In their own fashion, the various members of the group looked for traps on the box itself (finding none) and for how the box could have gotten into their home/shop/temple/dorm. Of everyone, only Garden found a hint, on his rooftop hatch – a tiny scrap of black paper in the shape of a domino mask, an occasional calling card of the Shadow Thieves.
Steven, realizing if he had a box of cash, Evelyn had a box of cash, quickly ran back home to do his brotherly duty. He swiped up her gold before she could wake and went a made a sound investment – he bought her a magical cloak that would not only aid her social skills and silver tongue, but add to the potency of her magic as well. (In game terms, he used both his and Evelyn’s money to buy a cloak of charisma +2.)
Later that afternoon, after the various family groups had knocked their heads together about their unexpected windfall and not found and answer, everyone met at The Empty Grave. Like you do. It’s become a thing. Over beer, ale, tea, cider, and supper, the group tried to figure out why anyone would shell out twelve thousand gold pieces to six such relative unknowns as they. Was it a payment? If so, for what services rendered? A payoff, perhaps, a way to say, ‘thank you, now never do that again?’” If that, why no note? Who was behind this uncertain generosity?
If it were the Shadow Thieves (the fact that the boxes were spirited in to everyone’s room with so apparent use of magic and the calling card Garden had found being strong points in their favor), this gold could be a pricy thing to accept. Or was this all yet some other’s hand at play?
Needing answers of some type, the group decided to pursue a dangling lead – one of the possible craftsmen of the wax golem was a Halfling wizard named Yalla, who was due to be exiled to Undermountain very soon for thievery and fraud. So, off to the Halls of Justice the party went, laid close by the temple of Tyr, the Maimed God of justice and law.
Garden scooted ahead, having a plan. He presented himself to one of the wardens, explaining Yalla owed him a debt for work he’d done, and he needed to collect before Yalla’s sentence was carried out. Shortly after that, the rest of the party arrived, their own ruse ready. William was doing a class project about golems, and Yalla knew something about them that no one else living did. Evelyn and Steve were here for magical consultation, Charissa for her technical expertise, and Shandri for her skill at detecting lies (or at least that was what they told the wardens). As Yalla was due to head off to Undermountain in a couple of hours, the warden granted them all a visit.
Guards took them all to Yalla’s cell (bespelled with antimagic), then stood out of ostensible earshot and politely averted their faces, allowing them a modicum of privacy while still being aware enough to enforce security. Realizing this conversation couldn’t be kept totally private, Garden started a loud, cantankerous “argument” with Yalla, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Halfling, going on about the lockwork he’d done that Yalla apparently hadn’t paid for. In an undertone, William and the others quickly asked him about who Yalla had been working for and if he’d made the golem for Melvin Mask.
Yalla caught on quickly and began to “argue” in return. In the same undertone he said he had made Melvin’s double. Yalla said his desire for the finer things in life had landed him in this situation, that the money had been handsome. He’d made Melvins’s golem under commission from Jayrin. And Father Geb. They were jerks. And family. Yalla said the law had found his shop, and both his back rooms, and his other shop, and the back room there, but there was one hidden room the law hadn’t found. He told them his shop was off Fish Street, in Gutter Alley, in the Hook Around. Go there and they might find something worth knowing.
Then he grabbed William’s sleeve, hauled him close to the bars, and spoke three strange words to him quietly. And then he swore loudly and made a scene so the guards would think he was just being belligerent. With that, the guards hauled him out to fulfill his sentence.
The group agreed they would go to Yalla’s shop to see what they could find. Also, it would be best to go in disguise, for while night might hide them, many of Dock Ward’s more dangerous residents came out to work then. Shandri took money from the Violettes and William and went to go find some used clothing for them that would blend in better to the neighborhood. (And since they’d given her gold for clothing that cost maybe a silver and a half all together, she made a tidy profit.)
While they were waiting for the clothing, Steven got a message from Maaril the Dragon Mage, that his blue dragon scale mail was ready for him. (And that the dragon-ghost fragment Maaril had purged from it had brought him much amusement.) Steven went to fetch it, finding it under guard by Khavalanoth, Maaril’s green dragon cohort. The dragon spoke not a word, just looked at Steven with a fixed stare as Steven collected the armor and went on his way.
Garden scouted out Gutter Alley beforehand, cold-calling residents door-to-door to see if anyone needed a new security system. That way if anyone saw him later, he could be “seeing a customer” have a good excuse for being there.
All back together and getting ready, Evelyn found the used clothing hideous, naturally, but the shoes were surprisingly comfortable compared to her usual heels!
Finally the group managed to get down to Yalla’s shop without incident (Garden went by the roof route, just because he could). They entered (well, broke and entered) and found a small alchemist’s shop/wizard supply store/used goods store very thoroughly ransacked by the Watch. Garden and William began to search the back room. Struck by the thought that nonsense words Yalla had told him might be magical command words, William called out the first of them. A repeated tapping sound began. He tried the other two words to no avail. So instead they searched the room very carefully, and found that the tapping was coming from below a bookcase. They moved it, and found a very cunningly disguised trap door.
Opening it, they found a crystal cat, beautifully carved and as translucent as water, life size, and animate! It mewed at them and went back downstairs. The party followed. The basement they found was a mostly bare chamber, very neat and clean, clearly untouched by the Watch. A shelf about waist high on a human ran around the room, filled with curious sculptures – a copper snake, a glass dragonfly, an owl made of enameled plates, a riveted silver and steel hawk, and others. Two tables in the middle of the room held nearly identical burdens, a humanoid form under a sheet, one human-sized, one Halfling-sized. The group pulled off the sheets and started. Under one sheet was Yalla, and the other, Jayrin!
Both of them radiated a faint magical aura, the same William had seen about the wax golem. With some trepidation, William said the last two words Yalla had given him. The golem-Yalla said up and blinked at them.
“Ah. I’m dead, aren’t I?”
The golem explained that he (Yalla) had made this golem and imprinted it with his memories when he thought he might be getting into more trouble than he could handle. The group explained how they’d gotten here and what had happened with real Yalla. Golem-Yalla said the crystal cat was Yalla’s familiar, which meant, since it was still active, that Yalla was still alive. Though probably not for long; Yalla was a golem-maker, not a battle mage. When asked about the Jayrin-golem, Yalla said he’d made it on commission. Jayrin and Father Geb had purchased it. Yalla disliked the pair quite a bit, and during his rant dropped a bit of a bombshell: Jayrin and Father Geb were not only family (brothers) they were bastards, literally. Bastard Wands.
Realizing Jayrin’s golem could be used as evidence, Yalla explained that the golems had a few modes, done by different command words. One to wake it up and have it follow simple commands, one to activate implanted memories, and one to shut it down. Using the first, the group could get it to walk out of there with them.
Just then the crystal cat went to sleep, and golem-Yalla realized “he” was dead. He lamented no longer being able to be a wizard, but had memories and skills enough to fashion a new life for himself. Being as he was a wax golem, changing his face was a matter of finding the right spell-powder and resculpting himself. He told the group the little statues around the room were specialized construct familiars. If one were powerful enough, one could bond with them. Yalla recommended the erudite owl for William once he was ready, took the copper asp for himself to give himself a nest egg for his new life, and let the party have the rest for their trouble…and for their silence as to Yalla’s continued existence (after a fashion).
The party gathered up the familiars and Jayrin’s golem and left Yalla, shutting the door behind them. They poked about in the shop for a bit, the Watch had been thorough. They went to leave and found the street suddenly shrouded in magical gloom, a tense silence overlaying all. Garden tried to go out anyway and scale the wall to get to the roof, but was hit by a flung dagger. A flung poisoned dagger, coated with the same knockout poison Garden favored himself. He succumbed to sleep, and Evelyn stepped out to try to target a shadowy miscreant (her dragon’s eyes giving her a little clearer sight). She too was hit and fell into slumber in the dark and dangerous streets. Steve jumped out to rescue her, also being hit hard, but shrugged off the poison. He could see six shadowy figures, four on the street, two perched on a roof above and to the side of him, all closing in on his helpless sister and new companions…