Shadows of Absalom

Chapter 9
Off to the Wild Interior!

In the days following the group's return from the Drownyard in the Precipice Quarter, it became apparent very quickly that the article in the Tattler had turned up the heat on Russ: as he recovered from his wisdom drain, and spent the time haggling and selling loot, the local Guard were trolling the Eastgate District, looking for him for questioning about his involvement with the Tragar Grimvald escape at the docks in Escadar.  By the end of the week, Russ came to the inevitable conclusion that it might be best for him to leave the city for a while – fortunately,  an opportunity to do just that came from Zenari.  Newly reunited with a legally papered Lupo, the druids in Evergreen Park needed someone to find out what was going on with the new fort being established in the interior by the Kortos Expeditionary Force, who had been meeting stiffer than usual resistance trying to establish a new post in the dry wilderness north of Absalom, in the hilly uplands between the Kortos Mounts to the west and the open sea to the east.  The new fortification was located at a spot some 24 miles north of Fort Iccanor, which was getting a re-supply via a civilian caravan very soon.  As several druids and scouts who assisted the KEF's new fortification were killed, the Shepherds Crux wanted to know what was going on. 

Also during this time Svala discovered that Jayne Seoni, the younger artist sister of Calistria priestess Rosemund Seoni, had been visited again by Jakke, the young hotspur of House Dureanz, this time with several of his family and friends, and that she'd been assaulted in public by him.  Not having the time to investigate the incident properly, Jayne moved from her home in the Ivy District to stay with her sister at the Small Temple of Calistria in The Petals District.

By the end of the week, the group enlisted with Zenari to go out with Erlin Dumatrov's caravan out to Fort Iccanor.  For the journey, Cowen purchased a riding goat from shifty halfling Reeko Barrelbottom at Reeko's Critters, whom he promptly named Gruff.  The trek started off with a brief stop over in Copperwood, where sandwiches and ale were purchased from the Pampered Poodle Tavern for the journey.  During the trek, the group got to know some of their fellow companions hired to see the caravan safely north, including Erlin, his half-elf bard wife Varella, their sons Rao and Pioter, and fellow guards Aliya, Lexo, and Maverick.  Also accompanying the caravan was young KEF Platoon Sergeant, Karl.

All was relatively quiet for the first couple of days; but on the third day the skies opened up and the rains came down, making the hard journey through the broken hills even more difficult because of mud and flash flooding.  As the caravan was mired in a deep muddy spot, it was attacked by a group of 13 gnolls!  A fierce battle ensued, and things looked grim for both Varella and Maverick, but in the end the caravan guards won, and there were 13 dead gnolls lying in the steaming mud at the end of the day.  And here is where Chapter 9 came to a close.

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Epilog B

From: the Absalom Tattler – All the News That's Fit to Sell!

Fresh New Outrage Plagues the Westgate District!

Intrepid reporters from the Tattler have discovered more information regarding the case of five year old Aneas Levittion, the boy found murdered two nights ago in an alley between Ironmonger's Lane and a low artisan's tavern called the Pewter Pot, not far from the Sally Gate.  An anonymous tip given recently to the Kortos Calvary commander has provided some information that may help crack the case:  the Tattler has learned that a certain upstanding merchant in the Coins has provided the name of a certain shady person, and his gang of ruffians and leg-breakers, who allegedly had a hand in the escape of the notorious child murder, Traegar Grimvald, from his holding facility in Escadar, to the Commander – as a new person of interest the Guard will be searching high and low to find this low character and his gang to find out the level of their involvement and what they might know.  The name of this individual is either "Ross" or "Russ", no last name given, but it appears this individual resides in the Eastgate District of the City, where he operates a street gang of dangerous thugs, including a brawny blonde Ulfen woman with a large axe and cleavage-enhancing armor.  If any good citizen has reliable information about this person, or his minions, we encourage you to go to your local Guard station and tell what you know – or, better yet, come down the Tattler's offices in the Merchant's District and give the information to us!  We will make certain it goes to the right person, and who knows, it may prove to be a profitable exchange for you!  As always , we are Wide Awake, and searching for All the News that's Fit to Sell!

~ An artist's sketch of the person of interest from Eastgate named "Ross" or "Russ", according to an anonymous eye witness ~

Based on information provided by the eye witness, our own artist was able to contrive an image of what the chief enforcer of this gang of naerdowells might look like:

In other news, more complaints seem to coming from Evergreen Park, in the Green Ridge district of the City, involving a lecherous, cock-eyed turkey, who has been seen harassing and even molesting children and old people who wander the park between the lake and the Rose Shower; Eagle Guard spokesman Captain Viktor Markov says that the authorities are at a loss as to what to do, and have no idea where the tormenting tom came from…



 

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Chapter 8
The Wrong Path?

Following a long and exhaustive battle, the party finally managed to kill all the water bugs and get over to the other side of the black puddle, where they stopped to lick their wounds and rest.

When we next picked up with our adventuring party, they had just completed a long battle with a bunch of giant water bugs – after resting for a bit and healing, they decided to continue on their course to try to find the elusive child killer, Traegar Grimvald.  But it wasn't long before fate and circumstances turned their focus to simple outright survival!

As the group continued down the stone corridor, they could see areas in the walls and floor where the stone had either given way, or was warped and uneven – the group began to worry about the soundness of the stone below their feet.  And in fact, tragedy was just around the corner: as they explored, suddenly there was a huge rumble, and a massive amount of stone and loose rocks and dirt collapsed from the roof above them!  The back part of the party was trapped in the falling debris, with the bulk of the debris falling on the unfortunate cleric of Pharasma, Saben of Garress.  The weight and force of the falling stone was too much for Saben, who perished beneath debris; Cowen the Halfling priest of Desna, was also caught beneath the onslaught of rock and stone, and nearly perished himself – the rest of the group were able to rescue him, but by the time they were able to dig out Saben he was gone.

Heavy-hearted, the group continued forward down the corridor, for it was the only way left to them.  As they continued they noticed significant fissures in the stone floor, some of which were wide enough for them to fall through to the next level – clearly the result of the former cataclysm that sank the Tri Tower Academy ten years previously.  But just when the group thought they’d seen the worst challenge of the day, around the corner came a gelatinous cube!  It slowly squelched its way down the corridor towards them, enveloping and digesting everything organic in its path.  Deciding that battling such a creature was beyond their current skills, and still mourning the loss of their companion, the group decided to use a long rope and squeeze down through the floor fissures below into the bottom level.

Down they went, one at a time, dragging the corpse of their friend behind, landing finally into five foot deep very cold, brackish water.  Almost immediately, they could tell there was movement in the water similar to what they experienced above with the giant water bugs – rather than wait and fight more of them, the group made a bee-line for the nearest high ground.  The narrow, dark beach was rocky, with a bit of sand, and was surrounded by broken natural cavern walls.  An eerie green light emanated from an odd fungus which covered the cavern floor and walls.  Deciding to investigate their surroundings more, and perhaps find out where they were, the group hopped across a ten foot channel (apart from Svala, who fell in and swam to the other side), and began to explore the caves.

It didn’t take long for the party to discover that the caves were not empty; they were attacked by a number of slow, animated bugbear corpses, each of which seemed to have old bite wounds on their necks.  After dispatching a number of these creatures, and resting overnight where more of them stumbled by, it was determined by the group that perhaps they were in over their depth – thus far, no evidence that their quarry had utilized the Drownyard, or its necropolis, to hide in.  The group decided to explore a bit more to see what they could find, before heading back.   They discovered what appeared to be part of the necropolis: there were niches carved out of the caves where burials, or the deteriorated remains of burials, had been left to rot.  The group explored several halls containing a number of niches, most with little more than fragments remained, but every now and then more substantive remains were found. In fact, a number of items were recovered from the halls that they investigated, including:

* A gray silk cloak of resistance hidden in a crypt with a fine clasp

* An elvish mw black knife with a scorpion on the handle named Stinger

Progressing further through the halls, they came across the body of a boy dressed in a school uniform, preserved in a puddle of black water; it was determined that he had a magical ring and necklace, but the decision was made to leave the items with the body and not disturb the boy's final resting place.

Just as the group thought they’d seen it all at this level of the Drownyard, they began to hear an eerie babbling sound coming from down the hall, as if a hundred mad souls were whispering together – it was a fell creature of vile darkness, and all of the party members, aside from Russ, fell victim of its fascinating babble, and stood by helpless.  It was a creature formed from darkness and shadow, with a grinning skull where its head ought to be, with a pair of baleful, hate-filled eyes.  Thinking it had easy meat, the creature attacked the party; Russ bravely fought it off as best he could, allowing time for his companions to shake off their inertia.  Even so, with all the party members roused and fighting, the creature was a difficult opponent, as it was incorporeal and its touch drained wisdom.  Russ was brought very low indeed, and nearly went mad – but fortunately, the combined efforts of the group finally managed to slay the foul creature – later identified as an allip, the spectral undead remains of someone driven to suicide by a madness that afflicted it in life, tragically forever denied the eternal rest of the afterlife.

It was just when the group decided to leave the Drownyard for good when they began to hear another sort of sound emanating from down the hall – and in spite of their recent discovery, decided to investigate.  The sounds, almost like the giggling of a child, seemed to be coming from a half-covered tomb.  Bravely, the group decided to check out the tomb, which was empty, save for the emaciated body of a living human woman.  She wore the tattered remains of a school uniform that no longer fit her, and from her eyes and lack of communication she had clearly gone insane.  She wore a magic ring with a ruby scarab on her right hand, which the party recognized as the ring Ambassador Dacilane’s daughter, Junita, was said to wear.  The group was able to identify the ring, which was a Ring of Sustenance, and quickly understood that the emaciated, crazy woman in the tomb was, in fact, Junita Dacilane, kept alive for 10+ years by the magic of the ring, and driven mad by the deprivation of the allip.

Quickly determining that the party had to leave the Drownyard at once, and return the insane young woman to her family, the party left the complex by the way they came in, digging past the stone hall cave-in just enough for them to crawl out, and thence back to the City of Absalom.  After resting for a while in Russ’s apartment in Eastgate, the party met with the Cheliax ambassador at her home, and affected the unusual, emotional reunion.  Much praise and thanks were given; the Ambassador paid the bounty promised to the party, and inferred that she and her embassy owed them a favor, and then the group split up and retired for a week of much-needed rest.  During this period, it was learned that the killer struck again while they were busy, this time in Westgate.

Previously recovered items include:

* A cloak of protection from chaos, from the closet of a child who's room had been on fire

* 11 scrolls with various spells on them

* A note found in a loose floorboard in a school child's room, accusing the Headmistress of being a Osirion spy.

* iron flask with an elvish tree that refills with good wine 3/day

* Dwarven warhammer covered with runic poetry and pictures of dragons; called Hero's Song, it was mentioned in several Dwarven epic poems written about the Quest for Sky

* Dwarven boots with an unidentified sigil

Dusty pink prism ioun stone, in part of a necklace

* A Snakeskin belt of vigor

Many of these items were later sold by Russ for company funds.  Other items left behind in the Drownyard include:

* A beautiful rug depicting Aroden in battle with Tar-Baphon, at Lake Encarthan, priced at 500gp

* An enchanted necklace with ivory inlays and a blue stone

* A magic candle holder in the shape of a bear claw that automatically lights the candle, and candles burn 3x as long

* A small lute (halfling size) with ivory keys and a bear claw pick in a leather bag

 

  • Called Hero's Song, a very old weapon mentioned in several epics, and is thought to be at the fight for the dwarves to reach the surface
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Chapter 7
Stuff - and Water Bugs!

Chapter 7 began with our intrepid adventurers recovering from an odd fight with a crazy sorcerer and his swarm of spiders.  After finally dispatching the old man, the group ventured into the Tri Tower Academy property to see if they could find a way in, and find out if their objective, the child slayer Traegar Grimvald was actually in residence.  The grounds were dotted with black pools of various sizes, including a huge pool which seemed to swallow up half of the school building itself.  With the intrepid druid Zenari in the lead, the group carefully made their way to a janitorial out building, and discovered that a trap door in the floor lead to a narrow, dark passageway that allowed the maintenance crew to access the school building from below.  The group carefully negotiated the dark, slippery, slime-encrusted stairs down into a narrow stone hallway headed due east underneath the building.

Twenty feet into the passageway the group discovered a large 3 1/2 foot deep puddle blocking the passage; when Zenari went to investigate it, a black four foot long chirping insect leaped out of the dark water onto him!  It was some kind of abnormally-sized water bug, and it tried to sink its fangs into the druid.  Fortunately, he was able to fight it off and kill it.  Upon further inspection it turned out there was an oddly preserved human torso inside the puddle, upon which the water bug had laid its eggs.  The group removed a tattered dark blue silk robe from the torso, covered with black hand prints.

Deciding to try another way, the group left the passage and went back outside to investigate the large pool around the school building.  There they found a corner of the building still on dry land; using several ropes tied together, the group managed to scale the outside of the school and reach the roof.  At the remaining intact tower on the roof, the forced their way in through a window and discover a set of stone stairs leading to a platform with a door; the stair continued up to the next level of the tower, and also down into the building proper.  The group elected to try the door on the platform; after Russ checked for traps, he was able to gain entry into the room.

This room was empty, apart from some wooden furniture, as though it happened to be unoccupied when the great earthquake occurred ten years ago.  The party searched the room, but found little apart from a very nice area hand woven rug, depicting the fallen god Aroden, in an arcane battle with the mad wizard-king <u>Tar Baphon</u> at the Isle of Terror, stuffed inside a wardrobe.  Next, the party went up the stairs to search the two rooms above.  The first room searched turned out to be the bedroom of a young girl, Rhea Thrym, a student from Vladmirr, a coastal town in Iobaria.   A number of nice things were discovered in the room, principally a magic ivory tube necklace and a magic bronze candle holder; some money (100 gp) was discovered below the floor boards, as well as a spell book, along with four low level arcane scrolls, and a three quarters sized decorated lute.  The necklace was ivory inlaid with some kind of blue stone, and was enchanted with the Endure Elements and Mount (3rd level) spells.

The second room above was another bedroom, only this one was mostly destroyed by fire.  The only object of real value was discovered in the back of the half-burned wardrobe: a magical cloak, which turned out to have been enchanted by a Protection Vs Chaos spell.

Going down the stairs to the next level, the party discovered the way was blocked by black water of indeterminate depth; the decision was made to leave the main building and return to the passageway under the school via the janitorial outbuilding.  When the group tried to go outside, they discovered a bunch of rag-clad cultists wandering around the grounds looking for them; after a while, the cultists moved on and the party was able to access the under passage without alerting the enemy.

The group entered the passage again, and proceeded past the area with the puddle, and then found a flooded cross space: the passage continued on the other side of the 60' puddle, which was far wider, and receded into the darkness on either side.  They could clearly see that more of the giant water bugs were infesting the black waters; Zenari determined that the creatures, if they were like the ones he'd encountered in his travel elsewhere, were aggressive when they were hungry, when their eggs or young were threatened, or when their territory was invaded.  To get to the other side of the puddle required the party to invade the creatures' space.  

Cowan decided to risk going across to the other side of the puddle with a rope for the others by utilizing a wooden drawer from the desk in the old janitorial building, and the group fashioned an oar out of broken wood to help him navigate the dark waters across.  Lacking basic seamanship skills, plus the fact that the drawer, while it floated, was hardly built for water travel, the journey for the young halfling would be perilous – and in fact, it was made all the more difficult when Svala, while attempting to give the halfling a helpful push-off with a stick, instead punctured the bottom of the drawer with a critical fail – which meant that the drawer was gaining water, and Cowan had only a few rounds before his jury-rigged craft sank – and exposed him to the giant water bugs in the water!

The intrepid halfing tried as best as he could, but the drawer was not able to make it all the way across the flooded passage before it sank – risking life and limb, he made a huge leap across the void and splashed down right before the dry passage way on the other side!  After that, Cowan was immediately set upon by several of the giant water bugs in the waters, a desperate battle for which he could expect little help from his friends on the other side.  Russ tried to fire his bow at the creatures, but was of little use.   When Saben, Svala, and Zenari all tried to get into the water and cross over to help Cowen, they too were attacked by the ravenous, aggressive water bugs!

Following a long and exhaustive battle, the party finally managed to kill all the water bugs and get over to the other side of the black puddle, where they stopped to lick their wounds and rest.

 

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Chapter 6
The Fellowship Expands Again

Chapter 6 began with the group spending a tense evening in the ruined building in the Precipice Quarter, hiding out from the gang of crazed rag-clad cultists – who, in the early morning hours found them again.  A large group of cultists attacked; Zenari held the stairs while Saben hopped downstairs to split the enemies into two fighting groups, while Svala and Russ attacked where they could.

In the meanwhile, during the battle they were joined by a halfling who dashed into the area, chased by another group of rag-clad cultists.  Russ alerted the halfling, whose name turned out to be Cowan Rictor, and the two fights merged into one.  It took some time, but eventually all of the cultists were killed.

As the group asked about Cowan, it turned out that he and his former group (who are all dead or taken) were given the same task as they were: to find the child-killer Traegar Grimvald.  Cowan and his group were hired by Breyvic Valera and the Guild of Wonders – they were to bring the killer back alive to the Guild, where the Hellknight Jordanne the Purifyer, would accompany him, locked up, to Cheliax, where he would most likely undergo trial, torture, and sacrifice to Asmodeus, the patron god of CheliaxGrimvald was wanted there for the murder of a child who was the nephew of a high ranking priest of Asmodeus.

Valera also told Cowan that Grimvald was an adherent of Berverlax, a nascent demon trying to come into ts own, and that in return for the blood of innocents the demon had imbued Grimvald with certain properties or powers.   He was recently discovered in Absalom by operatives working for the Guild of Wonders, who had him sent to the Brine; from there he was sold by the Salt Cartel to Cheliax, by way of the Last Chance, owned and operated by Gnarl Bonebender.  And Cheliax is where he would have remained (where he is wanted for the murder of a child relative of a priest of Asmodeus), were it not for an unintended escape as the result of a daring raid on the Last Chance by a group of local adventurers.

The Guild of Wonders sent a representative to various slavers in the Coins to let it know that high coin (2,000 gp) would be paid for Grimvald 's re-capture. The slaver Pardu Pildapush was known to have contracted a local group to find the killer, but the Guild wonders if his information is trustworthy, and if he has another agenda in mind.

Armed with new information, and an extra member, the group continued to the Drownyard to look for the elusive child-murderer/cultist.  There they met an odd old man named Deris Marlinchen, a seemingly crazy old coot who was tending dead trees in the Drownyard court.  The group learned that his daughter attended the Tri Towers Academy, which was the name of the school prior to the disaster.  Marlinchen tried to lead them to the main office, where it turned out there were ghosts haunting the building, and he was manipulating them out of his grief and insanity.  He called a swarm of spiders to attack part of the group, and then used magic to attack the rest.  After a serious battle, where Saben almost died, the group finally killed the crazy old man, and that is where the chapter came to an end.

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Chapter 5
To the Drownyard

At the conclusion of the last chapter, it was decided that the Svala will go to the Temple of Pharasma and contract a cleric to accompany them to the Drownyard; in the meantime, Russ and Zenari would go to the Pathfinder Society to get whatever information they had.

Svala went to the Temple of Pharasma in the Ascendant Court and talked to the Oracle, Zenobi.  She agree to allow a younger cleric named Saben of Garess to accompany the group to the Drownyard; he would meet the group in the morning.  Then, Svala went back to the Temple of Calistria to talk to Luna and ask about the priestess whose younger sister was having trouble with a pestering suitor.  Luna introduced Svala to Rosemund Seoni, a fellow priestess, who spoke about her younger sister, Jayne.  Jayne lives in the Ivy District, where she is an artist who works in the Silver Swan Co-op.  Jayne has been stalked by a young man named Jakke who would not leave her alone or take no for an answer, and that lately he'd become more physical with her lately.  Svala promised to 'have a talk' with him, and left to visit the Ivy District.

In the meantime, Russ and Zenari visited the Grand Lodge of the Pathfinder Society, in the Foreign Quarter.  At the Lodge they met up with an older Taldan gentleman, Venture-Captain Ambruance, who told them that the Pathfinder Society got permission to investigate the Drownyard 6 months ago, which ended in failure.  4 members went there, three died, and the fourth went insane and killed himself.  The Society has no notes or maps or any information about what they saw.  He does say that the Society has the key to unlock the iron gate that surrounds the Drownyard.  Ambruance also suggests that it would be a good idea to get permission from the Chelaxi ambassador, Lady Miranda Dacilane, as she is both connected to the Grand Council and is a representative of the conglomerate that owned the Tri Tower Yard.  The Venture-Captain sent a silver raven to set up the meeting for the same evening.

Svala visited the Ivy District and found Jayne Seoni at the Burgundy Wine Terrace, who was being harassed by a young rake with the livery of House Dureanz, who own the Devils Own shipyard, in The Docks area of the city.  Svala stepped in and intimidated the young man so that he left, promising revenge as he went.  Satisfied that Jayne was not safe enough, Svala left the area into the Foreign Quarter, where she met Russ and Zenari, and the three of them went to The Petals to meet the Lady Decilane.  They found he Lady's very ornate house, decorated in high Chelish fashion, and met Mohma, the Lady's silver-inlaid metal construct servant.  The Lady grudgingly gave permission for the group to go to the Drownyard and remove the child murderer, Traegar Grimvald; she also offered 1,000 gp for the group to bring back any information, especially any artifacts, relating to her daughter, Junia, who died when the earthquake destroyed the school.  She showed the group a large painting of her daughter, who had long black hair, green eyes, expensive clothing, and a curious red scarab ring.

The next day, the group rallied at Russ's house then went to the Temple of Pharasma to meet Saben, and together then group entered into the Precipice District to look for Grimvald.  The group wandered the desolate, ruined streets, seeing few humans, most of whom scampered away to hide – until they were ambushed by a group of crazed beggars dressed in rags, who called them 'meat'.  After a bloody battle, the group convened at the second floor of a ruined building nearby.  A check of the dead beggars revealed that they all had a curious scar on the back of their necks, the scar was not something anyone could identify.  The chapter closed with the group hiding out to rest in the ruined building, where Russ noticed a graffiti scrawled in blood on the wall saying 'They're coming".

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Chapter 4
Whoopsie!

Chapter 4 began with our adventurers relaxing as a group at Russ's favorite eating spot in Eastgate, the Grinning Goblin, where he was has able to collect money still owed to him by his acquaintance, the Shoanti warrior Korlax.  During this time, Russ and Svala were able to update Zenari about  the previous evening with Yeddig Lyshev 's death in Eastgate, and give him his share of the recovered loot.   Some notice too was paid to the latest edition of the Absalom Tattler, a scuttlebutt rag of a local tabloid which, like a blind stupid hog which occasionally finds an ear of corn, sometimes managed to print accurate information.  In this case, it reported that 'anarchists' (which is to say, the group)had made a number of fire attacks in the city, and in Escadar, and as the result of one of them a child murderer by the name of Traegar Grimvald managed to escape.

But before the group could feel too much anxiety over the consequences of their efforts of freeing Daria Junius from her captors, a hobgoblin regular entered the establishment, smirking and laughing over the fact that he'd just passed a crying human child in the middle of the road just outside the tavern, which he found to be extremely amusing.  Already feeling guilty about what might happen to local children in the City because of Grimvald's escape, the group left the tavern to investigate the child.  Cautiously, Zenari remained twenty feet behind Svala and Russ as they approached the weeping child: too late did Russ realize that the 'weeping child', although looking legit, was not making any sound at all. 

Just as he was puzzling that fact out, WHAM!!!, came a fireball from a dark alley nearby, exploding right between the three adventurers!  Suddenly, four admittedly shabbily dressed thugs, calling themselves The Crimson Dragon, emerged to attack the group.  Yet another ambush-style fight ensued; unlike some previous enemies, however, The Crimson Dragon proved to be more crimson colored cloth than actual dragon as the group finished them off rather quickly.  Even so, the group found it annoying and bewildering that they found themselves set upon yet again; a scrap of paper found on the dead mage indicated that someone (Pardu Pildapush, perhaps??) had provided information about where the group typically frequented.

After more questioning from the Post Guard, the group split up so that Svala could return to the Saucy Wench as Elsa and get the owner, Lady Kythes Finch, to testify on her behalf to the Watch Commander of the Post Guard over the attack in Eastgate.   Once that was over with, and the Watch Commander of the Post Guard was satisfied with her answers, Lady Kythes Finch went back to the Saucy Wench , and Svala returned to the temple of Kalistria to get a touch-up on her disguise so she could work one more evening.

After hiring a wing-booted messenger from The Blue Tower to send a message to the Watch Commander in the Foreign Quarter who stopped them previously, Russ met up with his landlord, the impressive gnome brawler Evona Peesami, who intoned that since he was able to help out the investigator with his ambush he could return the favor by helping out his sister Lotta Hughes find her missing prized pink porcelain poodle.  Begrudgingly, Russ agreed, and found the colorful artistic gnome to be just as whacky as he feared: after insisting she paint Russ holding a squealing pig, her barnyard pal Tom Turkey developed a crush on Russ – and after it was determined that the turkey was in fact sitting on the statuette, Russ left, only to find the turkey following behind him in cloud of cross-eyed lovesick wonder.  Russ enlisted Zenari's help, and the two of them managed to lose the irritating bird in Evergreen Park.

Meanwhile, Svala took a trip to the Ascendant Court to visit the main temple of Pharasma, where she meet the powerful oracle Zenobia.  The Oracle inferred that the Temple could certainly utilize a holy slayer, especially against a number of persons who cheated their true and natural fate by becoming undead abominations.   Svala agreed they could do business together.

During their trip back from ditching the turkey, Russ and Zenari were visited by a female halfling rogue from the Puddle Jumpers named Pockets, who told them that Pardu Pildapush wanted to meet the group in a public neutral place so they could iron out their differences.  It was decided that they all meet at the Saucy Wench , in The Coins, at 6:00 pm.  Hoping for the best, the group decided to meet up at the tavern, with Svala intending to retired her Elsa character for good.

Pildapush did in fact show, accompanied by three heavily armed orc guards.  He inferred that, in return for lifting the contract on their lives, the group would seek out Traegar Grimvald, the child murderer they accidently allowed to escape during their raid on the Last Chance, in Escadar, and capture him, alive, for him to return to slavery, something the Cheliax Embassy was particularly desirous of.  He mentioned a number of details about Grimvald, including the fact that he had something to do with the Guild of Wonders; he also mentioned that his sources told him that Grimvald was hiding in or near the former Tri Towers Yard, known better known as the Drownyard, a desolate ruin filled with salty brine and (supposedly) haunted by undead.  Russ and Svala, drawing on their knowledge of local history, knew that the Pathfinder Society once visited the ruin, and that a key to the iron gate that supposedly surrounds the premises is being held by Venture-Captain Ambrus Valsin.  In addition to calling off the contract, Pildapush has also offered to pay the group 500 gold lions for their troubles.

Chapter 4 came to a close with the group discussing among themselves whether to visit the Pathfinder Society to inquire about their experiences with the ruins, and perhaps a loan of the key, or a visit to the shadowy Guild of Wonders to find out more about their quarry, or to do neither, and just head over to the Drownyard themselves, perhaps after hiring a cleric or other muscle.

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Epilog A
The Plot Thickens

From: the Absalom Tattler – All the News That's Fit to Sell!

Unknown anarchists set fires on two docks within two days, on the Main Pier in the Docks district of the city, and also at the shipyards in Escadar.  Municipal watch authorities confirm that organized crime was also definitely involved.  At the Main Pier, two members of the notorious Puddle Jumpers gang were slain, while an anarchist described as a 'lanky fellow with dark clothing' tried to set fire to the roof of the Ticklefish Tavern.  Witnesses described the group of anarchists fleeing towards the Coins.

In an apparently related event, a fire broke out on the docks at the shipyards in Escadar, where also anarchists were described as assaulting a merchant vessel named The Last Chance, owned by one Captain Gnarl Bonebender (now deceased).  It is unknown what is the reason for these attacks, although a number of slaves did escape from the Last Chance, including notorious child killer Traegar Grimvald.  His current whereabouts are unknown, residents are advised to see to their children's' safety.  It is unknown whether these two events are in any way related with the multiple stabbing fatalities that occurred in the Eastgate district of the City last night, which also seems to have involved both members of organized crime and a member of the Post Guard.

Authorities claim to be working on all three cases with the utmost alacrity.

Below is a sketch of the man who set fire to the Ticklefish Tavern, based on an eye witness description – if anyone recognizes this person, please contact your local Watch commander:

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Chapter 3
What Comes Around...

Chapter 3 of our tale began with the holy slayer of Damerrich , Svala Lorensdotter, injured and in hiding in a burned out building in The Puddles District, along with Zenari the Druid and an unconscious hotspur of House Licinius, Elo; Russ, an investigator and purveyor of intoxicating substances, went off to find help.  Skirting The Docks, and moving as stealthily as he could through The Puddles, Russ emerged into the Foreign Quarter, to seek help from a shrine to Pharasma that he knew was nearby.   After satisfying the questions of the Golden Company, a well-known and well-liked mercenary company who serve as town watch for both the Foreign Quarter and the Merchants Quarter, Russ soon found his way to the shrine for the Lady of Graves.

Sister Tigann, a priestess of the shrine, was able to offer healing, for a donation - if Russ's friends could come back to the shrine, as the clergy of the shrine were in the middle of an evening ritual and could not leave the sanctuary at that time.  When Sister Tigann's offer of a potion of healing prove too rich for Russ's liking, he declined and promised to return with his injured companions.  While returning though the darkened streets to his friends, Russ could not help but feel as though he was being watched.

Without many choices, Svala hoisted the unconscious Elo onto her broad shoulders, and with Zenari in front and Russ behind, carried him through the dark streets of The Puddles, without exacting much comment.  It was a different situation once they crossed into the livlier Foreign Quarter, however: they soon came into contact with a squad of Golden Company Watch who found their activities suspicious, and required the group to accompany them back to the District Station for interviews.  The group chose to be as honest in their interview answers as they could, without going into too much detail, and the Watch commander seemed satisfied enough with their answers – however, because  Elo had been found in an unconscious state with  grit smeared all over him, he was not free to leave.  The group pleaded to be allowed to speak with the hot blooded teen before leaving, and in the interests of quelling possible inter-House warfare the Watch commander agreed - as long as his subordinate, Sergeant Howie, came along to observe and take notes.  The group agreed, and went to Elo's cell to speak.

After some dialog, it became clear that  Elo did not know where the Daria was currently; during their drug-induced binge that included kidnapping the girl from her room, the conspirators panicked and dumped her off the quickest way they could while making some coin: they sold her to a Vudrani slaver in Misery Row named Pardu Pildapush.   He did not know what became of her after that.  Disgusted by what they hear, the group opted to leave  Elo in his cell and tell his family later where he is, and to return to the Temple of Calistria to heal up, while Zenari chose to return to Evergreen Park to check on Lupo

Russ and Svala reported to Luna Silverbeam, the priestess of Calistria, and updated her on the progress in Svala's assignment.  During the conversation,  Luna mentioned that Svala's prey, Yeddig Lyshev, not only enjoyed going to the Saucy Wench but also seemed to prefer the company of (and presumably also the victimization of) blonde women.  Svala decided that bit of information might be useful for disguise purposes, and then requested that Russ spend the night at the temple, which  Luna agreed, as long as it does not become a habit.   She also invited both of them to attend a bacchanal scheduled at midnight, as a celebration of a feast day of Calistria.  The two agreed and joined in; after a  time the festival turned from a formal ceremony, with chanting, prayer, and dance, into an all-out drunken orgy.  Russ nearly blacked out from over-indulgence of booze and sex, but otherwise a good time was had by all.

The following day, after Russ cured his massive hangover,  began with a visit to a lot of shopping in The Coins for potions and weapons, and included stops at Blood Beards Weapons Shop, Pepes Potion Shopette, Almarthas Apothacary, and Riddex I Make The Potions. Items were purchased, broken weapons left to be mended, and then the group was off for Misery Row and the business address of Pardu Pildapush.  After bribing their way in, they met the seedy, fat-bellied slave merchant, who admitted freely that he did buy the Julius girl from Elo Licinius, but that he had turned around and sold her to a gnoll slave trader named Gnarl Bonebender for a handsome sum, and that his ship (called the Last Chance) was docked at the Main Pier on The Docks.  Off the group went to check this information with Juron Vex the Assistant Harbor Master, who confirmed that the Last Chance was there, at a specific dock number, and might still be, but was required to make repairs before it could be cleared to return home, and those repairs would have to be made over at the shipyards in Escadar.

Meanwhile, a 'friendly' hafling began to 'help' Svala find the Last Chance, and once the group got together at a less-crowded area of the Main Pier they were set upon by members of The Puddle Jumpers, led by a rogue named Twister.   A bloody battle ensued, with the halfling gang beaten off or killed – Twister, once captured, confessed that none other than Pardu Pildapush was responsible for setting them up to be ambushed, and had also paid the Jumpers to follow and keep tabs on the group since they located Elo in The Puddles.  Determining that Daria must be still back with Pardu Pildapush, the group made for Pildapushs Chattel in The Coins, leaving quickly so that Russ was not identified as the person who set the Ticklefish Tavern on fire with his Potion of Surprise!

Back in Misery Row, the group stealthed in and searched the place, getting zapped by a number of traps for their troubles, but not finding any girl.  They did kill Pildaush's hound-like guardian, and stole a number of lesser items from him, including a very nice dark poncho and some old books.  After a brief stop at House Junius to informs them of the matter, the group booked passage on the Crooked Kraken, which was setting sail that evening for Escadar.  The eight hour trip from Abdalom harbor to Escadar was uneventful; that morning they got off the Kraken and soon found the Last Chance, where workers were just finishing up repairs.  At a filthy, fly-blown tavern called the Pasty Penguin, the group met  Sven and Ollie Olson, a pair of Ulfen naerdowells who were looking for trouble and had eyes for Svala's hot Ulfen bod.  They confirmed the slave ship wa a few hours away from leaving, and that the 'flea-bitten' gnoll crew was still scattered about a number of dive taverns and cheap whore houses.  A desperate plan was hatched: in return for Sven and Ollie's assistance, Svala would pay the Olson brothers some coin and allow them to grope her groceries whenever they felt like paying a call to the Temple.  The Olsons heartily agreed: the group would bum-rush the ship while still anchored, and before the main body of the crew returned;  Sven and  Ollie would make a distraction, draw the guards away, and the group would rush in and save the girl – at least that was the plan's ideal.

And indeed, soon there was a cry of FIRE! from the other side of the docks, the crowd and guards rushed over to investigate, leaving the group plus Sven Olson to storm the ship, which lead to a desperate running battle with a number of gnoll guards, a gnoll foreman, and, eventually, Captain Gnarl Bone Bender.  The party was nearly slain, but eventually killed all the gnolls on board, including the  Captain.  Slaves were set free, most of whom ran away pell-mell, and Daria was rescued!  Items from the dead gnolls were collected, including a magic great axe, a valuable gold rope necklace, a magical hand axe, a black silk under-armor enhancement, and a number of useful and fortunate potions.  The group hid, and then passage was booked back to Absalom aboard the Pickled Pepper, ready to sail within the hour.

The next day, after docking, the group returned Daria to her family, and her grateful family paid out their promised bounty to the group.  Zenari returned to Evergreen Park to find his wolf friend, while Svala and Russ went back to the Saucy Wench, where Svala talked with Marva the waitress about a job interview, who then in turn had her meet the Wench's owner, Lady Kythes Finch.  After a positive interview, Svala was hired to return that evening to wait tables while in disguise.  Svala went to the Temple of Calistria for her dye job and make-over, while Russ went back to the shops in The Coins to buy and sell things with his new-found loot, including a tent called Murphys We Love Old History Books.

During Russ's shopping spree Twister emerged and, perhaps as a way to make for his gang's earlier treachery, told the investigator that Pardu Pildapush had complicated things by putting a contract out on the group for breaking into his business and stealing his stuff.  Russ thanked him, rather rudely, then got back to Svala to give her share of the loot to her.  Svala was all dolled up, thanks to  Luna's skills in make-up and disguise, and the two of them went off to the Saucy Wench to see if they could snare the wily and dangerous Lyshev

Svala, now disguised as Elsa the Dumb Ulfen Waitress, shadowed Marva for a while, then spent a number of hours serving food and drink at the Saucy Wench, hoping her prey would show up.  And indeed he did, with two drunken friends who could not keep their hands to themselves.  Svala/Elsa, playing both cool and dumb, managed to slip into her conversation when and where she would be going home after her shift – and once the trap was baited, Svala/Elsa and Russ put it into motion around midnight, when Svala/Elsa was scheduled to go home.

At a previously-agreed to point in Eastgate, Russ split off from walking home Svala/Elsa to go stealthfully shadow and hide, hoping to take Lyshev by surprise –  but it was Russ who was surprised when 3 assassins, sent by Pardu Pildapush, ambushed him in an ally!  Right about then, Yeddig Lyshev chose to attack Svala/Elsa!  Both separate battles were bloody; Russ was overcome, and captured by the assassins, who picked him up and tried to sneakily drag his body through the streets back to their employer; meanwhile, Svala/Elsa proved herself to be just slightly more than a match for her murderer foe, and she dropped him just as fiery gnome Evona Peesami showed up, ready for a fight!  After making sure that Lyshev was indeed dead, Svala/Elsa carried the angry gnome and chased after Russ's captors, eventually running them down in the streets of Eastgate, where she and Evona made short work of them.

The  Post Guard finally showed up, and after much confusion Russ was healed up enough after LEVELING for them both to get away.  They both made it back to the Temple of Calistria in time to receive the heartfelt thanks from Luna Silverbeam, and an invitation to next month's bacchanal.

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Chapter 2
The Fellowship Expands

Chapter II of our Adventure began at the pink stucco villa of the scion of House Junius in The Petals District, where Russ and Svala were getting information from  house scion's secretary, Verenus Cielo about the missing teenage girl, Daria.   After spending some time investigating Daria's room, Russo claimed the girl's diary and the pair of adventurers set off to the Arcanamirium to see what they could find out about her.  They discovered that Daria's primary mentor was a tiefling mage named Cenna, whom they interviewed – Daria, she said, was a studious girl who spent her time either in class, in the library of the Arcanamirium, or at home, and seemed to have little interest in anything else.  Inquiry into the girl's arcane interests yielded the fact that she was currently studying prestidigitation.  Also, Cenna opined that the change in Daria's diary from a book of a young girl's dreams to a more sober set of appointment reminders was merely evidence that the girl had grown up and become more interested in her future in the recent couple of years, and probably nothing sinister.  She did not have much else to share about Daria, other than he had seen her once or twice with another student named Justix, a red-haired scrawny young fellow who was currently on probationary enrollment, and whose interest seemed more towards history and magical theory than the practical magic of learning spells. 

Russ and Svala then went on to the library where they met and talked with Vestigus, an Arclord of Nex who was currently on special assignment as a librarian at the Arcanamirium.    Vestigus  confirmed Cenna's observation about Daria meeting with another student, and confirmed his identity as Justix Licinus, and described him as a smallish lad.  Russ and Svala then investigated the 30 or so books on prestidigitation in the library, and eventually found a note which fell out of one of them (A Thousand and One Uses for the Prestidigitational Arts, by Fyfeus Izium) which was written "Meet me at the Shower, D".  After a few moments trying to remember, Russ recalled finally that there was a place in Evergreen Park, in the Green Ridge District that was called The Shower, a large and impressively beautiful rose bush arrangement.   Having some time before their arranged meeting at the Grinning Goblin with Korlax, they decided to pursue this lead.

Meanwhile, the druid Zenari and his faithful wolf companion, Lupo, just arrived in Absalom from Varisia; having spent a rather uncomfortable night in a smelly hammock in a flophouse on The Docks, the druid made a beeline to Evergreen Park to find his contact with the Shepherds Crux circle, Calimos.   The older druid welcomed Zenari, and offered to allow him and Lupo to stay within the magically guarded and warded sacred grove for as long as he needed, and told him he should take some time to acquaint himself with the city.  He also intoned that there  might be some use for the younger druid at a small, secret fort out in the Cairnlands which currently employs a small expedition to explore the area for possible colonization by the city to help relieve some of the population pressure.

As Zenari and Lupo were wandering about Evergreen Park, they happened to come by The Shower at roughly the same time as Russ and Svala, who eventually introduced themselves and asked a number of questions.  After an exchange of information, Zenari offered to assist Russ and Svala with their problem, and helped try to search for tracks around the rose-covered structure.  Not much by way of good information could be gleaned, however, until the group talked to an irritated older man who was painting The Shower – yes, he'd seen the girl and red-headed boy arguing near the flowers, although mostly because they were in his way and in his good light.  He mentioned that he clearly saw the girl depart from the boy in one direction, alone, and then the boy, also alone, in the opposite direction.  Upon further investigation of the structure itself, a small graffiti was carved into the trellis which said J hearts D.

With time getting on, and without any further leads, the group decided to head back to Eastgate so they could meet up with Korlax at the Grinning GoblinLupo remained behind in Evergreen Park.With it being dinner time, the place was pretty full, especially since the gambling den's famous roast pigeon buffet was being offered.  A rather 'ill' Korlax was finally able to purchase his happy juice from Russ (still owing 5 gp, it should be noted), and spent the next few hours in a happy daze, so much so that it was decided, for safety's sake, to bring him and the rest of the group back to Russ's flop in Easthome so he could recover safely.  From there, Russ decided to return to The Coins to swap out a short sword for a rapier, and find out more information, while Zenari decided to walk the streets of Eastgate before finally heading over to The Coins, and then back.   Russ was able to swap his weapon out plus 5 gp to  Swarthy Bill, while Zenari discovered a few interesting spots in The Coins, including a place called the Pecking Penguin, which served foods and drinks in ice cubes and featured a puppy-juggling bard, and Frosty the Pecking Penguin (played by a halfling).

Meanwhile while Russ and Zenari were out and about, Korlax finally woke up enough to answer questions from Svala about  Yeddig Lyshev.  The murderer works a different shift than the Shoanti warrior and did not know much about him, apart from a distasteful reputation, and he also confirmed the fact that one of the hang outs Lyshev frequents in The Coins is a tavern called the Saucy Wench, a place the group visited previously.  Korlax then left to go back to the Postern Gate to get some sleep before duty.

The next day found the group back at the Junius villa in The Petals, where, after some investigation and tracking by Zenari, that the Junius girl must have been spirited away through magic, rather than dragged over the roof by a scrawny 16 year old boy who was actually smaller than the girl herself.  Splitting once again, Zenari and Russ decided to visit the Wise House to meet a half-elven sage acquaintance, one Ellwyn BrightStar to see her wisdom could help solve the mystery, while Svala decided to case the Licinius villa, which was not far away  in The Petals District.

Ellwyn BrightStar was unable to shed any additional light on the case: she could not detect any evidence of possible possession or other magical reasons why Daria's writing in her diary changed over time, and in fact her opinion mirrored the Tiefling teacher's that most likely the girl grew up and found something serious to do with her life.  Svala, having found a good spot to watch the Licinius villa, eventually noticed a young page of perhaps ten years walking with flowers in a vase trip and fall – she went over to comfort the young boy, and got him to spill some information on the location of Justix Licinius - apparently, the young Licinius lad was at a tavern in The Petals called the Silver Fox, where he had been drinking in a morose state for more than a day, so long that his mother was becoming quite upset.  A visit to the Licinius villa resulted in an audience with Quintus Leo, the Licinius seneschal, who confirmed the page's information, and offered Svala payment in exchange for bringing the lad back home quietly.

Svala went to the tavern and talked with Justix; apparently he had an unrequited crush on Daria, who, after meeting him at The Shower, told him to get lost.  He got depressed, and happened to mention the affair to his older brother, a rake and a swordsman named Elo Licinius.  Feeling that his family had been insulted, and probably high as hell on grit Elo and his friends, at least one of which was able to cast arcane spells, decided to 'teach the girl a lesson', and kidnapped her.  This naturally made the younger Licinius brother feel even worse, as he has no idea what became of the girl he had a crush on, apart from some ominous words from Elo saying he 'had to get rid of her so she wouldn't tell on them'.  He also told Svala that his brother Elo had become volatile recently, and had taken to hanging around a miserable, filthy grit shack in The Puddles called the Second Chance.  Svala returned the lad to his home, and then got with the others to visit the Second Chance tavern.

The group visited the squalorific slums that make up The Puddles District, and made it to the Second Chance just as the filthy grit shack was exploding into a bar fight.  They tried to maneuver their way through the chaos to get to Elo Licinius, but alas the situation was too volatile, and they got caught up in the fray.  At one point, a stranger who looked to be the one supplying the fighters with the illegal drug offered to help for a fee of 10 gp, which Russ tossed his way.  After helping for a few rounds, the mysterious rogue bowed out and left the group to fend for itself.  The grumpy dwarven barkeep and his massive, hulking ogre mop-up, named Oog, finally managed to subdue the fight – principally by either killing or knocking out the last combatants.  During the battle, Elo was nearly killed, and was rendered unconscious; Svala too was grievously wounded, and fell.  Faced with such injuries, Russ and Zenari decided to flee the tavern and hole up at the nearest hiding place they could find, which turned out to be a burned out building not too far from the entrance to The Docks district.  As the chapter came to a close, Russ went off to search for a cleric who might take pity on their plight, while Zenari stayed behind to guard the injured Svala and the unconscious Elo .

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