Sunday, Ready’reat 16, 552 CY (50 AN)
While Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna are stuck having an awkward breakfast with the Duchess, Torinn is off wandering around Duchy Jepson. As is often the case, his shield guardian accompanies him. He realizes he’s absently wandering towards the Wizard’s Tower, as if drawn there. Suspicious, but curious, he decides to follow the feeling into the tower, although he avoids the basement where he is evidently being drawn. Instead, he heads for the Headmaster’s office.
The Headmaster seems confused as to why he’s here — didn’t Torinn have breakfast with the Duchess this morning? — but is undaunted as Torinn explains he’s looking for a book on cursed items and other such subjects. The Headmaster indicates there’s likely nothing appropriate in his office library. Did Torinn check the Tower’s library? He didn’t, but wanted something more specialized. The Headmaster directs him to Magister Remegni’s office, as Remegni is the school’s specialist in anatomy and hexes.
Magister Remegni seems deeply surprised to see Torinn at his door (Torinn surmises it’s because a scholar wouldn’t expect to see the fighter at his door), but lends him a couple of books on the subject without trouble.
He feels a bit better about his predicament when he wanders back downstairs, so he decides to head to the basement. After wandering, he finds himself in a disused corridor, eventually making his way into an empty and somewhat dusty room. A stone face emerges from the stone wall, proclaiming him the “Heir to House Voiddrake” and bidding him welcome. The stonework falls away, revealing a stone tunnel leading into the wall. Torinn, understandably curious, lights a torch and wanders inside.
Moving down the corridor, Torinn finds a room with a fountain and three doorways — on the left is a circular door with a stylized sigil upon it, straight ahead is an opening partitioned by a curtain of blood, and on the right is a glowing portal. The room is illuminated with a soft glow. A figure, evidently the form of a woman made of water, emerges from the pool; Torinn prepares to fight, but she indicates she means no harm. She gestures to the doors, inquiring which he chooses: the Path of Binding, the Path of Blood, or the Path of Leaves. He inquires further: the Path of Binding will test his debating skill, the Path of Blood his power, and the Path of Leaves his knowledge. He decides on the Path of Blood. He passes through, only to realize the shield guardian has not joined him. A dull, red light suffuses the room. Torinn has another moment to realize that a misty figure of some ancient knight has appeared, and battle is joined.
The ghostly warrior summons another five such warriors, and although they are mighty, they are no match for Torinn. His axe cleaves through them as though they were solid, while their blows are still largely absorbed by his armor. It is barely even a minute before all the ghosts are dispelled and the room is still.
When the dust settles, a pillar rises in the middle of the room and a book appears upon it. Entitled the Tome of Leadership and Influence, it is a heavy book bound with a strange metallic covering depicting a king and studded with jewels. He takes the book and returns through the now-reopened Path of Blood. Once he leaves the basement, he returns to his inn room to study, learning that the Tome of Leadership promises arcane techniques to enhance one’s force of personality — and also possibly activate the latent magic in Torinn’s blood.
Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna continue their somewhat awkward day, breakfasting with the Duchess before parading through town and gathering so Bosabrieln can tell the tales of the Shields’ mighty deeds. Peren slips away during the parade, although Valna signals to Bosabrieln that she saw where he went.
Peren, for his part, wanders around town looking for suspicious activity. Finding none, he decides to shop instead, buying a few supplies he thinks may come in handy — some enchanted javelins and a decanter of endless water. Once he has finished, he quietly returns to the gathered crowd.
As evening approaches, Bezaldooz receives a message in his mind, a sending from Magister Remegni. He asks Bezaldooz to slip away from the group and head north, into an alley. Bezaldooz agrees and slips away; Bosabrieln and Peren lose sight of him, while Valna signals to Bosabrieln that she saw where he went.
Bezaldooz slips into an alley and finds Magister Remegni waiting for him. He indicates it’s time to be properly initiated into their conspiracy. Does Bezaldooz agree? He does. Remegni speaks a word of teleportation and Bezaldooz’s surroundings change.
He finds himself in one of the rooms in the hill giants’ steading, far to the north. Three coffins sit in a row upon the floor. Eleven silent, robed figures stand in preparation. Remegni explains that there are three sins the supplicant must defeat if they wish to properly join House Remegni. As one of the robed figures opens the first coffin — revealing the nude form of Lady Jansaadi, a stake through her heart — Remegni intones that the first sin is compassion. It was compassion that stayed her hand and revealed the conspiracy to Bezaldooz’s friends, and he must overcome that sin. Drink her dry and extinguish her essence. As Bezaldooz approaches, her eyes plead with him, a ghastly rasp issues from her throat. He does not hestitate; he drinks her dry, until her body crumbles into dust.
Remegni explains the second sin is light as a robed figure opens the second coffin, revealing the prone form of Abbot Aelius. He is wearing a simple white robe, he is bound, and he appears to be drugged. Remegni explains the light was issued forth from the gods at the beginning of time to limit the power of the dark, and it must be extinguished both in oneself, and without, to properly assume one’s full potential.
Bezaldooz, being well aware that Abbot Aelius is Valna’s adopted father, hesitates, then makes his decision. Bezaldooz intones syllables of power — Remegni attempts to perform the countersign to negate the spell, but it fails — and the world around Bezaldooz freezes. In the stillness, he opens the third coffin to find the prone form of Ekaterina within, also wearing a robe and bound. He then intones the syllables of teleportation to flee for the stage where he last saw Bosabrieln and Valna, bringing Aelius and Ekaterina with him.
He appears on the stage with the bound and drugged Aelius and Ekaterina. Bosabrieln’s tale is cut short, and the group quickly hurries back to the Addled Alchemist. Torinn, hearing the commotion outside, sees this and joins the group. Bosabrieln opens a portal to Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, and the group enters.
Bosabrieln asks what happened, and Bezaldooz explains that Remegni summoned him to the giants’ steading, where he has established a base. Valna is praying in the corner, and the proceedings are interrupted by a flash of light that shines down on Bezaldooz. He suddenly recognizes that he is freed from the curse of undeath, and although he is now mortal, he feels better than he has for a while. Peren sprays him with the decanter of endless water as a “test” to see if he has returned to the land of the living. He continues with his story, leaving out the part where he killed Jansaadi, but otherwise informing them of his activities. He also notes that Remegni has apparently established relations with a group of vampires in the land of Nadhi; the rakshasa who wanted to speak with him in Flamefall Tower was specifically inquiring about that possibility. Valna also heals Aelius and Ekaterina, and learn that they were approached by people from the school, adepts named Phamath and Tanza, both of whom are known to Aelius. They must have been bewitched and drugged before being transported to the north.
Although the Shields are eager to confront Remegni and his vampire coven, they decide they should rest first. Later in the evening, Bosabrieln asks Bezaldooz if he is truly well, and shares a drink with him. Valna hugs him, and says she’s glad he’s better. She will accompany the Shields to the giants’ steading, but will no doubt leave shortly thereafter.
The next morning, Moonday, Ready’reat 17, the group decides to immediately head to the giants’ steading when they awaken. Bezaldooz intones the syllables to teleport, and the scenery changes.
They find themselves in a wooden room, clearly of giant make, although some features look different than the entryway they recall. When they exit, they find themselves in a vast forest — Peren guesses they’re in the Feywalk woods, several hundred miles south of their target. It would appear they teleported to some random hill giant’s house in the woods. Bezaldooz intones teleport again.
This time, they appear to arrive in the correct place. However, a thorough search of the giants’ steading yields nothing. The coffins from last night, including one filled with ash and dust, are still there, but anything of value appears to have been stripped. The Shields briefly consider investigating the old lava tubes beneath the steading, but surmise that the vampires probably fled elsewhere rather than down. They’re gone, and have left nothing of value behind. With that, Bezaldooz traces a teleportation circle to return to Duchy Jepson.
Once there, the group decides to rest for a day before heading to Scandshar — Bosabrieln has some personal business, while the others are keen on bloodying the nose of the slavers. When they check with the Wizard’s Tower, the Headmaster indicates they have recovered nothing of value from the offices of the missing, and he suspects no vampires remain. But he will let the Shields know if he finds anything.
The next morning, Godsday, Ready’reat 18, Valna officially parts company to settle her affairs in Duchy Jepson. Aelius and Ekaterina will stay in the care of the Wizard’s Tower. The remaining Shields transport by teleportation circle to Scandshar.
Arriving in the dockside market, the whisper quickly travels through the crowd that the Shields of the Sorrowfell are here. They decide that they will go talk to Count Brissot first.
As they walk through the streets of Scandshar, they are surprised when Bezaldooz is struck by a crossbow bolt, evidently poisoned by the burning it causes when it strikes. They look up to see a somewhat rotund figure clad in black ducking down behind the lip of a building. Another figure in black atop the building across the street looses another bolt, although it doesn’t quite hit its mark. Torinn activates his power armor to fly up the side of the building, while Peren activates his boots and free climbs the face of the opposite building. Although they are clearly well trained, if a bit odd, they are no match for the Shields of the Sorrowfell; Peren ends up decapitating the assassin he’s fighting, while the other one is knocked unconscious by a combination of sword and spell.
They haul the unconscious assassin into an alley and awaken him, interrogating him about this attack. He indicates there was a contract, and he can take them to his bosses at the Snuff Box. Bosabrieln uses seeming to disguise them as random travelers, and to disguise the fact that the assassin — evidently named Dicun; his partner was Mads — is bound.
Arriving at the Snuff Box, the doorman asks why Dicun wants these four strangers to gain access. He hesitates, prompting the doorman to guess that they’re the targets of his contract in disguise, and they’ve come to nullify the contract. Dicun agrees and the doorman ushers them inside.
Inside the club, the Shields drop the glamour as the pretense is broken. Dicun speaks to an older gentleman, and he retrieves the contract. He’ll dissolve it for the value of the contract, 10,000gp, as well as an extra 5,000gp for the death of their man. After a bit of haggling, Bosabrieln just agrees to pay the damn 15,000gp. The old man hands it over, and the contract was apparently drafted on behalf of a “Lady Griselda,” only two days ago. Bosabrieln then makes one final request: if the constituents of the Snuff Box do not release their slaves within the week, there will be trouble. The man appears to understand the threat, and says he will see to it. The Shields then leave.
After being accosted by some guards trying to determine what precisely happened with the assassins downtown, the Shields finally make it to Count Brissot’s apartments. He seems surprised, but pleased, to see them, although he notes they appear to have seen battle already. They explain their encounter with the assassins, and he replies the only Lady Griselda he knows is a most aged member of House Ehrenfest; she seems unlikely to have issued a contract for their lives. When asked about further information, he repeats the news of the troubles with the Scandshar Six, and also notes that a band of orcs kidnapped a noblewoman yesterday. It’s being kept quiet because the house involved is the current House of Fools, House Anghelescu. He also remarks that Darstina Tallcrippler is currently out on assignment. Whenever she returns, she will likely have information of interest to the Shields.
Bosabrieln also presents Count Brissot with 15,000gp, to be donated to the abolitionist efforts. He is most pleased with this donation.
As he doesn’t explicitly know anything further, and since the Shields of the Sorrowfell have no desire to bring assassins upon his doorstep, they will let him alone for now. But they will keep him apprised of their activities within the city.
Before leaving the Brissot residence, Bosabrieln asks if Count Brissot knows where the Sisterhood of Sharess is located. He has a servant look into the matter and determines it’s near the border of the entertainment district and the temple district.
Leaving the Brissot residence, they decide to rent rooms at an inn. To be extra cheeky, they decide to return to The Laughing Maiden, which they know to be under the protection of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks.
The manager is extremely surprised to see them, and more than a little intimidated, but readily rents them an inn room. (They specifically request a single room, for security reasons.) Trudging upstairs, Bezaldooz and Torinn decide to study, while Bosabrieln and Peren each have plans to go out. Bosabrieln applies makeup and a mustache to Peren to make him less recognizable. Peren is then going to rest to recover from his battle with the assassins while Bosabrieln goes out for a bit; he shouldn’t be too long, and he doesn’t expect trouble.
Bosabrieln wanders to the entertainment district to find the Sisterhood of Sharess. He’s only a handful of blocks away when he is surprised by a hand clamping a pungent rag over his face. He manages to hold his breath long enough to pull away, improvise a quick invisibility glamour, and start to move away. The woman chasing him is dressed like a prostitute, but he notices that she’s covered with makeup, concealing her true skin tone. She has the lithe build of a trained assassin. He runs, but is again surprised when she clamps a hand on his shoulder and shoves a dagger into his side, whispering in his ear, “You breathe too loud.” He feels burning pain from the dagger wound, suggesting poison, although he stumbles away and manages to dazzle her with a power word: stun. He flees into a tangle of nearby alleys, and despite her swift recovery and pursuit, he manages to change his appearance to that of a somewhat generic-looking woman with disguise self and lose the assassin.
Bosabrieln manages to stumble the rest of the way to the Sisterhood of Sharess without incident. The façade is suggestive of an ancient desert temple, like one of the archaic ones from the Kharha Desert. There is also a subtle cat motif worked into the artwork. He notes a young man, perched in a hiding spot across the street. He’s either watching the place or casing it, as the case may be. When Bosabrieln enters, he notes the same desert and cat theme within. He encounters a woman at the front desk, and inquires if anyone knew one Amandine Fenn. The woman at the front desk appears to not recognize the name, but says she’ll fetch the madame; she does ask if he consents to be searched, which prompts him to drop the glamour and reveal himself — and the bleeding wound under his ribs.
After a moment, a well-dressed middle-aged woman with white hair arrives with a couple of attendants. She introduces herself as Madame Nefere, and bids the attendants to dress his wounds, prompting an inquiry as to what happened. (She is not entirely surprised to learn he’s apparently Bosabrieln Peredhel Zivkovic.) Acknowledging the request about Amandine, Nefere bids him to accompany her so they can talk in private.
She explains that she knew Amandine; Amandine arrived here before she did, many years ago. They both served under the previous madame, and Amadine served roughly a decade before she died. She was a truly lovely person, with a beautiful singing voice, as Nefere recalls. Bosabrieln has a strong resemblance; Nefere shows her a portrait she keeps in a locket around her neck. Nefere remembers when the elves arrived a quarter century ago; Bosabrieln’s father insisted on bringing the child back to his village, while his father’s friend (and the other sisters) argued he ought to stay here. Despite subsequently hearing of the bard Vianibrar, she never made the connection that Bosabrieln was Amandine’s child. She also mentions that Bosabrieln has a half-brother, much to Bosabrieln’s surprise; Vianibrar never mentioned him. He asks about his half-brother, and Nefere explains that he was raised here, and acts as a watchman. Bosabrieln expresses an interest in meeting him, and Nefere bids him to wait a moment; she leaves. Several minutes later, the young man from across the street enters. He, too, has a slight resemblance to the face Bosabrieln sees in the mirror. He introduces himself as Warwick Fenn, and indicates he barely recalls his mother and when the elves came. They exchange a few pleasantries before the tactiurn Warwick takes his leave.
With that, Bosabrieln notes that he will likely leave, but hopes to return. He notes that there appears to be little influence from the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks in the Sisterhood, and Nefere notes that they must pay protection, but have largely managed to keep free of their influence. He also uses the sending stone to contact Peren, asking if he can escort him back to the inn.
Peren, for his part, was starting to wander the city when he hears from Bosabrieln, so he makes his way over to the Sisterhood of Sharess. Bosabrieln again masquerades as a woman to hide his appearance, and bids the ladies farewell. They exit.
Since Peren has been considering staging a raid on the gladiator pits, he and Bosabrieln decide to case the place by acting as married tourists and seeing the sights. Over the course of the afternoon, they blow 500gp to establish themselves as high rollers from out-of-town, watching a gladiatorial match, going to restaurants, and generally experiencing the local color. They secretly gain intelligence on security around the entertainment district, particularly around the arenas. Coupled with Peren’s previous experience on the subject, they form a fairly complete picture of what to expect if infiltrating the pits.
One bit of badness, though: while at a café, they notice a young man, somewhat distraught, carrying a satchel. He looks somewhat nervous. Bosabrieln and Peren agree to maintain a safe distance, in case he does something strange. Shortly thereafter, he stands atop the table and loudly announces, “May my chains be broken!” He withdraws a pouch and puts it inside the satchel; when he does, the bags fold inside themselves, forming an abyssal vortex that draws everything inside ten feet or so of the center — chairs, tables, and the people sitting in them. The people on the street erupt into panic and flee as Bosabrieln and Peren make their way elsewhere, although they hear a similar commotion arise from one of the nearby arenas. Alarm bells briefly sound, but the district shortly returns to normal. With the excitement done, they decide to return to The Laughing Maiden.
While Bosabrieln and Peren are away, Bezaldooz and Torinn are studying. They are interrupted by a knock on the door; Bezaldooz keeps studying while Torinn rises to answer. It is a hotel servant named Brenda, bringing room service they evidently did not order. Torinn refuses it, explaining that it was probably some manner of prank, and offers her a silver. She refuses it, saying she cannot accept it, but when she tries to hand it back, Torinn refuses to touch it, instructing her to just drop it on the floor. She sheepishly takes the cart away, returning to ask if there are any precautions she should convey to the rest of the staff. Torinn has none.
The second interruption comes from another knock. Torinn answers this time to find a guard. The guard addresses him, asking a couple of questions regarding the ruckus downtown, but he also holds out a note for Torinn to read, instructing them to meet someone at midnight at The Drunken Goblin. The guardsman retains the message once it’s clear Torinn has read and acknowledged it. When he is done with his questions, he leaves, although he picks up the silver on his way out. Torinn watches for a bit to make certain the guard doesn’t drop dead from poisoning, then returns to his room.
When Bosabrieln and Peren return to The Laughing Maiden, they inform Bezaldooz and Torinn of what they learned, as well as the strange attack near the arenas. Torinn relates the encounter with the servant, as well as the guard. After discussion, they further decide that they’re going to try to raid the gladiator pits tonight, preferably if they can get some assistance from any friendly local guards. But first, they’ll meet with their mystery contact at The Drunken Goblin.
The Shields rest for several hours. As time approaches, they disguise themselves with seeming and head to The Drunken Goblin, down near the wharf district. They arrive withut incident, finding a run-down bar containing only a few sullen drunks and a cloaked traveler. Once Bezaldooz ascertains that the cloaked figure seems to be waiting for someone, he informs the others and they signal. The figure, a woman armed with a broadsword, joins them. She demands some sign that they are the people for whom she is waiting; Torinn presents the diminutive pixie skull he wears, and this seems to satisfy her. She refuses to give a name, but in light of the messenger she sent, the travelers to can refer to her as Captain. She explains that she has labored too long under the true masters of this city, and is on the travelers’ side. If they need assistance, she will provide it, although she may have to speak or act against them publicly. The Shields inquire about the attack near the arenas earlier today, and the Captain notes that such attacks by the Broken Chain are all-too-frequent. They further ask if she can potentially pull Scandshar Watch off the arenas tonight, for maybe half an hour or so. She says she can probably arrange something. Will the 3 AM guard shift change work? The Shields believe it will.
She also notes that she is unable to guarantee the safety of their conversations, as she has little way to guard her mind against the Peacocks’s sorcerers. Do they have some secure method of communications? Bosabrieln has sending and dream at his disposal, so he can likely maintain secure contact. (With regard to dream, she usually sleeps at regular, nightly intervals.) She does note, though, that she could always be compromised in the future (assuming she is not already), and she is risking her life to contact them, so it is always possible she may just… disappear. The Shields acknowledge this, and appreciate her assistance. With that, she is off to ensure that things happen on schedule. The Shields likewise proceed to continue to plan their infiltration of the gladiator pits.