The Stage is Set
On a warm summer evening, Will, Sonliin and Katarin are summoned by their patron Vincenzo de la Rosa to attend him at his villa. He informs them that he requires them to accompany him while he meets with the patriarch of one of the Founding Families: Pierro de la Luna. If Pierro can convince Pierro to back the Dawn Trader expedition, the final piece will be in place and the long struggle for political and financial backing for the venture will be over and preparations can begin in earnest.
The timing of the meeting is significant. Had Pierro already decided to back Vincenzo, he would heave asked to meet during the day, where his support could be witnessed by his clients and other visiting notables. An evening meeting indicates that this is still to be a meeting involving hard negotiation. Vincenzo requested the party’s presence as a show of credibility and strength.
Arriving at the villa, the party is met by Pierro’s majordomo, who leads them into a parlor where the are introduced to the would-be patron of their expedition. Pierro is a sharp, politically savvy man of early middle age, who works tirelessly to bring his family back into its former prominence. He also dotes on his daughters. He and Vincenzo soon disappear into a private meeting with orders not to be disturbed for any reason. As he moves to go, Vincenzo reminds the party to be on their best behavior and to do anything in their power to ingratiate themselves with the de la Luna household.
Signs of Trouble
After some time spent cooling their heels, the party notices some disruption within the household. Hushed but urgent voices can be heard among the servants and household staff. Clearly something is amiss, which is confirmed when the majordomo returns and hovers around the doors of the meeting room. After questioning by the party, the majordomo reveals that his master’s daughter Annata, a girl of thirteen, is missing. He is clearly conflicted about which will result in more trouble for him: interrupting the meeting or revealing that he has lost the girl.
The party quickly offers to aid the majordomo; perhaps if they find the girl before the meeting concludes, all trouble could be avoided.
The party asks to examine the girl’s room and the majordomo takes them to it. They ask him to gather any servants that had close contact with Annata and he whisks off while the perform their inspection. Katarin and Sonlin quickly turn up a few clues: the girl’s room looks like it has been left in a neat and orderly state with no signs of mischief, but Annata possesses books and trinkets of arcane study. Investigating futher, mixed in with the usual detritus of an arcane hobbyist, Sonlin discovers items and scrolls which indicate that the girl may have stumbled into deeper waters than she could handle.
It’s at this point that the majordomo returns with two maids, both of whom serve Annata closely as part of their normal duties. After some unproductive questioning, Will loses his patience and strongly chastises the servants for allowing a young girl to remain in possible danger. One of the maids breaks down and confesses that she began sneaking the arcane paraphernalia to Annata after she learned the maid lived near the Magic Quarter. This had been going on for some months. This ended a few weeks ago when Annata informed the maid that it was no longer needed and “Soon someone will be taking me away from all of this.” She also reveals that Annata kept a diary, which might contain more information.
The diary is quickly found and it’s trivially simple lock picked by Katarin. Reading the last handful of entries in the diary the party sifts through Annata’s purple prose to glean some information: Annata is miserable and no one understands her, no one in the history of the world has ever felt this way, all of this is going to change soon when her Dark Man comes for her. The party also learn that Annata has scheduled a rendezvous with the Dark Man this evening in the family catacombs of the de la Lunas.
Into the Catacombs
The chase is on as the party quickly follows the majordomo as he leads the old family catacombs. The party attempts to enlist some of the de la Luna footmen, but they are all engaged, either looking for Annata elsewhere or keeping the villa in a state that does not arouse suspicion.
At the gate to the catacombs, Will notices recent scratches around the lock and signs that it was opened recently. If that weren’t enough, he also finds a single stray blond hair caught on the bars. Annata had definitely passed this way.
The party enters the catacombs and finds footprints in the dust, which they quickly follow. The de la Luna crypts are a series of large rooms, divided by iron bars and gates into individual areas where standing coffins are displayed. The walls are lined with alcoves full of sorted bones, stacked skulls and piles of death masks. Their pace quickens to a run when they hear the sharp cry of a young girl from down the stairway into a further room.
To the Rescue
The party rushes into a startling scene: in the gloom across the room, there is a group of small hooded figures, one of whom has grabbed a girl that could only be Annata. Standing only three feet tall or so, their appearance obscured by the dark clothing that wraps their bodies and deep hoods over their heads, the only knowable aspect of these figures is the sick gleam from the wicked dirks in their hands. The party has only a moment to watch helplessly while one of the figures drags Annata down a staircase before more of the villains appear from the darkness and the battle is joined.
Separated from their objective by the iron bars that divide the room, the party enters a running battle with the dark figures, the three rush into the thick of things. Sonlin quickly engages with the nearest and dispatches it with a single blow. The dark nature of these things is revealed when, as it expires a foul darkness bursts from its corpse… blinding Sonlin.
…to be continued.