Secret Shop: Mysterious Business (The Keep)he market place is situated just outside the Keep’s main building, the closest place people can usually come near the great fortress. Entering the center of the Keep would require the express permission of a Magi, and not many people have a valid reason to be allowed inside. Out here, however, many people gather, and the long lane is usually crowded. It is here where farmers and merchants offer their goods to magi and visitors alike, competing amiably with each other. Shops try to lure customers in with their various wares on display, while coffee houses attract attention with the beguiling smells of hot beverages. If you need a new pair of boots, beautiful handmade jewelry, or just a place to meet and relax with friends, this is it.
Leisurely, you stroll through the market, stopping now and then to handle something on display. Even though you are not high in the hierarchy of the Keep, people respectfully greet you as you go past. You smile and nod to them in return, showing your high spirits to these people. They might not be magi, but it is they who provide food and other goods to the Keep; even the most powerful magi would starve without these hardworking people.
You have just stopped to inspect a small, wonderfully carved wooden statue that caught your eye, when you notice something odd. Out of the corner of your eye, you see one of your fellow students looking around furtively, then vanishing into a small dark alley. He is not someone you know by name, but you have seen him around the Keep, and your interest is piqued. Putting the statue back on the table absentmindedly, you follow in the student's path to the narrow street and peer inside curiously. Not a street, you quickly correct yourself; a stairway, leading down only a few steps and ending at a dark wooden door. The student who just passed through is nowhere to be seen; he can only have gone through the door, as the opening doesn’t lead anywhere else. You take a look around, then realize you probably seem just as suspicious as your colleague and grin at yourself. Curiosity gaining the upper hand, you walk down the steps and, hesitating briefly, knock on the worn door.
A small window in the door is opened from within and a face peers out. "You are not a member," the man inside says in a high, sharp voice. "Go away!"
Before he can close the window again, you quickly speak: "But I want to become a member! What do I have to do for that?"
The man looks at you doubtfully, but answers: "To prove you are worthy of even being considered, show us that you can tame a dark and dangerous creature! Then we will consider your application!" The expression on his pinch face expresses his doubts about you.
"What creature would that be?" you ask, desperate for some more information, but the only reply you get is "Find out!", as the window slams shut on you.
Do you want to try to become a member of this mysterious organization?
You knock at the door again and the same sour man opens the window. He looks behind and down at your feet, then eyes you haughtily. “You don’t have a dark and dangerous creature with you! If you still want to join, come back when you have tamed one!” And before you can ask any further questions, the rat-faced man slams the wooden opening on the door shut.
You knock at the door again and the same man as before opens the window. He looks at your feet and his eyes widen in surprise when he sees the hellhound lying there, its tongue lolling. “So you do have some promise,” he says. “Wait here! I will ask for permission for you to enter.” Frowning, you look down at your fiery companion, and swear the hellhound is almost grinning.
He closes the window again and you wait for a few minutes. Then you hear a key turned in a lock and the door opens. “Come in!” the man says and beckons. Quickly you step through, followed by your hellhound, before the bitter man can change his mind. Looking around, the inside of the building appears quite mundane; it is not a not very large room, with only a small table and chair. A plate with a half-eaten sandwich gives testimony to what the man had been doing when you knocked. Two doors lead from the room, one directly opposite the door you entered from, the other through the right wall. That is the door the man leads you to.
"Please take a seat in there,” he tells you. “Someone will come and talk to you soon.”
Inside, a few well-cushioned chairs stand around a low table; a carafe full with water and several glasses are on the table. You take a few sips while you wait, reclining comfortably. A few minutes later, someone enters the room; a figure of medium height, clad in a dark robe with the cowl pulled down low so you cannot see their face. You rise from your seat and extend a hand, but withdraw it again when the figure doesn’t take it.
“So you wish to join us?” a voice comes from within the cowl.
“Yes,” you answer eagerly, becoming ever more curious.
“Do you even know what it is you want to join?” the person asks, tilting their head questioningly. You try to stammer out an answer, but the figure just shakes its head at you.
“Sit down,” they sternly command, and you comply. The figure sits down opposite you and removes their cowl. An attractive woman, surprisingly young with severe dark hair, looks at you.
“This is the Dark Brotherhood,” the pale woman starts to explain, and a harsh look prevents you from pointing out that the word “brother” probably shouldn’t be used to address her. “We are a group of magi who have dedicated ourselves to those creatures that are commonly seen as dark and dangerous, even evil by the tales and legends of the common people. Your hellhound for example,” she says and points to the creature that is busily sniffing around the room, “is one of those creatures.”
You start to say something but she silences you with a gesture. “You have found this place, and you have tamed a hellhound. That at least buys you the chance to join our fraternity, if you so wish. Know, however, that while we do grant privileges to our members, we also ask things of them. Once in a while, we might put a task on you, which you will have to complete for us. Think well about this, and make sure your decision is the right one.
If you wish to join, you will have to make a contribution to this powerful gathering. We ask for a generous donation, no less than 10000 gold, and two eggs of the Noctis Enox, which is one of the creatures we are breeding here. Bring us this and we will receive you into the brotherhood.” With that, she rises and sweeps out of the room, her dark cloak trailing after her.
You are led outside again, by the same rat-like man, and are left to think about your decision in front of the door.
Secret Shop: Initiation (The Keep)"Have you reached a decision?" the man at the door asks, scratching irritably at his balding head. You shake your head. "You have to contribute to this organization, you know. You will have to leave and not come back until you have reached a decision," he says, slamming the door rudely in your face.
"Have you reached a decision?" the man at the door asks, squinting suspiciously at you. As an answer, you hold up the two eggs you have brought, as well as the sack filled with the required donation.
"Come in, then," he says, opening the door. He takes the eggs from you with surprising gentleness, laying them onto some velvet laid out on the table. He also accepts the gold from you, and then points towards the door you haven't been through yet. "You may now enter that door."
You reach for the cold handle and open the door, stepping through quickly, curious what is waiting for you. It is another room, bigger than the entry chamber, and only lighted by a few candles. The woman you have met earlier is sitting behind a counter, and she nods in your direction. Behind her, you see different things on display. In the weak light, you can make out eggs, amulets and strange objects, clearly used for conducting dark magic. Other items you can only guess at in the gloom, but you feel a bit uncomfortable looking at them.
"I see you have decided to join us. I am happy to welcome you to the Dark Brotherhood. Of course there will be the formalities to attend to first," she says, giving a little smile that somehow seems a bit disconcerting.
"Please step through that door over there." She points with a pale hand to yet another door you did not notice before. Although it doesn't look much different from the door you came through, it somehow seems more ominous, almost hidden in shadows. Hesitantly, you move to it and walk through, entering into complete darkness. You start to turn around when suddenly something is put over your head. "Do not struggle," a deep voice says. "No harm will come to you!"
You are led down some stone stairs, for what seems like a long time. Afterwords you go down a long corridor, and are able to hear sounds of low chanting, in some language you cannot recognize. A short time later, the hood is drawn from your head. Looking around, you see yourself in some kind of underground chamber, standing in front of a small altar and facing the same woman from before, who is standing on the other side. On a carved stone table, you see the two Enox eggs you brought, as well as a glass jar. In the vessel, some kind of eel is floating in a clear fluid. At first you think it is preserved in alcohol, but then it lazily turns and looks directly at you, with a gaze that almost seems intelligent. You continue to look around, and in the reddish glow of the fire in the background, you see about half a dozen people in dark robes standing in a half circle. Their cowls are drawn deeply over their heads and they are softly chanting something in a strange language you do not speak.
"A new novice has come to join the Brotherhood!" the woman intones, and the chanting behind her grows louder. "Let us now initiate him into our society!"
With a quick motion, she takes the eel from the jar, holds it up and shouts: "See the Emissary of the Dark!" As the chanting behind her reaches a crescendo, she moves the eel toward you. "Swallow it, and you will become one of us!" she says.
You gulp, but you are certain you want to be in on this. So you open your mouth, leaning forward a bit. "Don't try to resist," the woman whispers. "It will be less uncomfortable that way." Then she slips it into your mouth. You gag as you feel it slithering down your throat, but it all happens so fast, you don't even have time to try and cough it up again.
"It is done!" she shouts, turning around. "A new brother has joined us!" The chanting ebbs away and the hooded figures turn around, filing out through an opening in the back.
"What was that thing?" you ask worriedly. "What will it do to me?"
"Do not be afraid," the woman replies in a soothing voice. "It is not harmful. On the contrary, the Emissary will increase your powers. You will soon notice a difference. From now on, you are a full member of the Dark Brotherhood. We will teach you spells you don't know yet, and with the aid of the Emissary, you will be able to perform them flawlessly. The Brotherhood will also aid and protect you if necessary; we look out after our own."
You feel a bit queasy, but you also notice a prickling feeling inside you that is somehow promising power to come. "That opening over there will lead us back to the shop. By the way, I am Jesira. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. I will help you.” A smile crosses her face, softening her features. You smile back, and follow her to the opening.
The two of you walk up some stairs that seem to keep going for a long time, until you finally reach the house again. Jesira escorts you to the front door. As you step out, you see sunlight and you realize that less than two hours have passed, although it seems like you spent a lifetime inside the building. "You should go home and rest for now," Jesira suggests. "If you return later, I will explain some more things to you; and we have some eggs in our shop you might want to take a look at. Good day, brother."