At first I think it was shock. I remember feeling a little stone, like a pearl forming out of grit in a clam’s mouth. Then it was horror. And that became sorrow. Layered with guilt. Then hardened into fury.
That night, from their beds, some 30 souls had been wrenched by Akkimu’s Host.
In their homes.
Where they should have been safe.
This could not stand. I would stand for it no longer. The God of Murder must be ended.
Breath. In, and out.
We would need a plan, and people and…. and….
Breath. Start again.
We decided that we would have to go after Akkimu after the events of that night. It would have been more prudent to wait until we had more information, but the small bit of safety from her that the Champoorans had been afforded was gone, and our own wards would only hold so many people. So it would have to be before nightfall. That meant that we would have to both gather as much information on Akkimu as we could, and locate where her sanctum was. While it was a fairly good bet that it was probably located beneath the bell, we had no real way of knowing this. We would need information first. Little enough seems to be known about Akkimu by the people of the city, so that would mean either finding one of her followers, who could be anywhere in the city, or by asking someone who knew her.
I struggled for a moment when it first came to mind, because I loathed to put him in danger by having him further associate with us, but Hatelis was the obvious choice. He had given us information about her before, if ever so cryptically, and it was possible that, by asking him directly, I might be able to exploit what bond we had to gain some further information that might help us to undo her.
And people were dying. My people.
All five of us set off for his temple/office. The building was in a bustle as I had never seen it, carts, and boxes, and people moving about everywhere. It looked like it was being packed up….
I’ll admit, my heart fell and rose in an instant. Was he leaving? Had I caused him that much distress? But also: good, he’s going. Going somewhere safe, away from all of this. If I had had more wits about me I may have chastised myself for fretting over such things while the fate of this fair city was at stake, but my fury still burned as smoldering coals, so did not reflect upon it until much later.
There was still a clerk at the desk, though he seemed to be packing things and took a moment to realize we were there. It seemed that Hatelis had not yet left, but was in fact in the process of packing and going. We were granted an audience, and hurried up the stairs.
I had never seen him this.. distressed.. before. Almost always a model of composure, he required a moment to regain himself before speaking with us, which must have meant he was under a great deal of stress. An uncomfortable mixture of guilt and longing washed over my fury, damping it a bit.
It seems my worry over having to coerce information out of him about Akkimu was unfounded: in taking the lives of those in their houses, Akkimu had broken her contract with (presumably) the Patrons, and Hatelis was no longer bound not to give us information that might aid us in her downfall. He told us that she had a temple beneath the bell, and that she uses the souls she collects as some sort of power, as she had for more than 700 years.
Thoughts of this make me feel ill.
Hatelis told us he was leaving the city for the time being, and planned to be back in a few weeks. He would be well out of harms way for now, at least then. He bid us well, and wished us safety.
He smiled at me, a sad, but encouraging smile. I could barely meet his eyes. I have done this to you. It must be done, but I have done it.
Broken Walls set off from us then to talk with Mauk’s followers, and hopefully to Mauk himself, who Hatelis had thought might be able to give us more information, if not actual physical aid. Piper (as a mysterious and somewhat dangerous looking new guise, Mists of Ruby Skies), Saiten and I went off in search of a possible lead on the whereabouts of Akkimu’s priests. Apparently Piper had been working further on her already finely honed senses, and felt quite able to pick up on the unmistakable graveyard scent of the priests. Only, however, if we could find a still fresh trail.
We started at the scene of our encounter with Lang and the Host, but rain and time had taken their toll on any trail we might find there. We made our way back towards Rising Sun house, hoping to cross paths with the graveyard smell once more when suddenly….
It was like the rumble of distant thunder, but under our feet! Just as we were going to pass through Mauk’s gate, the Earth shook with a great sound. It was words! Someone’s great, booming voice was coming from beneath us! In my surprise and shock I do not remember everythign that was said, but it became clear fairly quickly that it was someone giving quite detailed information about the gods of Champoor! I will tell you what I remember, so that you may help me to remember it later.
Kadu, it seems, fears Akkimu. He is building an army of those fish-men that attacked Gi and Zeo outside of the city. Silgur was not always the way he is… he was not always the god of rats and vermin perhaps? There is a god named Natasha who seems to be some kind of god of…er…. the Red district? The speaker did not say… very much about her. Gisig is the gargoyle-like door god whose likeness we have seen a few places around town. It seems that maybe he can be found with the gods of Champoor who no longer have vocations? Akkimu, the voice said, is quite powerful, and practiced in dark sorcery. Her temple could be found beneath the bell. Tenepeshu, whose name until now we had only heard quite briefly, and little more than that, is a great Dragon (!) who lives beneath the ruins of the city, hides it from heaven’s eyes, and is able to change and grant vocations to the gods of Champoor, using them as punishments and bribes to keep them in line! No wonder the people here suffer so.
The speaker, who we soon discovered was Mauk, also spoke of himself. He said that he had come from some land called Dis, was, in fact, a Giant, and had driven off some group of people whose name I do not recall before settling down in Champoor some 700 years ago or so.
All of this by itself would be troubling, but was made even more so by the fact that it had just boomed around this part of the city, if not the whole place! People had stopped in their tracks, listening in stunned silence as this rumbling quake of a voice revealed these secrets of the inner circle of their gods. If there had not been problems between the people of Champoor and the dealings of their gods before, there would be now….
As we stood dumbstruck just beyond the Great Cudgel gate, who should walk around it but Broken Walls, looking just as puzzled as we were to see him. It seems that he had been the one speaking to Mauk, and had convinced him to answer questions about the gods of Champoor…. but neither of them had realized that the whole of the city could hear Mauk’s replies….
But we had little time to reflect on what the consequences of this might be. Mauk’s followers had agreed to aid us in Akkimu’s downfall, and we knew where we were to look for her. It was time to rally our own troops.
Battle songs are not something that I am used to singing; it is not often in a bar or tea room that one is tasked with inspiring soldiers to bravery. When those who had agreed to fight with us were gathered, I pulled from a long ago memory a song whose meaning I am not entirely convinced of, but have been assured is about a glorious victory. The familiar lyrics filled with unfamiliar words of the Realm Echoed from my throat as gloriously as I could muster. I am not a warrior, but I am a performer, and I will use whatever I can to help in any way I can. If I must send these brave soul off to battle, I will send them off with courage in their hearts.