Title: Crisis of the Faith
Date: Late Dalan, 1333 Avard
Synopsis: The company defends itself in the courts and in the temples against the charges leveled against them, but first they have to survive to trial against doppleganger assassins.
Early morning of the 28th of Dalan, 1332 Avard.
In the pre 'dawn' light of the 28th, a holy day and the second day of the month's Freeze, the four members of the company gathered together. Aeron and Arkhan were adamant about a trial to clear their names, but they agreed with Greff and Corrin that simply turning themselves in would only invite more trouble. The dopplegangers were still out there. Worse, there were members of the Guard whose loyalties were still quesitonable.
Corrin's ability to walk through locked doors, her speed at picking locks, her near invisibility in plain sight, made her an ideal candidate to assess the situation. Under the pretense of getting suitable clothing for the naked and scaled Arkhan, Corrin set out into the darkness. The red light of Maroth was a poor substitute for dawn, and its darkness wash of red light made Corrin's task even easier. The few people that saw her, thought her a street urchin.
The Guard was out in force. Most of the city was resting after the prior night's fire call, and likely preferred to go to afternoon temple rather than morning temple. The Guard, though, was still searching for the remaining members of Meridian Explorations. Sorsha, Nadar, and the other members of ME that were in town had apparently gone deep under cover and were nowhere to be found.
Corrin returned to the warehouse where the others were hiding with a saffron robe that would fit Arkhan and highlight his gold and red scales. The others listened to her evaluation of the city and the Guard, and made their decisions.
Arkhan and Aeron left together, with Greff and Corrin shadowing them at a distance. Captain Aeron had served with a good fraction of the Guard, knew them personally, knew their families, hopes, and dreams. They knew they were taking a chance, but chose to go out into the city and be taken by the Guard – and demand immediate trial.
The first patrol they ran into had a sergeant that was lawful stupid, adhering more to the law than to logic. Aeron strode forward to turn himself in, and Arkhan's paladin holbraces still shown, and yet the sergeant seemed determined that such wanted criminals be treated like criminals and given all the attention a dangerous animal warranted. The rest of the squad, however, had a different idea. When the sergeant moved to strike Aeron, the squad intervened in a quick and dirty mutiny. The half dozen lower-ranked members of the Guard agreed to protect Aeron and Arkhan, understanding their convictions in the innocence of Meridian Explorations, and understanding the dangers therein.
The holy day of each week was, for the Church of Yatindar, a day of worship and of justice. Claimants could bring to the churches and the priests whatever legal problems they had, and expect the vicars and the paladins to use Yatindar's divine gifts to see the truth.
At the gate of the Swaddled Blade, the paladin Bertrant personally took custody of the two wanted individuals. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, Defender Bertrant vowed to watch over Arkhan and Aeron until they arrived at trial that day. The church's services were divided, with Father Kalia conducting legal court while thousands of citizens attended morning services under Father Andrel. After lunch, the two men would switch roles, with Father Kalia handling afternoon services and Father Andrel conducting legal court.
Those members of the Guard loyal to Captain Aeron had begun to suspect that Father Kalia had it in for Meridian Explorations. The heavy judgement against the orcs, the arrest warrants for the murders of the second sons, the 'crimes' ME committed with dopplegangers known to be about, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the night previous had aroused considerable suspicions about the charges, and about Father Kalia.
Father Kalia was brother to the Cardinal the Colonel of Chasadan – and had been a loyal follower of Father Albrem, the former High Priest of the Janis Plains.
Greff and Corrin witnessed a suspicious shipment leaving the Swaddled Blade temple, and moved to follow. The shipment was Ryviik, beaten unconscious and bound in an iron casket. The lock proved problematic to Corrin, but only because it was so badly maintained. Between Corrin and Greff, the wagon was disabled and the cask exposed. The two members of the Guard, trying to keep the citizenry from looking in the casket while the locals were pressed to move it, explained that the desert elf inside was a victim of plague.
Unfortunately, rumors of plague reminded the populace of Davan's Plague, some four years before. Some estimates ran the numbers as high as a tenth the population of all Rakore dying from Davan's Plague. Some of the very same townsmen that had once been loyal to Kur Maeth had blockaded Teras under the pretense of the plague, only to fall victim to the plague itself, spreading it to Kur Maeth and beyond.
Greff and Corrin took Ryviik's still-breathing body back to Roswyn's Shoppe, sneaking it in the back way and leaving Ryviik inside with a note to remain silent. Outside the shoppe, two members of the Guard stood watch in case any members of Meridian Explorations might turn up.
Tired of waiting, the dopplegangers moved against Arkhan and Aeron. Defender Bertrant went down in a puff of purple smoke. Bertrant, however, had ensured that Captain Aeron kept the holy symbol he had taken off of the first sergeant of the Guard he had scuffled with. Aeron used the holy symbol to call upon Yatindar's divine favor, invoking Saint Karl's defense.
Four angelic guardians appeared in the corridor, massive shields of insubstantial and cloudy blue-white light hemming in the would-be assassins. The shapechangers could not battle their way past the angelic guardians, try as they might.
Arkhan called quite loudly for the Guard, so loud that the temple services could hear him. The Guard responded in force – only to find two of their own seemingly contained by Saint Karl's angelic defenders. The Guard, all loyal servants of Yatindar, moved to arrest the two men kept pinned down by the angels. One of the dopplegangers moved too close to the cell with the orcs, who reached out and clutched at him, pulling at him so hard that his arm came off with a wet, wrenching pop and a tearing sound. The yellow blood that streamed out of the wound was inhuman, and the doppleganger cried out, shifting faces in pain and fear.
The orcs asked, “Can we taste him?”
Aeron said, “Sure, go ahead,” in a dead calm.
The other doppleganger surrendered immediately.
The orcs decided the taste of doppleganger blood was rather bitter, and they did not like.
The Guard, understanding and see with their own eyes, roused Defender Bertrant. The paladin, once assessed of the situation, demanded they all go see Judge Kalia immediately. The evidence was overwhelming, and the truth would be known.
The civil cases going on in Judge Kalia's court room were pushed aside as Defender Bertrant and dozens of members of the Guard moved into the area before the bench. Kalia was infuriated at the interruption to his court, ordering everyone out, with the Guard refusing and the bailiffs quite confused.
Kalia finally got some modicum of control, but Aeron, Arkhan, and Bertrant insisted that the charges against Meridian Explorations be dropped since the dopplegangers were apprehended. While Judge Kalia continued to truthfully answer questions without giving up one iota of information, Bertrant called a Crisis of the Faith – an Inquisition against Judge Kalia.
Judge Andrel entered the room and commanded the case be heard before him. With the divine guidance of Yatindar, the one of the dopplegangers – having slipped into the guise of a Guard in all the chaos and confusion – was caught again, the nature of the dopplegangers being shown to all the Guard in the crowded court room.
Judge Andrel agreed with the Crisis of the Faith, and ordered the Guard to escort Judge Kalia up to Fasra and the Cardinal as expeditiously as possible. All charges against Meridian Explorations would stay in effect until the Crisis of the Faith with Father Kalia was completed – but the Guard was instructed to leave Meridian Explorations be, in the interim.
Captain Aeron, reinstated, and Arkhan, both went for their mounts. The two giant lizards took them, as well as Greff and Corrin, quickly to the Domler's Jeel on the docks. They hoped to find their equipment and catch any other sympathizers with Father Kalia.
The ship proved to have hidden holds, empty save for the belongings of Aeron and Arkhan. The ship's log indicated that it had sailed from Kur Maeth, and was due to return there – likely with Aeron and Arkhan in chains.
As near as the company could tell, Father Kalia was making a move against Hershel. If Meridian Explorations was removed from the city, any assassination attempte against the Ducal Mage would be more likely to succeed.
Afternoon of the 28th of Dalan, 1332 Avard.
Dave and Ross did a great job of role-playing for Aeron and Arkhan, respectively. It's a delight to run for these guys, even when stealthy and sneaky Greff and Corrin sometimes outshadow them with feats that would make Spiderman jealous.
All characters have 25,550, and are 10th-level.