- the barkeep and Captain Sil have outfitted the group with a war room
- the companions learn about the Arena
- a meeting with Milos provides little new information
- Anton trails a contact of Milos to a group of desert tribesmen and witnesses an exchange
- the tribesmen travel to The Treasure Trove and murder a defenseless Martin Hawks
- Anton’s cover blown, he summons Captain Sil to deal with the tribesmen
- the companions travel to the Mouth of Hell, a pleasure den
- a trap door under the stage leads to a secret library
- undead priests are incapacitated allowing enough time to find Ironjack’s journal
- the companions escape the Mouth of Hell in flames
The barkeep grins as he leads the group up the stairs and past the rooms where they had previously stayed. At the end of the hall, a large door opens to reveal an immense room – better described as a war room – complete with its own private entry. There are tables filled with ledgers detailing taxi routes and information on local factions (including the previously mentioned pick-pocketing ring), supplies for messenger ravens, secure chests for storage, communication devices to reach Garvey, Carson, and Hawks’ offices, and lastly a huge map of Freeport adorning the wall. The barkeeper has been busy in the companions absence. Regarding the group’s inquiring looks, he advises that Captain Sil was the mastermind behind the new digs. Whoever was responsible, sincere thanks are passed along.
A large package draws the group’s attention. Within the parcel is a note from Captain Sil, as well as several medallions of a similar design as the one Wanda wears. The pendants, in the shape of a snake scale, feature an inlaid key and magnifying glass motif. When worn, the scale fuses with the skin of the respective wearer. The accompanying band is replaced by ancient thassilonian script, seemingly tattooed upon the skin, that reads:
Breaker of madness, chains, and hearts,
born both of dust and heaven,
he shall be hatched upon the seas.
The note from Sil advises that the innkeeper has put much effort into the present accommodations and is deserving of significant gratitude, as well as recompense for expenses and continued security. Both he and the innkeeper hope that the war room will assist the companions in keeping a low profile. The medallions, which help to protect against effects that aim to create confusion, are provided as tokens of appreciation for the companions’ competent service. Lastly, Captain Sil requests that, should the companions come across any “degenerate” snake people, that they report back to him immediately. These persons are an unfortunate offshoot of an ancient race, driven mad by an apocalyptic event. They deserve pity, not pain, and Sil asks that the companions refrain from causing them harm so that he can administer reconciliation.
The companions call it a night and sleep well into the next day. Upon waking, a note indicates that Eagel is awaiting their presence with good news. The companions hasten to the pub for brunch.
As they enter the common room, the group notes several posters on the walls touting the One Ring Fighting Arena. In conversation with the barkeep, the companions learn that the arena hosts a gladiatorial competition daily at noon. The early rounds represent a free for all where anything goes, and once seeded, the competition becomes a single elimination style tournament. There is no entry fee and a top prize of 15 thousand gp. Despite the barbarian nature of the competition, the barkeeper advises that the competition is well run – there are spellcasters present to ensure the combatants live to see another day.
The companions locate Eagel and join him for brunch. They regale him with tales of their recent adventures and provide him an update on their progress regarding Carson. Eagel confirms that the last mighty men related note they received is linked to the Church of Retribution. Although the Swords of the Edict order is affiliated with the Church, their headquarters are located within the Temple District and not on the original site of the Church. In fact, the Church of Retribution was originally situated in Shantytown, and is now the location of a pleasure den named the Mouth of Hell. He provides the companions with a layout of the building for reference.
Several questions from the group motivate Eagel to provide a history lesson. The Church of Retribution was created during a time when various cults were a real threat to society. The mandate of the order was to seek out and destroy these cults, and therefore protect the general population. Fear mongering allowed the Church to gain notoriety and influence; however, as the ongoing threat from these cults diminished, the order fell into decline as society lost interest in their mandate. At this time, one of the cardinal priests made a deal with a duke of hell for reasons unknown. The clerics of the order maintained a protective aura surrounding the building. The foci of the aura was a grand bell in the church’s steeple – the priest cast the bell from the top of the bell tower and it shattered upon the ground below. The protective aura faded over time, the Church become vulnerable and was ultimately corrupted, leading to its demise.
The Swords of the Edict order was born from the ashes of the Church of Retribution. Whereas the Church was solely interested in opposing cults, the Edict maintains a more populist mandate seeking to protect the general population from malevolent interests.
Speaking of the order, Eagel is happy to advise that he has chatted with Milos and can set up a meeting this very day. Given it is the sabbath, Milos is praying for most of the day but would be able to accommodate a meeting early morning or late evening. There is no time like the present, and the companions decide it best to meet with him this morning.
The Temple of Knowledge is a short cab ride from the tavern. The companions register at the main entrance and Eagel leads the group into the Temple. The interior of the building is breathtaking, with vaulted ceilings over 100 feet high, providing an immense feeling. Statues of every known deity adorn the massive atrium. There are balconies above and books can be seen everywhere from floor to ceiling. An air of reverence dominates, and although quiet, a soft buzz of activity fills the hall. The group is introduced to Norton, the personal page of Milos, who escorts the companions further into the building.
Milos is awaiting the companions upon their arrival. He is recognized as the person meeting with Lord Brack in the courtyard of the Swords of the Edict headquarters from several days past. He is curt in introduction and it is soon clear that this meeting is solely a courtesy to Eagel. Milos is less than interested in the discussion and has very little to say about Carson, besides that he was a good librarian that made some poor choices. Regarding his breach of protocol, Milos confirms that Carson had no business viewing the documents that he did, especially at night. He was surprised that Carson was allowed to rejoin the order, mentioning that it was due primarily to the great store of rare books and records that he donated to the library. The companions had not heard of this, and ask to view the documents as it would aid in their investigation. Milos advises that the Temple is still processing the materials and denies their request. Lando volunteers his time as an experienced scribe but is also declined.
At this time, a trades person enters the hallway and seeks audience with Milos. The head of the library is clearly perturbed and takes him aside to chat in private. The companions overhear Milos advising it is not a good time and that the individual should leave. The newcomer glances over his shoulder at the companions, and then exits. Thinking this behavior rather odd, Anton quietly excuses himself and trails the tradesman at a respectable distance through the Temple.
The rest of the companions attempt to continue their conversation with Milos. He is fed up with the discussion and indicates that he has nothing further to add, and that he must leave for prayer. Feeling slighted by how unhelpful the head librarian has been, Romica reveals that the companions are in the employ of Hollister, and that it would do him good to assist the group in its investigation. Milos is unfazed by the mention of Hollister and briskly exits the hallway. The companions, no further ahead, leave the library.
While this occurs, Anton follows the tradesman outside of the Temple and into the streets. Not far from the library grounds, the individual, still unaware of Anton’s presence, meets with a group of 5 or 6 desert tribesmen in an open square. They are dressed in dark leather armour and carry spears and bucklers. Their faces are concealed by the hoods of their cloaks. On their bucklers can be seen an insignia featuring 3 yellow shields in a horizontal line. The tradesman conducts a brief conversation and then exchanges something with the group before leaving the plaza.
Anton follows the tribesmen through the city, no small feat, eventually arriving at a familiar location – The Treasure Trove. The group enters the shop and attacks a defenseless and surprised Martin Hawks. Fearing for his life, Anton immediately exits the building and calls upon a neighbor to summon the Watch. While he attempts to make his escape, Anton notices activity in a nearby alley as the shadows coalesce into 8 additional desert tribesmen.
His cover blown, Anton flips one of Captain Sil’s coins. As it reaches its apex, the coin disappears. A purple green tear appears in the sky, replaced by a flag floating softly to the ground. Captain Sil’s form steps from the flag as it touches the ground. Anton points to the desert tribesmen and asks Sil if he has knowledge of them – he does not, although he senses an ancient taint. Without delay, the Captain engages the group of tribesmen in melee, providing Anton the opportunity to slip away unseen.
Returning to the library, Anton quickly brings the companions up-to-speed on the events. The group returns to the scene of the crime, but are unable to get close to Hawks’ shop as the Watch is in the area. Passing the alleyway, a few smears of blood on the cobbles is the only evidence that the tribesmen were present.
Unsure of next steps, the group decides the best course of action is to investigate the Mouth of Hell. The companions travel back to Shantytown to visit the shop of vices, its primary purpose to cater to those that revel in hedonistic pursuits. The building is older in age, although tastefully renovated. The companions store there weapons in their bag of holding before entering the front door.
The entry leads into an atrium where a rather attractive night elf named Delilah introduces herself. She provides an overview of the premises – there are four distinct areas in the building each uniquely themed to satiate different indulgences, including a gambling hall (greed), exotic kitchen (gluttony), and entertainment area (envy) on the main level, as well as an entire floor dedicated to carnal devices (lust) above.
Hearing that Ansor is running the gambling hall, the companions decide to check in with their good friend in case he has any intel on where the secret library may be located. Ansor invites the group to a game of liar’s dice, which the group cannot pass up. During the friendly competition, the companions learn that:
- The password for the night is “devil’s cry”, which provides VIP access to all that the Mouth of Hell has to offer.
- The Bloody Vengeance is still in port, although the Captain and first mate were reportedly murdered, no doubt the result of an orc mutiny. The vessel is barely seaworthy, but worth its weight in gold given its writ of privateering.
- Eyes from the Bloodsalt (the orc part of town) are looking longingly towards the Vengeance. As long as the sailors have coin for sex and drugs, their desires are sated.
- There is a druid in town, once a member of the Renewal Project, that has pledged allegiance to the Wizard’s Guild. Rumour has it that he reports to the Head of the Sealord’s Guard.
- Lord Brack, a savvy noble of significant wealth, has long stayed away from city politics. That said, Ansor has it on good word that he is vying for a spot on the Council. He is planning an event at the Swag Fest – his daughter, Gwendolyn, will not be attendance as she will be locked up.
- The lighthouse debacle continues. Despite the time and expense dedicated to its building, it may not be of practical use to Freeport unless economic interests turn. The storms are generally a boon to the city, but the weather-towers are not as effective as they once were – they continue to keep the government ships away, but the perimeter to town is diminishing.
- There is an unusually large reward offered for the thief Crick McGillicuddy. The bounty hunters are flocking to town, as the dockside splitter (aka Romica) has not been claimed either.
- A small crew came in earlier and spent a lot of coin at dice. The were asking questions about a mechanical man. They came back later asking for someone who could pick locks.
The companions, a little short on cash and trying to gain influence with Ansor, provide him a rumor – a group of desert assassins are in town, they can be identified by an insignia on their bucklers with 3 yellow shields in a horizontal line. Ansor has no knowledge of this group and thanks the companions with a gift of 300 gp. Further, he is unsure where the secret library is located, but he mentions that the top floor holds many delights, but no library, and the money changing pit does not have underground access. That leaves the janitor’s closet, the kitchen, and the stage as points of interest.
After the janitors closet and kitchen are checked, the group heads into the entertainment area. The stage features a large altar with elaborate carvings. The next show – a rendition of the Freeport Follies – does not open for another 10 minutes. Thinking fast, the companions take the stage and Anton and Magus Mike entertain the crowd with a short performance. Finishing with a flurry, the other companions close the curtains to applause. A quick search of the stage reveals a trap door near the altar.
The trigger is flipped and the trap door opened. A ladder leads down into darkness. At the bottom, a long hallway with a glimmer of light at the end. The hallway opens into a large room, a library with an aisle leading down the middle and bookshelves with stacks of books to either side. The companions fan out to search the shelves.
As they do so, three priests in religious regalia appear, calling out to the companions to repent for their sins. Although human in form, they have the appearance of undead creatures. One of the priests is dressed in the robes of a cardinal.
Romica and Magus Mike concentrate on the cardinal, while Anton engages one of the other priests. Lando provides moral support from distance. The dynamic duo of Romica and the magus make quick work of the cardinal – the light fades from his eyes and his body disintegrates into two distinct piles of ash. One of the piles appears to be glowing, perhaps infused with the fires of hell. The other two priests fall soon thereafter.
The companions continue their search. Lando locates Ironjack’s journal, a bluish tome that is identified with the word Hammer on the binding. Behind them, the piles of ash begin to coalesce. Lando, unable to leave all this knowledge buried, screams for his colleagues to grab an armful of books – they scoop as many as possible into the bag of holding before they make their exit. The group makes a mad dash down the hallway to the ladder with the demon priests hot on their tails.
Dull applause greets the companions as they burst through the trap door in the floor, followed by a burst of hellish flames. The applause soon turns to screaming as the crowd is aghast at the appearance of the demons. The fiends of hell focus their attention on the entertainers as the companions run for the atrium. Their last view of the stage has the curtains aflame, the demons consuming the entertainers as guards converge on the stage. Lando makes a quick detour to the gambling hall to give Ansor a new rumor – the mouth of hell has opened and Ansor should close shop early for the day. He flips Lando his lucky dealer’s chip and joins the group as they exit the building.