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Chapter 11: Race Against Time

04/21/2004 05/15/1374 DR

The party arrived in Silverymoon in mid-morning.  They immediately went to the Shrine of  Sune in town to see if they could get Setara raised.  At the shrine, they were greeted by Anastasia.  After some small talk, they were shown in to see the High Priestess.

The High Priestess listened to what had happened, and agreed to try to raise Setara.  She fortunately had prepared that spell today, so they would not have to wait.  Since the party had greatly aided the shrine in the past, she agreed not to charge any fee for the spell casting as long as the party reimbursed her for the material component, a 5000 gp ruby. She also would fully heal Setara without any extra cost.

The group debated for a short time on how best to pay for the spell.  In the end, they took 1000 gp from party funds and 1000 gp from the funds that Setara had.  Yassel, Daria, and Kartoffl also contributed 1000 gp each.

After an hour, Setara was returned to the world of the living.  Daria and the rest of the group spent a lot of time updating Setara on the result of their last mission and what had happened since she had died.  They then went to Helmer's Wall for lunch.

When they left Helmer's Wall, a small winged snake with a scroll tube strapped to it flew up to Daria.  The scroll case had a note on it which read, "Open me."  Daria opened the case and found another, longer note and a orangish gem of sorts that glowed slightly.  The note read:

Would you like to play a little game?  The little crystal you are holding is actually a maximized, widened scintillating sphere spell, frozen in time the instant before it detonates.  Unfortunately, the stasis field around it degrades over time -- until it explodes!  There are seven others just like it planted around the city, set to explode in exactly 3 hours.  I assure you that if even one of them is allowed to detonate, the lives lost will be staggering.

On the backside of this letter are seven clues to the locations of the crystals.  If you are clever, you might be able to find them.  If you aren't, I win this game.

Don't try to contact the authorities or Alustriel to help you with our little game.  I am watching you even now, and I can remotely detonate any or all of these crystals if I think for a moment that you're not playing fair.

Take one last look at the little crystal.  Do you feel how warm it is? That's a sign that the stasis field around it is about to expire.  If  I were you, I would get rid of it as quickly as possible.

After she had read the note to herself, she quickly ushered the group into a nearby, deserted alley where she read them the note.  The party had a quick discussion on what to do.  Setara cast fly on Yassel, and Daria gave him the gem.

Yassel flew up into the sky above Silverymoon.  He had cleared the buildings by more than 40 ft (the distance that Setara had told him that would put the gem outside of the explosions range), and kept flying.  When he felt lucky,he released the gem, and tried to fly away before it detonated.  Fortunately, he was able to time things correctly, and the gem exploded harmlessly above Silverymoon.

The explosion, of course, drew the attention of many on-lookers as well as several detachments of the Knights in Silver.  Daria, with Setara's help, was able to delay most of their questioning, promising to give a full report to the Knights at their headquarters in about 3 1/2 hours.  After taking down the party members' name and other information, the group was allowed to go free.

The party now read the back of the note for the clues to the 7 other locations.  It read:
Man strives to bend metal to his will
And continues to forge still.
Search beneath the High Lady's throne.
An imposter alight
In the skies at night.
Tho' that be a lie,
Tis not really the sky!
Held firmly in the high hand of justice.
Selune's bow come to ground
Above the flow
Underneath the trodden.
Upon good dwarven made
Does it rest
In the land of the new.
The Wanton Wench at dockside,
Her arms are open wide.
Beneath her bales of golden hair,
Her hidden charms reside.
Middle of town,
Look around.
What's to be found?
Seek a reflection
Providing direction
To minute confection
Under the floor,
Under the floor,
Behind the square door.

After some discussion, they agreed to visit the square in the center of Silverymoon as that was the closest to their current location in an effort to solve the 7th clue.  At the square, they found an antique shop that had a large mirror in its window.  In the reflection, they saw a sign that said, "Todd's Bakery. We specialize in halfling candies."

They ran across the square and entered Todd's Bakery.  There, Daria and the rest questioned Todd on the pretense that they were on a scavenger hunt. Taken in by their ruse, Todd led them down into the basement where they found a square trapdoor into an unused sub-basement.

After clearing the bags of floor that covered it, they opened the trapdoor to see a 20 ft by 20 ft. basement with about an inch of water on the floor.  On one of the walls, they saw an orangish gem, glowing in the dim light that shone into the sub-basement.

Setara cast an unseen servant, and used it to retrieve the gem.  When the servant touched the gem, it exploded in a small burst of electricity that dispelled the servant.  It also broke open the small crack, allowing a gush of water to stream into the room, and out a 2 ft-diameter drain in the far wall.  The party quickly realized that this had been a decoy, and was not the gem that they had been looking for.

While Setara and Daria did their best to distract Todd, Thistle, Kartoffl,and Eltairin dangled Yassel from a rope so that he could investigate the sub-basement in greater detail.  Finding nothing of interest in the sub-basement, he agreed to be lowered down the drainage tube.

Yassel found himself in a square chamber below the sub-basement where the flow of water dispersed.  There were four passages leaving the chamber, including the chute that he had come down.  The gem that the party had been searching for rested on a pedestal in the center of the room.  When he landed in the chamber, a series of gates closed each passage, trapping Yassel alone.

He then heard a booming voice, seemingly coming from everywhere, which said,

"Are you enjoying our little game so far?"

"I thought we might raise the stakes a little.  This crystal will explode in a few moments, and when it does you will be fried alive -- that is, unless you can solve the puzzle of the gates and escape this chamber."

"And by the way, this room is directly beneath a children's hospital. Should you fail to get the crystal out of here in time, the entire building will collapse."

Yassel quickly checked each passage.  The one across from where he had entered was caved in.  Only a skeleton with a long spear running through it was visible.  The left-hand passage went only 20 ft, and had a large, rusty wheel at the far end.  The right-hand one turned left after a few feet, and seemed to have light coming from it.  The chute that he had come had a key beyond the first gate, just out of reach.  Each passage was blocked by at least one locked gate, and the chute he had come down was blocked by 4 gates.

Upon investigation, Yassel found that he could crawl under the gate leading to the skeleton.  He crossed under, and retrieved the spear.  He then used the spear to retrieve the key, which he used to unlock the gate leading to the wheel.  He turned the wheel, which seemed to unlock the rest of the gates.  With some effort, Yassel lifted the right-hand gate, and propped it up with his short sword.  He then took the gem and left down that passage.

After hearing what was happening below, Kartoffl descended the rope to help Yassel.  He managed to lift all four of the gates that blocked the chute.  He entered the square chamber shortly after Yassel had left. Kartoffl retrieved Yassel's sword, and followed after him.

Daria and Setara ushered Todd upstairs, and then went across to the endangered children's hospital.  They spoke to the administrator and then the head nurse in an effort to get the hospital cleared.  They then assisted in bringing children to safety.

Unfortunately in his rush to escape, Yassel once again forgot to check the ceiling.  Green slime fell upon him once again.  Knowing he had very little time before the slime killed him, he rushed toward the way out that he could see ahead.

Below the drainpipe, Yassel detonated the gem by smashing it against the wall.  The explosion, nearly killed Yassel.  It sent rock and water up into the air, and blew a 4 ft-diameter hole in the street above.  Luckily, Kartoffl was just outside the blast radius, and he was able to heal Yassel.

Once again, the Knights in Silver descended upon the party.  It took a bit of explaining, but Daria was able to wiggle the party out of the situation once again.  They left the Knights to return the children to the hospital and deal with the mess in the street.

They next tried to solve clue #1.  They figured that the clue indicated that they were looking for a human blacksmith.  Kartoffl realized that Silverymoon currently only had 2 human blacksmiths as the rest were all dwarven.  He led them to the closest: Old Joe's Smithy.

Daria, with Yassel and Setara's aid, quickly convinced Joe to let them search his shop for an item from their scavenger hunt.  Kartoffl found the crystal inside of the forge, and was able to get it out, protected by his ring of minor fire resistance.  He held it until it cooled down enough to be stored and he was convinced that it would not explode immediately.

Upon leaving the smithy, a messenger boy came up to Daria.  He had a note from a pretty lady that he said looked like Setara.  He could give no other information, and seemed to honestly know nothing more.  The note read:

One needs a hook to catch a fish,
And a flickering lure to catch its eye;
But minnows are a worthless dish
To one with bigger fish to fry.

After a discussion on the possible meanings for this note, they next went to Star Court to attempt to solve clue #4.  They searched the statue outside to no avail.  They then realized that the high hand of justice was the chief judge in Silverymoon, Judge Kopas.

After finding that he was in court, the party entered the court room. Daria, with Yassel and Setara's aid, was able to persuade the judge to listen and not throw them immediately in jail.  Somehow, she also managed to convince him to let them take his gavel where Setara was able to detect the magic of the crystal.  They left, promising a full explanation within a few hours.

Upon leaving the Star Court, they heard a female voice as if from a ventriloquism spell.  It said, "Not a female...  What am I?"  After some discussion and many guesses, they were not able to come up with a satisfactory answer.

They walked to the Moonbridge to solve clue #5.  They found that although the bridge itself was a force field, both sides were of stone construction of dwarven make.  Eltairin used his slippers to check under the southern portion, which was on the new side of Silverymoon.  There, he found another crystal glued to the underside, probably with sovereign glue.  Kartoffl luckily had a stone shape, and he was able to quickly remove the crystal.

Upon leaving the Moonbridge, they heard the same female voice once again.  It said, "Tit for... What am I?"

When someone answered, "Tat", the voice said, "Correct.  That is the second part."  Setara pointed out that they got no such message when they were trying to guess the first clue, so they must not have solved that one yet.

In an effort to solve clue #6, they went to Hadonia's new shrine to Sharess near the docks by the Bright Blade Brandished Tavern.  Inside the shrine, they were able to see a statue of Sharess with her arms outstretched in greeting.  Next to the shrine, they spotted a barn with hay.  Inside the barn in a section very close to the shrine, they quickly found another crystal.

Upon leaving the shrine, they heard the female's voice for a third time. She said, "The final... What am I?"

When the party said, "Last," they heard in reply, "Correct.  That is the 3rd part."

When they put these together, they realized that the female was referring to Mantatlus, the wizard they had captured in aiding Kathkallan and his journeyman.  The answer to the first clue must have been "man." Mantatlus is still in prison in Silverymoon to the party's knowledge.

The party is still outside of Hadonia's shrine, and has used 65 minutes so far.  They have 2 more crystals to retrieve, and still need to get rid of them safely.  They know that the High Lady is obviously Lady Alustriel, but that while she has several audience halls, she has no throne.  Yassel believes that throne refers to her privy or toilet instead.  Daria just realized that there is a planetarium at the Lady's College on the south side of Silverymoon.
04/28/2004 05/15/1374 DR - 05/16/1374 DR

The party went to the planetarium at the Lady's College.  Walking inside as if they belonged, they were not stopped or even questioned.  Eltairin even approached one of the teachers who was nearby to ask if any of the stars in the display were new -- none were.

They examined the star display in detail.  Daria counted a total of 20 stars that were orange in color.  Eltairin walked up into the stars to get a closer look.  He detected magic up there, and found that all of them radiated magic.  Unfortunately, he could not determine the school of any of them.  Setara then detected magic, and was able to find the only one that radiated evocation instead of illusion.

Eltairin approached the star that Setara pointed out.  He was about to remove it when he spotted a thin wire leading away from it.  Fearing that it was a trap, he walked down, and gave his slippers to Yassel.

Yassel climbed up the walls into the star field. Examining the wire, he found the wire itself to be the trap; the crystal and its socket were not trapped at all.  He removed the crystal, and lowered it down to the party. Then, he removed the trap to protect any planetarium worker who might be sent up to replace the missing star.

The party then spent some time thinking about the first clue.  They finally decided to split the party, sending Thistle outside of the city with the 5 crystals in their possession while the rest of the party went to the High Palace.

Thistle left through the southern gate, and found a secure, uninhabited location to bring the crystals.  He chose a farmer's field that had been left fallow, concealed the crystals in the center of that field, and guarded them until the inevitable explosion.

The party tried to gain entry to the High Palace through the servants' entrance.  The guard there would not let them in without proper authorization no matter how hard they pleaded with him.  They left, supposedly to gain authorization to enter.

Seeing that they had no other option, they went to the main entrance instead.  They quickly asked to see Fredegar.  Fortunately, he was available and could see them immediately.  They explained the situation to him, and somehow convinced him that he should really bring them to the High Lady's private bathroom.  The only condition that he imposed was that they check their weapons at the gate, which they did (except for Yassel who snuck a few weapons in anyway).

Once at the bathroom, the party searched it for the crystal.  Finding nothing visible, Setara used a detect magic to locate it below the toilet within the pipes.  She then used an unseen servant to recover the crystal from the plumbing.  Fredegar lead the party outside through the servants' entrance and passed the guard who had denied then passage earlier.

The party quickly left the city.  Kartoffl circled around to the front entrance of the High Palace to retrieve the party's weapons.  Setara sent her hawk familiar, Aasan, to Thistle with the sixth crystal and a note explaining the situation.  When he received them, Thistle placed the crystal in the pile with the rest of the crystals.  Yassel then left to join Thistle to wait for the explosions.

The party then went to the Knights in Silver.  They spoke to the commander of the watch, and Daria explained the situation.  They asked if Mantatlus was still in custody, and requested that someone check on him. The commander sent to check on Mantatlus.  The guard returned about 5 minutes later, telling them that he was still in prison.

The party then asked and was granted permission to question Mantatlus. At the jail, they spoke to Mantatlus, but did not get much information.  He claimed to know nothing about any crystals planted around the city or any attempts to free him.  Not getting anywhere, they decided to remain in the corridor outside of his cell and wait for the 3 hours to expire.

When the 3 hour mark came, there were two explosions.  The pile of crystals that Thistle and Yassel had been guarding exploded, leaving a large hole in the center of the farmer's field.  The wall of the prison containing Mantatlus also exploded, creating a large hole in the wall and sending stone fragments everywhere.  Only Kartoffl was injured by flying debris.

A few moments later, the party heard the door to Mantatlus' cell unlock. Attempts to strike an invisible assailant were unsuccessful.  Daria and Eltairin then spotted a gnome riding a flying carpet approaching the hole the wall.  They also noticed magical battles erupting a few blocks away from the prison.

A battle with the gnome ensued, lasting only 3 rounds.  During the combat, the party was struck by a lightning bolt followed by an ice storm, killing Kartoffl.  The gnome then retreated away from the prison, covering his escape with a stinking cloud spell.  Once he exited the city, he was struck by a series of attacks from the spellguard.

The Knights quickly took control of the situation.  Mantatlus was escorted to a safer location.  The party was questioned and then also taken to a more secure location to wait.  Kartoffl was taken to the Temple of Helm where he was raised immediately.  Thistle and Yassel eventually rejoined the rest and were escorted to them.

Over the next few hours and into the next day, the party was repeatedly questioned.  The High Justice and the Knights Commander, Daria's father, were among the first who wanted explanations.

In the morning, they were summoned before Alustriel herself who wanted to hear from them what had happened.  She questioned them in depth, and was not pleased that her private bathroom and been compromised.  After she was finally through with questioning, she told them that the gnome had been killed while trying to escape.  At the end of the audience, she rewarded the party his small, anarchic, +2 rapier for their efforts to protect the city.


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© Copyright Maryrita Steinhour, 2002, 2004.