The shrouded strangers attack!
And are quickly dispatched by the Unsworn – but not before one of them blinks away and makes its escape. Under their coverings, you discover your assailants are kenku, crow-people, like the one you rescued in the cultists’ hide-out.
You all step into the shimmering blue flame gate and enter a new world. It’s an echo of the material plane, turned blurry gray, covered in diaphanous mist and fog, and all the people are eerily absent. Like a ghost, you can float and move through the walls with ease. You head outside the ambassador’s house where you see Farglad spread out before you – all in muted grays, but a new city has been stacked on top of the old one. A city built of junk – random objects piled in huge heaps, objects plucked from the material plane and dumped here into crude structures. It’s a city of stolen things. A city of secret thieves.
Welcome to the City Unfair.
As you float silently up the slopes of the City, you see more of the inhabitants, more kenku, but they pay you no mind and go about their business.
Passing an alleyway, you hear urgent whispers bidding you to enter. You follow the source and discover an old ally. You are reunited with “Mouse” – the dweomercat cub that you rescued from Trimphid’s manse back in Smidge. He remembers you and is pleased to find you in Illivion – the Ethereal Plane.
He assumes you’re all there in pursuit of Trimphid, like him. He’s been in the City Unfair for the last week or so, trying to figure out what his old tormentor is up to. Mouse wants vengeance against the Gridean wizard for imprisoning and torturing him. He can travel this plane unseen, so he’s been biding his time, spying on the kenku and the Infernal Auction, learning what he can.
Mouse tells you about the City Unfair. The kenku’s leader and creator, the “Lord of Liviland” is none other than Gleaming, one of the Seven Sovereign that Midribin told you died in a duel with Primwizard Artivole. Turns out he’s alive and well, and plotting in secret within the Ethereal Plane, under the very noses of the other Sovereigns. Travel to Illivion was thought to be impossible ever since access was blocked off in the city a thousand years ago as a protective measure. But Gleaming found a way. He brought his ravens and his crows here to set up a whole separate shadow city. Back when he was a Sovereign, he had started the Unkindness (evil order of ravens) to act as their messengers and spies, and now, seeing himself as a dark brooding version of Calydo – he has suffused the crows to make them into kenku. Gelaming’s a very powerful wizard. Mouse tells you he played around with evil magic so much, it has blocked all colors from showing on his person. It turned him permanently monochromatic!
His creations, the kenku, Mouse explains, are pretty serious kleptomaniacs by nature and can’t help but collect objects from the Fair City (what they call Farglad) when they can. It becomes a problem if they steal too much, or the wrong thing, as this draws unwanted attention, threatening to reveal Gleaming’s secret operations here. Mouse has learned that Gleaming has occasionally had to send in his chief lieutenant, a kenku named Phratagune “Corky” Corcuera, into the material plane to clean up. Rumor has it there was some object in particular that caught the attention of a paladin who started snooping where he shouldn’t and was too close to exposing the City Unfair. So Gleaming had Corky kill the paladin.
Mouse tells you about the Secret Auction that Gleaming is currently hosting. Devils set it up, run it, keep the order, but their enemies, the demons and their minions, are also invited to come bid. It’s definitely a a volatile environment. Mouse confirms that Trimphid is there for the auction, but he’s not sure what he hopes to buy. Primwizard’s body was already sold to the highest bidder – someone named Zefuloria. Also, the starknife was sold, too.
Mouse agrees to take you to the Pinnacle, where Gleaming is holding the auction. He will do what he can to help you take down Trimphid. He must stay invisible, keep a low profile, but will try to help if he can. He tells you has the means to send you all back to the material plane if you need to eject in a hurry.
You arrive at the auction hall and are greeted by a terrifying site blocking access through the door. An impossibly corpulent being fused with a throne of iron skulls floats several feet off the ground, directing a cloud of weathered scrolls and blasphemous tomes that orbit its bulk.This is an Ayngavahul, a heretic devil, and he’s here to check your credentials.
The devil accepts your invitation and peruses it for the particulars. “Funny,” it muses after glancing up at you. “You don’t look like Caolaubists.” Then it waves you on through the massive double doors which swing open as you approach.
The auction hall itself is filled with all manner of bizarre creatures, a rogue’s gallery of extra-planar types, many monstrous in appearance. Some demons, some devils, as well as their more humanoid minions. There are agents here of both Law and Chaos, but they’re all 100% Evil. On each wall left and right are pedestals displaying the items up for auction. Behind where the auctioneer will stand at the front, there is a raised stage area where you see a figure lounging on a throne. He looks almost like a jester in shades of white and gray. This must be Gleaming, your host for the evening. Surrounding him are numerous kenku guards and perching ravens, peering down at the proceedings next to their lord and master.
Dovienya makes a circuit around the hall, trying to blend in – hard to do since he’s just so normal-looking in this company. He checks out his fellow attendees and the items up for auction. He is approached by the other normal here – Ambassador Jocosa, who Dov recognizes from his portrait. The two exchange pleasantries and Dov manages not to arouse too much suspicion.
Dov also spots a kenku near the front who appears to be of high rank. This must be Corcuera, Gleaming’s chief lieutenant and right-hand bird. He recognizes the thistle-marked dagger at Corky’s belt and the peculiar way the kenku speaks. This is the same villainous creature that set Dov on his path. What seems like an eternity ago, a less experienced Dov was approached by this Corky, shrouded head to toe so that his corvidity (crow-person-ness) was concealed. Corky tried to convince Dov to kidnap one of the Purity for him. Dov declined, but he was then considered an easy patsy to take the fall for the paladin’s murder. Dov escaped imprisonment thanks to Brega, and he followed the only clue he had – the thistle symbol on the villain’s dagger – all the way to Daisy’s destroyed village… and the rest is history. Now Dov stands in the same room as the chief architect of his recent misfortune. Plus, he sees one of the items on display for the auction is the key to clearing his name – the Xan-Hyrkanic Codex. If Dov can retrieve it and get it into the hands of the paladin Sa’ramae, she will see justice is done.
Meanwhile, Nim’s eyes are drawn to another attendee. A mysterious figure of indeterminate race or gender is cloaked in a dark robe with red mystic symbols and hooded with a tassel mask plunging its face into deep shadow. The figure is equipped with Ozen Lu’s starknife, which it apparently secured at a previous sale.
The Ambassador steps to the front and addresses the crowd. “Ladies and Gentleman, or Non-gentle – or whatever title best applies… We are about to begin today’s auction!”
He then provides a brief description of the items up for bid:
1) Foxhead Amulet – a talisman that regurgitates soul gems, a demonic delicacy
2) Niber (green) & Shupar (orange) – twin legendary long swords taken from the slain warrior Balister the Beaut
3) Green Maggs’ severed hand – a contribution by the Ravens of Arsel, who are nothing if not up for a quick buck or trinket, even if it was their former ally
4) The Divine Endling – a glowing golden scarab, last of the Nyzeriss, an Oosipalian goddess persecuted on the other side of the world
5) Milpreve – a druidic gate key
6) Xan-Hyrkanic Codex – a tool for Calydo’s enemies to discredit and diminish her power
“But first… I have an announcement to make!” the Ambassador continues. “We have a brand new addition to the auction block, just introduced for your consideration, and we will begin bidding for it immediately. Ladies and Gentleman, Devils and Demons, I present to you… the Shepherd Prince!”
And suddenly standing at the front of the hall, teleported in, you see Daisy’ brother Tumn, looking somewhat dazed and bewildered, and next to him a smug-looking Trimphid Chrygora.
To Be Continued…