Wandered Roads 49.5S Samad Goes Back to School

Wandered Roads of Varisia
Session 49.5
May 28-July 13, 2018

Campaign Timeline

Sunday 21th of Neth

Fencing with Words

Between meditation, hot cups of herbal tea by a large window, and homeopathic baths full of tension-easing salts and soothing herbs (on several occasions being called a stew), Samad was often found outside practicing with his new rapier.

As always, Samad was a beautiful flashing storm of metal and wind. He practiced it with each hand. Leading with the broad swathing cuts of his longsword, followed by the rapier's whistling flicks and stings. Feinting, parrying, countering, and windmilling into an all-out flurry. He was getting the feel of his new weapon, but he knew he could be better.

A rapier was a weapon that required a specific technique. Oh, what was the word in these parts? Rapiering? Rapiary? It took several blatantly concerned looks from passing citizens before it finally came to him...Ah! Fencing! Despite his confidence, he needed to run his techniques by an actual expert or at least consult diagrams. Samad was an artist. His body, the brush. His swords... the bristles? He worked on this metaphor as he made his way through the city. Perhaps the locals would set him on the right path.

Hoping to get a good lead on a fencing teacher from one of the Iron Carnival folk here in town, Samad heads left toward the Avenue of Honors, the wide paved road that leads to the lower districts of Magnimar and eventually to the Keystone District, in the heart of the city. Traffic is not as heavy this morning as he realizes that many of the residents are attending their respective churches and many of the shops and markets are closed. The Bazaar of Sails, the huge permanent tent market set up at the base of the Ascent and stretching for as far as he can see. He crosses the market, careful to keep his belongings and purse close in the press of people. Normally he would revel in the chaos of the market, but this morning he is on a mission.
He finally arrives at the low, squat stone building that the Iron Carnival uses as its headquarters and training hall. Maybe he would get lucky and the Carnival would have someone on staff that was a skilled fencer, but he doubted it. In his time with the company, he did not recall any fencers in the ranks. Someone here should know someone at least. He enters the front door and finds a young woman dutifully polishing the many weapons and shields hanging along the wall. She looks a bit taken aback at the arrival of such a heavily armed individual. “This is the Iron Carnival, not the blade-trader’s stall in Low Market. What is your business here?” she barks at him.

He took mental note of the blade-trader remark, as he most certainly had a related errand to run. He flashed a charming smirk as he daintily raised both hands in mock surrender. “... So I guess you DON’T take hand-me-downs? Pity. No, I’m wondering if anyone in the company has any skill in using rapiers.” With a subtle flourish of his well moisturized hand he gestured to the weapon sheathed at one of his sides. “Do you know of anyone who specializes in such a weapon?” There was a joke about ‘giving a few pointers’ in here, but it was beneath him.

She gives Samad a dismissive look, “And who in Aroden’s name are you? If you're looking for a teacher, go sign up at the arena. I'm sure one of the gladiators will give you a free lesson.” She takes a better look at his numerous weapons and adds, “but of course the Iron Carnival does accept gifts and donations. May I see your blade?” With a much more agreeable attitude, she motions toward the rapier.

Samad narrowed his eyes and smiled softly. Whether to make his gaze seem more tender or out of pure venomous glib was anyone’s guess. “That's a lot of words to say ‘no’, wa’hhalig’. I’ve already given The Iron Carnival a gift. The Gift that is Samad the Foxtooth Aldhuul.” He steadily unsheathed the rapier and held it up parallel to her, tip pointing non-threateningly to the ground as he modeled it before her. His muscles were taught and coiled like serpents at the ready as his hand gripped tightly to the handle. He lifted his other hand daintily to brush a few of his jet black dreadlocks from his neck, letting them fall across his back. “Me and this blade are just getting acquainted, so it would be very remiss of me to simply hand it over. So, like I tell ALL of my potential clients, look with your eyes, first.” There was a coquettish purr in his voice that belied an assertive tone. “Do you know of an instructor, or not?”

The woman seems a little put off by Samad’s demeanor. No. I don't think I do.” She clearly is not impressed by Samad's nor does she realize he was once part of the Iron Carnival. While she is not being helpful, she is also not dismissing him, but merely waiting calmly.
After waiting for what seems like a week, the woman excuses herself and Samad. “Well, if there’s nothing else, I need to get back to work. Good day, Mister Sinbad.” She motions toward the door, indicating that he should leave.

“Oh! I didnt mean to keep you!” He chuckled softly as he sheathed the rapier with a flourish. “Didnt occur to me that you were doing much of anything. How selfish of me.” Turning cheerfully on his heel, letting his hair sway care-free around his shoulders. He looked over his shoulder back at her as he sauntered coquettishly out the door. “Please, carry on and Nethys’ blessings be with you.” Eyes facing forward once more, narrowed like golden daggers. That stung. He made his way back out into the streets and took a calming breath. Perhaps he’ll have better luck out here.

Mother, Tell Your Children Not to Walk My Way

Once out on the street, Samad finds himself running smack into a short, sturdy, gray-haired Human woman. Before he can react, he feels her strong arms push him back to arms-length. “Tordubar take you! Watch where you're… What? By Iomedae's Sword, is it the Foxtooth himself? Samad, is that you? How are you, son? I had heard you were headed to Magnimar after you left the Carnival. Good to see you. You coming back on? We'd be happy to have you. Got a ticket heading up north to Riddleport next week. Taking two dozen blades. Could use you. Ever been to Riddleport? Fun town. Even less rules than here.” Samad is happy to see Sandi Aerin, or as she preferred to be called, Mother. She was one of the Iron Carnival quartermasters. She was down to earth and knew her business. Samad and her has always gotten along well.

“As I live and moisturize!” Samad wrung his hands giddily, ”Mama Sandi!” He placed a hand on his hip casually and tilted his head. “Ohh as much as I’d love to do a little sword-juggling for the Carnival again, I’ve already got a good thing going on with a current group of mine for now.” Samad narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “They don’t …. Always make the BEST decisions,” his face briefly became a thousand-yard stare as flashbacks of undead farmers and poorly knotted ropes danced through his head, “So keep a spot open for me in the future”.

He carefully unsheathed the rapier and modeled it for her, letting the glint of it’s metal dance in her eyes before holding it out to her. “Take a look at THIS beauty from our last outing. Isn't he gorgeous?”

“A fine blade. Very nice indeed. Spoils from a recent endeavour, I take it. Interesting you took it. I don't recall you ever being a fencer. You always practiced the style of the Aldori Blademasters, correct? Out of Brevoy if I'm not mistaken. Ya know, is really like to hear the story of how a young Garundi like yourself ended up an Aldori Blademaster. Has a be an interesting tale. But, be yes. Very nice blade. Planning on selling it or using it,” she glances at the two other swords he is carrying. “Ya know, you can only use to at a time. And yes still got yer knife for emergencies.” She laughs lightly and pulls her cloak tighter around her neck. “If you're looking to sell it, you should definitely visit Hroalund's House Of Blades up on the Summit in Naos. They will give you the best price on second hand weapons, especially if it's of good quality. Though there's plenty of places around here that'll give you a decent price too,” Samad thinks he remembers the place she is talking about being not to far from the manor house where the group is staying. She pauses when she sees the hesitant look on Samad’s face when he thinks about selling his newly won blade. “Oh, I see. You're not looking to sell it. You want to use it! Makes sense. Off-hand weapon, it's light and fast. Excellent choice for defense. So, looking for a trainer, ehh? Thought you'd come home looking for some help, ehh? Well you know the Iron Carnival takes care of it's own, but you left the Carnival. They wouldn't train you anyway, not now.” She looks down, kicking some pebbles in the street, thinking. “Sadly though, we never had many fencers in the ranks and it didn't seem too economical to keep fencing instructors on the payroll, anyway, they always seem to be a little full of themselves. But ya know, if you're looking for someone to at least get you started in the right direction, I think I may have a name for you. Zuqa Uson. Interesting fellow. A little flighty, but then again, he's a fencing master. Good luck finding him in a good mood though. He gets his feathers ruffled pretty easily. Actually, I've heard he's fallen on hard times and would probably take you on short term, for the right coin. I wouldn't hold my breath at developing a student/master relationship or learning anything more than the basics, but you're a smart boy, already plenty skilled at blades. Might be just what you need. I heard he frequently perches at the Gilded Cage up in Lowcleft, built right into the base of the Seacleft, just north of the Arvensoar. Nice place. Gambling hall, night club, dancing, drinks, games, whatever you want really, though stay away from those flayleaf pushers, may Ghlaunder’s filth take 'em all!”

Samad smirked at Sandi and shook his head. “See, this is why I’ve always worked to stay on your good side.” He fluttered his lashes sardonically “Despite all my mystique, you could always read me like a scroll.” He slid the blade back into its scabbard and have her a genuine smile. “It was good seeing you again, my friend. You continue to set this pup on the right path. I am grateful. Keep whipping the Carnival into shape and I have faith you will take them far.” After exchanging pleasantries and farewells with his old friend, Samad made his way towards the House of Blades.

Blade Bartering

Samad makes his way back through Keystone and Lowcleft toward the Arvensoar, the great tower that directly connects the Shore with the Summit. Going by way of the tower should get Samad right where he wants to go and cut his walk by over half. Not that he minded the exercise. He just wanted to get this taken care of as quickly as possible. If he was going to have to sell a blade to afford a fencing instructor he couldn't sell the rapier, otherwise what would be the point. He couldn't sell the adamantine blade, it was far too valuable and he doubted he could even find a buyer able to afford the price. No, that meant he had to sell his original sword. The first real sword he bought with his own money. It was a good blade, on all accounts, but compared against his other two weapons it was nothing really. But it held memories. They had been through a lot, drawn a lot of blood, taken many lives, but saved lives as well. They had done much good together. Then again, there were some not so good things as well. Much more good recently, Samad mused as he followed the Ascent up to the public entrance to the 400 foot tall tower. Not much of a line waiting today and he climbed the many curving stairs and reemerged the city some 300 feet higher in the Naos district, not far from home.

Samad vaguely recalled where the House of Blades was located from Daellin's directions some time ago. He patted the well worn and comfortable grip of his trusty sword and hoped to get 2000 silver for it, but chuckled to himself. Sure he was a sweet, loveable killer, but his bargaining skills were absent unless he was strong arming someone over the very blade he wanted to sell. He decided that he would take any offer over 1000 and get on with it. He would make more coin soon enough if he stuck with this group. As strange, annoying and sometimes just plain boring as they could be they did produce results and they had amassed more loot and magical gear on a single mission than he could make in five years with the Carnival.

After a bit of backtracking, he finally find the shop and enters. He is greeted by the most intense Halfling he's ever met. She introduces herself by flinging numerous throwing knives past his head and sticking them all in the narrow edge of the door in one blink of an eye. “I'm Tantaerra. The Master is out at church still. You buying or selling? No funny stuff and we can do business. Got it?” She smiles, somehow already holding two more knives in each hand. “By the looks of you, if have to guess you're selling today. Because only a one armed Chel would need four swords, right? Let's see it, then,” she hops nimbly up into a stool then into a bench behind a long narrow display case filled with all manner of bladed weapons. Samad shrugs and pulls his old sword out and lays it gently on the velvet piece Tantaerra has laid out.

The small Halfling grabs the sword, which is about as long as she is tall, and deftly lifts it as she springs up on top of the table. She holds it out and looks down the blade. Swings it back and forth. Balances it upright on the palm of her hand, tosses and spins it, then catches it with her other hand. She touches the blade several places with a small, dark stone or piece of metal she has produced from her pocket. Smiles then points it directly at Samad. “You oil and sharpen it every day, after every blooding or every other day? And what the Hells have you been hacking up with this? Hydra? Earth elementals? Seriously?” She lowers it back to the velvet. “I'll give you 1600$ cash, now. Gold coins. 1900$ if you want store credit. That a deal, Garundi?”

“Strangely specific, and yet strangely accurate”, Samad said, watching the skilled Halfling with bemused awe. How she wasn't mastering this shop herself was beyond him. Despite how eager he was to grab the coins, his eyes lingered briefly upon the old blade laid out before him. It hit him suddenly that he would be leaving it behind. Severing a connection made through years of training, combat, victory, defeat, and improvement.

He impulsively reached his hand toward the blade’s handle and had to stop himself, “Ever forward…” he mumbled silently to himself. Sensing the Halfling was not a patient one, he masked the action with a flourish and a soft bow to Tantaerra, smiling wolfishly at her. “Your offer is quite generous and I graciously accept.”

He accepted the coin, his eyes barely leaving the blade. The world around him seemed blurrier at that moment, he hardly heard the coins clink into his purse. “Ever forward.”
He concluded his business and made his way out. He felt the pit of loss growing with each step he made away from his blade. He paused and stared off into the distance after crossing the shop’s threshold, placing a hand on the hilt of his new blade. Gripping it softly, he silently wished his old blade farewell. Maybe it’ll take someone else as far as he has come. “Ever forward”. He pivoted gracefully and headed toward the Gilded Cage.

Samad turns back toward the Arvensoar to get back down to the Shore. Since the Gilded Cage is almost literally below him, that would be the logical choice for his descent but as he makes his way out toward the main avenue, he is stopped short by the quickly approaching sound of many marching boots. The side street he was exiting becomes very crowded as all the citizens present move themselves from the main avenue, making way for a column of heavily armed and armored Hellknights. Hushed whispers and curses swiftly pass through the crowd, but no one moves back to the street until the 20 or so knights pass. Samad turns to follow them since they appear to be headed in the same direction as he is.

Samad quickly realizes that the Hellknights are going EXACTLY the same way he is, right to the Arvensoar. He stands and watches for a moment as the leader of the Hellknights company discusses, no, argues with one of the officers of the Arvensoar. No traffic is being allowed to pass while this conversation goes on so Samad decides to take the long way around and for the second time today he heads north across Naos along the Avenue of Honors, passing his current home in Magnimar, Kaijitsu Manor, before walking down the long slope toward the Bazaar of Sails. At the bottom of the ramp, he immediately turns left and follows the base of the Seacleft into the Dockway District.

Down in Dockway

There is a good sized crowd of people in the wide plaza at the end of the ramp, Samad looks up at the Eyes of the Hawk, the tall monument dedicated to some brave heroes of Magnimar’s past, locked in battle with the deadly Shriezyx, monstrous spider like creatures that inhabit the bowels of the ruined Irespan. Samad smirks and cocks his head in salute to the statue, remember not too long ago when he and his companions were likewise locked in battle with the very same type of creatures.

Not knowing exactly where this Gilded Cage is, only that it lies along the base of the Seacleft in Lowcleft District, Samad decides following the base of the 300 foot tall rockwall is his best course of action. He can tell it is just past noon as the sun can be seen overhead, trying to poke its way out through the overcast Neth sky. With the nearly vertical Seacleft to his left, he knows that this area of the city is probably in the shadow up until around this time of day, and it looks like it. Not quite as lively and vibrant as some of the other neighborhoods, this part of Dockway seems a bit more rough and tumble. Lots of Varisians mill about, but enough  folk from nearly every other ethnicity he has ever seen move through here as well, including various non-Humans.
The first building Samad comes to is a completely dangerous looking structure made from the blackened and leaning hull of an overturned ship leaning directly against the Seacleft. The colorful sign out front names this establishment No-Horn and shows drinking devils dancing around and tormenting a unicorn with its horn broken off. The smell of some sort of food being burnt inside wafts out on a wave of sour beer and cheap wine. Samad crinkles his nose at the smell and attempts to hurry past this seedy dive when he hears shouting from inside followed by a person violently ejected through the dark crack in the hull boards that act as the entrance. A Human male comes careening out into the street, wildly off balance and flying directly toward Samad.

Time seemed to slow briefly for Samad as his fighter’s brain took over. Block, or dodge? Arm extended in a full-on halt, or redirect the inertia? Something far more dire weighed on him as the man blundered in his direction, “Do I want to touch him at ALL?”.
With that, Samad side-stepped and turned, making and attempt to grab the man’s arm.

The nimble and skilled warrior easily removes himself from harm’s way and pivots, grabbing the flailing man’s arm just as he loses his balance and threatens to fall flat on his face. Spinning the man around to face him, Samad realizes he knows this man. The old wrinkled face of the Amazing Zograthy, the Varisian fortune teller and snitch that had given the group information not that long ago when they first went looking for Natalya Vancaskerkin, which eventually led to the discovery of the first Shard that Samad keeps in his pocket. Samad was quite proud of leading the way to finding the Shard and he really should show off his trophy. Why win if you can’t let everyone know, right?

The old man shrieks at Samad’s strong grasp, “Arrgh, don’t hurt… hey, wait, I know you. You were one of those that was looking for that Tower Girl, Natalya. Ya find her?” Some commotion and cursing from the darkened entryway of the bar behind them makes Zograthy wince and look a bit nervous. “Yea, thanks for the catch. Shall we walk and talk?”

Arching a brow and cutting his eyes towards the commotion, he decided not to press his luck further. Nodding in the direction he was heading, he began to walk with Zograthy.
“Your help did prove…” Samad grinned and flashed the Pride shard well within the old man’s sight, ”... very much useful. The Sandpoint Heroes thank you kindly.”

He let them get a little distance from the No-Horn before thumbing in the place’s direction. “Unsatisfied customers? I certainly hope the Gilded Cage isnt prone to such… lively patrons”.

“Ahh, yes, yes. The Gilded Cage you say, nice establishment, very nice. As for this place, the No-Horn, it’s more of a dump that it looks. Had a, um, business meeting there today. Client didn’t show up. Just hanging around waiting, seeing if anyone else was in need of my services. Apparently, the wretch of a barkeep, ugly old bastard, ya know, he don’t got no ears, that fellow. No doubt they been chewed off by a Sewer Goblin or whatnot, all the trash and filth he’s used to dealing with.” Zograthy pauses while they walk along the base of the Seacleft, humming to himself, eyes darting this way and that, watching the sparse Sunday crowd as they go. “Ya, know. That thing, that knife, scrap metal, thing, whatever it was, it looked interesting. What was that? Was that the thing Natalya was all about? That what made her lose her mind? Interesting. I seen her round the other day, didn’t much expect to once slayers like yourself went on her trail. Expected to see her floating face down, meeting with Pharasma somewhere out ‘neath the Irespan.”

Samad’s hand reflexively go to his hilts as two burly Shoanti toughs stomp toward them, but Zograthy laughs and tells him not to worry, they are friends of his. “Excuse me for a moment, my good friend,” he says as he steps away toward the approaching Shoanti. They talk for a brief moment then Samad sees some sort of exchange happen. The Shoanti pass the Amazing Zograthy a handful of coins and the passes them a small package from the folds of his robe. The Shoanti turn and leave and Zograthy returns to Samad, “Shall we continue? The Gilded Cage is but a few more blocks along the Seacleft, I believe.”

Samad stood by and said nothing. He was familiar with the looks of a shady deal and knew better than asking unnecessary questions. Samad’s golden eyes followed the Shoanti as they walked away, wistful thoughts of whether or not they’d pay for his company fluttered briefly through his head. His “shore-leave” was rapidly passing and he had been in the tower at sea for a LONG time after all. He pushed those thoughts aside and continued walking.

“This shard seems to be an artifact and part of something ...much more complicated. There are several and we’re working with The Pathfinders to round them up. Nothing but trouble, these things. Pretty sure they can be classified as cursed items. But I took a liking to this one. It… suits me.’ He flashed a charming smile. ‘And, so far, I haven’t gone crazy.”

“Ahh, nice, nice. Working with the Pathfinders, good folk, the Pathfinders. Good, good. You like the Shoanti? Good, strong folk. Quite passionate, yes?” he smiles. “There are flavors to please every taste at the Gilded Cage, my friend. The Amazing Zograthy continues to walk at a brisk pace, and is constantly looking here and there, as if watching for something or someone. He notices Samad watching him and laughs uncomfortably, “Ahh, I am far from my tent in Washer’s Row, not everyone here is a friend, you understand? I am no slayer such as yourself, I must travel carefully, you see. I do appreciate your company as we walk though,” he says.

Samad let out a friendly chuckle. “Understood. Just don’t tell anyone a man of MY talents escorted you for free. Bad for business.” He winks.

“Of course, of course, Master Foxtooth, of course, can’t abide bad business, that’s no good for anyone,” Zograthy agrees heartily, shaking his wrinkled, bald head up and down eagerly. “So what business do you have at the Gilded Cage, a fine establishment, if I do say so, though I know a place in Beacon’s Point, near Washer’s Row, that might be a little more to your tastes. Cheaper at least,” he shrugs.

The Gilded Cage

After another 15 minutes of walking, the two have finally moved from the hustle and bustle of the hard working Dockway District on to the vibrant, artsy and just as busy Lowcleft District.Up ahead on the left, the Gilded Cage can be seen. The establishment is carved directly into the face of the Seacleft and rises up at least 4 levels above the city. Looking up, Samad scans the top of the 300 foot high rock face, thinking that the Kaijitsu Villa should be right up there somewhere, nearly directly above possibly. A large, wide building has been constructed as the base and entrance of the club and many balconies, halls and rooms can be seen open to the air above the city. Most of them have screens or temporary walls to shut them off from the colder climate when necessary. Two person-sized golden cages hang empty from poles outside the main door. The outside of the building and much of the Seacleft itself is adorned in brightly colored, some might say garish, decorations. Banners, flowers, starbursts, posters for upcoming performances, and other decorations hang everywhere. The sound of music and laughter can be heard coming from inside. An eclectic crowd of beings mills about in front of the place, coming and going in all different directions.

A huge, hulking brute of a doorman sits on a much too small stool near the wide double doors leading into the main room of the establishment. He clearly has a good helping of Ogre or Giant blood in his veins. He looks Samad over as he approaches and glares strongly at Zograthy, which causes him to stop short. “Ahh, yes, I’ve forgotten an important meeting I must attend. It was so nice to once again make your acquaintance, Master Samad. You must stop by my wagon sometime soon, I would love to give you a Harrow reading. Thank you, thank you.” He slinks away, backing up and away from the Gilded Cage, keeping one eye on the doorman, who likewise keeps an eye on him.

Samad read the situation immediately and let the old man go with a silent nod. Though he was in unfamiliar territory, Samad approached the door while fearlessly glancing at the doorman. He deliberately slowed his stride and gave the large man a nod. Was there a cover charge? A list of names? A no weapons policy? Samad was certain there was some kind of stipulation before entering and he didn't want to over-step. Yet. He flashed the doorman a smile and a very light bow. “Breezes of Gozreh caress you, sir…”

The doorman nods his head in Samad’s direction, checking him out. “They do, they do,” he comments back. “Keep the blades in their sheathes. I’m the only one does fighting inside, ok?” He fingers the end of the long-handled hammer that rests on the ground next to him. Samad notes that the wide head of the hammer appears to have all manner of dried blood and bone splinters stuck to it. The large man, easily a few inches taller than Samad while still sitting down, thrusts a meaty hand into the folds of his furs and pulls out a handful of dark red strips of fabric. He thrusts them in Samad’s direction. “You got three blades, right? Tie ‘em up, ok” he commands. “Or leave ‘em in the barrel, I don’t care” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder indicating a rain barrel along the edge of the building. Several swords, some spears and the handle of a great axe or maul can be seen sticking out of it.  The big man jingles his coin purse, “No cover til dark if you’re buying something, ok? There’s some show going on, daytime performers work for tips, if you like ‘em drop ‘em a coin, if you don’t, drop a coin in the black bucket on the main bar, let’s the boss know who’s worth keepin’ ‘round, ok? Got them Dwarf acrobats coming back tonight, pretty good show, actually. It’s their last show I think, maybe, I’m not sure actually, but they are good.”

The doorman’s explanation of the goings-on at the club are interrupted by a crash as one of the doors is slammed open and a Tiefling comes staggering out. The devil-blooded lout veers to his left, then straightens, then careens to his right, spilling the drink he is carrying. “Back to the Hells with you , Sirrakas. Glasses stay inside! Bring your own tankard if you’re planning on leaving with it,” the doorman hops off his little stool with surprising quickness and grace and handily grabs the inebriated Tiefling by the collar, and hoists him up onto his tip-toes. “I’m not gonna tell you again,” he says sternly into the drunks face while removing the now empty glass from his fumbling hands. He casually tosses Sirrakas to the side where he falls to the cold ground and ends up in an awkward sitting position, laughing at himself. “You break your horn off again, Rak? Did you leave it inside?” The Tiefling turns partly to look at him and howls with laughter as he pats his breast pocket then pulls out the tip of his broken off horn, “Naa, I gots it right here, Vu- vu- vukos. You wanna me to come over there and- and- and get you with it?” He holds his broken horn out and menacingly shakes it in the air, through pointing it nowhere near the standing giant of a man. Samad guesses he is at least 9 feet tall and shudders to think of the damage he could cause. The Tiefling then tips over and falls face first on the ground. Samad can hear a loud snore coming from him. His broken horn lays on the ground next to his head.

“Asmodeus’ ballsack,” Vukos curses and gets back up. He turns back to Samad, “you got those blades tied up? You can go on in. Remember, no fighting, keep your steel to yourself, ok?” The half-giant turns from Samad and heads over and scoops up the passed out Tiefling.

Samad was just finishing up tying the dagger and politely excused himself, letting Vukos get back to work. Vuko seemed pleasant enough, but Samad was not willing to potentially witness the large man’s method of dealing with the disorderly.

He began going over some of his unarmed techniques through his head. If the doorman’s hammer and the rowdy Tiefling told him anything, it’s that this place was just as prone to trouble as any. “Now, to find Zuqa.” His chin was up, chest out, hips loose, and legs sturdy. His eyes flickered coquettishly around the room, taking in the place visually as well as the hanging scent of alcohol and incense as he glided towards the nearest area resembling the bar.
Samad sees that the main room of this establishment is sunken about 10 feet below street level and extends back quite a distance into the Seacleft. The entire room is probably 50 feet wide by 30 feet front to back and at least 20 feet high. A balcony runs around the room to the left and right of the main entrance. A wide staircase leads down to the main floor. Two wrought iron spiral staircases connect the floor to the balcony at the midpoints of each side wall. A large bar stretches nearly the entire length of the room and several bartenders move about serving the customers. There are probably about 30 patrons in the place but it clearly holds many many more. A large stage sits off to the right, three people sit on the stage playing some happy, upbeat music and singing. No one in the place seems to be paying them any mind though. Numerous shining golden cages hang from the rafters above, each bit enough to hold a person or two, though only one is currently occupied by a scantily clad Half-Orc lad who is dancing and writhing about sensuously. Samad thinks he is glad that Kallin had not accompanied him on this trip with his newfound levels of arousal.

There are comfortable tables and couches placed randomly about the floor and to the left side of the room are a couple gaming tables, both of them full. Samad takes note of the numerous exits from this room. No less than 6 visible doors lead away from the bar level and he sees 10 or so doors leading off of the balcony level. A wide hallway also leads back further into the Seacleft at the far right end of the bar, opposite the stage.
The climate in the room is very comfortable, though Samad does not see any fire pits or stoves anywhere. The lighting, likewise, is dim and even with no sign of any lanterns or torches anywhere. Magic, he assumes.

Numerous waiters and waitresses move about the room delivering drinks, and occasionally leading customers toward one of the many doors or hallway leading to the back. As he descends the stairs, a female Elf approaches him. She is dressed in very little and covered in Varisian style tattoos on most of her exposed flesh. “Hey honey, welcome to the Gilded Cage, I’m Cerviel, what can I do to you?” She smiles playfully and runs her fingers across his shoulder down to his chest. Her eyes give the indication that she is possibly under the influence of something or another.

Samad smiled, respecting the Elf’s form and technique. Maybe it was time for Samad to get some tattoos. “I am looking for a man.” He ended that with a pointed pause, and smirked playfully. “...Specifically, a man named Zuqa. A fencer. Frequents this fine place. You wouldn't happen to have… made his acquaintance, have you?”

The Elf laughs, getting Samad’s point. “Tell ya what, I don't know any man named Zuqa but why don't you have a seat here in this comfy chair, tell me what you're drinking and I'll see if I can find you someone to fence with. So what'll it be? Will you be needing anything else? Any leaf? Pesh? Got a great new batch of dream wine in the other day. It'll knock you of your feet!” Though not his type, Samad finds this Elf quite persuasive and in no time, he is sitting in a very plush and comfortable high backed chair and she is slinking back toward him with his favorite drink in her hand. “Enjoy,”she says. “Going to check on that fencer for you. I'll be right back to check on you.” She heads back to the bar.

It was hard for Samad to turn down a good sweet apple blackberry wine and a comfortable chair. He took a very light sip and sat back sensually, letting the wine’s flavor spice the inside of his mouth like foreplay. He glanced off into the distance, taking in the atmosphere. Any time he caught someone’s eyes staring at him, his glance became tender and he looked away. ‘Attractive, but aloof and slightly intimidating’ was the name of the game tonight. Despite this place’s pleasures, he was still here on business and couldn't let himself get too distracted.

Samad notices that it is sometimes hard to tell the patrons from the employees throughout much of the room, everyone seems to be having such a good time. He wishes he was not here on business as he scans the room, hoping for something that could lead him to this Zuqa fellow. After a few moments, Cerviel, his server, comes back over. “Turns out, Zuqa IS here, down at the end of the bar,” she nods her head in the direction of the bar’s end, near where the opening leads back into the Seacleft. “Now don’t say I never gave you anything nice, honey,” she smiles playfully and lingers, as if possibly waiting for a tip or some other interaction.

Looking to where she indicated, Samad sees several beings gathered at the far end of the bar, some 20 feet away. A tall dark Human or Elf with a hood on, leans against the bar while next to him is a tall Varisian woman with shining tattoos on her arm that appear to be shifting and moving. She is showing them off to a pale, dark haired man wearing leather armor and armed with numerous blades and a bronze skinned Keleshite man with a dark beard. A wide, curved sword hangs from his belt. As Samad observes this group of people, he catches the eye of another man standing near them, a tall, young man with long blonde hair braided into several wide braids. He wears a long fur coat that is wide open in the front, revealing well sculpted chest and abs. Samad would guess he is one of the Ulfen from the Northlands. The man smiles wide and waves eagerly at Samad.
Samad glanced that way, his golden eyes gently lingering on the group. He smiled and gracefully rose to his feet. “You, my dear, have been very helpful tonight. And provided top tier service.” Samad produces some coins and graciously hands them to her. “Next time I visit, I almost expect YOU to be running this place.” Letting his hand linger and trail away from the Elf’s, he thinks to himself, What IS that moisturizer she uses? So fragrant, as he makes his way to the end of the bar.

He held his half-finished goblet of wine elegantly in his hand, a bold yet balanced contrast to his toned form. He met the Ulfen male’s gaze with a warm and tender smirk. Whether or not he was the man he was looking for was yet to be known, but Samad flourished from the attention he was receiving from him. “Zuqa…? Zuqa Uson?” He said the name in the man’s general direction, but loud enough for the rest of the group to hear him. His gaze flickered between the group, awaiting a response.

The Ulfen man flashes Samad a confused smile and says, in very slow, accented Varisian, “Me Norgen. You speak Varisia? Me not know your southland words. I buy you drink?” he says and motions toward the bar. After a brief second, Samad realizes that this man thinks he is speaking another language, but before he can reply, Norgen the Ulfen is shoved right into Samad, causing both men to spill their drinks on each other. Norgen loses his balance and grabs onto Samad to keep from falling. Over his shoulder, Samad sees a short, dark, hooded figure leap up and bolt away into the wide hallway leading into the Seacleft. He realizes that this person had been sitting at the very end of the bar with its head down and he hadn’t even noticed it there. “What the frozen hell!” Norgen exclaims as Samad attempts to extricate him from the tall man’s unexpected embrace. The brief commotion at the end of the bar quickly subsides as the unknown figure disappears from sight.

Samad barely had time to savor and get lost in the man’s accidental embrace before he realized what was happening. Despite the man not being a mark, his mercenary brain took over. He needed to catch the fleeing man. His potential target was getting away. He reluctantly pushed himself away from Norgen, tracing his hand down the man’s torso. “Please, hold that thought. I will return soon.” His shirt clung to his toned torso, soaked with a very delicious wine, he went off after the man intending to make him pay for such wasted delicacy. Did this man think such fine wine grew on trees!? Weaving his way through patrons and untying the passivity ribbons he had on his weapons, he made it around the bar and ran towards the tunnel. “New boots, time to prove your worth to me.”
With his boots activated, Samad quickly catches up to the fleeing person, though he was only able to untie the ribbon on his right hand blade. He did not get a chance to see too much of the wide corridor he ran through, though he was aware that it was slanted up a bit and had a fine carpet running down the middle of it. The tunnel is lit by some soft light from alcoves in the vaulted ceiling above. Samad notes that there are many doors off to either side of this sloping hallway and potted plants are spaced between them. Up ahead he notices that the hallway ends in a T-intersection with what looks like stairs leading up to the left and possibly down to the right.

Samad effortlessly slinked past the fleeing man like a serpent in the sands and took a defensive melee stance a ways in front of him, attempting to bar his way at the intersection. His eyes gleamed wolfishly beneath his brows in the soft light. “You had better have a good reason for not only spilling my wine and stickying my shirt, but potentially ruining my chances with a VERY fine Northern specimen.” His voice was a humorous but dark hiss, letting the mysterious man know that this could go smoothly for him or end very, VERY badly.

A strange, high pitched cackle comes from beneath the hood and Samad sees the person’s hand reach down as if going for a blade, though Samad was quite sure there wasn't one hanging there. The dark figure shakes with a fit of coughing then falls backward to the ground. A squeaky, warbling voice calls out, “Who are you? What do you want with me?” The hood falls back to reveal a feathered bird head talking to Samad. “Why do you seek Zuqa Uson?” Though he has never seen one before, Samad knows this to be a Tengu.
Samad raised his chin and smiled, his entire demeanor warming VERY quickly. “Ah, wihel febulo.” He stepped a little closer to the Tengu and offered a soft bow.

“Samad The Foxtooth Aldhuul of the Sandpoint Heroes. I assure you, I mean you no harm. Please, allow me…” with a flourish he offered a hand to help Zuqa on his feet. “If you would be so kind to accept, I have a lucrative proposition for you. A trusted source has told me that you are proficient in the use of the rapier. Is this true?”

This strange person, the Tengu Zuqa Uson, reaches out a feathered arm and hand and accepts Samad’s help up. “Yes, yes, I am,” he pauses to burp. Samad smells strong liquor on his breath. “Yes, I am Zuqa Uson and I am the best fencer in all of, um, ehh,” he pauses and looks around, “where are we again? Oh, yeah, best fence in all of Absalom!” A loud belch punctuates his boast. He swivels his head back and forth a few times. “Umm, no.  That's not right. We're in Varisia right? Magnimar? Definitely the best fence in Magnimar. Really probably don't even need a rapier for that claim,” he says with a sigh.
Zuqa Uson seems very jumpy and paranoid as he leads Samad to his “room,” which isn't much more than a hollowed out space in the face of the Seacleft about 50 feet above the streets of the Lowcleft district. It is above and to the side of the other regular Gilded Cage balcony rooms. Zuqa explains that he currently works for the a Gilded Cage as a gladiator and entertainer but he has run up a gambling tab and become considerably indebted to some of the local bookies. Stress from this has caused him to start drinking more, which has diminished his performances, thus reducing his amount of stage time and pay. The strange bird-man lets out chirp-like croak and finds a half empty bottle of wine beneath a pile of dirty clothes and begins drinking.

Samad silently scanned the living space and narrowed his eyes in thought as they fell on the Tengu. He wondered just what kind of deal he was getting with this obvious drunk. He reassured himself that Sandi would never lead him astray and decided to take the plunge. “Perhaps I can help you put a dent in your debt, ‘gladiator’.” Samad paused and felt a bitter taste in his spirit as he realized the rude quartermaster at the Iron Carnival was, in a way, right. “I am prepared to offer you coin for lessons with the rapier. I promise you, I will not take up too much of your time.”

Wrapping Up

Zuqa Uson agrees to tutor Samad and teach him the basics of the rapier, though with Samad’s limited timeframe, he does not promise much. Just the basics. Over the course of the next few days, The Tengu puts Samad through the paces, working him hard and teaching him small nuances and techniques to apply his already considerable skill with other blades to using the narrow and light rapier.

Uson proves to be a good teacher and works Samad to his limits, though the Garundi swordsman manages to find time to reconnect with Norgen, the Ulfen fellow from the bar. Finally, Samad realizes that his time in Magnimar is coming to an end and he has to abandon his time spent at the Gilded Cage and rejoin his other companions and prepare for their trip across Varisia to Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers.

As he finishes his final lesson with Zuqa, the Tengu pauses and offers a word of thanks to Samad. “I had lost my focus, I had gotten myself in a position I could not defend from. Thank you for seeking me out and helping me recall my own training. Remember my teachings, do not let yourself fall into a similar situation. Will you do me one thing, when you arrive in far Kaer Maga? Seek out my brother, Qelexo Uson, and tell him that our father has been killed. He was struck down by Apyeka Chavar at his home during a thunderstorm last Lamashan. He needs to know this. Thank you again and may your blade ever remain sharp and its tip ever remain up.” The Tengu bows deeply to Samad and bids him farewell.

Session Notes

The final Side Trek for this part of the campaign. Got to explore a little more of the background and personality of our favorite mercenary. Samad runs into some folk from his past with the Iron Carnival, a person of interest in an earlier adventure. He also meets quite a few new strange and interesting folk of Magnimar. Finally, he finds the one he seeks and learns some new techniques for fighting with his new rapier.

Characters Present:

Samad Aldhul, Human ex-mercenary - played by JeCorey H

and +Jason GURPS as the DM

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