In the Shadow of Titans

Job 1 - A Statue's Soiree

"It's just a simple job! All you need to do is provide security for a soiree...."

From the journal of Godin “The Golden” Stronghelm

It was one afternoon that the plans were official. The other workers at The Whistlin’ Lady, some odd elf we found at a Port Hope festival, and I had decided to commit to becoming an adventuring group. This party comprised of Hayleigh Aeris the human, Duvainor the elf, Vurna Ovsten the Dwarf, and of course, myself – Gódin “The Golden” Stronghelm the Dwarf. Most of the party was comprised of xenophiles, so it was not surprising that we came together with such ease despite the vast differences in culture and origin. Each of us must have had differing reasons for wanting to leave our current lives; personally, the drive to seek foreign beings while still making a living for my sickly brother, Markog, seemed like an excellent opportunity. Indeed, having worked with the majority of these folk for quite a while, I was able to judge their characters – at least to an extent – to know that they were safe to travel with.

That very same day, a man whom we would later know as Rochard, was about to post a quest application poster on a billboard when he saw us. Luckily, we managed to take the opportunity before Rochard put it in the public eye. The man spoke of a simple security quest wherein an ancient artifact was to be displayed to an audience. The artifact, which apparently belonged to Rochard’s master, Guillaum, was to be protected at all times. The venue was to be held in a fairly quaint mansion to upper class citizens with an interest in the academic show. After careful consideration, the party decided that it would be a simple quest to put underneath our belts.

The exhibition began normally at the appointed time with the adventuring party and I in watchful positions around the cobblestone room. All seemed well for the first few hours, with waitresses and waiters bustling around, serving items of delicacy and beverages to the upper-bourgeois attendees. The wonderful smells from the food were nice to enjoy, but still I found the strength to stay focused on the assignment at hand. It was only when the attendees had quite the amount to drink that they became rowdy.

I had noticed some suspicious behaviour from Vurna and Duvainor, but figured that they were not doing anything distasteful, especially on our first quest as they surely were aware that any foul behaviour would ruin our reputation in Port Hope as an adventuring group. Vurna was always a bit quirky (I always noticed things disappearing from the bar surface whenever she was around), and Duvainor, the handsome elf, was somewhat of an unpredictable mystery. Still, the elf was friendly towards all different types of people, so I didn’t think much to do a double take when I saw him chatting up the drunk professional architect.

Finally, the veiled object – the one owned by Guillaum – was uncovered. Even in their drunkenness, the crowd was unable to contain their horrified responses. Gasps and other disgusted sounds whispered throughout the room. I found myself staring, unable to peel my eyes from the slimy-looking vase-like object. It was foreign, and I felt filled with mystery – perhaps even more so than the actual attendees. While I contemplated what it could be, I began to feel somewhat sluggish, but was not truly aware that something was wrong until it was too late.

I was the first to encounter screaming terrorists with guns pointed in my face because I had decided to investigate the stairwell leading up to the show room, since I knew something was terribly wrong. Very quickly, I found myself on the floor at gunpoint, unable to move or see what was happening. Screams flooded my ears, accompanied with the sound of bodies dropping to the floor. I was too gassed with whatever depressant they had smoked in the air to fully register everything – it all happened so fast. I know that I was told not to move or I would die.

I noticed that one of the goons had taken the statue off of its pedestal, and that Verna and Duvainor were shifting as if to attack. I knew that I had to do something, and so launched an attack on my captor, risking the gunshot to the head in favour of gaining the advantage while he was distracted. The party launched an attack on the offenders, but only managed to kill one while the rest of the goons got away with the artifact that we were supposed to protect. One bandit was chased by Duvainor out of a large window and out into the crowds below, but the thief was quickly lost due to the intense festivities occurring on the streets.

After the effect of the nauseating gas had worn off, I applied basic first aid techniques to any injured event attendees, which they were grateful for despite still being in shock. Poor Rochard had been badly beaten by a bandit, and clearly needed to go home to tend to his head wounds with lots of rest and cold compresses. The party inspected the dead goon’s carcass – or lack thereof, as it simply rotted within a few minutes – and also inspected the downstairs scene, where all staff had been slaughtered. The sights were not for the faint of heart, and I even felt ill with all of the terrifying events that had occurred on our first day of the job.

Rochard had still wanted the artifact back, of course, since it was invaluable to Master Guillaum. After raising the reward for the quest a vast amount, we hesitantly decided to accept the offer and investigate the scene again after resting for the remainder of the night. After resting for a bit, I stopped by my home to check in on Markog, then went back to our resting place.

In the morning, we set out to investigate the scene from yesterday. No important clues were found. It was there that we decided to split into two groups to cover more ground. Vurna and Duvainor headed off to a local university to ask a connection that Vurna had there some questions, and Hayleigh and myself decided to look for clues in the alleyway where one of the thugs had landed. Some homeless fellows were lying there, so I asked them if they knew anything about the man that had landed there the day before. They would only answer for payment; when they got too greedy, I tried to use intimidation. Eventually, the two hobos yelled into the alley, but upon entering it, we found more thugs beating up another homeless man by the name of Nate. As I dealt with the situation at hand, trying stop the thugs without letting them get away, Hayleigh tried to warn away a strange woman that entered the alley towards us.

I managed to slaughter one thug with my rapier, but the other disappeared out the other side of the dark alleyway. Haleigh ended up shooting the approaching woman, who had since pulled out a knife with clear intent to harm, which turned her right around. She escaped with an arrow sticking out of her, realizing she was outmatched against the two of us. My xenophila and good-hearted nature panged to help the gravely injured man, even though most others probably wouldn’t have due to his extremely low social status.

Nate was scooped up into my arms as I carried him like a baby through the busy streets towards the nearest clinic. By Morgrim’s beard, luck was with us that Hayleigh had the hefty sum of 70 gold coins on her to pay off the greedy physician. Hopefully leaving Nate in good hands, we returned to the alley to investigate the body of the bandit I had killed.

As before, the body had completely rotted. The loot from the body was an interesting haul; indeed, I found myself staring in captivation into a foreign-looking medallion that appeared far deeper than what its simple flat metal surface appeared to show. Indeed, I believed that I saw eyes staring back at me from that infinitely deep, real space, and I felt a cool, dark, engulfing feeling deep within my mind. Disturbed, I was able to break my concentration on the metal object and hurriedly packed it away, not wanting to know what had just happened. Something evil was afoot, and, by Morgrim’s beard, I didn’t want to have a part in it. Although I was curious as to what sort of creature had been on the other end.

After hours had passed, the party met again to discuss findings. We met a professor that Vurna had connections with for dinner at the Whistlin’ Lady, where we discussed the medallions (as another party member also had acquired one from the first murdered thug) and their relation to the stolen artifact. We allowed the professor to take one to research back at the lab, although we feared that this may have put him in some sort of danger.

It was learned that the bandits were meeting at the waterfront dock, a sketchy location when deserted. Which it was, of course, because of the festivities that had been occurring. A float parade was about to occur, so we took this opportunity to make our way to the docks while no one was looking. Guards were easily evaded as they did not expect intruders. The waterfront was very dark and silent, but we were careful to not allow ourselves to be spotted.

We stole a canoe that would be able to fit all four of us plus the artifact, and waded it silently out into the water. The medallion we had with us acted as a magical compass, although we were unsure of what to expect exactly. It was explained to us that this medallion would lead us to the thieves.

After quite a long time of rowing, we managed to see the peak of a small island emerge from the hazy bog we were gliding through. The scenery reeked of something not quite right, and by Morgrim’s beard, I knew we were all pumped with adrenaline and fear as we approached high sand banks. We beached the canoe quietly, unsure of what to expect; however, we did hear loud ceremonial-like ritual sounds and noises from the other side of the hill. I waited on guard at the bottom of the hill to make sure that nothing crept up on us while the others of the party carefully peered over the ridge. Clearly, whatever they saw must have been horrific beyond their wildest fears, because all were stuck in shock. Duvainor even fainted, clearly unable to stand whatever he had seen. Screams and the sounds of splashing and flesh being destroyed filled the air, and my heart rate instantly doubled as sweat began to bead anxiously along my hairline and in the lower points of my face.

I was able to drag Duvainor from the ridge to at least prevent him from gaining immediate damage. A man came rushing over the ridge, and I managed to catch him so that we could question him. He seemed to be hysterical, but it was made clear that whatever was on the other side was not friendly.

After the man escaped from us, we cautiously ran over the hill to see the scenario. The artifact sat upon a pedestal still, and nothing else was in sight. Despite all the horrors that clearly just occurred, I found myself drawn to the object, unable to help myself from wanting to take it. I knew that Vurna and Duvainor were the same, as they were unable to keep themselves from approaching it. We grabbed the item and ran back to the opposite shore, righting the boat to set off again. However, by Morgrim’s beard, our trip back to Port Hope would not be a smooth one.

Large tentacles covered in what looked like rotting mouths and other fleshy monstrosities began to deconstruct our boat as we paddled, breaking our oars and wrecking the woodcraft of the vessel. It also attempted to attack us, but we managed to keep it at bay with our weapons. The party member at the very back of the ship, Duvainor, was actually pulled into the marshy waters. Terrified, I managed to use my brute Dwarf strength to wrench Duvainor from his to-be watery demise and back into the wrecked vessel.

Only Morgrim knew how we managed to get back to Port Hope’s shore in one piece. If I hadn’t been such an optimistic Dwarf, I would have thought that our first day on the job would be our last. While I must admit that I was certainly curious as to the nature of the murderous, flesh-hungry beast in the waters of the port, I was not so preoccupied as to give my life trying to understand the foreign creature.

Once we had gotten back to port, we snuck out of the area – again, hopefully not noticed on our way out – and went to Rochard’s residency. Despite the relatively late hour, the beaten man opened his door and let us in. We received payment as we returned the ancient artifact that we had nearly died to retrieve. Despite the curiosity to know more about it, we were satisfied with nothing more than getting rid of it. Clearly, that object was far more important than any of us could have guessed, and having a deeper connection with it would probably cost us more than we had already lost thus far with just guarding it.

Happy to be rid of our disastrous first quest, we returned to our sleeping quarters for the night. I checked on Markog before returning to our inn to make sure he was alright, although I felt that seeing family actually helped me more than it helped him after the horrible events of the past two days. By Morgrim’s beard, we would all need much rest that night, but no doubt it would be plagued with nightmares of that indescribable horror of a sea demon.

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