TH-TH-THUD goes 75% of the party as they exit the time bubble at 9pm. There is a tinkle as various gold coins spill out of their bulging backpacks, past their prone forms, and onto the cavern floor. Zhara considers her options atop a small mountain of unforetold wealth, but before long, an Elven nobleman arrives into the sunrod light. It is Lien’s contact, Varis.
Barely conscious, Lien reported the day’s and previous day’s events, glossing over various non-flattering aspects. Varis then advised Zhara that the only way out of the bubble was to roll the fortitude and endurance saves. THUD
After waking up in the lair, eating the wholesome breakfast laid out by their Elven guards, the party temporarily forgets about the hoard. Outside, the grey mists of dawn lift as they meet Lien and a helpful sparrow messenger which whispers a congratulatory message and directions to the next meeting with Lien’s contacts – The Red Cross (or Le Croix Rouge if you’re snooty).
Wait, wait… Now they remember about the dragon’s lair. And the Loots. Squabble ensues as they enter the city with bulging backpacks of gp. Somewhere in Novale, Nakor taps his foot.
After a little window shopping, the party goes to the Red Cross cafe in the inner ring for lunch. They recognise the dragonborn soldier from Laval’s estate idling by the bar. There appear to be no Red Cloaks. Sitting down with Varis, the party gets their next assignment vaguely outlined for them, on assurance that when further intelligence comes to hand, they will be promptly informed. Due to Lien’s public profile in Caldera City, however, Varis removes him from the party as observer. Lien sulks off, probably to get smashed, and the party is told to find their next attache in Novale.
The party interrogated Nakor for a bit, wary of the lack of information from Varis, and then set off back to loot central for an afternoon of experimentation. They toil into the night to figure out a way to get their wondrous items out, but finally they achieve the impossible and get all the items out (hooray!). The metals have serious cases of rust pox, and the cloth and leather smell like expensive cooking oil, but they’re otherwise intact.
As the last oily item is lifted across the time barrier, word comes from Varis that the Red Cloaks have discovered the location of the cave, and every effort must be made to conceal the time magic and the black & gold ritual book. Varis presses a scroll on which is the address of Gael Moncrief, the most powerful wizard in Acanthia, into their hands. The party races on horseback to the city.
The party suspects they will be followed, so they take the backstreet way to the residential part of the middle ring district. Weaving towards their destination, they manage to lose a few Red Cloak tails as well as cap one in the face. “Booyah!” Lilith cried as the sentry dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Gael and his “secretary” take some convincing, but a few intimidate checks and a 4000gp bribe later, the party are close to nabbing their target. Just some paperwork to be done in the barracks nearby… Oh, whoops, I guess Gael works for the Red Cloaks! And the nearest ranking officer is bunking up with a platoon of mercenaries. Will hilarity ensue?
This particular Red Cloak isn’t on the lookout for the party, so all goes well until a Red who is comes up and starts talking. Before arrows start flying, Borja volunteers to be insurance while the rest of the party (except Zhara who is keeping watch in a nearby alley).
Borja is taken upstairs into a holding room, and Zhara takes out her grappling hook and twirls it silently. Nakor and Lilith escort Gael towards their horses at the western gate.
“Didn’t you say the cave was in the southern valley?”
Shit. No amount of assurance will calm the wizard, and even Nakor’s knowledge of the Literati watchwords doesn’t convince him he’s safe. Lightning bolts flare from Gael’s wand as he bids a hasty retreat. Between him and the Elf and Eladrin suddenly comes… Borja?
As it turns out, the most powerful wizard in the city under the protection of a powerful underground syndicate did have a bodyguard. A good one. Nakor and Lilith soon find themselves over the unconscious body of Gael as an invisible doppleganger threatens them with sneak attacks where the sun don’t shine.
Meanwhile, Zhara has hit the lights with his Darkskull. Borja, unable to break out of the holding room without being seen, teleports into the hall. After a brief encounter with a poor human guard who gets dailies, encounters, and an action point thrown at him, Borja has regaied his weapons and Zhara has gracefully chucked her grappling hook through the upstairs window. Some more broken glass and a downwards shimmy later, the two of them are running top speed towards the Western Gate.
By this time, the Elf and Eladrin have revived their quarry and are headed to the Western Gate as well, under the watchful eye of the doppleganger, who has now assumed her secretary form. Lilith catches a brief glimpse of Borja retreating into the shadows behind them, and for a brief, panic-filled moment imagines that the secretary is the real Borja and has teleported back to… No, wait, that would be silly.
Back at the cave, the preparations for the counter-ritual are complete, with no signs of the Red Cloaks yet. Gael’s escort arrives, and the ceremony begins. The doppleganger is invisible somewhere, but Varis appears to have calmed her down into non-murder-mode.
As the escapee party arrives and the ritual is underway, the party notices everyone getting a little sleepier than 5am calls for. Time passes, and there is a sighting of maybe 2 humanoid silhouettes headed towards the cave that the Elven guards cannot account for. The Elves get sleepier and sleepier, even collapsing. It dawns on Varis and the party that the time zone is somehow extending its effects over the whole of Acanthia and a lot of built-up time is now unravelling.
The ritual is stopped by a threatening gesture from “hats on hats off” Borja, and Varis quickly orders everyone out of the cavern. The humanoids have been momentarily thrown off the cave by some Elven skirmishers, and the party and Varis’ elves flee into the night.