Ground Zero

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dragon Bones

We never did figure out why people were losing some of their memories, like a Forget spell, in the Critwall Bottoms. We decide to go back to Critwall, taking the cow brought back from the Ethereal (which Al obligingly transformed back using Stone to Flesh) to the orphanage cook. The Orphanage cook graciously cooks us steaks, using the rest of the carcass for the orphans.

We rest for the evening and the next day head down to the Bottoms. We decide to go to a bazaar on the lowest level of the city. Some magical items are sold there for unbelievably low prices. The smell is really bad down here. Many people are wearing masks.

On our way, we run across a guy who collapsed in the stairwell. We rouse him. He remembers that he was on his way to the bazaar to buy some metal roses for his sweetheart, when he met a man and woman. He does not remember anything after that, but he does have the roses in his pocket. He had not however had his sweetheart’s favorite perfume applied to the roses, so we follow him back to the bazaar to have that done.

We wander around the bazaar, disguised by Anatoli to look like regular inhabitants of the Bottoms. We notice that off in a side corridor, a pipe is leaking a cloud of steam. It appears to be an intentional breach in the pipe. Anatoli closes the valve and the steam stops leaking. Samshee finds a chisel and hammer that seem to have been used to cause the breach. She also notices a puddle with tracks leading out of it.

The ranger refuses to track the prints. He says the mage should use Limited Wish to do it. Jet transforms into a large rat. Anatoli puts an illusionary leash on the rat, and an orange vest that says “Safety Rat”. Jet pees on Anatoli’s boot.

In rat form, Jet can detect a perfume on the tracks, so she follows the perfume. It seems to be the same perfume that she remembered tracking during the Founders Festival Stone Carving Contest when we were investigating the murder of a stone carver. At that time, we tracked it to a young female thief, who was hiding in her uncle’s bar
basement. (The uncle was a higher level thief.)

We track the scent to a work crew. The one with the perfume looks like a half hobgoblin/half orc cross. Jet “points” to her. Aldeberon casts Detect Magic. The crew gets upset that he is casting, and start to rush him. Tarl blocks them. The perfume girl is holding back and to Al, she is glowing with magic. Al then casts Dispel Magic, revealing the half elf, Stacy, that we tracked before. Tarl uses the Command, “Sleep” and Anatoli creates “Fog”. Samshee grabs Stacy (illusioned as a bag of trash) and we retreat to one of our apartments.

We wake up Stacy, and ask what has been going on. She has heard the rumors that some people have lost short sections of memories. She also tells us that workers in the Bottoms get a smell that can’t wash off. It started when they started mining the land below the city. They found a combustible ore, that they started burning to provide heat for the hot water for the city. (Previously, the hot water had been provided by using fire elementals summoned by Beodar.)

We investigate the mining operation. The rocks with veins of whitish ore are mined, then crushed and made into a slurry. The ore is heavier than the surrounding rock, so a slurry and shaker separates out the white ore. The white powder is then dried, heated and compressed into white sticks. The white sticks are burned in a furnace to heat the water for the city.

Tarl thinks the white rock might be dragon bone. His mother told him that dragon bone was not to be mined and burned, because the smell roused the wrath of the dragons.

We decide to use Jet as bait for the people using Forget. She shapechanges to a half hobgoblin and wanders around the bazaar. She goes to the potion seller’s stall. He sells her “something to make her beautiful”. He is so slick fixing her hair, that Anatoli’s suspicions are aroused. He comes up to the potion seller and says “impressive” in thieves cant. The potion seller groans and closes his stall for a few minutes while he and Anatoli speak privately. It
turns out that the potion seller is actually a bard. He has heard that there is a ring of people stealing the dragon bone ore.

Still shapechanged as a half hobgoblin, Jet wanders around the bazaar, dreamily buying more stuff (first a hand mirror, then a ribbon here, a bracelet there, shoes somewhere else). Nobody else arouses suspicion, so she then wanders in to the corridors, humming and admiring herself in the mirror.

After a while, she is passed by a set of clockwork driven carts holding ore. The work crew tell her she is not supposed to be there and she should go back. She agrees and starts back the way they came. They go on. Then she runs into a human man and a human woman. They are not dressed like “Bottomers”. Jet plays the bemused hobgoblin. “See how pretty I am?” The woman says, “You just need makeup” and pulls out a wand and casts “Dazzle”. Jet saves versus the Dazzle but plays dumb and looks in the mirror. She pouts “You didn’t give me makeup.” Anatoli casts an illusion giving Jet clown makeup. Jet starts to cry, “you meanies.”

Samshee knocks down the woman. The man evades. Tarl’s Hold Monster captures the woman and Al’s Force Cage gets the man. Samshee pulls a wand and dagger off the woman. She starts poking with a staff at the guy in the cage. He pulls out a scarf and drops it to the floor when Samshee insists. The scar starts getting bigger. Anatoli puts the
scarf in his bag. The guy in the cage does something which fills the area with smoke. Samshee hears someone running away, so she uses her slingshot to bring the runner down. Jet uses dragon breath to blow the smoke away in the cage. This also slams the man against the cage walls, knocking him unconscious.

Samshee pulls a roll of needles and a dagger off the unconscious guy in the cage and binds him to the cage bars. She drags the guy who ran away back and ties him up to. She pulls a dagger off him. She ties up the woman, has Tarl lift the Hold Monster, and take her ring away.

Jet resumes her normal shape. She asks the woman if she knows who Jet is. The woman nods. Jet asks what they were doing and the woman says they were stealing the dragon bone sticks and taking them to the merchant Trammel. We tell the three that they should leave and keep their mouths shut. We let them go.

We head to Trammel’s office/warehouses. As a lizard, Jet searches the warehouse for the smell of the ore. She finds the smell around a metal cover set in the floor. We go to Trammel and ask him about the ore in his warehouse. He seems not to know what Al is talking about. We take him to the hidden metal cover, and he is surprised. Tarl’s
Find Traps reveals a mechanical trap. Anatoli thinks the trap is magnetic and best removed from underneath. Tarl uses an angled PassWall to get Anatoli into the underground cache bypassing the trap. Anatoli disarms the trap (set to explode using the combustible ore).

We all go into the underground cache. There is a lot of contraband — addictive herbs from the northern lands of Iuz, silks from the Great Kingdom, the dragon bone sticks, and so on. Trammel sends for the Chief of Police to take the contraband. The City Comptroller also eventually arrives and takes Trammel away to give his statement. Al Itemizes the chest of the potentially explosive dragon bone sticks and we take it with us.

There was a shipping label on the side of the chest with a number, 7435. Al checks with the Harbor Master, but does not find anything. Samshee sneaks around the ships in dock checking manifests. She does find a manifest, with the number 3574. She decides to check the Captain’s quarters for that ship. Inside is a noisy parrot. When he starts to speak, Samshee bags him, and squeezes until he is dead. She grabs the Captain’s records, along with the bagged dead parrot, and runs away. The records say the 3574 box was supposed to be dropped off 4 days north on the river, and put on a caravan going to the Lands of Iuz.

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