As the party got to know each other, it was Lionel (the old man on the cart) who really got the conversation going by answering some questions about the current state of Jiyutoshi, the rumors and troubles of the city, and questions of its benevolent leader, Lady Kyoko. But as the crew got acquainted, the elf Arauka seemed to sense something strange out in the woods, and headed out in front of the caravan. Moments later, a thunderous CRRRAAASH and an otherworldly bellow erupted from the dense trees, as a roiling mass of black flames and tentacles burst forth and attacked Arauka.
Battle erupted as the trio sprang into action. As they fought the enormous beast, they discovered to their horror, that this beast was actually a giant boar covered in some manner of demonic material. The trio dispatched the demon pig, harvested one of the giant tusks and continued on to the free city of Jiyutoshi. Lionel pointed the group on to the Stone Pony as a place to stay, and to talk to Kaza, the innkeeper, who was a former apprentice of his.
Upon arrival, Grimpem's priority was to sell the giant tusk he was carrying around and scrape together some coin. Eventually, they found their way to Hearthfire, a local pawn/sundry/general goods store. Behind the counter was Doli Cotton, a halfling with the most glorious sideburns that the world has ever seen. They haggled for a bit, Grimpem got over zealous with his bluffing and quickly earned the ire of the smooth-talking proprietor. They did manage to glean the name of another potential buyer, Christoph Hoyle, the alchemist down at Mystical Cookery along the riverfront.
When the trio entered the dark shop, they were greeted by a tidal wave of strange smells, and one of the oddest individuals they had ever met, the be-goggled alchemist Christoph Hoyle. Between outbursts of hysterical laughter, dancing and singing like a maniac and snorting some boar tusk scratchings, Christoph agreed to purchase the tooth in exchange for a bit of gold and 3 potions which could be collected in 10 days time. Satisfied with the transaction (but sufficiently creeped out), the group decided to follow Lionel's suggestion and find The Stone Pony tavern.
As they rounded a corner into an open square, they spotted the stone statue of a horse rearing up in front of the building: their destination, The Stone Pony. The district of Low Town that the Tavern occupied was a lively one at night, many street performers and street workers were out, and there was a lively energy in the air as the citizenry went about their debauchery. As they haggled with Kaza for a good 10-day rate for 2 rooms (they were eventually landed in rooms "C" and "D" with Hettle/Grimpem in "D" and Arauk in "C"), one of the group noticed that there was abnormally large number of brothel girls in this tavern. The gang watched as a drunken man approached one of these girls, propositioned, was rejected and got aggressive. As the trio rose to intervene on the lady's behalf, they quickly discovered their assistance was not needed as a score of brothel girls erupted into a violent storm of resistance and beat the ever-living shit out of the poor fellow. They learned from Kaza that these particular brothel girls had their contracts bought out by Lady Kyoko who then in turn hired them to work the bellows in the mighty forge at the top of the city.
At that moment, one of Kyoko's silent guards entered the tavern, spotted them from across the room, and identified him/herself as one of the guards on the caravan when they were attacked by the demon boar with a silently raised solidarity fist. He/She strode over and handed them a written invitation to see Lady Kyoko the following morning, but with little other details included.
The next morning, they made their way to the Iron Palace, called Tetsu-jo in the native tounge. After mistaking a high profile and blustery councilor for Lady Kyoko, the Mistress of Jiyutoshi presented herself to them, humbly dressed and even-tempered. She beckoned them into her personal wing of the palace, taking them through finely manicured zen gardens, meticulously cultivated courtyards, and finally, to a separate wing on the far end of one of her courtyards. There, the trio found themselves in the presence of dozens of men, elves, halflings and many other goodly races…but who were all bandaged and deformed. These folk were suffering from something akin to leprosy, and the trio learned that they had all been outcasts until Lady Kyoko took them in. She gave them care and purpose, by having them work as accountants for the city, helping Lady Kyoko with the tremendous feats of organization the city and economy needed to keep going.
The Mistress of The Free City requested assistance from them in 2 ways, as her own forces were stretched to the breaking point. First, her mining/scouting expeditions that had struck out into the Wildlands in search of their next iron ore mine have been disappearing…as have the search parties sent out to find them. She fears the worst but needs to know if there are any survivors and, just as importantly, what is causing these disappearances. The second task was a domestic one, in the form of a newly arrived and particularly brutal organization of thieves and murderers, calling themselves the Shadow Hands. The criminal underworld of Jiyutoshi had been, since her rule began, relatively benign…petty thievery, burglarly, pick-pocketing, money laundering scams and the like. But her city guard didn't have the resources to deal with this new savagery, and she requested the trio's assistance in any way they could: any information about the group to aid in their expelling from Jiyutoshi, or any progress in eliminating them. She promised they would not go unrewarded for their services, and allowed the group to spend the afternoon partaking in some hospitality…a meal, some time in the palace baths and such.
The gang left the Palace many hours later, having spent the majority of the afternoon in comfort. They crossed the vast city back towards the Stone Pony in Low Town…but sometime after sundown as they were crossing through one of the more seedier slums, a shrill scream pierced the night air, and around the corner came running a young girl, of about 10 years. Plowing straight into the group, the young girls babbled incoherently for a few moments about "somethingsomethingitsaftermesomethingsomethingMONSTER"
Not more than a few seconds later, there was a low menacing growl, and from around the corner in pursuit of the young girl, came leaping a monstrosity the likes of which had never been seen by any of the 3 adventurers. Built on the frame of a man, various wolf parts seemed to have been grafted on…a Chimera of wolf and man: The torso and hips of a man, but the legs, forearms/claws, tail and combination head of a wolf/man! A more vile hybrid they had never seen.
A savage battle ensued, and the horrific nightmare beast was defeated. Finding little of interest on the beast itself (save for a few extracted teeth, courtesy of Hettle), the trio brought the young girl, who's name they learned to be Mei, back to the Stone Pony where she would feel more safe around a crowd of humanoids. It is there, they began planning their next move when Grimpem noticed something was missing from its usual place in his coat pocket…