After receiving the note from “Glass,” the party split up to attend to tasks around the Pale Quarter. Ink stayed behind to work on books and logistics for the Mules. White Kaijo met with Captain Chur’Aal to discuss matters of strategy. Thala set about traveling around the Pale Quarter using her magicks to see that there was ample potable water.
Pony and Akra wandered the Quarter running a traditional Good-Cop/Bad-Cop routine, reestablishing some of the Shade’s credibility in terms of their traditional protection services and fees.
Meanwhile, Sardis went to The Wall in search of some hypothetical ingress to the City proper from the Pale Quarter other than through The Gap. After some time, and some observation, he came to believe that the Ix’iil had been using one of the sewer outlets that gave the Muck it’s name. To confirm his suspicions, he patiently braided a length of twine using pubic hairs from the outflowing sewage, and strung it across the pipe so as to break if anyone crawled through.
As twilight fell, everyone in the party heard gongs ringing out from the City proper, declaring the marriage of Ran’Imil Az’Guzuur to King Thuz’Ur, who would, now be known as king Thuz’Imil Az’Guzuur, in the tiefling tradition.
The party made their way back to the central Mule camp shortly some hours after full dark fell, expecting to share a meal and discuss their midnight meeting with Glass at Wetstone. Instead, shortly after the gongs rang the end of the evening watch (read: around 9pm), their planning was interrupted by the sounds of war horns sounding away to the east of M’ziir.
It took only a little discussion to ascertain that the horns were those of approaching friends rather than invaders. Lady Sheraz’Aal, then, leading her forces out of L’Ekar to join the forces of M’ziir and her liege lord, King Thuz’Imil. Probably.
Less than an hour later, the force, perhaps 700 strong, including some 200 light cavalry, marched around to approach the Pale Quarter from the west, not far from the Grey Manse. Captain Chur’Aal beckoned to the party to accompany him, along with Danae and Divinter, to meet the four leaders of the L’Ekaran forces.
Botro, Lady Sheraz’Aal’s hobgoblin bodyguard, clearly in command of L’Ekar’s forces, strode forward ahead of his three lieutenants: Billcoch Stonewall, the bluff and bellicose dwarven man already familiar to most of the party; Fanderall Stonestep, a peculiarly bulky male elf clad in full-plate armor; and Katalina Tenstrokes, the provocative human woman who had been among those the party had encountered on their return from Fort Pendred.
As the group approached, Thala noted aloud that Fanderall was known to her as the leadder of a mercenary company called the Fanderian Cavalry, while Katalina was known as the captain of the Lightning Corps, a company of skilled light infantry for hire.
Chur’Aal, greeting Botro with insults and derision enough to make everyone there, except Botro, cringe. Billcoch was delighted to see Kaijo and Akra in particular, and explained that he’d been given command of the L’Ekaran irregulars and conscripts. Introductions were made all around.
As Thala blatantly took to creep-flirting with Fanderall, the others discussed the disposition of L’Ekar’s forces.
Botro told them that Lady Sheraz’Aal, and her astrologer, Mazzegur, had been “invited” to stay at the palace, while Botro had been instructed to join his forces to the Mules under Chur’Aal. As Chur’Aal lorded it over Botro, the hobgoblin gritted his teeth and explained that they’d also brought several carts of food and supplies with them, significantly more than would be needed by the L’Ekaran forces alone, assuming the battle for the City didn’t last more than a day or two. Nobody expected it to.
Chur’Aal, seemingly bored, ordered Kaijo and the rest of the party to help Botro’s forces get settled in and the supplies stored, making sure to add that Kaijo should demean Botro at every opportunity. As he, Danae, and Divinter walked away, Kaijo insulted Botro, following quickly with an apology once Chur’Aal was out of earshot. It seemed obvious that Botro understood, and that everyone there thought Chur’Aal quite the tool.
The next few hours were spent integrating the new forces into the Mule camp and around the Pale Quarter. Nobody was happy about it, but the mercenaries seemed stoic, and the irregulars not much less resigned than the Mules and remaining Palers. Billcoch just wanted a drink.
The job was barely done (indeed, Ink stayed behind to help finish up), when the time came to go to Wetstone.
Old Warwick around Wetstone was quite crowded these days with the addition of those who had dwelt west of where the Bulwark now stood. Adding a handful of L’Ekaran troops to that had made things even worse. But, by midnight, most of the Pale had settled down for the night.
When the party reached Wetstone, Tanner was outside stacking and sorting rocks in the dim light of a few torches. He nodded a greeting and suggested that Kaijo come inside to talk while the rest “had a look at the materials” out in the yard. They did as he suggested, though Sardis decided he’d better have a quick look around the outside of Wetstone’s low wall.
Tanner let Kaijo enter his windowless house first. Kaijo, not really all that surprised, quickly noted that Glass was not there, but not quite quickly enough to avoid the ambush entirely. Before he had time do do more than defend hiself, the Hand appeared in a shadowy corner of the dimly-lit room and attacked. To Kaijo’s horror, Tanner, always a stalwart friend of the Shade, began barring the doors to prevent Kaijo’s escape.
Outside, Sardis’ patrol of the wall revealed two goblin archers, hidden and poised to strike. Sardis raised the alarm in time to keep his companions from being caught unaware, even as Radyran, apparently in league with the Hand,
The fight outside the walls was almost enough to keep the party from rushing to Kaijo’s aid. Meanwhile, Kaijo, trapped in a room with an immovable dwarf and an unstoppable assassin was hard pressed just to stay alive. Fortunately, his instincts kicked in and he was able to force open one of the doors to Tanners home, allowing his friends to come to his aid.
In the end, one of the goblins escaped, running off to report to, presumably, his Ix’iil masters. Radyran was slain in the rubble of Tanner’s yard.
It was not until Tanner had been felled that the party realized that he had been possessed by the Ix’iil, as one of the semi-corporeal tentacled spirit-orbs that they’d driven from so may other victims ghosted from his body to make a last desperate attempt to help the Hand escape.
Which she nearly did. Though Kaijo kept his life by a hairs-breadth, the party managed to trap the hand inside Tanner’s home (which quite nearly burned-down), bleeding from many wounds. In a last desperate attempt, the assassin cloaked herself in whatever strange magics fueled her powers and leaped desperately out the door opened momentarily by the Ix’iil spirit as it’s dying action.
Invisible, but slowed by injuries and magical chill, the Hand quite nearly disappeared into the night.
But then quite nearly careened into Sardis, who had stalked all the way around the outside of Wetstone chasing the goblins. Sardis shot an arrow point-blank into the Hand’s thigh, stopping her cold, if not, quite, dead.
Her last words were a snarled warning that the party would never survive the days to come, spoken in the moments before she opened her own bowels in a ritual suicide all too familiar to Kaijo.
The party had mere moments to orient and collude on a story before the crowd of Palers and Mules, Danae and Divinter leading them, closed around Wetstone, demanding an explanation.
Just before people started showing up to investigate the ruckus, Page the pseudodragon appeared, with a note and looking…chagrined? The party could not read the note until later, as it was written in that peculiar tiny-handed supernal script. Once they handed it over to Ink a while later, they could read that it said: “It’s a trap! The Hand & Radyran!”
(Everyone should get an extra 150Xp)