The characters were wary in Shem, aware that they were suspected of attacking a patrol on the borders, but word had not yet reached the city.
Jim had to miss out on a session and rather than cancel the game, I simply ran a side quest. Arcturans are rare and a source of wonder even for Quindia where strange sights are common. An almost equally obscure cult known as the Blue Clerics hold in reverence the stars and the sky gods who hail from them - ironically the cult was founded on the worship of Arcturans, but they see the scattered exiles who dwell on Quindia as abominations and parodies of their faith. The Blue Clerics mercilessly hunt Arcturans when they become aware of them. Actual Clerics are rare among them, but there are a few. However, their spells are granted by the Chaos Lord Balo the Jester who enjoys the joke. Unknown to the PCs, Balo becomes aware of them during this adventure...
Only a few days after arriving in Shem, Ghul D'Khat is discovered by one of the crazed cultists, drugged while carousing at Murphey's Tavern, and spirited away. The notes of the preparation for the session:
1. Ghul D'Khat is spotted by an agent of the Blue Clerics, launching a new crusade! The arcturan is drugged and kidnapped.
2. Strom, Memnoch, and Schmee discover the deed only moments later and give chase, but loose the foe in the darkness beneath the wharf. They will be left a clue - a small crate bearing the mark of the House of Esalain is dropped by the villains in their haste. While the crate is empty but for some straw (the kidnappers transported the manacles, sleep potion, and lantern in it), it will point the PC's to the manor of Lord Esalain, a prosperous merchant from Golatha.
3. Esalain has nothing to do with this, but the ancient catacombs beneath his manor hide a small coven of Blue Clerics (unbeknownst to the merchant). If spoken to and shown the crate, he admits it was his, but also says his trading company hasn't used that style of crate for years. He will allow the PC's access to an empty warehouse adjacent to the manor where some of the crates may still be found. One of the servants will quietly warn Strom that the warehouse is haunted and tell how he once saw a ghost draped in blue in the cellar of the warehouse.
It's actually a testament to the type of game we use to play that I expected the characters to talk to the merchant rather than simply attacking the manor (and that they did!). If they would have tried to sneak in, they could have obtained the same information from the servant. I can't imagine the outcome had they simply assaulted the manor, but it is doubtful they would have learned of the warehouse next door. According to the HP sheets, the characters fought a group of NPC's after entering the catacombs that included a Cleric 6th, Cleric 3rd, Fighter 2nd, Elf Fighter 2nd/Magic-User 2nd, Thief 3rd, and five men-at-arms. There are few other details in my notes. They managed to rescue their friend and gained a Necklace of Protection +2 in the process.
I want to take a minute to note the magic items found in the games. After five sessions - the party only had three: Anduin the Quiet, the Ring of Daomund, and a Necklace of Protection +2. I think the latter was only given out to help the monk NPC who looks like he was getting creamed in every session when I see the HP sheets (remember the group didn't have a cleric). There were potions off and on as well, but that was it. Magic was simply not as important to the mechanics of the game. By keeping items rare and using more custom items, I think it creates more of a sense of wonder in the game. When items are obtained, they are truly special instead of simply buffs. I love the direction they've taken with D&D Next to assure magic items are not calculated in the advancement of the characters. Hopefully this will be retained in the final draft of the game.