As Jak ran Yeraa’s sword through the henchman in front of him and surveyed the common room-turned-battlefield, he wondered if Thom had really come to the Traveler’s Rest with no one but Tik as backup – surely, if he had intended to turn Jak in, he hadn’t been so foolish as to bring no one but one agent he knew only by reputation? Kicking the dead goon off his blade, he ran up to flank the one facing Thom as the two of them easily ducked under the wide swing of the man’s axe. In spite of Thom’s betrayal, old habits died hard, and he and Jak fought in sync just like old times.
Still up on the table, but much more limited in his options after being sliced open, Kayde clutched at his wound and traded his spear for theatrics. He implored the henchman who had dealt him this near-mortal blow that surely he hadn’t been paid enough to protect Tik – surely, it wasn’t worth dying over. As the man hesitated, Kayde looked over his shoulder and, seeing Tik start moving to the door, called out to Ivello not to let him escape. At the bottom of a bottleneck created by still more of Tik’s men, Aruget’s axe cleaved one of them through the chest, killing him instantly. As he kicked the body out of his way, the blademark heard a rush of footsteps approaching the tavern…and saw a familiar and very welcome sight as a unit of House Deneith blackblades shoved their way past him to join the fray. Razu grinned at her brother and explained that, having caught wind that he was in trouble prior to his return to Sharn, it had behooved her to come to their meeting prepared. The blackblades sprang into action, surrounding the henchman in front of Razu and easily dispatching him before turning their attention to the real prize: Tik, who had tried to make a break for it only to find himself in the thick of the party’s new allies.
Shoving his way through the blackblades to come toe-to-toe with Tik, lightning erupted from Ivello’s fingers and engulfed his foe, dropping him to one knee as the smell of burnt flesh filled his nostrils. Feinting with his sword at the mercenaries surrounding him and brushing off a follow-up blow from Ivello’s quarterstaff, Tik stumbled to his feet and began to run for the back door.
Still trapped in the doorway – now, because he was cut off from the tavern by a crowd of friendly blackblades – Aruget was jostled out of the way again as a furious changeling muscled his way into the building, with a large group of equally rough-looking men hot on his heels. The changeling raised his hand and pointed straight at Tik. That was the one who had kicked him out of his own bar! It was time to take it back! Not sure what was happening, but anxious to not let Tik get away or fall into this angry mob’s hands, Aruget sprinted after him. Summoning one final burst of strength, he circled the crowd, caught up to Tik, and tackled him into a headlock as one of the new arrivals punched him square in the nose, spraying the traitor’s blood into Aruget’s face. Thirsty for his own revenge, Ivello joined the fray, leaping off the small stage in the center of the room and slamming his quarterstaff into Tik’s head. He yelled at the now unconscious man that immortality wouldn’t be such a great idea if he angered an entire city getting there, earning him a strange look from Aruget.
With the henchman fighting Kayde having taken the performer’s advice and fled, Jak smirked at Tik’s remaining goon that he’d clearly picked the wrong side. The terrified man threw down his sword and yielded, insisting that he didn’t have anything to do with Tik’s schemes, and Jak declared that he’d be confessing everything he knew in exchange for his life. Straining his neck to make out any familiar faces in the crowd surrounding Aruget (and still wailing on Tik), he spotted the regular bartender of the Traveler’s Rest – the changeling at the head of the mob. Jak shouted at him to not kill Tik, that he was Jak’s to deal with, and together with Ivello managed to calm the mob as Aruget bound Tik’s arms. Moving over to check on Kayde’s injuries, Jak paled a little at the extent of them and called Aruget over to work his magic. Though the paladin was able to channel some of Dol Arrah’s healing power, he was spent from the fight, and unable to heal Kayde completely. As Jak stitched up the remainder of his friend’s wounds – working through a steady stream of complaints about how his methods hurt quite a bit more than Aruget’s – Thom piped up that he could get the party to a safehouse to deal with the aftermath and question Tik. With everything seemingly under control for the moment, Razu congratulated her brother on the fight as he in turn observed that she was always two steps ahead of him. She reminded Aruget that she would always be there for him, and to send a courier to the Deneith enclave if he needed anything more, and the two parted ways again.
As Thom led the party down to Blackbones in the Cogs, the awkward silence was palpable. Walking beside Jak, he hung his head and apologized to his friend, stressing once again that he hadn’t known about Tik’s treachery. Jak retorted that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t known Tik was a traitor, but that he had believed Jak was. As Kayde snapped at Thom to make things right, Jak shouted at him to stay out of it and again asked Thom why he hadn’t believed him. Thom, struggling to defend himself, replied that as a good agent, Jak should know he couldn’t have come to their meeting alone, to which Jak asked again why he’d brought Tik – a man he’d never met before and knew only by reputation – instead of one of their friends. Thom tried to explain himself. With his reports of the Ashen Crown missing and the Kech Volaar murdered, Tik had the Citadel riled up like Thom had never seen before. This was no longer an in-house matter: it was of grave concern to Breland, and things had escalated to the point where Captain Kalaes’ superiors were coming to Sharn to deal with it. Jak’s face went dark as he shot back that it seemed not even his best friend believed Jak the screw-up over Tik the golden boy, suggesting that this was to be his fate going forward if he couldn’t even get Thom on his side, and the remainder of their trip reverted to awkward silence once again.
At the run-down safehouse, Aruget sat the still unconscious Tik down in a chair while Thom tried to make it clear to Jak that he meant to help him and atone for his betrayal. He advised his friend that the Citadel would look differently on his attempt to clear his name if he turned up with the intact Crown, versus without. Kayde questioned this tactic, feeling it would make them look more guilty to turn up with all the artifacts they’d been accused of stealing, but Thom insisted that he knew better than Kayde how the Citadel worked, and how they would treat the matter. Hesitant, Jak suggested that they could just return in their current state and have the Citadel question Tik, but Thom felt that was too much of a gamble. A highly trained double-agent such as this could most likely resist interrogation longer than it took for Demise to skip town for one of the other ritual sites mentioned in Yeraa’s journal. Interjecting that they could use a scroll of mind-reading to learn more, Ivello caught himself as he spoke and looked at Thom warily, seemingly hesitant to say more in his presence. Filled with conflicting feelings, Jak couldn’t ignore their history in spite of everything. Reminding Ivello of the story he’d relayed to them on the Kordenga of being trapped under the Cogs, drug-addled and pursued by their enemies, he revealed that Thom was the one who had been with him that day and who had saved his life and stood by his side. They were brothers, and if Jak could get a second chance, so could Thom. For all the disagreements they’d had, Ivello conceded that if Jak trusted Thom, so could he, and mused that Thom at the very least must have a good sense of self-preservation: he was complicit in attacking and capturing Tik, and things might not go well for him in the current climate if word got back to Kalaes. Thom narrowed his eyes and asked Ivelllo to explain himself – this sounded like a threat. Ivello calmly replied that their fates were now intertwined. Thom nodded and replied that he was okay with that. He owed it to Jak to make things right.
Getting down to business, Ivello explained what he’d meant by his comment at the Traveler’s Rest regarding Tik’s immortality. He told the others that, while Razu and Aruget protected him, he’d used one of the scrolls of mind-reading during the fight to learn that Lady Demise had promised to bring Tik into the ranks of the Undying. Jak questioned what the far-fetched promise of immortality had to do with anything, and Thom pointed out that it must be Tik’s underlying motive for his treachery. As Ivello further explained that each scroll was good for one question, so they should be careful with the remaining two, Aruget relieved Tik of his items and weapons as the faint but distinct aura of magic emanated from the still unconscious man. Jak helped himself to the traitor’s chain shirt, wriggling into it and noting that it was much lighter than he’d expected, and turned his attention to the henchman they’d captured. The terrified fellow – whose name was Drakan – insisted that he was just a blade for hire, working out of the Deathsgate adventurer’s guild and paid up front, and Jak informed him that he was now working for the party.
Meanwhile, Ivello continued to focus on the matter at hand. Speaking the words off the scroll, he probed Tik’s mind to answer the question of how and where he planned to meet with Demise: she was expecting him to arrive, with the Solitaire, at the Dragon’s Forge deep within the Cogs. As the party considered what their final question for the remaining scroll might be, Aruget – still not convinced of Thom’s good intentions – suggested that they should perhaps use the scroll on him. Did Jak really trust him? The young agent struggled to find the right words. He admitted that if it were just him and Thom, he would say yes unequivocally, but now he had his other friends to look out for…and he didn’t want to speak for them. Ivello repeated that he trusted Thom’s sense of self-preservation, and Aruget turned his questions to the man directly. Thom once again insisted that he recognized his mistake, and that he owed it to Jak to make things right, and Aruget decided that he was satisfied to take Thom at his word. They could go ahead and use the final scroll on Tik as planned.
Debating what the final question should be, Jak urged Ivello to ask Tik what they’d be facing in the Dragon’s Forge. Did Demise have an army with her? What sort of resources were at her disposal? Taking his third and final trip into Tik’s mind, Ivello learned that Demise was a powerful necromancer who often had the dead at her beck and call. Tik believed she’d gone into the forge with an entourage for four ghouls and four zombies, not to mention a host of personal magical items, including a powerful lightning wand that he’d seen in action. Jak suggested to Aruget that they’d need Razu’s help again, but the blademark questioned the wisdom of bringing extra people into a necromancer’s lair in the event that they could be used against the party. Ivello pondered if they could somehow draw Demise out of the forge or otherwise catch her off-guard, to which Aruget pointed out that they had their own changeling at their disposal – along with Tik’s clothing, jewelry, and trademark sword. Kayde jumped on the chance to put on a performance, challenging Jak’s ability to pull it off, and Jak pointed out two things in his favour. First, that his disguise was more foolproof than Kayde’s, and not subject to any sort of magical scrying…and second, that Tik was a colossal jerk. Giving Kayde a cocky smile and Thom a much sadder one, Jak mused that he wouldn’t have much trouble selling such a role.
Taking stock of everything they’d learned, the party concluded that Demise was expecting Tik to return to her relatively soon. The longer they waited, the more questions there would be. Jak proposed that “Tik” capture the party and make his triumphant return to Demise, having slain his upstart scapegoat Jak and gotten the others dead to rights, and successfully retrieved the Solitaire to boot. They decided to hire some more mercenaries, who could wait until the time was right to descend on the forge, a proposition made easier now that they found themselves in possession of the full pair of speaking stones. Aruget asked the captured mercenary, Drakan, what he was being paid, and the man replied that Tik had given him the going rate. The blademark grinned and informed Drakan that it was his lucky day – he’d be getting some hazard pay. As Jak donned Tik’s clothes and carefully inspected the face he’d be taking on, Thom and the others put the finishing touches on their plan. After everything they’d been through, it was finally time for the party to finish the job – and they intended to leave nothing to chance.
Behind the Scenes
- Question of the week: What is your favourite solo hobby? What do you most like to do when you are hanging out by yourself?
- OH BOY. This session started off with a bang! First off: the joy that is adventure cards. Our house rule for adventure cards is that everyone rolls a d100, and the two highest rolls get a card. While this happened as usual, it was also my birthday, and the GM offered me my choice of gift: an extra bennie to start the session with, or an assortment of three adventure cards, from which I could choose one to play. I took the cards. While I’d been hoping for Hot Iron and Whiskey (to heal Kayde mid-fight) or the card that heals/revives all allied Extras (just in case things went south for Thom), it turned out that was a failure of imagination, because what I got was ten times better: Call the Cavalry, which spawned Razu’s blackblades. And things just kept looking up from there…
- To keep the good times rolling, both Aruget and Jak drew jokers on the very first round of initiative. I seized on the opportunity to take my turn first and play my card immediately for maximum effectiveness…and then Aruget played his card: Angry Mob. Angry Mob is a double-edged sword, because it leaves it up to the GMs discretion whether or not the mob is for or against the PCs. In this instance, I made a case for a friendly mob, seeing as how the Dragoneyes district and the Traveler’s Rest in particular is Jak’s home turf – and the GM agreed. Happy birthday to me, indeed! Tik’s last mistake was underestimating the raw power of a bunch of angry, displaced barflies.
- For the record, by the time both the blackblades and the barflies made it on to the scene, them plus us plus Tik and his remaining henchmen totaled twenty-three actors crammed into one average-sized tavern. To say nothing of all the corpses on the ground. It was our biggest, wildest brawl yet, and it was glorious.