Alone at last in a vacant lot belonging to an alleged smuggler known as Jayrin, they argued over who to contact first. Calling the Guard could be problematic, as none of the group lived or worked anywhere near the area, and at least four of them were of a higher social class than usually walked these streets at night. Of the two who did fit in, Garden didn’t want the bad press and Charissa was not a good liar. Steven wanted to contact the temple of Mystra post haste, but Shandri pointed out (due to having spent the last several days at the Empty Grave) that if you wanted experts on the undead, you’d be better off talking to a priest of Kelemvor. Kelemvor’s clergy detested undead and knew everything about how to fight them.
Agreeing that was a decent idea, the Origamis and the de Mers were going to go to the temple of Kelemvor (bearing a message from Steve to be delivered to the temple of Mystra as soon as they got into a better neighborhood), while the Violettes remained behind. Because there was something of a fad for young nobles to prowl the Dock Ward market, they decided to pretend they’d just gotten lost in the neighborhood.
Then they had not more time to talk, as someone yelled, “Hey! What the hell happened to my wall! And there's a dead body in my house!"
It was the tenant of the residence where the coffer corpse has blown through the wall. He started yelling about fire and murder and thieves, quickly riling up the whole neighborhood. The Origamis and the de Mers vamoosed as the crowd gathered. The Guard showed up before it could become a mod and demanded to know what was going on.
Evelyn, who’d quickly cleaned the disguises off her and her brother’s faces earlier, and was looking quite like a noble lady took a single step forward and swooned into her brother’s arms. She went full drama queen, going on how they’d been lost and wandering and had been attacked by the vicious undead, and how her brother had bravely defended her. This Oscar-worthy acting nomination went on for a goodly while, giving the rest of the group a chance to go where they were needed.
The Origamis and the de Mers managed to get out of Dock Ward without trouble, and hired a carriage to take them to the temple of Kelemvor. However, Garden had disappeared between the vacant lot and the carriage, and Charissa was pretty sure this was one of those, “Don’t ask question, Sis,” kind of things.
Garden instead took a long walk to the Wands estate and asked to see the lady of the house. The butler clearly wanted to send him away (he’d arrived at the front door, the nerve of him!) and Lady Wands wasn’t much behind him in irritation. But because Garden had taken it upon himself to keep her up-to-date on the investigation into matters that had not only threatened her family but impugned Origami clan honor, she granted him an audience. He told her about the Fruit of the Vine winery, and how someone had clearly broken into the Order of the Vine’s tomb to get the amber oozes that had nearly been the cause of true disaster.
Warned of what was clearly a deep-laid conspiracy, the Lady thanked him for his diligence (even as she looked at him like she’d rather turn him into a toad). Garden, ever the businessman, raised the delicate matter of repayment. Appears as if she’d just consumed an entire tree’s worth of lemons, Lady Wands bestowed upon Garden two potions of minor effect that would help him in his ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group arrived at the temple of Kelemvor and had their petition heard. An older priest named Pellan and a paladin named Sir Hackem would go with them to see this undead for themselves. (There was a brief joke about Sir Hackem’s name, to which he replied his colleagues called him Hacky-Slashy. No one was quite sure if his sense of humor was just very dry or non-existent.)
Finally returning to the vacant lot, the group arrived in time to see the end of the Evie and Stevie Show. Father Pellan took charge then, examining the remains of the coffer corpse and asking questions about its attack and defeat. The group told him all, and as the priest mused, Charissa realized that amongst the rubber-necking crowd was a man who matched her brother’s description of Jayrin! She pointed this out to the others, but he was gone by the time someone mentioned it to the Guard.
Knowing to keep a wary eye out for the fellow, the group turned their attention back to Father Pellan. He said it was difficult to tell who might have created the thing. The most obvious culprits were devotees of Velsharoon, the god of necromancy, or Cyric, the god of murder. Though patrons of those gods were hardly the only ones known to make undead, they were one of the few who knew how to create coffer corpses. Also included in that short list were supposedly patrons of Bane (god of tyranny and strife), Shar (goddess of secrets and sorrow), and Beshaba (goddess of bad luck). The party’s interest was caught by the last name, as they’d encountered one of Beshaba’s priests, Father Geb, a few times already.
Charissa was not feeling particularly charitable towards him, because during her encounter with Father Geb on Sucker Street earlier that night he had put a mark on the back of her neck in long-lasting ink. It was a mark that proclaimed, “Beshaba says this person needs extra bad luck, do your worst” to anyone familiar with street signs. Charissa had been wearing her hair down and her collar up until she could get a chance to scrub it off.
However, there wasn’t much else the party could do that night. Sir Hackem would begin the search for where the coffer corpse may have been made while Father Pellan sought the source of the ritual and the caster thereof. Of the splinterwaifs, Father Pellan knew not much more than Shandri – that they were tough fey creatures with a horrible disposition that liked to live in towns. A few times their infestation had been linked to radical clerics of Silvanus (think a Farûnian Earth First group), but that hadn’t happened in a very long time. The group thanked him and gave him two Carter Guild badges they’d found amongst the spliterwaifs’ things, so at least some of the victims might be identified.
Very tired, the group agreed to meet the afternoon after next.
During that next day and a half, the group went about their business – Steven and Shandri at their churches, William at the academy, Charissa at her workshop, Evelyn at her social calls (she has somehow gained the reputation as a doer of good works), and Garden at his store. (There was an amusing interlude where a somewhat ham-handed young rogue tried to convince Garden he’d “locked himself out of his house.” Garden showed him the door (of his shop). A little later, Garden went to the real homeowner in question and showed him the gaps in his security. And snagged himself some work.)
Eventually the party met back at the Empty Grave (the serving wench, Martha, has started to expect them), and tried to figure out what to do next. Jayrin might have owned that empty lot, and presumably the Guard would get around to questioning him eventually, but it would be easy to lie and say he’d had no idea the spliterwaifs were there, and the coffer corpse? Put there by vile cultists no doubt, on some unguessable scheme. Getting straight answers out of him might be hard indeed, and Jayrin now knew their faces.
However, there was a good possibility that Jayrin and Father Geb might be in cahoots, and if the group could find evidence to support that one or both of them were part of this conspiracy, they could have something to turn over to the Guard.
There was one clue (well, other than trying to tackle Jayrin head-on and beat the information out of him, which was off the table… for a moment) the group hadn’t explored yet, and that was Melvin Mask, the alchemist whose mark had been on the vials Getha’s mother had been taking that made her so ill under the guise of being medicine. Possibly he knew Father Geb, or Trey, or even Jayrin. If the group could persuade him to speak, maybe he could fill in some blanks. Thus armed with determination, the group set out for Masks Distillery and Alchemist Shop, right nearly the borders of Dock Ward and North Ward.
It was a crowded little shop, full of multi-colored vapors and miasmas. At the back, a bushy-haired man wearing a hat stood pouring over a ledger. Garden tried to slip behind the counter for reasons of his own, but was thwarted by a loud and creaky gate. He mumbled a greeting and when asked said yes, he was the proprietor Melvin Mask. The group showed him the vial, and he said that its contents would not make someone well, but give them the symptoms of sickness instead. When asked who might have bought it, Melvin said it was likely written down in the records in the back. He stepped into the back room…
…and broke into a run. Garden and Steven had been on-guard for such treachery, and Garden vaulted the gate to go after him, Steven close behind him. Charissa took off running out the door, to try to go around the block and intercept him. That’s when things got really interesting.
When Garden ran into the back, Steven on his heels, Melvin was running out the door. Clinging above said door was a small red dragon, looking like a psuedodragon, who opened its jaws and breathed fire at them. As the back of the shop had even more things distilling and bubbling away than the front, Steven and Garden had enough time for half a curse as the shop started to explode.
All the group save Evelyn ran out the front and then sprinted around the block after Charissa, who went up two shops, cut through an open square, and then ducked down the alley. Garden and Steven were already there, trying to chase and/or shoot Melvin as he ran. Evelyn, however, sprinted down the open street in the opposite direction.
The dragon stung Steven with a stinger on its tail, the effects of which were very draining and unpleasant. But Steven tried to paley, asking him to help them for a golden reward. The dragon pondered that briefly, then flew away to trouble them no more. Meanwhile, Garden shot Melvin, winging him slightly, but he did not stop.
The shop exploded even more spectacularly just as Charissa passed it, the sound deafening her. People started to clog the alley and street, to see what was going on, making it much harder to run and chase. Melvin had a bit of a lead, and Garden spotted him suddenly ducking into a shop up ahead. Garden tossed his hat down right at the nearest doorway to mark his path, and cut through the shop, which sold women’s undergarments. He got a few eyefuls before emerging on the street.
Charissa, William, Steven, and Shandri all saw what was going on and cut through their own closest shops, Charissa following Garden, Steven going through a haberdashery, and William and Shandri tearing through a deli. On the street outside, Evelyn had actually gotten ahead of Melvin (sprinting in high heels, the woman has talent) when Princess cried out that he was behind him. Evelyn screeched to a halt and switched directions.
Melvin broke into a house just as Evelyn got there. Princess swiped at him, and Evelyn tried to freeze him with her magic, but neither worked. Melvin shouldered the door open, ran upstairs, and broke a window to escape onto the roof. In quick succession, Steven ran upstairs to chase Melvin, Evelyn paced Melvin on the street in front of the house, Charissa and Garden ran through the house to the back door and got into the alley, Shandri followed Evelyn, and William squeezed between some houses to get to the alley.
Melvin and Steven tried to grapple, trip, and/or tip one another over the roof, until Melvin smashed an alchemist’s fire at Steven’s feet. Shandri gave Istishia’s blessings (i.e. created water) on Steven before he could catch on fire, shot Melvin with a crossbow (drawing no blood), and healed Evelyn of her burns from the exploding shop. William tried sleep and color spray spells, but neither worked on Melvin. Evelyn tried learn heritage to try to find out any weaknesses, only to discover he had no blood! Adding all of that together, Melvin was a construct! Charissa shot Melvin and tossed the Grapes of Wrath to Steven, who smashed Melvin with a powerful blow. He dissolved into wax shortly before Garden climbed up to the roof to inspect the remains.
Apparently, according to William, Melvin had been a wax golem, which are so skillfully sculptured and magically programmed that they can pass as the original person. One of the things he had on him was a customer list, showing names, descriptions, typical merchandise, all the things a normal proprietor wouldn’t have to write down. Which meant the real Melvin Mask was still out there…
Not to mention Steven and Evelyn realized that the pseudodragon wasn’t - after William heard its description, he called it a crimson drake, a pseudo-pseudodragon that often masqueraded as one of the friendly little dragons to get into someone’s home before pouncing. It was likely someone’s familiar or companion. And because it was inside the Dragonward, the Dragon Mage had to have let it inside. They need to seek an audience with him…