Arrival in Balic
The outlying farmlands were some of the most lush and productive lands the party had ever seen. Grain fields, vineyards, olive groves and pastures stretched as far as they could see. The Road was well maintained and patrolled. In the fields slaves and land owners could be seen working side-by-side. The differences between Balic and Tyr were too numerous to count and almost too much to comprehend.
At the Great Gate, the party was stopped and briefly questioned by the Legionaries and Praetors on duty. Although the party knew the officials were searching for something, it did not appear to be them and they were allowed to enter the city with a casual warning against causing any trouble within the city. They first sight inside the walls was over the Megaleneon, towering above the rest of the city.
Inside the city they hired a guide and transportation to take them into the Market Precinct to meet their contact in the Veiled Alliance. As they traveled across the city from west to east they became familiar with the different precincts and their guide was happy to answer some of their questions. They moved through the Arena Precinct and the slave market of House Jarko eventually ending at the Criterion. Turning northwards they entered the Harbor Precinct and were able to get a good view of the Arsenal and The Slave Auction. Finally rounding the base of the Megaleneon they moved into the Market Precinct, through the Agora, near the Elven Market and passing the warehouses of Wavir, Rees and Tomblador.
The Thespian House
Without any trouble the party located the Thespian House and entered, hoping that their luck would continue to hold and they could arrange for passage out of the city. The party entered the common room outside of the performance hall and took seats. When they could do so discretely, they asked for Maserak and within a few minutes a half-elf approached their table and gave the sign of the Veiled Alliance, which Jarvix returned. After a few more formalities Maserak was satisfied with their attitude and appeared more willing to answer their questions. The party was still somewhat on edge as Maserak appeared to be very reserved and somewhat paranoid.
The party received very little information from Maserak about Tethrades. Although he know of him, Maserak had no current information or idea about his whereabouts. All he knew was that he hadn’t been seen in the city for quite some time. The party, especially Morg, was frustrated by this apparent dead-end. Somewhat taken aback by their anger, Maserak said he would check in with some others who might have more information.
The transportation out of the city was equally frustrating for the party who had hoped for a quick exit from Balic. Maserak said that he could help them arrange passage on a silt skimmer but that it would take several days before the vessel was ready. His explanations about the need for discretion in a city-state still ruled by a sorcerer-king appeared to fall on deaf ears. Eventually the party accepted the reality of the situation.
Maserak then asked for a show of good faith by the party and had a mission for them. A Veiled Alliance member in Balic had gone missing months before and was believed to be held in The Ivory Dungeon. Fearing that she would eventually crack under torture, Maserak wanted the party to enter the Dungeon through a secret entrance, locate the operative and eliminate her before she revealed any of the Alliance’s secrets.
This mission did not sit well with most of the group and they felt as if there was more going on then they were told. Eventually Maserak was able to convince the party that it was necessary and that the Veiled Alliance simply didn’t have the resources to conduct a raid – the presence of an experienced group of adventurers was too good of an opportunity to waste.
The Ivory Dungeon
Maserak’s directions were vague at best, but the party headed into the Agora late at night to try and locate the secret entrance the Ivory Dungeon. Kira used her shapechanging abilities to locate the secret door after Jarvix had narrowed down the possible entrance points. The door was protected by both physical locks and arcane wards. The locks were beyond the skill of Iorskan, but Li-Am was able to bypass them without too much difficulty. Elleandra was unable to get past the arcane protection, but with the help of Morg, Jarvix and Li-Am the protections were burned out, although each suffered some injuries as a result.
Once inside the Dungeon, they began to search for the operative, Zaldanis, without attracting any attention. Jarvix’s knowledge of building designs allowed them to make good progress towards the prison cells while Kira was able to navigate some treacherous sections of the Dungeon with ease. As they traveled through, the stark beauty of the white marble walls and polished bone bars was not lost on them. At any other time, this building would have been a wondrous sight. Eventually the party reached the prison cells and Iorskan attempted to get the location of Zaldanis out of a prisoner with threats. The prisoner complied, fearful of the powerful Dray and the party found the operative with relative ease.
Knowing what to expect, the party was able to bypass the protections on her cell and freed Zaldanis. There was a brief debate on what to do with her. She had obviously suffered much in the prison and the majority of the party felt sorry for her and decided that the right thing was to return her to Maserak alive. Just after reaching the decision, a half-dozen guards arrived, apparently tipped off to the party’s actions by the prisoner that Iorskan threatened.
A deadly struggle ensued between the party and the guards. Although the guards were well-trained and well-armed, they were no match for the experienced adventurers. Elleandra personally slew two of the guards and the rest fell to the combined attacks of the party. The last guard used some arcane talent to disappear as the combat concluded. They party could not detect where he had gone. The party decided to make a run for the secret door and flee the Dungeon before more guards found them.
As they readied to leave, the rest of the party found Li-Am over the corpse of Zaldanis – he had slain her during the fight. Horrified by their “friend’s” actions there was a brief confrontation. Li-Am’s explained that he completed the job they agreed to do and that there was nothing more to it. Had they not been ready to flee for their lives, they would have pressed the issue, but for now they grabbed the body of Zaldanis and ran.
The party ran faster than they had thought possible and managed to avoid any other patrols, although they were exhausted when they reached the secret door. Exiting back into the Agora, they closed and attempted to seal the door before heading back to the Thespian House. Safely arriving they informed Maserak of their success and presented him with the body. Visibly saddened by the loss of his friend, he nonetheless congratulated them on accomplishing their task, something that the Veiled Alliance in Balic needed but was unable to accomplish themselves.
The party rested that night in the safe house beneath the Thespian House and in the morning Morg and Iorskan headed to the House Wavir compound to make some additional inquires about leaving the city. They were also eager for any additional news and Morg was hoping to be able to recover some of the money that he had loaned the merchant house months ago to fund the expedition to find Vault of Darom Madar, which had ended in failure.
Morg was pleased to be reunited with Rhotan Vor who appeared to genuinely happy to see the mul, despite some lingering bad feelings between the two. Rhotan had apparently returned to Balic after closing shops in Tyr and had been doing well for himself. Morg was frustrated to learn that his money was gone and there was no way to get it back. He was ready to leave when Iorskan struck up a conversation.
Although they had never met, Iorskan had some dealings with House Wavir before and appeared to be on good terms with them. Iorskan produced the coins from House Madar that he had taken off the half-giant assassins sent by Tethrades in Altaruk. After some discussions and much speculation, Iorskan and Rhotan arrived at an interesting theory – Tethrades may have a connection to House Tsalaxa.
House Tsalaxa ambushed Rhotan’s expedition to recover the treasure from the Vault of Darom Madar. It was always suspected, but never confirmed, that House Tsalaxa found the Vault later and recovered the wealth, explaining how their influence had increased so quickly. The only known source of House Madar coins would be House Tsalaxa and with the agents of Tethrades in possession of those coins, it reasoned that Tethrades was working with House Tsalaxa.
Rhotan Vor knew of the approximate location of a House Tsalaxa compound between Raam and Draj. The party’s current plans were to enter the ruins of Giustenal, just on the other side of the Bay of Maray off the Sea of Silt. Rhotan happily gave the location to Morg and Iorskan, hoping that they could deal a blow to House Tsalaxa, which would indirectly aid House Wavir.
That afternoon the party quietly purchased supplies for a month-long journey across the Sea of Silt. Deciding to not draw too much attention, they spread the purchases across several merchant houses. The rest of the day was spent in the Thespian House, in case there were any Praetors searching for the group that had infiltrated the Ivory Dungeon.
The next morning they prepared to depart Balic…