Sunday, January 12, 2014

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 9

Splitting the Party: Lyra's Story

GM

Lyra, Amara, and Brother Rant suddenly appear standing right in front of the gates of the 'The Waiting', Phlan's temple to Tyr, god of justice. Brother Rant looks around, bewildered, as does the white-robed acolyte sitting at his feat, apparently so surprised by your arrival that he fell on his ass. Numerous passers-by, guards, lay worshipers, bureaucrats, shoppers, and adventurers, stand gawking.

Brother Rant reaches down a hand to help the acolyte up, still clearly in pain as he does so, "Sorry about that brother," then turns to Lyra. "You certainly know how to make an exit, miss." He takes Amara by the hand, "Things were starting to look quite intense back there. Are you sure your friends will be alright?"

Lyra

Lyra looks around and sighs.  "I'm going to be in so much trouble when Mother hears about this. I'm ... not supposed to do that.  Even the others didn't know."

"They tried to recruit Mr. Shaddup twice, so I truly don't think they would harm him without direct provocation.  As for Mr. Donovan, he didn't exactly help de-escalate the situation, but he's quite experienced at talking his way out of problems, including ones of his own creation.  The others of Miss Rietta's group seemed to prefer cooperating with us to additional conflict, but I also think that she was being extra nice to me because I had the books from that room.  What was the saying?  "A rich man is everyone's friend, a poor man no one's."  I might be able to contact them after I've had some ... time to ... rest."  Lyra wobbles a bit, unused to expending so much effort at once, and now twice in as many days.

"Can we ... go inside?  Everyone is staring.  Surely people shouldn't be that surprised at Professor Aumry's niece suddenly appearing places.  And please don't tell my mother about this.  Or if it comes up, at least bring up the 'threatened by an enraged ogress' bit."

GM

"Of course miss," Brother Rant opens the doors of the temple and heads inside, pulling Amara along beside him. A blast of sound from a large pipe organ, and the sharp smell of burning incense assault you as he opens the doors. He turns to the acolyte as the three of you walk in, "Brother, these girls are under my protection. Can you please run ahead and ask Sister Theymr to prepare beds for them in the women's dormitory, and then call for Father Aiken to meet me in the infirmary, as I am in need of healing myself." The acolyte bows and runs off down a side passage. "I'm afraid, Miss Lyra, that around here a minor is strange enough, let alone one appearing out of midair. I don't know where you come from, but we have only a half-handful of mages of any recognizable power, of which, so far as I have seen, the Professor is the only one capable of traveling in that manner. Also, I am not usually in the habit of lying to people, but I do not know your mother, so it is unlikely that I would tell her about your own impressive displays of power."

"Now," he gestures to a passage on the left, "the women's wing is down this hall. I am not allowed beyond the arch, but if you take a left at the end of the hall and go down the stairs, you will find the dormitories, where the two of you should be able to rest safely. I will send for you once I have had my wounds looked at..."

Lyra

Lyra takes Amara and heads down the hall, to the left, and down the stairs towards the women's dormitory, hoping the others will not be long in arriving at the temple, safe and sound.

GM

You come down the stairs into a long, low-ceilinged, windowless room. The walls are lined with rows of single-beds with thick, soft-looking mattresses, satin sheets, and beautifully quilted, white, down comforters, twenty to a side. A single brass hook is set into the wall by each bed, a few with white robes, similar to that worn by Brother Rant, though less blood-stained, hanging from them. Running down the center of the room are two long trestle-tables of polished, white oak. The room is lit by a trio of large candelabras sitting on the tables.

Three white-robed women sit at one of the tables, throwing dice, picking at a large tray of meat and cheeses, and swearing fit to make a sailor's ears turn red. Each has a small pile of silver coins and a goblet of dark red wine sitting in front of them. At the far end of the room another, much older-looking, woman is turning down two of the beds and whistling along with the tune that can still be heard being banged out on the organ above.

Lyra

Lyra takes in the comfortable looking beds, the dice, the swearing Sisters, and the giant plate of food.  This was going to be a much less boring wait than she had anticipated.  She thought it unlikely she would be able to get much sleep before Brother Rant's healing was completed and Mr. Donovan and Mr. Shaddup returned.  She could start reading the books, but if it involved gates and demon summoning this seemed like a poor choice of location.  Weren't lemurs supposed to be fluffy, or was that something else?

Lyra smoothed her skirt and straightened her cloak, clearing her head of all thoughts but the present.  "Pardon us, but are you Sister Theymr?  Brother Rant said there would be beds for us."

GM

The women at the table look up, smile, then resume their game. The old woman finished fluffing a pillow, then makes the long walk down the hall to you. "I'm Theymr, pleased to meet you," she extends a hand, "I've got the spare beds all ready for you." She gives Amara a long, hard look, then smiles. "Who would've guessed that that crotchety, old, Zhent-sympathizer would have such a cute niece."

Lyra

Lyra ignores the remarks about Professor Aumry and takes the Sister's hand.  "It is a pleasure to meet you.  Thank you for the hospitality; I hope it's not too much trouble."

She first focuses on putting Amara to bed, although nap, songs, and stories were quickly rebuffed.  Exasperated, Lyra settles in to quietly read to her ... out of her mother's spellbook.

Winona

One of the ladies at the table, seeing Amara fall asleep, sets down her cup and walks over to Lyra. She peers, squint-eyed, through a pair of spectacles at the pile of books beside Lyra, and inquires, "What's that you're reading?"

Lyra

Lyra looks up from the book, absentmindedly tracing the magical diagram on the page with her thumb.

"This is a book of magical incantations given to me by my mother."  She looks down at Amara.  "She's quite talented, especially for her age.  The other two books we found in the ruins.  They still need to be checked for wards, runes, or other protections against the unwary.  Our companions should be here soon...."  Lyra's gaze returns to the book in her lap, tears starting to well up in the corners of her eyes.

Winona

The priestess stares interested at the books for a bit, saying a brief prayer under her breath, casting _find traps_. Then picks up one of them, "They look fine to me. May I..." only then does she look at Lyra, noticing that she's crying. "Oh! What's wrong?" she says, sitting down on the edge of the bed, putting one hand on the shoulder of the crying girl, and absentmindedly flipping through the book with the other.

Lyra

Lyra looks over at the books as the nun flips through them.  "One of my companions died getting those, and one of another team's men went through a gate that was there to guard it.  And I don't know if the others will make it back safely.  But ... Brother Rant could hardly walk even if he wouldn't admit it, and Amara is...."  She trails off, starting to hiccup.  "Well, I ... hic ... had to make sure they ... hic ...  made it back safely ... hic.  That was the right thing to do, right?"

Winona

The priestess continues to leaf through the book with increasing interest, only half-listening to Lyra's story. "Where did you get th..." She pauses, mid-question as she turns to look at Lyra again and realizes the extent of her sobbing. "Oh, dear. Is the little girl alright? She doesn't look injured..." She gently pulls back the covers with one hand, still holding the book tight with the other, and gives the girl a cursory inspection. "Oh, she's fine, and yes, you definitely did the right thing in getting the girl and Rant out of danger, though he's usually pretty good at taking care of himself." Her eyes widen as she continues to ponder what Lyra is saying. "Oh! You don't fancy him do you?!"

Lyra

Lyra turns bright red, and lets out one last hiccup as she stares at the nun, stunned.  "Fancy...?  We ... found him, stabbed by a group of orc lepers.  Even after some healing, he could barely walk!"

She turns her attention back to the book.  "We found the books in a locked room with a gate inscribed on the floor.  Two demons were in the next room.  Lemurs?  One of them ... one of them killed Mr. Gendry.  Based on these notes, I don't think it was supposed to be a gate, but the general theme does kind of explain the demons."

Winona

"Devils dear, not demons. Baatezu to be precise. Judging from what I'm reading, I'm amazed that the author of these was able to summon even a lemure," she emphasizes the long 'you' sound, "let alone create a functioning portal. It was most likely a mistake." She somehow looks positively delighted at the thought. "Where was this room? In town I presume? The Slums? The other side of the river?"

"Oh, and it's no shame if you like Rant. He was quite the dashing fellow when he was younger...international spy and all that." She pats Lyra not-so-reassuringly on the knee. "And never you mind about religious vows or any nonsense like that. It would be unjust to deny someone the opportunity to love." She winks. "People get all sorts of crazy ideas about Lord Tyr, and I don't know where from..."

Lyra

"Yeah, I see flaws in some of the formulae."  Lyra shakes her head.  "Not exactly an expert in his - or her - field.  We came across a near collapsing building on the way back from the stables near Professor Aumry's tower.  There was a locked door with the books, some laboratory equipment, and the gate.  Covered in quite a bit of dust.  I assume whoever did this has been ... indisposed ... for some time now.  So -- what was that about Brother Rant being an international spy?"

Winona

The priestess blinks, apparently having a hard time pulling her eyes off the book. "Rant? Oh, dearie, he's one of those who harp. You know, a meddler, as most of the people up here call them. I'm not sure where he's from originally, somewhere down south clearly, but he was up here spying on the Zhents. He apparently was working with the tribes north of the mountains, Eraka they call 'em, trying to train them to defend themselves against the Zhentarim extremists, and got converted to the worship of Lord Grimjaws--that's what they call Tyr up there. Apparently he went full-tilt in his worship too, even getting into spirit summoning and other primitive nonsense like that. Quite the guy Rant, tends to throw himself headfirst into everything. So he converts, and then those who harp hear about it and re-assigned him to Phlan, so that he could get a proper education in the faith from Bishop Braccio. He gets a lot more autonomy than many of us here--some special arrangement between the Bishop and the meddlers. The Bishop hires him out as a body-guard sometimes, mostly to councilmembers when they are traveling, and he's been on duty over at Half-a-Loaf in the slums for the last month or so, but mostly he's free to come and go as he pleases...and is probably still keeping watch on Zhent sympathizers like Aumry and Mace." She finally sets the book down and stands up from the bed. "I'd like to peruse those in detail later if you'll let me, Diabology is a particular interest of mine. We were playing Three Man, care to join in a round?"

Lyra

"Huh.  You'd think a well traveled harper would know better than to get shanked by Xvimlar in the slums."  Lyra sighs and shakes her head, running a thumb down the spine of the book.  "As for the book, now is probably going to be your best chance to look at it.  I hope my companions will be here soon, though.  We still need to acquire supplies for our trip to Melvaunt.  Amara's grandmother is ill, and we are to escort her there and return with supplies for Professor Aumry.  Amara was wanting to go buy a candle or something for his grandmother, and I would like to get food, sling bullets, and a change of travelling clothes, and a few other minor things. I'm not well supplied for a long journey after my own trip to Phlan..."

Winona

"If you have shopping to do, I could watch the girl. You should be able to get all of those things here in town without having to wander out to the slums again." She takes the books and stretches out on the bed next to Amara's. "Sorry girls, I'm out," she says to the others as she settles in for some more in-depth reading.

Lyra

"I don't suppose you would happen to know anything about these, would you?"  Lyra carefully removes the items that were hidden in the fireplace from her belt pouch.  "The holy water I recognize easily enough, but the powder is unlike anything I've seen before."

Winona

The priestess shrugs, "Sorry dearie, not my field," and kicks back to read. "Aylaran the silversmith offers services in identifying magical items and alchemical substances, though her prices are far from cheap..."

Lyra

It was worth a try.  "Would it be all right if I left some things here until I return?  Some of the articles from the ruin may be fragile, and I'd rather not jostle them around in my pack more than I have to."  She wondered how much longer before Brother Rant or the others came.  At least doing some shopping, she would be able to look out for Mr. Donovan and Mr. Shaddup coming in through the gates.

She also ought to speak with her mother before leaving for Melvaunt.  Now THAT was a conversation she was not looking forward to.

Winona

The priestess waves a hand noncommittally, clearly not paying attention. "Sure, just leave 'em wherever. No one around here is going to take your stuff."

Lyra

Lyra carefully removes several items from her pack, placing them gently on a nearby bed.  Two ceramic pint jars, a tiny vial filled with brown powder, various pieces of alchemical equipment from the ruins, a shortsword, a bokken, a whetstone, two masks of Mask, a set of lockpicks, and sets a pair of minotaur sized boots next to the bed.  The last few items were rather ... awkward.

"I've heard Petroff's Fine Swords is near the temple of Sune, but do you know where Cockburn's Grocery is?"

Winona

"It's right out back from the training hall, dearie. About a block parkside from Petroff's." She looks up from the book briefly, adjusting her glasses. "Oh, and don't even bother trying to haggle with Ian Cockburn, dearie, he's a tightwad among tightwads."

Lyra

Lyra shrugs her now significantly lighter sackcloth backpack over her shoulder and carefully arranges her cloak.  "I should be back shortly.  If my companions or Brother Rant return before I do, could you please inform them that I went to Cockburn's?"

She curtsies, turns and heads back upstairs and down the hallway, looking around for any sign of Brother Rant before heading outside.

Winona

The priestess continues reading through the book, then sits bolt upright. "Tyr Almighty! Who would even think of a spell like this, let alone write it down and leave it sitting out where people could get it!" She jumps to her feet, and runs after Lyra, the book tucked under her arm. "Wait! Miss...what do you intend to do with this?!"

Lyra

Lyra stops dead in her tracks and turns around, hands fidgeting with her backpack strap.  "Well, it will be a matter of discussion with my companions once we arrive, but my inclination was to carefully rip out and burn the worst of it.  Some of it might still be useful, but some of it no one should try to replicate."

Winona

The priestess places a hand on Lyra's elbow and guides her out of the room. "Let's talk as we walk, dearie. I'll show you a shortcut to the grocer's." Once they are out of the room, she adds, "I don't think tearing pages out is the right way to address this kind of information. Having a window into this kind of infernal research would be very useful for my order, assuming we can keep it out of the wrong hands."

Lyra

Lyra allows herself to be escorted, considering the Sister's words.  "Immolation does solve the 'wrong hands' issue nicely, though.  And this research seems rife with inaccuracies.  The ability to pierce protections seems rather concerning, and might be pertinent to researching stronger wards, but what value is there in the rest of it?"

Winona

"Oh, I was thinking we could gate in a handful of lemures to train the troops. A practical primer on what weapons work against fiends and how to destroy infinitely regenerating enemies." She steers Lyra up to the sanctuary, out a side door, and across the square towards the Training Hall. "Of course, we'd need to find a mage sufficiently trustworthy to cast the spell only when directed."

Lyra

"What if they get loose?  What if the trainees aren't prepared?  What if the spell doesn't even work properly?  His notes to complete the last sigil?  Based on the physical gate we found, it seemed to end in an unplanned one way trip to the lower planes.  Those things killed Gendry.  Even if the spell works properly, to summon more into this plane is unconscionable."  Lyra shakes her head.  "If you want tactics against lemures, holy water made them bubble away into little yellow wisps of gas."

GM

As you cross the square, you hear a load "BOOM!" from just on the other side of the wall, and look up to see a large cloud of dust and debris settling over the Slums.

Lyra

Lyra stops, looking towards the dust plume visible over the wall.  "That ... may have been the gate."  She looks considerably happier.  "And if it was, that means Mr. Shudrigan is safe."

Winona

The priestess blinks once, twice, then shakes her head. "Your friends did that?! I took you for a novice..." she looks ruefully at Lyra, "Sorry." As she leads the way around the back of the temple, she continues. "I understand that the Council has offered quite a heft sum for clearing the slums, but I thought that meant driving out some of the goblin and kobold riff-raff, not burning the whole thing down..."

Lyra

"The building was near collapsing anyway.  He probably just helped it along.  Unless of course that was his weapon.  But I don't remember it kicking up that much dust..."

Winona

"Your friend has a weapon that can do that?! He's not a Gondsman is he?" As they cross the street from the square, she waves a hand. "And here is Cockburn's."

Lyra

"He says 'Gond rest his soul' a lot and prays to Gond.  Yes, I'm fairly sure he's a Gondsman."  Lyra spares one more glance at the dust plume and heads inside.

Winona

The priestess walks in behind the girl, idly brushing the door chime with her free hand. Seeing Lyra run off to collect her goods and not really here to shop herself, she walks up to the counter. "Good morrow, Mr. Cockburn. We missed you at the Goblin last night. I was hoping to have the chance to win my money back. So how's business?"

GM

The store is a cramped place. Aisles of tall shelves are stacked with bags of flour, baskets of bread, barrels of pickles and sourkraut, spools of thread, piles of towels and linens, coils of rope, all manner of robes, dresses, and other accouterments, and everything in between. The man behind the counter is perhaps in his late twenties, tall and thin, with sharp features and a rather sideways smile. He gives a level, appraising look at the priestess, "I'm sorry, have we met?"

Lyra

Lyra goes through the aisles, efficiently collecting a growing pile of rations, camping supplies, rope, and clothing, and a sturdy leather backpack with which to carry it all.

Winona

"Ian, it's me, Winona. Remember, two nights ago at the Laughing Goblin you pulled those three aces and ran me and two of my sisters dry?" She smiles. "We want some Justice. Tonight at the Bitter Blade. Bring your cards and a fat purse."

GM

The grocer grins, "Justice, eh? Alright I'll see you there." He looks at the girl with the giant pile of supplies in her arms, and yells to her. "Hey girl, those candles are BOGO this week." Then turns back to Winona. "Business is fine for now, but won't be for long. The Council just shut down the harbor. After this morning's load off the Wake, they say no more ships are allowed to enter or leave the harbor until Sokal Keep is dealt with."

Lyra

Lyra shifts the pile and selects several more candles, bringing the total up to 10, and takes everything over to the counter.

Lyra arranges the items neatly on the counter and looks up at Mr. Cockburn.  "Closing the harbor?  Why would they cut off more people coming in who could help with the problem?  Are ships being attacked or something?"

GM

The man begins sorting through the pile of items and tallying it up using an abacus. "They could probably let the Wake go, it's a month round trip for the ship anyways, but this past week three fishing boats were attacked. It used to be okay to just avoid the island, the creatures from the ruins did the same, but now, apparently, some orcs or hobgoblins or some such have set up shop on the island, in spite of whatever evil is lurking in the Keep itself. Some of the fishermen even say that the orcs went and stirred up whatever lives in the keep, and that, in addition to the orc raids on the fishing boats, they've been seeing things in the water, unnatural things..."

Winona

"So with the harbor closed, anyone wanting to go out there is probably on there own, eh? I bet the Council's raising the bounty on the keep nice and high if that's the case." She looks snoopily over Lyra's pile of purchases. "You look like you're gearing up for a proper quest, dearie."

Lyra

Lyra looks shocked and appalled.  "Were there survivors?"

Lyra looks over at the Sister.  "My companions and I will be escorting Professor Aumry's niece to Melvaunt, and it seemed prudent to pick up a few things for the journey."

GM

"Going to Melvaunt? Careful getting out of town, things have been heating up in the Slums and the area around the old well. Once you're out though, you should be fine if you stick to the road. I had a shipment come in just two days ago, it sounds like the paladins up at Iniarv's Tower are keeping a good handle on the lizards and things through the swamp." He finishes tallying the cost. "Would you like me to bag all that up for you?"

Lyra

Lyra nods.  "Yes, please.  How long does it typically take for a wagon to get here from Melvaunt?  Do you do special orders?  For future reference, of course."

GM

Cockburn begins carefully arranging the gear in the backpack you purchased, taking the time to adjust the straps to make sure it fits you properly and make sure everything is stowed in the most likely order of it being needed. "The trip to Melvaunt takes about three days, assuming the weather holds out and nothing jumps you. Given the storms that tend to blow up along the coast, chances of flooding through the swamps, and bandit attacks, I usually allow a week either way for a caravan to get through. If there is something special you need I can usually get it within three to four weeks, allowing time for the caravan to get to Melvaunt and back, ordering, assembling the shipment, and whatnot."

Lyra

"Thank you very much."   Lyra pulls a sack of coins out of her belt pouch, glancing at the abacus.

Winona

Winona waits until Lyra has paid, then heads for the door. "Hey dearie," she says as they walk out, "you weren't planning on haul these books all the way to Melvaunt with you, were you?"

Lyra

Lyra pays and deposits the change back in her belt pouch.  "I assumed my companions and I were going to reconvene, divide up our found items, and possibly look for buyers for what we were not intending to keep.  Are you interested in making an offer on it?"

Winona

Winona grins, "How about an extra hand in a fight, basic healing services, and my expert advice on battling devils, demons, and other fiends any time you're in town? Oh, and free access to study the books yourself when you want dearie."

Lyra

Lyra smiles.  "Your offer will be taken into consideration once my companions are back.  I have one more stop to make, and we can return to the temple.  I'm not sure how long it will take Brother Rant to recover.  His wounds looked quite serious."  Lyra heads back outside, looking around to orient herself, and heads for the weapon shop near the temple of Sune.

Winona

Winona looks at the sky briefly, "Well, I have to go get ready for a card game. Have fun shopping dearie, I'll see you back at the temple."

Lyra

"I wish you good fortune in your game tonight.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Sister Winona."  As the sister leaves, Lyra stares off towards the gate.  Searching.  But not finding.  They just got delayed, destroying the gate and looking for someone to drive the wagons.  She should try to look for them again later, after she finishes at the weapon shop.  She rubs her shoulder, getting accustomed to the weight of the new backpack.  Surely they're fine, and she's just ... tired.  That's all.

She heads over to the weapon shop, trying not to think about what not being able to find Donovan must mean as she pushes the door open.

GM

As Lyra pushed her way into 'Petroff's Fine Swords', she nearly trips over a low figure on its way out. Looking down, she sees an extremely dirty, disheveled, and singed-looking gnome--which is to say, it looks like every other gnome she has seen in Phlan. The gnome shoves a long box into her hands, and only then does she recognize Shaddup. He looks very tired and the side of his face is badly bruised. "That's your guys' share," he mumbles, barely audibly. "Not really the party I was expecting...but I got my research funding." He stumbles out the door, and wanders off without another word.

Lyra

Lyra stands for a moment, shocked, and then heads after him.  "Mr. Shaddup!  Wait!  What happened to Mr. Donovan and the others?  Come back with me to the temple, you look like you could use some healing."  Surely 'your guys' share' meant that the others were ok, but....

GM

Apparently oblivious to Lyra's calling after him, Shaddup makes a rather wobbly bee-line across the road, past the Training Hall and other public buildings, and off in the direction of the river.

Lyra

Maybe he didn't hear her?  She well remembers the ringing in her ears after he used his weapon.  Lyra sighs as Shaddup heads off, presumably towards the temple to Gond.  She heads back into Petroff's, intent on finishing up quickly and heading back to the temple.


Lyra finishes up at Petroff's, and heads down to the clerk's office to speak with her mother on the way back to the temple.