The World’s Evilest Balloon

Based on Ironbriar’s suggestion that Xanesha tended to spend nights in the city, Taeva and Veshenga decide to try scouting the clocktower. On arrival, they find that it’s even more run-down close up. Veshenga coaxes a nearby rat out and uses magic to speak with it, hearing a tale of terrible monsters in the tower, including a giant beast at the bottom and more faceless stalkers near the roof. He especially warns them about the “snake-woman” that lives there during the day. Taeva carefully climbs the outside of the tower, avoiding rotten masonry but letting her magical slippers do most of the work.

At the top of the tower, she finds a strangely comfortable-looking nest of silks and satins built up against an ancient statue of an angel. Moving very quietly to avoid alerting the stalkers below, she investigates and finds a woman’s makeshift boudoir in one corner of the rooftop room, a vicious looking longspear propped against the angel, and, with careful investigation, a scroll secreted amongst the pillows. She takes this document and heads back down. Over the rest of the evening, she and Veshenga transcribe the scroll and find that it’s a list of names. Many of them are crossed out: victims of the local murders in Magnimar and Sandpoint. Others Taeva recognizes from her research at the tax office as rich and potentially greedy. The jewel of the list is none other than the Lord-Mayor himself, and the back of the scroll features extensive details about his daily routines, guard schedules, and the fortifications of his home. After copying as much of the list as is practical, Taeva sneaks back to the tower and plants it back as closely as possible to the way she found it.

The next morning, the group gathers and begins sharing information and planning. Suddenly, a creepy feeling settles on the party, and Balekh is able to isolate it to Taeva. They bring out the Sihedron Medallion that she took from Nualia, and the sensation suddenly ends as if someone scrying on them had cut off the connection. Taeva sets the amulet on the table and immediately feels a weight lifted from her; she had been sensing a low-level foreboding and feeling of being watched for weeks. Balekh pockets the medallion for later inspection. Convinced that it is, once again, safe to speak, the party discusses the information they found. They decide that it’s too soon to bring this to the attention of Grobaras, and that it’s a bad idea to attack during the day. Instead, they plan to wait for that evening.

During the day, Taeva and Veshenga decide to watch the Lord-Mayor’s house just in case, and eventually notice a handful of men that seem shady and out of place that are turned away from the gate. They follow these men across the city and eventually track them to a sawmill. A nearby mole is accosted by the gnome, and it tells them that it has no intention of scouting the mill, as it smells of sawdust and blood. Reasonably certain that they’ve found the sawmill that is Ironbriar’s base of operations, they head back.

Meeting again that evening, the party decides that the clock tower is still the bigger threat, but intend to check out the mill later. They detect another wave of scrying from the medallion that is in Balekh’s pouch, and he manages to spin a tale for the listener (presumably Xanesha) that they are at loose ends and having a hard time figuring out what to do next. Once the scrying ends, they set out to invade her house.

At the clocktower, Taeva ascends with a rope and, after several false starts, they’re all able to get to the top. Unfortunately, Balekh is not the stealthiest of climbers, and shortly after he makes it to the top, faceless stalkers begin boiling onto the roof. Haggor flings one off the building to splatter on the ground below, another is exploded on the floor, and the third runs but is shot to death by Veshenga before it can make it far into the tower. It balloons up and then pops in a fountain of gore that falls to the bottom of the tower.

Taeva uses magic to clean up the signs of their struggle on the roof while the rest of the party collects the dangerous-looking spear and the notes that Taeva had planted the night before. The spear gets hidden underneath the roof, but Balekh plans to create an illusion of it to hopefully buy them time during the inevitable fight. The party settles in to wait: Haggor and Balekh hide in the belfry below, watching the roof through the ladder hole, Veshenga hides behind the statue of the angel, and Taeva snuggles in beneath the pillows and silk of the lamia’s nest.