Freeday, Goodmonth 28, 552 CY (50 AN)
Peren manages to shake off his stupor as Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna mobilize. The guard reports that one of the serving girls ran into a nearby alley; two guards are in pursuit. Bezaldooz and Valna stay behind to attempt to treat Count Finlay Brissot. Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn rush out the door.
Things are a little worrisome at first, but Bezaldooz and Valna manage to stabilize the Count and restore him to consciousness within a couple of minutes. He thanks them for saving his life, and dispatches some guardsmen to investigate apartment of the serving girl, Alyssa.
Meanwhile, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn rush into a nearby alley. In the gloom, they can see two guardsmen lying in the alleyway. One appears to have a slit throat, while the other has no apparent wounds. Both lie still. A little further into the alley lies the serving girl’s dress.
The trio proceeds through the alley until they emerge into a busy street. They scan the crowd and finally notice a young lad, likely human by his look, walking through the crowd. He is shirtless, wearing only leather breeches and a pair of ornate leather boots, coated in some manner of wax. Something about his demeanor prompts them to begin pursuing, and as they do, he notices and begins to run.
Although Bosabrieln manages to shout at the crowd to get them to part, the lad is too swift and agile for them, and they quickly lose him among the crowds. Although they ask around if anyone has seen him, they quickly lose the trail. They begin to run back to Brissot’s home when Bosabrieln hears a voice emitting from his pack.
The group moves into an alley, and after some debate, opens the pack. The voice is asking if it is being received, and Bosabrieln finds that the voice originates from the sending stone still in his pack from Sorgforge — the other half being taken by Tikulti and Demise and presumably among their personal effects when they were captured and executed.
Bosabrieln hails the voice, and learns that the aged-sounding person is none other than Lord Oculus. Lord Oculus, as Peren and Torinn well know, is the local kingpin of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. They have never actually seen him, but they know of him. He proceeds to explain that he has contacted the Shields of the Sorrowfell — referring to Bosabrieln specifically as “Mr. Peredhel” — to make them an offer. They have come to Scandshar, and they should stay — see the sights, go to the cabarets, take in a show. However, as their deeds mark them as known troublemakers, they are not to interfere in Peacock operations. If they can manage to be unobtrusive for a little while, the Peacocks may offer them a job. If they instead decide to interfere, the Peacocks will execute those close to them — be they lovers, mentors, family members, adoptive family members, or even those within the group if necessary — and abscond with the bodies to make resurrection impossible. He bids them farewell.
Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn return to Count Finlay’s house. Among other things, they inform the Count of their failure to capture the assassin. He suspects the assassin will likely return to finish the job. One of the Count’s servants enters, indicating that the serving girl Alyssa was found alive in her apartment, although she was evidently bound and gagged. She is currently under guard, and when the Shields ask if it would be acceptable to speak to her, the Count says he will dispatch a servant to assess her state, although the morning is more likely. Shortly thereafter, a woman flits into the room; she is evidently Countess Saoirse Brissot, Finlay’s wife. At his request, they leave him to rest while they retire to the sitting room to discuss their options.
Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn inform Bezaldooz and Valna about establishing contact with Lord Oculus. They debate how best to proceed — they can wait for contact from the Peacocks, or they can start their investigation on their own. If they wait, they may be led right to the people they need to question, but they do not know how long they will have to wait for the Peacocks to contact them. If they start immediately, they put their loved ones in danger and do not exactly know where to go, but they have the advantage of starting immediately.
Although pale and unsteady, Count Brissot joins the Shields. They explain their dilemma, and decide to start immediately. Count Brissot recommends a contact some of his agents use, a harlot at the Chateau of Silent Lasses known as Lydia the Tattooed Lady. The group decides to warn anybody whom Lord Oculus may attempt to target, and Count Brissot says he will take care of arrangements. A messenger arrives and indicates that Alyssa is in no state to receive visitors, but may be available sometime the next day.
Regarding the assassin, Count Brissot speaks. He indicates that the assassin will likely return for him at some point, so finding the person again should be comparably easy.
With a vague plan to contact Lydia in the morning, the Shields let Count Brissot rest and retire to their hotel. All is normal upon returning, save for Bezaldooz, who enters his room to find it illuminated by candles. A parcel, wrapped in brown paper, sits upon the bed. Cautiously, he unwraps it to find a sheaf of papers, written in the same hand but obviously coming from different sources, that has been bound into a featureless leather book. He hears splashing from the bathroom and enters to find the woman who has taken to visiting him in the night. He indicates that he is surprised that she came all this way, and she indicated that she came to leave him a gift — the book. Evidently called The Confessions of Gingor the Seeker, it details a magus who sought forbidden lore. He expresses an interest in joining her in the bath, and with her invitation, he does so.
The next day, everyone convenes for breakfast. Bezaldooz looks a trifle pale, but the morning is otherwise unremarkable. The Shields make their way to the Chateau of Silent Lasses.
The Shields arrive at an ornate townhouse. They try the door to find it locked; they knock. A slide opens, and a man asks them to state their business. They indicate they wish to see Lydia the Tattooed Lady, and the man disappears briefly before the door is opened.
The sitting room is well-appointed, with a few guards about. The Shields are offered refreshment before the madam arrives. She looks a trifle surprised to see five, but ultimately cares little. They ask if she is Lydia, and she derisively replies, “No.” She leads them to Lydia’s room and says they can settle payment at the end.
They enter to find a woman undressing. She has pale skin, several piercings, and is covered in tattoos. A large peacock dominates her back, marking her as a slave. She looks a touch alarmed at five people in her room, but she is prepared for whatever comes next.
Bosabrieln introduces himself, finding her to be Lydia, and explains that he has come to ask her questions. She finds this somewhat relieving. He then proceeds to ask what she knows about Darstina Tallcrippler, and she says very little on the subject. Bosabrieln indicates, as Lydia herself notes, that two known Peacocks are currently in the room, and it would be totally plausible for this to be a test. Bosabrieln asks what she would need to prove their intentions, and she indicates that she doesn’t know. To put her at ease, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna leave. However, it doesn’t seem to work. Out of ideas, Bosabrieln asks what she is worth, and she says she understands herself to be worth approximately 3,000 gold pieces. Bosabrieln and Torinn leave.
After leaving the Chateau of Silent Lasses and paying a gold apiece, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna retire to a café across the street. Bosabrieln drops five gold pieces on the counter, and Torinn pays two before they also leave the Chateau of Silent Lasses, joining the others at the café. The Shields discuss their options — trying a different source of information, finding a method to convince Lydia of their sincerity, purchasing Lydia as a slave, or purchasing her and offering her freedom — before more or less deciding on fronting the money to purchase Lydia’s freedom. Bosabrieln leaves, and the others remain at the café to eat a little something.
Bosabrieln goes to the Brissot house to speak with the Count. Finding him awake, he asks if he can speak with the serving girl, Alyssa, but the Count indicates that she is still resting. Perhaps he should try a little later in the day? Bosabrieln thanks him and returns to his hotel room to bathe.
Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and Valna are eating and are about to leave when Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna become violently ill — there is a terrible pain in their abdomens and their bowels loosen. Torinn feels slightly nauseous, but has no further ill symptoms. As the group looks, they notice one of the servers has the same wax-covered boots as the assassin the previous night. Although he looks different, this assassin has clearly shown a mastery at disguise; they suspect it is the same person.
When the waiter finishes serving his table, he walks out the front door instead of heading toward the kitchen. The Shields follow in hot pursuit.
Seeing pursuers, the assassin flees, but does not get very far Bezaldooz shocks him with a blast of lightning before Valna halts his progress with the gravity hammer she recovered from the Sentinel. The energy pulls him backward and the shockwave knocks both of them down.
The crowd flees quickly. Peren and Torinn enter the melee and go to work before the assassin disappears in a cloud of shadow. With no other recourse, the group begins to leave when Peren notices something and sees another man, dressed in the same clothes as the assassin, walking out of a storefront. He sprints and fells the man instantly, before hefting him over his shoulder. He recognizes the boots as Boots of Sand and Sea, and decides to take them. The group decides to immediately return to Count Brissot’s house.
Along the way, they encounter some guardsmen. The Shields explain that this man is an assassin, and the guards, seeing the tell-tale grey, featureless face of a changeling, demand ten gold pieces for their trouble.
The Shields arrive at Count Brissot’s house with the prisoner. A runner is dispatched to retrieve Bosabrieln, and the assassin is secured.
Bosabrieln, meanwhile, is recalled from his bath by a knock at the door. Donning a towel, he answers to find a messenger from Count Brissot, saying that the assassin has been caught by the other Shields and that they are at Count Brissot’s house. He dresses quickly and heads over.
When everyone has reconvened, they express their desire to purchase Lydia and offer her freedom. Count Brissot offers an advance on their pay, and says he can give them 3,000 gold pieces out of their final payment. He sends a servant to gather the necessary funds, while dispatching another servant to check on the serving girl, Alyssa. The Count and the Shields discuss plans briefly before turning their attention to the assassin.
Peren roughly awakens the prisoner, and questioning begins. The prisoner only responds by saying, “I am the dagger poised at the heart of the abyss / I am the key by which the prison is opened / I am the hammer by which the chains are broken / By my hand I do the deed / By my will the world is freed.” He proceeds to say this repeatedly.
The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Count Brissot recognize the creed of the Broken Chain. They wonder why a member of the Broken Chain would attempt to assassinate the Count, but return to the matter at hand when Bosabrieln, recalling his Broken Chain brooch in his pack, pins it to his clothes and tells the assassin that he is his superior, and that he should cut it out.
The assassin looks confused, glancing between Bosabrieln and Count Brissot. He then starts shifting form, cycling quickly through different shapes until he is free of his bonds, he then dives into a nearby shadow and emerges next to the Count, grabbing a butter knife and attempting to saw open his own throat with it. He is quickly stopped before he can get anywhere.
After a few more rounds of questioning, the group is able to determine that Bosabrieln broke him utterly. As Bosabrieln convinced him that he was a member of the conspiracy, as was Count Brissot, but Brissot was his target, the conflict was too much for him to bear, and his mind cracked under the strain. Count Brissot says his guards will see to incarcerating the fellow, and he will see if he can learn any details about him.
The Shields of the Sorrowfell returns to postulating why a member of the Broken Chain would assassinate Count Brissot. He says that it is likely just a destabilization maneuver, something to cause chaos, but the Shields wonder if the Broken Chain and the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks are not somehow connected. After all, Lord Oculus obtained a sending stone in Demise’s possession, and an agent of the Broken Chain sought to kill a known abolitionist. Perhaps the two groups are not directly connected, but maybe one has means of manipulating the other.
Shortly thereafter, the Count’s servants return. Alyssa is likely in a condition to receive visitors, and the other returns with a pouch containing thirty platinum pieces. Wanting to finish business with Lydia, the group prepares to return to the Chateau of Silent Lasses.