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"Second Son of a Second Son" - An Aquerra Story Hour (*finally* Updated 04/19)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Here we go again, kids!

Some of you may have followed by "Out of the Frying Pan" Aquerra story hour, and others may have wanted to, but were daunted by the length - so here we have a brand new Aquerra story hour that you can get in on right from the beginning and many ways this will likely be a lot more indicative of what Aquerra campaigns are like than the last one was . . .

The player characters are:

You can click on the names above to see their page on the Aquerra wiki. As the players create/update their pages, I will add links to their names as well. Throughout this story hour you will see various names, places and terms linked - these will be to pages on the wiki. I will continue to use footnotes to describe mechanical details of events in the game, but will use direct links to give expository info. As usual, you won't need to read any of this stuff to enjoy the story, it will just be there for those who are interested.

Click Here to download the "Second Son of a Second Son" Campaign Guide PDF, which I gave out to the players before we had the stat draft to determine the characters' ability scores.

It laid out the basic guidelines for character creation for the campaign, an overview of the politics of the area (as everyone would be playing young petty nobles), and touched on some of the new house rules we would be using like influence and reputation (which were adapted from the "A Game of Thrones" d20 game.

As the game begins everyone is second level, but has 0 XP (meaning they will be at 2nd level longer).

For a different view on the events of the this campaign, check out: Bleys' Journal and/or The Prayers of Timotheus Smith

For an index of updates to this story hour check out the Second Son of a Second Son - Story Hour page on the aquerra wiki

One last thing: Since the story hour and the campaign will be pretty much in step with each other, while I am happy to entertain question or even speculation - I would appreciate that if people recognize elements of NPCs from. . . let's say a current Dungeon Adventure path (;)) that they stay mum about it. . . Thanks!
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
PRELUDE

Anulem, the 14th of Sek – 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

“How long are we going to wait? You heard his cry…” Laarus said to the others. The priest of Ra’s horse snorted and stepped back and forth. He patted its neck to calm it, the scales of his armor clinking as he leaned forward. His fine tight-fighting travel clothes were soaked with mud, rain and perspiration; several drops of which rolled down his prominent hawk-like nose.

It was mid-afternoon and they were on horseback before the crumbling front wall of a flooded ruined keep. The swamp was humid, and the steely clouds threatened rain.

“We cannot just charge in there…” Timotheus said.

“Charging in there is exactly what we should do,” Laarus replied overly loud. The lizardman atop the gatehouse tower broke off his conversation with Markos to call a warning into the keep that the adventurers might be charging in.

“We plan to do no such thing,” Markos called up to the guard. He then looked to his companions, worry in his blue eyes. “Right?” It was clear he was uncomfortable on a horse. Markos was a small man with a thin frame. Like the rest of his companions he was splattered with mud and muck, and the crags in his sun-baked skin were filled with dirt.

“Would someone care to go for a ride?” Bleys the Aubergine asked, turning his horse towards the north. He wore a deep purple cloak in a style that suggested the more traditional watch-mage robes that he eschewed. It was held on by three golden chain broaches and was laid over a bright crimson shirt. He had long black hair.

“I do not believe this is the time for that…” Victoria began. She lost much of her womanly shape in her scale mail, and bore a spear so long, she could rest the butt on the ground while she was still astride her horse. Her dark hair was shorter than that of Bleys, and she had a simple beauty that was washed away by the shadow of the nose-guard of her basinet.

“We may be forbidden to enter the keep, but thought we might get a better look at its dimensions by riding around it,” Bleys replied quietly.

The chatter was broken by another agonizing cry from within the keep. Laarus Raymer of Ra did not hesitate, and drawing his flail he spurred his horse. But Bleys reached out and grabbed the reins of the priest’s horse.

“Be not a fool! They are prepared for a charge! At the very least let us go around,” the watch-mage said.

“Then go around!” Laarus replied sternly. Bleys could see a blue-black vein pulsing under the too pale skin of the priest’s head and let go. Laarus charged in, calling on Ra to bless their coming battle. Victoria and her mount charged right in after him.

Past the gatehouse, the inner keep was a mess of broken walls. Pools of stagnant water collected on the uneven ground, and seeped out where stone had sunken into the loam. There was a stone building lacking a roof in the center of what was once a great courtyard, but the wall that once stood behind it was now piles of rocks in a great pool of green water being fed by countless little streams from all directions.

Victoria reared up at a thickly woven straw mat over fifteen feet to a side laying in the middle of the courtyard, not far from the broken wall that led into the roofless building. Two lizardfolk, wearing long smocks of cured brown leather stood at each side of the ten-foot gap, hissing and brandishing machetes. They were dark green and mottled with brown, and had low thick crests on their heads.

Laarus charged on and as the thatched mat gave way beneath his horse’s front hooves it reared up and whinnied in dismay. The animal kicked it forelegs and spun itself frantically, while Laarus held on desperately, trying to retain control. At least he had not ridden into the pit that the mat, now askew, had obscured.

“Going around will give them a chance to kill Sir Quintus! Charge!” Markos said as he spurred his horse to follow the others. Timotheus was right behind him, yelling, “Sir Quintus! Shout as loud as you can so we know where you are!” Valerius went with them.

Bleys looked to Telémahkos. The son of Briareus had not made a move to follow the others. He met the watch-mage’s glance and nervously pulled at some loose blond strands sticking out from his old-fashioned helmet. He wore a chain shirt and leather greaves, and had a white tunic with the coat of arms of House Briareus on it. He grabbed at the lance in the leather holster on the side of his light warhorse.

“Shall we go around?” Bleys the Aubergine asked his companion, gesturing over to the north side of the keep. Telémahkos nodded, so the watch-mage turned his horse and led the way carefully through one of the broader streams and around the crumbling outer tower.

The lizardman atop the gatehouse tower let out a violent set of barks and hisses towards the stone building. He had moved over to look into the ruined keep and saw Timotheus come bursting into the courtyard, while Markos hung back near the gatehouse.

“Chok’tem! It is not too late to reveal Sir Quintus! We can still parley and no blood need be shed!” Markos called.

“They have me in here!” came a strained voice from the stone building. “They have me in here! Just don’t kill them!”

Approach,” Victoria said to the lizardman atop the tower, divine authority in her voice. The lizardman climbed over the crumbling wall and hanging there for a moment jumped, landing painfully on one leg that collapsed beneath his weight.

Timotheus rode right up to the entrance to the building (avoiding the thatched straw cover on the ground) and could see the corner of some kind of wooden cage, but an uneven brick wall obscured most of it. There was a narrow stream running into a pool collecting in one corner of the structure and a rotting wooden door acted as a kind of footbridge.

The lizardman on the right grabbed at Tim, and as the tall man shifted in his saddle to avoid being grappled, his horse was spooked and reared. Timotheus landed on his hands and knees, spinning at the last minute to avoid hurting himself. The horse snorted and turned, taking off for the center of the courtyard again. Markos moved his horse over and grabbed the creature’s reins to calm it and keep it from riding off into a bog. “Chok’tem, it is not too late! Bring him forth!”

“You have broken your word!” came the lizardman’s voice in his breathy broken Common. He was inside the stone building, beside the wooden cage. “Why should we believe? Retreat now! Leave! And then no bloodshed!”
 
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Gold Roger

Villager
That's quite a start, I'm eager for more.

By the way, will the RBDM board return at some point or have you given up on it?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Gold Roger said:
That's quite a start, I'm eager for more.
Well, I have the first three sessions written up, and we play the fourth session a week from today. I hope to keep caught up in writing them.

I plan to update about twice a week until the updates are caught up with real time, and then we'll see how often they come from there (probably three times every two weeks).

Gold Roger said:
By the way, will the RBDM board return at some point or have you given up on it?
The RBDM club has been moved from my old boards because of all the tech issues we kept having. Unfortunately, its new location means we cannot have public areas of the board. . . well, kind of. . .
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #1: “A Party at Sluetelot” (part 1 of 3) (1)

As the drunken haze that was mistaken for a corona of glory about the sigils of their Houses faded away with morning, word came of the great disaster in the City of the Spices. All the people of Thricia were united in their horror and sympathy at the event, and it seemed a poor time for these minor houses to announce the creation of their adventuring charter, and their quest for riches and notoriety…. But not one of the Houses wanted to be the first to suggest delaying or canceling the agreement, but what was to be an event worthy of a great banquet and ostentatious party became humbler and humbler, and fewer people could be expected to take part for fear of appearing disrespectful.

Most people see what is now being called “the God-king’s Cold Revenge” as an ill-omen of a bad time coming, but in her great speech from the steps of the High Temple of Isis, the Margrave said that Thricia was to go on as it always had. So when she heard of the charter, she openly encouraged it in court and declared she would be sending “the young sons and daughters of Thricia a gift to aid them”. As Lord Paullion Tenbrook V was present at court when this was announced, he felt the need to send a gift as well, and the small, but tasteful banquet in honor of the charter’s official signing will be held in private suites in the inn locally known as ‘Death & Taxes’ in the town of Sluetelot on the 9th of Sek, also known as Anhur’s Day of Honors.


The mid-spring warmth of Ra’s Glory, washed over the town of Sluetelot in golden waves, distorting the distant glare of the Captured Sea to the west. Markos Ackers was saddened to step off the sloop, as it reminded him of what might have been a happier times – Happy then, but not always happy to think of now. Of average height and very slender build, he flicked his cloak off and immediately a servant took it from him.

“The page will bring your horse to the stables,” his father said as he returned from the Harbormaster’s office. “Stabling has been arranged for everyone in the charter.” Jansen turned to the tall young man with the reddish-blond hair, and bright red cassock. The cassock was woven with golden threads that held tiny gems in place in an intricate brocade about the shoulders and chest. He had sharp features and hazel eyes. About his neck was a golden solar disk emblazoned with an ankh. “Laarus, perhaps if you need a horse as well, you can inquire about purchasing or borrowing one there later.”

The young priest nodded to his uncle, and then the three began to walk into town. Markos and Laarus looked up at the great walls and towers of Havesting with awe. They could see tiny figures scrambling around siege engines, and atop the balustrade of a great sea wall that reached out into the harbor to reach the shrine of Tefnut, and divide the port into two large areas. Everywhere was the cry of men and gulls, and the cracking of the wind and the creaking of ships. In his forties and well-traveled due to his working for House Raymer’s nascent mercantile business, Jansen Ackers was less impressed. He had brown curly hair worn to the shoulders, in Thrician style. If he and his son had the same complexion, it was only because Markos was weathered a soft-brown by his years at sea, making his yellow hair seem even brighter.

Sluetelot was a big town, and growing still. It was a collection of white and blue houses, many with tin roofs, but some had roofs of blue slate. A white stone wall surrounded what locals called Old Town, and where the town had grown beyond the wall, was called “New Sluetelot”. They had to walk through the harbor fortress itself, where Jansen’s credentials, and the respect given a priest of Ra got them through the lines of the many visitors waiting to be allowed into the town very quickly.

They were reminded of the peace knot law ordinance in effect in Sluetelot, but no one bothered to check their weapons. The main thoroughfare out of the fortress led right to the middle of town, where the Death & Taxes Inn and the luncheon in honor of the signing of Charter of Schiereiland would take place.

“Father, I am still confused as to why this is such a small affair,” Markos asked Jansen. “I mean, after the tragedy of the City of the Spices, would not a great party in honor of this charter raise morale? Especially, if one believes that it shall really be for the benefit of the people of Thricia, that is…”

“Well, that Margrave gave her blessing… What more can be asked for?” Laarus interjected.

“A great banquet might have been nice,” Jansen replied. “But I think it is better to come in quietly and later be noticed, than to be announced only to disappoint.”

Laarus nodded in agreement.

“I just hope we can use this charter as an opportunity to actually help people, and not just some political ploy,” Markos said.

“The margrave has ever stood to defend the people against the tyranny of Thricia’s nobles,” Jansen smiled with his obvious sarcasm. He opened his fine vest, and undid a button of his silk shirt, as the walk in the sun was beginning to make him sweat. “If she has given her approval, it is because she believes it will be helpful to Thricia in some way.”

“Yes, I am sure she has her reasons, even if they are not readily apparent,” Markos replied, as they came into view of the inn.

Death & Taxes was situated at the corner to the entrance to what was called “the Great Meeting Well Plaza”, or sometimes “central Market”, as nearly everyday merchants hawked their wears all about the great marble lipped well in the plaza’s center. The inn was a two-story building, with ivy growing up one side and over most of the sloped roof. There was a garden in front with wooden benches that faced the overgrown and unkempt yard of a cottage across the way.

Laarus made out the spire of a temple of Isis across the plaza as they came around the inn to enter its common room. Within the dim interior, they found the proprietor hastily directing others to clean, as he wiped the bar himself. It seemed the place had been quite lively the night before, and though it was afternoon, the aftermath was still being taken care of.

The obsequious innkeeper, Barton Digits, greeted them effusively, and led them up to the second floor where the entrances to two suites across the narrow lacquer-paneled hall from each other were open. A hand-painted sign next to the door on the left had an arrow pointing towards it. It said, “Schiereiland Charter Luncheon”.

Bleys Winter was prompt as he always was. Seventeen stone and four inches over six feet, he cut an impressive figure in his dark purple watch-mage’s robes filigreed in silver, which he in an unusual style, more like a travel cloak than robes. The collar of a crimson shirt stuck out from beneath his studded leather armor. Bleys had long dark locks; dark eyes and was clean-shaven. He nodded to his father’s words, but his eyes were following the woman who had greeted them upon arrival to the posh suite. She was Euleria Finch, and now she was greeting three newcomers Bleys did not recognize. Bleys’ father, Callum Winter, stood no less straight for being nearly four inches shorter than his son. He looked much like Bleys, but with twenty years on his face.

“Welcome. You do us honor,” Euleria said to Markos, Laarus and Jansen as they walked in. She was tall for a woman, with freckled olive skin, and a build like an awkward teenage boy. She wore trousers, a shirt and vest much as a man might, if this were not Thricia, where robes and even kilts are the habit. Her short dark hair did not do much to feminize her, but she had wide and welcoming smile, and looked each noble in the eye with respectful acknowledgement. She explained that not all the other guests and signers of the charter had arrived yet, and directed them to the opulent spread of food on one table. Beside it on another smaller table, amid plates and bowls, was a small cask of ale, and several bottles of wine. A wench was present to serve the food, and was perplexed by Markos’ attempt to serve himself and the apology that followed it.

There were other guests already present and arriving. A tall man of significant girth eating from a plate filled with cheese, fruit and bread, and slurping wine from a glass he was resting on a small end table. He had long curly locks, and a round youthful face with very red cheeks. He wore a floppy burgundy beret, and a lyre resting on a chair nearby. He appeared to be in his forties. An obvious Librarian of Thoth walked in, perhaps in his late twenties. He dragged his left leg a bit, and had a portion of his head shaved to reveal where an old black scar told of near fatal wound. He nodded awkwardly to Euleria Finch and sat in a corner to write in a journal he carried, along with a wooden folder tied with ribbons and holding scrolls of some kind.

------------------------------------

“It’s always so damn hot!” Agamemnon Briareus swore. He dabbed at beads of sweat on his balding head with a kerchief, and cursed again, as he flicked at the heavy brocaded woolen coat he wore. “Ra’s damned Tenbrooks and their damn weather! No wonder they are always at each others throats down here. It is too hot for men or beasts!” He was burly man of no great height, but his width gave anyone walking past him pause. Though his hairline was receding, the middle-aged man has long locks of blond hair and rugged good looks.

“I am sure the people of Sluetelot are used to the climate,” Timotheus replied. Agamemnon glared at his nephew, and Telémakhos risked a surreptitious look of warning to his cousin, being more aware of his father’s ill-tempers. Timotheus smiled broadly, uncaring. He wore a blue kilt, a brown leather vest, and a white tunic with blue piping. Copper gleamed on his left wrist in the form of the stylized broken manacle of Nephthys. His reddish-blond hair cut short and his square jaw was clean-shaven, keeping him youthful despite his soldier’s gait and tall broad frame. He wore a saber at his side.

At Death & Taxes, Barton Digits’ voice quavered with fear in the presence of Agamemnon Briarius. He led the three nobles to the suite and Euleria Finch immediately came over from where she spoke to corpulent man with the lyre to introduce herself.

“Ra’s damn it,” Agamemnon swore under his breath. “Who invited the gimp?” Telémakhos looked up and saw his lame older brother closing his book and standing, walking over with his ever-present difficulty to greet them. Telie felt the red flash of guilt on his face that he always felt when around his brother, since the time of the accident that left him so afflicted. He adjusted his pristine white toga, with its red sash and gold chain, and patted at the perfect golden curls that framed his almost girlish face, looking down uncomfortably as he shook his brother Nikephorus’ hand. Agamemnon barely grunted his greeting, but Timotheus greeted his cousin with genuine warmth, asking after his health. As Telémakhos’ looked up his eyesight trailed to notice a woman standing near the back of the suite. She was nearly as tall as Telie, who was no giant among men, and had long dark hair, alabaster skin, large blue eyes and an ample bosom. She had a beauty that would be hard to forget, and while Telémakhos knew her to be Lavinia Vanderboren, he was having a harder time remembering if they had ever shared a liaison. She was the daughter of sometime business associates of his family, but if he recalled correctly, her parents had both died only a few months before.

Euleria explained what the agenda for the luncheon was, and how they were waiting for the arrival of one more of the charter’s prospective members. Timotheus upset the serving wench by serving himself, and Sir Agamemnon immediately ordered the girl to hand him a flagon of wine. Telémakhos considered approaching the woman in the back of the fine suite, but there were more arrivals.

A short glabrous priest of Ra arrived in a maroon cassock with a broad golden torc about his neck. He was Dracius of Ra, a former mentor of the young priest Laarus Raymer, and he went over to greet one of his favorite students. A man of undeterminable age came in, he was certainly among the oldest in the room, but his face still seemed young despite his pug nose and droopy eyes; Blond was growing in at the roots of his long dyed black hair. He wore a woolen green kilt and a white shirt of lighter fabric, with a golden vest. A man, perhaps in his late thirties, of medium build and with the short dark hair, curled beard and olive complexion of a Herman-Lander entered. He wore brown woolen trousers, and light navy blue coat over a cream colored shirt. A middle-aged woman, most of her youthful beauty gone to replaced by a distinguished visage that was no less attractive, walked into the suite. She wore the long black traditional habit of a priestess of Isis with its silver colored front and collar. Among her long dark brown locks were thin braids ending in bright beads. About her neck was a silver holy symbol; an ankh resting in the curve of crescent moon. She was Leisel of Isis.

Soon after, a young woman dressed in scale mail and carrying a spear arrived. She was tall, with short dark hair, and dark eyes. She wore a holy symbol of silver in the shape of a small stylized spear about her neck. It had an ankh etched on it. She was accompanied by a man who had a similar serious countenance, but his dark hair was thinning and he was much older. He too wore armor, and had the obvious stature of a knight. This was confirmed when Euleria welcomed him as Sir Lionel Ostrander, and shook his daughter, Victoria’s hand as well.

So finally, everyone was there. Euleria coughed to get everyone’s attention and called the would-be signers up to the front of the room. She began to speak.

“We are honored on this day to take part in and witness the signing of the historical adventuring charter by the young sons and daughters of Thricia, for their own benefit, that of their houses, and that of the people of Thricia. In honor of this charter, the Margrave has sent a gift. She has hired me and paid in advance for a year of my services as steward for the group. Whatever is needed, whatever logistics… I shall do my best to acquire, achieve and serve. I will book passage, inquire for lodging, arrange interviews and grant whatever aid in planning and execution you may need of me. And when you are abroad on explorations and quests, I shall look after your interests more locally. When the year is over, you may review my efforts and decide at that time whether you would like to keep me on in a role as steward, and pay my usual salary.”

She paused and smiled, and looked at Victoria, Telémakhos, Timotheus, Markos, Bleys and Laarus in turn.

“In addition, other Houses have sent generous gifts,” she continued. “House Tenbrook have paid that this and the suite across the hall be at your service for seven months. This includes meals and drink served here. However, anything purchased in the common room downstairs must be paid for as normal. From House Barhyte, notable and honorable liege of both House Ostrander and House Briareus, you have free stabling and care of your horses for an equal time while here in Sluetelot. House Curen, the liege of House Raymer, has arranged discounted prices for courses and training at the University of Thricia in Moon City, if it is availed of within three years.”

There was polite applause, and Telémakhos raised his mug to the man with the dyed hair and droopy eyes. He recognized him as Joezyn Barhyte, uncle of the head of that house, and an influential man in mercantile industry.

Nikephorus stepped forwards slowly and pulled from his folder two long sheaves of parchment. Upon them in a clear and elegant hand were the words of the charter. Euleria took them from the priest with a bow, and laid one copy on a table, and held up the other. As no one volunteered to read it aloud when she asked, she did the honors.
----

The Schiereiland Adventuring Charter

We, the undersigned, as duly designated representatives of our most noble Houses, do join ourselves in solidarity of arms and fraternity of spirit in service of the common good. In doing so, we knowingly and with sober intent assume the duties of Noble Adventurers under the auspices of the Crown of Thricia, with all rights and responsibilities legally appertaining thereunto. We do solemnly swear in the names of the gods, our most noble Houses, and Her Majesty, the Margrave Katherine Pepper, to adhere to the following principles:
  1. To obey the laws and uphold the values of the Crown of Thricia;
  2. To place the interests of the Crown, as embodied in our most noble Houses, above all personal interests;
  3. To battle the enemies of the Crown and of the people wheresoever we may encounter them;
  4. To hold true to one another in the face of peril;
  5. To bring glory without loss of integrity to ourselves and our Houses;
  6. To behave in public with such decorum as befits nobles of Thricia;
  7. To grant all members of our company an equal voice in determining our path and number, irrespective of wealth or status, except where outlined differently in this document;
  8. To follow the wisdom of our people and culture and always have among our number a representative of the Academy of Wizardry as a full and equal member;
  9. To divide all spoils by a number equal to the number of members of our company plus one, with the extra share being divided by the founding Houses of this charter, Ostrander, Briareus and Raymer. Additional payments to these Houses are otherwise left to agreements reached with their members to be paid out of their personal share;
We call upon Isis to guard us from harm, Ra to light our way, Anhur to guide our blades, Fallon to show us compassion, and Nephthys to grant us courage. May Thoth bear witness to this document, and may He inscribe our names in his Book of Truth.

Signed this day, the 9th of Sek, in the year 637 M.Y.,

----

She placed the copy she read from on the table, and Nikephorus of Thoth placed a small bottle of ink and a quill beside it. Laarus of Ra did not hesitate and was the first to sign both copies, with Bleys the Aubergine right behind him. Victoria of Anhur signed next, but Timotheus looked at the paper again before signing, and though Telémakhos signed right off, the observant might have noticed the slight quiver of his hands. Markos Ackers seemed to be in no rush, and everyone else had signed and stepped away from the table when he came over and signed both copies with a quiet sigh.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Charter of Schiereiland!” Euleria Finch gestured broadly to the six young nobles, and this time the applause was more enthusiastic. Glasses and mugs were raised and toasts were given to honor them.

to be continued. . .
------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) The first session of the “Second Son of a Second Son” campaign was played on Sunday, January 21, 2007.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I wanted to make another quick note about a way the format of this story hour will differ from "Out of the Frying Pan":

In the past I avoided spoilers - what I mean is, that in my previous story hour if something happened that was a secret to most of the PCs, I did not refer to it in the story until was actually revealed.

For example, while I would describe Jana and Markle occasionally talking privately, it was not until it was revealed that he was enlisting her aid in the attempt to rob the royal treasury did it become clear what those discussions were about.

In the "Second Son of a Second Son" story hour, I plan to make use of the SBLOCK tag to hide away those kinds of scenes so that readers and players can avoid seeing info they might not want to know yet.

So for example, it would look like this:

[sblock]This is the secret scene.[/sblock]

I am doing this because since I plan to be closer to caught up all the time, things revealed in the re-telling may end up effecting the game inadvertantly. However, when it comes to things that I am ABSOLUTELY sure would ruin the fun if one of more players found out ahead of time, I will write around it altogether.

Expect the next installment of Session #1 on Thursday night.
 

Telémakhos

Villager
Nice

Yo yo yo. Nice start. As you can see I have a new username to go with the campaign. I am using the obscure gmail account to represent.

Anyway, I am loving things so far. I think these guys are sure to be at least as dysfunctional as your last group.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #1: “A Party at Sluetelot (part 2 of 3)

The young nobles all shook hands in greeting and recalled times they had met before, as some of them had here and there at balls, festivals, tournaments, weddings and funerals. Bleys withdrew to talk to his father once more, and Markos sat back down to nurse some ale, and listen in. The other four stood around the table with all the food and began to talk avidly of possible plans.

“Does anyone know of anything that needs doing?” Victoria Ostrander asked. She seemed as comfortable among men as any of them.

“Well, hobgoblins have often harassed the roads in the eastern foothills of Westen-scherp Muur,” Timotheus said, pouring himself more wine. He tasted it and his eyes went wide. “Wow. This is good wine… Anyway, while they are always beaten back, no one has ever taken the time to hunt them down and wipe them out…”

Bleys the Aubergine was listening in as well, as he stepped over to re-join his father, however, the bearded Herman-lander pulled him aside.

“A moment of your time, young master Winter?” the man asked.

“Yes?”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” the man said, as he led Bleys towards another small table where he poured them both drinks. Bleys demurred. “I am Cavalind Rattlendale, of the Verdun Rattlendales, and I rejoiced of having heard of this signing and having the opportunity to be here, as I have come to Thricia to recruit adventuring bands such as yours.”

“For what purpose?” Bleys asked.

“As you know, the Kingdom of Herman Land has been embroiled in a long and horrible war against the traitorous Black Islands Barony, and most of our fighting resources are pointed in that direction, and most of our adventurers are either already involved, or have fled for other parts of the world to escape conscription and make their fortunes free of taxation…”

“What does this all have to do with us and with Thricia?” Bleys asked curtly.

Cavalind looked around hoping perhaps someone else might join them and listen to his pitch, but seeing this was not to happen, he plunged back into it with the watch-mage. “There are a lot of matters left unattended. Things that the throne relies on adventurers to keep in control… Like goblin populations, and the discovery of ancient tombs that might pose a danger to the populace… Things of that nature…”

“Yes, but that has nothing to do with Thricia, and thus nothing to do with us,” Bleys said.

“But… but… of course, it has to do with Thricia,” Cavalind was flustered. “You can make your fortunes, while you reinforce the bonds of friendship between our two nations… And your charter and noble backing would probably get you breaks on taxes on whatever booty you do discover… Rumors abound, like…”

Bleys raised his hand and repeated. “This is not in our interest. This is not in the interest of Thricia.”

Cavalind closed his mouth and nodded. Wringing his hands, he spoke again after a long pause. “I am sorry… I must be talking to the wrong person…”

“Yes, you must be…” Bleys said, and turning saw his father was now talking with Sir Lionel. He moved to join them, noting that Markos Ackers had now joined the others, but Telémakhos had moved away and was talking with the portly Joezyn Barhyte.

“Thank you for the generous gift of the stabling,” Telémakhos said to one of the elders of his liege’s house.

“Bah! Don’t thank me, thank my nephew the Lord,” Joezyn replied amiably. The older man held a large tankard, from which he took a healthy swig. “I’m just glad to see some of our youth getting out there and trying to do something, instead of resting on their laurels and living off of daddy’s coin.” He laughed heartily, and clapped Telie on the shoulder. “Have you all talked about what you might do?”

“This is the first time we are all together at the same time,” Telémakhos replied. “So we have not had an opportunity. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Well, now that you mention it, there are the ‘King Stones’,” Joezyn said. “Have you heard of them?”

Telémakhos shook his head.

“Old old barbarian chieftains who declared themselves kings in the time after Sorlorn’s Realm, before the Time of the Six Kingdoms, or right at its beginning,” the older man explained. “They entombed themselves like the kings of old, worshiping their beast gods, or whatever heretical views they had on the gods of Ra… What have you… This is down in the Disputed Territories, in areas still held by their nomadic descendants, but they are all fighting… All the barbarian tribes of the southern Spice & Thread Islands joining together in great hordes and attacking settlements of the Kingdom of the Red God of the West. No one knows why, but they are doing it, and in the meantime, the King Stones will be more accessible…”

“Tomb-raiding?” Telie asked and smiled nervously.

“Not really,” Joezyn smiled back warmly and winked. “No, not at all. These burrows have long ago been defiled, and are home to various critters… Kobolds and the like… And anyway, it is not like those savages were ever buried with the rites of Anubis. There would be no sacrilege.”

Timotheus stepped over to join them, as Joezyn went on to explain that exploration of the Disputed Territories was needed to help prepare for a push to retake this land for Thricia.

“We would certainly be interested,” Timotheus said.

“And if you can give me some assurances of your intentions to go there, I can arrange for a rough map of the stones themselves,” Joezyn offered. “They are built into the side of a great crescent-shaped hill.”

The conversation with the others had meandered from topic to topic. It had been talk of hunting hobgoblins that had shooed Telémakhos from the conversation, but this was followed with talk of perhaps electing a leader, at which point Victoria immediately nominated Laarus of Ra. But then Timotheus had brought up the subject of a name for the group.

“Is that really an important topic of discussion at this moment?” Victoria Ostrander said, after a few ridiculous possibilities were suggested.

“No, what matters is choosing what we are going to do with this mandate to help the people of Thricia,” Markos said. “If we are to make our fortunes, so be it… But let it be in the service of those who need help most.” The scrawny tanned young man gestured with his cup as he spoke, splashing wine. It was then that Timotheus joined his cousin and Joezyn.

“Of course,” Laarus agreed, and Victoria nodded her head.

“Bleys! Join us,” Laarus called to the Academy alumnus when he saw him standing by himself. “Tell us. Does the Margrave have a purpose for us to serve?”

“Purpose?” Bleys looked surprised.

“You are her representative in this charter are you not?” the priest of Ra asked.

“No… At least… I do not think so,” Bleys paused. He looked into the distance as if thinking over a problem, and then looked to the priest again. “I am here as a representative of the Academy of Wizardry, and as such I am here to represent and defend the interests of the people…”

Telémahkos excused himself from Joezyn Barhyte and his cousin, and walked over to where the beautiful Lavinia Vanderboren was chatting with the Herman-lander noble.

“Miss Vanderboren,” Telie greeted with a bow, taking her hand and kissing it gently. He held on to it an extra half a moment, as he looked at her, and then turned to the gentleman.

“Telémakhos Briareus,” Calavind said. “I am honored to meet you and to have the opportunity to be present at such a historic occasion. It is my understanding that there has been no adventuring charter of this kind in Thricia in many many years…”

Telémakhos nodded.

“Well, opportunities abound in the Kingdom of Herman Land,” Cavalind Rattlendale went into his schpiel.

When the Herman-lander finally excused himself to get another drink, encouraging Telémahkos to seek him out in Herman Land if he was interested in the offer, the other charter members were calling him over to the table again. Bleys the Aubergine, however, left the group making directly for the corpulent bard, Darbold the Gay. He had been introduced as a member of the watch-mage’s council, and was having the wench fix his fifth plate of food. Joezyn Barhyte was talking with Agamemnon Briareus.

“What is ‘aubergine’ anyway?” Timotheus asked Markos.

“Deep purple, like eggplant,” Markos replied.

“Heh. Bleys the Eggplant,” Tim chuckled. “I’d love to know why his classmates give him that one…” (1)

“I am happy to see you here,” Telémahkos said to Lavinia, still at the rear of the suite. The woman looked down demurely and smiled.

“I do not mean to bother you on this important day,” she said. “But I must admit I come here to seek your help…”

“How can I be of service?” Telémahkos had somehow perfected an expression of equal parts concern and whimsy.

“I would rather we talk in private,” she replied.

“Funny, I prefer a more private meeting as well,” Telie winked.

“Telie! Come over. We have things to discuss,” Timotheus called to his cousin again, and this time Telémahkos walked over, but not before gently kissing Lavinia’s hand again.

“I just finished telling the others about what Joezyn told us about ‘the Kingstones’,” Timotheus said as Telie finally joined them. “What did that Herman-lander have to say?”

Telémahkos explained about the opportunities in the Kingdom of Herman Land, but it was generally agreed that the group wanted to remain in Thricia, at least for now.

“Is there not something we can do to help the people displaced by the great tragedy in the City of the Spices?” Markos asked.

“That seems like an honorable goal,” Victoria replied. “I would support such an action.”

“There are already many people giving better aid there than we can give,” Timotheus said. “We are not carpenters or engineers. I do not think we could do much but get in the way.”

“But are not many people displaced?” Markos asked. “Might not crime and chaos breed in such a situation…?”

“Neither are we police,” Timotheus replied.

---------------------------------

“Has there been any progress in determining what really happened to the local watch-mage?” Bleys asked Darbold. (2)

The bard’s head drooped, and his smiling visage melted. “None more that I know of…”

“So there has been an investigation into it,” Bleys continued.

“Leisel of Isis took charge of the body, if that is what you mean…”

“It is not what I mean,” Bleys replied. “I mean, have the exact means of the murder and those responsible been determined?”

“Leisel said there was nothing more to figure out, and that is enough for me,” Darbold the Gay replied. “When it first happened, rumors abounded that Weirspierogen folk were responsible, and it took quite a bit of effort to keep the locals from piling into sloops to make their way across the bay and burn down Weispierogen in revenge…”

Bleys rubbed his chin and nodded, and spied a look over at Leisel of Isis, where she had walked over to talk to the rest of the group. “And where did they get this idea?”

“Who knows how rumors are started?” Darbold said. “It is no secret that the towns of Drie-Hoek Bay have often feuded. Barakis’ death was as good a reason as any to take up old enmities again.”

“And you knew him well?”

“Very. We are old drinking and adventuring companions,” Darbold explained. “And when he was appointed watch-mage of Sluetelot he asked me to be on the town council, along with Leisel, though she is no longer a member…”

“She isn’t?”

“She resigned a few weeks before Barakis’ death,” Darbold replied.

“Why?”

“Church responsibilities, I guess… Well, that and she and Barakis often quarreled about his carousing and drunkenness. She did not think he was serving as a very good example for young Master Floris Tenbrook.”

“Who?” Bleys asked.

“Another member of the watch-mage’s council,” Darbold said. “A young noble, not unlike this lot you have cast your fortune with today… After I married my lovely flower, and became a father, well… I was not as readily available for Barakis’ nightly sorties into inebriation. Young Floris took my place, I guess…”

“Where is the late watch-mage’s house?” Bleys asked, never pausing for pleasantries.

“It has already been checked for anything that might have enlightened us to what happened to him,” Darbold replied.

“That is not what I asked,” Bleys said.

Darbold the Gay made a face that expressed anything but gaiety, clearly annoyed with the young watch-mage interrogating him. “His house is right across the way there,” he said. “Often when the night ended here at Death & Taxes because the town-watch would complain of the noise, the party went over to his house and yard, as no one dared tell him to keep it down on his own property…”

“Very well… Thank you,” Bleys nodded and walked away. Liesel of Isis had left, as had Joezyn Barhyte. Agamemnon Briareus was making to leave, and was drawing his son out into the hall, as Timotheus waved from the doorway, saying he would be back soon. Markos was leaving with him, interrupting Laarus conversation with Jansen Ackers to tell him so.

“In here…” Agamemnon pushed Telémahkos roughly into the open suite across the narrow wood-paneled hall and followed closely with the heavy intimidating footfalls of an ever-angry father.

“Okay. I am leaving…” While he ostensibly drew his son into the opposite suite for privacy, Sir Agamemnon’s voice was overly loud, and those gathered at the doorway to the other suite could clearly hear his harsh words. “You are on your own now, so don’t f*cking embarrass me or the family.”

“Yes, sir…” Telémahkos replied meekly, his usual grin and bravado melting away.

“I would rather that you came back to me in a box like your brothers than to have your cowardice be the f*cking gossip of the year… Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sir…”

“And if you do die, acquit yourself with some damn dignity,” Agamemnon added. “Try to be f*cking useful for once, even if it is in your death…”

“I won’t disappoint you,” Telémahkos said.

“Yeah, well… We’ll see,” Agamemnon’s voice grew a bit softer in volume, but did not lose its aggressive edge. “There is still time and opportunity for you to earn all the things you think you are entitled too just because you are the fruit of my loins, and if not… Well, the twins are still young…”

The burly father slapped his son hard on the shoulder with his ham of a hand. “And take care of your bastard cousin…” With that, he left. Telémahkos took a moment to straighten his toga and smooth his hair and take a deep breath before heading back to the party, but Lavinia Vanderboren intercepted him in the hall, and he drew her back into the other suite.

[sblock]
“I am really sorry to disturb you on this day…” She began, obviously brimming with emotion.

“It is no disturbance. I am happy to see you again,” Telémahkos smiled wide.

“I know that the past is the past,” Lavinia said. “And whatever we might have shared was a one time thing. I am not so naive as to think it means more than it did… But… I don’t know who else to turn to.”

She looked down and folded her arms across her chest, looking as if she might cry. Telémahkos scoured his mind for a memory of a night with such a buxom beauty, but could recall nothing. But that did not mean it had not happened. Telie had long ago lost track of the number of his liaisons.

“Ah, but there is no reason it must remain that way,” he placed a hand gently on her shoulder and she looked up. “Now tell me, what is the problem?”

“As you know, my parents died not long ago…” Lavinia began.

“Of course, you are so upset! My condolences, of course, and my apologies for not having been able to make the funeral…”

“It is quite alright,” Lavinia replied, sniffing back a tear. “I loved my parents, but I fear they never outgrew that adventurous spirit that first led them to established the Vanderboren Mercantile Nexus, and it led to their death. They worked hard and overcame many obstacles to try to fulfill their dream of establishing stable trade routes to the Hellish Isles using the Neergaardian Fort Thunder as a base, but… Well… that is beside the point. They are gone, and now I find myself to be sole owner of our family business.”

“It must be quite a weight on your shoulders,” Telémahkos said, putting his other hand on her other shoulder, and risking a half-step closer to her.

“Well…” She looked down again. “I would gladly share the responsibilities and rewards with my younger brother Vanthus, but I fear he may have inherited too much of our parents’ adventurous spirit.”

“Is he in trouble?”

“No… Yes… Not yet… Oh, I don’t know… He just started hanging out with the wrong crowd, using the business to visit shady people,” she said. “He seems to think it is the only way to get ahead is to get your hands dirty, but… He is in over his head. I know him, he… he is delicate… he could get hurt, or caught and hanged! And for what? I think it is the grief over our parents that drives him to do these things…”

“And what exactly is he doing?” Telémahkos asked, his interest now piqued.

“Helping smugglers,” Lavinia answered. “At first he tried to use the business’ resources, but I caught him and would not allow it to happen, and now… Now he aims to go and work for them directly, and he said something that really scared me…” She moved in close to Telie pressing her bosom to his chest and looking right into his eyes, and her voice became a ragged whisper. “He said, something about a plot to attack on the naval fleet of House Wetherwax. I think the men he was helping are planning some kind of extreme means of getting their good through, if they cannot hide it among legitimate goods.”

“Where is your brother now?” Telémahkos asked.

“Last I know, he left for Tribunisport from Azure five days ago,” Lavinia responded. “So, he should be there by now. Do you think…? Do you think you might bring this band of young nobles to my aid? If you foil the pirate plot and save my brother, none need ever know of his involvement, and I would be so very very grateful.” She looked down and away and pulled free. “And of course, so would the Vanderboren Mercantile Nexus.”

Telémahkos grabbed her hand and kissed it. “I shall do what I can to help him, and if that means steering this group to Tribunisport to look into a pirate plot, then so be it!” He pulled her close to him and stole a kiss. “And to help you… As always, you can count on my discretion.” They kissed again.
[/sblock]

When Telémahkos came back into the first suite, everyone was gone but Euleria Finch, Darbold the Gay and the serving wench. As he asked for more wine, Bleys came back into the suite and walked straight towards Darbold.

“Sir, I went to look at the former watch-mage’s house, and upon the door there was a sign to see you for all inquires,” Bleys said, as Darbold looked up from his sixth plate of food.

“Yes?”

“Do you have the key?” Bleys asked.

“Yes,” Darbold balance his plate in one hand, and gestured to a key on cord about his neck

“May I please borrow it?”

“Are you here from the Academy to officially investigate this matter?” Darbold asked, he put down his plate and straightened up to his full height, still about five inches shorter than Bleys.

“No, but if it is the matter of a watch-mage it concerns me enough to investigate,” Bleys replied.

“The Academy already sent someone to investigate,” Darbold said, smiling again. “I am not sure if he done, but he is not in town, so who knows where things stand…”

“And who is this person?”

“Abberd the Argent,” Darbold the Gay winked.

“Oh… Um, very well then,” Bleys bowed his head slightly. “I am sorry to have bothered you.” The young-watch-mage walked back out the suite and Telémahkos followed. He went out into the inn’s garden, where Laarus waited.

“Nevermind, brother Laarus,” Bleys said. “There is no need to enter the house. The matter has already been investigated by someone I trust implicitly.”

to be continued. . .

-----------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) At the Academy of Wizardry, it is your fellow graduating classmates that choose your honorary color name.

(2) Darbold the Gay is a member of the watch-mage’s council and was introduced to the other guests as such by Euleria.
 
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Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Maybe other fans of Out of the Frying Pan have figured this out for themselves, but I'm still a little confused: Exactly who is playing whom this time around compared to last time? And, who's new?
 

Ciaran

Villager
Tony Vargas said:
Maybe other fans of Out of the Frying Pan have figured this out for themselves, but I'm still a little confused: Exactly who is playing whom this time around compared to last time? And, who's new?
As a player, I'd be entertained by your guesses. :D
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Tony Vargas said:
Maybe other fans of Out of the Frying Pan have figured this out for themselves, but I'm still a little confused: Exactly who is playing whom this time around compared to last time? And, who's new?
I can tell you, or would you rather entertain Ciaran? Up to you. . . :cool:
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I'll give it a try:

Bleys the Aubergine - Rastfar, because he's writing the journal. From the stat draft thread, then, it apears Bleys is a Fighter/Diviner, which explains the saber and studded leather armor. Rastar, IIRC, ran an Aquerra game but wasn't in OotFP.

Timotheus Smith - Cairan, for the same reason. Meaning he's the high-STR/CON fighter. Quite a change from Martin the Green.

Telémakhos Briareus - Ratchis. He's the character that seems the least like Ratchis, and I know the player mentioned wanting a change.

Laarus Raymer - Mofos21, per the stat draft thread. Bastian wasn't around that long, and I never got a good impression of what his player was like.

Victoria Ostrander - Gwar2d2, per the stat draft thread. No idea who's screen name that is.

Markos Ackers - Martin Olarin, process of elimination, plus Timotheus's Prayers indicate he's a wizard, and MO is down for a 'pure wizard' in the stat draft thread. I think he's the first non-Academy wiz we've seen in Aquerra. So far hasn't made nearly the impression that Kazrack did...
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Hey Tony, You did a good job guessing/deducing. . .

Let me go over the players

Bleys - fighter/diviner - played by Rastfar (aka Sean). He ran The Promised Land campaign, and his handle ("Rastfar") is from a dwarven marshal of Thor he played in the long-standing 2E Aquerra game, "The Oath".

Timotheus - fighter - played by Ciaran (aka Eric M.) who played Martin the Green (an illusionist) in the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.

Telémakhos - aristocrat/rogue - played by Ratchis (aka Eric G.), who played the half-orc ranger/priest of the same name in the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.

Laarus Raymer - priest of Ra - played by Mofos21 (aka Jesse), who played Bastian (fighter/ranger/witch) in the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.. He also played Nolbie the gnome in The Promised Land campaign game.

Victoria Ostrander - militant of Anhur - played by Gwar2d2 (aka Ken) who played Jeremy Northrop (fighter) in the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.

Markos - wizard - played by Martin Olarin (aka John), who played Kazrack Delver (fighter/rune-thrower) in the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #1: “A Party at Sluetelot (part 3 of 3)

Meanwhile, as Victoria and her father visited the local temple of Anhur to celebrate the Day of Honors, Timotheus Smith and Markos Ackers had slipped off to a shadier part of town looking for a card game, and perhaps some rumors.

When informed by Barton Digits that Death & Taxes itself had many excellent card games and other games of chance that developed every night in the common room, Markos asked which places in town they should avoid.

“Well, sir… Definitely the Golden Cock,” Digits replied. “It is only cock-fights to bet on anyway, and you will get your pouch pinched besides.”

“Anywhere else?” Timotheus asked.

“Um… The Sign of the Black Sword… You know, the Black Sword…? Rumor is the proprietor was once a member of that infamous ship’s crew and still has contacts with that kind of lot…”

“And where would that place be?” Markos asked, his face lighting up.

“Huh?”

“Yes, you know, so we know where not to go,” Markos recovered.

It was a twenty-five minute walk to the northeastern quadrant of town. The mid-afternoon sun was not relenting, as they made their way through the narrow streets of this ward that disrupted the grid of streets in the rest of town.

The place was dark, and there were two tables of men playing cards, while three others sat at the far end of the bar. Timotheus and Markos entered, and felt eyes on them as they approached the bar. The bartender walked over spitting into a glass to wipe it. He was an emaciated old man with leathery skin that hid the faded whorls of tattoos on both his arms. He had a mostly bald head, with a trail of coarse white hair at the very back, and his left eye did not seem to move as readily as his right.

He introduced himself as Chap’t, as he picked at the dry crust scabs on his blackened lips. He mostly ignored Tim, but got a good sense from Markos’ own weathered look. Soon Markos and Timotheus were knocking back shots and preparing to enter a card game.

They only played a few hands and came out even, not including the round of drinks they bought their fellow players, but Markos was able to learn of a contact in Tribunisport for ‘men like him’ that might be looking for work. “And your big friend, too… But you’ll have to dirty him up a bit, methinks.”

Also, there was frequent insulting talk of Weirspierogen and its people. It was clear everyone here held them responsible for the death of town’s watch-mage. Everyone had liked him.

As Victoria Ostrander and her father returned from the temple of Anhur, where she had taken part in seven on seven footlist with weapons bearing mercy-sleeves, they discussed the other members of the charter and the Houses they represented. (1)

“And beware of Briareus,” Sir Lionel warned. “I do not know of their younger generation, but that House will ever be looking to their past and seeking ways to re-create what is ought more than a legend these days…”

“I believe that with Laarus of Ra present they will be less likely to attempt to deceive or betray,” Victoria said. “Together, we shall be vigilant for unjust behavior.”

“The Raymers are an old family, and in the past have been friends to the Ostranders, but do not forget they serve House Curen, who are not to be trusted, what with their open opposition to the Academy, and their Setites…”

“Setites?”

“Every family has had them, but some more than others…”

“Do you know anything specific about the other members?” Victoria asked.

“The small one only recently returned from a childhood abduction by northern pirates,” Sir Lionel said. “Um…Markos… And Telémahkos, well, technically he is his father’s heir to Epithalassos-by-the-Sea, but he is naught but some affable ne’er-do-well. And the other… Tim? Yes… Timotheus… Until recently he was just some grunt helping to protect caravans coming out of the mountains… A bastard of Sir Erasmus Briareus, but he was just recently recognized… Who knows how those throwbacks decide who to keep in their bloodline…?”

Everyone gathered after sunset to eat dinner in the common room of the first suite, by lantern light. Euleria Finch was there, but Callum Winter and Jansen Ackers had retired to their own rooms, and Sir Lionel took one of the spare beds in the other suite.

“We should definitely go to the Disputed Territories,” Telémahkos announced as they ate.

“I am not convinced that we should wander far from these boons we have been gifted with,” Bleys said.

“And I think we might do more good north against the hobgoblins,” Timotheus said.

“Hobgoblins are dangerous foes, perhaps it might be better to cut our teeth on something more…” Markos began.

“You mean like a training mission?” Timotheus interrupted.

“That seems like a good idea,” Telémahkos said. “And the Disputed Territories is the place to do that, and on the way we can stop at Tribunisport…”

“Why Tribunisport?” Markos asked.

“As I told Bleys and Laarus as we awaited your return, I have heard of a pirate plot to attack the Wetherwax naval fleet,” Telie explained. “We have to go south to go to the King Stones anyway, might as well pop over there and see what we can find out, and if we can find evidence, we can alert the noble Houses, and…”

“How have you come by this information?” Victoria Ostrander asked.

“I would rather keep that to myself for now,” Telémahkos replied.

“To what end?” Victoria followed up.

“Well, I wish to protect him from…” Telie began.

“As a word of advice,” Victoria raised a hand. She had small hands, but they were calloused from spear-fighting and leather reins. “It is usually faster and easier to speak what you truly mean…”

“I just think it is better to wait until we know each other better,” Telémahkos replied with a smirk.

“Very well,” Victoria said.

“It doesn’t seem very heroic,” Timotheus complained.

“As long as we actually help people, I do not care what it is,” Markos said. “And it seems to me, stopping a pirate plot is more helpful than robbing tombs…”

“You fear hobgoblins, but are willing to take on a ship full of pirates?” Victoria was skeptical.

“Not a ship full of pirates!” Telémahkos objected. “A pirates’ plot to be uncovered. We can just find the evidence and turn it over. This isn’t about fighting on the high seas. And anyway, even if we are involved we can get the aid of local authority. In fact, it will be more like we’d help them…”

“And, as we travel down to Tribunisport, if we happen upon any local troubles that need our handling, we can do so,” Markos added.

“What kind of local trouble?” Timotheus asked.

“Let’s say we pass through a village and hear of a group of five bandits waylaying people, or something…” Markos began.

“Five?! But we are only six!” Telémahkos objected.

Victoria did not bother to hide her disgust with the young Briareus.

Bleys stood. “As more than one of you is at least mildly intoxicated, I advise we leave any real decisions for tomorrow. I bid you good night.”

The rest of the group looked up at the abrupt watch-mage with puzzled expressions, weakly wishing him goodnight as he left.

“Eggplant…” Timotheus muttered. Markos and Telie snickered.

The conversation went on into the night, though Victoria and Laarus retired not too long after Bleys did. As Timotheus and Markos continued to drink and talk tactics, Telémahkos went down to the street and the long way around the block to end up behind the watch-mage’s house. He crept quietly in the dark, enjoying a cool breeze coming in from the bay that had wiped away the day’s humidity. He made his way to the backdoor. He tested it and it was locked.

Telie reached down into his sash and pulled out narrow metal tools, and taking a quick look around he squatted by the lock and went to work at it. It clicked open a few moments later, but instead of going in, he put away his tools, pulled it shut (but not locked) and crept back to the street, and then walked nonchalantly back to the inn, stopping at the other suite. Rapping on the wooden frame of the screen that divided the sleeping areas of the suite, he sat himself down at the foot of Bleys’ bed. The watch-mage was writing in his journal by lantern light.

“I just wanted to let you know,” Telémahkos said quietly. “That I was just outside relieving myself and noticed and the watch-mage’s backdoor is unlocked.”

“You pissed on the watch-mage’s house?” Bleys asked, cocking an eyebrow, but not revealing any emotion.

“No!” Telie’s voice was momentarily too loud, and he hushed himself. “I was just in the area… around it… near it… and I happened to notice…”

“By trying the door…”

Telémahkos nodded.

“Did you lock it back up?” Bleys asked, already knowing the answer.

“No, but I thought you’d want to know.”

“Yes, thank you. I would like to know,” Bleys replied.

Telémahkos left the watch-mage and went back to the other suite, where Maarkos and Timoetheus were finally preparing for sleep.


Osilem, the 10th of Sek – 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Laarus, Victoria and Bleys were the first to awaken in the morning, with the former taking care of his Lauds prayers in the garden, facing east as Ra’s Glory rose. Victoria Ostrander bid goodbye to her father, who wished her luck and reiterated his pride in her, and then joined Laarus for the end of his prayers.

As Laarus came back into the inn, he ran into Dracius of Ra.

“Ah, young Laarus,” the elder priest greeted. “I had hoped to see you before I returned to Lilly City. I wanted to talk to you about what your group might undertake as their first mission.”

“Any suggestions are welcome,” Laarus replied. “Especially from the wise and experienced.”

“Well, as you know the barbarian hordes of the southern Spice & Thread Islands are attacking the settlements of the Kingdom of the Red God of West, and there are those of us in church that believe that this is no coincidence, but rather it is backlash for assaults against these barbaric people by the followers of the Red God of the West.”

“Hmm, that makes sense…”

“And these assaults against the barbarians might be preparation for an attempt to retake the Disputed Territories, as a preliminary maneuver towards another invasion of the magocracy,” Dracius explained.

“Really? Is there evidence that this is the case?” Laarus asked.

“Not as of yet… And it is for that reason that I would suggest leading your group in that direction,” Dracius replied. “For whatever other reason you are down there, you can gather information on the situation. You can see if there are war camps, or towns being established… This information would go along way to favor the cause of us Thricians who would like to see the Disputed Territories retaken for Thricia.”

“But would that not violate the Treaty of Devil’s Grasp?” Laarus asked, being well aware of Thrician law and its history.

“Only if the infidels are not violating the treaty already,” Dracius said. “We all know that the Disputed Territories have often had people from both sides enter it to hunt and adventure, but the treaty is clear about war parties and settlements… In the past, when border towns have been attacked by groups of Red God dervishes, the government of the Kingdom of the Red God of the West - when they have deigned to respond to diplomatic overtures - claim that these groups are acting on their own without government support… But we all know this is a loophole they use to further their conversion agenda. If we could find evidence of this, well the Treaty of Devil’s Grasp would be null and void, or at the very least it would have to be re-negotiated.”

“There is much to think about here…” Laarus began.

“Of course there is,” Dracius said. “But remember, this is not an official order. You and your companions are free to follow-up or not as you will. As official policy, the Thricia’s church of Ra supports and maintains the efficacy of the treaty…”

Laarus Raymer of Ra nodded, and shook hands with his former mentor and bid him farewell.

Meanwhile, Bleys the Aubergine was consulting with Euleria Finch back in the suite. He asked her to send a message to Darbold the Gay to ensure that the door to Barakis’ cottage was re-locked.

“Also, I was wondering,” he asked. “Do you know whose decision it was to have the 'party' in Sluetelot. It seems a long way to go for a bunch of Shiereilanders…”

Euleria cleared her throat before answering. “Well… Ostander and Briareus were fighting about where to hold the party, with opinions changing several times - they were considering Old Raymer when they found out about the gift from House Tenbrook - and figured this was as good a compromise as any.”

Bleys looked at the steward and frowned. “Euleria, are you holding something back out of a sense of decorum?” (2)

“It is not my place to offer unsubstantiated opinions…” She replied, looking down, and then back at the watch-mage.

“Is it your place to offer suggestions?'”

"It is my place to do what is asked of me within the rule of law. But for some things. . .I must be asked."

“Theoretically, if you had to suggest another purpose to it being held in Sluetelot, what would that be?”

Euleria sighed. “I can think of three possibilities: One, the Academy is notoriously slow about appointing new watch-mages - by having the chartered group stationed here, there will be a watch-mage present in town at least some of the time, however unofficially. Two, the relative closeness of the Disputed Territories makes me think the powers that be want someone down there as their eyes and ears. Three, House Tenbrook likes the idea of manipulating their gift to have the Schiereiland lesser houses working in their interests to some degree…” She looked embarrassed to have to express such speculation aloud, but Bleys, typically oblivious to the subtle emotions of others, did not notice. He thanked her for her help and dismissed her. (3)

Soon everyone gathered in the common room for some oatmeal, apple slices and buttermilk biscuits for breakfast.

“So shall we have Euleria arrange for a passage to Tribunisport this afternoon?” Telémahkos asked, dipping a biscuit into the oatmeal and then shoving it into his mouth.

“To what end?” Bleys asked. He looked up at the young member of House Briareus with his steady emotionless gaze. “We have not decided what it is we are doing, how can we know where we are going?”

“I thought we decided to look into this pirate plot…” Telémahkos replied.

“Perhaps, you decided, but I recall saying that we should leave such decisions to when none of us were under the influence,” Bleys said. “But until there is more you can tell us about this plot and the source of the information, I am not sure it is wise to follow up on this…”

“How can we get more information without investigating?” Telémahkos asked in reply.

“Why not travel to New Harbinger, as that is in the right direction, and then from there decide if we need to go east across the narrows to Tribunisport, or southwest into the Disputed Territories?” Laarus suggested. “It seems there are other reasons for us to go into the Disputed Territories.” The young priest of Ra explained what Dracius had told him.

“Does anyone have a map?” Markos asked.

“I do,” Euleria said, drawing out a leather folder and a piece of parchment from within.

“A map! How did you come upon that?” Bleys asked.

“As a steward it is important to divine what your clients might need of you,” Euleria explained. “This is far from my first post, and I have collected many useful tools and knowledge, both as an apprentice and a steward in my own right.”

“I see that the Margrave’s gift is a very valuable one indeed,” Bleys said with a rare smile.

After looking at the map of Thricia, it was decided that Euleria would look into passage to New Harbinger, and possible transport for the horses. She would also send word to Joezyn Barhyte to see if they could procure the map of the King Stones area, and any additional information about that place.

“And don’t forget that Leisel of Isis may be returning at lunchtime to give suggestions from her church regarding some task we might perform,” Timotheus added.

“She is?” One might have thought Bleys were surprised, if he had not spoken in the same even tone he always did.

“Yes, she said she would… Or send a message… When she said goodbye and wished us luck yesterday,” Laarus said. “She was going to consult her Sisters.”

Since they would not be leaving yet, the members of the Charter of Schiereiland decided to head over to the temple of Anhur to use their training court in order to spar, and get a sense of each other’s martial skills. Markos stayed behind.

Brandishing several silver coins when approaching the donation urn at the temple, Telémahkos successfully palmed them, dropping only one copper coin, which he bounced against the sides of the urn to make it sound like more than one coin going in.

------------------------------------------------------

It was about an hour after noon, when they returned to Death & Taxes to wash up, eat lunch and continue their discussions on what to do next. Leisel of Isis arrived mid-meal to explain that even though she could find no specific tasks for the group to undertake, that recently some members of her order returned from the Disputed Territories with abandoned and orphaned children in tow. It seemed that the barbarian tribes left behind their young, elderly and some of their women when they went on their rampages. This left the most vulnerable members of those tribes ready victims for monsters and evil humanoids.

“If you do go to the Disputed Territories, I would ask that you keep an eye open for such suffering children, and return them here to be looked after by the church of Isis, so they might grow up in a loving environment, and free of the depredations of their barbaric lifestyle…” She said. “If you do go, I recommend seeking a guide among the halflings of the Border Shires, as they know the Disputed Territories better than most.”

The noble companions thanked her for her suggestion, and after the priestess left Euleria made some suggestions of her own. Booking passage for the horses to Tribunisport would take time and money, so she suggested the party ride to New Harbinger, and leave their horses there if they planned to catch a ferry across the narrows to Tribunisport.

A tall sinewy figure was momentarily silhouetted at the entrance to the inn, and in strode a man with long slick brown wavy hair. He wore a billowy yellow shirt, and tight brown leather pants tucked into tall boots. He wore a rapier on one side and a basket-hilted dagger on the other. A gold locket encrusted with emeralds hung about his neck, resting in his ample chest hair.

“Hey!” He called as he approached the table. They could all see how disheveled he was, and the smell of liquor preceded him. “You must be the Schiereilanders, huh?” The man threw himself down onto a chair near their table, and it was they noticed how drunk he really was. “I heard you were coming, and I wanted to get a good look at you and know your faces.” He looked at each in turn.

“And you are?” Timotheus asked.

“This is obviously Floris Tenbrook, member of the watch-mage’s council,” Bleys said. (4)

The young man stood suddenly and bowed. “I see my reputation proceeds me.” He staggered to the right and then stood up straight. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, one more drink and then off to sleep…” The young noble staggered to the bar, yelling for Barton Digits to pull him an ale.

“Excuse me, Euleria,” Laarus of Ra leaned forward to the steward, as the others watched Floris leave. “I am without a horse… Do you think…”

“It is already taken care of, sir,” Euleria replied. “It was not announced at the luncheon, but House Barhyte arranged than if any of your number should need a horse, one will be provided for you at the livery now providing stabling for those that do…”

She turned to the whole group and continued, “It seems Joezyn Barhyte is taking advantage of the hospitality of Karmoaz Hold, so while I sent word to him, we will likely not get an answer until late tonight or tomorrow. Which leads me to another question: Would you like for me to accompany you to New Harbinger?”

“Yes, we would…” Markos said immediately.

“However, Markos and I were talking and we thought it might be good to find some hired swords,” Timotheus added. “Can you look into that for us?”

“Hired swords? To what end?” Bleys asked.

“And perhaps an archer as well?” Markos asked, ignoring the watch-mage.

“Whether we are going to be dealing with pirates or going into the Disputed Territories, it would be wise to have a few more warm bodies with us in case of danger,” Timotheus said to Bleys. “It should only cost us a few copper a day…”

“Yes, I agree,” Telémahkos said.

“But why get them now if we do not know where we are going?” Victoria asked.

“I still feel that we have more than one set of authorities directing us towards the Disputed Territories, and not much to lead us towards Tribunisport,” Bleys said, looking at Telémahkos. “Are we to bring these hirelings on a weeks long, perhaps months long journey into the frontier?”

“We can afford it,” Timotheus said. “And whatever more we need we will take from the spoils we will assuredly find.”

“Well, it will take some time to find appropriate hirelings,” Euleria said, not displaying any annoyance whatsoever. “I shall make inquires at Havesting, and then I can accompany those we hire on a ferry to New Harbinger and meet you there, as you are going overland.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Markos replied. “And perhaps look into some porter as well… We may need people to carry our gear.”

Bleys frowned in an uncharacteristic display of emotion.

“However, I will need some coin to get all of this going.” The steward added.

After a brief discussion, Victoria and Telémahkos gave ten silver pieces each, while Markos donated more than three times that from his large pouch, pregnant with more coin than that. It was agreed that this amount spent upfront would be repaid out of whatever spoils before it was divided among the group, or even the share was taken for the founding Houses.

“In case you were wondering where half the name of this place comes from, good sirs,” Barton Digits said, coming over to refill their mugs with more ale. “I am licensed by House Tenbrook as a money-changer, tax-collector and notary. I would be happy to give you all a preferential rate for my services…”

They disbanded for the afternoon to wander town and buy gear. Markos, Telémahkos and Timotheus planned to return to the Sign of the Black Sword that evening, but the next morning would have them on the road south.

End of Session #1

----------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) This battle was not played out. Rather, I just described a little bit of what it was like to Victoria’s player and we assumed the other militants cured any damage taken. If the whole party had been involved I would have played it out, however.

(2) I asked for a sense motive check here, and the result was this impression.

(3) This exchange happened over Instant Messenger, but I included it chronologically in with this session.

(4) Bleys learned of Floris and his drinking from Darbold the Gay.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
We play session #4 tomorrow, and stay tuned for a special bonus "InterSession" that occurs between Sessions 1 & 2 sometime tomorrow night. . .
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
InterSession 1.1 - "A Conversation at the Inn" (1)

Laarus followed Bleys up the steps towards the suites, as the others dispersed to deal with their chores directly from lunch. He walked, holding his hands clasped and limp in front of him, in the style common to the priests of the seminary, and with slow, deliberate steps. He hung his head, cocked slightly to the left, his coutenance one of deep concentration

As he arrived on the second floor, he called to the watch-mage who was about to enter the suite on the right. He hurried his pace to catch up. “Bleys. Could we talk for a moment? Privately?"

"Certainly, I am at your disposal,” Bleys replied gesturing to the priest to follow him into the suite. “What ails your thoughts?"

"It's not what ails mine. It's what ails yours." Laarus paused briefly, as Bleys walked towards a window to lift the sash and let in some of the sea air. "You seem strongly against investigating the plot against Weatherwax. Why? I don't feel your worry is the same as Markos' and Timotheus' was."

Bleys abruptly whirled around and casts his gaze at the priest.

"Interesting… I am glad you came to me with this, and glad that you came to me with this alone. You do me the honor of avoiding an embarrassing scene. For obviously something does trouble your thoughts, and it is that I am the voice of dissent. And you query if it is to my character; what is it about me that you don't know? Or, it could be that your query may stem from something I do know? And I wonder which?” Bleys spoke in a tone as if simply thinking aloud. He looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully, and then looked back down at the priest. “But be not troubled. While I do not know the concerns of the others, mine is practical. I consider you a man of reason. Is it not reasonable that we should follow the path set before us so obviously? To the Disputed Territories. We are given boons enabling us to stay closer to Sluetelot, in aid of our quests. While the Disputed Territories are not near, they are not so far as Tribunisport. Nor shall they prove as expensive to reach. It seems obvious to me that both Isis, and by your own admission, Ra, give us direction to the southwest. And so, should you decide here and now that you believe it is in the Charter's best interest to hire passage across Drei-Hoek Bay to Tribunisport to follow uncorroborated rumors of a pirate threat from my brother-in-law, the affable ne'er-do-well, who incidentally refuses to provide his source of information… If you believe that the Thrician Royal Navy needs us to save it from a few pirates, then you will brook no further argument from me, and our course is chosen."

Bleys the Aubergine stood as erect as a soldier awaiting orders, waiting quietly and expectantly in his deep purple cloak and his crimson shirt.

"Southwest? Yes, that would bring us to the Disputed Territories. And yes, the Church of Ra and Liesel of Isis have directed us to the Disputed Territories, but neither have they set a certain path for us. The suggestion to travel southwest was made by one whose interest was in the looting of tombs found there. Is that where your interests lie as well?" Laarus paused again, briefly, trying to read the expression of the so-far inscrutable young watch-mage. But, he continued before the watch-mage could answer. "The interests of the Charter are for us to serve the Crown, its Houses and People and to battle their enemies. Both routes allow us to fulfill our oath. As for not sharing his source, he has sworn to someone not to, it shows Telemahkos to be honorable. I feel his source may be less so, as he requires such secrecy. That does not mean truth lacks or that we should turn a deaf ear."

Bleys waited for more, but when the silence became too long, he exhaled and spoke: "Well, of course, my interests lie with the Charter first and foremost. And I believe that those interests are specifically Thricia, her peoples and the Margrave. I also believe that while we do not have specific tasks set before us, we would be foolish to not take advantage of any assets we may have by way of what we have been offered, both in resources and information. But regardless, I thought I was merely making suggestions as to a course of action, and was not adamant or firm as others. As for Telemakhos not sharing his source: It may make you consider him honorable, but I believe it reflects poorly on how he judges our characters. Were he not to trust us, why enter into this pact with us? He could of at least given some insight into his reasoning. Instead, we are to blindly do the wishes of House Briareus? But I digress… I will admit that I have some personal interest in visiting the King Stones, but I do not let this cloud my judgment in the least or most importantly, interfere in my mission: which is serving the Margrave's wishes. As I said, tell me now that we go to Tribunisport and you will have my support. I thought I made that fairly clear."

"It's not my position to tell you where to go. The Charter granted us all an equal voice. I felt you were reluctant to use it in public. That is why I come to you in private. We must learn to trust in each other. It is not because we already do that the Charter exists; it was created and signed due to politics," Laarus replied. He took a deep breath. “For you, it was the politics of the Margrave that had you sign the Charter. You appear to desire to serve her and her wishes well. What are her wishes at this time?”

Bleys began to circle the room, "Alas, I am not one for politics. Perhaps not being of a noble House I am reluctant to drown others out with my equal say… Mayhap that much is obvious already."

Stopping at the end of the long table, he laid his hands palms down upon it, "I speak not for the Margrave… I only know that it is as a result of her wishes that I, a Watch-Mage, am here. I don't expect you to tell me what my voice should be, but know I give your station the respect it commands, unlike some… perhaps… I fear that others may not respect stations of importance, be it Sunfather or Watch-Mage, and respect only politics and the importance of their House. As to my reticence to speak in public, fear not for I have not lost my voice. Indeed, I merely wait to speak until my words have gravity. And sometimes that requires patience, so that I might know to the fullest the facts of what I am to speak about. Of my recollection, it was Briareus whom mentioned the King Stones, as you say, and as we know Briareus who brought us the rumors of pirates in Tribunisport."

He eased himself on to the end of one of the long benches, keeping his eyes on the priest, "Again, I appreciate this matter being one of privacy, and agree that we must come to trust one another. Indeed, I wish for nothing more… Perhaps it is obvious already that you command my respect. As does the Militant, whose title alone speaks much of her character… Perhaps equally as obvious are my tepid feelings for your cousin and House Briareus. I know nothing of them personally, I still suspect they may be too quick to carouse, and too slow to aid. I am hoping that the road ahead proves me wrong. But know this, while we are in any town proper, should their glib tongues or thirst for drink get them into trouble of any kind, they will receive no support from me."

Bleys poured two cups of water from the pitcher on the table and drank deeply. He pushed the other across towards the priest, and refilled his own cup. "Laarus of Ra, you still have yet to tell me what you think our best course of action should be. Do I make you reluctant to choose? You already know my position."

"I have not seen yet what is the best path. The troubles in the Disputed Territories cannot be ignored or forgotten. Plus, its investigation comes at the request of my superiors." Laarus picked up the cup of water and took a sip. "Though the situation is grave, it does not appear to be of such immediate importance that we should neglect aiding others. I don't feel our party could handle a pirate attack as well as the navy of House Weatherwax. Such an attempt would be foolhardy. By investigation we could find out the who and when of the plot, aiding House Weatherwax to be better prepared for attacks or to end the plot before it gets that far."

He placed the cup back on the table.

”And it was Joezyn Barhyte that told us of the King Stones, not House Briareus, though he did tell Telémahkos and Timotheus,” Laarus continued. “What makes you think that is it House Briareus wants us to check into the pirates?”

“I meant Telémahkos and his bodyguard specifically when I said Briareus,” Bleys replied. “He was the one that relayed the information to me. As for Tribunisport and the pirates, I am only guessing… My humble apologies if I have misled you. I am unused to the intricacies of political innuendo.” He broke off a hunk of bread and smeared soft cheese on it.

“In any event, it seems our decision is delayed and we will be going to New Harbinger first,” Laarus said. “We don't know Telémahkos’ information is true, but that doesn't mean it's false. We need to know more to see which it is.”

Bleys the Aubergine waited as if certain the priest of Ra would say more, but Laarus remained silent.

“Is that it then or do you yet have further need of me?" the watch-mage asked.

“Nothing more." Laarus finished the last sip in his water cup, sets it down, and began to walk away. After a few steps he turned back towards Bleys. "I have some business to attend to. Thanks for your time…See you at dinner?"

Bleys produced a small book from his rucksack and laid it on the table, opening it next to his plate. Without looking up he replied, "You certainly will; someone has to help you keep an eye on the riff-raff. Besides, maybe we'll get lucky and Telémahkos will invite his anonymous companion around to join us. “His delivery was so monotone, Laarus could detect no sarcasm. “I appreciate your candor. Good afternoon."

“May Ra’s light shine on you then,” Laarus of Ra said as he left.

End of InterSession 1.1
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Notes:

(1) This exchange was played out via e-mail between Sessions #1 and #2.
 
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Dawn

Villager
Excellent! Just caught up and am ready for more. Good to see you and your gang back together for another SH!
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Dawn said:
Excellent! Just caught up and am ready for more. Good to see you and your gang back together for another SH!
And good to see you back! I wonder who else of the ole readership still around? (I mean aside from Tony Vargas, Gold Roger and Manzanita).

As for being "ready for more" - I hope so. . . expect another installment either sometime this evening or sometime tomorrow during the day. . .
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #2 – “The Road South” (part 1 of 3) (1)

“Would it be possible that we might be supplied with a packhorse out of House Barhyte’s generous gift as well?” Timotheus asked Euleria Finch at dinner that evening. She stood a distance from the table, dressed in comfortable clothes as if about to go for an afternoon’s ride, but standing up very straight and attentive to each word.

“I shall send word ahead to the livery and see and this is possible,” Euleria replied. Markos had just been bemoaning the amount of gear he would have to carry when they traveled, being more used to ships, and Bleys the Aubergine mentioned that his own horse was heavily laden as well.

“Have we considered which route would be best to take to New Harbinger?” Timotheus said. “Earlier Euleria mentioned the choice of the High Road and the Beach Road…”

The Beach Road, if it could be called a road wound down right against the eastern coast, and was the quickest path to New Harbinger in theory, but was rarely used, as many of its secret coves were home to brigands and amphibious monsters. The High Road was more direct, but wound over some steep hills that would slow progress south by nearly a full day.

“I am in no particular rush,” said Telémahkos, grinning nervously and taking a sip of his wine. “I say we take the High Road and be safe about it.”

“I would rather arrive sooner, and if we meet some brigands on the road then we will be doing Thricia a service by dealing with them,” Timotheus replied.

“Agreed,” Victoria nodded her head. “And I am sure Laarus would agree as well.” The priest of Ra had retired to his bed early, not feeling well after eating something of dubious origin in the market earlier in the day. (2)

“It might be good to get some practice on some bandits before we move on to more dangerous foes,” Timotheus said.

“We should not underestimate bandits,” Markos said “Let’s say for example, we face five bandits…”

“You and you’re five bandits!” Telémahkos stood suddenly and pressed down his golden curls with the back of his hand. “I think I shall see what Death & Taxes has to offer tonight…” And with that he left the suite and headed down to the common room.

The young son of House Briareus was greeted by the sound and smells of a packed common room. A bard was plucking on a lyre atop a table in one corner, but his strains were hardly heard over the whole place singing along with “I Smack the Tax Man in the Mouth With a Fist Full of Coppers”. Telémahkos went over to the bar and after a quick shot of spirits, joined his excellent voice to the throng, swinging his ale back and forth to the music. Soon, a local wench had grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him into the circle of dancers, and of course he knew all the steps.

“Let me ask you,” Timotheus began, twisting his body towards Victoria. He was sitting on a divan beside the militant of Anhur, as Bleys and Markos listened from chairs across from them. A few times Markos looked as if he might speak, but never could seem to get his words into the flow of the conversation at the right time, and swallowed them instead. Bleys was ever-silent. Out of her armor, and in a plain gray dress, the female warrior had a rough-edged beauty. “In regards to the disposition of our respective Houses to each other… I just wanted to make sure that such enmities might not carry over to our charter…”

“You are of House Briareus? I mean, I know you are, but I mean…” Victoria searched for words that might not give insult. “You have been recognized…?”

“If you speak of my bastardry, no need to dance around it,” Timotheus said.

“I did not know how to ask without offending,” Victoria replied.

“Why should I be offended? I’m a bastard, so what? I have nothing to be ashamed about. I am not responsible for it,” Timotheus smiled widely as he talked, and leaned over to the low table to pour himself some more wine. “But yes, I am officially of Briareus, and for my own part I hold no ill-will to House Ostrander…”

“Nor I to your House,” Victoria said. “Though… I wonder if the same can be said of all such members…”

“Such as?”

“Sir Agamemnon…”

“Oh yes! I saw him and your father glaring at each other across the room at the luncheon,” Timotheus smiled again, at the memory. (3) “Agamemnon is not known for his manners or his ability to hide his feelings…”

“Again, I did not mean to offend…” Victoria said.

“None taken! Agamemnon’s an ass! What do I care?” Timotheus laughed.

Victoria was taken aback and looked to the other two members of the charter who were present. Neither had a thing to say. “And your cousin, Telémahkos, he does not mind you talking of his father this way? His own personal feelings about House Ostrander will not color his interactions with me?”

“T.K.? Ha! Ask him about his father when you get a chance,” Timotheus was still laughing. “In fact, I want to be there when you ask him, it should be good for a laugh, and then you’ll know where he stands in regards to his father’s feelings!”

“Perhaps when he returns from carousing and is foolish with liquor,” Victoria allowed herself a mischievous smile, and Timotheus laughed again.

“Well, I expect each of our families have hopes for our group,” Markos finally spoke up. “But for my own part, it is the Margrave’s wishes that I am most concerned with fulfilling…”

“Hey, I just want to do some good and kick some ass,” Timotheus replied, filling his cup again. “Whatever gets me that in the short term, I am happy to do. His vision met that of the watch-mage, and the tall warrior gestured to Bleys with his cup and smiled. “With integrity of course.”

They heard the swell of the crowd’s cheer down in the common room.

Telémahkos had just finished singing the seventeen verses of ‘the Ballad of the Edge of the World’ with a group of sailors when the patrons grew hushed as a figure made his way through the crowd hanging at the door.

“Floris Tenbrook has arrived, and now the party really begins,” the bard on the table announced, his voice carrying over the crowd by means of a cantrip. The bard struck up a faster tune, and the dancing began anew. Two saucy wenches came over to serve the handsome young noble. One took his cloak, and the other brought him a drink, as he sat down at a table to join a card game, flicking silver coins off his fingers.

He downed his ale and before the cup struck the table a shot of spirits was waiting for him. He snatched it and stood up like a shot, leaping onto the chair with deftness. “Let’s have a drink to ole Barakis!”

“A drink to Barakis!” the whole crowd cheered, and Telémahkos joined in. Earlier in the night he had learned that house rules were that everyone drank when the former watch-mage’s name was mentioned, as he had asked around what people knew of the Beach Road.

“The Beach Road is where Barakis the Bold was killed,” someone told him. And then added “Barakis the Bold!” as loud as he could and everyone downed their drinks at hand. The patron turned back to Telie “People say that Weirspierogeners hide on that road to waylay locals. It was them that got him. Damn, Weirspierogen! Damn Devenpeck!”

“Hey! Hey Briareus!” Floris had his knees up on his chair and was waving Telémahkos over to the card table. “They play cards up in Schiereiland?”

Telémahkos nodded.

“Well, show me how then!” Floris Tenbrook shooed away the player sitting across from him and gestured for Telie to sit. “We’re playing Margrave’s rules…” He began to explain to Telie the local variations of “Bluff and Draw” as he dealt. Telémahkos listened attentively, as he casually loosened his toga to better hide the cards he planned to palm. One of the wenches brought a round of drinks for the table.

“Keep ‘em coming, honey,” Floris winked at her.

---------------------------

Upstairs, after a long general discussion of tactics, Victoria was checking on Laarus, while Bleys used the piss-pot in the other room, leaving Markos and Timotheus alone for a few moments.

“I wonder if Telie is ready to move on to another bar,” Timotheus wondered aloud. “You will come with us, right?” He turned to Markos.

“Well, actually… to be honest… I was not sure I felt comfortable going there with your cousin,” Markos replied.

“Why?”

“I just wasn’t sure if he’d be the type to blend in there. It might cause trouble,” Markos said.

“Then let’s go without him,” Tim smiled, and stood, finishing his mug of ale. “We’ll slip out the back.”

Markos shrugged. They bid goodnight to Victoria and Bleys and went on their way.

---------------------------

“Who’s cheating?” Floris roared, knocking the cards out of the hands of the player on his left. Telémahkos gulped and looked around, but Floris ignored him, dragging the other patron from his chair by his collar. “Are you cheating? Because I know I’m not cheating, and we know he isn’t cheating…” He pointed at Telie. “There is no way someone of noble blood would cheat at cards for a few measly silver, right, Briareus?” The Tenbrook youth looked Telémahkos right in the eye, and Telie nodded vigorously, and then shook his head just as vigorously, not sure which way would mean he agreed.

“Get out of here!” Two large patrons walked over at Floris’ signal and carried the card player from the inn and Floris called over another to sit in.

Telémahkos kept the wench he had been dancing with close by for “luck”, reaching over her to grab at his drink, but grabbing at her instead. She giggled and handed him the drink, her hand brushing his. He looked at her face and shuddered, so looked down at her ample cleavage instead. It was his turn to deal, and slamming the deck down he called out to Bes before he began.

As the night ended, Floris slapped Telémahkos on the shoulder and gave him a brotherly embrace.

“You’re okay, Briareus,” Floris Tenbrook said. “Look, do me a favor. When you get to New Harbinger, give them to the captain of the guard for me…” He tucked a folded up letter into the folds of Telie’s toga, not far from where cards had been hidden most of the night. “When you come back to Sluetelot, come find me… We’ll talk…”


Tholem, the 11th of Sek – 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Morning came sooner than some members of the charter would have liked; morning, but not light. Soon they were gathered around a table in one of the suites, eating breakfast, as Telémahkos told them a little about what he had learned the previous evening.

“All I am saying is that if the former watch-mage of this town, Barakis the Bold, who by all accounts was a watch-mage here for fifteen years, was killed on the Beach Road, we should rethink taking that path.”

Markos muttered something.

“What was that?” Telémahkos asked.

“Nothing.”

“Am I wrong to think Barakis would have had a greater power than the six of us can represent?” Telémahkos turned to Bleys and the watch-mage shook his head.

“Yes, but the fact that he was so powerful suggests that someone laid in wait for him.” Laarus commented. He was feeling much better, and was dressed in his scale mail armor, and a line of silken bronze ran down each pant leg into his fine riding boots. He wore no helmet. “I doubt some random brigands would have defeated him… So, I do not think we can use that report as a reason to fear the Beach Road.”

“I agree,” said Victoria.

“As do I,” said Timotheus.

“That settles it,” Markos added.

“Was he alone?” asked Bleys.

“I do not know,” Telémahkos replied.

“Perhaps we should see if we can find out on the way to the livery,” Bleys said. “At the very least it may shed some light on the possible dangers of the Beach Road.”

“Is there anything else you be needing of me before you go?” Euleria asked the group.

“So, everything we need for our trek will be provided for us?” Victoria asked. “Trail rations and the like?”

“Um…” Euleria began.

“No,” Markos said shortly. “We were to take care of that on our own yesterday afternoon.”

“Well, I did not…” Victoria stared hard at Markos, and the Raymer eventually looked away. In the household of Chalkteeth where Victoria grew up, the steward would have handled all such considerations.

“I am sorry, Mistress Ostrander,” Euleria looked flustered. “I was given no order to purchase such supplies, or I surely would have…”

“What about the money we gave her?” Victoria asked Markos, still not looking away, or acknowledging the steward. “Was that not what it was for? A general fund for our expenses?”

“No,” Markos slowly looked up at the militant of Anhur. He simmered with anger. “That coin was to secure us some hirelings and pay for the expenses of bringing them to New Harbinger, and also to send messages ahead of our coming.”

“Very well then,” Victoria turned to Euleria again. “I will need some rations. Please secure me some immediately.”

“I shall endeavor to try,” Euleria replied, revealing no annoyance with Victoria’s sudden commands. “However, it being so early the market is not yet open… Let me inquire…” The steward stood and turned to leave, but turned back. “If it is pleases you, I can meet you back here as you return with your horses on your way out of town for any last commands, and of course, to give Mistress Ostrander her rations…” And with that she left.

The livery was in the area of town called New Sluetelot, beyond the dirty white stone wall of Old Town, and after a twenty minute walk, they found stablehands readying their horses. Telémahkos sought out one of the hands that might know some local gossip wanting to find out more about the Barakis the Bold and his death on the Beach Road.

“Was he alone?” Telémahkos asked.

“Depends on who you ask,” the kid replied.

“What do you mean? Who says what?”

“I mean, some people say he was alone and others will tell you they were there and fought with him against three dozen Devenpecks with flaming swords and nearly died in the process,” the kid spat out his skepticism.

“And you? What do you believe?” Bleys asked, overhearing and walking over.

“Eh,” The kid shrugged.

“Is there someone who is likely to have actually been with him?” Timotheus asked, as he came over as well.

“I guess, Sir Floris Tenbrook,” the kid replied. “But he’s never said, that’s just what I’ve heard…”

Telémahkos gave the boy a couple of copper coins for his trouble.

“I still think we should take the High Road,” Telémahkos said to the others, as they walked their horses back across town. Bleys was leading the packhorse as well. It was older than the rest, but still fairly healthy, and would serve its purpose as long as it was not pushed. “Let’s put it to a vote.”

Telémahkos was alone in his vote, and so the Beach Road it was.

They waited for a time in front of the Death & Taxes Inn, but Euleria Finch was not about. Bleys went in to find her, but she was not in the inn.

“She is probably still trying to find Victoria’s rations,” Markos murmured.

Barton Digits came out bearing a basket and smiling widely. He had packed them lunch for the road, and suggested they eat it for lunch before some of its more delicate contents wilted and soured. The charter members thanked him, and Timotheus made a great show of upturning his coin pouch to give Barton his last three silver pieces as a tip.

Ra’s Glory, was peeking out from behind the harbor fortress, its light obscured by strands of gray cloud rolling in from the southeast. The morning was humid, and Telémahkos fidgeted in his chain shirt, pulling it away from his neck and scratching at where it touched his bare skin.

Finally, sighing and puffing, Telémahkos began to squirm out of his armor.

“Leave that on.” Timotheus admonished.

“I’ll put it back on when we get going,” Telémahkos complained. “It is heavy and it’s hot!”

“You have to get used to it,” Tim replied.

The sounds of the central Well Plaza market stalls being set up floated over to them as they saw Euleria emerge from amid the carts and tarps carrying a sack and jogging in their direction.

“I apologize for my tardiness,” the steward said, handing the sack to Victoria of Anhur. There were five days of rations within. She turned to the group as a whole. “And now if there is nothing else, I have an appointment to see to regarding interviewing some potential hirelings for you. I shall present you with an itemized list of expenditures when we meet in New Harbinger. If all goes well, I should arriving there before you with the hirelings, and will have made preparations for your stay.”

They bid the steward good-bye and good luck, and mounting their horses headed for Old Town Bridge and the way out of town.

to be continued. . .

---------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) This session was played Sunday, February 4th, 2007.

(2) Laarus’ player was late to the session, so we began without him.

(3) He is referring to the luncheon of Session #1
 

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