Having driven Elder Arantham from Death’s Reach, Adamas and Sar returned to Sigil. They knew Arantham had been sending black rocks – fragments of the Blackstar Host, pieces of the primordial Timesus – through a gate to an unknown location. They also knew that Lord Barrens had been providing other members of Sigil’s upper class with Blackstar Host statues as gifts. Lacking other leads, they made their way to the inn known as Moradin’s Mantle. Here they talked with the proprietor, a dwarf named Grundi, about various sages throughout town, some rumors, and making the inn a base of operations.
After a conversation with the cambion Tannerli they learned that Elder Arantham had returned to Sigil in a panic, summoning all members of the Ashen Covenant to a location in the Lower Ward. Tannerli had gone to the meeting to avoid being identified as a defector. Arantham talked of a disasterous setback, but gave no details. Members of the Covenant were instructed to lay low. Tannerli stated that many members of the group were anonymous, but when asked said she did not believe Lord Barrens was in attendance or that he was an actual member of the Covenant. She was able to provide the location of the meeting place.
Adamas and Sar discussed visiting a sage or Lord Barrens, but decided to go to the meeting place. They found it a ruin, the site of some sort of battle. After some time spent poking around they found evidence of a lower level and spent some time excavating. Entering the concealed basement they discovered the scene of a massacre – dozens of sacrificed humanoid corpses piled haphazardly in a corner of the chamber. Their bodies were in different stages of decay and a blood-stained channel sliced through the sloping chamber, feeding a red portal shimmering in the far wall.
Sar quickly recognized this as the other end of the portal Elder Arantham had fled through in Death’s Reach – though construction of portals to or from Sigil was supposedly impossible. The making of such a portal posed a question without an immediate explanation. Sar spoiled the runes keeping the gate open, and Adamas uncovered vile tomes of Orcus rituals on a make-shift alter.
The place had clearly been abandoned in a hurry. Not only had the tomes been left behind, but each of the corpses was wearing a small silver necklace with a charm – something like a double-headed hammer with an eye between its heads and a handle tapering to a point like an obelisk. Though mostly junk, there was an arcane residue about the necklaces suggesting they’d been used in a ritual of some sort.
Investigating a rune set on the wall triggered an attack as several Mercykillers, Rot Slingers, and a Marut Concordant materialized in the chamber. As the battle progressed the Mercykillers, the closest thing Sigil has to a police force, surrendered. But the concordant and undead fought on to the death.
Interrogation revealed that they had been acting on behalf of a trade organization known as House Thaevian, through the direction of Lord Barrens himself. Lord Barrens had helped negotiate a contract between House Thaevian and another group of individuals (the Ashen Covenant, the heroes deduced) and that group had reneged on the agreement. For several days no new shipments of material had come from that location, leaving House Thaevian incapable of supplying Lord Barrens or any of their other customers the goods the Covenant had disinterred from Death’s Reach.
The Mercykillers, under the direction of a Warden named Isaac Grissom, had been directed by Lord Barrens himself to aid House Thaevian and the concordant in punishing the breach of contract. Investigating the rune on the wall – keyed to the broken contract – had alerted the concordant someone was present, and the attack had commenced. Grissom had been surprised to find undead among the assault force, and even more surprised to find an unholy altar and a pile of corpses. He was quickly convinced that Adamas and Sar were not involved (they’d spared the Mercykillers’ lives, for one), and provided them with a good deal of information about the Prison, Lord Barrens, and House Thaevian. Adamas and Grissom had a disagreement on whether sending the dead to the Mortuary to be animated as zombies was an appropriate act, and they ultimately burned the corpses.
Upon leaving the area, Sar fell suddenly ill. Arantham had left something behind for them in the tangle of bodies – a lethal disease. They interrupted their investigation and set off to find a healer capable of removing the affliction.