1/9/1472: The group return to the the SC, and finally open up the chests they took from the Drowned Bell, as well as the weapon, armour and boots of its former captain. The sword is a beautifully crafted rapier, which is quickly identified as the Flensing Zephyr, a potent weapon known for being wielded by warriors who seem to dance through battle, leaving spurting wounds and dead enemies in their wake. This is taken by the assassin. The armour is too light for anyone to consider wearing, but bears a powerful enchantment. It is decided that Caleph will be given it to do with as he wishes, as a reward for his loyalty. Finally, the boots are instilled with an elemental spirit of air, and greatly enhance the wearer's ability to dodge and avoid. Realising he is far from the quickest on his feet, the priest asks to be given these, and adds them to his collection.
Within the chest rests a fortune in platinum trade bars – 250,000 gps worth. However, all bear the Unified Order's war seal, and it is realised that they are war bonds left over from the Aelwyn Wars. Few merchants would be likely to accept them, for they can be tracked by the Order, and unauthorised possession is punishable by death. The group realise that they must find some way of laundering the valuable bars before they can be spent.
Sebantho, the mage from the Drowned Bell is made comfortable (and a guard left by his room), and after making a few plans for the next day, the group retire for the night....All except for Shnecke and Grigori, who, not needing any rest, head into the city to seek information about their next mission. They step out into the night, and as they enter the port proper, sense a strange and violent energy threading the sooty air. Around them, the inhabitants of Scarathane also respond to it, a subtle but potent call to their base nature, and the two dhampir find themselves wandering through a night painted in shades of violence, rape, murder and fear. At first, neither are sure what is going on. However, Grigori then catches a suggestion of form in the shadows, and understands – the Feyr are feeding; amplifying the emotions already rampant in the frightened and angry inhabitants of the city, and feeding on the resultant explosion of triggered empathic energies. As they wander towards Garogg's Grogs, they witness countless acts of barbarism, sadism, self destruction and fear driven madness, and secretly thank the immortals that they are somehow unaffected in the same way – although they are keenly aware of the heaving emotions that swell within them in harmony to the Feyr's song.
Eventually they arrive at the bar, and find it filled with a huge battle; the usual good natured bar brawls having morphed into something far more dangerous. Inside it is carnage, as patrons driven to frenzy by the silent psychic manipulations of the Feyr, slash, bite and rip at each other, their minds lost in a wash of crimson fury and the primal need to feel flesh and bone break in their hands. Gargogg stands above the wheeling mass of scrappers, his barrel chest exposed through his ripped tunic, his black blood dripping from several shallow wounds.
“CALM DOWN YOU SCUM! ENOUGH!” He bellows, his voice cracking at the edges as he fights to control his own rage. He spots the priest and Ulnyrr, and bellows a greeting, before smashing his massive fist on the top of a brawler's head, sending him down. “YOU TWO! LEND ME A HAND WOULD YOU?”
It takes about twenty minutes to bring the carnage under control, and with the last patrol thrown out to scrap in the streets, the Gorgoth finds a few unbroken stools, and pours himself and the pair a drink of Vossk. “Insanity.” He mumbles, “Your Xix is busy this night. The city is steeped in madness.”
The pair nod, and then Grigori speaks up. “Narogg, do you know who might have some magical rituals for sale? I need some for the our job for the Feccia.”
The greenskin pours himself more of the potent Upper Malgorothian spirit, and knocks it back, hissing as it washes through several cuts in his mouth.
“Aye, and as it happens, it would be the same person who built the vault you must penetrate.”
Grigori gives a sharp-toothed grin, and Shnecke helps himself to more Vossk.
“Her name is Niba, and she is well known locally for both her potent magic and her art with traps and tricks. She has lived here for long and long, in a tower that rests in the shadow of the Athrandian enclave. She's made a small fortune fortifying the vaults and possessions of many rich individuals, although lately, she has become something of a recluse. There are more than few that feel she has been slipping into Xix's realm for some time.
“She might be contactable through the usual channels though. The liaison experts that dot the port likely being your best bet.”
The two adventurers stay for a while longer, and help the Gorgoth tidy his bar a little. Outside, the chaos in the city begins to ebb as dawn approaches and the Feyr slither back into their darkened holes, or, in the case of the least of them, fade out of existence. On the way out, Shnecke feeds on several drunks who lounge nearby, smiling as he feels their warm blood suffusing his cold frame.
08:00 – 14:00: It is decided that Varracuda and Thatari will try and do some research into the previous occupier of the stronghold, and the Cani Mortali themselves. Jaeger heads out to try and gather more information about Niba, whilst the priest and barbarian attend to other matters around the transfer of their vessels into dry dock, for they can now afford to get the ships upgraded....assuming they can get their platinum bars appropriately “cleaned”.
Varracuda has some success, although he is rather unsubtle in his questioning, discovering that the Cani Mortali are mostly based on a number of ships currently out at sea, the remaining pirates being those occupying the stronghold.
Thatari starts by spending more time trying to discover what lies at the heart of Hopes Famine – and through the rest of the day is haunted by a mocking presence that laughs scornfully at him, and whispers sarcastic comments just beyond his ability to make them out. However, he finds out a lot about one Mercurio Jeddiker, the former owner of the building now occupied by the Cani Mortali. Once, Mercurio was one of the cities elite. His company lent money to a great many powerful organisations, and had the power and enforcers to ensure that all deals bore profit. However, he began to drink and to use certain exotic powders, and his judgement began to slip. Many of his former supporters recognised the dangerous path he was taking, and withdrew their support, leaving him vulnerable to attack. Mercurio also began to deal with some very dangerous groups, for he began to give into his most vile and base of urges – a fondness for those too young for his attentions – and even his most loyal enforcers soon left him. Indeed, when the Cani Mortali moved to take his holdings, it was seen by many as a good thing. Now dwelling in the upper areas of the city, close to the Casa Di Bastardi, Mercurio is a paranoid and vile man, who is rumoured to have somehow secured the services of a mysterious and supposedly powerful band of mercenaries.
Hoping to charm this sickening wretch, the warlock seeks out someone that can provide him with a child and some of Mercurio's favourite drugs. After very little time, he has purchased a traumatised little girl, as well as several exotic powders, and with a dark grin he seeks out Mercurio's home.
He finds it – a heavy door of rune bound stone at its front, flanked by two statues of Azrael in his aspect as the reaper. He knocks upon the edifice, and speaks with Mercurio through a magical intercom, but the rightly paranoid former Merchant Lord tells him to leave. Angry, and with the floating mocking laughter in his ears, the warlock takes the girl – possibly ten years of age, with long blonde hair, ghostly pale skin, and a frightened, wide-eyed expression – back to the SC.
Jaeger finds a drunk mage in an inn called the “Canto Sacro”, who claims to be a former lover of Niba. He tells the assassin that she has a mind as sharp as a vorpal blade, and a love for intrigue, creating complex puzzles and watching people struggle through her creations. He says that she is “Truculent and cantakerous”, and warns him not to be fooled by her appearance. “I've lived here for nearly sixty summers, and she had been here a long time when I arrived. She appears to be in her forties, but son, she is way older than that.” He also warns the assassin that she has a penchant for summoning spells, and a particular interest in the binding of unusual planar entities. The assassin thanks the mage, and returns to the ship.
15:00 – 17:00: By late afternoon the entire party are back on the SC, which, along with the Red Curse, has been brought into the dry docks. They share their information, and address the little girl Thatari has brought back. Everyone is rightly suspicious of how and why he came to possess her, although he smoothly lies, telling them that he saw a slaver offering her for sale, and, wishing to keep her safe, bought her. The little girl says nothing, only telling them in halting Tradespeak, that her name is Hannah, and she has lost her parents and brother. Caleph immediaely offers to look after her, and all note that she has triggered some protective instinct in him, his whole demeanor changing to a softer, more paternal one. It is also noted that his attitude towards the warlock sours somewhat (and once again, the warlock hears a tiny female voice, dripping with sarcasm, muttering things he knows to be derogatory and vicious, though stil too quiet to be properly made out, in the back of his mind, and feels the Hopes Famine writhing).
It is decided that the group will seek out Niba, for Mercurio seems to be too detestable an individual to deal with (he also seems to be quite unstable). A meeting is arranged through one of the business liaison's in the city.
17:30 – 18:30: The group leave the SC, and begin to head out of the dry docks. However, as they go, they notice one of the carpenters in the area is paying them a bit too much attention. He also appears, under his workers clothes, to be carrying weapons, and the group realise he must be questioned. This is easily accomplished, for he is utterly unaware of the assassin who teleports next to him, and quickly subdues him with a sleeper hold....
...His name is Scorann, and he is a pirtate allied with the Cani Mortali. He has been sent to spy on the group following Varracuda's rather public enquiries into his organisation. He is told that the party have business in the city, and that they have been making enquiries about all the power groups there, not just the Cani, in order to gague who they need to consider with their actions. He is told that if he values his life and that of his family (who are back on the Vaedecci Isles), he will ensure that his brothers understand that the group presentt no threat to them, and should allow them to operate unmolested.
Traumatised, Scorann readily agrees.
18:31 – 21:00: Late now, the group leave the dry dock, and notice that beyond the port, the icy reality remains – although the great wall of storms has gone, leaving the frozen ocean just visible through a thick smog that clouds the boundary. Varracuda surmises that the two planes have now merged, and voices concerns that the ocean may therefore remain frozen for long and long. Others wonder if the ocean will remain that way until whatever stirs beneath the volcano is dealt with...
...It takes the party two and a half hours to move through the city (which is thankfully less chaotic than the night before), and, after passing through an unmanned gate, out towards the blasted wastelands of bare basalt, pumice, ash and here and there, flowing lava that lie beyond. As they approach the northern side of the island, so they behold a wondrous sight; the dark green and black glass citadel of the Athrandian dwaer. Angled and perched above, impossibly half way up the volcano, its highest spires easily higher than the rim of the caldera, orbited by smaller satellite towers and floating structures like stalactites of glass. The air around the massive structure shimmers with what the group recognise from their time with Lia, as psionic energy, and all realise that more than a little of that power is keeping the colossal thing from crashing down the sides of the volcano. However, their attention is then directed towards the impressive buildings that rise below it, in the shadows cast by the dwaer citadel. All are the dwelling places of potent individuals, and amongst them, on a jetty of volcanic stone, stands a tapered pyramidal tower which bears a flashing, brilliant blue sphere of flame at its top – the tower of Niba. Somewhat awed by the incredible display of powers around them, the group move towards the jetty, where, suddenly, a tall, arch-looking woman appears. She has pale skin and her dark hair is pulled up into a severe bun appears. She is dressed in long dark grey robes, and is remarkably ordinary looking for one so potent; although when she speaks, it is with clear confidence and authority.
“Hello everyone. My name is Niba. I believe you wanted to have a chat with me?”