The two youngsters were playing in the street, throwing a ball near the cart of a street vendor, completely ignored by passerby. No one seemed to notice that the boys were acting as lookouts for the other kids lurking around; pickpockets for the organization known as “The Hoard”, an off-shoot of the rebellion working as procurers and messengers. The tallest boy, Ahmet, was spinning a tale for his friend Arawo, but the latter didn’t seem to believe him. Ahmet was getting frustrated and his voice was getting louder.
“Are you saying I’m a liar? I told you I went in the sewers…and I saw kobolds!”
“Ok Ok….but why would you go in the sewers? Yuck! No wonder why you stink so much….Besides, I heard the rumors about kobolds living under the city and serving the Great Red…It`s like draconic vermin anyways…Nothing to be afraid of….”
“Really? Well I saw them fight…It was awesome! One of them was a magician and they had control over some of the huge snakes that are supposed to live down there. Well its real, I saw them too, obeying the kobolds like the lizards we keep at the orphanage!”
Laughing, the unbeliever smirked at his friend: “Fighting what? Rats? Come on Ahmet, there’s nothing exceptional about that….”
Ahmet didn’t even let his friend finish and said, his tone getting angrier: “Moron, it wasn’t rats! I’m not sure who they were…It all happened underneath the Humble Bard…One of the caches…Four strangers, maybe they are some of the mercenaries- the Crimson Talons?- went down in the sewers, clearly searching for something. Maybe it was the cache or the kobolds, I don’t know but they suddenly noticed the kobolds and, strangely enough, when the strangers told them they were with the rebels, the little beasts started to attack, one sending sling bullets while the other, a magician, fired bolt of dazing light and ice. In a matter of seconds, the humans were joined by a fierce dwarf and a weird girl that looked like a genie. She just kept talking non-stop almost like a crazy person, except that she was trying to stop the fight. It was intense, especially with the sewer pipes sending blasts of water knocking down anyone standing in front of them.”
Maybe it was the details or the way Ahmet was telling the story but Arawo was now listening; now he believed. The teenager continued: “In the end, the elemental girl finally succeeded in stopping the fight, telling the kobolds that this was all a misunderstanding and that in reality the rebels were a common enemy.”
“Wait”, said Arawo, “kobolds are cousins to dragons, they cannot fight the rebellion!”
“The magician, his name was Speelock, said that the two of them had been thrown out of the tribe because they opposed the new leader and that they were seeking vengeance against their tribe and the ones manipulating them: the rebels. Everyone calmed down except the dwarf who must have really hated the smell of the sewers or something, cuz he ran back outside the second the fight had stopped. Meanwhile, genie girl was trying to settle a deal with Speelock, offering their help in their vendetta against their old tribe in exchange for information. I don’t know but it seemed the wizard understood that they wouldn’t get other help so he accepted and offered the contents of the cache to its new allies. From what I spotted, the chest had scrolls, a bottle, a brooch and some kind of carpet…well maybe more a battle standard. This last item seemed to provoke more reaction from the warriors. Once the cache was emptied, the two kobolds left through as small grate but not before the elemental requested the permission to pet one of the snakes! I almost laughed out loud when I heard that….I’m pretty sure I would have been in trouble if they had caught me….Fortunately enough they didn’t and, as they returned to the surface, I immediately reported to Grand Father Balteus.”
Hours later, in a dark room at the Orphanage, one small creature sat in a corner, meditating and offering prayers to the Dragon Queen while her servant, the one everyone in Ormpur knew as Grand Father Balteus, stood motionless, watching over her and waited for orders.
“Oh Mother of Avarice, your humble servant needs wisdom as one of her servants came with information about mercenaries asking questions and removing agents of our liberation army. From what my informants told me, they are members of the foreign legion led by the blasphemous infidel who killed your son Solonepsis. One of them, a grey-skinned human, was seen following one of my men, Farrouk the enforcer but never engaged him. What should I do with them? As you know, I’m not fond of violence…I prefer to guide and lead from the shadows like your green children. Yes! Thank you Blessed Mother of Dragons, I shall use the gifts you gave me to bring these new recruits of the Crimson Talons in your army… After all, sellswords know the gift of your avarice and we have wealth aplenty to lavish on them if they opt to fight on our side…I promise that in due time, your name will be ring through the halls of the palace once again!”
As the Ghostwise Halfling got up and ended her prayers, she turned to face her servant, the mind-controlled caretaker of the orphanage, and gave him strict orders to send to the children working for them. In truth, no one knew that Morgana of Tiamat was the real leader of the Hoard, Ormpur’s thieves’ guild. They all reported to Grand Father Balteus who in turn reported to the priestess.
“Have a small chest filled with gold and gems sent to the park. It will be hidden under a marble plate near the statues. I will send an invitation to our noisy friends to see if we can bribe them in joining us. Make sure to bring your axe just in case…”
As he left the room to ensure his mistress’ orders would be carried on properly, she summoned three earth elementals and ordered them to move to the park and stay hidden in case the negotiation would go awry. She didn’t like violence but also believed that the best way to end a fight rapidly was to be prepared and to have sufficient firepower. When she finally left, hours later, she was accompanied by her servant but also by a group composed of children from the orphanage and Halflings working for the Hoard. They would serve her, and thus the Mother of Avarice, well, whether as diversion, artillery or decoys.
I was one of the first to volunteer for the mission in the park and, being one of the stealthiest of the kids at the orphanage, Grand Father sent me to be his eyes, along with some of my friends, and then to assure the rear guard while he and his Halfling bodyguards, disguised as children boldly went out in the open to meet with the mercenaries. Hours before the meeting, I watched three of the Talons enter the park for reconnaissance, the three others certainly hidden somewhere near to act as backup. They sat next to the statues of the old Suikhs, clearly nervous and even threatening us as we moved closer to them, playing with a ball while taking mental notes about the foreigners. So aggressive they were! One of them, a tall man dressed in full plate pointed his crossbow at us and even pierced our ball, sending us away in rather violently. At that point, I was not certain the negotiations would go well but I trusted Grand Father’s wisdom and moved to my position in the trees.
When the old man arrived, he introduced himself and got straight to the point, offering his three interlocutors a chance to join the rebellion and to fight for the freedom of the people of Ormpur. He argued that, even though the Church of Tiamat was harsh, it was fair and almost no one in the city profited from the change of government. He also stated that the Askulder dynasty had lost his right to claim the throne since they had remained hidden while Suikh Alanasker protected the city from the Spellplague and the savage tribes of raiders. While the human who looked like a cleric and the elf asked questions and left the discussion open, the one wearing a full plate, probably some kind of knight, rejected the offer as he considered the use of children as bodyguards horrible! He didn’t understand that my friends were there of their own free will and that the streets of Ormpur requested strength and courage. And besides, he was pretty mean for a man so concerned with the welfare of children!
Anyways, since nothing seemed convincing enough to change his mind, not even the small chest filled with gold that was offered to the sellswords as an incentive to join our efforts, he would soon see how dedicated we were to Ormpur!
The knight’s aggressive tone and the fact that the two others seemed to be stalling the discussion led Grand Father to end them, calling upon his hidden elemental allies to attack from below. The element of surprise wasn’t as efficient as three other mercenaries came out of the bushes and engaged the summoned creatures. They also seemed to have noticed that some of Balteus’ escort were not children but Halflings, concentrating some of their attacks on the small snipers.
As the fight erupted near the statues, another started between our rear guard and the assassins sent by the treacherous foreigners. It proved that we were wrong to trust these guys and, knowing that my skills in combat were insufficient, I remained hidden, watching my Halfling friends, who acted as teachers and caretakers at the Orphanage and doubled as fierce bodyguard when needed, fall on both fronts, some coldly executed by the Talons’ snipers while their ground forces simply knocked them out, clearly hoping to discover some of the rebellion’s secrets through interrogation.
Quickly enough, only one of the Hin was left standing: Morgana, a cleric who provided advice to Grand Father and acted as the spiritual guide at the orphanage. Noticing that his closest friend was in danger, the old warrior rushed back to her defense, displaying powers I never saw him use before. Fighting side by side, the two parental figures of most of Ormpur’s orphans defended themselves admirably, only to be knocked down by a combination of attacks from the Gold Dwarf, the knight and the grey-skinned assassin. Angry, I revealed myself to the enemy, spitting vile insults at them. I was rapidly caught by the pale knight who threatened me with his sword, forcing me to surrender.
They later carried me to a cart filled with the unconscious bodies of my friends, clearly bringing us to the Crimson Talons encampment a few blocks from the park. Unable to restrain myself, I kept insulting them, calling them assassins and brutes. I said to them how noble I thought Balteus was, to fight for the people of Ormpur, to fight against a puppet state for the dwarves of the Rift. I must have said something really offensive because the “honorable” knight grabbed me and forced his dagger into my mouth, threatening to slice my tongue off I wouldn’t stop my ramblings. Exactly the kind of response I was expecting from a foreigner working for a dictator…Fortunately for my tongue, I was saved by the elemental girl, clearly the most diplomatic of the lot…
Deep under the former temple of Tiamat, now dedicated to Tempus the Foehammer stood a cellular block, formerly used to keep captives that were to be sacrificed to the civic goddess of Ormpur. It was now used by the temple’s occupants, the Crimson Talons, to hold captive members of the rebellion possessing important information. After a first meeting with the agents sent to debrief her, Morgana sat in a corner of her cell, in the dark and addressed prayers to her deity.
Mother of dragons, guide me through this ordeal. I was defeated in battle but my captors are ready to negotiate. I have a vast knowledge about the rebels and this knowledge might be the key to the return of your church in the City of Saffron. As a good wyrmkeeper, I requested three things from the mercenaries fighting for the infidel who stole your relics. First, to be freed and allowed to take over an empty mansion, close to the palace. This will become a chapel dedicated to your magnificence and, if everything works as planned, your faith will be authorized once again, bringing flocks of believers to my doors. My second request was to be given a seat on the Suikh’s council. The return of an old symbol could be seen as a gesture towards the citizens who doesn’t approve the changes made by the new king. Once at his side, I might be able to coax Askulder into returning to their old patron deity, after all they are the ones who named you as Ormpur’s civic deity centuries ago. Of course, my third request is the one that might not be granted: the return of your holy relics, stolen by the Phoenix of Ormpur, the general in charge of the Crimson Talons. I know that the woman will not relinquish the Bloody Bulwark and the Crownring of Tchazzar but we will have other opportunities to get them out of the infidel’s hands. So far, the young sellswords responsible for questioning me proved quite wise and promised to bring my requests to their superior officer. They were happy to consider that the civil war in Ormpur might be stopped through diplomacy and a show of leniency by the new Suikh. I hope these actions will make you proud of me, Queen of Greed and that in return, I will be rewarded with Power, Money and Strength…
In return, I offered information about someone I consider unworthy of your affections. Faustus Aveneil, the fat, greedy merchant who doesn’t even pay you proper respect. Living outside of town and leading the rebels from his ivory tower. With his capture or elimination, the rebels might fall but I promise that one way or another, your Church will rise from the ashes of Solonepsis.