William, at your daily lecture at the Etorchul Academy, your instructor makes an announcement:
"You final-year students have been doing exceptionally well in our class this week. And because of that, we've something very exciting to share. As some of you know, this school has a long and noble history..."
William, even though you were always more interested in the intricacies of spellwork than the history of the school, absorbing some information is inevitable. The Etorchul Academy used to cater exclusively to the offspring of noble houses, but after a scandal that both tarnished the family's reputation and emptied many of its coffers, they now take a much more diverse group of students. They've lost some of their prestige, but still look for ways to make up that lost social ground.
"And we are striving to always enhance our school's good name as a prestigious arcane college. We have been invited to provide arcane entertainment for the Wands Family Higharvestide celebration by staging mageduels for their amusement."
There are some groans at this from a few student - Schoolwork? And on a holiday, no less? But mostly the room is filled with excited buzz. With everyone not being particularly powerful wizards, duels won't last long, which means everyone will still have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities of a noble's party. The instructor smiles indulgently as she raises her hands for silence.
"Obviously I expect everyone to be on their best behavior, respectful and polite. Dress robes will be required. Anyone found not living up to the Academy standards will be asked to leave the event. This will factor into your final grad for this section. Now, is everyone clear?"
A ragged chorus of affirmatives answers her.
"Now, you will be there at midafternoon on the day of the festival, sixteen bells by the Gond clock. Any further questions?"
Evelyn and Steven
A messenger arrives at the Violette household with letters for Evelyn and Steven the next afternoon. The messenger himself is quite well-dressed, and what he bears is even more important than he thinks himself. There are two fine invitations to the Wands Family Higharvestide party, one of which contains a short, personal note from young Lord Robilar himself. "I hope to see you there." No more than that, and precisely written enough to make it look formal, but still! A personal note! And Lord Robilar had recognized Evie! (How could he not?) And Steven to come too, so no worries as to Evie's virtue. Marvelous, just marvelous, and with new jewelry to sport to boot. But what in the world are you both going to wear? Or do?
The bell rings over Garden's door, a soft sound only audible to a few. It's well after dark, so the charcoal black clothes and slightly raggedy apperance of the scruffy-bearded youngster doesn't excite a glance from anyone. Not that it might have during the day, not in this neighborhood, but Roof Runner's nighttime customers don't tend to leave anything to chance. Well, the repeat customers don't. Anyone foolish enough to get caught gets what they deserve.
Garden looks up a takes a second glance at the boy. While wearing what seems to be the unofficial uniform of your average footpad, there are streaks of white powder on his cuffs, some burn scars and cuts on his hands that didn't come from scuffles with a knife-fighter, and he bears nothing more lethal than an eating dagger. No sap that you can detect, not even a sling, and certainly no fighting knife.
"Ah... Rufus?" he asked hesitently, as he spies your red hair behind the counter. "I um... understand you make keys? I need one." He pulls out a rather elaborate key, with an enameled flower on the head and rather tricky grooves along the blade. Clearly it's too a good-quality lock at the least. The boy is nervous and keeps talking well beyond what a smart foodpad might share. "I need the duplicate, really important, promised her I would..."
--> Garden agrees to make a duplicate key. He asks what to key unlocks, a lock box, a desk, etc. saying it is critical to know what the key opens so the duplicate is perfect.
While examining the key Garden tries to get as much information about what happened to the boy, his condition and who "she" is. This is done indirectly as possible, but trying to determine if this is an "sanctioned" job and if this child is in one of the clans, the Black Hands, an independent or even a thief at all.
Gordon will begin the molding process, he tells the boy it will be at least the next day to make the duplicate key. Gordon will of course make two copies of the key, one for the boy and one "just in case."
-->Garden, you examine the key minutely as you ask a few preliminary questions.
"You promised a woman? Good of you to keep your promises, very wise..." The boy blushes a bit, and under the cover of his embarrassment, you take a closer look at him. You realize after a few moments that this nervous "footpad" deals in an entirely different and more literal sort of "bread." The boy is a baker! The white powder on his cuffs is flour and the burn scars on his hands are from the ovens. Why would a baker need a key of this quality?
You ask about what kind of lock the key fits, citing several perfectly legitimate-sounding stories (some with even a grain of truth in them) about how different locks need different specifications on the keys.
"Ah," the boy ducks his head. "I can't rightly say. It's m'lord's key, so it's not my place..."
From this you guess the boy's employer is quite rich. Maybe it's the key to the wine cellar or something similar; that might be worth the money to make a copy of a key rather than just use it himself. If it were a key to a safe or a jewel chest, why bother with a copy? Just using the key once could set someone up for life, if they were clever. But for something less valuable but still important, a copy of a key could serve someone for a long time. The boy does eventually part with the fact that it is the key to a door.
As you quote the lad a price, he reaches into his belt pouch and turns scarlet.
"Ah... I don't have enough," he confesses. You favor him with a look that says, "foolish kid."
"Wait, wait, I can get you something! I work in the kitchen, and we're making all kinds of things for the festival. If you come to the back door, I can get you anythng you want. You could join the servants' celebration, get free food and drink-. I think, er... I CAN get you a little cask of brandywine too."
Garden, the food from a noble's festival could actually be sold on the street for a tidy little profit, even the day after, if you pick the right things. And brandywine can go for a silver a glass, so that's no mean offer.
The twelve chimes of the Gond clock signal high noon all over the temple, and a time for most to break for luncheon. Charissa has sometimes been known to work right though it, most dedicated craftsmen have more than once, but today there's a visitor near her workbench, and delaying in polishing the knife won't hurt it.
"Charissa Origami?" Her visitor is a harried-looking human woman in plain but serviceable clothing of good cloth. Blonde with brown eyes, she's nearly old enough to be your mother. If your mother were human, that is. "I have a comission for you. I need a knife matching this-" She places one on your bench, a good dress dagger ith a deep tang and an oddly rounded tip. "-before Higharvestide. Can you do it?"
--> Charissa replies, "Of course, it will be easier if I can keep this for an example, but if not I will make a few drawings and get it done as soon as possible. (I'm not sure how much this should cost or if I can charge her while working at the temple and not my own shop.)
--> The woman seems reluctant to leave it, but this IS the temple of the Wonderbringer, and finding a competent draftsman (or draftsgnome) isn't very hard. Rubble makes you a good drawing (with measurements) that you can work from, as you heft the knife in your hand to get the best feel for it you can. It's clearly an odd sort of knife, not exactly meant for fighting, but carefully crafted.
"I'll be by tomorrow," the woman says, and puts fifteen silver and a fifty copper on your table, the full price of your work, in advance. She purses her lips slightly as she puts the money down, reluctant to let it go. "I'm Getha. If anyone tries to pick it up but me, ask them the color of my eyes. If they don't say sage, they're liars."
Getha's eyes clearly aren't sage, they're brown.
And with that, she turns to go.
--> Charissa takes that job and begins working. Seeing as Charissa is a bit naive she doesn't really get the woman's paranoia, but she will remember what she said and starts to work immediately.
--> Much later that day, Jik, the urchin that sent you and your brother on the wild wemic chase through the sewers, shows up at the temple with a note. It reads:
"I won't be able to get away to pick up my package. If you will deliver, there is additional payment. Ask the bearer about where and when."
It's signed - "Sage Eyes"
If you ask Jik, he tells you, "The Wands' festival party! At the back door! At dusk!" And holds out his hand, beaming proudly.
--> Charissa hands the boy a silver and thanks him. "Great now I have to figure out where this party is," she mutters to herself returning to work.
With all the pieces of my plot in place (rubs hands together and cackles madly), it was time for the session!
When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just gotten done with their Great Sewer Escapade. Over the next two days, many things happened to many people [here I inserted the copies e-mails from the individual players].
The new day dawns and everyone is getting ready to go to the Wands' Higharvestide festival party. Evelyn is carefully assembling her wardrobe and accessories with care while simultaneously trying to convince her brother that armor is not worn to a party. Steven keeps wondering why he can't, which produced many plaintive cries of, "MOM!" from Evelyn as both Violette women school Steven (again) in the art of appropriate attire. It's an uphill battle.
The Origamis get together at the shop and share their rather unusual commissions with each other, as well as the fact that they've basically both been invited to the party.
William is one of the first to arrive, as his class is providing the opening act for the Wands' party. As the instructors are getting the space ready, he's tapped on the shoulder by none other than his cousin Shandri. She had no idea William would be here, and tells him she was there with one of her superiors to do some ceremonies around renewing blessings on the well (along with water-dancing, a speciality amongst an obscure branch of Istishia's church).
Evelyn, of course, needed to arrive fashionably late, or just late enough to not look overly eager, but early enough to be able to talk to all the lovely people who were certain to be there. The entire trip to the Wands' estate was punctuated by demands-er, requests that Steven NOT glare at all and sundry. And to keep an appropriate distance. Steven agreed to a perfectly reasonable (in his mind) personal bubble of a whole five feet.
Charissa and Garden showed up at the back kitchen door, and Getha and the baker boy were eventually summoned to greet them. The baker boy got Garden his little brandywine cask, and Getha told Charissa she was free to partake of the food in the servants' party. But as both were quite busy, they didn't have time to conduct them around. Garden gleefully took advantage by eavesdropping the living daylight out of everything. With some observation, he noticed that the key he'd made seemed to go to a special part of the liquor storage. There was some kind of mead that was apparently the drink of the evening. Eventually both Origamis slipped out to the party proper in the garden, toting trays to look like servants (as neither were wearing party clothes).
William's turn at mageduels came up, and he was pared with Clarissa, a woman of noble blood in his class. She tended to favor the flashy spell color spray, and William had picked his spells accordingly. They formed their little arena, spent a moment protecting themselves with magic (if they chose), and the duel began. William noted that she had cast a shield spell on herself, which would negate the popular magic missile spell. Clarissa cast color spray at him, and he quickly counterspelled with the same. He dazed her, and she was unable to resist his magic. But when she recovered, she again cast color spray at him, and William was overwhelmed. Clarissa was quite pleased at her accomplishment, but William had had her in a very vulnerable position, and their instructor was quite pleased with them both.
Garden, by the by, had been watching ringside (easy to do when he was one of the shortest people there; easy to slip through the crowd) and ended up betting against William winning (several of the younger members of the party had been gambling on the outcome of the mageduels) and won himself a bit of gold.
It was during this duel that most of the others began to realize that, hey, it's that greenish-skinned fellow from that sewer fiasco the other day! Evelyn (and Steven, naturally) came up to say hello and say a word of praise for an entertaining match. Steven gave William a most murderous glare just for talking to Eveyln. Just on principle. Can't be too careful. Evelyn was also being careful that night, though not about her company. Once Steven had told her that he had taken the sealed box from the temple of Talona to the Wands' estate, Evelyn resolved not to eat or drink a thing. She took a glass for form's sake, but never sipped.
When Evelyn was walking through the crowd, she overheard a few bits of gossip (in between her carefully drawing attention to her clothing and jewelry and praising those that had made them). She'd known the Wands family had ties to the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, as well as Blackstaff Tower (Khelben Blackstaff himself was even in attendence that evening). However, it seemed that there was some apparent friction/disagreement between the Wands and the Thann and Amcathra noble families brewing. Amcathra sponsers the Order of Armorers as well as the Locksmiths & Finesmiths (and Lord Arilos just became the Senior Master of the Stablemasters' and Farrier's Guild) - they have a reputation for producing the finest blades in the city (though House Gralhund is seeming to challenge that superiority). The Thann also has ties to Blackstaff Tower. The only thing that both the Thann and Amcathra families have in common is sponsorship with the Vinters' Distillers' & Brewers' Guild (more so the Thann than Amcarath).
One of the Wands' lords gets up to begin the next stage of the festivities and Garden notices an odd thing that he passes on to Charissa when he finds her. That odd knife that Charissa had made? Lord Wands was using it to saber open a bottle of that fine mead everyone is drinking. As a matter of fact, he was using it with the mage hand spell to saber open many bottles in succession. ...huh.
It was right about then the party was interrupted by a shriek of dismay from the kitchen.
"ASH RATS! THERE ARE ASH RATS IN THE KITCHEN AND THEY'RE BURNING THE CAKE!"
The group, motivated by visions of monetary or social reward, or just the knowledge that ash rats can burn down buildings, raced to the rescue before anyone else had moved.
The found the kitchen in good time, and the terrified cooks and scullery maids withdrew as the pointed them to a smoking oven. Shandri was the fastest in, and attempted to use Istishia's blessing (i.e. create water) to try to cool the ash rats' temper. It created a great billow of steam that they seemed to not like at all. They retaliated by spitting fire at her, burning her badly. Gasping in pain, Shandri flinched away as Charissa raised her pistol and fired at the half-visible figures of the ash rats. She winged one, and then Steven, brandishing his longsword, and Garden, brandishing his rapier, stepped up to the oven. William and Evelyn flanked Charissa, spells at the ready.
What followed was a hysterical combination of Murphy's law and teamwork.
Steven attempted to slice through the ash rats (each the size of a large dog) with his longsword, but lost his grip and inadvertently threw it into the oven. Then took some fiery ash rat spit to the face for his trouble. William set off a flare spell back in the oven to backlight the rats, and Evelyn cast Margul, the Dreaded Freeze, which rendered one ash rat helpless to fight back. Garden took full advantage and neatly skewered its heart. This pattern repeated twice more, with Charissa adding a bullet or two to the mix, but essentially William and Evelyn targeted and paralyzed the rats that Garden killed with panache.
After the fight, the tiny little gnome dubbed his little rapier, "Ratsticker."
As the kitchen workers came back, thanking the strangers who had been so quick to come to their rescue, Lord Robilar arrived, all smiles when he saw Evelyn and her friends had helped his family. He said that his mother wished to reward them. The group took a moment to clean themselves, and then was conducted to a parlor overlooking the garden. The elegant Lady Wands thanked them for their quick defense of her people and said she had some small tokens to reward them.
To Garden, who had fought so valiantly, she gave him three pieces of golden thread, that when wrapped around the hilt of a weapon, would briefly give it the ability to penetrate the hides of those hardened even by magic. (One-use magic weapon, x3)
To Charissa, who had also fought, and used her loud weapon to frighten the ash rats so that they feared to venture from the oven and thus contained the damage, she gave three golden bullets, which could strike even the enchanted. (+1 bullets, x3)
To Steven, whose bravery had kept him shielding her people even though his weapon was gone, she gave a fine locking gauntlet. Three glass beads were on the back of it - press them and he would be briefly shielded by magical force. (One-use shield spell, x3)
To Shandri, who had absorbed the ash rats' wrath at risk of her own life, she gave her a slim wand of healing, that she could conserve her god's strength as well as aiding her friends. (Wand of cure light wounds, 25 charges)
To William, who worked calmly in concert with the others, but also would have been ready to fight the ash rats himself if he must (the Lady Wands had noted William's rapier at his side), she gave him two chips of jasmal (a clear stone that shows an amber halo in sunlight, it can be added as a spell component that adds +1 effective caster level in any spell that adds an enhancement bonus to armor or weapons).
To Evelyn, who had used an unusual spell of her dragon heritage to devastating effect, she gave two chips of tomb jade (jade buried near bronze artifacts, which turns brown or red, it can be added as a spell component that adds a +1 DC to any enchantment (compulsion) spells).
She thanked the group and bade them to continue to enjoy the festival. After she left, young Lord Robilar conducted them back to the garden. Evelyn noticed that he seemed a little off, slurring his speech a little. She mentioned something, but he brushed it off, saying simply he had had many glasses of mead that evening.
And so, our story continues amidst the great and powerful of the City of Splendors...