This morning brought with it yet another spring shower - miserable, frigid and persistent throughout the entirety of the last week, the rain has at least dampened the stench rolling in from the Great Lyme River. Through the greyness of the day, the dulled sound of bells, ringing through the cold murk heralds the turning of each hour… it is before the eleventh hour is chimed, in the various districts where our unwitting heroes are going about whatever business they have in the city, that the echo of hard-heeled boots heralds the approach of a man in uniformly black attire. With a cloak wrapped up around his neck in a futile attempt to keep dry, the man removes a sodden top hat and, with the coldness of officialdom, hands a piece of paper to its intended audience.
The paper, dry within a waxed envelope, contains a scrawled note… ’Ms Mactavishes Pastries and Sweetmeats, Slipway Lane, Nr. Town Bridge. Discretion required, arrive before one hour past the Noon tolling’. and is signed ‘Your humble servant, Mr Euphraideze - Community Outreach Committee of the Honourable and Most Holy Guild of Crematoria Masters (secretary)'.
What your normal business is, whether you are on your own or with other members of the party and what you do between receiving the letter and arriving at Slipway Lane… is entirely up to you… use it to add a little more of your character within the context of the streets of Castorhage. I’ll pick the story up as you arrive at your destination.
After relieving the man of his message Elsie thanks the man with a curt nod and a silver coin for his efforts, watching the man turn and leave the Red Dragon Inn. Once he has departed she waves the barmaid over to refill her goblet with the red wine vintage she favored when the weather turned nasty as it was today.
This seems to happen more and more frequently. She idly notes to herself. Perusing the missive she sips her wine and contemplates the hidden message behind the written words. This...smells of trouble. Perhaps Darc would accompany me? The streets growing less safe it seems, and a strong man on my arms would do much here.
OK Elsie is at the Red Dragon Inn here so Darc can interact here immediately. By the way, what is the reputation of the Guild of Crematoria Masters? Roll, if needed? Knowledge Local: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16
Tella stands at her door, looking at it with what can only be bewilderment. She thinks back on all of the times she'd answered the door to her small flat and couldn't think of a single time she'd had it slammed in her face. Well, besides just now after answering it with a chirpy hello and taking the note. Thinking back, the man didn't really scowl until she'd asked how his morning was.
She read the note as she sipped the tea she'd been about to drink when the message came and a small frown creases her brow. Her last investigation had ended a few weeks ago, and she hadn't even heard of anything that the watch would want her on, and business had been slow. She isn't sure why the Cremetoria Masters wanted her, but it was still an opportunity to spit in this monstrous city's eye. Castorhage had all too few bright spots, and Tella was happy to try adding another one to that ever short list.
She drains the last of her tea then gets ready to head out. WIth the ran, she'd been planning on staying inside and playing her violin. Now, she was packing most of the things she took with her on a job and put on her hat.
The note had said to be discrete, so shortly after leaving her home, she ducks into a small side alley and makes herself appear as a young, scruffily dressed errand girl. AS she continues on her way, she tries to remember what she'd heard about the Crematoria.
Disguise: 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (14) + 19 = 33
Knowledge(local): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (2) + 10 = 12
|Varian "The Stirge"|
"Driver, what's wrong? I need to get home and out of this miserable rain." Varian was not happy that his carriage had come to a stop. He was even more perturbed when a man in uniformly black attire approached him with a note. A man Varian assumed was a commoner who had blocked his path just to deliver it. "You have some nerve, sirrah. This better be important."
Varian proceeded to take the note and then find himself puzzled. It wasn't, as far as he could tell, a note from someone he actually knew. He considers whether the name seemed familiar.
Knowledge (local) re Guild of Crematoria Masters: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17
Knowledge (local) re Mr. Euphraideze: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
Knowledge (nobility) re Mr. Euphraideze: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (7) + 9 = 16
He wondered if somehow this Guild might somehow know Varian's secret. After all, Varian's victims had to go somewhere, and whoever worked in the crematorium might start seeing a pattern among them. His victims were many, rich, poor, respectable, ignoble. But, in Varian's eyes, all were irredeemably evil. And most died in the same way, from deadly slices to their arteries, collapsed upon a pool of their own blood. All dying to feed Varian's hunger.
Varian hadn't killed of late, though. To the contrary, things had been rather dull. The constant showers had kept both good and evil in hiding. This was, regrettably, the most interesting thing he had to do. Perhaps he would find his reward. Though he had developed great discipline, he was feeling the hunger. "Driver, hurry back. I have a meeting to make, and will need time to prepare." The situation was strange enough that Varian decided to prepare the accouterments of his alter ego, should trouble arise.
The mood in the streets is dour, the rain coming down in sheets has stopped any of the normal market trade and anyone who has cause to be outside is soaked through within fifteen minutes or so... and in a city as sprawling and chaotic as Castorhage, very few journeys take less than a quarter of an hour. Still, the relative quietness of the streets makes it simple to observe the 'Discretion Required' aspect of the summons...
Catching the occasional glimpse of the Great Lyme River, swollen at the banks yet still flowing with nothing more than a corpulent sluggishness, various folk with invitations in their pockets draw close to Town Bridge... Through the rain they can see it, a hodge-podge maze of dwellings and businesses stacked on top of each other in dozens of levels and extending out over the waters of the Great Lyme in a desperate attempt to exploit every inch of space on the half-mile-long bridge. Its status over the river as being separate from the city exempts it from the city’s taxes and has coerced thousands of residents to take shelter and do business within the overborne length of its span. If occasionally a hovel falls off into the swirling brown morass of the river below, it is considered by some a small price to pay to be out from under the immediate boot heel of the municipal government’s restrictive administration.
...and, with little more than a five minute jaunt away from the banks of the river, thoughts turn towards the author of the summons - 'Mr Euphraideze of the Guild of Crematoria Masters.' The guild itself is a well-established and, for the Blight at least, relatively honest organisation... operating under a royal warrant, their members are responsible for the sympathetic and, more importantly, hygienic disposal of corpses throughout the city. Almost by necessity, they are a quiet organisation... they do not visibly act in any political machinations nor do they excessively profiteer from their monopolised position. But, of Mr Euphraideze, none of those invited to this meeting can particularly recall the name...
The man with the battered face, leaning against the bar his left hand clasping a goblet of steaming liqud, smiles when Elise beckons. He nods knowingly as he strides confidently across to her table. His voice is gentle for a big man and with a little humour asks "So you have something for me?" Knowing full well the answer and enjoying the posturing, "A chance to rearrange my pretty features." He sits down opposite her, his voice queitens as he speaks in undertones conspiritorily to Elise. "And something in it for me? What is it you want my hands for? Something better than hanging around outside some nobles house waiting for the guard."
With a loud voice, he turns and shouts across to the bar, "Let Hagnel do my duties, it seems I may be called away." The barman responds with a nod and a shrug, knowing that Darc needs his freedom to take on better paid work, if he is still to relax and protect the bar and its patrons from themsleves and others. The Inn takes a momentary breath, a stilness as Darc's words carry to the bar, before with a soundless sigh it continues with its business. Darc turns back to Elise, waiting for an answer.
Apologies for being a bit late turning up, got to get used to the fact Darc is in play again .. :-)
Elsie gives Darc a warm smile, truly gratified to see him greet the prospect with gusto. "Ohhh you know, I would never let anyone else rearrange your features my dear Darc!" Elsie purrs as she runs her hand along his jaw. "I must admit, this intrigues me. This...", here she lowers her voice knowing the need for discretion, "Guild has a good reputation, at least as good as any here in this fine city!" She chuckles darkly. "I do know their coffers are deep, and you will get a full share of the proceeds, PLUS a little extra...gratitude." She finishes with a throaty chuckle. "Shall we go now? The meeting is in but two hours and I do not relish running late!" She rises to her feet and holds her hand out for Darc to take.
Tella shivers as the rain soaks her through. Turning onto Town Bridge, she tries to wrap her coat tighter about her, but to no avail. She'd have to dry off when she arrived. She may not feel the ill effects of the cold or the heat as much as a human might, but fiendish blood was no ward against this kind of cold dampness.
|Varian "The Stirge"|
Though he took his carriage most of the way there, Varian walked the remainder of the distance across the Town Bridge, the bizarre monstrosity of tax evasion that he simultaneously disdained and took advantage of. The cloak over his head kept out both rain and prying eyes well enough as he moved briskly toward the sweetmeats shop.
A slim figure made its way quickly through the crowded and rain-slicked streets, seemingly with no care for the hazards posed by the wet pavement and loose cobblestones that gave most of the teeming masses pause. Ducking around corners and weaving in and out through the carts, horses, and stalls that dotted the streets the figure made its way steadily towards Town Bridge. On one of the quieter corners the figure paused, large yellow eyes glancing around as if worried about being followed.
That man knew just where to find me and how. Too damned convenient to be a mistake or coincidence.
Ruby glanced upward at the darkened sky, thankful for the rain. It made people even less inclined to study their surroundings...or the people in them...than usual. And that made it easier for people like herself to move about the streets without notice or harassment.
Almost there. Let's get this over with.
And like a flash, she was off again. Her destination was close; some little pastry shop on Slipway Lane. As she walked she tried to put aside the tension she felt. The man who had sent the summons knew more about her than she'd like, whereas she knew practically nothing of him - a reversal of her usual position as a purveyor of knowledge that she didn't care for, not one bit.
Tella sees the slim woman and hustles to catch up with her as she heads to the same place she is, and makes a quick deduction.
"Excuse me, ma'am," she calls out in a lower class accent, her voices timber being a little deeper and rougher than her natural voice. "Er? Ma'am? Please slow down. I can't keep up!"
Ruby, if you turn around.
A young girl, no more than fifteen if that, is jogging to catch up to you. Her hair is a plain brown as are her wide eyes. She's pretty, but unkempt and soaked. She appears to be an errand runner given her dress.
As you're trying to catch up to Ruby, you'll notice that she's moving with a lot of speed considering the terrain (Nooks & Crannies revelation)!
It takes Ruby a moment to realize that the voice coming from somewhere behind her is actually addressing her and not someone else and she slows her pace.
The devil...? What now?
Trying her best to hide her annoyance, she stops and turns to face the young girl calling after her. Though her face is largely hidden in the depths of her hood, she can't do much about her yellow eyes as she peers out at the girl.
"Another messenger?" she scowls. "The first one found me just fine but he sends a second one? This man does not know who he is dealing with! I never fail to keep my promises or my appointments!"
With the weather as it is, the normal noises of the city, the trading, the rumour-mongering and secret-telling, the mundane discussions of the down at heel and those of lofty ambition - the normal lifeblood of information that flows through the Blight, is strangely absent. It feels almost as is, for the first time in a long time, Castorhage is keeping itself to itself.
Turning into Slipway Lane, a narrow street of ill-constructed wooden buildings, those travelling by foot would have seen a newsstand - abandoned after the tolling of noon but still with its lurid headlines scrawled on chalkboard protected from the rain...
TAXES TO RISE FOR THIRD TIME THIS YEAR!!!
CONSTABLE KILLER STRIKES AGAIN IN EAST ENDING - WATCH THREATEN STRIKE
STILL NO LEADS IN HUMAN TORCH INVESTIGATION
RAINS PREDICTED TO LAST ANOTHER WEEK - SISTER LYME THREATENS TO BREAK HEIGHT RECORDS
Moving through Slipway Lane, the metal rails embedded in the cobbles suggesting that it got its name during the long-passed age of ship building that brought brief prosperity to this district, the various folk finally arrive at the Pastries and Sweetmeats shop... finally out of the rain, Ms McTavishes proves to be a welcoming - and popular - establishment. The hubbub and clamour of the city almost seems to have displaced itself into this one shop - it would surely be possible to sit here for the day and hear a hundred different accents...
Looking around, it become immediately apparent who the appointment is with... a weasel-faced man sat in a booth nursing a coffee - on any other day, no-one would look twice but today? Today he is wearing the same black attire worn by this morning's messenger and, on the table next to him, a top hat.
Elsie glances around her making sure no one else has taken an u ndue interest in this impromptu meeting. Sensing Darc hovering close behind her does not reassure her as much as she had hoped. Truth be told, this man unnerved her for some reason.
Sliding into the booth seat across from him she takes out the envelope. withdrawing the parchment. Deciding a direct approach was more appropriate here she greets him, "A pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr Euphraideze. To what do I owe the reason of this meeting?"
|Varian "The Stirge"|
Varian was quite surprised to find a bustling establishment inside this place. It lacked the refinement of the places that Lord Varian would typically frequent, but it was quite welcoming in comparison to the rain. Seeing the weasel-faced man beside some other guests, he makes his approach. "Am I interrupting?" he asks, not sure how much he could reveal to the assembled crowd.
It was then that he got a clear look at the guests and recognized someone. It was too late to back out now. Instead, he made a good face of it, starting up a conversation as if he was intending to talk with her all along. "Eliseera. What brings Larrieux's pet out on this fine afternoon? Running another errand to repay your debts?"
Darc his black cloak wrapped tightly around him, a wet dripping shadow, he stays in the shadows close by Elise. A puddle develops around his feet, as steam rises from his torso. When asked, he merely says "I'm with my sister." as he nods at Elise. His body grows taller as his shoulders rise nd his chest expands, he looks and acts like the protective big brother, keeping threats at bay.
When she greets the man, he just says "I'm with her."
As Varian speaks to her, Darc says in a monotone "My sister is no-one's pet." He comes into the light, his head looking Varian up and down, taking in the man dressed as a noble.
Darc and Elise are not related by blood, just by the dead adversries they have shared.
|Varian "The Stirge"|
Varian eyes the gruff, burly looking fighter that accompanied Eliseera. The scars of many battles marked his face, and Varian was pretty sure he ought not to make the man an enemy without good cause. "Apologies to you both, a poor choice of words. I am Lord Varian LaFleur, a good friend of your sister's . . . sponsor, as it were. If this is a family affair, I can leave you in peace." He eyed those around the table, trying to get confirmation of whether he should stay or withdraw.
The man, whilst he awkwardly shuffles some papers, confirms to Eliseera that he is indeed Mr Euphraideze, "Erm... why don't you order yourselves a tea... or maybe a coffee? I can recommend their Empire blend... The guild can pay for your drink, I have some petty cash". Looking around for the invitees who have yet to arrive, "There should be more of you... no matter, we have a few more minutes before the striking of the first hour".
...and then seeing Lord Varian, "A pleasure to meet you sir... our committee members speak highly of you. Please, take a seat".
==Outside the shop==
"Ah, no, no. I"m not a messanger. I just saw that we were heading to the same place and wanted to know if you'd like some company," The young girl asks in a pleasant voice as she hustles to catch up.
==Inside the shop==
Once inside, the young girl begins to chant in a soft, singsong voice and bit by bit, her clothes are dried out. Turning to Ruby, she asks, "Want some help getting dry?"
After getting her answer, and maybe using a spark of magic to dry Ruby's clothes, she spots the man with the top hat and slides up to meet him.
"Hello~! I take it you're the hat I'm looking for?"
"Heading to the same place?" Ruby replies, looking a bit surprised. "Surely not...but if you're worried about walking alone, you can follow until our paths diverge," she sighs.
She turns and then continues on, moving a bit slower to allow the young girl to keep up. To her surprise, her follower follows her all the way to Slipway Lane and right to the door of the Pastries and Sweetmeats shop.
I'll be damned...this can't be coincidence either!
"Seems I was mistaken," she mutters as she stalks inside.
As she steps inside and shakes some of the water off her cloak Ruby looks around, having no trouble spotting the man with the top hat in one of the corner booths. What's more surprising is that she and the girl apparently aren't the only ones here to meet with him.
Well well...now things are getting interesting. Wait, is that...?
Her thoughts are interrupted as the girl gently nudges her, offering to help her dry off.
"What?" she responds distractedly. "Oh...yes, thank you." She watches curiously as the young girl begins humming, while bit by bit, Ruby can feel the moisture being pulled away from her clothing.
Even more curious...the girl is more than she appears.
She follows at a distance as her new companion heads for the booth. "And the one that I am looking for as well," she chimes in as she pulls up a chair at the crowded booth. She then turns to look at the pale man she'd recognized from the door.
"Lord Varian...fancy meeting you here," she chuckles softly. "Now I know that this summons was worthwhile after all," she continues as she pulls out the folded note as proof of her invitation.
Elsie returns the smile of Lord Varian, but Darc notices the smile does not reach her eyes. As she opens her mouth to respond with a cutting retort Darc's intervention saves her the trouble of defending herself. Instead she turns her attention to their benefactor, nodding in agreement. "Yes, I believe coffee would do wonders to chase this chill out of my bones."
Once the two additional women arrive Elsie notes the arrival of the man's own acquaintance Ruby. And he dares to look down on me? The arrival of Ruby's companion does draw her interest, as she sees the newcomer is touched with outsider blood.
Well, it seems our host has a rather thorny issue to be resolved. Usually a gathering of such diverse peoples does not come cheap...perhaps I can parlay this further...
Uh, Eliseera, Tella's currently using a Hat of Disguise to appear as a slightly disheveled errand girl. She appears human now. You'd need to beat a DC 33 Perception check to even notice that wasn't her normal look.
|Varian "The Stirge"|
"Lord Varian...fancy meeting you here," she chuckles softly. "Now I know that this summons was worthwhile after all," she continues as she pulls out the folded note as proof of her invitation.
Varian gives the latest arrival a nod, recognizing the pale woman immediately. They shared an affinity for darkness, which Varian appreciated. "Worthwhile? That remains to be seen, Ruby. But Mr. Euphraideze appears to have assembled quite a force of irregulars. People who strive to rise above their station. Do you know Eliseera? The . . . protégé of Baron Larrieux Montpierre?"
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (4) + 0 = 4. As he turned to look, Varian was wholly oblivious to the falseness of Eliseera's smile.
Oof, completely missed that Tella! Sorry about that! So a slight retcon here...
Once the two additional women arrive Elsie notes the arrival of the man's own acquaintance Ruby. And he dares to look down on me? The arrival of Ruby's companion does draw her interest further. Since when has Ruby traveled with another under her feet? The mystery deepens...
With everyone finally gathered, Mr Euphraideze, "Please... just call me Solomon", tries to put some light on the reasons for the invitations. His voice wavers as he talks, nerves seeming to grow ever worse by the minute, "Ummm... ummm, I suppose you'll be wanting to know why you're here then? Let me... Um, I should..."
A sip of his strong-smelling coffee steadies him briefly, "So, I represent the... um, the Honourable and Most Holy Guild of Crematoria Masters... just in a back room capacity though. I don't own my own business, I just work in the area of guild membership... and community relations. The outreach committee has members, I'm sorry but I'm not at liberty to divulge their identities, who have identified you as people who may be able to help with a... um... problem".
"You have... You must have heard? Yes, of course you have, about the supposed cases of human combustion that are sweeping the city? Folks just catching alight for no apparent reason... a terrible business but one that, if I might venture, isn't the remit of the Crematoria Masters. Least, that's what we thought... You folks can be discrete, yes? Of course you can, committee said you were the right people for this job... yesterday there was an incident down at the Burning Ghaats of Angelsgate. The way it's been reported is that a corpse in the care of one of our honourable members, whilst awaiting commitment to the Great Lyme, arose... worse still, the story goes that it was aflame!!! Needless to say the Guild is most perturbed about this development".
Euphraideze, in full flow now, finishes by suggesting, "Corpses returning to life while in the charge of our members is bad for business and the Guild want the problem to go away. Suitable remuneration will be paid and there shall be provision for reasonable expenses throughout the investigation. I am to report to the Committee later this afternoon... can I tell them that you will assist us in this matter?"
Ruby glances at Eliseera and offers a slight smile. "You could say we have crossed paths once or twice," she replies softly. "And the same can be said of Darc," she adds with a nod at the man who seemed ever Eliseera's shadow.
"I believe we're all somewhat familiar with each other...except my own little shadow that followed me in," Ruby continues, turning to give the girl a curious look. "What do you go by, Little Shadow?"
As Solomon finally illuminated the reason for their gathering, Ruby raised a curious eyebrow. Of course she'd heard the rumors of people coming aflame, but until now all it had been was just that - rumor.
"Corpses do not rise on their own," she frowns. "If this is true, clearly there's some sort of injured party that has a hand in it. Does the Guild know of anyone that would want to ruin them by causing such a stir?"
"Just call me Tella," the young girl says with a smile.
As she listens, Tella begins to think about anyone who could have done this.
Knowledge(Local): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (4) + 10 = 14
Knowledge(History): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (11) + 10 = 21
Knowledge(Religion): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (2) + 9 = 11
So, does Tella remember anything about a group of people that have set people on fire and used fiery undead in the past?
Elsie nods slowly in response to Ruby's declaration. While this certainly seems like a case of revenge against the Guild, there are easier ways to go about this. Something else must be going on here.
"Yes of course, it would be helpful to know who your...rivals would be here, or who holds a grudge against your Guild." She adds in reply. "Also, you mentioned one of your members was there when the aforementioned corpse burst aflame? Did he actually witness the occurrence? If so, may we ask him a few questions?"
|Varian "The Stirge"|
"Solomon, you're telling me that corpses are lighting on fire and coming alive?" Lord Varian shakes his head, disappointed. "I thought the rumors were about living people catching on fire. Which, frankly, is a lot more concerning than your story. What is the name of the individual who shared these stories? Are you sure he wasn't covering up for his premature burning of a corpse? That would explain the obvious discrepancy between your facts and these rumors." He lets out a sigh of disappointment. Bluff: 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (16) + 18 = 34.
In truth, Varian was very interested in this story, which was his first solid lead in connection with the rumors of spontaneous human combustion. It was precisely the type of issue that the city watch would leave unsolved, leaving Varian as the only force for justice. Only, Varian usually worked alone, allowing him to shift identities as needed between investigation and retribution. Now, it would not be so easy. Varian needed to avoid seeming too eager, the better to come and go from the group as needed.
"Very well, I will assist in your investigation, not for the sake of any compensation, but for my duty to the residents of Castorhage to put these rumors to bed. Though I may not be able to commit as much time as your other recruits--I have many responsibilities that vie for my attentions."
Tella Street - there are numerous cases each year, this is Castorhage after all, where debts are settled and messages are sent between gangs through the immolation of some poor unfortunate... yet they are never anything more than the mundane violence that one human visits upon another - there have been no, so far as it is possible to recall, cases with a similarity to that described by Solomon Euphraideze.
When Eliseera and Ruby mention the idea of someone meaning harm to the guild, Solomon looks incredulous, "But we have no rivals... there are no competitors to speak of; we operate under a Royal Charter - it is our members, and our members alone, who are permitted to consign the dead into their final resting places. And if there was someone with a grudge against us, and I recognise that we do operate in an atmosphere of grief and emotion - so I couldn't discount it, I could not conceive that such a grudge would lead to the events down at Angelsgate. And, if someone did mean us ill, then surely they would have identified themselves and made their grievance known?"
"I'm sorry that I can't give you much more guidance... I really have told you all that I know", Solomon seems genuinely apologetic, "I would suggest that you speak to the guild member who has suffered this terrible event... M'Hajeet Singhh down at the Angelsgate. You should find the Burning Ghaats down there quite easily - they're overlooked by the spire of Ragathiel's church down on the banks of Great Sister Lyme. Oh, and they're likely cordoned off by the Office of the Watch".
...and when Lord Varian confirms that he will take on the task, Solomon is effusive in his gratitude, "Thank you... oh thank you, your honour... the committee will be pleased to know that their cause has been taken up... and I'm sure it won't take long for you to get to the bottom of this and return to your other responsibilities".
Elsie turns to glance at Darc briefly, almost as if seeking the young man's approval here. This does sound dangerous...but where there is danger, profit can also be had!
"Rest assured Mister Solomon, as Lord Varian has stated we shall endeavor to get to the bottom of this in an expedient manner."
From her seat, Ruby simply nods in agreement. "Yes of course, I'll certainly do what I can to help with this investigation," she murmurs. It was strange, as much as she despised certain aspects of Castorhage she still felt a sense of protectiveness for it as well.
This city has enough troubles of the ordinary sort to deal with as it is. Troubles of a stranger sort...that could get ugly in a hurry, knowing the local population...
"And if there aren't any immediate threads to follow, such as a saboteur, then speaking with this Singhh fellow seems the next best thread to pursue," she adds.
Ragathiel has his own church here? I know we're intentionally playing in Golarion and not the Lost Lands but that's still freaking awesome!
At Lord Varian's suggestion about publicly acting on the guild's behalf, rather than in secrecy, Solomon Euphraideze smiles and reaches into the breast pocket of his waistcoat, "The Guild have prepared this letter stating that the bearer is acting as an agent for them, and that all of their members are to cooperate in the most open manner"... an envelope, embossed with the sigil of the Guild, is slid across the table towards Lord Varian. And then, distant and indistinct above the general clamour of the sweetmeats shop, a clock somewhere out there in the city strikes 'One of the afternoon'... it's single peel joined seconds later by a further three chimes - different tones and volumes suggesting that they came from different church bells.
"My friends, I'm afraid I have another appointment to keep... and then I must report back to Committee later this afternoon. If you have need for any further assistance from the guild, I shall be at Ms Mactavishes from noon until one every day until our business is concluded", extending a hand to conclude their business, Solomon stands and bids the group farewell...
And here I am going to assume you head straight to the scene of the 'crime'.
...with their only lead thus far being the scene of the corpse returning to life and the guild member who plies their trade down at the river, the group once more head out into the rain - the showers which had swept through the city in the morning have, somewhat mercifully, been replaced with a persistent drizzle - it is far from a glorious spring afternoon but at least any travellers upon the streets will be spared a soaking. Following the river downwards, their walking pace faster than the languorous flow of the Great Lyme, the group make their way towards Angelsgate - finally arriving at their destination a little after half past the hour.
Here, the poisoned river gurgles at the foot of a line of stone steps, their surfaces smoothed by age and tattooed with colourful tikkas and dyes. Above, the streets frown down upon a singular space on the river bank; within are six great slabs, and one bears a corpse laid atop a huge pyre of sweet-smelling timber, straw and spices. The redolence of sandalwood and exotic oils mingles with the more subtle smell of putrefaction from the body and, stronger, the distant stink of the river. Nearby, a painted and singing holy man is lighting coals at a brazier - with Vudran blood clearly running through his veins, this must surely be M'Hajeet Singhh.
Darc, just nods his acceptance of the task, a grim facade to his face. He winks at Elise, knowing this will be trouble and likely highly entertaining. He watches Varian take on the lead as the noble in the group and hides a smug smile, how often have these nobles been led a merry dance.
He walks next to Elise and whispers, "If only this were a controlled fire on cattle down in the slaughter house, I could have sold ready to eat steaks." his smile is crooked, in line with his rearranged face. He wraps his cloak about him, against the drizzle and walks quickly to the side of Elise, letting her merge with the shadows as she sees fit.
He speaks with Tella, "If you're Ruby's little shadow, let's hope we can protect our respective charges against these fiery corpses. I see you use your hands as well, we should practice together a friendly fist fight, pits our fighting skills against each other? We might need them in the future." The big man offers Tella a look at his large, powerful hands, "Maybe we should start with some arm-wrestling, when we get to an Inn and time on our hands."
Whiling away the walk down until they are about to meet with M'Hajeet Singhh, when he melds towards the back of the group.Those with golden tongues can illicit what they need to know, he will of course help, should the informant need some encouragement to loosen their tongue.
Know(Local) 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (17) + 10 = 27
Elsie looks around the area quickly recognizing the stone angel atop the nearby Angel Church. As Darc quips about the fire Elsie chuckles lightly and lays her hand upon his arm. "I hope you save me a choice cut Darc!"
Once the party arrives at the dock, Elsie peers around her making sure the area is clear of other passersby before turning her attention to the man Singhh. Approaching him she gives him a nod of greeting, "Greetings Mister Singhh. We come upon behalf of Crematoria Masters and Mister Solomon. May we ask you some questions?"
Shortly after leaving the sweetmeats shop, Tella pulls the others into a side alley where no one would see.
"Well, seeing as all of you were so kind as to introduce yourselves, I might as well do the same," the young girl says while grabbing the edge of the scarf covering her head like it was the brim of a hat. With a single, fluid motion, she pulls the scarf from her head, except, it was no longer a scarf, but a well made fedora. Instead of a simple, peasant, errand girl, there is a young, finely dressed woman with silver hair and dark-grey eyes. Her eyes danced in impish delight as she gave them all a deep curtsey.
"Tella Street, Private Investigator at your services sirs and madams. Forgive the deception, but I was told to be discrete and most people wouldn't look twice at a young girl having to run errands even in this weather." She replaces the hat back on her head and gives the others a toothy smile, showing off her teeth that most definitely did not come from any human ancestors. "Shall we go," she asks as she turns to continue along their journey.
"And sorry to disappoint you, Darc, but I'm about as good in a fist-fight as a limp noodle."
Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20
Tella decides to let the others take the lead in this investigation, figuring that the others could focus on getting started while she focused on reading the man's mood and manner.
Sense Motive (Is he lying or withholding information): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19
Looking up from his coals, the man fixes Elissera with a look of momentary confusion, "You are from the guild... I don't recognise you? Where do you... Solomon? Do you mean young Mr Euphraideze? Then my prayers have indeed been answered!!!"
M'Hajeet Singhh stands, revealing him to be a slender... yet still rather powerful looking man and then bows elegantly to each of the group. And almost instantly launches into a garbled explanation of yesterday morning's events, "It was very early... she came running out of the canker... lit up like a Tien candle as bright as a thousand stars... very bad for business... dead, she was for certainly dead... and now dead again... you are here to investigate? The Watch, they did not believe me... and now everyone is saying that I was making a public stunt".
It is going to take a DC15 Diplomacy / Intimidate check to calm M'Hajeet Singhh down.
Tella - with the agitation in M'Hajeet Singhh's manner, it is nigh on impossible to tell the truth of what he is saying.
"Mister Singhh, please take a deep breath and calm yourself," Tella says in a soothing voice, "we would not be here if we did not believe you, nor do we blame you for this unfortunate incident. Now, if you would, start from the beginning. Tell us what happened in as much detail as you can. Anything could be a clue, but if you don't remember something, just be honest with us and say so."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (16) + 10 = 26
|Varian "The Stirge"|
Knowledge (local), take 10: 10 + 6 = 16
As the others begin to travel, Varian insists on fetching his carriage. "We can all ride within, and it'll allow us to stay out of this rain. I had my driver drop me off early for the sake of discretion, but I think it would be far less discrete to walk the open streets than to be in a covered carriage."
The carriage seats 4, along with the driver and someone sitting next to him. So it's cramped but sufficient.
* * *
Well, were you making a public stunt? wonders Varian. He keeps his thoughts to himself, letting the others do the talking while he looks for any signs of the fiery corpse that might still be found in this place. Perception: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (3) + 12 = 15
Kn. Local (Tella): 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (2) + 11 = 13
Although not quite able to pin down just where Tella's unique origins lie, it's still fairly obvious that she too is something more than human.
"Heh...that explains much," she muses. "Most of you...already know something of me, but fair is fair - you've shown me your face and so I will show you mine," she says to Tella as she briefly pulls back her hood to reveal the rest of her face.
And, after a moment, she returns her hood to its rightful place and offers a smile of her own. "And now that we all know each other better, we should hurry on to our destination."
Kn. Local (DC 15): 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (12) + 11 = 23
Angelsgate...how ironic that this place has apparently been the site of another fiery incident.
"Yes, it is as she says - take a moment to calm down and start from the beginning," Ruby adds. "And don't leave out any details, no matter how unimportant they might seem to you - it could prove to be a valuable lead!"
Darc, blinks several times as Tella changes to her 'real self', his lips move and barely a sound comes out, Yeah...but ...uh!. When she tells him she's a private investigtor and not a fighter, he shrugs and sighs unable to contain his disappointment and confusion that Ruby's 'protector' is not a figter.
Anyway, this is all talk, best he let those with the gift of tongues do the talking, he can always back them up with some angry talk if needs be. Instead of listening in intently, he just turns around and scans the area about them, to see who might be watching them.
Perception to see who might be watching them 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (18) + 5 = 23
Finally slowing in his explanation of the events of yesterday morning, M'Hajeet speaks in a far more considered tone, "It was just a little after the 6th hour of the prime, I distinctly remember the clock tolling although through the morning mist, I could barely see farther than the hands before his face... the canker was that thick before the rains washed it away. I remember thinking how very still the morning was - I could hear the workers up on the church roof, they had just started their work".
Currently wreathed in bamboo scaffolding, the church steeple is being repaired with two men, tied to the bamboo by thick rope, moving around the towering structure...
"And then, through the murk she was running!!! It was Lenice Quarn, still wearing her white pyre gown, risen again and wreathed in fire!!! It was the most horrific thing I have ever had the misfortune to witness... a most terrible thing. She was screaming as she burnt... she ran straight past me, down the step and, lit up through the murk, I could see her jump into the river. And that was it, she was gone... she didn't resurface. Maybe it was for the best? What was dead should stay dead".
"The Office of the Watch attended an hour or so later... and they did head out into the river with a hook and chain. When they didn't find anything, they decided that a Slop-Shark must have taken the girl... If you ask me, them boys couldn't wait to get back on dry land and they'd have looked harder if Lyme Constable Crop had stayed to supervise. He had other business to attend to and didn't hang around much longer than quarter of an hour... he did say that he'd get back here but I haven't seen him yet".
There is a hint of hope in Mr Singhh's voice, "You can help? I had five corpses to cremate this morning, but after yesterday, four people have withdrawn their loved ones thinking they were like to get up and walk home".
Darc - as far as he is able to tell, no-one other than Mr Singhh is paying the least bit of interest in the strange group...
There is a map that sets out the river-side, I'll try and get that posted later today.
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (12) + 11 = 23
Elsie's gaze wanders idly about, noting the lightning damage around the steeple. I wonder when the lightning strike occurred...and whether those men up there had something to do with this...
Filing this information away for future reference she nods in the direction of the church entrance. "Perhaps you can take us to where the pyres are located, where Miss Quarn was being laid to rest?"
|Varian "The Stirge"|
Knowledge (perception): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (10) + 12 = 22.
Knowledge (local) re Lyme Constable Crop: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22.
Varian tended to believe Singhh given his initial excitable state. "How did Lenice Quarn die?" asks Varian, trying to see any evidence that she was affected by some form of undeath. "And do you happen to have a hook and chain that we could use to search the water ourselves?"
"Yes, if you can do that, I believe I may be able to glean some information from the area," Tella adds.
Also, Apologies for not including this last time. Sense Motive to see if he is either lying or withholding information from us.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19
Perception (DC 20): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16
"We can't promise anything but we will do our best to get to the bottom of this," Ruby responds. "Having a look where the body lay is a good start to that, as Eliseera here has suggested. Were there any others about at that time besides yourselves and the workers on the roof?"
Darc tks his position behind Elise, "Time to follow the fires footsteps... from start to finish... " he says quietly to Elise. "Spose, we can take our time a bit, and I'm not going swimmin in that dung filled river, should anyone ask." he continues to Elise. He does his best to appear a nobody in the group, though with his burly features its a long shot.
"The pyres? Miss, this slab here", M'Hajeet points Eliseera towards one of the five empty slabs, "this is where the unfortunate Miss Quarn had been lying. The body was brought over from the morgue the evening before... the morticians did not say what had ended her young life but you wouldn't have to be a qualified churgeon to conclude that the bloody wound across her neck hastened her passage to Pharasma's domain".
Tella Street - there is nothing in M'Hajeet's demeanour that suggests he is concealing anything.
Turning to face Ruby, "I'm sorry miss, the canker was so thick that I honestly don't think I would have been able to see anyone beyond about ten feet". The holy man considers her question for for a few more moments before suggesting, "Actually... now I come to think of it, there were two people - it sounded like they were arguing but I couldn't make out the details. The fog sort of dampens sound when it is thick of a morning... I'm sorry. Do you think that it could have had something to do with Miss Quarn's rising?"
...and then, as Lord Varian asks about a hook and chain, the nobleman sees that the Office of the Watch have left their boat moored against the lowest step of the Ghat.
Lord Varian - Lyme Constable Fidelus Crop is one of the local city watch constables for this ward - acting under the instructions of Streetclerk Kent, who is in charge of law enforcement and other local matters in this area, Constable Crop has what could be politely described as a heavy case load. There is no shortage of corpses washing ashore along this stretch of the Lyme and such cases, by default, become his responsibility.
There is now a map in your campaign header that shows the layout of the river bank.