Episode 6 : The Crystal Ball Of The Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson
 

The third ingredient for Hashem's transformation was a Crystal Ball. Here we really had no option but to look into acquiring the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson's Crystal Ball. There were three Crystal Balls in Middleburg. One belonged to Zandhurst the Astrologer and this was out of the question, he was well aware of us. The next Crystal Ball belonged to Hexgora and her reputation was well known throughout Middleburg. She could appear as either of two people, one fairly reasonable and powerful, the other the archetype wicked witch armed with a Wand of Fire Balls and without any compunction whatsoever to use it. We chose to take on the holder of the third Crystal Ball, the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson, as he had not warned us off and he did not have a Wand of Fire Balls.

The Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson was located in the Noble quarter of Middleburg. This quarter was situated on a slightly higher plateau to the rest of Middleburg. It was protected from the riff raff below that made up lower Middleburg's populous by firstly the plateau's cliff and then by the walls raised about the edge of the plateau itself. The gates into this section were always guarded and the quarter had regular patrols of city guard. While passage into this quarter was not restricted a reason for being there was required of all those that did not radiate the wealth associated with living here.

We (Blue Bigfoot, Thor Frekwaldson, Crayg Rydorsson, and Garack) entered the wealthy quarter of Middleburg as the bodyguards of the more suitably dressed members of the party (Serra Ibin Raaviat, Grimwold Mindbreaker and Vernon Zarck). We approached the noble quarter of Middleburg and were looked up and down by the city guards on duty at the guardhouse. They stopped our party and asked our business. Serra Ibin Raaviat indicated that she, Vernon Zarck and Grimwold Mindbreaker had just been to the lower quarters of Middleburg and they thought it wise to have escorts. They eyed the halfling as he passed, Serra Ibin Raaviat said, "He comes in useful as errand boy, running those odd jobs.", the guards nodded and moved us on. Blue Bigfoot grumbled and moved along.

We entered the noble quarter proper and now could see the bustling markets. The produce on sale here was of a higher quality but also demanded a higher price. Vernon Zarck went to a robe shop and improved on the manner of his dress spending big on an outlandish robe that now allowed him to fit better into the part he played. A squad of city guard approached our group and demanded to know our business. Serra Ibin Raaviat responded "I live here and I have just been down to the docks, and well I took some friends for protection. It can be rough done there, better safe than sorry!". Crayg Rydorsson, Garack and Thor Frekwaldson played their parts, the halfling wished he was elsewhere. The city watch moved on. They stopped the next group they came across and demanded to know their business here.

Now having passed the city guard we broke into groups and frequented the type of places that was expected of the type of people we were portraying. Blue Bigfoot, Thor Frekwaldson, Crayg Rydorsson, and Garack entered an Inn opposite the building of the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson and waited. Thor Frekwaldson's monkey alighted from his shoulder and disappeared into the crowd. The Inn was filled with lots of people from the lower quarter, here on business, legitimate or like ours otherwise. Thor Frekwaldson went to the bar and grabbed an ale and went outside to watch the building from the vantage of the tables and chairs set outside. The halfling quickly followed having spied some Northmen who had spotted him and probably thought that they might have some sport with him later.

Serra Ibin Raaviat approached the entrance to the building and examined the sign of the tenants on the wall. The sign at the door indicated that the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson held the top and fourth floor of this building. The floor below being held by one Crayg Spicemaster, merchant. The second floor held Harold Hurtvulsson, moneylender and the first floor was occupied by Jasmyn Saabat, entertainer. At this moment a Easterly looking woman left the building closely followed by her Northman guard, his large battleaxe resting over his shoulder.

Serra Ibin Raaviat joined Grimwold Mindbreaker, and Vernon Zarck at the cafe they had found across the way more suited to the wealthier cliental. Here they waited for night to begin to fall to make their entrance less noticeable. They inquired of the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson and were told that he did most of his work late at night in his rooms high above. No people entered or left the building in the hour that we waited. Twilight came and also the time to move.

Thor Frekwaldson left where he had been drinking and along with Crayg Rydorsson and Garack approached the building. Thor Frekwaldson entered the building and saw a small foyer area, stairs on one side, and a passage way through to the backdoor which looked securely barred and bolted. He advanced up the stairs, a voice from below stopped his advance. "Excuse me, who have you come to see.", cried a voice from behind the stair. An old man getting up from his chair appeared in view from behind the stairs. The old man was the building guard and he was dressed as such. Thor Frekwaldson came down the stairs.

"I have come to see the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson, that is who I have come to see.". "Well, he sees no one after dark, you will have to come back during the day.". "Wrong!", said Thor Frekwaldson as he brought his battleaxe down upon the building guard. The blow was aimed to knock out rather than kill and the flat of the battleaxe bounced off the building guard's helmet sending him to the floor. The guard did not wake again that night. More of the party entered. Thor Frekwaldson and Vernon Zarck moved the guard back behind the stairs and sat him up at his table in a pose that would indicate sleep. While no one looked Vernon Zarck slipped out his viper and let it jab the back of the neck of the building guard before he too moved to the stairs. The building guard expired.

We all moved up the stairs, passing each doorway in turn. We met no one on our passage up. We stood before the door of the rooms of the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson and knocked. There was no answer. The Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson had looked into his Crystal Ball a few nights before and it had shown him his body lying upon the attic floor in a pool of blood a single arrow sticking out of his body. This had made him extremely paranoid and not want visitors. Now he prepared for the fight to come but is the fight tonight or a week away or years ahead, he could not tell, but healthy paranoia would keep him alive longer.

We knocked again. Again came silence. So Crayg Rydorsson and Blue Bigfoot each tried to pick the lock and it proved beyond both their capacities. Serra Ibin Raaviat looked over and cast the spell warp and slowly the door creaked and split apart half hanging from its hinges and swayed inwardly. The poison gas vial set above the door fell crashing to the floor. Crayg Rydorsson dived through the door and to the side, the halfling hoping to emulate this move took a deep breath as he tried to dive through the door and ended up in the doorway. The halfling turned green and found breathing difficult as he crawled further inside to the nearest window, he opened it and spent the next thirty minutes gasping for breath at the open window.

The others entered the room after the gas cloud had cleared. They each looked at the halfling and moved on. They searched the whole floor but could find no one nor anything of particular worth. However noting that the door had been barred from the inside we knew that there must be someone here and obviously some secret compartments. We started to look meticulously at the walls, checking if they were hollow or were hiding levers or switches. Eventually Serra Ibin Raaviat came across a pair of levers concealed in two books of a bookshelf. The levers were spaced two arms widths apart. Looking at the bookcase we could determine that it was trapped and that the wall behind the bookcase was hollow, so here was the secret door to the Astrologers hidden rooms beyond. Serra Ibin Raaviat rigged up a system of ropes to the levers and stood well back.

At this moment Crayg Rydorsson was looking out the window that the halfling was sitting at softly wheezing to himself. He tied a rope around himself and also the railing. He walked out onto the balcony and onto the roof where he disappeared from sight. At this moment Serra Ibin Raaviat gave the rope she was holding a huge yank, far more than was necessary and of sufficient strength to cause the spears that were meant to project downwards in front of the bookcase to flip out ninety degrees so that they were aimed into the room. Then the trap triggered, a dozen spears flew from the broken mechanism, two striking Serra Ibin Raaviat, one in the chest, the other in the shoulder. Serra Ibin Raaviat let out a loud gasp and crashed to the ground, the remaining spears crashed into the wall behind her. Serra Ibin Raaviat was bleeding profusely and in desperate need of medical assistance.

Vernon Zarck, Thor Frekwaldson, Grimwold Mindbreaker, Garack, and Blue Bigfoot came to Serra Ibin Raaviat's aid. The wounds were stabilized so that the bleeding stopped but we could not heal her enough for her to become conscious. Garack turned to the bookcase and found that both levers had broken off and the entire opening mechanism and trap mechanism was seized and the only way anyone was going to go through this door ever again was with an axe. By now Serra Ibin Raaviat was bandaged and movable. We agreed that Thor Frekwaldson, Garack and Grimwold Mindbreaker should take her to the Temple of Zuuchi, the Temple of healing, and safely away from this building. So Grimwold Mindbreaker and Thor Frekwaldson went down the stairs to be followed a little way behind by Garack with Serra Ibin Raaviat over his shoulder. On going down Grimwold Mindbreaker and Thor Frekwaldson saw the third floor door open and Crayg Spicemaster in his nightshirt bid a merchant Lyam Bolgat "Goodnight and goodbye.".

Grimwold Mindbreaker and Thor Frekwaldson walked down the stairs the merchant Lyam Bolgat and Crayg Spicemaster walking ahead of them. At the first landing they shook hands and parted. The merchant Lyam Bolgat proceeded to the bottom of the stairs where he called to Gellof the building guard. Gellof because of his condition did not respond. Lyam Bolgat moved to investigate Gellof. It was now that Thor Frekwaldson cracked him over the head with his sword and sent him plunging down the remainder of the stairs. Grimwold Mindbreaker cast forget on him as well so next round he lay dazed at the bottom of the stairs, a bruise upon his head and now right next to the main entrance to the building. Thor Frekwaldson came down "Matey, are you all right, that was a nasty fall down the stairs you took, how do you feel?". Lyam responded "I fell?", slowly standing, rubbing his head. "I saw it myself, you're lucky you did not break your neck, let me help you up.", said Thor Frekwaldson helping him up.

The apartment door of Crayg Spicemaster opened again just as Garack was passing with Serra Ibin Raaviat upon his shoulder to reveal a woman and two children beyond. The woman in the doorway was about to scream when Garack hit her with his fist and shut the door. He continued down the stairs. There was the sound of sobbing coming from the apartment above him. Garack passed Crayg Spicemaster coming back up the stairs. He saw the woman upon Garack shoulders lowered his eyes and hurried passed, he quickly opened and then slammed his apartment door shut. His wife and children clinging to him sobbing when he got inside. He slammed fast the bolts.

Thor Frekwaldson kept ushering Lyam Bolgat towards the entrance. "You should get your head seen to, a fall like that needs to be looked at.". Slowly he allowed himself to be manoeuvred to the doorway. Garack reached the bottom of the stairs and saw the merchant Lyam Bolgat standing just outside the main entrance. Lyam Bolgat saw what Garack had over his shoulder. Coming to his senses he asked "What's happened here?". Garack responded "She had an accident upstairs, what's it to you anyway?". Garack swung his fist at Lyam Bolgat but failed to connect. Lyam Bolgat began to draw his sword. Thor Frekwaldson interposed "Matey, were all friends here.", trying to put his arm around Lyam Bolgat.

Lyam Bolgat backed away further into the street. Thor Frekwaldson said, "Look, there was an accident upstairs in the rooms of the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson, we are taking her to the Temple of Zuuchi to be healed. My friend here is just very protective of her and a bit too highly strung.", looking at Garack. Now Lyam Bolgat walked across to his cart that stood nearby. He hopped up, took hold of the reins and moved off down the street, watching the doorway as he left. When he was out of sight of the building and a few blocks on he stopped a city guard patrol and reported what he had seen.

Thor Frekwaldson went outside to the Inn opposite where he had spent time before and resumed his post watching and drinking. Garack took the unconscious Serra Ibin Raaviat out the backdoor and made his way to the Temple of Zuuchi where Serra Ibin Raaviat worked as a midwife. Here he explained to the attendants that she had been attacked and was in need of medical assistance. The healers at the Temple healed Serra Ibin Raaviat and she was well enough to join us the following morning. About this time Grimwold Mindbreaker and Vernon Zarck decided that it might be best if they also left. They headed down stairs, opened up the backdoor and exited into the night. They knew that they would soon be joined by their companions still upstairs. Grimwold Mindbreaker cast invisibility on himself and vanished into the night. Vernon Zarck stood in the alleyway and concealed himself in the shadows of a dimly lit corner. He waited and watched the rear of the building especially the fourth floor.

Meanwhile Crayg Rydorsson had climbed over the lip of the roof and now could see below him a small cavity in the roof leading into the Astrologers secret rooms. He dropped down and checked out his surroundings. Crayg Rydorsson stood in a L shaped room, before him a chest, further on an attic window and behind him a table on which were a wrapped staff and a wrapped sphere. In front of him an empty attic that turned to the right after a little way. Crayg Rydorsson cautiously approached the corner and with bow at the ready, quickly turned it. Before him stood the remainder of the attic, cut in half by a heavy dark curtain.

Crayg Rydorsson with his bow raised pulled back the curtain, saw the Noble Astrologer and fired. The Noble Astrologer did likewise his times two shock bolt just fizzled when it hit Crayg Rydorsson. The Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson collapsed as Crayg Rydorsson's arrow ripped out his throat throwing him to the floor, blood spurting uncontrollably everywhere, for a little while at least. Crayg Rydorsson searched the body grabbed a jewelled dagger and retrieved his arrow. He went around to the chest, took the wrapped staff and wrapped Crystal Ball from where they rested on the table and placed them on the floor beside the attic window which he also opened. Crayg Rydorsson uprighted the table and positioned it between himself and the chest. Crayg Rydorsson stood partially behind the table as he first picked the chest's lock and began to raise the lid.

The halfling heard, "Twang, twang, twang, twang, thunk, thunk, whoosh!", come from the other side of the roof and the line attached to Crayg Rydorsson suddenly went slack. "Oh no, this will probably be messy.", the halfling sighed. He took hold of the line and pulled it firm and advanced onto the roof and over the other side following in the footsteps of Crayg Rydorsson. Cautiously the halfling advanced over the top of the roof and descended into the hole in the roof leading into the attic proper. He slipped himself down into the cavity.

Everything in the room was coated with a white phosphorescent power that seemed to stick to everything but mostly Crayg Rydorsson. Crayg Rydorsson lay on the floor completely white except for the two large gashes on his arm where fresh blood spurted onto the floor. Vernon Zarck decided to use leaving to get from the alley to the open window. So suddenly in the window stood Vernon Zarck, his appearance almost scared Blue Bigfoot half to death. Blue Bigfoot bandaged Crayg Rydorsson and slipped him a healing tablet, he now breathed easier yet he did not awake. As to Crayg Rydorsson's total blood loss none can tell as he is already as white as a sheet. They checked the chest to reveal five barrels containing a white powder that raised at the mere motion of a hand over the opening. These were sealed and left well enough alone. There were two sacks that jingled that even the halfling could not just secret away. The halfling had now acquired a chubbier stomach with a slight overhang.

Thor Frekwaldson watched as he saw the city guard enter the building and head upstairs. Thor Frekwaldson felt a slight tapping on his shoulder and the words of Grimwold Mindbreaker "We need you out the back of the building.". Inside the rooms of the Noble Astrologer Mordred Vaarnsson the sounds of the city guard could be heard. They had found the destroyed door as well as the Astrologer's spear trap fired and blood splayed about. They began a systematic search of the rooms for people and began bashing at each of the walls in turn looking for secret passages. They came to the wall just next to the entrance door and determined that it was hollow. Through this they would bash an entrance to find the culprits they were looking for. Blue Bigfoot and Vernon Zarck judged that they had around ten minutes before a hole appeared to allow admittance to this portion of the attic, but they did not waste time.

The two dragged Crayg Rydorsson to the window placed a rope around him and wrapping him in the Astrologer's robes, to cover the glow, lowered him down to the alley below. Crayg Rydorsson was taken from the rope and whisked away into the night by Thor Frekwaldson. They did likewise with the still wrapped staff and 2' Astrologer's Crystal Ball, this time these were taken by Grimwold Mindbreaker who when he held them close to himself they vanished from view. Thor Frekwaldson went to a sewer grate prised it open and carried Crayg Rydorsson down with him only to slip and crash into the waters below. Between himself and Garack they were able to recover Crayg Rydorsson who was now wide awake and floundering in a sea of phosphorescence.

The halfling abseiled down the building leaving luminescent footprints all the way from the attic window to the alley below. He retrieved his rope and headed to a quiet darkened corner waiting to meet his friends. As a parting gesture Vernon Zarck set the curtain that had divided the attic on fire and smashed a bottle of alcohol into the flames. Vernon Zarck with the last sack used leaving to get down to where the halfling stood, once again starling the halfling. The city guard down the street spied these two and started to approach. A top floor window opened and a head popped out "You two what are you doing there, explain yourself or I'll call the city guard.". "Nothing, what's it to you anyway.", replied Vernon Zarck. The sound of a whistle high above parted the, until now, quiet night. This whistle was the queue for Vernon Zarck and Blue Bigfoot to run like the clappers, the city guard in hot pursuit.

They raced down the alley turned a corner and saw an open sewer grate, Vernon Zarck dived in, followed shortly by a splash, and after a moments hesitation the halfling followed. Blue Bigfoot then had to use all his strength to pull the grate closed just as the city guard were turning the corner. The city guard pounded down the alley and raced over the grating continuing at the same pace off into the distance. The halfling slowly went down the handrails only to have them vanish at which point he stopped. He was all alone and in darkness. The only light coming in the distance from the phosphorescent wake of Crayg Rydorsson that floated by and the dim light from the grating high above. The other party members dry or dripping as the case maybe turned up to assist the halfling from his perch directly over the sewer centre.

Time had come to get out of the wealthy district, the plan being to go south until we are out. So off we went. After an hours travel we heard before us the rushing of water and the thunder of a waterfall. Now we were really lost, a waterfall beneath Middleburg? The sewer path came to an abrupt end, before and below us the mists of a waterfall and probable jagged rocks. Here the magic users came into their own and flew down, found an appropriate spot to land and used leaving to get everybody down. Going around the pool at the bottom of the waterfall we found the outlet to the sea, below the level of the water. We were not getting out that way. We spied a opening in the rock on the other side of the pool, it held a barred grill and beyond a table and a chair.

The halfling set to work springing the lock which opened at once and then he relocked the grill. We moved along the passage and heard advancing footsteps. Crayg Rydorsson drew his bow and as soon as the old guard appeared sent an arrow into his chest, dropping him without a moan. They tossed the body into the sea outlet. Grimwold Mindbreaker advanced down the corridor and entered a watch room its guard just about to nod off. Grimwold Mindbreaker assisted him to sleep with sleep. We left this room to appear on the cliff face between the wealthy quarter of Middleburg and the poorer quarter, the city we knew so well a sea of glittering lights before us.

We returned to the Restless Pig and surveyed our takings of that night. The sacks contained money and gems, making the raid well worthwhile in the halflings eyes. The dagger taken from the Astrologer was cursed, as are most magic items, and this one would fumble if the user did not know the dagger's name. Serra Ibin Raaviat took the dagger and it vanished into the folds of her dress, she would do some serious research into Lord Escot's dagger. Even the Astrologers robes proved valuable as a two times spell multiplier.

The wrapping was slowly taken from the staff to reveal a staff shaped like two serpents entwined with a single serpents head as a pommel. The serpents head was split down the middle each half having a separate design and a different eye gem. The Serpent Staff held a fiery red ruby and a cold blue sapphire, hinting at its properties. Vernon Zarck took hold of the staff, it warmed at his touch and he could hear the soft distant chant "Mahaaran.", repeated. He would soon know more. The Serpent Staff of Mahaaran needed a wielder and Vernon Zarck liked things that went "Bang!". The Serpent Staff of Mahaaran whispered to Vernon Zarck late into the night, it told of its power, a times three spell multiplier, a spell enhancer, three times a day the ability to fire a fire ball or cold ball, its immediate teleport to its wielder on command, a shock bolt if touched by any other and as an aside it told of an entry in the Pillar of Damned Souls of the Wielder's name and the option that the Serpent Staff of Mahaaran takes on the wielders soul if he dies by violence.

Hashem was now purring with delight the final ingredient for his transformation was now here in his paws. The Astrologer's Crystal Ball was given to Hashem to do with as he would. Thor Frekwaldson slipped into his bed and his blink monkey sat below the bed meticulously putting all the coins into ordered piles and counting them. The blink monkey also sorted out the jewellery that it had taken in its raid on the noble quarter that night.

The morning brought forth the city criers who were busy posting up wanted posters at every notice point in the streets of Middleburg. Garack went out, ripped one down and brought it into the Restless Pig to be read. The notice read,

 

 
(c) 1997 One Night in Middleburg Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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