The barkeep and announcer for the night’s entertainments takes his place and introduces the contestants as they take their places inside the tavern’s razorvine cage:
- Vermione is a local elf witch, only her face visible beneath a smelly, mud-caked robe
- Baron Glorp is a gelatinous cube with a dwarf skeleton in it, ooze blurbling with excitement
- Reyes is introduced as ‘The Shadowknave’, the vigilante who’s been making his own brand of justice around Sigil
- Castillo is a steam construct with multiple voices communicating over its speaker system
- Glassback is a lizardman covered in scales of razor-sharp glass and glowing with some inner fire
- Drik-tha-cht is a thri-kreen wielding a deadly-looking gythka and claws that could rip an elf in two
- Steelix simply enters the arena, having asked for complete silence from the announcer
- Atrox is introduced as an inescapable champion of destruction; Umbra loudly cheers for her
- Grease Slickmeat is a greased-up wrestler from the slopes of Mount Olympus with an ego bigger than his muscles
With that, the battle begins!
Grease makes the first move, tearing off his toga and charging Baron Glorp, attempting to grapple the acidic slime. Reyes pulls out his Ouroborope and attaches it to the top of the razorvine cage, pulling himself up into the air. Glassback rips a glass scale off his body and tosses it like a shuriken up at the archer, missing him.
Atrox sends three ‘Magic Missiles’ sailing into the lizardman’s side, cracking his glassy hide. In response, Drik-tha-cht charges the sorceress, slashing at her with its gythka and sending poison coursing into her wound as the weapon reacts with her body heat. Castillo aims its forearm-mounted crossbow at Reyes and also attempts to hit him, but misses as well; frustrated cursing is heard over the construct’s speakers. Meanwhile, Vermione begins muttering something under her breath. Steelix, who has been watching the battle unfold, comes up from behind the thri-kreen, getting his barbazu glaive in between two of the insectoid creature’s thoracic plates and sending green blood spilling onto the arena floor.
Grease pulls himself free of Baron Glorp, but is badly burned by the cube, and now in danger of its pseudopods, which lash out with weapons as it blurglurgles with glee. Reyes takes aim at Glassback but misses, and the lizardman tosses another glass scale up at him in retaliation, which also misses. Atrox is able to slip away from Drik-tha-cht as the thri-kreen struggles to free itself from Steelix’s glaive, and sends a ‘Fireball’ careening into Baron Glorp. Covered in Grease’s grease, the ooze ignites. Unfortunately, it also ignites Grease himself.
Castillo quickly extricates itself from the now-flaming part of the arena and tries to shoot down the rope holding Reyes up, but only succeeds at nicking it, forcing the archer to grab hold of the rope to stop himself from falling, but little else. A moment later, Vermione finishes her incantations and releases a ‘Stinking Cloud’ directly underneath him however, engulfing Steelix, Drik-tha-cht, and Atrox in nauseating gas as it begins expanding upwards towards Reyes.
Reyes gets his rope swinging and detaches it from the cage in order to send himself flying directly into the witch. He crashes into her and knocks her down, but the archer feels something… scurrying beneath her robe. In the meantime, Grease rolls on the arena floor in an attempt to douse himself, while Baron Glorp moves to escape the fire. Atrox and Steelix both begin tearing up and retching as the ‘Stinking Cloud’ takes affect. Drik-tha-cht shares a similar fate, while Glassback blindly tosses a scale into the cloud and misses, the scale lodging itself in the mug of an onlooker in the crowd outside. Castillo enters the gas unimpeded.
Suddenly, dozens of cranium rats rip their way out from under Vermione’s cloak, revealing that the witch was actually just a stack of the creatures holding up an elf head. They bite and scratch at Reyes, telepathically assaulting him for good measure, but the archer rips off his own cloak and tosses it into the nearby fire, taking many of the rats with it. Cornelius tells the announcer that THAT must be against the rules, but the other man tells him that “If it makes things interesting, there are no rules!” Remembering his own interference in such a match after seeing a picture of Piebald on the tavern’s ‘Wall o’ Champions’, the assassin shrugs and concedes the point.
Baron Glorp takes this opportunity to strike out at Reyes with pseudopods, but the archer is able to dodge out of the way, landing on Grease Slickmeat’s as the wrestler struggles to get back to his feet. Meanwhile, Atrox overcomes the effects of the noxious gas and uses a ‘Thunderwave’ to push it away. Drik-tha-cht is killed by the blast, while Steelix is sent rolling into Castillo’s legs, tripping the construct. Glassback falls upon the genasi in moments, elbow-dropping him like a club covered in broken glass.
Badly wounded from Drik-tha-cht’s poison and her previous run-in with Mover Durkayle’s gorgon earlier in the night, Atrox forfeits from the match and is allowed out. Cornelius starts patching her up, while a fascinated Umbra looks on, loudly slurping her juice. They take no notice of some kind of commotion at the front door.
Back in the arena, Reyes begins ripping off the rest of the cranium rats, weathering their telepathic insults as best he can. Baron Glorp takes another swing at him and catches the archer in the side this time. Steelix shoves Glassback off of him, and knocks the lizardman in the face with the butt of his glaive.
Suddenly, Harmonium guards bust into the tavern and tell everyone to freeze. Absolute chaos erupts!
The cranium rats that made-up Vermione scurry up the razorvine and disappear into the ceiling, while Castillo produces an arm-mounted blade and slices its way out of the cage, nearly stabbing Cornelius in the face. Glassback makes for the door, but a Harmonium officer grabs him as he’s heading out. Reyes aims his crossbow at Glassback, but accidentally shoots the Harmonium guy in the face. The lizardman hisses and disappears into the crowd, while Reyes shouts “Did you see that?! Glassback just killed that dude!” Only Baron Glorp is around to hear him however.
Cornelius hides Umbra under his cloak and is able to duck between the legs of the crowd and slip out a back door with the girl. Atrox isn’t so lucky and is caught up in the panicked mass. Steelix puts on his Harmonium badge and blends in, pushing Castillo over and grabbing the fleeing announcer by the collar. Meanwhile, Reyes collapses to the ground in the arena, but hears a voice behind him say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” before being teleported out of the building.
Reyes pulls himself away as they materialize, and sees that his savior is none other than Elias, the guttermage-turned-Doomguard that they helped out a month or so ago. The wizard takes the wounded archer to the Armory to recuperate.
Back at the Bottle and Jug, Atrox is finally able to push her way through the crowd, just in time to bump right into Mover Durkayle as he walks in the front door, Scamang on one side and Lady Mal on the other. Durkayle recognizes her as the courier and gets suspicious, but Lady Mal steps in, telling the Mover that they are “dear sisters”, mirroring Atrox’s words when she tried to magically charm the woman. She takes the tiefling’s arm in hers and escorts her outside.
Lady Mal takes Atrox into the alley behind the bar, the same place where the party previously found one of the Shadowknave’s victims. Her imp, Collaborok, climbs onto Atrox’s shoulders and pushes its barbed tail into the sorceress’s throat as Mal smiles, thanking Atrox for another “contribution to the cause” by taking Umbra. Atrox asks what she wants, but Mal simply tells the tiefling that she wants her to remember, “Remember that it was I, Malmoribus, viscount and erinyes of the Iron Duke, Dispater, who let you live this day.” The woman orders Collaborok to release Atrox, and the imp grumbles that he will be promoted again one day and see her “thrown into the Maggot Pit” before obeying. With that, Lady Mal says goodbye and flies off on jet black wings.
Inside, Steelix hands over the barkeep to Durkayle’s men, and tells the Mover that he came here looking for the Shadowknave but lost him in the chaos. One of the other guardsmen shows Durkayle the burnt cloak that Reyes left behind, and Durkayle grits his teeth. He tells Scamang to get everyone they arrested to the Prison—“If any of these cross-traders know anything about the berk who took my daughter, the tender administrations of the Mercykillers will get it out of them.”
Steelix runs into Atrox coming out of an alleyway a moment later, and the two of them decide to head to the Gatehouse to get some medical treatment before continuing on to the Armory. Atrox keeps her run-in with Lady Mal to herself.
Cornelius decides to head to the Bones of the Night, knowing that the area around the Shattered Temple tends to be quiet. He contemplates going to hand Umbra over to Inimigle, but quickly dismisses the notion. He heads inside and hears Lothar talking with someone through the door. The halfling walks in anyway, and finds that the guest is none other than Black Bart.
The first thing he notices about the orc is that in place of the hand that he lost is another hand. It is wrinkled and a bit too small for his forearm, but seems to function all the same. Lothar is surprised that the two of them know each other. Cornelius hands over Grezla’s skull to the old man as promised, as well as the head of the petrified intern from the Museum of Oblivion. Lothar thanks the assassin and bids Black Bart farewell.
Cornelius asks the orc what happened to him back in Bytopia, and Bart tells him that when the flood hit, he took off with the horse and cart and stumbled through a portal after fighting off a couple of kappa. Next thing he knew, they were standing in a cave somewhere and had to find their way back to Sigil. The halfling asks about his new hand, and the orc tells him that he went to sleep one night and woke up to find it there the next day. Bart admits he’s just glad it hasn’t tried to strangle him in his sleep yet.
They reunite with the horse (or, as Cornelius calls it, “The Thing”), and head to the Hall of Records.
At the Armory, Reyes talks to Elias about procuring a trebuchet. The wizard suggests a ballista instead, telling the archer that he once used one on a white dragon to great effect back in his adventuring days. Reyes takes a much needed nap in Elias’s bed while the wizard goes back downstairs, where he runs into Atrox and Steelix and tells them that he brought Reyes here. Before they can say anything however, Cromlich appears, yelling at Steelix (still sporting his Harmonium badge) to get out, and grabbing Atrox (after hearing her name) and taking the tiefling with him.
The Doomlord leads Atrox through a portal, and the tiefling has to quickly catch her breath in the new, thin atmosphere beyond. They find themselves standing at the foot of a tower of greasy black stone, floating in the void over some kind of black hole, bristling around the edges with the dying vestiges of light.
Cromlich takes her to the stairs and tells her to climb, and they eventually arrive at a suite on top of the tower, where a woman with wild black hair is busy slicing apart a practice dummy with two swords. She turns, and Atrox immediately recognizes her as the factol of the Doomguard, Pentar.
Pentar takes a seat and invites Atrox to do the same. The factol says that she’s wanted to speak with her ever since she heard about the tiefling’s trip to Bytopia. Cromlich growls from behind her, noting that it was a “failed trip” if anything, as Narthel Excelwell disappeared not long after, leaving his projects unfinished, including several for the Doomguard. Pentar turns and pats the Doomlord on the arm, telling him that, as cute as he may be when he’s grumpy, he really should be nice to their guest. He blushes, and then, clearing his throat, excuses himself, mumbling something about heading back to the Armory.
The factol smiles and asks Atrox if she’s ever had a tanar’ri lover, and the sorceress doesn’t know how to respond to that question, simply noting that she’s never had a ‘boyfriend’. Pentar is surprised, as she’d expect someone with the fire to go out and slay a naga and wreck a whole museum’s worth of ancient artifacts not to be afraid to break a few hearts as well. Atrox plays this all off, noting that she didn’t do any of that alone, but Pentar reassures her, “Come now! I’ve started riots that have burned down half the city—there’s no need to be modest with me!”
Meanwhile, Cornelius, Bart, and Umbra arrive at the Hall of Records and settle in for the night. Umbra makes note of the fact that this is the place Cornelius previously said wouldn’t be very exciting, and he reiterates that statement, unless she likes tax records and birth certificates. He also notices that the girl has been avoiding Black Bart however, and she tells him that the orc makes her feel uncomfortable. The assassin chuckles, and asks if she’s racist against orcs, to which Umbra replies that she’s “never been in a race before.”
Back at Citadel Exhalus, Pentar asks Atrox why she first joined the Doomguard. The tiefling tells the factol that she always had… issues with her temper, and met someone who showed her that she could turn those impulses towards something greater than herself. Pentar tells her own tale, of how she stood in the shadow of the Sleeping Sisters on Arborea as they woke from their centuries of slumber, and witnessed the raw destructive power of nature for the first time. She asks Atrox about being a sorceress, having the ability to wield such power, and tells her that the Doomguard has been working on something in the Abyss that can do that and more.
In fact, Pentar claims it could turn the tide of the entire Blood War.
The next morning, Cornelius is woken up by an astral streaker carrying a message from Root of All Evil. Evidently, the modron is in town selling off items he received after the incident at the Museum of Oblivion.
Heading out with Umbra, the duo see that the Hall of Records is already abuzz at this early hour. It doesn’t take long to find out why: someone has challenged Duke Rowan for leadership of the Fated. Amused by the idea, Cornelius decides to check the battle out, and arrives just in time to watch the factol easily slice the would-be challenger in half with a stroke of his bastard sword. The grizzled warrior tells his dwarf attendant to clean up the mess, as “there’s children watching”, and then heads back to his office, shouting at the assembled crowd to get back to work!
A few minutes later, they reach the Fine Print, a tavern just down the street from the Hall of Records, where Root of All Evil has rented a room to sell off various pieces of merchandise. Root has three properties for sale, and hoped that the halfling might be interested in acquiring one, being the enterprising fellow that he is. Following negotiations over breakfast, Cornelius purchases a property in the Lower Ward.
Over in the Lady’s Ward, the rest of the party go to the Prison to look up Jiermo, the planeo-archaeologist who they got arrested a few weeks back. They see Glassback, Baron Glorp, and a very-badly burned Grease Slickmeat in jail, causing Reyes to wonder about the logistics of incarcerating an ooze, especially one with a noble title. To their surprise, Jiermo is nowhere to be found on the prisoner rosters, and they are met with a wall of silence from the Mercykillers when they ask about it.
Reyes contacts Fence-It Felix to see if he might know what happened to the archaeologist, and finds out that there are rumors that the Mercykillers have been leasing prisoners out as slave labor, and Jiermo might well be on his way to the endless battlefields of Acheron!