Zeitgeist

Chapter 2, Act 5

Capturing smugglers, and chasing shadows.

As the party milled about the RHC office, Gaethan Kirkland started shrieking in the hallway, apparently hearing the sound of several people screaming, which no one else could notice. At first his coworkers thought he’d flipped, but some careful questioning on the part of the constables revealed that the “screams” were emanating from a vial of black fluid which the party had found, the same stuff mentioned in Julian LeBrix’s reports.

Wolfgang Von Recklinghausen appeared serendipitously, claiming to have encountered the substance before. It was called witchoil, it was a kind of fuel that could be used to power magical devices even in a dead magic zone… however it was not commonly used because it ran off the energy of captured souls; only the selfish or evil had the stomach to use it.

The Chief Inspector came by, hobbling on his cane and loudly wondering what all the ruckus was about (even though it had been quiet for several minutes by that point). In the course of catching him up to speed on this and other details of their investigation, Qiyet suggested they move the discussion somewhere more private in the building – a rookie constable named Kida ve Alema was standing nearby, after all.

“She’s fine, just completed her training the other day,” Delft insisted.

Qiyet seemed incredulous. “Did you even do a background check on her!?”

Her boss just sneered. “If you think she’s so suspicious, why don’t you keep a close eye on her for me?” He turned to Kida and shook her hand. “Congratulations. From here on out, you’re the newest member of Team 1.”

This was a big moment for Kida – she’d read much of Team 1’s accomplishments, and was excited to land such an important position on her first assignment, even if the team’s original members had largely been replaced by now.

Taking the new girl along, the constables decided to leave their steamship behind and check out the wharf that Blander had mentioned. It seemed pretty suspicious when they showed up – two men were standing guard on the meandering bridge, past which a ramshackle house stood on a wooden platform raised above the bayou waters, and a small cutter was moored to one side of it.

Hugo started things off by using a well-placed magic missile to snuff the torch next to the guards, then Kida and Talon started charging along the bridge while Qiyet dove off into the water, swimming to flank the guards. The two men cried out an alarm before they could be silenced, but otherwise gave the party no trouble – their fists and daggers largely missed every time, and they looked like fools with how many times the party’s attacks made them fall prone.

Kida showcased her ability to fly, soaring over to the vessel named the Silvo to dispatch a handful of crossbow-wielding sailors. Hugo kept the light sources to a minimum with his barrage of magic missiles, while Templeton piled on the ranged attacks. Even Deorn, the captain, couldn’t make much of a dent in the party’s defenses with his deafening handcannon.

Liberating several thousand gold’s worth of bonds from the smugglers, the constables decided to steal the Silvo and go out to sea to pretend to rendezvous with the Grinning Griffon. Knocking out the stubborn Deorn and propping him up near the prow let them get close enough to board the enemy ship. The Crisillyiri crew stood no chance against the party, even after cracking open the crates full of wands.

Summer 5.

As dawn came, the party towed the Silvo behind them as they drifted into Flint Harbor, turning in two ships, three crates of wands, the gold, and more than two dozen crminals to the police, earning them a commendation from Delft and promise of a nice stipend yet to come.

As they ate breakfast and patched their wounds, they caught news of a rally taking place later that day. The famous skyseer, Nevard Sechim, wanted as many people as could come to listen to him recount his latest visions, the contents of which were said to concern the fate of the city itself. The gathering was to take place at Dawn square.

It was here that the constables realized they were low on leads. The best they could come up with was to use Gale’s gift: a ritual that would let them sniff out planar energies. Having been exposed to the energies of the Bleak Gate on Cauldron Hill, Hugo volunteered to use the magic while riding a carriage around the districts of Central and Bosom Strand. Incredibly, they managed to get a hit, which they narrowed down to a locked-up warehouse on the southeastern side, not too far away from Dawn Square! Instantly suspicious, they asked around, and a few docker kids told them of how a group of men showed up around midnight, wheeling in cages containing “big cats.” By their description, Kida recognized the animals as jaguars (common in the tropical forests surrounding the city).

Sneaking around back, Talon shoved one of the doors open – it had been lodged shut with a heavy crate against it. Inside, about 8 men in coveralls worked in a lab-like area surrounded by a chain link fence against the back wall of the warehouse. Outside of that area, amid huge stacks of wooden boxes, stood a golem made of metal, standing over nine feet tall. Kida snuck in, placing a pair of handcuffs on the door so as to trap the men inside… but the click of metal drew attention to her, and the workmen shouted for the golem to kill her.

Talon strode forward with his shield out front and his axe raised, daring the construct to approach. It shoved aside a whole row of crates to get closer to him, then lifted one over its head and threw it directly at the warden, knocking him to the ground for a moment. Qiyet clambered her way up a stack of crates and jumped for the catwalk high above, rolling on top of it, while the others made their way around the back side of the warehouse, keeping their distance from the metal monstrosity.

The men inside the fence shouted, “burn it, burn everything! Leave nothing behind!” and so began to scrap all the lab equipment, including a table full of handwritten notes. Kida flew up and over the fence, putting a stop to the destruction of evidence as soon as possible, even dousing the fire one of them had set in a wastebin.

The golem smashed its metal fist against everyone within reach, giving Talon a decent injury or two, but then Qiyet dropped from the catwalk, using gravity in lieu of a charge to drive her carrikal through its metal shell. Her weapon dug deep enough to make the golem spring a leak – vile black oil spurted out and covered the half-orc… it was witchoil!

The howling of a hundred trapped souls now echoed out from within its armor, making the constables grit their teeth as they tried to ignore the horrifying sound. Mercifully, Templeton pulled out Deorn’s handcannon and fired off a round, deafening the entire party and making them immune to the aura of shrieking.

Talon Silverhawk stepped over the broken fragments of the crate that had nearly flattened him moments ago, and let out a war cry—which unfortunately couldn’t be heard by any of the combatants. His skin turned to craggy gray stone, and the clang of his axe against the golem’s body became like thunder. Between him and Qiyet, they smashed apart its armor plating, unfortunately causing its inner reserves of witchoil to spill outwards, flooding across the floor in all directions and afflicting each of the constables with the rotting energy of the bleak aura.

For a moment, it appeared dead. Then it hauled itself upright on one mangled limb and began to lope across the battlefield with jaw-dropping agility. Its limbs, free of armor, were skeletal, ending in rough metal claws. It used these to climb the fence around the lab equipment, then it dropped down and nearly disemboweled Kida with a single swipe! Talon followed after it through the doorway (after Hugo conveniently unlocked it with Mage Hand), trying to keep its attention on him. He succeeded – but for all his armor and natural durability, its next swipe nearly took his head off!

Templeton rallied the constables, his words alone enough to convince his dying comrades to get back to their feet and continue the fight. Qiyet scaled the fence and circled around the golem, trapping it in the corner. Using what she’d learned from Wolfgang von Recklinghausen, she swung her weapons at a vital-looking cable running along the golem’s spine. Both of her axes hit, instantly shutting off power to the golem’s legs – it toppled to one side, its head bursting into jagged pieces as it struck the stone floor.

Taking a much-needed breather, the party looked over the documents that they’d fought so hard to preserve. They all detailed various steps and details in the process of using a ritual to give life to skinned jaguars, creating some kind of undead creature powered by a witchoil vial placed in its chest and bolted behind a metal casing. From the documents, they were able to surmise that the creatures could be mollified by grabbing their collars and saying the word “obey” in Primordial; they could also be destroyed instantly by removing the chest plate and smashing the witchoil vessel inside.

None of the cages held jaguars – living or dead. Nevard’s rally seemed like an obvious target for whoever controlled these unholy things…

Note the following was not revealed during the session due to a mistake by the GM.

The people lying on the floor, though unconscious, slowly started to disappear over the next few minutes, as if they were never really there to begin with. One of the documents, detailing the steps of the ritual itself and specifically instructing the readers to “take the same precautions as you would at the manor’s reservoir,” was written on a very expensive-looking kind of stationary, and written in tidy handwriting. It was a perfect match to some of the documents left by the arson brothers!

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