The adventuring troupe returned to Nibenay, staying at the Vichet noble house.
(This special sidequest is a mystery involving half the party in a one-off session.)
Dath of House Vichet invited Janstine the slavetrader (with her servants as valets), Nebes the stoneguard, and Rymyr the scholar to watch Nibenay’s gladiatorial games. As a military nobleman, he had an honourary position as a “Steward”, a sort of arbitrator to ensure fair fights. The title offered little actual power, but it did provide the party with a private function room with a view. Little did they know they would be more than spectators…
THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS
The arena, particularly the Stewards’ area, was as much a place of sports entertainment as it was for networking. Other important figures, who mostly despised one another, engaged in polite social conversation.
Templar Havisham, Templar Estella, Announcer Jaggers
The Templars Havisham and Estella exchanged words with Dath, encouraging him to bet on their sponsored gladiators. Templars seldom got involved with gladiators, but this was likely a political feud, a popularity contest.
Another nobleman, Jaggers, kicked off the day of fights, explaining this was a day of inter-city bouts (to demonstrate the superiority of Nibenay). As the master of ceremonies, he likely picked the fight cards himself.
There were a variety of matches before the main events…
Byron “the Bear” (a.k.a. Byron “the Iron”)
Byron “the Bear” was a famous gladiator from Tyr. Known for his special claw weapons, it is rumoured his fingers were amputated to fit them. Once a slave, he was freed, but chose to continue his gladiatorial career.
As a themed fight, Byron was pitted against half a dozen slaves. If they were able to get past him, they would be freed as he had been. He cut through them all with incredible strength, all but one…a simple human girl.
The Omnipotent Receiver
A half-giant tall even for his kind, the Omnipotent Reciver was a gimmick based on the famous statues known as the Omniscient Receivers. A crowd favourite, he was pitted against convicted criminals, whom he crushed.
THE MAIN EVENT
The Omnipotent Receiver, victorious from his last fight, was pitted against a mysterious opponent. The audience went wild, betting on this seemingly unbeatable titan. Jaggers unveiled the secret fighter…
…Byron “the Bear”, who simply leapt at the half-giant, then dashed out his eyes.
The Omnipotent Reciver’s last act was to give a strange scream before being then garroted.
Whereas most fights lasted for 30 minutes, this barely lasted 30 seconds.
A COLLOSEIUM IN CHAOS
As their favourite gladiator fell dead, the crowd fell dead silent. However, it was just the calm before the storm before they cried out in outrage. Sensing trouble, Dath asked the party to accompany him to the gladiator stables.
En route, they saw the Templars Havisham and Estella in a polite argument. As they reached Byron’s stable, Jaggers was banging on its door, shouting something about “breaking their arrangement.”
Jaggers explained sheepishly, “Byron’s barred the door from the inside. He won’t come out.”
Examining the door and perceiving nothing out of the ordinary, Dath used his limited authourity as a Steward and asked Nebes to knock it down. He advised he and Janstine to quickly search the room.
The room was locked, with no windows or grates, yet there was no one inside.
Janstine checked the bleachers, while her slaves the floor, as Nebes combed the weapon lockers. Only the latter found something: Byron’s famous claws…or rather, a very convincing replica to an untrained eye.
However, it happened that Nebes was a master weaponscrafter, so not only was he able to see the claws as a copy, but that they had intentional structure weaknesses. Its talons were designed to shatter spectacularly.
Something was afoot, but Janstine deduced if anyone would know what was really going on, she wouldn’t ask the people at the top. It’d be the people at the bottom, the slaves…which was her expertise.
Janstine wanted to ask some questions of the arena’s gatekeeper, the ones who let the gladiators out…and back in. There was a possibility whoever opened the gate for Byron after the fight was an accomplice.
The gatekeeper, thoroughly intimidated, explained he was doing his job. He became defensive; the deceased Receiver was his friend. It was that anger that convinced Janstine he spoke the truth.
Janstine did find a lead…the gatekeeper revealed Byron had stayed at the Open Doors Inn.
Janstine cleverly suggested there was another choice for an accomplice…the simple human girl Byron let walk by to her freedom. She asked Nebes, a towering giant Tarek-kin, to scare the truth out of her.
Janstine and Nebes were correct…but perhaps too much so. The stoneguard was so terrifying that the recently-freed slave became defensive and revealed little more than she was put in the arena unfairly.
The sun was setting, the leads were growing cold, so the party decided to visit the Inn fast.
THE OPEN DOORS INN
Janstine asked the innkeeper where Byron stayed at his establishment. He told them he wasn’t in, but his room was upstairs with his lady friend. Then, he asked a particular question, “Are you with that noble?”
He was referring to Jaggers, who arrived shortly before the party.
Accompanied by his guards, Jaggers and a woman were arguing, but only Nebes could make the words out, “Where is he? I know you have the money!” Then the party heard a hit to the skull and a body fall to the floor.
As the party approached, they could see one of his guards standing over a prone woman.
It was a tense stand-off, but Janstine craftily bluffed that the Templars were on the way. Jaggers did not totally buy into it, but a man of his station could not afford a scandal, so he lead his retinue out.
THE FINAL PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
It was the end of the line for this mystery, but fortunately, it lead to the prize.
Jaclyn the Jackal, a notorious slaver
Janstine recognized the woman on the floor. It was a slaver, Jaclyn the Jackal, infamous in the industry. A shrewd dealmaker, she sold at high prices, but over time other traders came to distrust her.
Jaclyn also had one other vice…she was reputed to bed her slaves, a business taboo.
The woman had drawn her weapon, a wooden shortsword (a style popular in Nibenay). Moreover, she had betting chits on Byron worth thousands of tenpieces stashed, along with addresses of known illegal gambling joints.
Janstine deduced that Byron needed a savvy business manager like Jaclyn to arrange the fight with a gladiator as highly rated as the Omnipotent Receiver. As such, she probably could manipulate Byron as well.
They found something else: a map with many scrawls, as if Jaclyn was planning a getaway.
Soon after, city guards arrived not because of party’s investigation, but simply because a fight had broken out in a public house. In that sense, Janstine’s threat was right. They carried away the unconscious Jaclyn.
THE TRUTH (ACCORDING TO THE PARTY)
The party deduced the big fight between Byron and the Omnipotent Receiver was a setup.
Byron was not so much “the Bear” as he was “the Underdog”, with the odds massively against him. Anyone betting on him would get a major payoff…if he won. However, evidence shows he was meant to lose.
Nebes found the irrefutable proof: the fake claw weapons in the locker room. They were made especially for the fight, inefficient for combat, yet would have had dramatic value breaking against the Receiver.
With every intentional crime, the question is: who benefits? The answer: Jaclyn, at least.
It was Janstine who noticed Jaclyn not being in Byron’s corner, which was highly suspicious considering how much effort it’d have taken her to arrange him being in the Main Event. She wanted to leave the city fast.
The gambling markers and her map for a fast exit from the city suggested Jaclyn wanted to cash them in and get out of Nibenay before the Bear returned. It was very likely she would go, alone, a very rich woman.
The conclusion: Byron was a patsy, played by Jaclyn, the mastermind behind this scheme.
Early the next day, Dath went to the arena again in formal robes, but this time it was to deliver testimony in a closed hearing on the party’s findings. He returned smugly, holding something(s) behind his back:
“The Stewards and Templars agreed with your findings. Your evidence, combined with my account, convinced them. Sadly, they had to take in the fake claw weapon and the gambling chits as per due process.
“The Templars Havisham and Estella, did give us something, which I hope you’ll accept.”
He brandished two wooden fans, each depicting flowers from a chestnut tree.
“Chestnut flowers. A symbol of…justice, in recognition of that which you delivered.
“Of course, I find it ironic. I believe perhaps one or both of them were in on this betting scheme. Most likely, Jagger’s ‘arrangement’ as well…but he may have merely meant organizing the fight.
“The judgment was that all the guilt lies with Jaclyn. Even though she’s now comatose, it was because she drew a blade at Jaggers. Just a thought…what do you think happened to Byron? He’s still somewhere out there.
“What’s more interesting is why the Templars Havisham and Estella let us freely look into the issue. They could have detained us as possible witnesses. Or held us for disturbing the scene of a ‘crime’.
“Do you think it’s because they see House Vichet as harmless…useless? That we’re just a clan of muscleheads? I would probably be wrong to disagree with them, but they never accounted for Good Intentions, eh?
“Or perhaps we are now wrapped up in their little games of intrigue, just pawns on their political chessboard? Well, this is life in Nibenay’s noble circles, and thus…I can now truly welcome you to the City of Spires.”