SB25: The trail to the ruined keep

Characters for this session:

Thomas, L6 cleric of St Cuthbert

Edgar, L6 wizard

and Oswald, NPC L6 fighter

ably assisted by 

Vert the cooshee

and Hingmund, hireling groom

Our heroes have completed their Guffinfetch quest in Realmsgate, provincial capital. In the cityport they learn that Hextorite raids from the sea are a danger. And that all is not well with the underworld – a heavy-handed action against the normalized thieves guild has resulted in real thugs and racketeers. Thomas receives an invitation from his superior in the city.

Cuthbert has a task for idle hands

Thomas is shown to Fr Sup Athelred’s chambers, knocks, and Athelred opens the door. The Father Superior is in off-duty clothes, but the conversation is all business.

  1.  Yes, that was poison on the arrow. But curiously enough, it would only render an adult unconscious.
  2. Are Thomas’ comrades sound? Mostly sound… hmmm.
  3. Some interesting information has come in. Mysterious lights have been spotted from an old ruined tower east, set on a crumbling peninsula… pop out there will you?

 

Where is everybody?

Agreeing to act on that as soon as possible, Thomas walks back across town. He finds most of the company out, except for Edgar who is deep in transcribing a spell. [This is day 3 of learning dispel magic]

Earlier in the day: Edgar suggests that Barky and Oswald use their early morning to good purpose, by investigating the House of Many Doors – getting definite directions, the lay of the land, and perhaps finding out from a local deliveryman what the setup is.

Thomas wanders about, finding that only Gussie is about. Apparently Sir Belmont is at his chapter house, and Oswald and Barky are “about the town” dressed in their better clothes. Edgar, Gussie suggests, may have more to say on this.

 

An old friend is a bard, yes really

Thomas cools his heels over a small beer.

“This is boring… I want to break something… or at least shout at someone,” he muses, then is interrupted by a voice carrying effortlessly from the common room doorway.

“By the gawds! You didn’t even bother to look me up!”

It is Bertran, the bard they owe most of their fame to.

“Well! Bertran! Delighted to see you!”

“Delighted to see you too… I’ve been dining out on you, pretty much.”

“Most of the lads are out. Edgar’s upstairs immersed in a spell book… I’m sure he’ll be down eventually, the alternative being death.”

“So, how’d you come… by sea?”

Bertran listens to Thomas’ coherent narrative. His interest is caught at Thomas’ bewailing the two “tinkers” that got away. He’s seen more tinkers on the road this year… He notes the names the party was given.

Thomas broaches the “oath of the ram” and the circumstances between tinkers and slavers in which it arose. Bertran has no better idea than he, save that it could be or should be an object, not a god.

 

Who better than a bard for information?

Thomas knocks at Edgar’s door-frame and Edgar turns to see Bertran behind Thomas’ shoulder. Their reunion is warm, Bertran marvels at Vert’s size, and invites the pair downtown to a good eatery across from the Ox-market shambles.

As to the tinkers, all Edgar has to add is that they could not be detected as evil. The talk turns to the fight in the Ostler’s Greeting. And the strangely inaccurate arrows. Thomas now updates Edgar on the poison on the arrows.

“They wanted to capture me!” Edgar exclaims, still sure the arrows were aimed at him.

“It is quite the mystery,” Bertran agrees, “I can look into the ram thing…”

“You know, since you are here, perhaps you could ask around…” Edgar states. “I dare say bards don’t automatically generate their own revenue…”

The brief (paid for with 70 silver pieces) is for Bertran to see if he can find out about a caster that uses an owl familiar, and an archer that prefers sleeping poison. The thugs weren’t hired, so they may be associates.

“You wouldn’t know any rumor about a ruined keep on a peninsula to the east, would you?” Thomas asks. He has to explain to both of them:

“You may remember I guessed Father Athelred would find something for us out of town, so we won’t be a pain in his ass,” Thomas adds, seeming to not bear any grudge over this. “An informant says smugglers or the like are using the keep tower as a signal light.”

Bertran can only provide the general layout of the land that way. A small village named Cromore, north of the peninsula, would be the only place worth staying. He recommends the Drunken Cockatrice.

[At this point, half an hour in, we learn that player D won’t be making it doe to illness. The GM decides we’ll push on and stop at the point it seems best.]

Edgar wonders if low-level adventurers might be found around Cromore. But no, apparently it is not the edge of adventure, just a sleepy rural town.

 

Let’s move east!

The trio kick around the naval threat and whether Commandery has been compromised. Thomas is pessimistic, Edgar optimistic.

 

But by this time Edgar has picked up on Thomas’ “I wanna hit something” vibe and suggests they just head out east themselves. The other three should head out later, more incognito. They bid a cheery farewell to Bertran, and bustle back to the Ostler’s Greeting to see about hiring or buying mounts.

 

The common room of the First Welcome, just by North Gate, is crowded and redolent of travelers, beasts, and the townsfolk that make their living off both. Here, groom Hingmund looks up as a young well-dressed townsman – though with the sunburn of travel on him – enters and offers two silvers to be introduced to him. Hingmund claims the silvers with a grin, and learns that Edgar, an adventurer, wants a steady mount and a groom to travel east.

“A placid pony that doesn’t mind someone that can only sit on a saddle,” Edgar elaborates. “And I think my companion will be wanting a mount too.”

Sure enough, Thomas has approached Gussie for Belmont’s spare, and has been rejected, and directed to this very place. He now arrives. For him, Hingmund advises a sturdy palfrey.

The pair fork over 100 gold coins, a fortune, but given their urgency they are pleased with the results. Hingmund has soon brought himself and ready mounts up to the Ostler’s Greeting.

 

Realmsgate to Cromore

By some fortune, possibly ill, Oswald arrives at the Ostler’s Greeting to find Thomas fully-armored and readying to go. Shall he come too? Yes he shall. He hastens upstairs to gather his armor. This arrangement now relies on Gussie to pass on information (including anything Bertran brings) to Barky and Belmont. Edgar briefs Gussie quite carefully, welcomes the assurance that the varlet will handle the ostlery tab, broaches the subject of finding a map of the area, and leaves with a slightly troubled mind.

 

This fore party is open, making no secret that they are adventurers. They leave by the north gate. Were anyone stood high on the wall or stronghold, and watching, they would see the foursome leave the road about a mile beyond the gate and head east.

 

During the journey Edgar outlines his plan: to use Rope Trick again, at a point or points where the trail between Cromore and the tower can be watched.

 

The Drunken Cockatrice is accommodating

The four travel steadily on, into the night, and arrive at Cromore, an unwalled village on a slight dominance. Vert is happy and still full of energy, but Edgar is very stiff from unfamiliar riding! One of the few lights visible pairs with smell of cooking: it is the Drunken Cockatrice. (There’s another, the Cask and Flagon.) Edgar checks that they are all happy with the Cockatrice. They tether at the hitching-rail and the three adventurers head in.

[Accommodation: after a confusing exchange, it totals up to 113sp]

Edgar engages locals in conversation while Oswald chats up landlady Glarian. Thomas listens to Edgar’s line of questions, and chips in where needed. It seems Cromore is too far from the coast, and the coast too steep, for any raiders to have troubled them. They’ve heard of slaver raids, but not lost anyone themselves. Is that suspicious? Well, yes, but there’s not much more to be learnt from conversation. The subject of tinkers also reveals nothing the pair don’t already know, other than the tinkers moving through most likely stock the same ribbon that Evart and Fimgard did. Reminding Oswald that they will want a start at crack of dawn, Edgar and Vert head up to Edgar’s room.

Thomas has retired even before this, and has pieces of armor laid about as makeshift alarms.

 

The trail to the ruined keep

Edgar (and Vert) are up at crack of dawn and making sure of a breakfast. Thomas finishes his devotion and joins them. Eventually Glarian hunts up Oswald – possibly in her own bedchamber – and he dons armor while stuffing breakfast in his mouth. Hingmund brings the mounts.

Weather, as far as can be told, bids foul. The trail south offers little in the way of possible watch-points, and the four make their way through the forest north of the peninsula without let. Hingmund seems to be aware of where the forest gives out, and halts the party. The three adventurers head forward, afoot. Hingmund moves the mounts back into good safety.

On the forest’s southern fringe, the ruin is clearly visible. The peninsula is smaller than they imagined – more a simple point than peninsula – and anyone moving out of the forest would immediately be visible from the ruined tower’s top. There are plenty of gaps in the old keep’s defenses, though the seaward side seems to be less ruinous.

This topography changes the imagined task dramatically. Even had Barky been available, there is no dead ground, and no clumps of foliage. At this point, Thomas is ready to launch a frontal assault. Edgar prefers to sit and watch, using Rope Trick. But first, what else can be learned?

Staying within the forest fringe, Edgar checks around in case the trail they have used, or some nearby trail, has evidence of who might be using the tower. [Edgar can’t track, but isn’t looking for exact information – just things like broken branches, hoof-prints or hobnail marks. He makes 20+ on survival/nature] He learns only that the trail has had some use.

Edgar’s sturdy rope is ensorcelled and up they climb (and Oswald hauls Vert up after them) into the mysterious Rope Trick dimension. From here, the man on watch has to lie flat, feet up and head down, with an eye out along the trail to the tower.

I should add, this is nearly the last and worst option canvassed. Only Thomas’ idea of a frontal assault seems worse. Edgar wants to scout the tower but has no masking spells, and the ground is unexpectedly very open and right under the tower’s view. Hence the tracking attempt – surely there’s something to be learned!

What’s learned is that there are indeed people – or humanoids – in the tower.

Six hours pass, taking the time to dusk. After a comfort break and check-in with Hingmund, it’s time for the night shift. Edgar uses his Pearl of Power to re-cast the Rope Trick and up they go again. [The first time Edgar has used the Pearl and much less “special” than I wanted to make it.]

What’s learned is that there is indeed some kind of light at the tower.

 

And with that, the trio whistle up Hingmund and begin the pre-dawn trek back to Cromore.

 

Realmsgate matters:

  1. Prior to the party’s arrival in Realmsgate, the Olidammara order/Thieves Guild was purged, by St. Cuthbert’s order.
  2. The morning after their arrival in Realmsgate, the party is attacked by forces including a spellcaster and a poison-user. The law blames ‘out of towners.’
  3. Athelred, Father Superior of St. Cuthbert’s order in Realmsgate, seems too well-satisfied about how police-work is being conducted. 
  4. Sister Molly, of the same order, has an alternative view, though she won’t completely open her mind about it. Instead, she brings the party to Theo, of the Pelorites, who shares information about organised crime.
  5. Later, Athelred raises a mission that removes Thomas from Realmsgate.

Threads sticking from this Realmsgate information:

  1. Barky has information concerning the protection racket Theo mentioned.
  2. Oswald and Barky have information about the House of Many Doors, where, Theo implies, girls are being forced to work.
  3. Bertran the bard has taken Edgar’s commission to gather information about the attackers, in particular.

Threads currently being followed:

  1. A ruined keep east of Realmsgate may be a haven for smugglers or slavers. Investigate!

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