Three years have passed since the death of the cleric Qutugan and the mage Ando. The party has gone their separate ways – Tomi Milenko to return Gan’s body to his homeland, Reyn Suralis and Garcon to their own adventures. Arcubix, still bearing the mysterious amulet that he knows to somehow be related to the demonic entity that Qutugan sacrificed himself to re-imprison, decided to continue his own personal quest. Accompanied by a new traveling companion, the Orine noble scion and former gladiator fight promoter Jale d’Illici, Arcubix decided to follow a tip that would lead him to the city of Lohen, a large port city on the coast of the Nallianan nation of Anembarg. The two were looking for the mysterious crime lord known as the Morningstar – Arcubix for information related to his quest and Jale to put his own hand into the illegal gambling interests the Morningstar is part of in Nalliana.
Another pair of travelers was also exploring Lohen: a Xevierian priestess of Jian Qing Liu named Miss Chen and the Bian warrior-mage Torin Ilphukiir. They had met on the ship on which they had entered port, and decided to travel together. They first explored the market district, where a man attempted to sell them a fake magic sword and they received an incoherent “prediction” from a “seeress”. At one point, Miss Chen gave a gold coin to an orphan in the street, which attracted a mob of orphans also looking for charity. The swarm of needy children was broken up by a guard, but Miss Chen decided to find an orphanage, which they did in a temple of the goddess Dannas.
Meanwhile, Arcubix and Jale were searching for the Morningstar. They came first to Lohen’s dock district and found the gated section that companies and wealthy citizens used; the gates were barred and overseen by a guard that seemed to have been at his job a long time. Arcubix attempted to communicate with the man and ask about the Morningstar, only to discover that he spoke neither Biath nor Arcubix’s native Sisakrai, which resulted in a language barrier that Jale had to translate past with difficulty. Jale attempted to convince the guard that they were trying to get past him so they could purchase weapons at the docks, but the man was nonplussed.
It was about that time that another man came to speak to the guard at the docks, a well-dressed K’hamidin claiming to be passing through to sell wine. He heard Arcubix and Jale’s conversation about the Morningstar and seemed to perk up slightly when he heard it. When he finally decided to bribe the guard (“We are here to see a Mr…Shazam,” he told the guard, producing a small pouch of coins, seemingly from nowhere), he told Arcubix and Jale to come with him through the gate. The man introduced himself as Tariq al-Kharim, telling the two adventurers (Arcubix through Jale, as Tariq’s Biath was spotty at best and the only Nallianan Arcubix knew was “Morningstar”) that he himself was searching for the Morningstar and that he wanted to know what they knew about it. It seemed the three were at similar levels of knowledge – little more than the crime lord’s name was known – so they agreed to join forces to find the man. Arcubix led the way to the first ship, a galley that seemed to be swarming with activity.
Arcubix (taking the direct path in classic Arcubix fashion) decided the way to get the crew’s attention was to climb their gangplank. They did, only to discover that no one aboard the ship spoke any Sisakrai, Biath, or even intelligible Nallianan – they were told in halting, broken Nallianan to leave and the sailors attempted to push them back down the gangplank while Arcubix continued to demand in information about the Morningstar’s whereabouts in a loud voice. Eventually one of the sailors came up to them holding a spiked mace – a morningstar, in other words – in answer to his finally (mis)-understood demands, and the trio gave up.
The next ship was a luxury vessel crewed by clean-cut Xevierians, and Arcubix and company were greeted by the first mate. When asked about the Morningstar, the first mate told them that he knew nothing. He said that if they wished to speak to the captain, they could wait until he returned from meeting with the ship’s owner – “What’s going on?” Arcubix asked. “Is the captain the Morningstar?!” Unsuccessful, the trio had a short discussion about a different tactic, though Arcubix proved unreceptive to any route more subtle than “ask anyone who will listen”.
They decided to ask at the first bar they found, which turned out to be a small, dingy establishment called the Crusty Glass. Inside, the establishment was hosting five customers – three men at the bar, two speaking quietly in the corner. Arcubix entered, demanding (in Biath) information on the Morningstar – of course, the only word the Nallianan speakers in the bar understood was “Morningstar”. They were pointedly asked by the barkeep to get the hell out as two of the men sitting at the bar, sensing a confrontation, fled the room in haste. Arcubix was, predictably, unfazed. The bartender tried to physically force Jale out of the bar while Arcubix tried to get him to calm down – “Calm down!” he said, over and over again (in Biath, which the bartender did not speak). The bartender attempted to punch Arcubix, but failed, and called out for a man named Tom. Tariq spoke a command word as the man was emerging from the back and became suddenly arrayed in heavy armor styled like the body of a demon and was carrying a warhammer. Jale tapped into his magic powers to unobtrusively cast a spell of charming on the bartender and convinced him to calm down – the man still wanted Arcubix and Tariq to leave his bar, however, and they decided that that would be the best option.
Outside, they were told by one of the bar patrons who had left that they might have better luck in the temple district of Lohen, but due to the lateness of the day they decided to return to the Alabaster Dragon, the inn at which Jale and Arcubix were staying.
Torin and Miss Chen had by that time left the orphanage they found after donating some money and returned to the inn they were staying at, which also happened to be the Alabaster Dragon. Chen had asked the owner if she would be allowed to dance for the patrons, and she was allowed to. As Chen was dancing, Arcubix and his group were discussing plans. After Miss Chen’s performance (to thunderous applause), the tavern part of the inn began to clear enough for the sudden sounds of a struggle outside to be audible. Torin leapt to his feet to investigate, with Miss Chen following behind – Arcubix, Jale, and Tariq decided to investigate as well (Arcubix trying to rationalize a possible link between Torin and the Morningstar).
Torin arrived first in the alley where the fight was just finishing – a man protecting a younger boy was felled as he arrived by several armed thugs. Using a spell of speed, Torin closed the distance quickly and gutted one of the thugs with his magic blades. Tariq arrived next and used his magic ring to appear in armor again, once again holding his warhammer. Jale stepped into the fray as well and used a spell to knock everyone in front of him unconscious (including the young boy) except for the apparent leader of the thugs. Chen began to use a spell of mass healing to make sure that those who had been knocked out would recover as the leader attempted to charge Jale, missing the mage with his attacks. Torin struck the man down, knocking him unconscious. Tariq began to tie up all those involved except those who had come from the bar, evidently with rope he carried for that purpose.
The young man woke up, then, still tied up, and began to babble incoherently. It became apparent that he was wearing a white blindfold – when asked about it he claimed that it was hiding his demon eye. Chen removed it and saw that the boy’s eyes were sewn shut with careful stitches that did not look recent. She attempted to heal his blindness and discovered that it was impossible. Arcubix, tired of this, bent to cut the stitches off – the boy begged him not to “let the ponies out of his eyes”. As Arcubix was about to cut, the boy’s demeanor changed suddenly, and in a dead-sounding voice, he spoke the following:
“I see a field, and a host of winged people crossing it. Some are flying; some walking.”
Arcubix’s mood seemed to shift completely, and he slung the tied-up young man over his shoulder and told the group he would take care of him. An argument between him and Miss Chen ensued – Chen argued that since the man the boy claimed to be his uncle was dead, he should be taken to an orphanage, but Arcubix said the young man would be safer with him. Tariq stepped into the argument and pointed out that if they found out who it was that was trying to take the boy, they might know where to bring him. He woke the leader of the thugs and asked him about the job he was asked to do.
The leader claimed that he was asked to find the boy and take him, unharmed, to a certain inn in Lohen. The man giving him the task would not say where it had come from, but the man’s guess was that the ultimate source of the job was none other than the Morningstar himself (though Arcubix now claimed not to care about the Morningstar at all). “I will make you a proposition, my friend,” Tariq told him, crouching next to him. “Either you can come with us to deliver this child – or a substitute – to where he needs to be delivered, or I will take my hammer – it is a merciful hammer, you will not die – and beat you with it until my arms are tired.” The man agreed to take the party to where the boy was supposed to be delivered.
“We are your hired thugs,” Tariq informed him.
“Best in the business,” he agreed.