“Late one night a passing human saw a dwarf stooped over in front of a tavern. Seeing no trace of vomit, the human asked the dwarf if he had lost something. ‘Aye’, the dwarf replied, ‘the keys to me room at the inn’. So the human looked around a bit as well. The area was well lit by torches on either side of the tavern’s doors, but he saw nothing looking like keys. ‘Maybe you left them inside’, he said. ‘Nae’, said the dwarf, ‘I was drinking over there tonight’ – and he pointed at the closed, shuttered, darkened tavern across the street. Perplexed, the human asked, ‘Why aren’t you looking for your keys over there?’ Shaking his head as if speaking to an imbecile, the dwarf replied “Ain’t it obvious? It’s too dark over there, never find nuthin over there’.
Barrick, who had lately taken to retelling bar jokes as purported pearls of wisdom, shook with laughter, but Rift remained skeptical. “All three are just rumors – under the King’s Throne Room, says a scummy thief. Under a bank vault, says a strange dwarf. Under three feet of rubble at the Royal Armory, says a Bishop. None is likelier than the others. The obvious thing to do is none of the above.” But Barrick won the day. There was no easy way to scope out the King’s Throne room or the Royal Armory today, but the bank would be open for business. Search where the light is. Sometimes quests are like that.
An art theft having just taken place at the bank, the group pulled out the old reliable WeAreImportantPeopleWhoAreSupposedToBeHere act, which got them past the guards and clerks. The bank functionaries, in fine silk of green and gold, needed more convincing. Playing the conductor now, Barrick joined his thumb to his middle finger on each hand, with the two circles interlocked. This was an oft-used sign in the group, based on the ease with which drunkards and fools can be impressed, then confused. (One holds one’s hands like that without interlocking the fingers, turns one’s shoulders away, then shows one’s hands again, interlocked., repeating to unlock them. A drunkard, fool, or young child will inevitably try to mimic this by putting their hands behind their back from opposite directions, so they they will be unable to produce the effect.) Erik the Perceptive pointed out marks on the floor indicating something heavy had been moved, as well as a pile of clerks’ robes hidden from view. Suitably impressed, the functionaries gave the group free rein upstairs, and the bank director agreed to take them below – 8 levels below, where dozens of vaults lay along a corridor.
The theft was a fascinating problem. Three keys are needed for entry to a vault, two banker keys and one patron key. The robbed vault belongs to the King’s Nephew, an heir to the throne who is without debts, and who was given the painting by his uncle the King. Nothing else was taken from the vault. Vault doors do not close well, and one must wait some minutes after closing a vault door before being confident that it will not spontaneously reopen. This door was found ajar by passing clerks, which implies that it was not an inside job.
Curiouser and curiouser the case became. The bankers’ keys are kept in a keystore that can only be opened by the Director. They all look the same, but have different magical signatures. Importantly, they cannot be verified without first closing the door, and if they do not work, the door can never be reopened. This fact led to the adventurers’ next big break.
When the director tried to close the vault door to see whether the keys worked, several of the party stopped him vigorously. Barrick shouted out “Spit on the bar”, and everyone knew what he meant. A guy in a tavern asks the tough bartender whether he would like to bet 10 gold pieces that he can spit his beer the length of the bar into a spittoon at the far end. Seeing that the guy is drunk and weak-looking, the bartender agrees. The guy fails utterly, but raises the bet to 20 gold pieces, asking for three chances. Never coming close, he raises to 30, with 5 chances. The bartender agrees each time. The guy proceeds to spit vast quantities of ale down the bar, missing badly and at one point even hitting the bartender full in the face, producing howls of laughter from the bartender as he wipes down the bar. After paying up, the guy is thanked profusely with a warm handshake – but smiles broadly at the winner, who asked him,. “Why are you smiling, you’re out 60 gold pieces, and you never came close.” “True, but I bet those guys on the other side of the room 200 gold pieces that I could spit ale all over your bar for 20 minutes, as well as in your face, and you would clean it up and thank me afterwards.”
The point of this joke is to keep the opponent thinking that the quarry is different from what the quarry actually is. The adventurers explained patiently to the director that, to avoid the King’s Nephew’s wrath, and maybe the wrath of the King, they should first move the Nephew’s remaining things to another vault, in case the keys do not work. The door to the robbed vault, now empty, was closed, the keys tried, and – they did not work! The vault would likely be an empty tomb forever. But the group had saved the Director from a treasonable offense, and now had free run of the vaults – to go after their actual quarry.
As for the robbery, the solution was simple. Barrick told the joke: A banker, a customer, and a bank director are caught riding on the back of a dragon that had just destroyed and looted their bank. Hanging from a scale behind the dragon’s head are two Rings of Featherfall. The three discuss who should use the rings. The customer says that he should use one, because the customer is always right. The banker says he should use one, because he is the future of the bank when it is rebuilt. The bank director says he not only should use one because he is the most intelligent of the three, he is going to use one because he is in charge. He grabs a ring and jumps. The banker looks at the customer, who smiles and says, “The most intelligent of us just jumped off with my wedding band in his hand!”
Realizing that the people at the top of a hierarchy are probably the most useless, the group questions the director more directly. There had been only one guest all day whom the Director had not recognized, and his memory was fuzzy about that guy too, a possible sign of magic, which was soon dispelled by Z’alden and Rift. The bearded man had in fact been the King’s Nephew, and the clerks who escorted him had been dismissed some months before; they no doubt had stolen the keys to this vault. Why the King’s Nephew had done this in such a mysterious fashion was unknown, but also not really what interested the adventurers.
With the blessing of the grateful Director, the five examined the corridor, “checking things out”, and identified which vault should be closest to the cave. They managed access to it by asking to open their own vault, and stealing the bankers’ keys to their target – really, how can such a useless bank stay in business?
Without the patron key though, magic was required. Warding runes guarded the door, spelling out “Light. Theft. Origin.” Rift remembered the solution to an old childhood riddle:
“Follows You in the Light
Hides thieves in the Night
Starts where you start
Never comes apart”
While Tira distracted the hapless Director, the others worked to produce shadows on the door, matching markings found there, and the doors opened!
Inside were found about two gold millions’ worth of diamonds, walls made of platinum, and a tunnel going down. After grabbing all the loot, the party descended the tunnel, then a pit about 150 feet deep, which ultimately led to a huge cave with a lake. Briefly questioning the wisdom of reanimating such a powerful being as Tassadar, the group nevertheless threw his bones into the lake. “How many dead adventurers does it take to mop a floor?” Asked Barrick. “Five. One to hold the mop, four to walk him up and down the floor.” The group waited as the powerful being emerged whole from the lake; was it to be death or promotion?