Taurven nods his head in agreement with Naberius. Best to let Magdal forget about us for now, I suppose. The half-elf still feels that befriending the madame is necessary, but it can be done later.
You all make your way out of the safehouse and into the sewer, and through that into the streets of Egorian. A large thunderstorm crackles as it rolls over the city, sending showers of rain pouring down into the streets. Mud ensues.
Despite this, or perhaps thanks to it, Bob manages to take you to what he refers to as 'the hunting grounds'. A labyrinth of shops and stands and carts, covered today with an enormous transparent and glowing cover, held aloft by a pole, with a stylized stone demon carved into the top.
As you move into the hunting ground's confines, several things happen.
Bob takes the opportunity to duck into the writhing mass of crowding people, and you manage to catch occasional images of him expertly shuffling through pockets and bags unnoticed.
Near the edge of the market are a small collection of homes, poor but clean and well-maintained, stacked atop each other three-high. A small group of four tall burly thugs and a thin wiry man with a rat-like face move occasionally between the homes, a large black bag growing heavier as they do so. People on the streets, seeing them, grow somewhat fearful before turning and going about their business somewhat hastily.
Bob directs Mellany and the rest to a small hole in the ground in the corner of the market, surrounded by prized empty space as yet unclaimed by any vendors for some reason. Bob speaks "Magic." and a bright sign appears and hovers through the air: "Beautiful Gorgeous Legendary Stylish Charming Madam Wilheminia's Shop of Witchy Wonders. Jump in for a spell."
Blast pulls the collar of his coat up to try and ward off some of the rain, but there isn't much he can do without a hood or hat on him; another thing I need to buy, he thinks.
In the marketplace, Blast glances around at the stores and people, lowering the collar as he steps under the covering. Seeing the thugs, he snaps his fingers nervously once or twice, small sparks flicking from them, but doesn't say or do anything conspicuous.
He smirks at the sign as it pops into being. "She forgot modest," the tiefling murmurs, and then he turns to the rest of the group. "Well, who all is going in? And, Bob, how exactly do we get in?" He glances around. "I myself can go in, or I can do some of my shopping here. I need new clothing, for one thing, and I'm hoping to find a good item in the way of self-defense."
Akari steps out into the rain, and takes and long, deep sniff.
"Ahhh, the smell of rain mixed with freedom has never been better... Now if only I had some cuter clothes."
Akari keeps her eyes open and takes note of the locations of the tailor and leathersmith for some new clothing.
Noticing the obvious collectors, Akari will without a word split off for a minute or two and begins asking questions to the people in the streets.
First, since Akari spends most of her time in Westcrown, does she have any basic knowledge about these collecters? If not, she'll attempt a knowledge local check to see what she knows about them. After that, she will speak to the locals to find out everything she can about these men.
Knowledge(Local): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
Diplomacy (Gather Information): 1d20 + 11 + 1 ⇒ (18) + 11 + 1 = 30
Akari searches for rumours and gossip and is able to find various peoples who reveal the following.
The Egorian rulers were having difficulty collecting their high taxes from the people, so they licensed it out. Gangs who come forward are given the power to collect a set value of money from the population, and get to keep a percentage of it, the rest going to the rulers.
In practice, this means that gangs of thugs are now in charge of tax collection, with imperial backing, who threaten and injure and usually take a significant value of the money off the top.
Mellany took 300gp from the cache on this little shopping trip: 200 for the materials needed for the ritual and 100 for "incidentals".
"I'd hate to rob anyone of a chance to meet the beautiful gorgeous legendary stylish and charming Madam Wilheminia," Mellany says with a grin. "But I should be safe enough on my own. I think you're right Blast, I'm sure it was just modesty that kept her from putting trustworthy and kind on her sign."
Mellany peers down the hole under the sign, but it's hard to make out what waits at the bottom. "I may as well jump," she says quietly before she jumps into the hole.
"Very well, Mellany--if you're sure." However, Blast pulls her into a brief hug, whispering, "Take these, though." He slips two items into Mellany's pockets or hands--an acid flask and one of his daggers.
Sleight of Hand: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19
Then the tiefling nods, smiles, and turns to the others. "I'm off to do some shopping of my own. I'll stay here in this area, I'm sure I'll be fine. Holler if you need me!"
With that, Blast moves off into the crowds and to the stores, hoping to find what he's looking for, and watching for trouble...
Sword cane (45 gp)
Brass knife (2 gp)
Artisan's outfit (1 gp)
Pickpocket's outfit (5 gp)
Traveler's outfit (1 gp)
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
Nope, no bargaining. I'll add 'em to my gear and subtract the cost. If the others haven't left Madam Wilheminia's yet, he's headed there next--he'll jump in and pick up wherever they are. If for whatever reason he can't, he'll purchase a piece of fruit or some bread and find a comfy spot, snacking and watching the crowd.
Mellany (and any others who follow her)-
As you drop into the hole, for a single crystal-clear moment darkness surrounds you before you feel your body spin in place, turning the world upside down. You pop out of a hole in the floor of a warn shop, landing on the floor beside it.
The shop is small and cramped, with no windows just plain stonework. Shelves and desks and items hanging from the roof abound, turning what should have been a small open area into a dense coagulation of trinkets and knick-knacks ranging from herbs to gems to objects that seem utterly out of this world. "Greetings, dearies! Come in!" calls a voice from the far side of the shop, and through a fortuitous gap in the stationary storm of magical bric-a-brac appears a figure with bright red sparkling lipstick.
Bob waves "Hi, madame Wilhemenia!" and the figure moves closer, craning her neck to see. "Oh Bob, you don't have to be so formal with me, dear! So, what can I do for you? Who are these friends of yours?"
As the figure moves closer, you make out more lipstick, deep midnight blue mascara and a shawl/slip starred with silver moons and pearls... all worn by a man with rock-hard abs and long flowing purple hair and a voice pitched so high it could turn sand to obsidian.
Akari will begin to converse with him. Mostly small talk about the shop and the city. She'll also show some interest in his magic, perhaps ask him if he himself crafts the things in his store, and if he is also a wizard/sorc/caster of some sort.
She will then try to use diplomacy to become friends, making haggling a bit easier. She will then then haggle to drop the price of boots of elvenkind (if he has them)
Diplomacy (Improve Relationship): 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (15) + 11 = 26 +1=27 (if he finds Akari attractive)
Haggle: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (13) + 11 = 24 +1=25 (if he finds Akari attractive)
Madame Wilheminia chats with Akari, telling her a little about the city and a little about her powers but not explaining much more. She however remains evasive about the extent or type of her powers merely hinting that she is not a traditional wizard.
Wilheminia is somewhat insulted by your intimation that she is a man and this causes much approbation and reproving, but she generally charmed by Akari.
When Akari attempts to haggle however the Madame proves to be a cunning saleswoman, talking about the rising prices and constraints on supply and how she would love to offer you a discount but sadly taxes are increasing and she needs the money. Consequently, Akari is only able to get full price on the boots.
She out-diplomacied you.
Mellany is surprised that Blast embraced her just before she leaped into the shop. Then she feels the gifts the tiefling had slipped her during the embrace. Wonder if he's expecting me to return them the same way? The thought briefly flashes through Mellany's mind as she starts to take in the sights and smells of Madame Wilheminia's shop.
"Good morning, Madame Wilheminia," Mellany smiles at the shop keeper. "Bob's come through again, you'll definitely have the materials I need to call Cat. Let's see... I'm looking for a small bag of silvery white sand, five white candles, one black candle, a pint of wine infused with serpent's bile, four ounces of catnip, a yard of silk yarn, some fish heads... Oh, never mind the fish heads Madame, Bob and I can scrounge those from the back of the fish monger's stall. Oh, and you don't mind if I don't call you Madame, do you? It's so formal and we're both friends of Bob. So, where was I with my list, Aunty Wilheminia?" Mellany rattles off more ingredients for her summoning ritual.
Diplomacy (Improve Relationship) 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Wilheminia raises an eyebrow and tells you to wait one moment. She goes through a door into the back room and reappears with a small wooden box, which she passes to you. On inspection, there are all the items Mellany had requested, neatly laid out, including the fish heads. "It's one of mine, dearie" she says, with a wink. "I recognize a fellow practitioner when I see one... please have this one on the house." A tiny fox drowsily pokes its head out the door to the back room and pads over to Wilheminia, looking at her and emitting a small 'yowl' sound. "Yes Archyphex, I know it's time for your lunch... I just couldn't live without mine." she adds to Mellany.
"Thank you, Aunty," Mellany says as she looks through the box's contents. She carefully closes the box lid then starts looking through the shop's wares with girlish abandon. She's careful not to touch anything, but has little comments on every new item she notices. Finally, she turns her attention back to Madame Wilheminia. "Your shop is wonderful, Aunty. I never imagined I'd find one like it. Of course I never imagined anyone else would call me a 'fellow practitioner'. Are there many with our talent in Egorian?"
After a moment's hesitation, Taurven follows Mellany and Akari into the hole. Once inside, he gawks at all the odd trinkets and the general upside-downness of things.
Will Save1d20 + 4 ⇒ (18) + 4 = 22
Eyes flickering between you, Wilheminia frowns at Taurven and Mellany but grows reassured as she glances at Akari.
Pulling out a small ball of wool from under her shop counter, she passes it over to Mellany. "Keep this by your bedside at night, dearie" she says with a wink. "And not a word to those guards..."
Turning to you all as if she had not spoken, she smiles brightly and asks, "Is there anything else I can get you, dearies? My superlatively beautiful amazing spectacular shiny glorious selection of wares is at your disposal!"
Blast also wanders back over, having found a place to change into one of his new clothing sets. He wears a sturdy-looking, long, black coat, with a crisp white shirt and black trousers underneath, and tall black leather boots. His hair is swept back and falls over his shoulders, and a wide-brimmed black hat is set on his head, cocked slightly to one side. He's wearing black gloves with the ends of the fingers hacked off, and holds a cane in one hand.
"I take it the beautiful and legendary Wilheminia had what you needed?" the tiefling asks with a smile.
"Yes, she had what I needed," Mellany says. "Even the fish heads. And Akari got herself a cute pair of boots. Looks like we weren't the only ones shopping. Nice suit, Blast. Is that really silk? Only one way to find out." Mellany hugs Blast and runs her fingers on the front of his shirt. She also tries to surreptitiously slip the dagger and flask into a convenient jacket pocket, but winds up dropping the dagger which clatters on the ground at Blast's feet.
Sleight of Hand 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9. Perception 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
She thought we were your guards? Taurven sounds half amused as he directs this at Mellany. It is more a comment than a question. Then he adds, with a grin: I didn't know I looked so formidable.
The Bard sizes up Blast, in his new clothes. Speaking of which; nice threads, there, Blast.
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (20) + 8 = 28
Blast grins at Mellany's attempt. "Capit diu impetro bonum," Blast says, scooping up the dagger with his tail and replacing it in a fold of his clothing. "As for silk, I'm afraid I had to settle for linen," the tiefling says with a sarcastic air of nobility. "But they serve my purposes well--lots of pockets."
Blast smiles at Taurven as well. "Thank you, Taurven. I figure it's probably best to remain as inconspicuous as possible when you have a tale like mine, and the stench of prison and sewage isn't very pleasant." Blast shrugs, then taps his cane on the ground and snaps his fingers, shooting small and conspicuous sparks into the air.
"What now?" he asks.
"Non sum melius questus rerum est e pockets quam posito rerum fefellitus" Mellany answers Blast with a grin. Then she turns to Taurven. "Yeah, I guess she thought you were my guards. I didn't notice anyone else in the room. Next time I'll have to talk to her in private, but that can wait."
"Where to next? Personally, I'd like to go someplace quiet and perform the ritual for finding Cat."
As you all begin the walk home, the rain begins to abate. An urchin pops up seemingly out of nowhere as you walk and pulls Bob aside and begins an animated conversation with him. He grows more and more concerned and eventually gestures the boy to go off and walks back with you, now scanning the sidelines worriedly.
"Great... you know those guys who attacked you yesterday? I thought they all bought it, but one must have survived and told the gang. Congratulations. You guys have Kore angry with you." Bob gives a nervous laugh and keeps watching the street carefully.
" 'Kore'?" Blast asks, gripping his cane a little more tightly, tugging up the collar on his coat, and glancing around nervously. More tail-takers?
Then the tiefling seems to relax, and you see his tail caressing the large pouch on his belt. "Eh," Blast says with a little mischievous grin, "I think these oafs will find me a little more competent and dangerous than I was yesterday."
Taurven grins. A sharp bit o' steel in my hand to go with the song in my heart. Makes all the difference.
Growing more serious, Taurven asks Bob: Where can we find this Kore?
I'd rather deal with him now, on my terms, than later, on his.
Bob looks slowly between Taurven and Blast. He then explodes into peals of laughter, doubling over nearly onto his knees. "You...want...to...FIND Kore... and 'deal with him'?...oh my Gods..."
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Bob takes you through an alley, two streets and another alley and you find yourselves in a small back-alley with boarded-up houses and shops. The north-facing side is a heavily graffitied wall, with several pieces of string dangling from it. Amid a myriad of street languages and codes, you can pick out the words "TAIL-TAKERS" and "KORE"[b] emblazoned in various scripts.
Looking closer, you realize that the strings are actually tiefling tails which have been nailed to the wall.
Bob grows serious, gesturing at the tails. [b]"Rumour is that half of those tails come from tieflings taken off the streets, and the other half come from those who hunted Kore down for revenge. Heck, this is just ONE of their touchwalls. There's gotta be nearly a hundred more scattered around the city..." Bob turns to face you all. "Kore came in and took over one of the street gangs a few years ago; they weren't the biggest or the richest but they were the dirtiest. Supposedly Kore whipped their leader like he was a four-pound foundling, took over and made them into the Tail-Takers. If you're in trouble with them, you do NOT go looking for them. You lie low or you pay them off- of you die."
Everyone who has them, give me Knowledge Religion and/or Knowledge History and/or Knowledge Nobility
Not among my skills.
Blast gasps as he recognizes the tails, and you see his own fly up the back of his coat. "Good Gods..." he whispers, staring at the gore of his race.
He turns to the rest of the group. "I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get... doubts... along with mixed feelings." He begins pacing, occasionally gesturing with his cane, occasionally snapping his fingers, causing small sparks to fly off, and sometimes making small bits of rubbish burst into flame. "On one hand, this 'Kore' character is obviously a man of some strength, or at least power, and he has some issue with my kind. He's apparently been very successful in the past. On the other..." The tiefling pauses, seeming to be struggling with what to say.
Do I tell them about grandfather? How this could help save me...?
"On the other hand," he says, shaking his head and continuing, "I can't deny my anger at this. We're not monsters, tieflings; and this isn't right." Blast looks at his companions. "I think we'd do well in crushing these gangs; tiefling hatred is a strong part of what's wrong with Cheliax. And I think we'd do well to make the tieflings our friends; they're likely to stand with us against this Hell-hole of a nation."
Bardic knowledge,Religion: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12
Bardic Knowledge,History: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18
Bardic knowledge,Nobility: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18
You're right. Taurven tells Bob,If this Kore were to find out you helped us against him, it could put you at risk.
Taurven shakes his head. Our goal requires that we contend against the mighty. I suspect that Kore may be the smallest of small fries, when compared to Abrogail.
The half-elf shrugs. Not saying I think that Kore is a push-over. Not at all. Just relative to other enemies we can expect to face.
Taurven regards Bob with a grave expression. I guess the point is: You are still just a child, no matter how mature you may seem.
It's really not right for us to put you at risk. If you need some more gold to pay off the Tail-Takers, I can help you with that.
And I can find Kore on my own, it will just take a bit more time.
Akari notices the wall and is a bit taken by what she see's.
"I shouldn't be surprised, this place is full of fanatics."
Akari drops down to Bob's height and asks:
"Bob, do you know if this 'Kore' and is gang are working together with those collectors?"
Akari sees the frustration Blasts eyes.
"I'm sorry you find yourself in this situation Blast, but i'm confident that with a bit of planning and organization, we will be able to do a lot more than just get revenge for your type. I'm not... normal either."
Akari circles up with the rest of the party
"Listen gang, we need to get organized. We've got a long of potential avenues we can take right now, so we can't let every little piece of bait lure us away from our directive... even though we don't quite have a clear one yet. I say we finish up shopping, head back to the place, and decide our first plan of attack. I'm going to try and find out a little bit more about Kore and his gang."
Akari will wander off and finish her shopping. In addition to her adventuring gear, she picks up a few pairs of her favorite outfit: leather pants and a white blouse, extra long, just how she likes it.
If nobody objects to her plan, she will also spend some time asking around about "Kore", trying to find out if people generally love and appreciate what he and his boys do, or if people fear and dislike him.
Diplomacy (Gather Information)DC 10 (Basic), 20 (Obscure): 1d20 + 11 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 11 + 1 = 16
"If we already gained the attention of this Kore person," Mellany muses aloud. "I doubt we'll be able to lose it easily. The only thing we did to gain his attention was intervene to keep Blast's tail attached to the rest of him. We'll need to deal with Kore, but I doubt we could even get close to him. I'd much rather discuss this someplace other than in the streets."
Taurven goes along with the others; back to "The Place". He had left his bow and arrows there anyway. He feels a bit on edge though as he heads back to the sewer entrance he keeps looking back. Looking for a tail or some sign that they are being followed.
Perception to spot anyone following. 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (20) + 8 = 28
If there even is anyone. ;)
Blast moves to his room, putting the clothes into the chest at the foot of his bed, tinkering with some alchemy, but not really doing anything. He leaves the door open, so you can smell some strange scents emanating from the room, along with some multi-colored smoke, and the occasional shout or curse, often accompanied by a minor explosion.
Akari goes straight to the board where the map is and begins writing a list:
a. What keeps her enemies divided until now?
b. Are the people and army receiving any divine assistance?
c. Who keeps the military loyal?
d. Who are the key players in this city and who or what is uniting them?
-- Kore and his Gang: The tax collectors.
Vision for the future?...
She turns to the party
"I say we whittle down Kore's men, one at a time. We'll gain support of the people, and hurt the income of the inner circle of the city. I can't wait to gut one of those fools like a trout with my new edge."
Akari will un-sheath her rapier and perform a couple of steps and strikes at the wall.