Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Shapechangers: Chapter 8

Hieronymous Tigana won't leave his lab and indeed has turned several mages and members of Watch sent to apprehend him into toads. Yes you read that right toads!

The Party are asked (told) by Mayor to go get the crazy Alchemist and drag his abnoxious behind to prison for a substantial commission of course.

The Party head to the Guild of Wizardry and once there are lead down underground to the Alchemy lab of Hieronymous Tigana. It doesn't look like much! Arcane equipment, supplies, alchemy gear...pretty dull. The voice of Tigana taunts the newcomers from a side room and sounds quite, quite mad...

Unfortunately the side "room" turns out to be a 4 story structure that is totally out of proportion to its underground locale. There's no way all that could possibly exist a mere 20 feet below ground.

Tigana peers down from level 4. Flights of stairs lead up and onto each level, a large, open area is adjacent to the flights of stairs and contains vast, glass vats of bubbling liquids that stretch upwards into the higher levels. The hum of machinery and arcane powers crackles around the lab.

The Party attempts to cross the open area whilst Tigana pelts them with Alchemical firebombs from above. A few dudes get splash damage.

The quick KC sets off a series of fire traps before the first flight of stairs and then gets assaulted by animated arbalaster machines situated on little platforms on the wall adjacent to the stairs.

Ulric gets busy and takes a Relentless Hammer to one of the bubbling vats, Tigana asks him (maniacally) if he knows whats inside? The Dwarf pays him no mind ... crazy mage.

KC, The Bard, Sir Kelly and Teckcos head up 1st flight of stairs dodging missiles from above.

Ulric finally smashes open one vat and a deluge of liquid (water thankfully) gushes out into the lab. It laps up against the walls before reforming into a fearsome, whirling, raging Water Elemental.

The Party on the 1st floor find a vast, cavernous room extending out into the distance which contains all manner of supplies and alchemic materials and components.

Tekcos spies a foot, then another, bigger than the first, and finally the grotesque form of a mismatched man (who has been stitched together) lying on a table is fully revealed. The Psioncist decides not to take any chances and proceeds to saw through the Flesh Golem's neck with his dagger. Nice 8-)

Ulric and his watery foe duke it out, however the Water Elemental's primary "drowning" power is completely negated by the Dwarf's SeaShimmer cloak (breathe underwater property). Ulric smiles and gives the churning watery thing a good pounding with his relentless hammer ... sonic shockwaves pummel the poor elemental pretty good.

Tekcos continues with his macabre detail, while KC, the Bard and Sir Kelly continue around and onto the 2nd flight of stairs. The team is assailed by more Arbalaster Hommunclus constructs.

More maniacal laughter erupts from above and the fire spout traps on the ground floor roar up once more, the raging inferno forms into a Fire elemental that follows the party up the stairs.

KC continues her route upwards, while the Bard attacks the arbalaster mechanisms. Brother Kelly and Teckcos fight the Fire elemental on stairs 2.

KC steps out onto the 2nd floor, or so she thinks ... a moment of confusion before comprehension, she is back on first floor! Teleporter?

The Fire Elemental burns Brother Kelly and Tekcos pretty good. The Bard pushes 1 arbalaster off it's platform and sends it down to to smash on floor and then moves closer up the stairs towards the Teleporter.

Fire Elemental smashed by KC, Brother Kelly and Teckcos. The Bard susses the Teleporter and it is bypassed. The 2nd Floor contains another Flesh Golem ... very much alive! Golem Ramage!

Ulric batters the Water Elemental into submission and then plods up the stairs to try and help his friends ... the ravaged water elemental reforms after a time and stalks the dwarf's movements from a discreet distance.

KC, Brother Kelly, Teckcos and the Bard feels the size and power of the Golem's mighty rampage! *Pelvic Thrust* HUH! 8-)

Floor 2 is another dimension defying room this time containing a vast library. Tome after tome, shelf after shelf stretch back into infinity.

The Bard minces past the Golem's grasping arms and heads up and onto the 3rd flight of stairs, moveing up he spots a trap door and halts! Just in time as a section of stairs gives way. Phew! 8-)

The feisty Flesh Golem takes big chunks outta KC, Sir Kelly and Tekcos.

Ulric goes up to the second floor followed by the skulking Water Elemental ... Ulric finds himself on the 1st floor again, as does the Water Elemental!! A mighty hit from the relentless hammer returns the conjured creature into harmless drops of H2O.

The Bard notices a weird green aura emanating from the top of fourth floor and the sounds of machinery increasing. He notices that pipes run from the vats to the 4th floor and that 1 particular vat is slowly diminishing. He shouts down to Ulric to go smash that Vat. Ulric doesn't need to be told twice to go smash stationary glass objects. He spits on his hands, grabs his hammer in both hands and gets to work ...

Tekcos runs past the Golem and gets onto the 3rd flight of stairs (just behind the bard and the gap). KC and Sir Kelly retreat back onto the 2nd flight of steps, leaving the Golem to return to it's rest table and back to it's inert state. Hmmm ... if your not physically on the 2nd floor the golem doesn't attack. KC and the Cleric double move through floor 2 and get past the golem and onto Stairs 3.

The Bard jumps the gap on stairs 3 and then runs up onto the landing of floor 3. Tekcos and Sir Kelly blasts some more arbalasters while fit and firm buttocked KC runs, leaps and skips her way up onto the third floor.

Floor 3 is unsurprisingly massive also, a vast labyrinth of bubbling, plopping vats, cauldrons, alchemic "things" and pipes all interconnected and giving off the sounds of active operation. The Bard checks the piping and then starts smashing critical points, KC runs past him and then onto flight of stairs 4.

Meanwhile, Ulric start smashing the vat indicated by the bard ... Booom! ... small crack ... Booom! ... crack gets bigger ... BOOM! ... faults lines begin arching up the vat structure ... liquid drips out ... drip drip onto stone floor ... ssss!! hisss ... ssss!! and starts sizzling and eating it's way through the granite floor. Ulric's bushy eyebrows rise ...

KC on stairs 4 takes no chances and moves slowly, cautiously up the stairs. Checking for mechanical and arcane traps ... sensors on full wide beam alert ... the floor beneath her suddenly disappears! She flails about for any handhold, critically fumbles a saving throw to hang on ... plummets down ... 4 floors ... tries to heroically and acrobatically and vainly to slow her plunge (like all novice Thieves' Guild trainees can do) and possibly reduce some damage ... critically fails again and lands smack bang in the middle of a pool of A C I D forming by the ruptured vat ... you know the one with a large crack running up it ...

The sly sorceress suffers MASSIVE DAMAGE... 8-)

The Bard witnesses KC's plunge and also that the green light has increased in intensity and that Tigana hasn't spoken for some time. He heads to Stairs leading to floor 4 and watches what happens ... a section of the stairs disappears in a smooth interval running all the way up to the landing on fourht floor ... timing the disappearing sections, the Bard reckons he can run behind the disappearing chunks and arrive on floor 4 with ease. He gives it a go ... and suceeds.

Ulric the Mighty is running, running away from the acid, the vat, the lab and all this Thor forsaken magical death trap of a crap place ... he is flat out gone man! 8-)

Sir Kelly seeing the sorceress's rapid descent and subsequent splash down in a growing pool of acid figures that she probably could do with some help and quickly. The noble cleric leaps off the third flight of stairs, in full scale armour, in slow mo and to gasps of astonishment from the viewing audience to save the life of the stricken KC. He plunges down but expertly slows his descent by snagging handholds and arrives on the ground with nay a scratch.

The knight then rushes into the acid pool to lift the stunned form of sorceress out of the danger zone and to safety before kneeling to perform healing on the shattered form of KC. The feisty sorceress heals quick enough and still has a little fight left in her. She rushes back up the stairs once more, followed by the slower cleric.

The Bard and Teckos arrive at the top of the alchemy lab and are faced by 6 arbalasters mechanisms, luckly, these are inert. A strange artifice projects a green beam of light at an arch which forms a shimmering portal ... the machinery up here gives off showers of sparks and plumes of smoke as the portal aperture contracts and dilates at irregular intervals. No sign of the mad alchemist.

The Bard tries to comprehend the apparatus, while Tekcos moves closer to the portal and peers through ... he sees murky buildings beyond. The Bard tinkers with the apparatus and suddenly brings the portal into sharp focus, just as a series of detonations rumble up through the stone floor from level 3.

Tekcos Tik, catlike, steps through the pristine portal and he finds himself in a street. Buildings stretch out in both directions, all gray and well worn. The air smells stale, musty and warm, the sky above is a uniform gray color ... through a gap in the murk he spies more buildings arching up and around the 'sky' ...

What the feck? The Psioncist keeps looking upwards, mouth agape.

The Bard steps through and he looks around quickly to try and get his bearings. He glances at Tekcos and noting the look of amazement and direction of his gaze ... the bard looks up ...

What the feck! ... the pair oblivious to their other surroundings continue to gaze upwards and backwards until they both go too far and topple over!

KC arrives on trembling level four, safely this time, and notice the portal and 2 figures beyond the shimmering aperture. Sticking a tentative hand through divide and suffering no adverse effects the sorceress takes the plunge and step across.

She looks around and immediately notices a pair of massive red feet a short distance before her ... hmm ... that can't be good ... slowly, ever so slowly KC continues looking up and eventually the sorceress gazes into the glowing, red coals that form the eyes of a Balrog!


KC grabs the 2 prone idiots and drags them back through the portal. The Bard and Teckos recover from the reverie and get to work trying to close the portal. They don't need to bother as another set of detonations from below shatters the delicate array of instruments casting the green beam and the aperture slowly shrinks into nothingness.

Through the retreating point the party members watch the Demon walk down the street, from around a corner emerge an group of angelic figures. The Balrog hisses and roars at the quartet while the glowing figures reach for weapons ... after an uneasy standoff the 2 groups walk away without a fight. The portal then blinks out.


Count Ptreides will pay for the Bard renovations on his abode. Ulric gets his warehouse at the docks.

The Bard appropriates a title ... from henceforth he shall be addressed as Lord Caerendil Egremont Beaujolais of Greyhawk.

The Party jointly buy the Nightwatch building across the street from McGloogan's (now Ulric's) warehouse. Partly to be used for Ulric's industrial endevours and partly as a barracks and billet for a small contingent of Knights of Holy Shielding lead by Sir Kelly.

KC buys the Green Dragon Inn.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Shapechangers: Chapter 7

The Lord's Tomb is one of the City of Greyhawk's many burial sites. However located as it is within the High Quarter it is the place to be interred for the high and mighty of the city. New crypts are always being dug here because of the demand.

The party arrive at the location, negotiate themselves past some bored guards and fan out into the complex. Finding nothing of note or suspicion in the first couple of tiers the group descend down to level 3 and to the area rife with builders completing and excavating new tombs.

The builders are initially interested in the new arrivals but soon lose interest as the party inform of their intentions. Several perception rolls are made to determine evil doings within the vicinity with varying degrees of sucess.

Tekcos Tik discovers a series of crates similar to the ones found in McGloogan's warehouse and with further investigation finds a cunningly crafted secret door nearby. The halfling Dirkwood, nose to the ground and sensors on full alert is somewhat less fruitful. He does manage to back himself into a Velunaun Marble statue knocking it over and into more statutes that topple to the ground and shatter into tiny pieces.

The builders are outraged, what the bloody hell do you think your doing! The Bard also verbally lambasts the halfling after remembering the rogue's inclinations to destroy ceramic sculptures (bringing up the olde wound of those priceless urns that Dirkwood destroyed in a fit of childish pique during the campaign Against the Giants many years ago).

The halfling simply shrugs and tells the mob to go get a life and send any bill to the Mayor of Greyhawk. The builders march off in disgust saying they'll take their grievances to the door of the Mayor's Office! (but probably not before grabbing an early lunch and then leching and jeering at passing women).

Anyway, back to that secret door that Tekcos the Brave had found. Before informing the other party members of his discovery, the erstwhile psioncist gives the door a once over looking for anything that might act as an opening mechanism. He suceeds and promptly opens the door.

An immediate wave of arcane energy pulses through his body and expands outwards. The other party members sense this disturbance also and come running to see what Tekcos has done. They converge at his locale to find the secret door standing ajar but knowing that some alarm has been sent to whoever resides within. There is much chastisement!

Passing within the threshold provided by the secret door, the party encounters a series of old musty, moss covered, stairs descending downwards. Why is it always downwards laments the claustrophobic dwarf Ulric Von Himmler. More importantly, interjects the Bard, why is this moss growing here?, where does it get it's nutrients?

Let me answer that question with another question replies the DM...

SHUT UP! 8-)

The party form some semblance of order and descend the stairs in single file. There are a few mishaps, slips, trips, falls during the descent but nothing to warrant more than a sentence of description. The stairs level off and the party then traverse a tunnel that eventually opens out into a vast and musty smelling cavernous tomb. A tomb crisscrossed with a shroud of spider webs. Dense and impenetrable. The boys get to work with fire and burn a path through.

Moving ever onwards through the spidery maze, the party come upon a series of columns, sepulchres and tombs set upon a raised dais. Adjacent to the dais are 2 stone table-like structures and upon one of these lies what looks like the eviscerated remains of a hill giant. A pile of bloody carcasses, which even from this distance are quite clearly human in shape and form, lie nearby the gutted giant. Just before the dias area there appears to a series of pits of unknown depth and crisscrossed with webbing. Roars, rattles and other bestial sounds emerge from within them.

As the party gaze upon the strange macabre scene before them and begin to wonder if they slipped down through some fissure of reality into a Call of Cthulhu session, they spy a lone figure moving furtively towards the butchered giant.

I wonder you that is, states Caerendil. 'Yeah' snort the taciturn Dirkwood in reply. 'Whoever he is he's a dead un' interjects Ulric hefting his hammer, Agreed agrees Sir Kelly unsheathing his sword. 'What is the fool doing?' asks KC in hushed whispers....

There is no expected retort to question from the sixth member of the party. The party turn their heads in unison to stare at the space they've mentally set aside for the figure of Tekcos Tik. He is not there. The party turn their heads back in unison to stare at the distant forlorn figure nearing the bloody table.

Is that who we think it is?

Tekcos Tik, brave undaunted scion of psion (10xp Sukh 8-)) approaches the scene of carnage. He carefully checks the two pits near the table to see if anything horrible resides within ... it does..one pit contains a creature that memory states is a Displacer Beast (chorus of 'Orrrrrr' and intakes of breaths from distant group), the other pit contains a massive gigantic rattlesnake. Tekcos edges away from the pits and towards the bloody table and it's morbid contents.

A green ray of light shoots out from the dais area and smite the lurking Psioncist squarely in the chest. Oof...considerable damage and ongoing poison damage. Teckos is staggered by the blast and scans the area for the origin of the attack. A voice from the dais area rumbles 'Kill the interlopers my pets' and then all hell breaks loose.

2 humanoid, rotting forms rise up from behind stone sepulchres and stagger towards Tekcos Tik. Several big, fat, well fed Blade Spiders descend from the webbed ceiling to attack isolated members of the party (KC & the Bard).

Tekcos recovered somewhat from the initial onslaught, blasts one of the shambling forms with a Telekinetic Punch. The psionic attack crushes the ribcage of the approaching creature and it collapses to the floor. Euphoria is short lived however as from within the creature's shattered body a multitude to tiny spiders emerge and angle towards the stunned psioncist.

A new figure, elven in form (in fact Drow) and clad in dark leathers stands upright upon the dais.

He raises a rod and attacks the psioncist with more arcane magics. Attacked from three sources Tekcos Tik will be hard put to stay amongst the living this day.

Ulric and Sir Kelly seeing the psioncist's predicament rush to his aid (well as fast anyone can rush to anyone's aid when moving at SPEED 5). Running past the pits they are assaulted from above by a vast net of sticky gooey strands of webbing that arrests their forward momentum and leaves the pair immobilsed. A gigantic spider descends from the ceiling and angles towards the trapped pair to begin the feasting!

The fighting ebbs and flows for some time, KC and the Bard (surely the name of a hit 80's TV programme?) tackle the blade spiders in the web maze with a good degree of sucess. Tekcos and Sir Kelly team up to blast both Tomb Spider Swarms to oblivion. Ulric trades meaty blows with the big giant Tomb Spider mama near the pits ... and Dirkwood, well the halfling doesn't sully his blades for some time before finally deciding to leap into the fray to attack the Drow Arachnomancer on the dais...after initially boasting of his unblemished status the stout halfling is soon sorely oppressed 8-)

Sometime during the battle Keemor the mage arrives with the tomb complex but there is little for him to do other that provide good feasting for the remaining Blade Spiders. The isolated mage is soon cornered, attacked and mashed up pretty goooood. 8-)

Bad DM.

Eventually the Drow Arachnomancer is beaten down and killed. Likewise the two spider swarms and after the Tomb Spider mama is dispatched the remaining spiders retreat to the sanctuary of the ceiling leaving the party to search the area unmolested.

All the pits are examined and in addition to the Displacer Beast and the Giant Rattlesnake the party discover other incarcerated beasts, namely a Norker (which Keemor spends some quality time terrorising), a Owlbear (who provided some help during the fight) and a creature that no one can identify and is simply labelled 'Fannyface' (much to it's chagrin).

What to do with these creatures?

And will someone please stop Keemor doing those things to that poor Norker!

Behind the dais is another humaniod body laid out on a stone table. A nearby pedestal holds a weighty tome lying open. Upon examination, the body on the table is revealed to be a unconscious (poisoned) but most definitely alive Elf and the book on the pedestal is found to contain an ancient Ritual of 'Polymorphing'.

Hmmm...the party piece together the many fragments of information within the crypt to gain an insight into the dealings of the 'The Shapechangers' gang.

The quartet of evil doers working in unison, would mug humans or preferably elves within the streets of Greyhawk. The victims probably selected beforehand by Imogen Gillet working under her guise as a barmaid at the Green Dragon Inn.

The gang would then take the unconscious target back to their lair in the Lord's Tomb and using the Ritual of Polymorphing, the Drow Arachnomancer (Clannair Blackshadow) would transform the unfortunate victim into the desired form. Which would then be promptly killed and then harvested for the relevant organic materials.

The bodily remains would be fed to the tomb spiders whilst the useful materials would be picked up by McGloogan after he made his regular deliveries of building supplies to the crypt complex.

He would then ship the materials to the Guild of Wizardry for there use as potion components.

Harral Shastri, the Warlock would then collect the monies for the transaction and distribute it amongst the group. Ingenious! Several party members discuss if the operation is *really* all that bad and wonder if ... the Bard and Sir Kelly say NO!


Ok we've sussed the plot but still no sign of the Viscount.

The party fan out to check every nook and cranny of the underground tomb. A weakened and beaten Viscount Kerner is soon discovered down at the bottom of a deep and narrow oubliette.

He is soon rescued and healed up somewhat by Sir Kelly.

During these travels Ulric comes upon a suspicious looking cocoon suspended from a strand of web high in the ceiling. Sending furtive glances left and right and seeing that the coast is clear, the stout dwarf heft his shield and after a few practice abdomen twists unleashes the disc at the strand holding the cocoon.

The magical shield hurtles through the musty air of the tomb and angles towards the spider strand ... which it misses ... as it's trajectory curves back and towards Ulric, Dirkwood Littlelegs arrives in front of the dwarf to see what the commotion is all about...


Dirkwood Littlelegs is knocked prone by an attack from behind. A clattering beside him reveals Ulric's shiny shield rattling to a halt. The halfling looks at the poker faced dwarf with a suspicious gleam in his eye. Ulric smiles blithely and just shrugs.

The clattering sound alerts more party members whom rush to arrive at the scene and see what Ulric has no doubt found ... eventually someone spies the airborne cocoon. They look back accusingly at the doe eyed Ulric. The dwarf shrugs again before hurling his shield once more and this time snapping the offending strand cleanly. Inside the spidery cocoon is a goodly amount of gold, gems, potions and elixirs (some now smashed!).

The items are divved up in short order. The pit creatures polymorphed back into their original forms and then the party escort these rescued souls together with Viscount Kerner from the confines of this stale and unholy tomb to the bright and god blessed streets of Greyhawk. The party head with the Viscount to the Embassy of Urnst where there is much rejoicing at his homecoming. The Ptreides family are overjoyed, as are the Greyhawk authorities including it's Mayor.

Once rewards have been rightly accorded and the resulting joyous celebrations have died down a bit, the Mayor of Greyhawk Nerof Gasgal take Caerendil to one side and informs him of a small problem down at the Guild of Wizardry that the Bard and his party may be able to help him with...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Shapechangers: Chapter 6

News of Viscount's abduction reaches Brother Kelly in Greyhawk's refugee camps outside the city walls, he decides his friends probably need him about now.

Teckcos Tik rides back to Greyhawk with an urgent communique from Keoland ambassador for the embassy staff. He meets Brother Kelly at the city gates and they head into the city together.

The pair inquire about their friends from a passing Watch patrol and are told of an early morning disturbance in the River Quarter. The party dudes decide to tag along with the patrol and arrive at McGloogan's Warehouse just as the fight inside is reaching it's conclusion.

Several party members want to question the big man McGloogan, who in turn pleads his innocence with the Watch patrol and says the party attacked his premises without provocation.

Your going dowwwnnnn McGloogan you slag! taunts Cearendil. So you might aswell talk! The Party look ready to beat a confession outta McGloogan whilst the Paladin is conveniently sent to 'buy another rug'...

*DM staring into camera*

Only joking 8-)

Baron Quentin stands implacably in front of McGloogan and refuses to sanction any kind of heinous torturing of the captured man. Eventually the Watch patrol take McGloogan away to the City Jail leaving the Party members to conduct through searches inside the warehouse.

Brother Kelly spies a secret trapdoor in the warehouse floor leading to a subterranean secret room (near the body of Keemor by the mound of sundered sacks). The secret room is roughly 30ftx30ft in size and once investigated is found to contain more bags of platinum, 15 crates marked for delivery to the Guild of Wizardry and a stack of ledgers.

The crates are forced open and reveal dismembered body parts! Entrails, sinews, and other such bodily material.. AEUW! Amidst this dissection are many, many jars of a red liquid...which after clerical CSI type analysis is found to be Elf blood.

The stuff in the crates are all components used to make magical potions and the Elf's Blood is a prime ingredient for Potions of Longevity ( the most expensive and most coveted potion around). The insides of the crates also have a thin covering of some fine powdery substance (no, not cocaine, but dry mortar informs the halfling).

The Bard remembers that the shade of Imogen Gullet that appeared in the necromantic ritual was considerably older than the corpse would have suggested.

Several party members do the math and wonder if they can still flog the Elf Blood for cash...what? their dead already and it'll just go to waste. The Paladin, Cleric and Bard remain adamant and say NO!

Arrrrhhhhhh! 8-)

The reams of ledgers suggest deliveries to a certain Bubka, Mage of Exchange at the Guild of Wizardry. The crates are all marked for the attention of Hieronymus Tigana. Keemor the Mage relates that Bubka deals with all magical purchases within the Guild while Tigana is the Guild's Chief Alchemist. He is a small, odious man rarely seen. Spends all his time down in the basement within his Alchemy Lab conducting experiments.

There is however still no sign of the Viscount, so the party retire to the Green Dragon Inn for breakfast and a beer while the Bard and Cleric decipher the ledgers looking for additional clues. Several hours go by.

A runner from the Mayor's Office has a missive for Dirkwood informing that the Beggarmaster has a red hot tip concerning McGloogan. He, Albus 'Gaspar' Shand, Beggarmaster of the City of Greyhawk awaits the pleasure of the party at the Red Serpent Restaurant in the Foreign Quarter to exchange this pertinent infomation.

The Bard and Cleric decide to stay at the Green Dragon to finish off their ledger analysis whilst the rest of the party head to the rendezvous with the Beggarmaster.

The venue is down the main thoroughfare of the River Quarter and is an impressive 3 story building spanning the road.

The Beggarmaster looks the part, dressed in a motley of rags made from a range of expensive materials. He stands awaiting the party with 2 of his cohorts.

Dirkwood exchanges pleasantries before broaching the reason for the visit. Gaspar says he has juicy info concerning McGloogan, notably deliveries made at odd hours to odd places...for a price. Namely a massive slap up meal at the restaurant across the street (The Red Serpent).

The restaurant owners, for want of a better description, are all foreign types judging by their accents (although no one can quite place it, a strange mishmash of Chinese, Welsh, Indian, Irish & Russian) and they don't seem to like Albus 'Gaspar' Shand.

YOU NO COME HERE! bellows one waiter as the party and the Beggarmaster pass thorough the entrance. 'ILLEGAL! I CALL WATCH!' The irate man then spies Dirkwood in the group and he abruptly falls silent.

Dirkwood relates that he and his party (including Gaspar) are here for the finest meal this restaurant has to offer. The Restaurant owners perks up and party are lead to the plushest table in the establishment (one that overlooks the bustling street below).

Gaspar accepts a menu and then orders the most bewildering array of obscure and queer sounding dishes, together with copious selection expensive wines that the party have ever heard. Dirkwood flush with cash from the Warehouse gig begins to sweat. The waiters then ask whether the party wish to eat as well. What kinda food do you do here? asks Ulric tentatively.

Spicy foods from the western lands of Ket, Tusmit and the Plains of the Paynims beyond. Renown for their exotic flavours and fiery heat. Ears perk up...fiery you say? Well Normal, Spicy or Fiery depending on the person's palate.

Ulric looks Dirkwood Littlelegs in the eye and orders a Large Fiery, Dirkwood ripostes by ordering a Large Fiery too and then adds a side order of more Fiery, Teckos familiar with the cuisine and what is to come orders a Spicy whilst the feminine and genteel KC sticks to the normal level of potency.

Ulric tries his first spoonful of Large Fiery and loses a healing surge..bloody hell this is HOT!

Dirkwood tries his first spoonful and nearly sh*ts himself...his tongue spasms uncontrollably within his mouth and his renown iron bowels begin to enter a molten state (he loses 2 healing surges and his Streetwise is -2 for 2 weeks)

Teckcos tries his dish and finds it agreeable (makes Endurance check). No problem. 8-)

KC watching the 2 boys guzzle carafe after carafe of iced water and down goblet after goblet of warm Yak's milk pokes her food around her plate for some time before finally bowing to the inevitable...she consumes her first tiny spoonful....roll Endurance..natural 20!...it's the most delicious heavenly food she's ever tasted! The Sorceress tears into her dish and quickly consumes the repast. She ends by licking the plate clean before taking the tiniest of tiny sips of chilled water to clear her palate.

The boys are agog!, the owners are agog!, what a woman! KC regains 2 healing surges and 10 temporary hit points for the first encounter and the owners will be pleased to serve her for free during any future visits. Result!

KC gives the whimpering boys her most winning smile.

Bloody foreign rubbish snarls Ulric as he forces yet another spoonful of molten lava into his blistered mouth...Endurance check...suceeds by more than 10...although, it does grow on you...Ulric regains 2 healing surges, the use of his legs, 25% discount on future visits and a +2 on Streetwise for 2 weeks.

The bloodshot and waxen looking halfling peers across the culinary battlefield and watches the doughty dwarf slowly but surely demolishing the mound of red dripping meat on his plate as sweat streams down from his brow in steady rivulets...


...I've never prayed to you before..

Dirkwood Littlelegs picks up a spoon and piles all the green things that he'd been pushing to one side of his plate during the meal ... he looks the smiling dwarf in the eye before consuming his spoonful

...crunch crunch munch...


Endurance roll ... roll ... clatter ... natural ... 20! ... you know after the pain there is a most exquisite peace and serenity with this food...the Halfling begins to pick up speed and woofs down the remaining food on his plate ... he finishes with a long draw on his Yak's milk goblet before smacking his lips and giving a contented belch.


(3 healing surges, 20 temp hits, free to eat and +1 permanent to Streetwise)

He's still got it as Ulrich grudgingly accepts that this match is a draw.

The meal concluded it is left to Dirkwood to foot the bill (1000gps!). Albus after making a point of daubing his lips with a napkin then proffers his information.

McGloogan makes a lot of deliveries at odd times. Only last week he was spotted making deliveries of building materials to the Lord's Tomb. That isn't so unusual replies Dirkwood, new crypts are always being dug at the Lord's Tomb all the time, there's always building work going on...

Yes but making deliveries *at* night and not only deliveries but also *taking* similar crates away...

Ok, ponders the halfling, that is unusual...

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Shapechangers: Chapter 5

Some people oversleep (Keemor) so the raid begins a few hours late as the first rays of the new day begin to crest the horizon. A quick recon around the premises yields some info. Dogs inside. 2 large warehouse doors (back and front). Windows high above (level three) and what looks like planks spanning the gap between the warehouse and the Nightwatchmen Station. KC fills the party on the Nightwatchmen building. Might be easier to get into that and then across to the roof of McGloogan's warehouse ...

The party thus break into the Nightwatchmen building (which is mostly deserted during the day). They sneak past a sleeping day watchmen and up flights of stairs to the roof. There are indeed planks thrown across the gap to McGloogan's warehouse. KC attempts the crossing first.

KC fails and takes a fall, hits the ground, vanishes into shadows only to rematerialise on adjoining warehouse roof. Phew! Ulric the Venture Capitalist shimmies across the divide with no problems. Caerendil the Bard attempts the manuever, fails but not too badly and instead just freezes midway across the gap. Various people try and coax the Bard across the remaining bit, eventually Dirkwood Littlelegs has to go out there to hobbit handle the whimpering ministrel across to the other side.

The plate clad Paladin attempts the plank journey next ... he assuredly fails!, then desperately grabs for a handhold, he thunders down onto the plank, which breaks and the whole lot goes down ... but is saved by Keemor's Feather Fall spell. Baron Quentin floats down serenely, the planks and debris less so...there is a clashing noise as the wreckage hits the street, there is the sound of barking dogs, there is light inside the warehouse.

3 Dogs and a large, bald bearded man carrying a shield and hammer scurry out towards the Paladin, the dogs arrive first and start circling and barking at the Paladin. The Paladin plays it cool and asks McGloogan why a person can't walk the streets in peace without dogs harassing him (oooh you horrible little man Jonesy). McGloogan seeing the unblemished, shining knight gives Baron Quentin the benefit of the doubt and orders the dogs off and back inside. The dogs obey immediately and the big man turns away from the paladin.

The dudes on the roof reconnoiter the flat surface, there is a gaping 10 metre hole in the centre of the warehouse roof (for light presumably) and various access hatches dotted at 4 points elsewhere. Dirkwood and Keemor decide direct. The hobbit fastens a grappelling hook at the 10 metre hole and throws some rope over ... he then abseils down ... Keemor attempts an abseil ... lets the rope slip thru his weedy fingers, plunges, no more feather fall spells, onto a hard warehouse floor. Dooooosh! 4 stories worth of damarge! Medic!

Team Hatch (KC, Ulric & the Bard) approach a hatch. KC arrives first and attempts to pull it open.


Trap Activates

KC takes damage, Ulric just in the blast area takes damage ... Bard just out of blast area slows his movement towards the pair. KC undeterred, grabs the hatch handle once more and gives it a yank!.


Trap activates.

KC takes more damage, Ulric takes more damage...Bard stays 1 square behind Ulric (out of blast radius). Ulric steps back 1 square and glares at KC.

KC, the budding Thieves Guild recruit...decides to do a spot of Find and Remove Traps! ... sucess ... now to open the lock ... fail ...

Meanwhile downstairs, McGloogan surmises that the detonations above coupled to the sound of high speed Eldarin impact from inside means that 'no way is this Paladin just an innocent man out on a walk in the wee small hours'. He turns, raises a finger and tells two of the dogs to tear the knight limb from limb. He himself and 1 dog resumes their trek back to the warehouse door.

2 large muscular dogs angle in towards the Paladin, one canine's feral lunge goes awry whilst the other nips at the Paladin's calves. Baron Quentin invokes the power of his SeaShimmer cloak and passes through the warehouse wall..leaving the dogs to crash against the solid wall and bark with frustration.

Meanwhile, inside the warehouse, Dirkwood is assailed by multiple figures wearing leather armour and crossbows ... loads of sneak attacks and extra damage ... the halfling tumbles and rolls under a wagon for some respite ... where a sound alerts him to another hidden attacker! ... the halfling contorts his body to manuver himself into a position to attack. A deft lunge skewers the would-be attacker before he has a chance to act. Now hidden from quarrel fire ... Dirkwood wonders where the others have got too ...

Barking from outside, explosions on the roof and ... THUD! ... the eladrin mage smacking onto the warehouse floor. He watches 4 more thieves rise up from shadows to pepper the prone and dazed mage with crossbow bolts ... poisoned crossbow bolts 8-) ... Keemor looks in big trouble. So the Halfling tumbles away from the cart into the gloom by the warehouse walls and then hides in shadows. Thus leaving all the crossbowmen within the warehouse with only one target ... yes the prone, dazed and bloodied Mage.

A snarl from his right, alerts the halfling of the imminent return of one of the dogs together with McGloogan. Dirkwood quickly fishes out and smashes a vial of aniseed (which in real time he's had on his character sheet for years) onto the warehouse floor, he then backs away from the zone of stinking vapors directly away from the dog.

Meanwhile upstairs ... pick lock again ... fail again ... sighs of exasperation from the Bard and Dwarf followed by squeals and curses from down below.

The Paladin materialises inside the warehouse and is immediately attacked by hidden assailants. He takes a few poisoned quarrels but spots one xbow wielding attacker ... perched upon a nearby stack of crates ... the paladin sees an opportunity and rushes at and into the stack of crates ... the crates proved more sturdy than anticipated and only a few are dislodged. No way near enough to trouble the perched attacker. Who smoothly reloads his xbow and shoots the knight again.

McGloogan and 1 Dog (Murdoch) reach the warehouse doors and after a quick assessment of the situation, mage lying on floor getting peppering with xbow quarrels ... they head towards the more threatening adversary ... namely Baron Quentin.

Meanwhile hanging tough with the airborne brigade, Ulric's red mist begins to descend so before he goes totally berserk and slaughters KC and the Bard in a fit of pique, the dour handed dwarf uses the last ounces of mental control to step up to the trapdoor, shove the curvaceous but ineffectual form of KC aside and then launch a devastating axe attack into the wooden planks...the trapdoor explodes downwards in a shower of big splinters.

Ulric then glares at KC, who decides to jump down through the broken trapdoor before the dwarf gets any other ideas. The nimble woman lands deftly on the balls of her feet but is immediately assailed by Xbow wielding leather clad humans. KC suffers sneak damage and ongoing poison.

Upon the warehouse floor, the mightly oppressed Keemor crawls his way towards and then behind a big mound of sacks to gain some measure of respite from the furious xbow assault. He unleashes a magic missile that plucks one assailant from his perch.

The Paladin is assailed by McGloogan from the front and the dog Murdoch from the rear, the big canine biting furiously at the Paladin's armoured rear.

Seeing this, Dirkwoord stealths his way around towards the paladin and then launches a devastating attack aimed at McGloogan's back. So devastating is the attack that McGloogan's grants combat advantage to the halfling even thou his 'Eyes in the Back of your Head' feat should prevent such ploys (-100xps DM)..anyway Dirkwood gets the advantage and cunningly uses it to drive his vicious shortsword into an adjacent crate ... (fumble) ... right in and up to the hilt ...(saving throw) were it sticks fast ... epic fail 8-)

Left with a daggar the halfling gives the paladin a quick wave before tumbling back into the safely of the shadows. The paladin is now sorely oppressed. The 2 other dogs arrive (Jimmie and Rupert), 1 beast runs towards the fight between McGloogan and the Paladin, whilst the other launches itself towards the cowering mage.

Meanwhile in the warehouse office situated on high, 1st Airborne have deftly silenced their Xbow wielding attackers and then make their way gingerly down the stairs. They ascertain the situation on the warehouse floor, Keemor the mage is mightly assailed from all sides by Xbowmen with a large canine, teeth most prominent, angling towards him and the din of battle rising at the far end of the warehouse must be where the Paladin is bravely fighting for his dear life. Caerendil and Ulric sprint towards the Paladin whilst KC goes to help her arcane xxfriendxx xxcomradexx colleague.

Arcane magics, quarrels, dogs, teeth, snarls, hammers on plate, longswords on shields, manly bellows, more manly Roars! Sling bullets richochets all vie for aural supremacy within the cavernous warehouse.

KC arrives to assist Keemor with his little disagreement with a large canine and xbowman securely entrenched on his crate perch. The sorceress unleash a staggering lightening storm spell which should rend the dog and the xbowmen into smoking shreds ... the heavily blooded Keemor should remain relatively untouched ... probably ... maybe ...*cough* ... the spell goes off (if a little askew) and unleashes it's deadly lightening storm directly within the stack of sacks ... the mound is sundered and sacks of grain fly in all directions impacting on all in the vicinity ... KC, the Xbowmen ... Keemor the Mage ... and due to the nature of sorcery it seems to gain a life of it own as it continues to churn long after it's spell duration would allow it ... the 5 hit point Keemor is now 3 feet from a churning lightening storm and a large dog called Rupert intent on sinking his canine fangs into the mage's sweetmeats.

Ulric and the Bard quick march across the warehouse floor is uneventful, a few hidden assailants on the gantry do appear to rain down poisoned xbow bolts on the pair but these annoyances are swiftly dealt with and the duo arrive at the combat zone in good cheer ... where the Paladin, Osiris bless him, is still on his feet and fighting the good fight against his large bearded opponent.

The dog Jimmie turns away from harassing Baron Quentin to engage the oncoming Dwarf whilst the surprisingly stubborn Xbowman, still ensconced on the stack of crates, takes aim at Caerendil.

Dirkwood has managed to shimmy his shortsword out of the crate and returned to attack McGloogan from the rear. The sturdy McGloogan is trading unequal blows with an increasingly battered looking Paladin as the dog (Murdoch) continues to find no purchase on the knight's shiny metal ass. Damn your plate encased backside Mr Paladin!

KC magics the dog (Rupert) into the raging lightening storm as Keemor the mage succumbs to his many injuries and falls unconscious. The unfortunate Rupert is rent asunder by the churning maelstrom as KC performs healing and succor on Keemor.

The Fight at the Far End of the Warehouse also draws to a bloody close. Caerendil finally manages to pick the Xboxmen off his dug in position with some well placed arcana, Ulric brutally ends Jimmie the Dog's career as a watchdog, followed swiftly by Murdoch with a sorcerous assist from KC.

The party surround the big man McGloogan and knock a fair amount of stuffing out of the giant before the Paladin (maybe Caerendil - but I think it makes it more dramatic if it was the Paladin 8-)) calls on him to surrender. Bloodied and surrounded the bearded man throws down his hammer and holds up his meaty hands.

The battle is over and the party win again! That is good!

The Shapechangers: Chapter 4

Caerendil, Keemor and the rest of the party (bar KC) meet up and compare notes. The next port of call seems to be Mama Esher's Pastries and Boarding House at the southern extreme of the Thieves quarter. The group arrive at the establishement and Caerendil and Ulric venture inside. They are immediately struck by the smell of flour and baking which is all pervasive. Various dudes joke about setting sparks / flames within a flour infused atmosphere...ha ha ha..but what are the chances?

After a discussion with the owner (Mama Esher presumably?) Caerendil and Ulric go up to Harral Shastri room and give his door a robust knock. Just a minute, a voice from inside. Ulric replies by kicking in the door!

Harral hits the Bard and Ulric with a Fiery Bolt, then follows this up with an Avernian Eruption baking the pair upon burning coals before pulling up his robe and leaping through the window and unto a nearby roof! Undeterred and probably wanting to leave the building by the nearest available exit, Ulric and the Bard quickly follow the Sorcerer out the window and onto the adjoining roof.

The party members outside react to the commotion with Keemor lashing Harral with lightening magic. The warlock in reply skewers the Eladrin mage with an Iron Spike of Dis, a fiery spear of red hot iron which rises from the ground to impale the unsuspecting Keemor deep in his nethers. Ouch. However Harral is quickly cornered (well quicker than the DM had anticipated 8-)) by the party and they proceed to pound the living cr*p outta him.

On the ropes, the foul warlock pulls something from within his robes, points a rod at it and mutters something gutteral. A blast wave of arcane energy explodes outwards from Harral's location. All party members are flung backwards by the searing sorcerous wave.

When they regain their senses, they see that Harral in no more but instead 4 amorphous things are rapidly growing where Harral once stood...these things flop and thrash about as they continue to grow...until the Ettin, the Manticore, the Salamander and the ScytheClaw Drake walk into a Greyhawk bar.

The Party gird their loins for the start of the first real, evenly matched encounter ... good job nobodies blown their best dailies right? 8-). Ulric takes on the Salamander and is sorely pressed (due to his opponents high AC and vicious dual scimitar attacks). The Paladin trades unequals blows with the giant Ettin (probably because he's wearing no armour 8-)) Dirkwood pings and prances around combat hitting the ettin and scytheclaw drake whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Keemor unleash arcane magics at the Scytheclaw Drake whom chases him down and then rakes him pretty good in return. Caerendil from his relatively safe vantage point on the roof interdicts most of the monsters actions with wily psychic magics. It keeps the manticore from double teaming Ulric with the Salamander at any rate.

Eventually the Ettin is ground down by the Paladin, followed in rapid sucession by the Drake (Snake Nibbler proving it's worth) and then finally the Salamander. The Manticore now severely wounded flies away from the City to pastures less violent and more hospitable.

Keemor is the only one severely wounded but a bit of healing sorts him out fast. The remains of Harral Shastri and his room are thoroughly searched, revealing loads more money (bags of gems, and 3 bags of gold). A big wad of invoices are unearthed for payments made from the Guild of Wizardry to the warlock and a company trading in the River Quarter by the name of McGloogan's Import Export Company. Various dudes also pick up the ex warlock's rod and other arcane implements (can't remember whom).

Returning to the River Quarter the party find that McGloogan's Import / Export Company is based in a large warehouse, in a plump spot by the Cargo gate. Caerendil and Ulric the Entrepreneur look at each other and grin. It is also located within the area not paying Protection monies to Dirkwood's Guild and very, very close to the location of the rival thieves guild lair as indicated by KC. The Party are pretty beat up so decide to rest for a couple of hours. Their plan is to check out McGloogan's warehouse in the early morning gloom (around 4am)

Time passes. KC awakens to begin her dicey reconnoiter of the rival thieves guild lair. She dresses as a Nightwatchmen and disguises herself as a man (with obligatory big, bushy beard). After walking to the area she enters the building and makes her introductions. She plies her cover story for being there (i.e a new recruit transferring in from another part of the city) and meeting with no resistence gets to covert work.

Careful checking of the building as well as subtle questioning of nightwatchmen reveals little. It appears in all intent and purposes to be a Nighwatchmen station. All the Nightwatchmen appear to be honest and kosher. Crestfallen she returns home to ponder the situation.

There are two possibilities equally unpalatable. One, her information was wrong (but there were shadowy forms operating in that area before she is sure) or two, someone in Dirkwood's organisation spied her meeting with the halfling and tipped off the rival thieves guild ... who have now moved location.

Returning to her abode she removes her disguise and goes to report her findings to Dirkwood Littlelegs. Remarkably the halfling is still awake at this extremely early hour (3.00am...remind me to tell you about the time that natural 20s go bad) Dirkwood digests the ominous news from KC and then informs her of the events at the pastry shop. With only a few hours before the planned raid KC decides to rest at the warehouse, she is able to snooze which is more than the psyched halfling is able to do 8-)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Shapechangers: Chapter 3

The day after the night before begins early for some members of the party. Ulric is a dwarf on a mission and it doesn't involve rescuing milksop heirs that allow themselves to get kidnapped. On his long morning jaunt the Dwarf visits his favourite tailors where the design and dimensions of Caerendil's magnificent costume are imparted. Ulric ensures the proprioritor that this costume will be a surefire winner at balls to come in the new year.

Next the industrious dwarf tours the artisan quarter looking for a decent jewellers where he disgorges a vast quantity of gems in exchange for sizeable amount of gold. This small fortune he takes and desposits at the 1st Bank of Moradin after first opening an account. The final leg of his trek sees the Dwarf visit the Guild of Wizardry and to a meeting with Bubka, Mage of Exchange. Several unwanted waterbane weapons exchange hands for another sizeable amount of gold which too, gets deposited. Satisfied with his morning's work the dwarf trudges towards the Bard's abode looking for lunch.

KC arrives for work at the Green Dragon Inn and find her boss short handed. Several barmaids haven't reported for work this morning no doubt because of last night's festivities and he needs her to cover while he tries to hire some new help. Remembering her precarious predicament at the establishment KC pulls on an apron and gets to work. During the busy morning she learns that the missing barmaids are Brigette and Imogen.

Dirkwood awakens from his slumbers around mid morning with the words of Nerof Gasgal ringing loud in his ears. Well, thinks the pugnacious halfling, might as well get started. He makes his way leisurely back to the Patrician's Club, grabbing some breakfast rolls from a passing stall in the market. Arriving at his destination, Dirkwood decides to check out the escarpment ringing the Patrician's Club for additional clues.

Around noon Cearendil the Bard receives a summons from Count Ptreides concerning news about his abducted son. The minstrel wastes no time and hurries along the road towards the Urnst embassy where he bumps into the immaculately dressed and glowing paladin. The Baron is on his way to the embassy to offer whatever support and succor the Count and the authorities may require. The bard informs the knight of the Count's summons and the pair decide that perhaps they should go together to the Ambassador's residence.

Arriving at the embassy, the Caerendil and the Paladin quickly gain ingress and are lead to a room where they encounter the ambassador of Urnst, Count Ptreides and the mayor of Greyhawk Nerof Gasgal. Ill tidings await the pair as the Mayor relates the latest developments in the kidnapping of the Count's son. A note arrived this morning from the gang that abducted the boy Kerner demanding a sizeable ransom (10000 gold pieces!) to be paid within 3 days if the Ptreides family want to see their son alive.

In addition the Mayor's preliminary inquiries have revealed that other noble houses have suffered similar attacks during the last two years possibly from the same gang. They have not reported these abductions to the authorities in fear of scandal and appearing to look weak in front of the other noble houses.

The distraught Count looks to the Bard and Baron Quentin and says he'll be damned if he pays any money to such evil creatures. However he will double the ransom if Caerendil, Baron Quentin and his comrades can rescue his son before the deadline. The Bard and Paladin agree to the request immediately. Nerof spying the forlorn figure of Dirkwood Littlelegs scaling his way hither and thither upon the escarpment beyond, heartily endorsed the proposal. The Mayor informs all present that he has his top operative working on the case even as they speak and he's confident that he will have procured some useful leads.

A servant interrupts proceedings to inform the Count that Herbert, Kerner's personal guard and valet is awake again and well enough to answer questions (it was he who raised the alarm at the ball last night). The Bard and Baron Quentin take their leave of the Ambassador and the Mayor to go question the man.

They are lead upstairs and presented to a heavily bandaged man convalescing in bed. After a period of questioning the Bard and Paladin learn that Kerner has been seeing his secret girl for many months now. The pair had been meeting covertly at the Green Dragon Inn in the River Quarter.

He doesn't remember anything specific about the girls features other than a rough profile. Because he felt it prudent during these liaisons to maintain a respectful distance as not to discomfort nor embarrass the Viscount with his lady. No, He did not inform the Count that Kerner was seeing the girl because the Viscount forbade him to do so. How could he earn the trust of the Viscount if he couldn't keep his secrets? The only piece of information he has concerning the mystery girl is a name, Imogen.

Several ears perk up, Imogen, not Imogen, Imogen, barmaid Imogen from the Green Dragon Inn Imogen? Baron Nibble-Pibbly and Caerendil look at each other in that 'you thinking what I'm thinking' kinda way? and decide that a rapid departure from the ambassador's residence is in order.

On passing the escarpment bearing the Patrician's Club they scoop up the ineffectual halfling and head implacably towards the River Quarter. Transiting the gate of the High Quarter and out into the lower city, they encounter Ulric heading in the opposite direction. Explanations are made during which time Keemor the mage arrives (as one does when the whiff of combat is in the air) and the three become a five trudging in classic dwarven wedge formation towards their rendezvous with the Green Dragon establishment.

On arrival, they are met by KC who in the intervening time has not only fed and watered a multitude of satisfied customers but has also deduced who the likely culprit behind the kidnapping might be. The sorceress has removed her barmaid outfit and got full kitted out in tight, figure hugging leather armour (pert buttockis most prominent).

The address of errant barmaid is soon needled out of Richard Damaris, proprietor of the Green Dragon Inn and Team Furious Vengeance descend downtown to the Thieves Quarter and there onto the Boarding House bearing the sign of the Black Orchid.

Imogen's abode is opposite from the street where the headquarters of the Thieves Guild in this part of the city is located, so Dirkwood Littlelegs decides that it would be prudent to inform the Master Thief of this area (Sharyn Messenger) that he and Team FV will be investigating and snooping around (probably with some violence thrown in too).

KC, Caerendil and Keemor the mage enter the boarding house whilst Ulric and the Paladin remain outside comparing shoes and silver inlays (it's a long story). Inside, the triad of player characters encounter the force of nature that is Mrs Gale, the proprietor of the Black Orchid Boarding House. She is a very small, very olde, very stern white haired lady. The only other occupant in the room is a mysterious cowled man smoking a pipe who sits silently at a table by the fireplace.

Negotiations begin. No Imogen is not in, no you most definitely cannot gain entry to her room without her permission! Threats will not work, I pay my Anti-Burglary Protection every month so any problems from you and you'll be answering to the Mr Messenger himself!

As the negotiations get more heated a big, burly, hairy, large canine toothed ... erm ... man? enters the establishment through the front door and pauses when he overhears Mrs Gale conversing with the party members in strident tones.

Shambling over to the group, the gruff, muscular, slight greenish tinge to his complexion ... man? bellows, Anything the matter Mrs G?. Oh nothing to trouble you Dooth, replies Mrs Gale, I'm just explaining some boarding house rules to these young folk. The sub-bestial, uncouth man? grunts before walking away and up a flight of stairs leading presumably to his room.

Dirkwood having made the acquaintance of the Master Thief of this quarter, returns to join the Paladin and Ulric outside the boarding house and there to join the seemingly life and death discussion regarding shoes and silver inlays (DM facepalm).

An attractive, buxom woman wearing garments of leather tightly laced in the fantasy tradition and carrying a brown paper bag, struts past the trio of party members conversing in raucous tones outside the boarding house and steps nimbly inside. Baron Quentin does a double take and leaves his oblivious compatriots to their ramblings and follows the young lady into the establishment.

Ah Imogen you've back, utters Mrs Gale as the young buxom leather clad woman steps into the reception area. The party turn towards the newcomer, the perplexed woman looks at the party and the pipe smoking, silent, cowled man puts down his pipe (to which Rich whispers your all dead, your all so dead 8-)). The paladin enters through the front door and closes it purposely behind him.

The Party confront the barmaid and begin questioning her about her whereabouts last night, and her part in the kidnapping of Kerner Ptriedes. During this phony war, Caerendil notices a blemish on Imogen's face covered by heavy makeup.

Trapped into a corner, Imogen reacts, she grabs the Paladin's longsword, slashes him across the chest and then tosses him into the room...in one deft, flowing move.

The sudden assault wrong foots the majority of the people in the room with KC recovering swiftest. Before the sorceress can react however, the leather clad barmaid has already launched another attack striking KC, the Paladin and the unfortunate Miss Gale in a Blinding Barrage before exiting the establishment.

Outside she encounters Dirkwood and Ulric who have paused in their footwear deliberations by the sudden noise of combat from within and noting their intent uses her remaining movement to shim up the boarding house wall and then up onto the roof. A furious shout from the dwarf makes her pause as Dirkwood Littlelegs nimbly shuttles up after her onto the roof.

Seeing that Ulric is no threat, Imogen ignores him and neatly sidesteps Dirkwood's feeble attack before running and jumping onto the roof of a house across the street. The shocked halfling follows after the fleeing Imogen nimbly leaping unto the adjacent roof, whilst Ulric tries his first spot of climbing action and succeeds! The others party members inside the boarding house have recovered somewhat. The paladin swifty kneels by the stricken form of Mrs Gale and lays on hands. The others run outside to assess the situation.

A flailing Ulric leaps onto the neighboring roof shattering tiles with his heavy (silver inlaid) shoes. Untangling himself he watches as the erstwhile Dirkwood battles the female assailant alone. Finally free of debris, the dwarf joins the fray, as Imogen knocks the halfling prone with an adroit leg sweep.

Perhaps being a little over eager, Ulric overcooks a wild swing that leaves his renown glass jaw somewhat exposed. His female opponent sees the opportunity and strikes the spot with a stinging uppercut and knocks the veteran fighter unconscious! Ulric slumps to the floor as Imogen turns to flee once more. The dazed Dirkwood recovers from his flooring and lunges at Imogen with his shortsword. His strike is true and the female thief is deftly skewered through the abdomen by the halfling's vicious shortsword.

The mortally wounded Imogen falls off roof onto a series of spiked railings...which leaves her really dead 8-). Breathing heavily, Dirkwood sheathes his weapons and goes to apprehend the condition of Ulric von Himmler. Losing his footing on the snowy roof the halfing slides down the incline and into the prone and unconscious body of the dwarf lying on the lip of the roof ... sending it over the edge, off the roof and onto the street below. Ulric regains consciousness in a snowy gutter.

Caerendil and the Paladin arrive at the railings and the skewered body of the former barmaid. Conducting a search they find a a bag containing 1000gps on the dead woman. They then co-ordinate with the officers of the Watch as they arrive and the body is sent away to the city morgue.

Imogen's room at the boarding house is thoroughly searched and a large quantity of gold, thieves gear & disguise kits are found. Dirkwood finds a brown bag full of pastries, freshly made, that was dropped by the deceased Imogen when the fight inside the boarding house erupted. The insignia of 'Mama Eshers' is stamped on the bag. The halfling scoffs the lot before scrunching up and throwing away the brown paper bag (DM sobbing sounds).

Caerendil the Bard has an epiphany and suggests they use Keemor's new position as 'Head of Post Mortem Communications' to question the dead Imogen. Keemor is amiable to such a plan as he always harboured a secret desire to try his hand at necromancy (oh really Dabe?). The rest of the party also agree to this most excellent of excellent plans. They visit the morgue and appropriate the slain body of the barmaid and then head to the University of Magic in the clerical quarter of the city.

Outside the university, Keemor the Mage is kept waiting by the bastad Dwarven porters. The Eladrin Mage nearly loses it and raises a charged and loaded wand at his tormentors before remembering (in the nick of time) that their all highly magic resistant. Controlling his killing urge the seething Eladrin heads to his laboratory with the rest of the party in tow. Here the Head of Post Mortem Communications angrily opens and rifled through the Big Book of Necromancy Volume 1 before settling on the page containing the 'Speak with Dead' ritual.

The corpse of Imogen Gullet is placed on a stone slab as Keemor the Mage begin the necrotic ritual. The Shade of Imogen materialises, the former barmaid appears about 10 years older than her physical body would suggest.

Caerendil poses the Shade a few, pointed questions and learns some useful information. She came from seeing Harral Shastri at Mama Eshers Bakery and Boarding House. The gold she had on her was payment for their last job. Their last job was providing Heronymous Tigana at the Guild of Wizardry with monster parts. The monster parts are used to make potions.

Eventually the mental strain of keeping the ritual going proves too much for Keemor and the ritual ends abruptly as the body of Imogen Gullet crumples to dust ...

KC prepares for a nocturnal reconnoiter of the Night Watch station in the River Quarter, the suspected lair of the Rival Thieves Guild. She buys some suitable attire, an abode in the River Quarter and there tries to rests in preparation for the long night ahead.

The Shapechangers: Chapter 2

The venue for the ball will be 'The Patrician's Club', the finest gentleman's club in the whole of the city, a multi level sprawling establishment that boasts restaurants, gaming rooms, gardens in addition to a fine and spacious ballroom. The tentative start of the ball is 9.00pm thou the majority of attendees do not normally arrive until 10.00pm.

Dirkwood and Ulrich feel they have no reason to stand on ritual and thus arrive early at around 8.45pm. The pair cluster around the entrance casually watching the hive of frenzied preparation swirl about them, Ulric pops the stopper on a wineskin from his six bag bundle of wineskins filled with ale and offers it to Dirkwood. KC arrives a few moments shy of 9.00pm wearing an emerald shimmering dryad inspired outfit complete with a mask, the demi-humans curtly acknowledge her appearance and then give each other a meaningful look.

As time passes more dwarves, gnomes, halflings and humans arrive and mingle around the entrance together with Dirkwood, Ulric & KC. Eventually the grand doors of the Patrician's Club are opened wide and the Mid Winter's Ball of Greyhawk formally begins. The horde of demi-humans enter the establishment and make a beeline towards the food and drink.

The festivities get into full swing as more and more attendees arrive, there are Dwarves from the settlements of Karakast, Dumadan and Greysmere (with some of the younger ones sporting a look not dissimilar to Urza Jaddo, that is shorn beards and high flung hair!) Ulric doesn't know what to make of it and neither it seems do the Dwarven Elders but it has an immediate reaction on all non-dwarves present and hushed whispers erupt around the ballroom.

There are Elves from Celene, Gnomes from the nearby settlement of Gottesegrottell(a Greyhawk Protectorate), halflings from Elmshire, Mages from the Guild of Wizardry (with Keemor being introduced as the new 'Head of Post Mortem Communications') and the Circle of Six (formerly the Circle of Eight) including such legendary figures as Mordenkainen, Bigsby, Drawmij, Otto and Nystul, Mercantile Houses from near and far, Nobles Houses of the City of Greyhawk, Clergy of numerous denominations and finally dignitaries and their consulate staff from a wide array of foreign lands.

The sunken eyed, haggard looking Baron Quentin Nibble-Pibbly arrives at the Patrician's Club and is heralded inside to little notice or fanfare. Downcast, the stooped knight plods across the ballroom to mingle as best as he is able with the other foreign consuls. To complete his evening Starfast Chaos-Destroyer, the newly appointed Ambassador of Geoff arrives to great cheers and raucous applause. The old warhorse is accompanied by a pair of beautiful women on each of his gleaming uniformed arms. Oh Joy. 8-)

A suitably cloaked and warded Caerendil Elandanior is helped into one of the carriages bearing the crest of the House of Ptreides by a team of crack footmen. Seated within his carriage he finds his fellow passengers to be the youngest son of the Count, eleven year old Viscount Bruhl, his older sister Katrin and her chaperone for the night the noble Lord Henway.

The procession of carriages begin their leisurely journey to the Patrician Club as Caerendil the Bard converses and entertains his fellow passengers. The scholarly Lord Henway inquires whether the Bard is still actively adventuring as he is always on the lookout for new monsters to add to his menagerie. He'll pay top money for worthwhile specimens. Katrin and Bruhl let on that their elder Brother Kerner (the Count's heir) is secretly seeing a girl in Greyhawk to much teenage giggling. The carriage soon arrives at it's destination and the Count's party are ushered inside and then formally introduced.

With the celebrations in full swing and with most of the invited having arrived, the floor of the ballroom is cleared to allow for the first of the night's dances to commence. Mordenkainen and his fellow mages gather to conduct some great magics to make the dance floor appear to float on the tops of clouds.

As masked couples begin to glide onto the floor, a young nobleman asks KC for her hand in a dance. Accepting, she is swept onto the ballroom floor and soon loses herself to dancing. The pair are well matched as they twirl and pivot around the floor in flawless precision (One day Morgy I'm gonna make you pay for forcing me to write this stuff!)

Meanwhile the sullen paladin stands alone and unloved. He watches as the laughing Ambassador of Geoff wheels around the ballroom asking partner after partner for a dance and meeting with no rejection. Baron Quentin takes another large gulp from his emptying wine glass just as a series of loud gasps from one segment of the gathered crowd draws his attention. The turning of heads cause others to pause and seek the cause of the commotion and very soon the majority within the ballroom are casting eyes towards the epicenter of the exclamations and onto...

Caerendil the Bard standing resplendent in his fantastically insane costume!

Defying quantum mechanics and various other universal constants ... Time itself comes to a standstill ... an appalling stillness falls within the ballroom punctuated in regularity by the gentle sound of a fainting female body (and the odd elven one).

The Bard, together with his ... beautiful partner ... glow and radiate out into the souls of all present (you remember that scene in Bablyon 5 when Kosh finally revealed himself?) Most people touched are warmed and heartened by the magnificent spectacle, a few, cruel souls are sickened to their very core. They wish to blot out the sight of the monstrosity with bile or gouge their eyes to eradicate all images of the blasphemy...

...the moment of immaculate perfection passes...

Great cheers and a general hubbub erupt inside the ballroom as a great mass of people surge to meet and touch the fabric of Caerendil and his magnificent costume. A few others, rush to the drinking tables to order stiff restoratives to calm and clear seared minds. As music and dancing resumes within the room, the great weight on the Paladin's spirit lifts and evaporates as his inherent font of goodness gushes forth once more...a grand Dama appears and asks the privilege of his company in a dance. The beaming, glowing paladin replies that he would be most delighted and taking his partner by the hand guides her serenely onto the marble floor.

The people at the Ball who have come for things other than dancing and socialising also congregate together in small knots to talk and negotiate. Ulric manages to gather several of the larger mercantile houses and Dwarven Elders together and manages to strike a deal in which if he and Urza are able to raise enough capital to buy a workshop / warehouse, equip it with the necessary tools, equipment and staff and then churn out a few of the "Warforged" prototypes that Urza says he can build then he and Urza will be very rich indeed (to the tune of several hundreds of thousands of gold pieces).

Moving through the crowd Dirkwood spots his olde mentor Nerof and pauses to converse. The pair witness the spectacle of the ball as they discuss Dirkwood's business and problems in the River Quarter in low, hushed tones. Keemor the Mage is also circulating amongst the crowds as part of the delegation from the Guild of Wizardry, eventually the trio of wizards arrive at the corner of the room hosting Mordenkainen and the Circle of Six. Tobin and Bubka offer muted greetings before moving on, but the Eladrin is starstruck at meeting his idol Bigsy in the flesh, he has trouble speaking as he is introduced to each of the legendary mages in turn and they in turn introduce themselves to him.

Recovering from this Keemor grabs a drink before spotting a large contingent of Drow elves nearby, relaxing and enjoying the ball's festivities (other party members also perk up at the mention of the word 'Drow' and the possibility of combat 8-)). Unsure of what to do, as nobody else seems to have noticed or seems to care about these fell creatures in their midst, the mage simply stands there open mouthed staring at the drow party for some time.

Eventually this subtle observation catches the attention of one immaculately dressed Drow Elf who leaves his fellows to walk over to the Eladrin and bow deeply in greeting. He introduces himself as Prince Melf Brightflame of Celene and the rest of his fellows as the 'Knights of Luna'. Keemor remains silent and simply stares between Melf and the other Drow elves unsure of how to respond. With a click of his fingers the glamour surrounding Melf and the other "Drow" melts away to reveal Eladrin and Wood Elves.

Eventually the name "Melf" registers within Keemor's keen mind as the creator of the Melf's Acid Arrow and Melf's Minute Meteors range of spells ... comprehension flares within the mage of just whom he's talking to ... and with it his ability to vocalise simple sentences.

As the ball continues into the early hours, more and more of our heroes head to the floor to dance and make merry (even the normally dour Ulric can be found here kicking his feet up in the traditional dwarven way). As the last strands of final song finish for the evening and people gather themselves and contemplate returning to their abodes, a shrill scream cuts through the festive atmosphere. The crowd parts to reveal a man stumbling into the ballroom. He wear the livery of the House of Count Ptreides splattered in blood. The man takes a few unsteady steps before falling heavily to the floor and there to stain the shiny marbling with his crimson blood.

The Count, his family and guards rush to the fallen man to learn of what has transpired. The fallen man's raises one arm and points towards the gardens and whispers '...they've taken the viscount' before falling unconscious. All present are shocked and a number of the party immediately head towards the gardens with the Count's men. Ulrich however, cannot hide his disappointment 8-)

A crowd soon forms in the garden around the scene of the assault and abduction, members of the City Watch form a cordon around it keeping the onlookers back. Nerof and Dirkwood arrive and are allowed through as are the Count and his entourage (including Carendil).

Preliminary investigations reveal 2 sets of tracks, one of a big man and one of normal size. Prodded by Nerof, Dirkwoord casts his keen eyes over the area looking for clues. The rest of the party arrive at the cordon and are negotiated through by the Bard. After a thorough search various clues and evidence are uncovered. There were 4 assailants, the big man, the normal size one and 2 fainter tracks, 1 possibly female the other possibly elven due to their faint markings. A scrap of purple silk, possibly from a scarf or shawl is found by the escarpment leading onto the road below. Party members cast their minds back to the ball and several do remember a man dressed in a shock of colours, possibly of an arcane bent that did sport a purple scarf in addition to other gaudy clothing.

Dirkwood receives instruction from Nerof concerning the importance of the Count and his country to the well being of the City of Greyhawk. Urnst was one of the few countries untouched by the recent Greyhawk wars and thus are fortunate in having a full treasury. The Mayor of Greyhawk would very much like this gold to be spent within this city and as such will provide all of the city's resources to aid in the recovery of the Ptreides's heir. As Dirkwood's compatriot Caerendil seems to be on such good terms with the Count, those resources includes the halfling and his friends also.