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27 July 2002 - Saturday

I woke up at a reasonable time, but I failed to move, so I fell back asleep. Lame parasite.

* * *

Amazon Quintet of Justice IV: "Having a Ball"

Previously: Our Heroines tracked the noble families who had escaped the purges in town to a ruined city in the wilderness and defeated the other members of the cult of the dead god they were attempting to rendezvous with.

Cleaning out the worshippers of dead evil gods just doesn't stack up to rescuing the little sister of the rulers of Tigris, but it's not chopped liver, so Our Heroines are invited as honored guests to the ball celebrating the great deed of Connor and his friends. Time to evaluate dressmakers and jewelers for best endorsement opportunities!

Unfortunately, before the preparations are even well-begun, Alyssa is summoned out of town to deal with a family emergency. Around the same time, Amaryllis notices that Solara hasn't been around much; investigation reveals that Dwayne has a note which he has failed to deliver, in which Solara claims that she has something to take care of, and she'll be back later1. Fresa doesn't skip town, but does have to undergo ritual purifaction deep underground, to rid herself of the taint of the ruined city.

1: Of course, she's an elf, so that could mean decades.

Amaryllis returns to her lavish lodgings one evening to find a bundle of enchanted crossbow bolts on her pillow, with a note awkwardly attempting to compare them to her beauty piercing the writer's heart. She guesses that the sender is a halfling by the name of Sam, who hovers on the outskirts of her social circle but isn't brave enough to approach her. She approachs him, and discerns that beneath the fits of stammering and clumsiness her cleavage induces he is competent enough; his self-described profession of "running errands for nobles" accords with this. He never does get up the courage to actually ask her out2, though, so eventually she gives up on him.

2: "Would you like to um no never mind I'm sure you have someone already I have to go bye!"

Finally, the evening of the ball arrives! Sophia, stunning in a white silk sheath, is accompanied by Liam (the cleric of Connor's group); Serenity, suprisingly in ruffles, is unaccompanied; Amaryllis, in shimmering violet, has disdained her usual suitors on the assumption she can do better at the ball. (Connor, unfortunately, is paired with the rescued princess Lisbet, putting him out of Amaryllis' clutches.) As a guard, Thad is on duty for the first part of the ball, but will get off in time for a few dances with Kara later.

For a while, everything goes well and a good time is had by all: wine is drunk, entertainers are entertaining, music charms the savage breast, and the art of conversation is rediscovered. Amaryllis gets a dance with the charming Prince Richard, and is properly swept off her feet.

Lisbet confides in the charismatic and reknowned paladin Sophia, telling her that she wasn't kidnapped; she ran away from home because she had terrible nightmares which the gypsy fortuneteller Natasha interpreted as a warning that she would bring great danger to her family and her city. Sophia comforts Lisbet, but suggests that next time she seek reputable spiritual advice.

As the ball goes on, the tumblers and animal-tamers and so forth who were providing the entertainment in the courtyard move into the ballroom, mingling excitingly with the guests. Suddenly, the animals go wild: bears and lions maul party-goers and the giraffes attempt to trample Serenity!

Prince Richard's and Princess Eleanor's bodyguards try to hustle them away from the assassins disguised as acrobats, the Amazon Duo spring to the defense, and some crazed dwarves ineffectually attack the bodyguards yelling "Get them! They're the ones!"

Sophia tries to break up the fight physically, and Amaryllis by using Glitterdust spells to blind the combatants, but neither compares to Connor's sorceress comrade Selina, who fills the huge ballroom with blinding sleet and slippery ice. The fight continues despite this, albeit in a more comedic than heroic style. The crazed dwarves and a couple of more competent people who seem to be with them, attack the guards who are trying to get the prince and princess of the battlefield, shouting something about imposters, Sophia and Amaryllis continue trying to break things up, Connor rescues Lisbet again, and Serenity fights a baby giraffe to the death.

A spell-caster hidden among the screaming crowds of civilians flings about some sleep spells and calls up an imp, which attacks one of the dwarves' comrades (a wood-elf woman, who fights very effectively in a two-handed style) until Selina casts a Scare spell on the table where he's hiding, forcing him to at least to pretend to flee to avoid being differentiated from the crowd. Another of the dwarves' associates knifes a downed bodyguard, who changes shape when he dies. Matt (Connor's big brother) takes on the bears, while Selina hypnotizes one of the lions and a pack of guardsmen with spears and crossbows handles the other. Serenity, unused to formal shoes, is immoblized by the slippery ice within the sleet storm.

Finally, the palace guards show up! There is a great deal of accusation and confusion, which is finally settled by arresting everyone. The hidden spellcaster from earlier tries to make a flying escape at rooftop level, but Amaryllis blinds her with Glitterdust so she has to climb to avoid crashing, and envelopes her in a bubble of violet fire as soon as she reaches a safe altitude.

The bodyguards are determined to be both evil and enchanted with transmutation magic, so the dwarves' story of polymorphed infiltrators attempting to kidnap the prince and princess and replace them with polymorphed duplicates is given slightly more credence. The fake bodyguards, the circus people, and the sorceress captured by Amaryllis are hauled off to be put to the question.

As it turns out, there were two plots against the rulers, by separate factions of the cult of the dead god, both inspired by a prophecy that the royal family of Tigris will play a part in stopping the dead god's rise. One faction decided to just kill them straight out to prevent their interference, while the other, more ambitious, plotters wanted to replace them so as to be able to shape events to their liking. In any case, it is clear that Tigris has not been completely fumigated, and there will be more work for Our Heroines.

In the ensuing days, Amaryllis encounters Alyra, the wood-elf who was helping the dwarves foil the replacement plot, and they become somewhat friendly. When Stephen, the dwarven scholar Fresa has been seeing, comes looking for Solara to burgle the quarters of the chief crazy dwarf ("Darrin is a crackpot, but I think he may be on to something."), Amaryllis and Alyra take the commission. With the aid of some runes faked up by Stephen, they get Darrin haring off to the ruined city, leaving his rooms unguarded, and deliver his notes to Stephen for copying.

Also in the days after the debacle of the ball, Prince Richard and Princess Eleanor invite the various heroes to semi-private dinners where the entire flower of the realm is not gathered ripe for the plucking. Amaryllis, in her inimitable style, turns her meeting with Richard into something more than dinner.

Amaryllis goes to investigate the gypsy fortuneteller Natasha, but finds no reason to believe the old woman is more than a charlatan.

Sophia has more discussions wth Lisbet, advising her to face up to her problems (if they're even real) rather than run away.

A few days after the burglary, Stephen comes to Amaryllis and Alyra somewhat worried: some of Darrin's papers that he copied had smudges which he now sees are rubbed off a map that had been folded in with the notes. Alyra and Amaryllis borrow the notes again, and Stephen traces the map fragments and works on assembling them. Meanwhile, Amaryllis mentiones to Sophia that the crazed dwarf from the ball, who is a scholar of ancient gods, has gone off to investigate the ruins3. Since it appears that he might actually know something, and the cultists wanted Stephen for his knowledge, it might be wise to go after Darrin and protect him from his own folly.

Amaryllis asks her lover Prince Richard to assign guards to keep Stephen from falling into the hands of the cultists, and the Amazon Quartet (counting Serenity and Alyra) prepare to set forth.

3: But not the details of why; did we mention Amaryllis is not Lawful Good?

* * *

The fight scene took quite a while to run because there were about 2395621935 NPCs, many of them fighting each other, but overall it was a fairly short session, and we were home before 23:00. Tud.

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