaiser. Two are killed. Constantine does critical damage during flanking maneuver.

At some point Torix is down. Constantine is near death, and runs out the room. He hides behind a bust as the two remaining soldiers follow them. Constantine shoots them with explosive crossbow bolt, killing them.

Rose and Violet come in, shutting doors behind them.

Torix: Finally, a friendly face. Please don't betray us, we're not in the mood for betrayal. And don't tell us to fight someone either.

Constantine: Why you looking at me funny, Violet? Huh?

R&V: Are you two doing alright?

Constantine: NO!

Torix: We just endured three bloody battles.

(Violet dressed in Metzger's outfit, but without facial disguises or inner guard insignia.)

They walk forward. A bunch of soldiers pour in behind them.

R&V: It's settled outside. Follow us.

Soldiers enter behind them as T&C follow V&R outside.

 

They are on a platform in the central plaza, with ton of soldiers, commonfolk, nobles, etc. outside, all yelling different things, plus many dead bodies strewn across the area, from both sides. Some soldiers bring out corpses of Fleischer, Metzger, and the Kaiser. Rose silences everyone, then starts crying and breaks into a big speech exaggerating the losses of various people (Ivan Thule, Grimms, van Dams, etc.) Violet is smirking. This is deep and intense, what is about to happen. Rose says "This tragedy that has befallen us cannot be solved, but this man" Violet steps forward "and I may have found a solution. We know who is behind all of it." She points to Torix and Constantine and says T&C are responsible for everyone who is dead. Violet turns around and says "Guards, attack them if they speak." Violet approaches Lord Grimm and says he is of Grimm descent (from Grandmother Lady Agatha Grimm) and wishes to unite the two noble families. So if you will accept me into your family (and to van Dam) and into yours, I want to take your daughter's hand in marriage and start a new empire of man. Violet explains rehashed version of why T&C are so dangerous. And it would be more just to have them imprisoned overnight and executed the next morning, they are too dangerous, and they must be executed immediately. Hence the gallows. And crowd is clapping and yelling and yeah. A man in hood goes up to pull the lever while Constantine and Torix are given nooses around their necks. Executioner whispers: "When you fall, run." He pulls the lever. They fall, go through the trap door, and the ropes break. Both of them. Like they were tampered with.

 

They are now in a tunnel, with only one way to go. They go down the tunnel. They hear a thudding behind them and a creaking of the trap door shut. A man comes up behind them. "I thought I told you two to run."

T&C: "We ARE!"

Whips off the hood; it's Dreier. They continue down the tunnel, overcoming a series of trials and tribulations, including Constantine falling down a chasm. They are eventually led to Dreier's secret hole. He tells them to rest while he goes and collapses the tunnel.

Torix: So what do you think is the deal with Violet? Do you think he's betraying Penumbra, or trying to legitimize the takeover?

Constantine: He's betrayed everyone, except that witch. Why did we ever get involved in the book club!? We got nothing! NOTHING! Not even a bag of opiets!

Torix: Didn't we get money?

Constantine: NO! No we didn't!

T: So do you think we should try to find Prospero? I mean, what are we going to do when we get out of here?

C: Knowing him, he's probably faked his death! But I guess we can start our OWN resistance movement!

T: Are you sure, I mean, we're only like, three people.

They look around. They decide to wait to ask Dreier to have some explosives. About 12 hours later Dreier arrives through other door. "This is great." Throws scroll down that rolls open (it's big). It's pictures of T&C: WANTED, enemies of the state, list of their crimes, etc. etc. etc. "We're going to need to figure out a way to get you two out of here and to the nearest port city as soon as possible." He goes into the other barrel and pours some ale into what seems to be a messed up tin cup. They drink. He sits on night stand. "I'm sorry this isn't nearly as comfortable as the Pocket."

Constantine: That's ok. Given recent events, I don't think the Pocket will be very comfortable right now anyways. And, just a wild guess here, you overtook your captors and took their explosives, didn't you?

Dreier nods his head. "Do you want the run-through, or what? I can give you mine or you can give me yours, either one will probably be crazy."

T&C tell story to Dreier.

Dreier: I hope my leverage didn't help the Penumbra faction.

Constantine: Well, it kinda did, but it was mainly the father thing.

end of story

Dreier: I met this Adrian guy, he was beatin' me at pool, I'm not really a pool guy, I'm more of a fighter. Next thing I knew a tanker hit me in the back of the head, and a hood was over my head. I tried to defend myself with the pool stick, I think I got one of them through the ear, but then something blunt hit me in the head. I woke up, I had a heavy rope around my wrists. One of the guards wasn't paying attention, they hadn't bound my legs, so I got up behind him and knocked him over with my legs, I choked him with my rope, then kicked him in the skull until he died. I got his sword out of the sheath and cut my bonds, and left. Got my hands on something close enough to a polearm: sword and a pole stick. Made short work of other guards. Got my hands on a cueball, and then… it was all hell for them after that.

Constantine: Did you, uh… no, nvm, nvm…

Dreier: Did I what?

Constantine: Did you, wait, oh, yeh, nvm.

Dreier: Anyway, by the time I got out of there, it was night time, and I fought my way over to the Pocket, and I ran into that Violet son-of-a-bitch, and he was heading to my old room with his weapon out, but then I heard your voices in there, so I assumed he was going to go after you guys, so I whipped him around and gave him a scar he wouldn't forget. After that I ran the hell out of there, taking some ale as I went. And yeh, I retreated into the sewers and established a place to hide for now. I've been trying to get at them since, and that's how I ended up as your executioner.

Constantine: Well, I'm sure glad you didn't execute us. Okay then, oh, and by the way old chum, do you have any spare mining charges?

Dreier: I have a few.

Constantine: Can we—?

Dreier: Sure. Now we gotta get you out of here, there's soldiers all over the place. I need to claim my own territory back in Eisenreich, but Violet wants you two DEAD. So we need to find a way to get you guys out of here. The easiest thing to do would be to get you out of the Empire of Man, and that means getting you to the port city of Westhaven, since the Eastern Border is pretty well secured right now with the military being as active as it is.

Constantine: What's Violet's role in the Empire?

Dreier: Basically, it's a new monarchy.

They all hear a weird noise outside.

Dreier: Damn. I don't know what that was. We can go through HERE, which is basically swimming through sewage, or we can fight our way out.

Torix suggests using the barrels, so they decide to get in barrels and drift through sewage while Dreier goes out some other way.

 

They encounter horrible giant mutant rats while drifting down the river of sewage. After some fighting, they defeat them and drift away from the last rat. Torix and Constantine narrowly escape contracting some horrible sewage related infection.

 Constantine muses that floating down a river of sewage is a pretty good parallel to all recent events.

While floating down the river, on a side platform, they see Sly Eddy and Brutal Mark.

Sly Eddy: Ey, what the hell is you two guys doing floating down a river of sewage?

Torix: We're trying to escape the Empire of Man because now we've been declared enemies of the state.

Sly Eddy: Ey, come on, float on over here!

They oblige.

Sly Eddy: Forgive me if I is not wanting to shake your hands.

Constantine: Are we still in Eisenreich?

Sly Eddy: Yeh. (Busts out notice.) What have you been doing?

Brutal Mark shaking his head.

Constantine: Would you say we've been more brutal than you, Mark?

They are dumbstruck.

Sly Eddy: Eh, I guess we can just wish you the best of luck, eh? Anything we can do to help you? There's change of government, but nothing really changes for us. New librarian and everything.

They find out that Sly Eddy & Brutal Mark are more freelance now. New librarian has nothing against T&C. They have truce, but other members are more… unscrupulous. So yeah… I would not surface right now.

They find out the sewer empties into a river right outside of Eisenreich. They bust out fancy new armor they picked off of dead guys for Constantine, and a new fullblade for Torix.

Eddy: When you get to Westhaven, if you happen to run into a cat named Mad Seamus, tell him you know us. Alright, good luck you guys!

They continue down the river, get out into the main river outside the city, and go ashore to wait for Dreier.

View
For a Fish
Do unto others...

Torix & Constantine get out of the barrels and decide to wait for Dreier on the bank of the West Stromm.  A forest borders the bank. After a few moments, they decide to instead travel down along the bank and see if Dreier is further down. They hear a voice call out behind them, "Ey, where you goin?" They check and see what appears to be a border guard from Eisenreich behind them. TnC have a quick conference to decide what to say, then go forward to meet the border guard. Officer says, "Alright, who the hell are you and where are you going?" He then reaches in a bag while muttering something. He whips out the Wanted paper. "Oh shit, it IS you two guys!"

TnC, mostly pushed by Torix, decide to fight the borderguard. Weapons are drawn; borderguard has a bastard sword. Constantine slashes bordergaurd with rapier. He yells, "Get out here! Help!" Four thuggish guards burst out of the forest. The borderguard and TnC fight, while the borderguard yells, "Shit, I knew they weren't kidding about you guys!" The other guards move in. Three attack Constantine, one attacks Torix. Guard yells, "Look, if you surrender now, we will take you peacefully! I am Hans Eissler, and I am placing you under arrest!"

Torix: "I am Torix van Rijn, and I am going to de-leg you, goddamnit!"

Constantine spins with the rapier, slits two guys' throats, and hits the other one across the knees. Two of them ducked and avoided the attack. Hans is knocked prone. He says, "If I can't stop you both, maybe I can stop one of you!" He attacks Constantine. One of the other guards knocks Constantine down with a big club, then Eissler coup de' grace'd him, bringing him very close to death. Torix kills Eissler by de-legging. Constantine is on the floor basically dying. Torix helps him up. The other two guards attack Torix. Torix kills one of the minions while the last one yells, "Agh! These guys are demons!" He runs away. Torix charges after him and kills him. He then goes back to Constantine.

In the aftermath of this, Dreier shows up carrying this big piece of wood with a bunch of stuff on it with ropes and he's dragging it and there's a bunch of supplies on it, and he stops when he sees all the bodies.

Constantine: "Yeh, we… got into an altercation."

Dreier: "Well, I got you a raft." It's like, the wall of a shack. He asks them to come over and look at the stuff he's gotten for them. "I need to give you some new stuff." He opens a chest thing, and there's a bunch of piled up leather clothes. They are dark greens, earthen tones, etc. There are flamboyant hats and clothes, etc. etc. "You need to put these on. Under these, no one will recognize you."

They are now in new revamped clothes. Lots of greens and browns, with bright patches. One has a large straw hat, and the other is more of a babushka-style. Torix totally took the straw hat. Constantine took Morrison's fur coat. There are two fishing poles. Stick to steer the raft with. A rope. That's about all there is on it. Last thing he says is, "Ok. I guess in the end, you guys can go where you want, but I have my own recommendations of where you should go. I did my best to get my hands on a good map. We are here…. and the best place you guys should get to is the port city of Westhaven. The only real thing you might encounter are military people going down the West Stromm trying to get to the Maritime Islands to inform the Navy of the change of government. You should not stop anywhere, except maybe some of the forests. You must take the right turn, because if you take the left turn, you will end up in the Maritime Islands. If you must stop anywhere along the river of thieves, you can stop at the town of Tasch. That's probably your safest bet. I'm heading back to Eisenreich. Don't tell anybody who you are, you should come up with aliases now. Good luck. And remember, one last thing: Revenge is best served cold. Just like beer."

Tasch

They get on the raft and are going down the river. A boat with four guys comes along behind them. They very much appear to be Hommeland soldiers. They call out, "Where are you two headed?"

Constantine: "We are headed for the town of Tasch."

Guard: "Oh, you have family in there laddie?"

Other Guard: "Oh yeh, I have family in Tasch!"

Torix recalls that they may sell fish in Tasch, and tells Constantine to say something about fish.

Constantine: "We gonna go trade for a fish."

Guard: "Wait a second! Do we recognize you from somewhere?" He pulls out the notice. "Are you guys Torix and Constantine van Rijn?"

Constantine: "Oh yeh, my name's Reynald Gordon."

Guard: "Perhaps we ought to have a little talk on the shore." Two of the guards whip out crossbows and inch toward them. They go to the bank.

Torix: "This is most upsetting, brother."

Guard: "What are you two's names again?"

Other Guard: "McAllen, let me handle this."

Constantine: "I'm Reynald, and this is my brother David Gordon."

Other Guard: "....ok, why don't you step on our boat…."

The guards and TnC go on the boat and start going down the river.

McAllen: "So where you comin' from, goin' to Tasch?"

Torix: "Where are YOU going?"

McAllen: "We're headed to the Maritime Islands to inform them of the change of government."

Informs them that Meyer is now a General.

Torix: "So what's that picture you busted out?"

McAllen: "Oh, Torix and Constantine, these two bastards that have killed people in the noble houses and mafia and innocent bystanders."

Torix: "Can I see that map?"

McAllen gives him the map.

Torix: "Well, these two are pretty bad, huh?"

McAllen: "Yeh. If you two happen to be the guys we're looking for…. well, you know." He pats his weapon.

TnC have whisper conference.

McAllen: "Et Stockholm, as long as we're taking a long time, we need something to do with these two, ey?"

Stockholm: "Contain yourself, McAllen. We're taking them to the Maritime Islands to see who they are first, and then we'll do whatever the military wants to do with them."

Constantine: "What process would go into identifiying us?"

Stockholm: "Well, they said they got some witnesses down there."

Constantine: "Oh… like, who?"

Stockholm: "Oh, just some guys the government could pull off the street without anyone missin em."

TnC just stand around while the raft continues to float, thinking of ideas. Constantine decides to pickpocket bolts from Stockholm. He successfully steals ten crossbow bolts. Torix tries to flip the raft, but FAILS. All the guards (except McAllen) turn on him and say, "What the hell are you doing?" Torix gives them a "wtf" look and tries it again, but FAILS.

Torix: "Who constructed this thing?"

Stockholm: "The… boat-makers near Eisenreich?"

Torix: "Quite, a sturdy vessel."

Constantine: "Me and my brother had a bet, and it looks like I came out on top."

Torix hands Constantine a gold piece. They then both jump at the same time to try to flip the raft, and they both FAIL MISERABLY. The guards draw their weapons.

They initiate combat with Vance McAllen, Jay Stockholm, and the other two marines. Torix knocks down one of the marines. Another one of the marines jumps off the raft and swims off to notify others. Constantine kills the knocked down marine and the corpse falls into the water.

McAllen: "You two ARE Torix and Constantine!"

Constantine: (in mocking Scottish accent) "That's a GOOD guess!"

Stockholm jumps off and swims.

McAllen: "Alright! Alright! If you spare me, I'll help you steer this boat and get to Tasch!"

Stockholm: "McAllen! what're you DOIN'!?"

McAllen: "I'm savin' my ass! Now go and TELL somebody about these two!"

 

They are in hick country, travelling down the River of Thieves. They hear plinking music up ahead. They are both dressed in raggedy hickish clothing. Some weird trappings of fancy, but it's like they're making a play at it. One of them is playing what appears to be a barrel with a broomstick coming out of it with animal guts turned into string. Has opium in mouth, and has a long grey beard. The other one is holding a weird combination between a banjo and a violin. He has a short thick black beard and a straw hat with one of the sides turned up.

Longbeard: "Rah! Ah! Rah'm tah'Tasch'na rahd!"

Constantine: "I'm sorry! I can't hear you!"

They pass by them, about five feet away.

 

Quiet time.

McAllen: "So really, what are you guys doing going to Tasch?"

Torix: "-coughcough-None of your business."

McAllen: "As long as I'm taking you there, I think I should know."

Torix: "No, you don't."

Constantine: "We ARE headed to Tasch to trade for a fish."

McAllen: "So… what kind of fish you trying to get?"

Constantine: "It doesn't matter as far as you're concerned. I mean, we don't care what kind of fish we get, just so long as it's a fish."

Torix: "Presumably to eat."

McAllen: "It looks like we've come to the edge of Tasch. Let me help you dock."

They dock.

Constantine: "McAllen! Stay at the raft!"

Torix: "Actually, no, I don't trust him with the raft."

Constantine: "McAllen! DON'T stay at the raft!!"

They go into town.

Constantine: "Keep your mouth shut."

They decide to talk to a dude.

Constantine: "So, we're just passing through this river town. Anything you can tell us?"

Street person: "Well, you're in the town of Tasch. We fish, and drink, and yeh… I don't know if'n what yer gettin at."

Constantine: "Is there any kind of trouble around here? Because we have a habit of making trouble go away."

Street person: "Uh, not that I know of…"

Constantine: "Well… any where to… buy… a fish?"

Street person: "Yeah, that would be down at Eezeekeel's."

They go there.

Torix: "Give us your weapon."

McAllen: "Well, I've already taken you to Tasch, I don't think you have to…"

Torix: "Yes. Yes we do."

McAllen: "I don't think you want to kill me in front of all these people."

He starts to walk away.

McAllen: "Why don't you two just leave me alone?"

Constantine: "Where are you going?"

McAllen: "To the raft. I brought you to Tasch, now let me go."

Torix and Constantine move in on him.

McAllen: "Perhaps we should talk to the fishmonger first."

Constantine: "But only if you come with us."

McAllen: "....Alright. I'll go with you."

Fishmonger: "Whoodeehow, what can I get for ya?"

Constantine: "Fish. Now."

Fishmonger: "Well, I can get you some tuna, or I could get you some salmon, or…"

Torix: "Salmon."

Fishmonger pulls out salmon. "How much do you want?"

Constantine: "Umm… that much."

They pay the money. They then go into the center of town.

Constantine: "Oh no, McAllen, I don't think these people and their mothers are stupid and uneducated!"

The hicks gather around.

Street person: "What'd you say about us?"

Constantine: "Oh, well, this fellow here was just saying how you and your mothers are stupid and uneducated! These high city government folk are always trying to control us small folk, even where their jurisdiction does not apply!"

Street person: "Well, mister McAllen, maybe you should take a walk with us into Ashton's Tavern and have a little chat with the bartender." They take McAllen into the tavern.

They find out Jim Mueller, a big Torix-sized fellow with fishing-waders and a doublet, can steer a boat. He invites them to stay overnight in Tasch and brings them to his room. Tells them that bar people will mess McAllen up.

Jim: "So what brings you boys through here?"

Torix: "What IS it that brings us to Tasch?"

Constantine: "Well, I'm Morrison White and this is my brother James. We're going to Westhaven because we really don't agree with the new Kaiser that's taken power in Eisenreich."

Torix: "We're trying to get as far away from Eisenreich as possible."

They explain about the Kaiser.

Jim takes a drag of some big pipe. "That's heavy. So, where do you plan to go after you go to Westhaven?"

Constantine: "Well, we're probably gonna go to either the land of Dwarves or Elves. Find some people with some sense."

Torix: "For real, breh."

Jim: "Damn." Takes a drag. "You guys want some."

They politely decline.

Jim: "Well, I guess that's the night for me." He sleeps on his bed, with his back against the wall while TnC sleep on the dirt floor.

 

When they wake up, Jim (and their fish) are gone. They go out the door. They find Jim in the town center with a fish in the firepit.

Jim: "Hope you don't mind I took the liberty of starting this up. So uh, go ahead and grab a hunk of it."

Constantine: "Ever know what happened to that city slicker guy?"

Jim throws a thumb in one direction. There's a limp-looking dude kneeling in the muddy bank with his head in the mud.

Jim: "Yeh, the people of Tasch are generally peaceful unless you say something about their mother. If you say something about their COUSIN, they might just think you're trying to hook them up. So how's the fish?"

Constantine: "It's got a nice flavor. It's actually got a smooth leading flavor with sour aftertaste; but it is welcome. It dances on the pallet."

Torix: "Better than rat."

Jim: "Alright boys, well, whenever you feel like getting ready… though I think we ought to go thank Mr. Eezeekeel for this fish."

They do so. They notice there is a gathering of the folk in the center of town. The two hicks they passed by way earlier on are all mucky and dirty, glaring at them.

Longbeard spits.

Constantine: "Oh, it's you two!"

Longbeard: "Why yes it is, us two!

Constantine: "Where are your instruments?"

Longbeard: "We had to leave them behind, cuz we had to walk!"

Torix: "Hard."

Constantine: "I'm sorry, I didn't know you needed a ride. I couldn't hear what you had to say."

Longbeard: "I tell you what. All will be forgiven if you can beat us in a drinking game."

Constantine: "What happens if we lose?"

Longbeard: "Well, if you lose, you gots to take us to Westhaven, cuz that's where we're headed next."

Constantine: "You go on ahead to the tavern, we'll catch up to you."

Longbeard: "We brought our own liquor."

Jim backs off. "If you guys need a help with a fight, I'll help, but I ain't doin no drinkin game."

Longbeard: "Now as is custom in any Rocky Plains drinking game, we must introduce ourselves. My name Oslo Herring, but you can call me Red."

Blackbeard: "My name is Rey Maslow."

Constantine: "What's your nickname?"

Blackbeard: "It's Rey. Or Mas. Your pick."

Red: "So what's yer names?"

Constantine: "I'm Morrison White and this is my brother James."

Red: "So, who's gonna take the first sip?"

Maslow: "Guess I will."

A crowd gathers. Maslow fails after second sip. Torix also fails after second sip. Red is getting hazy after second sip. Constantine fails after second sip.

Red: "Looks like you're takin us to Westhaven!"

Constantine: "No! We don't have to take you anywhere! You cheated!"

One of the hicks laughs, nudges the body of McAllen, his body slides into the muck and his legs go up in the air.

Hick: "Did I hear someone trying to get out of an official rule in Tasch?"

They get on the raft: Torix, Constantine, Maslow, Red, and Jim.

 

Red: "So, why you two goin' on down to Westhaven?"

Constantine: "We don't agree with the new government that just took power."

Red: "Wow, what new government took power?"

Constantine: "Well, Kaiser Balthasar got assassinated by the new Kaiser named Violet."

Red: "Does the military know yet?"

Constantine: "Pretty much. Also, there's these two fugitives running around."

Torix: "We're really scared of them."

Red: "Would any of you boys care for some of my stronger liquor?"

Everyone except Maslow refuses.

Constantine: "So why you two headed to Westhaven?"

Red: "Well, we lost our last two instruments, so now we're headed to Westhaven to get more."

Constantine: "You got uh, some money to make that purchase?"

Red: "Well, we got skills."

Constantine: "So you two are musicians?"

Red: "Yeh."

Constantine: "Know any songs? You know, to sing?"

Red: "Well, we generally play better with the strung-barrel and arm-guitar."

They decide to make camp on the bank so Red and Maslow can fish. TnC feel woozy. They pass out.

 

They wake up in the middle of some forest clearing. There is a raggedy piece of leather with writing on it on the floor, and a compass.

"Betcha thought we couldn't write. Now there ain't no hard feelings 'bout this, but we figured we had to walk part of the way, you have to find your way to Westhaven from here. We took your navigator along. He was a lot more agreeable after we hit him a couple of times on the head with a large stick and he saw you two were passed out. Hope to see ya in Westhaven. Signed, Red. P.S. Next time someone just asking for a ride, you ought to pick 'em up."

They see three paths going out of the clearing. They go down the middle. They hear a noise, and pull out their weapons. A bear comes down and meets them. After much fighting, they finally kill the bear. Constantine shoots it in the eye. They then continue to walk through the forest. There's a man in the forest hacking up a dead pig. Very wiry, no hair on his face, long dready hair, very greasy. Hacking up a pig. Torix loudly clears his throat and the man yelps in surprise.

Torix: "Whatcha doin there?"

Man: "Eatin some pig."

Torix: "Know where we are?"

Man: "You're in my territory."

Constantine: "We'll be sure to get out of it, as soon as you point us in the direction of Westhaven."

Man: "Westhaven is that way." He makes a weird gesture.

Constantine: "um… which way?"

Man: "That way." Weird gesture.

TnC start leaving awkwardly.

Man: "Where you going?"

Torix: "That way." Makes a weird gesture.

Some dialogue happens and the man, Hadrian Redding, informs TnC about some men with big ambitions and dreams that have a fire and he wants them to get the fire, mentioning that they don't have beards except ones made of metaphors. They go in the direction he indicates and finds some men around a campfire. A trap opens up as they try to move on, and the people around the fire run after them yelling about food in the trap.

One of the men: "Where you goin?"

Constantine: "THAT way!" Weird gestures.

One of the men gives them the direction to Westhaven. They go that way.

 

Bunch of water— egde of the forest. A pirate ship goes by.

Pirate: "Avast, there be stragglers!"

A plank extends to the land.

Pirate: "What are you two doin round here?"

Constantine: "Headed to Westhaven."

Pirate: "Yargh, we be headed there too."

A deal is struck. TnC essentially join the crew as fighters in exchange for passage to Westhaven.

Pirate: "I'm Captain Seamus Flanders."

Constantine: "Would you happen to know any Mark Dutchman?"

Flanders: "Yargh, I be long time associates with Sly Eddy and Brutal Mark."

TnC explain how they know Sly Eddy and Brutal Mark.

Flanders: "Well, any friend of Eddy and Mark is a friend of mine."

They shakes the hands. Flanders explains it will be a day or three before they reach Westhaven. Flanders says the navy doesn't pay attention to small ships like these. He then reveals he knows about the change of government and Kaiser Vincent.

Flanders: "And at the same time, we've been retreating away from Westhaven, ain't we, boys?"

They all yell, "Aye!"

Torix: "AWAY from Westhaven?"

Flanders: "Cap'n Black Henry has taken control of the southern sea 'round Westhaven."

Torix: "You're still taking us to Westhaven, right?"

Flanders: "Yes, we're thinking of challenging this Black Henry."

TnC say they would be willing to join the brawl, and reveal their nicknames, the Butchers of Eisenreich. These pirates haven't heard of TnC. They say they will probably just let TnC go into Westhaven on their own when they get there to handle Black Henry. They come upon a ship.

Flanders: "You boys ready to get some experience in pirating?"

They agree. TnC are sent on a rowboat over to the merchant ship and climb on. They order the five men on board to give TnC their ship. He says his name is Captian Fabian Mahler and is a merchant marine. He orders his guards to attack TnC.

Torix lops one of the guards' heads off. Constantine attacks Fabian. Torix is eventually knocked into the water, but then climbs back onto the ship while Constantine engages the three guards and Captain Fabian. Constantine slashes two of the guards' kneecaps open. Fabian retreats, then charges again, but is eventually defeated.

Fabian: "Alright! fine! I'll give you whatever you want! Just don't kill me! I can give you money, clothes, a sword or two…"

Constantine: "Alright, we'll grant you quarter."

Fabian: "Well, what do you want?"

Constantine: "All of the above."

Fabian: "Oh, bother."

He shows them a chest where all the gold is. There are also two belts that hold their pants very well. They get new revamped outfits.

Fabian: "If I may ask, what are your names?"

Torix: "James White."

Constantine: "Morrison White."

Fabian retreats into his quarters. TnC load all the booty onto the rowboat and take it to the pirate ship.

Constantine: "So how'd we do?"

Flanders: "Good. I hope you do run into Black Henry, and when you do, tell him Mad Seamus sends him his regarghds."

In the distance, is Westhaven.

 

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