1830, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999
With the remainder of their way to the island clear of obstacles, the Heroes 4 Hire took a short rest to heal some wounds and regain some abilities before opening the secret door and continuing up the Slave Lords’ escape tunnel. They hiked for several miles underground, up a long shallow sloping passageway occasionally dripping with moisture. The tunnel finally opened into the back of a large natural cave halfway up the slope of a giant, extinct volcano in the middle of the island known only as the Aerie.
It was very late in the afternoon as the team stood on the rocky overlook in front of the cave mouth. They could survey the entire northeastern two-thirds of the island from here, including the massive walled city of Suderham. They took the rest of the afternoon to observe, taking note of the numbers and disposition of guards and patrols, both in the city and on the walls. The guards were well disciplined, plentiful in number, and misbehavior within the city was dealt with quickly and harshly. There was but one entrance to the city, the main gate on the north side, outside of which a slum of shanties and hovels sprawled to the docks, and the walls were surrounded by open farmland worked by peasants and slaves. The situation made the city impregnable. A subtler approach would be needed.
As the sun was setting, the party descended from their overlook and circled eastward around the city and into the slums. While observing the crowds and the groups of slave merchants entering and exiting the city, a beggar approached the Heroes and quietly signaled for them to follow him. He led the party to a hovel where he introduced himself as Selzen Murtano, the master infiltrator employed by Kwon in Lord Neistor’s spy network. The hovel also held eight merchants, abducted and bound by Selzen for both intelligence and to procure their passes and clothing to get the team inside the main gate. The party donned the merchants’ fine robes over their armor and equipment, hoping to blend in with help from the darkness of the night, and took their passes. Selzen gave them further advice on the disposition of the city and the patrols, and told them of the rumor of a secret entrance to the Slave Lords’ chamber through an abandoned and sealed section of the city’s sewers. He then wished them luck and gave them one last bit of rumor he had come across but had not been able to run to ground as of yet, “Seek out the ivory paladin.”
The Heroes entered through the main gate without incident, the hasty disguises and stolen paperwork sufficient to avoid suspicion from the sentries posted there. They divided up into four teams of two, split up the search duties around the city, and began their hunt for clues to the secret entrances to the abandoned sewers. Karraway and Ryoun Rodri first went to the inn in the run-down Thieves’ Quarter, the Sign of the White Knight, and purchased rooms for the entire party for the evening. Lt. Diplo Norixius and Alton Beeblebrox made some small talk with the fat, sweaty barkeep before heading to the Wealthy Quarter’s sole tavern, the Clever Cudgel. Naïlo Thia and Dajjal went to one of the many taverns in the Thieves’ Quarter known as the Fighting Man’s Haven, while Illyia Baham and Smedley Hampton went to check out the Thieves’ Guild.
The Clever Cudgel proved to be a dry hole for information. Diplo and Beeblebrox headed next to the Wealthy Quarter’s house of ill repute, the Wild Cat, where they asked around a bit and again found no useful information. On their way out, however, they came upon five ruffians intent on giving them a hard time in the street. The two Heroes were having none of it, but when they turned away to depart down the street, one of the rakes grappled Diplo and the other four drew weapons to attack. Diplo broke the grapple and began punching the ruffian, and Beeblebrox dove into the other four and put his martial arts skills to good use. They beat the assailants down so quickly and thoroughly that the rakes fled, and the duo decided to let them go.
Thia and Dajjal first talked to the cleric at the Temple of the Earth Dragon in the Official Quarter, accross the street from the moneychanger. He provided little useful information, but was more than happy to blather on about the beliefs of the Earth Dragon Cult. They then asked around the Fighting Man’s Haven in between songs and drinking, but found no usable information. As they were trying to depart, Thia caught the attention of Davis, the local tavern bully, and found herself forced to have another drink with him while Dajjal waited outside to avoid a fight. She managed to extract herself uneventfully, and the two of them went to the Waltzing Werebear tavern next door.
Karraway and Ryoun talked to the barkeep in the Inn of the White Knight, and plied him with a couple of bribes. He gave them two rumors, "Not all who lie may be resting, " and, “learn from the knowledge that never dies.” Karraway then used Sending to share those two clues with the rest of the party. Thia and Dajjal received the message and then headed toward the Maps and Charts Library to follow the clue. Meanwhile, Illyia and Smedley found the Thieves’ Guild building deserted, chained shut and otherwise defunct by edict of the city constabulary. They then went into Denhow’s Pub ‘n’ Grub two doors down and asked around, finding nothing of use but also thwarting a pickpocket that had targeted them. The two then received the message from Karraway, and proceeded to one of the Thieves’ Quarter’s two houses of ill repute, the Sign of the Rose.
Within the whorehouse, the madame told them to pick any of the doors lining the hallway, because her girls were all unoccupied at the moment. Smedley and Illyia went door to door, opening each one systematically and observing the contents and occupant within, then politely excusing themselves for another room. At the end of the hallway, Illyia opened a door to an unoccupied room, where he slipped in to search as Smedley kept the madame distracted with conversation. Within the room, Illyia quickly discovered a trap door in the floor hidden under the bed, which opened to a passageway that looked like the description of the abandoned sewer section for which they were searching. Illyia then used his Token of Sending to inform the rest of the party, and sent Nightshade in to investigate. She flew down a long corridor to the north, through a giant octagonal room with a statue in the middle and on through another passage to the north that then turned east. She then came upon a trap door in the ceiling, and she Polymorphed into a fly and squeezed through a crack. Above, the trap door was under a large carpet, but she was able to shinny out from under and found herself in the master bedroom of a residence elsewhere in Suderham.
Illyia made some guesses to the whereabouts of the residence based on what he had seen through Nightshade’s eyes, and proceeded to the Wealthy Quarter to investigate and find his familiar. As the two approached up the main street, they came upon the fist fight Diplo and Beeblebrox were engaged in with the ruffians, and saw it just in time to witness the rakes flee. As the fleeing brigands ran by, both Illyia and Smedley managed to pickpocket a coin purse of two of the ruffians cleanly. They realized they were standing outside the abandoned residence where Nightshade was looking at them from a window, and the united teammates returned to the Inn of the White Knight to rendezvous with Thia and Dajjal returning from the Library.
With the entrances to the rumored abandoned sewer section discovered, the Heroes 4 Hire went to their rooms in the Inn for a night’s long rest to prepare for their assault, planned for the following sunset.
2200, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999
What dangers await the Heroes 4 Hire in the sewers beneath the City of the Nine? Will they find the path to the final showdown with the Slave Lords? Or, are the Slave Lords alerted to their approach, and devising some clever ambush?
Tune in next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”