When the circus comes to town.

The Jocular Jackanapes 10-12-12
Jocular Jackanapes

The Jocular Jackanapes were eating their dinner in the community wagon as was their wont. They were laughing and teasing each other after their performance. The days work done and their intel report already submitted they were in a good mood when the lazy voice of Tak-Tak, their handler, came from out of thin air. “I’m glad to find you lot in good spirits and ready for your next job.” They looked around and there he was, where nothing had been before, where it wasn’t possible that anything had been before as they would have bumped into it moving around the table, the wagon wasn’t that large by the gods! Still, they didn’t bother acting surprised, he did this sometimes, show up out of thin air, usually it signaled a more important job, or a change in squad members, he never put someone new into the group except in person, never couriered in as some handlers did, or so they’d heard. They just sat quietly and continued eating, waiting for their next assignment. He didn’t make them wait long.
“The duke of Farnham has a dau. that’s coming out in a month and the duke is looking for entertainment for the ball. I’ve been able to secure an invitation for your act to perform at a private audition for the household. You’ll be up against several other acts so make sure you bring your A game.” “The duke is known to entertain the Grand Duke for hunting as Farnham has some excellent hunting grounds so it’s possible that he will attend the ball. Either way, whether or not he attends I want you to plant several bugs in the household so that we can gather intel. We know that the duke is rather secretive and has taken the precaution of having several areas warded against scrying, but, that still leaves plenty of opportunities as I’ve never seen one of those types yet ward the places where gossip really happens” “Here are your bugs.” He tosses five gem-like stones, one for each of the group. “They activate on the code word Farthingale. They’ll transform into the first word out of your mouth after that and then start transmitting. Make sure that you don’t name anything bigger than your hand and be very specific.” He winks at you and smiles. He smiles easily, his teeth sharp in his brutish face, his half-orc ancestry is never more obvious than when he smiles, but those that assumed him unintelligent for that face and that ancestry underestimated him, a very fatal mistake for his mind was even sharper than his blade.

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Circus - 10-12

Ponti comes through the teleportation circle he made to speak to the group. Since the last time he saw Aurzel and Nova he threatened to kill them they are understandably very leery. But, Ponti is a wizard of his word. He told Seik and Vague he would prepare a few rituals to help them and he has. But more than that he’s come up with an idea, and that idea is for a completely new artifact. An artifact that would expose the liches for what the are to the people. All he needs to prepare the spell and make the artifact is a few rare components, namely the eyes from a beholder. If they hurry they should have time to obtain one before the first battle is joined.
They do hurry, and set off traps with their faces, kill monster after monster in an infested old mining citadel and find a necromancer hard at work in his lab. (Is there no end to them in Solstic?). Eventually they find the beholder Ponti said was there and killing it they take it back to Ponti who is not only not grateful, but seems to regard it as a matter of them being grateful to him for his ability to make this artifact. But, they have more important things to do before the coming battle to take to much offense at a wizards ego.

When the circus comes to town is currently on hold until Seik Aztori returns."

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Circus prequel - Vivian
Planted into Solstic society by Tak-Tak as a noble from distant Nerath. Remjaz Dadtzllevulf has been gathering intel on the friendships and alliances of the court. One very important relationship, that between the Grand Duke and his mistress Vivian has him extremely curious. It’s well know that his mistress is brought to his quarters every Monday, Thursday and Friday. But, she’s never, ever seen at court any other time, or anywhere else for that matter. A long term mistress such as Vivian is a power broker in her own right, so why isn’t she seen, heard, visited by other nobles. Remjaz tries following her several times in order to learn more about her, but always loses her in the streets in less than 10 minutes into her tail. Frustrated Remjaz decides it’s important enough to call in guild support and Aurzel, Vague, and Ganitari come to lend a discrete assistance in the task. Getting into the palace is easy, Lord Dadtzllevulf and his vassal are allowed entry without question, but getting into the upper levels and into the Grand Dukes bedroom is much, much harder. Remjaz feigns illness and Aurzel uses a cantrip to change his appearance subtly to aid that fiction so that they have an excuse to leave the main hall. Aurzel and Remjaz split up so that Remjaz can make the attempt on the second story and Aurzel can continue with the fiction that Lord Dadtzllevulf is still downstairs but feeling ill. Remjaz is able to successfully infiltrate the upstairs, but decides against trying to hide in the Grand Dukes bedchamber as he can’t be sure of remaining hidden or being able to successfully get out of the Grand Dukes chambers in time to achieve his main objective, tailing Vivian. But, he is able to listen at the door and what he hears confirms his suspicions, not the tell tale sounds of a man with his mistress, but two male voices in discussion. Finding this out was definitely worth the risk, now if he can just follow him! When “Vivian” leaves the Grand Dukes quarters Remjaz uses every resource at his disposal to remain hidden and follow “Vivian” but he/she is very good his job and spots Remjaz and loses him after ducking into a building and changing his appearance. But, he doesn’t spot or fool Ganitari and the chase is most definitely still on. The trio are able to stay with him/her through multiple buildings and disguises and Remjaz calls in Vague, a changeling himself, Vague has the best chance of staying with Vivian. Once Vague joins in the hunt they are finally able to get ahead of him and they take that moment to attack in an attempt to subdue Vivian before she can get away and change once again. But a missed attack by Remjaz gives Vivian the opportunity he needs and he uses his impressive gifts to attack Ganitari, change into him and switch places with him. Vivian then calls out to the others to kill Ganitari as the changeling. Ganitari tells his team mates telepathically that the changeling is the one doing the speaking and he will not speak until the changeling is down so that they can tell them apart. Pretending to be fooled Vague moves in and successfully bluffs an attack on Ganitari so that he can position Vivian between himself and Aurzel giving them the advantage in an attack. Unfortunately, in the confusion Aurzel’s attack misses and so does Ganitari’s and then so does Remjaz’s. Vivian, knowing that somehow they can tell her apart from Ganitari changes target’s and changes into Vague, successfully attacks him and changes places with him. This is the opening Vague needs and with a smile Vague changes his form, while Vivian screams in frustration, Vague gets a successful attack in and Vivian starts bleeding, something he can’t hide. Aurzel’s attack misses but Gan’s and Remjaz’s hit as they both make the most of the opening Vague gave them. Vivian strikes Vague with her dagger in a vicious slice and bleeding profusely Vague goes down. Remjaz successfully attacks Vivian increasing her wounds and knocking her prone beside Vague. Aurzel, unable to use his more deadly attacks as he’ll hit his team mates misses and then it’s Vivians turn. He decides to cut and run while Gan is busy tending to Vague’s hideous wounds and is able to successfully make it into a nearby building. With Gan’s impressive healing abilities Vague recovers enough to stand up and determined that Vivian not escape him and knowing she’ll change again, Vague doesn’t follow her into the building but rather moves to it’s opposite side, the south side, and readies himself to attack once she comes out again. Aurzel cuts off her ability to leave from the same door by throwing a fireball into the building and positions himself to watch the north and west sides of the building. Gan cuts off the east side and they prepare themselves to take down this formidable foe. Screaming that the building’s on fire and they have to help the person inside Vivian exits the south side of the building where Vague is waiting and rather than pulling off this escape Vivian rushes right into Vague’s attack. Communicating with the team telepathically through Gan, he tells them he’s got her and they all rush to Vague’s aid. Gan is able to knock Vivian out before she can attack again and she slumps unconscious. Now all they have to do is get her/him away from here without arousing suspicion. Vague picks her up and calls for people to help put out the fire and simply walks away with her to the meeting place at the Hungry Griffon Inn which fortunately is close by because he’s heavy. Once at the Inn they arouse Vivian and begin questioning her. He changes once again and tells them off. More agressive persuasion by Nova though is able to get him to reconsider his position, that and his complete inability to escape the bonds tied by Vague, who well versed with every changeling shapechanging trick has made it impossible for him to escape. He tells them that he does anything the Grand Duke requires, gather intel, plant evidence, steal items or kill people. Questioning him closely they learn his most recent assignment was to steal a small crystal statue from the country manor house of the Grayhavens and that he had recently assassinated the youngest dau. of Lord Vraihodaim as she was a “liability” Satisfied that they had as much useful information as they could obtain Vivian they killed him so that he couldn’t report them to the Duke.
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Circus - 8

Deciding that it was worth the time it would take to search the castle Nova and Aurzel went to try and find the phylacteries or barring that, to try and find enough clues to the Grand Duke and Duchess to determine what types of things would have been important enough to them that they would create a phylactery from it. They did find two more secret passages than they had previously known about from the Grand Duke & Duchess’s chambers. But, their bedrooms were the picture of elegance and country life, obviously the Grand Duke & Duchess were hiding their true natures from their staff as well as their people. They did find a huge tapestry in the library of Nwankirei Greyhaven & Haddiza Amaas, the two warlords whose marriage and political machinations had first established the kingdom of Solstic. Aurzel was able to tell Nova a bit of the history of the two kingdoms which 600 yrs ago had been one, much smaller kingdom.

Seik spent the day scouting the city to see what state it was in and how to turn it to their advantage in the war to come. He decided that he needed to establish some level of trust in him before he tried revealing the truth of the Grand Duke and Duchess, but he also wanted to try and establish a safe haven for people against the vampires. To that end he found and fed a street urchin and got him to show him a safe house. Bargaining food as part of his payment for a bed in an established safe haven Seik put his plan into motion.

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Circus - 7

Nova and Aurzel descend into the ruin of a building following Nova’a recognition of a sigil that she’d seen outside of the crypt she was born into. They are greeted by the guard Vagal who challenges them. Nova answers the challenge but is far to vague in her desription to satisfy him. Vagal demands to taste Nova who walks to him and presents her wrist, Vagal tastes her and satisfied that she is at least a member of the clan offers her his wrist in return and Nova gets her first taste of her new clan. Blood calls to blood and for a moment Nova forgets everything else in this exquisite experience. Vagal passes them on into the dining hall where they meet Doria, the head of this enclave, who upon seeing the Amulet of Mist on Nova demands to know where she got it. Nova tries to be vague, but Doria only grows angrier and demands further information. Presses, Nova divulges Damian’s death, but not her role in the killing and that the city is in an uproar as the coup has begun. Momentarily distracted by the coup Doria states that Laureen has overreached herself, and is angrier at the lack of information from Laureen regarding the coup’s initiation. Nova passes herself off as the messenger but is little able to calm Doria and is unable to obtain any usable intel regarding the vampires numbers or strengths. Still, as clan members the do obtain a safe place to sleep for the night.
In the meantime Seik’s decided against going back by following Nova and Aurzel, there were far to many risks the first time, doubling his chances of being caught by following them again isn’t the smart thing to do. He decides instead to try and cross close to Vonn, Ponti’s town, and try and obtain Ponti’s assistance in making another portal to get them in and out of Larnaka quickly. Larnaka is bound to become a powder keg and a quick way in and out will be necessary if they are to make use of the explosion. To that end Seik makes contact with a member of the guild currently stationed in Lotherna, a changling whose lightening fast reflex and abilities to think on his feet have already earned him a very high reputation in the guild, as well as skyrocketing him up through the ranks. His specialty is intel. and Seik needs intel. to get back to his home plane and also feels that as an asset Ponti would make a valuable contact for this young man to know. The changling, whose name changes as often as his face, and is more often just called by his code name Vague does indeed know a way back and they cross without mishap, and find Ponti quickly. Ponti isn’t in a bad mood, at least for Ponti, and they get missed by most of the few gouts of fire he throws at them for their supposed bad manners. Seik, offers the only coin he can interest Ponti with, fame. And Ponti agrees to at least listen to the offer. Seik speaks as honestly and openly to Ponti as he dares of the Grand Duke and Duchess and in exchange finds out more of their ascension to power in a lethally efficient coup supported by then General Kaliphate, soon after King Kaliphate. In exchange Seik tells him that Dastlan & Alyssa are lichs and Ponti, at first shocked, starts thinking of what he knows of the spell to create a lich and realizes he knows about when this must have happened. Indeed, he lost a niece, a young girl who’d shown strong promise in the arcane during that time. Angered by the memory Ponti agrees not just to make them a portal to Larnaka, but to prepare a few very special gifts for Dastlan and Alyssa as well. With the promise of the gifts to come Seik and Vague return to Larnaka and leave guild markers as to where they’re hiding for Nova and Aurzel.
When Nova and Aurzel return to Larnaka they find the guild markers which tell them where Seik is hiding in wait for them and go to meet him. They discuss their options at length to decide what they need to do next to accomplish their primary mission, the death of the king and decide they need far more information on many different fronts, one of which is the vampires themselves. They return to the crypt and find Laureen waiting for them. She assigns them to gathering intel on the approaching army. They warn her about Daria and try to obtain more intel about the vampires strengths and plans in the coming battle but Laureen is very cagey and doesn’t give them more than vague assurances that she has planned for the battle and has enough troops. They leave her unsatisfied with the answers, but they still need to maintain their cover and they do need intel on the army and so they go to do her bidding. Vague, as a changeling easily infiltrates the army pretending to be one of the townsfolk fleeing from the vampires to the king. As part of the charade he pretends to want to join the army and one of the squads has him participate in a friendly combat to see what he’s made of. It’s a fight Vague easily wins and soon he’s laughing, drinking, and gathering intel on the army. They return to their crypt only to find it under attack by the townsfolk and the vampires waging a cruel war. They don’t want to harm the townsfolk, but can’t afford to take a chance at being seen to not aid the vampires and so they join the fight, but do so in a way to scare off the townsfolk rather than kill them. They’re successful in that aim and are able to maintain their cover.

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Seiking Faith

Circus 03/05/2011

Using guild sigils and secret markers Seik was able to make Aurzel and Nova aware of his presence in the Shadowfell, locating him with ease they updated him on their new turned status Nova a fledgling Vampire Aurzel still not fully aware of his transformation from Deva to Rakshasa. They explained to Seik that they had been brought here to aquire ‘The Well of Tears’ at all costs from the temple of the Raven Queen. The Well was the only way to truly destroy a phylactery, but undead were not able to touch it.

After some discussion they knew someone had to get inside the temple and with both of them being tainted by vampire blood, they knew the clergymen would strike them down as abominations. Seik still stressed and disturbed by the news handed him, realised he was the only one among them to accomplish this task, so while Nova and Aurzel went to see if they could gather some fresh information from the locals, Seik would approach the Temple.

Preparing himself for the performance of his life Seik dishevelled himself, made sore his eyes, shortened his breath and staggered into the temple muttering loudly that he needed help. An acolyte approached him and asked him his troubles and he had explained that his friends had been taken and changed by vampires led by a lich and he needed the support of the Raven Queen. He was a broken man with nothing left and needing faith to support him. He was offered an interview with a temple priest in the morning and a bed in which to sleep, from the chambers window he signaled an all okay to his team who went about the city for information.

Nova and Aurzel spent some time wandering the streets exploring looking for some clue that would link the vampire clan that had turned them to this city, and they found it on the way to a tavern, a clan marking hidden from normal sight but visible to vampires outside a partially ruined building. Following their instincts they realized that the ruin was a visage applied magically and which they passed through easily into an underground chamber. Nova and Aurzel weren’t sure what dangers awaited them in the crypt, but they did know that if they were to succeed in their original mission to assassinate the king, they needed every advantage and information they could possibly obtain. Nova might want revenge with a deep cold abiding fervor, but an enemy who’s a lich is a far more formidable foe than an enemy who’s a king, and she’d deal with Orcus himself to achieve her desires if that’s what it took.

Morning came and Seik well rested and self prepared went to meet his interviewer a young priestess but one that ranked highly at the temple Meria. They spoke at length but she could see through part of Seik’s deceptions and knew that he did not want to become an acolyte. She thought instead his focus was for the revenge of his compatriots, Seik wound the the truth tightly and admitted that their mission had been to assassinate the royalty which they had discovered to be liches. Meria challenged the nobility of his task and Seik rebutted with a tale of his life and that not all things are perfect or as we would choose them. He then spoke of her life in the temple, and that however ignoble the path we travel, all end at the same place and that once we die then we will be judged for our lives. This gave Meria pause for thought and she agreed to the truth of his words. She then offered the temples assistance. Should Seik be able to bring her the phylacteries she would then destroy them in ‘The Well of Tears’. She Offered Seik a Black Feather and a Ring ‘The Feather will be a great help to you and when you find the Phylacteries turn the stone on the ring three times counter clockwise and speak my name, you will be able to send me a message and I shall send you a priest to return you and the phylacteries here.’ Seik thanked Meria for her assistance and left to find the others, and a method back to his home plane. He could be sure if he went back with Aurzel and Nova he would be found by the vampires and turned into one of them the same as the rest of his teammates had, a fate he was unloath to succumb to. He decided instead to find a portal to Vonn, the town Ponti was in and ask him for his assistance in getting back to Anderra, the city of the grand duke. It looked like open warfare was coming and no matter what, Seik was determined to see Solstic fall! If he could engineer that downfall by having it tear itself apart so much the better.

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prequel

We decided to just play a precursor adventure using Nova and Seik’s backstories, due to player attendance prob’s. So, Seik and Aurzel played Jack & Seik, a couple of 13 y/o boys who’d been raised in a circus and who worked together to relieve patrons of their purses. They had a very successful evening and decided to spend their ill gotten games in a tavern where looking around to add to their wealth they decided to relieve a drunk and unconscious patron of his purse and by dint of bluff and perserverance managed to get him out the tavern. (It took a lot of perserverance because the mark was huge.) A bit of a stumble and they were out the door where they “directed” the gent into an alley and attacked him. And suddenly the situation changed. The drunk was cold sober and lightening fast and in a moment hey were caught fast, but instead of being beaten, or killed, or turned over to the guard he offered them a chance to earn far more money in a B&E for some papers he was after, and training and more money if they did very well. The boys took the chance & took the job. Breaking into the house they looked through the master’s bedroom and didn’t find what they were after. They went upstairs and found a locked door. But, it was an easy lock and the boys went through and found room after room of locked doors. But the doors were locked from the outside, and when they opened them they found a brothel. Nova was one of the girls behind a door. Seik spoke to her, and said he would leave the door unlocked. Nova escaped and the boys kept looking but didn’t find anything, until they disturbed a few patrons engaged with the girls, and in the ensuing rukus and need for escape they went back. And found Nova taking a box from a secret drawer. With guards running up the stairs they escaped out the window, and were chased by the one guard smart enough to run out the front door rather than up the stairs. Running as fast as they could while being chased by a guard they were surprised to hear a thud behind them, and the guard stopped shouting. A quick glance showed a dagger in the guard and they kept running until they knew they were safe and out of sight. Seik gave Nova his shirt, and his “employer” stepped out of the shadows. Seik talked Nova into giving him the box, which did indeed contain the papers he wanted, and he offered Seik permanent employment, which Seik turned down and then Seik offered Nova a safe place to stay. The employer offered Nova the chance for revenge, which she accepted. Before he left with Nova he offered Seik Seik employment again saying, “You have no idea the things I can do, and the things I can teach you, or the power I have which could be weilded on your behalf.” Seik asked, “Well, how would I ever get a hold of you, I don’t even know your name?” The man gave him a tiny pewter serpent charm and said, "When your need me, say “shadow serpent”, and someone will contact you." and he and Nova left.

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Circus - 6

Grand Duke Daslen is dead and the vampires have staged a coup. Now the race is on as the king rushes with the grand duchess and an army to re-take the territory and in a matter of days the grand Duke will join them.

The party returned to th Inn to talk to Tak-Tak and he them. “We’ve suspected that the uppermost echelons of power in Vonn had been infiltrated by a powerful necromancer. But this is much worse than we ever could have imagined.” “You’re absolutely certain that the Grand Duke is a lich?” Aurzel replied, “Yes, absolutely certain.” Tak-Tak said, “Well at least the Grand Duchess Alyssa is dead. By all accounts her power combined with her husbands made them far to formidable a target. I’ve been working on acquiring the necessary items to give us the edge we needed to kill them once we’re finally in a position to, but now that she’s dead all we need to worry about is finding his phylactery and destroying it.” To which piece of comfort the party replied, “She’s a lich too” Tak-Tak was visibly dismayed to learn that and he said, “By the gods we’re in a lot more trouble than I thought.” She’s been gone for how long now?" “So we’re out of time, she’ll reappear any time now, if she hasn’t already.”
The vampire mistress Laureen appeared with part of her clan and said, “You’ve allied yourselves with us. It’s time to consummate that relationship. You will join us in the blood bond.” Tak-Tak said, “No we will not be slaves to you. And you have every reason to want us able to act independently in order to destroy the phylacteries.” Laureen said, “We have no reason to trust you, you almost destroyed our plans when you killed Damian. The only reason I haven’t had you killed already and am willing to make you a part of the blood bond is because you helped us kill Daslan and have shown yourselves to be formidable foes. I could use your skills, but I will be certain of your allegiance. You will be part of the blood bond.” A fight ensued whose outcome was a foregone conclusion as Tak-Tak was dominated by the vampire and then hit and held by Nova who’d decided that a vampire allegiance was in her best interest. Aurzel, spent and unable to use his most potent attacks, decided that a vampire alliance made more sense than simply dying at the hands of the vampires, got in line to be turned into a vampire, but unfortunately for a Deva, his choice would not be so simple. The party quickly died, only to be reborn as undead.
When the party returned into unlife they were inside the crypt where they first met the vampires. An argument between Beovan, one of the vampire clan now played by Exarkin, and Laureen, the vampire mistress ensued. Laureen wanted to prepare for open warfare and once the lich’s were dead use the time before their reappearance to find the phylacteries and destroy them by throwing them into a volcano. Beovan pointed out that throwing them into a volcano wouldn’t destroy the phylacteries, it would only kill the lich’s each time they reappeared, the possibility of escape would always be present. To destroy the phylacteries you needed a “Well of Tears” “I don’t know what the phylactery could be, but I do know how we can destroy it once we find it.” “A phylactery is always made with a Well of Tears. It’s part of the enchantment ritual. One hundred children are gathered and tortured for a minimum of 10 days, the longer they can keep the children alive and in torment the more powerful the spell and the phylactery. The essence of their pain, the sounds of their screams, as well as the tears that they shed are gathered moment by moment by the necromancer who is undergoing the transformation into a lich. The ritual creates the well, the well creates the phylactery and the necromancer is slain to be reborn as a lich. Why that’s important is because while a phylactery may be anything, the well is only one thing. A small brazier, seemingly made of obsidian, carved with the faces of a hundred screaming children and filled with a clear liquid through which a twist of red blood swirls constantly, but never mixes. The Well of Tears can destroy a phylactery and I know where one is.” “In the temple of the Raven Queen in the Shadowfell. The priests there guard it closely, but if the cause is worthy and the hearts of the supplicants are true, they will bring it in the time of need to destoy a lich once and for all.” Laureen pointed out that he was contemplating the impossible. He couldn’t go into the temple, none of them could, and none of them could go near the “Well of Tears” it would not tolerate their presence. Beovan outlined a plan to find an innocent and use them as a dupe to obtain the Well. Laureen, with some misgivings agreed to the plan.
The party left the crypt to go to a teleportation circle Beovan knew of to the Shadowfell. When they arrived they started making their way to the temple only to stopped by a gang of Shadar-Kai interested in Nova. Bin Kalon during the ensueing talk decided to manifest his vampiric form and a fight began that saw Beovan’s sword taken from him and Bin lying dead. Aurzel, who’d been using his attacks to good effect against the Shadar-Kai. killing several used several cantrips to make the Shadar-Kai weapons master drop the sword. Aurzel continued to use unorthodox tactics and attacks and acting in concert with Beovan and Nova victory soon followed. Bin arose and helped the party, after all, for a revenant, death is only the beginning.

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Circus - 5

Once Toox escaped from the careful scrutiny of the guards by using the Amulet of Mist our heroes decided to return to the town of Gahn, where they had left Ponti so that they could give him the materials he needed to make the portal. Ponti was as good as his word and established a portal from their room in the tavern, to the prince’s room in the palace. They then decided to return back to the city of Larnika, home of the Grand Duke, to continue on their task of assassinating the king. Believing that they had gotten away with the murder of the Duchess they strolled up to the city gates where Nova, the prescient bard, flirted with the guards and pretended to try to drum up business for the troupe. The guards, having been instructed by the grand duke to watch for and capture the circus troupe as they were extremely dangerous criminals allowed the troupe to enter the gates and then surrounded them and successfully captured Nova in a slaver’s net attack. With Nova captured the other party members tried to brazen it out and bluff their way out of the situation to no avail. They were all bound and taken to the palace dungeon where the grand duke appeared and ordered them taken to his private lab, but not before using an attack on them that sent them to sleep. Struggling against the effects of the psychic attack our heroes awakened during their transport to the secret lab and tried to make good their escape only to succomb again to the grand duke’s psychic onslaught. The grand duke had them in his lab to begin questioning them when they again succeed in struggling against the effects of the psychic onslaught and began fighting in earnest against the grand duke and his guards. The fight was not going well for our heroes despite their use of their most powerful attacks when another secret door opened and in rushed at least a half a dozen vampires to attack the grand duke. In shock and anger the grand duke uttered "How dare you! I can’t believe you would dare try to attack a lich of my power! And he commanded one guard to call the others and notify them of the castles attack while he commanded the other guards to attack while unleashed a barrage of power against the vamps and fey stepped to the door. The guards, rushing to engage the vamps still remembered to attack the party who had to try and make a quick decision as to whether they should try and escape or try to ally with the vamps. A fast & furious telepathic debate ensued which saw our heroes finally deciding on the very risky course of siding with the vampires and trying to aide them in their coup. Every round highlighted the precariousness of their position as more guards and vamps rushed in and they heard the sounds of battle ensuing from multiple directions while the party worked to establish an alliance with the same vampire group whose plans they had foiled when they killed Damian. But, in the heat of battle, without knowing where, or even what the phylacteries were, the vampire mistress decided to accept the parties help if they could indeed prove their worth. A SC ensued that ended with the Vampire mistress and the Lich lord facing off in a showdown in the palace courtyard. Knowing that their fate hung in the balance our heroes each chose 1 action that had the potential to change the course of the battle between the two. Their choices made, their actions taken, our heroes waited as the two powerful assailants unleashed their attacks on each other in a death match, which found the vampire mitress still standing. She turned to the party and ordered them to produce the phylactery which Nova had called out she’d found during that final moment to distract the Lich lord and give the Vampire mistress an advantage. Nova had to admit that she’d used a ruse, and began the delicate walk between being useful to the vampires while still keeping the blood in her and her companions bodies. Success, for now at least, means they still need to prove useful if they’re to have any chance at their final goal, the assassination of the king.

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Circus - 4
Seeking Misfortune

Our intrepid heroes captured and successfully snuck Prince Damian into their quarters. But, were unsuccessful in their attempts to obtain information from him regarding the vampires. The prince tried to escape by turning into a mist form and was instead stopped and butchered horribly by the party. With his dead body lying on the floor Tak-Tak, their handler, appeared. He congratulated the party on on their successful tactics, and then revealed that they actually had a contract on Damian, and that contract came from Grand Duchess Alyssa. Tak-Tak charged them with finding out why the Grand Duchess had placed a contract out on her son. The parties changeling bard, Toox, impersonated the prince and they carried the prince’s body into the palace by just walking past the guards and ordering them to take the party to his quarters. Once in the prince’s rooms they arranged his body on his bed and left it there to find the duchess. Then Toox, still disguised as the prince, went and found the duchess and had the circus troupe perform for their entertainment. Seik found a way to talk to the duchess privately and tried to intimate that they needed to talk more on the subject of the assassination, but the duchess would only say that the contract had been accepted and the deposit made and there was nothing to discuss. When Seik pressed her further the duchess used ghost sound to create a crash outside the dining room and ordered Damian, (still being impersonated by Toox), to correct the servants for their clumsiness. Toox of course left the room giving the duchess a chance to speak more openly with Seik, but she only stated that people in her position did what they needed to do to protect the kingdom and if they were incapable of fulfilling the contract than they should return her money. With that Seik told her that they would meet her in the garden tonight for the final payment for fulfilling the contract. Late that evening, after the prince’s body had been found, the duchess met the party in the garden where she payed them for the contract and walked away refusing to speak to them about her reasons for ordering her son’s death. In a final bid to obtain information Seik called after her, “It wouldn’t have anything to do with vampires would it?” Whereupon the duchess whirled and fired an area spell that hit 3 of the party members in a surprise round. But then it was their turn and through sheer tenacity and smart tactics they managed to bloody the duchess who then called for guards and tried to illuminate the area with a light spell which was promptly put out by Aurzel. With less than a minute before guards would appear the party knew they had to kill the duchess. Using every trick and tactic they had learned over the years as part of the Shadow Serpent Guild they killed the duchess and watched as her body turned to ash right in front of them. Toox assumed her visage as the guards arrived and Toox, as the duchess, stated that she had been attacked and that fortunately the performers had shown up and scared them away! Further questioning by the captain of the guard, professing disbelief over the parties part and offering to take the party in for questioning was met by a sharp rebuff by Toox and then she ordered the guard away. The party decided the best thing to do to hide the death of the Grand Duchess was to have Toox as the duchess profess to need privacy and seclusion and go to one of the outlying estates and then slip away. A plan that they promptly put into motion when Toox, still impersonating the grand duchess, returned to the palace. When the grand duke heard of the duchesses plan he went to her and asked her why she was leaving as the last time they spoke she was going to pay the assassins for Damian’s death. Toox told him that she had been attacked by intruders into the palace and that the performers had interrupted that attack as they had been nearby. The grand duke was shocked that anything could have successfully attacked her considering her considerable power and ability. He then asked if perhaps the presence of the performers had been a bit to convenient and perhaps they knew to much. He asked, “Do we need to have them killed?” Toox replied that, “No, no, they know nothing. They don’t know that we’re vampires. It’s not necessary.” The grand duke looked at her carefully and stated, "I think my dear that considering everything that’s happened, I think it best if you go to one of the manor houses. I will assign a guard for you pesonally. I will take no chances with your safety. The grand duke called the captain of the guard and told him. “The grand duchess will be traveling to the white manor house. I want a fully armed escort for her. I want a guard’s eyes watching her at all times. She leaves tonight” Preparations were immediately made for departure while the party worried outside the grounds waiting and watching for Toox to make her escape. A task made extremely difficult for Toox as the guards took thier orders very literally and watched her every moment. Aurzel was able to mage hand the Amulet of Mist to Toox and guessing that she was on the carriage carrying out the plan of pretending to need seclusion he used ghost sound to whisper the instructions of it’s magical password to activate it. The only thing they could do then was follow discretely and wait for Toox to make her escape which she did under cover of night as she supposedly slept behind her bed curtains.

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