10:30 – 13:30 – The group first visit the Irinite Watch's headquarters, and sign on to hunt down a criminal group that have recently been committing a number of crimes in the wealthier districts of the city, their most recent being the theft of Namaea'Isaalite alms at swords point by the cities southern gate. With very little information to go on (other than they wore black, and wore crows' masks) and realising that they are not the most subtle of troupes, they allow Jaegar to slip into the city to speak with his “contacts” (in truth the priesthood of Harraken'Khelid), whilst the rest of them do some shopping. They arrange to meet that afternoon to see what, if anything, they have to go on.
It is a bright morning, though the strong winds keep the heat off, and the streets are crowded with people going about their daily lives. Hawkers bellow and yell about a wide variety of goods, competing with clerics and servants of various gods, preaching their doctrines and issuing dire warnings to those that ignore them. Heralds announce the local news, and guards – humanoid and warforged – patrol the streets in tight groups; eyes wary for the first signs of trouble.
The first place the group visit is a shop specialising in potions and minor magics, and there they purchase a number of healing potions. Next, they find a horse merchant, where Emmiven finally buys a mount – a black warhorse with white ankles – along with bit and bridal.
Having finished their shopping, the group decide that they should go and register with the arena events, and Varracuda at once begins to express his deep feelings of unease with the idea of parading his arcane skills in front of an arena full of people, and with the Unified Order watching. He seems no happier when the party remind him that at present he is under Archevult's sufferance, and so, is not a target – though Seren, and oddly enough Grigori both put it to him that he really has nothing to lose from officially joining the Order – a point that the swordmage seems unwilling to concede.
It is at this point that a rather surly Shnecke suddenly blurts out “We're already registered!”
Stunned silence and slow, angry looks towards the barbarian.
Shnecke shrugs. “You were all being complete pussies about it, so I went out late last night and registered us under the name 'Scnecke's Wolves'” (There are flinches through the party at that exact moment).
“And I put us in for the full on 'to the death' category too. No point girlying around like a bunch of idiots. Kill or be killed! Manly fighting!”
Grigori turns purple (and Varracuda pale green), but the group let it lie – what's done is done, and the name isn't as bad as it could have been. Then, having got everything they need, the party return to the Staff of Wands where they wait for the assassin to return.
18:00 – 19:00 - Jaeger returns and informs the group that his contacts were only “able” to retrieve a certain amount of information. He has discovered that the guild call themselves “The Rookery”, and that they are a fairly new organisation that is thought to have its base somewhere within the sprawl of The Roughs. In an effort to make finding them in that labyrinthine slum a little less daunting, the assassin has looked into some of the more popular drinking establishments, come places of illicit business, and has retrieved three names' “The Kicked Dog”, “The Garrotte” and “The Dead Man's Dance”. He surmises that they may be able to obtain some information by visiting these sites and subtly questioning the locals.
This plan meets with almost unanimous approval (especially from Shnecke), and the group set about discussing tactics. They quickly discard any plan that involves subtlety, recognising that this is one trait their group lacks. They then discard the notion that they can do their research without the Rookery hearing about them, which means they have to be prepared to face them at any time once they have set things in motion.
Accepting that they are going to force a confrontation sooner or later, and appreciating that the guilds own members are going to be – in theory – the best source of information, it is decided that they should visit one of the pubs, find out as much as they can from the dregs of society within, and by doing this provoke an attack by the guild. Then they shall grab one of their attackers, and persuade them to spill the beans on where the guild is located.
It is decided that they shall first visit “The Kicked Dog”, as it is nearest to the edge of the Roughs, and after the Ulnyrr has finished a few “warm up pints”, they head out into the night.
19:00 – 19:45 – The group wend their way to the northwest ward of the city, passing through the wealthier districts, and the clearly delineated Dundorin district (known as the Ten Forges District), before suddenly crossing an invisible line that separates the Roughs from the rest of the city.
This district is not entirely what the group are expecting, for whilst it is mostly dilapidated and crumbling, its people foul and wretched, partaking openly in booze, drugs, violence, and rutting like animals in the shadows of the rat infested alleys and windowless tenements, there are homes that show (beneath their obvious defences) that their owners are proud of their dwellings and are not willing to let the darkness and foulness stain their homes and lives.
19:45 – 20:10 – The group move through the dark and winding streets of the Roughs, careful to avoid drawing too much attention to themselves (though their sharp eyes catch the flitting movements as lookouts cant to their allies their presence), and to not tread on the huge rats that scurry with little fear underfoot, or in the piles of night soil that stink and steam everywhere. The stench of the place is pervasive, and the sounds that drift from within the shattered buildings – mundane and nightmarish at the same time – lend the whole, poorly litten place an eerie, unearthly quality.
Eventually they find themselves in a wretched plaza, surrounded by leaning, broken buildings, but dominated by two that face each other. The largest is the “Kicked Dog”; a tall, well maintained structure that appears to be several properties knocked together. Its sign appears to be an actual dog, mummified with pitch, to which a real human leg – skeletal and also covered in pitch – has been attached, the two pieces joined in such a way as to suggest that the leg is booting the dog up its behind. A knot of well armed bouncers – two burly human males and one scarred and dented warforged – stand on the front door, ready to eject anyone that tries to enter without clearance. The clearance seems to be the say so of a red-headed female Vyrleen, who sits with them, watching everyone else in the plaza with steady, assessing eyes, and gives either a nod or a shake of her head whenever anyone tries to enter the Dog. The group also notice that she uses whirring subtle hand gestures and quiet glottal clicks to communicate with her doormen – some kind of rogues cant no doubt.
The second building was once a temple. Now it is shattered and covered in graffiti. Several fires burn in front of its yawning, shattered doors, casting a pool or light and warmth on the wretched figures that sit within the ruined temple, and upon its stained and cracked steps. A thin, moustachioed man with the complexion of the southerner offers up his wares there, his wares being a wretched line of thin and empty eyes girls and boys, some only children.
20:11 – 20:13 – The group approach the front door, and almost at once Grigori causes problems by insulting the warforged. However, the party are allowed to enter the pub under warning from the Vyrleen.
20:15 – 20:35 – The inside is a vast space, thick with layers of various exotic smokes and tabac fumes, and illuminated by dirty burning candles and fat lamps suspended from chains in the lofty roof. It is packed with hooting, drinking, vomiting, fighting, rutting, screaming, sweating folks, most smelling as if they have not seen water in weeks. It is oppressively hot, and the bar is on the far wall. The group scan the room and see that ladders from the main floor lead to mezzanine balconies that ring the room. The first is packed with more mundane folks, though many of these are engaged in games of chance or risk, or are relieving themselves over the edge and onto the oblivious drinkers below.
The second is much higher, and seems to be considerably less crowded. From the floor it is hard to see much up there, but the presence of armed guards and better lighting, not to mention sharp eyed lookout confirms to the party that only individuals of local power or position get to sit up there.
Shnecke and Emmiven head to the bar, whilst the rest of the party – sans Jaeger who opts to “mingle” with the crowd below - move to the first mezzanine, and manage to intimidate their way onto a cramped table, fairly close to the edge, where they can get a good view of the inn below. Shnecke returns with a large keg of beer, and sets about drinking at once, whilst Grigori announces that he is going to go and talk to Vyrleen because “she definitely knows something”.
20:55 – 21:00 - Grigori, with a greasy pint of beer in hand, approaches the Vyrleen on the door, drawing hostile glares from the bouncers there – the warforged moving to strike him before being called off by the diminutive woman. He attempts to engage the lass in some pleasantries, but discovers that she is far too canny for fall for his awkward attempts at manipulation. So, pausing only to watch as a young couple – both showing the mutations of magical pollution – are turned away and beaten by the bouncers, he gets to the point and asks her about the Rookery guild.
The Vyrleen hides it well, but she clearly knows something and has no desire to speak up. She tells the priest that he needs to go back inside to his friends where he is safe, and gives the bouncers a look that suggests that they should be ready to administer a profound beating at a moments notice. Realising that he will get nothing from her, the priest begins to back off, though he informs her that she has told him more than she knows as he goes.
21:03 – Back inside the heaving embrace of the main taproom, Grigori pushes his way towards the ladder that will take him back to his allies. However, he suddenly notices a hand reaching into his pocket, and turns to come face to face with a glassy eyed woman; young, pale and pissed. She freezes for a moment (quickly withdrawing her hand) and begins to try to pass off her fumbling as a sign of affection, a ghastly grin smearing across her bleary face.
Grigori goes to head-butt her, but at that moment is covered in vomit from someone up above. Blinded, furious and disoriented, he lashes out blindly, and the woman slips away with his purse, leaving him retching and sputtering in fury.
21:04 – 21:06 - As the woman flees, a curly haired man clad in well maintained mail and brandishing a long straight sword lunges towards Grigori. At the same time, several other men in the room smoothly rise to face the battle, one of them, a brute with a huge morningstar, launching a blackened bladed dagger through the throng towards the cleric (the venomous thing misses and buries itself in the ladder leading to the first mezzanine). Who they are is not clear, but they are clearly annoyed at Grigori's actions, and intend to do him some serious harm.
Of course, they clearly don't know he is far from alone and without power...
A brutal fight erupts, the roaring drinkers initially watching it eagerly, only to flee when its deadly nature becomes apparent. Magic burns the air, hammer shatter bones and blades sink into flesh. Jaegar moves like a shadow through the crowd, wearing them like a concealing cloak, his blade finding the spines and throats of many of the would be combatants, and Seren unleashes spells from above, aiding the warriors as they cleave and burn into their foes.
Drawn by the fighting, the warforged from the front door wades towards the group with an eager snarl, brandishing a huge, rune inscribed axe. However it, like the others, is quickly brought down, the assassins shadows dropping him after he has taken repeated blows from the warlord.
Almost too fast to believe, the battle is over, the pub emptied of most of its customers, the bar staff quivering with fear in the cellars.
21:07 – 21:08 – Still seething with rage, wiping the sick from his eyes, Grigori charges the front of the pub seeking out the Vyrleen. However, a cold, emotionless voice from the second mezzanine stops him dead, and the entire party stop to look up towards its source (apart from Jaegar who quickly rips the downed warforged's serial plate from its head).
“You have finished here”, it says. “You will leave. Now.”
Forgotten in the melee, the speaker is one of the potent individuals who were sat at the top of the pub. Power suddenly fills the air, and the group notice with great concern that an oily, slimy mist is billowing unnaturally across the floor – a vampire mist. Realising that the dark, feral figures above are to them as they were to the normal drinkers in this place, and having no desire to add their own gore to the filthy mess on the floor, the group agree to leave, and do so at once.
21:08 – 21:10 – Back outside and the few remaining drinkers there run at sight of the party. The doormen have fled into the maze of rotting alleys, as has the Vyrleen. Realising that they need to be gone from this place, the group head into the slums, hoping to avoid any further trouble.
21:15 – They don't, for whilst moving through a deserted street (which previously was filled with slum folks drinking, talking and cooking vermin over their smoky fires), they are suddenly ambushed by dark cloaked figures wearing crude carved masks. Masks made to look like the heads of crows.