The party had some difficulty deciding which quest to undertake next. While Maur was intent upon attacking the black dragon blocking the way to Khaled Del, Thygurn thought it best to lend their aid to helping Gunther at the Smoke Shop with finding out who was stealing gunpowder. Ian, as usual, was content with whatever the majority of the group agreed upon. Gideon, however, was curious about a number of things. He was intent upon meeting with Darthalis Temester at The Book Wagon to see what, if anything, he had learned about Biesta Cran, Vagger Nulus and the mysterious Idol of Ravvan. The party agreed to go to the Smoke Shop, by way of the Book Wagon.
Maur paid a brief, and rather uneventful, trip to see Kaira Swanwing, learning that being in command of an ancient order of knights, even a small one, was more than just adventure and heroics. She was busy translating an ancient tome regarding the forgotten worship of the Elder Gods. Staying long enough to enjoy lunch with her, he soon rejoined the party, who were making their way to North Market.
Darthalis Temester received the party warmly, answering all of their many inquiries regarding specific lore. Maur was soon lost in a book regarding dragons. Thygurn was directed to a tome about rare materials used to craft fine weapons and armor. For Gideon, he had some of the information he had requested, namely regarding Biesta.
Biesta Cran is a half-elven barfly and gadabout known to frequent a number of bars in and around Tavern Row in Midtown. She has never been known to have a job, instead living off of her half-brother Linech’s success. When Linech ran afoul of the Balacazars and was later found dead at the bottom of King’s River Gorge, she was taken in by the Balacazars. She currently resides in one of the filthy tenements in Longbottom, working as a prostitute for the Balacazars. She is clearly earning just enough to survive and cover her shivvel addiction, with the Balacazar’s pocketing the rest of her earnings.
Yatifah Rike, one of the Midtown underbosses for the Balacazars, serves as her pimp. She can normally be contacted at The Onyx Spider.
While Biesta was living with Linech in Riversgate, she was known to be dating someone named Shaelikan Darkfingers, but there is no information to be had regarding this person, other than that they were a guest at Linech’s home in Riversgate, up until just before Linech was killed.
Lastly, Darthalis shared that another name had come up…Tashari Lin, a human female who was the wealthy ex-wife of Linech and one of the main shareholders of the Rogue Moon Trading Company based in South Market. They divorced over two years ago (perhaps leading to the start of Linech’s money troubles).
Darthalis explained that he needed another day to confirm some information regarding Vagger, and was in need of contacting one of his ‘wizardly friends’ to learn more about the Idol of Ravvan, having been unable to learn anything of it through more conventional means.
Upon learning that Gideon was prying into the background of some of the Underworld’s notables, namely Vagger, Ian was outraged. A lengthy argument erupted between him and Gideon. Ian stressed that Gideon didn’t need to be asking questions about people like Vagger and anyone with ties to the Balacazars, fearing that they may learn of it and respond with violence.
Gideon, however, defended himself by clarifying that he had good reason to question Vagger’s motives, wondering how he had known their Order of the Dawn allies had been captured and were being held at the Clock Tower by the Surgeon in the Shadows, several months ago. Gideon reminded him that when the party arrived at the top of the Clock Tower, the whole area had been rigged with Alchemist Fire, which could have easily killed the entire party, as well as their allies, who were clearly nothing more than bait.
The whole thing sounded fishy, but Gideon’s theory had some merit. So, was Vagger willfully working against the party, just doing what he was told, or was it purely coincidence? Sure, Vagger had a motive. Everyone knew him to be a vicious man with a mean streak, a small time hood with big ambitions. The party had soundly beaten him in battle long ago, killing Marcus, his beloved doberman pinscher in the melee, then systematically unraveling his relationship with the Cran’s. No doubt this had some negative impact on Vagger’s business, but he had been willing to work with them since then…perhaps too willing. Gideon had to admit it was mostly conjecture, but, regardless, he felt that finding out a little more about Vagger was in order, especially since the party dealt with him regularly.
Maur took this time to end the argument, which was starting to grow heated, declaring that both of them had valid points, and they should just agree to disagree. Ironically, he then looked to Darthalis, asking if he could find out any weaknesses of Na’haras, the vampire bodyguard of Malkeen Balacazar. Darthalis flatly refused, stating that he is on good terms with the Balacazars and intended to keep it that way. “I’ll find out whatever I can about anyone in the city, but I will not directly pry into the Balacazars,” he said firmly.
The party milled about North Market for the rest of the afternoon, before finally making their way to The Smoke Shop near closing time.
Upon their arrival, the party saw Gunther as well as a pair of dwarves dressed in black leather longcoats. Gunther immediately flew into a fit about customers showing up just at closing time but paused when he noticed Thygurn. At this, he realized they were there to help and his mood changed completely, welcoming them to his store.
As before, he explained he had several kegs of gunpowder that had come up missing recently and feared the thieves may be planning to return. He needed the party to simply spend the next few nights at the shop, keeping an eye on things, and should the thieves show up, stop them. He also told them there would be some gold in it for them, should they be able to recover his missing kegs of powder.
The party had many questions, investigating the area, but finally arrived at the same conclusion as Gunther. Whoever the thieves were, they were not coming in through the door, or any secret entrance to the building. Before leaving, Gunther gave Thygurn a key to the front door and told them where he lived, in case they needed him during the night. He, and the pair of dwarves, then left the party for the night.
The party spread out through the store, some in the storefront, some in the rear storage room, and occupied themselves as the night wore on.
In the wee hours, Thygurn caught notice of some movement in the shadows of a corner of the storage room. Glancing about, he saw Ian had fallen asleep, but Maur was heavily engrossed in his new book on dragons. Gideon and Ji-Geoman were in the front of the store. At that moment, the figure coalesced from the shadows and took human form – that of a black-robed wizard. The wizard noticed Ian, but failed to spot the dwarves, who had hidden behind an array of crates and boxes. Presuming no threat form the sleeping halfling, the wizard waved his hand, snuffing out the lantern hanging from the ceiling, engulfing the room in darkness.
This immediately alerted Maur, who rose up, seeing the wizard with his darkvision. He cast his book to the floor, lunging towards the mage! His plan had been to rush up, grapple the wizard and slam him to the floor, but instead, he ran up, grasping only thin air as the wizard deftly sidestepped his opponent. It was all to no avail, though, for as Maur wheeled about, he saw an eldritch array of gears and cogs form about the wizard, binding him. Thygurn had, in that instant, uttered a prayer of hold person to Teun, capturing the would-be thief.
Ian awoke with a start, as Gideon and Ji-Geoman, alerted to the struggle by the noise of Maur’s rush attack, bolted into the room. They hastily tied up the wizard. It was then that Ian heard the sound of several people (perhaps 5 or 6) in the alley behind the shop.
Thinking quickly, Maur took the hooded cloak form the wizard, handing it to Gideon. Without hesitation, Gideon exited the front of the shop, as the rest of the party hid throughout the storefront. Entering the alleyway, Gideon spotted five red-robed figures, wearing similarly colored gloves and hoods – cultists of the Crimson Coil!
Maintaining his cool, Gideon beckoned them to follow him. They were hesitant at first, confused by the obvious change in plans, but he told them that the plan had changed. Instead of stealing some of the powder, they were taking all of it! The cultists jumped at the opportunity, falling in line behind him.
As soon as they were all in the storefront, Gideon spun about to confront them. At that moment, Maur jumped from his hiding spot, slamming the door closed behind them. A quick battle ensued, with one of the cultists crashing a display case full of precision tools on Gideon, who was able to narrowly avoid injury. Ian attempted a sneak attack on one of the cultists but instead had a red cloak flung into his face. Although the cultists were caught without weapons drawn, they were still going to put up a fight. A fight that ended abruptly with a combination of Maur’s sword, Gideon’s staff, and Thygurn’s prayers. After a few moments, the store was a wreck, but all the cultists had been subdued.
The interrogation of the cultists devolved into a sordid affair. The cultists were not very talkative, and not easily convinced to tell what their plans were. Even upon threat of death, they were unbudged. The Crimson Coil reveled in death, embraced it, actually. Such threats did little to coerce them. Maur, in an uncharacteristic moment of anger, even slashed the throat of one of the captives, but still, the remaining cultists remained stoic. Finally, Gideon threatened not to kill them, but to dismember them – to torture them nearly to death, but not to allow them to die, but go on living in misery.
One of the cultists, the youngest of the bunch, finally broke. He told the party that they had been stealing powder kegs by the dozens from places all over the city for the past few weeks. Desso, a shadowdancer mage (who was now tied up in the store room), had been using his powers to sneak into buildings at night, stealing the powder kegs, where the cultists would then take them down into the sewers, eventually making their way into the deeper basements of the Imperial University. They were planning to blow out the foundations and collapse the building during classes tomorrow morning – the murder and mayhem this would cause was typical of the Crimson Coil.
Gideon had earlier spotted an unlocked sewer grate in the alley behind the Smoke Shop.
Questioning Desso, the party learned that the Crimson Coil was backed by a group known as The Forsaken. One of their leaders, Shigmaa Urasta had recently become very supportive of the Cults of Chaos, providing funding and other assistance.
Unfortunately, Desso may have had more information, but as Maur threatened to cut off a finger, Desso caused the floor to suddenly writhe with snakes, massive spiders and worms. Gideon put a stop to that by quickly slashing his throat.
Leaving the rest of the party to guard the Smoke Shop and their many prisoners, Gideon and Maur hastily made their way to the Imperial University.
Arriving at the University, they quickly found a patrol of the City Watch and explained there was a plot to blow up the building. The Watch patrol, led by Watch Captain Sandon Ridley, took them seriously and immediately gained them access to the University building.
The party made their way down into the many-leveled basements of the university, eventually locating the service access to the sewers. Wet, slimy footprints showed that several people had passed this way recently. Following the footprints, Maur and Gideon rounded a corner to find a zombie standing silently in the hallway. Clearly, the Forsaken were providing more than just financial support. Maur rushed up, easily killing the zombie, but then caught sight of what it was guarding.
The room beyond was a massive chamber consisting of a series of barreled arches disappearing into the darkness in all directions – where each arch met there was a great stone pillar – the foundations of the Imperial University! Around several of these pillars, stacks of powder kegs had been heaped. Several Crimson Coil cultists were directing their zombie servants to stack even more powder kegs about the room in strategic locations. With Maurs skill in engineering, he knew immediately that they had already accumulated enough powder to collapse large portions of the building above,
They spurred to action! Gideon rushed into the room, easily avoiding the zombies with his mask of invisibility to undead, and tore into one of the cultists nearest one of the pillars. Maur bolted in, slashing wildly at the many zombies, cutting them to ribbons, as Captain Ridley and the rest of his men swarmed into the room. A general melee erupted about the room as the crazed cultists, not prepared for a fight, but thirsty for murder, scrambled to defend themselves.
They were no match. Gideon narrowly avoided a cruel jagged dagger one of the cultists slashed violently across his belly. If not for the protective magics cast by Lady Rill earlier that morning, he would have been gutted. He responded by slamming his staff down in a violent fury of slices and thrusts, evoking the rarely seen fury of his staff, sending a powerful surge of electricity through his foe, slaying him instantly. The cultist’s body continued to convulse violently from the energy coursing through his body, long after he was dead (Rolled a ‘20’).
Maur then spotted reinforcements rushing forward from the darkness. A mob of red-robed madmen, zombies, and another shadowdancer wizard were rapidly descending upon their position. Maur reached down, grabbing one of the powder kegs, and threw it with all his strength towards the mob.
The keg tumbled over the mob of cultists, slamming into one of the stone arches, rupturing the keg. Simultaneously, the impact dislodged a torch from the nearby wall, igniting the powder in a fireball! (Rolled a ‘20’). The explosion engulfed the mob, decimating them,
When the smoke cleared, all but a handful of the cultists were dead. The zombies had been blown to pieces and the shadowdancer mage was just a crumpled black bundle. Everyone had been blown off their feet. Gideon and Maur were covered in dust and debris. The city guards, several of whom had been wounded by flying debris, coughed and hacked form the smoke still clinging heavily in the chamber. Ridley looked to Maur, shaking his head, “You could have blown us all to hell!” he yelled, angrily.
“I made sure to throw the keg far enough away from the others to make sure it wouldn’t cause a chain reaction…”, Maur continued with an at-length description of the physics of explosions.
The guards were soon joined by a few members of the faculty who had been alerted when the Watch first arrived. Captain Ridley had a few of his men bind the surviving cultists and secured the powder kegs littering the room. “You men are heroes, ya know it,” Ridley told the party. “I’m going to make sure District Commander Schenk hears all about this! And I’m sure she will get word to the Commissar!”
“Think we might get medals?” asked Maur.
Without missing a beat, Captain Ridley answered, “You’ve done a great service here, tonight. Saved countless lives. The Commissar should give you a heap of medals!”
Gideon and Maur soon made their way out of the University, narrowly avoiding a reporter for the Midtown Partisan, intent upon interviewing anyone about what had just happened. By morning, they arrived at the Smoke Shop with Gunther’s powder kegs, accompanied by a small contingent of City Watch, who quickly took captive the cultists the rest of the party guarded there.
As the sun rose, Gunther approached his shop, wondering what all the commotion was…