Rats of Airspur

Interlude 4: 'Souvenir'

Caius Allswell waits, still at the tavern more than an hour since his agreed meeting time with that pallid up-town agent, Posticus. He fidgets with the shiny copper flywheel he wears on a chain round his neck and sneers out at the taproom in annoyance. Finally he snaps his fingers and pushes himself to his feet – he’ll be damned if he’s going to wait around for this servant fellow, and he’ll make a point to let Prasek know about all the damn time he’s wasted… when he eventually shows his weaselly face again. He whisks on his wide-brimmed hat with a flourish and stalks for the exit.

As the door closes behind him, Allswell pauses to pull up his collar, the wind blowing sheets of cold rain along the street. He reaches over and opens the shutter of the lantern by the door, lighting a thin black cigarillo from it. He draws deeply and blows out a billow of smoke with an impatient whistle, then steps out into the rain.

Allswell moves quickly through the streets, knowing the Collegium’s men are busy in the Curzian tonight. He cuts around the dock district, where all the fires had happened so recently, and after some small deliberation heads uphill towards the little garret house his mistress keeps in the lee of the cliffs. Hearing an odd echo from behind he turns and peers into the dimly lit street, but sees nothing. He stands for a moment in the rain, moving the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other thoughtfully. He turns back… to find a hooded figure standing close in front of him, in easy striking distance.

Allswell’s hand jerks down to the knife at his belt, but he is all too slow: a slim arm flashes forward and drives a dagger into his neck up to the hilt. The dagger is whipped back and as he staggers, his blood surging from the lurid gash in his throat. He staggers backwards, pawing at the wound with numb fingers. Backing into the wall he slumps down, sliding to the ground weakly. Blankly he notices the stub of his cigar doused by the rain on the street beside him. The hooded figure stalks forward and crouches over him, blotting out the stars. Allswell tries to push it away, but has no strength left to resist. With one deft movement the hooded figure cuts free the flywheel hanging around Allswell’s neck and, for a moment its hood falls aside.

Allswell gapes up, uncomprehending, at the slight smile on the face of Posticus, and then he dies.

Session 8: 'A friend in need'

Nik calms Charis down and gets her talking, and once she starts, she finds it hard to stop.

She says she needs help finding the case. Her people are being hunted by the Curzian, after ham-fistedly blundering about trying to find Prasek themselves and actually fighting with Collegium militia. Three of them peeled off to act as a distraction (setting fires and raising hell on the other side of the district), and the last (who had a minor injury) eventually came back to report and stayed with Maagar. Charis herself is also now being chased by the corsairs who were contracted to smuggle her out are after her, after she had refused to leave when they wanted – breaking an arm to demonstrate that they sure weren’t going to make her leave. The corsair captain won’t be paid until she is delivered to her destination, and she is sure he won’t take no for an answer given how much he’s already invested in this operation.

Charis says she didn’t mean for things to go bad like this, but she can’t leave without the case in hand. Given the bulk of their money was stolen when the case went missing, and the rest was spent on various bribes that got them no closer to retrieving the case, she needs help. After hearing her plea Nik agrees to help her find the case, requiring she provide him with information in return. With little else to offer, Charis reluctantly agrees to his terms.

‘Why is this case so important?’ asks Nik. ‘Because what’s in the case could save my people from destruction.’

When she refuses to explain how, Nik asks why she’s so paranoid. She responds ‘Because the enemies of my people can find things out in strange ways. They can hear things without being near, can know things they’ve not been told.’

Who are these mysterious enemies? ‘Imaskar.’

She tells how she had already brought the case from far, far away. Not from the Glass Mesa (as Nik had been led to believe), but from much further inland. Having skirted the Akanapeaks and the massive chasms of the collapsed underdark, she had come from the fucking Chondalwood, the spell-twisted and sacrosanct forests at the interior of the continent. She has already been through hell to get the case this far and won’t be stopped here, so close to her destination in Chessenta.

Nik reassures her that he’ll keep her and her companions safe while he searches for Prasek.

Doing her best to contain her frustration at the prospect of not being involved in the search, Charis goes with Shackle to one of the Rats’ safe rooms. After some discussion, the other Rats go out to hunt Prasek despite being exhausted after their harrowing night in the Kythan catacombs. Heading out into the streets they note a somewhat clamped down look to the streets – market stalls closed, barred doors, people hurrying past. They see a small squadron of Skyguard drakes lift off from the square by the Curia and wheel around above the district before climbing back to the upper city. Soon after, Curzian runners are seen rushing through the streets calling the militia men to action.

Tess goes looking through Prasek’s usual haunts in the newly invented guise of Posticus, a servant of an unnamed genasi noblewoman, who is seeking to purchase a rare item known to have been in Prasek’s possession. While no-one admits to having seen him, she does find out that Prasek’s wife – universally described as horrible – has been angrily looking for him as well.

She makes an arrangement with a local fixer, a crooked human fellow going by the name of Caius Allswell, who she knows has worked with Prasek before. She offers to give Caius a decent finder’s fee if he can find Prasek, and a smaller tip to make it worth his time, even if he doesn’t. They agree to meet back at the same tavern later that evening, but she actually just follows him, changing faces as she does, to see if she can glean anything from his investigation. After a couple of hours of more-or-less fruitless searching, it becomes clear that Caius has no more clue as to Prasek’s whereabouts than she does, so she simply walks off and leaves him to it.

Nik & Hargraine head over to poke about in the burned out shell of Prasek’s burnt shop, but find the wreck being looted by a little gang of Curzian men. Nik feigning drunk (well, drunker than he actually is already) totters his way over and starts doing his part to quell the still smoldering ashes – by urinating on them while yelling abuse at his absent competitor. The Curzian men gather round him and say they’ve orders to bring him into the curia for one of the lieutenants to talk to. Nik comes along amiably, if not quietly.

Meanwhile Hargraine quietly pokes around amongst the ashes and fallen beams of the shop. He notes a peculiar little entrance up near the top of the 3 story walls, opening through into the top floor of intact building next door. It looks peculiar to him because the bricks in the wall seemed to have been removed, rather than having been part of the original construction. He sees little of value in the rubble, but does manage to make off with a singed ledger that had been half-covered by a fallen set of shelves. He leafs through the charred pages and uses his super-accounting powers to tease out references of deliveries to a series of properties around Airspur, corresponding to Prasek’s home, his (now burnt) shop, and three other locations – possible safe houses. No definite addresses are given however, and he heads back to the Night Watch to catch some rest and confer with the others.

Nik is gurning and belching horribly by the time he and his escort reach the Curzian Curia, not to mention singing at the top of his lungs, but the imposing presence of Fesk has a sobering effect. The huge half-orc holds the bladed edge of his harpoon-hand to Nik’s face and asks a series of curt questions – mainly relating to the rumour circulating that Nik & Prasek had recently been scuffling publicly over money. In the face of Nick’s quite believable drunken innocence, though, Fesk’s quisition is thwarted. He throws Nick aside with a curse and storms back into the Curia. Nik, who was snoring by the time he landed in the gutter, is hustled back to his feet by some of the Curzian men and sent stumbling off in the direction of home.

Two streets away, Nik is walking quickly and confidently back to the Night Watch, already intent on the next stage of his gang’s investigation.

Tess gets back to the Night Watch, and finds no-one else there yet. She starts to play around with the animate clay she had found in the Sanctum of Delios. Pulling the thumb-sized figure she’d sculpted out of her coin purse, she discovers that it has stuck all her coins together into a new body for itself – in the same rough shape she’d made. Delighted, she takes the little homonculus and the jars of clay up to her nest in the attic.

The little figure seems happy with whatever shape she gives it, even taking in inanimate objects pressed into it and using them as part of its body. Tess spends a happy hour or two sculpting a pleasing form for it, incorporating bits and pieces of the bric-a-brac in her nest. The clay’s animate properties are deadened when returned to the jar, but as soon as more clay was removed from the jar the homonculus immediately wants to absorb it. Tess uses pinches of clay as rewards, as she starts to teach her new pet tricks.

She is having too much fun to respond when she hears the other Rats arriving downstairs, and only comes down much later, when she hears Nik’s voice busting up a spat between Shackle and Hargraine.

Hargraine is the next to arrive back at the Night Watch and finds no-one there when he calls out a greeting.

He decides that, while he waits for the others, he should start a quick audit of the new acquisitions from their first experience of tomb robbing. Idly picking up the puzzling bronze censer he found first of all, sniffing again at the chip of unburnt resin in it. The resin gives off a very pleasant, but very unusual, smell and, while trying to place the smell, he holds it to his nose and inhales deeply…

…and wakes up some time later, slumped on the ground. Feeling surprisingly refreshed after some of the most delicate, beautiful and peaceful dreams he has ever completely failed to remember, he scrambles to do some research on what on Earth just happened to him.

Having detected some of the peculiar tang of the Feywild on the scent, he consults some of the (rather inconsistent) texts of arcana in the Night Watch, eventually finding an old legend that he thinks gives some insight. In this legend an eladrin prince was sent to retrieve a horn of moon silver that hung from the branches of the mythical Tree of Honeyed Dreams, under whose boughs lay a wild menagerie of men and beasts, lying in repose atop one another, lost in a sleep of centuries. If the story had a grain of truth, reckons Hargraine, it’s possible the chip of strange resin could be sap from this magical tree, brought all the way back from the Feywild. In the story, the slumbrous vapours of the tree were negated when the prince (under the direction of a great sorceror he had seduced) wrapped a ring of cold iron in mint, and placed it under his tongue, and was thence able to pass safely through to pluck the horn from the tree.

Hargraine spends some time pondering the possibilities of this, specifically how it might affect the revenue streams of the Rats. He is interrupted from his reverie when Shackle returns from settling Charis in the safe room. He surreptitiously slips the censer into his pocket, and they swiftly start to bicker together over the rest of the loot.

Nik arrives back to find Shackle and Hargraine scuffling and shouting at each other about how they should dispose of the valuables they had appropriated – Shackle holding one of the greenstone gauntlets up where Hargraine can’t reach it (he carried most of the antiques back, after all, so shouldn’t he get a larger share?). Nik breaks up the fight and Tess comes downstairs. The loot will be divvied up later – for now they’ve work to attend to.

Settling down, they compare notes on how their investigation has been progressing. They discuss interviewing one of the other fences in town to see if they know any more about Prasek. For the moment though, Nick goes to take some supplies to Charis while Tess & Hargraine head off to the Kythan safe house to check on the Chessentans there.

Shackle shrugs as they all leave, having by default been left again to guard the Night Watch. He grins to himself then stuffs the gauntlets and a bunch of the other uncounted valuables into the sack and wanders out.

Tess and Hargraine reach the Kythan safe house cleanly enough through the rainy night, avoiding the gloomy Collegium patrols deftly. Banging on the door they announce themselves through the shutters as representatives of Charis. The door is opened by a squirrelly fellow who nods and ushers them in. As the doors are closed tight behind them and, as they notice a shadow shift on the roof overlooking the central courtyard, they start to get a very bad feeling.

Throwing open the interior doors to the courtyard, the captain of the corsairs strides out to greet them grandly, flanked by two of his conspicuously well armed crew. With his gold teeth flashing in the torchlight, he welcomes them in his thick Calimshan accent.

“Blessings be upon you! My heart overflows that you have come, bringing news about my dear friend Charis!”

Shackle is back in his shed at the old quarry, right under the tremendous waterwheels that provide power to the industry of Airspur. With little to do but listen to the constant trickle of water from his roof, and the clank and grind of the gears above, he starts poking through his sack of loot.

He tries on the greenstone gauntlets and likes the feel of them, so he wanders round doing his usual stuff while wearing them – counting his shekels, stirring his little pot of soup, etc. A cockroach runs across the bench while he’s eating and he swats at it… only to be knocked backwards off his stool by the thunderous percussion that occurs when the gauntlet hits the wood. Picking himself up he sees that the bench has been smashed into splinters.

He looks down at his gauntleted hand, smoke rising from it gently, and grins – suddenly the night is looking more interesting.

Nik visits Charis in the safe room, bringing her some supplies. She is choking with frustration at her forced inactivity, especially given the lack of tangible progress in finding Prasek, but she accepts that she would only be in the way given the collegium crackdown in the Curzian.

As Nik leaves the safe room, some distant movement in the moonlit Upper City catches his eye. Arriving at the Court of Majesty are a squadron of immense dragonflies – which he recognises from stories as being Redwing chariots of some dignitary of the Skyclave of High Imaskar.

With things becoming so complicated, Nik suddenly knows it’s time to get back to his hidden strengths, to get back his gypsy roots. It’s time to consult a fortune teller…

Session 7: 'A clean break'

Fending off the first couple of zombies, the Rats push through a side corridor at pace, hoping to push their way back into the catacombs to seek another exit. The sound of their running attracts the horde and Hargraine seals the path behind them with a shivering wall of razored shadows. The undead, filled with mindless anger, throw themselves into the wall and are sliced to pieces. Knowing Hargraine can’t maintain the wall forever, the Rats push on.

Pushing easily through straggling groups of moaning undead, the Rats finally encounter some of the real threats of the catacombs. Firstly the terrifying speed of the screeching ghouls, who would fling themselves howling onto their victims and savage them with filthy claws. Then the jarring hilarity of a hysterical wight who, in between racking fits of meaningless laughter, would revive the other undead as they were struck down. Lastly the brutal onslaught of a bellowing hulk; the immense body of some ancient giant made animate and sent smashing through the tunnels to crush friend and foe alike.

Keldrin Sim, his earlier terrors tempered now, finds some unknown reserve of strength. Seeming, for a moment, to take on some of the majesty of Delios he conjures a blazing star of light to blast the undead, a feat of arcane power quite beyond the young scribe who the Rats had brought down with them.

With all their resources stretched to their limits the Rats buy a moment’s peace, and locate for themselves a path to possible freedom – a narrow and long sealed tunnel heading into a safer section of the catacombs. Hearing the singing runes and the echoes of hidden movement from the surrounding corridors, the Rats gather together and push through into the tunnel, blocking the entrance again as well as they can.

Hours after, a metal grating is broken open from within, and five exhausted figures pull themselves out onto the dawn-lit rocky slopes of the Kythan cliffs. Sneaking into a mason’s yard, they rest in an attic store room for a few hours, taking the opportunity to wash and find some quick sleep. They make their way back to the Curzian as nonchalantly as possible, but breathe a very palpable sigh of relief when they reach the Night Watch.

As Nick reaches his office an arm snakes around his neck and he is pulled inside. With a long needle pressing at this throat, he hears Charis’ voice hoarsely whispering in his ear; “I need your help…”

Interlude 3: 'A courtesy message'

A flickering image appears, hovering in the air in front of the barricaded catacomb exit – an armed elfen woman, clutching her arm to stanch the flow of blood from a savage wound. Her otherwise stately face twists as she spits out words like burning acid, her voice husky with rage. In the background are the sounds of harsh orders being shouted over agonised wailing, of furious combat and hurried construction, but her words wind on in a low stream of unquenchable invective.

“I don’t know who you are, you miserable fucking filth, but I hope you fucking die. I hope they tear your guts. I hope they make you watch while they eat your fucking liver. I hope you choke on your own blood while they claw your treacherous face to meat. When we found the gate open we came in to find you, in case you were just lost and stupid, but all we found were the things you’d managed to attract with your poking around for treasure. I’ve lost three men tonight because of you, you greedy whoreson. Three men whose wives and children will be alone now, three men who won’t even be able to find their families in the underworld because we can’t get to their fucking bodies to say the rites. Just know this though: if the ghouls eat your gizzards you can think yourself lucky, because if I ever find you I won’t be so fucking kind. We’ve blocked your passage out, and I hope you last long enough that you really get to hurt. I hope the god who crawls swallows you whole. I hope th…”

A massive body smashes into the barricade, splintering wood and sending dust and stones pelting down from the roof. The image flickers one last time, the illusion’s anchoring glyph disrupted by the impact, then it stretches crazily and fades.

Session 6: 'Question and answer'
  • Finally reaching the centre of the maze the Rats find a temple hewn into the stone. They pass through its columned doorway to find an even older looking interior, walls decorated with faded and flaking painted murals. The find a carved seal on the ground, and Sim explains that passing over the seal will begin a trial that aspirants and initiates of the Cult of Delios were called upon to take as they sought an audience with the Oracle. With some trepidation they pass over, and find themselves suddenly transported to some other long gallery within the temple – their retreat closed off.
  • As they move along the gallery, the murals show common themes – all show the stars, and all feature a lone figure with curling horns standing in motionless observation. They come across a second seal, and a tracery of glowing glyphs trail up from it, framing a riddle. Answering the riddle, the group is allowed to pass and they are transported to the next testing gallery.
  • The Rats blink from chamber to chamber, each with a more difficult riddle relating to some aspect of astronomy or mathematics. Growing cocky, they get Shackle to answer a riddle, and when he answers flippantly the glyphs burst in a flash of searing light, that leaves the nerves burning in remembered pain. They gather themselves together and get back to the task. Eventually they pass the final test to pass through to the Sanctum of the Manifest, the heart of the temple, the tomb of proud Delios.

  • Fulfilling their avaricious fantasies, they find the Sanctum has valuable looking antiques lining the walls – ancient scrolls and codexes, painted urns, decorative lanterns long-cold, unpleasantly suggestive little abstract cast figures, and many other relics of the Delios’ cult. In the centre of the chamber is a ritual circle of crawling ember-red runes that shimmer with a dim red light, lending a sickly, organic sheen to everything. As they start to move into the room there is a peculiar moment of vertigo, and an enormous spectral dog appears suddenly in the circle, eyeing them hungrily. Sim cries out hoarsely “The Hound! The Hound of Delios!”
  • Shackle takes a pre-emptive approach to possible attacks, and steps forward to swing his hammer. The creature disappears before the blow lands, and an eerie howling sound springs up, seeming to echo in from across an immeasurable gulf. Sim clutches at Shackle’s arm and shrieks “You fool! You’ve doomed us all!” Shackle grunts and shrugs him off, readying his hammer. Three mirrored images of the Hound appear, shrouded in shimmering spatial anomolies. Moving as one the glowing dogs bound to the attack, phasing in and out and flickering across the chamber unpredictably, leaving bursts of light in their wake. The Rats fight them grimly – fending them off until finally the dogs are sent screeching back from whence they came, glimpses of some more alien shape visible as their physical bodies are broken. As the Hound is banished, the doorway to the final passage in the temple opens and an imposing robed figure strides solemnly into view. After some fleeting doubts, the Rats are convinced that the figure is Delios himself.

A wrinkle in time.
There passes a strange conversation with the Oracle, who answers questions for a terrible price… Jumbled memories of passage down a twisting corridor that becomes progressively more and more ancient – fading classical murals giving way to crude earth-toned paintings of animals and men, of hunts and fires and dances, and still featuring the horned figure at each point. At the very end of the corridor is a natural hollow in the rock, in a crude niche chopped into the stone sits a heavy scroll-case – Sim’s hands shake as he retrieves the ancient thing …after they talk, Delios says he will leave, that they may keep the treasures of the Sanctum to aid them in the coming times of trouble. With a sensation like the cessation of a half-heard sound, Delios is suddenly gone.

  • Left dazed by Delios departure, the Rats recover quickly with the opportunity to explore the Sanctum to snap them back to reality. As they set to, the memory of Oracle’s words fade in the manner of a difficult dream.
  • They gather a range of peculiar objects they think could be saleable – from statuettes to ritual paraphernalia to inlaid lanterns (still filled with some waxy oils). Sim clutches the Kythan Boustrophedon to his chest, loading his packs with as many scrolls and documents of the Cult of Delios as he can carry (Nick pilfers a few himself). Tess finds three lead-sealed jars filled with clay and, digging some out, she discovers that after the clay is shaped it comes alive. Her little clay figure eats the finger of one of her gloves, and she drops it in her purse to play with later. Nick finds a bronze chime that seems (dizzyingly) to warp time when struck. Hargraine finds an old censer, corroded but beautifully ornate, and with a crystalline residue of some unfamiliar resin inside it. Shackle finds a pair of enormous gauntlets, carved from some dark metallic ore – and jokes that they would suit Tess. Weighed down with as much as they can manage, they leave the Sanctum as swiftly as they can – hoping to leave the catacombs before more trouble comes their way.

  • A sinking feeling sets in when the Rats reach the end of the secret annexe, and come back to the catacombs proper. Echoing through the corridors they can hear the sound of many of the singing runes forming an eerie sustained chord, and hinting at the presence of many more undead – a quick exit is called for.
  • Moving as quietly as possible and as quickly as they dare, the Rats trace a path through the catacombs. At points they distract the hungry dead with a simple cantrip cast on thrown sunrods – but even when they are so easily distracted, the howling of the ferocious zombies inspires some little tension.
  • As they pick up their speed in the approach to the final exit they are spotted by one of the undead who, though easily dispatched, sets off a call that is echoed from all around. The Rats charge down the corridor to the exit, and find the way blocked – the gate they’d come through locked and barred comprehensively from the outside. With little other choice, they turn to fight for their skins.
Interlude 2: 'Exposition'

They walked in single file down the twisting corridors, lamp light gleaming on the rough-cut stone walls, trickling with seeping moss.

Tess paced ahead restlessly tracing the route Sim had described. She was a tenuous figure, only barely visible in the swinging light, but Hargraine stalked along behind her confidently, enjoying himself more than he would likely admit. Shackle stumped along behind them, his bulk moving with surprising economy, his massive maul swinging easily in his massive fist.

Keldrin Sim, their unlikely employer, held the lantern as he followed close behind Shackle, describing the circumstances of his felicitous discovery…

“When it came into the scriptorium, I didn’t think much on the Song of the Traveller – to be sure it was a fine old codex, and valuable to collectors just by its survival through the spellplague, but the text itself held little interest. The Song itself is an old ode which was unattributed to any particular poetic tradition of its time, but had commonly been seen as an allegory for the movements of the constellations. It is not seen as a particularly worthy document though, as any significance to the advance of astronomy was discredited long ago, as it fails to follow any recognisable sequence of precession – observed or predicted.
It was not until I was called upon to produce a copy of the Analects of Atian that something clicked – in his treatise on the time of the ancient kings of this land he tells of a mythical figure known as the Kythan Oracle, and refers to the Oracle as ‘Delios the Traveller’. As I read more of Atian’s account, I became more and more certain that this Delios was the Traveller of the Song – that the constellations describe something other than simply the lights of the sky, that they described something infinitely more earthly.”

He gestured around them, the carvings on the rough stone spoke his meaning. Shackle trudged on implacably, and Sim hurried to keep up with his enormous stride.

“Long ago, you see, this was a holy place. This was before the Abolethic menace and the orc incursions, before the arrival of the Genasi. This place was the temple-maze of the Kythan Oracle, who looked down from the cliffs to the proud city below – the city whose utter ruin in spellfire and cataclysm would pave the way for the founding of Airspur.
Blessed with mystic sight, the Oracle would read the future in the stars, seeing in that great dance of the heavens the cosmic forces that shaped our world. But, for all his great knowledge, Delios made a mistake – when he foresaw the downfall of his world, he spoke of it aloud. The King of his time was a noble ruler but feared for his crown and his people, and was angry at the threat he saw in the Oracle’s words. He ordered that the Oracle admit a mistake and withdraw his false prophecy, or he would find death not long after. Delios was haughty though, and refused to retract even a single syllable.
In the Analects, Atian describes how Delios ascended to his dais one last time and delivered a final prophecy to the people – a prophecy of doom piled upon doom and then, evading the King’s men, he disappeared below to be swallowed by his great maze never to behold the stars again. Soldiers were sent to find him there, but no path could be found through the endless tunnels. The search was given up soon enough anyway, as before even a single moon had waxed and waned the skies were darkening over the Sea of Fallen Stars, and the terrible fate that Delios foretold was upon them all.”

Sim shivered. The mottled walls threw strange, suggestive shadows around them. Shackle walked on and Sim resumed his story.

“The ages that followed were not kind to this land: the seas rose and fell and the very rock moved underfoot. Time passed and Delios the Sage was all but forgotten. The holy maze became at times a shelter, a store, a prison and, finally, a burial vault. Century upon century, our ancestors would creep into the tunnels and lay their dead to rest, the singing runes of Delios lighting their way.
I believe the undead came later, that some other malignant thing slipped in and claimed the halls for itself, and despoiled the graves for its own ends. These wretched horrors bear not the mark of proud Delios, who is said only to have admitted into his close company a hound of three mouths and three names: Am-Geth the Hidden, Uth-Oom the Fierce, and Na-Shub the Radiant. The Cult of Delios lingered on, I believe, beyond the fall of the kingdom – secretly passing through the maze and tending their master in his Sanctum. That the Song of the Traveller is unattributed is no surprise then, as they would have needed to…”

Sim broke off as Shackle rounded on him suddenly, huge bulk blocking nearly the whole corridor.

“Wait,” rumbled Shackle, “Are you for real?”

They stood silent for a moment, looking at one another in a moment of tense uncertainty in the tilting lantern light.

“You’re really serious?” the giant continued, “All this time you were talking to me?”

Sim’s mouth opened his mouth, but no reply came.

He closed his mouth again and coloured deeply, seeming to shrink down into himself. He mumbled “Nevermind” under his breath and squeezed past hurriedly.

Shackle stood silent and watched Sim scurry away up the corridor. Shaking his head in disbelief, he resumed his stolid march.

Behind him, in the dim light of the retreating lantern, all that could be seen of Nik was the sharp gleam of his unmistakable grin.

Session 5: 'Bread crumb trail'
  • Hamel arrives early the next morning, eager to take the case and be off. Nik pushes to meet whoever paid the contract, but Hamel diverts him, and they get back to haggling over the fee. Nik makes Hamel aware of the trouble with the Chessentans, but Hamel shows a pointed lack of interest, warning only that it’s dangerous to get too heavily involved with these marks. He takes his box and departs, leaving the payment in a fat pouch in Nik’s hands.
  • Having had little luck discussing business with Nik at the Kythan Taproom the day before, Keldrin Sim comes to visit the Nightwatch with a bundle of papers under his arm. The Rats are divvying up their ill-gotten gains, but Nik clears them out of the way and steers Sim into his office. After some rather uncomfortable pleasantries the young eladrin plucks up his courage and lays out his proposal: he wants Nik to help him break into the ancient catacombs of the Kythan district, to retrieve a cache of lost texts from the hidden sanctum of a long forgotten cult. Nik pantomimes a struggle with his conscience over both violating the sanction on passage to the catacombs, and the robbing of tombs in general, but allows himself to be talked round with the promise of a higher fee than their last job – and of priveliged access to whatever other valuable relics they may come across in the sanctum. The ever eager Sim wants to begin as soon as possible and, with the violence of the previous night in the Curzian still unresolved, Nik is inclined to go along with that – if only to keep him and the Rats out of sight for a while.
  • After a day of preparation, the Rats meet Sim that night in the Kythan – armed and ready for trouble. They sneak past the Kythan collegium’s sentries with little difficulty and, at around midnight, Sim breaches the appropriate gate of the catacombs, and they enter cautiously.
  • Sim explains that he has discovered a hidden key to navigating the catacombs to the hidden Sanctum. The singing runes scattered through the maze, which activate and glow when approached, can be activated in a certain sequence, and the hidden entrance will be revealed. When they locate the first of the runes they come across one of the zombies that infest the tunnels. Though the creature is easily dispatched, the noise of its death rattle attract the attention of its ravenous kin and the Rats are set upon by howling undead.
  • They defeat the mindless creatures with no serious injury. Though some of the gloss of the enterprise is lost by the frantic encounter, it is regained when Sim completes the activation sequence and the secret path to the sealed inner maze is opened. They go deeper…
Session 4: 'Public nuisance'
  • Nik, when arriving the plaza which the Collegium faces onto, finds a chaotic scene lit by leaping flames. One corner of the Collegium itself is fully ablaze, and a throng of locals – not just the Curzian men, but everyone from the neighbourhood – and they’re all labouring to contain the fire. A bucket chain has formed, pulling water from the nearby waterfront. There are others carrying prostrate bodies out of the smoke, and a little triage area to one side. There is shouting on all sides and people running to and fro – some fleeing the area, some charging to help. Through the smoke Nik catches a glimpse of one of the other Curzian lieutenants shouting orders furiously – the vicious hook-handed half-orc Fesk.
  • Nik finds out, probably by asking amongst the smoke-stricken group huddled against a wall across the plaza, watching the fire, that there was an actual attack on a group of Curzian men, that carried along the streets and ended up at the Collegium itself, and that ended up causing the fire. Reports vary on the number of assailants, and some guesses are that it was one of the other Collegia straying into Curzian territory, one rumour does have it that there was some kind of valuable item at the heart of the attack.
  • Finding one Curzian man catching his breath, Nik shares a drink with him. He determines that even they don’t know precisely what happened before the fire – just that there was a running skirmish along the street, which turned into a complete rout at the plaza. Expecting safety on home turf, there was panic as the attack continued into one of the several tavern-entrances to the Collegium. Curzian reinforcements were called in with better weapons, but that just made the fight uglier. It ended with a lit oil lantern, a heavy brass storm lantern no less, being smashed over the head of one of the Curzian men, which started the blaze almost instantly. The assailants retreated at that point, the last anybody saw of them was an injured man who ran out carrying an ornate box.
  • The Curzian man who was felled with the lantern was Baronal, who is still unconscious and may not recover.

  • Hargraine stabilises Maagar’s condition, then busies himself washing the trail of blood that leads to the Nightwatch Emporium, noting that it leads clear down to the canal. Over the rooftops he can see the threads of two large fires within the Curzian district. Shackle arrives while he’s cleaning up, and Hargraine sends him off to find a proper healer. Concerned about the half-orc’s presence, he uses an old hedge magic trick to send an animal messenger to Nik to let him know the complication.
  • Not long after getting Hargraine’s message, Nik finds the only one of Baronal’s men who is still alive and conscious, and he does little but mumble something about taking a box from Prasek. Nik does what he can to reinforce the rumour about ’Prasek’s Box’ and then makes himself scarce, heading back to the Nightwatch. When he gets back he uses his gypsy arts to salve the worst of Maagar’s wounds, but is furious at the path of destruction through his home turf.
  • Maagar only regains consciousness once, for just long enough to croak out the message that he had been surprised by Prasek’s men while already badly injured and escaping with the box. Maagar barely managed to kill one before he was brought down and they dropped him, unconscious, into the estuary. He passes out again with Nik shaking him by the shoulders and screaming about Prasek.
  • Furious, Nik leaves for the Chessentan safehouse immediately, and Maagar is dragged down into the cellar. Nick tells Charis what Maagar had said, and the Chessentans gear up to go find Prasek, despite Nik’s attempts to talk them out of further mayhem. He tries to counsel them to blame Prasek and Maagar together, but they dismiss the idea out of hand – it becomes abundantly clear that they’ve no problem burning their bridges in Airspur. Charis expresses her sympathies for Nik’s unhappiness – she regrets the situation got so out of hand, but doesn’t feel she has any alternative but fast and brutal options. Fully armed and doggedly single-minded, they leave to retrieve Maagar from the Night Watch, and to track down Prasek. Nik heads back to the Nightwatch, exhausted and dispirited, vowing never to deal with Chessentans again.
  • As the uneasy night rolls on, Tess dangles her legs over the edge of a tiled roof, looking down at the commotion in the street below her. In her eyes there glints the reflection of the conflagration that was once Prasek’s pawnshop. Smiling wanly, she swings herself easily up to her feet and walks away over the roftops without a backward glance.

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