AoA Session Intros: 136-150

[Author’s note: What are these “AoA” tags? Check out this post to know why I’m writing these and why they don’t have anything to do with superheroes. After writing only the occasional cut-scene, I decided to do a quick narrative before every Pathfinder session instead of a recap. We already had someone in the group writing recaps, so mine felt redundant, and there were too many opportunities for fiction writing that I was letting pass me by. Below are a collection of intros from our sessions. I don’t love using present tense, but it’s what fits best into these tabletop roleplaying sessions.]

Session 136: Gifts from the Guilds

Aldane runs, such that he’s able, yelling and throwing servants out of the way as he goes. When he shows up to the stables, he is sweaty, red-faced, and has mustard in his beard.

“What!? Have you–? By the gods, man, you did it!” and he begins laughing, loudly and near hysterics.

Then, all at once, he grows quiet. Like a father first-touching his newborn, Aldane Zulran slowly, slowly walks over to Duneshadow and places a hand on his neck. The guildmaster closes his eyes and sighs.

After a full minute, he opens them and they are filled with tears. “How have you done this thing?” he whispers. “You are a master of your craft my elven friend. Legendary! You are named Owl for your eyes of a raptor, yes?”

Session 137: Xotanispawn

It is a dark, desert night, with only a sliver of moon in the sky. Owl has positioned himself over one hundred feet from the horses and has remained perfectly still for over three hours, waiting.

Yet despite the darkness and distance, it is the elven archer that first notices the horses’ behavior, whinnying and kicking their hooves nervously. Silently, he reaches for an arrow from his quiver.

Obedience Fletcher, sitting atop a magical perch floating fifty feet above the desert floor, is the second to notice the horses’ jitters. As he pulls an arrow from his own quiver, he sees the sand near the southernmost horse begin to shift and dance.

The monster erupts from the ground with speed and savagery. It is indeed larger than an elephant, a black beetle glowing with an inner, molten furnace. The horses rear and scream as Obe and Owl almost simultaneously pull back their bowstrings.

Session 138: Deeper into the Guilds

Sabine finds the purple-haired gnome in her office that morning. She greets her with a concerned smile.

“Ah, Sabine. Did you come all alone? How did you make it through the city?”

Sabine swallows, the scaled skin on her neck moving. “It was not easy,” she says in a whisper.

Exavisu sighs and picks up a scroll where she has clearly either taken notes or someone else’s notes have been given to her.

“The news on you is not good, Sabine. As I mentioned in your sending spell, you are indeed wanted by the Zephyr Guard for murder of a Dean of the College of Dimensional Studies. Many people saw you enter with a student there, a human woman named Parnoosh who has since gone missing. Parnoosh told the Zephyr Guard and other bystanders that you had convinced her that whatever had you banned earlier from the College was a misunderstanding. The student said that you asked an audience with the Dean, a longtime instructor named Behfar, and that Parnoosh was totally fooled by your,” she clears her throat, “treachery. Once in Behfar’s office, the student said that you produced a poisoned dagger and said you were seeking vengeance for being banned from the school.

“Unfortunately, many people saw you enter with Parnoosh, and several said that the student was inconsolable afterwards, with Behfar dead by poison and you nowhere to be found. It looks quite bad, I’m afraid.

“Behfar was considered a government official. Do you know the laws of Katapesh, Sabine? Murder of a guild member, Zephyr Guard, or government official is punishable by execution. No trial. You will be killed on sight.”

“What is the crime for killing someone else?” Sabine asks, aghast.

Exavisu waves. “Not as severe. Six months in prison, a fine, and an official warning. The point is that you cannot show your face on the streets of Katapesh. Ever.”

Session 139: Piroozan and Wahar

The goblin mage Piroozan is leaving with the last dregs of the crowd, in a group of a half dozen stadium attendees. It doesn’t look like he’s with the others, just part of the crowd. As always, he’s looking shifty and sinister, bulbous head in a broad red hood, orange eyes darting left and right.

He looks in Jethro’s direction and eyes widening when he sees Margaret. He charges the ratfolk paladin.

“Oh! The Skewer Rat! Now that is a turn of events I didn’t anticipate. You made me a handsome fortune against that plague giant, yes. Tell me something, if you would…” He reaches into his cloak.

…may I have your autograph?” And he pulls out a large dagger, the sheath of which is marked up with all sorts of writing on it. At first you think they’re runes, but as you get closer you see they are scrawled signatures.

“Do you have an inkwell and quill? If not, I’m sure I can find one.”

Session 140: Duneshaker

“And now, it is time for the main event,” the same goblin barker you remember from earlier in the week screams into his brass megaphone. “It is a special day, everyone. Though a newcomer to our rings, the Skewer Rat has clearly become a favorite. Earlier this week, she singlehandedly defeated a giant many times her size without even breaking a sweat! And she is not alone this time! The Skewer Rat has brought friends, including a veteran of the Coliseum: The Black Bear! And she brings newcomers! Archer, Scarface, and Goldeneyes!” The crowd roars all around you like a physical thing, pounding you from all sides.

“And our Skewer Rat will need the support, because we have a beast unlike anything seen in this ring for one hundred years! After destroying two villages in southern Katapesh, the Aspis Consortium has captured and delivered a legendary behemoth to our midst. Be afraid, because it is time to unleash… the DUNESHAKER!”

Musclebound men and women who are clearly slaves have chains attached to the giant metal grate in the center of the gladiator ring. They strain and pull, digging their feet into the sandy floor. With the sounds of the crowd raining down, the grate slides to the side.

Just then, robed figures all around the perimeter of the stands raise their arms and begin chanting. Sabine sees clearly what they are doing. A dozen or more mages are casting Wall of Force to encircle the perimeter, where the coliseum walls end and the stands begin, protecting the crowd.

When the grate is fully pulled aside the slaves run, sprinting to an open door that closes behind them with a heavy boom. The audience grows silent, holding their collective breath.

You all hear the rattle of something enormous, and true to its name the ground shakes and a giant insect begins pulling itself from the hole. It looks like this.

“Place your bets, place your bets! The heroes against the mythical Duneshaker! It is the thing of legends, ladies and gentlemen! Who will prevail?”

Session 141: Challenging Sand Claws

“Welcome back to the Grand Coliseum in majestic Katapesh, City of Trade. Listen to that crowd roar! What do you think of our feature match so far, Statler?”

“Thanks Waldorf. It’s been a bit one-sided, if I’m honest. The Street Rat has brought a mighty force with her into the ring, two spellcasters, an archer, and of course the mighty Black Bear. It seems the legendary Duneshaker we were promised is overmatched.”

“Yes, the entire group seems to be levitating, keeping the Duneshaker from knocking them down with its very movement. How did they know to cast that spell from the very start?”

“It’s a mystery, Waldorf. And their ability to attack it from distance while the Black Bear and Skewer Rat engage it in melee is making short work of the beast.”

“Yes yes. And spells to enlarge the Skewer Rat and Sarenrae cleric to match the Duneshaker’s reach, Statler, and even more spellcasting to the entire group to make them attack almost faster than we can track! It seems we’ll all be going home early tonight.”

“On one hand, it’s the most impressive gladiator team we’ve seen in memory. Surely the city will be talking about them tomorrow.”

“Yes yes, but on the other hand, we’re denied any drama, Statler!”

“Well, the Duneshaker has blinded the cleric and injured the immensely popular Black Bear. Perhaps there’s drama left, eh Waldorf?”

“Perhaps, Statler, but I think this may be over before it’s even begun.”

“We shall see.”

“I suppose we shall. Now look!”

Session 142: The Ibis Fountain

Obedience Fletcher watches from his perch atop a marketplace roof, the noontime sun pressing onto his neck and shoulders. Under the brim of his hat, his red eyes watch the four figures below, at the edge of the market square.

Two Zephyr Guards, the city’s police force, are talking to merchants, buyers, and passerbys. Their bright attire–purple, turquoise, and blue robes and headscarves–make them easy to pick out of the crowd, as do the heavy crossbows slung across their backs and curved scimitars hanging from their belt sashes.

One of the Zephyr Guard, a dark-skinned, human woman, holds a parchment with some sort of face on it, and she’s pointing bystanders to it and asking questions. Everyone is shaking their heads and edging away.

Perhaps it is the other two figures causing the crowd’s unease. Nearly ten feet tall, their bodies are made entirely of what looks like burnished brass. Bright azure light leaks from every joint and crack, visible even in the bright noontime sun. They move stiffly, clearly automaton constructs rather than living beings.

Obe has heard whispered rumors of the aluum, the construct guards used by the elusive Pactmasters to guard their palace. Aluum are animated in part by a trapped soul within their breastplate. Yet rumors also talk about the spiritbound aluum, the elite entities used to quell riots or assassinate enemies of the state. These aluum have dozens of souls trapped within them, usually criminals whom the Pactmasters wish to deny accessing the Great Beyond. Obe’s gut tells him that, without a doubt, he is viewing two spiritbound aluum entering the square.

His eyes flick to the Ibis Fountain. Jethro and Margaret are there, also watching the figures with wariness. Sabine, it seems, has disappeared.

Obe looks back at the aluum, studying them. Suddenly both pairs of eyes flash blue brightly. Then, in unison, the two aluum turn to the Zephyr Guard. Each raises a fist faster than Obe would have thought possible and crushes it into the guard, and each human crumbles to the ground, stunned.

Someone in the square screams and the marketplace square erupts in pandemonium.

Session 143: Making Plans

Someone at the lead of what is becoming a mob, bolder than the others, turns to Jethro. “You and your companions have saved many lives today, priest. Though you are clearly not from Katapesh, you speak for Sarenrae. Who is responsible for this madness?”

Session 144: Toilday Morning

The groups wakes in darkness, hours before dawn.

It is only Sabine Sterling that had a dreamless night, arriving only two hours ago from her conversations with The Seer, Jumpy the halfling necromancer, and the artificer Dariyadel.

Margaret Arodeni, of course, has experienced a night plagued by her patron, vague whispers of victory and power in absolute darkness while bees spiraled over her naked body, submerged below the neck.

Glennhal Grandyr has dreamed of himself as a giant, rainbow-colored owl, carrying the camel Duneshadow in his claws as he soars over the nighttime desert.

Jethro Vermillion has woken from an uncomfortable dream of sex with a golden-masked, elf-eared woman in white robes.

And finally, Obedience Fletcher has dreamed of hunting red-feathered, flightless birds with his bow alongside the gnome Samineh, both riding stags with huge antlers and leather armor.

Session 145: Versus Sand Claws

Sabine Sterling glimpses Uri Zandivar deep within the Red Pyramid, scribbling furiously, and then her eyes snap open. It is not the face of Sabine we see, but instead a middle-aged human woman, three scars running horizontally, one above her eye and two below. For a moment that no one sees, the disguise flickers as Sabine recovers from her spell. She blinks and rediscovers her surroundings.

Everywhere, the Grand Coliseum crowd roars like a dragon. She fights the urge to cap her hands over her ears it is so loud. To her immediate right, two men are screaming Sand Claws’ name, clearly drunk and jostling Sabine. To her left is a young boy with a wicker Skewer Rat doll clutched in his small fist. His mother is trying to speak to him, but the crowd swallows her words. He stares, wide eyed and lost in the moment, down below.

Sabine follows his gaze. There are his companions, Margaret with her sword drawn and shield raised, Owl with his bowstring pulled tight to his cheek, and Jethro, whose eyes shine golden even in daylight. The three look impossibly small on the arena floor, surrounded by the cacophonous arena.  

Sand Claws looks swift and deadly, flanked by two giants whose only similarity is the third eye on each forehead, nestled between twin horns. What were these creatures? Sabine’s analytical mind begins to search the tomes she’s read to identify them.

Yet her concentration is broken by the sudden eruption of noise. Impossibly, the crowd becomes even more deafening as the combatants swing into action.

Session 146: The Wish and the Bees

The crowd emits a collective gasp as the gray-skinned giant steps out of the shadows and swings her bladed instrument into Jethro Vermillion.

From across the arena floor, Margaret Arodeni spins to see Jethro’s enormous, glowing form crumple to the sand. He falls to lay next to Owl, who looks like a discarded puppet amidst the giants surrounding him.

“Ha!” Sand Claws whoops. “You are alone now, Skewer Rat.”

In her platemail, shining in the sun, Margaret sees the shadow yai sneer over Jethro’s body. She sees the huge, fur-covered bowman pull back his bowstring even as his summoned mantis clicks its mandibles. Sand Claws clashes her twin kukri together, spinning and dancing in for the attack.

Session 147: New Faces

We see Jethro standing over Margaret’s corpse, hands raised as he projects the last words of his eulogy. Sand Claws’ bee-swarmed body lies off to one side. The cleric looks fatigued and bloodstained.

From the arena floor we pan up, slow motion, to a small, young Kellish woman with long black hair, wearing a simple white chemise, embroidered with a red triangle. She sits still, her hands clenched, eyes wide. Everyone’s faces around her are white and terrified, clinging to every word from the Sarenrae cleric below. The young woman’s body trembles, her own face ashen.

We fade out.

We fade in on Glennhal Grandyr, the man known as Owl. He stands on the bloody sand of the arena floor, seemingly oblivious to everything going on around him. His weapons, buckler, and pieces of armor lay at his feet as he carefully, almost reverently, unfastens the remnants of his armor. Eventually he stands in only the sweat-stained, green cloth beneath. His large, yellow eyes scan the items arrayed around his now-bare feet.

He looks up to the blue sky, a dome above the Grand Coliseum, his face inscrutable.  

Behind him, in the distance, we see Hajir, the Black Bear, sprinting towards Margaret’s body with a parade of gladiators behind him, tears streaking his cheeks.

Our scene shifts back to the Kellish woman, still shaken, standing from her seat in the arena.

Now she is exiting the front gates. She passes a knot of people yelling and arguing, everyone angry. One voice rises above the others.

“No! We are not honoring any bets placed on the match! There was no winner. No winner! Take your money and go! No bets honored today! Take it up with the Pactmasters if you must! Out! Get out!”

The woman passes Owl outside the Coliseum, still standing only in his shift. Jethro has a hand on his shoulder and is talking fervently with him. Sabine stands nearby in her scarfaced disguise, lips pressed tight and eyes haunted. Owl gently removes the cleric’s hand, shakes his head, and turns his back on his companions. He leaves the pair at the front gates of the arena, walking in the same direction as the young woman. Jethro is yelling something we cannot hear as the sound warbles confusedly in our shot.

Our scene shifts again back to the woman, now wandering through the streets of Katapesh. She is blank-faced as a street vendor speaks to her but the sound of our image is still distorted.

Finally the vendor’s voice cuts through. “Do you want the red thread? Which red?”

The woman blinks, suddenly aware of her surroundings. “The burgundy. Sorry, I lost myself for a moment.”

The vendor replies, “That’s alright lady. You look like you need a rest.”

“Yes, a nap… the mending can wait.”

Our scene fades back on a now empty Grand Coliseum. Only Sand Claws’ body remains, untouched where it fell. From the hips up it is an unrecognizable mass of raw flesh. Several dozen bees and wasps still cling to the meat and a cloud of the insects buzzes overhead in a cloud.

Our camera zeroes in on one buzzing wasp as it pulls away from the swarm. The wasp flies up and over the arena walls, off into the fading sunset over the city.

The scene shifts to Jethro, Sabine, and Obe standing in an alleyway. Obedience Fletcher, stone-faced, listens while his two companions explain the events of the afternoon. The sky beyond the alleyway is a deep orange and red. The camera zeroes in on the red…

As the camera pulls back, we see our young Kellish woman in a red nightgown in a small dwelling filled with cloth, thread, and various sewing implements. She lays her head down, eyes wide. She drinks a concoction, and slowly drifts off just as the sunlight fades from a nearby window.

Black.

In the blackness, we hear a buzzing sound.

We’re now above the city, a close-up view of a wasp flying. In the distance, the Red Pyramid.

The wasp flies closer, approaching a small, sand-colored building near the pyramid. It zips through a window left ajar, and our camera follows it. Inside we see the small seamstress lying asleep in her red nightgown, beneath a light sheet. The wasp flies up to her pillow, lands, and walks up to her face. It pauses for a moment, before climbing inside the woman’s nose.

A long moment passes.

The woman stirs.

Her body suddenly bucks, her back arches.

She screams. “No!”

Her body begins shaking as though being thrown about from the inside out.

“No!” She screams in desperation.

Then from her mouth comes another voice. Beautiful. Ancient. Otherworldly.

“Quiet my dear Sahba. Let mamma take over.”

“No!”

Her body buckles, we hear joints crack and pop. Simultaneous voices emerge from her mouth. Screams of pain. Laughter. Cackling laughter.

Session 148: A Deadly Poison

Jethro is ushered by Aldane’s personal physician, a halfling named Doctor Remie, to the guildmaster’s bedroom. The room reeks of the pungent sweat of illness, and Jethro finds the obese guildmaster laying in soaked sheets, his face shining wetly. He is panting.

“Who is there? Is that my raptor?”

“He keeps asking for this raptor,” Dr. Remie says. “Do you know what that might be about?”

“He is confused,” she explains. “And seems to be having waking nightmares, something about fires and dangerous beasts.” And then Aldane begins screaming.

Session 149: The Golden Serpent

Down by the southern dock district is the Scorpion’s Sting, a surprisingly easy-to-find base of operations for Hahcuss Hrann. Whereas the poisoner storefronts are part of the Nightstalls, and thus inherently difficult to find, the guild headquarters is well known. It is a testament to how much poison and drugs are a part of everyday life in Katapesh.

The Scorpion’s Sting is a large tent whose sides are embroidered with stylized scorpions. Inside, the tables that line its interior walls are covered in jars, bowls, bottles, vials, and pouches of powders, pastes, soluble tablets, liquids, and dust. Some of them are vile smelling, others pleasantly fragrant, while still others are completely odorless.

There, working with several assistants, is Hahcuss Hrann. At the guild gathering he wore somewhat fine clothes, but now he is decked out in soiled workclothes and leather gloves, wearing protective goggles.

“Ah! So you survived the night after all! Good. I have been working on your mysterious poison. Only one breakthrough yet, but progress. Any new symptoms or insights, my young man?”

Session 150: The Council of Guilds

[not technically the intro, but the end of the session]

Uri stands. He is tall, handsome, imposing… easily the most impressive human you’ve seen in your life, his presence rivaling that of even the dragon Veshumirix.

“Honored Pactmasters,” he nods his head. “To my guildmaster friends and colleagues. These are grievous accusations.

“Yet I would ask that you consider the source of these accusations. They are a band of bloodthirsty mercenaries, sent from another continent, with no respect for Katapesh laws. Let us examine them closely.

“Their spellcaster has murdered a Dean of the College of Dimensional Studies for seemingly no reason and with no connection to the Scarlet Triad. When found, she should be executed immediately by the laws of the city.

“Their champion of Iomedae spoke of virtue and honor. Yet when bested in fair combat in the Grand Coliseum by the Gladiator Guild’s guildmaster Sand Claws, the creature vomited a torrent of demonic bees to consume her. Thousands witnessed it.

“I have in my possession a seemingly endless list of murders in several countries. Scarlet Triad agents slaughtered en masse. Property destroyed. Government officials coerced. And the common threads are a priest of Sarenrae and a mysterious genteel goblin assassin.

“They have not only killed Sand Claws. Aldane Zulran lies dead. The honorable Imperial Union of Breeders is not even present today as a result. They say I killed him. Yet who has been staying at his compound? The pattern here is obvious.

“It is clear this band of mercenaries wishes to do me and my organization harm. They have grievances. Yet when they entered the city of Katapesh, did they seek an audience with me? No. All saw their archer in the Grand Coliseum fire an arrow into the crowd at me, a clear assassination attempt.

“By the gods, look at them!” He points to the Spirit of Vengeance and Ogrin. “These are not forces of justice. They are monsters and murderers. They are agents of chaos and death.

“I have operated within Katapesh for decades now. Lawfully. I have provided protection and goods to support the guilds and commerce. I have profited and used those profits to strengthen the city. Never have I acted against the Pactmasters or their laws. Meanwhile, this band of monsters has done nothing but spit in the Pactmasters’ eyes. It cannot stand. Not only am I innocent of these claims, but I recommend these creatures be banished from our fair city immediately. Let the reign of chaos and murder end. Let the will of Abadar reign. Thank you.”

There is a moment of silence as everyone looks around the room.

It is Alager Jermell, head of the Farmers’ Union, who clears his throat and stands.

“You have NOT provided protection, Uri. The Farmers’ Union begged you for help when our caravans were ravaged outside the city. You did nothing. These outsiders risked their lives to end the threat that you ignored.

Hajir stands. “Sand Claws was a Scarlet Triad plant. She threatened to destroy the gladiators guild and no one loved her. The Skewer Rat will always be a hero within the ranks of the gladiators for killing her within the arena. The Skewer Rat was noble and pure.”

Hahcuss Hran stands as Alager sits. “They did not kill Aldane. It was a hired poisoner, the same poisoner that looked to kill the priest there. I did the diagnosis myself.”

Exavisu stands. “You operate within Katapesh laws and seek to protect us? To strength the guilds? How dare you, sir. My enslavement and auction reveal your lies!”

Huena Ilvos stands. “Hm. Evidence has come to light that perhaps the elven sorcerer did not in fact kill Dean Behfar. If the Scarlet Triad seeks to impugn the lawfulness of these outsiders, I would not include the incident at the College of Dimensional Studies. I have instructed the Zephyr Guard as such.”

Jelek Jaziman is whispering fiercely into Uri’s ear. Uri is watching the proceedings with a grim frown. Eventually he pushes Jelek away and silences him with a gesture.

Eventually, the Pactbroker Hashim ibn Sayyid stands and raises his hands for silence.

“The motion has been made. Should the Pactmasters formally censure the Scarlet Triad? Doing so will result in fines and the revocation of special protections. It is time to vote. Because of the severity of this motion, the Pactmasters require two-thirds majority, or eight votes of yes.”

Exavisu leans over to you, “This is unusual. I am less confident than I just was.”

“Uri Zandivar has made a counter-motion. If the current motion fails, we will consider the motion of banishing Jethro Vermillion and his colleagues.

“The Imperial Order of Breeders, not present, will abstain.”

“The Jewelers’ Guild votes yes.” Exavisu Kerndallion

“That is one vote in favor.”

“The Fleshmonger Federation votes no.” Sehtba al-Izora

“That is one vote in favor. One against.”

“The League Of Peshmongers abstains.” Treman “Spikeface” Ulkulratu

“The Carpenter’s Guild abstains.” Torbin Dooly

Alager Jermell makes a disgusted sound. “The Farmers’ Union votes yes.”

“That is two votes in favor. One against.”

“The Fraternal Order Of The Anvil votes yes.” Pardu Zelver

“That is three votes in favor. One against.”

“Um. Yes. The Gladiators’ Guild, uh, votes yes.” Hajir

“That is four votes in favor. One against.”

“The Order Of Alchemists And Potion Makers abstains.” Okztrok

“The Poison Makers’ Guild votes yes.” Hahcuss Hran.

“That is five votes in favor. One against.”

“The Guild Of Bakers And Butchers votes yes.” Stral looks fearfully at the Spirit of Vengeance.

“That is six votes in favor. One against.”

“The League Of Upright Barristers votes yes.” Huena Ilvos

“That is seven votes in favor. One against.”

All eyes swing to Sedrani Vashnarstill. For a moment she seems to savor the attention, the corner of her mouth twitching up. She looks at Obedience Fletcher with those unreadable, dead eyes as she speaks.

“The Guild Of Street Sweepers And Dung Carters votes yes.”

The Pactbroker looks back at the Pactmaster in attendance, who nods once.

“It is done. The motion passes. The Scarlet Triad is hereby censured. All special protections and boons extended to the Scarlet Triad are rescinded. The organization may still operate within the city, but attacks against them are against private citizens only.”

There is a brief time of pandemonium as everyone in the council hall begin talking at once. Exavisu, Alager, and others are calling for the Scarlet Triad to be held accountable for their failings and crimes. Jelek, several people in the gallery including the large Aspis Consortium representative, are yelling about injustice.

Uri Zandivar stands. “May I speak, Pactbroker?”

The Pactbroker calls for order and raises his hands. He holds this pose and, over the course of about a minute, everyone calms down and grows quiet. The Pactbroker nods to Uri.

Uri has a light sheen of sweat but is otherwise poised and confident. A small sneer crosses his face as he speaks.

“To say I am disappointed by today’s vote is an understatement. You all have been deceived by lawless bandits, erasing decades of support and services from the Scarlet Triad. The moral hypocrisy of many guildmasters here, peddling their own sinister wares, is difficult to stomach.

“So I am announcing the Scarlet Triad’s departure from the city of Katapesh, effective immediately. We will seek more enlightened and welcoming allies elsewhere.

“It will take us several days to move from the Red Pyramid, and with these murderous outlaws hunting us I fear for my and my organizations’ safety. In addition, I fear for the safety of my guests within the Red Pyramid, including Pactmaster Tsandarkon, who began staying with us two days’ hence.”

The Pactmaster in the back stands abruptly. Uri’s eyes do not leave the Pactmaster.

“I am sure everyone wishes us all the utmost safety in this transition given our decades of service to the city. Let us all get through our departure without incident or… bloodshed.”

Several guildmasters stand, outraged, and begin advancing on Uri and the Pactmaster in the back claps once. Everyone falls silent.

The Pactbroker looks back and then stands. “The Pactmasters command that no one intervene in the Scarlet Triad’s exit of the city for three days. Uri Zandivar has three days to leave the city and return all guests unharmed. It is law.”

Uri nods once and heads for the exit in a rush, Jelek Jaziman at his heels.

Chaos again erupts in the Council chamber.

“This meeting is adjourned!” The Pactbroker yells into the noise.

The Pactbroker makes a beeline for Jethro. “Gather your companions and follow me, please.”

He brings you to a back room, spacious but not lavish. There is the Pactmaster from the Council meeting and another, with the same robes but in a different color.

“You are in the presence of Pactmasters Angruul and Morvithus. The honor that they bestow upon–”

“There is no need for that, Hashim” one of the Pactmasters says. Its voice is otherworldly, synthesized, and non-binary.

“We have always known that Uri Zandivar was a snake, but his imprisonment of our colleague is an unexpected gambit. We learned of his disappearance just before the Council meeting and had suspicions but no proof. Now that we know the situation, we wish to enlist your aid. I believe our goals are in accord.

“The city is under order to leave the Scarlet Triad alone. We must stand back and give Uri his chance at escape. But you, as he so forcefully argued, are outsiders with a grudge against him.

“We ask that you raid the Red Pyramid. Now. Before their defenses are set. Do whatever damage you wish to the Scarlet Triad. Destroy it utterly if you wish. Kill Uri Zandivar if you wish. But recover Pactmaster Tsandarkon unharmed. Do this, and there will be no repercussions of your actions from the city and you will be well rewarded for your service.”

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