15 Changewind 509
Savaric and Krrish have just returned to the Crimson Cord base camp after following the Lady Mayor of Aldasar to a clandestine meeting. Surm and Rilka have also just returned from meeting with the Captain of the City Watch and the Bishop of the Church of Halor.
Krrish reports what he saw and heard at the meeting. The Lady Mayor left her home alone and ducked into an abandoned building in a seedy part of town. She met with two others. Apparently this “Coldtongue” will be finished with a portal soon and this dark conspiracy will be dealing with the Lord Mayor himself in couple of weeks. Krrish and Savaric followed one of these conspirators to the city gates, but then returned here.
Rilka recognizes the name “Coldtongue” as belonging to a some kind of cult leader that is associated with the Dire Wolves. Much discussion follows as they wonder who the other cloaked figures were and if they’ve been replaced or are controlled. Where is Coldtongue and this portal? Probably in Leodin with the Dire Wolves. Should they try to grab the Lord Mayor’s wife to get more answers?
After some discussion, they arrive at the frame of a plan. Krrish, who volunteers that he has some skill in disguising himself, can disguise himself as the Mayor while they try to get the Mayor’s wife out of town. The Mayor himself will also be lying low. Perhaps Lord Springvale in Almathriel will be willing to help them in this regard. If only Telly, the Mayor’s attache knows, perhaps the halfling can run interference for him on political matters for a short time until they get the answers they need from the Lady Mayor. They can also beef up security on the Mayor in the meantime, as they now know that an assassin may be coming for the Mayor.
The main party (Rilka, Savaric, Surm, and Krrish) head into the city to inform the Lord Mayor of what they’ve learned, the details of their plan, and to secure his cooperation. The Lord Mayor is taken aback by the news, but is keen to find out what is going on. He will cooperate with the plan. He can publicly send the Lady Mayor to their villa in Braith to prepare it for an upcoming Transition celebration, with the new year coming in just a couple of weeks. They also get a strand of hair belonging to the Lady Mayor from the Lord Mayor with which to later scry the Lady if needed. The Lord Mayor has a small lock of her hair in a locket he keeps in his vest.
Surm, Rilka, and an invisible Krrish accompany the Lord Mayor to his home. Once there, Surm memorizes the location of the Lord Mayor’s bedroom as a teleportation location. Meanwhile, Savaric finds a surveillance vantage point on the roof of the building. Rilka and Surm then walk out of the home and start heading to the base camp.
Krrish hides in the bedroom while the Lord Mayor makes a show of sending his wife away on a trip. He overhears a fight from them that spills into the bedroom, where the Lady even mentions the strange ways the nobility have been acting as a reason that the Lord Mayor is sending her away. Eventually, servants come in and start packing trunks.
Krrish later sees the Lady Mayor return and write a brief note, seal it, and then hand it to a servant she calls named Jameson whom she orders to deliver the note to Lord Cannach Ma’leod. The servant leaves.
Rilka and Surm arrive at the base camp and retrieve the other half of the Agent’s Clasp from Alasir. Surm briefs him on the situation and the plan and also indicates that Lynecit will be staying with the guards. Rilka and Surm then teleport to Almathriel and visit briefly with Lord Springvale to ask permission to use his basement as a place to interrogate the Lady Mayor of Aldasar, with the permission of the Lord Mayor, of course. Lord Springvale is taken aback by the idea—this could be dicey from a political point of view with members of nobility of foreign lands being involved and all, but he is willing to allow it, relying on Surm’s discretion in the matter.
Leaving Rilka in Almathriel, Surm then teleports back to Aldasar and has Krrish give the clasp to Savaric so that they have a means to communicate with him. Krrish reports the scene he witnessed with the servant leaving with the note and Surm tells Savaric to follow and intercept that servant. They get him a note sealed with the house seal of the Mayor (found in the nearby desk) to belay whatever order the Lady Mayor gave. They also tell Savaric that he can tell Jameson that Telly will corroborate this. Jameson is most likely just doing his job and Surm doesn’t want him hurt.
Meanwhile, the actual Lord Mayor arrives—he’s been delaying the carriage with his wife in it waiting for Surm’s re-arrival. They work out his alibi and Surm teleports the Lord Mayor to Almathriel to wait with Rilka for his next arrival with the Lady Mayor. He teleports back and then makes his way to the carriage under an invisibility spell. Meanwhile, Krrish (with Telly’s help) is disguising himself as the Lord Mayor with the help of the man’s actual wardrobe and the Lady’s cosmetics.
Surm lies waiting, invisible, in the carriage. Finally, the Lady Mayor comes to the carriage house and starts to get in the carriage. However, right before she alights, Surm feels a strange probing at his mind—but he manages to resist it. With his knowledge of the arcane, he identifies it as the use of a detect thoughts spell. The Lady sits in the carriage. The carriage driver shuts the door and the conveyance begins its journey north out of the city towards Braith.
Meanwhile, Savaric dives off of the roof and starts heading toward Lord Cannach’s estate, hoping to head off this Jameson person. Eventually, he does meet up with the man on one of the small roads outside of the city. He calls to him and gets his attention. Jameson turns, but does not meet the unfamiliar half-orc halfway. Savaric comes to him and explains that the Lord Mayor sent him. That message he has for Lord Cannach is not to be sent. He hands the servant the sealed note. Satisfied, but a bit put out at being sent on a long walk for nothing, starts heading back into the city. Savaric offers to accompany him.
The carriage eventually makes its way out of the city along the northern road. Surm immediately jumps over to the Lady Mayor and covers her mouth. “Coldtongue sent me. There’s been a change in plans.” He then enacts his teleport spell. She apparently buys the ruse because she doesn’t resist the spell.
The two arrive in Lord Springvale’s basement. “Get out!” Surm calls to the Lord Mayor, who is enjoying sandwiches with Rilka, provided by the always-hospitable Lord Springvale. The Lord Mayor heads upstairs and out of the basement. Rilka moves to grapple the woman and hold her in place.
As the two grapple, the Lord Mayor’s wife…changes…into an exact copy of Rilka! The real Rilka manages to keep the other subdued, but it is disconcerting to see the two together. Surm casts detect magic on the woman and detects no magical aura. This is no illusory spell being cast. She has actually changed.
As Rilka keeps the other “Rilka” pinned to the ground, Surm gets fine rope from Elbereth, Lord Springvale’s right-hand. Surm then questions the woman. “How many of you are there?”
“We are legion,” the faux-Rilka says. “Rowena will fall.”
Surm realizes who that means—Rowena Ma’Geddes. Queen of Leilior.
Meanwhile, Rilka browbeats the body double until she seems to yield. This takes about twenty minutes. The relenting creature shifts out of Rilka’s form and into that of a grotesque charcoal-grey featureless humanoid. Surm recognizes this creature as a doppelganger—insidious creatures who often work independently, but also sometimes work with demon lords, to infiltrate human society and cause trouble.
Rilka and the creature exchange barbs, with the creature indicating the “while the shadows move, the dagger strikes.” But it also indicates that the doppelgangers work in small cells, so they don’t know who all is actually in on the plot. She was working with doubles for “Lord Cannach Ma’leod” and “Ban Ma’trosen.”
Surm rushes up the stairs and gets the Lord Mayor and informs him that this plot is against the Queen herself. He teleports with the Lord Mayor back to his bedroom right about the time Savaric arrives again with the servant Jameson. They manage to secure the note that was written by the doppelganger for Lord Cannach—or, presumably, his double. It is written in Abyssal—which, strangely enough, Krrish is apparently able to read.
|Something is wrong. The fool has caught on. Tell B. to strike soon.
Surm says that this means the end of the decoy plan. They have to get to the Queen and let her know what is going on. The Lord Mayor says that Duchess Fenalla Ma’Geddes can get them to the Queen. Surm, Krrish, the Lord Mayor, and a contingent of guards will head to the Duchess’ estate while Savaric stakes out the home again. When they head out, if anyone tries to sneak away, they may be another doppelganger and Savaric can catch them.
Meanwhile, Rilka is continuing to hold the doppelganger and get information out of it. She learns that they apparently serve the demon lord Shax, which Rilka recognizes as a the demon lord of violent murder, envy, and lies. He is also knows as “The Blood Marquis.” Apparently someone called Belphagorus is gathering an army of beasts in the Eastern Wastes to send through the portal to take Leilior and depose Rowena.
Rilka, who now has Surm’s clasp, messages Savaric a brief version of the information of what she’s discovered. She continues to hold down the creature, though, waiting for word from the others. She gets this message to them before the others for the Duchess’ estate. Surm recognizes the name “Shax” but only that it is a demon lord of murder.
Surm, Krrish, the Lord Mayor, and a contingent of guards all head via carriage to the Duchess Fenalla Ma’geddes’ estate. The Lord Mayor makes himself known to the Duchess’ guards and that he needs to see her as it is a state emergency. They guards allow them entrance and the sleeping Duchess is summoned.
Back at the Lord Mayor’s house, Savaric looks to see if anyone leaves the house in a hurry after the others head out. Sure enough, he sees a heavily-cloaked figure leaving through the servant’s entrance. He dives off of the roof, landing beside the figure and asks them what they are doing. The person attacks—with clawed hands—but fails to find purchase on the nimble ranger. Savaric manages to wrestle the creature down and slap some manacles on it—right about the time some house guards come by inquiring about what is going on. Savaric tells them that he caught this creature while on the business of the Lord Mayor and points to what now appears to be a frail old man, who looks confused and asks the guards to please help him. After some awkward explanations, the guards decide to take both of them to the nearby City Watch garrison to sort them out. Savaric tells the guards to have Master Telly come by and he can corroborate his story.
At the Duchess’ house, they are met in the drawing room by an imposing woman with red hair and a stern demeanor, despite being in her bedclothes. When she is told the bare bones of the plot, she seems angry at the audacity of someone to actually try and usurp the throne from Rowena. Determined, she summons a carriage to take them all to the palace to meet with Her Majesty.
An older man with the bearing of an old soldier pokes his head in the room and asks what is going on. “Treachery. Of the lowest kind,” the Duchess answers. “Shall I get my sword then?” he asks. “Indeed, Ban. Indeed.” the Duchess says. The man makes his exit. The Duchess announces that she shall change her clothes and be ready in a few minutes. She heads upstairs with an invisible Krrish following at Surm’s suggestion.
Sure enough, when Krrish gets upstairs and listens at the door of the bedroom, he hears signs of a struggle within. He sneaks inside and sees the Duchess fending off attacks from the man who had poked his head into the drawing room a few minutes ago. He is wielding an old longsword, but the Duchess is holding her own barehanded. Krrish sneaks into position and stabs the man, killing him. The man’s body shifts from that of the old soldier to a featureless charcoal-grey humanoid. The Duchess looks angry and determined, even as a single tear flows down her face. Krrish picks up the body and he and Duchess head downstairs.
Back in Almathriel, Rilka’s prisoner manages to escape its bonds. Rilka decapitates it with her falchion. She gets Elbereth to help her clean up the mess.
Surm, the Lord Mayor, Krrish, and the Duchess all ride in her carriage, with a phalanx of guards, to the royal palace. When they get to the gates, the Duchess whispers something to the gate guard, who goes wide-eyed, and they let the carriage pass through. The Duchess tells them that she’s enacted an emergency protocol so that they don’t have to go through the public pomp of an audience with the queen. Surm questions the wisdom of this, as they don’t know who all is in on the conspiracy. The Duchess says it’s a risk they are going to have to take, as a public entrance will alert the conspiracy that something is wrong and could accelerate their plans.
The carriage goes to one of the small outlying buildings of the palace grounds, sort of a classroom used for the tutoring of palace children. They all go inside and wait. Krrish hides. The body of the doppelganger is placed in one of the desks. A rhythmic series of knocks is heard and the Duchess indicates that this is what she is expecting. She checks the door and allows in three figures, all heavily cloaked. One removes her hood to reveal a stern woman with red hair held back by a simple golden circlet—Queen Rowena. The other two, man and a woman, are clearly professional guards.
Krrish reveals himself, and the guards spring into action—weapons drawn and the Queen moved back. Krrish apologizes and Surm explains that he’s with them. The Queen places a hand on one guard’s shoulder and says, “I think we’re all friends here.” The guards relent and allow the Queen to step forward.
Surm explains the situation and the plot with the doppelgangers. The Queen seems particularly interested in his thoughts that those that have been replaced are probably dead. She also seems to recognize the name “Shax”—which Krrish asks about. She says that she has heard the name, and that it is one that should not be uttered in the light.
She has apparently heard of the exploits of the Crimson Cord. She asks if they would be able to see about ensuring that this portal that is apparently going up in Leodin is shut down. Surm assures her that they already were making plans about that. Surm asks if there is some way that they can prove that they are working with her authority when trying to sort through these doubles and such in the city. She tells him that she will have a writ for him delivered by dawn.
She also reiterates to Surm that the nobility are not only the rulers of the land—but her family. Can he give her any hope that those that have been replaced still live? He says that it could be possible they are being held somewhere. He brings up that he was planning on trying to scry the Lord Mayor’s wife and see if they could find her. This seems to satisfy Her Majesty.
The Queen tells Surm to continue to work through the Baron (the Lord Mayor), who will work through the Duchess, who will report to her. She thanks them all for their services to the kingdom—and to her family. She then takes her leave.
The Duchess, Surm, the Lord Mayor, and Krrish all leave the palace. The Duchess returns to her home while the rest head to the Lord Mayor’s home.
Surm teleports to Almathriel to update Lord Springvale and to pick up Rilka. They get Elbereth’s help in covering the body in a garden tarp and hiding it in Lord Springvale’s garden. Surm and Rilka then return to Aldasar.
By this time Savaric has finally returned to the Lord Mayor’s home. Telly was able to sort most of the situation at the garrison out, but they are holding the “old man” overnight to see if the story checks out—he was lurking about the Lord Mayor’s estate at any rate.
Surm asks for permission to bring the rest of the Crimson Cord’s troops to the camp on the Lord Mayor’s grounds. Permission is granted and the arrangements are made. The Lord Mayor also arranges to have the “old man” remitted to his personal custody. He will be under guard by the Crimson Cord.
Krrish calls for a meeting with Surm, Savaric, and Rilka in the Lord Mayor’s drawing room. There he reveals that he as been disguised magically this entire time. He is, in fact, a half-Drow. He is not from Tarsas, but from Eacenia. His mother, a druid, nursed his Drow father back to health and the three leaved in isolation in Eacenia until a local noble found out and had his parents murdered. Krrish was found by his stepfather and raised with Eldeshi and taught his trade.
Rilka casts zone of truth on Krrish and asks him a series of questions to ensure his sincerity. He seems to be telling the truth, as far as it goes.
Surm says he doesn’t like being lied to. At first Krrish tries to claim he didn’t technically lie about being Tarsian, which does not go over well. Krrish offers to leave and Rilka says she’s not at that point yet. Krrish says that if she’s already saying “yet”, then maybe he should leave. Rilka says that he was pointed toward them for a reason. Krrish says he doesn’t want to cause any tension and Surm responds that he should just tell the truth. Krrish says that his services may not be wanted.
Savaric, clearly exasperated, says. “No more lies! Are you cool with that? You’ll be on a trial period. You can’t bail now—that’d be crappy. Does that sound fair?”
Krrish says yes.
Rilka leaves to interrogate the prisoner with Savaric while Surm goes to try and scry the Lady Mayor. Krrish watches the Lord Mayor’s house from the rooftop.
The prisoner, still in his confused old man guise, confounds Rilka at first because he’s very convincing. Nevertheless, she starts intimidating him into talking. It takes about an hour, but he finally breaks. They get a bit more information out of him—one more name (Lady Ma’yarrow). Also, apparently they do murder their victims and dispose of the bodies in the harbor, in mills, or have them carted out of the city. This creature taunts Rilka, testing her courage at “doing what needs to be done,” which is striking down a bound man—not exactly a brave act. Still, Rilka kills him with a coup de grace.
As Krrish is watching the house, he manages to see a figure creeping onto the roof right about the time they spot him. The figure rushes Krrish, but doesn’t managed to attack with its clawed hands. Krrish destroys the creature in a whirl of blades.
Surm’s scrying of the Lady Mayor is unsuccessful. There is likely nothing to see.
Rilka goes back go the manor house and tells the Lord Mayor that his wife is dead. He is clearly grieving and asks to be alone; Rilka is very kind and understanding and takes her leave.
The Crimson Cord guards coordinate with the Lord Mayor’s house guards to watch the grounds and the party settles in to finally rest for the night. It has been a long eventful day.