Crimes in the Upper City are unusual; when the name of a Morgrave University professor is given by the Machine, Harland calls on all six of his “employees” to investigate.
Professor ir’Kroog (a noble, noted Arik) was unusual for a Morgrave professor; she actually made an effort to attend to her classes while most of her colleagues went on various spelunking extra-curriculars. With this information inm hand, the group decided that it was best to attend one of her classes under different disguises.
The class itself turned out to be interesting; as a professor of elementary transmutation, she discussed the rudimentary methods of ritual casting basic spells, which more adept casters can somatically perform in seconds. She also warned against full transmutations into various beasts; instead, she says it is more efficient to borrow certain aspects of the desired beast form only. Many a mage has succumbed to the base instincts of the beast it is trying to emulate, and such transformations are best left to the wise.
At the end of the class, Killian approached the professor and used the most efficient disguise of not disguising at all. (He is an actual member of the Sharn Watch and is an actually investigating a cold case regarding her predecessor.) They agreed to meet at a university cafe later to discuss the case, after which she excused herself. True to his Thuranni nature, Arik tailed her (as did Vorik.)
The two were able to see Karla go on to meet with a senior professor named Soelma Nilaenish. Eavesdropping, they were able to find out that Karla wanted access to something called the Zoretha Scroll; however she needed the written permission of Soelma in order to access it. Denied the request, she stormed off.
Meanwhile, Dul’Radzak decided to search the professor’s newly acquired office. Seeing nothing of importance besides a drawer protected by an Arcane Lock spell (which he had no ability to remove), his kleptomania itch was scratched by taking an letter opener crafted in the fashion of a Karnathi sword.
As the druid leaves the room without incident, Anka was able to use her popularity to learn more about the professor. She was a Karrn noble by birth, but transferred to Breland as a student just before the War ended. Vorik would have been able to use this information as someone connected to Karrn nobility, himself. Unfortunately he was not made aware of this before he had a chance encounter with the professor. Awkwardness ensued.
Not-so Dura-ble Plans
Later in the afternoon, the meeting between Karla and Killian was pleasant but non-conclusive. No links can be found between her and Killian’s case (save for her gaining the homicide victim’s teaching post.) They then parted ways, and the party explored their other options.
Everyone decided to check out Soelma Nilaenish and the Zoretha scrolls. (That is, with the exception of Arik, who once again decided to tail Karla.) Killian used his position with the Sharn watch to politely question Soelma regarding his ongoing case, while the wizard, the sorcerer, and the warlock decided to go on a magical caper to get into the restricted section of the library. But they were spotted by the librarians, and eventually Soelma herself chastised and observed them closely afterward. Sneaking in to grab the Zoretha Scroll does not see like a good idea; in broad daylight, at least. Lost on what to do next, they decided to wander the city.
Arik braced himself as he followed Karla ir’Kroog’s sky coach all the way to Lower Dura. For her part, the professor seemed nervous, as well, and as Arik followed her into a seedy tavern, he quickly realized why. She was meeting with a Boromar halfling flanked by his thugs. Karla was trying to tell him that the job was off. She tried to tell him that she was better than that. For wasting the Boromar’s time, she was about to get into more trouble than she could handle.
So Arik bailed her out through the cunning use of a chandelier.
Carrying the professor, Arik escaped the tavern as a brawl ensued, inside. He was more intimidating than he was warm to Karla, however, and she decided to flee from him via a Jump spell.
Before he can decide how to make the same leap without falling to his death (while they were in lower Dura, they were still some ten stories up,) the Boromar halfling came out with his thugs and spotted him. Arik knew enough about the issues between the crime families, so he fled to Daask territory to try to escape.
It was fortuitous (although Anka’s subconscious chaos magic may have helped), then, that around that time the rest of the group decided to visit Lizardface’s camping grounds. As the Boromar caught up with Arik, Arik in turn was reunited with the rest of the group. Faced with superior numbers in hostile territory, to boot, the Boromar decided to retreat.
Small Circle, Small Circle, Big Circle
After a short rest, Arik described Karla’s reaction to his “saving her” to the rest of the party. Whatever it was that she wanted with the mysterious scroll, they deduced from her reaction that she may try something tonight. They decided that the next best move is to return to the Morgrave Library.
Upon entering the campus grounds, however, they were ambshed by the Boromar halfling. And this time he brought more men with him. “I knew you’d come back to the professor,” he said. Itching for violence, the party engaged them.
As the rain poured and as the Boromar mooks went down, a flash of light and a loud cry came from inside the University. Arik left the rest of the group (again) to run to the scene, while the rest were left to deal with the halfling and his remaining men. He used his agility to climb in through the windows. And when he rushed to the library, he saw an intricate transmutation circle drawn on the floor with Karla’s silhouette in the middle, and an unconscious Soelma lying on the far side of the room. Arik slowly approached Karla, but stopped when he noticed that she was holding an eldritch scroll.
Her neck twisted so that she could face him even though her back was turned. For that matter, “face” is not the right word. Her whole head was replaced by an eye, and as she blinked what was once her face would be briefly seen as the lids covering the one round eye. The very sight of the eye caused Arik’s skin to crawl and feel uncomfortable.
Her neck ripped open, then, and from there teeth and tongue whispered of things that only Arik knew. The rest of the group barged in at this time, bloodied but unbeaten by the Boromar halfling. They paused as they saw the aberration before them.
What happened next was a blur. Dul’Radzak felt that Karla’s mind needed to be anchored back to the world, so he pulled out the Karnathi miniature sword that he swiped earlier in her office. With inhuman speed she leaped beside him, stared at the sword, and whispered, “why do you have that?” And shredded his skin with her
hands claws. Dul’Radzak instantly fell down, dying.
Taking his cure from the druid’s idea, Arik swiped the miniature sword as it fell to lure that-which-was-Karla away from the rest of the group. Killian also tried to get to Karla through the power of words and persuasion.
Meanwhile, Lizardface whispered to Orlassssk so that he may peer into the mind of the unconscious Soelma. Sifting through the elder professor’s matriarchal feelings for Karla, he found that in the early stages of the ritual, the transformation was still reversible if the circle was slightly modified. He quickly called the attention of Anka and Vorik. Surely with three magi this should be in the bag, right? So, armed with chalks, they began to draw more circles on the floor.
Running away from the creature proved onlyslightly effective when the very sight of the creature assaulted Arik’s senses, so he tried to hide among the shelves, instead. Killian on the other hand began to get a response from Karla. She began to realize that her spell had gone horribly wrong, and that her body hurts. The eye began to sob:
“My mother was a Karrn warlord. She was somebody! I just wanted her back. I needed to see tomake the spell work…”
Resisting the magic of the eye with his resolve, Killian empathized with Karla and hugged her, taking on the pain for both of them.
Dul’Radzak, luckily regaining consciousness, swallowed a few goodberries , crawled to Soelma, and gave her the rest. As the elder professor got back to her feet, she saw the pandas the arcanists were drawing, shussed them, and did the job correctly.
As the transmutation circle glowedx, Karla apologized to Killian, who was in pain as he fnally started to succumb to the gaze magic. She then returned to normal,sparing Killian from a disfigured fate.
Another name was saved by the Machine.
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