Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Academae Campaign: Clues, Lies, and Recriminations

[Another play write-up from our Academae campaign run on Roll20.]

So we were still the headmistresses' office at the University of Korvosa.

There is a knock and a familiar face enters--the headmaster's favorite nephew, Boxter.  He mentions he is looking for a pupil of his.  Axios looks shaken.  Boxter says that Axios must return at once and he will pay for his insubordination.  Axios takes his leave, but promises to return.  He leaves with Boxter.  Talla notes that it was Axios who brought the whole matter here, but now just departs.  The headmistress says her duty now is to bring Trianna the painter to the castle.  As Talla sighs, Seska points out that the painter will be implicating the queen in the king's murder.  Seska and her mother have a heated discussion on this.  The mother says she has the authority of House Leroung and charges Seska with delivering the painter safely to the seneschal at the castle.  Seska is quite opposed, suggesting that swift vigilante justice on the painter might be better to save the queen from scandal.

We bargain with the headmistress for a bit and get her to allow us to wait until the next morning before taking her to the castle, on the basis that some of us are wounded and Ashe is still under the influence of strong drink.

Talla points out that we need to figure out exactly when the queen began coming to the Academae.  We struggle to remember, but finally figure out that there was talk about the queen and her marriage beginning about a year ago and that's when she started appearing at the Academae.  We decide to check the university records on a "Trika" (the queen's alias when she is out adventuring incognito) to help get some info.  Trika turns out to be a fairly common name, unfortunately, and there are seven in the records.  However, only one started about a year ago.  Sanjay and Crow-eye volunteer to go check the records at the Academae.  Slade and Seska are guarding the painter.  Ashe "consults the gods".  Ashe also brings up the idea of finding a senior cleric who can use the power of the gods to discern if a person is lying.  The high priest of Pharasma and the cleric we met earlier at the castle are mentioned but we don't come to a conclusion.  Ashe reminds us that there was actually poison found in the king's body.

Crow-eye and Sanjay head over to the Academae.  Sanjay remembers looking in the big crystal ball there earlier and seeing someone in a location under the library of the university.  At the Academae Crow-eye heads into the records office to research admissions.  The person behind the desk is suspicious and asks why he wants to, and under what authority.  Crow-eye tries to impress the person, noting he is "The Crow-eye of the Clan Antazi!" and notes that he needs to look up a person of importance to the queen!  Crow-eye talks his way in, but finds no Trika mentioned at all [due to a failed Diplomacy roll].  Crow-eye asks the clerk for help.  The clerk finds one, but she left three years ago.

Sanjay makes his way to the office of the Dean of Divination and eagerly communes with the large crystal ball.  He tries to go back in time to see the queen during one of her rumored visits to the Temple of Asmodeus but fails.  He then tries to check on the unusual location under the library at the university and succeeds, seeing the headmistress of the university talking there with the dean of divination but he cannot hear any sounds.  They are talking--then the dean notices Sanjay and tries to communicate by holding up a written note, but it is too fuzzy to read.  Crow-eye joins Sanjay in the office and locks the door.  Sanjay now turns his powers to the queen, and it zooms to the castle with dizzying speed.  The queen is there with her bodyguard, pacing and rubbing her hands.  The seneschal is there.  Various people are coming and going.  The cleric of Pharasma is there as well, with scribes taking dictation.  Crow-eye comes up and asks "see anything good?"  Sanjay manages to focus in on the dictation scrolls and it's about the king having seen the queen dropping something into his tea, also that he doesn't want to hurt Seska.  Sanjay surmises that the cleric has spoken with the king in the spirit world and is dictating the conversation.

Ashe finally awakens in a corner, feeling a bit better.  He attempts a "ritual" to "contact the gods".

Back at the crystal ball, Sanjay searches the castle for the king and finds him laid out in royal style.  Then he sees the king's half-brother pass the chamber.  Sanjay tries to focus on him, sees him possibly talk to someone in a cell, and notices that he had something in his hand but it's gone now.  He tries to look in the cell but can't get it into focus.  Crow-eye watches the ball swirl with colors--go black for a bit and Sanjay go a bit rigid--and then fade out.  Sanjay says he's a bit tired and wants to stop now.  The two head back to the university, but make a stop at the castle guardhouse on the way to get the magical book and other items they left for safekeeping.

Sanjay and Crow-eye arrive safely back at the university.  They fill Ashe and Talla in on what they learned.  Ashe suggests doing a Harrow card reading.  Sanjay performs the reading and the main card is "The Liar" and it applies somehow to the king's half-brother.

Sanjay now checks the book of magic found in the crypt.  Casting a spell to discern magic presences he finds evocation, enchantment, and necromancy.  Sanjay is still suspicious--this was previously the property of a necromancer--and carefully opens it with a poker from the fireplace.  Nothing happens so he goes over and starts reading.  There are spells for someone called "Vreeg":

Feather Fall (L1)
Magic Missile (L1)
Ray of Enfeeblement (L1)
Sleep (L1)
Chill Touch (L1)
Darkness (L2)
Command Undead (L2)
False Life (L2)
Scorching Ray (L2)
Water Breathing (L3)
Gentle Repose (L3)
Fly (L3)
Vampiric Touch (L3)
Continual Flame (L3)

Sanjay also checks the scroll and finds it has two spells: Shield (extended) and Spectral Hand.  He then turns in for the night to rest up.

The next morning we awaken.  Seska is rather tired because she didn't dare actually go to sleep while watching the painter.  We head for the castle, escorting the painter, and arrive safely.  At the castle we walk in and find a lot of activity.  There are a lot of armed guards around the castle seneschal,  The chief cleric of Pharasma is there, as is the queen.  We notice that the queen is trying to be calm and dignified, but is clearly very worried.  The seneschal comes over to us.  "I would like to have a word with you.  It seems this is the person we are looking for", pointing at the painter.  "The painter is a very important witness to what is going on here.  The queen said the painter was with the king and we want to question her."  The seneschal wants to take the painter elsewhere.  Talla asks why, and the seneschal says he merely wants her to be comfortable, adding that one of two of us may accompany her.

Seneschal then takes Talla aside for a whispered conversation.  He explains that he is in charge of the murder investigation.  They got disturbing news when the cleric of Pharasma communed with the spirit of the king: the king saw the queen put something in his tea--but he couldn't remember anything which happened after that.  Talla questions why the king did nothing after seeing this--but the seneschal repeats that the king couldn't remember anything else.  The painter is brought for questioning and seated.  Trianna the painter testifies that she was hired, did paint the picture, and it's hanging up somewhere.  The painter repeats that she saw the queen put something in the king's tea and the queen then threatened to kill her horribly if she didn't keep quiet.  The painter gets up "I can show you something but you have to keep the queen away from me."  Slade points out that the painter was told there was an understanding that she would make no demands, threating her with a clawed hand.  The guards put hands to weapons.   The painter walks quietly down the hallway and we follow, to the queen's chamber.  "I saw her do this", she says.  She presses something and a panel in the wall opens revealing a shrine to Asmodeus with cups and vials, some unstoppered.  Talla questions when exactly she saw the queen reveal this shrine.  The Trianna tries to explain when, but gives a confusing answer as to whether it was the day of the alleged poisoning or another day.

Sanjay, Ashe, and the Pharasmin cleric use their various skills and powers to check the contents of the vials.  Meanwhile, Talla goes to have a talk with the queen.  The queen protests her innocence.  Talla asks if the queen knows who "Trika" is and the queen confirms it's her--but asks that it be kept quiet.  Talla also relates to the queen that a secret shrine to Asmodeus was found in the wall of her bedroom--and she appears genuinely shocked and surprised.  Talla then asks the bodyguard how long he's worked here.  He relates that he came here before the queen, became acquainted with the queen and was later selected for her bodyguard.  The bodyguard is unaware of any construction work on the queen's bedchamber.  Talla surmises the shrine was already there before the queen moved in.

Meanwhile the seneschal is promising the painter protection and Slade, still suspicious, stands by as guard--and possibly executioner.  Talla pulls Ashe and Sanjay aside and asks if we have anything to determine lies.  Sanjay says he has a spell ready which can determine a person's moral persuasion.  Talla asks the painter to close the secret panel for us but she claims to not know how.  Talla finds it is easy to close and closes it.  Talla now asks exactly where the painter was standing when she saw the queen open the panel.  Talla stands at the indicated spot, which is outside the room, and finds there would be a good view from there of anyone opening the panel.

Talla gets confirmation from the senechal that worship of  the god Asmodeus is frowned upon but allowed.  Talla finds it odd that the queen would have a secret shrine and that she would have it where it could be so easily seen and why she would leave the door to the room open while opening the door.  The painter reconfirms that the door was open and Talla questions why it would be open like that.

Meanwhile, Axios has an argument with his mentor Boxter then storms off to the castle to rejoin us.

Back at the castle, the king's half-brother Venster now comes in, goes to the queen.  Talla hears him whisper "Enjoy the throne while you can."  Then Venster goes to the cleric and seneschal to learn what has transpired with the communing, questioning of the painter, and discovery of the secret shrine.  Venster insists the proof against the queen is solid, she must be removed from the throne and hanged.  Sabina the bodyguard and Talla step in to guard the queen, Sabina drawing a two-handed sword and Talla drawing her weapons.  Talla says the seneschal is not empowered to remove the queen.  The seneschal's guards and some hellknights there draw weapons in response.  Axios arrives just in time to view the scene, exclaiming "What's going on!"

Sanjay draws back in alarm and Crow-eye joins him.  Slade maneuvers behind the seneschal.  The queen shouts "There will be no bloodshed here.  Put away your weapons!"  Slade moves over, maneuvering to push Venster out from his hiding place behind the seneschal.  The seneschal's guards block Slade in a tense confrontation.  Slade calls Venster out to stand out like a man if he's going to make such accusations.  Venster comes out and confronts Slade, asking him to back down.  Slade is amused by the lesser man's challenge.  Venster: "You don't scare me".   Slade: "You don't even rate my attention, boy!"  The queen again asks all to put away their weapons, and asks Slade to step back.  Slade courteously accedes to the queen's request.  The guards lower their weapons.  The tension eases a bit.

The queen asks Venster if he is really accusing her of poisoning her "beloved husband".  Slade discerns that she didn't love the king all that much--but thinks that few people actually loved the late king anyway.

Axios asks what the heck is going on.  The queen explains, carefully, that the seneschal thinks he has enough evidence relating to the killing of the king to remove her from her new throne.  The seneschal comes forward and explains that he does have the legal power to remove a corrupt monarch.  We argue that there must be a proper trial.  Venster threatens to have a "hanging judge" try the case.  Talla slides over as Venster exits and says "I heard what you said to the queen about her throne--and I say the same to you."  Talla then asks the seneschal if the cleric was here at the castle when he used his priestly powers to commune with the king.  The seneschal admits he knows nothing of what divine methods were used by the cleric--the cleric merely related what the king;s spirit supposedly said.  And the cleric also used a divine invocation which showed that the painter lied.  Talla asserts that she is determined to have a fair trial.

The queen beckons us all over and pleads for our help.  Axios tells her the Harrow cards said that something is impersonating her.  He also suddenly puts in a personal request for help getting out of hot water he's in at the school.  Axios also suggests replacing the secret shrine of Asmodeus with maybe one of Iomedae, his favored goddess.

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