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No rest for the weary

Salma’s Journal

We couldn’t find any keys to unlock the chains on the old men, and Zandu admitted that he was nervous about Astrid’s offer to break the links with her (very large) sword, so Tythe set to work picking the locks while we questioned the former prisoners.

The old historian, Gill, told us about a book he had found, detailing the invasion codes used by an invasion fleet from Taldor - over one hundred years ago! Why would anyone care? Well, when he tried using some of the signal codes out of curiosity, old skeletons in Taldorean armor began rising from the harbor. Of course - the harbor full of old shipwrecks, the floating mass of debris offshore; an undead army waiting to be called up!

Of course, the book is already in the hands of someone named Nessiam, who had ordered the deaths of Gill and his friends, who were the only others who knew of the book’s power. We quickly offered all of them safe escort back to the Guild so they could tell the tale there. (No sign of the tattoed men, but just to be safe...)

As we walked, Gill tried to remember the codes he’d seen in the book. He was able to tell us that there is an “abort code” for emergencies, although he couldn’t remember the sequence. Tythe wondered aloud what we’d gotten ourselves into (my thoughts exactly!). Zandu kept almost stumbling into trouble with Astrid, who thinks he’s trying to flirt with her. I suspect he’ll get his arm broken, soon. Or maybe she’ll just use the song she says she has to put people to sleep when she doesn’t want to use her sword...

About this time, Gill remembered one of the codes - by seeing it flashing in red light from the top of a building across the city. I’ve never seen lights on top of the granary, before - apparently Nessiam was trying out the code to tell the “Black Echelon” to poison the city’s food supply. Zandu was all for racing to the scene, and the rest of Gill’s friends said they could make it to the Guild from here, so off we ran through the sunset streets and into a cold fog.

The building’s doors were open, three bodies in the uniform of the city guard inside, and all beyond my help. In we went, watching for the poisoners; I cast a light spell on Zandu’s bow so that we could see, and we quickly discovered and followed a trail of blood to another open set of doors. At this point, we asked Gill to go find help!

Astrid was singing something to inspire us as we entered the next chamber, which was full of grain, plus stairs leading up to a balcony, which I wanted to check out until I realized that there were three cloaked figures trying to open a rusty chest at the base of the steps. We pulled out our bows as the mist magically thickened, hiding the figures from us.

Zandu called to his dog to help Astrid, whose song had changed to one of fighting against the undead. Undead? I raised my arms and called out to Irori to turn them! The figures we could see began to back away; a fourth even emerged from the piled grain to move away from me, but one was unafraid. The mist grew thicker, and silence descended on us all.

Tythe plowed through the grain, longsword raised high, and Astrid followed suit. A fifth figure arrived, so I decided to try turning them again - and three crumbled to dust! The other two, of course, attacked me. Astrid destroyed one, and I turned the last, which caused the fog to dissipate so that we could see the chest full of gutwither poison, lid open. Thank Irori, the ten vials inside were unopened!

Astrid was not especially happy with Zandu’s way of checking for poison. She thinks little of certain types of magic, apparently. Still, at least we had good news for the town guard when they showed up! Better yet, they listened to our story instead of arresting us on sight. We did go up to the roof to check for any sign of the lights or who had sent the signals, but found nothing. (Zandu’s method of checking caused a discussion with Astrid about magic and the detection thereof. Hm..)

The only sign that anyone had been on the roof was a chipped stone parapet, and nothing to be seen below. I sighed and looked out over the city and harbor, which were thankfully quiet. We descended from the roof to head back to the Pathfinder’s Guild as night fell.

When we reached the Guild we discovered, to our dismay, that Gill’s friends had not arrived. Poor innocent victims.. and will we be next, knowing as much as we do? We filled the Guild in on what we’d learned; now they really want that book!

We asked for help in finding Nessiam, but the Guild had no idea where he would be. We ended up being led across the city by Gill, who was hoping that a man named Grand Master Torch could help us. This meant not only heading back to the Puddles after dark, but under them into the Siphon..

After wading for some time through the watery sewers (unknown things occasionally brushing by), we arrived at the iron door of the thieves’ guild. Gill told us to keep our weapons sheathed, and only then admitted that Torch disliked him! A small window opened in the door, showing a pair of red eyes, so we quickly composed ourselves and requested an audience.

A large half-orc finally ushered us inside, Astrid openly eyeing him up. (Does she think she can take him in a fight?) We ended up in front of a man in a bathtub, with two women pouring water over his scarred back. We explained our urgent need to fund Nessiam.. but the Grand Master was not concerned.

We finally figured out that Torch was more interested in being compensated for his trouble than Nessiam’s plans to use the undead to invade Absalom. There was no way we could pay the fee he demanded, but after amusing himself with our pleas for a while, Torch said he’d help us if we helped him, first.

Five locked safes were in the next room; he wanted us to open at least three of them. Tythe has the skills for that! But I was insulted when he threatened us with dire consequences if we stole anything. We have more important things to worry about!

Although it got Astrid going again, Zandu checked for magic before we started. Some safes were, some weren’t. One had strange freakish faces on it, another, carved ivy leaves. A third was all stone with nothing to be seen, the fourth had writing on it and holes in its lid.

Tythe quickly opened the iron box’s lock, but pointedly did not lift the lid. Astrid glared at the box of strange faces - and it unlocked as well! Tythe got the ivy-leaved one unlocked as well, and, flush with success, everyone looked over the last two.

I thought the box with holes in the lid contained a living thing, but Astrid played it like a flute, reading its writing to play the notes to unlock it. They thought the last, plain all over stone box, might be something I could figure out. I sat down before it, placed my hands on the top, and meditated.. nothing happened.

At this point, Zandu looked at it for magic again, then turned to Tythe and told her to “put the lid down!” With that hint we realized that the magic on this box was actually illusion; it was open already. I took the lid from Tythe and put it back on the box, and we went out to Torch to tell him we were done.

Apparently no one stole anything. Torch not only told us where Nessiam’s base of operations is, he gave us a hundred gold pieces each, while reminding us that we “don’t know” where our information came from. We headed back to the surface as dawn was breaking, working out how we were to reach the Pyramid of the Dog, an old collapsed siege tower outside of Absalom.

Unfortunately, someone was using the codes again; we saw orange and green lights flashing at the top of the cliffs above the Puddles. Gill remembered them as some of the final signals for a team of operatives to attack the Metro Cathedral; if the morning organ pipes don’t play, it’s a sign to attack the city.

So much for sleep; we’re off to the Cathedral...

Posted by Kate on November 7, 2008, 23:10 | Salma’s Journal