- Mialee Keel. Lurk. Akoros. Collects masks. Academic background, linguistics professor. Best friend is a noble, Roslyn Kellis.
- Katharin Arran. Whisper. Akoros. Collects occult texts and materials. Academic background, somewhat celebrated scholar. Best friend is Scurlock, a vampire.
Both scholars operated out of Kandaralis University, where they had offices in the Carmichael Building. They also had a basement studio apartment in a massive building that was once a noble miser’s townhouse, but was subdivided into a dozen apartments upon his death. They got the basement apartment because it had a vault, so they can protect their collections. The apartment is in Verek Block, in Seven Shallows.
Mialee had a translations service as a level 1 enterprise. Making some coin on the side using her linguistic skill and contacts, and keeping an eye out for possible scores. Weaver, an efficient teaching assistant, ran it for her.
Katharin had the Hauptman Research Grant as a level 1 enterprise. The university funded her ongoing research into various occult matters; a prestigous award that came with a small office and a nervous intern named Jenkins.
Both enterprises start out legitimate, fees and taxes and such paid up, and so absorb their own profits.
The Sealed Coffin
Preparing the Way
They caught news of an unopened sarcophagus being shipped in from the Dagger Isles. Lord Crichton had a purchaser there who bid on it, and shipped it to Duskwall. If they could get to it and open it and steal the grave goods, then seal it back up, no one would know that it arrived fully loaded.
Katharin knew that Lord Crichton had great security in a compound built by his father, but she also knew that there was a ghost neighborhood she could find her way into, and out of inside his defenses. His secure building was built over an old slum that endured in Duskwall’s memory.
She found her way through the shadow of the Willamach Tree, stepping between the shadows of branches (some of which had been cut off long ago, but still projected a shadow.) Then she was in the old Shallowstep Slum, where she did some scouting so they’d be ready to infiltrate when the time came.
Meanwhile Mialee checked around until she found a disgruntled former staff member of Lord Crichton’s estate. She talked to Theresa, a former maid who had only one arm. Theresa told her that she lost her arm to one of Crichton’s traps, and he paid her off and dismissed her; the money is gone and she’s trying to work with one arm. Look out for the diamonds worked into the woodwork, they reveal the presence of a trap. It’s a tell built in to help the staff navigate the place. Theresa coldly asked Mialee to shake Lord Crichton’s hand for her.
Mialee also did some research into the old plans for the place. She noticed that the outer defenses were brutal, with living guards and machines and tall thick walls. But once inside, the defenses dropped off significantly. This gave her hope that their ambitious infiltration could work.
It was a windy night. As the rogues waited for night to deepen, sitting in the Hogtied Tavern near the Crichton Estate, they heard a commotion of a big group arriving. Lord Crichton was home two nights early! By all accounts, he was eager to get into his prize. Now it was a race, to see if they could break in and check out the sarcophagus before the noble got through all his homecoming responsibilities and freed himself up to check it out.
They hurried to the Willamach Tree, where Katharin led Mialee through the steps and into the memory of the Shallowstep Slum. They scurried through, their steps soundless but the shadow of the slum around them reverberating with every step like a spiderweb as half-blank bright-eyed spirits drifted in to watch them. The most aggressive closed in, hungry for the memory of flesh and bright hot blood.
The rogues evaded them, and managed to navigate the twisting and half-remembered streets. They felt something closing on them, like the spider from the middle of the web, but they plunged into the boat landing at the far side of Shallowstep, and escaped.
They slogged up out of the ink-black waters in a channel of water under the Crichton estate, where barrels were floated in. The portcullis was down on both sides, and the water level raised by the locks, so it was inaccessible by normal means. Still, they were inside, beyond all the outer defenses!
They wound their way through the labyrinthine corridors and chambers under the Estate, until they found the secure loading bay. It was closed off from outside by a vault door, but inside was safe and did not need that level of security. The sarcophagus itself had stone knobs in a combination lock along the side, as well as niches for organs, and arcane writings of various kinds.
Katharin sussed out some of the curse patterns, that were designed to strike through a bloodline and persist for three generations if triggered. Mialee figured out one of the niches was not for organs (and not cursed) and it contained instructions for a priest to open the sarcophagus without desecrating it. Together they followed the instructions, opening the stone box without triggering the curses. Katharin read the prayer chiseled inside the lid, then the rogues set to plundering.
Rings, a jeweled belt, a shield, a sword, a mask, and more! But they had to be careful, as the body was on pressure triggers, and there were dime shaped holes beneath it. (Fortunately they never found out what THOSE were for.) By now they heard approaching voices, and saw lights flickering in the corridors. They closed up the sarcophagus, and stole away into the dark hallways, dodging the traps and orienting on the portal to escape.
They plunged into the supply canal’s inky waters, sputtering up in the half-remembered Shallowstep Slum. They instinctively felt that the predator at the center of this place was much closer than it had been before, so they raced through the twisting streets as fast as they could. Hungry dead pounced on Mialee at one point, trying to hook into her cloak, but she shrugged them off and kept running. The predator was near, but did not catch up to them.
They dove out of the shadows in the Willamach Tree (which was just a young thing in the slum shadow.) They were clear!
Reading and Relaxation
They fenced most of the grave goods, keeping only the choice bits for their collection. Then they immersed themselves in the delights of their collections, cataloging and corresponding and researching and such.
Unfortunately, a gang broke in and trashed Mialee’s translation office, putting fear into her intern (who did not show up for work anymore.) The Carmichael Building manager informed her that her officing privileges were revoked because she brought in an undesirable element.
Furious, she checked with Six Finger Smythe. He was the head of security for the university, but he also had many illegal contacts. He was a fixer, keeping the noise down and business continuing as usual. He would know who wrecked her office, or he could find out.
He offered them a job in exchange for the information, with some coin to sweeten the deal. He helped a faculty member’s daughter escape with her student paramour, so he couldn’t fetch them back. However, the father was prominent at the university, and wanted them back. Smythe was looking for someone to carry out the errand. The rogues turned the job down, as that wasn’t their style, and paid him off instead.
He reported that the office was trashed by Cronen and his gang, Black Eyes, answering to the Lampblacks. He did not know why the office was a target, however. Cronen and his people could be found at the Severance Tavern, the last stop of disgraced teachers and students expelled from the university, by the west gate.
Planning Next Steps
Katarin and Mialee did not like their odds of handing an interrogation by physical force. They agreed Katarin would compel a ghost to question Cronen for them. Now to pick a suitable specter for the job.
Katarin did not want to revitalize a ghost for the job, she decided to find one that would be suitably useful and bind or persuade it to help. Considering her various options, she decided to consult with her good friend Scurlock. He agreed to help her out if she would be the “plus one” for one of a number of socially hopeless friends of his at an event. She agreed with a smile.
Scurlock steered her towards the Lodon Estate, where Karl Lodon is a ghost. He was ruthless and intimidating in life, he drove his servants to hang him from the balcony of his master bedroom when he eventually went too far. His ghost still haunt the Lodon Estate; normally that’s illegal, but a number of aristocrats pooled their ghosts together there as a sort of museum no one visits, where powerful previous generations could continue on in relative peace. The estate was walled off.
Scurlock also gave her a signet ring of the Lodon family, which would help persuade or bind the powerful ghost.
With that objective in place, Mialee checked into the neighborhood. There was a waterfall down onto the Lodon Estate that flowed through then dropped into the Vasilly Family Gardens. She figured they could get through any grating that remained at the top of the waterfall, and slip in unseen.
Retrieving Karl Lodon
They entered the Vasilly Family Gardens in the late afternoon, taking in the sights. Many aristocratic families had idiosyncratic approaches to topiary and garden works. The radiant bushes shaped the growth around them, glowing and brightening when living things approached. The particular color and brightness blends were proprietary to the Vasilly family.
(Radiant plants have electroplasm integrated into living plants by alchemists and whispers. They glow, giving off life-granting energy that feeds the plants around them. This is hauntingly beautiful and a bit disturbing, but makes for amazing works of art in a garden, and useful food in a garden.)
The guard did the last round and closed the garden up for the night. The rogues approached the waterfall at the end, where the last third of the waterfall had radiant plants behind it so it glowed.
It took a false start, but they climbed up to the mouth of the waterfall and Mialee hacked through the grating. The rogues pushed against the current on the slippery stone and dragged themselves out on the stone bank inside the Lodon Estate.
Finding Karl Lodon
They heard the clotted howl of dead hounds, and quickly slipped through the thorny mounds of growth that grew around the fainting remains of radiant plants. Through the kitchen windows, into the estate house proper. Katharin focused through the signet ring and picked up three ghosts who might answer to it; one in the crypt, one in the master bedroom, and one in the basement. They chose the one in the master bedroom.
As they stalked through the house, Katharin tried to diffuse their life energy’s scent. However, one ghost spotted them, then others swarmed towards them. They raced to the master bedroom, which had a plasm-laced door. They rushed in and closed it behind themselves before the ghost horde caught them.
There they faced Karl Lodon himself, still imposing in death. (Drifts of drained and half-disintegrated servant ghosts mounted the walls on all sides, his revenge continuing.) Katharin persuaded him to help, if he could have a hollow to conduct his business for a week afterwards before returning here.
Karl’s ghost put the signet ring on, then shook Katharin’s hand, the ring slipping onto her finger and her arm going numb and painfully tingling with the (magnitude 5) ghost that would ride her life energy out of the prison.
They raced past the ghosts, mounting the wall, and trapped between a mass of starving spirits and a thirty foot drop. They leaped down and got away, then vanished into the city with a powerful ghost.
Finding a Hollow
Katharin met with a hollow seller, and as she was offering each to Karl to see what he might like, bluecoats burst in to arrest the seller; she barely escaped, and lost the money she had paid in advance for a hollow.
Frustrated, she returned to Scurlock to see if he could help her out with a hollow. (It did occur to her that this spirit was FAR more powerful than what she needed, and he was being AWFULLY helpful. It surprised no one that he might have an ulterior motive.)
Scurlock provided a hollow who was a great great nephew of Karl’s, who burned his mind out with drugs refined from leviathan blood. Karl flowed into the body; it would do fine.
Katharin tried to expand her career as a scholar, building on the grant as a foundation and offering talks on some of her radical theories. She did manage to get some good speaking engagements, but she also provoked a reaction from the Dean of Faculty for pushing; she irritated someone more powerful, apparently, and she was forbidden to do speaking engagements for at least a time.