28 Mirtul 1367 DR
“Do you think they’ll stop?” asked Karn.
“They had better. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d beat the shit out of them.” Dona gestured across the street at Warehouse 54. “Now let’s get down to business. At least one of my sisters is in that building.”
“From what you’ve all told me, Cloakmaster Jarvis is the regional leader of the Shadow Thieves.” Dunkle made sure Bleeder was loose in its scabbard. “I’m sure this compound is heavily guarded. We should approach this carefully. Discretely. Perhaps there are sewers that we can use to access the warehouse.”
“Oh to the Nine bloody Hells with that,” said Dona. “I’m tired of this sneaking around and political maneuvering bullshit. Let’s just get this done.”
“Aye, we should face this challenge head on. We have the might of Torm backing our actions.” The paladin brought his glaive down from his shoulder and strode across the street to the warehouse’s double doors.
“No, wait,” called Lyr. “Dunkle brings up a logical point,” added Dexter.
The street resounded with the thudding of Karn’s glaive butt against the doors. “In the name of Torm, open these doors and face us!”
Several minutes paced with no answer.
Finally, Karn reached down and tried the doors. They were unlocked and slide open quite easily.
“Hold on,” said Dexter, rushing over to grab the paladin before he could rush in. “Let’s at least send Vesper to scout it out.”
As the heroes held positions outside the warehouse, the wizard sent his bat familiar inside to scope things out. The warehouse contained aisles formed from crates and barrels, and there was a small office in the back. But there was no one actually inside the building.
The adventurers proceeded carefully into the building, checking the area carefully, before entering the office. There they found a bookcase slightly pulled out from the wall where it hid a secret passage. Inside the passage they found metal staircase leading straight down into the darkness.
“Looks like we go down,” Karn said. “Some light if you will?”
Dexter made a few gestures and muttered a short arcane phrase, causing the tip of paladin’s glaive to emanate light.
At the bottom of the staircase, they found a tunnel that lead to a door. Lyr wisely rushed ahead before Karn – or Dona – could reach the door, and pressed his ear up against it.
“I hear voices,” he whispered to his companions. “Let’s go in ready.” The heroes took up their standard battle formation, and Karn opened the unlocked door.
Inside they found a room with five men standing in it. They had the look of experienced cutthroats: black leather armor, rapiers, shortswords, and a certain bearing. At their feet lay the bloody bodies of perhaps a dozen bugbears.
The men – no, two were women – stopped their conversation, dropped their hands to weapons, and faced the heroes. One of the females chuckled. “It’s you. You’re a little late. We’re already taking care of Jarvis.”
The heroes stare back in surprise for a moment before Dona responds, “What do you mean? We’re here to take care of Jarvis.”
“Yes,” said the female. “Like I said, you’re late. We expected agents of the Xanathar to be more sensitive to the timeliness of eliminating Jarvis, but we were mistaken.”
“Xanathar? What’s that?”
The cutthroats laughed. “That’s who you work for, my dear,” the woman said to Dona.
“No, we work for the Red Sashes.”
The laughing intensified. “My dear,” the woman said. “If you worked for the Red Sashes, believe me, we would know. We are the Red Sashes.”
“Okay, what the hell’s going on around here?” shouted Dona. “I’ve had enough of this shit.”
“There is no need to shout, I assure you.” An immaculately dressed dwarf with well-oiled beard and hair exited a hallway on one side of the room. He was flanked by several more of the cutthroats. “Greetings, I am Dain Flintlock, an agent of the Red Sashes, and it sounds like you have been duped by the Xanathar.”
“Damn it, who’s the Xanathar?”
“They are a criminal organization,” said Dexter to his companion.
Lyr nodded. “Bad news.”
“Indeed,” the dwarf said. “The Xanathar are involved in any number of illegal activities, but foremost among them is slave trading. And you all have been working for them whether you realize it or not.”
“But we’ve been wiping out the Shadow Thieves at the behest of Etis Bright, a member of the Red Sashes.” Karn pushed open the visor of his helmet to better see this dwarf.
“Etis Bright is a known agent of the Xanathar,” Dain replied.
“It sounds like this Xanathar has been using you all in a sort of turf war,” Dunkle said. “And you all have been taking out their competition.”
Dain nodded. “So it would seem.”
“That flaming bagger! I’ll chop off his head!” Dona’s large muscles trembled in rage.
“And it sounds like we are too late,” Dexter said. “You have already dispatched the Cloakmaster, I presume?”
“Not quite.” Dain shook his head. “Jarvis fled before we could confront him. We’re bringing in a wizard now to find out where he went.”
And that wizard arrived just about then. It turned out to be Fea Entorchul, one of Dexter’s very own instructors at the Entorchul Academy and a powerful wizard. Using powerful detection magic, she ascertained that Cloakmaster Jarvis had fled to the astral plane.
The heroes, especially Dona who wanted to find her sister, all wanted to deal with Jarvis themselves. Dain offered no objections, and the wizard was soon casting powerful magic upon them that would send them to the astral plane.
The wizard had given them a Gem of Returning, and as the heroes shifted away from their home plane to the astral plane, she called out, “And whatever you do, don’t lose that gem!”
Blackness momentarily clouded the heroes’ vision, and when it cleared, they found themselves floating in a vast void. Silver emptiness stretched in all directions as far as they could see, and thousands of motes of light, almost like stars, twinkled in the distance.
Far away they could see a massive object moving through the void, trailing a wake of fire and debris. Closer they saw a smaller object, clearly a gigantic rock.
“I suspect we’ll find Jarvis on the smaller rock,” said Dexter. “Remember, here on this plane movement is a matter of will, not physics. Simply use your mind to—“
The wizard was cut off as a ballista bolt soared over his head.
In the distance the heroes saw a large alien ship, similar to a sailing vessel but with foreign, otherworldly protrusions, flying through the void toward them. Humanoid figures moved about the decks, and they saw ballista being aimed their way.
“I think Jarvis already found us,” Karn said.
No one could argue with the paladin’s point this time.