Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Part 5: Cleric Ex Clerica

Our heroes found themselves exploring the secret door that was discovered by Sissy in the last chapter. As they proceeded into the dungeon, sounds of battle rang through the halls. Faust tapped Seliph on the shoulder, suggesting, "Let's not just rush into this one, ja?"

Okay, before I continue, I want to point out, Faust has been speaking with a German accent. I'm trying to find a way to convey that through text without making him super stereotypical. Naturally, a better writer might be able to pull that off, but the truth is, I'm feeling lazy, so...there it is.

Anyway, the hallway had a small doorway that branched off to the side, which Faust used as an excuse to avoid wading into an unnecessary conflict, at least while the combatants were at their full strength. Which wouldn't be a terrible idea, except the chamber the door led into was another flooded room with skeletons floating in the water. Faust used Detect Magic to see what was in the room, sensing Necromancy coming out of the water. Seliph...well...

Yeah, Seliph pushed everyone out of the flooded chamber and shut the door behind him. Faust, well aware of how their last encounter with the undead went, did not offer any resistance. Instead, the party continued toward the sound of the struggle, where they were met with...well...quite a scene.

In another flooded chamber stood a beast of a man squaring off against a cultists, surrounded by the corpses of a few other cultists. The cultist, literal faceless man, appeared to be at his full strength, while the large man looked quite tired out. Not that that stopped him from swinging around a greatclub with seemingly no effort against the smaller, dagger-wielding foe.

Kalista tried to sneak closer to get the drop on the faceless man, scoring a rather nice attack on him. However, in retaliation the faceless man struck Kalista hard in the face, knocking her unconscious (though thankfully not killing her outright, considering this guy had the same aura of murder that the old woman from the last session had).

The cultist, realizing that he was outnumbered, broke away from the fight against the large man and escaped into another room, locking the door and preparing an ambush for the party. Seliph moved to chase after the cultist, but he was stopped by the large man resting a hand on his shoulder.

"Leave him."

Seliph tensed at the hand on his shoulder, but relaxed and sheathed his sword.

The large man continued, "Now this is quite a ragtag bunch. Why are you down here?"

Kalista quickly responded, "We're killing these cultists for hurting tieflings!"

Seliph quickly shot a glance at Kalista, "You realize tieflings aren't the only victims of racial prejudice, right?" to which Kalista rolled her eyes, before Seliph continued, "I've got this Kalista." He returned his gaze to the large man. "We're here under orders from the Fist. My personal primary objective here is saving the hostages, but we have also been ordered to deal with the cultists in the way we see most appropriate."

The large man smirked. "That would explain all the corpses. How long have you been down here?"

Faust answered, "Oh, a day or so."

"Well, regardless," the man continued, "the cult's as good as gone anyway. He's the last one, and the room he holed up in has none of the treasure, which is in that room over there," he said, indicating one of the few doors in this particular chamber.

Kalista piped up, "Treasure? Why didn't you say so?"

Seliph stroked his chin, "True, they can't do much without their funding. Okay, sounds good. By the way, we've introduced ourselves, who are you, and why are you down here?"

"My name is Mortlock Vanthampur, and I'm here because I was betrayed. These assassins conspired with my brothers to kill me. If you hadn’t come along, I’d be dead. I owe you my life.”

"Go on..." Seliph invited.

“My family is paying the Dead Three cultists to murder people in the city. Our goal is to prove that the Flaming Fist can’t do its job. Once the city stops paying them, the Flaming Fist will have less of a reason to stay in Baldur’s Gate. With them gone, no one can stand in the way of my mother becoming the city’s next grand duke. If she gets her way, Baldur’s Gate will share Elturel’s fate and get dragged down into the Nine Hells. The Dead Three cultists receive regular payments from my brother, Amrik, who runs his own moneylending business out of a tavern called the Low Lantern. My mother doesn’t expect much of me, but she thinks the world of Amrik. He’s always been her favorite.”

Faust stroked his goatee. "Well, it seems we may have a pretty good witness against the cult and those backing it."

Mortlock grimaced. "No offense, but I don't really want anything to do with the Fist either. You see, my mother is one of the three remaining members of the Council of Four, which governs Baldur’s Gate. She was instrumental in convincing Ulder Ravengard to travel to Elturel and meet with its high overseer, Thavius Kreeg. With Ravengard gone, the Flaming Fist is leaderless and vulnerable.”

Faust responded, "All the more reason you should come forward against your family. If it will truly be as bad as you say, you must do what you can to stop them."

Mortlock's frown deepened. "Well, I suppose if you're going to keep pushing like this, I can at least help you deal with my brother in some way. But afterwards, I'm out of here, and I ain't coming back."

"Deal," Seliph agreed. "Let's get that treasure and get out of here."

Faust continued, "I don't suppose you can help us in guarding Miss Vendetta here?"

"Of course," Mortlock responded.

All told the party made off with quite a bit of cash and treasure, though Seliph ended up having to be the one to carry it out in one of the large chests (though not before Kalista pocketed a bronze crown and a porcelain dragon mask.

The party emerged from the bathhouse well past nightfall as well as closing time for the bathhouse. However, once in the courtyard, they were accosted by five figures jumping down from the top of the courtyard wall. One of them stepped forward, stating, "Seems like there are some stragglers left behind in the bathhouse tonight! Well, if they'd be so kind as to return to us the treasure we are owed, we might be willing to ignore this infraction."

Kalista shouted back, "What are you talking about?"

He pointed, "That belongs to us!"

Kalista blinked. "Oh, the mask? Here, I'll just give it back."

"Not just the mask. All of it. You'd be wise to stay out of our way."

Seliph stepped forward. "Okay, if this is yours, I suppose I have no choice but to give it back."

The leader smiled. "Thank you. Tiamat thanks you for your compliance."

Seliph frowned. "Tiamat, huh...well, I guess that answers that moral dilemma." With that, he threw the box as hard as he could at the cultist. Now, this box ended up weighing over 200 pounds all told, so if it had hit the assassin, it would have done quite a bit of damage.

Too bad it missed.

The cloaked figure smiled. "Have it your way then." He turned to his companions. "Kill them."

In the ensuing brawl, Kalista and Sissy were immediately knocked unconscious while Seliph and Faust tried to do what damage they could. With his last spell slot in particular, Seliph used Thunderous Smite again, hoping to at least knock the group prone, granting a few extra seconds of time to strategize, but the head assassin stood firm.

One of the assassins attempted to land a killing blow on Sissy, when suddenly his weapon paused in midair, almost like he himself was incapable of bringing the weapon down. Shortly thereafter, Sissy somehow regained consciousness long enough to fire off a spell. Kalista gained her footing shortly after. Something, or someone had decided to help them.

Seliph quickly glanced around the fray, unsure of where the aid was coming from. Mortlock had pulled Vendetta back into the bathhouse. He himself didn't appear to be a spellcaster.

Another glance until he saw behind the assassins...a young woman, making her way towards the rest of the party.

With their sudden aid, the party was finally able reduce the five figures to two, even killing their leader, while they themselves severely wounded with only Seliph, Sissy, and their rescuer on their feet. The two remaining assassins glanced to each other, then back to Seliph, then back to each other, and then dropped their weapons, saying, "Okay that's it, we surrender!"

One even continued, "I think I'm done with Tiamat. Please don't kill us!"

Seliph calmly stepped forward, locking eyes with the scared young man. "Do yourself a favor. Starting tonight, go straight. Don't even go into taverns. That's how straight you're going. Got it?"

Somehow, some backbone must have resurfaced in the man, who responded, "Are you crazy? This is Baldur's Gate! Ain't nobody goin' that straight here!"

"Then go somewhere else!" Seliph exclaimed, clearly not up for any sort of debate.

"I....yeah, okay." The two former assassins quickly sprinted off into the night, where I'm sure they'll never bother anyone again.

Seliph shook his head, cleaning and sheathing his sword, forgetting about the young woman who jumped in to join them, until she said, "Umm, excuse me, sir, what brings a lot such as you out this late at night?"

Seliph jumped at the sudden breaking of his trance. "Oh, sorry,'s....ah...a bit of a rescue mission." He then looked at his unconscious companions, whom the young woman had already taken the liberty of stabilizing. "I guess it kind out of hand."

"Clearly..." she said.

"Oh, my name is Seliph Lyesyn. We were contracted by the Flaming Fist to deal with some cultists and save some hostages. It's...been a rough few days." He intentionally left out the part about the heist. Not really important at the moment. "These guys we just fought are completely unrelated. Just the cherry on top of the crap sundae that has become my life since I got back into town, I suppose. But...why are you out so late? Baldur's Gate isn't exactly friendly to anybody past dark, let alone a woman travelling by herself."

"Oh but I'm not alone." She pointed down the street a bit to a dog sitting dutifully, waiting for any command from its master. "My dog wanted to go out for a walk, and I heard a commotion."

Seliph scratched the back of his head. "Lucky you showed up when you did. By the way, what's your name?"

"Me? My name is Rylee Godsong, a cleric of Eldath. Naturally, I couldn't just pass by when someone clearly needed my help. Speaking of...what are you planning to do about...well, all this?"

"My home is nearby. I'll just take them there until they recover."

"Oh, allow me to help then," she said, already hoisting Kalista onto her shoulders.

"No please, I  wouldn't want to impose."

"It is no trouble. If I help, they get to safety more quickly."

Seliph opened his mouth to argue further, but relented. "Yeah, okay...Sissy, are you good dragging the chest if I carry Faust?"

"Huh? I mean, I guess, though..." Sissy has a strength of 9, so dragging is about all she's going to be able to do. We even joked about how she'd be better off dragging Faust or Kalista, though Seliph really wanted to avoid having to explain any unexplained head injuries the next morning. You know, potholes and the sort.

By this point, Rylee's player, who had joined us earlier in the week, had to disconnect from the call so we never did get around to resolving how she got home, but I'd imagine either Seliph walked her home or she felt comfortable walking alone with her dog. You make the call. For you see, what happened next is something much more important. Something I'd been waiting for since the beginning of the campaign.

Faust awoke in the same featureless void he was in the night before.

Ah, I must be dead again. Advocati is going to be upset.

However, instead, he was greeted by a different voice. One that, well...the DM himself said that he was basing this particular character (well, interpretation) off of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors (the 80's version with Rick Moranis)... so... (unfortunately this exchange was not done in song, but hey, you can imagine it if you wish)

"Faustie, Faustie, so good to hear from you again!"

"Oh, yes, Hadar, I wasn't sure if we would still be on speaking terms."

"You think I care about you making other deals? That means nothin' to me, especially when it's with someone as insignificant as Avocado or whatever his name is. I don't care about any of that. I just want you to keep killing for me. I want you to feeeeeeeeeed me, Faustie!"

Apparently the DM had been waiting until Faust actually killed someone before introducing us to his interpretation of Hadar, and Faust had managed to not kill anybody until after Advocati had restored him to life.

"Although, if you wanna stay on my good side, I am gonna need you to feed Avocado to me. Roast him up real good with the Eldritch Blast, just the way I like it. Until then, just keep feeding me, Faustie, and you'll get the things you want!"

With that, Faust slowly regained consciousness, sorely regretting not being able to get an inn for himself, to avoid imposing on Seliph as well as to continue his studies/pondering of how to get himself out of the increasingly complicated situation he'd landed himself in.

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