Of Daggers and Dreams - Season One: Sharn

Prelude: Bushwacked
Wait...you can do that?

The Warforged known as Brasshead hadn’t been in Sharn long. A week, maybe. Time wasn’t important to him at this point. Like all other Cyran survivors he was on a perpetual search for answers as to the fate of his homeland. It felt good to have a purpose driven by a sense of home, even if that home was dead, even if he’d been born in a forge and was a walking hulk of metal and stone. Purpose was good.
He’d weighed his options, decided that Khorvaire’s largest city might hold some answers, and set out on foot. He’d found himself in this labrynthine metropolis where the sun never reached more than halfway down into the bristling cluster of towers that was Sharn. It was always twilight down here. Warforged don’t sleep, and Brasshead took to walking the streets at night, hearing snippets of conversation, picking up rumours, listening to war vets talk about scars that he may or may not have given them.
He did a lot of walking that week. Mostly the streets were busy, always moving, never fully asleep, but ever so often he’d wander through a ward that was strangely, disconcertingly quiet.It was in one of those wards that the silence was broken by the sound of metal scraping stone, and of hushed voices in the night. Turning the corner into a narrow alley between two towers, Brasshead discovered…nothing. At least, nothing at first glance. Peering further into the gloom, the Warforged could see a form lying on the cobblestones, motionless and glinting. He moved forward to examine it…and stopped stock still in horror.
It was another Warforged. Not your run-of-the-mill soldier ‘forged, but an elite model, a machine designed for infiltration and assassination. Sleek blades, a smoked blue-steel carapace, an elegant construct of grace and steel and death. It was lying in a mangled sprawl, it’s torso torn open and dissected like some specimen at the hands of a butcher. Fibres cut, components ripped out and just… missing . And headless. Whatever bastard had done this had taken the head with them. In a fog of horror Brasshead heard a muffled footstep in the alley behind him and spun to look. Two black-garbed figures emerged from shadowed doorways, one holding a long and polished blade, the other pulling a small orb from the depths of his cloak. As Brasshead started towards them a shrill hum halted him. His feet wouldn’t move. His body started to dropp under its own weght. Puzzled, he looked up at the two figures as they bid him goodnight, catching the faint glimmer of a gold brooch against black armour as he…lost conciousness

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Episode 1: Deep Shit
It all hit the fan, and all I got was this lousy Halfling.

Brasshead wakes up feeling…groggy. For a being who doesn’t sleep, being stricken unconscious for the first time is more than a little disorienting. Sitting up, he takes in his surroundings: the interior of the city jail, the holding cell of Sharn’s Citadel Guard, and he’s not alone. The cell directly across from him holds a young Halfling, shaking and sobbing gently and rather well-dressed. The next cell on that side of the room holds a woman the likes of which he’s never seen before, bronze-skinned and elegant with flowing…green hair. Right. Green. Um…the last cell on his side of the jail is occupied by a hunched, cloaked figure rocking back and forth on the floor and cradling a bandaged and bloody stump where his left arm should be.
Two guards in leather jerkins sit at a table in an alcove by the door, casually chatting and joking as all good, attentive jailers do. Brasshead, standing up and shaking off the last strands of fog clouding his mind, strides to the bars and gives them a shake, verbally accosting the guards and insisting that there’s been a misunderstanding. Because they’ve never heard that one before…
The largest of the guards stands up, shouting at the disruptive Warforged to step away from the bars, and walking towards his cell. He makes it about three steps. The door bursts open and three figures in unadorned black leather armour and brushed-steel masks take the room by storm. The guard sitting by the door loses his head as he attempts to stand and draw his sword. The other actually gets his blade out before the lead attacker spreads his insides out over the flagstone floor. Brasshead, silenced midstream in his complaints, looks around at the other prisoners. The bronze-skinned woman is on her feet, calm, watching the attack unfold. The cloaked figure in the corner cell has straightened up and stopped rocking. And the Halfling has stopped sobbing and appears to have shit himself.
Sheathing their longswords, the figures in black pay no attention to the prisoners…except one. The cloaked figure stands as the lock to his cell is skillfully picked, and he haltingly follows two of his masked rescuers from the room. The remaining swordsman, the leader, bends to retrieve a ring of keys from the belt of the disemboweled guard; as he does so the edge of his cuirass slips to one side, revealing a gold badge in the shape of a slender blade, a badge Brasshead has seen all too many of…the sign of a Deneith Blademark. As the mercenary turns to leave the Warforged yells at him to let the rest of them go too. You can see the smile in his eyes behind the mask as he turns slowly…and deftly tosses the keys through the bars to hit the wall at the back of the cell. Brasshead turns and grabs the keys, intending to detain the swordsman, but upon turning back discovers that he’s gone. The Blademarks have left the building.

Who was that masked man? Intent on catching the swordsman Brasshead starts to run from the room in pursuit, and is stopped by an insistent yell from the bronze-skinned woman in the other cell. The ensuing conversation ends in her release (green hair is extremely persuasive) and she takes it upon herself to scout ahead. Returning, she tells Brasshead that the next room, barracks by the looks of it, has three remarkably relaxed guards in it nonchalantly discussing the demise of their fellow guards…and as an afterthought, introduces herself as Manekatari, a Kalashtar of Sarlona. What follows is obvious next step in such a situation: take the guards down.
Caught totally by surprise as Brasshead comes barreling up the stairs wielding a mahogany chair, the guards stand little to no chance. The first swing blends the back of the first guard’s head seamlessly into the stonework of the wall behind him, followed by a spinning toss that lodges the furniture firmly in the second guard’s teeth. The last guard, still turning from his inspection of the barracks library to see what all the commotion is about, is met with cold steel just below the ribs at the hand of Manekatari. In the ensuing silence one sound can be heard: the insistent, whining yelp of a terrified teenage Halfling begging to be set free.

His name is Sharlyn, he says, Sharlyn Boromar. His crime: being a spoiled enough rich little punk to push another kid off a suspended walkway as punishment for getting in his way. A quick Indimidation check by Brasshead ensures that this will never happen again. But the guards are surely on their way, and with not a lot of options left to them the Halfling reveals that he might know where their gear is. This is by no means a bad bargaining chip, and our Warforged and Kalashtar turn aside to determine the Halfling’s part in all this. But can he pick a lock? they wonder between themselves. A hinge squeaks behind them. “Please”, says the impudent little shit now standing between them, “I’m the son of a Halfling crime-lord. What do you think?” Alright, he’s in.
A brief excursion through the barracks and into the hall beyond reveals an ancient wooden door with a lock that proves too rusty to pick. Let us jump ahead thirty seconds. the door is kindling, and our (heroes?) are in full gear and faced with two options: upstairs or down. Upstairs is the Sharn embassy district, and as much fun as accidentally starting a war may sound, the party just doesn’t need that kind of excitement right now. Down it is. A narrow stone hallway leads around a corner or two and down a flight of steep stone stairs. Manekatari takes point, and descends first. She enters the chamber at the foot of the stone flight through a door between two braziers, and is promptly greeted by a large, dirty, bearded man whose battleaxe looks immensely pleased to see you. The Kalashtar does the first thing she can: flashes a mental image of her soon-to-be-assailant back up the stairs to a Warforged who has never had anyone’s thoughts but his own running around inside his head. Welcome to the world of working with a psion, bub.
The message gets across, though. Brasshead hurtles down the stairs, and soon arrows and axes are flying merrily around the room, which also happens to have a large, smelly, and seemingly bottomless pit in one corner of it. And as all new allies should go through some kind of hazing process, Manekatari lodges a wayward arrow in Brasshead’s thigh. Best friends forever, without a doubt. The grungy axeman is finally subdued, and a closer look reveals the pit to be the prison garbage disposal chute, and a trapdoor in a recessed niche that leads to the sewers, which would make make the bearded berserker…yup. You just took out the janitor.

Ah, sewers. The true test of a city: if you can travel safely by way of the sewer system, then something is seriously awry. With the quivering Sharlyn (who, despite his best efforts, hasn’t been able to shit himself a second time yet) at their heels, our dynamic duo sets out into the yeasty darkness. The tunnel comes to a disconcerting fork, and our heroes go right, only to discover a hole in the path filled with skulls. Not cool. Sharlyn is particularly distraught at this discovery, and is reduced to mumbling something about how this “isn’t my dad’s work.” Further examination of the tunnel reveals a burrow in the wall just a little farther along; the marks in the dirt look like the scrabblings of fingers. Our heroes bend down for a closer look, musing, and then turn back to their ward only to be set upon by…Rodents of Unusual Size!
There’s nothing to eat on Brasshead, so the rats swarm Manekatari. A well-placed hammer blow dispatches one of the vermin, simultaneously eliciting a gargling, rasping moan of…anger?…hunger?….from the burrow in the wall. Brasshead charges past the opening towards the next rodent on his list, and is intercepted by a shrieking mass of decaying flesh and anger that comes hurtling out of the wall in a shower of damp earth and latches onto his shoulder. It’s a ghoul, and he can’t decide whether he hates the big metal thing with the hammer because it just turned the rat he was planning to eat into jelly, or whether he hates the big metal thing because he can’t eat it. Either way, he’s pissed. So, after much hammering, screaming, moaning, slicing, and hacking, Manekatari flanks the ghoul and helps its neck part ways with its shoulders…followed by a gratuitous downward swing at the rest of the body by Brasshead, officially making this ghoul part of the sewer.

Through the sewer, out of the sewer, through many crowds of people wondering what smells, across bridges, up a couple of towers, and our heroes find themselves outside a towerside penthouse in the Little Plains district, a neighbourhood of Sharn occupied almost exclusively by Halflings. The door in front of them has the look of a grand entrance, thick oaken doors with iron tracery under a soaring stone arch…except these are only six feet high. Sharlyn’s knock on this diminutive portal is answered by a weathered Dwarf with tarnished scale armour and an impressive-looking hammer slung across his back. Greeting Sharlyn with his arms crossed and looking thoroughly unimpressed, he turns his attention to the other beings on his doorstep. Brasshead steps forward and, looming over the Dwarf, introduces himself: “They call me Brasshead.” The Dwarf looks up past his eyebrows and grunts, “Clever.”
In that moment a bond is formed, a perfect and seamless understanding as can only form between two men with hammers.
Brock, as the Dwarf is called, ushers them in, and soon the master of the house enters, stage left: Saidan Boromar, the crime-lord of Sharn. He is, he claims, in their debt, and while the hospitality of Clan Boromar is not its foremost claim to fame the house is at your service. The Kalashtar request a bath, and nothing more, and is led upstairs by a servant. But Brasshead has more pressing things on his mind. Hospitality may not be Boromar business, but information is, and he wants to know who’s been hiring Deneith Blademarks to brutalize Warforged. This question troubles Saidan; he doesn’t have the answers, for House Deneith guards their clientele righteously, but he knows someone who might point you in the right direction.

With hot baths and monosyllabic manly exchanges with the Dwarven bouncer behind them, our duo sallies forth. Their ward no longer accompanies them; Sharlyn has been left in the care of his father to… atone for the carelessness that landed him in the clink. The fellow who can help them, they’ve been told, lives “Downstairs”, in the tavern district at the foot of the Menthis Plateau. The weirdos are just coming out of the woodwork as our heroes step down into the bustling nightlife of the Lower Wards. A gaggle of ragged Halflings crowds enthusiastically around a billboard of advertisements for the Firelight red-light district around the corner. Brasshead saunters up to a buxom Half-troll in a red dress looking for information, only to be confronted by her beery-eyed five-foot-nothing chimney sweep boyfriend, coal-smeared and cantankerous. Within minutes, yells of “Just bend over, Jackass, I bet there’s plenty of soot up there for this wire brush!” are echoing through the streets. That went well. Manekatari approaches a watch officer drinking a pint against a blackened brick wall. The sign hanging over his head looks like it used to be for the Blue Boar Tavern, but the place got torched, and the lettering on the front door now reads “The Charred Boar”. Classy. She asks the officer if he knows where “Chance” can be found; he merely chuckles and jabs a thumb over his shoulder, and receives the price of another pint for his trouble. Brasshead disentangles himself from the chimney sweep’s clutches and follows her inside.
And…it’s a bar. Three Gnomes hunch over glasses of Raspberry Fizz at a table by the stairs; there’s a Half-elf at the bar who’s so far inside his seventh pint glass that he doesn’t realize his pants have been stolen. But it’s the figure in the corner that draws your attention. Proud horns and indigo hair sweep back from a heavy brow and sharp features, a brow under which silver eyes are seeing everything that moves, and then some. Chance’s fingers are idly at play, rolling two carved dice across the back of his knuckles over, and over, and over. The Kalashtar sits down at the bar, while the Warforged moves to casually chat up the bar wench, a blonde Gnome with a winning smile who almost comes up to his hip. Manekatari grimaces and turns her attention to their contact; she fires off a mental greeting from Clan Boromar to the enigmatic figure in the corner booth, and is rewarded with the sound of fumbled dice falling to the table behind her. The a soft, smokey voice: “Snake-eyes…” Introductions have been made. Brasshead moves in and sits down in the corner booth as the tavern door flies open and the gaggle of ragged Halflings from across the street pours in and swarms the bar around Manekatari with the loudly voiced intention of getting roaring drunk. She ignores them, focused on the conversation and rather taken with the rakish, silver-eyed figure in the corner booth.
The conversation unfolds. Brasshead states his business, reveals who sent him here, and asks his questions. Chance’s reply is frank: yeah he knows about the Blademarks. Everyone’s been finding ravaged Warforged in the streets, and there’s a name floating around the rumour mills: Coghunters. As to who’s hired them, well, it could be this noble, it could be that warlord, it could be…on and on. And something clicks. The Halflings are too loud. The Tiefling is talking too easy, and the information is free. The Warforged turns to look towards the bar and comes face-to-face with a widely grinning Halfling holding all his gold. Manekatari, meanwhile, is totally enthralled by the perfect curvature of the Tiefling’s lips and the way the tavern lanterns glint just so off his sleek indigo hair. By the time she snaps back to reality her purse is long gone, and she finds herself surrounded by Halflings with drawn blades. The Warforged, she sees, is in a similar pickle at the table. Chance leans back and smiles. One carved die arcs through the air and lands with a pure, ringing E-minor in a wine glass on the table. As the note fades heavy footsteps are heard descending the tavern stairs. The bartender has vacated his post. The Gnomes are gone, their Fizzes abandoned in a hasty retreat. The pants-less Half-elf snores in an unconcerned monotone. “Now then”, says Chance, as a hulking Bugbear in chainmail shoulders his way through the doorway and into the bar-room, “let’s do business, shall we?”

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Episode 2: Opportunity Knocks
And when it does, knock back. Hard.

We left our, erm, “heroes” in a tavern, The Charred Boar, a gin joint at the bottom of the city, the Downstairs district of Sharn. It’s a part of the city where the streets narrow as the bottoms of towers get closer together, a place where if you look up you can’t ever see the sky past the many-storied web of bridges and thoroughfares criss-crossing the cathedral of space above you. This is where we left them, and this is where we must find them once more.
Not a lot of what was said that night can be clearly recalled, and perhaps that is for the best. Actions speak louder anyways. Let us look at our scene: A rather peeved Warforged sits at a table across from a grinning Teifling. Two Halflings stand behind him, holding what appears to be all his gold, while a slightly dazed and likewise penniless Kalashtar watches from the bar, trying to focus on the scene that has evolved around her while she was focused on that luscious indigo hair, those perfect lips…well, you get the picture. She looks around at the Halflings with their infuriating grins and drawn daggers, and then over her shoulder at the door where a towering Bugbear in grimy chainmail has entered the room and positioned itself behind her, resting a rust-stained morningstar on its shoulder. Yup. They’re in trouble.
At which point Brasshead flips the table. It careens past Chance’s suddenly upright and tautly alert form and through a window into the street, trailing a shower of silverware and wine glasses. A dark, slender hand darts out and deftly plucks two carved dice from the airborne cloud of debris. And then there is a fight. Blades clash, arrows fly, the pants-less Half-elf snores on, and at the end of it all two Halflings lie torn and bleeding in a crumpled heap on the pine floor.
Have you ever had a moment where what you felt just didn’t make sense? Where a certain note in a song or a line in a poem made you said when, for all other reasons to be found in your life at that moment, you should’ve been happy? This was one of those moments. With guilt heavy on their hearts after a hard won and well-deserved victory our heroes leave the tavern more than a little confused. They didn’t mean to leave, but they must. They leave behind a Tiefling grifter and his wounded friends, vowing that if they ever cross paths again there will be blood. BUT…they have their information. Go see Zanne, Chance said. He has what you’re looking for. In Cogsgate, the warehouse district. He’s a fence for Boromar, but he’s been doing a little…side business of late, dealings with the Coghunters. Now, on your way.

Zanne is rather a portly fellow. He is sweating profusely as a Deneith rent-a-cop escorts them into his shop, breathing heavily and looking more than a little anxious. He snaps around as they enter with an “About bloody time! What took the two of you so long?” A pause, as our heroes ponder the meaning of this, and then: “Yes, well, um, we were…delayed. Apologies.” from a Kalashtar who has decided to bluff her way through this one. Against all odds, it actually works. Zanne has been waiting all night for the guards to escort this shipment, it’s past due for departure, Cannith doesn’t like to be kept waiting and the Coghunters have been paid and thank the gods you’re finally here and…what in Khyber was that noise outside?
It’s Daask, as it turns out. For those of you new to the city, Daask are the new kids on the block. And by kids, I mean Ogres, Minotaurs, Lizardfolk, and Golbins, newly arrived from Droaam and intent on slaughtering, pillaging, and burning anything and everything Boromar. Stand-up people, I assure you. And tonight, this is the lucky warehouse.
The guards outside are already dead, with their throats spread all over the cobblestones. A quick peek out the door reveals a small raiding party, Kobolds and one hulking Blackscale lizardfolk Brute with a less-than-amiable looking mace. Battle plans are drawn. The door is barred and the group splits off, leaving Brasshead and Zanne alone in the warehouse while Manekatari and the Deneith guard slip around the side to flank them. The battle is joined,arrows are flying, and all is as expected until the Brute kicks down the door and is confronted by a Warforged…with a shotgun. There is a cry of “PULL!”, and Zanne hurls a flask of oil past the Blackscale Brute and over the heads of the milling Kobolds behind him. The shotgun swings up, steadies, and BOOOMM blows the flask into a showering inferno that rains down over the raiding party. Turning his attention from the now smouldering Kobolds, Brasshead puts the shotgun down, picks up his hammer, and proceeds the thrash the crap out of the Brute who had the audacity to shoulder his way into the shop and start swinging his tail around. Zanne has retreated to the safety of a pile of shipping crates behind which he cowers, though not entirely helpless. Brasshead notices him mumbling under his breath in the back corner, and feels the corresponding surge of vigour return to his limbs. Zanne is buffing him! He shall henceforth be known as Zanne the Man.

The battle doesn’t last long after that. The remaining raiders are cleaned up with little difficulty, and Zanne emerges from his shop shaken and flustered but alive. He is immensely grateful to the two adventurers for the fight they put up in his defense, and is willing to answer their questions. And so the truth begins to unfold. Yes, Zanne says, he has been doing dealing with the Coghunters, but he was by no means the one who hired them. These guys are top of the food chain Deneith mercs, and that kind of steel doesn’t come cheap. No, he’s just been the intermediary: they bring him the harvested parts from the Warforged they’ve been hunting down, and he packs them up and waits. Eventually a couple of freelance guards, like you two, show up for the shipment and take it into the Cogs. They all say they’ve gotten instructions to take the crates to Ashblack, but they won’t say who hired them and Zanne never sees them again. They’re probably getting paid on delivery. So, um…how would you guys like a job? ‘Cause I’ve got this crate, you see…and it’s overdue.

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Episode 3: Kneecaps and Knuckleheads
Kick the Dwarf...gently.

The trip into The Cogs is not a pleasant one. The weight of the city lingers over you as you descend into a honeycomb of caverns and tunnels and crevasses, and one must marvel at the fact that the whole peninsula hasn’t just collapsed in on itself, borne down into rubble by the weight of miles upon miles of towering, undermined stonework. It’s already dark at the bottom of the city as our heroes accompany Zanne’s mule and its preciously mysterious cargo along the road out of Cogsgate and into the Blackbone Cogs. The road slopes gently downwards, winding gradually, spiraling through the rock as it makes its serpentine descent beneath the city. It gets hotter. The air takes on a weight all its own, hot and heavy and laced with the fog of industry. After a long stretch of lonely descent the road straightens and levels off, and the travelers find themselves back in the city. or, the Undercity. The roof takes a sharp turn upwards, the tunnel opens into a cavern, and within a few metres they find themselves in a bustling main street illuminated in the everburning light of the lanterns installed in the cavern ceiling far above.
They never were given any indication of where they were meant to take the package, only that it was going “Into Ashblack, somewhere.” Helpful, right? As they pause to take in their surroundings, crowds of bustling Dwarves and Warforged, and a commotion in front of some shop down the street that appears to involve a cart full of exotic rutabagas and a Goliath in lace bloomers, a small, bright voice at their back says, “Hello!” It’s an Elf. She has twigs in her hair, dirt smudged into her clothes, and smells somewhere between a robust compost heap and the open sea. She is immensely pleased to see them, and makes it plain that she’d really just like someone to talk to, and maybe walk with for a bit, and do they know where she could get a decent bath, and where are they going, and what’s all that on the mule? Brasshead and Manekatari roll their telepathically linked eyes at each other. The Elf says her name is Tabitha, and she’s trying to find her way into Ashblack…just because. Do they know where that is? And what’s going on down the street?

Meanwhile, outside the game, perception checks are made to figure out where the hell they are, where they should be going, and whether or not anyone in the immediate vicinity is going to try to kill them. The checks come up short on assassins but instead reveal a Dwarf in the shadows of a nearby alley, deep in the embrace of alcoholic slumber and mumbling the word “Aaaashblack…Ash…b-lack….” repeating under his breath. “What should we do with him?”, asks Tabitha. “Should we take him with us? He’s talking about Ashblack, and that’s where I’m going!” At which point she makes an honest attempt at shaking the Dwarf awake. The bearded boozer’s snores maintain perfect rhythm. The frustrated Elf stands up, hauls off, and boots the Dwarf in the gut, and is rewarded by a startled grunt and a heavily armoured gloved hand that shoots out and smacks hard into her kneecap. She jumps back, howling in pain.
Violence in this small group of wanderers will not be tolerated, unless it’s against a monster, in which case we will enthusiastically encourage it. Brasshead steps in and hoists the Dwarf off the ground by his armpits and pins him against the wall. The Dwarf looks at him beerily and grunts. “My name hic is Orrek Shalehammer. Put hic me down.”
The Dwarf is replaced on the ground, and the group looks around at each other. There’s really only one thing to do in a situation like this. Find a tavern. The activity down the street seems a likely place to start, so they leave the alley behind and head down the main street towards what looks like a busier, livelier part of town with a higher likelihood of having a bar.
They find one, pretty readily. The sign out on the street declares that this is “The Red Hammer”. A second sign inside the courtyard states that only Warforged are permitted past the doors of the establishment, but that they can get a room and a bath (cue Elfish excitement) in the inn just to their right and order drinks on the patio outside. The party disperses gradually forthwith. The Elf makes a beeline for the baths, the Dwarf flags down a Gnomish bar-wench and orders an ale, and the Warforged heads inside looking for information.
The scene inside the tavern is, well, unique. There aren’t any other Warforged-only bars in Khorvaire; the cogs are the only place where the ‘forged are their own people, given purpose again in the industrial forges of House Cannith and set to work in environments that would kill off a lot of human labourers very quickly and generate much unneeded paperwork. The crowd in The Red Hammer is eclectic. There is an overwhelming sense of what might be best described as swords-into-plowshares, of mighty military forces beaten and molded into tools of industry. The crowd is blunted. They’ve lost their edge, been dragged down from soldiers to grunts, and it makes Brasshead a little sad. He makes his way towards the bar, where a blue Warforged who appears to be running the place is leaning on her elbows and gazing around the room. She’s a beautifully crafted machination, sleek and clean and deadly, not a frontline soldier but an operative, a striker. As Brasshead approaches she looks up, and straightens. “Ah” she says, “another Golden Boy. Been enough of you through here already. What do you want?”
If ever there was a moment when Brasshead was confused, this was it. Another? But, he was the only…"What do you mean, another? ", he demands, pointing to his brazen scalp. "You’ve seen others who look like this? When? " Blue shrugs. “Every couple weeks. They wander in, looking for directions, always trying to get to Ashblack for some reason or another. Never any repeat customers, though. And they all think they’re the only one. Go figure. So…what are you after, Golden Boy?” Brasshead starts asking all the questions he can think of, practically babbling: the orb that puts Wargorged to sleep, the Brass heads, the Coghunters, all of it. Blue cocks her head to one side, troubled. “That’s bad business, that, the Coghunters. Been leaving our kind strewn all over the city. Used to be nobody would mess with us, machines of war and all that. Now look at us” She nods her head at the crowded tavern. “We don’t even drink, don’t eat, don’t sleep. Yet we feel the need to come in here and drown our sorrows in whatever we can, same as the rest of this city. Maybe we deserve to be hunted.” She shrugs, and then gives Brasshead a coy look."Looks of you, though, doesn’t look like you’ll lie down and become prey anytime soon. " He turns, slowly, all curves and blue enameled steel. Brasshead grins. “So, hey, what time do you get off work…” There’s a blur of blued steel and the tip of an armblade is resting on his nose. She taps it playfully with a soft tink . “Too late for you, Golden Boy. Now off with you. And… good hunting .”

Back outside, Brasshead rejoins the party on the patio. Shalehammer has finished his ale and stowed the collectible yak-horn mug in his pack. The Elf has returned from the bathhouse, looking clean and prim and significantly more civilized than before, but still sticking out like a sunflower growing out of a scrap heap. As Brasshead lowers himself into a chair, there’s a shout from the courtyard, a military shout, almost a bark. “You, there!” Brasshead instinctively snaps to attention before even realizing that he’s being shouted at , more than to . Turning to look, he scowls at the figure standing in the courtyard. Built like a longsword, she’s fully armoured and in no mood for games. The blazon on her breastplate depicts an iron bull with fiery eyes: Cannith. At her heels slinks a steel beast, the result you’d achieve if you built a warforged Doberman. She continues, “I’ve been waiting for you bums for long enough. Took your sweet time getting here. Let’s move, shall we? Or are you ladies still waiting on pre-Ashblack cocktails?” Then she turns, and without a backwards glance walks off towards the street.
There is a stunned silence, followed some rapid, meta-game decision making which we will attribute to our heroes’ group mindlink. Then they all get up and rush after the strange soldier, having determined that following her seems like a good way to figure out what’s going on, and why Cannith has sent them a guide to take them to a place that Cannith shouldn’t know they were already going to. Brasshead shoulders the crate of Zanne’s goods, and a slap on the mule’s rump sends it running back the way they came. The party turns and heads off down the street, leaving The Red Hammer and its Gnomish bar wenches behind them and setting the road to Ashblack before their feet.

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Episode 4: Heartbreak Bridge
A tale of love and war

The soldier’s name is Jacquelyn; the warforged Doberman is called Rusty. Aside from that, she hasn’t said much of anything. Nor, for that matter, has anyone else. The road through Ashblack is long and quiet and awkward. The only noise comes the rasp of warforged feet on the hewn stone of the cavern road and from the tunnels that branch off to left and right, echoing with the clang and bellow of industry. The air gets hotter and thicker as they venture further into the Cogs, oppressive with the burning sulfurous weight of factory, furnace, and forge. And still nobody says much of, well, anything, until the druid sidles up beside Brasshead and nudges him. “There’s, um, well I think there’s someone following us.”
Brasshead looks back. A tall, thin figure in a white cloak is striding calmly down the road behind them. Brasshead halts and the others, hearing his footsteps stop, come to a stop and turn to look. The figure is..shimmering, drifting in and out of view, never completely disappearing but not entirely there, either. Brasshead unshoulders his shotgun and stands, waiting, as the ethereal form approaches. It…he, stops about ten yards away and looks at the gun, then up at Brasshead. “I have never seen a mechanism like that before, but I assume it to be a weapon. You can put it away; there is no need for violence.”
“Khyber’s socks there isn’t. What do you want?”
“Frankly, just your company. You are traveling the same way I must go, a dangerous road indeed, and there is strength in numbers. I hoped to join your party.” The figure holds out his, palms up, a gesture of supplication. “My name is Galair. If it consoles you any, I am pretty good in a fight.”
Jacquelyn is watching the proceedings with a bemused expression on her face. The dog is scratching itself, sparks skittering across the ground. Brasshead opens his mouth to tell the pale stranger to shove off, but the Dwarf intervenes at his elbow. “Come now, my monumental metal man. Surely we can find room among us for one more. Besides, he looks like a decent lad.” He grins beerily up at Galair. “Oryx Shalehammer’s the name. We’re a strange lot, ain’t we? Ah well. Ye’ll get used to it.” With that the Dwarf turns back to the road, and starts walking. Jacquelyn takes the lead once more and whistles, and Rusty falls into step alongside her.

A mile drags by, and another. As the company approaches a small plaza leading onto a long, narrow bridge, Tabitha silently steps to the side and transforms, taking flight in the form of a raven and winging off across the chasm ahead. Her small form is lost in the underground murk, and the others look at each other and shrug. Whatever she wants to do,y’know. They enter the plaza, moving down a wide flight of stairs topped with a statue of an armed Warforged facing back towards the city, and approach the bridge. As they take their first steps out over the chasm there is a cry, and looking up see the panicked form of a raven flapping frantically back towards them. It comes to a frantically feathered halt in front of them and turns back into Tabitha, panting desperately: “Across…the bridge…monsters.”
There isn’t even time to panic. Barely has Tabitha finished her breathless warning than a voice booms from the plaza behind them. “Alright! That’s far enough. Hand over the chest, and we might just let you live.”

There is a burly and unpleasant looking minotaur on the stairs behind them, and he’s in no mood to negotiate. He wants the chest that Brasshead has slung across his back. Unfortunately, Brasshead’s not in a negotiating kind of mood either. Combat is joined! The minotaur, flanked by two bugbears, begins to move down the stairs towards the party. Tabitha drops to all fours…and morphs into a primal bear, ravening and muscle-bound and hurtling back towards the plaza in a flurry of fur and claws. Jacqueline draws her longsword and sprints after her, Rusty at her heels. Oryx shrugs, turns, and saunters after them. Meanwhile Brasshead has wheeled to accost the threat from the other side of the bridge: another Minotaur and a group of hobgoblins with longbows that have ranged themselves around the other end of the bridge and are readying their first salvo. The minotaur is charging up the bridge towards the Warforged and Galair, who appears to be readying some sort of enchantment. Brasshead holsters his shotgun and runs to meet his foe. They are still some twenty feet apart when Brasshead launches himself through the air and tackles the beast, hide and forged steel colliding with a crunch. An arrow whistles through the air overhead; the hobgoblins have started firing, and that first shot is answered by Manekatari’s bow as she glides to the side for a clear shot around the bridge. Another goblin shot, answered by a howl of pain from the plaza as the arrow thuds firmly into the shoulder of a minotaur who, faced with a warforged hound and an angry bear, already had enough to deal with. Rusty sinks his fangs into into the Minotaur’s haunches as the bear slams an anvil-sized paw into the side of its head and sends teeth scattering like dice across the cobbles. He’s having a bad day…and it’s only just begun. Galair finishes his incantations and a pale green smog fills the air on the bridge just behind the minotaur that Brasshead is beating the living snot out of. The mystical haze effectively blocks all sniper fire from across the chasm. The pale wizard turns and, waving a hand, refracts the mind of the minotaur into a thousand psychic mirrors.
The monster reels. His consciousnesses is no longer cohesive, but a blinding kaleidoscope of psychic fragments. Through the pain he sees the bear loom up in front of him. He raises an arm in vain as the ursine behemoth rends a horn from his head and, daggerlike, plunges it into his chest. Pain and confusion cloud his senses. On the sidelines the dwarf makes a small but decisive gesture….and the minotaur feels his heart melt. Nothing matters but the realization that his entire existence has been for this moment, this closeness, that he would give the entirety of his being to be with the bear looming before him. He feels love. The dwarf’s hand moves again, imperceptibly. Romance gives way to devastation. All is lost. Ragged and bleeding he collapses, victim to a broken heart. Oryx grunts, and turns his attention back to healing.
Jacquelyn is in the process of subduing one of the bugbears in the center of the plaza; the other has fallen prey to Tabitha and Brasshead, returned from his skirmish on the bridge. There is choking, gagging sound from the center of the great span; the cloud of smog dissipates to reveal the asphyxiated corpses of the unfortunate goblins caught in air too toxic to breathe. Arrows resume their buzzing flight across the chasm, back and forth between Manekatari and the remaining hobgoblin sharpshooters. One by one they drop, until with a final soft thrum Manekatari sends a long dark shaft through the chest of the last of them, staggering him and pinning him to the wall. The battle is over. Our heroes have persevered.

Closer inspection of the monstrous corpses reveal necklaces and cloaks bearing round brass emblems, ornamented with a single D…"Daask". Wonderful. Their cargo secure and having ascertained that the raiders were carrying nothing else of consequence, our party and their guide move on. They cross the bridge, coming to a pair of plain iron doors set into the stone wall, and passing through them. They find themselves in an entry hall of sorts, a chamber created by the convergence of three roads. The one directly ahead of them is a thoroughfare, or was, once upon a time. Well-carved from the stone of the earth, carefully shored, and rutted with ancient cart tracks, the tunnel curves gently away to the right, disappearing into the gloom. To the party’s right is a black tunnel; there is no other description to do it justice. It looks as though someone built a subterranean road along a seam of coal, for the walls of this tunnel are smudged and blackened, and the tunnel itself is so dark as to appear impenetrable. It is narrow, roughly hewn from the earth and low-ceiling’d. It is not the least hospitable of the three. To the left the road drops away into a shallow gully and a narrow path, barely a foot wide, branches off from the main road and turns into a thin set of stairs carved into the side of the slope. Where the main road is dry and dusty with disuse the gully at the bottom is damp and slimy, and at one end of it is a dark and dripping gash in the rock. These, Jacquelyn says, are the three roads, and this is where she must leave you. At this there is much protest. She imparts some words of wisdom before she goes, though: all of these paths lead to the place you are trying to get to, and one is safer than the others. The party presses her aggressively for less cryptic guidance, and she eventually points to the stagnating gully to the left. “That road is the one I know best”, she says, “and it has not yet failed me.” Then she turns and walks back towards The Cogs, Rusty trudging methodically at her heels.

The party grumbles amongst themselves for a long time. Finally, they opt to travel the middle road, “the lesser of two evils” as it were. They set off between smoothly carved walls, their feet making tracks in the dust of an age and then some. Somewhere ahead of them lies the person who wants their cargo. Somewhere under Sharn lie answers.

Fade to black.

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Interlude: Kidnapped!
Brasshead always knew they just wanted him for his body.

They are maybe a mile down the Middle Road when it happens. A dark voice accosts them from the tunnel behind, and turning they find themselves confronted. Three figures in black robes, two of them armoured, bearing the golden badges of Deneith Blademarks and with longswords drawn. The third is hooded, and it is he who commands their attention. His right arm is sleeved and hidden from view, but his left is exposed. Its metal skin gleams dully in the dimly lit tunnel. It is the arm of a warforged, gloriously crafted in brass and blued steel. It is this arm he raises toward them, an orb in his hand. There is a blast, and a sound like rushing flame. Brasshead collapses where he stands. A wave of pain ricochets through the psychic bonds shared by the party, and Manekatari screams aloud. Reeling, they find themselves on their knees as the world swims violently about them. The Blademarks have sheathed their swords and are dragging Brasshead back down the tunnel. And then there is another blast, and Tabitha can taste Khyber in the air, on the dust that fills her lungs as the roof of the tunnel comes hurtling down and the world fragments into chaos.

The road is blocked. The party pores over the rubble, calling Brasshead’s name and looking for a way through, but to no avail. There is only one way left for them to travel, and that is the way they were headed anyways. So they trudge onwards, their number lessened by a member, their hope lessened by far more.

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Episode 5: Dire Straits
In which an oatmeal stout is offered in friendship, and repaid in blood.

Orcs become friends, and a lost library yields a large, angry, fiery foe. The party engages their first dragon, and the skirmish ends in betrayal. Also, the boar escapes…

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Episode 6: Travelers in the Shadows
There's a light at the end of this tunnel...

In which a dragon has been slain, and the party must go ONWARDS!! . But first, they loot the room. They find the staircase upward, to where they do not know. The party opts to follow the secret tunnel through the back of the library, which bypasses the caved in North Tunnel. Then they turn left into the sewers, which take them down and down and down and…into the goblin city. Eventually they give up on the city, try a new sewer to no avail. And then the wolf rolls in the mud. Oops . Battle with the mud monsters , and a flight up the tunnel…to find themselves back in the ass end of the Dragon’s lair with the leftovers of a Halfling explorer. Dammit. Eventually they head back into the sewers, and find their way to the wet road, The Traveler’s shrine…and have a vision. All of them. Except the Dwarf. He gets ambushed.

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Episode 7: Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?
Well, um...you do.

In which the party is thrown into The Temple of All Dooms, encounters an Eidolon of the Traveler, and narrowly escape with their lives. There is a crypt, a bunch of really hardy ghouls (coughshittyrollingcough), some fancy clothes, and an Iron Cobra. Oh…and a giant fey crocodile that has been living in a pit of blood surrounded by grisly Changeling sacrifices powering corrupted Psiforged berserkers. Excellent…

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Episode 8: Meet the Maker
Beware he who only needs one arm to kick your ass

In which the party opts to go forward instead of back, and finds themselves in the Cannith Foregehold. They open a door the probably shouldn’t have, run into the One-armed Man (Velan), a bunch of Cannith guards and a group of mages. There is a BATTLE!! Surprise. They escape, find tunnels, run into Jacquelin again…and she lets them go. Hmm. They exit through The Traveler’s shrine and find themselves back on the Wet Road, which they follow out to the Bridge… fade to black

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