Fireday, 18 Desnus, 4734
At the Mystery of the Gate Inn, Amelia is signing autographs from her adoring fans, while Astrid is enjoying the ambiance. Concluding his conversation with the academics, Marcus heads outside to relieve Shalelu from guarding the wagon. However, he is confronted by the band of Gray Maidens the party encountered earlier, who demand to know the whereabouts of Princess Aspexia. Marcus loudly criticizes their accusations, drawing a crowd. This convinces the Maidens to de-escalate and go inside to talk.
Inside, their commander, Colonel Oriana, explains that they are bodyguards for the princess, who disappeared and was reportedly seen in the company of a group of heavily armed strangers. They are very suspicious of everyone in this pirate city.
With Astrid on hand to back him up, Marcus tells the Gray Maidens that Zavian took Aspexia out to show her a good time in the city. He offers to cast a sending spell to contact the cleric. But the wizard has also noticed that one of the academics at the inn,the red-headed half-elf Samaritha, was startled at the sight of the Gray Maidens and retreated upstairs. Marcus has Ash follow her.
Meanwhile, in the Rotgut District, a band of dwarven pirates have ambushed Zavian, Aspexia, Lea and Seleval in an alley. Zavian and Spex have been tangled within a strange net, which zaps them with electricity but they manage not to be stunned. Several dwarves have rappelled down from the rooftops of the tenements. They close to attack Lea and Seleval with swords and pistols, while other dwarves ineffectually try to bludgeon Zavian and Spex unconscious. More dwarves on the rooftops fire down at them with muskets.
A spear with a red and black banner appears in Spex’s hand, which she uses to lever the net off of herself. Zavian remains trapped in the net, but is able to cast blade barrier to protect them and really fuck up the dwarves on the ground. One of the snipers on the rooftops is also beheaded by a mysterious ally, and another dwarf makes a run through the blade barrier towards Spex, but is cut down by Lea.
Back at the Mystery of the Gate inn, Astrid makes small talk with the Gray Maidens, identifying herself as another member of the “princess club.” Oriana and the others are a little surprised, but take it at face value. Marcus feels a surge of emotion from Ash and has Astrid go check on his familiar while he finishes casting his sending spell.
The half-elf heads upstairs to find the raven tap, tap, tapping at a chamber door. He says that Samaritha entered the chamber and was talking to someone, sounding worried. Astrid leans in and hears someone in the room trying to be quiet. Then all of a sudden there is a loud noise.
Back in the alley ambush, a particularly burly dwarf covered in glowing tattoos charges through the whirling storm of magical scimitars and tries to grab Spex. Disoriented by the spell, he grabs Lea’s arm by mistake. He uses a strange device to teleport away, taking the paladin with him.
The other dwarves then use this opportunity to try to flee the scene. Zavian, however, is able to capture one of them using hold person. He then collects Spex and Seleval and flies them out of the blade barrier’s enclosure. The princess is impressed, while Seleval is distraught by the disappearance of her princess.
At Spex’s command, the paralyzed dwarf is dragged into the alley by her secret backup: a Mwangi woman in the chitinous armor of the Red Mantis. The assassin, called Shadow, chides Spex for making her life difficult. They interrogate the dwarf, Kurdu, who says that his crew was hired to capture Spex, alive and unspoiled, and deliver her to a red-haired half-elf woman. He offers to show them where, in exchange for his freedom.
Lea, meanwhile, finds herself transported to a modestly-furnished hotel room where she is gawked at by an unfamiliar half-elf. The burly dwarf, badly wounded by the blade barrier, curses his mistake. The half-elf woman offers to let herself out. On the other side of the hotel room door, Astrid hears that and prepares to grab Samaritha as soon as she leaves.
Lea takes the dwarf hostage at sword point and readies a spell. Samaritha turns herself invisible and tries to flee out the door, but Astrid manages to seize her. Lea entangles the half-elf in wreathes of holy fire as a crowd begins to gather.
Marcus completes his sending spell to Zavian and learns that the cleric and company are on their way back to the inn. Ash flies down to warn of a fight breaking out in Samaritha’s room. The Gray Maidens elbow their way through the crowd to seize the burly dwarf and the half-elf woman. When Zavian and the others arrive, their prisoner quickly identifies Samaritha as his contact. He is then handed over to the Gray Maidens.
Spex puzzles out that Samaritha was acting as a proxy for Elias Tammerhawk, head of the Cyphermages and the very person she had consulted with about the crystal. Tammerhawk is scheduled to deliver the lecture that night. Spex insists on waiting to confront him and the party obliges.
A large crowd gathers to hear Tammerhawk, a mixture of scholars and adventurers. The leader of the Cyphermages reveals that his order has detected a surge of magical energy in the Thassilonian ruins that is accelerating and should reach a fever pitch in the next few weeks or months. The surge originates in the ancient realm of Shalast. Tammerhawk warns that long-forgotten magics within the Thassilonian ruins are stirring, and calls on scholars across Varisia to coordinate information to ascertain the potential danger.
During the post lecture Q&A, Marcus asks a question. Well, more of a comment really, noting that the danger could be a returning Runelord, like Zutha (the Runelord of Gluttony who awoke but was contained in his Cenotaph).
Having gotten Elias Tammerhawk’s attention, Marcus was able to lead him into a private conversation where Spex confronts him. Tammerhawk agrees to refund his consultation fee and to an unspecified favor, in exchange for the return of Samaritha. He leaves the dwarves’ fate up to Spex.
The princess is ready to have her Gray Maidens execute the pirates, but Zavian intervenes. After getting the dwarves to pledge never to attempt another kidnapping, he insists that Spex let them go free.
Marcus asks Tammerhawk if he has any information on the location of the lost city of Xin-Shalast. The Cyphermage notes this is a little outside his wheelhouse, but he does know a scholar who might be able to help. An obscure fellow, but one whose eccentric theories about Thassilon are increasingly being proven correct. Tammerhawk asks if they’ve ever heard of Brodert Quink. Marcus realizes this line of inquiry has been a complete waste of time.
With that, the party joins Spex aboard her ship, the Sawtoothed Sabre, which sets sail immediately to escape whatever vengeance Tammerhawk is preparing. The ship has a strange design, with a red hull and red sails. It flies the flag of Ilizmagorti, a pirate city off the west coast of Garund that is a de facto protectorate of the Red Mantis. Shadow, the Red Mantis assassin, poses as a simple member of the ship’s crew.
As the ship leaves Riddleport, Marcus casts overland flight on himself and then flies out to the island known as the Devil’s Elbow to do a quick search for skymetal. He manages to find a small ingot of dull, coppery metal and gets back to the ship without incident.
On the three day trip south to Sandpoint, Spex gives Zavian repeated, energetic tours of her quarters. She also hangs out with the other princesses, Lea and Astrid, on the deck. They gossip, play games, and watch Spex show off her river bear riding tricks on the water. Zavian manages to overhear the princess gossiping enthusiastically about their encounters. Astrid is very excited to be one of the “cool girls” and thoroughly enjoys herself.
When not hanging out with Spex, Lea spends some time with the Gray Maidens, getting more information about how Ileosa and Sabina came to power in Daggermark. In short, they used their band of highly trained Gray Maidens, together with Ileosa’s political skills, to knock over several petty River Kingdoms. They then called on their contacts with the Red Mantis to help take out the Poisoners’ and Assassins’ Guilds that ran Daggermark. Currently, their focus has turned south to the theocracy of Razmiran, which has been a long-running danger to all the River Kingdoms.
Marcus realizes that he is one of only two men on the ship and retreats to his cart to study the skymetal. He realizes the coppery substance is Horacalcum, the rarest of the known skymetals that is said to warp time around it. The lone spellcaster among the Gray Maidens, a young woman named Kattga, visits him and assists in his studies. The two hit it off, especially once they realize they are both eldritch knights, and Marcus decides to gift her some of the skymetal—in so doing, he makes a friend for life. He then uses his share of the skymetal to craft a simple heart-shaped amulet for Shayliss.
Upon arriving in Sandpoint, Spex gives a surprisingly tearful farewell to everyone. She definitely wants a second go at Zavian when the opportunity presents itself, and she gives everyone an open invitation to the palace at Daggermark. Lea returns the favor with an invitation to Korvosa, and Zavian promises her a tour of Magnimar’s Alabaster District if she is ever in town.
As the Sawtoothed Sabre sails away from the Sandpoint docks, Lea’s shoulders slump as she realizes she needs to come clean with Ameiko about her activities in Runeforge.