Arrival is the eighth episode of The Chain. It aired on March 20th, 2019.
Strange Riojan Customs
After passing inspection, a small caravel escorts the Somnium Tenebris to the docks. The Stays is 21 miles long by 3 wide, the docks are full of many types of ship. The customs area is sparse like a concentration camp. Beyond is the Promenade, an open market type of place. Guards with breastplates walk around on the docks, the marines of House Vorona.
The Somnium Tenebris moors up. There are enough facilities here for a thousand boats to moor, and many watchtowers and long nondescript buildings with lines leading to them. There are a bunch of “Viking looking motherfuckers”, Vanirmen from Vanigar mooring up at the same time as the Chain, some taking note of their strange ship. With the Vanirmen is a Fire Giant. The guards are peacock-looking with the symbol of the black raven of House Vorona displayed.
Two-Shoes asks about what the Chain should do. Commander King decides that 12 men will guard and crew the ship, though Two-Shoes recommends at least twenty. The senior officers resolve to take themselves, most of the junior officers, and some rankers through customs, while Two-Shoes and the 12 crew accompany the ship as it roams to feed.
The customs building is a huge long warehouse, split into many connected offices, with walls and gates. The Chain are funneled into this building, hugely cluttered with junk and paperwork. It is staffed by both marines and Goldbuttons of the Fulcrum, though the latter outnumber the former. A fat Riojan with beautiful long hair is slumped behind a desk talking to the Vanir, each in their turn are asked questions and given papers. The Fire Giant doesn’t want to cooperate, however, and it tries to break out of its chains, managing to crush a marine before it is frozen in place by a Goldbutton’s wand. The treasury of the Vanirmen is locked up with chains and handed to the Goldbuttons, with the northerners being given a ticket for it. Next is the turn of the Chain.
Each in turn is asked their name, occupation, and business in Capital, before having to empty their pockets. Their money is taken along with its bag and each member is given a ticket to be redeemed at the Exchange. During this process the Riojan scratches his head, accidentally revealing his lovely hair to be a hairpiece.
At this point a short Higaran man in a well-fitted blue outfit comes around the desk and supervises the customs official as he works.
Once the last of the senior officers, Copper and Bigcat, are through customs, they enter the Prominade, a part of the Piazza stretching as far East and West as they can see. A feast of bright colours and smells, long tables and foodcarts arrayed along the road, with Riojans doing business.
They make their way to the Exchange, a huge stone building with marble columns mimicking the Phaedren style. Many Dwarves guard the Exchange, in their own distinct uniforms alongside the Goldbuttons and marines. Slim approaches a Goldbutton and asks him about his profession. The Exchange is an open air bank, staffed entirely by Dwarves. King joins the line for turning in customs papers, having his gold redeemed by notes, finely crafted and bearing the likenesses of Riojan noblemen. The lowest denomination note bears the face of the late Prince. Judge and Slim get all their money changed into Riojan coins.
Encounters on the Promenade
The Chain notice some Dwarves entering a mausoleum-like kiosk that leads down into the Layers, as well as a finely dressed Khoursarian standing at a roped-off area with a cart and parasol, waiting for a Tapestry. A little homunculus capers at his feet. Judge goes to check the food charts, giving Cook 5gp to go buy food and material components with. King and Boots ask two of the Vanirmen why they brought the Fire Giant, though they are both ignored.
The time comes to choose a place to stay. The plan is to put the senior officers in the fanciest inn, and split the junior officers and rankers between the other inns. Judge approaches a Broadsheets Guild man, Grano, and gives him 1gp. He tells him the local broadsheet office is on Iter Acenas, a street nearby, and gives him 3 broadsheets, which are immediately given to Copper. The headline reads “Pharaoh Captured”, talking about the fall of Khemhara and mounting tensions in Higara. Judge examines the ads inside.
A Drow litter with silver filigree stops by the Chain, its heavy black curtains decorated with a black widow design. Slim makes the occupant laugh: “Do you have need of warriors?”. A tall Khemite with long brown hair in an expensive long coat approaches. He produces a seal; a piece of metal embossed with a dragon crest, on expensive red twined rope. He flips open a journal and asks if King can answer a few questions:
Assuming the man to be a cop or other official, King tells him why they came here after Ajax attacked Blackbottom, revealing that they’re under contract. Slim lets slip that they were hired to kill Mortum. They tell the man about the Somnium Tenebris, and that 60 men made it to Capital, though he doesn’t convince the man of that number. Captain Cinzia approaches and tells the Chain that this man is a reporter, Nero, who furiously writes about the Chain building a force to fight Ajax.
Judge, towering over the Captain, complains about Nero’s unethical behaviour and nearly looses a spell. Slim tells Nero that they’re staying at the Pharaoh’s Dream, and Nero promises to visit, exiting. Cinzia tells them about Nero, and that his seal marks him as a Knight of the Rubric. She encourages the group to get where they’re going before they attract more trouble.
The senior officers find their way to an apple cart which also sells sausages. Slim, unused to feeling hungry, and coached by Judge in making the transactions, tries several different configurations of the man’s wares before discovering that he likes caramel sausages. The caramel sausages generate a small amount of attention and a small crowd. In all the confusions, a small cloaked boy hands King a note, which he reads. While he does so, Slim notices that King has been relieved of the Chronicle.
The officers give chase after the boy along the Promenade. He grins back at them, small diamond-shaped tiles of his face flipping over to give him a completely different appearance. Copper casts Hunter’s Mark to begin tracking the thief. Boots jumps acrobatically over the obstacles, jumping through carts and across a street theatre. Slim leaps over the crowds with his psionic Jump ability, roaring in mid-air. On landing, Slim realises that there are multiple boys, and the one they had tracked doesn’t have the Chronicle anymore. Judge roars in Infernal to intimidate the passers-by out of the way, amplifying his voice with Thaumaturgy. King, being insightful, realizes where the boys are likely to be heading and takes a back-alley shortcut to head them off. Copper expertly rides Bigcat, channeling his agility into the beast as they corner the gang to an alleyway.
The four Balance Spring members are trapped, but it’s unclear who has the book. At first there are two smallboys in front, and two smallboys further back towards where the alley ends. The four begin roughly in a square formation. Later there are also tougher wideboys, one in front and one in back, and ranged harpoonboys, one on the left and one on the right.
The Balance Spring Assembled
Copper begins the fight by advancing to the back of the alley and shooting the smallboy that he marked, the front-left, getting a Keen Eye read on him. Boots leaps into action, attacking the same boy with his sabre. The cobblestones near the boy move, revealing it to be another makeshift child, his cloak camouflaging him somehow. This new, tough looking wideboy reaches to catch Boots’ sword with his hand, which has transformed into a shield. Boots then wheels away, taking a hit from the wideboy’s hand hammer and getting knocked prone before springing back up. He uses his momentum to attack the wideboy, distracting him. The back two smallboys look at each other and agree: “Rock ‘em shock ‘em?” “Rock ‘em shock ‘em!”. They both punch the ground, discharging powerful jolts of electricity along the ground and into Bigcat. The front two small boys punch Boots, both electrocuting him before spinning and burrowing into the ground.
Slim arrives to find Boots facing the wideboy, maneuvering expertly and laying into the child with his huge broad sword, sharpened by Judge. This causes shards of ceramic to chip off the boy, and he falls prone. Judge moves into range and casts a Hex on the back-right small boy, marking it for future attacks and causing it disadvantage on Wisdom checks. He also invokes his authority as an Infernal Arcanist, making it easier to cast spells alongside his attacks.
Two more boys appear on the rooftops, one on each side at the front of the alley, firing harpoons from their arms with a thin line trailing from them. Boots is hit, taking damage and being pulled away from the fallen wideboy, towards the left wall. A second wide boy appears at the back of the alley to slam Copper prone off of Bigcat, as the front wide boy gets up to attack Slim, knocking him down also.
King arrives to see the situation, and casts Shatter on the back three boys, two small and one wide. Copper does the old Shoot’n’Scoot: firing at the back-left smallboy with a regular arrow, and the back wideboy with a hail of thorns, which also sprays over the back two smallboys. Bigcat leaps in and uses ferocity to attack the back left smallboy multiple times. Boots shakes loose of the left harpoonboy’s wire and moves to attack the front wideboy, his sabres coming away with oil on them.
The front two smallboys re-emerge from the ground, surrounding attacking King: “Hey! You hurt-“ “-Our friend!”. The back two smallboys gang up on Slim, before the Gith Misty Steps up to the left harpoonboy. He brings his sword down hard twice before pushing the boy off the building into the alley below, landing prone in a cloud of dust and springs. Judge swings at the back-right smallboy, smashing him into pieces, destroying him. He then casts Suggestion on the back left smallboy: “Return our book you stole from him, and convince your crew to retreat!”. Since they have no brains, the attempt fails.
The left harpoonboy gets up, having fallen off the roof, shooting an exploding bolt at a point near King and Boots, and knocking the latter unconscious. The wideboys move to surround Judge, giving Bigcat an attack on the back one. Only the back one hits, knocking Judge prone and triggering a Hellish Rebuke which destroys the boy.
King heals Boots back to consciousness, then uses his Commander ability to command Copper to attack the back-left smallboy. Copper continues to shoot that boy as Bigcat moves to attack him. All this is too much for the makeshift child to bear and he falls apart, dropping the Chronicle, which Copper dashes to grab. Boots stands up and whacks at the front-left smallboy, now standing by King in the front right, before wheeling around to attack the other front smallboy too. The smallboys then attack, the front left burrowing into the ground to pop up beside its ally to make a team attack: “Rock ‘em” “Shock ‘em”. This electric pulse affects Copper, Bigcat, Boots, Judge, and King
Slim leaps down onto the left harpoonboy, driving his sword through him on the way down and knocking him down.
Judge gets up from prone and casts Magic Missile on the remaining wideboy, putting a Baleful Interdict seal on the nearest smallboy. The right harpoonboy escapes along the rooftops as the badly damaged harpoonboy gets up to attack once more, though Slim dodges each shot. The final wideboy hammers Judge back to the ground and suffers a Hellish Rebuke. King destroys the wounded smallboy with a thunder smite.
Copper uses his Standard Bearer ability and everyone nearby gets some hit points, and Bigcat makes multiple tentacle attacks on the wideboy. Boots chases down the harboonboy and slashes him, before Slim pulls him into a grapple. The last smallboy flees, burrowing underground. Judge destroys the remaining wideboy with Magic Missile.
The harpoonboy in Slim's grasp surrenders, ready for interrogation.
Behind the Scenes
The makeshift boys are based on the construct monsters in Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes.