Our story begins with four intrepid adventurers – Reinnwulf, the human barbarian, Tine, the gnome alchemist, Kriscilla, the halfling rogue, and Andree, the aasimar fighter – being summoned to the Pathfinders Lodge to meet with Venture Captain Sheila Heidmarch. While there, they were given a puzzle box to solve, which served as an audition of sorts.
The puzzle box was a test of the mind, to see if the adventurers could eke out slues from a forgotten language and tease open an ancient artifact. Thassilonian runes spelling out the word CRUEL were the key, as was the fact that you could switch two letters in the sequence by touching them simultaneously. The group quickly determined that the solution to the puzzle was to rearrange the letters to form the word LUCRE – a petty joke by some ancient Thassilonian noble, no doubt.
Not even the great Sheila Heidmarch herself expected what the companions found inside the box, however. As the lid popped open, a pair of pugwampis – destructive little gremlins – leaped out and caused mayhem within the Lodge library. The gremlins were quickly dispatched, with only a few torn books, gnawed candles, and minor bloodstains to show for their mischief.
Rather than being dismayed at the state of the library, Sheila apologized for the attack – though she did use the trap as anecdotal evidence that the life of an adventurer was like to be fraught with excitement and danger, and that problems were solved with the mind as often as with the sword. She then explained why she had called the group together.
One of her informants, a Sczarni gang member named Natalya Vancaskerin, had gone missing after reporting that she and her crew were on to a great find. Only, she missed the meeting she had set up with Sheila. The Lodge leader wanted the companions – who would likely draw very little attention in Magnimar – to investigate Natalya’s disappearance, and to bring her – and any artifact that she might have found – back to Heidmarch Manor. Sheila had few clues to give as to where to begin the search: she mentioned that Natalya might be residing in the garrison’s cells at the Arvensoar, that a carnival fortune teller called " The Amazing Zograthy was her initial contact with Natalya, and that citizens were rumored to be disappearing into the hands of Nidalese slavers. Armed with these dubious starting points, the companions set off into the city.
- The Arvensoar is a majestic place for a garrison and prison
They started with the city watch at the Arvensoar garrison, speaking to Captain Kasedei. They learned that Natalya was not currently incarcerated, and that The Amazing Zograthy might indeed be a good source of information. They also learned that Natalya had been a member of the Tower Girls, who recently moved their headquarters. They had previously been staying with a wretched beast of a man named Fenster the Blight, somewhere in the Underbridge area.
Looking at a map of the city, the companions decided to visit Zograthy first, and glean what knowledge the man had of Natalya before trying to find Fenster’s place. They found the old fortune teller in a booth in a semi-permanent run-down, trash heap of a carnival. He extorted a nice gem from them to tell them all her knew of Natalya and her whereabouts. It turned out he had quite a bit of knowledge. He also pointed them to Fenster’s place, a location they now deeply desired to visit. Among other things, he confirmed the rumors of the missing people, but professed no real knowledge of the disappearances.
It wasn’t hard for them to find Fenster’s place, a run down warehouse with a sign out front claiming “LEEV GIFT AN WATE”. Dropping a handful of ration bars onto the plate, the party only had to wait a few moments before a vile, stinking, filthy wretch of a man appeared to scarf up the proffered goods. His trademark “Wha chew want Fenster ta dew?” came out though a mouthful of rations. He claimed to know all about Natalya’s whereabouts, but refused to give any information for less than “a hunnert gold”. Kriscilla tried to convince him that she had a special coin easily worth that, but he didn’t fall for the trick. Instead, the companions decided to track down rumors of the slavers while giving Fenster time to forget about the false coin.
Naturally, the next best thing to do was to stroll through the most dangerous part of the city asking questions of everyone they met and generally making a nuisance of themselves. They tracked the slaver rumors to an abandoned tavern, The Puffy Pelican, where Kriscilla found evidence that the tavern was not quite as abandoned as it appeared. They kept the place under surveillance, and along about midnight, the light from a lantern appeared within the building. Reinnwulf led a charge into the building, followed closely by Tine, and succeeded in denting the wood floor with his head when a sorcerer caught them both in a Color Spray spell. Fortunately, Kriscilla and Andree were able to subdue the man, largely due to it being hard to fight back with an arrow piercing your lungs.
Andree recognized the man as Plutivarch Dremis, a man with a 100 gold bounty on his head for various petty crimes (most of which made the guard look like fools, and thus endeared him to them greatly). The companions questioned the man, and found that he was the one spreading rumors of the slavers, hoping to draw some young and cocky Pathfinders into a trap, where he could sell them to the Aspis Consortium and earn himself a place in that organization. They also learned he wasn’t too bright.
- Plutivarch Dremis was the “criminal mastermind” behind the fake Nidalese slavers
They spent the rest of the night in the Puffy Pelican, and set out at first light for the garrison prison, a bound prisoner in tow. Captain Kasedei thanked them most sweetly for the gift, and returned it in kind with a heavy bag of gold. Then, the group headed back to Fenster’s place, pausing only to get a cheap vase from a street vendor. Kriscilla was finally able to convince Fenster of the items great worth, after bobbling a few times, and the man told them of the place where Natalya now had her hideout. Apparently she split with the Tower Girls and was setting up her own gang.
The companions reconned the new hideout and found at least two of the new gang, a pair of toughs that tried to out muscle Reinnwulf. They quickly learned the error of attacking a human giant holding a spear when you are armed only with spiky clubs. Of course, they will now have to put that learning into practice in their next lives. Inside the half-burnt boarding house, they found the rest of Natalya’s gang, a small group of sewer goblins. The fights got messy, and not a few things got dead – goblins in groups being the perfect targets for Tine’s bomb-throwing skills – but none of the companions took any irreversible damage. The same could not be said of Reinnwulf’s pants, which quickly became soaked with sewage after he fell into one of the sunken floor areas.
Up in the attic, guarded by more goblins with crossbows and a goblin snake, they found Natalya Vancaskerin. With a presence of mind not normally seen in criminals and evil masterminds, the woman saw Reinnwulf coming and ran for it. Unfortunately for her, she missed a rafter and fell through the rotten attic floor into a pool of sewage just behind Andree. Andree shrugged off Natalya’s magics and backed the woman into a corner as goblin chunked rained down from the attic where Reinnwulf was mopping things up. The barbarian jumped down from above to hold Natalya still, and Andree slammed the flat of her shortsword into the woman’s head. Lights out for Ms. Vancaskering and a good two days’ work for the companions. Now all they needed to find was a good cleaners…and maybe a bath house.
- Natalya Vancaskerin, ex-Tower Girl, ex-freelance informant, ex-living member of the human race?
As Kriscilla ran her fingers through the various pockets and other hiding places on Natalya’s body, she found an assortment of treasures. The oddest one was a triangular shape made of a coppery metal unlike anything the companions have seen before. It has an indentation in the base, a circular impression, and the edges are smooth, though the metal itself appears to be pitted with age. Kriscilla shrugged and placed it into one of her packs as the companions turned to leave.