Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Ten: On the Eve of Dark Clouds – Chapter 2

It was on Starday, the 15th day of Reaping, in the Common Year of 580, when Nero,
Nicholas, Dravos and Alavarius returned to the Dim Forest where they met the fremlin
who called himself Maximo the Great. Their objective in the forest was to find some
mandrake root which Nero intended to use in the construction of a homunculus, which
would replace his recently deceased familiar Raaze. But after encountering Maximo, Nero
decided that Maximo would make a better choice and asked him if he would be willing
to become his familiar. Since Maximo had long since lost his previous master, who had
originally taught him magic, and it would appear to be to his benefit, Maximo gladly
accepted the offer. So the four members of the Righteous Vanguard, along with Maximo,
soon afterwards used the teleport spell stored in Nero’s ring, and returned to their homes
in Greyhawk.

The following day, Nero performed the necessary ritual to make Maximo his familiar
and showed him around his tower. And although it would not become his familiar, Nero
went ahead with his plans to create the homunculus in the likeness of Raaze, both to honor
his lost familiar and to serve as a guardian and helper around his home. With this in mind,
he met up with the artist Brom, delivered to him the mandrake root and other needed
materials, paid him the remaining sum of 40,000 gp, and made sure that Brom understood
the necessary requirements for the sculpting of the homunculus.

Other members of the band, meanwhile, resumed projects of their own. Nicholas, for
example, continued to work with the gnomes in clearing out their underground stronghold
and fortifying it with support beams, while at the same time, having the wizard Conrad
create for him a system of magically created daylight within the stronghold, which could
sustain an underground forest. He then got a druid friend of his from the Gnarley Forest
to cast a few plant growth spells within the stronghold to create his forest.
Ael, meanwhile, built a cabin, complete with an alchemy lab, in the woods above the
stronghold where a magical elevator from the stronghold led up into. Dravos oversaw the
construction of a shrine for travelers to stay at about a day’s walk from Greyhawk along
the road to Dyvers. Alavarius spent much of his time doing research in a number of fields
of interest. Book continued to study magic at Nero’s tower. And Kieranen continued to
work with Derider Fanshen, the Constable of Greyhawk, on a number of unsolved crimes
in the city. Nero also at this time, began taking an interest of a more personal nature in
Derider and the two of them began dating. But just a couple of days after their return from
the Dim Forest, Nero suddenly found himself with other, more urgent concerns on his
mind.

One night, late in the evening, Nero detected someone attempting to scry on him. Nero
quickly cast a nondetection spell on himself and with the aid of his detect scrying spell,
tried to determine who it was, though he was unsuccessful. The next day, Godsday, the
18th day of Reaping, Nero spoke with Alavarius about it and had him cast a divination
spell to get some advice. The divination spell advised Alavarius to commune with his god
Boccob and try to learn what they could about who tried to scry on Nero. This they did
and discovered that, at long last, the Scarlet Brotherhood had caught up with Nero and
apparently intended to assassinate him. This all came about because when he was just a
young boy, Nero’s parents, who were of a noble Suel bloodline and living in the Sheldomar
Valley of the County of Ulek, had been assassinated by the Scarlet Brotherhood to serve
as an example of what happens to pure Suloise who mingle with the other inferior races of
the land. Nero’s uncle was also apparently assassinated sometime later, but Nero managed
to escape and fled to the Wild Coast. Now, many years later, it seemed that with Nero’s
fame as a member of the Righteous Vanguard in the city of Greyhawk, the legacy of his
ancestry had come back to haunt him. During the commune spell, Nero learned however,
that he would have at least two weeks before the Scarlet Brotherhood would make any
attempt on his life. So Nero began to make plans.

He spoke with his companions, Sturtevant the Greyhawk dragon, Derider Fanshen, and
even Otto of the Circle of Eight, asking their advice, and got a number of suggestions. One
of these was to try and research a spell that would conceal Nero from any scrying attempts
on him with no or very little chance of error. Alavarius and Book volunteered to work
together on this and began immediately. There were a few other ideas put into motion as
well. But for the most part, it looked to Nero as if he would just have to wait and see what
happened while being as cautious as possible.

Two weeks then passed, and during this time, nothing happened and nothing new was
learned. So on the 4th day of Goodmonth, Nero went to the River Rat inn in the River
Quarter and spoke with the proprietor, Zalkan Sooth about arranging a meeting with
Danzig, his contact to the Assassin’s Guild. The following day, just as they had done on
their first encounter almost a year before, Nero met with Danzig at the Wizard’s Hat Inn.
There Nero asked Danzig about any rumors of the Scarlet Brotherhood being in town
and explained to him his situation. Danzig told him that he did not currently have any
information on the matter but said he would ask around and inform Nero if anything came
up. Almost a week then passed.

Then on the 10th day of Goodmonth, a letter was delivered to Nero’s tower. It was from
Danzig and it described some activity that had recently been occurring in the Thieves’
Quarter, which Danzig thought might have some connection to the Scarlet Brotherhood.
It gave the location of a building which had recently been occupied by a group of
mysterious men who dressed in black, practiced martial arts, and generally skulked about at
odd hours.

The next day, Nero and several of his companions went to do some research on this
particular building. With the aid of Derider they were granted access to the hall of records
where they learned that the building was once an old boarding house which was sold
about a week before to a man named Seips Foretsam who claimed to be a merchant of
fine jewelry and rented a stall at the Low Market in the Artisans’ Quarter. They then went
to the Low Market to see if they could find this merchant. But after doing some looking
around and asking a few questions, they learned that Seips usually only opened his stall
on Freedays when the marketplace was busiest. Since it was currently Godsday, they
would have to come back in three days to meet with Seips at his stall. So Nero and his
companions returned to their homes and waited three days.

When Freeday finally came on the 14th day of Goodmonth, Nero, Dravos, and Alavarius
paid another visit to the Low Market where they met and spoke with Seips. Alavarius came
with him and used a couple of divination spells to try and read Seips’ mind and learn what
he could of the man while Nero pretended to have an interest in his wares. Seips turned
out to be a very good and even convincing salesman, but it was obvious to Alavarius that
his so-called “fine jewelry” was cheap imitation jewelry and had no real value despite the
inaccurate claims about its origins. Seips also appeared to be pure Suloise like the members
of the Scarlet Brotherhood. But beyond that, Alavarius was unable to learn anything more
about him as none of his spells or abilities picked up anything else.

Unable to learn much there, the three then decided to investigate the building where
the mysterious men in black had been observed. While Nero and Dravos stayed back and
watched from a distance, Alavarius, under the cloak of an invisibility spell, snuck up to the
building, cast a clairvoyance spell, and looked around. There he found about eight or nine
men who appeared to be possible monks or assassins just lounging about or engaged in
personal activities.

After Alavarius reported this back to Nero and Dravos, Dravos wanted to sneak inside
the building and do some more reconnaissance. So Dravos, who was now also invisible,
stealthily crept over to the building and, using his dimensional hopping ability, teleported
past the side door and entered the kitchen of the building. From there he used this same
ability and his stealth to move about the building and observe what he could. Eventually
he made it to the second floor and started looking into the rooms there. But that is when
Dravos ran into some trouble.

In the second bedroom that he teleported into, there was a monk who had been sitting
on the floor apparently in meditation, and Dravos bumped into him. Immediately the man
jumped up, assumed a defensive stance and called out for help. Dravos attacked him with
obvious surprise on his side and the monk fought back. But it was a very brief fight as
Dravos appeared to have killed the monk. With this done, Dravos barred the door, which
was also locked, and quickly took from the monk’s body anything that looked to be of any
value or importance.

Then, while the monk’s allies were pounding on the door trying to get in, Dravos
teleported to the third and final adjacent room where he grabbed a locked chest and
teleported outside the building. Soon afterwards, he met up with his two companions and
they quickly exited the city. From there, they carried all that Dravos had taken from the
building back to Nero’s tower, where Dravos explained to them all that he had seen and
everything that took place.

An examination inside the chest and of those items taken from the monk revealed a few
minor magic items, some clothing and two kinds of poison, but very little in the form of
information. With this done, it was well after sundown. So the three called it a day and
they, along with Book and the rest of Nero’s underlings, spent the night in Nero’s tower,
making sure to remain alert throughout the night.

The next day, they summoned the rest of the band, Kieranen, Nicholas and Ael, to
Nero’s tower and let them know what had happened. Assuming that these men were,
indeed, members of the Scarlet Brotherhood and realizing that they knew that the band
was now aware of them, they also suspected that Nero and quite possibly every member of
the band was now also in danger. So it was agreed that they would all stay at Nero’s tower
until something came up. Nicholas at this point, had now finished with his underground
forest and was free to do other things. Ael had just the night before blown up much of his
lab with one of his alchemical experiments and was ready for a change. And Kieranen was
likewise able to put aside his current duties to help with his friend’s more urgent problem.
Unfortunately, Book, despite the occasional assistance from Alavarius, had yet to be
successful in researching a more powerful version of the nondetection spell. So he
continued to work on this. The others meanwhile, discussed other options while they
waited out the day. But towards the end of the day, during which nothing occurred, they
decided to have Alavarius cast another commune spell. This they did and were able to
gather some more information.

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