The party makes and finds trouble their first night in town.
The day is gone. Orryn is deteriorating. He's taken everything, the whole weight of the last month and a half, and balanced it beyond his reach on two pints of liquor. Balcazar and Hardy can't move him so they let him be, butt half-off his stool, and leave him behind to wander the neighboring streets. They try not go beyond the strength of their spatial memories. The area is a maze.
They've learned the bartender's name. It's Lany. He's spent his time milling about the room uncomfortably. Balcazar and Hardy return. It's late. Lany suggests they all find lodging. He needs to close for the evening. He says he might know of a place and he'll ask a friend for directions. He ducks out of the front and disappears. Orryn has opened up a bit and is trying a handstand on the bar. He falls.
Lany returns with directions. He recites them to the group, but the party doesn't like his monotone delivery. It seems fake. They don't trust his intent and believe he is sending them into a trap.
Balcazar determines the best way to truth is through intimidation. He seizes Lany by his tunic and pulls his body close. He projects the severity of consequence if Lany doesn't tell the party what's going on and why. Lany can't take it. He crumbles, passes out. Orryn reaches into the folds of his clothes to find his purse and take back his money.
When Lany comes up into reality, he's frightened and pliable. The party asks what's going on. Lany apologizes, says that he gets a few coin for sending the occasional rich Dwarf in the direction his handler wants. Sometimes it's to one of the business centers where Dwarves go for drugs and sex. Sometimes it's to a location where they'll get mugged. It depends on the mark.
"It's the only way to make a living.", Lany says. "My family has to eat. Volunteering to work for the Dwarves is worse than death. You'll end up with a head and a half or crazy or crippled."
Lany is a small time player in a bigger world. He hadn't seen a gold coin until Orryn gave him one.
Balcazar asks for directions to one of the euphemistic business centers and Lany provides directions. They begin to leave but then decide it would be best if Lany brought them there. Lany doesn't want to, he's scared to, but he's more scared to refuse.
In route, the party hears a series of short, timed whistles from the nearby cascading rooftops. The sounds are bright but low volume, and might be easy for someone to miss. They ask Lany and he says there's Ferranian Admins around. That's the general term the humans give to any of the Dwarves, weapons or not, that come into their area to shake down or kill. Lany says, "lets take it slow".
The party assumes the Admins must be looking for them. They've tricked a scout and who knows what Wacha has done.
They approach the business district. There are a few bars in the street ahead. There's a Dwarf, wandering and drunk, yelling and singing, trying to start fights with the Humans.
A pair of thugs look on. They spot the party, approach, and demand money. A third steps from behind a sheet-hidden door to the back of the party, flanking them. One of the first pair steps forward. "Give me your purse", he says "Give me your purse."
He's trying to intimidate the party, but it doesn't work. Balcazar isn't going to give in, and Orryn's buzz has faded and he's pissed. The thugs make the first move, the party the last. The party kills two. The third, sprints away.
From down the street of the thug's disappearance, an explosion. The party catches the outer edge of a flash of fire. The party pauses and moves to the side of edge of the road, crouched and ready to escape into an adjacent small gap between buildings if required.
The cause breaks into view. It's a Dwarven scout riding one of the fiendish war ponies. Drips of fire spill from its mouth. The scout spots the party and canters ahead. A second mounted scout comes into view. The first raises his hand to cast and the party quickly turns into the space behind them.
The party squeezes down the passageway. The ground rounds into an open channel, which becomes an open sewer of milky liquid and black human waste. They straddle sides as best they can. They reach an opening, the crossroads of a wider passageway. They look behind them. A scout looks on, but the passageway is too narrow for his mount to proceed.
From the party's new position, Hardy makes out a small bead of light streaking towards the scouts from a concealed, third-story wall, and the brief receding glimpse of a tall figure in a draped traveling robe. The streak ends in the space between the scouts and erupts into engulfing ball of blue electric flame, encompassing both scouts. The force blows both off their mounts. The party doesn't wait to see if they're still alive. They sprint to their right.
Left, right, left, left. They choose directions randomly. They're now well away from the main road but thoroughly confused on how to return.
A man is running along the spilled pile of a collapsed building, towards the party. He's short, slight, and in dark flax clothing. He gestures at the party to stop and he approaches out of breath.
His first words, "I can hide you."
The party doesn't trust him or anyone but continue to listen. "Stop please. I can hide you. You're really got to get out of here. Ferranian scouts find everyone. You're going to get killed if you keep running around in the open."
The man pleads. The party listens but they're instinctively cautious. Trust can lead to death, but then of course, so can the opposite. He doesn't project need like Lany did. Hardy believes him. They listen for a few minutes and weigh their risks. The least risky choice may be to follow and so they do.
They don't have time to talk. The party extracts his name, Bjar, but they immediately take off in a jog, cutting off further questions. Bjar says to keep close and they head further into the slums.
Everyone arrives at a door covered by a sheet of metal. Bjar moves it aside, and behind is a simple, one-room dwelling. It's clean but Spartan. There's a small, hand-made stove in the corner and a couple piles of neatly stacked clothing and food. "Safe house," he says.
He gets out a piece of metal, scrapes away at the floor in the corner until he reveals a tarp and pull it aside to reveal a trap door. He opens it. Below is a small room, large enough to huddle in but too small to stand. Does the party believe in his mercy? He could trap them and call the Admins.
Hardy steps forward and lets himself down into the space. Then Balcazar and Orryn. Bjar lets the drop door down. The party is in complete darkness. They hear the pull of cloth and the shuffle of the dirt above. There's additional noise. It sounds like something else is being placed on top of the trapdoor.
Time drags. Balcazar lies down to sleep. In the far corner of their room, there are small bits of movement. A pair of rats emerge from a little forearm-sized tunnel to explore the party. Orryn tries to court the one of the rats and make it his animal companion.
There's a loud knock above them. The party can hear two Admins enter and loudly interrogate Bjar. Bjar parries the abuse and convinces them that he has seen nothing, that someone in the business district grabbed him. Bjar's an excellent liar. They're not quite sure how to think about their current situation, given his talents.
They leave. Nothing happens. More time passes. According to Orryn, it's another hour, but he's been distracted by the rats of which he now says one is his friend.
There's a loud scrape above their heads. Material is moved, tarp removed, trapdoor opened, and the party blinks into the stove-lite room. Bjar says it's safe to come out.
They party stumbles out. They're exhausted. It's been nearly a twenty-four hour day. Bjar says we can talk in the morning. He helps the party unroll their equipment, Bjar leaves, and quickly everyone falls into hard sleep.