Monday, April 6, 2015

Idalium Game 18: The Auction

Session date: Monday, March 30, 2015
Game date: Wednesday, March 20, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 3105/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 2494/4400
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2743/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 3524/5000
Vito Aneti, Thief 2, hp 10, xp 1491/2400

This evening's session was a total change of pace for the campaign. There was no dungeon delve tonight, or combat against hideous monsters. Tonight the party attended the semi-annual auction of strange and magical artifacts. We also welcomed the return of Vito's player after a hiatus of several sessions.

Every six months, on the spring and fall equinoxes, the Adventurer's Guild cosponsors an auction of exotic and obscure artifacts. It attracts two groups of bidders: adventuring parties like the PCs and wealthy collectors seeking exotic curiosities. The players received an auction card of the 14 lots that were to be auctioned off, and read through it with interest, deciding which items they were interested in bidding on and how much money they had available to bid with.

At the appointed hour after dark, the party arrived at the Runcible Trading House, an elegant mansion in the wealthy section of the city of Idalium. They were invited into the house by a well-dressed butler, and quickly met by a representative from the Adventurer's Guild, who brought them upstairs to the graciously appointed room where the auction would be held.

In the auction hall, musicians played harp and flute softly in a corner and a buffet dinner was laid out along a series of side tables. The group was shown around the room and introduced to some of the other attendees. The party recognized several other rival adventuring parties from the Rusty Lantern: Rugger's Raiders were there, as were the Night Walkers and Shorty's Sirens.

At the other end of the class spectrum, the PCs were reunited with Baroness Millicent Trenevant and her servant Roger, whom they had met several months ago. Lady Trenevant was at the auction to purchase interesting and artistically pleasing pieces to display in her home. Also at the auction was a Lady Mary Jameson, a snob but one who seemed intrigued and excited to talk to such roughnecks as adventurers. She was here to bid on obscure and intriguing artifacts, and was particularly interested in a brass head on the auction block.

Next the group was introduced to Mr. Vincent Patrenzi. Whereas Lady Trenevant and Lady Mary were dressed expensively but with impeccable taste, Patrenzi (who was not from an old wealthy family but was "nouveau riche") wore gaudy and flashy clothes, showing off his significant wealth. He was looking for exotic curios for his home, and mentioned a special interest in the "hand of glory", a preserved human hand that allegedly held many mysterious powers.

Finally, their host introduced the group to a man named Gregor Snapespindle, a somewhat withdrawn and quiet man. He said he was a collector and researcher of the occult and obscure, and was interested in artifacts with great historical value such as a metal ankh that was being auctioned.

The group had some time to chat with the other attendees of the auction, and eventually the dinner was cleared away, the attendees took their seats in front of a table and the auctioneer's podium, and Lord Runcible himself, the owner of this trading house and the chairman of this auction, stepped forward. He welcomed them to the evening's auction, wished everyone good luck, and began the auction. Each piece was brought forward and displayed to the bidders for several minutes, and there was an opportunity to ask questions about the piece or for it to be displayed from different angles or manipulated. Once the bidders were satisfied, the auction began. As each piece was sold, it was brought to a side table labeled with a card with the winning bidder's name.

The party soon discovered that the bids quickly rose beyond their available funds, and while they bid on a few items, they were not able to bid high enough. Gregor Snapespindle was the winning bidder on the ankh he had his eye on, paying 23,000 silver shekels for the exotic item. Rugger's Raiders paid 12,500 shekels for a magician's cassock, wand, and athame, all decorated with astrological signs. A shaman's medicine bag from the northern barbarians was purchased by Vincent Patrenzi for 7,000 shekels, and he also acquired the hand of glory for 52,800 shekels after a heating bidding war against Rugger's Raiders. Shorty bid 12,000 shekels for a carved wooden fetish and drum from the people who lived far to the south across the Great Sea, and then managed to acquire a magical sword engraved with skeletal patterns for the opening bid of 50,000 after Rugger was unable to bid, having exhausted his party's funds on the magician's accoutrements.

The next item on the agenda was a smoking urn from across the sea to the east, a brass and hold bottle that was warm to the touch and trickling a continuous stream of smoke. There was a delay in fetching the urn from the preparation room, and Lord Runcible filled the space with graceful conversation. After a few more minutes passed, he began to look concerned and sent another servant to see if there was a problem. That servant left the room, and moments later, there was an earsplitting scream from outside the auction room!

Lord Runcible excused himself and left the room, and then returned a few moments later, ashen-faced. "I'm very sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but the auction cannot continue tonight. If you would please collect your winnings and then move quickly to the exit, my staff will escort you out. I offer my humblest apologies. I will let you know when and if we are able to reschedule the remainder of the auction."

The wealthy elite nervously gathered their belongings and left, but most of the adventuring parties lingered behind in case they could help. The Night Walkers were uninterested in extracurricular activities: "We came here to buy magic items, not put our lives at risk! Come, Cobweb, let us leave this place." The two condescending elven brothers and their entourage turned and left. The representative from the Adventurer's Guild looked very concerned. Since the Guild was a cosponsor of these events, an incident that threatened the safety and stability of this auction could undermine any future ones. Lord Runcible accepted any help that was offered, and brought the adventuring groups to the preparation room near the room the auction had been held in.

The servant who had been sent to see what the delay was lay at the threshold of the preparation room, apparently frozen in shock and fear. His eyes darted wildly and his lips trembled but he could not speak or move. Beyond him, the room was a horrible sight indeed. The remains of the first servant who had been retrieving the urn were scattered across the room, torn limb from limb. There were visible claw and perhaps gnaw marks on the body parts. The items for the auction were here, scattered across the floor. The PCs checked the items against their auction card, and noted that only one item was missing - the brass head mentioned by Lady Mary Jameson. Lord Runcible said that there were legends surrounding the brazen head that claimed that with the right ritual it would come to life and answer questions of metaphysical import, but whether there was any truth to that he did not know.

Rugger and his group took one look at the carnage and decided they had had enough for one night. "Good luck everyone, but it's getting kind of late for us." Only Shorty and her sirens remained with the Infestation Managers.

There was a dumbwaiter at the far wall that was used to bring auction items up from the vault in the basement. Trails of blood led to the dumbwaiter, and there a strange, sickly sweet smell that hung in the air. Lord Runcible led the adventuring parties down to the basement. The vault was locked, but when Lord Runcible had it opened, they saw that a tunnel had been dug through the wall and into the vault. The sickly sweet smell was thicker here and there were bloody footprints on the stone floor as well. They didn't quite look human, although they seemed bipedal. Gulleck took a look at the tunnel and judged it to be a very poor tunnel indeed, with no support structure of any kind. Whoever came through simply pushed the dirt and stone aside without regard for air or sight.

The party asked Lord Runcible if he knew of anyone with a particular reason to steal the brazen head. Lord Runcible said he suspected three of the attendees. Lady Mary Jameson, Vincent Patrenzi, and Gregor Snapespindle had all approached him prior to the auction and offered to buy the brazen head. He refused them, as it was already published in the auction listing, and all were visibly disappointed. Snapespindle even stormed angrily from the trading house. The party asked for the addresses of these three and decided to drop by on the pretense of inquiring after their safe arrival home. Shorty's Sirens decided to bail at this point, since it was well after midnight.

Lady Mary's mansion was first on their tour. They were met at a door by a rather stuffy footman, but soon Lady Mary herself came to the door. "Oh, it's the adventurers! Have you come to take me out for drinks? Oh, I'm just teasing, my father would never allow it! Wasn't that thoroughly scandalous tonight!" When Gulleck attempted to tactfully explain that someone had been killed and ripped limb from limb, Lady Mary became quite contrite. "To think I was making light of it and someone has died! How dreadful..." They asked to see her basement, "just to make sure you're not in danger", but there were no signs of any disturbance at the outer walls here.

Then they went to see Vincent Patrenzi. His mansion was as gaudy as his clothes, and he met them at the door and invited them in. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in his basement, either.

Finally, they left the wealthy district and headed back towards the working class neighborhood that houses the Rusty Lantern tavern. On the way, they passed through a middle-class district of craftsmen and merchants, and found the dilapidated three story house that Gregor Snapespindle was said to live in. The front door was closed and they could see no lights in any of the windows. They quietly crept between buildings to investigate the back of the house. Steps led down from a dingy alleyway to a door that apparently led down into a cellar. There were no cellar windows. Gulleck peered into the keyhole and could dimly see (with his infravision) a short hallway ending in another door).

As it was now very late at night, the group decided to return to their homes and get some sleep and reunite in the morning to continue their investigations. Like I said, a definite change of pace, but one that seemed to go over well. The auction was fun to plan for and then simulate the bidding process. Next week, instead of advancing a week forward in game time as usual, we will pick up the situation right where we left off, with the PCs busy investigating a brutal murder and the theft of the mysterious brazen head.

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