Some two months have passed by the time we return to the Kua-toan city, and many of us now sport shiny new toys, armour, spells and weapons to help us in the unknown area that is the Sunless Sea. I have spent a great deal of time - although in small information gathering trips whenever we return to the surface, researching an item known as the Vestments of Gorm; a Clerical garment that many Dwarven priests wore to battle long ago.
That research finally paid off, and over the course of a three week period, I finally gathered the last instructions I needed to create my own Vestment, a garment that provides magical armour and those benefits given by a cloak of protection, although based on Luck.
Robbie also has made some extensive research, and excitedly shows me a scroll detailing a few of his creations before he toddles off to contact his guild to get some spells he needs to craft them from their communal pool. I take the scroll and unravel it, reading Robbie's spidery writing:
The Skull Cap of the Transforming Spider Monkey
The wearer of this item will be impressed with the realistic monkey features designed within the cap, giving the wearer the look of a small child with strange furry facial hair and little pink sticky out ears.
But do not laugh too soon! The Cap contains powerful magic, and its main feature is that it allows the user to Fly as though a Sorcerer of 6th rank.
This effect can be activated with the mumbled impression of an excited monkey. With this noise a small furry tail materialises from the top of the scull cap and rotates at speed like a propeller allowing the wearer perfect manoeuvrability and without the need of concentration like the fly spell.
The second feature allows the wearer to Alter Self as a Sorcerer of 5th rank, but although the features of the transmuted form are slightly ‘monkey-ified', and the recipient may be blessed with large lips or a big forehead, this does not impact on the spells illusionary effect.
The scroll continues with Robbie's other creation, an item worn under the armour like my own vestment, called ‘The White Sting Vest of Terry Thomas' and so I continue to read his research. The description of his vest is less legible than the spider monkey cap, but reads like a vest that will keep the chill at bay while also offering protection similar to that of a robe of protection – very handy as the Kua-toan's have reported extreme coldness beyond the main doors.
I do believe however, that many - shall we say more refined artisans, may refrain from the need to follow the instructions "…the inventor must wear a silken dressing gown, while holding a cigarette holder and randomly saying such catch-phrases as ‘You're an absolute shower!'", "You Cad!", and ‘Good show old chap!' during its creation.
Others not involved in item creation help research the Sunless Sea – although find little of use – the information mostly coming from scrying's and the Kua-toan. One thing we don't need help with is that we have been in this part of the land now for more than two and a half years , which means that if the ‘evil lot™' had got their act together, they would have completed their plans and taken over the world by now. It is however cheering to know that people more disorganised than us do exist though…
One very important thing we do find relates to teleportation spells. Apparently, an effect called ‘Phaseress' is in place in the tunnels beyond the gate and covers much of the area known as the Sunless Sea . This Phrassress hampers scrying as well as teleportation, and any distance greater than a mile requires much concentration - so much so that short distances are recommended due to almost certain death on miscalculation.
The only real change to the daily life of wake up, continue research or item creation work, eat and rest was one a day when we returned to Milbourne for supplies. We decided to make things brief due to the amount of trouble we had caused there over the last years, and also for-goad Robbie's offer of shopping via the ‘Bearded Gentlemen', and after stocking up – surprisingly with no mishaps, we noticed quite quickly that we where being followed.
Even Salas (Gorm rest his soul) would have been able to spot this one, as he blatantly walked up and started tagging along with us. With no one uncharacteristically wanting to appear rude, he remained unquestioned by all, and it was only at supper, around the campfire, when Robbie said "You, new boy, fetch me the sausages!" that other less observant party members even knew he was there.
His name is Mourn - quickly christened Moomin by the majority of the party, and is particular brand of Fighter class known as a Lasher, fighting primarily with barbed whips. I must confess there was a quite interesting back story to his arrival, and I believe he may be related in some way through Max, the Paladin, but I took my leave early and fell into a deep sleep, and during the next day forgot to question him further.
So, back at the city once more, we are greeted by Errol and his large guards. Greeted maybe too strong a word, and tolerated is closer to the mark, but I think despite those left on his side within the city, he knows that we could cause enough trouble if provoked, and that is something he just doesn't need.
We comment on the cleanup that has taken place in our absence, which he accepts gracefully, and the city now nearly looks like it was before we destroyed half of it. Errol informs us that he has not opened the gates yet, and genuinely does not know all that lies beyond them – only bits and pieces he has picked up while present at various meetings between the King and his Illithid advisors.
He also gives us more information on the internal politics that had plagued him, along his brothers and his father the King. Apparently the King was being controlled by the Illithid priests, and in turn his brothers where controlled by their duty to the King, and so by proxy, the majority of the city was controlled by the Illithid's. We are surprised to see some Derro left, although they look more like servants than soldiers, and it appears some low Kua-toan priests also managed to escape the madness of the city.
We thank Errol for the information, and decide to head back to our house within the city, to discuss our next plans. Some wish to forge on with the initial quest of finding Jilenth, (and I try and ignore the blank looks of ‘who's Jileneth' from some members of the original party) while others want to head back to Milbourne properly, and resolve the mess that has happened and attributed to us. To remind anyone reading this, I mean events such as letting a shape changing Rakusha loose in the town, the jailing of various formally respected Magicians, and finally the sexual crimes that have been laid blame to our party.
It is decided that our Milbourne troubles should be righted, and with the new Crystal Ball sat on a small table, Rallets wraps a sheet around his head like an old gypsy lady, and touches the ball while thinking of the Rakusha. Others round the table gasp in appreciation, as Rallets has managed to conjure a tiny perfect image of Count Palfrey, sitting at a desk, signing some papers. The image is so clear that the writing can be read, and just as we try to work out what the Rakusha might be doing, the image disappears, as a heavily bearded figure reaches under the table and touches the scout's crystal balls, breaking his concentration.
While Rallets traumatized in the corner, Agador tries again, looking for the Rakusha, and again the image centres on the image of Count Palfrey – could this mean that Count Palfrey is dead and the shape-shifter has taken his place? The Count/Rakusha then looks up, staring directly at the ‘invisible' view point, and so Robbie flips him a finger, but obviously the ‘count' cannot see him, only knowing that someone somewhere is watching.
Knowing now that Agador is competent enough to use the Crystal ball, we let him continue scrying, this time looking for the wizard Talstaff. The image that comes through is very dark and grainy however, and the more eagle eyed among us point out a solid shape in the darkness, much like a large granary sack. When this sack starts to move in a ‘old man tied up in a sack' kind of way, things start to become more apparent.
Switching to look for the Sorcerer Cranin, a similar dark area appears, and again, another old man sack is spotted, and when another sack rolls into view it is obvious that they are both together. Getting the hang of things, Agador switches to spy on Garyold, and see's him and Snagger with fishing rods, heading towards a bend in the river a mile or so out of Milbourne.
With everyone now accounted for, we decide to tackle the fake count first. Bagging most of the party in Beard's hole, others get paired up with a Wizard and are soon ready to go. Quite efficiently, we all count down, and then the Teleport Teams are off – but Pellet seems to have got on the wrong bus as Quiddich has not seen the keep before, and he crosses his little Elven fingers in anticipation of appearing in a rock or several hundred feet above the ground. Agador, and thankfully Orko and Pellet, all appear in the middle of the courtyard narrowly missing a passing cart, but otherwise safe, while the rest of us appear in a perfect spot in the corner by the blacksmith's.
All of those that are not in Beard's hole see the Rakusha appear from the keep, holding Linton very close to him, and flanked by guards. He notices the group of Elves in the centre of the courtyard immediately, and briefly shows a hidden dagger while nodding towards the Counts son as he makes his way round the side of the keep.
In the Blacksmiths, I run interference by talking pleasantries to the Blacksmith, while Beard opens the hole to let the others out. This is hampered by the blacksmiths boy when he tries to see what the strange bearded short man is up to, and when propositioned by Beard offering to show him ‘his sack', drops a hammer on his toe.
A cry quickly goes up in the courtyard, and it is obvious now that the party, known felons thanks to Cranin and the Rakusha, have been spotted up to no good. Pellet and Orko walk off nonchalantly, making sure they are not associated with the notorious wrongdoer Agador, trying to mix in with the crowd, but failing miserably as there are no Elves in this area other than us, and also, Orko has a golden face making him look as Human as Data does.
Agador tries to be forceful with the guards but they are more interested in rounding up all the Elves, while I cast a simple healing spell on the apprentice, curing his hammered toe, and also an in-growing toenail. During another of Beards sexual distractions, this time offering to ‘milk a guard', Rallets slips out in the shadows and slips into the crowds unnoticed. "Step away from the melons" is shouted at the Elves, who have pretended to shop and look bewildered at any allegations that they may be involved in any misdemeanours, while Beard is calling for assorted fruit as a very frightened spear wielding guard tries to stop Beard from moving.
The guards are struggling with keeping the situation at hand, with people screaming, fruit sellers chasing after Elves with bags laden with spherical fruit and vegetables, while I am calmly telling the Man at Arms holding a sword pointed at me that the Counts son is in danger. Things degenerate further, as the guards are more insistent on us being captured and not interested in acting on what we have to say - which to be honest, had the roles been reversed, and I had seen a group of Elves and Dwarfs magically appear in my market stuffing melons and cabbages in their pockets and claiming "…Linton is in danger!" I would have locked them up too.
LotD decides to make his move, and walks briskly off, doffing his cap at a passing lady. Just as his guard turns to follow him, Robbie makes a quick deceptive sidewise step into a group of people as his monkey mask turns him into the likeness of a guard, and he steps back out calling "..stop thieves!" while pointing at Agador.
Agador hearing the cry, activates his cloak - which rather than allowing him to escape gracefully, has the opposite effect as people scream at the batman in their midst, with some children hiding in amongst the brightly coloured skirt of Orko. As the Master of arms is distracted at the multitude of things happening round him, I drop an Obscuring mist and Beard, Hordex, Moomin and I all saunter off.
Orko and Pellet, whom still believe that this commotion is happening to someone else and that they are totally removed from it, carry on shopping for more assorted fruit, while Agador high in the sky is scouring the area to look for the count. Rallets picks up the most information however, as he finds that the Count has left the keep for his normal morning ride.
Beard is running around in the fog shouting "..throw me a melon", while the Elves have moved to the knitting stall to browse this season must have patterns. Two guards come for me, trying to grapple me in the fog, but I deflect one and the other misses, and I duck behind some crates while they grapple each other. Moomin is also attacked, and feeling threatened by a guard without the training and skills of hard adventuring, retaliates, but in a ‘cruel' twist, ends up punching the blacksmiths anvil instead of the guard.
Hordex has not strayed far and stayed quiet throughout all of this, wisely hidden under a table, until like the other members of the party, all have the same coincidental thought to leave the keep through the main gate. Activating my mask, I fly from behind the crates into the air, only to be shot at by Moomin, his pretence of being an innocent bystander during the ‘naughty lads outing' is to help the guards by shooting those flying in the air. His shot looked as though it was pointing away from me, but veered through a stray air current, hitting me in the shoulder instead – I believe I see a traitor in the midst…
Orko and Pellet, walk out of the main door as a married couple – I am later told that Orko was addresses as ‘mam' on more than one occasion whilst shopping, and swing their (heavily armoured) ‘son' Hordex between them. There is no way on earth that anyone could mistake this trio for a family out buying groceries, and all the guards along the pathway simply looked the other way as they had already had quite enough trouble for one day thank you very much.
When nearly everyone arrives outside, we find Pellet starting to track the area for sign, and discovers that the horsemen have followed the wall around the keep, rather than follow any of the proper paths, and so we move on after them. Beard meanwhile has made his way into the keep, and starts to Wind Walk through the keep and into the dungeons, just to check to make sure Talstar and Cranin are not hidden anywhere within.
The trackers soon find that the horsemen, comprising of 6 guards, Linton and the ‘Count' are all huddled up against the back wall of the keep. Agador, who has moved to the back of the keep and is flying out of bow shot can also see them, but can't make out and definitive targets, while I approach from the other side, soon meeting up with Agador.
Rallets negotiates and moving within speaking distance, manages to speak to the Rakusha, who orders the guards atop the keep walls to hold fire. When spoken to, he seems much relived that it is Rallets, mentioning "…you are the ones with the Dwarves?" – He obviously thought we were the evil party.
Soon we are all back together again and ready to see Count Palfrey and Linton, who Rallets, Robbie and Beard are in conference with in his rooms. The Rakusha wants out - Cranin was the brains behind all the trouble apparently, and is now missing, and he doesn't know what to do. He appears very frightened, and as he is stuck in the Counts body, cannot simply just leave without a cover story, or suspicion will be raised. We decide to resolve the mess, and Rallets arranges for us to get pardons, with all the blame being shifted to ‘Cranin the Magician' in his absence.
Robbie wants to ensure that Linton gets the title and a proper hand over ceremony, and to explain that he is leaving on a sabbatical or some kind of pilgrimage. We give him a day to arrange the transfers, and the pardon and arrangements are finalised over some nice slices of melon.
The next few days pass quickly, and a ceremony is held to pass the ruler ship to Linton as arranged, and once we are satisfied that the Rakusha has left, we return once more to the city, where once more we wait within our house to speak to Errol.
[Part Two of this chapter continues as we start the Sunless Sea - click next to read on....]