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.