In the conclusion to our Sharn Citydark series -- or is it a conclusion? -- gentleman rogue Ashford Terra leads his team to confront the leadership of the Citydark Hunting Guild. This vile consortium, led by the fallen paladin Lantana Jorgens, arranges for dilettante Brelish "soldiers" -- powerful politicians and administrators within Sharn -- to relive the Last War by hunting Cyran refugees in killing grounds below the City of Towers. But as Ashford soon discovers, still more shades of darkness wait to be dispelled.
Far, 20 Aryth, 998 YK
From: Ashford Terra
To: Provost Tal d'Archer, Morgrave University
archival reference code 1026-F: delivered ink-on-vellum, magically sealed and encoded
I write you from the grim wards of a House Jorasco infirmary, the exact location of which I prefer to keep undeclared in this missive. Please make contact via our usual channels. I am unsure of the extent of this conspiracy, and matters have become considerably more complex, as you shall see.
Our mission to uncover the true leadership of the foul Hunting Guild has failed. When last we corresponded, our small party prepared to delve deeper into the hermetic tunnels beneath the Dura Quarter Depths. The rescue party consisted of myself, the druid Cairn, and our stalwart allies -- the dwarf Carnaby Goebb and his warforged companion Tok. Our objective -- to liberate the remaining Cyran prisoners and bring their captors to justice or to the sword.
We explored the tunnel network slowly and carefully, for much of the night and into the morning. Cairn readily detected many tracks despite conspicuous attempts to obscure and remove evidence. As we suspected, the killing ground labyrinth had been sealed off from the surrounding warrens and Cogs facilities. Many of the passageways and holding cells were renovated from old municipal sewers, some predating modern Sharn. In one apparently overlooked alcove, we found several papers which may identify Hunting Guild members. They are included here, along with a rough map of the tunnels. If your Morgrave scholars can break the wards and codes, we may be able to ascertain the true dimensions of the conspiracy.
We also discovered, after some backtracking, an illusory wall in the northernmost chamber concealing a sloping, rough-hewn passage leading into darkness. We followed this for perhaps an hour when the tunnel opened, revealing a massive underground lake. There we beheld a horror -- the remaining Cyran captives, dead and piled grotesquely at the edge of the fetid waters.
Events transpired very quickly after that. The water of the underground lake began to bubble and boil, and Carnaby went suddenly rigid. He turned to me and spoke with a voice that was not his own: "You cannot defeat me. I am old beyond your reckoning, powerful beyond your ken."
In a flash, two massive tentacles burst forth from the water, seizing our warforged companion Tok and dragging him into the lake. In the same instant, I was assailed by a powerful, malign presence in my own mind. I fell prone as the alien entity assaulted my thoughts and senses. Carnaby raised his axe, confusion and pain in his eyes.
Beside me, Cairn hissed, "Aboleth!" He pulled me to my feet and pushed me toward the tunnel. "Flee, Ashford! I alone must confront this one!" A third tentacle thrust forth from the water then, sending me sprawling down the tunnel and covering me in a viscous, acidic slime. Overcome with an alien fear, I fled, chancing one last glimpse toward the water's edge. A most remarkable sight, as Cairn morphed into a giant octopus and slid into the lake to battle the aberration.
To my shame, this is all I am able to report. I know not the fate of my three companions left below. The aboleth's attack has left me afflicted with a most debilitating malady -- my flesh has decayed into a thin, translucent membrane. The Jorasco physicians are keeping me submerged in a healing solution, but until they can overcome the disease, I am helpless.
Please advise at once. Whether Jorgens and the Hunting Guild are in league with the aberration, or perhaps in thrall to it, I cannot say. But I intend to rejoin my companions. Or failing that, to avenge them -- and the fallen Cyrans.
Organization: The Citydark Hunting Guild
In the final years of the Last War, Cyre and Breland squared off in a brutal war of attrition, with each side taking devastating losses. One particularly bloody engagement was the Battle of Gehan's Valley, in which an entire regiment of Brelish soldiers was lost. The military leader of that lost regiment, the human paladin Lantana Jorgens, escaped death but went mad with grief and rage, falling from grace and becoming a feared blackguard.
Jorgens eventually returned to Sharn, his physical appearance radically altered by unknown means, and assumed a new identity as a wealthy art dealer from Zilargo. While maintaining this guise, Jorgens founded the organization that has come to be known as the Citydark Hunting Guild. Recruiting like-minded individuals -- former Brelish military officers unwilling to embrace peace -- he initiated his own mad continuation of the war. Jorgens excavated a "hunting ground" beneath the Dura Quarter in Sharn, adapting unused tunnel networks and sealing off the labyrinth from other passages in the Depths and the Cogs. His rage curdled into an unholy obsession, Jorgens kidnapped dozens of Cyran refugees, setting them loose in the tunnels to be hunted down and executed in a twisted perversion of battle.
Jorgens has since found a growing clientele willing to pay for the privilege of hunting unarmed Cyrans for sport. In fact, the Citydark Hunting Guild has become the ultimate thrill for certain decadent and cruel aristocrats in Sharn. As his operation has grown, so has Jorgens' madness. He now barters with the Cults of the Dragon Below to expand his underground territory and has recently begun trafficking with powerful aberrations deep below the city. His lieutenants, seeking new prey for the clientele, have expanded their efforts, abducting not just Cyrans but many other innocents from Sharn's desperate lower classes.
About the Author
Glenn McDonald is a freelance writer and game designer in lovely Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He writes about games, film, technology, pop culture, shady characters, conflicted heroes, strange and terrible magic, and shadowy fantasy noir intrigue. Not all at the same time.