Starting Date: First Spring Glory, Age of Godsfall 1257
Starting Location: Floria, Floria Province, Empire of the Sun
- Belroth (Jeremy) - Wild elf ranger from Fyrall, with a strong dislike of authority and a paranoid suspicion about the "forces of orthodoxy."
- Rose (Caroline) - Human city brawler from Xain. Taciturn, but always delighted when she gets to punch something in the head.
- Tanis (DJ) - Wild elf ranger from Fyrall. A trophy hunter that prefers dual-wielding to Belroth's ranged specialization.
- Evelyn (Allie) - Human priestess of Yetra from Western Xain. Disdains the use of her divine magic in favor of knifing things.
- Finbar (Raymond) - Dwarven sorcerer from Isfalkar. The only thing more impressive than his endurance is his appetite.
- Brenda (Becky) - Human fighter from Ofir. Assigned by the Empire of the Sun as a minder for the rest of the group.
- Isaac (J) - A halfling paladin from the Empire. Tasked by the Church to watch over the group due to the devils' interest in them.
- Aubade (Lauren) - A human rogue from Western Xain. Appointed head of the expedition beneath Survivor's Refuge by Akmendolaeus Molth.
The Heritors of Whitehall (Session 1, Day 1 - 3)
First Spring Glory, AG 1257
Amidst the sprawling fields of Floria Province sits the city of Floria, famous as one of the safest and most stable areas in the world due to a combination of poor conditions for monsters and continuous human habitation since the fall of the Orodravian. Here, five individuals are drawn from disparate backgrounds to the Inn-Teresting Times, summoned by letters addressed to them from distant associates and relations. Belroth came on behalf of his Field of Feathers Clan, the elders hoping the experience would temper his over-inquisitiveness. Rose's letter came from her uncle, her parents sending her away from the inn where she was raised in the hopes that she might find a better life than awaited her in oppressive Xain. Tanis had been sent in the place of his father, the letter being from the latter's best friend. Evelyn, meanwhile, was summoned from her cloistered life by a distant relation of her mother's. Last of all, Finbar was sent out by his father to represent his clan (and hopefully keeping him exercising and away from food long enough to shed a few hundred pounds).
After mingling briefly, the group is greeted by Efilvend Mendiod, a half-elf who informs them that they are the recipients of five out of the eight letters he sent. Each of them has been appointed the executor of a portion of the estate of a group known as the Lords of Whitehall. The Lords were adventurers and heroes famous in the area for their good deeds as well as known to powerful individuals and organizations through-out the whole of Faengleis for some of their more notable exploits. Unfortunately, approximately a year before, the Lords sealed Whitehall and departed on another adventure.
Several months later, a single member of the Lords--Saramach of the Field of Feathers Clan--returned, injured mortally with wounds no one in Floria could heal, not even the local High Sun, the priest in charge of Floria's Church of Thahtma. As he lay dying, Saramach was able to confirm that the rest of the Lords were dead, though could not provide any meaningful information about who or what had killed them before passing on.
In accordance with the will left by the Lords in the event of their deaths, Mendiod--a friend of the Lords as well as their steward and the caretaker of their estates--sent the prepared letters to designated representatives who would either come or appoint executors to come in their stead, each to gain control of at least 1/8th of the combined property of the Lords: Whitehall Manor and the lands surrounding and the contents there-in; a townhouse at 11 Amaranthus Way in Floria and the contents there-in; a sealed vault within the Floria branch of the Imperial Banking Consortium; and the balance of a joint account in the name of the Lords of Whitehall with the Imperial Banking Consortium.
However, Mendiod also revealed that in order to claim the inheritance, the representatives must complete a series of tasks set by their predecessors and only those who take part in the tasks would be eligible to receive a share (including a portion of the shares of those heritors that do not participate). The tasks revolved around assembling a key to enter Whitehall, still sealed by the powerful magical protection put in place prior to the Lords leaving. Additionally, due to outstanding debts, the money in the joint account was exhausted and many valuables within the townhouse were also liquidated to meet additional financial obligations.
His message delivered, Mendiod answered the few questions the group had and informed them that they would have rooms at the Inn-Teresting Times for a week, after which they would have to make their own accommodations if they were not already in residence at Whitehall. As it was still early in the morning, the party decided to make a day trip to Whitehall, to begin scouting for clues and get an idea of what it is they're trying to earn.
What they find is a towering manor amidst the gently rolling fields and plentiful wildflowers northwest of Floria. Three stories of pure white granite form a long rectangle that is both the building's front and its namesake, two-story wooden wings coming out from either side and encircling a tree of truly massive proportions. Finding the windows magically sealed and the curtains within tightly drawn, most of the group scales the roof and enters the interior courtyard. They find no better source of ingress there, but do explore the gardens sheltered by the tree's boughs.
Not sharing her fellows' enthusiasm, Evelyn remains behind and is rewarded with a meeting with a halfling who has followed the group. He introduces himself as Finnius Blithe, a business associate of the old Lords and a man with clues about the locations of two of the three key pieces. The first--and easiest--is in his possession and can be theirs for the low, low cost of 1,000 gold. Concerning the second, he had only a riddle to give her:
And never remember the kiss of light;
Walls of slate and roof of stone;
Make sleeping dust of sleeping bone;
Behind the door you, only once, go through;
It's not amazing, but it'll do.
He then wishes her the best of luck with her boisterous companions, tells her to leave a message with the innkeeper of the Times if she wishes to speak with him again, and departs before they return. She attempts to explain what happened, though Belroth decides to dub the visitor a leprechaun and doubts the priestess's sanity. As the day draws on, the group heads back to Floria, though they arrive well after nightfall and retire to their rooms at the Inn-Teresting Times.
Second Spring Glory, AG 1257
Hoping to raise the 800 gold they need to meet Blithe's asking price for the key piece, Belroth attempts to craft several bows to pawn off, but the attempt goes so poorly that he quits in disgust, not wishing to waste more money on ruining raw materials. Meanwhile, deciding to figure out the riddle, Rose, Tanis, and Evelyn go to explore one of Floria's two cemeteries: Old Mist. They discover numerous footprints throughout one part of the grounds as well as disturbed earth; highly suspicious, given that the Old Mist was closed to new burials several years before when they opened the Modest Rest Cemetery.
For his part, Finbar discovers the tavern maids will just keep bringing him food if he asks.
Returning with the news, Belroth and Finbar ask if the trio found any slate-walled, stone-roofed structures, to which they reply they were too busy looking at the ground to pay much attention. Later, the the group splits into two parties and goes to scout both cemeteries for buildings matching the riddle's description. While there are a few in Old Mist that come close, there is a clear winner in Modest Rest, though in a section of the grounds fenced off from the rest.
Deciding it is the best way to get information, the party contacts Blithe--who Belroth finally admits is probably real after meeting him--who explains that he was the Lords' loan shark (and the man that received most of the money used to pay off debts after their deaths) as well as the supplier of items of dubious legality for the province. He offers to loan the party the 1,000 gold they need for the key, but they decline, instead seeking information about the tomb they've identified. Blithe informs them its where the city inters guardsmen who die and haven't the family or means for a private burial. It is one of the most important crypts in the Modest Rest and is kept in the fenced-off section where the nobility and clergy are buried.
So they decide to break in that night.
Third Spring Glory, AG 1257
In the wee early hours of the morning, Belroth, Rose, Tanis, and Finbar depart, followed at a distance from Evelyn, who had voiced loud and constant disapproval with their course of action. Slipping through the abandoned streets of nighttime Floria, they enter the cemetery without incident and make it silently over the fence, including a display of acrobatics on Finbar's part that borders on the miraculous. Evelyn remains on the far side of the fence as the quartet enters the plain slate mausoleum of the city guard.
Inside, they find a small obelisk inscribed with the names of all those buried within, as well as the staircase leading down to the burial chamber. Descending, they discover both the coffins of interred guardsmen set into the walls and a man cowering behind a small dais in the crypt's main room. He proceeds to call a pair of animated skeletons from a secret doorway in the chamber and does battle with the group. Belroth deals with one skeleton while Rose beats the other into re-death. Tanis flails ineffectually at the necromancer and Finbar, in an impressive display of magical might, decides to just tackle the man, rolling past him as he misses. Rose wades into the melee and beats the problem into gibbering unconsciousness with a bit of magical assistance from Finbar.
Discovering the unconscious man has one of the key parts slung around his neck like an amulet, they haul him over Rose's shoulder and make their escape, closing the mausoleum up after themselves and making their way back towards the Inn-Teresting Times. They meet up with Evelyn near the inn, who renews her protests as they enter the building...and discover a cleaning lady, who takes one look at the unconscious man and their sundry injuries and looks on the edge of making a racket.
Belroth immediately bellows at the lady to go fetch some guards, saying they've caught someone who was breaking into a tomb at the cemetery, chasing her out to go retrieve the watch. Then they quickly secure their prisoner and roust him, demanding to know what he knows about the key piece. He breaks down, alternately crying and begging to be let go, but they manage to determine that he thought the amulet was somehow increasing the potency of his magic. Just then, the guards arrive, including Nicholae Henert, the captain of the guards' night shift. The party manages to present a true-esque recounting of the evening that had them spying the necromancer breaking into the mausoleum and following him down, where they confronted and defeated him. Along with their connection to the Lords of Whitehall--who were well-regarded by the city--they have enough to keep themselves out of jail, though Henert does recommend they contact the guard next time instead of breaking in themselves. He adds that, if their story checks out when they investigate the tomb, they may have a reward coming to them for services to the city.
Cruel Rewards (Session 2, Day 3 - 6)
Third Spring Glory, AG 1257, cont.
Evelyn heals someone! The group convinces her to help with their injuries sustained in the fight with the necromancer.
Tanis and Belroth discuss selling a shirt of magical chain armor they stripped off the dark wizard, thinking it might be worth enough to cover most of their next key piece. After catching a nap to rest up from the night's exploits, they travel about Floria, Finbar keeping an ear out for likely places to pawn magic gear. What he finds is a dubious establishment with no real name beyond "Shop" and a reputation of buying ill-gotten gains off bandits and thieves. They meet with the seedy owner, getting him to identify the shirt, but afterward decide not to sell it there despite having already spent over a hundred gold.
Instead, they seek a more reliable outlet, ending up at a wildly misnamed armory called the Gilded Tavern. The slightly distracted Yatris Ghend identifies their armor again--reaching the same conclusion as Shop's owner--and purchases it at a fair price. Pockets heavier, they still don't have quite enough for Blithe's asking price, so spend the rest of the day brainstorming get-slightly-richer-quick schemes.
Fourth Spring Glory, AG 1257
That morning, the party is summoned to the guard house in relation to the matter with the necromancer. There, they are met by Yenne Tayden, the captain of the guard and a woman of unfortunate nostrils. Mesmerized by their sheer size and the constant rushing of air sucked in and forced out of them, the party manages to find out that the necromancer from the night before--one Haradis Mahl--is being held for trial for crimes against the city, pending the arrival of one of the Empire's roving paladins to preside over the case. For their part in apprehending Mahl, the party receives a reward, which proves to be enough when combined with their other funds to afford the second key piece.
Their discussion turns to the third piece and they figure that someone close to the Lords must know about it, at which point Tayden reveals she was one of six people present when the will was read, though she knows nothing about the key. She offers to tell the party who the other five present were if they help her with resolving a matter on one of the farms near Floria. She was going to send a few junior guardsmen to take care of it, but this will give her a chance to assign them elsewhere and to see what the heirs to Whitehall will be capable of.
They agree, though Finbar wonders if she could tell them three of the six people now and the other three afterwords as a show of good faith. She considers and agrees, though she ends up naming herself, Mendiod, and Blithe; the three people the group have already interacted with.
The party then summons Blithe as they prepare to leave (including buying an ox for Finbar to ride, which is quickly dubbed Roast). Right before they depart, Blithe arrives and they grudgingly turn over the thousand gold they've earned, though they get another piece of the key in return. The two socket together and then combine into a seamless whole that Rose holds on to. Then they depart for the farm of the Bogg family to deal with...slugs.
A few hours of travel later, they arrive at the sprawling potato farm south of the city and meet with Carlisle Bogg, who announces that his crops are beset with slugs. Unfortunately, these do not seem unduly inconvenienced by salt or alcohol and even burning them doesn't work. The party quickly discovers the problem when confronted with red-black slugs several feet long and coated with a truly horrific slime. Approaching cautiously, most of the party holds back while Belroth tries to reason with the things, which promptly begin projectile-vomiting slime at everything in sight.
What follows is a true slug-fest, Belroth trying to stay clear and shoot them as Rose wades in and pops them like balloons of mucus. Finbar keeps his distance and plies magic, Tanis rushes up with sword in hand, and Evelyn shanks them in true priestly fashion. The party slays almost a dozen of the monstrous things before the Master Slug arrives. A writhing, gelatinous mass, it takes the party's concentrated efforts to stop, finally coating an unfortunate Rose in its explosive death throes. The remaining slugs visible wither and die without whatever magical power their master's presence was providing and a quick search of the fields reveals only more dessicated husks. Dreaming of the baths to come, they quickly brush off Bogg's thanks and promises to bring them a wagon-load of potatoes when the crop comes in and head back to Floria.
Fifth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Mission successful, the party has another meeting with Captain Tayden (or Captain Nostrils, as they discover she is unsurprisingly nicknamed), getting the information they sought. The other three who were present at the reading of the will were: Perik Graniteback, one of the city fathers of the dwarven mining settlement of Karakta; Aedona Elel, the wizardess ruling the small elven colony of Silversun; and Casmar Aanmas, the Governor-Noble of Floria Province.
The party debates which of the three to visit first and decide on Aanmas as he is the closest. Confident, they find the Governor's Manor at the heart of the city, a walled complex designed more for aesthetics than military necessity. An immediate road block is thrown in their way when the guard who answers their call dismisses the group out of hand, saying that an individual as important as the Governor-Noble cannot simply be approached. Rose proceeds to give the man a glare that leaves him wetting himself and running off crying and claiming an attack is imminent. The next man to answer is obviously far more capable but also more reasonable, hearing the group out and then allowing them access to the grounds, though only in his presence.
He reveals himself to be Aerick Stantz, the captain of Aanmas's personal guard, while the man they terrified was Fetter Card, the second son of the noble Card family. He is one of a number of incompetent nobles' sons foisted on Stantz since serving as a guard to Aanmas is seen as both safe and prestigious, while also allowing one access to the Governor-Noble's court. After a brief stay in a waiting room, the group is ushered into the presence of Governor-Noble Casmar Aanmas, who watches them in stoic silence as the party awkwardly stumbles its way through an attempt at a courtly greeting.
Only when Belroth breaks down and admits that they have no idea what they're doing does Aanmas allow his true personality to show through, breaking out in a laugh and kicking his legs up over the arms of his chair. He reveals that the old Lords of Whitehall were no better at formality and he doesn't mind; it's good to have at least a few people he can talk to like a normal person. The conversation quickly turns to the matter of the last piece of the key and Aanmas admits that he has it, but he's not sure if he wants to give it to them yet. He tells the party that the three key pieces were designed to test three different aspects of the heritors: their resourcefulness by gathering a thousand gold, their intelligence by giving them a riddle, and their good intentions, for the third and final piece of the key was given to Aanmas with the instructions that he was only to give it to the heritors when they had done enough good around Floria Province to impress him.
He admitted that their stopping the necromancer Mahl had been well-done, as had their helping the guard with the Bogg farm, but he wasn't sure if that was enough. Finally, after some back and forth debate, he decided to give the group the third key piece and allow them access to all their inheritance except for the contents of the vault, which would only be released to them when Aanmas felt they had proven themselves sufficiently.
The group accepted, completing the key and heading out to their townhouse to explore it and spend the night before going to Whitehall. They discover the house is in a very nice part of the city, but the interior is mostly empty except for a few knick-knacks and some old clothes left by the previous owners and not expensive enough to pawn off to cover debts. They also contact Efilvend, inviting him to come with them to Whitehall the following day and maybe get him to show them around.
Sixth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Arriving at Whitehall around noon, the party is in high spirits as they prepare to unseal the manor, inserting the key into the magic lock and standing back as both dissolve and the magical barrier around the house disappears. Swinging the doors wide, they face a scene of utter devastation.
The entire hall is a ruin, furniture smashed to flinders, paintings torn from the walls and shredded, the carpets ripped up and then ripped apart. Even the doors have deep gouges in their heavy wood and the stone of the walls are scarred and splattered with refuse. Indeed, the only thing left undisturbed are the curtains blocking the windows. Efilvend falls back in shock as the party falls into a defensive posture, entering the home and slowly exploring, revealing room after room of ruin, no space they see left untouched by the despoilment.
Finally, the reach the White Hall: a soaring chamber three stories tall, one wall devoted entirely to a one-way mirror that looks out on the manor's great tree while two other walls have tall, unbroken mirrors evenly spaced along them. Inside, the debris is so deep it makes moving difficult. Stepping foot in the mess, they disturb something at rest beneath the wreckage...and a trio of monsters burst out. They look something like pillows of meat, vaguely human faces stretched across them and wildly flailing claws at either corner.
The party immediately sets to defending themselves, but they quickly discover the creatures show resistance to weapons and to certain magics, though Finber's use of force-based spells seems unaffected. They prove completely immune to Evelyn's dagger, which doesn't stop her from doggedly attempting to stab them as her allies shout at her for healing.
When they finally defeat one of them, the meaty sack bursts, spilling out pus and rot and revealing a human skeleton curled fetally within, its skull pressed up where the face was. The other two creatures follow, the ruins of Whitehall falling silent as the group gathers and begins trying to figure out just what happened...
Plots and Thickening (Session 3, Day 6 - 19)
Sixth Spring Glory, AG 1257, cont.
Finbar's arcane knowledge fails him as he tries to identify what the things that attacked them were, though he is able to discern they are at least some sort of a planar entity. The party coaxes Efilvend to actually enter the house and the man almost faints at the devastation, though he finally rallies and goes to gather a few workers he knows who will help clean the house in return for any unwanted salvage.
Seventh & Eighth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Cleaning continues, the party and their help simply removing everything too damaged or despoiled to be usable...which amounts to almost everything in Whitehall. The damage shows signs of having been inflicted over a very long period of time: months, possibly as long as a year for some.
Ninth Spring Glory, AG 1257
The basic cleaning is finally complete, the party's list of usable salvage desperately small. The hardest part of reclaiming their home complete, Finbar devotes some effort to plumbing the mystery of how the planar monsters--which Belroth has dubbed demons--entered the sealed manor. He begins at Belroth's insistence with the mirrors that line the White Hall. The ranger has already tried shooting the mirrors, only to discover that they instantly absorb all of the arrow's impact momentum, stopping it in place and then letting it drop to the floor. Finbar's attempt to discern their nature ends up with him blown across the room and his wits scrambled for hours.
Tenth Spring Glory, AG 1257
After recovering from the previous day, Finbar tries again--much more carefully--and is able to sense that the mirrors are imbued with an overwhelming power, the sort generally reserved for deities.
Meanwhile, in his own attempt at plumbing the mysteries of Whitehall, Belroth tosses a rock through one of the windows. Everyone is rather cross with him for breaking a perfectly good pane of glass.
Eleventh Spring Glory, AG 1257
The group decides to return to Floria, both to get their spoils identified at the Gilded Tavern and to meet again with Governor-Noble Aanmas. They inform Efilvend that if demons begin to pour out of the mirrors while they're gone, he should probably run to the city and tell someone.
In their meeting with the Governor-Noble, they tell him what happened almost a week before and that they think the mirrors were the cause. A visibly disturbed Aanmas informs them that he will be sending a priest and several guards to watch over the estate and the party agrees it is probably for the best. They also consider drafting letters to several notable planar authorities with the hopes of getting a more experienced opinion on the possibility of a demon army pouring out of their house and burning the countryside. Meanwhile, to fulfill their end of the original bargain with Aanmas, the party prepares to leave for Silversun, to meet with wizardess Elel and solve a problem that has come up there.
Twelfth to Fourteenth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Traveling to Silversun.
Fifteenth Spring Glory, AG 1257
The party arrives in Silversun, a small high elven tree city that exists in Floria Province as part of a long-standing colonization arrangement between the Empire and the Elven Ascendancy. Belroth and Tanis immediately begin disparaging their tree-dwelling brethren, with the overbearing pity of the cultured for savages. Despite this, they make it to the tree at the city's heart and in whose branches were located several major civic buildings, including the wizardess's home. They secure an audience using Aanmas' name and their own reputation as the heritors to Whitehall, meeting with the elderly Aedona Elel.
She informs them that surrounding the city is a vast array of ponds and small lakes known as the Reedmere; a popular spot for picnics and walks as well as home to a population of nixies. Though usually peaceful albeit shy, of late the fae have begun acting strangely, abusing the fish and harassing passers-by. While she could deal with the problem, Elel is worried that the only solution would be violence and she is unwilling to hurt the nixies except in the final extreme of defending her city. Hoping the party might come to a more peaceful solution, she points them towards the worst part of Reedmere and wishes them luck.
When they arrive, the group is immediately set upon by gabbling nixies. None of the group speaks sylvan, so they're not sure what--if anything--the visibly agitated fae are saying. Suddenly, Rose finds herself quite enamored with the aquatic nixies, wondering why her friends are bothering them. Belroth, Tanis, and Finbar, meanwhile, begin a complex charade to the effect that they're going to fill in the pools with dirt which shows them that the nixies at least understand what they're saying, even if they don't speak it. The nixies try and wrest the packs and shovels from the group, though they are easily fended off due to their small statue.
The party pulls back and tries to decide on a new course of action when Finbar detects an active source of magic in the surprising depths of one of the larger pools. They send Tanis into the murk after it and--though one of the nixies tries to harass him--he retrieves a large, muddy form and returns to the surface easily. There, washing off the mud, the group is faced with a grisly discovery.
At the bottom of the pool was an orc corpse that had been badly beaten and obviously tortured, then tied up and dumped in the water. Around his neck was a magic amulet with an aura of necromantic power and a bad crack on the side from which magical energy was leaking. As soon as the amulet was free of the water, the nixies began to show signs of improving, though they were still visibly shaken by the ordeal. Only one remained, answering questions with terse, one-word replies before releasing Rose from her enchantment and retreating beneath the water as well.
Storming back to Silversun, the party angrily demanded of Elel when her people had gotten into the habit of torturing and murdering visitors. Their response was a wizardess who looked far more stricken than a simple murder should warrant. It quickly came out that she knew the individual they had discovered. Recently, the Governor-Noble had been sending out diplomatic feelers to the nomadic orcs of the Yrdgould, seeking to import some of their world-famous horses to begin herds in Floria, which has good horse country. They had made significant in-roads with one of the more powerful tribes due to a happy chance: one of the residents of Silversun was actually a half-brother to the cousin of a powerful orc chieftain.
That cousin had been traveling back and forth between Yrdgould and Floria Province and--about a month before--had been in Silversun, visiting his half-brother. He was thought to have left with the most recent copy of the proposal for his uncle to review. Now his corpse had turned up in a lake just outside the city and an international incident was probably unavoidable. The party volunteered to take a letter with all swiftness to Governor-Noble Aanmas (despite some quiet debate amongst party members that maybe now was a good time to head for a different country).
That night is the spring equinox.
Sixteenth to Eighteenth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Traveling to Floria.
Nineteenth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Upon arriving, the party decides to head immediately for the Governor's Manor, meeting with Stantz again and securing an audience with Aanmas. After reading over their note and deflating visibly from the initial joy at the news of their success, he informs them that he has no choice but to call for an Inquisitor from Thahtmahan to come and hold a Court of the Lance. He releases the party on their own recognizance but informs them that they must be available for when the proceedings start as they will be called to give testimony while under a magical compulsion to speak the truth. Belroth is openly disturbed despite the Governor-Noble's assurance that the court will be both thorough and fair, with justice as their highest objective. After all, he claims, if the Inquisitors were any less, they would have been stripped of their powers for failure to follow Thahtma's teachings by the Sun Goddess herself.
The party then retires to their townhouse to plan their next step. There are still rumors of trouble out in Karakta that they want to see too as part of their agreement with Aanmas, though they don't know how long it will take for the Inquisitor to arrive.
The Party Parties (Session 4, Day 20 - 32)
Twentieth Spring Glory, AG 1257
After some discussion, the party decides to venture east to Karakta, in hopes of solving whatever mystery plagues the dwarven mines. They figure the trip is short enough that they can be back in time for the Inquisition.
Twenty-first Spring Glory, AG 1257
Arriving in Karakta a little past noon, Finbar immediately notes that there are far too many dwarves resting on the stoops of buildings, standing around taverns, and just walking the streets. Whatever is wrong, it is leaving a significant portion of the population with little else to do but drink and wait. The party confers and decides the best course of action would be to speak with Perik Graniteback and the other city fathers. They look to Finbar for guidance amongst the dwarves and he tells them the most likely place to go is the town lodge in the city's center. Identifying the building from a distance, they head towards it.
Belroth, however, peels away from the group and approaches a knot of dwarves idling outside a tavern and proceeds to demand an explanation of what is wrong with their mines. Already disgruntled by their own inactivity and defensive--if not outright offended--about an outsider's curiosity, the apparent leader of the group is brusque in his dismissal. The elf responds with equal crassness, claiming to be there on the Governor-Noble's orders, and the pair's discussion escalates in hostility until Tanis comes and forcibly removes his friend after the dwarf threatens violence if Belroth doesn't leave off.
As the party departs again, Belroth whips out his bow. Before any of his allies can react, he fires a pair of arrows past the dwarves and into the side of the tavern. Unable to tell the difference between Belroth's parting shots and a genuine attack, they react in true dwarven fashion to a perceived threat: the leader and a half-dozen of his fellows charge.
Chaos fills the streets as both the attackers and the party break into small, struggling knots. Tanis is able to calm several of the dwarves down while Finbar sets one on fire in panicked self-defense. Evelyn heals the dwarf, but can do nothing for his singed beard and ruined clothing. Belroth, meanwhile, is jeering and hooting, running around and enjoying himself immensely to the anger of his teammates and at the expense of the dwarves' leader--who has pulled out a weapon of his own by this point. The situation is resolved by Rose, who drops the dwarf with a blow to the back of the head and then fetches Belroth a stinging slap to the face.
True to form, the elf responds by jabbing at her with his bow and dashing away.
The arrival of the city guard keeps the situation from escalating further as they begin to sort out what happened and take statements. Though he is told his presence is required, Belroth dismisses the guards and, alone, heads towards the lodge where the party had originally been headed before his display. Speaking with a clerk, he first tries to barge into an ongoing meeting with of the city fathers before finally being convinced to simply schedule an appointment to meet with them. He does so, for dawn of the following day, and then returns to his irritated friends.
Once there, the group is told they have a hearing before the city guard concerning the incident...scheduled for dawn of the following day. Belroth protests and is told his meeting with the city fathers will simply be rescheduled. They are then escorted to an inn, where they will spend their night before the next days' hearing.
As the party settles in for the night, Belroth calls a group meeting and announces he has no plans to attend the hearing. Instead, he will be going to explore the mines and seek to find out what's wrong without consulting anyone else. At first, Rose and Tanis are adamant that they will have no part of it, but everyone is stunned into silence as Evelyn--in defiance of everything they know about her--supports ditching the guard hearing and taking a day trip to the mine. When Finbar throws his considerable weight behind Belroth's idea, Rose caves, though she is still fuming over Belroth's behavior, and Tanis decides showing up to the hearing alone would be pointless.
Twenty-second Spring Glory, AG 1257
Before dawn paints the horizon, the party slips out of the inn and heads towards the edge of town and the extensive mines of Karakta. What they find is a massive open pit mine where granite is quarried at the bottom of which is the entrance to the deeper shaft mines that honeycomb the earth. Entering, they find a small tool shed, a lift down to the lower levels, and a small sign informing them not to enter.
Brushing past, they enter the mines and proceed to spend hours wandering the winding tunnels of its five levels, discovering tracks for mine carts, fine dwarven craftsmanship in the tunnels, and, on the lowest levels, exposed veins of iron that they were following when whatever happened had happened. Increasingly frustrated, Belroth turns to Evelyn and asks her to help him with his next idea: ghosts.
The party spends some more time exploring as Evelyn prays to Yetra for magic to help her sense the undead. Once she has the spell readied, she uses it to determine the mine is as undead-free as a church. Night falling, they admit defeat and decide they will go to the guard house the following day and pretend they simply got the wrong day for the hearing. Their course decided, the party sets up camp there in the bottom of the pit mine.
Twenty-third Spring Glory, AG 1257
Setting out again before sunrise, the party arrives at the dwarven guardhouse shortly before dawn to find a bored, unmotivated dwarf sitting at the front desk: Corporal Nonce Coalbeard. Without even bothering to find out who they are, he informs them there are no hearings that day and to just leave. More than willing to do so, the party then makes their way to the town lodge to try and secure a new meeting with the city fathers. They are informed that the city fathers are quite busy and don't have time to meet right now, though they are also cautioned that Perik Graniteback is rather disgruntled with them at the moment. It seems he was present at their hearing the previous day, planning on speaking with them once the situation was resolved.
Unconcerned, Belroth barges into the on-going meeting, interrupting a young dwarven woman and startling the five city fathers and a small group of petitioners waiting their turns. He responds to their demands that he leave by again announcing himself to be an emissary of the Governor-Noble, though when asked to present some sort of proof he falters.
The rest of the party apologizes and Belroth again demands that someone tell him why the mines are shut down before he simply leaves the city entirely. Despite the allure of the offer, a visibly annoyed Perik Graniteback gestures to the woman Belroth interrupted earlier and introduces the party to Sheel Brickharrow, Karakta's mine forewoman. Over the course of their conversation, the party begins to understand the complex web of tradition and law that has brought the city to a standstill.
Sheel, a mountain dwarf, was brought in several years previously from the fortress-city of Shaddac Kraul to replace Karakta's retiring foreman. As part of a traditional arrangement, she was given honorary ownership of all the tunnels dug while she was forewoman. Several months earlier, she also received a very important document from her clan: a writ of lineage. One of the most valuable and intricate legal documents in dwarven society, it included a comprehensive overview of her ancestry and lineage, her personal holdings, her shares of all clan holdings, and--of immediate concern--permission to wed, all signed and sealed by her parents, the clan head, and a number of important clan dignitaries, such as the clan craftmasters and their Chief Caster of Diriim. Less than a month ago, the document went missing, stolen from a locked drawer in a desk in Sheel's home.
After their initial attempts to track the letter down, when the guards were unable to find any leads, Sheel and the city fathers began to plot more drastic measures. Finally, they decided to have Sheel use her authority as forewoman to declare what were legally her mines closed pending return of her property, the hope being that the increased pressure on the entire city would make someone come forward, either with the missing document or evidence as to the thief. However, that had been weeks ago and nothing was forthcoming. When not even those drastic steps could resolve the problem, Sheel began to question her place in the city and the populations dislike for her. With her resolve weakening and not wanting to be seen as failing by lifting the enforced strike before her writ was returned, Sheel and the city fathers decided it would be best for all involved if they simply bought out her share of the mines--a sum of approximately 19,000 gold--so she could return to Shaddac Kraul and they could locate a new foreman for the mines.
Indeed, it was negotiations over the exact terms of the settlement that the party had barged in on.
Belroth, nearly tearing his hair out in frustration at this point, seriously considers leaving, but the party decides that the cost to the province would be too high: even if they reimbursed the city the 19,000 gold from their own pockets eventually--which they discuss doing--they would still be losing a highly skilled and experienced forewoman and replacing her with an almost assuredly inferior substitute. With the mines producing almost all the iron and quarried stone for Floria as well as a significant portion of their copper, tin, and silver, the effects of even a relatively small dip in productivity could be severe.
Confirming that--were the letter to be returned--Sheel would wish to remain in Karakta and the city fathers would be happy for her to stay, it is Belroth that proposes a plan. With any evidence from the crime scene hopelessly obscured by the passage of time, their only recourse is to draw out the people who want Sheel out of the picture. To do so, they are going to announce that a solution has been reached in the problem and Sheel will be saying and the city fathers are throwing a party for the entire town to celebrate the joyous news.
Shocked silence follows announcement, but with no other options they can see, the city fathers leave the decision in Sheel's hands and she accepts the last-ditch effort.
Twenty-fourth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Belroth stays close to Sheel for her protection while the others get the party preparations underway, with Finbar put in charge of foodstuffs and Rose--her youth spent minding her parents' tavern--will handle the drinks. Evelyn does what she can to help, but is a little out of her depth. As one of the party's swiftest overland travelers, Tanis is sent back to Floria to ask for some gifts from Governor-Noble Aanmas to make the party a more spectacular--and thus more convincing--affair.
Twenty-fifth Spring Glory, AG 1257
Preparations in Karakta are well under way, with rumors beginning to build that the party will be one to remember. The party of the decade, some are calling it, though there's a good deal of confusion over what arrangement Sheel and the city fathers could have possibly made.
While following Sheel, Belroth discovers he isn't the only one keeping an eye on the mountain dwarf. With some careful positioning, he catches hold of a halfling that always seems to be where Sheel is about to go, betraying an intimate knowledge of her habits and schedule. Attempting to interrogate his captive, Belroth discovers that he has hold of one Mack NicTurlish, who turns out to be the very gentleman for whom Sheel needed the writ of lineage in the first place. Though still suspicious, Belroth and the pint-sized suitor agree to work together on keeping Sheel under observation until the situation is resolved.
Meanwhile, Tanis has an early meeting with the Governor-Noble and he is a little leery of the plan, noting that he doesn't really see a point to his sending a gift along: the party is, after all, a ruse and by the time it is discovered he doesn't send anything, the conspirators will either have acted or revealed that they were never planning to act. Still, willing to trust the party knows what its doing, he ultimately agrees to release some of his private stores to Tanis as well as a horse to help carry it back. With the help of Aanmas's steward, he picks up a cask of fine elven wine and several bags of exotic jerky imported from Eldesta.
He departs the city before noon, though its still well after nightfall before Tanis makes it back to Karakta, even at his considerable pace.
Twenty-sixth Spring Glory, AG 1257
A final day is spent in preparation, rumors only growing amongst the largely inactive populace of Karakta. Many are expecting the party of the century, now.
Finbar helps the rumors along, visiting a few taverns to spread the word. At one, he runs into a bard named Perser Glimdale who made the journey from Floria after hearing about a huge party that even the Governor-Noble was contributing too. He gets the rotund dwarf's permission to provide some music.
Twenty-seventh Spring Glory, AG 1257
The party begins about lunchtime, though most of the attendees remain out-of-work miners, retirees, and children until later, when the businesses around town begin to close up for the day. The bard Perser sets up with a courtly harp and proceeds to play slow, quiet court music that most of the dwarves see fit to ignore. Finbar runs the buffet, nothing touching the table until he has sampled it (to assess the quality, of course) while Rose operates the taps and keeps the increasingly rowdy dwarves under control. Tanis and Evelyn cruise the crowd, keeping their eyes peeled for danger, while Belroth watches Sheel like a hawk, Mack close by as well.
As time passes, the normally ironclad formality of the dwarves begins to melt away under the touch of alcohol as the party witnesses one of the race's few outlets for societal pressure: the drunken revel. Men and women engage in open flirtation and young men challenge one another to games of strength, endurance, and nerve that are at first pointless but quickly transition into the dangerous. Wrestling matches are common, as are punching duels where they see who can take the most blows to the stomach before throwing up or passing out. From gossip they overhear, the party learns that a number of miners resented a foreigner being brought in to be their forewoman but after years of working with her and seeing firsthand her skill and dedication, no one really has any reservations anymore. The trouble is that--because of dwarven stubbornness--they also don't want to be seen as going back on their previous stance. With the drunken party as an excuse, however, it seems most will be just fine admitting they like their forewoman once the celebration is done.
There is a moment of tension when Evelyn overhears a small knot of dwarves who sound like they're plotting to put a knife in Sheel, but after she alerts the others and her and Tanis trail the group, it turns out she simply misheard them and they're keeping a close eye on some of the most boring dwarves imaginable.
With the sun setting, the party has finally reached its stride and the orderly, organized dwarves of Karakta have been reduced to a seething mass of debauchery, drunkenness, brawling, and general excess. Belroth--still near Sheel--leaps onto a table and calls for everyone's attention. Leading the drunken crowd, he begins to announce that Sheel is no longer going to be a foreigner because she has designs on marrying a local, at which point a thoroughly flustered Mack fails to tackle the elf off the table. Sheel joining them, Belroth announces the nuptials of the blushing couple and the crowd responds by finding another level to take the celebration up to.
After a little more partying, Sheel and Mack stray from the celebration to discuss their future and what to do in the absence of the writ--as well as maybe a few more intimate things--as Belroth follows to make sure nothing harasses the couple. Ice runs through his veins, however, when he notices that the door to Sheel's house is ajar despite her having sealed it up before leaving earlier that day. He dashes towards the building through the shadows, only to find himself face-to-top-of-the-head with a pudgy dwarf in the leather apron of a shopkeeper. Belroth draws his bow but discovers the man is nothing like a threat when he begins to blubber in fear.
Dragging the suspicious dwarf out to a rapidly sobering Mack and Sheel, they all enter the home and discover the writ sitting in the middle of Sheel's desk as if it had never gone astray. The dwarf incoherently confesses to the crime and offers increasingly outrageous sums if they will only let him go, but Belroth is having none of it. He instead drags the struggling figure back to the party and hoists him up for everyone to see (though there is a tense moment for Finbar when the elf declares "the fat one" guilty of the crime). An off-hand comment about Sheel and Mack now being free to make gnomes--dwarf/halfling crossbreeds--sends about a hundred drunken party-goers off to parade in circles around Sheel's house, serenading the hapless pair with shouts of "Gnome! Gnome! Gnome!"
Belroth takes the thief to the guard house, where the ubiquitous and eternally apathetic Corporal Coalbeard shrugs and tells Belroth to just chuck the gibbering dwarf in a cell and lock it up behind him. Doing so, he returns to the party.
Rose spends the night presiding over kegs of ale liberated from local taverns by impromptu raiding parties when the prepared stocks begin to run dry as Finbar astonishes everyone by entering--and winning--three consecutive punching duels, displaying his incredible endurance for an appreciative crowd. Tanis and Evelyn enjoy their respective times, the need to be on the alert over with. The bard Perser Glimdale discovers his courtly music has an enthusiastic following among younger dwarf women and he finds himself eventually dragged off his stool and forced to enjoy the...attentions of a number of inebriated fans.
Twenty-eighth Spring Glory, AG 1257
The party continues until dawn touches the horizon, when the last of the ale dries up and most of the city's population can barely stand. The rest of the day is spent by everyone, sleeping off the ale and activity of a truly impressive soiree.
Twenty-ninth Spring Glory, AG 1257
That morning, the party has a brief meeting with the city fathers. They establish that Sheel will be staying--and marrying Mack--and that the shopkeeper confessed to the crime. It turns out that, in a long string of events that the city fathers gloss over, the shopkeeper Pad Siltsifter filched the writ of lineage. He was quickly and mortally shocked by the intensity of the reaction of from the city, growing terrified of being found out but unable to bring himself to destroy the evidence either. When the party was announced, he figured he had a chance when no one was around. That night, he snuck back into Sheel's house and left the writ on her desk, hoping it would be the end of everything. It might have been, too, if not for the couple returning earlier than he'd thought they would.
Having taken care of that, the party is set to receive a reward...less their fines. It seems the city fathers are unwilling to overlook the fines incurred both by the party missing their hearing and for being found guilty by default of the charges leveled against them (though the leader of the dwarven rowdies apparently dropped the assault charge against Rose out of either fear or respect).
With no more business in Karakta, the party leaves for Floria, Belroth almost as happy to be gone as the city fathers are to have him so.
Thirtieth Spring Glory, AG 1257
The party arrives in Floria about noon, finding the trees festooned with garlands as flags sporting the imperial sunburst seem to wave from every vertical surface. It is obvious that preparations are underway to receive the Inquisitor and their entourage. Before heading home, they decide to swing by the Governor-Noble's manor where they discover the Inquisitor will be arriving in two days' time and there will be a reception that evening, with the Inquisition itself beginning the day after.
Agreeing to attend both events, the party then departs for Whitehall. Once there, they find that their home now has eight people in residence: Efilvend, a chef and a gardener he hired, four guards supplied by Aanmas and Captain Tayden, and a priest from the local Church of Thahtma sent to watch for any more demon issues. With all the mess taken care of and as many signs of the destruction removed as possible, the party members choose their rooms in the building's wings and move their cots there. They also decide that some furniture is probably going to be necessary before too much longer.
Thirty-first Spring Glory, AG 1257
The party takes a day off, just relaxing and seeing to their gear. Belroth sets up a general workshop in one of the unused rooms.
Thirty-second Spring Glory, AG 1257
With plenty of time before the party that evening, the group leaves Whitehall for Floria, arriving to find themselves unprepared in attire and manners. Finbar digs out some scholarly robes he hasn't worn in a while, figuring they are better than his stained and careworn adventuring gear, while Belroth draws on his burgeoning knowledge of courtly behavior to try and make a good impression. He manages just enough to open conversations about the gaudy dress sense of the Lady Piatrice Margrade, mingling as the rest of the party huddles behind him except for Finbar, who parks himself by the buffet and refuses to be moved.
Finally, Governor-Noble Aanmas greets them and introduces the party to Inquisitor Taufos Brehm, an elderly priestess of Thahtma from the capital. With her are a hardened human paladin named Posen Marik and his younger elven protégé Nienna Telrunya. Exchanging some pleasantries, Belroth also manages a brief personal exchange with the attractive elven paladin. The party is also invited to a private meeting with the Inquisitor and the Governor-Noble after the reception is finished.
Surviving the party until the nobles are released, the party is then escorted to a comfortable reading room where Aanmas and Brehm await, along with Marik, Telrunya, and captain Stantz. Inquisitor Brehm informs the party that she has been sent not only to deal with the matter of the murdered diplomat but to investigate the troubling developments in Floria Province that seem related to Whitehall. She reveals to the party that--based on what they have said--the church believes their invaders were actually devils; specifically, they were low-level devils known as lemures. It is a disturbing development because, unlike the chaotic demons, the strict devils would not simply break into a home to ransack it unless they had a reason to believe they were entitled to. It indicates some sort of connection between the Lords of Whitehall and the devils of the Burning Hells.
In light of all of this, Inquisitor Brehm tells the party that she wishes to investigate Whitehall before leaving but--that night--she wishes to also view the one undisturbed portion of the Lords' legacy: the vault in the Imperial Banking Consortium. The party agrees and the Inquisitorial squad departs with Aanmas, Stantz, and a half-dozen of the Governor-Noble's personal guard.
A runner sent ahead has rousted the manager of the Consortium's local branch: Arnos Patale. He is waiting on the steps of the bank with a half-score of the bank's security, the vault key in his hands. Welcoming the Inquisitor and the Governor-Noble, he begins leading the assembled group into the lobby. In a moment of silence in the procession, Rose, Tanis, and Belroth hear a strange sound as if someone were pulling apart a thin sheet of some fleshy substance...
Battle in the Bank (Session 4.5, Day 32 - 33)
Thirty-second Spring Glory, AG 1257, cont.
Too much had gone too wrong for the party during their month in Floria. As soon as the alien sound reached their ears, Tanis and Rose formed up around the dignitaries while Belroth dashed to a corner and set arrow to bowstring. Even as Aanmas was demanding to know what was going on, a wound in reality tore open and a hideous figure emerged. Gaunt and pale, his skin was covered in calciferous projections like spikes, lending him a demonic air though he carried nothing of the planes about him in his demeanor or powers. He wore clothes like a combination between armor and robes, all of a substance that looked subtly like bone. Looking over the gathered forces, he whispered to himself in Imperial common, though only Belroth seemed to hear.
"And Istis thought this would be difficult."
Inquisitor Brehm demanded the intruder identify himself but he merely pointed a hand at Posen Marik, who had moved himself to the group's forefront, and declared "Die." The heavily armored paladin dropped lifeless as soon as the word was spoken and chaos erupted on the steps of the bank and in the streets outside. Nienna charged the stranger as more of the strange humanoids began to pour out of jagged, misshapen portals. Most were lightly armored and carried curved rods studded with bony spikes, but a few were armored men with shields and smooth rods of the strange not-quite-bone of their leader's armor. Soon, they were in close combat with the bank guards and Aanmas' coterie, though manager Patale had fled into one of the offices to hide.
Once Inquisitor Brehm determined she could do nothing for the fallen Marik, she turned her attentions to the first stranger and the pair began exchanging powerful divine magics, though the interloper held his own against the powerful priestess while also battling Nienna and Captain Stantz in close combat. For his part, Aanmas was directing the various combatants, giving orders and directing the flow of the battle.
As the others fought, the party fell to trying to keep their allies alive and their enemies overwhelmed. Finbar and Belroth directed their ranged attacks into the bank, chipping away at the stranger's entourage while Rose and Tanis reinforced the defensive line Aanmas's guards had set up and Evelyn revealed to her friends the true potency of her little-used divine gifts, bolstering their performance and healing their hurts as they accrued.
It was a bloody whittling, with many of the less-skilled bank guards falling while Aanmas's men had the support of the party to keep them fighting back. Finally, with a tremendous blast of destructive energy, Inquisitor Brehm tore the armor form the stranger's body, sending him into a rage. He launched those around him away and cast a summoning spell of a type none of the party could identify and, on the far side of the battle, a monster from the nightmares of decent men emerged. It was a massive creature the size of an ogre, with a leathery hide over its hugely muscled frame, too-large hands ending in vicious claws. A series of interlocking bony plates covered its back and its crocodilian head was completely sheathed in something like a second skull.
The stranger then punched a knife-fingered hand through Nienna's face and out the back of her skull and fell upon Inquisitor Brehm, who startled everyone by unleashing the deadly Harm spell, tearing away at her attacker and obviously wounding him terribly. Suddenly, however, a beatific smile crossed his face and he pointed at Brehm, again uttering a single word.
She dropped to the floor, as lifeless as both her defenders, and he turned his attention to those who remained. Belroth drew an arrow and loosed, managing beyond all expectation to strike the foe, though it caused little more than a flesh wound. Still, advancing on the beleaguered survivors pinned between the towering monstrosity and the remaining shock troops who had teleported in, it seemed all was lost. Then Aanmas lunged forward, holding up a gem and crushing it in one hand, releasing a powerful blast of arcane energy as a portal--a normal portal, not one of the deformed ones the stranger and his ilk had used--engulfed their foe and when the light faded, he was gone.
Which was not to say the battle was finished, the summoned giant tearing through Aanmas's guards as if they were paper. Even when Stantz waded in against it, a mis-timed attack lost him his sword and it was only a few blows before that and the damage he had taken against the stranger left him unconscious. As Evelyn saw to the Governor-Noble--whose hand was left a bloody wreck from breaking the gem--the rest of the party mopped up the remaining shock troopers before moving on to concentrate their powers no the monster.
Finbar summoned the remaining few bursts of magical fire left to him while Belroth spent the last of his enchanted arrows--spoils discovered most of a month ago in the ruins of Whitehall. Tanis was in, both his blades flashing, but it was Rose who humbled the beast. In the grips of a rage, she slammed against the monster and matched it blow for tremendous blow, cracking its armored plates and the bones beneath as she shrugged off attacks that would have killed lesser women. Finally, as the monster reached in to try and simply fling its attacker away, she grabbed it by one thick wrist and yanked it off its feet, delivering a stone-shattering blow to its windpipe and leaving it vomiting blood down her back and across the pavement as the light in its eyes burned dim and extinguished.
With its last, feeble twitches, the battlefield fell silent except for the last of Aanmas' guards, desperately hacking at the corpse of the monster that had killed his friends and very nearly him.
The party made a quick accounting, the bloody work of only a few minutes evident in the dozens of corpses spread across the street and in the bank. They sent one of the city watch that rushed in to fetch more guards while Belroth took off to find where Patale had fled too, discovering he had leapt out of the window in the office where he was hiding. The elf finally found the banker cowering in a bin in an alley several streets over, dragging the gibbering man back to the group.
Rose and Finbar discovered that the surviving soldier was none other than Fetter Card, the first of Aanmas's personal guard they had ever met. Evelyn roused Stantz from his unconsciousness while Tanis began carving plates of bone from the monster in hopes of fashioning a trophy from the creature. As more guards arrived, the party compared notes and began to lay out what they understood about the situation. First and foremost, the entire Inquisitorial squad was dead, which derailed everyone's plans for the immediate future. Next was the nature of their attackers, for which Belroth dragged Tanis aside and began talking to him in increasingly-panicked Loh'isth.
He points out the powerful divine magic, the strange yet humanoid features of the attackers, and their gear, all made of a strange, heavy, steel-hard substance similar in color and texture to bone. Tanis states firm denial of what Belroth is hinting at, before the pair are confronted by Aanmas and the rest of their party. When they voice their suspicions in a more understandable language, the party joins Tanis' instinctive desire not to believe while Aanmas warns them to be careful where they discuss such matters.
After all, it would be insane to even consider the return of the Orodravian.
With Patale at hand, they secure the vault key and decide to enter the vault of the Lords of Whitehall, hoping there might be some clue to the growing mysteries in Floria. What they find are several items secured by the old Lords, including a small chest with valuable platinum ingots, several mundane scrolls, and what looks to be a veritable junk drawer of magic knick-knacks. There is also a large metal chest with no obvious lock or other means of entry, which they leave behind as a mystery for another day.
They take the magical trinkets and several more potent items, deciding to go to the Gilded Tavern to have them identified. Aanmas agrees to foot the bill for the identifying, though he will remain at the bank for now to coordinate the clean-up and decide what he has to do next. The party collects the spiked sticks, smooth rods, and shields that their attackers had, hoping that Ghend can identify their magic and any enchantments on them. They also pick up the rings the shock troopers were wearing, still possessed of a thin aura of fading magic. Each ring bears the inscription in an unfamiliar language:
We are reason ruled by hate.
With several guards as escort, they rouse Ghend from his bed and proceed to have their goods analyzed. They begin with the items retrieved from the vault, though Finbar is confident he has enough arcane lore to sort through most of the smaller items himself.
First Spring Dusking, AG 1257
The party misses the beginning of the new month, too absorbed in analyzing their goods. Finally, when Ghend gets to the items taken from the strange attackers, he runs into a problem. The spiked staff he investigates shatters after only a few minutes of probing, though it doesn't harm the old man. While he can identify the shield as nothing but a normal imbued piece of armor, when he tries with one of the iron rods, it cracks as well. He admits that a more skilled arcanist might be able to probe their secrets, but he lacks the technical facility to bypass whatever protections against identification have been placed on the items.
Selling a few of their platinum bars to Ghend for coin, the party then retires to their townhouse to rest and try and figure out what their next step will be. All that is sure is that their world has changed irrevocably.
City of the Sun (Session 5, Day 33 - 45)
First Spring Dusking, AG 1257, cont.
After divvying some of the spoils from the vault amongst themselves, the party arranges a meeting with Governor-Noble Aanmas. There--after Belroth thoroughly interrogates the foliage, of which he has grown suspicious--they discover that Aanmas has been summoned to the capital city to stand upon the Hammer, a direct questioning by the Empress Telria Sendeyvrian on matters of his faith and competence. After some brief discussion, the party decides to accompany Aanmas to speak in his defense and investigate the matter of their attackers further.
Aanmas accepts their gesture gratefully, though he is unsure of what they can accomplish, and he mentions to them that if they have the time, they should journey to Silversun, to the Dancing Leaves Inn, and present the barkeep with a specific coin that he hands over to them. From there, the party returns to the vault and takes out five more of their platinum bars, which Belroth holds. He is then given a pair of magical boots FInbar has that can boost speed, everyone having decided to send him to SIlversun to try out Aanmas's coin. He departs with impressive speed, stopping only long enough to deliver the platinum bars to Efilvend at Whitehall with instructions to go about fixing the place up with the 2,500 gold they represent.
Meanwhile, Rose and Tanis work together prying open the sealed steel chest. It turns out to be a difficult affair and takes several minutes of grunting effort, but they finally brute force the lid off, ruining the lock in the process. Inside, all they find are a series of increasingly-old letters. Each, it seems, is from an earlier generation of the Lords of Whitehall, the newest being written only the year before by Finbar's uncle, while the oldest--damaged and missing content--is from AG 316 and written by someone none of the gathered party recognizes. In confusion, the party returns to the day house to study the letters in greater detail.
Second Spring Dusking, AG 1257
While the party departs that morning with Aanmas for Port Irt to the south, Belroth arrives in SIlversun having cut cross-country and run through the night. He heads immediately for the Dancing Leaves Inn and presents Klarth Gurt, the half-orc barkeep, with the coin. Dropping it in a cup for several moments, the barkeep then returns the coin and directs the elf to the third floor, telling him to use the coin to knock on the only door up there.
Doing so, Belroth is treated to the sound of dozens of deadbolts being thrown before the door creaks open. Inside is a small, clean office space with several glass cases and a small counter. In the cases are fine-looking weapons and a few intricate pieces of jewelry while, behind the counter, there sits an elf with a painfully cheery smile on his face. Welcoming Belroth to Rözin, he informs the baffled ranger that he provides custom magic items for purchase. Orders take a week to complete, payment up-front, and all magic is guaranteed.
The shopkeeper--an elf named Sihan Asfala--also shows no understanding of the local calendar or what day it is. Pressed further, he doesn't even know where he is currently located, Belroth tricking him into thinking SIlversun is actually the Circle State of Wettam Post. Finally, too confused and exhausted, the ranger just leaves and purchases a room for the day at the inn.
Third Spring Dusking, AG 1257
The next morning, Belroth returns upstairs to Sihan and probes a bit more about Rözin, though he ultimately finds out little more. Mentioning Thahtmahan in passing, Sihan does inform Belroth that should he find himself at the Black Stag Inn, he should present his coin to the barkeep.
As Belroth departs the Dancing Leaves Inn, the barkeep stops him and thanks him for his work. It turns out that Klarth is the half-brother of the orcish diplomat whose death triggered current events. Belroth expresses his condolences before departing the city.
The rest of the party continues to travel with Aanmas towards Port Irt.
Fourth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
Everyone is traveling towards Port Irt.
Fifth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
Belroth arrives in Port Irt and proceeds to wait for the others.
Sixth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
Aanmas and company arrive in Port Irt, the party eagerly showing Belroth the letters discovered in the chest. Belroth recognizes several of the names on the letters, including the Empire's found Indrose Albran and the surname Molth, which is the same as the current rulers of the Circle State of Survivor's Refuge. He also notes that Giancar Greenhands was the mortal name of the Namitha Ardrua who ascended to demi-godhood as the Lady of the Hunt and now rules Fyrall.
The party departs on Aanmas' ship towards Thahtmahan.
Seventh to Tenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
The party travels across the Diamondmere towards the Empire's capital, Thahtmahan.
Eleventh Spring Dusking, AG 1257
Arriving in Thahtmahan, the party is given lodging in the Governor's District, at Aanmas's capital residence. Their measurements are taken for new clothing so they have something decent to wear for the Imperial audience, and the rest of the day is there's. With the help of the manor's minder, they are given a guide to the city--a young centaur everyone seems to call simply "horseboy"--and he helps them find their way to the Black Stag Inn. There, the rest of the group is introduced to Sihan and the Rözin shop, but they decide to forgo any purchases just yet.
Upon returning home, their newly tailored garments are tried out and they prepare themselves mentally for the next day.
Twelfth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
In the early morning, they are roused and accompany Aanmas to his hearing. While he meets with the Empress, the party waits in a plush room. They are forced to give up their weapons and gear before being allowed in Empress Sendeyvrian's presence where she waits for them atop the Hammer. In an echoing chamber, there is only a single, massive stone a story tall, ten feet wide, and forty feet long. In the towering ceiling above it is the room's only illumination: a skylight that sends down a shaft of illumination that strikes the dais like the handle of a hammer connecting to its head.
Once in the Empress' imposing presence, the party lays out what information they have, including allowing her to read copies they made of the letters and see the original letter from Indrose Albran. They go on to include their theories about the nature of their foes. After long consideration, the Empress states that she does not believe the party but neither does she dis-believe them. Rather, she is uncertain as to the truth in this matter, though she recognizes that they are sincere in their belief that what they have said is accurate.
She decides that the threat is too great to simply ignore, no matter its source, and so asks the party if they wish to accept an imperial charter to pursue the matter. Though she recognizes a threat exists, there are too many possibilities that need to be investigated, too many avenues to plumb, and they have already proven themselves capable and know as much as anyone no the Empire's side about what is going on. Requesting time to think about it, the Empress gives the party a week to make a decision and inform her.
Returning to Aanmas' manor, Tanis and Belroth notice that the room has been disturbed in subtle ways. A quick investigation shows that the original copies of the letters--hidden under a floorboard in the room--had been rifled through, though none were missing. Belroth bursts out of the room and surprises a window-washer in the hallway, whom he sends to immediately inform the majordomo that the room had been broken into. The man agrees and sprints away quickly.
The manor's steward arrives shortly there-after, the room's maid in tow. After some grilling, the woman breaks down and admits she rifled through their stuff, but says she didn't have the slightest idea of anything about a hidden compartment or any letters. It must have been a second person who found those. Belroth demands to know if anyone else had been in their room and the steward responds that no one else had been in this wing of the house since the rooms had been prepared the day before. Even the window-washers wouldn't be in until next week.
As Belroth tries to ask the man another question, Finbar and Rose interrupt to remind Belroth that it was one of those non-existent window-washers that they had sent to alert the steward in the first place. Shaking his head, the steward says he was informed by a panicked maid who, herself, had been informed by someone else. The party splits up immediately, racing around the house and hoping their thief hadn't gotten too far yet.
Evelyn emerges into the manor's courtyard just in time to see the "window washer" throwing off a cloak that would be too conspicuous for his getaway and racing for the streets. Belroth comes bursting out a window and crashing to a pile besides the startled cleric and Rose comes bursting out of a window on the floor below that one, called by Evelyn's cries. As the thief begins running for it, Belroth puts an arrow through his shoulder, but the man has enough agility to dash around a corner and keep going.
Finbar is the next out a window--the one Rose broke--while Tanis leaps from a window on the opposite side of the house, hoping to cut the fleeing thief off. Tanis spies the thief and cuts through a park, followed quickly by Rose and Belroth, who manage to pin the thief between them. Faced with no hope of escape, he throws his hands in the air and proceeds--unasked--to admit that he was hired to spy on them, doesn't know who is employer is, but is perfectly willing to tell them all about his next meeting with the man.
He gets dragged back to the manor as the guards are summoned, but--except for an ill-considered attempt at flirting with Rose--is so cooperative that the group downplays his crime to the guards so that he'll only be punished for the breaking-and-entering: a few months hard labor and a fine. He is carried off without the party even bothering to get his name.
They are more concerned with his contact, whom he was to meet at midnight at the Black Dog Inn, where the party had almost ended up earlier when trying to find the Black Stag. With Tanis being the closest in stature and build to the thief, a plan is formulated where the rest of the group will enter the Black Dog under the guise of seeking information while Tanis enters later as the thief, to meet with his contact. Agreeing upon this, the party waits until that night, getting directions from Horseboy, but adamantly refusing to allow him to accompany them. Then, the near-full moon high in the sky, they depart.
Shortly before midnight, the most of the party enters the Black Dog, seating themselves as Finbar approaches the barkeep and orders "anything," ending up with a handful of cheese cubes dumped into a tankard of beer. While chewing his way through his drink, he queries the man about where he might go to find information about the Inquisition that had gone missing in Floria recently. Though he doesn't know anything about that specifically, the barkeep recommends Finbar try someone named "Ratfingers," one of a vast number of illegitimate children by a crime lord who calls himself Father Pious (often shortened to Father Pi). Thanking him for the information, he secures another cheese beer and returns to the table. Just then...
Thirteenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
...Tanis enters, disguised as the thief. He makes his way to a shadowed table in a corner, plunking himself down to wait in surly silence. Surprising everyone watching, a figure is just suddenly sitting at the table with Tanis, though Belroth was able to make out the moment when the person had separated from the shadows near the table. Tanis does his best with conning the figure, but it becomes swiftly obvious that they don't believe the ruse. Stating that he didn't care about the letters the thief had rifled through, he leaves a purse for Tanis and stands to go.
Belroth and Rose spring up immediately and chaos erupts. Belroth rushes forward and a brief melee ensues, a number of patrons leaping for cover as the group surges up. After exchanging blows, the figure plucks a tiny red stone from a necklace he wears, stepping back into the shadows. He appears on the far side of the inn and throws the stone, which blossoms into a fireball when it strikes the floor. Flames engulf the room as the stranger fights with a pair of the smooth, straight sticks that the attackers at the bank in Floria had been using. He launches a second, smaller stone of fiery after executing another shadowstep, but he quickly sees that the party is overwhelming him. His attempt to flee is aborted when Tanis puts a sword in his belly and Rose does her best to punch the inn wall through his skull, killing him instantly.
As the Black Dog burns around them, the party drags out the stranger's corpse and several unconscious patrons as the inn's owner--having gathered up several small bundles from his storeroom--simply walks away into the crowd. Guards show up, but the party sends them running for Imperial Watch, claiming they are on orders from the Empress. As they wait for the Watch to arrive, the guards extinguish the fire with the help of one of the Civic Wizards, who also confirms--with a wistful look in his eyes and many assurances that he's long past his days of using fire spells himself--that the necklace of fireballs the party took from the stranger was more than capable of starting the blaze.
Eventually, the Imperial Watch does arrive and escorts the party and the stranger's body back to the Imperial Quarter. The body is sent to the Dawn Temple for preservation while the party is escorted to the Palace of the Sun, where an audience is requested with the Empress. To everyone's surprise, she grants it immediately and the party is ushered into her presence. When there, the party accepts her offer to work as imperial agents--though they decide amongst themselves to not pass along any information that might show the Empire is complicit with the actions of their enemy--and are told to speak with a man named Marius Zast there are the palace whenever they need anything. They also inquire as to Aanmas' fate and are told that he is being kept in the palace while the Empress decides what to do with him. They urge her to have mercy, noting that he is a skilled administrator.
Once escorted out of her presence, they are given a brief visit with the Governor-Noble of Floria, who thanks them for their words on his behalf. He notes, however, that the Empress does have valid concerns about his behavior: he had been relying on the old Lords of Whitehall too much for provincial security, instead turning funds better spent on hiring and maintaining more guards to civic projects such as covering the costs of bringing Forewoman Brickharrow to Karakta or trying to purchase Yrdgould horses for Floria. Aanmas admits that he just doesn't seem to have a militant-enough mindset, very capable of sustaining and growing a province, but too unskilled at properly defending one.
With their brief meeting concluded, the party retires to the Governor's Manor to rest.
The Sixth Heritor (Session 6, Day 45 - 52)
Thirteenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257, cont.
With the coming of morning, the party begins working out their next step. Their plan at the moment consists of going to Survivor's Refuge to discover what they can about Akhandakhan Molth, visit Fyrall to seek an audience with the Lady of the Hunt, and trying to visit the Tower of Godsfall itself. More short-term, however, they want to interrogate the corpse of the previous night's stranger and speak with Zast about what resources and expectations an imperial agent has. There is also some debate as to whether or not Tanis is mildly retarded.
Agreeing on their course of action, the party departs for the Palace of the Sun, requesting an audience with Marius Zast. They are shown to a waiting room where a young woman in an impressive array of battle regalia is also languishing, Belroth deciding she's been put there to mind them. All six are then treated as a single entity as a request for their presence comes, summoning them into Marius' office. They are confronted with a man of such skeletally thin proportions that Belroth concludes the sixth wheel must be his bodyguard. He later reveals himself to tower almost seven feet in height as well.
What occurs, instead, is that the sixth person is announced as Brenda, another of the Heritors of Whitehall. Unfortunately, she was delayed in arriving in Floria, having only just made it to Thahtmahan, which means that the reason for her journey--claiming her portion of the inheritance--is a moot point. Having missed the deadline, she has no inheritance. In light of that, Marius offers her an official Imperial appointment as the party's minder and protector of Imperial interests. In addition to a monthly pay of 500 gold, she will also receive an Imperial writ showing that she acts in the Empress's name, the right to deputize citizens of the Empire, and control of the party's Imperial line of credit totaling 10,000 gold. In return, she will keep documentation on the group's progress for Zast and see to it that debacles like the inn fire of the previous night are not a common occurrence.
For the party's part, they can either agree to the terms or forget access to Imperial resources and authority in their investigation. After a heated private discussion, they reluctantly agree to Brenda's presence, though they decide amongst themselves to try and win over her loyalty to themselves instead. They decide to go about this mostly by ignoring her and treating her as a walking signpost with the Imperial writ attached.
They also ask about what--if anything--the Imperial investigators turned up about the strange weapons they had left for them to study. The curved, spiked staffs and the the smooth, straight rods were determined to be extremely deleterious to people after long exposure, causing weeping sores, aches, bone and muscle degradation, blindness, mental decay, and ultimately death after significant exposure. The shields, however, were imbued to typical effect, but the magic binding the enchantment was hopelessly different from anything modern nations used. Though the end result was indistinguishable, it showed a system of magic that apparently evolved in isolation from all modern advances in technique and theory.
As a group, the party heads to the Dawn Temple to interrogate their attacker's corpse with the help of Father Pale, a priest extremely concerned with helping those related to the dearly departed through grief and into acceptance of the loss, not quite grasping that the party doesn't care much for the dead man. Briefing them on the spell, he then uses Speak with Dead on the corpse for them.
The party manages to put a name to their enemy--the Empyrean Academy--and the five questions they're allowed rapidly spiral into increasingly theoretical grounds, trying to determine the Academy's goals and the nature of its power structure. After the interrogation, they're left with little of concrete importance or immediate use. They decide to endure the Academy's interest in them and their next goal is unchanged: head to Survivor's Refuge and seek information about Molth, the man who theoretically sold the key that everyone--including the people who supposedly bought it--are trying to find.
With a few hours of daylight left, the party visits the Imperial Library--an impressive collection of books, though known primarily for its thoroughness in theological texts--and leaves a list of names to be researched: Mahalag Bright-Hands, Sydin Kar, Ala Thileniel, and Akhandakhan Molth. In short, most of the writers of the letters from the sealed chest.
That done, Belroth searches the city markets for a magic bow, but in the end must turn to Rözin and order one. It will be ready in a week.
Fourteenth to Sixteenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
The party waits.
Seventeenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
They retrieve their information from the library. There is no record of Mahalag Bright-Hands, though the name is indicative of one of the lizardfolk. Sydin Kar was part of a small group famous in the Floria Province, but not much know further than that. Of Ala Thileniel, it is noted that she was the founder of Silversun and instrumental in forging the colonization contract that allowed the elves to move there in the first place.
Akhandakhan Molth is a more noted--and despised--figure. A hobgoblin, he is indeed part of the Molth family that rules Survivor's Refuge, noted for almost bankrupting the city before disappearing in the pages of history.
The party decides to leave another request with the library, asking if they know anything about the poem inscribed on the Academy rings they recovered: We are vengeance, we are fate; we are reason ruled by hate.
Eighteenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
The party waits some more.
Nineteenth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
The library cannot find anything similar to the poem in its records anywhere.
Twentieth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
Belroth's bow is completed. He picks it up and the party decides to interrogate the corpse one last time before leaving Thahtmahan.
The Seventh Heritor (Session 7, Day 52 - 57)
Twentieth Spring Dusking, AG 1257, cont.
- Meet Isaac
- Induct Brenda into the group
- Speak with the corpse
- Stop by library, request information on barrows & Sagoh
Twenty-first to Twenty-third Spring Dusking, AG 1257
- Belroth works on his bow (5,770 - 10,000)
Twenty-fourth Sping Dusking, AG 1257
- Enter barrows
- Burn Corpse
- report to bosses
Twenty-fifth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
- Question humans
We're so Busy, Getting Ready for a Hundred Sessions to Come! (Session 8, Day 57 - 103)
Twenty-fifth Spring Dusking, AG 1257, cont.
- Take a ferry to Port Irt
Twenty-sixth to Twenty-eighth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
- Traveling to Port Irt
Twenty-ninth Spring Dusking, AG 1257
- Arrive in Port Irt
- Leave for Floria
Thirtieth Spring Dusking to First Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Travel to Floria
Second Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Arrive in Floria
- Tell Merrik about Azrouth & a "subversive group" trying to create problems
- Rose leaves him a keg
- Head to church
- Request the log of checking the church records
- Head to Whitehall
- Discover evil mirrors
- Find old nook for box
- Finbar cooks for the staff on accident
Third Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Check mirrors (2 evil, 2 really evil, 2 good, 2 really good, 2 lawful, 1 really lawful, 2 chaotic, 1 really chaotic).
- Finbar checks the mirrors again, poorly, but detects conjuration
- Belroth flubs a knowledge check, thinks Guzga is a goblin chieftain
- Evelyn goes to the 7th layer of heaven
- Finbar breaks his brain (-9 Int)
- Tanis & Rose get the vault contents from Floria
Fourth Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Mend their broken nook & the chest
- Leave 1,000 gold to spruce up the place
- Leave for Thahtmahan
Fifth to Eleventh Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Traveling to Thahtmahan
Twelfth Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Arrive in Thahtmahan
- Question Azrouth
- Send letter to Floria about dead orc
- Meet with the Church, talk about the house with Cardinal Setal Ilvenne
- Meet with Zast
- Head for Port Meskin
Thirteenth to Twenty-seventh Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Travel to Port Meskin
Twenty-eighth Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Arrive in Port Meskin
- Look for Brandin Karra, impressed (terrified?) by his size
- Sent to the Wave Glamour
- Take rooms at the Salty Goose
Twenty-ninth Summer Dawning, AG 1257
- Leave Port Meskin for Survivor's Refuge
Thirtieth Summer Dawning to Fifth Summer Glory, AG 1257
- Traveling to Survivovr's Refuge
Sixth Summer Glory, AG 1257
- Attacked by the Mouth of War, a ship of Hiram Boot's Dead Fleet
Seventh to Tenth Summer Glory, AG 1257
- Traveling to Survivor's Refudge
Eleventh Summer Glory, AG 1257
- Arrive at Survivor's Refuge
The Final Heritor, the Final Hour (Session 9, Day 104 - 105)
Twelfth Summer Glory, AG 1257
- Brought in to meet with Molth
- Meet Aubade
- Meet with Giancar
- Head to the sunken fortress of Hakargen
Thirteenth Summer Glory, AG 1257
- Eaten by a Kraken (TPK)