Six months. That’s how long I’ve been in hiding in this little pub in the desert town of Almernae. Six. Bloody. Months. I understand that it is necessary, that I must do whatever it takes to keep Machine off of my scent, but I believe that soon I will go mad if I’m pressed to stay in this basement for much longer. I can hear the world calling me and my feet ache to get back on the open road.
Heh…I suppose my time with the Tiki Company really has changed me.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the kindness shown to me there in my time of need. I am eternally in debt to Teresa and Kiana for taking me in and giving me food and a warm cot to sleep in. And I have Artemis to thank for bringing me news from the outside world from time to time. But in my six months I spent locked up in the basement I had turned up no leads on Machine, and I neared the end of my rope.
I spent the last few days of my isolation tossing knucklebones against the wall, trying to catch a glimpse or hint at what was to come. Every time the bones gave the same answer: death. Something was coming, the calm before the storm had passed, and I needed to be prepared, but prepared for what? I had no leads, nothing to go on, and sooner or later Machine or one of his associates would track me to this pub and I would not have more innocent blood on my hands.
I was about to give up hope when Artemis returned with a news update. Apparently, someone had dropped off a letter at his office a few days ago addressed to me. The note read thus:
I’ve happened upon bits and pieces of information here and there, and if my suspicions are correct, you are the one being hunted by the assassin known as Alexis Machine.
Worry not; the secret of your identity, as well as your whereabouts, are safe with me. I seek to help you; I have information that may prove useful to you.
Come to Red Rain Cave, west of Almernae. I’m in hiding at the moment. In order to find me, head downstream until you reach a moss-covered door. I’ll leave the rest up to you.
-An anonymous informant.
P.S. Bring food, I’m sick of eating rats.
Finally! A lead had presented itself! Now all that remained was to gather together what was left of The Tiki Company. I sent Emrys on his way, carrying with him a letter addressed to each of my former comrades and longtime friends: Peregrine Toque, Richard J. Buckles, Mersh, Belarin Urthador, and Duran-Duran. I could only hope that they would come, and I began to prepare. The game was afoot, and the first move was mine for the taking.
It was another two weeks or so after that before I heard the front door slide open upstairs and heard two pairs of feet walk across the floorboards upstairs. I smirked to myself as I heard the familiar banter and wordplay that only Peregrine was capable of. Now who was it that had accompanied him? He wouldn’t really have brought Bonnie along for the ride, would he? Or perhaps he met up with one of the others along the way?
I walked up to the main floor of the Dusty Drink to see Peregrine engaged in conversation with Teresa and a half-elf that I didn’t recognize. I greeted my old friend, saving him from Teresa’s wrath, and he introduced me to his new traveling companion, a bard by the name of Moira McGee. Apparently, Peregrine had his own troubles, running into another assassin after his blood, on his way to Almernae.
Forgive me, my Peregrine is a little rusty after two years of not speaking or listening to it, but the gist of the story was that he was looking for Mersh in Gootham on his way to join up with me only to find that Miss Moira had been commissioned by Mersh to watch Buck’s store, The Brass Buckle. I can’t imagine Buck would be very happy to hear that…and things were finally beginning to patch up between him and Mersh…
Afterwards, they ran into a group that was hunting Peregrine for some unknown reason led by a man called Ambercrombie who had been ordered by some “Illusive Man” to hunt him down. One of the group hunting them, Albion the rock-man (my Peregrine is still a little rusty, forgive the translation), had been working with them on the promise that he would receive help in finding his family. It turns out Ambercrombie was lying, and after he jumped from a tower, the rock-man had left to try and find his family. Moira, in the meantime, had asked to accompany Peregrine in his travels for the time being. She was well-versed in several “ballads” about The Tiki Company, something I was going to have to discuss with Artemis next time I see him.
It took some convincing, but after a few moments of chatter the three of us set out for Red Rain Cave, about a day-and-a-half’s journey from Almernae. This was a lead that could not be passed up, and I had already waited too long. Hopefully the rest of the company would join up with us later. The journey itself was uneventful, though I had forgotten how much I missed having a bard in the group to lighten the mood.
As we neared the basin, Emrys flew back from his scouting. An ogre stood between us and our destination. Watching the beast with its back turned to us, I suddenly missed having Buck, Duran, or Belarin in the party. None of us were exactly built for going toe-to-toe with a massive ogre. Though it seemed this didn’t occur to Peregrine forthwith, as he tried to sneak up on the ogre from behind, almost alerting it to his (and our) presence.
Moira and I quickly got the situation under control, using a combination of her lullaby and my Sleep spell to render the ogre helpless before us. We eliminated him before he became a threat. It may not have been the most honourable victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.
The ogre gone, we entered the cave to find this “friend” of mine that waited within. We followed the river flowing out of the cave to it’s source deeper into the basin where the light of day could not be seen. We trekked alongside the river and found a large area filled to the brim with hobgoblins and orcs.
Oh adventuring, sometimes I hate you so.
Time seems to have done us wonders with regard to strategy. Instead of charging in head first as we once did, we planned out a course of action. Under the protection of my Mage Armor, Peregrine took the charge, slaying the first enemy in a matter of seconds with a powerful kick to the head. Then, the battle began in earnest.
Peregrine nimbly slew goblin after goblin with his sword and axe, though at a great cost as the hoard focused on bringing down the halfling ranger. I cast some of my more powerful spells, burning and battering the goblins as they approached while Moira supported us all with her song. The battle wasn’t easy, but we won. The orcs and hobgoblins lay in pools of their own blood or burnt to a crisp or washed down the river until only one remained. I interrogated the terrified fellow with Moira’s assistance. The goblins knew nothing of this cave nor who inhabited it. They were simply planning an escape from the ogre when we happened onto them. The goblin fled as we continued our search.
I was immediately drawn to a moss-covered section of the cave wall. I had found a secret door, magically protected to only open when a riddle is answered correctly. Spent from the battle, we opted to answer the riddles instead of forcing our way in.
Apparently the cave was once home to a bandit by the name of Tokagero, and it was in his voice that the riddles were asked. One by one we passed the test and were permitted to enter the inner sanctum of Red Rain Cave. Inside, Peregrine and I were indeed met with another familiar face…Ogden Sadric.
It took us some time, but with thanks to Moira’s power over words, we were able to get all of the information that Ogden had to offer. The “Illusive Man” that hired Ambercrombie to eliminate Peregrine was the same man who sent Machine after me. For whatever reason, he’s wanted me dead for some time, and my two year hiatus only served to anger him into sending other assailants after my friends.
This…this will not stand. Nobody goes after my friends, my family, in order to get to me. I shall make this Illusive Man pay…
Ogden explained that he himself had been contracted by the Illusive Man to gather information on Belarin. It seemed that our sword-wielding friend had regained some of his lost memories and had returned home to Ontas on the West Coast. He was royalty, a despot of the city, whose real name was Belarin Vladislous, and for whatever reason he was seeking revenge against the Albright family of Golden Valley off the East Coast of Ashen. He was so caught up in revenge that he had hired the very assassin sent to kill me to exact it.
Belarin had found and hired Alexis Machine to kill the young Lady Albright.
As much as I wanted to journey to Ontas myself and have a few words with my former comrade…we needed to alert Lady Albright to her peril, and maybe catch Machine in the process…
We left Ogden in the cave and told him to make way for the Dusty Drink in Almernae with a note carrying my seal and left to plot our next move.
The game is afoot, and slowly the terms are coming into light. The first move has been made, Illusive Man, and now the dice pass to you. Play your little games, send all of the assailants you desire and I shall ensure that they are all brought down until all that remains is you.
The Tiki Company is piecing itself back together, better and stronger than ever, and we are coming for you.
You have no idea what you have just unleashed.