Early in the morning, the Apprentice was tasked with bringing the Master his breakfast, tidying up and generally making the place less of a pigsty. This morning, like most others, the Apprentice was failing. Artifacts and detritus were strewn about with abandon. The careless men who resided in the tower being much more interested in the distant past than in cleaning, or really any mundane chore of the household.
Without shame, the Apprentice simply leaned over the Master’s shoulder and read as the old man wrote in his neat, flowing script.
Ishani opened immediately with business. "A woman named Vendra Loaggri owns a perfumery in the Heights called “Lavender.” She claims to have discovered a cure for the Blood Veil. The Bank of Abadar is asking you to visit her perfumery and determine if her claim is legitimate. She has a long history of outrageous behavior. Some of you may remember the infamous “free imp with every purchase of 500 sails or more.” Either this woman is shaming the well-to-do citizens of the district, or she’s somehow stumbled on a simple cure too elusive for our archbankers to concoct. The church will willingly pay your group a fee of 1,000 sails total for getting to the bottom of this. Any questions?"
Muttering himself, Sandor said, “Not that this be the time nor place fer it, but this be what happens when a large city do not ‘ave a merchants guild settin standards fer things. Don’t get me wrong I see the good in not havin em either, somethin I might be blessin ’ere when I opens up me own shop. Now me wonders how did her reputation and buisness survive such an obvious fleecing ’n remain in buisness? She might just ’ave a powerful backer of sorts”
After throwing ideas around, the group settled on the strategy of purchasing a sample of the apocryphal potion in order to reverse engineer it, to figure out whether Lavender needed to be prosecuted or dissuaded. The group set out to Lavender’s place.
Finding her place was easy. Just following the signs worked perfectly. "Lavender’s Luxuriant Liniment is the everyday elixir of the common Korvosan. It wakes you up in the morning and calms you down at night. It soothes aching joints, tired feet, sore hands, and throbbing heads. It takes the pain out of cuts, burns, bruises, and blemishes. It smells like chastity, confidence, and respectability, and tastes like honeyed dewdrops over snow clouds. Most miraculously, though, Lavender’s Luxuriant Liniment dispels blisters, minimizes swelling, calms the complexion, and erases all symptoms of the common blood veil complaint.” Before long, the group was also able to follow the line.
The line started about four blocks away and contained mostly healthy looking people, but there were a fair amount of pustule-ridden citizens too. The sign said that it’s two Sail for a single dose, and the purple painted shop door was guarded by a pair of ludicrously dressed half-orcs, though no one would be surprised if the closest human ancestor was a grandparent. Each was dressed in frilly livery topped with purple cravats. The saps they held in hand seemed serious enough though.
Given the pace of the line, Gaius estimated the wait to be about two hours.
Rather than wait in line, the group split up with Gaius, Grym and Bucho circled around the back, with Sandor, Odric, Ferox and Morkeleb cutting to the front of the line in order to observe the activity in the shop itself.
All of a sudden, a man who had entered the shop moments earlier with splotchy skin came out into the sunlight exclaiming, “It works! Desna smiles, it works!” followed by a cheer. That exclamation was followed by a voice from a mouth with far too many teeth, “Keep yer shirts un! We’s gut enuff for yer all today. STAY IN LINE!”
Odric scooped him up and hustled him into the back alley with his remaining friends. He grabbed the gentleman under the arm and urged him in a low whisper to maintain a “friendly” attitude as the two strolled around back.
Odric certainly scared the crap out of the man, “uuuuhhhhhhhh how can I help you find gentlemen sirs, milord?” With a nod to the rogue, Odric positioned the man bodily before the intense looking rogue.
“Alright friend, he’s the stick,” Gaius tilted his head in Odric’s menacing direction, “and I’m the carrot if you get my drift. Tell us about your day. When did you contract Blood Veil? Tell us about your symptoms, the cure you just purchased, and what the cure did for you. And if you have any left. For now, we just want answers—details. Anything you can remember, especially if it seems odd.”
The frightened man stammered, “well milord, sir, master. I had a fever yesterday and hives this morning. I had um a touch of the Clap too. I drank the whole bottle about 10 minutes ago in the store. It’s all gone, the potion and my symptoms… well, not the Clap sir. I still have that.”
The man was surrounded, so Gaius turned slightly and inquired, “Inquisitor Ferox or Morkeleb… Can your knowledge of the healing arts tell us if this man has had the Veil and if it’s cured? Sirrah, please stick out your tongue and say, ‘aaaaah’.”
“Hmm, yes, let me see what I can discern.” Having no working knowledge of Healing except that cure potions are good and swords and fire spells are bad, Morkeleb turned to his forte. He waved his staff, and the gem gains its familiar eldritch green glow.
“Don’t worry, friend, this won’t hurt a bit. I’d like to try to determine whether your disease is gone, if I may . . .”
Morkeleb gave a slight self-satisfied smirk as his magic made a subtle but firm grip on the man’s mind. The wizard’s eyes narrowed slightly as he concentrated . . .
Echoing in the terrified man’s mind, the wizard’s voice was heard only by the poor man, “So, between you and me, I’m looking for some extra cash. Did Vendra pay you well to fake getting cured? Because I might want in on that action!”
The man brightened with the task of answering a direct and easy question “Yeah! You should totally! She pays me 20 Sails per day to drink the potion, and she says she’ll cure up my Clap too at the end of the week. I should get a finder’s fee for getting you. More testimonials means more customers, right?”
Out loud, Morkeleb said, “Huh. So, where do you think these splotches came from, since you didn’t really have the Blood Veil?”
“The splotches came right after I drank another potion she gave me. They go away in about an hour.” The man countered reasonably.
Odric said, “I think we have enough here. Let’s take this fella in.” but Morkeleb would have his say first.
Morkeleb was showing an uncharacteristic amount of anger—he was actually beginning to seethe.
He first addressed the “actor,” moderating his tone to appear friendly to the befuddled man. “You know, she’s not doing you any favors. Those potions will certainly make you ill! And you’re really not helping the situation in the city with your dishonesty, are you?”
The wizard turned his back on the chump.
“Odric, he’s just a stooge. I’m not condoning his actions, but the real criminal is the proprietor. She’s feeding on the fear and desperation of these people with her skills in alchemy. And it needs to stop—if for no other reason than giving true alchemists a bad reputation!”
Morkeleb was gathering himself, clearly preparing to address the line and denounce the fraud . . .
Gaius raised a hand and said, “So… We’ve investigated the fraud. We can bring our new friend right to The Field Marshall and cash out for our sails. Or do we take further action?”
There may have been a twinkle in Gaius’ eye, if anyone had looked closely at the man’s face.
Morkeleb paused before committing to action that couldn’t be taken back. “I would not suffer a flim-flam artist to bilk these people on snake oil, while I, a REAL alchemist, am attempting to actually find a cure!! This is offensive, as her actions erode confidence in legitimate professionals. Gaius, what do you have in mind? I and all my faculties are at your disposal!”
Without turning his head in the man’s direction, Morkeleb reached out once again with his mind, “You know, friend, I’m disappointed in you. We need to talk about this further, so hang around, won’t you?”
Odric said, “Well, we have proof that this whole thing is a sham. We have this chump who can spill the beans, what do you say we confront the actual offender with the testimony of her shill? We might be able to shut the whole shop down right now.”
Odric persisted, “I think unloading this guy into the capable hands of the guard is our first obligation and frees us up to work on the real problem which is this fraudulent cure. It is costing desperate people money and enriching a liar. I can’t abide by this, especially where life and death might hang in the balance for the infected.”
With a shrug, the fighter asked, “What difference does it make if we stop this guy from participating in the deception, Lavender will just recruit another to take his place. We need to address this at the source.”
He flexed three times with violence and started warming up. “I can take those thugs out front.” Odric announced grimly.
Sandor nodded sagely, unlimbering his axe in its harness.
Morkeleb interjected, “Odric, hold for a moment. I think I can take care of our new friend here. Someone get a guardsman or two here, if you please.”
To the shill, the wizard said, “I need you to do a very important favor for me, friend. Official business, I’m even getting some of the town guard to escort you! Hold on a moment.”
Morkeleb found a suitable flat writing surface, and took out a parchment and writing implement, and wrote a letter.
Field Marshall Kroft,
The bearer of this missive has admitted to me that he is being paid by our target to imbibe a concoction to give him splotches that make him appear as if afflicted with the Veil, and another she is selling as a cure. He admitted this to me under the influence of a Charm spell—but was under no compulsion, so I believe his story to be genuine and his testimony valid.
We have sent him back under guard to you to do with as your wisdom sees fit, relative to his crime. We remain to deal with the fakery and disperse the crowd who has gathered to buy this snake oil as peacefully as possible. We shall return anon with a report, and hopefully with the flim-flam artist in tow.
Before sealing it, the wizard offered the note to the group to look over. Then, he gave the sealed paper to his New Friend, once the guards showed up. “Field Marshall Kroft is waiting for this. Make sure you put it in her hands only—no one else can read it, understand? I’m counting on you, and I’m sure the Field Marshal will give you a just reward!”
To the guards, Morkeleb said, “Kindly see this gentleman straight to the Field Marshal. He has something for her.”
Once they were gone, the wizard addressed the group. “I believe that takes care of THAT buffoon. How do you gentlemen want to deal with the shyster? I recommend against overt violence; this crowd may well turn on us in desperation of wanting a cure. I recommend simply calling them out publically as frauds and thieves, THEN turning on the violence if necessary.”
Odric suggested, “Let’s go in through the back, cut the line and deal with the fraudster directly. At the very least if a scuffle breaks out we haven’t just cut the long line and caused a riot.
We’re fairly famous at this point, perhaps while the group takes the fraudster in hand I can go out the front door and directly address the assembled crowd, although I think having Lavender well away from the place before addressing the mob would be ideal.”
The plan Odric laid out was a simple one. He sketched it out verbally, without a diagram but it was clear that he desperately wanted to make some illustrations judging by his excited gestures:
“Step 1: Go in the back
Step 1b: Thump any guards inside
Step 2: Spirit Lavender away
Step 3: Address the crowd, deal with aftermath.”
Sandor said, “Sounds like fun but do we need to do it now? Can we wait for a few hours and do it then? Let’s lessen even the chance of mob rage and not risk the Field Marshal’s ire.
Odric’s mounting anger is not directed at his friend, but he snaps at him just the same,
“What about the poor craftsman who is about to spend a month’s wages to try to cure his dying child of the Blood Veil?” Odric shakes his head definitively. “We move now.”
Sandor shook his head and said, “Fella’s I am all fer removin this scum right now. But even though me blood’s a boilin, I be wantin to caution about movin to soon. Now I’m sure we can handle her and the guards easy enough, but I have a few things ta point out.”
The grizzled dwarf continued, “Now lets take a look at who she is scammin, we are in a more affluent part of town, so the cost while expensive might not hurt like it would for the poor. Now I’m not tryin ta defend her, but gents as far as we know she ain’t forcin anyone ta buy her cure. So I believe tha term is buyer beware”
Sandor was building him into some momentum “Fer her ta be pullin this bold scam means that she’s either got a silver tongue, magicks like Morkeleb, er both. Now lets say we do go in and stop the sales while she has hundreds in line, and she does have a silver tongue or magicks ta coerce them ta help defend her. Lads I don’t want ta be hurtin the innocent because they are scared of the plague and are tryin anythin ta avoid dyin from it. Lets wait till she closes ‘n the crowd leaves.” Sandor’s eyes lit up with a sudden inspiration “Then we put ’er outta buisness ’n take her ill gotten gold and donate it ta tha bank ta help with findin a real cure” his eyes flashed over to Gaius as his inspiration took a twist for the rogue “of course any donation from Lavenders ill-gotten gold would ’ave ta have our expenses finders fee taken from tha top”
“What say ya gents go now and risk gettin some innocents bloodied and the thankfull yet dissapointed look the Field Marshal will give us, or waitin a few bells ta lessen tha risk?” Sandor concluded.
Morkeleb rejoined, “Sandor, you surprise me. I would think you’d feel as I do—that “buyer beware” does not apply when the seller is using subterfuge and trickery to specifically play on the fears of the sick in a time of crisis. Granted, our reasons for this being a problem are likely different, but still… In any case, I have difficulty suffering a fraud to continue besmirching a noble profession, and stealing from desperate folk in the process, for even a day. I do think your fears regarding the crowd are legitimate, but I also think that, were our confrontation of this trickster to include vociferous denouncement of her sham product, it would give these innocents enough pause that, combined with our obvious might, would prevent them from openly attacking us. So, while I respect your motives, I find myself agreeing with Odric and Grym that we should move to shut this operation down before more people get fleeced. Besides, we have no idea whether the potions she’s selling are safe—they could be actually harming folk. Not to mention the fact that there are sick people in this crowd, and those nearby will also get sick—so she IS contributing to the Veil’s spread, and not its cure. She should be stopped—NOW.”
In his brogue, Sandor responded, “Now see Morkelb, I do agree wit ya me friend. Like I said at tha beginnin of me statement. I’m as angry as the rest of ya. But I wanted ta play a lil bit of devil’s advocate and see if discretion be the betta part of valor. Obviously it’s not now lets get ta some head thumpin. Oh n if ya be puttin anyone ta sleep make it Lavender, cuz I will like hittin the orcs.”
After discussing tactics for a brief period, the friends settled on a plan.
Ferox moved to the front of the store and started parting the crowd to gain easy access to the entrance.
“Move aside!” Ferox bellowed, “Official Bank business. Move aside!”
Odric positioned himself to the side of the door, skirting the line and ending up alongside the thugs. Sandor was by his side, glaring from under his helm at the orcs.
Gaius picked the lock at the rear of the establishment and quietly entered the apartment, Throgrym and Bucho on his heels. The trio moved nearly silently. Delicate wall hangings, artistically shaped candles, and the fine scent of cherry blossoms filled the well-decorated apartment. A table sculpted with swirling ivy leaves bore a fragile porcelain tea service and an exotically curved hookah in a kitchen nook to the east. A door adjacent to the kitchen opened into a bedroom furnished with an antique armoire and a bed sheeted in purple silks and heavily laden with round pillows.
In the front of the establishment, Ferox entered into menagerie of heady scents twisting throughout the cramped but stylish perfumery. A dizzying assortment of bottles—from gaudy ceramic containers to graceful crystalline vials—lined a variety of lace- and ribbon-strewn tables, shelves, racks, and an eye-catching display in the wide front window. Across from the front door’s orchid-tinted glass panes ran a long counter, stacked high with hundreds of simple clay phials bearing round, magenta stoppers. Behind the counter, violet flourishes swoop across a sign reading, “Lavender’s Luxuriant Liniment: Either You’ve Got It, or You’ve Had It.” A rather attractive woman took note of the Inquisitor rudely entering the store. She came out from behind the counter as staff continued to work through the lines. With the door open, even people outside could hear the exchange.
“Excuse me Mr. Inquisitor-type. I see what this is. You think that the high and mighty Abadar gets first dips without waiting in line. Well, let me tell you, it’s first come – first served here. I’ll not have you disrupting things. Either get in line or get out before I call the guard. She looked around at the crowd, reading them skillfully. "Unless you think you’re going to SHUT DOWN the cure while you “investigate” us. I thought we default to innocent in Korvosa?! Shall I tell these people that you’re ROBBING them of their cure?"
The soft sounds of Gaius conducting a search in the back room filtered through to the silence left in the wake of Lavender’s proclamation.
She glanced that way nervously, then turned her attention to Odric who stood before her, a bit closer than comfortable for social interactions.
Odric said, “Madam, we met your shill, he confessed all. At this moment he is under arrest and preparing to trade his total cooperation for light punishment. He will be providing testimony against you. Given this, your only hope for mercy is total and complete cooperation. Disperse this crowd peaceably, give us the 2 potions for inducing and removing the false symptoms, and stop selling the fake cure immediately. I give you only this promise; if you act nobly now that the ruse is up I will advocate for you to the authorities. If you want to play this out, I will shut you down.”
The burly man rested his massive right hand on the pommel of his Falchion. His left hand toyed with the by now quite famous taloned pommel of The Eagle. As he flexed his considerable bulk and relaxed it, the creak of his harness and the stretch and tinkle of his chainmail made for a menace not to be ignored.
The figures of Ferox, Sandor and Odric were indeed very intimidating. The patrons ran out of the shop. Vendra pleaded with the fleeing customers that they could have free samples, but to no avail. She turned her gaze towards the men. “I can’t believe you’ve done this to me. I’m ruined!” She briefly eyed her body guards, contemplating a combat, but she apparently decided they didn’t look like a match for the heroes. “Fine, I’ll go with you.” She stated in a defeated yet surly tone.
Grym called Gaius over, having found a crudely designed trap in the lady’s armoire. The astute rogue instantly recognized that opening the door the wrong way would benefit any intruder a face full of two vials of Alchemist’s Fire.
The ranger wiped a sudden sheen of sweat from his brow. He was happy to have found the hidden door, but couldn’t believe how close he came to getting an fire bath. He recalls their first adventure together when Gaius took a beaker of acid from Lamm’s alchemist. Handsome Gaius wasn’t so handsome lying nearly dead on the ground with half of his face melted off.
He turned to the Calistrian Rogue and nodded a quick “thanks”, for the trap warning.
Odric brought her to the corner of the room and allowed Ferox to collect evidence.
Using Morkeleb’s Message spell, Odric called to the Back Door Men, “She has surrendered to us. We need to get her safely to the Field Marshal. Can we get her out the back? We also need help in here getting the evidence sorted out and collected.”
To Lavendar, Odric asked, “Madam, where are the potions I asked for? Please direct my associate to them. If there are any traps or shenanigans, I expect you to tell me about them now. No shenanigans will be tolerated. Finally, I ask that you task your security guards to disperse the crowd calmly in order to prevent a riot or injury to the public or your establishment"
Odric kept her safely in the corner and watched her closely, ready for any shenanigans.
Odric confiscated two wands in order to prevent her from using them to defraud any more people. In case she needed to defend herself against an angry mob, he gave the dagger into the keeping of the guards who relieved him or her so she might regain it at some point. In short order, the team had turned the offending Lavender in to the authorities and dispersed the crowd.
Odric kept his word, advocating to Kroft on Lavender’s behalf for her cooperation. He did not hang around and insist on her good treatment though.
He turned the wands over to Morkeleb, and asked that if they are not entirely useful that he consider selling them in order to raise money for a keen falchion.
The store itself seemed to be uninteresting and took Morkeleb and Sandor about an hour and fifteen minutes to search. There were numerous simple perfumes, and stacks upon stacks of the miracle cure.
The next door apartment was a bit more interesting. Bits of broken crates and barrels covered the floor of the dilapidated apartment. A tun of oily liquid, its lip level with a man’s chest, fills a corner of the room, a well-used canoe oar sticking out of it. Next to it squat several large casks of murky water and two stacks of boxes—one holding dozens of small ceramic vials with magenta stoppers, the other holding a mismatched collection of delicate perfume bottles. The apartment’s kitchen nook held another crate, this one filled with broken shards of multicolored glass. Despite being in shambles, the apartment smelled delightful—a mixture of spices, flowers, and exotic oils. There were also plans for a “cure” consisting of adding sugar to a mélange of cheap perfume. There was also a ledger detailing the profits. A note written into the margin estimates that in 2 week’s time, she would have earned enough to skip town.
The Master dipped his quill one last time and penned a note in the margin, as the apprentice looked over his shoulder. Their actions in peacefully solving this “problem” lead to the saving of 700 additional lives during the Blood Veil epidemic.