Roster (Party Level 8th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Matorna-Reevash (Human Kingsblade warrior, Finial's Companion, deceased)
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger
With a splash, the party re-emerges into the Seven-Pillared Hall. Not having been gone more than a couple of hours, the scene is pretty-much much as they had left it, with a sullen-looking populace going about the sombre task of recovering the dead from the rubble of the Hall.
Brugg has been almost immediately put to work, a large spiked iron collar bolted around his neck with a long chain attached to a spike hammered into a crack in the ground. The once-tyrannical ogre looks utterly miserable as he shifts the mroe massive chunks of rock and brick from around the ruins of the Halfmoon Inn.
The party informs Orontor of their victory, and the news is enough to entice him out of the pile of rubble in which he's been hiding since the worms attacked. Thoughts turn to their next step. In the immediate term, they busy themselves aiding the population in the clean-up efforts as much as they can, but they know that, being held in great esteem for the work they've done in freeing the inhabitants from the yoke of the mages, folks are looking to them for guidance on what to do next. Even Orontor, helping as best he can (or maybe just unwilling to leave the vicinity of the adventurers), is expectant in this regard.
At one point conversation turns to the subject of the secret Jonas gave up to the Enigma of Vecna in return for the god's boon. Jonas is pragmatic on the subject, and much to everyone's surprise, tells them something of his past:
"I told him who the head of the assassin’s guild was in Emerandes. They train you from an early age, and spotted the potential in me when I was barely able to walk. My training went well and I found I was able to kill for money, detaching myself from any connection I may have felt for the target. That was until I was charged with killing a young girl, Mari; her death was to be a message to her father. I could not bring myself to do it, so my trainer Aran did the deed, and in a furious rage I killed him and fled the city. My life will be forfeit if I ever return."The company decides to convene a meeting, to be held in the cleared-out shell of the Halfmoon. The people of the Hall nominate three representatives to speak for them: Ulthand Deepgem, who arrives with a somewhat healthier looking Wendy than the last time they saw her, Anton Jones, an unassuming trader who has gained renown in the past for acting as a broker between the demands of the mages and the needs of the people, and no less than Orontor himself, who is chosen as the most appropriate candidate to speak on behalf of what is left of the Mages of Saruun. The three mages they rescued from Paldemar's Recluse -- all that were left breathing of the twenty-or-so contingent that once ruled the Hall and were to be sacrificed in the name of Namotath's return -- seem ambivalent about the choice, and are content to let him speak on their behalf.
-- Jonas to his friends in the Seven-Pillared Hall
The meeting is generally calm. Suggestions of allowing the Mages to once more assume control of the Hall -- put forth in good conscience by the company as one of many options on the table -- are soundly rejected, as reports of Paldemar's plans and the failure of anyone except Orontor to actually do anything about them begin to surface. Gradually, the notion of rebuilding the Hall back into the influential Underdark trading hub it once was start to gain favour... but this time under self-rule, and overseen by a council of members all of whom represent the major interests of the people who live there.
It is decided that an interim council should be assembled to oversee the reconstruction of the Hall, and that a new election shall be held every year. Anson Jones, who has spoken with measured calm and neutrality throughout the meeting, is a shoe-in for the nomination of chairman and representative of the various traders in the Hall.
Elumai puts Orontor forward (much to his delight) as a representative of the mages, but some in the crowd who still distrust him suggest that Vendra, one of the surviving Mages of Saruun from Paldemar's recluse, should stand as well, and even with Finial's sponsorship influencing the vote, Vendra's demeanour wins over the crowd and she gets the vote as representative for the mages over a disappointed Orontor.
Finally, it is decided that the spiritual needs of the community should be dispensed by incumbent cleric Phaledra... but the party insists that she curbs her proselytising and is accepting of other faiths than Erathis. For the chance she has been looking for to make her residence in the Hall permanent, it's a compromise she's more than willing to make.
As the final votes are cast, the company notices that Bersk, the old wainright, is despondant at not being selected as the tradesman's representative, and that he appears to have been taking clandestine advice on his oratory from a woman they've never seen before. The company is suspicious of Bersk's association with this individual and, waiting for her to leave, confronts him about it. The wainwright at first refuses to answer their questions, but slowly the implications of resisting the champions of the Hall starts to outweigh the consequences of telling them the truth... and so he does, strange as it is.
Pulling them into one of the smellier donkey stalls (much to the annoyance of its occupant), he admits that the woman's name is Aiyanna, and she has come to him demanding moneys (the princely sum of 1000g, far in excess if anything he will ever be able to pay) for not revealing a secret of his. The company expects to hear about some hidden crime or famaily woe, but instead he tells them that his secret is.. a name. Whispered to him in dreams as long as he can remember... of a three-sided pyramid with a single, staring eye on each face, and on the warm wind the name "Obery".
The strangeness of the blackmail momentarily stumps the adventurers. Who is this "Obery", how would Aiyanna know of Bersk's dreams (he swears he has never told anyone until now), and who is she threatening to tell unless he pays up? Wracking his brains, Finial remembers a story he once heard as a child, of a time when the Gods could not speak to each-other except through divine messengers, and that one such messenger was called "Obereen" or something similar. This is as much context as anyone can come up with.
In any case, there is the immediate problem of the threat to Bersk, and the company orders him not to pay any more money to this woman until they have investigated. Jonas pursues Aiyanna to a cavern some miles out of the Hall, used by many of the Underdark's travellers as a resting place, and discovers she is part of a larger expedition, including half-a-dozen covered wagons and two-dozen or more people, most of them armed. In conversation with a huge goliath who she calls Krait, Jonas discerns that she has already collected money from two other people somewhere in the Underdark, and that she is somewhat desperate to collect the cash from Bersk as well. Jonas employs a couple of halfling traders to keep an eye on the wagons, and returns to the Hall, where the company decides that confronting Aiyanna is the most appropriate course of action at this point.
They return to the wagons and are able to parlay with her, flanked by her body-guard, and with half-a-dozen arrows trained on them from bowmen hidden in the wagons. Aiyanna is unrepentant, and wholly unintimidated by the reputation of the adventurers. Initially she refuses them any information at all, except for asking whether they think she has any choice in the matter either, but this brief opportunity is enough for Finial's silver tongue to persude her that they might be able to help her as well. She appears almost entirely unconvinced... but nevertheless invites the party into the camp for further discussions.
All to the good... except Jonas cannot resist whispering a gotcha! into the ear of the archer he was poised to bring down in one of the wagons. The guard -- having been holding his bow at full extension for the duration of the extended parlay outside -- lets loose the arrow in surprise, which streaks out of the wagon, ripping a hole in the leather coverings, and smashing into shards against the cavern wall. Krait, already suspecting treachery, roars "We are betrayed!" and... everything generally goes down-hill from there.
In the ensuing chaos, all efforts to curtail the combat are futile. Jonas, in his element, darts from wagon to wagon, frustrating Krait's attempts to find him and striking from the shadows at any likely targets in reach. Elumai unleashes a burst of flame into the laager as Aiyanna retreats, causing the nearby wagons to erupt into a rapidly expanding inferno. Towards the back of the camp, terrified civilians who were already hiding in the wagons leap out of the path of the encroaching flames and cluster in a panic in one corner. Aiyanna, bereft of her guard by Jonas's taunts, is quickly brought low by a blow from Berend, and immediately accepts his offer of surrender, ordering her people to stand-down.
As the fires are brought under control, the company considers what can be rescued from this debacle...