Godsday, Fireseek 25, 553 CY (51 AN)
While Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln are attempting to catch up, Torinn makes short work of the strange cat-beast, severing its head with his axe and taking the head for himself. The remaining Shields of the Sorrowfell regroup and press forward in the direction they suspect Peren went, only to run into a small horde of the animated suits of armor. They carve their way through them with blade and spell — to his chagrin, Bosabrieln finds himself in their midst, attempting to fend off sword blows — and press forward to see what happened to Peren.
To his surprise, Torinn rounds a corner just in time to see Peren reappear, his swords sheathed and the rod of paradise in his hand.
The Shields regroup and begin back-tracking, as Peren reveals that was a deadend. There is a brief discussion about playing to an audience wherein Torinn kicks the cat-beast’s severed head into the ceiling with a loud CRACK! Afterward, the Shields continue on their sweep of the maze. While Peren scouts ahead, Bezaldooz hears the faint sounds of combat deeper in the labyrinth, in the direction from whence they came. Bosabrieln calls out to recall Peren, and they begin swiftly moving back through the labyrinth, attempting to find their opponents.
(When Peren rejoins the others, he describes that he reached a large room in what is likely the center of the labyrinth. He suspects the eyeball cat-beast was lairing in the center of the labyrinth. There was one other exit to the south.)
As they make their way through the labyrinth, they eventually begin reaching opposition in the form of more of those armored constructs, but as they reach those, they can also clearly hear the sounds of combat ahead. (Bosabrieln thinks he recognizes the accent of the lion-folk of ‘Ichi, although he can’t be totally sure amidst the chaos.)
The Shields finally press forward and make contact. A lion-man and an elephant-man — both clad in plate, with the elephant-man having the bearing of a priest — charge out of the darkness. Behind them, lurking in the tunnels, are two bird-like humanoids: a slight, stealthy creature of crowlike bearing, no doubt a kenku, and a taller, robed figure of eaglelike bearing, likely an aarakocra. Bosabrieln invokes a hypnotic pattern, which binds the lion-man, the elephant-man, and the crow-man, but leaves the aarakocra wizard free. He invokes a spell, immediately appearing behind the group as he finishes casting another spell, causing Torinn to disappear with a faint popping sound.
(Torinn appears in a middle-class apartment, unable to move, as a woman is dressing for her day. She is shocked by the sudden intrusion, and begins shouting, whacking at him with a nearby implement and asking for him to leave.)
Despite the loss of Torinn, the others continue their assault. The aarakocra, now locked in melee with Peren, invokes another spell to teleport back with his comrades, whom he begins awakening. The aarakocra then flees into the darkness. Although the combatants shake each other out of their stupor, it does little good as Bezaldooz moves into their ranks and Bosabrieln invokes another hypnotic pattern. As Bezaldooz is bound, Peren begins cleaving his way through The Rule of Beasts, and Bosabrieln can finally step forward and shake him out of his stupor. When they collectively slay the aarakocra, Torinn returns, and with the Shields returned to full strength, they make short work of their opponents.
Once finished, there is a pause before an attendant finds them and leads them from the labyrinth, to the roar of the crowds. Backstage, they find the Jack of Diamonds again, who indicates that the Khan of Nightmares will invite them to the Chimeric Amphitheater in three days — but first, he wants to meet with Bosabrieln tonight, around 7 PM.
With the rest of the afternoon to prepare, the Shields discuss their options. They are far from pleased with this state of affairs, but realize they must deal with the Khan of Nightmares, and Bosabrieln’s meeting with him will no doubt bring them further information. Bosabrieln casts another legend lore, learning the following piece of information:
“Through ancient rites, the Khan of Nightmares bound the Umbral Blot that lurks above this island. As powerful as he is, the Umbral Blot is more powerful still.”
Bosabrieln recalls that an umbral blot, also known as a blackball and considered part of a class of creatures called, “nightshades,” is essentially a sapient sphere of annihilation, a weapon created by a forgotten pantheon of gods. Their creation was so reviled that they were destroyed and wiped from mortal memory, but the umbral blots remain. It is one of the few creatures even the gods fear.
With no further preparations to make, the Shields wait until the evening. Before the meeting, Bosabrieln uses his scroll featuring the glibness spell to prepare for potential negotiations. The Shields wait near the Chimeric Amphitheater while Bosabrieln gains entrance, being led to the Pagoda of Regicide by one of the pale, strange servants of the Chimeric Amphitheater. He is led to a room — an opulent but understated meeting room where the Khan of Nightmares is currently waiting. A servant provides them tea before the Khan dismissed him, and they get down to cases.
After introductions — the Khan of Nightmares is surprised when Bosabrieln introduces himself as “Bosabrieln Peredhel Zivkovic Fenn,” as the Khan was apparently unfamiliar with the surname — the Khan explains his situation. Unbeknownst to them, it seems the Shields are in some sort of rivalry with a coven of night hags known as The Hendiatris. Some weeks ago, the Shields of the Sorrowfell killed a night hag pirate and stole her shield guardian. The Hendiatris is the rest of her coven, and the Khan suspects they are using him to seek revenge. He holds no illusions about this, as he fully realizes the hags are using him as their instrument, but there is a lot of profit to be made. It seems they captured Ekaterina and sold her to him, and while by the laws of Bosabrieln’s land, she was not anyone’s to steal, this is perfectly legal under the laws of the Coliseum Morpheuon. While the Khan recognizes how dangerous the Shields of the Sorrowfell are, and how every additional moment they are in his settlement brings danger to himself and his enterprise, the fact remains that he still seeks the profit the hags have promised. As such, if the Shields compete in his arena in three days’ time — a grand total of five events over two days, with two events on the first day and three events on the second — and win, he will return Ekaterina to them, safe and sound. If they lose, on the other hand, he will retain their services indefinitely. He does not wish to interrupt the call of destiny, of course, so their term of service will only begin after their current labors are complete.
With that, he presents a roll of contracts for each of them to sign, telling Bosabrieln to deliver those to his peers.
Bosabrieln asks for clarification regarding a few things. He also asks how Ekaterina is doing, to which the Khan replies she is being treated “humanely.” When he also notes about the presence of the Voracious Visitor, the Khan of Nightmares summons it: a perfectly black sphere roughly five or so feet in diameter, appearing maybe a foot away from Bosabrieln. Bosabrieln is no fool, and feels the full weight of its presence, especially as it follows his movements while he reaches for the scrolls.
The Khan explains that Bosabrieln is free to leave, and if he has any additional questions or negotiations, there will be a servant at his disposal. As such, Bosabrieln leaves.
Rejoining with the rest of the Shields, they discuss their circumstance. Torinn throws his contract on the ground in disgust, already tired of these games, but Bosabrieln explains that it is either this, or that they must think of an appropriate counteroffer. Given the presence of the Voracious Visitor, he does not feel comfortable assaulting the Khan and rescuing Ekaterina, even though it might be a viable option.
Given that they have three days to prepare, they can likely think of an appropriate counteroffer between now and then.