Rising Wrath

Incidents with fire not of Ali's own making

I seem to have a regular talent for getting myself into trouble. I might also be crazy, or at least that’s what people I don’t know who see me doing what is normal for me think. Considering that this place is a hardscrabble town where helping people makes you an easy mark in the eyes of most of the residents, if what I do makes me crazy, then I am perfectly happy to continue in my madness, and frankly prefer it to what passes for sanity among the denizens of Riddleport. That being said, however, I will admit that my habits really do put me in awkward situations.

After the business with the mine, Lyssa woke me up fairly early to go out shopping. I had promised to let her pick something out for me, since I had come to Riddleport with only the clothes on my back, and my current outfit was getting rather ripe. Lyssa also thought it was exceedingly plain. Perhaps it is, but it suits my purpose, and it is very convenient for reasons that shall become clear later. In any event, she picked out, and bought — I didn’t expect that, but she insisted on paying for it — a very nice suit of clothes that were definitely in “the Riddleport style.”

It makes me look like a pirate. Lyssa wholeheartedly approved, and while it’s not exactly my style, I will admit that it is rather comfortable and I wear it well, even if I say so myself, and even if it’s not really me.

As we were walking back, we spotted a fire coming from the docks, and ran over to see what was the matter. The local tannery was burning. An ineffectual effort was being made to form a bucket brigade, and no one seemed to know if there was anyone still inside the building. I decided to go and check myself, then remembered what I was wearing, and missed by dirty old work clothes and my plate armor. There was nothing for it though, so I bought a man’s cloak, wrapped it around myself, and went to open the door.

The handle felt warm, so I tried to break it down. The door wouldn’t budge, and I noticed that not even the hinges were moving; the entire door seemed to have been welded to the surrounding walls, if it were possible to weld wood. Lyssa, who had been questioning my sanity but was good natured enough to go along with my recklessness, said she’d organize the bucket brigade and start breaking the door open with an axe, while I went in through a window.

It was very smoky inside the place. It took me a while to find the tanner, but find him I did, and managed to drag him out. Soon a cleric came, and there was nothing that could be done for him. It was hard for me to take that, but it was some consolation to know that he was dead before I had even showed up on the scene. At this point a gendarme showed up — one of Riddleport’s local constabulary — and I spoke up and mentioned that bit of weirdness with the wood and the possibility that this might not have been an accident. He told me he’d want to question me later, so I gave him my name and address.

After that, I took a walk with Lyssa to steady my nerves. We stopped by the tailor’s to get my clothes clean — despite my best efforts, they had gotten sooty. Then we walked out to the cliffs surrounding town, and took in the view. The Cypher Gate is definitely an impressive piece of architecture, although there’s something about the runes on it that catch at what feels like an old memory, and there’s something off about them. I can read Thassilonian as well as I can speak it, but while those runes looked to be Thassilonian, they didn’t make any sense; it’s like they were gobbledygook, or like someone wrote down a lot of things that looked like Thassilonian runes without actually knowing what they meant or how to form a proper word. While we were there, Lyssa also told me that the fire at the tanner’s was the seventh in a month, and that all of them had happened around the docks.

After a while we went back to the Mystery of the Gate. While I was on shift, that gendarme came back and asked me to come with him. He led me back to their barracks. I’m not sure if it’s big city police forces that I don’t like, or just the Riddleport police force, but that building was sinister. The whole thing became even more sinister as I was led downstairs into their dungeons. I couldn’t help but wonder what he could possibly have to show me down here, and I had the sickening thought that perhaps I was about to be thrown in prison for a crime I didn’t commit, that the local police were just looking for someone to pin the crime on to clear it off their books.

My imagination brought up something more terrifying still when he showed me inside a room. A large man wearing an apron and a mask and holding knives in his hands was standing next to a body lying on a slab that had been cut open like a fish. Then I noticed that the man on the slab was the tanner I had pulled out of the burning building, and I realized what I was looking at.

I’d heard of autopsies before, but I’d never seen one in person. We didn’t have the facilities for such things back in Sandpoint. The gendarme, a man named Jasper, explained that this was the first case where they’d gotten a body from one of these arson cases intact; in all the others, everything had burned, obliterating any evidence within. After examining him, they had concluded that he had been severely beaten shortly before his death, and that he had been suffocated, but not by smoke. Then the coroner took a pair of tongs, reached into the dead man’s throat, and pulled out a cockroach the size of my fist.

At this point, it was taking me a great deal of effort to not throw up, or run screaming from the room, or to do both of those at once.

To make a long story short, with the new evidence they had found and my testimony, they believed the culprit to be a druid who had previously been stirring up some trouble in the city. She was regarded by the people of Riddleport as crazy, and had been agitating against the pollution that the city has been dumping for years into the river and bay. I have to admit that on one level I sympathize with her; I suppose you can’t expect a river next to a settlement to be perfectly clean, but Riddleport has taken things to a level that I would have thought unimaginable, and I cannot imagine how the people here tolerate it. That river is so polluted that it’s dangerous to even swim in it, let alone drink from it, and apparently catching three-eyed fish is not an uncommon occurrence. Still, if she is responsible, I can’t agree with her killing people, especially when she’s not even getting at the root of the problem. Sure, the tanner and others on the waterfront had been dumping their sewage into the river, but that’s been going on for ages, and killing a few ordinary merchants isn’t going to help matters; if she really wanted to restore the river, she’d have to burn the whole city to the ground, and I’m honestly not sure why that thought never occurred to her, but even for as crummy as Riddleport can be sometimes, I’m glad she hasn’t.

Although, I’m not even entirely sure that she is responsible. The gendarmes seem to think so, but they seem almost too certain of it. They commissioned me to hunt her down, since she’s hiding in the Boneyard (a swamp outside of town filled with the wrecks of old ships), and they made it clear that while I could bring her in dead or alive, they would prefer dead, and that they hoped the matter would not come to trial. While I agree that it seems likely that this druid is responsible, “likely” isn’t good enough… or at least it isn’t good enough for me. I might have taken the commission to catch her, but I’ll do it my way.

I went back to the inn feeling very unnerved by the day’s events, particularly by my experiences with the RIddleport gendarmes, thinking that there are drawbacks to always jumping in to help people. I told Lyssa and Zeke about all of this. Zeke and Lyssa laughed and agreed that I bring this on myself, but he was good natured about it. Lyssa agreed to talk to Saerana about this as well, and to see if she could track Kyle down again. The four of us worked well together the last time, and hopefully we’ll be able to do so again.

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