He arrived in Drache early in the morning on a ship that sailed from Antara-Ethcabar. Bags in hand, the fellow in commoner’s clothing disembarked and hurried to one of the dingy inns in the Wharf District to store his belongings in a rented room for a nominal fee. The room was quickly abandoned, however.
Whatever business this man came to Drache to do, he was in a hurry. His next destination was a chirurgeon whose name he got from an acquaintance. “Huixon will cut the mark from you - no questions asked,” he was told as he was given a slip of parchment with a scribbled down address and directions. Huixon wasn’t the most reputable chirurgeon, if his location in the Wharf District was any indicator. His clientele however were often on the run from something and willing to pay for the services of someone who would ignore all the caginess they bring. The chop shop isn’t in any storefront nor are there any signs to advertise his business. No, he simply has a room in his home that suffices for what he does.
The man from Antara thus arrived at a nondescript door with shaky hands holding a crumpled up slip of parchment. He squints down at the writing as he tries to flatten out the paper to read what sort of secret knock is necessary to gain access. Knock once, wait three counts, knock four more times, wait a beat, knock again. A shaky hand performs the code, but nothing was stated about how long he’d need to wait until he’s answered. Maybe Huixon isn’t home? Maybe Huixon stopped performing hack jobs on runaways long ago and his acquaintance gave him faulty info. Should he have come late at night? But it really wasn’t safe from him at night - no, this can’t be done at night. Thirty seconds felt like an hour, and the man from Anatara raised his hand to repeat the code - in case. The door creaked open before his knuckle could tap the wood again.
“Are you Huixon? I was told you could help me. I have this m-” Huixon lifts his hand in a “stop” gesture. “Not out here. You got money, yeah? Come inside.” Thus the man from Antara is led into a house with curtains drawn so just a little light trickles in. The door is shut and latches were locked. “Base price is 80 crown. You want a small mole removed from your face? 80 crown. And it goes up from there.”
Huixon is an unassuming man. He isn’t dressed like someone who may or may not assist criminals. His small house isn’t in disrepair or kept slovenly. Many neighbors actually have a rather good opinion of him as someone who helps locals and dock workers with injuries they get on their jobs. They didn’t know that the criminal underbelly basically subsidized their cheap care. The room into which Huixon leads the man from Antara is incredibly cleanly. Without windows, it’s well lit with oil lanterns. No blood splatters. No rusty knives on a dirty table. A cabinet is full of vials and small bottles - presumably of medicines, alchemical agents, and magic potions to assist his work. Huixon in fact took pride in his work, though his bedside manner can perhaps be gruff. The man from Antara clearly calmed as he entered this room. Surely, he was in good hands.
“This mark,” he said quietly as Huixon directed him to a chair, “is on my back, and I need it removed completely, thoroughly.” Before sitting, he untethered a pouch full of coins at his side and offered them to the chirurgeon. “Please.” Huixon took the pouch in his hand and gauged its weight with a couple lifts. “Take a seat then, and let’s see what I have to work with,” the chirurgeon says while he takes a peek into the pouch. There was a lot of gold in there. Huixon cleared his throat and hastily stuffed the pouch into a slightly too small pants pocket. The man from Antara sat backwards and hiked up his tunic to expose his back up to his shoulder blades.
The mark isn’t large and not complicated in appearance. In fact, it’s simply a long black bar that runs down the length and width of his spine from upper to mid-back. There wasn’t much flesh or muscle in this spot, so depending on how deep the black ink went removal might be tricky. Huixon had apparently not seen this exact mark before either. “What? Did you lose a bet?” The chirurgeon stood behind the fellow and leaned down. Fingers carefully touch the marking in an investigative manner before Huixon stood upright again. At the very least, he had removed tattoos before - just slice down into the dermis and do what’s necessary to avoid infection in the process. The process took a lot of trial and error, however, with many unsatisfactory results in the early days of his career.
“Y-you could say that,” responded the man from Antara as his chest relaxed against the back of the chair. “Can you do it? Can you remove it?” Huixon meandered over to the cabinet. “I will certainly do my best. First, I can’t have you screaming.” A bottle of milk of the poppy then was taken out and given to the man. “Drink this. It’ll dull the pain. It’ll be a moment before it takes effect,” which gave plenty of time to prepare. So while the man sat there, waiting to feel his mind get hazy and sensations lessen, Huixon went about collecting bottles and knives to place on a table he dragged over to his patient. Another chair in the room went behind the man with the mark. Huixon sat down, picked up one of the many bottles he brought over, and wiped the mark and the area around it with some kind of colloidal silver concoction. A small blade sharpened finely for thin slices, is then used to give the mark a test poke which drew a little blood.
Huixon leaned to look over at the man who gradually began to slouch and idly scratch at his skin. “Did you feel that?” The man’s drooping head suddenly lifted. “Huh?” Huixon took that as a no and with great care started cutting into the edges of the mark, with discerning eyes focused on making sure he wasn’t cutting too deep or too shallow.
On one hand, the room is well lit - but on the other, this caused sharp shadows cast by objects. The largest shadow is underneath the cabinet. Both the man with the mark and chirurgeon are too preoccupied to notice that shadows were creeping outward on the floor then up the wall behind them. It seemed to have a material presence as it spread silently. Soon whatever black substance this shadow became began billowing out. An oil lamp was engulfed, which caused the light level to immediately diminish. Huixon may have been quite focused on his task with the mark, but he has his wits about him. His brows knit and lips pursed as he noticed this change. He paused from cutting, retracted the blade, then sat upright as he twists his torso to look behind him where one of his oil lamps seems to have flickered out suddenly. The man with the mark is fully consumed by the effects of poppy and is dozing in and out of consciousness.
The shadowy material was over the entirety of the back wall, consumed furniture and equipment in front of it in inky blackness, and seemed to, yes, have a very material quality to it. A small yelp in shock and mild horror erupts from the chirurgeon. Huixon almost dropped the knife but recaptured it with a few cuts on his person along the way. he noise caused the man from Antara to stir and sit up a little to look over a shoulder at the chirurgeon.
At that moment a hand with claw-like nails and coal black skin reaches out and seems to pull back a black curtain as material shadow ruffles and pushes to the side of the room. But behind this curtain is more black, except it looked more like a gaping abyss. This hand was bound in cloth interlaced with silver string. Runic patterns on the cloth faintly shine in the light as it extended out into the room. More and more of the one who bore this hand was revealed as a figure stepped forward, pushing furniture out of the way in the process. Not very sneaky, but the abject terror experienced by the two men in the room was the goal. The woman - human in appearance other than the hand - in the room was a vision in her roguish apparel and armor, but not one of beauty. Shock white hair with a streak of black, eyes that shone like polished platinum, and pale skin marked by black that looked like dripping ink.
From behind this woman, the silhouette of another appears. This one, another woman, stayed in the back but crouched slightly and leaned to the side. Her movement looked like blowing a kiss towards the chirurgeon, but a directed puff of greenish smoke billows out from her hand and into Huixon’s terrified face with mouth gaping open. A brief inhale was enough to feel his lungs fill with burning. No screams came out as he choked, frothed at his mouth, and asphyxiated. He crumpled onto the floor, knife still in hand.
This was not the time to be doped up on milk of the poppy. Very clumsily, the man from Antara scrambled to stand with hand over his mouth at the sight of the smoke. He apparently knew what it was, but it hadn’t been meant for him. His hand retracted after the smoke dissipated and he backed himself into a corner of the room. Eyes dart to the door, but would there really be enough time to escape? With slurred speech he pled, “Pl-plleeease. Have mmercy. I’m, I’m trying to -- It’s too much to pay back.”
“A contract must be honored,” is all that the woman with the weird hand said before an amorphous pile of black with many swirling red eyes and many arms poured past her and the other woman behind her still in shadow. The man from Antara cowered back against the corner then made a last ditch attempt to flee towards the door. Hands grabbed an ankle and pulled him back, causing him to fall forward onto the ground with his momentum. More hands grabbed random parts of his body as this amorphous mass partially rolled over him then dragged him through the doorway into some abyss that led elsewhere.
Both women stepped to the side to let it pass. The one with the strange hand assessed the room briefly, namely the chirurgeon dead on the floor. “Collateral damage,” she mumbled as she finally steps out and around jostled furniture. Her platinum eyes immediately go to the medicine cabinet she pushed to the side. The silhouette of the other woman was already gone as she withdrew a dagger, used it to flick open one of the glass cabinet doors, then with the blade crashed them all onto the ground. Magic potions, alchemical agents, and medicinals all mixed together to form a mysterious noxious cloud. An alchemical accident - that’s all this was. Though the room was certainly left a mess as the woman with the weird hand crossed through the doorway and disappeared. The inky shadows that spread across the wall slink back. The oil lamps restore the room to its full light as the shadows withdraw then resume to normal beneath the cabinet.
Eventually Huixon’s neighbors would go to him to stitch up their wounds. When he didn’t answer the first, second, or third time, they assumed he was out of town. On the fourth try, a neighbor noticed the foul, familiar smell of death coming from inside the house. Perhaps this neighbor would get in trouble for it, but he busted down the door, searched through the house, and found Huixon dead in his small surgery room. He went to the Wharf District Guardhouse to report it right quick.
There was also the matter with the man from Antara’s belongings left in the dingy inn room. The staff at this establishment aren’t forgiving of patrons who don’t vacate their room after their allotted time paid is up. What was of significant value was quietly kept. Clothing was dumped outside in an alley. Out of morbid curiosity, the owner of the inn took a journal and began reading through it. The tale it wove was about a man in Antara-Ethcabar, named Oryan Daranek, who was given a loan on a bad business tip and ultimately was saddled with so much debt he could never pay it off, and the amount was only going to keep increasing with interest. Something about blood pacts, a mysterious bank that seems associated with a cult, corruption all around were detailed as well. Coupled with accounts about needing to escape or face consequences for breaking the contract, that this man wished for this journal to be passed on to someone who could help him should it be found in his absence, and that this man was now missing with all of his belongings left behind, the owner decided to turn that over to the guards. Maybe this is a missing person’s case. Or it’s just going to be a good read on a boring night for one of the guards.
Drache is the present-day capital of the Kingdom of Arangoth and lies at the mouth of the River Darian, surrounded by the city docks all along the waterfront. Click here for information on the various suburbs and areas of Drache. You can also click here to view a sketched map of the city.
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