Sunday, May 10, 2020

Urban Adventuring - the Tale of Ujin Tohl the Viridescent - Part 11


Information gathering is such an underrated part of the D&D experience, as much fun as combat or exploration, it relies on your wits, perceptiveness and a bit of luck. In this installment Ujin looks for information to save him from the wrath of the assassins guild...

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Ujin reviewed what he needed to take into the city, the first thing on the list was disguises. Jal Bhains had captured many a caravan over the years and had a whole tent full of stolen possessions from previous raids. Ujin spent an hour in the tent and retrieved enough clothing for several disguises. He brought back the clothing to his tent and put together three outfits: the poor pilgrim, the mercenary and the humble scholar. He dressed the part of the humble scholar to start, and put the clothing for the rest of the disguises into a sack he carried over his shoulder. He also placed his sword in one the sack, in its scabbard so it wouldn’t pierce the bag.

In another sack he carried the severed head of Imirann Shin.

Inside of his robes he carried material components for his spells, a pair of his regular knives, his new magical dagger and his scroll with mass suggestion. He left his other scrolls behind, as well as his armor. He memorized change self, color spray and hypnotism twice, alter self twice, invisibility and non-detection. With the exception of color spray all his spells were defensive, his primary purpose today was subterfuge. 

Ujin arranged for a few of Bhains’ men to accompany him close to the city then leave him behind to continue on his own. He crossed the river on a the cheapest, most crowded barge, keeping hands on his bags to deter any pickpockets, and emerged on the other side in the mass of people entering the city. 

Ujin paid the head tax, but made sure to complain loudly at the cost, and then entered the city with a fresh head stripe to show for it. Once inside he walked for a short distance then found a deserted alley to stand in. He stood in the shadows and took out a pinch of diamond dust, he closed his eyes and spoke the words, “Zde není nic”, three times over, then sprinkled the dust on his head.

For the next hour Ujin would be undetectable to any form of scrying. He quickly set on a path to complete his task for the day. Ujin’s mind drifted back to his conversation with Jimnir the night before as he made his way through the city.

“Think about it Jimnir, why now? My father did his heinous deed 30 years ago, he died 10 years ago, the Guild Master who my father tried to kill is dead. Why come for me now? All I can think it that it is helpful for the current Guild Master to perhaps finish something the previous one could not, or to do something decisive at this time to consolidate power, perhaps there is a rival that has challenged him. Who knows? What I do know is that there is nothing set in stone, they waited almost 30 years to do this, perhaps I can change their minds.”

Jimnir looked sceptical, “What, do you plan to sit at tea with them and ask for clemency?”

Ujin shook his head, “No, I intend to give them a better option. What would be more valuable to them than the son of a dead assassin whose crimes were against a previous Guild master? To answer this question I need information.”

“He would have been more informative if you didn’t cut off his head.”

Ujin laughed at that, despite the circumstances.

Jimnir smiled for a moment, “I assume you will attempt to speak with his spirit?”

“Yes”, Ujin nodded, “But I won’t ask Jal Bhains to do this for me, I will go to the temple of Yama and ask the priests there.”

“Bhains would do this for you, I’m sure he would be willing.”

Ujin nodded, “Yes, but I have another favor to ask of him, depending on what I find out, so I will go to the city first.”

“You take a large chance Ujin, two guilds after one man is more than you can expect to handle.”

Ujin grinned, “They’ll have to find me first…”

Ujin was snapped out of his reverie when he arrived at the Temple of Yama, it was late afternoon by the time he made it to the temple. The last time he was here he was spied upon by agents of the guild, this time he was in disguise and made his way to the offering bowl, dropped in several coins and then sat praying for a time. When he was convinced that no one was paying any particular attention to him he approached the small gong and sounded it.

There were several acolytes on the floor directing prayer and helping people navigate the temple, none addressed the gong. 

However, as Ujin sat in the shadows of the giant statue of Yama on his water buffalo, a ranking member of the cult of Yama approached, he was bald, had a beard tied off in traditional Bhavisyavani fashion, and he wore robes of black and copper.

“I am Harl Villthin, the priest in charge here today, the sounding of the gong is reserved for those with business for the temple.”

Ujin nodded and bowed his head in supplication.

“My name is Thoss Xinix, I am a sage visiting from the Northlands. I have been tasked with gathering information about this city and its more prominent inhabitants. I find I am in need of some help from the temple on this task, and I am willing to pay the temple for its time and effort.”

“You wish us to pray on your behalf?”

Ujin nodded, “Something a bit more direct than that, is there anywhere we can speak more privately?”

The priest smiled and was about to answer when Ujin repeated a prayer to Yama, “Ramm meis mruy holkei dijj meis jeevaj hotaj, yal meis kumut.”

The priest cocked his head to the side, it was a lesser known prayer, and certainly not something he expected of a foreigner. He nodded and with a few quick words to one of the acolytes he led Ujin to a back room, it was small and had a table and several chairs, as well as two statues of Yama and a small fountain.

Harl set a small round stone into the fountain, spoke a prayer to Yama, and crossed his hands.

Ujin took out the head from the sack he had been carrying. He noted that the priest had no sign of recognizing the face before him, nor did he seem particularly shocked.

Ujin’s eyebrow shot up, “I usually get a bit more of a reaction when I bring out a severed head.”

Harl chuckled, “Here in Bhavisyavani many lead a violent life, and often someone, either their superior, or a rival, or someone who had claim to their property, wishes to speak with them after their passing, so this is not an unusual request. Yama is the god of the dead after all, and many feel uncomfortable going to the temple of Kali, so many end up here. My apologies if I seem unaffectes.”

Ujin nodded his head, “I understand, how much would the temple like in compensation?”

Harl did not skip a beat, evidently he had been asked this before, “1000 gp is a standard donation for such a feat, and you get three questions of the dead.”

“Eminently fair”, responded Ujin, and he took out five gold bars he had reserved for such a purpose, each worth 250gp, pushing them across the table to the priest. He had brought 6 just in case, so he was happy to over pay slightly, that way if he asked anything untoward Harl would have motivation to let it go.

There were several minutes to wait as the priest lit candles and prayed, but soon he was ready. He placed the head of Imirann Shinn on an altar and placed his hand on his forehead.

“Akil rajir tak vort Yama”

When he removed his hand the head began to float upwards until it hung in the air a foot above the altar.

"What questions do you wish to ask?"

Ujin had given this some thought, he had three questions to ask of the recently deceased Imiran Shinn. The first was the most obvious.

"When you found Ujin Tohl how were you to deliver him?"

There was a pause as the priest spoke to the departed spirit, repeating Ujin’s question.

Ujin waited for several heartbeats for the reply. He heard the voice of Imiran Shinn, cracked and breathless, but definitely his, emerge from the head, the bloodied mouth slowly moving.

"We are to meet at the Red Ruby Tavern at midnight with Ujin Tohl, but first I was to go to the tavern that day and ask the proprietor if he was interested in a rare northern vintage for his tavern. He will suggest I come back with a sample that night. Ujin Tohl is to be delivered alive, dead he is no use and dead will not be paid for."

Ujin nodded.

"Next question", the priest asked, unfazed by the previous one.

Ujin spoke in measured tones, "Are they expecting you to deliver him?"

There was a pause and the priest again spoke to the spirit of the dead thief. The spectral voice of the departed replied:

"Me, or someone working for me."

Ujin weighed the next question carefully as it was his last. He had two questions he wanted to ask and he was trying to determine the most effective one. He paused and spoke to the priest.

"What does the guild know about Ujin Tohl?"

The priest relayed the question and after a pause the spirit of Imiran Shinn answered its final question.

“They know he is the son of Kalmas Tohn, the “Black Talon”, they know he is a thief, part of the Black Cloak guild, and they know that he will be travelling alone and looking for me.”

Ujin had wondered if the assassins guild was aware he was a phantasmist. Shinn had said something to the effect that they didn’t know when he was alive, but Ujin was not sure if he believed the thief or not. Now he did. This put his betrayal in a new light, if his former Guildmaster sent him to his doom but didn’t tell the locals he was a spell caster he may have been trying to give Ujin a fighting chance. Come to think of it, the phantasmist mused to himself, how would you turn down the assassin’s guild anyway, if they came knocking for one of your members? Rather than inviting them to come to get him, Ronnak Thorvis sent him to them and told them nothing of Ujins new career. 

He would have to confront Thorvis another day, but even the possibility he was trying to help out gave Ujin some hope. It also gave him a small advantage when fighting the guild, he was happy that he asked.

The priest uttered a prayer and sat back.

"Your name is not is Thoss Xinix is it?"

Ujin smiled and said nothing. 

The priest continued.

"It is not unheard of in Bhavisyavani for men to pay to capture other men, to trade lives for power or wealth, to kill indiscriminately. The god of death is well served here in the city of prophecy. You worship Yama, and you have avoided a fate that sounds fairly dire. I would take that as a sign that Yama favors you."

Ujin bowed his head in thanks, then took the head and placed it back in the sack.

"As you can see, extreme circumstances have led me to your door. Thank you for your divine assistance, your insight and your discretion, Harl Villthin, I must now think on what I am to do."

Ujin left the temple along with other pilgrims and worshippers to avoid being caught alone on his way out. The protection offered by his non-detection spell was temporary, and he had no way of knowing if anyone was currently scrying to find him. 

The sun was going down in the western sky.

Unfortunately he still had one task for the day before he left the city, and he would have to risk it as the task was time sensitive. Ujin made his way towards the Broken Sword Tavern, when he last saw it there was smashed glass everywhere and the Ward patrols had been overwhelmed by shadows. He needed to speak with someone at Imiran’s establishment to convince them he was still alive, if they thought he was dead and reported this forward to the guild… Ujin did not want to think about that.

Ujin found a quiet spot and quickly removed his robes and put on a shirt from one of his sacks, and wore his daggers openly on his belt. He left his sword in his bag but the hilt was sticking out of the top for all to see. He was now dressed like a mercenary, albeit without armor. He then stood for a moment, and took one hand and moved it down from the top of his head to his chest, while repeating the words, “Nejsem to, co vidíte” three times. As his hand moved down his appearance changed along with it. He was no longer Ujin Tohl in mercenary garb, he was now scarred, a bit older, his eyes were now blue and his hair was black and cropped.

The mercenary Ujin Tohl walked into the Broken Sword Tavern. 

Any sign of the conflict that had happened was long gone, the tavern was cleaned up, there were no dogs on chains anymore however, and obviously Imiran Shinn was not there…

Ujin walked towards the bar and spoke to the bartender.

“This Imiran Shinn’s tavern, eh?”

The bartender looked him over and turned back to cleaning glasses.

“No secret, yes, what will you be drinking?”

Ujin ordered a beer and took a long drink, then spoke,

“He’s got a bounty on someone, and he came by my hunting party yesterday, riding like a demon, said he was chasing a thief. We had seen someone blow by on a giant spider so we let him know. He wanted me to come to the tavern, let them know he would be returning, probably in a day or two. I guess he was worried you’d think he was dead.”

The bartender looked Ujin over again, “He’s been gone for days before, business and all that.”

Ujin laughed, “Business.”

The bartender asked, “What were you hunting?”

Ujin took another drink, he was thirsty in the heat.

“Marsh dragons were our target, some House warlock wants their innards for some spell, offered us double our regular rate to gut one and return the bits. We spent a few days chasin’ a pack of them but we weren’t able to finish. Then your boss came along.”

The bartender picked up another glass, “What’s your name?”

Ujin took a drink and leaned on the bar, “’Onoss Molgen, but me men call me ‘the Reaver’.”

The bartender nodded, “He’ll want to know who delivered the message.”

Ujin nodded, “He paid me well to deliver the message, easiest gold I’ve made in years.”

“He’s a generous employer, Imiran Shinn, good to his men.”

Ujin took a last drink and smiled.

“Good to me too. I’ve delivered the message, I’m leaving for a hot bath and a long sleep, I’ve been hunting for weeks.”

“Good hunting Onoss Molgen, I will deliver your message.”

Ujin nodded and walked out of the bar, it was darkening quickly now and shadows were everywhere. Ujin made a direct line for the east wall exit, the closest to his current location, hopeful that he would be out of the city before his spell wore off. 

After a few minutes of walking he became aware that he was being followed. The men were not particularly stealthy about it, and he vaguely recognized one of them from the Broken Sword. 

This was not good. Ujin could not risk getting the attention of the city watch, so spell casting was not advisable, instead he dodged into a side alley and used his cloak to blend into the darkness.

The men followed him into the alley, and saw nothing.

“We know you are here Onoss, we saw you enter the alley, and it’s too long for you to be at the other end. Come out and let’s talk.”

Ujin waited, he was concealed in the darkness but eventually he would have to leave, and he wasn’t silent either, so they might hear him as well. There were 3 men here, all in leather armor and carrying short swords they were no longer trying to conceal. Two of them had crossbows as well, loaded and hanging from their belts.

Ujin knew that every moment counted, he could fly out of the alley with his cloak but he would be obvious, and if any of the men fired a crossbow…

One of the men passed close to Ujin’s hiding spot and he decided to attack. He sprung up from the shadows and struck twice on his back, once with his sword and the second time with his dagger.

The man whimpered and fell dead.

Two mercenaries remained, they were too close for the crossbows so both drew shortswords. Ujin did not want to alert he watch to his actions, so he wanted to end this decisively, he had a dagger in one hand and his sword in the other, and the two men circled him. 

The first man lunged forward with a stab of his sword, Ujin sidestepped it but was then in direct line for the second mercenaries’ attack. Ujin barely managed to block it with his bichuwa, narrowly avoiding being cut, but that put him in position to slash the second mercenary with his sword. Ujin sliced his arm open and the mercenary hissed in pain.

Ujin stepped back and faced the two men, who were now side by side. He laughed out loud at them and pointed his sword at the body of their colleague.

“Who would like to die next?”, Ujin smiled wickedly while brandishing both weapons, his magical niuweidao sword Kirach dripping blood.

Both men looked at each other then attacked.

The first mercenary swung his sword in a wide arc at chest level, Ujin dropped below the swing and stabbed with his sword, he watched as it pierced the mercenary’s side and sprayed blood on the ground. 

That mercenary stepped back, his sword held parallel to the ground in front of him, his other hand on his newly created wound.

The second mercenary tried to tackle Ujin, but the phantasmist twisted out of the way and managed to drive his dagger into the man’s shoulder as he passed, eliciting a wail of pain and causing him to crash into the wall of the alley.

Ujin pressed his advantage, and while the second mercenary was down he took both his niuweidao and his bichuwa to the first one. He parried with the sword several times as the first mercenary ignored his injury and attempted to overwhelm him, he quickly noted the mercenary’s pattern: thrust, step back, block, thrust, block, swing. He was remarkably consistent. 

Ujin and the mercenary traded blows while his companion was getting back on his feet. Ujin didn’t like the odds. He pressed hard with his opponent, blocking a sword blow that put him very close and following it up with a sword thrust.

Through the mercenary’s throat.

The man gurgled, coughed, wheezed and died.

The last mercenary hesitated, he was still bleeding but incensed that Ujin had taken him and his friends. 

Ujin spoke in a measured tone, “You can walk away from this, I’m not a vengeful man.”

The mercenary spit and cursed, “Savalinga!”

He charged forward with his sword and Ujin met him with both blades, there was a clash of steel and sparks as shining metal struck shining metal. Ujin wielded a sword and a knife, and his spell casting hands gripped them tightly as the two men fought for their respective lives. Ujin had a slight advantage as he was fast and agile, he dodged many blows, and was able to block many incoming attacks. Ujin caught his opponents blade in the “X” of his dagger and sword together, another time he caught the blade and deflected it just enough to miss him. Ujin took a shot at the mercenary’s head and missed, but just barely as it did scratch him a bloody red line.

There were multiple blows over the next minute, and finally Ujin saw an opening and as his opponent swung wildly and missed, Ujin sidestepped and planted his knife into the man’s side. As he groped to remove the knife Ujin struck solidly with his sword, almost cleaving of his arm at the shoulder.

He went down, and when he hit the ground Ujin stabbed his sword into the man’s back, twisting it as he bucked and screamed, making too much noise. Ujin pulled out his dagger from the mercenary’s side and quickly slit his throat, a gurgling and a wheeze where the only sounds made by the man now, as his life bled out of him on to the indifferent ground.

Ujin looked around, no one had shown up but the whole fight had lasted all of two minutes, for all he knew a Ward patrol was on its way right now.

He breathed heavily and waited, blending into the shadows with his cloak, but no one showed up. Ujin quickly rifled the bodies and found some gold and some jewels on one of the men, some silver on the other two, and nothing else of note.

The phantasmist decided that it was worthwhile to now use his cloak’s flying abilty, and he transformed himself into a bat. Ujin climbed quickly and flew eastward above the buildings, wondering who would find the dead bodies he left in the alleyway.

Ujin had killed many men since he arrived in the city, he wondered at how many more would die in his attempt to save his own life.

No matter, Ujin thought as he flew to the rendezvous point, I give the sweet embrace of death, Yama’s gift, to all. 

Yama’s faithful servant flew through the pressing closeness of the night air to the marshes where the mighty Jal Bhains awaited…

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