Session 14: Theatre of Scoundrels
[sblock]When the investigators reconvened at RHC headquarters that afternoon, they set out for Pardwright University, a loose collection of buildings and offices on streets in the souther portion of Central District. They soon found Professor Lynn Kindleton in her office. Professor Kindleton was distraught to hear that her friend Dr Recklinghausen was in trouble, but maintained that she had not heard from him for some time. While Tok and Erik quizzed the surgeon, Thornt studied her office and soon cam across an envelope with the initials WvR on the reverse. Confronted with evidence that the two had been in touch, Kindleton reluctantly confirmed that she had been exchanging daily letters carried by child courier - with the missing doctor, and had begun to fear for Dr Recklinghausen’s safety. She agreed to send a letter rquesting a meeting the following day.
RT3 then split up to try to track down the dragonborn arsonist. Each investigator crossed Flint to meet with their contacts.
Thornt crossed Central District to meet with Jimmy “the eyes” Tibs in a dingy alley near the gate to East Bank. Tibs was certain that the two dragonborn had not passed through the gate at any time in the recent past - “I would’ve taken note of two bloody great lizards” – but agreed to put the word out. If Jimmy’s informants turned up any information, he would get a message to Thornt via the ex-RHC tavern owner at the Open Door.
Wilheim headed for the north-eastern quarter of Central District. He met with a bardic contact there, calling the man offstage between acts to quiz him about dragonborn in the city. Although the actor had not encountered any – “not big fans of the exquisite arts, you know” – he recalled that dragonborn consumed large amounts of raw meat (10 to 15kg a day) and suggested that Wilheim make enquiries with butchers. Wilheim thanked his friend for the tip, and then returned to the agreed meeting point.
Erik and Tok headed to Bosun Strand and a small gambling den run by Wilfredo Zinger. Zinger had served with Erik in the famous Risuri 4th company, but the two had never seen eye to eye and the enmity had simmered over the years. Nevertheless, Zinger’s involvement in the seedier side of Flint life had sometimes proved useful to the investigator. Zinger’s dislike of Erik had not abated, but the proprietor did see any opportunity for profit. If RT3 could deliver to him a crate of contraband that had been seized by RT3 customs, Zinger would have his connections track down the dragonborn.
After reuniting with the other constables, RT3 continued to the headquarters of the Flint's Butchers and Meatmen Guild. RT3 explained to the guild’s morbidly obese secretary that they were searching for dragonborn arsonists, and the man agreed to enquire with the guild’s members whether they had had an unusual spike in sales recently.
Next RT3 headed to the customs impound lot at the Royal Shipyard. They convinced the clerk on duty there that Zinger’s crate was needed urgently as evidence for a case the next day, signed it out, and then took it to a secluded location to open it. When the crate was opened, they discovered it packed with fey pepper (wrapped with coffee to mask the drug’s scent), poisons, and illicit potions and scrolls. By vote, RT3 decided to destroy the fey pepper and the poisons rather than hand such dangerous substances over. They repacked the scrolls and potions and resealed the crate as best they could, then delivered it to Zinger.
the fey pepper and poisons missing, he refused to co-operate. When Erik and Tok attempted to convince him that some contraband was better than none, Zinger was not persuaded. “And if I let you rip me off this time, you’ll do it next time too. And then everyone else will. You need to keep to your word in this business, Pride!”
~ ~ ~
Dejected that their best lead had fallen through, RT3 returned the half-empty crate to customs impound, uncomfortably aware that the missing contents would be reported and that they would need to answer to ACI Delft soon enough. They were making their way through the darkening streets towards RHC headquarters when a man approached them. He confirmed that they were the ones looking for “that foreign doctor”, then led them to Dr Recklinghausen.
Or so RT3 thought.
On the northeastern corner of Parity Lake, a woman cried out in alarm as two bandits waylaid her carriage driver. RT3 pursued the fleeing felons into a darkened building, only for a vast velvet curtain to open and reveal that they were standing on the stage of a disused theatre. A mean-looking crowd armed with pistols and crossbows prevented any immediate move to escape.
A voice called out from the upper circle of theatre boxes, and the constables were shown to a small bex at the centre of the ring. Lorcan Kell, criminal overlord, awaited them inside. While Kell calmly ate a sandwich, Tok studied their surroundings and realised that musket-armed criminals were stationed at each end of the round, with clear lines of sight into the box. Six more thugs waited just outside the box. Kell was taking no chances.
The gang leader eventually turned to the investigators and offered them a deal: he would reveal to them the location of Dr Recklinghausen in return for one thousand gold pieces. RT3 initially scoffed at the idea, but then Kell called for a ‘comedy’ and a drugged docker was brought on stage. Initially a strumpet flirted with him and made a show of picking his pockets, but then another gang member appeared and stage and the entertainment took a turn for the darker. The Kell guildmembers took turns beating the docker, first with their fists but then with a piece of timber.
RT3 held out as long as they could, arguing with Kell that Dr Recklinghausen was not worth 1000 gp because no one else wanted him, but when Thornt saw blood and teeth spray across the stage, his reserve cracked. He tossed his pouch - filled with almost seven hundred gold pieces of stipend - into Kell’s lap, and Erik and Wilheim soon made up the difference. Kell amiably thanked the investigators for the trade, and then ordered his crew to release the docker and RT3, and then show them to Dr Recklinghausen.
Tok administered first aid to the drugged docker in the street, and then RT3 delivered him to an infirmary. Only once they were sure he would recover did they follow Kell’s henchman Johan to an abandoned church built into a cliff-face in the Nettles. Dr Recklinghausen waited inside, guarded by a trio of Kell Guilders who left without incident when Johan arrived.
~ ~ ~
Dr Recklinghausen was initially suspicious of RT3, but they soon convinced him they could be trusted. When asked about Nilasa’s death, Dr Recklinghausen freely admitted that it was he that collected the documents and pendant from the dying half-elf. He handed the documents to Tok, who flicked through them.
The changeling quickly identified numerous reports and notes written by Security Chief Julian LeBrix that referenced financial irregularities of Danoran-owned factories. He also came across papers detailing LeBrix visiting factories and discovering flasks of strange black oil with floating motes of white light in them.
Tok pointed the documents out to Erik, and Dr Recklinghausen identified the substance as witchoil. He was familiar with it from his homeland of Arrovia, where it was created in small quantities by alchemists for use as a power source and as a stand-in for ritual components. He also vouched that he had never heard of it being manufactured in the quantities mentioned in LeBrix’s reports, and that certainly no moral man would use it, since it was composed of souls that were awaiting their final rest.
As Dr Recklinghausen finished his revelation, Tok asked about the golden canary pendant around his neck. Wolfgang had earlier confirmed that Nilasa gave it to him, but when Tok moved to take it, Dr Recklinghausen reflexively stepped back. Simultaneously, crumbled masonry crunched underfoot and a whispered voice at the church’s entrance said “Get them”. Thornt, Wilheim and Erik looked up in time to see shadowy figures moving into the light. Barely visible behind them was a silhouetted figure; just like the one they had seen the night before on Cauldron Hill.[/sblock]
As anticipated, my players were very keen to track down the dragonborn arsonits, but they seem to be doing it (or at least it's the expressed reason for it) on the entirely civic basis that an arsonist in an industrial-era city has the capacity to set the whole place aflame. Erik's player has spent his stipend on leather armour of fire resistance, but so far none of the others have taken active steps to prepare for the rematch they're all obviously keen to have.
It was good to have the players use their contacts for the first time in the adventure, and I plan to reward them by having news of the dragonborn reach them on day 5 (the next day), but that will align with Nevard's speech so I'm not sure whether they'll be interested in pursuing the lead eventually. In the meantime, I'm trying to track down a sewerish map (or a shanty area) suitable for use in Maptool as the dragonborn brothers' lair.
The meeting with Kell engendered the sort of enmity that I expected it would (indeed, Erik's player emailed me the next day along the lines of "It's okay so long as we get to take him down"). My players will probably expect their revenge to come sooner rather than later, so to assuage that bloodlust I'm going to reward their largesse by reversing the previously poor relations they had been building with the dockers. The public learning that constables outlayed 1000 gp of their own money to save the life of a docker is going to do wonders for RT3's currently poor public image.