TI4.04 part one: Blood on Sarnas Cathedral steps

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools

Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background

Jotunn, L6 warrior, hunter background and tracking talent

Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background

The four Restorers are in Sarnas, major city of the Sarnmark, and have entree to the library, reputedly their best chance to find solid leads on the whereabouts of Ikkutas. But a couple of peculiar murders in the vicinity of the Abbey grounds mean their guard is up. 

Jotunn fills in the time

Jotunn has successfully kept Elisha from following the others. Now, towards evening, he arrives back at the Porters Arms for dinner. Word of mouth passes to him:

“We’ve all gone out to the Drunken Nixie – Cheers! PS we may have lead on the weird killer”

Having thrown back the last of the ale, he hastens towards the park and finds the Drunken Nixie. His comrades are no longer there. He’s moments away from a decent meal when he hears patrons discussing soldiers patrolling the Abbey.

“Excuse me! Did you say soldiers patrolling?”

[DAROs to L3 CHR]

The youngster spots him as one of the Restorers and offers to take him there. Explaining, as they hasten through the darkened streets, that its some of the garrison. They are just in time! A small patrol, of four pikemen and two lantern-bearing swordsmen, are just headed away.

The youngster leaves without asking for a tip, leaving Jotunn visible to the patrol.

“Good evening!”

“He’s the dwarf ‘at was with Elisha,” one of the soldiers mutters to the others

[L3 LK SR, he makes L4]

The leader looks familiar. Jotunn recalls meeting him somewhere around Fingold, serving the west faction.

“You look familiar?”

“You want on this patrol? Looking for your friend?”

This is Musger, a sergeant once more.

As they set off, one of the pikemen explains:

“Two of our men have been killed around here – we aim ta see that don’t happen agin!”

It’s about a twenty-minute walk, at brisk soldier pace, through dark spaces and patches of window-light. Even the main street they use for most of the walk depends for its light on the occasional door-lamp. The weather remains chill and slightly misty, threatening rain.

After crossing what Jotunn now knows is the main street between palace and bridge, Musger decides to forge straight on for the Abbey grounds:

“The last killing was bridge-side. Let’s cover that ground, see what we might see.”

As the patrol progresses alongside the Merchant Guild, the enormous bulk of the Cathedral blocks out the few visible stars on the left horizon. Ahead, three dimly-seen stubby forms seem to be snooping about…

 

The company unites – but where’s the mystery?

After seeing a couple of people that may be a little hinky, Cauleigh Fennec and Crompton decide to do a late-late evening patrol, counter-clockwise around the grounds. And Crompton glimpses a pallid figure, half-seen in the gloom and evening mist, near one of the mausoleums.

But before they can run across the cemetery in pursuit, bobbing lanterns are to be seen, approaching them clockwise. And, after challenges and recognition, that unites Jotunn with his comrades. They explain to one another. But by this time, Crompton is no longer even sure what he saw.

With the aid of lanterns bobbing around the dwarves can see that one of the graves is open. Cauleigh’s torch-cube beams its powerful white beam into a recently-disinterred grave. There’s no sign of the body. Crompton confirms this is the site where he saw that bobbing bushy head.

As they consider reasons and necromancers, Sgt Musger reintroduces himself. As for why he’s now working here:

“It’s a matter of a professional seeking professional employment – Fingold went all amateur.”

He invites them all to finish the patrol, and offers to meet and talk over old times. The patrol is the same type of armed men that were murdered, and as Musger confirms (using the same words his pikeman did earlier) they are here because of the murders.

Their recollections have come up with the name of Osusk, necromancer (or ‘necromantier’ Musger says) and the sergeant makes a note. As for the pallid figure, Fennec seems to think it must have been an acolyte, based on nothing in particular, though Crompton, the only one to meet an acolyte, does agree he was pale.

“What building did you think it went into?” Cauleigh asks.

 

An unofficial suggestion

Immediately before them, looking west from the grave, is a large solemn building proudly bearing the legend, ‘Mausoleum of Heroes.’ Crompton is inclined to think it may be this one. But the gate seems close-bolted, and when a soldier rattles the gate it stays that way. Without his toolkit, Crompton can’t tell if the lock is rigged. And he’s beginning to second-guess himself. He looks about.

Looking south there is at least one other building. And there is an easy path from the cemetery lawn, across a robbed wall, to the clergy-house. Crompton mentions the suspicious acolyte from his visit.

“We can’t investigate… officially…” Musger comments significantly, and gestures Crompton aside.

“If you were to talk to the priest” – he breaks off and gets the name from one of his men – “If you were to speak to a chap named Severin, chief acolyte, and were to get a strong suspicion of wrongdoing, we could investigate.”

 

A second disturbed grave

His men are literally kicking their heels and they now fan out and walk right into the inner grounds. The dwarves follow them past a Mausoleum of Barons, and beyond inside the cloister past the Bishop’s Palace, a well-lit and imposing building separate from the Cathedral, and to an inner cemetery with much more imposing memorial stones. And here, another disturbed grave.

Fennec picks up a strip of cloth at the site. Judging from it, the body was swaddled quite some time ago.

“I’m thinking each of the graves has a different reason to be opened,” Fennec judges.

“We need to re-tool and come back, if we turn up nothing so be it, but we shouldn’t just leave it at this,” Cauleigh suggests.

“It might pay for one of us to wait here,” Jotunn begins but Fennec quickly points out that danger is afoot now, and Cauleigh fills him in about the mystery woman and the thug-type, seen at the Drunken Nixie.

A scud of rain persuades the soldiers they’ve done as much as they can. As they file out one of them rattles the gates of the second mausoleum: they too seem solidly locked.

“We’ll just say we’re working for the watch,” Cauleigh proposes but Musger corrects him: the garrison is not the town watch. This is an unofficial patrol – which is why they can’t do things officially. He leaves with a casual salute and an offer to catch up, either at the Jealous Hag alchemist, or the Old Alehouse at the South Gate.

 

Gearing up and a diversion

They pass from the workmanlike Abbey area to the more boisterous Upper Harbour. Nighttime entertainments and cheery shouts fill the damp, unlit streets. The dwarves mostly have things to get out of lockup, now Jotunn is back with them. They withdraw (and deposit) chosen gear and head back to the Porters Arms to change into workaday clothes.

Jotunn gives a moan of pain when one of the servants tells them “we din’t wait supper” but discovers the usual breakfast leftovers and climbs into them.

They head through a scud of rain, beating into their faces and make their way around towards the Abbey grounds.

“What about that suspiciously-behaving cleric?” Fennec asks, but as it’s the middle of the night, and they are geared for action, the idea of knocking up the clergy-house is voted down.

But before they get quite to within sight of the cemetery, Crompton catches sight of Osusk, and they follow him all the way back through dark streets to the mortuary, where he has some sort of business, and then to a three-story building near the east docks and east wall. There’s a smell of preserving fluid alchemy in the wet air, but it carries the smell of charred timbers, as well. Jotunn marks a building, probably once a stables, lying close enough to Osusk’s great house, to probably allow chimney-style climbing, and they leave.

Ambush!

It is very late, it has been a long day, all save Jotunn are very tired. But Crompton’s eyes are shining with Cateyes and he urges,

“Before this spell runs out, let’s get back to the Abbey!”

They hasten, Crompton using short-cuts to trim what would otherwise be a mile’s walk, [L3 SR, DAROs to 23] and soon come in sight of the monstrous bulk of the Cathedral. They swing counter-clockwise. As it looms taller on their left flank, and they cross what appears to be a little waste-ground between masons and glaziers, Fennec [misses L2 LK SR, makes L5 IQ SR with a tiredness penalty of 1 level] mutters:

“We’re being followed at speed, do we want to ambush them?”

“Yes, but let’s not be too hasty, it could be a reporter,” Cauleigh retorts. They make their way left and up towards the massive Cathedral Porch, and as Cauleigh delays to make sure his fellows are secure, an unseen hand drives a blade down between neck and shoulder and towards his heart! But by good fortune it grates off his magical Shield of Tahana, the same that he had prudently retrieved from the lockup, and he is still alive! There’s a muffled sound as something leaps away, and as Cauleigh himself leaps to safety there’s a rush of men at the dwarves.

Fennec hurls a L3 TTYF at the leader, obvious due to the fancy two-hander sword he’s wielding, and there’s a purplish flash and percussion as the spell goes off. He notices the colour of the blast is more akin to the purple he began his career with. The leader staggers back! Jotunn jumps among four shabbily-armoured cutthroats, as they use slings to wreak havoc on the other three.

[All slings hit. Owing to the removal of Jotunn the 116 damage has to be shared by the other three. Cauleigh is already down 10 and armour among them is scant. So they all drop to single-digit CON.]

Jotunn’s unexpected advance has caught the swordsman off-guard. Before he can draw a handaxe for close work [rival SPD rolls, Jotunn wins easily] Jotunn is on him. Fennec hurls a Glue You and Jotunn lays him low.

Crompton has already readied his attack: he has called tempus fugit and Vorpalled his axe, and Cauleigh downs one with a thrown dagger [L6 DEX] then they storm the other three. Hideous death cries sound: blood sprays widely, drenching the ground as far as the Porch and splashing across the processional for some yards.

“Thank goodness we got changed,” Cauleigh observes.

There’s a cry of alarm from the glaziers, lights indicate people will investigate the commotion and unexpectedly, the great door to the Cathedral begins to open.

“Quick, loot and go!”

Fennec casts a Detect Magic to pick what it was that stopped his TTYF, and they take a bracer off the leader, as well as his purse and fancy sword, then run counter-clockwise towards the park.

This is the first group combat of the season and an interesting one. First, the “assassination” style attack, which we have seen before, with LK SR to avoid dying outright. Then, in the brief exchange of spells and missiles and stunts, because of player-elected actions, the missile fire from the other side is not countered by anything, while the swordsman is taken down exclusively. 

Aftermath

After briefly strategising, Fennec pops into the Drunken Nixie, and buys two large flagons of wine. The other three use the wine to soak over the blood, then the four return to the Porters Arms. Jotunn pretends to hold the “drunken” pair up as they pass by a sleepy night-porter and safe to their room.

Fennec is now an adept of the Curative school. He has time and space to concentrate here, and provides 56 CON Poor Baby in short order.

“I’m pretty sure that ugly was the same ugly that was planning to shank me at the Nixie,” Cauleigh mentions as they assess the loot. The bracer is plain, save for a scorpion design on it. The sword is very fancy, with fair-quality gems on the hilts, and what looks like mithril intaglio on the blade. It will have to be hidden away in lockup.

[The dwarves spend some AP. Cauleigh moves LK to 39, Crompton takes Roguery to Apprentice (+5), Jotunn moves SPD to 29, while Fennec moves LK to 25 and SPD to 24.]

 

 

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TI4.03: Shopping and Schmoozing in Sarnas

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools

Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background

Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background

It’s the second full day in Sarnas, chief city of the Sarnmark. Our heroes are beginning to gain useful contacts and sniff out job prospects. Aside from seeking clues about Ikkutas and the whereabouts of the Scions of Kolbrannus, they are here to purchase top-quality equipment, and have a couple of items that require “study” to really get best value out of. These are:

  • 24 magic-scribed pistol balls – studying the scrimshaw with the right tutor may allow the student to apply the same Level 1 ‘spite hit’ to blunt weapons/musket ball as the L1 sure-blade spell
  • Gem-set ceremonial knife – with study an incantation may be applicable that would make it equivalent to magical
  • Runebearer axe with the Antimagic property

 

Fennec

The Wizards Guild appears to be a separate building, perhaps south-east of the mighty citadel proper, although illusion may again be playing a part in this impression. It takes Fennec three spells to be “sorted” as to ability and he’s kept waiting a little while before Max Oberhelm, confident magister, welcomes him and signs him in as a visitor. He leads Fennec through to a lofty-vaulted members’ room with its members’ bar in one corner and many deep comfy seats grouped here and there.

Max listens sympathetically to Fennec’s story about Maeglos, mockingly imitates that elf master’s posing, but does admit the price suggested is likely to be fair. In terms of who else might restore the staff’s charges (and possibly store the higher level spells in Fennec’s ring) he brags up their senior member, Lady Bree, and warns Fennec to be on his best behaviour around her. (Fennec may be dressed in good wizard robe but his boots are still the same road boots he arrived in.)

Meanwhile, there’s only one other member in the common room, and Fennec is now introduced to Daisy Brightwater. She is a mightily-well-constructed woman of uncertain years who speaks with a delightful southern twang. And she seems to be a shrewd businesswoman. She’s very interested in the prospects those scrimshaw balls may open up, and arranges to meet Fennec for dinner at a superior dining-house not far from the park.

Over lunch (his chatting with Daisy has taken him pleasantly through the morning) Fennec does meet Lady Bree Greyswan of Greystand. There’s a suggestion of inkiness around her fingertips – in contrast to junior wizards who are liberally smirched in ink. She seems interested in records of his travels and makes an appointment with him three days hence, noon.

“You sly dawg!” Daisy congratuates him, “weasellin’ ya way ’round Lady Bree… [sotto voce] she’s got a thing fer beards… or has she?”

With a dinner date to look forward to, Fennec heads back to the Porters Arms, leaves word for the others and a handsome tip, and walks at leisure, to the upper bridge.

 

A quick recap from Borer

Borer, one of the three Ironbridge rogues that endured the entire Broken Land quest, happens to be seated on a short flight of steps in the merchant quarter as Crompton and Cauleigh make their way away from the south gate, towards the cathedral. Testily challenging at first, Borer discovers that Crompton is willing to pay for a meal and drink!

The trio head for Cinnamon Roll and turn the comfortable vibe in the place into a hostile one as Borer profanely describes what he endured and what he’s seen of the uruk menace. He sarcastically wishes the Templars well – though it turns out, he’s the one who reached them in Briar Keep, to warn them of the invasion.

The white urukin, Borer can definitively say, is not the Uruk Lord, merely a lieutenant. The Uruk Lord is served by three lieutenants, two of whom are Gorgun (who sounds quite rash, but tolerant) and Gariag (whom Cauleigh fought). Those are both full-blooded and huge uruks. Other than that he includes trolls ogres and at least one giant among his army. Which is now armed with gunnes.

The two other companions of Borer to see the quest through to the end are Elyn, who is alright for a human woman apparently, and Binye, a man. He doesn’t know where they drifted to – after meeting up on Sidewinder Creek, Borer headed downriver to Dolem’s Spire and they headed west and south to warn other settlers. Borer adds that he owes the elves a big solid favour, because Wanda, an elf out of the north somewhere, rescued him.

 

Gimme that old time religion

Crompton separates from Cauleigh fairly soon after that. The second breakfast, and long expletive-laden yarn, has taken them well towards the lunch hour and Cauleigh wants to be early to meet whichever elf Shawndel has persuaded to speak with him about the scimitar. Crompton has no reference to follow up, so is at leisure to look around the cathedral grounds. He heads north but runs up short against a old and massy wall and distinct lack of entrance to the cathedral.

A helpful passer-by explains that if he wants to pay respects to the gods, the Adoration chapel is the building with the breast-like dome, not the cathedral proper, and it can easily be reached, from this (south) side by walking west.

The Adoration or Seasons chapel has a regular west-facing frontal and open-air processional, lined with well-groomed hedges. A stone pavilion or kiosk interrupts the processional perhaps a quarter-way along. Despite the chill and occasional scuds of rain, plenty of family groups file along, entering and leaving the chapel.

Inside the chapel Crompton studies the mosaics with an unfamiliar eye and attempts to match them to the ten or so Esgaroth gods that he can recall. He doesn’t see the big boss god, or the boss-god’s lady. And there’s nothing he can match to Ikmal, nor Ikmal’s wife Yavan’. And he can’t quite match a mosaic of what appears to be an elf woman archer, to any god he recalls. But there are a couple at least he only half-recalls and he knows there are other even more obscure gods, so this is not a major discovery.

Half-expecting to see a pallid figure, he stares around and does see a pale-faced acolyte. Noticing his close inspection the acolyte approaches him, accepts a donation, and says:

“Welcome, friend dwarf! Have you come to make your adoration and are, perhaps, confused as to whom will show you most mercy?”

He explains:

  • Belor Cjernin is a hero of the Great War substituted into the pantheon;
  • Ara Fellmir is an elf heroine of the Wizard Wars substituted into the pantheon;
  • The coy lady, hot herald, virgin archer (Ara), good worker, warrior hero (Belor), and weeper are the deities of the adoration chapel, in that order. Seniority of place is given to Zolman Law-giver and Varda Star-mantle in the cathedral;
  • He doesn’t explain the absence of Ikmal/Aule or Yavan’/Yavanna and Crompton doesn’t pursue the matter; and finally
  • Holy Bishop Pausanias is a famed speaker (you’ve just missed the high day!) and Crompton should try to attend six days hence!

Having paid respects to Belor Crompton seeks the acolyte out once more and specifically asks about two murders… [DAROs to 21, earns the first boon of the season, L7 CHR SR] and the acolyte, who obviously has heard of these, retorts:

“There is certainly no question that the city is being punished for its sins… silly rumours…”

“We were able to be there when they examined two bodies…” Crompton begins then realises that he has said too much. He doubles down and ploughs on:

“They were murdered in an unusual way…”

“Were they perhaps harlots?”

“No… We were wondering if there is an undead presence under the city?”

“Pah, crazed necromancers babbling about the sewers…”

“Thank you for that information.”

Crompton keeps a weather eye out to his stern quarter and by the time he reaches the kiosk spots the acolyte ducking out and as he notices being noticed, north through a gap in the hedge-trees. Zipping around and north Crompton is in time to see the man slip into a sugar-loaf-looking circular building. It’s the clergy-house.

Undecided, Crompton hesitates until another scud of rain prompts him to get back on track looking around the cathedral proper. He decides to work back counter-clockwise, passing around the adoration chapel area, past a mighty tree, past the old wall and another mighty tree (and ivy up the wall, he notes) and some temple-related trades such as pillowers and embroiders, then squeezing through some other alleys that seem to mark where the cathedral was once open to the east, then through some plastic arts trades such as mason and glazier and to the north-running processional to the north porch. The processional appears to run north to a very secure, well-walled complex. From here the ground opens out to a cemetery lawn, memorial stones dotting it; and beyond that a handsome building reading “Mausoleum of Heroes.”

Pacing at leisure through the grounds, Crompton notes a disturbed grave. As he approaches, passsing three small family groups, he can see a bushy head he (much later) identifies as belonging to Osusk, at work there and barely sparing him a glance.

To his left as he passes the Mausoleum, Crompton can see another similar building. He steps carefully across a shallow robbed wall and leaves what was once the Abbey grounds.

Having concluded all he wishes to do, Crompton hikes back to the Porters Arms and buys a lunch of last night’s supper and good strong porter. Fennec arrives as he begins to think himself full.

 

Let’s hit the road north…

Watching Crompton eat pub leftovers is boring so Fennec is keen to get on to the next issue, speaking to the smith Meta-something, by the north gate.

The pair walk back through riverside bustle towards the Abbey and swing north over Upper bridge. The daytime stalls are busy; the only thing of note is a bear, coming the other way, [L2 LK OK] being led securely by a bear-handler. Seeing Fennec’s interest he pauses and asks:

“Interested in bettin’ on th’ fight?”

“What’s it fighting?”

“Ooh… couldn’t say right now… mebbe dawg… mebbe they git a wulfan…”

“Interesting… where’s this happening?”

The bear-handler gives directions south-east, outwall. Fennec notes it down for possible investigation but as he remarks to Crompton:

“The fact it’s being led through in broad daylight tells me bear-baiting is perfectly legal. I don’t like the idea of a wulfan being forced but… that’s not a given.”

 

Cauleigh

The burly warrior arrives in good time at Central Perk. It’s already busy: he finds a spot with a view: and Betty, on duty at some other benches, only has time for a friendly wave.

An elf arrives and perhaps unsurprisingly it is in fact Shawndel. The extra day’s delay has given him/her time to investigate Cauleigh’s bona fides and consult others.

Cauleigh recaps the situation and history, and Shawndel congratulates him on not blabbing the facts all over the city; warns him that another party, Sasha Orc-slayer, may be about; and suggests he be compensated for handing the scimitar off to the elven community. Cauleigh wonders where it might be safely stored? Shawndel replies it would be smuggled north to what’s called Elf Mountain.

Cauleigh wishes no recompense: he wishes access to the library! Shawndel writes a note in elven to Reena Spidros, the librarian, and a covering note to the palace. Shawndel decides that it’s best to make one transaction all told and will send an agent to the Porters Arms to complete the handoff.

[100AP for achieving the major thread “get access to the library”]

Betty has still no leisure: balances a spoon on her nose, goggles her eyes, and waves him goodbye.

Cauleigh catches up with Fennec’s intentions at the Porters Arms and walks swiftly around and north and soon catches up the more leisurely pair.

 

Crompton’s confession

Cauleigh is a little sardonic as Crompton confesses that he has made himself a lightning rod for the church.

“You were actually talking to someone who knew the deal, and was trying to find out what you knew, so you told him almost everything, walked away without learning anything new, but you saw where he ran to after that.”

“Yes a sugar-loaf kind of building, the clergy house. Oh and there’s a disturbed grave, and a bushy-headed fellow.”

The trio offer jokes to one another about the real culprit, citing dire mosquitoes and vampires.

Fennec mentions he’s following up the scrimshaw bullets over dinner. At this point they become aware that they are heading to some foot-bridges over a slimy-looking river, and that some young thugs have fallen in behind.

 

That’s dirty Luth

They swing around heading for the theatre and three of the lads swing right to cut them off. Cauleigh swings round and confronts the other three: the leader with a splendid quiff or pompadour of oiled hair:

“Say friend, which way are ya going?”

“Mebbe I’m jest goin’ this way”

“Well walk on by…”

“Mebbe I will… mebbe I won’t… ain’t fer you ta tell me”

Fennec murmurs to Crompton:

“Can you see anything that says they are local Rogues Guild?”

He cannot. Cauleigh continues:

“Do you want to do this with fists?”

“Mebbe I’ll see ya… later…”

The youths make off.

“Remind me to look up local laws about murdering ruffians,” Fennec mutters.

The potential fracas has been witnessed by shop keepers, assistants, and burgers of the tiwn. A smith standing at an imposing smithy and store gestures Cauleigh in:

“Say that was mighty fine! Don’t know as how I’ve seen summun’ square to an’ set them ta rights!”

“Who were they?”

“Dirty Luth an’ his boys… would-be big bad men outta th’ north… say, don’t s’pose ya’d be interested in some ironmongery… vambraces are th’ thing these days… ya got a yuge forearm there, betcha gotta get that tailor-made…”

“I like your pitch my friend, I’ll take a look.”

 

Mettastos

Crompton and Fennec wait patiently, then impatiently, then as Cauleigh is encouraged to head to the gauntletteer across the way next, they ask for directions to the north gate area, and the smith Meta-something.

“That’s Mettastos. Deals mainly with the garrison, money would need to talk.”

The smith also suggests Mettastos might be able to offer a suggestion about Cauleigh’s caliver idea (a Flick spell) and Crompton’s axe (specifically how you are supposed to use an Antimagic blade).

Congratulating one another on not having to work for a living the pair walk through bustling working folk and playing children, around north of the theatre, through pleasant airs and a suggestion of fruit tree, across foot bridges and another foul-looking river. Off left rises a grim barrack, before them extends an open area, and right is a large smith’s workshop.

Approaching it they indeed find the sign “Mettastos Arms & Armor.”

“Perhaps we should head back?” Fennec asks

“I want at least to get his opinion on the axe, to counter magics.”

“Then I’ll come in, you never know, something might meet the eye.”

Mettastos appears to be a burly young blond-bearded man (slightly singed) and though busy is willing to take some coins for his opinion. He examines the Runebearer axe and offers the commonplace that an enchanted axe stops Breaker spells. Then, just as a theory, if genuinely Antimagic, says maybe it could cut through wall spells and perhaps even a Protective Pentagram! As to work:

“Orders are very very tight, it would need to be top priority, tell your friends they’d be best getting a letter from someone in top authority.”

 

Attack of the clueless

Cauleigh places a deposit on the vambrace work (it’s superior steel, specifically resistant but no actual higher points protection) and next visits the gauntletteer. He selects a smooth-polished type and places a deposit on that. Then, seeing his friends have moved on, recollects that his shoes must be ready.

He realises that he’s alone when, at a convenient point in the merchant quarter, Luth and four thugs attack!

Cauleigh [L6 DEX] whips his throw-blade out and gets a throat-shot on one. Then using that initiative leaps to the nearest wall [L6 STR] and with a spinning cut with kukri whicks the next one’s head off. There’s a huge spray of blood! One of the remaining three immediately pees his pants and stops, knees sagging. Launching into Luth and his remaining off-sider Cauleigh slices their guts open and body parts litter the path!

“This is why you don’t try to rough me up and rob me, right, widdle-pants?”

Cauleigh lets the weeping, pee-poo-pants thug waddle off. But what with the slaughter his good clothing is ruined. He accepts a handsome compliment as to his sweep of shoulder, is easily persuaded to buy some outrageously-priced clothing, and is fitted and clothed again. Then, off to the cobbler!

Then, he finds a laundry but the laundrymen are not optimistic. Blood is hell to shift.

 

Plans for the evening?

Fennec and Crompton head south across Temple bridge, to the merchant quarter and the cobbler. They spot Clarrie – notable by his eye-glass – reporting on some street-killing.

“If it bleeds it leads,” Clarrie remarks.

Well satisfied with his shoes, Fennec looks forward to meeting Daisy. He and Crompton return to the Porters Arms, where they catch Cauleigh up with the Mettastos situation and he catches them up with his success on the library, and take their ease until evening.

Cursing because he can’t get into the lockup to get a bullet to show Daisy, Fennec bids the others farewell. But then, as an afterthought, mentions that he’ll be dining near the Cathedral. So the other two offer to eat out, nearby, in case there’s trouble.

 

At the Drunken Nixie

Their hostess is an older woman named Tiara; the crowd is mainly young. A few recognise Cauleigh as ‘the dwarf that was with Betty’ and acknowledge him. The crowd is mainly human: Crompton spots a clean-shaven urukin and a pale-blue woman whose kindred he doesn’t recognise.

Betty bounces in with an “I’m off dooty!” and joins them, but tells Cauleigh regretfully that she has to “hit the hay early” because her aunt’s in town and wants her to learn the bakery business.

While Cauleigh is talking Crompton notices that his group is being subtly watched by a dark-dressed woman. She seems aloof from the crowd. Her build is slender, her eyes and hair are dark as far as he can see. He turns to Betty and interrupts her chatter:

“Hypothetically, if someone was a slender, dark-dressed woman… (he describes the woman) would you be able to say oh, that’s so-and-so?”

“Rings a bell… was there a big shoulder kinda scary guy with her when ya saw her?”

“I’ll just have a look…”

“Wha?!?”

Betty’s head whips round to look where Crompton is looking; having realised she’s been singled out the woman smiles. Cauleigh picks up what’s going on and waves her over. She rises as though to join them, but then there’s a little incident where one of the wait-staff stumbles and people fall over and move across the dwarves’ line of sight and then she is gone.

Betty’s vague recall extends only to her name beginning with T and she’s Trouble.

Cauleigh mentions the delicious baking smell and Betty tells him that’s where she’s supposed to be baking. Cauleigh assures her he’ll call in next morning to see her on her first day; she says goodnight, heads off.

The only other event of note, until Fennec arrives, happens when Cauleigh heads out back to drain the lizard. The place is fancy enough to have built-in stalls and he notices a sturdy thug who may or may not have intended to catch him alone and off-guard there.

 

At the Tranquil Boar

Chef Ona, red-haired, heavily-mustached, offers Pon’frac-accented advice on the courses; Daisy and Fennec are served by Urie, probably a relative of the chef judging by her curly red head.

Daisy is excellent company and the meal is a progression of four delicious courses. She explains a little more about tracking enchantments – though she is no specialist – and how items or people might be tracked, and asks for at least nine of the bullets, offering to buy them.

In terms of funds – since Fennec bewails the high cost of everything – Daisy mentions two courses:

  • Get in the good books of Bishop Pausanias, who may be worried about rumours such as necromancers profaning the cemetery. She mentions Osusk, whom Fennec hasn’t met, in regard to this.
  • The second option is to take a slap at the ruin of Sarn Athrad, north – not killing the poor folk living in the ruin – where at least one wand got left behind in the crisis.

The pair “go dutch” on the bill and Fennec parts with 100gp. Perhaps because he’s with Daisy, Fennec is not molested by any random or planned violence and he heads over to collect the other two.

 

On the trail again?

“There’s some dangerous woman with an eye on Crompton,” Cauleigh updates him.

“So about normal for a new place,” adds Crompton

“New city, same shit,” Fennec concludes as they head out and north towards the river, past the Adoration chapel and the clergy-house. Crompton knows the lay of the land now:

“If we sweep round the Cathedral we may get mugged and find something out?”

They swing east around the Abbey ground and towards the north processional. Looking south across the cemetery, Crompton catches sight of a pallid shape slipping towards the Mausoleum of Heroes, and the session ends.

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TI4.02: A second look at Sarnas

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools

Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background

Jotunn, L6 warrior, hunter background and tracking talent

Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background

That feeling you missed something

It’s already after the time that Dalton, owner of the lock-ups, is wont to rise. The four restorers leave Central Perk, and begin threading around busy daylit streets. As they walk, Cauleigh recollects (wrongly, but not too bad) the dealings of the Guild and the Brotherhood, back at Rothway. And what they may have to do with the uruk army to the south. Jotunn speculates about tracking magic, in relation to the urukin’s scimitar.

Their easy walk has taken them along the main streets, and to the Cathedral processional. A colourful procession is even now clogging the area. So they swing west. The delicious smell of baking fills Jotunn’s nostrils, but he also sees a long queue, right down a block.

Their new course has led them into narrower streets. They pat pouches and rearrange some, away from light fingers. But, having patted his pouches and pockets more and more urgently, Jotunn curses and swings back:

“Left the damn’ lock-rod behind!”

Beatrix or Betty, tiny and cute

They all hustle back to Central Perk! There, balancing herself on a stool and balancing the rod on her petite nose, is a very cute, very short waitress.

This is Betty or Beatrix, possibly half-Hobb. She hands the rod over with a final juggling flourish. Jotunn looks closely at the rod. Fennec tries a DetM and gets the same unique flavour of enchantment.

“Probably the same…”

It’s now midday. Jotunn looks mournfully back at the queue as he wades through the delicious scents, that being their most direct way to the lock-ups.

 

A reference from Dalton

The river area is bustling and loud with daytime crowds: a much more industrial noise and smell than night-time. At the lock-ups – relatively busy with both Susie and Sol hustling about – a most important-looking gentleman with flourishing moustaches is seated, on a solid stool, below the tariff schedule. Clearly, this is the proprietor.

Fennec deals with Dalton, while the others head to their lock-up to test the rod. It works!

They return to find Fennec puffing (unfamiliarly) on a cheroot, and thanking Dalton for the information. He’s been provided with a very small square of parchment, on which is the address of Maeglos, an artificer-enchanter. And the one they’ve been warned never to reveal the elf-killing scimitar to. Fennec has also got a possible lead to a discount smith, using Boss Hooper (out of the same store the Porters Arms and Strong-Ale are part of) as a contact. In closing Dalton warns Fennec, being a wizard, to be careful around some of the city’s knife-merchants (as he calls them).

 

A premature walk north, and back

It’s now most definitely eating time. They manage to curb appetite until, towards the north end of upper bridge, they find a stall that sells real pies. These are washed down with street-porter ale. But, having gotten that far north, they decide to dress nicely and also, come to think of it, collect magical or potential magical gear they want Maeglos to enchant.

All of this requires another stop at the Porters Arms. Where Cauleigh asks about clothing merchants. Not slop-stores! It seems that if you want to look as good as the senator, you try the north.

 

You are the lead story!

The four look more like the adventurers they are as they once more head for upper bridge. Elisha cuts them off at the pass:

“Say! I thought ya’d be here!”

“Yes…”

“Seen today’s banner?”

The Tribune now leads with:

ON THE HUNT

It seems that the restorers are on a quest for long-lost secrets… though it’s hard to pick the exact context and story from among the slangy expressions and implications.

“So, I’ll guess there’ll be plenty of folks ready to press the flesh an’ get in line to help you guys out…”

“But we’ll be getting hustled by every charlatan in this town!”

“Don’t knock the power of the press my friend.”

 

The first murder… that we know of

Elisha shows no signs of leaving, walking alongside Jotunn and leaning close to add that her editor has told her to stick close, there’s a big story in here.

This is not convenient! Jotunn plays her along with talk of the library. For which, meeting her editor is needed. And Elisha already has them pencilled in for the Tribune’s corporate box in the theatre tonight. As to better rags, no need to be too hasty, but maybe better shoes?

They head along upper bridge, talking about cobblers. Elisha mentioned that Girol told her about a fracas at the park. Possibly an elf was slain? Blood on the trees? They agree to head along to the morgue with her later… but at the moment she’s with them!

 

Making nods and winks the dwarves attempt to separate so that Fennec and Crompton can get away to Maeglos. [Crompton fails CHR] Elisha is unconvinced and they all agree to go look at the body.

 

The morgue: Fran Limnsman

Elisha navigates the shoals and reefs of the law in Sarnas, making an appearance at a “bullpen” asking after a sheriff and who’s on morgue duty.

Around to a secluded side they go, to a private wagon entry. She nods her way past a bored-looking gatekeeper and pushes through a heavy door. Here, the walls inside are whitewashed and glaring, and the smell is of days-old bodies. The walls are lined with corpses, some seemingly on display. At the main work table a man works over a naked body, wielding a very sharp knife.

Fennec eases closer. The man appears quite scruffy; but of the body he can see very little. Elisha, familiar with the layout, skirts the table and hikes a little up a step-stool. Cauleigh squeezes up beside her as she hails the doctor:

“Fran! Visitors!”

This is Fran Limnsman, cracked-voiced but relatively young, tetchy but capable. He identifies the murder “weapon” as a thin-fingered hand, probably sharp-clawed, a quick violent drive to the chest that rammed a digit into the heart.

The dead man is young and fit, probably a fencer or swordsman, possible defensive wounds on the forearms. Crompton (and Elisha) investigate the pile of gear stripped from the corpse and find light sword-and-buckler armour.

Other than that the information Girol passed on seems to be wrong. Not an elf, not killed at the park, but closer to the Abbey.

Fennec uses the distraction to slip out, unseen by Elisha. What looks like a labourer, afflicted by a half-face twitch, passes him heading in.

 

Dr. Silas, freak on show

This common-dressed man is Dr. Silas, necromancer. He is by far the creepiest person the dwarves have met here. Elisha seems a little skeptical of his powers. He lays out paraphernalia and begins a ritual.

Doctor Silas looks like he’s enjoying communing with the dead waaay too much! A pale, almost fish-like face is briefly glimpsed.

“What was that?”

“It’s the last thing the dead man saw… heh… perhaps one of the undead… we’ve had reports of graves disturbed… people say it’s me… not this time… heh…”

 

Cauleigh’s new best friend and a third strange stange man

Fran kicks Silas out at this point. Cauleigh goes with him and soon regrets it, because he’s really creepy, and wants to show Cauleigh his apartment… But one other thing does come out of treating the doctor to a drink or two: Cauleigh does discover that there is a Sword Brotherhood that use that light fencing armour.

Crompton, Jotunn and Elisha witness another weird worker with the dead. A surreptitious visitor, shabby and with a wild thatch of beard and hair, pays Fran for unpleasant bits of an unclaimed corpse. This is Osusk, an alchemist.

 

Maeglos

Meanwhile Fennec collects himself safely over to the north and gains directions that leave him in front of a uncertainly-built three-story affair with a very fancy lantern still burning at its gate.

Detect Magic

A rippling wave of fire erupts in front of him! And [L3 IQ SR] he spins to confront a lizardy-looking man who grasps Fennec’s staff firmly. Pressing his own head at two points the man keeps his grasp with a spare clawed hand, the says

“The boss wants to know what you want”

Fennec explains and the lizardy-man communes again, then invites him in and disappears. Once past the lantern, the appearance of the building changes completely! It is a powerful, stone tower, reminiscent of some of the Esgaroth towers. There is no visible entrance, but at the obvious bay where such ought to be Fennec uses an OTIS then KK. An elaborate elf-script-engraved door swings open…

Fennec’s interview with the enchanter Maeglos ends unsatisfactorily. The egoist, raven-haired, dark-eyed elf wants 50,000 to work on the staff, though signals that he could enchant a very small amount for a very small number of thousands. This is the wrong ballpark for Fennec’s humble funds. He bids Maeglos farewell and heads back south.

 

The check-in: we ain’t got jack

The four meet up as Fran finishes up his report and Elisha – finally – heads away to file. Though not before she catches wind of Fennec having met someone significant. They shop for a cobbler that can make up cork-heel shoes, and pay a hefty deposit for the work. It’s now mid-afternoon or a little later.

Fennec finishes imparting the detail and confirms he has nothing like the funds needed. A slight top-up is the best he can hope for from that source! For his part, Cauleigh explains that Silas was talking about things under the city. But he chooses not to improve that acquaintance.

In terms of looking for work, Cauleigh points out that the “old city” that predates Sarnas is just north, and there must be ruins to explore there. Maybe a conversation with the “Podsteppers” would help?

 

Bernhart the Benificent and the show of force

Their chat is interrupted by a smart squad of arquebusiers, jogging north. These are the heaviest-armed and armoured types they’ve seen, so on a whim, they follow. As do some children and some dogs.

The column of some two dozen arquebusiers jogs smartly right across the lower, temple bridge, out to the theatre square and right around the theatre, looping back to form up in ranks, facing the theatre itself. These maneuvers have been flagged by a column-leader using a simple flag. But now the ranks are joined by an imposing, strong-built man riding a fine horse. Many more children, dogs and gawpers witness the arquebusiers level their pieces and give fire: a crisp volley thunders over the theatre!

Senator Bernhart, a noble, speaks with stirring phrases and strong gestures. It seems the need to hire these fine mercenaries is pressing! He rejoins his carriage, where a very sturdy competent looking coat-holder awaits him. The arquebusiers form back to files and march crisply north, towards the north gate.

And at this same time the dwaves fend off an impromptu interview by ever-thirsty, eyeglass-wearing Clarrie Grimes from the Clarion, Voice of the People, whose clarion call is the voice of the most knowing, most discriminating people of Sarnas. “I’ll see you in the funny pages” Clarrie says as they persist in not telling him anything, and heads away.

 

Sedge, Rogues Guild, and Wiseman

Since they are now right in front of the theatre, and the theatre is where Elisha has said they can meet her editor, they begin drifting that way… except for Crompton, who has been signaled by Sedge, an ordinary-looking youngish woman. She checks what he’s been told about the Rogues guild, then leads him away upriver, to the warehouse district.

Through an ordinary warehouse door (but opened to a secret knock, by a particularly strapping troll) and after taking off all 19 weapons he’s carrying, and both magic charms, from there through a secret passage built into a normal crate, and from there down stone steps (but the lights are noise-activated) and finally into an underground cellar (but with supplies of fresh air).

The meeting with bald lanky half-elf Rogues guild leader Wiseman (that is a title) is low key, to the point where it seems to be striving to be that way. Sedge mulls some wine – a moment of comedy when Wiseman pretends to have been poisoned – and invites Crompton to join if he wants to and take a job involving elves if he wants to. Crompton doesn’t want to – at least for now – and having paid his respects – and no coin – heads back out with Sedge.

 

Some reading skills required

Jotunn purchases a programme for the theatre, learning that the main entertainment is the Death of Adder (or Ada, spelling varies across the programme). Cauleigh purchases a copy each of the Tribune and the Clarion, and looks for the funny pages. He finds them, but they aren’t all that funny. The three read both papers. The Clarion has worse spelling but is higher-minded. Both cover doings of senators, street crime, and the scandal that connects the two. On the whole the Clarion favours Bernhart’s noble “frill-neck” faction and the Tribune favours Isilmore’s popular “collar-neck” faction.

Elisha’s crime beat pages feature what seems to be a continuation of an open-grave crime or mystery. Fennec [L3 IQ SR] deduces that an expert has been consulted at some prior date.

 

Entree to the senate?

The pre-theatre crowd is thickening, and there are plenty of choices of street food and drink, so the trio await Crompton there, eating and drinking, until he catches up with them and sups too. A not-very-interested patrol of two passes through, one of the pair takes some stall food on the arm.

Cauleigh works his way into the ticket-booth and discovers that if they are box guests they won’t need tickets. And that it’s the best place to see senators, outside of debating chambers. The booth woman also has a cousin, Elias, a porter in the senate who can show them the action there, for a price.

 

The second murder

It is not yet the time when fashionable people turn up; an eddy of people coming from the bridge crying things like “another murder!”

The four work back down one of the middle bridges, ill-lit and with more verminous crowds. The strong smell of dog and possibly larger beasts comes to their nostrils. And at length they arrive, facing the Abbey, where a crowd of people block them from something on the ground.

Using their determined muscle they get to where Elisha is leaning over a dead body, splodge of blood on its chest.

“Say, don’t you guys just turn up like the proverbial!”

Testing with her stylus Elisha guesses it’s the same kind of depth and width as the other one on the mortuary slab.

Cauleigh checks gargoyles on the Cathedral (yes there are some) and Fennec catches a glimpse of a pallid shape slinking away around the Cathedral corner. The homicide police arrive and Elisha, known to them, hangs around chatting, probably explaining the clues. At length the dwarves excuse themselves.

 

The Tribune’s editor, Rimana, and factions on show

By the time they arrive back at the theatre, the up-market crowd is indeed fashionably arriving and entering. Vendors are doing a roaring trade. A concierge brings them to the Tribune’s box.

The editor, seated in a position from where he can see almost none of the performance but most of the crowd, is a man smoking a cheroot and wearing a twin aura of indifference and insouciance.

Hardly has he gestured them to a seat than an extremely attractive dark-haired pallid young woman enters. Her dress is dark and revealing.

“I’ll take your orders” she says in a honeyed tone

“Chocolate”

“Hot?”

“Uhh yeah, yeah hot, that sounds just the ticket…”

Stout Beer and Port wine are ordered as well and she leaves.

Girol appears, and unlike the editor is voluble. He begs for a scoop. Unluckily Elisha has been with them both exciting moments. He heads over to the editor, and Cauleigh strains to understand what the mumble means. Without any success.

Girol helps pick out key politicians. Bernhart is there, still with his powerful coat-holder, who Girol tells them is a “cuttin’ gent.” Isilmore turns up fashionably late with a dazzlingly beautiful elf on his arm. Who apparently is Kalashtriel, also a senator, but also a killer. The two men exchange nods and don’t seem hostile.

 

Another lead and a good time

Girol is already sleepy before the play’s first act ends. He has little more to say, even when Caueligh tries to explain the Guild and Brotherhood situation in Rothway. The editor pushes a slip of paper over: it’s an address in the north.

Crompton gets a surprise: Sedge is there, on the arm of a nobleman; she looks like an upmarket courtesan.

Cauleigh in turn tries to catch sight of Betty and does so: she’s down among the cheap seats. He excuses himself and walks down, in the intermission, and buys her a drink. She explains a little more about the cursed princess, Janorra of the Glade, and the elves taking on intercession prayers for her. He makes a date with her for after the show.

(But to be clear it is just a fun night with young quasi-entertainment-industry hipsters, and a handshake.)

Back up in the box the other three learn from Girol that the devastating brunette is Rimana, a particular friend of the editor.

 

[Cauleigh raises IQ to 19]

At the empty gate

The morning finds all four dwarves waking very early and heading out to find street food and the smiths’ street. The great south gate is weirdly empty, perhaps due to the cold rain just eased off. From the driest patch they make their way to a smithy and nod to journeymen, who are waiting for the ‘prentices to get things going.

Jotunn pays a hiltmaker to quickly strap leather around the rod-key so that it looks vaguely like a dagger. He also finds Boss Hooper’s smith and asks about “special” smiths. This is quite a mundane area, Jotunn manages to get a reference to Castan-something, towards the north gate.

 

At the palace

Fennec peels off to head for the palace, since that’s where the Wizards guild is. He works through pleasant terraces crowded with complaining housewives, burdened servants, and skiving children (and dogs). After that the hill steepens and opens to the palace walls.

Fennec works his way round the wall to a security gate, asks for the Wizards guild, is directed to third circle left.

As he passes the gate the old castle beyond changes completely. Now, he sees its true form is a mighty modern tower defence, geared for dragon fighting as much as anything. The third circle is marked by huge sigil-marked columns: he turns and walks down it.

 

You are still the lead story!

With the sky clear of rain, the south gate is crowded once more with vendors heading in. Elisha is amongst them, waving frantically!

“You were right – or I was – it’s the same culprit!” Elisha explains. She shows them today’s banner: the four restorers are intent on hunting down the killer.

Sighing, Cauleigh checks where the original murder actually occurred. Like the second, that too was near an opened or disturbed grave, west of the Abbey. The four run through the suspects, who at first glance can be listed as Dr. Silas, Osusk, and Fran himself.

“I’ll be right behind you!” Elisha assures them.

Props
It’s time to acknowledge some of the material I’m using in this low-prep arc.

Many of the NPCs are my own but I’m also using a frequently-used source for NPCs:
Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
Engine Publishing – enginepublishing.com
Gnome Stew – gnomestew.com

I’ve reactivated the Guild/Brotherhood deal from season two, though since Cauleigh (whose player is the only one to bother going back to read the blog) has confused which of the two controls the mercs, I’m changing it up. The two NPCs involved, one of whom is also in the backstory of the elf-killing scimitar, come from:
Encounters-Plots-Places: Creatures, NPCs, Items, Places and Adventure Hooks for any fantasy system
Created and Written by: Benjamin Gerber.
Available from drivethrurpg.com

I should also throw props to an old gaming buddy from the dawn ages of T&T gaming, in fact the person most responsible for getting me into RPGs, Andrew Simmonds, who created Maeglos as a PC, the son of his favourite PC (so as to keep his grudges and treasure active, I guess). I’m really just using the character whimsically, as a survivor of the Wizard Wars. I don’t think the present Maeglos is anything like the original and may even turn out to be using his son’s name…

Finally I have also used an emulator to generate some flavour and direction:
The Location Crafter
Written by: Tana Pigeon
Word Mill
Available from drivethrurpg.com

Vale history
While Sarnas, or Sarn Athrad, has been around in my Vale forever, this new-look Sarnas needed a map and I found River City from terrymiranda.com to work for me. In the current age I conjecture that the original Sarnas, which took the brunt of northerners’ attacks back in the Wizard Wars, is now a remnant up on the River Way to the north while what was at that time a river crossing fortress and temple become the hub of the new Sarnas. The Great War also hammered Sarnas, and one of the things the dwarves noticed as they rode in (off-screen, I did not include it last session) was that the landscape is still pocked with craters left by shattered flying fortresses. The colossal hand to the south of the city is a full-intact fragment from that time.

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TI4.01: Sarnas at first glance

The characters for this session:

Jotunn, L6 warrior: STR37 IQ18 LK30 CON60 DEX30 CHR17 SPD28 WIZ14.

Fennec, L3 wizard: STR24 IQ33 LK23 CON26 DEX24 CHR23 SPD23 WIZ32.

Cauleigh, L4 warrior: STR38 IQ18 LK38 CON34 DEX38 CHR26 SPD40(+9) WIZ17.

Crompton, L3 rogue: STR26 IQ20 LK32 CON32 DEX32 CHR19 SPD25 WIZ20.

 

The hand

The four Restorers, riding their ponies Kip, Fanshaw, Barnsley and Dice, with pack-pony Toto jogging behind, make their final push in to Sarnas in gathering dusk. It’s about a week past the autumn equinox and the westering sun, on their left, picks out the upraised digits of a monumental hand. This last leg takes them through well-husbanded homesteading, so even from pony-back the base of the thing is obscured… it’s perhaps a mile away.

Eager Elisha

Traffic at Sarnas’ great south gate is at a crawl, what with travelers heading in and produce-vendors heading back out. As they ease their ponies along, taking stock of the gate guards: efficient, low-key: Jotunn lets out a groan.

Elisha Bradon, girl-reporter for the Tribune, has already zeroed in on him! He met her in Dolem’s Spire, and let drop more than he planned to! Curly brown hair, smooth olive-skin, plump and eager face.

She seems intent on learning what the Restorers are in Sarnas for! Jotunn temporises, she slips him an address in the Warehouse district, and they agree to meet up later this very night.

Initial dispositions

A bored guard gives them conventional-sounding instruction to tie their heavy arms to their mounts, as they dismount and pay a nominal tax. Fennec is puzzled by what looks like opposing tax collectors… beyond the gate lies a city garrison and market-cum-parade area… Cauleigh spots a rogue and gets a reference to the top dog…

The Restorers first goal is simply accommodation and security. A friendly pot-man, Paul, accepts a gold coin to lead them to the best place… they are led through fairly crowded streets to a riverside area he calls the Upper Harbour, where stands the Strong-Ale Brewery, and where they find accommodation in a stabled wing commonly called the Porters.

The tariff for stabling and room includes a share of the hearty meat-based meal going in the tavern part of the Porters. Paul advocates that they stay on, and listen to the senator, a guest speaker tonight, who’s sure to give a wing-dinger of a speech. But they choose not to… and having put something behind their ribs the four check their heavier armour and head to the bridge.

Elisha by warehouselight

Though light spills from late-evening workshops and stalls, the streets themselves are not lamp-lit. Out on the water, what seems to be a fishing-boat, or more than one, shows its lamps.

Their course takes them around the cathedral grounds. Paul has also called it the Abbey, which is a little confusing. A pale shape, hard to distinguish, lurches around a corner, perhaps in the grounds.

There appears to be any number of bridges, all clustered together, over the river. They take the nearer, upper-harbour path and walk north past many open shops and workshops, and swing west to the warehousing district. A theatre-going crowd is suggested by orchestral sounds and bright-dressed types, off in the gloom east.

Elisha intercepts them again and in her chosen warehouse, they meet cub reporter Girol, and suspect the pair are accompanied by someone of heftier build, off behind the stacks. In the conversation that follows, the dwarves get a few introductory names and ideas to follow up. Elisha takes many a note and they leave with information about their goals but also with the uneasy feeling she has a lead banner for the morning edition, featuring their search.

The old river god

Before they head back, Jotunn invites them east. They walk past the theatre and mingling footmen and chairmen and vendors, waiting for the theatre-goers to come out. The areas east and upslope do seem to a swankier part of town. Though, not far away at the riverside, there’s an unpleasant, corpse-smell that Fennec thinks might need investigating.

They keep to that side, and a broad way that must once have been a bridge, leads them past a traditional-built temple of the river god. In Esgaroth he’d be Brant Balduin; here in the western heart of Nandil lands he’s Brandualadin. His temple has a repurposed look.

Once again, this time on the other side of the abbey, that pale form is glimpsed. The four walk on past a lone watchman and quickly make plans to find out more… but the shape doesn’t follow them.

The man of the people

The docks district on this quarter seems familiar to those of the four that hail from Esgaroth. Plenty of light spills from doorways, but no lights for public ways. Raft brothers, sawyers and perhaps even adventurers carouse.

At the Porters, Senator Isilmore Baroque is still pressing the flesh and making sure folks know to vote. Since they aren’t planning to vote, the dwarves file to the back, and find out a little more by watching and asking the barkeep. Cauleigh tries a Gnome stonebrew ale. Randomly, he then asks about elves.

“Ya c’d try th’ park – theys gotta be some tree-huggers amongst ’em – I heer theys one er two in th’ senate… what kinda elf ya lookin’ fer?”

“One with money and means”

“Oh! Well, th’ senate then.”

Cauleigh notes the half-recalled names he’s given (Rennie Fairious and Quesquetoon) and they all finish their stonebrew. Then the senator finishes the room and gets to them.

Isilmore, thin, mustached, dark hair slicked back and well dressed. He welcomes the four noble visitors and explains the democracy of Sarnas in glowing terms. Fennec asks about Sarnas dwarves, and since Isilmore’s memory goes back a few terms, he does recall an ex-senator, Hodstipper, out of the north, in fact the family is out of the old city. (Here a quick history lesson on Sarn Athrad of old and its move south to the current metropolis). Isilmore’s cause is the poor and downtrodden, especially in outwall slums. He manages to convince Cauleigh to donate 10 gold.

 

Contemplating where they are

The weary dwarves find their rest, and count over the tasks they have set themselves.

Major threads:

  1. Research Ikkutas lore in the library
  2. Find a competent enchanter

Minor threads:

  1. Store valuables in a lock-up or similar
  2. Sell the elf-killing falchion once owned by the white urukin
  3. Register with the Wizards guild, buy a spell
  4. Register with the Rogues guild

New dawn, more leads

The following morning, they pack their valuables, including metal armour, in Dalton’s lockup, meeting slip-of-a-daughter Susie and even-smaller-slip-of-a-son Sol. Dalton keeps gentleman’s hours. They hire the minimum charge, 50 gold, and receive a magical rod that unlatches the lockup. They choose the code-word ‘Tigley’ for the rod. Jotunn is entrusted with the rod. Don’t lose it! The unsealing fee will be thousands.

Fennec makes a note to obtain a reference to the enchanter off Dalton.

Girol, cub reporter, follows them incompetently and when beckoned over, convinces them that the place for breakfast is the Cinnamon Roll, counter-clockwise from here in a more upmarket area. Here, the dwarves are introduced to the wicked new drink out of a place that sounds like ‘Pomfrahk’ – chocolate – and Girol points out a few notables of the upper and lower crust. The bacon rolls are delicious. Girol knows not a lot about non-humans in the city. He does know the name of the librarian, Reena Spidros. He scratches his head about elves that are at once important, in the senate, and representing the people, but does recall the right name – or a different name – for the senators Renee Finaire and Kalashtriel. In return they describe their journey from Ironbridge. Girol incautiously lets slip a very valuable piece of intelligence about a mercenary arrangement the senate is considering, with the Guild. A mysterious name, but one that Cauleigh does recall.

Tipping a good sum of gold down to cover the chocolate they depart further counter-clockwise, to Central Perk, charming sweep of place, has a view of the park.

The park is a woodland reserve. Fennec gets a feeling from it… the teachings of his master, Ormen, come back to him. He heads over there. This is not a good place for Curative magic. The soul of the earth is not friendly to his new school.

Crompton turns to the young Elisha, who has indeed been expecting them. “What have you heard about Esgaroth?” She talks colourfully and at some length about the glories of the Tribune, versus Esgaroth’s papers. In return Crompton finds himself describing a little more about his own background than he intended.

Jotunn slips across the wall and into the park. He spots an elf, kneeling.

“It’s our time for intercession,” spindly, tall, androgynous Shawndel explains later. Apparently there’s a roster to keep the cursed princess Janorra of the Glade. It can take until midday, depending. She/he does warn Cauleigh never, ever, ever, to sell the falchion to Maeglos the smith. She agrees to find out and pass information to the next elf on the roster, who will be same place same time tomorrow.

Cauleigh meets burly centaur Cettros who bosses Central Perk and can make a coffee liqueur for him. “This is the thing. You’ve been waiting your whole life for this.” It costs ten gold.

Threads to progress:

  • Smith street – but it’s said they are tied up with defence contracts
  • Dalton – artificer-level enchanter
  • Wizard’s guild for research
  • Tribune’s editor as a means of accessing the library
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Downtime in Ironbridge

In alphabetical order:

Cauleigh

1. Main project demanding much attention: Researches Ikkutas in Lady Ezra’s library. This provides 4 cards. Reshuffle each time. Repeat clues are possible.

2. Lesser project requiring only a few days face-time: Funds, with a barge-captain named Will Stavenger, a series of abortive expeditions to settle the restless sprite downstream. Eventually the body-count rises to the point that Lytera orders a cease and desist.

3. Minor details, less than one day: Assists Crompton with his ax-hafting

4. Minor details, less than one day: Purchases various leatherwork items such as a mount for the light cube, saddlery/furbishings.

 

Crompton

1. Main project demanding much attention: Sponsors the foundation of a new Rogues guild. This entails bribery, purchasing a small warehouse, tricking it out with some nasty traps, and some negotiation with Dolem’s Spire Rogues guild. Becomes founding director.

2. Lesser project requiring only a few days face-time: Researches scrimshaw-marked bullets that seemed to ignore defenses. Works out that this type of specialist inscription requires two or more expertise levels in enchanting.

3. Minor details, less than one day: Pays a good smith, through Cauleigh’s good offices, to fashion a steel haft for his ax.

4. Minor details, less than one day: Pays the Warrior guild smith, through Cauleigh’s good offices, to produce silver and normal throw-weighted daggers.

NB: Crompton and Sage have a secret agreement to swap spells. Neither can afford any major new spells.

Fennec

1. Main project demanding much attention: Detailed and difficult study of healing specializing, ie Curative school. This requires him to balance the forces of combat magic and healing magic. There is no certain outcome until he reaches Level Six.

2. Secondary project requiring virtually all remaining time: Courteous love-making to Lady Ezra. She is inexperienced and guarded by her maid. Fennec wins half her heart but being a wanderer prevents him winning her all.

3. Minor details, less than one day: Keeping Wizards guild membership.

Jotunn

1. Main project demanding much attention: Travelling to Dolem’s Spire to have his coif repaired. More news:  The Prince throws down the Danforth plot and offers employ for mercenary captains.

2. Secondary project requiring virtually all remaining time: Keeping an ear to the ground. News comes from as far afield as Joetown and Jacob’s Mill. Refugees from the Uruk invasion flee to Dolem’s Spire and even Ironbridge.

3. Minor details, less than one day: Checks on the gnome wench Abbie, while in Dolem’s Spire.

Other updates:

The Herbal Teas: Sage Heartsease and Calla hold a big farewell party for the whole market. Wolfie and Kowlee have a lower-profile shindig. They head for Ravenson hill.

Rogues: Tadiko does drift in. She is as respectful to Fennec as before but there’s a mean look in her eye that wasn’t there before. She buys one more spell, asks Jotunn to make sure a certain gnome wench is OK when he gets to Dolem’s Spire, and drifts on.

Weeks later news collected by Jotunn is that three other rogues survived the Broken Lands and reached safety, probably in Dolem’s Spire.

Erklen: The gnome master sells his iron ore mill to a consortium of barge captains and Lord Orctooth, and moves out. It’s said he also advertised for an expedition back to Gray Dagon Hill.

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DGA1.12: Giantslayers

The characters for this session:

Seck the senior man on the team: L3 rogue/scout, enemy of the red dragon, doom of Gleekmound, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane

Phoenix the relative newcomer: L2 Tlinget barbarian, hag’s bane

Vir the older and slightly bitter hand, L2 half-elf ranger, hag’s bane

Cat the ever-quipping L2 warlock, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane

Layton the NPC L2 fighter, enemy of the red dragon

We pick up the action as the five lovable misfits and Sholt the local hunter escort Jahia, aged hero, and now wearing her full armor, the last few yards to Frickley. They are tired, but the rest while at Jahia’s has been enough to prevent exhaustion.

The dawn-kissed village of Frickley, under threat of plundering from the giant Yegor Bonecruncher, is in a state of turmoil. Pack-beasts are being loaded, and light carts are standing ready. Cat immediately joins those villagers exhorting them to stay – the departing folk seem to be the hunters, Tastra Fleetsong the red-headed huntress among them. Seeing this, Jahia nods as though to say ‘carry on’, heads into the village, and is greeted by Pello the halfling innkeeper, who bows low before her.

“Village meeting! To the Blue Duke!” – Pello

Cat’s voice alone is insufficient to make Tastra pause [9 persuasion even with advantage] but as Seck adds his voice: “she comes to aid you – and this is how you repay her?” – Cat spins a wily tale of Jahia having a plan [23 on deception] and the hunters grudgingly join the other villagers:

“Well – it’s at least worth hearing the plan” – Tastra

“Town meeting!!!” – Pello

During the early proceedings Cat buttonholes Pello and demands his payment, family jewels promised for bringing Jahia. Pello puts him off, for the time being. The others cluster round Jahia, who asks:

“So, what’s the plan?”

The villagers file in, many looking skeptical when they see Jahia’s age. Grigor the stalwart farmer bustles in, eager, slightly pig-smelling, but does a double take when he too sees the paladin.

“Honored lady…” – Grigor

“You distract his attention, I’ll hamstring him” – Phoenix, sotto voce

“I think the idea is to win them over” – Jahia, sotto voce

“I meant the giant” – Phoenix, sotto voce

“There’s a time and place for everything” – Jahia, sotto voce

Jahia now mutters to the four leaning near:

“We have hunters with bows… so they could… shoot things… and farmers, who I suppose are good at digging things… they always used to be…”

“We have a plan! The wise Jahia has shared her plan” – Cat, aloud

“Let’s hear it then!” – Tastra, challengingly

Cat calls for a wet for Jahia’s dry throat, Pello produces a large goblet, Phoenix gloms it, Pello produces a second, and while this comedy is mimed out, Cat plausibly pretends that he’s just repeating Jahia’s plan. Hunters will drive arrows at Yegor who will then stumble into a pit farmers have dug:

“He is a dumb brute, so he will act as we cofefve” – Cat, concluding

Pello chips in, agreeing that Yegor is bound to follow the same path he took three days ago. He came out of the south foothills, past the windmill in the grainfields, and around to the gate.

Field of battle – the view from the village. The yardstick is shortbow range, the green zone is short range for longbow.

Jahia stands, pretending her knees haven’t carried her through the night:

“Let’s see this field”

Vir and Seck, and Grigor, debate pit height and use of spikes, as they all filter out.

The south field is stubble, dominated by a windmill (red block on map) and somewhat compressed nearer the village by woods on the right (west), and orchard and copses on the left (east).

They’ll need to get Yegor stomping in a predicatable line, if the pit-and-trip plan is to work. And the crucial decision is made: Jahia believes that if she challenges Yegor, he will indeed come storming towards her. So she proposes to stand just south-west of the village wall, gate-side.

Sod-cutters are instructed to cut layers of fallow, out of sight of the main field, ready to lay over pits. They walk the field, sizing up the windmill and the woods directly opposite it.

As plans mature Jahia’s stand is moved further south (red heart on map), to draw Yegor between windmill and woods. With that decided, Tastra and the hunters are asked to hide in the woods, and Cat decides to stay with the hunters.

Vir and Seck examine the windmill while the other peer in the narrow door. Complex gears, currently disengaged, connect the sails to a vertical shaft and that to a huge grindstone, which rotates around an upright and phallic pillar.

“I thought so… this used to be the maypole… maidens would dance around it… it was shaped like an enormous dick… the church was broader back then… they honored Chauntea” – Jahia

As Jahia warned, the windmill-as-sniper-nest is pretty disappointing. Aside from the door, the gear-floor high above offers a platform, if one were to smash tiles and lathe away, from which to snipe. Seck decides to do this, making arrow slits, and an even bigger exit on the east side, from which his fine silk rope dangles.

Once that’s done he heads down, wishing he had a convenient regiment of mounted archers, to where Grigor’s dig-teams have been hard at work. Laborers are hammering a stake deep into each pit. Seck works with the meager amount of sturdy rope available and attempts to rig an even cleverer trip-rope. [First attempt with the Scout’s doubled proficiency, but a poor result, 5 total] He walks away and looks back:

“Well, at least you can’t see the rope… OK bring those sod covers over!”

The front-liners now make their call. Layton declares that he will stand with Jahia. Phoenix, debating how to get a dash-and-hamstring, asks Jahia abut her own abilities and whether he would be better off standing with her.

“That’s very true… ahmmm… in past times people fighting near me have not been so… likely to be scared. Giants can be terrifying. I remember when we fought the White Wyrm we were all shitting our breeks, but… I managed to keep my feet.”

“As long as I rage, I should be right… unless I stay next to you… but if I rage I need to be close to something I can hurt” – Phoenix

“When I fight, it’s a just a matter of give and take until one of us falls: and, it will be me: it’s a giant” – Jahia

“Well, we’d like to make it the giant that falls” – Phoenix

“Nice thought” – Jahia, pessimistically

“Luvly last day this is” – Cat

The sun is already nearing its zenith as the adventurers organize their fighting gear and the hunters crouch in the forest, selecting favored arrows and nervously smoothing flights. Cat joins them, trying to appear confident. Opposite, Vir waits at the windmill doorway, bow ready. Seck clambers up to his sniper stand and double-checks the escape line! Phoenix makes a final decision: decides to lurk in the nearest forest edge no more than 60′ from Jahia.

Cat suddenly realizes he needs to die rich! He dashes the 300′ around to the gate and rushes through, to the Blue Duke.

Pello takes some persuading, but at length slips behind the bar, snips off his buttons, and shows Cat that under the fabric of each button hides a large pearl. Assuring Pello that if all goes as expected his corpse can be looted of them, Cat runs back. Just in time!

Yegor’s head comes into view over the hills, then his shoulders, then his whole gross corpulent 12′ height as he strides towards Frickley. One hand holds a huge club, the other a vast flapping sack, sporting ugly dark stains. Thick greasy furs protect much of his body.

The hunters wait for Cat’s word. He waits for Seck to open up. Seck waits for Jahia.

As though she heard him, Jahia holds her honking great longsword up and bellows:

“Giant! I am Jahia! This is death!”

She points the sword at him as though it weighs nothing, and raises her other gauntlet on high. Nothing much happens… except, perceiving that the village is not going to render goods (and juicy farmers) unto him, Yegor roars angrily, and his pace changes from plodding amble to purposeful stride! In seconds, he is within bowshot of the line of pits!

Cat decides to walk out as Yegor passes, so as to get really close with his first spell, Faerie Fire. But as he begins moving forward [perception, using inspiration] and away from the hunters, he hears rapid padding through the trees and hastens back. Two terrible worgs, seeing they have been spotted, bay horrendously and the fight is on!

Inits: worgs, Vir, Jahia/Layton, Seck, Cat/hunters, Phoenix, Yegor

Round 1: the worgs pounce and two hunters are slain. The screams from the woods tell Vir and Seck that the hunters and Cat are distracted or possibly dead. Vir decides to wait for Yegor to present his back, and holds fire. Seck looks back: if he swings out now, he can get north away from Yegor. He lands clumsily [Acrobatics 9 on DC10] and skin crawling, steps close to the windmill wall, out of Yegor’s line of sight. Cat steps forward, screwing his nerves to the sticking point, and uses his presence to cow the worgs [12 and 11 on DC13]! The eight surviving hunters loose, panicked, and a couple of arrows sink home. Yegor nears the 120′ gap between windmill and forest.

Round 2: the worgs leap back behind cover. Vir stays put. Seck, seeing that Yegor is still making a beeline for Jahia, slides around the opposite side of the windmill to Yegor, and waits for a shot. Cat follows up with a deceiving speech:

“Worgs! Your giant runs to his doom – we have a mighty paladin – stay and be pincushioned or hunt elsewhere!” [one worg craps out on insight and flees, the other stands its ground]

The hunters move in the general direction of away. Cat drifts back with them, though separated now.

Yegor seems almost to sniff the air as he nears the pits. [uses his smell a rat power]

Round 3: The worg returns to the battle, working around Cat and killing a third hunter. Vir and Seck ready their arrows again. [Insight – Seck clears DC13, not enough to figure out what Yegor did] Cat reveals his power as a caster, hurling a searing Eldritch Blast [crit] onto the worg. The blast knocks it 10′ away. It looks badly hurt! Cat’s nervous reaction leaves him shaking [one level exhaustion] but he’s in the fight!

Yegor walks past the pits as though he knew the right path. Vir brings up Hunters Mark and looses, but his arrow simply bounces off thick fur.

Yegor utters a hideous roar!

[Owing to his flaw Vir has disadvantage on the WIS SV, the others are in cover and have advantage; but even so, it’s DC20. The roar has occurred at a very poor spot for the defenders! Vir and Seck are both frightened, and Phoenix is too.]

Round 4: The worg still in the field leaps around Cat, between he and village, and slays a fourth hunter. Vir again finds greasy fur, not giant. Seck holds again. The six remaining hunters manage to loose enough accurate arrows to kill the worg.

“Take heart! Save the village!” – Cat

Phoenix races to Jahia’s side and attempts to take heart. Layton nods encouragingly. Yegor strides on. [Attempts to recharge his smell a rat power, fails]

Round 5: Vir finally lands a shot, first blood on Yegor. [Vir’s player gets confused about which spell is in operation but Yegor takes minimum damage] Jahia and Layton close a few yards. Seck decides he may as well shoot, and misses. Cat is now a good few yards behind the advancing Yegor and attempts Faerie Fire: the giant moves as he does so [DEX SV] and the fire does not envelop him. Phoenix closes up with Jahia. Yegor, closing on the trio, smashes his foot and club down in a massive concussion: Phoenix staggers, Layton falls, Jahia stands her ground. Yegor swipes his club sideways in a vicious scything motion: she catches the blow on her left arm’s steel armor.

Round 6: Vir’s arrow again finds fur. Layton gets up and he and Jahia make coordinated attacks: Jahia cuts the giant’s leg and Layton’s glaive [crit] lances deep! Seck takes himself out of line of sight, and tries to shake his fear. It doesn’t work. A hail of arrows, loosed at short range, catches Yegor (and a couple bounce off Layton and Jahia) while he side-steps another Faerie Fire [using legendary succeed roll]. Phoenix rages and throws off his fear, hurling himself to the attack! [reckless attack, great weapon] He focuses on the tree-trunk-like leg opposite Layton but his reckless power is too clumsy for the stroke to tell. Yegor heeds him not, and overhands a blow on Jahia, who again catches it. She looks rocky, but sidesteps the next stroke.

Round 7: Vir’s arrow goes wide. Jahia strikes true but Layton stumbles and completely messes up. Seck steps out again and this time his arrow merely finds greasy fur. Cat holds, awaiting Yegor’s stroke, and the hunters, taking their cue, pull back. Phoenix snorts a tiny bit of straw, sneezes, and his axe-swing goes wide. As Yegor’s swing begins Cat unleashes a good Eldritch Blast and Yegor, knocked off guard, misses, only catching Jahia with a spiteful back-swing. She’s on her last legs.

Round 8: Vir again finds fur. Jahia cuts deep, Yegor almost stumbles. Layton’s glaive strikes a wrist-brace and does no damage. Seck again steps out from cover, lands a good shot! Yegor staggers and drops to one knee! Cat again waits, but the hunters, reassured by the giant’s slumping, unleash and Yegor falls…

“Your honor – the last blow is yours” – Phoenix.

Jahia clambers on Yegor’s chest, draws her short sword, drives it under his sternum, rams her gauntleted hand in and pulls out a fistful of heart. And swallows it down! And holds her bloody gauntlet up! Clouds suddenly roll over, and lightning jumps from them onto Jahia’s upraised fist.

[DEX SV all round for those clustering around Yegor – and amazingly they all make it!]

And as Jahia eats and the giant’s essence is subsumed, her powers return.

Lay on hands! One hunter can be revived and is saved.

In the aftermath the comrades discuss who ought to be holding the healing potions (but do not decide).

They are now known as giantslayers. Jahia makes her way over to Vir:

“You aren’t kin, but I see your terrible struggle against things that are too hard to bear. Take this, and when you meet things that are too terrible, think of me, and it may help.”

Vir dons the Giantslayer medallion, light for silver, with a dwarf rune on it.

[While it does not remove Vir’s flaw he will be able to SV normally when confronted by hideous giant monsters]

During the village celebration, Jahia suggests to Pello that perhaps Yondalla would be an acceptable local saint.

On the journey south, they visit Biddypoint. Frida has been unable to resume constable duties, but otherwise things are as well as can be expected. Trade is expected to resume, since goblin fever is now survived. Phoenix describes the old temple west of Biddypoint, and since it’s just a day into the woods, she agrees to head in with them.

Jahia identifies the veiled female statues as Shar, night mistress, and one of the senior-most of the old gods. She relates a great deal more of the fall of the gods than Cat had expected to hear, but he files it away as best he can. According to Jahia, as the Teulon expansion reached here some 300 years ago the One True Faith swept all the old temples clear, be they dark or light.

“Are you elven?” – Cat

“I have that blood in my veins…” – Jahia

It seems that Jahia once married, but their line ran thin and only a great-granddaughter remains: Tastra, the red-haired huntress. She is the reason Jahia settled back in the area.

Phoenix’ next inspiration is about the dragoneye gems linked to Yazol’s necklace. Two remain hidden. Where else has Yazol lurked? When the necklace is brought near Lightwatch Tower ruins, the remaining two are duly found. Jahia is interested in the circumstances, and agrees that the holy symbol with ‘Roweena’ inscribed on it is the holy symbol of the fiend-saint Roweena, blessed of Lathander. And Yazol’s notes on the curse explain much:

“So there was a demon under there then…”

But that is a quest for another time, and the six travel on south: to Stiglehold!

All these five characters are Level Three. 

This set-piece largely follows writer MT Black’s outline. Because the characters were stronger than design level, I added some legendary powers to Yegor. And two worgs rather than one dire wolf. I play-tested, to make sure it wasn’t a death trap. A couple of tests suggested that seeing the south field acts as a lure, drawing characters south, when the smart money will keep everyone right beside the village, with Jahia. The windmill could even become a death-trap if Yegor swings his club at it. 

In the event, characters scored an amazingly high proportion of hits into the giant’s  armor cover (AC10-12) but scored often enough at the business end. No-one thought to give Jahia’s backup guy, Layton, one of the three healing potions, but she lived anyway. A very good finale!

Thoughts for the future, from Stiglehold: Vir is most interested in using their knowledge of the Red Blade – Barkskin orcs to intervene south. What may be needed is someone that can speak fluent orc, and/or disguise infiltrators…

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DGA1.11: Giantslayer: the search for Jahia

The characters for this session:

Seck Rustrau, L3 rogue/thief, enemy of the red dragon, doom of Gleekmound, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane

Phoenix Pilandaros, L2 barbarian, hag’s bane

Vir Onden, L2 half-elf ranger, hag’s bane

Cat W, L2 warlock, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane

Layton Wheattail, NPC L2 fighter, enemy of the red dragon

and guided by NPC Sholt, hunter of the High Forest

 

This session kicks off another MT Black adventure, again for the purpose of filling in experience with worthy side-adventures. It is part of the Triboar collection but stands alone very well in the context of aid needed desperately in the Alshon. I don’t know if MT Black has read Gemmell’s Legend but this is an attractive adventure. For this group of non-optimized L2-L3, the adventure offers more interest than danger, and many minor milestones will be needed to push, say, Phoenix up a level.

The need is great, the hero must be found

Tallywood is much as they left it eight days ago: barely coping with the sick. Friar Tamline, who serves as earl’s chaplain, village priest, and sexton, welcomes anyone with a strong back to bury the dead, and anyone with immunity to help tend the sick.

Bok, just-about-grown and surviving squire to Sir Galmont, fills in the details. He has ridden this far to bring the urgent mission to The Coach and Tallywood.

Sir Stigle knows of a paladin, famed for slaying a mighty giant with one stroke of her sword, and more recently surviving the White Wyrm. She lives northwest, towards Mooregate. Sir Galmont, dispatched with the few companions that can both ride and be spared from town defense, is ambushed and held hostage by Horned Skull goblins. It seems all of his companions are slain.

Stiglehold may be in dire straits and Sir Stigle may be about to empty his treasury, but the need for a paladin that can lay on hands and cure the goblin fever is just as urgent! The paladin, Jahia, retired to somewhere north-west, towards Mooregate.

 

 

Here, we come to an interesting node in the campaign. When we did session zero, I felt I made it clear that players need to have characters who are motivated to seek adventure, not be reluctantly flogged into it. I feel like the default setting for all adventurers has become “woesie me, I’m being forced into this” – which for D&D, is bullshit. Even Tolkien used that gag only once. 

So as part of the preface to this adventure I reminded players that fetch-quests are completely normal things for adventurers to do. Because they are adventurers. 

 

Selfish thoughts are cast aside

Although Cat and Seck step stiff-legged around the idea of altruism, Phoenix and Vir seem fine with the idea. And once it’s pointed out that a paladin could remove disease, as was done for Seck with the restoration scroll, they seem more inclined to help. Last Stiglehold mission, as Seck recalls, Reid provided a healing potion each as reward. Squeaky young Bok and wheezy old Schalk explain what they know of the road to Jahia, which boils down to “keep heading on, ask as you go.” They aren’t in position to advance anything, but Schalk generously offers to keep valuables safely locked up so they can head out with as light a load as possible. Alternatively, once Jahia is on the road south, Seck could head out to Mooregate, the Duke’s seat, and spend money. Layton brightens up at the thought, but on balance, Seck decides to leave the cash here. Phoenix, who’s asked Vir to mind his cash, agrees, and heads out to see if he can rustle up a pack animal.

[Phoenix’ player is asked to supply a second good reason for someone hiring a beast out to him, fails, and makes a normal CHA check]

Phoenix reports no luck, but not disheartened now they have action in front of them, the five re-provision, re-pack, and are back on the road to Biddypoint.

[Phoenix now has enough equipment to look like an adventurer, not the down-at-heel failed brigand he was]

 

Warning signs

Local knowledge in Biddypoint is vague. They do know that the next town north-west towards Mooregate would be Frickley.

Hunter Dain does have something specific to warn them about though:

“Found a big print not far out… like a huge wolf”

Seck is not slow to realize that Yazol’s worgs are probably afield. He and Cat exchange thoughts on being able to talk to them, as Yazol implies doing. Cat’s opinion is that the foul monsters can understand what’s said.

The region north is mostly scattered woodland, so heat won’t be too bad. That’s what Seck and Layton remember of their drift south from the great river. And water is to be had.

 

Rood boiz in the wood

With a dawn start, the five make good time, leaving the Darkwald far south-west of them, and finding the trail gradually rising then topping out to a moderate view of… more woods. Just as has been the case til now, side-trails lead off to unknown parts or possibly around seasonal obstacles.

They stick to the main trail.

Party order: Vir, Seck, Cat, Layton/Phoenix.

Up ahead, Seck and Vir hear a fracas, or perhaps just roistering. Vir has the others hold while he swiftly eases to cover and to where he can see around the sweep of woods blocking line of sight.

Two satyrs are harassing a family, the children up on a heavy farm wagon, the parents uselessly trying to fend the fey creatures off.

Cat proposes negotiating. There’s always ‘Plan B.’

“Where we cark it up,” he explains mysteriously.

Sadly [not a good day for CHA checks so far] Cat’s eloquence is not as great as the satyrs’ w1ck3d pr@nx, and no sooner do they blow some mean reeds [pan pipe with frightening tune, everyone but Layton gets a fine SV] than a Hail of Thorns screams around them. Shrieking and yelling insults back over their naked shoulders the pair flee.

“Nice!” – Vir using his shiny new spell

 

A giant named Yegor Bonecruncher

The cart’s owners are red-haired, large-built farmer Randur and green-eyed, small but assertive wife Nathra Brighthearth with their three young children. They are farmers from the small village of Scorton, about a day’s travel away by cart. Randur and Nathra made the call to abandon Scorton and head for his brother Andel, down in Frickley.

“The goblin fever were one thing… but then, along comes the giant” – Randur

He fills in the blanks as the whole party travels north along the trail. A giant, must be all of 12 foot tall, took all of the village’s stored foods on threat of death…

“He then stands up without so much as a thank you – and here’s where things get bad. Suddenly he pulls out an old sack, and quick as a flash plucks four of the fattest farmers out of the crowd and squashes ‘em in there! Then he strolls off, as if nothing in the world was happening.” – Randur

 

Frickley, where something has happened to the gate

It’s not long after noon when the wagon rolls close enough to the walled village of Frickley for Vir and Seck, still in the lead, to take a closer look at the gate. It’s held together with rope. Eager to stop and refresh themselves, they undo the knots and pass in.

At first, all the simple dwellings seem deserted. There’s one large building, suggestive of an inn. The sign is of a garish blue-colored noble. Cat translates the stylized board: <Blaue Herzog>

The Blue Duke

Then as it’s clear that these are not marauders, the villagers filter out. A hubbub ensues as explanations are volunteered and questions asked! At length, a sturdy halfling, dressed almost too tidily, vaults and scrambles up to the kick-boards of the wagon:

“A town meeting is called for! To the Blue Duke!” – Pello, proprietor of the Blue Duke

It seems that Yegor Bonecruncher’s visit has thrown the village, probably of no more than 30 families, into a crisis. Just as with Scorton, so with here. Yegor will be back for his food… and once Randur tells his brother Andel what happened, they know it won’t be just local produce! What chance to any of them have? But can they leave?

 

Viewpoints and tales of the paladin

As the adventurers quietly knock back free ale and free mutton stew, they identify a few leading lights, those with opinions that matter or force of personality that might sway their peers.

  1. Pello himself, long-standing resident and deeply tied to the Blue Duke.
  2. Grigor Dunhold, tall sturdy yeoman farmer and tied to his land
  3. Tastra Fleetsong, red-haired huntress, and willing to look for game in further realms

Seeing them as allies Tastra appeals to them at one stage:

“Don’t you agree that fleeing the village is the only sensible option?”

But just as quickly, Grigor protests that common folk had best stick together, and that if they flee to Mooregate they’ll lose their liberties for good.

Cat shakes his head uncertainly, and instead, asks about Jahia.

“Jahia! Jahia Giantslayer! Say…” – Pello

Pello spins a yarn to the listening villagers. Few of them can boast his years, and he remembers when Jahia first made her name – slaying a Frost giant with a single stroke! That was before she went off to the wars, but she’s back and lives nearby. With her, they’d be able to see Yegor Bonecruncher off!

“Sounds like she’d be about 60…” Cat, uneasily

Pello gestures Cat over to a confidential chat. Jahia retired to a remote spot around Weeping Rock in the High Forest, but if they can convince her to come fight Yegor, it’s worth Pello’s family jewels!

 

The right guide for the job

Time is of the essence and after quickly provisioning from Pello’s supplies, the five comrades interview two possible guides to Weeping Rock:

  1. Sholt, short on manners, long on unkemptness, says he can look after himself in a pinch and knows the land. He has a low opinion of milksops, looking at Cat
  2. Bayle, still squeaky-voiced, brave but untried, says he knows the trail to Weeping Rock

Unsurprisingly they choose to bring the man who could stand a knock or two, and set out next day. It is not quite dawn as Cat takes a last celebratory swig, and spills a libation across his path.

Party order: Sholt, Vir, Seck, Cat, Layton/Phoenix

The trails through the High Forest are by no means as easy and broad as the main trail to Mooregate, and generally wind gently up over shallow rocky terrain, well covered by a range of trees and undergrowth. It’s late summer and visibility through the trees is nonexistent.

 

Bugs! Bridge! Weird stuff!

The sun has risen to the point of burning their right ears when a massive deadfall presents the first obstacle of any sort. Venturing near, Vir hears the rustling of large insects. He guides the party through the forest and clear. Layton and his equipment make a large amount of noise, but the bugs don’t react before they all get clear. Seck douses his precautionary torch and they reestablish trail order.

The trail forks.

“Well… I’d head fer th’ bridge. Last time I wuz this way…. it looked fine. But if th’ gawds, sorry, th’Almighty pisses on us, it’ll be washed out. ‘Course, t’other way’ll take ye over th’ river as well.”

“I’ve been jumped on a bridge before…” – Cat”

“No prosty-tutes on this bridge son” – Sholt

Not seeing any spectacular argument for fording, the party heads on, reaches the bridge, calculates that the few sips of water taken so far aren’t worth trying to replace, and carries on over. Somewhat disappointingly no eerie menace or tradition-bound troll blocks their path.

The trail forks again. They could head southish but the northish fork is as good as any other direction (so Sholt says) so that’s what they choose.

It leads to a clearing, and of all things, a pyramid of ice. Something blue glitters in its depths.

“An ice-giant’s crap pile” – Cat

Peering more closely they can see if that’s the case, he wiped his mighty ass with thorns, which curl around the pyramid’s base.

Remaining at a cautious distance they wait for Vir to do some scouting. Cat muses on his extensive knowledge of flaky rumor to account for this [arcana] and each new guess draws a snort from Sholt, who is now standing next to him

[Cat draws an inspiration for an ill-timed jest]

 

Babano the well-intentioned and the icy

About the time they begin to wonder if they’ll have to search, Vir reappears, bringing a weed-encrusted old coot who apparently froze “these wretched mephits” last winter and hasn’t got around to cleaning them up, so thanks them for volunteering.

[I try to channel Prince Charles for the accent and vagueness, but the players are thinking Radagast]

The fight is brief, since the adventurers know how to wield spells and weapons. Layton charges in to deal great damage with his glaive, quickly followed up by Seck then Phoenix. The second mephit lasts a few seconds longer. Most receive some degree of cold damage, but nothing a short rest in the sunshine of the clearing won’t cure.

[Two crits! Phoenix tries his new javelins. Cat also tries his Sleep spell, which I have not prepped for. I guess it’s his Level 2 spell. I also guess it’s too low HD for these creatures, but still look it up, and I appear to be right.]

Layton’s glaive persuades the thorns to ease back and Seck disinters a sapphire, or at least a gem that looks convincingly like a sapphire.

Babano is grateful he didn’t have to lift a finger, and hands over six goodberries to help them on the trail. He also mentions (before leaping into his rabbit-drawn sleigh) that a squirrel warned him about something foul around Weeping Rock.

The rest has cost them time, so Sholt speculates it’s maybe best to make camp early, well clear of Weeping Rock.

 

Cooking is my thing, not just booze and regret

Two-man watches are stood, but nothing ventures to the fire. Phoenix and Vir draw breakfast shift, and having gathered useful herbs and a couple of extra ingredients [nature] Phoenix turns their unpleasant trail rations into a decent breakfast. Since this is easily the best breakfast they’ve had since…. well… a long time, that’s a great skill to have.

[Cat makes the first DC10 CON SV needed against regional dysentery at this point, with advantage because they’ve been careful and Sholt has been making sure he doesn’t get bad grub. The others effectively have double-advantage so I don’t worry about them.]

The trail to Weeping Rock winds and rises more than previous, and as Sholt predicts, joins a steep sided gully, left of trail, down which a fast-running stream races to join yesterday’s river. It runs from Weeping Rock, and when they come in sight of it, the sun casts strong shadows on its face, making it look – to the imaginative – like a titan’s head, water streaming from its eyes.

 

Fair-seeming but foul within

As they near the rock, and their feet crunch into bones, a gentle song washes over them. Sholt immediately starts working his breeks down, but the others [more good WIS SV] shake off the effects and are ready to loose arrows at the dread harpy! Phoenix hurls his javelin:

“It’s up there!”

“I guess we’re not negotiating then!” – Cat

It rises quickly from its hiding place and Cat’s Faerie Fire does not reach it – and Vir’s shot misses – but it has to swoop, and at that point it is doomed! Aside from Sholt nearly getting in the way making a lustful charge at it while scrambling out of his breeks, the fight is not a danger.

Sholt recovers his dignity as best he can.

Cat scrambles up Weeping Rock [DC 10 athletics] and as well as looting the four pounds of mostly-low-value coin from the nest, gets a great view of the trail winding through and around to a smudge of smoke, not too many hours away!

 

Legend

It’s not long past noon when they come in sight of a cut-log cottage, its timbers grayed and mossy where little sun falls, behind a decorative little gate, guarding a tidily-groomed garden.

Cat calls out courteously at the gate… and sees one of those hammock things, between two large trees, and in it reclines a woman, blonde, white-shirted, leather-trousered.

“Good afternoon!” – Cat

“Strangers!”

“No he isn’t I’ve known him for ages!” – Vir

“Witty strangers…”

“Soon to be friends… and don’t judge us by the comedy act… are you Jahia the holy? There is much amiss, and we’ve been sent to find you.” – Cat

“Jahia I am… You’ve come a far step at any rate… tea?” – Jahia

Jahia eases herself athletically out of the hammock and invites them in. Up close the gray in her blonde hair is obvious, but age rests lightly on her figure. A silver medallion with a dwarf rune is obvious on her breast. The only other sign of a violent past is the honking great longsword, ready to hand against the nearest tree to her.

Inside the cottage, they sup politely, feeling a little too masculine among the determinedly feminine decor. Sholt is especially abashed and stays well out of the conversation.

“Much is amiss,” Cat repeats, and he and the others explain goblin fever and Yegor Giantslayer.

At first, Jahia seems a teenchy bit fatalistic:

“Ah well… everyone dies.”

But he persists and as she hears the tales of goblin fever, she seems uncomfortable. And he presses the point that at least, she can advise the villagers. Is she not the legend?

Jahia determinedly rebuts this:

“It was a long time ago, I was with a bunch of other adventurers – I was lucky to live – I just dealt the deathblow.”

As for advice:

“Flee? That does sound like a sensible plan…”

But by the time tea is over Jahia has warmed to the idea of just taking the day and a half to walk to Frickley and pass on her experience. [nat 20 on persuasion from Cat on a DC15] After regretfully packing up the tea things, the adventurers experience ‘aging paladin wondering where she left stuff’ for what seems like a very long time… but they are at length ready to leave and set out without further delay.

There’s no need to guess which trail to take for the return journey, and pit-stops and the like are easy to plan. As Vir guides them on through the night, Jahia seems to find the way familiar, even if her gear seems heavy. But the dawn’s light throws regret in stark lines across her face, as they reach the walls of Frickley.

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