The journey to Agraev (which everyone seems to somehow know is commonly called Agrabah) is a relatively short one but there doesn’t seem to be an excess of time pressure so they take a slow cruising route while Welkin prepares a new charm using the strength he has been gathering on his adventures so far. Apparently some of the delays are also caused by Ah Nold attempting to copulate with Edelweiss, with about as little success as you’d expect someone to have trying to mate with an unwilling spirit in its own sanctum.
They set down on the outskirts of town, and once the ship has landed, Welkin is able to use Mariner’s Parable Defense to become the most magnificent badass who ever did pilot a skyship. As he disembarks, two city guards are already approaching suspiciously, but they are awed by Welkin’s magnificence and when he claims he is trying to establish a trade route for the Haslanti League and needs access to the city’s trade records, no one has any qualms about allowing him into the city center.
The party is escorted to the massive manse palace at the center of the city, and it is plain to see the standard of living jumps phenomenally as one enters the city itself. While Welkin resolves to investigate the city records aspect with Txori and Sam, Ah Nold decides that reading is for suckers and simply starts asking nearby people what they know about recent murders in town, making his way towards the front doors of the manse. Welkin, Sam and Txori are allowed into the records rooms and come up with very little useful information. Realizing that active crime files are probably at the police station, the three locate the nearest station. Sam meets a city guardsman coming off duty, asks for his name, then once he has left, mimics his voice and appearance and walks uncontested through the entire station. However, when he tries to find the relevant case files in the records room, he comes up empty. Realizing the records are probably somewhere else, he reports back to the group outside.
Welkin next decides to test the mettle of the guards to see what they’re up against. He goes inside as a civilian, and while he is waiting to speak with someone, his Tree Singer starts singing. Soon the people and the guards are all becoming entranced, but one of the officers comes forward and points out to Welkin that his monkey is singing (hinting that this guard is powerful in some way). Welkin apologizes for the monkey and makes to leave, but just then a guard rushes in looking for this man, Captain Dexter. Seems a massive, golden-armored man has broken into the manse and is refusing to leave while he looks around. Welkin rushes out to inform Sam and Txori, who plan to get more information from the records room they were at before and then perhaps sneak into the guard station late at night. They head over to the manse, seeing Captain Dexter preventing a gathering troop of soldiers from entering and instead goes in by himself.
Welkin follows Dexter in at a distance, finding that Ah Nold has not beaten anyone to a pulp but has basically walked in and past the guards while looking around with Essence Sight. He had used the essence sight to find the hearth room of the manse, which is heavily guarded since it doubles as the control room for the entire city’s water and sewage systems. The four guards on duty were thrown around but Welkin arrives just after Captain Dexter has entered to revitalize the guards with a war roll, causing them to coordinate their attacks to grapple Ah Nold down and one actually lands a blow, causing one bashing damage! Ah Nold shrugs off their grip after a time and then starts battling them all, trying to train them to improve their attacks, while Welkin uses a bolo thrown weapon to prevent Dexter from joining the fray. Finally, with the guards scattered and bruised, Dexter asks what Ah Nold wants, with the reply of wanting to look around being very suspicious and confusing. Welkin helps mediate a bit, and soon Ah Nold has poked around the command room (terrifying all the workers in the control room in the process), finding no obvious flaws or hints of trouble, and leaves.
Captain Dexter seems reassured by Ah Nold’s honesty in just wanting to look around, and also is shocked that they know so much about the mysterious murders. He invites them to help him with the investigation, which they are happy to accept. Once they step outside, Dexter disbands the soldiers who had gathered. Sam and Txori join them (they had investigated whether the new Caliph had anything to do with the murders but found no evidence of it) and the five of them go to the most recent murder scene. It is on the fifth floor of a large residential building with first age amenities. The murder had taken place in the bathroom which had been locked at the time of the killing, and no one had found the body for a day or so. The only way in or out besides the door are the two pipes for hot and cold water and the sewer pipe, none of which are wide enough for a person to fit through.
Sam investigates the room and declares that the lock had definitely not been picked or disabled in any way. Txori uses her new heightened sense of touch and notices that something almost completely insubstantial remains on the inside of the sewer pipe, and Ah Nold’s essence sight confirms that there is a remaining trail of some kind of ectoplasm. His essence sight also reveals that the bloody slash marks in the wall were made with some kind of essence-laden bladed weapon or claws.
Deciding that the sewer system is the problem, Ah Nold rolls Join Battle against the floor, but Welkin dissuades him from going through with it on the grounds that it would alert the enemy of their arrival (also that they’re on the fifth floor). Ah Nold acquiesces and Dexter leads them back to the part of the manse that has direct access to the sewer system. However the stairwell leading down is guarded by two elite Royal Guards who are impervious to persuasion and to reason (also one apparently has a degree in Sociology). Even Welkin’s ploy to put a grenade in the door only prompts the guards to summon more guards, who are soon rushing over to secure the area. [Dexter later explains that the manse’s hearthstone is the Stone of Loyalty and that the guards were unable to even contemplate going against their orders of keeping all strangers out of the manse’s key areas.]
Finally Ah Nold leaves to go back to his plan of punching his way to the sewer since there aren’t any easy-access manholes around. This takes him only about an hour, at which time he has made a sizable tunnel through bedrock and into the sewer system. Dexter leaves to investigate other leads (also the smell is not pleasant) while the party enters the sewer system and looks around.
Txori’s enhanced hearing reveals only a few rats scurrying around, and they soon find a large filtering machine attached to the pipes running into the building they were just in. Sam investigates it for tampering and finds it has been completely untouched both for maintenance and for sabotage, and its filtering systems that would have kept things out are offline. Ah Nold and Txori locate the trail of ectoplasm and Txori’s enhanced touch lets them track the trail of ectoplasm after Ah Nold loses the trail. However, as they start to follow it Txori hears the rat that was on top of the equipment scurrying away, so she sends her raiton familiar to collect it. It seems sickly and misshapen with glowing red eyes, and Ah Nold immediately identifies it as a necromantic zombie rat. They keep it in a bag and proceed with the tracking.
The trail leads for some distance through the sewer caverns. Soon, however, the trail simply dead-ends. Sam locates hints of boot tracks around and they follow these tracks to a set of stairs leading down to the next level down. Sam also cleverly notes that these boots don’t match the boots of the guards from the city. Txori can hear talk echoing from the next level down and shushes everyone, and she can hear two voices complaining about having to track down things. Some suggestions are thrown out of how to catch these guys, and finally the decision is made to try and sneak up on them. However, the sneaking on the stairs is not very successful (even with boosted stealth, Welkin rolls poorly, and Sam embarrasses himself with a poor attempt, mostly from shushing Welkin). At the bottom of the stairs Txori can hear the two voices debating whether they heard anything but eventually they keep walking.
The party closes the distance to the nearest corner despite now having no light at all, at which point Ah Nold decides to go for it himself. He activates Principle of Motion and dashes out towards the two while activating his anima enough to see, and notes that the two are humanoids wearing black armor and carrying truncheons with engraved bones at the tip, and their faces (and Essence Sight) give them away as being undead. Ah Nold smashes one guard with a single blow, but the other guard is knocked back without being incapacitated with Ah Nold’s second blow, causing the guard to rapidly take a dramatic action of breaking the bone on the end of his truncheon, and instantly almost two dozen Hungry Ghosts spill out into the hallway around them. Ah Nold finishes the second guard’s body off with another blow, then his last action is to zip away, leaving the two incorporeal nemessaries surrounded by Hungry Ghosts.
The party realizes that the Hungry Ghosts can interact with both material and dematerialized things right now, suggesting they are currently in a shadowland and they did not notice the transition. Txori takes an aim action and Sam readies his attack without moving, as Ah Nold gestures that the Hungry Ghosts seem more interested in the (still invisible) nemessaries than in the party, but Welkin doesn’t feel like waiting to see what happens and throws three grenades (a fastball, slider and knuckleball) that wipe out all but four of the Hungry Ghosts. Txori shoots two and Sam catches the other two with his chain and crushes them both to oblivion.
The nemessaries were unharmed by the fire blasts since they are still dematerialized Ah Nold now stands above them and demands they surrender, which one quickly does and the other soon follows suit. Ah Nold demands they reveal who they’re working for, and they explain that it’s a deathknight known as Patience of the Endless Void, who is experimenting on the nature of the soul, and they are charged with cleaning up after his mess. The Hungry Ghosts that are escaping into the city through the sewer system are an undesirable by-product of his experiments he is conducting on the mentally impaired people from the city that he is abducting. When Ah Nold pulls a rat out of the bag they immediately put on a show of how loyal they are and how dangerous their unnamed master is, prompting Ah Nold to treat the rat as a web cam and taunt Patience of the Endless Void through it. Once they put the rat back in the bag the nemessaries lead the party down another flight of stairs to the lowest level, to a room that used to be a maintenance workshop.
Once at this lowest level, Ah Nold knocks on the door of the workshop, but no one answers. He forces the door open, and the entire party sees a large room, with at least four rows of ten tables, upon each of which is strapped a crazy person. Some are crazier than others, but none are very sane, each having some kind of mental disorder. Ah Nold goes around knocking out the noisy ones while Sam questions one of the more lucid ones, finding she has been there for weeks already. The party pokes around, finding a living space, a workshop, a lot of books on souls, and no deathknight. While the party searches, Welkin sees a ghostly woman come around the corner of the hallway, seemingly confused. When she asks where she is, she is relieved to hear she is in Agrabah, but she doesn’t know why she is the sewers. She claims she was in her bathroom and doesn’t remember anything else until now, so Welkin suggests she was murdered by a Hungry Ghost. The woman is shocked to find she’s dead, but she wants to see the laboratory that Welkin mentions, so she goes in and sees her cousin unconscious on a table. She mentions to Welkin that a man ran by her in the hallway only a few minutes ago, so Welkin yells that they have found the bad guy. Ah Nold comes running out, his Essence Sight and Measure the Wind showing the woman is an Essence 1 ghost. Everyone goes chasing down the hallway but finds no tracks and eventually a dead end. Ah Nold menaces the nemessaries (who are now materialized since night has fallen in the shadowland) but they plainly have no idea where their master is.
Ah Nold, now irritated, takes out the rat and starts threatening the deathknight to show himself, going back to his lab and showing him all the books they will burn if he does not show himself. He and Sam are in the workshop while Welkin continues to investigate the dead end and Txori stands guard outside the lab. Suddenly, while in the back rooms of the lab next to the bedroom, a small crack is heard followed by a massive surge of Hungry Ghosts pouring out of the room all on top of each other. They swarm over Ah Nold trying to claw him and he starts punching them while Sam grabs one with his chain and throws it into the crowd.
Suddenly a boom and rumble emanates from the main floor of the workshop. Sam and Ah Nold had failed their perception rolls to notice until now, but the “young woman ghost” was actually the deathknight, who reads now as an Essence 5 Exalt, and he has closed and locked the door, shutting Txori and Welkin out and has cast Flesh and Bone Winds, which promptly consumed the test subjects into a whirling maelstrom of bone, blood and lethal damage. He is cackling madly. Time to fight!
As Ah Nold and Sam whip around to see the deathknight standing in a swirling storm of body parts, Sam instinctively steps out of line of sight, masked by Ah Nold’s flying charge at Patience of the Endless Void. However, Ah Nold’s high-flying charge tackle results in slamming into the ground, as Patience effortlessly dodges his attack. Ah Nold then settles for trying to punch the door open to let Txori and Welkin in. Sam decides against stepping into the maelstrom and instead finds a ventilation duct, held together by a remarkable tape, and starts crawling.
Ah Nold has successfully punched a hole in the door that Txori can see through and aim through, but Ah Nold soon decides discretion is the better part of valor and breaks down the door completely so as to flee. He grabs Txori and dashes away at 100 miles per hour, zipping up the stairs the way they came. Patience pursues, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as Ah Nold and Txori dash through the second level at high speed, stopping for Txori to attempt arrow shots and also destroying the remaining necro-rats on that level.
Sam thinks back to his (extremely brief) interaction with Patience and conjures up his closest associates. The names and descriptions that stand out to Sam are Eye and Seven Despairs (deathlord master), The White Bone Mistress (deathknight ally), Sanity’s Weeping Wound (nephwrack ally) and Captain Dexter (sociopathic salesmen of insane people, by night only, contact). Sam is naturally somewhat troubled by this information.
Once Patience is out of range, Sam drops out of the ventilation ducts and wanders around for a bit, soon finding Welkin, who had investigated the hallways on the third level. On the ground next to Welkin is a burned-out husk of a skeletal guard much like the previous two, and Welkin has materialized a number of throwing weapons and chains pinning the currently-material ghostly inhabitant to the wall. Welkin explains to Sam that there was another Nemessary like this one that got away, and they are charged with carrying a message to a Nephwrack named Sanity’s Weeping Wound. Sam identifies this as one of Patience’s allies. The two head upstairs, rapidly running into Ah Nold and Txori who have been kiting Patience for some time. They collectively flee, but as they round a corner Welkin embeds several massive bombs into a pillar, and detonates them as Patience passes by, forcing him to defend both the explosion and then the collapse of some of the sewer onto him.
Ah Nold is at this point carrying everyone else and fleeing at top speed, as they blast up the stairs and past the elite Royal Guard who have been keeping anyone from entering the sewers. Txori’s still-enhanced senses hear the sounds of the guards engaging Patience in battle briefly before getting blended. Ah Nold is rapidly approaching a large locked door, so he throws Sam at it, who unlocks it in a split-second and Ah Nold then shoulders it open with the entire party hanging on for dear life. They have arrived outside the palace. Tori’s enhanced senses reveal that Patience is now heading back down to his lab so the party shadows him, and once he arrives the scene-long effects end, including Txori’s enhanced senses.
Txori reactivates her enhanced senses, revealing that Patience is in his lab, having slaughtered the hungry ghosts and is now grabbing his possessions to leave with. Ah Nold and Sam fly in at top speed, Sam connecting first with his chain for a successful grapple and squeezes his ribcage (Patience is too low on essence for more perfect dodges and his spell and martial arts form have expired), and Ah Nold clocks him with a mighty blow. Patience is out for the count! A quick search of his possessions reveal he was packing travel gear and a compilation of his research, compiled into a book called the Dictionary of Soul Manifestations, or DSM. Txori plants evidence in his laboratory implicating Captain Dexter in both the sale of citizens to Patience and in betraying Patience to Ah Nold. With that, they leave the sewers behind.
The party returns to the airship with Patience in tow after crushing his limbs. Morning soon approaches, and some debate is had over whether to do anything about Captain Dexter, but ultimately there is not a lot of enthusiasm for cleaning up messes that don’t really count as loose threads. The party does, however, decide to go into town to do a little business. Txori assesses the merchants in the marketplace and finds one who may possibly be less than competent, and Ah Nold provides essence sight to identify undervalued artifacts and also an intimidation factor as he is still dragging Patience around. Sam comes in separately as Txori spends all their money buying things that are underpriced and uses their distractions to steal a Fire Pearl. Now loaded with some crates of banged-up minor artifacts and semi-powerful totems, the party loads the hold of the ship and takes off. Before everyone can settle down and relax, however, the magic hockey table begins to pulse blue.
- Louis: “Are Blood Apes tasty or do they give you ebola?
- Dexter, to Welkin: “Well maybe you’re trustworthy but that man over there is a clear threat.” Ah Nold: “Nope I’m investigating too!”
- Louis: “My connection is kind of slow. Maybe I—— should stop these torrents.”
- Louis: “Actually [to see if someone’s lying] should be Investigation.” Debbie: “Good because I almost septuple-botched.” Eli: “Sorry I think my speakers must not be working properly. I thought you said you almost septuple-botched.” (7 7 6 5 5 4 4 4 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1)
- A discussion of the social contract isn’t what you normally expect when you try to reason your way past some elite guards, but that’s what you get when one has a Master’s degree in Sociology.
- Ah Nold: “For the social contract to work this requires honesty!”
- Debbie: “We can forge pretty much anything we need to.” Alejo: “What signature would you like?”
- Ah Nold: “I smell a coverup, or perhaps it’s just the sewers.”
- Debbie, after rolling 1 success on 14 dice for a stealth roll: “I don’t tromp down the stairs, I just shush Welkin. Loudly.”
- There is no Exalted scene that Taylor can’t resolve with grenades!
- Alejo, after Debbie rolls less than 3 successes on more than 13 dice for like the fifth time: “Sounds like the random number generator has a worse headache than you do!” Also relevant: “Sam is a super spy!” *cue James Bond music* Alejo: “No one’s going to believe you’re an elite spy anymore.”
- Rat Webcam. Also: Rat Selfies.
- Debbie after rolling absurdly well: “My rolls are like Txori’s stats.”
- Ah Nold: “GET TO DA CHOPPA!”
- After some debate over what to say to the elite guards, Louis notes that Ah Nold is flying at 100mph and won’t slow down. Alejo: “Run if you value your lives!“
- Sam: “I CAN PICK THE LOCK!” Ah Nold: “DEA’S NOH TAIM!”
- Louis: “Let’s look in the DSM to see if we can find a diagnosis for Dexter’s condition!”
- Eli: “If you were handing over citizens to some mad scientist living in the sewers, it doesn’t really matter what else you did.”