ADVENTURE 8: MESSAGE FOR YOU, SIR
Ageratum Purslane, halfling rogue 3
Alastair Mandelberen Pastlethwaite, human sorcerer 3
Chaevaris Noarunal, elf archer 3
Harlan Starblade, half-elf paladin 3
Game Session Date: 21 September 2022
- - -
After many days of travel, at long last Mitrek - the capital city of the kingdom of Veluna - came into view. The heroes had two places they needed to visit in the city; they had come all this way specifically to go to the Temple of Saint Cuthbert, to present the head cleric there with the sealed message they had brought with them from Ghourmand Vale, written by Father Barbados and asking for a force of faithful men to help guard the new Stone Keep he had purchased two hours from the Vale, and also requesting they pass on any information they might have about the Blood Mirror
. Harlan still kept the magic ruby close at hand, but there were likely abilities to be tapped from the gem he had yet to master.
However, having unearthed a suit of ceremonial armor crafted with the holy symbol of Pelor in a cave taken over by an ogre and his pet dire wolf, Harlan intended to present it to the clerics of Mitrek's Temple of the Sun God. As that seemed like it would be fairly straightforward, the group unanimously agreed to swing by the Temple of Pelor first. (The fact the others had pretty much all decided the half-elf paladin was their de facto leader likely had something to do with this decision.)
Still, the decision having been made, Alistair steered the wagon toward the Temple of Pelor - despite never having been to Mitrek before, the temple wasn't difficult to find, considering it had the god's sun-symbol shining brightly over the city at the top of a tall steeple. He pulled on the reins to bring Zephyr to a stop and the other three dismounted from their own horses (or pony, in Ageratum's case). Tying the reins to a hitching post just outside the temple, the quartet approached the temple doors, Harlan and Alistair carrying the chest containing the ceremonial armor between them. (The young sorcerer was half-tempted to relegate the job to Ogilvy, and only the fear of scorn from the others of his team prevented him from taking this shortcut away from manual labor - which, in all truth, he did
find to be somewhat beneath a man of his station.)
They were met by a man in the robes of a full cleric. "Good morning," he greeted them. "May I help you?"
"I would like to present a set of Pelorian armor we discovered during our travels to the head of this temple," Harlan explained. "Is he in?"
The cleric just smiled at the half-elf's assumption. "The Archcleric Carol Marduke
leads this temple," he explained, "and she is, alas, currently meeting with others of her level in the city. However, I will be happy to set this aside for her upon her return." He motioned to a young acolyte, who ran up to take the chest from the two adventurers. "You may return this afternoon, around four bells, to receive the Archcleric's blessing."
"Very well, thank you," replied Harlan, watching as the acolyte struggled with his burden, taking it deeper into the temple. "Until this afternoon, then. May Pelor's holy light shine upon you."
"And upon you," intoned the cleric, bowing slightly. The four adventurers took their leave, returning to their mounts and moving on to the Temple of Saint Cuthbert. This was an impressive building indeed, much more intricate and elaborate than the simple Stone Keep from which they had come; while Father Barbados and Brother Scrimshaw resided in a squat, two-story slab of gray stone, here in Mitrek the Temple of Saint Cuthbert contained sweeping buttresses, tall, multicolored windows, and elaborate carvings among the rooftops and gables - including a gargoyle or two. (Alistair, gawking like a tourist, tried to see if these were carved stone statues or actual creatures trying to pass for the same and was unable to determine the truth of the matter.)
The cleric who met the group at this temple ushered them inside to meet the head cleric. Harlan passed over the sealed letter of introduction from Father Barbados and the elderly priest opened it and read it over quickly to himself, then again a second time, more slowly. Finally, he looked up. "I am somewhat surprised at the events unfolding at Ghourmand Vale," he admitted. "This situation with this Jasgund Singh, and the portals to another world...most distressing." He motioned for an acolyte to fetch them coffee and tea, explaining to the young lad to have someone fetch the Loremaster
. "We will have refreshments until the arrival of the Loremaster, who will be better able to explain what is known about this Blood Mirror
," the elderly cleric told the group, serving the hot drinks as soon as they were brought into his office.
The Loremaster - no other name was provided - proved to be a wiry old man with a long, gray beard turning to pure white at the ends. "This is what is known about the man seeking Blood Mirror
," he began, and the heroes leaned forward to hear the old man's tale.
"They say, in a faraway land, Jasgund Singh was a loyal retainer to the Rajah of Chandarkhan
. He, as such, had to meet his obligations to his liege. Jasgund was highly efficient and ruthless in meeting his duties. His people greatly feared him because, either openly or covertly, his subjects would often find their way into the belly of a tiger. If they failed in their duties, if they were less than obedient, if they went to sleep at night, they could disappear and the tigers would appear sated. The open actions kept the people obedient to the known laws, while the covert actions showed anyone could die.
"Singh kept the population in balance to work the farms, lumber and spice lands, and gem mines, and to feed his growing collection of tigers by encouraging large families and by luring and enslaving people from neighboring districts. Jasgund’s power and influence with the Rajah grew along with the productivity and control of his district. His fellow vassals began to notice their influence weaken along with their districts' populations. The Rajah of Chandarkhan welcomed the developments of Singh. Jasgund served the Rajah and could swing the balance of power for the Rajah’s plans in any meeting. Jasgund became the second most important man in the realm.
"Over time, the lesser lords developed a plan to discredit and destroy Singh. Balma Singh
- no relation - persuaded the Rajah that a marriage would link Jasgund more strongly to the Rajah. Balma learned that Jasgund has become even more evil and depraved as his power had grown. Balma also learned that Jasgund has begun sacrificing humans to tigers and eating the heart of the victims along with the tigers as part of a ritual to some dark deity.
"Balma successfully substituted a common prostitute for Jasgund's Princess bride, the Rajah's beloved niece, knowing that marriage to a prostitute would disgrace Jasgund and that the real Princess would be condemned to ritual sacrifice in the prostitute's place. Balma exposed the prostitute during the feast following the marriage, in the presence of the Rajah. The Rajah demanded to know the fate of the true Princess, and Balma and his spies were quick to expose the crimes of Singh. Balma and the other vassals then laid their accusations and proofs of Jasgund's evil deeds before the Rajah, who had his retainers arrest Singh.
"They say the execution of Jasgund Singh was bloody, slow, and painful, concluding with the various pieces of Singh's body fed to his tigers. The tigers were then slaughtered and left on the plain as carrion for the beasts. Jasgund Singh’s spirit was then lost on the Demiplane of Dread in Bhādupa cī dā naraka
, the Hell of Bhadup Chee."
The four adventurers looked at each other, puzzled. "How does this help us?" Harlan finally asked. "What of the Blood Mirror
"Ah, the Blood Mirror
," replied the Loremaster. "That was a gem taken from a mine in Jasgund's lands, and imbued with great powers. It is said it possesses the ability to reflect and amplify the nature of the one who holds it: evil bringing forth evil, while good brings forth good. It allows a paladin - or his evil counterpart, a blackguard - to channel more power than normal when he affects undead or smites his enemies. And it infuses the area around it with either positive or negative energy, such that in a paladin's hands a gentle repose
spell is cast upon those recently slain, while the mortally wounded find their wounds healing up and their bodies stabilizing without any effort. A blackguard finds quite the opposite: the bodies of the recently slain around him rise up as skeletons or zombies, each with a frantic desire to possess the gem and return it to its point of origin. And perhaps to aid in that effort, the wielder of the Blood Mirror
is able to see the way to the sporadic planar gates
that open up between the Material Plane and the Hell of Bhadup Chee."
"So that's why those kobolds and that dire weasel came back as zombies," Chaevaris said, thinking back on the excitement during the original caravan trek to Ghourmand Vale. That, of course, led to the heroes explaining their adventures thus far to the cleric and the Loremaster, which took up some time. But after a pleasant few hours at the Temple of Saint Cuthbert, at the end of which the head cleric assured Harlan he'd have a group of fighting men ready to return with them to Ghourmand Vale in the morning, the group took their leave. "We have time for lunch?" Ageratum asked. "The tea was nice and all, but I could use a full meal!" They found a suitable inn and had a decent meal, then decided to return to the Temple of Pelor to pay their respects to Archcleric Carol Marduke. However, upon their return they were met by a different cleric than the one they had met earlier. This man wore the same type of robes, but his was more elaborate along the seams, with a much larger holy symbol of Pelor hanging on a pendant around his neck.
"Good afternoon," he greeted them. "I am Bolton Verringer
, Bishop of Mitrek, Councilor to Her Holiness the Archcleric Carol Marduke, Prelate of Pelor in Mitrek." He seemed to rather enjoy stating his full title. "I understand you have come to return a suit of ceremonial armor to our church. I'm sure the Archcleric will be most eager to see it."
"What do you mean?" demanded Chaevaris. "We brought it here this morning!"
"Indeed," agreed Alistair. His arms still felt a bit sore from having helped carry the chest with Harlan up the stairs to the temple interior.
A puzzled frown crossed Verringer's face. "To whom did you give the armor?" he asked.
"I'm afraid we didn't get his name," admitted Harlan. He then described the man as best he could, as well as the young acolyte to whom he passed the chest containing the armor, which only caused the bishop to frown all the harder. "That sounds like Otto
," he said.
"Okay," agreed Harlan.
"Otto is our gardener," Bishop Verringer explained. "And the 'acolyte' fits the description of a freight-hauler we hired on last month to do odd jobs around the temple."
"Wait - so they weren't clerics?" sputtered Harlan. A reddish hue flushed his face at the thought they had presented the ceremonial armor of Pelor to a pair of...imposters?
"Not at all," replied Bishop Verringer. "As I said, they were a gardener, a dockworker, and there was a scullery maid named Miranda
. All three were hired about a month ago. You say the two men were dressed as clerics, though?" he asked.
"Absolutely," agreed Harlan.
"Sounds like a scam job," mused Ageratum, who knew quite a bit on the subject. "They must have infiltrated the temple, specifically to steal items of value."
"You mean they knew we'd be coming here with the ceremonial armor?" Alistair asked, dumbfounded. "How in the world could they have known we'd found the armor, or that we'd be bringing it here?"
"Doesn't necessarily have to have been the armor they were after," Ageratum admitted. "That might have just been a target of opportunity. Who knows?"
"Well, Her Holiness is not going to be pleased that the ceremonial armor was stolen from under our noses," Bishop Verringer remarked. He sent a pair of acolytes to scour the temple, looking for any of the three apparent thieves. As expected, they returned soon thereafter to note neither of the trio had been seen since this morning.
"Do they live here in the temple?" Harlan asked.
"No, they merely worked here. My understanding is that they had all taken lodging in a place called the 'Inn on the Lane.'" He looked determinedly at the four adventurers before him. "I implore you: please find where they have taken the armor and return it here immediately. I do not want to have to explain to Her Holiness how we have all been so deviously duped!" He gave them directions to the Inn on the Lane, a dwelling on the very edge of the low quarter of the city, near a Pelorian mission led by Father Bouchard Coletrane
, who spent his time serving the poor souls living in the slums and shadows of the beautiful city. The half-elf paladin gave the Bishop his word they would do their best to retrieve the ceremonial armor as soon as possible.
"That was embarrassing," Harlan admitted to the others as they mounted back up and turned to head towards the low quarter.
"Still, I hardly think we can be blamed for having been duped by a man wearing a Pelorian cleric's robes in a Temple of Pelor," fumed Alistair. "The very nerve of those bounders! To steal from a goodly church - it just goes to show, you cannot trust a cowardly thief!" He failed to see Ageratum's eyes narrow at the nobleman's harsh words.
It was approaching twilight as the group found themselves outside the Inn on the Lane. They tied their mounts' reins to a hitching post on the side of the street outside the inn; Alistair, fearful of the type of person one might expect to see in such low quarters turned his signet ring around on his finger so the Pastlethwaite crest was hidden on the inside of his closed hand, and advised his grackle familiar Ambrose to watch over the animals and wagon. "I expect you to alert us of the present of any low-life thieves looking to take what is ours," he advised the bird, and received a loud "Caw!" as his only response. Then he turned and followed Chaevaris into the inn, behind Harlan and Ageratum.
Walking through the front door, Harlan saw a grouping of four tables in the middle of the taproom, each holding four empty chairs - apparently, despite the early hour, none of the locals was much in an eating or drinking mood. There were only two people in the taproom at all: a tall man behind the bar who bent down upon the paladin's entrance and picked up a small keg, balancing it on his shoulder, and a shorter man dressed in black leather armor, lounging on a stool at the bar.
Ageratum saw the same view as Harlan (albeit from a vantage point nearly three feet lower than that of the half-elf), but she immediately recognized the leather-clad man as Beaufort "Shambles" McGuffin
, a thief from a rival thieves guild than the ones she had worked for in the past. Shambles was a con man, although not always a very successful one, hence his nickname - which described the usual state of affairs when he tried putting a scheme into action.
Stepping through the front door behind Ageratum, Chaevaris saw the man behind the bar first and made immediate note how he purposefully kept the keg on his shoulder such that it blocked his face from Harlan's sight - and the reason for such desperate maneuvers became immediately obvious to the archer, once the elf recognized the man for who he was. "That's Otto!" the archer blurted out, and just that quickly the archer had an arrow notched and ready to shoot, sighting down the length of the shaft to target an arrow directly at the erstwhile gardener's throat. Alistair, entering the inn behind all the others, caught the general gist of the situation when he saw "Elfy" aiming an arrow at the man holding the keg, and the young nobleman too recognized Otto as one of the people for whom they were searching. "I say!" he declared, bringing the words to a magic missile
spell to the forefront of his mind. About that time, Chaevaris's keen elven hearing picked up the sound of a door being closed in a hallway behind the taproom.
Hoping for the best, Otto tried carrying the keg out of a side door but soon found Harlan's unsheathed flaming burst longsword
pointed at his throat. "Hold it right there, thief!" the paladin ordered, and Otto froze where he stood. "Slowly, now, place the keg upon the floor, keep your hands in view, and then you're going to take us to wherever you've stashed the armor you took from us."
"Now hold on, here!" demanded Shambles, pulling out a pair of weapons of his own - a rapier and a dagger, both looking to have been crafted at the highest quality. "I won't have you come barging in here and making baseless accusations against my customers!"
"Shut up, Shambles!" replied Ageratum, the scorn in her voice telling him exactly what she thought of him. The face he gave her showed he felt the same way about her. But the mere act of Shambles being armed emboldened Otto, who decided he could make a break for it. Slowly, he placed the keg of ale down upon the floor as ordered, but then he made to sprint across the back of the bar and flee to safety. He did not count on Harlan having anticipated such a move, and one swift downstroke of the paladin's flaming blade had Otto lying on the floor, unconscious and bleeding out. Of course, the heroes all knew that, due to the presence of the Blood Mirror
, his wound would be sealed and his bleeding stop, leaving him unconscious but very much alive.
"This loser has two accomplices," Ageratum informed Shambles - and, looking down at the little halfling, he saw she too had drawn a pair of blades that were pointed his way. With Otto down, the archer and the wizardly fop were both aiming at him as well, the former with a drawn bow and arrow and the latter with a pointed finger, no doubt ready to fire off some nasty spell. Ageratum gave a brief description of the dockworker and the scullery maid.
"It may well be there are customers meeting that description..." Shambles nervously hazarded.
"Then take us to their rooms," Harlan demanded, stepping over Otto's body to point his blade at the thief's neck. "His room first."
"The man you killed, in cold blood?" Shambles asked.
"He's fine," replied Alistair. "Now, take us to his room, if you please."
"'If I please,'" grumbled Shambles. "As if I have a choice, my fine establishment being raided by a group of self-important hooligans, who think they can just barge in here and make all kinds of ridiculous accusations and demands...."
"Shut up, Shambles," repeated Ageratum. But despite his protestations of innocence, he led them out a side door of the taproom and down a hallway to a series of doors. "It's that one," he said, pointing to a door.
"Open it," Harlan ordered.
"You open it," Shambles countered. "I'm not opening it. I refuse to be ordered about in my own place, as if I were nothing more than some household servant! Why, I won this place fair and square, and I'm not about to--"
"Shut up, Shambles," Ageratum cut him off again. Harlan had him go to the end of the hallway, holding the complaining thief at sword-point while Ageratum examined the door for traps. She saw nothing untoward and opened the door, revealing a standard bedroom of fair quality. The blanket on the bed was rumpled, revealing recent use, but there wasn't anything of obvious value in the place, nor was there any ceremonial Pelorian armor hanging about - although there seemed to be something under the bed, a chest that could probably fit such a suit of armor. Ageratum pulled it out from underneath the bed, gave it a quick perusal for traps, found nothing, and opened it up. It was empty.
From down the hall, though, Shambles was keeping up his litany of grievances, getting increasingly louder, to the point Harlan suspected he was trying to warn the other two thieves of danger. While Chaevaris went toward the back of the hallway to see if he could see anyone trying to flee, Harlan called out for Alistair to "shoot this fool." Alistair happily complied, sending a magic missile
spell blasting from his fingertips to strike Shambles in the chest, causing him to at least temporarily cease his noisy complaints.
Chaevaris had by that time found a back door to the building, presumably leading outside to a street or back alley, but it was locked solid. But Shambles had apparently decided he'd had enough as well, and when Harlan advanced upon the thief he stabbed at him with his blades. Harlan deflected the incoming strikes with his own blade, then swung at Shambles, who managed to dodge below the flaming sword. He opened the door at the end of the hall, ducking into an empty bedroom, stabbing at Harlan as the paladin followed. But Harlan's counterstrike sent the thief sprawling to the floor, looking very much the worse for wear. "Okay, okay, I'll talk!" Shambles cried out, dropping his weapons.
The tip of his flaming blade pointed down at the groveling thief's neck, Harlan replied, "It seems you've done nothing but talk since we arrived. Better make it worth my while - and quickly, for my patience has worn thin."
"Bishop Verringer hired us - me and the three thieves you're looking for, who had gotten jobs in the temple - to get the ceremonial armor. We were to turn it over to him if it showed up, and sure enough, you guys came waltzing right in with it. But we knew you had it, see, 'cause we've got people spread out all over the country looking for it and a few of our associates saw you with it in Veluna City. They've been following you since. Anyway, we decided, why turn it over to Verringer when we could sell it on our own and make a little coin? So that's what they did: grabbed up the armor and skedaddled down here, where we could sell it on the down-low."
"So where is the armor now?" demanded Harlan, emphasizing the importance of his question with the point of his sword, which drew a drop of blood from Shambles's neck.
"We had it stashed downstairs. The other two might have heard my warnings and taken it; I don't know. I honestly don't know!"
Ageratum and Alistair had, while this was going on, decided to do a room-by-room search for the stolen armor, each chest underneath the bed (apparently what served as a closet in these cheap quarters) coming up empty, and the chest being the only place a suit of armor could be stashed without immediately being seen. Chaevaris, unable to open the back door, aided in the search by checking out bedrooms along the back of the building. And while the chests under those beds were just as empty, the archer's keen elven senses did pick up on a secret panel in the floor by the bed. Prying it open, Chaevaris saw a vertical shaft with a wooden ladder bolted along one side, leading down into darkness. Without a moment's hesitation, the nimble archer scampered down the ladder, thinking perhaps this was where the armor might have been stashed.
"I say, nothing along any of the bedrooms on the western side of the building," Alistair reported in to Harlan, looking down at Shambles, groveling on the floor.
"I believe this idiot needs a nap," Harlan said, and Alistair happily complied, blasting him with another magic missile
spell that sent the foolhardy thief into unconsciousness. "I'll tie him up," offered the young nobleman, ripping the sheets off the bed into strips with which to bind the low-life's hands behind his back and his ankles together, in case he woke up before the group had an opportunity to search through the entire inn.
Chaevaris walked the length of a lower-level hallway, discovering a secret panel in the otherwise apparent dead end and opening it. There was a creaking on the ladder behind the archer, but it was only Ageratum. The little halfling heard the sound of a door opening and closing, the sound of a lock being opened, and then another door opening and closing - all from above, and possibly even outside, for the downstairs hallway should be about flush with the building's back exterior, she reasoned. And the ladder they had used was but one of many; apparently each of the bedrooms on the ground level had a secret panel on the floor and a ladder leading down to this lower level - good to know.
There was a voice from above. Chaevaris cocked an ear toward the sound, listening intently. It sounded like a woman's voice, saying "Winston
, you're back - we need help--" and then a gurgling sound, as if she were choking on her own blood. Chaevaris and Ageratum looked at each other and then, without a word, each scrambled back up the nearest ladder to return to the ground floor, where apparently there was some action going on.
Harlan had been walking down the side hallway towards the back of the building when the back door opened and a man stepped forward, sword in hand, blade slick with fresh blood. And then, stepping through the doorway behind him was a street urchin, a young girl of about fourteen. "Hey, are you a paladin?" she asked Harlan. "I've always wanted to have a paladin as a friend." Harlan felt a tingling in his mind, as if someone were trying to establish mental dominance over him. He focused on the girl's aura and was not at all surprised to see it as black as any he'd yet seen thus far in his life. The horrifically evil aura, the attempt a mental domination, and the pitch-black sky seen through the back door as yet another thief stepped into the building, all said one thing to Harlan Starblade, paladin of Pelor: Vampire!
Without any warning, the paladin exploded into a graceful motion, bringing his flaming burst longsword
up over his head and crashing down upon Carly
, the street urchin vampire spawn, his blade infused with the smiting holy energy of the God of the Sun as it swung down upon her. She shrieked in surprise and fury as the blade bit deep, but already her undead flesh was sealing up the bloodless wound. Winston stepped past his mistress to try to take out the paladin, but Harlan's blade stabbed him in the gut before he could make do with his own attempted attack. With a look of total shock on his face, Winston collapsed in a heap on the floor at Harlan's feet.
"I'll get him!" promised Randall
, eager to prove his worth to their teenaged leader. The thief did actually manage to pierce through Harlan's armor, catching him in the elbow with the tip of his blade. But by then Alistair was advancing down the hallway to see what the commotion was all about, having bound up Shambles to his satisfaction and giving him a head-bash onto the floor for good measure, deciding it would not be a bad thing at all if the loud-mouthed thief woke up with a goose-egg on his noggin to remember him by. He saw a flash of fang in Carly's mouth as she hissed in pain and sent another magic missile
blasting past Harlan's shoulder to strike her in the face. Then he unsheathed the masterwork silver dagger, from its sheath at his belt, eager to finally put his gift from the parents of the elven girl he'd help rescue from the kobolds during their caravan trek to good use, for he recalled Chaevaris telling him vampires were susceptible to silver weapons. And that matched with what Alistair recalled from the book, Elfy and the Vampire of Venom Valley
But Alistair wasn't the only one about to enter the fray. Chaevaris had crept up a ladder in the corner and had bow and arrow ready to fire; opening the bedroom door behind the vampire spawn and her roguish minion, the archer sent the arrow streaking right into Carly's back. Unfortunately, even vampire spawn are blessed with a particularly thick skin, so the arrow failed to penetrate very far and in fact eventually just dropped from the teen urchin's back, having done little more than put a hole in the filthy dress she wore. And Ageratum, approaching from a side hallway, threw a kobold shortspear at Randall (the only foe in her field of vision at the moment), catching him in the meaty part of his thigh.
Carly advanced upon Alistair, swinging at him with a fist in anger at having had a damaging spell cast at her. The nobleman involuntarily took a step back and the blow swung past before him. Then he swung at her with his silver dagger, but he had had very little practice with such a short weapon - he was much more proficient with the longer-bladed rapier - and he missed her as well.
Harlan swung his flaming blade at Randall, dropping him in a single blow as he had done earlier with Otto - of the four adventurers, it was easy to see the young paladin was the fiercest among them when it came to melee combat. But, knowing now of the stabilizing influences of the Blood Mirror
he kept on his person (in a pouch at his belt), he gave the downed thief no further thought, confident he'd be stabilized and prevented from bleeding out. Instead, Harlan spun about, looking for further combatants - but it seemed their only current foe was the 14-year-old vampire spawn, although given her undead nature it was entirely possible she was older than any of them, even Chaevaris, whose age was in the triple digits, despite looking like a relative youth.
Chaevaris stepped into the back hallway, an arrow notched and aimed at Carly. Ageratum rounded the corner of the hallway and threw another kobold spear at the vampire spawn, the weapon's head hitting her but failing to do much damage; it clattered on the floor after practically bouncing off her back. However, the halfling's attack was a turning point in the battle, for it was at that point Carly realized she was now fighting alone, her two minions both knocked out on the floor behind her. Frowning, she allowed her body to dissipate into a cloud of mist, which floated through the air into the taproom, where there was at least more room to maneuver if she wished to continue the battle. But she was more or less impervious to all harm while in her mist form, and there was nothing even the paladin could do but follow her as she floated away. But Harlan vowed to get her with his flaming blade the moment she turned back to a solid form. Chaevaris followed, arrow unerringly pointed at the mist-form and ready to let loose at Carly once she presented a viable target.
Alistair realized there was nothing much he could do to a vampire spawn in mist form and decided to go see if there was anyone else outside ready to burst in and attack. Fortunately, the back door had now been left unlocked, and while the nobleman saw no more attackers, he did see a young woman lying in the dirt of the alleyway, a large sack held in one hand. Never having met her before, he could only guess this was probably Miranda - which meant perhaps the large sack held the pieces to the ceremonial armor they were trying to retrieve. Ignoring the corpse - for he had assumed she was merely unconscious and stabilized due to the nearby influence of the Blood Mirror
, but Winston had stabbed her through the gut and she had died almost instantly - Alistair opened the sack, hoping to see the Pelorian armor. In that he was disappointed, but not for long, for instead of the armor he found the sack filled with coins and gems; this was the thieves' combined loot from their various cons and scams, and Miranda apparently figured they'd be better served by her saving the monies they'd already gained rather than the armor they could hopefully sell to get some additional coin. Taking up the sack and seeing no further enemies waiting to pounce, Alistair returned back inside.
Ageratum, in the meantime, decided the guys had the situation well in hand up here and she'd do better searching the lower level. She activated a sunrod and dropped it down the shaft she'd already traversed down and back up once before, then climbed down, slightly irritated that the rungs had obviously been spaced for humans, not taking into account a halfling's shorter stature at all. She followed the hallway to the dead-end hallway where Chaevaris had unearthed the secret panel and entered the storeroom - empty, but for cobwebs. However, it too had a ladder in the corner and she decided to see where it would take her.
Carly eventually decided to return to solid form, but to stay out of the paladin's reach she first floated up to the taproom's 15-foot ceiling and regained solid form upside-down, standing on the ceiling with her innate spider climb
ability. Of course, that didn't stop Chaevaris from firing off an arrow at her, but she already knew such nonmagical attacks held no danger for her. Sure enough, the arrow bounced harmlessly off her tough, undead flesh, causing the archer to swear in anger.
But Carly had only recently been turned into a vampire spawn, and that 14-year-old body of hers held a 14-year-old's mind, one not yet the best at strategizing. Harlan, seeing his prey so far away, climbed onto a chair and from there onto a table, from which he was able to swing his flaming burst longsword
over his head and connect solidly with Carly's undead flesh. At the same time, Alistair called out, "Ogilvy, if you please!" and the unseen servant
manifested beside his master. Holding out his masterwork silver dagger, Alistair instructed Ogilvy to take an arrow from Chaevaris's quiver and cut off the arrowhead, leaving a pointed tip at the end of the wooden shaft - basically, a wooden stake with feathered fletching at one end. He recalled that was how Elfy had defeated the vampire in Elfy and the Vampire of Venom Valley
, so he saw no reason it wouldn't work in real life as well.
Carly ran a few steps along the ceiling, enough to once again be out of range of Harlan's flaming blade. She seethed at the damage she'd taken, but knew her innate fast healing process would take care of her present wounds. But it was irritating - these people refused to be taken out, and the two times she'd tried dominating
them had ended in failure. Finally, she resorted to bargaining. "If you just give me the Blood Mirror
, we can all go our separate ways, and none of you has to die!" she called from her ceiling perch.
"And just why do you want the Blood Mirror?
" asked Harlan, jumping down from his table and moving it closer to where Carly hung from the ceiling. But she saw what he was doing and scampered farther away.
"I don't want it. I don't even know why Father Coletrane wants it. But he does, so you need to give it to me."
"So Father Coletrane is your master?" asked Harlan, keeping her talking.
"Yeah, and if you think I'm
tough, he's a lot tougher than I am! You wouldn't want to mess with a vampire of his power!" By this time, Ogilvy had finished his work and passed the sharpened arrow-shaft to Chaevaris, who shot it up at the vampire spawn - and missed the shot, for she was shifting away from Harlan again, who was repositioning tables to try to be able to reach her with his sword. Chaevaris swore again, and Ogilvy started sharpening another arrow for the elf's use.
"I was not aware Father Coletrane was a vampire," Harlan called up to Carly. "Isn't that kind of odd - a cleric of Pelor who's also a vampire?"
"Well, he wasn't a vampire until just recently," Carly admitted. "Some other vampire turned him, and then Father Coletrane turned me. But anyway, let's get back to the point - are you going to give me the Blood Mirror
Alistair walked into the room, carrying the sack of treasure. "And what does this Blood Mirror
look like?" he asked.
"It's a red gemstone. A ruby, I think."
That let Alistair know this vampire girl had never actually seen the Blood Mirror
before. Which was all for the best - he rummaged around in the sack until he found a ruby, one much smaller than the one in Harlan's belt pouch and containing no magical properties at all. But if Carly had no idea what the true gem she was after looked like.... "If I give this to you, do you promise not to hurt any of us?" he asked the vampire, whose eyes widened at the apparent sight of her goal. Alistair was just hoping she'd come down here and fetch the ruby so Chaevaris or Harlan could kill her - preferably Chaevaris, because while Harlan's blade could force her into mist form to spend the rest of her evening resting in her coffin, a wooden shaft through the heart would slay her permanently. He set the ruby onto the table before him and stepped away.
Carly took the bait, flowing into mist to return to the floor and then reincorporating to grab up the gem, only to have Chaevaris shoot her in the shoulder with a sharpened arrow shaft and Harlan come racing at her, swinging his flaming blade. But she flinched away at the last moment and his blade slammed into the top of the table, jostling the ruby bait. Furious, she slammed Harlan with the full force of her undead body, sending the paladin reeling off to the side, drained of a bit of his vitality. But that didn't keep him out of the fight; spinning around, he brought his flaming blade in sideways for a cut deep into Carly's side - deep enough that had she been a living foe she'd have been instantly slain. As it was, the attack was enough for Carly to lose control of her undead form, scattering into particles of mist which coalesced into a loose cloud and started flowing through the air to the front doorway, seeping beneath it on her way to her coffin, wherever that might be.
"Do we track her?" asked Chaevaris.
"Track mist at might? No, I'm afraid we've lost her for now," Harlan decided. Then. looking around the room, he asked, "Where's Ageratum?"
Ageratum, at that moment, was in a plush-looking bedroom - one of the best the inn had to offer, she'd wager, with plump pillows on the bed and a puffy blanket of much higher quality than the ones in the other bedrooms she'd seen. But sure enough there was a chest under the bed and when she went to pull it out, it was much heavier than the empty ones they'd discovered thus far. It was locked, too - another good sign. The little halfling gave it a cursory check and didn't see any obvious traps, so she got out her lockpicks and went to work - triggering a non-obvious trap, but fortunately the poisoned needle merely scraped along a thumbnail and was deflected away from her skin. Breathing a sigh of relief that the trap hadn't been any worse than it had been, and deciding she didn't really need finesse so much as brute strength in this instance, she put away her lockpicks, got out her chisel and hammer, and had soon smashed the lock open. Try to poison her, would they?
As she'd hoped, the chest opened to reveal the ceremonial armor they'd handed over to Otto, believing him to be a legitimate priest of the Pelorian order. Harlan would sure be glad to see this in their hands again!
Once Ageratum reunited with the guys and proudly showed them her findings, the group decided to head directly over to the Temple of Pelor and get the armor into the hands of the Archcleric Carol Marduke before anything else happened to it. But when they arrived, it was none other than Bishop Verringer who met them at the door. "Ah, you have recovered the armor!" he said with an obvious sigh of relief. "Her Holiness will be most pleased to see it. Thank you for your efforts in effecting its safe return." He held his hands out to retrieve the armor, but Harlan was having none of it. In fact, he checked the Bishop's aura at once, surprised not to see the stain of evil suffusing it.
"We would prefer to see the armor in the hands of the Archcleric herself, if you don't mind," Harlan replied.
"I will personally see that it reaches her," Verringer promised.
"Forgive us, but I think we'd be foolish to deliver it - once again - into the hands of someone undergoing subterfuge," Alistair piped up. "Shambles confessed you hired him - and his trio of guttersnipe thieves - to steal the armor if and when it arrived, and then you had the misfortune of having them steal it out from underneath you. We intend for the Archpriest to take this armor directly from us, so petty underlings, even those with the title of 'Bishop,' need not be bothered."
Bishop Verringer scowled at the effrontery. "I hardly think the Archcleric--" he sputtered, but was cut off.
"Bishop Verringer," said a voice from behind him, "why don't we allow the Archcleric to speak for herself? What is going on here?" Verringer spun about and blanched at the sight of the Archcleric Carol Marduke stepping into the room, an angry look upon her face. He blanched further to think of how much she'd already heard, and realized there was no way to get out from the accusations to come. His mouth opened and closed several times like a fish as Harlan explained the full story about the ceremonial armor they'd unearthed in a cave, put there by a band of thieves who had subsequently been taken out by an ogre and a dire wolf, and the events that followed as they had attempted to turn the armor in here at the temple. He also told her about Father Coletrane's recent vampire status.
"I see," replied the Archcleric, frowning even harder at Bishop Verringer. "You are hereby restricted to your personal quarters until I decide what to do with you," she advised him. "Do I need to have the temple guards escort you, or do you think you can find your own way? You do realize any attempts to flee will not get you very far; the gaze of Pelor reaches everywhere."
"The guards will not be necessary, Your Holiness," he replied, consigning himself to his fate. He gave a bow, then walked out of the room using the door through which the Archcleric has entered.
"Now then," said the Archcleric to Harlan, "let's see about getting a restoration
spell cast upon you. Vampires are terrible things! We will have to do some house cleaning in the low quarter of the city, I see."
- - -
Alistair kept the two masterwork weapons he took from Shambles, keeping the rapier for himself and passing the dagger to Ageratum (for whom it serves as a halfling short sword). Chaevaris's part of the loot went towards the purchase of 10 sleep
arrows, but everyone else just kept their cash for now. Harlan's saving up for a pair of boots of striding and springing
so he can get back to a 30-foot move speed (he wears heavy armor), and is now less than a thousand gold pieces from his goal.
But one thing we've realized about this campaign: with the Blood Mirror
automatically stabilizing everyone within 75 feet who drops into negative hit points, we have the potential to create new, ongoing enemies every single adventure. (Or we become bloodthirsty killers, slitting the throats of those the ruby stabilizes to preclude that from happening.) Dan admits that's an unintended consequence of the ruby's powers, but it's one we'll have to be wary of in the adventures to follow.
With a dozen or more trained fighters returning to Ghourmand Vale with us, it might not be easy to come up with an adventure to challenge such a large group, so Dan might hand wave the return leg and have us start off next adventure already back home. But we'll be skipping next week's session; I'll be out of town on a business trip.