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.
“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
“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…”
“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.
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
(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