Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

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.

Session 1

Waterday, Harvester 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Ashraf Scarscale, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh Burntscale, and Southie enter Blackgem Amphitheatre to the roar of the crowds. As the announcer indicates they will be reenacting the Battle of the Wizard’s Tower, they note that a stone tower — perhaps thirty feet tall or so — has been built in the center of the arena. As far as they can tell, there are no traps or any such thing around. As they are acting on the part of the wizards, a pack of five gnolls will be acting as the gnoll contingent in this engagement. Three gnoll archers, a gnoll warrior, and a gnoll priest or magic-user of some sort enter the arena at the introduction. The goal of the “wizards” is to defend the flag atop the tower from being acquired by the gnolls; conversely, the gnolls hope to capture this flag.

At the signal, battle is joined. Ashraf and Resh take the center of the field, barking orders. Khuna deftly avoids an arrow as she runs for the tower. Croitus opens one of his canopic jars and summons the cadaver of a one-armed dwarf. Nobody and Southie immediately charge into the throng of gnolls. Nobody takes an arrow to the shoulder and a nasty stab from the gnollish priest, but takes his hand with her greatsword and sends him careening to the ground in response. Resh lets fly a spear that pins the gnoll priest’s other arm to the sandy ground of the arena. Southie begins antagonizing the sword-wielding gnoll, who stands his ground and gives as good as he gets.

Still reeling from multiple injuries, Nobody retreats to the tower. Meanwhile, Khuna is scaling the tower, and makes it to the top, viewing her surroundings. Seeing nothing untoward, and apparently still unimportant enough to merit attention from the gnolls, she notes Nobody and scales back down the tower to treat her. Although Nobody passes out from shock, Khuna manages to keep her stable.

Resh throws his second spear at the archers, impaling one through the chest and sticking him to the ground of the arena. Despite their victories, the fight still looks desperate as the gnoll manages to grievously wound Southie, but the tide turns when Ashraf notices that the trapdoors leading to the tiger pits are still open. He has just enough time to warn the others as flashes of orange rip out of the ground, savaging the fallen gnoll priest and the gnoll pack leader. The two archers begin a tactical retreat, firing arrows all the way, but to no avail — while one fires arrows at the dwarf zombie, Croitus has sneaked around the back of him and nearly bisects him with a well-timed crocodilian bite. The last dies horribly under the combined might of the remaining combatants.

Since the fight ended quickly, the beast masters keep the tigers in play, but they are swiftly slain as the gnolls were.

As the crowd roars at the victory, Southie decapitates a tiger and pries off its jaw to use the head as a hat. Croitus engages in cleanup, gathering a gnoll corpse for use in his canopic jars as well as eating the brain of the gnoll priest and the tiger. He learns a partial invocation for the gnoll deity Yeenoghu and learns that the tiger seems to like the taste of macaw.

Having obtained his tiger-head hat, Southie then proceeds to throw gobbets of meat and gore into the crowd and wave his genitals at them in distain. Khuna, meanwhile, scans the crowd for a familiar face — she is surprised to see the woman she seeks, and that there is some degree of recognition.

As Southie continues his display, the group is ushered back into the subterranean corridors of their home. After being led to the mess hall to feast, they are granted the opportunity to rest and obtain post-match massages. Croitus takes the opportunity to kill and animate a rat while the others take the opportunity to recuperate after the battle.

After having an opportunity to rest, they are led back to their cells. As she usually does after returning to her cell, Nobody starts quietly weeping. In an attempt to confort her, Khuna begins singing from her own cell. It works, and although nobody witnesses it, Southie also feels overcome as a single tear rolls down his cheek.

After a few hours, the six are released for exercises and mealtime. Traveling to the training room, they begin looking for things to do. The two trainers — Zedath the Stormwall and Thawtham Titanfist — are aiding in training. Zedath addresses the six as they enter, and as Southie growls and shows his typical disdain, Zedath insults him and dares him to attack. Ashraf shakes his head, but Southie’s ire has been raised; he removes his fine clothing, folds it, and sets it aside. As the rest of the room has fallen to stunned silence, the other gladiators and guards begin forming a circle for Southie and Zedath to settle their differences. As Southie and Zedath size each other up, Resh causes a distraction by falling into a weapon rack. Thawtham begins to strike him with his scourge, but is quickly distracted by the activity in the center of the room.

Southie leaps at Zedath, and although he takes a sound thumping from his scourge, he tears into Zedath’s throat, drops his trousers, scales Zedath, and begins thrusting into the open wound both in an attempt to demoralize him and to crush his trachea. To cause confusion, Ashraf shoves another gladiator into the arena. The gladiator goes crashing into Southie and Zedath, sending them toppling over. As they collapse, Croitus’ reanimated rat scurries into the fray and begins biting Zedath while Southie bites at his face, tearing out his eyes with his teeth. Climbing back to his feet, he asks the crowd, “Are you not wicked entertained?” Meanwhile, as the rest of the crowd stands in shocked silence, Thawtham attempts to flee, shouting to summon the guards. Resh, however, tackles him and begins wrestling with him. While Thawtham is otherwise engaged, Southie retrieves Zedath’s whip and begins strangling the goliath with it. Nobody clubs Thawtham in the head as he struggles, and Resh ends the taskmaster when he splits the Thawtham’s head open with his elbow.

Southie begins to rile the crowd as Khuna implores them to take this opportunity to take their freedom. As she begins passing out padded weapons, the crowd rallies, preparing to take up arms. Croitus uses the confusion to stuff Thawtham’s body into his last canopic jar, and to devour Zedath’s brain — whereupon he learns the call-and-response necessary to breach the magic doors in the complex.

A contingent of guards rushes down the hallway, but the first is shocked as a noose loops around his neck, for while the rest of the crowd was distracted, Ashraf was quickly building a trap. Although the noose breaks after a couple of swings, dumping the guard on the floor, the rest of the guards stay in the hallway to set up phalanx positions. However, they are quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught of the armed gladiators.

As the gladiators prepare to fight their way through the tunnels, Ashraf, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie plot, hoping to access the armory.


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