Estin, The Celestial City

This is the Fight that Never Ends

What is the point. We have the gold, we have the power, why should I keep fighting for this city. Nothing good has happened since I arrived. If this city is going to fall, then let it. Certainly the families dont care and the clerics are too scared to leave their temples to do anything and the cloaks have been paid off to look the other way. All I wanted to do was have a nice enjoyable time in the city, maybe get into a close spot every now and then, but this – this is intolerable.

On the other hand, there are enough people in this city who try to do good by the people, but there are few enough that those who need or want should leave. I suspect that is what Valentin is doing. I may have joined him if Eryximachus and Ditty werent so bent on getting Algernon, maybe we wont die, but I dont have high hopes.

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A Passing Loyalty

Valentin did not respond to the harsh accusation of Ditty.

He thought about it, though.

He had already spoken his piece and laid out his strategy – walk into the trap, then walk out. Cause the arrogant prick behind these mind games to stumble as his power plays go unmet. Use Algernon’s ego to make him look the fool.

But nevertheless, at every turn they had played his game and “won” but at great cost. Now a banquet with the man whose offer of allegiance they had spurned and whose compatriots they had slain but moments before, complete with drained resources and fresh wounds.

Algernon would be a fool of the highest order to let them leave that banquet alive. If the food at the banquet were not poisoned, the entrances not guarded by an army of thralls, and the chairs not laced with fatal magic, then Valentin felt confident he had nothing to fear from this petty, power-crazed psychopath. It meant the game was more important than the goal, and like a troubled gambler Algernon would play again and again until he had nothing more to lose.

Now, none of that meant the man wasn’t dangerous in the present, but that’s why Valentin made his solitary way out the enthralled circus and back to the gates of Estin. He paused to write a brief note of warning to the Cloaks that he dispatched with his fiendish owl, Alastair.

Once home, he sent out a warning to the undercity, inviting everyone to flee to Menorah before packing the few belongings that mattered into a satchel and preparing to depart the city.

He had done his duty, he felt, now it was time to let things take their course.

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To leave or not to leave?

“We should just leave Keld”

The words left Eryximachus’ mouth in a rush. A part of the sorcerer was panicking and it was in an eerie moment of clarity that Eryximachus realized he was not adjusted to this. For years and years he spent hard, but predictable days alone on his mountain home range. Then, even when he had Fellocha (who he did feel responsible for) she was never in real danger. There was never even a chance she would have been caught up in a mess like this. The sort of mess people created.

As Ditty began protesting in horror, the man ran a hand through his hair and then over his darkening brow. He could see it. Keld being made to ingest raw powder, being made into a wretched and pained monster… If there was one thing Eryximachus knew, it was that he could not let that be the boy’s fate. After all, even if Eryximachus was stymied from showing his attachment – he was attached. Spending the better part of a year with someone seemed to do that.

So then what? Play Algernon’s games? Walk into something as expected?

The sorcerer sighed, giving up. It was too much. His emotions and his ‘better’ judgment were clashing in ways he had managed to avoid for a very long time. He…he could not leave the boy. And if Keld is to die, Eryximachus decided he would be there.

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Promises

We Fought We battled, we are off to round two. My comrades and I were able to survive this encounter, despite having to battle our enemies and one of our own. I am not sure who is trustworthy anymore. My friend is an addict who tried to kill me. And the rest of my companions almost left with no support. Now lets go get Algernon before we get dead!

This is getting crazy. But the important thing is that we have saved the gold for now.

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A Not Unwelcome Challenge

Outside the warehouse during the short rest:

Valentin could not deny the thrill that filled his being. He felt alert. Alive!

It had been so long since wits and power allowed him to dance along the knife’s edge of safety and danger. Not since he left his woe-begotten, hungry, dreary life in the catacombs behind. Yet some part of his spirit sung with new fervor to return to this urban wilderness.

After all these years. Algernon was another outcast, disenfranchised urchin scrambling, fighting, clawing for mere scraps. The outcomes of these clashes could be deadly, but the survivors licked their wounds and grew stronger. In a way, the price the weak paid made life better for everyone else. It was a harsh, terrible life… but there was glory and purpose in it.

Now the food scraps were gold and influence, and this new upstart laid claim to it – but the law of the catacombs is unforgiving. Only the best, toughest, smartest can lay claim to life in these gods-forsaken crypts.

One in a lifetime can seize a life outside their birthplace amongst the tombs.

Just like Valentin.

Still, for all his drive and confidence, Algernon’s challenge lacked something… personal. This territorial dispute focused on the overcitizens – too self centered for the squabbles of the undercitizen’s.

No, life in the catacombs begins where two desperate pairs of eyes, sunk deep in malnourished flesh, meet over a cast off heel of bread and ends when only one leaves, taking the mouldy, bloodied bread deeper into the dark.

Valentin could not help but wish for such an opportunity with Algernon, though he knew the imprudence of such a desire.

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Ghosts of Estin
Tit for Tat

What have I gotten myself into. Eryximachus and I just went for a walk to see the temples of Estin, specifically the temple of Nerule as that is where our fate seems to be leading.

Eryximachus just cant control himself and takes a goblet from the head of the temple and just DRINKS it without even knowing what this will entail. What are we going to tell Ditty?

After we get back from Nerule, I am summoned by Lord Talos. Unbeknownst to me this house and House Esper were once great rivals. I have now been “contracted” to deal the Espers a blow in their power and influence. What could go wrong pinning something major on one of the great houses of Estin.

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Revelers of Estin

I arrived in Estin unsure of what was going to happen. After a busy few days of helping the Talos family get even with a guard, meeting up with old friends and finding new ones, and dredging the depths of the city; it was clear this was my kind of place. There were plenty of jobs I could avail myself of if need be. But for now we had a plan, or at least an idea of a plan. One might say we had an outline of an idea of a plan.

Oh the gods help us.

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Not Unkind

Valentin sat musing amongst the wreckage of his basement, taking it all in. The splintered oak door. The dried pools of blood. Pieces of his facade scattered and broken.

This Algernon seemed to be confident yet compulsive. The night raid was a petty gesture and the rose a cocky one. Even so, one had to admit that the rake was effective.

Silencing Valentin’s entire network was no mean feat. Not that it was particularly resilient. In fact, the greatest strength was the network’s flexibility – a few gold pieces would rarely fail to bring about a desperate catacomb denizen.

Still, he had affection for these people. For a few he felt something akin to love and gave generously whenever it could not be construed as charity.

But for a twist of fate… He too would be down there, enraptured in drug and drink.

Perhaps the effectiveness of Algernon’s campaign wasn’t so far fetched at all. Foolish dreams and a taste of something other than pain made for an offer difficult to refuse.

It sickened him, this wasteful abuse of the undercitizens.

But what to do?

What to do?

Leaving seemed most prudent, but it would do as a fall back.

No, he had yet more to learn about Algernon before defeat would appear inevitable.

In case it was inevitable, well… There are other cities.

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A Journey from Here to There
Nabal's Time

After defeating the White Dragon and his armies the city celebrated the great victory, but I mourned the death of Sin. In the short time we knew each other he was restless, impulsive and eager, and thats how I liked it. Should we all be so confident someday to live as he did.

After all the mourning for fallen comrades, the feasting for the victory, and of course the grand performances of Ditty, everything did eventually need to come to an end. I agreed to go back to Dreital with Ditty to return the machine of the dwarves. It was a longer journey, but made pleasant by the constant and incessant singing of Ditty. Even though I did occasionally tire of the music, it was enjoyable to have her along to speak of our respective pasts and her new found passion for adventuring.

When we arrived at Dreital the dwarves were slightly surprised to see us return the machine mostly intact. We were rewarded with another mountain of paperwork concerning non disclosures of the technology, along with giving thorough accounts of the battle to aid them in future developments of machines used in conjunction with the engine.

I was happy to relax with my fellow dragonborn for a week as Ditty visited her friend the tinkerer. I swear I will never learn half the mechanical things she knows. Leave me with my shadows and my ink. The victory had spread throughout the conclave like wildfire and I recounted all the victorious battles. I didn’t need to buy a single drink the whole time I was with my brethren. But as Ditty returned there was one last thing I needed her assistance with. The Birds.

We were able to do a bit of research into how to bring them down. Ditty had learned a very helpful spell to turn the birds into a trance making it easier to get the drop on them. The plan involved getting myself in place during the night, moving as carefully and quietly as possible. These were keen beasts, and had no intention of being caught off guard a second time. As the dawn came I saw Ditty come into view and almost on cue two of the birds came into sight. She had a short conversation talking to them about all the shiny. She had confused them exactly as planned, and as they squawked back and forth to each other she cast her spell and I unleashed two arrows. Each hit their mark. That was Ditty’s cue to just sit, as a few more birds came down. They were confused to see their guards dead, but even more confused because Ditty had asked for protection from a hunter. With another arrow loosed, another one came down. As the leader called back most of the birds were now down on the ground squawking amongst themselves. They had completely ignored Ditty, giving her enough time to entrance the rest of the birds, making my hiding unnecessary as I loosed arrow after. I was able to pull out my daggers and finish the fight in close quarters as some of the stronger birds started to fight the trance, turning the ambush from a slaughter to an actual fight. With Ditty’s help we were able to vanquish the flock. We climbed the tree to find the riches and dispatch the last few birds quickly. As we began sorting through the treasure, I recovered the rest of my gold and then some. Ditty seemed satisfied to take a belt that seemed magically inscribed to her.

We returned to Dreital and parted ways.
I returned to Menorah to see what I could learn from Eryximachus about the thralls and begin sending the former thralls, with caravans, in the general direction of their homes. As the task was completed I travelled with different caravans around returning to my roots as a con with my papers and my ink.

I took jobs as they came, sometimes forging a will, sometimes forging deeds that were better than the original. I moved in and out of restricted areas, in plain sight, to gain information and replace originals with my own works, taking the occasional mercenary job where a burglar would be needed. And sometimes just taking a break and live as a prince with my various disguises and impose myself as a guest on the local rulers.

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The year of learning and teaching
Eryximachus after fighting the Dragons

“Don’t even bother”, said a blond youth as he tilted a bottlenose down to his mouth. “The man isn’t just a lover of his privacy. He’s also amazingly unpleasant. He basically belittles and bullies people until they voluntarily walk back down the mountain. He won’t teach you anything.”

The other participant in the conversation replied with a subtle nod. “Perhaps no one has handled him properly.”

The blond only grinned in reply, drinking a bit more, “Hey, by all means feel free to try. But your time is better spent trying to handle an owl bear.” With the same grin, the blond paid his tab and began to wander out of the tavern. “Still, it’s been fun. I like talking about ‘heroes’. Good luck.”


A year had passed and Eryximachus’ fears had come to life. Fame made the mountain a beacon for all sorts with magic. Over and over at unpredictable intervals people would just show up at the mouth of Eryximachus’ home. They had their usual little speeches and motivations. “Oh please great hero, teach me how to wield my magic” or some such nonsense – and usually, a polite and short “no” was not enough. These little shits would actually attempt to browbeat their would-be teacher into accepting them.

After just flatly turning a few away, the march of people seeking out Eryximachus did not stop. They wanted a teacher? Fine. From there Eryximachus spent his time forcing his ‘students’ to endure the elements, all the while belittling them and teaching them very little related to magic. Soon, he found he could leave out vital information and some students would accidently injure themselves. The man prayed that word would spread and people would get the hint. But alas, people were arrogant and every new ‘student’ thought they had the answer of how to get Eryximachus to cooperate.


Pushing his hood aside, a man who would soon not be able to call himself a youth looked to the mouth of an unmarked cave. If it were not for his days of scouting Eryximachus’ activities he may have missed it. The man grinned, today was the day Eryximachus gained a student.

Standing away from the caves mouth, the man stood with good posture against the cold. He shouted, keeping his voice even. “Eryximachus, my name is Keld. I have come to make you aware of a gift I have given you.”

Stirred by the novelty of the other’s first words, Eryximachus soon came to the mouth of his home. He looked on, giving the boy a look over. Keld had a collected expression and modest clothing and stood a notably respectful distance away. Eryximachus crossed his arms, “Go on”.

Keld internally grinned, feeling victory draw closer. “Have you noticed a drop in people visiting you?” Eryximachus nodded, “I have. But the decrease is to be expected. Winter is coming.” Keld laughed shortly, “Actually sir, I am sad to say, you would have had quite the opposite situation on your hands. People were thinking that because of your elemental affinity with the cold that you would be more attuned and powerful at this time. And that they could prove their commitment.”

Eryximachus scowled at the thought, but then refocused on Keld, “would”? Keld nodded, “Would” he said confidently, “But I have made arrangements that will protect your privacy. I would be happy to tell you more if I may…” he said, gesturing to Eryximachus’ cave.

Before long, the two men were sheltered from the cold with a fire not too far away. Keld watched, trying to gage how comfortable he should appear. He knew that one mistake would banish him from learning from the dragon slaying sorcerer. Eryximachus sauntered around, his body language loudly laying claim over every inch of the caves interior. And at no point did Eryximachus offer food or drink. Not even a closer seat to the fire. Keld lightly shivered under his coat. It was clear, Keld needed to strike a delicate balance between respectful submissiveness and confident conversation.

He nodded as Eryximachus sat, “I will cut to the point. I know your time is valuable. Over the past few months I have talked to people in Minora and anyone new who were asking around about you. It didn’t take long to figure out you value your privacy and mountain. However, over and over others didn’t seem to feel the need to heed that and would leave to come up the mountain anyway. So, as someone who also values privacy, I was moved by your situation. Over the past few weeks I have constructed misleading signs and trails. I have even replicated – to the best of my ability – certain land formations people use as path markers to your cave. Hopefully, it is all confusing enough to dampen even the most ambitious efforts to find you.”

There was a long pause from Eryximachus as he eyed Keld suspiciously. “It does seem like you understand my situation. I will give you that. People have no respect for the word “no”. However, I do not like you framing this as a ‘gift’. You are sitting here with a reason I trust.”

Keld nodded with raised hackles. Dear Gods, this man could see a slight in everything. Honesty was the best policy here. “Yes. I too wish to be a student. However, let me make my case.” Eryximachus said nothing, letting his eyes bore into the youth across from him.

“I understand your anger. Of course you’re entitled to it. People show up on your mountain, at the mouth of your home demanding your time and knowledge without offering anything in return. I hate that sort of carelessness. If you teach me, I will provide a service to you in kind.”

Eryximachus shifted, sitting taller. His dark eyes narrowed and again Keld felt like he was on the edge of failing. “You come to my home claiming to have purposely subverted people who would have been your competitors for my attention. Then you offer to continue doing so in exchange for my teachings. You understand what you could be leading those people to? This mountain is dangerous. There are beasts, the elements, people have died here.”

Keld was taken aback by the sorcerer’s words. The youth took a moment to collect himself. What answer was Eryximachus looking for? His words were very righteous in nature…but his voice lacked the indignant rage a good man has when regarding a cheater.
Keld met Eryximachus’ eyes with confidence, “People die everywhere.”

And then, the tension broke as Eryximachus grinned and stood. He put a hand to Keld’s shoulder, “I believe this may be a very promising partnership…as long as you continue keeping others away from my home.”


Over time Eryximachus and Keld worked together, exploring the secrets of dragon blood and materials. It wasn’t long before some thralls left over from the conflict had been cured by the pair. They also learned of dragon enslavement of humans and the origins of half dragons.

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