Ruphus Laro (A priest of St. Cuthbert)
Jenya Urikas (The acting high-priestess of St. Cuthbert)
Keygan Ghelve (A gnome locksmith; captured)
Mysterious Attacker (A strange creature; captured)
To aid the heroes in their quest, Jenya Urikas provided each character with a Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (CL 3; heals 2d8+3 hit points). In addition, she offered a 20% discount on all scrolls and potions purchased from the temple of St. Cuthbert.
Keygan Ghelve possessed a small gnome-sized dagger (1d3 base damage), a gnome-sized light crossbow (1d6 base damage), a magnifying glass, and a set of 12 keys that opened all the locks within his home. Additional searching of his home turned up a lockbox (containing 4 platinum, 126 gold, 150 silver, and 233 copper coins) plus numerous locks, books, and personal knick-knacks. A spellbook was found as well, in a trapped drawer.
The mysterious creature found upstairs in Ghelve's home carried only a rapier, a light crossbow (with 18 bolts) and a dark cloak.
From the journal of Rennilon
We dropped off the corrupted trainees to the City Guard. They were as helpful as officials anywhere. No desire to give us a list of other trainees that might be involved, no help with the description of their lady leader, and certainly no attempt to recognize any other pattern that could be useful. Perhaps, using my tricks combined with Toes' own, we could do something about that, but I am hesitant to take on the Guard just yet. We will consider that aspect of our investigation complete, or at least well and fully dead-ended.
Fortunately, Ruphus' acting superior at the Church of St. Cuthbert, one Jenya, could be counted to act out for Justice. One thing the Cuthbertians can at least always be counted on. Fortunately, this time their idea of justice and our own seem to coincide rather nicely. She considered our timely rescue of her subordinate to be 'heroic', though we got no information, so it seemed a bit anti-climatic to me.
Equally fortunate, the Church's interests in the Lantern Street Orphanage, and our villains untimely kidnapping of several orphans, have finally gotten the Church to act towards this Justice. Using some holy relic of bludgeoning (of course, it is St. Cuthbert after all), she cast a timely divination. The results turned out to be quite helpful.
The locks are key to finding them.
Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron,
But beware the doors with teeth.
Descend into the malachite 'hold,
Where precious life is bought with gold.
Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.
Typically cryptic for a divination, but it did reveal some useful clues. I recall from my readings that the Malachite Hold described a former dwarven fortress beneath the abandoned Gnomish community of Jezirune (will have to check some books on the proper spelling for this), which was indeed below Cauldron proper. Pretty straight forward, and as I also recalled, the last known entrance to said Hold was located in a building which is currently being utilized by a gnomish locksmith, one Keegan Ghelve, by name. That seems to fit the first line rather admirably.
Thus, after a brief reverie we set out to question our honorable locksmith fellow. The Church saw fit to detail Rufus to accompany us, ostensibly to assist, though equally likely to keep an eye on the two of us. We were also joined by another former orphan, an old friend from our own orphanage days, Eris. This is of course, something of a mixed blessing. Though he's certainly intelligent, as most elves are wont to be, he tends to let his blades think before engaging his mind on occasion...namely most occasions.
We entered Ghelve's shop, two doors down from the Bluewater Academy, fronting the alley between Lava and Magma Avenues, shortly after he opened the next morning. The aforementioned Gnome was surly, but polite as we entered and fanned out. I nodded to Toes to let him know to take the lead on the questioning, a technique we had often employed when I wanted someone's attention off myself, and I inspected the pipes, keys and locks on the outer walls. Eris stalked over towards the wall of keys, looking nothing like a customer, and more like a hired thug, then again he looked the same taking tea. Rufus just looked uncomfortable. I rolled my eyes, subterfuge was not going to be a strong party trait with this group.
It got even better when Toes opened up with "We hear you have an entrance to Jezirune?" (It occurs to me that my assessment of Elven intelligence may be based on personal bias and not concrete evidence)
I'm pretty sure I missed the tell-tale pause of guilt Toes mentioned later by slapping my forehead in frustration. As the gnome merchant began to get hostile and defensive I began talking to Eris about the locks. Adjusting my speech and gestures to calmly get off a Charm Person. Again, Eris is smart, despite his bloody-mindedness, and he pretended to hold up his side of the conversation.
I felt the spell reach out for the gnome, and, unusually, I felt a strong resistance and minor magical backlash as the strong-willed merchant easily shrugged it off. This was surprising, I rarely encounter such resistance, and such was his will that he was even aware that magic had been used. He scanned us all quickly, ordering us from his shop.
Eris responded first, even while Toes tried mumbling some excuses. Our Elven friend walked quite casually around the counter, which had a curtain behind it (Line 2 from our Divination, see, he is smart, all evidence to the contrary), and ducked through the curtain.
Ghelve responded as any merchant would to what clearly looked like a burglary attempt, he reached for a blade, and his off hand twisted to form familiar spell casting gestures. Before either could achieve success Eris' blades lashed out, one tangling in the curtain, the other, of course, drawing first blood.
Now, I'm not sure about most investigators, but I'm of the opinion that mere suspects, unless found with some evidence or initiating combat, should probably not be cut down wholesale. It tends to disrupt the entire question/answer process, or so I surmise. Toes had already jumped the counter and pulled a sap, while Rufus began casting something divine.
Hoping to head off certain investigative doom, I tossed a Color Spray into the mix, angling it so it would also include Eris rather than Toes. The curtain seemed to protect my comrade, and the blasted Gnome's iron will allowed him to blink it off. He tossed a Color Spray right back at us. Familiar with the effects, I shrugged them off, and Eris was once more shielded by the curtain...or perhaps has a well of will of his own...curious.
Shrugging, for I had tried, and who knows, Toes might bludgeon the poor merchant before Eris' rather more direct attempts turned him into gnome-kebobs, I ducked through the curtain myself, in case our suspect-turned-victim had any assistants.
Thus I missed the rest of the fight, though apparently Toes was successful in subduing our Merchant, as I saw him trussed up after the foolishness. However, as soon as I had ducked through the curtain, some strange creature upon a balcony took a shot at me with a crossbow. Luckily it merely grazed my left arm, further ruining my good shirt, very vexxing. So I ran up the stairs, drawing my own crossbow.
Now I've never seen the likes of this thing. It was naked and nearly hairless, and it's skin seemed to shift color rapidly to match it's surroundings. Closing in I felt shooting would be more difficult than an area effect spell (and as previously mentioned somewhat less informative) so I Color Sprayed his general area to be safe.
Whatever the thing was, it clearly didn't have the tough mental willpower of a gnome, and it dropped like a sack of potatoes. Even unconscious, its skin shifted and flowed with rainbow colors, trying to blend in with the spell, most interesting properties indeed. Something to be delved further at some point, and certainly worth keeping in mind if we ventured down to these Malachite Holds.
I bound the beast and dragged it down to the room behind the curtain, just as the rest of the party was doing the same with our slightly more bloody and bruised Gnome. Toes wisely locked the main door putting out the 'closed' sign to prevent unwelcome interruptions. As he closed the door, I noticed a slight shifting of the dust on the floor by the wall under the stairs, clearly the unnatural draft signaled our hidden entrance to below.
We quickly searched the rooms. I'm relatively sure Toes pocketed a few coins, and I couldn't help but snag the fellows spellbook for future study (I've been telling my teacher I don't need one, so I see no reason to mention it to him anytime soon, but I'm of the opinion that no one can know too many spells). I personally agree, that considering my 'we shouldn't harm or steal from a suspect until guilt is determined' philosophy, the pocketed spellbook may be considered hypocritical, I see no reason to mention it to anyone other than Toes either for that matter. If pressed, I'll just have to say that getting shot at by strange humanoid creatures can be considered probable cause, or at least a tentative sign of guilt, it doesn't help to appear too hypocritical after all.
Upon returning to the main room, I attempted to question the naked chameleon-creature. His eyes showed a deal of intelligence, but he reacted as if my words had no meaning, no matter which language I used. I have some ideas for that, but I'll return to that later. After pointing out the secret door located under the stairs, the rest of the party took time healing and investigating things, and I decided it was a fair time to jot down our experience in my journal.
I am woefully short of spells for delving into the Malachite Hold, and do hope I can convince the others to hold off for a proper rest. I'm afraid, considering the creature's presence however, that time may not be on our side. I suspect that whatever awaits us down there is not entirely unprepared and I feel stealth and subterfuge would be our greatest allies. Looking at Eris wiping off his bloody blades on the poor gnome's shirt, I shudder to think how plausible such an approach may be.
I will spend the remainder of my time studying this creature. I believe his likeness is well within the ability of an Alter Self spell, and I'm already considering means of infiltrating this den of beasts....if only I could make him talk.