“Watch the road, willya!! Whaddaya, blind?” screamed a cabbie as he narrowly avoiding a collision with a nobleman’s charger. Stupid humans, thought Snuffles, as he ran through the streets of Melvaunt. He could barely keep up with his mistress as she and her friends trod grimly down Sextant Street. And today my mistress is just as angry. What is wrong? Why are the humans so angry? You could cut the tension with a knife. I want an apple.
“We’ll be at the temple soon,” Lady Marielle announced soothingly.
Lady Tegan bit her lip. “I want answers, Obad-Hai damn it!”
“As do we all, fair Tegan.” said Lord William. He was Lord William now, but it felt strange whenever anyone called him that. “Just call me ‘Billy’”, he always said.
“This is disturbing on many levels. What are they doing to Clement right now, do you think? Where on Oerth (see comment) could he be?”
“He’s not necessarily on Oerth anymore,” offered Lord Juno. “Or even on this plane of existence. You saw that rift.”
Lady Tegan suppressed a biting comment and raised her fist to knock on the gold-inlaid doors of the Temple of Pelor’s hospital wing. A young sister answered and broke into a smile. “Are you – oh yes, praise the Shining One, the heroes of Glister themselves! I prayed you would come today. One of our patients has been asking for you for hours. Her name is Lisette…”
“We’re really here to see Archbishop Olmert…” Billy began, politely.
“… but of COURSE we will visit with our dear friend Lisette,” said Marielle sharply. “She’s awakened from her coma, then? Good news indeed.” The sister began to lead the party up a staircase. “You must admit, Billy, it’s a good way to gather information.” Lord Billy waggled his eyebrows at Marielle genially, then balanced his rapier on his nose for comic effect.
The elderly seer looked pale and tired, slumped heavily against a pile of pillows on her sickbed. Juno estimated she’d lost ten pounds. Lisette turned her head weakly toward them. She looked at Br. Samuel. “You’re not Clement.”
“No, ma’am. His twin brother, Samuel, at your service.”
“Where have you been?” Lisette whined. “I woke up in this bed yesterday night and these idiot clerics wouldn’t find you for me. Clement is in terrible danger!”
“During the intervening week –” said Tegan.
“A week? I’ve been asleep a week? It did feel very long…. But enough, I must tell you before it’s too late! I have had a vision! There was a monstrous red man, wearing a turban …”
“Who drew Clement to him and then disappeared through a black rift in the fabric of reality, perhaps? While a bunch of she-devils and a drow wizard kept us busy?” said Billy ruefully.
Lisette gasped. “Has it come to pass?” Tegan nodded. “I believe … this coma … I believe I was silenced! If only I could have prevented this! The sisters tell me you have rescued my son, Nikolai. I’m so grateful.” The old woman’s eyes welled up with tears. “But when you needed my help…”
“There, there,” said Tegan, patting Lisette’s withered hand. “Don’t worry. I swear by Nature herself, I shall save Clement. But what is this about being silenced?”
The seer’s eyes narrowed. “In my sleep, every day, I kept feeling a hand on my forehead, pushing me down, down under the waters of consciousness until I choked. But it was not the same hand each day. The first day it seemed like a massive orc’s hand; the reek was unmistakable. On other days it was smooth and human, or a mass of slimy tentacles. Finally, today, there was no mystic hand. I swam upward through the waters of my dream and awoke.”
The party visited with Lisette a bit longer and then asked to be admitted to Archbishop Olmert’s private chambers. They briefed the archbishop on the event’s of the past few days and asked His Excellency to do a divination for them. Pelor spoke through the old priest, and provided the following prophecy:
CLEMENT’S LIGHT IS TRAPPED IN HELL
PRISONER OF A SCHEMER FELL
DO NOT CRY OR LET HEARTS HARDEN
SOON, YOU’LL HAVE A CHANCE TO BARGAIN.
“In hell?” gasped Marielle.
“Which ‘hell,’ I wonder.” said Billy. “There are many planes of existence aligned with evil….
“Gehenna, Carceri, Hades…” mused Brother Samuel desperately.
“Harden and bargain don’t really rhyme,” said Billy with a grin. His copper mane burst temporarily into flames, and he heard a celestial “Harrumph!”
Eager to leave no stone unturned, the party continued on to see Fr. Tomnein. Tomnein told them that the research on the octagonal jewels went well, and that the hapless Dramuel had proven a good source of information as they labored to reconstruct the jewel-making ritual.
“Yes, yes, Father.” said Juno impatiently. “But we have a more pressing problem…” The rogue explained the situation and asked the abbot to divine Clement’s location more specifically among the many evil planes. Oghma, the abbot’s beloved god of knowledge, spake unto them, saying:
“Clement isn’t feeling fine
In hell number three of Nine.”
“Sounds like the Nine Hells of Baator.” said Br. Samuel.
“And, are the poems even scanning?” cried Billy.
Tomnein nodded and reached for one of his innumerable reference books. “Ah yes,” said the abbot. “Minauros, the third of the Nine Hells.” He passed the book. “Look here, Lord William”.
“Just call me Billy, please!” Said Billy, who devoured the information in the Book.
“Not a vacation spot, adventurers,” said Tomnein.
Lady Tegan looked stricken. “Action, dear ranger,” said Billy, “will cure what tears cannot. To Despot Marsk!”
When the party arrived at City Hall, the Despot’s secretary, Moneypenny, informed them that Lord Peuter was at home this morning. They hurried off to his grand manor house and were greeted by Lady Marsk who blathered like the mindless socialite she was and then led them to the back yard.
The Despot stood under a ten foot graffito that had been painted on the side of their elegant home: the octagonal mandala! “Kids today. Who do they think they’re messing with! I’m the gods-damned Mayor! I shall mobilize the whole police force against these vandals…”
“Doesn’t make much sense, Despot.” drawled Juno. “Teenaged vandals tend to go for toilet paper in the trees. This is massive and hard to paint.”
“No, no, rogue – at the last Council of Iron meeting we discussed these graffiti, which have appeared in several places in town. Bruil and I are sure it’s kids.” Juno rolled his eyes.
“Any dissenting opinions?” asked Billy
“Well,” said Despot Marsk. “Nanther and Leirayghon believe it’s political revolutionaries. You know how this symbol appears on the Helm you found. They think you’re being cheered on as a new ‘Clement of Saullum,’ ready to behead us in the town square, eh? Paranoid bastards.” Marsk chuckled, then grew pale. “You don’t think…”
Not the sharpest tool, thought Lady Marielle. “Let me assure you, Your Honor, you have naught to fear from us.” The nobleman melted under the sorceress’ dazzling smile.
“Quite so, I’m sure.” said Marsk. “If there is lingering revolutionary sentiment, though, it will die down now that you’ve all been ennobled and started working with my government! I’m so glad you’ve sold out!” Marsk turned red and stammered, trying to pull his foot out his mouth…
“We understood what you meant, Your Honor.” said Tegan, inwardly rolling her eyes. How had this man ever been elected Despot? Lucky we had no revolutionary ambitions to sell out. We merely cashed in.
The party talked further with the Despot about many subjects: the current legislation before the Council of Iron, logistics for the magic item that would allow Billy to vote on civic matters even when he was away on an adventure, Clement’s absence, etc. The party used a spell to clean the symbol off the house.
“One more stop,” said Billy, as he led the party to Sister Rana’s office. The cleric and art historian went over many subjects with the party, providing only two intriguing new pieces of information. Firstly, she raised Tegan’s hackles as she waxed rhapsodic about how the Helm of Devotion could be used by clerics of Oghma to “smite the ignorant” and “spread sweet knowledge throughout the realm.” And secondly, she presented statistical data that put the lie to Lord Leirayghon’s suspicions: the civic unrest in Melvaunt was no worse than usual, and a serious movement to install a theocracy like the one that had interrupted the Brestelcian royal line was absurd.
Footsore and heartbroken about their missing friend, the party retired to the Crow’s Nest for a frosty mug. They munched the peanuts from the bowl on the bar, unusually subdued. Perhaps it was this silence that allowed them to make out the sound of footsteps behind them.
“Invisible intruder!” cried Marielle.
Everyone heard the ensuing gasp. A chair toppled over, and a cry of “ouch!” rang out from the bare carpet.
Juno quickly produced a tanglefoot bag and threw it at the sound of the gasp with perfect aim. “Eww, grody!” called a familiar voice from the pile of alchemical goo. Where had they heard this voice before?
“Come on, guys.” someone said. “This is gross. I was just about to ask you to talk in private. I just, like, can’t show my face. Can we go upstairs?”
“After you show yourself,” said Billy, brandishing his Rapier of Mellifluous Swashbuckling. With a sigh, the intruder let his invisibility spell lapse, revealing himself to be … young Kalman Leyraighon!
The party cut him out of Juno’s trap and hurried upstairs to their suite. “Okay, SPILL IT!!” bellowed Tegan.
Kalman crumpled under her glare. “I tried to tell you, but I was really scared. I even painted those weird octagons all over town to give you a clue. I couldn’t save myself – I need you guys to help me, you’re the strongest adventurers I know!”
“Tell us WHAT, you moron?” said Juno Nim.
“I … I sold my soul to the devil, and now your friend Clement has paid the price. The devil sent me here to arrange a meeting with you. You gotta come, you just gotta come with me!”
The party stared at him, gobsmacked.
Kalman ducked his head in embarrassment. “Um, yeah. So, can you promise me you won’t tell my dad?”