Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 24, 2017
 
Zeitgeist: Digging for Lies - Session 4

In the previous session the constables of the RHC arrested Kaja Stewart, an illegal arms dealer. So this session started with her interrogation. Kaja Stewart admitted having worked for Mayor Reed Macbannin (their previous case). She claimed that while she was helping the mayor to refine witch oil in the underground laboratory, she had been told that this was for a secret defense program. She only realized that her activities might have been criminal when the constables turned up to arrest the mayor. Not wanting to go to jail, and now without a job, she used the ensuing chaos to empty the safe of the mayor and flee. Having found a number of magical weapons in the safe, access to some more mundane weapons in a warehouse of the operation, and contacts to the thieves guild, she decided to make her living dealing in arms.

She didn't know much about the staff of the ancients, nor about the amulet and blade of the ancients. She had heard that the items came from an archaeological dig site, and had been brought to the mayor by a Danoran tiefling for identification. She couldn't say whether him or any other of the many visitors of the mayor were involved in the conspiracy or just there for regular business.

[DM's note: At this point the adventure as written assumes that the constables automatically make a connection between "archaeological dig site" and the local university and head there next. But as neither the Pardwight University nor it's archaeological department and museum had ever appeared in this or previous adventures, I made a slight change to the story.]

After the interrogation the constables did their usual morning debriefing with their boss, Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft. He commended them for having captured the arms dealer, and agreed that they should investigate the staff of the ancients further, given how that staff had summoned strange monsters at the exposition and was a possible danger. However the description of the staff had also appeared in a newspaper article, together with the fact that the RHC had confiscated it. So now the legal owner of the staff had come forward, a Hans Weber, Professor of Antiquities and curator of the Museum of Natural History of the Pardwight University. He had provided paperwork to prove that he had a right to staff, and that he had previously declared the theft of the staff, blade, and amulet of the ancients. Now he wants them back, for an important exhibition at the museum. As the RHC has not much legal basis to keep the items, Delft told the constables to bring them to Professor Weber, but question him at the same time about the staff's origin.

Merian had a contact at the university who could tell them more about Professor Weber, who appeared to be legit albeit a bit full of himself. Professor Weber was able to tell them more about where the staff had come from: Earlier this year an archaeologist from Slate had discovered a ziggurat in the High Bayou region of Risur. The archaeologist, a Dr. Xambria Meredith, had looked around for funding. Finally both Pardwight University and a philanthropist from Danor, Caius Bergeron, had agreed to co-finance the excavation. The deal was that Xambria would send any finds to Caius Bergeron first, who would inspect the items and then hand them over to the university and museum for exhibition. The staff, blade, and amulet were early finds. Xambria had sent them to Caius Bergeron, but apparently something had gone wrong, because all Professor Weber received was a letter from Caius stating that unfortunately the items had been stolen and he couldn't deliver them to the museum.

Then things got even worse: The excavation team was attacked by unknown assailants and massacred. Xambria was the only survivor, and had returned to Flint. She is under severe shock and is suffering from memory loss and confusion. So the university put her in an apartment on site for rest until she could get better. The constables were allowed to interview Xambria, but asked to tread carefully due to the fragile state of her.

Dr. Xambria Meredith could give them a bit more information. The philanthropist Caius Bergeron, a tiefling from Danor, had asked her to look for a specific item: A large disc out of pure gold that he called the "golden seal", full of astronomical symbols from the ancients. Shortly after finding and sending Caius the staff, blade, and amulet, Xambria had in fact found such a golden seal in the ziggurat and informed Caius about it. Caius had then sent a team of specialists, tiefling mages from Danor, to inspect the find. While they were busy inspecting the seal, Xambria had gone to pick up supplies in the next village. When she had come back, she had found the whole excavation team massacred. She didn't see the bodies of the specialists, but hadn't dared to venture inside the ziggurat. In shock she had returned to Flint and reported the deaths to the police and the university. However nobody had returned to the dig site since then to her knowledge. She provided the constables with a map and description how to reach the ziggurat.

From the description of the philanthropist it appeared clear that it was him who had given the blade, staff, and amulet of the ancients to Mayor Macbannin. While the university had lost contact with Caius Bergeron, the constables were able to find him by using their connection to the security chief of the Danoran consulate. Caius was staying in one of the best hotels in the rich North Shore district. He was willing to talk to the constables, but his account pretty much matched the information that they already had. Caius claimed that he had been afraid of the items being cursed, as that was at least a common superstition about artifacts found in pyramids / ziggurats. So he had looked for the local specialist in fighting dark magic, which happened to be Mayor Reed Macbannin. After the arrest of the mayor, Caius had gone to the mayor's manor to claim his belongings, but found the safe in the mayor's office had been emptied. So he had informed the university of the theft. Caius claimed that he had no idea who had caused the subsequent massacre at the dig site, and hadn't heard from his team of specialists since. He assumed they were dead. He could only speculate that some sort of monster attack had happened, and mentioned that the region was home to one of the five titans of Risur, fey creatures of colossal scale and near god-like power. The Voice of Rot was a huge white serpent who controlled the swamps of Risur and the rotting of dead animals.

[DM's note: This time it was the players who remarked that the adventure wasn't very good at providing compelling reasons towards the next step. What to do next was more a result of meta-gaming, with the adventure providing a clear neon-sign saying "dungeon this way", and the conventions of the genre demanding that the group of adventurers checks out that dungeon.]

So the constables decided to head for the ziggurat next. They spent a day getting permission, getting equipment and the like, and then left on one of the few already existing train lines to Bole in the High Bayou. At this point we ended the session.

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