Friday, October 22, 2010

EPISODE XXXVI: The End of the Trail III

Juliar 29-30

The next morning Early disguises the barbarians in heavy gray robes and works on sneaking them out of the city. Vatex, Dziga, and Emeris head to the Adventurers’ Square to have their reams of loot identified.

The staff at Myraeth’s Oddities identifies their many goods. They sell everything recovered from the Pythoness House arsenal, and everything else they looted from their dead enemies at the Apocalyptic Sanctuary. In the end the group collectively has about 40,000 gold coins. Vatex drops every last dime he has on the belt of giant’s strength that he’d been eyeing for weeks at in Myraeth’s shop. It is practically a miracle no one had purchased it already.

The group then heads to the fortress of Dalengard in Oldtown with Drax’s treaty, getting through the bureaucratic layers of security to eventually speak with the Commissar himself and a few members of the city council, as well as other advisors from the Holy Order of Vigoor and the Inverted Pyramid. The companions give a limited account of their recent conflicts with Khyron’s forces, and how their adventurers led them to rescue King Drax. They explain Khyron’s plan to use Drax’s death and the barbarian siege as components in a dark ritual that could have awoken the Ancients sleeping in the caverns beneath the city. A debate ensues among the council members and advisors, some thinking it must be some sort of deception and the clerics wanting to end the bloodshed. The Commissar, an eminently practical man, agrees to sign the treaty and allow the barbarian army to withdraw without interference.

With that, the Commissar bids that the companions return to the barbarian camp to seal the deal with Drax. He also insists that his ambassador, a cheerless old bureaucrat named ARUTHA, accompany them so as to observe the proceedings. He offers a unit of soldiers as well, but Emeris discourages any appearance of a threat. The companions regroup with Early and the four of them head to the barbarian camp with Arutha.

The barbarians greet the companions with open arms and cheers, celebrating them as heroes as the story of King Drax’s rescue has been heard by everyone there. When it is confirmed that the Commissar has accepted the treaty, Drax tells everyone to prepare to return to the portal in the mountains of Willendorf, so they can go back to Silmaria.

Drax thanks them profoundly:

“You have saved my life and saved my people from a needless conflict with the Elanians. If we were at my palace in Silmaria, I would lavish gold and jewels upon you. Here, let me offer you a more personal gift, one that could be far more valuable than any treasure.”

He gives them his last Phoenix Medallion, given to him by the Caliph of Shapir many years ago. When they ask about the nature of its power, he mysteriously answers, “Learn of my adventurers and you will learn of the Phoenix Medallion’s great power.”

With that, they bid farewell to the King of Silmaria, and return back to Dalengard. Along the way Arutha tells the companions that the entire city will regard them as heroes. Although the Commissar would never acknowledge that they “saved” the city of Elan, he will still reward them handsomely.

At Dalengard, the Commissar thanks them and invites them to an impromptu banquet in their honor, to be held that evening. The group is excited about their sudden burst of prestige, and purchases excellent courtier’s clothing so they can fit in with the high-status crowd.

When the companions arrive at Dalengard’s banquet hall, they are heaped with attention and praise. The entire gathering is not huge likely on account of the short notice, but many interesting people are there, including the Iron Mage, who arrives at one point to observe silently. Emeris, the most charismatic of the group, commands the most attention, especially from a couple of gorgeous socialite girls from the Nobles District. But the woman who really catches his attention is SILVARA DALLIMOTHAN. The blood of dragons is known to flow in the noble family’s veins, and Silvara’s draconic beauty is staggering. Unfortunately, his flirting is unable to impress her.

After an extravagant dinner, there is a ceremony in which the Commissar gives the companions some extremely generous gifts. First there is an exquisite painting of the the late Emperor von Tessel’s naval flagship. They are also given the crown of an old kingdom called Vel, long ago absorbed by the Empire, made of pure silver and decorated with black pearls. Their third gift is a set of three beautiful sapphires called the “Ocean’s Daughters”. Their fourth gift is the Amulet of Cassima’s Tears, which can grant the user the ability to stay alive longer in battle.

Lastly, and best of all, they are given the property deed to the Rosegate House, an exquisite mansion in the Nobles District. It had been taken over by the city when the previous owner went delinquent on taxes. The only problem is that the Commissar insists it be signed over to their adventuring company, not them personally. But because they have never done any formal “dungeon delves” they have never registered with the city as such a company. Therefore they will need to come up with a name for their group.

The companions feel like they are on top of the world when they leave the banquet. That changes quickly. Judge Rahl confronts them outside the banquet hall, with a contingent of troops. He says that he is arresting Dziga for the murder of his girlfriend Marin, and the infant girl from the Rivergate District. The Commissar is clearly disturbed and angry by the turn of events, and tells Emeris that if Dziga is innocent of these crimes, he has nothing to worry about. If he is guilty, he will need an excellent lawyer. As Dziga is shackled and hauled away, the others presume their friend is doomed. While Elan’s law enforcement was considered a joke, the same could not be said of its justice system. If charges were being laid against Dziga for murder, they would probably never see their friend again.

From jail, Dziga hires the lawyer LUIGI NONO. Although he is one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the city, when he reviews he evidence he sees that it is impossible to get an acquittal at trial. Judge Rahl has a witness who saw Dziga running from his old apartment, splattered his dead girlfriend’s blood. Even more damning, when Rahl searched the apartment, he found a tiny hidden room that contained children’s bones, an old blanket with dark stains, a sacrificial knife, and a stained bowl made of some unidentifiable metal. With magic, Rahl determined that the stains were from old blood that came from the Rivergate girl.

This seems to confirm for Dziga that the murder of the infant that night with Keziah the hag really did happen. And yet, something did not seem quite right about the whole thing. Dziga was allowed to see the evidence. The knife, the bowl, the bones… they all looked very old, although the murder was supposedly only a week or so ago. He definitely was not consciously aware of any tiny room in his apartment where this evidence was found.

It seems that Dziga will be facing a death sentence, but then a way out comes to mind. Back when they broke into Helmut Itlstein’s house, the shadowcaster had stolen various documents, including esoteric prophecies and political writings. Itlstein was, after all, the high priest of the Watcher of the Skies here in Elan and the leader of the Republican movement. They had information that should be damning to Helmut -- the battle plans accompanying one particular prophecy:

“A test of will, a test of faith, the children of the New Gods are Silenced by the Black Rain.”

According to Helmut’s writings, this meant that on a single night black rain would fall from the sky, and all clerics who draw their power from the “new gods” (that is, virtually all gods commonly worshipped in the civilized world today) would lose their divine magic. Helmut had laid out battle plans with intricate maps and tactical descriptions where he would attack the Holy Palace in the Nobles District. How exactly he planned to do this and with who was not clear, but it might provide leverage for negotiation.

Luigi visits the rented house of Emeris and Early, where the companions are packing up their stuff with Seanus, getting ready to move into the Rosegate House. The lawyer tells them of Dziga’s situation and gets the documents from Emeris. He then returns to Dalengard to meet with Judge Rahl. He negotiates a deal whereby Dziga will be granted full immunity for providing evidence that gets Helmut conviced of treason. As the leader of the Republicans is a major political enemy of the Empire and especially the Elan government, to imprison him for life with treason charges is worth making a deal with the devil. However, Vatex, Early, and Emeris must agree to testify against Helmut at trial as well, if necessary to confirm the documents came from Helmut’s home.

Luigi assures them with this deal Dziga will get out, so long as everyone provides truthful testimony at Helmut’s trial, but getting bail until then for the shadowdancer will take a day or two. Luigi also warns the companions not to leave the city until these legal issues are resolved, for they are considered vital witnesses in a case against one of the city’s most powerful men and failure to fulfill those duties entails serious consequences under imperial law.

As the group finishes packing up the old house, they discuss possible names for their adventuring company so that they can take ownership of the Rosegate House. Many adventurers still await them – the lost page of the Book of Inverted Shadows lies somewhere in the Banewarrens, where powerful monsters seek dark treasures of their own; Shilukar’s contract still stands to kill Dr Feagus so that he cannot build his anti-chaositech machine; the portal to the Glade of Ravaan remains open; and they may have to face more of Helmut Itlstein’s assassins.

Early can feel Cryssaegrym growing more powerful, and as it does so does the fatalistic sense within the warblade that he must someday fulfill the sword’s purpose by destroying “the Worm that Walks”. But first he must grow more powerful and complete two more legacy rituals. This will take much training of mind and body.

In jail, Dziga wonders about his dark dreams of Keziah and the Black Man. Occasionally he thinks of the mysterious star-headed thing, and his gaze sometimes shifts through the barred window to the Spire in the distance, and Goth Gulgamel. Why did the entity possessing the star-headed thing have him go up there?

And Vatex, while washing his face again sees the silver haired elf woman in the mirror. It is the same woman he saw in the mirror in the abandoned manor above the tunnel to the Banewarrens two weeks ago. He gets a better look this time before the image fades, and sees that she is extremely beautiful and looks very sad. Again she seems ineffably familiar and he wonders who she is and why she is appearing to him. Is she some sort of spirit or the image of a living person?

Random Elanian Factoid: The Holy Palace is the home of the Holy Order of Vigoor’s religious leader, Archprelate Ronway. He believes he should be the secular leader of Vigoor as well, above the Circle of Nine and second only to the Holy Emperor himself.

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