Frog Hat Club

The ongoing adventures of a group of new D&D players in their first game

Episode 65: The Instruments of Debt

Sabetha quickly approached the tower and entered without invitation, greeting the party with a silent, expectant look. Whisper produced Madame Elethi’s ledger, and passed it over. Taking it, Sabetha commented in her odd telepathic voice that she almost couldn’t believe it: the party has against all probability slain Madame Elethi, an ancient and powerful vampire that has held the political world of Uman under her thumb for centuries, and here in her hands she holds the proof.

Sirlius asked why Sabetha was so surprised, since retrieving the ledger was precisely what Sabetha asked them to do. The shadow dancer almost smiled, and explained that she actually had no interest in the ledger at all; she simply wished to see what would happen if the party was ever in the same room as Elethi. “I needed an excuse to put you together. At best you would provide some distraction or irritation for Elethi. Most probably you would be slain, enslaved, or turned. That would have been fine also. But this!” Sabetha’s surprised and almost manic laughter echoed through the party’s minds. “I never thought you’d actually destroy her. In fact, if I did, I could never have put you in her path.” Sabetha went on to explain that the terms of her servitude to the vampire prohibited her from directly challenging Madame Elethi.

The party, somewhat nonplussed by this admission, defended their ability to this rather low opinion. Sabetha regarded them with undisguised surprise. “You really don’t know what you’ve done, have you?” She quickly explained that by slaying the elder vampire, the party had unwittingly caused a night of terror in Elethi’s tower. The vampire spawn that were held in her thrall had run amok and slain everyone in the tower, including not only the staff and students of the school that had been present but also the attendees of the formal dinner being held. In the chaos, several extended members of Uman’s ruling merchant families at the dinner had been torn apart before the city watch arrived. The guards first on the scene were quickly overwhelmed, and it wasn’t until the arrival of Bartok Brescht himself and his elite guard that the undead monsters were destroyed.

This news silenced the party briefly, but seemed to corroborate the news Reva Soonrop had related to them the previous night. Sirlius and Magnus attempted to pursue the matter, but Sabetha paid little attention as she looked more closely at the ledger. “It’s encoded!” she declared, filling the party’s minds with shocking Infernal profanities. Yuna and Sirlius traded shocked looks. “Wait, I know this cipher here. It’s a simple code Elethi’s Wards use to trade simple messages. This list… yes, I’m here, do you see?” She held up the ledger, pointing to a page that quite unknown to Sabetha the party had already decrypted themselves. “I bet these numbers are a combination.”

“A combination?” Sirlius asked. “Isn’t that a little obvious?”

“The thing about people who buy expensive security systems is they stop thinking about security.” Sabetha stood suddenly. “I need to get into that vault.”

“Vault?” Keen perked up.

“Elethi’s chambers connect to a vault where she keeps all the special gear available for the Wards who take on special missions. Scrolls, artifacts, weapons, potions, gear, whatever is needed to get the job done.” She continued speaking as she cleared a space of clutter on the floor around her. “If you want to tag along, fine. But I won’t be responsible for your safety. And if you jeopardize mine, I will kill you myself.”

The party debated whether they should return to the tower so soon after having made their escape, and with Brescht and his Watch still on the grounds. But as Sabetha stepped into her completed teleportation circle and disappeared, the promise of riches was too alluring and Keen leapt after her. The rest of the party quickly followed, and in an instant they found themselves in a small, dimly-lit room. Sabetha watched the party arrive. “We’re in a chamber beyond the kitchens, which leads to the basement stair. We head down, pass the chambers of the spawn, and into Elethi’s chambers. I believe you must know the way? Be quick. Be silent.” With that, she quietly opened the door and melted into the shadows of a long passageway.

Whisper cast Pass Without Trace on the party, and they made to follow the assassin. A grim and horrific scene awaited them: the kitchen staff had been torn apart and partially eaten. Blood and viscera coated the walls. Ara looked for survivors, but it was clear the vampire spawn had done their work well.

Following Sabetha the party arrived in Elethi’s chambers, far below the tower. The shadow dancer stood staring at a small chamber with a Dwarven puzzle lock and very obvious spike traps awaiting anyone who fails to unlock the mechanism correctly. Keen, who briefly investigated the chamber the last time he was here explained the lock included a component that responded to sound. This illicited more telepathic profanity from the mute tiefling before turning to address Keen directly: “If you help me… I will owe you.”

The party briefly discussed the request, which clearly had cost the woman. They decided to help, and Whisper, recognizing the danger in the Dwarven trap, volunteered to risk the mechanism to protect her friends. Using the numbers from Elethi’s ledger associated with Sabetha’s entry, she prepared the lock, and then, in perfect mimicry of Elethi’s voice, she announced the name “Sabetha!” and pulled the lever.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen, but then the floor of the small circular chamber began to slowly descend, and Whisper with it, some 15 feet to another small chamber. With Magnus, still fighting exhaustion of his difficult night, holding a rope, the party descended to follow their Kenku friend. Sabetha misty stepped directly into the chamber. A second Dwarven security system greeted them: the chamber floor was tiled with a grid of dwarven letters and numbers, and a bit of doggerel poetry bolted to the wall gave the clues: a single path across the chamber floor would see the party safely across. An anti-magic system would discourage arcane practitioners from attempting to bypass the floor.

Sabetha was further irritated by this, frustrated anew with the erstwhile Vampire. The party puzzled over the hinting, but it took Whisper only minutes to crack the code: a stylized lightning bolt carved next to the poem showed the path, and the poem itself revealed the start and end position. She carefully but quickly moved across the floor. Sabetha and the others followed.

On the far side of the room was a small chamber similar to the one they descended before, but this one had a small stone plinth in the centre, atop which floated a tiny glass vial. The vial contains a few drops of dried blood. Sabetha snatched it and pocketed it away, with a telepathic sigh of satisfaction. “I’m free,” she said. “Now, let’s go shopping!”

The party followed her into the final chamber: Madame Elethi’s private vault. Three large wooden shelves stood before them, flush against the wall, covered in a variety of rare, magical items. Sabetha reached forward to pick up an amulet on one shelf. Instead, her hand disappeared into the illusory shelf and with a sucking breath pulled her charred, blackened fingers quickly back. With a final Infernal swear, Sabetha declared she was done with Elethi, done with this Vault, and done with Uman. She turned and strode out of the vault.

The party spent a few minutes investigating the shelves. Sirlius, using detect magic, realized that not only were the shelves a Major Image, behind each image was a planar eruption of bizarre construction: three razor-thin intersections of Elemental Planes, Lightning, Ice and Fire cover the true shelves. Sirlius reached through the Elemental Plane of Fire and grasped a random item: a wand. Whisper too found a wand, which she playfully waved through the air, accidentally casting a spell on Ara, whose face pulled into a rictus of a large, toothy smile.

While the party was investigating the vault, the exhausted and weakened Magnus, who had stayed in Elethi’s chambers intent on guarding the stairs, was surprised by the stealthy approach of a single vampire spawn that had escaped the guard. It attacked, sinking its fangs into the warrior. Magnus alerted the party via the risidium binding telepathy, and as he struggled against the create the party raced back through the subchambers to help their friend. Keen snagged a scroll case of some sort from the magical shelves before leaving the vault.

Ara practically flew across the trap floor and quickly scaled the tube to engage the spawn and help Magnus. Yuna soon followed with the help of Sirlius’s Spider Climb spell and cast Turn Undead on the monster.

Meanwhile, Keen, Sirlius and Whisper found themselves trapped at the bottom of a 15 foot tube. Whisper tried to climb onto Sirlius’s shoulders, but the tiefling warlock collapsed under the meager weight of the old kenku lady. As they struggled, Keen leapt and springing off Whisper’s shoulder with the dexterity of a natural acrobat summersaulted out of the tube, landing on his feet and engaging the vampire.

Acrobatics Level: S

Party Notoriety Rating: Increasing

Treasure Vault Status: Improbable

RP Rating: Awesome!