April 13, 2013 23:30
Following their expedition to The Dragon’s Punchbowl, the adventurers found Ameiko Kaijitsu returned from her troglodyte-hunting expedition in the Brinestump Marsh; over drinks, she shares that Tsuto—her elder half-brother—disappeared one night, initially wandering into the swamp, and then his trail disappearing. Ameiko is not overly concerned, as he has wandered off in the past, and when he wants to disappear, he will. There’s a chance he returned to the manor, as he does still live there, but she expected him to return in time for her sister’s party. The ranger, Shalelu Andosana, remained in the marshes to seek more information; both on Tsuto’s whereabouts and on the troglodyte, who declared out-and-out war on the swamp’s goblins.
As the party departed The Rusty Dragon to investigate rumors of Amorthya’s return and see if Tsuto did return home, an explosion rocked Sandpoint. Smoke rose from the theatre block, and it was quickly determined that the imploded, smoldering remains of Amorthya’s town home remained. One black-bricked corner rose from the foundation, the rest of the building haven fallen into the basement. Talk around the scene revealed that many claimed to have seen Amorthya come and go, either walking in the previous night or departing on a broomstick that morning. The elf was scheduled to give a lecture on summoning at the university the following day, and members of the party slipped away from the scene to investigate, speaking with various professors before being directed to Amorthya’s classroom…
Meanwhile, decorative activity for Lady Amara Li’s party bustled on the grounds of Kaijitsu Manor. The same butler who welcomed the adventures upon their first visit for Lord Kaijitsu’s test once again answered the gate. He had not seen “the young Master Tsuto,” nor was he aware of his comings and goings. Turned away, the party met up with their companions at the university…
Upon entering the classroom, it’s quickly noted that there is a silver-haired elven female lying in the front of the room, overlapping a summoning circle. A mottled cat batted at the face of the elf, but quickly jumped to a nearby bookshelf as the adventurers neared. As Bellum picked her up to heal her, the elf’s features melted away, leaving a blank grey face—the doppelganger swung the hand axe he had hidden beneath him at the paladin’s head. Reacting quickly, Bellum dropped the doppelganger. The desk in the front of the room came to life, its brownish-black pseudopods revealing a mimic. Following a tense battle later, the bookshelf the cat jumped on revealed a safe. Kyras’—accurate—investigation revealed a shoddy lock, but failed to reveal the Burning Hands trap that caught both him and Gr’lk in its blast. Inside the safe, the rogue found a small ebony-and-silver chest and a locked tome. An eight-by-eight square grid was embossed upon the tome, alternating black and silver squares. When the grid is touched, a riddle appeared on it…
From his home in the south, a shining knight rode forth
To pass this tome’s key to a bishop wandering from the north
The bishop carried the key to his king’s dark tower in the east
Trace the path of the key for the lock to release
After some debate, the party was able to trace the series of moves in a game of chess that followed the riddle, unlocking the tome. Wary of traps, Cora opened the tome from a distance with the tip of her staff, and the following words glowed upon the page…
Well, that took longer than I expected. I came up with that puzzle while my evening’s entertainment was catching their breaths. I’d expect you to have more endurance than they did. But, I digress. Your superior, Conrad, asked me to pass along any additional information I could. What follows is the process to unlock that little box you picked up from me. Have fun playing with the toys in there, if Conrad allows you to have them.
I also did a little research of my own because it amused me. Black Fang’s little experiment with the troglodytes was an effort to raise an army to take over Sandpoint. Unfortunately for him, religious fanatics like that group of Troglodytes were of no use.
The rest of the book provided an in-depth guide to a ritual to open the silver box retrieved previously. It is far beyond the casting abilities of Cora and Busty, and requires numerous unusual components, including blood or horn of a lesser devil, powdered silver, a blessed holy weapon, black dragon acid, and alchemical frost. It appears all of these will be consumed in the ritual to unlock the box. Meanwhile, the doorway to the room filled with the faces of students and teachers wondering what the commotion was. Departing quickly, the adventurers Returned the tome to Conrad pleased the dwarf, “I knew that lass was more capable than she claimed! There’s always more to her than appears.” He said he would pass it on to casters in Magnimar.
Two days pass uneventfully—while the adventurers considered traveling to the Brinestump Marsh to engage in a search for Tsuto Kaijitsu, but time was against them. At the Snapdragon Festival, aroma of blooming orchids and flowing wine mixed with the acrid tang of recently exploded fireworks, and the sound of strangely discordant music comes from a duo of Tian women playing an unusual stringed instrument and a reed flute. The crowd mingles calmly, most guests clearly hoping to be seen more than actually paying attention to those with whom they converse, though the plum wine seems to have affected many who now move about the manor’s grounds waving sparkling wands of fire and shooting whirring, whizzing fireworks into the sky above the koi pond.
Only the luckiest or most influential received invitations to Amara Li Kaijitsu’s annual Snapdragon Festival celebration, and wise recipients took advantage of them:
Mayor Kendra Deverin, looking nothing like the puppet of her Gr’lk carries.
Watch Sherriff Balor Hemlock, looking uncomfortable in dress uniform
Sujin, the Sapphire Sage who facilitated the test on the previous visit
The gnomish professor spoken to at the university library, engaged in a rapid-fire conversation with the gnomish librarian who assisted research into black dragons, and Del—three, maybe more, conversations occurring at once.
Conrad appeared, with what appears to be a nymph or a sylph on his arm
Other wealthy and powerful from Sandpoint, many professors from the university and well-known actors from the theatre
Sergeant Redgrave was not in attendance, as he was on duty this evening.
After the perusing the party, the adventurers were invited into Amara Li’s private study, where they found her seated on a reed mat before a low table set with an exquisite porcelain tea set. She motioned them to sit with her around the table, and once the door closed behind and they had taken their seats, she began talking in a low, hushed voice without even the hint of a Tian accent:
“Well met, and welcome again to Kaijitso Manor. I hope you find the Snapdragon Festival and my hospitality worthy of your time and energy. I have not brought you here for mere pleasantries, however, and wish to speak to you of a private manor. I have reason to believe that long ago, one of my mother’s most esteemed ancestors, who was rich in power but poor in sense, upon finding a familiar face—or any that was not as pale as the natives, gave a gift to a sellsword, a gift that mercenary did not deserve and my foolish ancestor had no right to give—a ceremonial jade katana. The sellsword supposedly served my ancestor, and I have reason to believe he was buried with the jade katana in a family vault, the vault to which you will be accompanying Professor Archimedes Abernathy. White I understand your role in this expedition was my father’s wishes, I’m looking for an intrepid group to retrieve the sword for me, and I’m hoping that is you. The fame and wealth you will doubtlessly recover will bring you much honor, and if you deliver the katana to me, you will have my favor as well.” Without doubt or debate, the party agreed to Lady Amara Li’s task, Phozzie up and rushing through the rice-paper door. Amara Li face palmed, and dismissed the group,
Outside the private tea room, they bumped into Conrad, who now appeared to have a fae on each arm. He brusquely asked if the group was enjoying itself, and without spending much time to find out their reactions, wandered off with his companions.
A short time later, they were approached by a man decked out in the military finery of an Eagle Knight’s ceremonial uniform—a bright blue overcoat with polished gold buttons, gold eagle epaulets, and a fine, black felt tricorn hat. The handsome man is a charmer who clearly thinks very highly of himself. He speaks loudly and confidently, as if he wants the entire party to “overhear” his conversation “Greetings! I hear you’re headed out into the wilderness on official “family” business. Best of luck outside though you look like sturdy enough adventurers. Perhaps not Eagle Knight material, but qualified for the work of Wilberforce."
At this point, an annoyed Crysoner simply spat at his feet and turned to walk away. As he also turned, he said over his shoulder—“A word of warning, beware the walking dead. Crumbling ruins surrounding are rife with them, and you’re likely to run into more than your fair share. Undeath is the worst kind of slavery."
The rest of the party wound down quietly, as guests began to leave. It’s worth noting that Tsuto Kaijitsu never appeared at the party.
The next morning, while all gathered in the same place, the group was approached by a man in robes and a keffiyeh head scarf. He introduced himself as Trade Prince Aaqir al’Hakam, of Kelesh. He is soft spoken and subtle, quite the contrast to Major Maldris’s ostentatious pomposity, and addresses them in a slow, level voice with a strong accent. “Like a fast-spoken djinn, I’ll get to the quick. I know where you are going. She thinks it belongs to her family. House Damaq of Kelesh claims the ruin, but we are willing to allow you access for the price of a small task easily accomplished during your adventure. You will be well compensated, I assure you, for profits are most rewarding when shared. I assume treasure-seekers like yourselves are interested in such a proposition?” Without waiting for an answer, he continues, his eyes intent and his posture rigid. “We have reason to believe the catacomb she claims is Kelish, not of her people, which is why we claim it, and we are willing to defend it, but there are really only certain things left we are interested in: trade agreements, of which we believe there to be many within the ruins. All we ask that you do is to turn over all trade agreements you find to us as soon as you return to Sandpoint, as we will be able to hold the signers to them even centuries after their signing. The satrap of my house—nay, the entire Empire of the Sands—has much to offer, and I personally have no qualms about sharing those resources with you, specifically. Shall we shake on this agreement?” As it did not blatantly conflict with their mission for Conrad or for Lady Amara Li, they agreed to the Trade Prince’s mission as well.
Two mornings later, the party met at Sandpoint’s north gate, where they met Professor Archimedes Abernathy, and three additional adventurers: Dashille Faireborne, a cavalier; Greer Steen, a cleric of Thoth; and Jinx, a rogue. After the caravan reached the edge of the Mosswood, the three others hacked their way into the forest, while the main group stayed behind to set up camp. As evening fell, Dash and Greer returned, heavily wounded, but Jinx did not. They told of a battle with ghouls, in which the ghouls we slain, but so Jinx also fell. The next morning, the adventurers headed into the woods, while the other two stayed behind at base camp to recover. A mile into the Mosswood, their path ran along a steep stone face, before ending at an open cavern…