Olarune 20, 998 YK. As the group leaves the scene of their battle with Aric Blacktree, Basil Tulsi takes the task of piloting the skycoach as Maathezar tends to his fallen comrades. Once he’s got them back on their feet, they cover the pilot’s and their foe‘s corpses and head towards the address on Orryn Bollock’s business card.
They find his shop in the Deathsgate district of Middle Tavick’s landing. The district is bustling with activity. Unwilling to draw further attention to themselves, they moor their skycoach near the shop and Maathezar steps out to go knock on the door. After about a minute’s wait, Darius opens the door.
“Hi”, he says, “come in.”
“Err, we need some help first”, answers the kalashtar.
Basil lifts the cloak covering the body of Aric.
“Oh… wait here a minute”
Darius leaves and then comes back with large red blankets. He helps them wrap the bodies and together they quickly carry them inside.
They go down a long hallway and walk into a side door. Inside is the gnome’s magewright workshop. All sorts of equipment and scrap metal is piled on the multiple tables and on parts of the floor. The place is dusty and smells like heated metal and burnt rubber. Behind a mostly cleared desk is sitting, the young tiefling called Leucis, bent over a notebook. He looks up when they come in.
“Orryn, we’ve got some guests.”
The gnome, sitting at a workbench with his back to the door answers tersely. “I’m busy, tell them to go away.”
“Well, considering you wanted us to come, you might want to make an exception. After all, we got it done in less than a day”, says Zair.
The gnome pivots on his bench. Looks at the people entering his shop, then at the body they’re carrying. He sighs, gets up, walks to one of the larger tables and pushes all the stuff on it to the ground.
“You can put it down here. And then perhaps tell me why you’re bringing dead bodies into my workplace.”
“He’s the one responsible for it”, says Maathezar.
“For trying to destroy part of the city with some sort of machine.”
“Huh, that must be what those localized earthquakes were. Tell me, but first, Darius, get us some tea will you?”
“Sure”, he leaves.
The gnome then turns to his adopted son, “go help your master.”
“Aww man, but I wanna hear about the bad guy.”
Leucis sighs loudly and walks out of the room dragging his feet. He slams the door, hard, behind him.
Orryn rolls his eyes, shakes his head. “Go ahead.”
And so, the group recount the events of the day. When they finish, Orryn is stroking his beard thoughtfully.
“Interesting. I’d like to see that machine.”
“We brought back part of it”, answers Karnak.
“Do you think you can do something for our dead comrade?” asks Zair.
“Destroyed, or disassembled, would be more accurate I think. We found about 500 gps’ worth of residuum, if it can help”, says Maathezar.
“Which makes it dead…”
“I’d say dead. But yes. It’ll take a few days and a Raise Dead ritual. I should be able to replace the missing pieces with what I have here.”
“Raise Dead works on warforged?”
“Yes. Reassembling them is not sufficient once the spark has gone.”
“They have a soul then?”
“Spare me the theology”, says the gnome. “Matter of fact is, I’ll get it back on its feet. Might not be as streamlined as it was, but it’ll work. So, what’s your next move?”
“We’re waiting on information from those rogues we let go”, says Maathezar.
“Alright, in the mean time, if you want to rest I have a room downstairs you can use. It also has a bathroom.”
“We were wondering if you can make the dead talk. We have some questions for our dead foe here.”
“No, I’m sorry, you’d need a priest for that.”
“Do you know any?”
“That would come at night to someone’s house to perform Speak with Dead on a corpse from a dubious origin? No, I do not.”
“I do!” says a muffled voice from the other side of the closed door.
Orryn sighs once more. “Come in, Leucis.”
“Call me Omen”, says the grinning teenager as he steps in casually. “So, thought I couldn’t contribute, huh?”
“Spare us the snarky comments and go get your morally ambiguous priest. When you have chosen a course of action, don’t hesitate. Hesitation reaps only failure.”
The young tiefling leaves.
“You’ll have to turn yourselves and those bodies in to the authorities”, says Orryn. “I have some contacts in the Watch I can lean on to delay the investigation into your deeds, but by tomorrow morning, you need to get this done.”
Leucis comes back two hours later with a hobgoblin in rough-spun robes, wearing a symbol of the Sovereign Host around his neck.
“This is Olaakki, the priest who can help you.”
The priest smiles at them, either not noticing or choosing to ignore the open look of disgust on Karnak‘s face.
“Hello. Omen tells me you need a particular ritual cast, is that right?”
“Yes, we need to have a few words with a corpse,” says Maathezar.
Olaakki nods. "I’ve a Speak with Dead scroll here, it’s worth 340 gold pieces. If you need me to cast it, I’ll require another 20 gold pieces. I’m sorry to have to ask for so much, but I need the money to help the less fortunate."
The group takes inventory of their funds and realize they’re short by quite a lot of money.
“Would it be possible to pay part of it with residuum or perhaps future services rendered?”, asks Zair.
“If we do that we won’t have enough residuum to bring back Rampart!”, objects Karnak.
“Well, there is a job I need to get done. If you all agree to do it, I could cast the ritual for you for free.”
“What’s the job?”, asks Zair.
“Kruthiks have been attacking people in the lower reaches of Sharn. It seems they’ve built a hive there. I’d need you to go kill them. They’ve already killed few people, and more will be maimed or killed if nothing’s done.”
“Kruthiks?”, asks Karnak, “aren’t those the creatures we fought in the Tower four years ago?”
“Yes, but they’re rather common on Khorvaire, like ants, but worse”, says Basil.
“So, then”, asks Olaakki, “are you in?”
The four adventurers quickly confer with each other, then turn back to the priest.
“We are”, answers Zair.
Olaakki nods, then spits into his palm and extends his hand to them. Reluctantly, some more than others, they each shake it.
“Good, let’s get this over with then. You should know that at most you’ll only get three questions.”
“Only three? Give us a minute.”
The group examine their different options, and once they’re ready they set themselves up around the table. Olaakki retrieves his scroll for his pack. Then, they remove the sheet covering Aric‘s corpse. A look of surprise and recognition, cross Olaakki’s face.
“You know him?”, asks Maathezar.
“Yes, I saw him with a member of my flock.”
“In Malleon’s Gate, in Lower Dura. The man I know what working for this man.”
“I see… well, let’s cast this ritual now.”
Olaakki nods. He unrolls the scroll and starts recite the incantations. Ten minutes later, the corpse takes a sudden deep breath.
“You can ask your questions now”, says Olaakki.
“Why did you try to kill us?”
The corpse answers in a low, ragged voice. “So you would not take my gift away from me again.”
“What is your role in the grand scheme of things.”
“I am doing my part to bring about the world’s fate.”
“Who are your associates?”
“I work alone.”
The corpse lets out one last sigh.
“Well, my part here is done. When you finish with this, you can contact me for that job you agreed to do.”
Olaakki bows and leaves. Maathezar turns to Orryn.
“I think Aric may have been under the influence of the Dreaming Dark. Is there any way you could check if he was under external influence?”
“I could do an autopsy, but I don’t know if it will yield any results. It will take the rest of the night though.”
“Very well. The rest of you can rest, I’ll stay and assist our host.”
While Orryn and Maathezar perform the autopsy, the rest of the group move to the empty room downstairs and set up their bedrolls on the floor for a much needed night’s sleep.
Olarune 21, 998 YK. The next morning, the whole crew gathers the get the results. The only thing odd with Aric‘s body was some necrotic flesh near his dragonmark and afflicting some of his internal organs. After gathering up the bodies of Aric and the skycoach pilot, the four get back in the skycoach as Orryn gets to work on Rampart’s body. The group flies to the nearest Watch Tower and turn themselves in.
For the next four hours, they are questioned and the Watch sends a patrol to check out the house in which the remains of the machine could be found. After their accounts are corroborated by witnesses, the group is tersely thanked for its service to Breland and released by the Watch.
They head back, on foot, to Orryn‘s workshop. When they arrive, they find Leucis in conversation with two familiar faces: Albert and Alphonse.
“Hey! It’s the guys who pay! I didn’t know you all knew Omen", says Albert.
“Didn’t know you knew Albert and Alphonse.”
“How do you know each other?”, asks Maathezar.
“I know most of the scoundrels around here”, answers Leucis proudly.
Albert and Alphonse both chuckle.
“We found some info for you, is there anywhere we can talk?”, asks Alphonse.
The group, with Albert and Alphonse in tow head to the room downstairs. Once there, they shut the door.
“You found the man we’re looking for?”, asks Maathezar.
“Not exactly; we found someone who knows him. His name is Cane, he runs an establishment called Cane’s Diamonds in the Dragoneyes district. When we showed him what the man looked like he said he recognized him, but he wants to talk to you guys directly.”
“Yeah”, says Albert, and his features change into that of a balding, overweight man. “Like so.” He changes back. “So… can we get paid now?”
Maathezar obliges. The two changelings thank him and leave.
Leucis is in the hallway when the group exists the room.
“I can take you there if you want.”
Still unfamiliar with Sharn, they agree.
The Dragoneyes, in Lower Tavick’s Landing, is a lively place, even in mid-afternoon. A red light district, it has services for every type of desires. From more traditional courtesans, to modified warforged and changelings able to cater their appearance to their client’s wishes. The establishment have luminous signs, some of which are animated through magwrights’ works. The group can’t move five feet without being groped, propositioned or almost dragged into an establishment.
Cane’s Diamonds is an ostentatiously decorated bordello, to the point of being gaudy. The group is taken to a mezzanine, where a large chair, akin to a throne is set up. Framed by two gorgeous elven women sits a warforged wearing a large hat, a cape, and holding a cane with a large jewel on top. Karnak‘s bigotry shows itself again as he stares dejectedly at the elves.
“The one and only. It’s an honor to welcome the heroes who saved Sharn to my establishment. Can I get you anything?”
“We were told you have some information for us.”
“Yes, I do. But first, I’d like to hear of your exploits.”
Zair launches into a lyrical retelling of their previous day, from their arrival at the Commemoration ceremony to their battle in the skies.
“Very nice! Well, then, the man you’re looking for is called Dorian something, he runs a jeweler’s shop in Redstone in Upper Dura. His last name was smoething like Redoak, or maybe Browncedar? Anyway, he’s the one who set these.” Cane shows his right hand. It is abnormally large, twice the size of the one holding his cane, and has diamond-tipped spikes on it.
“Could his name have been Blacktree?”
“Yes, that’s it, Dorian Blacktree”, confirms Cane.
“Thank you, if you’ll excuse us.”
“Of course! Come back anytime, but keep in mind, this bit of information was free, but next time won’t be.”
“First taste is always free kind of thing?”, asks Maathezar.
“No, but this case is of interest to me. I guess you could call me a patriot. I don’t like it when someone endangers my city.”
The group takes the public elevators up to the Upper Levels and walks from Tavick’s Landing to Dura. It takes then a few hours. They get to Dorian Blacktree‘s shop in the early evening. Dura is considered one of the least appealing districts of Sharn, but on the Upper Levels is is as respectable as the other wealthy areas of the city.
Questioning the clerk at the shop, they learn that Dorian Blacktree hasn’t been in for a few days, but that they can probably find him at his home in the nearby Overlook district.
The Blacktree household is a luxury townhouse among a row of similar lodgings. Light can be seen through the windows, hinting at someone’s presence inside.
Maathezar walks to the door and knocks. After a minute, he hears footsteps from inside and a well-groomed and finely dressed hobgoblin opens the door slightly. His eyes quickly scans the people outside and rests on their weapons a moment.
“Can I help you?”, he asks.
“Yes”, answers Maathezar, “we’d like to talk to Mister Dorian Blacktree. It’s about his brother.”
“Just a moment, I’ll see if he’s available.”
He shuts the door. The hobgoblin returns a minute later and opens the door, fully this time, and stands aside to let the group through.
“If you’ll please come with me.”
They follow him through a dark and sparsely decorated hallway, spying some stairs heading up, a living room and a small library along the way. He leads them to a dining room with a large oak table. At the far end is sitting Dorian Blacktree, almost the same as he was portrayed by Albert. His shoulders are hunched, and his eyes are a little red. He looks up as they come in.
“Please, have a seat. Brackett said you were here about my brother? Did you know him?”
“We did, we first met him a few years ago. Could we ask you a few questions about him?”
“Of course… wait… you’re the ones who killed him, aren’t you?”, asks Dorian Blacktree.
The four stare uncomfortably at each other.
“Yes, you fit the description the watchmen gave me. Don’t worry, I don’t begrudge you the act. I’m told he was trying to bring down one the of the city’s towers with some sort of machine. You must be here to get some sort of closure, right? Ask me and I’ll answer as best I can.”
The butler, Brackett, brings some tea for his master and the guests. As they sip their drinks, the group listens as Dorian Blacktree shares with them his brother‘s troubled past. He tells them how Aric was always strange and how he mostly kept to himself. They learn that he was admitted into a Jorasco mental health facility as a teenager after claiming he was hearing voices, but was released after a few months of therapy seemingly better. Then, he had finished his studies gotten a job as an aide to Bren ir’Gadden, but had returned from the war traumatized and nearly catatonic. He was once again admitted to the Jorasco mental hospital and had again made a recovery. However, upon his release, which was a year and a half before today, Aric had vanished. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of the family had told Dorian he had seen Aric in town. Dorian had then hired a group of inquisitives to find his brother. The investigators had succeeded, and Dorian had sent a message to his brother asking for a meeting. Aric agreed and they met at an inn. Over the course of the short conversation, Dorian realized his brother’s madness had overtaken him and that the brother he loved was gone. He kept rambling about those who were coming to take his gift away, about the fate of the world and how he would be great and powerful. When Dorian had suggested Aric needed helped, the madman had just laughed and left. That was the last time he had seen his brother alive.
After taking all of this in, the group confers with each other.
“This adds to my suspicions. I think he may have been possessed by the Dreaming Dark”, says Maathezar.
The others stare at him blankly.
“An ancient enemy of my people”, explains the kalashtar. He then turns to their host. “Might we perhaps have a look at his room?”
“Sure, if you think it might help you.”
They climb the stairs to the second floor. When they get to the top they are greeted by an angry looking old lady.
“Aric!”, she yells, “I told you not to bring any friends home! Go play outside!”
“This isn’t Aric, mother. Go back to your room.”
“You may be my husband but you can’t tell me what to do! I’m going back to my room, leave me alone!”
Dorian sighs. “Madness, it seems, runs in the family. Thankfully I’ve been spared so far.”
He shows them to Aric‘s room.
“Take the time you need, I’ll be downstairs if you need anything."
A quick search of the room reveals little of interest except a small hidden hole in the floor under the bed. It is empty, but there are traces of old dried blood. Maathezar examines the library and finds a few texts on magic and unusual creatures, one of which is about Quoris. He takes it with him when they leave.
As the group start walking away from the Blacktree residence, Zair suddenly remembers something Dorian had said. She stops.
“Dorian said he had hired inquisitives to find his brother and that they had. He must still have some information we could use!”
And so they make their way back. They speak with Brackett once more and Dorian Blacktree agrees to give them the file he had gotten from the inquisitives. In it, the group finds directions to a small house in Malleon’s Gate, the goblin slum where Olaakki had said he had seen Aric Blacktree. And so they make their way down to Lower Dura.
Finding the house proves to be of little difficulty, especially with two seasoned scouts and a former bounty hunter in the group. The windows are barred and shuttered and the door is locked. Basil leans against the door to listen inside, but all he can hear is a steady tock tock tock sound, like metal hitting wood at a regular interval. After conferring briefly, the group decides to simply knock on the door, hoping whoever’s inside will be as helpful as Aric’s brother. When they do, the sound stops for a minute before resuming. No one comes to the door. Basil uses his tools to get the door unlocked quietly. When they push it open, they hear the ringing of chimes attaches to the door’s other side.
They then hear a woman’s voice “Come in, honey. Supper’s almost ready”.
They walk into the apartment. Past a small entrance, they step into a living room furnished by a moldy couch and carpet. On a small table rests three candles lighting the room. On their left is an opening large enough for double doors that leads into a large kitchen. Behind a counter and facing another, a woman in a simple peasant dress and with long straw-colored hair stands with her back to them, chopping at a carcass with a large meat cleaver. She stops.
“You’re not my husband”, she says.
“No, we are not. Is your husband Aric Blacktree?” asks Maathezar.
“He is. Kids!” she yells, “we have guests, be polite come say hi”.
A door on the kitchen’s right wall, close to the counter, opens with a bang and two small creatures emerge through it, followed by a third. The first two creatures are hideous and have four arms and two mouths each. They are dressed in children’s cute sailor outfits and wear wigs of golden curls. They are each clutching a club in a hand. The third creature is some sort of animal, looking to be part reptile and part bat. The woman whirls around as her “children” come in. She, too, is hideously deformed. Two large tentacles snake out from under her dress as she charges towards the group.
Karnak d’Vadalis, his wolf Frostbite and Maathezar rush forward as the dolgaunt “mother” lashes at them with her tentacles. The two dolgrim lurk forward and try to get into flanking position. Basil looses an arrow that turns into a swarm of bats, filling half the kitchen with the flying mammals and hampering his foes’ movements. The flying monstrosity pounces across the room at Maathezar, biting him and retreating back to its perch on the far counter top. Zair fights back by using her magic to create a sharp sound staggering the creatures and giving opening to her allies. When the “mother” is brought down by the group’s combined efforts, the two “children” snarl and yell obscenities at them, decrying the death of their mum. They too, soon join their mothers in death. Their “pet” falls last as the melee attackers finally pin it into a corner.
A search of the lodgings reveal a strangely normal looking apartment, despite the monsters who inhabited it. In one of the rooms they find a desk in which are Aric Blacktree’s journals. In a small room is a chalk-drawn replica of the Prophecy Mark the group had found at the Tower of Scars four years earlier.
A quick read of the journals show that they seem to start relatively coherent and gradually slip into the mad discourse of a diseased mind. References to them are increasingly frequent as Aric had grown to blame them from keeping him from his “gift”. The group surmises that four years ago he had hoped to develop a dragonmark by exposing himself to the Prophecy Mark and that their intervention had foiled his plans.
They leave the apartment and travel back to Bollock’s workshop to relay their findings. The gnome listens to the story of their day and how they have come to the conclusion that the Blacktree investigation is, for the time being, over. Orryn then offers them to stay on as he was hoping to start a secondary business venture in the empty locale below his workshop: an inquisitive agency. Having no better prospects a head of them, the four conscious members of the group agree.