The party had done their deed against the Bather and did it well - but upon final review of the facts, there were some gaping holes - and those holes did not make sense with what they had been learning.
And then I screwed their perception by having their employer appear in league with some threats against them and even seemingly involved in masterminding it.
But as the party leader was apt to discover - the timing and facts did not make much sense.
Really good deducing and playing so far - let's hope they continue as a keen mind is currently in more demand than a swift sword.
Write up follows:
At the death of the 3 mages, the other door opened and Henian and two more of his apprentices were there, arms raised and begging for mercy. The water elemental around Norris faded and fell back into the tub with a splashing crash. The guards began rounding up the three men, fingerlocks used and Father Bjarl made a number of noises about Thor and how the men would be judged honestly for their crimes (if any). The party then listened to Henian for a bit, one of them asking where his esoteria might be, he indicated upstairs in his office. Half the group went up there to check it out while others stayed behind to listen in on whatever Henian might say about what was going on here.
The guards went through the dead and living mages, withdrawing keys, coins, even a wand and other items. As for the upstairs, there were 2 doors and the ring of keys downstairs (9 on the ring) worked on the doors at the top. One was an office fairly standard and normal looking. The group went over it with some detail, eventually finding a single black leather clad tome with a pair of oak leaves on the front and the marking on the spine reading 1A2. The next chamber was also locked and a quick twist revealed some other items of interest. 3 sets of wizard robes, chalk, odd bits of incense and etcetera.
A quick whick of Norris’ detect magic wand showed the book was magical, 1 set of robes, hat and slippers was magic, 2 pieces of unused chalk was magic, and about 8 bottles of oil were magical. Nice. As for Henian, he was talking without rancor or hesitation. His sister was a midwife and had a healers hand and she had gone north to do what she could where she was outed as a witch and burned at the stake in Flatrock. He was distraught and when this occurred about a year ago resolved that he would do what he could to learn magic and seek his revenge on those who had her killed.
He had been graverobbing for some years now (5 to 8) and had dug a series of tunnels under the cemetery gates and to some of the mausoleums, getting Friar Morn’s aid and silence (easy to do since he’s a mute) but gifting him with some rich food stuffs and some books. He now used some of his ill gotten gains to buy books of magic and primers on how to cast spells from book shops in Cymbarton. He knew that most of them would be crap, but enough of them might have some reality in them so it was worth it.
About 11 months ago he had gotten a bad headache and fell asleep early, dreaming vividly about going into some house, to a bookshelf, and taking a tome with the marking 1A2 on it, knowing that it would answer his problems. The dream continued showing him having 3 sets of silver holy symbols to Thor and that he might need to mount them. And when he woke up, he had the book and the symbols! He spent the next some weeks studying it until he felt that he understood even the simplest rituals, and then he cast it – and it worked! However it had an unintended side affect – one of the recently deceased animated out of the graveyard, made its way to his tunnels, and wandered into his bathhouse.
The pairs of symbols acted as wards on the portals, allowing him to squirrel away the waking dead (and they kept on coming every time he fully studied the book or randomly when he would cast spells he had learned from it) in the basement of his bathhouse. He also found other like minded people in town who wanted to learn magery and prove that it wasn’t anything to fear. There were 6 of them (3 now) and of them all, only Henian had any skill – the others no better in ability that apprentice.
Henian and the other 2 were then taken to the jail where they would be further questioned and eventually turned over to the magistrate. All of their belongings were taken as well and the party made sure to not give up the book, oils, clothing or chalk they found but they DID give up the cash box they took out of the office upstairs (which had Norris grunting in disgust).
We went back to Two Cats in and talked about what we had learned, knowing that we would get some more information the next day when we would see Henian in the morning at the jail (Brother Beren offered to cast a Zone of Truth for the guards). We also knew that we had to talk to Sverek Falconhand tomorrow as that would be the day (according to our calendar) that Aaron Skelt would try to get the sword. We also did not know where Arnog was at this point and all we had to go on was a brief glimpse that Brother Beren had gotten when his Sacred Guardian spell went off of the party’s fighter in an underground area (but not like the cemetery).
Soren went to the area just outside of town on the Eider road where he was looking at the places where Jarl (the Halfling) from Jarl’s Tradegoods said that they threw people who were caught stealing after cutting off their thumbs. While walking the area up and down both sides of the road an 8 year old boy came out and asked the elven ranger if he was looking for bears. Soren said no and the young man (after a very successful encounter check) then went on long about how a night or two ago some men with torches were leading a bear to the Cracks, most likely Murderer’s Hole – one of the old Brass mines that had a couple of gas explosions some years back and was not used any more. Soren found no bear fur, but he did find some deer fur and suspected it might have been Arnog wrapped up in a covering and brought to the place as said. He told the young man to go home, gave him words to not share any of this info with others, and suggested that he not leave his house again to talk to strangers.
Returning to Two Cats we talked for a bit of what we had learned and what was to come up. We knew we needed to talk to Sverek, face off on Aaron, and find Arnog (as well as have Soren make friends with the Wolverine). At this point we noticed that Bendern Skelt was here and was talking to two men in greenish gray cloaks, eventually giving them a small bag that one of them pocketed. The 2 men got up and went to go upstairs and the group had Norris follow them while they went to Bendern’s table and talk to the young nobleman.
Bendern told us that the 2 men were King’s men (rangers) who were on their way through from Northedge and he wanted to make sure that nothing happened to Sverek Falconhand so had hired them to go to Cornblood Keep tomorrow and try to convince the guards and the Lord there that there was a real threat and they should be ready. He seemed believable but the group hadn’t forgotten the strange flash in his eyes outside the Temple of Thor, nor the sometimes difficulty Quaris (his father) had in tracking the younger Skelt down. Eventually Bendern left and the group waited.
Meanwhile Norris followed the two men to the last room on the 3rd floor and listened outside their room. He listened…to rhythmic chanting. And then he felt that hanging outside his friend’s doors was not necessary and he should just go to his room and go to sleep. That’s a good idea!
The party went upstairs at some point and went to get ready for bed (after checking on Norris and seeing him in his room sleeping). The night was passing and Soren was silently sitting in his dark room, making arrows by feel and with his infravision when he heard the door open slightly, knowing that he had locked it before. Someone tossed a warm and growing warmer bag into his room that began to smell of oranges and then backed out shutting the door again.
He picked up the bag which was also smoking slightly now and went to the window to chuck it out, but the shutters were sealed…from the OUTSIDE!! The smell of oranges was growing quickly and he dropped the bag, hit his door and burst out into the hallway. Wearing his underwear he snatched his bow and arrow quiver and quickly checked the hall. Brother Beren’s room also smelled of oranges and a quick look at Gwyn’s was the same. Shit. He checked them, they were alive but sleeping deeply. What the hell?
He went to the stairs and listened, faintly hearing movement up there. He crawled to the top and overheard a part of the conversation where two men were saying it was done and that it was time for them to leave. They were at the window and one was already out and climbing down the wall of the inn, the 2nd ready to do so. Without pause Soren fitted a blunt arrow to the bow, took aim at the man’s head, and fired. Dead on. Struck in the noggin the 2nd man slumped down and hit the floor. The 1st man saw what happened and DROPPED down almost 25 feet to the garbage in the alley below.
Soren ran to the window, saw the 1st guy was out, and watched the other guy running. He drew another blunt arrow, took aim, and FIRED – hitting the guy in the head. He hit the ground near the mouth of the alley and was blubbering when the ranger shot again – this time cracking him in the chest. He was in horrible pain and Soren hit him a 3rd time – this time knocking him out. He checked the 2nd guy, dragged him to his room, took his cloak, and thumped him on the head to keep him out. He then went out to the alley, picked up the guy there and using the cloak as cover, brought him back into the inn and up to his room (a quick tell to the innkeep that the guy was drunk and out of it).
Once in his room he trussed the two men up and when they woke up had them speak. They had been hired from Flatrock some days ago to come here, and meet up with a guy who would give them a description of who we were and to make sure that Orange Blossom was put in the rooms of everyone except for the half elf. Orange Blossom in an incense type poison that will knock out whoever gets a lungful or more for a full 24 hours. Soren gathered what info he could and realized that there was not going to be any going to the guards now. He told the two men to sleep and that they would be brought to the guards and watch for question after he had some rest.
When the two men didn’t comply and were trying to get free of their bonds Soren lost his patience and started hitting them about the head with a torch in an effort to knock them out. It did succeed and he was surly and cross and in foul spirits but the ranger did go to sleep.
He awoke not much better about 6 AM and was dismayed to find one of the two men had died during the night (the one with the busted rib). He then went to try and awaken any/all of the party – only succeeding in wakening Norris who had not been given Orange Blossom. He couldn’t remember anything about going to the door only that he was tired when he found out that it was nothing. The two of them suspected a charm of some sort. They went to the one remaining living assassin and learned that there was a antidote but he doesn’t have it.
That meant a quick review of the town and there was an herbalist here, Kuzia – and she lived off Main Street. Upon visiting he had to wake up Kuzia (it was just after 6 AM) who was not only angered, but was VERY ugly. She talked for a bit and offered to make an antidote, 3 of them. She then talked about how Bendern Skelt had come in not too long ago and bought some Orange Blossom and paid over 400 crowns for them. This had us very concerned because why, where would Bendern get the money, and what’s the reason? Have we been duped?
Norris cast a delay poison on Brother Beren which had him wake up and a subsequent one was cast on Bron who then used his monkish ability to flush the rest of the poison from his system. This left Kazak, Gwyn, and Beren (eventually the delay would wear off). Beren then attempted to dispel the charm on Norris but was unsuccessful.
They group then went to talk to the lone remaining failed assassin. They had been hired by some guy with a dog about a week ago in Flatrock to come here and meet up with a man who would supply them with the Orange Blossom as well as a target listing. The target listing was a magic mouth spell in a pouch (the same pouch that Bendern gave to the 2 men) and we took it and listened to it – it described the party and mentioned that “the half elf did not need the Orange Blossom as he was going to take the fall as the warlock”. Interesting.
He gave us dates, times, and details and on completion just wanted to be escorted back to the stables, get on his horse, and ride away. He was bitter at the job and the death of his friend and didn’t blame the party but the man who had hired them as he had unstated the group’s abilities and their resources. It took a few moments but it was decided by Soren to be honest and honorable and let the guy go. Bron escorted him to the stables where he grabbed horses and left. Brother Beren went to Skelt Manor where he asked Quaris to let him use an unused room to sleep off the poison (not knowing what Soren had learned from Kuzia and Bendern’s supposed part in this).
We knew that the timing didn’t make sense in some fashion but someone wanted us to be asleep this day – and this was the day that Aaron Skelt would be going after the 3rd artifact, the sword – the sword that was in the hand of Sverek Falconhand – Lord of Broken Hills.