Zeitgeist

Chapter 2, Finale

The villain is discovered, just before catastrophe!

Fearing that whoever was responsible for the laboratory was planning on unleashing the foul creations upon Nevard Sechim, the constables raced to Dawn Square in Bosom Strand. They wasted no time informing the police of a possible attack, and word spread among their ranks to be ready for anything, with Plan A being to evacuate the gathered civilians as quickly as possible. Nevard took their warning seriously, but refused to call off the rally. He claimed that his news was too important not to share with the city, and as a frail old man, there was no guarantee he’d live to reschedule the event anyway.

While Qiyet and Hugo remained on stage to provide some much-needed defense for the old skyseer, the other constables interspersed themselves into the crowd, looking for signs of potential sabotage. Kida found a collapsible rusted ring in a nearby wagon, not unlike the one in the laboratory, when unfolded. They were moments from finding the wagon’s owner when they were interrupted by the sounds of screaming.

Out of the fountain in the square leapt a skinless jaguar, snarling at the crowd around it and stalking its way closer to the stage. The constables leapt into action, with Talon taking the lead by engaging no less than two of the beasts, which continued to appear through the pair of rings nearby—one lining the bottom of the fountain, and one set up by a man in a green cloak off to the left of the stage. Hugo and Qiyet managed to spot almost a dozen dressed just like him (they’d later learned they were skeletons in a cheap disguise), and masterfully picked them off at range, managing not to hit any of the civilians swarming around them. Meanwhile, Templeton took advantage of the command word written in the notes, and somehow managed to get not one, but two jaguars under his control, which he then rode into battle with a huge grin on his face.

But one cat managed to get past Nevard’s defenders, laying the poor elder low with one brutal claw-swipe. With his dying breath, the wind carried his words to all the frightened citizens fleeing the square.

Aside from Nevard, there were relatively few casualties, thanks to the constables.

Summer 6.

The constables knew whoever was behind the attack had to be brought to justice; but they only had one lead left: the arson brothers. They searched the city for clues, spoke with all their contacts, and even spent a fair amount on residuum using Gale’s special ritual to try to find another hotspot of shadow energy, but with no luck. Only a chance encounter with a drunken halfling named Bill got them pointed in the right direction: Cauldron Hill.

A minor tremble shook the city as they walked the streets to the house of Reed Macbannin, mayor of the Nettles. Sure enough, the carriage sitting outside matched Bill’s half-assed description, meaning it was the vehicle that had given the arson brothers their marching orders all along. This meant that Macbannin was purposefully buying up Flint factories, smuggling goods into the Bleak Gate, and dabbling in shadowy rites to create monsters… but why?

The career politician greeted the constables in his front garden with a smile and open gestures, dismissing their accusations as ridiculousness, but graciously inviting them into his home for look for evidence of any nefarious deeds. The party was beginning to think they were on the wrong track… but as fate would have it, the ground shook again, and a rent opened up in the yard, spewing witchoil into the air!

The mayor straighted his collar, dusted his sleeves, and turned to his butler. “Creed, check the reservoir.” Then he waved at the rest of his house staff, most of them watching curiously from the balconies and windows of the house. “Everyone else, kill these people for me.”

Creed sped away the first chance he got, fiercely pursued by Kida. As he ran, his body melded into matte-black skin, exactly like the shadow-men the party had seen in the Nettles and atop Cauldron Hill just days ago. Kida slowed him with cruel shuriken shots, but once he’d had enough, his claws started tearing through the poor elf. The last thing she could do before being left for dead on the ground was drive a Nail of Sealing into the door of the garden shed that Creed seemed so intent on getting to.

The other constables made quick work of Reed, who professed to be a master of curses and other dark arts, but was flattened in seconds by Talon and Qiyet working together. After that point, it was simply a matter of mowing down the two knife-wielding gardeners and using ranged attacks to knock the flowerpot-hurling house staff off the balconies.

Kida was propped up by an annoyed shout from Templeton, and they entered the shed, finding a secret elevator that led below. It seemed to phase through the solid concrete foundation somehow, and they could only ride it down while wearing a special rusted amulet, which they found on the body of a dead woman sticking half-out of the floor.

Below was a series of rooms littered with iron contraptions, control panels, pipes, pressure gauges and more. As they explored, it became obvious to the party’s technologist that each room was part of a giant machine made to manufacture, store, and then pump witchoil to an unknown destination. The problem was that it was malfunctioning—all the oil was backed up, overfilling the reservoir. Likely, what had happened was that the relief pipe had been crushed and blocked by the recent quakes. Before disaster occurred, Qiyet and Hugo managed to get the oil flowing through the “Down” pipe, to parts unknown.

Just as things looked to be under control, Eberardo and his brother Valando showed up, lured by the sounds of destruction to what they quickly realized was their employer’s home. Desperate to protect their source of income, they battled the constables on the catwalks above the oil – putting themselves at a disadvantage since they couldn’t use their huge blasts of flame, lest the entire batch of oil ignite all at once!

Knocking them out, the five constables tried to take the elevator upward, only to be met by Creed. He implored Talon to behave like a patriot, and to join he and Macbannin in ‘protecting Risur,’ though he wouldn’t be any more specific than that as to his master’s true designs. Standing by his friends, the shifter refused, and so began a battle that nearly cost several of the constables their lives!

The party’s talents were a poor match for Creed’s abilities—just by standing next to a foe, he could hide in their shadow, vanishing from sight. His claws infected their target with necrotic energy, and his penchant for aiming toward the eyes left his victims temporarily blinded as well. The worst part, though, was that even when the party’s wild swings managed to hit him, they passed through his body as if it were made of darkness itself, each attack only half as lethal against him as it would be on ordinary flesh.

Kida gave everyone one big chance to get out of this with their lives intact: as Creed struck at Talon and Qiyet, the Vekeshi elf called on the power of the dead goddess Srasama, and an image of a six-armed eladrin appeared to strike Creed with a blade of fire and pure white light. He screamed, his black skin burning away, revealing corrupt muscle and sinew beneath… for a scant six-second window, everything that struck him wounded him like he was an ordinary man.

In the end, Hugo (who had to take the stairs up from the sub-basement and showed up late to this battle) ended his onslaught with a magic missile, and Templeton brutally beheaded the butler’s unconscious body with his bayonet.

Epilogue.

In the weeks that followed, Nevard was given a state funeral, laid to rest in a place of prominence with other past heroes of the city – Flint city Governor Roland Stanfield even said a few words honoring the man… and some say that they caught a glimpse of Gale watching the affair from a distance.

Macbannin was placed in a maximum-security cell, one which made spellcasting impossible while his trial was planned. RHC Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft urged the constables to get their story straight, as they would all be key witnesses against him. But when the day of the trial came, the former mayor never arrived. He’d commited suicide in his cell less than an hour before he was to be picked up, somehow managing to ram his head repeatedly against a stone wall until he smashed in his own skull.

The guard watching him said Reed had acted perfectly normal up until a few minutes beforehand. Then he just kind of slumped over, muttered to himself for a while, then stood up and asked for a cigarette. No one had ever known the man to smoke, but he truly seemed to enjoy the leaf of Nicodemus to its fullest, and killed himself immediately after finishing.

Chief Inspectress Margaret Saxby ordered the constables off the case soon after—rumor had it she was jealous of the attention the media were giving them. Team 3 is on the case now.

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