The Time: 19 Anabasis, dusk
The Place: Altaruk Trade Fortress
The party, minus Jotano, is conducted to the gladiator barracks adjoining Bloodsand Arena. There they are kept in a cell normally reserved for slaves, and though they are stripped of equipment, they are promised its return before their trial in the morning, and Grik and Malak have daggers hidden on their persons. Before Tellemon leaves them for the night, Vinari reveals Cawthra as a wizard, and the aarakocra is dragged off by the watch to his own fate. The party hears that a halfling family a few cells down is to face a giant forest sloth the next day (winner eats the loser), but they remain unaware of the details of their own trial.
Outside, a disguised Jotano peruses goods in the elven market. He finds one dubious peddler, and after an innuendo-laden conversation, trades him the half-pound of iron for two doses of giant centipede venom. So armed, Jotano approaches a guard at the arena barracks, who he bribes with an “inspection fee”. Jotano asks the guard if he could see the next day’s combatants so he can know how to wager; the guard guides him into the cell area. At the Moonrunners’ cell, Jotano has one of the elves approach the bars, and pricks him with the Dexterity-draining venom while inspecting his arm muscles. After leaving the barracks, having no place to stay, Jotano finds a garden party being held at the House Rees compound. Disguising himself as a servant, the rogue seduces the hostess noblewoman, spending a night of passion with her. In the morning, he leaves with her copper necklace.
Grik, Vinari, Malak, and Nnn’tkk prepare for the trial. Charl, the local para-elemental priest of silt, attempts to convince the party to accept his blessings, but Vinari holds strong with his defense of the true, pure element of water. Grik is granted leave to visit the armory, where he swaps his macahuitls for an alak and alhulak to better accommodate his new trip-focused style, and he retrieves a bone chatkcha for Nnn’tkk. Captain Tellemon visits the group, explaining that it is not to be a simple fight to the death, although the losers will be sacrificed to appease the silt spirits: the party will appoint one member to throw a ball, or pelota, using a dejada glove. Throwing further is better, and an appointed runner will carry the pelota across the finish line for points. The other two team members are blockers, and are able to attack any opponent other than the thrower, although they can only use unarmed strikes or thrown pelotas. The party chooses Grik as their thrower and Malak as their runner, while Kaldras appoints himself as thrower. During the match, Kaldras consistently struck Vinari with his pelotas. Grik and Malak operated more efficiently, however, and Nnn’tkk finds that a limitation to fight unarmed is of little consequence when levied against a mantis-man with claws and venomous bite. Soon all the Moonrunners are dead save Kaldras, and Tellemon declares the party to be innocent. The wily trader attempts to flee the arena, but Jotano, who has been watching the match from the stands, leaps to the ground and finishes off Kaldras with his wrist razors.
As the crowd rejoices at a good show, Captain Tellemon informs the heroes they are to be granted all the Moonrunners’ possessions as compensation for unjust imprisonment, and sends Selonius, the governor’s scribe, down to show them the way. Before Selonius reaches them, Tellemon is hit in the throat by a crossbow bolt from an unseen assailant, and falls dead to the floor. Selonius, a slender half-elf, hurriedly tells the heroes to investigate the killing – the assassin may be someone within the watch, and it would be best to have outsiders working the case. With promises of good pay, the party immediately sets to work on the murder scene.