Nutsday, Triember 10, 358 EK
Following portents, Dareisyn and Desire’lya are walking southeast along a paved road. As it begins to get dark, the light drizzle turns into a late season snowstorm. Just as they are prepared to make camp for the night and sleep amidst the slushy, icy mess, they see the lights of a habitation in the distance.
As they approach the steading, a swinging sign out front reads, “The Emperor’s Gate Inn.” As the pair — along with Desire’s wolf and hawk — passes through the gate, they note a stable is attached to the property, containing a couple of horses. An overhang shields a medium-sized wagon, possibly a merchant’s wagon. Music emanates from the inn proper, and they make their way inside.
A burly, bearded man sits by the entrance; across from him is a young woman, both of whom are wearing aprons and appear to be managing the place. In the middle of the room, a young minstrel plays a raucous tune on the lute as a young red-haired woman in colorful skirts dances. Across from them is a man with the accoutrements of an adventurer. In one corner of the room is a rough-and-tumble sort clad in traveling clothes. A young lady clad in a cloak sits at a nearby table. Near her is a middle aged couple dressed in fine clothing. In the far corner of the room is a man in dark, severe clothing, with a greatsword next to him.
The burly, bearded man welcomes them and bids them to sit. He asks if he can get them anything; they reply that they have no money but merely wish to get out of the weather. He tells them to take a seat anywhere they’d like.
They listen to the young minstrel play a song before the pair decides to sidle up to him. Introductions are made, and they learn that he is a bard named Bosabrieln Zivkovic, a self-described man of great purpose. Pleasantries are exchanged, and the assembled gathering finds that they have a mutual love of the many pleasures the world has to offer. They explain that they are travelers, drawn to this region by Desire’lya’s visions of some grand catastrophe to come — fire, corruption, and change visit the forests and the cities of men, spurred by some horrific Tarot reading. Bosabrieln, meanwhile, indicates that he is a planar traveler, unaware of the present date or even his current location, as he is originally from the distant world of Khaldun. He is an incarnated deity, sent here by himself to evangelize and hopefully gain a foothold in this world.
The nearby man wearing the garb of a traveler — a grim-faced man with shoulder-length black hair — interjects, informing Bosabrieln that it the current year is 358 EK. Dareisyn asks him about his business, as the three earlier noticed that the traveler does not appear to recognize the same songs the other bar patrons do, and he explains that he is also a planar traveler. He is a planewalker by the name of Zealot Shadowhate, originally from the world of Rockulon Prime. Introductions are exchanged, and as they explain their business, he explains his own — he is looking for a friend. A friend of his, a fellow planewalker hailing from Toril, the so-called Forgotten Realms, went missing a few months ago. Although they had not spoken in some time, they stay in fairly regular contact and so his absence was eventually noted. He lived in the Hordelands — steppe, grassland, full of nomadic peoples — in a small shack with a portal to Sigil. When Zealot returned to his friend’s shack to find him, there was a large factory, still under construction. With no further leads and not enough manpower to investigate the facility, he left that place, searching for information elsewhere.
Much to his surprise, he learned that there is a similar factory in this region, and he hoped to gather some adventurers to investigate. He cannot pay, but as he only wants the information, adventurers can keep whatever they find in the factory.
Dareisyn and Desire’lya agree that this sounds like something that may potentially concern them, and may even relate to the grim visions Desire has been having. Bosabrieln agrees to come along. Dareisyn says he will help out, and stands upon a table, calling the tavern to attention. He explains the situation to the patrons, and asks if any wish to accompany them on the morrow. He singles out a man at a nearby table, as he has been eyeing Desire’lya for much of the evening, and asks if he will accompany. He agrees, introducing himself as Frudak Chandler, but seems as if something is making him hesitate. The man in the far corner — grim, scruffy, road-worn, clad from head to toe in black with cloak, falling band, and capotain hat — stands and says this sounds like something that interests him, and he will accompany. He introduces himself as Godfrey Aelfwig.
Zealot and the assembled party — Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, Frudak, and Godfrey — discuss events and decide to disembark the next day. As they are talking, the front door swings open, and a group of men enter. The leader appears to be a human in black leather armor wielding a battle axe; his followers are all wearing traveling garb, wielding clubs. Dareisyn looks at Frudak, given that he is dressed similarly, asking if they are friends of his. He shrugs noncommitally.
The man indicates that he is the Black Scourge of the Gate, and as he scans the crowd, he says he is looking for the “Duchess.” Dareisyn quickly scans the crowd, and notes that the young lady in the cloak is scanning for the exits while everyone else is looking around, trying to determine the identity of the Duchess. The Black Scourge of the Gate further indicates that all those present can begin emptying their pouches and coin purses as well. Dareisyn reacts, blocking the invaders’ path and indicating that he will give of his money so long as the invaders leave. Zealot and Bosabrieln immediately, and loudly, object before Dareisyn and Desire’lya note that it is a ploy, and draw weapons. Dareisyn and Desire’lya attack with blade, staff, and magic as Bosabrieln launches into a battle song and begins slinging spells of his own. A couple of thugs drop quickly, and the Black Scourge of the Gate is wounded in the frenzy. Godfrey joins the fray long enough to address the Black Scourge of the Gate, saying, “You’re not the Black Scourge of the Gate; I killed him,” before striking a mortal blow to the man. One of the thugs flees, and Frudak slips out a back door. As the situation calms, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey check on the Duchess to make certain she is well. Dareisyn and Godfrey then begin dragging the bodies outside to bury them. Godfrey is surprised to learn that Dareisyn and Desire’lya just met Bosabrieln, as he feels they seemed to fight as a unit. While Godfrey and Syn speak briefly, Bosabrieln and Desire continue to speak in the inn, as she produces fudge from her pack and shares. She also talks a little of her and Syn’s history, revealing that she is a vampire.
When Godfrey and Syn return, they join the conversation and Syn reveals that he is a devil bound to mortal form. Finally, attention turns to the Duchess, who introduces herself as Duchess Juvela Bassanelli; Dareisyn asks what those men wanted, and she explains that they were acting as her escorts when negotiations went poorly. She is from a town to the south called Duchy Bassano, and her husband the Duke wishes for an heir. His last two wives have been unable to produce and heir, and were executed for it. She has had no particular luck, either, and upon consulting with a midwife learned that the fault likely (and unsurprisingly) lies with the aged Duke himself. Fearing for her life, the Duchess left to seek what she euphemistically calls “fertility treatments,” although these “treatments” are heavily implied to be a fertile, healthy man. The group agrees to help, with Bosabrieln agreeing to take over her “treatments,” and she says she knows her way around a shortbow, so she is willing to accompany them to the factory and aid however she can. Everyone retires to bed, although Syn and Desire retire to Bosabrieln’s room for a while before Bosabrieln slips away to join the Duchess for a time.
Late the next morning, the snow has melted enough to allow travel to resume normally. The assembled party — Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, the Duchess, Godfrey, and Zealot — breakfast and disembark for the strange factory. The journey takes roughly three days as the group treks through dense forests, and is uneventful.
The group emerges from forests into miles of stumps and felled trees before coming to the factory proper. They approach, knock, and attempt to gain entry, but the man who answers the door does not allow them access. They decide to retreat to the forested region, wait until nightfall, and try again. Zealot requests that they keep whomever appears to be in charge alive, as well as one or two of the underlings.
Determining that the factory workers are unlikely to allow them entry, they force their way through the front doors. The factory floor is a nonsensical tangle of conveyor belts, with various workers attending the apparatus. An ogre with a whip stands near the front, overseeing operations — strangely, a secondary draconic head appears to have been grafted onto its shoulder. Towards the rear of the factory, a savage troll appears to have been implanted with various metallic implements. As the group enters the factory, battle is joined as the forces turn to engage them.
Several workers rush as the adventurers as they enter, and are swiftly felled. Bosabrieln, the Duchess, and Zealot stay near the entrance to provide support as Desire, Godfrey, and Syn wade into melee. As the ogre rushes to meet the challengers in melee, he is quickly overcome. Syn summons four shadows to harry the workers before rushing to meet the rampaging troll in combat — despite the thing’s fearsome combat prowess and regenerative capabilities, it is quickly slain. The remaining workers are also defeated by the adventurers, giving them a moment to recover before investigating the lower levels. A cursory search of the upper levels reveals several hundred gold pieces and a sapphire.
Heading down below reveals a similarly haphazard tangle of conveyor belts. A spiral of them at the far end of the room leads to an old cistern, apparently being a structure around which the factory was built. Several workers attend to the structures; there is also a bald, robed human wielding a staff and bearing a strange harness with several metallic eyestalks arranged around him. As the group approaches, he releases a metallic sphere that bristles with blades. Additionally, there is a small, dark humanoid with wild, white hair who carries a whip and an orb. As he approaches, a green ghostly image of a capering man wearing the skull of a donkey appears near him. Again, battle is swift and fierce — quickly, the sphere is destroyed and many of the workers fall in combat. The small, dark humanoid manages to activate some manner of psychic scourging while inside the green ghostly image, but is knocked unconscious soon thereafter. Despite the robed figure’s prowess as a magic-user, he, too, is quickly knocked unconscious, as are three of the workers.
Taking a moment to rest, the group binds the five unconscious captives. Zealot explains that some of the equipment in the factory appear to be forms of chaositech — arcane devices used by those who serve “deep chaos.” Once everyone is rested, the group decides to awaken the captives. Zealot then starts interrogating them — when two of the workers don’t know anything he kills them as an example to the rest. He then moves on to the wizard. He reveals himself as Larteh Kagh, from Oerth. He explains that he was a chaos cultist before being contacted by one of his higher-ups to man this factory and keep the derro — the small, dark humanoid — under control. His orders are simply to watch over the site and manufacture what limited chaositech can be manufactured. He explains that the gate connects to Sigil. However, he has largely been kept in the dark — he is unaware of how to open the gate, and his contact has not revealed his true identity.
Despite the limited information, Zealot seems satisfied. Syn takes the opportunity to kill the wizard, which annoys Desire as she hoped to interrogate him more about her visions. Given that the derro seems unlikely to talk, Syn kills him; the last worker, a man named Graven Milner who knows nothing of note but still attempts to tell the party all he knows, is left alive.
A cursory search of the surrounding environs yields a hefty cache of gold along with a bastard sword bearing jagged teeth which rotate about the blade; the wizard’s staff, topped with an adamantine claw; and a card carried by the derro. The card depicts a young man wearing the skull of an ass, and is labeled “Fool.” Syn and Zealot instantly recognize one of the cards of the Deck of Many Things. The Duchess notes that she has seen her husband with a similar card in his possession.