The story opens with Three, a warforged slain in psionic experiments in Cyre, waking in Mechanus. He’s tended by modrons, who discard him as “broken and incompatible with universal protocols”, the result of House Cannith’s magics that create warforged. He is then shipped to Automata to be sold as scrap, to a tiefling woman. The woman, Nera, is an agent of Estevan’s, and offers him his freedom as she claims her master isn’t interested in slaves. But if Three is interested he would like to hire him, as a free “man.” Three makes several quite bigoted remarks about meat-bags, but agrees in the end to at least go hear Estevan’s offer out.
In Tradegate Lubash, a half-orc griffon-rider from House Vadalis, is speaking w. Master Trader Duncam. Lubash has been a short time in service with the Griffon Riders of Tradegate, and Captain Marik thinks he’s better suited to “independent service” than the more typical formation work the riders do. (Lubash defected to Tradegate to pair w. Sarahmay after House Vadalis continually refused his desire to be paired with a griffon.) Duncam asks Lubash if that’s what he would like, Lubash pretty much shrugs and says “whatever” as long as he and Sarahmay can stay together. Duncam then says he’ll send him to Automata, there to meet with Master Estevan, who will have work for him.
Arriving in Automata Lubash goes to the inn he was directed to, the Inn of the White Harp, and sits down for a bite to eat while he waits. Nera, followed by Three, walks in, brushes road-dust off her leathers, and asks if he’s the owner of the griffon outside. She then makes both of them an offer, in return for a bag of 10 platinum they’re to go to the room at the end of the upstairs hallway and listen to her Master’s offer.
In the room Estevan, in very fine silks and sipping tea from fine china, awaits them, along with Sioned and Alruna. He explains how he fears there is a conspiracy against himself, and the PTC. He believes it focuses on the upcoming Festival of Doors in Sigil, and in particular on the cave-fire wine supplies. He wants Sioned, his agent, to investigate, and wishes to hire Lubash and Three to act as muscle. “A few good minders at an agents back always make things go more smoothly,” he declares. If Lubash and Three are willing they can share in his reward, an astral diamond, with Sioned and Alruna. Everyone agrees that this seems like a fair deal, and some questions are asked of, and mostly answered by, Estevan. He then urges them to get to Sigil as soon as possible, to begin the investigation.
At Estevan’s direction the quartet go to Crale’s Arcane Antiquities, a PTC owned shop that can sell them a gate key to The Cage. There they meet Fesdin Crale, an old human spell-slinger who runs the shop. Crale and Sioned bargain a bit over price, mostly for fun on both of their parts, and settle on a favorable price for the gate-key. He hands them a small stone domino, and tells them it opens a passage in a doorway in a quiet alleyway.
The four proceed to the gate, and open it with Crale’s key. Passing through they emerge into absolute, quiet, blackness. The air is musty and stale. When they create some light they see they’ve stepped out of a dry fountain and are in a crypt of some sort, behind them the gate vanishes. Moments later they are attacked . . . .
A ghost spider, so called for it’s phasing not because it’s a ghost, comes through a wall to attack. At the end of the crypt coffins are tossed aside as wights advance, and Alruna just barely manages to spot another wight hiding in the shadows as it scuttles to the side. The fight is long, the ghost spider skirmishes with Sarahmay and Lubash while Three tangles up the wights advancing from the back. Alruna takes on the sneaky one in a side passage. In the end the ghost spider is driven off, and the wights destroyed. But the fight is a long slog, and costs the party many of their spells and prayers to win.
Searching the crypt after the fight reveals two things of note. First, and simplest, a suit of magic chainmail is found in one of the coffins. Sioned claims it. More importantly a human body is found in the rear of the crypt, it is dessicated and clearly has been slain by the wights, perhaps a day or so earlier. It is clearly Fesdin Crale’s body.
On Crale’s body two things are found that are of import. Firstly a journal, in which he details how he’s discovered that a shape-shifter by the name of Arthani is acting against the PTC. His last entry says that he must warn Estevan and the Master Traders immediately of the danger to the Consortium. The second thing found is a gold coin with the symbol of the PTC on the front, and engraved on the back “Crale’s Arcane Antiquities.”
The group takes a rest while they try to figure a way out of the crypt. After an hour or so the magic of the gate recharges and they succeed in re-opening it.