Starday, Harvester 15, 552 CY (50 AN)
Khuna descends the stairwell in darkness. She opens the door, and finds herself in a small antechamber before a much larger room. The larger room appears to be a library and laboratory, with shelves crammed with books and tables piled high with strange laboratory equipment — beakers, tubes, a floating brain in a jar. The walls and ceiling, however, are insubstantial, revealing endless stars and a great, blue moon hovering above all. Shuffling, rotting cadavers act as lab assistants and servants, cleaning the room and fetching things for their master. Their master is in the corner of the room — a slim, pale, bearded man wearing a turban with a peacock’s feather adorning the front. Strangely, his legs end in raven’s talons rather than human legs.
He hovers over an operating table. Khuna notices that stuck behind one of the legs of the table is a small cocoon, likely belonging to a moth or butterfly. The table itself bears a nude female cadaver, its chest opened in an apparent autopsy. Nobody in the room appears to pay attention to Khuna’s intrusion. Khuna approaches to examine the cocoon, and as she does, it wriggles and cracks as a green and brown butterfly emerges, fluttering around her before flying away.
Turning her attention to the body, she notes it to be her Lady Margot, the lady’s eyes glazed and cataracted as they stare at the ceiling. Khuna reaches out to touch her, and Margot sits bolt upright, grabbing her hand and establishing unblinking eye contact. She raises her other hand and displays three fingers, telling Khuna she must remember three things to aid her in the following day and subsequent days. Margot displays only one finger, saying, “Behind the book is the brain. The brain is the book.” Margot shows two fingers and says, “The gods have heard prayers on your behalf, but so have their enemies. Beware the Circle of Constriction.” Showing the third finger, she says, “I wait for you still. You will be mine at the first dawn’s light.” With that, she releases Khuna and slumps back upon the table.
Khuna awakens in a cold sweat. In their camp in the abandoned ruins, Croitus, Resh, and Southie sleep; Nobody is currently on watch; and Ashraf is scrounging for supplies in their lair. Disquieted, Khuna joins Nobody, warning her that she had a vivid dream she believes to mean something, and that something might be approaching at dawn, although she is not entirely certain of what. She will elaborate further when the others awaken.
During the watch, Ashraf passes through to inform them that he needs to scavenge for supplies. He will rejoin them later. Before leaving, he briefly awakens Resh to also inform him of this fact.
Dawn comes and goes uneventfully, to Khuna’s consternation and relief, and as the others awaken, she informs the rest of the group of her dream, indicating she believes it means something. Specifically, she informs them of the cryptic message about “the book,” taking this to mean Lord Book, and the fact that someone was to arrive at dawn. She fully admits that these are cryptic portents, however, and she does not fully understand what they mean. However, should something arrive at a future dawn, perhaps try not to kill it immediately until its threat can be assessed? It might be friendly.
The group discusses their options. Despite having come to the ruins to assassinate Lord Book and Negrescu’s Nagas, they consider the fact that Mr. Monkshood said the purpose of assassinating Lord Book was to draw Lord Candle out of hiding. If that means they’ll need to tangle with a vampire shortly after killing Lord Book, maybe they should grab for magic weapons sooner rather than later. As such, they decide to abandon the current plan and instead raid Torili Two-Spirit’s vault in her nightclub, the Heart of Scandshar, in the hopes of procuring magic weapons potent enough to hunt vampires.
Taking to the sewers, the group again manages to get lost, traveling in circles until they find themselves at an impassable wall of rubble — a previous deadfall trap designed by Ashraf and Resh. As they contemplate their options, several lean and hungry cadavers — still wearing the garb of the Scandshar Watch — wriggle free of the rubble. The clawed things savagely leap into the fray, but despite being terrifying combatants, the former gladiators are able to make short work of them.
They immediately set to work, seeing if the undead guardsmen have anything valuable. Croitus sets about stitching two of the creatures together to creature a giant undead monstrosity, which he stores in one of his canopic jars. Several of the group harvest ghoul heads to hang from their belts and better intimidate foes.
Having sufficiently prepared and attempting to re-orient themselves, the group wanders until they stumble across a guard blockade that has been established in the sewer tunnels. While Resh begins firing upon the guardsmen with arrows, Croitus unleashes his new ghoul amalgam upon them. The guards quickly ignore Resh, instead focusing on the ghoul, but to no avail — the monster is upon them, tearing the guardsmen apart. A few manage to flee, but most of the post is slain.
As the ghoul-thing and Croitus sample several of the guardsmen’s brains, they determine that things have started to reach a fever pitch in Scandshar. The city is under lock-down; most activity has ceased, and people are staying in their homes. Guard patrols bring food and water. All soldiers currently patrolling the borderlands are being recalled, and there is a rumor that Lord Key of the Peacocks is coming herself to aid with the situation.
Further searching through the remains reveals a map detailing the municipal sewer system, as well as the guard posts therein. This makes the rest of the trip to the Heart of Scandshar significantly simpler.
Deciding to approach from below, the group moves through sewer tunnels until they are fairly certain they are beneath the Heart of Scandshar. Resh decides on a fertilizer bomb to breach the privies and gain access to the club and the vault. While gathering materials, however, Resh slips and is nearly dragged away by the current, being saved by the timely intervention of Croitus’ amalgam beast. The filth-covered kobold manages to make his bomb and place it a strategic spot. The others find cover as he lights the fuse and dashes after them.
An explosion and the sound of collapsing rubble greets them as the passageway is filled with dust. As the dust settles, they move, scrambling up the rubble to enter into the bathroom. As guards come to investigate, Croitus commands his amalgam beast to hold the door closed; once the group is in position, the creature opens the door again. Several guardsmen are crowded around the door, and are rather surprised at the sight within. One drops his weapon and walks upstairs. Resh pops around the corner to take a shot at him, grazing him and sending him running up the stairs. The ghoul-thing rushes into the hall to start tearing through the guards, as Nobody and Southie rush at the guards, weapons drawn. Khuna, meanwhile, feigns shock to scramble past the chaos and after the fleeing guard. As he reaches the door, she tackles him to the ground, and a scuffle occurs. In the melee, she takes a boot to the face as the guard manages to scamper off down the street. Another guard behind the bar starts advancing on her.
The former gladiators make short work of most of the guards and start to head upstairs as Croitus places his ghoul-thing back in a canopic jar and begins stitching two of the guardsmen together in some large, obscene octopede. With the armed and bloody dwarf, elf, and kobold rushing upstairs, the guard advancing on Khuna decides to run. She closes the door and flops in front of him to get him to trip, but only results in being kicked several times. As he fumbles with the door, however, Resh fires an arrow at him, and suddenly the guard-thing comes rushing up the stairs at him. He tries to escape, but it tears into him, killing him.
Having been injured, Khuna sets about trying to patch herself so that the group can proceed down to the vault.