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Chapter the First: Six Degrees of Joachim Ebellos

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Abodroc, jewelled pride of the Ban-Ral-Sab, 1142 in the year of the Demiurge

Zuan Coursi

Two trade-priests were standing on the balcony of a manse over-looking the Six Cathedrals, the Tourmaline Dome and the Bridge of Duels, the three landmarks which dominated the city-scape. In the late afternoon sun, the city was awash in countless shades of russet, maroon, and gold.

Casting their gazes downwards, the trade-priests spied Zuan Coursi's new camel standing forty feet below, tethered to a post, replete with a precariously perched howdah upon its hump.

“Have you experience with these—things, Coursi?” asked one.

“Oh and thank you again for helping me negotiate this most lucrative of transactions today.” Joachim Ebellos added as he sipped from a goblet. “Your skills saved the day against those jackals from Rumms. They haggle like devils! I don’t know for certain that I would have been able to seal the deal alone. I haven’t been feeling myself lately, beneath the weather, Coursi.”

Ebellos took a breath and stared at the camel, sipping more from his seemingly ever-full goblet.

Saano Dealonar

He sat and waited on a wood-woven bench in the garden-atrium of the man who had contacted an intermediary, wishing to procure his services. Moments ago a servant had rushed off to inform his employer that Saano Dealonar of the Midnight Guard had arrived at the prescribed time.

Around him, lush orchids of all shapes and sizes, bloomed in the dry heat. The scent of jasmine however was prevalent and  intoxicating.

Dealonar stared straight ahead counting the numerous colorful tiles forming the smooth wall which enclosed the peaceful garden. Something caught his eye and he focused on a section of the wall, where a few occult sigils of protection and symbols of luck had recently been scrawled, the paint still somewhat moist.

Nisher, “Nish” Stryne

There was little more he could accomplish here seemingly, yet Nisher Stryne hesitated as he listened to the rhythmic sweeping of the dusty, stone floor inside the Spellwriter House, a modest two-story building like any other at the end of the Street of Warm Shadows. It served as the dwelling for a small group of like-minded practitioners of Spellwriting, a rarely seen form of magic here in the southern lands of the Ban-Ral-Sab. But now they had apparently all vanished.

The servant, who had earlier informed him that nary a spellwriter had been seen inside this house in almost two months, continued her work with stoicism ignoring the northerner as best as she could. Other than the sweeper and Nisher Stryne, nothing stirred inside the house, now completely devoid of even furniture.

The sturdy stone door to the Spellwriter House was ajar, casting a vaguely yellowish light on the foyer where Stryne stood. From without, the lush, lurid scents of Abodroc beckoned.

Saano Dealonar, waiting in the garden


The fringes of a small assortment of sigils, crudely painted onto the wall, caught Saanos attention, interrupting his tally of the number of tile-columns comprising the surface of the atrium wall. They looked to be standard fare, the sort of thing a superstitious commoner would scrawl on the door of his home to banish a spirit of misfortune. Of course, from the looks of it, those sigils weren't going to do much against a strongly-thought imagination, much less an actual threat.

But then, that was probably why he was sitting here. One didn't contract a Guardian because the milk keeps spoiling. By the time a contract was purchased, chances were high someone had already been killed and buried. Breathing a small eulogy for the dead, Saano stood and walked over to get a closer look at the attempted ward. Perhaps it would give him some idea of what he would soon be facing.

Zuan nodded, drinking from his own cup. "One becomes accustomed to beasts of burden after working the trade roads. They are at least reliable, generally." He frowned slightly. "Although this one seems particularly ill-tempered."

His lips curved into a small smile. "All worth it, of course, to fulfill your contract. Rummsiaat are invariably thieves, the whole lot of them. I am most pleased to have been of service in your search for profit." He made a bow, small enough to be informal but deep enough to show gratitude.

"I trust you will benefit well from this revenue that the Divine Broker has blessed, wealth be upon Him," he continued. "Would only that I too might benefit." He made a gentle wave of his hand, predicting Ebellos' objection. "No, I do not ask for any fee, dear brother. Only your support, as the support I have given you. I know that the House of Bursars must fill the late Valdeo Sonna's position in the spice route from here to Canagadi. You know the Bursars well, as I recall. Perhaps you can spread word of my profitable transactions here? Anything that might make clear my usefulness to them." His smile grew slightly wider. "It is not a great deal I ask for, my friend, but only that small favor. A fair trade for my assistance, wouldn't you say?"


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