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 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.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Shapechangers: Chapter 1

After several months in the City of Greyhawk, being lauded and celebrated for their epic naval victory against the arrayed forces of Iuz the Old most members of the party are invited to the last and most prestigious social event of the year, the grand Mid Winters Ball of Greyhawk.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves, let me fill you in on the wheretos and whereabouts of some of Greyhawk's finest sons (and daughters).

Brother Kelly has spent much of his time helping the poor and penniless in the many refugee camps slowly growing outside the city walls. The needs of the many in the midst of winter are too great for him to go and attend any balls.

Teckcos Tik has returned to the Kingdom of Keoland as part of the Ambassador's entourage to seek instruction regarding the King's plans for the upcoming year.

The young Korbin Shortshanks has left the city to visit his nan and family in the halfling enclave of Elmshire.

Leaving Dirkwood Littlelegs without his right hand man when he's juggling with his Thieves Guild resources..monthly tithe due and monies are matter how he aligns the columns the numbers just don't add up right! Lofty ideas about branching out into new revenue streams like "blackmailing" and "drugs" are soon discarded as the DM discusses with him the nature of the current 'Mugging' enterprise and how that sits with his Chaotic Goodness? The doughty halfling contemplates the "ifs" whilst smoking his pipe and trying to make the swirling numbers add up.


Ulric will be going to the ball and no not to do any wussy dancing but to make himself rich! (which some may see as ironic) Acquiring about suitable attire and weaponry at the festivities he is shocked to discover that chain mail and big axes are considered uncouth for such an event.

Even Dwarves wear normal clothes (and most definitely not made of chain) when attending the ball (although some do offset this with a chain sash draped over the shoulder)....shaken..but not stirred Ulric finds himself the nearest tailor shop in the Artisan Quarter and there buys himself his very first sharp suit (made from finest, smoothest moleskin).

Asked to pay 20gps for the clothing, Ulric hands the tailor 5 platinum pieces (500gp)! The tailor is initially stunned at the generosity but recovers quickly, not only will he make Ulric another suit for free but the Dwarf can have a new suit every year for free while this tailor is owner of this tailor's shop!

He even has a daughter that may be...anyway...thanking the tailor for his services Ulric departs with his clothes.


Baron Quentin dresses after a ghastly night and feels somewhat under the weather. He will still have to attend tonight's Ball as he is the highest ranking representative of the Kingdom of Keoland currently in Greyhawk. As his day proceeds and noting how people treat him like a normal 'fighter' rather than a gleaming pillar of goodness that he's become accustomed too, the Baron surmises that a trip to the Temple of Osiris is required and there to have a long talk with the High Priest. An audience is soon arranged and the Knight relays the sad contents of his nightmare as best as he is able to the listening priest.

'What does it all means'? asks the troubled Knight.

The High Priest is sorely vexed but can only speculate until he's had time to do a full augury with Osiris (which will take a few days) but after further questioning, he is able to determine the face of the man in the dream to be the Renee who perished at the hands of his comrades whilst the Paladin knowingly 'turned his back' and went to buy his rug.

The High Priest then asks whether the Baron Quentin has ever been burned in his life or applied the touch of flame to his naked skin as a punishment? Why? because fire and flames featured so prominently in the Paladin's nightmare. It is a common mechanism used by the sinner to punish and seek absolution for their misdemeanors
....after a short pause the Paladin's meets the High Priest's eyes and replies in the negative. 8-)


KC decide that a secret kept is money wasted so decides to visit Dirkwood to sell her information regarding the location of the rival thieves guild. She traverses the alley to his HQ and after negotiating with some lookouts is lead in to meet with the busy halfling. KC lays down her proposition. Rival thief's guild location for membership for KC within the Greyhawk Thieves Guild. Dirkwood agrees to this but only if the information is accurate. KC assures him that it is and tells him the location.

Dirkwood is unconvinced, the location is a Nightwatchmen station he want's proof that the rogue thieves really do operate from there. Eventually they agree that if KC can reconnoiter and gather solid info that the rival thieves are where she says they are, then Dirkwood will vouch for KC to become a member of the Thieves Guild of Greyhawk.

To cement the deal Dirkwood asks KC whether she wouldn't mind "polishing his manservant" ... KC's resulting stare could freeze coals...not wanting to end their pact on such a sour note Dirkwood then asks whether she wouldn't mind being his "+1" for the Greyhawk Mid Winters Ball this evening? KC goes all girlie and readily accepts the chivalrous halfling's noble gesture (I kinda missed this conversation so I've done my best to fill in the blanks 8-))


During a staff meeting at the Guild of Wizardy, Keemor the Mage is informed that as he is the newest member of the faculty that he will be required to attend the Mid Winter's Ball as part of the Guild of Wizardry's delegation.

It's always worthwhile letting the high and mighty of the great city know the calibre of people we have working at the Guild informs the beaming Arch Chancellor. Keemor will be joined in the delegation by Kondradis Bubka, Mage of Exchange and the senior tutor Tobin Potriades, a man not only of great age but also of a greater capacity for food and drink.


Dedicated readers of this journal may no doubt be unsurprised to find Caerendil the Bard on his hands and knees. What they will find astounding however is that Bard is in deep and contemplative prayar with the goddess Sehanine. The stress of house repairs, house renovations, house modifications, the constant bills, balls, clothes and particularly his costume for the ball is all together proving to much for the erstwhile minstrel..However, however, however will I get to the ball wearing my masterpiece he begs of his deity...perhaps hiring a fine carriage with his last 50gps and a large cloak to hide it until the time is right?....maybe...all I need is a few minutes of peace to formulate my thoughts...

...a knock at the door...

Alright Guvnor, my employer asked me to bring these over to you. It's the design of those wine labels you wanted doing...

(hands over designs)

and whether you wish to proceed with a print run of 500 copies?...The Bard surveys the intricate design on the paper labels with an expert eye...yes, they are everything that he wishes people to know about the great Caerendil Elandianor! Yes my good man I do wish to proceed. Right you are Guvnor, my master will require a small deposit of 50gp...

(the last of the Bard's money changes hands)

Mite obliged Guvnor...exit cockney craftsman left, leaving the Bard to return to his absolutions...yes hiring a fine carriage to take me to the....Blast!...wait a moment we can still work this out..a few moments of peace and I'll have it...

...a knock at the door...

Damnation!...A man wearing the liver..liver? livery of the House of Count Ptreides of Urnst stands to attention outside the door. The Bard finding some decorum from somewhere ventures a strangled 'yes?'.

The Ptreides man informs the Bard that his master would like to extend an invitation for Sir Caerendil Elandanior to accompany him and his to the ball tonight. He asks whether the Bard would deign him such a small boon?

Caerendil looks at the man and then into camera.

The Bard makes a point to pause and reflect before accepting the invitation as long as, and the Bard wishes to hear no refusals to this part, as long as the Count and his family will allow him to provide the transportation for next years ball? The Ptreides man says that he can see no reason why the Count would not be amicable to such a request. Honour satisfied the pair part ways and Caerendil returns to his sincere praying.