It was time to put his plan into action. After his morning meditation on the deeper mysteries of the Black Faith he took out his serrated knife and began to carefully cut a single gold piece into pieces of eight. Jíen then left his tomb and walked to the bazaar. It wasn’t long before after harassing a few ragamuffins that he found a group of street-rats eager for his gold bits. He told his new contact, the eldest of the group complete with a tattoo of rat’s silhouette on the side of his hand (a mark of the Ratters’ Guild), that he would pay in gold bits for a black gem, no questions asked. The necromancer told them he frequents the Troll and to find him there to get paid.
A little while later, the young necromancer walked into the Whiskey Troll Tavern and noticed that even without the oppressive atmosphere of smoke it stunk quite a bit of piss and rotten ale. He also noticed that his companions had indeed survived their little mission from last night. He walked over and the other two had some harsh words for him, he tried to explain himself and kept a friendly tone. Trantox the assassin and Dravor the blackguard didn’t understand a word from the necromancer’s mouth and vice versa.
Somehow, all thought that everything had been smoothed over or that they had won at an argument or got the other party to agree to something. Regardless, they were a trio again. They sat and ate a breakfast of hot ale-mash with bits of fried meat (probably rat), ale and some whiskey. The necromancer however went light on the booze preferring to drink the cheapest grog he could get.
It wasn’t long before the first of two street kids walked in delivering for 1 gold bit, a rounded onyx obviously pried from some larger treasure. Trantox and Dravor left sometime just before midday. A little while later outside the day turned gray, humid, and dark without warning and then a sudden thunderstorm dumped warm rain turning the uncobbled streets to mud.
Shortly after the second pickpocket had walked out with his gold bit, the blackguard and the assassin came back wetted by the downpour. They again sat and ordered food and drink; they appeared to have quite a bit of money on their persons. It wasn’t long after that that a tall sun-darkened southlander with a shaved pate wrapped in a black robe walked in from the rain and directly to the dark trio’s table.
The tall man smiling made eye contact with Dravor and referred to him a few times as ‘brother’. Four others similarly dressed and lightly armed were behind him. Jíen couldn’t understand much but when the man introduced himself to the rest of the group he caught the name Exvorum. Exvorum and his men joined the trio for a few hours of friendly chatter and some whiskies.
By evening the tavern was crowded, loud with brusque voices, and fogged with smoke. Fauns, some half-giants, Scaels, and gypsies had flooded into the place all arriving in town as fans of the annual gladiatorial games. Jíen took his leave after purchasing a bottle of whiskey and made his way back to the charnel house.
It wasn’t long before he found himself chatting up the attendant of the astudan, Exandor. Of course, their conversation turned towards past champion level gladiators who’d died and were buried in the graveyard.
Exandor: “Baercor the skull-breaker. I think he died about 2 seasons ago, big funeral. Lotsa flowers, the mourners certainly earned their pay that day. A fine funeral indeed.” His bottom lip bulged with pride with that final phrase.
A few minutes after that Jíen left the half-drunk bottle with the inebriated Exandor and used his skeletal minion to excavate the grave of the gladiator Baercor. The corpse was in surprisingly good condition having mostly dried-up rather than rotted. Even his equipment was more-or-less intact. He had been buried with the implements of his profession, a dire-mace, a short-sword, a chain shirt bearing the damage of the fatal wound, an open helm, and a Westlander war-belt.
The Deadlands necromancer took most of the remaining night to ply his trade and convert the corpse into something useful, a variation of a Dread-Guard using the black gems he had obtained from the street urchins. Surprisingly both gems were genuine. The creature when finished was a mindless automation for the most part but its shriveled bluish flesh was hardened like leather and its strength slightly greater than it had been in life.
Jíen had also carved, with his serrated dagger, a magic rune into the creature’s forehead during its creation, a Disguise Undead spell. The creature would appear as a living man of a somewhat generic appearance but appropriate to his size and massive build. Jíen wouldn’t have been too surprised to learn that the gladiator had giant’s blood in his veins.
There was enough time left before dawn for the young mage to catch some sleep before he had to go to the arena to register his fighter as Bludbaer the Dire and himself as Bludbaer’s manager. He would use the tiger-eye gem snatched from one of the hooded thief’s corpses (see Necromancing Xuun Pt.2: Squatters’ Rights). The proper games would begin in a week’s time. He thought, “ha! This’ll be easy money!”
It was near noontime when Jíen had finished putting the last few steps of his plan into action having registered his fighter for the games and was headed back to the Whiskey Troll Tavern to meet up with his compatriots with his minion and new gladiator in tow. It wasn’t long after his arrival at the Troll before fight-fans were offering drinks to his undead-fighter so Jíen had them give the creature red wine as it was “his favorite”.
Cris (the GM): “Ha-ha, like blood!”
Me (Jíen’s Player): “Well, yeah, can’t have him get wounded in the games and have no blood. Someone might get suspicious!”
The GM made a note after that crack.
After a while, Dravor wanted in on the swindle and offered to “sponsor” the young necromancer’s fighter. Of course, the necromancer would have to help the blackguard in taking out a “competitor” first. They had just finished shaking hands on it when a gaggle of armored Hyvalians clattered in. Jíen’s shadowed eyes nearly bulged from their sockets when he saw them.
There was a mutual amount of hate between most, if not all, Hyvalians and Deadlanders caused by the Necromancer Rebellion that had occurred over 500 years past. It had resulted in the loss of a significant portion of the Hyval landmass to the Solkang Ocean splitting the Deadlands from the mainland. It was still a sore spot between cultures.
The Hyvalians’ white surcoats bore the golden chalice and sunrays against azure of the Hyvalian Theocracy. The leader was in full plate armor and great helm apparently a paladin and the other four were Templars in full-suits of chainmail with steel open helms on their heads. The paladins armor squeaked with his raised arm as did his gauntlet when his finger thrust in Jíen’s direction.
Paladin: “We are here to purge this community of the evil that has infected it! We start with you!”
What Jíen had failed to note was that the paladin’s golden scabbard had a single gem of obsidian set into it. The gold mounting damaged from a failed attempt at prying it off. There were also two other empty settings from which the gems had been pried.
Trantox the assassin had already slunk away unseen.
To Be Continued…