Ptolus: City by the Spire

A Trial Interrupted

As Cimed’s spell began to fade from Millerjoi, a warrior dressed in studded leather armor entered the courtyard. He was of medium build, with a shaved head. Behind him, a group of five women followed. They were dressed in dark gray tunics with matching cowls. From their movements, it was clear that they wore some type of armor beneath their tunics. They were armed with a motley of weapons, some with heavy crossbows, others with longswords or war hammers. Each of them wore a small emblem on their shoulder of a circle – half white, half black.

“Brother Cimed has summoned us, Father,” the bald man said, approaching the party.

“Ah, Speaker Fidil,” Father Verdun said, “we have had a bit of a disturbance here. I need the Sisters to escort this prisoner to Dalenguard,” he motioned towards Millerjoi, as Gideon helped the prisoner to his feet. “These men will accompany you.”

The Sisters eyed each of them closely. None of them said so much as a word, but stared at each of them, as if they were studying them closely. Almost as one, the Sisters encircled the prisoner. Speaker Fidil and the party then led them back through the cathedral and onto the city streets.

The city streets were mostly deserted at this late hour, save for a few late night travelers spotted here and there along the way. In every case, they gave the party a wide berth upon seeing the Sisters. Speaker Fidil explained to the party that the Sisterhood of Silence was a militant monastic order of the Church of Lothian. They are subjected to exacting training in the militant arts and through their final initiation ritual, they must take a vow of silence. In return they are blessed with a potent form of telepathy, allowing them to communicate with one another. This telepathy transcends the spoken word, allowing them to communicate with images, emotions, sharing a huge amount of information in a moment. This allows them to effectively fight as if they were a single entity.

Speaker Fidil went on to explain that with each group of Sisters, there is assigned a Speaker. A man who is subject to the same training and given the same blessing of telepathy. His purpose is to accompany the Sisters and serve as their speaker. They communicate to him, and he to them through telepathy, but he is not subject to the vow of silence. The Speaker serves as the voice of the Sisters. In lieu of the vow of silence, all Speakers are eunochs.

The Sisterhood of Silence, have a rather unique authority in the city of Ptolus. They literally roam the streets looking for crimes being committed. They do not investigate crimes or capture criminals. Anyone they find in the act of committing a crime are subjected to immediate justice, in accordance with both Imperial and Holy Law. Sometimes this is death, sometimes it is dismemberment, but in either case, the Sisters serve as judge, jury and executioners. For this reason, they are often avoided by both criminals and non-criminals alike.

The party eventually arrives at Dalenguard, where Speaker Fidil gains them access to the central keep. Millerjoi is handed over to the Castle Guard and the party is advised to return the next morning to discuss the matter with Commissar Igor Urnst.
After a good night’s rest at their rent house, the party returns to Dalenguard. They are ushered into a large hall, where they see the Commissar seated at a wide table. The many columned hall is lined with the Commissar’s Men, an elite branch of the City Watch. Standing to the side of the Commissar is Captain Pharis Noldstrom, leader of the Commissar’s Men.

The party understood that the Commissar had been appointed by the late Emperess Addares XXXIII and that his rule over the city was absolute. He was, in effect, the voice of the Empire as far as the affairs of the city were concerned. They knelt before him. He nodded towards them, clearly pleased to see their supplications.

The party introduced themselves, but Ian took special care to disguise his last name. He was certain that the Commissar would recognize the names of one of the noble houses of the city, and was not ready to openly declare himself.

The party relayed to the Commissar their involvements and actions taken against the Ennin Slave Lords, as well as their efforts to track down and bring each of the Slave Lords to justice. The Commissar was clearly impressed by their adventures. At last, he ordered Captain Noldstrom to “go fetch the prisoner”.

As they were waiting, Commissar Urnst asked the party what they called themselves. This had been a hotly debated subject among the party members for some time, with no clear name having been agreed upon. But being asked by the lord of the city brought about a final decision. The party introduced themselves as “The Red Trackers”. At this, the Commissar had the court scribe draw up an official Imperial Charter for the party to consider signing.

Commissar Urnst explained that this charter would give the party certain obligations and benefits. Naturally, they would be subject to the Empire and could be called upon to assist the city in times of need. In return, they would be exempt from taxes on treasure they gain while delving beneath the city, as well as would be subject to less scrutiny by the City Watch. Likewise, while on official assignments of the Commissar or the Twelve Commanders, they would have certain immunities from the City Watch and the bureaucracy of the city administrators.

It was a lot to take in, but the party finally told the Commissar that they would give consideration to the offer and thanked him for the proposal.

At last, Captain Noldstrom returned with Millerjoi, under heavy guard. The prisoner was in shackles around his hands and feet, making it difficult to walk. He looked as if he hadn’t slept. Captain Noldstrom brought the prisoner before the Commissar, casting him down to the floor. Millerjoi laid there, prostrate, before his judge.

The trial moved quickly. Millerjoi offered little to his defence, admitting to everything the party accused him of – Sacrilege against Lothian, Bribing of officials, disturbing the peace, Coercion of a citizen, Using magic to influence the mind of a citizen, Trafficking in illegal goods, Theft of property of a citizen, kidnapping of citizens and non-citizens, assault upon a citizen, murder of citizens and non-citizens. In every case, Millerjoi only sat there quietly, nodding his head slightly as each accusation flew. He only muttered “guilty” as each was read off.

The Commissar, at last, looked again to the party. “Do any of you have anything to say in either the defense or persecution of this man, before I issue my judgment?” he asked.

The party was silent.

The Commissar rose, “Very well,” he began, “In light of these heinous crimes against the Empire and City, as evidenced here today, I…”

At that moment the doors to the hall burst open as a group of Lothianite priests rushed into the hall. The many guards immediately spun about, weapons at the ready. Captain Noldstrom, drew his sword to guard the Commissar, whose face immediately flashed with anger. “What is the meaning of this!” he demanded.

The priests moved aside, as a heavy man wearing crimson robes entered the hall. He wore a matching wide-brimmed hat. About his neck hung the golden encrusted symbol of The Conciliators. “It is I, Cardinal Delgado, and I am here to put a stop to these proceedings.” He had a slight smirk on his face as he bowed slightly to the Commissar.

The Commissar’s eye twitched at this. He was clearly not one who appreciated being subject to anyone. “By whose authority, priest?” he barked at the Cardinal.

“By that of the Prince of the Church, m’lord,” The Cardinal said, smugly. Delgado was clearly enjoying this exchange.

“This prisoner has committed no crimes that would give the Church authority over him,” the Commissar snapped.

“Quite the contrary, Commissar,” These…delvers (the word slid from the Cardinal’s tongue with a hint of disgust) found the prisoner on holy ground, seeking refuge at St. Valien’s Cathedral. True, he was expelled by the priests, but this was not at the authority of the Bishop. The Church is of the opinion that they should have full jurisdiction over this matter."

Unperturbed, the Commissar immediately snapped back, “This slaver has committed his crimes against the people of the Empire and the peaceful people of this city. I have all the authority I need to have him hanged this instant!”

Cardinal Delgado crossed his hands across his round belly as he slowly walked further into the room, towards Millerjoi and the party. “I would never be one to doubt the authority of the Commissar in his management of the city, but as you are aware, wise lord, such power comes from the Emperor…” Cardinal Delgado now stood behind the prisoner. He glanced down at Millerjoi, wrinkling his nose in disgust, “I too serve the rightful Emperor, Commissar Urst, and am only carrying out our heir’s wishes.”

The Commissar, jaws clenched was clearly growing uncomfortable, “What would the Church have need of this slaver for? Surely, this is not about some petty jurisdictional issue. Tell me!” he slammed his hand down on his desk, “Why is this lowly scoundrel of any importance to you?”

Delgado tossed his head back, “If you must know, we have reason to believe there is more to this slaver than what you may be aware. We have reason to believe that he is an agent of the Balacazars.” He paused for a moment to let the words settle in before continuing. “Does it not seem odd that he would be here offering no defense, asking for mercy, acting as if he has suddenly had this change of heart and is no longer an evil man?”

“It will matter not once he is sentenced to death!” Commissar Urnst said, callously.

“Perhaps so, but the Concilliators seek to put this man to the question, to learn the truth of his purposes.” Cardinal Delgado glanced to his sleeve, pinching a speck from it, flicking it to the floor, “Following this, of course, you may punish him as you see fit, in accordance with the law.”

Maur spoke up, “there are spelsl that can be used to learn if this man holds any secrets. I see no need for this man to be tortured.”

“And who are you?” Delgado turned to him, as if noticing the dwarf for the first time.

Maur was surprised at Delgado’s tone, but answered, “I’m Maur of the Grailwarden.”

“Is that so?” Delgado said sarcastically, “There are spells that can learn secrets, and there are spells that can divine truth.” he turned back to the Commissar, “there are also spells that can block such magics. Our methods are more…exacting. Tested and proven over centuries.”

“I know your methods, Cardinal,” the Commissar said, bluntly.

Gideon then looked down at Millerjoi, noticing he was shaking like a leaf. The slaver was clearly frightened by the prospect of torture. Despite the fact that the Slavers had tortured the party for days in their dungeons, Gideon felt a hint of remorse. “Tell them what you know, Millerjoi,” Gideon said to him, “and avoid what you know is about to come.”

Millerjoi looked up to Gideon, glanced to Cardinal Delgado and then looked to the Commissar, “It is true, my lord. I was in league with the Balacazars, and they did cast a spell on me with orders to turn myself in. HAving me here, in this chamber was all a plot of the Balacazars.”

A hush went through the gathered guards. A smile crept across Delgado’s face, as he nodded in victory. Millerjoi continued, “But it was not a plot to cause harm to you, Commissar. It was to learn more of a suspected plot against you!”

The Commissar seemed visibly stunned by the words. “Go on.” he said.

“It is believed that the Killraven Crime League may have infiltrated the Commissar’s Men. I was to come here, in their presence. The spells cast upon me would serve to aid the Balacazars in learning the truth of this.”

Maur caught sight of Captain Noldstorm at that instant. He winced at the words from Millerjoi. Maur was uncertain, though. Is Noldstrom was already aware of this plot? Could he be the double agent working for the Killraven’s? Or was he just wincing at the idea that one of his own command would stoop so low as to commit treason against the Commissar? He was unable to tell for sure.

Delgado immediately glanced to his priests, who quickly cast a spell. A dome of shimmering light filled the hall, slowly fading. “No magics of the Balacazars will spy upon us, now,” he said.

The Commissar, still standing, suddnely pointed to Millerjoi, “Take this prisoner, Delgado! Take him and do whatever is necessary to get to the bottom of this. I want to know everyhting he knows of this. Take him, now!”

Cardinal Delgado waved his hand, causing the priests to rush up, taking hold of the prisoner. Millerjoi, kicking and screaming, was dragged from the chambers. Delgado bowed slightly to the Commissar before turning and following them.

The Commissar then turned to Captain Noldstrom, “And I want you to get to the bottom of these accusations. If there is a traitor here…FIND THEM!”

Noldstrom saluted, “Right away, Commissar!” He then spun on his heel, leaving the room.

The Commissar then looked to the party, “These proceedings are over.” He then rushed out of the room.

The party then left Dalenguard. Upon leaving the outer gates, and back on the streets of Old Town, MAur shared with the party the odd reaction he noticed Captain Noldstrom have when Millerjoi mentioned that there was a suspected Killraven agent among the Commissar’s Men. At this, Ian decided to spend some time observing the gate, hoping for a chance to look further into what Captain Noldstrom may be up to. The rest of the party made thier way to the Administration building to apply for new Imperial Identification papers (theirs had all been stolen when they were captured by the Ennin a while back).

After waiting in the long lines of the Administration Building, Maur and Gideon finally gave up and decided to try again another day. They then made their way to Kaira Swanwing’s house to discuss with her why she and her Knights of the Golden Cross had refused a charter from the Commissar (this had been revealed to them in their discussion with the Commissar while they were awaiting the arrival of Millerjoi).

Meanwhile, Ian’s wait outside the gates of Dalenguard paid off. After some time, Captain Noldstrom and a small contingent of guards exitted the gates on horseback. Ian followed them through Oldtown, careful to keep his distance and not be noticed. After some time, the guards split away and Captain Noldstrom rode alone. Eventually, he arrived at the Yarrow Street Forum.

Noldstrom tied off his horse before entering the garden like forum, crossing through the many groups of people gathered there, and finally entered a small pub nearby, the “Yarrow Street Taps”. Ian snuck in a short while later, blending in with a group of students that entered shortly afterwards.

Noldstrom was seated alone. A short time later, a man bearing the sigil of House Sadar approached him. Noldstrom passed him a note and the man left. A few moments later, Noldstrom left as well. Returning to Dalenguard.

The rest of the party had a discussion with Keira Swanwing in her living room over a cup of morning tea. When Gideon asked her why her order had refused an Imperial Charter, she explained that she was insulted by the Commissar’s offer to register them as a Delving Company, instead of an actual Order of Knighthood. The difference, she explained, was significant, in that the Charter she hopes for would include an annual stipend from the Empire which would help fund her order. Gideon was put out by this explanation and stormed from her house, angrily. Maur stayed and continued conversing with her. She was clearly concerned that she may have offended Gideon, and didn’t understand his reaction. After a time, Maur said his good byes and left to find his friend.

Gideon was found not by Maur, but first by Ian, smashing and banging boxes and crates in a nearby alleyway. By this time, Gideon had managed to blow off some steam, and Ian explained what he had seen Noldstrom do. As Gideon was taking this all in, and venting about how Delvers always get the low end of the stick, Maur arrived. They discussed the matter further, and decided the entire situation with Noldstrom needed more time to figure out.

Maur then took this time to mention that he needed to pay a visit to Malkeen Balacazar to discuss the dwarven cog key he had found. Gideon again grew upset, saying, “Why in the world do you want to go see him after what he just did to us? Isn’t it obvious that the only reason he told us where the Ennin Slavelords were was so that he could trick us into taking Millerjoi into the very chambers of the Commissar and his personal guard?”

Gideon was right. Every interaction they had had with Malkeen so far had been entirely one sided. He had posed consistently as a friend, but each time they had done him a favor, it was becoming crystal clear that Malkeen has had ulterior motives and they had been nothing more than puppets on a string.

“Well, he seems to already know exactly what the key goes to,” Maur grumbled.

“This is a big city. I’m sure someone else knows,” Gideon said, “We could even contact the Inverted Pyramid, and let their wizards cast some spelsl to find out.”

“What, and let those mages possibly learn the location of Dwarvenhearth?” Maur bellowed, “It’s not gonna happen!”

“Fine, then,” Gideon relented, “what about that dwarf we met at the Black Swan? Maybe he knows.”

Maur then remembered his conversation some time ago with Holmag Hornforge. A stonelost dwarf he had bumped into who had mentioned he had recently arrived in the city and was trying to find Khaled Del – a dwarven tower that had once guarded an entrance to Dwarvenhearth. According to Holmag, it was still occupied but had recently gone silent.

The party then decided to pay a visit to the Black Swan in hopes of finding Holmag. Gideon hoped their days of working with the Balacazars were over.

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