Shares and cheers
Alex and Borrox, flush with a bag of gold from selling loot and collecting the few coins of bounty, pay off their debt to Arnouf of Pelor, though Arnouf does try to interest them in some other fascinating financial instruments. Perhaps they are thinking of building an extension or does an overseas holiday sound good? What better time to refinance? Brushing these enticements aside (politely) they depart swiftly and head for the Gne’er-do-well Gnome!
As they walk through the keep’s outer ward towards the inn, they run an eye over the keep’s bounty posters. In terms of gold per head, Ogre (50/head) is the best, but in terms of challenge, Orc (7/head) is the way to go. Gnolls and Bugbears (the real ones, not the adventurers!) are certainly well worth the taking. There’s an odd poster, drawn by childish hand, asking for help finding a lost dog.
Charmaine and Jern, survivors of the Bugbears group, have joined the Gnome-hearts, the pair discover on entering the inn. The six allies good-naturedly shout the first round, and by the second round Alex and Borrox agree that they should all work together in future, if anything of the right kind of size turns up.
They and the Gnome-hearts agree that with kobold bounty returning to a mere silver per head, there’s no question of pursuing Marshal and his band.
The eight lift a final bumper to mutual success and Alex and Borrox head off, vaguely intending to meet up with Grim.
Martin the Mighty Druid
Grim is now clad in a chain shirt and is feeling unusually confident as he treads the lake-side path north to where, so he’s been told, the Druid’s Grove can be found. So far the only fly in the ointment is that Krak, the Half-Orc armorer, is of the opinion that no mage is likely to cast a ju-ju on a javelin so that it can punch through a mage’s Protection from Missiles spell.
To Grim’s surprise he finds that the path leads to a tidy fenced property: a cobbled path leading through a small well-tended vegetable patch to the well-maintained door of a white-washed cottage. Grim knocks and the door is opened by a stocky, bearded man, a little florid of face and weather-beaten, but overall fairly tidy. Grim drops to his knees:
“O mighty druid!” – Grim
“Please don’t do that” – Martin
On being asked, Grim presses forward with the Big Idea that has been shaping in his skull. Empty cottages could be filled with new settlers, who will need repairs, food, clothing and of course protection, for which they can pay rent. Perhaps he explains this badly…
“That sounds a lot like you are setting up some sort of… protection racket” – Martin
“Racket?” – Grim
“And if you think I or my woods might need protection, I advise you to forget it” – Martin
“Huh? Anyhow, you make poison, right?” – Grim
“What do you want poison for?”
“Oh – kill evil folk” – Grim, feeling on solid ground on this one
“And how will you define ‘evil’?” – Martin
“Easy! Borrox Witch-burner tell me” – Grim
“And who, pray, is Borrox Witch-burner?” – Martin
“He grumpy cleric. Likes kill evil kobolds. Even one good kobold. Me bring Alex and Borrox, explain ‘evil’ better” – Grim
“And who is Alex? Another witch-burner?” – Martin
“No! Alex great guy, Alex pretty!” – Grim
“Ohhhh…. Well, by all means bring them for a visit” – Martin
Though sensing the interview did not go as well as it could have, Grim cheerfully returns south to the fishing wharf. He suggests to ‘his’ fisherman there will be a big catch needed, lots of gold if fish are brought to the new settlers, but details need to be filled in. The fisherman certainly doesn’t dismiss the idea, so now it’s time to begin canvassing the hovels in Garrotten’s southern half.
About half of the hovels – say eight of 15 – are occupied, either by “originals” or by vagrants. They are less than enthused about Grim’s plans for the area [Grim Diplomacy 1], but well and truly intimidated [Intimidate 15].
The new kobold
Disappointed by the reception, but still pluckily trying to create jobs and wealth, Grim is now looking for the last piece he needs for Grim-town to work. He needs someone like Wretch, but who can write. Visions of lintel-boards reading “Grim’s lodgings/ Reasonable rates” fill Grim’s head. Striding up towards St. Cuthbert’s statue he sees Alex and Borrox off in the distance; and close to hand, a slim lad armored in scruffy leather and with a crossbow and short sword.
“Hey, you!” – Grim
“Errr, me?” – Jim
“You write? Got job for you” – Grim
“Errr, yeah I can write” – Jim
“Hey Alex! Found guy!” – Grim
Alex takes us up for a drink at the Gne’er-do-well Gnome, introduces everyone and Jim introduces himself, light on detail, but demonstrates his nimble-fingered skills. He agrees to join up. Grim explains how his plan is going. Alex and Borrox are a little concerned.
“Grim, there’s a thing they do in the cities – stop me if I’m wrong here Jim – where they go to a place and say ‘you pay us and your place stays safe.’ It’s called ‘protection.’” – Alex
“That protection? Sounds great! We do that?” – Grim
But it’s time to talk to more contacts about missions. Alex and Borrox will try to get to see Bernard the Chubby, the Castellan, and later call on Martin as Grim asks. Grim advances a gold coin to help grease palms at the keep. Meanwhile, Grim will show Jim around and make sure he’s equipped. First, Lydia’s General Store.
“Dis is Lydia, Jim. She fine figure of woman for her age” – Grim
Grim buys more oil and a replacement 10’ pole. He gives Jim three of the seven flasks purchased, to go with the three Jim already has. The talk turns to wider prospects. Grim finds that Lydia is completely against being involved in a lucrative supply contract to Grim-town. To rescue the situation, which seems to have taken a cold, hostile turn, Grim asks about more kobold raids.
“Not a raid, no, but there’s certainly been a kobold after the poultry. And it stole one of my blouses, too” – Lydia
Grim offers to check around the property and make sure everything is secure. As he expects, the kobold tracks are familiar: this is where Wretch got the linen and one of their meals.
“A dog went missing too, from a house down the road a little” – Lydia
Trying not to salivate too freely, Grim politely asks if there are other dogs guarding properties. Then it’s off to Krak’s where Jim spends most of his last remaining coins on a dagger, then to the fisher-wharf where he is introduced to the fisherman. Jim realizes his duties may extend a little further than simple group shares when Grim tells him he’ll be collecting fish and cooking them.
Grim chooses the same cottage as the previous night as the most convenient to fisher-wharf and healer, and settles in after patrolling the area looking hopefully around for cauldrons, fry-pans or signs of reconstruction-led business recovery.
Meanwhile, Alex attempts palm-greasing, but with meager success [Diplomacy 7]. Borrox steps in and offers to visit the Castellan – who is a devout follower of St. Cuthbert – in his capacity as cleric, which with a tip [and a re-roll on Diplomacy], gets them in to Bernard the Chubby, the keep scribe.
Bernard has some alarming gossip to share about a new protection racket that has sprung up. It seems a huge Half-Orc is offering “protection” and demanding “rent” off the southern cottagers. It’s not just the law that might crack down on this behavior: the Thieves’ Guild may also be putting out a hit. It’s possible the assassin that is rumored to be in town belongs to them.
Bernard explains that legal title in the cottages still exists and belongs to the original families. The Castellan would be looking at us purchasing the title, not squatting.
Bernard doesn’t let them in to see the Castellan, instead pocketing a healthy bribe [11gp all told] and agreeing to meet them later.
Bernard’s other leads, conveyed that night at the Gne’er-do-well Gnome:
- West of river: a sorcerer’s keep and Orcs. The band was strong enough to beat off the army some while ago.
- Elsewhere in the forest: a mixed band of humanoids commanded by King Chaos, supposedly a charismatic and evil Orc or Half-Orc.
- About a day or day-and-half’s march: a couple of resettled villages that the patrols no longer reach, which each have problems. Hommlet is offering bounties for clearing a ruin, while there is some unspecified trouble in Orlane.
The rest of Alex and Borrox’ day up until the interview with Bernard is spent fighting fires, as they move from the keep to the druid to the general store to assure everyone that “Grim-town” was an ill-conceived genuine project but will not be proceeding. Borrox also assures Martin that he won’t let Grim buy any poison, either.
The most disappointed (aside from Grim) is the fisherman, who assures Grim that it’s OK to think big.
The trickiest part of this fire-fighting is in regard to contacting the Thieves’ Guild. Martin has implied, and Lydia confirmed, that the Dog & Owlbear is the Guild’s front. Alex wants Grim to stump up “a pile of gold” to offer as a peace offering, but Grim is not keen on the idea.
“Fine, you’re on your own” – Alex, storming off uphill towards the keep
“We go keep? Great!” Grim relieved Alex is not forcing him to go to the Dog & Owlbear
“See, I’m storming off now. It doesn’t work when you follow me” – Alex
[At this point the GM chips in to point out that Alex’ NG alignment is being severely bent by this cold-blooded attitude.]
“Alex, I think you’re being a bit naïve. Jim, am I right thinking that if Grim is targeted by the Guild, they might ‘clean house’ as it were?” – Borrox
“Errr, if it comes to a Guild hit, we’ll all be in the same pickle” – Jim
With these promptings, we agree to all visit the Dog & Owlbear and make peace. We file in, Alex first, and assure the barkeep that “Grim-town” is a figment and no protection scheme is being mooted. Borrox, who has managed the conversation successfully, tips him heavily [4 gold over the odds] for the beer we buy and he’s happy enough it seems.
Later, while purchasing the ale Grim sends him for, Jim pays a private visit to the Dog & Owlbear and gathers a little info and “pays his respects,” arranging safe passage for himself if a hit does get called in on the group in spite of assurances given.
Plans for the Morrow
Over the stew-on-trencher that Alex and Borrox bring back from their interview with Bernard and the ale that Jim brings back from the Dog & Owlbear, we discuss the options for bounties. Alex and Borrox have yet to actually buy supplies from Lydia, and ask her what she knows of dangers; or ask what Martin knows about the various races in the forest. Alex excuses this lapse by reminding Grim they have been distracted by clearing up his mess. But we have what Bernard told us and what we know.
Grim is willing to “take a swipe” at Orcs and confident he can at least guide the group to the general area west of the river. He also says he is pretty sure to be able to trace Goblin tracks, since they have to live near enough to the Kobold lair to bother raiding them.
However, the idea of getting in too deep in a forest – where “a bit too far” may look like the Mogadishu fire-fight scene in Black Hawk Down – is a little unnerving, and we decide instead to head towards Hommlet, to see what the bounty is.
“And Alex, you be sure say ‘that bounty lot lower than Orlane folks offering’ when they tell us bounty!” – Grim