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Welcome to Episode 27 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired by a weekly, home brew, Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
My name is Brian Messmer and I’m the Dungeon Master for the D&D campaign this story is based on.
I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tales of… The Brunch Club.
But first, a quick recap of our previous episode…
In episode 26, The Brunch Club introduced themselves to Captain Unterpant, chief constable of Elnor. He seemed uninterested in their news of the mysterious cult in the coastal caves west of Elnor. That evening Salys bribed the coachman into letting her drive the carriage to Lady Tiroll’s gala. It was a bumpy ride, but they arrived safely. At the party they met Lord Windsor who told them of Lord Tiroll’s mysterious death. They also met a Wizard named Ahura Mazda who was a dean at the mage college. In the hedge maze, Lady Tiroll confronted Drusilla and demanded her necklace back at knife point. During a toast, Ahura Mazda accused Lady Tiroll of being the notorious assassin Varjo. He claimed she conspired with Master Kormir, current president of the mage college, to not only kill her husband, but also his friend Master Edwin, the previous mage college president. Lady Tiroll protested and pulled a dagger on the wizard. Ahura Mazda cast a spell that made Lady Tiroll scream in agony.
Episode 27, “Ahura Mazda’s Charming Rod”
Lady Tiroll doubled over with pain and staggered backwards. Her scream of agony echoed off the walls and ceiling of the large ballroom. When she looked up, the guests gasped in horror. Blood ran down her face from her eyes and nose. The veins in her neck strained as she struggled to fight off some invisible force that seemed to wrack her mind. Ahura Mazda held one hand outstretched in a clenched fist as though he was trying to crush Lady Tirol from across the room. His other hand was open, palm up, with a whirring codex floating just above it. A look of grim determination was etched into Ahura’s face, contrasted by the bemused piglet draped across his shoulder. A light sheen of sweat glistened on his brow as he focussed on the spell that was wracking Lady Tirol’s mind. The crowd looked on, horrified at the sight before them. Then an arrow pierced through the wizard’s shoulder breaking his concentration. He glanced around frantically before his eyes locked with Elora’s. She held his gaze, bow at the ready, staring him down.
“Guards!” Lady Tiro screamed. “Kill him.” She ran to The Brunch Club and stood behind Vorjhon. “You’re adventurers! You saw him attack me!” Lady Tiroll shrieked at them. “What are you waiting for? Defend the Lady of the House!”
Vorjhon took a couple steps toward Ahura Mazda, and stopped. He held out his hands. “There is no need for violence,” The paladin said calmly. “If we wait until authorities arrive, we can let Mr. Mazda present his case, and allow Lady Tiroll to defend herself.”
The tense silence that fell over the ballroom was quickly interrupted by the arrival of Lady Tirolls guards. Ahura Mazda produced a rune covered rod from within his robes, one end looked like a stylized castle rampart, emblazoned with sigils and emanating a powerful magic. He held the rod above his head and looked out over the crowd. He said a few words in another tongue and a barely visible ripple expanded through the air in all directions around him.
The guards and party guests, including The Brunch Club, felt confused for a moment. Most of the people in the ballroom shook the fog from their heads and looked around trying to figure out what happened.
A few guests, half the guards, Vorjhon, and Drusilla did not feel confused at all. They felt happy to be in the presence of their dear friend Ahura Mazda.
“Kill him!!” Lady Tiroll shouted again, pointing at the wizard.
“Kill Ahura Mazda? “Who would want to harm such a wonderful man?” Vorjhon said with disbelief.
“Or his cute little pig?” agreed Diesa in a sing-songy voice that was totally out of character.
Half the guards moved toward Ahura Mazda, but the other half intercepted them, trying to talk them out of harming their good friend.
Salys attempted to cast hold person spell of her own on the wizard, but he was able to easily break its grasp on him.
Ahura Mazda thrust his arm towards Salys, Drusilla, Lord Bowen and Lady Tiroll as if he was trying to pull something from the polished ballroom floor beneath them. Then the floor under them turned soft and sticky. It bubbled like boiling tar and gave off a toxic stench as dark tendrils erupted from what used to be wood seconds before, grasping around the unfortunate souls stuck in it. The four of them tried to move away from the mire but were stuck in place by sticky black tentacles wrapping around them. They started to feel sick and weak and where the tentacles touched them their skin seemed to have the life sapped from it.
“Oh fuck,” Elora said nocking the phoenix arrow on her long bow. “They’ve been charmed.” She shot the arrow at the wizard, but Vorjhon knocked it out of the way with his shield.
“What is wrong with you, Elora?” the Paladin asked with confusion evident in his voice. “Mr. Mazda is our friend!”
Elora knocked another arrow but before she could shoot Vorjhon breathed a cone of ice at her feet, forcing her to back peddle quickly and miss her shot.
Lord Bowen dropped to his knees. He fell forward until he was on all fours. He tried desperately to crawl out of the sticky morass before being overcome by the toxic fumes and tentacles. His skin was already turning a sickly white.
Salys and Drusilla felt weaker and weaker. They had trouble standing. Drusilla began the motions of casting a healing spell but Salys stopped her.
“Divine magic’s not allowed!” the gnome reminded her. Salys retrieved a healing potion from her bag and quickly drank it. Diesa saw this and did the same. They didn’t feel better, but they did feel stronger for the moment.
Lady Tiroll’s rage masked any outward signs of illness she might be feeling. She threw her dagger at Ahura Mazda, grazing his robe at the waist. He looked at her with cold menace in his eyes. He raised his finger, pointed it at her, and whispered something terrible. “You’ll never get away with this!” she hissed.A wry smile spread across the wizards face.
“I beg to differ.” He said quietly. As the words left his lips, a thin beam of inky blackness traced its way from his outstretched finger into Lady Tirol’s chest. She threw her head back in pain with eyes wide and her mouth frozen in a silent scream. Shortly after her muscles gave out and she fell back to the ground. Her face wore the familiar mask of death.
A blood curdling cry of grief echoed through the ballroom. “NOOO! My DEAR FRIEND! What has become of you?” A few heads turned to see Diesa, uncharacteristically filled with grief, dashing to her fallen “friend’s” body and throwing herself over it. Her sorrow blinded her to the dark tentacles that tried to grasp at her. Her hands brusquely felt around Tirol’s neckline looking for a pulse. Almost as quickly as the grief had overcome her, it seemed to dissipate. The dwarf quickly stood up and stepped away from the body as she loudly announced “Actually, I’m over it. She was kind of a bitch.”
The appalled murmurs of the crowd were replaced by gasps of horror as Lady Tiroll began to rise. She rose clumsily and stood unevenly. One shoulder sagged lower than the other. Her arms hung limp at her sides. Her face still had a deathly pallor. Her eyes looked at the wizard, but they held no expression. The tar-like substance on the floor faded. The tentacles that had wrapped around Salys and Drusilla slithered back into the abyss, releasing them from their grasp. Both members of the brunch club were on the brink of death. A portal appeared next to Ahura Mazda. He looked at the animated corpse of Lady Tiroll and said, “Come.” As Ahura Mazda and the grotesque body of Lady Tirol were about to step through, the paladin’s voice rang out.
“Wait! You’ll need these!” He extended his scaled hand towards the wizard holding three of The Brunch Clubs newly purchased healing potions. Ahura Mazda accepted them and gave a shallow bow in thanks before he and his new companion disappeared through the portal together before it closed behind them.
Drusilla rushed to Lord Bowen’s side to give him a healing potion, but it was too late. He passed away, never noticing his solid gold epaulette had been stolen.
Vorjhon, Diesa, and the rest of those that had been charmed by the wizard’s magic rod, felt the fog in their heads lift. Their loyalty and love for Ahura Mazda turned to anger and embarrassment.
Five portals appeared suddenly in the ballroom. Solania and Illian, of the Council of Five, entered the ballroom through two of the portals. They recognized the other three arrivals as Instructors, the elite guard under direct control of Elnor’s ruling Council of Five.
The Instructors told everyone not to leave until they were questioned individually by either Council Member Solania or Council Member Illian.
Two of the large pantries off the kitchen were turned into make-shift interview rooms. In one of them, Vorjhon sat across from Illian, who remained standing in an attempt to intimidate the hulking dragonborn.
“It’s funny,” Illian began with a humorless tone, “how you and your friends happen to be at the last two magical disturbances we’ve been called to.”
Vorjhon said nothing. His military experience made him used to dealing with men in power who liked to hear themselves talk.
Illian asked him to describe what happened between Ahura Mazda and Lady Tiroll.
Vorjhon recounted the incident to the best of his ability with as few words as possible, though he caught himself referring to Ahura Mazda as his friend, surprising even himself..
“So you took it upon yourself to try and stop them? How noble of you,” Illian said in a mocking voice.
“Bad habit,” Vorjhon replied calmly.
“You should curb that habit while you’re in Elnor. We have no use for paladins here,” Illian said with an unfriendly tone.
Vorjhon gave a single curt nod in return.
Illian dismissed him and called for the Inquisitor to send in the next witness.
The other members of The Brunch Club were called in. Diesa was interviewed by Illian as well. Salys, Drusilla, and Elora were all interviewed by Solania.
When they compared notes, they were in agreement that Solania seemed to be diplomatic and friendly. Illian was a dick.
“Do you think we can leave now?” Salys asked as they stood near the entrance of the ballroom.
“They didn’t tell us we had to stay,” said Diesa.
“We should search the house for evidence to back up Ahura Mazda’s claims,” Drusila said.
“Don’t tell me he charmed you too?” asked Elora.
“No, but the way she handled her dagger, and how she carried herself – I think there’s more to Lady Tiroll than being a lonely widow.” Drusila explained.
The rest of the party agreed with their cleric. They slipped quietly out of the ballroom and climbed the first staircase they could find to the upper floors of the Villa.
“We should start at the top floor, that’s where her private chambers will probably be,” suggested Diesa.
“What makes you so sure?” asked Salys. The dwarf brushed a blue shock of hair from her face and in a matter of fact tone replied.
They climbed three flights of stairs until the staircase ended at the threshold of a long hallway. The walls were lined with five sturdy-looking oak doors with thorny rose sconces on each side.
Some doors were unlocked, and Diesa’s lockpick made short work of the ones that weren’t. Most of the rooms were unused guest chambers. They reached the second to last door, found it unlocked and opened it slowly. The room was empty except for a brass and wooden box chained to the floor. It was the size of a keg of ale and had a brass lock on the front.
Diesa looked at the unguarded chest as if it was holding a hand-written invitation to rob it. She stepped into the room. Vorjhon stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
“Wait, Diesa, we’re looking for evidence, not robbing the dead,” said Vorjhon.
Diesa looked at the paladin with an annoyed expression on her face. She was about to step back into the room but relented when she saw Drusilla, Salys, and Elora nod in agreement.
The last room was also unlocked. It was a small office. Against the wall next to a window sat a roll top desk with several drawers on each side of it. The drawers and rolltop were all securely locked. Diesa began to inspect it cautiously.
“Be careful,” Drusilla warned her. “If Ahura Mazda was right about Lady Tiroll, it’s probably trapped.”
The rogue heeded her friend’s advice and swept her fingers delicately around the edges of the desk. “Your hunch was correct.” say Diesa with the barest hint of approval. Her practiced fingers had found tiny needles set into barely noticeable holes next to each lock. No doubt the needles were coated with poison. She took her time and successfully disarmed and unlocked every drawer and the roll top.
They sifted through the papers. There was nothing incriminating in them. They were simply everyday receipts for household goods, invoices for routine maintenance work, and records of payments to servants
They were about to give up hope when Diesa examined the larger drawers of the desk one more time. She found a hidden compartment behind one of them and withdrew a leather folder bound with leather cord. They were filled with papers written in code.
The code was a form of Thieves’ Cant which Diesa deciphered after some studying. She identified receipts for poisons, correspondence detailing negotiations with clients, and several signed contracts for the elimination of one or more people. All the contracts and correspondence were signed, “Varjo.”
They compared them to the legitimate business receipts that were signed by Lady Tiroll. The handwriting looked the same.
A sheet of paper at the top of the pile caught Salys’s eye. She couldn’t read it, but it looked like a contract signed by both Varjo, and the initial, “K.”
“Kormir, the new college head master could start with a K,” said Salys “but I mean it could be a C, too. I-I haven’t seen it written out.”
Diesa decoded the contract. It was for the assasination of Ahura Mazda’s friend, and former mage college president, Master Edwin.
“Or maybe Kormir starts with a C-H?” Salys muttered, still pondering her earlier thought.
“I guess your very good new friend was right, Vorjhon” Drusilla teased.
Vorjhon ignored her and placed the papers back in the folder. He tied it closed and put it in the bag of colding.
“Put this in there too,” said Diesa, handing him a very familiar ruby necklace inscribed with an “E.T.”
Drusilla looked astonished and happy. “When did you get it?” she asked the rogue.
“When I was suddenly overcome with greed. I mean grief.” Diesa said with a hint of smugness in her voice. “I couldn’t find a pulse, but I did find that.”
Even Vorjhon laughed.
“You approve of stealing from the dead now? That’s a little odd for a paladin,” joked Diesa.
“Now that we have uncovered her secret, I approve,” Vorjhon said. “In fact, let’s go see what’s in that chest.”
They walked to the previous room where the lone chest lay. Diesa entered slowly. She crept to within a foot of the chest. When she crouched down to inspect it for traps the treasure chest grew a well-muscled arm from its side and took a powerful swing at the unsuspecting rogue.
Our tale will continue next week in Episode 28
Episode 27 was written by Dominic White with help from Brian Messmer and based upon a homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign created by me, Brian Messmer.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- Bethany Powers, who plays Diessa
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
- And Billy Chase, who plays Ahura Mazda
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!