23 Ice 90
Early in the morning, Oren goes to get a bath, and discovers that the various lightfoot customers of The Cider House do not like him being there at all, and have shown their displeasure by boycotting the place. The proprietor dismisses this, and refuses to let it bother him. Rory goes to see her father, and spends some time catching up with him, chatting about her friends and their various adventures, and the upcoming marriages in her family. Una, after breakfast, goes to have her dragonskin gown repaired. While she is on Threadneedle Court, Una hears a woman calling desperately for help.
Outside, Oren begins looking for tracks in the snow, and then slowly starts following them. They lead to the Ropewalk (long strands of rope being woven), and then turn east into Beggar’s Alley. This is a narrow alley/shanty town filled with beggars and drunks. It dead ends at the wall, with Beggars’ Tower, and a “tavern” called “The Drowned Man”. Una lights the top of her staff, and ties the bottom of her gown so it doesn’t touch the ground, and the group wades into the sea of unfortunates. They begin offering money for information, and no one is talking, but there is a lot of shifty, greedy muttering and glances. If the party was less well armed, there would definitely be a mugging, or perhaps worse. Una flashes a silver piece, and finally a profoundly smelly and drunk man breaks, telling them that The Bloody Knife thieves guild took him into Beggar’s Tower, and then left without him. There is some discussion about how to go into the building. Since the tower is used for a variety of nefarious purposes (being a tower in a very bad part of town, the guard never goes into it), and so it is used for thieves guild meetings, lovers assignations, whatever is needed by the desperate. There is talk of flying, and climbing, and going in the top of the tower. After too much talking, Rory kicks in the door in. Just before going in, Una holds up a gold piece, and flings it down the alleyway, causing Oren to just stare at her as if she had lost her mind.
In the middle of the room is a huge round table with crates all around it. Nothing is really being stored here. Oren carves the symbol of the town guard into the table top. Oren sees that there are no real tracks here, and that no one went up the stairs. There is no Oidche here. Everyone decides to go upstairs anyway, just to see. The second floor is an abandoned store room; again, nothing is here. The third floor is a store room with actual weapons and so forth in it.. as well as cots and lighting in case any guards decide to sleep here. Everyone goes up to the roof, though there seems to be no point to it. Despite the beautiful view, there is still no Oidche here. Una uses Detect Magic on every floor, but there is nothing lingering. Everyone agrees that the man the talked to, nicknamed ’Fucko", has not, in fact, told the entire story. So back into the alley, past the epic battle over the gold piece, and into the “tavern” at the end of all hope.
Inside, the aforementioned wretch is to be seen sitting at a table, miserably being pressured by aggressive ‘friends’ to buy them all drinks with his silver piece. Oren sits uncomfortably close to them, and Rory simply dumps the other benchful of them on their asses. After taking an appraising look at the three, everyone else simply moves on. The man (Gilroy) is very easily intimidated at this point; the party is now his only means of protection from a lot of people who really want his silver piece. He slowly drips out the information that he was leaving out before; two people, Derek and a halfling woman he does not know by name, took Oidche, wrapped, into the alley, brought him into the tower, and left. Then another group, covered by hoods, came out of the tower, and loaded him into a cart and also left. Gilroy seems afraid of Derek, saying that he ‘looks like death’; the kind of man who will do anything for money, to anyone. Rory punches Gilroy in the face, and drapes him over her shoulder. The party leaves the tavern, with Oren giving the tavern owner money for the trouble. On the way out of the alley, Oren heals the people left in the aftermath of the gold piece riot, giving Una another pissed look. Gilroy is put into prison tower under the name of “Phuck O” (the clown), to hide who he is, in case anyone is looking for him. Sir Aidan is apprised of the situation, and he signs off on the party killing whomever is starting trouble with them, and to dump the bodies in the river. Una dresses down, taking off all her jewelry and her dragon skin gown, while Oren gets a chest in the treasury to put his gold.
The party goes to talk to Anwen, because the halfling illusionist involved in this is her daughter Blodwin. She is sad, but seems resigned that her daughter might meet her death over this. The only information she can really give is that a halfling named Mari runs the Bloody Knife, and that she is the sister of the woman who runs the yellow barge that rescued Oidche from the icy water during the giant attack. The party goes to the Bloody Knife.
It turns out to be an unsurprisingly shadowy and sketchy kind of place, with a lot of very private corners for talking together. A group of dangerous looking men sit at a table give the party a look that promises mayhem should anything they do interfere with dinner in any way. Everyone goes to the bar, and orders a pitcher of cider and some food while looking around for anyone that fits the ‘dead eyes’ description given by Gilroy. Una asks after Derek, and gets a non commital answer from Mari at the bar. Oren, looking around, leans towards Una and says sotto voce, ‘It would be a pity if we had to burn this place down’. Una pretends to ignore him and keeps talking to Mari, who delivers their drinks and food. Oren looks for a missing place amongst the people seated in the shadowy corners, hoping to find Blodwin sitting invisibly. Una and Mari begin negotiating for the exchange of information on who has Oidche, both women being aggressive, a barely disguised threat of violence underneath each word. Then Mari demands quite a lot of money, not for the information, but to give the antidote to the poison she’s given to Una’s two companions. When Una doesn’t seem worried, Mari assures her that the poison is quite beyond the antitoxin that Una insisted everyone have before going in. Then without warning, Oren stabs her, and Rory grabs her head and slams it into the bar twice. As every man in the bar stands up and the party gears up for a fight, Mari disappears as Blodwin appears, and negotiates the swift removal of the trio from the bar in exchange for information. Outside the bar, Blodwin says that the men she and Derek were contracted to sell Oidche to were cloaked, but that she could tell there was an illusion over them, and could vaguely make out some kind of tail, and an odd smell. Una angrily tells her that she’s sold Oidche to demons, and Blodwin shrugs that off. She also says that she followed them for a while under an invisibility, and knows the house they went to. The party goes to see Anwen, as Rory and Oren start to feel the effects of a very powerful poison fighting with the antitoxin. Rory nearly completely alienates Anwen by describing what kind of punishments her daughter needs to get her back on the right track, and gets ushered out with apologies.
The house in question is abandoned, and a swift kick knocks the door in. In the back room there is a trap door in the floor, which is unheard of in Fallsport; no one has a basement. The sounds of a ritual can be heard beneath, and Rory attacks the door in a fury, breaking the strong lock on it. A narrow stone stair leads down. The sounds of chanting in Draconic and Oidche’s pained screaming greet the party as they head down. The room below is small, with a stone table in the middle of the room that has Oidche chained to it, thrashing, screaming, and gurgling as a potion is being forced down his throat by a shaman. Every being standing around the table are part snake; one is a full snake with human arms, one is a human with a snake face, another is a human with two snake arms, and so on. The only full human in the room beside Oidche is a man standing at the far wall, supervising. Una recognizes him as a man named MacNeas, a very rich merchant and judge. Angrily, she charges into the room without thinking, and drops him using magic missile. Then every cultist in the room swarms her and drops her. A very tense and close fight begins, Oren holding the line for quite some time while Rory is forced to rescue Una. Then the two of them battle poisonous snake people while two archers in the back keep nailing them with poisonous arrows. Oidche begins convulsing on the table, and Una casts Dispel Magic, hoping that it will help stop whatever is happening to him. Eventually the tide turns, Oren and Rory forcing their way slowly towards the back, and destroying the last of the snake men. The merchant is brought back from the brink of death by Oren.
Una does Detect Magic on Oidche, and discovers that she has interrupted an enchantment spell, likely a charm person style spell. A transformation spell has actually taken effect, not unlike the effect that turned Sir Murdoch into a werewolf; a curse. The remnants of the potion in the glass is poisonous. MacNeas is searched, a key is found, as well as a golden ring with a gem, some gold, and the golden chain that is the symbol of his office as a judge. The walls are covered with draconic symbols, entreaties to the world serpent, father of all dragons, Loki’s son.
Una goes upstairs to get Sir Aidan’s help with removing the cultists and locking up the merchant. She smacks into Blodwin who is lurking invisibly in one of the rooms upstairs, and says that if she wants to see who she sold Oidche to, she can go downstairs and look. After she gets no response, Una goes outside, and casts her new shiny “Fly” spell to go and get help. She ends up crashing lunch at the castle, and as she’s flying and covered in blood, everyone begins to freak out thinking she’s a banshee (irritating Una again because she’s not an elf!). Una doesn’t help this perception any by floating over to Sir Aidan and asking for his help. It actually takes a minute for him to believe that she isn’t dead, and then he is irritated with the theatrics. After some explanation, he gets a guard contingent and a wagon, and comes himself. Una makes things take some time by scaring the horses and the guards by flying along beside them. Eventually the site is reached, and Sir Aidan takes the situation in, and tells the party to figure this out. The bodies are removed, to be dumped into the river. Not knowing what the transformation had done to Oidche, he is made comfortable in Prison Tower, and because it is not certain that he will live through the night, Una stays in the room with him with Rory outside standing guard.