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Session 117 - A Party Chooses

posted Jul 11, 2016, 1:18 PM by Will McCain   [ updated Jul 12, 2016, 1:08 PM ]
Unsure of just what they'd found, the Maladroits reported back to Cloverbell. They found the young gnome and Clobbbb enjoying a hearty meal at the Green Olive. When they recall what they saw, Cloverbell dropped her utensils and was overcome with concern and fear. She told the Maladroits that she wanted to see the entrance, but they convinced her to let them investigate a bit first while she regained her strength. They also had her station some of her agents to keep an eye on anything else that might come out of it. 

Knowing that they made headway with their quest, the group returned to the Ivory Tower. Their magical friends were all still busy in Rufus' study, but were heartened - and confused - by the presence of Gnometown. Despite this, Morvant was anxious to get out of the tower and get something to eat, so they all (save Rufus and his Monties) made their way to the Pimento. After polymorphing Eueth, of course. Once there, they were disarmed by a tired, apologetic Aubin telling them that their usual room had been taken by the Invincible Trio. They settle for another room, but conversation was difficult over the ruckus that the Trio was causing nearby. They learn from the put-upon Aubin that this was the modus operandi of the Invincible Trio whenever they came to Riparia. They party raucously, ruin establishments, and disrespect those that own and patronize them, but have enough wealth that people tolerate them and repair the damages once they leave. Alera attempted to make a gesture of goodwill by sending them each a Hammerfist Special. Later in the meal, Aubin returned with the three (empty) dishes, and apologized as he delivered the Trio's exact reply to her generosity: by smashing each dish on the ground and belittling the gift. Though he was given 500 gold to do so, he rankled at the deed. 

While Callon asked the rest of the party how behavior from such "heroes" could be tolerated, Lucas requested some Invisibility from Master Morvant and snuck into the Trio's room. Taking an unassuming place in the corner, he studied them for several minutes. The large human fighter, who he assumed to be Bull, was a massive man a bit taller than even Callon and arrayed in full plate. The Dancing Lights and Faerie Fires he sees swirling above the table were being produced by a dwarf. Fox, he figured. He noticed that he had many rings he kept switching out. The last of the trio was another dwarf who kept to himself, sipping from a closely held mug and occasionally joining with his fellows in laughs and cheers. Cat. Lucas made mental notes of the braiding styles for each dwarf's beards for relating to someone who would know the significance. He continued to watch as they recounted (admittedly) impressive deeds that they had each done and drinking to them. He noticed, though, that when each of them spoke of a deed, it was to celebrate themselves, not the group. Having learned enough (and reaching the end of his patience), Lucas slipped out and rejoined his friends. He recounted what he had learned, and Aubin was able to tell him that the braid in Fox's beard signified him as a member of the Ironheart clan, who were often leaders in dwarven society. 

After dinner, Lucas decided to do one final bit of reconnaissance while the rest of the group returned to the Tower or Bramblewick. Taking to the rooftops, he followed the Trio as they made their way back to their lodgings. They finally arrived at an inn, where they... checked in? It seemed that they chose a different place to stay each night. Probably, Lucas thought, because they either destroyed their rooms or simply followed their whims until they found a suitable lodging. After finding their rooms well warded, he opted not to push any further and returned to Bramblewick to turn in for the night.

The next day, the Maladroits set out early to give the Royal Council an update at the castle. They were suitably impressed by the Maladroit's deeds (especially their matter-of-fact telling of defeating a demigod lich with an artifact of tremendous power). For their part, the council said the war effort was going well, though they couldn't explain the goblin's unflagging morale to continue their assault. The Maladroit's were equally lost, suggesting that perhaps Oragor stood as a figurehead that inspired them even without being present. General Mayes announced that he would be heading to the front lines himself to try and end things for good. This struck Lucas, in particular, as a bad idea. Hitting upon an idea to deal with Trio, the Maladroits told the Council their knowledge of Jessa being held captive by Dreadthorne and some of his recent movements that McGraenge and Qip had followed. After all, the Trio had said when they arrived that they would bring Jessa back. With a lead to go on, perhaps they would leave Riparia and do some heroic good while sparing the populace from their depredations? While the Council wanted to keep this information from the king in case he sent the whole of the guard out as he had done before, General Mayes broke from then. He said he would tell the king himself, as it was only right to tell their liege information regarding his daughter. The Maladroits understood, but cautioned against letting the king make any rash decisions unadvised.

When the group brought up the ridiculous amount of gold-plated copper they now had on hand, the Minister of Finance made an offer to buy it off of them that day for immediate cash. After negotiating a bit, they were able to get 60% of the value in cash (there was going to be labor involved in melting it down, so they understood they would never get 100%). They weren't ready to agree, so they thanked him and said they would reply with an answer by the end of the day. Remembering that the Tiderunners Consortium was the largest merchant guild, they went to the docks to speak with them about the prospect. After moving from one official to the next, they finally sat with a woman who offered to take their money and have it converted in a few days into cash. In the meanwhile, they would be given credit at Tiderunners-affiliated shops. Which, unfortunately, didn't include the Haul. However, their negotiations landed a much better deal: 75% of the original value. They still wanted time to think, but again agreed to answer by day's end. 

Stopping by Bramblewick, they found a sharply dressed man waiting for them. Though Callon initially suspected Jonid, they allowed the man inside to speak with him. He talked of how he had heard of their attempts at money changing and offered to give them an initial rate of 80% of the value of their coin in up front cash. He was an eminently polite man, but when pressed on who he represented, it turned out that they would be dealing with the Crows, the organized crime syndicate of Riparia. Impressed that they would even reach out to the Maladroits like this, they offered the man a meal prepared by Rhea while they deliberated. While having a working relationship with the Crows could be a good thing, the blow their reputation could suffer if the deal was ever revealed or held over their heads was too great a risk. After a quick talk, it was a unanimous rejection. They had made sure to return the man's politeness, however. They fed him in advance, they treated with civility, but turned the offer down (so they could have deniability). They thanked him sincerely for making the effort and wished him well. 

They favored the offer of the Tiderunner's, but they didn't want to slight the Haul. So, they went to see their crafting friends and discuss the situation, along with their recent journey and their upcoming orders. There were many happy greetings, along with worries from Emberfox and Glittergem about not having heard from Rowanberry for some time from his place on the front lines. Callon promised they would look into it for them. Lifti was excited by the special large orders the Maladroits were suggesting, but Rohir agreed that with the sheer amount of other items they were looking to get, they would recommend some other merchants they were friends with who were Tiderunners-associated. 

The Maladroits were delighted to come to an agreement with their friends. They remembered, however, that they had done a lot of prep work before their last mission, so they reasoned they should finally go back and visit the strange entrance they had found before they got their preparations truly underway. Lucas and Callon managed to spot the guards that Cloverbell had put in place, but they didn't impede the Maladroits. Using a scroll of Mass Reduce Person, Knox shrank them all down and they passed through the opening. 

It was nearly beyond belief. They found themselves in an ornate metal corridor with a glass canopy that looked up through the waters of Riparian Bay. In the distance, they saw other similar corridors connecting with numerous structures, forming a complete underwater settlement. The craftsmanship was superb, though since they came late in the day, they only saw a few gnomes in distance passageways. They also noticed a pall of shadow hanging over the city through the glass, assuming it to be the illusion that kept it safe against onlookers from above.

Pressing onward, they passed by a door that, though plain, stood out to Lucas and Knox as worth investigating. Alera and Callon, curiously, had paid it no mind – after all, it was marked "Private - Do Not Enter." Indeed, they insisted that none of them had any business poking their noses into it. Ignoring their strange assertions, Lucas investigated it and soon unlocked it. Once open, the protestations from the fighter and the cleric ceased. Curious. Walking in, they were surrounded not by a gleaming glass tunnel, but a stone corridor. It was an odd disparity, but they guessed it simply lead back into the bedrock of the bay. At its end was another, unlocked door. Opening it, they were greeted by madness.

Fortunately, it was a familiar madness. The chamber they were in had no ceiling they could see, but was filled with convoluted shapes, paths, and walls that spread in impossible angles. It was exactly similar to what they had seen at the bottom of the Tower on their first mission for Rufus. Now it all made sense. Of course the Divine Blade couldn't tell them about the strange realm they had seen. It couldn't speak to anything that related to other Shards, so combined with the clues from the Prophecy, one must be at work here. 

Walking down the paths (literally, as they descended over the lip of the large drop-off of the floor and immediately felt gravity shift to accommodate), they came to four large doors. They were a strange mixture of metal and wood, warped together in hard to understand ways. Engraved into the floor before them were the words, "Welcome heroes. You are close. You cannot walk the trails beyond alone, but none of you will trod another's course. So divvy and apportion – don't postpone. You'll face ordeals untold before the source." The Prophecy. Almost verbatim. Looking down, they saw set before each door a diamond pattern of four plates. Cautiously, they tried stepping on the plates. Whenever Knox stepped on a plate, the door ahead glowed magenta. When it was Callon, the color was orange. For Alera, a golden yellow. And Lucas caused a green to appear. When they all tried standing on the plates in front of a single door, the colors flashed, but nothing happened. 

They tried different arrangements, but nothing they did caused any of the doors to open. Looking to the inscription again, it hit them: they each had to take a separate path, but they couldn't do so without three other teammates each.

Time to get their friends together for another field trip.
Paul H,
Aug 7, 2016, 9:27 AM