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.

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