Oathday, 20 Desnus 4704, early afternoon
Surprised by the sudden appearance of a gang of Sczarni street thugs, the heroes were nevertheless prepared for battle. The thugs tried to stay between the heroes and the woman, and the heroes realized why as she cast a spell at Zak. Zak suddenly noticed that everything around him seemed to grow to be twice its size. Everyone else saw Zak and all of his gear shrink down to half his size, leaving him just three feet tall! “I guess we’re all looking down on you now,” quipped the sorceress. Don drew his wand of magic missles and returned fire, as Darshan drew his sickle and fought the thugs. Despite being half his size, Zak remained a formidable opponent, and found that he had gained a new advantage— he was now more agile and harder to hit! Despite not hitting as hard as he did at full size, Zak managed to drop one of the thugs, just as Turgrox successfully caught another thug off-guard and plunged his dagger between his shoulder blades. The sorceress cast another spell, engulfing half the party in a cone-shaped blast of flames. Unfortunately, her remaining guard happened to step in front of her just as her spell went off, and he was engulfed as well. The thug dropped to the ground, smouldering, but none of the heroes did. Turgrox then lunged at the sorceress, trying to pull her to the ground. She nicked the half-orc with her dagger, but Turgrox managed to pin her to the floor. Using the manacles they’d recovered from Ambrik House, they captured the sorceress.
The sorceress called herself Elleste, and claimed to be an apprentice to the wizard Ferista. She said that when she became Ferista’s apprentice, she had no idea that her master was involved in criminal activity. She said that she had been coerced into helping her cruel master into taking over this mortuary five years ago, under fear of her mistress removing her magical powers and selling her to orcish slavers from Kaer Maga. At first, she claimed to know nothing about the Cult of the Scythe Mother, save that cultists suddenly took over the mortuary a few days ago. Darshan was pretty sure she was lying, so Turgrox pressed his interrogation… at one point threatening to break all of her fingers so she couldn’t cast spells and then sell her to orcish slavers himself. At that threat, she confessed, and told the real story: She really is a wizard and apprentice of Ferista. Ferista is involved in several criminal activities, and has been using the mortuary as a front for years. She said that Ferista has a gang of about 20 people that do her dirty work, which includes selling drugs and body parts. She claimed that Ferista charmed Tirus Dreen, the owner of the mortuary, five years ago, and that she keeps him as a willing prisoner in his own home. She said that Dreen now thinks that Ferista is his adopted daughter who managed the business now that he’s getting older. She said that Ferista let the cultists move in about a month ago, and they were the ones that found the statue of Urgathoa behind the false wall. When asked about the zombies, she said that the cultists made a few, but lost control of one and that one attacked one of the gang members. He got sick after a few days and died, so they stowed his body in the morgue with some other bodies. But earlier today, all of the corpses in the morgue rose up and attacked, and those the zombies killed themselves rose up! She said that some of the cultists had barricaded themselves in a storeroom off the crematorium, Ferista is holed up in her own bedroom, and she used a rope trick spell to save herself and a few gang members— she then cast invisibility on the rope itself so that the zombies wouldn’t know where they were.
At that, Turgrox thanked her for sharing, then clonked her on the head with his sap, knocking her out. He then picked her up in a fireman’s carry and took her along.
Opening the door, they found themselves in a finely-appointed lounge. The room was lit by three sconces on which continual flame spells had been cast. The walls were decorated by Varisian tapestries, and in front of the fireplace was a white bearskin rug. A comfortable-looking divan stood behind a hardwook coffee table. A cabinet with glass doors held a crystal decanter of brandy and four crystal goblets. A beautiful marble statue of a naked nymph stood near the doorway. Turgrox unceremoniously dumped the limp form of Elleste onto to divan.
Just as the unconscious sorceress hit the couch, the statue of the nymph animated and attacked! Darshan identified it as a caryatid column: a magical construct that tended to break weapons if struck with them. Fortunately, the party had collected a fair number of mundane weapons from fallen enemies, and used those to fight the animated statue. The statue managed to strike Zak several times, but the party was able to beat it into submission, at the cost of ruining several captured weapons.
While Darshan tended to Zak’s wounds, Don and Turgrox searched the room. They found a bookshelf that held about two dozen books on various topics, including a tome about the crafting of magical constructs like the homonculus. While tapping a fine hardwood coffee table for secret compartments, Turgrox found a wand taped to the underside. Don identified it as a wand of lightning bolt. The crystal decanter held about a quart of excellent whiskey. Turgrox was fairly certain that the decanter and atching goblets were valuable. Examining the alcove where the statue had stood, Turgrox found a secret compartment that held a locked coffer that contained cash and a few potions. While searching the room, the spell that shrunk Zak wore off, and he returned to his normal size.
At about this time, Elleste regained consciousness. Looking around the room, she said, “Well, I see you met our guardian statue. I was just about to warn you about that when you knocked me out!! Ouch, by the way.”_ Turgrox glared at her. Darshan asked her where the two doors in this lounge led to. She said the door to the south was her room, and the door to the east was Ferista’s. Turgrox listened at the eastern door, but didn’t see anything. Darshan cast detect magic, but didn’t see any traces of magic on the door. Turgrox then picked up Elleste again, as Zak kicked open the door.
The room beyond was a finely-appointed bedroom, with a four-poster bed, more tapestries, a mahogany writing desk, and a wardrobe. Sitting in an overstuffed armchair was a blonde woman in a frilly dress, her hair held in place by a tiara. She appeared to be in her late 20s, She also appeared to be unarmed. “Welcome to my inner sanctum. Of course, you could have just knocked.”
art by ismael Bergara
Turgrox threw Elleste onto the bed. “Ooh, kinky,” she taunted. Darshan faced the seated woman, ‘’You must be Ferista.’’
“I am. I see you’ve met Elleste. As you can see, I am unarmed and pose no threat to you. So, let’s dispense with the niceties. What do you want from me?”
Don then asked what she knew of the Cult of the Scythe Mother. Ferista shot a look at Elleste, still sprawled on the bed. Her apprentice shrugged. Ferista sighed, and told the party the following story:
“Yes, I know of the Cult of the Scythe Mother. My sister Arazna is their leader. About 30 years ago, Arazna petitioned the magistrates of the city to officially recognize the church of Urgathoa in Korvosa. They refused. She then petitioned Queen Domina herself for a private audience, and to her surprise, the request was granted. The meeting lasted several hours, but in the end, Arazna stormed out. The very next day, Queen Domina issued an order to arrest and detention of every follower of the Pallid Princess and their leaders— Arazna in particular. In the scramble to arrest all of the Urgathoans in the dead of night, my sister’s husband put up a fight while Arazna tried to escape. He was killed, along with their three daughters. The Church of Urgathoa was effectively destroyed that night. While Queen Domina claimed that all of the Urgathoans arrested had been tried, convicted, an exiled, in reality they were all locked in the dungeons below the Grand Mastaba and executed. The Church of Urgathoa in Korvosa was effectively destroyed that day. Or so I thought.
“A year ago, Arazna contacted me by magic. She told me that she had escaped the pogrom 30 years ago, and had been nursing her anger against Queen Domina and her city every since. Arazna said that she had discovered references to a Thassilonian artifact lost in Belkzen that would allow her to enact the vengence she sought: this artifact was linked to the Pallid Princess, and could be used to unleash a zombie uprising in the city. Once the zombies were raging enough to be a true threat, she would go to Domina’s son, King Eodred. She would offer to use the artifact to end the zombie uprising in exchange for being named the new Queen of Korvosa. I offered her the use of this mortuary to her and her followers, in exchange for her to name me as the Chancellor of Exchequer once she’s queen. Arazna and several followers showed up about six months ago and started their preparations.”
Don asked if she knew where they were now. Feriesta said that she’d overheard one of them taking about the “tomb of the twice-martyred fool,” which must mean the Reliquary of St. Alika.
While she was talking, Darshan cast detect magic, and realized that Ferista was under the effects of several spells— including one spell that could mask her actions. Seeing through the illusion, he realized that she wasn’t actually sitting in a chair or wearing a frilly dress: she was standing at the ready, clad in no-nonsense leather armor, with a rapier in her left hand! Darshan interrupted her story, and demanded her to drop the illusion, which she relucatntly did. Turgrox then confiscated her rapier and spell component pouch.
“I’ve told you what I know. Take what you want, just leave Elleste and me alive and intact. I swear that you’ll never see us again.”
After a short conference, the party agreed. As Turgrox tied her up, Darshan asked, “One more thing— how come you’re in charge of a mortuary?” Ferista sighed and explained that it was an excellent front for the black market in humanoid body parts. She said she had convinced Tirus Dreen, the owner, to take her on as a partner. When asked if she’d used magic to gain Dreen’s confidence, she unabashedly said, “Yes.” Having enough of her, Turgrox knocked her out with his sap. He then did the same to Elleste, who managed to get in a, “Not again!” before blacking out.
Leaving the two wizards unconscious on the bed, the party ransacked the room, finding several valuables (although not Ferista’s spellbook.) Among the valuables recovered was a pair of magical eyeglasses They then locked the door from the other side, and Turgrox used his lockpicks to completely jam the lock. “It’ll take some doing to get this door open. Of course, they’re wizards, so they’ll get out eventually. At least they won’t be following us!”
On the way out, the party broke into Elleste’s room, and ransacked that as well. They found more valuables, including a few spell scrolls and Elleste’s spellbook. At that, the heroes left the mortuary and returned to the Stirge and Hammer to figure out what to do next. On the way back, they passed a pair of Korvosan Guardsmen, and reported that they had heard the sounds of a fight at the Grove Street Mortuary. “The guards should release Dreen and find those wizards we left behind,” suggested Don.
“Hopefully,” remarked Darshan.
To be continued…Next week!