Campaign of the Month: November 2007

Bodhisattva Complex

Chapter Six - Orphans

“What the HELL are you doing here?!”

Two voices ring out in unison over the buzz of activity in the Aeon Home hospital. Charlotte and Jacques dodn’t seem happy to see each other.

After some banter and more than a little confusion on the part of everyone, the situation cools down a little and Milo is finally able to explain his and Charlott’e sundue intrusion. It seems that the Shirley is mostly intact at the floor of the ocean and is currently in the clutches of a rather formidable sea monster. Malcolm, being more attached to his ship than he’d like to admit, demanded that they find someone to help him recover it. ravi’s talents with subjugating creatures of ill repute came into conversation after Malcolm had spoken at length about knowing the professor’s father, and an idea was born.

Still reeling from the encounter with Nandi, Ravi is a little hesitant to help strangers at this point. Not only that but Tien reveals his true reason for stopping by. The city of Gandharva needs Ravi’s help yet again and he’s honorbound to agree. It seems that the conflict in Forgotten loosed something sinister on the streets of the city. A thief from the past who goes by the title of Nameless has been spotted skulking in the shadows near the wall between the rich quarter and the slums. Mysterious murders have been occuring all over those sectors and the rich victims have been robbed of their possessions as well as their lives. Reticent as always, the Gandharva city guard has ordered that Ravi and his team investigate the matter and do something about it because he is supposedly responsible for it all. More than a little steamed, Ravi agrees on the condition that he be left to his own devices once the case is closed. Enlisting Jacques and Padme to help him, the professor storms out of the hospital in an attempt to see this nonsense over with as soon as possible.

Milo, Charlotte and Malcolm agree to help ravi gather information while he and his team hit the streets for some information gathering. The rich quarter is the first destination, since the most recent murder-robbery took place there. Few have much of interest to say, although a foreign visitor to the city says that Nameless is apparently capable of travelling in an unorthodox and undetectable way. Jacques takes an interest in a young boy sitting near his home and discovers that the place is the site of the most recent crime. The boy is under suspicion by the police force of Gandharva and will be taken in soon for the murder of his family, but he couldn’t have done it. With the child’s permission, Jacques slips onto the grounds and has a look around. She finds something unusual along the walls of the outside garden and the main hall inside the house; scorch marks along the ground that seem to duck under structures. The marks lead to the upstairs where the boy says his parents’ room is.

In the library Ravi finds his new companions looking over every text they can find. Milo shares a little information with the group, stating that the thief Nameless lived in the slums for most of his life and had only one friend to speak of – a girl named Evelyn. Apparently this woman still lives, but doesn’t have much time left. Ravi decides to head into the slums and have a talk with Evelyn.

When the party arrive in the poor quarter, Padme is noticeably shocked at the state the place is in. With some explanation from his human companions on the necessary evils civilization must deal with, the automa begrudgingly agrees to help Jacques question the locals.

The group is interrupted in their endeavors by a woman running through the slums screaming at the top of her lungs. She falls face-down in the dirt and is slowly eaten away by some creature that has latched onto her. The other people of the slums simply look away and retreat into their clapboard houses, intent on pretending they saw nothing. Ravi is incensed and attempts to help the woman, but he’s too late; she is consumed by a cesspit ooze and disappears into the earth. More oozes drop down from the roofs and awnings of houses and block the group’s passage.

The battle is dramatic but the party is well aware of the lack of danger. Padme demonstrates his skill with an Ohm and his psionic abilities for the first time, trapping an ooze in a quintessance and dropping it into a nearby bonfire and displacing another in time while he helps the others deal with their own targets. Jacques’ magical energies cause a strange reaction in some of the oozes, causing them to split in half. Ravi speaks the words of the soul and banishes his own aggressors into nothingness.

When the oozes are dispatched the people of the slums emerge from hiding and go about their business again. Padme asks them why they did and said nothing and some of them simply shrug the question away and continue whatever they were doing. Depressed, the automa asks how to get to the center of the slums and makes his way through without waiting for Ravi or Jacques.

Inside the slums lies the old sector, where the original poor quarter of Gandharva stood. Over the years the area has been built around itsel in a circular pattern like the layers of an onion or the rings in a tree. Inside the slums is an area of such unimagineable squalor that not even her own residents can stand to stay there for long. It is here that Evelyn is said to reside – the only person with the knowledge of Nameless required to find him and put him down.

Ravi finds a shanty with bright silken curtains blowing in the westerly breeze and, seeing inside the glassless window, spots an elderly woman on her sickbed. Knowing it to be Evelyn, the professor knocks on her door and is let inside while Padme and Jacques occupy themselves just outside. Evelyn is kind and personable, even for someone of her age and in her condition, and she speaks openly to Ravi on the subject of Nameless.

“Nearly a hundred years ago a child was born in the streets of the slums, the product of a prostitute and her work. The birth was a hard one and the mother didn’t survive. These are the slums, of course, and people never help each other. They just stand by and watch while other suffer and take comfort that it isn’t their own suffering they see. The baby was born and the mother had died, the pain too much for her to bear.

“A band of rather notorious thieves found the baby and took him in, caring for him in as small a way as they possibly could and rearing him to be another of their fold. When the child was eleven he asked them if any of them were his family and was met with ridicule. They weren’t the children of whores, after all. They were respectable thieves. Rejected, the boy left the band and decided to fend for himself. He learned shortly thereafter about his mother. We met then, he and I. He talked to me and nobody else. He told me everything.

“He used his skills as a thief to get us food and information, which we would sell for more food. One day the sun was shining particularly brightly. I remember because it got in my eyes so much. He came home one day with the most angry expression on his face and wouldn’t speak for hours. When he finally did, he told me that he had learned the identity of his father. I was shocked, but I wanted to know more. His father was a noble from over the wall, of some repute being a statesman or something. He had regularly spent the night with the boy’s mother and one day…she found out she was pregnant. The nobleman brought her a contract the next day. He told her that it was a promise in writing that she would care for the child and he would pay her a stipend every week to support them both. Of course…she couldn’t read, being from around here. The contract really said that the child wasn’t his, in no uncertain terms. She signed it so eagerly with such a smile on her face, and she never knew what it said.

“So the nobleman was allowed to avoid responsibility for what he’d done and the boy’s mother died in the streets because of her ignorance and open-heartedness. All too familiar a story around here. This caused such anger in the boy as I had never seen. ‘She never even got to name me’, he would say.

“One day he disappeared. For quite a few years, actually. And then, as though it were perfectly normal, he returned. He was calling himself Nameless now, saying that he had to be called something. He told me he’d spent some time with the rakshasa and had learned some of their secrets. He also told me…that he would be killing his father that night and taking everything he owned.

“Sure enough, the papers said it the next morning. A reputable nobleman was killed in his bed with no visible markings. His wife and infant son were killed as well. No known survivors in his family line. We all knew how much of a lie it was. I kmew in my heart that he’d done it, but he wasn’t around anymore. Every once in a while I would think that I’d seen him skulking in the shadows or something, just out the corner of my eye, but before I could turn around he would be gone.

“The murders continued. Either people of noble birth with some dirty secret that came out in the wash the next morning or people living in the slums who knew Nameless when he was a child. It was predictable and I knew better than to doubt it was him, but I was just a poor girl. I couldn’t go to the police or anything. Part of me sympathised with him, anyway. Some small, shameless part of my soul was elated that he’d found a way to climb the wall and force those people into the same fear we feel every day.

“He was caught eventually. In a lair of sorts he’d built in the old service routes through the sewer pipes. It was a foolish mistake he’d made and he was shot in the back for it. But now…well, it’s obvious he’s come back. There’s still something he wants. Something he feels is owed him. Who knows what it is…”

With those words, Evelyn falls silent. Ravi leaves the house and joins his companions again, only to be met with an incredibly uneasy feeling. Jacques notices someone in the shadows near Evelyn’s house, watching them intently. When she approaches the person they melt away into the shade and the person standing next to them tumbles to the ground, dead.

Establishing mental communication with Charlotte, Padme warns her of the impending danger they could all be facing. It is now apparent that Nameless can travel through shadow like the rakshasa, so the automa requests that the others stay out of shadow if at all possible. The group decides to hit the sewer tunnels and see if they can cut Nameless off in his own lair.

At the entrance of the sewers, Ravi and Jacque get into a very obnoxious argument over whether their course of action was correct. Padme displays something resembling human feeling by becoming annoyed with the two of them and going on ahead…but he spots someone standing in the shadow of the sewer access tunnel watching them just like before. The person identifies himself as Nameless, asking if they group is planning on following and confronting him or simply standing around bickering all day. With that the party is enveloped in an impenetrable darkness that lasts a few long moments. When it subsides, Nameless is gone. Padme storms angrily into the tunnel and demands for Ravi and Jacques to follow, stating his disappointment at their insistence on arguing with each other when their goal is quite clearly at hand.

The tunnels stretch out for a while, giving way to a large platform accomidating mutliple warehouses. Only one stands firm among all the others that have fallen in on themselves – the goal is clear.

Inside the warehouse, the group is shocked to see that almost every inch of wall and ceiling is covored in pecious jewelry, antique currency, and numerous artifacts of repute. a small dias stands at the warehouse’s far end, decorated only with two lit candles that cast long shadows across the room.

The shadows birth four identical Namelesses, each intent on destroying the party. They are delat with in short oder, forcing the real Nameless out of the shadows to attack. He is a fierce adversary, utilizing arcane might and forbidden knowledge to draw out the battle to great lengths. When he feels he is cornered, Nameless summons two gruesome creatures he calls Sorrow and Loss to his side. Jacques’ eldritch blasts prove effective against everything thrown her way, while Ravi utilizes his truename magic to turn his simple quarterstaff into a monstrous weapon. Padme keeps the party healthy and provides support with his other talents, fortifying Jacques’ armor and pumping up Ravi’s quarterstaff to fearsome proportions.

Eventually Nameless is struck down. With his final breaths he reveals his true reasons for returning from the grave. He found a grand and valuable treasure on the night he died – something he thought never existed. In the rich quarter’s legal library was a small book hidden behind a stack of boxes in the store room. It was written by his father the nobleman, and held page after page of proof of Nemeless’ lineage. He could have simultaneously taken down his father’s family and given himself the future he needed, with just one handful of pages. The police force caught up with Nameless, though, and riddled him with arrows and bolts. His rakshasa magic couldn’t save him; he died in a pool of his own tainted blood.

And again he dies, turned to dust and blowing away with the breeze. Ravi is without words, but Jacques voices her disgust at villains who make her feel for them before she kills them. The group returns to the library, picking up Malcolm and his companions before heading for Aeon Home for a debriefing.

Tien and Rosalind are amazed, both that the case was solved so quickly and that there are things in this world that can cling so strongly to life. The police force sends over a number of magical items found in Nameless’ lair without any tie to a family or individual. Ravi, Jacques, and Padme each take a few of these items as a sort of payment for their efforts with Tien’s permission.

His job done, Ravi insists that he be left alone for a while after this case. Tien agrees, feeling that the professor has earned more than enough rest with all he’s done over the last few months. The group disperses, each to his or her own devices, until such time as they can figure out what to do. That is, they disperse after Honoria busts in and causes a ruckus with little to no concern for what’s really going on around her…as usual.

Charlotte and Jacques have a conversation about the latter’s absence, reconnecting after such a long time of not being around each other. Charlotte expresses concern for her little sister, who is more than willing to brush it off as her sibling being a misguided busybody.

Malcolm and Milo have an encounter on the bridge overlooking Aeon Home, where Milo expresses his lack of direction and a feeling that there’s no point in his having left the Guran settlement to look for River.

The sun sets on Gandharva for another day, this time peacefully…

Extras

Honoria’s Diary

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