Will of the Helm, Part I: Unrest in the Underbelly
In the early days of Midsummer in 506MA, the Free City of Delve experienced the beginnings of great unrest. Caught in conflict with three rival gangs, the Brass Jackals were beset on all sides by territorial aggression. This chaos within the Underbelly did not go unnoticed by citizens of Sapience’s city-states, individuals from all across the continent venturing forth to investigate the violence for themselves. Each and every visitor, however, ran into the same blockade: there was not a soul willing to guide them into the darkened reaches beneath Delve.
Though many were persistent in their questioning and bribery of the locals, it was Qelres Misi and Mjoll Seirath who found the first material lead. While most urchins of the Exchange were unwilling to speak even a single word, one brave boy brokered a deal to divulge a few scant details. For the low, low price of twenty-five thousand gold sovereigns, he explained to the imperial pair that there were several ways into the Underbelly, but went into greater detail about the one he often used in the Docklands. Jump off the pier at just the right angle, he claimed, and they would be washed beneath waves and taken into Delve’s insidious underworld. After myriad attempts to utilize this information, the pair concluded that they had been duped – much to the amusement of Grand Crusader Benedicto Silverain. The two promptly returned to the Exchange to visit their wrath upon the urchin and all of his friends in clear sight of Lenoriel Ali’vani-Ourborian, who had come to check on the safety of the market’s young cutpurses.
As aggressions escalated, a trio comprised of Linne of the Conclave of Magic, the Titan Kurak, and the quick-witted Achlos took to the streets of Delve to conduct their own search. As Linne questioned the locals, the Hand of the Earthen Lord found itself in an altercation with the Ecclesiarchy that resulted in an exchange of shouted rhetoric, a chase all the way across the city, and the subsequent imprisonment of the Archivium’s Curator. When she was released from the custody of the guards, the three happened upon a street urchin willing to speak. With the help of Achlos’ diplomatic wiles, the pickpocket divulged the same information his compatriot had, insisting that the Docklands were the easiest way to slip into the Underbelly. Though the party made myriad attempts to access the ruined structures beneath Delve, all turned up the same results: failure.
Whilst Sapient adventurers continued to search high and low for an entry point, the warfare beneath the city streets only grew more insistent and vicious. Citizens and merchants alike raised complaint each day leading up to the 22nd of Midsummer, when the violence came to a terrible, ominous head. Screams of the dying echoed throughout the city, drifting up from sewer grates and from beneath temple floors and basement tiles, terrorizing the citizens as gang warfare reached a fever pitch.
As guards and officials hurried toward the source of the disturbances, four theurgists from the Old City emerged from the Underbelly and made their way to the Military Complex, their visages cowled beneath hoods of sable cloth. With the guards and citizenry distracted, the cultists gained access to the Twilight Cavern that housed the great eld’akathi, Aiillassa. As one, they cast aside their disguises and brandished strange implements with their ill intent, the caverns cut off from the outside to prevent interference with their dark agenda. With one of these devices, speculated to be of Drakkenmont origin, they kindled a vortex of fell power, the eldritch energy harnessed for the purposes of a terrible rite.
Once the sinister ritual neared its zenith, the cult gave their lives as the final fuel to catalyze the wicked sorcery. A cloying web of magical malfeasance snared Aiillassa the moment the four expired, agonizing the great Eld of the Twilight with the gathered energy of fanatical design. Struggle though the primal eld’akathi did, its radiant lights guttered out one by one as the empowered artifact leached it of all life and energy, snuffing out its existence with a final, chilling cry. The deathknell of the Twilit eld’akathi was alike to countless chimes caught in a dark tempest, the terrible lament spanning all of Albedos in a sad, tormented refrain.[[The Grand Library would like to remind readers that, following the end of the dreikathi invasion, enterprising Sapient adventurers managed to commandeer an airship and give chase to the fleeing Dreikathi. Following their crash landing on the shores of Delve and communication issues with the locals, Aiillassa touched the minds of all Sapients and granted them knowledge of the Albedi language. It also established a portal to the Siroccians so that the wayward adventurers would not be stranded in foreign lands. The eld’akathi was responsible for maintaining that portal, plus the embassy portals, and is largely lauded as the influence that had kept Delve protected for centuries.]]
Kull Ervenn, Prelate of the Helm, was swift to arrive upon the scene, with Lord Provost Wahelei hot on his heels. Whipped into a righteous outrage by the audacity of the cultists and their criminal benefactors, the Provost called for the heads of each and every thug that dwells within the Free City’s unsavory Underbelly even as his fellow was a calm, if despondent, counterbalance. Though he agreed with Wahelei’s doomsaying, Kull held fast to his faith in the Helm. The Prelate made mention of a newborn eld’akathi that must be found, claiming that it would reveal itself as per ancient mandate. Kull calmly conveyed to the gathered Sapient crowd and his Utari compatriot that there would always be eight eld’akathi, no more or no less, and the aged Caentoi hinted that the eld’akathi served an orderly purpose that required their constant existence.
Content with this information, the Lord Provost returned to the task of ridding the Underbelly of its warring gangs once and for all. The incensed Utari called for the Ecclesiarchy to prepare to invade the tunnels and shanty towns, his tirade only interrupted by the emergence of two representatives of Delve’s three most prominent gangs – Cythris the Red and Azra the Torrid. In a rare show of gang unity, the two hauled up a battered Caentoi from a sewer grate in the Pious Ward and made haste to present the prisoner to the Prelate and Provost alike. Much like the urchins of the Exchange, the two veteran vandals offered the officials of Delve a deal: they would hand over Adesot, the Brass Jackal kingpin, in exchange for assurance that the Provost would not bring the Ecclesiarchy into the Underbelly to raid their territory. Begrudgingly, Wahelei accepted this bargain, Cythris’ pressures in particular holding his attention. The Utari stressed that he would only consent under the condition that he could see to routing the cultists that still remained within the abandoned railway tunnels under the city. In the face of pressure from outlander jeering and agitated Ecclesiarch guards, the two thugs swiftly offered their agreement and departed in the best interests of their own safety, leaving the Lord Provost with a need to revise his plans.
It was then that genius struck the worried Utari.
“You outsiders are always looking for work, no? We have ways into the Underbelly. Would any of you be brave enough to go toe to toe with these foul ritualists?” the Provost inquired of the gathered Sapient crowd. Eager to finally see the unsavory places of the Free City, many gathered adventurers immediately offered their assistance. In the face of crowd enthusiasm, the Provost personally escorted interested parties to an abandoned alley in the Exchange, where an entryway into the city’s abandoned places was finally made evident.
As adventurers hastened to descend into the dark depths and explore, Prelate Kull meditated in the Twilight Cavern while the Provost began to make preparations for the fallout the Eld’akathi’s absence would certainly bring…
Penned by my hand on Kinsday, the 23rd of Midsummer, in the year 506 MA.
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