Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14)

Aravis is a smart cookie - that kind of planning is exactly the sort of thing that a good DM can reward in the future. And as we all know, Sagiro is a good DM!

I assume he took some sort of XP penalty or something to do that?
 
He lost one point of intelligence.
Ouch, that had to hurt for an INT caster.

Does this mean Aravis is now an Immortal part of the maze? Will creatures traveling in the maze be able to talk to "a Aravis" like Aravis talked to Vhadish?

Anyway, thank you for the updates Sagiro, you rock!
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
If Shreen doesn't get his butt kicked, I'm going to be sorely disappointed. :(

But on a more serious note, I wonder about the out-of-character discussion (if any) around this transfer of the Maze. Did Sagiro say something like, "You've had this powerful artifact / plot device long enough; time to give it up so we can move on to other things in the game"? Was Aravis' player content to give up the Maze, or did he feel like he was getting screwed? What did the other players think?
 
Not up to date

But it looks as though Aravis could spare a point of intelligence


Aravis Telmir Race Human
Class/Level
Wizard 15

Intelligence 26 (20) +8


How soon does leaving a piece of himself in the maze come into play?
 

Artoomis

Visitor
If it were me, I wouldn't have minded giving up the artifact, but I'd be bummed about losing my "Cool Look". :cool:

:D
That's funny... my character, a bard, gave up a powerful artifact because it negatively affected his looks.

That was unacceptable. :)
 
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Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 285
Room Disservice

Dranko turns menacingly toward Shreen.

“You promised not to attack me!” the hunchback screeches.

“We made no such promise,” says Aravis. “Understand, Shreen, that you now live at my sufferance.”

Shreen narrows his eyes. “You cannot kill me, Aravis,” he says softly. “But I will let you go. You would be most unwise to attack me in this place. We would TEAR YOU APART!”

Morningstar is unimpressed by the theatrics. “Shreen, look at me!”

Shreen does so, almost against his will.

“Do not get in my way,” says Morningstar simply. “I do not fear you.”

“You should,” croaks Shreen. “YOU SHOULD!”

“But we don’t” says Dranko.

Kibi rolls his eyes. “Why are we still here?”

Shreen couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. “Go,” he hisses. “Leave, and NEVER COME BACK! Just. Leave.”

The Company does just that. For all of Shreen’s bluster, nothing attacks them as they make their way back to the surface and thence to the Plaza of Glory. Flicker looks back on the door before it closes.

“With any luck, the Church of Kemma will come back here with a thousand soldiers and just wipe this place off the map.”


* *


The streets are mostly empty, the folk of Djaw preferring to stay out of the driving rain. The only people out and about are slaves. Dranko tries vainly to keep his cigar lit but soon gives up. All of the Company is covered in mud and gore, streaking and running in the torrent. Aravis doesn’t seem to notice; he looks dazed.

“Are you okay?” asks Morningstar. None of them know exactly what happened in the Maze, or what Aravis sacrificed in that final moment.

“No,” answers Aravis faintly. “Not really.”

“I think we need a good night’s sleep,” says Dranko, glancing worriedly at Aravis. “Him especially.”

For a while the Company makes small talk. Flicker talks about maybe joining a Farangi team, now that he could teleport across the sea for matches. Ernie wonders if meat-on-a-stick vendors stay open in the rain. No one wants to talk about the Big Scary Thing. Dranko makes a tentative foray as they approach the Golden Goblet.

“Hey,” he says. “Is anyone else concerned that the Kivian God of Death wants to flee Abernia?”

Everyone else nods, but no one says anything.

“Uh, ok. ‘Cause that’s kind of been bothering me.”

Ernie adds: “The phrases ‘rat’ and ‘sinking ship’ keep running through my head.”

More silence. Morningstar changes the subject.

“I think we should go back and kill Shreen the Fair.”

“Wouldn’t that be murder?” asks Dranko.

“I have plenty of reasons – legitimate reasons – to kill him,” Morningstar points out.

“In the name of scientific inquiry,” says Flicker, “we should go back to find out if he really is immortal, by stabbing him a bunch of times!”

“I like the way you think,” says Dranko.

“The thing is,” says Morningstar, “for all that I’d like to kill Shreen, that Belshikun creature wanted us to kill him, and I really didn’t want to do what he wanted.”

“Maybe he was using reverse psychology,” says Kibi. “Anyway, if he tries something else in the future, we can kill him then. It sure won’t take much provocation.”


* *


Balthazar greets them at the door of the Golden Goblet, and sees the blood and grime smeared on their skin and clothes by the rain.

“Goodness, what has happened?” he exclaims. “Do you require medial assistance?”

While declining Balthazar’s tender of healing, they do gratefully accept his follow-up offers of hot baths, tea and food. Almost before they reach their private building, servants have prepared the baths and set out whiskey, tea, cakes, bread, figs and cheeses. Soon everyone is cleaned up and refreshed, though still spoiling for a fight. When a servant knocks sometime later and asks if they require anything else, Dranko’s answer is: “Do you want to attack us, so we can burn off some aggression?”

The servant blinks, but then says smoothly, “If you’d like, we can hire you a sparring partner and you can duel in the yard.”

“No, no, thanks, but we’re good,” admits Dranko, slumping back into his chair.

“Is there a Farangi match anytime soon?” asks Ernie.

“I don’t know,” says the servant, “but I can procure the schedule for you easily enough.”

When evening comes around the Company is still lounging in the large commons of their building. Tensions have eased somewhat. It turns out the next Farangi match isn’t for three days; the games are delayed for inclement weather. They make small talk until bed, touching on subjects such as how to end Dwarvish enslavement without riling the Djawish establishment, and wondering what’s happened to their old adventuring companion Tor. Dranko goes to sleep with the intent of visiting Saum Derry’s farm the next day, to reclaim the Candlestick of St. Jenniver, a holy Deliochan artifact.


* *


Sleeping alone in his room, alternating between sweet dreams of Yoba and nightmares of Shreen, Ernie wakes at 3:00 A.M. to discover that his throat his being cut. He tries to scream but his mouth is filled with blood, and he manages only a feeble gasp before the assassin plunges the dagger deep into his heart. He falls back into darkness.

* *

Dranko is woken up by the sound of a screaming cat. Before his mind is fully aware, his adventurer’s instincts take control of his body. He’s out the door in seconds, naked but with his whip in one hand and his holy symbol in the other. A bubble of force starts to form around him once he’s in the hallway, but he slams his body sideways into the wall and escapes the resilient sphere. A black-clad spellcaster some ten feet down the hall mutters a curse beneath a mask.

Dranko glares at him. “I am very, very cranky.”

Pewter’s screams are the direct result of a nearly-successful assassination attempt on Aravis, happening concurrently with Ernie’s assault. Because of Pewter’s last-second intervention, Aravis’s assailant only manages a grievous wound to Aravis’s neck – a poisoned wound that immediately saps him of strength and vitality. With no strength even to lift his arms, all Aravis can do is utter a voice-only spell; he and Pewter teleport directly from his own room into Morningstar’s bed.

“Poison,” he croaks. Petwer continues his furious caterwauling. Morningstar, already awake from the noise and Dranko’s hasty exit from their room, screams “WAKE UP” at the top of her lungs before casting heal on Aravis. Having done that she leaps from bed and stumbles out into the hallway to join her husband.

“Two in the hall ahead of us,” warns Dranko, but Morningstar can’t see anyone. Apparently the assassins are improvedly invisible.

The second assassin casts greater command on Dranko and Morningstar, but both of them resist the compulsion to halt in their tracks.

“Still cranky,” Dranko warns.

Kibi comes crashing out of his room into the hall, beard tangled, barely awake.

“Invisible bad guys down there,” says Morningstar, pointing down the hall. Kibi casts glitterdust and one assassin gains a sparkling outline.

Dranko, wearing a magic eye-patch that lets him see the invisible, snaps his whip at the closest assassin and trips him before following up with more cracking blows. Aravis, freshly healed but lacking his spell components, doesn’t have many battle options. He casts contagion and sends Pewter to deliver it to the glittering assassin. Morningstar casts invisibility purge, and Kibi sees a third assassin pop into view right behind him. Like the others, this one is dressed all in black, face covered.

The assassin who failed with the greater command has better luck with a flame strike brought down on Kibi, Morningstar and Aravis.

Grey Wolf, sleeping soundly enough that the noise hasn’t yet woken him, is instead jolted to alertness by the sharp sting of a poisoned dagger slipping beneath his collarbone. His monkey familiar Edghar is clinging to the assassin’s face, which is probably the reason he’s only injured instead of dead. Grey Wolf leaps to his feet and returns fire with enervation before backing hastily toward the door of his room. He can feel the poison afire in his veins, filling his limbs with lead.

Kibi turns and casts hold monster on the assassin next to him, but the spell fails.

“Why doesn’t that ever work?” he cries, much aggrieved.

Yet another assassin comes rolling smoothly out of Flicker’s room, which doesn’t bode well for the little halfling’s fate. The attacker pelts Dranko with daggers, while another one tries (and fails) to bluff Morningstar into dropping her guard. Dranko has a second to thank Delioch that the poison didn’t take, before one of the spell-slinging assassins points at him and utters the single word: DARKNESS. Dranko’s sight fades to black as the power word: blindness takes hold.

“Crap! Blind!” Dranko yells.

“I’ve got a scroll that’ll get rid of that,” says Morningstar.

“Wonderful,” says Dranko. “I’ll just read it then, shall I? Ernie! Get your ass out here!”

Aravis yells at Dranko to get out of the way. Dranko does so, dropping to the ground and rolling toward what he hopes is an open door. It’s enough to get him out of the way of Aravis’s prismatic spray, and while the spell fails to affect one assassin and does minimal damage to a second, the third one caught in the effect is turned instantly to stone.

Morningstar positions herself centrally in the fight and casts a mass curative, much needed at this point, especially since she herself, along with Aravis, Dranko and Kibi, are blasted with another flame strike.

Grey Wolf’s attacker does manage to bluff him, and delivers a painful sneak attack. Grey Wolf manages to stumble out into the hallway, hoping to get into a better casting spot, but he’s struck by another assassin’s poisoned blade. His remaining strength is completely sapped and he falls to the floor.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” yells Dranko. “Ernie! Flicker! NOW!”

Kibi decides that if Ernie won’t come out, he’ll have to go in and get him. Grabbing as many nearby party members as possible, he dimension doors into Ernie’s room. Ernie is there, lying in his blood-soaked bed, horrific wounds on his chest and neck.

His chest, though, is slowly rising and falling. Somehow, though unconscious, he is alive.

Dranko feels the cutting edge of an assassin’s blade, and his own blood pouring out from many wounds. Blinded, weakened, drained, injured and naked, he laments his plight out loud.

“I’m blind and naked! Can’t you give me a break?”

He hears the closest assassin chuckle beneath her mask. But he also readies an ice storm from a magic ring, intending to drop it on the next enemy he hears casting.

Aravis casts disintegrate at Dranko’s attacker but misses with the beam, and instead vaporizes a chunk of wall. Morningstar has better luck with a darkbeam, tagging the enemy cleric. Better yet, when the assassin tries to follow up with heal, Dranko hears the sound of casting and drops an ice storm on his head. The cleric drops.

“Did it work?” asks Dranko?

“Yes!” says Morningstar. “But we still should get out of... Dranko!”

Another assassin appears out of the shadows and stabs the blind half-orc repeatedly. Dranko drops to his knees, vision reddening. Aravis reaches out and grabs him, then dimension doors the two of them into Flicker’s room. Flicker, like Ernie, is unconscious but breathing despite a seemingly-mortal wound. There follows about ten seconds of cat-and-mouse teleporting, as the Company tries to grab as many of their possessions as possible before a group evacuation, while the assassins continue to hunt for them room to room. Kibi manages to forestall some of them with a wall of force, and eventually everyone in the party is gathered around one of the two standing wizards. With no time or means to coordinate their retreat, Aravis teleports himself, Dranko and Flicker to Saum Derry’s farm hundreds of miles away, while Kibi whisks the rest of them to the Church of Kemma right there in Djaw.


* *


Saum Derry hears a knock on his door at three o’clock in the morning. He grabs a club kept near the bed and stumps to the door.

“Who the hell’s our there?” he calls. This had best be good.

“Dranko. Remember me?”

Saum scratches his head for a second. Does he know a... ? Oh, for Quarrol’s sake!

“You!” he cries.

“Yeah, me.”

“Hold on.”

Saum unbolts the door and opens it a crack. He sees Dranko and Aravis, with Flicker laying on the ground. All of them are covered with blood, and Dranko’s wearing nothing except his eye-patch.

He blinks.

“It is you,” he manages to stutter. “What happened to you? What happened to your friend? Is he okay?”

“Someone just tried to kill us,” says Dranko. “Can I have my candlestick back?”

Saum blinks again, rubs his eyes.

“That? You want it back? Sure, if you want. But...”

He looks pointedly at Flicker.

“Someone just tried to kill you? Here?”

“No, in Djaw,” says Dranko. “We figured we needed to get somewhere far away.”

“Ah, I get it,” says Saum. “You’re in Djaw, thinkin’ ‘where can I go that’s safe?’ and you figure, ‘How about Saum’s farm at three in the morning.’ Right. Well, I was going to get up in a couple hours anyway to feed the chickens. You wanna come inside?”

“Nah,” says Dranko. “We don’t want to get blood on your floor.”

“We can clean it up,” says Saum. “Look, you need rest, and some patching up. Come in. We’ll take care of you. I’ll wake the missus.”

Inside the farmhouse, Dranko heals Flicker back to consciousness.

“I had the worst nightmare,” Flicker says groggily. “I dreamt I had my throat cut in my sleep.”

“You did,” says Dranko. “Assassins attacked us in our rooms at the Golden Goblet.”

Flicker looks offended. “We ought to complain!”

Dranko can’t help but laugh. “Yes. Yes we should.”

...to be continued...
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I love that you can lay the smackdown on such a powerful party and force them to flee for their lives.

Good work!
 
"Dranko glares at him. “I am very, very cranky.”"

Oh yes...Dranko was itching for a fight before...Now he's been forced to run away! Nekked! Someones gonna pay...=)

Thanks for the update, can't wait for more.
 

StevenAC

Visitor
“Crap! Blind!” Dranko yells.

“I’ve got a scroll that’ll get rid of that,” says Morningstar.

“Wonderful,” says Dranko. “I’ll just read it then, shall I? Ernie! Get your ass out here!”
If I'd been drinking something when I read that, you'd have owed me a new keyboard, Sagiro. :D
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Which might seem like an improvement compared to being blind... ;)
That does deserve a ;), but not for the reason you think. The power word blind ran out a round or two before that attack on him, and I forgot to mention it.

As for Innocent Bystander's point -- the assassins could have killed a bunch of them, but given Ernie and Flicker's odd conditions, it's likely that whoever hired the assassins wanted the Company taken alive.

(Also, it's just not my style to introduce a situation to the game where, with a couple of good die rolls, I could kill PC's without them ever even knowing they were in danger.)
 
I've been reading your story since day one and I figured you weren't that kind of DM. That's what surprised me about the situation. I forgot about the paralyze option of the death attack. I guess that begs the question who hired them. An old enemy, or a new one?

I've personally never liked and have never used save or die spells/attacks on my players. It's one thing to beat them to near death in battle but it's another to have one bad roll kill a character that they've put so much thought and effort into.
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
(Also, it's just not my style to introduce a situation to the game where, with a couple of good die rolls, I could kill PC's without them ever even knowing they were in danger.)
I shall have to ask you to hand in your Killer DM Card as you exit the premises, then.

;)
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 286
Long Memory

Dranko uses a healing wand to get himself and Flicker back to reasonable shape. Dranko looks around and notes that the farmer (to whom they gave a large sum of money following the battle in his barn) has moderately nicer things in his house than the last time they were here. His barn has also been expanded. Still, Dranko hands over another 100 gp to Saum.

“For your hospitality, and the Candlestick,” says Dranko. “But this time, I’ll ask that you use this money to help your friends and neighbors.”

“As you say,” says Saum, smiling. “Now, you three be all right down here? I’d like to grab a bit more sleep before sunup.”

Saum heads back upstairs, and the three of them – Dranko, Flicker and Aravis – make themselves comfortable. But Dranko soon starts to feel dizzy, and then his innards spasm and he vomits up a gout of blood.

“It’s the poison,” he gasps. “Still in my system.”

Aravis scrawls a quick note for Saum (‘We have to leave. Dranko not well.’) before teleporting them to the place he’s most sure can provide the healing they need – the Church of Kemma in Djaw. Good luck, then, that the rest of the party is already there getting patched up. Dranko is barely conscious and with no strength left in his body, by the time one of the priests there is able to restore him.

Morningstar asks that a message be sent to the Golden Goblet, requesting that the scene of the attacks be left undisturbed so that she can use her thought captures. An runner is sent. Also, having examined Ernie, one of the Kemman healers opines that it was a property of the blade used to inflict the wound, that kept the halfling from dying. Whoever attacked the Company very much wanted them alive.

So, there they are, somewhat healed and with no one killed, but still extremely upset – not merely because of the assassination attempt itself, but also because they were unable to escape with all of their belongings. Flicker is out most of his magic items, Morningstar is missing almost everything save her weapon and shield, and Aravis was unable to grab a number of valuable possessions before their hasty flight. Nothing motivates a group of adventurers quite like the theft of their stuff.

But after a few minutes of collective fuming and vows of revenge, a Kemman acolyte offers to take the party to see something he thinks they’ll enjoy. They cross a small courtyard beneath the stars, then through some dormitories and across another yard, toward the stables. They can see from a distance that a lantern has been lit in one of the stalls, but when they go inside it turns out that there’s no lantern at all. One stall is glowing with a warm, yellow, and wholly supernatural light.

“Was that Thunder’s stall?” asks Ernie in a reverent whisper.

“It was,” the acolyte nods. “It’s been that way for quite a while now. Thunder vanished from his stall, and left this glow behind.”

They all take a moment to stand in silence, bowing their heads and thinking of One Certain Step.

“Soon there will be a pilgrimage of horses,” says Dranko, “to come here and worship at the stall.”

“I think you overestimate the intelligence of the average horse,” says the Acolyte with a smile.

“We loved Step,” continues Dranko. “What he did for us was more valuable than any treasure. So, the fact that he and Thunder can be together in the afterlife? Not too shabby.”

“It is no less than he deserves,” says the acolyte. “One Certain Step was an excellent example of Kemman virtues.”

“How do I get him nominated for sainthood?” asks Dranko.

The acolyte quirks an eyebrow. “You don’t have that authority, though of course you may write a letter to the High Priest. It would be weighed with all other evidence, decades or centuries hence.”

“No way to get him fast-tracked?” presses Dranko. “No? Oh well.”

Then another thought occurs to him, wholly unrelated. “Hey, you know, in the future we should all wear big metal neck-cuffs to bed. No more slit throats!”

“There are a lot of other arteries an assassin can choose, you know,” says Flicker.

“What’s an artery?” asks Dranko.

“Weren’t you paying attention to your lessons?” asks Flicker. “An artery is a vein with extra blood! You stab it and the blood comes pouring out even more than usual. There’s one in your thigh, and one in your groin. We learned that right in here in Djaw! It was when we... uh... when... er...”

The Kemman acolyte is staring at him.

“We’re just leaving,” says Grey Wolf.

They thank the Kemmans profusely for the assistance, leave a large donation to the church, and head back to the Golden Goblet. There’s a great deal of bustling activity when they get there, with guards and servants swarming even though it’s still an hour before dawn. The party is greeted by a huffing Balthazar.

“Are you okay? I am so sorry! So very sorry that this happened!”

“So are we,” agrees Ernie.

“Assassins!” says Balthazar, wringing his hands. “In our very inn!”

“Were any employees hurt?” asks Dranko.

“No, thank the Gods. One of our guards saw someone dressed in black disappear into thin air, but he did not investigate, because we had orders not to go in to your building. That was the word that was sent – no one should disturb the scene of the attack.”

“Excellent,” says Morningstar.

“We will of course refund your money for your stay, and you are welcome to stay in other rooms, if you wish. Our magical protections were dispelled by your assailants, but they have been reactivated. No one has ever managed to dispel them. Your attackers were clearly professionals!”

“We might not pay for tonight’s stay, all things considered,” says Dranko. “But we’ll still pay for all the other nights. The service has been fantastic.”

“I am glad that things have been fine until tonight,” says Balthazar, wiping his brow.

“You are clearly a man of means and connections here in Djaw,” says Dranko thoughtfully. “Someone must know the names of the oppressive powerful guilds of assassins that could pull off something like this. I know you don’t, being an honorable man, but perhaps you know someone who knows someone who could tell us something? Because this was, as you say, a professional job.”

“Everyone knows of Vinceris,” says Balthazar. His spits on the ground after speaking the name. “He is the God of assassins and other unsavory types. There are cults to him in the city, though I know nothing of them of course.”

“I need to know how I can contact an agent of Vinceris,” says Dranko.

“I’m sure I don’t know anyone who could do that,” assures Balthazar, horrified at the thought.

“Of course not!” says Dranko. “But, like I said, you might know someone who knows someone who knows someone.... could you ask around?”

Balthazar nods, but Dranko senses he’s not actually going to do it, from sheer terror of the possible association.

“Is there anything else I can do?” asks Balthazar. “We have prepared new rooms for you, and the magical defenses have been restored, and we will post extra guards around your building. Again, I apologize. There have been a small number of incursions onto our grounds in the past, but they have always been detected and thwarted.”

“Thank you for your quick response,” says Dranko.

“If there is any more trouble around us, please don’t send your men into harm’s way,” adds Ernie. “The attackers will be extremely dangerous; we will handle them.”


* *

Morningstar casts three thought captures – all that she can cast tonight – in Aravis’s room. The first reveals a mundane thought from an assassin: I hope the other two do their jobs well.

The second collects a thought from Pewter: Oh my gosh, an assassin! Gotta make noise! Gotta makes noise! MREEOWWWW!

The third is related, and again from the assassin: Oh, for the love of... he’s got a familiar! Dammit!

“I can try more in the morning,” says Morningstar. “But we should all get some sleep.”

The last thing they do before turning in is a quick check (thinking as little as possible) of their rooms, which confirms that the assassins absconded with all of their abandoned gear.

In their new rooms, Grey Wolf (with apologies to Edghar and Pewter) uses the Mordenkainen’s Cube to create a faithful hound to keep watch.


* *

Aravis wakes the following morning and notes immediately that he is free of the rash. In fact, not a single party member is afflicted. It seems that Belshikun was true to his word. But something is clearly troubling him over breakfast (especially sumptuous, even by the standards of the Golden Goblet) and he toys with how to broach the subject.

At last he simply says to the others, “I got a warning from the Maze last night.”

Dranko freezes, a forkful of scrambled egg inches from his mouth. “How?” he asks. “You gave it up!”

“Well,” says Aravis, almost sheepishly, “this might have been a bad thing to have done, but... I left a piece of myself in the Maze before I gave it to Belshikun.”

“What piece?” asks Ernie.

“Like a finger?” asks Flicker.

“No, no,” says Aravis. “A piece of my mind. Which might have been dangerous, I admit. But last night I had a vision from the Maze. Whatever it was that warned me about Parthol’s simulacrum, it talked to me again.”

“Is something coming to kill us again?” asks Flicker, looking around worriedly.

“No, no, there was no warning.”

“Are you going to share it with us?” asks Dranko. “I mean, what it was he did say to you?”

“I was sitting across a table from myself,” says Aravis, “and it... it seemed to confirm that giving up the Maze was my only good option. He... I... I said to myself, that if from inside the Maze I could help myself, I would. Or something. It was disorienting. I can’t explain any better.”


>> Here’s the handout I gave to Aravis
In your vision, you are sitting at a wooden table in a small tavern... somewhere. Across from you sits a double of yourself. The double speaks; he’s in the middle of explaining something to you. There’s a dream-like quality to the scene, as if something about it isn’t real.

“...turned out to be the only way. It still is. It’s hard enough for anyone in here to contact the Keeper, let alone someone who was never a Keeper himself. But I don’t regret what I did, or that I’m stuck here now. You got my warning about Parthol, oblique and filtered and vague though it ended up. It’s amazing, really, that you heard anything at all. And on that subject, I can’t help but wonder if you... the real you... will ever know what I’m saying now.

“The Maze is an amazing place to be stuck, I must say. So much to explore, so many avenues of inquiry to follow. I’ll help you as much as I can, Aravis. Two heads are better than one, right? Every secret of the multiverse is here, if we can figure out where to look, who to ask. I’ll warn you, though – if I find a way to get back to my rightful place, I’ll be sorely tempted to take it. I was enjoying myself immensely.”


After breakfast Morningstar goes back to the scene of the previous night’s attack and casts more thought captures. She gets nothing useful; the thoughts she gets from the assassins are all repeated mantras: I will strike swiftly and silently. I will strike swiftly and silently. There’s nothing that would lead back to their employer.

The Company schemes, and settles on two more avenues of investigation. Flicker and Dranko will seek a meeting with the Faceless, the thieves’ guild of Djaw. Meanwhile Ernie will fly around above the city on his flying carpet, using locate object on one of the party’s missing items.

Thinking that he ought to get someone’s permission before flying around, Ernie seeks out a guard captain. Not wanting to discuss the party’s personal business, he tells the guard that he’s thinking of buying property, and wants to do some aerial surveillance before making any decisions.

The guard stares at him. It’s rumored that the Falcons (as the Djawish city guard is known) have the ability to see into men’s souls. This may or may not be true, but either way, Ernie is a terrible liar.

“Ernest,” says the guard patiently. “I don’t sense that you’re a bad sort, but you’re not leveling with me, are you? Why is it, really, that you wish to fly over the city on magical carpet, criss-crossing back and forth?”

Ernie blushes. “Well, for one thing, I really like riding on the flying carpet!”

“Yes, I’m sure it is an exhilarating experience,” says the guard. “But that’s hardly all of your motivation now, is it.”

“Er, have you heard about what happened at the Golden Goblet last night?” asks Ernie.

“No.”

“A party of powerful adventurers – of which I am one – was attacked by assassins of Vinceris.”

“Go on,” says the Falcon.

“I’d like to locate them, and they have some items that we could locate with a simple spell.”

“Ah,” says the guard, smiling. “So you’re going to fly above the city with this spell cast, hoping to find your stolen possessions. Very well. I suggest you postpone your reconnaissance for another hour, so I can make arrangements that you not be shot down as a spy. How long do you expect to be airborne?”

“Um, about two hours, I think.”

“And how high above the city will you be?”

“Two hundred feet.’

“Please inform me when you are about to start, and again when you have finished. You can meet me here in an hour.”

Ernie breaths a sigh of relief. “If we do locate them,” he asks, “would you be interested in...”

“Yes,” interrupts the guard. “Yes we would.”

But for all of that, Ernie spends his two hours scanning for their missing loot and finds nothing. Either the assassins have moved the stolen goods out of the city, or are storing them somewhere that’s shielded from the spell.

Aravis tries a different tack. He collects some dried blood from one of the assassins and uses it to scry. That doesn’t work either – his scrying sensor doesn’t even appear, which indicates that something is blocking the spell, possibly a private sanctum.

Flicker and Dranko do have success in setting up a meeting with the Faceless. The rendezvous is set for midnight at the garden of living topiary, which is well-lit and well-populated.

That afternoon finds the Company lounging at the Golden Goblet, reviewing the day’s failures. When Aravis grumbles about his personal disappointment, Ernie suggests that he try scrying for their old adventuring companion Tor Bladebearer. And this time he gets his sensor, and to everyone’s surprise finds himself looking at Tor.

(Tor, you may recall, left the party to infiltrate the Delfirian military and serve as a double-agent. He figured he’d pretend to be turning coat, and find a way to feed the Spire information about Delfirian battle plans. For a while it seemed to work; the Delfirians accepted him as a long-lost son, and were pleased at his exceptional martial prowess. He’d occasionally lead forays into Charagan, where he’d drop off secret reports of Delfirian plans. But over time, the Spire’s military strategists came to realize that he’d been compromised. His reports, while technically accurate, were often suspiciously incomplete or misleading. Eventually Tor stopped communicating altogether, leading the Spire to believe that he had been killed, imprisoned, or actually converted to the Delfirian cause.)

And now Aravis is looking at him – a tall, youthful figure in a Delfirian military uniform, sitting at a table on which is spread a map of the terrain between Delfir and Bederen. Sitting across from him is a dark-haired woman Aravis doesn’t recognize, also in uniform. The two are discussing military strategy, and Tor addresses her as “Davarian.”

Aravis shares all of this with the rest of the party. They’re delighted that Tor’s alive, but dismayed that he’s seemingly become a Delfirian for real. While Aravis draws them a sketch of the woman he saw, the others try to remember why the name “Davarian” is so familiar.

“Wait, I remember,” says Dranko. “It’s Tor’s great-great-great grandfather. Davarian Firemount.”

“It can’t be that Davarian,” Ernie protests. “Tor killed him inside of that evil Delfirian throne, or at least left him trapped in there. Also, Davarian was a guy.”

“Here’s the woman I saw,” says Aravis holding up a well-drawn portrait. There are several gasps from various party members. It’s Thewana, Abernathy’s one-time apprentice!

“But she was killed,” says Flicker. “She and the Archmage Grawly. And they never found out who did it.”

“But remember what we did with that throne?” asks Dranko. “We gave it to Abernathy and Thewana, so they could drain the power out of it.”

“Davarian was still in there,” says Ernie. “He must have jumped bodies into Thewana while they were sucking out its magic.”

“And then he just bided his time, and eventually killed Grawly and faked Thewana’s death.”

“And now he has Tor,” concludes Ernie.

“F***!” yells Dranko. He throws a glass against the wall in anger. Kibi just looks confused. “What are you talking about? What throne? Who’s Thewana?”

Dranko explains the whole thing: their long-ago mission to Seablade Point, the weird pseudo-dream battle between Tor and Davarian, and their retrieval of the ancient Delfirian throne for Abernathy. Thewana was Abernathy’s apprentice until the old wizard’s death, after which she was sent by the Spire to serve as Grawly’s apprentice. Ozilinsh, Grawly’s old apprentice, replaced Abernathy as the Archmage of Tal Hae.

When Dranko is done explaining, Ernie splutters. “We’ve got to go find him and save him. Can we scry again and teleport to him?”

“What if he doesn’t want to go?” asks Dranko. “What if he’s evil? Also, can we deal with him some time when we’re not getting stalked by assassins?”

The others agree. One thing at a time, and the assassins are currently priority #1.


* *


The rest of the day passes without excitement. Ernie visits the two legitimate magic dealers in Djaw and asks them to keep an eye out for the Company’s stuff. As the midnight meeting with the Faceless draws near, Dranko casts omen of peril and gets a response of “safety” for the next hour.

The Moving Garden of Djaw is laid out like a simple and low hedge maze, through which roam a number of animated topiary. There’s a large mammoth, several small dogs and cats, and even an alarmingly lifelike topiary grass reaver. Kibi frowns as he sees an iron-collared dwarven slave trimming the hedges.

A nondescript man on a bench waves to them as they pass.

“It’s kind of you to see us,” says Dranko, approaching.

“I thought we were done with you,” answers the man.

“Yeah,” says Dranko. “Well, we have a slight problem, and were hoping you might help.”

“In fact,” says Ernie, stepping up with an affected swagger, “my colleague here has a business proposition for you.”

Dranko glares at him, and over the mind-link thinks: “Ernie?!”

“What?” thinks back Ernie. “I’m trying to sound tough! Isn’t that what tough negotiators say?”

“Not helping,” thinks Dranko.

“Ooh, look!” says Ernie out loud. “A topiary gryphon!” He wanders off. Dranko turns back to the man, whose expression is unflinchingly neutral.

“We were attacked last night by a Vinceris strike team,” says Dranko.

“Not our business,” says the man flatly. “Do you have anything else to talk about?”

Dranko is taken aback. “Yes. Well. I’m well aware that you’re not responsible for it, but we were hoping you could put us in touch with someone from the church of Vinceris.”

“I’m afraid we can’t. Can’t help you. Anything else?” The man stands, as if he’s already wrapping up the meeting.

“Our main goal here is that no more assassins come after us,” says Morningstar.

“We know they were professional assassins, but we don’t technically know their religion,” adds Dranko.

“Let me make something very clear,” says the Faceless man. “We have an agreement. We will not meddle, will not inform, will not spread rumors, will not spread truths. We are entirely uninvolved in their business in every way, and that is how it’s going to stay. I am going to offer you no assistance in any attempt to track them down. They would learn that we meddled, and that would be the end of us.”

“On a separate note,” says Dranko after a deep breath, “they stole a bunch of our stuff. If these items reach your fences, can you tell us, so we can buy them back?”

“If we see them, we will learn the prices and contact you. Now, this interview is at an end. Good night.” He leaves, and as expected, none of them can remember what he looked like.

“Well,” says Dranko. “Another waste of...”

“Excuse me.” A scrawny young woman has approached, seemingly out of nowhere. She can’t be more than eighteen or nineteen years old. “I couldn’t help but overhear.”

“What can we do for you,” asks Morningstar, her voice calm.

“Not all of us are so rigid in our thinking, and may see an angle to make a profit.”

Dranko turns his back on her. Sure enough, he can’t picture her face. He turns back.

“This can be very profitable for you,” he says, “and I appreciate your flexibility.”

“What do you want, and how much will you pay me for it?” asks the girl.

“What we want is to find out who hired the professional assassins who tried to kill us.”

The girl nods. “I’ll have to be discrete, but you pay me enough, and I can get you a name.”

“How do you want to handle it?” asks Dranko.

“Some amount up front for my trouble – this is a high risk operation – and the rest when I get you the name. How much were you thinking of paying? Remembering, of course, that I’m not only risking my own life, but potentially the entire Faceless organization.”

“So you’re going to share the reward with the rest of the Faceless?” asks Dranko.

“Of course not.”

“Then we only have to worry about paying you then, and that’s not really relevant.”

“You misunderstand,” says the girl. “If the Faceless find out about this.... let’s just say my risk is doubled, so the reward should be substantial.”

“We don’t do this much,” says Aravis. “Just tell us what it’s worth to you.”

“I was thinking 5000 Miracs now, and another 5000 when I get you the name.”

That sounds about right to Ernie and Aravis, but Dranko can’t help but haggle.

“I was thinking half of that,” he says.

“I wasn’t,” says the girl. “I was thinking all of it.”

“Are you willing to submit to a truth spell, to verify you intend to hold up your end of the bargain?” asks Morningstar.

“Nope. No chance,” says the girl.

“So we should just give you the money and hope for the best?”

“Yep,” the girl agrees. “That’s pretty much it. Or I can just go my merry away.”

“How about we give you a third of it now, and two thirds of it afterwards?” suggests Dranko.

“Deal,” says the girl.

As Dranko hands over the money, he tries to surreptitiously pluck a hair from her jacket, thinking Aravis can use it for scrying. Over the mind-link, Kibi offers dryly: “You’ve only been married for a few months, and you’re already trying to get a piece of a nineteen-year-old.”

But the attempt fails; despite Dranko’s finely honed skills at sleight-of-hand, the girl spots the attempt and slaps his hand away.

“There was a little but of fuzz on you,” explains Dranko.

“Yes. Of course.”

“Do you we have something we can call you?” asks Dranko.

“No. Where will you be in 48 hours?”

“The Golden Goblet.”

“I’ll send word, and tell you where to meet me.”

“You are aware,” says Morningstar, “of what happened the last time the Faceless crossed us?”

“Oh, yes. I’m not going to double cross you”

“Nice of you to say so,” grumbles Morningstar.

“If that's the case, then we appreciate you taking the risk for us,” says Dranko.

“I’d better get started,” says the girl. “Have to earn the rest of that money!”

She turns, leaves, and seconds later they can’t remember her face.

“She probably knows who it is already,” says Dranko. “I bet she’s just going to lie in a hot tub for a couple days.”

“And yet, it’s still worth the money if she gets us a name,” says Ernie.


* *


Two days later, just after lunch, a note arrives at the Goblet with an address located in a seedy neighborhood on the far side of the city. Though expecting some kind of double-cross, the Company makes haste on foot and arrives to find an old man with a bushy beard sitting against a crumbling stone wall.

“I have a letter for you,” slurs the man, getting to his feet and shaking the dust from his grubby clothes. “But you’re supposed to hand over somethin’ first, somethin’ valuable. Don’t open the letter ‘til I’m gone, too.”

Dranko gives him a small bag with 6600 miracs’ worth of gems and coins. The old man hands them a stained and folded piece of paper before ducking down an alleyway and into an unmarked doorway.

Dranko unfolds the note as the other crowd around. It contains only two words: “Lord Blueface.”

For a moment no one speaks. Then Ernie blurts out “Who the heck is Lord Blueface?”

“People we’ve never even met want to kill us now?” asks Aravis, throwing up his hands.

“And couldn’t they have told us anything more?” complains Dranko. “Like where he lives, or... what...”

He stops talking. A thought comes into his head.

“Wait a minute,” he says. “Remember that second potion we told Lord Dafron he had to drink, in order to cure him of the Powder addiction? What color was that going to turn him?”

Aravis’s eyes grow wide. “Blue,” he says quietly.

“Oh, yeah,” says Dranko. “That was absolutely worth five thousand gold pieces.”

...to be continued...
 
Can someone remind me about Lord Dafron? I'm afraid I don't remember him.

Other than that - another great update! Loved the detail of the escape plan/revenge plan, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the party do without their main items!

Did anyone consider trying to use some portable wealth to buy some new ones? Seems odd that they managed to put together several thousand gp for bribes when the rest of their stuff went missing.
 

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