With the muffled curses/screams of the surviving assailant fading in the distance the adventurers pressed onward. As they approached the main entrance to the Leaning Lady they slowed. A calm quickly settled over the group, like a warm blanket soothing unspoken fears, broken only by the rasping dyspnea of their adrenaline-infused lungs. Opening the tavern door they breached the threshold confidently, weapons drawn, blinking rapidly in the sudden light. In the barest of moments the Halfling barkeeper squeaked and ducked under the bar out of sight. Shortly thereafter the bustling tavern broke into turmoil as the patrons grasped the situation and made for the only exit. At the far end of the common room the Goliath doorman, proud in his loyalty and imposing in his banded mail armour, hefted his battle axe to the ready and moved to block the curtained entrance to Bico’s gambling room.
Ozman and Cyril advanced while Altadore prepared a fresh quill. “We’ve come to arrest Bico”, proclaimed Ozman. “Step aside”. The Goliath made no such move. Taking the initiative Ozman attempted to cast Sleep in hopes of avoiding what could very well be a brutal encounter. It failed to strike true. With the Goliath’s Will being more resilient than anticipated he was instead stunned for a brief moment in time. All the time in the world. Ozman opened with a biting Sneak Attack to the Goliath’s ribs, critically debriding him of his flesh, making putty of the dazed creature’s armour. Cyril, seeing an opportunity, elegantly relieved the brute of his weapon, while Altadore maimed and stunned the brute yet again. And so it went. With nary a chance to muster his own attack, the doorman quickly faltered and fell before the trio’s vicious assault.
After taking a brief moment to loot the corpse of his 140gp the group turned aside the velvet curtain and entered the gambling room. At last, after all this time, Bico stood before them. And he was not alone. Standing at his side, in resplendent crimson robes adorned with shimmering unearthly embellishments, was a Mage. He sneered in contempt and fury. With alarming speed the mage set forth a fiery assault the like of which the group had never encountered. Soon both Ozman and Cyril were aflame as firebolts screamed from the Mage’s out flung hands. Undeterred, Ozman stunned Bico and the group focused fire on the mage. Be it from steel, psionics, or arrows, cloth makes for pitiful protection and the mage’s firestorm was doused before further damage could be incurred. Shedding their sooty tattered rags Cyril and Ozman engaged Bico. Harried thusly, he retreated to the far stairwell. After a superb pounding by Altadore Bico appeared to stumble as if critically wounded. Incredibly, impossibly, something altogether unexpected took place. With an ear-splitting roar Bico the human was rendered, morphed, into Bico the giant Naga! Cyril, with his near-Ustinov repertoire of language, heard the serpent screaming in Draconic, cursing the group’s arrogance and vowing to destroy them. Ozman and Cyril leaped forward and, though landing blow after blow with their enchanted weapons, they were seemingly unable to breach the thick scaly hide of the Naga. Once again it fell to Altadore and his composite longbow to turn the tide. Round after round his volleys landed true. Rapid Shot, Focused Shot, Deadly Shot, they all found their mark and Bico took devastating damage. Finally, Cyril was able to find an opening in Bico’s hide and finished him off with a decidedly poignant thrust into the Naga’s heart. Bico, scourge of Tela Tal’fyn, was destroyed.
Cyril performed a cursory inspection of Bico’s thrashed body and despite the impressive bloody hole in his thorax one could clearly make out a large tattoo etched into his chest. The tattoo of the Storm Crows. Is this the end of them? Does the lineage end here with this beast? Has the lynch pin fallen or will the order rise anew? Criminal organizations are often replete with redundancies, no doubt another will take Bico’s place. Indeed, was Bico even at the head of the scheme? Are there others like him out there? Pondering these questions the adventurers continued on their quest and descended the staircase. There they found a dressed-up room bathed in the soft white light of a glowing magic orb encased within a single candelabra. The room was one made to look like a common bedroom however the dust belied the scene. This room had never been slept in. Ozman perused the bookshelf which quickly yielded interesting results. A hidden passageway was discovered along with 3 valuable tomes which Cyril pilfered for his own collection. Taking the glowing orb in hand the group entered the dank dark passage. Through the other side was a lab of some sort. Alchemical apparatus; alembics, flasks, acids and crystals adorned a table next to numerous sealed barrels. An ancient tome, a “recipe” book, was found on a shelf earmarked to a well-worn page. Cyril had great difficulty translating the text for it was written in Old Draconic however he was able to determine the recipe’s title, “The Rot”. There was also a desk, a chest, a bookshelf, and more glowing orbs. The chest contained 3 gold bars, a short pewter rod, a chain, and a claw grasping a gem which was deemed to harbour necrotic magic.
On the desk was a ledger. A very hefty ledger, one detailing the numerous transactions and accounts of Bico’s gang activity throughout the city. Jackpot. There are apparently 2 gangs in the city, those that bear the rings are called The Grimms and those dedicated to transport are called The Dirges. This was the evidence they needed to completely untangle the mysterious web of crime that has befallen Tela Tal’fyn. Grarder’s name was noted along with various payments for shipments of rare ingredients. Reading further there was one particular entry that seemed to recur very often. With the letters “LB” being the only identifying mark each entry detailed the transfer of large sums of money. In addition there were lists of boats, dates, and names associated with them. Aymes Finne and Pholas Rue in particular appeared to have meaning to Altadore. Lastly there were towns listed. Could these be destinations? The value of this discovery went beyond all their expectations. It must be delivered to Ennel Hansey for review.
Along the short side of the room there was another door leading to the antechamber where the vexing barred door, so unsuccessfully picked earlier by Ozman, taunted them. Ozman opened the door and retrieved the wounded, gagged assailant off the bridge. Questioning him proved fruitless, he had never been in this room before. The antechamber had 3 doors in total, that which they had entered in, the large oaken door, and a side door much more ornate than any previously seen. Ozman, finding no traps upon it, clasped the door’s delicate handle and eased it open. Within a deep red light suffused what appeared to be a lush, carpeted room rich with tapestries and murals. An inhuman voice called out, “Back sso ssssoon?” There upon a raised blood-red bed lay await a female Naga. Not so large as Bico, yet decidedly more imposing in her own right, she raised her head up from what appeared to be dinner. What appeared to be Jane! Her wickedly forked tongue tasting the air between razor sharp bloody fangs the Naga hissed angrily. With the agility innate to all serpents the bitch emitted a vile black venom at Ozman’s face, sending him into terrible darkness, blind as a bat. Battle ensued and the situation appeared dire. Ozman, sightless, was next to useless flailing his weapon in the serpent’s general direction. Cyril took grievous wounds however his blade hummed with the song of victory, Altadore filled her with holes, and before long the Naga fell at their feet. Too late, however, for poor Jane.
Mustering the last of their strength the group closed up shop, claiming the Inn for their own, and returned to Ennel Hansey to make a full report. Cyril decided to keep the alchemical recipe book for further study. And then, after a night not soon forgotten, they slept. Fitfully at first, for the ledger implied that tomorrow there was an interesting delivery scheduled. Finally, however, they allowed the deep to settle in.