The Holy City of Ten Thousand Gods

Session 9

Information Gathering

Players: Chris L, Joe, Oliver

The next day, Fazzik goes looking for a place the elf and Jamal might be lurking. Reasoning that elves are likely to live in a place where they can see the horizon, he starts looking for appropriate high places. There’s a tower in the centre that he reasons will give good views of the district the Hand’s based in, and as the Guild who own it have fallen on hard times since building it the highest floors are uninhabited. As he sets to climbing, his wound is still holding him back; there’s parts where he almost falls, and catching himself sprains his arm. By the time he gets to the top, hours have passed, and though he checks through the upper floors of the tower he doesn’t find any sign of habitation. Still, he’s able to get a good look of the city from here and a better idea of how the towers are laid out than any map could give. He also works out which guilds he might go to in order to resupply his assassination tools, although they require you to be introduced by an existing customer before they’ll do business with you.

The other members of the guild have also been hard at work tracing the source of the murders. Azam hits upon the idea of questioning the city’s cadaver collectors to see if they’ve seen any trends, and so circles up Thulsa the Butcher. It turns out there are dodgy markets in the city, where as you go deeper inside the services provided get less and less legal and wholesome. Partway into this market is Thulsa’s place, a butcher’s specializing in ‘special’ meats.

Azam disguises himself, trying out his mask spell again to get the practice and to be unrecognisable. The spell fails, however, and he’s left looking completely ordinary. So ordinary, in fact, that illicit businessmen are likely to find it suspicious. He heads deep into the market to the butchery, and enters to the sound of a cleaver thwacking into meat. Thulsa, a broad, greasy man in a bloodstained apron, is carving up a carcass of indeterminate origin. On seeing a customer, his eyes narrow. Azam establishes himself as a connoisseur of special meats, but Thulsa isn’t convinced and demands he eat a slice of the meat first before they talk further. Azam willingly obliges, and Thulsa visibly relaxes. Thulsa’s worried he has some new competition in town, what with all the bodies turning up partly eaten and partly butchered. He willingly gives Azam a list of locations the bodies have been turning up, in return for promises of future business.

Armed with this information, Azam heads home and drags out a map of the City. Fazzik and Farouk come by, and together they look through the information they have. After a bit of pondering, a pattern emerges; the murders have happened in regions within easy access of the high towers, but also easy access of the underground water network. It’s in places where the two overlap that the most deaths have occurred.

Sleuthing done for now, the guild decide to pursue the matter of the sorcerer’s defences. Azam has received a list of the buyers at the book auction the Visionary Conclave had a few months back, and has worked out the three mages who have the books he want: Afira the Bright, Hakim the Wise, and Rabah ibn Falar. Rabah’s already met Azam, so they decide to investigate Hakim first. When casing a place for burglary, though, you don’t want to be recognised, so the Hand go disguised as peasant necromancer-hunters, drawing on Farouk’s knowledge of hunter symbols to paint themselves as a trio of outlanders come into the city to spread word of visions of doom.

So, all dressed up, the three head to Hakim’s guild. Although they don’t have an appointment, they manage to convince Hakim that they’ll be interesting people to talk to, and his servant leads them through the guildhouse to his room. Fazzik and Azam look round for security features and arcane wards, but don’t see anything beyond the usual. They’re shown into a grand study, three walls covered in bookshelves and the fourth wall opening up to a balcony. Hakim is sitting reading on the balcony, and looks up as the guild enters. Fazzik takes the lead, regaling Hakim with stories of terrible omens seen in dead corpses. Hakim ponders his stories and sends Azam to fetch him a particular book, giving Azam ample time to look for the book they’re after. He soon sees it, and nods in its direction when Farouk is looking. Farouk swiftly grabs it and is about to leave when Hakim notices the book disappearing into his cloak. The old man has obviously gathered some experience over his life, and immediately starts incanting a spell. Fazzik rushes to pin him while Farouk flees, but quick as a flash shards of stone break off from the balcony’s rail and shoot into Farouk’s side dealing him a Midi wound. As Hakim is distracted by casting Fazzik manages to overpower him and pushes him over the balcony rail to fall two stories to the courtyard below.

As Farouk falls to the ground in pain, Azam starts shoving every book and trinket of note into a sack and Fazzik puts an arrow into Hakim to finish him off. Quickly Fazzik pulls Farouk to his feet and the guild stealthily make their exit. They shed their disguises and Fazzik takes Farouk to the Guildhouse while Azam looks for a surgeon to help him. He finds one, but he’s crooked and likely to inform on them in the future. Still, he sets to work on Farouk’s wound, extracting shards of stone and patching him up. He’ll be fully healed in 5 or 6 weeks.

That night, Fazzik is keeping watch over the Guildhouse from the roof of a neighboring building. He takes his eyes off it for just a short time, and when he looks back there are odd markings on the walls. He climbs down to street level to take a closer look, and realises the markings are hand prints, burned into the wall. A quick glance around locates a trail leading away from the building. He ducks into the Guild to pick up support from Azam, in the form of two undead, and then heads out to follow the trail.

He follows the trail through twisting backstreets, past a cooling body and crossing paths with a guard patrol (and running away as fast as he can). Eventually his search takes him to a drain culvert, and so he ducks inside followed by his posthumous allies. They travel down the cramped tunnel, water up to their knees, and as they go the sound of chewing can be heard getting louder. The undead stir, scenting dead flesh, but Fazzik holds them back and scouts ahead. Peering round a corner, he can see Jamal hunched over a body, tearing out handfuls of flesh and chewing them. Fazzik creeps closer and starts smelling that odd, burning scent in the air as the ripples around Jamal start forming odd symbols, whorls and patterns. He’s close enough to feel the heat radiating off the creature, but steels himself and calls to Jamal.

Jamal whips round but Fazzik’s quick enough to jump away from the slicing claws. Startled, the child appears to be on the back foot, having trouble recognising Fazzik or knowing what to do. He wants to come back to the guild, it seems, but something’s stopping him. Fazzik is gradually coaxing him into conversation when there’s a sudden change; fire lights in his eyes and when he speaks there’s another, deeper voice underneath. This new conciousness is a lot more sure of itself and intelligent, and talks quite reasonably with Fazzik about the issue of its creation, its escape from the one who called it up, and its hunt to find a necromancer to place its soul in a more suitable vessel. To this end it has partnered with the elf, Elisandre, but it has no particular loyalty to her. It cannot say what manner of creature it is, but scratches a symbol on the wall that it was referred to as long ago. It gives its demands clearly to Fazzik; if they find another body to move it into, it will let them have its current one and give them no further trouble.

As Jamal turns back to the corpse and resumes eating Fazzik gets the feeling the conversation is done. He makes his way back to the guildhouse and tells Azam of his conversation, and notes down the symbol for him. Azam ponders the matter some and spends the next few hours poring through his notes and books to see whether the procedure the spirit demanded is at all possible. After some time he works out what needs to be done; Jamal’s body and another that’s very similar in age and size need to be prepared as if he was raising them into living death through the ritual method, and then he must bind the creature’s soul to the second body as it moves out of Jamal’s.

Meanwhile, Farouk has slipped out of the guild to visit his girlfriend. He’s been cultivating a good relationship with the rest of the Orchid, but Mara doesn’t seem to appreciate this much. She’s never been very happy with the idea of a public relationship, and it’s starting to show. Farouk changes the subject before it gets too tense, and asks whether there are any other hunters that she knows. Unfortunately, it seems she’s the only one; the mantle of the hunter is only held by one person at any one time, although she doesn’t know what happened to the last one. Still, she knows a few people who she can call in when she needs backup, or specialist knowledge, or rare components. Farouk notes this down, laying the groundwork for his plan to remove the supernatural from Taladiq entirely. He’s been trying to bring the patrons of the bars and cafes he visits around to his point of view that the gods aren’t to be trusted and may be bad for the city, but hasn’t had any success so far. The next place to try in his plan is the rats…

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