Hardluck’s grandfather, Eli Botherstone, while not willing to pursue violence to stop the group from descending to the tunnels, was also not willing, or able as it came out, to tell them anything about what they would encounter there. He did say that they would regret bringing it to light, especially given that they were working for the Merchant Prince. Our heroes took this under advisement, by which I mean they tied him up and ransacked his office for a map of the tunnels. Immediately discarding the official map they found in the top drawer of the desk, the quickly found a more complete version buried in a different pile, and Harley’s vision was able to pierce the illusion hiding the secret tunnels. Sadly, nothing was labelled ‘Secret Monster Lair’, but Gable and Lear were able to piece together which of the newly-revealed chambers didn’t make sense, and everyone decided that this was by far the most likely place of interest.
Hardluck led the way and disarmed or pointed out several traps in the tunnels, some of dwarven make and some newer, before reaching the path to the chamber. Zharra released her familar to scout the room; she returned announcing that there were several figures milling about the room, one sitting at a table reading a book, and all of them smelled terrible. There was also shouting coming from another tunnel leading in the other direction.
Hardluck, having reversed his fuschia cloak, snuck into the room with the intent of engaging what he correctly assumed to be a lich in the center of the room, only to find that she shouted in a language unfamiliar to him, and several skeletons ran to beat him about the head and torso with swords.
The jig being up, the rest of the party rushed into the room. Iron Horse and Gable leapt to the defense of a now badly wounded Hardluck, who dodged past the skeletons and hid in a nearby sarcophagus. Harley found himself going hand to hand with what must have once been an ogre before its zombification; Lear and Zharra harried the retreating lich with ice javelins and fireballs. Hardluck took this opportunity to strike at her and steal a ring from her, by the expedient of simply removing the finger it was attached to. The skeletons fell quickly to the onslaught, and Harley’s eye, possibly guided by the Trickster herself, was drawn to the zombie’s exposed carotid artery, the flesh having long since rotted away. A quick single sword stroke, and the enormous creature fell.
Hardluck put the ring on and found that he could now understand the lich perfectly, and that she not only intended them no harm but had been trying to restrain the other undead forces from doing deadly violence to the party. He returned the ring to her and she activated a spell in it to allow everyone to understand each other. Her name was Arna and she was here as a sort of combination refugee and ambassador, seeking a haven for undead who did not wish to be under the thrall of the Lich Queen, who was taking advantage of the Invoker’s hospitality to subvert the local undead to her control, something the Invoker would presumably not be pleased to learn. After convincing Iron Horse not to murder her on principle, the group agreed to take her message to the Merchant Prince and hopefully also the Invoker, in exchange for reports of anyone else trying to use the tunnels to move anyone or anything. Also, having time to investigate the map, it seemed the tunnels ran to nearly every major building in the city, something Gable duly noted for later use. The shouting had been an argument between Crag, the paladin of the Triune Goddess, and Carina and Alejandro, ostensibly of the Water and Power company but actually double agents for Coyote Clan. Arna had been removing the memories of intruders and releasing them to the surface otherwise unharmed, but the ritual was difficult and people were arriving faster than she could return them. She admitted she had done this to Duna Sparksteel, who had been investigating the site of the party’s battle with the Magician’s forces a few days prior. The party left her to her work and retraced Duna’s steps but were not able to find anything that might have explained her path down here; the granite from the subverted golems was valuable, but not immeasurably so. There was also a fair amount of residue from the squamous fiends; Hardluck took a sample on the grounds that SOMEONE might want it, naturally spilling some on his hands in the process. After seeing Crag safely to the alley where he would come to, Harley, as any true paladin of the Trickster would, spilled whiskey all over him and rifled through his pockets, coming up with nothing of particular interest except a fairly nice sketch of a certain half-elf.
The party, true to their word, proceeded to the Merchant Prince’s mansion and delivered the news about the lich in the tunnels to the Merchant Prince, who was aware, and his finacee, who was not. Aliza Longbottom was less than pleased to learn that her husband-to-be was consorting with the undead, but she seemed to take it as a matter to be discussed later. The Merchant Prince thanked them for their work and reminded them that they were to escort the High Priestess from the train station to the mansion the next day.
The group, after discussing strategy, split to engage in preparations for the next day. Gable and Lear went to the constables, where Lazgar informed them that there would be an honor guard for the Priestess, but that protecting her was not their primary objective as she had rather formidable means of handling that herself; they were there to assure the safety of the crowd should anyone attempt to harm them. The constables would be at the party’s disposal. Gable set up a code phrase and answer to ensure nobody had been compromised, as there were rumors of shapeshifting agents in the city. Hardluck went to the Shadowskins and offered them the vial of ichor as a means to probe them to see if they had been hired to menace the Priestess in any way. They had not, but had heard that many independent operators had been picked up for a job the next day near the Merchant Prince’s mansion. Hardluck was able to track one of them down, a dwarf named Grimna, who was not the brightest apple in the bushel and let slip that she had been hired on for the next day; after a bribe from Hardluck, she told him she’d been contracted by a very generic-looking man to hang out along the Priestess’s route and await further instructions, to the call sign of ‘orange sky’. She agreed to be elsewhere, possibly due to the bribe and possibly due to the fact that Hardluck was opposed to it, and while dim-witted, she was not suicidal.
Zharra reported back to Prosper, who agreed to have the casino staff on double alert, and also planned to put some imps in the air for surveillance. Harley met with Ausviir, who was in charge of security from the Temple, and convinced her to hold back a few of her people in case there was an attack there while everyone was focused on the Priestess. Iron Horse went out to look for signs of his people, and did not find an ambush prepared, but did find his cousin Mirage, who reluctantly told him that Twisted Rattle and her people were planning to accost the Priestess, but nonviolently, and begged Iron Horse not to hurt them. He made no such promise, but assured her he would do his best. After reporting in, it was agreed to send a message to the Priestess to see how she recommended handling the situation, as being forewarned could give her the chance to prepare something. Lastly, Gable sought out Azaria of the Silver Lodge seeking a way to detect shapeshifters. Azaria readily agreed; all someone would have to do was trade one of their eyes for a spider eye he just happened to have handy. After trying in vain to sell ‘totally sweet spider eye’ to virtually everyone else in the party, he agreed to have it implanted himself. Preparations exhausted, the group retreated to their rooms to rest for the next day’s task.