your journey through the empire is relatively short and uneventful. the land steadily gets dryer as verdant grasslands turn into savanna, and from savanna to dune crested horizons. moving through the desert, you peak a final dune to come into sight of the city nestled in a large recess in the moutains. its high walls are the color of the surrounding sand, with a pale green sheen where the light reflects off its surface. outside of its walls is a view far less savory. Balmora appears almost trapped behind a blockade of shoddy wood buildings either rotting from the moister of the nearby river or cracking under the unforgiving sun; it resembles beggars encircling a man of good fortune. peering north to south of the city you spy the crystal clear Salvation River running in concert with the mountains bearing the same name, even at a distance its waters seem clean and refreshing save for the split flowing next to the outskirts. next to river you see the orderly grid of irrigation channels running through the many farms used to help supply the city.
as you cross the bridge to the dilapidated outskirts the smell of soiled water and sewage assaults your nose. the houses look no better up close and the population is an accurate parallel to their abodes. tangled trash strewn streets abound with the only real exception being the main path to the city gates. being directed by some of the residents, you find the Bucket of Blood inn a short way of the main highway.
when you reach the Bucket of Blood you can’t help but think it must be maintained even worse then the nearby houses and you shudder at the thought of what it must look like on the inside. walking in, the first thing you see, and probably smell, is the proprietor: a fat, sweaty bald man standing over 6 feet tall, and you get the feeling he is the sort of person you don’t want to meet in a prison cell… he spits on a rag and wipes the counter with it, noticing you, he sneers in your direction and starts “cleaning” the inside of a mug with the same rag. to no great surprise, there is no one else holding custom here.
concluding the conversation with the odious man, he directs you up the stairs, last door on your right; he who you want is staying there.
The door slowly creeps open to reveal the room: it’s spartan, one closed window, one desk and one shelf with zero contents, one bed and six chairs are all that odor it. on the the sixth chair behind the bare desk, sits a thin half-elf; male, you believe, but unnatural shadow seems to surround it in the lightless room. “Please come in, do shut the door and sit down if you would. Before you say anything, yes, i have been expecting you; and yes. i am Rathor Sci Litchfield. And i am VERY pleased to make your acquaintance” his words are exact and purposeful, reveling most likely a sharp and dangerous intellect. “lets get straight to the business at hand, shall we? i have a proposition, along good and bad news. the bad news is that since your arrival, your choices of what you can do next have been limited to four outcomes. first: you leave now, you don’t listen to my offer, i pay recompense for your sojourn and you walk away forever; because if you ever do return to the area you will be slain. second: you listen to my offer and decline, which results much like the first with the further addendum that if you in any way attempt to harm my mission, you will be slain. third: you hear my offer, and he on whose behalf i ask it, and you decline; this will lead to your captivity until such a time when my mission is either complete, or has irrevocable failed. if you prove to be a flight risk for any reason during that duration, you will be slain. the fourth option of course, is the good news: you accept my offer and you succeed. you will be showered in wealth and power, and if you so chose, integrated into a covenant that will both shelter and support you in any future endeavors. what is your answer?”
“Good. To begin, you first need to understand Balmora. Its political system is comprised of four or so major power structures. The first three, are legal. The top of this chain and the undisputed rulers of the city are the chaminate, the chaminate is comprised of the Chamin and a ruling counsel of nine elders from the nine houses along with complement of ten advisers coming from the eight guilds. In this system the Chamin has nigh absolute authority, and can overrule any majority decision made by the counsel, and it takes a united counsel to overrule a decision he makes. In concert, a majority vote can overrule a decision made by the guild advisory, but a united advisory can overrule a majority vote made by the counsel. To complicate things further, a Chamin is chosen via popular vote of select citizens from the house counsel and the houses select their members guilds in turn the guilds from the voting population. Add to that the lesser guilds and other illegitimate powers in the city and you have an interwoven, almost mind bending political structure. The plan is simple: collapse this structure straight into our loving arms.”
“I will brief you on how only when you need to know. for now, your mission is to frame a man for murder. the man is Elas Ledger, a scribe working for the divine guild at the university and a servant of Deneir. Unfortunately for him, he has a little side hobby, sneaking off in the middle of the night to help a poor decrepit orphanage. You are going to help Elas Ledger burn the place down. then, when the orphans are beyond saving, you should confront Elas for his treachery and place on his corpse this, (hands over a unholy symbol of Cyric). the heroic act of trying to save the children will earn you admission into the Adventurers Guild, which is the only way you will be able to stay within Balmora. the rest of the details will be given to you by the proprietor of the Four Walls and a Roof inn; his name is Adogeon Forgedawn and his wife Alatherys and Fhamorel their daughter. they are all with me and can be trusted and they are the ONLY ones you are to trust inside the city walls, and me the ONLY individual outside of them. You have a maximum of three days to accomplish this and become part of the adventures guild. the entire city is surrounded by the Lucian Empire and so are very distrustful of outsiders, if you stay for longer then the three days someone will hear about your presence and i will be left with no choice but to make you disappear to avoid suspicion by the local authority’s.”
“to get inside the gates, or the door beside the gates rather, you will need to get past the two guards on the outside of them, one of the sentries is compliant, the other is not. what you need to do is wait until the sun completely goes down, at one point one of the guards will go to relieve himself, the doormen remaining is the one you want. walk up and quickly show the symbol of Cyric and he will let you in. when you are in, head directly to the Four Walls and a Roof, do not wander outside the inn during the day if it at all can be avoided, if it can’t then sure to to bring the Forgedawns daughter along with you. and whilst inside the city you are to dawn a facade complete ignorance, though i have not said much about Balmora even that small amount will draw unwanted eyes if you share it. and one whiff of suspicion could end this endeavor before it begins; so do not, under ANY circumstance, reveal anything i have said. if you do, one faction or another will find you, but rest assured the result will not differ.”
“the reward for this task is 500 hundred gold apiece, quite a reward. as will be each of the steps until the city is taken, and when that happens you will get the biggest reward of all. so, lastly, here’s a map of the city and a drawing of Mr. Ledger. Oh, and before i forget, i have a gift for each of you. a temporary one to help you accomplish your task, but powerful all the same” (pulls out five oval black stones, four inches long and three inches thick) “these are for you, they are powerful tools for one who needs to deceive. they will prohibit all attempts to magically or psionically determine falsehoods, and also determine the true motives of your heart. keep them on your person at ALL TIMES, i don’t care if your talking to a friend or fucking them, these do not leave you. what they are called the is Hearts of Darkness, but as much as they are evil, they are ours. so a word of warning: if you attempt to steal them away, sell them, or try to lie to me (or another servant of Yirrixees) you will find them removed from you possession and retribution swift and absolute. when the Balmora falls, they will leave you. now, let me show you were the Four Walls and a Roof is, and if that is all. good luck”