Heralds of the Storm

A Corpse, A Memory and A Puzzle

Sul, 3rd of Therendor

Our tale begins amid odors of ale, old fish, and sweet barbecue in the tavern hall of the Sword and Bell. Our intrepid heroes have returned to the city of Sharn from lives lead elsewhere to visit upon an old friend and former comrade in arms, Dgt. Dom Peligost, himself only recently settled in Upper Dura. He promised a good time to reminisce and a chance at some profitable employment. After he had settled some affairs in town, he would join them early in the evening.

   Walker, KW, and Rin settled in for a while, having arrived in the late afternoon. They had a few ales, gossiped a bit about local happenings, and generally passed the time at ease. Some time towards evening, as the rains started to settle in outside, a woman in a long green cloak entered, enquiring with the bartender, Guire, as to the whereabouts of a man matching Dom's description. It seemed she had received a similar missive. Walker joined her at the bar and attempted to ply his considerable charm. Her name was Allura, and he found her tall, red headed, bright eyed, attractive and entirely unmoved by his attentions. They chatted for some time, but she seemed evasive on the subject of her last name and only let on that she and Dom had worked together in the past. Walker was able to intuit that this might have been more than just a working relationship. Eventually, she excused herself and joined another party at one of the long tables, seemingly having a laughable time with a half-orc and his companions.

  Time passed and as mid evening approached, the adventurers realized that something must be amiss for Dom to be this late to his own gathering. Asking about the inn for information on the quickest route to Dom's place, lead to a likely route and a plan to investigate. They asked the Allura if she was interested but she declined, citing the absolute waterfall of rain crashing down outside. 

  Following the route in the dark was difficult, but with only a few missteps the party made their way to the top of Tower Belicost, near Morgrave University, and the bridge that connected Belicost to the Highwater District. There, on a darkened, rainswept platform, midbridge, they found an overturned rickshaw, a slain peasant (likely the driver), his hand, and a mortally wounded Sgt. Dom Peligost. He whispers a final warning, before succumbing to his wounds: "They cannot have it!".  His eyes pointedly focused on his shield, discarded on the ground. As the party begins to inspect Dom's effects, Rin notices movement out of the corner of his eye as three strange looking halfings crawl up on to the platform behind them. Each is bald headed, wearing dark leather armor and mottled in a gray clay like substance. They move to attack with totally silent and serpentine like grace. The adventurers fend them off,  with KW taking only minor injuries, and slay all but one, in turn. The last blows a whistle about his neck as he turns and hurtles over the bridge, seemingly to his death. But KW notices a huge shadow hurtling through the fog and cloud about them, with large bat-like wings it dives under the bridge and is gone from view. 

  The party inspects the bodies and finds that each has a stylized tattoo of a red open eye with serpents coming out of it, on their right palms. They then dump the halfling bodies over the edge and then finish sorting through their effects. All told, they recovered a second whistle, a medium sized burlap bag (inside is a broken key, snapped off at the handle), and Dom's shield. KW finds that the shield is a bit wider than is typical and heavier, and feeling that there might be a hidden compartment, searches for hidden latch but is unsuccessful. 

  This kind of harrowing battle in the rain reminds the party of an earlier experience on a covert mission with Dom to recover a kidnapped Cyran Artificer, a half-orc named Gorthrop Harrowstone. The plan was to gain entry to Fort Night by intercepting a resupply boat on its way to the fort's sea gate, make their way stealthily inside, grab Gorthrop and find a way back out. For the most part, things started out just fine. They were able to stealthily approach the boat and kill its occupants, with Rin using his weight to nearly capsize the enemy rowboat. The rest of the party changed into Karnathi uniform and made their way to the patrol ships circling the gate while Rin followed, walking along the floor of the bay. With some effort they managed to bluff their way past both the patrol boat captain and the inspector at the gate (largely due to KW's changeling expertise). Both KW and Walker spent an Action Point here.

  They entered Fort Night through the dry dock entrance, where they encountered a small furtive flying creature that spoke in Gorthrop's voice. Rin recognized it as an Expeditious Messenger, a type of Homunculus employed by Artificers. They were informed that they were expected, they were late, and that Gorthrop was to be found through a seemingly dissused door off to the left. This lead to a steep set of stairs heading underground. There they encountered Gulgaz Roglock, a goblin guard who oversaw entry to the dungeon level, manning a desk and a heavy looking ledger. The party chatted him up and, utilizing their skills at bluffing combined with a gold coin bribe, earned Gulgaz's cooperation with a story of a secret "wink-wink" mission. He gave them helpful directions to the ritual chamber. 

   They passed a series of guards who paid them no mind before encountering two alert sentries at the large double doors leading to the chamber. Here, again, they bluffed their way past, pretending to be on the business of the High Necromancer Arcturis (Thorton pretended to flash them his seal). They entered the room and met Gorthrop who, at first, mostly ignored them while in the process of disabling a large column shaped device in the center of their end of the room. As the party surveyed the rest of the room, Arcturis entered through the upper walkway. He was being harried by Don, who had departed earlier for unknown reasons. Here Don fought back the necromancer's guard, a large Karnathi Skeleton with dual scimitars and breastplate. Witnessing Gorthrop's actions and the presence of the adventurers, Arcturis surmised Gorthrop's treachery and smashed an ornate looking container upon the floor of the observational platform. This released a living spell of Animate Death while he then turned and fled, with Don hot on his heels. The adventurers then battled it out with the living spell and its skeletal minions in a harrowing battle to hold off the hoard while Gorthrop and Rin worked together to quickly disable the locks on the device so that Gorthrop could safely extract the schema within. They then fled back the way they had come, with Rin acquiring Gorthrop's text on Necromantic rites, and Gulgaz's logbook. Rin spent an action point here to enflame KW's shortbow. They departed by boat and returned to the Kraken (their Lyrander Stormship), gaining some small insights in Gorthrop's character, enroute. 

Back in the present, the adventurers decide that something must be done about Don's body. They agree to see to his burial, but first they want to inspect his home. Following the prescribe directions the rest of the way, they arrive at his small house in Highwater, near the entrance to Clifftop, the adventuring quarter. The front door has a unique double lock, and while KW believes he might be able to pick one, picking both at the same time would be exceedingly difficult. Walker reexamines Don's belongings, and comes across a key hidden in his left boot. Using that key and KW's picks, they are able to unlock the door. A booby trap goes off as the door is opened, but KW is able to lead backwards to safety in time to avoid the white powdery explosion. As the dust settles, the party hides the rickshaw in the adjacent alley and enters the building. They find it well kept but with signs of an unexpectedly hasty departure (bills lying about, a meal left in mid preparation, the smoldering embers of a fire still going). Hiding Don's body in a blanket in the corner, they settle down for a meal and case the place. In the kitchen Thorton finds a note with a confusing series of appointments and time. In the study, Rin finds a small key chain with a few nondescript keys and one large key with a stylized handle in the overlapping shape of the letters MOA, a Morgrave Outreach Association Field Guide Handbook, as well as a hidden scroll with a will that leaves the premises and his belongings to the Morgrave Outreach Association In the bedroom, after another boobytrap that just misses him, Walker finds an odd telescope, with multihued crystal lenses, and a book case whose top shelf is half filled with books of varying topics and colors. Most of these, Don is unlikely to have ever read. Divining that there might be some sort of secret to the alignment of the books, Walker calls in the rest of the party and they set about investigating and experimenting with it. After a considerable amount of effort they hit upon the right series of clues pointing to the prismatic colored alignment (minus the green and black of Cyre that is no more) and are able to open the secret bookcase/door. Behind it they find a small vault room and a hatch with a ladder that leads to a cellar. In the vault room they find a small collection of odd bone-relics and 4 bags of 300 gold. In the cellar they find some old crates and a odd magic circle inscribed on the ground with some sort of device inlaid into the ground at its center. Stepping into the circle, one disappears to anyone outside the circle and vice versa. KW deduces that the odd note about appointment times is likely a reminder for the combination to the device at the center of the circle. Using that information, he successfully opens the hatch. Inside is a small stone, gold wire and glass walled tube, and within that is an Expeditious Messenger. The same one, in fact, that the party had encountered years ago. They discover that it is unable to communicate with its master through the circle, and though it still speaks in its master's voice, it has its own mind. Walker attempts to interrogate it, but is frustrated by its demeaning attitude, and mistakenly reveals (if somewhat vaguely) the location of this creature's prison. He hands it off to Rin, and the two have a more agreeable conversation, if not a terribly revealing one. The creature has no real idea how it got there, or how long it has been there. It only knows that it has been occasionally brought out of the hatched device so that Sgt. Dom could ask it who it was, and seemingly satisfied with its answer, replaced. It imparts its limited knowledge of the 'why' of Gorthrop's creation of the living spell: to see if it could be done. It is implied, at this point, that Gorthrop lacks the capacity for empathy. There is also a vague mention of this project having been one step in a much larger and more complicated undertaking. The Homunculus is either unwilling or unable to share anything more. 

   The party heads up stairs to take a break before deciding on the ultimate fate of the homunculus. Their is some contention on whether it should be released or destroyed, and some question as to why it was captured in the first place. At this point Rin hears the sound of the front door opening and footsteps in the hall. He motions that there are intruders, and everyone takes up position behind the closed bedroom door. The door opens and reveals  3 orcs, armed with heavy looking axes. The party surprises the orcs and battle ensues. Neither side was altogether prepared for the other, and decisive blows were few and far between. In the end, all three orcs were slain, KW was injured and Walker felled (though he stabilized on the following round with a natural 20). After the battle, Rin notices the sound of footsteps attempting to stealthily approach the open front door. He prepares to combat the intruder when it is revealed to be: Allura! She explains that when the party didn't return, and the rain had mostly abbated, she went in search of them, following the directions they were given to Dom's house. She heard the sounds of fighting, and tried to get a peek at the victor when it was over. She is allowed entry and is informed, sadly, of Dom's demise. When she sees Walker's injuries she hurriedly pulls out a small wooden wand and begins to move it back it forth over his wounds, igniting it in a blue white light. Rin recognizes the wand as a variation of the Eternal Wand model, an innovation that allowed magewrights to serve on the front lines during the waning days of the Last War. The Eternal Wand is imbued with a spell that it cast twice a day, in this case: Cure Light Wounds. Allura expends both charges to bring Walker back to his feet, mostly healed. Allura indicates that these Orcs, by the symbols on the talismans they wear, appear to be agents of the Tyrants. KW knows that the Tyrants are a criminal organization that specializes in identities, both finding them and hiding them, and that they heavily employ changelings. Walker knows that the Tyrants are less than friendly rivals of his mentor's organization (which, while largely centered around smuggling and fencing, also does a healthy side business in forged documents and information brokering). Allura then departs, after agreeing to meet up with the party in the late morning at a tavern called the Old Boot in Southern Clifftop, relatively near the University District. From there they plan to accompany her to visit the headquarters of the Morgrave Outreach Association in Sharn, ostensibly to determine if something relating to his last expedition might have brought about his murder.

  After she leaves, the party takes up the rickshaw and Dom's body and proceed to the Necropolis, where they meet an easily bribed undertaker who agrees to bury Dom's remains in an unmarked grave and have it properly sanctified. The party then retires to the Old Boot with rooms for the rest of the night.

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