In the place which is not a place, where Hordan and Hulian play for the future of the Dominions, Hulian has a special piece on the board; a composite piece, depicting a gladiator, a monk, a thief, a lotusmaster, a sage and a barbarian on an overly large base. He has just moved it to the space on the board representing Jalizar when dark-skinned, heavily-pregnant Etu moves carefully over to them.
“I will join your game,” she says, sitting down with some relief. “I have a stake here, too.”
“You have no pieces,” Hordan points out, from her chair made of writhing demons.
Etu picks up Hulian’s composite piece, and looks at Hulian as if seeking permission. He nods slightly, and she snaps off two of the figures: The thief and the alchemist.
“These are mine now,” she declares.
Lured by Zosimus’ curiosity and Dorjee’s orders to find exotic lotus, the Pawns decide on an expedition into the sewers, and prepare with their usual thoroughness, making friends with the Temple of Etu (which is upset that something is killing the crocodiles in the sewers) and the Sewer Cleaners’ Guild (who are happy to let a fellow Cairnlander buy them drinks) and pumping them for information before tailoring their adventuring loadout to the mission and staking out the Offal Well in the Shambles, known to be the biggest entrance to the Emellan Sewers, the uppermost level.
Approaching the Well at dusk, they find a mysterious cloaked figure crouched by it, engaging in a whispered conversation with someone – or something – inside. Zosimus and Ash follow him when he leaves, but he gives them the slip when he turns invisible, strong circumstantial evidence of sorcery. Meanwhile Max and Dorjee have lowered a lantern into the Well and scared off the rats. The party regroups and enters the Well, finding a corpse wedged under a grate and a section of passageway that makes an eerie howling noise. Enough for one night, they feel, and emerge.
Next day, by a number of diverse stratagems including chatting up serving girls, bribing washerwomen, and asking Ash’s contacts in the Thieves’ Guild, they build a strong but circumstantial case against Vetranis the Apothecary, and test their theory by showing him a copy of the strange script the Cleaners’ Guild pointed out to them earlier. Since he is under Guild protection – he fixes them up when they’re injured, no questions asked, and in exchange his house doesn’t spontaneously combust – they leave this piece of the puzzle alone for the moment, and head back down into the sewers.
Here, they find evidence of someone tampering with the walls to make the noise worse, and deduce this is to scare people away. They press on and encounter a group of cultists about to sacrifice a young woman to some dark god or other, and decide to rescue her by killing all the cultists. One of these proves to be Vetranis, who casts fear in the shape of an apparition of a huge, ghastly, fish with tentacles. It doesn’t save him, although Max has a phobia about big fish (don’t ask) and flees screaming into the darkness, only to recover, charge back, and hack the cultists down to restore his honour.
They free the girl, despite protestations from Zosimus that she must be the real villain, and take her home, leaving Vetranis’ naked corpse for the scavengers. She introduces herself as Jazarah, explains that recent events suggest she needs a bodyguard, and enquires if they might be interested in escorting her on special occasions, since six heavily-armed mercs moving into her apartment would draw unwanted attention. They agree to this deal, despite Dorjee and U’wahz both recognising her snake tattoos as the sign of a sorceress.
It is several days later when Jutarkos Six Fingers summons Ash to the Thieves’ Guild headquarters, and explains that a Guild asset – Vetranis – has disappeared, and is probably dead. Ash’s mission is to find those responsible and kill them, sending a clear message to anyone else who wants to kidnap or kill people under Guild protection…
This session went very well, and all I had going into it was a few random encounters in the sewers and a couple of NPCs statted out. The rest of it was built on the fly in reaction to the players’ questions and approaches. That is a good mix and I’ll do it again.
I have waited three sessions now to use the punchline “Yes, there’s something fishy going on under Jalizar,” and it did not disappoint.
I was also delighted at having lured them into a situation where their next mission is to find themselves and kill themselves to send a clear message to themselves about messing with the Thieves’ Guild.