With their recent humiliation still fresh in mind but at least Sterling attempting to catch a second wind – both mentally and physically – the journey leads the party of would-be heroes to the Hall of Records where they should be able to find details on their quarry, provided that the cambion indeed used to reside in Sigil (as their acquaintance with the incubus would suggest). Of course, everything comes with a price, particularly when dealing with the Fated who have cultivated personal interest and opportunist exploitation into their very ideology. These people are tasked with taxation for a reason: no loophole evades their greedy attention.
The first thing everyone notes upon entering the main building of the Hall of Records is the number of people: queuing, wandering, or clustering, the flow of more or less humanoid denizens of the Cage almost resembles the movements of a cancer-ridden, convulsing single organism. From the very first steps into the building, one will be forced to line for a waiting number. In the case of our brave adventurers, a mere quarter hour of waiting later, they are faced with the first true obstacle: an ashen-skinned elder with the visage of a wax statue left on a desert. The question facing them? Which department do they intend to visit. None having sufficient information on the Takers’ system, they are set back by the need to visit the information desk. With unerring precision, a living yet somehow artificial-seeming creature with the general appearance of a horizontally split cube with a face and stringy metal appendages lists a waiting number in the three thousands and everyone is pushed forward with equally unerring efficiency. Already, the newest addition to the party is demonstrating their usefulness since no slip is provided. Instead of having to enlist the services of the opportunistic Taker waiting close by and paying exorbitantly for basic note-taking equipment, the party can instead rely on Erdan’s near eidetic memory. The eladrin also manages to avoid having to consult any of the number of helpful Takers unnervingly eager to serve who are waiting for confused prey, rubbing their hands in anticipation. Instead, the party ends up following a pudgy yet jolly halfling who is also headed for the help desk.
It seems there are a number of doors, by which different waiting numbers are being announced as they finish serving the last person. Since this is likely the most popular stop inside of the Hall of Records, in no small part due to clueless visitors from the Prime worlds, the waiting time naturally reflects this popularity. Deciding to catch a break after their previous scuffles, the party ends up waiting somewhere between and a half and two hours, huddled by the wall and focusing on what matters: in the case of Sterling, munching on the mutton Rosie provided. Since the people waiting seem to come from all walks of life, including experienced and battle-forged adventurers, waiting rather than cutting the line seems like a fine choice. Finally, the number provided is called and everyone walks into a decently sized office large enough to accommodate a Storm Giant if need be, manned by a grey-skinned dwarf with a white beard. This dwarf clearly has the demeanour of a predator, stalking its clueless prey over its crossed palms unblinkingly. However, the welcome is mostly fact of the matter, if somewhat rude: what is it the party is trying to achieve with the help of the Fated and their records? A brief explanation of the circumstances later, it seems the dwarf has deduced where everyone should go but this transaction would not be complete without appropriate compensation. Before the answer is unveiled, the dwarf demands a help fee of no less than 20 gold. With everyone else gasping at the pricing, Vanhedra begrudgingly starts laying coinage on the desk for his fallen kinsman to count. Abusing this lapse in attention, Dantalus manages to magically charm the clerk and a few syrupy pushes later, the dwarf yields and leaves out their personal interest rate of mere 100%, leaving the party (i.e. Vanhedra) to pay no more than 10 gold pieces in total. Moreover, the now uncannily helpful grey dwarf even suggests snatching a number for historical personal records, rather than personal records as such, which should allegedly drastically reduce any waiting time. There is one step no magic can bypass, however: in order to receive a new waiting number, the party will have to again queue for one, much to everyone’s dismay.
Infighting ensues: Erdan and Vanhedra insist on playing by the Takers’ rules since these people have likely prepared for most if not all loopholes in their system and would only use then to lure in any potential victims while the rest have become fed up with all these delays while their quarry is at loose and are certain they can work out a plan to cut in line. Thus, the party is split. While Erdan and Venhedra wait for a proper waiting number, the rest go see if they can slip in using the fact that no official proofs are being handed out. Dantalus even manages to trick a faun-centaur-chimera of some sort to spill the location of the proper department by promising him a split of a non-existent pot. Begrudgingly impressed, the Taker does laugh off the loss and recommend joining since otherwise such tricks will not fly in the long run.
As such, the three impatient heroes wait by the door calling in people asking with questions about historical records, ready to jump in once a new person is summoned. Seeing their chance arrive as the cheerful automaton in charge of such tasks announces the next in line for historical records, Dantalus attempts to make a run for it, only to have his dash be cut short by the tight grip of a spotted, green hand on his shoulder. Attempting some sleight of hand to leave the proper people with a coin or two as compensation, Dantalus tries to reach for his purse but as soon as he makes any move, the other hand of the gith behind him connects with his face, to great impact. The half-elf is almost knocked prone by the impact, and his companions are being held by the menacing glare of the other gith whose position they wanted to supersede. The green, red-haired man in a warrior’s garb has their hand on the pommel of their greatsword, ready to draw and strike in reaction to any further actions by the rest. As Dantalus backs away, hoping to draw the ire of these gith and to create an opening for Teera and Sterling, the gith keep their eyes on everyone and slowly encroach towards the door. Teera uses her natural talents as a tiefling to add certain minor effects to her disposal, and Sterling makes a run for it with all the talent of a seasoned warrior on a commando run. To his surprise, these outlandish warriors teleport in front of him, blocking entry. Making a desperate last dive. he risks being sliced for the purpose of simply saving some time, and indeed, one of the gith connects, sinking their blade deep on the thigh of Sterling’s right leg. The mechanical apparatus serving as a prosthesis locks in place, causing him to stagger and fall in front of the draconic servitor behind the desk of this office.
Possibly amused but definitely irritated by this farce, the red, dragon-faced Taker adjusts his round glasses and addresses the parties. Little explicit emotion is available beyond the steely tone of his hissing voice when he notes that both parties can be considered lucky by the fact that no blood has been spilt over their dispute (with the exception of Dantalus’s bleeding nose). Making claims as to actually being the right person for this waiting number and accusing the gith for violently cutting in line, Sterling fails to even provide the Taker with the correct waiting number, unlike the proper clients. In the end, he is saved by Dantalus, magically disguised as one of the Takers (a grey dwarf, no less) passing by and shouting support for Dantalus’s claims. Hardly convinced but tired of this parade, the red dragon person decides to allow Sterling to stay, hushing away the nigh frothing gith who promise to wait. Instead of addressing the Taker, they are staring at Sterling instead, as they pledge to do this, granting the words a whole another meaning. The doors are closed, and Sterling is left alone in the most dangerous situation for his wallet imaginable.
In the meantime, those who decided to wait patiently finally have their waiting number as the line was faster than expected. As Erdan and Vanhedra hear from Teera what happened between the rest of the party and the gith, they are left with their faces buried in their hands, drowning in disbelief. Even Dantalus is nowhere to be seen as he decided not to risk drawing any further ire from the gith – or having to face the logical consequences of his earlier interjection – and as such, the bard stays in the safety of the ground floor, licking his wounds.
The situation having seemingly calmed down, Sterling is invited to take a seat and offered some wine to ease his excitement over the previous encounter. Gladly accepting this kind offer, he soon finds that this springs the first of the Taker’s traps, as the price of the wine is deemed 50 gold pieces. Realising how he has at most half that money on his person and nothing of value to pawn, the watchman panics and tries to negotiate for billing arrangements to be made using Rosie’s tavern as the location to send both any information as well as the bill. Nothing how Rosie belongs to the Fated herself and is known to the dragonman himself, the Taker gladly accepts these terms, with gleeful cheer. Finding himself sinking in the deep end at the thought of being unable to pay for any services, Sterling does still manage to provide the Taker with key information about the individual he is interested in: how he is a cambion going by the name of Sitri, controls ice, and used to live in Sigil some human generations ago. Having these facts to work with, the merry red lizard person dismisses Sterling and reminds him of how the bill will follow later.
After these events, the party regroups and Erdan and Vanhedra start hailing down judgement for the rashness of the others’ actions, mostly focusing on Sterling. Everyone decides to stop by the Thorny Bush for lunch and for repairs on Sterling’s now dysfunctional leg prosthesis. Food is had, considering how the mutton is seen as ruined by Sterling’s earlier demonstrated lack of the civility to use a knife to carve the meat, opting to take direct bites from the leg bit instead. Plans are reviewed and it is decided that the next stop should remain selling what Teera secured from the yugoloth earlier by Erdan’s familiar fence. The sudden need for additional funds is felt acutely when Rosie promises that she will find ways to use the princess to make her money back in case the party tries to bail and leaves her as the one responsible for their bills.
Erdan’s contact in the Great Bazaar is a hobgoblin lady by the name of Grinshark – a salty dog with a hand-made cheshire smile. She is a mutual acquaintance of the eladrin’s adoptive parents in Sigil and mostly willing to help a body in need. However, negotiations take an immediate turn for the worse as Sterling tries to pawn his guardsman’s horn and green feather as some sort of mystic treasure. Luckily, Dantalus manages to butt in and do some more serious business using the princess’s silver tiara he picked up by the cave opening earlier. In particular, insuring the hobgoblin of the fact that none would make claims to the item afterwards secures three platinum pieces, and some additional haggling has her throw in an empty silver snuff box as well – with the word ‘Dreams’ etched on the item in Elven despite its obvious sub par craftsmanship by the fair folk’s standards.
Teera also manages to have her items evaluated and while the amount offered – 12 platinum – is not quite what everyone expected, it more or less suffices in the end. The sorceress even catches Grinshark’s attention with her old drawing of some goblin – a hero of those small folk across the planes, it turns out. The hobgoblin pays her ten gold for the piece. Finally, since Sterling continues to tout his wares, the hobgoblin offers to buy his horn and the contents of his pouch. Before hands are shook and the deal struck, having the hobgoblin call someone for a knife makes the guardsman back down in fear of the fates of his prospective future children. While hobgoblin laughs the incident off as just her pulling his strings. she does seem to lament losing out on this particular delicacy. When everyone finally leaves, Erdan notes her stabbing a pillow while looking their way.
Deciding that the amount they received is simply not enough at this rate, everyone turns to Erdan who might know where to find some well-paying odd job on the side. Indeed, the eladrin does know of a man by the name of Utadas Tensar who makes a business of finding the right people to help others with their woes. His office on the Clerk’s Ward is not too far off, and so, everyone makes their way to meet this so-called ‘most honest person in Sigil’. Turns out the pudgy man rocking suspenders is indeed possibly the most pleasant person they have had the pleasure of meeting since setting foot in the Cage. Moreover, he seems to have just the thing everyone was hoping for: a quick and dirty job on the side, dispatching some savage on the other side of a portal which acts as a part of the Planar Trade Consortium’s trade network. Armed with a piece of parchment containing their deal with Tensar and instructions on how to use the portal, they are off.
On the other side of a ramshackle, improvised arch between two buildings, a world of endless dunes of dust and ash waits those with the image of a black sun in mind. The sky is a sickly mustard colour, and dark clouds dot the horizon. Behind one of the dunes near the ruins of what might be an old temple, based on the fallen pillars and eroded, faceless statues, Sterling spots a pair of antlers one might have mistaken for desiccated branches jotting their way to the surface if this pair was not the only such sign of life around. No sooner than he manages to spot the assailant does the savage spring into action and release a torrent of arrows at Vanhedra and Sterling himself, standing in front of the party. A skirmish ensues, the barbarian making its way around the dune in a flash of rapid, short steps, and continuing to harry the party with its longbow. After some successful return of hire by Erdan, Teera, and Vanhedra – the dwarf managing to score a particularly solid hit with his throwing axe – the foe finally becomes goaded into close quarters, swinging wildly with a battleaxe. Being swarmed by Vanhedra, Erdan, and Sterling, while distracted and harried by the magics of Teera and Dantalus respectively, it finally succumbs to wounds which would have killed a sane man many times over.
End of session.