Each of you receives word in various ways - carrier pigeon, a word scrawled in lipstick on a cocktail napkin, a whispered message on a dark street, even a thick, embossed envelope containing an elegant card displaying only the Taldan flag - that the Society wishes you to report to Oppara. The capital of Taldor is the starting point for your next mission and you duly make your way there. The city is striking in its grandeur, even if it has faded somewhat since the glory days of the Taldan Empire. The massive buildings of granite and marble, the streets paved with well-laid cobbles or even mosaic tiles, the public fountains and the tens of thousands of lanterns that light the streets at night, all serve to impress on the visiting Pathfinders that Taldor is still a power to be reckoned with on the world stage.
The many impressive features of the city also serve to underscore the dinginess and earthy tang of Venture-Captain Muesello’s lodge, which hides behind the facade of a simple bait and tackle shop. The place has the advantage of not inviting much scrutiny, but it is decidedly less grand than many of the Society’s lodges, and smells a bit of freshly-dug earthworms. All the same, the Venture-Captain’s pockmarked face breaks into a smile as the bell on the door jingles, and he motions for everyone to gather in the building’s back room before locking up the shop and propping a sign in the window that reads “Gone fishing.”
An elegantly dressed woman wearing understated, though clearly expensive, jewels sits at a table by a small fireplace and nods graciously at the Pathfinders as they file into the room. Venture-Captain Muesello quietly closes the door behind him, then gestures to the noblewoman and says, ”In case you are not aware, my guest is Lady Gloriana Morilla, an important ally of the Pathfinder Society.” Lady Gloriana nods again and murmurs pleasantries before turning back to Muesello, indicating he should begin.
“The Pathfinder Society does not have a sterling reputation in Taldor,” he says without further introduction, ”despite my and others’ efforts to impress the local moves and shakers. As a result, the most prestigious universities and colleges often deny our agents access to the best libraries in Oppara, thinking we are meddling good-for-nothings. As one of the oldest intact civilizations near the Inner Sea, these libraries no doubt house some very precious volumes. Recently we received a most wonderful opportunity—an invitation, really, from a very powerful patron,” he adds as he withdraws a scroll tube with a broken wax seal from his apron.
“This patron will secure us a couple of hours in the rare books collection at the Kitharodian Academy, during which we may search for whatever we wish so long as we also retrieve
several documents of interest for our friend. That,” he punctuates by tapping the scroll tube on the table, “is where things get interesting. Apparently there is an even more precious archive hidden beneath the academy’s library, and our patron believes it to contain numerous original records and undoctored historical accounts otherwise unknown to the world! Our contact knows how to get into the archive and has shared the secret with us.”
“Two hours is little time, so you must make the most of your time. I know it will be tempting
to research other interests, but it would be selfish for the Society to think of itself when the Worldwound’s borders threaten to envelop Mendev and beyond. I am sending you in with the express purpose of uncovering more information about the Shining Crusade, the sustained war against the Whispering Tyrant a millennium ago.””
Lady Morilla snaps open a fan to fend off the room’s growing warmth, adding, “Historically, Taldor is the authority on massive military campaigns, but most texts have undergone extensive revision to serve some political agenda or another. Entering this hidden archive is an excellent opportunity to learn from the real mistakes of the past and apply those lessons to the Mendevian Crusade.”
“Remember that you have permission to be in the academy’s library, but not in this secret archive, so do everything you can to avoid being noticed while exploring. In fact, the fewer clues you leave of your passage, the better. Specifically do not steal or destroy any of the library’s contents. A few slip-ups might alert the authorities that someone has been poking around, and too many will give them enough evidence to trace this act to us.”
Muesello opens a drawer in the table and begins pulling out a couple of small parcels wrapped in cloth. “Any questions?”
The broken seal on the scroll tube Muesello withdrew from his apron features some kind of royal insignia--a crowned lioness.
The seal on the scroll tube is that of Princess Eutropia, Grand Prince Stavian III’s only child, who has been maneuvering to take the throne upon his death, despite Taldor's tradition of crowning a male heir.
|Conundrum of Pregenia|
|Conundrum of Pregenia|
Conundrum looks up after the Venture Captain finishes speaking then quickly around the room before saying "This sounds like an extremely interesting opportunity! If I may, I do have a couple of questions - or perhaps requests for clarification on a few details. Regarding the clarification, we are not to take any of the libraries contents other than the specific works we have been directed to retrieve?" He pauses here briefly to gather his thoughts.
"My other questions are more logistical in nature..." Conundrum holds up a hand and begins ticking off questions as he looks to the venture captain and Lady Gloriana.
"First, are there restrictions on items we can bring into the library?"
"Second, are arriving or departing visitors searched as a mater of course?"
"Third, do we know the layout of the library and what sort of magical alarms or supervision do we know about?"
"Fourth, Is anyone else looking for the documents we are to retrieve?" Conundrum gaze appears to linger briefly on Lady Gloriana as he asks this before continuing his list.
Closely observe Lady Gloriana as I ask this to see if she shows any reaction to the question
"Fifth, what is the timeline for this operation other than the 2 hour visit limit - can we arrive at the library during the evening?"
After completing his list he looks around at the other Pathfinders almost sheepishly before concluding "All the usual planning questions - I know - but I'm certain that as we start discussing this amongst ourselves additional thoughts will arise."
Rayne is a devilishly handsome Chelish man, no more than 20 years old. His dark flowing locks reach to his chest where you can see a hint of a well made chainshirt underneath his clothing. His bow seems almost brand new and custom made and has the initials "R.D" carved into it. His five-o-clock shadow just enhance his rugged good looks. You remember that he introduced himself as Rayne.
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Rakhshara subtly scans the room, catlike pupils widening as he notices the broken seal on the scroll. He scrunches his sensitive nose at the smell of worms which draws attention to the black stripes on his face, a sharp contrast against his cinnamon-colored skin, suggesting his inhuman origin. Rakhshara shifts his position a bit to reveal a long snake tatoo curling around his left arm. He reaches up to adjust his hair and strangely, the fingers on his left hand appear bend backwards as he brushes the short black hair out of his face.
The catlike man opens his mouth, revealing sharp white teeth, and says in a quiet voice that is somehow reminiscent of exotic spices, "I am Rakshasa, servant of wealth, and I am eager to reap the rewards of this venture" The crossed scimitars and symbol of Mammon on his shoulder show his dedication to wealth and all it stands for.
A library! Finally some honest work. No more wrestling with sand elementals or dodging assassins in the Mwangi.
The young tiefling grins as Venture Captain Muesello describes the mission and his tail taps rhythmically back and forth like the pendulum on one of the opulent grandfather clocks out on Oppara's streets. When the briefing's complete he doesn't ask any questions but he nods enthusiastically at Conundrum's inquiries.
Darius is a young man of middling height with long unbound silver hair. He is rather unassuming to look at but his fiendish heritage stands out through his skin which is a shade too pale and the long barbed tail sprouting from his backside. His loose-fitting robes hide his unathletic frame well but they don't do much to hide the awkward bulge beneath them that tends to shift from shoulder to shoulder.
|Conundrum of Pregenia|
Seeing the Princess' seal on that scroll case certainly puts this venture into perspective. She would make a fantastic Patron. Now if I can only think of a way to ask the Venture Captain how the princess of Taldor fits into all this. Perhaps the succession?
Conundrum looks around at his soon to be companions seemingly both quite comfortable and entirely out of place. His clean and stylish clothes, red longcoat and ebony and gold cane fit this neighborhood bait shop like a briefcase in a barn, and yet from his stance and movement he is unaware of the contrast.
"One other question - is there a specific topic or special subject that this hidden archive is focussed on?" Perhaps too subtle, but better to be too subtle in Oppara than not subtle enough.
Zirt listens quietly as the others ask their questions, practically wriggling with joy at the mention of visiting such an auspicious library. Oh boy oh boy oh boy... a library! This is going to be so much fun! I wonder if they'll let me bring Jadrek inside... oh, that would be very sad. He loves libraries... though I probably wouldn't have time to read him a story... I don't really like the idea of stealing those things from the library, but... well, if they don't know they're there... do they really own them?
Venture-Captain Muesello nods in appreciation at Conundrum’s eagerness, though his eyes widen slightly at the torrent of questions that come pouring forth from the man. He casts a quick, smiling glance at Lady Gloriana, then says, ”Well, let’s see if I can remember all those questions and answer them as best I can.”
”As to taking anything else from the library, it would be far better not to do so. As I mentioned, you have permission to be in the library, but not to be in the secret archive. If you take any of the documents – or other things – from the archive, it is likely to be noted, and someone may connect the missing items to the Society. In fact, the more you can copy information from any relevant texts you find, rather than taking the texts themselves, the better.”
Mirroring Conundrum’s manner, Muesello holds a hand before him and begins counting off replies. ”You can bring anything with you into the library, within reason. I’d advise against large draft animals or a handcart that suggests you’re planning to leave with a pile of valuable documents, though.”
”There’s no reason you should be searched, particularly given what’s going on at the library tomorrow evening when you’ll be there – more on that in a moment. As for the layout, the rare books collection is kept in several small study rooms attached to the main library. I know nothing of the archives below, but I imagine they are carved from the rocky hill that the academy is built on. If the archive is truly secret, then it’s unlikely that you will encounter many people. I imagine there might be traps, but I can’t say of what sort – so you’ll have to be careful and resourceful.”
Muesello looks thoughtfully up at the ceiling a moment, as if trying to retrieve the list of questions, then continues, ”I have no knowledge of anyone else looking for these documents, though I’m sure the Academy maintains a keen interest in keeping them safe.”
He turns and gestures to Lady Gloriana, who explains the plan further, “Tomorrow evening, the Kitharodian Academy will host an extravagant orchestral performance in celebration of the Grand Prince’s birthday. Such an event should last several hours, and if rumors are to be believed, the Kitharodian’s finest intend to play a complex medley of Taldor’s greatest songs. Several of these are rather dramatic at times, and the sound should drown out any noise you make. With any luck, the performance will also draw away most of the guards.”
Muesello then slides the cloth-wrapped parcels across the table. “This one,” he says, tapping the first parcel, “contains a deck of illusions that I am in the process of modifying; instead of each card creating a random creature, each one creates a copy of one of you. The illusions won’t interact with anyone, but they can pretend to be reading and deceive the casual observer. Each only lasts for two hours, though. Stick a card to the bottom of a chair to create the illusion, and don’t forget to remove the card when you’re done. The other package contains several potions in case of emergency.”
Second package contains a potion of invisibility, a potion of pass without trace and a single dose of dust of illusion.
He also provides you with several dozen sheets of paper and writing utensils, and hands over the scroll tube he’s been gesturing with. It contains an unsigned letter that describes many of
the mission’s details from the patron's perspective, including that the Pathfinders can find the hidden entrance to the secret archive by studying honor, courage, and glory, as well as a formal
request signed by the Arch‐Exarch Gregorius to admit the bearers to the Kitharodian Academy’s rare books collection.
In response to Conundrum’s final question, Muesello gives him a penetrating look, then says blandly, ”As I mentioned, our patron in this case believes the archive houses records and historical accounts in their original form, rather than the doctored versions that are made available more widely. If there are no further questions, you have until tomorrow evening to make any preparations.”
If anyone wants to do any shopping, change prepared spells, etc., now’s the time.
The group makes their way out of the shop, the bell on the door cheerfully ringing as they go. "Good luck tomorrow evening, I look forward to hearing about your outing," Muesello says, then turns back to working on something at the shop's counter.
You get a special extra mission because you're Grand Lodge faction! You can keep it to yourself or share with the others.
Later in the day, you feel a soft tap on your shoulder and turn to see Venture-Captain Muesello walking a pace or two behind you. "Hello," he says, "glad I caught up with you. I received a letter from Ambrus Valsin (head of the Grand Lodge) that I wanted to discuss with you. He sent me something I hope you can help with.”
He hands you a small scrap of paper, on which you can see a message written in some kind of code. ”Ambrus said this is written in a Taldan cipher that the Society has yet to crack. If you find any notes about old codes that might work for this message, I need you to report back with your findings. I’ll be sure to put in a good word with Ambrus for you if it goes well, hear?”
The scrap of paper contains the letters K-Y-V-W-K-C-E-C-O-O-M-I-M-E-C-G-G-C-Q-F-C.
The following evening, the party gathers outside the Kitharodian Academy, which sits atop the northern cliffs of Oppara and has an impressive view of the Porthmos River valley. The school boasts architecture as lovely as its music, and elegant domes, towers, and columns adorn the principal music hall. On the night of this special performance, mirror-focused lanterns and dancing lights illuminate the structure, making the academy a radiant beacon of Taldor’s greatness.
Crowds of commoners and Taldan nobles alike flock around the entrance, lining up to join the celebration of the Grand Prince’s birthday. The nobles’ elegant finery stands in stark contrast to the more practical clothing worn by the visiting Pathfinders, but all the party-goers are so eager to enter the Academy and jostle their way into a prominent place that even these haughtiest of Taldans pay the more humble guests little mind.
Once inside the entryway, it’s easy to see which way the party lies, but not so obvious where the library is located. There are a number of ushers on hand, all quite busily directing people to the right hallways and stairs to reach their seats for the performance.
You can try out some social skills to get the ushers to help you out, or you can trust your luck and what you might have heard about the place and try to find your way on your own.
Rayne will look for any clues as to where the library might be.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (4) + 6 = 10
But he is too distracted by the more attractive party-goers.
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (18) + 4 = 22
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (16) + 8 = 24
Rakhshasa scans the room, looking for any signs of this fabled library. Making sure to keep a low profile, he also decides to chat with the ushers and see if they may want to help him out. He walks up to one of the ushers and subtly says,"Hello, I was wondering if you could help me find a certain rare books collection. If you were especially helpful, some gold could be in it for you as well."
As Rakshara approaches the harried usher, the man holds out a hand, saying, ”Invitation please, and I’ll show you to your seats.” He pauses a moment in confusion and asks, ”The rare books collection? But the performance is…oh, very well, I can take a moment to show you the way.” He studies Rakshara’s striped face a moment with interest, then looks over the tiefling’s shoulder at the rest of the party, his eyes taking in Conundrum’s ebony cane and well-cut longcoat, Rayne’s rakish good looks and Darius’ tail and peculiarly pale skin. He nods consideringly and says, ”Right this way, if you please.”
The usher, walking quickly in order to return to his regular duties as promptly as possible, leads them to a much quieter section of the Academy, where he presents them to a young man behind a well-polished wooden counter with elegant brass fittings. ”This is Tobias, I’m sure he’ll be happy to assist you. Tobias, they would like to see the rare books collection.” With a quick bow, the usher departs the room, his footsteps echoing in the silence of the empty library.
Tobias squints his eyes slightly and says, ”The rare books collection? This evening? How unusual. I’m sorry to say, but that is a restricted part of the library. Typically, one presents some form of authorization to enter that collection. Do you happen to have such a thing? No slight intended to any of you, I’m sure, it is simply a way to protect one of the more valuable parts of our collection.”
After a moment, Zirt digs around in a belt pouch and pulls out the letter from Arch-Exarch Gregorian, somewhat the worse for wear from having suffered from the gnome’s curiosity about whether it could be folded into the form of a bird and actually fly. Tobias flattens the letter on the counter and smoothes it out, then gives it a quick read. ”Well, this will certainly do. Please, follow me.”
He leads the way down a short, elegant marble hallway to a set of double doors. As Tobias opens the doors, he says helpfully, ”Here we are. I’ll be nearby should you need anything. Please be aware that all visitors to the library must leave when the evening’s performance is over, in two hours time. I will come to escort you out then.” After the party enters the room, he bows and closes the doors soundlessly, as only a librarian could do.
The two hour clock starts now.
A massive, handsomely carved table stands at the center of this large room, whose walls are lined with rows upon rows of inset shelves. The only doors are the double doors through which you entered. Two stone statues depicting bearded scholars holding open books are the only decorations in the room.
A quick perusal of the shelves reveals that most of the books in this section are workbooks of famous composers, original copies of musical treatises, and withered manuscripts describing various operatic traditions from beyond the Taldan empire. Despite their academic value, the texts here are of little use in completing the Pathfinders’ mission. Darius notes that each of the statues holds a blunt stylus - a scholar’s tool sometimes used to help read old, fragile texts - that point to the books they hold. The eastern statue’s book is blank, but the carvings in the western statue’s book form a column of words that reads “Innovation, respect, knowledge, courage, integrity, honor, excellence, glory” in that order.
Now to find the entrance to the secret library! Time’s a wasting! Everyone please make two Perception checks.
Very polite of him not to comment on the presence of Zirt's service bear. I approve of this staff.
Zirt gazes around, wide-eyed at the sight of so many wonderful books. "Oh my... this is... oh I could spend days in here!" she squeaks gleefully, darting forward to glance at a purple tome's spine. "The tale of Aroden and the Hedgehog! That's one of my favorites!"
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (2) + 6 = 8
The bear was not mentioned by the staff because I had inferred he was not coming along. If he is, we'll need a little retcon moment.
In her enthusiastic inquiry, Zert discovers that a section of the west wall is hinged to swing outward, and that the mechanism for opening it must be nearby. But she can't figure out where it would be.
Oh. I was hoping I could bring him along, but if you'd prefer, I can leave him behind. The plan was to pass him off as her necessary service animal. Not a big deal either way. :)
I don't think a bear is a critical element to success in this assignment, and the scenario sets some pretty specific hurdles you'd need to clear to get him in, so let's plan on Jadrek sitting this one out.
While Zirt is checking the bookcases, Rayne turns his attention to the statues. After pushing, pulling and twisting a bit more than perhaps he should, he discovers that the right arm of the western statue can be rotated up or down by several degrees, allowing one to shift the word that the statue’s stylus points at.
"We're supposed to 'study' honor, courage, and glory!" exclaims Zirt excitedly. "Try turning it to those! Oh I do hope Jadrek isn't too disappointed that he had to stay home for this one..."
Rakshara looks around the collection, yawning widely at the useless tomes of equally useless information. He notices Rayne fiddling with the arm of the statue. I remember the letter saying we can gain access to the secret archive by studying honor, courage and glory. He goes over to turn the stylus towards the words honor, courage and glory on the book. As he walks over, he notices a book titled, An Infernal Symphony, the Music of the Nine Hells and looks over its yellowed pages, seeing the diabolical operas and the hellish concertos. Breaking away from its pages, he turns the arm to the three words.
Rayne and Rakshara work together to manipulate the statue's arm, with Zirt hopping excitedly from foot to foot as she observes their efforts. As the stylus is moved to the last word in the series, a metallic click can be heard, and the section of shelf swings open slightly.
Conundrum pulls the door all the way open, and notes that it has a latch on its interior that allows it to be opened and closed from the other side. A short passage beyond leads to a spiral staircase leading downwards.
Rakshara says quietly to the rest of the group, We should use the illusion cards before we go in so the librarian doesn't suspect andything." Having said this, he sticks his card to the underside of a chair and turns to the secret door.
"Oh, good idea! I'd nearly forgotten!" Zirt quickly grabs the purple tome she'd been so excited about and places it on a table, then drags a chair over next to it and slides the card into a joint underneath. "Ready!" she squeaks excitedly.
The spiral stairs descend about twenty feet before ending in a small chamber, more or less featureless except for a set of double doors opposite the foot of the stairs. These doors are unlocked, and opening them reveals a long stone hallway stretching from north to south with several sets of doors along its east and west walls. The eastern wall bears a 10-foot-square field of carved divots that create no particular pattern. An inscription above the carving reads “The keenest eyes cannot see everything. Always remember to see the big picture.”
This part of the library has a very different feel from the upper floors of the Academy. It is clearly carved from the solid stone of the cliffs on which the Academy was built. The walls are carefully worked, smooth stone and the floor is carved into intricate patterns that feel slightly rough underfoot. The carved floor of the hallway has seen consistent traffic over many years, and countless footsteps have worn a slight groove along its center. In spite of this, the place is immaculately clean, as if a dedicated cleaning crew had left moments ago. The doors lining the hall appear to be of stout wood, and the hallway is illuminated by wall sconces that hold glass spheres, inside of which dances magical fire.
Yes, the damn map (link added to the campaign description and above my handsome avatar) has north on the right side. At least it’s not difficult terrain and 5-foot visibility.
|Conundrum of Pregenia|
Before descending the spiral stairs Conundrum looks back into the room to confirm that the illusion is in place and performing correctly.
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (14) + 8 = 22
if he sees anything that seems amiss with the setup he'll adjust the illusions or their placement.
Well, that seems like it should satisfy idle curiosity for a couple of hours...
He turns to descend the spiral staircase and as the last in line closes the secret doorway behind him.
"Wait for me everyone - I'm on my way down."
|Conundrum of Pregenia|
Upon arriving in the lower hall Conundrum looks around to see what everyone is doing.
Hmm - the worn paths in the floor might show the route to any secret passage if it's frequently visited - wonder if anyone has checked that yet.
After a quick look around he examines the dimpled art on the East wall - and the inscription and immediately tries to gain some perspective on it - as if from a distance - by moving as far West as possible.
"Has anyone seen a message in this wall art - this "big picture" inscription makes me think there might be something here to understand."
Worn path in floor showing secret passages: Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (10) + 8 = 18
Dimpled art in East wall containing a message: Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (9) + 8 = 17
Conundrum places his illusionary card, and a moment of studying it leaves him satisfied that it is functioning as expected and should fool at least a casual observer.
Making his way down the stairs, he applies his investigative instinct to the patterns that present themselves - the path worn in the floor through ages of use, and the divots in the wall that hint tantalizingly at some sort of message. He sees nothing in the worn path, and comes away unconvinced that there's anything there to see. The divots on the wall are another story; he feels he can make out distinctive patterns, but can't quite get the trick of making them come together into an image or message he can understand.
|Conundrum of Pregenia|
I'm sure it's a riddle and there's some sort of trick of perspective Darius. Perhaps if you help me look we will will reveal its secrets.
Conundrum moves a bit and seems to concentrate deeply on the wall art again.
conundrum will use an investigator insight to get an extra 1d6 on perception checks
sure hope the group can help figure this out...
Perception: 1d20 + 8 + 1d6 ⇒ (7) + 8 + (2) = 17
"Oh boy, a puzzle! I love puzzles! Why, once I spent an entire afternoon working on a puzzle while everyone else was out eating pies!"
Zirt squints her little eyes at the wall and tilts her head, trying to bring the "bigger picture" into focus.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (13) + 6 = 19
*grumble grumble grunt*
If we call a couple of those Aid checks, you guys hit the DC, so let’s do that rather than rolling a bunch more dice.
Boots sniffs at the cool, dry air of the hallway, but is unable to discern anything of interest in the pattern of dots on the wall. Zirt stares hard at it for a moment, trying not to think of pies, and is about to give up when she’s distracted by Darius and Conundrum muttering about how they can almost make something out. She takes her focus off the wall ever so slightly, and it suddenly becomes clear that the dots form a message! When in just the right position and with one’s eyes unfocused, it’s possible to see the phrase “Our monarch’s virtues are our own.”
"Our monarch's virtues? Does that mean the clue from earlier was used again? That would be strange... but maybe that's why it would work. Dear me, dear me... we've got to figure out how to get past here! Shall we look inside the rooms along this hallway, and then see what we can figure out with the clue at the end?"
Zirt squeals as she sees the adorable creature sticking its head out of Darius' cloak. "Ohh, he's so cute!! May I pet him?"