"I would be very grateful for that, Dracius. The chill of their touch still has not left me." Despite her serious tone, she can't help but smile the giddy smile of someone who has so very recently avoided death. "I will play for us as we rest tonight, to ease our spirits. But first, I must unburden myself of this armour. Rest Arael, the rest of the group is not far behind us."
Dario walks into the church about an hour later. He drops himself down into a chair and leans it back in his customary manner. "Well it all seemed to go well. I didn't see any sight of Ferrucio, so hopefully whoever picks up the stone won't either. I asked Bluehood to set the meeting time and location and for her to respond to us in the dumpster."
He pushes his hat further back on his head, wincing at a pain in his shoulder. "Anyone else hurting from tonight's adventure still? That shadow thing seemed to do a number on me."
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
Ferrucio settles himself down opposite the drop site, his footman's tabard wrapped around him as he waits. He sees Dario make the drop...and then, some time later, a strange bird--seemingly wearing a funerary mask--comes down to perch nearby.
Knowledge (planes): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27
A nosoi? What is a nosoi doing here?
Then, the bird begins to sing.
Will save: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12; curses, so close! ; )
Ferrucio is utterly entranced by the creature's song, and when he comes back to himself, he finds his eyes are dry and he has drooled a little out of one side of his mouth. He blinks rapidly as his heart sinks, searching desperately for the nosoi--or some sign of its passing.
Perception check: 1d20 + 7 - 4 ⇒ (2) + 7 - 4 = 5; -4 for fascination penalty
Finding nothing (presumably!), Ferrucio wipes the spit off his chin and makes his way despondently back to the church.
I will leave some time for additional roleplay without Ferrucio present, then make my return-to-the-safehouse post later today my time. : )
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
It's getting late by the time Ferrucio returns. He doesn't look happy as he throws his footman's disguise on the floor and strides over to a glass-fronted cabinet to use as a mirror while he removes his make-up with one of his ubiquitous kerchiefs.
"No," he says to everyone's unasked question. "I was not able to find out who Bluehood is, or where she might keep herself. After Dario left the shadowstone behind, I watched for a while. Eventually, a nosoi--a kind of bird, more about it later--came by, and used some kind of mind control on me. I was rendered insensible, and when I came to, both the nosoi and the shadowstone were gone."
"There is a modicum of good news--nosoi are one of a class of creatures called psychopomps. Psychopomps are the Boneyard's bureaucrats, overseeing the smooth running of Pharasma's plane. Each type of psychopomp takes on a different role, but nosoi are the ones that spend the most time here on our plane, ensuring souls make the proper journey to the Boneyard before their judgment."
Having finished with his makeup, Ferrucio tosses his kerchief onto the pile of clothing that had been his disguise. "Nosoi can be bonded by spellcasters as familiars," he continues, nodding to Dario as he accepts a goblet of wine and sits down in one of the little group of armchairs that have become the group's impromptu strategy centre, "but they do have a strong free will, and do not consort with those who have anything to do with undeath, which Pharasma views as a perversion of the natural order."
He stops to drink from his goblet, and then looks for his kerchief to wipe his mouth. Realising it's several yards away, he grimaces and uses a sleeve instead. "Anyway, as I was saying, the presence of a nosoi--presumably in service of Bluehood--would indicate she or someone in her employ is a powerful spellcaster aligned with Pharasma. Circumstantially, then, we at least don't need to worry about her trying to use the shadowstones for some evil purpose. Unfortunately, all we can do now is wait for her reply."
Ferrucio massages his temples with his free hand. "So what have we decided about tomorrow?"
Ferrucio is disappointed he wasn't able to find Bluehood, but he is more angry about the fact that he was affected by some sort of mind control. He feels violated.
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9
"I think we were waiting for everyone to get back. But anyways, I think we decided to just have me and Illithia walk in like nothin's wrong. We have the rest of you wait for us. Though we need a signal in case it is a trap so we can call you guys in."
Sense Motive 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (18) + 0 = 18
Dario replaces the wine decanter on the shelf. "Interesting. Either the little bird detected you or it sang its song as a normal precautionary measure. Bluehood is no amateur. So I think we simply need to play it straight with her. Check the spot tomorrow evening and see if she agrees to meet. We have to take it from there. If she won't, then we may need to honor that for the time being."
The professor nods at Bishop's words, but takes a sip of his wine before speaking. "Sounds risky, but it seems we're in the business of risk nowadays. I can't think of a better plan without tipping our hand to the Bastards. How far away do you think we'll have to be? One of your pistol shots can bring us running, but that's far from subtle."
"No risk, no reward. That's what bein' a gambler's all about. Just be far enough that they won't suspect anything. And if we need you guys, subtlety will be the last thing on our minds. Firin' off a shot will be a good signal then."
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
Dracius nods at Ferrucio's story, then says softly, "Well, that's disappointing. We can only hope that she's willing to make contact for the other stones. Still, there are a few other things we can do -- the Bastards and the Goblins both need handling."
"And we have the bandits along the Westcrown road too. That would put us in the debt of a certain shopkeeper who has minor magical wares. I'm not saying it's quite as important, but if they're preying on the trade into and out of the city, we might be able to ease some people's lives." Dario takes a sip of wine. "Frankly I'm game for any action. Our work yesterday got my blood pumping.
"Not exactly unrelated, Dracius. They are probably symptoms of the same underlying cause." Dario stands and walks through the room. He seems to be considering the idea and at the same time waiting for it to register with the others. He turns and begins moving back through the room as he continues.
"Imagine Westcrown as a living creature. Consider these events--the goblins, the Westpool bandits, The Bastards, even Bluehood herself--as if they were a cough, sneezing, fatigue, and fever. Each one seems unconnected to the whole, when taken by itself. But a healer would see them as symptoms of an underlying illness."
The Professor, because it is very much the Professor who is speaking now, continues his walk around the room as she speaks. "Westcrown is ill, and these are the outward signs. Its people are beaten down. The Dottari and the Hellknights, who are charged with protecting it, are at odds and are hurting the body as much as they help it. The city cannot seem to get any respite to heal itself. The illness is festering." He takes a sip of wine.
"What can be done? What do healers do? They will treat the body by giving it herbs or a poultice. Something external must be introduced to show the body how to fight the infection or to lessen it and give the body the ability to heal itself. Sometimes healers will treat the symptoms, hoping the illness can run its course. Sometimes it must be opened and the bad blood drained."
"So image us as the healer. We can recognize the city is sick. We must try to apply medicines. Fighting each of these symptoms may allow the city to rally. It's possible more will arise though. So while we fight the symptoms, we also need to keep an eye toward the underlying cause."
Dracius nods at the Professor's lecture, listening attentively, An apt analogy... does he always tailor his lessons to his students?
When the professor stops, he says, "I see your point, but as a healer, I also know that fighting the symptoms is usually a losing battle, and that it is the illness itself must be attacked. And, here, I wonder if the underlying cause is some abstract notion of corruption as a general concept -- say the sum many petty corruptions and neglects ... or if it's a corruption of a more... deliberate and directed sort?"
His rumbling voice trails off rather than stopping, as if it just dropped below the range of normal hearing. He shrugs, and speaks again, the deep bass rumbling your chest, "Still, to continue the analogy, we don't yet know what the disease truly is, which means we can't yet treat it -- so all that's left are the symptoms and hoping to keep the patient alive until we do."
He sighs, "Which gets us back to the original issue, we have a number of symptoms within our reach. I hate to say it, but I think yesterday showed us that the shadowbeasts are beyond us for the moment, though perhaps we can find a way to send them back from whence they came... Hopefully, we'll hear back from our note and promise of more stones.... The brigands work the road, and would help win merchants to our cause, while further demonstrating the fallible nature of the Hellknights, causing them to lose face. The goblins, on the other hand, are primarily targeting the poorest areas, but it would gain us the thanks and, better still, trust of the mayor, which would be a large gain for the Children and the hearts and minds of Westcrown... and, again, prove the Children can do what the Hellknights cannot. Still, such gains do not come without risk."
He pauses for a moment, then looks up at the group, "My own preference would be the goblins first, but that may be because they're plaguing the people I grew up with before I learned of my birthright. However, there are benefits to going after them -- namely, we know they're in town, we can probably get information from various informants, and really, based on our escape, we know they're breaking into the Children's tunnel network, which creates a risk. Unless we can set a trap, perhaps by faking a shipment, I would think the brigands would be harder to find, and we risk being ambushed out in the open."
Totally forget: Did we earn any XP for the shadow fight?
The conversation concerning healers seems quite appropriate as Dracius sits next to Illithia, tending to her. Most of her external wounds are rope burns from the panicked flight, and Illithia keep thinking that the amount of care Dracius is taking isn't strictly necessary, but she doesn't complain. She is relieved when both Dario and Ferrucio return unharmed.
"I also would like to see the goblin threat driven from the city, but we should focus our preparations on tomorrow, shouldn't we?"
As the pair make their analogies to healing, Bishop suddenly looks like he has remembered something. "I think you two have a point. Someone told me that the old pathfinder lodge called Delvehaven is connected somehow. After we get back from the Bastards, we should find a way into the place as well as the other billion things we have to do." He smiles at the last sentence.
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
Ferrucio smiles at Bishop's well-meant exaggeration.
"Quite," he says, draining the last of his wine. Unused to the alcohol, his eyes are a little unfocused.
"But Illithia is also right. Let us prepare for tomorrow, and then speak afterward on what else we may do to assist the city to recover. Speaking of which..."
Ferrucio hauls himself out of the chair, puts the goblet down, and walks unsteadily over to the pile of clothes near the cabinet. He picks them up carefully--probably because he knows if he tried to do it quickly it would likely unbalance him. He stands up again, and sketches a salute to his companions. "I shall go and consult my spellbook. I doubt disguises will be particularly useful tomorrow, should the worst come to pass. I bid you farewell."
He weaves his way back across the floor to his room.
Arael scowls when asked about the ruined district.
"It used to be a prospering religious centre before Aroden's fall. Under the Diabolist rule, though, it came to utter ruin and desolace. It is currently walled off, and normal people don't live or venture there. There is one category of citizens, though, which endures a harsher treatment under the House Thrune than most people. The Diabolists resent and despise tieflings for their demonic heritage, which manifests in certain chaotic... inclinations.
The weight of tieflings in Westcrown's criminal life has always been disproportionately high, due to these natural tendencies, but the Diabolists try to solve the problem from the wrong end. By enforcing an openly discriminating policy towards tieflings, they leave them no choice but to stick together in the remote parts of the city, ganging up in an organized bands to stay alive. The northern ruins are the biggest of such tiefling ghettos, and it is not a welcoming place for anyone. That the Bastards of Erebus are an all-tiefling band is old news for Westcrown, they are far from alone in that. The mystery is why exactly they have been on such a rise lately.
Bishop, in all honesty, I'd advise you to simply ignore that girl's invitation. Chances are high she mistook you for a rich foreigner and just wants to mug you in a place where the law has no power. She already inadvertently gave you a clue to the place of the Bastard's operation, because you appeared not to be a local and she thought it was safe. I can send Janiven to scout that area instead, and report back, and then you'll plan a full assault."
Although the hour is late, it appears not everyone of the Children is sleeping. Amaya and Sclavo come in, chatting lively and laughing, which is quite unusual as both of them are normally quiet and reserved, at least in your presence.
"Still not sleeping? Have you been to the Opera too? Today's performance was amazing! Although "The Elopement of the Dowager Princess" was advertised as a drama, it turned out to be a comedy, full of action and gags! I've never seen mr. Ulvauno in such a role before. Normally he plays pompous and uptight princes and dukes, but tonight he was so lively and full of emotion! Especially the chase scene, where he fell off his horse while pursued by the King's men, - brilliant, masterful improvisation! The audience roared with laughter! In several laconic rhymes he described the treachery of an Egorian sage who put a curse on the horses while they were in the stables - pretty sure it wasn't in the libretto, but he managed to fit it in the script so well, nobody even noticed! Be sure to visit the Opera sometime, okay? Right, good night to you folks!"
"Well, Bishop? It's your call. We'll back you up if you want to go, but it's possible they could overwhelm you before we even get there."
"Yea, let's do it. I got Illithia to watch my back so I ain't worried. At the very least, we can hold out until you get there. Besides, if I don't show they'll think something's up and might come after me anyway."
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
I'm struggling to get up to speed for now, sorry
The next day comes with overcast sky and morning drizzle, not very common in this time of year. You gear up and leave for Rego Cader, Bishop and Illithia leading the way.
The district is walled off, with rare rundottari patrols slowly moving along the wall without displaying excessive diligence. After doing a bit of recon, you find two options for getting on the other side of the 10-ft wall: an abandoned building stands adjacent to the wall, and you figure that you could easily hop on top of the wall from its second story window, but the front entrance is barred, so you'll have to spend some time unboarding it. In the distance you also see a place where the wall is crumbled somewhat, and the loose bricks make improvised grips which allow for a relatively easy climb, especially if Dario's trusty rope is used.
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
Ferrucio looks around to make sure nobody is watching...
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (12) + 7 = 19
...and then climbs over the wall after Bishop...
Climb take 10: 10 + 0 = 10
...and then takes out his crossbow and loads it, hiding it under his cloak, before looking around carefully...
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11
Dario waits for all of the group to go over the wall, watching for any patrols.
Perception 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (13) + 6 = 19
When everyone is over the wall, Dario goes himself.
Climb, take 10 10 + 5 = 15
Illithia's armour is mostly covered by a cloak proviced by Ferrucio to hide her battle readiness. Hopefully no fighting would occur, but best to not be caught by surprise.
Ferrucio, can you make a disguise check for me please? Illithia has to appear like a floozy after all :P
Can take 10 on the rope climbing.
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
I'd be delighted, milady.
Earlier that morning...
Disguise check for Illithia: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (13) + 7 = 20
Taking 1d3 ⇒ 3 × 10 = 30 minutes of work.
Ferrucio's Perception check to see how good the disguise is: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
"I'm sorry about the quality--but this is as good as I can do without more materials--or time, which we are running out of."
With a few tweaks Ferrucio manages to mask Illithia's classy appearance as something more befitting a street wench. However, you feel like the joke's on you when you hear whistles and shouts from the side as Illithia climbs the wall. Those still outside and on top of the wall see a guard patrol closing in on your position, waving their weapons and shouting. You hurriedly descend and remove the rope when they draw near enough for you to hear what they're upset about.
"Hey, you! We know what you're up to there! Human whores are not allowed in the tiefling district and you know it! You're under arrest!"
By the time the guards reach the wall you're good 100ft. away. They stand there and shout threats in your general direction for a while, but don't express any desire to chase you across the wall.
You look around and find yourselves in a completely deserted place, which leaves a haunted impression. Buildings are numerous but empty, many in half-ruined state, unlocked doors and window blinds flapping and screeching on the wind. You are glad that you ended up here during the day, even if the sun is not shining. According to the directions Arael gave you, the temple is about half a mile northwest from the wall.
Bishop stifles a chuckle when the party hears what the watch is upset about. He looks around for some potential hiding place while they make their way closer to the temple.
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23
"She does make a cute tart, doesn't she?" Dario comments to Ferrucio as he, the mage, and Dracius move off away from Bishop and Illithia. Realizing what he's said about a Paladin of Shelyn, he says, "Uh, don't tell her I said that. Somehow, I doubt she would take kindly to it."
The three companions shadow the Bishop and Illithia as they make their way through the street, making sure to keep their distance and try to appear unconnected with them, as difficulty as it is on a deserted street.
As you move further away from the wall, the ruin and desolation persist, but the surroundings are not that lifeless anymore. Here and there inhabited cribs pop up, complete with the lines of drying bedsheets and the stench of the refuse piles from the backyards. Very few people are outside though, and most of the windowblinds are shut. Those who are outside are almost all male tieflings. You feel somewhat amazed how diverse tieflings could actually be - every one of them has something which makes him look unique, be it skin texture, eye shape, clawed nails, or even a tail, but they all share something in common - a hungry and cruel look in their eyes.
Some sit on their porches and chew something, others lie under the windows drunk, or worse, others yet keep in gangs of three to five and discuss something in hoarse voices, growing silent as soon as they catch sight of you. Nobody dares to openly confront the group, but the tension is ominously growing in the air.
Throwing a few casual glances backwards, you are sure that you've noticed the same figure hiding behind corners several times in a row.
Before long, you notice a belltower up ahead. Following its direction, you arrive at a small square in front of an abandoned temple.
I assume Bishop and Illithia went straight through, while the rest stopped behind the nearby buildings.
You notice that there is a tiefling manning the belltower. He is somewhat agitated by the pair entering the square, but does not sound the bells.
Bishop and Illithia move closer to the church, when a lone female figure comes out of the shade, squinting in the dispersed light.
Perception DC25 for the back group to hear what is being said on the square.
Bishop nudges Illithia slightly, letting her know this is the woman he was supposed to meet. She steps up to you, clad in black leather, a whip and a rapier on her thighs, with a capricious grimace on her face.
"Who is this skank? She wasn't invited, only you were. I underestimated you - I thought you would be stupid enough to come here, but didn't realize you would be stupid enough to bring some hoe. I don't trust her and can't let her go, or she will sell us out to the rundottari."
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
"Relax, we're just here to talk. And she isn't a skank. Her name's Illithia. And as far as the dottari go, you got nothing to worry about. We're not fans of them either. They'd be the last people we'd turn to." Bishop looks to Illithia so she can defuse the situation better than he can.
Sense Motive to determine how hostile the tiefling is. On a scale of annoyed to homicidal.
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
Ferrucio's Perception #1: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (13) + 7 = 20
Ferrucio's Perception #2: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
Ensconced in an abandoned building across from the temple, Ferrucio watches furtively from a ground floor window as Bishop and Illithia are greeted by one of the tieflings.
"It's not going well," Ferrucio whispers to Dario and Dracius. "Be prepared to move in case things take a turn for the worse--although at least we may have decent odds out here in the open...so long as it doesn't turn into a general melee with the entire quarter's inhabitants, anyway."
Ferrucio turns back to the window and points a finger at Illithia, mouthing a few words under his breath. (Casting message.)
Perception #1 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (13) + 6 = 19
Perception #2 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (12) + 6 = 18
"What's going on, Ferrucio? He hasn't signaled yet." Dario grabs his whip off his belt, getting ready to charge across the square.
|Ferrucio de Angelis|
"What do YOU know about how much we're wanted? One is not a skank but dresses like one, other is first time in the city but claims to be wanted more than the infamous Bastards of Erebus. How do I know YOU're not the dottari sent to spy on us?"
Bishop can't be sure if the woman even makes a distinction between the two modes. She is clearly proud to belong to the Bastards, as if this fact alone should make everyone cower (which, with commoners, it actually might).
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11
"Do either of us look like dottari? And if we were, would we really come here with just the two of us? I mean that would be right stupid, even for them. We're not here to cause trouble, just to conversate with someone as pretty and as smart as you. We can talk like adults, right?"
Diplomacy Check to calm her down.
1d20 ⇒ 16
Another attempt at Diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
Illithia will also use her Detect Evil ability and respond to Ferrucio appropriately.
"Bishop is right. We just wanted to talk. We want to help the Bastards, but we need your co-operation." Illithia knew what she said here could very well tip the balance of power for the whole city. The knowledge weighed heavily upon her.
High non-combat roll saves the day, again.
The woman was about to raise her hand to whistle, but stops midway. The sparks in her amber-coloured eyes fade somewhat. She puts her face closer to Illithia's.
"Oh, so you think you're Bastards material, do you? Well, here's a simple task for starters: grow some horns!" She gives Illithia a fairly harsh push in the forehead with an open palm and chuckles with a mean-sounding laugh.
"The Bastards don't need the aid of humans!", she announces proudly. "Humans already proved their ineptitude by selling themselves in diabolical service, that's all they're good for. Go find yourself some human pimp, although if you wish to help us so much, I can wake the boys up and ask to find a use for you, while I myself enjoy the company of your friend."
Giving Illithia one last mean look, she turns to Bishop.
"So you're up for the rematch or not? Either way, she's not going inside."