Corruption of Azim

Chapter 8

A Date with the Mayor

It was still dark when Shandra started to stir. Still sleepy, she cuddled up next to her companion in bed.

“I’m not sure what your husband would think about this.”

Shandra opened her eyes. It only took a moment to remember where she was. After Tyrus left with the rest of the group the night before, Killashandra had gone with Elandra back to her place for safety. Slightly embarrassed, she pulled herself away from the Elf.

“Well, you heard what Asmodeus said last night. I’m not supposed to tell that he’s my husband,” Shandra joked.

Elandra laughed. “What I recall is Tyrus’ face; he didn’t like that one bit. But we’d best be getting up. It’s probably mid-morning up there, and you’ve got to get ready for your date.”

The Elf lit a small lamp. The women were in a lavishly furnished room. Only one thing seemed out of place: a ladder which led up to a trap door. Elandra had bought a small cottage in Fallerun, then had a secret basement constructed. She was vague on the details, but Shandra suspected that those who did the work had taken the secret of the house to their graves.

The top level of the cottage was a very normal, typical residence. The trap door to the basement was cleverly concealed, and Elandra left enough wealth upstairs in jewelery and coins to deceive any visitors. When alone, she would sleep in the basement room for safety. The last night’s incident with Grosh had encouraged the women to spend the night in hiding.

As predicted, it was already ten o’clock in the morning. After breakfast, Elandra coached Shandra on how nobles expected a lady to behave so she could leave a good impression on the mayor. She also gave some miscellaneous information about the mayor. Elandra had avoided any personal encounters with Renferell on the off chance that information would lead back to Riker, but she had plenty of good information.

Apparently Renferell had never wed, and he considered that a blemish against his status as a noble. Since being appointed mayor of Fallerun he had a few mistresses, but none would marry him. Not very surprising, Shandra thought. Money can only get you so far. Who would want to be with him?

In the afternoon, Elandra took Shandra to a tailor. They had selected one of Elandra’s slinky dresses for the date, but it had to be altered to fit. Once the dress was ready, Shandra borrowed some modest jewelery from Elandra to complete the outfit. She chose a necklace and bracelets that went with her own Earrings of Suggestion. With everything prepared, the women headed over to the Blue Drake to wait for the mayor’s courier.

While they waited, Elandra flirted with some of the merchants. Shandra sat watching the door, waiting with slightly nervous anticipation. She knew she needed to carefully manipulate Renferell with this date. The encounter could turn dangerous, especially if Grosh interfered.

Soon an exotic-looking man entered. He had striking facial features, black hair, tan skin, and dark brown eyes. He saw Shandra and gave her a charming smile; she responded with a cautious half-smile. The man then walked over to the bar and started speaking with the innkeeper. It was hard to hear what he was asking, but Shandra thought she heard him ask something about his grandmother.

“I have to go. Now.” Elandra sounded slightly panicked. “That young man who just entered… I think I recognize him from Riker’s manor. Good luck with the date. Be careful!”

Before Shandra could respond, Elandra was out the door. Not long thereafter, the mayor’s courier arrived with a guard. The courier was wearing fine attire as before, and the guard’s armor looked like it had been polished. They greeted Shandra politely and escorted her out to a carriage.

The courier spoke practically non-stop during the journey about how the mayor would be so pleased and how lovely Shandra looked this evening. The carriage took them out the North gate of town, then over the bridge, and finally on a smaller path toward the old fort. The gates of the fort opened to admit them.

On arrival, Shandra was led to a small antechamber where she was announced as Lady Enjelica Amberly — a false name she had given the courier.. Mayor Renferell then appeared in the hallway, wearing an outfit which Shandra recognized as a high-fashion Aelhaim style from three years ago.

“Oh, I’m so delighted — uh, I mean… Welcome to the center of government of Fallerun!” the mayor began, already stammering. “I’m so delighted that you’ve come! Thanks for com— for accepting the invitation.”

DM
What name would Shandra have given to the courier? Her own name or another? How will Shandra act? What topics will she bring up for discussion? Is there anything specific she will try to accomplish?

Unless you specify otherwise, I’m assuming that Shandra has her whip and dagger carefully concealed on her person. She also has her earrings, ring, and Dueling Cloak. The rest of her gear (including armor) is at Elandra’s.

Also, note that Dustin Ashe has made his first appearance in the story. I’ll work with Karasu to work him into the party at some point once the group has returned from fighting the soldiers.

Eryx
I would just like to reiterate the instructions I gave earlier, as a refresher, Whipblade, from Chapter 6:
Asmodeus would probably start to give Shandra instructions, she would probably interrupt him and tell him that she would handle the date, and he would realize that she was right and he should back off, but would reiterate getting the entire group in good with the mayor before dropping it.

And remember that Asmodeus is from the town. It might even be possible that Renferell knows who he is, since there probably hasn’t been anybody else that’s gone to the University from Fallerun.

And can I just say I’m sad I won’t see you and the DM having this conversation over the table. Ah well. The limitations of this way of doing DnD.

Karasu
Eryx, being a better writer than actor, I prefer this online storytelling to a sit-down tabletop game.

Whipblade, I think the mayor himself doesn’t pose much of a threat. But I’d be wary of anyone else you may meet who’s close to Renferell: the courier, healers, advisors, etc. Just because Renferell is a stammering fool doesn’t mean someone much more shrewd isn’t pulling his strings. You might seduce the mayor, but I doubt he’s the real power in Fallerun. You’ll have to worm your way into the good graces of everyone you meet, or at least look fairly innocent and harmless.

Whipblade
Shandra introduces herself as the Lady Enjelica Amberly. She is the epitome of ladiness. She is polite, and demure throughout the night. She curtsies where appropriate, and will act tastefully flirty toward Renferrel. If he’s too forward she will back off. She’s setting the stage for a slow courtship so she can see him more. She will not allow him to kiss her, as “a lady never kisses on a first date.”

Throughout dinner, ‘Enjelica’ will ask questions about Renferrel: His background, how he became mayor, his family, and the failed assassination attempt. Why would someone want to kill him?

If Renferral asks about her background, she will act evasive, then put on a show of “can I really trust you?” Once Renferrel attempts to win her trust and press the issue, she will launch into the following tale of woe:

[DM Note: I removed the story from this part of the post since it has been replicated in the dialog below.]

‘Enjelica’ will end the story when it’s late, trying to get the most interest out of Renferrel before claiming that she needs to depart, but that she’s had a delightful evening and would love to return. If pressed… she may continue her story…

Besides what has been mentioned, Shandra will be examining the layout of the Fort, the general alertness of the guards, and try to get a guard count.

Karasu
That’s right. If he gets too friendly, Shandra can always jab the mayor’s recent wound. Nock would appreciate it, I’m sure.


“Thank you,” Shandra replied with a curtsy. “I am just so surprised that your mayorship has taken an interest in me.”

“Ah, yes. Well, I recall seeing you during my speech before I… well, that is, perhaps let’s not bring up that disturbing incident now. I believe that our meal is ready.”

The courier led them into a large dining room. The table was long enough to seat a dozen comfortably, but there were only two chairs. Shandra was seated on one end of the table, and Renferell sat on the other side. Fine china was set at her place. Candles and flowers were set decoratively along the table.

As dinner was served, ‘Enjelica’ asked Renferell about his background and how he became mayor of Fallerun. It did not take much prompting to get him talking. He was eager to tell of his family and successes, no doubt trying to impress his guest.

Renferell started with his claim to nobility: his uncle Bernard Isley. Apparently Isley was very close to his sister, Renferell’s mother. When Renferell was only a few years old, his father passed away and his uncle took them in. They lived with his uncle for many years.

“My uncle recognized my good, ah that is cunning intellect. He knew I was a born leader, so one day he gave me some soldiers and instructed me to come to Fallerun. The little town was so disorganized! It needed help. Did you know it wasn’t even part of the Kingdom at that time?”

Shandra listened politely as the mayor babbled on for over an hour. She asked questions occasionally to steer the conversation into areas that might yield information. He talked often about his famous and powerful uncle who had ties to the King. He talked about his mother fondly; she was still living with Isley in Lysidia. He talked about how successful he has been as the mayor of Fallerun, and all the ways he’s improved and ‘civilized’ the place.

When asked about the assassination attempt, he was flustered. “I have no idea why anybody would want to kill me! I am respected, well you might even say loved by the people! That’s why I harbor suspects, er, suspicions that the Corbain family was involved! They have always been at odds with Uncle Bernard. But my advisers are convinced that it was some random anarchist.”

He wouldn’t talk about it long, instead focusing on how lovely it was to have Lady Amberly to dinner. By that time their fine meal had been fully served. The cook had just brought out some wine and desert.

About this time, the mayor realized that he’d been rambling on too long. He apologized profusely, then began asking Lady Amberly about her family and background.

“Oh, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be bored by the mundane details of my life,” she replied. “I have no powerful family or prestigious position as you do.”

As he pressed the subject, Shandra evaded his questions. This seemed to pique his curiosity. She had prepared an elaborate cover story, but to ensure that he would buy it she questioned if she could really trust him.

“Of course, my lady! Certainly, I am the best, or most trustworthy person in Fallerun! As you know, there are certain disrespectful persons in this town despite my best efforts. And they… well, I can be trusted implicitly!” was his response.

With that, she launched into Lady Amberly’s tale of woe.

“I don’t remember much about my childhood, but I remember my name. That is the one thing that is truly mine. My father… he was a pearl trader. We had the most beautiful ships and… I think we were quite wealthy. I can’t remember for sure, but I know that our family owned several ships, and I know that our house was quite large… How he loved diving! Papa Rolos really was quite good at it. He could hold his breath for hours! At least it seemed like hours… Please excuse my rambling.”

“Of course,” Renferell said.

“Anyway… I remember the day clearly because it was launch day. The first day of the pearl hunt. Many ships leave before… but it isn’t safe due to the winter storms along the southern coast of Cypur, where I grew up. Papa let me come along as a special treat that day even though it was bitter cold. He couldn’t keep us inside. When the ships set forth, papa held me tight as I clung to the railing with the sea-spray splashing on my face. I held onto the railing a long time, watching the hundreds of ships set out in different directions with their different colored sails – it was like a rainbow of wind, moving out in all directions. I remember feeling very lucky. Many children wanted to be on the ships when they set out, but hardly any were allowed. I was… I was really lucky. At least I thought so. I don’t remember which direction we sailed, just that the ships got smaller and smaller on the horizon until they disappeared and we were alone. I fell asleep with the gentle rocking of the ship.

“I woke up… to a sound I will never forget. It sounded like… the sound of a whip cracking against water. But loud. Louder than you can possibly imagine. I remember the yells and screams. I was… I was the darling of the crew, but in a panic they had all but forgotten me. Even my father. They were all pointing at something on the horizon. I remember…

“I remember the ship the first time I saw it. It was a black silhouette against the setting sun, with a glowing red nimbus. The cracking sound emanated from it. The ship got closer, and as it got closer, the crew grew more panicked, and as they became more panicked, the more scared I became. I always bit my fingernails as a child when I was nervous. I think in those moments I chewed them all off. The black ship was far away. So far away… then suddenly it reared up on top of us. My father finally found me and took me below decks, but I could hear the cannon fire. It seemed to go on forever. One long thunderous echo. I heard sounds of fighting. That’s when my father left me. He made me promise. Made me promise that I wouldn’t leave that spot, hiding under the… I’m sure it has some fancy name, but – it was basically just a pile of rigging.

“It was loud for a long time before it got quiet. I heard… footsteps. I knew… you know how when you grow up someplace, you learn the sounds of a place? How it creaks? How it settles? You can tell when someone comes home even though they haven’t spoken?... That’s the way I knew that ship. I knew the sound and feel of it. That’s how I knew they were all gone. The sound of the ship had changed. It sounded different.

“He called me out of my hiding place. He said, ‘I can see you. Come out of there.’ I’ve never heard a voice like that before. Nor shall I again. Hypnotic. Like a pleasant echo. I knew I couldn’t hide, so I didn’t try. I wasn’t scared then. Just… empty. My father was gone. I knew it, but for some reason I couldn’t cry…. so I stepped out of hiding and saw him for the first time.

Dagen Tharis.”

At the mention of this name Renferell’s eyes went wide. Shandra repressed a smile. Her story was taking effect, and he was familiar with the infamous pirate.

“You can grin and laugh if you want to. I would. I grew up on stories of Captain Tharis that my fathers crew would tell me. I thought they were exciting… I… It was him. I… I was taken by his crew back to his ship. I saw the bodies. They burned the ship. I was the only one left alive. I never saw my father again. I was six.”

At this point, ‘Enjelica’ stopped and took a long drink. She put on a mournful recollection before continuing.

“I was taken to an island. Lockstone Reach. A cavernous city of ships and cliffs and tunnels. I grew up there, in Blackwater Keep, Tharis’ cliffside fortress. I couldn’t escape, there was no where to go. It has a drawbridge that opens to the sea. The only time it opened was when The Lash, Tharis’ ship returned.

“I was raised by my Nan – an beautiful woman and the bravest person I know. She was the only one I ever saw stand up to Tharis and live… besides Tyrus. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“My mother died in childbirth, and I grew up with my father. Nan was the mother I never knew. She taught me how to be a lady. How to sew and play the harpsichord, and dozens of other things that… I guess are useful for women to know. There were many women there. Prizes that the men would bring home. But the best were for Tharis. My… Nan was the best. She… she didn’t like to talk about it. There were times she wouldn’t give into him. His eyes really do burn like fire you know? Most of the time their dim, but when he’s angry… which can happen a lot… they burn. You learn not to look him in the eyes. I remember feeling like they would burn me up. But most of the time he was gone. He would always bring us all gifts when he came home. The gifts were always lavish and interesting, but I’ll never forget when Tyrus stepped off his ship.

“He was a young man that Tharis had taken as a toy for the rest of the crew. A living whipping post. I’ve never seen a skinnier young man with more willpower. He was skin and bones and blood when we were first told to care for him. We did our best to heal his wounds with the week we had, but… after that he was taken back to the ship. In the months after, each time he returned a little less bloody. He proved… a little tougher than the crew expected.

“It was Alkiro that changed everything… but… that’s a story for another night. I’m sure I’m boring you, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, no!” the mayor responded with vigor. “You haven’t bored me at all! You are very interesting… ah, that is your story, of course. What a life you must have lived! What hardships! Please continue… I want to know more about you.”

“Perhaps another time,” she replied. Then putting on a mournful expression she added, “It’s a difficult story to tell. I only tell it to those who I’m close to, or want to be close to.” At this she looked up coyly at Renferell. “Suffice to say, my friends — especially Tyrus — rescued me.”

The mayor slumped back in his chair, astonished at such a history. He mumbled about it for several minutes until the courier entered the room.

“Excuse me, sir,” said the courier. “A letter has just arrived for you. I believe it to be urgent.”

The courier left the letter with Renferell who looked at it distractedly. He was still mulling over Shandra’s story. She was curious to know what was in the letter, so eventually she asked politely if he was going to read it.

“Oh,” he said. Then looking at the letter he remarked that it had the Isley family seal on it. Shandra waited patiently as he read.

“How delightful,” he said at last. “My mother is coming to visit! She’s already on her way, and should be here in ten days time.” Then looking up at Enjelica he continued, “I very much hope that you’ll consent to spending time with mother and me… uh mother and I. I’m sure she’d be delighted to meet someone so interesting as yourself.”

Shandra smiled broadly. “I’d be honored. It’s been a delightful evening, and I’d love to return. But dear me! It’s gotten so late! I really should get going. Thank you so much for dinner.”

Renferell sat up in his chair. “Oh? Yes, you’re right. It is rather late. But you can’t, er, are you sure? I would be sorry to make you travel so late. You are welcome to spend the night here. We have a guest room that you could be very comfortable in.” Then after an awkward pause he added, “My carriage will take you back to town if you desire, of course. But I hope you’ll stay.”

DM
What will you do next? Will Shandra spend the night in the fort, or ask to be returned to town?

Whipblade
Shandra is hesitant to reply. She tells Renferrel that she needs to get back, but is afraid for her safety: Recently some friends of hers were attacked by a local gang known as the Darkrunners, who were being led by some half-orc. She asks if Renferrel’s guards can adequately protect her.

Shandra needs to decline this initial invitation to keep Renferrel’s interest strong. She also wants to get back to Elandra to talk about what she has learned – especially about this Corbain family. Additionally… is there any way we can use his mothers visit to our advantage? Kidnapping? Extortion? Hmmm…

Eryx
I think you meant “The Outcasts,” not “The Darkrunners.” The Darkrunners are a huge organization, not a local gang.

Karasu
I think we should kidnap Renferrel’s mother and frame some of the townspeople. Maybe place her, bound and gagged, in the cellar of MacArthur’s house. Possibly forge a ransom note. We have to incite the townspeople to riot, not just scare them about outside threats.


Shandra hesitated in her reply. “That’s so sweet of you, but I really should return to town. I am a little nervous though, because my friends were attacked yesterday by some brutes calling themselves the Outcasts! There was this terrible half-orc leading them! Could you send some guards to protect me?”

Renferell was visibly affected by her plea, apparently oblivious to her slightly melodramatic tone.

“I know just the ones you’re talking about,” he replied. “They are troublemakers, ah that is, they cause a little trouble for some people. They never bother me, of course. Rather they try to sell me useful information. Why just today I think that same half-orc was here talking to the Captain of the Guard…”

“But in any case, have no fear! Those ruffians are not as strong, ah, are no match for my guards!” The mayor beamed with pride. “I’ll send for the guards at once! You’ll make it home safely darli— my dear.”

“Just stay away from their part of town,” he added in a whisper.

After many thanks, goodbyes, and a promise to return, Shandra was escorted by three guards back to the carriage which returned her to the Blue Drake Inn. Once the carriage had left, she headed straight back to Elandra’s cottage. The Elf welcomed her inside.

“How did it go?” Elandra asked.

Shandra recounted the events of the evening, taking special note to ask about the Corbain family. Elandra explained that the Corbain family was also an influential noble family, but they butted heads with Isley. The two families often could be found trying to undercut, back-stab, and get ahead of the other family in the eyes of the King.

Elandra was especially interested in the upcoming visit of Renferell’s mother. “I’ll bet Asmodeus will be thrilled to hear about that. There’s so many possibilities! Isley has always been very close to her. If word gets out that she’s missing and that Gnolls are harassing the town… oh yes, that will make him mad. And better still, if other nobles hear about it, Isley will lose face because of his incompetent nephew.”

Over the next few days, Shandra visited Renferell at his fort several more times. She was treated to lunch, saw the Mayor’s library, and walked around the courtyard and battlements of the fort. She discretely kept track of the guards and the layout.

All the while she carefully flirted with Renferell. He was obviously interested in her, but she kept her distance and never let him get too close. He constantly tried to impress her with his notions of nobility and position as mayor.

Shandra also learned about Renferell’s people. He had one courier (the same one Shandra met before) that always stayed in town. He also had a few others who would come and go with news, letters, and other information. She met cooks and maids and others, but one figure was elusive: Jorn Braithwaite. The mayor’s personal healer was often found standing around nearby, but he never spoke a word to ‘Lady Amberly’. Shandra avoided speaking to the guards, and only saw the Captain of the Guards once.

Meanwhile, Elandra kept a low profile. She was still worried about that man tied somehow to Riker. Discretely she tried to keep track of him, and sent Shandra out to watch him occasionally. The man was called Dustin, and was apparently in town searching for family. He’d find them faster if he didn’t spend so much time in the taverns, Shandra thought.

The days turned into a week. Tyrus and the others had not yet returned. Shandra worried about them, but Elandra assured her that it could easily take 2 weeks for them to deal with the guards properly.

Renferell had invited her to another dinner that night. But this time there would be a gathering of important and prominent people whom the mayor had invited. No doubt he wants to impress them by having me on his arm, Shandra scoffed.

DM
I’ll pause here. How does Shandra want to handle the mayor’s little party? Anything specific? You may be able to slip away from Renferell’s attention and explore a bit. Also you’re confident that you could spend any night at the fort if you just ask.

Karasu
I’d keep an eye on Jorn Braithwaite. He seems mighty suspicious.

Whipblade
Good call on Jorn. Shandra suspects he may have already cast a clerical scrying spell (detect evil) allowing him to see her aura, if not her intentions. She’ll be wary around him.

As for the party, Shandra is interested in meeting the notable people and making powerful friends and potential allies. Additionally, she’ll want to drop a clue to Renferrel about Tyrus, Asmodeus and the others looking for work in the ‘security’ department… very lightly. She doesn’t want to push it until it’s discovered that the guards who went gnoll hunting won’t be coming back.

That evening the mayor’s carriage picked up ‘Lady Amberly’ at the Blue Drake Inn; it was becoming usual. As they rode toward the fort, Shandra looked out at the wilderness. The weather had turned sharply cold the last day or two — October was asserting its independence from September. She huddled in the coat she’d borrowed from Elandra and hoped that Tyrus was okay out there.

Renferell greeted his date as she arrived, and quickly led her off to the parlor to meet the guests that had already arrived. She was introduced to a pair of rich merchants who based their operations out of Fallerun. Apparently they had sucked up to the mayor enough to convince him to give them a tax break.

Next she met the editor of the Fallerun Gazette, a local newsletter. Renferell explained that he was a friend from Lysidia which he’d brought here to help inform the citizens of all his wonderful policies and successes. Shandra thought he was an obvious sycophant, but held her tongue.

Someone standing off in the corner caught her attention. It was Jorn, silently observing the party. She watched him briefly while attempting to be discrete. Renferell pulled on her arm.

“Bejic, I want you to meet Lady Amberly,” he said. “Lady Amberly, this is the Justicar — that is to say, Knight JusticarBejic Gemset.”

Shandra turned to see the Dwarven paladin. When he saw her a slight look of confusion crossed his face. Shandra quickly curtsied and greeted him saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve never met a Knight Justicar before. It’s such an honor, you do such a service to King and country!”

Her bluff seemed to work; the Dwarf’s face turned to a smile. “Well, that’s awfully kind of ye,” Bejic replied. “I dunna know how much I’ve been helpful, but perhaps a bit.” He smiled. “I’ve always been proud of bein’ part of the order, ever since I was young I wanted to be a Justicar. I’m glad to meet ye as well.”

Over the next hour, a few other merchants and a banker from Kessler and Sons arrived. Then the mayor’s courier came in and whispered something to Renferell. He looked nervous, but the mayor replied, “Let me come see him.”

Upon standing up and turning toward the door, both men stopped in their tracks. A figure stood in the doorway. Renferell looked curious and the courier was pale with shock. “I didn’t let him past the front gate, sir!” the courier whispered.

“Mayor Renferell, it’s such an honor!” the figured called out as he stepped into the room. Shandra was taken aback as she recognized his distinctive features. It was Dustin Ashe! He was wearing fine looking clothing, though Shandra wasn’t sure she’d ever seen such a style.

“I am terribly sorry, your mayorship, for coming uninvited and unannounced. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet Isley’s famous nephew. I’ve only just arrived in Fallerun this last week, and I’ve already heard so much about you. I knew that I must greet you and your friends in person!”

Shandra thought she detected a hint of sarcasm. But the Mayor beamed from ear to ear.

“Of course, of course! You know my uncle? Er, well, I suppose just about everyone does. Naturally. Not personally, for most that is. Come in, Mr. uh…”

“Ashe.”

“Come in, Mr. Ashe!”

The mayor dismissed the courier who was standing with mouth agape. He led Dustin around the room and introduced each of the guests again.

“And finally, but not least, uh… last but not least, that is, is my date the lovely Lady Amberly.”

Dustin reached out, grabbed Shandra’s hand and kissed it. “You are a breath of fresh air, lady.” He gave her a knowing look — Shandra was sure he recognized her.

Dustin then proceeded to talk with the mayor and his guests. The mayor was quick to tell of his ‘successes’ and ‘wonderful policies’. Dustin subtly mocked him at each turn, but the mayor did not seem to realize it. Two of the merchants chuckled at each unnoticed jab, but the banker seemed offended. The editor was quickly jotting down notes. Dustin may end up the talk of the town, Shandra thought.

Dustin occasionally dropped the names of noblemen. Shandra took note when he mentioned Jonathan Riker. This will drive Elandra mad.

DM
What will Shandra and Dustin do next? What do you want to do during the party and when it ends?

Karasu
Dustin will freely partake of the wine and hors d’oeuvres. He hasn’t eaten all day and he misses finer boozes. He’ll be very conversational. He wants to discover anything he can about Renferell’s connections and hear the talk about noblemen in other cities. He’ll also gather all the information he can on all the local events and tragedies he’s been hearing about in town.

Also, at the most soonest opportunity, Dustin will pull Shandra aside and slyly observe, “So the ‘Lady Amberly’ likes her men blubberous and bald. Strange, I would’ve pegged your match to be something more of a warrior.”

EDIT: Dustin will also casually ask about dragon activity, both local and remote, recent and past history. He has a habit of doing this in whatever company he happens to be with. He’ll just take 10 (+4 Cha modifier) on skill checks for Gathering Information about nobility, local events, and dragon lore, unless you (DM) want me to roll for them.

Whipblade
Dustin intrigues Shandra. It seems he knows who she is, or he’s just a very good player. She wants to find out which. At the earliest opportunity, she’ll chat him up so they can speak without being overheard too much.

As for Dustin’s comment about her men, she wants to know if he knows Tyrus, so she’ll respond with, ‘You don’t seem much of a warrior.’

Additionally, Shandra was under the impression that Renferrel’s mother was going to be present. She keeps an eye open for her.

DM
Actually, Shandra would be pretty sure he recognizes her from their previous encounter in the Blue Drake Inn’s tavern, or from other taverns where she’s been keeping an eye on Dustin for Elandra (both mentioned in this chapter). Karasu, you may roll a knowledge check if you want to see if Dustin has learned anything more about her from the town.

As for Renferell’s mother, he said she would arrive in 10 days. It’s only been a week (7 days), so she’s yet to arrive.

Karasu
“And you don’t seem much of a noblewoman,” Dustin replies with a smile. “But perhaps looks can be deceiving? Like the way true warriors can have clean fingernails and noblewomen can spend time in run-down taverns with disreputable company.

“Perhaps if you can tear yourself away from His Worship, alone we might take a self-guided tour of this fort. No rush, I’ll wait.”

Knowledge (local) check = 20 (woot!) + 2 (Int modifier) = 22

DM
Whipblade, will Shandra take Dustin up on the offer to sneak off and look around the fort? Although this is slight meta-gaming, I want the party to tend to trust Dustin; as if you made a really great Sense Motive roll. If you don’t post, I’ll roll a die to decide how Shandra will respond.

Whipblade
Shandra will disengage herself from Renferrel to chat up Dustin more… and wander around:

“I guess the life of a noble can be somewhat… boring at times.” Shandra replied to Dustin’s comment. “You could say I aspire to higher things than being a mere noblewoman.”

Shandra sipped at her wine, glancing in Renferrel’s direction as Dustin offered to escort her elsewhere. After a moments consideration, she nodded her assent, and followed him to the periphery of the party. “So, what do you aspire to?” she queried encouragingly.


The young man was able to easily move from one topic of conversation to another, kindling more talk from the mayor and guests than he provided himself. While the others were speaking, he took ample opportunity to freely partake of the wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Dustin asked about each of the guests, noblemen in other cities, and the recent local events that he’d heard about in the town. The mayor scowled upon talk of the assassination attempt, but the other guests provided details.

“One thousand gold reward?” Dustin asked with a slightly suppressed smile. “That’s a hefty bounty! Surely that’s generated quite a bit of interest… it’s hard to believe that the villain hasn’t been apprehended!”

“Sadly, no,” Renferell replied. “I’m afraid that hasn’t… the reward hasn’t been the motivation that I had hoped. The only person, er, uh, the only one who’s asked about it is that half-Orc. He says that some Gnome is conspiring with some, uh, other people or something like that. My Captain of the Guard thinks his — that is to say the half-Orc’s — information is worth following up on, but I’m not so sure.”

“Grosh?” asked the banker. “Seems like he’s always on the lookout for ways he can get his hands on money.”

“Exactly my point. With that character, who knows what he’d say for so much money! I wish that some more respectable fol— uh, persons would come with the assassin arrested!”

“Perhaps they feel, wrongly of course, that your mayorship would be unable to award such a large amount of money?” Dustin speculated cautiously.

“Believe me,” the banker answered, “the mayor’s personal account could be drawn on for such an amount without issue, not to mention town funding for getting rid of such menaces!”

“Quite right,” Renferell said with a proud smile. “And besides, that’s not taking into account the treasury here in the fort!”

“Of course,” Dustin answered. “Please do forget I mentioned such a preposterous notion.” Having said this, he took a drink from his glass. Shandra thought she noticed a gleam in his eye and a slightly obscured smile.

After some time, Shandra realized that she had been left alone on a couch. The mayor was so engrossed in the conversation stirred up by Mr. Ashe that he hadn’t doted on her for nearly half and hour. She wasn’t sure whether to be grateful for the reprieve or angry at being upstaged. Then Dustin sat down next to her.

“So the ‘Lady Amberly’ likes her men blubberous and bald. Strange, I would’ve pegged your match to be something more of a warrior.” He emphasized the word warrior by placing a hand to his chest.

Shandra responded dryly, “You don’t seem much of a warrior.”

Her remark was met with a melodramatic gesture of pretended offense. Then with a smile he responded, “And you don’t seem much of a noblewoman. But perhaps looks can be deceiving? Like the way true warriors can have clean fingernails and noblewomen can spend time in run-down taverns with disreputable company.

“Perhaps if you can tear yourself away from His Worship, alone we might take a self-guided tour of this fort. No rush, I’ll wait.”

“I guess the life of a noble can be somewhat… boring at times. You could say I aspire to higher things than being a mere noblewoman.”

Shandra sipped at her wine while stealing a glance over at Renferell. Seeing that he and his guests were still distracted by their discussion, she nodded assent to Dustin and the two quickly slipped out a side door.

“So, what do you aspire to?” she queried encouragingly.

“I aspire to spending time with beautiful women, such as yourself,” he quipped. “Ideally in much more private, intimate encounters. But since you seem to be attached to a dangerous sounding fellow who wears black plate, perhaps you can tell me about your lovely Elf friend. She doesn’t seem the shy type, but she’s disappeared every time I get a glimpse of her.”

Dustin paused to look around a corner. The coast was clear.

“Come on, be serious,” Shandra said. “Wait. You are serious.” She shook her head and sighed. “Well, what else?”

“At the moment, getting a glimpse of the mayor’s treasury is what I aspire to.”

Shandra stopped in the middle of the hallway and gave him a frustrated look.

“Well, my lady, since you insist,” he said. Suddenly his tone became very serious. “I want to kill a certain Lysidian nobleman, but first I need to find the right man.”

“How will you know who’s the right one?”

“Let’s just say there will be a family resemblance.”

There was a brief but awkward pause. Then Dustin’s jesting tone returned. “If I’m not mistaken, you and your friends are working some kind of scheme against the poor fool of a mayor. I happen to dislike incompetent leaders and their corrupt uncles, so we have common goals. Is that not the case?”

Shandra smiled. “Over the last week I’ve been acquainting myself with the layout of the fort. I haven’t seen the treasury, but I’m pretty sure it’s this way.”

The two headed down the long hallways that ran parallel to the main outer walls of the fort. They dodged past several guards, a busy kitchen, and a pair of open doors. Shandra led them to a door in the back of the fort where Renferell had never taken her.

No light could be seen from under the door, so Dustin cautiously opened it. A small room with stairs descending into darkness was revealed. The two looked at each other questioningly.

DM
What dost thou? Shandra is pretty sure that the treasury must be down there. If not, it must be very cleverly hidden elsewhere.

Karasu
“Care to descend into the darkened depths? If you’re frightened, we can hold hands.”

Naturally, Dustin will want to descend. If Shandra doesn’t want to, he won’t press it. If she agrees, he’ll pull out a candlestick from his pocket and, instead of lighting it, cast light on it before proceeding. As soon as he nears the bottom of the staircase, he’ll cast detect magic and get a good look at his surroundings.

Whipblade
Shandra’s natural inclination is to show this guy she’s not afraid and go first down the steps: no problem. Being kept captive for great length has taught her a measure of reserve though. She’s going to look warily around, to see if they were followed. Specifically, for Jorn or some other too curious individual:

Spot Check: 19 +5 = 24.

After that, she thinks a moment about what she knows about this Dustin Ashe. She’s known him for a very slight amount of time. Could he be an agent of Renferrel, trying to learn more about her? She dismisses the idea. He doesn’t seem the ‘official’ type, but basically this amounts to a Sense Motive check – just to see if he seems ‘legit’.

Sense Motive: 7 +6 = 13.

Once she determines he’s on the up and up and that the coast is clear, she’ll smile winningly at him, and gesture into the dark: “After you.”

“Care to descend into the darkened depths? If you’re frightened, we can hold hands.”

Afraid? I’ll show this guy. She nearly stepped forward, but then discarded that first thought. The long time she spent imprisoned at the Order of Scions University had taught her a measure of reserve that fought against her free spirit. So instead, she looked warily around for signs of Jorn or anyone else.

There was no one to be seen. Only faint sounds of the kitchen could be heard.

What do I know about this Dustin Ashe anyway? Is it possible that he’s an agent of Renferell trying to learn more about me? Or maybe Elandra is right and he’s connected to Riker or Isley?

She stared briefly at Dustin who had cocked his head to the side with a curious look. Then she dismissed the idea, deciding there was no way he could be an official anything. No, he’s definitely someone like us.

With a winning smile she gestured into the darkness. “After you.”

Dustin smiled back and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small candlestick. But instead of lighting it with fire, he cast a Light spell on it. Holding it aloft, he started down the stairs. The air was stale as they descended. Obviously it wasn’t a high traffic area. Soon they reached the bottom.

Dustin paused, blocking the way. Before she could protest, he raised his hand indicating that she should wait. After a brief pause, he stumbled backward slightly.

“What’s the matter?” she asked in an alarmed whisper.

“Nothing. Sorry. I just didn’t expect to detect such a powerful magical aura. Hopefully it’s just a gigantic pile of magic items… but be careful just in case.”

As Dustin stepped forward, Shandra got her first glimpse into the chamber. They had entered a vaulted hall lined with statues. There were five smaller statues on either side, and one large one blocking the end of the hallway. Behind the large statue, Shandra thought she saw a door.

Cautiously they stepped forward. Shandra searched the bases of the first statues looking for traps, but she didn’t find anything.

Dustin shrugged and said, “Seems safe enough.” Then slowly he stepped between the first two statues.

A pair of glowing eyes lit up in the large statue.

DM
What’s your next move? None of the statues have moved. The large statue is on the other side of the hall, roughly 50 feet away. You may make Knowledge, Spellcraft, and/or Sense Motive checks to gain more information.

Whipblade
Upon seeing the eyes light up, Killashandra is poised for immediate flight from the chamber. She thinks quickly, watching the statues measuringly:

Knowledge Arcana: ROLL: 15 +5 = 20.
Sense Motive: ROLL: 6 +6 = 12.

If she thinks nothing dangerous is amiss, and with Dustin’s “Seems safe enough” still lingering in the air, she cynically smiles and reiterates, “After you.”

Karasu
Dustin freezes, giving Shandra a wry look before turning back to the statues: “I think I’m beginning to understand the origin of ‘ladies first.’”

Knowledge (arcana): 11 + 10 = 21.
Spellcraft: 16 + 9 = 25.

DM
Based on your good Knowledge checks, both characters realize that the large statue is a stone golem. The rest of the statues appear to be ordinary statues. Both characters also know that it is an extremely dangerous opponent.

The presence of a golem describes why Dustin felt a powerful magical aura. Based on your checks, Dustin knows/remembers that golems are mindless. They just carry out orders from their master as best they can. Without knowing its current orders, it’s hard to say what it will do.

Shandra’s sense motive check is enough to realize that the golem is guarding the door behind it. She suspects that you have gotten close enough to awaken it, but it probably won’t attack unless you get closer.

In light of this information, what will you do next?

Whipblade
Shandra turned to Dustin with a confirming query: “Golem?”
“Golem.” He affirmed.

“Any idea what’s in there?”

Upon getting Dustin’s answer, Shandra will discuss the possibility of getting past the golem with Renferrel’s unwitting help.

Karasu
“Probably stacks and stacks of cold, hard coin,” Dustin says with a gleam in his eye. “But the golem is a problem that even your boyfriend would be hard-put to put down.”

He’ll nod when Shandra mentions getting Renferrel to help and ask what she has in mind. If we can trick the mayor into divulging the exact command given to the golem, we might be able to figure out a way to get around it without activating it.

Whipblade
Shandra is more curious about the treasury and magical defenses than anything else. She has no real need to get in, and thus, is relatively unconcerned. So, she simply has a thoughtful look, and no clear ‘ideas’ to voice at the moment. She’ll instead query Dustin about how he knows Renferrel and his desire to gain entry and what his motives are. Does he dislike Renferrel? If so, why?

In the back of her mind, she is formulating ideas along the following lines:
- Where does Renferrel get his money from? Physically speaking, that is. How is it transported?
- Who places it in the treasury? (Likely not Renferrel)
- When? How?
- How often does Renferrel access it?
- Who originally made the golem defenses for him? Is there a way of finding out?
- Would Renferrel be gullible enough to believe a communique from someone trusted, indicating that the magic on his golems needs to be ‘reinforced’ by using the current command word to create a new one?
- How does Isley communicate with his nephew? By letter, or magical means?
- What could I give to Renferrel for ‘safe-keeping’ that he would place in the vault that could be taken advantage of?

Karasu
“Since you ask, Renferrel means nothing to me personally. That said, just a few days here and I realized the whole town is a living testament to his incompetence and mismanagement. Before tonight, I’d never met him, but I’ve run into friends of his family. He’s a nobody, unfit to rule.”

“What worries me is this golem here. Only a very powerful mage or cleric can work the magicks to construct one. Someone in Renferrel’s inner circle is very powerful.”

“Now might I suggest we make it back to the party before we’re missed? I believe the mayor was just about to tell us how to rob him blind under his very nose.”


Shandra froze in place, her muscles tensed and ready for flight back up the stairs. She watched the statues closely, but nothing moved. She quickly assessed the situation.

After a moment where nothing happened, she relaxed. Then smiling she cynically repeated her earlier invitation, “After you.”

Dustin gave her a wry look. As he turned back toward the statues he said, “I think I’m beginning to understand the origin of ‘ladies first.’”

“So… Golem?”

“Golem.”

“Any idea what’s in there?”

Dustin finally stopped looking at the statues and turned back to face Shandra. With a gleam in his eye he answered, “Probably stacks and stacks of cold, hard coin. But the golem is a problem that even your boyfriend would be hard-put to put down.”

“Hmm…” Shandra thought about the problem briefly. “Perhaps we’ll need some help from the unwitting mayor?”

Dustin nodded. “What did you have in mind? If we can trick him into divulging the exact command given to the golem, we may be able to find away past without it flattening us.”

Shandra didn’t actually have any specific ideas in mind. So the question went unanswered while she wondered about the treasury and its magical defenses.

After a few moments she changed the topic with a new set of questions. “How do you know Renferell? Why do you want to get into the treasury? Do you dislike the mayor?”

Dustin seemed a bit taken aback. “Since you ask, Renferell means nothing to me personally. That said, just a few days here and I realized the whole town is a living testament to his incompetence and mismanagement. Before tonight, I’d never met him, but I’ve run into friends of his family. He’s a nobody, unfit to rule.

“This golem here worries me though. Only a very powerful mage or cleric can work the magicks to construct one. Someone in Renferell’s inner circle is very powerful.”

A cleric? Could it be that Jorn created this? she wondered. “That could be. Or it could be from his uncle.”

“True. Now might I suggest we make it back to the party before we’re missed? I believe the mayor was just about to tell us how to rob him blind under his very nose.”

Shandra agreed. Waiting down in the dark wouldn’t help them, especially if they were discovered. So they headed back up the stairs. A glance backward revealed that as they moved away from the statues, the golem eyes went dark again.

Along the way the rogue became lost in thought. Where does Renferell get his actual money from, and how is it transported? Who places it in the treasury? Probably not the mayor himself. When and how often does that happen? Who made the golem? How can I ask Renferell about it without raising suspicions? Is there something I could give him for ‘safe-keeping’ which he would place in the treasury, and how could I take advantage of that?

“Are you lost, Ms. Amberly? Mr. Ashe?”

The voice startled Shandra. Taking in her surroundings, she realized that she had blindly followed Dustin up the stairs and down the hall. They were standing near the kitchen. Turning around she saw Jorn Braithwaite standing with arms folded.

DM
Although Shandra wasn’t paying attention, Dustin is pretty sure that Jorn did not see where they came from. How will you handle this?

Regarding Whipblade’s last post, Shandra believes that with a little coaxing and explanation of ‘sentimental value,’ she could give just about anything to Renferell for ‘safe-keeping’.

She also knows from her own experience and discussion with Elandra that Renferell and Isley mostly communicate via letters. But she doesn’t know if they have an alternate or magical means for important communiques.

Karasu
Dustin answers dismissively as one might speak to a servant: “No, not lost. This poor girl took violently ill and had to be seen to. But since you’re here, be a good man and point us in the direction of the party.”

Bluff: 14 (roll) + 8 (mods) = 22 total.

Dustin also will try to tell whether Jorn saw where they were coming from and whether or not he is suspicious or angry.

Sense Motive: 10 (roll) + 1 (mod) = 11 total.

Dustin didn’t lose a beat in responding, “No, not lost. This poor girl took violently ill and had to be seen to. But since you’re here, be a good man and point us in the direction of the party.”

Jorn didn’t appear to appreciate the dismissive tone Dustin used. Shandra thought she saw him clench his jaw.

“Of course,” he answered tersely. Then in an official tone he added, “I must ask you to refrain from wandering around the fort without a guide. Please follow me.”

The cleric led them back to the party. On entering the room, Shandra immediately noticed that a few of the guests had left. Apparently the party was winding down. Seeing them enter, Renferell rushed up.

“There you are my dear,” he said. “I worried when you were missing!”

“Mr. Ashe tells me that Lady Amberly took ill,” Jorn stated to the mayor. “I believe ‘violently ill’ was his description.”

Dustin kept a straight face and just said, “Quite so.”

The reddish color of the mayor’s face faded. “Are you all right? How are you feeling? Shall I have your carriage take you home? Or no, wait, we’ll have Jorn take care of you here. Yes, that’s it! We have a room you can stay in, obviously. The Braithwaite family has served the Isley family for years, they are quite good — that is to say — excellent clerics!”

Then turning to Dustin, the mayor continued, “Thank you so much for helping Lady Amberly. That is so thoughtful of you! You are quite the ma, uh, quite the gentleman!”

DM
How will Shandra respond, and what would the group like to do next? It appears that the party won’t last much longer anyway. There is still time to try to get some information out of Renferell — in fact, you’re pretty sure that he’d spend time with you two after the other guests have left (especially Shandra).

Regarding Jorn, Dustin is pretty confident that the cleric didn’t see where they had come from. But you do believe he’s somewhat suspicious of you two.

In re-reading your posts for this chapter, I saw that I had neglected Karasu’s interest in dragon lore. During the party Dustin asked about it and learned that there was tradition in town that a red dragon lived in the mountains to the north. It is generally accepted as true, though few people have ever claimed to have seen the dragon.

Eryx
Just a reminder, Karasu, that it would be nice if the group were to know that Dustin is a pyromaniac before he meets Asmodeus. You told me in person that you would try to work that in, but it hasn’t appeared yet.

Karasu
“While the lady here recomposes herself, regale us with stories. The Breathmints. I’d love to here more about this illustrious, pious family.” Dustin leans in closer to Renferell, “Just how good is this Jorn?”

And Eryx, I hear you, but I haven’t been able to burn anything at the party and certainly not going to use magic in the same room with a golem. If there are any candles in the room, Dustin will play with the little flames as the conversation goes on, but that’s about all he can do for now. Can’t burn Renferel to a cinder with Jorn in the room.

Eryx
Well, I’m not the DM but I did get the impression that this might not be the last big event that happens in this chapter. Maybe it will be. However, there are other buildings to burn down in the city. ;)

Whipblade
Shandra will feign lightheadedness to support Dustin’s story, and faint at some point in the middle of the conversation. Although she’ll argue against staying, she’ll eventually allow herself to be ‘talked into’ it.


Shandra feigned being lightheaded and just asked to sit. Renferell helped lead her over to a nearby couch.

“While the lady here recomposes herself, regale us with stories,” Dustin suggested. “The Breathmints. I’d love to here more about this illustrious, pious family.”

From a peripheral glance, Shandra saw Jorn roll his eyes. The cleric waited over near the door.

Dustin then leaned in closer to Renferell, “Just how good is this Jorn?”

“Oh, he’s quite good, I assure you. Which is to say, he is excellent. Yes.

“As I said, the Braithwaites have served the Isley family for years. Ever since the days of my uncle’s grandfather, which is, uh, three or was it four generations of clerics? I can’t quite — I forget.

“About six years ago, Uncle Isley sent Jorn to me. To help the townspeople as well, naturally. I have quite the constitution, you know. My uncle said that Jorn had the family talent, just like his father and brother.

“He’s very good. Why, when that horrible assassin tried to kill me — I can’t imagine why — it was Jorn who took care of me. I’m sure he’ll nurse our Lady Amberly back to health in — oh my!”

While the mayor had been droning on, Shandra decided to fake a faint. The mayor fussed over her, patting her hand in his. Not wanting to give Jorn a chance for a closer inspection, she only waited a moment before opening her eyes.

At this point Renferell insisted that she stay overnight. She argued a little bit to play the part before giving in. Once she accepted, she was immediately led to a guest room. Dustin helped out by letting her lean on him, but on arrival at the room Renferell shooed himself and Dustin out. As he exited, the mayor promised to check on her in a while.

Shandra lay in the bed while Jorn looked down at her with a skeptical look. He said nothing until a maidservant entered the room.

“Amberlyn here will help you get comfortable. You need your rest. For your own health and safety, please do not leave this room. I will check in on you later.”

The maidservant helped Shandra change into a nightgown. The rogue had concealed her dagger and whip under her dress, so she quickly hid the weapons under the bed covers while the girl was distracted. But it had been luck alone that saved her tail from being noticed by the maidservant. That bit of her heritage was usually kept secret by her long cloak, but this lacy white nightgown was not full length. She wondered if Renferell had selected it for her. She sat down on the bed and pulled over a pillow onto her lap.

Before leaving, Amberlyn lit a candle and placed it by the bedside. Then she touched a rune on a wall-mounted sconce. All the sconces around the room went dark. I guess not all of the money went into the treasury, Shandra thought as she considered the magical lighting.

Having finished her work, the maidservant left Shandra in the darkened room.

DM
Shandra is alone now. Things moved quickly after she agreed to stay the night. What will she do next? Will she try to sneak out while no one is watching? Will she wait for Renferell or Jorn to return?

Meanwhile, what will Dustin do? Will he try to hang around? Will he try to get some time with Renferell? Or will he just leave with the last of the guests?

You may attempt a Bluff check to see if Shandra and Dustin managed to communicate a whispered plan. Alternatively, you can attempt a Slight of Hand check to have passed a quick note.

Whipblade
Shandra was nervous. It had been luck alone that had saved her from the maid-servant seeing her tail as she had changed into the lacy white nightgown. The nightwear was not full length. Shandra had hastily climbed into the bed in order to conceal herself.

Now that Amberlyn had departed, Shandra took a deep breath to calm herself, taking in the pleasant scent of the room. It came from a well-wrought glass vase filled with lavender that rested next to the candle, which continued to burn on her bedside table. She rose from the bed, tapped the magical sconce once for illumination, and paced once around the room in examination. (How large is this room? What is it’s proximity to Renferrel’s chambers? To Jorn’s? Does it have any chairs or creature comforts? What are the restroom arrangements? Is there a desk? A mirror? Windows? Fancy rugs? A closet? Are there clothes in the closet? Is there a robe she can use to cover herself better? Books or pictures on shelves? What floor is this room on?)

She wondered about what this Dustin Ashe would do once the manor was fully settled. Without time to speak further with him, they had little opportunity to formulate the next step in their newfound alliance.

Shandra’s mind touched briefly on the treasury, but came to rest on the stern cleric, Jorn. He didn’t like her, that much was obvious. As a cleric, she knew that he had the power to see auras – to detect the rudiments of a person’s nature.

In this respect, Shandra was certain that to an extent, she had been unmasked to him. She returned to her bed, pulled back the sheets and climbed in. She took pleasure in the smooth, clean feeling of the luxurious bedding, wiggling her bare toes before returning to her present thought.

She pondered deeply, trying to think of a way to outwit the cleric. She had the habit of biting the ends of her hair whenever she contemplated something intensely. She did so now. If Jorn knew her base nature, he must know that she was not being completely honest, and that she wasn’t the innocent person she claimed to be. Given that information, he would be watching her carefully to discover what she was really after, and why she was courting Renferell.

Shandra had fooled clerics detection abilities before, but it was deviously difficult work, and she didn’t think appealing to Jorn’s baser instincts would prove effective. No, Jorn was looking for the truth beneath the lie. She decided to give him that. Not the truth exactly, but a glimmer of it that would hopefully throw him off.

It was time for a confrontation. Time to show their cards. She leaned her head back, sighing pleasantly as her long reddish-blonde hair cascaded over the fleecy cushion and awaited the cleric’s return.

Karasu
Dustin’s not tired. He’ll offer to pop into the kitchen for a bottle of wine and have a private drink and audience with Renferell. He’ll act his friendliest and most persuasive.

Eryx
What’s Dustin going to talk to the mayor about during his audience? Your post seemed a little non-specific.

Karasu
Quite right, Eryx. The goal is to get Renferell sufficiently inebriated that he will start to spill on how much he knows about his own golem, and what exactly was the command given it.

DM
I made a few minor updates to the text above to account for Shandra’s tail.


Shandra took a deep breath to calm her nerves. The room had a pleasant scent. It came from a well-wrought glass vase filled with lavender that rested next to the candle, which continued to burn on her bedside table. She rose from the bed, tapped the magical sconce once for illumination, and paced once around the room in examination.

The room was a decent size and had a dresser topped with a large mirror. A cushy chair sat nearby the bed. Her bare feet were caressed by the soft rug on the floor. She wished there were a window in the room, but the thick fort walls prevented that. But the stone walls were adorned with a few framed pieces of art.

Returning to the dresser, she rummaged through the drawers looking for any kind of a robe or clothes to better cover herself with. But the drawers were empty.

She thought about the layout of the fort. She wasn’t sure where Jorn’s chambers were, but Renferell’s room was just down the hall. How long do I have until one of them shows up? She also wondered about what Dustin Ashe would do now. There hadn’t been time to speak further with him, so they missed the opportunity to formulate the next step in their newfound alliance.

Shandra’s mind touched briefly on the treasury, but came to rest on the stern cleric, Jorn. He didn’t like her, that much was obvious. As a cleric, she knew that he had the power to sense people’s auras; to know whether their natures are good or evil.

In this respect, Shandra was certain that to an extent she had been unmasked to him. She touched the magical rune to turn the lights back off. Then she returned to her bed, pulled back the sheets and climbed in. She took pleasure in the smooth, clean feeling of the luxurious bedding, wiggling her bare toes before returning to her present thought.

She pondered deeply, trying to think of a way to outwit the cleric. She had the habit of biting the ends of her hair whenever she contemplated something intensely. She did so now. If Jorn knew her base nature, he must know that she was not being completely honest and that she wasn’t the innocent person she claimed to be. Given that information, he would be watching her carefully to discover what she was really after, and why she was courting Renferell.

Shandra had fooled clerics’ detection abilities before, but it was deviously difficult work, and she didn’t think appealing to Jorn’s baser instincts would prove effective. No, Jorn is looking for the truth beneath the lie. She decided to give him that — not the truth exactly, but a glimmer of it that would hopefully throw him off.

It was time for a confrontation. Time to show their cards. She leaned her head back, sighing pleasantly as her long reddish-blonde hair cascaded over the fleecy cushion and awaited the cleric’s return.

Shandra awoke to the sound of the door opening. She cursed as she realized that she had dozed off. But it wasn’t Jorn. Renferell’s face peeked into the room.

“Are you awake, my dear?” the mayor asked.

Shandra was relieved. She sat up in the bed, yawned for effect, then answered, “Yes. Come in,” in a sleepy tone.

When Renferell opened the door all the way, Shandra saw Dustin following behind him. They turned on the lights and asked how Lady Amberly was doing. She assured them that she was feeling somewhat better and thanked Renferell again for allowing her to stay.

Renferell seemed delighted. He also seemed a little bit inebriated. Dustin explained that he had spent the last hour in private conversation over a fine bottle of wine.

“In fact,” Dustin said, “the mayor here was telling me about his fine treasury. But how do you ever keep it secure, Jacob?”

Shandra took note that Dustin had moved to a first name basis with Renferell.

“The treasury, yes. I don’t worry about that you know. Uncle Isley sent me a guardian. It’s a statue. No, that’s not right. It’s a goa-, er, goleem? Something like that. In any case, no one can get past it. Not in once piece! They’d be smashed flat as a… flat thing.”

Renferell was obviously tired from his long night of entertaining and the alcohol was taking effect.

DM
The room is about 20×15 feet. I didn’t mention it above, but there is a chamberpot under the bed for restroom arrangements. The room is on the ground level of the fort.

After Dustin and Shandra were separated, Dustin kept close to the mayor. They said farewell to the other guests, and then Dustin made his suggestion to visit the kitchen for wine and conversation. The mayor seems pretty taken with Dustin.

After about an hour, Jorn and the courier interrupted the conversation in the kitchen. They suggested that it was time for the mayor to get to bed and that they had prepared a carriage to convey Mr. Ashe back to town.

Thinking fast, Dustin asked to check on Lady Amberly for a moment before leaving. So he knows that he doesn’t have much time.

Shandra is sure that Jorn won’t forget to check on her.

What will you do next?

Whipblade
Shandra’s green eyes took on a steely look and her brow furrowed. “I thought a gentleman knocked first.” she said, directing the comment at Dustin.

Despite his insensitive barging in, Shandra was impressed with this ‘Mr. Ashe’. She hadn’t thought of being quite so direct, but this might just work out… as long as Jorn didn’t come along at some point. She wondered if he had already gone to bed. She decided to ask Dustin about the cleric as he was on his way out.

Dustin’s eyes glanced at Jacob suggestively. She turned her attention to the mayor, speaking in an innocent tone. “Did you come to say goodnight to me before you retired? That’s so sweet.”

Shandra assumed a look of affection, then suddenly seemed to realize that she had interrupted. “I’m sorry, what were you saying? You’re golem will smash anyone who tries to get past? But Jacob… you don’t look like you’ve been smashed flat.”

Expecting Jacob to explain about the magical passphrase, she prepared to ask what it was. Additionally, she thought that this might be an opportune time to find out if there was more than gold in the treasury.

DM
Whipblade, I appreciate the effort you put into your posts. But I feel like I need to remind you that it is my job as DM to narrate, and Karasu’s job to say what Dustin will do.

I do love the stuff you post, don’t get me wrong. You usually add a lot of detail and emotion that I would have missed or glossed over. I feel bad that in Chapter 7 some of your best posts were not incorporated into the narration because the chapter was written from Asmodeus’ point of view rather than Tyrus’.

But one thing I often miss from your posts is a concise description of what Shandra will do next. Your post above could be summarized as, “Shandra will ask Renferell how he gets past without being smashed flat. If he mentions a passphrase, she’ll ask what it is. She’ll also ask about what is in the treasury.”

Additionally, in this particular case, I feel like much of what you wrote above doesn’t mesh with what I already said happened. First of all, she doesn’t really know if they did knock or not because she was asleep. And secondly, the mayor coming to say goodnight really would have been part of the initial checking up on Shandra. To have her mention it now seems anachronistic.

This leads me into a related thought: it seems like all of you have a tendency to be very reactive in your posts. You usually react to the immediate situation, but don’t give me any clues to what overall direction you want to go. Reaction is all well and good, but we also need more active responses; especially with your skills, abilities, magic, and items.

But on the other side of the spectrum, sometimes you guys get carried away with your active posts and you go too far ahead. Eryx did this a lot at first (he’s gotten much better over time). But it still happens… like in Ch. 7 when you guys posted about what you’d do back at camp before you had looted! That was a bit too far ahead… you didn’t give me a chance to tell you what you’d find in your searching/looting.

Here are some examples of ways to let me know what you’re thinking / planning to do:
“Shandra will try to get the mayor to take them down to the treasury now.”
“Shandra will try to whisper to Dustin to meet her at the Blue Drake tomorrow.”
“Shandra will try to ask about the passphrase, but she won’t act on the information tonight.”

And of course, you can always have a discussion between yourselves. In fact, I’d recommend it. Some “I think we should try this, what do you think?” is always good for a campaign.

Anyway, I’m getting down from my rant soapbox now. I still love you all (platonically, of course), the campaign is running well, I’m excited for your posts, and all that good stuff. I just wanted to get that out there to help direct things a bit. Carry on.

Whipblade

Whipblade, I appreciate the effort you put into your posts. But I feel like I need to remind you that it is my job as DM to narrate, and Karasu’s job to say what Dustin will do.

You can narrate as much as you want, I am not stopping you. I was actually surprised you didn’t change more on the last post. All your changes were great! If Karasu wants to edit my post and change anything, that’s just fine. That’s why I keep anything that other characters do as succinct as possible. This is just the way that play by post has to work unless you want each player waiting on one another each time you say something. If Dustin’s ‘suggestive glancing’ is so story changing, then maybe we should go back and let Tyrus actually attack Grosh like he would have.

That would be silly. We know the characters in this story to a degree and can make guesses about what they would do and say. If that’s not what they would do, fine. Speak up and say something.

I love the stuff I post as well. Writing it in story form gets me excited about it. Writing it as ‘I do this.’ is boring. If you are somehow missing what Shandra will do next, I thought I was quite concise:

“Expecting Jacob to explain about the magical passphrase, she prepared to ask what it was” ie. ‘What is the passphrase?’

”...she thought that this might be an opportune time to find out if there was more than gold in the treasury” ie ‘Is there anything else in the treasury?’ I do not see how this is complicated. I merely leave it to you to narrate how she does this.

Additionally, in this particular case, I feel like much of what you wrote above doesn’t mesh with what I already said happened. First of all, she doesn’t really know if they did knock or not because she was asleep.

Wrong. I quote: “Shandra awoke to the sound of the door opening. ” This means, that they:

A. Didn’t knock.
B. Knocked, nothing happened, so they walked in.

Both actions seem inappropriate to how you would treat a ‘lady’ like the supposedly noble character I have created. If she doesn’t answer, then that means she’s asleep and thus, should not be disturbed. Barging in is exactly what they did. Her response was appropriate.

However. You are also right. You had already written that “She sat up in the bed, yawned for effect, then answered, ‘Yes. Come in,’ in a sleepy tone.” I guess this was my way of saying that she doesn’t like other people walking in on her. You know the character though, so you made guesses as to how she would react, which is fine. So, I can retract that bit.

...the mayor coming to say goodnight really would have been part of the initial checking up on Shandra. To have her mention it now seems anachronistic.

This part, you are totally correct on. I was trying to set tone (indicating that she is going into bluffing mode) rather than indicate that she is surprised that he came to check up on her. I can go back and change that.

This leads me into a related thought: it seems like all of you have a tendency to be very reactive in your posts. You usually react to the immediate situation, but don’t give me any clues to what overall direction you want to go.

Okay. If I have to spell it out: I am going to wait for Jorn to come back, try and use my Bluff skill to learn more about him and throw him off my trail, get the passphrase out of Renferrel, team up with Dustin, and go check out the treasury once I know that everyone is asleep and the coast is clear.

However, this won’t be possible because Dustin has to leave now at Jorn’s behest. My character does not know this though, so I was waiting for his character to tell me rather than just take control of him. Once he tells me he has to leave, then yeah, I will say, ‘Okay, let’s meet up later.’

I guess I will try and be better in the future?

DM
Whipblade, thanks your response. It’s very helpful. Also, I wanted to apologize if my post came off kind of harsh… I didn’t mean it to. But now I feel like I understand your position a little bit better.

I’m glad to know that you aren’t expecting me to keep much (if any) narration you write, and that others should be ready to jump in and speak up if they don’t like what you wrote for their characters. You are totally correct in your point that play-by-post will be painfully slow if we stop at every juncture to have long discussions. (Of course, in that same vein, as the DM I often need to guess what your characters will do and it becomes canon unless you speak up. Sort of a “speak now or forever hold your peace.”)

I want you to be interested and engaged in the story process. I don’t want you to be limited to the boring “I do this,” stuff. In your two examples your narration was fairly clear about what she would immediately ask (about the passphrase and the contents of the treasury), but was not clear (to me) about what you wanted to do beyond that.

When you spelled it out you gave me some solid information that I would have had to guess from your earlier post, namely that Shandra wants to team up with Dustin and get into the treasury. From your earlier posts I had some inklings that you wanted to head in that direction, but you never overtly said it. I try to avoid making decisions for you guys that will endanger your characters, and none of your posts have been clear enough to tell me that she’d actually act on the treasury. For all I knew, she was just going to gather information to pass back to the rest of the party when they returned.

So I guess I just really need you (and the rest of the players; not trying to single you out or anything) to include an explicit statement of the characters’ next moves. Please feel free to add whatever narration you want—I love getting it. Just please add the overt statement in addition. That should also help the other characters realize what you want them to do. If we were playing this at a table then you’d have lots of back-and-forth conversation between players (not just between characters) and I want to preserve that in this campaign.

So I guess the moral of the story is that as the DM, I shouldn’t have to guess or infer your actions. There’s just too much room for error there.

Whipblade
Ah. Gotcha. I follow what you mean. Okay. In that case, I will just leave some quick bullet points at the end of each of my posts that are straight forward and try to broadcast where I am going a little better.

Karasu
“Jacob, my man, I won’t be needing a carriage. I’ve got my horse tied up just outside the fort and she’s a jealous one. Unfortunately, I fear I’ve overdone it with the wine and couldn’t ride in a straight line if I tried. Might I impose upon your generosity once again and ask for accommodations for the night?”

The fact of the matter is that Dustin has purposely not had much wine, but he’s faking a drunken swagger. Hopefully, he’ll bluff his way into securing a bedroom for himself, then, as Whipblade suggests, he can sneak out when the fort is asleep, team up with Shandra, and make their way back to the treasury. In the next few moments, he’ll try to wrestle the golem’s passphrase out of Renferrel or some information about the golem that might be of use. A direct “What’s the passphrase?” might just work on the inebriated Renferrel so we’ll try that.

DM
I need Shandra and Dustin to both roll all of the following skill checks:
Bluff
Diplomacy
Gather Information
Knowledge

Whipblade
Bluff – 18
Diplomacy – 28
Gather Info – 12
Knowledge – 19

Additionally, here’s my modified post: (Karasu, if you could elaborate on Dustin’s responses, that would be awesome!)

Shandra’s green eyes took on a steely look and her brow furrowed at the sudden awakening.

In spite of the surprise, her look immediately softened in light of the present situation. Shandra was impressed with this ‘Mr. Ashe’. She hadn’t thought of being quite so direct, but this might just work out… as long as Jorn didn’t come along at some point. She wondered if he had already gone to bed. She decided to ask Dustin about the cleric as he was on his way out.

Dustin’s eyes glanced at Jacob suggestively. She turned her attention to the mayor, speaking in an innocent tone. “Jacob. Dustin. I almost thought you weren’t going to come visit me and began to drift off.”

“Sorry to barge in here, m’lady,” Dustin apologizes. “I believe Jake here and I had too much to drink and it wears on our good manners.”

Shandra assumed a look of affection toward Jacob, then suddenly seemed to realize that she had interrupted. “I’m sorry, what were you saying? Your golem will smash anyone who tries to get past? But Jacob… you don’t look like you’ve been smashed flat.”

Expecting Jacob to explain about the magical passphrase, she prepared to ask what it was. Additionally, she thought that this might be an opportune time to find out if there was more than gold in the treasury.

- Shandra will try to coax the passphrase out of Jacob.
- She’ll ask about the treasury. What’s so important down there that it requires a golem?
- She’ll talk to Dustin covertly to find out his plans for the evening, and try to meet up at her room at a certain time later that evening.
- She’ll ask if Jorn has gone to bed for the evening, and if Jacob or Dustin know where his room is.

Karasu
Bluff: 3 (roll) + 8 (modifiers) = 11
Diplomacy: 19 (roll) + 4 (modifiers) = 23
Gather Information: 15 (roll) + 4 (modifiers) = 19
Knowledge: 17 (roll) + 2 (INT) = 19

Eryx
I feel I should remind everybody that Dustin does have a lizard familiar, which may prove useful when trying to avoid detection and for looking out for folks like Jorn. I know that I’ve forgotten character creation details like that. (Gaimon’s dog comes specifically to mind.)

“No one?” Shandra asked. “But Jacob… you don’t look like you’ve been smashed flat.”

The mayor smiled at hearing his name from her lips. Then he looked down at himself briefly before answering, “No. I suppose not.” An awkward silence followed.

“What is in the treasury, Jacob?” she asked.

“Treasure, of course!” he said with a giggle. “That’s why they call it treasure, er, a treasury. Gold, and um, gems, artwork. All that kind of, uh, sort of thing. Lots of it. Jorn takes it past the gol— statue.”

“And how does he get past the golem?” Dustin pressed.

“He says the secret word, of course.”

The mayor was quickly succumbing to his weariness. His speech was getting more and more slurred, and he had taken to the chair next to the bed. Shandra considered the situation and decided she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. She moved over to the side of the bed, leaned in very close to Renferell and asked in a soft, pleasing tone, “Jacob, will you tell me the secret word?”

“No,” he replied. “It’s a secret. Not supposed to tell anyone. Not supposed… not even the poem.”

Shandra sat back in frustration. As she wondered how to pry the information out of the mayor, he began speaking in a practiced sing-song canter.

“No danger comes to mother’s friend,
for the power of her name he knows
will stay that stone which doth tend.
But wo unto shameful foes —
the guardian sends them to their end.”

Shandra exchanged looks of piqued interest with Dustin as Renferell nodded off. Shandra reviewed the details of the poem in her head.

“So… you need the name of a mother. His mother?” Shandra pondered aloud. “I wish I knew it. He’s talked enough about her coming to town in a few days.”

Dustin smiled broadly. “His mother’s name is Elizabeth Isley. And I do believe you’re on the right track. Now, if I can just convince them to let me stay the night, then we could investigate while our hosts are asleep.”

Shandra nodded in agreement. Her train of thought was then broken as she noticed Dustin staring at her scantily clad body.

“First you barge in, and now you’re staring,” she chided with a hint of jest. “Some gentleman you are.”

“Sorry, m’lady,” Dustin apologized taking on a formal tone. “I believe Jake here and I had too much to drink and it wears on our good manners.”

“Hmph. Well, meet me here in an hour or two and we — Wait. Someone’s coming.”

Faint footsteps could be heard approaching and then Jorn appeared at the door with a pair of servants in tow. The cleric looked suspicious, exasperated, and annoyed all in turn as he looked in the room and saw Renferell’s condition.

“I see the mayor is ready for bed,” he said with a heavy sigh. Then in a matter-of-fact tone he continued, “Mr. Ashe. I’ll have to ask you to leave now. If you’ll just follow James here—”

“Actually,” Dustin interrupted, “The good mayor has allowed me to impose on his generosity once again. Unfortunately, I fear I’ve overdone it with the wine and couldn’t ride in a straight line if I tried. Seeing this, Renferell graciously offered me a room for the night.”

Jorn looked deflated. Shandra realized he had completely bought the lie, no doubt assuming the mayor would have freely made such an offer. It does sound like something he’d do, after all. He rolled his eyes and said, “Very well.”

He then gave directions for one servant to lead Dustin to another room. With some coaxing, they managed to rouse the mayor enough for the other servant to guide him off to his chambers.

Jorn closed the door behind the servant, leaving himself alone with Shandra. “Well, Lady Amberly, you seem to be doing better. Are you feeling quite well?”

His tone was flat and direct. Shandra sensed that he was saying this out of formality, and perhaps he wasn’t convinced of her illness.

“Somewhat better, yes,” she answered. “I’m sure I’ll have recovered by morning.”

“Yes…” Jorn had turned slightly away and appeared to be in thought. Choosing his words deliberately he continued slowly.

“Lady Amberly… I have been meaning to ask you what your intentions are regarding Mayor Renferell. Why are you so interested in him? Do not labor under the assumption that I am as ignorant as he in these matters. I know that the poor devil has but his money to attract women, and even then…

“Besides that, I have other powers in my arsenal.” Here he turned back to Shandra and looked her right in the eyes. “I can sense the aura of evil in you. Frankly, I do not trust you one bit. Your wiles may have lulled the mayor into a false sense of security, but not I!

“Why are you here? What is it that you want?”

DM
How will Shandra respond? Apparently, Jorn was as eager for a confrontation as she was.

Meanwhile, Dustin has been led to a room. He feels confident that he can make his way back to Shandra’s room when the time is right. I assume that once everyone is asleep and the coast is clear he’ll try to meet up with Shandra and head down to the treasury.

Karasu Dustin may be a little too headstrong and impatient, for he sits down on his bed for no more than ten minutes before getting restless. He pulls his lizard familiar from an inner pocket in his shirt. The lizard’s tongue flicks restlessly.

“Watch my back on this one, eh Sparks.”

He opens the door as quietly as he can, and traces the steps back to Lady Amberly’s room. If caught, he’ll say he refuses to use the bedpan provided. He stops just short of the hallway where Shandra’s room is, then waits till Jorn leaves. He then creeps into her room just as quietly as he exited his own.


Shandra took a deep breath. She hadn’t expected Jorn to be so direct. She had prepared a few different partial truths to tell him, but none of them would be a match for this line of questioning. There was only one thing left for her to do, and it was risky.

“All I want… all I want is a place to belong,” she began in the most pitiful tone she could muster. “A place where I could live a normal life. My kind are persecuted and hunted. I thought that maybe here in this remote little town I could find some peace.

“The aura of evil you sense is from my unfortunate heritage. I… I’m trying to be good despite my nature. You see… I’m a Tiefling.”

Shandra looked down as if she were ashamed. Then to prove the claim, she lifted her tail out from under the sheets and let it hover behind her.

Jorn was flabbergasted. He stood there with mouth agape for a long moment as he stammered trying to find something to say. Shandra could see indecision in his eyes. I’ve played my ace. Now let’s see his hand. He knows his master likes me and that just might tip the scales here.

Finally Jorn relaxed and spoke. “I’m sorry. I never would have guessed… I have misjudged you. Please excuse me.” The cleric turned round and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Shandra fell back into the bed with a heavy sigh. Jorn was hard to read, but the revelation had shocked him. She had feared for a moment that he would attack her on the spot. She had concealed weapons, but no armor. Seems like luck is on my side tonight, she thought. Her thoughts turned to the next step. What would Jorn do now that he knew she was a Tiefling? Would he tell Renferell? The stakes had been raised in this dangerous game. Shandra hoped that Tyrus would return soon.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door latch. She looked over quickly and saw Dustin slipping into the room.

“What are you doing here already?” she demanded in a hushed tone. “It hasn’t been an hour! Jorn was just here — he would have seen you!”

Dustin just grinned. “I guess I’m just a little impatient. I did see Jorn come out of our room, but he didn’t turn around to see me behind him. He looked terribly pale… what did you say to him?”

“Nothing worth repeating,” Shandra quipped.

“Don’t want to say, eh? That’s fine. Aside from Jorn, I think everyone else has gone to sleep. The fort is quiet as a tomb.”

Considering the dangerous gamble she’d just played through, Shandra didn’t care for the analogy. But she didn’t think Jorn would be coming back anytime soon, so this was their best opportunity to see the treasury.

“Fine,” she said. “Let’s check out the treasury.”

Shandra forced Dustin to watch at the door while she changed back into her dress. It wasn’t the ideal outfit, but it was better than the stupid nightgown. Once ready they dowsed the lights and crept down the corridors.

Although unsettling, Dustin’s analogy had been accurate. The fort was extremely silent and dark. The usual hustling and bustling sounds from the kitchen were absent as they passed the darkened door. A few moments later, they entered the small antechamber above the treasury. Without torchlight from the hallway, Shandra couldn’t see the stairwell, but she knew it was just across the darkened room.

DM
Karasu, the decisions about this treasury are up to you alone now. What will you do? You can probably make your way down the stairs without any light, but eventually you’ll need light to see the treasure (if not the golem).

Karasu
Dustin will descend the stairs in darkness, gallantly offering to go first this time. Once he reaches the bottom, he’ll speak the name Elizabeth Isley and hope against hopes he won’t be smashed flat.


“Follow me. I’ll go first,” Dustin offered in a gallant tone as he descended into the dark.

“Wait! I can’t see!” Shandra protested, but his soft footsteps on the did not halt. The rogue sighed and carefully pursued. Without any light, the staircase seemed longer than before.

“Oof,” Dustin exclaimed. “I guess this is the bottom, so watch out.” Shandra was disappointed that he didn’t stop. Is he crazy? Does he really intend to try to get past that Golem without any light?!

Shandra felt for the last stair and found herself at the bottom. She stepped out away from the guiding walls into the room. A pair of glowing eyes lit up at the far end of the hallway. Dustin continued toward it. Shandra followed leaving ample space behind her. She kept her arms out, feeling for statues.

“Elizabeth Isley!” Dustin called out.

The eyes began to move. Light tremors vibrated the floor. Shandra took a half step back, ready to run. But the eyes turned and the golem soon stopped moving.

“I think he moved out of the way,” Dustin whispered before continuing on.

Shandra wasn’t sure if she also needed to speak the passphrase, but she did just to be safe. The golems eyes continued to glow as she approached. Ahead Dustin was scuffling against the door. A clang of a metal latch was heard, along with a chuckle from that reckless man.

“Welcome to the treasury, m’lady.”

They moved in quickly and closed the door behind them. Shandra breathed a sigh of relief.

“You know, I would have preferred a little light,” Shandra said coyly. “I wish I had Tyrus’ Darkvision cloak with me. I can’t see a thing in here.”

DM
You’ve made it into the treasury safely. But you cannot see anything, it is pitch black. What will you do now?

Karasu
“Apologies. Some of my best work is done in the dark of the night, m’lady.”
Dustin will take a single coin from his pocket and cast Light on it. (He wants something small in case he needs to quickly douse the light without interrupting the spell.) He’ll take a good look around. Knowing that Shandra is somewhat of a deceiving rogue, he’ll ask her to check for any additional traps.


“Apologies,” Dustin responded. “Some of my best work is done in the dark of the night, m’lady.”

Shandra suspected he was referring to romantic encounters rather than thievery. She heard a slight rustle from him and then the soft chanting of a spell. A light shone forth from his hand causing Shandra to shield her eyes.

After a moment Shandra was able to see. Dustin was holding up a single coin upon which he had cast a Light spell. They were standing in a small hallway which opened up into a large room. Shandra couldn’t see anyone with her quick glance around, but it was immediately apparent that this was indeed the treasury.

Shandra gasped with astonishment as she saw piles of coins, gold bars, artwork, and more. She was about to step into the room when Dustin stopped her.

“I think we’d best check for traps,” he said. “I’m guessing you’ve some skill in that area, yes?”

She nodded then carefully examined the floor and walls. Slowly she crept forward, but no traps could be found. Soon she decided that the area was safe.

“I guess they didn’t think anyone would be getting past the golem,” she said as she stood up from a crouch. “I don’t see any traps.”

For the next few minutes they examined the treasure strewn about the room. There were large piles of coins overflowing from leather sacks. Most were Validran, but some bore the symbols of other nations. Gold and silver bars were stacked up on shelves along one wall. Several framed paintings hung on the walls. Statuettes and miscellaneous art objects were surrounded by gems atop a large stone dais. Bolts of fine textiles were propped up in a corner. Various other items were scattered about the room.

“Wow. Elandra will be so jealous that she didn’t get to see this,” Shandra said as she marveled.

“Elandra? I’m guessing that’s not your boyfriend,” Dustin joked.

“No, it’s not the name of my husband. It’s my ‘Elf friend’ that you were so interested in.”

“And still am. Hey, look at this.”

Dustin picked up a pair of gold coins. They were Validran Nobles but they clearly bore the face of Jacob Renferell!

“Somehow I doubt that these ever entered circulation, despite his ‘impressive’ claim to nobility,” Dustin said. “But he’s sure got ambition to be like his uncle. See; here are some of Lord Isley. He’s been honored by the King more than once, I believe.”

Moving on, Shandra found herself examining the framed paintings.

“Why do you suppose these paintings are hung down here instead of being displayed prominently upstairs? Look, these three all have ‘Uncle Bernard’ in them. There are different women in each though, maybe that’s why.”

Dustin walked up to inspect the paintings. As he drew close he halted rigidly and dropped his shining coin in surprise. He stared for a moment at the picture of a woman with exotic features.

DM
In one of the portraits Dustin sees the unmistakable image of his mother next to Isley. This is what surprised him, though on second though he knows that Isley was one among many who spent significant time with his mother.

Also of interest, in the fourth picture Dustin recognizes Elizabeth Isley with a man and a boy. It appears that the boy is a young Jacob and he guesses that the man is the late husband/father.

What will you do now? There are no apparent exits other than the door you came in from. If you plan to partake of the riches, remember that neither of you have your packs. Dustin’s pockets (and perhaps belt pouches or the like) are all that you have by way of containers. Shandra’s dress has no way of concealing any loot.

Karasu
Dustin smiles broadly. This has all gone according to plan.

“Well, that was fun,” he says as he begins to saunter off. “But it’s late and I’m off to bed.”

If Shandra protests Dustin will feign surprise, “But, m’lady, this doesn’t belong to us.That would be stealing.”

Dustin intends to come back with larger pockets and a few spare hands. He might be able to make off with a little gold tonight, but to really take Jake for all he’s worth, it’s going to have to be a different time. He’s friends with the mayor, in cahoots with the mayor’s love interest, and knows the golem password. No, he leaves everything exactly as he found it. Before he leaves, he takes one last longing look around the room, simultaneously casting Detect Magic to determine what is of less obvious value.

He’ll douse the light of the coin, stand on the bottom stair and say the password again, ascend the stairs in darkness, sneak back to his room, prop anything metal or heavy against the door to alert him if someone tries to enter, and fall asleep till morning.

Shandra was curious at this reaction, but decided not to ask about it. He doesn’t seem to enjoy personal, probing questions, she thought. Instead she continued examining the room while Dustin stooped down to pick up the coin.

“Well, that was fun,” Dustin said as he began to saunter off. “But it’s late and I’m off to bed.”

“What? Already? What about this treasure?”

Dustin feigned surprise. “But, m’lady, this doesn’t belong to us. That would be stealing.”

“As if you cared!” Shandra said, throwing up her hands. Then she let out a long sigh. “I guess you’re right though. This dress doesn’t exactly conceal much. I don’t see how we’d take even part of this stuff, and we’d risk being caught.”

Dustin just nodded his head in reply.

“Once Tyrus and the others return, we can tell them what we’ve found. I hope they get back before Renferell’s mother arrives though… I’m sure they’d want to kidn—”

Shandra stopped short, worried that she might have revealed too much. It was a little too easy to trust Dustin. Perhaps his charms were not completely lost on her. I need him now, but who knows how far he’ll be willing to go against Renferell and Valadras. Better play it safe for now.

“Let’s go,” she said.

Dustin looked at her with a cocked eyebrow, then shrugged slightly. He took a long look around the room, muttering something under his breath. Then he turned to the door.

They exited with care, repeating the password to the golem for safety. It moved back into its previous position once they had passed and it’s eyes went dark after they passed the statues. On reaching the stairs, Dustin doused the light of his coin and the two ascended in darkness.

The fort seemed just as still as before. Quietly they crept back toward their rooms along the dark hallways.

“Goodnight,” Shandra whispered once they reached her room. “See you tomorrow.”

The rogue silently changed her clothes once again and slipped into the bed. She reflected on how interesting and productive the evening had been. She had found a new ally, discovered how to enter the treasury, and was closer now to Renferell than ever. Tired from the events of the evening, she fell asleep.


Shandra’s sleep was interrupted once more; this time as strong arms grabbed at her! A hand covered her mouth to muffle any scream she might make. The room was still dark so she couldn’t see her attackers. She struggled briefly, but found she was completely at their mercy.

“Lights,” a woman’s voice commanded from the foot of the bed.

As the magical sconces were lit, Shandra found four cloaked figures were holding her down. A fifth was at the foot of the bed. Her mind raced over her possibilities. Her earrings of Suggestion wouldn’t work on the entire group. She still had her ring for now, but no chance to use it at the moment. She’d have to wait for an opportunity. Who are these people? What’s going on?

“If you struggle, we’ll have to kill you,” the woman instructed. “You’re not worth as much dead as alive, but I’d prefer less money and no trouble. Understand?”

They didn’t give Shandra a chance to respond. She was forcibly pulled out of the bed and bound with rope. A gag was put in her mouth. Then the figures relaxed a bit and pulled away from the bed. As they moved away Shandra caught sight of Jorn standing at the door.

The cleric saw her looking at him. He turned his head away and said, “The mayor will be depressed when you’re gone. But it’s for his own good.”

The leader of the captors walked over to Jorn and was handed some money. As she turned toward the light, Shandra thought she saw a dark blue face underneath the cloak.

A hood then was thrown over Shandra’s face and strong arms carried her away.

DM
Thus ends Chapter 8.

When Dustin cast Detect Magic in the treasury, he was able to detect 8 magical auras of faint to moderate strength.

Dustin gains 1,500 XP for his participation in this Chapter. Shandra gains 2,200 XP (though with Whipblade leaving the campaign, that might not matter).

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