Flower man, flower man
Flower man, flower man
Dates: 3nd Guild to 3nd Hive, Retributus
In the law offices of Number 6394182, Tathara Sűlothi, prime elf from the world of Krynn and newcomer to Sigil, burns the midnight oil. It's the second night in a row she's stayed in her boss's office till after anti-peak. After a recent case which the rogue modron tort lawyer won, there's lots of paperwork to be done. It even seems, Tathara ruminates, that there's more paperwork when we win than when we lose.
At around an hour after antipeak, Tathara gathers her cloak and satchel together, and locks the office behind her. Holding the cloak tight to her against the foggy and chill Sigilian "night," she walks down Karitas Street, towards her apartment in the fashionable Dream Square district of the Clerks' Ward. Little does she know that a horror awaits her in the gloom, a horror which will literally transform her...
The next morning, Number 6394182, also known as "Box," enters his office building and, upon reaching his door, discovers that the door is unlocked and slightly ajar. Tathara should have locked up before she left, "Box" muses silently to himself. "Box" walks in, and finds a human male, clad in crimson fineries, sitting at her desk, going through drawers. As soon as he sees "Box" enter, he strides over, yelling, "Where is Tathara? Where is my little willow?"
It seems this addle-cove is Tathara's fiancé, a Sensate priest named Gavin Willix. Willix was courting Tathara, and was about to drop by the office to take her to dinner last night, when he noticed she was gone. This was at about 4 A.P. (after-peak, 4 hours after noon), so she should have been here working. "Box" was busy at court yesterday, and did not see Tathara all day. Willix immediately gets scared; he says, "Oh, Sune, no, please don't let her show up like all the others. No, no, Sune, no!" He begins to cry.
After he calms down, the party finds out that over the last two months, in this very neighborhood, female Sensates have been disappearing from their jobs, and showing up about a week later in alleys, dead and dismembered. But their dismemberment is strange: there's no blood, and the limbs seem magically severed; there are no wounds. Willix is amazed that "Box" hasn't heard about it. "You're a Guvner, after all." But "Box" hasn't, and had no idea a serial killer was loose in his very own pleasant and relatively crime-free neighborhood. Willix says, "For some reason, the Guvners and Hardheads have been pushing it under the rug. But five girls have been killed! And down at the Civic Festhall no one is talking about it! You'd think they'd be up in arms!"
Willix says he wants to find his Tathara before she turns up dead. He says in the other cases he's heard of, the victim has usually shown up about five days after being abducted. Could Willix possibly hire the party to try and find her? He offers the money, gems and jewelry he'd been saving for Tathara's wedding gift. He says he'll meet back with "Box" that night, with information and perhaps some associates to better accomplish the task.
When "Box," Jesdin, Selgar and Knell gather together that early evening at "Box's" office, they find Willix waiting with two new berks: a slight human female with a long sword at her hip and a human male who displays a fine rapier and dagger at his sides. Willix explains that these individuals have also been hired to help the party. The male hands a card to the party:
With his investigators assembled, Willix hands the party a file from the City Courts. He explains that through certain connections in the Fraternity of Order, he was able to promote this file of the killing victims, which has evidentally been "black-filed," Harmonium cant for an inactive investigation. "This makes no sense," Willix says, "cases are only black-filed after they've been left unsolved for over 50 years or so." Obviously, there is a concerted coverup.
With the file in their possession, the party sees the first three victims of this killer were prostitutes. Two of them worked in a "house of entertainment" in the Dream Square neighborhood called the Red Light House. The party enters (except for Selgar, he's too embarrassed) and is immediately met by the madame, one Astrella. She wonders why no one ever came by six weeks ago when the disappearances started and the bodies started turning up. She tells the party that the Harmonium never came to investigate. When questioned about her clientele, Astrella says there is a careful referral and screening process involved, one which she reviews personally. She certainly can't remember any murderous or violent clients. After interviewing one of the working girls, the party departs and regroups at "Box's" office.
The next day the party decides to visit the places of employment of the two more reputable victims. A visit to the Burgundian, an exclusive wine-tasting parlor, reveals the owner, a Mr. Hallis, lording over a table full of thuggish-looking "employees." He is curt when questioned, and the party begins to suspect him.
At the dinner theater of Jaana Tolling, an acquaintance of Arluth's, the party finds a colony of chameleonic creatures settled in her basement theater. Dispatching all but one of them, they find no useful information but do find a hoard of treasure the skulk-creature trades for its life.
Having hit an apparent dead end, the party splits up and does some investigation in the neighborhood where the kidnappings occurred. After finding out from one of the dead prostitute's roommates that the victim had received flowers, which was highly unusual for workers at the Red Light House, Cianna and Knell go to the local flower shop, where more suspicion is cast on Hallis by the owner of the flower shop, the florist Xenoff.
Meanwhile, Jesdin has discovered some information by talking to a homeless denizen of the Dream Square neighborhood. One night a few weeks ago, this bubber says she saw a woman freeze in mid-stride walking eastward on the street. A man emerged from the shadows, in grey cloak and top hat, and led her away.
Returning to the party with this information, they go back to talk to Hallis again, who this time is outright belligerent and does not allow them to even enter the Burgundian. Jesdin looks desperately for a grey cloak and top hat, but finds none. The party is now feeling completely at a dead end. But it won't take long for trouble to find them.
The next morning. A loud knock on the door of Box's offices. "Open up! Harmonium!" "Box" ambles over to the door, and two officers, one human and one earth genasi, enter the small offices. "You have been charged with impersonating officers of the Harmonium and you are required to report to the Lady's Prison to aid the Harmonium with their enquiries!"
At this, Arluth splits off from the party and walks up to the Harmonium officers, ushering them outside. The party cannot hear much of the muttering of the three men outside the room, but when Arluth comes back in and says that the Harmonium officers are working for the murderer, a new sense of urgency is injected into the affair. The party decides they need some information, and they need it fast.
Rushing to the home of Confucian sage Fung Yun Wo, an faction acquaintance of Jesdin's, the party asks him to perform a divination for them. It will cost them, for Master Fung must use a scroll to perform the divination. Asking "Where is Tathara?" reveals that "She is imprisoned in an ivory vase, bathed in sunlight, patiently waiting to be torn apart."
With this revelation, Arluth blurts out loud, "That's why they're found that way! The victims! They are being turned into flowers and then ripped apart. She loves me, she loves me not." A shiver goes through most of the party.
Armed with this information, the primary suspect becomes Xenoff the florist, and "Box" springs into action. Carrying the results of the divination as well as the assembled evidence to the City Courts, he petitions a judge to issue a warrant for his questioning. The judge issues the warrant and two Harmonium officers to "Box" for protection.
When they arrive at the florist's shop, they see the two corrupt Harmonium officers, Anton and Vax, standing behind the counter. They are also surprised by Xenoff's air mephit messenger/deliveryman, who flies out of the window to harass the party.
Jesdin climbs up his friend Selgar to get to the window, once the mephit is dispatched, and is knocked down to the ground by a spell, falling fifteen feet in the process. Meanwhile, inside, the party's loyal Harmonium officers are having trouble with the traitorous charmed Hardheads. Box somehow manages to get past them and run upstairs to execute the warrant and arrest Xenoff.
Xenoff stands there in his upper room, in the corner, near a wooden pedestal, atop which is an ivory vase with a single lily, bathed in the fading light of Sigil's day. Xenoff pulls a wand out of a holster, but "Box"'s ordered mind allows him to bathe the room in the light of a color spray spell, at the exact same time Arluth is using his inborn natural ability to color spray downstairs, to knock out the corrupt Hardheads. "Box" secures the prisoner by sitting on him with his impressive bulk, while the party cleans up downstairs and puts the Hardheads in the deadbook.
The aftermath of his investigation is as such. Gavin Willix is able to dispel the polymorph spell that imprisoned his love, Xenoff is dragged off by the Hardheads to the prison, while the party goes through his library of horticultural texts, spellbooks, and the disturbing details of his journal.
The sad and sickening story of Xenoff the florist is fleshed out quite a bit when his journals are examined. Born on the Outlands, Xenoff was an planewalker for a few years, until he retired after a particularly nasty trip to Pandemonium. Seems that Xenoff was also a Sensate, who was rejected for the rank of factotum in the faction after his retirement. In his journal, he tells of the panel of five Sensates who had rejected his petition for factotum. All were women. From page 24 of Xenoff's Journal, dated three months previous: "They all looked at me, scanning me with their dead eyes, looking at me, their gazes analyzing me. I had never felt so small and so insignificant." His sanity had deteriorated from a trip to Pandemonium, where he had found this powerful wand of polymorph any object. The rejection for factotum sent him over the edge.
That's when he began thinking about the sense of vision. From page 31: "I thought about the death of flowers, and the enshrinement of beauty. A way to take the beauty of those women and hold it in my own hand, and crush it, if I so desired." This led directly to his stalking and kidnapping of Sensate women.
At first he preyed on prostitutes, snagging them with hold person spells and taking them back to his flower shop. He transformed the women, then he'd sketch their flower forms in his journal in pencil and watercolor. He'd watch and drink in their beauty for four or five days, sit them in a vase in his upstairs bedroom, and when the spell was ready to run out, he's rip apart their flower forms violently, spreading the flower petals on the street where he felt it was fitting. He eventually got more daring, taking two "respectable" women of the neighborhood, the waitress, the actress, and Tathara. These women would be missed, and eventually, that was his downfall.
The case of Xenoff is still pending in the City Courts. The prosecution of Xenoff is cut-and-dried; the only question is, will he hang from the gallows in Petitioners' Square or spend the rest of his life in the Gatehouse with the rest of the barmies? In other words, will he be found guilty or guilty by reason of insanity?