Serpents of the Frost Blade: Part 5

Page 77 The C train chugs its way uptown, towards the museum and towards a rather intimidating objective. This whole adventure so far has been for the sake of getting the sword into Brennick's hands. You were quite under the assumption that once it happened, everything would be fine. Big brother would make it all better, the danger would pass, he'd take you to get some honeyed icemilk, then to see the Great Harbor Woman statue, then to see the Empire Skypoint, then to Port Authority so you could go the hell home. Wait a minute, you muse. Isn't solving riddles involving ancient weapons while hiding from the forces of evil supposed to his job? One thing's for certain: when Brennick told you to take this train from 14th Street to 81st Street, he neglected to mention that it would be stopping every five seconds.

Thankfully it's almost midday, so the benches lining the train car are only half full. Brennick's note doesn't say much about this fellow at the museum, just that his name is Dr. Maxwell Hartigan and he works in the "Uncategorized Anthropology" department. After what feels like a fortnight, the train slows to a halt and the doors slide open. The blue and white tile on the far wall proclaims, "81st ST MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY." A convenient arrow points the way.

As you make your way along the subway platform, your eyes widen. Fossilized remains of long-extinct creatures have apparently been uncovered right in the very walls of the subway station. How fortuitous that they built the museum here! It must have been so exciting to discover priceless fossils right here in the museum's foundation, conveniently lined up like this.

At the end of the platform, stairs lead up to a modest set of glass doors, beyond which is the ticket counter. The woman behind the counter looks up from her glowing screen and smiles. "Hi there," she says. "Will you be seeing any of the special exhibitions today?"

You fumble through your pack, looking for Brennick's note. "Actually, erm, I'm looking for ... oh, what's it called, I have it written down here somewhere ... here we go, Uncategorized Anthropology?"

The woman scrunches her nose. "I'm not familiar with any exhibit by that name, but you're more than welcome to look around. It's a suggest donation of fifteen dollars."

A suggested what? "I'm sorry, come again?"

"The suggested donation is fifteen dollars."

"Uh ... does that mean it costs fifteen dollars?"

"It means that we suggest donating that amount to help us maintain and expand the museum, though you're free to pay whatever amount you'd like."

They make money this way? Too bad Brennick's landlord doesn't subscribe to that philosophy. You count out fifteen dollars and hand it to the woman. She gives you a ticket and a map.

Poring over the map, you meander past the ticket counter towards the nearest exhibit hall. You unfold the paper and search every corner, absent-mindedly shuffling your feet. The ticket lady was right, there's nothing on here about Uncategorized Anthropology. With a dejected sigh, you look up from the map.

And nearly fall over.

You are standing in a room that's several stories high. It is made entirely of glass. In the center is a massive white sphere, ringed by a spiral walkway. The hall is alive with the excited chatter of children, not to mention the chiding of teachers as they herd their charges past the walkway's display stations and into the sphere. The exhibits all seem to be about the ebon space beyond the sky. Beyond the sky! You start to feel dizzy.

You are struck agog by the Rose Center at the Museum of Natural History. Make immediate INT and WIS checks to avoid being completely overwhelmed by information. If either check fails, you must spend an additional 20 minutes wrapping your head around these strange new sciences. Once you have made both checks in succession, you have your bearings and may begin your search for Dr. Hartigan. Roll a D20 Investigate check at +1 every 10 minutes. SUCCEED 5 consecutive times — Turn to page 184. FAIL 3 consecutive times — You are back at the Rose Center, and must rest your feet. At each check along the way, roll a D10 to determine encounters:

  • A gargantuan whale suspended by some manner of magic — Astounding!
  • A whole herd of tusk-beasts, frozen in mid-stampede — Incredible!
  • A humid little hut filled with hundreds of live butterflies — You feel just like the woodfolk!
  • Life-like replicas of more animals than you can count — Wait, those are artificial replicas, right ... ?
  • An enormous cross-section of a tree that was thousands of years old — Imagine how tall it must have been!
  • A huge moving picture show titled "Sea Monsters" — Sweet mercy!
  • Ancient battlefields recreated in miniature detail — Fascinating!
  • An exhibit about horses — Meh. Extensive, but nothing you didn't already know
  • An entire floor of actual dragon skeletons — Let's just say these people have some pretty interesting theories about dragons
  • Zombie werewolf shaman — Roll for initiative and turn to page 46

Page 184

It's been quite an afternoon. While you could easily spend another several hours stumbling from one discovery to the next, you're starting to wonder if maybe Brennick sent you on a wild fowl chase. For the last 45 minutes you've been on the 2nd floor, wandering around the "Peoples of the World" exhibits. At the corner between the halls for "South America" and "Mexico and Central America," you lean up against the cold marble walls. Your feet are in dire straits. The museum is slowly emptying. Frustration is mounting. And you are starting to get the feeling that the sandwich you ate at the cafe was needlessly expensive. Just when you're about ready to call it quits and head back to Brennick's apartment, you notice something in the hallway corner. It's faint, and obscured by shadows from the vaulted ceilings, but it's enough to catch your eye.

A button. There is a small square of marble emerging slightly from the wall.

You cast a few quick glances around, but no one seems to be paying any attention. You press the square. With a dull scrape of metal, a small door becomes unlatched and slowly swings inward a foot or two. You push it farther open, and see a side hallway. It's dark, with light spilling down from a wall fixture at the far end. Gently pulling the door closed, you venture into the half-light. There are a few doors, but the one beneath the light fixture is being guarded. A sentry stands at either side. They are tall and shaggy, with canine heads and fur. Each grips a halberd at the ready.

Those must be gnolls, you realize with a start. No way I can take down those things, they'd flay me alive. Rooting around in your belt pouch for some way to distract them, you hear a staccato intake of breath. One of the gnolls is sniffing the air, and starts to growl.

"Hey. Who there? You not smell like regular myoo-zee-um humans."

The overpriced sandwich lurches in your stomach. You freeze. The gnoll clutches his halberd and takes a step forward.

"You no fool Gackle. Gackle smells you coming."

The ice of panic rips through your veins. You ransack your pockets for any possible salvation. Gackle steps closer, framed by the light behind him. Suddenly your fingers find unfamiliar metal. Of course! The talisman I got from those kobolds on the 4 train! Before your brain has a chance to voice objections, you pull the coin from your pouch and step into the light.

(Roll two D20 Bluff checks at +5, one for each gnoll, every 60 seconds until they are out of range. If the check on either gnoll fails twice in a row, see the "Captured by Maelorin" section on page 323.)

"You there! Step aside. Maelorin sent me to question Hartigan. I trust you haven't eaten him yet?"

Gackle stops in his tracks. "He send you? You just little pup." Your heart won't stop racing as he saunters up to you, but you maintain your cool. "You have tal-is-man?" he snorts, brandishing a talisman of his own. "May-lor-in getting desperate. Me, I earn this hard way. You, you too small. What you do to earn tal-is-man?"

"I, uh ... killed some grandmothers. In their sleep."

"That not hard. They asleep, they no fight back. Where fun in that?" Gackle leans in and gives you one last sniff. "Frost Blade doomed if you the best they can do. Ask your questions, then get out. You smell weird."

Your jelly-legs barely hold you upright, but you manage to make your way to the door. The other gnoll stares at you through half-closed eyes. With a deep breath, you open the door and hurry through, closing it swiftly behind you.

The office is bathed in a rich lighting that only antique lamps can offer. The furniture looks heavy, as if the wood was cleaved from trees hand-picked for their sturdiness. Books and manuscripts line the shelves. Archaic weapons clutter the room, as do artifacts whose purpose you can only guess. At the desk is a stocky little man with white, bushy hair. He swivels around in his chair, adjusting a tweed jacket that looks rather comfortable.

"Well then. Not particularly threatening, hm? Certainly not the type to be hanging around with gnolls. In fact, I'd almost say you weren't one of Maelorin's crew at all, if not for that token in your hand. But where are my manners? Welcome to the Department of Uncategorized Anthropology. I'm Maxwell Hartigan. How can I be of assistance?"

Your mind flashes back to Brennick's warning: I don’t know if either will be able to help, and I don’t know if either is trustworthy. You’ll have to figure that one out on your own.

How do you proceed?

• They wouldn't be guarding him if he was on their side. I tell him my story. Turn to page 123. • He could be anyone. I pretend to be one of Maelorin's stooges and question him. Turn to page 139.

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