Godsday, 25 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)
Archerus: “Gauthfellow? He’s the madman who sent the painting that trapped us all? I recognized his style the moment I unwrapped the thing. How, I pray, did you get inside the thing so quickly? And where in Pelor’s name are we?”
Jane: “I’m sure we got in the same way you did, by touching it. Do you remember anything of your time inside the painting?”
Archerus, growing more agitated: “But…were you in my studio with me the whole time? Did you come with the painting? How did you get in my house? You didn’t hurt Suzanna, did you? And where the hells are we now? Who ARE you people?”
Jane: “It’s all right, try to relax, Suzanna is just fine…we came to your studio as soon as we realized you had received a painting as well. There were four paintings delivered today, and of the ones that remain, we found them all and brought them here. You’re in a vault at Belfor Vittanis’ house, and you are safe. We went into the painting that was delivered to your studio specifically to find you and bring you back. We have no idea why we were targeted by Gauthfellow, so we need as much information about him as we can get.”
Archerus: “But…but…I was in there for a matter of seconds! How could you have learned I was in there unless you watched it happen? And if this is Vittanis’ house, why isn’t he here? I’ve never seen this room in his manor before! Are you working for Gauthfellow? Is this some sort of kidnapping?”
Long Fist: “Easy, Archerus. Time seemed to pass differently in the painting – we don’t know how long you’ve been trapped in there. Our party was attacked by a painting from Gauthfellow, delivered to our lodgings in town. We knew nothing of the man until we found our lives in danger and began investigating. Our search brought us here, to you, to Gertwright. Many innocent lives have been lost and if it weren’t for our diligence, and my friend Jane’s persistence, you would not be here. We saved you, my friend. Be easy. And help us find out what we need to know. If we can get a handle on what’s happening here, we can escort you home so you can rest.”
Archerus: “All I know about Gauthfellow is that he’s a dangerous, jealous maniac. He couldn’t stomach my success and kept trying to best me, time after time, month after month, with his ridiculous ‘apocalypse art’. And to my shame, I got sucked into his game. I was forced to make paintings in his style just to stay on top of the popular trends he was playing up to. All because of this new sponsor of his.” Pause. “His note mentioned my servant Tharivol. Is he all right? That was clearly a threat.”
Jane: “Unfortunately we don’t know anything about your servant, but we’re not through investigating this yet. When was the last time you saw him?”
Archie: “Sorry to interrupt, but…what ‘new sponsor’?”
Archerus: “The sponsor? Pelor only knows who the man is for real, but Gauthfellow called him ‘Sir Zogg’ or some such nonsense in a sly bit of private gloating to me at an opening last month. Must be an assumed name, I’m sure, for I know no ‘Zogg’ family in the area, much less a knighted gentleman of that name. But I did catch sight of a new tattoo on Gauthfellow’s neck during that conversation – looked like a crest or sigil of some sort. Awful thing. Green and spirally. Like three headless serpents, or tentacles or some such. Like something out of one of Gauthfellow’s paintings. I asked him about it, joked that he’d let himself become ‘branded property’ of whoever his sponsor is, but Gauthfellow simply covered the tattoo with his collar and walked away. The thing that baffles my mind if why this man would NEED a sponsor. I thought his ‘adventuring ‘ had set him up for life. Unless that is just another one of his lies.” Later study determines this mark to be the personal sigil of a mind flayer, though not specifically which one. Three or four tentacles in the sigil, however, indicates an Illithid school in the arcane arts (as opposed to one and two tentacles, reserved for Illithidkin trained in martial pursuits, five or six for those steeped in psychic power, and seven for those infused with the divine power of their foul god).
Jane: You said that you were ‘sucked into Gauthfellow’s game, Archerus. What did you mean by that, exactly?”
Archerus: “You know…outdoing each other…with the graphic nature of the content… and other style considerations that I’m sure would be beyond your experience or interest. We just kept pushing the boundaries…delving into things…You know what I mean, I’m sure. Schoolyard one-ups-manship.”
Jane: “And this was…shameful? What you describe sounds like healthy competition, yet you claimed to be ashamed of yourself.”
Archerus’s face darkens. “There is competition…and there is competition. Sometimes under pressure we find ourselves spurred to better ourselves, improve upon ourselves. Sometimes we are weak…sometimes…we make choices we can never take back.
“Tharivol. I sent him to work for Gauthfellow. As a servant…well, as an assistant. And Tharivol, he has an artistic background. Not in oils or color, mind you, but he has no small skill with charcoal. And he has an eye…
“He was stealing Gauthfellow’s paintings for me. Imron would make them, Tharivol would sketch them and bring the sketches to me. I would turn out my own versions of Imron’s work before he could get them to his showings. Working tirelessly day and night.
“And then Imron caught on, as of course he would. And the pace escalated. But he seemed not to suspect Tharivol of the theft. Seemed. And Tharivol continued his double-dealings at my request…
“And then the paintings Gauthfellow made began to transform. This was around the time of the ‘Sir Zogg’ conversation. Works Tharivol sketched as demons cavorting in hellish torture mines were unveiled as vast salt fields aswarm with giant worms. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t maintain the theft in face of his magic. And my mind, my true artistic heart, is not foul enough to concoct the hyper-fantastic images of corruption that Imron could…and this is what the public was craving. I was becoming obsolete…
“Then, Tharivol expressed his concern to me. He was sure that Gauthfellow suspected our arrangement…but I would not listen…I would not hear…And now, because of my greed, my weakness, and because of his loyalty to me, Tharivol must be dead. It’s over. It’s all over. My career, my livelihood, the life of my servant, all of it…”
Archerus informs the party that Gauthfellow lives on Sandalwood Lane, but grows more agitated with more questions about connections between Gauthfellow and the party, or Gauthfellow and others. He claims to know absolutely nothing more about Gauthfellow or any of his potential associates, except that he keeps some sort of construct guardian close by when he is at home. When Riddle insists on pursuing the line of questioning further, he grows clearly frustrated. “I know nothing of constructs. This is far outside my sphere of knowledge. Ask a mage. All I know from Tharivol is that the thing is big. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I would like to rest and see to Suzanna."
Riddle snaps his fingers with a crackle of lightning, lets it die off, and then taps the painter in the chest. “Let’s recap. You got stuffed into a demonic extra-dimensional painting due to your art war with Gauthfellow, and after putting your servant at rish to steal his painting ideas. We got targeted by Gauthfellow for reasons unknown. We not only survived our attack, but stopped the attack on the two main critics, and saved your sorry ass from certain death. You wanna go back into the painting? The Greyhawk Watch already gave you up for dead. They don’t care about you. Now us? We’re actually interested in stopping the guy who stuffed you into that painting and saving your servant if he’s still alive. But the only way that is gonna happen is you help us by giving us every ounce of information you can. If you leave out anything, anything at all, that might possibly make the difference between my friends and I living and dying, I’ll stuff you back in that painting myself. And no one will be coming to get you this time. Now. What else can you tell us about Gauthfellow? Details are good.”
Archerus: “I’ve told you what I know! I’ve explained what I can possibly explain. The man is not my friend. My only interest in him has been in his career. If you haven’t heard what you want to hear, then we are at an impasse here because I’ve explained all I know. Now, are you finished threatening me? I didn’t send Gauthfellow after you. Your predicament is NOT MY FAULT. I’m grateful for your aid, but growing less and less interested in being beholden to mercenary monsters such as yourself. What do you want? Is this about money? Is that what it will take to satisfy you? If it will get you out of my life, I’ll give you what I can spare. Come by my tower tomorrow. Now, kill me if you must, but I’m leaving now. Pelor have mercy on your souls. Especially YOU,” he says to Long Fist, “because Heironeous surely won’t forgive you for serving the likes of HIM.” He glares at Riddle.
Jane and Archie do their best to smooth over this rough exchange, and in return Archerus offers up the location of Tharivol’s family, to whom the servant might have fled if he escaped whatever danger Gauthfellow had in store for him, and perhaps a personal possession of Tharivol’s for scrying. He also offers to negotiate the party’s lodgings with Belfor and prepares to leave, but Jane suggests they might not want to let Gauthfellow know his plan has not succeeded yet. The Riddle chimes in again, “That’s pretty rich coming from a two-bit thief. You stole paintings from Gauthfellow. You put your servant in harm’s way to further your own ends. You really think Heironeous is going to look down on my friend for sticking with a friend who has risked his life more than once to save him? Who actually brought him back from the dead? You’re a hopped up artist that saw his career going down the toilet and couldn’t live with failure. You had to steal ideas from someone else because your weren’t good enough. I wonder what Heironeous would have us do with a common criminal like yourself? I mean, that is what you are, right? A criminal? I mean, if we’re gonna bring law and good into this shouldn’t we turn you into the Watch? Or at least make sure that your critic friends know that your latest works have been stolen. My friends want to kiss your ass, fine, let them. You want my help saving your servant, I want some simple courtesy. Now do you think that is beyond your artistic sensibilities or outside your scope of humanity?”
Jane explodes, “Riddle, that’s enough! If simple courtesy is what you desire then try it yourself for once. We are all over-tired and we have ALL been through more today than anyone could stand. Be we do not ALL have to go shouting off at the mouth. You do NOT speak for me, and I would appreciate the simple courtesy of managing to remember that!”
Archerus replies to Riddle, “I’ve shown you nothing but courtesy and you’ve shown me nothing but contempt. But you do make a reasonable argument, despite the arrogance and insanity of your tone. The least I can do at this point is to admit my artistic crimes to Vittanis and let him report the news as he sees fit. I will do so now. It’s the least I owe to Tharivol, regardless of what happens now, Unless, of course, you’d rather just string me up right here?”
Long Fist: “He is clearly unABLE to assist us further, Riddle. And he’s right. Heironeous would not appreciate me backing up a bully, even a friend such as yourself. Archerus, let’s not be hasty. I believe our best course of action is to try and get Suzanna here as discussed and get along peacably as we rest. Who knows what Gauthfellow is capable of – we don’t want to tip him off to your rescue.”
Riddle turns to Jane, surprised, and says, “Jane, I never said I spoke for you. When did I say, ‘and Jane agrees with me’? I spoke for myself and out of a growing frustration with this jerk. He doesn’t care if we live or die, he doesn’t care if we save his friend, fine. His choice. My choice is to call him on his bull. He’s got stones, I’ll give him that, but it’s evident to me that he’s lacking in humanity. You wanna say that I’m lacking in courtesy, fine. I really don’t care too much about courtesy right now.” He turns to walk out of the panic room and throws these words back over his shoulder as he exits, “And just so we’re clear, I don’t take orders from you. The only woman I took orders from was murdered as a message to me while a crappy town full of spineless people just walked away from it. Now we’re in a bigger town full of the same old tiny people…” And he leaves. Long Fist runs after him but soon returns alone, reporting that Riddle needs time alone to work through whatever he’s going through. Archie raises the question of whether or not Riddle can be trusted, and Long Fist assures everyone that he can, and that he is merely overwhelmed at the moment.