When the paralyzation field was disabled, Lyr rushed into the ring and promptly healed Ramal, as I did my best to not show the severity of my own injury and to sell the action as good sportsmanship.
I worked the crowd, attempting to buy some time until Ramal was led from the ring so our companions could work their ways behind the scenes, trying to ignore the possibility that our message would not reach them.
Fortunately, it had and, as guards escorted Ramal and his treacherous second (who I thought Lyr would tackle and begin to pummel at any moment), the others got to work. Nessisus put two guards to sleep, and they slipped into the back passages, eventually finding their way to the gladiators’ chambers. They had arrived just in time, as Ramal, bound, was about to be executed.
Feng distracted the guards momentarily and launched a fireball into the room, disabling Ramal’s captors enough for him to overcome them. They escaped into the night and began their journey back to the inn, though Feng apparently had some business to attend to back at the Deep Water Court. We did not ask what and he did not tell…
Meanwhile, Lyr and I were applauded by the audience and I was rewarded with my prize, a ring described as a great treasure of House al-Maeh. A fabulous prize, to be sure, but I really should have told my companions to wager a few gold on me. I am somewhat disappointed to not come away from this with any more coin in my pocket and, in fact, in debt. I am sure there is a lesson in here somewhere…
Jaleed al-Maeh, after presenting this award, invited us to dine with him and other dignitaries and took the opportunity to offer us work, which was not entirely surprising. I suspect I will not be taking him up on this offer, but who knows? Maybe this will be a useful tool in the future.
He departed early and left his sister Aliya al-Maeh, to entertain us. She proved to be a charming hostess, as well as a source of some interesting information about our old acquaintance Kurgu Enusat, whose adventurous tales may not only have had more than a glimmer of truth to them, but a darker side as well.
Eventually, Lyr and I departed, our exhaustion overpowering sociability, and we headed back to the inn.
By the time we got there, the inn was a smoldering ruin and fire raged across the neighborhood. We did what we could to help civilians caught in the fire, but overcome by exhaustion and smoke—and a knowledge that whoever started the fire, which Ramal seemed certain was arson, may have been watching for us—we had to retreat. (We had also found Cressida, but not Creature, at the scene.)
Ramal led us to a safe-house, where we promptly went to sleep.
In the morning, as we gathered for breakfast and to make plans for the day, Creature returned, but was acting strangely. He was uncharacteristically aggressive, even more ravenous than usual, and seemed physically distressed. Lyr calmed him with a spell and treated him with an emetic. None of us knew quite what to expect, considering his boundless appetite, but a second, fully-formed Creature was nowhere on our list.
But that is exactly what happened. Baffled and disgusted, we watched as the second Creature flew off.
When we recovered from this and listened to Cressida’s tale of how she came to travel with Creature, we set aside that experience and set to making plans.
Ramal told us more about his conflict with The Cobalt Crown and what he had learned of their relationship with the Ordo Clavis, particularly their relations with Asha Druj, who may have been the creator of the Glass and Onyx artifacts. She had entered into an arrangement with The Cobalt Crown, but it had broken down, prompting the conflict we witnessed on our first journey to Sefet. Part of the arrangement included sharing the knowledge of creating Ancillae with Azu-Makeen; though he was ultimately not given complete knowledge, the fact that he has captured Lydra raising disturbing implications that he is continuing to research their creation, hoping to build an army.
He also shared with us a disturbing tale, that Azu Makeen, in his monstrous vanity, had discovered the recipe for an ointment that undoes the ravages of time on a body, extending one’s beauty and life, an ointment whose active ingredient is those of exceptional beauty.
Tonight, Feng will be meeting with Festiz ibn-Hazool, and that seemed an excellent opportunity to gain access to The Cobalt Crown. We will try to get him to follow Feng to The Great Vaults of Al Hafiz for payment and waylay them in some alley.
We shall use the day to prepare. Lyr and I shall visit the market to obtain supplies. Hopefully I will be able to find someone who can identify my ring (Nessisus was able to shed some light on its purpose and function, but we were unable to determine how to use it), though I suspect I do not have enough coin to pay for such services. I should have had one of the others put at least a gold on me last night… I would also like to take a moment to talk with Bashaa and hear his story if we have time. If we can find him, I may also inform Mehmet of Azu Makeen’s attempt to create his own ancillae. I don’t think we can count on the Ordo Clavis for help—and I do not want to—but this must be stopped.
Ramal will raise help in East Sefet, hiring some orphans to create a detour.
Meanwhile, Cressida and Sehera will find Kehgan and contract his aid. He shall pose as a highwayman, stopping the carriages after the detour leads them astray.
Nessisus will arrange for the carriages and, when the time comes, enthrall Festiz’ driver to ensure he follows our plan.
At sunset, Feng, Sehera and Lyr will meet with Festiz while Ramal, Indira, Cressida, and myself remain inconspicuous, but ready for things to go wrong. If they do not, Feng will persuade Festiz to follow him in his carriage to the vaults (while the rest of us follow, a detail we still need to work out), where he will be diverted, waylaid, and captured. If things do go wrong, we will attempt to incapacitate him and his men and abduct him by force. (And, if things go very wrong, Lyr can always resurrect him…) One way or another, we will extract information from him. None of us feel any particular sympathy towards this man, who provides humans like livestock to Azu Makeen’s hunger.