Brother, I had always thought of Ahtenko as the big city in our lives. My first sight of Shinumetu had shown me how wrong I was. Our adventures (to be fair, misadventures) over the last few days have shown me just how out of our depth we are. We are strangers in a metropolis with its own rules, its own power centers, and most importantly its own secrets. We’d decided to take a straightforward approach in taking on the Weeper’s Wail peddlers working out of the East West, and were almost overwhelmed for the effort. I had taken many wounds in fighting off the thugs in the bar, but together we prevailed while our guard ally Janine chased down their leader on horseback.
Within a short time, Janine returned with the erstwhile gang leader, followed almost immediately by a guard captain flanked by a whole patrol squad. This captain immediately took us into custody for questioning, along with our captured gang leader. We were taken to an unmarked building, and the guards must have recognized the concern on our faces, as they explained they were part of a faction within the Shinumetu watch committed to rooting out a corruption that had taken hold deep within city government. The Shadow Of The Hydra apparently held many of the city’s notables on puppet strings, so we were advised to deal only with this faction within the guard, a group who called themselves the Brotherhood of the Braid.
Strangely, the guard captain explained to us that the strange beastmaster we had dispatched in the wilds en route to Shinumetu was the leader of a Shadow cell, bent on bringing forth something called a servant of Klesh into the world. With the gang leader in hand, the guard commenced with interrogating him, while we were given access to various experienced guard members who could teach us more about advancing in our disciplines. We were also told to keep our heads down and avoid drawing any attention to ourselves. We had found the forged weapons we had sought for Vix, and so we happily returned them, earning a hefty reward for the act.
The following three days passed uneventfully, with us recovering from combat and training with our new mentors. Finally, we met with Uhran, the scholar who could help provide further information on the cloak that Dave had procured before we arrived in Shinumetu. We enjoyed a fine dinner together at the Safe Harbor, with Uhran joined by a young t’skrang page to aid him in his advanced age. Uhran apologized for the wait, and gave us some information.
We possessed a Shadowscale cloak, but he would need more time and information, including the circumstances under which we got this cloak, before he could determine more information. We obliged him with the story of defeating the strange cult in the wilds. He thanked us and we parted ways, and we continued our training with our respective mentors, myself learning much from Vix. IN this time, our newly-forged armor was returned to the group.
Finally, Uhran returned to us with more on the Shadowscale cloak. Its name was Umbra, and weaving threads to it gave one the ability to resist taunts and to make impressive displays. Rather than pay for the information, Uhran noted that we could could aid him with a suspicious trade he had become embroiled in, with a group he had recently suspected was less than honorable in its intentions. He asked for our aid in ensuring the deal he was to make, which was supposed to occur late in the night, would not result in any harm to him. We gladly obliged.
We set up for a stakeout in an abandoned area, near one of the bubbles of water that marked the city center of Shinumetu. Tala and I set up in an abandoned room at a nearby tenement, while Janine hid in the water near the appointed site and Dave set up on the rooftop of a fishmonger. All of us laid in wait, ready to spring into action and spring a trap upon any who would attack our patron. At the appointed time, both parties approached with chests, but when all of us were beset by hidden foes, we knew that a trap had been sprung, but with us as the unwitting victims.
Tala fended off a powerful foe wearing a brilliant golden cloak suspiciously similar to the one Dave wore. I rushed to her aid, but another thug blocked our way. Two underwater assailants attacked Janine, while a bevy of others rushed to close the trap – ten foes in all, in addition to the cloaked one. The surprise had taken its toll, with major wounds inflicted upon us before we could rally. In our divided state, we could not look to each other for support as we had so many times. The sage and his helper ran off in a panic, and we turned our full attention to capturing that of the enemy. Finally, we turned the tide, defeating five of them before the rest decided to call a retreat. All five possessed the tattoo we had come to associate with the Shadow of the Hydra.
We rushed after the sage and his ward with a prisoner in tow, but no one was to be found. With no leads and a prisoner, we headed back to the Brotherhood headquarters, learning from the captive of a fall-back location within one of the bubbles of central Shinumetu, and that the cloaked man, someone named Lumen, had discussed this attack on a group of “nonbelievers” – us – with someone from a ship docked to the southeast. We noted, with some alarm, that the only ship docked there at this time was the Dauntless, the very vessel we had traveled on to reach Shinumetu. The Brotherhood ensured the Dauntless wouldn’t leave town, while we focused on the group’s hideout in the bubble. The Brotherhood provided us with four guards and a loan of blood charms that would give us a limited ability to breathe in the aquatic environment.
After a brief night’s rest to heal our wounds, we set out for the bubble at first light. We immediately noted that the derelict building had two exits, and set the guardsmen on one while we invaded from the other. Dave entered and aimed a well-placed shot at Lumen, knocking him onto the ground. The rest of us charged in, noticing Uhran and his boy standing in one corner of the building and unbound. The ensuing battle was strange, because in addition to Lumen and his five cohorts, Uhran and the boy turned on us, the boy trying to backstab us in the chaos and Uhran enchanting Lumen’s sword to dance with flames.
After a difficult battle we subdued Lumen, Uhran and the boy, and the guards charged in and arrested the remaining thugs. We secured the cloak from Lumen as well as a journal of Uhran’s, containing some elementalist spells and notes on Lumen, which we learned was actually the name of the enchanted cloak.
We had prevailed in this particular fight, but found ourselves more confused than before. So many questions remained – why was the Shadow of the Hydra so set on killing us? Just how thoroughly did they infiltrate the upper echelons of the city? And how could we, simple merchants, disentangle ourselves from this treacherous game playing out in Shinumetu’s shadows?