Horatio the Street Mage adopts his persona of Wickham Winmore the Northron knight and goes Carousing in Merkabar the City of Paradises with Halwen the Lucky, fellow Northron William of Melcott and "Scratchy" Bonfilh (three NPCs). Halwen, a keen gambler, gets drawn to the House of the Cracked Mirror and a high stakes game of Shibolbo with some robed Stygians. She confides to Horatio/Wickham that she's in over her head and is staking her life as an illicit human sacrifice for some Stygian cult. The game is set to resume at midnight.
Horatio sends his familiar to fetch friends. Dian of the Danaan has been doing the 'Water Tour' of the city, blessing fountains and wells and aquaducts - but really an excuse to attack and harass the Eunuchs of St Jezriel over an escalating property dispute between their religions. Horatio and Dian meet in the Paradise of Seven Yews (a walled cemetery) to discuss their options.
They considering delving into the Nether Courts to find a slave market to buy an alternative sacrifice, but this doesn't sit well with them. They decide instead to visit the Church of Ahrumon to see if the city's established evil religion knows what these Stygians are up to.
Since the temple-ziggurats are massive abattoirs, Dian leaves his hearth-companion Rasher the Boar with another cleric, Wicwyn Yorne.
The pair arrive at the Ziggurat of Smiling Shadows just after evening services and watch the (animal) blood being cleaned away by acolytes. Patriarch Zabulon is in prayer, so they are asked to wait on the Patriarch's balcony, sipping sherbet and eating figs while enjoying a spectacular view of the city.
A young woman joins them and her beauty entrances Horatio. Before she can lead him away, Dian exposes her for a Succubus and curses her. She leaves in a fury but they are reproved by Patriarch Zabulon: "Please don't insult my secretary."
Zabulon is silky sophisticated and deeply corrupt. He reveals that the Stygians worship Ahrumon in the aspect of Sutekh of the Tombs, but their paperwork is up to date and they have observed all the rituals. Zabulon will not take action against them but observes that the Stygians are very interested in the Stonehell dungeon so perhaps a deal might be struck. He gives Horatio a diptych, a hinged tablet granting him some authority from the Church of Ahrumon.
Back at the House of the Cracked Mirror, Horatio and Dian interrupt the Shibolbo Game and approach the Stygian priest to negotiate for Halwen to be released from her debts. Thotmosis the High Priest in return instructs them to return to the Quiet Halls of Stonehell and track down an ancient, evil mystic hiding there who must be made, whether he wishes it or no, to assist the Cult of Sutekh of the Tombs in their Great Work...
All of which explains how a night of Carousing for Horatio turned into an extended evening, with great expense, but resulted in him acquiring a good reputation and a favour from someone influential.