The Chelish Embassy in Korvosa
The 16th day of Lamashan, 4713 AR – late night
The half-orc Hellknight stands over the body of the Chelish ambassador for a long moment, as if considering something. Then he turns to Lord Vourne and bows slightly.
“If I may beg your indulgence, My Lord?”
The soldier’s eyes grow hard. “Ask what you will of me, Dal Mordu. I serve the Crown first and foremost.”
“then we must move quickly, My Lord. I do not see Lady Sian, the commander of the Embassy guard staff. But you hold more rank than anyone else here. Please take command of the guard force, and cordon off the Embassy grounds. We must move quickly to make sure the murderer does not escape.”
“It will be done.” Vourne turns and departs without another word. Dal Mordu ascends a dais near the body, and speaks clearly so that everyone present can hear.
“Make yourselves comfortable, My Lords and Ladies. No one is leaving this room until the murderer’s identity can be discovered.”
You are quick to notice that the crowd does not complain overmuch – either due to a sense of duty to the Crown, as Lord Vourne indicated, or to more than touch of fear at the Hellknight’s hulking presence. Whatever the truth of the matter, soon a war horn sounds, and armed men move to seal off the exits.
The three of you search the crowd, looking for anything out of the ordinary. It is Talathel who finally does just that – he sees a lovely elf maid clad in the livery of a House Jeggare servant take up a serving tray, and then head for a side entrance in the western wall of the banquet hall. At first Kymrych and Jayne do not understand why Tal points the girl out, save for her attractive features – but then you notice her right eye is covered by a black velvet eyepatch.
(A reminder: a rather dangerous looking elf with one eye has been shadowing the party since they returned to Korvosa. She even tried to kidnap Whisper recently, and Akorian has managed to scry her. This young woman matches her description almost exactly)
It does not take long for you to act. “Lord-General Vourne? A moment, sir.”
Kymrych dashes after the general, and stops him just shy of the exit.
“Well? What is it man?” The soldier eyes you dangerously.
Kymrych points to the departing assassin and scowls. “That woman there? The elf? I believe she is the assassin. We had dealings with her before, and know her to be dangerous. If nothing else I know she is no mere servant.”
“You’re certain of this?”
“Very well. Guards! Seize that woman!”
The elf turns at the general’s shout and spies you both. She then drops her tray and dashes for the exit. As she runs she draws twin, slender swords from the folds of her garments, and dashes onward. Servants shriek in terror as she speeds on by; one young serving girl as slashed across the stomach, and falls to the floor amidst a shower of gore. She will die out soon if nothing is done.
“Tal! Help her!” Kymrych growls. The bard pauses kneel at the girl’s side even as the rest of you hurry on.
Onward you dash, through a dimly lit chamber where tuns of wine are stored, and on into a long hallway crowded with more servants. The assassin runs onward, makes a sharp left, and emerges into the broad foyer you passed through earlier. Moments later she has emerged into the long verge leading up to the main gate, and doubles her speed as she sees freedom just ahead. Then she angles in towards the pair of Chelish marines who move to stop her. Both men draw their own short swords as she draws near, and the three are quickly lost amidst a whirling tangle of steel and flesh.
Kymrych and Vourne draw steel as well, and move to follow her. Kymrych is only dimly aware of Jayne and several other party guests giving chase as well. As far as the elf maid goes, her steel is whirring death as first one guard is sliced down, and then another. She then dashes on with the rest of you in very close pursuit.
Onward you run, out into the street. There a row of parked carriages waits. Their drivers are clustered together, drinking wine and having a chat as the assassin streaks past them, and clambers up into the seat of the closest carriage. She grasps the reins, snaps them, and sets her carriage off into motion. The wheels clatter on cobblestones as she speeds off into the night.
General Vourne does not hesitate to climb up into the next carriage in line. The driver who attempts to stop him is smashed across the face as a result. Kymrych is barely able to clamber into the seat beside the general before the reins are snapped, and the team of horses leaps into notion. Jayne’s long dress and tight bodice do her no favors, however, and the last you see is her standing in the street, watching you roar off into the night. The clatter of the wheels against the cobbles is deafening as Vourne sends your carriage hurtling along at a breakneck pace.
“Hold on, boy!” he shouts. “She’ll never get away, not if I have anything to say about it!”
And hold on you do; you can dimly see the other carriage ahead of you, clattering along Baker Street and running parallel to the river. Dark manor houses and other buildings flash by to either side, dimly seen against the night. Then you see the assassin’s carriage almost miss a gentle turn in the road ahead, and sideswipe a stone fence; it occurs to you then that the assassin may not be the best wagon-driver in the world. Luckily Lord Vourne was born on horseback, and seems to be very expert at guiding your own conveyance.
Then, dim lights flicker in the darkness ahead. Before you rises the dark bulk of Korvosa’s Great Tower, a 270’ tall monolith that stretches above every other structure in the city. Here stands the headquarters of the city’s fabled Sable Company Marines, as well as their infamous griffon mounts. It is also supposedly the tallest freestanding building in all of Varisia. Even as you watch, the assassin speeds on towards the tower, and does not slow even one iota.
“My gods. She’s lost control.” You can barely hear Vourne’s voice over the clatter of the carriage wheels.
Just then you see something tumble from the carriage even as the horses plow into the dark stone wall of the tower at full speed. You hear the tortured scream of the horses as they are badly injured, and then the horrible clatter-smash as the carriage is torn to splinters against the side of the tower. Two of the horses lie amidst the pile of wreckage and ruin, neighing in agony.
“She jumped at the last second,” Kymrych growls. “I saw her.”
“I saw her too.” Vourne draws back on the reins with all his might, and slows his own team of horses before they can crash as well.
Kymrych is leaping down even as the carriage comes to a complete stop. The screams of the dying horses echo far against the night as he turns towards the row of small buildings just across the road from the Tower. You are fairly certain the assassin ran that way, and thusly gives chase. Vourne is but seconds behind you, and hurries to catch up.
Sadly, the warren of alleys and roadways beyond Baker Street is like a maze, and the assassin is easily able to disappear into the night. You pause there, wary of an ambush, and know that she has managed to elude you. It is then, however, that Kymrych sees something on the ground at his feet. He kneels to retrieve it, and sees it is a black leather glove of the sort worn by Chelish servants so that their unclean naked skin would never touch the flesh of their betters.
“She’s gone. I say we go back.”
Vourne agrees. He then leads the way back to the Tower, where he then bullies a pair of remounts from the marines there. Two Sable Company men escort you back to the Embassy, and their horses are returned. Once there Dal Mordu insists on questioning you closely. He also wants the glove, although no mages are present at the moment who can scry, using the glove as a focus. A mage is sent for, and then your questioning begins.
The rest of you have not been idle. One by one you file into the glowing rectangle, and feel your skin prickle as you are transported…… Elsewhere. The long gray corridor is exactly as Sanaya had described it and you stand for a moment, considering what to do next. Akorian can no longer communicate with Kymrych or the others, but the spell-connection is still active, suggesting that he will be able to do so once he returns to the Prime Material Plane.
As one you continue to the doors at the far end of the corridor, and listen intently. Igmar’s hears a shuffling sound on the far side of the door, as well as a low, bestial growl. He gestures to the others that something is on the other side of the door, and the rest of you draw steel or prepare spells as a result.
Akorian and Sanaya lock eyes, and nod. Then Omari shoulders open the doors, and you dash in, ready for battle.
Before you stands a wood-paneled hall. The ceiling rises to a height of twenty feet above, with a single fifteen foot high shelf filled sparsely with books along the wall to your left. Eerie wisps of shadowy fog coil and writhe upon the floor, which unlike the walls seems to be made of polished black stone.
Even as you stand there, taking all this in, another low growl is heard. Then a pair of muscular hounds appears from out of the murk; each creature has a coat that drinks up the light, and drawing in the shadows around them. The maw of the closest hound is full of sharp teeth, and a wisp of shadow drips from its writhing tongue.
“Shadow hounds.” Even as Omari speaks the word, the closest hound steps forward, and begins to howl.
The sound is amongst the most terrible, shrieking sound you have ever heard. It roils in your belly, and threatens to make you soil yourself. Of those present, Isandra, Akorian, Evelyn and Omari cannot bear the sound, and flee immediately. This leaves Igmar and Sanaya behind to hold the line – seeing the hounds approach, they too are forced to withdraw. Soon you find yourselves back in the entry corridor, where you can retreat no further – the portal has closed itself behind you, leaving you trapped. This realization steels your nerve, and those affected by the magical howling turn, and force themselves to stand firm.
The two hounds stalk into the entry corridor. Their claws tap-tap-tap on the obsidian floor, and wispy drool oozes from gaping maws as they approach, clearly hungry to taste your flesh. Instead you stand forth with Omari and Igmar at the forefront, naked steel held firmly before you.
That first hound leaps, and takes down Omari with snarling fury. Within seconds the warrior is struggling to keep those snapping jaws from his throat. The rest of you are too busy fighting for your lives to help him. Akorian chants the words to a spell, and takes Sanaya by the hand; she is startled as he draws her with him through a tunnel of shimmering light, and suddenly finds herself in the immediate space BEHIND the snarling mastiffs. Meanwhile Isandra steps forward to help Omari, and steel flashes as bared fangs bite and flay.
For long moments Igmar and Isandra manage to hold the shadow creatures at bay; then Sanaya sneaks in a blow from behind, slaying the hound that faces Igmar. Moments later Isandra strikes out with her gleaming Aldori sword, and separates the second hound’s head from its body. Omari is freed from beneath the massive beast’s limp remains, and helped to his feet. Then Igmar spirits away the worst of your injuries, and you regather. Evelyn peers down at the dead shadow hounds, and gives forth an almost bestial growl of her own. She does not step one foot closer to the deceased demon dogs than she has to, however.
“Come on. We should keep going.” Omari brushes aside Igmar’s ministrations and leads the way back into the area where you first encountered the shadow dogs. You pause a moment to investigate some of the books on the shelves, and see they are assorted manuals devoted to the “Art” of torture. You do what you wish to with them and continue on.
Meanwhile, Kymrych, Jayne and Talathel sit and wait as the interrogations continue. Kymrych was questioned closely by Dal Mordu, and his answers seemed to mollify the mountainous half-breed. But then a low murmur sweeps through the gathered crowd, and a hurried rumor reaches your ears: apparently the Embassy chaplain cannot be found, and that has Dal Mordu and Lord Vourne rather worried.
Onward you travel through this strange, shadowy dreamland. Beyond the hound’s lair lies an unusual chamber that takes on the form of a square shaft – the walls feature a spiraling stone staircase that winds up the left and down to the right. There is no floor below or ceiling above, almost as if the shaft is an endless tumble in both directions. Igmar takes a spare dagger from his boot and lets its drop, only to see it tumble past him from above seconds later. It does not reappear. You see a door on a landing above you, so you climb the stairs, moving carefully. Upon reaching the landing you open the door and gratefully step on through. The chamber beyond consists of yet another long, dark stone hallway, 5’ wide and 50’ long. Six locked prison cells stand arrayed along the length of this hallway. You peer inside the closest, and see a simple straw mattress with a dark figure slumped upon it. A key ring hangs from a peg by the door; you take it, and open the cell.
“Hello?” Akorian pulls back the blanket, and recoils at the sight before him: the man on the pallet has been dead for so long that his flesh has turned leathery with rot. He pulls the blanket back in place and turns to the others.
“I think we should—”
“Hello? Hello! Is anyone there?” A strange and rather strident voices echoes from one of the cells just down the hall.
“Yes, we’re here. Hello!” You move to the last cell in line, and see a dirty, disheveled scarecrow stare back at you through the cell bars. He is gaunt, almost skeletal, and clad in filthy rags. By his features and sharply pointed ears you take him to be elvish. The grim specter of madness is clearly visible behind his expressive gray eyes.
“You’re here? You’re…. Real?” His voice croaks with scarcely concealed excitement. “Are you the ones the Woman in White spoke of? The ones she left the letter for?”
Kymrych sits and mulls the rumor that the Embassy’s priest of Asmodeus has gone missing. As he does so, a beautiful young woman of regal bearing approaches him. As she draws close he opens his mouth to beg her off, wand then he realizes there is something rather familiar about her. Tal immediately recognizes her as well.
“Hello Tilda. It’s been a while,” the bard says.
“Hello, Talathel. Hello Kymrych.” Tilda Duvanti has the dark eyes of her mother. She pauses a moment to regard the distant figure of Dal Mordu and Lord Vourne.
“You’re in a great deal of danger, the both of you. You should have left this place the moment the Ambassador died. Now it may be too late. I think the Hellknight already suspects you were involved; I just overheard him tell one of the guards to keep an eye on you, and prepare to arrest you the moment the signal is given.”
“Really.” Kymrych eyes the pair a moment before nodding. “I assume you were sent to keep an eye on us by Iacobus?”
“Yes. And I can use my magic to get you out of here. But we have to move soon. Before they put you in irons, and guard you too closely.”
You question the ragged elf, and he tells you the following things:
He says his name is Elandriu, and that he was captured by while attempting to break into the Embassy grounds to steal a priceless artifact for a scion of the Arkona family. Ambassador Vheed decided to lock Elandriu away instead of killing him, and had a servitor devil torture the hapless elf for years – before people just stopped coming.
How long has he been here, you ask. THe reply is “years and years and years and years” – you note that none of you have ever heard of an “Ambassador Vheed”. He also mentions that there is another prisoner at the end of the hall, but he stopped talking to Elandriu some time ago. The elf suspects the other prisoner is mad at him for some imagined slight.
The “Woman in White” came to visit him just a few days ago, and told him a Chelish lord would be visiting soon. It was the first visitor he’d had in longer than he can remember. She gave Elandriu a sealed letter and asked him to give it to the lord. She was very pretty, and dressed in a white gown. Another woman was with her – a foul tempered elf with one eye. He has not seen them since, save in his dreams. He shows you the letter, but refuses to hand it over. You’ll have to unlock his cell first.
Sanaya offers him a piece of fruit. He takes it, and eyes it warily. He tells you he hasn’t eaten “real” food in a long time, and doesn’t remember what it tastes like. He seems afraid to find out now.
Sanaya takes the key and unlocks the cell door. She breaks open a second pomegranate and eats some of it before offering the rest to the prisoner.
“I am going to leave this fruit on the floor here Elandriu.” She carefully backs away from the cell door. Her eyes never leave the prisoner.
“You are free to come with us if you wish.”
The elf grabs up the food and puts it in the same place as the first. Then he eyes Sanaya with the air of a feral cat.
“No. I’ll stay here. Leave the door open, Pretty Eyes. I don’t trust you. The White Lady said you were trouble. But you can have this. I don’t need it any more.”
He tosses you the letter, which is still sealed with a blob of wax. Akorian eyes the letter for a moment, and asks the elf a few more questions. He casts Detect Magic on it when he has a private moment, and sees then that it is drenched with Conjuration magic. The idea of opening the letter does not appeal to him.
Tilda pauses a moment to speak with Talathel, and the bard nods. You look back at Lord Vourne and the Hellknight, and see that they are still busy interrogating various party guests. So Tilda leads the three of you away from the area you were waiting in, and you walk to the south end of the room in the section that is filled with tropical trees and plants. Spells are hurriedly cast, and within seconds you each take on the appearance of a fully armed Chelish marine!
Tilda wears the crimson-on-black livery of a marine officer. She tells you to get in march formation, and leads you through the doorway and through the storage area you passed through when you were chasing the assassin. Marine guards posted in the hall outside do not challenge you. Then you march outside, and head for the main gate. Men posted there only nod as you march past them, and no one appears to think to challenge you. Moments later you are on the street outside, and head into a region of deeper shadow. As you pass from sight outside the Embassy, Tilda and Tal allow the illusions to fade, and you find yourselves safe once more.
You head to the rented manor house just up the street, and enter to find your horses and Whisper none the worse for wear. What you do now remains to be seen.
“I have more to tell you.”
The elf sit in his cell, eying Sanaya expectantly. She is not foolish enough to get close enough for him to touch her.
“Go ahead.” She sits on the floor and eyes him through the door of the cell.
“There is another way out of here. Out of this place.” He giggles, a strange sound. It is filled with pure, gibbering madness.
“Why would we need to know about another way out?” Sanaya asks. Isandra comes to stand behind you, but says nothing.
“I’m not stupid, you know.” He grins, showing rotted teeth. In all your travels, none of you have ever met an elf with bad teeth before. “You came here without the Devil’s permission, the same as I did. But you weren’t caught. Now you look nervous. Excited. Something went wrong, yeah? Something big. And now you need a new way out. And I just happen to have have one for you – for a price.”
“What price?” Igmar asks. He is almost dreading the answer.
“I want two things.” Another crazy giggle. “First, I want five gold coins, and a nice sharp dagger. A man can live for a year on five gold coins! Longer even. And the dagger is to keep the riffraff at bay.”
He pauses then, and scowls. “And I want you to let me come with you. There are nasty things in the dark here. Ugly things. And I’d rather not end up in their stomachs, if it’s all right by you.”
The streets are quiet now; well, for the most part. But then the group hidden in the rented manor house hears the blare of a trumpet, and sees two mounted men clad in crimson diplomatic courier cloaks ride out from the Embassy. One is headed to the north, and the other to the south. Both ride as if the very Hounds of Hell are at their heels.
What do you do? NOTE: Akorian has about 30 minutes left on his Telepathic Bond spell. What next? M