Pregame: Session 1. March 17, 2007
We lived in Sigil, the City of Doors. Some berks call it “the Cage”. There’s only one thing Sigil’s got aplenty – and that’s doors. Gateways to other worlds, places, and some say even times. Our home was in the Crossguard of the Swordhold area. The neighborhood is best known for its weaponsmiths, but we’re just a bunch of young ones, best known for making a lot of noise and getting into trouble.
Crossguard was a dead-end street that goes a few doors beyond the Atheneum, a temple dedicated to Athena. We all grew up in that cul-de-sac. It was just a few hundred square yards in size, but to us it was the world. We were 12 kids back then, Ekikos, Medea, Aella, Kalliope, Patroclus, Tlao, Nestor and Kastor – Hellas’ family, Eugene and me – the upstairs raccoons, and Ludvik and Svana – Hinrik’s family.
Eki’s family was the biggest one in our neck of the woods. Yourgos and Eleni made an odd couple; Yourgos was a day-labourer and porter. A hard worker who always seemed so unimaginative to us back then. Eleni wasn’t a seamstress. She had no loom, and took in far more laundry and mending than orders for new clothes; but she was always determined to become a seamstress. Patroclus was married and had moved away to the Foundry District before I met Eki and his family. His visits were always filled with tension because of faction politics. He’d married and become a Believer of the Source. His political ambitions were great, as he wanted to become a factotum; but Yourgos wasn’t quite so quick to believe his cant. So Patroclus rarely brought his wife and daughter to visit.
Tlao was already away from home when I arrived, he was a courier for Autochon the Bellringer and was always bringing home the chant; it was a constant source for new games of pretend. He would swoop in, cause a stir by his very presence, make everyone smile and then swoop out before the charm of his brief visit faded. He had also been the local lightboy before Eki, and he was always Eki’s hero.
Medea was the eldest sister and even though she was in her mid teens, it was as if she was already an adult. It was her task to take care of the finances for her Mother’s washing and sewing shop. She seemed so dour and taciturn to me as a kit.
Nestor was Medea’s twin and alike in mind as much as spirit. He was dependable, hardworking, dedicated and dull. He was as humorless as Medea and seemingly without imagination. Nestor was also the most likely to take over Yourgos’ position in the neighborhood. He did odd jobs around home and accompanied his father when he could.
Aella was always exuberant, talkative and grossly outgoing. A great playmate she was also a good worker, but she had a strong tendency to be flighty. She and Eki were almost constant companions in the early days.
Eki was a lot like Aella. He was quick to come up with a plan, or gather us together. He found more ways to get us into trouble than I can remember.
Kastor was a shy and quiet loner that Eki doted upon. He was very creative, drawing whenever he had the chance with whatever lay at hand. Chalk on the building, or coal if he had it – he’d even draw in the dirt with his fingers.
The youngest was Kalliope. She loved to sing, even if she had no talent. She was energetic in everything she did. Curious and clingy she was the baby of that family.
Hinrik and his two kids lived at the dead-end of Crossguard. Hinrik’s forge took up most of the ground floor, and the family lived above it. He was the only smith in the cul-de-sac, and he specialized in making small blades, daggers and the like. He called the place Hinrik’s Anvil because there was a large anvil right outside of the place. It’s not like anyone could miss it. He was a very pragmatic human. He was proud of his work and dedicated. There was no Mrs. Hinrik, and I didn’t learn that story until years later. Hinrik’s main competitor was Dirk, down the street. Hinrik called Dirk “Sod Dirk”. Dirk had the knack of making long blades of folded steel while Hinrik never quite managed the trick himself.
Ludvik was the oldest child. He did some work at the forge, but it was monotonous and he seemed destined for more exiting things, even back then. He played a lot with Svana and the rest of us back then. Svana was the tale-spinner, a daydreamer who pretended constantly. She was forever finding new gateways and doorways to travel through. The stories changed quickly and you had to pay attention to keep up or she’d lose you – figuratively and literally (pretending you weren’t visible to her, and eventually even that she couldn’t hear you).
Then there was my family. Marm, Sauii mostly stayed home and cared for me and Eugene. She worked as a cleaning-woman and threw herself completely into the community. She was a good Marm, doting at times and often overprotective of us kits, but this place was a lot different from where she’d come from and I think she never quite got over the change.
Da, Mika, was a finder. When he couldn’t find things for folks, he’d scavenge. When he couldn’t scavenge, he’d take up rat bounties. It paid the rent for the second story of the Hellas’ family’s home and kept us housed and fed. His favorite job was estate searches – looking for hidden stashes and such like in big homes. He was good at it too. He was fairly sensible, but a bit absent minded.
Then there was my youngest brother – Eugene – Euge for short. In the early days he was pretty nervous around anything bigger than he was (which was everything). His favorite place was under Marm’s tail, and when he couldn’t follow Marm around, he took to following me.
I’m Zosime, Zoe for short. And that was the gang I knew.
The dead end of Crossguard hasn’t changed much. The Atheneum was right on the edge of Ash Row and Crossguard. The building itself predated the Atheneum. It was once dedicated to all the Olympian gods; but being so close to the Lady’s Ward and the Temple District at that, there were better and bigger temples to specific Olympian gods available. So the temple suffered.
Then Prioress Sophia came. She was at the re-dedication and changed the temple’s fortunes. The four aspects of Athena were painted in bas-relief on the front of the temple: Athena Ergane (the patron of crafts), Parthenos (the virgin), Promachos (the battle-leader) and Polias (the city protector). The temple had a painted tapestry then as they could not afford a statue. The temple quickly became a hub of worship for the smiths in the area.
They did have a small shrine to Nike along Ash Row. It was not uncommon to see warriors there asking the blessings of Nike, and offering up donations to the temple.
There were four priestesses at the Atheneum, and they lived at the priory as vestal virgins. There were lots of lay followers who did work around the place too. The other three priestesses were Ismene, Melissa and …. They lived off donations and produced religious paraphernalia for sale. Hinrik poured their holy symbols. Prioress Sophia was the de facto community leader.
A sentient barn owl, named Aurelius, lived above the priory. He sublet the property from the temple at a good rate. He was a courier and a chant-monger as well as the unofficial neighborhood watchman.
The well was a fairly new construction. All portals to water, by civic decree, are public. Even so – some berks do try to hoard them. The Priory purchased the water portal (it was in a water barrel). She had the barrel reconstructed and then rebuilt into the well itself. There was a roof over top and they covered it up each night to keep the ash and debris out of the water.
Opposite the Atheneum was the Keg & Cask. It was a run-down building that used parts of casks and kegs as tables and chairs. it was the local tavern and we kids weren’t allowed in. Amazing how alluring that can make a place. Beside the tavern, on Ash Row lived a crazy old woman best known for owning property, staying in her house, and pouring refuse out over people at the Keg & Cask who talked to loudly when it got late.
Beside her place was the haunted house. It wasn’t haunted, but it was derelict; and that made it fair game to us kids. It was originally a butcher shop. They had a small fire and it was abandoned.
The rest of the buildings were tenements; the source of more kids to play with and people to talk to, but nothing much more than that comes to memory about them.