From the Journal of Tang Zhen

Session 5

July 18, 5086, Dinas Mawr

With nearly half of the day still left to enjoy in the capitol, we left the inn and wandered the streets of the commercial district. Delyra learned the whereabouts of a fine tailor, and there commissioned a diminutive, open-backed dress suitable for nobility.

Tam and Pheldran spoke of going ghost hunting soon. The general sentiment among us is still unhurried toward this end. The conversation was interrupted when N-Guuk snarled, drew his axe, and raced into the alley whose entrance we were passing. From what we could see, a half-orc street gang was surrounding and merrily kicking something. We could not immediately determine the object of their abuse, for they were partly concealed from sight by a pile of crates stacked against the south wall of the alley.

I worry that N-Guuk's hatred of orcs has carried over toward their more civilized brethren; for his approach was fearsome even before he could know that the half-orcs were not, for example, kicking a tin can or a sack of fruit. As it turns out, his attack was justified, though his force excessive. The street gang had beaten two people into near unconsciousness. They had no weapons drawn until N-Guuk started swinging his axe at them from atop the lowest crate, whereupon they armed themselves with the large, well-used but sharpened axes they had slung at their sides.

The rest of us moved in. Pheldran and Delyra magically incapacitated several half-orcs. N-Guuk encouraged one or two, by way of extreme pain, to flee. The remaining two, suddenly realizing that they were alone in the battle, turned tail as well. I am gratified that we managed to save two people from the street gang, and to save the street gang from N-Guuk.

Delyra bound one that she had put to sleep, to question him under magical charm. Dunbarton spoke calmingly with three others whose magical blindness was just wearing off, as they staggered toward the far end of the alley. N-Guuk and his great axe interrogated another one. Tam and Jasper tended to the two battered humans (as we could now see them to be). The humans still had their money, so this was no robbery. The half-orcs' story was that the two snobby rich kids had made derisive comments about their poor attire, so the former had given the latter a beating to teach them a lesson. The humans, once Tam had healed them enough to speak comfortably, verified the story. Dunbarton also learned that the half-orcs were a team of lumberjacks enjoying their day off, and told them that he might return to hire them if and when he builds a house.

Jasper offered to have us escort the brothers back home; they accepted. On the way, they told us that one of them worked in their father's casino, the other in their uncle's restaurant. They led us to their house, on Maplewood Grove in the upscale, southeastern district. It was easily the grandest and most well-kept house on the block, with a wrought iron fence surrounding the yard. The servants made an honorable, if unsuccessful, attempt to hide their disapproval and mistrust upon seeing us with their young masters; their curiosity gave way to alarm at the brothers' bruises. They responded with gratitude and admiration when told of the rescue, and asked us to wait for a moment. They took the brothers inside, then shortly returned with the thanks of the master of the house and an invitation to dinner. We accepted.

With some hours until dinner, Jasper parted ways with us to learn the layout of the city from less than commonly accessible vantage points. Pheldran and I have some small prior experience with the capitol, as well. I will roughly present its layout here.

Dinas Mawr has no clear boundaries, but if you were to define them by the density of buildings or population, nearly any cutoff would describe an ellipse with the major axis along the north- south road that runs parallel to the river Prenwy. The southern border is especially unclear, for as I have noted, the road south is highly populated. The city is nestled in a strip of forest and cleared meadow between Prenwy and Y Mynyddau Gwawr.

Dinas Mawr is divided into four districts, or quarters. The northeast quarter is the seat of the city government, including the courthouse, barracks, and city hall. It is also holds a temple to Zadrinia, whose church holds more influence here than elsewhere. The goddess of community and safety (and children) is more comfortable at the heart of an empire than at its frontiers. It is a middle-class neighborhood.

The northwest quarter contains a series of slums, including a community of artists clustered vaguely near to a temple to Yilitrem, their patron deity. The Rationalist church also maintains a small temple there; it's followers are few but zealous. I have heard that they concentrate on the poor out of a belief that the rich are too complacent to think hard, but this could well be somebody else's uninformed guess. Several small specialty shops can be found here.

The southeast quarter is posh. It is populated by government officials (aside from the petty bureaucrats, who mostly live to the north), and the more wealthy merchant families (who likely have ties to the government).

The eastern half of the southwest quarter is largely a commercial district, dominated by the bazaar and surrounding shops. Many of the craftspeople and merchants make their home here. The temple to Drelinnor, patron of crafts, does well for itself on the main street two blocks north of the bazaar. Arus has a temple in this district as well. A farmer's market can be found at the northwestern corner of the quarter, just across the bridge.

The temple of Unil-Gal is built on a ridge outside of the east end of town, such that the rising sun on the equinox fills the center of the sunburst of Unil-Gal when seen from the center of town. A marble bench donated by the church sits at that exact point, as explained on a small plaque nearby. Painted below the plaque is a reminder to not look directly into the sun. More practically, the shadow of the sunburst is cast somewhere in the city at every clear sunrise.

The royal palace sits five miles west of Prenwy, well outside the city. The connecting road, maintained with earmarked highway funds but used only for royal business, is the loveliest in the kingdom, lined with flowerbeds and groves of carefully arranged trees.

We returned for dinner. Delyra left Nightshade in our host's yard to play with the children. Our host, Lucio Dericci, expressed his gratitude for saving his grandsons from the gang. He is in our debt, he said, and will be happy to return the favor any time we need one, be it within his power. We then sat to eat. Their cook was excellent; I have never had a better meal.

Before we had finished, a butler entered and whispered to our host, "Don Dericci, Eduard Polyakov is here to see you." Lucio excused himself on business reasons.

We had some after-dinner conversation, during which Dunbarton paid too much attention to Lucio's oldest granddaughter; she was put off by it. Our exit into the foyer prompted a surprised look from Mr. Polyakov; we bid Mr. Dericci goodbye, gave a nod to Mr. Polyakov, and left as they seated themselves and resumed their discussion.

We have returned to our inn for the night.

July 18, 5086, Dinas Mawr

We have just had a disturbance. Shortly after I finished the previous entry, six members of the city guard showed up and knocked on N-Guuk and Jasper's door. N-Guuk, half-dressed, opened the door and greeted them with an inquisitive grunt. "We are looking for Gareth D'Lyons," one said. N-Guuk answered with another grunt and gestured around the room. They saw nothing but an open window. "He's fled!" They raced down the stairs and outside. Jasper climbed back in from just beneath the sill. The guards shouted to each other outside as they dispersed. Their search has now fanned out beyond our hearing, so we may attempt now to sleep. I shall ask Jasper in the morning for an explanation.

July 19, 5086, Metro Gnome Inn

The city guard came back during breakfast. They spied us, and Jasper bolted up the stairs. As the guards ran into the dining area, Dunbarton jumped up and dove into the kitchen. Pheldran quickly followed Dunbarton. The rest of us sat and watched, dumbfounded, except for Delyra, who appeared to do the same, but quickly whispered, "Greasy grimy gopher guts" under her breath.

The first three guards lost their footing at the base of the stairs, collapsing in a heap, and three more ran into them. As they regained their feet, two of them made it up the stairs. "It's blocked!" one shouted down, "Check outside!"

"Is there a problem, Officers?" asked Tam.

Some of the guards raced for the front door. There was another explosion of muffled words from Delyra. They slid out on their backsides. "Who the hell cleans this place?" roared one.

Once the guards had established themselves as being in or out, one of them informed us that Lord D'Lyons has issued a warrant for the arrest of his son, our aquaintance, Gareth D'Lyons. Dunbarton, answering to the guards for running away, explained that he was "hiding from the guards". With unusual patience, they continued questioning, and asked him why. "I don't want to get arrested," he said. They offered him (and us) the option of turning "Gareth" in instead, for which there is a 30gp reward. Of course, we do not know him by that name, nor have we any idea where he might have gone, as we explained.

We were not arrested, but Tam and Pheldran accompanied a guard to the station to gather more information. The captain there, they said, thinks that this is a runaway case. Lord D'Lyons is a magistrate from one of the cities to the west.

Our group had not set a time and place to meet, but I remembered that Delyra still needed to pick up her dress, and so made my way to the tailor.

Delyra and N-Guuk spent some time in the bazaar. N-Guuk sold his axe, and Delyra used her powers of persuasion to help him get a good price. Later, on their way out of the tailor's shop with a new, dark blue dress on Delyra, they found me. They had gotten a note left there by Tam, who returned shortly with Pheldran. We waited a little longer, but saw neither Dunbarton nor Jasper. So we started walking north, in accordance with our original plan.

On the way, we noticed two guards following us. They shadowed us until we were outside the city, then turned back. We walked to the Metro Gnome Inn, which is the usual stopping point for travel between Dinas Mawr and Dinas Felin. We wait, hoping that Jasper will try to meet us here. N-Guuk says that he hopes we're rid of Dunbarton.

July 20, 5086, Metro Gnome Inn

Tam and Delyra are walking back to Dinas Mawr to seek more information. Delyra spoke in Gnomish to the barkeep on her way out; I was not aware that she knew the language.

July 20, 5086, Metro Gnome Inn

Jasper is here now. He had hidden atop the temple of Drelinnor all day, then crept north through the city and along the road. He has slept behind the Metro Gnome Inn all morning. In answer to our curiosity, he tells us that he is the victim of a case of mistaken identity: He looks quite akin to Gareth D'Lyons, whom he has never met.

Unfortunately, we now have to wait for Tam and Delyra to return.

July 20, 5086, Metro Gnome Inn

Tam and Delyra have returned, with Dunbarton in tow. The latter had walked south from Dinas Mawr for some time yesterday before discovering that the route to Dinas Felin lay north. He met the others today on the road north, while they were exchanging information on languages.

Evening approaches, so we will spend another night here before crossing into the Ystrad.

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