Episode 1 : A Cat Named Stinky
 

It is the first day of Midsummer (the sixth month) in the Year 324 (After the War of the Roses). My friends and I are sitting around our regular table at the Restless Pig - which is also the place where we live. We have just been given a proposition that may be the gateway to the fortune we all desire, the kick start our lives need. The only problem is the offer was given to us by a cat.

My friends and I have been together for quite some time. We are a mix of Human, Northman and a Halfling - a good representation of Middleburg's racial harmony and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Mind you, this is about the only good thing that Middleburg has to offer. It is an overpopulated, dangerous and so far - not very rewarding place to live. We are all determined to change this.

We all grew up in the middle to lower class areas of the city and have had very hard lives. Life's toughness has rubbed onto us and we have learnt to make things happen for ourselves as nobody else is going to assist us. This has included, to various degrees, hurting or taking from others - something we now accept as just part of surviving and the order of things. As a typical Middleburger, religion has never really been part of our lives and a basic belief of "Leave the Gods alone and they will leave you alone.", is our basic premise in this regard.

Surviving in the city became more difficult as we reached adulthood. What sympathies, training and protection we had has now vanished completely. Together we realize that forming a cohesive and well bonded group is the only way to not only survive - but to prosper. We have discovered that together we can be feared instead of being a target in the many taverns, pubs and narrow streets. As a number of us have now completed apprenticeships in various forms of magic, our chances of making it big time has now arrived.

All of us have now either left our various homes or schools or no longer have one. Together we all share two rooms above our favourite Inn - the Restless Pig. The owner, a Halfling by the name of Harpo Strongfellow has sort of adopted us all, and we do odd jobs (mainly protection and illicit purchasing) for free drinks and a reduced rent. His wife Daisy Strongfellow is a great cook and we all feel a maternal kindness to her.

Recently, we realized how brutal life can be when a brawl in the Restless Pig resulted in the death of one of our group (a Halfling of the fast fingers variety). He asked three very large visiting Northmen Vikings to leave the Inn (thinking the group were still at its regular table when we had actually begun to go upstairs). He was cleaved in half by one of the three. Together we slew the three in a tremendous battle that damaged quite a bit of the Inn. Our success, but loss of our friend, has shown both our powers as well as what could befall a loner. Our reputation in the neighbourhood is beginning to grow.

In the last three weeks a new member joined the group. An Easty Cat (Siamese style) has followed and stuck with us. As a joke we named him Stinky because no other animal would go near him, but to our shock, in plain Tradetalk he responds that his name is not Stinky at all but it is "Hashem.". After some confusion he explains his story and his woes.

Hashem's tail tale began. "I am Hashem. I am the second son of a High Noble from the Far-East Sultanate of Mosh'uab. As my bother the first-born son is heir, the second son is either sent off to the military or apprenticed to a Mage or Sorcerer. I was sent to the latter. I became very quickly adept as a sorcerer and therefore was set upon by my fellow students (and teacher) as they believed I posed a threat to them. Over the next decade I worked as court magician and adviser to more and more senior and regal personages but was always told to leave in the end (often with threats of violence) as I became more powerful and again became a possible threat - a very Mosh'uabi way of doing things.", Hashem explained.

"This lead me to the idea of travelling to the West, and I chose the largest city in the world, Middleburg as a starting point. I fixed a trip on a Eastern Trader called the "Ibn-Fatwaani.", as the Captain seemed to always be on the tongues of Eastern spell casters of note.".

"While docking at Middleburg's harbour, a small boat carrying 12 hooded figures came alongside the Trader's other side. A young and unimposing man uncovered his face and introduced himself as a spokesman for the city's Sorcerer's Coven. He stated that either I, Hashem, join and submit to the Coven or I must turn around and leave. Of course I refused. Therefore a battle of cruel sorcery erupted.".

"In the next single minute, I dissolved three of the Coven including the uncloaked youth - before a series of deadly spells surrounded me. My body was doomed. Fortunately, I had acquired a great artefact (a ring that is a single solid piece of ruby) that protects the soul from destruction. As a consequence, while I collapsed into the harbour, a mangled heap, my soul entered the ring.". Hashem stated, "The first capable mind that touches the ring or my remains would be taken over by my soul. Unfortunately - as misfortune always strikes three times, an Easty Cat - which are famed for being more wiser than all other felines (and normally only found in the East), was prowling along the harbour front sniffing for fish and found and touched my body.". Hashem explained, "Now my body is a goner, it does not matter that it decays because if I can find the right ingredients I can create a new body for myself.".

"I eventually bit the finger off my old body and buried the ring for safe keeping. It has taken me three months to learn to live as a cat. Even without my staff and other implements, I am still able to cast my spells, albeit at diminished power. I have been roaming the streets looking for a party strong enough and willing to assist me. If they assist me, I will reward them handsomely.".

Hashem spoke of his offer. "Gentlemen and Lady here is my offer. If you accomplish each of the following tasks then to each party member I will give the following.

Find the three ingredients to turn me back into my original form

200 gold plus
a useful magical item

Find and return my property, four items

250 gold

Find and identify the remaining nine Coven members

100 gold

Kill each of the Coven members

50 gold for each

My offer is a total of 1000 gold plus the gaining of a magical item, to each one of you, if all these tasks are completed. Less depending on how you wish to help. I also offer my life long and undying gratitude for free.".

Hashem continues, "My missing items are as follows,

  • A plain wooden staff with rune carvings on it. The handle is shaped as a small manlike skull.
  • A chest made of black wood with silver trimming and a single rune above a pretend keyhole. Only my voice can open the chest so I am confident that it has not been opened.
  • A pouch containing 15 Eastern silver coins.
  • A birdcage with an ornamental jewel encrusted parrot in it.".

    "Now the Ibn-Fatwaani is still in town and that the crew and captain are quite professional pirates. I suspect that my chest is still on the ship. My chest contains one of the three essential items I need for my transformation back to my original self. The chest holds a sample of dry Demons blood. The other two items for the transformation are an Astrologers Crystal Ball and finally a fragment of Dragonbone.".

    Hashem left us for awhile while we discussed his request for our cooperation and for us to considered the possibilities. Hashem made it quite plain that he had sort the assistance of another group a week or two ago. They had refused his proposition and as it happened met an untimely and tragic end just a few days later. It was plain that Hashem's offer was of the type that you just don't refuse if you wanted to live just a little bit longer. We accepted Hashem's offer. Crayg Rydorsson pointed out that it would be best to hit the Ibn-Fatwaani while it was still in town and to worry about the rest of the items later. We really should get Hashem's chest from the Ibn-Fatwaani before she sailed beyond our meagre reach as who knows when she would be in Middleburg again.

     

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    (c) 1997 One Night in Middleburg Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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