Roster (Party Level 5th)
Azurami - Eladrin Wizard
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Ranger
Xavier - Dragonborn Warlord
With nothing to do but wait for Orontor's return, the party decides to explore the Hall and follow up on some of the things they've already learned. Finial, Azurami, and Xavier wish to pay a visit to the Temple of Hidden Light, the Hall's only chapel, while Jonas, Berend, and Elumai decide that the Grimmerzhul Trading Post may be a better bet.
At the Temple, the adventurers find a simple and austere chapel chiseled out of the western face of the cavern. Within, stone benches face an altar, on which is displayed a contraption of arresting complexity. Gears, pulleys, and chains, powered by a slender column of water running from a finger of metal pipe punched into the ceiling, keep a sequence of metal balls rolling in perfect, perpetual synchronicity up and down the length of the machine. Xavier is immediately struck by the device, and engages the resident priest, Phaledra, in conversation.
The simply-dressed young woman is a worshiper of Erathis, goddess of law and civilization. She commissioned the device from a dwarven family far to the south, she reveals, to represent, most obviously, the action of numerous pieces working to the advantage of the greater whole... although what it does for her own personal spiritual betterment is knowledge for her alone. She invites all three of the company who have come to visit her to look into the machine and take whatever lessons or education from it while they can, before she is required to move on. The Temple's portfolio, she informs them, changes regularly at the behest of the mages, and none of the priests who have served here have been allowed to stay for more than a few weeks, a month or two at most. Xavier diligently maps the workings of the device, and leaves a sizable donation behind as well, before they all move on.
The others make their way to the trading post. It's a single-story building constructed of large, uniform blocks; surrounded also by a shallow, crenelated stone wall like a rampart, the feeling is of a little fortress within the Seven-Pillared Hall. Three duergar, armed and ready for a fight, lounge about the place, but do not impede the party as they pass through an open iron gate towards the shop itself. Jonas slips around the outside, darting between mounds of refuse piled haphazardly against the inner side of the wall.
Inside the shop, neat arrangements of bottles, vials, jars and jugs of all kinds are on display, and the proprietor, a duergar woman names Kedhira, greets her new visitors with polite nobility, inviting them to look around while entertaining questions on her inventory from Elumai. Things take a sudden turn for the strange, however, when out of the blue she asks Elumai how much she would be prepared to take... for Berend! She claims to have buyers lined up who would pay good money for a dwarf in his condition, but Elumai, after due consideration, reluctantly declines the transaction. Berend himself is ignored during this discussion, but seems more amused than insulted.
Outside, Jonas spies two entrances into rear of the premises: a hatch probably used to load supplies into the cellar, and a separate staircase leading down to a sturdy-looking door. Avoiding the patrolling guard, he slips into the cellar, there to find a treasure-trove of alchemical goods and material, as well as a sophisticated looking assemblage of jars, stills, pipes and condensers. Another door opens onto a room in which three duergar appear to be at work bottling various malefic-looking substances, with another dark stairwell leading down into the depths, but Jonas leaves them well-enough alone... that is until an uncharacteristically clumsy exit rouses them from their work. He is forced to fight his way out but eventually escapes into the Seven-Pillared Hall, where, clambering up to the high vantage of Krand's chambers, he lays low until he can make contact with the others.
Finally, before the meeting with Orontor, Xavier decides on one last course of action. Leaving the others, he walks alone to the Trading Post and confronts Kedhira directly, quickly dropping all pretense and offering her above-market value for the Kingsblade slaves that he knows the duergar have bought. Kedhira remains coy, never admitting to the truth, but seems open to Xavier's offer, nonetheless. She considers it for a few moments, but in the end, whether it's the company kept by the dragonborn, the likelihood of betrayal, or the possibility that these particular slaves have a value not measured in mere currency, she turns him down. Xavier, hinting that this is a decision she will live to regret, leaves peacefully, but unbeknownst to him, his visit to the duergar has taken place under the watchful and suspicious eye of Jonas far above.
Later, as the trade bell tolls its command across the Hall, the company meets with Orontor. He is no less nervous and bemused by what he is about to do than before, but nevertheless, after accepting a copy of the receipts and accounts salvaged from the Chamber of Eyes (edited by Elumai to remove any mention of the Necrotech Coffin), he leads them out of the inn and to their scheduled meeting with Paldemar, leader of the Mages of Saruun...