Having entered into the make-shift mercenary city at the base of the tower, the party has been making discreet inquiries into the whereabouts of Modra. In the course of their investigation, they uncover indications that Modra is not the major player here, that instead, a shadar-kai named Sarshan runs the show. Inquiries regarding Sarshan turn up little about the mysterious shadar-kai, although it would seem that he is extremely put out by Modra, and would like nothing more than to see the dark creeper dead.
The party continues through the city, visiting locations of interest. Having been rebuffed at the gates of the largest foundry building, they believe that something important must be taking place within, and gaining entrance is key. However, after sneaking up to the building as close as they dare, the building seems to be impenetrable, leaving entrance to the building only though the front gates.
Discouraged, the adventurers venture over the markets, where Pythas attempts to steal a dagger from one of the many booths selling weapons. However, as he snags the dagger, he locks eyes with a shadar-kai witch who stands across the street. The witch wears a black cloak edged with adamantine bead, and she keeps her long hair plaited to hang down her back. Gold piercings line her ears and lower lip, and a black starburst tattoo encloses her right eye. She suspiciously glares at Pythas, who sneers back at her. Disgusted, the witch ignores Pythas, and the party quickly makes their way from the area.
Mikal offers his services as an artificer at a nearby booth, offering to show the merchant how to craft one of his specialties in exchange for information. The merchant agrees, and Mikal quickly sets to his task, asking the merchant about the dark foundry and the potential of finding work there.
Merchant: Can’t say that I’d have any idea how you could swing that. Sarshan’s a bit secretive about what goes on in there, and even tighter about who he allows in. I can tell you what I have heard, though. You seen the slave bazaar, right? That there’s about more than just slaves and soldiers, you know. What I hear is that Sarshan experiments on some of the slaves, trying to build new soldier races. The experiments with the beasts he brings in… they’re just the start of it all. I tell ya, I’d hate to have to face off agin anything that comes out of that there place.
Meanwhile, Berend opts for a more direct approach, and begins roughing up a mercenary of less than intimidating stature, demanding to know why there are so many mercs gathered. The cowardly mercenary claims that while Sarshan still uses shadar-kai and dark ones as his elite troops, he has been bringing mercenaries from the world to Umbraforge for training before dispatching them to points unknown.
Following up on the information from the weapons merchant regarding the slaves, they party makes their way toward the slave market. There, Dulinamin asks one of the slavers about Modra, specifically what it was that the dark creeper has done to so enrage Sarshan.
Slaver: Oh you know about that, eh? Damn fool Modra was, seen? Shoulda knowed better. Sarshan refused a job for some orc king, seen, who was a-planning a raid on a dwarven citadel. Somethin’ Watch, I think it was. Anyway, Sarshan never makes a sale if it has a chance of coming back to him, and for good reason. Good thing, too, cuz the job went bad, they say, and people know that Modra’s the one that sold the orcs their weapons.
Slaver begins to laugh, then chokes on a wad of phlegm which he spits on the ground.
Slaver: As to escaping? Lemme put it this way. If Modra be smart, he’ll be spending the next days getting drunk and screwing every whore he done come across, cuz he’s not long till Sarshan finds him, and kills the bastard.
Dulinamin: I’ve met Modra before. Not the brightest sunrod in the alchemist’s shop. But very slippery.
Slaver: Aye, ye’d be right on that, now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get me stock ready for the block.
As the slaver moves through the crowd to gather his “stock” for sale, the ground begins to tremble. However, while previous incidents have passed quickly, this one builds to a furious shaking that threatens to knock the adventurers off their feet. At the same time, a blast of molten rock and raw darkness erupts from the earth several yards from the slave market stage. As the tremor subsides, movement can be seen through a haze of smoke and shadow. From the boiling fissure, a pair of winged shapes erupts—plus a large hound and a humanoid creature claws their way up behind them. All four creatures writhe with living flame, howling as they attack.
The creatures are very strong, attacking with flame and bite attacks as they engage the party. he fiercest opponent is the hell hound, which closes in and lets loose a great breath of fire, injuring Drake and Berend who are caught in its path. The fire bats stay out of range for the most part, swooping in to slap anyone in the way with their fiery tails. The final enemy, a magma hurler, stays out of range, throwing molten rock into the middle of the fight. Berend, who has not taken the opportunity to see to his wounds from their previous battle, soon is overwhelmed and knocked unconscious. Mikal quickly comes to aid, healing the dwarf enough to get him back on his feet and into the fight. That party regroups, and turns the tide against the fiery creatures, and soon the creatures are defeated. Though the party braces themselves for another wave of the creatures to emerge, the vent continues to spew fire and shadowy smoke for a few minutes before it finally begins to close until all traces of it are gone, and the trembling ground quiets.
Berend Stonekeeper: Who invited these guys to my party?
Drake Ilvenet: I imagine there is more to that volcano than meets the eye.
Dulinamin: I have a healing potion if you need it to help see to wounds.
Mikal d’Cannith: We have time, so no need to worry now. However, next time I suggest you take a break, its not really a suggestion, Berend. Hopefully, this will teach you that.
From the nearby slave bazaar, cheers go up as the crowd applauds.
Drake Ilvenet: I’d take a bow, but to slavers, that seems a bit gauche.
Dulinamin: Maybe that will make it easier to get some info around here.
Berend Stonekeeper: If we’re lucky.
Getting a tad desperate to get a solid lead on Modra, Dulinamin uses his “way” to intimidate one of the mercenary commanders into sending his troops on their mission, deliberately referencing the weapons deals Modra brokered with the orc king.
Merc Leader: You think I have any say in who goes where and when? Bah! I just get this sorry lot in fighting shape, and then they get sent where ever they’re needed. I don’t ask, you know. Thing is, the Shadowfell is only a stopping-off place for Sarshan’s mercs. A force of archons from the Elemental Chaos was here not six months ago. I saw githzerai from the Astral Sea in Umbraforge once. I don’t know what job Sarshan has hired them for, but I’d hate to be the one who gets in their way.
Getting the sense that the commander is a bit chatty, Mikal offers to patch up the wounds of the commanders crew. As he works, Mikal keeps up a steady, non-threatenign dialogue as the merc leader looks on with interest.
Merc Leader: That’s some fine work, there. I’m sure Sarshan could find some use for you in the trenches, wherever they might end up. I tell ya, Sarshan’s mercenary operation has tripled in size in the the last few months, but get this… it’s not in the Shadowfell that they’re to be fighting in. When these merc troops are finally bought and sent on the march, they are bound for portals to the world. Shadar-kai, dark ones, undead, giants, ogres, trolls, gnolls, orcs—Sarshan has the armies of two planes on the march. War is brewing in the world, but the forces that will fight it are moving into position in the Shadowfell, unseen. The denizens of the world are never gonna know what hit them.
The adventurers have asked their questions and have determined a great deal. This Sarshan seems to be a force to be reckoned with, especially if it would seem that he is mobilizing troops for an attack on Khorvaire in the real world. They have also learned that Modra, while a monumental pain in the ass, is not the real threat to them, but rather a desperate creature who is in fear for his life. Too bad… he should have thought of that before he tried killing them over a brass key!
As they ponder this information, their path draws them back toward the dark foundry in the tower’s shadow. The guards still patrol the gates, but as they walk around the building and step out of sight of the guards, they see what looks to be a small breech in the building’s walls that may allow them entrance if they time their approach just right. As they make their plans to breech the foundry, a voice from the shadows startles them.
Female Voice: You are the odd mercenaries, aren’t you?
From the shadows steps the shapely form of the shadar-kai witch you saw in the market place. She smiles slightly at you, though oddly, the smile makes you more worried than comforted.
Berend Stonekeeper: Who’s askin’?
Pythas: It takes all types, does it not?
Berend Stonekeeper looks the speaker up and down.
Drake Ilvenet: Besides normal is boring.
Shadar-kai Witch (holds up her hand in dismissal): I don’t really care what your excuses are. However, when I saw you in the marketplace, I marked you as out of place, so I’ve been following you. I am Leena.
Mikal d’Cannith: And?
Berend Stonekeeper: Since you been followin’ us, you know what we’re doing here, don’t ya?
Leena (nods): I have been observing you with your inquiries regarding Modra. If you seek the dark creeper out, then he must have sorely crossed you, or perhaps you are fools.
Mikal d’Cannith: He’s the one on the run from not one but two groups.
Leena (nods): I know this well, human, as I also know Modra well. Modra and I worked together for a time, but when he elected to go behind Sarshan’s back, I told him we were done. I heard word of him in the camps even before you started asking around. He has a plan to disrupt Sarshan’s operations by destroying the foundry, then the tower. Sarshan has a private tunnel connecting the two, and Modra is planning to vent the foundry’s destructive energy there. A mass of mercenaries is moving out tonight, which Modra plans to use as cover when he goes inside.
Drake Ilvenet: That sounds like it would be most unpleasant.
Leena nods in agreement.
Berend Stonekeeper: But not such a bad idea.
Drake Ilvenet: If you’re crazy enough to want to cross Sarshan, certainly.
Berend Stonekeeper: Don’t we?
Leena: Look, Modra made his bargain with fate, and honor decrees that he die for his betrayal. He won’t get tears from me. But if Sarshan captures him, Modra will die slowly. If it’s you, I can only hope you’ll make it quick. It’s the most I can ask for our former partnership.
Berend Stonekeeper: And I presume you’ll be staying out of the way on this one?
Leena: I have no dog in this fight, save to request that his end be swift.
Dulinamin: I think that can be arranged.
Berend Stonekeeper: Fair enough.
Leena: My thanks. As I said, Modra plans to use the mercenary movements later tonight as cover to infiltrate the foundry. Where the bastard is hiding himself until then, I know not, nor do I care. But having seen your battles since you arrived, I can only assume you need some rest. I can arrange a private tent where you may rest until evening. I do believe you’ve already made out your entrance into the foundry?
Leena indicates the breech in the foundry wall with a vague gesture.
Dulinamin (nods): And we can probably use the same distraction Modra is waiting for.
Berend Stonekeeper: Aye, a rest and some ale would be good.
Drake Ilvenet: I suppose a rest would be welcome
Leena: Rest I can arrange, dwarf. Sarshan allows no alcohol amongst the camps.
Berend Stonekeeper: Ale isn’t alcohol, it’s Dwarf’s blood!
Leena: Very well. Come with me, and I will bring you to your tent. I would suggest you take your rest while you’re able. The mercenaries move out at eight bells.
Leena leads the party to one of the more central merc camps, where she shows them a tent they can use to rest. They quickly notice that most of the shadar-kai mercs seems to occupy this area more than the others they have seen.
Leena: Rest well. You will not be disturbed.