The road not taken
Chapter 1-A war of attrition (Part 1)
7th of Frer-mánuðr, year 2482, Andelia
Ulf lets Malcom inside, clearly unhappy with the fact that his tavern has become a haven for a group of self-proclaimed rebels. However, Elana reassures the tavern keeper that Malcom is a friend. Ulf unenthusiastically allows you to stay for the night, offering one of the numerous benches on the tavern’s main hall, since he receives no patrons for the night. He also stays with you in the tavern, pulling a dirty mattress from the storage room and sleeping in the main hall.
The sounds of drunken men and minor clashes echo throughout the night, but it has been a testing day for everyone, so you quickly fall asleep. Caithas is the first to wake up on the next day, just before the sun rises, because of Ulf’s dog. The small, over-enthusiastic animal wakes you up by licking your face happily, unwilling to stop doing so even after being pushed away several times. Eventually, the trio gets up, moves toward the main hall and starts making the daily preparations, waking up Ulf and Malcom in the process.
As you are making your preparations, Ulf’s dog becomes increasingly restless, scratching at the door and barking in complaint. Eventually, Ulf lets him out, assuming that the canine just needs to go outside to make water. However, the creature quickly starts running after being let out. Ulf follows the animal, and you follow Ulf, eventually reaching a relatively isolated square in the city. One small hut stands out amidst several other crumbling makeshift buildings. A large tree that has shed its foliage long ago now stands in the middle of the square, its naked branches arborizing towards the sky. The scene, and the whole of upper Andelia in fact, is eerily quiet at this early hour; only some broken bottles and splintered wood suggest some of yesterday’s events. You hear a loud, repetitive mewing noise that seems to be coming from the massive, snow-covered tree. Ulf’s dog moves to the tree’s trunk and starts scratching it, barking angrily towards the sky.
As you observe the scene around you, you notice a short, bloated figure emerging from the hut. Closer observation reveals that she is an old woman, apparently almost blind, as she is using a walking stick to navigate through the square. She seems alarmed by the mewing noise and the dog’s barking, as she moves closer to the group. From time to time, she raises her head and shouts towards the sky: “Come down, Mr. Whisky Whiskers! I am not coming up there to fetch you again!” She seems to be directing her words towards a small, furry ball of orange that is barely discernible on the tree’s top.
Eventually, the nearly blind woman notices your group: “You seem like adventurous sorts! Will you not help an old woman in need? I cannot be climbing up the tree in my state on a daily basis.”
[OOC: Let’s just change the tone to something a bit more humorous for just a little while.]
I haven’t even woken up yet, the ranger silently complained to himself, looking incredulously at the old woman. Still, an animal in need…
Dammit, the half-elf thought.
“Aye, ma’am, I’ll see if I can get…,” Caithas hesitates, looking at his companions, especially Elana, “Mr. Whisky Whiskers, as you say.”
Removing his weapons and armor, setting them by the trunk, Caithas cracks his knuckles as he looks up at the massive tree.
“Beats nearly getting sliced in half,” the ranger grumbled as he began to scale the tree and call out to the unfortunately named feline.
Climb – (1d20+7)23
Handle Animal – (1d20+5)20
The ranger smiles to himself, imagining the image as he scaled the tree. What the hells, Caithas thinks, so I grew up in the fucking woods? Damn the city-runners and their lack of trees.
All the while the half-elf keeps his eyes on the cat, determined to get it and get out of that damn tree…while he still had some dignity.
Jules follows Caithas and the dog outside, curious as to what is going on with the animal, but mainly just interested in something to take his mind off recent events. It takes some time, but eventually Jules’ mind processes the image of Caithas climbing a tree to retrieve a stuck cat. With a look of absolute confusion plastered across his face Jules turns to face Elana.
“Elana, ze day to day experiences of my life have changed dramatically since coming to Andelia. Since coming here Ah have named a brutish ranger ze King’s Confidant, seen said ranger endanger my life, put my life on ze line for an equally obscure reason, and written to my sister for ze first time in my entire life. And now Ah am seeing ze King’s Confidant, once ze most respected and powerful position in ze Linees court, climb a tree to rescue a house cat.”
Jules wasn’t asking a question or looking for support for the events that had happened. His words were flat and simply held the utter befuddlement that he was feeling at that moment.
“To be fair, there probably haven’t been too many King’s Confidants capable of such . . . heroic deeds,” Elana replied, watching the half elf scale the tree with practice efficiency. She thought of a number of ways she could get the cat down, but none of them would be safe for the creature. It’d be the birds all over again . . .
Elana was happy that yesterday’s migraine had vanished, though it did leave her a nasty nightmare in it’s wake; she would have to be more careful in her spellcasting, it would seem. Between the rebellion and the apparent onset of insanity, Elana was happy for such diversions as watching Caithas leap from limb to limb, pursuing the fat tabby while Jules watched on in bewilderment. She pulled her cloak in as a cold gust of wind swept by, and realized that she hadn’t smiled in a long time ‘til now.
“Ah, such a heroic deed it is.” Malcom called from the back of the group with a soft laugh, “At least we know who to call upon should we ever get stuck in a tree.” Malcom looked over to Jules, "Take it easy now, don’t forget you also got married. Which by the way, congratulations. How long have you two known each other anyhow?"
Caithas slowly climbs up the tree’s trunk, carefully trying to find good footing. He slips a couple of times, because of the ice and snow that have accumulated overnight, but he manages to maintain his hold. After a few seconds, he makes it to the part of the tree where the big trunk bifurcates into two thick branches. Looking up, it is apparent that there is still a long way to go, but the pet in distress can be seen and heard clearer.
[OOC: You will need to succeed in 5 more DC 20 climb checks, as the kitty is stuck about 45 feet from the ground, and you cover a distance of 7.5 feet with each successful climb check (one-quarter your speed). The DC is 15 (for a tree) + 5 (for slippery surface). In addition, I am making a perception and Knowledge (Nature) check for you and sending you the results via PM, you can share the info with the rest of the players, if you want. I am keeping your handle animal check result for later.]
As the rest of the group is discussing, there appear to be more interested members gathering around the big tree. Several alley cats that have been hiding in the crumbling buildings rush to the scene, replying to the stuck Mr. Whiskers’ calls with mews of their own. Killer, Ulf’s dog, is momentarily perplexed, but he quickly starts chasing the group of cats. However, he is greatly outnumbered, so his efforts do little to deter the cats.
The old lady tries to understand what is going on, but she cannot see that well. She returns to her hut, emerging after a second with a coil of rope, which she offers to Malcom. She explains: “Here, maybe this will help. I’d go up there myself, but my bones ain’t what they used to be.” The rope is pretty long, about sixty feet in length. It would be enough to reach the height that the cat is stuck on once, but not twice. The old lady then proceeds to shout at what she believes to be Caithas’, but what is in fact a completely different direction: “That’s it, keep going! Think of all the sagas that the bards will one day devote to your heroic deed! Just try not to fall and break your neck!” For an old lady, she has a surprisingly loud voice. These words are shouted directly into Elana’s ear, as the blind woman cannot see where Caithas is, but they can be heard by everyone.
Jules sees that the door to the old woman’s hut has been left open. Surely, it would be child’s play for one as skilled as himself to sneak into the small house under the nose of its blind owner.
[OOC: Feel free to solve this puzzle of sorts in any way you want, but it would be really epic if a PC died while trying to save a cat ]
Caithas pauses on the limb, hearing the blind woman’s bellowing (hells, half the godsdamned city heard her, I imagine, he thought). He listens intently to the cat and remembers what his father taught him about cat calls…and this time of years.
“Ahhhh, ma’am?” The half-elf calls out, slowly making his way back down the slippery branches, “Your cat, Mister…well, you know, your cat isn’t stuck. He’s calling out. It’s…,” the ranger hesitates, making sure not to look at Jules, lest he laugh, or Elana, for reasons obvious only to himself, be hoped.
“It’s mating season, madam. Your cat will come down as soon as he has found what he’s looking for…,” Cauthas trails off, looking around at the gathered mass of cats.
“I’m sorry I could not be of more assistance.”
Gods, what a way to start a day…
The old woman looks at you, perplexed: “It cannot be… I fixed the cat myself, many years ago. Please, oh please, bring Mr. Whiskers down! He’s the only companion I have in this world!”
Fixed him when you were blind, I imagine, Caithas thinks.
“Ma’am, I mean no disrespect, but I know a mating call when I hear it; my father taught me well.” The half-elf pauses and grimaces, seeing Jules’ face. “There’s got to be a better way to say that…”
“Either way, your cat is safer up there, making his intentions known, than he would be if I dragged him down. He’s not calling for help, and therefore won’t likely want any from the likes of me. I’m sorry.”
The old woman is still not convinced by Caithas: “It is not even mating season! Cats don’t mate in the middle of winter! They mate in spring and summer much more frequently!” She is still obsessively trying to get her pet down from the tree: firstly, she moves towards the source of the mewing choir, using her walking stick to disperse the crowd of alley cats that have gathered: “Shoo! Get out of here! Leave Mr. Whiskers alone!” She then shoulds beggingly towards her cat, who has momentarily paused his cries: “Come down, Mr. Whiskers! Mommy is not mad at you!” At the same time, she picks up some pebbles that are burried under the snow, with the intention of hurling them towards the tree. However, her bad eyesight prevents her from having any accuracy whatsoever. She hurls the small stones randomly, and all of you have to side-step quickly at some point or another to avoid getting hit.
[OOC: I’ll just wait for the replies by Rcmon, Malcom and Kyoh to see how the story will procceed.]
“We’ve been together for a whole five days now. Ah know it took a while, but we finally got together. Speaking of getting together, what do you make of zis cat issue. Wouldn’t it make sense zat it would want to come down when ze other cats arrived to get on with it?”
Jules looks at the entire scene, still very confused, but now the contradictions from the old woman and Caithas were raising his interest. It could just be that the old woman was senile and couldn’t remember that her cat wanted to mate, but there was the slim chance that there was something else going on. With all the strange magic Jules had seen in the past days, he wasn’t going to be ruling anything out. Especially with a blind, old woman who lives alone with a cat; like a witch pulled straight from a story.
[OOC: Before I go looting through an old woman’s house I’d like to make a sense motive check (+3) against the old woman’s intentions.]
Jules studies the old woman’s behavior closely, but fails to sense anything malicious or dishonest about her intentions. She seems like a mundane, albeit perhaps slightly insane, old woman, and she most certainly does not remind you of a powerful witch.
Caithas shakes his head at the woman. “Ma’am, I will not argue with you. I’m sorry I could not help you.”
Returning to the others, Caithas lowers his voice, “She’s mad and I’ll be damned to break my neck for her perfectly-safe, over-excited cat. There are limits…”
“Five days? By the Gods! I knew my wife for two years… Kids these days…” he let his voice trail off as the lady screamed to Caithas and her cat, “Well, you aren’t quite the hero type now are you? I believe the epic quest description was, ‘Rescue the cat from the tree.’” he pauses for a second, “So it’s in heat?… well, maybe its both stuck and in heat…” he leaned closer to caithas, “Judging by her eyesight she might of nicked her finger off rather than fixing the cat. Will this rope she gave me help? Maybe we could use a bow and shoot one end into the top of the tree, afix it to a dagger or something like that.”
“Ah know it sounds odd, but it was love at first sight you see. When my father saw her uncle’s money, and her uncle saw my father’s ambition, zey couldn’t keep zer hands off each other.”
Jules looks back at the cat in the tree, remembering what happened the last time he tried climbing. The girl’s father had forbidden her from seeing Jules, so he had decided to climb into her room as a romantic gesture before running off together. He had made it about halfway up the wall before losing his footing and falling flat on his ass. And as for getting people out of high places, unless the cat was looking to be serenaded, he didn’t think he would have much luck on that front.
“Ah don’t know if any of us are light enough for a dagger to be enough to hold us. We could try using ze rope like a pulley, but it doesn’t look long enough to use from down here.”
Ze woman said she has had to do zis before, but she doesn’t look like ze type to climb a tree. Maybe zer is something in her house zat she is forgetting.
“Malcom, Ah’m going to look for help, Ah’ll be back in a bit,” He says, gesturing with his hands that he is going to check the house. Jules takes a moment to slowly and silently walk by the woman, avoiding the rocks she’s throwing, before trying to enter her hut.
[OOC: Stealth – (1d20+7)11 to get into the woman’s house without her noticing.]
“Are you offering to use the rope, Hero?” Caithas nods at Malcom with a sideways grin.
“Or are you volunteering me to take another climb?”
Caithas craned his neck up at the gigantic, icy tree. Rope or no rope, it would be a hard climb, the ranger knew.
“I can’t help but feel that there are things we should be tending to beyond this fucking feline…” the half-end muses thoughtfully. Still, Caithas couldn’t help but feel the sharp twinge of failure. Gods, I’m supposed to help overthrow an Empire and I can’t even rescue a gods-damned cat, he silently complained bitterly.
“I’d try climbing, but surely a ranger such as yourself would be more suited to the task…” Malcom thought for a moment about Jule’s comments, “So it was heavily arranged then? Tis a shame, it is perhaps, a downside of nobility.” he looked at Jules and back to Elana, “At least the two of you seemed to have faired well with your matched companion. Save for the rotting estate you’d call home… and the city ready to burst… You’ll both have to tell me sometime about your families, they certainly seem like the cruel type.” he held the rope out to Caithas, “It’s either that, or you could try to use daggers as climbing tools, not to sure how tough the bark on the tree is.” With that, Malcom contorted both of his hands and daggers came flying into them. He gave them a practiced twirl before stepping up to the tree. He reached a bit higher than his head on the tree and thrust the daggers towards the tree, hoping to have it penetrate and stick in.
[Str check + 4 and climb check +4? He isn’t going to climb, he just wants to see if the daggers will stick and support his weight]
“Gods…Dammit, give me the rope. And the daggers.”
Caithas turns to the old woman, hurling her words and stones, and curses, “Very well, Madam. You win. I shall bring that cat back or break my damned leg, it seems.”
The ranger wraps the rope around his shoulder and, using the daggers for hand holds, begins to scale the tree to retrieve the cat. I need him to come down more than I want to go up, the half-elf thinks. He looks up at the cat and uses the skill his father had taught him years before. Cyan called it Wild Empathy.
Wild Empathy – (1d20+2)13
Climb 1 – (1d20+7)26
Climb 2 – (1d20+7)17
Climb 3 – (1d20+7)16
Climb 4 – (1d20+7)16
Climb 5 – (1d20+7)12
“Hah take it easy Caithas, I was merely joking.” he watched as the ranger took the daggers and began to scale the tree again, “Just take it easy, I only catch falling women.”
Elana looked rather embarrassed when Malcom brought up the questions about their marriage; Jules and her must’ve looked like the most distant newly wed couple. Not that she cared about appearances. “I can’t say I know much about Jules’ family,” she confides to Malcom, after Jules has left and Caithas resumes the treacherous climb. “But I am of House Savain, if you’ve heard of it. My uncle is Lord Mannix; he’s not exactly the warmest of men, but he’s been doing well running the house since . . . since he came into power.”
Elana tried shifting the subject, hoping to avoid broaching the subject of her parents’ death. “You’re married, Malcom?” she asked, looking eager to learn more about the soldier’s life.
“Ah… I see…” He looked at the woman with a sadness in his eyes
It truly must suck having to live with your uncle and get married off to some man for their families sake… I’ll have to chat with her some more about it another time…
“Ah yes. Happily so for 11 years now. We met after I got stationed here as a guard, I met her father who was also a guard. He introduced me and we fell in love. We got married with all of our parents in attendance, just months before… before the storm…” his voice trails off for a moment, “Her father, well… both of her parents are no longer with us.” he paused in a moment of silence before continuing on, “It’s a shame they weren’t able to see the second love of my life.” his face instantly lights up as he beings to speak about his daughter, “My little girl will be 5 this year. She’s so beautiful. She’s got my hair and eyes, but her mother’s face. There’s no denying she’s ours. She’s got her mothers roughness and beauty with my kindness and good manners.” his face saddens a bit as he finishes up, “I had to send them out of Andelia the other day, to a friend who owns a farm. Its about a days ride away… It isn’t safe here anymore, and that little town is of little importance to anyone, so they’ll be safe.”
He quietly says to himself; “Gods I hope so…”
You manage to sneak into the small hut while the old woman is shouting outside, her attention focused to her pet. It is pitch dark in the hut, for the small house lacks any windows. Upon entering, you trip on something heavy and almost fall, but fortunately the woman is too busy shouting her lungs out to hear you.
It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, but you begin to notice what’s inside the hut. The most noteworthy item is a big, improvised (and probably illegal) whiskey still, which is used to produce moonshine. The product is collected into big bottles, which can hold up to two gallons of the alcoholic drink. Smaller bottles are lying all around the hut’s floor, being used to aliquot the product into smaller doses. The moonshine smells like whiskey and seems to be of good quality. The device is currently running, and from time to time you hear the sound of a drop falling into the bottle.
In the hut’s corner, you notice several small beakers, a distillation device and an ethanol burner, all reminiscent of an alchemist’s laboratory, although it is a poorly equipped one. There are also some flasks lying around, some empty and others full, but all of them having the distinctive smell of alcohol.
Finally, in another corner, you see a pet bowl with the name “Mr. Whiskey Whiskers” on it. The smell emitted from this bowl is a foul mixture of meat gone bad, moonshine and something else that you cannot identify.
Caithas tries to climb the tree, making it up to the point where the trunk bifurcates, as before. However, he has difficulty in finding proper footing to continue his climb. For a little while, he tries to spot the optimal route, but as he tries to continue by stepping on a branch, he slips and he falls to the ground. Luckily, the height is too small and the snow absorbs much of the impact, so he suffers no injury.
[OOC: Because of the soft snow surface, you can auto-succeed in the first two climb checks by trial and error, since even if you fall you will not take any damage. This will put you 15 feet above ground, but there are still a good 30 feet to go to reach the cat. The remaining 4 climb checks have to be rolled, and if you fail the DC, which is pretty high (20), by 5 or more, you will fall, taking damage, unless you find a way to avoid the fall. See Falling in the pathfinder srd.
In addition, you have to be within 30 feet of the cat to use wild empathy, so I will use your roll at a later stage, if needed.]
Even with Malcom’s great strength, it is difficult to push the daggers deep enough into the tree’s trunk to provide reliable holding, although they could be used as pitons if you could find a tool to nail them to the tree. Even a stone would do, and there are many lying around. However, getting the daggers out would prove difficult, since you lack a proper tool to do so. You could use a sword or something similar as a lever, but it would be hard, sloppy work and you could damage the item while trying.
[OOC: So I am going to assume that you cannot climb the tree by repeatedly stabbing it, although you can use the daggers as pitons, if you want.]
Caithas swears as he plummets from the tree and lands in a white puff of snow. He feels color creep to his cheeks, thinking of how he must look to the others as he lays on the cold ground. At least Jules didn’t appear to have seen it, or else he’d never hear the end of it. But Malcom was another story. And Elana…oh Gods…
(OOC: Vlad, if Caithas can automatically succeed on the climb checks up to 15 feet, can you use the Wild Empathy roll to see if the cat will respond at the 30 foot distance? If so, I’ll just edit this to say Caithas tries again, makes it back up 15 feet, and uses his skill from there, rather than risk breaking his neck or ruining Malcom’s blades. If the Wild Empathy fails, the damn cat’s on his own )
Jules pulls the bowl out, empties it of everything it contains, and fills it a little way with the moonshine. Jules had never enjoyed moonshine, even the well-made variety. The threat of blindness always seemed to take the fun out of drinking.
Zat might actually explain ze old woman’s eyes.
Taking the bowl outside, Jules looks around at the continued struggle to retrieve the cat. He places the bowl at the base of the tree, taking a moment to flick a few drops of the whiskey up and into the tree. Turning back to his companions he speaks.
“We might want to get some pieces of meat, it might draw the cat down here.”
After several attempts, Caithas manages to climb the tree, this time a bit higher. Too cautious to attempt to climb any further, he remains in his position, trying to get the animal’s attention with comments such as “here, kitty, kitty” and “mommy says she is not mad at you”, whilst trying not to be heard from the rest of the party.
[OOC: Sorry to put words in your mouth, but the temptation was huge ]
The cat is initially indifferent, but as Jules comes out with the saucer, the cat turns his head towards its direction. His sniffs the air a couple of times inquisitively, before running like crazy down the tree. As the cat moves closer to the ground, you can observe that it is a morbidly obese orange feline that lacks a tail. Caithas’ knowledge of animals reveals that it is unnatural for a cat to be so fat. However, the fact that the pet can move so fast, despite its weight, is even more surprising.
The cat is racing close to Caithas, when suddently it looses its footing and falls. Caithas makes an attempt to grab it, but the cat is too far. It crashes into the snow, creating a small crater on impact. The old lady rushes to the scene, grabbing the seemingly dead cat from one of its back legs and dragging it towards her hut. She steps inside the hut, returning with a glass vial containing a liquid. Forcefully opening the cat’s mouth, she pours the vial’s contents inside it, while saying: “There, there, Mr. Whiskers. How many times did I tell you not to climb that tree? Promise you’ll never do it again.” The cat coughs, stirs a bit, but soon enough she jumps up from the old woman’s lap and runs into the hut. The woman grabs a sharp knife and carves a line on the hut’s wall; there are five other lines next to it. “I’d best remember that”, she mumbles to herself.
She goes in her hut once more, returning with four flasks of green glass, which she hands to you. One contains a whitish liquid; she hands that to Malcom. The other looks empty, but close inspection reveals a transparent fluid; she hands that to Caithas. The third contains what appear to be flames; she hands the bottle to Elana. The final seems to be an ever-sparkling yellow liquid; she gives it to Jules. She thanks you, bidding you farewell.
Party member – (1d4)3
As you begin to walk away from the scene, Jules looks back to check on the old woman one last time. What you see defies logic: First, her hut spits out a rowing boat, much wider than the building’s door, before it lifts, supported by a pair of chicken legs, and intricately folds itself into a small briefcase. The old lady picks up the briefcase and rapidly steps into the boat, with the dexterity of a fast animal. As she starts to row, the boat appears to lift, and eventually it starts flying through the air. The rowing boat darts right above your heads, as the old woman screams: “At last, the final component is mine! Auntie Helga’s sausages will now be the tastiest in the North! If you ever happen to pass through the frozen forest, look for me! Thanks again!”
Malcom inspects his flask of white(ish) fluid swishing it around in its flask testing its viscosity. His inspection is interrupted by something flying low overhead. He ducks instinctively as it goes by and turns to look expecting a bird or something… Though to his surprise he sees the woman… flying…. away…. in…. a canoe?… he looks back and even the house is gone. He looks towards the group after she thanks them, a little pale, but not to unused to curiosities. “Wait… does that mean the cat is part of the… I… think we should all head back for a drink…” he looks at the flask in his hand, “And not of any of these either.”
Jules stand watching the scene before him unfold, a sense of pride filling him as he helps get the cat down. It is only when the woman begins ranting that he begins to feel strange. As the woman starts to row her apparently magical boat into the air, Jules feels his jaw swing open, his face one of astonishment and confusion. His thoughts aren’t focused on how he was wrong about the woman being a witch, or even how she seemed strange to him. All he could think and all he could say was a single word.
“What.” He turns and grabs Elana’s shoulder, “What.” With a single look back at where the house had just been, Jules finds himself speechless. Following back to the bar, looking forward to a drunken stupor to forget this madness.
“But…,” the half-elf stammers stupidly, “But wait. Did she say sausages? In the north? What the fuck does that mean?”
Caithas looks wide-eyed around at his companions and murmurs after a moment, “Not to mention that flying boat with the legs…”
The ranger meanders back with the group to the bar. A drink was what he needed, he thought. No ale or wine. No, good whiskey only. That was the only answer. That was his father’s answer, and uncle Jeenan’s as well. Uncle Jeenan…the man with a nose for trails and whiskey. Gods, how old would be be now, Caithas marvels to himself, feeling the decades slide past like clouds in a storm.
“Well,” he begins, looking around at Jules, Malcom and Elana as they make their way to the tavern, “it cannot be a bad thing to have ol’ Auntie Helga on our sides, am I right? One more ally to join the fold.” Caithas grins lopsidedly and hurries along.
Elana watched the spectacle slack-jawed and in awe. The display was probably the most bizarre form of magic she’d ever seen, though her experience with magic was relatively little. “I’ve got to learn how to do that,” she thought, watching the canoe fly into the horizon.
“. . . it cannot be a bad thing to have ol’ Auntie Helga on our sides, am I right? One more ally to join the fold,” Caithas grins lopsidedly and hurries along. “Aside from providing us with sausage of skeptical origins, I’m not sure she’d be much help,” Elana murmured.
Following the others, Elana was inspecting the vial, her curiosity piqued. The liquid looked like fire trapped in glass, it was quite mesmerizing. Considering the witch’s power, Elana was sure there had to be something magical about it. Subtly, she strayed to the back of the group, risking a simple spell that would high light magical effects and items. Her headache was gone, and she figured one spell wouldn’t be too much for her.
[OOC: Detect Magic]
“We just witnessed magic that would make men think they’d gone mad, my Lady,” Caithas replies quietly to the noblewoman.
His eyes catch hers.
“A woman who commands power such as that is never a bad thing to have on your side. Believe me.”
A moment later, Caithas nods towards the others, but keeps his eyes locked on Elana meaningfully as he says, “Since none of us are sorcerers or alchemists, I doubt we have a safe way to identify these concoctions, so perhaps we should find someone in the city who can tell us just what we now possess…”
You follow Ulf, who is no less shocked by what has just happened, back to his tavern. Once there, he pours five glasses of the strongest drink he’s got. “Nice rebels we are, drinking at nine in the morning”, he comments. With these words, he downs his drink with a sudden motion. “Well, at least she didn’t want us dead, else we’d be dead already.”
[OOC: I am sending a PM to Kyoh about Elana’s detect magic results.]
With nothing better to do, you walk outside, heading for the agora to listen to what the people have to say about yesterday’s events. On your way there, you see many small stores and businesses lying in ruins, their commodities already looted. A storage shed seems particularly interesting, since it bears the symbol of Legion IX. It must have belonged to the military, but everything of value has been taken already. The only things of interest remaining are two massive, locked wooden chests. You see that the wood is worn at several places, as if it was repeatedly struck with an axe. Apparently, the chests proved to heavy and too hardy to be of any interest to the looters.
[OOC: Since I did not reward any treasure so far, go ahead and try to open them. Malcom, I am assuming that you are sticking with the party?]
“Perhaps we’ll have better luck opening these, eh?”
Caithas looks at the chests with wide eyes. A flying boat, magic all around, and treasure? By the gods, this city isn’t half bad when no one is trying to kill me, the ranger thought contentedly.
“They look heavy and getting them back might be too difficult. Let’s see…”
Caithas looks around and spies an especially stout looking piece of wood, perhaps used as a club during the previous day’s madness. Raising it over his head, he smashes down on the locks, hoping the previous attempts at opening the chests had weakened their wooden defenses.
Smash Lock on chest 1 – (1d20+3)5
Smash Lock on chest 2 – (1d20+3)14
Jules sighs as he watches Caithas bash against the locks. The thought of gold pulling him out of the confusion the day’s events had given him. The locks of father’s across Lineen hadn’t been able to stop him in the past, and he wasn’t about to let the empire be the first to stop him. Walking up to Caithas he places a hand on the ranger’s shoulder before speaking softly.
“Consider giving someone with some experience a hand at ze locks.”
[OOC: Trying to pick the locks, Jules has a set of thieves’ tools, but I’m not sure if he would have them on him since he keeps them in his pack. I’ll make the disable device rolls anyways.]
Disable Device: Lock 1 – (1d20+8)26
Disable Device: Lock 2 – (1d20+8)14
“A woman who commands power such as that is never a bad thing to have on your side. Believe me,” Caithas said pointedly. “So he still has his suspicions,” Elana thought.
“Not when they’re insane,” she replied. Caithas couldn’t know of her internal struggle, and therefore lost the double meaning of her words, but it was still a valid point. Subtly casting her spell, Elana watches the vials glow with infused magic. She couldn’t tell what kind, though she knew there were ways of identifying effects from the auras she could see. “One of these days I’ll have to learn how to do that.” Pocketing her own vial, she pretended not to give the potions any further thought.
She decided to forgo the liquor at Ulf’s place for water; liquor never sat well with her. Following the group to the ransacked warehouse, Elana watched as Caithas unsuccessfully hammered at the locks, then made a note of Jules’ knowledge of picking said locks; it seemed he had a few secrets of his own. While her “husband” worked the locks, Elana eyed the relatively abandoned streets, eying the many looted stalls. It didn’t comfort her that the revolution had sparked such behavior, but such anarchy was unavoidable. Still, thinking of the innocent shopkeepers who would lose so much from such pointless crimes made her sad.
Caithas watched Jules deftly work at the locks. The ranger felt like an oaf with his club in hand; watching Jules was like watching a master at his craft. Nobility and dexterity…
The half-elf caught himself. Am I jealous? Truly? Of him?
The ranger’s eyes drifted to Elana…her hair flowing, waving in the breeze; her eyes flashing fire; her skin reflecting the sun’s rays…
Aye, Caithas thought bitterly. That I am…
That I am.
[OOC: Rcmon, I will assume that you have the thief’s tool on you, since otherwise it is impossible to open the locks. Also, you can take 20 on lockpicking checks.]
Jules is able to open the first lock on his first try. The lock on the second chest requires a bit of tinkering, but it eventually yields to Jules’ skill. As you open the chests, their contents can be seen by everyone in the group. Predictably, they contain mostly military equipment, such as suits of armor and weapons. You find the following items:
Two suits of scale mail armor
One light wooden shield
Four soldier’s uniforms
A hooded lantern
Two unidentified potions
A climber’s kit
A map-making kit
A bag of gems and jewelry, which contains seven gems and a pair of golden earrings
Fifteen Imperial gladius (short swords), that look a bit worn and blunt, but are still serviceable.
There is also a sealed parchment in one of the chests; the seal seems to signify one of the legions.
[OOC: The short swords will only do 1d5 damage and have a threat range of 20/x2, but if taken to a blacksmith, they can be upgraded to normal swords, for the right price. You can decide to do whatever you want with the items, I am pushing the story forward in the next post in a few minutes.]
Everyone except for Malcom
After deciding what to do with the newly found equipment, you return to the streets. The people are slowly waking up, hangover from yesterday’s events, most metaphorically but some literally. As you walk through the alleys, you can pick up a lot of gossip and speculation regarding the execution:
(An old man discussing with some onlookers next to his destroyed shop):
“…I swear it on me dead wife’s bones! I saw the ghost of the dead general, standing amidst the marketplace as plain as you are standing here now! The dead must be righteously pissed with us! The Gods have mercy on us all!”
(A small, poor child discussing with his clearly impressed friends in the streets):
“…Did you see the red banner? I did! My father told me stories about that banner and the crimson brotherhood! It is soaked in the blood of all those who fought and died in the Storm of Slaughter!”
(Some housewives chatting while leisurely smoking):
“…I heard that Markus was aided by powerful magic during his escape. Those no-good mages should learn to stay away from the affairs of the people! Bloody book-worms have no idea of what is good for the people!”
[OOC: Feel free to ignore or interfere, as you see fit.]
The talks and whispers abruptly pause as a company of soldiers marches down the King’s street, heading for agora. Arranged in six columns, the armored figures give the impression of a regimented military force, in stark contrast to yesterday’s events. Men and women stand aside, to make way for the company, following them towards the city’s public forum. You do the same, and upon reaching the square, you observe the few orators and would-be prophets quickly step down, so that a senator and his retinue can address the public.
“Citizens of the Rebublic!”, says a middle-aged man dressed in a simple tunic, “these are dark times for the colonies! As you may have heard, rebellious elements managed to release former lieutenant Markus yesterday, who was lawfully deemed guilty of treason. I need not remind you that such an act is considered open treason against the Republic, and that those collaborating with such rebels are traitors themselves! By order of Master Rector Caius Sextus, the lawful representative of the Republic in Svorinn, harboring rebels or failing to cooperate with the authorities is a crime punishable by death.
In addition, individuals that have any information regarding yesterday’s events are encouraged to step forward and share what they know. The governor is a merciful man, and all those who seek to cooperate with the authorities will be forgiven.
Two of the rebels have been identified: if you notice either of them, you are bound by law to arrest those traitors using any means necessary and deliver them to the authorities. I assure you that whoever brings me the rebels, alive or dead, will be greatly rewarded.” You observe several of the soldiers starting to put up posters of the two rebels on the walls of nearby buildings. They are still far from you, but it takes little imagination to guess who the senator was referring to.
“Finally, due to the state of emergency, access to Lower Andelia will be restricted until further notice to all civilians. The Republic needs to protect itself and, until the rebels are brought to justice, a curfew will be enforced. No man, woman or child is allowed to go out after sunset. I remind you that the empire is the only thing holding the colonies together; without it, the land will plunge into anarchy like the barbaric tribes of the natives. Long live the Republic!”
The soldiers reply in one voice: “Long live the Republic!” before starting to head back to Lower Andelia. About thirty soldiers remain, putting up posters or talking to some citizens.
You cross the Knight’s bridge without any problems, since the soldiers can verify that you are indeed a member of the guard. As you approach the barracks, you are greeted by a colleague, who lets you in before addressing you: “Malcom, we have been looking for you! You should report to the command directly! A lot of things have changed since yesterday!”
Having little choice, you walk towards the officers’ building, which is located next to the soldiers’ quarters. An official of legion IX orders you to enter his office, before he asks plainly, and with no little anger: “Where were you yesterday? Do you have any idea of the kind of shit-storm that is coming? For fuck’s sake, Malcom! We can’t be looking for our men when traitors are roaming the streets!”
Malcom’s demeanor changes as the soldier starts talking to him he knows what is happening. His face tightens, he must feign resolve for the empire. As he enters the room he stands at attention and salutes formally before addressing the question,
“Sir, I was following orders handed to me two days prior by Aurelius. Escort and protect the lady Savain who had just arrived within the city, until the time I’m either dismissed by her or receive further orders. I’m vaguely aware of yesterdays events. What is the current situation, and are my orders sir?”
He answers plainly and straight to the point, maintaining rigid posture.
After laboriously and somewhat-quietly recovering the contents of the chests and bringing them back to Ulf’s basement, Malcom went to report for duty and to glean what he could while Caithas and the two nobles toured the city as inconspicuously as possible. The companions agreed to sort through what was useful enough to keep and valuable enough to sell after the day’s events. Caithas was especially curious regarding the contents of the sealed letter, but did not interject; the night would be upon them soon enough and there would be time for such matters. The ranger also eyed the buckler and thought that that would have come in handy during the previous day’s battle.
Leaving the tavern with Jules and Elana, Caithas listens to the varied mumblings and rumors of the city around him. It seems to the half-elf that time and daylight have only seemed to fan the flames. Truly, the rebellion is all anyone can seem to talk about. Gone are the normal peasant worries of work and weather; today, blood, steel and death dripped from every tongue, young and old.
When they come upon the crowd, the soldiers, the politician and especially the posters, Caithas turns his face and buries deeper into his hooded cloak.
“I’m going to guess that there aren’t two half-elf bastards helping this rebellion, which means my ability to move about this goddamn city has just been exponentially compromised,” Caithas whispers to his noble companions. “With a hood up and shadows, I believe I’ll be fine, but my days of parading around this fine place with the sunshine on my face and my hair in the wind are over, I’d say. Fucking politicians…”
Turning to Jules and Elana, the ranger continues in a furtive voice, “What should I do? You two, as nobles, know more about intrigue and the machinations of society than I do. I know the woods and earth, not cobble stones and bureaucracies. How can I help this rebellion if my gods-bedamned face is plastered on every street corner?”
(OOC: If needed, Vlad, Disguise Check +1 and Stealth Check +6)
As the locks pop open, Jules examines the contents of the chests. Armor, weapons, tools to aid in a rebellion, but what really caught his eye was the jewels. If they could finance their rebellion from the pockets of the Empire, things would become much easier.
As their group continued along, the words of the people danced in his mind, showing him the confusion and progress that would need to be made. It isn’t until the announcement by the guard that he is finally brought to a stop. “In addition, individuals that have any information regarding yesterday’s events are encouraged to step forward and share what they know. The governor is a merciful man, and all those who seek to cooperate with the authorities will be forgiven.”
Ah knew zis would happen, zey dress as ze noble protectors and peg ze rebellion as a bunch of thugs. We will need to find a way to turn zis around. Perhaps if word got out zat ze Guards were torturing zos who confess for more information. Ah’ll have to talk with someone about zis.
Hearing Caithas’ worries brings another point to Jules’ mind, they need to be able to move about, and a rebellion that happens in the shadows can’t easily win the support of the people.
“You can’t help, not like zis. But Ah wouldn’t worry about it too much. Zey are doing zis to try and frighten us and turn ze people against us with promises of safety.
Zat means we only need to do two things to keep zer plan from working. Keep going along with our mission. And show ze people zat it isn’t safe to help ze guards in zis city anymore.
“If ze people believe zat zey can’t trust ze guards, zen we can move about safely, so long as we watch for guards. No idea how to do zat yet, so for ze moment Ah would check with Malcom and see what areas of Upper Andelia might be friendly to our cause.”
Caithas considered Jules’ words as he watched the gathered masses up ahead in the distance, dispersing to the four winds as the guards posted their caricatures on every flat surface they could find.
“Turn the people from the guards…”
After a moment, the ranger offers, “Perhaps the soldiers’ uniforms we found in those chests could offer us the advantage we need? Weapons and jewels are a fine find, but perhaps the real cache lies in disguise. Of course, we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, not truly…but if we could devise a plan that showed the ‘soldiers’ as the true monsters, especially in a public way, perhaps we could lure the support of the masses to the rebellion’s side? The question is, how do we make an orchestrated public display without getting our true identities revealed? Further, how do we offer a mummer’s version of cruelty without actually harming an innocent…?”
“Ah think Ah know how to set zis up. We can wear ze armor, our faces obscured by helms or hoods, and have members of ze resistance decide to tell ze ‘guards’ everything. We make sure ze man tells us he has information in front of enough people to know what is going on. We drag him off into an alley and give ze bystanders a show of force.
“Loud noises, some cursing, some pleading, ‘Ah swear my lords ah don’t know anything else,’ put on a nice show for ze citizens, and zen drag ze ‘victim’ off to let ze citizens fill in ze blanks. Zey’ll come up with worse ideas zan we ever could.”
Jules takes a minute to think about the logistics of the plan. The idea is sound enough as long as the bystanders understand what’s going on.
“We can’t just have one display, of course, but three or four times, and all of a sudden ze guards are nothing more than thugs with power in zis city. Ze rumors will keep ze citizens from giving us up, all the while stirring their hate of the guards.”
Caithas smiled at Jules and thanks the gods above and below that at least one of them had a mind for scheming.
“The people will be horrified…not only will they mistrust the guards and have no desire to collect the bounty on our heads but they’ll likely shift their allegiance as well…it could work, by god. If we run the idea by Malcom tonight, perhaps he and his resistance friends will be willing to play their part in our little farce.”
Your words do little to reassure the officer, who still shows clear signs of frustration, but, as far as you can tell, he is not suspecting you of disobeying your orders: “Vaguely aware? By the bloody hells corporal, did you decide to take a nap for the whole day, or were you accompanying this lady and trying out dresses? The whole town is teeming with rumors!”
He pauses, takes a deep breath and concentrates for a moment before readdressing you: “Well, since you seem miraculously ignorant of yesterday’s events, let me give you a briefing: The convicted traitor Markus has escaped and your former commander Aurelius is nowhere to be found. We have thus far interrogated several eyewitnesses and guards that were present at the execution, but their testimonies have been contradictory. Some civilians claim that Aurelius tried to go after the rebels, while others say that he went mad with rage and started cutting down unarmed citizens. Some of the guards seem to believe that he was involved in the conspiracy, while others go so far as to say that he ordered them to stand down, allowing the rebels to escape. To be honest, everything is a mess and nothing checks out completely. I doubt that anyone knows what the hell happened to the man. Hey, you knew him, didn’t you? He was, after all, your commander. What do you think? I keep hearing that he was loyal to the crown, but I could use a second opinion.”
As you watch the soldiers march towards the gates, your attention focuses on those who remain behind, putting up posters and addressing the people’s questions and concerns. There seems to be some commotion nearby, as a sergeant is arguing loudly with a young man that is wearing the outfit of a scholar. Four armed soldiers are standing behind the sergeant, quietly awaiting his orders. At this distance, you cannot make out much of what is said, but approaching might be dangerous, since two of you are wanted men. You can only make out some words:
Sergeant: “…the orders. …one way or another.”
Scholar: “…not all are the same!”
Sergeant: “… released in two hours.”
The rest of the discussion is overshadowed by other discussions in the square, but things seem to be escapating between the two men.
Jules’ plan to undermine the empire’s integrity seemed to hold merit. “Not a bad idea,” she mused aloud. If they could make it convincing enough and well publicized, it could do some serious damage.
Elana tries to slip her way through the crowd, curious about the exchange ahead. Since no one would suspect her of colluding with the rebels she felt safe enough to get close enough to hear what was going on.
“Close enough sir, we were at her wedding for most of the day. However as we were leaving, we were almost trampled by the scene at the gallows and had to hide behind some carts to keep her safe. As for the accusations against him. Several civilians jumped him from the crowd, they didn’t seem to be from any group of rebels, and after he got to his feet he… cleared the area around himself. A few moments later a man entered the crowd and he must have threatened the senator or something, because the senator ordered all the guards to stand down and the fighting ceased. A few blows were exchanged within the mist that covered the gallows, but… I’m not sure who was fighting, I think it was Aurelius. As for his loyalty, I have little doubt of it, but someone will have to be blamed for the event, and it will most likely be him. Where is he? Can’t he defend himself?” There was little reason to lie about Aurelius’ situation. The man seemed unlikely to turn to the rebellions side, and… as it turns out, even if he did it’s better they at least think of him as loyal. Malcom shuddered, I don’t think I could keep myself from placing an arrow in his back… “After that all the rebels dispersed, and me and the lady left after the crowd.”
Caithas turns to Jules, both watching Elana’s hair, her shoulders, her back…as she sets off to listen in, the half-elf just can’t help himself.
“Quite the wife, you have there. Sir. Your lordship.”
The ranger grins over at the man who would bring down an empire…and for what? For justice? For fun? Gods, what a world this was.
“Where is Aurelius? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Nobody seems to know, but he definitely needs to do a lot of explaining as soon as we find him. I was hoping you’d know something, being his subordinate and all, but it looks like he made a run for it. If he’s got any brains left, he’s probably skipped town already…”
“I am in charge of commanding the guard now. I am Tribune Quintus Calpurnius of legion IX, but feel free to call me Quintus.” Following the protocol of the Imperial military, you stand in attention and prepare to salute the officer, but he waves his arm in a dismissive gesture: “Let’s skip the formalities, shall we? We’ve got more important matters to attend to.” He extends his arm, eager to shake your hand.
The officer changes the subject, as there is not much left to be said about Aurelius: “You mentioned earlier that some noblewoman was your charge yesterday? What was her name… lady Savain, no? Why does that name sound familiar?”, he asks himself. He pauses thoughtfully, passing his fingers through his goatee. Returning behind his desk, he rummages through a pile of papers that lie upon the table in disorder, until he finds the report he was looking for:
“Lady Elana Savain, niece to lord Mannix, who was wedded to Lord Jules Amour, son of Lord Claude-Bennett Amour of Lineen yesterday?” His expression darkens, as he pieces the puzzle together: “Are you aware that half of the armed forces are now looking for that man? We have reasons to believe that he is affiliated with the rebels! Flavius, Brutus, I need your assistance!” he shouts to the two guards that have been patiently standing outside his office door.
Quintus looks at you suspiciously, before adding: “Care to revise or elaborate on your report, corporal?” You feel that, whatever you say, you had best make it sound convincing. It is clear that the Tribune has realized that lady Savain directly connects you to one of the rebels.
As you approach the scene, you can listen to the two men quarrelling better. Most of the talking is done by the young scholar, who seems to be repeating the same arguments over and over:
“Damn it, soldier, how many times must I explain this to you? I am a keeper, and keepers do NOT get involved in politics! Whoever the rebels you are seeking might be, I am not one of them! I care little about yesterday’s events, but if magic was involved, that doesn’t mean that the keepers are to blame! I will not be dragged to interrogation like a petty criminal! Stop wasting my time and yours!”
To his frustration, the sergeant seems untouched, immune to his complaints: “I understand, but it will only take a couple of hours. Calm down, you are not being accused of anything. All experts in the arcane arts have been summoned to the palace.” He concludes with a threat that is hardly concealed, but uttered calmly: “You will only make matters worse by refusing to cooperate. You heard what the senator said.”
The lively discussion continues, but you can already imagine how things will proceed if you do not step in.
Jules and Caithas
As the soldiers who are putting up the posters are approaching, you feel that the forum square might not be safe for neither of you soon. Already, some peasants are looking at you suspiciously, although no-one has yet dared to say anything. They might be hesitating, having heard about the carnage yesterday, or perhaps the depictions on the posters may not be accurate enough for them to identify you immediately. You cannot know, as you haven’t seen the posters. Whatever the reason, you feel that you shouldn’t stay to find out.
[OOC: I know that Caithas is wearing the rags that Ulf gave him, but what about Jules? Perhaps it’s time for Jules to use his disguise equipment-I will leave it up to Ross to explain where you have it and how you obtained it. Since you are wanted men now, I will secretly roll disguise for you guys, using Jules’ modifier, plus some additional bonuses if you help each other or if you take at least an hour to disguise, but you will need to role-play it . Plus, Elana might wish to consider disguise as well, given that some individuals might know that she is affiliated with Jules.]
“Sir… Quintus. I feel no need to change my report. After the wedding I was escorting the lady home when the rebels attacked. My job was not to follow her husband or his personal guard, it was to protect the lady. As stated, the lady and I stood behind some carts for the duration of the encounter and fled when it was possible to safely do so. The lady and the lord literally just met when they arrived and though they are married they are not in love and it would be safe to say that one’s actions does not denote the will of the pair.” He looked back at the two guards for a moment before looking back at Quintus, “I’m a bit insulted you’d consider that I was a traitor. I’ve been a part of the legion for a long time Quintus. You know that.”
[[Perception; Approximate guard strengths and weapons]]
[[Ready action; Equip daggers as an immediate action, then grab Quintus and hold him hostage (standard grapple): Trigger, he believes Malcom is still a traitor and tries to arrest him or some similar act.]]
“Jules…we need to move. These eyes are on us, and I’m a bloody half-elf and you are fucking you,” the ranger huffs.
“Trust your wife; she is blameless. She can be questioned and her wits and beauty will set her free. But us…We need to get to Ulf’s. Now.”
Jules makes a quick inspection of the crowd before cursing. Caithas is right, the crowd wouldn’t take much longer to recognize the two of them. All the way back towards the tavern Jules was kicking himself. Not able to hide his frustration with the situation he had put himself in.
How did zey notice, probably when Ah went jumping around ze gallows like a clown. Zat will surely be written of as one of my better ideas. Maybe Ah’m just looking at zis ze wrong way, maybe zey won’t be able to figure out zat it’s me. Ah’m sure zer are what, four Linees men of my age in ze city, zey’ll surely think it was one of zem. Fuck! Zis is going to throw everything off! Mannix will be useless once word gets around zat his niece married a traitor, and ze hells can take me if my sister is still willing to offer assistance after my father finds out. Zey were ze only sources of possible income Ah had lined up. Except…
Jules stops for a moment recalling the meeting he has set up with the drug dealer today.
“Caithas, Ah have a meeting Ah’m going to need to go to later today. If you aren’t doing anything Ah would ask zat you accompany me for security. Ah doubt it will turn violent, but ze way our luck has been Ah’m not putting much faith in what seems likely. We will need to go in disguise to avoid notice, and Ah think Ah know just ze thing.”
He looks around the upper district as they return to the tavern, eventually picking out the shabbiest and poorest looking man he can find.
“You, five silvers for your clothes. Ah’ll give you my cloak so you can stay decent until you can buy something new.”
[OOC: Diplomacy +10 for the poor guy, if something interrupts us before I can do that just ignore the last part of my post. If I can get the clothes I want to change into them to appear as a beggar or peasant (Disguise +9). Also for the disguise kit and things like that, I think I’m going to have it just be in a wardrobe in the estate that he can get to eventually.]
Watching the conversation, it was easy to see what direction it was taking, and Elana felt some sympathy for the scholar. It occurred to her that if the soldier initiated any harsh actions against the man, it may add to the believability that the guards were harming those they questioned. However, she didn’t stand down because she thought the scholar’s pain would be some benefit to the rebellion; she wasn’t that cold blooded. The scholar’s hubris would bring about his own suffering, and even if she tried there wasn’t much Elana could do to save him from himself.
She was close enough, though, to see the wanted posters clearly enough now. She had expected to see some of Malcom’s men, but instead it was a crude picture of Caithas and Jules. “And if they know who Jules is, then that means . . .” Suddenly very aware of her easily recognizable head of red hair, Elana tried to back out of the crowd inconspicuously, drawing the hood of her cloak up as she moved away. Though her face wasn’t on wanted posters yet, there was a chance that some of the guards or the official might have a description of her that could give her away.
“Aye, I’ll join you. Thank the gods one of us has an idea…my only direction appears to be to hide in the nearest gods-bedamned hole I can find. My mother’s blood is not especially helpful here, it would seem.”
Caithas raised his hood further, trying to slink farther into the shadows, allowing Jules’ disguise and his own to consume them. Caithas fingered the hilts of his blades under the rags, wondering how the hell his life had taken such a bizarre turn in just a few short days. From a failure to an outlaw failure…I’m sure my father is a proud spirit, the ranger thought bitterly.
“Gods, I hope those ravens carried our letters with haste. Things will spiral out of control in this town soon. The sooner we hear from your contacts, as well as the dwarves, the better off we are. For now, let’s go meet your contact, whoever the hells that might be. I can hardly wait…”
Two soldiers stand by Quintus’ side; they wear the standard scale mail armor that is issued to all members of Andelia’s militia. They carry longswords in sheathes that are fastened to their belts. Quintus himself has been an officer of Legion IX for years, although you know that, unlike Aurelius, he isn’t one to get his hands dirty. He is more of a bureaucrat and a tactician than a soldier. He bears a gladius by his side, but his armor is merely decorative. Even if you were to somehow subdue the three men, you’d have to do it without attracting any attention to yourself; else you’d be faced with every soldier in the barracks.
“Calm down, corporal,” says Quintus, “nobody is accusing you of anything”, in a tone that is neither convincing nor reassuring. “Whether you know it or not, this lady Elana has wedded a man that, according to senator Brochinus’ testimony, is associated with the rebels. According to the senator, Lord Amour threatened to slay him unless he ordered his men to stand down. Know anything about that?” He looks at you inquisitively, adding: “What happened to Lady Savain? Did you escort her to safety after the events in the marketplace? What do you know of her current whereabouts? If we manage to locate her, we may be able to find her husband.” He looks at you straight in the eyes, anticipating your reply with the greatest interest.
As the argument continues for a quarter of an hour more, the sergeant grows impatient. Eventually, every pretense of courtesy is dropped, as the sergeant barks: “Enough! Either you follow me willingly NOW, or I will have my men escort you!” The scholar, finally realizing that his protests are futile, joins the armed retinue as they depart.
Not more than five minutes after their departure, a young girl, probably no more than ten years old, steps out of the small hut which seemed to be where the scholar lived. She looks around, spotting the man being taken for questioning towards Lower Andelia. As she observes the soldiers, she sits on the ground and, burying her face in her palms, she starts to weep silently.
At some distance behind you, Jules and Caithas seem to be nodding subtly towards your direction, indicating that they should depart as soon as possible. You will have to decide if you want to follow them or if you’d rather stay at the forum for longer. At least you are not wanted by the authorities like them, not yet anyway.
Caithas and Jules
The beggar gladly exchanges clothes with Jules, not pausing for one second to consider the nobleman’s strange request, grateful for the coin and the cloak. You gesture to Elana, who seems to be observing an argument a few yards away, before rushing of to Ulf’s tavern. There, you spend some time trying to refine your disguises, so as to limit your chances of being identified. Every man and woman in Andelia now knows how you look, so you’d better make the disguises convincing. Luckily, Jules seems to be familiar with concealing his identity, although why a nobleman would need such skill remains a mystery.
[OOC: Feel free to role-play your disguises and let me know what you are dressing up as. I am assuming as beggars, but you can still give a more detailed description. Also room for a bit of comedy, I guess, if that’s your thing.]
After working on your disguises for an hour and regardless of whether or not Elana joins you, Jules recalls his appointment with the drug-dealer. Asking Caithas to escort him discretely, he leaves the tavern, heading for the place of the rendezvous. Sure enough, the shady merchant from yesterday is waiting for Jules in a deserted alley close to the tall tree where you met that crazed old woman. With his identity now known by everyone in the city, Jules remains hidden for a while, keenly observing the lone figure, but seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Caithas remains behind him, also fixing his gaze on the drug-dealer. There seems to be no-one around, and the hooded figure looks unarmed.
[OOC: Caithas is a bit behind Jules, trying to remain hidden, so as not to frighten the drug-dealer. The guy is anyway only expecting Jules. But Caithas can jump in any time he wants to.]
[[My ready action holds.]]
Malcom looked at the man and thought as he spoke. Lying was a dangerous business, at least he had first hand knowledge of who could have seen them between the events. “You say that, yet you called some men in here. In your eyes I’m guilty until proven innocent.” He paused thinking of the events. “Afterwards I escorted her away. We stayed at my house for the night. I left her this morning under her orders to return and figure out what the guard intends to do about the events… I cannot account for her husband or his guards actions or whereabouts.”
“Gods, Jules, is all this make-up really necessary? I feel like a painted whore from the Capital itself!”
Caithas grumbled as Jules deftly applied all the finishing touches to their disguises. During the process, Caithas found it demeaning and frustrating. Afterwards, though, when peering into a looking glass…
“Heaven’s Hells, man! I barely recognize myself! Those crude posters are nothing compared to your handiwork. I apologize for cursing you out before; as I am slow to learn…I should have trusted you.”
The ranger laughs at the irony. “You are the smuggler and lock-picker, I am the forest ranger, and yet you are the seemingly-trustworthy nobleman and I am a failed spy. How we ended up together, dressing each other up in a fucking basement, I will never believe.”
With a sigh, Caithas gazes once more at the new face in the mirror.
“In our case, sir Amour, the truth truly is stranger than the fiction. Now let’s go meet this secret admirer of yours.”
Deep in the alley’s shadows, Caithas flicked his eyes from Jules to the stranger and back again. All the while, he held his swords in a white-knuckled grip under his disguise.
“Think nothing of it, your curses are nothing compared to a father who just found out his son spent ze night dressed as a street urchin to get into a priestess’ confessional. Ah miss Melody, she was sweet, with a soft spot for ze poor, especially when ze poor look like me. She treated my wounds, blessed me for my sins, helped create a few more, and most of all she never got me involved in any life destroying rebellions. Anyhow, enough about ze past, we have a meeting to get to.”
After arriving at the meeting point Jules examines the drug dealer from afar for a moment before heading in to speak with the hooded figure.
“It is nice to know zat zer is still some sense of propriety among ze outcasts of zis city. Ah am in a hurry and as such Ah will be brief. Ze drug dealers in zis city are selling zer product for next to nothing. Now first Ah had though zat it was a first time deal to get me hooked, but zat made no sense given your approach. Something in zis city is forcing your prices down. It could be ze poverty level, it could be ze guards making it difficult to move your product around, or it could just be ze fear of getting caught pushing your prices down for an easy sale.
“Either way, Ah want to work with you. Ah am in need of money to finance a pet project of mine, and you are in need of a greater source of income for your business. Zis is my proposal, you have a problem i zis city zat is keeping your profits down, and Ah am a man zat solves problems for people like you. If you ally yourself with me, Ah can help you, but only once Ah know what you need to make you business worthwhile again. Change is in ze air in zis city, and if you don’t embrace it you may soon find yourself suffocating without it.”
[OCC: Diplomacy check (+10) to see if the drug dealer is willing to talk more about the trouble he’s facing.]
Quintus looks at you sternly, before concluding: “While I do not question your loyalty and your ability to follow orders, I am not sure if you fully understand the severity of the situation.” He hands you an official document to fill in: “Write down your report, while I make sure that you are relieved from your duties until the matter is dealt with. There has been a change of plans: You need to track down this lady Savain and bring her in for questioning. Perhaps she can explain why a newly arrived nobleman would turn against the authorities for no apparent reason.”
The bureaucrat salutes you, before leaving you with the two soldiers to fill in your report. Provided that you don’t try to escape or try something else, Quintus returns in half an hour or so, along with four men who are supposed to escort you and provide assistance while you are looking for lady Savain. One of the soldiers is Hakon, the young recruit that you rescued from an angry mob the day before.
[OOC: Just trying to inject some intrigue. Don’t worry about having low social skill modifiers, since role-playing precedes mechanics. I will not punish you for lying (if the lie is not far-fetched) because your Bluff skill is not high enough. You can always forfeit scheming for a more violent / dramatic approach, if plotting is not really your thing. This will probably lead to completely cutting all contacts with the guard, though, unless you can somehow avoid this. Surprise me!]
Jules and Caithas
The drug-dealer has difficulty recognizing you at first, but he greets you as you approach. He has little time to respond as you start your monologue. Upon finishing, he simply states: “It’s not safe for us here. Follow me, I will take you to my associates.”
You feel relieved to leave the abandoned alley and move somewhere where you can blend in with the crowd. With your disguise, you look nothing like the crude depictions on the posters; it is unlikely that anyone would recognize you.
Caithas expertly remains in the shadows as the two men walk towards him, to the alley’s exit. Jules is no more than ten yards away from him, when two cloaked figures, seemingly out of nowhere, join the drug-dealer’s side. One of them attempts to grab the nobleman by the throat.
Grapple – (1d20+4)16
He succeeds, slaming Jules against the alley’s wall, before quickly unsheathing his dagger and bringing it close to the disguised nobleman’s throat.
The other man raises his hand, shouting: “Wait!” He moves closer to Jules, facing him at an inch’s distance, before he starts addressing him: “You seem like an intelligent man, so cleverly deducing our plight and graciously offering your assistance. Since you are so clever, answer me this: do I look like a whore to you? Is it accustomed for whores to dress as I do in your country?" Jules finds it difficult to reply, with the other thug’s hand squeezing his throat, so the man continues: "Then why are you trying to fuck me and take over my business? I asked you a question, boy!” His associate relaxes his grasp, but only slightly, thus allowing you to reply.
The three thugs seem unaware of Caithas’ presence. The drug-dealer is practically next to him; with luck, Caithas could jump him and quickly slice his throat or capture him. This might turn out to make matters worse, though.
[OOC: Jules, feel free to talk your way out of this, Caithas, feel free to help as you think is best.]
Caithas watches in horror as Jules is slammed into the wall. Grasping his sword hilts, the ranger measures the distance to Jules. The man holding the knife to the nobleman’s throat is too far; Jules would be dead before he reached him. The speaker is also more than a few feet away. But the drug-dealer, the liar, the bastard who’d gotten them into this mess…he was within slashing distance. That was the only thought on Caithas’ mind. If he’d stopped to think, perhaps things might have turned out differently…
Forgive me, father, Caithas silently prayed as he swiftly drew his blades and attempts to slaughter the unsuspecting traitor:
Attack Scimitar – (1d20+2)22
Attack Short Sword – (1d20+2)15
Damage Scimitar – (1d6+3)8
Damage Short Sword – (1d6+3)9
(Vlad – I assumed, since you said the drug-dealer was close, plus adding the element of surprise, a full round action was possible, so I used the two-weapon attack. If only one attack is allowed, obviously count the primary weapon, the scimitar, only. Also, please roll a +1 Intimidate for me, based on this: )
“Stand down and lower your blade, fool, and you may yet live. If you continue to threaten my friend, your blood shall spill as easily as this fool who betrayed us. Heroism is for fools and soldiers, not for men like us. If you value your life, drop your weapon and get the fuck out of my sight. Now.”
Scimitar Critical Check – (1d20+2)11
Critical Damage – (1d6+3)5
The sudden attack and Caithas’ response threw Jules off for a moment, but he felt like he was starting to get used to this sort of situation, recovering more quickly than he had at the gallows.
Damn zes men, Ah need to get zer heads back on straight. Ah can’t let zis opportunity disappear, not with my sister and Lord Mannix eventually backing out of zis plan. We need zes men.
As the man holding him feels Caithas’ blades, Jules turns holding up both hands to signal Caithas and the drug-dealers to stop.
“Caithas! Stop zis, stand down! We are here to discuss business, not cut each others throats!”
As he speaks to Caithas his attention quickly turns to the drug-dealer who had been speaking to him before.
“My bodyguard might be brash and act without thinking, but one thing about him is zat he is honest. If you threaten my life he will not hesitate to make zis conversation a short one. Now you can either lay down your arms and we can discuss zis, or Ah can take your business for myself over your corpse. Your choice.”
[OOC: My one social skill without any points… Intimidate (+3) to get the drug dealers to have a somewhat civil discussion.]
He looked at the four guards with a heavy sigh, bodyguards… great… I’m sure they’re to watch me as much as to help me find her. He paused for a moment formulating a quick plan to get rid of the guards… Poor bastards…. He ordered the men to follow him, they went to his house which he knew would be empty. He then said to his men, “We’re going to see if the lady retraced any of her steps. Stopping at a bar she went to. Maybe she’s returned or she talked to someone there about her husband.” With that he lead them off towards the Drunken Townsman. Once they arrive he orders one man to stand guard out front, and two guards to stand guard around back just encase anyone tried to run. He took Hakon inside, and when he was inside he immediately looked around for any resistance members there while asking hakon a question, “Hakon, did you think about what I told you?” he approaches the bar with Hakon beside him he turns to face him, “Well?”
[OOC: Just rolling initiative for Jules and Caithas, to resolve what happens. Jules and Caithas get to act on the surprise round, but who acts first will depend on Initiative.]
Jules catches a glimpse of Caithas running towards the drug-dealer; his drawn sword makes his intentions plain. The criminals have little time to react.
Before the strike connects, Jules manages to utter a few words towards Caithas, urging him to stop attacking the drug-dealer.
[OOC: If Caithas still wants to go on with the attack, I will use the previous rolls. Then, we basically enter combat-Jules gets to act (remember that he is grappled), then Caithas and then the rogues.]
The soldiers reluctantly follow your orders. As you enter the tavern, Longinus gives you an odd look, alarmed by your armor-clad company. You fail to notice any of your rebel friends there, as it is only noon. However, you can safely guess that Decius is waiting in the secret room in the basement, as he has no other place to go. Hakon looks around, looking for the noblewoman, but there are only a few customers around, having lunch.
Confused by your question, Hakon looks at you perplexed, before answering: “What do you mean? Are you talking about yesterday?” He hesitates, but despite his doubts, his reply reminds you that Hakon is still a soldier of the guard: “I will do my duty, sir, no matter what it entails.”
[OOC: If memory serves, I don’t think you risked revealing anything to Hakon yesterday. You can try now, if you want.]
Caithas holds his blade mid-air, hearing Jules’ call. The thief with the silver tongue, the ranger thinks almost wonderingly to himself. He might just be able to get out of this…but what then?
These men started this fight, and if he and Jules and the others were to lead a rebellion, cowering before some petty drug pushers was no way to act. Even if Jules got out of this alive, he would look weak; word would spread through the underground, and he would be rendered useless. No respectable criminal mastermind got pushed around like Jules was; his strength was in his words, but words only went so far with men like these. The only way this was going to work was if the pushers and smugglers believed that a new power had come into town, not just another bastard looking for easy coin. Power is what these thugs understood…
“My master is more forgiving than I am,” Caithas says, doing his best to hold his voice steady and firm, as he lets his scimitar finish its arc and slice deeply into the turn-coat drug dealer, hoping to open the man’s throat in one swing.
(OOC: Sorry, RC, but that attack roll is too good to waste and frankly, I don’t trust these guys. I also don’t think they’re all that tough, not like Aurelius was; if I’m right, they’re cowards who only attacked you because they think you’re alone and surprised. I think that they’ll slit your throat if we don’t scare them half to death…so that’s exactly what I intend to do. Besides, we haven’t gotten to kill anyone lately… )
“Yes yesterday. Is it really worth throwing our lives away for this, when even the people don’t want us, and they only aid us out of fear of our retribution if they don’t. You have first hand knowledge of their hate for us.” he remembered saving the boys life, “And now I’m accused of treason, even if Quintus doesn’t openly say it. The presence of you and the others is more than enough proof of that. Who sends five men after one lady?” he looks around the bar, “She isn’t here.” He looks to Longinus, “You. Did you see a Lady come in here? Back for another drink because her husbands a traitor?” he was giving Longingus as much information through the conversation without giving himself away to Hakon. He didn’t want to, but if he had to he’d slay the boy. Sadness filled his mind… This is going to be the Slaughter all over again… just different roles… At least the good guys win this time, right? People die, and that’s war.He reached deep down for the determination to see this through. It wasn’t hard to find it and with his resolve he decided to see this through until they could take the city. Hopefully it would only be a few more days before the soldiers arrived from Holsgrath.
[OOC: Sorry, couldn’t post the other day. Picking up at the forum.]
Spotting the young girl left behind, Elana felt a pang of sympathy, torn between the obvious safety of leaving the forum and the desire to help the girl. Jules and Caithas were looking at her over the crowd, but she waved them on, implying that they shouldn’t wait for her.
Elana waited for the crowd the thin out a bit, and for the guards and officials to move on before approaching the girl. Poor thing, I can’t just leave her here. Her father could be held captive for a while. It’d be even worse if they believe he is a rebel. Elana moves to the girl’s side, gently trying to find out if the girl has anyone else to take care of her.
Diplomacy – (1d20+8)13
[OOC: If the girl doesn’t have anywhere else to go, Elana will take her back to the Broken Tooth and see if she can stay there until her father is released. She’ll also try to find something in the hut to leave a message on for the girl’s father to know where his daughter has gone to.]
Longinus seems to understand what you are trying to do. “No sir, I haven’t seen her since yesterday. She seemed to be anxious after the marriage, but she didn’t care to explain what was wrong, even when I offered my help. Why? What is the matter? Is she in danger?”
Hakon sighs in desperation, realizing what is going on: “So Quintus was right… should I question your allegiances?” He looks at you, trying to assess your reactions, before adding: “I don’t think you are giving me many options”, he says, his gaze fixed upon your sword. He concludes: “I am only following orders. And, as a corporal, you are my superior, sir. I am bound by military law to obey your commands. What do you have in mind?”
Caithas and Jules
[OOC, Caithas: Speaking is a free action, but only for uttering a few words, so I will ignore the threats. Jules, you will have to wait for the bandits’ turn to see if your intimidate check had any effect. Surprise round is over, you can act now for the 1st round. First Jules, then Caithas, then the thugs.]
The half-elf’s well-placed swing connects with the drug-dealer’s jugular vein. Blood sprays wildly from the severed vain, as the criminal collapses to the ground, dying instantly. Caithas is hit by the jet of blood, which stains his clothes. With the rest of the thugs momentarily stunned, it is Jules’ chance to try to escape the cloaked man’s grasp.
The little girl is reassured by your presence; she eventually stops crying and rubs her runny nose with the back of her palm. She offers to prepare some tea for you. Regardless of your answer, she asks you to follow her inside the hut, where she puts a kettle on an improvised stove.
The hut is filled with tomes and scrolls, which are lying around everywhere. Apart from the tomes, there is nothing of particular interest. The scholar and the child must be quite poor, since there is little furniture in the hut, aside from a table with a broken foot and a mattress.
The girl offers you some tea in a broken mug, before speaking timidly for the first time: “He wasn’t my father. My father died last year… Vedrick was a good man… he was looking after me. He was teaching me how to read, and I was helping him with his work.”
[OOC: If you do not want to discuss anything, the little girl will follow you to Ulf’s tavern.]
Jules watches as Caithas kills the drug dealer, not yet giving up hope on a possibility for negotiations with their leader. He thinks about the last time he found himself in a situation like this, it was Joan, the blacksmith’s daughter who had gotten him into the problem in the first place. Sneaking around in the forge was a poor idea in hindsight, but his mind was on other things at the time; until that blacksmith started heating his tongs.
He’s stronger than Ah am, but he’s also confused. Twisting to ze left, pushing his arm to ze right, lift my legs to change ze weight for his hand, and zen…he either catches on and breaks my neck or Ah escape.
[OOC: Making an escape artist check to remove myself from the grapple (assuming it is a grapple, since I’m being held against the wall).]
Escape Artist – (1d20+7)25
[I think that works, ignore this part if it doesn’t]Jules drops to the ground, slipping out of the man’s grip, silently thanking Joan’s father. He backs away from the man, moving closer to Caithas as he does.
“Caithas, if they attack, gut them. We don’t need allies that can’t listen to reason.”
Round 1 (Jules)
“You only need one to speak to. Sir.”
With that, Caithas steps over the gore-splattered body of the man whose throat he had just opened, strides forwards and slashes at the lesser thug who’d held the knife to Jules’ throat.
Slash – (1d20+6)16
Damage – (1d6+5)10
(End of turn 1: http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6055)
Elana thanked the girl for the tea; she was surprisingly well mannered. “He is a good man,” Elana corrected. “The guards will just need to talk with Vedrick,” she said, sounding hopeful. “He’ll return.”
“What kind of work does Vedrick do?” she asked, idly flipping through one of the massive tomes. Vedrick was a keeper, which meant he knew magic. Chances were there would be some information on spellcraft around here, which greatly interested Elana.
“Oh really then? At ease, speak your mind openly. Be honest and forth coming.” Malcom looks to the other patrons to make sure they’re far enough away to not hear the following conversation, “You, go pour drinks someplace else.” he says to longingus to get him away from the two of them, “You’ve got a brain and a mind what do you think? I’ll be fine if some old sod of an officer thinks I’m a traitor, But so only long as I have people that are loyal to me. With that I’ll be fine. But if those around me think I’m guilty it doesn’t matter what Quintus thinks, I’m a dead man.” he sighed and lightly thumped his fist on the bar, “To use your words, I didn’t sign up for this. To be branded viewed as a traitor the second there’s some rebel action. I fought in the storm you know… We did terrible things too… Maybe its karma then.”
Hakon’s tone changes to mild irritation, after seeing that Malcom is genuinely interested in his opinion. Foregoing the corporal’s rank and the military protocols, he tries as best as he can to keep his tone down, so that the tavern’s patrons won’t listen to you: “Are you mad? How do you plan on overthrowing the Imperials? You’ve been a soldier all your life. Don’t you know what the legions are capable of?”
Judging from Hakon’s response, as well as his previous comments, you conclude that he’d probably follow your orders for now. He does not seem to think that what you are saying is wise, but he wouldn’t risk provoking a fight.
[OOC: And that’s it, for now. You have not made him into a true believer of the cause-not yet, anyway, but he’d rather follow your orders than draw his sword against you.]
You browse through several of Vedrick’s tomes as the little girl explains what the scholar specializes in, as best as she can. Although you are looking specifically for anything with arcane inscriptions, most of the books you look through contain highly complicated formulas and are packed with numbers and symbols. You cannot be certain if the symbols are magical or not, as you have never seen anything similar before. While you are also not familiar with the formulas, you can guess that they are probably complicated algebraic equations. They would most likely require an advanced knowledge of mathematics to comprehend.
Another book contains several geometrical patterns, starting from very simple ones, such as triangles and squares, but quickly focusing on much more complicated polygons. There are several operations which seem to be related to the symmetry of such structures, such as rotation axes and mirror transformations. You can sort of understand what the book is trying to illustrate, but soon the operations are replaced by huge, complicated matrices which you cannot make any sense of.
Finally, there are several notebooks containing hand-drawn pictures of natural shapes such as leaves, trees and shells. The sketches are not only scientifically accurate, but also artistic. Each shape is drawn twice: on the right side, a more realistic depiction is illustated, whereas on the left side, a simpler drawing of the pattern is given. On the left side, you can spot those somewhat familiar symmetry operations on the shapes, as well as numerous formulas, many of which have been erased and re-written obsessively.
The little girl explains: “Vedrick was teaching the children of the neighbourhood how to read and write. All he asked for was some food from the children who could spare it. He said he was a keeper, and that it’s a keeper’s duty to spread knowledge.” She looks at you pouring through the books’ pages: “Are you a keeper, too? Can you teach me how to read? Vedrick says I am good, but I cannot read the words in his books.” She brings you more and more books, some of which contain pressed leaves, flowers and insects inside them. Eventually, she brings something that you can partially understand: A grimoire filled with arcane symbols and descriptions of spells. By looking at the index, you realize that you can only understand the first two chapters, but with time and work you should be able to digest all the information.
[OOC: I start writting about (pseudo)science and suddendly one paragraph turns to three… Anyway, the last book will help you put ranks in spellcraft and Knowledge (arcana) once you level up. The other books might also help in putting ranks in other Knowledge skills. Let me know if you want to borrow any, otherwise I will assume that you’ll only borrow the grimoire (add it to your inventory-it weighs 1 lb). If you want, you can cast Read magic or detect magic, but you won’t find anything.]
Jules and Caithas
Jules manages to escape the thug’s hold, momentarily throwing him off balance and allowing Caithas to slice his arm. Enraged, he thrusts his dagger against the half-elf, aiming for the liver.
He manages to hit Caithas, but the blade does not penetrate the armor that the ranger is wearing below his rags.
At the same time, the hooded figure who previously addressed Jules starts to run towards the space between the two huts that lie near the alley’s exit.
You hear a silent thud, before the sound of the man’s footsteps changes, as if he is now running on a wooden surface.
Seeing the leader of the thugs take off, Jules tries to force his way past the thug who had been holding him against the wall. Jules thought on all the people who would be coming after him, the guards, his wife’s family, his own family, and he felt a sudden determination wash over him, perhaps it was the close proximity to Caithas’ recklessness, or perhaps he simply didn’t want a drug lord out for his head as well, but either way he takes off running after the man.
No, fuck him, Ah am not letting another opportunity slip past me. Ah will not have another person in zis city out for my head. Ah will stop zis bastard and damn ze consequences!
He rounds the corner the man disappeared through jumping as he goes to catch up with the man.
[OOC: Gonna provoke an opportunity attack from the thug, and I’m going to try to follow the leader to whatever platform he’s on. In the event that I die horribly from the opportunity attack just ignore everything after “damn ze consequences”]
Acrobatics:Jump – (1d20+7)11
[Guessing I don’t make the jump. Jules Turn End]
Caithas, footing firm, feels the thug’s blow glance off his hidden armor. Thank the gods for small favors, the ranger thinks.
Caithas sees the leader leap to the rooftops and, even more surprisingly, he watches Jules attempt to follow the bastard! Will wonders never cease.
“Stop! You’ll get yourself killed!”
Regardless, the half-elf has a job to do, and it doesn’t involve jumping on roofs at the moment. Jules would have to take care of himself. With blades in both hands, Caithas sends his swords spinning at the thug, hoping to finish what his first cut had begun.
Attack 1 – (1d20+2)12
Attack 2 – (1d20+2)21
Damage 1 – (1d6+3)5
Damage 2 – (1d6+1)7
Caithas sees the thug dodge his scimitar, but the bastard isn’t so lucky against the short sword. Caithas feels his blade sink in and for a sickening moment the ranger thinks to himself, ‘I could get used to this…’
(OOC: Caithas’ turn done http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6165
Oh, and Vlad, I once again forgot to factor in Caithas’ 2)8
Critical Damage – (1d6+1)3
“I’m no keeper,” she explained to the girl. “But I can teach you to read. You’re very smart to be able to read at all at your age. What is your name?”
[Assuming the girl tells her the name]
“Here, why don’t you gather your things, and I’ll let you stay with me until Vedrick returns,” Elana said, looking for some parchment and a quill. “We’ll leave him a note so he can find you when he comes back.”
With the girl’s permission, Elana takes the arcane tome with her. Maybe now I can learn more about this cursed power of mine. Although, if Caithas sees me with this, he’ll know me for sure. Elana grabs several other thick tomes to lessen the suspicions of her companions. After, she takes the girl to Ulf’s tavern.
Malcom shrugged at Hakon, “Its not as if its my doing. The people will rebel, with or without my, or anyone else, help.” he paused and squared away at the boy, “I’m aware of what the legion is capable of… I’m also well aware of what they have done. You and I can both think on our current military might. We know that if the whole city revolted we wouldn’t stand a chance. It isn’t out of cowardice that I would help them either. I’ll pay for my sins and do what’s right. Sure the legions army is far stronger than a rebel army, but the people will get support if they don’t already have it. The long suppressed will find hope and strength in the idea of their freedom. I can’t say they’d win the war for sure… but I’d rather be on the good side of a war. Favor of the Gods, that sort of thing.” Malcom’s eyes turned serious, his dark brown eyes welled with the devils determination “I’m going to ask you once, you are going to reply with your answer and nothing more, nothing less. Do you, believe, these people, should be free?”
Hakon takes a deep breath. You have been pressing him hard to take an unambiguous position on the matter, one that might change everything for him. In addition, you know next to nothing about him, his obligations or his history, yet you are asking him to risk everything, potentially putting his life, as well as the lives of his loved ones, on the line. After considering his reply carefully, he answers: “Yes. People should be free-but not free from this earthly domain. I’d rather see them as slaves than as corpses…” He explains: “Same goes for me, and if you call this cowardice, then so be it. I know that I have no chance in standing against you. I’d follow you, albeit reluctantly, on this mad journey of yours… But listen, Malcom: you are a good man. You proved that yesterday. Let me walk and I swear that I will not betray you. You believe in freedom: prove it, then. Let me go.”
The three remaining soldiers outside are starting to get impatient. One of them knocks loudly on the door, shouting: “Is everything fine in there, sir?” You are running out of time. You must act now, unless you want the rest of the guards to enter the tavern.
The little girl says that she is called Sarah. For lack of a better option, she agrees to follow you to Ulf’s tavern. Along the way, she asks you if you know where Vedrick was taken.
You eventually reach the Broken Tooth, where Ulf is not all too happy to see you: “Oh, no, no, no… This is not an orphanage, Ma’am! I have taken in your friends; I have agreed to provide food and shelter to all three of you, despite the fact that your husband and his bodyguard are wanted by the law. But I will not turn my tavern into an almshouse for homeless children, no matter how cute and wide-eyed they are”, he says, looking at Sarah. “Besides, I am expecting customers tonight. The Broken Tooth is no place for a child after nightfall.”
You look around the tavern, but neither Jules nor Caithas are there.
Caithas and Jules
The thug seizes the opportunity to take a thrust at Jules, as the latter tries to escape. Letting his guard down, Jules is easy prey to the thug’s blade, which buries itself deep in Jules’ liver. The young noble feels the excrutiating pain as air enters the wound. He looses his conciousness instantly, collapsing to the ground.
[OOC: Ross, that was a crit (see next roll). Shit, that was prophetic! Jules is now at -3 hp and dying.]
Enraged, Caithas lands the finishing blow to the thug, who collapses in a pool of blood. Aside from the thug’s deathscreams, he can also hear the thug leader’s footsteps as he runs away.
[OOC: And thus combat ends…]
Critical confirmation – (1d20+4)23 , Damage – (1d4+3)5
“Hakon, I won’t force you to follow me. I only ask that you don’t harm any innocents, and I’d much appreciate if you didn’t betray me. Look, we’re out of time. I’m not sure what to do about this woman… I guess we look for her or I flee because Quintus already sees me as guilty.” He shrugged, “I’m sorry for having you drug into all this.”
Hakon looks at you gratefully: “If you want to go, I can cover for you. You saved my life yesterday-I owe you a favor. Do you have a plan?”
For a moment, just a moment…Caithas considered running and never looking back. For just a moment.
“Gods in heaven, Jules!” The ranger looks wide-eyed at his friend. Frantic, he drops his swords, fumbles in his bag, and grabs the potion vials that he’d found next to the cleric’s body.
“Here, drink!” Caithas cradles Jules’ head and pours the two Potions of Cure down the nobleman’s throat. And for the first time in a very long time, the ranger prayed…prayed to Griygon…prayed for his friend.
Cure – (1d8+1)8
Cure – (1d8+1)6
(OOC: If a Heal check is needed, it is a +5 modifier.)
It didn’t hurt as much as Jules had thought it would. He couldn’t tell if the thug was quick or if he was just too obvious in his movements, but either way the damage was done. His skin didn’t offer nearly as much resistance as he had thought, no hoped, it would. Wax seals gave more resistance to a knife than his skin did at that moment. He crumpled to his knees, his hands instinctively reaching to the wound, still not feeling any pain, only a stunned surprise.
What ze…oh gods…a drug dealing piece of shit in some…scummy back alley…is zis really how it ends? At least it doesn’t hurt, oh hells, zat would be terrible…Maybe…it isn’t zat bad…nope, my knees are going…it is zat bad…fuck. Maybe if Ah’m lucky Ah’ll black out before ze pain starts.
As he finally collapses face first into the ground, his body begins to burn with the sting of the weapon, the worst pain he has ever felt, pushing him towards uncosciousness. His last thought before hitting the ground, Maybe Ah’ll die before ze pain gets worse, Caithas, do something, he finally slips into unconsciousness, his mouth agape in a silent gesture of pain and confusion.
The first thing Jules notices upon waking is a repulsive taste, as if someone had let a cup of milk go sour in his mouth. He coughs up some of the disgusting liquid, before opening his eyes, seeing Caithas looking down at him, his face in anguish.
“Stop looking so grim, you aren’t ze one who had to drink zat shit…thank you.”
The pain of speaking is enough that when he finally finishes he closes his eyes, falling once more into unconsciousness. The exhaustion and pain of his injury taking everything out of him for the time being.
[OOC: I’d like to rp this as a more realistic effect to some degree, not that the wound hasn’t healed necessarily, but more so that for the time being Jules is still in a great amount of pain and can’t exactly handle it considering it isn’t something he’s used to. As opposed to the drink two health potions back up and fighting in 30 seconds mentality.]
[OOC: Man, I saved your life and spent my only two potions on you. I saved your ass…it better hurt a little. haha.]
Caithas breathes a sigh of relief, but tries to mask it with a huff as he watches the nobleman drift out of consciousness, and then a few moments later, open his eyes once more. He looked weak and he looked like he was in pain, but by the gods, the nobleman was going to live.
The truth was, the half-elf had hoped the potions were as curative as the one he’d given Malcom, but he couldn’t entirely be sure. Seeing Jules awake and not foaming at the mouth was a vast improvement over what alternatives exist. The ranger smiled, broadly, laughing a chuckle to himself.
“I’m glad you’re alive, you dumb bastard. Sir. But no offense intended, Jules, but you hired me to do a job, remember? You’re the brains, not the maniac who jumps on a fucking roof. Use your head, man. Sir. Whatever. Dammit, I’m glad you’re not dead…,” Caithas sighs as he trails off, grinning at the Lord before him.
“I’m very glad you’re not dead, my friend. And, yes, my lord too, dammit. But let me protect you; let me do my job so that you can win a rebellion to your side. Trust me to do my job. I know you’re fast and can kill when the moment comes, but strike in secret if you must. Let my two blades fly towards the bastard while you stab him in the back. That’s how we intimidate the bastards.”
Caithas held out his hand to Jules.
“Come, my lord, you’ll need to rest after that; no man can recover a wound like that without pain, and you are not the man to break that rule. Let us check these fools for any valuables, though. Perhaps knowledge…perhaps coins. Either way, it’s a shame to let it all go to waste…let’s see what we can find and get back to the damned tavern. Your wife is probably waiting. Sir.”
[OOC: Perception +4, if that’s the right Pathfinder skill for “Search”.]
“Ulf, this is Sarah,” Elana said pleasantly, ignoring the barkeep’s protests. “Sarah this generous man is Ulf. Here, carry your things to the basement for now, sweetie.” She waits until the girl is out of sight. “I know, I know, Ulf. I’m sorry, this keeps getting worse, but her care taker was arrested by the guards today and she has no where else to go. She can stay in the basement with me and help you out in the back. She’s a smart girl, she can read and knows numbers. You could have her help in the kitchen, or count coins. Please; she may not even be here that long, if the guards release her keeper soon.”
[OOC: If needed: Diplomacy – (1d20+8)17 ]
[OOC: Assuming Ulf caves in.]
“Speaking of Jules and Caithas, have you seen them since this morning?”
“My plan was to uh… ‘deal’ with the men after splitting them up. I don’t believe delivering her is a good idea. Quintus is likely to say she’s guilty and imprison her.” he paused for a moment thinking, “But I’d have to blame their deaths on the rebels if I wanted to stay as an informant. My suggestion is, when we have an available moment we take care of the men and you report back saying we were ambushed and I was killed with the other men.” his expression changed into sadness, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I have little choice at this point.”
“I will not shed blood for you or for anyone”, replies Hakon, “but I will vouch for your loyalty. I would urge you to reconsider your plan. The odds are against you. I hope you have better friends among the rebels than within the guard.”
[OOC: You can still try to take them out. Hakon claims that he will remain neutral, neither helping you not the three of the soldiers. Or you can talk to Longinus and try to arrange something. Or you just return to the barracks, with or without Elana. Your call. One more post before the three soldiers barge in, as they are getting suspicious.]
“One day,” says Ulf, “and that’s it. She is your problem, and I will not be held responsible if anything happens to her. Jules and the half-elf are out; he mentioned something about an appointment. They left about an hour ago.”
Jules and Caithas
Caithas searches the bodies of the two thugs, finding nothing noteworthy. The drug-dealer is wearing a pickpocket’s outfit. Inside the outfit’s many pockets, you can find a dagger and one dose of aether and opium. The former is contained in a glass vial, while the latter is in a small, ornate silver box. The thug is wearing a cloak and a ragged, grey outfit below a suit of masterwork studded leather armor. You can also find a few coins between the two of them:
Gold – (2d10)8
As you search the thug’s body, you realize that he is still breathing, but only barely. At the same time, Jules is looking better, although he is still only semi-conscious and somewhat delirious. He cannot yet stand to his feet-Caithas will either have to wait, or help him return to Ulf’s tavern.
[Ross, I think it’s a great idea to RP Jules being incapacitated, so please go ahead and do as you please.]
“Alright Hakon. We will continue to look for her. I won’t shed blood this day. But know that she is innocent.” he gathered himself up and said “Don’t worry, I have many friends, on both sides of this accursed thing.” before giving a light smile and leaving out the front door.
“You.” he said to the guard out front, “Don’t get impatient or you might scare her off. The tavern keeper says he saw her here the other day but hasn’t seen her since. We’re going to check the market and another pub afterwards. Go get the men from behind the bar. On the double. Move it.”
Caithas grabs the eight gold coins and pockets them. He hesitates a moment and grabs the small silver box containing the opium, for the silver, not the drug. Swearing lightly, he noticed the thug was still breathing. Dammit, the ranger thought. Quickly, he drew his sword across the man’s throat. For Jules, you bastard.
“Come on, sir; I’ve got you.” The ranger bends down and carries, as best he can, his lord and friend.
(OOC: Strength check +3 to carry Jules back to the tavern, taking back alleys whenever possible to avoid prying eyes.)
Caithas, Jules and Elana
Caithas takes the nobleman’s arm, puts it over his shoulder and, helping Jules stand up, he starts carrying him towards Ulf’s tavern, leaving the dead bandits behind. As you walk through the crowded streets, you attract some unwanted stares, but death and injury are not uncommon in these parts of the city. The people ignore you, since the fate of a pair of beggars, injured or otherwise, is of no interest to them.
As you reach the tavern and open the door, you first see Ulf, who just says: “Shit!” as you enter. Elana is also there, with a small child sitting beside her.
Upon hearing that Elana was not in the Drunken Townsman, the soldier whispers in frustration, mostly to himself: “Then what took you so long?” Reluctantly, he goes to fetch the rest of the men, before you start heading towards the market.
[OOC: @ Malcom: If you go towards the public forum, you arrive just after the senator’s talk, which was previously witnessed by the rest of the party. The military have left for lower Andelia, and Elana is nowhere to be seen. Let me know what you want to do-do you want to head to Ulf’s tavern, head back to Quintus empty-handed, or try something else? @ everyone: sorry for the brief posts, I was also a bit busy with recruiment and Malcom’s character modifications.]
The path back to the tavern was an uncomfortable one to say the least. Jules was only ever half-conscious at any given time on the way back, every time he opened his eyes a crack his vision blurred before quickly going back to sleep. Even with the blurred vision and the strange noises, his mind unable to focus, it was still preferable to the brief dreams he was having in the meantime.
A battlefield, his army of hundreds fighting down an army of thousands, and every time they managed to push a step forward, a group of soldiers abandoned him, turning and cutting him as they left, until only he was left standing. Very briefly, before falling to his wounds.
The return to the tavern is a welcome to him, he doesn’t know where he is, but he recognized the people, some of them at least. He wakes into his semi-lucid state briefly, only knowing that the people are familiar, his weakened mind trying to fill in the blanks.
“Dunia, please don’t let our daughter see me like zis.” he slurs his words as if drunk before once more yielding his eyelids to sleep.
Elana was studying the book on magic, while Sarah practiced her letters, when Caithas half dragged, half carried Jules in. His rags were slashed on one side and were stained with a wide circle of blood. “Gods, what happened?” Elana swore, helping Caithas lower the wounded man on the cot. A quick glance at the wound showed only a reddish pink coloring of skin where the blade had gone through; magic had healed his wound. She gave a sigh of relief.
The girl in the corner was watching, wide eyed. Elana said, “Sarah, fetch us some water, please.” Giving the girl something to do would keep her at ease. Jules murmured unintelligibly before drifting to sleep. She turned to Caithas, expecting to hear something about a run in with soldiers.
“Your man had a run-in with a blade,” Caithas muttered as he laid the nobleman down. “But he is fine, or rather, he will be. I gave him some healing potions I lucked upon after the battle in the square; the potions are gone, but thanks to them, Sir Amour is not.”
The half-elf slumped down against the far wall, taking a long drink from a flask, and sighed. Nodding towards the stairs, he turns to Elana and asks, “So who’s the kid, Lady Sava – er – Amour? And where is our fearless captain of the guards? It seems I missed some things while I was saving your husband’s life.”
A run-in with a blade. “That much I pieced together. And please, just call me Elana.” Technically, she wasn’t an Amour yet; their ‘marriage’ had yet to be consummated. “Thank you for saving Jules. I’ll see about repaying you for the potions.” Her tone and relationship with these two men was caught somewhere between a polite at-court attitude and casual, which reflected her feelings of them; they were known and yet still strangers, not to be trusted completely. But they were good men, she knew.
“This,” she gestured towards the girl. “Is Sarah. Her care taker was taken in by the guards for questioning, and I couldn’t just leave her alone. So she’ll be staying here, if only for a short while.” Remembering that the arcane tome was left open on the table, Elana discreetly slipped it in among the pile of other books, which she set aside, pretending to tidy up. “Excuse the mess. These quarters will be cramped if we take on another refugee. As for Malcom, I haven’t seen or heard from him since this morning, though I imagine he’s busy with . . . his duties.” She stole a glance at the girl, who was setting a cup of water beside Jules’ bed. It’d be best if she knew as little as possible of the rebellion.
Malcom and his men searched the square for the greater portion of half an hour before grouping together, “Keep scouring the square if she’s still in town someone must have seen her. Me, Hakon, and…” he looked at one of the soldiers assigned to him, he didn’t know, nor did he recall the mans name, “And you. Come with me. We’ll go check the other bar. If we can’t find her there… then we’ll report back to Quintus.”
With a soft chuckle, Caithas said, “Very well, then. Elana it is. It seems both of us were in the saving mood today. Lucky us.”
Nodding towards the scared child, Caithas smiles broadly, “Worry not, child. You’re as safe here as anywhere in this mad city.”
At least I hope we are, the half-elf silently prayed, taking another long pull from his flask and keeping an eye on the staircase for anymore surprises.
Jules, Caithas and Elana
Everyone springs into action to tend to Jules’ wounds, but first, Ulf suggests carrying the barely conscious man to the basement, where he can lay on one of the mattresses. Caithas and Ulf help the young man to his feet, cautiously carrying him downstairs, as the little girl prepares a big bowl of hot water to tend to the wound. As Ulf leaves you, Caithas has a chance to take a closer look at the cut: most of the blood has dried out already, suggesting that the potions are accelerating the healing process. With caution, he removes the blood-stained rags that are glued to Jules’ skin, because of all the coagulated blood. Ulf soon returns with a bottle of a viscous green liquid smelling strongly of ethanol. It is absinth of the strongest kind. He offers Jules a gulp, before pouring the rest of the liquid directly onto the wound. Unconscious or not, Jules feels the sting of ethanol piercing through his entire body.
Sarah arrives shortly thereafter, bearing a bowl of steaming water. Inside the bowl, there is a needle, plenty of thread and a pair of scissors. Ulf takes the bowl, offering it to Elana and adding: “How good are you at sewing? I can cauterize the wound, but it aint’t gonna be pretty, and it will leave a nasty scar.”
[OOC: Okay, not much advancement of the plot, but I guess we should wait for Malcom, plus I enjoy role-playing these near-death experiences more realistically, despite the fact that the potions already healed Jules.]
You wander aimlessly through the forum area, searching for Elana in vain. You can feel that the people are upset, frustrated at what they’ve just heard from the senator, but other than whispered discussions, not much is taking place. However, you get a feeling that you are being watched, although the big crowd prevents you from checking if anyone is following you.
You order two of the soldiers to depart, but instead of following your command, one of them replies arrogantly: “Sorry, sir, can’t do that. Our orders were to follow you until we achieve our objective, or to return together to the barracks.” With little choice, you press on to Ulf’s tavern, praying that Jules and Caithas will not be there. Just a few hundred yards before the Broken Tooth though, a group of three men appears, blocking your path.
“What do we have ’ere?”, says one of the men, as he approaches you. “A bunch of loyalist scum, looking for a tavern to get drunk and brothel to rent cheap whores? What do you say, boys? Should we let ’em pass?” You recognize Decius, wearing the tattered clothes that he had on when he arrived in Andelia, after escaping from Holgrath. You thank Matthias, but your problems are far from over. It doesn’t take a genius to guess how things are most likely to evolve, but this is probably the only chance you’ll get.
[OOC: So you can either attack Decius or your own men, or if you can figure out a non-violent resolution, you can give it a shot. I will be using your stats as an inquisitor for this fight, but I will limit spellcasting unless something extremely dramatic happens.]
[OOC: I assume the sewing won’t require an actual Healing roll.]
Elana took the needle hesitantly; growing up as a noblewoman, stitching was a way to pass time creatively, so she had the practice. She wasn’t the best with a needle, but the gash was clean and straight, simple enough for a novice to piece together. It’s just like sewing up a tear in a dress. Except it’s skin. And blood. A fleshy dress. Taking a deep breath, Elana went to work, hoping that her doubts wouldn’t show.
By the gods, she’s fucking tough, the half-elf silently praised, watching the noblewoman take up the needle bravely. Nonetheless, Caithas reaches out for the needle and looks at Elana and her slightly-unsteady hands.
“I mean no disrespect, Lady…Elana. But I have sewn wounded, drunken, violent men since I was old enough to thread an eye. My father and his friends always seemed to be bleeding from something, and I was the only one sober enough to stitch ’em up. Likely because I was six. But I digress,” the half-elf continues with a grim smile, bending over Jules. “This man is your husband; allow me, please. Some things a wife should not have to do…”
Trailing off, the ranger got to work, his eyes never leaving the nobleman’s gore-soaked side until the job was finished.
(OOC: Heal check +7, including the Healer’s kit bonus.)
Once finished with the wound, Caithas stood up and cracked his back, stretching.
“It’s not my best work, but he’ll live, so it’ll do. The scar might make him even more desirable, eh?” The question is directed at Elana, but where mirth should be heard, only bitterness echoed. Clearing his throat, Caithas said quickly, “I need some air; this goddamn basement makes me claustrophobic…no offense meant, Ulf.”
Donning his rags over his armor and weapons, the ranger climbs the stairs and steps outside the tavern to breath air that was not contaminated with blood, sweat and regret. He looks off in the distance and sees two small groups of men, seemingly in an altercation. Moving closer, sticking to the shadows, the ranger catches sight of a familiar face and breaths in sharply. Malcom? He continued to slink closer, hoping to ascertain the situation.
(OOC: Stealth check +7)
Malcom looked at the three men standing before him, and then the four standing around him, “You seem so sure of your self rebel trash, give me a good reason not to arrest you now.” He looked around and saw some other people about, “Or maybe you’d like to go some place where there’s no-one around to watch what happens to you?” he tried to put on a sinister grin for added effect, but he new it must look decently fake. The expression did not suit his face well. When will this charade end? Why not just stab one of them in the back and even the odds? Hakon wouldn’t fight on either side, or he’d lean towards mine if he did. He cleared the thought from his mind, No, that’d be senseless and do more harm than help. I don’t need my face plastered on posters…
Your suggestion is not well-taken by one of the soldiers; he is the same who defied you about an hour earlier at the tavern [OOC: Guard 1 in the map]. “You can’t be serious”, he says in disregard, as he unsheathes his blade. The rest of the guards, along with Hakon, join him. Turning to the thugs, the guard explains: “You are in luck, we have bigger fish to catch. Drop your weapons and we’ll forget any of this ever happened.” Decius and the two cloaked figures behind him seem to hesitate, but they decide to hold their ground. The air is tense-neither side is willing to jump on the attack, but you have only moments before they collide.
[OOC: You can try to say something, but you are running out of options. Combat might still be avoidable, but you will have to come up with something really extraordinary. If you have a good idea, I will not penalize you heavily for lack of diplomacy ranks etc.]
Caithas Initiative – (1d20+2)21
Malcom Initiative – (1d20)12 [OOC: Character Sheet says 5)11
Rebel-Thug 1 Initiative – (1d20+2)14
Rebel-Thug 2 Initiative – (1d20+4)5
Hakon Initiative – (1d20)3
Guard 1 Initiative – (1d20+1)3
Guard 2 Initiative – (1d20+1)4
Guard 3 Initiative – (1d20+1)2
Watching from the shadows, Caithas recognizes Malcom, but the rest of the figures are less familiar to him. Concealed behind a small wall, he is in an advantageous position, but he is not entirely sure of what is going on. He can hear that there is some argument, which is likely to end up badly, but he has no idea of what to make of it. However, judging from the appearance of the thugs and the soldiers behind Malcom, it seems that the corporal has chanced upon some thieves or crooks and he is about to make an arrest.
Combat map (surprise round), if applicable
[OOC: I will roll an Intelligence check for you in the OOC thread, to see if you can realize what is going on. After Malcom says what he has to say, you can decide if you want to attack, but depending on the intelligence check result, you might not know who is the enemy, so please role-play accordingly. You are the only one who can act in the surprise round, and you can follow up with another action, because you rolled the highest initiative. I will attach a small map since you do not have access to Pyromancers’ website (check the OOC thread). @ Malcom: Remember, you don’t know that Caithas is there, so role-play accordingly.]
Jules and Elana
Elana, having stiched up Jules’ wound with a little help from Caithas towards the end, leaves the basement and goes upstairs to wash her hands. Ulf is there, trying to wash off the blood from his clothes, when something from outside the window catches his attention. Elana moves in to check. She sees two groups of people standing against each other. The larger group consists of armored men bearing unsheathed swords, while the smaller group contains three individuals that seem to be thugs.
In the basement, Jules is beginning to recover, although he is still feeling a bit woozy.
[OOC: Ross, if you want, you can start RPing Jules again.]
“Damnit all… Well, It had to happen sooner or later.” Malcom drew his sword and shield, but they both felt foreign within his hands. They longed for the glaive which was not to far off. “I didn’t want this.” he said as he took a few steps backwards. Standing beside the men who were so eager to fight.
[[Not sure if its considered combat yet… but if it hasn’t started yet then i’d like to use Judgement Justice, +1 to attack rolls; If he can, then use flavor text below]]
Malcom muttered to himself under his breath, “May my blade be steady, and let my Judgement bring Justice to the wicked.” He was surprised at his words at first… then he realized that his words were not just his own…
[[Move east 1, Delay until the three soldiers are engaged in combat. Malcom will attack the last soldier to proc an AOO if there is one.]]
[[Yeah, sorry about that! That’s left over from my Fighter stats. At level 2 however, my WIS mod gets added to initiative, when we get there.]]
Caithas senses that he can get the jump on the situation…but what the hell is the situation? The ranger could see Malcom clearly, but the thugs’ backs were turned to him. He could have sworn the thug in the center reminded him of someone…but it must have just been folly. Who could he possibly know in this city? Unless…unless he was the bastard who trapped and ran from Jules earlier? Could it be? There was only one way to find out.
The half-elf kept to the shadows, inching closer. He knew that Malcom and the other soldiers would see him soon, but he hoped that with his friend’s help muddling the situation, along with the shadows and his rags, the other soldiers would not recognize him from the posters. And if they did?
I’ll jump off that tower when the time comes, the ranger thought.
He inched another fifteen feet closer to the gathering, as close as he dared to go without being seen, and listened intently, hoping to catch word of just what exactly was happening in front of him.
(OOC: Caithas’ surprise round done, with the fifteen foot advancement, and will pass his actual turn until the end of round 1, giving himself the lowest initiative but still able to act before round 2, if things become clearer in the situation. http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6454)
Jules wakes finally, fully conscious and aware for the first time since the actual attack. The original pain has subsided, but the dull beat of pain from the wound keeps him from moving too much. Looking around he worries for a moment that he’s been taken captive by the drug dealer, before remembering Ulf’s basement and calming down.
“Caithas, Elana, Ulf…” he calls out trying to see if anyone is nearby. Hearing nothing in response he props himself up and waits for his head to stop spinning. Upon a closer inspection of the room Jules notices another person with him, a small child. Damn, have we already started recruiting children into zis rebellion?
“Hello young lady, Ah don’t believe we have met, my name is Jules Aime Amour, Heir to ze Lordship of Lineen and if today is any indication, professional pincushion.”
As Jules finishes speaking, the room spins slightly and he lies back down, noticing the stitching on his side. “Did Elana do zis?” he asks the girl, pointing at his side.
Pausing at the window, Elana watches the group of imperials head for the Broken Tooth til three vagabonds intercept them. The confrontation escalates as one of the lead imperials draws a blade. It strikes her then that the imperials may well have been heading to the Broken Tooth in search of her and the others. She scans the tavern for Caithas, but the half-elf is no where to be seen. “Ulf! Have you seen Caithas?” she asked. The bartender nods at the door, indicating that he’d left through there. She pads over to him and whispers, “Ulf, there’s some imperials outside. It looks like they’re about to get in a fight with some men, but I think they’re heading here to look for us. If they get in, distract them; I’m going to get Jules out through the back.”
She hurries downstairs to find Jules struggling to sit up. “Thank the gods you’re awake,” Elana said, helping the man to his feet. “Imperials are outside being held up by some thugs, but I think they’re planning on searching the tavern for us.” She slid an arm around him, helping him bear his weight til he felt strong enough to walk on his own. “We need to get out the back way, just until they’re gone. Caithas is out in the streets somewhere, but I don’t know where exactly.”
She stopped just long enough to grab her crossbow satchel. “Sarah, stay here with Ulf. The imperials aren’t looking for you. We’ll be back soon.”
As Elana rushes into the basement Jules is about to speak, but finds himself unable to as he is hoisted to his feet by the woman. A muffled grunt of pain escapes his lips before he is able to speak.
“Alright, alright…Sara, hide ze water and ze needle, don’t let zem see zat zer was blood here. If zey ask you anything, say zat you don’t know us.”
As Elana helps him move out the back of the tavern, Jules looks around, making sure that prying eyes don’t see them leave.
[OOC: Perception check (+3) to see if anyone notices us leave out the back.]
Malcom and Caithas
Swiftly seizing the opportunity, the thugs move into position, attempting to gang up on one of the guards. Their steel flashes as it is brought down upon the guards with fury, but this time the soldiers are expecting a fight and they are not surprised. The thugs’ swords are met with the emblem-bearing shields of the guards, harmlessly deflecting the strikes away. Decius’ attack also fails to pass through the guard’s thick chainmail armor.
The guards are slow to react, encumbered by their equipment, but when they do attack, their strikes are well-placed and deadly. Three of them manage to circle one of the thugs; he hardly stands a chance when they attack him in unison. You can see that the cloaked man is staggered, but somehow he manages to stand his ground, despite the fact that he has sustained massive injuries.
The new recruit, Hakon, drops his weapon and shield as soon as the two sides collide, running away from the scene as fast as his legs can carry him. Malcom also steps aside; the guards hardly notice anything with all the mayhem. Seeing an opening, Malcom takes advantage of the opportunity, attempting to thrust his blade against one of the guards, but strangely enough, the sword seems heavy and imbalanced in his hands. He misses the guard completely. The guard looks at Malcom furiously as he prepares to engage him.
Attack, Thug 2 – (1d20+3)12 , Damage – (1d8+3)5
Attack, Thug 1 – (1d20+4)14 , Damage – (1d8+2)5
Attack, Decius – (1d20+5)9 , Damage – (1d6+2)5
Attack, Guard 1 – (1d20+3)13 , Damage – (1d8+2)8
Attack, Guard 2 – (1d20+3)23 , Damage – (1d8+2)7
Attack, Guard 3 – (1d20+3)23 , Damage – (1d8+2)3
Attack, Malcom – (1d20)1 , Damage – (1d8+3)9 (+1 judgement, +0 BAB, +3 Str, -4 lack of proficiency, Initiative lowered to 4, no AOO provoked)
Round 2 [OOC: Caithas’ turn; his initiative is reduced to 2 because he delayed his actions.]
Elana and Jules
While there is no back door exit in Ulf’s tavern, he is quick to indicate a window that is large enough for you to make your escape. He quickly retreats to the basement to check on Sarah, leaving the two of you to escape. Although Jules’ current situation is making the escape a bit difficult, you finally manage to exit the tavern. As you find yourself in a narrow, moderately frequented street, Jules has a chance to survey his surroundings. There are several people going about their everyday activities, and many of them are staring at the half-naked, freshly sown-up noble with the beautiful redhead that is struggling to support his weight. Luckily, Jules’ face is still covered by fake facial hair and his real hair is greased up and covered in dust, since he took great pains to conceal his identity this morning. It does not seem that anyone else, other than plain commonfolk, have noticed the couple’s presence and, even if they did, they would be probably unable to recognize Jules as a wanted criminal.
Crit confirmation, Guard 2 – (1d20+3)19 , Damage – (1d8+2)3
Crit confirmation, Guard 3 – (1d20+3)16 , Damage – (1d8+2)9
Caithas curses to himself as the scene unfolds. Now?! Fucking, now? Now he wants to attack the damned guards? Gods save me, the ranger thinks as he launches himself at the guard that Malcom attacked. Caithas ran towards the first guard, near Decius, trusting Malcom to take care of himself. He raised his scimitar.
Attack – (1d20+6)18
Damage – (1d6+5)10
He brought it down.
(OOC: End of Caithas’ roll: http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6658 )
Caithas’ blade strikes true; the blow fells the guard, who drops to his knees, incapacitated. The blood-stained scimitar dances in the air, looking for its next victim.
One of the thugs takes a step towards the guard that just injured his friend, swinging his longsword against him. The blow is poorly executed, allowing the guard to easily dodge it.
Decius rushes to his friend’s side, attempting to take out the guard that is standing against Malcom. The guard blocks the sword with his shield again, as he prepares to counterattack.
Finally, the injured thug moves back carefully, before swinging his weapon against his enemy in retribution. To his surprise, the guard immediatelly responds, taking a step forward to close the distance. The sword slashes his forearm, but he hardly takes notice.
Round 2, Malcom
[OOC: Malcom’s turn.]
Malcom stepped aside again, trapping the guard between him and Decius. As he moved the blade flailed in his arm, Damn, this is no good… Have to try something else… He discarded his sword and released a dagger into his hand, he stepped up behind the guard as he readied to strike Decius and Jabbed at the mans back. He had much more control over the smaller blade than the larger one and he managed to strike his target…. but to what end he wasn’t immediately sure of.
[[Movement; 5ft NORTH xD]]
[[Attack Roll – (1d20+6)15 3)4 ]]]
[[End Malcom’s turn 2 http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6709 ]]
Seeing the tide turning, Caithas circled around the rebels and attacked the guard who was still standing, eyes flashing.
Attack – (1d20+6)19
Damage – (1d6+5)7
(OOC: Caithas’ turn two done: http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6710 )
[OOC: Actually, Caithas delayed his action until the guards would attack, which means that he gets to act last.]
Malcom’s dagger fails to penetrate the guard’s armor. The remaining two guards press on with their attacks.
Hakon continues running away, as Caithas moves towards Malcom, in an effort to provide some support. His attack succeeds, but the guard, despite his injury, stays in the fight.
Critical confirmation – (1d20+3)6 , Damage – (1d8+2)9
The injured thug falls to the guard’s attack; his brothers, seeing their comrade being cut down, focus their attacks against the soldier.
While the thug is successful in slaying one of the guards, Decius’ strike is blocked again.
Malcom side-stepped for a final time and grasped the man by his shoulder, thrusting the dagger into his back. This time he can feel the blade catch on his mail… and then break through it. He pulls the blade out of the guard and readies his shield for a retort.
[[ http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma…?round_id=6774 ]]
Malcom successfully backstabs the remaining guard, who screams in pain and agony before closing his eyes. When Malcom retrieves his instrument of murder, the guard collapses to the ground like a sack of stones, as whatever life force remaining in his body starts to quickly abandon him.
Decius briefly asks Maclom if he is alright, before kneeling over his fallen comrade and removing his hood. Malcom recognizes Ovidius, although Caithas is only vaguely familiar with the old veteran [OOC: Caithas, you have to succeed at a DC 5 Int check to recall correctly who Ovidius is]. The remaining thug has no time to remove his hood, as he quickly checks Ovidius’ pulse. With relief, he states that Ovidius is not dead yet, although his comrade’s life is rapidly slipping away from him.
Hakon can be seen running away from the scene of slaughter, taking no pause to look back. His intentions and motives cannot be guessed, but Malcom hopes that he can trust the boy with his secret [OOC: You can always attempt to chase him, otherwise he will keep on running.]
The fight was brief and brutal; the four fallen men and the blood that stains the snow can attest to this. The three broken bodies of the guards are strewn across the snow, either dead or dying [OOC: You can check, heal or finish them off.] Luckily, the scene has not attracted any by-standers. But the clash of steel on iron and wood was reverberating throughout this district during the fight; coupled with the last guard’s death scream, is is reasonable to assume that the scene is about to be visited by many curious individuals. Even worse, if there are Imperial forces around, they are likely to investigate the sounds. You must act swiftly and with intelligence, lest you be caught [OOC: I will assume an arbitrary number of posts per PC, which I will keep a secret, before the scene attracts attention.]
A few meters away from the tavern, Elana and Jules can clearly hear the sounds of the battle and the final scream, before everything (including the commonfolk around them) goes ominously silent. They must decide where to go to and what to do next. [OOC: Assume no knowledge of what has just occurred when role-playing your PCs.]
[OOC to all: I will resume with the story as soon as everyone posts their character’s actions.]
Malcom looked at Hakon as he fled, “I’m not sure if he’s a coward, or a far more honorable person than I. Regardless, I doubt he’d betray me. Even if he does that’s irrelevant.” he then looks and assesses the situation as best as he could. Some other man joined the fight, but Malcom paid little attention to him, he wasn’t hurt after all. “There’s a friendly tavern nearby. We can hide there. Until this blows over. In there we can hide in the basement and should any guards come for questioning… we’ll worry about that when it happens.” he let out a heavy sigh as he looked at the bodies and the downed Ovidius, “What were you guys doing picking a fight with the guards? You’re lucky I as part of the group and that Hakon fled…” he looked over to Caithas, “And that our friend here decided to join in as well.” he dropped to his knees beside Ovidius, “Here, give me a hand bandaging him, we won’t have much time before this scene is revealed to all.” He pointed to the other standing thug and Caithas, “Grab… Grab whatever you can from them. The more arms we have the better. Leave the armor, it’ll take too long, and we cant drag the bodies.” he worked quick, cutting cloth from the dead soldier’s cape beside him. “Come on brother, you’ll be fine, I promise, just stay with us.”
[[Heal Check +2 and Stabilize Orison]]
Caithas reacts quickly, as the body hits the stones.
“We won’t go unnoticed for long. We need to check these bodies, finish any breathing ones, and be off. But first, your comrade here.”
Caithas reaches into his bag, grabs his Healer’s kit, and sets out saving the poor bastard’s life. If there was any life to save. He prayed to whoever was listening that the city’s eyes would stay turned away long enough to let them out of this.
Later, he would consider the amount of blood on his blade; for now, there was a job to do.
(OOC: Heal check +7 and Perception/Search +3 for living guards and any loot worth taking.)
The sound of fighting had finally ended. But who won? If the imperials had cut down those men, they’d be crawling over the area like ants. Elana left Jules leaning against the back wall of the Broken Tooth to investigate. Drawing up her hood, she carefully edged around the side of the tavern, poking her head around the corner to see who was left standing. She spied three, maybe four, bodies on the ground, most of them soldiers. The other men were still alive, though one imperial was with them, oddly enough. Caithas was there too, she saw, tending to one of the wounded men. She breathed a sigh of relief; if Caithas was there then the men were friendly, or at least not hostile.
She quickly fetched Jules and brought him limping to the others. As she drew near she recognized the imperial soldier. “Malcom! We were wondering where you’ve been,” she said as they reached the scene of the battle. Caithas was trying to resuscitate one of the fallen men, who must’ve been a rebel. The crowd around the area had dispersed, though no doubt word of the fight would spread quickly. “We’re not safe here anymore.” With the tavern being a stone throw away from the dead imperials, the city guards would be all over it. We need to get out of here and quick, but to where? A thought occurred to her. “What about the estate? It may still be in ruins, but it might be a safe enough place to hide out for now.”
Caithas glances at Elana approaching, and feels relief, surprisingly, knowing that her appearance must mean that Jules lived.
Hearing her words, he nods in agreement as he finishes with the wounded and searches the remaining bodies.
“The Lady is right. We make for the estate, leaving Ulf blameless when the soldiers inevitably come to investigate. We must hurry.”
Malcom looked at Jules and Elana as they arrived, seeing what state Jules was in, Malcom prompted “By the gods, what happened?” He shook his head, “Doesn’t matter. The estate might be a better idea than just bunkering down here and hoping no one finds us. But they might think to search there for you… I’ve got bad news for you and me unfortunately. I see your hands are full, let me get my things from inside and I’ll help you.” he looked down at the fallen man, “Someone will have to carry him.” His gaze then looked to the downed soldiers, “We… we will have to finish them off. They’ve seen my face and as long as they can draw breath they’ll speak of my betrayal.” He stood and dashed inside the bar for his weapon. It called to him from the basement… he couldn’t wait to have his hands on it. And he swore he’d never part ways with it again.
Malcom’s right, the half-elf thought.
Without a word, Caithas slit the throats of the still-breathing soldiers. He then helped lift the wounded rebel and used his shoulder to prop the man up and help him along. How many times will I have to drag half-dead men today, he wondered, eyes darting to the alleyways, looking for signs of intrusion.
(OOC: To help carry the wounded rebel, Strength check +3)
As Jules is walked to the group, he hears their plan, to head back to the estate. It wasn’t the best place to hide, it was owned in Elana’s name, and guards had seen the group there before. They could very well have men stationed there if they tried to return. Not to mention there was no way the guards won’t arrest Ulf when they find out what happened.
“Hells, Caithas, of course Ulf will be blamed for zis! He’ll be arrested and dragged in for questioning or worse, and gods only know what will happen if zat little girl says she helped us. We need to warn zem, and zen we need to get out of ze area as quickly as possible. Ah don’t think ze estate is a good idea either, guards have already seen us at ze estate, and if zey are looking for you and me, zen zey might be looking for Elana as well. We need to leave now, but we can’t just walk into ze estate without being sure zey aren’t waiting for us.”
Elana turned her head away as Caithas finishes off the wounded men. The smell of so much blood churned her insides, and the faint gurgling noises did little to help. Jules had a point; the estate was connected to her, and they may well search it. But where else do we go? Her thoughts turned to Ulf and Sarah. Now they were at risk because of them. I’ve dragged people into my problems again. Ulf may be able to take care of himself, but Sarah . . . We can’t just flee the authorities with a girl. It wouldn’t be fair to drag her deeper into this.
Leaving Jules for a moment, Elana followed Malcom into the tavern to recover the rest of their things they’d left behind, including the arcane book. She explained her fears to Ulf, warning him of the danger. “I’m so sorry. I know I’ve been nothing but trouble since I arrived. Please, be careful. Do you know anyone who could watch Sarah? We can’t take her with us; it’d be putting her at too much risk.”
Caithas Intelligence – (1d20)13
Caithas checks on the fallen rebel, who is still being tended to by Malcom and his colleagues. He recognizes him to be Ovidius, the archer that took out the executioner yesterday. The man is seriously injured; he must be carried to safety, otherwise his chances for survival are slim. Caithas thinks that if he is carried somewhere safe, that he will probably have time to tend to the man’s wounds, but this would take at least an hour of work and time is scarce now.
[OOC: No need to use the healing kit, since Malcom stabilized the man. Later, you can try to heal him a bit by using the Treat deadly wounds action, but this will take an hour of game time.]
Leaving the unconscious rebel to the hands of his capable friends, Caithas proceeds to silently finishing off the fallen soldiers. One is already dead; the rest are still breathing when Caithas uses his sword to slice their necks. The guards were equipped with chainmail armor, shields and longswords. The ranger leaves behind the sets of armor, which would need to be removed and would anyway be too cumbersome to carry. Instead, he focuses on what can be easily taken: other than the swords, the guards were carrying wooden shields. Two of them are unremarkable, but the third seems to be particularly light-weight for its size. In addition, there is a backpack that one of the guards was carrying. Caithas has little time to check the bag’s contents, but he observes several items that are unlikely to belong to a soldier in it. Content to analyze the contents after they escape, Caithas straps the backpack to his back, as his friends re-emerge from the tavern without Ulf.
Malcom enters the tavern to retrieve his glaive; Jules and Elana do the same to inform Ulf of the current situation. As Malcom walks down the staircase to the basement, he notices a small girl silently sobbing in the corner. He retrieves his glaive, before noticing two large chests containing mostly military equipment. Later, Jules explains the corporal and would-be rebel that the chests were found in an abandoned military warehouse. They are too heavy to carry, if you need to make a quick escape, but perhaps you could try hiding them, or taking some of the equipment with you, and coming back later for the heavier items.
[OOC: Decide what you want to take with you, how you allocate the loot, and write the items down to your character sheets, if you haven’t done so already.]
Ulf’s face darkens as Elana explains the situation to him; the news is evidently not well received. He takes a big glass from the bar and smashes it against the wall, before exclaiming that, because of you, his entire livelihood is destroyed and that he will most likely be a wanted man by tomorrow. He shouts some insults towards Malcom, who led the guards to his front door, before picking up his dog and whatever items and coins he can. He leaves, slamming the door behind him and cursing Bormund. He leaves Sarah behind. The little girl is clearly frightened and stays as close to Elana as possible, as she is not as familiar with the rest of the men.
After you have decided what to take with you, you start your journey towards the estate. Ovidius is carried by Decius and the cloaked man. Trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible, you slowly navigate the streets, making sure to make use of the less frequented routes. Eventually, you reach the Vinici estate: it may still lie in ruins, but the fence that was recently installed is still standing, and it looks like it was successful in preventing the homeless from taking refuge in it again. No soldiers can be seen here, but it might be best to stay on your toes, as this might change at any moment. Elana has the key to the gate; she opens it and guides everyone to the only building in the complex that can provide a roof over your heads.
[OOC: You can take care of Ovidius, take a look at the loot, discuss with the rebels and decide what to do next.]
Malcom barely notices the little girl in the corner at first in his rush. He sorts quickly though the chest, taking the legion letter, climbing kit and lantern. He ignores ulf as he storms off. Coward… is all Malcom cares to think of the man as he leaves. He takes the cloth from his arm under the cloak and re-ties it to his glaive. It feels warm within his grip as he slides it over his shoulder, it slips perfectly into its holster as he buckles it at his shoulder. There will be time to pray later… he wheeled on his feet but was surprised by the little girl. She hides behind Elana, cowering and crying. He kneels down to her, holding out his hand, “Come now, don’t be afraid. I’m sorry this had to happen. You remind me a bit of my daughter you know, but she’s a lot younger than you are.” he smiles trying to reassure the girl, “Will you please come with us for a while? I’m not sure what’s happened to you… but I’ll protect you, okay?”
Caithas gives the weapons and the light wooden shields to the others, asking them to put them in the chests to be retrieved later. “And hide those chests,” the half-elf calls out to his companions, hoping their cashe in the basement could be concealed by rags and trash, blending into Ulf’s belongings. The ranger threw wand and the cloaks into the backpack, and strapped the mysteriously light shield to his back, and took off for the estate with the others.
Once inside the rambling, shambling complex that passed for Elana’s “estate”, Caithas helped set Ovidius down and said, “We should be watching the gate; if trouble comes, we can use these ramshackle halls for defense. No offense meant, Lady,” his eyes flicking to Elana as he insults her family’s long-abandoned property.
As the ranger situates himself to set up for a watch on the door and gate, he hopes to himself that he and the nobles have thrown their fortunes in with the right lot. Marriages and searching for missing cats seem like events from another life in another time. In all his years, the ranger had never spilled as much blood as he had this day. And as his eyes drifted over the beautiful and mysterious Elana, the wounded but promising Jules and the poor conflicted Malcom, the half-elf realized with some sadness that these three humans had become outsiders, like him. Violence and death would follow them all now; whether it would lead to glory and victory or a cold, dark grave, only the gods knew. For better or worse…they were all rebels now.
(OOC: Perception check +2, looking for oncoming soldiers heading towards the gate. Also, please make an Appraise check +0 for the wand and shield the ranger picked up. He will also don one of the two cloaks that offer a +1 to Hide, which in Pathfinder is just rolled into Stealth, I think; correct me if I am wrong.)
[OOC: Sorry for the back tracking post.]
Having decided on a plan, Jules returns to the inn, avoiding eye contact with the man who had helped them, and whose entire life they had just destroyed. He goes into the basement with Caithas, picking up the small sack of gems from the chest. Coin would soon become scarce, and they would need all the help they could get. About to leave, Jules hears Malcom talking to Sara, fatherly and kind, a stark contrast to everything he was on the battlefield.
Hells, we’re really dragging a child down with us. Ah know you said you were ready to give anything for zis rebellion Malcom, but zis is a little girl and a bar owner doing his friend a favor. Is zis how ze people’s rebellion is really going to fight?
The estate was still as run down as the first time Jules had seen it, but it seemed now to offer some measure of protection. Even if the guards were going to search eventually, it still felt like a safe place for the moment. With his wound no longer inhibiting his movement, and the pain finally down to a hardly noticeable throbbing, Jules decides to look around the estate a bit, staying within the building they were in.
Eventually Jules finds himself looking into a bedroom, plain and as run down as everything else in the estate, the only thing that draws his attention is a sleeve of fabric poking out of a dresser. Opening the dresser, Jules finds an assortment of clothes, ranging from the bejeweled garments of a noble to the festive clothes of an entertainer. The clothes were dusty and would need to be cleaned, but they still seemed usable.
Upon reaching the estate, Decius and the cloaked man lay the critically wounded veteran to the floor as gently as possible. The floor is far from comfortable; although it may have once been covered with marble tiles and mosaics, the only remains of these luxurious decorations are rubble and dust. Fragments of the marbles are now scattered all over the exposed dirt floor of the biggest room in the house, that once must have been a magnificent chamber.
Caithas takes a moment to check on his companions, before he starts examining the shield and the contents of the backpack he just lifted from the guard’s corpse. Other than its light weight, the round shield is unremarkable, like any plain, battered wooden shield. It bears the symbol of one legion or another, but with a couple of hours of work, Caithas could easily remove those, or paint over them. However, closer examination reveals that the wood from which the shield is made of is very unusual, not only because of its density, but also because of its finer structure. Small patterns of interlocking fibers can be seen with naked eye and the wood is of a darker hue than oak. Caithas’ knowledge of nature reveals that this is a very rare specimen of wood which, due to its special qualities, can be used to craft protective items of superior quality. Due to its scarcity, the shield would probably fetch a high price at the market-probably between 200 and 300 sovereigns. On the other hand, the wand looks like a twig that is less than ten inches in length; it is completely indistinguishable from a stick that one might pull off a tree. Caithas thinks that the item is completely worthless. Perhaps it could be used as a splint for a broken finger, but then again, so could any piece of wood. After finishing with the equipment, Caithas leaves the room and moves outside, trying to make sure that no-one has followed them to the estate.
[OOC: Right about the stealth, just mixed up 3.5 with pathfinder. Also, sharing the loot would be appreciated by the rest of the PCs.]
Decius immediately examines Ovidius’ wounds. The old soldier has two major injuries: the guard’s longsword has pierced him between two of his lower ribs deep enough to have punctured one of his lungs. This is consistent with the observation that Ovidius is having extreme difficulty to breathe properly. In addition, there is a deep slash across his chest, which is bleeding profusely. Despite his efforts, Decius can do little to help his friend, although there is some blood clotting that slowly starts to take place. About half an hour after Ovidius is brought to the Vinici estate, he opens his eyes, but the shock of the injury and the pain are overwhelming. He is barely aware of his surroundings and seems to only recognize Decius. He attempts to utter some words, but his respiratory system is too damaged to allow him to do so.
The cloaked man removes his cloak, revealing that he is none other than Veor, the rebel from the banished brothers who helped Elana when she was harassed by a drunken soldier the day before. At first, he too tries to help Ovidius, but seeing that there is nothing he can do, he follows Caithas outside to stand watch with him. Caithas recalls the man who summoned the mist and most likely saved his life the day before… he remembers that he owes the man a drink. Both remain awkwardly silent for a while, before Veor addresses the half-elf: “Thanks for the help back there. You seem to appear at the right place, at the right time. We might not have made it without you… Nasty business, and damage control could have been better”, he says as he thinks of his friend dying inside. There are no Imperial forces approaching the estate, so chatting with the rebel might not be so risky at this point.
Sarah is hardly reassured by Malcom, whose armor is still covered by a few bloodstains from the battle. Instead, she stays close to Elana, clinging to her dress. Jules, after finding a collection of outfits hidden in one of the smaller rooms of the estate, ponders on the mess that they are currently in, examining all possible alternatives before choosing the best.
It is sundown and the streets of upper Andelia are slowly emptying. Decius is still trying to save his friend; Caithas and Veor observe the people leave for their homes, although not all have a shelter to return to. Malcom recalls his meeting with the crimson-clad man. He also thinks of Markus and the rest of the rebels. They were supposed to meet at the Drunken Townsman, but this might not be possible at this stage. In addition, Longinus’ tavern might even be dangerous for the rebels now.
[OOC: Backtracking a bit as well]
Elana jumped and went silent when Ulf smashed a glass against the wall. He blamed her for ruining his livelihood and putting him at risk, and she had no rebuttal. She had expected him to be upset, but he was furious. His anger hurt her more than it should. She thought Ulf would be her Andelian Bormund, but he wasn’t; Bormund would’ve laughed and cursed the imperials, emasculating them with his insults. Most importantly, Bormund wouldn’t have left her.
After Ulf stormed out, Elana quickly gathered their things, and gently took Sarah by the hand, leading her to the estate. “Don’t look,” she said as they passed the bodies in the street.
Once at the estate, Elana swept away the rubble from a corner, setting her and Sarah’s things down, well away from the wounded man so the girl wouldn’t have to see. To an extent, it was also for herself; grievous wounds and death were still unfamiliar and unpleasant things to her. Her keeper will be looking for her at the Broken Tooth. I’ll have to find a way to contact him. They were rebels and wanted criminals; keeping a ten year old girl was too risky for them now. Elana hoped that her keeper had returned. Maybe on the morrow she could disguise herself and check their home and leave a new note if wasn’t there already.
After examining the items, Caithas speaks to Elana, Malcom and Jules, when they happen to be in the same giant chamber together. “I was able to grab a few items from the soldiers we slew today. Their standard weapons are in the chests back at Ulf’s, but the odder items I brought along.” With that, he draws the cloaks and wand out of the backpack, and unshoulders the odd shield. “These cloaks will help hide us in the shadows; I will take one, if you don’t mind, as sneaking about seems to be what I do these days, but whoever wants the other one is welcome to it. I also found this rare shield; it may not look like much, but the wood is difficult to procure, and quite expensive. If one of you wants to use it, be my guest; if not, we could fetch a high price for it, I’d wager. And this,” he finishes, holding up the twig, “this seems like nothing more than a goddamn stick to me, but if that’s so, I cannot figure out why the soldier had it amongst valuables. It might have just been a mistake, or else it is something else entirely, but damned if I know. If any of you have a guess, take it and enlighten me. If not, I’ll toss it with the rest of the garbage.”
Later, outside with Veor, Caithas accepts the man’s compliment with a shrug. “No thanks needed. If I saved you today, I was only able to do so thanks to your magical fog yesterday; without that cover, that murdering bastard of a commander would have sliced me to fucking ribbons.”
The half-elf pauses a moment, lowers his voice and continues, “Veor? I know I do not know you well, but there’s something I’d like to know, if you’re willing. During the fight yesterday, you were the only known magic user there, and your apparition and fog were part of the plan. But what of the sleep spells? Do you truly have that much power ready at your fingertips, or was someone else casting spells yesterday morning?”
He lets his eyes drift off, from the man’s face to the emptying, dangerous streets before him. Great gods, had it really only happened yesterday?
(OOC: Diplomacy +3 and Sense Motive +1 Check.)
Malcom hovers around the room peering out of the windows, but he’s certain that there’s nothing to see. He’s more doing it out of a certain nervousness. It clawed at him from a darkness deep within. He hated when things didn’t go the right way. Slowly as he paced his emotions bubbled within him until he could stand it no longer, he’s about to speak when he looks over to Sarah. “Elana… I’m sure there’s a good reason why there’s a girl behind you…” he shook his head, there was no reason good enough. “Forgive me Sarah, I know you’re probably frightened, and probably think we’re all terrible and scary people. But we have to continue here. To free everyone.” He looked at Elana expecting some explaination
He turned to Decius, his voice a quieted angry fury, “What the HELL were you thinking?” he paced around the downed man, kneeling looking to see if there was anything he could do, his words were hot with venom “Honestly! Picking a fight with five guards when there’s only three of you. MADNESS, pure and utter stupidity. You’re so lucky that I was part of the group and that Hakon fled. Hell I’m not sure if Caithas hadn’t shown up that we’d even be talking right now! Well? What say you? Damnit man, we don’t win freedom by throwing our lives away!”
With nothing else to do he stood up and looked at everyone in the room. “Alright… Alright…” he said, calming himself down. He tried to assume a leadership position… if only to calm his nerves and to get stuff done. He was within his element at the moment. For the most part. “Jules, we need to decide our next course of action. Elana… You and I still need to talk.” he thought of Caithas outside, “For now our priority is remaining hidden, but tomorrow for sure they will come to check the estate, so we must move by then. I have business to attend to tonight and I’d like someone to come with me. Probably Caithas, but the two of you are welcome to come along as well.”
Jules heads back to the group, moving towards Malcom to ask about their current situation. His concerns about the events of the day had left him worried and frustrated. Nothing had gone the way he expected, and nothing was looking to get any better in the near future. As he approaches the soldier near his dying friend he tries his best to avoid another conflict like yesterday’s, pushing away as much judgement and frustration as he can.
“If you intend to talk about our next course of action zen Ah intend to be zer as well. Ah’m not letting us destroy ze lives of anyone else without having a plan first. No offense intended, Ah know zis wasn’t your fault, but today has been less zan accommodating for us, and Ah want to know where we’re headed next.”
As the words leave his mouth Jules hopes the man doesn’t take them the wrong way. An injured friend and killing his former allies couldn’t have been easy on the soldier, but no amount of letters and allies will help them if they don’t have a plan.
Malcom sighed as he looked at Jules, “No, this is my fault. I didn’t have the cunning to get myself out of the situation. As it stands, Jules and Caithas are known traitors. I was under suspicion of treason and was ordered to bring Elana in for questioning regarding your actions. I’m not quite sure what Hakon will tell Quintus, or if I’ll be marked as a traitor as well. Its safe to assume that for the four of us, we can no longer walk the streets. There are allies who are not far off who need to be rallied. We also need to learn of the current situation of our troops who are moving on holsgrath. Veor is part of the Banished Brother’s and by extension of that, we maybe able to enlist the help of the Sisters of the Storm. There’s also a few groups in town that maybe able to help.” He paused and looked at Jules, “What happened to you two anyways? You look like hell. No offense.” He continued thinking. “We need a banner to unite under, and a face for the rebellion. An orator would probably be the best choice after having a well known local. I’m throwing my hat in the ring but there maybe better ones than I. I’ve got a meeting with some members of the previous rebellion. They maybe able to help our current situation.” his brow crinkled with concentration, “There’s also… more shady elements we can try. There’s a group of peasants… God’s what are they called… Hooded Shades. They’re a deft group of people and the way they move would make you believe you were watching shadows. The group is Anarchist… but they might ally with our cause, maybe teach us some skills. After all there will be plenty of Chaos during the revolution. We may need to promise them something after the revolution… But concessions will always have to be made.” He paused again and looked to Jules, “What course of action do you think we should we take?”
The ease with which Malcom starts discussing the situation with him is a relief. And upon hearing their options he starts formulating a semblance of a plan.
“Ah have a ‘friend’ Ah guess you could say within ze Sisters, she might not be willing to help me, but she is what you would call a slightly more radical Sister, and a chance to hurt ze empire might be good for her. Ah sent her a letter, but Ah have no idea if it will make it to her, having Veor try and get a message to her might work. Ah’m not sure how willing some of ze shadowy elements will be in helping us, especially after ze bloodshed between us already, but Ah may be able to get in touch with ze Disdainful Denizens, and Ah have heard zey can manage things zat other groups can’t.
“As for an orator, Ah know my voice would surely win ze hearts of every woman in ze city, but Ah don’t know how ze rebels would feel rallying beneath a foreigner with no military experience.
“But ze way Ah see it ze main issue before us is ze strategy we need to form. Without housing, weapons, and points of attack all we have is a lot of rebels sitting on zer asses waiting to get slaughtered. Ah say we go to zes meetings, find what ze objective most important to us is, and arrange our forces to make it ours. Ah will be ready to leave whenever you are, just give me a moment to get changed.”
Taking advantage of his new wardrobe and silently thanking whatever strange noble collected this odd assortment of clothes, Jules takes a few moments to wipe away any remaining blood on his body, and throw on his tattered peasant clothes, this time adding a touch of disease-ridden beggar to keep inquisitive eyes distant.
[OOC: Disguise check (+9 using the symptom kit) to look like a diseased beggar.]
As an added touch Jules makes an attempt to cover up his accent, his voice shaky and slow as he speaks, giving the effect of an impaired mind.
“So, How does th-is look?”
[OOC: EDIT: Miscalculated my disguise bonus, +9, not +14]
Elana listened patiently to the men discussing the plans to further the rebellion from the corner. She picked up the stick that Caithas had discovered, turning it over in her hands. It really does look unremarkable. She handed it over to Sarah, hoping to keep the girl occupied with something. “What do you think?” she asked playfully. “Is this a wand or just a stick?” She didn’t expect the girl to know, but she was studying under a keeper; maybe she knew a thing or two about magic items.
Once the men finish talking, Elana approaches Malcom whilst Jules is preparing his disguise. The two step away from the others. “You wanted to speak with me?” The soldier seemed to have something on his mind, she could see it in the way he moved and written on his face. That wasn’t surprising; he was in the midst of a rebellion. What was surprising is that he wanted to talk to her of all people. Elana felt that she was somewhere at the back of the line when it came to those important to the rebellion, and she couldn’t figure what Malcom would need to talk to her about.
[OOC: Obviously our posting is going to keep the story progressing, but let’s just assume everything Mal and Elana discuss here happens in the time frame of Caithas talking to Veor and Jules prepping his disguise]
“Listen, first… About the girl, care to explain that one?” he smiled lightly as he looked over at her as she’s examining the ‘wand’, “She’s so cute… I can’t wait for my daughter to be her age.” he sighed and shrugged, “Secondly, I hate you inform you, but you are indeed now on the list of traitors. Unless the solder that runs away can come up with a good story we both are. For that… I’m truly sorry. Had I been wiser and sharper I might have saved both of us from the scrutiny. At least for a few more days.” he tilted his head and appeared to be genuinely sorry, almost ashamed of his failure. “Next up… Judging by what you’ve done… you’ve finalized your decision to join the rebellion? I’m pleased to hear it, but again, I’m sorry for dragging you and Jules into this. If we are to work together… I’ll need to know of your skills. I saw you with a crossbow after our rescue of Markus, I’ll assume I can trust you know how to use it?” He smiled, “If you have any aversion for killing, I’ll understand. I don’t enjoy it much myself… But in wars… its often the only way.”
He paused and looked a bit unsettled… “Now… What I really wanted to ask you about… I’ve come to you out of everyone because well… normally I’d seek confidence in my wife. But she’s not here, and I’d tell one of the men but I’d fear they’d think I’ve gone mental… Anyways. I’ve been having these dreams lately….”
[[Malcom explains both dreams to her, about seeing Matthias, the bridge, the people, and his new found feelings of spell casting.
“…So what do you think… Am I cracking under the pressure or… can I really heal and harm through Matthias? Am I the one to lead this rebellion? I’ll admit in the fight today I felt my hand being guided, even if I was clumsy… I’m just not sure with how things are going. I’d like a second opinion. Be honest, it will do me more help than anything else.”
Colors added! Dream post two inbound!
“The girl, Sarah,” she said, smiling sadly. “Her caretaker was taken by the guard for questioning. I didn’t want to leave her alone, but it seems that she might have been better off, actually.”
So, now I’m a traitor, she thought. Elana expected to feel more scared, but she was oddly calm. Maybe it hadn’t sunk in yet, or perhaps she had good company. “Don’t worry about it Malcom,” she said. “I’m sure you did all you could. We all chose to be ‘traitors’ when we chose our paths. It was only a matter of time before we were found out.”
“I can shoot,” she said confidently. “I mean, I’m no marksman, but I’ve had training. I’ve never, you know, killed before . . . but if that’s what you need of me, I’ll do what I can.” She wondered what Lucius would think if he knew she was using her crossbow to hunt down imperials.
As Malcom told her of his dream, Elana felt butterflies flutter in her stomach. For a moment she thought he had some sorcerous powers too, but that was a fanciful notion. “We all have strange dreams,” she said hesitantly. “I’ve had stranger ones myself, but this sounds like a divination of sorts.” Could a deity really be influencing Malcom? It was a stretch to be sure, but it was known that when the gods took an interest in the affairs of men, they weren’t above granting powers and prophecies.
“Have you tried?” she asked. “Channeling Matthias, I mean. It could all just be a strange dream, but it wouldn’t be the first time the gods grant powers to a mortal, and you’ll only know by experimenting. It couldn’t hurt.” Elana thought of the birds and the cats. “Usually.”
“Well, now’s a good of a time as any, right?” he looked back at Ovidius, “At least Caithas and Jules aren’t here to see this… assuming it works.” he moved over and knelt by the man again, hovering his hands above his wounds, “So, what? I just say the magic words now?” He looked at Elana sheepishly, then back to Ovidius with determination.
He thought to himself. Though there was no reaction to his command.
Still nothing. He looked to Elana for support, but it came from with in. He muttered to himself, “by the power of Matthias, come and see the light.” He brought his hands to the wound and they shined a faint white aura about them. The wounds seemed to heal and close beneath his hands.
[[Cure Light Wounds: Hp Healed – (1d8+1)8 ]]
In an instant, Malcom was a firm believer and all his doubts were disillusioned.
A glimmer of light and just like that the dying man’s wounds visibly began to heal. Incredible! He really is gifted by his goddess! Elana couldn’t have been more surprised if Jules had burst in to take a vow of chastity. “Malcom, that was amazing!” No doubt the man still had much to learn of his new found powers, but this seemed infinitely more useful than anything she’d managed to do with her sorcery in years.
Kneeling by Ovidius’ side, she saw that his wounds were all but healed, though he still seemed weak; no doubt the healing process was draining. Elana wouldn’t admit it, but she felt a pang of jealousy. Malcom’s powers saved this man’s life and he would be applauded for it. Her curse seemed much more destructive in comparison and would only draw hostility.
She smiled at the soldier, excited by his discovery. “If the gods are on our side this rebellion might have a chance after all.”
He looked over to her with a bit of a stupid grin, “Goddess, Just one. At least… So far.” he sighed and tried standing up, he leaned precariously before making it upright. “I don’t think I’ll be doing that again tonight… Then again, I wouldn’t mind if I could fling a fireball at Aruelius if we run into him…” he laughed and looked at her. He smiled again and put a finger to his lips signifying silence, “This is between us for now, alright?”
[[Sorry Vlad if we’re kinda steamrolling you…]]
[OOC: I always forget Matthias is female]
Elana nodded her consent; she trusted that Malcom would reveal his powers to the others in due time, and she was good at keeping secrets. “What about Ovidius’ wounds?” she asked. “Won’t someone want to know what happened?”
“He won’t be up and about for a while… I think we can play it off with some bandages and time. I’ve got no idea how good he looks on the inside either.” he shrugged, “Or the simplest thing to do is play dumb.” He looked at the door to the room, “Since we have a bit of time, why don’t you tell me about yourself, or ask some questions. We might be in this together but… everyone still seems like a stranger. I don’t know what Jules does, what Caithas did, where you’re from, why you got married… There’s many questions, but since I’ve confided in you and you’ve helped me realize I’m not insane or cracking… I’ll let you ask away.”
“Well there’s not much I can tell you about Jules and Caithas that you couldn’t surmise on your own,” Elana said, taking a seat on a pile of rubble. “I’m the niece of the lord of House Savain, as you probably already know. My father was the lord, but he and my mother were killed in a fire. That was eleven years ago.”
She let her gaze wander whilst she told her story. Evening light poured in through hollow arched windows. Fragments of the glass frames still clung to the edges, like teeth in a gaping maw. Light reflected off the ruins of a chandelier that had crashed to the floor. It was a rusted heap, robbed of its ornaments by squatters long ago. Now it resembled a dead spider lying on its back, it’s twisted legs curled upwards. The carpet that flowed over the grand staircase was brown and tattered. With some imagination, one could see the rich red it once was before time and neglect took their toll upon it.
It occurred to Elana that this estate may have been part of the Savain property since before her parents died. They may have lived here once, walked these halls, and danced in this very chamber. Maybe she had been here as a baby, though she could not recognize it in it’s ruined state. The thought was both comforting and sad.
A flash of color from the stained glass window. The jingle of crystal as a breeze caught the gilded chandelier. Sweet laughter drifting down the hall. Were they memories of this place, or from somewhere else? Maybe . . .
“After they died,” she continued. “My uncle, Mannix, became the lord since my father had no sons to inherit. He was a cold man.” Her eyes drifted down to the dirt covered floor. “As for why he married me to Jules,” she said, her tone changing, indicating she was done reminiscing. “I can’t understand. I never knew or even heard of him until my uncle told me of the wedding. A sad affair it was, too. It’s some consolation that Jules is just as apathetic to our wedding as I am.” She sighed and shook her head, tired of the whole situation.
“Tell me,” Elana said, changing topic. “What happened to you that made you so against the empire?” Malcom may not have told her much about his life, but she could read people well, and he showed signs of deep resentment whenever he laid eyes on an imperial soldier.
“Jules is not as apathetic to the wedding as you think. He’s madly in lust with you. After all, your appearance would bring many men to their knees after you. But I don’t doubt he’s genuinely not happy about the wedding. I’m sure he would of like to have gotten to know you before it happened.” He chuckled, “But he’s certainly glad it was you and not some… unpleasant thing. But what of your friends? Leaving must of been hard.”
“Anyone versed in Andelian history, or that of the empire knows of an event called Storm of the Slaughter”
He shook his head, “Aye and a slaughter it was. I was just a young lad… just a few years younger than yourself or Jules. I’m not a native of these lands. I’m from the Empire, and my parent’s still live there. Anyways. I believed beyond a doubt in the loyalty to the crown and the Empire… We killed so many that night… and not just men.” His face saddened, “Women and children were killed, or worse… Some of the soldiers took to raping civilians. They took advantage of the situation and chaos and turned it against the people. My wife’s late father, rest his soul, wanted out before it started, but was forced to stay. As he tried to help some innocents during the Storm he was cut down by our own men.” He sighed and leaned against the wall, “It took… a while for me to realize my mistake. Since then I have been working to atone for my sins and to make this world a better place for my daughter. I hate the Empire because a man across an ocean is driving people to poverty and crime. We’re lucky there isn’t a disease spreading yet. There’s little reason for any conscious or honorable person to side with them. Some people are blinded by greed, or by their salary to see what is truly going on. Their power fuels them to continue on this path. It’s absurd what they do, but that’s what I’m fighting for.”
Elana shifted uncomfortably; she was pretty, she knew, but she never took compliments well. “It could’ve been much worse,” she agreed. “For both of us. Jules isn’t unkind, and I know he’s a bit of a lecher, but he’s been courteous enough.” She glanced over to the corner where Jules was applying some make up to his disguise. “Despite being of noble birth, he’s a rogue. I don’t think he’d thrive well in a monogamous relationship.”
“As far as friends went, well I never had very many. Mostly I was on the receiving end of pity. ‘There goes the old lord’s orphan,’ they’d think to themselves. The other girls thought I was beneath them. I hated their pity. The commoners, though, they didn’t care about your birth right or your station. I think that’s why my best friends were among the base born.” She smiled humorlessly. “My uncle didn’t like that. Before he sent me away to be married, he locked up my best friend. Said it wasn’t good for a lady’s image to consort with commoners.”
She listened intently to Malcom’s story of the Storm of Slaughter. Elana had heard the stories in Grey Hold, but she was young then and couldn’t have understood the depth of the tragedy. What Malcom went through was terrible, and the crimes the empire committed that day deserved justice. Elana had no words to comfort the soldier. She nodded her head in understanding.
“So, How does th-is look?” Jules said, returning as a diseased beggar.
“Repulsive,” Elana said, smiling. It was a pretty impressive change, she had to admit.
“Oh by the Gods… Jules… Is that really you?” He shuttered, “You look… er… different.” he chuckled “I guess we won’t have to worry about you being caught now will we?”
[[Aw… But I enjoyed this! We’re actually becoming friends. Besides, I don’t have much of a life right now so I’m often just f5’ing all my games. xD]]
Malcom, Decius and Ovidius (inside)
Decius replies to Malcom’s outburst calmly: “Immediately after you left, Longinus came to my room and explained me what had just occurred. He said that you led a party of soldiers directly to the Drunken Townsman, something you would never do unless you had no choice. Fearing the worst, he told me to find as many of our companions as I could and investigate the situation. Alarmed by Longinus’ words, I quickly ran to Veor and Ovidius and we followed you and your posse to the forum.
My fears were confirmed upon seeing that the guards were not leaving you out of their sight. After following you towards the Broken Tooth, we all knew that there was no other way… We couldn’t let the imperials seize you or your new friends. Our plan, if you would call it that, was… inelegant, to say the least, but we did not doubt your loyalty for a single moment. So, I have to correct you: it was never three against five, as you said; at least the odds were even.”
Decius pauses, expecting your reply. After you respond, he reassures you that Longinus will make sure that the rest of the rebels, led by Markus, will not be meeting at the Drunken Townsman tonight:
“It is clear that Longinus’ tavern cannot serve as our meeting place anymore. I tried to convince the Longinus to leave it, but he is a stubborn man, and keeps on insisting that he will be fine. However, he will send word to Markus and Erik, explaining them the situation. He suggested that we meet at another tavern tonight. Our meeting will be five hours after sundown, at Watering Hole.”
Malcom knows Andelia well, and this particular tavern is one of the biggest and perhaps most infamous taverns in town. It is common knowledge that the establishment is the front of the thieves’ guild in Andelia. Although it is a loathsome place teeming with crooks and criminals, it might not be such a bad choice. The local militia would not dare to challenge the powerful organization that pulls the strings of many corrupt officials in the government. Therefore, you are unlikely to find trouble there from the guard, although Malcom is not sure if he’d feel safer amongst Imperial soldiers or members of the guild.
(A bit later, after Malcom heals Ovidius)
The wave of magical energy pulses through the old man’s broken body. Malcom and Elana immediately notice the effects of the spell: the wound across Ovidius’ chest stops bleeding completely and his breathing sounds much better now. Ovidius still remains unconscious, although his sleep now is much calmer than before. Relieved, you guess that the man will live, although a complete recovery will take some time.
Caithas and Veor (outside)
Veor dismisses your suggestions: “You are mistaken, sir, I am no sorcerer. I have picked up some tricks here and there, but I am no scholar. The fog and the ghastly apparition were both my doing, but the sleep spell was not. I do not know who cast it, but I am forever in dept to him. Without his magic, I would probably have fallen to the guards’ superior numbers…” He then inquires of Caithas: “You seem to be somewhat familiar with magic. That’s a surprise; I would have never guessed you had any interest in the arcane arts. Or access, for that matter…”
…”But let me clarify something: such spells, though useful, are far from a wizard’s true potential. You’d be surprised, but even I have mastered this sleep spell. Nevertheless, it was not my spell that put the guards to a deep slumber yesterday.”
Seeing that no guards are interested in investigating the estate, Veor and Caithas pass the time chatting about magic and other topics. Veor explains that he was the son of a wealthy merchant in Svorinn, who wanted the best education for his only son. He sent Veor to the finest academies in Demeria, where Veor was moderately successful as a scholar. Unfortunately, when his father’s business fell upon hard times, his old man could no longer afford the tuition fees. Veor was forced to leave the academy. He travelled back to Svorinn to find that his father had been imprisoned because he had accumulated a massive dept from all those years of paying for his son’s expensive schooling. Veor took up a job in the local militia, only to desert when his unit was disbanded and its leader, Verus Volusius, was essentially exiled beyond Kremek.
Elana and Sarah (inside)
The little girl takes the wand, playfully gesturing around with it. For the first time, she seems to be genuinely happy, despite of Ovidius’ presence, which you have awkwardly tried to rationalize as “the lazy old man that is sleeping”. She explains that Vedrick had a wand just like that; on her birthday, he would perform some magic tricks for her, saying that some day, she would be able to do such magic tricks herself. She says the last part in disbelief, like something she believed when she was younger and more naïve, but has now come to accept that it was probably a fairy tale.
[OOC: Okay, let’s assume that Sarah is actually a bit younger-maybe seven.]
When Malcom mentions his appointment tonight, you remember that you have read something about these crimson-clad figures. You can’t remember the organization’s name or much of their goals. You only recall that, ten years ago, they represented the interests of the various crafters’ guilds in Svorinn. Led by the carpenters’ guild, they were initially extremely enthusiastic about the rebellion, but as the tide turned, they adopted a more neutral stance. They were one of the few groups that had a long-term political agenda, openly advocating the overthrow of the “Republic”, the independence of Svorinn and major structural reforms in the political system, but you remember that you were too bored to go on with that book after the first few pages, so you never learned about the ideological convictions of the group.
It is about eight o’clock at night, and you feel that you should try to meet these people. Decius and Veor stay behind to keep watch and take care of Ovidius, explaining that they will move out at dawn since the Imperials might decide to investigate. The streets are dark, as there are no torches burning, and there are frequent patrols, but you manage to reach the forum without being noticed. The place is completely empty, in contrast to the fact that it was teeming with life this morning. A lonely silhouette stands in the darkness. He urges everyone to stop approaching him, before addressing Malcom: “If you don’t mind, tell your friends to stand their ground. I thought that you were supposed to come alone. Please approach, but before you do so, drop your weapons. We are here to discuss, but first you must prove that I can trust you and your group.”
[OOC: Malcom can leave the daggers on, since they are concealed.]
“We have had many betrayals today. You must forgive me for being more careful.” He looks to everyone, “Stay here please.” He looked to the man, he didn’t really want to abandon his glaive, but… he’d have to in order to show trust. “Caithas, hold this.” He said undoing it from his back and handing it to the half-elf. He approached slowly and stopped a good 10 feet away from the man, “I’m here as asked. What do you wish to discuss? You really must forgive me about not coming alone.”
“It is not safe here. The streets are teeming with imperials. You must follow me to the carpenters’ guild. We can discuss about the speech you gave yesterday there…” He pauses to look at the rest of the party: “If they are not to be trusted, they should not follow. If they join us, there will be no turning back.”
He leaves you to explain the situation to everyone, as he patiently waits for your decision.
“We are trustworthy but we cannot just simply leave our arms behind us. I will remain unarmed and we can talk freely, but It would be unwise to simply relinquish our weapons, so I ask that they remain armed and they will stay at a distance you feel comfortable with. Including within the guild. Fair enough?” he looked back at the group to see their opinions on the matter
Before leaving . . .
Elana returns to the corner where Sarah waited. The girl had fallen asleep, her head resting on one of the thick books she’d brought. Elana smiled and slipped a cloak over her like a blanket. She picked up the stick-wand Sarah had been playing with. It really did look like someone had just snapped it off a tree, but Sarah had said that Vedrik kept similar looking wands. It very well could be magical. She could see for herself if she cast her spell, but she didn’t dare try any magic with a wizard in their party; she didn’t know if he could detect her spell casting, but it wasn’t worth risking.
The group began to collect their things for the late night rendezvous. Elana wrapped herself in her hooded cloak. Her dagger and crossbow were sheathed and hooked on her belt. Normally she’d carry Ællastyr concealed in her satchel, but considering that everyone else was brimming with weapons, she figured it didn’t matter.
The forum was eerily quiet at night. One hand rested on her crossbow under her cloak as Malcom and the silhouetted man began to talk. The darkness toyed with her imagination. Were there others hidden nearby waiting to ambush them? She thought on her training and imagined how long it would take to ready a quarrel if a fight broke out. Being surrounded by other far more capable fighters was reassuring.
Caithas looked at the man. He seemed honest, which was good…but what of the sleep spell? Powerful or no, someone else had aided them and that someone had magic. I knew it, the ranger thinks to himself, his mind turning to just who it had to be. Who it must be.
He shakes his head, as if to clear it, and says, “It seems your past is just as pleasant as mine is. Poor bastard. No, I know little of magic; what I do know I learned from growing up so near the elven lands. But I was raised by humans, humans who knew nothing of magic save legends. What I have seen in the last few weeks…I have seen things I didn’t dream possible, in all my years of travel. This land…this land is special, somehow…”
As he says it to Veor, he realizes that it just may be true…
Later, at the meeting, the half-elf stands forward at Malcom’s request.
“We are trustworthy to those that deserve trust,” he says quietly. “I will stand back, but I will be armed. Your business is your own, but if any lies are told tonight and an ambush awaits, believe me when I say that I will kill you.”
He grips his blood-caked scabbards and paces ten feet further back, and nods. As he does so, Malcom hands him his glaive, to show the cloaked figure his trust. Caithas held the weapon in his hands, so unnaturally heavy and yet…and…and it was warm. It…pulsed.
Dear gods, the half-elf thought wonderingly as he gripped the former Corporal’s favored weapon, what have we gotten ourselves into?
As Jules hears the conversation unfolding before him he does his best to keep the guise of an unimportant peasant. He doesn’t match the rest of the group and probably stands out a bit more than he would like, but at the very least he might be overlooked by any inquisitive eyes. He isn’t about to make a move at this point, he has suffered one too many times today because of his overeager mouth, and he isn’t inclined to do so again.
Oh hells Caithas, please don’t get us killed. Or at ze very least please don’t get me killed.
The man nods to Malcom and Caithas in agreement: “This way”, he says, as he leads you back towards the district that contains the Vinici estate. However, this time you take a turn towards a different direction and follow the convoluted streets towards the river, until you reach the walls. There are nothing but huts lining the inner surface of the walls. You estimate that each of them could provide shelter to twenty individuals. The mysterious stranger enters one of the huts, as he urges you to quickly follow.
You enter the hut, which is abandoned and unremarkable. There is no furniture laying around, other than a wooden table that stands on the dirt floor. You observe the stranger, who moves to a specific spot in the one-roomed building and kneels down. He pushes the dirt aside, revealing a heavy wooden door that leads downstairs. After opening the door, he lights a torch and remarks: “A forgotten passage from the old days of the guild.” You follow him by climbing down a ladder and enter a dimly lit corridor that was not built to accommodate such a big group of people. The hallway extends far into the darkness, but a portcullis and a wooden door are blocking the way. You observe the crimson-clad man as he pulls a combination of levers, before raising the portcullis. He unlocks the door with a set of keys that he retrieves from one of his pockets. You follow, trying to navigate the cramped corridors. There are many pathways, some locked and others open. It would be easy to get lost in this labyrinth of tunnels if you weren’t with someone who knows where he is going.
After about ten minutes, you encounter another ladder which leads up. The stranger hands Malcom his torch, before climbing the ladder and opening the door that lies on the top. You follow, entering a wooden building that is jammed packed with equipment. A strange metallic smell fills the air, along with the sweet odor of sawdust and oil. You can hear the Fromir river, Andelia’s primary source of freshwater and the natural border between the two parts of the city, flowing nearby. The room is dominated by a massive wooden gear that seems to be powered by the river outside. The gear is connected to a big sawblade through an intricate mechanism of belts, pulleys and smaller gears. Currently, the big gear is turning, making a squeaking sound every turn, but the sawblade is not moving. There are many logs piled up along the building’s walls.
The stranger leads you up through a staircase. You follow him, arriving at a room littered with carpentry equipment. Three more men are waiting in the room, which is lit by a few candles. There are two small windows on this floor. Outside, darkness covers everything, but from time to time, you see small spots of light, that are presumably swimming in the river: boats, most likely, that are patrolling at this late hour.
In the dim light, you have a chance to observe the stranger’s features: he wears a thick, but well-trimmed brown beard, he has brown hair that is neither long nor short and his eyes are blue. He is dressed in crimson clothes, but his garments are of a dark hew of this color, thus allowing him to blend into the shadows. Without further ado, he addresses Malcom: “I heard your speech yesterday. You seem convinced that the Imperials should be overthrown… have you ever heard of the Crimson Irregulars?” He asks Malcom first, but quickly shifts his gaze towards the entire party, expecting a reply from anyone who can provide it. The bearded stranger concludes: “We could use a man of your conviction on our side.”
Was zat what ze group was called? Zer can’t be too many crimson groups running around talking about craftsman’s guilds and revolution.
With a shuffle of his feet Jules looks around at the other men in the room, nervously remembering his situation from earlier that day.
“Ah have read something of ze Irregulars, craftsmen seeking a revolution. What Ah don’t know is what your aim in zis is, what do you stand to gain from a revolution?”
“We would only ensure that the outcome of the rebellion is to the best interests of the people”, says the blue-eyed man.
Malcom nods to Jules information on the group, “Right. But there’s more too it than that, a lot more.” He felt himself rather… unsettled by the mans wording, “On your side?” he quoted back at the man, “There are only two sides to this struggle, Loyalists, and Revolutionaries. By common goal we would already be allies. So why ask me to come here, to join a cause I’m already for?” Malcom slowly swung the torch in his hand around, looking around the room at all the tools.
The man looks at Malcom with a stern gaze: “That is correct, but we need to act in unison, if we are to succeed. There might be many factions that are opposed to the Empire’s iron hand, but they are torn by petty rivalries and ideological disagreement. Without unity, we are all doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past…” He says the last words with a serious, grim expression on his face.
The man continues, changing to a more practical subject, leaving the pessimism of his previous statement behind: “In all honesty, there is a task that we are unable to undertake, but it could prove critical for the Rebellion… I was hoping that an independent group, such as your band, would undertake this task.” He observes the group keenly, trying to guess your intentions before continuing.
“We have recently intercepted a message that could provide vital information about the Imperial army… However, the message is coded, and thus far we have been unable to decipher it. Knowing what is contained within this message might change the tide of war, or it might prove to be inconsequential. I do not know. But one thing is for certain: we cannot afford to ignore it.” He produces a parchment from one of his cloak’s internal pockets, before proceeding: “Unfortunately, the Crimson Irregulars are unable to pursue this task, for reasons that I am not at liberty to discuss. But if an independent group would look into this issue, the workers’ guilds would be willing to provide all the help they can.”
The man hands the parchment to Malcom. Malcom opens the parchment, which bears a string of strange characters that do not make sense:
“ᾸΞΝΒΖΚΚΒÉᾸΝΛΚΠΔΞΕΛΧΞΜΒΛΜΒΗΘΩΖΥΧΟΒΞΤΣΜΩΡΞΦΟΘΘΔΛΗΧΖΝ ÉΖΧΟΕΜΕÉΦΛΤΡΔΠΚÉΕΣΜΠΙΘΠΚΟᾸΑΥΓΣΣΙΗΕΩΛΔΔΨΣΠΧΗΟΑΛΕΦΔΒ ΗΟΕΡΓΞΗΘΕΜΑΔΠΨÉΔΒΑÉΟΞΟΤΚΨΨΠΚΚΔΕΓΩΘΓΓΒΥᾸΣΡΞΦΟΧᾸΦΩÉΡ ΕΡΔΜΙΗΖΧΛΞΟΦΔΒΗÉΦΨΚΒΣΓΧΥΖΟΑΗΧΞΔΛΕΩΕΨΩΛÉΧΟΜΚΣΟΗΔΧΤΚ ΛÉΥΒÉΜΡΟΠÉΚΒΓΔΩΒΤΔΒΞΠΨΖΧΟΦΝΛᾸΤΓΔΩΘΔΚΘΞΑΖΩΦΓΨΖΦΘΧΓΗ ΚΩΒΟΥΜΖΛΕΣΜΟΠΠΩΘÉΖΛΝΝΘΒᾸΞΡΤΨΤΧΙÉΚΒΔΟΙΠΔΘΡΞΖΦΘΧΥΠΖΑ ΩΖΔΠΨΥΡΚΘΜΟΛΤΘΔΛΗΥΩΞΣΠΩΘΧΤΣΩΥΛΩΕÉΟΤÉΒΗΒÉΧΟΒΒΗΒΣΥΤΛ ÉΕΖΓᾸΦΓΗΧΥΤΘΗΕΓΥΨΤÉΧΒΧΧΡΙΠΑΞΒΔΝΩÉΡΞΦΑΩΔΤΕΣΟΩΩΡΤΚΨÉ ΦΓΖΛΔΟΕΑΘΣΥΝΩΛΠΘΚΚΥΓΕΤΜΠΩᾸΘΝᾸΔΔΣΠΠΡΜΤΦΚΥΣΠΚΟΞΛΓΔÉΑ ΠΚΗΚΒΚΥΝΔΨΖΤΘΣΟΘΔΑΠΚΗΕΑΖÉΔΥΕΘÉΦΤᾸΛΔΠΜΩᾸΜΣΞΨΣÉΟΝΖΞΤ ΜΔΔΑΤΛΣΔΝΚΤΗÉΕΖΩΧΗΘΙΠΩΜΣΤΜΖΨΦΒΠΓΝΠΡΣΕΒΦΥΕΞΜΤΛΩᾸΦΓΠ ΚΜΤΘΣᾸΑΘΚΓΞΕΕΛΧΥΠΓΛΜΨΝΣΘΗΘΧΞΝᾸΥΒΗΚΒΑΝΗΩΦΓΛΛΩΒΔΒΟΕΖ ΘΨΑΓΜΥΩΡΣΟΛΞΒΣΟΤΤΗÉᾸΠΓΞΣΖΟΠΖΟΩΩΔΒΜΞΛᾸΤΣΛΩΠÉΓΙΞΤΖΜΩ ΘΜΣΩΦΤÉΕΗΕΩΣΘΝΛÉΜΞΧΒΞΥΓΣÉΕΝΥΩΞΙΤΦΟΥΒΣΚΤΜΖΝΙΓΥΧΞΛΜᾸ ΦΥΤ”
“What say you? Are you willing to help us with this task? If so, then I would be happy to answer your questions to the best of my ability.”
[OOC: FYI, the coded message should really be a coded message, and not gibberish, if I didn’t make any mistakes. So you should, in theory, be able to decipher it. Good luck in figuring it out. Seriously, good luck with that Or, you can role-play to get more clues.]
Malcom looks over the message, but doesn’t immediately recognize the cypher. “We will help, and we are grateful for any help with the rebellion. We might be an individual group. But we are also the banner that all of Sovrinn will unite under.” He pauses slightly, “In time, at least.” He hands the message back to Jules, “What do you think of this?” and then he looks at the man. “How did you come to intercept this message? Where do you think it was bound for?”
Oh hells! Zes symbols! Ah may recognize zem, but Ah have never seen a code like zis before.
The code is something beyond any puzzle Jules has ever seen. With time he might be able to identify the symbols, but anything more than that would take a strike of genius on his part.
Caithas stared slack jawed at the coded message before him. He opened his mouth…thought better of it, and snapped it shut. Gods, I hope someone a hell of a lot smarter than me can figure this out, the ranger thought wonderingly.
Jules recognizes the script to be ancient Demerian. Although he is unfamiliar with this language, he doubts that knowing how to read the string of letters would reveal any information. The message seems to be nothing but gibberish, as is evident by the sheer number of consonants that are placed next to each other, in blatant disregard of all rules of spelling. The man must be right: it must be some sort of coded message. Without breaking the code, whatever information may be contained on the parchment cannot be read.
(Malcom) “…We might be an individual group. But we are also the banner that all of Sovrinn will unite under.”
The man turns to Malcom; firstly, he replies to his claims: “Strong words, but words alone will not bring the Empire to its knees. However, if it reassures you, know that I share the sentiment.”
He turns to the rest of the group: “Prove us your competence and your trustworthiness, and we will admit you to our group. Our network extends through all of Andelia and you will be able to make use of our resources.”
He then tries to answer Malcom’s questions about the message: “A member of the guild of guilds intercepted this message from an emissary of the Imperial army less than a week ago. The message was intercepted just outside the city, at the Seductive Succubus. We have reasons to believe that the emissary was riding from Holgrath, and wanted to… em… relieve himself after the journey. Our agents can be very persuasive when the circumstances demand it.”
Malcom, having lived in Andelia for long, knows that the Seductive Succubus is a large brothel and pleasure-house just outside Lower Andelia. However, this is not your typical run-down local brothel. The establishment’s prices are prohibitive for all but the wealthy, so none but nobles, bureaucrats and the most successful of merchants frequent the place. These regular patrons make sure that no-one without the proper credentials disturbs their privacy.
The rebel continues: “The guildswomen copied the message and re-sealed the original, so that we do not raise any suspicions. Unfortunately, our efforts in breaking the code have been futile thus far. That’s why we are asking you… We do not know to whom this message was delivered to, but one thing is clear: the information appears to be extremely sensitive, otherwise the Imperials would not have bothered with a code.” He pauses, observing as the piece of parchment changes hands, and he sees that the message is met with confusion. "I do not expect for any but the most talented scholars to be able to decipher this message. If you do not know of such a person, may I make a suggestion: There is a man that might help. He is an infamous diviner, that is known by many simply as “the secret stealer”. Our agents confirm that he is currently associated with the local thieves’ guild, offering his services to the highest bidder. The man goes by many names, but it seems that his latest pseudonym is Runolf Graycloak."
The half-elf catches his breath. Of course it was, he thought bitterly. What else can the Whore pile on?
“Jules and I have met him. As a matter of fact,” the ranger continues, his voice coming from the back of the room, “he hired me to spy on Sir Amour here. His attempt failed, it seems. But where his hiring procedures may fail from time to time…the stories of his secret stealing are all too true.”
Caithas trails off a moment, just a second, coughs, and looks down at the floor. At his own feet, having chased those secrets for the last ten years. Ten years of failure, isolation, reflection. He looked back up into the powerful cloaked-one’s eyes.
“Malcom should be the one to see him, perhaps Elana too, if a disguised couple sounds appealing as an…,” he stuttered, realizing what he is saying only after the words tumble from his lips. “If Jules and I go, he may seem a bit…angry, I’d say. Especially with me. And frankly, he looked like he could roast me in about two seconds with some sort of magical flames, so his anger won’t be pleasant. If we all must go, I will at least try to stay out of his sight…”
He shook his head, seeing the scenarios unfold, each worse than the last. Yep, he thought. It had to be the Whore.
Malcom looks back at Caithas, beginning to slowly grasp what happened the day he met the man in the bar, “Alright. We will deal with that later.” He looked back at the carpenters, “If you don’t have any other matters to discuss it’s best we be on our way. We don’t want to linger too long.”
“That is unfortunate”, the man says to the half elf, “but I trust you to do what reason dictates.” He then turns to Malcom: “One more thing before you go: This meeting never happened. You will not seek us here again, and I expect you to maintain everything you learned tonight about the Crimson Irregulars and the Guild of Guilds a secret. If there is need to meet again, we will wait for you at the forum. Remember, if you require any resources for the task that you are about to undertake, seek us out and we will see what we can provide.”
With these words, and if no-one from the group wants to remain, the crimson-clad man leads you back to the underground corridors. This time, an alternative route is taken, and when you emerge from the tunnels, you are not far from the Thieves’ guild headquarters. A big tavern, bearing the imaginative name “Watering hole”, stands before you.
Two bouncers stand by the tavern’s entrance. Both are muscular men dressed in studded leather armor, bearing weapons by their side. As you are about to enter, they stop you, and one of them speaks out: “What business do you have here? No-one is admitted to the Watering Hole without good reason. Especially disgusting tramps that have no coin to spare.”, he says, eyeing Jules threateningly.
[OOC: Should I assume that Elana and Jules have absolutely no intention to do anything, and absolutely no thoughts on what has just occurred?]
Greycloak, by all ze fucking hells! Maybe he’ll be interested if Ah just tell him what Ah’ve been doing. He gets ze information, Caithas might live long enough to get a running start…damn it all. As if ah don’t have enough enemies right now, instead Ah have to start asking zem for help. What’s next, asking ze drug dealer for a second chance?
As the group walks down the underground passage, Jules starts thinking over the symbols. The little he knows of Demerian will be useless in dealing with a code such as this one. The thought of meeting Greycloak again also sends shivers down his spine, he may hold a grudge against Caithas, but Jules has no doubt that Greycloak had something nefarious in mind for him as well. Approaching the tavern and hearing the words of the bar’s guard he begins to regret his choice of apparel for the evening. Jules’ voice wavers as he tries to speak without his native accent.
It will do me no good to get caught now before Greycloak has his chance to kill me, it is only fair to give zem all a turn.
“I may be a bit dirty, but I got lucky today, this kind gentleman gave me a gold piece, he said he would get me a bed for the night if I accompany him to this bar.”
Jules reaches in to his rags and pulls out a single gold piece, showing it to the man, before shakily returning it to his garments, and clasping his hand on Caithas’ shoulder.
[OOC: Bluff check against the bouncer (+9). Sorry about not responding sooner.]
Caithas sputtered at Jules’ impromptu excuse to the bouncer for his appearance.
“I-I-Well, that’s just the kind of guy I am,” he says lamely to the large man before him, hoping Jules’ gold would be enough to get them in the door.
“One good turn…help a fellow traveler, you know. What goes around comes around, that sort of thing…,” and as Caithas trails off stupidly, he grins innocently at the bouncer and pulls out a few good pieces of his own, taken from the dead men in the alley.
At least those thugs get to pay for our wine and ale tonight, the half-elf thought. That is, if we live long enough to drink it.
Elana remained silent and as invisible as possible during the encounter; the shadowy dealings were far out of her element. She glimpsed the coded message in Malcom’s hand, though the symbols she’d never seen before. The message piqued her interest, and she studiously pored over it as they made their way to the Watering Hole, though she could make little sense of it in that time.
The Crimson Irregulars had said that the man Runolf Greycloak was a master of secrets. She briefly recalled the old man at the bar when she and Jules were having dinner, though she could remember nothing else of him. He seemed quite plain to her, but then that may just be what a hoarder of secrets would want to appear as; forgettable.
Back at the Watering Hole, her eyes shifted between Jules and Caithas as they tried to smooth talk their way past the guards. Jules was quick and persuasive, but it seemed as if his diseased appearance was going to be more of a hindrance here; not too many patrons would allow a diseased beggar in their establishments, even if he was waving gold about. Elana pulled her cloak closer to her. Taverns like these catered to rough men, and she had a knack for drawing attention. Now that she was a traitor, being remembered wasn’t one of her wishes. Maybe she could learn a thing or two from this Runolf.
Malcom stepped between Elana and the two ‘beggars.’ He knew Jule’s and Caithas’ excuses were flimsy at best his weapons and shield would be more than enough convincing to pose as a bodyguard, he shot Jules and Caithas a menacing look, It might of worked better if Caithas and Jules didn’t come along… “The lady and I are in need of a bit of information. And we were led to believe that there was an individual here who might specialize in such a thing.” he looked towards Elana and back at the men, “Well? Don’t leave us standing here. There’s a curfew about.”
[OOC: If the bouncers look like they’re not convinced by Jules/Malcom, Elana will do the following. If they buy it, then disregard this post]
Seeing the doubt written plainly on the bouncers’ faces, Elana steps forward, head held high doing her best to appear like the haughty nobles she’d lived amongst all her life. “Put that coin away,” she says disdainfully to Jules. “These men will not be impressed by your pittance. Do not let their garb fool you,” she says to the bouncers. “These men are my servants. Vagabonds are invisible to most men, and make the best eyes and ears, as I’m sure you know.” She ran a hand down Jules’ cheek rubbing off some of the make up. “This man,” she said, holding her hand up with the smeared make up. “Is the master of spies for my House. His only ailment is that he lacks the wits to know when to hold his tongue.” That should make them less hesitant about letting Jules in, and it made her facade of a lady all the more buy-able if she had a master of spies in her service.
She wished she had her bejeweled clothes to make her seem more like nobility. “My guard speaks truly, we’re here for business and our need is urgent.” Now she had two cards to play: intimidation through power, or temptation in reward. The attitude the bouncers acted with showed that they were no servants and that they did not fear reprisals from the clientele. If she threatened them they would not react well. That left her with reward, though she was dressed quite plainly and had little gold to offer. A hint of a promise would have to do.
She continued without missing a beat. “I would be indebted to you should you allow us to pass.” Her tone was nearly a purr, but spoken strongly like a woman who was playing coy by choice, rather than desperation. If the guards misinterpreted the hint of promise in her eyes for something other than gold, well that was hardly unintentional.
[OOC: Bluff +8]
The bouncer looks at Jules’ sickly visage with a mixture of scorn and disgust, before turning to Caithas to listen to his words with disbelief. He keenly observes the half-elf from top to toe, noting the two swords hanging from the ranger’s belt. He seems unimpressed by the gold pieces you flaunt to his face. After the little show is over, he remains silent, gazing at Jules intently with a cold stare. Finally, a few words are uttered to both Caithas and Jules: “Get lost, clowns!” The disguises, although useful for blending in with the crowd, are too convincing for both Caithas’ and Jules’ own good.
Malcom’s words are also met with apathy, but the bouncers listen to Elana with more interest: “If you seek for information, you are at the right place.” He opens the doors, allowing the party to enter the tavern. Before closing the door, the bouncer whispers some words of advice: “Don’t do anything stupid, and keep an eye on your belongings.”
As he closes the door, you have a chance to observe the tavern’s interior. It is dominated by a huge hall, much bigger than the dining rooms of both Ulf’s and Longinus’ establishments combined. Many wooden tables are placed in an orderly manner, and most of them are full. Behind the bar, more than five cooks are frantically working, preparing meals and taking orders from the waiters, who are constantly shuttling between the tables and the kitchen, carrying meals and drinks and returning with empty plates and mugs. A wooden staircase leads upstairs, where the inn’s rooms presumably are. A few doors can also be seen in the big dining hall, but you do not see anyone using those. In the center of the room, a band of four musicians are playing traditional music. Currently, the singer is regaling a story about a nationalist talking dog with his extremely bass voice.
[OOC: Song, ignore the real-world references and you should be fine.]
You all sit at a table, and soon a waiter arrives to take your orders. You look for Markus and Erik, as well as Runolf Graycloak, but the tavern is too crowded to find any of those men. Eventually, after having a meal and a drink, you get up and start seeking Runolf.
[OOC: Feel free to role-play the dinner and discuss a plan of action, if you want. If you decide something different, then ignore the next paragraph.]
After several minutes of searching, you observe an old man, sitting alone near a small table that is located in the corner of the tavern. A deck of cards is placed atop the table; the wizard appears to be playing some kind of game, perhaps solitaire. As you approach, Jules and Caithas can verify that this is Runolf. Before you come to close, Runolf addresses Caithas: “So you’ve come to beg at last… What is it? Do you require my assistance, now that you are a wanted man?” It is evident that the wizard has managed to see through Caithas’ disguise with little trouble. Runolf does not bother to hide the smirk on his face, which suggests that he is enjoying this.
Jules takes a seat near Runolf, facing the smirking man. He holds up a hand to Caithas’ chest, hoping his friend doesn’t try anything rash this early in the meeting.
“Ze issues you have with my friend should be of no concern here. We have come to zis place to do business. Ah have done you no treachery, so will you do business with me? Clearly you had an interest once, and if zat still holds we may be able to come to an arrangement.”
[OOC: I don’t know if you want a diplomacy check now, or some time later when we actually ask him something bigger, but the modifier is +10 when you need it.]
“Begging? Not my style, sir. You should know that by now. I’m just a simple hired sword. Any business you have tonight isn’t with me, but rather with those I travel with. If you’ll excuse me, I need another drink.”
Caithas still could not quite believe he was staring at the man that had started him on this wildly unlikely journey. And while the old wizard made him uncomfortable and more than a little afraid, the half-elf felt no real animosity. After all, Greycloak had offered him what he’d desired for a decade; he’d turned the caster down, not the other way around. He was a sneaky old bastard and dangerous as hell, but the ranger truly believed that if anyone could help their little band in this city, Runolf Greycloak might just be their best bet.
Just keep quiet and don’t let him get under your skin, Caithas told himself. The old man knew how to hurt and tempt him; the half-elf would do all he could to ignore his less-pacifistic impulses.
Trusting the nobles and Malcom to handle the negotiations, Caithas made his way through the crowd, laid a coin on the crowded bar’s countertop, and ordered a glass of red wine. He then looked around the bar to see if he could locate any other familiar faces.
(OOC: +3 Diplomacy check for dealing with Runolf; +2 Perception check for looking around the bar.)
Stepping through the threshold, Elana felt the groups eyes on her. “Well we needed to get in!” she whispered defensively, trying to hide her blush. Of course she knew how to flaunt her looks, but she had the decency to be a little embarrassed about it.
After the dinner, once they engage Runolf, Elana sticks to the back, content to let Jules do the dealings. She takes the time to study the old man. He was supposed to be a powerful wizard, though he looked wholly unremarkable. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but he piqued her interest, so she studied him silently, as well as the curious deck of cards he was playing with.
Malcom shrugged as Elana made her excuse, “Indeed.” is all he replies.
Malcom stood at the head of the table between Runolf and Jules. He wasn’t a very good negotiator and would leave it to Jules to finish the deal. Though from what he knew the man was the cause of a lot of Caithas’ woes. And he wouldn’t mind rough housing him. Even if he was a wizard, Malcom wasn’t genuinely afraid. He was, after all, also a wizard of sorts… although untested at the moment. He waited to see if the old man would bother addressing him at all, or if he’d only speak to Jules.
Before Caithas has a chance to walk away, Runolf speaks out, pointing out some unfinished business between the two of them: “There is still the issue of your journey to Svorinn… you may have conveniently forgotten that I paid for everything, but I haven’t. Fifty sovereigns is the debt you owe me. I would see what is rightfully mine returned-threefold. A generous offer, considering your treason.” The wizard waits for Caithas’ reply, but if the half-elf chooses to walk away, he neither says nor does anything.
With that out of the way, Greycloak turns his attention to Jules, who has confidently taken a seat next to him. “Sir Amour, I knew that you were the wisest of the pair ever since I laid my eyes on you in Yorvik.” He turns to Elana, standing up, taking her hand and kissing it: “Lady Savain, beautiful as ever. Always a pleasure, my lady”, he remarks, making a courteous bow. Turning buck to Jules, he continues: “Your contract with Darkcrow still holds, despite your bodyguard’s decision to part ways with me. The denizens will honor their side of the deal and lend their help, if you honor your word. Words have reached me that you and Caithas are wanted by the law. I guess it’s safe to assume that the half-man dragged you to his ill-considered misadventures. Well, it is of little concequence now. A storm is building up over this god-forsaken city. But I digress… what is it, exactly, that you seek?”
Malcom grew quite upset with the man as he taunted Caithas, they could deal with their issues later…
he watched as the old man cooed both the nobles before him, stroking Jule’s ego expertly and playing to Elana’s strings. He was sharp, but it didn’t seem at the moment that he knew anything more than he should. Infact he probably knew less. If Jule’s was such a smart man, he’d never of gotten into this mess in the first place, nor would he have gotten injured in whatever fight hurt him recently. He’s also off about how they got involved. He might be good with some secrets, but not all.
He was more relieved than anything. He was worried the man was going to say something… unbecoming of him. Or something about his family. Malcom kept his mouth shut and watched.
Caithas turned to Runolf as he named his price.
“Blood from a stone, old man. Blood from a goddamn stone. Here,” he says, pulling out the eight gold pieces he’d found on the dead thug’s body in the alley, “is my down payment. The gentleman who I relieved these from won’t miss them. When I come into some more, it’s yours. Just help my friends and leave me be.”
Despite the man’s insults and jabs at Caithas he is still willing to do business, and at the very least Jules is grateful for that.
“Two things, first a rather small matter, Ah have letters zat Ah need sent out, one to Yorvik and ze other to ze Dwarves of ze Iron Domes. Ah had intended to call on our two families for aid, but zat seems rather unlikely with what has happened recently. Second is ze matter of a message we have found. It is in code and we have been told zat you are ze best in zis field, zat you know how to find secrets zat people want to keep hidden. Can you help us in zis matter, Runolf?”
The idea of doing business with a man who had been trying to spy on him only a few days before was unsettling for Jules, but given his small list of potential allies, and his meeting earlier today, this may become the norm for him soon.
Runolf takes the coins from Caithas, replying: “That is hardly enough, but it’s a start. Next time I see you, you’d better have the remainder of the fee. Once your dept is settled, I do not want to lay my eyes on you again.” He pauses to smile threateningly: “I am certain that the feeling is mutual.”
Having not been formally introduced to Malcom, but seeing that he is associated with the party, Greycloak stretches out his hand, anticipating a handshake: “I am Runolf Greycloak, humble servant to the Denizens here in Andelia. I haven’t had the pleasure of your name yet, I believe.”
He then turns to Jules: "Certainly, I will make sure that the letters are sent to their destinations. With the state of emergency imposed, it would be challenging to attempt this via the proper channels. Bur rest assured that your messages will be delivered-let’s just say that I happen to know a few “ravens”. Now, about this message of yours…"
[OOC: If you choose to hand him the letters and the message, then the following occurs, otherwise just ignore.]
Runolf keenly observes the message, uttering some incantations at some point and trying to access the number and the type of the characters. “Ancient Demerian, but the message is clearly coded. Some brief strings make sense here and there, revealing a word that is usually misspelled, but this is most likely random. Interestingly, not all of the ancient Demerian alphabet is used… just twenty-six characters. This implies that we have a substitution cipher. Whoever coded this message used ancient Demerian characters to replace the characters of the Common script through a defined procedure. Understanding the procedure is the key to unlocking the contents of the message. I take it that you have tried frequency analysis?” The old man looks at Jules inquisitively, assuming that you understand what he means.
Caithas just nodded at the old prick, set his grim smile in stone, and walked away. With his back turned, he called:
“Until the next time you see me, Greycloak. Until then…”
He moved towards the bar, towards the crowd, towards anything but the old man and the memory of his flashing eyes. His gods-be-damned power.
Wine, the half-elf thought quite clearly. I need wine. Whatever else he thought, that was one assured.
He walked to the counter and laid his coin down. When it was clear that help and refreshment were not on the way, he leaned forward, elbows on the bar, looking for the barkeep. He said in a normal tone of voice, though with some volume, “A red wine, sir, when you get the time.”
(OOC: Dioplomacy check +3)
Jules smirks at the old man, his intelligence clear. Jules knew of code breaking from the little training his father had given him back when he believed Jules could become a decent noble, before Jules abandoned it for more interesting pursuits. Now he wished that he had focused a little more so that he wouldn’t be stuck in this damned situation.
“Ah made an attempt at it when we first found ze note, but as Ah am sure you can tell, ze most common letters appear in amounts zat don’t reveal much, and trying to identify key words and syllables has revealed nothing. Whoever made zis probably knew enough to avoid common words zat could break ze code. Zat is why we came to you, to find out what you see.”
Malcom shook the mans hand, “Perhaps you are. But by your trade, I’ll keep to myself here.”
You observe your surroundings as soon as you sit near the bar, trying to spot Markus or anyone else of the rebels. Unfortunately, none of them can be seen, despite the fact that your position gives you a good overview of the main dining hall. A barman hands you a glass of wine, perhaps taking a bit more time than for the other patrons, although it seems that your coin is as good as any for the man. Sitting around the crowded bar, you listen to snippets of conversation, although it is too difficult to focus on particular individuals, because of all the commotion. Most patrons are drunk, ranging from slightly intoxicated to wasted, and all are shouting, trying to make their voices heard. You do not pick up much information, but it appears that everyone is excited about a champion of something, and everyone is talking passionately about this fight or the other, describing the fighters’ strategy, technique and skill. Many are arguing about who the best fighter is, and arguments of this sort seem to be about to escalate into violence. Nevertheless, before that happens, the band stops playing, the waiters stop serving, and a group of them clears a small square in the middle of the hall from tables and patron alike. A small man climbs on the top of a table and addresses the croud, who has gone silent.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thugs and whores! The event you have all been waiting for is about to begin! Show your support and place your bets!” Two half-naked men start walking towards the middle of the improvised ring, approaching from opposite sides. At the same time, the waiters are collecting coins from the tavern’s patrons, giving them an iron or a copper coin in exchange. As the two fighters assume position, the small man continues: “From the frozen tundra of the north, fighting his first fight in Andelia, please welcome Hromir the destroyer!” The crowd boos upon hearing the newcomer’s title, but this does not deter the small man: "And on the right side, the warrior-priest you all know and loathe… The massive monster, the hero of Hadrata, Bagdul “the blessed beast” Harad!" The big man is booed even more loudly than Hromir, but he does not seem to mind.
One of the waiters stops in front of Caithas and asks him if he would like to place a bet.
Jules et al.
Runolf smiles at you in approval. You get the impression that, although keenly interested in your answer, his interest stemmed from a desire to evaluate your mental skills, and not the message. “That is what I expected”, he says, “which may only mean one thing: whoever encrypted this message, went to great lengths to make the cipher as secure as possible.” He hands Jules the parchment, before continuing: “Is there anything else you know about this message? What is its origin? Perhaps I could narrow down on the alternatives if I knew who encrypted this.” He pauses, before adding: “This matter should be discussed away from prying eyes… or ears, for that matter. Sir Jules, if you would accompany me to my chamber, we could discuss this sensitive matter in private.” He turns to Elana and Malcom, briefly apologizing: “My lady, Sir, I am sorry, but this arrangement is to the best of your interests, as well. Such information might prove dangerous for you, and I would not like to jeopardize any more individuals.”
“I’m afraid such information could not jeopardize me any more than I already am. I have more invested in this letter than he.” Malcom nodded towards Jules, he couldn’t be swayed. He was coming along. “So I’m afraid I’m coming along as well.” Malcom looked behind him at the announcing man, “And I believe it best if the lady came with as well, but I defer that choice to her.”
“It is up to Jules to decide, but if you are worried about his safety, rest assured: not a single hair on his head will be harmed.”, Runolf says. “Besides, I am unwilling to share information with a stranger I just met.”, he says to Malcom.
[OOC: So, three options: Jules goes with Runolf, alone, or you give Runolf the message and he tries to decipher it without additional info, or you just walk away.]
“Then you are no servant to the people of Andelia, and perhaps not as good as an informationist as advertised. I won’t deny that this message goes above my head, but perhaps I can find another stranger to decipher it?” Malcom was starting to have serious doubts about the man. His apparent ability to decrypt the message aside, he was terribly uninformed, if he did support the people, the ‘secret stealer’ would certainly know the main figures within the rebellion. “Let me put it this way, that letter, is my investment, and I will see it through.”
Knowing Runolf isn’t the sort of man to be disregarded, Jules tries his best to smooth over any situation that might arise from Malcom’s insistence.
“Forgive me, Runolf, zey are wary of trusting anyone with my safety after ze events we have endured today. But Ah see no harm you could do me zat zer intervention could prevent. Let us go and see what zis message is about.”
Jules turns to Malcom and whispers to him, “Ah know it isn’t ideal, but zis is ze progress we need to make if zis rebellion is to go anywhere, Ah have already nearly died for our cause today, so trust me with zis. Copy ze message down onto something before Ah go just in case something happens. Also, if Ah don’t come back in ten minutes break down zat door and make sure Ah’m not dead.”
“Damnit Jules. you’re just some rouge who came to this city only days ago. This message…” He cut himself off, no wanting to reveal to much about it or himself. “Go then, don’t screw this up and you’ll have both my complete trust and faith in you. Screw it up and there will be two dead bodies in that room.” He grumbled as he stepped away, clearly unhappy with the situation. He stood facing the two men in the ring, arms crossed tapping his fingers on the sides of his arms. He’ll give them five minutes. In his mind, he bet on the skinny man to win the brawl, he figured if he could leverage his size and speed properly he’d make it out alright.
[OOC: I guess this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object . Also, keep in mind that Runolf handed the message to Jules, not Malcom, so it’s actually Jules’ call.]
Runolf turns to Jules: “I am beginning to doubt your judgment when it comes to choosing allies. Your friend will not budge, but neither will I, so I am afraid we cannot reach a compromise. I will repeat this only once: this information is for your ears only. If you choose to share it with your ill-chosen friends, that is your problem. But I will not. You can join me to discuss in private, or you can trust the cipher to me, and I will try to break the code with what I know. Otherwise, I fear that we have nothing to discuss.”
He then turns to Malcom, taking no care to conceal that he is running out of patience: “You speak with the conviction of an ignorant fanatic. You are in the vipers’ nest, and yet you seek to find servants to the people? I guess you are more naive than what I had expected. Feel free to seek out your stranger, if you are convinced that I lack the necessary skills.”
[Edit: Ninja’d by Maclom Also, Malcom, it’s a rogue, not a rouge-rouge is actually the color pink Edit: or is it red?]
Jules turns away from his argument with Malcom before things get out of hand. He takes a deep breath before speaking to Runolf again.
“My choice in allies is not of concern at ze moment, Ah will go with you to learn more of zis note, but first Ah would ask zat you let my companions copy ze message down in order to prevent any possible misfortune zat may befall zis rather precious item.”
Runolf leads the way, unlocking one of the doors in the main hall and locking it after Jules passes through. “For your own safety”, he remarks. You soon enter a small room, that is nevertheless full of presumably expensive works of art. “So”, Runolf asks, “care to elaborate on the source of the message? I have a couple of pet theories, but you may yet help me in narrowing down the possibilities.”
[OOC-Edit: Runolf also allows Malcom to copy the message before you go.]
A waiter stops next to you, asking you if you would like to place a bet.
Intriguingly, Runolf lets his deck of cards behind. The cards are arranged in piles, as is normal for playing solitaire. The ones facing upwards bear vivid art that is very heterogeneous in style, as if the cards were collected from many different decks. About half of the cards bear quite realistic depictions of naked women in provocative poses. With Runolf away and the crowd focusing its attention to the upcoming fight, you could probably examine the deck in detail if you wanted to.
Jules admires the artwork for a moment as he passes into the room. He thinks about sharing the source of the information but refrains from doing so for a moment.
“It isn’t going to be zat easy, Runolf, you have seen ze message, you must have some idea of how to decode it. Ah’m not about to reveal everything without learning something in return first.”
Malcom shakes his head no, “Fights are too unpredictable to waste coin. Bring me a drink though, will ya?” he turns back to the table after Runolf and Jules leaves, “Damnit all…” he says to Elana in passing. He looks at her and the cards, expecting some sort of response for his insistence and threat against Jules and the man. He felt kinda useless, but in a moment after making sure she’d be alright he’d head over to the door and wait for Jules to emerge.
“You already have”, says Runolf mysteriously, giving you that smirk again.
“Let us stop this charade, then. Allow me to begin. So, this is somehow military correspondence, correct?” He eyes you in anticipation of your reaction. “Before we go into this, Jules, may I give you some free advice, opportunist to fellow opportunist? You seem to have already chosen sides in the conflict that is about to unfold. There is a saying here in Svorinn: never choose sides before you know which one is going to win… I admire your balls, but this rebellion might yet cost you your head.”
[OOC: I will wait for Mike and Jeff before going on with the rest of the stories, so Jules might be in the spotlight for a while.]
A wide smile breaks through Jules’ face as he takes a moment to admire Runolf’s apparent forthrightness.
“Starting from ze beginning, yes it is a military or government message of some sort. My faith in ze source is less zan absolute, so Ah can’t confirm its legitimacy though. Also, while Ah appreciate ze advice, Ah am not in much of a position to return to ze other side. Zey know zat Ah am a traitor, and now ze only path to what Ah desire is zis rebellion.”
Caithas eyes the upcoming brawl with interest. This kind if unexpected entertainment was exactly what he was looking for. Anything to help forget the old man and the fact that he knew more about Caithas’ widow than the half-elf did himself!
“A wager? Aye. Here’re five gold; put ’em on the little one from the North.”
As he bet (always on the outsider, he thought with an inward grin), he looked over his shoulder, hoping Runolf wasn’t watching him pull more coins out of a separate purse. That wouldn’t be fun at all…
“Alright”, says Runolf, “at least we know what we are dealing with.” He pauses to give Jules time to prepare himself for what he will say: “I believe I know the nature of the cipher that was used. The bad news is that the cipher is unbreakable. The brightest minds of the realms have been trying to break this code for more than half a century. All of them have failed. The good news is that you may yet be able to recover the information… but you might need to convince the right individuals.”
He proceeds to explain the cipher: “As you probably know, the most common way of encrypting messages is to use simple substitution, exchanging each letter for another. While this approach has been used for hundreds of years, it can be broken by frequency analysis. Since not all letters are equally common, one can analyze the frequency of letters in any encrypted message, and compare the frequencies to the expected frequencies of letters in a normal piece of text. Then, by comparing those frequencies, one can deduce the substitution, and therefore break the cipher.”
[OOC: Just explaining for anyone that might have an interest in cryptography.]
“Unfortunately, the Black Chambers throughout Demeria and Svorinn learned of this inherent flaw many decades ago. In response, their intelligence agents developed alternative protocols to make their encryptions impervious to hacking. The most common approach is to use polyalphabetic substitution instead of monoalphabetic substitution. Like the simple, monoalphabetic substitution, polyalphabetic substitution uses a set of simple rules to transform every character to another one. However, unlike simple substitution, in polyalphabetic substitution, the protocol is constantly shifting, according to a previously decided keyword.” He tries to better explain this encryption method by drawing a matrix:
“For example, if the keyword is “blood”, then the second row, corresponding to “b”, is used for encrypting the first letter. The row corresponding to “l” is used for the second letter of the message, then “o” is used, and so on, until “d” is reached. After the first five letters in the message, the process is repeated again, starting with “b”. This approach essentially renders frequency analysis useless. For your message, there seems to be another complication: namely, the use of the ancient Demerian alphabet."
“Long story short, since the code is unbreakable, you need the keyword to decipher the message. Do not ask me how I know all this. As I have repeatedly stated, knowing secrets is what I get paid for. You will need to get your hands on the keyword. Perhaps through abduction, torture, subterfuge or magic; I will leave that up to your group. Kidnapping or manipulating an intelligence agent of the Black Chamber is no small feat, but I see no other way of proceeding.” After this long speech, Runolf pauses to allow Jules to share his thoughts.
Jules contemplates the situation at hand, an unbreakable code requiring an agent of this organization. More work with more complications, and worst of all, asking Runolf for help once more.
“Very well zen, it seems my allies and Ah must seek out a member of zis Black Chamber. Ah don’t suppose you know where to find one of zem?”
[OOC: I work one shift and there’s so many new posts already!]
As Jules and Runolf leave, Elana puts a comforting hand on Malcom’s shoulder, seeing his distress. “He’ll be alright,” she said, more confidently than she felt. “Runolf certainly has a . . . slimy feel to him, but I don’t think he’d be foolish enough to harm us here.”
A loud cheer from the crowd draws her attention to the impromptu fighting ring. She was about to ask what was going on when a momentary gap in the crowd revealed two very naked men fighting each other. “Oookay,” she said, turning away from the spectacle only to face Runolf’s deck of lewd cards. She gave a disbelieving snort as she inspected the cards. Was there anything special about them or were they simply lusty pictures? Curious, she rifled through the deck hoping to find something of interest other than pornographic material.
Malcom watch as she rifled through the cards, he gave a bit of a giggle before saying, “I didn’t know… Jules never stood a chance did he?” he gave a bit of a laugh before picking up some of the more plain cards, “You think they’re magical or anything? Maybe its how he ‘steals his secrets.’ What a fool… and pretty ignorant and arrogant too.”
Detect Magic Orison
Elana grinned at the soldier. “You’d rather I watch two naked men wrestle each other into submission?”
She picked up a card with a picture of a four breasted woman who had distinctly canine features. “I don’t know about magical,” she said, discarding it quickly. “But they’re certainly something . . .”
“He does seem arrogant,” she continued. “But that comes with power, more often than not.” She picked up another card that depicted a couple making love under a tree whilst vultures looked on. “I hope these aren’t an indicator to the secrets he steals.”
“They’re only almost naked… I’d rather you watched a gentleman woo a lady than anything you could possibly find here.” he flipped some more cards, trying to replace them in places he picked them up from, “I don’t know what secrets he steals, but it seems he drug Caithas all this way, I don’t know what of his he’s stolen, but it almost broke the man.” he shrugged and set the cards down, getting anxious about Jules and the man. It had been only moments but… trusting a stranger with a message that might be revealing of one of the major movements of the rebellion was frightening. Especially if he sold secrets. Whats to stop him from selling them to the Imperials?
Jules and Runolf
Runolf explains: “The Black Chamber is located in the administrative headquarters of lower Andelia. It is virtually impossible to storm the governmental buildings, especially since military law has recently been imposed. Moreover, the administrative headquarters are located next to the barracks. You would be slaughtered before entering the antechamber.”
“If you are to succeed, you should secretly observe the bureaucrats and try to learn their weaknesses and their vices. You could either kidnap one of them, or you could try to set one up in unwillingly revealing his secrets. The latter approach is more elegant, and if you can somehow manage to steal the keyword without the agents’ knowledge, that would benefit your cause the most. On the other hand, violence might be successful when words and schemes fail… I generally refrain from such crude methods, and the authorities might learn of your procession of their secrets. ”
Runolf retrieves a map of lower Andelia from one of his drawers, marking the location of the Black Chamber and showing it to you. He then continues: “Now, I will lend my aid to you in this task, but I will not join you to lower Andelia. If, however, you manage to lure an intelligence agent here, or if you kidnap one of them, then you might want to consider bringing the man to me. My mind-reading skills might prove useful, if the man is reluctant to offer his… cooperation.”
You receive five iron coins with holes in their center, to indicate that you have placed a wager on Hromir. As the waiters finish collecting the coins from the crowd, a deathly silence falls in the hall. Everyone focuses on the fighters, who are about to collide. They are both barefoot, wearing nothing but a pair of trousers and no protective gear for their fists. The small man that made the announcement signals the start of the fight.
Bagdul, the big man, charges blindly, with no apparent skill, full of rage and fury. Hromir is more reserved, placing emphasis on controlling the center of the ring and deflecting his opponent’s powerful, but clumsy strikes. From time to time, he manages to counterattack, making quick, well-placed strikes in rapid succession to the big man’s body. However, these blows do little to deter Bagdul, who seems to easily shrug off the damage and press on with his assault. Soon enough, Bagdul is covered in bruises, but he does not seem to care.
About one minute in, Bagdul seems to be getting a bit tired. Hromir tries to take the advantage, relaxing his guard and jumping on the offensive. Nevertheless, Bagdul suddenly regains his stamina, as he throws a jab-cross combination to his opponent. The jab connects, momentarily disorienting Hromir. The crowd looks in excitement, as the second strike is about to connect.
Outcome – (1d100)7 [OOC: 1-55, Bagdul wins, 56-100, Hromir wins]
The cross connects, hitting Hromir in the nose and giving him no time to react. The man is knocked out immediately, his nose cracked and bleeding severely. The crowd cheers wildly as the winner raises his fists up in the air and shouts: “Witness the power of Horun Hadrata, the one and only true God!” Caithas can clearly see that this Bagdul Harad is a half-orc, bearing the characteristic protruding tusks of his race.
The waiter comes to relieve Caithas of the iron coins, as the announcer cries out: “Who dares to fight against the winner? Great wealth and fame might await the bold!” The people in the crowd are mumbling, but no-one seems to dare to take on the berserker priest.
Malcom and Elana
Malcom focuses his newly-acquired powers on the deck. There are several cards lying on the table, but only those that have not been turned emanate powerful blue light, that sends rays across the room. Elana does not seem to notice anything, thus suggesting that this effect is only visible to Malcom. Malcom maintains his concentration, trying to find out as much as possible from the vulgar deck.
[OOC: Roll below, since this attempt failed.]
[OOC: A moderate magical aura emanates from ten cards that have not been turned. The other cards appear completely mundane. The magic seems to be of the divination school, but since Malcom is not trained in Spellcraft, he cannot identify the properties of this item.]
Arcana_Malcom – (1d20+5)22
Jules sighs for a moment, acknowledging the difficulty that this task is going to bring with it. He turns to leave the room saying,
“Ah should get back to my friends, zey may attempt something foolish if Ah stay here too long. But before Ah go, Ah would like to know, why did you hire Caithas to spy on me?”
Jules doesn’t expect much of an answer, knowing that any man called a ‘secret stealer’ would be unlikely to share his personal secrets with just anyone, much less someone involved in it, but anything the man reveals might still be able to point him towards Runolf’s true motives in this scheme.
Damn, Caithas mutters quietly. First the coins to Greycoak, now this idiot who couldn’t dodge a punch…not my day, the ranger thinks as he finishes his glass of wine. That’s when he hears the announcer yell about a new combatant.
Goddamn this fugitive status of mine, the half-elf silently laments. If every miserable eye in this city hadn’t seen my face on those posters, I’d beat that big ol’ bastard back to his clan and collect some coins in the process.
He checks the packed room, but Jules and Greycloak are no where to be seen. Hopefully that was a good sign and not an indication that the wizard was picking them off one by one. Malcom and Elana were at the table, but they seemed deep in conversation; no point in interrupting. So it was either drink another glass of wine alone, or…
Fingering his rags, Caithas pauses and reconsiders. If this disguise has worked so far, then maybe it’s enough to keep me off the radar of those that have seen the likenesses posted about town.
Besides, the half-elf considers as he finds himself suddenly standing, I’ve won every other fight I’ve picked today. Maybe three times’ a charm. And after all, he thinks as he hears himself speak above the crowd’s din, what the fuck do I have to lose?
“Aye, if a challenger is needed, I’ll give it a go.”
Malcom shuttered as the cards glowed in blue light, he could feel like he was looking at two overlapping planes, arcana and material… he paid special attention to the cards as he picked them up and gave each of them a once over.
“They’re… mostly unmagical… but there’s something about these ten cards?” as he looked at them he showed them to Elana before replacing them. “Don’t ask me how but… I know they are. Perhaps… these 10 are used for divination, and the rest merely represent people, places or things? It would be mad to think he could memorize something for each card… especially with those images on them… What do you make of these cards?”
[[ I was thinking that Elana would get revealed because of it, just by chance, but it would only work if she cast anything recently, which she hasn’t. Maybe this will spook her into revealing herself? ;D?]]
[[OOC: Nice try! I’m going to abuse your new found abilities instead ]]
Elana glanced at the cards Malcom indicated, then back at the soldier. So he can detect magic too? This was good to know. Obviously it wasn’t a passive ability, but she would be more careful around him now. Although, if he could see magical auras, that meant she could use him to “discover” magical items. Elana riffled through her bag and pulled out the stick-wand. “What about this?” she asked. She’d suspected it was in fact magical, but with the wizard about, she never had a chance to see for herself.
A cheer from the crowd behind her said a new fight was starting. She glanced about, but could hardly make out the participants from where she was standing. Holding the wand out to Malcom she muttered, “Where’s Caithas gone to?”
Jules and Runolf
“Let’s just say that I can tell a good investment when I see it.”, Runolf explains. Seeing that Jules is eager to leave, Runolf remarks: “Before you go, there is one more thing… I know that you might not trust me, but as I said, you are my investment, and I do not wish for harm to come to you. Caithas may have spoken of me already, presumably in a… (coughs) less than flattering manner. However, let me caution you about this man, for I have seen firsthand what he is capable of. He is a reckless, overeager halfwit who will put you and your allies in danger, sooner or later. If you chose to trust him with any important task, sooner or later you will end up in some gutter, bleeding to death.”
He attempts to convey his point by grabbing Jules’ hand in his palms. The young noble does not understand the significance of his action, but as a powerful current surges through his body, he realizes that Runolf has just casted a spell. Jules witnesses a vivid scene from someone else’s memories: it is night, and Caithas is standing on the deck of a ship, scimitar at hand. Blood is dripping from the blade and, as the visual angle changes, Jules can see a sailor lying dead on the deck, his throat slashed from side to side. Caithas drops the body in the ocean, before he remarks, apparently to no-one in particular: “He was not innocent.”
After the scene unfolds, Jules abruptly returns to reality, his hand still in Runolf’s grasp. Runolf remarks: “Be wary of the ranger. He is a danger to himself and to all those around him.” With those words, he unlocks the door and allows you to exit, if you have nothing else to say to him.
As you step up, the crowd bursts out in laughter. A ragged beggar eager to fight against that giant of a man? They must think that you are mad, but their laughter is short lived, because as you undress for the fight, everyone notices your blades and your armor. While you are preparing, Bagdul stares you down, attempting to get to you. The crazed half-orc is covered in scars and tattoos, all of them depicting his God’s holy symbols. The small man explains the rules surprisingly quickly, but there aren’t many to begin with. No strikes to the groin, no eye-gouging and no hitting your opponent when he’s down. You nod in agreement as you enter the ring. There are no ropes or walls around it, just a bunch of frenzied men placing bets and urging you to fight. The small man cries out: “Fight!” and the match begins.
[OOC: Basically, you manage to beat the half-orc in the 3rd round, after you both spend the first and second round beating each other senseless and taking several solid hits. I will explain the rules later, but feel free to describe the fight if you want.]
Malcom and Elana
As Malcom examines the cards, he turns one of the ten magical ones that were laying face down.
Random card – (1d10)8
A sickening feeling goes through Malcom’s body, as he is forced to take a seat. The room is spinning around him, and the sound of a multitude of voices from all directions is almost unbearable. Somehow, the sounds emanating from a seemingly random man from the crowd around the ring dominates: “Kill the bastard! Rip his fucking throat! Come on, I have fifteen sovereigns on you, you piece of shit!” Despite the sounds, Malcom cannot see the man moving his lips; he is just shaking his fist and shouting like an animal.
Caithas heard their laughter and wondered if it was justified. Dear gods, I’m half the big bastard’s size, the half-elf thought wonderingly as he looked up at his opponent. But as he removed his rags, flexed his fists and danced back and forth on the balls of his feet, Caithas began to feel that he did indeed belong.
After all, he thought as he heard the announcer shout ‘fight’, it’s my lucky day, isn’t it?
The ranger threw the first punch and it landed to no real effect. Oh hells, it’s like hitting a brick! Except this brick hit back.
Caithas staggered under the first blow from Bagdul, a massive right hook that nearly lifted the half-elf off of the ground.
Caithas returned fire though, matching the big brute blow for blow, time and again. Finally, dripping sweat and blood, the half-elf saw an opening and snuck a vicious upper-cut to Bagdul’s jaw. Dazed, the half-Orc threw a wild come backer, which Caithas dodged and, using his opponent’s own weight against him, threw the giant to he ground. Bagdul didn’t look like he’d be getting up too soon.
Huffing, Caithas slowed his breathing and, though hurt, smiled broadly.
“That…was fun…,” he puffed out to the announcer. “What’s my prize?”
Malcom smiles as he looks at the piece of stick, “What am I some sorta magic identifying microscope?…” he voice trailed off as he turns one of the cards. The room wheels around him and he falls unsteadily into Rundolf’s chair. Despite all the noise and commotion from the fight he can hear someone yelling above the rest of the voices, who seemed… muted, even if the man wasn’t yelling. Malcom looked around and spotted the man, it wasn’t very hard, everything else had gone fuzzy and out of focus. He was screaming noise at the fight, to encourage his fighter… but he could also hear him yelling intelligibly… Malcom dropped the card onto the table and shook his head, trying to regain his bearings, “Woah….” is all he can manage as his vision comes back.
He certainly knew what just happened, and he had earned a bigger respect for the man. But even then, his magic stemmed from the cards by the look of things. He peered over to Elana,“I want some cards like that… Gods above…”
Jules staggers back at the vision given to him by Runolf. He has seen Caithas kill before, even in cold blood, but his words ring in his mind. Remembering as he leaves, the words of Malcom’s ally in the tavern.
“He was not innocent.”
“Bloody no-good blue-blood! Innocent, my ass!"
Hells, zat…no, Ah can’t believe zat Caithas would turn on me, Ah trusted him with my life. But he has disobeyed me. And when he started fighting in ze rebellion, even zat endangered me. Reckless, yes, Overeager, yes, but he would never intentionally endanger our group, he knows at ze very least how important it is to…
[OOC: If Jules can’t see or hear Caithas ignore this part, he’ll just head back to the table where Elana and Malcom are.]
As Jules exits the room and observes the fight ending, he is shocked, and his jaw drops before his mind can fully process what is going on, Caithas, without a disguise,in a ring, fighting in front of dozens of people.
“That…was fun…,What’s my prize?”
“Son of a Bitch.” his voice is soft and barely audible over the roar of the crowd, but as he sees what is going on he rushes back to the table to find Elana and Malcom.
“Can one of you explain to me why my friend is in ze middle of a circle of fighters, uncloaked, without a disguise, and fighting?”
Elana sets down the cards, noticing Malcom’s pained features as he takes a seat. “Is something wrong?”
“Woah….I want some cards like that… Gods above…”
She was about to ask him what he meant by that when Jules returned pointing at the fighting ring. Elana hadn’t been paying the fight any attention and just then saw the winner. “Caithas?” The half-elf was bruised, but clearly the victor of the battle. So far no one in the audience seemed to recognize him, or if they did they weren’t running for the guards. He must be drunk, or maybe Runolf really got under his skin.
“We need to get him out of there.” Walking in and dragging him out was probably not the best way of doing it; they were all fugitives and that would draw more attention. Elana climbed on top of the table, waving her arms at Caithas, hoping he’d see her in the back of the room.
He looked at Elana as she voiced her concern, “I’ll explain fully later… but I just heard someone’s thoughts.”
Malcom honestly contemplated stealing the magical cards. He looked over to Jules, “Tell me, Do I want to steal this man’s magical divination cards or do we want to play nice?”
He looked at Caithas and Elana… He hadn’t really noticed Caithas fighting despite looking straight at the fight… The cards were certainly powerful… He wanted the power for himself, but he knew he could probably never control it. Still… the notion of reading minds was very hard to pass up.
“I could just go and grab him, so far I’m not wanted, at least, not on posters.”