The Time: 20 Anabasis, mid-morning
The Place: Altaruk Trade Fortress
As Bloodsand Arena swarms with panicked spectators and nervous guardsmen trying to contain them, Vinari and Malak sprint to the dais where lies the corpse of Captain Tellemon. As they mount the sandstone steps, Cawthra Cloudseeker drops out of the sky, telling Vinari in no uncertain terms that fate has brought them together and that he will brook no further betrayals.
Grik, Jotano, and Nnn’tkk secure the exits as the others attend the body. Malak steals Tellemon’s obsidian longsword. Vinari examines the crossbow bolt, which he finds to be wrapped in papyrus, on which a rapidly vanishing message reads DEATH TO KING KALAK – Vinari keeps this to himself. He also sees that the bolt and wound are coated in a residue of green paste. Cawthra notes this is a poison made from local cacti, and that it requires arcane magic to create. Meanwhile, with the aid of a zone of truth from Vinari, Malak interrogates several nearby witnesses. One of them, a guardsman, mentions that a towering mul clad in a white tunic had approached the captain during the trial, and that after Tellemon had fallen, the guard saw the mul fleeing toward the gladiator barracks.
Before tracking down their lead, the party gets to the important business of getting their rewards. The rogues take the lead in this, finding that the late Kaldras’s equipment is in the arena stable not far from their own gear stashed on Vinari’s erdlu-drawn cart. Arriving there, they meet Areela, chieftainess of the Moonrunners, and an entourage of her tribesmen. Areela, having examined Kaldras’s cargo, says that he had been sent to procure iron in Tyr, but apparently had been hoodwinked with counterfeit goods made of ceramic. To recoup his losses, he must have decided to attempt to enslave his caravan guards. Areela bears the party no ill will for Kaldras’s death, as a procurer so easily swindled is of little use to her tribe, but nonetheless insists that at least some of his goods go to the Moonrunners. Her warriors eye the heroes tensely as Jotano and Malak haggle with her; eventually the party comes out with a kank, 100 gallons of water, about two pounds of iron, and a variety of other mundane gear. Jotano goes on a jaunt out of the barracks and purchases a dwarf slave, offering him a choice between the names Moradin and Slobberfist. The dwarf chooses Moradin.
Finally getting to the matter at hand, the group goes to the barracks, where Jotano speaks to a dim-witted guard, asking about any strange persons. The guard mentions a crazy old dwarf beggar named Birk Suntouched, but says he’s harmless. Pressing on into the yard, the heroes spot a disheveled dwarf muttering to himself who seems to be keeping an eye on them. Shadowed by the groups, Birk wanders into the adjoining training hall, where he approaches a white-clad mul at least six and a half feet tall: the heroes know they have their men, and battle is joined, Birk lunging at a weapons rack for a polearm and the mul brandishing a warhammer. The clash is brief, as Cawthra casts grease on Birk’s weapon, sending it flying from his hands, and Vinari casts hold person on the mul. Surrendering, the conspirators swear that they’re working for Arisphistaneles. All eight of them make for the governor’s keep.
Within, Selonius guides them to the governor’s solar, where they find a comfortable office. The governor’s desk is covered in scrolls (rare in much of Athas, where reading is illegal), and features a small flower in a vase, a show of opulence in the harsh desert. The bald tunic-clad Arisphistaneles receives the heroes, and acknowledges that Birk is one of his agents in town, although he knew nothing of a plan to kill Captain Tellemon. Birk explains that Tellemon was secretly an agent of a Tyrian templar named Hasaval, and was planning to assassinate Arisphistaneles because he suspected the governor of having ties to the Veiled Alliance. Vinari recognizes the name Hasaval as a known rival to High Templar Tithian within Kalak’s templarate. All that said, the governor reveals that he is in fact the head of Altaruk’s Veiled Alliance, and that he is glad to know of Hasaval’s plot. Out of a side room comes Banoc, who congratulates Cawthra on his success.
The governor rewards the heroes as Selonius promised for investigating Tellemon’s death, and says that he has another job for them to embark on the next day: the town has been plagued with “wind sickness”, a magical disease brought upon them by a House M’ke caravan from the City-State of Raam. Charl’s silt magic is not strong enough to heal the sickness; the only spellcaster powerful and near enough to help is a dwarven druid called Kesi, who rules a nearby oasis. The heroes are to leave at dawn and recruit her aid by whatever means prove necessary.