In accordance with your negotiated agreement with Aisling of Shatterdown, known locally as the Scarlet Princess, I have prepared this report during the first month of my visit and participation in her governance, as a member of her inner council. For the sake of convenience, as well as in recognition of my own limited powers of grammatical innovation, I will refer to Aisling’s rulership as though it were a legitimate government, with the understanding that this report as well as other forms of evidence will inform the judgement of our Order on this matter.
I have chosen to compile this report as I experience the city and send it at the end of the month. I will, of course, accept any instructions to the contrary.
The Princedom of Shatterdown has, broadly speaking, three categories of residents. Most of its inhabitants are simply citizens, who act with deference to Aisling. The city has some of the expected problems, though the amount of homelessness and starvation is shockingly low, and the streets remain mostly peaceful. The citizenry has nothing but kind words about Aisling, and respectfully refer to her as ‘Your Highness’, as well as using her chosen titles for her inner circle. Aisling commands respect where she goes but seems, by all accounts, a just and fair ruler. She holds court each day between seven and noon, on her “throne” at the Protection Racket. The seat itself is a barstool that has been covered in glitter and is treated with absolute respect by all involved.
Aisling’s direct servants are her Rabble, which form a combination of militia and lawkeeping force. Aisling’s Rabble identify themselves through the use of her sigil branded or tattooed on their bodies, and the penalties for impersonating the Rabble are deceptively severe – any caught passing themselves off as her servant are pressed into legitimate service. The Rabble are a volunteer force and contain surprisingly little dedicated soldiers. Indeed, most of the Rabble work at the Racket or serve in Sybil’s hospital, with the rest watching the streets or making themselves available to citizenry. They treat me with polite respect.
Aisling’s inner circle are her Scum, and her insistence on referring to herself as the Princess of Rabble and Scum annoys me in the extreme. There are only four Scum aside from myself, and all are referred to solely by their titles. Details follow.
Margrave is a maenad psionic, a former pirate whose services were purchased by Aisling. His ship, the Fetch, is used to facilitate trade and augment the city’s terrifying harbor defenses. Margrave is a beast of a peculiar sort. He is genteel, well-spoken, and attentive. Margrave is open about his obsession with fear and the fearful and neither denied my accusations of his evil nature, nor made excuses for his past actions. I sense great cruelty within him, but there is something other than gold that keeps him loyal to Aisling. He seems to like me.
Aisling warned me about Contessa, and I can see what she meant. Human in descent, Contessa is barely a young woman and already a powerful engine of destruction. She sees into, and annihilates, patterns, and specializes in the creation of psionically augmented objects and firearms. Her work can be seen in the harbor defenses, whose cannons crackle with enough power to light the docks below at night. She greeted me with a childlike eagerness, and asked to be my friend. I find that I do not know how to answer her. I sense the taint of evil upon her, but beneath the laughter is a pain I cannot name.
Duke, on the other hand, may simply be a monster. A drow knight, he was compelled to serve Aisling when she defeated him in battle and refused to take his life. He regularly attempts to assassinate her in accordance with some bizarre system of honor. He spit in my face when we met. Aisling hit him so hard that he went through a table. He acted with greater respect thereafter. I am uncertain if Aisling acted with foresight or brutality, though I must confess that I do not particularly care.
Sybil, the last member of the group, is the only one without the taint of evil upon her. A psionic healer, human, Sybil was embattled in the Shatterdown that was when Aisling offered her the resources she would need to make a difference in the lives of others. She coordinates the Scum through a series of psionic connections, as well as through students that can also form those connections. Thanks to her network, the entire Rabble can react to threats instantly. She seems insightful, and took a liking to me. I have spent much of my time not with Aisling at her hospital, helping her distribute food and supplies to the sick and weak, and observing her training her students in the arts of supernatural medicine. I have not yet had the courage to ask why she follows a leader she knows to be a violent criminal.
Woken at 3 AM by drinking contest between Aisling and a teamster. Teamster insisted on buying me a drink. If you had thoughts of using dwarven whiskey as a gift for any reason, banish them from your mind.
Training began today. Aisling poured my coffee and added a second liquid to it. I took the cup and asked what she added to it. She answered, “Poison.” I took a sip and asked what she really added. It was poison. I had to train through it. When I accused her of being unfair, she pointed out that she cannot teach me how to be a paladin. She can only teach me to fight evil by providing evil to fight. I find her logic infuriating.
It has been four days. I have yet to avoid being poisoned.
Sybil stopped by to visit me at the Protection Racket. She says the room I stay in is as fine as Aisling’s own. She listened sympathetically to my complaints and asked that I have patience with Aisling’s methods. She said, “Aisling forgets that not everyone is as smart as she is. Everything will make sense, if you let it.” I asked how she came to work for such a villain. She smiled, strangely, at me, and asked me to repeat the question again after a fortnight, if I still believed that Aisling was a villain. She asked me to join the mental network she operates for the Scum. I agreed, reluctantly. They spent twenty minutes singing drinking songs into my mind.
Damn Aisling to the depths of Hell for hooking me on coffee. Tried to make my own pot to avoid being poisoned. Beans were laced with toxins. I will have the better of her if I have to grow the plant from seed to fruit myself.
I have also begun training with Contessa and Duke. The drow openly despises me, but he teaches with a patient enthusiasm that I find surprising. He demonstrated the ability to block Contessa’s gunfire and even psionic assaults with his shield and has been teaching me the art. Aisling watches from the side with a strange smile. She has been drinking coffee all day.
Woken in the early hours by crying from Aisling’s room. It stopped when I knocked on the door.
Siege preparedness drill today. The city went from activity to defensive stations in less than thirty minutes, with all guns loaded and the gates closed. It was an amazing feat of leadership. I cannot help but admire the planning and training that went into executing it, as well as the remarkable cooperation between the Scum and their various subordinates and subjects.
A trial. A man was brought before Aisling on a second offense of beating his children. She drew her blade to execute him when I stopped her. The man has been remanded into my custody and remains imprisoned beneath the Protection Racket. I am not sure what to do with him. Aisling seems angry in an interested way. She asks about him, at times. I have no answers for her unspoken questions. Her murder is not justice.
News from Asheholm. The Lich’s Daughter attacked the city, only to be repelled by a local hero known as the Ragged Angel. Aisling seemed furious for some reason, and forbade anyone from speaking of it near her. She spent the rest of the day drinking and fuming. Sybil supervised my training.
Fistfight with Aisling over the lyrics to a drinking song. I am not entirely certain how our argument escalated to this point. Sybil pulled us apart with a sound scolding and refused to heal either of us. Aisling bought me a drink to apologize after.
I have tentatively put the convict – Joreth Marsholm – to work at Sybil’s hospital. He seems genuinely repentant, though I do not fully trust my own judgement in the matter. Sybil’s students watch him during the day. I escort him back to the Racket at night. He is profuse in his thanks for his life. His wife and children refuse to see him. I cannot fault them.
Woken in the night by what I thought was an attack. I ran downstairs, blade in hand, to find Aisling annihilating her own bar in a screaming fury. She had already destroyed most of the furniture and was sweeping her blade through the liquor when I came upon her. Aisling put her blade to my throat, and for a moment I thought I was going to die, for her eyes did not know me. Then she came to her senses. She lowered her blade and ordered me back to my room. I am not sure why I refused. When I picked up an intact chair and invited her to sit, she collapsed, sobbing, into it, and cried herself to sleep.
Aisling was gone in the morning. She left a note indicating that Sybil was in charge and not to worry about her absence. Funds have been left to be allocated to my training, for some purpose. Contessa labors away with them in her workshop.
I find myself confused by Shatterdown, and by its ruler. This message will be sent out with the courier. In a few days one of the Order’s paladins will come to check on me, and I will see if I can provide more clear thoughts at that juncture. In the meantime, I remain