The Age of Decadence ~ steam link ~ a game that stomps the idea of your typical heroic RPG character into the ground and spits on it. Then stomps on it again and does unsavoury things to its corpse.
There are plenty of warnings about said stomping on the store page, and it greets you again as you enter the game.
This is the tale of an unlucky assassin.
Guildmaster Neleos crooked a gnarled finger and beckoned. Assassin Kaelci lowered her hood, revealing her luscious crimson locks, and approached the ever-smiling man.
"Ah, Kaelci," Neleos' smile widened, showcasing his gleaming teeth. "There is a merchant causing trouble to the illustrious House Daratan. It is decided that you will be the instrument in removing this thorn. Ten gold now, a further forty upon your successful return."
"Only fifty?" Kaelci sneered. "My blade is worth far more than that."
"Tis an easy job. Consider it mere practice for later work this week. Things are happening, Kaelci; big things! You will see. The merchant is currently staying at the inn. Let's give the maids something to clean in the morning," he winked. "As he dies, tell him that his kind are not welcome here. Go."
Kaelci bowed her head, not out of respect but so the guildmaster wouldn't see the roll of her eyes, and backed out of the room. Fifty golden coins. Preposterous! Hopefully the merchant had a greater bounty on his corpse once she had dealt with him.
The sun's demise signaled her moment. She wiped a glimmering green poison across her dagger then swept over the rooftops until she found the tavern. Located in the heart of the city, any sounds she made would be inaudible over the drunken laughter and rowdy yells emanating from the bottom floor, and if she wasn't subtle enough, no-one would hear the man's screams.
She slid through the window, sidled up to a man immune to the noise below, sleeping as soundly as the dead he would soon become, and she jammed her poisoned dagger into his ribcage.
"Your kind are not welcome here," she hissed as he breathed his last.
"Uhhh, who are you?"
There was a guard by the door. He slowly rose to his feet and reached for his sword. Kaelci placed a hand on her hip and smirked.
"I was only recruited to kill one, but I'd gladly be paid for two. Do you wish my dagger in your throat?"
"Er, no. No, thank you. This guy was a bit of a douche, anyway."
He shrugged and moved his hand away from the sword.
"Wonderful," Kaelci nodded at a nearby chest. "Want to open that thing up? Share it, fifty fifty?"
The guard shrugged again.
"Not much in there, assassin. The merchant was going to deliver a map to House Aurelian. Take it."
"A map?" Kaelci raised an eyebrow. "Interesting."
Rifling through the dead man's pockets, she retrieved a small purse of forty coins and a delicate silver key which matched the chest's lock. It was at the guard said; nothing except an unintelligble scrap of parchment lay within. She took it anyway. Perhaps the map led to an ancient treasure. Perhaps the local Loremasters could decipher the strange language scrawled over it.
"May your next client be less of a douche," Kaelci smiled and slid out the window, leaving the guard to deal with his client's remains.
When the sun touched the sky once more, Kaelci waited for Feng's to open. Feng was an ancient Loremaster who had established himself in town several years ago and was known to be a bit of a charlatan, but he was cheap and Kaelci was no fool. She was get the answers she desired -- this map would lead to great riches.
The door opened and a thin arm motioned for her to enter.
"Ah, yes, come in, come in," Feng's gaunt face grinned. "What can I do for a member of the guild?"
"I found a map," Kaelci whipped out the parchment. "It's covered in strange runes that I hoped you could decipher."
"Ah, but of course."
Feng took the parchment in his twig-like fingers, cast a quick eye over it, then stumbled back.
"By the great God of the Sky! This... this map..." he paused, his dark eyes flashing with an ill-concealed humour, then grinned widely. "I do, in fact, know all about this map and the runes that adorn it. Do something for me, and I'll tell you everything."
Kaelci narrowed her eyes.
"No tricks, Loremaster. The map."
"Yes, yes," Feng waved a hurried hand. "You're of the guild! I have a job for you! I will reward you with both coin... and the knowledge you seek. There's a new Loremaster in town. I'm too old to deal with one who dares usurp my place. Take care of him for me and I will be pleased, you will see. He's at the inn, waiting to be escorted to House Daratan."
"I will be back soon," Kaelci glared at the shifty Loremaster and hurried to the inn.
The new Loremaster was waiting by a filthy table, his impatience radiating from him like the heat from the sun. Kaelci wasted no time and approached the man.
"Come, House Daratan is expecting you."
"About bloody time."
Kaelci smiled but said no more, then led the new Loremaster to a dilapidated shack.
"What is the meaning of this?" he shouted.
"Be quiet," Kaelci hissed, releasing a crossbow bolt into his throat. "Loremaster Feng sends his regards."
Stripping the deceased Loremaster of his worldly goods, Kaelci returned to Feng and smiled.
"Your position as Loremaster is safe. Now, I believe you have some information for me in regards to a certain map."
"Oh, but of course, young assassin," Feng clapped his hands and jumped up and down in the spot, almost too spritely for his age. "Fifty coins for your trouble. Now, the map --the map!" he grinned. "Oh, dear assassin. You have no idea the treasure you have discovered! It's old. Ancient. Vast wealth awaits!"
His eyes widened. Spinning around, he dragged out a dusty old trunk from beneath the counter and rummaged through it, throwing around bits of yellowing paper and assorted debris.
"A-ha!" he exclaimed, whipping out a golden trinket with a vibrant sapphire in the centre. "This eye amulet will help you. I found this thing years ago but had no use for it, but you, for you, dear assassin! I am so excited for you. Your map leads to a great treasure that this amulet will glow as you near. Take it. One hundred coins. A bargain! When you find your treasure, I want it back."
"Will you give me back the coin?" Kaelci smirked.
"The treasure you will find is worth far more than this tiny trinket!" Feng stood aback. "One hundred golden coins, for its safe keeping. I want it back."
"Ugh, fine," Kaelci thrust all the coins she had recently earnt into Feng's palm and took the golden trinket. Feng watched her pocket the trinket with a small sadness radiating from him, then shook himself clear of the emotion.
"Come back tomorrow morning. The map will be completely deciphered and ready for you."
"Thank you," Kaelci returned her emptied coin purse to her pocket and sighed, then returned to the guild. Guildmaster Neleos would want to know what had happened, and she still had payment to receive.
"Kaelci, dear Kaelci!" the Guildmaster grinned. "You are just in time for a very important meeting."
"Hold on!" she interrupted. "I dealt with the merchant, I believe you owe me forty coins."
"Of course, of course," Neleos' grinned further. "Here you are. Now! To business." He ushered her into the next room where the other guildmembers congregated, ready for their meeting. "There are some fine people in this town who absolutely require a good killing. These deaths make life easier for House Daratan who, as you all know, we serve loyally. If they need someone dead, then they shall die."
His eyes snapped to Kaelci's.
"You all have your jobs. You, Kaelci, two Aurelian spies are lying in wait in a small shack. Kill them both."
Kaelci raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms.
"Two spies? I will get paid for both, correct?"
"Of course, of course! Now, go. You're wasting daylight."
Kaelci once again bowed her head, not out of respect but to hide her blatant disrespect for the guildmaster, then hurried out of the guild headquarters.
The small shack Neleos had referred to wasn't exactly obvious but after hovering around several of the dilapidated buildings, she intuited that the spies she had been sent after were hiding in the most ruinous of all. She whipped open the door and barged inside. Only to be greeted by a sickly old man and what appeared to be his daughter, tending to him.
"Wh-what do you want?" the girl stuttered, fearfully leaping back.
Kaelci narrowed her eyes. This had to be the right shack. This had to be a farce. They would die.
"I have come for your Aurelian blood!" she screeched.
The sickly old man leapt out of the bed and brandished a dagger, now appearing as frail as a sturdy ox.
"I don't think so," he sneered.
Kaelci dodged his flurry of attacks and thrust her own dagger at him, grateful that the weapon was still poisoned from her earlier altercation with the merchant. A crossbow bolt whizzed past her head but another hit her in the leg.
"Ouch!" she yelled. In a blood rage, she stabbed at the old man with a hundred dizzying attacks until he fell to the floor in a puddle of his own blood, then closed the distance to the crossbow wielding girl. "Your turn, wench."
The girl's blood pooled into that of the old man's and she, too, slid to the ground, embraced by death.
Kaelci ripped the bottom of her cloak and wrapped it around her leg in a makeshift bandage. She'd need to get a guild-mate to pull out the bolt later, but for now, she had to find whatever notes the spies had hidden away.
She began searching the tiny shack when the door creaked open. In the entryway stood a dirty old beggar, yet his demeanour was that of a soldier. His eyes met hers and his hand automatically reached for a weapon that was not there, then he shrugged.
"You have me at a disadvantage, guild member," he smiled. "These people belonged to my house. They had paperwork for me. Join me, find the parchment, and House Aurelian will reward you well."
"Never!" Kaelci leapt at the newcomer with her poisoned blade and thrust it into his throat, then resumed her search for the notes.
In the corner of the shack the floorboards were rotting and were covered in slimy insects; a cunning place to hide something, Kaelci thought to herself. Ripping open the floor, she retrieved a small wooden chest from the grasp of a million bugs and found a pile of putrid notes inside.
Guildmaster Neleos would be pleased. Maybe she'd even get paid for the removal of this third person, she grinned to herself.
With parchment in hand, she returned to the guild and informed Neleos of her success.
"Fantastic," he laughed, rummaging through a drawer for her reward. "Don't spend it all in one place!"
Kaelci clutched the coins and grinned a smile as wide as Neleos'.
"I'll spend it however I wish, old man!" she winked, and sashayed out the door towards the markets.
Kaelci pondered over the many stalls in the marketplace before deciding who to visit. Many stalls had food, others potions and rarities, and a couple of them had fine garments.
Some fine garments could be just what she needed to further her secret goals to one day be the best assassin in all the land. No-one would suspect the woman who looked like a noble.
Parading over to the nearest clothier, Kaelci thrust some golden coins on the table and demanded the woman's finest clothes.
"Yes, of course!" the young girl grinned. "A crimson cloak befitting only the richest nobleman, and a finely embellished purple dress. Purple is the colour of royalty, you know. No one would dare mistake you for a commoner whilst wearing my wonderful creations."
"Perfect," purred Kaelci. Grabbing the items from the clothier's hands, she got dressed in the middle of the street. No-one bat an eyelid. Except for a thief who hid in nearby shadows, watching.
"Thank you!" he cried, rushing past Kaelci and grabbing her still-weighty coin purse.
Kaelci ran after the thief, hoisting her crossbow as she chased the agile boy. Shooting him in the leg to slow him down, she caught up to him and demanded her money back. Instead, he yelled for a nearby guard.
"Help! This crazy woman is trying to steal my money!"
"Is that so?"
A burly guard appeared and glared down at Kaelci.
"Actually, I was getting my money back from this thief," she calmly explained.
"A likely story," the guard snorted. "You're under arrest."
"Excuse me?" Kaelci put a hand on her hip. "I am Kaelci, noblewoman of the realm and renowned guild-member. How dare you threaten me."
"I'll do more than threaten you," he leered.
Without thinking, Kaelci aimed her crossbow at the guard and shot him in the neck. The thief dropped her purse and stuttered, "H-here. Take it back. You're crazy. Crazy!" and scampered away.
With her purse safely back in her pocket, Kaelci hurried back to the guild headquarters lest someone else dared accost her, but it was too late. Another group of guards rounded the corner and descended upon her.
"We know what you did, guild-member," they sneered. "None of us liked that guard, but show a little discretion!"
The head guardmember unsheathed his sword and brandished it at her.
"I'll give you a choice, little girl. Pay us two hundred golden coins and we'll let this little incident slide, pay us with your body, or leave this town forever."
Not wanting to part with her gold or allow these thugs the use of her body, Kaelci held her head high and said, "I'll take my leave. Good day, sir."
The group stepped towards her and she stepped away, only turning her back to the leering guards when a caravan was by her side. She quickly jumped atop and clung for dear life. Wherever it went, so would she. Curse that rotten thief for ruining her life in this city, she would have to become a renowned assassin elsewhere.
When the caravan finally stopped, Kaelci was in a strange land so very far from whence she had come. Where once there were vibrant green trees and lush grasses, now there was only sand as far as the eye could see.
Not trusting her noble attire lest she appeared ripe for another thief, she quickly changed back into her assassin garb and walked the streets. No-one wanted to talk to a stranger from another land. No-one offered her work. There was nothing she could do.
Sighing, she slunk into a tavern seat and ordered a beer, then watched these strange new people.
There was an altercation in the back corner of the dry and dusty tavern, three men on one, it was not fair.
Normally she wouldn't have cared about such a thing, but she was desperate to find renown in this new sandy city and what better way than saving some poor fool from certain death. Draining her mug, she followed them into a dark alleyway.
"Unleash that man!" Kaelci yelled, stepping out of the shadows.
"Who the fuck are you?" one of the men shouted back. "This is none of your business, girlie. Go on, get out of here!"
"I'm making it my business," Kaelci glared, whipping out her poison-tipped dagger. "Now free that man or else."
"Or else what?" another man laughed.
"Or else this!" Kaelci threw her dagger. It rotated several times through the air then landed in the man's neck. He fell to the ground and while the rest of his group stood stunned, she extricated her dagger and brandished it at the two remaining men. "Who's next?"
One of the men spat on the ground and raised his shield.
"Come on, bitch. Try it. Just try it."
Kaelci's eyes widened. None of the people she had fought in her old city had shields. She wasn't prepared for their blocking. They were too skilled.
She took a step back, but they closed in the distance and wailed on her with their studded maces. Kaelci had met her end.
Thank you for stopping by! 😊