Gala a la Eglon
When we left our party, Rianne and Orwin were in a bit of trouble with Arcus, who hadn't taken kindly to being deceived, or reminded of the lost husband we were meant to be finding. Luckily, with a little bit of cajoling and flattery, and the insistence that Lord Eglon's party was in fact our most promising lead for finding Leolin, Arcus cheered up and went immediately into party mode. When they arrived, Rianne and Orwin breezed right in as members of Arcus's entourage, and found that Evendur and Fenn were already inside, having gotten in with Little Lord Matrim.
The party was, predictably, off the chain. As in, there were literally acrobatic dancers swinging around on chains hanging from the ceiling. Everyone in masks. Everything perfect. You know, just what you'd expect from Lord Eglon! At least this is what Evendur learned from the gaggle of women who'd immediately surrounded him as he showed off his dextrous dance moves. His effort to glean valuable information by using his body faltered, however, when it turned out that his tongue was not as sure and confident in its steps as his feet. It seems our rakish rogue was not as familiar with the ways of the playboy as with the back ways of the Lower City! Luckily, Orwin arrived just in time to notice Evendur's plight and sailed to his rescue, saving the conversation---but still, all they learned was that these women just loved Eglon's parties.
For his part, not being much for dancing and revelry, Fenn went straight to the bar, got a
Being subsequently reunited with Orwin and Evendur, Fenn shared about the woman's suspicious behaviour, and Evendur saw Hollyprinos talking quietly with one of the Highbury monks, making glances at our party as she did. We decided to see what kind of game was afoot and went to catch them as they moved to head into a side parlour. The Highbury monk seemed obviously uncomfortable as we hailed them, but he was forced to stick around for introductions. We made as if to spend a while chatting with them and ordered them drinks in the parlour bar, mixed slightly stronger than normal, to see what sort of information they might display in their obvious agitation. But when social obligations were fulfilled pro forma, they begged off and made their way to an exit on the other side of the room. Evendur quietly indicated that we should follow them, but stealthily. And so we did.
We followed the sound of their passage through dark servants' hallways. The man was obviously upset at Hollyprinos for having called our attention to them, and the sound of his angry berating made it easy for us to keep track of them without ourselves being heard. We came at last to a dead end, which we surmised must be some kind of secret door, for we knew our quarry had passed beyond it in this direction. Using some kind of sneaky rogue technology (a.k.a. "thieve's tools"), Evendur found and unlocked the secret door, and we went through it and down a long, pitch-black flight of stairs. Not wanting to be discovered, we lit no light, and so our going was slow, so much so that we eventually stopped hearing the sounds of the pair ahead of us.
We came at last to a large open space, and risked a little light so as not to walk off an underground cliff. How had any of us fit a lantern in our high-fashion garb, you ask? We didn't! But Rianne, full of surprises, sang gently to her necklace and it glowed brightly enough for us to see well. She explained to us (while singing, which she had to keep doing for the light to remain lit) that it was a relic of her Litou people, called a Naga light. As we looked around, there was no sign of Hollyprinos and the monk. But there was a chasm running through the huge chamber---one that would certainly have meant our death had we gone over the edge. On the other side was a passageway leading out, in the direction we'd last heard Hollyprinos go. There was no obvious way across this chasm, which was far too wide to leap across. Exploring the chamber some more, we noticed a sizable circular engraving on the floor. It depicted the coils of a large serpent wound about itself, and it was ringed by text carved into the stone. Fenn immediately recognized the script as Ashoni (an ancient and now-dead language), but when he circled round to read it, it didn't make any sense. Whatever language it was, it wasn't Ashoni.
Rianne looked more closely at the serpent, and perceived that here was a representation not just of any serpent but a Naga, the symbol of her people. When she shared this, Fenn read the Ashoni script aloud, in order to produce the sounds that they indicated. Rianne gasped in surprise; Fenn was reading in Litou! Why was there Litou being written in an ancient Ashoni script? Here was a deep mystery, for there was no known connection between these two peoples. But the words conveyed something relevant to our situation. They were in the form of a poem:
Behold the Naga! One must walk as the beast, Without fear, In the places others fear to tread.
After hearing this, Fenn walked to the edge of the chasm and threw some dust and small rocks off the edge. Strangely, instead of falling straight down, they stopped for a second or two right at the level of the cliff edge, then plummeted on. The portion of the dust cloud that rested in the air for a moment formed the unmistakable shape of the Naga, a perfect copy of the engraving on the floor. Fenn continued the experiment by smacking his hand on the air out into the chasm, and indeed, there was resistance! But only for a little while. The group concluded that in order to cross the chasm we would have to walk the winding path of the snake over the empty air---but quickly, otherwise the invisible magical bridge would give way. And so we practiced running around the engraving until we felt confident that we could replicate the shape. Still, we wanted a little bit of insurance, since any mistake would mean certain death. So we did the only rational thing to do, which was to take off most of our clothes and tie them together into a rope that would just barely reach the other side of the chasm. We would tie it around whomever was the current "Naga walker" in case they slipped, so that if they fell it would hopefully only mean injury.
Long story short: this plan worked, though not without some injury to (you guessed it) Orwin, who fell and smacked into the chasm wall. Turning our rope back into clothes (for all of us except Orwin, who just wrapped the "rope" around himself for some inscrutable reason he called "his new bag"), we walked through the passageway. With Evendur leading, we made it without incident through a boringly long series of gross and nasty sewer-type tunnels, hearing evidence of guards or some other underground denizen but not running into any. Eventually we reached a dead end, with a ladder leading up. There was a lot of noise coming from above. We knew we were still in the city, and under a busy building, but also that we must by now be far away from Eglon's palace. We decided to go up, and carefully exited a hatch in the floor of what appeared to be a storage room. A very pink storage room, filled with all kinds of lace and other odds and ends that immediately put us into the mind of the Chemosh cult, which was known for its brothels. (And any noises that we could particularly make out amidst the din of general activity in the building were ... confirmatory ... of this hypothesis).
Outside the storage room was a simple hallway branching into two doors. We took the door on the right. Inside, amid a pile of jewelry in a strangely opulent, and even pinker, room, was a large orb, throbbing with untold power: nothing other than one of the mythical Tehokivi!