ZEITGEIST tragicThaumaturge's 4e Zeitgeist Campaign - Page 2
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  1. #11

    Session 2.2

    2nd of Summer

    My memory of these events is a bit hazy. The party started the day by going to their office, where Juza relayed the information she had received from the carriage driver. Jasbeer and Uzziel decided to visit the House of Blue Birds, where they learned officer Porter had already come asking about the doctor. They went to his room and talked to the cleaning staff, learning of the wound of the policeman’s chest and the smell of burnt engine grease. They also got the cloth with the black stain, which they took for analysis.

    Juza decided to go to the Nettles to check up on Rider and his brothers, to see if they had discovered anything new. Unfortunately they hadn’t, so she decided to link up with the others. Gwen’s player was absent since he’d had to leave early (this bit happened during the previous session).

    Jasbeer and Uzziel decided to visit the police to ask about officer Porter, and learned he did not exist. This confirmed their suspicion that it wasn’t a policeman, but someone else, who was probably up to no good. After linking up with Juza (and Gwen), they ventured into the Cloudwood in search of the bandits.

    As they traveled through the woods at night they heard the sound of battle and saw a horse running toward them. They managed to stop it and calm it down, and realized it had broken free of its harness. They ran following the sound of gunshots and came upon the bandits attacking a group of men who had taken cover behind a carriage. They won initiative and proceeded to attack the bandits, so they responded in kind.

    The battle went as follows: Juza opened fire against the bandits on the ledge near the bridge and then moved to take cover behind a tree. One of the bandits summoned the hummingbirds and sent them down to go around the carriage and attack the men, splitting them up so they would flank them. Jasbeer and Uzziel, followed by Gwen, began going up the road to help the men. Renard used show your face, so I can put an arrow there to prepare an attack against Juza, and landed the shot when the woman left the safety of the tree to attack. On his turn he attacked Gwen, and she decided they were too obnoxious to be left alone, so she decided to climb the cliff. Kell’s men missed all their shots because of the distance, darkness and fog. The players were somewhat frightened of the hummingbirds because of the viciousness of the concept. After a couple of rounds the carriage began slipping toward the cliff edge, prompting screams from Morena, the woman trapped inside. Realizing she was going to fall to her death Jasbeer rushed toward the carriage, using a double move and her action point to both earth-shape the cliff to create a wall (using the golden icon of Urim she had kept) and to pull the carriage and knock it on its side (succeeding the DC 22 strength check). Uzziel was left fighting the hummingbirds, against which he shot divine bolts. Juza attacked the men above the cliff with blazing starfall, and Gwen succeeded in climbing the cliff only to be hit by Renard’s axe and knocked down, taking damage from the fall. The brigand who had stayed near Renard to protect him decided to climb down the cliff to attack the injured woman. The bandits near the carriage focused their attention on Jasbeer, and reinforcements came from the upper cliffs, heading straight for the two gunners. The falconer attempted a risky move: he took a running start and jumped off the cliff to get close enough to Jasbeer to use earthsurge, hoping to hit her and send her flying off the cliff to her death (she had already revealed they were police). His attack landed and dealt a good amount of damage, but as she fell toward the cliff she used persistent harrier to teleport adjacent to him, hitting him while still in the air. Both then fell to the ground and continued to fight, but Jasbeer was the first to stand up (since she hadn’t had her turn yet that round). Uzziel managed to drive off the hummingbirds and rushed to the gunner’s aid, while Juza continued to attack from afar. Gwen tried to hit the brigand, missed, and used her experimental strike to disarm the enemy, taking away one of its axes and rendering him unable to use his double attack. Jasbeer decided to talk to the falconer to get them to surrender, and though she didn’t manage to pull that off she learned the gunners were criminals who had kidnapped a woman, and that the leader of the Cloudwood brigands was a man named Renard. Deciding against bloodshed Jasbeer informed the others and got the team to devote its efforts to taking out Kell’s men and ensuring Morena’s safety. They tried to keep the hummingbirds from killing them, but succeeded in saving only one.

    After the battle was over Renard tried to kill the surviving gunner, but the PCs managed to talk him out of it, promising they would take the man to prison and make him pay for his crimes. They asked the bandits about Gale and Nilasa and they confessed to having dealt with them both, but said they could not contact the eladrin. However, they offered to provide safe passage through the forest to talk to skyseer Eva Sechim, who would know how to reach her. Jasbeer agreed and although the others weren’t too excited about the idea, they followed through.

    After a bit the party reached Eva’s henge and talked to the old woman’s caretakers, who asked them to wait for sunrise as it was very late already. They settled down for a night in the camp, with the intention to talk to Eva in the morning.

    3rd of Summer

    The constables woke up early and went to see the skyseer in her tent. They asked her about Gale and she admitted she knew how to contact her, but to do so she wanted something in exchange. The party agreed to listen to her request, and she said she wanted them to accompany her to the peak of Cauldron Hill so she could have a vision before she died, for she had foreseen that in less than a year she’d be dead. This revelation shook Juza, since Eva was her surrogate mother. Eva apologized for not telling her before, and explained that she hadn’t wanted to worry her considering the other things Juza had had to deal with. After hearing her request the constables readily agreed, thinking they would have the rest of the year to fulfill their part of the arrangement, but the woman quickly told them she would only contact Gale after she had had her vision. Needless to say, this complicated the constables’ schedules even further.

    Despite this complication the party still agreed to help her, since being able to arrange a meeting with Gale was too good to pass up, and Juza wanted to honor her nanna’s wishes.

    Knowing they had to get permission from the mayor Reed Macbannin, the constables decided to head back into the city. They split up, with Juza and Gwen going up to the mayor’s mansion in the Nettles while Jasbeer and Uzziel went to the Police Station in Central District to turn in their prisoner.

    At the police station Uzziel stayed to deal with the formal arrest of the man, while Jasbeer went by herself to “take care of personal business”, agreeing to meet up at the surgical theater where Dr. Barnaby Camp imparted class. She dropped by a few cop friends in Bosum Strand and called in a favor to convince them to leave their posts on the night of the fifth so Jered and his band could mess with the cargo of the ship.

    As Uzziel finished his business in the police station he emerged onto the street and proceeded to make his way by foot to North Shore. As he turned a corner, out of the corner of his eye (and thanks to his 21 passive perception) he saw a man whom he had passed just a few blocks after leaving the police station, more than a district away by now. Realizing he was being followed he decided to confront the man, and waited for him after turning the corner. The man nearly crashed into him, stopping a few inches from Uzziel’s face. The constable immediately demanded to know what his business with him was. To this the man simply leaned in and whispered “Lorcan Kell wants to talk to you about the doctor you’re looking for. Meet him at Lammers Theater in Parity Lake. The curtain goes up tonight at 8 pm.” Uzziel was stunned and the other man simply walked away.

    Juza and Gwen arrived at the mayor’s mansion and were greeted by the Butler, who introduced himself as Cillian. He asked what business they were in and the constables informed him they wanted to discuss something with the mayor. Cillian left to inform the mayor of this, and asked them to wait in the garden. They wandered around, taking in the sight and smell of the flowers, and decided to go see the horses in the stable. Another man approached to retrieve his horse, and engaged them in conversation. As he lead his horse through the garden he retrieved a cigarette to smoke, and offered one to the PCs. Gwen accepted and introduced herself, asking what the man’s name was. He said his name was Doro, and that he was a courier. His stare drifted towards the slums of the Nettles, and he expressed his disappointment in the state of things, saying he’d gladly renounce chaos if it meant people would stop suffering. Gwen replied that although she also felt sympathy towards the poor, she wouldn’t want to forsake the spontaneity of the world, since it also led to marvellous things. The courier finished his cigarette and mounted his horse, bid farewell to the women and departed, leaving them in the garden feeling like they had just let a sidequest slip out of their grasp. Doro’s words did rise a bit of suspicion amongst the players. They told me he’d sounded like a villain giving a speech.

    Jasbeer and Gwen arrived at the surgical theater and found Barnaby Camp giving a lecture, so they decided to wait for him. Uzziel told her companion about Lorcan Kell’s offer and they decided they would accept and go talk to him after they had linked up with the others. Once Dr. Camp finished his lecture he saw the constables as he made his way to the exit of the building, and was immediately wary once he learned they were police. However Jasbeer was able to convince him they could be trusted, so he asked them to accompany him to his house. Once inside he locked the door and after making sure they were alone he told them he had received a letter from Wolfgang this morning, asking him to contact professor Lynn Kindleton. He didn’t want to get involved in whatever sordid business his former student had gotten himself into, so he gave the constables the letter and asked them to get in touch with Kindleton in his stead. He also said he’d been visited by an officer named Porter, who’d been very rude. Jasbeer and Uzziel told him this man was impersonating a cop, and should not be trusted. He’d figured as much.

    At the mayor’s mansion Juza and Gwen met with Reed Macbannin. He asked what they wanted to discuss with him, and then interrupted himself to ask them if they wanted something to drink. They were willing to accept some coffee, so he asked Cilian to make some and bring biscuits. Once the butler had left Juza and Gwen explained that they were in the middle of an investigation to apprehend Gale and Eva Sechim, the renowned skyseer, had offered her help if they could help her reach the peak of the cursed Cauldron Hill so she could have a vision of the future. Macbannin took on a sombre demeanor and began muttering to himself. Gwen asked why he was so pensive, and he said that if the newspapers got wind of his involvement in helping both a beloved prophet and the police capture a terrorist, he could use that leverage to get more money to help the poor people living in his district. The constables were delighted at the idea, and relieved that Macbannin was completely on board with granting them access to the mountain. To make it official the mayor asked them to sign a document with the scheduled date for the ascent. He asked their names and hesitated after hearing Gwen’s absurd surname. They even heard Cillian chuckle from outside the door, and Gwen decided to get back at him by emerging onto the corridor and tipping the tray he was carrying, which made the butler lose his balance as he tried desperately to keep the coffee and biscuits from falling to the floor. It was a very lighthearted scene, and they seemed to really like the mayor and his butler. Luckily for me, both Juza and Gwen have garbage Insight, and Jasbeer and Uzziel were busy elsewhere.

    Meanwhile Jasbeer and Uzziel went to meet with Lynn Kindleton. By this time it was already late in the afternoon, so they found the professor about to go out to a hospital morgue to teach class. Suspecting officer Porter might have come here already they quickly shot down suspicions that they were working with him, told her that man was an impostor and probably a criminal, and reassured her they wanted to protect Wolfgang and ensure both his safety and hers, even offering to grant her asylum in the RHC until the whole situation was resolved. She finally agreed to share what information she had, including that she had been communicating with Wolfgang via letters delivered by a boy. They asked what his name was, and I figured “yeah, let’s do this”. His name was Rider, she said. Jasbeer and Uzziel didn’t know Rider peronsally, but they knew that was the name of an orphan boy whom Juza had befriended.

    After locking up her office Lynn Kindleton followed the PCs to the RHC, where they arranged for her to stay in one of the cells where she’d be safer than in her home. Carlao told them Stover Delft was looking for them, and he was rather mad. They went into his office and he asked where the hell they’d been, since Lady Saxby had been waiting for them all day to talk to them about the case. He suggested they go talk to her right now, and they both went in like children who knew they were in for a scolding.

    They found Margaret Saxby in her office, going through their reports. She glanced at them as they came in and told them to approach. Without looking at them she asked where they had been, and they meekly explained they had followed a lead into the forest, where they had apprehended a member of Kell’s guild and gotten the aid of Eva Sechim, which pleased the Lady Inspectress. They explained they would ascend Cauldron Hill with the old woman as soon as they could, but in the meantime they had learned Wolfgang had been communicating with Dr. Camp and Professor Kindleton, to whom they’d already spoken to. They had also learned Lorcan Kell might have more information on his whereabouts, which was why they were going to meet him in less than an hour in a theater in Parity Lake. Despite her usual attitude towards the party, and her initial displeasure at their failure to report for duty in the morning, it was hard to imagine she’d be mad considering the astounding progress they had made in just a couple of days. Especially since that would reflect well on her. So she let them off easy, telling them to give notice whenever they planned to spend the morning doing field work, and said they’d done a “good job”. She also told them to keep their cool when they went to talk to Lorcan Kell, reminding them that though a criminal, he was not their target on this mission, and they shouldn’t get in over their heads and do anything stupid. That was mainly so they wouldn’t try to take him down, considering they were going in alone and that would most likely get them killed. It was already 7:30 pm and they didn’t have time to link up with Juza and Gwen, and because of Jasbeer’s previous favor with the police they couldn’t call in reinforcements quickly enough.

    The two constables took a carriage to Parity Lake to get there as quickly as possible, and I gave them a bit of leeway so they wouldn’t miss their appointment. As they walked through the streets of the factory district they realized this neighborhood looked a bit better off than the others, and Uzziel noticed that people were looking at them from their windows. This made them incredibly paranoid, so when they heard screams and saw the woman crying for help they were suspicious. They saw the two men with the red scarves running off after apparently assaulting the carriage driver and stealing something from the woman, but they did not move. The woman yelled that they had taken her baby, trying to spur them into action, but Uzziel’s player asked if he’d heard a baby’s screams, and the answer was no. He questioned the woman a bit and rolled Insight, and automatically succeeded since I had lowered the DC considerably because of his previous observation. They called BS on her and the woman got mad and began running after the men herself, but someone quickly told her to stop and a man arrived, parting the crowd and telling everyone to return to their business - these people were not falling for it. The players felt a knot in the pit of their stomachs. They realized they had been incredibly close to falling into a trap, and the thought that all these people were in on it scared them.

    The athletic man who had dispersed the crowd told them to follow him to the theater, where his boss was waiting. They obliged and handed in their weapons with the promise that they would be returned. They didn’t believe it, but they had no choice.
    Lorcan Kell was waiting for them in one of the theater’s balconies, and he quickly got down to business. He explained that he knew where Dr. Wolfgang was, but in exchange for his help he wanted the constables to stop a smuggling operation that would happen the following night and hand the contraband wands over to him. Jasbeer and Uzziel were sure this was a bad idea, but they were in no position to negotiate. They agreed, figuring that it would probably make little difference if the wands ended up with one criminal syndicate or another. However, they other possibility was to stop the smuggling operation and turn the wands over to the RHC, but this would mean Lorcan might harm Wolfgang. To drive the point home Lorcan asked the constables to stay for the comedy show in celebration of their business agreement. The curtain opened and a drunken docker walked on stage, where a woman flirted with him. Uzziel’s player was the first to realize what was up, and he timidly asked me if it was going to be like a “red room”, almost dreading the answer. Gwen’s player asked what that was, but got her answer quickly.

    Another man arrived on stage, angry that the drunkard was flirting with his girlfriend. He began to chase him around in a comedic fashion, but it quickly took a grim turn as someone from the audience handed him a board with nails. More people began to hand the man and woman crude weapons of various kinds, and together they beat the docker to within an inch of his life. Jasbeer and Uzziel stared in horror and Uzziel tried to do something, but Jasbeer stopped him. She told him “I know you want to help that man, but right now there’s nothing we can do. I also want to do what’s right, but sometimes, that means you have to submit.” Kell overheard this and was greatly pleased. So he decided to stop the show just as the actors were about to kill the man, ordering to take him away and have him healed. He turned to the constables and said “he’ll live… as long as you uphold your part of the deal”.

    Jasbeer and Uzziel were shaken. Juza and Gwen’s players were shaken too. The constables rendezvoused at the RHC and Jasbeer and Uzziel asked their companions to accompany them to drink. Once at the “Golden Scale” they explained what had happened and proceeded to drown their sorrows and fears in copious amounts of alcohol.

    The players told me they had really liked Lorcan Kell’s character, and that he was obviously meant to be a monster. Jasbeer’s player said he’d really liked that the campaign was willing to go that far. Uzziel’s said he saw it coming at the last second and felt terrible about not being able to do anything, and that his character had despaired at realizing that maybe he couldn’t really make a difference despite his best efforts. Juza’s player just said that she was glad she hadn’t been around for that, because she didn’t think she’d be able to handle it. Gwen’s player even told me it had made him sick to his stomach. I later asked him why, since extreme violence was nothing new to our D&D games, and he told me that he felt there was a difference between confronting violent and sadistic monsters and confronting violent and sadistic people. It had hit close to home, because he knew that although we live in a relatively safe city, there actually exist people like that in the world. Hell, our own country, Mexico, is full of that kind of stuff happening in the north, and that was why it had shaken him so much. We ended the session there, at about 4 am, and all the players were really excited. They’d had fun, and despite that last part hitting them like a truck, they had found it engaging and enjoyable in its own way.
    Last edited by tragicThaumaturge; Saturday, 29th June, 2019 at 02:36 AM.
    XP Tormyr, Andrew Moreton, RangerWickett gave XP for this post

  2. #12

    4th of Summer

    The party spent a good amount of time during and after the last session discussing an issue that had come up, namely Rider’s involvement with all of this. Jasbeer and Uzziel had learned of the boy’s role as liaison between professor Kindleton and an unknown group, whom they could only suspect (correctly) were Kell’s people. They were all worried, Juza most of all, but they had wildly different ideas on what they should do with this information.
    The thing is, they thought Rider had been lying to them, withholding information from Juza while at the same time working for Lorcan Kell. He was an orphan and had four younger siblings to support, so they figured he must be in it for the money. But in truth the boy was a bit too loyal to Juza, one of the few adults he trusted, and had been diligently scouring the Nettles for any sign of the “men who smelled of burnt engine grease”, as per the constable’s instructions. He knew nothing of Wolfgang and had only incidentally become involved with Kell’s people. Neither had any idea who the other was, they had just hired the boy to deliver the letters because he didn’t know how to read.
    However, after witnessing Kell’s cruelty, Jasbeer was determined to shake up the boy as much as necessary to make sure he would leave the life of crime behind. And nobody could argue against her because they all thought he was falling in with Kell’s people. Gwen, however, made an argument for a more understanding approach, saying that perhaps the boy needed people whom he could trust to feel better and reject a life of crime. She thought that if they ambushed him and treated him like a criminal, it would only reinforce his idea that he couldn’t trust others and could only look out for himself by any means necessary.
    Those two spent a long time debating this, and the argument did escalate somewhat. It finally ended when Juza took a stance and told Jasbeer off, saying she would talk to the boy to see what was happening and would make him see reason. Or at least that was the plan.
    That night they all stayed at Jasbeer’s house because it was close by and it was late, but Juza took a midnight stroll to North Shore where the party had left their boat. She took it for a ride to get away from the city smog so she could see the sky and have a vision. She wanted to know what would happen if they handed over the stolen wands to Lorcan Kell, where they could find the doctor and who was Kell’s competition. She saw fire and explosions, a dark forest and a bald man fishing in a small pond and drinking coffee. The vision itself didn’t help them too much this time, but at least it confirmed that helping Lorcan Kell would have unpleasant consequences for the city. The important thing about this, however, was that because of the time Juza spent stargazing, she woke up late the following day.
    The other three constables got up early and headed for HQ. There they spoke with professor Kindleton and got her to lend them the keys to her house. Uzziel also wanted to talk to Serena to see if she would be willing to help them with their investigation (that is, transfer her to their team for the day). Jasbeer insisted he didn’t have to talk to her, they could just ask Stover to transfer her, but the others thought that might rub Serena and the others the wrong way. So Uzziel went to ask her and she said it was ok, but they would need to get Delft’s approval. Unfortunately they didn’t manage to do that, since the most he could do was approve it for the next day once they had more concrete leads to follow. They told him that wouldn’t do, and he offered to assign them four officers so they could search a wider area (because of Serena’s level, the favor was too high to get approved quickly, but they could get the policemen). The PCs refused, preferring to save the favor for later when they might have more info.
    After settling that Gwen decided to wait for Juza while Jasbeer and Uzziel left for the professor’s house since they didn’t want to miss Rider. They got there before he did and waited for him inside the building. By now Juza was already up and with Gwen, both of them hurrying towards the professor’s house. Uzziel saw Rider approaching through the window and Jasbeer went towards the door. The boy knocked and was greeted by the woman, whom he did not recognize. This is when everything fell apart. Jasbeer’s player told me he used a minor action to mark the boy with battlemind’s demand. He (the player) wanted to make sure the boy did not run off, but I asked him what the power did in-game. According to the book “you draw your foe’s concentration, taunting the foe to strike at you”, but I let players reflavor stuff if they want and just roll with whatever they say, as long as it makes sense. So the player tells me he is using psionics to make a creature see Jasbeer as the biggest threat, thereby drawing the creature’s attention. I said sure, and now Rider was immediately wary and his attitude shifted from neutral to unfriendly, his fear preventing him from being outright hostile.

    The two constables took the boy inside for questioning, but they decided to wait a bit for Juza. Once she and Gwen arrived they went inside and Juza began talking to Rider, trying to figure out what he knew. By this point Juza had actually told him about Wolfgang (the previous day if I remember correctly, the point is Rider hadn’t had a chance to relay this information, but he wasn’t withholding it. He had managed to figure out the letters he was delivering had something to do with it, but he had kept doing it so he could get more information for Juza, knowingly putting his life in danger to help her). But he was still under the effect of Jasbeer’s mark, and his discomfort had built up. He felt uneasy, angry and scared because he didn’t know what was happening to him, since he doesn’t know anything about psionics. So he wasn’t really in a talkative mood, and was dodging Juza’s questions. She managed to learn that the letters were given to him by a man and a woman in the Nettles, and decided to press the issue to make Rider more helpful. So he told her where in the Nettles he met with them.

    Rider was pretty angry by now, because up until this point Juza hadn’t done anything to make him feel better, or more relaxed, or explained anything. She had just been pressing him for more information. So he felt used, like one of his only friends didn’t care about him and didn’t trust him. They had all ganged up on him, made accusations and not once had any of them apologized for treating him like a criminal even though he hadn’t done anything wrong. He just wanted to be left alone, so he told the group that was all he knew and proceeded to leave. They told him to stop but he was having none of it, he wanted to be alone and had already told them everything he knew. Jasbeer enforced her mark to move next to him and grappled him and he began fighting to break free. Juza began talking to him and telling him to calm down, saying they needed him to take them to the place where he’d met with the couple. So now Rider was being grappled by Jasbeer, was even more scared, and Juza wasn’t standing up for him, instead acting like he was in the wrong for wanting to be left alone. I allowed a very difficult check to get him to calm down but they didn’t make de DC, so I told Juza she could try again and risk ruining her relationship with the boy, or could let him go and try to fix things later. Reluctantly she told Jasbeer to release him, and she had no choice but to comply.

    Well that could have gone better, I thought. They were all pretty bummed about losing their lead, but at least they had an address. They decided to investigate the Nettles, and I granted them a Streetwise success because of Rider’s previous investigation (I had previously rolled to see if the boy had managed to find anything, granting him a +8 bonus from 16 CHA and training in streetwise, simply because it sounded reasonable since that’s his main method of income. I’d rolled a 25 total, so that was a success). The PCs only needed two more to find the doctor the hard way. Juza decided to stay behind because she needed to come to terms with what had just happened, and Gwen decided to keep her company. Jasbeer and Uzziel went ahead and hired a guide to take them to the address Rider had given them. And this is when they realized things weren’t going to be as easy as they thought. They had an address, sure, but the guide told them there were multiple streets with the same name in the Nettles, and many of the locals didn’t know how to read so they actually called streets by different names because the nomenclature had been changed several times throughout the years as the district expanded. So they had no real way of knowing exactly where to look, and would have to visit several places and ask around. Knowing it would be faster if they split up they hired different guides, haggled a bit and set off. Juza and Gwen ran into the same situation when they got to the Nettles, and after a while they crossed paths and shared information. I granted them a Streetwise check, which Jasbeer rolled (taking only 2 hours since the four of them had been searching). She rolled high and they narrowed things down, learning that a group of Danorans had been active in the northern part of the district, looking for someone.

    Fearing walking into an ambush they decided to stick together for the final search even if it took longer. I began counting the hours: one, two, three, four, five… the player’s eyes widened with each hour that went by, their disbelief evident. I was waiting for them to tell me to stop, so when I announced six hours had passed I made a long pause. No one said anything so I went to the seventh hour. Now everyone told me to stop, said they thought I had finished at six and told me they would call off the search after six hours to discuss what the hell they were going to do. They had spent all day walking around the Nettles, it was already 8 pm and they still hadn’t found anything. They knew they risked running into a dead end if they kept this up, and now they were mere hours away from failing to stop the smuggling. They didn’t even know where it would take place, and they were desperate.

    They discussed going back to HQ to ask for reinforcements so they could split up and send half the group over to Pine Island (Jasbeer had taken a guess where the smuggling would occur, and although she was right they didn’t know that). They even looked around for an information broker to ask about illicit activities and found one, but since they were pretty far from the district he didn’t know anything about Pine Island. He offered to point them to someone on that district who could give them more information, for a fee of course, but after thinking it through the party decided they didn’t have time to go on a wild goose chase. They decided to go all in on finding the doctor and spent two more hours looking around the Nettles. It was 10:30 p.m. by now. I asked them to roll Streetwise. Jasbeer would roll. She had several bonuses, including a +1 from her background, and the player realized he needed a 13 on the d20 to reach DC 25. They knew if they messed this up the doctor would be a goner and their investigation would take a major blow. He rolled: 13. We all got very excited, and they all cheered and high-fived each other. That +1 streetwise from her background made all the difference.

    The constables followed rumors of a doctor hiding in an abandoned church, and found a couple begging to be let in so the man could reattach the husband’s severed thumb. They were driven away by a group of beggars who had settled in the church, and the party decided to try and convince them to let them through. They approached and told the men Juza had been bitten by a venomous snake, and they were somewhat convincing. Still, the beggars refused to let them through, insisting there was no doctor in the church. They said they didn’t want to lose the place they’d found, since they had no place to live, and the party offered to pay them. The men asked for a remarkable sum (10 gp for each) and the party was a bit tight on money, so they didn’t want to go giving away that much. Uzziel’s insight tipped them off that the men were probably asking for that much because they had been bribed to keep people away, and were trying to come out on top. After being told of this Jasbeer had no reservations about getting a bit more violent. She recalled her summoned armor (they had requested it earlier, don’t remember the day) and drew her weapon. The didn’t even need to roll Intimidate, since the beggars weren’t about to get into a fight with an armed person. They fled and the party ventured inside the church.

    They searched the inside of the church and found the secret passage in the latrine. Uzziel noticed one of the saw traps and they avoided it. It was a good thing he was leading the group, or else it might have crippled someone. They reached the heavy curtains that led to Wolfgang’s hiding place and used an elixir of clairvoyance to spy on the men. They’d been pretty sneaky and had avoided triggering the alarm or the saw traps, so the doctor and his “bodyguards” didn’t know they were there. One of Kell’s men was stoking the fire, another one was lying on a cot, and the third one was sitting on a chair while Wolfgang wrote a letter on the table. The group charged in taking them all by surprise and made short work of the criminals. They were surprised when Wolfgang attacked them with stop your heart, since they weren’t expecting him to be hostile. He managed to heal one of his bodyguards but the constables avoided attacking him, and once they had knocked everyone else unconscious they stopped fighting and told him they knew their friend Lynn Kindleton and that they were here to rescue him. He didn’t believe them at first, but they put their weapons away, handed him the letters and rolled well on Diplomacy. I found it hard to believe he wouldn’t believe them after all that, especially since they hadn’t harmed him during combat.

    They rested for a bit to recover and the constables told Wolfgang they needed to leave quickly and mentioned the hidden passage near the latrine. Unbeknownst to them Cillian Creed and the Obscurati were already in the church with them, and they overheard them talking. Wolfgang told the party he wanted to talk to them about what was happening before going anywhere with them, to make sure he could trust them and so they would hear his side of the story, since he didn’t want any trouble with the police. They agreed and he told them what had happened that day on the consulate. They realized he had just been an innocent bystander who had been at the wrong place at the wrong time (up until this point they thought he was involved somehow). They assured him they would keep him safe and he told them about the documents, asking for help to retrieve them from the hole in the ceiling. He said he hadn’t read them since he figured the more he knew, the worse things would be for him.
    As the party prepared to leave Creed struck. The only one to notice him was Uzziel. He saw the man appear from the shadows, cover Wolfgang’s mouth with his hand and stab the man’s neck with a syringe. He scored a critical hit and dealt massive damage to the doctor. Everyone freaked out. Uzziel shot a divine bolt but missed, and he saw the man fade and disappear (he’d become invisible, merged with Wolfgang’s shadow). Then the nethermancers destroyed their light source and plunged them into darkness.

    As the players realized this was an assassination attempt they got really scared. They hadn’t known what they were dealing with. It was the sort of fear that came with knowing that even if they made it out alive, they and everyone they knew were in terrible danger. They didn’t know how they’d been found, and since Uzziel told them the attacker had become invisible, they could only assume all enemies could do that too, and they’d been following them since god knows when.
    They fought desperately to stay alive and to keep the doctor alive. For all they knew, if he was reduced to 0 HP he would die and they would lose a key witness. Jasbeer’s potions and other consumables saved the day. Almost all their potions were used to keep Wolfgang alive (they were the kind that doesn’t consume healing surges if the creature is bloodied). They tried lighting more torches but the nethermancers destroyed them, and the party realized they would only take more damage if they kept trying. They all fought pretty well, and Jasbeer used a vial of darkness to grant total concealment in a burst 1. I ruled this would block the enemies' line of sight, so despite their darkvision they were now fighting on less unfair terms. They told Wolfgang to stay within the magically obscured area so enemies wouldn’t be able to hit him as easily. They had several of those vials too so they managed to keep it up for a good chunk of the fight. Juza’s radiant powers were especially effective against Creed, and in the brief flash created by the blazing starfall the constables were able to see the man’s skin peel away, revealing oil and raw muscle. They even had an elixir of invisibility which helped the doctor survive more easily. Eventually they defeated the assassins, and Creed escaped upon being bloodied. Another nethermancer escaped too once he was the last one standing, taking Jasbeer’s sword with him (she had dropped it during the fight).

    The party took a bit to realize the shadow man had fled, but they did see this last enemy flee the scene, and they decided to bail too. Unfortunately Creed had already warned Leone Quital of the secret passage, and he ordered his people to guard it. Before fleeing Jasbeer suggested they kill the unconscious enemies, or else they would report to Kell. Gwen and Juza didn’t want to kill defenseless people, but Uzziel agreed it had to be done. The doctor offered to stop their hearts painlessly so they wouldn’t suffer.

    After murdering everyone the constables tried to escape through the secret passage, but were met with gunshots and had to back down. They contemplated making a run for it, but took so long debating this that Leone just sealed the passage shut. He called for them and said he just wanted to talk, and with no other option the constables agreed.

    They met the man at the church’s entrance, and he introduced himself as “the Steelshaper”. I wasn’t sure if he was supposed to tell them his real name, but I thought it would be more interesting if the PCs had to figure things out, so he only gave them a nickname. He said he wanted the doctor and the documents, and in exchange he would let them live. They were in no hurry to hand over Wolfgang and the documents, so Leone told them he would give them an hour to make up their minds or else things would get ugly.

    They retreated to the area with the fireplace and decided they would read as much of the documents as they could while they thought of a way to escape. Wolfgang suggested the fireplace, but said it was too small to climb, although they could try to destroy the wall that separated the chute from the well. They recognized LeBrix as the author of the documents and Jasbeer wrote down the names of all the companies involved in the smuggling with a special invisible ink she had purchased. They realized the materials were going to the construction of something big, but didn’t know what. After their hour was up Leone called for them. They decided they needed to get the doctor to safety, so the plan was as follows: they would distract the Steelshaper while Uzziel accompanied Wolfgang to the fireplace. Using the canary in a coal mine Wolfgang would fly and escape through the fireplace, since that way he wouldn't need a lot of mobility and thus the enclosed space wouldn’t be a problem. He would then cast pyrotechnics with a scroll they had bought, and the assassins would have to escape when they realized the police would be on its way. Wolfgang was thankful the party weren’t going to hand him over, and were even offering to cover for him while he escaped, so he gave Uzziel his malice-wrought rapier and told him to give it to Jasbeer so she would be armed, since they were pretty much going to attempt a suicidal last stand.

    Jasbeer, Gwen and Juza went to talk with the Steelshaper, who once more told them to hand over the doctor and the documents. To up the ante he ordered his people to bring the boy out, and the constables realized they had captured Rider. The boy was terrified and Juza was about to have a nervous breakdown. Leone allowed her to touch the boy so she would know it wasn’t an illusion, and then telekinetically placed a knife on his throat, threatening to kill him unless they did what he asked. He began to count down from 10, and the players began discussing amongst themselves. Jasbeer did not want to hand over the documents, and in fact seemed pleased Rider had gotten in trouble. The player let slip his most arrogant side, I think, since he was completely OK with letting an innocent die simply because he hadn’t agreed with Jasbeer before. Juza was, of course, not OK with that, and she began to discuss with Jasbeer. Juza was concerned for a boy who was like a son to her, and Jasbeer wanted to keep the document because the safety of their nation was more important. It was finally Gwen who stopped the man at the last second and submitted. She handed Leone the documents and he pushed the boy to the ground and bent the steel bars so he could crawl towards the group.

    Once reunited Rider hugged Juza and cowered behind her. Leone told them now they had seen he was a man of his word, and promised to let them live if they gave him the doctor too. Gwen broke the news that the doctor was gone by now. Leone didn’t believe it at first, but once the pyrotechnics lit the sky he had no choice. They unloaded explosives and bid the party farewell, and then set off to catch Wolfgang. But the PCs had been tested to their limits and they were more determined than ever to survive. They rushed to the fireplace and Gwen began to climb, with Juza following to push her upward (I made the chute small to complicate things). The woman got into position and attempted to break the divisory wall, and succeeded on her Strength check. The constables began to climb and used ropes to help those who were having difficulty. They managed to get away from the explosion in the nick of time as the church collapsed behind them. They still couldn’t believe they’d gotten away from that.

    The walk back to HQ was not a pleasant one. The group had had enough of Jasbeer and they gave her a piece of their mind. They told her she had almost gotten Rider killed and almost got them kicked out of the Thinking Man’s Tavern. For her part she refused to accept any of it and told them off, saying they also did all sorts of imprudent things, particularly Gwen. She recalled how on Axis Island they had let a group of rebels live, which had allowed them to report to the other rebels. It had been needlessly risky but she had allowed them to do it because they were all for it, so now it was hypocritical of them to accuse her of putting them at risk or for making deals with criminals. Gwen, who was just now hearing of Jasbeer’s deal with Jered Lawman, got angry. She couldn’t understand why Jasbeer had actually followed through on her promise to the man instead of just getting the information and then reporting the planned sabotage. Jasbeer told her it was important to foster relationships with people who could prove valuable sources of information, and that they weren’t going to do anything too serious anyway. Gwen told Jasbeer she wouldn’t allow Jered’s band to commit the crime tomorrow night, and Jasbeer replied that she could do as she pleased, but she wasn’t going to help foil the Band’s efforts.

    The players were all a bit on edge. I might as well give my own opinion on the characters, which I keep to myself during sessions to let them sort things out.

    Jasbeer is very utilitarian and Uzziel, though pragmatic, has a stronger moral compass in my opinion. Juza is a lot more empathic and is frequently annoyed by Jasbeer’s actions and opinions, but she has a hard time thinking straight when she's stressed. Gwen is probably the one whose philosophy most strongly disagrees with the veteran’s, and I cannot help but see a curious situation arising. On one side we have a woman who, after a traumatic experience in the war, has become brave and heroic but also cold and single-minded in the execution of her duty. And on the other we have an altruistic and empathic machine who sees the good in others and encourages them to choose their own path in life while at the same time unsure if she herself is free to do so. Jasbeer is thought of as a mindless bully and servant of the government by many people she has met, but sees herself as a kind leader (that’s how the player described her to me). And at the same time Gwen is seen as understanding, compassionate and humane while being uncertain of her free will and not even being human.

    It might sound as though players are bringing a bit too much of themselves to the table, but I believe that’s important for this campaign, so I actually encourage it. Obviously I don’t encourage making things personal, but I think letting players discuss things and offer arguments in favor of their point of view is valuable, and I trust my friends so I can assure you things are fine.

    After that brief argument Juza decided to stay in the Nettles and search for Rider’s sibling, which Jasbeer thought was a terrible idea. She proposed going to HQ to report and request backup, which would make the search safer and more likely to succeed. “If you find them and they’re in trouble, what are you going to do?” she said to the skyseer. I found myself agreeing with Jasbeer on this one. Juza wasn’t thinking rationally, being sick with dread, but this was something she needed to do. She countered by saying “if it were your family would you leave them in danger to report first?” And Jasbeer say yes, she would, because it was reckless and foolish to rush into what could very well be a trap. Juza didn’t care. She took off to search for the children and Gwen went after her.

    During their search Juza and Rider talked, and Gwen listened. Rider told them what had happened, explaining why he’d acted the way he did when they interrogated him. He explained that he'd been afraid when he saw strangers waiting for him at the professor’s house, especially because he had already come to suspect she had something to do with the people Juza had been investigating. He didn’t know Jasbeer or Uzziel, and he felt something strange in his mind, like he was suddenly angry and didn’t know why. That only made him more scared, and being forced to wait for Juza to come only to be questioned like he’d done something wrong made it worse. He was hoping Juza would arrive and make things better, explain things to her companions and believe him, but instead she hadn’t stood up for him. Gwen, who had been worried about Rider’s behavior during that interaction, realized that Jasbeer had used her psionic powers on the boy, and that had caused the entire ordeal. If it hadn’t been for that, if they had approached trying to understand instead of making accusations, Rider would have been calm, his trust in Juza wouldn’t have suffered a blow, and he would have agreed to help them look for the doctor. This would have made things easier and would have let them keep an eye on him, preventing Steelshaper from kidnapping him and using him as leverage to get the documents. If it hadn’t been for Jasbeer, they would still have the evidence.

    Back at the constabulary Jasbeer and Uzziel sent for Delft and Saxby, who showed up a few hours later. It was past midnight by now, and their bosses wanted to know why they’d been summoned. The two constables explained the situation and Jasbeer handed them the list of factories who had showed up in LeBrix’s reports. They mentioned finding doctor Wolfgang, the assassination attempt and meeting a crissilyri man who called himself “the Steelshaper”. Since the doctor hadn’t arrived yet they got worried and quickly mobilized the police to search the Nettles. They didn’t find him.
    XP Tormyr gave XP for this post

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