The party spend some time pursing their own interests in the city. Fourteen returns to his study of the fighting pits, growing ever more familiar with the gladiators and the surrounding staff and pageantry.
Kharis spends several days sequestered in the libraries of the Obsidian Tower. Amongst the piles of mouldering tomes, she finds a history of ancient Bael Turath, the Tiefling empire. In it, she finds a reference to Tellka Sinsinger, the head of the Sinsinger family at the time the Bael Turath nobility struck their deal with Asmodeus, and the devil prince Sevarin, with whom she bargained for power. Several pages have been torn from the book, but some intriguing notes have been left wedged between the pages. They seem to describe some sort of ritual…
The Obsidian Tower offer more information to Thia on her affliction. Although the wizards could open a portal to the Feywyld, they would have little control over where it emerged, and striking out blind into the land of the Fey is not a course to be recommended. In the wilderness, however, there are stable rifts between the real world and the Feywyld, often maintained by orders of druids. Making contact with such an order might offer the best hope of success.
Garrett seeks out a reliable source of poisons, eventually being directed towards a shady basement shop in Tribute’s poor quarter, where the retired thief and poisoner Maglo makes his living as a purveyor of all things nefarious. Garrett purchases several poisons to help him in combat, as well as a does of Linger Rot, a poison which will induce a feverish sickness and, in the worst cases, death.
Taliesin, seized by melancholy, spends his time walking the streets of Tribute’s Foundry District, the poverty and industrial decay feeding his dark mood. He learns its streets and by-ways well however, which may come in handy in the future (when fleeing an angry mod of Guild guardsmen, for example).
Their individual tasks completed, the party return to the Obsidian Tower, where the wizards had promised work for them. They are greeted by an immensely fat wizard who introduces himself as Shale – over an impressive feast, Shale relates the task.
An agent of the Obsidian Tower, Roderick, who posed as a scribe at the Exchange (the economic hub of the city) has died, but the Tower has no information as to how. They only discovered the death by chance, when another agent of theirs placed in the guard (Saren) was summoned to remove the corpse.
The Obsidian Tower want the party to investigate the death, to find the cause, if possible,and most important whether the Guild had discovered their agent’s true employer. It is important the investigation not be linked back to the Obsidian Tower itself, although if things take a turn for the worse finding a way to pin the blame on another party would be acceptable.
The party are initially hesitant, subtlety being somewhat outside of their skill-set, but after some deliberation agree to proceed. They extract some aid from Shale in forging a cover they can use to enter the exchange – documents that identify them as representing the notable merchant Macharius Hax, and some funds they can use to purchase goods or otherwise strengthen their cover identities.
After agreeing, Garrett and Thia visit the Exchange to scope the location out. In the main hall they find a busy hustle of merchants and scribes engaged in all manner of business dealings sit. Arrayed on benches around the side of the room, they are confronted by ranks of the Guild Actuaries, wasted figures with their eyes sewn shut, who constantly mutter updates on the prices of goods and the state of trade throughout the guild domains. Several robbed Guildsmen move between the Actuaries, apparently tending to them.
Behind the main trading floor is a collection of additional rooms and buildings around an open central courtyard. Access for supplies and other deliveries is through a door around the back of the Exchange.
Taliesin meets with Saren, the Tower’s contact in the guard. Saren relates some details of the state in which Roderick was discovered: their were no obvious wounds on his body, but his eyes were red with burst blood vessels. He also agrees to stations himself at the rear entrance of the Exchange in case the party need to make a swift getaway.
The party put together the plan they will use to gain greater access to the Exchange. They plan to pose as belly pork merchants, selling the finest belly pork in this circle of the world (salted in sea brine to lock in the flavour!). Taliesin will pose as the Merchant Finidiri, seeking backing from the Guild for his lucrative belly pork import operation. Garrett and Thia will pose as his scribe and bodyguard, respectively. Meanwhile, Kharis and Fourteen, posing as cooks, will approach the rear entrance with a cart laden with belly pork, with the intent of setting up in the Exchange’s kitchen and producing world-beating bacon sandwiches as proof of the quality of their product.
They procure the necessary items for their plan, namely appropriate outfits, a cart, and cart-load of belly pork packed into barrels. Fourteen secures his armour and weapons inside a spare barrel, and Kharis secures a ritual that will allow the party to communicate silently and over distance for the duration of the operation. Finally, Kharis use her illusory powers on the belly pork itself, to give it an especially appetising aroma.
Preparations complete, the party approach the Exchange. Team Belly (Taliesin, Thia and Garrett) enter first, with team Pork (Kharis and Fourteen) hanging back.
Inside the Exchange, Taliesin (posing as Finidiri) begins to mingle with the merchants. Quantus, a spice merchant, points out some of the notable figures: Henrick, the head of the scribes, and the woman who seems in change of the Guildsmen (who’s name Quantus does not know). He also relates an incident in the Exchange some days ago, when all of the Actuaries threw their heads back in unison and screamed aloud.
Team Belly also observe some merchants being ushered through to the back rooms to conduct particularly notable deals. They resolve to speak with Henrick, with the aim of gaining admittance to his private offices.
Meanwhile, team Pork approach the deliveries entrance. The guard is somewhat reluctant to let them in, but some persuasion from Kharis and a promise of a spectacularly delicious bacon sandwich from Fourteen convince him to allow them to set up in the kitchens. They immediately get to work producing the promised sandwiches in epic quantities, first making sure to ply the kitchen staff and guards with them to get them on side.
Team Belly have made their way to Henrick, and Taliesin begins to regal him with tales of the spectacular qualities of his product (the fine flavour! The magnificent preservative properties!). Henrick initially seems somewhat skeptical, but his doubts are allayed when Kharis enters from the kitchens, bearing what is undoubtedly the finest bacon sandwich he has ever tasted. Team pork are ushered through to Henrick’s private office to hammer out the terms of a deal.
Henrick leads them through out to the back, past a number of small booths at which scribes and merchants are discussing their dealings, and to his private office. Opposite the door to the office, a flight of spiral stairs lead down into the building’s basement.
Thia, in her role as bodyguard, posts herself outside the door to office. Once the others are safely inside, she slips down the stairs. Moving with customary stealth, she reaches the bottom undetected. The stairs emerge in a small basement room. At the far end stands a Guildsman, hunched over a workbench crowded with bubbling alchemical implements. Emerging from stealth, she hails the Guildsman, but he dismisses her, unwilling to be distracted from his work.
Meanwhile, in Henrick’s office, Taliesin presses the scrib for information on any security breaches the Exchange might have suffered, relating the troubling story about the screaming actuaries he heard earlier. Henrick is evasive, but admits that there was an incident with a member of staff prying into Guild affairs. He assures Taliesin that such incidents are almost unheard of, and certainly will not be allowed to recur.
Fourteen and Kharis press the kitchen staff for more information on any recent strange events. They also hear about the screaming actuaries, and the gate guard also tells of a strange incident a few nights back, when he was walking a late patrol of the building after it closed to the public, and entered the main trading hall to find an Actuary sitting, silent and unattended, in the middle of the floor. The Guild were quickly summoned and ushered it away – normally the movements of the Actuaries are tightly monitored and controlled.
In an attempt to extract more information form the Guildsman in the basement, Kharis heads downstairs under the pretence of bringing him a bacon sandwich of his very own. He is reluctant to be distracted, but opens up a little under the weight of Kharis’ charming manner (and bacon). He reveals that he is stationed there to control the flow of magical forces in the area (Kharis has already sensed the arcane power flowing through the silver lines) and that the potions he is maintaining can be used to cut the flow of power in the event of an emergency. He his very definite that such an emergency absolutely has not taken place in the past few days, and even if it had, which it definitely hasn’t, he would be willing to speak about it.
The party decide that to penetrate further into the basement they are going to require Garrett’s particular skills. In order to extract him from meeting with Henrick, Kharis enter with a new tray of bacon sandwiches. When Taliesin bites into his, he feigns outrage, loudly declaring the sandwich to be full of bones and inedible, and sends his assistant (Garrett) to remonstrate with the chefs.
Now out of the office, Garrett loads his ring (which can be used to deliver doses of poison) with Linger Rot and heads downstairs. He attracts the attention of the Guildsman and jabs him with the ring. The warlock seems to have a weakness to the poison. It would normally take some time to take affect, but he collapses almost immediately, unconscious.
Kharis joins Garrett down in the basement while Fourteen, sensing that things might take a turn for the worse, heads for a secluded store room with his barrel of armour, preparing to ready himself for battle if necessary.
Kharis and Garret beging to move through the basement, between them diffusing the mundane and magical locks and traps. A door at the southern end of the first chamber leads to a room lined with large cages, three to a side, each containing a Actuary. The wretches lie inert on the floor, only the slight rise and fall of their chests indicating they still live. Twin silver lines run through the floor of the room, passing underneath the recumbent Actuaries.
At the far end of the room, a short corridor leads to another locked door. Cautious, Garrett presses his eye to the keyhole.
At first, all he sees is a great swirling dark mass, scattered with what might be stars. Slowly, however, the dark forms twist and change, until Garrett finds himself staring into a great dark eye, and feels a malign and alien intelligence probing his mind. He tries to pull his gaze away. For a moment he is transfixed, until with a great mental effort he wrenches himself free. The exertion leave him shaken, his eyes bloodshot and blood running from him nose.
The party take this as their cue to leave.
On their way out of the basement, Kharis and Garrett smash on of the potions the Guildsman had been working on over the silver lines. As soon as they do so, a deafening shriek erupts from the Exchange – all of the Actuaries screaming in unison.
The Exchange erupts into pandemonium, merchants and staff fleeing, the Guild warlocks racing towards the basement. Before they go, Kharis and Garrett position the unconscious warlock with his hand outstretch, as if he had passed out and dropped the potion.
Most of the party leave via the back door, blending in with the servants. Taliesin, still posing as Finidiri, takes his leave with Henrick, who offers a place in his carriage to continue their conversation at his private club once the uproar has subsided.
Once they have made good their escapes, and, in the case of Taliesin, finished their brandy, the party reunite and return to the Obsidian Tower. They are greeted by a slight young man named Sand, who thanks them for their service, pays their agreed fee, and suggests he may have further work for them in future. In particular, he seems interested in their report of the silent Actuary encountered alone in the Exchange.
Another day closes in Tribute, and for the second time in the space of a week the adventurers have left the city in uproar.