SB29: What price justice

The characters for this finale:

Barky, L6 southron

Edgar, L6 wizard, with Vert the cooshee

Sir Belmont, L6 paladin of Heironeous

Brother Thomas, L6 cleric of St Cuthbert

and Oswald, NPC L6 fighter

Attempting to finish off a Hextorite cell in Realmsgate without running foul of Hextorite-complicit Watchmen in the city proved a hurdle too high for Sir Belmont, brother Thomas, and southron Barky! All three bumble out into the arms of the Watch, are arrested, and securely locked away under a wall tower.

The trio not arrested – Oswald, Edgar, and Edgar’s large green cooshee Vert – are no further toward safety than a barn behind the Ostler’s Greeting.

It is deep night.

A straw’s width from disaster

Edgar clambers up to check the barn loft. It is traditional. Oswald piggy-backs Vert up and the three hope for rest and a careful walk to some place of shelter on the morrow.

It is not to be. Some would-be Tommy Lee Jones of a Watch NCO is audible, calling for a ‘hard target search’ of possible hiding places, even hen-coops! The trio wait it out. A pair of the Watch enter nervously. The trio wait it out. The Watch walk in past the first few horses. The trio wait it out. The Watchmen lose their nerve about midway, and decide there’s nothing hiding. Edgar mentally congratulates himself: that’s six levels worth of nerve, right there.

Vert settles down to watch as Edgar and Oswald relax. But very soon, he stiffens and points, waking Edgar [who makes a DC15 Spot]. Two more shapes have entered, but these have hooded lanterns and are clad in hooded cloaks. Edgar shifts as quietly as he can under the straw, drifts sand from his fingers and commands:

“Sleep!”

But his powers have waned, and neither thief slumps.

“Attack!”

Oswald leaps off the loft, finishes the few yards distance, and powers into [3-point Power Attack – and Oswald still has Bulls Strength] a short-sword stroke: the first man falls! The short-sword cuts back at the second man, who staggers: then as he tries to tumble clear Oswald stabs down and finishes him!

Vert leaps down as well, but the men are dead or dying. Edgar tosses Oswald’s pack down and climbs down, Oswald sweeps up the least-bloody cloak, each grabs a low-light lantern, and the three are ready to go!

That bug-out plan!

They go with at least half a plan. Although Edgar’s original idea was to appeal to Thomas’ temple, St. Cuthbert, probably by way of Pelor, that was more of a daylight-based plan. For now, he explains, they’ll make for the back of the Wizards Guild, with Pelor’s temple as a halfway target. They may be open all hours, like a mission, as he puts it. Their course will be slow, from alley to alley and back-lot to back-lot, using time up. It’s a long path, but only a couple of main roads lie across their path.

[The GM invites use of an appropriate skill, or INT as fall-back. Edgar has +6 on “reading a scene” using sense motive/innuendo/gather info and goes with that. His first roll is mediocre.]

As they walk across the first road, Edgar notices a man – probably a Watchman – paying heed. He signals to Oswald and turns back with Vert as though parting naturally. The ruse works. After a slow five-count [and a roll above 20] Edgar hurries across again and follows Vert to catch Oswald up.

Edgar re-briefs Oswald: If things go to custard, Oswald will run with Vert. The immediate destination will be Pelor. The back of the Wizards Guild is second and later.

The second road is a broad full intersection and has more eyes on it. [Edgar rolls under 10]

“‘Ere – you! Where you think yer goin’? Come ‘ere you!”

Edgar nods to Oswald and swings away. Oswald ducks into an alley then races on a different angle with Vert.

“That ‘un’s got a dog! Arter ‘im!”

Oswald and Vert take to their heels. Oswald has any amount of vitality and no armor to speak of. It is an uneven race and he leaves the puffing watch blasting his whistle futilely in the night.

Edgar meanwhile steps into deep shadow, swigs the potion of invisibility Lia of Commandery gave him months ago, and makes a beeline for Pelor’s temple. It is indeed open: he remains invisible and takes up the same pew Barky slept on.

Before long, Vert and Oswald enter. Edgar slides his foot forward so that Vert scents him and the three settle down. After checking with Oswald that all is well, Edgar walks about looking for brother Theo, the ex-criminal priest he knows here.

By dint of coming out of his invisibility and asking, Edgar succeeds in having Theo roused, and the priest hears the full story. Including the various factions hunting the fugitives! He leaves the trio to sleep, and sets off across the night. Things are falling into place!

This move across town to one of our few contacts, including the bug-out plan, worked so well I felt like a real winner! Despite Edgar remaining a fugitive…

No rest for the weary under the wall

Each of the three comrades, Belmont Barky and Thomas, are held in a separate, solid, stone cell, with a door that save for a small barred window is likewise very solid.

Every so often, a guard bangs something metallic against the bars, so that no sleep is possible. At first, Barky is sanguine on his chance for sleep despite that. Then he finds himself trying to figure out how often the clanging happens. Then he finds himself trying to work out of the guards have changed shifts. And as he abandons any hope of sleep, Belmont calls:

“Any chance you can get word to someone higher up than Keitel? We’ll speak with him, not with Keitel!”

This does not work at all.

But at length, there is a movement among the watch as of authority arriving. Thomas’ door is unlocked.

It is Keitel.

“Brother Thomas… I’ve been given a word… I will provide you and your companions your legal sidearm, provided you depart here directly and find a legal place to deposit your armor. Once you have lodgings, investigations will continue.”

This is an unexpectedly better and legal-sounding offer. Thomas looks at Keitel suspiciously:

“You’ve mentioned sidearms. What of our other weapons?”

“We’ll hold onto them until you have somewhere legal to put them” – Keitel

Thomas accepts and the same offer is made to Belmont. He too accepts. Keitel makes a further stipulation that adventurer packs may not be carried away either.

Though Barky can mutter about gift horses, he too accepts. But his sidearm is a dagger. He tries to recall what of the masterwork longsword he had at his saddle but fails. Belmont has his sword and Thomas his mace, so they are satisfied.

And with that, they are shown up and out onto the cobblestones of the boulevard. The tower door clangs shut. Across some fifty or so feet from them, between two tall stone buildings, a caped and masked figure waits, scimitar drawn!

[All three make good Spot checks]

“Look lively lads. I’m in just the right mood for this” – Thomas

The fatal struggle

Seeing no point in leaving the enemy to decide the pace of events, Barky rages, runs in an arc around the swordsman, and springs close at a point that makes it impossible for the latter to retreat into the alley!

Barky rips his dagger up, but without even bothering to use his shield, the swordsman shifts and the blade misses. Belmont charges, his sword coming clear in one movement and – shifting to a two-hand grip – lances the blade under the swordsman’s guard! [AC30] It’s a light cut, but his smirk is wiped off – this is the first time a physical attack has touched him. Thomas registers not only the swordsman’s likely identity, but [Spot of 25] a shadow up on the roof of the left-hand building. He warns the others: throws a Doom at the swordsman, which fails to work. The figure on the roof gestures and mutters, hurling a small bead of something.

[Will SV all round – this time no-one is slowed!]

The swordsman decides to focus on Barky, easily cutting past his lack of defense three times [39dmg].

And as the round ends we have established inits:

  • Barky
  • Belmont
  • Thomas
  • Spellcaster
  • Swordsman

Round 2: As the swordsman steps clear of Barky’s flurry of dagger-strikes, Belmont hammers his sword in past the man’s shield. Another light cut! He and Barky have now worked around opposite one another, though the swordsman does not seem unduly worried by it. Thomas closes with the group in the alley, hugging the left-hand building’s wall so as not to be in line of fire. He casts Bless. Belmont is struck by three arcane bolts [10dmg] and the swordsman deals him a terrible strike [crit, 28dmg] before turning back and cutting at Barky – but the southron steps aside.

Round 3: The swordsman lazily avoids Barky’s flurry and parries Belmont. Thomas has no spells left to burn for healing [which makes his decisions about Doom and Bless sub-optimal] so steps in close and swings! But the swordsman’s nimble footwork is up to the task and he misses. Three more Magic Missile bolts hammer Belmont [8dmg] and the paladin is unsteady [he is at 1hp] then the swordsman [11dmg] punches his blade-tip past Belmont’s gorget and arterial blood showers the alley as the paladin topples, his sword falling with a clang. The swordsman next cuts back at Barky [12 dmg]  then – seeing the hated livery of St Cuthbert – cuts finally at Thomas, but the cleric’s heavy armor stops the blow.

Round 4: Barky sees his comrade fall and that the swordsman is taking him lightly and his blood boils! He stabs up and comes in under the shield, ramming the blade into the swordsman’s arm. His next stab misses but he shifts to help Thomas flank. Thomas weighs up the chance of surviving attempting to orison Belmont while the swordsman is still able to dance around and decides against it. His mace seems to connect [AC22] but glances off whatever defensive field the swordsman has on him. Five illusory versions of the swordsman pop up around the fight! The swordsman cuts Barky [9dmg] and cuts twice at Thomas, and again heavy armor foils the scimitar.

Round 5: Perhaps confused, Barky stabs wildly, easily sidestepped. Thomas kneels, uses his off-hand to swipe up alley dirt, and “sows” the mess across most of the illusory figures. That confirms that the first figure is still the right one. In reply the swordsman hammers at Thomas three times, cutting twice past the armor [19dmg].

Round 6: Barky rips his next-last fireball gem off and drops it at ground zero. [Refl SV! Thomas makes it.] The swordsman is caught off-guard and howls with pain [13dmg] and Barky falls, his gear burning [but not the final fireball gem which makes its SV]! Thomas [6dmg] yells for the watch, still swinging and missing. Perhaps unnerved by Barky’s immolation the swordsman only cuts Thomas once [10dmg, he is at 13hp].

Round 7: Thomas steps back against the alley wall, still yelling, and fully defensive. “Out!” comes the call from the roof. What becomes of the caster Thomas cannot say, but the illusions blink out and the swordsman swigs a potion and becomes immaterial. And now the Watch responds.

Heironeous stands ready

Thomas hurries to provide an orison to each of his comrades. It is enough to save Barky but Belmont is beyond help.

“Belmont – decent chap, fairly straightforward” – GM, unintentionally giving Belmont his epitaph as he hands the Oswald sheet over for Belmont’s player to mind

In the spirit of practicality Thomas uses all his remaining orisons on Barky and by the time the Watch actually reaches the scene Barky is mobile [on 1hp I believe].

Thomas finishes reporting murder at the Watchtower and asks that the Watch carry Belmont’s body to the Heironeous chapterhouse. The Watch seems rather sheepish and does so. Thomas does not give them a hard time – he holds a grudge most against Keitel.

At the chapterhouse eight of the twelve templars are on guard, and admit them. After Gussie grives over Belmont the templars available, and the acting castellan Berenger, ask for details. And they still have prisoners from the Splinered Ram – one whom Belmont punched unconscious and the others Edgar Slept.

Thomas provides a full and graphic account and description. By dawn the templars are on a siege footing, awaiting Sir Beauchamp.

At the Pelor temple…

Edgar has a more confident air as he Oswald and Vert partake of the charity breakfast soup the next dawn. The rest has allowed him to relearn his spells! And Theo has been as good as his word, and Molly, of St. Cuthbert, is with them and ready to help.

Over soup, Theo tells of an attack on their comrades, outside the watchtower, by a dangerous swordsman. Edgar looks uneasily at Oswald. Does this mean the Quick Penny came brazenly into port here? That was exactly why he wanted to get back to Realmsgate direct from Cromore! But the circumstance of the prisoner taken there, and fear of the Watch in Realmsgate, made for other events: the aid of Heironeous was sought, taking at least two weeks extra.

The news gets worse. Apparently, one of the adventurers was killed!

“Barky you dumb fool! Why did you rush in!?” – Edgar

Molly takes up the story. St. Cuthbert is making enquiries now.

“Good! That’s what we hoped would happen. Uhhm, can we move to St. Cuthbert? I would feel more confident with the steel-jacketed walls of St Cuthbert around me. No offense to you Theo!”

“None taken.”

At St. Cuthbert, repercussions begin

FrS Athelred admits the trio but spends the first three minutes reprimanding them (well, principally Edgar) for what they have done to his town. Edgar has had to deal with ranting lecturers before and lets him talk his way out, then brings some facts into the discussion [making a 16 on Convince and adding an automatic +2 from Oswald and Molly]. Athelred slumps into his chair and tells them the Heironeous templars, last seen by Edgar and Oswald around the docks area, retired on their chapterhouse.

Edgar finally learns that it is Belmont, not Barky, who died!

Edgar urges Athelred to speak to the templars and ally with them, along with whoever rules this town, in a grand hunt.

Apparently this city of Realmsgate is ruled by a Governor. Edgar learns this and that St Cuthbert is likely to join in, as they move to the chapterhouse. They are not molested by Watch, and no-one else ambushes them.

Hands are clasped in reunion and a brief period of contemplation taken over the body. Edgar brings up the ship, but when Thomas seems about to ask for a hunt, urges a methodical top-down procedure. First get the Governor to agree, then harness the power of the temples to purge out the Council, the Watch, and so on down.

It’s surprising how little we remember about Sir Beauchamp. He is due in a few days and all that follows really only start from when he gets back. Except for questioning the prisoners, and that is our penultimate scene.

The truth revealed, and a foretelling

Edgar casts enhanced hypnotism on the prisoners, sorts out who is hypnotized, and not surprisingly the tough subject resists. Edgar next casts Suggestion at him and it works. The framework of the Suggestion is that honesty will be the best policy up until and including bearing testimony to the Governor. The Hextorite agrees.

This is Thresh. And he has much to reveal for he is one of the three Renegade Brothers. In short, all of the Hextorite and complicit agents in Realmsgate are revealed. As is the alter ego of the Quick Penny when in port here.

With the full force of Heironeous expected back within days the group, while drinking to Belmont’s memory, can expect things to improve in Realmsgate.

FrS Athelred sees his career terminal as his short-sighted view of law, which amounts nearly to willful blindness, is revealed. He vows to return to dungeon-bashing.

The governor, as Edgar hoped and lobbied for, does ally with Cuthbert and Heironeous, and those in the city that have nowhere to flee – such as Watch Lieutenant Keitel – are rounded up. Others flee. Law and justice are brought to Realmsgate. And in due time Sir Beauchamp may sponsor that assault on the pirate isle, with Realmsgate secure behind him!

At time of writing Belmont’s player is, understandably, uninterested in renewing the campaign. As I’ve already written, I am over 3rd edition. And, while I’ve enjoyed role-playing an inexperienced earnest and often overconfident Edgar, I don’t enjoy playing the wizard class. So I’m OK leaving this as the finale. And so, farewell from Slaver Bay!

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