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An Unexpected Visitor
It has often been my inescapable misfortune to cross paths with rather sordid, despicable, characters in the pursuit of my quest for knowledge of events which transpire in our world. I have confronted men, daemons, and monsters whose threatening demeanor and ruthlessness have chilled me to the bone. So when Armande deSade, or someone claiming to be him, showed up at my door today, I was experienced enough with such things to comport myself with appreciable calmness during the discussions that followed between us. 

He was alone, apparently, and I allowed him entrance. I was at once extremely curious as to how he had found me, but remembering how easily the captured pirate in Yew was discovered by forces no doubt under his command I knew it had to be a magical source of great power and he would not tell me. Therefore I did not ask. 

I could waste my time detailing his appearance, what little I could see behind his cloaked form, but I am sure it was altered in some way. He knew full well I would report such things and doubtless took precautions to conceal the exact nature of his features from me. I, therefore, omit a description of him. 

I asked him what business brought him to my humble home. 

"Since thy tongue is heard by many of the... persons, shall we say, with whom I must contend, I shall use you as my own mouth to speak to them. I trust ye will convey the meaning of my words in their full context, and I seldom trust any man in any thing. Consider it an honor that I come to ye for such a purpose," he stated arrogantly in a rasping voice. 

I gave him my word as assurance that his messages would be accurately related as he told them to me. He nodded in approval and, cordially enough, made no threats or threatening gestures. 

"Allow me to explain my business at that sleepy backwater village called Edinburgh. I had reason to believe, and I now know, that an object which belonged to a kinsman of mine was stolen and buried in the mine. I send my minions to retrieve it and there they meet with resistance at every turn. The thieving, murderous, mob of townsfolk who dwell there, and those who visit looking for fortune, continually assault those I send there peacefully to recover my possession. I have therefore directed them to defend themselves. This is the reason for the many battles which have occurred there of late. If the villagers and visitors would leave my aides alone, they would find that no harm would befall either them or their property." 

I was astounded at the sheer brazenness of his mendacity. I asked him who this kinsman was, what was the nature of the object he claims to have been "stolen" and who had taken it. 

He smiled briefly. "That is no concern of yours, chronicler, but I will not evade thy question entirely. It is a simple crystal ball, an heirloom. It belonged to my great-grandfather. I prize it for sentimental sake alone. It is all that might be left of his possessions since he and all other things of his perished suddenly and completely long ago. It was recovered then stolen by some mage and well-hidden." 

I asked him if the ball had been hidden in the vein of gold in the mine and how he had found it if so. 

"I have means to detect it should I come near it. I have confirmed it is indeed inside the vein of gold at the mine in Edinburgh and have been sending my aides to melt the gold in order to free it. They do this by summoning fire elementals atop and around the vein to melt it down. Naturally the fire elementals are ill disposed toward intruders and the work is disrupted when they see and attack them. My aides become angry at their work being delayed, tempers flare, and, well, a battle ensues. If the villagers would leave us be at the mine for a while, our work of recovery could be completed without further confrontations with them." 

I wanted to know how the pirate attacks and gold elementals fit into this so-called recovery expedition of his and queried him on it. 

He laughed. "The pirates were of use to me for a time as their services for guarding and transportation were quite inexpensive. I used them to help my aides seek areas where the ball might be found, knowing that it had been lost somewhere along the Britannian coastline in a shipwreck which claimed the life of my great-grandfather. Hence ye witnessed what was called "raids" on coastal cities. The mere sight of my aides and their pirate hirelings was enough to instill enough fear in townsfolk to incite them needlessly. For the record, I take no responsibility for the numerous deaths of the townsfolk who thrust themselves into matters which did not concern them or pose any threat to their town or their livelihood. Once word spread that gold elementals were seen at the village, the pirates naturally wanted to go there. I consented, and by sheer good fortune found the mine and the location of my heirloom. It is all as simple as that." 

I was curious to know the connection between the gold elementals and the pirate captain, Caine. How was it that he was able to lure them on board his ships and then smelt them at Serpent's Hold. 

"The gold elementals seemed very possessive of the gold from which they spawned. Apparently some of the pirates came upon a corpse in the woods with some of it in his pack. While they divvied it amongst themselves, a gold elemental appeared, probably the slayer of the deceased man, and began asking for the gold from them. They fled to their ship and the brute followed them to the coastline. Caine returned and spoke at length with the thing assuring it that he would help them find the ones who had taken the gold, it's "little ones" as he put it." 

I asked him of Spyte the Knife who seemed to be looking for the ball as well. 

Armande's face reddened with anger. "He is another of the thieves which seeks to steal what is mine!! Ye would do well not to trust him! Ye think I am vindictive and ruthless? ...such a list of my deeds pales in comparison to his! He assaulted me recently. I escaped death by the narrowest of margins, a death from which there is no return. The blade he wields is enchanted or other-worldly... when it kills it banishes the soul of its victims to the void from whence they may never return. Mark him well. He is not to be trusted. If he is in thy employ ye are doomed." 

Nothing further meaningful could be drawn from him and we concluded the meeting. Armande bowed low, stating he would return if he needed a public voice for his concerns. I did not promise to provide a forum, but I told him I would do what I could to help us all come to a greater understanding of this mystery. With that, he said he was content, and disappeared. 

How much of this tale is true or something intended to lead us off the trail I cannot say. I am disposed to believing very little of it, but that which I do still unsettles me greatly. Many answers remain cloaked in shadow and I fear that only experience itself will bring the truth of them to light. - Erik 


Published: November 2000
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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