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The dolls do not emit an aura of magic.
"We do about two each week," Felicité says joylessly. She mops her brow with a rag, appearing to inadvertently smear something on her forehead as she does so.
Andrzej and Nathaniel see the perky shopgirl ascend the stares into the back room, with a stooped older man following behind her. He is wiping his dusty hands on his dirty apron.
When Sylvia goes on about the prestige of the University, Mr. Brose barely stifles a smirk. "Such school spirit. One would almost forget you tried to burn these halls to the ground."
Two more personages come rushing down the stairs. One, a distinguished human man with grey hair and clean-shaven jowls wearing the robes of a dean, and the other a spindly elf woman with a crooked nose. Sylvia knows the former to be Dean Chandler, head of the faculty. The elf woman is Professor Nerella, a well-respected (and tenured) professor of Divination. I don't know that Sylvia would have bothered studying such an old-fashioned discipline, but she would be seen around campus.
The dean rushes into the room and assesses the situation. "What is that you said? About Hinzackle experimenting with anatomical matter? Please start from the beginning." He turns to he custodian. "Thank you, Mr. Brose. Have someone fetch one of the alchemy graduates. I suspect they will need to arrange for some solvent."
Meanwhile Professor Nerella leans over Professor Lavaness. "Can you hear me, Alsacia?" Professor Lavaness regards her friend with recognition and relief.
As the adage goes, many hands lighten the load. You are able to move the desk from where it is barricading the door and release the lock.
Three people stand by the door, with a few more still descending. One young groundskeeper strains under the weight of a large pail of water, ready to extinguish whatever he finds. At the head of the group is Marshall Brose, who Sylvia knows to mind the facilities and grounds of the University. He observes the scene before him with utter contempt - scorched office furniture, soot on the walls, the mangled remains of an aberrant creature, a distinguished professor swooning in a chair and another glued to the floor.
"What is the meaning of this?! You could have brought down the entire building!" Then he notices Sylvia standing by. "Oh I should have known..."
Felicité looks dourly at Res. She responds in a husky voice that is almost comically baritone. "I do the joints. Pinning the parts together so they move life-like. Marcel makes the limbs and bodies. We're not allowed to do the heads. Only Master Gerard does the heads." She displays no joy or pride with any of this.
In the alleyway behind the shop, Andrzej looks up to see a few windows in the levels above the shop, but they are shuttered, evidently to block a view of the grimy alley.
Through the grimy window, Nathaniel can see what looks like a storeroom. Crates filled with parts, broken toys, and unremarkable excess merchandise are scattered about. The room is unoccupied, but a flight of stairs descends to a cellar. Light streams faintly up from below, along with the faint sounds of hammers and tools. Another staircase leads up, but he can see naught above but shadows.
In the shop, the girl smiles coyly. "I could see if he's available. Let me just call up one of his assistants to mind the shop floor a moment." She curtsies faintly and walks to the interior door. Opening it, she pokes her head inside and calls out, "Felicité! Can you come up?" She looks back at all of you and says apologetically, "Monsieur de Monte does not like to leave the shop untended."
Nathaniel sees a door open in the storeroom as a girl pokes her head through and calls out a name. A drowsy woman with a blank expression slowly lumbers up the stairs, her brow glistening with sweat. Her movements are effortless, but nonetheless even and slow. At a plodding pace, she reaches the showroom door and passes through.
Leandro, Res, and Tybalt see a matronly woman enter with a practiced smile on her face. Her brow is beaded with sweat and her hair tied back tightly in a scarf. The shop girl tells her, "Mind the shop a moment, Felicité. I must speak with Monsier de Monte." With another curtsy, she slips out the door and leaves you with the taciturn workshop assistant.
Nathaniel sees the girl slip back into the storeroom and skip energetically down the cellar stairs.
The girl smiles at Leandro and a faint blush rises to her cheeks. "You have a way with words, sir."
She seems reluctant to take her eyes off the strapping (and charming) paladin as Res asks his question. She finally turns to Res to answer, "Do you have an appointment with Monsieur de Monte? That is usually the best way to make arrangements for special orders." She turns back to Leandro, as if awaiting what response he may have for her.
Nathaniel finds his way to the alley that runs behind the row of buildings. The passageway is cramped and choked with rubbish. A few well-fed rats scurry into the shadows as you approach. Making your way down the alley, you arrive at what you expect must be the rear of the shop. An unassuming door leads into the building, as well as a grimy window looking into the alleyway. Nathaniel's sharp eye notices that the window is secured by a rickety shutter that would easily open from the outside.
Volidrian observes the many passersby in the market district. A few have remarked with wonder at the magnificent dolls on display in the window.
Laveness looks at Caladrel, struggling to respond. "I... There is something... Beyond..." She shakes her head. "I am sorry. It is so foggy."
In the meantime, Faenor helps move the desk from where it is blocking the door. As he pushes it aside, someone starts pounding on the other side. "Professor Hinzackle!" a male voice shouts from the corridor, "are you okay? We are going to enter."
No, it is attached to the neighboring structures. Any entrances apart from the front door would most likely be in the rear.
Also keep in mind that the victims were corpses left in their beds. There were a few missing children, however.
Andrzej observes that the streets do have runnels to move rainwater and sewage, but - in contrast to the tunneled undercity of Mortigny - Port d'Elhour does not seem to have much of a sewer system, and the occasional stench attests to that fact.
The girl smiles at Leandro's question. "If I had, I'd've been the happiest girl in the land, no question. A child never forgets a toy so magnificent as one of Monsieur de Monte's dolls. Are you travelers, then? Here on one of the ships? We get folk from fantastically far off places. Monster de Monte's reputation reaches far."
"Have you got a little one you're shopping for? No doubt if you come home with something this beautiful she'll love you forever." She smiles warmly, already an accomplished saleswoman at an early age.
Professor Laveness drinks clumsily of the offered water, much of it spilling down her chin and rumpled academic robes. This does seem to clear her head a little, as she looks around the room with wide eyes. She gazes at Professor Hinzackle on the floor. "Is he dead?" she asks. Then she looks at all of you. "You are all in great danger. When the Speaker returns he will devour you with his thousand mouths - sacrifices to the Ancient Ones that are coming to wrought destruction upon all the world."
The footsteps outside grow louder as they near the bottom of the stair. You begin to hear shouts among them... "Be ready with water" "Gas masks at the ready - an explosion in an alchemical laboratory could release any number of noxious gases" and so on. It is apparent that the series of explosions in the basement of the Alchemy building have drawn attention.
The shop lies on he ground floor of three-story townhouse, although dormers above the third floor suggest an attic or garret space at the top. The structures in this part of the city are all closely packed and suggest multiple uses, with owners and tenants living above the bustling storefronts so close to the market.
Within the shop, the space is cluttered and cramped. Small toys decorated with bright ribbons abound on low shelves beside tiny doll-sized dresses, colorful wooden balls and delicate toy hoops. Scattered throughout are more of the intricate dolls, occupying prominent spaces among the lesser toys. Each bears a painted smile, as if asking to be played with.
A girl, barely sixteen, greets you with a broad, practiced smile. "Welcome to de Monte's toy workshop!" Her smile falters a little as she assesses these three heavily armed men who have entered the toy shop. Her voice comes back somewhat quieter. "Are you... Looking to purchase a gift? Or..." She looks to the door, as if expecting to find some wide-eyed tot in tow, but sees none.
She stands by a counter to your left, the room's only occupant. A door leads beyond into the rest of the building.
Most of the party sets out to the toymaker's shop, while Eliva, Angalia, and Anuqa try to find someone to help reunite Tess with relatives.
On the filthy street outside the Marshflower Inn, passerby give the place a wide berth, glancing up as if the mere presence of the place were an atrocity. It is apparent that he townsfolk view the scenes of the murders as an ill omen, and the innkeeper was right to fear for his business prospects.
Following the directions to de Monte's shop is straightforward enough. You make your way through the crowded thoroughfares toward the bustling market, where hawkers sell produce from the surrounding plantations and fishmongers ply their trade. Down a side street, you come to a garishly painted storefront, all reds and golds and brilliant blues. One of the incredible dolls hangs in the open doorway, it's broad grin welcoming visitors.
On his person, Hinzackle has: Goggles of minute seeing (+5) +5 Search, Hewards handy haversack , Potion of Cure moderate wounds , Potion of Blur 20% miss chance, Potion of Gaseous form , Potion of Invisibility ,
While Sylvia glues the professor to the floor, Caladrel and Jerry are seeing to Professor Laveness. Her look is confused and she croaks out, "What? No. Quiet. Very quiet... What... What happened?"
Heal DC 11:
She appears frail and dehydrated. It is evident that physical necessities were neglected while she was in the trance of the Speaker. It is clearly a struggle for her to talk.
Beyond the door, you hear a rush of footsteps entering the stairwell to descend to the basement level.
Eliva rouses shortly after Angalia and offers, "Perhaps Angalia and I can seek out Sister Magritte. The Sisters might be able to help reunite Tess with her relations."
To recap where things stand, since you are decision-making:
You of course have a lead on the allegedly murderous dolls.
You also know Harrag's Skull to be in the possession of Katalin, who has a week's head start; she could be taking it to her own castle, or to the Crimson Court, or somewhere else entirely. If you wish to pursue her, you must decide where you are looking and how you will get there.
As a reminder, you came here with the help of your Vistani guides, Darra and Tannis, but they only brought you to the edge of Souragne and then turned back.
You know you have passage available on a ship that is leaving in two more days to go to Mordentshire where Dr. Savarre was looking for information on the location of the other relics and what they might be used for.
An untold number of you may be shifting into wererats tonight.
Trina save: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6
Trina rushes to Faenor who is freshly wounded and dying once again. She produces a healing wand to stabilize and heal him.
CLW: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
I don't mind posting for Smitty again, just let me know what you want him to do. He is no longer blinded, so he can shoot, but that will be lethal damage.
"Get away from me!" the professor shrieks as he lobs another bomb, this time at Caladrel.
Ranged touch: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
Sylvia, Faenor, Jerry, and Trina take 6 splash damage. DC 15 Reflex save for half. Faenor cannot save. Caladrel is on fire and will take 1d6 damage per round until extinguished.
Eliva nods and leads the girl into her room. Angalia follows, still shaken. The night passes, and the body is not removed until morning. A grimy undertaker with a bad hangover arrives to bear the mother away.
Those on watch in the corridor see nothing else of note.
With the arrival of morning, Anglia is the first to stir from the chamber. "I slept little," she says miserably. "Tess faired better. The girl's still asleep."
FE is fire elemental, but you can easily move adjacent to Hinzackle and then grapple.
2d6 ⇒ (1, 3) = 4 (electricity damage to Faenor)
Faenor receives a shock from the electrified gnome for his trouble, but he grits his teeth and tackles Hinzackle all the same.
Shrieking and thrashing about, Hinzackle struggles to get free.
1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6 escape artist
You are all up again, and can try to pin or tie up Hinzackle per the grapple rules. Assuming Faenor maintains the grapple, he gets another shock this round:
1d6 ⇒ 5
Edit: I forgot, on his turn Faenor also would have taken 1d6 ⇒ 3 residual acid damage from the last bomb.
The constables confirm that the other murders bore similarities to this one, particularly throats slit in just this fashion. In some cases it may not be apparent if a child was around or not due to lack of witnesses, but in most the victim cared for a child, and most of those children were nowhere to be found. There were only two other cases where a child was present and did not go missing, but neither provided as detailed an account as Tess.
They do not have a suspect, but they do think there is a single murderer involved, only because of the consistent modus operandi connecting all the killings. When Nathaniel asks about clues that might lead one to conclude the attacker is small in stature, the constables stare rather blankly. It is clear they are out of their depth on this type of investigation (the constables of this city are little more than peacekeepers or guards - they are not experienced investigators).
The constable speaking with Andrzej is puzzled by his question. "Monsieur de Monte? The toymaker? Not much to tell. Makes fancy dolls for spoiled tots and parents with money to burn. Wouldn't surprise me if a lot of them children had those dolls - most of the slayings were in rich houses, not inns like this one. Nothing to tell of the man himself - he's a quiet old man. No family. They all died, I think, a long time ago - before my time anyway. But how's an old man like that go creepin' in and out of windows?"
"You want to have a look around, by all means. Just don't go disturbin' the peace. Folks are shaken up enough as it is."
Faenor, do you have Precise Shot? There should be a -4 penalty for shooting into melee, but I don't see your feats listed to know. It hits he touch AC even if it's a 14, but it made me curious nonetheless.
Between Faenor's fiery ray and the fire elemental's slam the Speaker sputters and sinks into a mass upon the floor, still smoldering in places.
"What have you done?!" Hinzackle cries. He hurls another of his bombs at Faenor.
Touch: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23
Caladrel, Trina, and Smitty take 6 acid damage from the splash. DC 15 Reflex for half.
Trina save: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 2 = 17
Jerry (on fire)
"Come with us," Eliva says softly, leading the girl away from the scene of horror.
True to his word, the innkeeper does send for the constables, who come to investigate the scene. Their investigation seems rather perfunctory - they are jaded by so many similar scenes of late. They do try to question as many of you as are willing, but seem satisfied that none of you have been in town long enough to have perpetrated the crimes yourselves. They seem almost relieved that you have taken some responsibility for the girl's care and make no further inquiries as to her welfare.
If there is nothing particular you wish to ask of the constables or report, we can move on from there, but by all means take the opportunity if you want to handle the interaction some other way.
The girl looks around her with great concern. "In town? No. Somewhere. My uncle farms. Only comes in on market days. He and my aunt... They're good to me," she says.
The innkeeper answers Nathaniel directly, "Yes, remarkable creations they are. Seen quite a few among the well-heeled, but never saw one kill nobody. Once I even saw a man come by ship from across the sea just to go to de Monte's workshop and buy one. Must be a spoiled brat, whoever got that one."
The innkeeper, still standing in the doorway, speaks up. "Those murders seem to be all anyone is talking about these days. But you don't honestly believe it was the doll, do you? Surely the girl is mistaken. Probably a burglar or something. The dolls are just toys. Nothing is more fashionable than gifting a child with one of Gerard de Monte's creations."
"We must call the constables at once." He then mutters, "In my own inn... Very bad for business..."
I am going to rule that being on fire from multiple sources does not stack. And I agree on the free save.
Since Jerry spent an action extinguishing, he can have an extra save.
Speaker save: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 4 = 10
The amorphous creature sends another steam of acidic spittle, this time at Sylvia.
Ranged touch: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (6) + 6 = 12 If that hits, you must roll DC 18 Fort save or be blinded 1d4 rounds.
The creature, still babbling, unleashes its full fury upon Caladrel.
Bite: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (5) + 7 = 12
It attempts to latch onto Caladrel. Grab vs CMD: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25
Since the voices are continuing, Faenor must make another DC 13 Will save or be confused another round. (Everyone else made a save, and once you save once you are immune for 24 hours.)
Faenor (save vs confusion)
"My name is Tess," the girl says after a time. She is clearly very shaken. "The doll - it cut her with a shiny blade, like you shave with. Then she - the doll - she asked me to come with her, to a safe place. But I was scared. I wouldn't go."
Angalia whispers to Nathaniel, still in a daze. "It was discarded on the roadside. I don't know more. We saw a number of beautiful specimens throughout the city."
Volidrian searches thoroughly, but can find little that is hidden in this room. The indications are clear that the assailant fled via the window. It most likely took the weapon with it, for there is no sign of it.
Nathaniel observes a small smear of blood on the windowsill. The open window would be a tight squeeze for most people.
The girl still seems to be in shock, but she seems willing to speak to Res. She sniffles and hesitates. "She wanted to take me with her, but I didn't want to go. She scared me. I didn't think a doll could talk, but this one did."
Angalia, standing in the doorway, lets out a faint gasp.
The girl goes on. "The doll wanted me to go, but I wouldn't. Then I saw what she did to mother. Like the pigs at the market; they don't last long once you've done that to them."
Sense Motive DC 12:
She is clearly frightened by what she saw, but is conspicuously clinical about her mother's demise.
Reflex vs lightning: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11
Reflex vs fire elemental: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (2) + 4 = 6
I'm curious what the rules say about being on fire twice...
Sylvia's bomb, Faenor's Lightning bolt, and the fire elemental's slam all take their toll upon the Speaker.
Trina jabs at the thing with her glaive. 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
It is a solid blow, but it appears that piercing weapons may not be the most effective against this enemy.
The blinded gunslinger knows better than to fire his weapon under these circumstances and does little more than try to orient himself.
Professor Hinzackle steps away from Jerry expends another alchemical mixture. He becomes shrouded in surging electricity.
Spellcraft DC 12:
This is a defensive shock extract.
Jerry (on fire)
Andrzej, it sounds more like the daughter's voice.
The half-orc pries the door open with apparent ease. The innkeeper stands beside him with a lantern, illuminating the scene within.
The girl you saw earlier stands in a corner near an open window. Her terrified face is streaked with tears. A streetlamp outside casts a wan light upon the blood-spattered bed. The girl's mother lies sprawled within it, her throat slashed and her blood soaking the bedsheets.
Angalia quiets the girl down, and in time she turns and heads to her room. She gives a wistful look back at the PCs, the doll held tightly in her arms, then turns and enters her room, closing the door behind her,
You have three rooms for the night, and as before, are able to offer one to Eliva and Angalia. The noises of the crowd below filter up through the floorboards further into the evening, but gradually subside as he patrons depart for the night.
Sometime lighter, you are all awoken by shrill screaming from another guest room.
Jerry swings at the gnome, but finds him too swift footed to strike, given he is pulling his punches.
His AC is obviously pretty high. Have you thought about grappling him? Just saying - gnomes are small and have strength penalties - CMD may be a softer target than his AC. I don't usually give hints, but it's hard to watch you all struggle trying to deal nonlethal damage to him.
Creature fire damage: 1d6 ⇒ 2
The amorphous creature advances on your position in the rear office, leaving Hinzackle to deal wih Jerry.
Jerry may take an AoO.
It extends one of its many mouths at Sylvia and bites at her.
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8
Another mouth spouts a jet of acidic spittle at Smitty. It strikes his face and eyes.
Smitty must make a DC 18 Fort save or be blinded for 1d4 ⇒ 3 rounds.
Smitty save: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
"Ach! My eyes! I cannae see!" the dwarf bellows.
The party heads toward the rooms, although the tavern room continues to bustle with activity. For those who spend the day crossing the fetid swamplands, the exhaustion is palpable. The innkeeper arranges to send up washbasins to clean away the grime of the road and the stench of the necropolis.
Up the stairs, you enter a corridor leading to the many guest rooms of the Marshflower. A woman stands in the hall with a young girl about seven years old. The woman is scolding her daughter - evidently for speaking out of turn. You see the woman strike the child and storm off into a guest room, leaving the girl crying in the hallway.
Angalia approaches her and consoles her. She thinks of the fantastic doll she picked up a few days ago - beautiful, if somewhat worse for wear, and gives it to the girl. Her eyes open wide, as she has no doubt never been given so fine a gift.
Reflex: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 4 = 24
The amorphous mass is remarkably nimble, and shifts away from the flaming sphere.
"You shall not harm the Speaker!" Professor Hinzackle shrieks. He hurls another explosive bomb, aiming at Jerry.
Ranged touch: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13
Jerry takes that damage and is on fire, taking 1d6 fire damage per round until it is extinguished.
Caladrel, Sylvia, Trina, and Faenor are all in the blast radius and take 6 splash damage. DC 15 reflex for half.
Trina save: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9
Jerry is up.