In the Temple of Calistria
The party awoke to find that Drael had absconded, leaving behind only a clumsy note that said he was conducting some secretive business, to trust him, and that he was doing it for the benefit of the whole party. Without any way to do anything about it the remaining party members continued about their business in the city, liquidating some items and purchasing any weapons or components they needed.
Vyktor, after his first successful attempt to scry on his mother and failure to contact her, resolves to try again the next day. His attempt is successful, and he is able to get what limited information she knows. Her captors have been very careful to limit what they tell her, but she’s been able to piece together that they want her, as high priestess of Calistria, to remove a seal on some kind of chest. Currently there are three seals remaining of the original nine: Calistria, Abadar, and Alion. Her prison seems to be part of the original Kharlin infrastructure with added wards to prevent detection from outside, which is why Vyktor had such difficulty scrying on her. They’ve also put her in manacles to prevent her spellcasting, and that one of her interrogators (none of which she has seen) sounded highly educated.
While this was going on, Ignomine decided to take a risk and go about the city to gather information. Kharlin isn’t the most hospitable to non-humans, but he was able to learn a few things. First, that the Kharlin military was in the process of eradicating the goblinoids in the area so that they could eventually march in force to Shivar. There were also rumors of some secret weapon or surprise attack in the works, though specifics were scarce. There was also word that the Order of Alion had recalled all its members in the city to the North, though for what reason was left unsaid.
Furthering their attempts to discover Vyktor’s mother’s whereabouts, Polycarp trailed the interrogator in Vyktor’s mission back to a guard shack. Unable to enter the heavily guarded structure, he executed a plan to disguise himself as a guard and infiltrate the complex while it was less busy. With a help from a Disguise spell from Vyktor, Polycarp easily deactivated the lock and the alarm on the door and roamed about the structure. Its only occupant was a lieutenant asleep in a side room; Polycarp deftly jammed the lock, then went about ransacking the evidence locker for jewels. His attempts to follow the interrogator’s path downstairs were stymied by a gate, however, and in his attempts to deactivate the gate he accidentally tripped an alarm. His forethought jamming the door was rewarded and he escaped before the boots upstairs arrived, and his burglary of the jewels gave an obvious motive for the break-in.
Seeking a new angle to try to find his mother’s location, Vyktor decided to scry on the interrogator seen in his vision. Using a sketch provided by Raven and description from Polycarp, his attempt located his target… but triggered some kind of magical defense. The scry failed, and alerted the target that an attempt had been made from the Temple of Calistria. The party immediately bailed, leaving Raven behind to observe. Thankfully Polycarp in his paranoia had already reserved rooms in a flophouse, so the party was able to relocate without too much difficulty. Some ten to fifteen minutes later the city guard and the military showed up and ransacked the place. All the remaining occupants (mostly acolytes of Calistria) were rounded up and the Temple closed and boarded shut.
Not long after that, a man in leather armor and carrying a sword began patrolling in the area immediately around the Temple, carring a sign that said “Ignomine”. Fearing a trap, Polycarp volunteered to go investigate. The man turned out to be wearing a slave collar and had been purchased by a “Vandelay”, then told to go into the service of a guy called Ignomine that would be somewhere around the Temple of Calistria. Still suspicious, Polycarp stole the scroll tube at his belt and dashed off – though not before more than two dozen archer guards popped up from the rooftops and managed to fill him full of crossbow bolts. In the safety of the room they discovered a standard slave contract and a note from Vandelay – but a hunch from Vyktor revealed that Drael’s original message, which had appeared clumsy at first glance, apparently spelled out “Vandelay” with the first letters of each line. With that reassurance, Ignomine returned to the slave (now talking with the guards) and explained that it was all a misunderstanding. The guards, though peeved that they had broken cover for what turned out to be a mistake, left them alone. The slave, who revealed his name to be Monte Crow, seemed enamored to finally meet Ignomine, who “Vandelay” had talked up quite a bit. “Is it true you really slew a dragon?” he asked in breathless awe. It took some time to explain Ignomine’s exasperated sigh.
After quite a bit of explaining to clear everything up, and Monte discovering that he might have been better off in the fighting pits or as a mining slave after all, the party decided to return to the airship for preparations. GS343, in discussions with Artas and Vyktor, work out a plan to use the infrastructure of the city to find Vyktor’s mother. It turns out that any registered citizen could be tracked while they were within the confines of the city. Since they knew that his mother was clearly near some original construction, they set about adding her to the registry. Unfortunately, without some of his mother’s blood or skin, they couldn’t add her directly, so they worked out a plan to add Vyktor and Raven and track her as a blood relative. One vicious stabbing of Vyktor, and a tiny self-inflicted droplet from Raven later, GS343 had the information to add them to the registry. However, they would have to access the infrastructure terminals directly to do any tracking, so the construct would have to go into the city in “person”.
A surprise came in the form of the dragon arriving and announcing that it too wanted to tour the city. Given its recent interactions with Ignomine the party was apprehensive, to say the least, but in the end decided to take the dragon with them. With the addition of GS343 this caused complications with being able to teleport everyone there, to say nothing of how obvious and distracting the two hangers-on would be. The solution turned out to be letting Raven teleport one group on behalf of Vyktor while he took the next one. GS343 revealed he could fold up to the size of a small box or chest, and the dragon (after some haggling) acquiesced to being stored in the bag of holding for the duration of the tour. Thankfully their selling spree earlier had left enough room to accommodate it, but just barely – there was definitely a fear that if the dragon succumbed to Vord influence while they were there, the party would be in serious trouble and potentially jeopardizing Vyktor’s mother and the rescue attempt.
The party (Artas, Ignomine, Polycarp, Vyktor, GS343, and dragon) teleported into a marketplace close to one of the walls late at night, and with the help of an Invisibility Sphere spell avoided attracting any notice in the deserted bazaar. GS343 directed them to one of the towers set into the wall, and the group made it stealthily past the two guards athwart the entrance despite Ignomine scraping noisily at the last moment. Several flights of spiral stairs down later, GS343 indicated one of the access terminals a short distance away, locked behind a portcullis. The dragon surprised everyone by revealing that this terminal was inactive, or at least had been the last time Vord had been here. Polycarp was able to find the portcullis controls with help from the construct, and interfacing with the terminal confirmed it was indeed not responding. Luckily GS343’s role was in maintaining infrastructure and repairing it would not be an issue, but it would require two hours worth of repairs. Polycarp lowered the portcullis, Vyktor cast Silent Image to hide their presence by the terminal, and the two hours passed uneventfully.
When it came time to locate Vyktor and Raven’s mother, GS343 continued to emphasize that he wasn’t sure he could even do it – but the party ordered him to soldier on, and with that, the construct attempted to locate her. Success! She was located in one of the sub-basements of what was known as the Mammartine Tower, what had once been used as a prison within the fortifications of the old city but was now in use as the College of Kharlin. This matched the description she had mentioned of an educated voice interrogating her.
Now came the issue of how to escape. Vyktor had exhausted most of his spells getting them there and remaining unobserved, so there was no way to get everyone out invisibly. Polycarp elected to sneak up, tap both guards on the shoulder, and then launch himself off into the darkness. The party followed as soon as the two guards were out of sight, only for the entire wall to light up and orders to halt echoed down from the ramparts. They dodged into an alleyway, and a sudden BOOM and the crackle of ozone revealed that the dragon had protected their retreat with a massive lightning strike. Presuming Polycarp had gotten away (he is rather good at protecting his own hide) the remaining three party members and two exotics tried to non-chalantly return to the flophouse… only to be stopped by a Kharlin military patrol of eight soldiers.
Knowing that in all likelihood they’d be detained and questioned, Vyktor summoned a swarm of black tentacles to restrain them, enduring several javelin strikes to continue casting through the pain. The dragon, for its part, launched another bolt of lighting at the leader. Artas then stepped up and, summoning his most fearsome aspect and commanding voice, ordered the soldiers to stand down or else be killed. Attacked, in the night, by only three strangers that had a dragon and summoned a swarm of black tentacles currently strangling and beating his soldiers, the lieutenant relented, Vyktor dismissed the tentacles, and the two groups swiftly went their separate ways.
Once back at the flophouse the group took a moment to recover. Vyktor made a Sending to Drael to inform him of their whereabouts and progress, and Drael responded that he’d meet up with them. Once there, he informed the party of his activities:
- He’d tried to find slaves that worked in the Keep, but had little luck
- He also took a tour of the College, and learned they had a high-security area
- He identified Ormal Ardem, an old aquaintance from the battle at the Ruins, as having access to this secret area
- He also learned the College was working on or repairing some kind of massive construct, possibly one like they’d discovered in the tunnels, possibly the weapon they were planning to use in the attack on Shivar.
Given this intelligence, the group thought it prudent to inform Gaius Cerris of what they had learned, using their Decanter of Endless Water and his signet coin in order to contact him and relay all that they knew. Now it was time to figure out how they would infiltrate the College and rescue Vyktor’s mother.