"My friends, I'm afraid I will be away for a few days. In the meantime, continue searching for the Ogre base, as it is vital that we uncover what is happening there. Also, there are rumors of trouble down south in the town of Jelek, but nothing we can confirm. You should also investigate what is happening there. I will see you again in a few days."
Taking a few minutes to stop into the outpost's tavern, the party discussed what their next move should be. It occurred to them that despite their intentions to go and find the Ogre base, they actually had no idea where to start or where it might be located. So, after a few quick drinks, they headed out to the town of Jalek, deciding that they would definitely look into the Ogres as soon as they got back.
At the town gates of Jelek, though, they were stopped by guardsmen. They demanded to know what the party wanted, and told them:
"We've had a lot of unsavory characters passing through town lately. The good armies have left us in the lurch and we are forced to take the law into our own hands in order to protect the citizens of the town. All persons entering Jelek that are unknown to the guards shall be assigned an escort for the duration of their stay. They will be restricted to the public parts of town. The burial grounds are strictly forbidden to all strangers."
At that point, they called over the man who would be assigned to accompany the party in Jelek.
|Is it my imagination, or is that Jeff Goldblum in drag?|
The man introduced himself as Skyla. He gave the party a goofy grin. His entire aspect seemed dignified enough, until he began to talk. At that point, the party began to question his ancestry and wondered if maybe he hadn't suffered a terrible fall on his head as a child.
He babbled on about the party going to visit a friend of his who could offer a great deal of information and items to the party. "My friend has many objects of value for sale. And you should see his frog collection. It's amazing! He even has a sword that seems to be magical. Or, at least undead creatures seem to run in terror from it. He also has a lot of potions for sale. He might even have information about some things involving recent activities in the area. Oh yeah, and his daughter is really beautiful. C'mon!"
Skyla grabbed Janessa Waylan by the hand and began to pull her through the streets on his quest to locate the house where his friend lived. The rest of the party quickly followed. It was then that Tamera noticed something.
A shadowy figure seemed to be watching the party from the recesses of an alleyway. The figure slipped into the crowd and disappeared before Tamera could get a bearing on where they went.
Toward the front of the party, Janessa spotted a shop dealing in magical items and pulled Skyla to a stop. She told him that she wanted to go into the magical shop and see what they had for sale. Skyla did not seem happy with the detour, but relented, as the rest of the party steered their way into the shop.
|Is this a magical shop or the local Hooters?|
Skyla waited impatiently while the party browsed the wares and bought a few scrolls. He tried to talk the party out of the purchase, exclaiming loudly that his friend had much better scrolls at half the cost. If only the party would follow him there, they would see that this whole shop was a waste of money.
Janessa bought the scrolls anyway, but promised that if Skyla's friend had any items of real value, she still had plenty of gold left to purchase a few things.
Eventually, the party finished shopping and headed back out into the street. Skyla seemed distracted, looking back toward the main gates. He shook his head and said he thought he saw something, but that it must be his imagination. He then urged the party onward toward his friend's house, recounting what a great guy he was and how many things the party would find that they would like.
A sudden noise behind the party brought everyone to a stop. Behind them, a large food cart had been overturned and several merchants were squabbling. A shadowy figure darted from near the food cart and headed into the alleyway.
Skyla suddenly became very serious. "I'll return in a few minutes. Please continue down this road until it ends and turn left. I'll catch up to you in a minute." With that Skyla headed back toward the direction of the food carts and disappeared into the crowd.
The party headed down the road, following the instructions they had been given. Sure enough, withing a few minutes, Skyla returned, giving the party a big smile.
|Hard to find? The party followed his instructions to the letter...|
He apologized for having to leave so abruptly, complained about how hard the party was to find, and then urged them to continue their trip to his friend's house. The party headed down about a block, when Skyla held up his hand and stopped them again.
He apologized again, but told the party that he had to leave again. He promised it would be the last time and darted down a side street, leaving the party standing in the middle of the road.
The party started to question whether Skyla was all there. It was highly possible that he was not mentally well. He seemed to sometimes be pleasant and coherent, and other times to be completely insane.
As the party discussed this, they were suddenly surrounded by rough looking characters. Without warning, these shady people drew weapons and charged the party.
|Okay, maybe they weren't "surrounded."|
Even though the party had been caught unaware, they still managed to hold off the group and defeat them rather quickly, especially given that Janessa used a Fireball spell to thin their numbers. The crowd that had been in the streets had suddenly disappeared.
Skyla returned very quickly afterward. He noticed the dead bodies on the ground. "What happened here? Well, no matter. We are overdue to meet with my friend. Come, let's leave the streets before someone thinks you're responsible for this mess."
He pushed the party onward around several corners until they approached a large building. He opened the door and stepped inside, gesturing for the party to enter. After they stepped through the door, he slammed it and locked it behind them.
Skyla turned and laughed.
|Why, Jeff Goldblum, why?!!|
"We have known about you group of troublemakers for quite some time. Myrtani is not pleased with how you have been disrupting his plans. I must leave now and tell Myrtani of our success. My friends will deal with you."
He waved his hands. Armed warriors, armored clerics and dark-garbed mages came out of the shadows. As he slipped away, they fell upon the party.
The party backed against the wall and prepared to defend themselves. Suddenly, a woman shot out of the shadows and took out one of the mages. She came up next to the party and attacked one of the warriors. The party didn't waste time and capitalized on the stunned reactions of the enemy.
The battle went by swiftly. And though a few of the party members had been lightly hurt, they had come out victorious. Only Janessa Waylan had been seriously hurt and knocked unconscious, but Tamera was certain she would survive with some magical healing.
|The shadowy figure has a real figure.|
"Listen, I've been following you for some time now. That Skyla character is the leader of a faction of guards that has taken over the city. He looks stupid, but don't let that fool you. He knows exactly what he looks like, and he knows how to use it to his advantage."
"He takes his orders from Sir Lebaum. Lebaum took over about a week ago. It was slow and insidious how he did it. No word got out at all and, initially, there was lots of business for our shops. Everyone was happy. Except that now he's cut off all contact with the outside. Anyone that comes in here either joins the guards or is killed, as you almost were."
"There's another disturbing thing. I've done some digging around and nobody has even seen this Sir Lebaum character. Most people have never even heard of him. There was a Knight of Solamnia of that name that was corrupted by Takhisis many, many years ago, but legend has it that he died---horribly, they say."
"I'd like to get into the graveyard and examine his office. Are you willing to go with me?"
The party took a minute to take all this in. After a few minutes, they decided that they would accompany Mysellia on her mission and get to the bottom of the trouble in Jelek.
NEXT TIME: The party heads to the graveyard...