Veri, Vargas, Mellvin and Rogan were in hot pursuit of the thief Surri and their stolen goods, particularly and most importantly Rogan’s heirloom sword, and NubNub’s soul-in-a-ring. Well, I say hot pursuit, but there were a few problems with them rushing off to capture her. For one, Surri had made off with Mellvin’s horse. And for two, Mellvin had cunningly knocked Veri unconscious in the middle of the darkness and fog cloud (left by Surri) and entangle (made by Vargas). But such things were never known to slow down our intrepid adventurers, and one problem was another’s solution – with Veri unconscious, Mellvin could just use her horse, and sling her over the back. This worked for all of about three gallops, when the thumping of the horse’s hooves into the ground and the bumpy ride brought Veri to a very sudden consciousness. The two rangers were doing the best they could in terms of tracking the horse that Surri had stolen, given that they did not have the help of any Sophite paladin to lead the way, but as the night grew dark Vargas’s eyes were not sharp enough to be able to continue to see, and so the party was reliant purely on Mellvin’s elven eyes to follow the horse tracks. And follow them he did, for several hours into the night! Even when he saw that the horse had stopped, and a person had alighted from it and walked off in another direction, he just kept following that horse.
Even when it had stopped galloping, or even trotting, and now seemed to be just walking – and in fact Vargas could sense it up ahead with Carna’s blessing – so that after another two hours or so (their own horses were by now reaching a high state of tiredness) they were able to trot up to the horse which was patiently walking along, occasionally chewing a bit of grass here or there. Vargas lit up the area with faerie fire, but it was obvious there was no invisible rider on this horse, or anywhere near it. She had led them astray with a very simple trick. So after riding for two hours back to the spot where the tracks had branched off (and taking this other horse with them), Veri and Rogan teleported ahead to Sanctuary, where they assumed the thief had headed, and told Mellvin and Vargas to catch them up as quick as they could the next day. Vargas was glad for the opportunity to rest – he was exhausted, mostly with rage at not being able to capture this stupid thief who had managed to outsmart them three times now.
Veri and Rogan walked the mystical lanes of magical travel once more, and appeared at their usual landing place – the room in the Wizard’s Warmth. Thankfully its three occupants were asleep, and they were able to just sneak out without causing a fuss this time. It was very late at night – or rather very early in the morning – and the entire pub was quiet. Their first stop was to Smith’s Yard, where Veri tried her darnedest to convince the Paliylite investigators that they had “followed” a thief to Sanctuary (but gotten there before her), that she had stolen a magic cube, a sword, some armour made of spiderwebs, a ring with someone’s soul in it, and diplomatic papers, and may or may not have stolen stuff from a paladin, and if she did, they didn’t know what it was. The reward for return of these items was 20 cubic feet of gold. Rogan simply stood and nodded in agreement to all of this – after all, what was gold if he lost his link with his ancestors? The Paliylite, however, was a little less convinced about the veracity of these strange claims, but he took a note anyway. Whether he put it on the ‘investigations in progress’ board or the ‘weekly wetters chuckle’ board is hard to say.
Veri hated to do it, but she knew that her next stop would need to be the mausoleum, to visit Utuk and ask for his help, perhaps in scrying the ring. They awoke him from his place of rest upon a stone cold burial preparation slab, and he looked up at them with withering tiredness. However, he was prepared to speak at least with Rogan, and hearing that his fellow cleric was in trouble, even prepared to attempt a scry on the ring’s bearer, since he had met Surri that one time. Two hours of preparation time later though, the best his reflecting pool could show was a rough outline of Sanctuary. It was now likely past 5 o’clock in the morning, and there was little point in finding somewhere to sleep for a couple of hours. Veri couldn’t memorise any spells having not slept at all that night, but she still wanted to stake out the southern gate in case Surri came through, so she came up with a dastardly scheming plan (likely powered by a lack of sleep): she would roll herself in mud, and disguise herself as some sort of poverty stricken beggar. Of course, it took a lot of mud to cover up the shining blue lightning bolt that glowed over her visage, but Rogan was happy enough to offer assistance in smearing yet more mud over the wizard’s face.
They did not meet Surri at the gate, strangely, but they did eventually find the two rangers trotting through, who both instantly recognised Veri, given she was standing next to Rogan, and still retained that sort of superior attitude that does not tend to accompany a mud-splattered hobo. Vargas informed them that they had lost the tracks when they woke up, and so had to circle the area until they could regain them again, and finally found them leading more or less straight to Sanctuary’s gate, where they quickly became lost in the heavy traffic of the city. The tracks show that Surri must have pushed herself well beyond exhaustion, and likely could not have gone any further than Sanctuary in her tired state. Mellvin and Vargas of course reported to Utuk as well, who was tired after having been awoken in the early morn. They discovered that not only could Utuk locate the ring within the city walls (he had tried, to no success) but that the weapons they carried were no longer blessed by Qodesh – he was obviously upset with them for turning their backs on the plight of the slaves, or at least that was Utuk’s opinion.
And so with magical or clerical divination out of the question, it was time for the party to do some old-fashioned investigating. Vargas and Rogan canvassed all the shops where they thought some of the equipment could be sold. Veri went back to the Wizard’s Warmth to see if anyone had been trying to move magical items. Mellvin visited inns, taverns, and anywhere expensive items such as jewellery might be bought – again, to no avail. Veri was not quite prepared to give up on holy help, but after approaching Kitar and being rebuffed (he could not perform an augury without a holy artifact) and going again to the Paliylites to try and get them to perform an augury (they required payment to do such, but assured her they were looking into her situation, despite how crazy she sounded – but at least she had cleaned the mud off), she gave up the idea of the gods helping. Why wasn’t Roland here? Mellvin thought he might be able to pick up a trace of her tracks at the docks, or out of one of the other gates of the city, but it was impossible. Finally, late that night, well after dark, Veri heard that one of the mages in the Wizard’s Warmth, a man by the name of Gon, had a friend in the council by the name of Fen Xit, who had been talking about the recent discussions that day in Sanctuary’s Council that revolved around some diplomatic papers. Finally, a lead! But it was so late, Veri was exhausted, and everyone had been working hard. They also had no money (thanks Surri) and nowhere to sleep. Vargas was offered standing room in the mausoleum by Utuk, which he gratefully accepted. The rest had to sleep in a tent pitched outside the city limits.
But at least the sleep meant that the next morning, Veri could memorise a couple of teleports. Her destination? Bazaar. Her quest? Grab Roland and drag him back to Sanctuary to help, if necessary. Weaving her magical skills, she appeared just outside Xin Hao’s tower (the best remembered place for them in Bazaar) and walked around the corner to the Grand Library of Sophia. There, perhaps unsurprisingly, she found Roland, bags under his eyes, a defeated look in his posture, sorting and shelving books. She did not wish to alarm him by her presence, so instead she tried to sneak up on him, grab his shoulder, and teleport away. She succeeded in sneaking up and teleporting away – but Roland still had a warrior’s reflexes, and shrugged off her touch, spinning around in time to see Veri suddenly vanish without him. And so there was Veri, once again in the Wizard’s Warmth, once again in room 203, and thankfully this time it was empty. She sat down right there and rememorised herself another teleport, this time thinking she would go back and talk to Roland first, and explain why they needed his help so badly.
Of course, this rememorising took well over an hour, and she had told the rest of the party she would appear in the Wizard’s Warmth again in just a few minutes. When she didn’t come back after an hour, Vargas assumed she had probably teleported herself into a wall and was dead. They would just have to continue on without her. She had mentioned something about the council, and Utuk was able to confirm it, being a high cleric and hearing such things, so over they went to the council chambers to find out what was going on there. Veri returned to Bazaar, this time approaching Roland and explaining, shortly, why he needed to come back and not sit around shuffling books. Roland however explained to her that he had been re-assigned in his duties serving Sophia, and he was required here, in the library, and possibly later to be moved back to Fiiel. He did, however, have a copy of a letter for her and the rest of the party, which she was about to read when Roland mentioned that he had been stripped of his duties as a paladin for failing to help the slaves, something he now understood and regretted. But Sophia was his life, and he had found other manner of service in her temple – where he would train future warriors of wisdom, and share the wisdom and experience he had gained through his adventures. He could not secure for her a holy relic, as that was the realm of the clergy, but he could at least ask them for a quiet place for her to memorise her teleport to get back to Sanctuary. Veri could do nothing else but say, “Well, have a nice rest of your life, Roland. Bye.” And after that, she was gone back to Sanctuary, and Roland was gone… for good, it seemed.
The rest of the party had walked up the tall steps to the council chambers, and had been greeted there, Vargas being instantly recognised – a mixed blessing of his centaur race. They were invited into the council chamber, as apparently they were all being discussed at this moment. It was here that they met the new head of the Sanctuary Council – a man by the name of Zeen Coodgee. He had been one of the councillors who had returned from exile in Manxiga when the war was over, and who had made a great deal of money importing alcohol to sell not in taverns and bars, but directly to people for home consumption. Bottles and skins of Coodgee liquor were becoming more and more well-known throughout Sanctuary, Bazaar, and all of Vahassa. He had a forceful bearing, red puffy cheeks as though he enjoyed a little too much of his own product, and was unfailingly uncouth in his manners, insisting he be referred to as ‘Coodgo’. With the death of Mandel, he had filled the gap in leadership the council needed – though it seemed everyone disliked him or was uncomfortable with him, he had a force of personality that could not be easily dismissed. He was much like Cherrock in that way, come to think of it.
Coodgo informed the party that they would not need their diplomatic papers any more, which was good, given that they were stolen from them and they had failed to head to Manxiga after receiving them anyway. But that was of little moment – Coodgo had just passed a successful resolution that Vahassa’s humans were going to invade and take over the land of the Bitto, before moving a force onward to Manxiga to join those others that sought to stop the orc army in its tracks. Furthermore, he had evidence – and though he refused to name his source, he insisted that she was highly trustworthy, beyond reproach, and utterly capable – that the party had planned to rob Xin Hao’s merchant mage tower, that they were in cahoots with a member of Cherrock’s armed forces which had ravaged Vahassa (indeed, there he was with a chunk of the Argent Tower around his neck!), and most heinously, after being warned on no less than three occasions that the human slaves of Vahassa were in danger of being slaughtered and eaten like cattle, they did nothing to help at all, allowing weeks to pass before even informing Sarkon of the situation.
Apparently the party had a mage who was not currently present who could teleport, who never even thought once of teleporting back to ask for help to save the slaves. Apparently when the news was first heard, the party were still on the western side of the dividing mountains and were within a day’s walk of Pachia but did not even go to send a letter through the Mellvin Express. Apparently the party travelled right past the docking stations where the slaves were kept, and did nothing. And apparently the party spent more time worrying about how to transport a wealth in gold than thinking about how they might be able to rescue innocent lives. For this treachery, the party were found to be enemies of the state, and were no longer welcome in Vahassa. They had 24 hours in which to leave, after which they were to be arrested on sight. Mellvin was shocked that, after all they had done for this continent, after coming from Manxiga to help stop the war, this was the thanks they got. Vargas followed suit straightaway, telling the leaders that they were a joke if they thought this was the right thing to do. The rest of the councillors were deathly silent. Rogan spoke up and simply said, “Give me back my sword, you thieves.” And he said it with such a quality of pure menace, that even Coodgo had to nod and agree – the group could regain their equipment, but still had to leave Vahassa in 24 hours.
Veri of course didn’t know anything about this. She was busy teleporting around the continent faster than a pinball, bouncing first to Nubton to item two cubic feet of gold, then to Bazaar to get it changed into a promissory note. She used that to pay for an augury at the Sophite temple, where she could find NubNub’s ring (Vargas had it, of all things) and a scry to find the ring’s thief – and there was Surri, in some richly appointed home. Veri didn’t have time to wait – she teleported directly there, right in front of the woman. Veri appeared with a clap, and Surri gave a little shriek and a start. Veri then unleashed a volley of scorn, calling Surri a seductress and a thief. Surri, however, replied with withering insults of her own, calling Veri a traitor and a cheat. Surri apparently thought she would get the last laugh too, because she then grinned wickedly and told Veri that she had 24 hours to leave Vahassa – she was banished for her crimes against her own people.
Veri, of course, was shocked.