XV Dark Wings Over Liberportus
IVNIVS XVI DCCCXCVII
Having pity on his friends in their hour of need, magistrate Magnus Larcius asks Lucius Aemilius Rufus, Gaius Severus Commodus, Etrusicus Superbus Invicti, and Titus Decius Pullox to investigate the curious drop in Liberportus' vagrant population. The Docks, the Aegrotatio, and Dracs End have all been scoured of beggars and no one seems to know the cause. Accepting the task of investigating they repeatedly run into dead ends. With sun setting and seemingly no one left to question they notice that every rooftop around them is crowded with birds. Gulls, crows, pigeons and sparrows silently watching them. As soon as they notice the birds the PCs are engulfed by the horrible flocks as the animals scratch and peck them to shreds. And as quickly as it began the birds end the attack and fly off towards parts unknown.
Feeling confused and overwhelmed they decide observation may be a better tactic and spy on on beggar whom they have bribed to remain stationary with wine. After some time of waiting the beggar is approached by a man in filthy, bird feces covered robes who sometimes walks and sometimes hops. The beggar and the man begin to leave but but the brave PCs demand that the robed figure halts. The robed figure, in turn, demands that the PCs disperse. It is then that Titus Decius Pullox notices that the roofs surrounding them have many hundreds of black crows perched on them, silently watching the proceedings. The PCs allow the robed figure to leave with the beggar in fear of their lives.
Day II (IVNIVS XVI)
Hearing his name in connection with birds, the PCs visit the merchant Annius Scribino who specializes in exotic birds. After Lucius and Titus purchase some pets for their wives and children they ask about any weird customers he may have had lately. Annius tells them of a man in filthy robes who squawked when excited and sold Annius II rare parrots for well under their market price. The man mentioned that he resided in the Warehouse District. With this information they leave the merchant but then are immediately confronted by Crippling Kephalos and his band of pugilist thugs. After Etrusicus gets savagely beaten, the PCs manage to kill off Kephalos' goons and subdue Kephalos himself. Some inneffectual torturing prompts Kephalos to exchange his employer's whereabouts in return for his life. This granted, Kephalos suggest they scour the Warehouse District where they eventually discover that a man matching the robed figure's description has recently rented a warehouse along the waterfront.
Having their knocks unanswered the PCs decide to break into the warehouse and are confronted by a huge falx wielding Dacian.
The Dacian slain, the scene is intruded upon by Tarqiun the last and his remaining subjects as well as a mysterious Egyptian and Dacian pair who seem just as confused about the scene as the PCs. Tarquin explains that he has been conducting his own investigations as to why the beggars have gone missing and came to the same conclusion as to the whereabouts of the kidnapper as the PCs. The Dacian introduces himself as Orolus Tagrius, a centurian from Dacia looking for an old friend of his father and the Egyptian introduces himself as Zahur Quaashie, a Egyptian scout from Legio II Adiutrix, friend and companion of Orolus. In the quarters of the mysterious robed man, whom the beggars have named "The Prophet", they find an old Greek text concerning itself with the strange topic of the servants of deities who, having failed their god, may restore themselves to the deity's favor. The man Orolus is looking for turns out to be Magnus Larcius who served with Orolus' father in Trajan's Dacian Wars. Tarquin, the PCs, Orolus, and Zahur all venture to Larcius' office to pool their efforts. Larcius, being told of the involvement of birdsm tells the story of a horrifying battle in northern Dacia and of the death of Orolus' father.
It was back in Trajan’s day, I was serving as a centurion in the Dacian campaign of 857. In the final days of the campaign I was left in charge of the small palisade surrounding the village of Ranisstorium. With my legionnaires I had native Dacian warriors sworn to Rome and led by Oroles of the Tagri who had by this time become a good friend of mine, we had fought side by side in countless battles.
It was in the very depths of winter the village that we were besieged by the Saldensi tribe. The Saldensi had turned their back on the traditional leader of the Dacian pantheon, Zalmoxis, in favor of some bird totem. The palisade kept out much of the Dacian horde but those inside those wooden walls we were under near constant assault by creatures of the air. Birds of all types flocked and tore at us wherever we went. At midnight, when the moon reached its zenith, a great bird-thing half crawled, half flew, over the walls and proceeded to tear us all apart. My legionnaires attacked but it was to little use. Seeing Oroles knocked unconscious, and myself disarmed in the fray, I took up Oroles’ falx and struck the winged Hades-beast a blow that very nearly took off one of its wings. The monstrosity knocked me through three walls, relieving me from consciousness.
I awoke to find that the legionnaires had repelled the rebel Dacians with minimal loss of Roman life. Our Dacian allies, however, had suffered heavy losses, including dear Oroles. Oroles himself was found in a deep puddle of black blood and feathers. Assumedly, this was all that remained of feathered abomination. With sorrow, I believed that my friend had died slaying the beast and keeping me alive.
I kept his falx as a memento of our friendship and now it appears that that very same falx may be the key to ending the very same abomination’s life.
Believing that the recreating will take place this very night deliberation begins on what must be done. After a solid hour of debate those assembled agree to destroy the falx and confront "The Prophet" at the docks where beggar reconnnaissance suggests the thing waits.
The PCs, Orolus and Zahur, and Tarquin and his court all assemble at the docks and wait until the moon reaches its zenith, when a great bird-thing crawls out from below the docks and does battle.
After the battle (which sees the death of the bird-thing as well as many beggar lives) Orolus thanks Larcius for the story of his father's death and returns to Dacia. Zahur decides to stay in Liberportus, horrified and intruiged by what he has seen in the battle and the PCs welcome him into their group.
Day III (IVNIVS XVII)
Upon returning from the collegium to his home Titus is terrified to see his exact duplicate in his home waiting for him. The double explains that he is K'Stalloss, returned to Liberportus once again and asks that he summon those who would oppose The Brotherhood of The Yellow Sign and gather them in the catacombs beneath the temple of Minerva in The Temple District.
The PCs, including Zahur, and Aggilius Hamatus and Lucius Plautus Varro gather round the serpent man and listen intently to his words.
The agents of the Unspeakable One are mustering across the empire. The cult thwarted in Liberportus VI years ago was just one of many. The rise of the cult of the Yellow Sign in Vestalanium is but another sign of the growing power of He Who Must Not Be Named. K'Stalloss knows of but one solution, the lost temple of Yig. In the temple there is an altar of Yig where one can speak to those who have become one with Yig. Antonius Hibernius Drac, leader of the cult in Liberportus, was devoured by Yig and thus may yet be reached to discover what he knows of the coming of Magnum Innominandum. The only catch is that the temple lies to the far south in an uncharted region of Africa, sometimes. K'Stalloss explains as best he can that the temple of Yig exists sometimes in that region and sometimes at other points in time and space. The temple will be at the Africa location in about two months time, giving the PCs about a month to prepare before they meet K'Stalloss in Alexandria.
The snake-man leaves the grim-faced humans behind him, leaving them to dread the coming trek to Africa and the future confrontation with the King in Yellow.