Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 11

Starday, Harvester 15, 552 CY (50 AN)

Discussion continues. Khuna inquires of Zafira how she knew she had a vision; Zafira replies that Khuna “has the look about [her].” Zafira proceeds to explain that the raise dead ritual doesn’t always work — if the soul has passed on, or is somehow trapped, or chooses not to return, the ritual does not work. Nevertheless, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie decide to entrust 2,000 gp to Zafira so that she may go and purchase components to perform the raise dead ritual for Ashraf on their behalf. She says she should return within an hour or two, and she and her bodyguards leave.

As she leaves, Khuna scampers after her. Thinking that Zafira ought to purchase clothes while she’s out, Resh similarly leaves to go talk to her. Khuna is a little surprised to see Resh wander after her, but when he asks Zafira for clothes, she agrees that sounds like a good idea. Zafira pokes her head back inside to take quick stock of everyone’s sizes. When she leaves again, Khuna catches her alone and gets her attention.

Khuna reveals that she is Dhavita. She asks why Zafira is looking for her; Zafira reveals that she is in danger, and it is imperative that she survives. Somehow, due to her heritage, there is a disease afflicting her appendix. She has not yet shown symptoms, but the disease will threaten her at some point. Zafira was sent here to perform surgery to remove her appendix. Khuna seems incredulous, but Zafira explains that the priests of her homeland directed her that this must be done. Dhavita’s continued life is apparently of some import. Zafira advises Khuna to discuss it with her associates once she is gone.

Zafira and her bodyguards leave, and Khuna returns to the group. She proceeds to explain that when Zafira was searching for Dhavita, Khuna is Dhavita. She recounts Zafira’s tale to them, explaining that Zafira would need to perform surgery to remove her appendix. Most of the group is wary about the whole thing, but agrees to let her go through with it if she thinks it is a good (or at least necessary) idea.

The group spends the rest of the time resting, cleaning equipment, or testing the stolen magical items. Croitus identifies his helmet as a helm of languages, allowing him to comprehend or speak any languages. He practices with Resh, as Nobody and Southie don’t seem keen on communicating with him in their native tongues. He identifies Nobody’s new armor as Timunn’s armor, a magical set of leather armor that makes the wearer appear as the height of fashion. The group passes the armor around, trying it on and marveling as it changes from person to person — the clothes of a dwarven monarch for Southie, tribal garb for Croitus, and a fine sari for Khuna. Nobody takes it and dons it again.

Croitus cannot identify the deck of playing cards, although he suspects they probably allow for magical cheating. He determines that the length of rope probably responds to commands — so when he orders the rope to do something, it moves like a snake, doing so. When he orders it to bind Southie, however, Southie notices the rope coming over to him and cleaves it in two. He inquires as to what caused the rope to do that, and Croitus merely suggests that he was messing with it and it started doing things of its own volition. Southie checks the perimeter, and when he’s satisfied that nothing has intruded, he goes back to examining his axe.

Croitus finally flips through the Tract of Teratology, noting that it will summon a creature known as the Tumescent Prophet of Sanguine Humours. In order to perform this ritual, it requires a sacrificial victim, a sapphire, a ruby, and the victim’s most prized possession. The victim must be executed through the “blood eagle” method, and the objects placed among the remains. He deigns to keep the summoning method to himself.

Khuna, meanwhile, has little luck in determining what the key does — she can’t get it to lock or unlock any nearby doors. She notes that the bedroll feels particularly comfortable, however, and that the decanter constantly dribbles water when she opens it. Finally, she opens the scroll case and pulls out the scroll. As soon as it is open, lines are spontaneously sketched on the map until the map shows the room in which she currently finds herself. As she moves, the lines move, keeping her position in the center, but sketching the surrounding terrain as she goes. It only appears to map areas that are visible, however. Resh takes it and moves up to the second floor to get a better view of the surrounding territory. It looks like it maps out to about a hundred feet or so. Resh returns the map to Khuna.

With the remaining time, Croitus prepares a ritual space for the raise dead ritual, and Khuna prepares a clean spot for her surgery.

After having a while to rest, Zafira and her bodyguards return. Khuna announces her intent to undergo the surgery, and she wishes it to be performed first, before the ritual. Zafira agrees. She has Khuna recline in the space she has prepared and consume some tea laced with oil of tagit. When Khuna finally falls asleep, Zafira also casts a sleep spell on her for good measure. She then gets to work, while being closely observed by the rest of those present.

While asleep, Khuna dreams. She is back in the Weogora manor house, back in the bed of her mistress. Entangled in bedclothes, their love is a joyful one, but Lady Margot’s pillow talk is only to remind Khuna of three things: “Behind the book is the brain. The brain is the book. The gods have heard prayers on your behalf, but so have their enemies. Beware the Circle of Constriction. I wait for you still. You will be mine at the first dawn’s light.”

Despite Khuna having a bleeding problem towards the end of the surgery, Zafira manages to stanch the bleeding and stitch the incision closed without much difficulty; she lets Khuna sleep as she gathers Ashraf’s corpse and begins the raise dead ritual.

As it is getting later in the day, the group decides to sleep and take watch shifts. During her shift, Nobody borrows one of Zafira’s surgical knives and shaves half of her head, performing ritual scarification on the bald side. The others merely keep watch.

Southie takes the last shift, and as Zafira’s ritual comes to an end, she hesitates. Southie asks what happened, and she explains the ritual did not work. Southie, deciding that Zafira has somehow tricked them, shouts outrage at all slaveowners before cleanly decapitating her with his new axe. The commotion awakens Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, and Resh, and Zafira’s four bodyguards draw swords and engage Southie in combat. Southie bisects one from crotch to roughly mid-sternum, pushing the man off his axe and advancing on the other three. Resh, unsure of what is happening, joins the melee. The kobold and dwarf make short work of the remaining bodyguards; the last dies as his arm is roughly amputated by Southie’s axe, and he slumps to the ground, glaring hatefully at Southie as he bleeds his last.

Resh and the others ask Southie what happened, and he explains that Zafira ripped them off, that the ritual did not work. The others remind him that Zafira noted that outcome as a possibility, and when Croitus examines the ritual scroll and the components, he finds everything to be in order. Southie apologizes, despite maintaining that his response was justified. Khuna gruffly explains to him why he should not go about killing everyone; that the outside world is very different from the pits. Southie disagrees, but takes it under advisement. Khuna then asks if Croitus could perform the raise dead ritual on Zafira, and he agrees.

Southie finds a corner in which to keep to himself as Croitus begins to enact the eight-hour-long ritual. While he does so, Khuna cleans all of Zafira’s tools and replaces them in her bag. When he is finished, he burns the incense and Zafira’s head reattaches to its body. Her eyes flutter open as she hears the others discussing her death. She rises, grimacing and growling when she sees someone has gone through her things. She angrily gathers her bag, and Croitus offers her a gem. She spits upon it and tosses it back to him before storming out of the ruined building.

After deciding on watches, the group falls into a fitful sleep.

Khuna has the same dream as before, as insistent as it was while she was sedated.

Awakening around midday, the group decides to complete Mr. Monkshood’s objective of assassinating Negrescu’s Nagas and Lord Book. Resh surveys from the second floor, and decides on mugger in a nearby alley — they lure him out and get him to lead them to the Nagas’ hideout. The group agrees. Croitus summons the gravedigger zombie to act as a drunkard, and the others take positions around the alley. When Croitus sends the zombie past, the mugger takes the bait, and emerges from the alley to find himself surrounded by the five.

He seems to immediately realize the gravity of his situation.

Croitus positions the gravedigger to have its arm around him, and they command him to take back alleys and lead them to the hideout. On the way, Southie asks the man’s name — Teobald — and what his position is on slavery. With some questioning, Teobald suggests that while slavery may not be right, hierarchies and pecking orders certainly seem natural — the strong prey upon the weak, and so on. Southie marks this pointedly to Khuna, as Resh tells them to put their disagreement on hold for the moment.

When Teobald identifies the building, Southie advises him to never breathe a word of this to anyone, or else he will find Teobald. Teobald agrees. Croitus gives him five gold pieces for his trouble, and when allowed to go, he scampers back the way he came.

Examining the building, the group notices activity within — occasional faces peeking out of windows, and the like. With the little information at their disposal, the assembled party prepares to strike.

Session 10

Starday, Harvester 15, 552 CY (50 AN)

Ashraf is ransacking an artificer’s shop, looking for components, when he feels a faint and distant rumble. Within a minute or so, a panicked man — weaponless, but wearing the garb of mercenary or private security agent — runs past the shop. Ashraf sticks his head out of the front door and asks what is the matter. The man turns to respond — and upon seeing a kobold, tries to flee. Ashraf responds by activating the electrical device he recently built and place on his shoulder, firing a gout of electricity at the man. Despite being shocked, he continues to flee; before he makes it to the alleyway to escape, Ashraf hits him with a second blast, and the man collapses into a twitching, singed mess. Determining he is close to the Heart of Scandshar, Ashraf gathers his tools and heads in that direction.

Meanwhile, Croitus’ guard-amalgam holds the door shut while Nobody, Resh, and Southie proceed to search the bar and nightclub portion of the Heart of Scandshar. Khuna sets about treating her wounds. Finding no one hiding in the nightclub, they are about to turn their attention to the door when they see Ashraf purposefully striding down the street toward the nightclub. He appears differently, however, now wearing a jumpsuit with a shoulder-mounted rifle and a utility belt. While functional, all of these things appear to have been made piecemeal. The group lets him into the Heart of Scandshar, and he and Resh set about building a trap on the door to make noise and hopefully slow anybody down as they enter.

Once the six are finished with their preparations, Croitus recalls his guard-beast to aid him, and they make their way downstairs.

Passing the privies, they come to a door at the end of the hall, leading into a smaller meeting area. A couple of tables are set here, likely for meetings or playing some sort of gambling games. The left side of the room bears a bookcase, while a bar sits at the far end. To the right of the bar, against the far wall, is a door.

A pair of eyes peer from behind the bar, and they quickly disappear as the group enters.

The group does a cursory check of the room, but largely moves over to the bar, where they find a very frightened woman in a maid’s outfit. She immediately begins pleading for her life, indicating that she is the only financial support for her family since her husband was injured in a mill accident. Confronted with unsavory characters, heavy weapons, and an undead guard monstrosity, she soils herself and collapses into blubbering.

Having donned her plague mask, Khuna starts inquiring as to the existence of the vault. The terrified woman reveals that the vault is concealed behind the bookcase, and only Torili Two-Spirit has the key. Incidentally, someone broke into the vault about a week ago by simply vaporizing the door and scattering the guards; this door is new, and likely has some manner of security system on it. Croitus and Khuna note the room is arranged according to geomantic principles to have some sort of magical effect, likely to summon something.

Deciding that it is much more difficult to try to disarm the summoning spell rather than just triggering it, they get to it. Ashraf is prepared to pick the lock while the guard-thing looms over him, guarding his back. Croitus, Khuna, and Resh stand in the entryway, guarding the maid, while Nobody and Southie position themselves in the room, leaving room in the center for the thing to be summoned. Then, Ashraf gets to work.

A wind whips through the room, followed by lashing rain. Suddenly, a behemoth of stone appears in the middle of the room, lunging for Ashraf. He activates one of the functions of his jumpsuit, briefly de-materializing while the others attempt to harry and distract the stone creature. Southie tries to carve at it with his axe, and while he seems to loosen some of the stones in the thing’s tough hide, it slams him in the torso, flinging him across the room. While Resh keeps it pinned with arrows, Nobody and the guard-amalgam move to engage it. It tears the guard-thing apart, then teleports across the room to face the group clustered in the alcove. Southie leaps onto its back, trying to carve at its throat, but the stony creature effortlessly grabs him and tosses him backward, flinging him into the bar and amidst the shattered glass of a broken case and various glass bottles. As his injuries have started to grow worrisome, he decides to take a brief breather, grabbing a bottle to drink from it.

Nobody, having received a small flamethrower device from Ashraf, moves to engage the beast with fire. As it focuses on Nobody, Khuna rushes across the room to tend to Southie’s wounds. Croitus and Resh run into the room and start moving tables in the hopes that will disrupt the geomantic energies that summoned the creature. It does not, and with most of the room ignoring it, it returns to attack Ashraf. It tries to crush his head against the vault door, but he de-materializes at the last second. Resh moves to attack and distract the thing, but it flings him to the ground, breaking his spear in the process. Although Khuna has not had sufficient time to treat Southie’s wounds, his rage fuels him, and he leaps back to his feet, ready to rejoin the fray. After a further sustained assault, Nobody finally destroys the thing with a well-placed blast of fire. The rocks dissolve, and the rain and wind stop.

About this time, the group hears the noisemaker trap by the front door activate, apparently marking the passage of the maid. They let her go as Croitus rebuilds the guard-thing and the others focus on their wounds. Ashraf finishes cracking the vault.

Once he is finished and Khuna has treated as many of the group as she can in the little time allotted, they decide to investigate before opening the door. They check out the door at the far end of the room, finding a sitting room and a plush office. Southie strews his own filth around the office, destroying the objets d’art he finds within. Croitus, however, realizing that the pieces might be valuable, takes them.

With that task done, they open the vault.

Shelves line the walls, and two treasure chests sit at the far end of the room. The shelves contain a small, burlap bag; a small, metal canteen; a glass jar; a grappling hook; an ornate helmet; an executioner’s axe with a heart-shaped blade and a white-and-red striped haft; a large scroll case; a wrapped object about the size of a deck of playing cards; a heavy and ornate-looking key; a bedroll; a dressform with a suit of quilted leather armor on it; a coil of rope; and a slim, leather book.

Ashraf immediately goes to work on the lefthand treasure chest, but is surprised by the righthand chest as it springs to life. Unable to get out of the way in time, it grasps him in writhing tendrils and pulls him apart, the sound of tear sinews and the spray of blood filling the room. The others leap into combat — Southie even grabs the executioner’s axe, burying it in the creature — and make short work of the mimic, but it is already too late.

After a quiet moment, they get back to looting the vault. A spiraling white coral horn, likely usable as a spearhead, is found in the mimic’s remains; Nobody takes it. Southie recognizes the executioner’s axe as the legendary Jolly Dancing Headsman’s Axe of Voivodja, an executioner’s axe used in service of the Heart Queen. It apparently enjoys killing so much that it will dance in the air, allowing the user to attack enemies at a distance. He takes it and the ornate helm, using the axe to open the remaining treasure chest. Several sacks are within, most containing gold but some containing gems. When Croitus tells Southie that the helm is likely an object to boost his intelligence, he parts with it; Croitus takes it. Nobody dons the armor; when she wears it, it turns into a lovely gown of Elven make. She decides to keep it. Khuna wraps several objects — the canteen, the scroll, the key — in the bedroll, while Croitus determines the small, burlap sack to be a bag of holding and shoves the remaining objects and the sacks of valuables inside. Ashraf’s corpse is placed within, in case they can raise him.

Satisfied, the group returns upstairs, but sees guards moving through the streets. They decide to exit through the sewers.

Croitus leaves the guard-thing in the sewers to cover their escape and wander until it finds a guard patrol. Dodging the sewer patrols, the others return to the ruins, holing up in an abandoned building to examine their loot. Croitus, holding the bag of holding, the glass jar, the grappling hook, the deck of cards, the rope, and the book, starts to examine them. He recognizes the glass jar as a flask of breath, an object that always has air within. He also recognizes the book as a Tract of Teratology, a book describing how to summon a creature which can do the group’s bidding. He messes with the grappling hook; when he throws it at a broken wall and successfully hooks it, a rope extrudes from it to his hand. The deck of cards appears to be a mundane deck, and when he tries to lasso Resh with the rope, it doesn’t do anything special. Resh tosses the hook at Khuna, but only succeeds in clubbing her in the head and scratching her shoulder with it. She wanders off with her bedroll tucked under her arm.

While the others examine their objects, she wanders to the front entrance of the building to keep a lookout and examine her items. She is about to look at the canteen when she sees five people approaching: four armed and armored men, and one woman wearing loose-fitting clothing, like what one might wear in the desert. She shoves the object back in the bedroll and retreats inside to warn the others.

Informing them that someone is coming — but asking them not to kill her — the others arm themselves but continue about their business until a voice calls out in greeting. Croitus unleashes the ghoul-thing and approaches, while the others approach, casually holding their weapons. Khuna approaches the group, donning her plague-mask. The woman and her associates seem unconcerned.

The woman is thin and willowy, of dusky skin and wearing the exotic, billowy garb one might associate with the desert. Most notably, her lips are cracked and swollen — but not from thirst or injury, it appears. Khuna’s primary association is a disease that primarily affects boas and pythons — a degenerative neurological disorder that causes erratic behavior and degenerative symptoms.

When asked, the woman introduces herself as Zafira Shulud, native to the Kharha Desert on the isle of Anhak. Brushing aside Khuna’s concerns about her apparent ailment, she describes herself as a pilgrim, suggesting that her affliction marks her as a seer. She has apparently come to Scandshar to find a girl named “Dhavita,” apparently a woman of some destiny. Zafira has little information regarding her, however, and plans on continuing to seek information regarding this woman.

Khuna does not intimate to anyone that she was known as Dhavita before she came to the gladiator pits.

However, at the revelation that this woman is apparently some sort of priestess, the lot ask if she might be able to raise dead, as they have a deceased companion. Although she lacks the capacity to do so, she could cast such a ritual if she could acquire ritual components and a ritual scroll. She thinks it would cost around 2,000 gp. The group decides this is a good idea, although they take a moment to discuss how they want to go about this new course of action.

Session 9

Starday, Harvester 15, 552 CY (50 AN)

Khuna descends the stairwell in darkness. She opens the door, and finds herself in a small antechamber before a much larger room. The larger room appears to be a library and laboratory, with shelves crammed with books and tables piled high with strange laboratory equipment — beakers, tubes, a floating brain in a jar. The walls and ceiling, however, are insubstantial, revealing endless stars and a great, blue moon hovering above all. Shuffling, rotting cadavers act as lab assistants and servants, cleaning the room and fetching things for their master. Their master is in the corner of the room — a slim, pale, bearded man wearing a turban with a peacock’s feather adorning the front. Strangely, his legs end in raven’s talons rather than human legs.

He hovers over an operating table. Khuna notices that stuck behind one of the legs of the table is a small cocoon, likely belonging to a moth or butterfly. The table itself bears a nude female cadaver, its chest opened in an apparent autopsy. Nobody in the room appears to pay attention to Khuna’s intrusion. Khuna approaches to examine the cocoon, and as she does, it wriggles and cracks as a green and brown butterfly emerges, fluttering around her before flying away.

Turning her attention to the body, she notes it to be her Lady Margot, the lady’s eyes glazed and cataracted as they stare at the ceiling. Khuna reaches out to touch her, and Margot sits bolt upright, grabbing her hand and establishing unblinking eye contact. She raises her other hand and displays three fingers, telling Khuna she must remember three things to aid her in the following day and subsequent days. Margot displays only one finger, saying, “Behind the book is the brain. The brain is the book.” Margot shows two fingers and says, “The gods have heard prayers on your behalf, but so have their enemies. Beware the Circle of Constriction.” Showing the third finger, she says, “I wait for you still. You will be mine at the first dawn’s light.” With that, she releases Khuna and slumps back upon the table.

Khuna awakens in a cold sweat. In their camp in the abandoned ruins, Croitus, Resh, and Southie sleep; Nobody is currently on watch; and Ashraf is scrounging for supplies in their lair. Disquieted, Khuna joins Nobody, warning her that she had a vivid dream she believes to mean something, and that something might be approaching at dawn, although she is not entirely certain of what. She will elaborate further when the others awaken.

During the watch, Ashraf passes through to inform them that he needs to scavenge for supplies. He will rejoin them later. Before leaving, he briefly awakens Resh to also inform him of this fact.

Dawn comes and goes uneventfully, to Khuna’s consternation and relief, and as the others awaken, she informs the rest of the group of her dream, indicating she believes it means something. Specifically, she informs them of the cryptic message about “the book,” taking this to mean Lord Book, and the fact that someone was to arrive at dawn. She fully admits that these are cryptic portents, however, and she does not fully understand what they mean. However, should something arrive at a future dawn, perhaps try not to kill it immediately until its threat can be assessed? It might be friendly.

The group discusses their options. Despite having come to the ruins to assassinate Lord Book and Negrescu’s Nagas, they consider the fact that Mr. Monkshood said the purpose of assassinating Lord Book was to draw Lord Candle out of hiding. If that means they’ll need to tangle with a vampire shortly after killing Lord Book, maybe they should grab for magic weapons sooner rather than later. As such, they decide to abandon the current plan and instead raid Torili Two-Spirit’s vault in her nightclub, the Heart of Scandshar, in the hopes of procuring magic weapons potent enough to hunt vampires.

Taking to the sewers, the group again manages to get lost, traveling in circles until they find themselves at an impassable wall of rubble — a previous deadfall trap designed by Ashraf and Resh. As they contemplate their options, several lean and hungry cadavers — still wearing the garb of the Scandshar Watch — wriggle free of the rubble. The clawed things savagely leap into the fray, but despite being terrifying combatants, the former gladiators are able to make short work of them.

They immediately set to work, seeing if the undead guardsmen have anything valuable. Croitus sets about stitching two of the creatures together to creature a giant undead monstrosity, which he stores in one of his canopic jars. Several of the group harvest ghoul heads to hang from their belts and better intimidate foes.

Having sufficiently prepared and attempting to re-orient themselves, the group wanders until they stumble across a guard blockade that has been established in the sewer tunnels. While Resh begins firing upon the guardsmen with arrows, Croitus unleashes his new ghoul amalgam upon them. The guards quickly ignore Resh, instead focusing on the ghoul, but to no avail — the monster is upon them, tearing the guardsmen apart. A few manage to flee, but most of the post is slain.

As the ghoul-thing and Croitus sample several of the guardsmen’s brains, they determine that things have started to reach a fever pitch in Scandshar. The city is under lock-down; most activity has ceased, and people are staying in their homes. Guard patrols bring food and water. All soldiers currently patrolling the borderlands are being recalled, and there is a rumor that Lord Key of the Peacocks is coming herself to aid with the situation.

Further searching through the remains reveals a map detailing the municipal sewer system, as well as the guard posts therein. This makes the rest of the trip to the Heart of Scandshar significantly simpler.

Deciding to approach from below, the group moves through sewer tunnels until they are fairly certain they are beneath the Heart of Scandshar. Resh decides on a fertilizer bomb to breach the privies and gain access to the club and the vault. While gathering materials, however, Resh slips and is nearly dragged away by the current, being saved by the timely intervention of Croitus’ amalgam beast. The filth-covered kobold manages to make his bomb and place it a strategic spot. The others find cover as he lights the fuse and dashes after them.

An explosion and the sound of collapsing rubble greets them as the passageway is filled with dust. As the dust settles, they move, scrambling up the rubble to enter into the bathroom. As guards come to investigate, Croitus commands his amalgam beast to hold the door closed; once the group is in position, the creature opens the door again. Several guardsmen are crowded around the door, and are rather surprised at the sight within. One drops his weapon and walks upstairs. Resh pops around the corner to take a shot at him, grazing him and sending him running up the stairs. The ghoul-thing rushes into the hall to start tearing through the guards, as Nobody and Southie rush at the guards, weapons drawn. Khuna, meanwhile, feigns shock to scramble past the chaos and after the fleeing guard. As he reaches the door, she tackles him to the ground, and a scuffle occurs. In the melee, she takes a boot to the face as the guard manages to scamper off down the street. Another guard behind the bar starts advancing on her.

The former gladiators make short work of most of the guards and start to head upstairs as Croitus places his ghoul-thing back in a canopic jar and begins stitching two of the guardsmen together in some large, obscene octopede. With the armed and bloody dwarf, elf, and kobold rushing upstairs, the guard advancing on Khuna decides to run. She closes the door and flops in front of him to get him to trip, but only results in being kicked several times. As he fumbles with the door, however, Resh fires an arrow at him, and suddenly the guard-thing comes rushing up the stairs at him. He tries to escape, but it tears into him, killing him.

Having been injured, Khuna sets about trying to patch herself so that the group can proceed down to the vault.

Session 8

Freeday, Harvester 14, 552 CY (50 AN)

With Peacock soldiers at the barricaded doors, Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie contemplate their options. Ashraf and Resh finish rigging their trap, and discuss the plan. The group will make a hole in the wall leading to the nearby alley. They have rigged the barricades to fall away from the rear exit as they leave. As the soldiers enter, they’ll trigger the deadfall trap.

With everyone in agreement, they get to work. Nobody and Southie manages to tunnel through the wall of the warehouse. Khuna runs outside first, running around to the front of the building and convincing the Peacock soldiers to go chasing after the interlopers — in the wrong direction. She then runs into a nearby alley and hides.

Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie exit after her. Ashraf triggers the barricade’s collapse, and the group moves away quickly as footfalls sound in the warehouse behind them, followed by the sound of the roof collapsing. Dust starts to waft into the alleyway and street.

Having had a path cleared by Khuna, the group moves into the street. With no resistance, they open a manhole cover and duck into the sewers. Seeing them again on the street, Khuna swiftly rejoins them and follows them down into the depths.

Meanwhile, Croitus has found a sewer access and wormed his way into it, wandering through the sewers to move unseen.

Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie are moving through the sewers, they hear movement ahead. They brace for combat when Croitus moves into the diffused half-light. The group then presses forward, moving deeper into the sewers. The goal is to find the ruined district, clear across the city. Since she knows the city fairly well, Khuna decides to guide them while Ashraf keeps a lookout for any unwanted visitors. Unfortunately, Khuna is significantly better at navigating above ground, and so the group travels in circles for a while before anyone realizes the mistake.

The delay allows the group to run into one of the random guard patrols now searching the sewers. Croitus summons his undead gnoll and orders the beast to block the ladder leading up to street level. The others enter into combat with the guardsmen; although they call for backup, with one entrance blocked by a slavering gnoll, their fellows cannot join them in time, and they are swiftly slain to a man.

Ashraf and Resh quickly rig the ceiling to collapse and head in the opposite direction. A few moments later, they are well away from the scene of the battle and they are rewarded with a tremor marking the collapse of the deadfall trap. Khuna then manages to successfully retrace her steps and lead the former gladiators to the ruined district.

Peeking onto a deserted street, the group ascends to street level. Surveying the landscape, they quickly find an abandoned shell of a building, which they inhabit, preparing to rest and sleep for tomorrow’s confrontation with Negrescu’s Nagas and Lord Book.

Session 7

Freeday, Harvester 14, 552 CY (50 AN)

Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie plan as they await the return of Mr. Monkshood. Ashraf inquires if Khuna knows any places where shady dealings may take place; having made occasional backdoor transactions on behalf of her masters, and having spoken with some of the other servants and slaves in her time, she is more than aware. She indicates that the mercantile districts and the waterfront tend to have such places.

As the group is discussing options, they start to hear a scratching in the walls. They make sure their equipment is gathered, but otherwise continue talking. As the noise suddenly stops, Khuna, disgusted at the constant adversity in Scandshar, exclaims that they ought to burn the town to the ground. A shrill, whispering voice emanating from the air around them agrees.

The entity begins to speak with them, and Nobody asks for it to reveal itself. From a shadowy corner of the room, over where the original scratching sound emanated, emerges a small, grotesque, misshapen imp that Nobody recognizes as a demonic quasit, usually known for acting as wizards’ familiars. Bipedal, somewhat mammalian, somewhat reptilian, somewhat insect, and bearing sharp, needle teeth, the creature indicates it wishes to parley with them.

Southie, having heard the term “parley” earlier in the day from an aboleth speaking directly into his brain, immediately launches at the creature with his spear. The quasit only has an opportunity to exclaim, “No! You can’t—” before being impaled and dissipating into a black stain and a greasy mist, smelling faintly of brimstone.

Everybody bursts into a confusion of shouting as they deride Southie for killing the creature. Ashraf and Khuna explain that parley is usually a sign of peaceful negotiations, the encounter with the aboleth notwithstanding, and that if Southie needs to kill something during a parley, Ashraf will issue the command. Otherwise, he should just remain quiet, particularly since they don’t know what wizard or demonic entity Southie may have just enraged by killing its minion.

With that clarification complete, Ashraf reveals that he has settled on a plan. The group is to move to the waterfront, hit a warehouse belonging to the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks, and leave evidence that Daeron Hollysword and The Wolf committed the deed. Then, when the Peacocks move to retaliate, the escaped gladiators can save Daeron and The Wolf and use that as leverage to get them in the employ of Mr. Monkshood’s client.

As everyone seems amenable to the plan, the group starts to move, sticking to back alleys and side streets. Khuna navigates while the others discuss their roles in the plan — at least until they realize that Southie is missing.

During the planning phase, Southie learned that the Peacocks are slavers. Nobody was one of their slaves, and they own the gladiator complex from which the group escaped. Those loyal to the Peacocks frequently invoke a peacock motif in their attire — a pin, a brooch, the pattern of the fabric, and suchlike — while those who are their slaves are often marked with some manner of peacock tattoo. Armed with this information, Southie decided to slip away from the group. Emerging onto a larger street, he glanced around. Seeing a well-dressed woman with a peacock feather pinned to her jacket, accompanied by two more drably-dressed women with noticeable peacock tattoos, he decides on his target. Emerging from the alley, he rushes behind the woman, screaming, “Thus always to flesh-peddlers!” He then slams his spear into her rectum, impaling her clean through her torso so that the spear blade emerges from her mouth. He then plants the spear between cobblestones, declares, “No gods, no kings, no masters!” and ducks back into the alley as the street explodes into panic and chaos.

Meanwhile, Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, and Resh have realized Southie is missing. They start to backtrack, pinpointing his location when the hear the screams start. They hustle to converge on his position while Khuna stays behind to maintain plausible deniability and act as a gawking onlooker.

Southie, unarmed, is facing three guards in the alley. Despite his fearsome countenance, they feel their chances of success are great, and so they advance without fear. Southie launches himself at the first and grapples with his spear. The man manages to throw him off and smack him with the butt of the spear, but Southie tries again, planning on controlling the spear. As he does, Ashraf, Nobody, and Resh appear in the alley. As Southie grabs the guard’s spear and proceeds to hideously massacre him with it, Ashraf and Nobody advance on the other two guards as Resh covers them with his bow. Ashraf kills the first while Nobody chases down and kills the second.

Emerging onto the street, Nobody sees Southie’s handiwork. The two slave-girls, sobbing and obviously in shock, are trying to revive their clearly-dead master. Nobody approaches them and tells them they are free. As they look at her frightening visage and start screaming, she half-whispers to them to run, which prompts them to do so.

Seeing that guards are converging on their position, Nobody informs the others and they flee, successfully losing the guards in the confusion.

The group continues on their way, keeping a closer watch over Southie as they go. After a few minutes, the city alarm horn sounds, and the group notices the streets start to clear. The group starts moving carefully through the alleys, dodging guard patrols. At one point, Khuna, still leading the group, happens to round a corner — and run smack dab into a couple of guards she didn’t notice previously. She manages to keep them away from the alley and convince them that she was merely running an errand and is trying to return home. Despite her assertions that she can make it home herself, they insist on escorting her to the nearest guard post for her own safety. She agrees, having little choice.

Not that she has to worry about it very long. Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie emerge from the alley to intercept the guards. One turns to face them, shouting for the other to get the woman to safety. The other guard starts running with Khuna, urging her to run. Feigning panic, Khuna collapses; the guard grabs her and fireman carries her down the street as fast as he can.

The first guard stands little chance, and the second hardly fares better. Despite taking a tumble on the ground when the guard falls, Khuna is unharmed. The group continues to the waterfront.

Emerging at the waterfront, the group sees the workers packing things away so that they can effectively wait out the lockdown. Several guards are assisting. Rather than hitting a prime target, the group discusses the options and ultimately decides to target a smaller warehouse attached to a shop on the outskirts of the waterfront.

Khuna comes to the back door while Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie all gather around her, out of sight. She knocks using the “secret knock” and the door opens. The Peacock soldier opening the door is immediately surprised by impalement by Southie’s spear, although this gives the other Peacock soldiers in the warehouse time to register the commotion. A couple of gangsters move forward to engage, but are swiftly stopped by Ashraf and Nobody. The remaining soldiers knock over several of the boxes to form a barricade, and prepare for the fight. Southie begins barricading the back door.

Khuna, feigning panic, screams that she was captured by Daeron Hollysword and The Wolf. They forced her to come here, and requests the Peacock soldiers help her. She starts clambering over the barricades while the Peacock soldiers, convinced by her deception, ignore her and begin firing arrows at Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie. Khuna throws open the door between the warehouse and the shop, and seeing a frightened shopkeeper and several Peacock soldiers within, she screams that they need to save themselves, because Daeron Hollysword and The Wolf are here. She then throws the door closed and locks it.

Ashraf, who has taken cover and started forming a plan, notes a rope and scaffold assembly supporting several of the boxes. He tells Resh to fire on it, severing the rope with an arrow. Resh fires a successful shot and sends a whole stack of boxes tumbling down. As Khuna sees the stack of boxes start to topple, she realizes she can’t escape fast enough. She does, however, see an empty box falling, its top open to the ground. She quickly dives underneath the falling box and drops into a fetal position, effectively shielding herself from the falling debris.

With both exits blocked and most of the soldiers out of commission, Ashraf and Resh set to work building a trap by the back door. Nobody and Southie scale the uneven wreckage of collapsed boxes and begin moving to engage the Peacock soldiers. Although one manages to climb free from the debris to engage Nobody, she swiftly slays him. Nobody and Southie then proceed to search through the detritus, killing gangsters as they go.

Meanwhile, Khuna has been working to free herself of the heap. She manages to heave the box off herself, only to find that one of the soldiers has been tunneling in her direction. She again plays on her distressed damsel act, generally acting like a frightened mess to keep his guard down.

Once they seem to have killed most of them, Southie extracts a final gangster out of the wreck and begins interrogating him, truthfully telling him, “If you cooperate, Nobody will hurt you.” After some coercion, he agrees, telling them that the Peacocks are currently organized under Lord Key, although Key only took over after Lord Oculus died last week. This particular soldier works for Lord Book, who lives over in the ruins. His building is also the base of operations of Negrescu’s Nagas, who patrol the area, and there are tunnels underneath leading throughout the city.

True to his word, Southie then sends Nobody to kill the man.

Searching further, Nobody hears the commotion among the littered boxes. Digging through the wreckage, she finds Khuna and the Peacock soldier. The man asks Nobody to just let the two of them go, and when Nobody refuses, he prepares to attack. Khuna feigns distress to take the opportunity to collapse and try to trip the man. He manages to keep his footing, but after trying to avoid this, he finally hefts Khuna off the ground and uses her as a human shield. Nobody indicates that this is not a wise course of action and proceeds to stab at him — she manages to avoid Khuna, although the blow is not fatal to the gangster. Wounded and frightened, he flings Khuna to the ground, and when Nobody next attempts to lunge at him, he manages to grab her and spin her around, holding her as a shield with his sword to her throat. Southie looks ready to lurch himself at him, but it is Ashraf who steps forward and attempts negotiations. However, this is merely a ploy to get the man to lower his guard; he stops mid-sentence to step forward and cast his spear at the gangster through Nobody. The spear-tip pierces her side, but fatally punches through the soldier’s diaphragm, causing a harsh exhalation of air as he dies. Ashraf casts the blood off his spear and then returns to the task of building a trap on the back door. Khuna, meanwhile, sets to treating Nobody’s wound.

Meanwhile, Croitus has been waiting in the cemetery. After growing tired of the prospect of waiting around until nightfall to fulfill his necromantic experiments, he decides to just burrow through the earth to the remains in a coffin. He begins digging, but after digging mostly into the earth, he manages to get struck between two large stones in the ground, and wedges himself so firmly that he is unable to extricate himself.

He is not certain how much time passes, but it is some time before he feels vibrations and then feels a tugging on his tail. He begins thrashing, and between his thrashing and whatever force is on his tail, he feels himself manage to wriggle free. In the midst of this, he slams his tail into something, and he stops feeling the pulling sensation. After managing to climb back to the surface, he finds he struck and accidentally killed the groundskeeper. He invokes his necromantic rites and inters the man’s essential salts into one of his canopic jars.

As he finishes, he hears the alarm horn resound throughout the city.

His goal of obtaining another zombie servant complete, he decides to return to the river. From there, he decides to travel down to the waterfront in the hopes of establishing contact with members of the Claasen noble house.

Session 6

Freeday, Harvester 14, 552 CY (50 AN)

Ashraf, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie awaken suddenly as they become aware of another presence in the room — a slimy, piscine humanoid with translucent skin. Groggily fighting it off, another such creature enters, which they similarly manage to slay. A minor earth tremor reverberates through the building.

And then the doors are breached, and the horde enters.

Roughly ten of the clear-skinned humanoids, combined with five spear-wielding fish-men, wade into the warehouse. Armed and awake, the former gladiators begin hacking their way through the crowd. As they do, the gaint tremor grows more persistent, until the bottom floor of the warehouse shatters, revealing the hideous bulk of a slimy, tentacled, six-eyed, fish-creature. Ashraf immediately recognizes the creature as one of the loathsome, subterranean aboleths.

Communicating telepathically, the aboleth demands parley, but the escaped gladiators continue to hack through his minions. He then unleashes a psychic shout that dazes most of those present, again, asking for parley. The group acquiesces.

It indicates that one of them — punctuated by turning its cold gaze on Croitus — has penetrated its domain. As such, it wishes for them to come and serve it; it will fulfill their every need and make certain they are well-compensated. They decide that sounds too much like slavery, and they resume impaling his fishy minions with spears. Mr. Monkshood emerges from his hiding place in the rafters, killing one of the creatures with a thrown knife. When the last of the skinless things is dispatched, the aboleth immediately winks out, and the floor is again whole, indicating that it was some manner of psychic projection.

Seeing that the safehouse is compromised, the former gladiators gather their things and prepare to leave. Croitus, determining his own plan, goes charging down the street toward the waterfront. Mr. Monkshood says he will attempt to find another safehouse and reestablish contact. The rest of the group waits in the vicinity of the safehouse.

Meanwhile, Croitus dives into the river and surfaces to pull a fisherman under. After killing the man, he reanimates him and sends him to go looking for the group.

Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie are waiting in the alleyway when a shadow looms. He looks like a drunk, but closer inspection reveals a fresh, albeit water-logged, corpse. They quickly slay the unholy thing as it lurches toward them, and then retreat to the alley.

Sensing his hold over the undead creature fray and snap, Croitus kills another fisherman and animates him, pinning a note to this one saying he is from Croitus. He then sends the corpse on its way before relocating to a graveyard upriver to plot his next move.

The group is huddled in an alleyway waiting for Monkshood when another one of the shambling things comes lurching into the alley, followed by a guardsman attempting to halt him. Knowing the Scandshar Watch will put a large damper on their plans, Southie vaults over the corpse, slamming his spear into the guardsman’s chest and killing him instantly. The group then works quickly to cut the corpse off at the knees, so it cannot follow them, and they then plant a weapon in its hand so as to make it appear as though it killed the guardsman.

Knowing that they are once again being followed, the group heads through the tangle of back alleys until they find a relatively secluded side door leading into a tenement basement. They break open the door and prepare to hole up until Monkshood reestablishes contact.

Session 5

Earthday, Harvester 13, 552 CY (50 AN)

After a tense moment of waiting, the side door to the Temple of the Enlightened Metropolis opens, revealing a young female acolyte. She recognizes Khuna as one of Lady Marguerite Weogora’s handmaidens, and invites her and Thava into the temple. The acolyte asks about Khuna, saying that she has not seen her at the temple the past few weeks and that Lady Marguerite has not been appearing publicly in that time, and Khuna explains that problems have arisen. She was kidnapped, but managed to escape, as did her associates. As such, she is requesting sanctuary. The people who managed the feat are potent enough that the situation must be handled delicately — essentially letting the acolyte know that she is discussing the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. Khuna wants to know if someone could check on Lady Marguerite, as Khuna herself likely could not safely approach. After some discussion, they decide that Thava will stay hidden in the back of the temple. So that Khuna may move about freely, the acolyte will loan her a priestess’ robe. And finally, the acolyte will head past Lady Marguerite’s estate and try to discern her condition. Before leaving, she asks Khuna if she has any message to convey; so that Marguerite will have no information to give the Peacocks if they come calling, she indicates that she can no longer remain in Marguerite’s service or life. Having decided on a course of action, the group parts company.

Meanwhile, Southie has peeked onto the street, waiting for an opportune time to emerge. When the street is mostly abandoned, he emerges — still covered in blood and the tattered remnants of his flesh suit. A well-dressed couple sees him and flees, screaming. Heedless, he heads into the temple across the street. Throwing the doors open, he is greeted by an acolyte working at the altar. He surprises the acolyte, leaping at him spear-first and impaling the lad to the floor, swiftly cutting off the bloody chortle that emerges from the young man’s chest. He is withdrawing his spear as a priest, casually chatting with two guardsmen, enters the chapel. Southie shouts, “No gods, no kings, no masters!” as he launches at the priest, impaling him with the spear and bracing to face the guardsmen.

As Southie enters the street, the others hesitate before following him. Nobody emerges onto the street, nude and covered in blood, and followed by the kobolds Ashraf and Resh. They note the open door to the church, and as Nobody sights inside the temple, she sees the chaos unfolding and joins the fray.

As Nobody enters, one of the guardsmen bolts out the back. She gives chase, and as Ashraf and Resh see this scene unfold, they slip around the side of the temple through an alley. Ashraf and Nobody converge on the guard’s position and quickly slay him. Meanwhile, Southie engages the first in melee, but he manages to slip past Southie and bolt for the entrance of the temple. Southie throws his spear, but the guardsman evades it and runs out the door, shouting for assistance. Resh, hearing the commotion, runs to investigate, and sees the guardsman running down the street. He nocks an arrow and lets it loose, impaling the guardsman through the throat and leaving him bleeding in the street.

As Ashraf, Nobody, and Resh survey the surroundings and check for equipment, Southie decapitates the priest’s corpse, forming a tableau with his head and scribing “NO GODS NO KINGS NO MASTERS” in blood at the foot of the altar. When Ashraf, Nobody, and Resh appear with some holy oil they found in the back, they spread it to set fire to the temple before fleeing. Before they leave, they make certain Nobody has a robe so that she can travel through the city with a modicum of subtlety. After setting fire to the temple, they flee, and as they move into the street, they hear a great horn reverberate throughout the city — clearly an alarm of some sort. They dive back into the sewers and retreat.

As Khuna slips through alleys to rejoin the others, she hears the single, low note of a great horn reverberate throughout the city. Recognizing the alarm, she hurries to the street where her companions were last seen. Smoke billows from a nearby temple, a guardsman lays in the street a block or so away, and another guard is asking Khuna if she heard the alarm, and recommending she get indoors. Not wanting to enter the sewers in full view of guardsmen, she walks down the street before ducking into another side alley. Hoping to find her way to another sewer entrance, she eventually does. As she is debating entering, she hears a voice behind her call for “Khuna.” She ignores it, prying open the sewer lid, but as the voice grows more insistent, offering to help her, she turns to see a mustachioed man in a nice suit leaning out of a nearby doorway. He mentions that he has already spoken to Croitus and wishes to offer her a deal; he can either help her escape, or she can brave the guards by herself. After debating, she drops the sewer lid and follows the man into the side door.

Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie move through the sewers, hoping to find their way to the center of the city and then to outlying points to hide. They move through the sewers without difficulty, at least until they hear noises and see torches up ahead. Making quick and bloody work of the guardsmen, although they make noise and alert their fellows behind, Southie makes a grotesque tableau out of the corpses, piling them and placing them in torchlight so their comrades can find them. As he does this, Ashraf and Resh set to work rigging this section of sewer to collapse. They task Nobody with standing between Southie and the kobolds, ensuring that no guards get past her.

As the kobolds continue to work on their trap, the guards approach Southie. He looms ominously, allowing them to catch a glimpse of him and the pile of mutilated corpses before extinguishing the corpses and sending the guardsmen into a panic. He then leaps into the water and pulls a guardsman under, stabbing him in the fetid water to muffle his screams. The guardsmen, however, hear the commotion, and begin to flee madly in the darkness; Southie is thorough, hunting them down one-by-one. When they are slain, he leaves their mutilated bodies in embarassing positions, staggering their placement so as to lead to the main pile of corpses. Content in his work, he returns to Ashraf, Nobody, and Resh, and when they finish with their traps, they continue to walk through the sewers. After a few minutes, they hear and feel a satisfying rumble in the distance.

The foursome manages to pick its way through the sewer passages and disused service tunnels until the group finds itself beneath the slums. Scouting potential places to hide, Resh sneaks out of the sewers and slinks into a nearby tenement. On the third floor, he finds a locked door with little signs of movement and no sounds of habitation. He breaches the door to find the place choked with dust, although old footprints in the dust suggest it was once used. The footprints lead to a small cache of gold and vials of a brown, resinous substance — likely opium.

Sneaking back to the street, he informs the others of his find, and they sneak into the building. They set up positions in the apartment, barricade the door, and prepare to rest for the evening.

Meanwhile, Khuna is following her unknown patron through smuggler tunnels and access hatches. He explains that he is Mr. Monkshood, and that he — or rather, his client — seeks to collect her and her associates and offer paying work. The client has ensured that Lady Marguerite is safe and beyond the reach of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. He finally leads her through an access hatch into a warehouse that has apparently been prepared as some manner of safehouse. After some discussion, Mr. Monkshood indicates he will leave to see if he can find where her associates have gone. Left alone in the quiet, darkened warehouse, she weeps softly for a long time.

She is surprised to look up and find Mr. Monkshood, apparently having silently returned. She dries her eyes and grumbles about the intrusion, and Mr. Monkshood explains that his agents have located her fellows — they are currently in a tenement in the slums. After discussing how to initiate contact, Khuna suggests she should be the one to initiate contact, as they are likely to be…ornery if approached by a stranger. They decide to go together, but as she is dressed in priestess robes with a physician’s mask, Mr. Monkshood says he will change. He is gone nearly a half hour before returning, perfectly disguised as a young maiden in priestess robes. When Khuna asks how he did that, he responds “contouring” and refuses to elaborate further; she suspects he has access to some manner of illusion magic.

Meanwhile, Croitus continues his trek across the Sorrowfell Plains. When he arrives at the city gates, he sees the city in a state of lockdown. Taking to the river, he manages to find a bent section grate he can squeeze through, gaining access to Scandshar yet again. Making his way to the Troll and Fish, he quietly enters and gets a drink. Wanting some manner of protection, he asks to purchase a spear from Scarlet Jax and her boys, and then he sits in the back of the bar, drinking and plotting his next move.

Appropriately disguised, Khuna and Mr. Monkshood set out across the city, staying out of sight of patrols and keeping a low profile. When they arrive at the slums, they walk to the tenement where Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie are currently staying. Khuna enters the building first, followed by the disguised Monkshood, making her way to the apartment where her associates were last reported to be staying. Taking a deep breath, she knocks on the door.

Meanwhile, Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie immediately gather weapons and take positions when there is a knock at the door. Upon opening the door, they see a priestess, which makes Southie immediately uneasy, but he is swiftly calmed when it is revealed to be Khuna. However, the group is quite suspicious of her associate; Monkshood introduces himself and reveals his purpose. Despite Southie’s misgivings, Ashraf is willing to deal, and after a brief discussion, the group decides to hear Monkshood out and give work with his “client” a try. He says he can get the group out of the tenement and into a safehouse; when they agree, the disguised Monkshood leaves, saying he’ll return with a cart.

Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie have several minutes to reunite and prepare before Monkshood returns. Some time passes before there is a knock at the door; the group answers the door to find the “priestess.” There is a cart waiting outside, and so the group gathers its equipment and leaves. Monkshood says there is a brief stop before they travel to the safehouse; sources indicate Croitus is back within the city.

One of Scarlet Jax’s boys notifies Croitus that someone is there to see him. He is greeted by a young woman, apparently a priestess of some kind. She indicates that she is here on behalf of Mr. Monkshood, that she is to collect him and reunite him with his companions. Having already obtained his spear, Croitus agrees to accompany her.

Once everyone is in the cart, the cart returns to the warehouse safehouse on the waterfront. Once Ashraf, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie enter the warehouse, they all prepare themselves to rest. Mr. Monkshood travels to the back, and returns a little while later having removed his disguise. He then explains terms, explaining and elaborating on things he already discussed with Croitus. Mr. Monkshood’s client is giving each of them a 500 gp stipend. He then wants them to recruit Daeron Hollysword, The Wolf, and La Grande Énigme. Daeron and The Wolf are thieves — and if the tales are true, lovers — stealing from small-time crooks and hoodlums in the slums. It is likely they will target a Peacock operation sooner or later, likely to their detriment. They do what they do for themselves and their community; in order to recruit them, the group will likely need to resort to some form of misdirection to convince them to accept employment from Monkshood’s client. La Grande Énigme, on the other hand, likely just needs to be found — he suspects she will react favorably to any prospective job offers. Mr. Monkshood’s client is offering 1,000 gp for each one successfully recruited.

In addition, the client also wants several Peacock operatives assassinated. The client believes killing Lord Book will benefit them. Lord Bell, Lord Book, and Lord Candle formed a triumvirate of sorts in the Peacocks; Lord Bell, also known as Large LeFarge, was recently slain. As such, the client thinks killing Lord Book will draw Lord Candle out of hiding. Additionally, Lord Book is served by the gang called Negrescu’s Nagas. The client is offering 2,000 gp for Lord Book, and 500 gp for each of Negrescu’s Nagas killed.

Finally, there are Peacock operations in Sorgforge, as well. Lord Zrak is the ranking Peacock Lord in Sorgforge, and is served by a tiefling named Mithras Vicelord. Killing Lord Zrak is worth 5,000 gp, and killing Mithras is worth 2,000 gp. Since Lord Zrak is a shadowy figure in much the same vein as the late Lord Oculus, and Lord Oculus turned out to be a beholder, Monkshood’s client suspects Zrak is also a beholder. As such, the group may want access to magical weapons; fortunately, nightclub owner Torili Two-Spirit holds a lot of things in her vault. Since her nightclub was recently attacked and several of the guards were slain, security is weakened there, so it might be worth striking the place for magic items.

With these details, the group briefly discusses plans before finally resting.

Session 4

Earthday, Harvester 13, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus awakens and begins dressing and preparing for his day when there is a knock at the safehouse door. He answers it to see a burly minotaur who indicates that Scarlet Jax — presumably the red-haired half-elf woman he met last evening — wishes to speak with him at the Troll and Fish. He arranges himself, hides in the waiting cart, and goes.

Arriving at the Troll and Fish, he enters through a rear entrance. Among the gangsters and sailors is an out-of-place, well-dressed man. Jax explains that he paid more than Croitus to find and speak with him, so she brought Croitus here. Her goliath bodyguard leads Croitus and the man to a back room to speak.

The man introduces himself as Mr. Monkshood, and indicates he has sought out Croitus on behalf of an unnamed client. This client appreciates the things Croitus and his associates can do, and wishes to recruit them. Mr. Monkshood recites a litany of their histories and accomplishments, noting that Croitus’ background is not well known to his client. He notes that Ashraf and Resh both come from a kobold tribe in the Hoarfrost Ridge (although not the Blizzardtalon tribe, apparently) and they are owned by Lady Minodora Anghelescu, who has apparently been purchasing kobold slaves nearly exclusively. Khuna, also known as Dhavita, was a house slave owned by Lord Geoffrey Weogora II and Lady Marguerite Weogora, although she was apparently sent to the gladiator pits as Marguerite was distracted by her, apparently being a “mirror-polisher,” as he says. The fighter known as Nobody apparently has an old bill of sale listing her as “Dar’amaraltria,” and she is currently owned by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks; she is apparently one of many gladiators who has lost her identity in the pits. Southie was apparently birthed into the pits and is currently owned by Lord Revaz de Rais, although Southie has apparently killed every messenger sent by Lord de Rais, and so has never met his master.

Mr. Monkshood continues, saying his client seems to think the Peacocks are on their way out, and that they will collapse within the next year. He says that his client wishes to retain people of the caliber of Croitus’ associates. As such, he is curious if Croitus can retrieve his associates from the gladiator pits, assuming they do not successfully escape in the meantime; following their failed escape attempt, they are apparently still alive, and Mr. Monkshood’s client wishes to recruit them. The client has a couple of jobs for Croitus and his associates, and is willing to pay before letting them go about their business. The client is also willing to pay in information, giving information regarding the whereabouts of everyone’s slave masters.

If Croitus requires assistance in the prison break, Mr. Monkshood’s client also has three people he is willing to pay Croitus for recruiting. Two of them — an eladrin named Daeron Eregmegil and a human known only as “The Wolf” — are a pair of lovers stealing from the minor street gangs in the slums, although they have recently touched at the periphery of Peacock operations. They might be willing to join the client’s operation if they are convinced the Peacocks are coming for them. Additionally, there is a burglar working the upper class districts known as La Grande Énigme whose expertise might be useful. Monkshood’s client is willing to pay 1,000 gp a head for each one recruited to the cause, and 500 gp a head for each of Croitus’ associates rescued from the gladiator pits.

Croitus agrees to these terms.

Once left to his own devices, Croitus takes to the sewers, delving deep enough to encounter the truly monstrous dire rats of the deep sewers. Trying to capture, kill, and reanimate one, he is swarmed by them and leaps into the water to be free of them. However, he dives so deeply that he is caught in the suction of a sewer pipe. Unable to scrabble free, he is sucked into the pipe sent down it for several minutes before being deposited in an underground stream. Unable to see, he just allows the current to carry him. Passing by phosphorescent mushrooms, he emerges from the stream to break off a piece of mushroom to carry with him and to light the way. The current carries him to an underground lake, where an ancient intelligence makes telepathic contact with Croitus and tries to force its way into his mind. Croitus is able to repel the assault, causing the thing to request his capture. He swiftly swims away, avoiding strange tendrils in the river and the cast of a net before he disappears downriver.

He passes by loincloth-clad dark elves fishing the river. They make an attempt to capture the passing crocodile-man with spears and nets, but he is too swift, dodging their fishing implements. He continues down river further before emerging into a surface river, amidst the rolling Sorrowfell Plains. Avoiding the road on the far side of the river, he goes into the tall grass to hide and sun himself for nearly an hour before making the long trek back to Scandshar.

Meanwhile, Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie awaken one by one in their dark cells. With no clothes, mattresses, or equipment, it has been an uncomfortable evening. Many start probing their surroundings, but finding no weaknesses, they settle in to plot and plan. Khuna starts singing, and at this, Nobody is roused to act. She stretches and prepares herself, before delivering a swift kick to the door, cracking the hinges and sending the heavy metal door spilling into the corridor. Despite straining the muscles in her leg, she’s free and mobile, rushing out into the hall to engage the guards. Two start firing arrows at her while the other four advance with spears; as one lunges forward, she grabs his spear and flings him at another guard. The two collapse in a heap and do not awaken. She then wheels on the two guards and advances. Hearing what’s happening outside, Khuna changes her song into a war chant while Southie starts beating on his door. Despite being grazed by several arrows and spear points, and even taking an arrow to the shoulder, Nobody manages to take down the two guards before rushing back to what she presumes to be Southie’s cell and prying open the door with her spear. Using the door as cover, she crouches and waits as Southie exits. As he does, Nobody dives for the fallen guards, grabs their keys, and starts opening Khuna’s cell. The guards, seeing Southie, scream and try to escape, but to no avail — they trip and fall as Southie rushes forward. One pierces his own throat with his dagger rather than face Southie, while the other attempts to get away as Southie falls upon him. Southie asks if he prays to any gods, and when the man indicates he does, Southie says he’ll wait. The man starts quietly praying; Southie finally says he doesn’t feel anything, and breaks the man’s neck.

Having acquired keys, Southie sets about unlocking the doors on this level. After finding Ashraf and Resh, they also find another gladiator, a female dragonborn and apparent sorceress. As Khuna treats Nobody’s injuries, the rest equip themselves with clothes, weapons, and armor. When Nobody is back to fighting shape, Khuna similarly arms herself with clothes, a shield, and a dagger. Nobody, always faster unencumbered, merely takes a spear.

As the magic doors do not open for the group, Southie attempts to bypass the doors by carving out a hollow in one of the guard’s corpses and wearing him as a suit. The door does not fall for this trick, but as Southie is attempting to reason with it, it opens as a small contingent of guards enters. They are shocked to see Southie, and are quickly overwhelmed; however, knowing that the doors recognize the guards, they spare them, holding them at spearpoint and forcing them down the corridor. The magic doors part, and when the group is certain they are where they wish to be, they quickly slay the guardsmen.

The group finds Croitus’ cell, and finds it boarded up. They pry off the boards and enter to find the hole in his cell has been bricked shut. Ashraf and Southie get to work prying out the mortar while Khuna decides she wishes to retrieve the medical supplies in her cell. Resh decides to keep watch for Ashraf and Southie while Nobody follows Khuna. As they try to access Khuna’s cell, they come across a contingent of guardsmen and Nobody engages them with her spear. Hearing the commotion, Resh approaches and begins pinning the guards down with arrows. As they fall one by one, the last turns to flee, but is caught by one of Resh’s arrows and slain by Nobody’s spear.

Khuna decides that attempting to acquire her materials is more trouble than it is worth, so the group returns to Croitus’ cell. Finding that Ashraf and Southie are finished, the group slides one by one into the slimy tunnel.

After nearly an hour, they emerge into the sewers. Noting claw markings on the walls, they follow them to a long-disused access tunnel. Seeing that the claw marks also exited the tunnel, they follow them until they come to a ladder leading to the street. The group decides to wait behind while Khuna scouts ahead. The dragonborn decides to accompany, and the rest will wait in the sewers, waiting for a signal.

Khuna and the dragonborn arrive on the street, realizing they are in the Temphill district. They garner a few odd looks but in general are not immediately recognizable as escaped gladiators. The pair ducks into an alley and the dragonborn introduces herself as Thava. As they shed their armor and weapons and stash them, Khuna explains that there is a nearby temple to Erathis that may grant them sanctuary. At the very least, it is worth a try.

Having safety stowed their gear, the pair creeps through back alleys until they reach the door of the Temple of the Enlightened Metropolis. Khuna takes a deep breath and knocks.

Meanwhile, as ten or fifteen minutes have passed without word, Southie grows restless. He throws aside the manhole cover and beckons the others to follow onto the street.

Session 3

Waterday, Harvester 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Crawling through his tunnel into the sewers, Croitus takes a moment to get his bearings. He decides to take his reanimated rat and send it after Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie so that he can gain some of the information they know, instructing it to sample the brains of the fallen as it moves through the tunnels. Content that he has eyes on the group, he begins wandering through the sewer tunnels in the hopes of finding some old catacomb or other. Meanwhile, as the rat feeds, memories that are not his begin to filter through his mind — hopes, dreams, military orders. The guardsmen are frightened, knowing that they take their orders from organized crime bosses, but as much as they are frightened of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks, many are just of frightened of the likes of savages of Southie and Nobody, especially in their last moments.

After wandering for a while, he feels his hold over the rat suddenly fray and suddenly sever — the creature has been killed. He quickly finds and kills another rat, and then reanimates it with the same mission as before. As he wanders, more information filters into his mind, most notably that a guardsman has hidden a sack of 861 gp and an emerald worth 1,000 gp under the floorboards of his bedroom closet in his home at 87 East Somersby Way.

Wandering further into the sewers, Croitus finds a bit of tunnel obscured by debris. Pushing it aside, he sees a tunnel of older stonework leading into the darkness. He wanders down into the black, feeling that the walls turn from stone to cavern walls.

Eventually, he sees the flicker of firelight and the murmur of voices. He peeks into the tunnel to see that it opens into a much larger chamber. Apparently carved out of the natural stone of the cavern, but showing no tooling nor workmanship, the far end of the chamber bears a small flight of stairs leading upward into another tunnel. Flanking the room, and apparently supporting the ceiling of the location, are two statues of nude elven forms — female on the left, male on the right. Like the rest of the room, they are carved out of the very rock, but bear no tooling marks.

The source of the firelight and voices comes from the tent city that has apparently formed in this chamber. A variety of humanoids, their state of dress suggests they are members of Scandshar’s homeless population. Their general agitation suggests many of them are mentally disturbed. Croitus, wanting to have nothing to do with them, skirts throughout the shadows at the edge of the room, although one man spots him, commenting that the poor creature is dead already but does not yet know it. Croitus grabs a stick from nearby debris, gets some rags for the end, and lights it to create a torch. He then ascends the stair into the darkened tunnel.

Walking to the end, he sees a set of double doors, heavily rusted and pitted, and chained and locked shut. He decides to let his reanimated rat collapse so that he may reanimate another. He opens one of his canopic jars and summons the animated corpse of Thawtham to help him break the doors open. It takes a long time, but no one comes to stop him, so the dead goliath eventually breaches the doors.

The next room is a square sort of anteroom. The far side bears a circular, bronze, wheeled vault door. To the left of this door is a basin marked with an unknown rune and filled with black water. A bas-relief above the basin depicts a hooded and robed figure jabbing a dagger into a man’s mouth.

Croitus notices that a filthy boy, likely around eight years old and probably having detached from the group of homeless men, is now following him. Contemplating the mystical connotations of this situation, he seizes the child and proceeds to snap his neck before attempting to draw blood to pour into the basin. However, to his shock, the boy’s form twists into an horrific, tentacled creature. Croitus manages to leap out of the way as the creature lashes out, capturing Thawtham in its tentacles. The thing is busy enough with ripping Thawtham apart that Croitus has enough time to turn the wheel to the vault door, dash through it, and close it behind him. The vault door behind him also bears a basin to the left of it, bearing a glyph and filled with black water. The bas-relief above it depicts an eye made of several eyes. Ahead of Croitus is a hallway. He begins walking, but is aware of presences just outside of the light of his torch. As he continues to walk forward, he sees a pair of red pinpoints of light peer out of the gloom. As he investigates, the thing swoops forward — a being of living shadow — and touches him with a marrow-chilling cold. It also passes its extremity through his torch, snuffing it out. In the darkness, Croitus scrambles backward toward the vault door. He twists the wheel, opens the door — and bumps his snout against a solid stone wall. He bites his hand and bleeds into the basin, but nothing appears to happen. As the presences press inward behind him, he reaches into the basin, and finds it full of small, rubbery spheres roughly an inch in size or so. Quickly determining their nature in the dark, he throws some at the shades behind him, and as this seems to do no good, he reaches his claws behind the orbit of his eye. Working through the blinding pain of severing his own optic nerve with his fingernails, he manages to remove his own eye and place it in the basin as the spectral forms begin touching him with their chill arms. The vault door slams shut, and when he opens it again, it appears to lead into an open chamber. He closes the door behind himself, and flees forward through the darkness.

As he returns to the light of the tent-city, he sees the tentacled child-monster tearing through the homeless. He quickly scavenges an intact eyeball off a dead man, and flees back into the lightless cave tunnels leading back up to the sewer level.

Upon reaching the sewer, he takes a moment to pause and eat his own toe, which apparently makes him feel somewhat better. He then heads up into the street, finding himself in a more upper-class area of Scandshar. Sticking to the alleys, he wanders until he finds a small boutique. He summons his undead, one-armed dwarf, commanding it to breach the shop and return with clothes. It breaks through the window and returns with a lovely gown. He takes it, and ducking into an alley, changes clothes and sets about securing his new eye into his now-empty eye socket. Once that task is complete after about an hour, he decides to head over to the waterfront to find a seedy bar.

After some wandering, he comes to a bar down by the docks called the Troll and Fish. There are a few assorted patrons within, as well as the barkeep, a gang of ruffians, a male goliath, a male ogre, and a female half-elf with flaming red hair. Croitus receives several stares as he enters, but is otherwise unmolested as he approaches the bar and inquires about drinks. The half-elf at the bar asks what happened to him, as he looks quite disheveled — mismatched eyes, women’s clothing, various questionable stains — and he brushes off the question, inquiring about possible work instead. She counters with the fact that he looks like one of the gladiators in the arena, and that she understands there was some trouble in the pits earlier, so what is he really doing here? He questions her, and learns that no one appears to have escaped, although information is not terribly forthcoming.

Although she seems incredulous that he can do anything for her, he says that he has certain “unique” ways of gathering information. For a demonstration, he indicates he knows of a treasure at 87 East Somersby Way and says he will split it if she aids him; she summons the goliath as a bodyguard, leaves the ogre in charge, and decides to follow.

Upon reaching Somersby Way, she and her associate decide to keep a lookout while he breaches the house. A little townhouse, Croitus approaches the door, slips out of sight, and summons the one-armed dwarf. The dwarf knocks on the door and a woman answers — initially confused, she eventually determines something to be wrong and starts to close the door. Croitus commands the undead creature to force his way open, grapple her, and keep her from seeing him. The dwarf wrestles her into submission and keeps her facing a corner while Croitus dashes upstairs — to come face-to-face with a young girl. She immediately starts screaming, and Croitus leaves her to her horror, rushing into the master bedroom and prying up a floorboard in the closet. He pulls out the sack, rushes back downstairs, tells the dwarf to release the woman, reduces him back to his essential salts, collects him in his canopic jar, and flees, presumably to meet the others back at the Troll and Fish.

Reconvening at the Troll and Fish, Croitus reveals the sack containing 861 gp and the emerald. Since he might be a fugitive and should likely not move about freely, he says she will be able to more easily fence the emerald, so he agrees to give her the emerald and keep the gold pieces. She agrees, and says that will easily pay for his evening in a safehouse. She has some of her men smuggle him into a cart, drive him across town, and set him up in a safehouse for the night.

Meanwhile, Ashraf, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie are facing down the gladiator pit guards and the city guard as a mysterious mist seeps into the area. It quickly coalesces into a bald, robed man; Khuna immediately recognizes the whispered appearance of Lord Candle, a representative of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks and a vampire. As Southie moves to react, the man commands him to sleep and he collapses into unconsciousness. The man then reaches out and lifts Nobody by her neck, threatening to snap it if they do not relent and agree to parley. Resh throws a spear that appears to merely bounce off the man’s flesh; the party decides to parley.

Khuna asks him why he would deign to serve this side of the conflict, and he replies that they are the winning side. Lord Candle then makes his bargain — the group can continue fighting and die horrifically, as will their masters and anybody connected to them, or they can return to their cells and wait in the hopes that his punishment will be merciful and they may be allowed to live. Khuna acquiesces first, and the others slowly follow suit. They are marched back to windowless cells in a solitary confinement portion of the complex, stripped naked, and thrown into the cells which are then closed and locked. With nothing else to do, most of them attempt to find some manner of sleep.

Session 2

Waterday, Harvester 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh Burntscale, and Southie move behind the horde of gladiators as Ashraf Scarscale spurs them forward. When they reach the end of the hallway, there is a set of stone double doors that does not budge and does not bear any sort of lock or doorknob. Croitus strides forward, pushing through the crowd, and utters the phrase, “What is the center of the world?” A grinding sound emits from the door as its features shuffle and move, forming a face. It responds, “”/wikis/scandshar" class=“wiki-page-link”> Scandshar. What is the center of you?" Croitus responds, “My heart,” and the doors swing open.

While everyone is still recovering from their surprise at Croitus’ hidden knowledge, Ashraf goads the gladiators forward. As they rush forward into the hallway, the doors close behind them. All is quiet but for the tromping of feet for a few moments, until the man at the front of the line appears to panic. Inexplicably, he is pulled into the air, his screams strangely muffled as he begins floating. His skin starts to burn and a cloud of scarlet forms around him. As the torchlight glints in the hallway, the sheen of a blubbery cube that has formed around the man is visible, and a cry of, “Gelatinous cube!” is raised among the gladiators.

After acid burns suggest that their weapons are not terribly effective, Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie begin driving the thing back with torches. Croitus responds by setting one of the other gladiators aflame and then throwing his flaming body at the gelatinous cube; several gladiators then turn their attention from the gelatinous cube and instead begin advancing on Croitus, who responds by shouting the passphrase at the magic door and fleeing through them, fleeing back to the gladiator barracks with a small throng of gladiators at his heels. When he finally makes his way back to his own cell, he releases Thawtham’s corpse from a canopic jar to batter down the door while he attempts to avoid the blows of the enraged gladiators. When Thawtham smashes his door open, he dives into his prepared burrow, leaving Thawtham behind to fight off the gladiators before the revenant himself dives into the burrow. Croitus reabsorbs him into one of his canopic jars and then climbs through his secret tunnels into the sewers.

Meanwhile, the assembled party manages to melt the gelatinous cube to slag. As a small contingent of guards file out of the mess hall, Southie rushes forward to meet them, carving through their ranks. Resh sends a spear into the middle of them as Nobody rushes forward to engage, and as battle is joined, Ashraj notices a hidden trap in one of the walls. Shouting to his allies to duck, he throws his spear, he hitting the trigger and sending a thin blade at roughly neck-height blasting through the mortar of the stonework and through the necks of the assembled guards. As their headless bodies fall, the group scavenges equipment and moves forward.

Reaching another stone door, Ashraj attempts the passphrase he heard Croitus say, and is surprised to find that the door responds appropriately and opens. The group sees another contingent of guards apparently preparing for an engagement, forming a phalanx formation and sending arrows down the hallway. While Resh stays back and returns fire with a scavenged bow, Nobody and Southie rush forward into the fray as Ashraj cautiously hangs back and Khuna stays in place to treat the wounded. Their combined might — a plague of blood and dismemberment upon their foes — ends the battle with most of their opponents dead. Some few escape, although most of the runners are hunted and slain.

Khuna surprises the others when, having been injured in the fray, she slices the neck of a dead guard and laps up some of the blood, healing her wounds. Southie tearfully offers her a dismembered piece of flesh, calling her “Songbird.”

According to Khuna’s directions, as she has apparently determined a vague layout of the gladiator pits, the passageway to the left will lead to the armory, while the passageway to the right leads to the beast pens. As per their plan, the group decides to breach the armory.

Ashraj actives the magic door with the passphrase dialogue, and the group of gladiators spills inward, gathering weapons and armor. Once they are armed and armored, when someone hears boots tromping down the hallway, Southie rushes down the hallway to engage, and the mayhem is begun anew. He notes that a guard with rank is apparently leading them. As Ashraj, Nobody, and Resh join him, and Khuna provides support, Resh manages to kill the sergeant with an arrow before Southie can cut his way to him, and the rest of the guards are handily slain. Those who flee are chased down and killed. Feeling relatively confident in their tactics and victories, Ashraj again spurs the dwindling horde of gladiators forward, and they disappear through the door while Ashraj, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie decide their next move. Seeing movement amidst the bodies, Southie, having recoved his axe, slices through a rat. Given its state of decay, he determines it probably came from Croitus, and so regrets his decision. As partial recompense, they decide to harvest the sergeant’s brain for Croitus to devour later; Southie gets to work, removing the crown and placing the brain in a soldier’s helmet for easy carrying. Deciding to go forward, Ashraj spears to the door, uttering, “What is the center of the world?” and it responds, “Scandshar. What is the center of you?” Ashraj responds, “My heart,” and the doors swing open.

Greeted by another group of guards, this time having captured the remaining gladiators, the five fearsome and blood-drenched gladiators again make their assault, crashing into the phalanx of the guards who are swift to let their prisoners go to prepare for the assault. With everyone fully armed and armored, this battle is swift, decisive, and gruesome, resulting in the deaths of all guardsmen present. As Khuna directs the others that the passage to the left leads to the taskmaster quarters as well as other important people in the gladiator pits, while the right passageway leads to the guard barracks, Ashraj decides to booby trap the corridor. Ashraj and Resh work quickly to arranging pikes and punji sticks among the corpses, hopefully hidden enough so that any guardsman coming through will risk impalement.

Safely navigating the corridor, the group comes to a spiral staircase. The way up leads to the tunnels underneath the amphitheatres and the city streets of Scandshar, while down leads into the lower gladiator and slave pits. While the group debates its next move, they hear bootfalls on the lower stairs. Prompting Ashraj and Southie to head down to engage, the rest of the group follows and crashes into the guards, slowly cutting their way down the stairwell and through the column. However, Khuna and the few remaining gladiators still traveling with them hear footfalls coming from the upper stairs. Khuna presses herself against the wall as the remaining gladiators encounter the force from above — apparently being a contingent of Scandshar city guardsmen — crash into the few remaining gladiators and slaughter them to a man. Southie does an about face to face the Scandshar soldiers, while Ashraj dives through the column of guardsmen to gain access to the lower levels of the gladiator pits.

Faced with the prospect of fighting Southie, one of the Scandshar guardsmen dives back into the gladiator pit tunnel, shouting for help and assistance. Southie quickly catches up to him and cleaves him apart, silencing his cries. As he returns to the stairwell, however, a cold mist is seeps from the passageway behind him.


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