On the Rocks

On the Rocks


One of the eight major attractions of Brothellad, the City of Stone was a bustling Dwarven city built into a crater atop Mount Khazaram. Surrounded by high natural stone walls created by a meteor impact, The city is the picture-perfect example of the rich ruggedness of Dwarven life. The main thoroughfare was a street of polished quartz about which stood sturdy stone buildings with pillared awnings and vaulted ceilings. Many of these were adorned with intricately carved lillywork and pomegranate and arcane charged crystal. The markets were alive with trade and the taverns and brothels sang with merriment and the occasional brawl.

Unfortunately, like much of Brothellad, it lay beneath a sickeningly sweet, layer of marketing that left you with an unpleasant aftertaste. Armed with sticks of rock candy and baskets of popped corn, screaming children ran between shops with signs that read “Crack Your own Geode”, or “Forge your own Dagger”, while their desperately outnumbered parents fought to coral them. Tourists haggled for a copper or two of savings from overpriced vendors that called out sales pitches like carnival workers,  sweaty teenagers competed in axe-throwing competitions and the air rang incessantly with striker bells from hammer strength games. 

The Katari much preferred the restrained civility of the casinos of Mayheath. He spent just over fifteen minutes weaving through the crowded streets to be sure he had not been followed before slipping into a crowded tavern to escape the chaotic market outside. He found an unoccupied table in the back, near an open window and over braised goose and a cup of whiskey, he listened with a twitchy ear to the neighbouring conversations.  Much of it was social drivel, but eventually, he overheard an intriguing story by an off-duty Porter from the Charoite Fissure Inn. He was bragging to the pretty young barmaid that he’d delivered a rather important package to the VIP Suite. It was addressed to an artificer named Dr. Watmaer, from the reclusive Clockwork City of Hiriaskali, who would be checking in later that evening. Watmaer had a sweet tooth and the Porter had been sent for treats from the Upper City to dress the suite with. This last part caught the Katari's attention. As a native of Brothellad, he was aware that there was an UnderCity beneath the tourist attractions of Khazaram, built for the travelling elite. Listening intently, he asked the barmaid for a short length of parchment and the use of a quill. He wrote swiftly but neatly as he listened, then tucked the scroll into his cloak and discretely followed the porter down to the UnderCity. 

From the city beneath the city, he could see why the Dwarves had been drawn here. The impact of the meteor on the local volcanic geology created a colossal geodetic ceiling above a bedrock of precious mineral deposits. It was said that, before the collapse, the ancient Dwarves had built a great empire by mining the minerals and crystals, often used in arcane rituals and magicks, to sell in the markets above ground. Much of the architecture supported this theory, as structures of crystal stood next to buildings that were often carved from the very bedrock itself, the most lavish buildings often having a vein of some semi-precious mineral wandering through the architecture. Steam from geothermal vents beneath the city gathered among the crystalline shards in the ceiling, mixing with the sunlight shining through the crystal of the main thoroughfare above, to cast long shafts of light that drifted aimlessly over the city like roving spotlights. 

He located the Charoite Fissure Inn on Broad Lane next to the Library of Dwarven Architecture and Engineering. The two structures were marked by a colossal tree that, despite being nearly a mile underground, looked as though it were constantly bathed in sunlight. The Katari stopped to read the plaque at the tree’s base as he waited for his Porter to finish chatting with the doorman. The Aureate Sentinel was created when the slate about a gold vein was carved away, leaving only the gold deposit and enough stone to support its weight. The Inn was a grand building carved from a single block of Charoite with an interlayered brick entrance and brass pillars. The inside was walled with polished Charoite contrasted by an occasional outcropping of rough granite, beautiful carpets and tapestries lined the lobby and the patrons sat at finely-crafted mahogany tables in chairs with cushions of deep purple with gold tassels. 

He leaned far over the counter, with the hood of his plain travelling cloak pulled low, to speak quietly to the young Dwarven Clerk. “Watmaer, checking in,”  Grace, as her nametag suggested, leaned awkwardly away from the strange-looking man in plain clothes towering over her. She nervously looked up the name in her ledger. 

“Doctor! You’re early” She declared looking up nervously at the shrouded man holding a finger to his lips. “S-sorry Sir,” She whispered. “Do you have ..?” He presented her with the scroll he’d been forging at the tavern, identifying him as Doctor Watmaer from the Hiriaskali College of Clockwork & Automation. She read through it quickly and returned it with a smile. “Thank you, Doctor, allow me to get a porter …”

“Please … Grace,” He interrupted, looking out from under his hood, with a polite smile “I dislike the …” He waved his hand aimlessly at the lobby behind him. “Can you take me?” 

The room was as lavish as the lobby, with fine carpets and tapestries in a suite of polished purple stone and mahogany. She left him with a blushing smile and a promise to return with a plate of fish and a bottle of their finest whiskey. On the desk, in the corner, he found the package the porter had mentioned and he lounged on the fur-heavy bed to inspect its contents. Inside he found several journals filled with complex drawings of clockwork machines of all sorts and scientific formulas and principles, many of which were beyond his comprehension. They came with comprehensive instructions detailing their function, construction, usage, and maintenance and included scrolls for any spells required. Included and among them, he found blueprints for a one-handed repeating projectile weapon and a series of maps of the various layers of The Stone City of Khazaram. In the bottom of the box the Katari found a gift-wrapped flask with a set of instructions explaining that, once filled, it would remain that way indefinitely

After a dinner of braised carp and poached eggs, and before the real Dr. Watmaer arrived, the feline donned his dress clothes and left the Inn, with a bottle of Bald Dwarf Whiskey and the contents of the package. 

That was three weeks ago.



The Katari sat at the foot of the bed admiring the silver-haired Dwarven woman stirring beneath the fur blankets. She rolled onto her back, throwing the blankets off her full breasts with a sigh. A messy trail of long silver hair draped across the pillow, and with another deep sigh she began to snore loudly. He opened the small wooden box in his hands and pried the old key inside from its clay bed. He checked the imprint left behind and, satisfied, he put the closed and latched box in his pocket. He returned the key to the ring hanging from the dwarven women's trousers, folded them and placed them with the rest of her work-stained clothes on the small wooden table. On top of them, he placed the wooden amulet of Phoal, the Solar Stallion, that she wore about her neck and her purse, which he lightened by twenty gold pieces.

He stretched in the window, looking out across the shadowed rooftops backlit by the green hue of the gas lanterns that lined the city streets. There was no moon or stars; neither did any semblance of a breeze blow through the open window, though the sounds of the gas lanterns below echoing off the cavern ceiling gave the illusion of one. Thin clouds of steam gathered about the crystalline stalactites nearly a mile above him before escaping through vents to the city above. Where the crystalline ceiling above the clouds could be seen, or where the crystal stalactites grew down through them, it shimmered with the rich green aura of gaslight. He dressed quietly, donning some fine trousers and a blouse with a cravat. He cloaked himself in fine, silver-embellished suede before exiting the room quietly and the building quickly.   

The air on the street was warm as he headed south out of the GreyPool Ward. As he wove east through the brick cobbled streets, past the many utilitarian stone buildings with their steel doors, and out to the more decorative Temple District, the city awoke. The air quickly filled with the smells of incense and the chiming of bells and gongs amid the reverberations of meditation and prayer. 

The Ivory Crystal was a square tower with thick stone walls, and though relatively plain it was engraved with runes of strength about each opening. Luminafera Gardens, the cemetery behind the Temple, however, was of particular interest. The Katari stepped into the narrow tunnel in the bedrock and dragged the pads of his fingers along the cavern walls, feeling his way along tracks polished smooth by those who braved the darkness before him. The middle of the gently curving tunnel was twenty or more feet of blackness that tested even his acute eyesight. Eventually, the oppressive darkness gave way to a soft, ethereal glow emanating from bioluminescent plants that seemed to thrive in this subterranean oasis. The tunnel then opened into a large underground lake that must have dried up centuries ago. The air was filled with a delicate, sweet fragrance, a stark contrast to the damp and musty atmosphere of the entrance tunnel.

The garden was a mesmerizing tapestry of unique flora, each adapted to the peculiar conditions of this underground biodome. Luminescent mosses cover the cavern walls, casting a gentle glow in shades of azure and violet. Low-hanging vines adorned with iridescent flowers draped from rocky outcrops, their petals shimmering in hues of silver and indigo.

In the heart of the garden, towering crystal-like structures, reminiscent of stalagmites, pulsated with bioluminescent energy. Each crystal exuded a calming warmth, creating a radiant centrepiece for the underground oasis. 

The soil beneath his feet was soft and rich, supporting a variety of plants with intricate root systems that interwove like an underground tapestry. Strange fern-like plants stretch towards the cavern ceiling, their fronds unfurling to capture the ambient glow. Delicate, translucent mushrooms with phosphorescent caps carpeted the ground, creating a soft, otherworldly glow. 

He found Braiden Grim wearing the indigo robes of the Temple priests, kneeling on a beautifully quilted blanket. Before him stood a stalagmite of amethyst in a bed of purple and green pulsing mushrooms and at his side was a small basket draped with a cloth. The Elven man placed his hands on the blanket before him, so that his index fingers and thumbs formed a triangle, and bowed his head until it touched his hands before he sat up again. “Why are you here?” 

The Katari placed his pack next to the basket and knelt next to him, echoing the same posture and ritual as he spoke, “We keep our promises to the past.” Though he’d hired mercenaries in the past, The Midnight Oath had peculiar negotiation tactics. This passphrase combination had been delivered as a box of cupcakes, with a single word on each treat, and grouped into sentences with coloured frosting. The directions to the meeting had been painted onto a collapsing fan gifted to him by a dancer in a brothel.

“That is our business.” The Elven man responded with a smirk. This appeared to be the motto of The Midnight Oath, as he’d heard it in each of his dealings with them. Rising from his knees, the Elven man picked up the pack and disappeared into the Ivory Temple. 

The Katari remained at the foot of the blanket gazing into the bioluminescent glow reflecting off the crystal, pretending to pray as he listened for his colleague’s delicate footsteps. Then, with his head bowed he looked into the basket to find two pairs of neatly folded robes, like those Mr. Grim had been wearing. The Katari smiled but as he rose he noticed a pair of short fingers poking out between the mushrooms at the base of the crystal. Assuming this was the work of his newly hired Oathkeeper, he folded the blanket and placed it over the robes, as if packing for a picnic, and quickly exited the garden.

The upper ring of the Market Delve consisted mostly of Taverns and Inns, with the streets spiralling down the sides of a crater, past shops filled with dwarven-styled clothing, or semi-precious stones and crystals, to the open market at the bottom of the mine. Though there were not many children, the streets were busier here, filled with tired tourists coupled hand in hand on the street, or hunched over steaming cups at any of the small bistros awaiting The UnderCity’s majestic dawn.  

The Katari stopped at a shop called Granite Ground on the outskirts of the open market. The shop sold a bitter beverage they called “espresso” that he’d grown quite fond of over the past few weeks as he’d been working in the area. Like most beverages in Brothellad, these tiny coffees came served in little wooden cups with branded lids that could be tossed into any of the empty streetside braziers. A human in well-made clothing, with nearly a dozen small pouches hanging from his belt, stood at the counter and the Katari stumbled, bumping clumsily into the gentleman. “Terribly Sorry, good Sir,” He offered apologetically, “let me pay for your beverage, Mr ..?”

“Oh, unn … that’s not …” The silver-haired Human began but was startled by the curious appearance of his aggressor. 

“Nonsense lad, I insist!” The Katari placed an arm around the man’s shoulder and turned to the young Dwarf behind the counter, “Miss? Two for myself and another for Mr. ..?” He pushed the young man to the end of his reach, holding him firmly by the shoulder as he looked the man over.

“Rando, Unn, John.“ The man smiled awkwardly. 

“John Rando!” He shook the man’s hand furiously, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir.”  Using the shared grip as leverage The Katari pulled him in close with a hand about the waist. “You see that, Sadie,” He turned to the barista making the coffees behind the counter, “A human out here fighting for Hybrid Rights!” Both the Dwarven girl behind the counter and Mr. Rando looked awkwardly at each other, their eyes dancing nervously to the Katari and back. 

“How did you …” John began to question but once again pushed Rando to the end of the Katari's arm, held firmly by the shoulder once again. 

“Oh, Wait! Hybrid rights are Human rights!” The fickle feline peered deep into the human’s eyes as he quoted the man to his face, a hint of malice in his voice. “Aint that right, Rando?!”  

The existence of hybrid species like Katari, Drakona, Harrengon, and Reptillian had only been discovered in the last hundred years or so, and their assimilation into greater Brothelladian society had been a turbulent one. Decades of segregation, mistreatment and abuse culminated in violent protests and riots. To quell the violence, and its impacts on the tourism-based economy, The Tourism Board of Brothellad created the Department of Hybrid Affairs tasked with integrating hybrid residents and immigrants into the greater Brothelladian community. While this had been seen as a large step forward for hybrid equality, the appointment of a human to the Department Chair was considered by the community to be a slap in the face. For his part, John came across as being quite genuine in interviews, and his first task in the role was to hire hundreds of Hybrid-Humans to work for the Tourism Board.  

“Y-yes, Yes they are.” The conviction in the man’s voice failed him, but he pushed forward. “And you, Mr..? W-what do you do?”    

“Me?!” The Katari licked his lips, “Oh, I’m just a villain.” The Katari pushed as much venom into that last word as he could. It was a direct acknowledgement of Rando’s accomplishments, as the first five hundred hybrids hired had been cast in positions previously held by monsters, maintaining the notion that hybrid species were an uncivilized danger to more human-like species.  He left Rando with one of the espressos, and a devious smile, listening to him apologize profusely to the young barista for the awkward confrontation.

Above ground, Phoal, the Solar Stallion, was galloping over the eastern horizon, The tall peaks of the city’s natural walls casting long, haunting shadows across the Upper City. Tourists found this early hour and its darkness uninviting and often slept until late in the morning when the sun had cleared the mountains. As a result, the dawning draft horse had an unobstructed path through the main thoroughfare, his hooves reflecting off the Quartz streets like snow on a sunny day, heralding the arrival of a new day. 

Below ground, in the Armourer’s District, the green light of the gas lanterns gave way to the prismatic light refracted through the crystal boulevard above. Long shafts of coloured light burst through the steam-filled cavern illuminating the underground city as though one of the Divine Celestials had returned. This close to Visedo the phenomenon lasted nearly two hours, but its beauty was great enough to draw tourists, particularly lovers and newlyweds, from throughout the realms. 

He moved between those lovers and newlyweds, following the spiral street about the open market until he reached a Smith who had not yet opened her shop. He rapped a quick 1-2 on the door and within a moment heard the clicking of locks. A beautiful young Dwarven woman with white hair and hazel eyes opened the door and greeted him with a wary smile that brightened upon the presentation of a tiny wooden mug. 

“Any issues?” She asked, sitting at the workbench and taking in the rich fragrance of the coffee. The air in the shop was already hot as the forge slowly rose to operating temperature. He retrieved the small wooden box from his pocket and placed it on the table without a word and a  smile grew across the Dwarf’s face. He pulled a small, leather-bound flask from his cloak and took a swig, chasing it with a sip of espresso, and then he topped up the little cup from the flask. He offered a splash to his companion who held out the tiny cup. “And you’re sure it’s down there?” She asked, savouring the fragrant steam off of the little cup.

“It’s the reason they stopped mining,” He responded, with a wry smile, “allegedly.” He placed the basket on the floor at her feet, sipped from his coffee, and continued. “Once they realized what they’d found …” He paused again, watching the longing dilate in the little woman’s forge-lit eyes. 

“... a treasure to dwarf all others,” Gulkhor whispered sardonically. It was a quote from a tourism pamphlet which dubbed The City of Stone as ‘a treasure to Dwarf all others’. It was a tactless play on the fact that Khazaram was a city of Dwarven ancestry. She had expressed to him on several occasions over the past few weeks, her general and growing disdain for the governing council of Khazaram. She had recently lost a loved one in an accident at one of the city pumping stations. Like much of the city’s infrastructure, the pumping station was dilapidated, overburdened, understaffed, and underfunded. Gulkhor’s sister had been requesting additional staff and support for months when an expired seal in a high-pressure valve blew the side out of the building. Two employees, including Gulkhor’s sister, had been killed and two more had been injured. The Tourism Board that governs Kahzaram investigated for less than a day. 

“Improper handling by reckless employees, do you fucking believe that?” She’d told him after six shots of whiskey, “They blamed it on the fucking victims!” In the end, a single manager was forced into retirement and Kahzaram continued as if nothing had happened. 

Gulkhor, however, could not continue. Like her forge, she raged against the stone walls imprisoning her. In the week since their meeting, he had often heard her speak openly against the corruption of the Brothelladian Department of Tourism while drinking in her forge after hours. It was the hook he’d used to bring her into this heist. 

“What if you could take from them, the very thing their empire was built on?” He’d suggested, pouring a seventh shot. 

“What the fuck does that mean?” She’d grumbled, struggling in a stupor to get up from her slouched position to reach the shot glass on the table. When she got there she was met by the hypnotic green eyes and sly smile of the hairless Katari. His intense feline stare was something Gulkhor was still growing accustomed to, and often found herself entranced by, but this was a different look. It lacked the playful sensuality he typically used when flirting with her, which he always did, and it was enough to give her pause. 

In the few weeks since he’d entered her shop to request a ‘private consultation’ for a series of custom pieces, she had known the Katari to be guarded. He would not leave his blueprints with her, kept or destroyed any of the moulds they built, and was vague about the overall function of the device they were manufacturing, but he was always charming, polite, and very flirtatious. That first consultation, however, there had been a moment she had almost forgotten when her eyes locked with his and she felt as if he were weighing her soul. It was the same way he looked at her now. “What?” The pretty young, pretty drunk, little woman sat up with concern.

He took the shot and a deep breath, resettling himself as if starting from the beginning of a story. “What is the great treasure of Khazaram?” Though they were alone, and much like their first meeting, he whispered in a tone that felt like she was being tested.

“The way the Dwarven people have worked together in harmony for thousands of generations?!” She replied, both mocking and questioning him. 

“I mean the Ancient Treasure of Khazaram?” The Katari rephrased.

“The Sentient Grail?!?” The words came out sarcastically, but a smile grew across his face. She had grown up to stories of the great treasure buried deep beneath the mountain. The Sentient Grail, filled with the Ichor of the Cosmos, The Grail was said to be capable of answering any question and the Ichor of granting any wish. It was said the two combined could rewrite the cosmos. “It’s a myth created by the Tourism Board to attract would-be adventurers to Khazaram.” She drank her shot and slumped back into her chair. She doubted if either of them believed that the actual Grail held such power, if it existed at all, but just as she had grown up with stories of the Grail and its many powers there were twice as many stories of adventurers claiming to know where it was buried. They often cited historical texts and arcane scrolls only to later claim they’d been given a forged map, if they were ever heard from again.     

They’d argued for nearly an hour before he had finally confessed. “Those maps all those treasure hunters claimed would lead them to the Grail,” He paused, wondering if he should continue, “I make them.” He sat back, deflated. It was not a secret he wanted to share. He had sought her out for her Smithing skills in crafting a special weapon, by asking for someone trustworthy and discreet, and he had not been disappointed. Though he’d always intended to hustle her out of payment, over the weeks of working together, he had grown to respect and even trust her as a valuable collaborator. “You make knock-off weapons and armour to sell to the would-be adventurers, I make fake maps, with elaborate backstories.” 

His demeanour was unusually open and matter-of-fact, and Gulkhor found it both disheartening and reassuring. Though the device she’d been hired to manufacture was not inherently evil in its design, his suspicious and private nature had an air of romantic mystery she was drawn to. At this moment, however, the part of her that secretly hoped this handsome stranger might whisk her off to some fantasy life in some foreign realm, that part of her felt deceived.   

“I know a genuine map when I see one,” He’d continued, “and I have three different ones, from three different generations, and journals worth of notes that combine to form the Path to the Grail.” It had taken him nearly three days, a detailed explanation of the plan, another bottle of whiskey, and a night of passionate lovemaking to convince her, but in the end, she agreed. “If the Treasure to Dwarf all others is the people itself, and they took your favourite one, then let’s make sure you are properly compensated.”



She collected a small cup of molten wax from next to her forge and took the small wooden box from the Katari, locating a tiny hole on one end. She pushed an awl through the hole to ensure that the passage was clear, and then she delicately poured the molten wax through until the space was filled. She set the small box aside to cool and began packing a small wooden tray with a mixture of sand and coal dust. When the tray was prepared she retrieved the small box, opened it up and carefully retrieved the hardened wax key from inside. She pressed the key into the packed coal dust making two impressions of it. With gloves and tongs, she gathered a small crucible from the forge and poured molten steel into the two impressions. 

As she worked the Katari looked through the pouches he’d cut from Mr. Rando’s belt. Three were component pouches containing feathers, charcoal, iron nails, and the like. One pouch held five gold coins, one held a handful of miscellaneous gems, but the last held the real prize. Inside was an invitation to Visedo, a block of red sealing wax, and a gold stamp. The Stamp depicted a shield emblazoned with the three-headed chimera, The official emblem of the Ministry of Hybrid Affairs.

“Why two keys?” He asked her, taking a swig from the flask in his cloak before offering it to his companion. She removed her gloves, wiped the sweat from her brow and accepted the flask. 

“That’s so you don’t fuck me!” She said, taking a swig. She passed the flask back to the feline who stared at her wryly. “... out of the job,” She elaborated with a laugh. The Katari continued to smile.


Sweat trickled down her back in tiny rivers as Gulkhor lay draped over the Katari, panting heavily in the forge-fired air of the blacksmith shop. The Katari sat on a chair beneath her, licking the sweat from his still-smiling lips. She dismounted him and began putting her clothes back on while he groomed himself. “The keys will be ready tomorrow,” She told him as she secured her leather apron about herself. “Your other request is in that box on the bench. Now, get the fuck out, I gotta open up my shop.”

That was three days ago.


Each spring Phasebugs made their annual migration up from deep within the bedrock. These were moths of arcane energy that could float and fly through soil and rock with ease, leaving no trace of their passing. Drawn to plant roots, the moths bind to the roots, wrapping around them to form a cocoon. Over time the cocoon would slowly lose its glow, leaving behind a woody growth. Called a Black Duscle, the growth can be harvested, the cocoon cracked opened and the hardened moth can be eaten like a nut. Black Duscles are alleged to have aphrodisiac qualities. 


This happened every spring all across Brothellad and for the most part went largely unrecognized. Occasionally some miners would claim they’d found a phasebug while digging, but the creatures were highly fragile, and would not tolerate contact for long, so the stories were largely dismissed as fairy tales. In the cavernous Undercity of Khazaram, however, where the Phasebugs lost contact with the ground, they also lost their ability to propel themselves. Instead of swimming or flying gracefully as they did through the bedrock, they tumbled weightless, as if in a vacuum. 


The ancient Dwarves that founded the city called it Visedo, or last snowfall and celebrated with great feasts and orgies. The celebrations lasted two days, which was roughly how long it took the warm geothermal vents below the city to ferry the surviving moths up to the ceiling, where they might find roots to embrace. These glowing translucent moths tumbling aimlessly on the air, like coin-sized snowflakes, against the green lantern light of the Undercity, was a sight like no other and drew an audience of the rich and royal from across the Realm.


The modern Visedo was Khazaram’s most popular, and profitable, event. It drew the regal and reputable from throughout the Multiverse to its hedonistic festivities. The faithful of Brothellad considered Visedo a miracle of the Gods, so after some opening comments from the Mayor outside his office at Banrey Hollow, celebrations began with a procession of priests and clergy winding through the streets to the Diamond Sepulchre, a large cathedral at the heart of the Temple Farthing. 


“Rando, John Joseph” He declared to the young Dwarven girl in silver embellished robes at the entrance to the Sepulchre. He handed her two scrolls. The first was a VIP Invitation addressed to Deputy Minister John J. Rando, of Hybrid-Human Affairs; the second was a declaration identifying him as the same. Wide-eyed and staring nervously at his feline appearance, she compared this information against her ledger and returned them with a polite smile.


“Welcome to Visedo, Deputy Minister!” She pleasantly chimed, waving for an usher. Security at the Holy Cavern was always tight, as the Temple crypts housed the remains of the first Dwarven King of Khazaram, HarrowDan Malkam Gorurk. During Visedo, however, when all the Temples of Khazaram gathered, the crypts were closed and security was at its peak. Before he could enter the cathedral, he was approached by two security guards in glittering scale mail and armed with silvered swords.


“Sir, would you …”


“Deputy Minister.” The Katari corrected him abruptly. The guard, now looking at the “Deputy minister”, withdrew a half-step at his curious appearance.


“Unn, Deputy Minister,” The guard continued, “Would you mind identifying that item on your hip, please?” He pointed to the weighted leather holster about the feline's waist. 


“My Epi-Gun?” The Katari asked, drawing the revolver from its holster. 


“Epi-Gun?!?” The guard asked, having never seen such a device before. He took it from the Katari and examined it, at one point looking directly down the barrel. 


“The gasses down here,” The Katari continued, “are hard on my feline lungs. Doctor Watmaer, from the Clockwork City, built it for me.”


“How does it work?” The guard questioned, thumbing the small hammer on the back of the device. His partner continued to clutch his sword in its scabbard with white knuckles.


“If I start to have trouble breathing,” The feline took the pistol back from the guard and held it out, the barrel pointing directly at the guard’s armoured heart. “I pull back this hammer, pull this trigger …” he tilted the pistol to the side to identify the trigger with a tap of his finger. “And the magic ammunition sucks the gas out of me!” 


He returned the pistol to its holster while the guards considered what they’d heard. After a moment, the guard leaned into the feline, “They really got atom, err … atom-toms up there in the Clockwork City?” He asked with a whisper. The Guard leaned back, peering questioningly into the feline’s eyes.


“Automatons!” The “Deputy Minister,” replied enthusiastically, “I genuinely don’t know, Sir.” He responded politely. “Doctor Watmaer came to me.” Satisfied, the guards returned to their posts, whispering amongst each other about whether or not automatons were real. 


Tremendous braziers hanging from both sides of each of the fourteen memorial columns lit up the lower levels of the cathedral and covered the hall in dancing shadows and a warm radiance. The large crystal chandeliers hanging from the oblique ceiling danced in the flickering light while statuettes looked down upon the mahogany floor of this ceremonious hall. A cobalt rug split the entire room in half from the doors to the altar while forked banners with emblazoned lace drooped from the walls. Between each banner stood a tall candle, none but a few had been lit and in turn illuminated the portraits of powerful creatures above them. Massive, tinted glass windows were shrouded by veils coloured the same cobalt as the banners. The curtains had been adorned with gilded linings and decorated tips. A radiant altar of diamond sat in front of a giant painting of HarrowDan Gorurk and was adjoined by five cobalt seats for the visiting High Priests. The altar was covered in hundreds of elaborate marks and fixed on each end is an ornate octopus. The thick pillows before it were light blue and these too had been embellished with gold quilting.


Those wishing to witness the Ceremony of Visedo could do so on the countless decorated, but somewhat uncomfortable sandstone benches, all of which were facing the altar in a half circle. The “Deputy Minister,” however, was ushered to a seat in one of the overly luxurious mezzanines overlooking the proceedings below. “You are quite early, Deputy Minister, The ceremony will begin in just under an hour.” The Usher stated, showing the Katari to his seat. 


(Nat 20-Performance check) “Oh! Are there washrooms up here?” He whispered, reaching after the the exiting usher, “... or do I have to go downstairs, with the …” He waved his hand toward the pews below with a hint of disgust in his voice.


“End of the hall, Deputy Minister.” The young Dwarven usher replied, rolling her eyes as she left. The small washroom consisted of a bench with a hole cut in it over a clay basin, next to it was a table with a wash basin, pitcher, towel and a Bell. On the adjacent wall was another door that allowed the custodian to come and maintain the facilities without impacting the lords and ladies in observance. The feline changed into a pair of work clothes hidden in a box under the table and, using the key Gulkor had made for him, he  left the washroom by the maintenance exit. He followed the long, narrow staircase down to the sub-level, beneath the cathedral. As he approached the archway at the bottom of the stairs the feline heard rustling noises from the other side.


In the torchlit room, he heard the mumbled frustration of someone searching through trunks and crates at the far end of the room. (Stealth: 15+7=22) Stepping lightly he approached, collecting a broken chair leg sitting next to a jar of pale blue paste on one of the tables, to use as a bludgeon. 


“Fetch me the Urn of Abundance, he says …” The guard grumbled to himself, hunched over a wooden trunk filled with pottery and stoneware wrapped in parchment. The feline realized his makeshift weapon would be insufficient to take down his stout opponent. Instead, he tossed the chair leg noisily back onto the table.


“Urn of Abundance, you say?” He asked in a loud voice.


“Lord Thunderin’ Fuck, Man!” The guard shot up, startled by the sudden appearance of a custodian. “You scared the ever-lovin’ shit outta me!” The guard clutched his chest dramatically. “They oughta put a bell on yo …” he broke off abruptly as his eyes locked with the feline. “I-i … unnn …” He stammered nervously, visibly taken aback by the striking appearance of the bald Katari before him.


“It’s in a trunk under pew 50.” (Deception w adv.: [18,3]+4=22) The feline stated, ignoring the unintended sleight. He didn’t know if anything was stored under pew 50, or if there even was a pew 50. Neither did he know what the Urn of Abundance was any more than the sticky blue paste in the was in the jar he held, but he picked up a small scrap of wood and smeared them both around with casual confidence. 


“Oh, You just saved my ass!” The guard declared, “I’ve been down here forever!” The Dwarf left quickly by the east exit and the Katari began looking around the room for the Urn, or anything else of value. He pocketed a pair of iron manacles and a smoke bomb from a crate of guard equipment before locating a modest wooden box tucked under a bookcase. Inside was a simple clay vase that appeared to be empty, but when he reached inside the narrow opening he found a loose coin at the bottom. Withdrawing a single platinum he looked inside again and turned the vase upside down but found nothing. He reached in again and felt another loose coin, withdrawing a single gold with a chuckle. Then an electrum, a silver, and finally three copper in a row. He pocketed the coins and put the boxed Urn into his shoulder bag. 


(Nat 20 - Perception) With his sticky chair leg in hand, he left through the east exit into a long, natural cavern passage, about which the larger cathedral had been constructed. According to his map, the north end of the passage led up to the cathedral, while the south end led down to the crypts. Along the west wall of the cavern, he found a marble monument, built almost a thousand years ago. According to tourism brochures in his notebook, the cenotaph was placed here to “celebrate the rich and diverse cultural history of the region and its people throughout the ages. Its position within this community is meant to represent the collective mind of the people and their goals in life for themselves and this community. It was designed by a local artist who marvellously captured the cultural influences of the region and used a harmonious style to convey his vision in this carving. Every element was crafted with intricate details, ensuring the monument would continue to provide joy and wonder to this community for ages.” 


“Cultural influences of the region, eh?” The Katari asked himself as he examined the structure. The Cenotaph was carved with an octopus on one side, a chameleon on another, and a jellyfish on the third. The last side was decorated with the crest of Grand Mage, Thesaro, cast in silver. According to the notes he had found in Doctor Watmaer’s journal, the structure was a lock for a hidden door.  


As he looked about the statue for clues to the lock he heard the shuffling of armour from further down the cavern. He hid behind the obelisk, pretending to polish the fine marble as the lone guard approached. 


“Who’s there?” The alert Dwarf asked, seeing movement behind the cenotaph. 


“Maintenance, sir.” He replied, stepping into view. 


“What are you doing down here?” 


“Maintenance, sir.” He replied, moving closer. Though he was eager to test out his new revolver on something other than empty whiskey bottles, he knew that the weapon made considerable noise and he was not eager to draw more guards.


“Where’s Bonida?” The Guard asked, placing an anxious hand on the hilt of his sword. 


“Yeah, I don't know from Bonida '' The Katari replied, stepping forward again. He raised his chair leg and pointed to the sticky goo toward the guard, “They told me to clean the weird mould,“ He took another step forward and pointed to the door on the opposite side of the cavern, “ … and keep the bathroom clean.” The Dwarven guard looked to the door and when he turned back the feline jabbed him in the face with the chair leg. (club attack: 10+2=12, dmg: 1)


The blow did not cause much visible damage but the paste got in the guard’s mouth and he began to retch and spit as he drew his sword on the feline, then suddenly screamed as if he had seen some living horror. He retreated to the far side of the cave, waving his sword wildly to keep the Katari at bay as he cowered in the corner. 


The sudden behaviour change caught the Katari attention and he advanced on the flailing Dwarf with a his and drew his claws in the man’s face. 


“Oh, That looks like a bad trip, friend.” The feline smiled, drawing another screech from the guard. Far down the passage, he heard the sound of more people approaching. “But you look delicious!” He whispered and licked his lips. The guard fled back down the southern passage with a screech. 


The feline slipped back into the storage room to wait for the traffic to pass but the door opened and two robed figures entered. “There you are!”

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