Players: Chris L, Oliver, Joe
We start with Fazzik on the hunt for suitable orphans as they’re a vital part in the plan to get Jamal back. He looks out for a place they tend to gather, and then makes his way there picking up sweets on the way. His offer of candies from the shadows does little to entice his chosen orphan, however, and soon he’s running from three of the older ones. Still, he manages to draw one away from the others and take him down with a shot to the leg. The youth bleeds out, and Fazzik stuffs him in a barrel and takes him back to the guild.
Meanwhile, Farouk is continuing his campaign of dissent and tries to convert the roden outside the city to his way of view, reasoning that they’re the minority least privileged in the current status quo. His words fail to sway them, however, and the mood of the crowd is turning bad. A large, grey-furred roden takes him aside and explains that the current situation is tense, and his message is only going to make things worse. He is asked in firm tones not to try his preaching again here.
Over the past few days the Hand has gathered quite a collection of things with possible magical traits, but no-one in the guild has any idea what they do. Rather than have them collecting dust in the corner, Azam takes the box to a mystic of middling talent in the outer city who makes a living from identify this sort of thing. The cost is somewhat pricey, but Azam manages to haggle him down and pay him with some of his endless supply of gold rings.
After paying off the enchanter, Azam is feeling somewhat short on money. Wanting a new paying gig, he decides to see if a faith healer to the wealthy he ran into many years ago is still running his cons. Dressed up in finery, he travels through the higher-class bars of the city until he sees Barudi the healer in a corner. They get to talking and even though Barudi obviously doesn’t remember Azam, Azam manages to charm him into agreeing that Azam has certain skills that could be helpful in his business; the ability to provide painless and easy deaths for people whose time has come. Business concluded, Azam goes back to the guild to prepare for the ritual.
Fresh from rejection in the outer city Farouk heads to the Desert Orchid in disguise, to hash out a plan with Mara and try and disrupt the ritual. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have much in the way of backup to call on, and so they’ll have to make do. They go to one of her caches and she pulls out an array of different tools and weapons for fighting the undead, and she asks Farouk to try and hide them in the guildhouse if it comes to a battle and she needs to resupply. Farouk goes back to the guild to keep an eye on the ritual, and Mara goes to try and find some last-ditch allies.
Fazzik fetches Jamal from the sewers, and after disguising him with a cloak thrown over his smoldering shoulders brings him into the Guild. By this point Farouk has finished hiding the various supplies around the guildhouse, and he’s realised the plan is much more likely to work if he can watch the ritual and call in Mara when it’s time. Azam and Fazzik are resistant to his involvement, however; Azam thinks he could disrupt the ritual and doom them all, while Fazzik just worries about his safety. They move to a duel of wits and both sides make good points, Azam highlighting Farouk’s lack of relevant skills and Farouk pointing out how Azam was allowing Fazzik to watch. The duel of wits ends with a double-KO, so he and Azam agree that he can observe the ritual, but only from the top of the basement stairs.
The Ritual begins. Azam poisons Janwar’s body, and extracts the soul inside delicately. As he’s reanimating the body of the second orphan, Farouk slips out. Looking for a way to interrupt the ritual, the first likely thing he sees is one of the guards standing out in the grounds. He tries to convince them there’s something bad happening in the basement, but they firmly tell him that they have been warned by Azam not to go down there under any circumstances. Not deterred, Farouk leaves the compound to find the alley Mara’s hiding in.
They confer in whispers. She’s been unable to find any support; much of the city cowers in fear of the supernatural, and people in the smaller guilds have some trepidation about interfering with the Hand. Together they decide they have to act now to have any chance of stopping the ritual, and so they split up. Farouk dashes to one entrance and puts on a great performance, drawing the attention of all the guards with mad rantings about the stars aligning and giving Mara a chance to slip in.
Down in the basement, Azam’s preparation is paying off; he’s forging ahead with the ritual and is on track to complete long before he predicted. Just as he’s placing the possessing soul into its new body, however, something flies into the room and explodes, filling the air with a choking cloud. Eyes streaming, Fazzik peers through the fog and is able to see a figure running down stairs towards them with a weapon extended. He quickly brings up his bow and fires off a shot, hitting them straight in the shoulder and knocking them off their feet.
Azam commands his zombies to protect him, but they seem sluggish and loath to move. Quickly he picks up a knife and goes over to finish off the attacker, but Fazzik has realised who it is and grabs his arm to stop him. Azam knows full well this is his nemesis, however, and will not be dissuasion. With a glance at Fazzik he paralyses him with sorcery, and then drives his dagger deep into her heart.
A flame light up the smoke in the cellar and a voice speaks out, obviously that of the possessing spirit. It thanks them for its new body, but expresses disappointment that they killed Mara. It insinuates she was possessed too, by one of its relatives. It bids them goodbye and disappears in a pillar of flame that cuts a hole through the ceiling. The pillar brings the guards running, but in the short time before they arrive Azam tries to convince Fazzik that it was for the best; she knew who he was, and could have harmed the guild.
Farouk comes in with the guards, and despite Fazzik’s best efforts to soften the blow through deception Farouk sees through his lies and works out what’s happened. He doesn’t press the others, too busy foisting blame for letting her in to the guard who refused to help him earlier. But as soon as the blame has been shifted away from him he snatches up Mara’s body, carrying her up to Duban’s door in the hope that he can do something to save her…