Episode 62: Madame Elethi's Ledger, Part II
Yuna landed hard on the surface of the water, Whisper’s Water Walking spell saving her from submerging. It did nothing to protect her from the swarm of undead rats that rose up out of the murky waterway and began attacking. With a yell, Yuna focused her divinity and cast Turn Undead, and dozens of the undead beasts simply exploded. The vampire spawn above her shrieked in terror, and would have fled but for the relentless attacks by Ara, Whisper and Sirlius. Regaining its mind, the creature leapt for Magnus, grappling him and sinking its teeth into his neck.
Ara had ventured out onto the water to help Whisper deal with the swarms of rats, but despite his repeated attempts with his staff and longbow, the best he could manage was to repeatedly punch individual rats in the face. As the spawn began dragging Magnus across the ceiling towards an arched window in the stone, Whisper focused her arcane energies and called on the earth to drag the creature off the ceiling to the water below. It landed in a cascade of water and undead rats, submerged under the still-grappled Magnus, and began howling in pain as the running water peeled the flesh from its body. The spawn released Magnus and attempted to flee, but was cut down by the combined attacks of Keen, Magnus and Whisper. As the body of the slain vampire spawn sank beneath the water, Ara was surprised to realize he recognized the creature: the spawn had once been a young woman, a shadow dancer assassin sent with five others to kill Keen outside the Pashtum Bank. In fact, she was the one survivor of that encounter, who Magnus released rather than slay.
Temporarily free of both vampire spawn and undead rats, the party exited the waterway and crossed the small foot bridge, following the dwarven tunnels until they reached a breach, where someone had, in ages past, blasted their way through the stone and into the tunnels. Beyond, a wide tunnel with high, vaulted ceilings and walls of cut stone continued into the darkness. The party loudly debated for a time whether to follow this new path; Keen meanwhile investigated the chambers on either side of the tunnel, and found row upon row of stone boxes, each about 7 long and 3 feet wide; one he approached was filled with freshly tilled, still-damp earth.
With fear clutching her heart Yuna warned the party that these might be the resting places for more vampire spawn – perhaps many more. The party quickly quieted. Ara sent a message to Sabetha asking for directions. The response indicated they should pass through this vaulted passageway until they reached a staircase, which they should follow upwards. Whisper cast Pass Without Trace to to help the party move silently through the rows of open stone coffins.
Without disturbing any of the 30 coffins in the space the party reached a spiral staircase, and following Sabetha’s guidance took the stairs upward. After several flights the party reached a landing with a closed wooden door. Listening carefully, Sirlius detected the sounds of workers: clanking of metal, shuffling, and voices in low discussion. He also detected the strong scent of roast chicken. Assuming some sort of kitchens, the party debated whether to open the door and try to find someone to help them locate Madame Elethi’s ledger, or to continue exploring.
They elected not to try the kitchen staff, and instead continued upwards for several more storeys. Ara, leading the party, heard voices above, and silently motioned them to stop. He crept forward alone, and found the stairs ended in a landing at another wooden door. This door stood ajar, and he could hear two women in conversation, though in a language he could not understand. He did his best to repeat what they said using the party’s Residium Binding Telepathy, but his companions could not understand him. As they used the link to discuss their next move, Magnus and Yuna, at the rear of the party, heard a crash below them as someone on the staircase below them dropped something.
Ara decided to simply walk through the door and introduce himself to the two startled guardswomen on the other side of the door. He found himself in the main foyer of a tower, the grand circular room adorned with over-sized portraits of Uman city nobility from several generations, all apparently successful graduates of Madame Elethi’s Finishing School for Girls. Ara loudly declared that he and his companions were here to see Sabetha, and would the guards kindly escort them upstairs. After a brief exchange of glances, the guards decided it would be better if nobody learned of this lapse in security, pushed Ara back through the door, and slammed it shut.
Meanwhile, Magnus heard more voices and footfalls and turned to see two kitchen staff ascending the staircase, one with a stack of low wooden boxes redolent with roast chicken, and one carrying a large basket of vegetables. Magnus, drawing on centuries of guarding stairwells, quickly convinced the terrified staff to hand over the food, and dismissed them to the kitchens.
Ara sent Sabetha another message asking for directions; she suggested they needed to proceed five storeys up. She also warned the party to have “an exit strategy.” This meant re-entering the tower, so the party did so, relieved to find the two guards having abandoned the doorway. They made their way across the large foyer, passing under a massive painting of Madame Elethi herself: a striking half-elf albino of advanced but uncertain age. They ascended the stair and found the second floor of the tower to be a grand dining hall in the midst of final preparations for an early supper. Yuna and Magnus deposited the remaining food, Magnus having sampled one chicken dinner extensively on the way up, and the party quickly moved to climb the remaining stairs. They passed two more floors, each behind large, heavy oak doors, until they arrived at the top floor: Madame Elethi’s office.
The large Dwarven-style brass doors stood unlocked, and Keen pushed them silently aside and entered the office, followed by his companions. Inside they found a grand room with a domed ceiling some 40 feet above them, the walls interleaving heavy bookshelves with floor-to-ceiling leaded glass windows stained a deep red ochre. To their right, a hearth enclosed a low fire beneath a mantel holding a few empty wine goblets and a decanter. Two overstuffed chairs sat in front. At the rear of the room stood an over-sized wooden desk, with a neat, bare desktop.
Keen crossed the lush carpeting that decorated the floors to investigate the desk. There he found a strange wooden cylinder about 8 inches in diameter, 13 inches in height and topped with a smooth dome. The surface of the cylinder was an intricate series of woodcarvings apparently driven by some sort of mechanism, which moved tiny pieces of wood from one shape to another to create the illusion of a duel between two combatants, one brandishing a spear and the other defending with a shield. Despite its apparent mechanical nature, Sirlius warned Keen that he could detect a powerful arcane energy within the cylinder.
Turning his attention to the desk, Keen eagerly pulled open the top drawer, and was dismayed when the drawer’s trap triggered, sending a burst of poisonous, pungent yellow dust into his face, filling his nose and lungs. As the trap was triggered, Sirlius briefly detected another source of magic in the desk.
As the party admonished Keen for his carelessness and wondered what to do next, they were startled by the silent arrival of none other than Madame Elethi herself. Her haughty expression suggested bemusement at finding Keen and his friends in her office, but her choice of words suggested she was irritated, and asked why she should not simply call for the guards, having discovered a group of thieves trespassing in her office and burgling her desk. She also regarded Yuna with undisguised fascination, saying how strange and rare a sight she was, an Aasimar, here in the city.
Despite her strict formality and decorum, the party was unnerved by Madame Elethi. Keen attempted to parlay, suggesting perhaps a deal could be struck? This amused the strange, terrifying woman, and with a flick of her hand two empty goblets floated through the air from the mantel. As she grasped the stemware on her fingertips, the goblets filled with a portion of red wine so dark as to be almost black. She offered one to Keen, and they toasted to his health.
Madame Elethi’s intense gaze never wavered as Keen swallowed the wine, sickly sweet and pungent…
Vampire Spawn Avoided: Like, 30, Maybe?
Breaking and Entering Status: Failing Upwards
Stairwell Guard Rating: Excellent (Magnus), Fail (Others)
RP Rating: Awesome!