The Price of Peace

Session IV

The Minister of Finance

5/10/429, Sunday

The party, including Willow, finish up their business with Prof. Zalomon and decide to pay a visit to Clayton Anderson, the Minister of Finance and the last known holder of the weapon involved in the murder six years ago. They arrive at his home and an older woman, presumably his maid, answers the door. She informs them that Mr. Anderson is at the Emerald Cloud Restaurant, where he usually spends his Sunday mornings. As they turn to leave, they notice a large dog staring at them from behind the maid.

They depart toward the Emerald Cloud, and along the way, they see a crowd gathered around a man on a box at a street corner. The man is bemoaning mainland and the Goddesses who don’t seem to care about the colonies. The crowd is heckling the man, shouting “Heretic!” and “Dirty colonial!” A Guardian stands nearby, watching. Sir Frederik Kuhlricht approaches the Guardian, who is happy to see another man of the law. Frederik pushes to the front of the crowd and asks the man if he is in fact from the colonies. The man proudly replies that he is from the colony of Tipalia, then resumes his diatribe. The party begins to move on, and a teen near the front of the crowd hurls a rock at the man. The Guardian catches the rock and the crowd begins to disperse. He subdues the assailants, who are escorted away by some city watchmen. The Guardian then escorts the heretic away from the angry mob.

At the Emerald Cloud, a waiter greets them. The party inform him that they are not there to dine, but to meet with Mr. Anderson. The waiter tells them that the Minister is currently having a business discussion with a Guardian, and the party waits. Twenty minutes later, the waiter informs them that Anderson is free and takes them to him. They demand answers regarding the whereabouts of the dagger, and they don’t believe his story that he lost the dagger when he was mugged. He then says that he got the dagger originally for protection from loan sharks after a run of bad luck with gambling. The dagger was then lost when his office was robbed. After many inconsistencies in his story, Anderson appears rather nervous and agitated, and asks the party to leave. They do, and he leaves shortly as well. Willow follows him to his office.

The building is empty save for the echoing footsteps of Clayton Anderson. Willow tries to silently follow, but slips. Anderson shouts, “Who’s there?” and returns to the lobby, but fails to spot Willow hiding behind a potted plant. Convinced his nerves were making him hear things, he made his way to his office and Willow sneakily tails him. She sees him rummaging through papers on his desk, then hears a low rumbling sound, a pause, then another rumbling, then silence.

Willow doesn’t see anyone in the office, so she tries the door, which happened to be locked. She kicks the door, leaving only a dent in the wood, but she tries again, ripping the door from its hinges. She spots a place where the carpet had been flattened by a foot near a bookcase. Convinced that the bookcase is a secret door, she pulls every book of the shelves, tossing them haphazardly over her shoulder. She notices a page fall out of what appeared to be a budget ledger. She picks up the page and sees a list of names, dates, and monetary entries. She recognizes the names Janstina Millbough, a halfling fellow Hunter, and Professor Zalomon. The bookcase was now empty, but it failed to move. She decides to just trash the place, and knocks over a stone bust near the bookcase. Lo and behold, the bookcase slides into the wall, revealing a secret alcove with only a glowing circle in the middle. She decides to leave and rejoin the party.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party return to the Magic College and visit the Department of Divination. They find someone to help them, and he checks the record of the item. It appeared that the item had been scryed for a few times since, but it always came up blank. Zion recalls that an abjuration spell such as obscure object could hide an item from such divination attempts. They ask the man to try again, and they are told to return in an hour. Willow meets up with them in a waiting room and tells them of Anderson’s office and the glowing circle, as well as the paper. Dorien Arsisen wonders if some of these names are related to the loan sharks Anderson owed, but they figure it is likely that this was from a business ledger. They decide to go to the office and investigate while they wait.

A city guard is near the building, talking to a passing woman who reported noises from the office building. Sir Frederik tells the guard that he is on the job and the party goes to Anderson’s office. Zion identifies the circle as being one of teleportation, though it is activated by a command word. They search the desk and find a scrap of paper that reads, “The duck quacks at noon.” Frederik says this phrase while standing in the circle and finds himself teleported to an apparently underground laboratory. A large window in the room looks over a room with large glass cylinders filled with some fluid, and one of them held what seemed to be a baby winged horse. Three men in coats with Magic College patches view the cylinders, taking notes on clipboards, not noticing Frederik. The rest of the party follows, and they check a desk in the room; many of the forms and reports mention Professor Zalomon, and they surmise that this is his hidden laboratory. They also see a fallen poster that reads, “To get home: ‘The duck quacks at midnight.’”

They venture down the hallway and enter a chamber with metal bridges, a twenty foot pit with an owlbear in it, a cage with a cable attaching it to the ceiling in the center, and a yawning man taking notes. They approach the man, who is startled to see them, asking their business there. Dorien tells him that they were sent to deliver something for Professor Zalomon, and ask if he has seen Minister Anderson today. The man directs them to leave anything on the desk in the room they were in, and that he had not seen Anderson at all that day. He mentions that Anderson visits periodically to see how the project is coming along, to make sure that the state funding is going to good use.

They return to the teleportation room, and Frederik guesses that maybe different times in the password correspond to different destinations. He tries “The duck quacks at dawn,” which does nothing. However, “The duck quacks at dusk” teleports him to another dark alcove, which turned out to be an armoire in Anderson’s home. He returns to the lab and the party takes the circle to the Magic College via the “midnight” password. They wind up in a janitors closet, and they make their way to the Department of Divination.

The scrying was completed, but it resulted in nothing. However, the man did some researching into the old case and learned that the murder apparently happened during a robbery and a jewelry box was taken. The box was later found in the possession of a thief, the man Belben Nightenhawk later killed. However, a diary was once stored in the box, but it was never found. The man tried to locate the diary as well, which turned out to be ashes in the river. The party returns to Anderson’s home.

The maid, Eliza, answers the door, and says she hadn’t seen Anderson return. They ask her to check the house anyway, and she heads upstairs. The dog watches them, and Frederik and Dorien beckon the dog closer with some jerky. The dog approaches cautiously. Frederik uses detect evil and the mastiff lights up brighter than anything he’s seen before. The dog seems to smile and wink, then wanders off toward the kitchen. Eliza returns and says that Anderson was in his study with orders not to be bothered. Frederik is initially surprised when Eliza detects as evil, but it flickers away; it seemed to have been an illusion. He tells Eliza that the dog is evil, and she says that she never liked the animal in the first place. She says that he has had the dog for as long as she has worked for him: four years, ever since he was elected Minister of Finance. Frederik tells her that she should go fetch a city guard. Now frightened, she runs off, and Willow follows.

Dorien, Frederik, and Zion find the dog in the kitchen, who was eating from a bowl while watching the door. The dog begins to bark and growl. Zion heads upstairs to find Anderson while Frederik attacks the dog. One smite evil later, the dog transforms into an imp retreats into a corner. Anderson stands at the top of the stairs and demands to know why they are in his house and draws a rapier. Frederik finishes the imp, who hisses something as he fades away back to the Hells. Dorien makes a mental note of the noises it made, wondering if the words were in some terrible language.

Anderson resists Zion’s spells, and the party entreats him to surrender. He asks if they were assassins sent by “Lady S,” which Frederik denies. He replies to Frederik with a feint followed by a sneak attack. Incidentally, Frederik’s detect evil hesitates then flickers into the affirmative. The fight continues, and a Guardian with two city watchmen enter the house. The Guardian seems puzzled for half a second then attacks Anderson, asking him politely to drop his sword. Anderson steps back, drinks a potion, and disappears. The party follow his footsteps into the adjacent room while the city guards block the main entrance. The Guardian heals Frederik, and Dorien tells the guards to watch the staircase.

They soon hear a scream from the foyer as a guard falls. They follow and quickly surround him, though many of their blows failed to land. The Guardian declares that he has had quite enough of this smite evils Anderson, but he stayed standing. Looking around nervously, Anderson realized he couldn’t escape, but he’d go down swinging. He turns to Dorien, feints, and stabs at his heart. The Guardian pushes Dorien away and takes the blow in his stead. Anderson soon declares that he has had quite enough of the Guardian and attacks him, wounding him further. Soon, however, Anderson falls unconscious from repeated attacks. They heal the downed guard and Dorien thanks the Guardian.

They discuss what just happened, and the Guardian seemed gravely concerned about the appearance of the imp. He leaves the investigation to the party and hurries off to report this to the Queen. They take Anderson to the closest garrison, where the city guards are surprised to see the Minister of Finance. They find a cell for him, confiscate his equipment, and find a set of keys. They dispatch a guard to inform Captain Kega of the events and another to the Magic College to fetch a diviner and Zalomon. They return to the house and search it. In Anderson’s study, they find a letter addressed “Lady S,” care of the Brass Dragon Tavern, which vaguely talks about “his aims not lining up with hers” and a “desire to end their contract.” They also find a note, seemingly a flow chart with numbers and letters and dates. They cross-reference this with the page Willow found, and find the names Thoendithas Songslayer and Kliff Goldbeard to be recipients of funding on the dates on the note. They also locate a safe behind a painting, which they open using the numbers on the note. Within, they find a small cache of money and art, a least revelation crystal, and a flaming dagger, which bears the arcane mark of the Magic College. They also search Anderson’s bedroom and find a lockbox containing a drawing of a female elf, signed “CA” and entitled “My Beloved.”

The party decides to rest for lunch before returning to the garrison to see Anderson, and the session ends.

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