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2 February 2008 - Saturday

Amazon Sextet of Justice XIIIa: "When Calamari Attacks! Insidious Evil on the Streets of Rati!"

The Amazons and their fire giant allies take or destroy everything remaining in the lich's lair and scarper triumphantly back to Rati to have Stephen look over the detentacularization ritual.

During their absence, they learn that a Ratian ship has attacked and sunk a Pelagian ship on the pretext that they were pirates. This is obviously the work of the forces of evil trying to prevent the countries from forming an alliance, but the Sextet can't prove this as the captain of that ship has vanished from his jail cell, along with his guard.

Natalya works more on setting up her urchinarium, which seems to be more urgent than ever as a new chain of soup kitchens has opened up in the city, but (allegedly on the orders of an anonymous benefactor) they only serve adults. This can't be good.

While this is being looked into, a report comes in that another Ratian ship has attacked another group of Pelagian "pirates" and the crew is being arrested at the harbor even now. Amaryllis and Marika hurry down to investigate, and discover that indeed the captain of the offending ship is under an enchantment. Once he is freed, and then consoled for having sunk a ship full of innocent sailors, he tells Amaryllis about the crewman who went overboard during the fight, and the bar where someone put the notion in his head that Pelagians are all pirates. Ah hah!

In the meantime, Natalya has received a message purportedly from Samuel the drow, claiming that his brother Daniel is in trouble. After Our Heroines regroup, Marika and Gabrielle (with Alyra as invisible backup) hit the seedy bars in disguise in hopes of drawing out the agitators while Amaryllis and Natalya scry on Daniel and Samuel.

Daniel is in a magically dark place, just like everyone else who is ever scryed for, and apparently under magical control. At least, there is enchantment magic there, and his behavior is very atypical. Samuel is closeted with some other drow, planning for the impending civil war and not thrilled at being scryed upon, but confirms that he sent the message and that he needs help: if not Daniel, then troops. The Amazons promise to send what help they can.

At the bar, Alyra has found someone who seems to be spreading unsavory gossip about the Pelagians to local seamen. She follows him, first as he tries to talk one captain into being a good mark for his sinister mental powers and then, after he fails, back to his lair in one of the mysterious new soup kitchens.

Gabrielle and Marika, unaware that their invisible companion has left them on their own, spot someone trying to cast a spell on the crowd. He does, precipitating a massive brawl, before Marika seizes him and he vanishes from her grasp. Very suspicious!

The next morning, Natalya and Amaryllis go undercover at the Suspicious Soup Kitchen where Alyra tracked the agitator last night. The diners seem like the sort of people who would normally be at a soup kitchen, and don't report anything strange -- people dropping out of sight happens all the time in that social stratum, after all. The food isn't obviously laced with black magic or mind-control drugs, but Amaryllis watches carefully as Natalya tries it anyway.

Suddenly, several of the staff run out the back door, carrying a tarp! Amaryllis goes to see what the commotion is about, and witnesses the three workers throwing the tarp over something invisible and trying to drag it off. She dispels whatever magic is involved there, and moments later the tarp falls empty to the ground.

(Unbeknownst to Amaryllis, Alyra had been struck senseless by some magic, but recovered when it was dispelled and teleported away with her magic helmet.)

Two of the workers seem confused, but one follows his compatriot back inside. The other chats with Natalya (who has come outside to see why Amaryllis hasn't come back) but doesn't reveal anything incriminating before going back into the building.

Amaryllis, around the corner, feels some force assaulting her mind, but it is no match for her magical abilities. However, Gabrielle, by chance coming down the street with Marika, is not so resistant and is struck senseless. Marika has to drag her into an alley and take cover there.

A horrible figure bursts out of the window above Amaryllis and drifts lightly to the ground: a tall humanoid with tentacles for a face! It tries to grab her with its facial tendrils, but she dodges, only to fall prey to its comrade coming around the corner the other way! For a moment, it looks like the illithid is going to succeed in eating her brain, but then Natalya charges to the rescue! She bodily knocks the monster away from her fellow Amazon, which gives Amaryllis time to unleash her spells! One illithid is mummified on the spot, and the other passes out from severe dehydration!

With the monsters out of commission, the human minions are soon rounded up and interrogated. The head minion tries to bargain for cash or immunity in exchange for his information, but his justifications for feeding human brains to monsters from another world are so sordid that eventually Marika punches him out. When he wakes up, he is more cooperative and rats out his former masters' plan to harvest tasty wild brains while fomenting war between Rati and Pelagos to win some kind of horrible illithid wager. The illithid are not interested in the Avalon/necrotheologians issues; apparently the end of the world isn't important to them because that's not where they keep their stuff.

Interestingly, the victory conditions for the other side of the wager are civil war in the drow city beneath Darkport, which gives the Amazons a handle on that problem. Perhaps they will be able to get the drow to join the grand alliance after all!

After some discussion, the captured illithid is enchanted by Gabrielle and prevented from leaving the plane by Fresa. Gabrielle then heals it to wakefulness and asks what it knows about the end of the world. Its answers accord with the information Our Heroines already have, which is reassuring as the illithid are generally considered fiendishly intelligent. They then kill it before the dimensional anchor expires, which is perhaps not something Sophia would have approved of, but the alternative is to turn it loose to eat more human brains.

Food: Ayse lured us all (except Harold, who was feeling poorly, and Dave, who isn't interested in food) to a seafood/sushi/dim sum buffet in Roseville called Mizu. It was pretty good, although I don't think I enjoyed it as much as other people. Ayse got all the salt-and-pepper shrimps with heads still on that she could eat, though, and maybe some more, so it was definitely a win.

Silly Computer Games: Only an hour! Really!

Cats: Twelve paws!

Writing: FAILURE. But I did extra yesterday, which should count for something.

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