The second session kicked off with the aftermath of the Machetza showdown and monstrous attack at the Welcome Arms (which you can read about HERE). The players and characters were:
- Gabby as Lucinda Martin, the gifted budding alchemist who ran the tavern
- Tom as Nym the Mog, the curious investigator cat who shared Lucinda's love of chemistry
- Kurt as Ramon Sánchez de Castille, a recovering veteran of the Siege of Lapramada
- Gus as Pedro the Bruxi, an aspiring and helpful naval gunner rat who'd befriended Ramon on his return journey (Gus was unfortunately eaten by his children and unable attend).
Members of the Malazar City Guard finally arrived at the Welcome Arms to begin their investigations, and as Lucinda hurried out to meet them, she suggested that Nym leave the Stone Book somewhere safe and secure. She did not see him place it in the vault and lock it; she truly did not know what happened to it when the guards spoke at length with her. They asked many questions about the Machetzas, the woman who vanished before Lucinda's eyes, and the location of the book that the gang wanted. Gabby proved surprisingly wily and cunning and palyed Lucinda very well, evading the questions and steering their inquiries as best she could. She handed them the tavern's books so they could see who else was staying there: Ramon had not given his last name, and Pedro the Bruxi wasn't even on the books. Which was for the best, for he was no where to be seen.
The three guards clearly weren't that interested in the case, asking routine questions and failing to notice Ramon's lies. Likewise with Nym, who suggested that the book was actually gambling ring, not some arcane tome. (Nice time to roll a 1 there, sergeant). But they were advised to remain in the tavern overnight, in case there were further inquiries.
And there were, but not in any official capacity: Lucinda caught a fresh faced young man by the name of Jonas, asking too many questions in the post-eclipse revelries. She escorted him to the guards upstairs, who instantly recognised him: he was an inquirer from one of the new boletins that had begun printing the news for mass consumption, and he was eager to learn what had happened.
Meanwhile Nym ducked out into the afternoon to see if he could find a safehouse for them to stay. Ramon was certain that the Machetzas would return, and it would be best not to be at the Welcome Arms when they did. Nym uncovered two possible locations to lay low: an old store room above an obscurio shop, and the eyrie of a Tylluan family that had been missing at sea for some time. Both showed signs of possible occupation by others (orphan beggars above the store, and hints of a heretical church gathering at the eyrie) but both could be dealt with. With a claw Nym carved a message for the heretics "leave this place or you will be reported to the authorities", hoping that threat was enough to scare them off.
The guards were followed by two golden-caped cazadors. One was the tall Tylluan owl-man bearing a single scimitar: Nym had encountered him on the rooftops during the Machetza attack. The other a scarred and weary man laden with pistols and blades. The Tylluan stepped forward and in a croaky voice apologised for the intrusion, then directed all present to sit at the bar table before him. Ramon made a point of limping over in pain. Nym, Lucinda and Lady Regretta joined him, as well as the few other patrons present. Pedro was nowhere to be seen.
Then eight heavy cowled monks entered, wearing only the indigo robes of the Malazari royalty, and between them they carried a tall but narrow sedan box on two rods. Black lacquered, gold trimmed, adorned with the symbol of the lamprey, and completely enclosed with carved wooden screens it was clearly carrying a highborn noble. But the hideous ragged breathing that gurgled slowly within, and the strange stink that washed over them marked the passenger as something other.
Besides the sedan walked another monk, indistinguishable from the rest, save for when he pulled back his cowl and raised his head to address those gathered before him, who recoiled when they saw that instead of eyes, two leeches squirmed beneath his brow, growing from under his eyelids, searching and seeking for something. When he spoke, his voice was kind but distant, but the breathing within the box quickened its pace.
"Tell me... of the Hydiac."
Each person present who had encountered the creature had a sudden flash of memory. The creature had escape the tavern not hours before, and the recollections where still fresh. For Ramon it was the sight of the mass of tooth and tentacle, eye and maw, where but a moment before the mysterious woman slumped over, pinned to the wall by Ramon's blade. For Nym it was the bulging wall of bestial flesh filling the doorway to his room, flexing its horrendous musculature and ripping the side of the tavern apart as it fled.
"Tell me of the woman."
Lucinda's mind flooded with memory from the bar fight. She was grabbing the volatile liquors from the end bar, glanced over at the woman: plainly dressed, a fishmonger perhaps, but her hair in an unfashionable bob haircut. But she was muttering something quietly to herself, and her hands... shimmered. And then she vanished. Ramon saw her up close again, in the last moment before the woman... changed. Her weathered face slackening as she slipped from consciousness. Every detail of her face revealed for an instant. Nym recalled how she stood at the doorway to his room, demanding the book he had in his arms, her own arms shimmering with the speed of their shaking.
The weapon-laden cazador now joined the chorus. The thing in the sedan, clearly controlling them, panting under the effort.
"Tell me of the Book."
Lucinda's and Ramon's recollections were indistinct, flashes of the conversation two hours prior in the secret backroom of the Welcome Arms, Lucinda suggesting to Nym that he store it someplace safe. But Nym's recollections were crystal clear: he had studied if for several days since it came into his paws, and his last memory was of placing the book in the storage vault and shutting the door. He could hear the latches lock with a click as he shut it.
The Tylluan cazador shook his head then asked to be taken to the vault. Lady Regretta rose and under protest led him downstairs to where the book was stored. The rest waited uncomfortably; the book had already drawn far too much trouble from powerful members of Malazari society and they were eager to be parted from it (though Nym was keen to learn the rest of its contents first).
A scream came from downstairs. Lady Regretta rushed back up. "The book! It's been stolen!"
The laboured breath within the sedan was almost ecstatic.
"Tell me who stole the Book."
But no-one had any inkling who could have done it. They were almost relieved instead, for whoever had taken it would now become the focus of this interrogation, not them. Whoever the thief was, they were not present.
The gurgling slowed, relinquishing its grip on the cazadors' voices. The Tylluan bowed curtly, apologised once more for the intrusion, and then the leech-eyed man escorted his horrid master off the premises and out into the streets of Malazar, followed by the retinue of guards and the cazadors.
Everyone in the Welcome Arms was greatly relieved by their departure. Ramon was especially unsettled by the leech-eyed man. What the hell was that thing? But it was Lady Regretta who was first to act.
She gave orders for the Welcome Arms to be shut for the night, and then made it quite plain that Lucinda, Nym and Ramon were to return to her townhouse and join her for the evening to discuss what had happened. Sensing this to was an order and not an offer, the three gathered their possessions then climbed up into the waiting carriage outside.
The carriage cut across the city, leaving the Northern Slums, crossed several canals, reached the old walls that guarded the heart of the metropolis where it drove past arenas and auditoriums and entered a salubrious neighbourhood down towards the main docks. Here the tall streets were clean and patrolled by private guards. The carriage pulled into a narrow gate beside a beautiful terrace; Nym drank in the details, his heart filling with envy, but Ramon was suspicious of such wealth and wondered where it came from.
Servants greeted them at the door, and they were ushered into a resplendent lounge. And there, getting to his feet, was their friend Pedro. In his arms was the book.
"I did as your Ladyship asked of me and emptied the vault," he explained. "Everything is here." He pointed to the files of paperwork and locked boxes on the lounge table before him.
Lady Regretta smiled and thanked him, then made it clear to the four of them that whatever was in that book she wanted to know. If the Hydiac wanted it, if the Machetzas wanted it, and now if the Malazari Crown wanted it, then whatever it was it was extremely valuable. She wanted to know how it came into their possession: Nym explained that his long time mentor Viski Padipurr had given it to him for safe keeping after a deal of some sort between him and the Machetzas went bad. "The Master Thief?" she asked, seeming to know the famous Mog. Nym nodded.
In the end a deal was struck whereby Nym and Lucinda would use their alchemical extracts to help them comprehend the contents of the book, and Ramon and Pedro would be responsible for their safety. She would pay them handsomely for their efforts, and they were welcome to stay at her terrace for now.
It had been a long day, and a tiring night, and the four were shown to their rooms; the book was returned to Nym. But they met one last time before sleep, eager to discuss the situation in private. They were unsure of what they were being dragged into, or of Lady Regretta's intentions. She was a war profiteer and arms dealer of some sort, and they did not believe they could trust her. But the bargain had been struck, the accommodation much to Nym's liking, and the pay was very, very good.
In the morning they set to work translating. Nym and Lucinda were able to brew four strange concoctions that enabled the eyes to make sense of strange languages, and they were able to comprehend the contents of ten pages or so with each brew. Gingerly they turned the petrified pages, handling with great care so as not to snap them off at the spine. And over the next few days this is what they learned:
(The book is fully detailed HERE.)
In summary, the illuminated manuscript was a treatise examining the current state of firearm technology in Thaumatria, and suggested a dangerous by highly effective means to improve it and gain an edge in the arms race that gripped the nations of the continent.
It contained blueprints and instructions on how to construct what it called a Demonlock Pistol, that was capable of using Demonstone Powder to greatly increase the firepower of current weapons. The pistol itself was an impressive but mundane design, but the methods of obtaining Demonstone Powder were outright heretical. First one must summon a demon of the Jugger Behem. Then one must have it petrified by the gaze of a gorgon from the southern continent. Grinding down the petrified demon into a fine powder produced the desired compound. It was a wild and outlandish proposition, but according to the account given in the final chapter of the book, four Demonstone Pistols were made and a batch of Demonstone Powder successfully acquired.
Part of the book was definitely arcane in nature. The chapter on summoning Jugger Behem — a tract that was so dangerous mere possession of it would warrant execution — was the source of the emanations, written with another's hand, and it was Lucinda who noticed that in the monstrous marginalia was a completely blank circle, whereas the circles on various other pages were filled with strange sigils. She was unsure what this meant.
While this research was being conducted, Ramon was becoming increasingly frustrated. His suspicions of Lady Regretta were growing in spite of her increasing generosities. He had seen things during the Siege of Lapramada that had deeply troubled him, and he could not shake his fears. But his ruminations were interrupted when a Bruxi messenger, who had been sent to the Welcome Arms and escorted here by one of Lady Regretta's servants, arrived with a communique from a friend in the city, warning him of impending threats.
Ramon voiced his concerns with his friends during a break in their research, and Lucinda decided it was time to reveal something disturbing that was likely to be connected to this dark trade in arcane weapons. She had been tracking the machinations of the de Camondo family for some time. They were prestigious arms dealers that manufactured artillery for the Malazari Crown — Ramon and Pedro recognised the name from the stamp on the side of many a fine cannon. It was possible that the book detailing the construction of Demonlock weapons was destined for them. She knew the de Camondos were working towards a major weapons delivery due a month from now, and that they had been buying up large quantities of condemned criminals from the Malazari slave markets. She was yet to see how all the pieces connected, but she was sure there was one.
At that moment a servant interrupted: there was someone to see Lucinda at the front door. Warily Lucinda opened it, only to find the Bruxi messenger who had delivered Ramon's letter earlier that day. The Bruxi held up a rolled piece of parchment, unfurled it, and compared the illustration of the woman upon it with Lucinda. Someone had posted a bounty on her, and the keen-eyed Bruxi had spotted her before. With a quick bow and a word of thanks he darted off into the darkness.
Lucinda rushed back in, warning her friends that they had to leave immediately. They gathered up their possessions, taking the book with them, but left incomplete notes behind for Lady Regretta. They also left a message explaining that they would return is several days, and would complete the translation then, for they suspected that Regretta would be a fine ally and terrible enemy.
As they scarpered back across the city to the safety of the more familiar Northern Slums, Lucinda grabbed one of the numerous wanted posters that had been plastered on the side of a wall: 500 crowns were offered for the capture and safe return of one Valentina de Camondo. "That's me," she said.
Nym led the four of them up into the rooftops of the slums, and into the abandoned Tylluan eyrie he had discovered before. For the moment they were safe. But clearly not for long...
Everyone receives 50 crowns each as payment from Lady Regretta
Ramon and Pedro also receive an additional 50 crowns for other services
The Stone Book remains in your possession
Nym stole a cushion
(the coins taken from the Machetzas was given to Lady Regretta to pay for Largo's funeral)
Encounter with the Leech-eyed Man and his Master: 300XP/4 = 75 each
Translating the Stone Book: 600XP/4 = 150 each
TOTAL XP = 225XP each