The moment of temptation seemed to drag on forever. Dionysos and Alcemides were especially keen to cut the throats of the unsuspecting crew and claim the ship for themselves. Finally, Barathus convinced them otherwise through simple logic – none of them were sailors. Thus the crew was woken up and the journey commenced next morning. After a few days, they saw the walls of Kordova on the horizon.
The city seemed exotic to the Nemedians, who had not visited other foreign countries than Aquilonia. Thothmekri seemed to be right at home after they had entered the capital of war-torn Zingara. The mysterious Stygian recommanded an inn for the weary travelers, promising to send some people for the corpse of the Acheronian sorceress and bring the silver promised. With those words, he disappeared into the crowd. Alcemides went forth to deliver the orphans to a local Mitraneum, paying the priests handsomely in exchange for promises of taking care of the children.
The Nemedians were soon taken in by the lures of civilization, busying themselves in whoring, gambling and drinking. The Stygian was true to his word, as the silver coins he promised were delivered to their inn by mute slaves, who took the corpse with them. The temple of Ishtar came especially familiar to the wanderers, thanks to its temple prostitutes. The priestesses claimed that they had never heard of the woman that had attacked the Nemedians aboard the river barge. Soon enough the Nemedians realized that they were both rich and poor at the same time. They had plenty of Acheronian gold from the chest they had mysteriously received, but exchanging such cursed currency to normal coinage would be hard. They’d have to find some way to pay for their booze and rooms untill the sea voyage promised by the Stygian would be arranged. Soon enough they were drawn in to fighting at a local arena for both glory and wealth.
The common fights went well and a local arena manager suggested that Alcemides would put together a group to take on a special challenge – a group of amateurs in unarmed match against a professional gladiator Thorviga the Red. The half-pict accepted, thinking of the glory and the possible wealth from betting. Alcemides had an idea – the group would fight dressed and painted like Picts for extra effect from the crowd, with the pale Dionysos being “an Acheronian Witch-king” for their amusement. He even hired a “shaman drummer” to pound Pictish drums in the background. Noam and Alcemides came up with an idea of seeking helpful herbs from the nearby swamp to use in the upcoming fight.
While the other prepared for the arena match, Dionysos had got himself acquainted with local nobility as he spent much time in the temple of Ishtar. A young Zingaran nobleman by the name of Korzetta seemed to know people interested in Acheronian coins. He spent all his days and nights in the temple, spending coin liberally on both lotus and prostitutes. He confessed that the rest of his family had left Zingara and he was the only one left after the family had abandoned their castle. Dionysos and the young Korzetta seemed to have much in common, at least in their decadence. Indeed, Korzetta came up with an invitation to “an interesting party” after the upcoming arena match, which he would come to watch. Dionysos even convinced him to arrange the bets for the group.
The Nemedians set themselves up for the upcoming match with great care. They had been promised a bonus if they’d put up a good show and they spent much of their wealth in placing bets for themselves. As the gates of the main arena opened, they were greated by thundering roars of the bloodthirsty audience. To their surprise, the gladiator they were supposed to fight with turned out to be a huge Nordheimer woman. Despite the odds, Thorviga wrestled and tossed the men around like children. Only after a heavy beating she did fall. By then both Dionysos and Alcemides were unconscious on the sand, the rest barely standing on their feet. Yet still, they had won and won both large amount of silver and the thundering cheers of the crowd.
A splendidly decorated carriage awaited for the victorious fighters. Dionysos and Alcemides were reinvigorated back to their feet. Korzetta joined the group , delivering them the silver they had won from their bets and congratulating them for their victory. The carriage started surprisingly towards the harbor instead of the more prestigious districts of the town, entering a shady harbor warehouse. Masked servants lead the celebrants to stairs that descended undearneath the city, into the infamous ruins known as the Pit. Yet the corridors they travelled were lit with torches and guarded by masked, armed men. Despite the ill omens, the Nemedians and the Zingaran nobleman arrived safely in a great underground, perhaps underwater, hall that was full of people dressed in rich livery.
Drink and food flowed freely in the party, which was not without its charms. Plenty of young noblewomen were interested in the exotic, victorious gladiators. Korzetta was happy to introduce Barathus and Dionysos to the local nobility. The party dragged on to the small hours. A veiled nobleman who introduced himself as Baron Castante showed special interest in the Nemedians, trying to loosen their lips on the subject of Thothmekri. However, the Zingaran was blunt in his attempt and the foreigners denied knowing the Stygian at all. The enigmatic baron invited the group to a party he would hold in his mansion in a weeks time and showed interest towards buying the Acheronian artifacts they possessed.
The morning was hazy and noisy, as the men tried to sleep off the unfortunate side effects of the party and the arena match.Korzetta met Dionysos in the temple of Ishtar and made him a very interesting offer, that would have more significance than either could even guess…