October 7: Morning
The party journeyed to the western edge of the Black Riage, a mountain range of menacing black crags that overshadowed the land from the east of the Cloudcrystal Skyfields to the southern border of the Pytharon Empire.
The city-state of Uxphon lay in the mountain’s Deathwater Canyon, built upon a system of huge ceramic pipes that emerged and disappeared from the canyon’s solid rock walls, showing no trace of their origin. Atop the large pipes and rocky floor stood tall, narrow houses built from brown brick and tiles. The noblest of houses stood the highest, with empty pipes connected into their walls for private travel throughout the city. These same nobles owned the pipes that delivered fresh water to the people, monopolising on water prices.
The party entered the city’s central district without opposition. Uxphon had no defensive walls or fortified towers, being built within the protection of the mountains. Their pivotal role in slave export and trade with the Steadfast nations kept it safe from conflict with the Nine Rival Kings, meaning it needed no army or watch to guard its borders.
The city square bustled with hundreds of nobles, traders, slaves, merchants, and gladiators going about their business. Mutants and visitants walked freely among men and women, who wore loose robes of vibrant colour. Nobles and slaves alike crusted their faces with jewels. Warriors of both genders hung their hair in extravagant braids. Butchers sold seskii meat and chirog legs; slavers sold sex masters, battle champions, and kitchen servants all within the metres of each other.
Eager to resupply, the party found a shopkeeper named Antii, who sold them rations of dried berries and jerky meat. Enthralled by the city’s acceptance of mutants, Theron asked the woman about any local rumours she might have heard.
She told them of Filloria Dram, an adventurer and inventor from the Steadfast who was petitioning nobles to buy her air balloon — an invention which could carry ten people in its enclosed cabin — for a thousand shins. Antii also spoke of one of the battle arena’s masters, a yovoki abhuman named Vromarask, who was seeking gladiators to fight the arena’s grand champion, Llaritan.
The party bid Antii farewell and returned to the square to observe the slave auction, hosted by a slaver with three eyes.
Afternoon: The Slaves
Three prominent nobles in the crowd: a woman with reptilian features, a bald man with beady eyes, and a former courtesan with golden feathers in her hair, waged a bidding war over a woman slave with jewel-encrusted nipples. The golden-feathered woman won with her bid, leaving the other nobles to bid over a young kitchen slave with platinum blonde hair.
Aegan placed a bid, shocking the crowd. The beady-eyed noble refused to be beaten and matched her bid for bid, threatening to take the slave for his perverse desires. Jinx swept through the crowd and placed a knife to the noble’s throat, intimidating him into giving up the fight. Aegan won the auction, purchasing the woman for 180 shins.
Next was a gladiator and former arena champion named Rask, a master of the dual-bladed style of combat. The reptilian noble placed a high bid, irritated when Jinx placed one higher. The two fought for the gladiator, but Jinx ultimately won with a bid of 250 shins, insulting the noble.
The two slaves joined the party, naked and without possessions. Aegan offered the woman spare clothes and asked for her name, to which she replied she had many names given to her by many masters. Her original name was Five, named for the price she was sold for. When Aegan told her to pick her own name, one which gave her pride, the slave chose ‘Myanna’, her mother’s name.
Jinx clothed Rask and the party ventured next to the local blacksmith to purchase fresh weapons and armour for themselves and the gladiator.
The blacksmith’s shop was carved into the canyon rock and roared with heat from the forge. The shopkeeper, a man more giant than smith, standing near eight feet and heavy with muscle, greeted them. His face lay half hidden behind a great wiry beard, with a curtain of black hair falling behind his back in a heavy braid.
The party did business with the smith; En’ir asking for an upgraded blade for his scythe. The smith took the scythe and the shins to pay for his work, and told him to return in two days. Newly armed and armoured, the party left the smith’s shop and ran right into a flabby-skinned, hairless man who introduced himself as the arena master Vromarask.
The arena master talked fast and shook his hands while hopping from one foot to the other, excited to have found a large party of warriors. Vromarask eyed Theron, Maxxos, and En’ir specifically and offered them the opportunity as free men to represent him in the arena against his rival’s gladiator, Llaritan, in a three-on-one match he had arranged by bribing the arena officials.
Maxxos refused, not wanting any part of blood sports, while En’ir and Theron wished to see Llartian for themselves. The master agreed and escorted them to the Uxphon arena; an enormous amphitheatre located on a rocky peak, the structure itself a natural formation of weathered rock with a pit smoothed by gravel and compact sand.
The party watched from Vromarask’s private stand as a silver-haired warrior entered the arena wielding a spear, identified by Rask as a famous and swift-footed champion. Next entered Llaritan, a woman of slight build with a shaved head and ancient tattoos that marked her face and arms. She wore no protection but for a robe and a numenera belt used to hold her six swords, each taken from the corpse of a famous champion.
The silver-haired warrior studied his opponent and charged, attacking with his spear. Llaritan dodged the weapon almost lazily, only moving her neck to avoid the spear’s tip from penetrating her head. She raised her arms, her tattoos glowing as the six blades at her belt rose into the air by themselves and attacked, bypassing the warrior’s spear and overwhelming him.
Within moments the man was dead, Llaritan not having moved one step.
Theron and En’ir realised the folly of entering the arena against the grand champion, and refused Vromarask’s offer. Disappointed, the arena master allowed the party to leave.
At the base of the arena’s steps, the party were ambushed by five reptilian warriors, sent to kill Jinx as payback for his actions at the slave auction.
The warriors were quickly dispatched by the party, impressing onlookers and catching the attention of nobles and slavers.
Uxphon society acknowledged cunning, wealth, and power. Everything was owned by nobles, whose assets were protected by hired warriors. For this reason there were no city guard or central law enforcers — in Uxphon, death and insult was repaid by shins or blood. Killing was a skill all nobles prized.
Having witnessed the party’s prowess, Vromarask offered to increase the prize for winning against Llaritan, if the party accepted to fight in the arena. Realising they would need the extra shins to afford a way back to Fort Toinette, the party accepted on the condition that all of them could enter the arena.
After being persuaded by Ay’lin, the arena master proposed to bribe the officials to allow the entire party to battle Llaritan, though it would not be a cheap request. En’ir gave Vromarask 200 shins to help the master ‘appeal’ to the officials more easily. The arena master left to bribe the officials, while the party returned to the square to purchase Filloria Dram’s air balloon before another noble did.
Elsewhere, to help preserve Bishen’s body and ward off the stink of rot, Tranavaros purchased a bag of salt and a bottle of lavender oil to pour into the sealed tent used to protect the corpse.
Evening: Air Balloon
The party combined their wealth to buy the air balloon and made preparations to sleep in the cabin. Jinx and En’ir suggested they each take night shifts to watch for assassins or slavers.
As the sun sank beneath the mountains, Vromarask appeared with good news: the arena officials had accepted the bribe — they’d all be fighting Llaritan come morning.