25 Arodus 4718 (Starday)
I continued my song, and I could feel the rage inside me swelling to new heights as I looked at Imistos standing over Felyx’s prone form. He shrugged, saying it was “just business” as I charged at him. My blade struck true as I swung, slicing into him.
Behind me, I heard Oliver let out a roar, and turned just in time to see the other assassin trying to run past him towards the lounge. Oliver struck out with Oakheart, impaling the halfling in the chest, lifting him off the ground before slamming him into the floor. The assassin moved no more. Oliver wasted no time rushing back into the lounge, screaming at Imistos that he had one chance to surrender. Righteous fury suits Oliver well I think.
Imistos wavered under the rage directed at him, darting past Oliver and I towards Cornelius, who blasted him with one of his magical bolts of force. I think he believed he had made his escape, but he had forgotten Verity was still in the other room. As Imistos tried to rush past her, Verity stepped forward. With one elegant slash of her katana, she brought him low. While mine and Oliver’s rage runs hot, Verity’s runs cold.
As I stopped my singing, Dame Trant and Lord Guy came rushing into the room, weapons in hand. I noticed Wilfren, ever the coward, hanging back. When he caught my eye he said he was “guarding the rear.”
Cornelius rushed to Felyx’s side, pouring one of the healing potions we had gotten from Mimips down her throat. She stood to her feet, rubbing the rather large goose egg on the back of her head. Once we explained what had happened to her, we began searching the bodies of our assailants.
Imistos was clutching an amulet of a dagger inlaid in a circle made of pearl. We found similar ones on the other two assassins. Felyx identified it as the holy symbol of Thamir Gixx, a halfling deity of assassins often associated with Norgorber. At this, Wilfren made another comment about how we shouldn’t have trusted the halfling. I fixed him with a glare that quickly made him shut up.
I cannot abide such racism. I owe my very life to the bravery of Annalise, and to think her entire people are judged on stereotypes placed upon them is disgusting. Annalise is nobler than men such as Wilfren will ever be, regardless of her ancestry or her birth as a slave in the hellish nation of Cheliax. Men like Wilfren are a cancer to our great nation. Why Verity would even consider doing business with this loathsome little man is beyond me. I turned away from him as my vision began to turn red.
We found two vials of a cloudy liquid in Imistos’ pockets. Lady Gael told us it was some kind of venom. A ring on his finger had a secret compartment that was filled with a powdery white substance. After a moment, I was able to tell it was arsenic. Yet another vial was hidden in a sheath on his wrist that could neutralize the effects of poison. All useful items to an assassin.
Tucked into the boot of one of the halflings we found a rather ominous note: “Team two. Change of plans. During the Gala keep a close watch over the guests ML just had a meeting with at the cafe. Our contract for the evening specifies we entertain both her Ladyship and her guests. During Exaltation, Team One will take ML someplace quiet. Your job is to see to it that her guests have an interesting evening, if they are not napping after the festivities. If they are commoners, treat them to a tour of the river. If they are nobles make certain they have a comfortable place to stay for the evening until we can make arrangements with their families for a safe trip home. I believe we can make use of ML’s house in the city. She won’t mind.”
We all mulled over this for a few moments. The two halflings were dressed in black clothing similar to those of the serving staff working during the Gala. Whatever group Imistos worked for seems to have known about what Stavian was planning. Had they been part of the Grand Prince’s plot? The note implies that Martella was to be taken alive. I can’t think of any reason why Stavian would want that. Perhaps they had been part of the mercenary group that had been hired to slaughter everyone, and decided to take advantage of the situation by putting their own plans into motion. Regardless, Martella, along with my friends and I, were being watched. With Martella’s last message to us being cut off mid-word, it seems that Team One succeeded in their mission to get her somewhere quiet, while we had foiled Team Two’s plans to kidnap us.
Again our goals had been made clear. Escape the senate and find Martella.
We made our way out of the only exit and eventually we reached a small landing and a staircase leading up. Praise Ragathiel. We climbed the long and steep flight of stairs. The walls were painted with fading frescos, depicting senators wearing clothing of the classic Taldane style. The top of the staircase was littered with bits of broken plaster. The wall had been covered, and recently broken down, most likely by the assassins. I wondered if they had some way of communicating with Imistos, or had access to some records that showed where the secret entrances to the escape rooms were located.
An old wine rack on a hinge served as a door blocking the secret staircase, and we found ourselves in a dusty room. As we exited the room and into the hallway beyond, the stench of blood filled the air. Felyx recognized the hallway as one near the kitchens in the servant’s area of the Senate Building.
We made our way towards the exit, and while we saw no remains from last night’s slaughter, the carpet was thick with puddles of blood. We rounded a corner, coming to the hallway that would lead into the senate floor, and we caught our first sight of bodies. Close by were the Taldane Phalanx guards. The door to the senate floor opened briefly, and a guard who appeared to be in his teens stepped out before bending over and vomiting on the floor. The carnal smell that waffed from the doorway was horrific, and I cannot imagine the sight inside. I raised a hand to my mouth, turning away from the young guard to see another member of the Phalanx approaching us.
He introduced himself as Corporal Lander, and asked us where we’d come from. I do not have the words to describe how tired and numb this man looked as he led us towards the Arcade of Triumphs. The Corporal told us the Phalanx had taken control of Oppara under the command of the High Strageos, and order had been restored after panic from the events of last night had spread throughout the city. A makeshift hospital and registry had been set up in the Arcade, and he dropped us off at a desk before retreating back into the carnage to look for more survivors.
The guard at the desk was using the list that had been taken by the announcer as a checklist. My stomach turned when I saw how many names had been crossed off. Once she had marked us all as “alive” we were asked to give our statements. She seemed to nod along, as if our story was one she had heard several times before, though she did become more alert when we told her of Imistos and his assassin friends. We were all asked to keep the truth of what happened last night to ourselves until the High Stragegos came out with an official announcement. I attempted to quell the sudden thought that a coverup of the truth may be in the works.
After giving our statements, Zubari thanked us for our help and bid us farewell, going to join the other healers at the makeshift hospital. I could see the holy symbols of at least twelve faiths among the priests tending to the wounded. None of them were using magic in their ministrations. I imagine the divine gifts of the gods had run out rather quickly.
Oliver returned Senator Manshum’s blade to Lord Guy. When I attempted to return the sapphire ring, Guy insisted that I keep it. We once again told him to call on us if he needed assistance adjusting to his new role. I heard Verity talking to Wilfren about contacting him for further business deals in the future, and I felt my lips curl into an involuntary sneer.
Corporal Lander put together a small group of Phalanx guards to return to the chambers beneath the Senate to retrieve the bodies below. Lord Guy, Lady Gael, Dame Trant, and Wilfren all went to accompany them. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. I do wish the best for Lord Guy and Lady Gael, and I hope that we can count on Dame Trant to support Princess Eutropia in the future.
After many hours trapped underground, we exited the Senate building and into the sunlight. I don’t know what I was expecting when we reached the bottom of the one hundred steps, but the streets were filled with people clothed in black. The bottom few steps were covered in flowers and wreaths, and I saw a young woman offering one of the guards a basket filled with bread and other foodstuffs.
As we exited the gates, people craned their necks to get a look at us, and I could see hope quickly dashed on their faces. I realized then that many of these people were here looking for their loved ones, hoping that they were among the lucky few to survive the bloody night.
My friends and I all squared our shoulders, keeping our heads held high and the Taldane “stiff upper lip” as we made our way past the crowds. I remember my father once telling me and my brothers that we must remember to “keep calm and carry on,” and his words echoed in my head as I took in the people crying and the streets lined with carriages, waiting for lords and ladies who most likely will never return.
We turned down one of the emptier streets, making our way to the Silent Horse to get cleaned up before beginning our search for Martella. A figure in a black cloak emerged from an alleyway and made their way towards us. I reached down, wrapping a hand around the hilt of my bastard sword. While I didn’t think they meant to attack us in broad daylight with Taldane Phalanx guards on every street corner, last night had taught me to be prepared for anything.