Episode Thirty Nine - Dangerous Games
Episode Thirty Nine – Dangerous Games (Level 14)
*Tobias discovers that in one of the searches of the ship while they were gone, the drinking blade has been discovered and taken. He still has the cup of the winter king in his bag of holding, and has not yet told his companions about the artifact.
*Vash and Carmenith have discovered the otyugh in the bilge, feasting on a rotting fish carcass that Ober Orindel chained down inside a breach he tore in the hull. The monster tore it much larger getting in, and must now be dealt with. Annoyingly, the ship’s hull had been mostly repaired, and was being tested in the water overnight for leaks. This is a major setback in the repair schedule. Vash and Ichtaca dive into the water to attack from below, while Tobias, Lyda, and Carmenith strike from above. Everything goes wrong. Ichtaca is injured in the dive, and Vash has to keep him from drowning. Tobias is snatched in a foul tentacle, and crushed, bitten, nearly drowned. Before he’s dragged under, he’s also been accidentally shot by his own fiancee, who was trying to line up a shot on the tentacle when her feet were swept out from under her. Once again, Tobias comes dangerously close to death, his lungs full of water, his body being mangled by a horrible maw full of teeth. Seeing Tobias in the Otyugh’s mouth, Vash strikes hard at it, and creates a fey illusion of rotting meat, trying to lure the Otyugh away from Tobias. Thinking along the same lines, Ichtaca unchains the rotting fish and begins dragging it out of the hull. The otyugh surges after, preferring rotting meat to fresh. It releases Tobias, and Carmenith catches him, carrying him up to the surface, where Lyda is able to save his life. The Otyugh slams down on Ichtaca and the fish, and the barbarian is crushed against the carcass, ripping through rotting flesh to be trapped inside the ribcage of a carcass that is being devoured. The breath is knocked out of him, and he chokes on seawater and filth. Then he punches his way out of the fish, and kicks to the surface to avoid drowning. Vash and Carmenith strike hard, and Lyda, Tobias, and Ichtaca rally with them for an epic finish. The Otyugh is slain, and its carcass dumped into the sea.
*(See “The Adventure of Darius” above.) Meanwhile, Darius, estranged from the group for the last few days, is now impersonating the young dandy Thollan Sayl, the son of the notorious Ezachi Sayl, the ruthless leader of the local heathfolk mafia. Ezachi is never seen in public, and is rumored to be a leper, but the mysterious figure is renowned through the city for running all crime in the city with cruel efficiency. He has his fingers in every pie, it seems, including the government. His men often contract out to the city as part of the constabulary force, including several Yaelcar witch-hunters, who bring him magic items and witches to be “properly disposed of without harm to the city or it’s citizenry.” Darius quickly comes to suspect that Ezachi is actually selling these acquisitions, publicly disapproving of magic, but quite willing to profit from trafficking in it.
*Darius as Thollan is called in from an unsanctioned tryst for another lecture from his father, and surprises Ezachi with a newfound desire to lay aside pacifism and rebellion, and finally take his rightful place in the family. As they talk, Darius realizes that the man swaddled up in the bandages of a leper is actually hiding a disease-based vampirism, not leprosy. Ezachi tells him that a pawn-shop owner owes them 20,000 gp, and sends him over with his second in command Perr along to watch how he handles himself. If that task goes well, he can go and track down the widow Amala Dhambizao, who has just withdrawn 50,000 “funds of joint interest” and closed her account at the bank the Sayl family controls. Ezachi is certain that Amala has faked her own death and run off into the jungle with the funds. Darius agrees to both tasks, already knowing that Amala is dead and her money safely stowed away in his cabin aboard the Harlequin.
*As Darius sets out to prove himself to his “father”, he begins to feel terrible about the man he just murdered and replaced. Everyone is surprised to find Thollan stepping up and taking a role in the mob, as he has always been disrespected as a playboy who regularly embarrasses his father, has no stomach for killing, and flounces the cultural customs of his Yaelcar heritage. Darius killed him assuming he was an evil man, but is now realizing that not only were his hasty assumptions all wrong, but worse, he actually cares.
*At the pawn shop, Darius is met by a desperate elderly man, supporting an ailing, bedridden wife and three young grandchildren on a meager income. He’s fallen far behind on his “safety association” payments, and the ridiculous interest has him owing an unimaginable sum for a man who earns less than 1 gp per week; 20,000 gp. Ezachi Sayl has made it clear to “Thollan” that he is both to collect the money, and that a public example is to be made. Darius calls in Perr, who expects dramatic violence. He gets it, but on his own person, not the shop-keeper’s. Darius douses Perr in kerosene, lights him on fire, and sends him screaming out into the street to die in the midst of a shocked crowd of onlookers. The body is not identifyable, and the police (unsurprisingly) are slow in making an appearance. Darius gives the shop-keeper 100 gold, to enable him and his family to flee the city quickly and quietly. The man promises never to return.
*Darius then takes his time planting evidence and rumors backing up his next bluff, which requires mainly that Amala appear to have withdrawn the money before she left for the jungle. He makes it appear that Amala took the money and ran, but that she was slain by the notorious “jungle cannibal,” and the paper money was burned by said lunatic. As his final piece of the story, Thollan and Perr slew the cannibal himself although poor loyal Perr was killed in the process, the body lost to quicksand while Thollan was still caught up in a fight for his life. Darius enjoys himself in the revels of the Carnival while he’s “searching for any trace of Perr”, then goes to report his success.
*When Ezachi Sayl hears all this a few days later, he gleefully buys the whole story, along with 20,000 gp of Darius’ personal funds that the changeling forks over as the “recovered debt” of the shop-keeper. Sayl invites his prodigal son to an important meeting with some distasteful (magic-using), but rich and powerful clients. These strangers want to purchase or trade for two prisoners in the mob’s possession. A heathfolk witch, and his apprentice Jhareth. Sayl only intends to sell the old man to these new clients, as he has more buyers lined up for the woman. As a gesture of good-will to these valuable clients, however, he’s made the woman available to them for the last three days for “interrogation”, with the aid of Sayl’s personal torture artist. Darius realizes from Ezachi’s descriptions that said prisoners are Professor Jennish and Catzin.
*Darius is sent to find out what the torture artist has gathered from Catzin, and is forced to remain in character and watch as she repeatedly pays for refusing to answer any questions about the group’s behaviors in general, about Ichtaca’s whip in particular, and most importantly, about Darius’ life in detail. The “clients” are Vash, Tobias, Ichtaca, and Lyda, but Darius quickly identifies them as impostors, half-breed changelings, and starborn. The fake Tobias takes him out in the hallway, asking him to do him a favor, and deliver “a message” to the Harlequin, a boat in the repair yards. He goes back into the torture chamber alone and there’s yet another horrible scream. He returns with a box containing the severed forearm of a woman, wearing the meteor cuff that Tobias loaned to Catzin. It takes Darius several horrified moments to realize that this is a bluff, that the arm is not actually Catzin’s. Caught in his bluff, the fake Tobias admits it’s not her arm, but insists that he needed Thollan to believe the lie so “his enemy” will believe it when he delivers the box. Inwardly boiling with murderous fury, Darius calmly agrees to deliver the package as yet another “favor to the client.”
*Darius reports to master Sayl that the prisoner still refuses to say a word, and then sits in Sayl’s meeting with the clients, who openly admit that they are using “illusion magic” to impersonate some visiting foreigners. They drag in Carmenith with them, talking her up as a valuable prisoner, but one which they can’t sell directly. They need a middle-man, and offer to trade her in exchange for both the Professor and Catzin. The mafia king-pin asks for time to consider.
*After the meeting, Darius is approached by the fake Lyda, who attempts to seduce him in order to secure that the Sayl heir is on their side of any discussion. He meets her up in Thollan’s suite above the casino, where he goes along with her act long enough to ask her several questions. He learns little more than that she’s a cold-blooded killer, and that she personally despises “an enemy” who is clearly himself. He kills her, finding himself re-enacting exactly the scene Chamanaltia showed him months ago; a future in which he appeared to murder Lyda. Her body reverts to its half-melted, hideous true form, which is actually male. He tosses the body over the cliff and into the sea, by where Thollan Sayl’s body is already snagged under an outcropping of rock just above the tide line. He takes on the form of a guard, and runs down in a panic to accuse the fake Lyda and the “new clients” of murdering the boss’s son. She stabbed him, but Thollan took her over the cliff with him, he saw it. The changeling impostors are arrested, and in the confusion, Darius shifts again and sneaks away, then rushes to the ship to recruit help.
*Meanwhile, back at the Harlequin, the others have just returned from the local constabulary, where they have secured the release of their crew and the “dancing girls”, on the promise that they won’t leave town. They are leaving to begin their search for the professor when Darius arrives with the severed arm in a box.*Tobias is still furious with Darius, but his concern for the Professor and Catzin is stronger. Ichtaca stays behind to guard the ship with Carmenith and Lyda, while Vash, Tobias, and Darius head to the Tangaeupe, or “White Sayl” Casino, Darius in disguise as a local guide and servant, Vash still invisible, but running out of time on his last potion, and Tobias as himself, a wealthy foreigner ready to gamble.
*They split up. Darius sneaks down through the kitchens to the underground dungeon, while Tobias, with an invisible Vash covering his back, gambles and shows off his wealth, all while chatting about local news, so he can find the witch-hunter. He doesn’t have to look far. The witch-hunter is a severe-lookign Yaelcar heathfolk man named Traiv, and he’s losing money at a high-stakes card game. Tobias approaches, and an invisible friend in close telepathic contact allows him to cheat without being caught. He not only wins $ from the man, he catches Traiv cheating himself, and getting caught cheating by a wealthy patron is a major breach of the mafia-run casino’s rules. Traiv is hauled off to “talk to the boss,” and casino staff make every effort to make it up to Tobias, who is now in possession of a large amount of their money, which they’d like him to lose again at their tables before he leaves. He’s treated to a private dining room with a sumptuous meal and drinks on the house, and assigned two beautiful heathfolk molls, seductive women who are trying to keep him distracted, get him drunk, and steer him back to the tables.
*Darius finds the small cell-block guarded by too many guards for his taste, so he creates a distraction, letting them see him, then disappearing around a corner, which sends several of them running after “the intruder”. He then takes on the form of one of the guards, ordering the other two remaining guards to go stand watch over the boss, who is more important than this prisoner. Besides, she’s practically unconscious. He then creeps back to Catzin’s cell, finding her in bad shape. She’s been tortured nearly to the point of death. She’s barely conscious, shivering and nude in the cold, and covered in open wounds. They have her bound to a horizontal bar that’s chained to the ceiling in a rig that can be lowered with a nearby crank. She’s suspended just over an open pit of water, that at first glance, appears to be boiling. At second glance, it’s surging with tiny predatory sea-creatures like piranhas. Darius gets her down, wrapping her in his cloak. She’s fevered and incoherent. When she blearily asks who he is and why he is helping her, he assumes what he considers to be his true form, the trentsmunder nobleman he grew up as. “Don’t you know me by now?” She makes a sound like a sob and embraces him, trying to speak, but falls unconscious before she can say anything useful. Darius hides her in another cell, and goes to retrieve her clothing and gear.
*Tobias, meanwhile, has convinced his two accommodating companions that he’d love to allow them to “entertain him privately,” but not in some cushy suite. He’s out for adventure. Do they have something dank? Somewhere “dungeon-esque?” Vash snickers quietly, following his friend as he is escorted below the casino proper, right past most of the guards, and into the secure lower levels of the Sayl base. The last pair of guards, however, stop him, berating the molls for bringing him down here, all while trying not to offend Tobias. Vash slips past as this is going on, entering the private office of mob-kingpin “Ezachi the Leper”, who doesn’t seem too upset over the death of his only son a few hours ago. He’s mildly lecturing Witch-hunter Traiv about getting caught cheating, but doesn’t seem really angry, considering the “great finds” Traiv just brought in. To Vash’s horror, Sayl pulls out the drinking blade from a drawer.
*The guards running to find “the intruder” run into the guards trying to send Tobias back upstairs where he belongs. He’s asked some hard questions now, about the servant he arrived with, whom one of the guards thinks he recognized as the intruder. Tobias fails to convince them that he is entirely innocent. The two molls are dismissed to wait for him upstairs while the guards politely insist that he remain just for a moment, “to clear this small matter up with the boss.”
*Invisible Vash watches as Ezachi Sayl’s lecture to Traiv winds down and the drinking blade is wrapped up and stowed back in the desk. These two are old friends, and quickly fall to reminiscing about people they’ve murdered and other good times. Disgusted by the lack of justice in this city, Vash decides to test out one of the professor’s experimental potions in the wine Sayl is getting out to drink with his friend. Vash pours most of the black potion into the carafe. Tobias is brought in to speak with the boss, however, interrupting their drink. As Tobias is questioned about his activities in the city several guards stand by protectively. Tobias quickly realizes that Sayl is no leper, but a vampire, and Sayl, in turn, realizes that Tobias is the man arrested for witch-craft in the slave market the other day. The story interests him, and he pours out glasses of wine for himself, the witch-hunter, and Tobias, and the dangerous conversation of veiled words dances around whether or not he is a leper, and whether or not Tobias actually has any magic. Vash telepathically warns Tobias not to drink, giving the psion just enough time to ask what’s going on before it becomes obvious what his drow friend has done.
*Sayl and Traiv each drink the wine, then scream horribly as they each melt from the inside out, leaving only a sizzling crater in the furniture and flooring beneath them. The guards witnessing this event, take it as confirmation that Tobias is a witch. Convinced that he’s just murdered the boss with magic, and with his son Thollan and his second in command Pell dead, the mob is in a state of panicked confusion as anyone with any authority contests over leadership. Tobias is hauled off to stand before a gathering of all that remains of the mob’s “who’s who.” Vash takes a moment to pick the locks on Sayls desk drawers, and not only does he recover the drinking blade without being dominated by it, he dumps quite a haul of magic items into his bag of holding along with that cursed item before he hurries after Tobias.
*Darius, meanwhile, had to kill a pair of guards and stash the bodies, but he’s gotten Catzin’s gear. He has her dressed, her wounds battle-wrapped, and ready to carry out, but he stops to visit the chained captives in another cell; the starborn impersonating Vash, Tobias, and Ichtaca. He has not yet realized that the “Carmenith” he saw them drag in earlier was also a changeling impostor, but has already overheard talk that she escaped, so he is not worried. He takes a few minutes to interrogate the half-breeds, and although he doesn’t kill them, he does beat them nearly to death for what they did to Catzin. He then retrieves her and is sneaking her out when he sees Tobias being dragged off.
*Swearing under his breath, Darius stashes the unconscious woman again and creeps after, joining the crowd as one of the guards he’s just killed. He and Vash confer through the telepathic bracers as Tobias is hauled into a large circular meeting room with windows set into the cliff, overlooking the sea. All the possible candidates for leadership of the Sayl family are there. They bicker and argue, but on one thing they all agree. Murdering a boss is not allowed. The family is in crisis, and can’t afford to appear weak. A strong message must be sent here, to bring people in line. Tobias is given very little chance to speak or defend himself as two dozen men discuss how best to kill him, with an audience of twice as many guards and flunkies, a number that leaves very little chance of easy escape, despite the scenic view.
*Vash sends Darius back to the office for the wine, which the changeling “guard” then presents as “evidence” to the group, moving into a good position. Coordinating with Tobias, the three men make their moves all at once. Darius splashes the tainted wine onto the guards near Tobias, only narrowly missing Tobias himself. Four men fall screaming as their bodies are eaten away. Tobias lances out with a wave of sensory agony, killing more than half of the men in the room within seconds as their brains hemorrhage. Vash strikes invisibly from the doorway with strike after strike with his maul, building up a wall of the fallen to block the only exit quite effectively. Darius mops up the rest with a flash of quick blades.
*Not one witness remains. Tobias plants a token he still has from the Forteth-based Mollathe family, making this seem an act of war between families. Then Vash and Darius sneak out with Catzin, while Tobias seals his bluff with a daring move. Knowing the guards on the cliffs will see him and think he’s the assassin, but won’t get a clear view of his face, the psion flies out of the window, looking as if he is falling to his death in the waves far below. He draws gunfire, however, and has underestimated the raw force of the waves pounding on treacherous rocks. Instead of psionically “swimming” a short distance out of sight around a ridge of the cliff as planned, he strikes his head against a rock and sinks down into shark-infested waters. Shark-infested, and worse.
*While Darius and Vash blend into the crowd (Vash still invisible) and return to the repair yards, Tobias fights for his life in deadly waters, alone. A shark bites him, hard, leaving him to bleed out in the water and die as it circles, waiting. More gather in the water around him, along with dark shapes he can’t quite see, but is certain are aberrant cephalopods. Ironically, the very shark that bites him also drags him past the ridge, out of sight and range of the mafia marksmen shooting down into the moonlit water. He flies up out of the sea, rises up along a part of the cliff where he has some cover, and staggers into the revelers of the Carnival, his gruesome appearance just another costume honoring Maruma’e, the more popular of the sea twins in this port. Tobias applies a tourniquet to his thigh and hires a coach to take him back to the ship.
*Darius “recovered” 20,000 gp of stolen money for the mob, but as that came out of his own pocket, he’ll need to recover that loss. He also gave the pawn-shop owner 100gp.
*Tobias and Vash working together won x gp worth of local currency gambling with the witch-hunter.
*Vash stole quite a haul of magical items from Ezachi Sayle’s desk drawers. He found the following:
*The drinking blade, wrapped in a muffling black cloth and with a circle of black silk folded up beside it. He’s never seen the silk circle, but it’s Tobias’ portable hole.
*Some non-magical platinum jewelry set with tanzanites, sapphires and diamonds, beautifully crafted, looks antique.
*An appointment book. It’s completely blank, except for one entry on the first page. It reads, “meet me at Nawal’s at noon tomorrow, no guards this time, come alone, old man. Bring only your son, I’ll need a sample of his blood.” after that, in a different hand and a different type of ink, someone has written as if replying in a conversation, “I’ll be there. Twice my usual fee, this is getting to be an expensive business. And don’t forget my potions.”
*A bag of tricks, gray (L8 uncommon)
*L16 Spark Slippers
Spoiler Alert! Don’t read this part if you don’t want to know in advance what Vash is giving you later!
*Two rings of Borrowed Spells. One for Vash, holds Horrific Shadows and Choking Shadow (Both L17 wizard attacks). The other, for Tobias, holds charm of false glory and mass charm (both L17 wizard attacks). It’s my concept that these rings are actually just amplification rings and that given to either Tobias or Vash, they amplify mind-control or shadow-powers innate to that character.
*A ring of Calling (Level 14) (I thought this would be good for Darius, he’s going to be our party guy who can teleport, I think, since he’s got shadow-step going for him, it feels like a theme to build on. Catzin is the only other one who currently has teleport powers, right?)
*A mask of Terrors (L14) Good for Darius, boosts his intimidate and gives him a power that can terrify a foe once per day. Fear magic, but could be flavored as just a freakin’ scary mask.
*Ring of Ramming (L18) for Ichtaca. I’d like to flavor this as he throws something or cracks his whip or something, not just punching the air and 10 feet away a door explodes or a guy falls over. But Jared’s call.
*Belt of giant’s strength, (L15), also for Ichtaca
*Sandals of Temporal step, for Tobias (L16 uncommon)
*Boots of Withdrawal (L16) for Vash