Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 19

Waterday, Harvester 19, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie walk towards Dawnslight, discussing plans along the way. Eventually conceding they know very little about the situation they are about to enter, they decide to go into the village without a plan in the hopes of performing reconnaissance and developing a plan from there.

In roughly a quarter of an hour, they approach the settlement. The village is predominantly mud-and-wood huts and some attached farmland, surrounded by a low wall. Three buildings dominate the village — a large wooden building that appears to be an inn, a large timber hall that is likely the town hall, and a small but sturdy stone temple.

As the group approaches, they see someone by the side of the road, gathering saffron crocus bulbs in a basket. Khuna recognizes the human as one of the stable hands from the Weogora estates, but as she is wearing her mask and does not wish to give herself away, she says nothing.

They approach the gate, and explaining to the guards that they are travelers, are allowed entry without difficulty. Khuna does notice, however, that a House Weogora guard stands with the village’s watch, however. After some consideration, the group decides to go to the local inn for further information.

The travelers immediately notice a fair amount of activity around the inn; the place is replete with village guards, intermixed with a few Weogora house guards. The inn, the Sinter of Attention, is filled with a few miners drinking at the bar. In addition to one or two members of the waitstaff, the inn seems replete with a mix of village guardsmen and a handful of Weogora house guards. The other segment of the inn’s population appears to be servants — servants whom Khuna recognizes as former slaves and servants under Lord Weogora. At the far end of the room, near the stairs, she recognizes one slave in particular — her mother, Sati. As Sati sees the adventurers, there seems to be some manner of recognition at seeing the masked Khuna, but she says nothing.

Croitus detaches from the group and starts a card game with some of the miners using his mountebank’s deck. The rest of the group addresses the matron behind the bar, asking for food and drink. She charges a gold and they take a table. Khuna takes the moment to point out her mother, and request that no one attacks her if things get messy. While sitting, drinking, and eating, they eavesdrop on the conversations, trying to get a sense of the dynamics of the village. It appears that the miners are somewhat annoyed at the prospect of these out-of-towners, and there is a little tension, but otherwise the village is relatively quiet at the moment.

The silence is interrupted as a couple of guards descend the stairs, flanking a well-dressed man. Wearing white makeup and a fabulous wig, he looks prepared for riding. Despite his foppish exterior, however, he portrays an aura of confidence and slow-burning rage; a warrior’s spirit hidden behind brocade cloth and pancake makeup. Khuna immediately recognizes the visage of Lord Weogora as he scans the room, noting the newcomers. Southie, seeing a fellow warrior, makes eager eye contact with him; Lord Weogora nods silently in greeting, and continues on his way.

The room, having gone silent at the lord’s approach, is about to resume conversation when Southie asks, “Who the fuck was that?” The miners at the bar chuckle, while one of the servants timidly informs him that it was Lord Weogora. As he rambles on the subject for a bit, Khuna takes the opportunity to wander around the inn. Operating on the pretense of inquiring about the Weogoras among the servants, she wanders over to her mother. Sati indicates she is pleased to see her daughter is alive and well, although it probably would have been better had she not come here; Khuna inquires about Lady Weogora. She is here, currently upstairs in the rooms. Khuna asks if Sati wishes to leave this place — she would be glad to do so — and then asks for Sati to deliver a message to Margot, asking if she similarly wants to leave. Sati indicates she will do so.

Khuna then moves around the common room, inquiring with another servant or two before speaking to the miners. As previously ascertained, they are somewhat annoyed at the prospect of having these out-of-town nobles infringing on their business. They don’t quite know why they’re here, though; something to do with some deal among noble houses out west. Possibly some legal trouble related to the slave revolt in Scandshar? The miners aren’t completely certain.

As the travelers continue to hang around the inn, they inquire about rooms for the evening. The matron explains that all rooms are currently occupied, but she can give them access to the town hall for use as a common room; she’ll charge a gold piece for a night. They agree.

Eventually, Sati goes upstairs. Shortly thereafter, Southie, wanting to investigate further, also goes upstairs, but finds himself tailed by a guard. Noting several guards in the hall upstairs, and having been told several times to keep quiet, he explains himself by indicating he wanted to check on his favorite room, claiming to have been here several months previous. As he returns downstairs, he continues this charade by loudly and graphically describing a sexual conquest to the guardsman. Sati pushes past him.

Southie, still determined to somehow gain access to Lord Weogora’s room while he is away, goes outside around the back of the inn. Several guards are posted here. Southie decides to feign drunkenness and collapse in a pile of garbage, hoping to “sleep” there until there is a less active guard presence. However, the guards heft him up and drag him to the local constable’s station so he can sleep off his ale. A guard detaches from the group to go fetch the village priest. Not wanting to enter prison under any circumstances, Southie tries to convince them he’s better before finally just shoving coins at them and assuring them he’ll keep to himself. A guardsman approaches with a robed dwarven priest who blesses Southie, and then the group lets him go.

After a bit more waiting, Sati approaches the bar and orders a drink for Lady Weogora. As she does so, she presses a note into Khuna’s hand. She returns to her position near the stairs. Khuna excuses herself to one of the privies; Nobody offers to follow. Khuna enters one of the privies while Nobody waits outside. Southie returns, and seeing Nobody waiting outside a privy, asks if all is well and if he need to assist. She explains that two people waiting outside a privy is more suspicious than one, so she convinces him to return to the inn.

Khuna reads the letter — it is definitely Lady Margot’s handwriting, and starts with a lot of mushy, gushing phrases that Khuna is not inclined to repeat to anyone. It also indicates that Margot is willing to leave, and will find them tonight. Satisfied, Khuna burns the letter and then exits the privy.

The rest of the afternoon is taken with milling around the inn. Eventually, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie all move to the town hall, while Croitus continues his card game with some of the locals. While waiting for night to approach, Khuna and Resh both nap.

Khuna dreams — she floats in a vast starfield dominated by a great, floating woman emanating a soft, blue light. She reminds Khuna that Lady Weogora will not forgive her if she should kill Lord Weogora — despite what he did to Khuna, love is complicated. She notes that if necessary, it could be done without Lady Weogora’s knowledge, although a lie is hardly a strong basis for a relationship. She finally notes that Khuna must hurry, as “they” are coming. She awakens before getting any further information.

Eventually, Croitus returns — having intentionally lost a little money but having gained some rapport with the local workers — and the group waits. Nobody keeps watch outside.

Around midnight, two figures appear out of the gloom, both carrying bags. One is recognizable as Khuna’s mother, Sati, while the other is apparently a servant, swathed in a sari with only her eyes visible. Once Nobody inquires if these are the people they are seeking, and Sati replies affirmatively. She brings them inside the town hall.

Khuna recognizes Lady Weogora’s eyes and movements despite her attempts to hide herself. They gather their things and leave immediately. They make it through the gate without incident — the village guards evidently see little suspicious about the comings-and-goings of the foreign folk — and start down the road.

About a mile down the road, a lone figure in light armor leans against the tree. As they walk past, he asks if they are the ones waiting for a ship. Khuna, suspicious because of the vague warning in her dream, does not answer, but Nobody affirms this. He says he needs to signal it. He pulls out his bow, nocks an arrow, and fires it into the air. It whistles as it travels.

There is a moment of silence before something barrels out of the brush towards the signal man. A large, mobile tree — evidently enraged at the sound or otherwise perturbed at their presence — slams into the man, sending him sprawling across the path. He collapses and lays still.

Khuna makes certain Lady Weogora and Sati are well out of the way before engaging. Nobody and Southie launch at the beast with their weapons, while Resh peppers it with arrows. Croitus pulls his newly-enchanted spear. Nobody fights defensively while Southie throws himself at the creature, hacking off limbs with each swing. Annoyed by Resh’s arrows, the creature hits him with a heavy limb, knocking him off the path and into the brush. Khuna makes her way over to him to treat him. Croitus launches at the beast with his spear, but its barbed tip bounces off his heavy bark. It slams him with a heavy limb, sending him sprawling off the path. He is about to open one of his canopic jars when Southie finally slices the thing in two. It collapses and lays still.

Khuna goes over to Croitus to bandage his wounds when she spots the flicker of torchlight along the path, coming from the direction of the village of Dawnslight.

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Session 18

Waterday, Harvester 19, 552 CY (50 AN)

The group divides. Croitus continues to stay in the river. Khuna and Nobody continue to help at the refugee camp. Resh returns to his room to take a nap. Southie goes to the Addled Alchemist to have a beer.

While Khuna is continuing her work among the refugees, she feels mental contact from Zafira Shulud, who indicates that her friends are going to do something terrible and that she is in danger. If Khuna tells Zafira where she is, Zafira can come help her. She refuses, stalling and requesting further information; when Zafira’s voice repeats the query, Khuna responds, “My friends are what keep me safe. Thank you for your concern. I’m not telling you where I am.”

Khuna informs Nobody of Zafira’s contact attempt, but notes that she did not divulge her location. She notes Zafira’s assertion that her friends will do something bad on the off chance that it’s actually relevant information. After some discussion, Khuna considers the fact that waiting for the spelljammer to depart might be a bad idea, as keeping Southie waiting is just asking for trouble. Khuna discusses this with Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver, asking if it is possible to get underway more swiftly than tomorrow morning. He indicates the crew can be ready in two hours. Khuna agrees.

While Khuna goes to discuss this with Croitus, Nobody goes to look for Southie.

Khuna finds Croitus in the river where they left him. She throws a large stone into the river, prompting him to surface to determine what she wants. She notes her communication with Zafira, and explains that they will leave for Dawnslight via spelljammer in two hours; he acknowledges and she returns to Duchy Jepson.

Nobody returns to their suite of rooms in the Wizard’s Tower. Knocking on the door, Resh answers; she asks after Southie, and Resh says he’s not around, that he thinks he went for a beer. Nobody goes to find him, and at the suggestion that Southie is unaccounted, Resh decides to accompany.

They arrive at the Addled Alchemist to find Southie and the couple of other drunks in the bar having a loud, raucous sing along. Southie is notably inebriated, having purchased an entire keg of dwarven stout which he has been drinking by himself this entire time. They decide to stay to keep an eye on him; having a couple of beers themselves. Southie, for the most part, is relatively sedated. Nobody grabs him and holds him out a window when he starts urinating in the corner, and he punches one of the drunks in the face at one point, but otherwise manages to keep it together.

When Khuna returns and finds everyone gone, she looks around Duchy Jepson for Southie. She hears the raucous noise emanating from the inn, and decides to investigate.

Khuna finds Nobody, Resh, Southie, and a gaggle of drunks within, along with the serving staff. Southie requests that she regale them with a song; she quickly does so, which the drunks seem to appreciate. She informs the others that they leave in a little less than two hours, and also notes her encounter with Zafira. As Southie gets more riotous, slamming his axe into a table, the barkeep suggests they ought to leave. Khuna pays for the damages, and the group returns to the Wizard’s Tower.

Meanwhile, Croitus was sunning himself on the riverbank. He decides to go to the Wizard’s Tower and wait in the Headmaster’s study atop the tower for the spelljammer to leave. He sees Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver come through, apparently informing the Headmaster in the change in itinerary.

Back in their rooms, the group packs and Southie finishes his cask of ale. They manage to pass the two hours with no real trouble before ascending the tower to depart.

Atop the tower, they move across a gangplank to a ship, hanging from a scaffold. It is swarming with crewmen, and Adeptus Spellweaver introduces himself, explaining that he is the quartermaster and so this is his ship. After introductions are made, he explains that the ship travels faster outside an atmosphere, so they will be ascending to the edge of the atmosphere, repositioning, and descending again. The entire process will take about two hours to reach Dawnslight.

The ship takes the better part of an hour ascending, pushing through the cloud layer and finally to the inky blackness beyond. Croitus and Resh are relatively blasé about the whole thing; Croitus even basks in a sunny spot, particularly once they breach the clouds. Southie urinates off the side of the ship, but ties himself to the mask and creeps closer to the mast as they get higher. Nobody is exceedingly upset by this; she thinks it’s unnatural to leave the land in such a fashion, and eventually retreats belowdecks to drink with the crew. Khuna is fascinated, and watches the whole thing with rapt attention. At one point, a crewman pulls her back onto the ship because she is leaning so far forward; afterward, Southie ties her to the mast just in case.

Khuna asks many questions, particularly about the void of space once they arrive — Adeptus Spellweaver explains that the world seems curved because it is a sphere. Gravity pulls things toward the surface of the planet, just as it is maintaining the gravity plane of the ship right now. If one were to fall into the void, gravity would pull a small envelope of air around oneself that might last for ten minutes or so. The ship does the same thing, pulling a “bubble” of air that remains breathable for months. Elf ships are frequently organic, grown plantlife that continually produces breathable air so air is less of an issue. The edge of the solar system is defined by a crystal sphere into which the stars are set, and beyond that is the phlogiston — a breathable, highly inflammable substance between the crystal spheres. They tend not to access it all that often, however, because planar shifts have made travel somewhat difficult, and the stars actively hate the world below, because they are so alien. Although this is not true on all worlds, merely this one.

Discussing further, he notes that she is a physician and a scientist. He also notes that there is another physician on staff at the Wizard’s Tower, a Baron Hook; she may be interested in speaking with him. She is always welcome back to the Wizard’s Tower when her other business is complete.

Once charts have been consulted and the ship has been repositioned, the spelljammer descends back into the atmosphere. Khuna again watches with rapt attention as everything happens in reverse.

Adeptus Spellweaver informs them that they will arrive an hour or two outside the village so as not to spook the townsfolk. They will wait twenty-four hours before investigating any delays. The group agrees.

Once the ship is close to the ground, they drop a rope ladder. Nobody leaps off the side of the ship, tangling herself in the rope ladder and landing hard on the ground. Apparently unharmed, she dashes into the underbrush and begins angrily hacking her way into it. As the others descend the ladder, they inquire as to her agitation; she explains that it is unnatural to go so high, and she is pleased to be on the ground again. Southie investigates the brush and catches a rabbit; he flings it at her, thinking this will somehow make her feel better. She sees something flying at her and neatly cleaves it with her spear; she inquires, paranoid, as to where the rabbit originated, and Southie explains that it was his doing. As Croitus has already started wandering down the road towards Dawnslight, the others quickly rush to follow.

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Session 17

Godsday, Harvester 18, 552 CY (50 AN)

The rest of the day continues without incident — Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie converse and wander around town before returning to the Wizard’s Tower for dinner and retiring to bed.

In the night, Khuna has a dream. She is young — perhaps eight, or so — running along the path to her mother’s house. Her mother Sati, working in her garden, asks her why she runs, she replies that it is fun. She goads her mother into playing tag with her, and they run, chasing each other all around the yard until they collapse into a breathless pile of giggles.

As they recover, Sati reminds her that running is not always safe — some things chase when you run. Dhavita mentions dogs; Sati mentions wolves. She then warns Dhavita that she ought not to run, that those on the ship will need her. What ship? “You know,” Sati replies.

Khuna awakens in a cold sweat, a faint drizzle sounding against the window. Nobody is “asleep,” as much as her people sleep — she sits, cross-legged, by the window.

The visitors in the Wizard’s Tower start awakening one by one, and at breakfast, Khuna breaks the news that she believes they need to stay, to assist the refugees on the spelljammer. Southie is antsy, and worried about the inherent boredom of this place, but the others agree to this state of affairs and proceed to wait.

Duchy Jepson is full of bustle, as people get ready to receive the refugees. A refugee camp is being prepared, and things are being moved around in Headmaster Ebenezer’s study to assist with offloading. It is around midday when they see the flying ship start to descend. Khuna and Nobody make their way to the top of the Wizard’s Tower to assist offloading, while Croitus and Resh see about keeping Southie under control. Khuna and Nobody accompany the stream of refugees to their camp, and Khuna begins delegating as she is well-versed in these matters. After an hour or so, she is approached by one of the leaders of expedition, Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver, who thanks her for her assistance and indicates she may be allowed to use the spelljammer for her own purposes.

To keep Southie out of trouble, Croitus and Resh decide to take him hunting. They proceed beyond the town, deep into the wooded hills around Jepson. Resh finds boar tracks, and follows them, but the hunting party swiftly encounters rumbling, growing closer as they follow the tracks. As they approach a clearing, they see why — a party of two giants and four ogres, feasting on wild boar. Croitus and Resh are discussing strategy and whether they should get help when Southie decides to lunge into the clearing, throwing himself at the assembled hunters. Croitus flees, hoping to get help in Jepson. Resh decides to cover Southie with arrows.

Southie engages the ogres in combat, while the giants break off to heft boulders at Resh. He manages to dive into a hollow before a stone crushes him, but by the time he dislodges himself, the giants are upon him, swinging their great clubs. Resh catches the broad side of one of the clubs, and despite the aching in his joints, he switches from his bow to his spear. He throws it at one of the giants, impaling the creature through the throat. The magic spear recalls to his waiting hand, and as the other advances, he sends his spear through its eye, apparently penetrating deeply enough to pierce the brain and send the giant stumbling forward. He sidesteps before its corpse falls upon him.

Southie, having carved his way through one of the ogres, now makes short work of them with Resh’s assistance. Searching through their pouches, they find a small, gold idol that looks as though it may be worth something.

As he runs, Croitus pulls out the sending stone and activates it. He determines that Mr. Monkshood is on the other end, and asks if it is possible for him to send a message to Khuna with one of his magical birds. He replies that they travel at the speed of a regular bird, so it would take much longer for one of them to reach Khuna than for Croitus to reach her. He puts the sending stone away and keeps running.

Croitus arrives breathlessly in Duchy Jepson after roughly three-quarters of an hour. He runs to the refugee camp and finds Khuna, informing her of the giants’ attack. Khuna gathers Nobody, and the three prepare to trek into the forest to save Resh and Southie. After roughly a quarter-hour, however, they happen upon Resh and Southie, walking out of the brush. Resh looks battered and injured, but Southie does not, although he is covered in blood. When Croitus sees them, more or less fine and returning with treasure, he leaves in a huff, walking to the river and diving into a deep spot with his jar of breath to brood. Southie, meanwhile, indicates he feels satiated after having taken his wrath out on the ogres. He requests sack time in the bag of holding, but since Croitus is the one with the jar of breath, they suggest he wait on that. He agrees.

Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie return to Duchy Jepson, and Khuna and Nobody prepare to return to the refugee camp.

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Session 16

Moonday, Harvester 17, 552 CY (50 AN)

Nobody wanders around Duchy Jepson, searching for any eladrin she might find. In the market, she sees a gnome with two eladrin soldiers standing guard. The gnome appears to be haggling with another merchant over his own wares. When he has little luck, he storms off toward the inn, the Addled Alchemist. Despite the Scandshar noble supposed to be staying at the inn, Nobody follows.

Entering the Addled Alchemist, she finds a party atmosphere, as several servants hustle around. Amidst the throng are several well-dressed nobles, and in the center of them, is a dark-skinned, bespectacled man with a pipe who must be Lord Revaz de Rais. An elf bard plays music while the staff of the Addled Alchemist serve. The gnome has sat, with his two eladrin guards still standing, looking for trouble. Nobody approaches, and after a bit of conversation, deigns to purchase a flower of the Summer Queen’s gown, whose bloom never fades, and a hag’s doorknob, which can create a door through a wall up to ten feet thick, although it can only do so once. She inquires about her tribe, but nobody present seems to know about it — they come from the Feywild city of Sylernavia by way of Vonseloth, both to the west.

After staying in the inn for a brief while, listening to the music, the bard approaches her, expressing surprise in her appearance — by the design of the runes carved on her head, she appears to be a survivor of old Solaeque, but that fell about a hundred to a hundred fifty years ago. They converse, and Nobody refers to her imprisonment in the gladiator pits; the bard reveals that Solaeque was sacked about a century ago by goblins — likely among the reasons why Nainimdul is so isolationist today. In the chaos, several Solaeque citizens died, some were sold into slavery, and some few managed to flee, no doubt now integrated into other populations around the world. He notes that En’amanisrahd and Vonseloth are likely sites to host refugee populations.

Before she leaves, they make introductions; the bard introduces himself as Vianibrar, while she reveals she has no name. Further discussions reveal that Lord Revaz de Rais likely fled here because one of his slaves was implicated in the uprising in Scandshar; it appears he is Southie’s owner. Finally, Vianibrar asks why she wears a veil; she reveals her filed teeth, and he indicates she ought to be proud of her history and not hide them. She considers his advice, but decides to keep the veil. At least for now.

Meanwhile, Khuna and Southie walk around the town. While trying to keep Southie occupied, Khuna decides to purchase a couple of items — in honor of her apparently deific patrons, she purchases a milkweed plant for Avandra and a blue candle for Sehanine. As they pass a garden, she quietly plants the milkweed plant; when Southie asks, she explains that she is beautifying the garden, not wanting to engage him in a conversation about religion. She decides to wait until she is alone to burn the candle.

While walking, the pair passes a graveyard, and Southie finds a certain restlessness fills him — he expresses that he no longer understands his purpose, now that he is free of the pits and in relatively peaceful environs. They discuss this for a while, coming to the idea that Southie needs to find his own path, independent of the gladiator pits. Or, perhaps, the disturbing possibility that he is only made for the pits.

Returning to their rooms in the Wizard’s Tower, they find that Croitus is gone and Resh is resting. They decide to take care of Ashraf’s sky-burial, and so need to find Croitus. They suspect he is down by the river.

Sure enough, Croitus has gone down to the river to bask in the sun — such as it is, with the mild drizzle — and the trio of Khuna, Resh, and Southie ask to retrieve his body. He deigns to stay by the river, but removes Ashraf’s corpse from his bag of holding, placing it directly into Khuna’s. The three leave the town, walking into some nearby woods to leave his body. When they return, they talk with Croitus for a bit.

Finally, everyone reconvenes at the Wizard’s Tower. They eat with the students in the dining hall — Southie takes the opportunity to regale the students with his exploits, albeit “sanitized” versions at Khuna’s behest — and when the Headmaster passes, they speak with him briefly. Croitus indicates he wishes to see him after dinner, and the Headmaster agrees.

Eventually, one by one the group travels to their rooms to retire for the night. Nobody stays in the dining hall, practicing writing “Solaeque” in Common and Elven. Croitus meets the Headmaster and asks about getting the blood of a black dragon for a ritual; Ebenezer says he can likely find it. When it comes to payment, he says he is interested in dangerous artifacts — Croitus offers his Tract of Teratology and Ashraf’s utility belt. Ebenezer asks him to throw in 50 gp, Croitus agrees, and Ebenezer says he should have it sometime tomorrow.

There is a brief panic when Khuna and Resh realize they’ve lost Southie, but when they find him not having caused any trouble, Nobody is alerted that the dining hall is empty and everybody retires for the night. Before Nobody joins her, Khuna lights her candle and prays to Sehanine.

The next day, the five go their separate ways, performing various tasks around town. Nobody returns to the Addled Alchemist to seek the gnome and his eladrin guards to inquire further about Vonseloth; they have apparently left, so she stays and listens to Vianibrar’s songs. As Southie starts getting twitchy at the lack of violence, Croitus, Khuna, and Resh all decide to leave town tomorrow morning rather than waiting for the return of the spelljammer.

Southie wanders around town, followed by Resh, until he comes across a cattleman and his herd. Southie offers to buy all fifteen cattle, the cattleman negotiates a price of 300 gp for the herd, and Southie agrees. He asks a guardsman if it would be illegal to slaughter them here in the market, and the guard answers that it would be uncouth, but likely not illegal so long as he owns them. Southie then proceeds to butcher the entire herd of cattle, summoning the guards afterward and instructing them to distribute the meat to the poor. He takes a small amount for himself, and travels to the Wizard’s Tower kitchens to inquire about having it cooked. Resh follows, and they chat while cooking commences.

Khuna, wandering around town, comes upon the scene of Southie’s slaughter. Seeing that all appears to be well, however, she leaves it, taking a bit of cow tongue to try.

Croitus returns to Ebenezer around midday, inquiring after his dragon’s blood. Ebenezer hands him a jar of the stuff, money exchanges hands, and Croitus finds a secluded area to complete his work — enchanting the spear he holds with a brutal curse.

Meanwhile, the show at the Addled Alchemist is interrupted when a child bursts in, informing everyone present that some dwarf has butched all the cattle. Lord Revaz whips around, asking him to describe the dwarf — at the description, he immediately starts gathering his people and getting ready to go.

When Khuna notices all the commotion around the Addled Alchemist, she watches. Over the course of about an hour, the nobles and their servants gather things, hitch wagons, and leave via the west gate — the opposite direction she would have to take to get to Dawnslight to find her Lady Margot.

With nobody really remaining to listen, Vianibrar stops playing and talks to Nobody briefly.

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Session 15

Moonday, Harvester 17, 552 CY (50 AN)

Khuna drifts awake and rolls over to find herself in bed with her Lady Margot. She is back in her Lady’s chambers in Scandshar, sunlight lazily streaming through the curtains. Margot turns to her, warning her that when the serpents return for her, she should not go with them. She says that she waits for Khuna at the dawn’s light. Before she can continue, however, an axe buries itself into the chamber door. Margot says they are coming; she must flee to the Temple of Sailor’s Fortune, down by the water front.

Khuna awakens with a start. She feels somewhat weak, feverish, and shaky. It is pre-dawn, and a light, greasy drizzle mists the windows. She wakes Nobody, informing her that they must go now. A brief discussion leads them to alert the other room; Nobody taps Croitus and Resh’s window with a spear. When they awake and inquire, Khuna explains that they must leave. She sees a roof she suspects to be the Temple nearby, and the assembled party gathers its equipment — including, with some consternation, the bag of holding containing Southie — and lower themselves into the alley behind the Lady’s Chalice.

As the group makes its way through the pre-dawn streets, they see several columns of soldiers marching through the streets, evidently making their way to the Lady’s Chalice. The group quietly slinks over to the Temple of Sailor’s Fortune.

The building is indeed the temple they seek, a large shrine by the docks where sailors can pray before and after their sea voyages. Khuna knocks on the door, and is answered by a robed priestess. She seems to recognize Khuna, calling her the “Unchained Lover,” and invites the four travelers inside. Sitting in the front of the pews is a dark-skinned halfling, smoking a long-stemmed pipe.

Discussions take place, and Khuna reveals that they need to leave Sorgforge. Quickly. Conversation suggests that they may be escaped slaves, which leads the dark-skinned halfling — who introduces herself as Darstina Tallcrippler — to note that Duchy Jepson should be open to them. They agree to donate enough gold to the temple to cover the costs of a teleportation ritual, and Darstina will accompany them to Duchy Jepson. Over the ten minutes it takes the priestess to prepare the ritual, the group inquires about Darstina Tallcrippler; she reveals that she is a “troubleshooter,” although she primarily operates with an abolitionist group called the Zookeepers. When Khuna asks the priestess or Darstina about seeking “the dawn’s light,” Darstina answers that there is a village named “Dawnslight,” far to the east, near the mountains. It’s a mining village, only known because the adventuring group the Shields of the Sorrowfell got their start there.

Once the ritual is complete, the gate opens, and the five travelers pass through.

Emerging on the other side, the group finds itself in an ornate, arcane circle. It is in the middle of an open-air fortification surrounded by open portcullises and patrolled by several guards. They are alert, but relax when they see Darstina.

The surrounding town is still largely asleep. Dominating the landscape is a large palace atop a hill, and a tall tower — perhaps a hundred feet or so. Strangely, two pulleys sit by a large window near the top of the tower, their chains dangling in the wind. Darstina reveals that the local inn, the Addled Alchemist, is currently completely booked — a noble by the name of Lord Revaz de Rais, fled from Scandshar, has booked the entire inn — but she could likely find room for them in the Wizard’s Tower The group, deciding to avoid any Scandshar refugees, decides to accept the offer. They inquire a bit further about Darstina, and Khuna asks about the pulleys on the side of the tower. Darstina explains that they form a docking station for a flying ship, a spelljammer. Khuna is immensely excited by this news.

Darstina recommends the travelers speak to the Headmaster of the Wizard’s Tower. She leads them into the Wizard’s Tower, and sets them up in a side room to wait. As Khuna is feeling unwell, they inquire if anything can be done. Darstina fetches an acolyte with the local temple — the temple has apparently burned and the abbot is away on the errand that required the use of the spelljammer — and after negotiating over a donation, the acolyte sets to work healing Khuna. Although weakened, she feels much better after the rite is concluded.

As the sun rises and activity is heard in the tower, Darstina goes to see if the Headmaster is available. She returns shortly, saying he is awake and ready to see them.

A crank-operated lift takes them to the top floor, which appears to be an immense library and study. A large picture window overlooks the town, and evidently marks the place where the spelljammer docks. At the far end of the room is an old man — clad in a blue robe, and with a long white beard and long white hair. He clenches an unlit pipe between his teeth, its bowl shaped like a leering, demonic face. He looks relatively human, but the tips of his ears mark him as a half-elf.

Two small geckos, one on each shoulder, sit with him. They announce the presence of five humanoids entering the room, and proceed to jabber in various languages as the conversation continues.

The man introduces himself as Headmaster Ebenezer Cascata Mararnith Jepson, although just “Ebenezer” will do. Introductions are made, and Ebenezer proceeds to explain a bit about the situation. Determining that these are, in fact, the escaped gladiators from Scandshar, he explains that they are safe here, so long as they cause no trouble; he is also a member of the Zookeepers, and as an abolitionist movement, slavery is not tolerated in Duchy Jepson. They are free here.

They then turn to the problem of Southie. Having stowed him in a bag of holding, to the old man’s amusement, they wish a place to release him. He shrugs and sends Darstina away, telling them to release the dwarf here. They take positions and Croitus summons his one-armed dwarf corpse to retrieve Southie from the bag.

Southie has been falling through an endless void, the jar of breath clamped to his face. Despite the weariness and confusion, a certain calm has come over him. As a hole opens above him and an arm reaches down to grab him, he accepts it peacefully. Croitus reclaims the jar of breath, and everyone is somewhat relieved to find Southie at peace — he even seemed to enjoy the experience of being in the bag. He requests the possibility of having bag of holding time for maybe an hour or two per day.

Introductions are again made, and Khuna briefly discusses her plans to get to Dawnslight. Ebenezer explains that Dawnslight is probably about a month away; merchant caravans come through with enough frequency that they may be able to catch one if they so choose. Discussion continues among the group, prompting Nobody to leave the room at Southie’s newfound — and vaguely creepy — sense of peace. Once conversation has quieted, the group decides to rest and plan the next move. Ebenezer says they can stay in a couple of empty dormatory rooms.

Darstina, having waited with Nobody, leads the group downstairs to a pair of side-by-side dormatories. The group discusses what to do next, and the general consensus seems to be assisting Khuna in her trip to Dawnslight. They talk of making the journey, but she is interested in knowing if they can travel by airship, as it would presumably be faster. Khuna decides to ask Ebenezer about it, and decides to go upstairs. Southie follows. Croitus and Resh stay in their rooms, while Nobody goes downstairs to walk around the town, seeing if she can find any other eladrin.

Upstairs, Khuna and Southie run into an older woman leaving the Headmaster’s study. Khuna asks if he is available, and she replies that he is; she leads them into Ebenezer’s study. He seems to nod in some manner of unheard acknowledgment, and asks what he can do for them. Khuna asks, given the time involved, whether she could use their airship to travel to Dawnslight. Ebenezer explains that it should return at any time, probably within the next couple of days. He considers, and says he has no issue with it, although he shall have to speak to the quartermaster on the subject when he returns. She inquires about the missing airship and the missing people, and Ebenezer explains the ship can travel between dimensions. Several left on an errand to break the Peacocks’ slave trade across two worlds, apparently using some manner of arcane portal. He will let the group know when the spelljammer returns.

Having nothing further, Khuna and Southie take their leave. Khuna decides to wander around the town, and Southie chooses to follow.

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Session 14

Sunday, Harvester 16, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie approach the interior gates of Sorgforge, where they are stopped by a couple of guards. The guards explain that having heard about the trouble in Scandshar, coupled with the fact that there’s a rumor going around that the terrorist group known as the Broken Chain is to blame, they’re checking the belongings of everyone who enters the city. They search through the group’s parcels and bag of holding, and the only thing that gives them pause is Ashraf’s dead body. They explain that they are trying to find someone to raise him.

The guards acknowledge and let them into Sorgforge. Resh is surprised they did not say anything about his opium.

The reference to Ashraf prompts the rest of the group to ask Resh what kobolds do with their dead. He explains that they usually just leave them where they fall, so the group decides to give him a sky burial when they find an appropriate field.

After further discussion, the group decides to go to the Patenaude merchant house to obtain their earnings. After finding directions to the merchant district, they find the Patenaude’s main offices and enter. After explaining to the receptionist that they are there regarding business with a Mr. Monkshood, the receptionist leaves, returning to send them to one of the merchants. They find a dark-skinned woman at her desk, and when they explain that they are here on behalf of Mr. Monkshood, she indicates that she has something for them, giving them a pouch of coins and a scroll. The group then indicates that they have gems and items they wish to sell; they produce an ornate rod from Lord Book’s hideout, and twenty-nine gems from Torili Two-Spirit’s vault. Crotius keeps a single sapphire for himself, in case he wishes to summon the Tumescent Prophet of Sanguine Humours from The Tract of Teratology he holds.

While the merchant is handling the gems, Khuna starts to read the scroll. Seeing that it is addressed to Ashraf and Resh, she hands it to Resh. He reads it, learning that his and Ashraf’s former master, Lady Minodora Anghelescu, is currently living in Ducat Negrescu. He indicates that he no longer cares, as he is now a free kobold, and gives the scroll back to Khuna.

When finished, the merchant tallies the total value of the group’s loot at 29,700 gp. They are surprised and pleased, splitting the reward evenly among themselves. They thank her for her assistance, and indicate they may return — Southie, in particular, expresses an interest in investing.

As the group exits the merchant offices, the assembled party hears a shout from the crowd. Scanning the crowd warily, they see a young boy darting across the marketplace to greet them. Approaching Croitus, he says a man paid him a few coppers to deliver an object. The boy reveals a fist-sized object bearing the Dwarven rune for “Speak” on it; he explains that it activates when the Dwarven word for “speak” is said. The group offers a few coppers to convince the kid to describe the man; he describes a man with a push-broom mustache, bowler hat, and suit that matches Mr. Monkshood’s description. They thank the child and decide to deal with Monkshood later; Croitus puts the object in his bag of holding.

The group spends the rest of the afternoon shopping, searching for esoteric items, weapons, and armor to aid them in any future endeavors. Notably, Croitus obtains a hat of disguise, enjoying wandering around the streets of Sorgforge as a human, unremarkable to the eyes of most. Asking around for lodging, particularly with a view of the sea, the group is directed to the Lady’s Chalice, down near the wharf.

As the group wanders to the inn, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, and Resh realize they have lost Southie. However, the group decides not to worry about it, as any trouble he causes will be unconnected to them. They spend their evening pleasantly dining and drinking.

Meanwhile, Southie has wandered into an inn, requesting to purchase it. He apparently seems belligerent enough that one of the proprietors considers him inebriated, and fetches a guardsman to ask him to leave. He does so without complaint, immediately wandering over to another establishment, entering, and offering to purchase it. The guards, who have followed him here, then proceed to escort him out, indicating that they are going to let him dry out overnight in the Citadel’s drunk tank. Having no intention of being placed in any sort of cage again, Southie draws his greataxe with lightning speed and decapitates one of the guards; immediately, panic grips the populace as they see the carnage and begin screaming and fleeing. The other guard makes some manner of low, signaling call as he engages Southie in battle; Southie cuts his side and then cleaves through his body as the other guards arrive. As the crowd of guards begins to chase after him, Southie manages to flee through a tangle of alleys and lose them in the confusion.

Slinking to the Lady’s Chalice, Southie quietly enters and sits at the table with Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, and Resh. He barely has the chance to say anything when they notice he is covered in blood; Nobody moves to another table and Croitus, currently disguised as a human, coerces Southie to join him upstairs. Croitus starts preparing an escape route, but then gets another idea, pulling the flask of breath out of his bag of holding. He tells Southie to clamp the bottle over his face and get into the bag; Southie is wary of this course of action, but deigns to perform it, climbing into the bag of holding. Croitus closes it behind him and double knots it closed. He then uses his hat of disguise to appear as a different man, coming downstairs. He quietly sits at the table, and when Khuna asks where Southie went, he murmurs that he is in the bag of holding. They wonder if Southie is even alive anymore, and Croitus indicates that he does not particularly care. He’ll let Southie out. Eventually. Maybe.

Although the group has mixed feelings about stuffing Southie in a bag of holding, the assembled party agrees to let it go at least until the morning. As they finish dining, a guardsman enters the inn, looking around. He speaks to one of the barkeeps, and the two travel upstairs. They return several minutes later, and the guardsman addresses the common room, asking if they have seen an armored dwarf come through this area. No one has anything of particular note to add, although some saw him go upstairs with another man. The guardsman thanks them and leaves.

Having had enough excitement, the group retreats upstairs to their rooms. Croitus and Resh guard the bag of holding in one room, while Khuna and Nobody take another room.

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Session 13

Sunday, Harvester 16, 552 CY (50 AN)

Khuna rushes forward, grabs the brain in a jar, and throws it to the ground. However, it does not fall — it pauses, floating in midair, as it mentally throws invectives at her and the assembled party. Khuna lunges at it again, but feels a strange mental feedback vibrate through her head as she attempts to do so. Croitus sends the ghoul-thing wading into the army of zombies as Resh starts launching a volley of arrows towards the turbaned man at the far end of the room, apparently being Lord Book. Southie throws himself at the floating brain in a jar, slamming into it with his axe. He knocks the lid off the jar, but the brain manages to right itself and Southie suddenly finds himself across the room, face-to-face with an angry monstrosity made of stitched flesh. He tries his best to avoid the thing while antagonizing Lord Book.

Resh suddenly finds himself in the middle of a throng of the shuffling undead, and manages to vault himself out of it, but the undead start shuffling toward Khuna. As the ghoul-thing tries to hold off a throng of the undead, and Khuna vaults around the biting, clinging corpses, Nobody shoves her spear into the jar, prompting the brain to start babbling mental gibberish while hitting her with a psychic backlash so strong she starts bleeding from her eyes, ears, and nose. She disengages from the brain, vanishing and reappearing on the other side of the room with Southie — strangely, she reappears with a small pixie flying around her. Croitus leaps into the fray, grabbing the jar and managing to grab the brain in his jaws, gulping it down his throat. He learns that it is apparently the true Lord Book, and the turbaned man is just a decoy.

Meanwhile, Khuna is being surrounded by walking dead when Croitus rushes in with a shield, holding the shuffling zombies at bay as she darts out to slice at them with her dagger. Nobody and Southie engage the false Lord Book, but Resh is the one who sends an arrow through his throat, causing him to slump to the ground. As the pixie grows more annoying, she tries to swat it away, but it flutters over to the ghoul-thing and tries to ride it. Southie launches himself at the pixie, grabbing it in his hand and shoving it into his mouth. He viciously chews and swallows, and suddenly the trickster is no more.

While the others try to deal with the zombies, the angry stitched monstrosity barrels after Nobody. She and Southie engage the beast, ducking and weaving as Southie cuts off its limbs with each swing of his axe. The creature is slain when Nobody finally impales it with her spear.

The former gladiators then start carving through the zombies, finally destroying them all after a protracted engagement.

Searching through the room, they find a gold statuette among the various accoutrements. They also find the deed to the building in which they currently find themselves. They take both, and stuff all the books they see into the bag of holding. They open the door in the far wall, noting that it appears to go into disused sewer tunnels, but decide to go speak with Mr. Monkshood first. They leave the basement, returning to the second floor, and using the rope and grapple, return to the alleyway.

Glancing around, the group notes a shaggy homeless man; Croitus recognizes Mr. Monkshood under the beard and threadbare clothes. They quietly signal to him, and he crosses the street. He is surprised when he notes that Ashraf is absent; they explain about his death at the hands of a mimic. They further explain that they took care of Lord Book; he indicates that while they were silent for a day, the city guard determined they must be hiding in the ruined ward of Scandshar, and they formed a cordon around the district. Mr. Monkshood has the means to teleport them to Sorgforge so they can take out the next target, Lord Zrak. They consider going through the old sewer tunnels, but Mr. Monkshood explains tales he has heard suggesting those tunnels go through the Underdark, so they think better of it. The group decides to go with his plan.

Climbing back into the building, Croitus offers Mr. Monkshood the deed to the building, asking if his client would be interested, and if he would be willing to pay. Mr. Monkshood says he will speak with his client, and let them know; he asks to keep the deed in the meantime. The group waits while Mr. Monkshood draws a teleportation circle and performs the necessary ritual. Once complete after about ten minutes or so, a shimmering heat haze forms above the circle, and the group travels through it.

The group arrives in what appears to be another ruined building, stepping through a circle that looks a bit better established. Mr. Monkshood explains that Sorgforge is fully functioning and that slavery is illegal here, so they should not engage in any violent behavior. He explains that they are currently in Sorgforge’s ruined district, a ring of buildings surrounding the city that were attacked during the Cackledread War. The city is slowly reclaiming them as it gets the funds to do so, but it is a primarily uninhabited area. They will have to cross the interior wall into the city proper.

For now, they may rest. He prepares to draw two baths, and he has changes of clothes prepared. Nobody and Southie bathe first; while doing so, Mr. Monkshood takes Khuna aside. He tells her that he is giving her this information, but asks that she only reveals it to the group after he is gone, lest they get any ideas about killing him. He explains to her that he will likely not see the group again, but he will continue to send their payment to his banking agents in the Patenaude merchant house. Additionally his client gave three assignments, and as payment, completed assignments will yield monetary rewards and information regarding the group’s former masters. Since one of the assignments — recruitment — was only partially completed, one of the masters will go unknown. Mr. Monkshood tells her that, due to the nature of the entanglement with his client, the location of her master will go untold. She is quite upset at this news, but Mr. Monkshood assures her that it is not his decision; he would not go against the wishes of his client — he intimates his client frightens him more than the former gladiators do — and he does not know the information to betray his client anyway. He wishes her luck in finding her Lady Weogora.

Khuna storms off, and her displeasure is clear. As Nobody and Southie finish bathing, they note that something has transpired and surmise it is something Monkshood said. Nobody merely tells Khuna that she is going to sunbathe nude on the rooftop, and that after Khuna bathes, she should join her there. Southie is displeased when Khuna reveals the news, but at her behest, he does not do anything. He does, however, stand outside the bathroom, fondling his axe and his genitals and staring at Monkshood the whole time. Monkshood keeps an eye on him, flipping a knife among his knuckles. Just in case.

While Khuna bathes, so does Resh. Unlike Nobody and Southie, he gets dressed afterward, as does Khuna. She joins Nobody on the rooftop, and indicates that the most frustrating thing about not learning her master’s whereabouts is that it’s actually fair; perhaps the first fair thing that has happened to her.

Croitus would prefer to bathe in the river, but at the behest of the others, takes a bath and dresses. Once everyone is done, dressed, and ready to go, Nobody pulls Monkshood aside and tells him if there is any negotiation that will allow his client to reveal the whereabouts of Khuna’s master, she will gladly engage. He says he will inquire and let the group know what he learns.

The group leaves the ruined building, ready to move into Sorgforge proper.

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Session 12

Sunday, Harvester 16, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie continue planning before infiltrating Lord Book’s hideout. While they are discussing, a sparrow lands on Khuna’s shoulder, and in Mr. Monkshood’s voice, indicates that plans have changed; he is watching Lord Book’s hideout, and will contact them when they have finished with it. The sparrow flutters away, and Khuna relays this information to the group. They plan a little further, deciding that perhaps they will try to access the building from the roof.

plan a little further, deciding that perhaps they will try to access the building from the roof. Taking the rope-extending grappling hook, Resh sneaks across the street into a side alley. He throws the grappling hook and catches the overhang of the building; a rope extends to his waiting hand. He starts to scale the building, but notes someone in the window and determines he cannot pass without the person noting him. He climbs back down and informs them of this fact. After some discussion, the group decides that Resh will distract the people inside the building by firing an arrow into one of the front windows, while the others climb into a window on the side.

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, and Southie sneak across the street while Resh takes his position in the alley. He fires an arrow into one of the front second-story windows, and everyone else starts climbing when they see the man move away from the window. Resh quickly moves to join them, and the group crashes through the window and moves inside.

The building appears to be an old tenement, and while it is obvious that it has been kept in some manner of repair, it is hardly furnished or decorated. Croitus summons his ghoul-amalgam, and the group moves through the rooms before coming to a door. Southie presses his head to the door, and is surprised when the blade of a bastard sword comes slicing through the door, nicking his head. As he reels backward, the door swings open.

Six men crowd around the door. The leader appears to be a pale man with flaming red hair clad in plate and bearing a shield and bastard sword. His five warriors are clad in scale mail and bearing battleaxes and shields. Croitus sends the ghoul-thing to bar access to the doorway and engage the men; Resh fires arrows past the ghoul. Knowing that his axe can dance and fight at his command, Southie throws his axe over the ghoul, but somehow does not activate it correctly and it lands harmlessly on the ground beyond the warriors. Croitus sends the ghoul-thing crashing through their ranks and engaging the leader; Southie follows the creature, using the confusion to grab his axe.

Croitus maintains command of the ghoul-thing, tearing into the leader, while Resh fires arrows into the warriors’ ranks. One of the warriors falls, but the other four rush into the room, moving to engage Nobody and Resh. To everyone’s surprise, Khuna — who has largely been hanging back and observing the combatants — leaps forward, knife in hand. After scrapping with a warrior for a few seconds, she manages to stab him in the neck, dropping him to the ground. The other warrior turns on her while Nobody continues to engage the two warriors fighting her.

Although Southie is powerful, the man in plate is careful and methodical in combat. Southie manages to stagger him with axe blows once or twice, and even cut his shield arm, causing him to drop it, but the man is proficient with his sword, managing to hold off Southie and the ghoul-thing simultaneously. Croitus commands the ghoul-thing to collapse on top of the leader, and then he de-animates it, leaving the man in plate pinned under its bulk. He still stabs his sword at Southie, dealing him a mortal injury; in response, Khuna summons a bit of healing magic to keep him alive and fighting. Southie takes the opportunity to finally get inside of the plate mailed warrior’s sword reach and decapitate him with his axe. Croitus reanimates the ghoul-thing and sends it back to harry the surviving warriors.

Meanwhile, Khuna leaps on her other assailant, sucking at his wounds to devour his blood. In a panic, the man starts trying to pry her off with his axe, but he is finally slain. Nobody continues to struggle with her two assailants as they knock her to the ground; she slays one, and is struggling with the other when Southie approaches with the leader’s decapitated head. He starts talking to the survivor with it as a ventriloquist dummy, but when the man does not pay attention — apparently locked in struggle with Nobody — Southie works the head’s jaw to take a bite out of the warrior’s throat. He collapses and bleeds his last atop Nobody.

Exhausted, the group takes a moment to rest and Khuna binds the group’s wounds as best she can. Southie takes the leader’s plate mail for himself, while some of the others take the scale mail. Croitus cracks open the warriors’ skulls and samples their brains, determining that this was Dragomir Negrescu and Negrescu’s Nagas. He also learns that Lord Book is evidently downstairs, and Lord Key has apparently come to Scandshar; she is evidently staying in the Plum Blossom Inn. Once Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie are ready, they search the building. There is little of value; it appears that the warriors used this place as a barracks, but likely had all their equipment with them when they were slain. They move downstairs, and finding nothing of value, move to the basement.

Descending the stairs, Khuna realizes she has seen this place before — her first strange dream from a couple of days ago depicted this place. At the bottom of the stairs lies a room; to the right, it opens into a larger space bound by walls of stone and replete with bookshelves. Closer to the group lies a table cluttered with scientific equipment — books, tools, a brain in a jar of brine. The far wall bears a wooden door. At the far end of the room is a table; in Khuna’s vision, her Margot lay upon it, apparently dead. Now, a stitched-together monstrosity of flesh lies upon it. Looming above it is a pale, bearded man with a turban bearing a peacock feather. He wears a heavy, white coat with heavy black gloves; strangely, as her vision intimated, he bears raven’s talons instead of human legs. Several shuffling corpses mill about the room.

Khuna dashes for the table, hoping to knock the brain jar onto the floor.

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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.

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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.

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