Bangizi told the party to be careful, not to stare, and enjoy themselves. They agreed to meet back at their point of ingress in an hour. Bangizi said that would leave enough time. With that, they spread out into the stalls, markets, and chaos of the Great Plaza of Ganitipantuperan.
Kaijo and Akra followed Bangizi to a gnomish salon where they could have their scales alchemically dyed the metalic colors more common among dragonborn. Sardis went looking for weapons dealers, eventually finding a friendly and persuasive gnome artificer who specialized in objects of violence. Ink and Thala set out together looking for, and finding, magical components, scrolls, and various items of interest throughout the Plaza.
It was…entertaining. For a brief time, they got caught up in the joyful bustle of gnomish commerce and industry, and were able to forget that they were about to attempt to sneak into the King’s palace and assassinate one of his most valued advisers.
But the illusion did not last long. Soon enough they found themselves climbing through dim tunnels, up and down random-seeming ladders, and into back corridors and caverns until, passing several curious-but-silent gnomish guards, they reached a small, unpresuming chamber with a worn, flat depression at it’s center.
Bangizi had brought Varagindosoli, an apprentice Explorationer, to manage the rope. Before they began their descent into the Palace of Ur, he reviewed their plan and the precautions necessary when crossing between worlds. They must, he insisted, go quickly, without pausing between each party member. He made sure they knew how to reach the ground-floor latrine where he would be waiting to guide them out. Assuring him that they understood, the party helped Thala perfect her magical disguise as Mazzegur, then one immediately after another, fairly flung themselves down the rope and into the Palace of Ur.
Mostly, they made it down okay, except Thala, who fell flat on her ass, and Sardis, who landed in a clatter on top of a weapons rack. Fortunately, the hour was late and the clatter went unnoticed.
Bangizi trotted off, invisible and silent. The rest straightened their tabbards and fell into step behind Thala, who looked so perfectly like Mazzegur that even her friends had to remind themselves she was not the astrologer.
It was surprisingly easy to move unnoticed through the palace. They kept to high-security, low-traffic areas, adied by Bangizi’s map. They managed to minimize contact with guard patrols, and those they saw didn’t seem to see any reason to question Mazzeguur.
As they drew near the Royal apartments, the magically sensitive among them became aware of a strange, lingering energy that felt like the smell of brimstone and cast an oppressive pall over the party’s already tense mood.
They all braced themselves for disaster when, just as they turned a corner to leave the corridors near the King’s suite, the voice of King Thuz’Imil called out to Mazzeguur from behind them.
Thala considered walking on, but, at Kaijo’s silent urging, stopped, and turned to face the Vassal King of M’ziir, who approached with a smug grin on his face, four of his personal guard at his rear, and a simpering Ran’Imil on his arm.
The King was in a surprisingly good mood; like the dire lion who ate the fairy. He questioned Thala as to why Mazzeguur wasn’t with Martesse in the Astrologer’s tower. Wasn’t he late for their mysterious midnight rites? Thala answered, in a passable Mazzeguur voice, that they were in a hurry for just that reason. The king scoffed and sneered, and ordered Thala to inform Martesse that he would not, after all, need to see her after the nightly ritual, or, he intimated, possibly ever again. With that, Thuz’Imil lead his entourage on, with only Ran’Imil sparing an unreadable glance back in the party’s direction. The party resumed both their breathing and their trip through the corridors of the Palace.
Skillfully avoiding more palace patrols, the party was a few yards from the door to the Astrologer’s tower when, around the corner from an adjoining hallway, came Mazzeguur and two palace guards.
There was one, dead silent, frozen moment of universal confusion before, with a muffled shout, the two groups fell on each other.
The party tried to fight quietly, but despaired of stopping their opponents before an alarm was raised. That was, they despaired until they realized that the other side was also struggling to fight quietly. Before they had time to think this through, Mazzeguur attacked Thala-Mazzeguur, by grabbing hold of her and…changing clothes to match hers exactly so that nobody in the party could tell which was which. Meanwhile, the palace guards dropped their spears, drew knives, and flung themselves at the party with a sinuous agility not native to humans. Clearly, something was unusual here.
The Other Mazzeguur and his guards must have realized it too, because when Kaijo made an extremely convincing, soto-voiced appeal to what seemed to be a shared goal of assassinating Mazzeguur, the other group paused, and everyone tensely backed away.
With a strange shimmer, Other Mazzeguur’s form blurred and reformed into a nondescript human male, who abruptly seemed to recognize Kaijo, despite his dyed scales. The shapeshifting gentleman asked for confirmation that the party was there to kill the astrologers, and, receiving it, walked away, his “guards” in tow, saying that they would leave Kaijo’s crew to it, as they had “bigger fish to fry.”
Kaijo was puzzled by the idiom, but the rest of the party breathed an uneasy sigh of relief. A lack of help from Assassin Team 2 was better than being killed as part of a comedic and somewhat meta mistaken identity crisis.
Gathering themselves, they faced the door to the Astrologer’s Tower. Guessing that the magical lock would give way to Mazzeguur, Thala reached out and quietly, simply, opened it.
The Tower was rife with mystical energy fairly reeking of the Shadowfell. It was not difficult for the group, with Thala’s flawless disguise, to make their way up past the magical security and past Martesse’s halfling assistant, Rana.
As they climbed the long, curving stairs towards the Astrologer’s laboratory, they could clearly hear heated words. An argument. Then a subtle shudder shaking the tower, and laying a cold sense of dread over their minds. Frantic shouting. Something above had clearly gone terribly wrong.
When Thala opened the door to the highest chamber, the party faced a large, round room with ceilings some 15 feet high and supported by four pillars set around a great 20 foot glowing circle of power embedded in the floor. Suspended between the two farthest pillars, sustained by sickly blue-purple flames, stretched an ominous vertical plane of roiling shadow—clearly a portal to the Shadowfell.
Also between the pillars stood Martesse, and someone that they hoped was the real Mazzeguur, both with their backs to the door. Martesse was clearly straining with the effort of trying to close the portal, while Mazzeguur shouted in unhelpful terror about whatever force or entity she was straining against: “It’s coming! Close it! CLOSE IT!!!”
Akra was on Mazzeguur almost before the astrologer knew they were there. He fell with barely a shout of warning to Martesse. When M’ziir’s astrologer turned to see her attackers, she sneered that they were fools. Cut her down and release “It,” she warned.
The party tried to split the difference. They attacked her while she was distracted, but Ink also attempted to aid her in closing the portal…to little effect.
Martesse summoned horrible, squelching tentacle beasts from the portal to aid her. Four of the monsters lashed around the room attacking the heroes, but were, one by one, slain outright or driven back into the portal. Slowly but surely the party wore down the astrologer until, finally, she sought to flee, using her magic, and a timely distraction by Rana (who had caught on), to reach the door and the stairway beyond.
As several of the party struggled with Martesse and Rana at the door, a great, looming shadow darkened and began exiting the portal. In a sudden flash of insight, Ink fumbled the mummified toe of Boston Loch from Ze’s pocket and, after dropping it once, kicked it through the portal. The fearsome entity beyond, which Ink claimed was Boston Loch himself, was appeased, and the portal closed.
Meanwhile, Rana had fled to the tower’s rooftop, and Martesse had teleported out the tower’s arrow slit to the palace grounds beyond. With no means of egress save the rooftop or the arrow slit, it seemed that the Astrologer would escape.
Except that Thala, still disguised as Mazzeguur, flung herself against the tiny window, and flung a ball of flame down upon the fleeing tiefling, leaving nothing but scorched and smoldering corpse. Abruptly…it was over.
Except that the alarm had been raised throughout the Palace.
As the group fled down the stairs, expecting to die attempting to fight their way through the Palace, they began to realize that the alarm was not for them. Something else had happened. It was not until later that they learned that a powerful devil had appeared inside the walls as they’d fought in the Tower. Not expecting this sort of attack, the guards and residents of the Palace were in chaos. A chaos that lent itself perfectly to escape.
As the group exited the Tower, Thala lingered and, once the rest were out the lower door, stated bluntly that she could not go with them, and closed the door, locking herself inside. This was the last any of them saw of her as, unable to open the arcane lock they instead fled the Palace with the dozens of others.
Confused, sad, and weary beyond measure, they made their way through the confusion that had gripped all of M’ziir, back to the Pale Quarter to find out what had happened.