(or, putting the fiend in friend)
I awoke in the hot, dry basement of the ironmongers surrounded by the dozing unfortunates that had congregated there, a single goodberry that had escaped the hungry assembly had become a raisin on the floor such was the heat. It reminded me of some of the thermal caves I’d found myself in whilst mining in bondage in the Underdark.
As my meditations were finished before any of the others were up and ready I took to nearby eaves and low roofs to survey the area. I noted a party of ill-armed guards headed by a taskmaster of suspiciously pallid complexion. The rumors of vampires at-large in the area were likely accurate.
When I returned to the collective the daft oliphant Lulu recalled that Perchillux the imp they met the day before mentioned that his ruler was Zariel – that was her angel’s name! Intriguing, I kept from her that I suspected she was fallen, it’d break her peculiar wee heart.
We took our leave of the small family, leaving them sheltering and made our way to Shiarra’s Market to the west of us. The scene in the square was grim but obviously clear of intrusion by the local infernals. We said funerary rights over a corpse we carefully cremated and we offered council and succor to the humans we met. Reya was of particular interest to one of the vampire denizens who gave her a thorough sniffing, they explained their enmity toward the HellRiders and explained that they had a habit of turning to iron clad monstrosities on their death on this plane. I suspected that this may have been some part of the horrendous deal struck by the late, unlamented Thaddius Krieg.
We were welcomed down a stone staircase to another basement room, this one refreshingly cool, it turned out to be so as this was the lair of the High Rider, Vampire lord Klav Ikaia. He was ancient being who had taken a central role in the history of the city, long pushed literally and metaphorically underground but now, without the sun’s glare, able to
live be dead in the open.
He turned to us with dramatic flair and explained the weird symbiotic balance that he had reached with the local populace; he offered them food and protection, they offered him blood and obedience. He was seeking a cache of silvered weapons with which to arm his followers as these are able to damage fiends and demons. I am sure he knew this was risky given they are also capable of damaging vampires. It was suggested that such cache’s would be concealed about the city but that officers of the militia might have them at their residences. With the weapons they hoped, sharing our aim, that they might overcome the guarded bridge, retake the rest of the city and return Elturel to the realms.
We agreed to aid them for now, as none of us fancied our chances if the city was finally pulled into the pit, I was fairly comfortable with this provided their people were not treated harshly. We offered Hinnerk’s veins for a sacrifice to grant one member of the public respite for the day and Klav drank gratefully, acknowledging this gesture.
We agreed to head out to offer alms through the locality, the vampire hosts asked us to take names, but we decided that these needn’t be the correct ones, familiar as we were with Goblin-Dragon Privacy Rights.
Our first stop was to Grope Lane where we met some ladies of flexible morals and handed over a whole barrow of stored foods. Their elder, a Madam called Hanna offered some handy tidbits of information. She was rather un-flattered by my further efforts to impress with what was perceived as feigned solidarity. We knew romantic surrogates would doubtless be familiar with the officer class, and indeed one punter was named and an address offered, a Marisima Rathanda of Dock House, who’d usually take a couple of rent-a-snogs home for a wild weekend on receipt of her pay-packet. We suggested that they unionize when we all got back to the material plane.
We decided to circle back to the market square, on the way we heard the blood curdling squeals of a fiend as a squad of circling gnolls demanded he tell them the location of his regiment. With the gnolls, doing the wet-work, was a huge ape like creature with whom we didn’t really want to rumble. Reya translated our mild protestations and offers to intercede but to my slight chagrin the team decided that we should leave the devil to the beasts’ cruel actions, knowing any deal the imp struck for his life with us would doubtless be contractually suspect. We heard his last wail as we faded from the scene.
All in all a peculiar day, one where it has become clear that there are multiple factions at work here, none of whom are natural bedfellows. As usual it is the innocent who are suffering the worst, but there is at least a glimmer of hope that we have some way to work towards their freedoms and the restoration of some kind of status-quo.