Choose Your Own Adventure 120: Hiding In Plain Sight
Your choice from last time was to take a quick nap, and then investigate the palace complex.
“You’ve been even less talkative than usual, and I can see the circles under your eyes. Hero or not, I’m going to be sending you back to the barracks the moment we get back to the palace complex.”
You stifle a yawn. “I won’t object.” The rest of your task is going to be trickier — you need to make sure that you can get past the usual security measures at the palace, which involves checking for illusion spells. You’ll get past a cursory check, but not a deeper one.
Fortunately for you, it’s not hard to dodge the lieutenant. He’s excited about this success, especially given that he is quite, quite sure that “Severel Mazurek” is dead. You make some vague implications about how much of the credit should go to him and his plan, and he seems satisfied. At the palace, he explains the urgency of his errand, shows off “Mazurek’s” dead body, and the guards at the gate perform only a cursory search. Your illusions are not uncovered.
Shortly thereafter, you take your leave of your deceived compatriots, who are happily carting away the dead corpse. Most likely to ensure it is not booby-trapped before displaying it to the Emperor. The idea is uncomfortable, but you are used to such uncomfortable ideas.
The early morning palace bustle has only just begun, and given your illusory uniform, no one bothers you on your way to the barracks. You manage to bluster your way past the guard, explaining that you just helped capture Mazurek and you’re exhausted. In his excitement, he lets you by without actually making you give the password.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that, inside the barracks, you eventually trip one of the long-duration spells which removes illusions. At least you manage to find Eggard’s bunk before anyone notices you, and then lock the door behind you. Hopefully his bunkmates won’t be back for the hour you give yourself for rest. To be sure, you set one of the small alarm devices popular in the Black Hand barracks to awaken you after that time.
An hour was not enough sleep, but it will need to do. You don’t know for sure how long it will be until the mages examining the body of “Mazurek” realize that the reason their attempts to detect enchanted traps are going awry because the body is under an illusion. You would rather not be stabbed in your sleep.
Getting back out of the barracks is easier than it was to get in. It is still morning, and the bulk of its occupants are clearly elsewhere. Rather than attempt to reconstruct your previous disguise, you wrap yourself in several layers of invisibility. Anyone looking carefully may still spot you, but at least the illusion can’t be trivially stripped away. Underneath the invisibility, you have altered your facial features and borrowed one of Eggard’s uniforms. It doesn’t quite fit right, but if you are not invisible, you may be easily taken for one of the Emperor’s Black Hands. You also borrowed a couple of rank-pins, to ensure the fear and deference of others if you need it.
As you once received, before all of this. The irony amuses and saddens you.
You manage to sneak past the guard, who can surely see through your invisibility, and around a corner. You wait, until you hear someone else entering the barracks, using this week’s password — “mortality”. Then you drop the illusion, for now, though you can draw it back up around yourself at a moment’s notice.
You make your way across the well-tended grounds. Here, is a man sweeping up the leaves that have fallen from one of the more ancient trees. There, a cook waving a ladle is chivvying several younger servants who are carrying numerous large dishes from one side-entrance to another. The barracks is a bit separate from the palace proper, that sprawling building which shows the styles and preferences of Emperors of centuries past, each blending into the next. Emperor Dleshan Kaev has yet to make his mark on the place.
And you have yet to make yours. You stride confidently towards the side-entrance typically used by the guards. Confidence is the key; who dares to stop a woman in uniform who is clearly acting on important business? You go through the entrance unhindered, save by the murmuring of the password.
“Welcome back, Commander Beleyaev,” the young guard says. She’s not one of the Black Hands, but only a junior member of the palace guard, quietly doing her duty. The pike she holds in one hand is suitably menacing, but her small friendly smile is not.
You smile slightly yourself, and nod. There was only one commander you could be sure of impersonating… and fortunately, it seems that Karet is not yet back in Alederick. “Any interesting news?”
“You mean, other than the big fuss this morning about Severel Mazurek being caught?”
You nod sharply. “I’ve heard a bit about that already. Any other interesting captures lately?”
“I’m sure you have heard about that one. Heh.” She absently flicks a small bit of dirt off her light armor. “What I’m sure you haven’t heard is that one of the mages at the Academy has been arrested. I think they’re holding him here. Seems kind of sad, really, since he seemed like a nice enough fellow. Not ranting and raving, or threatening, or pleading, or anything. He just quietly protested that this was a bad idea. Not the usual reaction, since most folks who end up here don’t come out with their heads still attached to their necks.”
“Some people are calmer than others, and take the consequences with better grace,” you reply. That certainly sounds like Lehhev to you.
“I suppose so.”
Out of the corner of your eye, you see several guards in black uniforms running from the palace to the barracks, raising a small uproar.
Option 123: Stick to the plan. Head into the palace, and then around to the lower dungeon level where Lehhev is most likely being kept. And watch for unfriendly people.
Option 124: Time for a new plan. Lehhev probably isn’t scheduled for immediate execution, but the Emperor needs to be stopped before somebody catches on to you. Time to confront him, now.
Option 125: No plan like the old plan, but perhaps you should go see what the ruckus is all about… and confound their investigation, to buy yourself more time.