Player Epilogue: X-Society
Bracorax, near The Maw
The nights grew darker with each passing year. Maybe it was that azure ring in the sky that changed the hue of the night sky or the quieter streets under curfew, but the shadows seemed longer beneath the flickering streetlamps, the sudden movement of a rabbit bounding between tree-grown homes more alarming. Fattus Cattus didn’t mind the strange atmosphere. It kept him sharp.
And he needed to be sharper than ever. Ever since the High Council had disbanded, there had been a sensation of breathlessness amidst the Isles. A feeling that the ground had been swallowed up beneath them. Who could they turn to? Leaders were few and far between. Those who had showed promise no longer had a place to develop their skills, wasted in small town bureaucracies and swallowed up by small time smuggling operations.
He wiped clean his diamond claws, leaning against a thickly-grown gingko tree that had been grown into an alchemist’s laboratory. Even without the foul berries, the sickly scent of potions wafted through open windows and made his stomach turn. Beside him, a bard with a red jacket and finely tuned lute strung behind his back crouched down and looked around the bend.
“Are you sure this is where the kenku is now?” asked Fattus.
Link held up a hand to motion him to silence and Fattus Cattus tried not to roll his eyes. Like anyone would be able to see him if he didn’t want them to. There was barely anyone on the streets as it was, the shaman-infested kenku city of Medamu famous for taking advantage of the night to do sacred rituals to their goddess, Sidastrea. Barely anyone was about.
But then they heard muttering and the rustle of paper scrolls crumpled in a large bag.
“Do this, Stamper. Do that. You used to be so good at taking notes, why don’t you go to Helvestia’s and sort out that library? Almost as important as the Dragonborn Archives, Stamper.” The overburdened kenku snapped his beak and shook a fist at the sky. “It’s a glorified pig sty! They don’t have scrolls there, just recipes for love potions and stink bombs…”
Link was out in the grass-laden path before Fattus Cattus had time to think about whether another library was worth the cost of firewood. The kenku startled, scrolls scattering from his arms.
“Let me get those,” said Link, his voice as smooth as an actor’s. “Must be important, for you to be sent so late past curfew.”
The kenku hesitated, then took the scrolls proffered by Link. “Not so important. Just library business.”
“Ah yes,” purred Link. “The library. Not much of an institution since that member of the Six cut off all the main heads and pretended to be them, right?”
The kenku swallowed as Fattus Cattus circled behind him, cutting off his escape. A naturally nervous fellow, it seemed. Usually Link would have them chatting amiably by now.
“He’s carrying the ledgers.” Fattus tossed a scroll over the kenku’s head at Link. He’d already scanned the contents. “Looks like some of the stuff Terriex has been smuggling.”
“N-no, it’s not that. Just library fines.”
Link opened the scroll and Fattus saw his usually cordial smile shift. His canines glinted.
“Who are you? What are you going to do with me?” asked the faltering kenku.
“Thirik Cartax,” Link bent low, yellow eyes shining, “How would you like to make your mark on the world?”
Summalt, of the Floating Isles
The gambling den’s air was clogged with incense. Snik liked the feel of the playing bones between his long, feline fingers before casting them across the long table. They clattered against the opposite end of the table and spun to a halt, two triangle markings facing upwards.
“Another take for the Tabaxi,” yelled the dealer. “Second round! Second round!”
A long-feathered aaracokra leaned over the table, some of the red make-up on her pale feathers shaking loose over the wooden tableboards, a pipe in one claw curling smokey tendrils with flowery perfume. “Need a lucky charm, kitty cat?”
Snik scanned the crowd and caught a glint of a long metal finger picking a different tabaxi’s pocket and tipped his hood over his ears and tapped at the dealer to take his winnings. “Not this round. Maybe next time.”
As he slipped through the crowds he kept his eyes downcast, making sure to not give any cues to the people around him that something had changed in the room. He counted out his chips and passed them under the window to get his coin, holding his breath with anticipation. Assassinating for money? That was easy. Playing the role of the distraction? Not so much.
He could feel the eyes of the guards on him as he left the basement of the inn and moved between the evening revellers eating and drinking as if the whole island around them wasn’t going to crash into the next mountain range at the next altitude drop. The Floating Isles would not be afloat much longer from what he could tell. Already they sat low in the clouds, a constant fog filling the streets with dewy air.
He turned a corner and crawled up a gutter to settle on the predetermined rooftop. He watched the people who had been tailing him scan the alleys, then meet in the middle of the street and give up hope. They wouldn’t be able to find him. And he wasn’t even the one they needed to be looking out for.
Behind him, a whirring, chopping noise cut through the air and a tiny goblin popped out from under the lip of the roof, a strange mechanical device strapped to his back. As he descended, Snik noted with approval the sleek, portable thopter design Klib had made after spending the past few years studying flight travel. The goblin touched down with a few deft controls and the whole thing snapped back into his backpack once he’d landed.
“Did you get them?”
Klib nodded. Without being directed, a spider-like mechanical creature with a round body and assorted limbs picked its way down the goblin’s arm and towards Snick. Hooked onto one of its limbs was a set of keys, each one more flamboyantly decorative than the last. Snick took the keys and flipped through the jewel-encrusted items, almost smiling.
“How many does that make it now?”
“Twenty-one master keys,” said Klib. “There are six more to go, by my best guess.”
“Is the old Leonin representative still one of them?”
“Looks so, but Fattus and Link are on the trail now. Once we have his accountant, we’ll be able to take over his operation right under his nose.”
Snik tried not to feel the glow of satisfaction take away his drive. They weren’t done yet. The master keys that represented the power of those who controlled the Black Market had taken years to uncover, steal, and make their own. The last few might be even harder. There was a reason why smuggling rings had survived so long under the High Council’s reign and it wasn’t because they were careless.
“What’s next, then? All this sneaking around innit much fun. I thought you said there’d be more fights, but so far all we’ve been doing is setting up secret meetings and blah blah blahing talk and stealing and other such nonsense.”
Now Snik couldn’t help the smile that itched at the corners of his mouth. “It seems X-Society will need a base, won’t it?”
The goblin cackled with glee, chanting with a vigorous fighting poem to himself while clapping with his metal spider. Letting himself settle into this brief victory, Snik felt his instincts honing him to the South, where the Unclaimed Isles awaited and the mysteries of their ancient ruins.
Yes. X-Society needed a home. And then Ritenus would have its masters once again.