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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The InterSession I am about to post takes place chronologically earlier the same night as the second assassination attempt on Telie. However, it was played out after the session on our messageboards.

While it does not necessarily move the plot along at all, I am including it because I think it gives a little sense of piece of the setting, and like most obsessive world-building DMs, one of my favorite parts of the game is just having characters interact with the setting and learned (both in and out of characters) about some its customs and eccentricities. As you will see for example, if you choose to read it, not all temples in Aquerra are large buildings with columns and elaborate golden altars and large statues and pews, etc. . .

Also, while I said that this intersession does not really move the plot along, there are elements of the plot that are mentioned, and references to things that will become important soon enough. . .

Enjoy.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
InterSession #27.1 – “This Way and That…” 1

Tholem, the 11th of Syet - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

The sky was growing dark when Timotheus came into view of the Wayhouse of Ptah. After swallowing a last mouthful of a meat pie and licking his fingers clean, he started whistling "Lacan Pepper Had A Scepter" horribly off-key, ogling the scenery all the while. The Wayhouse was a small ramshackle building set amid three tiers of houses of various sizes decorated with various patio gardens and flower boxes. In that way, this place did not look very different from any of the other residential islands in Lilly City (though the surrounding area held a number of dark warehouses). However, the red paper lanterns hanging from the eaves told a different story.

As the gondola pulled in, Timotheus noticed that the "street" climbed to the left and right to the closest houses of ill-repute, but a wooden walkway/staircase led up past patches of yellowing grass to the Wayhouse of Ptah itself. The sound of laughter and music trickled down to him. Tim wiped his hands on his trousers. "I'll be here a couple of hours maybe," he said to Peter the gondolier. "If it gets too late, come on in and get me. And I shouldn't be out for at least half an hour at the earliest, if you want to go grab a bite or something while you wait." Peter nodded.

Timotheus pushed open the thin wooden door and was greeted by the warmth of a hearth and a strange mix of smells, boiling beef, tobacco, and liquor, all covered over with thick incense. The building had one large shabby room with twelve cots lined against the walls around the central hearth, which had a brick ledge around the outside where some dirty cups and dishes were scattered. The boiling beef smell emerged from a pot hanging over the fire in the hearth. There was a silver eye with an ankh in the center and stars in the iris nailed to the hearth chimney. Scattered about were various raggedy stuffed chairs, and some warped wooden ones around low tables. A group of four musicians (three men and a woman) sat facing each other, playing a balalaika, a dulcimer, a recorder and a boron drum. A pair of women sat close by rocking to the music and pulling long slow puffs off a pipe they passed back and forth.

There was also a long sofa that bisected the room, and sitting there was a balding middle-aged man with a thin upper body and a distended paunch, as if he had frequently lost and gained weight. He wore gray and brown robes, and two young were ladies draped over him with wooden goblets were laughing at the joke he had just finished telling… "Not a black eye! A Black Islander!" He laughed at his own joke and then leapt up as Tim walked in and hurried over.

"Welcome weary traveler!" His eyes were bloodshot, his step staggered, his smile wide and warm.

Timotheus nodded and gave a friendly "Hey" to those who looked up in his direction. He clasped the older man’s hand with an uneasy smile. "Hi, are you the Wayfarer? I'm Tim Smith."

"Romulus Jonz, at your service!" The man smiled again. "Welcome to this humble wayhouse! Been on the road long? At sea? It doesn't matter. Sit relax, have some stew, listen to the music, we can draw you a drink, you can lead a prayer, whatever you like… Or I guess I can lead one for you if you aren't that good with words… Wondrous are the sights and sounds and experiences of the world that we journey through beyond these walls, but wondrous too are the comforts of a place to rest and be safe… for all these things we thank Ptah!"

“Thanks, Ptah!” came the voices of the others in echo.

"Nice to meet you, Romulus. Or is it Father Jonz?" Tim warmed his hands by the fire.

"Romulus is fine. . ." The priest turned back to one of the two women on the couch, who were now whispering into each other’s ears as they stole glances at Tim. "Fezalia! Fetch Master Smith here a drink, and draw him up a chair, I am sure his feet ache!"

"Oh yeah, that's nice. It's getting pretty damp and chilly out there. And did you say something about stew?" When the woman pulled a chair over, he sprawled into it. "It's Fezalia, right? Thanks, that's comfy."

Romulus fetched Timotheus a bowl of stew himself. "So, weary traveler Tim…Tell us of your travels… Where are you coming from? Where are going next?" He waves at the musicians and they stopped.

"Thanks..." Tim bolted down a mouthful of stew, and then said, "I've been around a good bit, mostly Schiereiland and Westen-scherp Muur, but lately I've been traveling further south with my adventuring companions. We've been staying in Sluetelot, but we've also been to New Harbinger, Quillton, and the Disputed Territories. The King-Stones, if you've heard of 'em, and before that, Kraken's Cove."

Timotheus gulped down some more stew, and then took a swig of the drink Fezalia provided. "Hey, this stuff is pretty good. What's it called?"

"Oh that? That's the Vale Burgundy, from down round Gullmoor. . . What's it called? Moraes Heng. . ." Romulus replied.

"Everyone just calls it ‘the Vale’," said the other woman that had been on the couch. She brought over the rounded bottle of green glass and refilled Tim's cup and winked at him. She was very skinny, perhaps five foot four inches, with long brown hair and bloodshot hazel eyes.

"Yeah, the Vineyard Vales… that's what I said, that's where it's from," Romulus replied.

"You said, Morro Henky or something…" The woman turned and snapped at him with playful spite.

"Bah, Tamala. . . You're stupid! Moraes Heng! It's the same place! You know how it is… every place has got ten names…Look at Lilly City, it was once Heliopolis and then it was The Sunken City and then it was Bridges…" He went on and on, and the musicians started up again. In the meantime, Tim's drink was refilled twice more. There was a warm and relaxing feeling here, some more people came in and he noticed them throw a few coppers in an urn by the hearth beneath the holy symbol. They carried a cask of beer, which they set on a low table, and the musicians stopped to try some…

Remembering his temple manners, Timotheus got up and poured a large fistful of copper coins into the urn as well.

"Come get some of this," Romulus said, breaking off his own long-winded dissertation on various names and aliases of Lilly City and the surrounding region to move to the front of the line and ‘bless’ the cask in the name of Ptah. "It's Quillton Brew!" He pointed to the burned 'Q' sigil on the side of the cask.

"You really know how to treat a guest," Tim said when he reached the head of the line and filled his mug with Quillton Brew. "Hey, this stuff reminds me: do you know anything about bullywugs?"

"A little bit…You have to fear their hop attack," Romulus replied. He took a deep sip of Quillton Brew and then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. The musicians started up an up-tempo tune and a couple of people began to dance. "If you had come last month I would have had some 'Schiereiland Wheat'… It's like drinking cool sunlight… I usually summer up in the breadbasket, wandering about and getting to know that land… you mentioned the King Stones before… I went down there as a lad, before I got my calling… But yeah, 'wugs… What do you want to know?"

"Let's talk about Schiereiland in a bit... you do actually look kind of familiar, maybe I've seen you before, since I grew up there and all…”

Jonz took another sip. "If you spent any time in Heartspire, we might have crossed paths. . .”

"Yeah, I've been to Heartspire a few times, though I wouldn't say I spent a lot of time there. Kind of a quiet town, nice if you like that sort of thing. Awful flat, though. I'm more of a hill-country boy. I grew up in Chalkour, and of course I've been to Azure; now there's a place to be!” Timotheus smiled and drank some more. “But about 'wugs, well, my party and I fought off a bunch of 'em up near Quillton a few weeks ago, 2 rescued a pretty girl from one of their raiding parties, and as their leader hopped off he swore revenge! So I figure, anything you know about 'em will help. Where are they from? What do they do? What kind of crazy magic do they have going on? You know, whatever."

"Bullywugs in Quillton! That's madness! I've never heard of such a thing. How did they get there? The Crossroads Bog? Yeah. The Disputed Territories? Sure! Red Spice Island? Sometimes. . . But Quillton? They're dumb and aggressive and rarely travel beyond their territories… I don't know that they use magic much. They worship the Frog God, though… so shaman sometimes. . ."

Tim drained the last of the beer. His face a bit flushed, he began to sweat from the heat of the hearth. "Lenore of Ptah always stops by Chalkour," he said, deciding he would learn nothing important about bullywugs here. "I was actually kind of hoping she'd be here. Do you know her?"

"Lenore! Sure I know Lenore. . . We've met five or six times here or there. . . Last I heard she's up around Westen-scherp Muur or something. . ."

"Damn, then I probably won't see her anytime soon. I'm not sure if I'll even get up Schiereiland way again this year, though I hope so. It's kinda rough not getting to see home at least every few months." Tim refilled his mug. "Lenore always knows the best stories. Like the one about the three gnomes and the blue dragon, or how the Margrave, the old one, tricked the Herman Land ambassador into giving away that island in exchange for an egg."

"I don't know either of those!" Romulus says. "I do know the one about the Wallbrookian Princess and the pea, and the one they tell in the south about how all animals once talked, but were tricked into giving up their voices by humans. Dolphins escaped this because they were in the sea at the time, and burrowing animals were given different voices back by the gnomish gods."

"I haven't heard the one about the princess since I was a kid. And I've never heard of that other story. Hey...." Tim looks puzzled. "Are you saying that dolphins can talk?"

Sure! Though most of them can only speak their own language - but they are as smart as you and me. . . Smarter even . . .

"Huh. Go figure." Tim chortled. "Next thing you'll be telling me there really are elves under the sea, riding sea horses and hunting sea lions and all."

"Haw! Now your pulling my leg, sonny! Everybody knows that a sea elf Prince has his court in the Captured Sea. . . I've even been there!" Romulus' eyes grow wide and shone with excitement, but Tamala walked over and deflated him with her skepticism.

"Sure, everyone knows it, but no one believes it, and no one believes you!" She laughed and so did the other 'petitioners' She handed Romulus Jonz the pipe. "It's lit."

Romulus rolled his eyes and took the pipe, the contents of the bowl crackled blue as he sucked in great amounts of the minty smoke. Holding the smoke in his lungs he passed the pipe over to Tim gesturing with his chin.

Tim sucked deeply on the pipe; he held it in for a moment, then smoke streamed from his mouth and nose as he coughed and laughed. "Wow, that tastes funny. What's in here? Tastes like sheep-mint and sorrel." 3

Passing the pipe to one of the other men, Tim mused, "Anyway, if there were sea elves down there, we'd know, right, 'cause they'd be sworn to the Margrave like the wood elves." He furrows his brow. "The wood elves are sworn to the Margrave, right?"

The smoke left behind a pleasant dull buzz and the world beyond the immediate conversation became a synesthesic blur.

"I wouldn't bet on it," Romulus says, growing serious. "The racial covenant means those lands are theirs and their rules and laws, such as they are, take precedence. Wood elves are fine in theory, but they can be cold and cruel to our human sensibilities…"

Tim's mood shifted to match the wayfarer's. "So are these sea elves part of the racial covenant? Because if they are, there's your proof… Or maybe you could just go down and see…” Timotheus paused as if waiting for Romulus to answer, but then he suddenly rambled on. "Say, that makes for a lot of underwater types of people, doesn't it? Sea elves, bullywugs, lizardfolks, and now dolphins. Who else lives under the sea? Are there really mermaids out there like the sailors say?" He looked at his mug in puzzlement, having forgotten he was holding it, then took a sip. "I wonder if their hair is green all the way down..."

"They don't have hair down there! That's the fish half!” Romulus laughed “But yeah, there are merfolk. . . not just maids, but mer-men and women. Lizardfolk and bullywugs aren't exactly sea people though. . ." Romulus was quiet for a long moment. "Proof of what? Huh? Did you say something?"

"I did? I dunno..." Tim stared into the distance for a moment, lost in thought. But as Romulus was about to speak, Tim blurted out, "The Kingdom of the Red God of the West! ... You ever been there?"

"No. . . No. . . No requirement to travel into danger. . " Romulus winked. "Why you plan to go there?"

"Yeah. Uh, well... we're adventurers, we go everywhere. Especially into danger. And just between you and me," he leaned in. "The Rubes really are on the move. We ran into some of 'em just south of the Border Shires. And they had horses, which is funny, 'cause apparently Rubes never use horses. Except these guys."

“You don’t say…” Romulus seemed to be hardly paying attention, his vision focused into the hearth’s fire. Tim belched loudly, drained his mug, and then held it out in hopes that it would get refilled somehow. "We also ran into a dragon down there," He added gravely. "A little one…"

"Yeah, I'm sure Stinging Wind was just flying around and you took pot shots at it," Tamala commented as she refilled his mug.

"Don't mind her," Romulus says. "That's her way of trying to be endearing. . ."

"Well, I'm not 400 pounds, so I am not sure how else to get your attention," She turned on the priest and stuck out her tongue. It is then that Tim noticed the shapeliness of her body.4

"The Rubes have always been a danger and skirmished on our border, doesn't seem like anything new. . ." Romulus said, suddenly commenting on what Timotheus had said a bit before. "Not sure about them using horses though… that does seem weird, but I am not exactly an expert on their culture."

"I'm sure you know more than I do," Tim replied to Romulus, though his eyes were on Tamala. "I only just learned they're not devil-worshippers, you know? It's a sure bet that anything you tell me is news to me. ... And it was a real dragon. Just, you know… a little one. 'Bout the size of a horse, not counting the wings. Not that it, you know, flew or anything."

"Uh-huh! A little dragon that doesn't fly," Tamala said coming back over to top off the mug right after Tim’s first sip. "Are you sure you're not describing what's in your pants?" She plopped down on Tim's lap even as Romulus stood.

"I think it is time to visit my favorite sisters. . ." He waggled his eyes brows, and hooked a thumb back over his shoulder. "Was there anything else you needed from me or from Ptah? A blessing for your journey? You are welcome to stay here the night. . .I mean, unless you have a gondola waiting. . . Shouldn't wander the bridges at night around here. . . Trolls, ya know. . ."

"I'd love to stay," Tim said, clasping a muscular arm around Tamala's waist. "But I do have a gondola waiting, and everyone's expecting me back. But I'd appreciate a blessing, and… Well, do you know any stories about the Swords of the Moon? I've probably heard 'em all -- I've always been interested, family reasons -- but you always hear new details with new tellers, and if there's any stories out there I've missed, I really want to hear 'em." Clearly excited by the topic, he jounced Tamala playfully.

"Don't be fresh!" Tamala stood and turned, giving Tim a soft playful slap and a wink. She went to fill her own mug again.

"The Swords of the Moon?" Romulus mused. "Well, they haven't been around in twenty years, but they are well known… I mean, I even heard a bard tell a story about them when I was abroad in Wallbrook. . . Something about defeating a ship of monsters coming from the south before it landed there. . . I was in the village of 'Blue'. . . They're not fond of strangers there, but they sure did like them Swords of the Moon. . ."

Romulus Jonz began to straighten his robes and brush them off. "You know who you might ask about them? The watch-mage of Azure. . . That young kid, stopped in at his place last year, his grandfather was Derrida the Buff, who was with the group on an adventure or two. . . Kid said he knew the Wallbrook story, so Derrida must have been there for that one. . ."

"Watch-mage of Azure? Which one?"5 Tim stood, all eagerness. "Todor's not a kid... Telare? Leinert, or Lenairt or whatever his name is? I didn't know that any of them were related to Derrida..."

"Alton? Ethan? Archie? Something like that. . ."

"Athoen? Right, Athoen the Blanche! The watch-mage innkeeper!" Tim lauged. "I didn't know that Derrida was his grandpa. If I knew that before, I would have had a talk with him a while ago. That's just the sort of thing I needed to know. Thanks!"

"Yep, well okay! I'm off to see the Chubba sisters," Romulus said. I will be sure to give a good long prayer to Ptah for your upcoming travels, and if you drink or smoke too much you are welcome to stay."

He moved to leave and Tim noticed the musicians waving as they shuffled off with some of the people that arrived in the second group.

Tamala returned with another pipe and a flagon of some other drink, the shoulder of her dress slipping down onto her arm. She smiled.

"Have fun!" Romulus added from the door.

Tim lingered a little while longer, enjoying the hospitality and getting to know Tamala a little better... Eventually he had to force himself to get up and head back to the inn. Peter the Gondolier was walking up the platform to fetch him as he exited.

End of InterSession #27.1

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Notes:

(1) This InterSession was played out on the messageboards after Session #27, though it takes places during the events of that session. (See Session #27 (part 2 of 3)).

(2) Timotheus is referring to the events of Session #8.

(3) Little did Tim know he was smoking sparkleweed.

(4) Wait, wasn’t she described as skinny earlier in this installment? Must have been the beer, wine and weed…

(5) Unlike everywhere else, Azure has several watch-mages, as it is more of a collection of distinct villages that have grown together over time, than a city in its own right.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
InterSession #27.2 – “Interrogation of the Would-Be Assassin” 1

As Peter poled the Signers towards the great keep at the center of Lilly City, he explained that Terrapin was built atop the famed ziggurat of Heliopolis. It had squat outer walls, buttressed by angled pylons of green veined stone that led deep into the water. The rounded ramparts were crenulated with areas wide enough for the many mangonels and catapults on the surrounding walls. There was a bark and they looked starboard to see Berenger the Taupe's gondola pulling up along side in the brackish water. Ewan, the watch-mage’s hound, barked again and wagged his tail. Guido, the gondolier, tipped his cap. The boats went right up to the gate, which stood open, and they noted an anchored barge about one hundred feet before the gate that caused boats to sail around it as the fortressed is approached. They saw lightly armored guards walking along the defensible war barge.

Berenger led the way, jumping from his gondola to land on the dock first. As Peter’s boat approached, the watch-mage could be seen speaking to an officer, flanked by four guards. They walked away as the Signers began to disembark. The inner building was a shining white spire with a tall rounded wall on its north side, and flanking towers topped with bombards. Between the outer walls and spire was an inner moat, allowing small boats to move around the keep. They noticed that there are several small boats with ironclad sides that the city watch use. Berenger pointed out that the city-watch worked from here.

"I have permission to lead you to the dungeons myself," Berenger said. Peter and Tymon remained behind, while Guido left to run some errands in the meantime.

Berenger led them through the busy courtyard to a wooden covered entrance flanked by two guards he nodded to. One lifted the angled wooden door with a chain and beyond were steps leading down into the stone beneath. The tunnel below was dank, its walls large mortared brick dripping with fetid moisture, the air filled with the acrid smell of lime. Bleys followed directly behind, pulling his robes tightly around him to ward off the damp chill air. He paused at the bottom of the stairs only long enough to allow his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Markos shuddered, feeling the weight of the stone walls on his shoulders but his face hardened and he frowned. The others followed silently, Telémahkos, Timotheus, Victoria and finally, Laarus. As the door above them closed, Berenger spoke an arcane word and light appeared at the end of his staff, which he used to knock on the great iron door they arrived at.

A slot opened in the door and the watch-mage merely said, "Taupe." The sound of the door unlocking echoed down the tunnel and it opened. From within could be heard the laughing voices of men, and as Berenger led the way in, the figures inside stood from their game of cards on a low table, surrounded by ragged chairs that look as if they once belonged in a fancy noble parlor. The guards carried clubs and were dressed in leather jerkins. In one corner was a desk covered in ledgers, some open, some closed, some crumpled and damp. An older man of average height and thinning long white hair and sharp bird-like features came forward. "Welcome young masters,” He coughed. "I am Zelazny Tumbler, humble turnkey and warden. I assume you are here to speak with the our latest prisoner…"

"You know why we are here." Berenger the Taupe was short with him.

"Yes, yes. . . Well, young Dobson will lead the way," The warden gestured to one of the guards took a lantern from a wall of pegs holding several more. The wall also held more clubs at the end of leather thongs, a man-catcher, a net and several pairs of manacles. He led them through the a door on the left, beyond which was another dank hall, though much shorter, that led to a precariously steep and narrow set of spiral steps that went down into clinging darkness.

Laarus of Ra moved up to the front of the line behind Bleys, quietly telling him that he had a spell prepared that might help the interrogation if it was needed. Telémahkos fell to the back of the group, clearly uncomfortable in the oppressive prison. The spiral staircase led to a small room, smoky from two torches high on one wall. The young nobles’ eyes stung and Berenger nodded to a guard standing by a thick iron door. "Desmond…"

"Sir Berenger. . ." The guard bowed stiffly and then took a large key from his belt and unlocked the door. As he held the door open, Dobson took his place on guard. Desmond gave each of the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland an acknowledging nod as they walked by. On the other side was a short staircase that led to a hall about eight feet wide with another iron door on the far side, but Berenger stopped at the first door on the left. Desmond excused himself as he squeezed past them to unlock the thick wooden door reinforced with iron bands, taking a moment to peek through the iron grill in the door first. He held the door open and Sir Berenger led the way in.

The man within looked up and then tried to look away. His eyes (one nearly swollen shut) watered in the sudden light. He had dark reddish-brown hair and a long face with crooked nose. He was stripped down to a loincloth and in noting this the cold and damp of the cell seemed even worse to the young nobles. The man had bruising scars here and there, some recognizable from the battle at the inn; others are more fresh. Most strikingly, he was locked into wooden stocks, his wrists and neck enclosed by the wooden frame, a narrow wooden bench propped under his knees. The cell was small, not more than twelve feet to a side.

Berenger walked over and pushed the bench out from under the prisoner with his foot, and the man groaned softly as the weight of his body made his confinement all the more painful. "We have some people who want to talk to you, scum," Berenger said, lifting the man's head up by the chin so he was forced to look at his visitors.

Bleys the Aubergine walked over and bent slightly, looking the man full in the face. "I am not going to play games with you, make false promises, or be coy. Frankly, I do not have the time and neither do you. I wish you to speak with us, and speak true. It can only go better for you should you choose to cooperate. If you are going to refuse, tell me now so that we can be done with this and away from this place."

The man remained silent, his eyes defiant.

Bleys met his stare, hard and cold. "How long will it be before those you work for dispatch others to the task?"

The prisoner's head dropped again. He said nothing. Bleys reached down and clamped his hand around the man's jaw and chin, beneath the ears. Squeezing hard, he forced the man's mouth open, inspecting for a tongue. The man choked out an incomprehensible word, likely a curse.

"They have left you your tongue, you may elect to use it at any time." Bleys released the prisoner.

"We had no luck getting him to speak yesterday… I even tried a spell I know, but he was able to resist it," Berenger said, his tone even and serious, as if he were a light-colored version of Bleys. "I could try it again… If there are no objections?"

Bleys withdrew from the assassin, acquiescent.

Telémahkos, Timotheus and Markos were stood squeezed into a corner by the cell door. Telémahkos whispered to them, thinking no one else could hear. "Magic won't work ... burn him or flay him… Either he talks or he doesn't. Either way we get our revenge."

The prisoner's gaze shot over to Telémahkos. He smiled, his lips puffy and black, his teeth cracked.

Markos frowned at Telémahkos’ words, but did not look at him. Instead, he called to Berenger, "Cast your spell and let us see." Berenger the Taupe reached into his satchel and drew out a needle with a tiny piece of red thread attached.

"I will need for one of you to donate a drop of blood. . ." Markos' frown disappeared as he watched Berenger intently. Telémahkos stepped forward and offered a finger silently.

Berenger grabbed hold of Telie's hand from beneath and pricked the offered finger quickly, squeezing it and smearing the emerging drop of blood onto his own. And with that he began to intone, "Amicus Fascinere Sanguinus Delphus!"

A moment later, the prisoner looked up with a look of fear and confusion. "Wha. . . Why are you holding me?" he asked. He looked right at Telémahkos and said with a bit of gruff pleading in his voice, "I made a mistake. I didn't know it was you, friend. If you tell them it was all a mistake and get them to let me go, I'll go away and never bother you again! Even better I'll tell them you were killed that way they'll leave you alone." He looked to Berenger and then to Bleys. "It's okay, I'm friends with these watch-mages. You can convince them to let me go. No hard feelings right? You know how this business is… You're one of us!"

Berenger the Taupe looked to Telemahkos and frowned slightly. "As you can see, he should be a lot more cooperative now. He believes the four of us to good friends. If you question him keeping that in mind, it should prove more fruitful." 2

Telémahkos straightened up and in a calm voice said, "I indeed know how the business is but the fact still remains that we need a lot more information before we can let you go. You know as well as anyone, one hand washes the other, right?” He paused. “Can you tell me how you were set on my trail, who was your contact and who they are likely to send next? We are all friends here, so all your secrets are safe with us."

The prisoner looked at Telémahkos again, but his eyes narrowed as his gaze shifted painfully towards Laarus. "I know if it were up to you I'd be let go, but I don't trust that baldie. Get him to swear to Ra…" He hissed.

"Laarus, this is not for your ears. Will you wait upstairs for us?" Telémahkos looked to the young priest.

Laarus stepped closer to the prisoner, looking down at him. "Your release or continued imprisonment is not up to me. So, there is nothing for me to swear to. The most I can do is put in a good word. But, for me to do that for you, we need you to share some facts with us."

Meanwhile, Markos, his eyes wide with an idea, began to whisper to Telémahkos to join him out in the hall to talk. Telémahkos ignored him,

"First of all, I would like to know your name," Laarus asked.

"I'm not telling him anything," the man replied, sneering,

"Then don't." With that Laarus turned his back on the prisoner and walked back to the cell door.

Markos sneered when ignored by Telémahkos. And his annoyance deepened when Laarus moved to the front of the cell and did not leave. He stepped over to interpose his himself between the prisoner and Laarus to block the latter’s view.

"He is of no matter,” Telémahkos said of Laarus. “These watch-mages will decide your fate. If you cannot trust us, who can you trust?"

The man did not reply.

Telémahkos continued. "The fur sure is flying in Thricia with everyone trying to grab a piece of the pie. It is an uncertain time, and in times like these a man needs good friends. Tell me what you can friend, and we will do all we can for you in return."

"I don't know what I can tell you…” The prisoner swallowed hard and then gasped. “I have no idea who would be sent next, if anyone. . . well, someone will be sent once the news gets back that Sancri and I failed… Can I get some water?"

"I will get you some." Markos stepped out of the cell to ask the jailer for some water.

"And how long will that be… before the Red Lanterns discover your failure?" Bleys asked.

"They might already know…It depends on who here is their informant…"

"Well, who was your contact for this job? We need names, anyone that you know besides your partner is in or working for the Lanterns," Telémahkos tried a different tact.

The prisoner coughed and futility tried to moisten his mouth by smacking his lips a few times as he waited for the water. "It was a halfling. . . People called him 'Gibbet', but I don't know his real name… I don't know much about him. . . But he is… or was a Lantern. . . We met him in Quillton, but from what I heard he used to work at Kraken's Cove until you all killed everyone there…Good job, by the way, it was mostly Coopers and Rubes. . . works for me!" He gave a smile and then began to cough again.

"And the bloodstone… Who gave it to you?" Bleys asked.3

"Sancri had it from her last mission. . . we didn't work on it together. . . But the mistress usually gives those out personally. . . or at least one of her lieutenants. . ." He coughs again. "Where's that water friend? It is getting hard to talk. . ."

"Is the water coming?" Telémahkos asked, turning toward the others. Markos returned with a bucket of water and lifted a ladle to the man's lips. The prisoner drank the water greedily and then let out a relieved sigh after he gulping down the last bit of it. He glared at Markos, however. . .

Telémahkos waited for water for the man to drink a bit and then smiled. "Why do you say ‘was’? What happened to this ‘Gibbet’? And is he the one paying for the bounty on my head or is he just as agent of the Lanterns?"

Markos returned the prisoner's glare. "Master watch-mage, please tell your friend to stop eye-balling me...” He said between clenched teeth. “Actually, don't bother… I will return to the inn. Telémahkos, a word before I go, please." He placed the bucket of water in front of the assassin and walked back into the hallway.

Telémahkos rolled his eyes and said to the prisoner, "At least he brought you water. Excuse me one moment." He stepped outside to join Markos in the hall. Timotheus accompanied his cousin, looming over him in a typical bodyguard stance.

"That little shrimp yours? Impudent servants should be kept on a leash. . ." The prisoner said to Berenger and Bleys as Markos, Telémahkos and Timotheus step out in the hall. "You both are watch-mages so you already have people watching your back, but the rest of these fools? The more they learn the more dangerous it will be for them…"

Seeing that the water had sufficiently wet the assassin's whistle, Bleys continued despite Telémahkos' absence. "Tell me more about this...Gibbet, and where you got the stone?"

"I don't know if I should tell you… Gibbet is Gibbet. There is nothing I can say that will help you and not hurt him, and while I don't like the little shet… There is a code… Though he clearly sent me into a situation a lot more difficult than he described. . . Little shet!" He smacked his lips again and closes his eyes as in deep in thought. "He worked in that Cove crew with Captain Javell… You know her? He was the only one beside her to survive. . . And I don't know much about the stone, that was Sancri's to use."

"Well, tell me what you do know. You know it is imbued with a magic powerful enough to aid in your work… What else? There is certainly more..."

"It takes blood to work them and it can never be the same person's blood twice in a row…At least that's what Sancri said. . "

"Is there anything more? What about Sancri?" Bleys asked,

"What about her?"

Bleys' face showed no sign of frustration. "Did you not work with her in the past? Was she a Red Lantern? Or more loosely affiliated like Gibbet? Did you meet her in Quillton? Did Gibbet pair you with her? Who was her contact?"

"She brought me. . .Things are like that now. . . I was the muscle. She's the fncking brains. Stupid bitch was too eager. . . I thought we should wait and get a better shot, and then he'd be dead, like a snap! But no she has to do the message thing… " He stopped and looked up at Bleys and then Berenger nervously. "You won't tell Telémahkos I was saying that when he comes back, right? I mean, I had to try to kill him, you know?"

"He seems to understand the business. What 'message thing'?" Bleys said.

"To have the porter at the inn bring the message that Tenbrook was there to see him…"

"What about Harliss? What is her relationship to Sancri, and Gibbet?"

The prisoner looked back and forth and was silent for a long time before answering. Telémahkos walked back in, followed by Timotheus. Markos could not leave without Berenger the Taupe, so he went back to the first room and spent time with the guards there.

"Gibbet worked for Captain Javell… He answered to her and to her pig-fncker first mate, Drevoraz. . . I heard Drevoraz escaped the cove, but you guys hunted him down and killed him, too… I assume the order to kill Briareus came from Javell. . . But I don't know. . . " He gulped and continued. "Harliss and what was left of her crew were not exactly in high regard with our mistress after what happened in the Cove. . . She was supposed to be working towards undermining the Coopers and taking over . . . Instead everyone is dead, all the booty gone and the Thrician navy is guarding the place. .. Sure, the Coopers are suffering and everyone loves that. . . but . . . well, but nothing. . . It just didn't work out right. . ."

"Well then, if this halfling pond scum isn't even in the good graces of your mistress any longer and obviously did not give one hair off his knotty little feet if you lived or died when sending you after me, seems more than fair for you tell me anything you can about him. What do you think?" Telémahkos said.

"I don't know what else to tell you about him," The prisoner coughed and then cleared his throat, hawking up a green and red nugget of phlegm. "Can I get some more water…?"

When he noticed that no one was going to oblige him, the man continued. "I don't give a shet about the halfling. . . It is just the principle of the matter. . . Let's see. . . we met him in Quillton at some man's house. . . I don't know the man's name, he wasn't there. . . I assumed that he was borrowing the place, but it was a man-place. . . not a halfling or gnome house. . . He gave us the drawing, your name and the name of all your companions, and the location: Death & Taxes. I got the impression he was used to spending his time at sea, he had a peeling complexion like the little shet you got out in the hall."

"When was this?" Bleys asked.

"We came into Quillton early last month. . . It was the fourth or maybe the fifth. . . No later than the sixth because we got to Sluetelot late on the ninth," the prisoner explained.

"Whom… Or when... were you supposed to meet when your task was complete?" Bleys continued with his questioning.

"Sancri knew… Though I guess we'd go back to the Port… or the Bosom. . ."4

Victoria moved over to Laarus and whispered in his ear, "It looks as if we killed the wrong assassin. The woman would've known more, I think. If we can get little more out of this one, we should think about preparing ourselves better for the next attempt on Telémahkos’ life."

Bleys eyed Telémahkos up and down, taking in his full measure, assessing the smaller man. "How much is he worth?" He turned to inquire of the would-be assassin.

"I would have gotten a cut of 600 silver…"

"Blood flows on the cheap these days," Telémahkos spat, and then after a moment he opened up a new line of questioning. "After your attempt on my life in Sluetelot, where did you go? Who was putting you up?"

When the man hesitated, Telémahkos added, "I am not going after you and I am not going after your friends but we can only be even if you give me a chance to get to someone with the pull to call this whole thing off."

"If you want to get this called off then you need to speak to the lady in charge, or make them think you're dead. . ." He swallowed hard. "Seriously, can I get some more water?"

Still no one moved to help him, so he croaked out some more. "We left Sluetelot to let things cool down and then came here to Lilly City. We were going to return, but then the fire happened and we figured the town-watch would be more vigilant, so we waited and Bes blessed us. . . You came here!"

"The gods work in mysterious ways,” Telémahkos sighed. “If you had gotten away from us but the city too hot to leave, where would you have gone?"

"Back to our rooms at the Tempe's Rising Inn," He coughed out, looking at the bucket and ladle longingly. Berenger finally reached down and puts a ladleful to the man's mouth and he slurped it down eagerly.

"More!" Berenger gave him another.

"We had been around for a while posing as brother and sister merchants in cloth and scrimshaw. . .There would be no reason to question us. We even saw you at that place's common room with Mercardo the shet-eater. . . It's a miracle that guy's not dead. If so, it's just because he is too pathetic to put a price on…" 5

"Did you have a secret word or anything when communicating with this halfling? If I wanted to get in touch with him, what would be the surest way?" Telémahkos asked.

"My guess is he's doing work for the Braids in Quillton now. . .5 If you know any of them you might be able to find him…"

"Question is, do you know any of them?" Telémahkos said.

“Nope.”

"Any signals, secret hand-shakes, anything that would help me figure out who is going to try to kill me next?"

"Uh. . . I don't know. . . You know how it works, the trick is to get the target when they think they are safe, though I imagine someone could go the sloppy route and go for the ole arrow from a rooftop while you are in market, won't matter how many bodyguards you got then… Or poison… poison works, but you might end up killing a bunch of extra people. . If you care about that sort of thing…"

"If you needed to communicate with the halfling now, how would you? Through the woman?"

"Huh? I told you, Sancri was the contact. . . But if I had to I'd go to Quillton and look for him, maybe scope out the house and apply uh. . . pressure to the man that lives there. . . Maybe bribe some big noses. . ."

"I'm done,” Telémahkos finally said, disgusted. “Bleys, do you have any more questions?"

The watch-mage shook his head. “This has been useless…” 6

End of InterSession #27.2

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

(1) This InterSession took place on our messageboards between the meetings for Sessions #27 and #28.

(2) Berenger the Taupe cast Aquerra’s version of the friends spell.

(3) The bloodstone is what allowed for the silence spell in both assassination attempts, and perhaps Sancri’s ability to appear as the cleaning maid in the first. See Session #22

(4) These are references to Haffar’s Port and Misery’s Bosom.

(5) Telémahkos met Mercado the Magnificent in Session #27, but the character has a reputation dating back to the Oath Campaign, which was played from 1996 to 2000.

(6) While this was not said in the InterSession thread itself, this opinion was expressed to me by Bleys' player afterwards, and since the scene was left incomplete and the information gathered in the interrogation never came up in game again, I figured it accurately captured the feeling about the usefulness of the questioning, and thus served as a good place to end it.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #28 – “Drie-Hoek Jaunt” (part 1 of 3) 1

Isilem, the 16th of Syet - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

The young nobles who had signed the so-called Charter of Schiereiland, and who at times had referred to themselves as the ‘Sons of Thricia’, at other times, ‘the Scions of Thricia’, and at least once as ‘Timotheus Smith and his Mystery Men’, made their way back to Sluetelot from Weirspierogen upon the Sea Wyvern. Morning was waning at the beginning of the third week of Syet, the second (and last) month of autumn, but it had been a sultry autumn with little rain. It hardly felt that winter was coming, except perhaps to Markos, who could taste it in the changing wind off Drie-Hoek Bay. Timotheus, however, felt the constant chill of his cousin, who continued to barely speak to him since the second assassination attempt.2

They had gotten back to Sluetelot late in the afternoon two days before and had a large lunch as a group, discussing their next moves, and some logistical things with their steward, Euleria Finch.3 Coins were handed out to cover the incredible expenses of their stay at the Golden Arch Bridge & Inn in Lilly City, 4 and it was decided they would travel as a group to retrieve their boat. In the meantime, Euleria would investigate a place to keep the boat while the party continued with their journeys.

The bay had been cold when had they crossed eastward on a ferry to Weirspierogen, and the sight of the low gray buildings and many small nest-like clustered brown houses was a letdown to those who had never passed through here before. Sluetelot was a metropolis in comparison. The only impressive features were upon the tiered side of the nearby great hill, the temple of Anhur and the walls of Sparlange, and at its top High Hill Tower.

The Signers walked north along the wharf towards the harbormaster’s office at Bleys’ direction. As they passed some townsfolk, Timotheus smiled and waved, greeting them happily, but they looked down or right past him, saying nothing. “Great! A town full of Bleyses,” Tim sighed.

Bleys did all the talking at the office, getting quickly past the clerk to talk to the Harbormaster himself, who complained at length of Sir Gregor Harrold’s defiance of naval regulations and his circumventing the law and the extra work it caused. The Signers a gave a collective “Hear! Hear!” though some with a slight mock in their tone. The harbormaster made a note of mentioning that Sir Adrian Devenpeck had come down to ask after the boat himself, and to see if any of the Signers had come to claim it. The fine was paid and they found the Sea Wyvern. Markos immediately began to inspect it. There were a few things they’d need to get her into shape for the trip back across the bay, but all of them would be easy enough to get.

“What is there to do around here?” Timotheus asked, squinting as he looked around.

“You’re looking at it,” Bleys replied dryly.

They were walking towards the market when they saw a tall man approaching. He wore ornate plate armor, and a soft blue cloak. He had long brown locks that blew in the harbor wind, and his face had a kind of brutal handsomeness, and unsettling ice blue eyes. He wore a longsword at his side, and a boy of about fourteen summers followed a bit behind him.

“Sir Adrian Devenpeck…” Bleys said quietly to the others. “He is not a man to be trifled with…”

“The Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland…” The imposing knight greeting in a deep voice as he approached. He reached out his hand and shook of their hands firmly, speaking to each of them as he did, revealing his awareness of each of them.

“Young Bleys, favored of the Margrave and kin of our house… Telémahkos Briareus, ever-affable and becoming known for being something of a duelist? If not a very good one yet… And his cousin, Timotheus, the recognized bastard of Briareus… I heard you almost beat Floris Tenbrook…?” Timotheus’s hands were the only ones that could match the noble’s size and strength as they shook. He nodded. “It is too bad that you were not able to teach that upstart a severe lesson… But it matters not… Someone will eventually…” He turned to Laarus. “Laarus Raymer of Ra… Ever an honor to meet a loyal follower of the King of the Gods, and Victoria Ostrander, I fear that the waterways and hills of Hoofdlan and Black Thread Island are likely not as satisfying for you as the open fields of Schiereiland… And finally, Markos Ackers, the poor victim of kidnappers… You do seem to have nearly finished learning the ways of civilization…”

There was a pause and then the Signers awkwardly greeted him back, and he continued. “I see you have come to retrieve your sloop. Very good… I pray the harbormaster informed you of the violation of law?”

“Yes, sir… He did…” Bleys replied.

Sir Adrian nodded. “Good… It chafes me how some nobles think they are above the law, and you would do well young master Bleys… You would all do well…” He surveyed the faces of the young nobles. “… To avoid such people, and avoid being drawn into their web of corruption…”

“Yes… yes…” They nodded.

“Take for example the recent events in Kraken’s Cove…” He looked at them again. “I hear you all were willing to do what House Wetherwax was not… Clear that foul smugglers cove of criminals, bringing them to the justice of the blade at the same time as making business profitable for legitimate Thrician merchants… It is to be commended…”

“Most of the people there were dead already when we arrived…” Telémahkos interjected.

“I am sure they were,” Adrian replied dismissively. “And now, forced to keep others from returning to that area and trying to handle the chaos in the illegal trade up from Devil’s Grasp, House Wetherwax is struggled to keep a watch over those waters that fall under their duty, and House Devenpeck has been called upon to fill the void and take over more patrols in Drie-Hoek Bay. If House Wetherwax had not turned a blind eye to this smuggling and handled it aggressively to begin with this would not be happening… Hopefully your actions have forced the issue and we are on the verge of a more lawful and stable era on the bay… At least, it shall be so across the Drie-Hoek now that Devenpeck ships are more ubiquitous on her waters…”

“I think this is excellent news!” Telémahkos burst out, wearing an over-wide smile.

“Yes, then things shall be as they should be…” Bleys agreed.

“I am glad to hear it,” Sir Adrian Devenpeck replied. The corner of his thin-lipped mouth moved slightly in an abortive smile. “And know that if on your time traveling on and around Drie-Hoek Bay, if you are in need of aid, rousting smugglers, pirates, inhuman creatures that threaten our security, or even some smaller aid, do not hesitate to seek out agents of House Devenpeck and give my name. And if you plan to stay in Weirspierogen for any amount of time, allow me to offer you my father’s hospitality in Sparlange.”

“Thank you…” Bleys said.

“Yes, thank you… Your promise of aid means a great deal…” Laarus said. The rest of the Signers echoed the thanks, though Markos’ was mumbled and forced.

“I am very pleased to have met you,” Telémahkos smiled more as they all shook the serious knight’s hand one more time before he left.

Markos looked around at his companions in the silence that followed the knight’s leaving and noted the unsettled feeling on most of their faces. He could tell that each of them were disturbed in his own way by Sir Adrian Devenpeck’s words and demeanor, and he smiled. “You know… I am actually starting to like some of you some of the time…” He said.

“Well, that’s something,” Timotheus slapped Markos on the back hard, and the sailor-mage went back to his usual sneer.

Going back across the bay, Telémahkos spent his time shadowing Markos to learn more of the sailor’s craft. When he wasn’t needed and the wind grew cold, he went back down below, where Timotheus, tired of the silent treatment confronted him.

“You know, if you didn’t ignore my own interests, I would be happier about bodyguarding you,” Tim said.

“I’m sorry that ditching the group for seedy bars and syphilitic whores and then waking up not knowing how many coppers you have left is more important than protecting the life of your cousin,” Telémahkos sneered. “If you want to be a noble, you need to start acting and talking like one… You may have a reputation as a fighter, but not as a leader of men, and to be leader you need to take on responsibilities…”

“We used to go out all the time and have fun…” Timotheus complained.

“That was before assassins were after me, and before we had a responsibility to the rest of the group,” Telémahkos explained. “We all have to grow up sometime…”


Teflem, the 20th of Keent - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Four days later the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland were riding south along the Beach Road from Sluetelot, headed to New Harbinger to answer the summons of Lord Swann.5 Before leaving there was some talk of going to Quillton to search out the halfling mentioned by the assassin interrogated in Lilly City, but it was generally agreed that he was likely long gone. As it was, Laarus of Ra insisted that a lord’s summons was not something that could be delayed any longer. Also in this time, Victoria picked up her finished masterwork armor, and a decision was made that Telémahkos would wear the Warding Ring when the party was in civilization, but out on the road, it would be Bleys the Aubergine who would wear it.

Misty rain dogged their ride and slowed them down, as the Beach Road was muddier and narrower having given way to the sea in several places. And on the second miserable day, they were nearly right upon a wrecked fishing boat when they spotted. Two men were sitting on the edge of the beached craft, while another lay curled in a ball on the sand. They looked bedraggled and downcast.

“Hail! And well met, what has happened here?” Bleys called, rearing his warhorse.

“Sea monsters?” Timotheus called, barely concealing his hope that his guess was true.

Victoria rolled her eyes. “You have quite the imagination, Timotheus…”

“What? Don’t believe in sea monsters?” Tim frowned.

“It is not that… But sea monster don’t beat people up and leave them on the beach…”

“What has happened here?!” Bleys’ voice boomed when he called to the men.

The fishermen explained that local rogues set them upon when they pulled their craft in. Their friend on the sand was beat into unconsciousness for fighting back, and a whole sack of their freshly caught fish was taken from them.

“Who were they?” Bleys asked.

“MacHaven’s Brood, people call them…” A fisherman explained. “They have been brazenly pushing their weight around since all the soldiers have been busy fighting lizardmen in the bog… They are probably at Wringneck’s right now…”

“Okay! Let’s take care of this!” Timotheus announced.

“I agree,” Markos murmured. “These poor saps are suffering for our failure to settle this matter the last time we were here…”

The Signers doubled their pace to get to Bog End before nightfall, leaving the appreciative fishermen behind with a couple of silver pieces each to cover their lost fish and promising to look into the banditry.

A light rain began to fall as the Beach Road turned west, and climbed up towards the High Road and the crossroads at Bog End. The hamlet was already dark as they made their way on horseback past the ramshackle houses and dilapidated boathouses and stables. They soon saw the lanterns hanging from the awnings of the Wringneck’s, the tavern upon the dock. It was the only building lit up in the growing gloom.

“Hail!” Bleys addressed a man standing out front of the tavern, as if on guard. He wore studded leather armor, and carried a longsword at his side. “Is Wallaby about?”

“He’s inside,” The man gestured with his head, wearing sneer as he looked over each party member as they dismounted and tied their horses out front.

“Cousin… Stay and watch the horses,” Markos suggested.

“It is my duty to check for injustice here,” Laarus of Ra replied. He began to walk towards the tavern’s entrance.



“Let Tymon and me watch them…” Telémahkos said, eying the guard.

“You need me, Cuz?” Timotheus asked, looking back to Telémahkos, but Telie ignored him. The brawny fighter walked in behind Victoria and Markos.

Inside were none of the usual local regulars. Instead there were a handful of armed men in leather and studded leather armor, drinking and chew roasted fish. One of them sat up on one of the large tables. He had a broad back and wore mud-caked studded leather armor, but had bare arms covered in countless tattoos of streams of ants emerging from and going into small green anthills, and many bangled braclets on his forerarm and above the bicep. He wore a hunter’s cap and had bright green eyes. There were three bedraggled wenches, laughing and screaming as they were groped, pinched and tickled. “Ten to one, one of these guys is McHaven,” Timotheus said under his breath as he walked up behind the watch-mage. Bleys the Aubergine walked past the men towards the bar, where he recognized Tickle sitting at one end.6 He noticed there were fewer benches and tables than there had been before, and those remaining were abused, stained, cracked or warped. As the watch-mage reached the dark man, Wallaby Wringneck popped his head up from behind the bar. The portly halfling had a blackened left eye and a cut lip. His hair was tousled, and his shirt askew and stained with sweat, ale and fish guts.

“You don’t mind if I sharpen my weapon do you?” Telémahkos walked up to the man standing out front. He appeared in his mid-twenties, with his pale freckled skin darkened by dirt. The man was smoking a pipe, and cocked an eyebrow, but then shrugged his response. The blond Briareus drew his rapier and began to sharpen it on a stone with exaggerated effect, only a few feet in front of the man.

“That’s a nice blade ya got,” the man said. “Can I see it?”

“Sure,” Telémahkos cocked his chin and then flipped the sword with an expert flourish, passing it over pommel first. The man took it and swung it with some obvious martial knowledge. He held it up to the light of one of the hanging lanterns. “Nice…” He said, and handed it back.

“Thanks…” Telémahkos replied as he took it, and then continued to sharpen it

“What happened to the watch-mage?” Bleys was questioning Tickle about the recent occurrences, and the news of the skirmishes against the lizardfolk.

“Rumor is he fell in the bog fighting the lizardmen,” Tickle replied quietly. Every once in a while his eyes would dart nervously towards the drinking men, one of whom was giving a detailed account of a drunken night another spent with a donkey.

“Do you believe this?” Bleys asked.

“Why don’t you cast a little spell and find out?” One of the armed men was at the bar. He sneered at Bleys, while the man’s companions quieted down finally noticing the new arrivals.

“Bleys, we are wasting time…” Victoria said, standing near the middle of the tavern, just a few feet away from the table of drinkers. “Why don’t you tell them why we are here so we can get to the bottom of this?” She struck the butt of her spear on the floor to emphasize her point.

“I’d sure like to give her a taste of my spear!” One of the men said, softly, but with the obvious intention of being overheard.

“Shut your filthy fncking mouth!” Markos yelled, stepping right up to the man, who was leaning on one of the long tables. “You had better apologize right now and learn to show the proper respect!”

“And who is going to make me little man? You?” The man smirked. He stood to tower over the diminutive mage

…to be continued…

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

(1) This session was played Sunday March 30, 2008 in Brooklyn, NY.

(2) See Session #27.

(3) Some of this logistical stuff was handled over email and on the messageboards.

(4) The total cost was just over 100 silver pieces.

(5) Bleys received the summons in Session #26

(6) The party met Tickle on their first trip through Bog End. (See Session #2)
 
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handforged

First Post
YAY! Back to some good old adventuring. And I am happy to have caught up. The intersessions were interesting, but I am glad to be back to some action. The upcoming bar fight in particular.

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #28 – “Drie-Hoek Jaunt” (part 2 of 3)

Markos pushed his hands against the man’s chest and the next thing he knew he felt a pain and force that drove his chin to one side. “Take that you little shet!” the man said, still smirking.

Victoria dropped her spear and hurried over to grab at the man, but he easily pushed her away with a snarl. Markos ducked behind the female militant and pointed two fingers at the man’s face, “Sagitta aquom! Two magic missiles flew from the fingers, but while one slammed into the mouthy brigand, the other flew across the room to hit the large man watching the tussle and laughing from his position sitting on the table.

“Are any of these men MacHaven?” Bleys asked Wallaby as the halfling ducked noticing the fight beginning. “Just bloody kill these bastards!” The halfling hissed. Bleys cocked an eyebrow.

“You dare?” The big man face changed from one of amusement to one of deep anger. He stood up from his seat on the table, and they now noticed that he had a great sword, as he lifted it up from resting across his thighs. “You dare?” he growled again, his bloodshot eyes widening.

“Are any of these men MacHaven?” Bleys turned his question to Tickle as the man watched as the dispassionately fight erupt.

“No, he wouldn’t come here… That’s Furious Garry…” He cocked a thumb surreptitiously towards the man with the greatsword.

“Don’t worry, Boss! I got this!” One of the other men hurried around a table and sent a fist up into Timotheus’ neck. Stung, Timotheus shot him a look of annoyance before bashing him with his heavy shield of bulette hide. The man stumbled back, and swollen with cockiness, Tim leapt up onto one of the tables to survey the entire room. Unfortunately, the cheap furniture of the tavern could not hold his weight and it splintered beneath him, sending him to the floor with a jarring blow to his tailbone.

“If you cannot be taught respect with words, you must be taught respect with the might of Ra!” Laarus barked as he drew his heavy flail, and move to stand shoulder to shoulder with Victoria. She grabbed at Furious Garry, barely avoiding a heavy blow from his great sword, and then drawing off. She stumbled as she sidestepped to avoid another of the drunken men, closing in to punch at her with a cudgel. She was unable to avoid the punch of the first man. It was an uppercut to the chin and she fell backward, collapsing to the floor, and then panting as she scrambled back to her feet.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Furious Garry turned and brought a hard blow onto Timotheus’s shoulder as he was standing. He was nearly driven back down as the plates of his armor groaned in protest, and he grunted with deep pain, and could feel blood trickled underneath.

“Everyone let me know when they’re ready!” Markos called out to his companions, eying a lantern right in the bandits’ field of vision.

“Ready and hurry it up!” Timotheus closed his eyes as he sidestepped and stood, hopping to avoid a follow-up attack.

“Victoria! The time has come to draw your weapon!” Laarus said, as he stepped around her to block the kicks of one of the brawlers, and punched him in the chest, flail in hand.

Outside, Telémahkos had put his rapier to the smoking man’s neck as soon as the sound of combat reached them. “Move and I’ll fncking kill you,” he said, with a smirk. “Tymon, aim your crossbow at his chest!”

The manservant nervously nodded and then did just that.1 “If his hands come down, peg him between the eyes,” Telémahkos said as he ducked into the pub. He heard the twang of the crossbow when he had barely gone in ten feet, still too far to join the melee. “Master, look out!” Telémahkos spun around and noted a crossbow bolt on the floor as the man was suddenly upon him, sword in hand. Telie barely got his rapier up to parry the blow. “Let’s dance, scum…” He winked.

The cudgel-wielding man, tried to move around Laarus to get a blow in on Victoria as she was still getting up. The big mouth moved away from the two priests, sensing weakness in Timotheus. The blow made Tim open his eyes, but more from its weight and sound than from any actual damage it dealt him.

“You stupid fncking knuckle-draggers! Tell me when you’re ready!” Markos screeched.

Furious Garry began to huff and puff. His eyes grew wide and his licked his teeth with a brown tongue, drool pouring off his chin as his muscles began to swell with savage strength. Timotheus cursed when he felt the weight of the raging bandit’s great sword, tear into his shield.

“I guess that’s not happening, Markos!” Timotheus called back. He cut at his foe’s arm with his sabre. Garry was oblivious to pain. Laarus moved over to try to pen the furious man in, leaving Victoria to deal with the others. She took a cudgel blow to the ribs. She finally drew her morningstar, but groaned as the tip of Furious Garry’s sword thrust past Laarus and caught her in the ribs as she raised her arms. She spun and raised her morningstar against the pain, and called to Anhur to infuse her with his righteous fury. Splinters flew from the spiked club as it met the edge of the great sword to block it.

“STOP! WE CANNOT KILL THESE MEN!” Bleys’ voice booming thanks to his announce spell. He pointed to the various men. “YOU! SURRENDER NOW!”

No one seemed to listen. Least of all, Markos, whose hand was crackling with blue electricity as he stepped over to flank the man fighting Telémahkos. “Looks like you could use some help, Tee-Kay,” Markos reached out and the man jerked for a moment, his clothing and armor smoking. He fell unconscious to the damp tavern floor.

The man that started the altercation, drew his longsword and swung weakly at Tim as he moved in the direction of the exit. “Maybe we should get out here…” He called to his friends. “They said the watch-mage was gone…”

“Tymon! Sword! Shield! Back me up!” Telémahkos practiced the footwork Mercado had shown him as he moved to cut off the retreating big mouth. “Have at you, scum!” The bandit barely deflect the worst of the rapier thrust, his armor absorbing the pointed edge, but the not the weight of the blow. Timotheus backed up to give himself some room to work, and took a swipe at the big mouth, who ducked. However, before he could get any further, Tymon was there to pen him and flank him with Tim.

The wenches, who had been slowly retreating from the fray, finally sprinted out the back door. The man with the cudgel, ignored by Victoria, moved to flank Laarus, and the young priest of Ra felt the blunt weapon’s heavy blow on his back as he spun to block a follow-up. The militant of Anhur swung her morningstar again and again at Furious Garry, to little effect. “Down, dog!”

“SURRENDER NOW!” Bleys repeated. “NO ONE SHOULD DIE HERE!” He moved past the fight to check on the man Markos had fried.

“Bleys! There are children in this town who have probably not eaten because of these men…” Markos complained. “Sagitta caustus! He sent an acid arrow flying at Furious Garry, but had to send it between the narrow gap between Victoria and Laarus to do so, and the caustic liquid splattered against his cousin.2

Seeing enough, the loudmouth, tried to flee, but quick blows from Victoria and Telémahkos sent him bleeding to the floor. Furious Garry roared and shrugging off a cut to the forehead as he passed Timotheus, and instinctively dodging to avoid Laarus’ flail, he charged right into Markos punching down with all his might, and slamming the hilt of the sword into the little mage’s neck.3 Markos took a step back, but miraculously did not fall. His head, neck and shoulder ached.

“My sympathies are with the bandits’ victims,” Telémahkos shot towards Bleys as he moved to flank Furious Garry with the mewling Markos.

The raging bandit spun around, growling as he raised his greatsword, smiling as he saw an opening in Telémahkos’ defense, but he was reckless with his own. Timotheus shoved his saber under the man’s armpit and twisted the blade. Furious Garry’s eyes widened as blood exploded from him, and he collapsed.

Shocked at his leader’s sudden defeat, the remaining bandit was not ready for Telémahkos’ opportunistic blow, which sent him down to the floor to bleed out as well.

“Ra, save this man so we can interrogate him and bring him to justice,” Laarus prayed and cast cure minor wounds on Furious Garry in order to stabilize him. He did the same to the man Telémahkos dropped, while Victoria dealt with the bleeding loudmouth who had started the whole thing.

“Just kill ‘em! Just kill them all! They’re bastard bandits that have been making all our lives miserable since that knight and the watch-mage took all the soldiers into the bog!” Wallaby cried out, distraught.

“This one is dead…” Bleys said, ignoring the halfling. He gestured to the man Markos had electrocuted with a spell. The purple-robed watch-mage turned to Markos. “Was this really necessary? Murdering this man?”

“Murder? These are bandits who are terrorizing these people!” Markos spat. “You’re just mad than no one obeyed you… Well, despite what Timotheus says, you are not the boss!”

“We had no evidence that these men are bandits, and until you used your magic missile spell, it seemed possible that we might subdue them without resorting to lethal means,” Bleys argued, his voice getting a bit heated for once.

“Markos was rash, but we were in our rights,” Laarus defended their actions.

“The guy outside told me these guys were with MacHaven,” Telémahkos bluffed. “That was evidence enough for me…”

“They looked bad…” Markos said. “You could just tell…”

“So you judged them based on looks alone? How very noble of you…” Bleys replied.

“Bah! I don’t care…” Markos spat again.

Laarus cast a curing spell on Timotheus and then another on himself, as Markos shifted the argument to be about no one following the routine for his casting pyrotechnics. The priest of Ra winced as the acid-burns on his neck healed.

“Where can we find the rest of these bandits, and their leader MacHaven?” Victoria asked, but neither Wallaby or Tickle knew, or at least they wouldn’t say.

“If you hang around long enough more of them will come, especially once Garry and his men go missing…” Wallaby answered. “Ever since all the soldiers out of Gullmoor have been busy with the lizardfolk and the watch-mage died, they have been coming and going more than ever!”

“Oroleniel the Salmon?” Bleys asked. Wallaby nodded. “Word is the lizardfolk tricked him into stumbling into a bog…”

“I thought the Salmon was arrested in New Harbinger…” Telémahkos whispered in Bleys’ ear. He had just finished searching the bandits, and took an ivory-pommel dagger for himself.

The dead bandit was dragged outside, and the Signers discussed their next move, quickly deciding that they should ride to Gullmoor with Furious Garry and talk to the Viceroy and gather more information on the Brood, if possible.

“If we leave now, he can send someone to pick up the remaining prisoners by morning…” Telémahkos reasoned.

“What!” Wallaby grew flush. “You cannot leave these men here! What if more of MacHaven’s men come while you’re gone? They’ll hold me responsible! I’ll be dead meat!”

“You do not seem appreciative of our help,” Markos sneered.

“Maybe this’ll teach you the value of the local patrols…” Telémahkos added.

“Oh yeah! Thanks for all the Gods-damned help,” Wallaby swore, running his stubby fingers through his matted black hair nervously.

“Wallaby is right… We should stay here overnight and then take all the prisoners in the morning,” Bleys said. He turned to the halfling “We shall eat and drink, and if more of MacHaven’s men come in, give a signal… Say something like, ‘Another round on me!’”

“That’s not believable,” Wallaby smiled, slyly.

“Say it anyway…” Bleys replied.

“Let him pick the phrase,” Timotheus said.

“How about, ‘Are you going to pay for that?’” Wallaby’s smile widened. It was agreed. “But you know, the simplest thing would be to just dump these bastards in the bog…”

Over the next hour, some locals poked their heads in and then quickly went on their way again, but finally a lanky man in new clothes arrived. He wore tall wading boots, and a fine green and brown hunting cap hat atop his long shaggy hair and a smile from ear to ear. It was Tavius.4

“Well if it isn’t my favorite noble band!” He smirked and strut, looking at each of the Signers. “Stirring up the hornet’s nest again?”

“Do you know anything about MacHaven and his men?” Bleys asked.

“Nothing nobody else doesn’t know or hasn’t told ya!” Tavius walked over to the bar. “But I sure am thirsty…” He took off his hat as he walked past them.

Telémahkos sneered at the party’s former guide, while Markos sulked about no one following the routine in order for him to cast pyrotechnics, and Victoria of Anhur was taking the time to try to explain why it was tactically unsound to it in this case.

Tavius looked around and rolled his eyes. “I do have a story or two to tell, but if you all are too stingy to part with a few coppers to quench a workingman’s throat… Well, in that case… I may have to keep it to myself.”

“Talk or leave,” Bleys said flatly, and Tavius put his hat back on and began to make a show of leaving.

“Oh hold on! Come back! I’ll buy you a gods-damned drink,” Timotheus swore, glaring at Bleys the Aubergine. Tavius spun around and smiled, and Wallaby poured him an ale. Tavius downed it quickly and then gestured to the cup again, after he looked to Tim hopefully and the warrior nodded.

“So out with it! What do you have for us?” Telémahkos snapped.

“Well, as you know I am the smartest person around here, and I have a knack for looking out for things that might be worth seeing and knowing…” He smiled wide again, but then saw Telémahkos fuming and rolled his eyes again. “I was around when that knight and the elven watch-mage arrived with some men-at-arms and headed out into the bog. This the kind of thing you are looking for?”

Bleys nodded. Tavius finished his ale and gestures for another.

“Next thing I hear…” He took a sip. “Next thing I hear they are back in town some days later man down… They threatened some locals to put them up and then they went back out… I saw them that morning…” He paused to gauge the interest of his listeners. Bleys and Laarus were placid as always, and Tim kind of hummed to himself as he drank large mugs of ale between small bowls of fish stew. Markos was deep in thought, and Victoria was stern. Telémahkos sharpened a dagger.

He sighed and continued. “Couple of days later they come back, now with only two men-at-arms, and after staying one night they make their way to Gullmoor the next day… It was not long after that that the soldiers went in there, including your old friend Sir Quintus… In fact, I saw him around before the rest of the soldiers and that other knight, Lizard-bane, came back from Gullmoor with the watch-mage in tow… Oh, and when they passed through town, the knight and the watch-mage weren’t speaking…”

“How do you know?” Bleys asked.

“I notice things… The knight was definitely mad at the elf, and then the next thing you know, word is watch-mage fell in the bog and was never seen again… Make you think, right?” Tavius tapped his temple.

Telémahkos looked to Bleys as if to remind him that this was the second time they had heard this news of Oroleniel’s fate.

“How long ago was this?” Bleys asked.

“Couple of months? They first got out here first week of Keent or so…” Tavius replied. He reached for a bowl of fish stew Wallaby had served for Timotheus. Tim shot him a look, but gestured to the halfling for another bowl. “Now Thricius Gosprey is involved in the fight…”

“Thricius Gosprey?” Telémahkos asked.

“Son of the Viceroy… Not the eldest… Second son, I think. Militant of Anhur, like Miss Priestess over here.” He jerked a thumb towards Victoria.

Furious Garry began to stir and pull absently as his bonds, so Bleys walked over and slammed a fist into the man’s face, knocking him out again.

Later, after Wallaby had shuttered the Wringneck Pub closed, and the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland did their best to clear space on the filthy floor and lay out their bedrolls, they started to rethink their plans.

“I have a bad feeling about going to Gullmoor,” Telémahkos said. “If the Viceroy’s son is working with Lizardbane, we might end up being detained and never get to help Oroleniel the Salmon…”

“Detain us for what? We have not done anything,” Laarus said.

“Like a lord has never used his power to stall or misdirect people when it was in his interest…” Telémahkos rolled his eyes at the priest. “I think we should go on to New Harbinger and give the prisoners in there…”

“I, too, think we should go on to New Harbinger,” Bleys concurred. “We have heard conflicting reports as to Oroleniel’s fate and I would like to know for certain what has happened…”

“I would rather stay and deal with the bandits,” Markos said.

“Wouldn’t you rather clean up our mess? We left Oroleniel to deal with the lizardfolk and look what has happened…” Victoria said.

“Whatever Oroleniel is embroiled in has nothing to do with us,” Laarus said.

“Speak for yourself,” Bleys did not even turn to look at Laarus when he spoke.

“However…” Laarus continued, ignoring the blast of cold emanating from the watch-mage. “You were summoned by Lord Swann, so we should go to New Harbinger…”

“I can answer that at my leisure,” Bleys replied.

“That may be so, but it is still a sign of respect to not tarry when summoned by a Lord,” Laarus said. “It has already been at least a fortnight since you received word…”

It was put to a vote, and in the end only Markos was against going to New Harbinger, but for once, instead of putting up a fight he went to sleep.

…to be continued…

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

(1) See Aquerra’s rules for covering an opponent, here.

(2) In Aquerra we play with the rules where there is a chance to hit cover when you miss your target. If the roll hits an AC within the range of the target’s normal AC and that gained by the cover and is still high enough to strike the cover’s AC (in this case Laarus or Victoria, I rolled a die) then it gets hit instead.

(3) Furious Garry did 20 points of damage to Markos with that one hit. At the time, I believe Markos had 24 hit points at max.

(4) Tavius first appeared in Session #2, and served as their guide on their first adventure.
 



el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #28 – “Drie-Hoek Jaunt” (part 3 of 3)

Anulem, the 21st of Keent - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Early the next morning, the young nobles were on the road. The prisoners were trussed up and thrown over the backs of horses, which they walked down to the walled city on the southern part of Drie-Hoek Bay. On horseback the trip usually took four to six hours, but it was early-afternoon before they saw the towers of the city, and the smattered clusters of outer buildings where they left their horses at a livery.

At the gate into the city, Ferris Twelf and other townguards met them, and they remanded the prisoners into their custody before heading on towards the citadel.

“Do you know any of their names?” The lieutenant asked. “For the record?”

“I think that one is called ‘Furious George’,” Bleys said, pointing to the tattooed man. “Or maybe it’s Garry…” 1

“Wow! That’s a nice shield!” One of the guards commented to Timotheus.

“Bulette hide! Real Bulette teeth!” He pointed to where the triangular teeth were wedged into the wide to decorate the stylized mouth on the shield.

“Boo-lay?”

“It’s halfling for ‘landshark’,” Timotheus clarified.

At the New Harbinger Citadel they were met by the castle steward, Tabitha Mark, and she showed them to the same cells they had stayed in the last time they passed through town.2 Markos practiced his etiquette with gross exaggeration that might have appeared as mocking to some when he addressed the steward.3

As they cleaned up and prepared for their audience with Lord Swann, Timotheus walked over to Markos’ room with a vial of a viscous red-black liquid.

“You need this?” It was the blood of the strange adhering mummy-men they had fought at the obelisk that pointed that way to the tomb of Dalvan Meir.4

“Yes!” Markos snatched it. “This is important magical stuff!”

“Really?” Timotheus asked.

“Well… Maybe…” Markos replied. He put it among his things.

The Signers were brought before Lord Swann in his audience chamber soon after.

Young Lord Swann was wrapped in a fur robe, and sitting up on the dais on an ornate chair decorated with gold and onyx swans. He has long light brown hair and the beginnings of a trimmed narrow beard on his chin, though the rest of his face was clean-shaven. He welcomed the young nobles sullenly, absently rubbing a small red book that lay in his lap.

“Our apologies for the late arrival, Lord Swann,” Victoria spoke first. “But we were delayed, first by Bleys’ duty in Sluetelot and then by bandits in the vicinity of Bog End.”

“Yes, I have been informed of the prisoners you brought with you and I thank you for dealing with those who would seek to take advantage of the crisis in the bog and the escalating hostilities of the lizardfolk there,” Lord Septimias Giaus Swann replied. “Trust me when I say those men shall never see the light of Ra’s Glory so long as they live…” The young lord cleared his throat and continued. “Now… What can you tell me about the Pillars?”5

“The Pillars, my lord? I thought we were summoned to discuss Oroleniel the Salmon…” Bleys said.

“I shall explain it all… Humor me…”

“Very well…” Bleys went on to say what they knew, which wasn’t very much. He explained that the party had still be traveling back from the Disputed Territories when the Day of Pillars had occurred, and the word on the street in Sluetelot was that at least there, children had supposedly been hired to do most of the drawings; though no one knew by who.6

“There is reason to believe that this movement of the Pillars is related to the rogue watch-mage, Oroleniel and perhaps the attacks by the lizardfolk is part of the plot somehow… It is clear that he betrayed his duty and aided the lizardfolk in their plot… It is unfortunate that your group was fooled by these beasts in this way, but thankfully you all were not led astray as Oroleniel has been…”

“I am sorry, my lord, but this does not make sense to me,” Victoria said. “Why would Oroleniel betray his people to the lizardfolk?”

“He is of elven blood and grew up in Tempestas,” Lord Swann gave by way of explanation, a faint hint of distaste in his voice. “Though he was assigned here, we are not his people…”

“Would you be willing to start from the beginning?” Victoria asked as politely as possible. “What is the evidence against him?”

In that moment, the lord’s vizier, Tiperol Dust walked into the chamber from the rear door. He was a swarthy man in his early thirties with short tight curls shaped at sharp angles on his head, and a black goatee. He wore gray and black robes cut in a style similar to those of a watch-mage. He carried a large scroll tube in his left hand.

“Master Dust, please read the charges against Oroleniel to our guests…” Lord Swann said.

“Oroleniel the Salmon has been charged with colluding with an enemy of the Thrician people, assaulting agents of the Lord of House Swann and New Harbinger, and conspiracy to overthrow the Magocracy…”

“Those are serious charges…” Bleys said. “What is the evidence?”

“As sworn in an affidavit by Sir Septimias Benedict Swann, the 28th of Keent in the 637th year of the Margrave,” the Grand Vizier read from an opened scroll. “After several journeys into the Crossroads Bog in order to parley with the Goldstraw Lizardfolk, in which loyal men-at-arms of House Swann were drawn into bogs or killed by reptilian creatures under the command of lizardfolk between the 2nd and 16th of Keent, during which time Sir Septimias was forced to seek further aid from nearby Gullmoor, Oroleniel the Salmon did attempt to secretly meet with said lizardfolk after there was evidence of their capturing (and perhaps devouring) Sir Quintus Gosprey and his squire, Valerius Esmus Tarchon. When the foul lizardmen were attacked, the watch-mage of New Harbinger attacked Sir Septimias and the soldiers from Gullmoor there to aid him, allowing the lizardfolk to escape.”

Dust paused and cleared his throat, looking at each of the Signers, before continuing, “And then, rather than submit to arrest, Oroleniel fled and was not seen again by Sir Septimias…”

There was a long pause.

“I authorized his home be searched for a clue as to where he might hide, or a reason for his betrayal and that was when this was found…” Lord Septimias Giaus Swann held up the small book on his lap with a look of satisfaction. It had a cover of the finest red leather and one its front were embossed three golden pillars.

Markos coughed and hastily excused himself.

“What is it?” Laarus asked.

“A seditious volume that purports to overthrow the magocracy and steal the wealth of the nobility,” Lord Swann said, his face growing flush with anger with the thought of it. “It can undo all that is good and lawful in Thricia, if not all of Aquerra, And the notes in Oroleniel’s own hand that are in the front of the book, which we had translated from elven attest to his adherence to it traitorous philosophy…”

“What do the notes say?” Bleys asked.

Lord Swann looked to Tiperol Dust, who opened another scroll and read. “There were four lines written at different times they seem. In order they read, ‘One. There is something here similar to the spirit of the elven will, of the will of Aranris. Two. This will be the hasty undoing of generations of work. Three. How will the Academy stand on this? Would they be able to make a smooth transition? And finally, this last line was crossed out: Note: Methal the Mauve, expert on Han-Jost.

“Methul the Mauve?” Timotheus spoke up. “Didn’t he used to be watch-mage of Marrock? Didn’t he die not that long ago?”

“You are correct,” Bleys the Aubergine confirmed.

Tiperol Dust continued to read, now from a third document, “Oroleniel the Salmon was taken into custody on the eighth of Ese when he attempted to sneak back into New Harbinger…”

“Did he put up a fight?” Telémahkos asked.

“No, he was taken by Captain Aurelius Oberto, he didn’t dare…” Lord Swann said.

“What has he said about the book and about what happened in the bog?” Bleys asked.

The young lord’s face grew dark with anger and the words in answer were filled of frustration and rancor. “He refuses to speak, to say anything on the matter… He said he would only speak to you…” Lord Swann pointed at Bleys. “In fact, one of your elder alumnus, Malcolm the Bronze passed through town and we explained the situation to him and asked him to intervene… And what was his response?” Swann looked to his vizier.

“I believe he said, ‘If he wants to talk to Bleys, let him talk to Bleys…’”

“Sounds like Malcolm,” Bleys replied. “Who found the book?”

“Captain Oberto…” Tiperol Dust said.

“And his word would be honorable?”

“Of course.”

Bleys requested to search Oroleniel’s house himself, and the Lord agreed, saying that Captain Aurielius Oberto would be summoned as he had the key. “In the meantime, take the book, examine it, see its danger for yourself,” he handed the book to Bleys. “It shall be arranged for you to have an audience with the prisoner after dinner tonight.”

“And Markos Ackers…” He turned to look at the sun-baked mage. “I am sure my cousin 6 would be happy to get a visit from you while you are here… Though you will see her at the dinner tonight…”

“Oh, uh… thanks? I mean, yes, thank you my lord…” Markos was flustered.

“He often speaks of her fondly,” Bleys added, getting a glare from his companion.

The Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland retired to their cells, as Bleys flipped through the book with furrowed brow.

“Is it really full of evil magic?” Timotheus asked as they were led, a bit of eager awe in his voice.

“No,” Bleys responded without looking up.

“Then how is it supposed to overthrow all good in Thricia?” Timotheus was confused.

“It is not magical. It is philosophical…”

“Huh?!”

As they gathered in the cold bare common room at the end of the hall where they were staying, Telémahkos leaned into the purple-robed watch-mage and said quietly, “We should copy portions of it so we can read it in depth and at our leisure in the future…”

“That could be risky, see what happened to Oroleniel?” Bleys replied.

“It will be fine as long as no one finds out,” Telémahkos said. “Anyway, they were looking to nail Oroleniel. I am sure Oberto would have found something incriminating if he had to put it there himself… Remember, he is the one who sent me after Harliss Javell.”7

Some simple fare was brought to the young nobles, and they talked quietly among themselves as Bleys perused sections of the book with Markos looking over his shoulder. The smaller mage would sigh and roll his eyes when he reached the end of a page before Bleys did, muttering “finally” when the watch-mage turned to another one.

”You know, those notes in the front sound more like musings than adoption of a philosophy,” Markos said. “We should use comprehend languages to check them out for ourselves and see how else they might be interpreted…”

“I agree…” Bleys said. “As it stands, from what I can see of this book… It is a proclamation of anarchy…”

“Yes, this does seem dangerous… There is no way to implement these ideas without violence…” Markos nodded.

“What does it say?” Telémahkos asked, clearly frustrated with not being able to read it.

“Here, read this part…” Bleys hand the book over, pointed to particular section. Telémahkos read as quickly as he could, pausing only to glare at Markos when he sighed impatiently, and to flip some pages.

“So?” Timotheus looked to his cousin.

“It is a model for a new form of government… Democracy,” Telémahkos said.

“What’s that?”

“Imagine that everyone is a king…” Telémahkos began.

“That doesn’t make any sense! Everyone would be giving everyone else orders! It’d be chaos!” Timotheus was bewildered.

“Everyone would get to vote for their representatives and leaders…A million votes for a million people,” Bleys clarified.

“We can hardly vote with only six people! All of Thricia voting on things? That would never work!” Timotheus was adamant. “How can something so stupid be dangerous?”

“You do a pretty good job with your saber…” Telémahkos winked and threw his cousin and elbow, and got a punch in the arm in reply.

“It is not exactly stupid, Tim,” Markos said. “There have been other nations that used a similar system, and there is a section in the book that makes reference to place that still uses it now… The idea is that the people’s will should determine their leaders, not the arbitrariness of birth rank.”

“Here! Listen to this…” Telémahkos read from another section of the book, which he had started flipping through randomly. “While Ra may be undisputed King of the Gods, the idea that it is He who chooses and anoints the rulers of Aquerra is a myth perpetrated to keep power in the hands of the few. Ra’s Kingly virtues are present in all of creation and absorbed by the masses in order to be enacted as the impulse to vote, and to serve faithfully the mandate of that impulse if elected…”8

“That sounds like blasphemy! All copies of this book should be destroyed!” Laarus intoned. He had been silent most of the time, as if deep in thought.9

“Yes, Ra is the god of rulers, it is by his will that leaders are chosen and have power,” Victoria said.

“Ridiculous!” Telémahkos scoffed. “How can you believe that Ra really chooses all rulers? Does he choose the priest-king of the Kingdom of the Red God of the West? What about the baron of the Black Islands?”

“He chooses all legitimate leaders…” Victoria replied.

“My father is ostensibly a ruler, and a legitimate one, but he’s practically a beast in human clothing…” Telémahkos said, getting surly. He continued to read off some sections, though not everyone was listening.

“And if there is a disagreement between followers of Ra about who is a legitimate ruler?” Markos asked his cousin.

“That is irrelevant… Such things are discussed at length when there is disagreement…”

“So there is disagreement,” Markos smiled.

“Eventually, one or both sides are enlightened by Ra,” Laarus explained. “Disagreements are an opportunity to learn how the law can be made more binding and specific…”

“It sounds to me like some of you are agreeing with blasphemy,” Victoria frowned at Markos and Telémahkos.

“This is Thricia, and I can be a blasphemer without fear,” Telémahkos replied.10

“Yes, no one is going to run you through for saying so…” Victoria said. “But they may for the actions you take in the name of that blasphemy…”

“So you think it is acceptable to undermine the very fabric of our society?” Laarus turned to Telémahkos.

“Look at all the bad nobles…” Telémahkos began.

“So you would burn down the tree for giving some rotten fruit?” Victoria asked.

“Why are we even arguing about this?” Timotheus suddenly asked.

“Yes, this is a distraction from the real issue,” Victoria agreed, dropping the subject.

Soon after Bleys cast comprehend languages to read the notes in elven for himself, Captain Aurelius Oberto arrived to show them to Oroleniel’s house.

“Where in the house did you find the book?” Bleys asked as they made their way through New Harbinger’s narrow winding streets accompanied by two of the townguard. Oberto flicked his long brown shiny hair, and the silver of his hoop ear-ring sparkled in the lantern light. He wore a permanent grin, and Telémahkos felt that the man’s eyes kept darting towards him, though he could never quite catch him at it.

“It was just on a bookshelf, out in the open,” the captain of the guard replied. “Most people can’t read, so it was hidden in plain sight. It took my training as an investigator to look for clues for his behavior among his reading.”

“And his spellbook?” Bleys asked.

“He had one on him when captured, but if he had others, we have not found them…”

When they reached the cottage, Captain Oberto unlocked the door and handed the key to one of the guards. “Please leave things as you found them,” he said to the Signers. “When you are done the guards will lock up and bring you back to the citadel… Good night.”

He nodded to each of them, but Telémahkos noticed a tiny cock of the head when he was looked to, and he squinted back, but then looked away. As Telémahkos and the other began to look around the cottage, Bleys walked over to the small kitchen area and found some stake bread in a basket. Crumbling it in his hand, he walked over and opened the shutters, scattering the crumbs on the sill as he made clucking noise, which made both the guard standing outside and nearby Victoria turn to look at him.

A few moments later a gray and white gull hopped down onto the sill from outside and pecked at the bread and then looked up at Bleys. The watch-mage stroked the bird’s head.

“Hey! Is that the watch-mage’s familiar?” The guard asked from outside. The window was at about his chest level.

“No idea,” Bleys the Aubergine shrugged.

“If it is I should tell the captain… Can’t familiars be used to spy and communicate?” the guard asked.

“Not that I have ever heard of…” Bleys replied with a straight face. The gull hopped into his hand and then flew up into a rafter of the house. The guard frowned, but then shrugged and turned back around.

Meanwhile, Markos found a letter folded into one of Oroleniel’s books. It was appeared to be a love letter of a sort, written in a crude hand from someone named ‘Jeffery’.

“I thought that only happened on ships!” Markos quipped.

“Don’t be stupid,” Timotheus gave the smaller man a hard slap on the shoulder.

Telémahkos searched behind the books and noted small lever in the grooves in the back of the shelf. He signaled Bleys over and whispered his discovery. Realizing something had been found, Markos walked over to Laarus and Victoria and got them to walk out and distract the guards. Bleys passed the warding ring to Telémahkos to wear as he searched the area of the lever for traps and then pulled it to one side at Bleys’ word.

There was a click and a seamless panel in the back of the shelf slid open and out fell a large book with a dark green leather cover.

“Is it something we should open?” Telémahkos asked Bleys.

“No.”

“It is something we should put back?” He asked.

“No,” Bleys replied. “It is probably his spellbook and if the house is searched again, it might be found.”

“Then as a watch-mage, you want to take it into your custody?” Telémahkos asked, handing it over.

“Yes…” Bleys took the book.

End of Session #28

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

(1) Much to my annoyance, the players took to calling ‘Furious Garry’, ‘Furious George’ instead (as in the monkey) and then mocking me for my failure to see that coming.

(2) See Session #4

(3) Markos has been practicing his etiquette since returning from the Disputed Territories after a lesson or three from Euleria Finch.

(4) Adherers. See Session #17

(5) The party learned about the Day of the Pillars (after seeing evidence of it) upon returned from the Disputed Territories.

(6) Telémahkos was able to gather this information from some of the urchins of Sluetelot with the help of Mirth while separated from the rest of the party during the plague of insomnia (Sessions #24 & 24).

(7) See InterSession #4.3

(8) You can read the entire handout that was given to the party to represent the “Pillars Book” here. It is officially titled, “The Pillars of Thricia”.

(9) Actually, Laarus’ player, Jesse, was not present for this session.

(10) Freedom of religion is the rule of law in Thricia.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Attention Loyal Readers!

<chirp, chirp>

This is just to say that this last installment is more than likely the last for this year. I have finished typing out Session #29, but only just got a start on #30 before end of the semester master's thesis crunch time was upon me. As you know I don't like to start posting installments from a session until the one after it is done (as an incentive to keep up the diligent pounding out of pages).

So expect part one of session #29 sometime in the second week of January 2009.

And soon after that? The first PC death! Who could it be. . .?

Happy Holidays!
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Wow! One thousand views since my last post! Well, I guess that means someone aside from two of my players, BlackCat and handforged are reading! ;)

Anyway, update coming up. . .
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #29 – “Bogged Down With Them Bog End Blues” 1

The Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland were led back to the New Harbinger Citadel, and given an opportunity to wash up and change clothes for dinner with Lord Swann and his family. Timotheus brought the letter from ‘Jeffry’ he had found in Oroleniel’s house over to Bleys to keep with the spellbook.

“Don’t read it,” Tim said when Bleys made to open it. “It is personal and has nothing to do with what is going on, but it should be kept safe with his things.”

As they gathered in the common area waiting to be summoned, Markos made a face at Telémahkos. “You are wearing armor,” the mage said. Telémahkos reacted by pulling his cloak around his shoulders to cover where his chain shirt was visible under his shirt.

“So?”

“That’s bad manners,” Markos said. “I mean, even I know that much…”

“Markos is correct,” Bleys said in his even tone. “Do you expect foul play?”

“Well, someone is trying to kill me,” Telémahkos said. “It is not about not trusting Lord Swann…”

“And yet, that is how it will be perceived…” Bleys replied. Telémahkos sighed angrily and stomped back to his cell to remove the chain shirt.

“Don’t worry, cousin! I got your back!” Timotheus called after him.

As Telémahkos came back down the hall, he noted some kind of creature floating down the hall towards the common room ahead of him. It was a levitating fleshy disk with two eyestalks atop it and several tentacles hanging beneath it. It was a dull gray color covered in spots of soft blue. It expelled gas from beneath its body through a tightened bladder and it scuttled along weirdly.

“A flumph!” Timotheus said happily as the thing entered the room, the fine flowery smell of its motivating gas filling the room. Telémahkos entered behind it.

“Didn’t your family have one?” Victoria asked with some shock.

“Oh, yeah up in Pyla’s there’s one, but I don’t spend much time there,” Tim replied.

“We had one briefly when I was young, but my father kept asking about what it’d be like in a soup…” Telémahkos said.

“Oh my!” The flumph’s voice was odd. It emerged from a broad bill-like mouth. It was deep and it cadence was odd. “The Signers of the Charter of Scheireiland are to follow me to dinner… I am called Prestik!”

The young nobles followed the flumph out of the common room and down the hall to the narrow steps that led to the Lord’s dining room.

They found the dining room to be much as they remembered it from their last dinner with the court of House Swann - a large chamber decorated with marble, with a broad open window with intricately carved painted wooden shutters that overlooked the harbor and Drie-Hoek Bay, shining in the dying light of the evening sun And for the most part the guests were the same. There was Novaluna Julia Swann, cousin of the lord, and sister to Sir Septimias Benedict Swann, who being involved in the fight against the Gold Straw Lizardfolk in the Crossroads Bog was not present. Julia was pretty and plump, and had cut her hair nearly to the scalp, save for some clumps of long hair near the front she had slicked back. It was an to unusual length for a Thrician of either gender. Sitting across from her was Octavia Camilla Swann, pale and petite, who sat beside the middle-aged Decima Aurora Swann, who Timotheus waved to enthusiastically. She had a nervous demeanor and a swollen face. Sir Decimus Wilmus Swann was not present, having traveled to the Golden Tower of the West to winter on the Captured Sea with his wife’s family. Among the guests was also Tiperol Dust, the Grand Vizier of the court, with his dusky skin and pointed dark beard, and Corwin Locksley, a man with long straight blond hair and soft features. And finally there was a man some inches shy of six feet with a bit of accustomed comfort about his belt, but who nonetheless was handsome. He had a gleam in his eye that was warm and appealing. He stood as the Signers entered, and greeted them. It was Novius Sebastian Swann, uncle to the Lord and youngest brother of the exiled Regent.2

The servants closed the shutters and drew thick maroon curtains over them, as a chilling draft had been coming through it, and lamps and candles were lit.

The long table had three large bowls full of small bright red apples, chunks of smoked cheese and three large porcupine-apples. As soon as Timotheus sat and smiled at everyone he reached for one of the apples and took a big bite, which made everyone turn and look at him. The Lord had not arrived or been announced. No one was supposed to touch the food yet. Quickly, Julia Swann grabbed an apple as well and took an even larger and louder bite, and then smiled weakly at everyone at the table, but her eyes rested longest on Markos who was fighting to contain a laugh. Octavia Camilla Swann turned up her nose, and Decima Aurora tittered behind a kerchief. Telémahkos, Victoria and Laarus all glared at Timotheus, and the brawny warrior shrugged with embarrassment.

A moment later Lord Swann was announced, breaking the tension.

“I see you have met my wise and well-traveled uncle, Novius,” Young Lord Swann said, gesturing to him. “He is often abroad taking care of our House’s mercantile interests…”

“Really? Where have you traveled?” Victoria asked Novius, and he shared a tale of Haffar’s Port and the simultaneous increase in wealth and crime in that infamous city.

“In your opinion, what would it take to crack down on the increased piracy in the Wizard’s Sea?” Victoria asked.

“If you ask me, what we need do is go to the Kingdom of Herman Land’s aid against its traitorous protectorate,” Lord Swann interjected. “The sooner things normalize in the east, the sooner they will normalize here… But while more than half of Herman Land’s western fleet is in the east…?”

The table fell to a discussion of the merits and pitfalls of aiding Herman Land in their war, and the potential for unrest and chaos to spread across central Aquerra if Thricia were to do such a thing. Timotheus, who had little interest in world politics, fell to talking to Decima about her son Heydricus, who was being fostered at High Talon. “He’s doing great! He’s settled down a lot… He hasn’t broken any bones that I know of for a good while now…”

The dinner seemed to fly by with course after course of local favorites - thick white karnemilke, served with squares of hard bread, large plates of stampot and rookworst sausage, for dessert they enjoyed the sweetness of vla, a kind of milk custard covered in a variety of spices, but by this time, they had moved from the table, and were gathered in small groups talking around the dining room’s large hearth.3

Julia Swann spoke to Markos and Bleys, expressing disappointment at her inability to go the Academy of Wizardry as she would have liked, but mentioned having a chance to attend the University of Thricia in the coming year.

“The University has a broader spectrum of academic interest,” Markos said.

“Yes, they will instruct anyone,” Bleys deadpanned. Julia could not help but smile and quickly look to see Markos’ reaction.

“…Only because they have better teachers…” Markos responded.

“The Academy focuses on quality not quantity,” Bleys said.

Before they could go on entertaining Julia with their banter, a servant came over to fetch Bleys. There was a citadel guard at the door to the dining room, waiting to escort him to see Oroleniel the Salmon. Markos and Telémahkos moved to follow, but the guard raised his hand. “The Lord has said only Master Bleys…”

Markos grumbled, and Telémahkos looked to Bleys, but they watch-mage’s face revealed no fear or worry.

“I have been bringing your colleague his meals for these many weeks,” the guard said, conversationally as he brought Bleys to another part of the citadel, an area that Bleys had never visited. The guard was young, with a reddish-brown beard and no mustache in the typical House Swann style. He wore a yellow tabard with a black swan upon it. Bleys expected to be led down towards the dungeons, but instead he was lead along long hallways that ran towards the rear wing of the immense structure. “I lament that there has been no elven food to bring him, however…”

Bleys the Aubergine said nothing in return.

“Do you know any elven foods?” the guard stopped and looked at him smiling.

“No.”

“I thought you might suggest some… But you do not know any elven foods? Do you know any elven at all?” the guard asked. He continued to lead the way.

“No,” Bleys replied. “What is your name?”

“Jeffry, sir…”

“Why do you ask these things?”

“I just thought Master Oroleniel might prefer to converse in his own tongue,” the guard suddenly seemed a bit nervous to Bleys. “It might make him more comfortable to speak in the language of his people… If only there was a way for you to understand him if he spoke in that tongue…”

A moment later they arrived at thick wooden door reinforced by bands of black steel. Jeffry took a key from his belt and slipped the key in the lock gently, but before turning it, knocked loudly. “Master Oroleniel, you have a visitor!” He called through the door before shoving it open. It was clearly heavy and fit snugly into its frame.

Beyond the door was something that was far from the cell one might imagine someone accused of treason would reside in. It was decorated and furnished as a fancy sitting room with a cot holding a feather mattress in one corner. There was a desk and small table with a tray of food. The room had its own potbelly stove, and a night table with a large bronze basin. There was a narrow shaft in the opposite wall, about two feet high and one foot wide, through which cold air seeped out. It must have lead to a window that overlooked the bay. Oroleniel the Salmon came around the table and folded his hands in front of him.

“At last…”

Jeffry left them, and Oroleniel gestured for Bleys to sit across him at the table.

“It is good that we can finally speak privately,” Bleys said.

“Yes, it is…” Oroeleniel opened his eyes and looked at Bleys from beneath his brow, while quickly touching two cupped fingers to his ear. He cocked his head back to the window shaft. Bleys nodded his understanding.

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

“It is good to have friends,” Novius Sebastian Swann said to the other Signers back in the dining room as he finished a harrowing tale of escape from pirates. They drank brandy and munched on warmed pastries filled with a warm sweet milk paste. Lord Septimias Giaus Swann had left with his Vizier soon after Bleys had, and Decima Aurora Swann excused herself soon after that.

“Yes, it is,” Victoria agreed. Novius seemed to address her more than the others, and had stopped his story on at least two occasions to ask her opinion on some fine point of battle or honor.

“And it is in times of adversity that the fastest friendships are forged,” the smiling man continued. Telémahkos. Timotheus and Markos all took sidelong glances at Laarus. “And sometimes unusual ones…”

“Speaking of unusual, have you ever traveled to the Kingdom of the Red God of the West? What do you know of the state of trade between our nations?” Telémahkos asked.

“Well… I of course would not know too much of that… But I have been to that strange land, though not very populated parts… It was back in my adventuring days…” Novius began another tale.

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

Back in the small room where Oroleniel the Salmon was being held, the half-elven watch-mage moved the tray over and placed down a lacquered wooden board covered in letters, numbers and other symbols. The words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the top left and right corner respectively. In his hands he held a wooden ring that held a lens.

Bleys walked over from the stove, from where he had placed a small log inside, rubbing soot between his fingers. As he sat back down across from Oroleniel looking at the board, he pressed his finger on the edge of the plate, taking a few grains of salt.

“Since you are a diviner, I assume you know what this is?” Oroleniel asked.

“Yes, though I have never used one,” Bleys replied. “I always thought it was more an implement of witchcraft… Though there are some divinatory spells I have heard of that could use such a board as a focus… Why do you have it?”

“A curiosity I thought you might appreciate,” Oroleniel said, but as he spoke, he moved the lens set in the wooden frame over the letters, spelling out, “Signal to me.” He turned the board around.

Would you mind if I spoke some in elvish?” Oroleniel asked in his mellifluous tongue.

Bleys nodded and then spoke some arcane words, casting comprehend languages.

I am sure you have many questions to ask me, so why don’t you ask them,” Oroleniel said, continuing in elvish.

“Why don’t you just tell me what happened when you left here with Sir Septimias Benedict Swann?” Bleys asked.

Oroleniel nodded and began a long detailed account of the ride out to Bog End and then out into the Crossroads Bog. He spoke in common, but included asides and opinions in elvish and used the lens to point to ‘no’ when he was stretching some truth. He told of how Sir Septimias Benedict Swann’s over-confidence and desire for glory led him to make poor choices, and it was his fault the men-at-arms died, drawn into deep bogs by crafty muckdwellers that had nothing to do with Chok’tem’s tribe.

“Parleying with the lizardfolk once we actually found them was nearly impossible,” Oroleniel explained. “Sir Septimias was infuriated, certain that the muckdwellers were obeying the Goldstraw tribe, and he interpreted any act on their part that was not immediate obedience and surrender as threatening. While on watch one morning, I spotted lizardfolk approaching and went ahead to parley before Sir Septimias could wake up, but he found us and immediately accused me of being a traitor, but as my people say…”

And now Oroleniel the Salmon spoke in the elven tongue, but rather than any saying, he added to his tale. “Actually, he caught me the second time when we were trying to arrange for a way to pass the whereabouts of the evil lizardfolk back to me so I might lead the knights towards lizardfolk that actually are hostile…”

“Did you not try to explain yourself to Sir Septimias?” Bleys asked.

“Of course, but he was not about to listen to me or believe Chok’tem that a splinter group of his tribe had turned to worshiping the serpent god and were up to no good,” the half-elf explained, switching back to common tongue. “It was evident that he was unwilling to make any distinctions between lizardfolk.”

“What did you do then?” Bleys asked.

“Well, I was forced to use my magic to keep him and his men from killing Chok’tem and his rangers,” Oroleniel said. “And then of course, I had to flee myself when he threatened me with arrest…”

“And this was before or after Sir Septimias went to Gullmoor?” Bleys asked.

“After, I went with him to Gullmoor to recoup and gather more men,” Oroleniel answered. “When Sir Quintus Gosprey heard the news he hurried out to the bog with his squire and were never heard from again… It is said they both perished in the bog. Let me say a prayer for his soul in the tongue of my people…” But he did not say a prayer, instead he said, “Quintus and his squire were still alive last I saw them, and aiding Chok’tem in rooting out the evil lizardfolk who have abandoned their tribe… Furthermore, he believes that this is all a distraction to keep attention away from something going on in Moraes Heng, but he was never able to figure out exactly what, or explain why he thought this…”

Bleys nodded solemnly, but Oroleniel continued in elvish. “It is imperative that no one know of his survival so that he may continue to work unhindered and he not be forced to choose to fight against his comrades in arms.”

“And what would you have me do?” Bleys asked.

“It is imperative that you go to the Crossroads Bog and figure out what is going on for yourself and put an end to this needless violence,” Oroleniel said. “You and I both know that Chok’tem and his people may not want violence and want nothing more to contribute to cause of Thricia, but they will defend themselves if attacked and these honorable creatures will be driven off for having caused no ill.”

“I agree,” Bleys said. “Tell me, what do you know of MacHaven?”

“The bandit leader? Not much…”

“Do you think he is involved?”

“Before I decided to sneak back into New Harbinger to get my spellbook, I heard word in Bog End that the bandits were becoming more brazen…” Oroleniel replied. “It may be they are involved in whatever is going on, but I cannot say for sure…”

“Was Lorkas Twelf among those sent out of Gullmoor to aid Sir Septimias?” Bleys asked.

“Actually, he was… How did you know?” Oroleniel was looked puzzled.

“He is the only man aside from Sir Quintus that I know out of Gullmoor,” Bleys said.

“I believe he can be trusted to listen to reason…” Oroleniel said in Elvish again. “Tell me, I have been cut off from news here… How goes the Lizardbane’s efforts to slay or drive off the Goldstraw?”

“The lord informed us that he was able to burn down one of their villages and smash a number of lizardfolk eggs with the aid of Thricius of Anhur…”

Oroleniel’s head drooped. “That will make reconciliation even more difficult, if not impossible… But still, it must be attempted…”

“Now, what of this book? The Pillars of Thricia?” Bleys asked.

“Of that I cannot tell you…” Oroleniel looked down. “But I can say that I have no seditious intent against Thricia. The book was a gift and an intellectual curiosity…”

“Who gave it to you?” Bleys asked.

“I cannot say,” the half-elf watch-mage replied. He looked up.

“Lord Swann plans to bring this matter to the Margrave,” Bleys said.

Oroleniel laughed. “Let him! The Margrave has better things to do than to deal with this misunderstanding! The young lord will find himself adequately chastened for his overreaction and for imprisoning a watch-mage!” The half-elf smiled more broadly than Bleys had ever witnessed, and he winked and touched two fingers to his ear again.

“Very well, if there is nothing else I shall inform my companions of what is going on and we shall return to that area and investigate…” Bleys said.

“Yes, my advice is to either go into the Crossroads Bog and seek out the splinter group, or to go to Moraes Heng and see if you can get to the bottom of whatever is going on there, as the involvement of the soldiers from Gullmoor in the bog skirmishes means there is no one looking out for the people and lands there…”

Bleys nodded. Oroleniel the Salmon wished him well and that the gods watch over their efforts to bring justice to the land. They both stood and Bleys the Aubergine shook his colleague’s hand. He knocked on the door, and was led back to the dining room to meet up with the others.

…to be continued…

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

1 Session #29 was played on Sunday, April 13, 2008 in Brooklyn, New York.

2 The disagreement over Gaius taking power upon reaching 18 years of age rather than waiting until he was 21 as his father had willed and as his uncle, the regent, felt should be case, led to Octavian Benedict Swann being unofficially exiled from the court.

3 Special thanks to Markos’s player, John G. for doing research on some foods to use as local delicacies.
 
Last edited:

BlackCat

Explorer
A couple of things:

Julia is Little Ben's (the family nickname for Sir Lizardbane) sister, not brother.

Sir Decimus Wilmus is married to Anwyn Schemerhorn. Novius Varius is his late older brother.

The former Regent is Octavion Benedict, not Septimias.

I'm sure you regret that naming convention as much as I do. I apolgize for that but all I can say in my own defense is that hindsight is 20/20.

More, please!
 


handforged

First Post
And the plot thickens...

Did you actually use a quija board in play? It is an interesting way to pass messages silently.

I am curious to see where this all goes, it seems that the Signers could gain a significant enemy in House Swann.

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Did you actually use a quija board in play? It is an interesting way to pass messages silently.

~hf

You know, originally I wanted to - but I was also looking for a way to balance the fact that that whole scene involved only one character, and while I am all for letting individual PCs get their spotlight, I knew if I actually used a quija board it would have been a lot longer and involved of a scene than it was and harder for me to move back and forth between Bleys's conversation with Oroleniel and the dinner conversation of the other PCs.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #29 – “Bogged Down With Them Bog End Blues” (part 2 of 3)

The after dinner drinks and desserts were being finished up. Novius Sebastian Swann was speaking quietly with Markos in one corner of the room, sharing one last drink, and Victoria and Laarus had had a long and detailed conversation about the citadel’s defenses, while Timotheus and Telémahkos got drunk out of boredom. As Novius left he took a moment to say good night to everyone, pausing a bit longer with Victoria, gently taking her hand, but shaking it with respectful firmness.

Tabitha Mark had informed Bleys that the Lord would be calling on him the next day to discuss what she referred to as ‘the interrogation,’ and the watch-mage asked for her to arrange for a message he would write to be sent to Terrance the Yellow in the Steads. “Do me a favor?” Markos asked Victoria as the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland made their way back to their guest quarters. “Could you make some time to pay a visit to Novius Swann while we are here?”

“To what end?” Victoria asked. Timotheus began to grin, and gave his cousin an elbow.

“Just to say ‘good day’ to be personable…” Markos replied lamely. “I mean… I think he is like us… older, but once a young noble adventurer… He would be a good ally to have… Don’t you think?”

“Yeah, you should have no trouble talking to him, Vee… You are so personable!” Timotheus was fighting back laughter.

“I don’t know how I could have gotten that reputation,” Victoria frowned.

“You are such a chatterbox!” Tim teased.

“She speaks when she has something important to say,” Laarus came to his companion’s defense. “Unlike most people…”

Timotheus rolled his eyes at the young priest.

“So will you do it?” Markos asked the militant.

“If I have time I will see if I can see him…” Victoria replied with a tone that did not fill Markos with confidence. He pouted.

Down in the common room they fell to talking what Oroleniel had said to Bleys. The purple-robed mage broke it down to a basic choice, “Go into the bog and seek out Chok’tem and Sir Quintus, or go to Moraes Heng and look into whatever is going on there, which Oroleniel could tell me little about…”

“The problem with the bog is that we will run afoul of Sir Septimias and the other knights,” Victoria said.

“Couldn’t we get a warrant for Quintus’ arrest? That way we can get by the knight unmolested,” Markos suggested.

“Everyone thinks he is dead and it should remain that way,” Bleys said looking around to get a sense of how easy it would be for them to be overheard.

“Is being overheard a real danger?” Timotheus asked. Bleys nodded. The brawny warrior hurried to his cell and fetched his lyre, and dragging a chair over by the door he began to strum it with no talent as he had been doing on occasion lately. The poorly plucked notes echoed in the outer hall.

“Chok’tem and his people can hide indefinitely, including from us if they did not know we were coming,” Bley said. “I think whatever is happening in the bog, the real issue is in the Vale.”1

“What is the source of this notion?” Victoria asked.

“I am drawing my own conclusions…” Bleys began.

“Oh! The Academy allows that?” Markos interrupted with a wide self-congratulatory grin.

Bleys simply continued. “Moraes Heng has wealth and prestige, what does the bog have? Peat moss and lizardfolk and muckdwellers… The former seems more likely the target of a plot if the soldiers of Gullmoor are drawn off to fight the Goldstraw.”

“I vote for doing what Bleys says,” Timotheus said, calling over from the doorway. He had been barely listening.

“If we have to do one of these two things, I think we should go into the bog,” Laarus said, speaking for the first time. His head had been bowed, taking in everyone’s speculation and questions. “At least there we have a lead. We have no idea where to begin at Moraes Heng…”

“What say you, Telémahkos?” Victoria asked. The blond Briareus looked up startled. He had barely been following the discussion at all. Instead, he was tracing out circles and lines and names on a blank page in a journal his cousin carried, but never used.

“Well, I’ve been working on something else, though I must admit I only half-remember my lessons on the connections between the various noble houses, but I have come to some conclusions,” Telémahkos pressed the pages of book flat and looked very satisfied with himself. “If you think about the bond between Wetherwax and Tenbrook, but Tenbrook and Swann are rivals, right? And then over here, you have Devenpeck and Vandermok, and keeping in mind that the Heralds are trying to break free of the control of the Coopers…”

“Telémahkos!” Bleys’ voice rose as it rarely did, stopping the dandyish Briareus short. “What bearing does this have on the matter at hand and the decision we must make?”

“I just feel like we’ve been acting without enough information…” Telémahkos replied.

“Get to the point…” Bleys said, flatly, but after a few more minutes of long-winded introduction, all Telémahkos could come up with was that he felt that the Vandermoks might behind the plot against the Wetherwax fleet. “If they are involved in what is going on here, weakening House Swann, who are allies of Wetherwax, when the blow comes, Devenpeck, Vandermok’s bannermen, will be in a position to take up the slack…”

“You have not said anything I have not already considered,” Bleys said. “We have no evidence…”

“How can we find some?” Markos asked, suddenly interested in Telie’s diagrams.

“By following the leads we have whether they end up connected to the rivalry of the noble houses or not,” Victoria said. “It makes no sense to worry about this now.”

“I concur,” said Bleys. “None of this has any bearing…”

“No! Don’t forget the savage tide and the pearls of power!” Markos interrupted. “This can all be connected!”

“They are not pearls of power,” Bleys said, glaring at Markos.# “And sitting here dreaming up connections will not make them so. We have a decision to make here, bog or vale, which shall it be?”

“Vale,” Markos acquiesced.

“Yep, I say the same,” Timotheus called over.

“I disagree that there are only two options,” Laarus suddenly said.

“Yes, have we considered the possibility of freeing Oroleniel?” Telémahkos offered.

“Have you gone mad?” Victoria asked. Bleys and Laarus simply stared at Telémahkos, while Markos laughed.

“I just thought we could use his help…” He added weakly.

“This was not the third option I had in mind, “ Laarus said, letting the topic drop. “I was referring to our need to seek out the former member of the organization we find ourselves at odds with… and our trip to the Kingdom of the Red God of the West.”2

“There is that…,” Telémahkos said.

“The bog or the vale? These avenues aid small groups, but when the Savage Tide comes all of Thricia shall be endangered,” Laarus stood, and grew flush as he was prone to do when speaking with passion, because of his pale complexion.

“Oh? What does going down there have to do with that?” Timotheus said, turning his in his seat to face the group, and laying off strumming his lute.

The Mind of Oberah gave us Torn’s name… It spoke of the savage tide that helped wipe out the Ancients…” Laarus explained, his voice growing louder. “It said we should act with alacrity!”3

“I think he may be right…” Telémahkos said with reluctance. Timotheus went back to playing.

“We are only involved in this by our own choice,” Laarus said, calming down some. “The trip to see this man involves a higher duty…”

“You are wrong,” Bleys said flatly, standing as well. “I have a duty to Oroleniel the Salmon, not only because we are both watch-mages, but because he became involved with the Goldstraw at my behest… Furthermore, the people of Thricia will be aided now if we stamp out this threat of rogue lizardfolk, MacHaven’s Brood and whatever corruption may be afoot in Gullmoor… And while we have reasons to seek out this Torn, the word of a mysterious oracle that claims to be from ‘beyond time and space’ is not the foremost of those…”

“Not to mention the problematic nature of pre-destination, which is something I have been thinking about in regards to this oracle and how it knew we would be where we were and when…” Markos piped up. In fact…” He was drowned out by Telémahkos’ angry voice as he and Laarus fell to arguing about what choice to make. The blond Briareus had changed his mind again, convinced by Bleys’ words and his general dislike of Laarus.

“It is a matter of time!” Laarus insisted. Victoria wandered over to where Timotheus continued to play, growing bored of the fighting, and waiting for everyone else to decide before giving her own opinion, as was her habit in these cases. “May I play with your lute?” She asked Tim.

“You can play with my lute anytime!” Timothus handed it over and waggled his eyebrows, smiling widely. Victoria glared at him as she grabbed the instrument and turned away, plucking cautiously at the strings, as if it might spring a trap.

“The last point and most important reason that we cannot ignore this matter and go to the Kingdom of the Red God of the West, is that we still need to contact Holy Captain Esperson Wetherwax for his aid in securing us passage there, and that alone may take weeks, in the meantime we can look into this…”

It was finally agreed to drop the trip to the Kingdom of the Red God of the West as an immediate option and a vote was taken regarding which avenue to investigate. The Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland chose to look into the Vale (aka Moraes Heng) unanimously.4


Ralem, the 22nd of Syet - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Early the next morning, Bleys the Aubergine was called before Lord Septimias Gaius Swann, and the watch-mage decided to bring Telémahkos Briareus with him. He carried ‘the Pillars of Thricia’ with him.

“And what did you learn from your traitorous brethren?” Lord Swann asked. He was sitting and eating breakfast in a small private dining room, noted for a wall of shelves holding steins of various kinds and origins. Bleys and Telémahkos were made to stand before the Lord’s table, while Tiperol Dust, the grand vizier, stood to his Lord’s left.

“Not much,” Bleys replied. “And I am not wholly convinced that he is traitorous, but rather that this is some form of misunderstanding exacerbated by zealousness…”

“Really?” Lord Swann looked up and looked right into Bleys’ eyes. The watch-mage noted the youth in the Lord’s face. In the morning light coming through a nearby open window, he seemed almost child-like.

“Yes, Lord,” Bleys said. “My companions and I plan to head out to the area of the Vineyard Vales to investigate a lead that Oroleniel supplied us with…”

“The Vale? What are you going there for? The stories of the bugs?”

“Bugs, sir?” Telémahkos dared to ask.

Lord Swann shot him a look, and then turned back to Bleys. “Locusts and other insects have destroyed much of this year’s vintage. It is unfortunate, but not unheard of…”

“The locusts could be the lizardfolk channeling dark powers…” Telémahkos suggested. Lord Swann leaned over to his vizier, who shook his head.

“If there is a connection between the trouble in the Crossroads Bog and the locusts, then word should be sent to the Lizardbane so that he might release some of the Viceroy’s men to return and check on it. To send the Signers would be to insult the viceroy by meddling in his domain…” The vizier said.

“Or…” Telémahkos pushed, continuing to address Septimias Gaius Swann. “You could send us to aid him under your writ as Lord, but to be used as he needs…”

“Hmm,” The vizier rubbed his chin and smiled, as if seeing Telémahkos for the first time. “That would be a wise approach…”

Lord Swann waved his hand dismissively. “I had another, more important mission in mind for you and your companions, Master Bleys…” He paused and looked at them both. “I was hoping you’d do me the favor of bringing this seditious book to the Margrave and inform her of our dilemma and the danger of these Pillars…” Lord Swann patted the book where it lay on the table. “I can arrange for a ship to carry you all to the City of the Spices as soon as tomorrow…”

“Well, an audience is inevitable and it makes sense to get it over with as soon as possible for Oroleniel’s sake, however, I am duty bound to look into the circumstances of his alleged crimes firsthand, and that means going to the Vales,” Bleys replied. “We would be more than honored to take the book afterward…”

Young Lord Swann took a deep breath, and he dropped his fork into his bowl of oatmeal and fruit so that it clattered loudly. He slowly got to his feet, resting his hands on the table. He was barely taller than Telémahkos, and much shorter than both Bleys and his vizier. “Of course… If you feel you must do this, then you must, but while I’d prefer this matter taken care of sooner. Why not take the book with you and continue your journey northward from there…? ”

“And we were to be stopped along the way, the book found on us? Would we then not be the seditious ones?” Bleys asked.

“I shall write a letter marked with my seal making you official custodians of the book…”

“Since you are offering to write letters, might we trouble you for an introduction to the viceroy of Gullmoor?” Telémahkos reached, and the lord grit his teeth and nodded.

“It shall be yours…” He said.

“Oh! And since you can arrange for a ship, and the journey to the City of the Spices from Gullmoor is much greater than to just go to Moraes Heng and back, mighten we leave the book here, and then return when we are done and travel by ship then…?” Telémahkos flashed his widest smile.

There was a long pause, and the vizier leaned over and whispered in the lord’s ear. The young man nodded, “Of course…”

Bleys and Telémahkos were dismissed.


Isilem, the 23rd of Syet - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Some time after noon the next day, the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland found themselves approaching the village of Bog End once again. Bleys and Telémahkos had informed their companions of what Lord Swann had said and wanted of them, and how they had managed to change his mind, or at the very least get him to agree to a compromise. Timotheus was angered, objecting to being considered a mere messenger boy by the lord, and Markos was disgusted when he found out the promise to passage to the City of Spices did not include passage back. Laarus of Ra concluded that the Lord and/or the Grand Vizier was trying to be rid of them and hopefully put as much distance between them and whatever was going on in the bog or in the Vineyard Vales.

“It seems to suggest we made the correct choice in taking this route,” the young priest said, and while Markos opened his mouth to comment, for once he thought better of it, and just closed it right back again.

It was a windy day, and though they were kept warm by their pace and the sun, whenever they slowed it cut them deep. It robbed them of much desire to talk.

“Let’s check in on Wallaby and see if taking out those bandits was a good idea,” Telémahkos yelled,5 spurring his horse to get ahead of the others. But as the trail rounded the first house of Bog End, looking all the more shabby under the full light of day, he noticed that the yellow sign was gone. The wide front door was covered with the wooden barrier the halfling used to close it down at night.

He pulled up in front of it and looked around. The hamlet was quiet, but as the other nobles caught up it was broken by a familiar annoying voice.

“Hey ya! Lookie who it is!” It was Tavius. The lanky man squinted and grinned and then spat. He wore his tall waders and a leather cap that held fishing hooks and a lure.

“Ugh,” Telémahkos did not bother hiding his dislike of the party’s one-time guide.6

“What happened here? Where is Wallaby Wringneck?” Bleys asked Tavius as he rode up.

“What do you think happened?” Tavius said, smirking.

“I am asking you what did happen…” Bleys reiterated.

“Can’t you figure it out?” Tavius asked.

“Did someone harm him? Or kidnap him?” Bleys asked.

“And who might do that?” Tavius asked.

“MacHaven’s Brood?” Timotheus said, shaking head at Tavius’ obtuseness.

Tavius rolled his eyes and slouched in exasperation.

”What? He’s not a wizard like in the old stories. He won’t just appear because you said his name,” Timotheus said.

“You don’t have to be a wizard to hear a rumor about me talking about you,” Tavius replied.

“Where are the soldiers of Gullmoor? Are they not charged with keeping these lands safe?” Bleys asked.

“Off hunting greenbacks! What else?” Tavius replied. “Will you be going back into the bog? Need a guide? I been raking it in hand over fist since this whole thing started.”

“We aren’t going there… We’re going up to Moraes Heng,” Timotheus said.

“The Vineyard Vales? Well, why didn’t you say? I know the Vales like the back of my hand,” Tavius stood up straight and saluted. “You’ll need my guiding skills!”

“He’s got a point,” Timotheus turned to the others. “We will need help finding leads…”

Laarus objected to re-hiring the man, but he was outvoted. Even Victoria voted against the young priest of Ra. Tavius fetched his pony, and soon they were off again.

It was another three hour climb, the bog peeling away from a step hill trail choked on both sides with bright chokeberry shrubs and fragrant wintersweet, but as it grew even more steep the black earth gave way to stone in sharp angles covered in black moss.

At one point, when Telémahkos was near the front, Tavius slowed his space to come up beside him.

“Listen, let me know if you need me to slow ‘em down… Na’mean?” Tavius winked.7

Bleys, overhearing, spurred his horse to catch up to them. “Why would Telémahkos wish to slow us down?”

“I have no idea what he’s taking about,” Telémahkos said. He turned to Tavius with anger in his eyes. “There is no reason to delay!”

Tavius snickered and rode to the front again. Bleys continued to ride abreast of Telémahkos.

…to be continued…

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

1 “The Vineyard Vales” is another name for the steads of Moraes Heng. It is also the name of an adventure from Dungeon Magazine, issue #23 (published May/June 1990), written by Randy Maxwell.

2 The Signers received information from Joezyn Barhyte regarding the location of Stanislaw Torn, the Kingdom of the Red God of the West, in Session #22

3 See Session #21

4 Don’t ask me how they came to a unanimous decision after all their bickering, I just know it was marked down in the notes that they did.

5 The Signers defeated Furious Garry and his men in Wallaby’s pub in Session #28.

6 Tavius acted as their guide back in Session #2.

7 Telémahkos paid Tavius of Bog End extra silver to delay the group’s journey into Crossroads Bog when the man first acted as their guide. Again, see Session #2.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #29 – “Bogged Down With Them Bog End Blues” (part 3 of 3)

Gullmoor was a small square fortress of gray stone adjacent to (but slightly above) a fortified village surrounded by a wall of thick tar-covered logs. The fort and village overlooked the trail, which they could see made its way down to the great plateau of Moraes Heng. The wind here was especially cold, and to their right they could see the green of Drie-Hoek Bay. They could smell it on the air for some time, even though this was the first time since leaving Bog End it came into view.

“You know… Maybe we shouldn’t go to Gullmoor…” Telémahkos said.

“Why not?” asked Bleys.

”What if the Viceroy is involved in whatever is going on?” Telémahkos said. “He could delay us, or refuse us passage in Moraes Heng…”

“If that were to happen we’d have to go back to the bog regardless,” Bleys replied. “If we were to go on to Moraes Heng without presenting ourselves to the viceroy we would be putting ourselves under suspicion and breaking etiquette. We have a letter from Lord Swann that you wisely procured. It shall be all we need…”

When asked what he knew of the viceroy, all Tavius had to say was that he was “a mean old man.”

The smell of sea salt on the air actually increased as they made their way up to Gullmoor. As they passed through the village towards the gate, they could see a depression in the earth near the middle of the village, and small blasts of sea water occasionally echoed from deep within sending small streams of foam to slip back down into the cave at the depression’s center.1 A couple of gulls were slowly circling the hole. There was downcast aura to the village. The houses were shabby and dark, and those near the center of town crusted with sea salt. The villagers looked up at them as they walked their horses to the gate, but said nothing.

“Who goes there?” the guard at the gate to Gullmoor called down. He was dressed in studded leather and wrapped in a dirty fur cloak, and held a spear.

“We are the Sons of Thricia, also known as the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland,” Timotheus called up.

“…And the Scions of Thricia,” Markos added.

“Damn it!” Timotheus hissed. “No one knows what a ‘scion’ is. Soon they’ll be calling us ‘scullions’.”

“Yes! Tell the noble Viceroy that the Scions of Thricia are here with a letter of introduction from Lord Swann in New Harbinger and seek an audience with him,” Telémahkos called up, as Timotheus scowled, obviously unhappy with the name.2

The young nobles were allowed into the dreary courtyard and met by the steward, Nikloge Nogent. The mousy middle-aged man gave them a subdued greeting, took the letter of introduction from Telémahkos and had them wait. There were several buildings within Gullmoor’s walls. After being made to wait nearly forty minutes, they were led into the largest and most central of the structures. It was sprawling low-built building in the style of the old meadhalls. Some young men led the party’s horses off to a stable.

Before entering the Viceroy’s audience chamber, the Signers were asked to leave large or extraneous weapons behind, and to peace-knot their swords. Telémahkos looked to Bleys and then Timotheus nervously. The watch-mage ignored him, but his cousin smiled to dismiss the worry.

The audience chamber was dim, and flanked on two sides by two great hearths decorated with a variety of stuffed birds. Braziers burned low as they entered, but servants were adding fuel to make them glow more brightly. Augustin Demius Gosprey III, the viceroy of Moraes Heng and lord of Gullmoor had creases on his face that aged him beyond his years. The hair left on his balding pate was startling white, as was his beard. He wore no mustache in an allusion to the Swann-style, but the length and fullness of his beard asserted his difference. He had thin, but broad shoulders, and his long legs suggested an imposing height when standing. Wrapped in a thick dark blue woolen robe, he was seated upon a large chair propped up with pillows, and accompanied by a man in red robes, with a goatee and a shaved head, and the steward.

The young nobles bowed and were introduced by the steward. The man in the red robes was identified as Kaj Kahn, the viceroy’s court wizard. The man spoke with a slight accent that marked him as not Thrician born.

“So, you have been sent by Lord Swann?” the viceroy asked.

“No,” Laarus replied, much to everyone’s surprise.

“So my secretary lied?” Augustin raised his eyebrows.

“No, sir…” Telémahkos said, stepping forward. “What my companion meant to say is that when we informed the Lord of our intention to come here he was only happy to write us a letter of introduction to aid us on our way, but it was not his idea to send us…”

“Hmmm… Yes, well…” The viceroy thought this over for a long uncomfortable moment. “So what brings you here?”

Telémahkos went into truncated account of the party’s adventures in the Crossroads Bog and negotiations meeting with Chok’tem of the Goldstraw Tribe of lizardfolk. He then explained how Oroleniel the Salmon had accompanied Sir Septimias Benedict Swann at the behest of Bleys. “And so, as you can imagine… We feel somewhat responsible for this situation and feel like there has been some kind of misunderstanding…”

”Ah, yes… I heard that you had fallen for the lizardman lies,” the viceroy said.

“Not lies, my lord…” Victoria of Anhur interjected. “These creatures seemed sincere in their desire to ally themselves with Thricia and House Swann…”[sup3[/sup]

“We have reason to believe that an internal conflict among the lizardfolk has led to this current situation, but it is only a small minority of the Goldstraw. The majority of the tribe are innocent of wrong-doing,” Telémahkos said. “We think perhaps this is all a distraction from what is happening in the Vineyard Vales…”

“You mean the locusts?”

“Yes, the locusts…” Telémahkos nodded. “We think they may be being summoned specifically to destroy the harvest.”

“How do you know this?”

“Information I gained from Oroleniel while we were in New Harbinger,” Bleys answered.

“But isn’t he a rogue watch-mage?” the Viceroy asked.4

“That remains to be seen,” Telémahkos said. “And by investigating the lead he gave us we may be able to settle that matter one way or another…”

The viceroy was quiet for another long moment, looking at Telémahkos intently. He then cleared his throat and spoke again, “I know your father. He is a good man, a man after my own heart… We have played King’s Men many times…”

”I hope to show some of his wisdom as I grow older…” Telémahkos smiled.

The old man coughed out what might have been a laugh. “With my men chasing after lizardmen in the bog, I would be a poor steward of these lands if I did not take advantage of your presence to at least rule out treachery in the Heng… You have my leave to inquire there and determine if there is an unnatural source for these insects.”

“So perhaps we might get a writ with your seal, explaining that we travel and inquire with your blessing?” For the second time in two days Telémahkos found himself pushing a noble of higher station.

The viceroy was quiet again, but finally nodded. “You shall have your writ.”

“My lord, may I ask after your eldest son? The militant of Anhur?” Victoria asked.

“Thricius… He is not the eldest. My eldest has joined the knights and warriors gathered by House Roose to deal with the hobgoblins reported in the Schrabs,” Augustin replied. “Thricius left for the bog three days ago, after having returned to recoup and gather more men…”

Soon after, the Viceroy excused himself and wished the Signers luck in their search, and offered them a place to stay if they wanted to head out in the morning. However, the young nobles were eager to proceed and left right after the steward brought them the writ with the viceroy’s seal.

Moraes Heng was a large verdant plateau several miles long and wide that hung several hundred feet above the north edge of the Crossroads Bog. The top of the plateau was carved in great green ridges that divided up the land into large steads. The trail led down to the plateau and soon they were riding in the shadow of one of the ridges as the sun was disappearing ahead of them. A wooden sign posted where the trail on out to the Vales branched pointed out the way to different steads. To the right was the Greylight Stead and the Gosprey Steads, and to the left was the Winter, Tarchon and Vanderboren Steads.

“Vanderboren?” Telémahkos asked aloud.

“Lavinia’s parents did own property throughout Thricia,” Bleys said. “Perhaps that is a place to seek information…”

“Or the Winter Stead, Bleys…” Timotheus suggested, speaking with a patronizing tone.

“What is it we are looking for here?” Laarus asked, still clearly annoyed with having to come here at all.

“Bandits…” Timotheus replied.

The land about them was bound by low stone walls that curved up and down over the ridges. Vines and drooping trees were thick along the borderlands, but everywhere they went they saw signs of destruction. Leaves and fruit devoured and ruined.

They spotted a group of people coming up the trail in the opposite direction. It was an extended family of about sixteen people along with two large wagons covered drawn by oxen and three dogs.

Greeted by the young nobles, the people stopped and the patriarch of the family did most of the talking. He was a careworn man whose many winters were visible in the creases on face, but he was still hearty and strong. He told a sad tale of how the locusts had devoured the plot of land his family worked for a local landlord. They were moving to New Harbinger.

When asked about the locusts, the man described how at first larger and larger swarms were arriving, but then there were smaller swarms of larger locusts.

“How large?” Telémahkos asked. The man held his hands about two and a half feet apart.

“Those are some locusts!” Timotheus swore.

“And so late in the season…” The man added.

“This has to be a coincidence…” Telémahkos murmured, still thinking about the Vanderborens. Then he spoke up. “What can you tell us about the Vanderboren stead?”

The man could not say much, except that the owners had died and the place had skipped a growing season. He added that only the largest estates that could afford to absorb the loss of the grapes and other crops were still functioning.

Thanking them for their help, Bleys gave the man three pieces of silver for his trouble, and Victoria added four of her own. The man’s eyes lit up in response to their generosity. “What do you call yourselves?” he asked.

“The Scions of Thricia,” Telémahkos quickly replied before anyone else could, but the man looked confused.

“It means ‘children of…’” Timotheus said with a snicker.

As the carts pulled away, the young nobles noticed a group of small children hanging out of the back of one. “Thank you Children on Thricia!” They cried, waving and smiling.

After another fifteen minutes of slow riding in the gathering gloom, they saw a sign pointing to a gap in the hedge ahead of them and to the left. “Winter Stead,” it read. The wind died down and loud munching and buzzing sound came swelling out from behind he hedge. The party slowed down. Bleys the Aubergine put an arrow to his bow, and Victoria called to Anhur, casting regenerate light wounds on Timotheus.

Tavius slowed down his pony and moved to the far side and the rear of the line. Telémahkos had his horse inch towards the gate now visible in the gap in the hedge with Bleys and Tim close behind. It was then that several large locusts, a couple nearly five feet long, came bounding over the hedge at them.

Telémahkos spurred his horse and charged, lowering his lance to catch it on it back, spurting ichor as tried to hop away. Victoria lowered her spear and charged in as well, but the thing hopped at the last minute and she missed. Bleys put some room between him and the other bugs, firing an arrow that bit into earth ineffectively.

The battle did not last long. The locusts fought more out of instinct, not malice, going for whatever was aggressive and near them, but just as likely to hop away as they tried to make their way across the road to the stead grounds on the other side. Telémahkos screamed, as one of the bigger locusts spat some kind of acidic goo at him, despite the fact that he raised his shield to block the worst of it.

Timotheus dismounted, swinging his flail and issuing commands. “Encircle and kill! Go for the weakened ones! Don’t let yourself get surrounded!”

Markos cast acid arrow and fried the biggest one, and then urged his horse on to kick at another, crushing its head. The insect’s legs spasmed futilely. Unfortunately, another hopped by and spat at Markos, and though he avoided the worst of it, he felt his stomach turn, sickened by the acrid stench of the substance.5

Several more of the locusts were crushed as Victoria turned her horse to go to the aid of Laarus, who dismounted and had three near him. Markos tried to get his horse to kick again, but it was obstinate. Bleys had a similar problem with his mount. He tried an arrow from point blank range, but the horse stepped away from the monstrous insect, throwing off his aim.

It soon became clear that they were in the midst of a leaping migration, as most of the bugs simply leapt past them after a quick bite or spit, landing on the opposite hedge and munching on it.

“Markos! Use that smoke spell of yours! Bugs hate smoke!” Timotheus called.6

Suddenly there was loud cacophonous buzzing from within the Winter Stead, and a great swarm of locusts not as monstrous in size as some of the others, but no less frightening and relentless came leaping over the hedge. Victoria’s horse screamed as the thousands of biting insects descended on her and her mount, obscuring them. The militant of Anhur was mostly protected by her armor, but the horse had no such protection. Bugs splattered against her swinging morningstar, but there were too many for it do make much difference.

“Tymon! We need fire!” Telémahkos called to his manservant, who having dismounted, began to rummage through a pack for torches and flint as he moved over to join Markos.

“May the water gathered up from the world by the sun drown these insects!” Laarus prayed to Ra, creating water above the swarm so that it crashed down upon them. Scores of locusts dropped to the ground, their wings damp, but there were many more swarming about Victoria. Bracing herself against the pummeling bugs and many bites, she called to Anhur and cast cure light wounds on her horse.

Timotheus moved to aid Victoria, grinning madly with the staccato crunch of locusts against his flail. Bleys moved to her other side and did the best he could to lessen the swarm by smacking locusts out of it with the flat of his saber. With an arcane word Markos lit a torch Tymon pulled out, and the swarm instinctively moved away, leaving Victoria to envelope Timotheus. Telémahkos rushed over, grabbing the torch from Tymon and waving the flame at the swarm. Locusts smoked and burned and the swarm leapt again, landing on the opposite hedge and immediately beginning to devour it.

Now that the locusts had passed, the young nobles were able to catch their breath, and Telémahkos walked over to the gate to look into the Winter Stead. The others gathered behind him and took in the devastation beyond. The locusts had eaten everything that had once grown within. All that was left were withering vines on countless trellises. The trail beyond led to a large manor house. A man came out from around the side of the house carrying a large torch. He was middle-aged, but still head of long curly red-brown hair beneath a knit cap. He wore a cudgel at his side and was accompanied by two younger men, also with clubs and torches.

“Hail and well met!” He called. Some barking dogs came up the path behind and were quickly hushed. “Run afoul of the swarms, have ya?”

His name was Kelsey Winter, and he was the steward of the this stead, working for his cousin Rafael Winter. Bleys nodded his recognition of the name.7

“I’m glad someone is finally looking into this,” he said when Telémahkos introduced them as the Scions of Thricia, Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland. He went on to tell them that he thought something was afoot. “Sure, locusts have been a problem in the past, but never this late in the season, and did you see the size of some of them?”

They asked if they were still on the trail for the Vanderboren Stead and he confirmed that they were, though they would pass the sizeable Tarchon Steads first.

“Has there been anyone out of the ordinary around?” Telémahkos asked. “Strangers?”

“Strangers? Well, there are those men working up at the Vanderboren Stead,” He said. “But Miss Lavinia and a band of adventurers in her employ came through not long ago and confirmed that yes they were working for her…”

“What was strange about them?” Bleys asked.

“Kept to themselves… I went out greet them and offer them help and got a cold shoulder,” Kelsey went on. “Maybe they sensed I was checking them out and didn’t like it, but still I was trying to be neighborly… They seemed like hard men, more like hunters than men to work in a vineyard…”

“And you said Lavinia was here? How long ago?” Telémahkos asked.

Two weeks was the answer. It did not take much to also confirm that the band of adventurers were Maeve the Mauve and the Jade Ravens, now simply calling themselves ‘the Ravens’.

Thanking Kelsey, they rode on. Hoping to reach the Tarchon Steads before nightfall.

End of Session #29

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

1 ‘Salthole’ leads to sea caves that allows the tide to rise up into the depression.

2 At this point in the campaign there were still frequent disagreement about the group’s name both in and out of character.

3 The Signers and Chok’tem negotiated an agreement in Session #3.

4 Watch-mages that violate the rules and restrictions of their order are called “rogue”.

5 Sickened characters suffer a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.

6 Timotheus was referring to the smoke version of the pyrotechnics spell.

7 Rafael Winter is a well-known member of the Winter Family who owns a great deal of land and mercantile businesses, but does not seem to have any desires to attain noble status.
 

BlackCat

Explorer
I'm really enjoying the depth of the Swann territories that they're exploring. I appreciate the range of different terrains and sites that encompass their holdings.

Now if only they weren't such pricks...and by that I mean all the Swanns they'd met that far, though maybe Novius Sebastian may have been a refreshing change, had they spoken with him much.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #30 – “The Vineyard Vales”(part 1 of 3) 1

“Do you think these locusts could represent some form of the savage tide?” Markos asked. The Scions of Thricia were riding as fast as they dared westward on Moraes Heng’s lower road. Soon the Tarchon Steads came into view. Though the gloom of evening was only just gathering, they carried lit torches in case they ran across more of the insects.

“We do not know what this savage tide is,” Bleys said.

“We know that it has something to do with the ‘pearl of power’ that the bullywugs venerated,” Markos explained. “And we know the pearl transformed the smuggler’s of Kraken’s Cove into some kind of monstrous frog-men… Sounds like a savage tide to me…”#

“And do not forget what the Mind of Oberah told us,” Laarus said.#

The Tarchon Steads were much larger than any of the other estates they had passed. A wide road led towards a great grid of fields and vineyards.

The steward was one Baxter Morningfire. He was suspicious of the Signers at first, and as a result they were suspicious of him. But his attitude changed when he saw the note from the viceroy and learned they were there to investigate the infestation of locusts. Also, he knew of them by reputation.

“It is you who aided my master’s son when his master had gone missing…” Baxter said.

”Who is you master?” Bleys asked.

“Sir Valerius Euthymius Tarchon,” the steward replied.# The knight was not present, as he had rode off to the bog with his men when the news of Sir Quintus Gosprey’s disappearance (and that of his son) had reached him. “He should be returning tomorrow at some time, at least temporarily. You are welcome to make camp on our lands and await his arrival. I am sure my master would be honored to meet you…”

“Thank you for your generosity,” Laarus replied. “Tell us, how has the plagues of locusts effected these lands?”

“We have been fortunate…” Baxter said. “While these steads have suffered some, the size of our lands has made it possible for us to harvest some of our late season crops… Other smaller steads have not been so lucky…”

Telémahkos and Timotheus were for staying the night, but the others wanted to move on immediately when Baxter Morningfire confirmed Kelsey Winter’s estimation of the men working at the Vanderboren Estate.2

“Lavinia has reason to be cautious,” Telémahkos said after they thanked the steward and hurried on their way. Night was falling more rapidly, Ra’s Glory racing towards its rest in the Realm of Anubis for the night. “Perhaps the standoffishness of her men is on her order…”

“Perhaps,” replied Bleys. “But that remains to be seen…”

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“Hold! Hail! Well met!” One of the stead hands called out to them as they made their way up the road towards the long house near the entrance to the Vanderboren Stead. In the dying light, they could see men milling around the long low building and its nearby smaller structures. Along their left was a row of huge cylindrical hay bales, spaced about ten to fifteen apart and running about 150 yards out to the buildings. The man remained a good eighty feet ahead of them.

“We are the Scions of Thricia,” Timotheus called out, taking a moment to sneer at his cousin as he said the name. “Also known as the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland! We are investigating the troubles here in Moraes Heng!”

“No troubles here!” The man called back.

“Giant bugs?” Timotheus asked.

“No issues,” the man called back. The young nobles all looked at each other with suspicion in their eyes.

“We are also looking to stay the night here,” Timotheus said. “Night is falling and we have traveled far…”

“Not possible…” the man said. “We have strict orders from the owners of this land…”

“I am Telémahkos of House Briareus, friend of Lavinia Vanderboren. Bring your master to us…”

”Of course!” The man called back. “Please wait where you are!” He turned and began to march quickly towards the longhouse. He gave a few sharp whistles and signaled with a finger. Some of the workers milling around began to jog out to the other side of the great hay bails, and there was some other activity that was hard to make out in the growing gloom. Bleys lit a torch and held it aloft, as Markos cast prestidigitation. The watch-mage then cast protection from arrows on Timotheus, wary of the men who have moved out of view.

“Bleys, if we are attacked do we fight or do we leave?” Timotheus asked quietly.

“When I am attacked, I make it a practice of fighting back,” Bleys answered.

“You’re the boss!” Tim replied.

“He is not the boss!” Markos complained.

“We did once agree that he would be party leader…” Telémahkos responded, and the two of them fell to bickering on the matter.

“Shaddap!” Timotheus barked. “This is not the time! We need to keep our eyes and ears open!”

Two figures were approaching from the longhouse. One stopped about 100 feet away, but the second approached to about thirty feet, waving a greeting.

Timotheus noticed yet another figure moving out behind the coils of hay. “This does not feel right,” he murmured.

“Victoria…” Bleys turned and whispered to the militant. “Ride casually around the back of the hay… Send word back of what you see…”

Victoria of Anhur nodded, and slowly turned her horse, Ironsides, to go around the back of the line of hay.

“Telémahkos accompany her part of the way,” the watch-mage signaled, and the blond Briareus obeyed.

“Where are your friends riding off to?” the approaching man asked. He was perhaps 30 years old, with long brown hair and a long drooping mustache. He had a hard look, carried himself with confidence. He wore studded leather armor and carried a long sword at his side.

“We did not want to appear too intimidating in our discussions,” Bleys answered. “They are just looking around…”

“We would rather you did not,” the man said, and he called to them. “Please halt!” Victoria stopped at the edge of the track, and Telémahkos turned his horse to ride back.

“Who are you?” Timotheus asked.

“I am called Gerloch. I am the foreman here…” He answered. “I am sorry if we seem unwelcoming, but the owners have left strict instructions that no uninvited guests be allowed on the property… There have been unsavory sorts around…”

“Unsavory sorts?” Bleys asked.

“People seeking to purchase this land from our masters…” Gerloch replied.

“And the locusts? Have they not made this land less valuable?” Bleys asked.

“This land has lain fallow for a season, and thus the locusts had nothing to eat here,” Gerloch explained. “They quickly moved on and we are closing the land down until our masters decide to sell, or prepare for planting in the spring…”

“Well, I am Telémahkos Briareus, of House Briareus and a friend of your mistress, Lavinia Vanderboren,” Telémahkos said, as he rode back up, hearing the end of what the foreman said. “We have been traveling long on the viceroy’s business and need rest. I invoke our rights as nobles to camp on this land, as I know Miss Vanderboren would grant us that if she were here…”

Gerloch shook his head. “Only the Swanns may invoke such a right, sir… My apologies…” He spoke with a flatness that belied any actual regret.

Telémahkos drew the viceroy’s letter from his toga and rode up some more and handed it to the man. “We have a letter with the Viceroy’s mark granting us leave in these lands to investigate these plagues,” he said to the foreman. Gerloch barely looked and handed it back, sighing.

“Very well…” the man said. “Please wait here while I make arrangements for a place for you to make camp…”

“May I compensate you for your troubles?” Telémahkos asked.

“Certainly!” The man perked up and held out a hand into which Telémahkos dropped a silver piece.

Gerloch looked at it, smirked and turned, walking with no hurry back to the long house.

As they waited, Tymon lit up a torch as well, and Tavius, who remained in the rear, hefted a hooded lantern, casting long bouncing shadows of the Signers and their horses.

The young nobles had been waiting a while when Bleys turned his horse and rode slowly back up the track parallel to the great coils of hay. It was then the he saw a shadowy figure race between two of the coils behind the party’s position. Casting message, he warned Telémahkos, Timotheus and Markos with three short whispers. He rode closer to the stacks as he passed them trying to get a better look, and then whispered to his companions again, when he heard low sharp whistles on the other side of the hay.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Telémahkos said quietly. “Remember, Lavinia has reason to be cautious and hire mercenaries to aid her…” He turned his horse again, to move towards Bleys.

“She has done it before…” Timotheus nodded.3

“I can hear you skulking there…” Bleys said to the man between the large bales. The watch-mage urged his horse forward and raised his torch to see the man trying to look casual leaning against the great coil. He held a short bow upright on the left side of his body, failing to obscure it from sight.

”I’m not skulking,” the man replied. “Just…uh… checking on the hay bales” He smiled weakly.

“We’re just looking for some flat ground to camp on,” Telémahkos bluffed coming over beside Bleys.

“I am sure the foreman will find you an adequate spot… Wouldn’t want you to get in our way, or have us disturb your rest with our work…” The man turned and put his hand on the coil behind him. “Yep! This bale looks good…” The man began to walk off.

“You know, Brother Laarus…” Tavius moved his pony over adjacent to the young priest. “I didn’t get that good a look at him, but I am pretty sure that foreman is one of MacHaven’s men…” He spoke quietly, looking around with caution.

Laarus nodded and moved next to Timotheus to pass the news. Tim passed the news on to Bleys via the message spell.

“Why would Lavinia have dealings with such men?” Laarus asked Timotheus.

“Because she doesn’t know… Or doesn’t ‘have dealings’… Or, Tavius is wrong,” Timotheus dismissed the suggestion.

“Do you think we’d be in our rights to demand to see whatever papers were signed for these workers’ contractual obligation?” Markos asked Bleys and Telémahkos, riding over to them.

“We are under the viceroy’s aegis,” Telémahkos replied. “We have the right to investigate as we see fit…”

Bleys did not respond, but urged his horse through the dark alley between the tall bales and followed the man who had been lurking there, now moving steadily back in the direction of the longhouse.

“You there! How long until your term of employment is done?” the watch-mage called after him.

“Huh?” The man turned, but continued to take a few steps back. “Until we’re done closing down for the winter, I guess… Maybe another week or two? Gerloch would know best…”

As Bleys continued to question the man, who claimed ignorance on all logistical details of his work, Telémahkos and Markos rode up slowly along the other side of the bails. Markos noticed another of the ‘workers’ lurking in the shadows of the bales and called out to him. “You! Come on out!”

The man was startled and turning, he began to run out the other side of the bales and towards the longhouse.

“Bleys! Should I detain him?” Markos asked by way of the message spell, but the watch-mage noticed the man emerging from the row of hay bales, and left the man he questioned to spur his horse and chase after the runner.

“Stop!” Bleys commanded and the man obeyed when he realized he could not outrun a horse. “Why do you run?”

“I…uh… got startled by your friend,” the man replied. “I thought he was going to jump me…”

“Why would you think that?” Bleys asked. “We are friends of Lavinia Vanderboren and are only seeking a place to stay the night…”

“Sometimes people can pretend to be someone who’s not who they really are…” the man replied.

“What were you doing there in the dark?”

“Keeping an eye on you all to make sure you didn’t try anything sneaky while Gerloch makes arrangements,” the man answered.

After a few more questions, Bleys let the man leave and rode back to join the others, along with Telémahkos and Markos. As he made his way back, Gerloch emerged from the longhouse and called out to them.

“Master Bleys! We have found a place for you to camp!” Gerloch said, approaching. He had another man with him. “Domas, here will lead you there…”

“Gerloch…” Telémahkos said. “We realized we’d be remiss if we did not check your papers for the viceroy…”

”Papers?” Gerloch asked.

“Your contract for work… Anything giving you authority here in the Vanderborens’ absence…” Telémahkos replied.

”Oh… That might take some time to find…” Gerloch said.

“Can you tell us about the circumstances of your hiring?” Bleys asked.

Gerloch explained that a broker who was hired by Lavinia Vanderboren had contacted him and his men. “Soon after we arrived, she and her brother came to check on us and sign the agreement…”

At the mention of Lavinia’s brother, the Signers all looked at each other.

“You mean her brother Lowell?” Bleys asked.

“If they have a brother named Lowell, I don’t know him,” Gerloch replied. “I could have sworn they were orphans…”

“Being orphans doesn’t mean they don’t have other siblings…” Telémahkos said.

“I mean… they are the only Vanderborens left…” Gerloch said. “Vanthus and Lavinia…”

“And they came here, together?” Bleys asked. The foreman nodded. The young nobles all looked to each other again, skeptical.

“Just go and get the papers,” Markos insisted. Gerloch nodded and headed back, signaling for another of the armed field hands to join Domas in front of the party.

…to be continued…

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Notes:

1 Session #30 was played Saturday, April 26, 2008 in Maplewood, New Jersey.

2 In Session #29, Kelsey Winter described them as “hard men” who were very stand-offish.

3 Timotheus was referring to Lavinia’s hiring of the Jade Ravens. See Session #8.
 

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