Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14) - Page 23
  1. #221
    Very informative update. Sounds like it was one of those why didn't we do this sooner moments. It also feels like this is a bit of a calm before the storm.

  2. #222
    Before the stuff hits the fan (show of hands if you think Belinda & Co.'s divinatory spell is going to go smoothly?), can someone remind me in a bit more detail who Mokad and Califax are? I know I could look this up in StevenAC's archive, but I'm feeling lazy. Thanks.

  3. #223
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    All caught up, after being away from ENWorld for a long time. As always, a pleasure to read and very inspiring.

  4. #224
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Randall View Post
    Before the stuff hits the fan (show of hands if you think Belinda & Co.'s divinatory spell is going to go smoothly?), can someone remind me in a bit more detail who Mokad and Califax are? I know I could look this up in StevenAC's archive, but I'm feeling lazy. Thanks.
    Sure. Quick summary:

    - Mokad was once a member of the Church of Delioch (God of Healing, of whom Dranko is a cleric). He became corrupted and recruited by the Black Circle, and was later placed in charge of rescuing Emperor Naradawk from his prison plane of Volpos. This plan was thwarted by the Company, and Mokad was killed in the climactic battle.

    - Califax is also a member of the Church of Delioch. He was Dranko's disciplinarian for many years, and Dranko had always assumed him to be a bad guy. And, in fact, Mokad recruited him away to the Black Circle for a short time. But Califax never went all the way over, as it were, and with Dranko's help he turned away from the Black Circle. Mokad later kidnapped Califax and (as it turns out) removed his soul as part of the world-merging ritual that (fortunately) was never completed. The party rescued Califax and returned him to High Priest Tomnic, where he has been convalescing in an empty despair ever since, what with lacking a soul and all.

  5. #225


    And a congratulations again on such a good game, Sagiro. Been a while since I caught up (actually missed the thread change and wasn't subscribed to the new thread), but I'm glad I did.

    I started reading this story when it was first being posted, so returning to read more adventures of Abernathy's company is like picking up a new novel by a favourite author.

  6. #226
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    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 296
    Old Acquaintance

    The wizards are up early the next morning to continue their studies. They pursue more about “Soul Shards” and learn that freeing the soul trapped therein is a dicey proposition. The only way is to melt down the Shard in the Necromantic Forge where it was made. That should release the soul and return it to the body of its owner.

    “Maybe we have a Necromantic Forge in our basement too,” Kibi mutters. “Has anyone checked recently?”

    They continue to read.

    * *

    Flicker and Dranko cannot help but overhear a heated argument among some of the Diviners. They have reached a point in their ritual where they can go two different ways, one of which is more dangerous to Belinda personally but has a greater chance of success. Belinda herself is arguing for that riskier path.

    Dranko knocks on the door. When no one answers (or even seems to have heard), he opens the door to the ritual room and interjects: “I recommend that you cast the spell in such a way that you don't become hideously evil, such that we have to stop you. That's all. As you were.”

    He closes the door again.

    “Is that likely?” asks one of the younger diviners.

    “Of course not!” snaps Belinda. The argument continues.

    * *

    Several hours later Kibi finds what they're looking for, written on one of several scrolls on necromancy. One flaking parchment in particular outlines methods for creating undead creatures. On the subject of “artificially” creating types of undead that would otherwise have to come about spontaneously, it says: “Where the Black Mountains fork, beneath the ancient wooded graves of the Bur-Kesh, there lies Nazg Hodeth that houses the Necromantic Forge. It is here that some of the mightiest of risen dead were made in a time long past. A Skulltower was made without abyssal bones. Gravecrawlers were brought forth in great numbers. And the emanating power of the Forge itself was enough to create the Walking Necropolis that now lies sleeping. For those Necromancers who desire to call forth the most potent undead, seek the Forge in Nazg Hodeth.”

    “Walking Necropolis?” Morningstar echoes dubiously.

    “We're doomed,” Grey Wolf sighs.

    “We are so going to that place!” exclaims Aravis. “We have to free Califax's soul, after all.” He leaves unspoken his desire to kill bugbears (sometimes called 'Bur-Kesh'). He doesn't talk about it much, but his own parents were killed by bugbears from the mountains, who sacked his family's estate while he was away studying.

    Regardless, the Black Mountains are easily found on their maps of Charagan. The place described is not far from the city of Sentinel at the kingdom's far western border.

    Beyond the information on the Necromantic Forge, the Company finds two more pieces of notable information in the Black Circle:

    First is a blurb about Null Shadows and the cauldron that created them.

    “Gurthin’s greatest claim to fame was his forging of the Three Cauldrons: Shadow, Smoke and Lies. In the Great War he used the first two to produce fell soldiers to counter the Spire’s greatest heroes. Their wizards quailed before the Null Shadows, and their priests uttered oaths at the sight of Smoldering Ghosts. But it was the Cauldron of Lies that was his greatest achievement, for knowing lies, one discerns truth. Of course, while lies are treacherous, the truth can be even more so. The story is told that when Naloric stirred the Cauldron of Lies, it told him that he would be trapped forever in the Prison of Volpos. Perhaps it would have been better for him had that been true, since he was slain by Alander soon after his escape. Let us hope Darkeye makes better use of it.”

    The Company makes a note to move Darkeye up a few pegs on their list of enemies.

    They also learn something about the boundary between Volpos (the Prime where Naradawk is imprisoned) and Abernia. There used to a be a conspicuous weak-spot between the two, at Verdshane, but Aravis fixed it just in time. Other theoretical weak-spots exist (though not as severe as Verdshane), and these could be forced open with a sufficient quantity of focused life energy. According to the Black Circle's notes, it would take dozens of Black Circle mage-priests decades to gather that much life-force, and there simply aren't enough Black Circle practitioners on Charagan to do that.

    Ernie gasps. “But they are doing that in Kivia!”

    These new discoveries are interrupted by a sending from Dranko, that Belinda and her diviners are ready to start their ritual. The others stop stop their studies and teleport to the Diviners' Guild in Hae Charagan. Belinda announces that they have decided upon the more dangerous version of the casting – one that has a higher chance of success, but could result in insanity or death for Belinda. She declines an offer of false life, not wanting any necromantic spells upon her while divining for a necromancer. (On a similar vein, the Company is asked to leave any magic items with powerful divination or necromantic magic in a lead-lined room so as not to interfere with the ritual.)

    The Diviners first go through a brief “trial run” of the key parts of the spell, where they don't actual expend the rarer components. Confident that they have it down, they start the ritual for real. There is an etched triangle in the stone floor, with Belinda standing at one angle as the focus. A dozen other diviners all have their parts to play, chanting and striding and burning components and reading passages from divinatory scrolls.

    Less than a minute before the ritual's completion, a fuzzy image of a book appears above the triangle – unmarked and unremarkable, bound in black leather. It's the Tome of Deceit, that's foiling any divinations aimed at Praska.

    Belinda, sweat rolling down her face, utters the final syllable of the spell. The book vanishes from the triangle as her eyes roll up in her head. She falls backwards and her head cracks loudly on the stone floor. Ernie rushes up to check her, and finds her dead as a doornail.

    “Yours,” Dranko says to Morningstar.

    Morningstar nods and casts revivify, which can bring someone instantly back from the dead if cast quickly enough.

    Belinda's eyes flutter open and she sits up groaning, while the other diviners crowd around in concern.

    “Damn it,” she hisses. “I'm not strong enough. We need a more experienced diviner than we have here. The ritual... it worked! But I couldn't break through at the end.”

    “Does Praska know you came that close?” Dranko asks.

    “I don't think so,” Belinda answers. “Unless the Tome itself has a consciousness. I doubt anyone outside this room was aware of our spell. I was not attacked – it was simply a built-in defense of the book itself. I'm surprised it didn't kill me.”

    “Er...” says Ernie.

    “Your soul was on its way out,” Morningstar says. “I put it back.”

    Belinda looks at the other diviners, who shrug uncomfortably.

    “She did cast something on you after you... blacked out,” one of them confirms.

    “Thank you for that,” says Belinda. “You are indeed as powerful as we've heard. But I don't suppose you know any diviners of transcendent power?”

    The Company talk among themselves, not sure if they do or not. Then Kibi perks up. “Didn't we meet a powerful diviner in Het Branoi?”

    “Yeah!” Dranko exclaims. “That guy!”

    “Chiswick,” says Aravis.

    Indeed, Chiswick was a very old diviner they had met at the Eye of the Storm; he had sent the Company the Lucent Tower as thanks after Het Branoi was dissolved. And the party wizards remember clearly that he had divination spells beyond the normal 9th-level valence.

    While Morningstar casts heal on Belinda (just to be sure), Ernie sends to Chiswick.

    Chiswick, Ernie here. Want to get back at people who made Het Branoi, and help us save the world? Many thanks.”

    A few seconds later he gets a response.

    I'd like to help. I'm too weak to travel. My world is 'Therris.' Plane shift key is salt. Elgo Farm, country of Rehna. Find path.

    It's unclear what Chiswick will be able to do from a different plane, but they're eager to find out. Despite the late hour they make quick preparations before casting plane shift to Therris. Instead of using find the path and wind walk, Morningstar sends again to Chiswick asking if he minds them using scry-and-teleport instead.

    All right. Give me ten minutes to lower my wards.

    An hour later Aravis finishes casting scry, and sees the wizened little wizard reclining in a deck chair, next to a cleared-out space where the other chairs have clearly been pushed aside. Aravis teleports the party to that spot, and they find themselves on the deck of a large farmhouse. It's early afternoon here, with a warm sun casting its rays across verdant fields. The air smells of fresh apples and horse manure.

    “What a pleasure to see you in a place that isn't a bounded demi-plane,” Dranko says.

    Chiswick peers at him. “Where'd you learn that kind of fancy talk?”

    Dranko points at Aravis. “I copied him.”

    It's evident that Chiswick's health has deteriorated noticeably since they saw him in Het Branoi. He's grown extremely gaunt, his skin is a pasty white, and his limbs quiver when he shifts his weight.

    “Is there anything I can do for you?” Morningstar asks, voice full of concern.

    Chiswick smiles wanly. “Old age is the one malady for which there is no cure, my dear.”

    “Unless you count reincarnation!” Dranko says brightly.

    “I don't wish to come back,” Chiswick sighs. “I think I've earned myself a good long retirement in some heaven or other.”

    “I think you have too,” says Ernie.

    The Company pulls up chairs and regales the reclining Chiswick with tales of all their recent adventures, and their attempt to locate Praska. Chiswick listens with eyes a-twinkle; whatever the degradation of his body, his mind is still as sharp as ever.

    He's especially interested in how the Company brought about the dissolution of Het Branoi. “When Het Branoi was dismantled,” Chiswick tells them, “the Eye of the Storm ended up in its home plane. I plane shifted back here that very hour. I was eager to get home.”

    He grows silent for a moment before continuing. “I do miss not aging. My time is nearly up. But I've got a few weeks left, and what better way to spend them than to help you with your problems? I'm sure I can dig up something that can be of assistance. Could someone help me up? My servant is off tending the horses.”

    “Why don't you just use a fly spell and float around?” Dranko suggests. “I figured gratuitous use of magic is the reason you become a wizard in the first place.”

    “I try not to use magic unless I have to,” Chiswick answers. “I find it very tiring. It takes a lot out of a person, casting spells. It's something you'll realize when you get to be my age.”

    His shoulders have slumped as he explains, but after a moment he perks up again. “You're trying to divine something that's heavily warded, right? I've dealt with that sort of problem from time to time over the years. Do you have a diviner already of reasonable skill?”

    The members of the Company look at one another, and there is a round of virtual head-slapping. Why didn't they bring Belinda with them? Fortunately they have the spells prepared to cover up their oversight – more teleports and plane shifts. Kibi, Aravis and Morningstar go back to collect Belinda.

    “Like I said,” says Dranko with a grin. “Gratuitous use of magic.”

    Chiswick chuckles, a weak but earnest laugh that collapses into a coughing fit. When he's recovered, Chiswick asks, “Did you get my presents?”

    The Company gushes with thanks, specifically about the Lucent Tower which they adore. Ernie tells Chiswick about how they used it when last confronting Shreen the Fair.

    Soon enough the rest of the party returns with Belinda, who was more than willing to meet Chiswick. Immediately the two of them set to talking shop while the party sits nearby on the deck, basking in the warm afternoon. The diviners' discussion is interrupted only by another of Chiswick's coughing fits, after which his personal servant shoos everyone away for a couple of hours while she takes the old wizard upstairs to his bed. When he recovers he sends a servant down to fetch Belinda while another farmhand prepares a hearty lunch for the Company. They talk among themselves, enjoying the beautiful weather and rare opportunity for relaxation.

    Sometime in the early evening Belinda comes down from the farmhouse's upper floor, where she has been deep in private conversation with the old diviner. She's wearing an enormous and gaudy pendant on a gold chain.

    “Taught you all about bad fashion sense, did he?” asks Dranko

    “Yes,” says Belinda, fingering the pendant. “And he also gave me this, with which I'll tear through the Black Circle defenses like wet paper – to use Chiswick's exact phrasing.”

    “What does it do?” asks Dranko.

    Belinda takes a deep breath. “I need to activate it with some lower level divination spells, but it is specifically made to break through divinatory abjurations. It can only be used once. Chiswick said he made it many years ago for some specific need that it turned out was unnecessary. It's been in his attic unused since then. He says I'm powerful enough to make use of it, which is kind of humbling. I wish I had another year with him. He's going to send me as many of his notes as he can collect before he passes on. I think I used up a lot of his remaining strength just talking to him.

    “Given that we've gone through the ritual once already, and that everything is set up, it should only take an hour to recast. And when we're done, I'll know where that stupid book is, and we will find Praska, and then we will break the Black Circle.” be continued...
    Last edited by Sagiro; Saturday, 28th November, 2009 at 04:42 PM.

  7. #227
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Cool. Man, don't you ever run out of ideas? Heck, can you imagine going back to the beginning of the campaign and telling your friends and players all the details of the world you've created over the years?

    You've made an excellent setting, and the players have made wonderful characters. Thanks for sharing it all.

  8. #228
    Quote Originally Posted by RangerWickett View Post
    Cool. Man, don't you ever run out of ideas? Heck, can you imagine going back to the beginning of the campaign and telling your friends and players all the details of the world you've created over the years?

    You've made an excellent setting, and the players have made wonderful characters. Thanks for sharing it all.
    I agree. This has been my favourite story-hour from when I first read the very first session and spent weeks catching up.

    I feel like I know the characters and setting better than my own games

    Thanks for sharing these tales with us all, Sagiro, they're fun to read, interesting, and inspiring.

    I look forward to the next update with eager anticipation.

  9. #229
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    I appreciate the kind words, as always. The story hour is still a couple of years (and about 35 runs) behind where the game is now, so there's lots still to come. Writing this competes with a bunch of other things for my scarce time, but my intent is still, as it always has been, to chip away, one update at a time, until I've told the entire tale.

    As for the campaign itself: I think I'm still on track to finish it up in the next couple of years. The PC's are one good boss-fight away from reaching 20th level, they're festooned with epic and near-epic magic items, and they have only a couple of loose plot-ends to tie up before effectively triggering the end-game. It's a strange feeling.

    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 297
    Cloaks and Hoods

    The sun has now set over Chiswick's farm; the Company has been awake for 20 hours straight. They set up the Lucent Tower on the old diviner's front lawn and are woken the next morning by the crowing of a rooster.

    Belinda is extremely eager to get back to the Guild, and as the Company doesn't wish to wake Chiswick from sleep (even would his servants allow it), they leave him a note of thanks and plane shift back to Abernia. At the Diviners' Guild, Belinda strides through the halls, knocking on doors and shouting.

    “Up! Wake up! We're trying again!”

    Various diviners in their pajamas appear sleepily in doorways. It's five o'clock in the morning.

    “What makes you think it's going to work this time?” asks Ragmir, rubbing sand from his eyes. Belinda just smiles and beckons.

    As the diviners file into the ritual room and start to prepare the spell, Belinda details her meeting with Chiswick, eyes flashing with anticipation. She almost seems possessed, though without losing her innate sense of rigor. They carefully step through a trial run – just as well, with some of the diviners still groggy at such an early hour.

    They start the ritual. Once again, near its conclusion, the Tome of Deceit appears in the circle. The ungainly pendant around Belinda's neck starts to glow, and sweat beads on the diviner's brow. Her face contorts for a moment as though she's engaged in a great mental struggle; Morningstar readies another revivify. But Belinda smiles suddenly, closes her eyes, and in a voice several registers lower than her own, intones:

    The tree is hidden in the woods, disguised as a treatise on cloaks and hoods. Follow a seamstress, a maid or tailor, discover the truth, and her words will fail her.

    Her eyes snap open. “Yes!” she shouts with glee. “What did I say? Did someone write it down? Tell me you wrote it down!”

    Then she sits heavily, her strength spent.

    “From what Chiswick told me,” she says, “Praska still doesn't know we're onto her. She may have other divinatory protections beyond this book, but this is the key – her main line of defense.”

    “Thanks very much!” exclaims Kibi. “That was well done.”

    * *

    The Diviners, the exhausted Belinda included, go back to bed. The Company stays in the ritual room for a few minutes debating their next move. They can think of three immediate courses of action at this point: continue their current pursuit of Praska; go to the Necromantic Forge to free Califax's soul; or investigate the recent death of a member of the Great Pack. They decide to go with what's most current – Praska.

    There is swift agreement that Belinda's little rhyming riddle means the Tome of Deceit is hidden in a library. There are two such likely places right here in Hae Charagan – the library at the Temple of Delioch, and of course the Vault, the largest repository of written works in the Kingdom.

    “Time to look for books about cloaks and hoods!” Dranko exclaims.

    “Yeah,” Aravis says wryly. “Maybe for once in our careers it'll be that simple.”

    They first try the library at the church. Dranko and his friends are let onto the grounds without question, and they march straight to the repository which is housed in some basement rooms beneath the main courtyard. Most of the collected works are religious in nature – there's a separate wing for holy writings and scripture – but there's a small room with a few dozen books and scrolls on a variety of topics. There is only one book about tailoring and sewing to be found, though it's not about cloaks and hoods specifically. Half the book concerns the creation of church robes, and the other half to the tailoring of courtly finery.

    Just to be sure, Dranko makes a small tear in one page. He gets raised eyebrows from his fellows.

    “If this is a powerful tome of the Black Circle, it's probably indestructible. Tell me I'm wrong!”

    Leaving the library, Dranko seeks out the priest who does most of the odd domestic jobs around the grounds, including the mending of robes.

    “Say,” he says. “If you needed a book on cloaks and hoods, and we didn't have it here, where would you go?”

    “I'd probably go to the Vault, if I could afford it,” answers the man. “They have books on everything there. Do you need me to make something for you?”

    Dranko grins. “I might. I admire your work. The clerics here are better dressed than in most of the churches I've visited. Say, do you know if Praska ever visited the library here?”

    The man frowns. “Not sure. Don't think so. I don't recall that young scamp having much interest in reading.”

    So... to the Vault!

    En route they discuss strategy, including the possibility of sending prying eyes into the library. The thinking is that a book immune to divination might show up as a blind-spot.

    “Excuse me!” They're interrupted by a street vendor, a young man with a small cart. “Can I interest you in one of these fine dragon souvenirs? Only five silver pieces.”

    “Souvenir of what exactly?” asks Ernie.

    “Of what?” The man looks incredulous. “From the war! The one where our armies fought off an invasion of dragons in the Greatwood!”

    He holds up a carved wooden dragon of middling quality. It looks more like a gold-painted lizard.

    “Hey,” says Dranko. “That's the dragon we killed!”

    “Can't speak to that, sir,” the young man smiles. “But I have it on good authority that the finest heroes in the Kingdom fought off a small army of dragons. Surely you went to one of the parades afterward?”

    “I'm not sure it's worth 5 silver pieces,” says Dranko, tuning over the figurine in his hands. “5 coppers, more likely.”

    “Not likely at all!” says the young man easily. “For five coppers I might as well keep it on my mantle.”

    Aravis interrupts the haggling to hand the young man a gold piece. “We'll take it.”

    Dranko is aghast. “Don't you know to play this game?”

    The dragon-carver goggles. “Want a second one free, then? For your kids?”

    Dranko rummages around in his bag of holding and fishes out a large claw from the dragon they fought at Verdshane. “Son, I'll tell you something. There wasn't an army of dragons at the battle. Just one. But it was plenty, trust me.”

    The young man nods, mightily impressed.

    “Off to the library then!” says Dranko, dropping the claw back into the bag.

    “To save the day?” asks the vendor. “Is the library in trouble?”

    “No,” says Dranko. “But sometimes to do great deeds, you have to read boring books.”

    “Ah. So you're sort of a bunch of warrior poets.”

    * *

    The Vault is unimpressive from the outside, but the party knows from experience that its subterranean expanse of rooms is without equal on Charagan. Not even the Sages' Consortium in Hae Kalkas can boast such a collection of written works.

    They know the drill: you pay an entrance fee, and then an additional fee to have a “walking curator” lead you around. No one is allowed to wander freely in the Vault. A man at the front desk inquires as to the subject of their researches, and assigns to them a nice old lady named Jenwha to take care of them.

    Weapons are left at the door, though security seems lax – most of the group manages to secret backup arms before heading into the library. Dranko makes small talk as Jenwha leads them down a flight of stairs and into the Vault's labyrinthine interior.

    “Out of curiosity, what was your profession before you joined the staff here at the Vault?”

    Jenwha looks pleased to be spoken to. “That was a long time ago,” she says in a cracking but lively voice. “Did you know I was a seamstress to royalty?”

    The party exchanges glances; it's looking more and more like Chiswick's bauble did the trick.

    “Really!” Dranko exclaims.

    “Yes, really,” Jenwha answers, taken aback by Dranko's enthusiasm. “Would you like to hear about it?”

    “We sure would,” Dranko says amiably.

    So she tells them all about her time spent in the court of Duke Nigel's father, while she leads them down more stairs and past many small rooms, each containing books and scrolls on some specific subject. They pass some labeled “livery,” “armorsmithing” and “winemaking” before Jenwha stops beneath an archway labeled “sewing and tailoring”

    “The Vault sections on crafts are not large,” she explains almost apologetically. “If you have the subject matter narrowed down this shouldn't take long at all. Do you have a specific book in mind, or are you just looking for general information?”

    “We're looking for a treatise on cloaks and hoods, specifically,” Aravis explains.

    Jenwha nods. “We have one of those,” she says. “It's my specialty, don't you know. I'm not in charge of a very large section of the Vault, so I know it all pretty well.”

    She walks over to a shelf that contains about a dozen books of various sizes, and pulls down one made of black leather. Clearly printed on the spine it says Cloaks and Hoods. It's about the same size and shape as the book seen in the diviners' ritual.

    “How long have you had that book here at the Vault?” Morningstar asks.

    “Since I got my job here, and that was over a decade ago.”

    “Do you recall anyone else wanting this book in the last several years?” asks Dranko.

    “Yes, I do. Last time someone wanted that book was about four months ago. A very respectable tailor named Jonas, who comes here from time to time. His shop is only about six blocks from here.”

    “One of my old friends may also have come here looking for it recently,” Dranko says. “A nice girl, on the short side.”

    Jenwha shakes her head. "Not that I've seen," she says.

    Dranko takes the book. It's not suspiciously heavy, or throbbing with malign magic, or unusual in any way. He turns his back to Jenwha and surreptitiously makes a small tear in one of the pages. It tears.

    Morningstar meanwhile casts a silent, still detect evil and gets no pings.

    Aravis turns to Jenwha. “Are we allowed to cast spells in here that will help us read better?”

    Jenwha hesitates before answering. “I don't see why not.”

    Aravis casts detect magic. As he does so another walking curator walks past their room and stops short in the hallway at the sound of casting.

    “Miss Jenwha!” he exclaims. “What are you...?”

    Then he sees her clients and goes a bit red. “Oh, sorry. My mistake,” he mumbles before hustling away.

    Jenwha looks sheepish. “That was nothing. You're fine.”

    When Dranko presses her further, she leans in and whispers. “Most folks aren't allowed to cast spells in here, but we make an exception for you. Your description is unmistakable; folk of your stature are allowed a certain latitude.”

    So saving the world has some perks after all!

    Cloaks and Hoods doesn't detect as magical, though another book does – a short, fat book describing how one might modify the unseen servant spell to do complex sewing. Dranko tears a page of that one too.

    “What's the point of having a magic book if the pages tear?” Dranko complains.

    “Because most people don't want to destroy books,” Grey Wolf says dryly.

    Kibi casts prying eyes and has them do a quick sweep of the room, but they report nothing different from what they see with their own eyes. The dwarf takes Cloaks and Hoods from Dranko and thumbs through it. He makes three observations.

    First, it's a boring book about cloaks and hoods, and how to sew them. It has some nice drawings of patterns in the back, along with sketches of finished garments, but for the most part it's exactly what it claims to be.

    Second, he finds it odd that there is no author's name written anywhere, inside or out.

    Most notably, Kibi finds that there are no tears in any of the pages. The book has mended itself.

    “Dranko will be crowing about this for months,” Grey Wolf whispers, as Dranko continues to chat up Jenwha.

    “Gods, we'll never hear the end of it,” Aravis agrees.

    Dranko overhears, sports a huge grin, and instinctively lights up a cigar.

    “Sir!” Jenwha exclaims. “Is that necessary for your investigation?”

    “No!” answers every single other member of the Company, in unison.

    “I can't really say 'yes' now, can I?” Dranko grumbles.

    “May I ask you to put it out?” Jenwha asks, careful to keep her tone neutral. “We prefer not to have open flames in a room full of books.”

    Morningstar casts true seeing but Cloaks and Hoods seems no different to her under the spell's effect. Grey Wolf opines that it would be worth trying to dispel the thing, but worries that it might have countermeasures.

    “Is there any way we can just borrow this book for a while?” Kibi asks Jenwha.

    “Especially if it's a horribly evil book?” Dranko adds.

    “For you, we can make an exception to Vault policy,” says Jenwha. “Do you have a discreet way of removing it from the premises? And how soon might we expect its return?”

    “Probably no more than a week,” Aravis answers. “Assuming we don't need to destroy it for the good of the kingdom.”

    Morningstar adds a request. “If anyone else inquires about this book, can you let us know?”

    “Of course,” Jenwha answers.

    “Thanks,” Dranko says jovially. “You've been extremely helpful. Can we offer you any additional.. compensation?”

    The old curator peers at him. “You did save Charagan, didn't you? No further payment will be required. Good luck with any additional tailoring you need to do.”

    Dranko slips a few gold pieces into her pocket anyway.

    * *

    Back on the streets of Hae Charagan, Morningstar sighs.

    “We have another artifact. Yay.”

    “Let's lock it in a trunk in our basement,” Flicker says.

    “And forget about it,” Morningstar adds.

    They cast locate object to see what happens when they try to find the original copy of Cloaks and Hoods, and find to their surprise that it indicates their recent check-out. When Dranko jogs away to get the book out of the spell's range, it detects nothing at all.

    “You know who can probably help us crack this thing?” Dranko says. “A bunch of really powerful diviners.”

    Back at the Guild, Aravis hands the Tome of Deceit to Belinda. She thumbs through it, frowning.

    “You're sure this is it?”

    “Watch this,” Kibi says, reaching out to tear a page of the book.

    “Now casts detect magic,” Aravis prompts. Belinda does so.

    “Nothing,” she reports.

    “Now find your tear,” Dranko says. Belinda cannot.

    “Who would make a self-repairing book that doesn't detect as magic?” Aravis asks. “Plus, it matches the name and likeness of the book we saw during your ritual. And, we followed a seamstress to find it.”

    Thinking that they might be able to detect Praska just because they're now in possession of the book, Belinda casts scry, but she still sees Praska sitting on the park bench. That doesn't change when the book is placed in a bag of holding.

    Dranko turns to Aravis. “You're a sort-of God. Can't you just smite it?”

    Aravis does his best, trying greater dispel magic on the book, twice. It fails. Morningstar does the same, with the same disappointing result.

    * *

    Dranko spends the remainder of the afternoon and evening on the rooftops, spying alternately on Jonas' tailor shop and the Diviners' Guild itself. After Jonas closes up shop and leaves for the night, Dranko breaks into the store and scouts around. He does find a rack of hooded cloaks near the back that were clearly made from one of the patterns in the book.

    The wizards, meanwhile, read Cloaks and Hoods cover to cover, combing it for hidden codes, cyphers, or any other disguised messages. With their mighty combined intellect, they conclude that there's nothing, unless you want to learn how to make a decent hooded cloak.

    The next morning, having exhausted nearly every other approach, they decide to get heavy-handed. Belinda grants the Company a nearly-vacant stone room to work in, and Morningstar urges the others to stand back. Placing the book on a table in the center of the room, she casts anti-magic field. Her magic items grow a bit heavier and her Ioun Stone plinks on the hard floor.

    Aravis, who has been casting scry and timing it so that he finishes as Morningstar casts, still cannot locate Praska – but this time the spell simply fails, instead of showing the image at the park bench.

    Morningstar gingerly picks up the book. It looks no different from the outside. She opens it up... and the inside is completely different! Tiny, foreign characters fill almost every page, and it's written upside down and back-to-front. The wizards, casting comprehend languages, can't get close enough to Morningstar to read the cramped letters without stepping inside the anti-magic field. Dranko solves that problem by walking over, picking up the book, and carrying it to the very edge of the field. He holds it open while the mages engage in speed-reading, and the trick works because comprehend languages is cast upon the reader, not the writing. Aravis reads out loud so the rest can hear.

    Cloaks and Hoods turns out to be a biography of Praska's life. The early material is accurate to the tiniest detail as far as Dranko can tell. It even includes some episodes that feature him, and he's amazed at its fidelity to events he remembers. When the narrative of Praska's life reaches that fateful dinner with Mokad, it says that she left with no lasting ill-effects, and then continues on to describe her life, as they've heard described, at the church here in Hae Charagan. It's all there – the friends she's made, her plans to explore Kivia, her actual travel to Kivia – even a description of her meeting members of the Church of Heros, and how she spends much of her time reading on a park bench inside the Heros church grounds in Djaw. The next-to-last page ends the story: “...she expects to split her days between Kivia and Charagan, and to become a bridge of good will between the churches of Delioch and Heros.”

    The Tome of Deceit is part truth, part fiction, and every divination aimed at Praska has been redirected to the events contained therein.

    Dranko turns to the final page, which contains a single, curious three-word sentence.

    “Mokad is dead,” Aravis reads.

    Dranko blinks for a second before comprehension dawns.

    “Aaaaaargh!” be continued...

  10. #230
    Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)

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    Jul 2004
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    ø Block Everett

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    A Sagiro update: What a yummy way to start the day. Hope there's more soon.

    The ending lost me - if Mokad died when the company prevented the Emperor's return, why is Dranko surprised by this?

    You know what this story hour could really use? A character index.

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