With time to think and get back into some of their coursework, the group levels up and learns some new spells. They put a bit of focus on information gathering spells to help finish out their espionage on the Mystery in Blue. Using that new magical knowledge and some sleuthing, they either scry the other teams to figure out their tasks or get enough clues to guess most of the remaining teams. Another bribed teleportation network student employee costs them but nets some useful clues to cross-reference. When digging about the Black Tally, they find scrying hints about missing ships and confirm it in Bogoreka amid mysterious deaths of suspected criminals in the docks. The Huntresses are protected from scrying but background details they pick up hint at drama and rumor. Also in Bogoreka, rumors swirl about a scandal in the nobility of the Triumvirate, someone had tracked down a hideout of a noble family trafficking illicit goods and bribes. The Dissonant Whispers found Weave and Catalysts tasks, despite their elaborate magical protections, when digging around for rumors in Rhydyr, where their bribed student had alerted them was a frequent destination of those two teams. News of Steinreich alumni at a secretive tradeshow and new adventuring gear similar to the items used by Catalyst tipped the group off that they were looking for a famous signature. Weave was trickier but being the only remaining team to pin the rediscovered river gate chain, it wasn’t a hard deduction but they aren’t sure Weave didn’t complete the task a little too conspicuously.
They snag a small meeting room in a lesser-used academic building to compare notes, confirming some of their guesses for the Blue. While they are discussing, a ceiling tile falls on Leon as he talks about not being sure what their next steps should be after turning in the answers. On the tile itself is an intricately folded note with a handful of dried lily petals.
At the important juncture, go left first. What you want is there. Roses Brick Camel Treant, promptly but without nervousness, they’re complacent and won’t look too close. For insight in the blackest, look under the right armrest cushion. Sorry for the Shock. Evil is a deed as I live. The folly of a δαίμων is its own pride, utter it aloud to ruin them. Bet on green, even if they’re dead last.
Unsure of the meaning of the collection of phrases, the group only manages to decode “Daimon” from archaic lettering, but not the meaning of any of the sentences. The bad drawing at the bottom and flower petals hints at only one possible sender. What her intent was, they are unsure. Perhaps Styx and Klythmnora can give them some insight into what to do next? Regardless, they’ve got a few prior engagements to deal with first.
Rila heads off to her coffee date with Lucillo the half fey. She has a good date, where they compare backgrounds, and relate over being relative outsiders to the human world. As they finish their drinks, he tries to recruit her team for help with the chivalric order that he and Hector are investigating: Dawn’s Charge. Rila is skeptical about his relation to the winter court, unsure if she can trust him, but he was open about his fae upbringing. She is definitely open to meeting with him again, maybe trying to get more information about the winter court out of him. While she is busy, the rest of the group takes time to buy and sell in Bogoreka. When they are about to break off for food, they detect a failed scrying attempt on them. Even more suspicious, a street urchin begs them for help down a secluded alleyway. To none of their surprise, the urchin pulls claws from its rags to attack as two thugs appear from around the corner to attack. The tall junkie’s limbs lengthen and sprout spikes like a cricket’s legs while the thicker thug’s arms split many times over, turning into cat-o-nine-tails fleshy noodles. Behind them, a portal opens and Beithir introduces himself to request their immediate surrender of the egg to their betters. Thug and junkie cultist fight to the last, charging forward and ignoring their injuries. It is only as Tormenoth finally decapitates one and Rila blasts the other to pieces that they finally stop. Before they can reach the portal where Beithir watches on, he scoffs, “Even other plans are not far enough to hide from the Planeswalker. Remember that I offered you a peaceful way out of this” as he closes the portal with a gesture.
Tormenoth, on the way back to his dorm, goes to meet with Zap and catch up but has a cryptic encounter with a classmate that he recognizes as under the influence of the Black Tally Society. Dazed, she asks, “Have you picked yet?” and a glowing red numeral ‘II’ glows in her eyes for a moment. When the daze fails and he asks her what she meant, she is confused but mentions she must have been asking if he picked anyone for a date to the Prismatic Ball, the homecoming event prior to the final competition of the Showing of Colors. He says no and she leaves, a little confused how she got here but pretending nothing is amiss. Leon spends some time praying to get some information by talking to the Death god about what he needs done, and gets the location of the cult he wants attacked. Myrkul describes the Moonlit Phalanx hunkered down in Moontown to the north of Alara and he wants Leon to shake them up.
In the morning, the Dissonant Whisperers gather together to go up and talk to Styx. They figure they can turn in their Blue Mystery answers to her, get some advice on what to do next, and some background information on death cults. She brings them to a newly finished meeting room with Klythmnora to answer their questions. It will be tough to fight them head on but luring them out of their lair is going to be the ticket to fighting smarter not harder. Alternatively, coming at them from unprepared angles will yield better results compared to attacking them from where they are heavily prepared.
Ariel heads out to read in the library about the difficulties of finding a hard enough quest for the next challenge, the Quest for White Prestige, that will score enough points with anonymous judges from all five schools. Rila meets with the Huntresses and exchanges information about Catalyst’s task for details about Weave’s task. With that information, a final round of scrying and communing lets them nail down their last guesses of tasks. Leon considers that they could do that quest the death god had asked him about as their possible White task. Instead, the group decides to use Myrkul’s task as a way to get a favor from a deity and treasure for a run at a Tiamat temple for their white task. With things taken care of and their guesses for the Blue Mystery turned in to Styx, they head off to Moontown.
A day’s travel brings them to this fairly new town built mostly of wood from cleared forests in this bustling town. It is a mercenary town and base for the Moonlit Phalanx, with traders, merchants, and artisans mostly supporting the military efforts of the town or its off-duty soldiers. Curiously, there is a lack of the usual poor or downtrodden, with the unpleasant maintenance of the town being handled by masked and robed people. Getting closer to one, they discover it is undead but when they point this out, the townsfolk not only aren’t bothered but prideful of the ingenuity of their town. As they continue to investigate, trying to learn what has set Myrkul against his own adherents, they hit up a local tavern filled with off duty soldiers. Tormenoth and Ariel find the crowd easy to work with. They trade battle stories with these scarred veterans who tell their own tales of narrow survival against long odds then finding the Moonlit Phalanx offering them good pay. None of them started their career with this mercenary group, but the numbers they talk about going on duty with don’t line up with the off-duty soldiers here. There should be multiple times more off-duty soldiers if roughly a third are off duty at a time and most of their third are in the tavern. A well-muscled and scarred halfling recognizes them from the Showing of Colors and attempts to recruit them. Tormenoth plays along to keep her talking, but he runs into a dead end after an aggressive sales pitch that he defers. The graveyard on the outside of town piques their curiosity, and under the cover of night Rila transforms into a giant badger to dig a tunnel down, finding tunnels connecting up to the graves and mausoleums from below and skeletal laborers trudging about the web of narrow tunnels. They raid the tunnels, connected to an underground temple complex that they fight their way through swiftly, keeping anyone from raising the alarm.
Summoned apes pop into being on the other side of the lookout slot let them knock out the guard, open the secured door, and then murder sleeping cultists in the next room. These bloody bodies are hidden in their pocket plane and the group loot what they find of the small lockers and storage closets. A couple cultists and their guards are in the mess hall, but suspicion is thrown off with a well timed use of the mysterious code phrasing given by their note from Lilly in response to one of the cultists growling, “Elemental Orange Poltergeist Glory”. The group leaves the cultists to go back to the mess hall while they raid a messy workroom holding training corpses for raising. After that room of mostly trash, they enter into a small library with texts about undead. Only once they reach a small temple area beyond are they confronted by a priest that recognizes them as outsiders rather than new recruits. A fight ensues in which he calls in mummies, but the group avoids their debilitating curse, using the summoned apes for a front line while killing the undead and priest with fire from a distance.
Looking around the room, they find the large skull statue askew and move it aside to find stairs down. The next level below is higher quality but also under construction, with crews of skeletons digging and removing debris. A turn to the left takes them to a small room lined with shelves and a round table in the center. Lockboxes chained to the wall, a sealed sarcophagus, and glass cases fill the storage space. An orb starts to roll off the table from next to an open book and velvet-lined case, but Ariel catches it with a quick Mage Hand when Leon stumbles trying to launch himself over to catch it. Held in a magical grip, she deposits it back in the case as Tormenoth explores the room with Leon. They find books describing and cataloging cursed items, to which Ariel responds gladly that she did not touch the sphere herself, identifying an entry in the open book that mentions it is a cursed object. “Cursed Objects: Strange but True Tales” & “Don’t Touch Anything: A Curse-Crafter’s Tell-All” From around the room, they note a number of cursed objects in unlocked or unsecured containers that they deposit without touching into their bag of holding.
Further down the hall, choosing to ignore one corridor with closely spaced doors, they head into a greenhouse of sorts. Large stone basins with fish support plant and fungal growth above them. Every so often, a bony tentacle a dozen feet long flicks out of the pools to snatch a decayed leaf, adjust a stem, or flick a bug into the waiting jaws of the fish. Rila takes care not to disturb whatever creature is in the basins but readily identifies the mushrooms, plants, and fish as all being rare or expensive sources for spell components and rituals.
In the next room, they enter into an elaborate cathedral after listening at the door to a man complaining. He recognizes them as intruders immediately and summons empowered skeletal champions to fight. The Whisperers quickly realize these are no normal undead, with each one unleashing stored magic from their armaments as the fight burns through their resources, but eventually, the high priest, Reuben, is killed. They stop to loot his Bone Robes and Adamantine Chainshirt, then press on around the corner to a room filled with muddy water and a single black boat moored to the stone walkway. A single tree with green leaves twists out of one of the larger moors and a small stone platform rises out of the water at the other end of the room with a great stone sepulcher and elaborate tome.
Not wanting to go in, they use spells to cross over to the stone island without disturbing the water. When they try to read the book through, it closes and a huge undead kraken stirs from the muddy water to attack. They make a fighting retreat but not quickly enough as Tormenoth is swallowed. They blast it from the corridor as its long tentacles and poisonous breath fill the area while the fighter fights to cut his way out. Their sheltered position and Rila’s Moon Beam eventually reduce the creature back to regular death as Tormenoth cuts himself free to join the assault. Exploring the room, they find a vault door as Myrkul appears. “As payment for services rendered, I will remove my curses guarding this door. I’m sure adventurers like yourselves can solve the material difficulties of the door. This should shake them from their complacency, make them remember why I am a god of fear and ambition. Death isn’t something you can make comfortable.” He thanks the group for stirring up the hornet’s nest of his followers, takes the holy book (those aren’t secrets he is willing to share), and offers to reward them by stripping his divine protections from the vault door. The mundane lock will be theirs to puzzle out though. It is a dial of letters, eight letters long. It takes a bit but they realize why the High Priest was complaining about the thing’s breath and take a look in the kraken’s rotting mouth. Scribed on the inside of its segmented beak are eight faintly glowing letters, ACMOIERPN. With the code in hand they unlock the door and begin looting. Stolen goods and magic items fill the small vault. Unfortunately, they can also hear the heavy footsteps and muffled shouting of numerous people organizing on the floor above.