Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 31

Waterday, Patchwall 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Upon returning to the Addled Alchemist, Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, Southie, and Thava find many within, among them still being Antonio, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Vianibrar, and Yavanna. Manny has moved to another table, and is currently engaged in a lengthy debate with a young wizard — the same handsome young man who was storming away from the Vistani camp, muttering, earlier in the evening — about cosmology. Croitus decides to go wandering around Duchy Jepson instead. Southie, noting that Manny seems to have taken the position that nothing truly exists and his counterpart taking the counterargument that reality has empirical existence, joins the argument with the idea that one can only prove one’s own existence and nothing else. Resh and Thava decide to have a drink. Dhavita sits next to Margot and surreptitiously runs her fingers up her thigh. The two lovers excuse themselves shortly thereafter.

After a few minutes, Southie has managed to irritate the wizard enough so that he leaves the Addled Alchemist in a huff. With the excitement over, Manny, Quithyra, Resh, Thava, and Yavanna all head up to their rooms. With only a few visitors, Southie, and Vianibrar left in the common room, Southie asks if Vianibrar can tell him an uplifting story, one not involving gods. Vianibrar tells him the tale of Theronna Onyxarm and her revolt against the giants. Once the tale is finished, Southie also retires to bed.

That night, Dhavita has a dream. She is in the backroom of a tavern, she thinks somewhere in Sorgforge. A stout, ginger-haired dwarf studies a map of the Sorrowfell Plains. Several blue pins have been stuck in various points on the map, but only four red pins have been — Dawnslight, Scandshar, Sorgforge, and Vonseloth. After a moment’s consideration, three other figures enter the room a heavily-armored male human, a lightly-armored woman with white hair and grey skin (but otherwise appearing human), and a male elf with the look of a scout or ranger about him. These mercenaries gather, and the dwarf addresses them, explaining that he thinks the others have gone about it all wrong. This map depicts all collated sightings of the Scandshar Six. However, those that are definitive sightings — in which local law enforcement have verified the Six — are displayed in red. When accompanied by knowledge of the timing of the sightings — the Scandshar Six were in Scandshar for several days, then in Sorgforge for about 24 hours, then in Dawnslight about half a week later, and finally in Vonseloth about a week later — it is clear that some form of magical transport has to be involved. So far, two accomplices have been discovered; a Zafira Shulud was tried and hanged, and a Mr. Monkshood was found dead, badly beaten and malnourished, in the Weeping Bay in Sorgforge. The dwarf finds it notable that there is a definitive logic to the Six’s travel. In Sorgforge, the Six had business dealings with the Patenaude merchant family (Dhavita’s former master and suspected lover, Lady Marguerite Weogora, was a member of Sorgforge’s Patenaude family); in Dawnslight, they recovered Lady Weogora and a member of Dhavita’s family; and in Vonseloth supposedly resides the remnant of Dar’amaraltria’s tribe. The dwarf finds it suspicious that there are no confirmed sightings of the Scandshar Six in Duchy Jepson, given that it is known to be friendly to slaves, forms another major settlement in the region, and would certainly have the resources to facilitate travel by teleportation circle. He notes that he would like to investigate Duchy Jepson, with one caveat — if one of the party falls, they don’t rescue that person. The survivors just retreat. The others reluctantly agree, and further agree that they will leave for Jepson around dawn.

Dhavita awakens with a start, and as often happens, Margot awakens with her. The night outside is still gloomy; it is apparently just before dawn. After briefly explaining her dream, and the fact that she is unaware whether the bounty hunters are coming by foot or by teleportation circle, Dhavita indicates they need to inform the others. She and Margot quickly dress and leave in search of the others. Dhavita recalls that Southie has been rooming just down the hall, and he might know where Resh and Thava are staying, so she goes to his door first. Southie answers the door, nude, weapon in hand. Manny similarly brandishes his spear, although he is wearing pants. She briefly explains her dream, and Southie says he will inform the others. Dhavita and Marguerite go to find Croitus while Southie and Manny dress.

After Southie and Manny are ready, Southie, unaware of where the others are staying, begins knocking on all the doors in the inn, looking for Resh and Thava. Several people stagger out, realize that it is nothing urgent, and return to their rooms. Yavanna opens the door, wearing a sheer nightgown and apparently with a client. Southie explains the situation, indicates she should likely not get involved (and should deny any association with Southie), apologizes for interrupting, and lets her return to her business.

Quithyra, Resh, and Thava eventually look out from their respective rooms, recognizing that Southie is the source. He explains the situation, and they proceed to get dressed and agree to all meet for breakfast.

Meanwhile, Dhavita and Marguerite search for Croitus and eventually find him, wallowing. They explain the situation to him, and he agrees to prepare and meet them back at the inn. Dhavita and Marguerite return to the Addled Alchemist while Croitus makes preparations. He snoops around for a stray cat and manages to catch it and snap its neck. The sound awakens someone, who comes out to investigate the commotion, but he sends them back inside. He then reanimates the cat and takes the mangy beast to Guard Captain Chandler’s house. He orders the undead cat to curl up outside, then knocks on the door. Captain Chandler answers after a slight delay, apparently having been asleep, and Croitus, wearing his hat of disguise, explains that he is Croitus and that people may be coming to look for the Scandshar refugees. If he encounters them, he should inform the cat outside, which will come and find them. Captain Chandler seems somewhat perturbed at the confluence of bounty hunters and undead cats, but agrees. Croitus then returns to the Addled Alchemist.

Everybody dresses, gathers what they can carry, and orders breakfast. After quickly eating, Thava decides to stand outside as a sentry. She sees someone approaching the Addled Alchemist, but quickly realizes it is Belnan Zivkovic, the dragonborn Vistani she met last evening. He informs her that they were originally going to leave this morning, but since the eladrin ladies want to visit their returned cousin in the Solaeque Purlieu in Vonseloth, and since that lies in the rough direction of the last known location of Thava’s tribe, they thought they would offer to escort Thava if she wishes to travel that way. If any of her companions also wish to travel with them, they are welcome to do so. She says she is interested, and he informs her that they will leave tomorrow at dawn; if she wishes to accompany them, she needs to be there by then. Otherwise, they will likely meet elsewhere on the road. He then takes his leave.

Croitus, still disguised, joins her to keep watch. They talk for a bit, and she explains the offer she was just given. After a few moments, figures come walking down the road — four of them, armed and armored, and matching Dhavita’s description. Croitus takes his leave to enter the inn and warn the others. Dhavita puts a platinum down on the bar and instructs the innkeeper that they left in the night sometime. The group then scurries out the backdoor and heads north. Croitus removes the enchantment on the zombified cat, allowing its body to return to its eternal rest.

Once they find a defensible position, a valley of sorts, they camp and Resh sets a trap — a gauntlet of falling boulders and spiked pits. They wait.

Thava is still standing on the Addled Alchemist’s porch when the bounty hunters arrive. They ask her a few questions about the Scandshar Six, and show her a stack of wanted posters for Ashraf, Croitus, Dar’amaraltria aka Nobody, Dhavita aka Khuna, Resh, and Southie. Each has a 50,000gp bounty, dead or alive. She says she knows nothing, and the quartet confer. They then go inside the Addled Alchemist, although the grey-skinned white-haired girl remains, inquiring about Thava’s background and family. They pair then go inside to see the other three inquiring about the Scandshar Six with the innkeeper. Thava gathers that they have grown suspicious of her, particularly as they all deign to sit with her and breakfast. They ask a few more questions before the dwarf requests they get down to cases — he knows she knows of their location, and wants to know where they headed. She says east. They send the elf scout, whom the dwarf calls “Carondir,” to investigate. The three mercenaries and Thava sit awkwardly and wait; he returns a few hours later, seeing he found no sign. They ask again, and she says south. The dwarf settles on north and requests that she accompanies them.

The four bounty hunters and Thava exit the inn and leave town without any difficulties. Carondir scouts ahead while the others stay with Thava as an escort. Apparently tired of her evasive answers, the dwarf moves to hit her once they are far outside town — Thava responds by conjuring a gout of flame to scorch the mercenaries. They manage to dodge out of the way, and Thava is forced to fling herself to the ground to avoid a well-placed arrow from the elf. The others gather around to subdue her, and the dwarf manages to catch her with his warpicks while the slate-skinned woman cuts her with a sickle. Injured and bleeding, Thava responds by conjuring the shimmering form of a dragon, soaring into the sky and effortlessly pinwheeling out of the way of another arrow from the ranger Carondir. She wings her way back to Duchy Jepson.

Session 30

Waterday, Patchwall 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Renthiruhar thanks Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, Southie, and Thava for their time, and finishes cleaning Croitus’ hut. She wanders into the night.

The group returns to the plan of visiting with the Vistani. Dhavita returns to the Addled Alchemist to fetch Margot; when she arrives, Antonio, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Vianibrar, and Yavanna are dining together and having a lively conversation. Wanting to be polite, she invites the table; Antonio and Vianibrar decline, and Quithyra asks if Southie is going. Dhavita says he is, so Quithyra declines on behalf of his employees. Dhavita grabs Marguerite’s hand and the two dash into the autumn night.

As the sextet leaves Duchy Jepson, they run into a handsome young man, a magus by his look, muttering and walking back into the gates. Southie asks what is the matter, and he exclaims the Vistani don’t know what they have. He enters the town, muttering all the while.

The sextet make their way to the Vistani camp, where they are greeted warmly. The Vistani named Vicnan, a human male, makes introductions. The leaders of this clan are the humans Wiltiln and Zinnauvial, although the latter is still in her vardo; the other humans in the group are and the others are Leolann, Frurry, Victarath. There is also Magatris and Quiora, elves; Olomorn and Hollyemita, halflings; Belnan, a dragonborn; and Nasd, a goblin. After some conversation, Vicnan notes they are likely the escaped gladiators from Scandshar. He indicates there are many tales of their exploits, most of them fabricated, he is certain. After some further conversation, Dhavita expresses that she would like to have her fortune read. He instructs her to wait at the main vardo and knock. Zinnauvial Zivkovic will call her when she is ready.

Dhavita and Marguerite approach the vardo and knock. After a few minutes, a voice beckons them to enter. They open the door to find a vardo stuffed with knick knacks and colorful fabrics. An elderly human woman sits at the far end, behind a table holding a crystal ball and a small wooden box. After introductions, Dhavita and Margot request a reading. Zinnauvial charges 10 gp, and they begin.

Zinnauvial opens the box and unwraps the Barovian Tarokka, explaining that the cards are a Vistani tradition that uses archetypes for divination. She asks if Dhavita and Marguerite have a specific question; they just want to know about their future. After shuffling, she has them cut the deck, and begins laying out cards in a Basic Cross.

Not knowing Dhavita or Marguerite, she lets the cards determine the focus. She draws The Marionette, the fourth card of the Fortuna Magna, suggesting that Dhavita and Marguerite are self-willed, but still beholden to some greater force with a notable agenda. She wonders if this comes from their previous circumstances as master and slave, their troubles with the law, or their connection to the gods. Representing their past, she draws the Tax Collector, the Six of Coins. The Tax Collector represents corruption in the government and aristocracy, an obvious reference to the decadence of the system from whence Dhavita and Marguerite came. The present is represented by The Prison or Donjon, the eighth card of the Fortuna Magna. It represents imprisonment, banishment, or isolation. She initially focuses on the idea that they are prisoners of circumstance, perhaps, until Dhavita and Marguerite note they are both exiles from their former lives. For the future, Zinnauvial draws the Trader, the Three of Coins. The Trader represents any manner of commerce. Are they starting a business venture or perhaps a new job? Dhavita initially thinks of Southie’s business, although she isn’t involved, but then considers her possible job teaching medicine at the University. Finally, for the outcome, Zinnauvial draws the Illusionist, the Seven of Stars. It represents some form of trickery or misinformation, and typically has an evil connotation. Being somewhat vague in terms of the rest of the reading, Zinnauvial admonishes Dhavita and Marguerite to be honest with one another.

She is intrigued by the presence of the Fortuna Magna in Dhavita and Marguerite’s reading, and says she would be interested in investigating more. She asks if Dhavita has any other questions, and perhaps she will ask a source with more resolution. Dhavita inquires about her father, and Zinnauvial consults her crystal ball. She says she does not think he is coming after her. She also asks about the serpent woman, Zafira Shulud. Zinnauvial cannot find her with the crystal ball, suggesting she has no future and has passed away. As conversation turns to the slave trade, the elder Vistani notes that the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks appear in her tarokka readings with some regularity, frequently as the Darklord. She does not know what this portends.

By the time Dhavita and Marguerite leave, Thava has queued behind them, so she enters the vardo. Zinnauvial greets her, and asks for her question. Thava pays and indicates she wishes to find her people. The elder Vistani shuffles the deck, and while shuffling it, The Esper, the fourteenth card of the Fortuna Magna, falls out. Zinnauvial notes that it is the hero, an represents a powerful or unexpected ally. Does Thava have allies of which she is unaware? Is she herself the hero? She reshuffles the deck, Thava cuts it, and she begins the reading. For the focus, Zinnauvial draws the Six of Coins, the Beggar. The Beggar represents radical changes in fortune, which as far as she can tell given Thava’s enslavement, represents her relatively well. Representing her past is the Trader, the Three of Coins, appearing for the second time in the evening. It represents commerce, again in this case likely referring to her enslavement. Her present circumstances are represented by the Tax Collector, also appearing for the second time in the evening, representing corruption among the powerful. It is also a reference to how her enslavement continues to affect her circumstances. Her future is represented by the Berserker, the Six of Swords, barbarism and brutality in battle. Clearly there is brutal and gruesome violence in her future, a struggle to overcome. Finally, the outcome is represented by The Enchanter, the Three of Stars, which suggests her determination will overcome any obstacles in her path.

Thava thanks Zinnauvial for the reading and takes her leave; by the time she does, Croitus has queued behind her. He enters the vardo, and Zinnauvial notes that he is disguised, and he replies that his typical form usually elicits a negative reaction, whereupon he reveals it. After introductions are made, she shuffles the tarokka, has Croitus cut the deck, and begins the reading. For the focus, she draws the Dictator, the Eight of Swords, representing a tyrant or oppressor. Croitus says he has been shaped by and been the tyrant in his time, so it certainly fits. His past is represented by the Darklord, the first card of the Fortuna Magna, representing a potent enemy against the petitioner, a mastermind. Croitus is again familiar with this entity. Representing the present, she draws the Broken One, the eleventh card of the Fortuna Magna. It represents one broken in mind, body, or spirit, but in Croitus’ case, she suspects it means he is lost more than broken. He indicates he is in the process of being found. For his future, she draws the Illusionist, the Seven of Stars, representing trickery or evil information. He suspects that is in his path, brought by the entity represented by the Darklord. Finally, for the outcome, she draws the Spirit, the tenth card of the Fortuna Magna. It is a grim omen, suggesting the past will return to affect the future adversely. Although, given Croitus’ path, perhaps it refers to the spirit itself. Time will tell.

Croitus thanks her for the reading and pays before leaving. He rejoins the others.

While the tarokka readings were occurring, the others were without, drinking and discussing matters with the Vistani. Resh and Southie both abstain from the tarokka; Southie does so for firm ideological reasons, indicating that once your destiny is known, you’re beholden to it. Thava counter-argues that knowing your destiny allows you to change it, and Vicnan likens it to gouging out one’s eyes in the hopes of defining one’s own reality. Southie indicates he always defines his own reality.

As conversation continues, Southie and Dhavita begin discussing his business, and he says he will discuss matters further at the Addled Alchemist; he also notes he will issue her 200 shares of stock since she spent 200gp on his behalf earlier in the day. With that, the group bids the Vistani farewell and returns to Duchy Jepson.

Session 29

Waterday, Patchwall 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus continues his research into the Shard of Evil in the library of the Wizard’s Tower. Not finding any significant additional information, he then informs the Headmaster of the encounter with Lazghul the Lich-Lord. This is disconcerting, although he is grateful for the information. Croitus decides to find a quiet spot to meditate for a bit before joining the others at the Addled Alchemist.

Manny, Resh, and Southie continue their contract work at the Duchy Jepson Treasury. Southie inquires about hosting their operations out of the bank, as a record-keeping intermediary. The bank agrees, and Southie pays a 55 gp deposit to get them to provide this service for six months.

As they are discussing, a figure enters the Treasury. Southie and Manny recognize Strawberry, the prostitute whose services Southie purchased for Manny roughly two and a half weeks ago. She tries to catch Southie’s eye, and presuming a situation at hand, he wraps up his business with the Treasury. When they are done talking, she approaches. She indicates she heard about the public offering of stock for Freedom Unlimited, Ltd., and she wishes to invest in shares. She asks a couple of cursory questions about the business, revealing that she has some financial knowledge, and decides to invest in 200 shares at 1 gp each. Southie is interested in discussing business with her, so the foursome retire to the Addled Alchemist for a drink.

Dhavita, Resh, and Thava are still talking to Margot and Vianibrar regarding the encounter with Lazghul. Vianibrar explains that he is a dangerous individual, but comes across as almost a nuisance — a threat to be overcome every few years to decades when he hatches some new plan or phase of a previous plan. His plots are inscrutable, and his end-goals are unknown, although the idea that he wants to overcome death itself by killing the Raven Queen seems well within character. For their part, liches are spellcasters who undergo a ritual to bind their souls into what is called a phylactery, a soul-box that keeps them on this plane beyond their deaths. So long as the phylactery exists, the lich cannot be permanently slain; a slain lich crumbles to dust and reforms within a week in the vicinity of his phylactery.

Around this time, Southie and his retinue of Manny, Quithyra, and Strawberry enter the Addled Alchemist. Dhavita excuses herself to use the privies when they enter. Southie and his associates discuss business; Southie explains to Strawberry his desire to start a stock-trading house for various companies, and asks if she would be interested in running it. She explains two potential obstacles — the wizards of Jepson aren’t terribly business savvy, and there are already major trading houses in Scandshar here in the Sorrowfell Plains and Vor Taluum on the Isle of Anhak. He thinks they can overcome both of these as the wizards should be interested in business, and something terrible will likely soon happen to the stock exchange in Scandshar, such as it being on fire.

She asks if there would be any sort of exclusivity agreement, such that she cannot run her personal business. He says he sees no problem as long as the two jobs do not conflict. She agrees to run his nascent stock exchange, and notes that while she is known as Strawberry or Doxy Engis, she is more properly known as Yavanna. Southie also determines that he would like to develop an auction house, also under her purview, whereby auctions can be performed. She can receive a commission of 20% on all goods sold; she agrees. He decides to house these all under one roof, and decides to hire a construction company to set about building the building for this. Also, since she is managing his business, he decides to return to the Jepson Treasury and cancel the service, transferring the funds to her.

Meanwhile, Dhavita, having excused herself, goes to the Wizard’s Tower to find her mother, Sati. She finds her in the communal dining hall, eating dinner, and joins her. Sati is pleased to see that Dhavita has returned safely to Duchy Jepson. Dhavita proceeds to describe their encounter with Lazghul, and specifically notes the fact that Lazghul remarked that Dhavita resembles one Raktrishi Shyamal Khundhury. Is there anything Dhavita should know?

Sati notes that she does not know much about him. He was a Brahmin — a Raktrishi, as Lazghul indicated — just passing through the village. She was young and foolish, and he was resplendent. She did not know that he was a vampire at first, although she deduced his nature over time. Bearing his nature in mind, she cannot say with certainty whether her desire was her own. In any case, he stayed with her for a while before moving on; she idly wonders if his superior senses somehow noted she was with child, and that drove him to leave, perhaps not wanting any awkward connections.

In any event, that does mean Dhavita occupies an odd place in the Nadhi caste system. On the one hand, the fact that Sati has never shied away from dealing with the dead in her profession, coupled with the fact of Dhavita’s undead heritage meant that they were ostracized as outcastes, as mere Dalit. On the other hand, Dhavita’s heritage should rightly make her a Brahmin, if not a Raktrishi herself.

At Dhavita’s questioning, Sati notes that she does not precisely know how the pregnancy worked — her research suggests vampires are only fertile under specific circumstances, no doubt involving esoteric symbolic interactions.

Whatever the case, Sati has idly wondered whether many of the Raktrishi are secretly undead, and whether they are subtly using the varnas to control the populace. It is certainly part of her disillusionment with Nadhi’s caste system.

Dhavita wonders if Shyamal will come looking for her, and Sati notes that if he were interested, he likely would have done so already. At any time, he could have come and taken her from Sati, and she would have little recourse. He could have ensured she was raised in a world of his making, insulated from the hardships she suffered. Dhavita wonders if Zafira Shulud might have come on his behalf, but Sati thinks it unlikely, as she was from the Kharha Desert in Anhak, rather distant from Nadhi. Unless he has been traveling. She does note an unpleasant thought, that perhaps he is waiting for a time or event, almost like harvesting a fruit when it is ripe. Nonetheless, she still suspects that there would be more overt signs of his influence.

Having these events to consider, Dhavita notes that Margot is still at the Addled Alchemist. She bids her mother good night.

At the Addled Alchemist, while conversation continues, Thava notes that she is interested in going to see the Vistani. Resh agrees to accompany her, and they take their leave of the inn.

As they are Jepson to speak with the Vistani camped outside, they run into Dhavita, leaving the Wizard’s Tower. They mention they are going to see the Vistani, and she expresses an interest. Resh asks if they need to wait for her to get Marguerite, and she hesitates. They press further, and she indicates she’s uncomfortable involving Marguerite because of the weird things that tend to happen around them. Around this time, Croitus exits the Wizard’s Tower and meets with the rest of the group. They indicate their desire to meet with the Vistani, and he decides to accompany. They finally prod Dhavita to get her wife, and so they go to the Addled Alchemist.

When she enters the inn, she sees Marguerite still sitting with Vianibrar. Margot appears to be talking with a young man in foppish garb.

Her heart falls. It’s Count Antonio Weogora, Lord Geoffrey Weogora’s nephew.

She pauses in the doorway, defeated. Southie notices, and follows her gaze to Antonio — he starts listening to the conversation to see if he needs to intervene. After a moment’s hesitation, she leaves the Addled Alchemist and slumps against the wall outside. Southie sends Manny, Quithyra, and Yavanna after her; he doesn’t want them around in case he needs to start trouble.

Croitus, Resh, and Thava inquire with Dhavita about what’s wrong, and she explains what she saw. They recommend that all of them enter as a unit; it’s clear that this is an issue they’ll need to address sooner or later, and if there’s trouble, they can assist if they are with her. She reluctantly agrees, and the group enters the Addled Alchemist.

Dhavita approaches Marguerite, and she introduces her to her nephew — her former nephew, anyway — Antonio Weogora. He greets her, and Antonio and Margot indicate he is also an outcast to the Weogoras, since he wanted to study wizardry rather than law. His father, and his uncle Lord Geoffrey Weogora, wanted him to enter into the family business. The last thing he did with the family funds was pay his tuition; he has been cut out of the family accounts since then. He incidentally, and sarcastically, notes that Lord Geoffrey Weogora’s reversal of fortune “couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.” He also apologizes to Dhavita, as he is certain that he has likely met her before, but does not recall her as she was one of the servants. He likewise expresses regret at missing the wedding; he was in town, and heard about a wedding, but did not realize it was his aunt involved.

With the revelation that all will be well, Dhavita’s mood increases greatly.

She then mentions to Margot that she and her associates wanted to visit the Vistani caravan outside town; Southie inquires about them, and the group explains that they are travelers who value personal freedom above all else. Southie seems very interested in accompanying.

Before they can leave, however, an elf woman enters the inn and immediately approaches. Addressing the assembled party, she introduces herself as Renthiruhar and indicates she is another weirdo seeking the escaped gladiators for a job. She explains, however, that she is not at liberty to discuss it until they have moved themselves to a secure location, a spot that she is able to secure against prying eyes. They decide on Croitus’ hut, and she says she must prepare it ahead of time before any of them approach. She is aware of how suspicious this sounds, but the preparations are necessary; if they do not trust her, she can take her business proposition elsewhere. They reluctantly agree. She says she will return to fetch them in a few minutes, after preparations are complete. Until then, they should stay together.

They discuss proceedings while she is away, and idly wonder what she wants. They decide to eat dinner while she is making preparations. Dhavita takes the opportunity to ask Vianibrar how long ago Lazghul appeared; he explains that it was fifty years ago, around the Cackledread War. A group known as the Covenant of Gold — worshipers of Pelor, led by the tiefling paladin Baarziduul the Valorous — defeated Lazghul. He was not there, and did not know the Covenant, but he has heard that the battle against the army of Lazghul’s undead lasted well into the night. The lich himself was defeated, although the Covenant clearly did not destroy his phylactery. Unsurprising, as it is suspected Lazghul keeps several false phylacteries around to distract from the real one.

She notes that the supposed meeting with Shyamal was forty years ago, during the period of time during which Lazghul was unaccounted.

After further conversation, Renthiruhar returns. The group finishes dinner, and she leads them back to Croitus’ hut.

It appears that a circle of salt has been placed around the hut. Thava is so busy studying the circle that she fails to notice when her tail breaks the circle; Croitus, realizing this is likely a preparation to keep ghosts away, notices the broken circle and brings it to Thava’s attention. Renthiruhar inquires what is the matter, and they report the broken circle to her; annoyed, she sends them away so she can perform preparations again.

While returning to the Addled Alchemist, they pause as Thava is debating going to visit the Vistani as she does not know if she will get another chance; they may move elsewhere before she visits them. Additionally, this elf woman is obviously only familiar with the other former gladiators, so Thava’s presence is unlikely to be missed. The group debates this action for a while, and as Thava is about to leave, Renthiruhar finds them and escorts them back to Croitus’ hut. This time, she watches as each person crosses the threshold.

Upon entering the hut, it is clear she has traced arcane sigils within, as well. She closes the door, and indicates it is safe to speak freely. She has brought them together because there is an artifact made by the dead god of smiths and craftsmen, Fallen Sorg. This artifact is the fabled Crux of Eternity, the artifact crafted by the gods during the Dawn War to fight the primordials. There are other parties seeking it, and she wants to make certain they do not get it — it is difficult to use, but interested parties may have devoted sufficient study to use it. In the wrong hands, it would be intensely dangerous. She is willing to offer whatever they need; gold, magic items, cleaning of their criminal records, whatever it takes. When asked, she explains that she is operating as Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver, curator of the Vault, does by attempting to keep the artifact out of dangerous hands in his absence. She explains that the secrecy is because the group is being watched; a ghost is following them (and possibly Southie in particular), no doubt sent by Lazghul the Lich-Lord. She explains that she understands the Broken Chain seeks the Crux, and possibly interested fiendish parties from the Nine Hells, among others. Legend places the device in Sorg’s tomb underneath Sorgforge, but she believes spiritual gravity has dragged Sorg’s tomb into the lands of the dead — Sorgforge’s reflection Sorgtomb in the Shadowfell. After a little discussion, the former gladiators thank her for the opportunity, but do not think they are the best choice. She should wait for a group such as the Platinum Claws or the Shields of the Sorrowfell to become available. (Renthiruhar apparently chose the former gladiators as the other adventuring parties in the region are currently indisposed.)

Although she is disappointed, she understands. She thanks them for listening, and Southie expresses an interest in contacting her again if he changes his mind. They say they will leave a message for her with the wizards of the Wizard’s Tower if it comes to that. She then begins cleaning the symbols from Croitus’ hut.

Session 28

Freeday, Brewfest 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

The next morning, Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Quithyra, Resh, Southie, and Thava awaken and breakfast. While Southie discusses selling stock in his organization with Croitus and Resh — Resh buys 100 shares at 1 gp per share, while Croitus buys only one — Dhavita speaks with Manny. Despite his ramblings, she finds that when he speaks of being “many,” he claims this is not a mental illness; that he has physically been split into many. His memories of his past are fractured, although he claims that “no good can come of [asking].”

Once breakfast is over, the group continues on its way.

Travel is uneventful for the next several days. Dhavita has vague, uneasy dreams as she often does while traveling with Southie, but it is only on the morning of Godsday, Patchwall 4, that she awakens from a full-blown nightmare she cannot fully recall. In the light of day, the group continues on the road back to Duchy Jepson, and the memory fades.

At least until they spot the vultures.

Vultures circle high overhead, over a spot down the road. The party proceeds with caution until they notice something in the road. Southie, having acquired a spyglass in his travels, pulls it out to check.

It’s a male human merchant, kneeling in the middle of the road, his arm outstretched and holding a scroll. The blood on his clothes and lack of movement suggests he’s dead.

As the group passes around the spyglass, Dhavita recalls the morning’s dream: she found herself adrift in a sea of bones, sinking downward, drowning. She warns the others — Southie claims he had the same dream — and the group continues to observe the corpse while contemplating their next move. When Dhavita looks at the body again, observing for weaknesses in case it is an enemy, its head snaps upward and makes eye contact through the spy glass. It rises and begins staggering toward the group.

Croitus and Southie step forward to meet the creature. As it approaches, it holds out the scroll. Once Croitus takes it, the corpse collapses, dead again.

Disappointed and annoyed at the lack of challenge, Southie dejectedly decapitates the corpse.

Croitus opens the scroll and returns to the group with it. It reads as follows:

You are cordially invited by
The Esteemed Personage of
Lazghul, the Opal of Chaos with Teeth of Jet and the Dress of Silence
for a lunchtime reverie with tea and cakes and ices.
Fear not the broken jaw of our lost kingdoms, but revel in this valley of dying stars!

Croitus and Dhavita recognize the name — Lazghul the Lich-Lord, a bogeyman of legend. He hasn’t been reliably sighted in the Sorrowfell Plains since the Cackledread War, but his undead depredations have been feared for a long time. The references to “tea and cakes and ices,” “the broken jaw of our lost kingdoms,” and “this valley of dying stars” bring to mind the work of a wartime poet, Elias the Twin, who wrote about the decay and ravages of the Cackledread War.

After some deliberation, they decide they’re probably going to encounter the lich whether they want to do so or not. As such, Southie sends Manny and Quithyra to take the long way around, cutting through the plains to avoid the lich-lord’s invitation. Their job is to take the stocks and contracts to the bank at Duchy Jepson to establish the official Freedom Unlimited, Ltd. presence there. Dhavita also requests they send word to Margot, and deliver the gold necklace she purchased in Vonseloth. The pair agrees, and wishes the group luck in their upcoming encounter. They then set out across the plains.

As prepared as they’re likely going to get, Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, Southie, and Thava head down the road.

It’s only another hour or two when they see it — the shattered remnant of a merchant caravan. The sounds of nature fade; only the circling vultures are visible, and they make no sound. There is an army of roughly a hundred skeletons in the vicinity, as well as about three dozen freshly-minted zombies, likely the dead merchants by their look. The dead are bustling about a table that has been set with a richly-prepared feast. Sitting at the head of the table, by the broken ruin of the caravan, is a giant, crouched, crab-like structure made entirely of bone. Within is a robed, skeletal figure — the visage of Lazghul himself, red pinpoints of light in the empty sockets where his eyes used to be. Next to Lazghul is a skeleton playing a harp; the framework is bone and the strings are evidently some manner of gut.

The group approaches.

Croitus gives greeting. With a rasping voice like a fetid wind across dead reeds, he returns the greeting. His bone chair lurches forward so he can get a better look at the assembled party. Southie offers him a goblet on the table; he accepts it and pours the liquid into his mouth. It immediately spills through his empty jaw, leaving a darkened, spreading patch of wet across his robe. No one else eats or drinks, even when he insists. He presents a very cheerful, jovial demeanor despite his ghastly nature.

He explains that he wishes to discuss a shared problem between Croitus and Southie — the Raven Queen. The existence of death, and the dichotomy of the living and the dead, is a flaw, a tool of oppression that should not exist. Southie replies that he appreciates the ability to kill his enemies, but Lazghul replies that one must take the good with the bad in matters such as this. Southie concedes the point.

Lazghul indicates he wants them to find the Shard of Evil, a flaw introduced in reality at the beginning of time. It has the power to slay gods, and has the advantage of being much easier to find than Godenschemering — it is located at the bottom of the Abyss. Lazghul believes this group is formidable enough to do the deed, and he will gladly assist them in destroying the Raven Queen with it.

Distracted, he then inquires about Dhavita. He says she looks familiar and asks if they have met before, and it is a while into the conversation before he determines she strongly resembles someone named Shyamal Khundhury, a Raktrishi of the Brahmin caste. She says she is not nearly so high born as to be a Raktrishi, and Lazghul replies that is too bad, as if she is a relative, she ought to be a princess of Nadhi.

As conversation continues, Southie seems interested and tentatively expresses interest. Lazghul says he can keep an eye on Southie, but Southie doesn’t like the idea, so they agree to meet back at this location if Southie or any of the others decide to take him up on the offer.

As they are preparing to leave, Southie decides that Lazghul is probably a bad enough person to merit death. He launches himself at Lazghul, but is surprised when the bone cage of his throne closes around him; Southie knocks out a notable chunk of bone, but the shifting cage whirls to close the gap. Dhavita, recalling something from the visions in her sleep, is already fleeing; she is halfway across the field when the skeletons all take aim and pepper the area with arrows. Croitus, Resh, Southie, and Thava all seek shelter under the table, and although Resh takes an arrow in his hand for his trouble, they all manage to avoid death by a hundred arrows. As they redraw their arrows, Southie notes he was just testing Lazghul, to make certain he was strong enough. He says he’ll be on his way. He then steps out and begins walking down the path. In a fit of pique, Lazghul recites some spells that causes Southie to feel intense pain in his abdomen, and indicates he may or may not now keep his word. He otherwise lets them leave unmolested.

After they are safely away, the group chides Southie for antagonizing the lich-lord. Despite their increased paranoia, the rest of their trip is uneventful.

The fivesome arrives in Duchy Jepson in the late afternoon on the following day, Waterday, Patchwall 5. Given the colorful vardos and wagons outside Jepson, it appears a caravan of Vistani have made camp outside the town. The group enters and sets about their business. Croitus goes to the Wizard’s Tower library to perform further research on the Shard of Evil. Resh goes to the Wizard’s Tower to see if the spare dormatories are still available. (They’re not; Resh returns to the Addled Alchemist to find lodging for the night.) Southie travels to the offices of the Jepson Treasury to meet with Manny and Quithyra and continue contract work. Dhavita and Thava go to the inn — Dhavita to look for Margot, and Thava to have a drink. They find Marguerite and Vianibrar, and give greeting. Dhavita and Thava proceed to retell the events of the past several days on the road, prompting alarm (particularly from Vianibrar) with the revelation that Lazghul is again sighted in the Sorrowfell Plains. Resh returns to the inn during their story, and fills in details as needed.

Session 27

Earthday, Harvester 27, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Dhavita, Nobody, Resh, and Thava wait until nightfall. At some point during the afternoon, Dhavita realizes that Nobody isn’t part of the plan; she indicates she will remain here, in Vonseloth, with the Solaeque. Nobody says her farewells to everyone. Van’solessonna also bids them farewell, wishing them well on their journey and reminding them they are part of the tribe now; they may visit whenever they wish, particularly once the search for them has decreased its intensity.

The group rests for the rest of the afternoon in preparation for the night’s escape. Croitus returns to the Elven shrine to the dead, saying a prayer in an ancient Elven dialect before it, to the surprise of those present.

Early in the morning of Freeday, Harvester 28, the group prepares to leave. Croitus, assuming his normal alligator form, rides out on his horse. Once he exits the Purlieu, he notes a gang of orc mercenaries. He immediately starts whooping, shouting, and causing a ruckus, riding out of the Purlieu as fast as he can. As he rides, Croitus hears hooves thunder out of a side alley; he chooses not to focus on them, instead looking for his exit. The orcs take the bait and give chase, but as soon as it becomes obvious they cannot run down the horse, they loose a volley of arrows on Croitus’ position. One strikes the horse in the flank, and the beast begins limping.

Croitus leaps off the horse and dives into an alley, looking for transients and vagrants. He finds several asleep and tucks himself into a corner, using the hat of disguise to blend with them. An armored figure astride a horse — Croitus recognizes the armor of Sir Stígandr Hafrnsson — rides into the alley, and seeing a shifting homeless person, asks him if he has seen a crocodile-man come through here. Croitus, disguised as a vagrant, gestures to the end of the alley and indicates he went that way. Sir Stígandr thanks him and continues down the alley.

Shortly thereafter, the orcs appear. Asking the awake “bum” if he has seen a crocodile-man, he again directs them to the end of the alley. The six orcs split at that time, with four heading towards the end of the alley and the other two returning to their post.

Ten minutes after Croitus rides out of the Purlieu, Dhavita and Thava cloak themselves and go to leave. Nobody gives Dhavita her veil, and after repeating their farewells, Dhavita and Thava go to leave.

As the orcs have abandoned their post, Dhavita and Thava leave without incident. However, as they wander the quiet streets, they run into two of the orcs returning to the entrance of the Purlieu. One of the pair interrogates them as to their business, and insists on accompanying them, suggesting two lovely ladies ought not to be alone on the streets at this hour. Dhavita and Thava demur, suggesting that they must be on their way; the other orc strikes his associate in the arm, indicating they have a job to do and should not waste their time with this.

Dhavita and Thava make it to the north gate. Their packs are searched and they are questioned by the guards, who explain that there is a rumor going about that the escaped gladiators from Scandshar are here. Dhavita and Thava explain they are trying to make it into the Sylernavian Pass by sunrise so that they may picnic in the mountains, and then they are traveling onward to a cousin’s wedding — which is why they have the specialized equipment, as they are wedding gifts. The guards accept the explanation, and after warning them of the dangers and offering to escort them, they allow the pair to leave the city.

Resh waits another ten or fifteen minutes after Dhavita and Thava leave, and tosses his grappling hook over the wall. He quickly scales it, and although a distant guardsman notes the disturbance, Resh is down the wall and hidden in the surrounding trees before the guardsman can investigate.

The guard, assuming it was just nothing, continues to make his rounds.

Croitus remains in the alley for a few moments. Once he is convinced the pursuers have passed, he heads toward the market, using the hat of disguise to change his appearance when he is unobserved. When he makes it to the market, several merchants are setting up their stalls for the day’s business. He also notes Sir Stígandr, looking around the market square for anything out of the ordinary. The four orcs are here, interrogating and threatening shopkeepers, evidently to no avail. Strangely, the guards let them continue their questions.

After monitoring the scene for a few moments, Croitus, diguised as a merchant, unleashes the cadaver of Lord Book. He gives the undead only one command — run around the market and make a lot of noise. The frenzied corpse immediately does as it’s told, running throughout the market, shouting, overturning tables, and upending stalls. The guards seem vaguely amused and surprised at first before the realization that this person is causing property damage, and is a rotting cadaver, dawns on them. They move to deal with the disruption as Croitus leaves.

Croitus feels control of Lord Book wane within a few moments, indicating he was likely slain by the guards. He continues his tour through the streets, switching forms every few blocks, until he reaches the south gate. Seeing a caravan of merchants being searched by the guardsmen, he uses the hat of disguise to appear as a merchant, and slips into the throng. He turns to the merchant next to him, and joins the complaints about the disruption by the guardsmen. The other merchant is evidently too embarassed to admit he doesn’t recognize Croitus, and responds in kind.

Croitus manages to maintain the deception all the way to Castow; the merchant caravan reaches Castow late in the afternoon on Sunday, Brewfest 2.

Dhavita and Thava head maybe a mile or so up the Sylernavian Pass, and just in case anyone decided to monitor them, they move to the side of the path and breakfast as the sun rises. A few passing travelers note them, but otherwise let them alone.

Once the pair is finished, they leave the path and head west, into the mountains. To avoid Vonseloth, the hike through the mountains takes the better part of the day, but they return to the hills and plains without incident. It’s another day until they reach Castow on Sunday, Brewfest 2.

Resh makes his way south, through the mountains and hills until he reaches the plains. He specifically stays away from the road, and while traveling through the woods in the hills, runs into a gnoll scout. The gnoll threatens Resh, finally culminating in the taunt, “I hear you taste like chicken.” Resh replies, “I hear you taste like shit,” the audacity of which seems to amuse the gnoll. They agree to ignore each other.

Resh reaches Castow on Sunday, Brewfest 2. Just passing through, he makes camp south of Castow as previously discussed.

When Dhavita and Thava reach Castow, they notice that Castow’s Brewfest appears to be in full swing. They decide to check the meeting spot and find Resh, already having established a camp. As Dhavita wants to see Brewfest, the group splits; Dhavita and Thava will go to Castow and sample the festivities, while Resh will remain at camp. They say they will bring him back some beer.

When the merchant caravan arrives in Castow, they make their way to the Brewfest festivities. Croitus spots Dhavita and Thava dancing in the crowd, and he cuts in, revealing to Dhavita that he’s Croitus despite his mercantile appearance. They agree to meet at the campsite.

After they have thoroughly Brewfested, Dhavita and Thava return to camp with beer for Resh, as promised. Croitus returns with a half-keg of the local brew, although they decide to keep it for later consumption.

The quartet sets out the next day, Moonday, Brewfest 3, for Duchy Jepson.

On Starday, Brewfest 1, Southie, Manny, and Quithyra continue to make their preparations in Duchy Jepson. Southie refrains from imbibing too much on Brewfest, although he does order a keg of the local brew for the road. He also orders mugs engraved for the employees of Freedom Unlimited, Ltd. — each mug has the person’s name and position in the company. He threatens the craftsman if he makes substandard work, and also recommends investing in his company. The craftsman asks if he has official charter, but Southie is not interested in registering his business with the Duchess and her ministers.

Once all preparations are complete, Freedom Unlimited, Ltd. leaves the Duchy on the morning of Sunday, Brewfest 2.

Travels on the road are uneventful — the groups only pass a few merchants and travelers — until Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, and Thava meet Southie, Manny, and Quithyra on the road on Earthday, Brewfest 6. The groups catch up — Southie notes Nobody is not with the group, and explains his plans to abolish slavery and the deities with Freedom Unlimited, Ltd. (although he keeps the Creation Forge to himself, as a proprietary secret). He recommends investing in his company. Dhavita remarks that Quithyra seems to have gotten herself into quite the situation; she is aware of the company she keeps, but notes that she really cannot pass up the opportunity. Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, and Thava seem amused by Manny’s eccentricities, although after be comments on Dhavita’s vampiric heritage. Southie reminds him that he ought not to reveal hidden information, or at least not do so for free.

Southie gets to the business at hand — asking if he can reference Croitus’ books, as they may have important information. Manny explains that the Terrible Old Man was referring to books owned by Lord Candle, and that Southie already purchased the items he needed. Southie wishes he had mentioned this earlier, but Manny replies that he did not know why they were traveling west.

Returning to Manny’s apparent gift for secret information, Croitus notes that he and Manny will have to discuss matters in the evening. When it comes time to discuss watches, they decide to take shifts of two — Croitus and Manny, Dhavita and Thava, Resh and Southie. They move off the main road and decide to make camp for the night.

Session 26

Waterday, Harvester 26, 552 CY (50 AN)

The night passes in the Black Moor without incident. Southie and Manny prepare to disembark on the morning of Waterday, Harvester 26, so that Southie may return to Duchy Jepson.

That night, in Vonseloth, Croitus, Dhavita, Nobody, and Resh continue their revel with the elves and eladrin of the Solaeque Purlieu. Although the others feast and drink, Dhavita gets incredibly, sloppily drunk and spends thousands of gold pieces on a necklace for Margot. Later in the evening, Van’solessonna, the Purlieu’s Nyarmamaitar, offers to induct the travelers into the tribe via ritual tattooing, as they are obviously friends and family to now-returned Dar’amaraltria. Nobody asks to also be inducted so that she may start to re-integrate with the Solaeque. Croitus declines, on the premise that their tattoos may interfere with the wards that keep his warring gods at bay. Dhavita and Resh both agree.

Nobody receives the calligraphic symbol of the tribe upon her chest, while Resh receives it upon the right bicep. Dhavita goes to a secluded place so that she may be tattooed on her inner left thigh.

The next morning, Harvester 27, the revelers begin to awaken. Croitus awakens first, and plants himself at a shrine for the dead to contemplate their plight. Nobody and Resh rise around the same time, and as they prepared, they see a cloaked figure enter the Purlieu. The elves are tense, but still welcoming. As soon as Croitus sees a newcomer, he places the hat of disguise on his head to assume a human form. The figure removes her hood to reveal herself as Thava, the dragonborn whom they freed from the pits two weeks ago. She greets them, and indicates that she has come to warn them — mercenaries are looking for them, and having determined them to be in the Solaeque Purlieu, are waiting outside for them to leave. Apparently, they have not yet entered so as to prevent an incident between the government of Vonseloth and the Solaeque Purlieu, particularly as some of the mercenaries are apparently orcs.

Dhavita awakens toward the end of this, and her head still abuzz with drink, is pleasantly surprised to see Thava. She asks how things have been — Thava’s tribe apparently left this region, as it has been some time since her capture, so she ended up settling in Vonseloth for a bit — and then Thava informs her of the situation.

Discussion ensues, although it is interrupted as another figure approaches — Sir Stígandr Hafrnsson, the knight whom Croitus and Nobody met in Duchy Jepson. He recognizes Nobody, calling her, “the eladrin that doesn’t know anything.” He recognizes some of the assembled party as people often described with Croitus, although not seeing Croitus himself, asks if he is around. The others stonewall, and so Sir Stígandr tells them to pass along the message that he’s looking for Croitus and wishes to speak with him. Sir Stígandr then leaves without incident.

With that interlude over, the group continues their discussions. Nobody will remain with the Solaeque. When night falls, Croitus, Dhavita, and Resh will go their separate ways — Croitus will ride out on one of the horses as a distraction, and then use the hat of disguise when he loses his pursuers. Dhavita will sneak out in the confusion, accompanied by Thava, while Resh will scale the wall around Vonseloth.

Having gone their separate ways, they will meet again in Castow in a week’s time, and then return to Duchy Jepson. Anyone who misses the rendezvous in Castow knows to travel to Jepson as the ultimate goal.

Dhavita, still muddling through last night’s festivities, has not yet noticed that Nobody will not be traveling with them.

Southie and Manny’s journey to Duchy Jepson is uneventful, and they arrive on the afternoon of Freeday, Harvester 28. Southie, wanting to procure an alchemist, travels to the Wizard’s Tower, eventually being directed to see the Headmaster. The Headmaster seems surprised to see him and his ragged tiefling companion, but asks what he needs. Southie explains that he wishes to hire an alchemist for a possibly dangerous expedition. He gives few details, but the Headmaster says he will try to gather some alchemists that might meet Southie’s needs, although it may not be until tomorrow. Southie says that will fine, and tells him that he will be set up in the Addled Alchemist.

Before they leave, Manny tells the Headmaster he is laboring on the “demispell.” The Headmaster looks at Manny as though he is not entirely certain how to respond before Southie pulls Manny away, telling him it’s rude to reveal people’s innermost secrets.

Southie goes to the Addled Alchemist and spends the afternoon drinking with Manny. Manny, for his part, seems to get stranger as he drinks, delving into weird, esoteric philosophy. When it comes out that Manny is not accustomed to the touch of a woman, Southie decides to hire him a prostitute. They retire to Southie’s room — running into Marguerite on the way, who seems initially alarmed before settling on disgust at the trio — so that Manny can have the opportunity to practice physical love at Southie’s direction.

It’s a very strange, uncomfortable night. Although the young lady, named Strawberry, demands a hefty 600 gp for her services — largely given Manny’s eccentricities, although Southie’s commentary likely does not help — which Southie agrees to pay.

The next morning, Southie and Manny arrange their papers in the corner of the Addled Alchemist. Southie, apparently having procured an old pair of glasses, perches them on the end of his nose. They wait throughout the morning before a young, robed, female dwarf enters the bar, looking around before heading in his direction. Southie introduces himself as the President of Freedom Unlimited, Ltd. He introduces Manny, and the dwarf introduces herself as Quithyra Wyrmsbane. A recent graduate with the University for the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences, Quithyra is seeking gainful employment, and thinks Southie’s adventuring company sounds interesting. Although she obviously finds Southie and Manny a bit odd — she declines Southie’s “employee incentive” of hiring prostitutes, and does not fully understand his line of inquiry regarding an “elf that leaves the company” — she is willing to listen despite the fact that Southie is pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing, claiming proprietary agreements. However, she manages to piece together given his needs, his talk of historical records, and the possibility of dungeon delving that he is probably talking about a Creation Forge. She asks if that’s true, and he does not precisely confirm, although his lack of response confirms it for her. She says she is very interested and accepts his proposal. They agree on 200 gp per month, with more to come if the deal is lucrative, and he has her sign a contract indicating he is not liable for any incidental injuries that may occur on the road. It has obviously been handwritten in his scrawl, and despite looking at it askance, she signs it. Manny insists she signs in blood, and although Southie asks if that’s necessary, Manny assures it is, so Southie insists. She hesitates, then cuts her hand to make the appropriate signature.

She says she can start first thing in the morning, after she has purchased supplies. Southie informs her that he has business to the west, towards Vonseloth, before they go to the research site, so they will travel there first. She agrees.

Session 25

Starday, Harvester 22, 552 CY (50 AN)

Southie retreats from the gnoll encampment and manages to lose his pursuers. He returns that night to deal silent death as they sleep, taking out sentries and slitting throats. One gnoll — a priest or warlock by its general demeanor — awakens before Southie can get to him, and it casts some curse that rusts and pits Southie’s resplendent magical armor, rendering it useless.

Southie maims him, and once the other gnolls are dead, he returns to finish the job. Slowly.

Perturbed at the damage to his armor, Southie camps for the night and resolves to go to Duchy Jepson the following day to have his armor repaired.

On Harvester 23, Southie awakens early and begins riding back to Duchy Jepson. He travels to the blacksmith to get his armor repaired, and happens to hear a couple of passers-by talking about yesterday’s wedding. He asks the passing townsfolk about whose wedding, and one of them answers that it was two women. The one had a foreign name. A bit of pondering yields Dhavita and Marguerite. The feast was fabulous.

A little crestfallen, Southie goes to the Addled Alchemist to have a drink and see if he can find the others. Not seeing anyone, he asks the barkeep, who explains that they left this morning. Headed west, he believes. Southie notes that’s toward Vonseloth, where Nobody was going to search for her people.

Once his armor is finished, and content that he has some idea of where the others headed, he attempts to head north again, towards the Black Moor.

It takes him two days to travel to the Black Moor by boar, and he arrives in the late afternoon of Harvester 25. He immediately notes the change, as rugged mountains crowd around a tree-choked marsh. As he enters, he hears the change as insect life buzzes about and the croaking of frogs and peepers sounds throughout the swamp. A hive of fat, red bees buzzes in one of the trees. A small, crumbling boathouse sits prominently near the entrance of the swamp, and Southie investigates it, finding several mouldering old sleeping bags, a few greasy coins, and a rusted dagger.

Content that there is nothing in the hut, he continues to wade through the swamp. Deeper in the Black Moor, he catches sight of movement as a small, diminutive humanoid, evidently made out of plant material, charges out of the brush with a spear. It launches itself at him, but he effortlessly cuts it in twain.

That’s when he notices the others, all crowding around, but they seem unwilling to come closer given his apparent prowess.

As Southie continues north, deeper into the swamp, he eventually catches sight of a large boathouse, evidently overlooking a small lake. The plant-men retreat as he approaches the building. He ties his boar to a post and approaches the crumbling building, catching sight of movement as a tiefling, clad in armor and carrying a spear, looms out of the shadows. He has a full head of hair, his horns are intact, and he has all of his teeth, but apart from these factors, Southie would swear it was the same tiefling he met in Duchy Jepson earlier in the week. The tiefling does not seem hostile, however, so Southie lets him be.

Southie inquires about the tiefling, and whether he is the Terrible Old Man, but the tiefling indicates he is not. He has not been called by his name in a long, long time and has no name — where he was once one, he is now many. From that, Southie decides to call him Manny.

Southie inquires as to how he became the boatman leading to the Terrible Old Man’s hut, and he indicates it is just what he does. A calling rather than a job.

Not willing to leave his boar, Southie and the boar pile onto the Manny’s rickety boat, which somehow carries the trio across the pond to the hut on the opposite shore. While riding, Southie inquires about any tips when dealing with the Old Man; Manny merely replies that Southie should not attempt to fight the Old Man, for if he does so, he will lose. Southie admonishes Manny to not eat his boar, no matter how much time passes, lest he become very angry. He then enters the hut.

A crooked, bent old man in shabby robes with stringy hair and wretched teeth answers — the Terrible Old Man. When Southie asks, he indicates he has many names, but is sometimes known by that one. Southie decides to call him “Terry.” He invites Southie within and offers him tea. Southie accepts, and the pair discusses business.

The Old Man seems to have some prior knowledge of Southie, indicating that he knows of his desire to destroy slavery. Southie responds that his aspirations are bigger, extending to the gods themselves; the Old Man acknowledges this. He offers to tell Southie’s fortune — 1 gp for a simple fortune, or 100 gp to tell it with the deck of many things — but Southie says that the concept of Fate is just another form of slavery, and he will not submit. The Old Man indicates he appreciates Southie’s integrity.

Southie inquires about where his comrades can be found, but the Terrible Old Man is not omniscient; that information can only be determined by telling Southie’s fortune. Southie refuses.

The Old Man also makes some oblique reference to caves in the mountain face close at hand, although they have been sealed by the wizards of the tower.

In keeping with his goal, the Terrible Old Man offers him a treasure map. An old map from the days of the Arkhosian empire, this map shows the location of a secret Creation Forge, left over from the Turathi empire. Creation Forges were first developed by the dwarves during their durance to the giants — something that greatly interests Southie — and were used most recently during the Cackledread War to create the warforged. However, the empire of Bael Turath also experimented with Creation Forges; one of them is close at hand, nestled in the mountains. Additionally, the map also depicts the fane of a loathsome idol; communing with the idol, using a particular ritual, will answer any question.

Southie expresses an interest in the map, and the Old Man charges him 100 gp. Southie pays, and the Old Man notes that there are probably materials still within to make roughly two dozen warforged, but beyond those supplies additional materials — iron, stone, and wood — will be required. He also recommends securing the services of an alchemist to monitor and run the Forge.

Southie also wants to know the information of the idol, and is interested in that ritual. The Old Man also sells it for 100 gp; he gives the ritual scroll to Southie, recommending that when he goes to visit the idol, he brings a friend along.

Southie thanks the Old Man and returns outside. Since they have already established that Manny is free to do as he wishes, Southie asks if Manny wants to adventure with him. He agrees, but noting that it is late, recommends they camp here for the night. Southie agrees; they will head out in the morning.

Meanwhile, back in Duchy Jepson on Harvester 23, Croitus, Dhavita, Nobody, and Resh say their good-byes to Marguerite and Sati and head out on the open road. (Dhavita, for her part, spent the night with Marguerite, singing many of the old songs she likes to sing. And that she knows Margot likes to hear.) Despite intermittent rain, it is a relatively uneventful journey. Dhavita does dream, however; her first dream on the road is similar to a previous dream, wherein the Scandshar Watch and representatives of the Peacocks arrive in Dawnslight. This time, however, the Scandshar Watch hears the news that both Geoffrey and Marguerite Weogora have fled a week ago — Marguerite in the evening with five travelers, and Geoffrey a day later with some of his retainers. They left no slaves behind — although Dhavita gets the distinct impression that they have been integrated into the population of Dawnslight. Lord Key then indicates that the only person whom they can find connected to these events must be incarcerated, and she turns to Zafira Shulud. Zafira is about to flee, but realizes the futility. They clasp her in irons and head back toward the direction of the Bloodstone Crags.

She has another dream over the course of several days — a grand masquerade ball wherein everyone is swept into the dance. The dance is Vonseloth, and the travelers are welcome — but a shadowy figure lurks on the periphery of the ballroom, and the figure has a peacock mask. Spies are everywhere.

Dhavita makes certain to inform the others of both of her dreams.

On the afternoon of Harvester 25, they encounter a half-elf merchant. He is apparently heading from Castow, on the road to Vonseloth, and informs the travelers that Castow is run by a knightly order dedicated to the trade and fortune goddess Avandra — coincidentally, the same fortune goddess apparently sending visions to Dhavita. They thank him for the information and purchase some rations before moving on.

The travelers arrive in Castow late in the morning of Waterday, Harvester 26. Dhavita travels to the local temple to pray while the others rest briefly at the local inn, the Drunken Bishop. Once they reconvene at the inn, they decide to move on so that they may arrive in Vonseloth around nightfall.

Croitus, Dhavita, Nobody, and Resh arrive in Vonseloth shortly after sundown, and after gaining entry, they inquire about a mid-priced inn, and the guards recommend the Solitary Monk. To the chagrin of the others, Croitus asks about the location of the Solaeque Purlieu. The guards direct them to it, towards the eastern portion of the town.

A brisk ride on horseback finds them in the tenements and shanties of the Solaeque Purlieu. Doors stand open on buildings, and the families within appear to be preparing for bed. In the central plaza, there stands a modestly-sized tree, and several eladrin and elves stand around it. They appear to be chanting in Elven, some manner of ritual prayer. Croitus gives his helm of languages to Dhavita so that she may understand what is being said. A few of the elves look at the newcomers, but it is the shaman leading the chant who pauses when she sees Nobody. Calling her “Dar’amaraltria,” she says that she has returned to them. Nobody indicates she does not recall herself, and the eladrin druid indicates she is ileneth (literally “no name” or “unnamed” in Elven). Speaking in Common, she introduces herself as the druid Van’solessonna, the leader of these people. She asks about what happened to Nobody, and Nobody explains her capture and enslavement. Croitus, again to the chagrin of the group as there may be spies about, offers that they were responsible for the “troubles” in Scandshar as a direct result of assisting Nobody’s freedom.

Van’solessonna, pleased at these proceedings, indicates that as they are friends of Dar’amaraltria, they are part of the tribe and may come and go as they wish. They will find some traditions that are a trifle odd to city-dwellers; their belongings are communal, and their doors stand open. If you wish to speak with someone, enter their house. If you need something, borrow it at your leisure. While the travelers are in the Purlieu, however, they are free, as are their horses. She unhitches them and whispers something to them; the horses remain without further prompting.

Although they were just engaged in evening prayers, Van’solessonna believes this is cause for celebration. The Solaeque bring forth whatever food they can spare for the feast, and the music and tale-telling continues well into the night.

Session 24

Freeday, Harvester 21, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having organized the preliminary parts of a wedding ceremony, Dhavita and Margot decide to inform their friends and associates. They first find Sati, so that Dhavita may tell her of the wedding plans. Sati asks if the wedding is as sudden to Dhavita and Marguerite as it seems to her; Dhavita says it was. She seems pleased at the development, though.

Khuna and Margot find Croitus next as he returns from wallowing in the river. She tells him of the development, and though he seems uncomfortable with the prospect of being at a modestly-sized celebratory gathering, he makes some vague assertion that he will be there. Wandering through town, Khuna and Margot spot Nobody and Resh, returning from their hunt. Upon informing them, Resh says they will speak with the local butcher to have this prepared for a wedding feast. Nobody asks if she may attend adorned as her people traditionally do for weddings; Khuna agrees.

As Khuna and Marguerite begin shopping for appropriate wedding outfits, they run into Vianibrar, who says he has heard the news and is quite happy for both of them. He asks if he may borrow Marguerite for a few hours to assist her in wedding preparations, and Khuna and Marguerite both agree. Khuna then continues to shop for herself.

Preparations continue until just before sundown. As Dhavita and Sati approach the field to the east of town, they note that a woven mat of leaves and grasses — Nobody’s handiwork, as is later noted — has been placed before an archway that has been erected, and Abbot Aelius is there to receive the wedding party. A small but notable crowd has gathered, largely appearing to be scholars from the university. Croitus, Nobody, and Resh are all present; Croitus appears to have acquired some manner of ill-fitting and gaudy outfit, while Nobody is nearly nude but for the flowers and leaves she has braided into her hair.

Dhavita approaches Abbot Aelius, and after a brief pause, Marguerite and Vianibrar walk across the field. Marguerite is clothed in a long, cream-colored jacket with a similarly-colored top hat, blouse, and skirt, accented in orange. An orange veil, attached to her top hat, covers her face. Vianibrar walks her to the archway, then takes his place beside it, sitting cross-legged and unslinging a sitar from his back. He briefly apologizes, claiming it’s been a while since he played the sitar, and then begins playing.

Abbot Aelius keeps the ceremony relatively short, opening with a brief prayer and quickly offering a renunciation of any previous marriages entered by the two present. They exchange vows — Dhavita about how she didn’t know that a relationship could be like this, Marguerite about how Dhavita’s love freed her — affirm their marriage, and kiss.

Afterward, the feasting begins. As Nobody and Resh commissioned a large amount of food preparation, the feast continues well into the night, even as additional people arrive having heard about the growing party on the edge of town. Headmaster Jepson presents Dhavita and Marguerite with a gift: two red bezoars, or toadstones, to be used as bindi; Dhavita and Marguerite accept them thankfully and adorn them immediately. Dhavita and Marguerite speak to everyone in the crowd, making introductions. Croitus, having apparently heard that wedding gifts are traditional, awkwardly gives the pair a large cooking pot. They accept it graciously, and as he seems lonely, Marguerite asks if he wishes to dance; he declines, saying he is fine by himself. When asked, however, Nobody deigns to dance with Dhavita. Apparently, during the night’s proceedings, the group makes quite an impression on Ianrry Chandler, Captain of the Guard. He notes that if they wish to remain in Duchy Jepson, he might have jobs available for them with the local guard. Resh expresses an interest.

During the proceedings, Nobody makes a point of introducing herself to Vianibrar’s tattooed friend, evidently named Ekaterina.

As Dhavita seems hesitant to leave Marguerite after just getting married, the group agrees to postpone the journey to Vonseloth for a day.

The next morning, everyone awakens to find the tavern serving leftovers, as there seem to be plenty. So that Khuna may spend the day with Marguerite, the others decide to get provisions and horses for the journey tomorrow. Resh, however, does note to Khuna that it seems a bit odd for her to be so emotional about her former slave-master. He admonishes her to tread carefully.

Nobody also runs into Ekaterina, who apologizes for any curtness she may have shown at the wedding when Nobody asked about her tattoos. She received her tattoos from the same source Nobody received some of hers, revealing a large tattoo of a peacock on her back. The adventuring party known as the Shields of the Sorrowfell purchased her freedom in exchange for information she had, and now she works with them. Things are better now, but the past is still something they carry with them.

The rest of the day passes pleasantly.

Meanwhile, back on Harvester 21, Southie rides north. As he rides, he catches sight of a piece of paper stuffed underneath his saddle. Reading it, it appears to be a note from Croitus, indicating that he still wishes to aid Southie’s cause, and that if he returns after their tasks are complete, he will assist him. He stows the note and continues on his ride. While passing through farmland, he is ambushed by a small raiding party of gnolls. Although his dire boar is wounded in the battle, Southie makes short and bloody work of the gnolls, torturing the last to death when he will not reveal the location of his fellows’ camp. He impales two of their severed heads on his boar’s tusks as a decoration, and then rides onward, trying to track the gnolls, concerned that they are threatening Duchy Jepson.

He quickly becomes lost, and camps the night in an unfamiliar field.

The next day, he manages to track the gnolls back to a large encampment containing, perhaps, several dozen. When he finds it difficult to approach without being seen, he leaps into the fray, hoping to kill a couple of gnoll guards before they can raise the alarm.

They are brutally slain, but one summons the others before being killed.

Southie then retreats to a defensible position in the hills. The gnolls, armed with bows, fire volleys of arrows at him, but he manages to find cover. He then charges into the fray, killing a handful of gnolls before catching sight of their chieftain and challenging him. He orders another volley of arrows before charging through the throng to meet Southie. They regard one another, then enter battle.

Although the gnoll chief is a potent warrior and manages to disarm Southie, this prompts Southie to tackle him to the ground and begin biting him, savaging him with his sharpened teeth. A bite to the thigh becomes fatal when it severs the femoral artery.

As the gnoll chief gasps his last, Southie rises and tells the gnolls he is their chief. They are evidently not cowed by his display of force, and shower him with a volley of arrows, which he only narrowly escapes. He retreats to plot his next move.

Session 23

Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, Southie, and Vianibrar continue discussions regarding future plans. Marguerite and Sati remain, but say little. After further discussion, Nobody reveals her weariness of protracted fighting; she wishes to be done with it. She hopes now only to find her people. Southie takes this very personally, again reiterating that he thought they were a warband, but they evidently are not. The others indicate that they wish to help her find her people, as they owe her that much; Southie argues that since she will not help the abolitionist cause, they owe her nothing. Vianibrar, indicating they appear to have more to discuss, takes his leave. The argument finally ends with the apparent consensus that Croitus, Khuna, and Resh will assist Nobody in the search for her people, traveling to Vonseloth to the west, while Marguerite and Sati will remain in Duchy Jepson. Upset by this turn of events, Southie sulks and drinks in the inn while the others go their separate ways. Croitus goes to rest by the riverbed while Resh returns to the Wizard’s Tower to sleep. Nobody goes to find Vianibrar, who is presently speaking with Darstina; Nobody learns that Darstina will likely return to Scandshar on the morrow on some errand. Vianibrar expects The Pentad will take the refugees back to their homelands tomorrow as well. Khuna spends some time with Margot while Sati goes to see if the refugees need any further assistance.

After drinking a little, Southie leaves to see if he can purchase a mount. While initially looking for horses, he does find a dire boar for sale that seems serviceable. He purchases the beast, along with barding and stabling for the night. While he is waiting, he is approached by a disheveled, grimy tiefling. His head is shaved and his horns have been filed down to the skull. He indicates that Southie has questions, questions that can be answered by the Terrible Old Man. Such as how to kill the gods. This interests Southie, who inquires about Godenschemering; the nameless tiefling replies that it may be found in the mind of an orphan boy, far across the ocean. The tiefling further indicates the Terrible Old Man lives in the Black Moor swamp to the north. Southie notes that this sounds suspiciously like a trap, but the somewhat deranged tiefling insists it is no trap. Southie says he’ll kill him should he find it to be otherwise, but deciding to let him go, he gives the tiefling a gold piece for his trouble. The seemingly confused tiefling swallows the coin; Southie grabs him and tries to shake it out of him to retrieve it, but finally allows him to leave in disgust.

The group rests for the remainder of the day. Having the opportunity to do so, Dhavita explains what Marguerite saw earlier, regarding her need for blood; she explains what little she knows of her vampiric heritage. The next morning, Freeday, Harvester 21, Dhavita and Margot are awakened by a single, firm pound on the door. Marguerite and she discuss matters for a moment before Khuna quickly dresses and answers the door. There is a note on the outside of the door, pinned to it with a standard-issue Scandshar Watch dagger. Scrawled in Southie’s hand, the letter reads thusly:


I tHoght wE wERE WArBand LiKE FAmily Maybe? But IS clEar, WE ARE not. WE ARE Not 4 four EacH othER, but evEryONE FoR THEmselvEs. WE ARE Not WARBAND and I am A Problem four you

I WIll NO loNGER BotHEr You WILl purRsue Own goALs as REST of GRoup doES HOPE YOu HAppy WITH WIFE.


Somewhat nervous at the potential confrontation, Khuna and Marguerite decide to go to down to the common room. Southie is there, already eating breakfast. Khuna addresses him again, trying to explain that a disagreement does not need to mean that the group is dissolved — just as Southie has things he wants to do, it is perfectly acceptable for others in the group to have goals they wish to accomplish. Southie, however, argues that it seems the group is not committed to the anti-slavery movement, and will go their own separate ways.

After some of this back-and-forth, Croitus, Nobody, and Resh eventually filter into the Addled Alchemist. Nobody sits away from Southie, while the others discuss plans with her. As the conversation becomes more heated between Khuna and Southie, Croitus invites Marguerite to sit with him. Nobody and Resh, having decided to go hunting, decide to go out front and prepare. Southie finally storms out of the Addled Alchemist.

Southie passes Nobody and Resh along the way, and Resh indicates the plan to go hunting, and asks if Southie wishes to join. He declines, retrieves his boar from the stable, and leaves Duchy Jepson through the north gate.

Nobody and Resh leave to go hunting while Khuna decides to search for houses in preparation of returning and living in Duchy Jepson. Croitus decides to accompany her and Marguerite. As the members of the group each performs their respective activities, they see The Pentad ascend into the air, apparently ready to take the refugees back to their residences. There are few unoccupied buildings in Jepson, but in speaking with some of the local builders, she commissions a two-story stone house to be built. Croitus requests a hut to be built on the property, so that he may have a place to stay occasionally; Khuna agrees, and Croitus insists on paying a notable portion of the total purchase price. Marguerite asks about Khuna’s mother, and so Khuna goes to ask Sati what she wishes to do about a house. She is typically nonchalant, and says if she can stay in the Tower for the time being. Perhaps she will save her money and purchase a house of her own?

With their course of action set, Croitus, Khuna, and Marguerite pay masons to begin construction, which they estimate to take around two months. The hut should only take a day or two to finish. They are welcome to avail themselves of the inn in the interim.

After Croitus takes his leave, Khuna asks if Marguerite wishes to be married — if such a thing is possible, given her current marital status. She says that this is a somewhat sudden development, although she has considered it. She is not entirely confident in her ability to settle into the domestic life after spending her whole life in the aristocracy, but as Khuna notes, she managed an entire household. Just the two of them should be relatively simple in comparison. After some consideration, Marguerite agrees.

Khuna and Marguerite ask around and are directed to Abbot Aelius, a priest of Pelor, currently in the vicinity of the Wizard’s Tower. They find him, and Khuna explains that they wish to be married, although Marguerite is technically already married to another. The marriage, however, is almost assuredly done. Abbot Aelius says that something can likely be done regarding the matter. He asks if there are any particulars to the ceremony, and Khuna indicates she just wants it done simply, in one of the nearby fields. She does request fire be incorporated into the ceremony, as per the traditions in her homeland of Nadhi. Aelius agrees, and they agree to meet in three hours for the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Nobody and Resh scour the surrounding fields and woods and manage to return with two large boar that they suspect will provide good feasting that night.

Southie, for his part, begins heading to the Black Moor to the north…

Session 22

Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY (50 AN)

Khuna and Marguerite join Nobody, Resh, and Southie at breakfast in the Wizard’s Tower dining hall. Khuna brings up the prospect of what they are to do next. Attempt to deal with the deities hounding Croitus? Continue to fight slavers at Southie’s urging? Attempt to reunite Nobody with her people? Aid Resh in returning to his people, or possibly finding revenge? (Resh, for his part, seems more than happy to let his former tribesmen alone.)

Croitus leaves his research for a bit to join the others at breakfast as they discuss plans. Nobody notes that her own quest may take several human lifetimes to complete, and Khuna notes that Croitus’ issue will likely follow them no matter what they do. Likewise, they will probably continue to oppose slavers wherever they might go.

Before they can fully discuss options, a robed man approaches and asks for Khuna. He introduces himself as Professor van Hook, and indicates the Headmaster wishes to speak with her and her mother Sati. Her companion may accompany her as well. Professor van Hook leaves.

Khuna and Marguerite take their leave from the others. After a bit of further discussion, Croitus takes his leave to return to his research. Nobody decides to walk around a bit before going to the Addled Alchemist for a drink — and the hopes of finding Vianibrar to speak with him further about the Solaeque. Southie decides to go shopping, and Resh decides to accompany to keep an eye on him.

Khuna and Margot find Sati at the refugee camp and let her know that the Headmaster wishes to speak with the three of them. She accompanies them back to the Wizard’s Tower, and they ascend to the Headmaster’s office.

The Headmaster and Professor van Hook greet them, and the Headmaster makes a more formal introduction to Lady Marguerite, noting that the government of Duchy Jepson cannot officially extend hospitality to her as a Scandshar criminal. Perhaps this mess can all be cleared, and the Duchess can extend a formal greeting at that time. In any event, he has summoned them because he has two pieces of information worth noting. First, Adeptus Spellweaver will be taking the refugees back to their homes. This will be time-consuming, as he and his staff will need to ascertain whether or not the local governments were at all complicit in the slavery of their citizens before returning the refugees to their care. However, he notes this because they will be traveling to Nadhi, and if Khuna and Sati wish to return home, they may.

However, should they wish to stay, the Headmaster wishes to extend Khuna and Sati a job offer. The Headmaster understands they are both skilled physicians, likely more skilled than anyone in town. As such, he wishes to hire them as staff at the University, so that they may train others in medicine and assist the local clergy in their duties as healers. Khuna and Sati would be acting in tandem with the other biologists on staff — Discipulus Lee van Hook, and to a lesser extent, Magister Remegni — largely performing research at first, but progressing into teaching duties as time continues. For this, they will receive a stipend of 150gp per week, and are permitted to stay in the dormitories and partake of the dining hall. Of course, should they so wish, they can purchase property separate from the University. Additionally, should Khuna stay on campus, Lady Marguerite is permitted to stay with her; they would just remove an additional 5gp a week from her stipend to cover expenses.

The Headmaster notes that her associates are permitted to stay — so long as they have no difficulty observing the laws of Duchy Jepson — although he has no similar offers for them at this time.

He also mentions that he has the materials to perform the Sending ritual, as requested. Khuna pays him, and after discussion, they decide that she can use Professor van Hook’s office to perform it. He leads the way.

Along the way to Professor van Hook’s office, Khuna tells Sati how surprised she is that they’re treating the two of them like normal human beings, and not shunning them as witches. Sati notes that this appears to be a community of mages, and they do not labor under the caste system of Nadhi; things are simply different here.

Upon arriving in the professor’s office, he gives them privacy. They decide that Marguerite will perform the ritual, operating on the idea that Lord Weogora will likely respond to her. She follows the instructions on the scroll, mixing reagents for about ten minutes, culminating in her taking a vacant, distant appearance. When she returns to her senses a few moments later, she says she established contact. He was displeased, but she thinks he’ll follow their advice. She doubts they’ll see him again. Dhavita and Margot discuss this development, as Margot apologizes for all that they did to her and their slaves. Dhavita notes that they are unlikely to have met otherwise.

Once complete, they thank Professor van Hook and let him know they will consider the offer. The trio returns to the dining hall, and finding it cleared, they wander around the town to search for their companions.

Khuna, Marguerite, and Sati spot a shifty-looking Southie accompanying Resh. Unbeknownst to the others, Southie has been attempting to procure some poisons from local merchants, but has not had the best luck trying to locate the town’s black market. As they greet each other, Southie notes the guards headed in his direction. He quickly excuses himself and darts down an alley. Resh moves to go after him, and Khuna moves to run interference with the guards, but she freezes as the icy realization hits her that she hungers.

It’s rare that the craving for blood strikes her, but it occasionally does. It’s overwhelming, and as she stands in the middle of the road — jittery, shaking, breaking out in a cold sweat — the guards wander right past her, following Southie into the alley. Marguerite asks her what’s wrong, but Sati just guides her towards the Addled Alchemist. She quickly whispers something to Marguerite, then asks for a few gold pieces.

Entering the Addled Alchemist, they find Nobody at the bar, along with the tavern-keeper. The tavern is otherwise empty. Sati and Marguerite lead Khuna to a table in the corner, and then Sati goes to the barkeep and orders an extremely bloody order of pork, along with a cup of blood on the side; she pays him extra and advises him to not question it too heavily. He agrees, and returns shortly with the requested item. Sati delivers it to Khuna, who devours it greedily.

Meanwhile, Southie ducks through town in an attempt to evade the guard. He emerges, realizing that he is in an unfamiliar part of town amidst several cottages. Chickens peck in the dirt. He looks around, tries to reorient himself, and cuts back through the alleyways.

He emerges right in front of the two guardsmen, who are looking for him. One of the guardsmen explains that Southie has been asking around for poisons and other illegal substances. Asking is technically not illegal, although it is suspicious, and the guardsman tries to explain that he should probably stop. Southie counters that he’s looking for the black market in town, and naturally the guard would not know where to find it. Southie tries to convince the guardsman that the house right in front him is a black market site, even going so far as to knock and find a very confused woman. The guardsman tries to convince him to look elsewhere — say, another town — for anything illegal, and Southie finally concedes the point. The guardsmen continue on their way, and once he’s certain they’re gone, he knocks on the door again. The same confused woman answers, and Southie attempts to purchase poison from her. She initially says she does not have any, but after his persistent badgering, she says that she’ll give him a free sample. If he likes the substance, he can purchase more; if it doesn’t work, he can safely ignore it and they’ll never speak of this again. Southie agrees. She leaves and returns with a bottle of fluid, which she gives to Southie.

Feeling accomplished, Southie goes to the Addled Alchemist for a drink. Khuna, having freshened up after her hasty meal, is returning to the common room as he arrives. He greets everyone, and goes about ordering a drink. Shortly after Southie arrives, Resh bursts into the inn, wondering where Southie has gone, and being somewhat relieved to see him, drinking and sedate, at the bar.

With most of the group together, Khuna gathers them to discuss future plans. Croitus, taking a break from his research, enters the tavern shortly thereafter.

Khuna explains the job offer she received this morning, and the very real possibility that she and her mother have a place here. Southie seems wounded at this news, having assumed that they were a rather tightly-knit group, and that their goals were in alignment. Khuna tries to be diplomatic and explain that one can have multiple goals; she has no issue with helping the others attempt to reach their goals. It is merely a matter of determining what they wish to do next. With regards to Nobody’s dream of finding her people, Croitus notes that he read that Solaeque was ravaged by orcs, and its survivors were either enslaved or fled to En’amanisrahd, Vonseloth, and possibly Nainimdul, among other places. Khuna likewise indicates this is what she’s heard about the destruction of Solaeque.

Nobody comments on finding Vianibrar again to discuss things regarding Solaeque, and shortly thereafter, he enters the inn. The group calls him over, and inquires about his own abolitionist group. He remarks that they engage in some sabotage but primarily push legislation. Intelligence gathering is a particular strength of the outfit. Southie remarks that he wants to organize the slaves in a manner of revolt — Vianibrar is in favor of the idea, but is not overly fond of Southie’s methods to date. Southie notes that Vianibrar’s own methods never did him any good in the pits, a fact which he concedes.

Southie inquires about possible disruptions which could do some manner of good. Vianibrar notes that slave ships from distant lands have to come through Sorgforge, which only works because Sorgforge turns a blind eye, or sometimes does not know the cargo on the ships passing through its harbor. Slaves from within the Sorrowfell Plains are frequently gathered by the marauding raids of nomadic goblin and orc tribes. Either disrupting the port of Sorgforge or going after the raiders could be helpful, if properly directed. Southie also notes the possibility of traveling to Dawnslight to intercept the Peacock contingent and the ranks of the Scandshar Watch headed in that direction, although most of the group seems more comfortable avoiding that area.

As the group has more questions about slaving operations, discussions continue.


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