19:00 – The group retire to their rooms after sewing chaos in the foyer of the Staff of Wands amongst the clientèle. However, outside of their room is a beautifully wrapped package, complete with a slightly soiled bow ribbon. Jaeger immediately cautions the group against getting excited, and moves to cast his eyes over it, checking for any tell tale signs that could indicate the presence of deadly spells or other deadly traps. He spies nothing and gives the nod for the others to open the package, quietly shifting away from it.
Inside the box are two strangled cats, the twine used to kill them still tightly wound around their scrawny necks. Beneath them is a curious thing; about twenty dead rats, who's tales are hopeless tangled in a smelly, mummified mass – a rat king.
Immediately everyone understands that this is a warning from the Gutter Kings. However, Grigori senses a deeper warning, for the Rat King is the symbol of a little known aspect of Sarrax'Thag'Nestra named Skeertesh; a verminous aspect associated with swarms, vermin and animal carried plagues.
Shnecke rumbles deep in his chest.
6/5/1472 (Bright and warm. light breeze which fades towards the evening leaving thick fog)
09:00 – 23:00 - The party groggily awaken, the cumulative wounds from the last couple of days serenading them with a silent song of pain and leaden stiffness. They thump their way downstairs and take a good breakfast (their aroma, bruises and wounds drawing arch glares from the other guests and attending staff) before preparing for the day of questioning ahead as they turn their attention towards locating the renegade mage Balskus Morvell.
The only member of the party that seems alert, upbeat and spry is Grigori, who seems possessed of a rare energy. Between mouthfuls of bacon, scrambled eggs and sopping spiced beans he gulps down copious quantities of black, tarry coffee, and announces that he intends to spend the next day or two translating and transcribing the rituals he found in the bloodstained pages of the tome he wrested from the vampires so long ago in the aelwyn ruins near Greenford. Realising that this new “happy” Grigori might actually be a bit of a pain when dealing with some of the folks they will have to interview, the group readily agree to allow him some time to himself.
After finishing their meal, allowing Grigori to remove the last of their lingering wounds with his prayers, the party enter Irin and spend a rather irritating day speaking with various petty low-level officials, record keepers and minor enforcers of the Order, seeking any information they can get about the missing mage. The day bears little fruit other than to confirm many details that the party already knew.
7/5/1472 (Bright and warm. light breeze which fades towards the evening leaving thick fog)
09:00 – 12:30 - After some careful consideration the party (sans Grigori who has returned to his studies) head towards Northwood, and the mazy home of Fren, hoping that she, as an artificer, may have some thoughts on where someone like Balskus could be, or may have some insight into Balskus himself.
The group arrive at Frens' home mid morning, and are granted entry by the muttering artificer. She seems to remember the party, and after a short while is happily telling them what little she knows of the missing mage, though she is unable to shed light on where he could be, other than to check out “the kind of places artificers hang out”.
According to her, Balskus was a member of “Section 5”; a team of artificers, anatomists and mages who were charged with spotting possible flaws in the newly created warforged's biology, psyches and behavioural patterns. They were also responsible for hunting down and “neutralising” “rogue” units. Their symbol was a warforged “skull” (a blank face plate), and they were closely tied, towards the end of the war – and possibly still – with “Section 1” - a secret section that Fren only knows of because of her previous work. She is unsure what became of him, though she seems to recall him leaving the section under a cloud. She also murmurs something about a “Project Scythe”...though she is unable (or unwilling) to say any more on this subject.
Fren seems to go into her memories at this point, staring at the floor and smiling as if engaged in a pleasant conversation, and the group let themselves out of her home, leaving her to her madness.
12:31 – 16:00 – The group head towards some of the busiest markets scattered around the southeastern edges of the plaza and “smokestacks” district; markets traditionally filled with all kinds of components, artifice gewgaws and other bits and pieces used in magical construction. It is a busy place of forges, bellowing salesmen and muttering artificers, and the group find themselves moving along the oily streets closely pressed with the many other shoppers, the stench of their bodies and perfumes mixing foully with the biting aroma of oil smoke, hot metal and burned magic.
Within a few minutes of arriving, Jaeger has realised that beneath the obvious surface trade going on is a deeper, hidden layer of silent communication and illicit sales. Furtive gestures, words spoken with double meanings and tones of voice that subtly convey an alternative meaning to that superficially implied all combine to help him realise that a thriving black market is operating here, “out in the open”, under the noses of the city officials. He relays this information to the rest of the group, who decide to let him do some snooping, whilst they make more general enquiries. It is hard work, for many of the vendors are suspicious of snooping strangers, but slowly and surely, they begin to gain more information about Balskus.
Much of the information is the same as they already know. However, it becomes apparent that he had, prior to dropping off the underworld's radar, ties to a Draxian diplomat named Uzruel. Apparently, incredibly, Uzruel is staying at the Staff of Wands – information met with a mixture of joy (at getting a solid lead) and horror (at having to have anything to do with a Draxian). Further questioning reveals that as well as being an ambassador, Uzruel has a side line going in the illicit sales of certain substances manufactured in the vats and labs of his dark homeland – substances that guarantee customer dependence and command a high price. Balskus' particular interest lay in soporific's apparently, and he was introduced to Uzruel by a drug dealer in the Roughs who was unable to help him out, but was willing to introduce him to the Draxian for a hefty “finders fee”.
17:50 – 18:20 – Back at their base of operations, the group do some snooping about; gaining access to the list of guests through stealth and misdirection, and finding out that Uzruel is staying in a suite but one floor removed from their own chambers. Those who are not familiar with the works and nature of the foul daemon worshipping empire of Draxia are given a potted history by Grigori – everything from the fall of ancient Pentasia and the founding of Pentas Daemonica (the City of Stained Stones), to the height of the dark empire, its wars with the Soum'Tassadexite church, and its recent decline and current state of explosive, war-filled death. They are warned that even a diplomat is going to be a servant of foul powers, and that in truth there will be little difference between them, and the filthy cultists they have battled in the past.
Then they go to meet with him.
However, after disabling the warding runes on his door and forcing entry, they find that the chamber is empty, and that it has apparently not been slept in for even a single night.
18:25 – The group instruct their guild to put word out that the whereabouts of the Draxian Uzruel are desired, and to do some investigating for them.
8/5/1472 (Misty morning giving way to a bright day and crisp, chilly night)
05:40 – The group receive word from their guild; the Draxian is staying at “The White Raven”; a nice place located on the southern edge of the High Hills district, run by Irinite native Khazen Mistenway; a vyrleen. Locally renowned for its fine vyrleen “home style” cooking and cosy atmosphere, it is a favourite place for both the nobles of the High Hills, and the working folks of the Smokestacks and Plaza district. It is also a place that a lot of artistes and bard hang out, smoking vyrleen pipe weeds, drinking too much, and giving impromptu performances. Of late it has become the haunt of one Deshayne Vallara; a female human bard from the North Republic who is gaining a lot of attention both through her physical beauty, and the sheer magic of her voice and the pieces she plays on her acoustic guitar.