On a regular day in the central guard house of Caire, a group of five guards sat away from the others playing card games. All the other guards regarded each of them as oddities in some way. These misfit guards consist of: a stunningly beautiful Human sorceress, Aira; a reclusive Elf who never carries a weapon, Ed; a timid, clay-skinned swordmage from a far-off land, Meriele; a dishonest Human wizard, Kirisame; and a seven and a half foot tall mentally-handicapped Goliath, Gorg. Despite their idiosyncrasies, they were some of the few guards not off defending the recently discovered tomb of the Ancients and so were the most competent guardsmen for a new job. One of the nobles, Sa’ap, had lost his son for over a day now and requested the resources of the guard to find him. Receiving this request from their captain, the motley crew of guards accepted the job with the promise of a hefty bonus for their efforts.
Starting with at Sa’ap’s house, the crew asked the noble’s servants if they had any leads. A sickly fellow led them to the boy’s nanny. The old woman was in a state of shock from her punishment for losing sight of the boy – amputation of her right leg. She referred to the boy, Sa’at, as a rotten little child with a tendency to disappear on her. Usually, he would be found in the attic or the houses across the street, but none of her usual leads were any help, forcing her to admit Sa’at’s absence to her less than pleased master. She could only conclude that someone must have taken the boy, likely one of Caire’s many gangs. Gorg, a surgeon for a thieves’ guild known for stealing artifacts when he isn’t do guard work, was asked to lead the crew to his shady employer’s establishment.
This thieves’ guild was on hard times after taking the blame for the robbery of important artifacts from the Museum of Caire, leaving few members still walking the streets. Nevertheless, Gorg was accustomed to walking uninvited into their headquarters, much to the consternation of the doorman. Scared as always of the giant visitor, the doorman quickly ushered the group into a meeting with the “Boss-man”. The thieves’ boss became enamored of the sultry Aira, giving her the opportunity to present their request for information about the boy as a search for her nephew. The boss put his best men on the job and assured Aira that he would look for her with the lighthouse that is Gorg when he had some information.
While the gang looked for clues, the five guardsmen decided to investigate political rivals of the noble Sa’ap. From what they could gather in the gang headquarters, Sa’ap vehemently opposed the policies of Iman, the foremost civil authority of Caire (who sat at the head of the City Council alongside the High Priest and the Commander of the Guard). With this info, they paid a visit to Iman’s house. A friendly servant by the name of Tai greeted them at the door. When asked by Ed to answer some questions for a “political survey”, Tai ushered the crew into the room in which he was polishing three recently acquired statues of his master’s collection.
What little the group could learn was that Sa’ap opposed Iman’s policy of guarding the newfound tomb from trespassers, wishing to open it to tourists for the good of Caire. The civil leader had been having almost constant meetings with the other high councillors at his house, on matters Tai knew not what. Although Sa’ap was clearly an opponent, Iman considered him little more than an annoyance and would have little motivation to harm him by taking his son. Still, wishing to be thorough, the group asked to meet with Iman’s wife to “expand the results of their survey”. This bluff brought them after a short while to the Lady’s sitting room (once the family was finished lunch).
The Lady talked at length about the same things Tai had mentioned. However, she seemed to want to share something else with the group, although she stopped herself on account of it being too private. Yet Aira and Ed were making quite the impression on her. Eventually, she admitted that her husband was a little on edge over the lack of news for two days from the guards around the tomb. She was sure the issue was nothing but seemed convinced that she should follow her husband’s advice to take a vacation in Pelopos (a trip that her and her daughter were just about to make). Satisfied with the acquired information, the group bid her adieu and went to relax at the local market while they waited for news from the thieves.
This info came shortly. An aloof thief who Gorg recognized approached them in the market. The news he bore was less than inspiring. Not only had they not found anything, but everyone sent to scour the North quarter of Caire for the boy had gone missing. Mi’te, Bo and Fah’reh (but not Rand’e) had not reported back at the required time. The thief seemed disinterested as he delivered the news but wished his friend good luck once the five guards expressed their desire to search the area themselves.
Not too long after the group started searching the deserted streets (even more deserted than earlier that day), Gorg noticed a mob of people huddling in a circle. The guards approached slowly. Although there was no response, there seemed to be a fight going on inside the circle of people. Attempting to break it up, Gorg shouted into the crowd. One of the figures turned to face him, hissing between his teeth as he did. When his eyes opened, they were pitch black. Only Meriele could combine the arcane senses and book-learning to discern that these were not undead – as everyone immediately assumed – but people subject to external domination. According to Ed, their symptoms matched those of people who were reported to come out of meditation in a trance, attacking anyone in sight until put down by the sword. This “madness” was only seen among the religious folk of Caire. With this in mind, the group sought to take down these mad individuals.
After a brief fight – in which Ed broke the neck of one man, only to have him realign his detached skull and Aira unleashed a flurry of chromatic blasts that blew the heads of the weaker individuals – the group finally noticed what had occupied the enthralled citizens – the torn and chewed body of a noble boy. This was almost certainly Sa’at, meaning that the patron of their mission would be…less than pleased. For Aira, Ed and Kirisame, this meant their long-sought bonus would not be forthcoming. Everyone was now distressed, except Gorg.
Returning to their captain (fighting a few more thralls along the way), the crew delivered the bad news – dropping three bags of blood, flesh and bone. The captain was frozen in shock. Ed and Meriele tried to explain the situation further, with brief interjections from Kirisame, but all that could break the captain from his daze was the door slamming open! Another guard had just come with news that Caire was devolving into chaos. Reports were coming from all over of people fighting and killing each other in the streets – always in the most inhumane ways imaginable.
While the captain didn’t like this news any more than the others, it did give him a clear threat problem to solve, which was better than the thought of confronting a furious noble about the death of his son. After much debate, it was decided that Gorg would talk to his gang contacts to inform the criminal underworld (groups much more well-prepared for violence in the streets than the skeleton crew working now for the guard) while the others would visit the Temple of Anubis to prepare the priests and monks to combat whatever force was dominating the citizendia.
Gorg succeeded with minimal effort (in part because the gangs were already fighting thralls in the street and in part due to his boss’s infatuation with Aira) but more prolonged effort was required on the part of the others. The group arrived in the middle of a sermon. At first, no one was going to interrupt the mass but, much to everyone’s surprise, Meriele spoke up to the priest leading the service and tried to explain the situation. Her soft voice did little to sway the priest to action. Kirisame soon changed this with a sudden outburst mentioning the undead. Everyone in the temple went silent at the mention of the undead. Meriele was quick to correct Kirisame that the threat was a dominating force and its thralls, not hordes of the undead. Nevertheless, with a few words from Ed, the priest was convinced of their honesty. Sending his parishioners to the top of the temple, the priest invited the group to speak with the High Priest.
The High Priest looked the group over when they entered his chambers. Upon laying eyes on Ed, he knelt abruptly to the ground saying, “Servant of the Queen! What does my lady ask of me?” Ed was surprised by this but he surmised who the High Priest meant. Ed shifted the High Priest’s request for directions to the problem at hand, namely the distress of the city. His holiness was all too eager to protect his fair city. Removing his cloak to reveal ornate armor underneath and calling a magical orb to his side, the High Priest pledged his acolytes to the defense of everyone who could be assembled into the temple, providing a stronghold for the embattled citizens.
Joining his acuity to magic with Meriele, the High Priest sought whoever was dominating the citizens, on the basis that this domination was active. Their awareness was pointed towards a source of immense power in the direction of City Hall. The magnitude of this power had disturbing implications. It was more obvious than ever that no single person could be behind recent events. Only an organization of magic-users in concert could have such an effect. The High Priest knew immediately that the only person who would know what to do was Iman. He knew the most about the activities of the Hero of Byblos in the ancient tomb and may know the ideal course of action. With this settled, the group was off to Iman’s mansion again.
…to be continued.