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Old 01-21-2012, 10:17 AM
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Arrow Prelude - Durion

Morgrave University was quiet at this time of the night. Rain lashed the windows, but the heavy brocaded drapes kept out most of the noise. Beriadon Durion sat at one of the library desks poring over an ancient tome about the elves of Aerenal. He was most interested in the flight from Xen’drik at the end of the Age of Giants. This particular account was fascinating because it appeared to be a first-hand account, though translated and rewritten into a more modern format. Nonetheless, it made for good reading on a night like this.

For a moment, all was still within the library of Morgrave. Darkness beyond the glow of Durion’s lantern seemed to swallow up the stacks and shelves. For a moment, he was all alone. For a moment, just a moment, he closed his eyes…

Distant voices caught his attention. Shouted orders became screams as fellow soldiers died on the battlefield. The advancing line of Karrnathi had broken through the defensive perimeter and was falling upon the Brelish infantry with grim efficiency. Armoured skeletal soldiers marched steadily through the defenders while ghouls and ghasts loped past tearing into the startled Brelish. Torches swept to and fro through the chaos of swinging swords, grasping claws, and whistling arrows.

Someone was calling for Durion to take up the left flank! They kept calling his name, over and over, almost drowned out by the cacophony of battle. The enemy had surrounded them, overrun the entire line! All around, undead creatures overwhelmed the Brelish soldiers. The elf could feel cold hands grasping his own, tearing at him, pulling him down! With a strength born of panic, Durion lurched back and raised his staff, readying a devastating spell--

“Durion!” the voice called urgently. “Master Durion!. We need you!”

A loud crash startled the elf awake. His hand trembled only slightly as he grasped his staff. The lamp that had been illuminating his studies had been knocked to the floor.

“Master Durion! What in Khyber do you think you’re doing?! Unhand her!” Foldrel Marsh quailed excitedly. The elderly Head Librarian seemed in the midst of an apoplectic attack of some sort. Durion reached to pinch the bridge of his nose with his free hand…

…Only to find that his other hand was not, in fact, free.

With a start, the elf released the grip he had around a young half-elf’s throat. Ymaine Tresanni, assistant librarian, took a deep breath. Her eyes were wide, but not at all panicked. In fact, she seemed almost apologetic.

“Master Durion,” Ymaine said calmly, after composing herself and adjusting the glasses perched on her nose. “We need your help. I am most sorry to have startled you so. I hope you can forgive me.”

Durion dusted off her clothing and straightened her rumpled collar. With his left hand, he absent-mindedly stroked the pommel of his sword, his head cocked to one side as though listening to voices only he could hear. Apparently satisfied with the answer he got, or perhaps hearing nothing at all, he straightened and stood towering over her, his back ramrod straight.

His piercing eyes refocused on Ymaine. "What seems to be the problem, young one?"

“There has been an…incident at the vaults. We were hoping you could lend your talents and have a look?” The Khoravar woman spoke softly, as if afraid someone was eavesdropping. Head Librarian Marsh stood behind her gibbering to himself about impropriety and ill manners.

“The watch has been summoned, but I fear they will be quite a while in arriving,” Ymaine said, brushing back a stray lock of hair that had fallen out of an elaborate plait. “An artifact of some importance has been taken. Professor Jerrod said you are a Magus, and are quite observant. Won’t you please help us?”

Durion considered the librarians for a moment. He knew that Ymaine was a hard worked and too her archiving duties very seriously. With a few more years under her belt, she would surely be appointed the Head Librarian position. Foldrel Marsh, on the other hand, was no longer as young or as efficient as he had once been. He liked to delegate most of the librarian duties to those that served below him, mostly to several expatriate gnomes from Zilargo that strived to expand the library's collection, and on occasion to those studying at the University to help them curry academic favour. However, neither Marsh nor Ymaine were likely to over-react to things happening within these walls. They took their University very seriously.

The Magus recalled that Morgrave had several vaults of various sizes and shapes, and on different levels of the tower. Most housed the spoils of expeditions to Xen'drik or the recovered relics of the ancient Dhakaani goblinoid nation that pre-dated the current era. The librarian's use of the word 'artifact' could've meant anything from a tribal trinket of feathers and glass found in the jungles of the southern continent to a magical device of unknown origins. Unfortunately, there were plenty of those to be found in Xen'drik as well. When magical artefects are discovered, they are usually placed in a very highly secure vault, or removed to other facilities off campus for proper study.

With a nod, Durion scanned the room with a soldier's efficiency, looking for the source of their anxiety, then with a wave of one arm, indicated that they should lead the way. He clasped his hands behind him as he waited for them to move. He began following them, then remembered. He tilted his head and flicked his left hand distractedly. The book he had been reading closed of its own accord with a flutter of pages and silently flew to its place on the shelf.

The chair he had been sitting in slid neatly under the table, and all of the chairs straightened themselves to accommodate it. There was a soft breeze and the area he had been using brightened to a freshly polished sheen.

His eyes smiled, though his mouth remained stoically fixed.
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 01-21-2012, 10:20 AM
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Default A Curious Break-In...

Ymaine and Marsh led Durion to one of the staff lifts and descended a dozen levels. It appeared to the Magus that they were heading for one of the more secured vaults within the tower. After exiting the lift, they made their way towards a large vault at the end of an open hall. They passed several House Deneith guards that were now posted along the level, no doubt brought in for damage and crowd control. Considering they were private contractors, it was no wonder they had arrived before any of the Watch.

Head Librarian Marsh hung back while Ymaine led Durion further along. She indicated the vault in the far wall, carefully stepping past makeshift barricades put in place by the staff. A great yawning opening loomed before the veteran. Something interesting had definitely occurred here...

The door to the vault had been lifted off.

It wasn’t a very secure design when looked at from a certain point of view, but considering the door itself weighed nearly half a ton, it was only a minor flaw overall. There was no sign of damage to the hinges, but the lock itself had been badly damaged; the fully extended bolt was bent and sheared off when the door was removed.

Durion inspected the rectangular steel door, noting the marks where the door had been gripped when it was lifted off its hinges. It looked as if something incredibly strong had worked its fingers under the edge, bending the steel in the process. Whatever it was had very large hands; almost twice the size of Durion’s own. Apparently, the noise of setting the massive door aside was what alerted the staff of the break in; the marble floor and a column it had been set against had cracked from the weight.

The interior of the vault had seen better days. Crates and boxes were strewn about, and none too few of the contents were visible, glints of gold peeking through the cracks and split seams here and there. Durion recognised a golden fertility idol propped up in the far corner, supposedly worshipped by ancient giants in Xen’drik, recovered during a recent expedition to the vast southern continent. And lying haphazardly on the floor was a giant steel spearhead, preserved for centuries by some ancient alchemical process, leaving the metal unmarked by rust or wear. Stone tablets and bits of carved statues were also among the trophies housed in this particular safe room. Any one of these artifacts would have been worth thousands of sovereigns, more gold than Durion had seen in his lifetime, if sold to the right collector. And yet, there they remained, cast aside like the reinforced vault door…

Without turning from his examination of the room, Durion said something extremely intelligent and impressive and asked that nothing be moved or changed in the room. Then he asked what was stolen.

Durion’s gaze flickered across the scene, taking in the details. He was pleased to note that the staff had not disturbed much, if anything, in the crime scene. There were obvious signs of forced entry, massive footprints in the thick carpeting (Thranish, North Country, at least three hundred years old judging by the pattern) and a silk banner that had fallen on the floor, and bits of glass and shreds of cloth here and there. But it did not look as if anyone had disturbed anything since the break in. There was something else, something about the contents of the vault that niggled at his awareness, but he was more focused on what was before him in plain sight for the moment.

The footprints were impressive, at least half a yard in length, and nearly half that across. Judging by the imprint of toes in a crumpled silk banner thrown to the floor, the print looked humanoid. And bare-footed. And looking up at the beams supporting the vault roof, Durion could just make out some hairs in a reddish wet-looking patch; something had apparently bumped its head, painfully, on the iron cross beam. Whatever came in here was at least as tall as the vault ceiling, approximately eight feet above the floor. An ogre? A giant?

The markings on the vault door were most troubling, as it would also indicate a giant were responsible. But considering there was lack of evidence of a giant passing through the halls of Morgrave (surely someone would have noticed that and reported it), it would be more likely that someone had imbibed a potion of Enlarge Person, further evidenced by the bit of broken glass in one of the massive footprints in the vault. There were also shreds of cloth just inside the vault entrance that he suspected would be the remains of a shirt and vest. They must’ve been tossed inside after the door was removed. This would help narrow down the search for shirtless and shoeless suspects, unless they had brought a change of clothes with them for their escape.

Something just didn’t add up here, and this troubled the elf. Unfortunately, Durion realised that an Enlarge Person potion would enhance an individual only so much, and the one responsible for this would have to already be incredibly strong. Such an individual would certainly stand out nearly as much as a giant would. Could there be other magic at work here as well? There were an array of magic items that could enhance strength, but they would not necessarily enlarge through the use of a potion, thus rendering them broken and/or useless. A Bull’s Strength potion might also enhance an already enlarged person, but there was only so much broken glass as to account for only one vial, and he suspected more than one of those would be required to do so much damage at once.

Durion stooped to examine the glass fragments closer, but made no move to touch them yet. There was clearly only enough glass for one vial. His nose detected the aroma of whatever residue remained on the fragments, but it smelled nothing like any Enlarge or Bull’s Strength potions or infusions he had ever encountered. Curious...

“What was taken?” Durion asked without taking his eyes off the scene before him.

A movement in the far left corner of vault interior made the elf look up. One of the broken crates moved slightly, and a figure sat up rubbing its head. Durion, stood, his hand automatically going for the sword at his side while Ymaine and March took a step back. They all stared openly at the small child that had somehow managed to get himself buried in the wreckage of a very violent break in…

“Where am I?” the child asked, his voice rough and dry. “Who are you?” He spoke with an Aundarian accent, but it was very faint. He was small, perhaps no more than ten years old, dressed in thrice-mended clothes, hand-me-downs that had seen several different owners. Though shabbily dressed, he appeared in generally good health, all things considered. The boy stared openly at Durion, seemingly absorbed by the elf’s scarred appearance.

Ah, that was what was niggling at the elf’s attention earlier.

Durion immediately dismissed the child as the one responsible for opening the vault. The boy’s hands were grimy, but did not appear to have any injury or markings upon them; peeling up the edges of the vault door would have at least torn a fingernail or scraped the nail beds deeply. The boy also wore shoes, which were too tight and had not been removed from his feet in quite some time, judging by the elaborate knots that were encrusted with dried dirt and mud. No, it was someone or something else that had transformed and done the damage.

At this, Durion looked pointedly at the blood splotch on the ceiling. “A magnifying glass and a little thaumaturgy and we’ll find our culprit, but we’ll need to hurry.” Durion reached into his pouch and withdrew a spatula, a pair of tweezers a small glass phial and a small paper bag. “The boy is not a suspect, but I may be able to discover who is... Get me an A-frame ladder.”

Head Librarian Marsh hesitated only a moment before sending one of the House Deneith guards to fetch a ladder. The groundskeeper would most certainly have one. Fortunately, the groundskeeper was already present and retrieved a ladder in short order.

Durion carefully placed the ladder as not to disturb the scene and climbed up to collect his sample. The elf noticed upon closer inspection that the hairs were reddish-blonde.

“How did he get in here?” Ymaine stared openly at the child still. Her instinct to see to the boy was arrested by Durion’s hand held up to prevent her from doing so. She sighed deeply and answered his question about the stolen item.

“The item taken was in a crate that used to be right there,” Ymaine said pointing to the conspicuously open space at the rear of the vault. “Everything else seems to be here still. Garret Halstrom recovered the item in the Valley of Shadows last summer. It was an Eberron Dragonshard, nearly two feet long. Professor Jerrod believes it is an important artefact, and very powerful. He’s been studying it for months, trying to figure out how to activate it.”

“And what does it do?” Durion asked, barely noticing Ymaine’s distraction from the task at hand.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know exactly what it’s supposed to do. But I’m sure Professor Jerrod would be able to tell you more,” Ymaine advised. It was obvious she was more concerned about the small boy for the moment.

Durion inwardly winced at the realization that the boy was too large for him to lift and move with the minor spells currently at his disposal. He kneeled down so he was at approximately the boy’s height and said, “It’s all right. Stay right where you are and we’ll get you out of there safely. Just stay right there.” The boy nodded and did his best to remain unmoving.
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 01-21-2012, 10:21 AM
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Default Professor Jerrod Explains...

Durion looked for a path out that would cause the least amount of disturbance of the crime scene. With some care, he could pick one out. It would take a certain amount of dexterity, but it would have to do. Durion delivered the boy into Ymaine’s care once clear of the area of investigation.

Head Librarian Marsh had one of the House Deneith guards search for Professor Jerrod. They were off at a trot.

Professor Jerrod arrived shortly after being summoned. He was dressed in a long cream-coloured greatcoat and a well-tailored suit of sky blue velvet. The touch of grey at his temple was the only obvious indication of his forty-four years. He was a strikingly handsome human, and his time spent exploring the jungles of Xen’drik gave him a rather athletic physique. Jerrod was quite popular with many of the faculty members, and there were rumours of his exploits with certain female students of the University. There may have been some truth to those rumours, considering the way the professor was eyeing up the female guard sent to summon him.

“My dear Durion,” Jerrod greeted with, perhaps, excessive familiarity. “I’m so glad you decided to have a look into the incident. What have you been able to discover?” His voice was rich and mellifluous.

“A break in, friend Professor. Fear not, for I am examining the details and should be able to identify the party responsible very shortly,” Durion advised. “What can you tell me of the item that was taken?”

“Ah yes, the shard. Quite an exquisite find! We are very grateful to Garret for bringing it back from the ruins,” Jerrod said. “According to my research, this artefact was alleged to be used to imbue magical abilities into non-practitioners. It was called the Karahkt d’ Rovekt,” the giantish words rolled off a practised tongue. “The Shard of Arcane Might!

“Alas, it is fractured and inert,” Jerrod continued. “Garret found the main shard, but a fragment was hewn off of it. We’re not certain if that was intentional or accidental, and the broken piece remains lost. Without the missing fragments, the ancient magical properties, if the texts are to be believed, are lost to us, I’m afraid…”

The professor paused to examine the vault, obviously impressed with the amount of damage done. Then he too began to stare...

“Who is the child?” Jerrod asked, looking over Durion’s shoulder at the boy in Ymaine’s lap. “Is he involved?!”

“At the moment, his presence here is still shrouded in mystery. But I’m certain he did not take the Shard, Professor,” Durion said absently as he studied the boy again. That’s when the elf noticed a white bit of paper tucked into the boy’s grimy coat pocket. He carefully drew it out with his tweezers to examine it more closely.

It was a printed business card for the Keldoran Inquisitive Services, Number 5, Cavendish Tower, Dava Gate. On the back, someone had written a message in very fine handwriting:
You should probably start here.
Durion stared at the card for several seconds, at a total loss for words. Someone had intentionally left this in the boy’s pocket to lead whoever was investigating to go to this Keldoran Inquisitive Services. This was very troublesome. And why did the name Keldoran sound familiar?...
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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