"I wonder if that was from the pastrami rueben I had yesterday?"

Monday, October 10, 2016

Saint Mel of Freidvale

The life of Melrose of Freidvale does not appear worthy of sainthood at first glance.  He was a scribe, a seventh son of the Lord Yuntoth Malbork, who as such had little hope of an inheritance or a landed title, so he ted to enter the priesthood of Saranae in the seminary at Hartgestein at the age of 18 in the year 206 Y.L.  He was rejected as a postulant (hopeful priest in the service of the temple) for his refusal to engage in combat or to handle any sort of a weapon.  He is reported as having refused in a rather disastrous fashion, throwing his mace behind him which happened to strike the Archbishop of Hartgestein as he was passing by on a visitation.  As Mel was a noble's son, he was relegated to the role of temple scribe rather than banished from the faith entirely, as even an Archbishop will think twice before crossing a lord of Malbork.  He was sent to the city of Freidvale, miles from Hartgestein, where it was expected he would toil at making copies of holy texts in anonymity until the day he quietly retired from the clergy.

Mel did toil as a scribe for some time, though the years were not quiet.  His superiors were continually vexed with his production.  The young scribe was slow, sloppy, and perpetually made errors that had to be rewritten.  Neither was he well liked by his fellow scribes, who often played pranks on him, such as filling his inkwell with skunk essence or booby-trapping the outhouse so that it collapsed when he sat down on it. 

This ignominy did not deter faithful Mel.  He continued on at his labors, taking derision in stride as his due.  When his Father Superior could not shame the young scribe into leaving of his own accord, he decided to take matters to hand directly.  Mel was given an ultimatum - copy an 200 page holy manuscript of Saranae's teachings in 10 days time or face expulsion from the order.  While this was humanly possible for an ordinary scribe, for a person of Mel's limitations they might as well have asked him to fly from Freidvale Abbey to the Capital and back in two days.  Mel resolved to try, nonetheless.

In what was for him a superhuman effort, Mel slept only four hours a day, ate very little, and wrote every waking minute for the next 7 days.  When it was discovered that he had nearly completed his task ahead of time, the other scribes put their heads together and hatched a plan.  On the 8th day of his trial when Mel made his way from the tower spire to his living quarters, carrying the completed manuscript pages, his quill, and his bottle of ink, one of the scribes contrived to trip him in passing, sending the manuscript, the ink, and Mel tumbling down the stairs.  The results were predictable.

Mel was devastated.  All he had wanted was to serve Saranae in whatever capacity she saw fit.  Rewriting his work was quite literally impossible now, with only a night and two days left.  He prayed to Saranae that night to show him the way, and fell fast asleep at his cot for several hours. 

When he awoke, from a dream he could never later recall, he found a quill in his hand that seemed to burn like fire in the morning sunlight, and there were manuscript pages under his face.  In astonishment, Mel looked over the work beneath him and found the holy book had been copied perfectly, in his own handwriting, no less!  He set the quill down and ran to the Father Superior to report the miracle that had happened.  The Father was no less astonished, nor was he pleased.  He accused Mel of using arcane magic (an accusation made more ridiculous by the fact that Mel showed no aptitude for magic of any kind) and demanded he reproduce the feat with witnesses by his side day and night.  Mel, of course, could not refuse his Superior, and, though he was by now exhausted, assented once again.

On the very first night, Mel again fell fast asleep at his desk, as did his witnesses shortly afterward.  When the three awoke, the another copy of the manuscript, in Mel's shaky handwriting, had been completed.  The Father Superior ordered the room scanned for magic, and the quill that had appeared overnight in Mel's hand glowed brightly - it was of artifact level.  When asked how he had come by it, Mel explained his story yet again, and no amount of attempts to divine lies would prove that he was not telling the truth.  The quill was confiscated as an unholy thing (even though it was identified as having a holy aura) and locked away in side a secure chest and sent by carriage back to Hartgestein for study by arcanists.  Mel was ordered to copy the book once more, this time with the Father Superior watching and having cast protection from evil over the study in advance.  Once more Mel fell asleep, as did the Father Superior some time after midnight.

When the two awoke, the Father Superior roared in anger.  The book had been copied in his sleep... all over his face and hands.  Every inch of his skin bore Mel's handwriting of the holy words of Saranae.  To make matters worse, Mel held the fiery quill that had been sealed and sent away in his hand.  It is said that the two had to be separated then and the Father's hands pried from around Mel's neck.  The poor Father Superior never recovered from his shock and rage over this event, and he had to be committed to a home for the irretrievably insane and the infirm for the rest of his years. 

The writing is said to have never faded from his skin.

The matter of Mel's three miracles (so they have been declared some time ago) was thoroughly investigated by the Bishop, but none could reach any conclusion other than that Saranae had intervened directly on the part of the poor hapless scribe.  Mel was invited to rejoin his studies for the priesthood once more, which he declined.  He spent his days copying texts with the Holy Quill, sometimes in his sleep, and his writing grew more beautiful with each passing year.  Holy texts copied in the hand of saint Mel are believed to bring healing and long life to the bearer.  The Holy Quill itself was buried with him beneath a small chapel outside of Freidvale, not far from his abbey.  No one has attempted to separate the quill from its rightful bearer since.  Saint Mel is the patron saint of patience, endurance, and divine intervention in the face of insurmountable odds.  An order of priests known as the Mellites sprang up shortly after his canonization, a band who refused to use weapons, quite unusual for followers of Saranae.  Vestiges of the order still exist in scattered monasteries throughout the western half of the empire.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Freidvale Politics and Religion

The Church of Abadar is still recognized as the official religion of the Western Empire (renamed "The Glorious Human Empire" by Emperor Channyk 3 years ago).  Abadar is the god of the wealth and order brought about by civilization.  While churches to Abadar are still present in all major Imperial cities, it is also well known that since Channyk became emperor, he instituted an order of Inquisitors who drew power from Asmodeus, ruler of the nine hells and prince of archdevils.  While devil worship is not officially sanctioned or promoted by the current emperor, neither is it discouraged.  Another practice adopted since Channyk's reign began is the appointment of an ambassador to hell in every major city.

Freidvale, the third largest (living) city in the Western Empire, is no exception to this rule.  Gorgio, the Bishop of Freidvale, is the head of all religious activity in the city, but he has seen his influence in politics diminish with the appointments of Inquisitor Levitard, who now acts as judge and executioner in the city, and Lord Malrond, the Freidvale ambassador to Mammon, the archdevil presiding over the 3 layer of hell.  The Inquisitor now handles legal issues previously handled by Gorgio, while financial matters relating to taxation that fell under Gorgio's domain now fall to Lord Malrond.

This new state of affairs has put a serious dent in the Church of Abadar's considerable coffers, much to the displeasure of the High Priest at Hartgestein and Bishop Gorgio (who makes no secret of his hopes to one day ascend to the office of High Priest himself).  The Bishop still has immense resources at his disposal, not the least of which is a rather large network of spies throughout the city, and he has been working to disparage if not outright disgrace the new Ambassador at every turn.  For his part, Ambassador Malrond has seemingly decided to turn a blind eye to the Bishop's machinations at this time,focusing on securing his newfound power and increasing his growing influence over Lord Fatsbury, the Duke and ruler of Freidvale (in the emperor's name, of course) and head of the butcher's guild.

Other major players in Freidvale include Lord Bartemeus, ambassador to the nation of White Plains; Lord Weitung, a young aristocrat and heir to a wealthy family; Captain Skarros, the commander of the Imperial forces at Fort Freidvale, and Chief Constable Ma, head of the police force.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Talk to the Hand, Session 2 report

June 25th

The party decided to stay at Fong's house for the night, having escorted him home safely.  He agreed to escort them through the castle in the morning to give them a list of other known Werbergians over the age of 60 to aid in the party's investigations.  The night was uneventful, and everyone survived without acquiring a black hand print.  Vocifera cast comprehend languages on some papers Fong had lying about his house, but it turned out to be bad poetry.  Brog did not believe that the documents were bad poetry, so Vocifera recited it to him.  All agreed that the poetry was bad.

Later in the morning, the group of bold adventurers made their way to the long stone walkway which was the only approach to Castle Freidvale.  After much discussion on what they should say at the front gates, the guardsman said to them, "You the ones here about the murders?  I'll get Fong."  And in they got.

Fong escorted them through the courtyard to the Alchemist's tower, the lower levels of which constituted the dungeon and a laboratory.  As they made their way down three levels they saw many strange sights.  First they saw the usual assortment of drunks and disorderlies making up the first level of the dungeon.  On the second level they saw a gnome in prison grey rags, his cell door wide open, working on a pile of assorted locks at his feet.  Though Fallister the Bard attempted to engage the gnome in conversation, the prisoner was too enthralled to look up from his work.  Fong explained, "That's Gnosh, the master locksmith.  He has something of an... unusual arrangement with the guards.  He was arrested when a lock he crafted failed to keep thieves out of the city payroll....  While the guards have to acknowledge that no cell can hold him, really, Gnosh had to concede he had no where to go even if he could outrun the guards (which he can't).  So Gnosh stays in his cell and works at improving the locks on the other cells all day.  We've had far fewer escapes since he arrived!"

The third level of the dungeon consisted of cells filled with what could only be described as 5' tall eggs with arms and legs and anthropomorphic features.  Someone from the party identified them as 'Eggmen', the offspring of an enormous 10' tall chicken-like creature called a bandersnatch.  The eggmen all looked quite miserable and listless, and they gibbered nonsense in a despondent tone.  The last cell held a bandersnatch, which certain members of the party who had the foresight to take Knowledge: Arcana knew were an endangered and protected species within the Empire, and possession of them was highly illegal.  Certain environmental rights activists groups would go crazy trying to liberate these creatures if they knew of their existence in the Freidvale Castle dungeon.  The party filed this information away for another time.

Lastly they came to the laboratory of Dr. James Jessup, the Chief Alchemist and Medical Officer for the castle.  There were many test tubes, beakers and smoking vials of liquid present, but by far the saddest sight they had seen that day was a horribly scared female humanoid lying on a lab table.  "Ah, fresh subjects!  And human, too!  You've done well, Fong."  "Oh no!"  said Fong, "These people are here regarding the murders in town."  Fong and Dr. Jessup disappeared through a door in the back of the lab for a moment.

During the good doctor's absence, the team quickly went to work.  Fallister attempted to read several documents on the table where the doctor had been working, while Tannis attempted to speak with the woman on the table.  "Are you alright?" she said.  "Mss...mss...mss.." was all the figure could manage to say.  She did not appear conscious.  Brog listened at the door where Fong and the Doctor were talking and heard, "You know how difficult finding live subjects is right now, particularly humans... Oh, very well."

Just then, Fong and Jessup returned to the room.  Fong escorted the group into a room filled with cadavers and gave them the list of the remaining Werbergians over 60 believed to be still living in the city limits.  I won't repeat the entire list here since I was told the names I generated might be construed as a touch insensitive.  Two of the people on the list, Why Mi and Why Not, could be found on the docks.  One was a monk who meditated while standing on a pylon and the other was a 60 year old prostitute.  While this raised eyebrows among the party, they were reminded that everyone had to make a living somehow.

On the way out of the castle, the group noticed several imperial ships in the harbor and a pair of underwater explosions.  Fallister and Karsh had Knowledge: Engineering and were quite sure the explosions were submerged and not the result of cannon fire.  Filing this under 'Odd situations to be ignored since we've got too many other things to do,' the group continued on.

They found Why Not meditating whilst standing on a pylon.  He wrote a note telling the group that he had taken a vow of silence.  They asked him where Why Mi was, and he pointed to a bundle of rags further up the street.

A rather uncomfortable bargaining session broke out over drugs for information with Why Mi.  Fallister used his skill at gathering local information to quickly procure the drug Harlot's Sweets.  He was also informed that he could get anything he liked at the Skinny Puppy Tavern.  The aged harlot said the killer wears red.  Why Mi also told the group that she knew the person the killer was looking for:  a retired monk named Oberon who fed street urchins what scraps he could.  He had a kitchen on Division Street where he also taught children martial arts to help them defend themselves. 

Just as Why Mi said this, the elderly monk on the pylon ran in the direction of Division St.  The party mercilessly beat the hapless old monk within an inch of his life, but failed to stop him.  Well, okay, they beat him with the flats of their swords and tried to knock him out, but this is still tantamount to beating an old man.  A very fast old man, but an old man nonetheless.  Fortunately the DM has not yet rolled a successful check for local law enforcement to notice these things. 

Brog tracked the blood back to Oberon's kitchen.  Oberon and Why Not prepared for their inevitable end....

It may have gone even worse, but the Bard managed to roll a natural 20 on a diplomacy check, and further violence was averted.  Oberon would agree to give the treasure the killer was looking for to the PC's.  In exchange, they would find Leif's sister Lithe, last seen in Freidvale's sewers, and grant them safety... somewhere.  Oberon did not fear for his own life, and cared nothing for treasure at his point in his life, but did not want the children to suffer should something happen to him. 

The party resolved to find Lithe.  They reluctantly entered the sewer.  The ranger Brog was a wealth of information about dangers of the sewer, specifically filth fever, a disease which was common among sewer dwellers and could be contracted by the bite of many animals and could also be had by dunking one's head in sewage. 

While the group successfully navigated the sewers without contracting disease, Fallister, the rather sickly bard, did get bitten by a rat.  Vocifera tried to cure disease with her skill at healing, but Fallister was not diseased.  It seemed the rat who bit him was a wererat, and so, too, would be Fallister in a few days time if he could not find a cure or cleric of sufficient level to cast remove curse on him.  The group resolved to settle the matter at hand and help poor Fallister later.

They did not proceed much further before several other wererats, in hybrid form, came a calling.  Their leader, a chainmail wearing wererat who identified himself as Jenner, offered to make the whole group wererats, showing them the dubious benefits of membership.  The group declined, but did pay a fee of 500gp for passing through the wererat's area of influence in the sewers.  The rats led the party to the edge of elven territory.  The plight of the sewer elves was truly pitiful, but Lithe was located and brought back to Oberon, poste haste.  Oberon gave the party a map to show his gratitude.  It was the location of the treasure sought by the Black Hand Killer.

On the road to the treasure, clever Brog found wolfsbane, the cure for the curse of lycanthropy.  Vocifera successfully administered doses of the cure a number of times, but Fallister could not make a Fortitude save to save his life.  Many ones, threes an fours were rolled, to the vast amusement of all but Fallister, who lost his breakfast, his lunch, and the caramel skinny latte he had had earlier that day, many times over. 

Mighty Brog swam underwater and found the entrance to the treasure,  20,000 GP and a mysterious deck of cards.  Fallister identified the cards as a Deck of Many Things, which had disastrous or beneficial effects depending on which card was drawn at random.  Wisely, no one drew from the deck.  The coins all bore the mark of a scorpion on them, and though none could pass a Knowledge History check, it was agreed that the coins were 'not from around here.'  The group agreed that the strange coins ought not be spent until more information on them could be gathered.

The group returned to Oberon with the plan to remove his disguise, parade him around the wharf a bit, and then lure the killer into a trap back at Oberon's kitchen.  Tanglefoot bags were purchased, plots were hatched, yawns were yawned, and the group adjourned until next session.

Each character gained 1250 xp, bringing their running total to 1750 each.  250 further xp is needed to reach level 2.