Emerging from the gate to the crypt the four heroes, Sioned, Alruna, Three, and Lubash, find themselves back in Automata. There they debate briefly their next actions, before deciding to go confront Arthani in Fesdin Crale’s kip. His shop is empty however, Sioned briefly considers looting it, before deciding that sending someone from the Consortium is a better idea (as it is a PTC shop). At the back of the shop they find a peculiar alcove, only about a foot deep, behind a door. Guessing, correctly, that it’s a portal Sioned tries the coin to see if it’s the key. It is, and the distinctive appearance of an active portal appears.
Crowding through the four people, and Sarahmay, emerge into a quiet alleyway in Tradegate. Sioned recognizes it as near the burg’s center. On arriving Sarahmay is immediately dropped by hostile magics, which soon thereafter fell Lubash as well, using him connection to her to take them both down. Outside the alley things are suspiciously quiet as well, and some bodies can be seen on the streets.
Emerging from the alley Sioned, Alruna, and Three find the entire city has been attacked and magically knocked unconscious. The inhabitants seem to be alive, but in deep comas. More importantly there is clearly something afoot, they can see bursts of magic from the town center, and Alruna spots several giant figures there.
On entering the town center the trio sees a number of cyclopses guarding several magical rods that have been implanted in the ground around “The” tradegate. (the massive archway that forms the basis of the portal to Sigil that Master Trader Duncam controls with an iron hand) Near the tradegate an eladrin woman incants ritual words, focussing magic from the rods into an attack on the gate. Sioned can see that the wards over the tradegate are weakening, and she suspects that soon the woman will succeed in destroying or badly damaging it.
“Cease this wickedness,” Alruna demands, and charges one of the cyclops. Leaping into the air as she attacks she slays it with a blow striking upwards through it’s chest. Three moves towards the eladrin woman, and Sioned examines the nearest rod to see if she can disable it.
Arthani, the “eladrin” woman continues her ritual even as she reveals her true powers by blasting Three and Sioned with devouring swarms of insects and vermin. Alruna slays a few more cyclops, and Three takes some serious beating from the trio he engages. Sioned, meanwhile, succeeds in disabling one of the rods. When the last cyclops falls Arthani decides she can’t finish her mission and leaps through the arch of the tradegate, vanishing from the town-center after taunting Sioned saying “You’ll never stop the demoncaller in time to save your damnable Consortium”. On one of the cyclops they find a flyer for the “House of Song”, on the back of which is scrawled a name, “Tarvas”. (also on the cylcops are the 3000 gp in pay Arthani gave them)
Sioned then finishes disabling the rest of the rods and begins waking people. She is aided in restoring order when it is discovered that Master Pizarro, and some bashers, were in the town center in a carriage on the way to business. Pizarro takes Sioned’s report, and tells her she must pursue Arthani as best she can. He echoes Estevan’s concerns, doubly so now that a direct attack on Tradegate itself has occurred. He gives Sioned a copper sphere, and tells her to use his personal key to go to Sigil and solve this dilemma, he shall engage his own agents (spies to be sure) to determine if this attack was linked to the recent plague that was visited on the burg.
Using Pizarro’s key Sioned and her companions gate through to the Market Ward in the Cage. There is some chaos as people scatter when the Lady of Pain appears, but She fades away through a nearby building’s wall without doing more than circumstantial damage to those foolish enough to fail to avoid the touch of Her shadow.
Asking around the group finds out several things. First, the Cage is remarkably uptight at the moment, the trade-war has escalated and food is getting scarce, and most importantly everyone is terrified of what The Lady of Pain might do if the Festival of Doors is derailed. Second they learn that the “House of Song” is a festhall in the Hive, near the Night Market. Travel through the Cage is always a challenge, they spend some jink in bribes for directions, threaten a few people to stave off muggings and gang-related violence, and eventually find themselves at the Midnight Gate.
There Sioned speaks w. Gwindor, a half-celestial paladin, and the officer in charge of the Sons of Mercy troops that man Midnight Gate. He tries to convince Sioned not to go through Midnight Gate and into the Hive as it’s very dangerous, he explicitly warns them against it, but when Sioned is adamant he allows that he’ll let them pass. However he urges them not to enter the Hive until dark, the Night Market won’t open until then and every hour in the Hive is a dangerous one. This seems reasonable and the trio agree to return later, with Gwindor’s permission the troops will not hinder their passage.
They spend the time catching a meal, and then going to the Hall of Records (since they’re in the Clerk’s Ward) to investigate the House of Song. They hire a local “barrister” by the name of Sly Nye to help in their research, despite his bizarre speech patterns he clearly knows the Hall well, and is cheaper by far than more respectable guides. (Nye speaks in sentences with . . .. peculiar word order, practically random in fact.)
It turns out the House of Song was recently purchased by one “Tos”, just a few year’s past. Also of interest is that a male half-elf by the name of Arthani was just here last week investigating the same records. Most importantly Sly Nye knows who “Tarvas” is. He tells Sioned that before the factions were exiled by Her Serenity he was an anarchist, and that he knew another anarchist by the name of Tarvas. Tarvas was a spell-slinger who specialized in summoning and controlling demons. He was also one of the more violent and destructive anarchists, Nye claims that he personally never espoused violence and acted through the courts to advance the anarchist cause.
Leaving the Hall of Records well after dark the group hires a young human boy by the name of Gareth as their light-boy. Gareth leads them back to Midnight Gate, and when bribed quite substantially, agrees to lead them through the Hive to the Gatehouse, where they’ll find the Night Market. Along the way they run into some of Sojah’s goblin bashers, but look too tough to extort and so manage to pass through her territory near The Ditch without a fight.
The Night Market is pretty much as wondrous as descriptions said it would be. (and at least as dishonest) The nearby cries of madman in the asylum of the Gatehouse fill the air as everything illicit is bought and sold. After a short time searching the three spot Arthani atop a building, talking with a spell-slinger of the human bent. At the same time she spots them. The spell-slinger vanishes, and the market clears out in a heartbeat as the unerring Cager instincts to avoid a fight about to break out work perfectly.
The fight goes terribly wrong, almost from the start. Arthani is backing a pair of vicious demons, a barlgurra and a beetle-like demon shooting lightning blasts. To make it worse they’re all supported by some hired ogre muscle. Three is hit by several vicious attacks from the barlgurra, and Arthani, and the runecarved demon, AND is knocked several times into patches of razorvine. After being knocked out, healed, knocked out again, and healed again, everyone figures the fight is a lost cause. Rather than die in the streets of Sigil Sioned calls for a retreat.
The three retreat in good order. Behind them Arthani’s taunts fill the air, “Run fools. RUN! You’ll never be my match, and my master’s plots approach completion! Your precious Consortium and the Cage itself are doomed!”
So the night ends with the three, badly beaten, racing into the darkness of the Hive seeking shelter … . any shelter, anything safe enough to at least catch a short rest in……