Carnival Arcane, the beginning

Nurii had always known he was different, not that it mattered much, but he’d always known. His dad said he was a gift from the gods and that was why he looked different, his mom just said it was so the girls would always know who the best looking boy in town was. Either way, neither of them knew who left him in their tavern as a babe. Not that it mattered now.

His first pang of guilt and sorrow was he hadn’t told them goodbye or that he loved them, being in such a hurry to chase after Yari and the two strangers from the caravan. He should have, he usually did, but that day…

Nurii had only recently learned from a traveling sage what he was, or rather, what race he was. A race prone to wanderlust and obsessed with learning secrets, something called ‘listening to the wind’, meant sooner or later he would leave. His mom told him she hoped maybe working in the tavern would satisfy those urges with out him ever needing to leave home. He had assured her it would and that he was happy there. Now, though, they’d never know.

The day he went with Yari and the other two to the Carnival Arcane changed everything. The Ringmaster knew exactly what he and the others were and what he could do with them. When they were caught and witnessed the death of the aasimar lady, it seemed a nightmare. Nurii had no idea how bad it would get that night as the Ringmaster magically put them all to sleep.

The next few months were spent in ‘training’ as the show went to its next stop. Nurii had no idea where they were because he was kept busy as the attendants were taught how to torture him for the shows. He was put on display as a bleeding ghost, transformed by the Ringmaster, silenced via a spell and made to ‘perform every day. The act had him chained, arms and legs outstretched and ‘wards’ placed on the bindings so he couldn’t ‘escape’. He’d wail and strain and try to get free, not because he thought he could but because he was told if he didn’t then it would be Yari in his place.

Then the ‘priest’ would come up, give a speech about this unique type of undead, this living ghost. Thenproceed to whip him till blood ran freely and pooled on the ground beneath him. The ‘priest’ would assure the onlookers the ghost felt no real pain, it was more in anguish from being bound. He was always placed so he could see Yari, to help remind him what would happen if he disobeyed. He could also see the crowds around her, how they grabbed at her feathers, her wings…other places. It made him sick and even more wracked with guilt. He could tell she didn’t know it was him and he kept quiet, not wanting her to feel realize what they were doing to him.

Every night after they healed him and restored his form he got to see the others. Yari refused to talk to him for the first few weeks. Refused to talk to anyone. Once meals were over, Nurii would return to his bedroll and cry himself to sleep, wracked with guilt over not having said goodbye and for letting Yari get taken too. He had promised her folks…promised them. Did they blame his folks? Blame him? Did they even know what happened? Were they still searching for them?

Weeks passed, then months. Another move, another place he didn’t know. Sometimes the people were more or less human, sometimes not. At some of the stops, his attendant would let members of the crowd wield the whip (for a few coins at least). Sometimes they got to use their own tools (for a few gold). Nurii lost track of time. All he knew anymore was pain and guilt and sorrow. He quit socializing with the others after the shows. Withdrew into himself and just stayed in his area.

One day, after a particularly brutal crowd, where the attendant pockets a goodly amount of coins and Nurii saw Yari all but attacked, he was shocked out of his stupor when he wasn’t taken down and healed. Instead, he was restored to his natural form before a group of robed figures came in. The attendant took a large bag of coins and left him with them. The silence spell was removed and the whole camp probably heard his screams. He was returned to his tent much later, unhealed and broken.

When Nurii came to, a small ghostly scorpion was perched on his chest, almost studying him. Too weak to shoo it away, he just watched it as it scampered over him, as if it was inspecting his wounds. He figured he was as good as dead now, that this the end of the nightmare. No more guilt, no more hope. His use to the carnival was over and this was how they discarded him, a magic scorpion delivering one last fatal strike. He wished he could have saved Yari, even the other two.

The scorpion sat there, tail held high and pincers raised, as if waiting. He regarded it again and just nodded, closing his eyes. He felt the sting, then…relief? Was this how death felt? A voice came, soft, wispy, but with an almost cracking tone to it. It asked if he was ready to accept the Spirit that called to him. Confused, Nurii opened his eyes and saw the scorpion there still. Waiting on the answer.

When they came for him the next morning, he was healed and restored, yet still looked the part. Figuring a change had been made for the next stop, the attendant merely hung him up and proceeded with the show. Never realizing things had changed, not knowing yet that the Spirit of the Bones now was with Nurii. From the corner, a small ghostly scorpion watched…..

XA-NDR J1

Log 8291D33.A

Subject: XA-NDR J1 (eXperimental Android-Neutralize Destroy/ Recon-J19)

Name of record: Xander Jackson (Call sign: Stonewall)

Recorded by Chief Engineer Stillwell

Final entry for XA-NDR project. Future entries will be by team evaluation members for whole team, not individuals. Admit I am glad to be done and returning to family. Three of us left, rest all returned home a week or so ago. McKinnis leaving tomorrow. Betsy going too. I depart day after.

Final apps and subroutines written, tested and installed. No conflicts, no crashes, everything green lit and running smooth. Kudos to Betsy for the idea of writing code so Xander feels ill at ease when alone. The app interferes with his reasoning abilities even so he seeks out others if ever alone even. Plus she programmed in the other three as key companions so he feels a sense of duty to them even. The only unfortunate side effect was he once again feels beholden to rescue strays and abandoned pets.

McKinnis tweaked the existing program to reclassify innocents in an attempt to open up his target list, but to no avail. The old program is embedded too deep. Over time perhaps the programming can be edited so Xander will attack any target, not just ones armed and deemed a threat. An interesting side effect of this app and another is he has developed an odd behavior pattern. He displays an almost chivalrous outlook towards females and has a certain code of ethics or sense of honor in regards to certain matters. Dr. McCanne says to leave it be, since it would require a wipe and restart to erase. Plus he said it could be interesting to see what Xander does.

Another bit of code has Xander inherently hostile towards any foreigners. Quickly puts them on the non-innocent list and enables quicker transition to target status. However, it also means he isn’t fazed by strangers, strange customs, odd people even. He is cautious and likes to plan out his actions, but even when surprised acts with an unnerving calmness and coolness under fire. He seems to have lost all real sense of fear too, even putting his own well being in danger if it means protecting another. Twice now he has stepped into a field of fire to draw fire away from Khione or Martin and once stood up in a firefight, took three direct hits so the shooter couldn’t hit another team member. I’m now very glad we kept the armoring.

His reflexes are incredibly fast and his accuracy even when moving is better than some trained soldiers who take time to carefully aim. Another safety measure implemented because of this was a limited weapons knowledge. Pistol class weapons or close combat weapons only. The General in particular was adamant Xander not have training in anything range or with ‘heavy’ weapons.

Lastly, to offset his limited mental capacity (at least in comparison to the other three) apps and widgets were written to enhance his ability to perceive the world around him. Detection algorithms and pattern recognition software was installed along with certain database references to enable Xander to read people quickly and pick up on subtle changes in behavior, physical cues and even environmental idiosyncrasies. The hope is Xander will pick out enemy locations based on how the environment behaves even when he can’t see them or isn’t aware they are there. Plus he will be able to watch a person to determine their mood and if they are nervous or not, even if he can’t hear them or the person is a skilled liar. Testing has proven it works on skilled politicians and even members of the Generals staff.

Tomorrow is hand-off to new incoming team. Members will be unfamiliar with Xander’s unique AI and will be tasked with monitoring his integration into the team. I wish them luck.

XA-NDR H9

Log 5693B32.C
Subject: XA-NDR H9 (eXperimental Android-Neutralize Destroy/ Recon-H9)
Name of record: Xander
Recorded by Chief Engineer Stillwell

Finally solved the vision anomaly. Restored full color vision for normal use while still maintaining total night or darkness vision. Removed advanced reaction apps since these proved to be causing issues with too many other systems. Multiple tests seem to indicate the uploaded human intelligence we used is to blame.

Further limitations include limited skill training. Xander’s mind just can’t process data like the other units. He has to learn the same way a normal human does. That being the case, the team has decided to focus on skills the host subject possessed in life and enhance them. Boosters in the limbs and what passes as a nervous system have increased physical reaction times to standards far higher than normal. Shame the mental reactions couldn’t be similarly increased.

Plans for melee enhancements have been scrapped. The blades installed in the limbs tended to turn on upon deployment, which results in the vibroblades severely damaging the limbs before fully deploying. The team also had issues with the reaction enhancements conflicting with the strength enhancements. In one case the two systems both misfired causing the arm to blow off.

Dr. Ashton has written a subroutine to emulate ‘old west’ gunfighters. The team has embedded safety protocols as well, resulting in a rather unexpected personality change. After careful consideration, the team and Dr McCanne have decided to leave it in place. Dr McCanne isn’t even sure it could be removed because of the nature of the subj…of Xander’s AI.

Sub-dermal armoring has been removed from the unit and will be replaced with a bioplas based skin instead. This will allow for storage compartments to be built into the limbs and reduces the units over-all weight to more acceptable limits. Additionally, smaller actuators will be installed in the limbs to allow greater loads to be carried with out needing to bulk up the entire frame.

The new unit will be designated J1 and, with a little luck, will be the final version. The other teams are already up and running and the pressure is now on to put Xander into service alongside the others. Dr. Badington in particular is under extreme pressure since the awakening was nearly three months ago and our team is significantly behind. Even though the others have all met Xander and he was present at Jaeger’s awakening, plans are in place to hold a formal ceremony again once the new frame is up and running and Xander has been transferred into it.

One final note. The process of using a human mind as the basis for an AI has proven to be a failure. Too many limitations and restrictions when compared to the other teams and the AI’s they developed. Likewise Xander’s original operation parameters were abandoned because a heavily armored recon unit with melee weapons as primary has proven to be too archaic and too easily damaged while trying to close to melee range.

This has been determined to be unacceptable for the cost and effort put into these units. However, the human mind upload and melee focused capabilities are ideal for expendable troops, especially ones where the threat of retribution or betrayal are high. Going forward, this model will be reserved for penal units, willing or otherwise.

 

 

XA-NDR 02

Log 3625A27.9
Subject: XA-NDR 02 (eXperimental Android-Neutralize Destroy/ Recon-01)
Name of record: Xander O’Tool
Recorded by Tech Specialist O’Hare

Subject XA-NDR 01 removed from cryo-storage 2 months ago. Rebooted AI, removed from housing and installed in XA-NDR 02. Subject still showing anomaly in subroutines dealing with tasks that involve taking life. Notable exceptions resolve around defending lives, especially innocents. Research into subjects living persona revealed decorated service as Paramedic and Firefighter. Dr. McCanne surmises this may be reason for anomaly.

Mission programming rewritten to show targets as harming innocents. Last twenty missions have been outstanding successes. 100% completion of all primary and secondary objectives. Subject also programmed to recognize team members as innocents. Defense of team outstanding. Zero casualties in last ten missions.

Side note. Lab kennel at capacity. Subject has agreed to allow team members to take home pets to their families. Kennels should be nearly emptied before next mission. Priority on subroutines to inhibit the ‘adoptive’ response per Dr. McCanne.

Full AI personality overlay completed yesterday. Preliminary tests show 99% success. 1% error rate dismissed as known anomaly. Subroutines written as before to ‘correct’ this behavior.

Two units now online. Xander is third. Fourth units status still unknown. Khione and Martin set to meet Xander next week. Imperative all subroutines, primary objective programming and safeguards be installed prior. Captain Gray has ordered self-destruct implants be installed at skull root and primary power supply. It should be noted that Xander’s unique nature prevents full back-up to hard-drives. Primary programming and subroutines can be stored but root programming…the conciseness…is hardwired into brainbox (Alpha Cortex Memory Unit – ACMU) and not down-loadable.

Footnote: Rewrite speech parameters and remove Irish accent. Programmer Davis reprimanded and placed on field duty with 104th Minesweeping Battalion (Motto: You only fail once!). Condolences in advance to his family. Suggest southern accent at this point since anomaly seems stuck on non-standard voice patterns. Query of subject was of southern descent prior to being drafted for program.

Proposition: Allow subject access to classic literature and holo’s showing ancient southern civility and ideals. Overwrite and/ or edit with current program directives. In short, use classic Civil War and old West fiction and non-fiction to instil sense of loyalty and honor to Empire. All Empire military personnel and government officials and team members to be classified as innocents, as well as Khione and Martin and fourth unit once personal designation determined.

XA-NDR 01

Log 3573E49.2

Subject: XA-NDR 01 (eXperimental Android-Neutralize Destroy/ Recon-01)

Research assistant Fitzroy recording today’s notes.

 

Test subject Xander again showing faulty algorithm. Repeated experiments to find root cause of fault still inconclusive. Researcher Simmons thinks the placement of a human consciousness into the subjects sub-processors may be to blame. Today’s experiment set to test this theory.

 

Previous tests have been…abysmal. Repeatedly subject failed to execute target unless target threatened great harm to subject. Over-ride commands failed to trigger execution as well. To rule out possibility of the controlled environment affecting the subjects reasoning, we have gone to the Hazard Slums with five outstanding warrants with orders to execute attached. Subject Xander to be sent hunting.

 

Of for the love of…sorry.

 

Subject Xander returned carrying one and leading four men. All five wanted men accounted for, none executed. Subject suggested medical attention for the one since it had to subdue the man. Lead researcher Grant is yelling at Xander about…ahem…screwing up the mission…again (I’m declining to record his exact words). Seems subject Xander also rescued a puppy along the way. Researcher Grant told one of the guards to kill the mongrel along with the convicts.

 

Oh shi

 

Subject Xander finally subdued. Researchers Grant and Simmons dead, along with most of research team. Don’t think I’m gonna last much longer so will hurry to get this recorded. Subject went absolutely nuts when they took the puppy from him and went to shoot it. Before anyone could react he shot and killed the guards, Researchers Grant and Simmons and the rest, including me. Seems some form of deep rooted protection subroutine is running. Not sure where from…who programmed. Suggest researching the human consciousness that was used? What were they in life?

 

Can….see rescue unit inbound. Subject docile, holding puppy. Will tell them to let him keep it, get him and puppy back to lab. Let others try and take it. So cold…why is it so cold….

 

Entry by Field Medic Robertson. Research team dead. Most of guard escorts dead or severely wounded. Subject XA-NDR 01 finally subdued. Transporting subject and canine back to lab. Good luck.

Taken

The events leading up to the attack had left him ill-prepared for what happened. The encounter with the Lich, the clues pointing to someone looking for the Artifact, the encounters with Neverember and his attackers. He should have planned batter, taken precautions, insisted Nel and Jay go somewhere safe, but he knew no matter where they had gone, this would have happened.

He stood outside Siofra’s house, watching the embers cool as the local fire brigade finished dousing the ruins. Siofra’s father more than redeemed himself in death, saving two of the abducted children at least. He would be celebrated as a great mage and hero, Cinari would see to it as his last official act as a Lord of Waterdeep.

He turned and saw a Guard waiting there, quietly, giving him his time. Cinari beckoned him over. “My Lord, Lord Neverember sends his deepest regards. He says your resignation however is not accepted. Many a Lord leaves on personal business, as they see fit. He says this is no different, though you will no longer have the shield of anonyminity”. Cinari nodded and handed the man a folded piece of paper. “Please take this to him then. It is a list of requests…and thank him for me”. The guard saluted and left. Cinari took one last look at the smoldering wreckage that had been his best friends house and realized he felt nothing right now. The anger, hate, fear, dread…what should be there was missing. He was numb, just numb. He shook his head to clear it.

He left the Grove and made his way home. Home, a quiet tavern filled with anxious faces.
Nel stood at the bar, watching the door as he came in. When she saw him alone she just dropped to her knees, weeping. One of his staff went to her, another to him. “What do we do?”

He looked about the room, seeing regular patrons, staff, members of the Red Sashes (those few he at least recognized with out their masks) and a few members of the Grey Hands as well. He cleared his throat to keep from sounding choked, not that it helped much. “As…as some of you know…the city was just attacked. A demon of great age and power wants something I and my friends hid for safe keeping, and has taken our children to ensure that he gets it”.

Nel’s head came up. “Our? Who else…”. Cinari couldn’t meet her eyes just yet. “Siofra’s son and daughter as well as Ramiel’s little girl. Siofra’s father died trying to protect them and
managed to buy Arael and Inai their freedom, but Morn and Jay….”. He trailed off, unable to
continue.

After a moment he looked up again. “Tomorrow we leave to…I honestly don’t know what we are going to do. Confront the demon and the Lich…try to save the children and maybe the world? But I need some help, from everyone here”. He looked about the room, catching every eye he could as he talked. “For those that hadn’t guessed or didn’t know, until tonight, I was a Masked Lord”. There were more than a few gasps, one or two nods and at least one “I knew it!” from the crowd. “I have played politician and bartender for too long, grown rusty and
soft…let my guard down…let them take….”. He trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut to try and prevent the tears.

A hand rested lightly on his shoulder. He looked over to see Nel there at his side. She
continued for him. “You tried to do what everyone hopes for…retire. The world wasn’t ready
for that just yet it seems. Besides, I don’t think the Cat ever went soft…how many in this
room worry about being mugged on their way home? How many here fret over if they will have enough protection money this month? How many here no longer fear thief nor ghoul as they go about their business? No…you didn’t go soft love, the world just got harder again is all”.

Nel gave his shoulder another squeeze then stepped in front of him to address those present. “We will need to step up, all of us. Sashes, for I know some of you are here, you will need to increase your patrols, keep new guilds from trying to make inroads here. Mort, the bar will be yours to run till my husband returns. We both have faith in you. Gisela, Nadine, Penny..you will help Mort and the rest. Information is just as important now as before, you three are the best I know at getting it”. She turned to an armored girl in the corner “Captain, I think I need to begin regular training in the Hands, not just occasional drills and such. We don’t know what’s coming next, but we all need to be ready for anything”.

She turned back to Cinari. “It wasn’t your fault. You did everything you could, to the best of
your knowledge. Tomorrow you will go and get our daughter back. Siofra’s son too”. She turned back to the crowd. “Friends, please, join me in a drink, on the house. To Lord Cinari, owner of the Shadowless Cat”. Glasses were filled, raised and drank in relative silence. One by one the patrons filled past, shaking his hand, nodding, some even saluting. “We’ll keep things safe while you’re gone”. “Don’t worry, we’ll watch over her”. “Good on ya lad”. “Go git yer kid back Cat…place ain’t the same wit out her”.

When everyone had gone and Mort closed the doors behind him as he left, Nel dragged him upstairs. “Bed for you…I want you rested and fresh and fully alert tomorrow. But not before I give you reason to come back to me…”.

Chapter 2

(Taken from the biogrophy of Lord Cinari of Waterdeep)

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Twilight’s Lull

The in between years

In the year 1479 the Red Twilight cult was defeated by Cinari and his companions, bringing and end to the cult’s plans for releasing the White Demon (at least for the time being). Cinari settled down in Waterdeep, choosing the rundown district of Mistshore as his new home and convinces the tiefling Nelcein, whom he met on his adventures, to join him. Things are more or less quiet for the newlywed despite grander happenings in the Waterdeep area.

The following year saw him become a father for the first time, as he and Nel welcomed their daughter, Jaylene, to the world. Possibly because of this, Cinari started working alongside the Red Sashes to help clean up his part of Mistshore, driving out the local thugs, thieves and petty criminals that had been calling the area home. It is around this time he gets a tattoo of his friend Siofra’s fallen feline companion, Tan, done on his shoulder.

He returns to Marsember the next year, though the visit is cut short by a run in with the Purple Dragons and agents of the Crown, who view his change of loyalties as reason to harass the young family. He manages to reconnect with old friends at the Masked Meerfolk and makes arrangements for future endeavors back in Waterdeep.

He makes it back in time to see his friends Ramiel and Celestine wed and Farus found the Brotherhood of the Warsteed. The year more or less is quiet with the exception of his return to counter-thieving to protect his neighbors and expand the area of safety around his home.

His actions don’t go unnoticed and he is soon recruited to help clean out other areas. His past adventures coupled with his current actions gain him an audience with the priests at the Temple of Tymora, who were looking for assistance quieting some unrest in the City of the Dead. This in turn gains the notice of the culprit behind the unrest in both parts of Waterdeep, the necromancer Quis Ginsunami.

Ginsunami tracks the tiefling back to his home and tries to ambush Nelcein when she leaves with Jay one day to go shopping. The ambush doesn’t go as planned since Nel is an accomplished spell thief in her own right and manages to hold off the undead minions until members of the Red Sashes, aided by local townfolk, come ot her rescue. Cinari manages to track the necromancer back to his lair but can’t prevent him from escaping.

 The two of them clear out three separate undead nests in the City of the Dead and manage to defeat a vampire thrall whom they believe is responsible for the recent issues there. They also work with the Sashes and greatly reduce the thieving activity in Mistshore, making a few enemies but making far more friends.

 Despite the reported increase in undead activities in the area, things quiet down in Mistshore the next year. Cinari is surprised by a summons to the Temple, brought by members of the City Guard. Upon arrival he is led into a private audience with Lord Neverember, the Open Lord. He is seen leaving the meeting looking confused and a little on edge. Neighbors report that he and his wife are seen less often for a time, foregoing their usual long walks along the docks. When they are seen, it is in deep whispered conversation. Cinari’s trips to the Temple increase as well and it is on the return from one of these trips that he is attacked and nearly killed by masked assailants.

The attacks are eventually traced back to the local thieves guild, looking to eliminate the one big known thorn in their side. A second attack is thwarted a week later, in part by a new trick Cinari literally has up his sleeve and the assailant captured this time. No further attempts are made though undead sightings are seen to increase again. Cinari requests an audience with the Open Lord to address this new issue, but no new patrols from the Watch are made in Mistshore.

The new year brings quiet once again to the area after Cinari and Nel (with the help of Siofra and Oak) manage to clear an undead nest from the wreckage of the Cat’s Claw, a scuttled galleon. They learn Ginsunami has been using the wreck as his new lair and Cinari is seen carrying out a few large chests after they finish clearing out the remaining undead.

Fourteen eighty six sees the opening of the Shadowless Cat, a tavern catering to the working people living in Mistshore. A week after it opens the remaining local thieves stage a daring robbery attempt only to be handily thwarted by Cinari, Nel and the waitstaff. A waitstaff that seems to change often. So often in fact that at first, patrons assume the new owner, Cinari, must be a horrible boss because they seems to have an incredibly high turnover rate. The same waitresses and barkeeps never there more than a month. Cinari explains it away as “They are friends from Cormyr and travel back and forth a lot…that pretty barmaid you flirted with last month will probably be back next week for a bit before she has to go back again”. Unknown to the patrons, most of the staff are old friends of his from the Masked Meerfolk.

Nelcein is recruited into the Grey Hands the following year, an honor Cinari passes up “Because I don’t want that much trouble”. Trouble seems to find him however after rumors surface that he is actually a Masked Lord, a rumor found later to have been started by the local Thieves Guild again in a last ditch effort to rid themselves and Mistshore of the cat-eyed counter-thief. Cinari and friends are quick to point out the Lords always cast shadows and he does not, which prevents most of the locals and some out-of-district types from petitioning him for favors. Those that still believe are escorted out of the tavern by the bouncers. The rumors are finally squashed outright when Cinari is seen to approach the Masked Lords in chambers on one of the rare instances of them being all assembled. The Watch still refuses to patrol in Mistshore however…

The final ‘in-between’ year sees Cinari and family making a hasty trip back to Cormyr after receiving an anonymous letter saying his father has been found. En route he is visited by an old acquaintance, a fortune teller he helped rescue from a demon carnival. The rhakasha warms him the letter is a ruse planned by Ginsunami to lure him and his family out into an ambush. The family returns home quietly and works with the Sashes to discover the new lair. Cinari defeats and kills the necromancer, learning after that he was also the leader of the thieves guild. Later in the year, with things finally quieted down, Cinari finds one of Ginsunami’s books with reference to Nixian Grail in hidden wall of boat and learns this is a name known to Neverember. Events unfold shortly after that lead to the second series of encounters with the Red Twilight, though that is the subject of Chapter 3. 

Cinari-Aftermath-Settling Down

As I put quill to parchment, there is so much to write, and yet I can’t find the words. First order of business I suppose is the task. We were successful. Twilight defeated, it’s leaders slain and their bodies dumped in lava to ensure no return save for magic beyond my understanding. We lost Tan though in the process. Bloody lucky we didn’t lose more.

Something magic happened and we were back in Waterdeep. Got Farus all patched up, everyone else more or less healed up, then met the Lords. Not going into details on that here other than to say, one day, well, I wonder what it would be like to be looking out from behind those masks they wear?

We got put up in a really (like, way better than I have ever seen) inn. I left after the first night. Never felt so out of place. Found Nel, spent the next couple days and nights (ok, week or two?) more or less wrapped up with her. Went out for food and to meet with some of the party but didn’t go far or stay gone long. She is in agreement, we are settling here. Cormyr may have been where I grew up and where, for a short while, I felt I should be, but it was never home. I wasn’t accepted there, just used. Here, I’m…respected a bit. Not for how I look but what I’ve done, can do.

Wrapped up things with Keeper and my official status as an agent of Cormyr. Released as a personal favor to the Open Lord to foster good will between Her Majesty and the Lords. With a reminder should I ever return to Cormyr, I will be treated as a foreigner. One whom they are well aware of and what I can do. It was a warning, and I don’t think their law about cats will help me much. The only regret I have in this is it probably means the end of my search for my parents.

Speaking of which, Nel had a bit of a surprise for me. At least my child will know about his or her father and mother, I’m making Nel start a journal as well). She isn’t showing yet, but said she just knew so had a cleric or some-such confirm for her. Be another seven or eight months, but still I can’t even describe how happy I am. And worried. With our backgrounds, being what we are…I’m a little apprehensive about what she will look like. Yes dear…he or she will look like, now quite reading over my shoulder.

She’s gone. Tymora? A girl please? Even if I have to leave a gold a day till she is born at your temple. While your at it, we looked at some places down in Mistshore. Yes, I know I could settle anywhere, but I’ve always like the sound of the waves and a place where the people are, well, poor. It’s a rough area, maybe not the best to raise a kid in, but she will come up world wise. Streetwise at the very least. The rest she can learn, that is something you have to live to know. We found this old merchant vessel with large captain’s quarters that would make a great home. It’s partially submerged along the docks, in what is probably the ‘best’ part of town. Cargo holds are flooded and filled with sand and water, but that’s ok.

I think I can make the ship safe too. Old crew quarters are submerged like the cargo areas but I can convert the captain’s quarters into a rather nice living space. Just have to build a little galley on what’s left of the mid-deck. Forward areas are broke off, probably carried off for building supplies?

It’s on the part of the docks still patrolled by the Watch and the Red Sashes and is currently unoccupied since the locals consider it a bad place for business with those two so close. Suite me just fine. There’s a row of merchants along the docks too, mostly good folk that hopefully wont mind us setting up there and making the area a little more safe along the way. We will see.

Been a few days, things have changed. Didn’t get the ship, seems it wasn’t as empty as I was told. Did find a nice little flat overlooking the docks though, above one of the merchant’s shops. Woodcarver and his family. Nice folk. I can still hear the waves, smell the salt. Life is good.

Fortunes….

 Cinari propped himself up against the cross beam again. After months of tents and bedrolls and flat ceilings, he was out of practice sleeping in the rafters. Twice he had almost fell while dozing. He chided himself ‘growing soft cat, growing soft’. Though right now sleep might as well be a fat rich merchant surrounded by alert guards, standing in a nimbus of light, on an empty street, with all his purses triple-tied and locked.

 It was bad enough getting off the ship at Luskan. If the docks of Marsember were the armpit of Cormyr (a bathed and sometimes scented armpit at that), Luskan was the….well, it was bad. Even Cinari was nervous walking it’s streets. No law, no order, no sense of who to watch and who to ignore. Everyone was a threat, a danger. He had rather enjoyed the trip to there, being aboard ship again had been a pleasant break, but once he saw the city his hackles rose and all he wanted was to get out of it.

The really sad part was they camped in the wilds, were attacked by a malnourished pack or worgs, and were probably still safer than if they had stayed in the city. He had to argue quite hard, and pulled a clue out of his ass to keep the party from going back. Once again he was glad he bought those maps and had someone take time to teach him how to read them.

Then there was the shanty-town. Run down, middle of nowhere, not on the map, but welcoming and not threatening. Good people eeking out a living on the edge of the mountains. How these folk survived the winters was beyond him. So when the ringmaster showed up, dancing by himself in the middle of the open field to music everyone could hear, Cinari once again got his knickers in a bunch. He’d been to carnivals before, hells, he looked forward to them. Nothing makes picking pockets easier than townsfolk distracted by a good time. But this carnival….

He was pleased to have been wrong so far. He watched the carnies and the clowns and didn’t see any of them ‘working’ the crowds. Sure, the games were rigged but that was part of the show. Nothing about this carn’ stood out except the way it arrived. The ringmaster had even ‘rescued’ their ogre, who was still dumb as a stump. Course, Cinari could have missed something, being distracted himself after the fortune teller.

She seemed legit, typical sooth-sayer. Pale, quiet, spooky, attractive…again, typical. He walked in all cocky, figured he’d throw her for a loop, get her off balance and flustered to prove to the others she was a fraud. “What am I?” was a simple enough question, one many people failed to answer. Actually, so far, only that one fey had ever gotten it right, and until then, he himself hadn’t known. So when the fortune teller said “Rakshasa-kin” it stopped him in his tracks and she knew it. What bothered him the most though was he knew inherently it was true. He shouldn’t have, but he did. Father was the descendant of a rakshasa, a race of evil beings not unlike demons but not fiendish themselves. The fortune teller had added there was demon in him too and he assumed that was his mother. Once they got someplace with a decent library or temple he was going to learn more about these cat-headed beings.

At long last, the merchant’s guards got distracted as his little party wandered into the familiar markets. Shadows descended, purses were loosened to make purchases, and Cinari was able to at long last steal in and lift a few coins. He woke many hours later draped over the ceiling beam like a cat and grinned. Carnival time!

Last Will….?

Some day in some month in some year…yeah. Never cared, not going to start now. Last few days have been interesting to say the least. The cultists we pissed off decided we were too big a thorn and spent alot of coin to silence us. Spells that isolated each city ward, big demons to distract the city defenders, and legions of thugs going door to door looking for us. I don’t understand the spells involved but am told they aren’t easy or cheap to cast. 

Their efforts met with some success. They did manage to find us, flushed us out of the house we were holed up in, terrorized alot of people and managed to piss off the Lords of Waterdeep. You know, they mysterious masked council that rules this city? Unlimited resources, a full standing army plus city guard? Access to countless legions of adventurers? Yeah, those guys. Somehow I think the cult hadn’t planned for that. 

We now have official backing and access to some extra coin to gear up. That’s the good news. We are also expected to go take on one of the cult leaders and her legions. That’s the bad news. I’ve lived my life around the living. Around sailors and their superstitions. Undead are something you avoid, not go looking for. I mean, how do you kill what’s already dead? How do you find the weak spot when there aren’t any? 

This is what we are going in to fight. Undead. Vampires. I don’t know how many of us are gonna make it. For my part, I went to the temple and asked the priests for advice. After I got past all the suggestions of mirrors and garlic and stakes I found an elderly sage who sat me down, pulled out some dusty scrolls and started reading to me the weaknesses of these things and gave me some water-tight suggestions. 

Armed with a shopping list, a blessing for good luck, and a list of shops to visit, I headed out looking for some specific things. Magic stuff aint cheap. Shop keeps know you don’t know what your looking for are wont to take advantage too. Lucky for me, I’m good at scoping places out. Watched a few shops till I got a feel for the most honest of the shopkeeps, then went in. Paid off, both for me and the ‘keeps. I’m now broke, but hopefully have the gear that will see me through all this.

Lesse…big stuff first. Magic crystal to shield me mind from spells that might try to muck with my head. An enchanted cloak to do the same but also shore up some other areas. Give me edge against spells that hit near me, stuff like that. I bought an amulet that makes my skin itch, but makes it tougher too. It’s an odd feeling to be sure. 

Bought some more mundane stuff too. A legit Holy Symbol. Not just the coin I usually carry. Four vials of this silver stuff that coats my weapons like a poison that only works on the undead. Some potions that supposedly will protect me from those with evil in their hearts and let me hide from the undead too. 

Hopefully I will make another entry after all this is over. If I don’t make it…whatever I have left I want to go to Siofra. Distribute what the group can use, sell the rest and pout into a fund for the group. All except my lock picks and specialized tools. Siofra can get those to that girl….