The party pulls itself back together after the run-in with orcs. The green-grey bodies are scattered around the road and among some of the boulders nearby. When searched, it’s found that each of the younger orcs was carrying a large sack of silver coins, a total of 8 270 sp. The leader of the pack had a vial of some sort of potion hanging around his neck, which Sudifi identifies as a Potion of Shape Change, though he can’t tell what shape the drinker will take. Hagop takes the leader’s scimitar, whose hilt and blade are carved with orcish writing. They consider heading back to get treatment for their hurt allies, but decide it would be better to press on.
The next night, they reach the rock where they are supposed to meet the moss woman. They arrive later than expected, due to the two injured militiamen, not to mention Sudifi always hobbling around with his bum leg. However, their contact is still there waiting and they devise a plan. About two miles from Mayn-am-Leit, they chop down some trees to build a large raft. The mule, the war dog, and the two injured militiamen are to stay put while the rest journey on. The rest of them get on the raft and the moss woman directs them across the Troltliern River, where they can walk less than a mile south to the White River, which she tells them can take them to the heart of the city undetected. Bouya uses a pole to move them through the shallow water, but his inexperience with it causes them to travel further downstream than they had wanted. Luckily, other moss people were keeping the trees occupied, so they didn’t notice when the raft landed across the river from them. They portage the raft south and push themselves into the water. Bouya manages, with much difficulty, to get them to the far southern side of a small island that lies in the intersection of the Troltliern and White Rivers. Out of view of the trees or anyone else in Mayn-am-Leit’s mainland that may be watching them in the middle of the night, they pull the raft ashore to explore the island portion of the city.
The island itself is fairly small, just under a mile long and about half a mile across at its widest. There is a pier on the northern side, where Troltliern spills into the White River, and an old fort at the eastern tip. There are a large number of what appear to have been stone buildings that were destroyed years ago, with rubble everywhere, and a mostly crumbled stone wall around the western, northern, and eastern coasts. Upon closer inspection, they find that much of the damage came from attacks from the north, where the mainland city stands. The other damage they find seems to come from the center of the island itself, as if something exploded there and blew the island’s structures apart – there are still burn marks on a number of stones surrounding the dirt-filled area where the explosion probably originated. They find no life here – vegetable, human, or otherwise. Continuing their exploration, they move to enter the fort, a hulking stone triangle that looks hundreds of years older than anything else on the island.
Assfacé finds an entrance on the northern edge of the western wall and peaks inside. There he sees a large courtyard full of weeds, the first sign of life on this desolate grey land. Seeing nobody inside that would be hostile to them, the party saunters into the fort. That’s when they notice the runes. Along the upper part of the walls inside the courtyard, there are hundreds of runes – each one approximately two feet tall and glowing a faint blue. Sudifi isn’t happy with what he sees. “Runes on the inside instead of the outside? It seems like they’re trying to keep something IN.” Bouya inspects them closer and determines that they are magical runes of protection of some sort, though he can’t tell what or whom they are protecting.
On the opposite side of the courtyard is a building they presume to be the keep. And in the center of the courtyard is a small stone structure, six feet tall and 18 feet on a side. It has runes all around it, also, though slightly smaller than the ones on the courtyard wall and of different designs. Hagop and Assfacé approach it to get a better look and notice that no grass or weeds grow within two feet or so of the smooth stone building. Sudifi is not nearly as curious as the rest of them and leaves the fort – he feels safer waiting outside among the rubble and dirt than in that fort of glowing mystery. Hagop can’t help himself, though, and puts his hand on the stone and finds it to be hot to the touch, though it doesn’t heat up the air around it at all. He knocks on it and finds that it makes virtually no sound, as if it is solid, dense rock. Bouya tries to read the runes, but can only tell that they are another kind of magical protection.
Assfacé is getting bored with the runes and the little building and decides to climb the northern wall and see what’s happening on the mainland now that the sun is starting to come up. He sees the trees around the city, as he expected, but also some activity in the northeastern neighborhood, where the buildings look like they were larger before whatever happened to destroy the landscape. From his new vantage point, he also sees that there is a large design carved into the top of the mysterious stone building down below. A five-pointed star is inscribed within an eight-pointed star, and it is glowing just like the other runes around it. He hops down and tells everyone what he saw and they decide that now is not the time to figure this thing out. They head out to where Sudifi is hiding out and all lay down for a rest before continuing on to the mainland.
After a few hours, they wake up and make their way by raft down the White River to the piers of Mayn-am-Leit, well outside the view of the trees they have been trying so hard to avoid. There they find two trading vessels docked. They are both empty of crew but full of crates. Hagop tries to sneak aboard one of the ships to inspect the crates, but makes a terrible racket doing so. He pries a crate open and finds it full of fine linens, exactly like the ones made in Alred. Assfacé, keeping a watchful eye on the city while his small friend breaks into the ship, hears some scurrying coming from behind a building a few blocks inland. He and Hagop make their way back to the rest of their allies at the foot of the pier and they all decide to investigate the noises.
Assfacé takes charge and leads them down rubble-strewn streets to when he hears movement in a back alley. A block away from the alley they find three ratmen, swords in hand, trying to sneak up on them from a side street. A block back, where the rest of the party is bringing up the rear, two more ratmen appear down another street. Up in front, Assfacé and Bouya try to lay low to see what the ratmen will do, while in the rear Hagop attempted to talk the rats out of their aggression.
A ratman lunges at Bouya, attempting to wrestle him into submission. Bouya is quick, though, and throws a bolt of flame at him before he could get too close. The rat ignites and drops in a pool of blood and singed hair. The other two ratment, seeing their friend murdered in front of them, rush out from the side street and make their way toward Assfacé. The Saurian is quick, though, and grabs one of his attackers, trying to protect himself. The two crossbowmen, standing a good twenty feet behind Bouya, fire at the other assailant while Bouya throws another bolt at the rat in Assfacé’s grasp. Both are killed instantly, without harming Assfacé, thankfully. As luck would have it, this all happened fast enough that the two ratmen down the street didn’t hear any of it and dealt with Hagop and Sudifi in blissful ignorance. Bouya and Assfacé quickly hide the bodies before the others find out.
Hagop sheaths his sword and raises his hand. He tells the ratmen that he and his allies mean them no harm.
“Pirates?” the ratmen ask, in strange hoarse and hissing voices.
“No. Not…um…not pirates. Friends?” Hagop replies, not sure if they understand him. The ratmen look aggitated but seem to lower their swords slightly.
Sudifi thinks for a brief moment before pulling a potion out and drinking it quickly. He approaches from behind Hagop and engages the ratmen.
“We are not pirates. We are here to gather information about this city,” he says in perfect rat-speech, even mimicing their local dialect. “Who are you?”
“Us? Who are you? We heard someone attempting to man our ships, so we thought there were pirates. My name is Krthlun, and this is my brother Sruuptil.” The ratmen seem to be more at ease now that they can speak clearly. They lower their weapons.
“We are just traveling to gather information. How long have you all lived here in this city?”
“How long? For many many years.”
“I see. Who was here before you? Whose city was this?”
“What do you mean before us? Nobody. This is our city. We’re from here.”
Sudifi feels like he isn’t getting anywhere with this line of questioning. “Who is your leader? May we speak with him?” Sudifi asks.
“You wish to speak with our leader?” The ratmen look at each other and mumble a few words back and forth. “I suppose we could be convinced to allow that. Convinced with gold, if you know what I mean.” They snicker as if this is the most clever thing they’ve ever done.
“Fine. Whatever. How much?”
“Ten?” They seem surprised that asking for a bribe worked.
“Alright, here.” Sudifi hands over ten gold pieces as the ratmen chuckle like they just got away with some great con.
“Meet us here tonight. After sunset. No weapons. We’ll take you to Ti-Krin.”
Sudifi agrees to the arrangement. With that, the ratmen scuffle back down the street and Sudifi explains the deal to the rest of the group. Tonight they will get to meet with the head of the ratmen of the city of Mayn-am-Leit. Hopefully, they will get some answers.