Dziga and Vatex regroup with Early and Emeris in the afternoon to exchange information. Early and Emeris reveal their plan to infiltrate the Brotherhood of Venom’s meeting. Vatex and Dziga have had little luck finding the missing paladin Kalerecent, learning only that he and his monk cohort may have been looking into “monsters digging in Oldtown.”
The group receives a late invitation to one of Castle Shard’s extravagant dinner parties. They attend and encounter various famous people of Elan. They learn that Lord Abbercrombe has been restored but he’s a bit spaced out and they do not see him at the party. Instead, their encounters include the enigmatic, taciturn IRON MAGE, who comes and goes as he pleases without invitation and is perhaps the most powerful wizard in the city if not the Empire; ARGAEN RAVENWHISPER, a disturbingly frail and flamboyant elf sorcerer known for casting wishes at the drop of a hat; URLENIUS, an ogre-mage converted to goodness by the Brotherhood of Redemption; and JEVVICA NORR, a sorcerer of the Inverted Pyramid mage guild who is a beautiful woman with a glass arm. She is very interested in the incident with the dark elf monk that happened several days ago, and invites the group to join her at the Ghostly Minstrel to hear a proposition after the party.
The group also speak with Shilukar, attending the party disguised as a simple shoal elf using the name “Shaelukar Darkfingers”. They tell him they found nothing beneath the Pythoness House, and he seems disappointed. He reminds them even without the chaos weapons, his offer stands to pay 4,000 gold for the head of the Shuul scientist, Doctor Feagus.
The group feels socially awkward at the party and they are happy to meet Jevvica Norr at the Ghostly Minstrel. There she tells them the dark elf monk was called Tavan Zith, who was more than 20,000 years old! She says through divinations and research, her organization learned that Tavan Zith was a “bane” imprisoned by the great elven saint Danar in the impenetrable Banewarrens, because of his strange ability to release latent magical power in those around him. If Zith was wandering around the city, he must have escaped the Banewarrens somehow. She offers them a substantial amount of gold if they will investigate and provide substantial information about the opening (and resealing) of the Banewarrens, and they accept the mission. She tells them spells have revealed that Tavan Zith emerged from a wine cellar beneath a house in Oldtown, and provides the address.
Saharasahla summons Emeris, and they discuss the 751st page of the Book of Inverted Shadows, supposedly sealed up in the Banewarrens somewhere as well. The old shadowcaster tells Emeris that while it would probably be better overall that the Banewarrens be resealed and the Inverted Pyramid will probably be committed to that being done. But before that happens, it is vital that Emeris find the missing page, a coveted fragment of shadow lore said to grant great knowledge and power.
The next day, the group meets with Itumar and prepares for the Brotherhood of Venom’s secret meeting. They follow Itumar and a cultist into a nasty eatery called the Rat’s Nest, then to a house where the meeting is held. The use their fake Brotherhood rings to get access to the house to follow the young man and the cultist. Inside, they find meeting attendees must wear hoods. The guards are confused when there are more people than hoods, so only Early and Emeris are able to enter the meeting. The guards try to get Dziga and Vatex to leave, but the smooth talking rogue convinces them to all have a game of cards together while they wait for the meeting to end instead.
Disguised as cultists, Emeris and Early join the meeting on the lower level. There are seven hooded cultists with Itumar. Early’s preternatural scent detects what seems to be a horse in the backroom. The chairman of the meeting says they will be initiating their new “brother,” Itumar, discussing their “secret project” with the Ebon Hand, talking about poisons, then engaging in something that is implied to be a gross sexual act. The meeting discusses a joint project between the Brotherhood, the Ebon Hand (led by someone called MALEK), and the Society of the Tolling Bell (led by Khyron). They need volunteers for experiments, the nature of which are not revealed. Infighting between the Brotherhood and the Ebon Hand is also discussed, and the group seems psychopathically amused by the prospect of having to backstab their allies. Next they discuss poisons and ritualistically douse their daggers in a few samples brought by one cultist.
When the initiation begins, Itumar – foolishly brave until now – tries to back out, but the cultists will not allow it. Emeris tries to convince them to let the “blasphemer” leave, saying he is not worth bringing into the group. This seems to excite the cultists to instead want to murder Itumar on the spot. One cultist cuts Itumar with a poisoned blade, and the young man tries to flee. Early and Emeris cast off their disguises and attack. Emeris conjures a blast of shadowy cold that kills several cultists, and Early cuts down the depraved chairman. It looks to be a one-sided slaughter until a massive centaur fighter, apparent leader of this cult group, enters from the backroom, wielding a huge falchion and trying to crush Early beneath his hooves.
Upstairs, Dziga and Vatex attack the guards, cutting them to pieces in seconds. They join the battle below as Emeris consumes another cultist with supernaturally cold blackfire and spreads the effect around the centaur, who has Early badly pressed. The warblade hacks vicious wounds into his enemy. The centaur counters, hooves cracking into Early’s skull and falchion cleaving into his guts. Vatex comes down the stairs and fires a shot with his rifle and hits the centaur in the head. Still the centaur fights. Dziga enters the melee to take pressure off the dying Early, and fends off attack after attack from the frenzied centaur. The centaur is finally defeated when the rogue slams Asura into his chest.
The group sets up a gruesome display of dead cultists stuck to the wall with daggers, and take a set of documents carried by the centaur. Itumar is unconscious from the poison, so they take him back to Emeris and Early’s house. Emeris looks over the documents and finds the location of the cultists’ secret project – an apartment house in Oldtown. The companions wonder what sorts of experiments are being done there, and if it might lead them to Khyron.
The next day the group sells loot and rests. And the following day they sell more loot, and acquire items to keep them alive longer. Early buys an amulet that makes his skin like tough leather, and Dziga buys a ring that deflects attacks. Vatex has learned that Kalerecent and his monk where checking out the same house for which Jevvica Norr provided the address. The group then considers its next course of action. They decide they will investigate Tavan Zith’s emergence point for now, and hopefully find the paladin while they are at it.
Next: A legendary dungeon meant to forever lock away malignant forces of evil, sealed for thousands of years, and now opened…the Banewarrens!
Random Elanian Factoid: Although the Banewarrens had been Danar’s obsession, he was aided in his efforts by his mighty servants. These included a silver dragon named Saggarintys, a planetar named Bastion, and a solar named Averon.