8th of Wintermarch, 9:43 Dragon
Despite that close call in the old mine, we made it back to Val Royeaux in plenty of time for the party. However, apparently Enna and Sona were feeling under the weather, or had some other business to deal with, or just couldn’t be arsed to come help us; whatever the reason, they elected not to bother attending the gala. (I’m a mite peeved at that, considering I dropped a fair chunk of silver helping Legnar pay for the supplies to make their invitations. Note to self: demand refund at some point.) We decided to have Legnar and Daryel pretend to be the sort of worthies that would actually have legitimate reason to be at a party like this, while Alalen, the Tal-Vashoth and myself would serve as “hired muscle.” Now, credit where credit is due: apparently Legnar did a damn fine job of forging those invitations. Of the five of us, only Alalen got turned away at the gate, despite an admirable display of bluster and mock outrage on Daryel’s part. Personally I think Alalen should have come back with Sona or Enna’s invitation and tried a different door, but apparently he eventually made it in through an open window, instead. Truly some impregnable security the lady of the house has, here.
Inside, we all kept an eye out for either Blane or the wacky cultists (called the Elevated Brotherhood, apparently) who seemed to have a bone to pick with him. This turned out to be more trouble than one would expect, as there seemed to be no shortage of nosy upper-crust at the place taking every opportunity to distract us. Some uppity lord called me out for looking at his woman — news flash, mate, I’m a bodyguard, I look at everyone, it’s my job — while Legnar got his ear talked off by a particularly chatty noblewoman, and I’m pretty sure I even saw some dumb bastard try and pick a fight with the Tal Vashoth. Both Legnar and Daryel also ended up speaking with the hostess at one point, which I’m pretty sure accomplished little save making her more suspicious (and led to the utterly ridiculous sight of Daryel bitching out THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE INVITATIONS because Alalen’s fake wasn’t good enough to get him in the door). Nevertheless, we eventually spotted some cultists making their way into a wine cellar through a side door; they left a couple of guards outside, but thanks to some well-timed distractions and doorknobs applied to crotches, we were soon able to follow them down.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, we arrived in the cellar just in time to see a general melee taking place between Blane and his men, the Brotherhood, and a third group that Blane had apparently come to talk business with. Blane snarked at us for taking so long to get down there, but I’ll freely admit that I was long past sick of his shit at this point, and snapped at him to shut up and focus on fighting. We’d left Legnar behind to serve as a rearguard, but between the four of us that were left, we managed to put the Brotherhood members in their place fairly quickly; unfortunately, Daryel apparently suffered from a bout of magical impotence during the fight, and the resulting lack of healing meant that Blane’s two men both went down hard.
Legnar followed us down shortly after, and shortly after THAT, the lady of the house arrived, no doubt wondering what all the fuss was about. I was hoping that Blane might vouch for us, but it seemed that somehow the slimy bastard had vanished, despite there being only one exit from the room that all of us were looking at. Luckily, it seemed that the lady was more interested in discussing business than punishment: it seems that she’s also interested in getting into the lyrium business, and a handful of deniable assets from out of town are just the sort of thing she needs to get a foothold in the market. Of course, we were also free to walk away if we so chose, but in that case we’d be on the hook for a hundred gold to pay for the damage to the cellar. (At the time, I was sure that she was trying to extort us for damage that was already there when we arrived, and grumbled about the fact, but in hindsight it’s possible that it would actually cost a hundred gold just to pay for the mess being cleaned up. Bloody Orlesian prices!) We all put our heads together to discuss our options; ultimately we were largely in agreement to take her up on her offer, though I’ll freely admit that my contribution to the discussion amounted to “do whatever you have to in order to get us out of this increasingly-miserable shithole as fast as possible.” However, I’m in desperate need of ale and sleep at this point, so the rest of the story will have to wait for another time.