Picking up supplies and ordering weapons, the party spent three days topside in Freeport. At times they caught glimpses of someone following them, but each time lost track of the suspected Lotus Dragon. Keahilani and Shea escorted Lavinia as she attempted to collect on her parents’ debts. Gupta Tilsdar, a cleric of Belon the Wise, god of Travel, joined them. An old friend of Lavinia’s parents, Gupta had owed them a debt and now intended to repay it by helping the party find Vanthus.
With their new comrade in tow, they decided the entrances to the Lotus Dragon Guildhall known to them might be guarded or trapped. They avoided the well and the abandoned buildings in favor of paying a visit to the taxidermist. Nemian Roblach was easy enough to find, though the snooty taxidermist quickly became disinterested in them once it was apparent they were not paying customers. Nemian advised Zuka Zuka and Ono that he knew of someone who made a skin cream that might clear up their “condition.” For a moment, the party admired the stuffed owlbears, centipedes and wyrmling dragons. Then Ono demanded that Roblach take them to the Lotus Dragons. The shopkeeper dissembled and claimed they were made. However, Bertram, attempting to close a back door, noticed six thugs waiting to pounce.
Bertram pulled shut the door and held it tight. Nemian panicked. Ono and Zuka Zuka lost patience, nearly beating him to death. The taxidermist proved to be a capable wizard and turned invisible. Taxidermed animals began to animate, the owlbear and giant scorpion attacking Aleister and Zuka Zuka. Gupta looked on in horror, questioning the wisdom of beating a shopkeeper, but recovered when he saw the thugs burst into the room. Lotus Dragons dual-wielding quarterstaves began to pummel Ono, Bertram and Zuka Zuka. The dajobasu brothers pummeled the animated creatures, but they seemed invincible. Bertram blew holes in several thugs while Aleister put them to sleep or dazed them. As Zuka Zuka and Ono slew the remaining thugs, Aleister finally realized the taxidermed monsters were illusions and warned the party. At that moment, Nemian reappeared and disabled several in the party with a Color Spray spell. But it was too late for Nemian. Ono knocked him unconscious while Gupta healed Roblach so that he could be questioned.
After many threats, Nemian admitted he took kickbacks from the Lotus Dragons, claiming he was now a dead man for talking to them. He described the head Lotus Dragon as the “Boss Lady” and claimed she had some sort of dragon as a pet. They tied and gagged the wizard and locked him in a closet. They robbed him blind before descending into the Lotus Dragon guildhall.
They found themselves in a part of the guildhall they hadn’t seen before. The tunnel led into a tidepool system connected to the ocean. Gingerly avoiding the carpet of sea urchins, they headed into deeper water where they were attacked by strange, toothy ray-like creatures (later identified as ixixatchitls). Bertram fired his weapon, but quickly fell into the water after their vicious bites. Aleister put some to sleep and Zuka Zuka and Ono began to smash them as Gupta saved Bertram. They found a smuggler’s dock connected to the ocean and reconnected with tunnels they had seen on their prior trip. There was little resistance, thought ten Lotus Dragons did attempt an ambush and were quickly cut down.
Now-abandoned barracks, training rooms and kitchens greeted them. They found a map chamber indicating allies, enemies and centers of profit as well as notes indicating possible jobs; their own names were listed with instructions to Vanthus: “TAKE CARE OF THIS NOW!” On another note were scribblings about a power vacuum in the ambergris trade in Port Shaw. Bertram’s face lit up. In one area, a zombie minotaur attached them but, thankfully, was put down before it could connect with its enormous great axe. A spider-like rhagodessa was locked in a storage closet but was also quickly destroyed.
They continued into the heart of the guildhall and, at last, entered a lavish, larger chamber with plastered walls painted in shades of lavender. A large collection of stuffed animals sat against one wall and miscellaneous trinkets were heaped in another corner. A settee and large table were on the southern wall. Six thugs with quarterstaves blocked their way. A beautiful red-headed human woman sneered at them from the back of the chamber. This was the “boss lady.” “You’ve caused quite a commotion and cost me much. But I’m suitably impressed. How about you join the Lotus Dragons and turn this into something grander?” She began to whistle a catchy tune.
The party wasn’t tempted and insulted the red-head. She sneered again and yelled, “Gut Tugger – do plan A.” They attacked in full-force. First, Aleister cast Web and trapped the boss lady and several thugs. Things appeared easy at first. Bertram left gory wounds in the thugs with his firearm and the barbarian twins began to cut the thugs down. Then Kersh, the treacherous torturer, became visible and began to sneak attack the barbarians, flanking with the other Lotus Dragons. The tide of battle began to turn. Gupta attempted to channel and heal along with Aleister’s wand. Then thugs surrounded Gupta and break every bone in the cleric’s body with their staves. The cleric paid his debt and bled out on the floor. As thugs began to free themselves from webbing, the barbarians attempted to mow them down. Bertram blew open Kersh’s head, finally ending his miserable existence. Two Lotus Dragons remained. One brought down Bertram and another attacked Ono. The boss lady appeared around the webs, finally having freed herself, whistling her strange tune all the while. She plunged her rapier into Zuka Zuka who groaned and fell over, nearly dying. Aleister was able to administer potions to Bertram who gave another to Ono.
As the party began to revive, the boss lady fled around the webs. Waiting for their last healing, Bertram heard the boss lady talking with something beyond the webs. Zuka Zuka heard the sounds of loose coinage and items being heaped into a bag. Bertram and Zuka Zuka chased her down. finding an open secret door on the other side of the webs. She smiled, drank a potion and became gaseous. The gas disappeared into a fissure in the wall. Meanwhile, Aleister was left on the other side of the webbing. The witch jumped backed in horror as a small, green, draconic creature finally freed itself from the webs, ran past him and into the hallway. The party considered giving chase but found themselves too near death. Better to take what they could and locate the Lotus Dragon commander another day. Though there was much loot, they realized that three fourths of it likely disappeared with the wench. Various writings were also recovered and would need to be analyzed.
They cleared out the remaining chambers, finding little of value. However, in Kersh’s prisons they found many corpses and three Tulita men, one still barely alive. He recognized Zuka Zuka and Ono, smiled and said, “You are cursed. Originally we were going to follow you…kill you…but the plans changed. You can be redeemed. You must find the jawbone! Return and redeem yourselves!” The man choked and died. Aleister turned pale as he saw the intricate tattoo on the man’s arm: a black scorpion, identical in nature to the statuette he had found on the beach.
Gathering up Gupta’s body, they returned to Lavinia’s manor. She was devastated at the news of the cleric’s death and arranged for the return of the body to the mainland. Later, she analyzed the papers gathered by the party. A grim look came over her face. “It’s now clear where Vanthus has gone. I only want him brought to justice. I also must go to Port Shaw, though it pains me. It’s a wretched, depressing cesspool, but Barrison Hargrove was one of those that owed a debt to my parents. I would wish you to come with me to Port Shaw to both protect me and end this stain on my family.”