On the first day of Sunsrest, five strangers arrived in the great port city of Yabed-Yalshur just in time for the festival of Hycosia. Walker Boh, a Dwahani swordsman and relic hunter, the hobgoblin slave trader Vreka Uta, the dwarven brewer Angus Barleyfist, Orc shaman Gorkesh Fireblood, and mercenary ronin Toyotomi Firu-San all had their own agendas, but their paths were destined to cross.
Walker’s father, patriarch of the family business, was due to meet a contact named Aloktu Sek-Tem in the city, but never arrived. No one had heard from him in weeks, and Walker set out himself to uncover his father’s whereabouts. Upon meeting with Aloktu, the Pharosi man told him that his father was coming to look at an ancient map that was procured, which would likely lead to an expedition for Walker’s family business. Aloktu was able to tell Walker that the boat his father was on was the Ruby Sphynx, but he had not heard from the man since before he had set sail. Aloktu suggested that Walker investigate the docks to find out information on the ship, and he himself would try and discover any information he could.
Heading to the docks, Walker stumbled across the hobgoblin Vreka Uta, who had just finished selling off slaves to the slave markets of Yabed Yalshur. Thinking that he may want to assemble an entourage in the search for his father’s whereabouts, Walker hired on Vreka as muscle. Angus Fireblood also joined the pair, having spent the day stumbling around the foreign city, lost and confused. In return for the dwarf’s aid, Walker agreed to assist Angus in his mission to send exotic ingredients back to his family.
While they headed for the docks, another pair was making their way through the festivities of the city. Firu-San, a dishonored samurai who fled from Lanpei, was on a mission of vengeance to find out who or what attacked the caravan he was escorting and killed his friend, the painted elf Ikanu. Gorkesh, a fire-spirit possessed orc, had visions of Yabed-Yalshur and was compelled to travel there, and also had strange recurring visions of a marking, one that was strikingly similar to the tattoos on Firu-San’s face. Deeming that it the will of the spirits to follow this warrior, Gorkesh threw his lot in with the Lanpei. In their hunt for information on the caravan attack, the two traveled to the criminal slum of Knifetown where they met with Black Gut, a local crime lord. Though he did not know anything about the attack, he did have information on the caravan’s cargo of lavaglass, and directed them to inquire with Vivor, a gnomish jeweler. They set out to do so.
Having reached the docks, Walker, Vreka, and Angus discovered that the Ruby Sphynx had never docked in Yabed-Yalshur in any recent time. Hoping that Aloktu, with his many connections in the city, would have some better information, they decided to go witness the spectacle of the traveling entertaining troupe the Silver Sisters, whose performance was a buzz throughout the city.
Firu-San and Gorkesh met with Vivor, who was familiar with the lavaglass, and knew of some of the caravans that were carrying it, and also was a purchaser of it himself. He also told them that one of his own shipments of goods had gone missing en route to Yabed-Yalshur, and offered to find out information on the lavaglass caravan if perhaps Firu-San and Gorkesh would assist him. Deciding to save business for later, Vivor accompanied the two warriors to see the SIlver Sisters as well.
As evening fell upon the city, a massive crowd gathered to see the Sisters. The performance went south, however, when the dancers all revealed themselves to be nefarious Aferiti, and set upon the townsfolk, stealing whatever jewels and valuables they could find. All five adventurers met for the first time in the ensuing fray in which they dispatched some of the Aferiti while others escaped. After the battle, a noble named Lady Anarra offered up a payment of gold if the assembled capable fighters could track down the thieves and return her heirloom jewels, to which they agreed.
It was discovered that the Silver Sisters had been replaced by the Aferiti, as had one of the four musicians, but the other three were the real players, unaware at what had transpired, as the Silver Sisters were very secretive and not even their own musicians had ever seen their faces. They told the group that they had been staying at Shepsu’s Dream, a decadent inn, brothel, opium house, and spa. Heading there, the group met the owner of the establishment, Soltana Vayatu, an oracle of the goddess Shepsu. She told the group that the sisters were known to practice outside of the city gates by night, near a grove of lemon trees, but was otherwise unwilling to give up information on her clients. The party stayed the night in Shepsu’s Dream, during which Soltana visited Gorkesh as he slept, having had a vision of the orc’s path.
The next day, the five went to investigate the lemon trees, where they were scouted out by an Aferiti. Chasing it down, they fell into an ambush but overcame the Aferiti attackers, also finding a grave where the Silver Sisters had been thrown. Still without Lady Anarra’s jewelry, they tracked cart ruts back to a small camp where the rest of the Aferiti warband was holed up, and vanquished them, finding not only the stolen jewelry, but a book written in the Aferiti script, as well as a sampling of lavaglass. Thinking it could be related to the attack on his previous caravan, Firu-San took the book to be translated.
Returning to Yabed-Yalshur, the group returned the jewelry to Anarra and set about recovering the information that had been seeded the day before. Interestingly, Vivor’s missing shipment of goods was also on the Ruby Sphynx, providing the two separate missions a link. Aloktu was able to find out that the Ruby Sphynx was last seen in the city of Bahn, north in Belari. Walker’s goal was clear – to reach Bahn and follow the clues of the ship, with his two hirelings in tow. Firu-San and Gorkesh agreed to accompany them to find Vivor’s missing shipment, while both Vivor and Aloktu promised to find out information on the lavaglass caravan. Aloktu said he would make arrangements to procure a ship for the group, and meanwhile the party sought out someone to translate the Aferiti tome.
In the library of the Temple of Amehet, the group met a Dwahani scholar, sage, scribe, and researcher named Hirana Iwalla, who had a specialty in researching the Aferiti and was even working on translating their language. He told them it would take him some time to decipher the texts, and the book was left with him.
The party has a ship, the Mighty Marid, and they meet the crew who will take them to Bahn. Captain Amiri, a young Pharosi woman, and her crew of misfits met the group at the docks and took them aboard, setting sail upriver to Bahn.
The second night, the ship is ambushed by aquatic raiders known as grindylows, but the group is able to best their attackers after a heated twilit battle, during which the party and the crew of the Mighty Marid began to bond. Nearby, the group, with the aid of Blackfin, finds a trove of spoils in the grindylow lair.
The Mighty Marid is caught in a Riptide, one of the natural dangers of the great river. As the ship is rocked, sails are torn, and ropes are lashed, the crew and party once more come together to keep the ship afloat and everyone alive.
An island of sediment deposits in the middle of the river has a recent shipwreck washed upon it. The group goes out in a rowboat to investigate, and prods carefully into the wreckage. After a short scuffle with some sea scorpions, the group finds the deceased captain of the vessel, High Captain Hamanuk, and uncover that the ship was one of Belari’s own navy. The captain’s log depicts a horrific scene of a terrible sickness, cannibalism, and the captain’s apparent suicide to avoid a gruesome fate. The parchment also mentioned Nomarch Gapata, governor of Bahn. Deciding it was unwise to investigate the ship further, the group continues to Bahn.
The Mighty Marid arrives in Bahn, and the group takes news of Hamanuk’s ship to the Nomarch. Gapata is dismayed and angry, but thanks the group and says he will investigate this further. After doing some errands in town, the group inquires with the dockmaster the whereabouts of the Ruby Sphynx. The dockmaster informs them that it had not docked in Bahn in 2 years, contrary to the information they received from Aloktu. They decide to drop in on the dwarves of house Sardek, who know for a fact the ship was here because they loaded the cargo of copper onto it to be sent south. They too are looking for the ship’s whereabouts, and Mistress Zorla, scion of House Sardek, says that she will share whatever information her capable informants are procuring if the group would assist them with a problem at her House’s mines, which are currently under siege by hobgoblins. The group agrees to her terms, and heads west.
After battling jackals and dire vultures, the group makes it to the copper mine on the second night of their travels just in time to help the dwarves in defending the mining camp from a hobgoblin attack. After beating back the worthy foes, they assess the situation with Captain Dolgus, Foreman Gulthric, and Lady Ulseg, making a plan to strike back into the mines and slay or rout the hobgonlin forces. A second attack happens in the middle of the night, and the beleaguered defenders eek out another victory, bearing witness to the stranger contraptions and stranger experimental creatures the hobgoblins have in their arsenal. Vreka interrogates a hobgoblin survivor, learning that they are led by a"Bloodshaper" and they are Zul-Zad’s chosen.
Firu-San, Vreka, and Angus delve into the mines while Gorkesh and Walker stay back in case of another attack. After a battle with hobgoblin defenders, a darkmantle, and giant centipedes, the three come across an altar to Zul-Zad, where ritual blood congeals into a globule-creature and attacks. They dispatch the alien creature and press into the main chamber, confronting more goblins and the Bloodshaper himself, where another experimental hobgoblin is also in the fight. After a hard-fought battle, the three adventurers overcome their enemies, but not before Vreka’s forehead is branded with a “Blood Mark” with the Bloodshaper’s dying breath….