Bringing Meri back has taken most of the morning, and now she is safe the group turn their thoughts to the rest of the city, wondering what’s happening outside. Just then, there is a heavy knock on the outer door of the church. High Priest Starhammer, accompanied by the rest of the group, answers the door to find a contingent of guards waiting to escort the dwarven priest to the Council chambers for an emergency session.
They are about to up and leave, when they realize that no one but them and a few other Watch officers know this whole thing was a massive set up, and even they don’t know the who or why of it. Elo sends the others on, saying she will catch them up, because their one lead is back at the North West Precinct and they need answers. She takes off on Aurianna as the others continue on to the chambers.
In the Council Chambers they see an emissary from Fangthane, a representative for the ‘human’ population of the city – at least those with deep pockets, and the Drakemar emissary, whom all proceed to speak their pieces.
The Lawyer, the human’s representative, is arguing that the dwarves all should be shipped off back to their mountain and the menace of their presence will be ended for good. Those that don’t, he says, will be sectioned off into a dwarf-only enclave surrounded by high walls.
The Fangthane Emissary states that is a ridiculous solution. He calls for wisdom, saying the mountain folk and the plainsmen have been friends and allies for a long time now, and it would be foolish, nay childish to fall out over an ‘upset applecart’.
The Drakemar Emissary proclaims he’s not bothered which way the vote goes, as long as the House tithe continues to be paid. However, his preference is to keep the dwarves and allow their free movement through the city. They produce fine wares, and provide skilled labour, and that all translates into cold, hard cash.
Meanwhile Elo has reached her Watch house, and found the mortuary, and it’s mortician, a goblin called Grog ‘Snips’ Snickersnip. The mortician is a slow, methodical man, and Elo impatiently bears his initial examination of the assassin – of course, she doesn’t need to know how the woman died, because she was there. He does reveal some interesting, if dark and disturbing, facts about her life as a drow. Finally there is a break in his monologue, and she asks to see the drow’s possessions. Snips grumbles and shows her the tray with two scroll cases and a backpack. He says he can’t read either of them, but the care with which they’ve placed in the cases suggests they are important. The larger is in undercommon, he thinks, and the smaller is in draconic. Elo reads the smaller and discovers it’s bad old Darkhide up to no good – he’s sent the assassin to turn the city against itself, keeping it distracted, while he amasses an army on Toreguard’s borders. Snips says there’s one more thing that may be of interest – a hexagonal plaque with a spider motif. Elo takes one look at it and assumes it’s to do with Lolth, and Snips says it is from Darkside, the Drow capital. Elo says she can’t waste any more time, thanks the Goblin for his work and runs out.
She and Aurianna head to the Council chambers, and land amid some consternation. Elo tells the young dragon – who is not quite so little any more – that she’s a bit big to fit up the stairs in draconic form. Auri smiles and says, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve been practicing!’ and turns into a young geisha, astonishingly beautiful and robed in a white and gold kimono. Auri asks how she looks, but Elo is both too stunned and chickenshit to give a proper answer, so she says they have to hurry, and indeed they do – running up the stairs and bursting into the chamber.
As she runs in Elo feels all eyes on them as she announces to the assembly that she has proof this was a set up by dark outside forces. She is summoned, along with the other representatives, to the chairman’s stand to look over the evidence. The Drakemar emissary reads through the document in undercommon and declares that it’s a simple contract of service between Darkside on behalf of the assassin and Darkhide. He also reveals that the House has had some dealings with the drow before – at which point Meri has to excuse herself, or risk throttling someone. The chairman agrees that this evidence points to no wrongdoing on either side and says that that matter is settled. Elo then asks if the Lawyer is going to drop his preposterous move for dwarven segregation. He says no, calls for a vote, to which the response is sadly in favour of the merchant princes. Elo asks where will it end? After all, there are Orcs and Gnomes and Woodlings and Elves living in the city as well. Is he intending to separate everyone?
A wicked smile crosses his face, and he says why, that is a good idea. Elo curses her luck as the Lawyer starts pontificating to this effect, but Elo manages to interrupt him and speachifies. She says that the city was built on unity. Every time it got torn down, no one cared if it was an elf handing a tool or a gnome handing a brick, as long as homes were rebuilt. At the end of her speech she implores the council to reconsider the motion – to vote with their hearts and minds, rather than their purses. When she is done there is silence, then one of the merchant princes stands and applauds her, which swells into full ovation. The merchant says that it should be astonishing a watchman should have to point this out, and it seems the motion has been dismissed.
The moment the group emerge from the chamber, Meri collars them, saying she needs a word. Starhammer says he’s going to visit an old friend, and if they need him, he’ll be at the Plot Hook.
Felix congratulates Elo on her speech, to which Darius says something about her always doing the talking, and Elo says next time he can take the floor then. He reacts horrified, and says he is no speech writer and she counters, neither is she.
Ah but, says Felix, “Your speeches are written from the most important place – your heart. It is the truest place a person can speak from”. Everyone is suitably moved by this.
Meri drags them back to 23 Acacia Ave, where they have a stiff drink and Meri explains that in return for being whole and unaffected by dying, Moradin placed a geas on her, and expounds about Darkhide being bereft his head. They decide that now might be a good time to find a bit more about their opponents, and the Cabal, especially since it sounds like the Necromancers are about to become a major, lethal, feature in their lives. They discuss who might be best to give them info and they wonder about asking those who were there – Selene and co.
So they trot off to the wizards tower and ask someone for information about the cabal. A passing wizard summons a skeleton for them to take them down stairs to the necromancer’s sanctum. They are introduced to the new resident specialist, one Hansel Macabre, who gives them some info about the cabal, and offers to send them in a back way. He tells them that the cabal have reformed around a new master, one Zaradan Marr, of which only Felix has heard the name before – something about a construct maker.
They wonder how he knows this, and he outright admits to being an ear-piece for the cabal. They extract as much info from him as they can – which he seems oddly willing to give – and then tell him if there’s any noise of him working against the city, they’ll be back to see him, sword end first. Afterall, if he’s willing to talk to them, he’ll be just as willing to talk to the enemy.
They faff and aren’t really sure what to do next, so Meri suggests going and talking to Starhammer at the Plot Hook, as he seemed like maybe he had some information to impart. So they trundle off to Toreguard’s most exclusive pub, and it seems like Orock is having an open house this evening. They tell the bouncer they are expected by Starhammer and are taken upstairs, where Orock and the dwarf priests greet them drunkenly.
They are told some stories of this apparent group’s derring do, and eak a little more info about Zaradan Marr. Elo decides to ask about this Prince Muyrr character who seems intent on using her as a lynchpin to get back at Alexis, and is told that Zaradan was one of those – along with another two. But then the old timers start giggling, and she finally draws out of them they had a paladin in their group, one Elic Mournbringer, who’s Holy Avenger sword they burried in a tomb far in the north, in the Frozen Plateau, some 900 miles away. They say the longsword will do Elo right if she wants, but there will be three challenges to face – of Compassion, Serenity and Courage.
She does briefly consider, but isn’t sure – it’s a very long way and it sounds as though the cabal, and Darkhide, and going to be imminently on their doorstep. She wants to deal with them sooner rather than later.