My name is, or rather it was, Gannon ‘Turncloak,’ and I have decided to keep a journal of my experiences. I have never kept a log of the things I have done in life, to me there was never a need. Oblivion was always lurking nearby, and I could not see past my own fears; my own hatreds. Until 3 days ago, I was locked in a prison cell in the city of Brae Halak. I was sentenced to die for the crimes I had committed. The law, as it stands, was correct in my punishments, and I knew that death had finally found me. As the end of my life approached, I felt inside me a great emptiness; a hole where a man once lived. I was no longer a man, but a monster, dishonorable and dishonest; a raging storm let loose upon the world.
I was shocked when my one time partner, Belkin Brinx, came with the wodin Festus in order to rescue me. Admittedly, their plan was lacking in subtly, but seemed very much to suit the pair. Festus is a user of the Stone, and a sharp mind in his own rite. He managed to talk his way into the prison not once, but twice in order to scout the area out. In the end, the old warrior chose a clumsy sort of disguise. Not that I am opposed to such actions, mind you. Deceit can be a powerful ally, and perhaps it would have worked to our great advantage were it not for a single flaw in this grand scheme; neither of the fools spoke any measurable amount of Zhûrascan.
The Gods were surly watching that night, with their cruel eyes. And they were finding the ordeal amusing, as warrior and wodin were both able to make it to the great iron door that led into my section of the facility. Here, the plan fell apart. Challenges were made, words were spoken, and in what I have come to understand as common fasion, they were answered with steel.
I did not see this melee, as I was still a prisoner in both body and spirit, any comforts left by Festus long since forgotten; but I have seen Belkin Brinx swing his blade in anger, and I hope never to find myself on the receiving end. Soon enough im sure, Brinx had slain all those guards close at hand, and I am told Festus conjured up some terrible Majiks; both fire and smoke, to keep those on the lower levels from ascending. Belkin purloined the keys to the great door, and then to my own cell, and I was given a great shock to see them two, and not some terrible new punishment designed by angry guards.
With some effort, Belkin freed me from my bonds. We were now in the hallway of prison cells, and the great iron door was being pounded in from the other side, Festus having had to abandon his spell. I was weary and quite weak, but so invigorated was I to take some small form of revenge on my captors, that even as the door burst from its hinges, and Belkins huge form began to fill the small passage with violence, I was able to pick my way through the guards ranks, and it was not long before the old soldier and I had felled the lot of them.
But now, we had little enough of a plan left. There was but one way out, even as Festus searched for another. To charge down the stair meant death, most like. To me, it was a welcome enough event; to die in battle, sword in hand (albeit borrowed) rather than at the end of a rope like some common thief. But the duo had not risked their lives that I may lose mine so foolishly, and it was eventually decided that they would make once again as guards. They pretended to apprehend me, and we descended the stair to see a makeshift barricade, and many men, some armed with the famed Zhûrascan rifles, awaiting our charge.
They saw that Belkin was wounded, and thinking him a guard, he was ushered off to the infirmary. Once again, their lack of Zhûrascan failed them, and my brazenly clinging to a blade undermined us. As a guard saw that I was not truly bound, I quickly dispatched the man, and thankfully he provided me some cover from the two nearest rifles. Meanwhile, Festus once more used his connection with the Aether to cast some strange devilry, and soon he was engaged hand to hand with two soldiers, as his spell distracted them.
I charged the makeshift cover, as the riflemen nearest me desperately tried to reload, and I quickly killed one. At this point, it should be remembered that I was armor-less, bare chested, and hand only tattered rags covering my loins. Between this new battle, and the one upstairs, I was weary and had taken some small injuries. Thankfully, Belkin heard our plight, and quickly brought to bear his unmatched fighting skill. The guards were butchered, and it was not long before I located my items taken from me all those months ago as I was dragged from the savage sea. It felt good to be properly equipped, but the feeling soon passed. Outside, some 20 men were bracing themselves for our final escape. Too many, I knew. But once again, Festus was our saving.
Belkin and I located some small sacks of black powder for use with the rifles, and we tossed them from a small window on the second story into the crowed of soldiers waiting outside the prison doors. At the same moment, the wodin opened the doors and cast a spell of flames, igniting the powder, and sending many men screaming into the void. We took this chance to escape, to make a mad dash across the prison yard and out the gates; directly through the flames.
Festus had been hit many times by rifle fire when he ushered his powerful words, and he was incapacitated, so Belkin carried him. The free air tasted sweet, even in this hovel; the slums of the great city. Belkin and I met up with young Kondle Scase who I learned had been providing cover with arrows from across the street, and I managed to find a filthy public house not too far from the prison, but far away enough to get a lead on what would become a manhunt. It was no more than a room and a few cots. There, Belkin continued to stabilize Festus with healing Stone, and I scouted the area for a better hiding spot. Soon enough, a basement in a collapsed building, (quite well hidden) was found, and served as our temporary home.
All the while we escaped, I had wondered why Belkim, such a good and honorable man, and come to my rescue. Here, my old partner told me why he had fought set me free: In his never ending quest to discover the secret origins of long dead heroes, and of unraveling the mysteries of hidden deposits of Runestone that exist outside of the small island of Utsjubai, he had great need of an artifact that was locked away tight in a nobleman’s home in the northern half of the city. To be honest, I do not fully understand Belkins strange charge, or why he and Festus have pledge their lives to the Pyreneum; liars and greedy sycophants bent on their own brand of domination. As I have come to find, there is a great deal I do not understand.
My once clear cut partner, seeing only black and while alone, was showing shades of grey. He needed this artifact so much it seemed, he risked releasing me from my deserved fate. He had learned, from the very man who had mysteriously contacted him with the artifacts existence that I was the only living soul to ever breach the home in which it now resided. The home of Iz Mahadi.
The man was to the Empire what I was to the Khaja during the Seven Years War, only he was a zealot. Loyal to the true Khaja, Lak A’haagal, he fought in the Khai’shakar for Empire to regain the kingdom; killing his own people for treason, burning their homes and plundering their treasures. When the war was over, he was rich from its spoils, and was properly rewarded with a Noble title.
Long ago, when I had first been offered the position of Inquisitor, I took a year of leave before deciding weither I would take it. In that time, I spent my spoils as I wandered the land, searching for my place in history and eventually came to Iz Mahadi’s home. I had met the man after the treaties had been signed, and I had always hated him. Because one cannot ever have too much coin, and because I thought he could use some humbling, I broke into his residence and was nearly killed trying to rob him. It is not surprising they needed my help to acquire this object, and while I was not looking forward to the task, I was in Belkin and Festus’ power, and owed them dearly for my freedom.
I came up with the plan I would use were I alone, and Belkin added a valuable twist; as I scaled the estates wall, and then the building itself, Belkin, Scase and Festus would stage on the opposite side a noisy ‘burglary.’ This would allow me into the home as they distracted the guards.
Iz’s house was built around a courtyard, and on the top floor surrounding this opening was his personal chambers, and also his locked storage. I would scale the house, walk over the rooftop, and slide onto the top floor via the opening in the courtyards roof.
Before we set off to do the deed, Festus said some words over me, and I knew he was casting his Majiks about my person. Usually, I would have cast him away, but Iz was a powerful man, and I accepted all the help I could get. I found that whatever he had done, I had a great ability to climb, and what was already to me an easy task, become tenfold simpler.
On my side of the house, I was as a shadow, and none saw me as I scaled the wall, traversed the garden and began to climb the side of the building. On their side, Scase slew guards with arrow, and Belkin with blade; they made no secret of their carnage. Too add to this display, Belkin set the hay in the stables alight, and a great fire began to burn. Just as I peered into the courtyard, I saw Iz exit his main chambers as he was informed that the house was burning. I was tempted to kill the man then, but I could not let my petty hatreds jeopardize Belkin’s prize, and I waited for him to dress, and go down to the scene of the fire. Things went very smoothly from then on out. The fire was a perfect chance for Beklin and his friends to escape, and I made short work of the lock on the door to the storage.
The room was filled quite neatly with riches, and I did help myself to some extras; prison had left my lands burned, my ships sunk, and my men scattered. The way I saw it, I had to start over, and Iz’s treasures will prove helpful. The artifact would have been difficult to find, but fortunately my familiarity with Magi and the Stone was such that I was able to carve a few Vessels of my own, and I used it to detect the magical aura of a small amulet that bore the name Belkin had told me to look for. I also took a rapier that bore an aura, although what its qualities are remain unknown to me as of this writing.
I left the scene with little difficulty, and we met at the Inn where our horses were tied. We returned to the hovel to hide for the night, and Belkin, Festus and I entered the Aether with stones at the wodins request (I was reluctant, but again felt the weight of my newfound debt them both) In the Aether, they spoke with Lokar about the artifact, and Lokar thanked me for the role I played and asked me to stay on with the three of them. For now I have agreed, although there is tension; Lokar does not trust me, and neither does Belkin. Nor have I given them any reason too, but our association hangs on the edge of a knife. As of now, it is my best option I believe. I am in need of both funding and purpose, and I hope to eventually find my old friend Varus if he is still lives.
The next morning, Belkin sent work to one Ifram Khan, the man who had evidently lured the threesome to the city in the first place, with news of the amulet. He also possessed a deep friendship with Lokar, explaining his involvement with the charge.
He too had a great interest in Belkin and Lokars mysteries.
Ifram proved to me pleasant enough. He told us that his theory was that the amulet was a part of several, and that others would perhaps contain more words and poems that could further their research, and It was suggested we look to the south in the valley of the Khaja; a burial site for kings long dead. For them it provides to further their goal, and for me it does the same, in a rather different manner, albeit. While I cared little for their quest, as we spoke of the amulet and its meaning, we were discovered by city guardsmen. As suspected, Blackhearts escape was much discussed, and he was sorely missed at the gallows that day.
Ifram feared he had been compromised, and so we fled the bar quite swiftly, narrowly avoiding the soldiers who searched for us. After quickly acquiring some goods, we exited the city, and made our way south to the valley to continue our search.
In the distance I can still see the soft glow of the city to the south, and I find myself feeling a joy I have not known in many, many years. I reflect over the lives I have lived, and the deaths I have brought to them all, and now in the most unlikely person, I have found redemption, and once again put on a new face, and live a new life. But even in this crisp air, beneath so wondrous a sky, I can feel in the chill of night the cold truth; we are all dying. The sand in the hourglass runs low for us; Warborn, Blackheart and Truncloak. I fear that sooner or later one of us is going to run out of time.