While Tanic was off making fools of wannabe cultists the group was heading back to the temple to await their meeting. All except Vex, who stayed at her normal abode. She seemed to be becoming more and more disillusioned with the group overall.
The kobold was uneasy about dealing with such people. The new guy was starting to feel like he'd been swindled.
The gnome seemed to be impatient to get on with it.
Calith and Zubat . . . were there.
At the appointed hour they headed to the previously specified place in the riverfront district where The Hand met them. He then led them into a sewer outflow pipe. As they passed within its environs they realized they weren't alone. 6 people with black bags waited in hiding just inside. One might say they were just a wee bit nervous when they realized those bags happened to be just the right size to hold the average humanoid's head.
Fortunately this did not preclude the head's current attachment. They weren't sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief or not as the bags were lowered over their heads, quite effectively blinding them.
Then came a rather dull but long march through the sewers, being led by less then compassionate guides. Calith's survival checks were sufficient to keep track of their path.
Eventually the rather humiliating trek ended. Their guides pulled the group rather roughly at an intersection of passages. As they waited, the Cupcakes could hear the sounds of bricks sliding upon bricks, and rightly assumed that some combination of hidden buttons were being pushed to open a secret path.
Velic swore his hearing was good enough to be able to pinpoint their locations. I'm sure if that were the case he would have been able to hear the other party members rolling their eyes. However I did state he was able to ascertain the orientation of each sound in relation to the others. It would have made a fascinating puzzle for them to solve.
After the sequence was finished there was a loud grinding sound, as if an entire wall were moving, and they were pushed forward again. Well, at least they were out of that smell. This time it was but a short path before their progress was halted again, and their blindfolds removed.
They found themselves in a large circular chamber. Each of their guides had stepped back to edge, perfectly spaced around it. In the center was a rather attractive woman in red leather and a masquerade mask, carelessly tossing the gem they needed so badly up and down. Across her legs lay a naked sword that almost oozed magic.
Upon seeing the gem, the gnome had to be physically restrained by his allies. There was a short conversation in which the woman questioned them in a melodious voice. They attempted to explain that the glass gem was a family heirloom. She pointed out that few people go to such trouble for a simple glass heirloom. The group moved on to tell her that she probably didn't want the trouble that went with that gem, insinuating that the cultists her spy network had heard about were following it instead of them.
Eventually they came to the point. She agreed to return the gem if they would perform a minor task for her. At first they refused. But surely such a simple task could not be of any trouble, she assured them. All she needed was for them to deliver a small box to the mayor of Neverwinter's study. Without being seen. What could possibly be the harm?
They asked why she couldn't have some of her own people do it if this was such a simple task. She replied sweetly that security was quite tight. She hadn't been willing to risk one of her people, but she could care less if they got caught.
Realizing that if they didn't agree they'd probably never leave the room the group accepted the box. As they were leaving that melodious voice called out from behind them.
"And remember," she said, her voice dripping malevolence "we have spies everywhere. You will be watched constantly."
Once delivered back to the outflow they were again unhooded and released. As soon as the group was out of eavesdropping range an argument ensued. The kobold was dead set against helping such evil, no matter how much they needed the gem.
Of course they could have gone back into the sewers later on, tried to decipher the entrance code, snuck in and possibly stolen back their gem. Or they could have confronted The Mask without her bodyguards. Or they could tell the paladin to bugger off.
Well that last always sounds fun right? So they told him he didn't have to have anything to do with it, but they were going to deliver said mysterious box. They needed their gem. He stomped off, and they headed to the mayor's mansion to case the joint.
This led to another issue. Without Tanic available, who was to do the casing? Why not Vex right? Other than the fact that she had no stealth at all it was a perfect plan.
In other words no one could have been more obvious about casing a joint then a six foot rock woman. In short order she found herself confronted with several guards demanding she move on. There may have been threats about being thrown in prison if they saw her their again.
But never fear. The gnome is here! So whilst his rock companion (makes her sound a bit like a pet doesn't it) had said sentries' attention, the gnome was getting the information they needed.
They then retired to the temple, feeling rather unclean I would imagine. That night they slipped out and headed back to the mansion to do the dirty deed. Unfortunately there was a hedge maze in the back, wandering sentries in the front, and posted guards spread about the balconies. It was almost as if the mayor was expecting someone to sneak into his house. Kind of the paranoia you might expect from a public official that was trying to get rid of organized crime in his city . . .
After much hemming and hawing in the shadows the gnome noted that the guards rarely looked up and asked Zubat to cast a flight spell on him. He then proceeded to buzz the house like a malignant bee, only quieter. Despite all my dice could do he slipped easily inside, constantly making stealth checks in the high twenties. Once inside he adroitly avoided several guards, placed the box, and escaped the way he'd come. The group of lazy pragmatists then returned to the temple, ten percent closer to a lower alignment than before.
At the appointed hour the next day they returned to the tavern where they were escorted back upstairs. As they approached the door they could see that Josh had received quite the working over for his multitude of failures. And it was clear he knew this time who deserved his ire.
As they passed him Velic reached out and touched Josh on the shoulder muttering a word of apology. The wounds on the huge man healed almost instantly at the touch, and his glare lightened, albeit minutely. The Hand praised them in their industriousness and handed over the gem. They then availed themselves of the first exit out of the city.
That night, as if by karmic design, they were set upon by a Smoke Haunt. Upon discovery it jumped back to its natural area. They followed and killed it. Examination of the site indicated rather large goblins had killed the person that had become the haunt. But hey, what can you do. Goblins right? Besides they had shit to do . . .