Shrike, feeling out of place in an urban environment, let alone a palace tower, was beginning to sweat behind his mask. As he awkwardly scratched his face behind the sweltering leather, his peripheral vision was momentarily restored, coinciding with a flash of movement out the balcony window. Quickly crossing the room and opening the door, he saw a crumpled ball of paper on the balcony, and a hand clutching the rail. The hand released its grip and dropped out of sight. Looking over the railing to the street below, he saw a wagon train making its way into the city proper, and the swift movement of a snake’s tail disappearing into the throng of festive citizens.
The wagons, drawn by lumbering white beasts somewhere between goat and bison, were empty cages, most likely returning from Malignor’s slave market, ready for more cargo. As Shrike turned back to discuss the hand and snake with Felix, Eldon hastily pocketed the paper, brushing off enquiries with complaints about lax staff neglecting to properly clean the balcony.
Felix realised the hand and snake to be one and the same. Called “Hands of Fate”, these witch’s constructs are intended to surveil and occasionally murder. Shrike sent Arwen to track the homunculus.
Eldon resisted polite enquiry but it was soon apparent that not only was his hand bleeding, but a flower was blooming out of his pocket. Confronted with these observations, he conceded only that our heroes weren’t the only party engaged to save his daughter. Eldon was hedging his bets. Disappointed by the lack of results, and irritated by scrutiny, he ordered Taito to escort the party from the palace.
Across town, in a prison cell, Egil listened carefully as the freshly-extracted elven child fell silent. Biting a hole in his sackcloth hood, he managed to glimpse the scarved noblewoman crouched before the child, speaking softly and sweetly, her hands around the child’s. Whether by comfort or terror, this approach was working, but Egil felt no confidence that their fate would be any better, if not much worse, than those headed into slavery.
Attempting a third time to conjure the spirit of desire, he was assaulted by his infatuated cellmate. No, not in the way you think, dear readers: the half-drunk thief sharing the shaman’s cell only wanted to tug his totem away from him.
A fight broke out, Egil head-butting the thief, and the warden called out assertively for the pair to pipe down. Egil felt this was just as he liked it, and made even more commotion until the warden sent another guard into the cell to break it up.
Egil called the lightning , lashing out over his shoulder toward the bars of the cell, toasting the unsuspecting guard and tethering his lucky spirit, but also catching the attention of the nobles by the warden’s desk. The warden and another guard cautiously entered the cell, spears lowered to keep the shaman at bay, then Egil summoned a spectral python, which promptly trussed him like a ham as the thief retreated with his prize.
To the southwest, Ludwigron walked up to Eshrigel’s door and knocked. “I am Ludwigron, the great wizard” he announced, “and I propose a business arrangement which could prove to be mutually beneficial…”. He disappeared inside to discuss the finer points late into the night, over tea, beneath a large cage containing some kind of plasmic ghoul. A deal was struck to deliver the deadliest part of Eshrigel’s book to Zorlac, and in exchange, the gorgon would incapacitate some of the librarians, allowing the wizard time to peruse the library, procure his lost volume, and possibly purloin further tomes.
Upon exiting the palace, Shrike decided to sneak beneath the last wagon in the train, and quickly discovered the hand of fate had the same idea. Ellissendre tried to speak with the beasts of burden, but only riled them up. Baldric tried to climb astride one to calm it with music, but dropped his violin. Felix tried to retrieve the violin from beneath the feet of a beast but nearly broke her hand. Ellisendre tried to help but was knocked out of the way as Shrike swung his sword blindly at the creature on his leg, and Baldric sent a lucky arrow across to knock his violin out of harm’s way.
Shrike called for Arwen, who reluctantly approached the creature until it glared at her, giving him a moment to grab it by the wristneck and stuff it into a sack just as the wagon rolled away, leaving him in plain view on the street. The whole group cut their losses and legged it through the gate into Ironguard proper, ducking into the Hunting Needle pub for dinner, drinks, and rest.