DGA8.15: Grimmsgate, part seven – Duplicitous departures

The Long Roaders for this session

Cat, level 8 warlock;
Seck, level 8 rogue;
Phoenix, level 8 barbarian

The Long Roaders begin 65xp from level 9 and end on 60

Part One: Duplicity

Conspiracy and collusion: Jahia and village politics

Once back at Grimmsgate the singed, acid-burned, vomit-stricken heroes wash up and sleep the sleep of the just. It’s three hours after dawn when Cat and Seck make their way down to the inn’s common room. No-one at the bar, and Kenan and Rhall Half-lung are deep in earnest conversation at a central table. Over at the favorite shadowy corner Tastra and a cloaked scout are seated: Tastra at least is listening.

Seck heads her way. She looks him up and down – he’s wearing “civvies” – shifts to make it obvious there’s room beside her and nods.

Cat paces over to a handy place to eavesdrop, near the fire.

Perception checks for both to eavesdrop, Seck (distance) makes DC20 and Cat (near) DC15.

The topic is a second village meeting. Grimmsgate needs to decide what to do with Will and Narisse. Kenan, who stands to do a day’s brisk business off one, is reluctant. He’s worried about a division in the village.

Jark Kenan’s son appears, each adventurer orders a drink, and Cat begs a fresh slice of buttered bread. Over his drink, Seck murmurs to Tastra that he’d like some insight on her escape from werewolves.

“Let’s head over to the tailors,” she murmurs in reply, and they leave, the cloaked scout in tow. The weather is momentarily fine. As they near the tailor a woman bustles out, nods and smiles, and walks on up the row of “clean” trades.

Seck smells that same perfume. “Any idea who that is?” he asks. Tastra shrugs. Seck commits the stranger’s features to memory.

Later, Seck learns there’s no scandal, Laban and Lydia are consoling each other since their spouses had scandalously fled to the temple together (they died in the garden).

The trio head in, the apprentice bows them through, and the scout, upstairs, clambers up to the attic and fetches a couple of region maps. Tastra spreads the simpler of the two out on a table:

From Tastra’s point of view the Long Roaders will be very welcome to accompany the paladin’s party out past Mt Mourn as far as Hagsjaw, then head on to Wolf. But if they want to take a more direct, overland route, they should cross Harkin’s Race here, and the Bittercreek below Lake Urden. Once they cut the Ivywent trail it’s due north to Wolf. Like her, Seck is inclined to go with the known trail. Faster, if horses can definitely use it. At his urging Tastra laughingly recalls her terrifying escape from the werewolves.

In the taproom, Cat continues to listen. Kenan is guessing that Jahia will leave the village defenseless if the verdict goes against her own view. Rhall isn’t second-guessing or opposing Kenan’s view, but has no good suggestion on how to swing the angry half of the village over.

The Long Roaders saved Ullin and returned two good-for-nothings but Ben Tanner’s son is long dead, the stirge victim found long since by the scouts. The good-for-nothings will vote the way their linener wives tell them. Renton Thatcher, Gavin’s pop and one of the pair rescued from the crypts, will vote in favor of mercy. Runa, Jay Butcher’s wife, who was rescued along with Renton, may also vote that way, or vote along with her husband, a swing vote.

Omar Alchemick enters, looks about as though expecting to see Cat, and makes his way over. He leans a boot up on the hearth and the two confabulate.

Omar reminds Cat about the Windler House deal. (Half-shares in an expedition.) Cat promises to discuss it with the lads. As Omar leaves Cat muses that this is beginning to look like a good time to grab the door-take and hit the trail running. He catches Rhall saying his farewell to Kenan, intending to head to report to Jahia, and follows the priest out.

Seck leaves Laban’s in time to see Cat’s departing back. He swiftly catches his comrade up.

Ahead of them Rhall clatters upstairs and calls “Sister!” but hearing no reply walks on and enters Jahia’s HQ. The pair of Long Roaders enter in time to catch Gwen’s disappointed pout at the sight of Rhall: she brightens and holds up twin victory signals at the newcomers: whistles up Heather (the ex-heretic) and tells her to inform Jahia of visitors.

As they wait Debra (teaching sister) and Ruth (priestess) arrive. “There’s a lot of clean-up work after you chaps have been through,” the latter says cheerily, turning down her cuffs again. Then the clank of full plate signals Jahia’s approach. The paladin looks around carefully, judging her audience, then makes her way to the head of table.

During the meeting that follows Jahia moves quickly from her original position of defending Grimmsgate as a good FOB to severing ties with it. There’s no telling whether she plans to live off the land, or link with Ravenreach down the Bittercreek, or some third idea, but the upshot is that she turns to Cat and Seck and says:

“I’m going to impose on you again, I’m afraid.”

Jahia’s plan: Since it’s now fairly certain that the village meeting will vote to convict Will, Rhall is to shepherd the vote to a call for an inquisitor. Jahia won’t appear. The Long Roaders will carry a letter north to deliver at Scorton, for forwarding on to the Inquisition. Meanwhile, Will will mysteriously disappear from his cellar prison. He’ll be stowed away in some sort of transport. And since there’s no point leaving Narisse about for the inquisitor to make an example of, she can serve her sentence by helping guard the transport.

Cat heads down to the cells and meanwhile Sr Ruth asks Seck if he’s had any further thought about a senior cleric. “I have,” Seck answers, “huge calves, weather-beaten, wanders around… the name will come to me.” The sisters look bemused but nothing about the description reminds them of a specific person.

Debra Ruth and Heather leave at this point, and Rhall excuses himself with a clumsy lie and, throat parched, heads back to the inn.

Meanwhile down at the cells Cat tells Will (who seems unrepentant, or more accurately fake-repentant) about his good fortune and then tells Narisse of her fate. She agrees readily. Cat frees her and – stretching as though finding the cell cramped – she heads back up with Cat.

They step into a Zone Jahia has readied for her conversation with Narisse. The thug sniffs the air, still faint-smelling of Rhall’s breath. Gwen slides a flask over, Narisse sips and smacks her lips.

Narisse, who doesn’t want to begin from scratch with a new gang, agrees to perform her community service on the road. While she’s under the Zone the Long Roaders get her to repeat what she knows of Bogdan’s gang.

Finally, Gwen re-summarizes her spying efforts from the eyes planted. Nothing conclusive about an ogre, so it may be nocturnal; and over at the great tree and Wolf hamlet, Bogdan’s gang is connected there and werewolves – faction unknown – live there. As for the farthest one, she believes she’s seen a bit of a giant but nothing conclusive.

Phoenix and fetchquests

Miralda recruits Phoenix fresh from the bath. Since he has rescued two poor souls that need care, he needs to follow through and fetch nursing materials. And since one material is herbs, go get Tastra to help.

This turns out to be super-easy. Tastra is rested and ready for a stretch. With a hunting bow and quiver of barbed arrows, she is ready. They find the mossy remedy quite easily (two pairs of eyes and one competent with herblore) and spend most of the middle day on minor fetchquests about the village.

“It looks as though we’ll be kicked out soon,” Phoenix mentions. “I care not,” Tastra snorts. They discuss plans, Tastra is surprised to hear Phoenix would like to head back to Mooregate. “I thought you’d be in for the kill,” she comments. Yes, he wants that too.

Parido and the plan

Seck has been delegated to recruit Parido Pantro, peddler extraordinaire. Again this is super easy, though initially Parido assumes Seck is across the bargain he began proposing the other night.

The gaudy merchant’s personality dominates the room briefly but he soon succumbs to Jahia and answers her politely.

At this point Seck catches the sound of Brecbry’s footsteps out in the passage. He pops out and leaves her no choice but to join the meeting. Brecbry receives the status update with equanimity and begins planning her next maneuver.

Parido outlines his ambition to travel to Hagsjaw but Jahia nixes this. She “rather thinks” he would like to head back to Mooregate and sweetens the pot with a gem. He is brought in on the plan to smuggle Will in a compartment of his wagon.

A possible route south-east to Schmitford is conned but the telling factor with that option is that they know the Long Roaders well there.

Jahia (expecting a verdict) sets out to pen a letter to the Inquisition as the others leave to begin their own preparations.

The horses are glad of the attention – the weather has prevented them getting more than a short walk – and Phoenix is updated on the plan – or more accurately, a version of the plan that doesn’t include anything vital.

Grimmsgate’s decision

It turns out that Rhall’s return to the taproom was the signal for Kenan to begin assembling folk. Miralda and her patients don’t vote. The village vote splits as predicted, with the majority wanting some retribution. Will is scapegoated for pretty much everything. Rhall pulls out a startlingly good counter-argument and nearly wins them over, but not quite.

I use a Cortex Prime technique for rolling a DC and get 18 on 4d6 (hard). Rhall has Persuasion and gets the same. But as this is a contest he has to beat 18.

Parido plays his role to the hilt, and the village has no reason to doubt that since the three Long Roaders available are delivering the letter calling an inquisitor, Parido has taken the chance to gain an escort to Scorton as a favor. The mule is hitched and Cat uses his power of calling Invisibility to smuggle Will into the cart. Micah Sharp the pudgy little grosser seems far more upset over losing this flamboyant peddler than he was over losing his wife in the temple massacre.

There seems no reason to delay waiting for someone to happen to check Will’s cell, so off they go!

XP: lvl9-62

Part Two: Departures

The majority of the remains of the day is wet. Phoenix has purchased a wolfskin cloak, adequate for the purpose. Narisse, who has no mount of course, sits beside Parido. She is in possession of Will’s weapons, and has her own armor. The Long Roaders take it easy on their own mounts.

By nightfall the party order is: Cat on Bodybag, Phoenix on Blau, the mule and wagon, then Seck on Rott. Seck’s lantern bobs at the back of the wagon.

In the small hours, approaching a low bluff to the left, Seck hears the whizz of arrows. He yells the warning and direction as the shafts slam into Bodybag and Blau.

Perception all round, Seck clears DC25 and can tell there are two war-bow archers.

Inits: Seck/Phoenix, Hobgoblin warriors, Cat, Hobgoblin mage, Hobgoblin archers.

Surprise round contd.: Cat feels a confusing cloud over his mind. He remains still as a pair of warriors rush them from the left!

Two more arrows are loosed and Blau crumples. Phoenix’ foot is caught under!

Phoenix gets a middling DC10, had he not declared himself heavily armored I might have ruled him as clear. I guess I have tough standards for tier 2!

The warriors finish their rush, one chops at Narisse but the other merely cuts down at Phoenix, foiled by his Shield reaction.

Round 1: Seck slides off Rott, slapping her away, and sneaks into the brush around the nearest warrior and towards the bluff. Phoenix rages, kicks free (STR: Athletics with advantage) and rises, chopping his opponent down with two strokes from Mocair despite the lack of light.

We established for the order of march that the lantern is blocked by the cart, meaning Cat has perfect vision up in front.

The other warrior facing Narisse and Parido chops twice more and Narisse finishes paying for her crimes the hard way!

Cat makes his SV. A roiling cloud appears above the area and a great flash of sheet lighting burns across every person and beast except Seck and Rott!

Bodybag, Blau, the mule, and Narisse are dead. Cat, Phoenix, Pantro and the second warrior are injured. Will makes his SV and is on 2hp.

As a reaction Cat Misty Steps up to the bluff, appearing in concealing foliage. The nearest archer is just behind him and the mage is to his left. Finally the archers, beginning to run out of targets, miss.

Round 2: Seck works his way towards the bluff and hurls Maelsauga up at the nearest (the one furthest from Cat). The Sneak shot slams into the hefty hobgoblin under his chin and with a strangled scream he plummets off the bluff. Phoenix shifts carefully over the tangle of harness and cuts the injured warrior down, then eases into the undergrowth, using his Totem Dash for a long run forward, ending in cover at a tree growing out of its face.

Cat draws a Shadow Blade out of his pact and hurls it at the mage. He screams with pain and loses concentration on whatever it is that he’s operating. He uses Expeditious Retreat to get away!

Behind Cat the other archer drops his warbow, draws a broad-bladed dagger, and leaps head-first at Phoenix! His lusty battlecry fills the air: then he bounces off Phoenix’ Shield and hits the ground.

Round 3: Seck hears the Retreat and races parallel to the bluff. Phoenix cuts at the archer, who grins at the glorious death he’s being granted.

Seck makes DC20 on Perception to follow the course of the mage. At some stage later he also makes a DC20 Stealth and is able to ambush the mage. Who survives! And after taking a 5d6 Burning Hands Seck finishes the job.

Meanwhile Cat details Dis off to track the mage, and begins packing up and assessing the damage. He clasps his head in frustration and sorrow finding Bodybag is beyond help. With a sigh he begins pulling the saddle and tack off. Phoenix joins him.

Parido mourns the blood on the bench more than the loss of Narisse. The trio callously tip her body into the ditch along with the other dead. Parido mutters about making up some losses and loots the solid, well-kept armor and weapons of the hobgoblins.

Loot: 34 gold coin, a crude sketch map, an amulet or token similar to a guild allegiance token worn under the mage’s shirt.

“Will, this is where you mysteriously escape! Because she has been so thoughtful of you, wear this in honor of your redeemer Jahia,” says Cat, handing him the Hat of Disguise.

“And before you piss off completely boy, take this with you,” Seck adds, tossing a standard Healing potion over.

“Thanks masters! Look me up if you ever come to Odill, or Tarfondom: I’ll be the Crime Lord! Hahahahahaa!”

With a flash of gleaming fangs the rascally Tiefling is gone. (He does sneak back soon after to loot his own gear back off Narisse’s corpse.)

Scorton

Phoenix gentles Rott into the harness and the horse finishes the journey to Scorton pulling the wagon. They have still made good time, and arrive not long after dawn sees the town gates opening.

Scorton is a fairly typical middle-duchy townlet or large village, with a decent timber-topped ditched wall, a decent guild structure, council hall and temple, and two inns. The gate guards observe their Sapphire guild tokens, observe an obvious peddler with wagon, and wave them in.

The north-most inn, the SoloRidge, is significantly the better of the two, so that’s where they check in.

“The stables have some horses and donkeys for sale, I believe I can bargain there,” Parido says ebulliently. Indeed the architecture of the SoloRidge Inn is very similar to the nearby stables.

While the staff aren’t Coasters there’s a homely feel about the place to Phoenix. Kids are running about or helping, there’s a couple of extra aunties about, and some of the decoration woven above each window has a familiar feel.

Using the gold change-in-hand from the loot they vouch for a private chamber to rest and dry gear in, get their boots cleaned, and sip decent wine lounging about on settees.

A couple of half-dozing hours later, Seck suddenly looks up:

“Lafayer!”

During the restful day Cat lounges off to buy a horse. Phoenix has assured him that he can walk as fast as any horse. After some bargaining Cat buys an old mare that he names Gray Lady.

It’s time for a final farewell to Parido. “Unless you want a manager for your warehouse,” he hints broadly.

Bargaining Time! Both NPC and Cat roll a nat 20 on Persuasion! They settle on a mid-rank 500 gold coin. Cat pays on behalf of all four Long Roaders and temporarily drops a Wealth Pool Tier. Once Phoenix and Seck reimburse him, his tier (6d6) is restored.

After a final shopping order-out the Long Roaders pack away the potions and saddle up. Pushing through the night again, they arrive at Grimmsgate in a wet dawn.

Phoenix has one level of “travel” exhaustion and needs a short rest to recoup.

Jahia has already knocked the dust of the village off her feet and has decamped, with all her party, for the next challenge. And as the Long Roaders decide whether to cross the Race and head across rough country, or stay on the west bank and follow Jahia, the session ends.

XP: lvl9-60

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