While Amalika heads back to the Council of the Eight Ruling Houses, Quarra hurries towards the Throne Room, Alvra and her sister close on her heels. She is greeted by chaos: the room is covered in sticky material and her siblings and an unknown, immobile male drow are glued to the ground. Cursing, Quarra dispels the magic web and – after listening to Phaedra’s report – sends the assassin off to the torture rack.
Quarra seems a bit nervous. Her door has also been tampered with, causing a fire spell to ignite. The situation is getting out of hand.
Once freed, Jharrath and the Scout start searching the mansion for the missing Treasury guard. They find him, cuffed, gagged and poisoned. The treasurer awakens – dizzy and nauseated – and tells them he left his post for food. When he came back, the other guard was missing and he was attacked from behind. The Scout senses there is more to his story and takes him to the interrogation room too.
Left your post for food? Your duty was to the Treasury, you miserable worm. You can take your turn when the other prisoner has spilled his guts.
Lilith sends the guard into the room, where Quarra and a bugbear overseer are interrogating the assassin. After extensive torture, the assassin finally breaks and mumbles ‘Demon’s Den’. Soon after he dies. The Treasury guard – next in line – soon admits to accepting a bribe and looking the other way. That seems to be all he knows though.
Phaedra once again sets out into the mansion, in search of the other missing Treasury guard. When she enters the Armory, she notices fresh blood on a large chest. She opens it and discovers the body of a drow warrior; she has found the missing guard, who has been stabbed to death, greenish poison oozing from a deep wound. The Scout pulls the body from the chest and orders a passing guard to secure the room and get slaves to clean up. She then checks the family kitchen. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, but she gives the order to leave everything as it is anyway.
In the meantime Alvra patrols the house, while the Wizard mingles with the guards to find out all they know about the Demon’s Den. Though the establishment is well known in Erelhei-Cinlu, it is not much spoken of. The Demon’s Den is a favorite hangout for rogues, situated in the Ghetto of Outcasts. It is led by Zaetha, a female drow who fell out of favor with Lolth after the Priest Wars. Zaetha is neutral and pragmatic, even for a drow.
The two guards Lilith sent out earlier, return to report to the Cleric. Although they haven’t found the missing cook, they did discover that Jevan has taken refuge at the Hide Away. Lilith sends slaves to find her sister and brothers with the orders to have them come to her room. When they arrive, she quickly informs them about the news on the cook and inquires after their knowledge of the Hide Away. Alvra and Jharrath know that the address changes every three months. Anyone can hide there; the only thing needed is money, much money. The fake inn has secret walls and double rooms and is run entirely by males. Females are not welcome there. The Hide Away is owned by Melash d’Valla, a half drow slumlord. After a short consideration, the Cleric sends the brothers into the Ghetto of Outcasts to bring back the cook, preferably in one piece. She withdraws thousand gold pieces from the Treasury in case they need to bribe their way to Jevan and orders them to hurry. They need to have more information on the Mask of the Matriarch before the Matron Mother returns.
The brothers go quickly, hiding the Xaniqos house symbol beneath their piwafwis, and arrive somewhat later at a nondescript house. Few people are sitting in the common room of the small tavern. Melash d’Valla walks up to them, almost dressed like a drow noble. He has quite an air for a half drow. Jharrath quickly comes to the point and offers Melash money in return for information on a fugitive drow who is known to be hiding at the Hide Away. The inn keeper looks puzzled and pretends not to know anything about it.
When the wizard’s diplomacy skills fail, he slams a bag of gold on the counter. The owner acts outraged at the allegations about hiding a runaway slave , but becomes more lenient when Jharrats threatens to expose his ‘secret’ business. The Xaniqos males are quickly led into another room, where they agree on the sum of eight hundred gold pieces for handing over escaped drow: four hundred in advance, the other half after they catch the run-away.
They follow Melash down into the cellar and find Jevan behind a hidden door. The cook – alerted by their voices – tries to make an escape. Jharrath quickly summons an earth elemental, which rushes Jevan against the wall. Alvra blocks the exit. Melash throws the wizard a rope, but before the cook can be bound, he tries to take a flask from his pocket. Alarmed, Jharrath calls out to the elemental and the creature immediately attacks. Jevan slowly collapses, the flask spilling a yellow, awful smelling liquid. The Wizard recognizes it as the skin of an Umberhulk, an uncommon poison.
Well, that brings the gold down to four hundred. This is a useless corpse. We will take the body with us.
Alvra accepts a sheet of canvas from the tavern keeper and wraps the former cook in it. They ascend the stairs again towards the common room, where the atmosphere has turned grim. The fighter carries the corpse back towards the Xaniqos mansion.