The start of the day found the party in the depths of the swamp, tracking down a strange feeling that the casters could perceive. Investigation led them deeper into the swamp, bringing them eventually to a strange dome of brambles, a thicket made of plants that ordinarily have no business in a swamp, surrounded by the stench of blood and swamp rot.
Kyton was the first to investigate, but upon pushing his way into the hedge, he was gripped with a fear so intense he could do nothing but flee. Ishlin tried next, and though he had difficulty making it past the thorns, he proved more stalwart and was able to shake off the supernatural terror. At the center of the thicket he found a strange, twisted tree with near-black bark, surrounded by thick vines … and skeletons tangled therein. Deciding it was best to back away and live, Ishlin and Kyton made their way back to the others, and decided all around to continue their investigation of the mysterious tree at a later time.
They hauled the bulette’s paw back to the halfling village and received their reward, a small chest with 8 bars of bullion within. Taking their bounty, they made their way back to River’s End.
An interlude …
In River’s End, Constable Gene had kept occupied by tracking “the” were-rat into its sewer lair and slaying it. On the heels of that achievement, he received word from his informant in the Perfectly Legitimate Businessmen, Vinny the Chin, that the tauren were in town and they were after one of the Council of Twelve. Because of his achievements with the were-rat business, Head Constable Brondir placed Gene in charge of a small detachment of the guard and charged him with preventing the assassination.
Upon returning to River’s End, the party and Brenda went shopping for the ball. They bumped into Gene, who filled them in on his adventures from the previous days, and also to their counterparts from Dark Moon House. They also were exposed to the wonder that was Ice Moons, a frozen treat provided by a gnome at the fair.
The following day, Brenda took the party to “the best tailor in the Rhysmarch,” a drow elf named Virek. Virek welcomed them into his shop and talked their ears off while taking their measurements, and then ushered them away, promising he would have their clothing ready for final fittings by midafternoon. The party spent the intervening hours shopping, visiting the apothecary to ready themselves for the Wild Hunt after the ball. A quick trip back to Virek’s provided them with fantastically well put-together attire, and then it was time to go to the party.
Brenda arranged a fine coach (out of her own wages) and off they went to the opera house. The music was audible from outside, but they didn’t have to wait long. A quick pass through security, in which their weapons were peace-bonded (and just as quickly un-bonded by a watchful Gene), and they were inside. The dancing was already underway; the bar and the buffet were set up and the best and best-dressed of River’s End were already hard at work socializing.
Ishlin made a beeline for the bar, where he was approached by Councillor Nyzmor, a fellow Thran. Nyzmor spoke to Ishlin about Thran things, including his general discomfort with the affairs of high society. Meanwhile, at the buffet, Hershlag and Kyton were greeted by Councillor Jommeju, a huge, boisterous, gossipy Ur-Skek. Hershlag made his way to the roped-off area next to the stage, and found another man, who identified himself as Councillor Buglakk, fiddling with a locked door.
Buglakk promptly shooed the inquisitive halfling away. Hershlag left, but went to collect Gene and Kyton; unfortunately, Buglakk was gone by the time they got back. They inspected the door, which Gene had previously secured, only to find that it had been unchained.
Meanwhile, Councillor Goicel had taken Ioan by the ear and was prattling on about music and theatre. It turned out that Goicel was a strong patron of the arts, who took in a large amount of money through the Opera House itself. Suddenly, the arrival of Councillor Buglakk was announced; this raised eyebrows among the party but they did not pursue the matter.
A backstage investigation by Gene, Kyton, Ishlin and Hershlag led to a short fight with ninjas in the catwalks above the stage. The ninjas were in their element and armed with poisoned hand crossbows, and so were easily able to elude the party. Meanwhile, Brennis and Ioan continued to talk with Goicel, and collected an agitated-looking Buglakk, bringing him to the bar.
Buglakk indulged very quickly in large amounts of Ur-Skek Ambrosia, a potent drink. As he quickly became inebriated, Goicel suggested they get him out of sight. They quickly brought him backstage, where he promptly vomited and passed out.
The party decided to casually mingle with the rest of the Council to try and work out just what was going on. Leaving Gene to stand guard over the inebriated Buglakk, they emerged back to the ball and started to chat.
They quickly found that the recent hardships in the council had centered around some kind of trade bill, the nature and sponsor of which was a matter of some circumspection. Brennis spoke to the Cymru Councillor, Oadlay MacFarren. Ishlin went back to talk with Councillor Nyzmor. Ioan leveraged his bardic whiles to dance with Councillor Rhivleg, a handsome older woman and heir to a trade fortune. Councillor Goicel introduced them to the mad Councillor Byhill. Brenda spent a great deal of time engrossed in conversation with Councillor Pyawi. Finally, they spoke again to Councillor Jommeju, who talked at some length about the trade bill and his general disapproval of those who tried to make money through dishonest means.
This was enough to confirm their suspicions, that Buglakk had founded the bill and had contracted with the tauren to eliminate some of his competition, but had reneged on his deal with them. Tauren honor would demand an example to be made of him; despite the general consensus that he probably deserved what was coming to him, the party resolved to do what they could to protect him from the assassins and bring him to justice. They went backstage to confront him, but he refused to confess to everything, instead getting back into the perceived safety of “the open” as quickly as possible.
Then, the feast began. Each of the members of the Council took their place at the head table and made speeches, one by one, as the food was brought forth and served. Councillors Gewaegue, Nhuayl and Lameyek went first, then Oadlay, Jommeju and Goicel. Udrat, Rhivleg and Nyzmor went in turn, and it was then that some in the party started noticing that some of the servers were taking an unusual interest in the proceedings.
As Buglakk stood up to make his speech, one of the servers threw off his uniform, casting aside the illusion that had been disguising him. Where a tall, bald human had once stood was now a bare-chested, muscular, tattooed tauren assassin. Yelling a threat, he charged the stage and made a death attack on the surprised, helpless Buglakk.
As Buglakk slumped into his seat, the party charged the stage. Though the assassin was boxed in between the party and Gene’s guards, other assassins revealed themselves and joined the fray. In the confusion, the assassin escaped, though the party was able to capture one of the tauren ninja for interrogation.
The evening ended with the arrival of the Constabulary along with the Council. Buglakk was taken into custody on suspicion of hiring the assassins and the characters were given the thanks of the Council for preventing the assassination and further harm to the guests and attendees. Gene took custody of the captured assassin as the party departed to head for the woods to meet Rothgald and Legandir to embark on the Wild Hunt.
Gene 1475 (RP bonus)