Due to their success at finding out why the children had been kidnapped, and returning the ones who were still alive, reporting back on the location of the goblin encampment, and discovering the fate of the missing scouts, the Kingdom of Hazeldor hired the PCs for a very important and sensitive mission. The Kingdom has been at war with the nearby Seven Cities of Jurl. The Kingdom feels it was pushed to war by The Seven Cities. Hazeldor is an agrarian society, but a few years ago there was a famine and The Crown borrowed a lot of money from the Seven Cities. Recently the Seven Cities demanded repayment. The Crown made an offer, but said it could pay no more, but The Seven Cities didn’t believe it. The daughter of King Lor’el of Hazeldor was slated to marry the son of a nearby island kingdom, and The Seven Cities demanded the massive dowry that King Lor’el would get, but the King found this offensive and as such refused to pay back any more of the debt at all. As tensions rose and a standoff happened between the kingdom, a trade embargo seemed like it might set off a war, but it was the sudden disappearance of the betrothed of King Lor’el’s daughter. The disappearance was assumed to be the responsibility of the Seven Cities, so the Crown declared war.
The Seven Cities have been ruled by a council of merchants called the Trader’s Alliance for a long time. After the war erupted the richest merchants saw a way to consolidate their power. The complexity of overseeing the logistics of a war and the secrecy required was the pretense for their coup. The War Council was created and given power to oversee and support the war effort. Shortly after its inception the War Council pushed smaller merchants out of the Trader’s Alliance by levying a heavy war tax on all vendors, making many go bankrupt – and if they we no longer vendors then they were ineligible for membership in the Alliance. As the Alliance grew smaller the power of the War Council grew stronger. It took it upon itself to uncover and persecute “treason” within the Seven Cities. Within Avalon, the capital of the Seven Cities, there was a growing social unrest. Recently bankrupted small merchants formed and alliance with lower class rebels and thieves, and a popular resistance group was formed in the poorest part of the city called the Rats Nest, and it was appropriately named MOUSE.
The PCs are told that Captain Blackheart, the former pirate and current merchant and friend of the Crown of Hazeldor, has a contact in Avalon named Green Pete who can help them try to destabilize the city and potentially overthrow the War Council, which the Crown sees as a way to undermine the war effort of their enemies.
The party (Crumble, Prak, Drogheda, Goggle, and Clap) arrives in the port city and capital of The Seven Cities of Jurl, the large city of Avalon. They familiarize themselves with their surroundings; Avalon is broken into distinct walled off districts: The Docks, The Rat’s Rest, The Lower Market, The Upper Market, and The Society District. Under the new stricter policing of The War Council people had to have formal identification papers that they showed to get into other parts of the city, particularly the Upper Market, where the higher quality and more luxurious goods are sold, and the Society District, where the upper classes lived.
The party visits a tavern called The Empty Flagon where they are supposed to meet up with Green Pete for the first time. The bartender tells them that Green Pete hasn’t been seen in weeks, but that he left a note, expecting them. The note told them to meet at midnight in a warehouse in the Docks. In the middle of the night the PCs go to this warehouse and are ambushed by a bunch of city guards and a mage in an orange robe. Drogheda and Goggle Moggle get captured and arrested while the others get away. They are brought to a heavily guarded jail in the Docks district.
The party scopes out the jail, and they find it too heavily guarded. They are surprised when a cleric in white robes with silver eyes stitched all over it appears behind them and tells them to move on. They feel like they are being watched and are clearly outnumbered, so they leave.
Goggle and Drogheda are each separately brought to an interrogation room where they are surrounded by clerics in white robes with silver eye patterns on it. Each cleric also has a tattoo of an eye in the middle of their foreheads. Then a cleric in white robes but with golden eyes stitched all over his robes comes in. The silver clerics form a circle around them and began chanting. As they chant the interrogated PC feels dizzy and begins to hallucinate, seeing the eyes swirl around them, watching them. Then the golden cleric steps forward and removed his hood, revealing a very real blinking third eye on his forehead. They all continue to chant as the golden cleric begins to interrogate the PC. Goggle is interrogated, but Drogheda goes into a barbarian rage and breaks free, and she has to be brought back to her cell before the interrogation can even take place.
Later, another orange-robed mage (as it seems that there is a force of mages that work as part of the city guard and they all wear plain orange robes) visits their cell and tell Goggle and Drogheda that he will set them free, but they will have to leave without him, and he will meet them the next day at a certain tavern in secret. He opens their cells and then leaves them to sneak out of the heavily guarded jail.
The next day the party meets up with this orange-robed mage. He explains that the entire force of orange-robed mages is basically slaves to the War Council. He shows them a brass collar around his neck and say that it makes it so the white-robed clerics, priests of a god of order and truth, Pantos, who call themselves the Eyes of Pantos, can watch them any time they want, and so that the mages cannot turn against their masters. He says that if they can help free his peers then the orange-robed mages will help them overthrow the War Council. He tells them that there is an underground resistance group that is called MOUSE, and that this former thieves guild is also trying to overthrow the War Council. He asks the party to contact MOUSE and forge an alliance. He also tells hands them a note which he says contains the key to the mages liberation then he leaves. The note says that in the Temple of Pantos there is an ornate darkwood rod with a ruby on top that if the party can get to him will free his comrades.
In the Rat’s Nest the party makes contact with the group called MOUSE. This underground resistance group is led by two figures, Aerindale, a former leader among the thieves guilds, and Caspian, a formerly rich merchant who lost everything and has since sworn to get back at the War Council. MOUSE is happy to make new allies, and they are very interested in freeing the orange-robed mages and gaining their help. They also warn the group that now that they are associated with MOUSE and that they have visited their headquarters they may be in danger. Recently some of their agents have been found dead or have gone missing. Rumor is that the War Council has hired some assassins belonging to a mysterious group from overseas. All they know of them is that they have a symbol – two crossed scimitars. The party recognizes the description immediately. Their comrade Hikaru wears a silver necklace with that symbol. (They met him between chapter 1 and chapter 2, and he is supposed to meet them in Avalon, but they haven’t seen him yet…)
As a sign of their alliance Aerindale tells one of the members of MOUSE, a warrior named Nobby, to accompany the party and help them on their quest to find Green Pete and to work with this orange-robed mage.
Angry about the set up the party visits the Empty Flagon once again to pay the bartender a visit. He immediately breaks down and tells them that he is a friend of Pete’s and that Pete really did disappear weeks ago, but the guards came in and threatened him to pass along the note to whomever comes asking for Pete. The tavern is always watched by the guards, and he didn’t want to take the chance in not complying. He begs their forgiveness and tells them that they should seek out a dwarf gem merchant in the Society District who was very close to Pete, who goes by the name Krogus.
Still searching for Green Pete they pay a visit to Krogus, who sells gems and minerals, but is quick to tell them that the bastards on the War Council kicked him out of the Trader’s Alliance because of his “questionable loyalty” just because he spends half of his time in the mines among his dwarven kin. But really it is all because he was a vocal opponent of the power grab and probably because he and Pete were working alongside MOUSE to build support for their cause against the council within the Trader’s Alliance itself, he assures them. He says the last time he saw Pete he had been deep into something. Pete looked like he hadn’t slept in days and was really paranoid and kept repeating the words “black flame,” but wouldn’t explain what was up. Then he ran off in a hurry and that’s the last that anyone has seen of him.
Headed home at night they are ambushed in the streets by two scimitar-wielding men in black. The party barely hold their own against these assassins, but manages to subdue both of them and question them. They don’t learn anything of value from them, but when their comrade Hikaru’s name is mentioned the assassin swears he will kill him. Unable to let these deadly assassins go free the party leave them tied up in a basement of an abandoned building and then sets the building on fire and watches it burn down and collapse.
That night Prak has a vivid dream. She is wandering around Avalon, but the city is empty of people. Out of the corner of her eye she sees a figure, but as soon as she spots it it runs away. She follows it, catching an occasional glimpse of a short figure with multi-colored hair that seems familiar to her, but she doesn’t recognize as her former companion Sarjenka the halfling witch until after she wakes up. She continues to chase this figure through an abandoned city, down streets and alleys, winding and taking quick turns, to the point where she loses her bering and has no idea where she is until suddenly she is at the steps to the Temple of Pantos. She slowly walks up, and then enters the temple. Inside she sees a fire, burning black and very large. As she slowly walks toward it it suddenly bursts forth and consumes her!
That same night, Crumble can’t sleep and gets up and finds his way to a late night underground theater performance of a play about growing inequality and social struggle. These kinds of performances have become more popular recently with the growing middle class dissatisfaction and precarity. While at the play Crumble meets a mysterious figure dressed in all black robes wearing a white porcelain mask, one side uplifted in laughter with a red blushing cheek, the other frozen in a sad frowning moment with a tear drop below the eye. The figure doesn’t give a name, but he loves to talk. He and crumble discuss their philosophy of life and swap stories. The masked figure says that he finds predictable plays boring, and the fun comes when something unexpected happens and the actors have to improvise. He says his brother was a playwright who became a director, and that his problem was that he tried to control over single element of the performance, that he was too figurative and as such his plays were boring and predictable. So against his bother’s wishes he used to sabotage the plays to throw the live performance a curve-ball and get some real emotion and improvisation out of the actors. He says that life is like the dessert, that people will try to control the sand dunes, they will try to build civilizations, but in the end it is the wind that comes by and turns a dune into a hill or vice-versa, and that planning and control are illusions, and that if we are to aspire to anything it should be more like the wind, to not hold on and control but to just be free and embrace change. He says he has a gift for Crumble but left it in his other robe but not to worry he’ll get it to him later. Crumble gets out of his seat for a moment and when he looks back the figure is gone…
The party again discreetly meets with the orange-robed mage, and he tells them that something big is going down at sunset in the Lower Market, he says that they should grab the rod from the Temple of Pantos and meet him there at that time, otherwise he says they might be too late. He also mentions that there’s a Trader’s Alliance meeting in a few hours and they might want to check it out if they can sneak in.
As they leave the tavern a kind runs up to Nobby and says that Aerindale sent him, that apparently Caspian has captured one of the assassins and is interrogating him at an undisclosed location. Caspian had sent a messenger with the assassin’s necklace as proof, but when Aerindale looked at it she realized it wasn’t new and shiny like the ones from the two assassins that the party had subdued, but rather it was a bit old and worn down. She thought there was a possibility it belonged to their friend Hikaru, who wears the same silver symbol around his neck.
The PCs discuss what to do. They decide that three of them will seek out their contact Krogus who used to be in the Trader’s Alliance to see if he can sneak them into the meeting later that day. The other three will go to the Rats Nest to the headquarters of MOUSE to talk to Aerindale about this business with Caspian.
Through their contact who used used to be a Trader’s Alliance member they were able to sneak into the meeting and they overheard that a “powerful threat” has been caught and will be executed at sundown today. This threat allegedly proves connections between subversive elements in the city and their enemies abroad. As such, it seems that some in the Alliance have begun to work with these subversives to undermine the war effort. Just then a bunch of guards pour into the room and a list of “traitors” is read aloud, and members of the Alliance is arrested on the spot. Chaos ensues and the group sneaks out, suspecting that their elusive contact, Green Pete, is the one to be executed this evening. Being that they are close to the Temple of Pantos they decide to try to steal the rod that the orange-robed mage asked for. They arrive and see it is heavily guarded and decide to wait… After a couple hours of staking it out, all the clerics, the Eyes of Pantos, leave and bring the guards with them. They quickly enter the temple and find a secured room in thebasement with a few magical items, including the rod! With the use of a magic dust that a strange masked man gave to Crumble the alchemist (who passed it along to Clap the rogue) they are able to break the magic circle around the rod and take it.
The other group members go with Aerindale to where they are told that an assassin is being held, who they believe to be their companion Hikaru. Caspian and some other armed men say that he’s locked up in another room and they are free to check and see if its their ally. They enter the room and see a man from behind sitting on the ground tied up. As they get close enough to see his face he reveals he isn’t tied up and reaches for a nearby weapon and then Caspian and all his men attack the group! Caspian is staging a coup in MOUSE (because he made a deal for power in the council). A fight ensues and Crumble, the group’s gnome alchemist starts a fire that eventually threatens to burn the building down. The party retreats, finding Hikaru locked in another room in the process and they leave with Aerindale, who is afraid that the MOUSE meeting which is about to happen is also a trap by Caspian to kill the members loyal to her.She flees to go warn them as the group leaves to go find their comrades.
The full party meets up in the market just as a massive crowd is gathering for the execution. They exchange info and everyone is nervous that the contact they’ve been trying so desperately to meet might be permanently silenced before they can even meet!
The market is filled with thousands of people, and there is a heavy guard presence. All of the Eyes of Pantos are there. A man is brought out to the “stage” area and he is announced as a traitor. The group is getting anxious. They keep looking around for their orange-robed friend, but don’t see him. The dog and pony show finishes and a group of orange robed mages are called out to execute him by magical firing squad. They form a semi-circle around him and they await the order to kill…
Just then the group spots their contact and he’s rushing through the crowd to get to them. As he approaches they throw him the rod. He charges toward the stage just as the head of the guard orders the mages to kill. The mages all begin the motions to cast a spell but then stand down. They are again ordered to kill and they just stand down. Guards are called out to force them to follow their orders, all while the lone mage is pushing through the crowd to get to the stage.
The mages are surrounded, each one having two guards each putting a sword to their back, and they are again ordered to kill Green Pete. They continue to stand down and the head of the guard is obviously irate. He looks to the war council and the clerics with the robes with golden eyes, and they just nod to continue. He then orders their execution. The air is full of tension, as no one knows if the mages can or will put up a fight. But they don’t move, they just stand there and take the fatal blows and they all fall to the ground, dead.
The group is stunned. They thought they were going to free the mages, but it seems they were just moments too late!
Their ally finally reaches the stage just moments after and begins to laugh as he smashed the ruby on the end of the rod on the ground and yells some incantation. Black fire bursts forth and stepping out of it is the animated remains of a dead necromancer, A LICH!
Udakrus, the Shadow King, has been brought back after centuries in captivity.
He raises the dead mages and then begins to indiscreetly shoot black fire into the crowd. The market erupts into panic and emergency as everyone tries to leave. Thousands are slaughtered, and come back as the living dead, to kill others to join Udarkus.
The party has to flee the city, making it out of an urban maze of roaming zombie hoards and people trampling over each other through the small checkpoints that separate city districts.
They manage to reach the port and board the boat of their friend Big Jonah. With the smell of burning flesh and the screams of the last remaining living behind them they set sail…