Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Bad News

Sot-sirc is in Zethul.

I had originally thought to end this letter with that statement. He is here. At least, I think Sot-sirc is a "he," but he might be "she." No one knows who he is or what he looks like. No one meets him. He shows up somewhere, does "a job," and then is gone. The only evidence that he's ever been in a kingdom is that things have changed. It's almost never for the best.

If he (I'm going to refer to Sot-sirc as a male, if for no other reason than because I give most females I've known too much intellectual credit to be this devious) comes to a kingdom, it's not usually for violent reasons. He's not an assassin -- far from it. Not to say that he can't handle himself in a fight. There's probably a reason nobody alive can identify him, when in a land this big, someone has to have seen his face at some point. But he doesn't broker in death. He brokers in information, and he has a knack for obtaining anything anyone wants. If it can be known, he can find it out.

Nobody knows all the channels he uses. He uses them as well as anyone, though. He has contacts in every corner of the underworld. The Ganglords pay him double what they pay any of their local agents without thinking twice. He's gathered data for High Priests and, recently, for the King himself.

Or at least, that's how the rumors go. Depending on whom you believe, at any point in time he might be at any three places in the world. And whether or not he's there, things happen. Local governments fall. Politicians and leaders of business take early retirements and move far, far away. One merchant house rises to the top while its competitors fall by the wayside, one at a time. Rogues and thrill-seekers and sages all turn to Sot-sirc when they're in need of better means with which to do their jobs. He has something to offer everyone.

Having him show up anywhere is a sign that something big is about to happen. Things are going to change in unpredictable ways. And, most likely, he'll have something to do with them.

That's all pretty general, though. Here's a story that may help you understand exactly what it means to have Sot-sirc nearby.

Fifteen years ago -- give or take -- someone started querying sagacious back-channels. If you know where to look, there are all sorts of questions being asked. Questions like, Where is Dark Lord Krev Bankyat's crypt? Or, Does the Life-drinker Sword wielded by Bor-Kal Vuluk the Sorcerer at the battle of Ruusan still exist? Or even questions that don't involve magic-users, but let's face it -- that's what everybody wants to know about.

That was the case here, too. Somebody had stumbled across a reference to some artifact or other, some sort of powerful magic-doo-dad, and wanted to find out where it was. There was a little on it in the Holy Royal Library archives, but let's just say that the person looking for the information was not a Knight Templar. So getting there was going to take some powerful manipulating of people who aren't so easily manipulated.

It wasn't going to be enough, though. Because for all the Priests knew about this artifact, they didn't know where it was, and they knew only a little about where it had been or what it had done. There are thousands of such objects, creations with important, indistinct pasts that have been locked away from the world, all but forgotten. Some of them stay that way -- hidden, forgotten. This one didn't.

The trail for this particular object led to Zethul, where it ended. The client made it this far, but no further, and settled in. Searching. Waiting. Searching some more. After several fruitless, frustrating years, he made the queries that brought him in contact with Sot-sirc. That was the first time Sot-sirc came to Zethul.

Within a year, Sot-sirc had completed his research and was gone again, leaving the client to find that which he sought. And he found it.

If you were in Zethul when that object was found, you know it. That was when we stopped being. The artifact is called the "darkstaff." The High Priests don't want us to know about it, but that thing -- it's what took us out of our lives for years. Picked us up and dropped us back down in the middle of a war we never asked for. Sot-sirc helped Len Markus -- that's right, Len Markus, the late Nirama's former associate -- find an artifact of unholy evil that could have killed us all.

Now he's back. Sot-sirc has returned to Zethul. And I don't know about the rest of you, but after what happened the last time he visited, I'd just as soon he left again as quickly as possible.

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