Tefnutsday, Triember 13, 358 EK
After resting, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, the Duchess, Godfrey, and Zealot all decide the best course of action is likely to torch the place. Dareisyn asks if Zealot can get their captive back home, and he says that he can. They exit the factory and set about setting it ablaze. Once it catches, they retreat to the edge of the forest to camp for the night. Zealot notes that the other factory he encountered in Toril was built around his friend’s hut — which also contains an active gate to Sigil. He suspects that is not coincidental. Dareisyn, meanwhile, asks the Duchess more about her husband’s card from the Deck of Many Things.
The trek back to the Emperor’s Gate Inn is relatively uneventful. Weather is fair, and the only notable event is that Desire’lya catches a wild chicken and prepares a sumptuous feast from it.
Returning to the inn on Rasday, Triember 16, the party finds it largely abandoned, as most of the visitors from the previous week have left. The group chats in the common room for a while before the light starts dying — taking the opportunity to get a hand-drawn map from Vicben, as well as a warning about the necromancer in the City of the Dead on the Emperor’s Road — and then they start retiring to bed, as they each have various things to do in the morning. Zealot and his associate need to return to Sigil — although Zealot and the group agree to reestablish contact in one month, three months at the most, to see what they have learned in the interim — while Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey need to return the Duchess to Duchy Bassano. Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya return to their shared room to discuss the events of the past few days, chatting about the significance of the deep chaos cult and the Fool card. They wonder how these things might connect, and whether they will meet similar cultists on their quest. They also wonder, knowing that Duke Bassanelli holds another card, if the Duke will be a member of some such cult or otherwise be networked with the cultists at the factory. They continue discussions late into the night before retiring.
Zealot and his new companion are already gone when they disembark in the morning. The others arrange themselves and prepare for their week-long journey south. The calm weather does not hold out for their journey, as it starts raining off and on throughout the journey. About three days into the journey, they come across a merchant caravan, also heading south. Traveling with the merchant caravan is Drishti Naiat, the Vistani girl Bosabrieln met on his first night at the Emperor’s Gate Inn. Dareisyn talks a little business with the head caravan merchant while Bosabrieln catches up with Drishti, learning that she is traveling in the first place because her family was wiped out by unknown beasts in the night. She hopes to find a new Vistani caravan to join. While they wait, Drishti agrees to tell Bosabrieln’s fortune. With her tarokka deck, she chooses The Hero for Bosabrieln, and then draws the nine of glyphs, the three of stars, The Horseman, and The Raven. Her analysis is that some traitor has influenced Bosabrieln’s past, but whatever the influence of this traitor, his determination and will has overcome the trail. The future suggests calamity, but The Raven suggests that it will end will with the aid of allies and benevolent forces.
Intrigued, Dareisyn also accepts a reading. Drishti chooses the ten of swords for him, and then draws the six of swords, the five of swords, the eight of glyphs, and the eight of swords. She interprets this reading as a past shaped by brutality and war with his present situation being the product of happenstance — perhaps the spirits? The future suggests an encounter with a possible controlling influence — possibly as friend or foe — and the outcome seems to suggest domination or terror. Perhaps this controlling figure turns into a tyrant?
Godfrey deigns not to engage in a reading, while Desire’lya actively avoids the prospect.
For mutual support, the group decides to join with the caravan; the head merchant agrees to pay them for guard duty. It takes an additional eight days to reach Duchy Bassano, although with the additional pay, the group hardly minds.
The group and merchant caravan arrive at the Duchy Bassano gates on Tefnutsday, Triember 27. Before parting company, Bosabrieln is certain to purchase a copy of the Sending ritual along with 50 gold pieces worth of alchemical reagents so that Drishti can reach him if she needs anything. The travelers decide to take care of their business immediately, and so head towards the palace. The guards immediately recognize the Duchess and take her aside to make certain all is well. Hailing the travelers as her rescuers, the guards indicate the Duke will wish speak with them.
Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey follow the guards into the palace. The guards lead them to a sitting room for some refreshment while the Duke prepares himself to receive them, and then they are lead to a central receiving chamber. Duke Calogero Bassanelli sits in a chair on the far side of the room.
The Duke welcomes his visitors and thanks them for their assistance in returning his wife. He then asks where they found her, and Bosabrieln and Dareisyn begin to explain that she encountered some trouble on the road while traveling to receive some manner of fertility treatments. However, the Duke is bewildered by this news, muttering something about her being kidnapped. He then takes his leave to sort out these matters, and has guards escort the travelers to their guest rooms on the palace grounds. They are to return for dinner that evening.
Once they are settled — and have all noted that something is amiss regarding the information they were given and have now repeated to the Duke — they decide to travel around the town to see the sights. While they spend their time in public squares and shops, Desire takes the opportunity to visit some of the gardens — and to send her hawk to watch the town. She also attempts to garner information from a local cat she encounters, but with limited communication, she is not able to glean very much from the feline.
The party returns as evening approaches, and the guards lead them to the Duke’s receiving chamber. Several guards mill about, and as the party approaches, the Duke explains that the travelers’ story and his wife’s story do not agree. As such, he orders the travelers arrested. Dareisyn asks him to reconsider, but as he draws his sword and the guards brandish their polearms, battle is joined. A strange, shimmering, green, ghostly figure of a medusa appears around the Duke. However, before anyone can move too freely, the travelers manage to knock the Duke unconscious. Godfrey then holds him with a sword at his throat, and Desire orders her wolf to hold him in its jaws. Using this as leverage, Dareisyn demands that they be unmolested. He asks for the ranking guard in the room, and when he reveals himself, Syn indicates that he wishes for no additional guards to enter the room. He requests that the Duchess be brought to the room. The guard agrees to these terms and leaves.
A tense wait follows, giving Desire an opportunity to rifle through the Duke’s pockets and procure a second card from the Deck of Many Things. She slips it in a pouch before fully examining it, hoping to get an opportunity to do so later. After several long moments of waiting, there is a knock at the door. One of the guards opens it to reveal the guard who left with a second guard and the Duchess in prisoner’s robes. The guard leads her inside the room and the doors are closed as he enters. Syn asks if she is all right, and as they begin negotiating for release, the doors burst open and a woman bearing a holy symbol and clad in vestments enters, demanding to know what is happening. As she begins decrying the demihuman scum in the room, they recognize her symbols as a devotee of Zarus, the deity of humanity and human supremacy. She orders the guards to seize the demihumans, prompting the travelers to prepare for battle. Although the guards are well-trained and outnumber them at least two-to-one, the travelers are better skilled. The cleric of Zarus is significantly tougher than the guards, but still falls before the combined might of the party. Weaponless, the Duchess even joins the fray, rendering aid wherever she can. When the dust settles, the room is littered with twelve unconscious guards, an unconscious cleric, and the unconscious Duke. Discussing matters quickly, Dareisyn cuts his hand and makes an improvised magic circle in the corner while Bosabrieln conjures and illusion that makes the party appear as guardsmen. When they are ready, they burst open the doors, making a grand show of brandishing Desire’s animals — with both hawk and wolf playing dead — and carrying the body of an injured comrade — the unconscious Duke in disguise. Moving quickly, they leave the palace and slip into the municipal sewers, apparently part of an archaic aqueduct system still used in town. They navigate the ancient corridors until they find an exit — a drainage pipe leading outside of town. From there, they duck into the woods and put some distance between themselves and Duchy Bassano.
When they are in a good resting spot, they rest briefly before awakening the Duke. Upon questioning him, they learn that he has no awareness of the chaos cultists or the factory — instead, he received his card from a wandering soothsayer. He indicates that nothing has gone right for him since receiving the card, as illness and the lack of an heir have plagued his efforts since then. However, it does allow him the strange ability to sometimes turn his foes to stone. He is also pressed to reveal details about the Zarus faith in town — it is a secret society, unknown to most of the townsfolk, and passed down to him by his parents. Several of the important people in town are part of the cult to Zarus, and they are dedicated to ridding the town of demihuman filth, which neatly explains why the travelers saw only humans in town and received so many strange and probing questions — demihumans are apparently subtly unwelcomed, and the townsfolk are not exposed to many outsiders of other races. The cult’s auguries have seen that the traveling demihumans did something strange to his wife, and so they should be eradicated for their eldritch crimes.
Satisfied, they knock him back out and begin contemplating their next move. The Duchess is distraught as they discuss plans, and finally Syn hits upon something he thinks might work. As the Duke is obsessed with his legacy, and fearful of demihumans, they must convince him to fear their influence. As such, he decides the best course of action is to harvest one of the Duke’s testicles, make it clear to him that they can take the other, and return him to the Duchy. For extra flair, they will return the amputated member in three days’ time, to indicate that they always have access to him.
No one is particularly happy with this plan, but all agree that it sounds effective. Bosabrieln stays with the Duchess to keep her out of sight while Desire and Godfrey hold the Duke still. Syn will speak the speech and do the deed. While preparing, Desire goes off to gather hallucinogenic mushrooms for effect.
Once all preparations are set, Desire feeds him some mushrooms and induces swallowing. Then, Syn awakens him with a knife by removing one of his testes. He explains that they now hold power over him, and if he attempts to interfere with them in any way, they will come for the other one. They will deliver his missing testicle in three days’ time, as proof that they can make good on their claims. Desire heals the Duke, and they stand him up and send him on his way.
The group decides to camp out in the forest for the next three days so that they can disguise themselves, go to the road, and get news of events in Bassano. That night, the group talks around camp, as Bosabrieln is distraught at the mess he has made of things. He seems to worry that he has become his own philandering father, back in his home realm, who sired him and then left, abandoning his own childer to fate.