DGA2.03: A Natural Balance part three – the balance restored

The characters for this session:

Ya Nooskoi, L2 ranger

Pais Ullmann, L2 sorcerer

Luth Starag, L2 fighter

Lee, L1 rogue

Talgia village has embraced industry – and pollutants are pouring into the Alshon River, damaging Leischport’s fishing. And what better solution than four adventurers? The body count stands at a mere one as outside the tannery that – they suspect – is the source of much of the poison, the four sneak about like furtive thieves one early night.

One active and alert man in the place leaps down to investigate, and is stabbed and shot for his trouble. We now join our intrepid investigators as they stand poised for some breaking and entering…

Prudent retirement separates the combatants

Luth pushes open the small door he’s been standing ready at, sees only the glow of banked stoves… and shuts it again. The action seems to be still round the corner where Ya stands under the dock, aiming his next arrow. Ya steps left – river-ward – a little, brings the fleeing guard into line of sight, and this time his aim is true! The man grunts in pain, calls: “why are you shooting at me? I’m not your enemy!” and staggers completely out of Ya’s line of sight. Seconds later Ya hears the sound of the hunter’s gate. Seconds later Lee gains cover near his other three comrades, all of whom are now stooping under the dock.

[I’ve compressed quite a number of combat rounds here. Lots of ‘ready’ actions. But a good decision in the end.]

A few exchanges weighing up their options, and they hasten back north to the concealing woods, wondering why no hot pursuit occurs. Lee exchanges his wet bowstring for a spare and Pais uses his medical knowledge to help ease the burn on his hand (repeated washing) and watches are stood all night.

“That was probably Dryden I shot,” Ya muses. “He could have been the one watching the scene with the girl, too.”

The others recollect as best they can, what they know of Dryden. It is so little that talk turns to how best to get inside the tannery so as to literally witness toxic stuff being dumped.

Short rests are taken all round

A friendly face offers a jaunt back across the river

Dawn bathes the tannery’s river face in clear light as the day shift of serfs boats over and the night shift boats back.

Not long after that, a decent-size boat descends the river, high-prowed, sail raised to catch the dawn breeze.

“Must come from Schmitford,” Lee offers.

“We don’t want to stay here too long, there’s a chance the other hunters are being…” Ya begins, then Luth interrupts, stepping into view of the boat.

“Is it Luth?” comes the cry, as a well-dressed bard waves from the boat.

“And Ya? And, and Pais, my old friend, how nice to see you, come aboard!”

With glad cries of how’ve you been, you do get around, and so forth they wait as Orlin Swift uses the mystic power of being the paying passenger to have the boat crew anchor on the bank’s shallows and help the adventurers aboard.

Lee and Orlin are immediately introduced to one another, the anchor drawn up, and their bard friend explains his appearance:

“I was about to pass through on my way to Stiglehold where they’re having a splendid little convocation. Bards are welcome! And there’s money to be made – well – I dare say you’ve got something to tell me – shall we stop here then?”

Orlin has not stopped over at Talgia before, but recalls Sir Macon’s name. At the boat dock he leaps up, short cape showily swirling, and asks that he be allowed admittance to the countenance of the noble fief-holder.

O serf, how deep is your technical knowledge?

The four adventurers join the night-shift serfs at the ale-wife’s where ale and a good baked breakfast is to be had. The talk among the serfs has much to do with an attempted trespass and how they stood-to for a while, with cudgels, and how the foreman is expecting them to make the time up tomorrow.

Luth and Pais in particular join the chat (and it helps that Luth buys another round) and get more of an idea of the tannery hierarchy. Kapral is supported by a couple of chief tanners and their roles are specialized. Then there are quite large numbers of process workers. The serfs are there for the unskilled labor side.

Aside from covering the same ground as was covered with Blaine, the adventurers also confirm that byproduct is partly flushed away, that hunters have their own wing, that Kapral’s special process is kept away from the other workings.

One serf, weirdly eagle-eyed, has noticed the woven leather wristlet Luth is sporting and comments that, beggin’ yer pardon, Luth doesn’t seem the sort as to be wearin’ that.

He and his mate recollect that Dryden himself (as lives there), Dryden’s mate Cayden, and an unnamed but small, whippy and short-tempered chap as calls in from time to time all wear that wristlet. From the general description they can now put the name Cayden to the man whose looted body lies back east.

As Luth confirms for the third time that they do not get to see this mysterious secret process Kapral’s senior tanner and crew use to tan leather faster than normal, a young girl runs up to tell her papa that a beautiful singer is in town and he will sing by Osric’s monument.

Against declining interest Lee asks more directly, how many tanners live upstairs, and the serfs reckon there could be at least two dozen. Good thing I didn’t just start swording my way through, Luth thinks aloud.

At St. Osric’s Monument, Orlin is a hit

But no-one reacts because there’s a quick downing of remaining ale and departure to see the singer. Pais waits until the last man has left and leans in conspiratorially:

“Now let’s find ourselves a good vantage point and see who else is there.”

He and Ya follow immediately. But Lee and Luth are still considering whether to invade or infiltrate the tannery or spy on it… Luth finds the lack of tanners parading about outside suspicious. But they rise to their feet as well, and follow the serfs, these deep questions undecided.

Lee [spending his last Luck point] admires Orlin’s performance. He sees Beric nodding approvingly and heading back to his shrine. The only surreptitious onlookers are a couple of domestics from the keep, who probably ought to be working. The performance is welcomed by all.

By its end, Sir Macon himself has walked down from his keep and is ready to converse with the bard. Orlin is invited up for a late-morning meal, and Sir Macon extends the invitation to Pais.

The tannery at work

Luth checks in at the shrine. Beric asks him about Orlin’s bona fides. “He seemed too good to be true,” he enlarges. Beric is fully reassured on learning that Luth knows and can vouch for him.

After that, the swordsman walks in a riverward course south, opposite the tannery, and finds a city boat is docked. He receives a working demonstration [despite a truly awful Perception check] of the intricacies of loading bales of tanned hides, using a modern interior-built, extendable crane. At some point he becomes aware that a well-set-up type is watching him, from an upper window. With the benefit of daylight, he gauges that the low gates or doors he sees under the dock could house a skiff. And he also distinguishes the distant sound of hunters and their hounds leaving west. Finally, as the boat makes ready to leave, he has seen enough; notes the boat’s device as best he can; walks back to the ale-wife’s, where he finds and joins Lee and Ya in taking a

Long rest.

Leave to inspect the tannery

Inside the keep Pais enjoys both Sir Macon’s hospitality and Orlin’s exciting recollections of his rescue and tower-destruction. He uses that to try to learn as much as he can about Kapral. There’s nothing specific to be learnt. He begs Sir Macon’s leave to visit and tour the tannery. Sir Macon agrees but stipulates he may only bring one ‘thug’. Orlin immediately bargains that up to two.

And so having taken a short rest and enjoying Sir Macon’s wine, it is with two thugs and a local guide named Lee, that Pais hires the usual boatman to take them across. Ya has taken the precaution of putting money down for the local craftsmen Hevvy Fletcher and Smith to replenish his arrows.

Up from the lower ‘local’ dock they walk to the upper main dock, and a tanner emerges from cart-size gates and asks their business. Pais manner and assurance convinces him that they can come in to speak to Kapral over the midday meal. They pass through a number of sharp turns and a stair down then step up from the hot, busy galley to a pleasant, north-facing refectory. A large servery bar separates servers from several tanners, a few senior tanners, Kapral, and a couple of favored serfs – though the latter are seated off by themselves.

In the tanners’ refectory

Kapral rises, they are introduced, then the conversation goes downhill as Pais forces a fulsome handshake on him. Luth acts as coatholder [nat 20 on CHA] adding to Pais’ luster. Lee and keep a weather eye out on the room while Pais praises Kapral.

Who is having none of the praise – he immediately states that the secret process will stay secret. Instead, he invites them to sit and eat.

Lee Ya and then Luth become aware that a well-set-up man, blue-eyed, shoulder bandaged, is glaring at them along the length of the room. He appears to have a woven leather wristlet on his right wrist. Ya knows his as Bue-eyed Rudyard, or Dryden, or Rudyard Dryden, depending on company.

As they eat, Pais’ thugs examine the company. These are genuine tanners. Except for the bandaged man, who heads back out a servery door. The tanners also seem to resent Ya and Lee – and when Pais asks for an explanation, it is that it is a partition of labor and a partition of living habits.

Discouraged by the grudging hospitality, Pais mutters that he’s going to waive the tour. They swiftly, and sotto-voce, debate who to try “convincing” not to just dump waste. It has to be Kapral, they agree.

Bearding a tanner in his den is not dangerous, just awkward

Pais uses a lot of loooong words and Kapral glazes over to some extent, but soon realizes he’s being bullied. He reddens with embarrassment and anger, and protests. But Pais reads it more as embarrassment. He pushes his case, presenting it as a problem Kapral can solve. Or else. His words have visible impact.

As they leave, Dryden re-enters. And he’s armored.

“Guys… time to go,” Ya mutters loud enough for Luth to hear. Lee readies a tankard. Luth turns

“Am I to thank you for the loss of a comrade?” – Dryden, holding up his right wrist to display the wristlet.

“I have no idea what you mean my dear sir” – Pais

“Are you man enough to own up to it… no? I’ll know your faces” – Dryden, leaving.

“I wouldn’t want Dryden as an enemy. He’s a good friend… and a worse enemy” – Kapral

“Good. Let’s go, boss” – Luth

Sir Macon hears the expected bad news again

Away they go, and Pais reports to Sir Macon (after being hauled back, since he was about to wander off again) and summarizes the situation. He brings in the evidence (his own eyes have witnessed) of Lee’s skin-burn from the effluent. And then there’s the dumping the serfs mentioned. [Pais rolls it into a CHA check of 20]

“Damme” Sir Macon says once more, and promises to have a very strong word to Kapral and have the dumping ended. He donates a family ring to Pais. It is white gold.

“Be sure to report that things will be well in hand, by the time you reach Leischport.”

Discretion and rewards

Now, making sure they stick together, the four finish things up in Talgia. Ya pays the fletcher and smith and tops up to 40 arrows.

The comrades fear that Blue-eyed Rudyard will round up his whippy offsider and murder them on the way back to Leischport. So they take great precautions, looping well away from the river, down Elt Grove way, and hailing a fishing-boat to take them downriver.

It works!

At Stiglehold, they have the chance to hear the Chanting, part of the Harpers’ Convocation. Here Orlin is one important singer among a number of bards. At Midsummer, songs to the local saint dubbed Morninglord are sung, concluding the convocation. And with hope and new life returning to Talgia they find, by the time they arrive in Leischport, that their efforts are rewarded!

Ya: level 3, Conclave of the Deep Woods, Gloom stalker features plus general ranger advances. NB: The Conclave links Ya to refreshing spells without the direct blessing of the One True Faith. It may not be official rules but seems to fit how Ya’s player has played him.

Pais: level 3, adopts a L2 spell (TBA), and Twinned Spell and Heightened Spell as his metamagic features.

Luth: level 3, Battlemaster, adopts the maneuvers Feinting (BA), Parry (R), and Riposte (R). 

Lee: level 2, normal rogue feature Cunning Action for level 2.

This takes us to the 2-hour mark of the session. I mentally congratulate myself on not over-complicating the adventure despite the many tempting player ideas offered. And we begin the next adventure!

One comment

  1. One correction I need to make is that Pais only learns one new spell at 3rd level: so, given your request that he learns a disguise-type spell, he learns JUST ‘Alter Self’, not ‘Alter Self’ plus ‘Web’ (unless you’re willing to throw him a freebie🤩)

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