From the Oral Histories of Iktomi
Here we were, face to face with Atsin Sonegor, the famed merchant and entrepreneur himself, in the monument to his tenacity, the Snore and Boar. After enjoying a filling meal, we got down to business. A huge bounty (100,000 silver pieces!) had been offered to the owner of the first successful trade caravan to make it to the city of Vasheen and back. Atsin aimed to claim that bounty for himself, and he looked like the type of man who would not accept any other outcome. In exchange for our help, Sonegor offered us each a 10% cut of the bounty, as well as 25% of whatever profits the caravan had made on its journey, split between us as we saw fit.
One of my new colleagues, a human Illusionist named Gen, had heard of my own business acumen and suggested I try to haggle more acceptable terms from our patron. Ultimately, however, we decided on discretion, if only because Atsin’s mercantile prowess was a thing of legend in Ahtenko. I also met a dour Tir elf scout who called himself Dave and an elf swordmaster named Tala. We agreed to Atsin’s terms, and the dwarf gave us our first task.
A group of armadons who called themselves Dessicated Steel had come to the gates of Ahtenko roughly a week prior, looking to sell a shipment of iron for the sum of 10,000 silver. Sonegor didn’t have that kind of money on hand at the time, but he had recently heard that the armadons had found themselves in dire straits. He tasked us with negotiating a sale of their iron shipment for the introductory price of 2,500 silver, with further shipments resuming at the standard price they had requested, and we accepted, eager to show our mettle.
Some discreet inquiries among the rougher inhabitants of Ahtenko pointed us to a recently cleared district of the city (that nonetheless had its fair share of dangers). We quickly found our soon-to-be business partners holed up in a large old structure and introduced ourselves. We met the armadons’ leader, a woman named Layla, and their champion, a large man named Grooge. Both of them seemed to be in a poor mood. They’d run full force into the superstitious disdain many hold for armadons, and had been unable to sell their iron for the price they’d sought. We gave them Atsin’s terms – 2,500 for this shipment, with a contract for full-price purchases for all future shipments.
Disappointed in our offer, Leila explained that another merchant, Sen Anoranfei of the Great Adventure caravan company, had offered them 5,000 silver for their shipment, but admitted that one of their runners who had gone to the Night Call for further information had not yet returned and they were getting concerned. More alarmingly, her people were getting sick, the illness starting almost as soon as they had entered the city. Some had already passed, while two more did not look like they would survive without rapid medical attention. Using the medical expertise I had learned from a life of hard frontier living, I assessed that from the symptoms, this appeared to be more of an allergy, or at least some sort of reaction, to something in the environment.
My associates and I agreed that the water the armadons were consuming was a likely culprit. Leila pointed us to the nearby well they’d been drawing from, but explained that their group had moved multiple times and drawn from multiple wells, yet more and more were falling ill. Inspecting the nearby well yielded little information, but with her knowledge of the old city’s layout, Tala recalled that such wells were fed by a series of reservoirs in the kaer portion of Ahtenko. Before we could descend and explore further, we heard a loud ringing sound, a bell getting closer and closer.
Electing to return to the armadons’ temporary home and assess the situation, we spotted a trio with a cart, led by a Tir elf named Melison, and representing the Enlightened Materials caravan company. She, too, looked over the diseased armadons and concluded that this was High Plains Fever. Her company would provide an inoculation to this disease to the armadons, as well as 2,500 silver, in exchange for their iron shipment. at which point I could no longer hold my silence. Such a lazy diagnosis would not help these people, and sickening one’s associates is never good business practice. I spoke up, exposing this quackery, and an intense debate ensued. Tala stepped in, calming the situation somewhat, and Leila made an offer – both caravan companies had until noon the following day to prove their case, and whoever prevailed would get their business.
Hurrying to an entrance to the under-levels, Dave quickly defeated the lock and we descended into the darkness. Unable to read an inscription written in firefly chalk, we had to rely on our own wits, finding several rooms filled with trash and filth, and a number of cave-ins. One such cave-in appeared minor enough to dig through, but wanting to explore our surroundings, we left it for later. Shortly thereafter, we stumbled into two drunk louts in rags, guarding the entrance to an area that we soon learned was their headquarters – apparently, a group of followers of Dzeh, led by a Thief Questor named Timon,, had holed up in the northwest part of this section of the old kaer. Gen convinced them to help us explore the partial cave-in, but after he reunited with the rest of us (exploring a more ominous abandoned portion of the maze-like kaer), we returned to the cave-in to find the two dead.
We soon encountered the cause of this death – giant rats, led by an enormous specimen. After the battle, Dave identified these creatures as Gloerats. DIspatching all of the vermin in what appeared to be an ancient feast hall, we proceeded to find the cistern feeding into the well system, with a suspicious backpack resting on the water’s edge. We found the backpack to be slashed open and spilling a powder (a strong pesticide turned lethal poison) into the water, finding the source of the armadons’ “illness” and speculating upon who might have planted this – perhaps one of our mercantile rivals?
Having solved the mystery, we opted to explore more of the unencountered portions of this level, finding a room that filled one’s head with paranoid whispers, an intersection that dizzied whoever passed through it into taking a wrong path, more cave-ins and a room full of skeletons holding jewel-encrusted goblets (wisely deciding not to disturb the dead). Beyond the dizzying intersection we found a large locked door, but upon defeating this lock we heard a ghastly growling noise and wisely decided to retreat. With only one room left to explore, a chamber beyond the ‘whispering room,’ we entered only to find some dessicated corpses and old tattered robes. However, upon attempting to leave, we were beset by shades…