Sundered Lands 14

The Sundered Lands of Palladium

Session 14
May 30 - June 5, 2016

Where's Vanthus?

Friday October 27th

Piecing Together the Clues

Feeling that they got what they came for, the Guardians head back to the Fox and Hound to start going over what they know. Fortis and Valinya have to keep to the streets as the wind is picking up from the south. Back at the inn they go over what they know. They know Vanthus has been lying, at least to gullible serving wenches. They know he has not been seen in the Crying Naga Tavern for at least 2 weeks. They know he has been talking about a man named Penkus who has not been around Essanos for some time (up to a year maybe?) and that Penkus hangs out in Shadowshore. They know that Vanthus may have been talking to a warrior named Wulda who likes to pee in alleys and uses a flail. They also know that Vanthus may have connections to the criminal organizations in Essanos.

Getting back to the Fox and Hound after their stint in Azure district got Arn to thinking more. Sitting at the table with his friends, they all voiced their concerns and opinions. “Vanthus has been playing the woman and others all along the way to get what he wanted. He lied about his family, but what was the motive? He was trying to seek membership to one of the notable criminal gangs in the city, but why would he want to do that? Either he was looking for adventure through them, or perhaps he was lured or bullied into it. Someone finding out he had money, and lured him into it. However, it doesn’t sound like that the case here.”

Arn listens to his friends and thinks more on the subject. “Why rob the family treasury and still stick around town? I think he owes people money.  Maybe he is protecting his sister from something, like the folks he got himself wrapped up in with?

Fortis listens to the speculation and comes to the conclusion that regardless of the circumstances and motivations leading to the vault being emptied, Vanthus is an idiot. 

“I’m not sure where our next move will take us, but I’d think we may want to dispose of some of our chatle first and convert it into cash… unless someone here has a use for an assortment of mediocre weaponry I’d suggest I go out tomorrow morning and try selling it so that I can then distribute the proceeds. If anyone would like to accompany me I would welcome the help carrying the spoils of our recent victory.“ The Ellyl looks around for volunteers.

The dwarf nods at Fortis in agreement that he will join him with transporting their spoils of war.

“Back on the main topic though, I’m curious what the collective believes our next step should be. Tracking down Wulda? Putting out some feelers for Penkus? On that score, I’m curious if he is the source of the obfuscation magics interfering with our scrying. I wonder if the Witchwardens know anything about him. I think I’ll stop by there after our mercantile venture tomorrow and see if anyone there knows him.” Trying very hard not to look at Arn Fortis continues his soliloquy. “In addition to discussing what we want to do next , would anyone else find value in a more thorough discussion of our plans for what to do when we do find Vanthus, Wulda, or Penkus? Are we going to default to abduction and interrogation? If so, we may want to prepare a bit better for our next expedition.”

Valinya settles with the others and attends first things first in ordering food, just some snacks … several varieties to satisfy her desire for “something” though she wasn’t sure what.  Once she’d gotten her food and sampled a bit of everything she chimed in to the conversation.  “We’re looking for Vanthus; let’s make a true show and avoid side trails if possible.  If I can, I’ll use the undershirt that Belle mentioned and try to directly track him.  If not then we can pursue other lines.  

Fortis nods. “Well, we can each try to Seek Vanthus through the link provided by the shirt. Would you like to go first?” he gestures at Valinya, offering to let her proceed before he does. “I’ll wait until you are finished to pursue my own line of search if you are not confident in your results, should such an unlikely thing come to pass”.

The Kankoran pipes up at this point, reaching for the shirt being passed, “Well, besides Seeker Spells there’s also “Seeker Smells”,” and suppresses a giggle as he continues, “Before adding more scent layers I’d like to learn what this Vanthus smells like, as I’m sure Brother would as well. Sings to Moon is busy at the moment watching Lavinia but after your songs are done we should save the shirt for her to sniff as well.” Eyes closed, he smells the garment deeply until certain he will recognize the scent of the original male owner (as well as Belle’s) and then passes it to Seeker to do likewise before the mages begin their work.

Nodding her acquiescence, Valinya holds the shirt, closes her eyes and softly sings.  

Seeker chews and swallows, listening carefully as the team discusses the new information. The mages seem to have the best chance, so that’s plan A. Seems the most direct, involves fewer other people. After that are the new names - Wulda and Penkus. Track one of them down and try to get them to tell us where Vanthus is should be plan B. Moonscar’s tracking attempt could be a possible plan C, as could the tenuous connection between Vanthus and the Sea Harpies that our blue-furred Coyle friend mentioned.

Fortis’ question is a good one. When we find Vanthus (or Penkus, or Wulda) how do we handle them? Kidnapping seems a bit extreme. For Vanthus, we need to bring Lavinia into the loop, find out what her thoughts are on the matter. 

Arn thinks on this and laughs. “We’re having so much fun with this magical disguise stuff, maybe it’s time for one of the ladies to pose as Belle? Maybe we can use that approach to lure Vanthus into where we need him, once we find him. I’m content to let the spell casters do their thing and I go back to old fashioned investigation and start hitting up bars and such in Shadowshore.

Seeker chuckles. “Well Arn, I think that makes some sense. Ladies, if that comes up, who would do best at imitating Belle?” He leans closer to the Dwarf, and says “And by the way, Moonscar and I have a dive that should suit you just fine. We were hanging out there while you were practicing putting on airs.” He ponders. “That might not be a bad place for us to start looking for these other folk. If the mages spellcrafting runs into trouble, I was figuring that would be our Plan B anyway.”

Those who look closely can see a mischievous gleam in Fortis’s eye. “I’m not sure we need endanger either of the ladies with that stunt. Arn can certainly appear as a woman. In fact, I seem to recall a good deal on lodging blossoming out of his femininity in the past. Occasionally illusion is about making something seem like a slightly different version of itself, but a gossamer is often useful to make something appear radically different from its true nature. Arn could be a naive tavern wench with delusions of marriage above her station. For that matter, he could also appear as a dyspeptic kobold or an overly ambulatory beer keg.” Fortis glances around at the assembled crowd. “Any one of you could be Belle. I could also ‘create’ a Belle and have her be our stalking horse in this potential misadventure. Speaking of which, have we decided what we are going to do once we manage to actually find Vanthus?” 

Valinya takes up the shirt and sings a brief seeking spell. Her hair swirls around as if blown by some gust of wind then drops limply across her shoulders. The sad look on her face informs everyone of her failure even before she speaks the words. Undeterred, Fortis flits over and lands on the table near the shirt. He then casts the same spell, though his fairy magic only requires a slight nod of his head and a few mouthed but unheard words. He then stamps his tiny foot down and crosses his arms, shaking his head.

The dwarf frowns seeing that there is no success from either of the spell casters.   “Am I correct in assuming that this means either Vanthus is dead, or perhaps out of range?” Arn looks around for an answer, and glances over at Seeker. “Looks like Plan-B may be the way to go.”

Seeker frowns at Arn’s analysis of the lack of success from the mages. “Or possibly, Arn, Vanthus is protected from our magic. I think that Fortis mentioned something like that when he sought visions in the vault.” He looks at the team. “If he’s smart enough to manage that, either by himself, or from some sort of magic item, or another spell slinger, we might want to start thinking about similar defenses. Val, Fortis, Silver, can you give that some thought?”

He clears his throat, a deep bass rumble. “Well, if it was easy, Lavinia wouldn’t need us, right?” He grins. “So, Plan B. Penkus and Wulda. We could head over to Shadowshore and just start asking around. Or are there other approaches we could take? Can you mages find one of them? Do you need a marked t-shirt, or is that optional?”

“It’s also an option to try and track down the gang he’s apparently in - the Sea Harpies. Messing with gangs is risky by nature, so I was kinda holding that back for Plan C.”

His ears perk up. “If we’re going with plan B and asking around for Penkus or Wulda, Fortis, could you make it so we’re in disguise when we do that? So the same face is never asking for them twice? I’d rather we have the upper hand in these searches.” He frowns. “But we should have some way for them to contact us, but blind, y’know? They leave a message somewhere secure that we can access. Any ideas for that?”

The Ellylon grins. “Keeping one of you swathed in gossamer is a simple task. It gets more complicated the more of us I try to cover with the spell. A steady stream of single instances is much easier than a multitude of simultaneous castings.” He thinks for a minute. “As to the anonymous contact, why don’t we use a messenger service? Just have the interested party, either Penkus or Wulda, drop by a messenger post and fill in a ‘free’ message to the question asker. Have the scribe write it on bright red paper or something. That way, If we maintain a vigilant watch on the place we should be able to follow whoever claims to be Penkus of Wulda regardless of what the response is.”

“It is frustrating that Vanthus seems to be protected from scrying by some means, if he’s alive.  But hopefully we can have more success with finding the other two.  I’ll give the Seeker spell a try on Penkus first and see how that goes.  But maybe we should head over to Shadowshore so at least I’m closer … that will help with the success of the spell.  It will be challenging enough not really having seen him or having some object of his.  We could do the same for Wulda as well.”    

Silver has a bit of a confused look on her face.  “So what is wrong again with just asking around to find these people?  All of this Kyrie stuff seems pointless and a waste of time.”

Valinya again focuses her vision inward as she sings a seeking spell, this time with the name Penkus in her mind. Her hair swirls again then her eyes pop wide open and smile creeps across her face. “This one I was able to find!” she exclaims.

Fortis claps his hands. ”That is superb. Well, since it might be fatiguing to maintain that spell I would propose we seize the moment and go visit him right now.”

Arn looks over at Seeker and grumbles, “I had forgotten that someone mentioned before that Vanthus may have been protected from magics. That’s not my area of expertise. So it could be a possibility, just as he could be dead. We can hope that the bugger is still alive.”

Arn then looks over as Valinya has a moment of discovery. Arn smiles. No more waiting around.    “Yes, Fortis is right, we need to move on this now and not waste any more time.”

Looking back to Seeker Arn suggests, “Lad, if we have to go back to plan B, either way, I think that I should remain visible in my natural form. No more disguises. I’ve been spotted in Azure district and I am distinct enough to stand out. Maybe if its difficult for us to find these slugs, perhaps they can come looking for us? Disguising the rest of you, or at least you Seeker,  may be an option. No one has really seen us together as a group in any form of consistency except in this area and the docks. Maybe we can use that to our advantage. I have no issues about being the bait to lure in an attacker.”    

Finally, a Break!

“Well, actually it’s not a spell I maintain; I just know where he is.  However the need remains for expediency as he might decide to relocate.  So, from here at the Fox and Hound we should head out northwest across the harbor to a place called Parrot Island. I can show you a place there where he is.  I should warn us that we will have to go down through a dark tunnel to an underground area so we need to be prepared.  I suggest that we leave very soon and on the way over we can discuss some ideas about how we want to proceed with handling the situation.  
Parrot Island, known for its many parrots and being an island.

Seeker is already standing by the door, eyes bright. “Okay, then, let’s get going! I know the way - we just have to get to Shadowshore and then it’s just a hop-skip-and-jump to the island!” He already has his weapons and satchel, and has grabbed an extra chicken thigh “for the road.”

Silver pauses for a moment after Seeker’s description.  “Wait, what?  Isn’t that going to involve us backtracking?”  Silver compares notes, and points out a problem in Seeker’s directions.

Fortis starts moving towards the door. “There was mention before about sending someone along in disguise. Is there anyone among you, my friends, who would like to be shrouded in a gossamer to maintain anonymity or to surprise our supposed opponent?”

“I’ll pass, thank you.  I like being me,” Valinya says.

Seeker shrugs. “It was my idea, so I’d be up for it. Maybe a big, ugly…”, he glances at Fortis, “male Human? Someone who can draw attention if need be away from the rest of you?”

Arn nods at the suggestion between Seeker and Fortis.   “Either way, something deceptive could prove a nice ‘Alpha Strike’ surprise if they perceive you to be something you’re not.   I would suggest more of a smaller, slender, dirty human thug type, something less conspicuous.   We may even have to revisit the Vanthus disguise another time down the road too, as it could come in handy if needed.   Say we find him imprisoned or something, I could run down a hallway, making them think he escaped, while the rest of you pull off the actual rescue.   Just a thought anyway.     Let’s get moving!”

Arn picks up his shield, secures his weapons on his harness and grabs a light travel pack with some equipment in it (Grappel, rope, first aid kit, 6 candles and matches, mallet and 6 spikes.) since they may be going under ground.

Make-overs and Moral Dilemmas 

ugly.jpgBarely suppressing a giggle Fortis agrees to  I’ve got an idea for a distraction or to change Seeker’s appearance “I’m pretty sure I can make that happen. Let’s start with the basics shall we? Human, Male, Big, Ugly; That’s easy.” Seeker is quickly replaced by a gangly figure that appears to be more human than anything else. The scabby complexion and horrid dentistry combine with a vapid stare to make it appear as though the progenitors of this pathetic ‘man’ had some long kept dark secret about what grandmother was really doing with those goblins in the woodshed. Seeker’s fur becomes a wild and unkempt mane of facial, nostril and ear hair that appears to invite colonization by smaller members of the order rodentia, or perhaps approach the verge of sentience itself.

Meanwhile the crooked back and awkward looking limbs barely concealed by ragged and dirty clothing make the unfortunate individual almost painful to observe. To those who were with Fortis in Lorn and who have an eye for facial features this poor man appears to be related to the wizard Embriel, at least, he would appear that way if Embriel were to fall out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down while simultaneously being partially affected by some race changing spell gone horribly awry in the hands of a psychotic Coyle too fond of his homebrewed potions. Layering in a few extra touches to ‘appeal’ to other senses and further flesh out the illusion Fortis waves his hand and the disgusting creature standing where Seeker used to be becomes decidedly flatulent and releases a trumpeting fart that puffs out the back of his torn pants. Anyone who is surprised by this event enough to look not only detects the piquant aroma of ill digested rotting fish and moldy cabbage but can also see a brown stain making its way down one tattered pant leg. “Well, is that ugly enough to meet your expectations? Are you appropriately dressed? Do you have any preferences for different features?” 

Seeker sighs. “No Fortis, your penchant for ugliness as always exceeds my expectations, and good taste. It was my mistake to ask for it. Your eagerness to embrace it may have caused you to lose sight of the whole point, which was to have a disguise to ask questions and interact with folk. With this image, I am not sure if I will be allowed into any establishment at all. In the interests of the mission, can you dial it back to ‘unattractive’? And get rid of the flatulence and other aromas. You noseblind never get those right anyway.”

stabbington.jpg“Of course I can adjust it. Hold on just a moment”. The figure shifts becoming muscular and imposing rather than revoltingly ugly. The figure presented by the new disguise looks like it could be a bouncer or underworld enforcer of some kind, the sight of which should cause the hindbrain to start screaming at the rest of the observer's personality not to mess with this person. The new disguise is much better dressed, like a well paid professional predator and the foul odor is completely absent, replaced by a testosterone heavy musk with just a hint of stale human blood.

Silver suggests that traveling by boat would be the quickest and easiest way to get to Parrot Island and would bypass the Shadowshore entirely, as well as all the streets, gates and guards in between here and there. She then adds that flying would actually be the quickest and easiest way to get there, then smiles at her landlocked companions. 

The smug Ellyl smirks at his own handiwork and continues to dispense snark. “Well SIlver, while flying is the preferred mode of travel and our newly ensorceled friend may appear like the winged monkey henchman of an evil witch I am certain he cannot actually fly. We will need to be more accommodating to our poor landbound companions.” He moves further along as he converses with SIlver. “I do like your suggestion about a more direct route however. Does anyone else think we should opt for directness and speed over the more … thorough … route previously proposed?”

Silver nods “Although do we really want to hire a boat to take us there? Asking a boatman to take you there is sort of like announcing you have business with smugglers.  I wonder when Lavinia will get her ship back, that has launches on it.  Or maybe...  Fortis, are you able to conjure up a boat and oars for us?”

Fortis shakes his head “while the theoretical answer to your question is ‘yes, I could make a boat and oars’ the practical answer is that it would be far too expensive except in some kind of extreme emergency.” The Ellyl hold up the fingers of one tiny hand not very far apart at all. “Small things are easy, but things large enough to hold this entire group are heavy, especially if they have to be durable enough to withstand some kind of travel abuse without dumping most of you into the bay. That reminds me, are there any of you who can’t swim? Not that it really matters since I don’t think I should build you all a boat anyway. Back to the topic at hand though, It is probably better to hire a boatman who is willing to swear an Oath to not say anything about us or where he takes us than it is to try building or buying a boat.”

“One of these days I am going to have to find a spell that can move us all along easily … flying craft of some sort, a mass fly spell … something.  I could probably work something out but really why take a chance with spells when we have mundane means.  Though I am loathe to use a boat, perhaps the is, in the end, easiest.  I’m sure hireable boatmen have business enough with people heading over and probably are wise enough to keep their clients’ identities to themselves.  If nothing else we could use a little mind magic to, um, use their boat while they think about nothing at all.  You know, one minute you’re waiting around the dock and the next thing you know you’re at a different dock.  But really, I don’t think anyone would be that interested in caring whether an eclectic group like us wants to go to Shadowshore.  Just business as usual.  

The Ellyl shakes his head. “There are a few less intrusive and more consensual methods than that” he spreads his arm in a placating manner. “Of course you should do as you wish, but it seems a bit heavy handed when we can allow him to take a voluntary Oath. It would still carry the weight of compulsion, but allow the recipient a choice in the matter. After all, it's not as though we have a shortage of water transportation options available to us in this port town. ” Fortis turns towards the recently reimaged Wolfen. “Seeker, do you have any opinion on this matter that you would consider adding to the discussion?”

Seeker scowls. “Not that I really believe you are interested in my opinion, Fortis, but I’ll humor you. I think using your mind magics on a harmless boatman is wrong. How much extra were you going to pay him to gain his consent to undergo your spell?” Seeing Fortis’ confused expression, he continues. “I’m curious. How much is another sentient’s free will worth to you? How much is yours worth to you? I’ve got 50 gold right here, right now, for you, if you’ll take an Oath never to try to magically control someone else’s mind.”

“No? Didn’t think so. How ‘bout instead I use five gold and rent us a boat?”

Fortis looks a bit confused at the response. “The concern was not whether or not we could hire a boat, but rather what information the boatman would divulge afterwards and to whom. That seems like an answer to a different question. For clarity, the one I was actually asking you opinion on was, Is it preferable to have someone take an Oath willingly and enforce it magically rather than compel them to take an action without their consent. I don’t think Valinya was proposing to rob the boatman, but instead guarantee his discretion.  I intended to ask you a moral question rather than an economic one, but since you asked. The value is clearly dependent on the identity of the sentient. Yours free will is worth more than a stranger’s, for example. And an innocent’s volition is worth more than an enemy’s. There is no universal value to free will. I do agree with your proposition to go rent a boat. That seems like a good idea. ”

Seeker sighs. “Missed the point completely, not that that’s a surprise.I’ll go get us a boat.” The big burly Human wanders ahead to secure transport for the trip to Parrot Island.

Arn listens to the exchange.    “Hmmm,I thought we wanted to draw attention to  ourselves.    Oh well, so be it.    Assuming that the island isn’t too far, I should be able to operate a small boat well enough to get us where we need to be going.”  

Arn secures his equipment and tugs and tightens his straps and harnesses once more, he indicates that he is ready to head out for the next step in the adventure.  

Seeker returns a short time later with the news that he has rented a suitable boat. He leads his companions to a nearby canal and they start to pile into the low, wide watercraft. It's clearly not a fishing vessel and looks more like a raft than a boat but it appears seaworthy enough. A couple paddles and poles lay in the bottom of the little barge and Seeker takes one up and begins pushing the craft through the dark waters of Essanos. 

Arn and Seeker manage to pole the craft through the canals and then paddle their way across the narrow expanse of harbor between the Merchant District and the Shadowshore. The small island rises up ahead of the craft, dark and quiet. The wind can be heard blowing through the trees that cover the island. An occasional bird chirp is heard but most of the noisy birds that call the island home are sleeping. The lights of the Champions District can be seen behind and above the island, looking down over the entire harbor and the raucous sounds of the Shadowshore are easily heard. 

Valinya says the path her spell showed her began near the middle of the island and the two boatmen guide the craft there. It would appear that the shore of Parrot Island is just far enough away from the Merchant District that no one should notice their activity in the dark unless they were specifically looking and the main bulk of the island blocks all view from the Shadowshore.

The companions climb off the skiff and onto the moist sand of a narrow beach. Dark trees loom overhead, leaning out towards the edge of the water. The sound of birds is more noticeable now. Seeker and Arn pull the boat up onto the sand and lash it to a nearby rock.

Cast of Characters: 

+Arne Jamtgaard plays Seeker, a teenage Wolfen Warlord
+Ben Zittere plays Fortis, an Ellyl trickster and Mage
+Stephen Kolmetz plays Valinya, an Elven Wildsong Mage
+Mike Biancone plays Arn, a surly Dwarven Warrior
+Amergin O'Kai plays Moonscar, the esoteric Kankoran Druid
+Daniel White plays Silver, a young and curious Dragon
and +Jason GURPS as the GM

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