Saturday, November 14, 2020

Part 9: So Long, Baldur's Gate!


As planned, the next morning, the party reconvened at the office of Captain Zodge after the evening the party spent split up. Everybody was surprised that Rylee came back. However, the thing that would be more surprising if they had any idea about it would be the fact that Faust did not sleep a wink the night before while studying the puzzle box. Indeed, through his pacts as a warlock, he no longer needs sleep at all, and cannot be forced to sleep by any means. You might think this is the top of the slippery slope to insanity. His player would disagree, saying this is the key to ultimate power, and to his credit he makes a good point. There's a lot you can do in that extra eight hours if you don't need to sleep.

Anyway, Reya declined to join the party at the meeting, for understandable reasons. The remaining Hellriders were being hunted down, and considering she avoided arrest not a day before, she was very disinclined to meet with any other members of the Fist. Again, understandable. So instead she opted to just lay low in Seliph's house until they got back.

Zodge, sitting at his desk working on some paperwork, quickly welcomed the party in. "Please, sit down, what information do you have for me? It's been...a few days. I'd worried that you all split on us."

"Things are a bit complicated," Faust offered.

"To start," Seliph continued, "Do you know this man that we brought to you?" Seliph pointed towards Thavius.

"I...can't say that I do."

"This is Thavius Kreeg."

"As in, High Overseer of Elturel, Thavius Kreeg?"

"Correct," Faust confirmed.

"Yes...that's...certainly me," Kreeg offered.

Zodge paused, and then said, softly, "Where is Ulder Ravengard?"

"Excuse me?" Kreeg asked, feigning being hard of hearing.

"I said, WHERE IS ULDER RAVENGARD?" he said again, now shouting.

"I don't know! I'm innocent! I was being held captive by Lady Vanthampur before these guys rescued me!"

Faust reached out again to Kreeg via telepathy, saying, It would be best for you to end this line of deceit. It will only get worse for you if you don't.

Kreeg Faust's eye that assured him that he was absolutely not joking, that, somehow, in his mere 35 years, he had seen far more and suffered far more than he could possibly imagine. This look told Kreeg that there was absolutely no way he was going to worm his way out of this one, and as such, he started blubbering different things, to Zodge's frustration.

"Wait, what about Lady Vanthampur?" Zodge asked, before continuing, "I can see this is gonna get complicated. Let's start over. Chronologically, this time."

The party did as requested, recounting the events of the last few days. The bathhouse. The Low Lantern. The Vanthampurs being the ones bankrolling the cultists. The facility beneath Vanthampur manor. Kreeg being the one behind Elturel's disappearance (a fact he vehemently denied, but Zodge was going to put the screws to him until he got the information he wanted).

As the party was explaining things, the door to Zodge's office burst open, and two figures walked in: Amrik Vanthampur and a woman that Seliph recognized as Liara Portyr, commander of the Flaming Fist.

Faust immediately reached out to Amrik telepathically to...curse him out, something Amrik responded to with a simple wink before turning to Commander Portyr and saying, "Yes Ma'am, these are the ones who saved the city from my mother."

Commander Portyer looked the party over and then said, "Excellent. They are to be commended. Zodge. Make sure they're well paid. Whatever it is that you promised them at the outset and then some for their exemplary service to the city."

Zodge snorted, then reached into his desk, pulling out separate bags of gold. Realizing that one more person was in the office than had been hired at the beginning, Zodge looked at Rylee and said, "Who even are you? Your services weren't contracted, and you certainly didn't owe us anything."

Seliph quickly suggested, "Oh, her services were subcontracted. We needed a healer, and she fit the bill."

"Whatever. I'll pay her a share as well. Afterwards, get out of my office."

"Actually," the commander said, "The five of you have proven quite useful to us so I have a personal favor to ask of you."

The party quickly cast eyes one to another, before Faust finally offered, "Yes?"

"Based on some of the information that Mr.Vanthampur here gave to me, it sounds like you've managed to procure some items from the Vanthampur manor of a fiendish or devilish nature. Specifically a puzzle box. I would like you to take it to Candlekeep for inspection by Sylvira Savikas, a tiefling researcher who is the leading researcher in all things Hell."

Kalista's ears perked up at this. A well-known, well-respected tiefling researcher? Kalista had to meet her.

Indeed, the party had procured the puzzle box from Thurstwell in the last session, but like the genius I am I completely forgot to mention that Faust snatched it from Thurstwell's desk before we continued into the dungeon.

Anyway, Seliph turned to Faust slowly and said, "We've got that, right?"

Faust quickly responded, "Yes, we do. It would be our pleasure to go to Candlekeep on this errand." If someone was paying attention, they would have seen a hint of childlike excitement in Faust's eyes, Candlekeep being the place to be for scholars and wizards looking to increase their knowledge, a place he had been wanting to visit for most of his life, though had been up to this point unable to access.

"Excellent," the commander replied, smiling. "Well, we shall leave you to it. In the meantime, I believe Zodge, myself, Master Vanthampur, and the High Overseer have much to discuss."

"Yes, you all go on, now," Zodge added.

"Gladly," Seliph said, though what he was thinking...well...involved words he was trying to remove from his everyday vocabulary. And gestures.

Yeah, Seliph's a Redemption Paladin and all, but his grudge against Zodge is a difficult thing to let go of.

Anyway, after leaving the office, the group took a moment to discuss the new assignment thrust upon them. Seliph took the lead, saying, "I suppose you guys will all have some things you'll want to take care of before we head out."

Rylee then said, "Well, I suppose this would be goodbye. I wish you safe travels on your journey."

Faust then smirked, "I don't suppose you'd like to continue healing us for money."

"It was never about the money," Rylee said defensively. "I just stepped in to help you as expected from my oaths."

Kalista jumped in, "We could certainly use the extra help."

"I...will have to consult with my god in prayer."

"No pressure," offered Seliph. "We'll leave from my house around midday. If you're in, I suppose we'll see you there, if not, long and safe travels."

And this is where the party split up to do some shopping. Seliph purchased a new set of splint mail armor. Kalista and Faust visited a local apothecary to purchase some potions. Faust actually used a small fortune to purchase a bunch of spell components as well as other preparatory items, unsure of what he would need and not wanting to be caught lacking in an awkward situation. He also purchased a horse and a mule to carry his things.

Rylee returned to her room in her inn, greeted her dog as well as providing him food and water, and knelt in prayer for guidance. And there she sat for quite a while before being jolted back to reality by her dog nuzzling her arm. She looked down at the dog in confusion. The food and water bowls were full. What could it want now?

The dog, seeing it had her attention, pointed towards the water bowl with its nose.

Rylee stepped over to the bowl to investigate it. After all the bowl was full. What else could possibly be stopping the dog from lapping it up?

Peering into the water bowl, Rylee was assaulted with visions of battle, bloodshed, and other such terrifying things, with the party in the center of it. She surmised that if she wasn't there to keep the party from getting themselves killed, the world could be at risk.

So she had her own suiting-up montage. She bought some new armor and took up a shield, deciding within herself that, though she would not break her oaths of nonviolence, she would be doing everything she could to keep herself and the other would-be heroes alive.

So, cut to Seliph, Kalista, and Sissy sitting on Seliph's porch waiting for the rest of the party, when the parade began, starting with a random dog that seemed vaguely familiar that padded up to Seliph. Seliph, being the goodest of boys, gave the dog a nice scratch as Rylee greeted the party, decked out in her armor. Following behind her was Faust, driving his horse and mule covered in his various amounts of overpreparedness.

The presence of the pack animals suggested something else to the party: how were they going to travel? They were looking at a five day journey, so any method of making the travel easier on the group was something worth taking into consideration. After discussing this for a bit, the party decided to purchase a wagon that would be driven by Seliph while Rylee and Kalista rode inside the wagon for reasons of cheapness or something (Kalista's player confirmed cheapness, Rylee's another question), and Sissy decided to purchase her own horse. I'm sure Reya had her own means of travel as well. This kinda makes me feel good about myself because a common problem I have in my games is that I keep forgetting about NPCs that travel with the players, so I'm glad to see that our current DM is carrying on that tradition.

And thus we set off on the five-day journey to Candlekeep. Five days of possible danger, roughing it in the wilderness, and more than likely bad camp food, right?

I dunno. We did a travel montage because the DM wants to get us to Candlekeep, and later Avernus as quickly as possible so we didn't roll on the random encounter table. Which is fine. I'm not sure what's on the encounter table for this area, but considering how finicky random encounter tables can be, there's something that scares me about us getting jumped by dragons on our five day camping trip, and as the Runesmith said in his random encounter video (language warning), "Nobody should die to two dragons outside of story parameters."

Anyway, it's probably for the best that Faust had his own horse and wasn't in the wagon, because chances are five days of, "Are we there yet?" would cause Rylee to rethink her oaths. Indeed, as said before, it really is difficult to express the high amount of childlike wonder and excitement Faust had at the prospect of finally, finally getting into Candlekeep. And indeed, once he had donated the book he was carrying as the means of entrance into the fortress (as seen in the image at the top of the page) and the party was allowed inside, he wasted absolutely no time getting into the library, Rylee hot on his heels to see what he was up to.

I've spent the last paragraph making fun of Faust's excitement at the prospect of getting into Candlekeep, but I should also note Kalista's...disturbing excitement at meeting Sylvira. I'm serious, once the party made it into Candlekeep, she was adamant about going to see Sylvira, to the point that the only reason she didn't burst into a meeting Sylvira was having was the fact that Sylvira's assistant was very persuasive at helping Kalista set a proper appointment for the party at third bell the next day. And thus commenced Kalista's misunderstanding of what third bell was, thinking that she'd be meeting them at 3 AM before the assistant explained that the bells started at 6 AM and would ring on the hour.

Somewhat dejected from the mild rejection she just received but excited nonetheless to meet up with Sylvira the next morning, Kalista rejoined Seliph and Sissy at the tavern, soon to be joined by Rylee, who had come away from spying on Faust with no real information she deemed helpful.

Faust, on the other hand, was scribbling notes as quickly as he could on what little paper he was able to use, when a library aide approached him, saying, "Sir, just to inform you, the library will soon be closing its doors for the night and the scholars in the building will be returning to their quarters."

Faust's lack of fatigue continued to surprise him considering he had been like this for nearly a week. I'm pretty sure most of the party was expecting him to meekly agree to turn in, but to all of our surprise, Faust pulled rank as a travelling scholar, a professor, no less.

Well, it worked! The poor associate stammered out an apology (though let's be fair, Faust wasn't exactly mean to the poor kid) stated that if he wanted to leave at any point before the doors opened again, just to lock the door when he left.

Anyway, the next morning, Kalista realized that Faust never came to his room in the inn. Figuring he was still in the library, she made her way there to find him and let him know about their appointment before he was late. Though he wasn't exactly happy to be torn from his studies before he'd found the breakthrough he was hoping for, he wrote down which page of which volume he was working from and followed Kalista to Sylvira's chamber.

Paraphrasing a bunch, Sylvira quickly pointed out that the shield Faust was carrying was just a devil, no angel. It had been bound in the shield millennia ago. She also informed the party of her own request for them: go to Avernus to gather information and/or items, with the possibility of saving the citizens of Elturel. She requested that the party hurry, people were dying after all, but Faust requested an extra two hours to finish what he was working on (as well as to quickly formulate a plan to get the shield to Avernus anyway, something Rylee was...very vocally opposed to.)

And thus the session ended much like it began. Waiting for everyone to finish up last-minute sidequests.

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