The Dark Sun dips low in the sky, and Ral and Guthay slowly raise their cold, alien faces into the purple haze of sundown. Blacksun villa towers above other mansions nearby in both grandeur and style. Its multi-leveled towers and the rooms within concealing far more than just opulence. The invites to a party at the villa are a coveted and mysterious rarity for any of the elite in Tyr as what goes on within its walls is as much speculation as wild rumor. In this occasion however the assortment of guests who gather within its walls seems almost democratic. The purpose of this of course, is all part of the mystery…
From the outside of the villa we can see that it stands on several levels and onf varying heights, each interspersed with palms and many green leafed plants. Of course, only the rich can afford to or even desire to water such things. Outside there is a slave wearing a turban and clean white linen awaits us, introducing himself as Hezzor and asking for our invitations whilst offering us a goblet of fine wine. The wine is not to my taste so I ask for Kank nectar, the look of distaste from the slave at this request clearly shows he has been brought up in the wealthier part of the city. Abdiel, Naraaku and Orsk head inside ahead of me as I am required to wait for Dorjan who is arriving later. Solzak is late as he had disappeared on a personal errand, but as his business is his own we choose to not delay in wait for him
Heading inside the main reception area the group are led to a huge two storey great hall with a balcony running around the second floor from a staircase on the west wall. In the centre of the room stands a giant sculpture of a tree, made with warped and dead wood but bearing golden fruit that seemed to glow with arcane aura. Elsewhere in the room halfling ‘savages’ dressed in little more than loincloths and covered in tangled vines and leaves carry polished bone serving trays filled with colourful fruits, flatbreads, lizard skewers (which Naraaku headed straight for) and other small foods which you could barely consider a mouthful. As Abdiel and his ‘guards’ wander the room a watchful eye is kept for the would-be assassin whom we were assuming would be either in a disguise or would strike from a favorable position.
More guests arrive in regular intervals and as I wait in the reception area I watch over the proceedings. We soon spot Lady Sycia talking with a group of nobles which includes the lady Shahram, owner of the villa. Sycia is wearing a huge gold plated helmet that partially covers her eyes which are painted onto the helmet in a distinctive large and heavy style that I have not seen in Tyr, though I could not tell you where from either. Our attentions are drawn by the announcement of the arrival of the Devani noble, Dor, dressed in heavy dark green robes with his face concealed with a mask of twigs and foliage. The costume was fitting to the party of course but it was his stature and frailty that began to give away his identity, he walked as a man does with age, with great care and there were times i could see him lean heavily on his companion. His companion was dressed more for the desert, in sandy colours but this too seemed to indicate more than he would have liked as Naraaku indicated that this was one whom he recognised from their meeting in the House of Fingers. Solzak – who by now had arrived after convincing the guards he was here to entertain – nodded too in agreement to confirm he knew who this was.
Just as I had begun to become frustrated at being left outside my lady arrived, wearing an outfit that would turn a weaker man to a mere boy. I strode confidently over as she took my arm in a vice-like grip and went inside. She was not one for long conversation as it was clear from the beginning her eyes were fixed on me as an object of her desire. For now this was acceptable to me, as it could, if I play my cards right, be every bit the advantage we were looking for.
As we are chatting I overhear Solzak in conversation with the lady Shahram and that she was asking at what point in the evening he would be performing. I was impressed how skillfully he was able to dodge her questioning but then he was asked to head backstage with the other minstrels and I knew if our plan were to be successful he would be needed here out front. He had, it seems procured a truth drug which when administered and period of 30 minutes had passed would enable us to question Gorask (or the noble we suspected to be him) to find their true motive and so expose them. Solzak was forced to act therefore and used a minor psionic movement to swiftly place the powder into the cup of Gorask without being seen. As luck would have it he was seemingly successful and was able to slip past unnoticed to go backstage. He is only there for a matter of moments before reappearing with a look of concern. The nobles look his way and he elegantly bluffs this into a performance piece, playing some local Tyrian favourites before a crowd of sophisticated listeners. He is a success, and while raising a toast to the party ensures Gorask drinks from his drugged wine. After his performance Solzak explains to us secretly that there are Veil agents backstage led by none other than Shalaya! Of course an opportunity to rid themselves of the silt cult would not be missed, we could have guessed i’m sure. Orsk now moves even closer to Abdiel to ensure he is protected from any sudden attacks.
The Minthur family arrive as well as representatives from House Asticles and Mericles. The obvious candidates from those houses Agis and Tithian respectively are absent as we would well expect and as the crowd of attendees increases it is clear that this is no small gathering. Many of Tyrs elite are here or at least well represented. The last to enter were a couple of nobles who were announced to little fanfare, dressed in dark robes our thoughts immediately turned to the possibility of a further assassin, Thus putting our plan into potential jeopardy! Naraaku was signalled to watch their movements and so he circled around to the outside of the party to enable him to quickly cover Abdiel.
At roughly 11pm or thereabouts Sycia is seen to get onstage and it is announced that she will be making a short speech. As she approaches the front of the stage there is a noticeable coldness in the air, as if the sun was suddenly snuffed out for a moment before being re lit like a candle. She begins to speak and although I hear words it is almost as if the crowd are in a trance, I had not been drinking the wine that had been offered but now we could notice a tiny purple glow in each glass that resembled the glow in the crystals we had seen common to members of the cult. Dorjan chose this worse possible moment however to take me someplace private and I was forced to miss part of the speech, which is probably a good thing. In talking to the rest of the group afterwards I can surmise her what was said. Sycia and her group see the future of Tyr as a free city, the first and possibly only ruled by the nobility and senate in the entirety of the known lands. This was met with a mix of confusion and fear for the wrath of the immortal sorcerer kings. Who can kill an immortal but another immortal? Good question, but Sycia’s answer came in the form of the primordial immortal Ul-Athra as we now know it is called, but we know better as the Silt Kraken. Sycia assures the nobles that this entity would work with the citizens of Tyr to rid us of Kalak and place the senate and nobility in control of our fates with Ul-Athra as our protectorate. This idea in essence has merit but that a primordial entity such as the Silt Kraken (Ul-Athra) would want anything other than our destruction is a mystery to me apart from as Sycia points out that she is close to finding the secret of how this creature can be made to do our will. They have found a temple to this god beneath Tyr and once it is unearthed and they complete the ritual, a pact with Ul-Athra will ensure a free Tyr for all! This all sounds like madness now but in the throng of the party and influence of foul magic the crowd were wed to the idea. The speech ended on a toast to the freedom of Tyr and served as an introduction to a dance and music.
Several dancers, male and females emerged from the back room, swaying and moving to a frantic tribal rhythm which seemed to emanate from all around without a source. They were dressed in light silks with face masks of dark wood representing spirits and animals. The sound was intense and built slowly, fading in and out as if weaving through the crowd. At the very height of the music one female came forward close to the stage, her long blonde hair instantly familiar as Shalaya. At this point Sycia was still onstage until she realised the true nature of the dance, which was an elaborate cover for a spell! The telltale arcane arm movements and incantations appeared quickly and as Sycia turned to flee she was struck by a bolt of radiant light, knocking the helmet from her head revealing a blindfold over her eyes and the top of her head covered in bandages. Sycia scrambled to her feet and fled out the rear of the mansion, with Shalaya and the other Veil agents close behind.
Dorjan and I had managed to find a private suite upstairs as the party was beginning to drag for us both, we held an intimate embrace and I could see in her eyes the intensity of the moment, but then the blast from downstairs came and the moment was gone. Quickly we both rushed out onto the balcony to see what was going on to see a room in chaos as noble trampled noble trying to get out of the villa and away from the danger. Then in the chaos the assassin struck, moving close to Abdiel before any of us could react and placing something on his neck, immediately turning and running towards the garden. Abdiel went stiff as death itself and our immediate worry was that we had failed, but then before we could react a shot rang out from the crossbow of the sand-robed assassin, making a painful thud in the neck of Abdiel. His partner threw off his mask to turn and flee and in doing so revealed himself to Dorjan and I who cursed the name Gorask under her breath. A second shot rang out but by now Orsk was in position with his shield to block and protect the injured templar. The assassin tried a further shot but this too bounced as Naraaku fired a counter attack. Seeing himself outnumbered the assassin fled into the crowd of fleeing nobles and disappeared from our sights. Orsk threw a hammer in desperation that seemed to connect but does not seem enough to deter the assassin from his flight.
Another crash was heard this time from above us as into the middle of the ballroom, crushing the tree drops a terrifying creature, a belgoi, a twisted tall, thin psionic hunter wielding a huge staff covered in runes and small bells that let off a chilling jingle as it walks on clawed feet, its large nostrils snorting like a bull preparing to charge with its eyes fixated on Solzak. It swings the staff around its head to point firmly at the petrified half-elf, Where is she? It calls, where is the witch and the one called Narissa! Solzak did not answer but the thing had already read his racing mind. You will take us to her, take us to Altaruk! With that statement it took another giant leap up to the second floor and out a balcony window. Solzak looked stunned but there was no time as we quickly attended to Abdiel. Orsk managed to find the cause of the paralysis in the form of a small scarab beetle that had inserted a needle like pincer into his neck which had caused the paralysis. Luckily for us, in removing the creature Abdiel stirred and moaned, enough that we were relieved. The party was definitely over, Abdiel was alive, albeit only just, there were the assasins to find, and the hope we would not again run into the Belgoi. Just the start of another long night in Tyr…