Tales of Arestia

She Stole His Heart

From the Journal of Sylvius Modesto

I need a bath. Preferably several.

There’s no rest for the wicked, it seems, as no sooner did we survive Tommen’s funeral (handily Tommen has three legitimate children, so I’m a few unfortunate circumstances away from any political relevance there) than mother warned me about going about in the blue lantern district, where four men had been butchered, among them my childhood friend and adulthood drinking buddy, Elio.

In addition to Elio (who was a magistrate), the other victims were the lumberjack cum mercenary Goren Oakenbane, the philosoper Phenorious, and Senator Tiberuius Catallus. There was no commonality to the victims save their location, and the fact that they could all be called attractive. They’d all disappeared in the district and all of their bodies had been found there, and they’d all had their hearts cut out and (according to the physicker’s records I requested from the watch) some had other organs removed as well.

I was already kind of seeing red when I heard the news so of course I immediately set about carousing in the district in an attempt to lure out the killer. Gandren Allandriel had pledged his support to me in future endeavors, so I contacted him. along with the crusading Brother Garret, who brought his cousin (brother? uncle?) Harken Burrow, and I invited Calina Kazanthi as well.

Our inquiries led us to an establishment known as The Silver Caress, where the proprietress and clientele were behaving very oddly. Eventually I spoke to the last courtesan to see Elio alive, a woman named Violet. The interview went swimmingly until the part where she admitted to murdering Elio to eat his heart because, (according to her “teacher,” “the heart’s flesh fills you with life”) and implying that she wanted my own as well. So I pummeled her unconscious and had a chat with the madam again.

Violet had mentioned a mentor of sorts named Saijo, and Gandren determined that he’d exerted some sort of demonic mystical influence over several of the prostitutes here. So we opted to stake the place out until he showed up. But according to Gandren, chances were the culprit was a shapeshifting tempter known as an incubus. Important to get these terms right.

So we were forced to rely on Garret‘s mystical senses and the demon’s ignorance of our involvement to identify him and track him down. This is, of course, where things began to go wrong.

Garret wanted to strike as soon as he showed his face, which would have been disastrous; not only was there a whole crowd the demon could disappear into, but also there was the fact that he could mentally influence any one of them to use as a human shield and extremely compliant hostage. We agreed (more or less) to wait until he was alone, but to assure that there’d be no interference, Harken decided to try and make himself the monster’s companion for the evening, but had to get into a slap-fight with a (probably infernally charmed) prostitute to do so, which nearly blew our cover.

The madam surreptitiously cleared the rooms near the demon’s and Harken’s, while Calina, Gandren, Garret, and myself slipped into the adjacent rooms to prepare. But Calina, for whatever reason, decided to bring along the boy-toy she and Harken had paid to split for the evening, a disturbingly boyish yet lascivious fellow named Flynn along for these preparations, as some sort of field trip. Thankfully, he stayed scares when the fighting began.

The battle was intense but brief. Between my sword (handily augmented by Gandren’s wizadry), Harken’s bow, Gandreb’s magic, Garret’s holy power, and Calina’s close-combat expertise, the demon didn’t stand much of a chance, although I did very briefly feel the profane thing worming its way into my feelings. I wonder how much wine it’ll take to wash that feeling away. I shudder now, thinking of it. We then collected the names of Saijo’s other “regulars” at the house of pleasure and made a full report to the watch.

It does seem odd to me that so many people directly connected to myself and my family keep dying. Why Tommen? Why Elio? This can’t be so common; if Senators always died this frequently mother would not have lived long enough to give birth to Amnestria, let alone raise her. Hells, if citizens died this frequently all the time, to cultists and demons as well as to disease and accident, the city would be a necropolis. Something is going on. Am I cursed? Is mother? Out whole family? Maybe Gandren could tell me.

In any case, the demon is banished back to whatever hell it came from, the four prostitutes who did the deed have been named and delivered to the watch, as have our statements. And now I’m going out in search of a hot bath and a rough-handed stable boy who’ll scour away the feeling of this thing’s mark upon me with a more honest kind of depravity.

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