The Myth of The Manawell

Penance - Part II

Upon being arrested, we were all thrown into a holding cell. After being there a short while, the guards came to take me for “questioning.” I was afraid of what this could mean. I’ve never been arrested before, but I’ve heard stories, and since the guards seemed convinced of our guilt I was expecting the worst. Where by “questioning” they mean “torturing you until you confess to whatever they want, then torturing you more because you’re ‘guilty.’”

I was led to the office of Captain Reneau, the captain of the City Guard. Much to my surprise, what awaited me was not the torture I feared. Instead I was met by Captain Reneau himself and another woman who I could only assume by her dress was not part of the guard. She was wearing white robes and had tattoos on her arms and face. She had a white cloth around her head, specifically around her eyes. This should have blocked her eyesight, but she seemed able to see quite clearly and stared straight at me. It was rather unnerving how her gaze seemed to pierce my soul despite her eyes not even being visible. She admonished me (and the others, though they weren’t present) for being foolish enough to get caught and arrested for something so silly, as if she was incredibly skeptical of our preparedness for whatever it was that we’d been summoned here for. I was told that we must all do penance, and that only if I were to succeed at the captain’s task would I again be worthy. After giving me a final moment to ask questions, of which I had none as I was too taken aback at this unexpected turn of events, she left the room.

I was now left alone with Captian Reneau. He told me that, as the other woman had said, I must do my penance to earn my freedom. I was curious what task they were going to have me perform. Perhaps it would be just that, some sort of performance. Maybe I’d have to perform for the criminals in jail, or some other group I wouldn’t normally perform for, at no pay. (The payment being my freedom, of course.)

It turned out not to be anything nearly so lovely. Captain Reneau told me that I’d been separated from the rest not because of my skills as a performer so much as because they needed me to get some information, and I’d be a lot less conspicuous as one person than if they’d sent us all together. And I guess I was the one they’d deemed least fit for the task the other three were going to have to perform.

Turns out there was a group of warlocks in the city which they suspected of being up to something dangerous and wanted me to get more information. He told me there was a man by the name of James Ulrich who they strongly suspected was involved and who they told me could be easily made to talk after being loosened up with a little alcohol. He was described as having only one good eye, no hair, and a burn mark on his face, and apparently he hangs around the Poison Apple often. I was told I had twelve hours to get useful information out of him or I’d be locked up for my full sentence, and that I’d also be locked up if I tried to run.

I set off to find this Poison Apple place. I’d heard of it before and remembered it wasn’t in the friendliest of neighborhoods. It took me a little over an hour to find. I approached the door. The windows were covered in grime and the door was locked. I wondered for a moment how they did business if their door was locked all the time. I knocked timidly on the door and a little window slid open. Someone peered menacingly at me through it and asked what I wanted. I told them I’d like to come in and get a drink. He squinted at me, as if unsure whether or not to let me in, before asking my profession. I told him I was a traveling performer, a bard as it were, and he let me in, seemingly begrudgingly.

Upon entering, I saw that he was an immense half-orc, and it took all of my will to maintain a straight face and not cry out. But I walked past him, took a quick glance around the room, and spotted who I was sure must be James against the wall at the bar. He kept glancing at the door like he was waiting for someone. I didn’t want to just walk straight over to him and sit down, though, so I wandered around for a few minutes before sitting in the seat next to him and asking for a drink. The other guy to my right was already drunk and was being a bit rowdy. He said something to me, told me I looked funny, and I told him I was a bard. He said he wanted me to sing him a song, so I stood up to do so. Well, the fool decided to stand up right when I did and spilled his drink all over the both of us. He decided in his drunken stupor that it was my fault and a fight broke out. He and a couple of his buddies rushed me, but they went down surprisingly easily. I almost felt bad for them.

I was half expecting others in the tavern to join in, but to my surprise our fight went largely ignored by everyone else and the dead were taken away and the floor cleaned up without much fuss. I wondered to myself if this was a frequent occurrence.
I sat back down and James seemed impressed. He let on that he’d been expecting someone like me not to know how to handle myself. He laughed and we struck up a conversation as I bought him a drink.

He was wearing robes so black they seemed almost to absorb light, with no decorations on them whatsoever, and carrying a small package. I asked him timidly what had happened to his face and he told me he’d had a run-in about a year ago with a gnome who’d been supposed to deliver poisons to him, but who threw some kind of acid potion in his face and ran away instead. I asked if that wouldn’t happen to be Spobble Bocks, and upon surprised confirmation that it was, told him I’d had a run-in of my own with the gnome, and that he currently wasn’t particularly on my good side either. This endeared me to him a bit and allowed me to ask about the package in his hand. He told me that as I may have guessed from his attire, he was actually a warlock, and that he was part of the warlock coven in the city. Said he probably shouldn’t be telling me this, and that if I double-crossed him he’d make sure he had more good eyes than I did. Then he went on to tell me that they were planning to have a ritual tomorrow to summon a minion of ‘their deity’ into the city to strengthen their powers and so they could charge more for their…services. I didn’t know who their deity was, but I played along, hoping Captain Reneau would have a better idea. He said his package contained the last of the ingredients needed for the ritual. I knew then that I’d have to get that package from him, but wasn’t sure how. Then an idea came to me. We talked for a few more hours as I bought him drinks until he got so drunk he passed out, and at that point I quickly took the package from him and walked as casually as possible out the door and around the corner before running back to the Guard’s headquarters.

I got back in to Captain Reneau’s office and told him the news. I gave him the package and asked him if he knew of the deity of which James had spoken. He said that most warlocks worship Asmodeus! This was terrible news, indeed. I told him that unfortunately I had been unable to get the location of the ritual, but that since these were the last ingredients needed, they should be held up a bit. He thanked me for what I’d managed, and then the same woman from before re-entered the room. She said that now that I had regained my worth I could accompany her to the Great Library where I’d be able to meet up with the others again shortly. Upon reaching the Great Library, we went up to the restricted fifth floor, where I saw many others with similar robes, tattoos, and white cloths around their eyes, though there were some whose eyes were uncovered.

She led me past them and up to a waiting room and asked if I had any questions. Unable to maintain my tact, I asked what the significance of the white cloth was.
She explained to me that she was blind and the cloth restored her sight, and that for everyone in the tower who wore a cloth, the situation was the same. There was more to it, though. Apparently being born blind is a sign of being touched by magic at birth, so the Four Eyes request that all people born this way be sent to the Grand Library to study, so the ones with the cloth over their eyes are the more prolific users of magic. I thanked her for answering and told her I had no more questions, so she told me the others would be arriving shortly, once they were finished washing up — apparently they’d had to go into the sewers! — and then excused herself and left me there to wait for the others. The others did in fact show up after only a few minutes, and we left.

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Aranjah

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