Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Eleven: Vecna Lives! – Chapter 2

It was on Moonday, the 3rd day of Reaping, in the Common Year of 581, when Cymria
of Celedon told the Righteous Vanguard about her vision of the deaths of the Circle of
Eight. And it was the following morning, Godsday the 4th, when the band went with
Cymria to the Temple of Boccob in the City of Greyhawk. There, it was their intention to
speak with the High Patriarch, Ravel Dasinder, to see if he could locate Mordenkainen and
to tell him about Cymria’s vision. However, due to it being Godsday, they were delayed
in their efforts by the morning’s sermons, which had just begun as the band arrived. The
band, therefore, was forced to wait and sit for an hour while listening to priests go on and
on about dark and trying times ahead.
Curiously enough, but perhaps not entirely by coincidence, this morning’s sermons
seemed very fitting and possibly even prophetic, considering the prevailing mood of those
in attendance and the news that the band came to deliver. And while it was not unheard of
for lesser members of the temple’s clergy to perform the morning’s sermons, the absence
of Ravel Dasinder from the entire proceedings was duly noted by all and even a cause for
some concern by many, particularly when taking into account some of the recent rumors
that were now being passed about among various groups of spellcasters. Alavarius also
noted that, while the House of Boccob was never one of the more popular centers of
worship within the city, it’s followers being limited for the most part to arcane spellcasters
who rarely if ever attended regular sermons, there were quite a few more people in
attendance on this day than was typical. When Alavarius asked around a bit on why this
was, he was told that a number of spellcasters had recently noticed that divination spells
seemed to be failing with a greater frequency than usual and that, more and more, they
were becoming concerned about this.
When the morning’s sermons were finally over, and the band finally had the opportunity
to ask one of the lesser clerics to speak with Ravel Dasinder, they were told that he was
very busy and did not wish to be disturbed. So the band told the cleric they had very
important information to share with Ravel concerning Mordenkainen and the Circle of
Eight. When the cleric then relayed this to Ravel, suddenly the band was quickly being
ushered into the Patriarch’s private chambers. There, they greeted Ravel, but it was
immediately apparent that he had heavy thoughts on his mind as well. Despite this, he
asked the band about their purpose and Cymria then described to him, in great detail, her
vision. When she was done, Ravel asked her numerous questions, many of which Cymria
could not understand for what purpose, and she began to grow frustrated with what she
thought were the pointless questions of a senile old man.

Nevertheless, Ravel Dasinder eventually ended his interrogation and seemed to be
satisfied that Cymria had spoken the truth – at least she was convinced that the Circle of
Eight was dead. So the band told him they needed to get in contact with Mordenkainen
and make sure that he was aware of the Circle’s demise. Ravel agreed and told the band
that he did have the means to contact Mordenkainen. But first, he wanted to share with the
band what had happened to him that morning.
He then told them that when he awoke that morning, he had a sort of riddle, or perhaps
a prophecy of some sort, running through his head. So he wrote it down on a piece of
paper. A short while later, when he entered the worship hall of the temple, he found,
lying upon the altar, a strange purple gemstone that, as Alavarius later confirmed, radiated
a tremendous amount of magical, perhaps even divine, power. None of the clerics in
the temple could explain where it came from or how it got there – but Ravel came to
the conclusion that it was a gift from Boccob, who is not only the god of magic, but of
foresight as well. Ravel explained that, since finding the gemstone, he had been trying to
cast divination spells trying to learn more – but with no success. He did however decide
that the gemstone, which he believed to be somehow connected to the riddle, was best
kept in the hands of the Righteous Vanguard, as he was convinced that they would be the
ones who could best put them to good use. And so he gave the gemstone and the riddle to
Alavarius. The riddle went like this:

Two titans embraced, locked before a ring
When the stone is sundered, forth the powers bring
Upon the sign the bearer must decide
To call upon the powers and cast them both aside

Some time was spent puzzling over the riddle, and while they had some theories on
what the later parts might mean, they could not figure out the meaning of the first line.
All they could do was to hope that, in time, its meaning would become apparent. With the
gemstone and the riddle now in the possession of the Righteous Vanguard, Ravel Dasinder
told the band to meet him that night at a tavern called the Roc and Oliphant at seven
o’clock. There, they would contact Mordenkainen and inform him of all they had learned.
The band agreed and went on their way.
Shortly after leaving the Temple of Boccob, the band decided to do some information
gathering and try to determine where the Circle of Eight had been killed. This they would
do by basically following in the footsteps of the Circle and learning what kind of research
they had been doing over the past few months. Some of the obvious places to start looking
would be the various libraries in the City of Greyhawk, as well as Tenser’s Castle. Cymria
was not comfortable with taking the Righteous Vanguard to Tenser’s Castle. So she parted
ways with the band at this point and went to the castle alone.

The band, meanwhile, split up into three groups and headed for the libraries. Nero, of
course, in his disguise as Diur Daton, went with Maximo to the Guild of Wizardry. There
he spoke to the guild’s librarian, Jawal Severnain, who, along with Ravel Dasinder, was one
of the few people to whom he had by now revealed his true identity. As usual, Jawal was
very busy with work of his own and did not have much time to deal with Nero’s inquiries,
until Nero explained to him that it concerned the Circle of Eight and their possible
disappearance. Jawal then told Nero to return in a couple of hours and he would give him
a list of books that the Circle of Eight had looked at over the past few months.
At the same time, Dravos and Nicholas went to look in the libraries of Grey College.
There they were able to pay several college students to look through the various libraries, a
dozen in all, to see which books had been looked at by the Circle of Eight. Once they had
gotten a list of books from the students, they picked out ones that looked promising and
again paid the students to go through them and make book reports. They told the students
they would return the next day for these reports.
Meanwhile, Alavarius and Kieranen went to the Great Library of Greyhawk. There they
learned that, although both were members of the library, they would not be allowed access
to the records of who had looked at the books. So the two of them went to speak with
Constable Derider Fanshen at the Grand Citadel and asked her for a warrant to examine
the library’s records. She agreed to provide them with the warrant on the condition that
Kieranen return and explain to her as soon as possible, what this was all about. With the
warrant then, the two returned to the library and went through the records, finding that
only Otiluke had visited the library recently and had only looked at two books. Alavarius
skimmed through both of these books.
The first one, entitled The Poems of Thalac Jiwo, was a series of poems that were thought to
be prophetic. Unfortunately, it would take a more thorough examination to find anything
useful in it. The second book, called the Book of Stone, described the internment of a man
by the name of Halmadar the Cruel in a burial mound in a place called Flann-aerich,
which Alavarius later realized was the Kron Hills. This certainly appeared to be important
information, but again, would probably warrant a more thorough examination.
Later in the day, Nero and Maximo returned to the Wizard’s Guild and received the list
of books from Jawal. The first one was a massive tome that Mordenkainen had looked
at, and was of a particular interest to Nero because it was written by an ancestor about
his ancestors. It was called The Chronicle of Secret Times, and was a long and detailed history
of the Neheli family of the Suel. Nero skimmed through it and found that the most
interesting part was the first few chapters which talked about the struggles between the
Whispered One, Lord Vecna and his lieutenant, Kas. The next two books on the list were
looked at by Rary, and were called The Beasts of Humanity and The Dragon-Scale Tome. But,
unfortunately, they were both written in Old Oeridian and could not be read by either
Nero or Maximo.

The last book on the list however, was examined by Jallarzi and it was actually a small
broadside called Treatise on the Practices of Hidden Ones. It was small enough for Nero to
read in its entirety and it described, in very alarmist terms, several vile and wicked cults,
including the Cult of Iuz, of which Nero was already very familiar, and the Cult of Vecna.
By the time Nero was finished reading this, it was time for he and Maximo to meet the
others at the Roc and the Oliphant. Dravos and Nicholas had gone on ahead to the tavern
early, while Kieranen and Alavarius first went to the Temple of Boccob, to escort Ravel
Dasinder to the tavern. However when they got to the temple, they learned that Ravel had
already left the temple a couple of hours before. So they went on ahead to the tavern.
The Roc and Oliphant was located in Clerkberg not far from Grey College and was a
favorite hangout for many of the students. Already at seven o’clock, the place was quite
busy with revelers drinking and singing songs. Fortunately, by the time the others arrived,
Dravos and Nicholas had already claimed a table in the far corner of the main room. But
no one had yet seen any sign of Ravel Dasinder. The band was just about to see if they
could move into one of the private rooms, when the door to a nearby private room opened
up, and there stood the Patriarch of Boccob. He waved the group over and they grabbed
their drinks and joined him in what was known as the garden room, as it had two bay
windows overlooking a garden.
After the band greeted Ravel and took their seats around the table, Ravel produced
a ring which he slid onto his finger and began concentrating. Soon, a projected image
of Mordenkainen appeared in the chair opposite Ravel. The illusionary wizard looked
around the room and back at Ravel and said, “You have learned something?” Ravel
told Mordenkainen that the Righteous Vanguard had some bad news. Then he let Nero
describe the vision that Cymria had. When Nero was done, Mordenkainen asked a few
questions and they discussed what everyone had learned.
Mordenkainen told the band that about six months before, a number of wizards had
noticed that certain divination spells had been failing and that he had directed the Circle
of Eight to investigate the matter. He also helped to confirm what the band by now had
already suspected – that the Circle of Eight had apparently been killed by someone that
wielded both the Eye and the Hand of Vecna, which were two very powerful and infamous
artifacts. He proposed a few theories on what might be the cause of the failing divinations
and how they might be linked to the Eye and the Hand of Vecna. Then he encouraged
the Righteous Vanguard to continue investigating the matter while he did the same from
where he was at. He advised the band to do a thorough job of gathering information and
offered a few suggestions on this, in addition to the libraries. He also said that from time
to time he would look in on them and that if they needed to contact him they should talk
with either, Ravel Dasinder or Kieren Jalucian, Master of the Wizard’s Guild. Finally, he
asked them to inform Kieren of Jallarzi’s death, as the two of them had been romantically
involved. Then his projected image disappeared.

With the image of Mordenkainen now gone, the band sat and reflected for a moment on
everything that was said. Then suddenly and without warning, the bay windows shattered
as a bizarre looking creature came crashing through. From the tops of its shoulders down
the creature appeared to be a normal, albeit rather large and stocky, human. But instead of
a normal human head, it had a giant hand in its place. This strange creature, later referred
to as the hand creature or simply, the Hand, landed on the table and threw two daggers at
Kieranen. Then it drew two long swords from its back and pounced on him. Six fighters
with long swords and red dye on their faces, otherwise known as the Blood of Vecna,
quickly followed in behind the Hand.
Dravos was among the first members of the Righteous Vanguard to react, pulling out
his magical whip dagger, and laid a couple of nasty cuts into the backside of the Hand
while Nicholas turned and attacked one of the six fighters climbing through the window.
Nero used a spell to turn invisible and slipped past the six fighters, through the broken
window and out into the garden. There he launched a spell at the Hand but barely missed
it. Maximo meanwhile, cast a spell of his own which created a chaotic display of fireworks
that resembled miniature dragons and caused further confusion. Ravel Dasinder however,
mentioned something about warning the temple and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
By this point, the Hand had grabbed on to Kieranen with its giant hand and began
draining strength from him while it made several deep cuts into Kieranen with its long
swords. Kieranen, still sitting in his chair, had not even had time to react yet and already he
was on the verge of dying. He struggled to break free of the Hand while Alavarius tried to
heal his wounds.
Nero, meanwhile, was now out in the garden and just about to launch another spell at
the Hand, when he noticed another bizarre looking creature standing in the corner of the
garden. Like the Hand, this one appeared to be a normal human from the shoulders down,
though it was tall and slim, and instead of a normal head it had a giant eyeball in its place.
Nero turned to it and launched his spell at it instead. Then he was surprised when the
creature, known as the Eye, and despite Nero’s invisibility and his amulet of proof versus
detection and location, produced a two-handed sword and struck him.
Back inside the tavern, Dravos continued to punish the Hand with his whip daggers, and
with the aid of his companions. As a result it was one of the first attackers to fall. Soon
the other fighters, obviously dismayed at how quickly the Hand was taken down, began
looking to retreat, though some of them were dropping as well. Then the Eye tried to use
its powers to suck the soul out of Nero’s body, though he was able to resist it. Nero then
struck it with a disintegrate spell, which did not kill it, though it did severely wound it.
By this point, only three of the fighters remained and they took off running and darted
around a corner of the building. But Dravos proved to have superior speed and easily
caught up to them. Here, now that the odds appeared to be back in favor of the fighters,
they stopped to attack Dravos once again.

But the fighters had a difficult time trying to hit Dravos. The Eye took off at this point
as well. But before it could get away from Nero, he struck it with another disintegrate spell
and this time the creature was reduced to a pile of dust. Then, as Dravos took down one
of the three remaining fighters, Nero trapped them in a black tentacles spell. Immediately
following this, Dravos managed to paralyze one of the fighters with his dagger and the
other one was killed. So Nero dismissed the black tentacles and the sole remaining fighter
was taken alive.
Once the battle was over, the owner of the tavern opened the door to the garden room
to see what all the commotion was about, and was surprised to find the windows smashed,
and a few dead men including one with a hand for a head. The righteous Vanguard
offered to pay for any damages and began questioning some of the other patrons in the
tavern, having overheard that there were a few men in the main room who appeared to be
preparing to join in on the fight, but then suddenly changed their minds and left.
After healing some injuries, Alavarius cast a detect thoughts spell while Nero questioned
the captured member of the Blood of Vecna. The captured fighter was very defiant and
clearly a fanatical follower of Vecna, often saying things like: he was not afraid of dying as
he was assured a glorious afterlife, and his death would only hasten the arrival of Vecna.
Still, Nero’s questions forced him to think about things and Alavarius could read his mind.
So they were able to gather some valuable information, such as the fact that there were
four more Bloods of Vecna in the main room led by a lesser priest of Vecna, or Memory
of Vecna, by the name of Ofdar. They also learned that many of the followers of Vecna
were Rhenee who often hung out in the River Quarter, including places like the River Rat
inn, or lived on barges in the river. In addition to this, each Blood of Vecna also wore
a small pendent of a hand with an eye in its palm, which could be useful in identifying
members of the Cult of Vecna.
As the Righteous Vanguard was questioning the Blood of Vecna and other patrons of
the tavern, several members of the City Watch arrived and began asking questions of their
own. The band explained to them what had happened and due to their standing within
the city, as well as the guards’ familiarity with Kieranen, their word was accepted by the
City Watch. When they were done with interrogating the Blood of Vecna, the City Watch
arrested him and escorted him off to the prison blockhouse inside the Grand Citadel. The
Righteous Vanguard meanwhile, went to their homes to try and get some rest, for they
knew that on the following day, there was a lot of information that needed to be gathered,
and a lot of questions that needed to be answered.

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