8/8/11 – “To Catch a Ring Thief…”
The adventurers exit the depths of the defiled temple, squinting in morning sun, unaccustomed to the effulgence of full daylight after so long a time in darkness. Wearily shambling from between the town’s more decrepit edifices, they espy an unexpected sight in the nearby town square. A gathering of townsfolk, more than they presumed even remained in Mardeth, have encircled two figures.
Maru the Mind-Taker stands in center of the crowd, clutching an old man by the collar, dangling his feet a hand’s-breadth from the ground. Maru strikes the man repeatedly, angrily interrogating him as to the whereabouts of an object he desires and states the ritual he holds is useless without “it”. When the man fails to answer to his satisfaction, Maru effortlessly tosses the wretch several yards into the milling onlookers. The Beast and his companions notice that as the man flies, he holds a leather-bound tome to his chest tightly—the Beast’s ritual book.
Landing with a thud, the old man is helped up by a curiously-well-dressed Halfling, and together they move quickly off in an unknown direction thru the mass of townspeople. Cursing the town, Maru disappears. With nods and brief discussion, the adventurer’s decide that Maru must be dealt with and the Beast’s book returned.
Three months pass—the adventurer’s meticulously and clandestinely rid Mardeth of the corrupt guard. Slowly, life returns to the town as the population, many having fled in fear of the guard’s regular abductions for the slave pens of Anduras, return. The mornings bustle with the sound of trade as peddlers sell their sundries to those in from the countryside. It is on one such morning that the adventurer’s gather quietly to one side of the town square. Having each pursued his own ends and achieved naught, they decide to seek out what information they can concerning the mysterious old man with the Beast’s book in The Staggering Peasant, a tavern with a reputation for welcoming the less-savory members of Mardeth society.
Walking carefully through the back alley to the non-descript entrance to the bar, the adventurer’s are accosted by a number of the town’s newly-returned merchants. The group buys two supposedly magical potions from a withered old crone and attempt to barter with an unseemly, and uncooperative, merchant selling what appears to be household junk. Just before reaching the bar, the group stumbles upon a freshly-established shop-front run by the self-named smith Albert Gherek. The majority of the smith’s wares are poorly-made, having the appearance of apprentices’ practice work. After making a mysterious trade with a passerby, Albert cryptically indicates that greater items are in his possession, but that he simply does not trade with the general public. Albert offers to display his handiwork if the adventurer’s recover a magical, green jewel-bedecked ring stolen from Albert’s clandestine cache of treasures. The adventurer’s half-heartedly agree and continue on to The Staggering Peasant.
In the tavern, the adventurers each deal with the bizarre patrons. Berowyn is accosted by a rambling, ale-addled drunk obsessed with bugbears, Levandius attempts to match wits and ply a well-dressed halfling for information regarding the events of three months prior, and the Beast finds himself beset by a busty, greasy bar-wench bent on testing his strength. As Levandius bandies with the small manling and Berowyn attempts to repel his undesired companion, the Beast finds himself the center of attention pitted in an arm-wrestling match with the enormous wench. After a few unsuccessful attempts to best the greasy strumpet, the Beast summons his energies and hurls the creature across the bar, knocking down several patrons in her ruin. It was in the aftermath of the dull thud that the Beast notices one of the patrons bearing a green jewel-bearing ring. The man rights himself and quickly runs for the nearby exit.
Summoning his eldritch powers, the Beast momentarily tears the veil of reality asunder and plunges headlong through the pathless ether after the newly-discovered ring thief. With a crack of suddenly displaced air, the Beast re-enters the world just behind the fleeing man and grabs hold, stopping him in his tracks.
Seeing the commotion, Berowyn shoves the drunkard aside and nimbly steps through the shocked crowd. Reacting with the reflexes of a wild hunter, he leaps into a window facing the tavern’s side and deftly kicks out the flimsy led-glass panes to afford him a straight shot. Meanwhile, Levandius curtly excuses himself from his conversation with the haughty demi-human and hurries towards the exit after his companions.
In the clearing outside The Staggering Peasant, the adventurers engage the thief, who shows forth the power of his ill-gotten ring by summoning manifestations of his inner self. Methodically the band defeat the magickal clones and finally dispatch the thief. Pulling the ring from his finger, the Beast gathers the crumpled, unconscious form of the thief. Determining the trinket to be of too much value to return to its owner, the Beast proposes to keep the object and places it on one of his thick fingers. Exerting his will, he causes his form to change, using the diminished power of the ring.