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…