For the love of order

3-Sep-2012 (Gilly)

The Order of the Second Story

I did it. It’s hard to believe, even hearing the news, but I did it. I won a war. And what’s better, I think I might be able to count on my friends to wage another one. Sure, it wasn’t a “real” war, but neither is the one I want to start in Kirkata.

But I should start at the beginning.

It all started when we returned to Atur from the Mror Holds, fresh from our heroic victory over the Aghasura. Everyone was ready for some downtime, crafting and research and whatnot. Most of us got to do that for a while. But when I was checking up with my contacts, I heard something distressing, that the ‘alternate rogues’ were out to get us. Say what? I know we’d done a bunch of things that ended up against their interests, but it’s not like they’d actually tried to employ us or convince us or anything. I had been a little cagey in my skill assessment when I signed up with them, but we’d been very open as a party, so they’ve have to know that one of their network is a member of this party. Maybe they never had a good opportunity, maybe they didn’t really notice us until we were Deemed a Problem… not like I could ask them now.

I tried some tentative search, but before I’d had any real information, I got a letter from One-Eyed Kenny, asking to meet. Thank the gods I’ve the sense to treat one-time foes decently so they don’t need to be long-term enemies. I don’t think some of my companions really get that. One of the flaws of a stringently lawful viewpoint, too easy to pigeonhole people and lock in your opinion of them… but I digress.

Kenny had important news for us, which made the whole situation a lot clearer. The alternative rogues guild is called the Order of the Second Story (which seems apropos, when you think about it). They’d gotten frustrated with how frequently we’d ended up opposing their efforts and general viewpoint, and put a price on our heads. This is bad. They’ve got some serious resources, and many of their members are as amoral as I am. We might be underestimated once or twice, but I wouldn’t count on our long-term chances. Forced to abandon Atur as our base of operations? Ick. Note to self, play up the battle against the Aghasura, it’ll buy us time.

Fortunately, this had apparently worsened an existing split in the guild, between the current leaders, who are more extremist, and others who’d like a more moderate position. Various people have been jockeying for position, and this just might be the spark that leads to a coup, if we get the right elements aligned.

I can so do that.

Getting the party’s support was partly easy, and partly tricky. “Hey, guys, there’s some people who want to kill us, I’m dealing with it, be careful” gets a great reception, where “Hey guys, so remember about the people who want to kill us? I want you to do a favor for someone who’s their enemy, it’s a little out of your normal comfort zone”… not so much.

Still, I got them to work together for a number of crucial missions that I couldn’t do myself. The first was to assist a man named James in recovering some ‘items of interest’ from the tomb of an ancestor of his. At least, he said it was an ancestor of his. I tried not to let my friends spend too much time worrying about whether this was actually true. It proved challenging, even if the shadows and wraiths at the door fell easily. The crypt things were a bit tougher when they ported Syama, but it was the devil summoning trap that really put us on our toes. Which was a good thing, in a way, because when we went to the end, where the death knight and the spiders and the lich shade awaited, we were ready for a serious fight. Which we got.

Afterwards, James got the item he was specially interested in, and I managed to secure an ioun stone which improves my spells a bit, and is linked somehow to the Cult, though so far my research attempts into it haven’t borne fruit. A good lot of the cash portion of the loot was in black onyx, which I suggested James use to secure the allegiance of the Blood of Vol in the conflict. When he liked the idea, I sweetened the pot by including the death knight’s armor as a bonus to bring to them (seeing as how they could keep it, er, ‘safely’, where others couldn’t). He was happy for an extra share, it didn’t cost us anything, and it strengthened our position in the upcoming battle. That’s the way to do it.

That was the first of several missions to win over potential allies, discourage enemies, and generally establish our network of influence within the Order of the Second Story. I did as much of this solo as I could manage, because frankly my party members were clearly uncomfortable at getting involved in such dealings. Though they didn’t have any problem collecting poison components for an alchemist, especially compared to helping with research into negative energy’s ability to block healing. I suppose it’s easier not to think about what they don’t have to see.

The planar shift just had to throw a massive wrench into the whole business. Don’t know, maybe it felt left out. One night the wall of our room at the inn was suddenly a portal to who-knows-where (turned out to be the canonical plane of good). Just when things were starting to come together, but it’s not like we get to ignore the portals.

Normally, I’d have been super-excited about the planar travels, and not just because the avatars of good we met didn’t try to kill me. And I was, don’t get me wrong. But there was always an undercurrent of worrying about how things were progressing, or not, or unraveling, back at Atur without us. Our adventures on the various planes of alignment-based creature summoning were quite impressive, but more Syama’s story to tell.

When we returned, things were tense, and ready to head in the wrong direction. We kicked into high gear, getting the last key people recruited and scouting out high-value enemies. One of these received a special delivery of the Distillate of Aghasura, courtesy of one of our new friends. Another needed the direct attention of our group, for they were a group as well. They called themselves The Cloaks, and were rumored to be decently strong. We were fortunate enough to find ourselves an involuntary informant, a poison seller who was familiar with their whereabouts and grateful to be allowed to leave town alive. We were even more fortunate to have Syama’s star chart to verify he’d told us the truth.

When we went down to their hideout in the sewers, we were buffed and prepared. They were not. The battle would have been a wipeout except for one factor: it turns out the leader of the Cloaks, one Mimo, was an old friend of Syama. Now an enemy, but naturally that didn’t stop Syama from wanting to help. Soon we’d heard her story, a thread of fate tangled with mine through Fortunado, and some other patron who’d granted her power, but at a cost.

It was Syama’s desire to go after this patron, in retribution for the suffering he’d caused Mimo, that started it. It was clearly the wrong move tactically, we didn’t know anything about him besides that he was quite powerful, but I’ve always been about sticking up for your friends and taking down their enemies. I spoke up, saying I’d definitely risk my life to take out those who had seriously hurt my friend, there’s just two things — first, that the rest of us were in, because this required our full strength, and second, that we don’t just let this apply to Syama, but also to any of us, including me. I thought that would be the end of it. The boys would say, “now that I think about it, I don’t want to be promised to take down Gilly’s tormentors. I don’t even really want to think about them.” But they said yes. They said yes! Well, Dolg and Maral said yes. Victor got into one of those weaselly arguments that focus on bizarre possibilities instead of the question at hand. “But what if we’ve gone insane?” Sometimes he reminds me of them. But he agreed in the end, if reluctantly. I could hardly believe it. If I could count on this group of law-lovers to move against those bastards, I might actually have a hope of getting revenge. But first, there are dues to be paid.

We got the jump on the patron and it was impressive for a five-on-one battle. He had a number of tricks up his sleeve, especially in enchantments. He got away in the end though, via some manner of extra-dimensional magic, maybe an ethereal jaunt? We made final preparations for the civil war, proclaiming to ally and foe that the Cloaks had joined the poisoned rogue in being out of the fight. We left Mimo and her unconscious and dead compatriots under guard for the fight, with Mimo in charge of them after.

The civil war was quickly over — though our side took a few losses from groups who assassinated their rivals before fleeing town, the tack we’d taken ensured a ‘mostly’ bloodless coup based on overwhelming force. I’d wondered if I had it in me to pull this sort of thing off, and now I know I do.

As to Mimo, the Cloaks, and the patron, well, as I said at the beginning, “Thank the gods I’ve the sense to treat one-time foes decently so they don’t need to be long-term enemies.” Before leaving on our wind walk, I did my best to make up, and give them a hand in getting back on their feet. This city needs a second story, even if few admit it, not just one way for everyone.

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