Chapter 12: Conclusions & Celus

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Session Number: 101
Date: Sunday 5 June 2011
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr9 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog10 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal10 (Craig) (kills: none)
Tomen Rgr9/Drd1 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz10 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

Troll talks with Malzehaar about his potential association with Ashhope's mages' guild. Malzehaar, who helps run the day-to-day affairs of the guild, asks Troll whether he is well-travelled:

"I have walked unafraid in the underdark, climbed the sides of the floating mountains and lived aboard the ancient city of Aquilla. I have helped free Fort Rannick and staved off the invading armies of the matre. I have flown through rocks and swum under cities. I have dined with one human prince, and been cast out by his brother. I have been ostracised by the elven race and married the elven queen's youngest daughter. I am a dwarf. I have battled with giants and bargained with demons. I command the Tree of Life and the Towers of Imithrium Power. I have access to almost limitless finances and resources and maintain multiple magically defended strongholds. My family has blood feuds spanning millennia and is hated and feared by whole races, including my own. I have met my future self, twice. My name is Etella Roulae. I was born over seven thousand years ago. You can call me Troll."

None of it is false, yet sheer information overload gives Malzehaar pause. Eventually, cautiously, he invites Troll to join. At first, Troll balks at the responsibilities Malzehaar describes. After subsequent discussion the pair manage to work out an arrangement. Troll will join the guild on a trial basis as a consultant, to be reviewed in two months. Troll may be called on roughly every two months to serve on the council, dealing with internal political matters and such matters as concern the human monarchy, plus ad hoc issues as they arise. He may also be required to take on an apprentice.

"Great!" Troll says. "What's a consultant?"

Troll asks whether he can have a house in Ashhope. Malzehaar says that he can probably arrange a permanent room in the guild's inn, the Sorceror's Stout. Troll expresses interest in buying the entire inn. Malzehaar thinks it unlikely that the guild would accept such a proposition.

After accepting Malzehaar's terms, Troll is allowed to transcribe seven guild spells into his spellbook. Troll, as a member of the guild's council, would typically be called upon to take part in the assessment and trial of Umbridge. Malzehaar explains that Troll's probationary status and his proximity to the case excuses him from these particular proceedings.

Troll extends his political sphere of influence towards the human kingdom.

Celebrations in the city are ebbing. People are confused and more than a little restless, wondering why their prodigal guest of honour is not attending festivities held in his name. Not even the party have seen Uther since the questioning. He left with Prince Dimaan; perhaps he is with him yet. Suspecting that they not in a position to do very much about that, the party settle into rhythms.

Troll initially Teleports to and from Kharag Monastery, then uses the tower network to check on his other holdings. Rowaine accompanies him on a couple of trips to return to the Monastery. She has business with Sir Veketh. Ethalyn has allowed Fort Rannick complete access to the tower network so they can recruit further afield.

Troll then spends his days at Ashhope's mages' guild, finding his way around and building relationships. He spends his early evenings at the Mithral Mug, the dwarven inn. He broaches the subject of buying the inn, pushing through their initial rejection ("F*** Off!") and convincing the owner that the offer is indeed serious.

Arrian spends his time at his faith's temple, serving and sword training.

Tomen joins Troll on one of his trips to Kharag Monastery and re-equips with imithrium-alloyed gear. He spends the remainder of his time either in the forest, or keeping an eye on Ashhope's festivities.

Rowaine builds relationships with the dwarven community by spending time at the Mithral Mug with Arrian, and at Moradin's temple. She also regularly visits Prince Dimaan, offering updates and asking whether he might have need of her skills.

After two days in this holding pattern, Tomen notices a shadowy figure tailing him as he leaves the city for his morning ramble. The stranger wears similar garb to the last person seen following the party: nondescript, commoner clothes. A hood obscures the figure's face. Tomen looks up at sun, as if to check the progress of he day, then heads back into the city, taking a meandering route towards the temple of Moradin. The figure continues to tail him.

Rowaine greets Tomen with some surprise as he walks into Moradin's temple. "I'm being followed," Tomen says. Rowaine immediately walks to the window but sees no one that stands out. Rowaine gestures to Tomen to move back outside. "I don't want whoever it is to enter the temple," she explains. They cross the street, talking casually. "Is he still there?" Rowaine asks. Tomen looks around surreptitiously. "No," he says. "Coffee's good in this part of town," Rowaine says. "Let's go get some," Tomen answers. They walk off. They sit in a public place, sipping their drinks but neither spot anyone suspicious. Tomen finishes up and makes to leave, telling Rowaine that he will continue looking out for their mysterious observer. Rowaine confirms where he will be in case he goes missing. "Be safe," she concludes as Tomen walks away.

That night, everyone gathers at the inn. Tomen says that he saw no one else of note. Feren reveals he thinks he also was followed while at the afternoon festivities. He tried to lose his tail but could not. His impression was that the follower knew what he was doing.

The party decide to bait a trap by heading out for dinner and an ale at the Mithral Mug. They arrive uneventfully, order food and drinks and discuss the day, all the while keeping an eye on the clientelle. Almost all are dwarves, whose eyebrows raise at these tall invaders. They raise even further when they hear them conversing together in fluent dwarven. Troll has a brief word to the proprietor. He realises he has his work cut out for him if he wants to buy this place, but the ice is broken.

The party stay for an hour, enjoying good, hearty dwarven fare and even heartier dwarven ale. There is no sign of their concealed follower. They decide to visit the Sorcerer's Stout - for a nightcap.

The trip between inns happens without incident. Rowaine is delighted to see that the mage's inn has mead on the drinks list and orders one. The others are similarly restrained, except Troll who throws back a few wines and tries to buy the mage's inn as well. The staff recognise the guild's newest member and humour him. Rowaine keeps a careful eye on Troll but he maintains the ability to walk in a straight line so doesn't intervene. After an hour, Rowaine drags Troll away back to their lodgings. Besides Troll talking too loudly, the walk is uneventful.

The next day the group gather over breakfast. Troll joins the others some time later, nursing a sore head. Rowaine suggests that they go about their normal routines but where possible, they move about the city in pairs. Feren and Tomen accompany Troll to the mages' guild, leaving him there and moving on to the markets. Rowaine and Arrian visit Prince Dimaan and let him know that despite Umbridge being in custody, that they are still being followed. The rest of the day passes without incident.

The following morning, Uther visits the party at their inn. He reveals that he has been with Prince Dimaan. Rowaine notes that the prince did not speak of this when she visited yesterday. Uther, the prince and others of Ashhope's ruling class have had one thing on their agenda: how to deal with Umbridge. At present, they are trying to rehabilitate him. Rowaine asks whether the mages have reached a decision regarding Umbridge's mental state. Uther says they have not; it is taking longer than expected. The mages agree that Umbridge's character is undesirable, but disagree as to its cause. One thing is clear, however. Something has festered in Umbridge's subconscious for many decades. Can he be redeemed? They do know know, but believe it is worth a try. Uther agrees. The trial has therefore been delayed for at least a further one or two weeks. If Umbridge shows signs of repentance, they will continue down this road rather than have him stand trial.

"But he has committed a crime!" Troll protests. "Are you saying he may not even be tried? In this town, do you get off committing a crime if you are a nice person?"

"That's up to the prince and the mages to decide," Uther replies.

"Oh, I see how it works," Troll says. "If you are the brother of an important person, you can get away with murder."

"This is a special case," Uther says.

"I understand that there is a certain amount of delicateness…" Rowaine begins. "Were this to happen in dwarven society, I can understand that yes these things may happen behind closed doors. But he would always be held to account, and if his crimes were sufficient he would be sentenced to death."

"If we can choose the lesser of two evils," Uther says, "between killing a person and trying to integrate him back into society, then we will choose the latter."

"I sympathise," Rowaine says. "I probably err on the side that this society does. Dwarves can hold grudges for a very long time. And I do see the good in trying… Do you see any chance that he will truly repent?"

"I have hope," Uther says. "We are brothers, there may be some good in him. But he has hated me and everyone else for the better part of his life."

"I understand hope," Rowaine says. "I believe there is always a seed that can be nurtured. But if we can set that aside for a minute, what is the reality here?"

"If Umbridge shows no progress, I will be willing to take the steps necessary to dispose of him. But it will be in private. We cannot have a public hanging."

"This is the legal system of this kingdom," Arrian says. "We have to let them apply their own law. All we can do is register our discomfort."

"I cry at every death sentence," Rowaine says. "But I understand that sometimes there is a need." She pauses for a time. "What are your intentions now, Uther? Do we take from this visit that you are resuming public life?"

"I will retain a low profile for a short time longer," Uther says. "I know it will be hard for the populace to understand. But it is … difficult for me. Umbridge is naturally a people person, and that is how he is known. I am not. It will take time. Umbridge's duplicity must never be revealed."

"So Umbridge will probably never stand trial," Troll says in disappointed tones. "Because he is your brother."

"You are entitled to that opinion."

"So you are not going to have much of a public life for a time," Rowaine says. "And it appears the trial is a way off…"

"I don't think we will need you around any more," Uther says. "You are always welcome…" Troll makes 'tsk tsk' noises.

"Let me make it perfectly clear," Rowaine says, "because in this matter Troll and I are one. I do believe Umbridge should stand trial, no matter who he is. I understand that that may not be a typical trial, but he needs to be held to account."

"Evil should not go unpunished," Troll says.

Rowaine, realising that they will not be called upon for some time (if at all), discusses her party's next step. "Tell me, Uther, you came from a town nearby where Zorn stands today?"

"It was called Aeon, southwest of where Zorn is now."

"The suit of armour entered Zorn from the west," Rowaine says. "If we are … not required here, then we see that following up that lead is our next logical step. Can you describe your home town?"

"It was surrounded by forest," Uther says. "With a flagstoned town centre."

"We will follow the tracks of the creature," Rowaine says.

"…But you are returning?" Uther asks.

"Of course."

"Be sure to see Prince Dimaan before you leave Ashhope permanently," Uther says. He concludes his visit and leaves.

Troll wishes to progress his negotiations for the purchase of the Mithral Mug. Rowaine decides to stay with him while the others head off in advance towards Zorn. Troll will Teleport himself and Rowaine to a rendezvous point near Zorn's southern gate two mornings hence.

The party spend the rest of the morning walking around Ashhope. Arrian spots someone familiar in the crowd - a hooded figure in simple peasant clothes, similar to the one seen in the alley. The figure doesn't seem to be specifically following the party. Arrian loses sight of the figure, but Feren's sharp eyes spot him walking down a road off the marketplace, some forty yards away. Arrian casts Dispel Magic on the figure with no discernable effect; the figure keeps walking.

"Go!" Arrian says.

Troll Teleports himself, Rowaine, Arrian and Feren in front of the figure.

I'm Batman!

The figure is clothed from head to foot, its face almost completely obscured. "Sir," says Rowaine, hand on axe. "State your intentions now, and be speedy about it!" The figure simply walks around Rowaine.

"Sir…" Rowaine says. She hoists her axe to neck height and rests its considerable mass upon the figure's shoulder. "I asked you a question!" The figure continues walking. Rowaine grabs its arm, but her fingers unexpectedly meet as it melts away, leaving only clothes.

"Troll," Rowaine says, "what's going on?" She sounds frustrated.

The lunch hours pass with no more discernable contact with mysterious garbed figures. Arrian, Feren and Tomen head off for the rendezvous point. Rowaine resumes her temple duties. That night, Troll and Rowaine visit the Mithral Mug. Troll resumes negotiations. He is asked what his intentions might be should the deal be struck - might the establishment keep its name and personnel? Troll reassures the current owner that it is not his intention to make sweeping changes, or even minor ones - he just wants his name on the deed and to have a room to call his own. Prices are discussed; if Troll is able to show the colour of his gold, then the deal just might be struck.

That night, Troll and Rowaine Teleport back to the monastery and transport to Elondel. Troll instructs the tower to fabricate the tradable items required to secure the deal. They stay the night in Elondel and in the morning Teleport back to Ashhope with sacks of valuables. That day, Troll becomes the new owner of the Mithral Mug.

Troll expands his holdings. Three weeks until a backpack is ready…

Two night pass since the others set out. The next morning, Troll Teleports himself and Rowaine to the rendezvous point outside Zorn. Troll informs the others about his recent purchase; Tomen says he has already picked up the metal man's large tracks from where it entered Zorn. He leads the party westward into forest.

Several hours into their journey, Tomen notices the tracks' stride length becomes noticably shorter. It appears as if the creature was walking, then started to run as it neared Zorn. Some time later, Tomen deduces from a set of significantly deeper tracks that the creature stood in the same place for a number of hours. The party continue, soon discovering a clearing with worked timber planks strewn about. Some lengths bear fire damage, some appear smashed. There are no building foundations in the area, but several posts jutting out from the bare ground may have been corner posts of some kind of structure. Tomen leads the party onwards.

Beyond the clearing, the tracks veer left, turning southwest. Soon after the tracks lead to another clearing. A stone slab is set into the ground. The tracks appear to start at its edge. Tomen can find no other tracks leading either to or from the stone slab. Troll Detects that the slab radiates magic. Rowaine senses no evil; Arrian finds no traps. A similarly shaped area of grass adjacent to the slab is depressed, as if the slab once sat there. Troll figures the slab is some form of magical door but cannot locate its trigger - if it is even here.

Rowaine summons Harley, jumps on and sinks into the earth. Her mount sees a long, diagonal staired chute angling down beneath the stone slab, ending in a eighty foot square chamber. She cannot see any other exits. Rowaine directs Harley into the chute near the slab. They rematerialise in utter darkness. Neither Rowaine nor Harley hear anything. Rowaine locates and lights a sunrod. Its light shows wideset stairs leading down. The ceiling is about thirty five feet high. Rowaine looks behind her at the stone slab; she sees nothing that might be used to move it.

Above, the others start a thorough search of the area. Arrian focuses on the slab, Tomen on the surrounding grassed area. Troll looks beyond. They find nothing of note.

Rowaine and Harley together wedge themselves between the stairs and the slab ceiling and push. The slab does not budge. Rowaine swings herself back into Harley's saddle and the pair once again meld with the surrounding earth. They surface and catch up with the others.

"We can get all of us in," Rowaine says.

"And if it comes to it," says Troll, "I can get all but you out."

Arrian casts Magic Vestment on Rowaine's shield and Magic Circle upon himself. Rowaine and Harley then ferry Tomen inside the stairway, leaving the lit sunrod with him while they return to ferry the others. Tomen spends time searching for a mechanism to open the stone slab but finds none.

Once together, the party descend the staircase, Arrian and Tomen in front looking for signs of passage or anything dangerous. Tomen notices faint impressions in the dust that suggest the iron man has ascended these stairs.

The staircase's smooth stone staircase becomes increasingly littered with stone rubble as the party descends. There is no discernable smell. The stairs end and the passageway continues for a few tens of feet before opening into an open area beyond. The party enter.

Inside the chamber, considerable rubble litters the floor. The walls, floor and ceiling, once smooth, bear myriad gouge marks. A vaguely cube-shaped rock protrusion sits in the centre of the chamber's wrecked floor.

Tomen Detects Magic, finding none. Rowaine looks for exits while the others exhaustively search the chamber. They find nothing but rubble; Rowaine finds no exits. Tomen thinks the central rock, and fragments around it, might once have been a large stone chair. Arrian wonders what it might be like to wake up in such a room, entombed within a suit of magically powered armour, unable to see. He imagines the panic one might feel.

Their search complete, the party consider leaving. First, Rowaine and Harley scout out the surrounding area, looking for any similar underground silos. They find none, return and ferry everyone outside.

Rowaine looks again at the impression in the grass near the slab. She asks Tomen whether he thinks the stone slab might have lifted directly off the grass, or dragged across it. Tomen thinks it was lifted. Neither he nor Rowaine can see any hinges where the slab meets the depressed grass. Rowaine directs the strongest party menbers to join her at the opposite edge of the stone slab. Together, they try to lift it. The slab moves not at all.

Not knowing what else to do, Troll Teleports all but Rowaine back to Ashhope, leaving Rowaine and Harley to fly back. They complete the journey before nightfall. All stay in the Mithral Mug.

The next day, the party visit Prince Dimaan. Arrian tells him about the iron man's tracks leading to the silo. The prince will send some of his men to investigate. When Arrian asks if there is anything else the prince requires, he replies in the negative. He then produces the two pendants and bracelets that Umbridge wore, handing them to Rowaine.

"I give these to you. You have earned them. You will always be welcome in this city."

"Have you drawn closer to a decision regarding the accused?" Rowaine asks.

"Umbridge shows no signs of remorse," Dimaan replies. "At this stage, we are leaning towards capital punishment. Uther wants to give his brother more time, but to be honest I don't see what good it will do. He is an interesting man, that Uther. There is far more to him than the stories suggest. He is not particularly gifted to public life or politics, but he seems to desire that path now." The prince looks at Feren. "Your debt is paid, good elf. I bid you all well." The party leave.

Outside the prince's residence, Troll spies a hauntingly familiar figure across the street. It is facing the group, its attention obviously focused there. It makes no attempt to hide or leave. It radiates neither magic nor evil.

Tomen crosses the street. "Could you use a copper?" he asks. The figure does not answer, merely extending its hand towards Tomen. It bears a number of wax-sealed envelopes. The second Tomen takes them, the figure vanishes, leaving its clothes to flop to the ground. Rowaine looks around but cannot see anything suspicious.

Tomen returns to the others, bearing the envelopes. There are five in total. Each is addressed to one of the party members. They open them:

Tomen,

Congratulations on freeing Uther and defeating Umbridge. I look forward to meeting all of you soon.

You are going to be a legend one day.

Celus

Troll's says the same, with one difference. The last line reads:

I'll meet you on Tuesday the fourteenth.

This was the day before the Uther/Umbridge inquiry.

The last line of both Rowaine's and Arrian's letters reads:

I hope you meet your family soon.

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