The Boundary Lands

Chapter 10 - Debts Must be Paid (s. 22)

10.1 Law and Order

Waiting for Aramil to arrive, Erik picks through the gnolls’ equipment and finds little other than a few gold pieces. He does, however, find that one of the gnoll soldiers’ shields is magical, so he slings it over his shoulder to keep. Aramil arrives, and once the party comes around they are glad to see the eladrin has been cured, although they would’ve appreciated it if he had arrived sooner with his large Thri-Kreen war party. Aramil and The Zaza both try out the magic shield Erik found and find that it’s a little light for the well armored dragonborn, so Aramil tosses aside his old, battered shield and straps on the new magical one. The Thri-Kreen head off to the location in the salt flats that the traitorous shaman tried to lure the party to while Aramil and the beaten and weary party members head back to the village.

Rewards in Disguise

They are greeted as heroes by the Chieftain and he offers thanks in the form of a few small gifts he has accumulated from travelers who have perished in the hot sands of the desert. Speaking through the ‘junior’ shaman, he produces two items he says are supposedly magical but that Thri-kreen can’t make use of as they are designed to be worn on the head. The items just won’t fit on the bug-men’s oddly shaped insectoid craniums. The party inspects them and finds that the first is a Circlet of Mental Onslaught, which Erik excitedly dons.

Looking at the other item, a crumpled and battered hat, The Zaza has a hunch that it is a Hat of Disguise. She tries it on and wills herself to appear as her twin brother, Daza. She turns to the party to see if it worked and they shrug, admitting that The Zaza and Daza are twins and they can’t really tell the difference between male and female dragonborn. She tries to appear as something with a starker contrast and the party is delighted to see that The Zaza’s hunch was right as the magical Hat of Disguise completely changes her appearance into that of a young human girl. The party agrees to hold the Hat as a communal item to be used in special situations.

Also, the junior shaman offers to teach Erik some of the magical rituals he knows, including the Cure Disease ritual that saved Aramil’s life. Erik is grateful for the opportunity, and after a few hours of study the wizard comes away with a number of new tricks to help navigate the wilderness, as well as the ability to speak with the dead.

Later the party participates in a village celebration when the Thri-Kreen warriors return from the salt flats, dragging the corpse of the tribe’s former shaman. The shaman’s body is thrown onto a great bonfire in the middle of town and after drinking and dancing around the fire for a while, the party eventually realizes that the tribe plans to eat the shaman’s corpse. They politely decline to partake in the meal.

During the festivities, Erik converses with Chieftain Grux’Nichil (through the newly appointed tribe shaman) and convinces the Thri-Kreen leader to entertain the idea of trade with his merchant house. The chief agrees to hear out any agents Erik sends his way (and promises not to eat them). Aramil also has a chat with the chief, handing him a necklace with a strange symbol on it that appears to be an amalgamation of the standards for the Empire of Nerath and the nation of Quinalyn. He tells the chief that if he is ever in need of help he can go to Quinalyn with this symbol and ask for assistance.

After a relaxing night spent under a clear desert sky, the party awakens and begins heading back to Eilthana. The journey is hard and grueling, but thankfully uneventful, and several days later they find themselves walking back into the small coastal town.

Loose Ends

The party heads to the one inn in town and asks around for a dragonborn, an old one-armed man, and a young girl. There’s amazingly only one such group staying at the inn and the bartender points them to the right room. They happily reunite with Daza, Old Breddy, and Lucinda, and the young girl offers a warm embrace to each party member. Old Breddy sips a mug of ale in the corner of the room while Daza fills them in on recent events.

The Zaza’s brother informs the party that the group’s return journey to Eilthana went smoothly and the rescued villagers are being safely cared for in town. He then takes on a more dour tone and says that while staying in the inn someone attempted to sneak into their room the night before last. Daza says that, thankfully, Old Breddy was up keeping watch (and having a drink) as a shadowy form quietly opened the door and slinked into the room. The veteran soldier gave a shout and Daza was able to quickly grab his swords before the intruder reached him. The party asks who it was, and, in response, the hardened ex-gladiator picks up a cloth bundle by the bed and unfurls it. A severed head rolls to a stop at the party’s feet.

By the strange tattoos and piercings, they immediately recognize it as a Shadar-kai. Studying it further, they realize they have seen this Shadar-kai before. She is (was) the witch Al’szeem, who tracked the party down and demanded they tell her about the ‘Keystone Mortalis’, the powerful Raven Queen artifact the party retrieved for Lord Dread. The party suspects she (or some other Shadar-kai working with her) later posed as a cleric of Pelor, Janna, just after the battle of Verind’s Edge, and interrogated the party about Lord Dread’s keep.

They ask Daza what happened. He says that once he got his swords raised, the Shadar-kai stopped and said with an evil smirk, “My new master told me to tie up loose ends, so you and your friends will have to die."

“So,” Daza shrugs, “I cut the witch’s head off.”

The party grimaces at this news. Examining the head closely, the party can also tell that, unlike when they last met her, Al’szeem had become undead before meeting her grisly end. The party concludes that she was brought into Lord Dread’s “service” and wonders why the evil master of undead would want them killed. Lord Dread was spooky, but mostly fair in their previous dealings, and for decades he has been complacent to live quietly within his own domain. They put the issue aside for now, as there’s nothing to be done in the near term.

The party is thankful Daza could handle the witch, but shudders at the thought of Lucinda having to witness such an incident. The girl has had a hard life already, and the party isn’t sure that they’re making it much easier. As the party heads downstairs to make travel arrangements, Aramil speaks up to say that he is resolved to hire a tutor for Lucinda, whatever the cost, so that the girl can have a better life. Although, the eladrin admits it’s sad that she is human since she will barely have enough time to learn about the world before she dies. Aramil then gives Erik a meaningful look. Ignoring Aramil’s critical assessment of human lifespans, the rest of the party agrees wholeheartedly that a tutor should be hired for Lucinda once they get back to Arastur.

Grim Tidings in 25 Words or Less

After an uneventful journey by ship, the party finds themselves back in Al’Zarqa, ready to see a magistrate to have their case heard regarding their lost shipment of furniture. They head to the palatial city hall and get themselves on the docket to appear before a magistrate within the week.

The party then does some shopping, replenishing their supply of magical healing potions. Having to purchase a large quantity, they conclude that if they could employ an alchemist to brew such potions for them they could save some gold. They suddenly realize that the halfling Lock, whom the party rescued from the ancient Feywild city of Calipha, is a studied researcher and practitioner of the alchemical arts. He has already used his skills to imbue Invicto’s armor with magical properties, using a strange, black fang that the gnome pried from a massive devil’s corpse. They conclude that they should direct Lock to start brewing healing potions for them using the merchant house’s funds so that they will have a healthy supply waiting for them when they return to Arastur.

The party obtains magical services to send a message to Yinlis, manager of their merchant house in Arastur, to update him on their situation and to direct Lock to start brewing healing potions. They find a wizard who offers to perform a ‘Sending’ ritual to communicate over any distance, though the message must be short, roughly 25 words or less. The recipient of the message can then respond in kind.

The party sends off their words to Yinlis, far away in Arastur:

Jal’imry dead, in court to get funds. Tell Lock to start making healing potions, use company funds.

After a while, Yinlis sends his response over the miles and miles separating him from the party:

Money tight. New taxes. War to north. Rumors of massive undead army besieging many towns in Kasalat. Arastur may be attacked soon. Will tell Lock.

Kasalat, of course, is the large nation to the north of Quinalyn, which includes the Boundary Lands where the party lived for the past ten years or so. Erik says it’s great news that apparently civilization is falling apart, but their damn healing potions will get made.

Legal Aid

Focusing on one problem at a time, the party puts out of their mind the fact that winning their case for their merchant house may not matter since if a massive undead army destroys Arastur they may not have a merchant house to return to. The party then gets in touch with the elf Leoven, the contact hired by Yinlis to provide information to the party’s merchant house, the New Moon Merchant Company.

They inform him of their upcoming hearing with the magistrate and confirm that he will testify as a citizen of good standing that he saw Jal’imry accept the shipment of crafted elven furtniture. They show him the head they have as evidence of Jal’imry’s death and Leoven confirms that, although the head is a little bloated and distorted, it does appear to him to be Jal’imry.

Leoven tells the party that it would help their case if they hired a diviner to examine the head and testify that it is indeed Jal’imry’s. He assures the party that no matter what the truth is, the merchant house they are pressing their case against, House Hajal, will have a diviner at trial ready to testify on their behalf that Jal’imry is not dead or that he didn’t accept the shipment of goods. Divination magic is notoriously cryptic in the answers it provides, so the city of Al’Zarqa does not employ diviners to investigate claims, but the testimony of recognized diviners is accepted at trial as one of many factors that are weighed in determining judgment.

The party asks Leoven if he can make arrangements with a reputable diviner and he assures the party he will take care of it, for a small fee of course. The party is glad to have the expert’s help with their case. Over the next couple of days, Leoven keeps the party posted on his progress and tells them he has picked out two diviners that he is negotiating with. The next day the party has an appointment with the elf to get a further update, but Leoven doesn’t show. They head over to his offices, fearing the worst.

CSI: Al’Zarqa

The party finds his door locked and is frustrated that none of them have any skill with a lock pick. Fortunately, Aramil is able to head around to the back of the building and spot a window looking into the office. He waits til no one is around and simply fey steps inside. He finds the office empty and undisturbed. Letting the rest of the party in, they look around and find nothing of interest, other than some notes Leoven was making on the two diviners he was negotiating with.

Not sure if Leoven will be found before their trial date, the party decides to take Leoven’s notes and follow up with the two diviners on their own. They meet with a Mistress Loyalar, a half-orc cleric of Erathis, in a large temple in town, and then head to a small shop to meet Petlamin Hollysharp, a halfling druid. Both give the same story about Leoven – he had been talking with them about doing some divination work, but they haven’t heard from him in a day or two. Aramil decides the druid is not as trustworthy because he owns a shop, so they employ Mistress Loyalar to perform a divination on Jal’imry’s head and testify at their hearing.

After concluding their business, the party heads back to Leoven’s office and, looking through his papers, finds out where he lives. They head over to the elf’s residence, a luxurious flat above a high-end spice shop in one of the market squares, and find the door unlocked. They are once again disappointed to find no sign of disturbance or struggle, but after a thorough combing, The Zaza’s eagle eyes spot something. On a short table in the main room of the home, some loose papers have a few dark drops on them that, upon close inspection, appear to be blood. The hardwood floor in front of the table also appears to be unusually cleaner than the rest of the floor in the room. Erik notes, “We’re dealing with the cleaners…”

The party decides to have Erik perform an ‘Object Reading’ ritual on the scrap of paper. He is able to receive three images relating to the parchment. He first seeks out whose blood dropped on it and he sees a hazy image of Leoven standing by the table as he is being attacked by cloaked strangers. A knife slides into his ribs and blood spills out as a few drops hit the scrap of paper. Erik then attempts to see an image of Leoven’s attackers. Assuming they didn’t necessarily touch the parchment, Erik figures it’s a longshot but tries anyway. Fortunately as Leoven struggled, one of his assailants did bump into the piece of paper, and Erik is able to see a clear image of the man as his hood falls away in the fight. Erik does not recognize him, but he commits the man’s face to memory. Not needing any more information, Erik seeks out an image of where the parchment came from, and he sees a lovely tall tree standing in a sun-soaked field.

The party briefly debates about who Leoven’s attackers were. Erik suggests it might be the Cult of Mortalis (the group referenced by the undead vampire lord Millisan), seeking vengeance on the party for freeing the villagers or possibly just doing Lord Dread’s bidding. Aramil thinks the situation is simpler than that – the assassins were sent by House Hajal to eliminate a key witness that was going to testify on the party’s behalf in their case to win a 40,000 gold piece settlement for the missing furniture.

Either way, the party knows that having a citizen of good standing testify for them is crucial to their chances of winning the case. Foreign merchant houses doing business in the Jeweled Cities will always be at a disadvantage when standing before a magistrate pressing a claim against a native house that has paid taxes for years, is well-connected, and has a long tradition of doing business fairly in the city. Even with Jal’imry’s head, the party will likely lose their settlement without Leoven’s testimony. They conclude that his disappearance shouldn’t keep him from testifying for them. So, with little recourse, the party decides to put their new-found Hat of Disguise to the test and have Aramil play the part of Leoven, showing up at their hearing as their star witness. Rummaging through the home, they find an official set of papers to bring along declaring Leoven’s citizenship and status as a free merchant of the city of Al’Zarqa.

Opening Arguments

The day of the hearing arrives and the party heads down to the city hall offices with Aramil appearing to be Leoven. Mistress Loyalar is present to testify that her divinations have confirmed that the head the party has is Jal’imry ‘s. The party enters their assigned chamber and takes their seats before the raised podium where the magistrate sits. Across from them, the representatives from House Hajal offer only a brief cool, steely glance. The party recognizes one of them as the merchant that they met with when they first visited Al’Zarqa to discuss the situation concerning Jal’imry, Master Traril.

The party’s skills will be challenged like never before, but they are confident they can come away with a ruling in their favor. The Jeweled Cities, as one of the trading capitals of the world, are known for having a reliable legal system with only a limited amount of corruption. An austere-looking halfling announces that Magistrate Petian will now hear the case.

The Zaza steps forward as speaker for the house of New Moon Merchant Company. The paladin is a naturally charismatic speaker and is trained in the diplomatic arts. Erik sits back and carefully observes the Magistrate’s reaction as well as that of the House Hajal representatives as The Zaza lays out the party’s case. The paladin makes a strong first impression as she provides the details of what the party knows of the missing shipment of crafted elven furniture. She skips the details of the mysterious castle of undead, simply stating that the party found Jal’imry’s corpse in the desert and brought back his head.

The Zaza yields the floor to House Hajal who disputes everything she says, from Jal’imry accepting the furniture to the party’s proof of his death. The Zaza offers a rebuttal to House Hajal’s points but the magistrate seems unconvinced. He mentions that the party was to have a citizen of good standing testify on their behalf and asks him to come forward. Aramil, posing as Leoven, comes forward and greets the magistrate, offering his official papers declaring his good standing as a free merchant of Al’Zarqa. The representatives of House Hajal exchange a few anxious whispers.

Magistrate Petian has fortunately never met Leoven before, and Aramil is convincing enough to not arouse any suspicions. Aramil offers his testimony that the head the party has brought back is indeed Jal’imry’s. The party’s efforts appear to miss the mark again though, as the magistrate offers a detached look. Aramil adjusts tactics and moves on to his testimony that he saw the shipment of goods arrive in port, and that he witnessed Jal’imry receive them. He talks up his (or Leoven’s) many years of experience with the dock trade and spins a tale regarding the shipping records that show the ship coming into port. The magistrate seems more captivated by this testimony and nods his head as Aramil speaks.

When Aramil finishes speaking, Master Traril stands and offers a litany of arguments for why Leoven’s testimony is circumspect and should bear no weight on the hearing. Erik, carefully watching the magistrate’s reaction to each argument, whispers to The Zaza what points to focus on in her rebuttal. He can tell by the magistrate’s reaction which arguments he doesn’t seem to buy. The Zaza, with Erik’s insightful aid, offers a convincing rebuttal. Nonetheless, the magistrate is still clearly torn, and the party knows that if he is not fully convinced of their claim he will side with the native House Hajal over them. The party has laid out just about all of their cards and the magistrate doesn’t seem completely won over.

Fame Has Its Benefits

The Zaza’s perceptive eyes have noticed Magistrate Petian offering her searching looks every now and then. At first it seemed like he was just listening intently, but now she realizes the magistrate looks as if he is trying to remember her from somewhere. The only place she can possibly think of that this stranger would have seen her is when she fought in the arena in Sijil against Houes Malatar’s two young dragons to win Daza’s freedom. She closes her rebuttal with an offhand remark about how this trial is like her battle against the dragons in the arena and recognition dawns in the magistrate’s eyes.

“I knew I’d seen you before! You are the dragon slayers from the arena…” The magistrate smiles unabashedly. “I do enjoy gladiatorial contests.”

The magistrate regains his composure and gets back down to business. The diviners are called to testify and House Hajal brings forth a studious-looking wizard who insists that through consulting with mystic sages he has learned that Jal’imry never accepted the shipment of furniture from the party and that he is still alive somewhere. Mistress Loyalar comes forward to testify for the party and Aramil draws on his social training one more time to offer a riveting introduction attesting to the accuracy of the cleric’s divinations. The magistrate seems impressed, and Aramil’s (Leoven’s) words add weight to Loyalar’s claims. The cleric tells the magistrate that through communing with her deity she has confirmed that the head the party has truly belongs to Jal’imry, and the merchant Jal’imry’s soul has passed from this world.

A Simple Invitation

The hearing is adjourned and Magistrate Petian retires to consider his decision. The party waits outside in the hall while Aramil finds a secluded spot to drop his Leoven disguise and return to the party as himself. After a while, they are approached by the imperious looking halfling from the hearing. He introduces himself as Petian’s servant and asks the party to speak with him in private. He informs them that the magistrate is still considering his decision, but wanted to invite them to a dinner party he is hosting a week from now. Petian is an ardent fan of the arena and he would be delighted to have such legendary fighters as honored guests at his event. The party eagerly agrees, and the servant offers a curt bow before leaving.

A short time later, the litigants are called back in and Magistrate Petian resumes his seat to deliver his verdict. He keeps it brief, stating simply, “The evidence shows that Jal’imry did accept the shipment of goods and is now dead with the shipment missing. House Hajal is ordered to pay the appraised value of 40,000 gold pieces to New Moon Merchant Company.” The party lets out a quick cheer, and the magistrate takes his leave, ignoring the frustrated pleas of the House Hajal representatives. The party is ecstatic. They offer each other a round of congratulatory handshakes and thank Mistress Loyalar for her help.

As they leave the chamber, they cross paths with Master Traril of House Hajal. He eyes Aramil meaningfully, stating, “That was very impressive, delivering Leoven to testify on your behalf. You are quite… resourceful.” The party offers a satisfied smile and Master Traril’s face twists in anger as he turns to leave.

Outside in the hall, the party is approached by Magistrate Petian’s halfling servant again, “Congratulations on the verdict. I just wanted to remind you that any verdict is subject to redaction upon introduction of further evidence. The magistrate will be pleased to see you at his party next week. Please arrive promptly at seven bells.” The group assures the halfling they will be there.

The party is overjoyed at the verdict. Their fledgling young merchant company is on the rise now, and has accumulated some significant financial capital to work with. With business taken care of in the Jeweled Cities, the party can return, satisfied, to Arastur to start making their new home for themselves. Unfortunately, the feelings of excitement don’t last long.

Vengeance

As they the leave the massive city hall complex they see Daza, Brutus, Azaz, and Azad running towards them down the street. The party rushes to meet them and Daza, in between gasping for breath, gets out, “They took Lucinda and Old Breddy.” The party’s faces turn to deep concern as he continues. “We tried to stop them, but they held a knife to the girl’s throat and threatened to kill her. There was nothing we could do.”

“Who?” the party asks in unison.

Daza shakes his head, “I didn’t recognize them, but they said ‘House Malatar will be in touch to negotiate the terms of their release.’”

The party lets out a groan of frustration. Erik voices what the rest of the party is thinking, “The house whose dragons we killed in the arena? They tracked us down afterwards to ask who gave us that magical dagger, and we told them we didn’t know. What more do they want from us?” The party members look at each other in disbelief. There’s nothing to be done for it now, so they head back to their inn and await word from the kidnappers.

It comes a couple of days later – a note telling the party to meet in the basement of the Fallenheart tavern at midnight. They anxiously head to the meeting. The Fallenheart tavern is a shady establishment in one of the seedier parts of town. Heading into the tavern they spot a set of stairs heading down in the back of the room. A huge, hulking minotaur stands guard at the top of the stairs.

As the party approaches, the minotaur says, “Only the ones who fought in the arena,” indicating Brutus, Azaz, and Azad will have to stay behind. He also tells the party they’ll have to leave their weapons. The party is very reticent to give up their weapons. They also briefly wonder if this minotaur is just a clever bar patron who noticed there were lots of shady meetings in the basement of the inn, and he could make a killing by asking for the weapons of anyone heading down the stairs and then running off with them.

Aramil says simply, “No, we keep our weapons.”

The minotaur offers a twisted grin and says, “Fine, then the girl and the old man die.”

The party confers briefly and agrees to have the three recruits wait upstairs with their weapons. However, Erik uses a bit of prestidigitation to let the minotaur overlook the orb he brings with him, while The Zaza uses the Hat of Disguise to appear as herself but with no axe hanging from her belt, sneaking her weapon downstairs as well. Thus, only Aramil, Invicto, and Daza are forced to leave their weapons behind. As the party heads downstairs they pass several thugs gathered on the sides of the stairwell. They enter a dank, open basement where ten or twelve more armed guards await. Aramil sizes up one with a long sword on his belt, planning to fey step beside him and draw the sword for himself if a fight breaks out. In addition to the hired muscle, a very old man sits on a plain wooden chair in the middle of the room. He wears a number of gaudy rings and is dressed in fine silk robes displaying the symbol of House Malatar.

He says simply, “I am Ignacious Malatar, the patron of House Malatar, and you killed my dragons.” The party speaks up that it was a fair fight and they already said they didn’t know who gave them the magical dagger. Ignacious motions them to silence. “I don’t care who gave you the dagger anymore, you killed my precious dragons and I will have vengeance. I found those dragons when I was a very young man and cared for them all of my life until they were ready to fight in the arena. I expected, in my final years, to watch them grow into the greatest champions the Jeweled Cities have ever seen… but you robbed me of that.”

The party asks what he wants. Ignacious smiles and says, “Just a rematch. You will fight in the arena in Sijil against opponents I have prepared just for you, and they will show you as much mercy as you showed my dragons.” The party asks what these opponents will be, and he only answers, “That will be a pleasant surprise. I can assure you they will be more powerful than anything from this world could possibly offer.”

The party tells him they will refuse to fight, that he won’t get his spectacle and they’ll have to negotiate other terms. Ignacious says simply, “That’s fine. You killed two of my loved ones, so I will kill two of yours. I am perfectly happy taking the girl and the old man as my vengeance.” The party backs down from their bluff and asks, if they do fight, how will they know Lucinda and Old Breddy will be set free? Ignacious says he will bring them to the fight as his slaves and declare that the party is fighting for their freedom.

They insist that is not good enough, that Lucinda and Old Breddy must be set free at the start of the fight, regardless of the outcome. Ignacious scoffs at the idea, but bringing all of their diplomatic training to bear, they eventually get Ignacious to agree to bring Lucinda and Old Breddy to the contest and to set them free at the start of the fight.

Erik also insists that they need a guarantee that if they participate in this fight all of their ‘debts’ to House Malatar are settled, and Ignacious will seek no more vengeance on the party. Ignacious laughs at this idea, stating that the party will not be alive after the fight to seek vengeance on. The party insists they may be able to win the fight and want a guarantee that Ignacious will leave them be. The party can see the burning, seething hatred behind the man’s eyes at the thought of the party besting him again in the arena. He says he can offer no guarantee of how he will deal with a victory by the party and they eventually leave the matter be.

Ignacious provides the details of the fight – two weeks’ time in Sijil. The party then quietly takes their leave and heads back to their inn. They must stay through the end of the week to attend Magistrate Petian’s dinner party, but they are now anxious to get to Sijil and get things resolved, one way or another.

An Informative Affair

Magistrate Petian’s dinner party is lovely enough. The man lives on a palatial estate on the outskirts of Al’Zarqa and is clearly quite wealthy. Petian announces his honored guests with boyish excitement and the party poses briefly for the assembled guests. Petian questions them for a while about their glorious fight in the arena. The event is lavish, if a bit boring, but eventually the party overhears that an agent from House Malatar is attending the event, Master Garos.

The party waits for him to separate from the other guests and corners Garos in a secluded part of the main hall. They ask if he recognizes them, and he tells them he knows they fought against House Malatar’s dragons. They drop some more suggestive questions, but as best as they can tell he doesn’t know anything about the kidnapping or the upcoming fight in Sijil. Garos actually admits that Ignacious is growing old, senile, and irrational, and that his advice to the party would be to leave the Jeweled Cities for a while, as the patron of House Malatar is very bitter about the death of his dragons and is becoming overly consumed with the matter. Plying him further, Garos begrudgingly says that some in House Malatar would like to see Ignacious’s son take over the reins of the merchant company.

Having said enough, Garos catches the eye of a passing guest and rushes to engage them in conversation, escaping the party’s questioning. The party mulls over this information and decides to try one more avenue. They speak to Magistrate Petian and ask if he’s heard about their upcoming fight in Sijil. The magistrate is excited to hear the party is returning to the arena. Without giving too many details, they tell Petian they are concerned because they are being somewhat forced to fight, and don’t know what House Malatar has in store for them. They would appreciate his help if he could let them know what they might be up against. Petian insists he cannot cheat the spectators of a public event by tipping the scales and providing the party with inside information. However, the magistrate believes the fight should at least be fair, and the party should know what their up against. He tells them he will see if he can find out anything and get back to them.

Just before leaving Al’Zarqa to head to Sijil for their fight, the party is visited by Petian’s dour halfling servant again. He finally introduces himself as Timmy and tells the party that Magistrate Petian has obtained some interesting information from a contact in Sijil. Apparently, House Malatar is being watched by authorities there because Ignacious recently enlisted the services of a disreputable wizard known to practice demon-summoning. It is believed the wizard is now staying on the premises of House Malatar. The party asks what the wizard’s name is, and offers a few other questions but Timmy insists that Petian cannot risk his good name by being the source of too much sensitive information. He bids the party good day and takes his leave.

Oh, the Intrigue!

The party makes the quick boat trip to Sijil and arrives with only a week until their fight with House Malatar’s mysterious opponents. They weigh their options during the journey. They are wary of entering the arena against these supposedly powerful opponents that Ignacious suggests are certain death. They consider attempting to break into House Malatar to free Lucinda and Old Breddy, possibly using the Hat of Disguise to help infiltrate the compound. Failing that, they also would like to somehow reach this demon-summoning wizard Ignacious has hired and either spy on him, talk to him, or trick him to reveal some information about what they might be fighting.

Several times the party comes back to what Master Garos said about a faction of House Malatar that wants to see Ignacious’s son take over the merchant company. Perhaps if they could enlist the son’s help in assassinating Ignacious all their problems would go away, or if they could use his help to kill or expel the demon summoner from the House, Ignacious couldn’t put them into the lethal fight he has planned. They also like the idea of framing the son as the one who gave them the magical dagger to defeat the dragons with. If they could convince Ignacious that his son might be conspiring against him, they could possibly blackmail the son into helping them.

With all of the options they’re considering, the party’s heads start to spin. They’d always heard the Jeweled Cities were a place of intrigue, and they are certainly living up to their reputation. Murder, corruption, kidnapping, backstabbing, politicking, and blackmail… They look forward to getting back to the north where life is simple, things are more black and white, and there are just large armies of evil undead to kill.

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