(03/09/1472) 05:00 – 10:30; The streets of Scarathane are all but deserted as the group wearily make their way back to the SC, the Splinter contained within a runestruck box of cold iron and silver (a gift from Niba – adding to the cost of her favour, when it comes). It seems that even the hardy denizens of this foul place have learned to fear the unseen horrors that bring madness each night, and have taken to hiding away where they think – wrongly of course – they cannot be hurt by them.
On returning to the ship, they only have time for a couple of hours sleep, to review the current situation, and for them to check on what has been going on. Then they must leave and head out to meet with the Feccia.
10:30 – 12:00: Iskarius is late, and the group begin to wonder if they have been scammed. Patience has worn thin by the time he and his faithful automaton arrive, the heavy tromp of “Mr Butcher's” footfalls shaking the small chandelier that hangs above the meeting table. He is accompanied by another man none of the party know. Like Iskarius, he is a swarthy, olive skinned man, clearly of Vaedecci descent. He has a neatly trimmed beard, short curly hair, and wears mustard coloured robes of fine cloth, stitched with silver runes and sigils. A quiet aura of power emanates from him, though nothing compared to that of Niba, or, to be honest, the adventurer's themselves, and all immediately know he is some kind of mage or artificer.
Iskarius, apparently either ignorant to the group's withering glares or unconcerned, claps his hands together, before rubbing them and saying.
“My friends! It seems you are still alive, and have something with you.”
He grins over to the other man, who smiles back, and with a spike of anger, Grigori realises that neither truly believe the group have done what they asked.
“This is Colvotoné Giotto, one of our mages. He is here to confirm the validity of the item you have brought here.”
He grins again, apparently enjoying the group's mounting anger.
“Here's your cursed blade!” Snarls Grigori, sliding the heavy box towards the men.
Iskarius looks down at the box, and then gestures towards it, looking at Colvotoné. The mage moves to open it, but then smiles, winks at the party, and spends a few moments with his eyes closed, holding his hand above the surface. All (save the Unlyrr) feel the quiet pressure in the air as he concentrates on the box, clearly trying to sense whether or not there are any nasty surprises waiting for him. After several moments, his eyes open, and, apparently happy it is safe to do so, he opens the lid.
At once the air seems to grow thick with a subtle, dreadful energy, and everyone feels their bowels clenching and their nerves fraying as they recognise the hate of the essence within the flint dagger. Both Vaedecci feel it too, and the group take more than a little pleasure from watching them grow pale beneath their complexions. Looking suddenly unsure, the mage looks towards Iskarius, who, angrily it seems, nods towards the blade sharply. The mage looks at the party, no longer smiling, and repeats his examination. This time however it lasts mere seconds before he yelps, dragging his hand back as if burnt. Muttering rapidly in his native tongue, he swings the lid shut, stepping back as if the dagger is going to throw the box open and leap at him.
He speaks to Iskardius in Vaedecci, and the Feccia representative, looking quite peaky, looks at the party with a sudden degree of respect. The mage continues to babble, his fear apparently turning into anger, and Iskarius holds a placating hand up to him, nodding and waving for him to be quiet. However Colvotoné only shuts up when Mr Butcher, sensing his master's discomfort, suddenly emits a menacing growl and moves towards him, empty eyes flashing with power.
“So,” mutters Iskarius then, his voice sounding sick, “it seems we entirely underestimated all of you. Honestly, we expected you to bring in a fake, or, if insane enough to actually try and do as we asked, for there to be some kind of furore as you inevitably messed things up and drew the Cani Mortali fire.
“To say we are impressed at the successful completion of your, to be frank, purposely impossible mission, is...an understatement”.
“you mean you were expecting us to die?” Asks Thatari angrily.
Varracuda slams his fist into the table, his shredded nerves demanding he make this fool pay for his stupidity. However, Iskarius holds up a warding hand.
“Please, please. You must understand. Many adventurer's come to us with similar offers to yours, and they, like you, have things we would enjoy taking ownership of. In your case it was your ships. We send them on dangerous missions, in the hopes that they die and we can take their stuff, and if In the process they help our cause, well, so much the better.” He laughs, “It is, well, unheard of for a troupe to succeed, but...”
He gestures at the box.
“What can I say, you have all impressed!”
He spends a moment apparently thinking, then.
“Please, if you could wait here, I would like to bring one of the Captains to meet you. Indeed, it will be Giovanni himself. Can you wait? I will also need to take the Scheggia with me, to prove I am not insane.”
The swordmage moves as if to try and snatch back the box, but is stopped by a look from the priest (although both Shnecke and Thatari seem to be sharing Varracuda's thoughts). Iskarius sees this and pauses, gingerly grabbing the box when it is clear they are not going to do anything hasty.
12:00 – 13:40: Wine is brought to the room, but no one touches it, fearing that the Feccia might be trying to poison them. After an hour, they hear voices outside the room, and the door opens once more. Two soldiers, dressed in heavy plate armour, and bearing the standard of the Feccia stride in, taking up positions at either side of the table (the group move uneasily to their feet, ready to defend themselves if this proves to be an attack). Then, a third man – impossibly good looking and well groomed, his hair hidden beneath a modest powdered wig, his eyes bright and alert, his clothes of the finest make and quality – strides into the room, his eye sparkling with happiness and eagerness. Everyone notes the practised, athletic bounce in his steps, and the smooth flow of his movements. They also note the ornate sabre at his belt, and the rune-wrought pistol he carries on his hip.
He beams at the party, and with a bow introduces himself as Giovanne de Feccia, a noble Captain of that house. Noticing the wine, he pours himself a glass, and takes a huge mouthful, before sitting down and finishing the drink.
“A please. Sit. Sit. We need to talk my friends!”
He pours himself more wine, asking the group if they will join him, and then makes the party an offer – membership, for a year and a day, with the Feccia. The terms are simple; the group will undertake high risk and difficult missions for the house, in return for status in the city, discounts with all merchants in the port, and free berth for their vessels. After the contracted period, both parties will meet to discuss whether or not the contract continues. Expecting only some free days in the port, the group are slightly flabbergasted by this offer, and ask to be allowed some time to discuss. Giovanni waves at them in a “go talk” manner, and sits back, savouring the wine, all the time watched over by his silent, armoured guardians.
After some deliberation and argument, the group agree to the pirate Lord's contract, and sign it. Giovanni is delighted, and thanks them for their wisdom.
“We shall be in touch very soon with your first mission.” He beams, rising to his feet, and heading towards the door. “Please make sure you are available for when we call, as I feel you will be sent on some very important missions for the Feccia indeed.”
13:50 – 19:00: With the meeting over, the group return to their vessel, and are quite shocked to discover that it is already late afternoon. The assassin, swordmage and barbarian all get some rest, taking advantage of a rare chance to do nothing. Grigori heads into the city in search of an item of which he has read, that he feels would be most useful to the group, a Foe Stone. It takes him some time, but he is fortunate enough to locate a vendor who has one – though he ends up paying a significant amount for it.
Thatari, his mind once more plagued by sinister voices and pressures coming from beneath the monstrous bulk of the volcano, heads back to the docks, to the place where he purchased Hannah. Before doing this, he meets briefly with the Nadruul child, and discovers that she had been captured with five siblings – three brothers and two sisters. It is only then that he realises that she speaks of the other children in her circle; the group in which she was raised, and not necessarily blood relatives. He promises her that he will bring them back, but Hannah does not look hopeful. Then Caleph protectively moves in, and takes her away.
Downat the docks, Thatari discovers that most of the slavers that trade here have no stock left, the unnatural ice trapping them in the port stopping them from gaining additional cargo. However, the man from whom he purchased Hannah – one Captain Jager Halstruth; Captain of the “Freedom's Despair” - seems to still have a huge supply, and numerous folks clamour to buy his latest acquisitions. Thatari notices that the slaver is watched over by three repellent guardians, their stench and loathsome forms enough to keep everyone in order. They are zombies of some kind; the bloated and animated corpses of gigorim. Each is alive with maggots and flies and misshapen with blood filled blisters. Their eyes bulge like egg yolks lolling in the puffy recesses of their eye sockets, and the air around them thrums with the frenzied activity of a million carrion flies seeking a place to rest and feed. A particularly massive one squats, rivers of mucus and filth pouring from its slimy skin, its rot inflated intestines poking through a soft rip in its swollen belly, on the ship's deck, carrion birds feeding on its dead flesh as it glares emptily at him, and the warlock wonders who could have created such a potent monster.
Thatari has to wait quite some time to speak with the slaver, as he is busily haggling with many merchants and servants from the city. However, his patience bears fruit, and he eventually learns that the others like Hannah were purchased by a Zargorim named Zaad, apparently the primary procurer of slaves for the denizens of the Zargorim citadel. When asked what he uses them for, the pirate laughs.
“T'aint any of my business what them giants use 'em for. As long as they pay me, they can do what they want with 'em.”
Thatari decides to let the slaver believe that he has found Hannah to be a particular steal, and advises him that he would appreciate being contacted if any more slaves of similar stock come into his possession (he intends to obtain all captured Nadruul with the aim of setting them free, and so is a little perturbed when Jager tells him he will order his servants to seek out more “palies” for him).
Thatari returns to the SC then, pleased with his work, and eager to seek out this slave master Zaad.
Whilst this has been going on, Shnecke has been working to affix the hammer head he recovered from the pirate treasure hoard to a handle, managing with surprising skill to do just that. Completed, the head suddenly flashes with power, the dundiir runes upon it glowing with deadly portent. However, it also becomes suddenly incredibly heavy and unevenly balanced, and with a roar of frustration, the barbarian realises that he currently lacks the manual dexterity to perfectly wield this ancient “Doom Singer”; a weapon crafted to slay the sons of the Adar, the Gigorim.
19:00 – 19:45: That evening, the group meet to discuss what to do next, and it is agreed that they will journey to ask Niba if she knows of any items that may allow Schnecke to wield the Doom Singer, and then, with the giant slaying hammer in hand, seek entry into the fiery citadel of the Zargorim with the aim of finding and rescuing the slaves.
The group leave the ship, and enter the strangely empty streets of the city. Once again, few have ventured out, although the distant screams and yells that filter over the constant rumbling of the volcano demonstrate that their homes may not be as safe as they imagine them to be. Headed towards the eastern side of the island, and the wall that leads to the badlands where the archmage's tower stands, the group pass through a region of crowded, ash choked alleys, the air bitter with sulphur and gritty particles. Alert for danger, the group suddenly feel their spirits sinking; an alien sense of hopelessness and distress rising within them. Suppressing panic, they all realise that something unnatural is stalking them – something that suddenly, and with terrifying violence, manifests amongst them, biting out with multiple sets of underslung jaws.
A brief skirmish with the Feyr ensues, with the group spending a lot of time trying to work out where it is (for it becomes invisible for much of the battle, only appearing to savage a party member, or to unleash some kind of psionic attack). However, using area and burst attacks, the group negate any advantage it might have had against them, and they are able to drive it off relatively unharmed (although both Shnecke and Grigori spend a lot of the battle struggling to act, the monster controlling their emotions, making them feel utterly unconcerned and bored with their situation).
With the strange monster driven off, the group continue on their way...