Punjar: Den of Iniquity

Smoke (Part 3 of 3)

I was being followed. 

I’d picked up a tail not long after Leaving Mother Z’s tower. I decided to visit Cire some other time. I didn’t think whoever was following was one his boys. I’m sure he was still busy and wasn’t too eager to see what he was up to. I’m sure he’d want something. I was patient, though, and kept to the shadows. Lord Nail’s gifts have their uses. Whoever it was was highly tenacious, though, and hard to shake. Smoke still stank, oddly enough, of its own namesake as a good bit of it had recently burned when the Beggar King was slain.  

I finally saw who was following: Imur. Imur wore tight pants and an open shirt, with the twin daggers of a Vistani prince in his sash. He was a Vistani of Clan Magno, nephew of their prince, and a few years younger than me. Had Clan Magno been more important he was the sort of Vistani I would have been given to by my father. His sister had been with us that fateful night, given to one of ours, because Clan Fekete was more important than Clan Magdo. Like all else, she did not live. 

I allowed him to see me. 

“Darkling Lily of Fekete’s Clan, Darkling outcast of the People of the Wagons I, Imur of Magno, Curse thee!” 

He stared defiantly into my eyes. 

His Curse meant nothing to me and he knew it. I had no good answer for him, none whatsoever, for he spoke the truth and deserved it from me in turn. “Imur, none of us are alive anymore save me, and I am not what I was. What do you want? I have nothing for you. Nothing I can do will bring Ameera back.” He stood and stared, his daggers hanging loose in his hand. 

“You! You are all that is left of your clan and must pay!” 

“Imur…” I locked eyes with him. I could kill him, but there was no point. No more of my people needed to die. Enough of us do not survive the Night Roads already. He stared, and stared, and if his looks could kill I would be dead. His eyes wavered but he wouldn’t give. 

We were too near a Crossing, or too many had died here, ground into the misery and dust and grime of Smoke. His rage and my own nature called up the dead. I could hear them, see them. One screamed its thirst and rage and came out of the mists. “Run! Run!” I screamed to him. “They are coming for you, not me.” 

The wraiths strode through Smoke by the light of the moon. I am already cursed by the Deck, and by Lord Nail. The wraiths fear the likes of me. And I taste poorly to them anyhow. I hoped that was true. 

I stood my ground and interposed myself between the wraith and Imur. “You have no claim over his blood and breath.” I stared at it, and invoked The Curse. That wraith was rent asunder by it but others took its place. 

At this Imur ran. I did not think his foolish Vistani prince’s pride would let him, but in the end run he did. He ran for his life, for the joy of the girls in the next town he would charm with his smile, and his skill with the bandoneon and his voice, for the lives of the bastard children he would father on those girls, and for the children of Clan Magno who would eat because of it. 

I found him some time later. He’d found his way to the Drowned Rat on the edge of Smoke. I saw Cortabo and the half-orc there. Cortabo had a massive stein of beer, foam on his mustache. The half-orc was drawing and resheathing his dagger repeatedly. 

“Darkling… I do not understand… I thank you”—-I could see the words pained him—-“but this changes nothing between us.” He drained his glass and strode off into the night. 

I did not tell him of what the wraiths took from me in his stead, or what they doubtless did to others less able to defend themselves. 

The half-orc giggled. I looked at him, “If you played with your prick any more than you already do I’d swear you kept your dagger in a sheath between your legs.” He glared at me, but something told him that it would be unwise. I was in no mood for him. I looked to Cortabo, bowed a bit, and said. “I would not keep Master Cire waiting.” 

Smoke (Part 2 of 3)

I concluded haggling with Mother Zeb’oltha. 

Her tower was a riot of dried herbs, a skeleton of some unknown humanoid, a collection of creatures in jars, a pentagram on the floor with snuffed out candle wax, the mounted head of a harpy. An imp floated in one of the jars and a raven perched on the back of her chair. The imp occasionally moved, possibly being pushed by the liquid, but possibly not. A bottle of wine—-a fine vintage I’d gotten from Ardwen or one of her friends the night before—-sat on the table, with a chipped, but functional clay cup in front of each of us. 

Mother Z stared at me, her old and haggard face tense for a moment as she squinted. I do not think she could see well. “You haggle well, dearie,” she said and smiled. “I only took you for a little, you’re getting better. It must be associating with that Kassantian princess has improved you.” 

“I still have much to learn,” I replied, somewhat guardedly, not quite sure what she wanted and none too sure about whether Ardwen could truly be said toimprove anyone. She’d always dealt fairly with me, but I knew about the entities she dealt with. Of course, perhaps that’s precisely why she always dealt fairly with me? I didn’t know. 

She seemed to have an odd look in her eye as she shuffled back to her laboratory bench, leaning awkwardly on her cane. “I have something for you.” she looked at me. 

The small imp twitched. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Mother Z doesn’t give things away. She put an old brass bottle on the table. The brass was so old it had almost become black with patina. I studied it. 

“This item… is very old.” I looked it over, without touching it.  The runes on its surface were nearly worn down but I could make out a few. I didn’t know what they were, but they’d looked familiar…. 

“It bears a prisoner.” She saw my hesitation. “You can pick it up, it cannot escape and will not harm you.”  

I picked it up examined it more closely. I could almost make out the runes, and staring at them too long made my head swim, and I knew it best to stop. Some things are better left unread.  

“It is the Prison of Salzacas,” she said. 

My hand moved back as if away a flame. “Is… Salzacas inside?” I got control of myself quickly. 

She laughed a long and hearty laugh, “No, child. Truly I do not know who Salzacas is, or was, or why this item bears the name. So perhaps that is the name of the entity within. And I do not know why the entity is imprisoned.” 

“What is it then?” 

She replied, “It has some small uses, the entity within can be commanded to perform menial tasks, for instance, and for those of strong mind, other things.” 

I still didn’t know what to make of this thing and wasn’t entirely sure. “Why are you giving it to me?” 

She looked at me. “It is a mystery…” she paused, thinking “it is… fitting that one who is young have it, to explore its possibilities.” The imp stirred again and I would swear it peered at me. 

“Where did it come from?” I asked her. I casually refilled the glass in front of her. 

“I was gifted it in the Oblivion Bog, where I… ah….” She smiled a toothy grin at me. “I do not give my tale for free, girl, but well played.” She drank the glass. “To answer the question you need to know, it has become for me what it will and it has no more. Perhaps for you it can be something else, or perhaps you will simply bear it to its next tale and pass it on.” 

She laughed again, “You are the teller of tales, not me.” 

I picked it up. “I’ll be going now, thank you.” 

“Come back and see me when you have interesting things for old Mother Zeb’oltha, dearie.” 

I walked out into the night…. 

Smoke (Part 1 of 3)

Smoke is never fun. There are many shadows to be had, which makes things easier. I swear that the walls themselves have eyes and ears there, and it is unwise to assume one isn’t being watched. 

The old Master of Smoke, Nisjal, has been driven out, at least for now, and replaced by a different representative of the Guild, Enreb Cire. After the beggars revolted, led by their so-called king, the more profitable but lighter-handed Nisjal lost his position. Cire was creative in his brutality. That was the entire point of him being there, to show the inhabitants of Smoke that they would absolutely have to give to the Guild, that there was no escaping, no new deal, nothing at all but submission or death. (If the Guild knew what I do, they would realize that there is even submission beyond death.) He probably had a third of the population killed, some said by dragonne out of uniform. Nobody that mattered in the city cared and it was only a matter of time before Smoke filled up again with the refuse of Punjar. So what difference did it make? 

Nobody knows exactly what happened to the Beggar King. Someone killed him, he killed himself, he ran away to the countryside, he got sucked into another realm. It’s not certain. The best story I heard was that four mercenaries finished him off. Two were said to be gladiators, one a foul-mouthed lecherous knife-wielding child(!?!?). And the fourth sounded like Mako(!?!?!). Well tales are often taller than their telling, so who knows. 

But I needed to go visit Mother Zeb’oltha, though, and that meant a trip into the very heart of Smoke.   I knew it best to speak with Cire first, so I stopped at the tavern that had previously been occupied by Nisjal. (And who knows, maybe he’ll be back after being suitably penitent?) Nisjal’s thugs were all gone, replaced by Cire’s men. A few of them lounged around outside. I could see the hints of a spirit in the fetid fog that filled the place. There were, doubtless, many new ghosts and this was one. 

I could see the thugs a long way off, of course, before them. I’d moved through the shadows on my way there, but approached the night crew openly. One, a dwarf with a maul, stood by the door. I knew his name was Cortabo. He’d been in a different quarter of the city before and used to be the muscle at a game I made some money at in the past. The other clearly had some orcish blood to him, though it didn’t make him bulky. He had a crossbow and kept a careful eye out. I’d never seen him before. 

“Hello, gentlemen. I wish to speak to Master Cire, to pay my respects to him as the new Master of Smoke. I’m Lily of Blackwood Crossing, called The Nightlily” 

The dwarf looked me up and down. “Eh, yeah, we know who you are. He ain’t got time to talk right now.” In a surprisingly high voice the half orc said “Yeah, he’s got business with one of them Bugger King’s old boys.” He sniggered. “But you should come back before you leave Smoke.”

“Sure.” I said, and ventured off. I could hear them muttering behind me, but they shut up quickly and went back to guarding. Cire’s boys were obviously competent. They would need to be if they hope to survive Smoke. 

The streets were emptier than usual, even for Smoke. I could smell a fire off in the distance, over which some dubious meat was roasting. I lost some followers in the shadows and waited for them to pass in the shadows. Eventually I came upon Mother Zeb’oltha’s tower. The area was burned out but her tower was intact. I approached it. She’d always been good to me, but it was best to deal with someone like her in a… circumspect manner. I was already entangled enough. I had business, transactions to undertake, and Mother Zeb’oltha had things to sell. I walked up to the door. 

Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.