Having vanquished the cannibal behind the Gate, the heroes return victorious and claim their handsome reward of pocket change and suspicious substances from Utadas Tensar’s office. Still hurt and tired from their clashes with various Cagers, they spend the night away at the Thorny Bush, digesting all these new experiences. The wake-up call the next morning would turn out mortifying for certain individuals, vaguely aware of the lurking horror ahead, but for the time being, sleep remains a sound option in order to momentarily forget.
Morning arrives and with it, a promise and a burden in the form of a halfling messenger from the Hall of Records. Teera and Sterling pay the snappy courier with some gold and Sterling’s green feather in order to finally receive the information everyone having dealt with the Takers knows will cost them dearly. Browsing through the alien notation and glimpsing a number of details about their fiendish quarry, the two find the invoice for this information on the other side of the parchment. Sterling is reduced to a gibbering pile at the sight of the final sum, prompting the rest to investigate the reason behind his collapse. None can say they are delighted with the amount they are now bound to since even combining all the resources currently at their disposal, the bill of nearly 600 gold pieces cannot be handled in full. Some such as Dantalus react with snarky epicaricacy, others in less obviously accusatory ways. While technically the invoice only mentions the Thorny Bush as the client, echoes of Rosie’s promise to find a way to use the Princess in order to make up for any payments the party might rack up silence thoughts about running from this responsibility. Hopefully, the missing remainder can be repossessed from the fiend now that a trail has been found, albeit centuries old.
What catches everyone’s eye about the document is how Sitri seems to have been enslaved during his stay in Sigil, subject to someone going by the name ‘Zincir’. Moreover, it seems he was bound to a locale called ‘The Chain and Whip’ on Salt Street. While everyone is getting pumped at the prospect of having successfully tracked the cambion, Erdan reminds them of how the dates on the document correspond to time long past. Nothing ensures that this information is still up to date after two centuries. Their initial enthusiasm curbed, everyone still decides that this lead which cost them dearly is their best bet for the time being. As such, they set off. First, they would visit Tensar in order to fund the missing remainder with another odd job if possible. Dantalus also needs some new spell components from the bazaar. Afterwards, they should be able to enlist law enforcement to help and finally ambush the cambion rather than vice versa.
Unfortunately, despite his best intentions, Tensar is unable to provide the party with additional tasks as he wishes to maximise the number he can help survive the unforgiving nature of the Cage and there are only a limited number of jobs suitable for the likes of the party. He promises to send a message to the Thorny Bush if a request befitting the party arrives. Continuing on their outlined circuit, the heroes reach the bazaar where Erdan, upon hearing the reason Dantalus needs to shop, realises that their best bet would likely be Tivvum’s Antiquities which lies just by the Great Bazaar. Inside, they find the old lady, Alluvius ‘Lu’ Ruskin, in her dark glasses and green jacket. She claims to have had some fine pigeon for breakfast earlier, providing her with what the half-elf seeks. She fetches a box of various feathers from which Dantalus may pick whatever he requires. Meanwhile, Sterling attempts to fund the repayment for his earlier blunder by haggling over his horn in which Lu shows mild interest. Teera also has her assess the strange spices on her person, received as a part of the reward for clearing the trade route. Apparently, they are spices and the most obvious use is as a condiment although the powder is inherently magical in some way. In the end, the only deal struck is over twenty feathers for a piece of silver each and the journey continues.
While they have been walking around Sigil, Dantalus has been hatching a song to describe his perspective on Sterling’s actions thus far. Once it is finalised and the bard begins accompanying their walk through the Cage with the less than flattering ballad, the guardsman snaps and attempts to tackle the half-elf who easily evades this rush and continues his business as usual. The interlude ends with a silenced Sterling seething but unable to lay a finger on his tormentor for the time being.
Once everyone arrives in the Lady’s Ward, they face a decision on whether to contact the Harmonium or the Mercykillers about Sitri. In the end, they decide against approaching the Mercykillers due to their reputation. Instead, the party heads towards the city barracks with Sterling to the fore. They negotiate with some guards outside the gates and manage to convince them of crimes being perpetuated under their noses but of a kind which may only be discussed with an officer. One of the guards leads the party inside and is immediately replaced at the gate. It turns out the barracks is completely symmetrical as the party heads to the first floor where they are greeted by a grizzled, scarred lieutenant while their attendant waits outside. The exchange boils down to Sterling claiming that a bordello on Salt Street is involved in keeping slaves as well as housing a criminal and demanding to be allowed to settle the situation as a representative of the law and the lieutenant sternly explaining just how deluded this batch of clueless primes at his reception are exactly. Their only evidence is a document from two centuries ago when no laws were in effect against slavery. They are demanding to be granted a right to potentially violent interference, a right reserved to the members of the Harmonium and other city officials. In the end, he simply uses the opportunity to spread the faction’s propaganda and even granting Sterling a copy of the Harmonium members’ code – a handy scroll packed tightly enough to be weaponized. Afterwards, the party is led out by the same Hardhead who let them in, whose only reaction to the whole farce is a single sigh and a brief shaking of his head.
Despite this lack of luck with the Harmonium, no one is suggesting to go see the Mercykillers as an alternative and as such, the heroes push forwards, towards Salt Street. On their way, they pass both the courts and the prison from behind and finally reach the Temple of the Abyss. Realising the potential connection between the fiend they are tracking and this nest of evil, some of the party members suggest investigating the temple while they are at it. However, Teera realises just how bad an idea this would be: the cambion they are looking for has a name granted in Infernal and thus likely descends from devils rather than demons. Additionally, she herself reeks of the Nine Hells which would place her in grave danger, were she to enter a temple dedicated to the mortal enemies of her infernal progenitors. As such, this plan is buried for the time being.
Instead, everyone’s attention turns to Salt Street and after a brief inspection, it becomes obvious that no place called ‘The Chain and Whip’ remains here. Instead, there are a few other locales, and the first to be inspected is the ‘Dead Sea’ tavern, owned by what seems to be a vaguely aquatic dwarf, standing in a pool of water behind the counter. Not wanting to waste the precious money he still has towards the full payment of his debt, Sterling opens by ordering the cheapest drink available. Much to his disgust, this turns out to be a glass of water scooped fresh from the pool riddled with a slimy film excreted by the dwarf and the occasional hair of unknown origin. The rest simply order lunch which turns out to be a plate of cold-smoked salmon, some bread, and a mug of ale on top. While they are eating, Vahedra keeps asking the proprietor questions about Salt Street and its denizens. Apparently, the place they are looking for has not existed for at least some decades now, and as such, their best bet to find someone acquainted with it would be either an elf or some form of immortal outsider.
The next stop is the ‘Law and Order’ inn, more or less across the street. Turns out, it is manned entirely by a horde of Modrons. After some initial trouble communicating with the attendant following a strict routine, the one in charge is summoned successfully. Since this cubic modron does not compute matters not directly related to the inn itself, everyone just sends word to current occupants. After some time, a visibly tired drow makes their way past the party, giving them a killing glare. After some persuasion, he simply reminds them that asking people staying at an inn about such local matters may not be the brightest of ideas. As a result of this reminder and confirmation that the actual owner will not be around for the next five days or so, the frustrated party leaves the inn behind.
A few options remain. Sterling is pulling towards the ‘Eye of the Beholder’ clothes outlet. Begrudgingly, the others follow his blind lead only to have him turn around upon entering since the red-headed proprietor is obviously human and as such, an unlikely source. Finally, the next stop then becomes the ‘Nail of Dis’ gambling hall – an oddity almost at the level of a bordello, considering the proximity of both the Harmonium and the Mercykillers. Both Giggler and Sterling stay outside. Inside, the rest are welcomed with the sight of six or so veiled and robed attendants clad in black and adorned with a red and white target insignia, as well as two Mercykillers on a break and none other than Izador, thought long dead.
Immediately, Dantalus springs to action and rushes to greet Izador who collects himself after the initial shock of facing the party. The bard begins to aggressively and loudly question the tout about his involvement and feigned death. At first, the tiefling attempts to laugh such accusations off but in a split second, his whole habitus changes. Speaking in a completely different manner and without any of the cheerful lightness so characteristic of Izador, the person in front of the party frantically explains, in a hushed voice, how he is simply someone borrowing this face and since the tiefling has turned out to already have died, there should be no problem. As Dantalus keeps harassing him, he finally yields that when the owner, Focalor, passed him earlier, he did sense her thinking about the person the party is looking for. Afterwards, he suddenly goes completely pale and shakes Dantalus and the rest off, opting to pay his tab instead. Still donning the face of Izador, he rushes out and is spotted by Sterling who decides to follow the tiefling who morphs into the image of a random passerby. After a while, the shadowed person just suddenly turns to Sterling, grabs the guardsman by his shoulders and explains how the rest are in danger and that this person has nothing to do with the quest at hand. He even allows his eyes to morph into grey, slitted bulbs to prove how the one at hand is in no way the dead Izador. Thus warned, Sterling rushes back towards the Nail of Dis.
Inside the Nail of Dis, on the other hand, the rest ask to see Focalor and are guided to her door by one of the employees. By the sound of it, Focalor is having a discussion with someone in Infernal and mentions ‘Sitri’ and ‘trinket’. Once her door is knocked on, both participants go silent. The door is then opened by a striking tiefling woman with violet hair and purplish eyes, dressed lavishly but with scars across her face. She speaks sharply and to the point, intently elongating any false courtesies slathered on top. On her desk, Dantalus notes a very familiar white gemstone before Focalor closes the door and strides between the party and the gem. The focus of the brief exchange which follows is on the stone, to which the party claims ownership. Focalor accepts their seeming honesty and moves aside to allow Vanhedra grab the jewel. Immediately after he touches it, the dwarf can hear an unknown woman’s voice in his head, shouting how Sitri must be rescued and how these people are utterly terrible. Barely pausing, he pockets the item and thanking Focalor for her understanding, everyone exists, feeling her dark intent creep up their spines as they turn their backs on her.
Outside, everyone regroups and Vanhedra explains what the jewel is telling him. Apparently, the princess does not want to go back and indeed, was not so much kidnapped as ‘saved’ by the cambion. She had been in contact with him, having found out about the old dungeon and its inhabitant, and little by little, at least some change had occurred in the devilborn. In the end, since the princess’s body was failing her due to birth defects, Sitri promised to take Clemence with him and show him the wonders of which he had told this naive, backwater noble, perhaps on a whim or maybe out of some sense of gratitude. Even the earlier attack by the cambion’s incubus ally was a result of some misunderstanding: the incubus had only been sent to get the party to leave Sitri and Clemence alone. Attempting to murder them – or perhaps scare them off with the very real prospect of premature death – was not a part of the plan as much as it was the twisted fiends’s interpretation of the request.
Apparently, Focalor is the key to reaching Sitri and must be faced. Because the gem provides whoever bonds with it some semblance of the princess’s natural abilities, Teera follows her instructions and embeds the partly ethereal moonstone on her forehead. According to the princess, the feeling of bonding with the tiefling sorceress bears a familiar feeling. No time to ponder such trifle matters is allowed as Sterling wastes no time thinking of a plan, instead attempting to rush inside, his sword drawn. Everyone else combines their efforts to pull him back in before lasting damage to the prospects of them surviving this challenge is done.
End of session.