Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Ten: On the Eve of Dark Clouds – Chapter 4

It was on Sunday, the 16th day of Goodmonth, in the Common Year of 580, following
an assassination attempt on Nero, when the Righteous Vanguard, hunted down and
killed the majority of the band from the Scarlet Brotherhood at the Hanged Man Inn,
leaving only the master spy known as Seips Foretsam, and his accomplice the mysterious
master assassin. Upon their return to Nero’s tower, they examined those items they had
taken from the monks and assassins at the inn, and found a number of items previously
owned by Ael and Book. Shortly after their return, they were visited by one of the gnomes
from the band’s stronghold who confirmed that the laboratory at Ael’s home had been
destroyed. That night, the non-spellcasters of the band stayed up all night keeping guard
while the spellcasters rested.
The following morning, on Moonday the 17th, the non-spellcasters rested while Alavarius
cast a hallow spell on Nero’s tower as they had previously discussed and then began the
long and arduous task of casting a forbiddance spell on the tower. A short while later,
Derider Fanshen, the Constable of Greyhawk and Nero’s most recent romantic interest,
arrived at Nero’s tower along with a couple of the city’s guards. Naturally the band was
now a bit suspicious of anyone wishing to gain access to Nero’s tower, so they questioned
Derider until they were convinced of her identity. She told the band that she had heard
about the attack at the Hanged Man Inn and asked about that as well as the attempted
assassination on Nero. After the band had answered her questions, she left to continue her
investigations elsewhere.
On the next morning, Godsday the 18th, Alavarius finished casting the forbiddance
spell and got some much needed rest. Then at about 10, Nero, Maximo and Dravos flew
invisibly to the Guild of Wizardry where Nero got the mage Conrad to cast a false vision
spell into his ring of spell storing. A few days passed then uneventfully, while the band
stayed vigilant inside Nero’s tower.
Then on the morning of Starday, the 22nd day of Goodmonth, after several days of
no sign or news of the two assassins, Alavarius cast another commune spell. But it soon
became obvious that both of the assassins were heavily protected against any divination
spells concerning them and very little information was learned through the spell. So the
entire band paid a visit to the River Rat Inn, where Nero hoped to have better success
with a different approach. There, Nero arranged to have another meeting with Danzig, his
contact with the Assassin’s Guild of Greyhawk. The following day at 2 in the afternoon,
the band paid a visit to the Wizard’s Hat Inn, where, as was the usual arrangement, Nero
spoke with Danzig and told him his situation.

He then made an offer to hire the guild to take out the rival assassins from the Scarlet
Brotherhood. Danzig then made a suggestion to Nero that might help to draw out the
Brotherhood’s assassins, but perhaps more importantly, help to insure that the Scarlet
Brotherhood would never again bother him. Danzig’s suggestion was to fake Nero’s death,
making it appear to be the work of the Greyhawk assassins. Nero liked the idea and some
details were sketched out between the two. They then agreed upon a price of 10,000 g.p.
each for the elimination of both assassins, and another 10,000 g.p. for the faking of Nero’s
death. On the following day, at the same time, Nero met up with Danzig again at the
Wizard’s Hat and paid him the full amount of 30,000 g.p.
Later that day, Nero met with Derider at the Grand Citadel and asked her out for a night
on the town, on the following night, including dinner at the exclusive Patrician’s Club,
followed by a show at the Royal Opera House. This was all a part of Nero and Danzig’s
plan. Nero had by this point, decided to terminate his relationship with Derider, in part
because of ugly rumors going around town about Derider dating someone half her age, but
also for more personal reasons. The plan then was to fake Nero’s death while out in a very
public place, which would hopefully add to the credibility of his death.
So, on the evening of Godsday, the 25th day of Goodmonth, Nero took Derider to the
Patrician’s Club and the Royal Opera House, escorted all the way by the other members of
the Righteous Vanguard. It was thought that to allow Nero to go without his companions
at this time would appear suspicious and for his companions to allow Nero to be out of
their sight seemed to be a sure invitation for trouble.
The evening proceeded as one might expect for a night out, but they were not sure when
the fake assassin would strike until they arrived at the Royal Opera House. There, as Nero
was moving through the crowded lobby with Derider on his arm, a man bumped into
Nero and gave him a meaningful look. At the same time, Nero felt a hand briefly brush
against a pocket. Nero then discretely reached into the pocket, and found a note which he
casually glanced at while Derider wasn’t looking. The note simply said that it would happen
immediately after the show on the front steps as they were leaving the Opera House.
But midway through the show, Derider asked Nero to get her a drink from the
concession stand. Nicholas tagged along behind Nero at a distance just to keep an eye out.
Shortly after Nero left the band’s box seats however, Derider claimed she suddenly needed
to go to the lady’s room. So she headed to the lobby where the concession stand was and
met up with Nero as he was on his way back. She then flirted with Nero and acted as if her
real reason for sending Nero to the concession stand was so that she and Nero could sneak
off away from the prying eyes of Nero’s companions, to do some necking. She then coyly
pulled Nero around a corner, out of Nicholas’ direct observation, and put an arm around
Nero, looking as if she was about to kiss him.

Suddenly, there was a blur of movement behind Derider, as an arm reached out from
behind a nearby curtain. A dagger flashed and quickly descended on Derider’s back, and
right before Nero’s eyes, Derider was reduced to a pile of dust! Naturally, Nero was quite
shocked by what he just saw and was on the verge of blasting the darkly dressed assassin
who now stood before him with a spell. But before he could act, the assassin told Nero to
wait and pointed to the ground where a familiar looking dagger once owned by Book now
lay. “Look,” the assassin said emphatically, “she was your spy and she was about to strike.
I am with the guild and we must change our plans. If we are to do this we must do it now.
Quickly, call your companion over here”
Naturally, Nero was not sure if this assassin could be trusted. But something about the
assassin made Nero believe he spoke the truth. So Nero turned, looked around the corner
and yelled for Nicholas to come quickly. When he did, Nero felt something strike him in
the back. But immediately realizing that it caused him no harm and knowing what to do, he
spoke a command word which activated a dimension door spell in his ring of spell storing.
As Nero disappeared, an illusion of him turning to a pile of dust took his place, making it
appear to all around as if Nero had just been assassinated.
Not even Nicholas knew what had just happened and as far as he knew Nero had
actually been turned to dust. So he took off after the assassin who now turned and fled.
Nicholas then chased the assassin down a corridor that ran alongside the audience chamber
of the Opera House and towards the stage. When the assassin reached the stage he quickly
scrambled up a rope that led to the rafters over stage, while Nicholas remained in hot
pursuit.
Meanwhile, back in the lobby, people began screaming at the sight of two piles of dust
mingled with various articles of clothing where two people had been just moments before,
some of these people having witnessed the assassinations first hand. People then began
running into the lobby and the chaos quickly spread throughout the Opera House. When
the assassin ran through the rafters over the stage with Nicholas right behind him, more
people began screaming and pointing their fingers. Apparently by design, it was a very
public display which would hopefully make it appear all the more real.
Unfortunately for the Righteous Vanguard, most of them could not be sure how much
of it was real and how much of it was just an illusion. Those members of the band who
were still in the audience chamber moved quickly into the lobby and began looking around
trying to figure out what had just happened. Alavarius went to the pile of dust where
Derider had been and found the dagger previously owned by Book. So he began looking
through the clothes left behind there. Dravos did the same at the pile of dust where
Nero had been. But he soon discovered that the clothes and the pile of dust were only an
illusion. So realizing that some unknown bystander was probably actively concentrating on
the illusion, he pretended to gather up the clothing so that someone else would not come
along and discover they were only an illusion.

As this was happening, Nicholas finally cornered the assassin at the top of the rafters
but behind some backdrops where no one else could see them. At this point, the assassin
turned to Nicholas and told him he was with the guild and that Nero was unharmed. But
Nicholas still did not trust him and asked the assassin for proof. The assassin could not at
that time give him any proof. So the assassin spoke a command word and suddenly turned
invisible. Nicholas had a see invisibility spell up at the time. But it appeared that his spell
was being hampered by something and he could not locate the assassin. So eventually he
gave up and returned to the lobby.
Meanwhile, back in the lobby, Nero had used his robe of blending to create a disguise,
and had returned to the lobby himself. He then casually went about and very discretely
informed his companions that he was still alive. Soon, several members of the city watch
began showing up and started asking questions. As they were doing this, an elderly-
appearing gentleman, perhaps the individual responsible for the illusion of Nero’s death,
quietly whispered to Kieranen that one of the city watch members was actually the master
assassin and indicated which one. Kieranen discretely informed his companions and they
watched as the city guard tried to slip away unobserved.
Nicholas though, used his hat of disguise to change his appearance and began trailing
the guard as he headed away from the Opera House. As Nicholas began to draw near to
the supposed assassin however, he apparently noticed Nicholas, got suspicious, spoke a
command word, and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
As this was happening, Nero suddenly detected someone trying to scry on him.
Immediately, he spoke the word activating the false vision spell in his ring, creating a false
vision of Nero as a pile of dust. Nero was also able to finally get a mental image of the
wizard who was trying to scry on him. As suspected, it appeared to be a member of the
Scarlet Brotherhood and upon seeing the false vision sent to him through his crystal ball,
the wizard looked to be very pleased as though he were absolutely convinced that Nero
was now finally dead.
Although the master assassin got away for the time being and the plan did not go exactly
as they had drawn it out, it did appear to be a success in that the master spy was eliminated
and they had convincingly faked Nero’s death. So it was not long before the Righteous
Vanguard was gathered back at Nero’s tower.
Sometime later, a distraught Derider Fanshen appeared at the tower asking to speak
with the band. Still very suspicious of everything, they let her in the tower, while Nero
hid upstairs in another room. Derider explained to the band that she had been knocked
unconscious just prior to the time when Nero was supposed to come by and take her out
for the night. She had been tied up and locked in a closet while someone else took her
place. She was eventually discovered and released at which point she heard about what had
happened at the Opera House.

Now, like almost everyone else, she was fully convinced that Nero was dead, and none
of the members of the Righteous Vanguard wanted to tell her otherwise, believing that, at
least for the time being, the fewer people that knew the truth, the best.
Early the next day, a delivery boy arrived at Nero’s tower with a message from Danzig.
It said that the third part of his agreement had been completed, meaning that the master
assassin was now dead, and that Danzig wanted to meet with Nero at the Wizard’s Hat
to make him an offer. So, later in the day, with Nero in disguise, the band returned to the
Wizard’s Hat where Nero spoke with Danzig. There, Danzig offered to sell him an amulet
that he acquired off the recently deceased master assassin, whom Danzig called Htaed
Folegna, which of course is Angel of Death spelled backwards. He told Nero that this
amulet would protect him from all divination spells and scrying attempts. Naturally, Nero
wanted very much to buy the amulet and they agreed upon a price of 30,000 g.p. Soon
afterwards, the exchange was made and Nero had his amulet.

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