Episode 61: Madame Elethi's Ledger, Part I
As the party made ready to leave the manor and pursue their task of retrieving Madame Elethi’s ledger, the were greeted with the grisly sight of the corpse of the Brother Initiate of the Martial Order of Bahamut, which they had pushed outside the door and left overnight. Bloated and beginning to thaw after the effects of the Fist of the Storm’s supernatural blizzard, the party debated throwing it down the well. Worried that it might block their access to the Underdark, they decided instead to notify the head of the Order, Arminius, of the Initiate’s demise. Ara called on the ancestor spirit of Aleh Xa, residing in his quarterstaff, the send a message directly to the old warrior. She did so, but not before expressing great excitement at Ara having recovered the second of the five Fists of the Akiir, and urged him to pursue the third. Sirlius remarked on this, saying it seemed strange that Ara seemed to be working for Aleh Xa, rather than the other way around.
Magnus attempted to prop up the corpse in a manner of some dignity, with mixed results. As he did so, the party was approached by a wiry, dark-skinned human carrying a bag of carpenter’s tools: Migas, the labourer they had hired almost by accident a few days hence, to execute some repairs to the house. They greeted him, thanked him for coming and then described the effects of the curse that lay upon them, the manor, and anyone they come in contact with, and suggested perhaps he postpone his work for a few days. This, combined with Magnus’s fussing over a partially-thawed corpse was enough to send the terrified carpenter packing.
Their business seen to, the party made their way to the 4th Tier, there to find Madame Elethi’s Finishing School for Girls. As they walked, Whisper told the party what she knew of the enigmatic Elethi. The Finishing School was not a front, and was in fact a well-respected institution in the city, where the wealthy, or the would-be-wealthy, would frequently send their daughters to be taught the finer points of business, math, science and philosophy, as well as fencing, archery, and dance. To the criminal underworld, though, Madame Elethi was known primarily as a woman who trained assassins for hire: she did not take every job presented, but once she did, her reputation was for guaranteed execution. This much at least the party new already, having recently defeated a party of Shadow Dancer assassins making an attempt on Keen’s life.
Since they knew next to nothing about Madame Elethi’s habits, they decided to try and infiltrate the Finishing School. They considered and rejected several potential plans, including attempting to present Yuna in disguise as Whisper’s ward, seeking enrollment or bluff their way into a meeting with Elethi to claim the bounty on Keen. In the end, they decided on attempting to try and sneak in via the Dwarven Catacombs, a labyrinth of tunnels carved into the Redfall Mountains themselves by the Dwarven architects of Uman, and known to the party thanks to Sabetha’s use of them when leading them to a secret entrance to the Pashtum Bank some weeks before.
Knowing nothing about the catacombs themselves or where an entrance might be located, the party was not optimistic about their chances. However, mere moments after Keen began a search of the outskirts of the city, Sirlius pointed out a door of hammered brass set into the stone, almost entirely obscured behind boulders and trees. The door proved to be locked not with an ancient Dwarven puzzle lock as Keen had expected given its pedigree, but with a modern, complex mechanism that took some time to pick. This implied the door, and the dark tunnels that lay beyond it, were in current use.
The party ventured into the catacombs, searching for a way into Madame Elethi’s Finishing School. Together they searched the tunnels, relying on all their talents to deduce a route to their goal. It was Magnus who first set them on the path, remembering his time as a young noble in the city sneaking out of his parents' estate to make his way to the brothels on the 4th; Keen’s investigative talents and Ara’s perception helping also. After some time they approached a junction with no obvious clue for how to continue. Whisper searched for clues in the dust, but accidentally triggered an arrow trap. Yuna noticed the remains of a blood trail, and the party followed it, thinking perhaps it was left by a wounded assassin returning to her lair.
The party progressed a while longer, but found themselves turned around and hopelessly lost. In frustration, Whisper suddenly yelled, “Parkour” and lept, making a quick wall run before swinging off a sconce under the lower tunnel ceiling. The scone snapped under her weight and for a moment it seemed she would land without grace, but she deftly twisted into a 3-point landing facing the party. As they applauded her performance, she looked past them to realize that the tunnel behind them held a faint shimmer of torchlight; they had found their way to the catacombs beneath the School.
The tunnel ended at the shore of a dark body of water in a vast cavern, the eerie silence punctuated by slow drips from stalactites high above. Dotting the surface of the water were a series of foreshortened stalagmites, their tops leveled into smooth stepping stones, just visible in the flickering light of torches flanking the tunnel.
Keen picked up a small rock and threw it out into the water. The surface immediately erupted in a roiling, frothing mass as hundreds of large rats thrashed about where the rock had disturbed the pool for several seconds, before settling under the surface once more. Disturbed by this, the party elected to try to sneak their way across the trail of stalagmites. After several tense, silent minutes they succeeded, and alighted on the far edge of the water.
Their path continued into another Dwarven tunnel, but after a few dozen feet ended in a T-junction. In the center of the wall before them stood a heavy door of petrified wood, its iron bands oxidized with age. Across the door a heavy iron bar was secured with thick chains, clearly designed to keep something out of the tunnels. Taking this as good advice, the party decided to leave the door alone and continue. However, before they moved on Keen banged his fist repeatedly on the door; a resounding BOOM echoed through the tunnels. Nothing seemed to respond, however, and with admonishing looks towards the rogue the party continued, taking the left passage.
The party soon found their way blocked by an iron grate set into the stone across the entirety of the tunnel; gentle running water could be heard behind the bars just a few feet down. Magnus attempted to dislodge or bend the old bars, but without success, to they backtracked to the right-hand passage. This passage led not to an iron grate but a narrow stone bridge built over a canal of running water about four feet below. Carefully, they crossed the bridge and approached a turn in the tunnel. As Magnus poked his head around the corner, Whisper heard a muffled yelp from Yuna at the rear of the party, and turned just in time to see the young Aasimar lifted off her feet and pulled off the bridge, disappearing from view over the water.
Whisper rushed back to the bridge and saw Yuna struggling against two black-clad figures dragging her along the ceiling some 10 feet above the water, in the direction of a window ledge set into a stone wall over the canal. Whisper raised her voice in alarm as one of the attackers, a pale-skinned, young woman with red eyes distended her jaw, revealing long fanged incisors, and plunged them into Yuna’s neck.
The party attacked, Ara and Keen launching attacks from the bridge, while Whisper cast waterwalking on the party, lept off the bridge and raced towards the attackers, flinging a dagger. The blade flung true, but the damage was limited, and she watched in horror as the Vampire Spawns wounds immediately began to close as it fed. The second Spawn raked its claws across Yuna, digging under her chainmail and increasing its grip. As this happened, dozens of undead rats burst from the water all around Whisper, biting and tearing into her flesh.
Sirlius cast spider climb on Magnus, who raced up the wall and onto the ceiling to engage the two Spawn. Yuna, momentarily panicked, recovered enough to attack the feeding Spawn with a burst of radiant energy. It broke off its bite and shrieked in pain, the divine energy burning its flesh into ash. A series of vicious broadsword attacks from Magnus felled the creature, which fell to the canal in front of Whisper. The running water burned the corpse like acid; in a matter of seconds it was gone.
The remaining spawn lost its grip on Yuna, who like the dead spawn fell the short distance to the canal water below…
Skill Challenge Success Rating: 75%
Doors Left Well Enough Alone: 0/1
Vampire Content Levels: Rising
RP Rating: Awesome!