The Chronicles of The Annabel Lee

Dawn of Defiance: Episode 5

A Wretched Hive: Part 2

Once the heroes have subdued Warrick Raden, it is not hard to convince him to lead them to Darga’s palace. The Devaronian is clearly terrified of what awaits him at the palace, but he is also afraid of the heroes, and as such he does not make any escape attempts. Raden has a speeder that can fit three passengers (or six, if they pile in on top of one another), and he wastes no time in zooming through the bridge city, weaving in and out of ruined buildings and taking shortcuts through the rubble. The trip to Darga’s palace takes half an hour, and Raden’s winding course leads the heroes into a dense cluster of buildings that blocks out their view of the Cato Neimoidian sky.

As the heroes approach Darga’s palace, they see that it is cleverly hidden among the ruins of several destroyed Neimoidian palaces. In fact, on first approach, there seems to be nothing of importance in the area. But on closer inspection, it becomes clear that the Hutt’s palace is cobbled together from former Neimoidian estates. The entrance to the palace is a pair of massive blast doors, 5 meters tall and carved with elaborate Hutt runes, set into the front wall. The doors appear to be unguarded. Raden walks timidly up to one door, which has a small communications panel. He presses a button, sputters some phrases in Huttese and steps back, fidgeting nervously. A long, quiet moment passes before two Nikto with hunting blaster rifles appear on battlements above the doors, weapons at the ready and pointed down at the visitors. A metal panel in the blast door scrapes as it is pulled aside, and a pair of glowing red eyes appear in the slit. A gravelly voice echoes from within the doors, again in Huttese and the panel slams closed.

A momentlater, there is a heavy clank of metal on metal, and the blast doors partto either side. A rush of cold, dry air flows outward from the Hutt’s palace, and Raden motions the heroes to follow him inside.

Entering the palace, there is no sign of who or what might have owned the glowing red eyes seen through the door panel. The heroes follow Raden down a long, dark hallway illuminated at seemingly random intervals by torches set in sconces on the walls. Unmarked metal doors are set into the walls at various points, and the air is thick with the smell of dust and rotting wood. Moving deeper into the palace, the heroes get the sense that the building was once bright and beautiful. It becomes clear that the palace probably once belonged to a high-ranking member of the Trade Federation.

Darga’s throne room is both opulent and repulsive. A thick layer of oddly scented smoke drifts through the air, rising out of braziers in the corners of the room. Once-beautiful tapestries line the walls, though most of them have been torn, burned, or stained to the point that they are almost unrecognizable. A raised dais in the center of the room supports the massive bulk of Darga the Hutt, and behind his dais a large, open balcony seems to extend into darkness.

When Warrick Raden leads the heroes into the room, the sounds of conversation and music come to a halt. Silence reigns as every eye turnsto watch Raden lead the visitors into an open space in front of the opulent dais. Darga’s eyes roll from the heroes to Raden, then sharpen quickly with anger. He booms something in Huttese at the Devaronian who immediately begins groveling, begging for the Hutt’s forgiveness as the rest of the court hoots with laughter and derision.

Darga cuts him off with a harsh word and calls for his protocol droid, TC-663. From this point on, Darga begins addressing the heroes directly, using TC-663 as a translator.

Darga’s giant eyes rest on them all for a long moment before the Hutt demands to know why they have come to his palace and how they convinced Raden to escort them. Darga is satisfied with the heroes explanation about their gun smuggling operation.

Once the heroes have satisfied his curiosity, Darga invites them to join him at court for a short while. He has many matters to attend to over the next few days, and he is expecting visitors besides, but he is more than happy to let them stick around.Darga calls for a feast and offers them a large amount of delicious (and expensive) food and drink. As the feast begins, two of Darga’s Gamorrean guards drag Warrick Raden off.

During the feast, Darga asks many questions about the heroes: who they are, where they come from, what their exploits are, and so on. Over the course of the meal, the heroes get the impression that, while Darga is trying to win them over with his opulence, he is also testing to see whether they have anything to offer him. He drops hints with remarks such as, “We will see how you enjoy your time in my court—and how much I enjoy your company,” or “The next few days will give us a chance to get to know each other and see how much I have to offer you—and you to offer me!”

For the next few days, the heroes spend time in Darga’s court, learning about the Hutt and his dealings by observing, participating in encounters, and snooping around. Though Darga seems eager to show them a good time, he remains wary of outsiders, so he plans to keep the heroes close. As such, they must not only uncover the Hutt’s involvement with the Sarlacc Project but also ingratiate themselves with Darga to gain his confidence.

Later that night, one of Darga’s servants visits Psort who is strolling the palace corridors with Ethan. The servant tells the heroes that Darga has summoned them to a secret meeting in his aviary because he cannot trust anyone else with what he has to say.

Shadows flicker across the floor of the aviary as the swaying trees within block out the moonlight shining down through the ceiling. The occasional flutter of wings or gust of air can be heard faintly as a bird takes flight or lands on a nearby branch. The soft rustle of leaves provides a thin background noise, masking the sounds of your footsteps as you pass down the dimly lit winding path, flanked on either side by the trunks of large trees.

Hiding within is Kessra with a whistle to control four large, vicious Kreehawk ‘pets’ of Darga. She sends the birds to attack. The fight is bloody but when the rest of the party join the fight it turns in their favour and they slay both the birds and Kessra.

Darga is disappointed that he didn’t get to see the fight. He considers himself even with the heroes if they killed any of his kreehawks, since they were attacked while guests under his roof.

Darga then calls for the execution of Warwick Raden and offers the heroes the chance to undertake it. Although Ethan is appalled at the prospect and argues against it, Psort stands forth and kills the Rodian with a single blow from his vibro-axe.

Darga, like all Hutts, has a short attention span and demands entertainment. The balcony overlooking the darkened area to the rear of Darga’s throne room is actually his viewing box for a moderately sized gladiator arena. From the looks of it, the arena was once a garden of some kind, likely filled with rare plants cultivated for a wealthy Neimoidian noble. The ceiling appears to be made entirely of transparisteel, though it has been crudely painted over, and gaudy lamps have been set in the walls all the way around the perimeter of the arena.

At Darga’s command, the lights go up, and the heroes are invited to the viewing box for gladiator matches. Darga explains that he always enters a team of gladiators in an annual competition on Rattatak, and that over the course of the year, various teams challenge one another for the right to be Darga’s sponsored gladiators. After a few brutal matches during which several combatants are maimed or killed, Darga offers the heroes a chance to prove their own mettle in the combat arena. Psort, Trooper and Ethan agree when it is explained it will be ‘stun only’.

High above the gladiator pit, Darga the Hutt presides over the beginning of the match, looking down on you with a slimy grin. Standing just to his left is the protocol droid translator, who relays the Hutt’s decree down to you: “Fight for the chance to be my personal gladiator team! Riches and fame for all who are strong enough to seize them!” With that, the Hutt blows a massive horn that echoes throughout the open gladiator pit. Dirt crunches underfoot, and flickering light shines from the lamps mounted around the perimeter.

The five gladiators are an odd mix, making a team that seems as mismatched as it is diverse. Three Gamorreans wielding vibro-axes snort and drool hungrily, pounding on their armored chests and looking as though they were preparing for a feast. A sly-looking Rodian paces back and forth casually, gripping a blaster at his hip, clenching and unclenching his fist as he waits for the fight to start. A cobbled-together battle droid with three photoreceptors and a massive grenade launcher stands stock still, its only movement the occasional twitch of an electronic eye swiveling to examine the heroes from a different angle.

The fight begins but is swift and unbalanced. Psort engages the battle-droid, Trooper the Rodian and Ethan is cornered and felled by the three Gamorrean’s battle charge. Then the lights go out.

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stevie

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