After defeating the frost giants and making a deal with the elemental, we begin our trek through the very northern reaches of the Frostmarch towards Gloomwrought. After some time making our way through the mountains, the ice elemental stops at a point that overlooks the city and turns to Aideena, telling her that if they go any closer, they risk their lives.
From our vantage point, we’re able to see the city but not closely. It’s dark this far north at this time of year, after all. We are able to tell that there is no real way to sneak into the city. There are large walls that surround it and only a few stragglers that make their way along the road to the city’s gates. The road is just about the only way in, too, because the city sits on a frozen fen that would be very difficult to traverse.
We also know that as the demesne of the Raven Queen, we will most likely be welcome in the city and there will be no need to hide or conceal our identity.
What we do know about Gloomwrought is that it exists in the prime plane only when there is no sun, but it exists in the Shadowfell at all times. At this point, we thank the ice elemental for showing us the way to the city and bid it a farewell. It takes its leave of us and we begin to proceed out of the mountains towards the city itself.
Targoth wonders what we need to do, as we only know that Solange is going to send a raven and get in contact with someone who will be able to lead us to the portal to the hells. I say that I think we ought to make our way into the city and then perhaps find some accommodation while we wait.
This seems to be the best plan for the moment, so we all agree that this is what we shall do.
As we draw closer to the city, we begin to feel the effects of the Shadowfell, which affects us all differently. Aideena is suddenly anxious and abrupt, almost manic in her need to continue forward and accomplish what needs to be done. On the other hand, I become tired and lethargic and have difficulty working up the energy to give much thought or care to anything. Jack grows forgetful and Targoth appears to be distracted and brooding. Daren clings to Jack even more than usual.
Eben appears to be the only one of the party unaffected by our proximity to Gloomwrought and the Shadowfell.
When we get close to the city, Aideena begins to run towards the gates and the guards manning the post. There’s something of a line to get into the city, but Aideena shows no concern for this and starts shoving people out of her way in order to get to the front of the line. It’s clear that the others are also experiencing some effects from being in the Shadowfell, as Aideena’s actions merely provoke glares and muttering rather than a fight.
We’re now close enough to the city to see that the walls aren’t still and motionless like they are on the prime plane. These walls writhe and move in and out, not unlike something breathing. It’s disconcerting, but I’m unable to work up much energy to be disgusted or to even point it out.
By this point, even Eben has noticed that we’re all behaving oddly. He asks Aideena what’s wrong with her because she has taken to pacing furiously. This is in response to being told by the guard that she has to wait in line like everyone else. Aideena, like the rest of us, doesn’t realize that there’s something odd about her behavior and merely snaps that we have things to do and she’s trying to get us into the city so we can get them done.
Unfortunately for her, the line moves more slowly than she’d prefer. We do make it to the front eventually, though, and Aideena presents herself to the guard first.
He tells her to state her name and business and she answers that she’s Aideena Caelan and that she’s trying to enter the city to get into the Shadowfell. The guard tells her that she has to sign her name in the book and pay a 50 gold piece fee to enter. Aideena is so keyed up that her hands are shaking too much to sign, so she spells her name for the guard who writes it down and then thrusts a handful of gold at him.
Once he takes it, he allows her into the city and motions Jack forward. The guard tells him to state his name and business and Jack is unable to remember his own name, hesitating over it, until Aideena yells at him to hurry up. The guard then prompts him about his purpose in entering the city and he stutters and stalls until Daren hisses at him that we’re planning to find a portal to the Nine Hells.
The guard then charges him 100 gold pieces. Daren decides that Jack is unable to manage it himself, so he reaches into Jack’s pockets for him and pulls out the right amount of gold and hands it to the guard. The guard then asks Jack to sign his name in the book, but Jack is not really capable of it so the guard does it for him and then allows him to pass into the city.
Next up is Eben, who is able to answer the guard with no trouble until it comes time to signing his name. He leaves a paw print on the sheet which infuriates the guard and causes him to rip the page out and then sign for Eben.
Targoth goes next without incident and then Daren also goes through with no trouble. I’m up next and am able to answer the questions but have difficulty gathering the energy to sign my own name, instead choosing to dictate it to the guard. He makes a sarcastic comment about my lethargy, but I don’t care enough to allow his comments to bother me. He then charges me 50 gold pieces and I lethargically hand him a pile of gold which turns out to be only 30 gold. He then allows me to also enter the city with the rest of the party.
We’re now all in the city—in the Fettered Ward, which is the entertainment district—and we’re trying to figure out where we should go to find an inn. What we know about the city is that the Drowned Quarter and the Ghost Quarter are slums and broken down places for the very desperate and poor. The Shattered Isles—scene of a cataclysmic earthquake—are close to both. We also know that the Dust Quarter is where the nobles live and where the main capital buildings and manor houses are. We also know that the Plaza District is where all of the marketplaces are, including the Harskel Emporium, which is the largest such emporium in the city. Lastly, there’s the Temple District, which is where the religious devotees of the Raven Queen can be found worshipping.
Within the Fettered Ward is the House of Sterling, a den of ill repute infamous for its “entertainments”—sex, drugs, and black market items, amongst many other things.
The streets around where we’re standing are very eerie. There aren’t many people about and the place is very quiet for such a large city. There is no smell, despite being on the sea and the sheer variety of people that live in or pass through the city.
As we’re waiting, three men approach us and offer their services as protection and guides in the city. None of us feel like we actually need protection—Aideena in particular—but we don’t tell them no outright. Instead, we tell them that we need to think it over during the night and we’d let them know if we need them in the morning.
While the discussions are going on, I’m still very tired and decide to sit down and wait for them to finish what they’re doing. Once the conversation is done and the men in the crimson sashes leave, Jack calls me Audra and helps me up so we can look for a place to stay. In normal circumstances, I might be upset that he calls me by the wrong name, but I’m too apathetic to care.
Targoth then leads us in the direction of the Dust Quarter. After a bit of walking, we come across a cheery, welcoming inn called Dorian’s Red Hand. We hesitate a moment and just then two bodies come flying out of the front window. Aideena runs into the inn and she finds a bar brawl just wrapping up. There are plenty of injuries, but the only two fatalities are the men that have been thrown out of the window. The brawl is being broken up by the Deathless Watch.
The rest of us express doubts about staying here, but Aideena insists that we should. While we’re standing there, we attempt to speak to the innkeeper, but he’s in no humor to talk to us as he’s very worried about the effect that the brawl is having on his custom. People are streaming out of the door and he’s fretting about losing all of that business. Meanwhile, some of his employees are trying to clean up the mess made by the brawl.
Aideena decides to assist and Targoth offers his services as a bard to bring business back. The innkeeper tells Targoth that if he’s successful, the innkeeper will give us anything we want.
Targoth and Jack begin to play and—with an assist from Jack’s magical flute—they’re able to bring customers back to the inn. People dance and even look happy or, at least, as happy as they ever look while living in the Shadowfell.
While this is going on, I sit at a table and fall asleep.
Because of their success at bringing people back in, the innkeeper grants us three rooms to use. Aideena carries me to one room and tosses me onto a bed, somehow managing not to wake me. Eventually, the rest of the party is ready to go to bed. Aideena comes back and begins to attempt to trance, though she’s still feeling the effects of the Shadowfell. Targoth and Eben share a room, as do Jack and Daren.
Jack and Daren get intimate in their room and, through that, Jack is able to finally throw off his forgetfulness.
Meanwhile, while sleeping, I once again experience a recurring dream that I’ve been having since we stormed the palace and Jalmari’s apparent death. Usually in the dream, I wake after indirectly seeing a flashing red light. This time, however, because the Shadowfell had exhausted me so much, I sleep through my usual waking point and see more. This time, I see Jalmari—body not moving—being carried away by demons.
I awake early and surprisingly feel much better than I did the day before, but it’s not long before paranoia begins to creep in and I see conspiracies and attackers in every shadow. In fear and to guard against a surprise attack, I pull out my dagger and settle myself in a corner so that no one can sneak up on me.
After a little while, Aideena begins to stir from her trance and opens her eyes. She looks incredibly out of sorts and fumbles to pull herself up from the awkward slump she tranced in. I keep my eyes on her while she attempts to put herself together without tripping or otherwise hurting herself. Aideena asks what’s wrong with me and I suspiciously ask her what that’s supposed to mean.
Aideena says that she just wanted to know why I was acting the way I am and I ask her why she can’t seem to stop running into things. Aideena gives up on speaking to me in return and heads downstairs. I follow her stealthily, suspicious of what she’s going to do and wanting to keep an eye on her.
At about this time, Eben goes to check on Jack and Daren, who are having sex, and walks in on them. What he’s able to see is enough to horrify him and he runs out of the room wishing he hadn’t seen what he’d just seen.
Meanwhile, Targoth makes his way downstairs from his room and sees Aideena running into things and me staying in a corner and looking around me suspiciously. He’s baffled by our behavior but is distracted before he can approach either of us about it. The innkeeper comes to him with two letters, one of which is addressed to The Favored of the Raven and the other is addressed to Eben of House Wylde.
Targoth goes upstairs to deliver these letters to their recipients, and I discreetly follow. No one notices me as I lurk in the shadows to discover what the letters are about and to make sure that there’s nothing suspicious going on.
As I stand there, Targoth hands Eben’s letter to him and he opens it. The contents are an invitation at the behest of Lady Selisse Tenebre to a ball at the House Harskel. Targoth goes to enter Jack and Daren’s room and Eben warns him off because of what he’d seen, but Targoth proceeds to enter the room. By this point, Jack and Daren are done with what they were doing and Targoth gives Jack the letter. His letter is an invitation to the same ball, but from a different person. This invitation is from Tazzak Kadal.
Jack, at this point, is dressed and Daren is not completely. He decides to head downstairs and tells Daren to catch us up. Targoth and Eben join Jack in heading downstairs and I follow them, still hidden.
Once downstairs, Targoth approaches the innkeeper and tries to find out any information about these people that he can. The innkeeper is able to tell him that the ball is an annual affair, held in honor of the Nadir. House Harskel is one of the most powerful in the city and it’s rumored that Prince Roland will attend. The innkeeper then opines that the only people attending are nobles, who are all listless fops. He can’t tell Targoth much about the nobles themselves except that they think they run things and they let Prince Roland think that he runs things. He doesn’t know much about any intrigue, as all of that would be way above him.
Targoth returns to the party and fills us in on what the innkeeper told him. We all decide that we should attend the ball with Jack and Eben. Ultimately, it’s decided that Targoth will go with Eben, since Eben’s invitation sounded more like it was just for Eben and possibly one guest. Jack’s invitation sounded far more open, so the rest of us plan to attend with him.
Attention then turns to what to wear. Darren, especially, is concerned about being properly attired and is dismayed at Eben’s plan to wear his regular armor. He argues that this makes sense because the invitation was addressed to the Champion of the Raven, and Darren gives up on him and tries to convince Jack that it’s important to look sharp. We all eventually agree that we should go to the marketplace and look for suitable clothes, as well as other items.
Before we can leave the inn, the three men from the night before who offered their services as guards and guides find us in the inn and ask us if we need their services. Surprisingly, it’s Targoth who argues that they would be a huge help to us as protectors. No one can figure why he feels that way, but only I argue strenuously against it, so we employ them with Targoth and Aideena handling their salary. After these negotiations are complete, we ask them to lead us to Harskell’s Emporium, which they do.
While at the Emporium, we spend time shopping for items they have, as well as clothes. After a few hours, we have significantly less money but more items and some noble clothing. When we’re done shopping, the guards guide us back to the inn. When we get there, we ask the innkeeper how to find House Harskel. He explains where it is and then hand us black masks that we will need to wear during the ball. He also informs us that we will need to get there early enough to find the people sponsoring our attendance.
We thank him and he agrees to hold our rooms for us in case we need them again. We then leave for the ball. The guards we’ve hired help lead us into the Dust Quarter and to House Harskel, where the ball is being held. As we walk through the streets, we notice that the walls seem to move, as if writhing.
Once we enter the Dust Quarter, it’s even more quiet and empty here than other areas of the city. There are a row of lanterns that are lit with an unnatural, steady glow.
When we finally reach the House, we are asked to state our business. Eben shows his invitation and introduces Targoth as his guest. They are allowed into an antechamber and are told to surrender their weapons. Both do, but Eben proclaims that his mace is ceremonial and has to stay with his outfit, and he is surprisingly allowed to keep it. They are then directed further into the House and told where they can meet with Lady Selisse Tenebre, who is Eben’s sponsor.
Meanwhile, Jack shows the guards his invitation from Lord Tazzak Kadal and introduces the rest of us as his guests. We are then also told to go into an antechamber and surrender our weapons. Most everyone holds at least one thing back and even I’m able to sneak in my new dagger which is fastened to my leg under my dress by a garter holster.
By this time, Lady Selisse has approached Eben to greet him. She politely greets Targoth as well, but then ignores him and begins to flirt with Eben, taking his arm and walking around the room with him. She points out some of the people in attendance, but seems very intent on flirting with Eben.
As this is happening, Tazzak approaches Jack and greets him and the rest of us. He thanks all of us for coming and is more gracious than Lady Selisse, but it’s also clear that he’s mostly concerned with Jack. Tazzak leads all of us into the main room and then introduces us to Dedrek of House Harskel. We spend a moment talking to him, during which he thanks us for coming and we thank him for his hospitality, before he wanders off and we ask Tazzak what the order of events is for the evening. He tells us that there’s drinking, dancing, and mingling until Prince Rolan arrives, which is when dinner will be served.
The party thanks him once again and disperses to mingle. I blend into the partygoers and scope out the room, trying to see if I can overhear any useful information. I carefully approach two men who are talking—one who is in a hood and the other who is a member of the Deathless Watch. I overhear the following:
“Veris Carradh was recently found dead in the canals of Gloomwrought. He’d fallen in love with a member of a rival house and drawn his father’s ire.”
“That reminds me of Jania Carradh. Her father had her lover killed.”
“You would think he’d disappear him into the hells instead of dumping him into the canals.”
After this, they go on to discuss more mundane and trivial subjects, so I instead turn my attention to the subject of their discussion. Tazzak had pointed the Carradhs out; the “Iron Lord”, the Head of the House, looks incredibly unapproachable. His daugher is standing with him, a sour look on her face. All together, they don’t look like they’d be much for a discussion, so I instead turn my attention to the host for the evening, Dedrek Harskell.
Still stealthy and blending in, I get closer to where he’s in conversation with another attendee. Dedric is discussing Prince Rolan and, specifically, how he’s lived for so long. Harskel suspects that he’s using the Deva somehow, as it’s been over 300 years. Harskel half-wonderingly and half-jealously wonders how the man has managed it and wants to find out so that he may be able to do the same.
The eladrin he’s talking to mentions that it’s the one area he hasn’t managed to master. This is somewhat interesting, but I continue to drift amongst the crowd as the rest of the party does the same. Jack skulks near the edges with Daren following in his wake; Aideena sits at a table to avoid further injuring herself with her sudden clumsiness, and Targoth approaches a pair of noble dwarves and begins a conversation about the people in the room.
They tell Targoth, after some introductions, that Harskel is wealthy, but is the Gloomwrought equivalent of nouveau riche. More esteemed—though less wealthy—families include our hosts for the evening and House Carradh, all of whom have ties to the hells. This, naturally, piques Targoth’s interest and he asks further, discovering that Carradh, Tenebre, and Kadal have portals into the hells for trading purposes and that each house has a portal master. For Tenebre and Kadal, these portal masters are their sons.
After a bit more verbal back and forth, the conversation ends and Targoth wanders off to locate the rest of the party.
Meanwhile, Jack and Daren approach Tazzak and Jack learns that he knows and is good friends with Solange, and that Tazzak is our contact in the Shadowfell who may be able to help us reach the hells. Tazzak almost makes mention that he has many powerful friends, Solange among them. When Jack expresses an interest in meeting these friends, Tozzak takes Jack around and begins introducing him to the most powerful nobles in Gloomwrought. Jack quickly loses interest and relies on Daren to help him navigate these introductions politely.
About this time, Eben approaches Selisse—who has been keeping an eye on him during the evening—and they begin to flirt once more. Lady Selisse informs Eben that a man named Tsal contacted her and told her to help Eben and the rest of us in whatever way possible. They continue to flirt with each other until Lady Selisse leads Eben from the room. The two find a bedroom and privacy.
Meanwhile, as the group socializes with the people in the room, we find out some information about those present. We discover that no one knows who the father of Lady Selisse’s son is, and that Tazzak doesn’t like her very much.
About this time, the sound of muted horns is heard and Prince Rolan arrives to the house with his consort Feria. Feria is a deva—a creature that live exceptionally long lives and are reborn. They are usually the servant of one of the gods.
The group—sans Eben—reconvene and share what information they’ve learned. Suddenly, the music stops and Prince Rolan and Feria are surrounded by gold-suited guards and quickly escorted quickly from the party. Harskel addresses the party and lets everyone know that the ball is over and that everyone needs to leave. We need to find Eben, but we also need to know what’s happening.
We decide that finding Eben is our top priority, so we search through the house. Jack is the one to find him, bursting into the room where Eben and Lady Selisse have been and startling the two in bed. Jack tells Eben to hurry up and the two attempt to quickly dress as Eben asks Jack what’s going on. Jack informs him and then Lady Selisse, Eben, Jack, and the rest of the party reconvene in the ballroom. Lady Selisse disappears as the party is herded out of the room and towards the entrance area. Through the door, we can see that Lady Selisse and Harskel are engaged in a heated conversation, but we’re moved away from the door and told to take our stuff and exit the house.
We gather our stuff, but we’re determined to find out what’s happening. We exit the house but look around to see if there’s another way back in since we can’t go back in through the entrance. We see patrols of guards in crimson sashes, but we see some running towards a spot where they’re all convening. We make our way over there and see a gash through the hedges that stops at the outer wall.
Eben doesn’t sense a divine presence and can tell the wall isn’t a false one. We all look up and, near the top, there are scratches, maybe from a grappling hook. Jack attempts to climb the wall to get a better look but is stopped from doing so by a guard spotting him. We tell the guard that we’re just trying to help with whatever is happening. One of the guards retrieves a captain, who asks Jack why we were searching the grounds. Jack answers that something happened and we were trying to assist the investigation. The captain will not let us help and tries to have us escorted away, but Targoth steps in and is able to convince the captain that our help would be invaluable. He’s finally convinced and allows Jack to climb the wall to investigate the scratches further.
Jack and I both climb the wall, but Jack is the only one to make it to the top—I fall off and over the wall into the street. Jack doesn’t see much where he is, but I find a piece of a frayed rope and four sets of tracks—two walking and two dragging. The rest of the group scales the wall to the street and we begin following the tracks with some guards accompanying us.
We’re able to follow the tracks in the Dust Quarter, but where they exit the Quarter to the north—into either the Ghost Quarter or the Drowned Quarter—we lose them.
With this lead dead, we decide that we need to know who is missing. We don’t know if Tazzak is missing, but we head to his house first. When we get there, the house is in an uproar. Tazzak has just arrived and Jack presents himself to the guards to gain entrance. The entire group is escorted into the house under armed guard.
Tazzak finally meets with us and tells us that his son Addis is missing, having been kidnapped. He has no idea about who may have taken him, or where, but he tells us is that we should seek out the Veiled League at the House of Sterling.
We agree to help with the search for his son in return for assistance into the Hells. Tazzak basically promises almost anything for the return for his son so we say our goodbyes and make our way over to House Tenebre and Lady Selisse. We discover that her son has also been kidnapped.
Our best lead is the information that Tazzak gave us, so we decide to head to the House of Sterling. Our guards tell us that they have to go back to House Harskel and we begin to make our way to the Fettered Ward and the House of Sterling. As we’re walking, we hear noises in some alleyways and, turning a corner, Targoth sees a part of the wall come free and move towards us.