The rain hasn't stopped in three days. Three days of relentless down pour turning the dirt of the common square in Diamond Lake to mud. Raindrops hit the churned muck splashing and hitting more as they fall, making a fine mist around the ankle. Small rivers flow down the earthen mounds on which the buildings stand vigilant over the empty square. Its not a night to be outside, but when ever is it in Diamond Lake?
Two miners, raggedy shirt and breaches plastered to their shoulders and legs, splash hurriedly toward a largish building. Furtive looks check to make sure they are alone as they approach the door under a lit inverted V shaped eave. The sign simply says "Emporium" but there was once a name above it, but it is long faded, and sometimes forgotten. The building itself sports a flaking whitewash, this drowning rain taking its toll as it flows off the higher awnings and down over the V guarding the door inside. The two miners shake off what water they can from their worn frames, and open the door where a thin and balding business like man waits behind a small desk station. The man's wry smile, accentuated by his up turned mustache, quotes them "3 coppers for the Gallery of Science, silver for the upper floor." The two miner grin at each other and part with their small coins and make their way into the corridor where oddities await including a contortionist, a fortune teller, and a two headed cow. Somewhere ahead in the smoky and dim of the gallery, a scream shoots out just as a man bursts into flame, extinguishing himself just as easily to the amazement of the gathered spectators.
That scream floats up the stairs to a door guarded by a thick half-ogre and a cudgel. There it dies, drowned out by the soft music coming from inside. The door opens and a shrewd well dressed woman, glances out at the tough, "What was that? Kurlag, go tell Gaspar to keep control of the "patrons"!" She closes the door behind her, taking in the view of the lushly decorated upper floor of the Emporium. It was her name that once graced the sign outside, Zalamandra's Emporium, but the rabble wouldn't know the difference. From her well placed vantage next to the door she glances into the private chambers that lead off from the main, several occupied by the wealthy, or relatively well off. Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff sits speaking with Gelch Tilgast, one of the mine managers, and some merchant from the Free City. Sheriff Cubbin is of course near-by; what good is a corrupt public official without a personal enforcer? Of course Zalamandra has a strict code about blackmail in her establishment, for now at least.
Neff pulls the merchant out of the conversation, toward a door near the rear, begging excuse from the mine manager. Always whining and asking him to solve their problems those managers. Worthless wretches all worried about Smenk. As well they should be, he pays handsomely. Perhaps the night will not be such a waste. With a merchant from the Free City comes opportunity to put the right word in the right ear. Maybe with luck he might make it back there and show those festering rats what comes from disgracing the Neff family. But for now it is time to take a walk down the Veiled Corridor. Surely this merchant has some vice; women, boys, opium. Most anything can be found here. Many of them Neff enjoys, its just a matter which to choose. He steps through the door and the smoke clears just a moment for him to glance at the window and the streaks of water wiggling from top to bottom. Still raining. When would it stop?
Tilgast, glad to be away from the dirtying company of the governor-mayor, steps out into the rain to wash himself off. With a mind for a "quick" game of Dragonchess, he moves across the square to Lazare's House. The quietly stylish building doesn't boast about as does Zalamandra's with her ostentatious banners and garish chipped paint. It is much more cultured, as are its patrons, ones that actually want to stop the festering cancer that is Balabar Smenk. As he enters, the glowing central hearth warms his hands as he presents them to it, he glances around at the usual suspects. Lazare, of course, along with Gelch's compatriots Luzane, Chaum, and "The Prince", an elf named Ellival, all of them mine managers. He hails them and is about to take a seat to tell them about the night when a man accidentally bumps into him. The clumsy man is dressed so garishly with his high-collared red cape fastened with a skull clasp and green jerkin and pants that its a wonder Lazare even lets him in the place. Kellek he thinks his name is, wondering, not for the first time, if the silver ring with the 8 pointed star he wears means something he is unaware of. Apologies are made and each go their ways, Gelch to his friends, Kellek to the bar for a drink and then to the window looking out into the dark and stormy night. A grin spreads across Kellek face, made to look more wicked by his receding hairline and the gray wings behind his ears. Things were looking dark out there indeed.
The lurid light from that upper window doesn't shine far into the night of Diamond Lake, surely not far enough to shed any illumination on the two men dragging a slumped figure out into the rain. One kicks him in the ribs, the other rifles through his pockets pullout a handful of small coins. "Hey there! What be this?" a voice calls out from the front of the alley the two men had chosen to rob the miner in. The owner of the voice sloshes in far enough to see the fallen man, and the two lording over him. "Drunk sir, cant hold his liquor," one of the crooked men calls back with a smile. "Very well" the challenger says from the mouth of the alley and he turns away down further along the square and up a set of steps carved out of the mound of earth, made slick with rain, but reinforced with large slabs of wood. As he approaches the door, the raucous noise can be heard from within, complete with shouts of profanity and calls and bets. This is the Feral Dog, as the sign instructs, and so the man opens the door with a grin already starting on his face, hiding the glint of the badge he wears under his soaked cloak. The deputy knows that tinny ale awaits him, he doesn't really have time to think about some poor miner losing his weeks pay to a couple thugs. They probably belong to one of the other mine managers anyway.
Kullen's red eyed gaze peers over the calls for the fighting dogs in the pit, and catches the deputy as he enters the Dog. A tall, albino, half orc, he bears a brand on his forehead from the mine manager he used to work for. That mine manager had died for marking him so, but so is the nature of this dark hole of the world: where there are others digging deeper holes, there are always those who would profit from it. Some might escape it for a while, like that elf woman throwing knives for sport in the corner, but eventually everyone gets owned by one of the managers. It's just dumb luck that Kullen got to choose his boss, even luckier that hes winning that little not so secret war of his. A drop of water lands on the table next to his mug from a leak in the roof, running along one of the support beams; it must really be coming down out there.
The rain continued to pound down on the torchlit fortress like church of the followers of the Saint. Its bombastic orator, Jierian Wierus rants on to his congregation about the value and virtue of the common man even as he accentuates each statement with an act of self-mortification by whip, knife or chain. The bloody sermon, joined by many in attendance, washes over the poor perpetrating false hope and salvation in a town where none is to be found.
Captain Tolliver Trask stands on his balcony overlooking the courtyard of the keep watching the soldiers drill in the rain. There is no break for the soldiers of the Free City, as far as he is concerned, and they will be put through their paces no matter the weather. He walks back to the planning room where his cartographer and chief scout await him. Reports of increased lizardfolk activity to the south unnerves the Captain, but Blackwell Keep will hold as it must. But that is not what worries the others at the table glancing at the large map laid out on the table. They wonder why such a competent officer was assigned to this back woods mining town and placed under the yoke of a man the likes of Neff. As far as the Captain is concerned, if the City Council says Neff is the man, so he says it too, no matter how it turns his stomach. They must have a plan, right? They're in charge, aren't they?
Two black clad figures pull a lifeless figure through the driving rain of the night to the cart they had to leave in order to keep to the deep ruts hard to make out so full of water. They pile the body, which seemed to have drowned in the mud, into the back and trundle off toward their dark tower near the lake shore, surrounded by a massive graveyard where they help the dead pass to the beyond, and keep them from rising as they shouldn't. It has been difficult of late, as several of their more constant wards have given way and the dead walk the grounds. Lucky for these good folk the priests are there to show them back to their ever-resting places.
The rain bounces off of the bald head of a woman in deep robes as she gazes into the night from the balcony of the tallest tower of the monastery. She can make out the priests pulling their cart of the dead toward their bastion on the lake. Farther in the distance strange lights dance from the old observatory that her order had used when the gazing of the stars had brought portents both fortuitous and foul. Beyond that, the dull lights of Diamond Lake through the rain loom ominous to her and her thoughts. Something is moving down there, and every where. An age dawns anew, the masters all say so, but be it dark and terrible, or bright and just, yet remains to be seen. The Age comes, and all must be ready to face what comes.