Just bare-bones notes, to be fleshed out later:
It was heard in the morning at breakfast that all the Tathatans in the Ward had suddenly vanished. Some suspected powerful sorcery, though the PCs knew better. They also heard tell that a procession of Sweepers, the religious cult that covered themselves head to toe in dark blue robes and swept the path before them as they walked, had been seen walking through the streets last night heading toward the Western gate. These “Sweepers”, the PCs suspected, were none other than disguised Tathatans.
Bayar was acting strange at breakfast at the Sky Door that morning. Though it was mid-morning, the sky outside appeared dark as night to him. No one else seemed to see it. He thought he might be ill and chose to stay home and rest up, and Magsa chose to stay and take care of him.
Tse-dong, coming back into town along the Purple Road, saw Benari fleeing East. The others, upon hearing this news, decided to got to Benari’s mansion and loot it.
Afterward, the PCs visited Lord Gansalahi at the Empire to finalize their deal to “rent” the acrobat Song-i for 60 shu per night and a key to their lodge. Song-i claimed to be able to lead them to the mercury mines. When Gansalahi first brought her to Kong Wan from her homeland in the Imperial Lowlands, they made a stop at the mines. She was blindfolded, but could remember all of the sounds she heard and the rough time intervals at which they made turns on the path. If the PCs helped her escape from Gansalahi’s control, she promised to lead them to the mines.
At the Empire, they discovered Gansalahi was being audited. His doorman Pagarasuna revealed that in the fuss about where the mercury mines were, everyone forgot to ask who was buying it all.
Before leaving the lodge, the PCs dug up their buried sorcery texts. Tass is now carrying them on her person.
On the way to the mercury mines, the PCs stopped at the Atmahan monastery and picked up Kanya to join their mission.
As Song-i led them into the mountain canyons, they heard strange singing and cries of help. Mo-tse had heard of creatures in these parts that could mimic human words. Soon, macaques with bristles along their spines appeared, apparently looking only for food. Mo-tse fed them.
They came upon a waterfall, frozen but thawing in the spring weather. Song-i recalled passing under the waterfall and through a long tunnel, but when they searched behind the waterfall they found only a shallow cave. Tass discovered this to be only an illusion. Tse-dong used his mystic eye spell to peer behind the illusion, and found a cave bear on the other side stricken with the Black Pox. The PCs readied their magic, but before they could do so, the bear smelled them, stumbled through the illusion and attacked. During the fight, a large chunk of ice from the waterfall broke off and struck Tse-dong as well as crushing Tass’ abdomen. Shortly after, Mo-tse used his levitation spell to animate a stone and push the cave bear near the edge of the waterfall, after which it slipped and plunged into the abyss below.
On the other end of the tunnel, they discovered a mining camp, but with no people and no guards. There were tracks in the snow, however, and smoke coming from the chimneys. Tse-dong’s mystic eye spell revealed a trap waiting for them – two Gnomes (it was extremely suprising to see Gnomes so far from the Plateau of Trulkor!) hiding above the tunnel exit waiting to release a pile of rubble on them when they came through. So, they waited inside.
While waiting, there was rumbling, an overpowering smell of rotten eggs, and a plume of black smoke which came out one of the tunnels, leaving behind black particles much like those of Thauma’s Ashes.
After that, some Gnomes wielding spears and wearing Imperial soldiers’ armor, clearly too big for them, entered the tunnel to see if the PCs had survived the eruption of black smoke. They were speaking Gnomish. The PCs fled from them back through the tunnel, but the Gnomes pursued and caught them. After some fighting, Mo-tse managed to stop the fray and parley with them.
It turned out they were two of the last fifteen mine workers left – all the guards and other workers had died of the Black Pox. They begged the PCs not to tell Gansalahi that they hadn’t made a mercury shipment in over a month. Gansalahi knows where their families are and has threatened to harm them if the workers misbehaved. Some were also worried about the one to whom they were delivering the mercury. They were shipping it not out but down, into a “doorway” – some magical portal deep in the mines. Out of the portal there periodically came a plume of noxious black smoke carrying particles that later fell again like black snow. This was apparently the origin of the mysterious meteorological phenomenon called Thauma’s Ashes which had befallen the Empire in the last few years.
Some said that behind the portal was a demon, or even a god, that received the mercury. They feared this being would grow angry without its offerings of mercury.
The workers then begged the PCs to help them find their families and protect them against Gansalahi, but the PCs said they couldn’t and that their families were likely already dead. They then went their separate ways. The workers allowed the PCs to take what little of the mined mercury remained, which was still quite valuable if the right buyer could be found, which totaled six vials worth roughly 200 shu each.
Meanwhile, during all this, Song-i the acrobat managed to slip away and run off with one of the PCs horses. Apparently she didn’t trust them, and when she saw an opportunity to escape, she took it. She was not heard from again.
The PCs now plan to head back in the direction of Kong Wan to finish up business there, but will likely soon head off to Xing Xiang to avoid Gansalahi’s wrath and procure more sorcery spells from Tass’ secret organization, the Shi Ahki.