DM Brainiac's War for the Crown: Table 1

Game Master Brainiac

Current Date: 17 Kuthona, 4718 AR

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Safina's crossbow bolts and Taldaris's magic missiles soften up the inevitables some, paving the way for Sara and Zhi to do their deadly dance. Sara beats the Stabbing Beast's corpse to a bloody pulp as she batters one kolyarut to death, while Zhi's precise and deadly stabs finish off the second.

Taldaris offers words of praise as he crosses the room to retrieve his halberd. As he does so, the ritual platform begins humming and projecting the image of a brilliant white ring.

Knowledge (arcana) or Spellcraft DC 25:
The circle seems to be constructed to intercept divine messages to and from Norgorber cultists in a specific region. It is currently attuned to Taldor.

The single white ring divides into two smaller circles, each of which refines itself into the head and upper body of a distinguishable speaker. The first figure wears a distinctive black hood and mask, obscuring any features that would indicate race, age, and gender. The other figure is a pale, short-haired half-elven woman with pronounced cheekbones and a circular scar on her chin.

The half-elven woman’s features harden as she speaks: “Report! This chaos will not last forever, nor will her yapping lapdogs remain quiet much longer. I pray your brotherhood has not failed us again.”

“So impatient for an immortal,” the masked figure responds. “Your dame lies cold as morning dew, her soul spread to the winds. Shall we kill the child as well?”

The faces vanish, a reappear a few moments later. “Leave the twilight child to us,” the half-elven woman continues. “He will be too distracted mourning his sister to stop us.”

The masked figure concludes. “As you wish. I trust the Immaculate Circle will not forget their loyal servants now that Taldor’s throne is in your reach.”

With that, the images vanish and the circle’s glow fades.

Knowledge (local) DC 29:
You recognize the first figure's distinct equipment. It belongs to the Masked Marquis, leader of Oppara’s Norgorber cult, the Brotherhood of Silence. The other figure is unrecognizable.


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

Knowledge (arcana): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16

Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (8) + 12 = 20

Zhi listens to the conversation with confusion.

"Who are they talking about? They can't be ... The twilight child? Isn't that they called Prince Carrius?"

One hand moves protectively over her belly. "Mel? They can't mean that ... They can't mean that Eutropia's dead, can they?" She turns her attention to Zileska. "Can you find out, Zil? I mean as soon as we get out of here?"


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Sara sets to sawing off the Stabbing Beast's scorpion tail when the talking heads start gabbing.

"Eutropia," she starts, tears welling up in her eyes. She says nothing more.


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Zileska sets her mouth grimly and says, "Death is a solvable problem."


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |
Zileska Vestalina wrote:
Zileska sets her mouth grimly and says, "Death is a solvable problem."

"They may be talking about someone else," Zhi responds, hoping she's right. The phrase 'her soul is spread to the winds' echoing in her mind gives her a cold feeling. "We need to get back to Axis and find out what's going on."

She takes a moment to look over the room for anything else of value before gesturing to the stairs. "Let's go."


The desks here hold incomplete records of a recent meeting the Secret Shade conducted with the Immaculate Circle, posing as one of their members, but the notes are frustratingly incomplete and are of little help to you. There doesn't seem to be anything else of value here aside from your foes' weapons.

There are two +2 bastard swords and two +1 keen short swords.

Taldaris turns his dispassionate gaze upon all of you. "Justice has been served. Let us return to Sayashto."

You make your way out of Norgorber's realm via the sewer tunnels and emerge once more into the clean air of Sayashto. Lieutenant Fanalyx is impressed by your accomplishments and eagerly debriefs you on everything you learned and accomplished in Lost Silhouette. Taldaris imperiously sits nearby and offers brief acknowledgment of your accomplishments and minor corrections to your reports. Fanalyx dispatches a courier to take the report directly to Aktun, the capital district. Within an hour, an arbiter returns bearing a written statement of commendation from its superior for your service as well as an orb of pure law to aid you. In adition, you are also each awarded the Eternal Crown, one of the highest medals awarded to civilians for service to Axis.

The valkyrie Ohalia kneels before Taldaris, eyes burning with emotion. "My Emperor! It has been millenia since last we met. I am proud to have played a part in your rescue."

Taldaris inclines his head. "Thank you, general. You are, as always, a loyal servant and boon companion. You may return to your duties, confident in the knowledge that I shall persevere." The inevitable turns to you. "I am prepared to bestow my blessing upon the Mantle of Kings. If you will provide it to me?"

Once offered the cloak, the First Emperor lays his hands upon it. It briefly glows with golden light, its powers restored. At last, it can be used to confirm the next rightful emperor of Taldor.

Taldaris touches each of your shoulders, bestowing upon you the same blessings he gave to Zileska earlier.

Each of you gaisn a +1 sacred bonus on Will saving throws; a +2 sacred bonus on saving throws against disease and poison; and a +2 sacred bonus on Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nobility), and Sense Motive checks for 1 year.

"I shall provide you with precise transport back to Oppara. It is taboo for me to interfere directly in the politics of the empire, but this is the least I can do. I anoint you my mortal agents to ensure corruption, evil, and greed do not destroy Taldor." Taldaris pauses, and when he speaks again, there is the faintest stutter of emotion in his voice. "Please... Help my legacy, my people, and my empire thrive for another thousand years of peace."

Everybody has enough XP to reach level 16!


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Know Local DC29: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (18) + 13 = 31
Free Inspiration, apply higher result to above roll: 2d8 ⇒ (5, 7) = 12


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

"Norgorbor cultists again - and they're the one who leads the Oppara sect of the cult; the Masked Marquis," Maria managed to explain before the conversation began.

As she listened, she visibly paled as she realised who they were talking about. At Zileska's remark about death being a solvable problem, she shook her head.

"They said her soul was spread to the winds - I somehow doubt it will be as 'easy' as a single spell. But hopefully that sort of thing will get servants of Pharasma on our side for once. Can't imagine they'd be happy about someone disrupting someone's passage through the Boneyard."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

Spellcraft: 1d20 + 17 ⇒ (10) + 17 = 27

"Some sort of messaging ring..." Melodie says before the conversation takes a distinctly unpleasant turn. Almost realising it she closes with her wife, her fingers entwining with Zhi's over her belly as the cultists speak of killing and children.

When Taldaris offers his gift Melodie nods firmly, looking the First Emperor in the eye in a way that would have been impossible for the shy teenager of barely a year ago.

"Thank you Taldaris." She says, "I suppose Sara will have to resign her position now that we're returning to the Material Plane. Could you inform the proper authorities on her behalf?"

She then takes her wife's hand in hers and smiles.

"Let's go home!"


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |
Melodie d'Valois wrote:

She then takes her wife's hand in hers and smiles.

"Let's go home!"

"Yes, please," Zhi responds, leaning in close to the woman she loves. "And I just know that I'm going to have creepy-as-f%** spider dreams tonight."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

Zhi:
{"Then I'll have to give you something else to dream about!"} Melodie replies, with a flicker of a wink.


Once you have said your farewells, Taldaris presents Zileska with a specially crafted tuning fork and a scroll of plane shift. The priestess enacts the spell, and Sayashto and Axis fade away around you, replaced by the familiar sights and smells of the town of Lotheedar. After many weeks away, you are finally home.

Of course, a pallor has been cast over the home to which you have returned. Lotheedar is in mourning, and the reason why is clear--Princess Eutropia is dead, assassinated in her palace a mere two days ago. Funeral plans are already underway, and the citizens can only guess as to what this means for Taldor's ongoing succession crisis.

You make your way to the Palace of Birdsong, where servants quickly lead you to the lounge. Martella Lotheed is beside herself as she pulls you into a welcoming embrace. Bartelby Lotheed scowls as he leans against a wall, and Prince Carrius slumps in a chair, distraught to the point of insensibility.

"I am truly glad to see you all," Martella says as she wipes away tears, "but I sincerely wish the circumstances of our reunion could be happier. I'm sure you've heard... Eutropia... the princess..." The normally stoic woman sobs as she struggles to find the words.


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

Zhi steels herself as her fears are finally confirmed. "How did she ... die?" she asks. "And has anyone tried to ... to bring her back?" She looks at Zileska as she waits for an answer.


"Stabbed in the back by a craven assassin," Martella says. "None of the guards saw anything unusual until they heard Eutropia's lady-in-waiting scream when she discovered the princess."

"They killed the bloody mutt, too," Bartelby mutters.

Martella glances at her half-brother before continuing. "We summoned Archbanker Lady Paril to try to raise Eutropia, but it was unsuccessful. The princess' spirit is either unwilling or unable to come back."


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Sara kisses Ohalia deeply before the valkyrie leaves. "Keep in touch," she whispers.

Back from the afterlife it is a dour affair; she dresses in mourning garb and cries fat tears from behind her veil the whole while.

The whole affair is too much for the woman, and although she scowls at Bartleby upon entering, she holds Martella tight to her breast.

"Taldogis?" she whimpers, upon hearing of the dog's death.

"Has anyone thought, er," she lowers her voice to a whisper, "could it be the Duchess in her painting?"


Martella nods sadly. "He died trying to defend his mistress. We buried him out by the kennel."

Bartelby shakes his head at the mention of the duchess. "That was our first thought, but Veleto was in Stachys at the time, and her alibi checks out."

"We have yet to announce what has happened," Martella says. "Wiithout an obvious heir in place, Eutropia’s death could plunge the country into all-out civil war, or even invite attack from enemy kingdoms. I recommend delaying the announcement you have a chance to investigate Eutropia’s death and hopefully bring the assassin to justice."

Carrius has seemed distant, almost catatonic. After a moment, though, he rouses himself and becomes wildly animated. “You must find who did this. You MUST. Eutropia and I had just found each other again. Whoever is responsible for her death... they must meet justice.”

Carrius orders that you be given unrestricted access to Eutropia’s room and belongings. Then he lapses once more into his quiet grief.

Martella gives him a worried glance before she turns back to you. "Perhaps you can find some clues in her room we overlooked, or question the staff more thoroughly. Eutropia's body is in the family crypt, awaiting interment tomorrow. You are welcome to examine her as well."


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

Shoving her grief down deep, Zhi nods. "We'll examine her room first and then look over the ... Eutropia."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

"Sara and I will speak to the staff." Melodie says, nodding firmly. Her face is expressionless, although her companions (and Zhi in particular) can tell that she's simply masking her emotions.

"Maria, the crime scene is yours. You know what you're looking for. Can Zhi help you? Zil, you have the hard job, looking at the body. We can all help each other out but perhaps we should work in smaller groups - too many people might damage any clues."


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Zileska is overjoyed at her return from Axis... but her euphoria is cut short by the gut-punch of Eutropia's assassination.

"Killed by an assassin is one thing," she notes, "but scattering the soul? That's an entire different level of power."

"I'll check the body and keep her mortal remains under gentle repose for the time being," says the priestess. "Also I will call into the realms beyond to locate her spiritual essence, or discover what has happened to her soul."

Zileska putters about, checking her sacred implements and preparing for the worst.

"While or right before I'm investigating the body, Maria should be investigating the rest of the room," she suggests. "This is her line of work, after all. Probably before, to make sure I don't disturb any clues when I go inside."

"Zhi, could you do a circuit of the house and figure out how you would break in? That could give us an idea of how the assassin got in, and there might be other clues at the area of entry."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

Melodie meanwhile goes to interview Eutropia's maid, and then work her way through the rest of the staff on duty that night.


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

"I'll check the perimeter," Zhi says doubtfully. "But just off hand, from memory, I can think of a half-dozen places someone could have gained entrance to this place. It's not really designed with defense in mind."


Eutropia’s room is in the old regent’s apartment on the second level of the Palace of Birdsong. Corridors to her room are guarded at all times, and the windows of her sitting room are locked, barred, and warded with arcane lock.

The princess’s sitting room is a small suite with open doors leading to her bedchamber. A large wardrobe stands across from a locked jewelry cabinet. A full- length mirror stands near the wardrobe. Hooks on the wall display a variety of scarves, shawls, and jackets. A silver mirror in a polished wooden frame engraved with flowers and vines sits atop a small vanity. In front of the vanity, a velvet-cushioned chair sits in a pool of dried blood.

***

Zileska finds Eutropia’s body in the antechamber of the royal mausoleum in the palace's private courtyard. She lies on a slab, covered with a gauzy white sheet. Beneath the sheet, her figure lies pale and still, her arms crossed over her chest. Someone has dressed her in a simple white robe. A golden medallion engraved with the royal family’s coat of arms lies around her neck.

***

Eutropia's lady-in-waiting is a woman named Ferna Denniar. She is distraught, but does her best to explain to Melodie what happened.

"It was like any other night,” Ferna says, choking back tears. “My Lady prefers to dress herself for bed. I entered when she rang the bell to comb her hair and put away her clothes and adornments. She seemed distracted, but that’s no surprise with everything that’s been going on. I asked if she needed anything else, and she said she’d ring if she did. Then I l-left. I-it was the last time I ever s-saw her alive...” Ferna’s shoulders begin to shake.

The lady-in-waiting takes a moment to compose herself. “I sleep in the room next door, in case my Lady needs me in the night. I woke up when it was still dark—I couldn’t think why. A moment later I heard a noise from my Lady’s room. I went to her door and called, asking if she wanted me. There was no answer, but I had a sense something was wrong. I opened the door and saw her... sitting there at her table... there was b-blood everywhere...” Ferna breaks down, sobbing loudly as she covers her face.


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Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

"First case back home in a while and it has to be Eutropia... couldn't have just been a good art heist or something, could it? A bit of a palette cleanser before tackling something this big."

Maria was muttering more to herself than anyone in particular as she took in the room, starting with examining the site of the actual murder, trying to determine how Eutropia was sitting at that moment and where the attacker was standing.

Profession PI: 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (9) + 19 = 28


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Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

"That must have been so awful for you." Melodie says, full of sympathy for the woman. Everything about her is calming, her voice soft and gentle, the slight touch on the elbow for reassurance and the tiny bubble of psychic power that she lends the maid to help the grief not overwhelm her.

"I'm sorry Ferna but I need you think back to that night. Was there anything out of the ordinary? Did the Princess say, or do, anything that she doesn't normally? It could be hugely important."

Take 10 on any appropriate social skill for 43+ :) and implant Mask Misery to help her ignore the grief a little and think straight!


Maria deduces that the blood indicates Eutropia was sitting still when she was stabbed. Blood sprayed out from the wound over the table and mirror, and then trickled down her body to pool on the ground below. She didn’t stand up or fight back.

The tiefling also finds a small bloodstain near the door to the bedroom.

***
Melodie's magic helps calm Ferna down. "Let me think... Nothing seemed unusual or out of place that night. The princess had lost her necklace, I remember. It was a simple chain she wore from time to time—her mother’s I believe. She’d been wearing it earlier, and when I asked for it so I could lock it in the jewel case, she said she put it away after the clasp had broken earlier.

"The noise that woke me up was Taldogis, the princess’s dog. I heard him barking, and then he stopped. That’s how I knew something was wrong. The poor beast had tried to defend his mistress, and it cost him his life.

"Poor Taldogis. I remember thinking it odd that my Lady asked him to be shut out that night. She said he’d been disturbing her sleep of late. I shut him in the kitchen as she asked, but he must have gotten out and returned to her door."

Ferna taps her chin. "Now that I think about it, it’s unusual that my Lady was still at her table when... when it happened. She usually retires as soon as I leave. I don’t know why she would have gotten up in the middle of the night, nor sat there while they... while they k-killed her."


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Is there any indication whether she was stabbed from behind or did someone stand behind her, reach around, and stab her in the chest? Or was the module clearly not written by people who'd watched Elementary? :P

Trying to work out if the murder weapon was long enough to run her right through or not.

Processing her findings about the blood spatter at the desk, she went over to examine the bloodstain near the door, trying to determine if it came from the attacker's weapon on their way out or some other source, closing the door to try and see the scene as it was at the time of the murder.

I may just take 20 on this one - we're not in a rush, are we?


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Sara sits down first with the Palace Guards, one by one, and then with various service staff, especially groundskeepers, and, to her great distaste, Bartleby.

She asks first about the events of the evening itself, and then about their normal routines, variations in that routine spanning the last few weeks, changes anyone may have noticed in the Princess's behavior, as well as new figures in and around the palace.

Dip: 1d20 + 46 ⇒ (12) + 46 = 58


it appears she was stabbed in the back from behind. Examining the body can confirm that.

The blood by the door does not belong to Eutropia. It may be Taldogis's, or even the murderer's if the dog was able to bite them before being killed.

With a through check of the scene, Maria is certain there was no attempt to tamper with any of the locks or valuables in Eutropia’s room. There’s no evidence of burglary.

She also finds a tiny shred of parchment among the fibers of the rug in Eutropia’s bedroom—the remains of a magic scroll. Additionally, she uncovers a broken piece of gray porcelain that doesn’t match the palace’s dinnerware or decorations.

***
Sara interrogates numerous staff members, but most tell the same story: they heard and saw nothing unusual until the alarm was raised, and shortly thereafter, rumors began
to circulate that the princess was dead. Nothing about her behavior in the past few weeks was unusual, nor were there any newcomers to the palace.

The guards who were on-duty the night of the murder report seeing and hearing nothing suspicious until they heard Ferna, Eutropia’s lady-in-waiting, scream. One guard recalls Taldogis trotting up the corridor shortly after Eutropia retired. Thinking nothing of it, the guard allowed the dog into Eutropia’s suite.


Pre-Marriage Alias

Once Zhi finishes her examination of the the palace's entry points, Zhi returns inside to assist Maria with her investigation of the scene.

As more information adds to the puzzle, she grows more dour.

"She knew something was coming," she says finally. "That's why she sent the dog away. She didn't want him to get hurt. Why the necklace, though? She must not have wanted her killer to find it as well. We need to find it."

With that she looks at the woman's quarters with the eye of a thief. Where would someone hide something of assumed great importance?


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Zileska is, of course, quite busy with the autopsy. Though the methods available are not particularly sophisticated, she does look for...

* Did the princess struggle at all? Is there anything beneath her fingernails? Were her fingernails damaged? Does she have any defensive wounds?
* Did she have any wounds other than the fatal wound? If so, are they different in any way?
* Is there any evidence that she had ingested anything poisonous or mind-altering?
* Is there any evidence of strangulation or lack of breath?
* Was she pregnant at the time of death?
* Is there any evidence of lingering magical auras on the body or the place of death?

Later, when comparing notes:
"Wait - Taldogis had been shut out of Eutropia's room, but that particular night a guard let him back into her suite? That's... suspiciously odd."


Assuming Zileska takes 10 on Heal.

Zileska turns Eutropia over and finds the single stab wound, as reported. There are no other wounds on the body, including on her hands and forearms. Nothing is under her fingernails.

There is no evidence that she had ingested anything strange or was strangled. She was not pregnant, and there are no lingering magical auras.

Zileska intuits that Eutropia was stabbed once, fell forward (spraying blood on her table and mirror), and bled to death within a minute or two. Oddly, the noted swashbuckler didn’t fight back or attempt to get help after she was stabbed; she just sat there until she died.

Ferna confirms that Eutropia asked for Taldogis to be shut into the kitchen, and the cook admits that the dog escaped sometime in the night.

Zhi finds the necklace in a wooden box on the princess's dressing table. It is a simple silver chain with a teardrop pendant. It looks to be worth a few hundred gold, and does not radiate magic.


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Zileska brings her findings privately to the team and says, "I have a bad feeling about this. Why would she not fight back? Why would she not be surprised at all? Unless the attacker was someone she knew and trusted - someone she would not, under any circumstances, fight back against."

"Like Carrius. Or a shapeshifted Taldogis."


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

"It's possible she was able to see her attacker," Maria said, gesturing to where the chair was relative to the mirror, "unless she was engrossed in something on her desk, she would've been able to see them in the mirror. I'll have to ask Zileska to be sure but the amount of blood here means she probably bled out. No indication she left the chair, though. She could've been in shock, though.

"The stain by the door's not Eutropia's blood in any case - spatter pattern doesn't match up with the rest of the room nor does it look like it fell from the murder weapon. So unless the princess had any other profusely-bleeding wounds on her body before the fatal blow - and that she somehow managed to keep it from spilling on anything in the room other than that part of the floor - that smaller mark is either Taldogis' or our murderer's."

Maria continued her circuit of the room, checking anything and everything. "No signs of forced entry and I know enough about locks to know that anyone trying to get through these would probably just have an easier time teleporting past them than to pick them so cleanly as to not leave a scratch. I suppose someone could've copied or stolen the keys, I'll have to ask about their security arrangements around them. No sign they went through the room at all, either, so we're clearly dealing with an assassin who doesn't need to steal from his targets - makes sense; we know the hit was ordered by the Masked Marquis, an assassin who's swayed by gold doesn't always keep their secrets, after all."

As she spoke, she found the scrap of parchment and carefully removed it from the carpet with a pair of tweezers, careful not to damage it any more than it already was. "Now this might be something - recognise that burn pattern, Zhi? I don't suppose you can make out what this used to be a scroll of?" Once Zhi finished examining it, she placed it into a small glass phial to better protect it in case they needed it later. She did similar to the piece of porcelain she found - storing it in a phial she used for evidence, not getting Zhi to examine it for arcane provenance. "Possibly something our killer brought with him - doesn't match anything else in the palace, unless they've got a stash of plain grey teasets they keep as backups."


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

"Or she knew that her attacker would be someone that she had no way of overcoming. I can see her wanting to make sure that no one else got hurt," Zhi adds thoughtfully as she examines the necklace.

"This is important, though," she continues holding it up. "She normally wore it and she took it off. Did she not want her attacker to find it? If so, why didn't she hide it better? They weren't looking to steal anything; all her other jewelry is still here. So why did she set it aside?"

She turns the stone this way and that, watching how it catches the light. "What message were you trying to leave, Princess?" she says to herself in a quieter voice.


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Did Zhi take a look at the scrap of magic scroll Maria found?


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

"Is there any evidence of magic?" Melodie asks. "Specifically something that would effect the soul? I assume that 'her soul is scattered to the winds' is hyperbole, but the assassin seems to have done nothing to stop resurrection. Her body is whole, there are no enchantments... so either the assassins didn't care that she might be returned to life or..." She fades away. "Or I don't really know what. It just seems strange. You'd think that they'd be more thorough. We should investigate that blood you found Maria. Perhaps its from the killer?"


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

"It's possible. Once I get back to the lab at home I may be able to run some more tests on it, try and at least narrow it down to species so we can know if it's the killer's or the dog's. As for magic, I did find this scrap from a scroll." She placed the phial with the scroll piece on the table.

"The arcane's not my speciality so I can't tell what it was used to cast or even if there's enough left to make that determination. For all we know this was just part of our killer's ingress or egress - if they got in through mundane means they would've needed a key, I'll talk to the security staff before we go about that, if only to rule it out. There was also this shard of porcelain in there - doesn't match anything else I've seen in the palace."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

"There might be something I can do to help." Melodie says, musingly. "There's magic which can pick up on the psychic impressions of events in a location. Let me head to Oppara and I'll see whether I can find a scroll or something similar for it."

She holds out her hand to her wife and raises an eyebrow.

Mel (and Zhi if she wants to come) will Shadow Walk to Oppara and look for a scroll of retrocognition. Will costs 525gp to get one written by a medium I think. Mel will need a CL check to cast it. Then SW back again. :)


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Unsatisfied with her interviews, Sara heads to Zileska and sadly asks her a favor. "I realize it's a lot to ask of you and Calistria, but would you be able and willing to Raise Taldogis? He was such a good and brave boy, protecting his mommy like that. And maybe he can tell us something new and important, I, I don't know."


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

Zhi picks up the small bottle and looks over the fragment of parchment.

Knowledge (arcana): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (5) + 10 = 15

Not a great roll and if it's Spellcraft, she's out of luck.


Zhi is unable to glean anything of use from the scroll fragment.

You would need magic to divine anything from it. While you are in Oppara you can pick up whatever else you might need such as diamonds for raise dead or a scroll of speak with animals. It will be close to midnight by the time you return to the palace.


Melodie and Zhi travel through the eerie Plane of Shadow, reaching Oppara in just a few hours. They spend some time among the markets finding the scrolls and reagants they require before making the return trip back, arriving at the Palace of Birdsong close to midnight.

That gives Sara the time she needs to exhume Taldogis's body from where it was buried near the kennel (a grim callback to her gravedigging roots). The dog's body has already begun to decompose, but while examining it, Zileska finds shreds of bloody cloth and flesh in Taldogis's mouth. A thorough autopsy also uncovers a hard object in the remains of the dog's stomach. Examining it reveals a small tarnished key. It is the size of an ordinary door key and made of silver. It is tied with an ornate bow that is decorated with Taldor's coat of arms.

Knowledge (history) DC 25:
The style of this coat of arms was used roughly 200 years ago.


Female Human Rogue 3/Sorcerer 4/Arcane Trickster 10 | HP 108/108 | AC 30 T 25 FF 23 | Fort +12 Ref +21 Will +15 | Init +7 | Perc +21 | Spells 1st: 6/7, 2nd 7/7, 3rd 7/7, 4th 6/6, 5th 6/6, 6th 5/5, 7th 3/3 | Boots 10/10 | Tricky Spells 5/5 | Sneak Attack 2/2 | Greater Invisibility 10/10 |

"He was defending her," Zhi exclaims at the discovery of the bloody cloth in the dog's mouth.

"That, however," she says looking at the small key, "doesn't make any sense at all."

Zhi's next task will be to scour the Princess' rooms in an attempt to locate the lock the key was intended for.


None of the locks in the princess's room is a match for the key. Indeed, it does not fit anything in the entire palace.


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

"What a good boy," Sara whispers, petting the dog's still form. "Maybe he stole this key from whatever villain killed our Princess?"

She leans down over him with tears in her eyes. "You and your mother will be reunited in life, Taldogis. We'll see to that."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

As the funeral/resurrection is being performed, Melodie shoos everyone everyone except Maria out of the princess's room and produces the scroll she purchased in Oppara.

Take 10 on CL check will pass

Around them ghostly shapes form, moving silently like spectres as the room gives up its secrets.

Casting Retrocognition. I should be able to go back up to 16 years so hopefully I can find the night of the assassination without too much trouble. Maria is here to actually watch while I concentrate on the magic side of things.


It only takes a minute or so of concentration before Melodie can feel the psychic impressions left by the night of Eutropia's murder. She gets feelings of anxiety and resignation from the area near the dressing table, then those abruptly vanish. A short time later, a surge of violence followed by grim satsifaction. Strangely, there is no pain or anguish associated with this act. Surprise, then, a jolt of pain followed by another surge of violence. The distant echo of a dog's yelp, a coldness like a cloying shadow, and then nothing.


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

"Yyyyessss, I think I can bring back Taldogis," says Zileska. "If he's willing, of course."

"Actually the only time I've heard of a priestess raising an animal was one priestess of Lamashtu who- uh, never mind."

~~~~~~~~~~

"The key... I wonder. From an earlier age? Was it something from the royal family's past? Tied to an old box or building in another location?"


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

"Well that was strange." Melodie comments, describing the sensations to Maria as accurately as she can. "It felt like Eutropia was already dead. When she was stabbed the emotions are clear - excitement and violence from someone, who would be the assassin. But that's it. No pain, no sorrow or surprise. It's like she wasn't there at all..."

She is still turning the matter over in her mind when she and Maria rejoin the rest of the group at Taldogis' grave. "He bit the assassin." She says with certainty. "That blood in Eutropia's room is his, so the cloth and the key would be as well. We should ask Bartelby if he knows the coat of arms."

Less keen on dogs than the rest of the group she leaves to do just that.

Assuming we're doing this the next day and I don't have to drag him out of bed a 1am.

"Bartelby." She greets the former count with a smile and a clasp of the hand. The two are friends now, genuine friends united by mutual respect and a love of politics, rather than the rather awkward employer/employee relationship that had been the status quo before Sara's election campaign in Axis.

"I've got to say again what a fantastic job you did in Sashyoto. Winning an election in Axis, well that's something mortal men can only dream of!" She smiles, sharing the little joke that sprang up during their mortal-led campaign on an eternal plane. "Now, you're the expert in history - there's no-one I can think of that's better suited to help with this." She produces the key and both parchment fragments. "Do you recognise this? And can you make anything of these?"


Bartelby studies the key with a discerning eye. "The style of this coat of arms was used roughly 200 years ago. I don't recognize the key itself, however. Divination is not my forte. I can try to research it by mundane means, but it may take more time than we have available at this time. Likewise, I won't be able to glean any more information about these scraps."

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