The Investgation Begins
Moose and Squirrel
Decertum 6, 887 Af.
With the rooms secured for the night, the group gathered in the common room to eat dinner and try to get more information out of Dobra. As the bar filled up around them, it quickly became clear that Dobra had extensive knowledge of a few topics that were of no use to the group, although he did know his way around the city and could introduce them to various people.
As they finished their meals and began to discuss what they would do for the rest of the evening, they heard the strum of a lyre from outside the door. Diffuse light began to shine on the doorway, although from no obvious source. Another chord was played, and the door opened. Through the door walked a tall, handsome, human, strumming the lyre they had heard. He stepped across the threshold, and a breeze played across his collar length blond hair. He launched into a song, and the light began to follow him as he strode across the room. His shirt was open to the navel, revealing a muscular chest, and when he turned his eye to look at any of the women in the room, his smile shined with reflected light.
The man played the song “Beware the Dark” with a wink and a nod, emphasizing the bawdy meanings of the double entendres more than the warnings. As he danced through the room, singing with a laugh in his voice, several young women followed him into the tavern, and their sighs showed that the show was working as intended. As he reached the table where the party sat, he noticed Sharlot with her lute, and approached closely. He changed over from the song to an intricate melody that he played well, then looked at Sharlot expectantly.
Sharlot turned from the table and held her lute ready to play. She quickly matched the tune the man had played, sending it back to him with an extra flourish. He laughed and played a new melody, and Sharlot repeated it. When she did so, he layered in a different line, and the two began to play off each other to the delight and wonder of those in the room. Sharlot felt moved by the music, and the way they played together gave her a glimpse of the Song, and how it merges the talents of all those who play.
As the bard went back to his song and proceeded to the stage, Durdeg looked at him with a distrustful eye. He told Sharlot that she was better, and to not become second to the man. Sharlot wanted to talk to him, to learn more songs and perhaps gain a greater understanding of the Song of Songs, and did not worry about what Durdeg had seen. When the bard took a short break, he sent a monkey with a cup around to the tables, soliciting tips for the music. He then started in on a love ballad, and the tables near the stage became packed with teenagers feeling that they were the source of the songs. The monkey arrived at the groups table, and Sharlot threw in three gold pieces, hoping that she would get his attention to talk music. Durdeg was not pleased, and with a deft maneuver pulled the coins back out of the cup.
Finally, the man ended his set, after singing several romantic ballads interspersed with peppy tunes of a less savory nature. He came up to the table and introduced himself to Sharlot as Rasputin, singer of songs and teller of tales. Sharlot asked him about his music, while Durdeg tried to get him to move along. Before the discussion could go any further, they heard a scream from out the side door. It sounded like a child, and several of the patrons stood and made moves towards the door. Most, however, simply looked afraid.
Durdeg was first to the door, with Carta a step behind him. Sharlot and Sif were side by side next up, while Dobra inched in the general direction. Kasret hit the bar to grab a shot before following along. As the other patrons cleared the way, Durdeg and Carta stepped out. From where they were, they could see the steps down to the lower half of the city, ending in an alleyway that backed up on a lumberyard. At one end of the alley was a man trying to shield a young boy from the approaching creatures. They recognized them as rutterkin, the same diseased demons that they had seen paraded around town earlier that day. As they closed on the man and boy, Carta immediately charged towards them.
Two of the demons were in close, and focused on the defenseless duo, while the others were just entering the alley. Sif pushed her way through, and sent a spell their way to find the weakness of the creatures. They were proof against fire, her flashiest element, as well as acid, poison, and lightning, but it seemed that everything else got through. She shouted to her fellows, letting them know what to focus on, as the closest four rutterkin climbed the stairs towards her. They reached out to her with their long, flopping arms, trying to grab hold and allow the mouths in their hands to bite into her flesh. She dodged and blocked with her shield, buying herself time for the others to arrive.
As the two attacked the man and boy, Carta arrived and attacked. He stabbed the first in the back, but it was too focused on the boy, and bit into his chest. The boy fell, the blood slowly pumping from the wound. The other bit the man, and opened up a large wound on his arm. The man stayed on his feet, still trying to protect the boy, but the wound instantly began to turn red. Carta redoubled his efforts, attempting to keep the focus of the beasts off of the civilians and on him. As Kasret came charging out the door, Sharlot played a discordant song, distracting the rutterkin by Sif and making them easier targets. Kasret got close enough to stab at one with his glowing green blade, the energy arcing to the next. As they all staggered, Sif disappeared in a crash of thunder, the pounding force damaging the creatures that had surrounded her. She reappeared out of danger at the top of the steps, and Durdeg waded in.
Durdeg approached, and pulled one of his devices from his bag. He slammed it into the ground where the creatures had surrounded Sif, and a blast wave erupted from it. It was contained close, only damaging those nearby, which was the four rutterkin and Kasret. Kasret shook it off, possibly thanks to the shot before he came out, but the demons could not. The shockwave flung them all backwards, bones snapping as they tumbled down the stairs. Kasret saw his foes down, and moved to help Carta.
Carta had gotten their attention, and was cutting into the creatures with his trusted longsword. He tried to get a few punches in, but the shield was preventing him from having the mobility to hit, and he had to rely on his weapon. He channeled Adalci’s power, and put one of the fiends down. As he turned to the other, he was just in time to see Kasret impale it with a series of crossbow bolts, and it fell to the ground. Wasting no time, he began to tend to the civilians, and Sharlot joined him. They were able to get the two back on their feet, but the wound the man had looked to be infected. He gathered the two of them together, and told the others he was going to see to them at the temple.
As Carta left with the wounded, Dobra stuck his head out the door. The fight was over quick enough that likely no one in the inn could have helped, but that did not mean the group did not give Dobra some grief over not joining in. But they focused on the dead bodies, and what they would need to do to collect a reward. Dobra told them the bodies could be stored at the barracks, and he could write a note about it. They liked the idea of the barracks, so they would not have to store bodies in their rooms, and they followed Dobra. Between Sif creating a floating platform and Kasret manhandling three of the corpses, they were able to get them to the storage area.
Durdeg decided to stay with them for the night – he had a bad feeling about the other group, and the promised money would be very helpful. They took some time to discuss the plan for the next day with Dobra, who seemed excited that he might be able to wear his dress uniform as he took them around to meet people. When Durdeg realized that Dobra was more of a taxman than a warrior in the watch, he shook his head and cursed Carta’s name for getting them into this. Finally, the others left, and he made himself comfortable, while V12 watched through the night.
Carta, meanwhile, had brought the man and boy to the temple of Rosarum. Mistress Caela welcomed him, and helped get the man into a bed. She said that he looked to have the disease, but she was too tired to channel any more healing that day. She showed him the ward, and with the man they had a total of six diseased people, waiting for Caela’s help. Carta dug deep, and drew on Adalci’s will, asking for his help in saving these people. He had enough stamina to purge the disease from all of them, and the mood in the sick room lightened considerably. The stench of the rotting wounds began to lift, and the people stopped moaning in pain. Caela looked at Carta with respect, and offered fifty gold pieces to Adalci, in exchange for helping her people. Carta turned her down, saying that he was simply fulfilling Adalci’s will, and did not need money to do so. He would, however, take a bed for the evening, so he could be close by if anything happened. She agreed, gratefully, and Carta retired for the night.
Kasret, Sharlot, and Sif returned to the Moose and Squirrel, while Dobra made his way back to his home. Once there, Kasret grabbed a drink, and retired to his private room. Sif told Sharlot she wanted to share some things, and would talk to her in the room. Sharlot was going to join her, but saw Rasputin still in the common room and decided to talk. He happily discussed music, and told her in his melodic, palatalized accent, that he had heard of her and these strange boxes for music. He also let her know that she should join him for a late breakfast, and he would be happy to discuss other things. She agreed, and headed up to speak with Sif.
Sif wanted to describe to her the amazing beasts from the menagerie at the carnival. Two in particular had caught her eye, and Sharlot needed to know of them. The first was a small, cuddly creature that never left its tree. But it was important, because in a bubble around it, all magic ceased to work. This could be problematic in the future, and they should keep a look out for signs of what they called a Sessiloth.
The other was a massive cat, six feet tall at the shoulder, with a body fifteen feet long and a four-foot tail beyond that. It was an ambush predator, the most powerful thing in the forests, and struck terror into the smaller beasts. It had an enormous mouth, with a double row of sharp teeth and huge fangs that looked designed to trap things in its jaws. It had two pairs of eyes, and could see quite a distance in the dark with the lower set. Sif wanted to be sure that they could deal with one if they had to, but more importantly, see if Sharlot could transform into one the way she did with an ape. They went outside and attempted it, but it didn’t quite take hold. Sif told her that she would work on a way to describe it more fully, and they would try again. With that, they turned out the lights and went to sleep.
Investigating the Tower
Decertum 7, 887 Af.
Carta arose before dawn and checked on the patients. The boils and lesions had all but disappeared, and he felt confident that they would all recover from the disease. He thanked Adalci, and left before any could awaken. He made his way back to the inn, and found the others just starting to rise.
Unsure of when Rasputin would return, and knowing how Durdeg felt about him, they decided to have breakfast before going to get their final member. They ate quietly, each thinking about what they would do that day. When they had finished, with no sign of Rasputin, they gathered their things and set out to retrieve Durdeg and collect their bounty. As they were leaving, Dobra arrived, decked out in a spotless dress uniform over his armor. He had two medals pinned to his chest, and when they examined him closely they appeared to be for completing terms of service. But he also had his sword, polished and sharp, and he was ready to lead them wherever they wanted to go.
They made their way to the barracks, and roused Durdeg. They headed to the keep, and the guard at the gate swiftly went to retrieve the lord. In a matter of minutes, he came to the gate, dressed as though he was planning on leaving the keep for the day. When he heard of their exploits, he was shocked that they had found so many demons, and grateful that they had taken care of them. He asked the party to wait briefly, having not come with enough to pay them for six. He soon returned with a bag of platinum pieces, and paid the group. They stopped to ask for more information, but he did not know of any. A guard had his own thought, sure that it must have to do with the witch at the tower. Whether witch or wizard, they felt that they needed to see if they could find anything out about her.
The inn was on the way to the tower, and Sharlot went ahead to look for Rasputin. She did find him, sitting down to a large breakfast. She asked him about what he had said the night before, and he explained his work. He was a bard, yes, but also a merchant of information. He was impressed by the group, and her, and wanted to help them. Unfortunately, most of his sources had either clammed up or disappeared, and he didn't have much to say. He promised her that he would do what he could, but it appeared that a resurgence of a thieves guild had driven off the independents he worked with. If she came around that evening and put a coin in the monkey's cup, he would sing a song for her and the others, that should enlighten them.
The others had caught up by then, and Durdeg looked at Rasputin with distrust. He had seen people like the man before, and knew they brought trouble. But he bit his tongue and grabbed a quick breakfast as Rasputin left. When he finished, they all set out to find the tower.
They arrived at the tower, which was set into the city wall. It must be as old as the city itself, they thought, and made from the same grey stone that the wall and most buildings were made of. They approached the door, and knocked and shouted, then waited for an answer. When none came, they questioned Dobra to make sure that they would be held blameless for entering without the wizard's permission. Dobra thought for a moment, and said that since Lord Arb had tasked them with stopping the demons, for the purpose of the law they were members of the watch. Since Elinda, the wizard, had not been seen in ten days, this would certainly be somewhere they would be expected to go. The party stopped him, clarifying she had been gone that long and asking why he hadn't told them that. He shrugged, and Durdeg swore at the man under his breath.
They knocked again, then decided to enter. Durdeg picked the lock, and swung open the door. Sif performed a ritual to allow her to see things imbued with magic, and they stepped in. Sif's sight caught several things - a tile on the floor, a sconce on the wall, and the door. Sharlot created a ghostly hand of force, and used it to probe the glowing areas. Nothing seemed to happen, even as the door was opened, so they proceeded cautiously. Carta walked in the next room, and felt a chill come and go. He was followed by Durdeg, who promptly vanished. As he did, a pair of ruby red lips appeared on the wall and shamed them for breaking in.
Worried for their friend, Sharlot sent him a magical message to see if he was OK. He reported back that he had appeared in the middle of the market, and for some reason he was purple. He closed his helmet before anyone got a good look at him, although he thought a guard had noticed and laughed. He told them he would catch up quickly, and the rest of them proceeded onward while Sif's magic sight was enabled.
The next room again had a number of items showing magic. A window frame, a table, a brick in the wall, and others. They probed these, then avoided them, and Carta prepared to open the next door, waving the others back. It was unlocked, and he swung it open. For a split second everything seemed fine, then the lipos returned to taunt them and the ground beneath Carta's feet turned to mud. The others sprang forward and pulled him out, moments before the mud turned back to stone. Carta had to break a few pieces off of his armor, but was otherwise unharmed, and the floor stayed stable as they walked through.
They had circled halfway around the tower at this point, and Durdeg had rejoined the group. They waited while Sif repeated the ritual to enable the magic sight, and she looked the room over. More and more things were glowing, and it was starting to get ridiculous the number of items that were magic in some way. The next door was not glowing, nor was a key hanging on a chain next to it. The key had a tag, and as they approached, Durdeg leaned in to read the writing on it. "Unwelcome," he said to the group, and red lips appeared on the wall. "Go report your 'commendable' activities to the Mist watch," it said, and a compulsion started to set in. Dobra, Kasret, Sharlot, and Sif, all turned and began to march to find a watchman. Carta and Durdeg grabbed them, and slapped each in turn to break the spell. They then opened the door, which wasn't locked, and proceeded along.
Paranoia was starting to set in, although the adage about them really being out to get you was worth noting. They approached the next door, and the magic sight quickly showed them wards at the door frame, hinges, and knob. Sif didn't think they looked dangerous, so they opened the door and stepped through. As they did, a light flashed in front of them, and they heard a clicking sound. But no one was harmed, so they proceeded on. They found another glyph on the next door, and this time it clearly was dangerous. Sif identified it as one that would trigger a fan of flames from the door, and said she could disarm it. She succeeded, and they opened the door.
As Sif peered in, she saw a chamber entirely aglow with magic. Every brick, every tile, glowed with a different magical effect. It was then that it dawned on her, that a false aura had been applied, because nothing could justify this much magic. She thought of how long such an endeavor would take, and concluded that it could probably be done in a few decades.
Having no idea what might happen, Carta crossed the room to the next door. The door was unlocked, and the door opened freely. Carta stepped through, and the floor opened beneath him. He tried to leap free, but fell through the pit into a cistern below. The cold water shocked him, but he was able to get his feet beneath himself and stay above water. The others heard him fall and ran to his aid, securing a rope and dropping it to him. They pulled Carta out, and everyone crossed over the wide pit to the final room on the floor. A spiral staircase went up across the room, and the group ascended.
As they reached the next floor, they saw a hallway cutting across the tower, with two doors on either side. They cautiously opened the first door on the right, and were happy when nothing happened. With the door open wide, they stepped into the cozy kitchen. A fireplace sat dark in the corner, and they could see that it was part of one large fireplace attached to the room next door. There were dry goods, useful for traveling, in the pantry, and a wheel of cheese, some crusty bread, and a full waterskin on the counter. Since the cheese was still in wax, The group decided to take it with them to add to their next meal, although the left the other food where it was. With nothing else of apparent worth in the room, they left and went down the hall to the next room on the right hand side.
Again, the door was unlocked and opened freely. In here, in what was clearly the largest chamber on the floor, was a large bed, a wardrobe, a writing desk, a dressing screen, and a washbasin. The party entered, and began to look around at what first caught their eyes. Durdeg went to the writing desk, looking for any information. There was nothing written down, but there was a blotter on top of the desk that he could see some faint impressions in. He grabbed a chucnk of burnt wood from the fireplace and a piece of paper from his bag, and proceeded to make a rubbing of what had last been written. It was what appeared to be a to-do list, reminding someone to complete a series of tasks:
Wind papa’s clock
He told the others what he had found, as he saw the rest gathered around the wardrobe. There were some clearly empty spots in the wardrobe, which gave the impression that someone had packed before leaving. Left behind were a few simple work outfits, and several fine gowns. Sharlot looked on the gowns and thought they were beautiful, as well as being something she did not have enough of. She began to take them, and although it was brought up that they didn’t know what had happened to the owner, she stuffed them into her pack. Dobra looked to be a bit shell shocked by this point, although whether it was the traps or the casual thievery that had set him off was unclear.
The group went back into the hall, to check the other doors. The nearest to the stairs on the other side of the hall turned out to be a sitting room, with comfortable chairs and a small bookcase. Sif and Sharlot immediately went to the books, finding a book of poetry and some diverting works of fiction. Nothing on the shelves appeared to be anything more than simple entertainment, and they left most of them behind. The others inspected the paintings on the wall, and learned a bit about the tower. One painting was of a young girl and a couple in the prime of their lives – Dobra believed based on other cues in the painting that the young girl was Elinda and the couple were her parents that had since passed away. They also found a painting of Lord Arb when he was younger, although it was clearly recognizable as the same man. And finally, they saw what appeared to be a series of paintings of themselves, walking through the door where they had seen the flash of light and heard a clicking sound. They knew that they had been identified as the people who entered, but not worried since they were on a mission from Lord Haven.
The final door turned out to be a privy, with a washbasin, commode and a few books stacked on a stool. They looked at the books, and found one full of crude jokes, while the other concealed a red potion. Always needing healing potions, the group decided to take it for future use. With nothing else on this level, they returned to the stairs and continued on to the top.
The top of the stairs led them to one large room that looked to have been the site of a small-scale battle. The book cases that lined the walls had been knocked down and broken into kindling, and the room was covered in shin high drifts of torn paper and damaged books. A rolling ladder was snapped in pieces, a divan had been broken and one of the cushions slashed open, a sideboard was smashed in and surrounded by broken glass, and a silver circle inlaid in the floor had been partially melted. The only thing even close to intact was a roll top desk that had a broken leg and was sitting askew. They viewed the destruction for a few moments before starting to search for any information.
Kasret took the sideboard, and found nothing of interest except a bottle of cognac. Considering everything else there had been destroyed, he decided that the bottle being intact was like a gift from whatever Deity was currently taking responsibility for alcohol, and added it to his store of bottles. Sif despaired at the damage done to all the books, and looked through for anything still of use, but did not find any here. Durdeg investigated the circle, and his best guess after consulting with the other casters is that it was a now worthless teleportation ring. Carta looked at the divan, and found that the cut cushion had been used to hold something, since there were a series of holes flanking a t-shaped cutout with a curved cross piece. They were puzzling it out when they showed Kasret, and he immediately identified it as how one would store a crossbow and bolts to keep them hidden.
Finally, the group looked at the desk. The drawers on the desk were locked, but Durdeg was able to pick the lock. He then stepped to the side as he pulled the door open, and they all watched as a net sprang out, passed everyone by, and fell to a heap at the wall. Nothing else was in the drawers, and so they looked in the roll top section. On top of everything was the to-do list they had found evidence of earlier. They tucked that away, then searched the desk. They eventually found a false bottom, which they lifted off, and saw an 18-inch-wide ring of an unknown metal inlaid in the middle of the true bottom. The ring was open so that the group could see through to the ground, and it was immediately apparent from the lack of debris seen through the hole that it was not looking at the same place.
Durdeg stuck his head through, and saw that he was looking under a similar desk, and could see that the other location was a laboratory. Sif then looked through as well, although she couldn’t detect anything else. They began to wonder what they could do with this, and ended up sending V12 through to have a look around. It came back and Durdeg questioned it, but was not able to get much information. Sif went next, sending the owl through while looking through its eyes. Immediately after it passed through, Sif’s connection broke, in the way that it did whenever the owl flew too far away. They also noted that the view through the hole had become a bit darker, and they could no longer pass anything through it. Sif dismissed and resummoned the owl, and they had to consider their next move. Sif got information from the owl that the other side was a large laboratory with a sleeping area, and it was surrounded by a peat moss bog in all directions.
Sharlot took the lead, saying that she had the ability to dimension door through and have a look. She pocketed V12 and took the owl along with her. There, she got a good look at the room - the floor was stone, the walls paneled in wood, and the roof thatch. The door looked well made and sturdy, while the windows were clear enough that some of the outside world could be seen. There was a fireplace in one corner, large enough for one of the birds to fly out and see the world. Near the fireplace was a small but comfortable looking bed, a place to rest between sessions of research. A short table by the bed had a lantern sitting by several books, each with a ribbon between the pages. Hanging from the ceiling was an large birdcage with no door. It looked suitable for a barred owl or similar sized bird.
Most of the room was dedicated to laboratory space, with well designed glassware placed in easy reach on a long table and a cabinet with a number of labeled containers inside. The table was clean, although there were clear signs that the table had been the site of multiple fires and at least one explosion at some time in the past. There were a couple of small boxes that held paper with diagrams and notes as well as a few more books.
Sharlot opened the door, and looked out to see a large amount of nothing. While she could barely make out the mountains to the north through the mist and fog, other than that all she could see was an endless bog. The cottage she was in was situated on a high point, but there were no outlying buildings other than an outhouse perched over an outcropping. The peat moss stretched out in all directions, with only a few trees and rocky outcroppings to break up the view. She went back inside, and messaged all of this back to Durdeg. The group discussed it, and they sent back to Sharlot to let the birds know they needed to find the town so they could lead them back. The information was passed on, and Sharlot returned.
With nothing left to see here, the group retraced their steps out of the building. They headed down the stairs and out of the building, while discussing their next move. Their discussion came to an abrupt end as they walked out the door and saw the Band of the Crimson Mantle approaching them, their leader looking ready for fight. The others didn't look quite as ready, but still determined to at least back him up. As he got within 30 yards of the group, still closing in, he began to yell, starting with a string of profanities before getting more or less on topic.
He started by yelling about the heroes trying to steal their money, and taking the job that they had already signed on to do. Durdeg calmly responded, saying that they did not do anything except accept on offer from Lord Arb, which did little to calm the man. As he started to go on again, the man with the glaive got close enough to be seen clearly through the ever present mist, and stared up at Sif.
Sif looked back, and said in shock, "Kal?" Carta clenched his hands and loudly whispered, "That's where I knew him from." The others looked over at her, while she continued to stare at him. She finally stammered out, "What are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here, Sif? You should be back in Bandar Philia by now. Venfaren told me to deal--" The Daikini leader spun on Kal, and told him to shut up. That he was lucky to be here, and his role was to kill the things he pointed at. He then spun back to the party, and warned them to leave town. Finally, Kasret decided he had enough of the conversation, and pulled and flung the sphere of iron bands at the leader, and he struck true. The ball hit the man in the chest, and immediately wrapped him up. He began to struggle, but couldn't break free. As the Goliath reached down to try to help, the rest of the party prepared themselves.
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