Which Rats? Part 2

Aeron turned over his copy of the blood magic smuggling ledger to Lord Alfred and departed Tennyson’s Tower to return to Aelvinwode.

3 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
10:00 am, Moonday

Nitram and Shylent had waited several weeks for Lord Morgan duBlade to return from Aerie City. A day after his return, the lord made time for a audience with Nitram and Shylent, wanting to hear their story firsthand. After granting Nitram the audience he requested, Morgan waited patiently to hear the details of Nitram’s discoveries.

Also in the room was an initiate sage named Wilkris, tasked with studying with the duBlade household and learning about the surrounding area.

Nitram saluted Lord duBlade by firmly striking his heart with his right fist. He introduced Shylent and then began to relate the recent exploits. Lord, duBlade. I had been hearing – as I’m sure you have also – of ogre incursions into the Gloaming Hills. These reports became even more important to me when they were coupled with cult-like sacfrafices and tied to something called blood magic. Not knowing much about this magic, I sought the advice of the Sacred Glen druids, unfortunately, they did not know much more than me. With the aid of one of their members, Jharron, we found more evidence of the ogres and this blood magic and sought the advice of the more arcane in Tennyson’s Tower. While there we met another seeking information of blood magic artifacts moving across the border. The three of us met with Sage Tantalzeer, Lady Distraught, and a third wizard – an apprentice of some kind. They provided us with more information of the blood magic. The four of us – the apprentice joined our company – planned to track down the ogres performing the blood magic. We had a map of suspected cult attacks as well as smugglers’ routes across the border and around the towns that it seemed the ogres were using. Shylent joined our party from the Tower in case we needed some extra help – which we did. We eventually tracked down the ogre’s camp and found that they were performing some ritual on a meteor in a temple of Sentara that had fallen underground. We folowed them to the temple and defeating the ogre shaman, goblin witchdoctor and many other goblins. We destroyed the meteor – apparently it was possessed by some outworldly entity – and returned to the Tower where we parted ways. Nitram paused, letting Morgan take it all in.
I think we may have slowed them down a little, but by no means did we stop them. The ogres seem to be very interested in blood magic and may be using it to fund their operations. It seems like they are trying to cutoff Rivendeep and Falconaire along the southern border. You are surely aware of this and hopefully increasing your presence to the south. Before we talk of Capone, I must also caution you that the goblins buried explosives in the ground outside the burried temple. We were unable to do anything about them, but you may have knowledge of someone with more expertise to deal with that situation. I would hate for someone to happen upon that valley and set off the trap. Nitram showed duBlade where the valley was on a map, explaining the location of the trap.
How may I be of service now?

Morgan duBlade showed a quick grasp of the ramifications of Nitram’s information. He pointed out the location of the temple and the trap to Willkris and told him to give a patrol info on what to expect. Willkris departed to get the patrol on their way.

Morgan talked logistics and strategy for several hours with Nitram, apparently assessing Nitram’s gifts in those areas. A bit later Willkris returned and said the patrol had departed.

Morgan began discussing the king’s plan in greater detail. In a few weeks an envoy would be sent to Highkeep to complete a treaty of mutual support in the area between the two kingdoms. He mentioned that the king had also authorized a trade route to Capone.

The question was, should the trade route go straight from Castrel along the edge of the forest, or divert to Pike and then over to Capone. According to the cartographers (Morgan nodded at Willkris) a horse can make it to Capone in one day, but a wagon would take two. The wagon could make it to Pike in one day, but heading that far south would mean a day and a half to Capone. If it went straight along the edge of the forest, there would need to be a rest stop halfway, after the first days travel. Of course there is a dragon in the forest, but nobody has seen it for years.

Morgan explained he wanted Nitram to pick the route after traveling to Capone. He assumed Nitram had already been to Pike. Once in Capone meet the militia commander and see if he had any concerns about securing the trade route.

Morgan explained that there would need to be patrols of the route, but of course the merchants would have to hire their own guards. He was curious who would patrol the area not within either kingdom’s boundary.

He expected Nitram and Shylent to depart by Waterday, the day after tomorrow.

Nitram thought about Morgan’s quandry. I have concerns with both routes and obviously you have the final word. I’ll go scout a path from here to Capone regardless. If you go through Pike, you have the benefit of increased trade through the town of Pike and staying away from the dragon. I will say, of all the stories – true or not – dragons seem to wake up when you least expect or want them to. Since it’s one and a half days between Pike and Capone, I would expect small villages to spring up at both of those stopping points, one half day from both cities. These two towns would offset each other as far as added icncome and you would benefit from increase trade in Pike, even if it is just room and board.
If the route went straight between the two cities, a larger village is most likely to develop at the halfway point. This could potentially still be in Falconaire “territory” but would be right next to the Mist Grove and a dragon. That town would also likely pull trade, people, and goods from Pike, leaving it an empty shell of what it is now…maybe.
As much as I would like to determine the status of an extremely powerful dragon, I’m not ready yet. Maybe you know someone else who is able and willing…?
Nitram waited to see if Morgan had anything else to say, then added, Shylent and I will leave in the morning. Do you have the name of the militia commander?

The militia commander is named Gracier Steelholdt.

He will leave the decision of the route to Nitram, after his assessment of the area.

Nitram and Shylent spent the rest of the day gathering supplies for the journey, including something to sketch out a map with landmarks and significant geography I would prefer pencil and paper, but charcoal and parchment will have to do. I’m not to confident in my ability to travel with ink. They got a good night’s sleep seperately and began their travel in the morning. This would be so much easier on the back of a griffon Nitram thought as he left Castrel.
Planning on travelling down the Castrel-Pike road until it turns south to Pike, then setting out west across the plains. Surveying/assessing the easiest path for wagons, looking for watering locations and a good spot for Demitown (yes, I took the liberty of naming it), preferably in Falconaire (or Rivendeep) territory. This location will need access to water (preferably enough to sustain some farming in the plains). I’m not planning on going in the Mist Grove, and would like to stay at least as far away from the trees as the northern half of the Castrel-Pike road is. Also looking for materials that the town could be built out of (stone, trees other than the Grove, etc.). Expecting at least 5 days to accomplish this, even though travel time is only about a day and half from the current road. Once I get close to Capone, I would like to determine if there is a decent path through the hills on the east side of the town (direct line) or if I need to circle farther north, approaching from the north east. Hills are my favored terrain (+2 to initiative, knowledge, survival). Can I take 10 or 20 (I don’t think I can get lost – keep the trees to my right until Capone)?

The first part of the surveying job was fairly easy, as the road from Castrel to Pike was semi-routinely traveled. It was after they reached the southward turning point that they had to head cross country towards the border of Falconaire.

It was 5 Septimus, Waterday when they reached the border of Falconaire. They had traveled cross country, keeping the Mist Grove treeline to their north between 2 to 4 miles away. The knew they had reached the border of Falconaire when they came across a small creek centered in a wide gentle grassy ravine. The creek originated from a small lake west of the Sacred Grove and flowed westward until it turned gently north towards the Mist Grove.

Up to this point, Nitram and Shylent had seen nothing more dangerous than a pack of wolves that had watched them for a couple of miles.

Falconaire survey

Travel towards Capone got more difficult the farther west they moved. After another day of surveying (Survival 18, Geography 24) they reached the edge of the Goshen Hills. Nitram attempted to discern an easy route in through the east side of the hills, hopefully avoiding the north eastern approach near the Mist Grove. It took another full day of searching and back tracking out of dead end hills, but he and Shylent (Aid Another +2) eventually worked out a suitable path for caravans and wagons (Survival 13(15), Geography 17(19)) and the town of Capone lay in front of them, about a mile away. Capone had an eastern gate, but there was no road leading to it, it appeared it was just for going out and around the area to one of the larger gates.

4 pm, 7 Septimus, Firerday

Falconaire survey 02

Nitram and Shylent finally entered Capone, confident in their chosen path. At the first sight of a soldier, Nitram approached to inquire of acceptable lodging as well as where to find the milita commander, Gracier Steelholdt. Diplomacy They were looking for a reputable place to board their horses, get a warm meal, and sleep. As usual in a new urban area, Nitram ensured he had physical contact with his money pouch at all times. His plan was to spend the evening seeing what he could learn about Capone and the militia, maybe visiting a few establishments that might have that kind of information…after dinner. He would talk to Gracier in the morning. He revealed his plan to Shylent over dinner.

When the two travelers entered Capone, the guard at the gate replied to Nitram’s inquiry about lodging by recommending the Jovial Peryton, a decent 3 star inn located in the comfortably mercantile and domestic northern side of town. Conveniently on the same side of town as the militia headquarters.

Nitram and Shylent spent the evening gathering information and getting some rest. They learned that Capone was a thriving trade town with a detestably seedy under belly. The militia was very effective at fighting off any growing threats from monsters or goblins, but tended to turn a blind eye towards activities of a “human” nature. Word on the street was Gracier Steelholdt was an uptight do-gooding militant wench that was fighting an uphill battle to keep corruption from overwhelming the town.

The next morning Nitram and Shylent called upon Gracier Steelholdt to determine the militia’s ability to patrol the proposed trade route. She seems able enough to keep the route safe, but can she crack down on the crime and corruption? Nitram thought as he made his way to the militia headquarters.

8 Septimus, Starday, 11 am

Whoever designed the militia headquarters had an eye for defense. Close enough to the north gate for a quick sally into the lands beyond, but completely separate from the town wall, almost a miniature keep made out of stone in its own right, with a large main gate facing the street and the trade route, and a smaller postern gate at the rear. There were no ground floor windows, and the ones on the upper floors were more like arrow slits.

Once Nitram relayed that he was a representative of duBlade, word was sent inside and Shylent and he were escorted in shortly thereafter.

Gracier Steelholdt welcomed them into her office, made them comfortable, and offered them hot tea. Once the formalities were out of the way, Nitram and she discussed the proposed trade route and its security, while Shylent sat sipping and frowning at her tea.

She agreed that the no-mans land between the two kingdoms needed patrolling, something she had wanted to do for a while anyway, but politics and her authority only went so far. She proposed little way stations or rest areas on each border that each kingdom’s patrols could ride up to and rest, watering and feeding horses and the like. The rest areas could grow into towns, but that wasn’t her concern. She just wanted to chase bandits.

She told Nitram and Shylent that the merchants were hamming out tariffs and such, and it could be a couple of weeks before the merchants came to an agreement. She welcomed them to stay in the area, and offered to let them ride out into the surrounding area with her militia on occasion if they wanted to get the lay of the land.

Their main concern in the local area was bandits, some goblins, and lots of wolves and rats. Giant rats. The things were infesting the small pockets of marshland within the Goshen Hills. But, mostly bandits, i.e. Bandit Lord Cromag and his crew always seemed one step ahead of them. She was so angry she pounded her fist on the table and knocked over the tea cups.

I can see that bandits are a passionate subject and understand the importance. I may know someone whomay be able to help, or at least provide some information. I just don’t know where he is or how to contact him. I wonder if Blend is still in Aerie City and how I could contact him. Nitram looked at Shylent for any agreement, I’d be happy to accompany the militia out to get an idea of the terrain. Shylent?
Nitram waited for her answer then proceeded, There are several watering locations, but the best location for a rest stop is right at the Falconaire border. There is a good source of water and it’s about a day’s wagonride from both cities. I fully expect this location to grow into at least a village. Diplomacy to get her on board with the halfway point town being on the Falconaire border.
Are you suggesting a permanent presence at these way stations? That might be helpful to counter the bandit threat. If you had one at your border, your militia should be able to patrol the majority of unclaimed land and return within a day. Falconaire’s troops would do the same from the mid-point town and would be in charge of law enforcement of that town.
My only other concern is the potential issue of the dragon in the Mist Grove. I would like to ensure we are encouraging these new travelers to stay out of the Grove, especially if they are looking for building materials. I would hate for them to start chopping down trees and upset the powerful creature. I’m sure the patrols won’t be able to do anything about a dragon. Don’t you agree?
Nitram paused a moment and then finished with, Now, let’s find some bandits.

Gracier felt that the proposed site of the rest stops was just common sense. She did however, feel the actual “town” location should be on their border. (Diplomacy 18)

After listening to Nitram (Diplomacy 27) she grudgingly admitted tactically and distance wise it might be better at Falconaire’s border, there was water there after all. She did refuse to send any patrols into the Mist Grove, and agreed the militias should steer people away from there.

She would propose their agreement to the town council, but foresaw saw no problems.

Gracier gave Nitram and Shylent a brief, if inflamed synopsis of her thoughts on Bandit Lord Cromag.

Technically he was a wagon driving merchant, named bandit for getting over on his competition. Lived right here in the city, although he was often on the road. She banged the table again, and said “he’s a lying, cheating, murderous thug with absolutely no morals and not one redeeming quality. He’s even ugly as sin and would not even steer his horse around a limping dog in the road.” She sighed. “Of course I have no proof and he has deep pockets. And Toreador doesn’t seem to care as long as their tithe makes it back to Majestrial” She spat on the floor.

Stating workload, she excused herself and said someone from her guards would be in touch in the next few weeks if they wanted to jointly scout the area.

Nitram left her office a little more discouraged than he had hoped. He was glad she was agreeable to his idea and he looked forward to going out on a patrol with the militia. There has to be some way I can help this situation. She seems like she is going to lose faith if she can’t get any traction against these bandits. Nitram and Shylent decided to look around the city a little bit. While they walked, Nitram asked Shylent if she had any ideas on how to help Gracier with the bandits.

Shylent thought for a moment and spoke what for her was a rather long sentence. “Kill bandits til boss comes looking then kill him?” she offered, as she continued to eat a large apple.

A they walked through the city/town they saw the normal buildings and establishments common to a settlement this size. There were three large gates (north, east, and south) with plenty of traffic along the ways. A small gate, mainly for pedestrians was situated on the east side of the town. The town was filled by stone buildings intermixed with wooden buildings that grew up between them over the years. There were several large streets, but most of the side paths were narrow and winding between the buildings looming over them. Most of the ground was paved over though, so the normal mud and muck was not present.

There was a narrow garden like area with small trees and brush surrounding a large open central market filled with merchant stalls and brightly colored tents.

The eastern side of town was mainly warehouses and merchants businesses. The south side degenerated quickly into slums (except along the trade road) , and was the lowest portion of the town and prone to flooding unless the sewers were kept unclogged. The northern part of town was composed of upscale businesses and wealthy residences. The western side of town was mainly middle class business and multi-family housing units, with the fairly common single family home.

There was a merchants palace in the northern section of town where the ruling council kept their families in individual wings.

Nitram and Shylent also noticed a large Imperial Temple building, with sky blue domes. There was also a smaller Old Faith clerical temple, distinguished by the statue of Danaan and the large oak tree out front.

A sign with crossed rapiers designated what appeared to be a fencing and swordsmanship school near the middle of town.

Brilliant, Shylent. Nitram thought for a momoent, We need to find a cart. That afternoon Nitram and Shylent discussed their plan to kill bandits and hopefully draw out their leader. At dinner they made sure to let slip that they would be taking an initial “payment” from Capone to King Kashue in Aerie City to begin construction of the midway town and markings for the trade route. Of course, they couldn’t beleive it had to go all the way north through Portahge and then to Aerie City, when they knew it was going to end up in Castel anyway.

Just so they don’t get overwhelmed, they will stop by the militia HQ in the morning to load the “goods” in their cart and ask Gracier if there was a patrol heading north that could provide support if needed. Also, they ask about any information regarding how/when bandits attack (at night, with arrows, etc). Diplomacy check if needed for anything at the HQ. They’ll put some random stuff in the cart and cover it (empty chests for all I care). Since Shylent has all the experience driving a cart, she can do that. Nitram will be searching for potential bandit paths (Perception / Survival) as we go wagon-slow. I chose north because that made the most sense for this awesome plan. Plus it keeps me in my favored terrain the longest (hills). They are only planning on traveling north for a day. They’ll camp and determine what to do the next day. They don’t expect bandits to attack much farter than a day away. Maybe they will go all the way to Aerie City to see if they can find Blend. What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

09 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
8:00 am, Sunday.

Nitram and Shylent met up at the militia HQ with their “escort” of four spearmen. The leader talked Nitram’s ear off about bandit tactics and strategy all the way out of the city and onto the road headed north. Shylent kept watching Nitram and the blabbermouth as she drove the wagon, with something of a smirk upon her face.

It appeared that the bandits primarily attacked on cloudy days, Nitram was assured. Unless it was the beginning of the week. Other than that, they ambushed people from horseback with bows and swords.

After about 2 hours and four miles of travel, the cart and its escort began leaving the hilly terrain around Capone and began settling down into a gentle roll across the plains.

The view of the plains was interspersed with small groves of tall trees throughout the land. The occasional horseman or wagon passed by in either direction. There was a coolness of fall in the air, and some of the tallest trees had turned golden at the very tops.

And the lead guard would not stop talking.

While traversing through a larger forested area, a small stone, about the size of a peach pit flew out of nowhere and hit the loquacious caravan guard, abruptly stopping him mid-sentence. Before anyone could react, the sound of someone clearing their throat came from above where sat a lone figure dressed in greens and browns sat upon a thick bough of a tree overhanging the trade route.

“That’s a sure way to get ambushed,” said the figure as he flipped backwards into a half somersault and landed on his feet in front of the cart. “Of course, that was your plan this entire time, wasn’t it,” he said not as a question, but as a statement.

OOC: Both Nitram and Shylent will recognize the individual as Blend.

Nitram put his hands out, gesturing to the guards to stand fast. That may be, but I was hoping the ambush wasn’t going to be this effective. I actually was trying to figure out how to find you, Blend. I could use some help on a small problem that would benefit from your particular skill set. Nitram smiled, hopeful Blend was the man he thought he might be. What are you doing climbing trees? Nitram shifted his weight, slightly turning his body to get a quick glance around with his peripheral vision. I wonder what he’s doing out here and if he’s alone. There’s no doubt if he heard about out “cart” that he would have a pretty good idea it was me and Shylent. So, why is he out here…?

“Plenty of people flapping their mouths in taverns about a couple of DuBlade’s lackeys and securing trade routes from bandits. I knew immediately who they were talking about once I heard a description. It was easy to find you back in Capone, meeting with Steelholdt each day. I admit to watching you to see what you were up to. The cart was a nice touch, but you were a bit heavy handed with the information dropping. The only thing that might ambush you today would be a bird taking a shit on you or your wagon. Of course, I came out to meet you because it does appear that we may have similar goals. I apologize for the theatrics, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.”

You don’t look like a bird…. Nitram said a little sarcastically. What kind of goals do we have that align with yours?

I do hope we can turn this into a learning experience. Hopefully, the guard leader here sees that he needs to focus on his surroundings more than his company.

Blend smirked at the ranger’s comment and walked a short way into the woods, returning with a horse. “The goal would be the elimination of bandit lord Cromag and the Profiteer’s Guild, ensuring the safety of caravans and the increased trade and prosperity that comes with it.” Blend prodded his horse forward along the road back to Capone. “Best turn that wagon around. We can talk more once we get back to the city. Won’t be catching any bandits today. More likely to catch a cold. And if your friend there wants to chatter all the way back to town, well he might find that hard to do without a windpipe.” It was very hard to tell if Blend was joking or not.

The lead guard glared…it was clear he was not amused with anyone or anything…as he said not a word during the return trip.

The returning wagon approached the northern gate of Capone. Before it pulled even with the gate sentries, perhaps 15 strides away, a wide shouldered monk with a gray hooded habit pulled up over his head approached the wagon, calling out “Friend Nitram, we ask that you return Kinslayer to its family” as he stood by the side of the road.

As the group came within sight of Capone, Blend distanced himself from the party. He explained that he did not want to be seen as associated with anyone doing business with Steelholdt, and it was already common knowledge that both Nitram and Shylent were involved. He remained near enough to act as an overwatch if need be, but he did not expect any trouble.

What the hell…? Nitram paused, one hand instinctively tightening around the bow while the other pulled the nocked arrow slightly, just enough to feel some tension on the bowstring. Perception (head to toe) does this appear to be a human or a very fluent ogre? Nitram turned his body slightly to align it for a shot at the stranger and replied, Friend Monk. I’m not sure I understand your meaning or intention. A name is good place to start…. Who might we be? Nitram tried to determine what Shylent and the guards with him were doing as well as if the gate sentries suspected any trouble – all while not taking his eye from the stranger.

Blend eyed the monk that addressed Nitram and watched the exchange as he nonchalantly led his horse past the cart and toward the gates of Capone. Blend stopped just short of the gates yet only a few strides past the monk where he started to rummage through his packs, stalling while pretending to look for something and waited to see how this played out.

OOC: Does Blend recognize this individual, accent, dress?

The guards saw nothing amiss at the moment, just traveler’s talking and merchant going in and out of the gate.

Upon closer inspection, (Per 13) the monk’s habit seemed very frayed and old, as if it had been traveled in for a while. And that certainly was a brawny monk under that robe. He was the same size as a human, no way he could be an ogre. Just stocky…and the accent did trouble Nitram slightly but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

The monk replied “No cause for alarm, friend. My name is Matthew, and my family would like to have Kinslayer returned, as it was stolen from them some time ago.”

Blend was in a good position to assay the threat from this stranger. (Per 29)

He noticed a portion of the monk’s hand sticking out of the robe was discolored, somewhat of a greenish gray, with rough chapped skin. Nothing about the monk’s dress was recognizable or out of the ordinary, except perhaps the way he filled it out.

The monk’s accent was crude, resembling that of an individual initially raised with a poor education or under harsh living conditions.

The monk was also not wearing any shoes on his large feet.

This doesn’t make any sense, thought Blend. How would the monk know who Nitram was and how he had the sword? Blend assumed they were dealing with a half-ogre. The monk’s bulk, large feet and hands and greenish gray skin were the first indicators. His crude accent was another. Of course, what sealed the deal for Blend was the fact that he claimed the weapon belonged to his family. It was called Kinslayer after all. None of this explained the how he had tracked Nitram and the sword down, however. Blend continued to look for clues to confirm his suspicions. He also looked for anything the monk had on him. Perhaps if he could lift it off him, it might provide some insight as to who they were dealing with.

I like a good story from a random stranger as much as the next traveler on the road. But, a little more information about you and your family would go a long way to relieve me of my alarm. Let’s start with how you know my name and why you think I should give you my sword. You must be warm with that hood up, why don’t you take it down so I can see how friendly your face is?

“It was my fear you would react…violently if I was to approach you openly. Ey prefer this public with so many friendly peoples.”

The monk takes a step to two back, as if feeling threatened. “All on the border know your name, and as for the sword, it is stolen property, a just person such az you would wizh to right wrongs”

“I am just a simple monk of Zuoken and I wish no trouble” he stated loud enough for bystanders to hear. He lowered his hood and bowed his head humbly. It was apparent to Nitram now that the “monk” had an ogre in his family tree.

(OOC: Half-ogres are uncommon, but not unheard of. Most are semi-vile brutes but not all.

I can assure you that wrongs will be righted. However, I will listen to your story. Would you feel more comfortable outside the walls or would you prefer to tell me after we enter the city? Nitram gestured to the gate questioningly. sense motive?

Nitram felt restrained resentment from the half-ogre, and the politeness appeared to be a well rehearsed front, albeit the monk was being honest, he wanted no trouble, just the sword for his family. Nitram did get the impression he was capable of trouble however.

“Here is fine, it tiz a nice day.” the half-ogre rumbled.

Shall we sit? He looked at Shylent, You’re welcome to stay. Matthew, here, apparently has a story to tell me. Nitram removed the arrow from the bow, replaced it back in his quiver and slung his bow ovver his back as he walked off the road and onto the grass, ensuring there was still a decent distance between he and the half-ogre.

Matthew slowly lowered himself into sitting position and began speaking. “Not much of a story. Was going to get sword from young one-eye, now you have it. So I came to get” cough ahem “ask you for it.”

He turned his beady gaze upon Nitram and waited.

Nitram slowly lowered himself down across from the half-ogre, attempting to be far enough away that he could stand and draw before the creature closed the gap, if necessary. I’m not sure what you’ve heard about me on the border, Nitram was attempting to contain his rage as he thought about why he was here and not with the Guard. but I don’t have any warm feelings for ogres. This weapon is a welcome tool to someone like me. Nitram very slowly drew the blade and placed it across his lap. He appeared to be searching his thoughts, If I recall the stories about this blade, it was rightfully removed from the hands of ogres. What side of that duel are you on? It has caused a lot of damage to the ogre clans – hence it’s name – and I do not intend to let it stop now. I don’t see any reason why I should just give it away and you have not made any compelling points to that end. Unless you can do that, I must respectfully deny your request. Can you give me a reason why? Nitram had been running his hands over the blade and hilt as he spoke. When he finished, his sword hand was over the bone hilt. He waited cautiously for a reply.

Matthew assured Nitram that the sword would continue to do great damage to ogre clans if released back into his family’s custody. “Much ogre blood will be shed” he promised.

Seeing that this was not going to sway Nitram in any appreciable fashion, Matthew stood up and bowed formally to Nitram, thanking him and saying “I deeplay regret we were unable to come to an agreement” after which he slowly walked around Nitram and the wagon, and eventually headed north along the trade route.

Crap! Nitram thought. Nitram stood up and sheathed his weapon. Walking back to the card and Shylent, but speaking loud enough for Blend to hear, I have a feeling that this isn’t over. He’ll be back…and most likely not as civilized as he was today. Nitram continued with the cart and guards into Capone.

After returning the cart and the equipment back to the militia building, Shylent suggested they go to the other large inn on the other side of town from the Jovial Peryton called the Boar’s Head, as she had heard that they served good steak.

Works for me. I could use some steak to take my mind off that half-ogre…if that’s even possible. And so they went….

As the pair maneuvered themselves in and around the noonday crowds, they heard the sound of booted feet marching on the cobblestone of the main trade way through town. Coming around the curve from the south gate was a procession of soldiers dressed in Gallic armor and helmets, with small rounded shields, carrying javelins and halberds. The tunics of the soldiers were red, with a diagonal stripe of yellow.

Varencian flag At the front of the column was a man dressed in banded mail and a similar tunic, with golden stripes on his left sleeve. His helmet had a red horse hair fringe. Behind the man was a standard bearer, with a red and yellow flag at the top, with a small banner underneath denoting “21st Century”.

As they passed through town, they were met near the council palace by a city representative, who spoke briefly with the leader and shook his hand, retreating back into the palace as the century continued northward out of the town.

are these toreadors an troops? Knowledge check to determine if I know who they are. If not, ask around or listen to what the city folk are saying about them.

Nitram knew that the flag looked vaguely familiar. And red was a one of the primary colors of the Toreadoran flag, as was a yellow crown. Beyond that he was at a loss.

Fortunately, and elderly man was explaining who the troops were to a young girl and Nitram was close enough to hear the explanation.

“That flag belongs to the Varencian Empire, Shali.” the man pointed out. “Those 80 men are called a century. It is how the Varencians organize their legions. The Toreador flag has mainly red and white as you can see atop the merchant’s palace.”

Toreador flag

Two other men were conversing, wondering where the century was going. A local explained that this happened on occasion, whenever Varencia rotated troops from their legion area to one of the outposts on the wilderness border north of the kingdoms.

However, as the crowds dispersed, several people were heard to exclaim in astonishment that the century had only moved a half league up the trade road and was digging in.

The Boar’s Head Tavern turned out to have very good steak. And many of the townsfolk knew that, as the place was crowded.

Nitram and Shyent’s meal was enjoyable, and uneventful.

(What are your plans for tomorrow etc.?)

While enjoying their dinner, Nitram and Shylent discussed what they would do in the morning. They thought it best to talk to Gracier one more time to find out what was going on with the Varencian century. If she couldn’t provide much input, they considered heading north to investigate themselves. If Toreador, and Capone specifically, was not secure or stable, the benefit of legitimate trading would not outweigh the costs. He understood their relationship, but was concerned as to why the century was digging in so close to the city. I wonder if something happened in Portahge. Hopefully Gracier can shed some light on this development.

The rest of the evening passed uneventfully for Nitram and Shylent. There was a performer telling tales at the Boar’s Head, and later as they worked their way back towards the Jovial Peryton where they were staying, the air was warm and pleasant, with street vendors out and about in droves.

The night passed quietly except for a small rain shower that passed through, waking people up to the sound of rain on the eaves around midnight.

10 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
8:00 am, Moonday.

In the morning Nitram and Shylent grabbed a quick snack from the inn’s common room and then headed out the door to visit Steelholdt again. As they stepped out of the inn, the rain fresh air from the night before made the morning sunshine seem bright, sparkly, and pleasant. The farmers and morning workers filled the street, already out and about on their way to and from from work. Across the street a farmer was being helped by a group of children, picking up produce that had fallen from his cart. A lone militia guard watched over the hustle and bustle, and several priests were moving along the street towards the Old Faith shrine.

Recognizing Nitram and Shylent as someone of importance, the one of the militia guards at the building’s gate took them to Gracier’s office. Gracier was currently not in, as she was talking with the councilor’s at the merchant’s palace. However, another helpful militia guard took them to see Johan, her second in command.

Johan informed Nitram that he had been fully briefed on what they and Gracier had discussed and what did Nitram want?

Once Nitram explained the concern with the Varencian century, Johan dismissed it with a grunt and a wave. “They come through here like that every so often, to relive or fortify emplacements in the north. Usually they travel by boat. I hear that they go overland if they are in trouble or disfavor for some reason. Or if there’s bad weather.” he paused, thinking. “Your’re worried about them digging in, right? Nah, that’s the fault of their sergeant, old Merdereth. He’s old school. If they camp, he makes them dig in proper, like they was in the wild. They should be pulling out on Fireday”

He mentioned he had work to do and glanced towards the door.

Nitram was slightly more at ease. He then inquired how he could help catch bandits on the trade route. Was going out on patrol more likely to increase his encounter potential or should he try to travel with some merchants? Or was there a better way?

“Well, going along with caravans is great until the bad guys figure out what you’re up to and then either hide or overwhelm yah.” Johan pronounced. “Pends on how determined and how many they are. They always seem to know when to stay scarce. Me, I’d just kill Cromag or something, but Gracier says that not right and besides, somebody else would take his place.”

Johan shrugs, wishes them good luck, and head out to get other work done.

Nitram and Shytlent make their way out of the militia headquarters and sit outside the Jovial Peryton under a shade tree to ponder their plans.

They decided they would try to trail a caravan as individual travelers some distant behind. If the caravan got attacked and they were able to help…great. If they didn’t make it in time, maybe they could hunt the bandits down.

Before they set out to shadow a caravan, Nitram thought it might be a good idea to upgrade his armor. All this money was burning a hole in his pocket. Looking for masterwork studded leather or better that I can haggle for around 3k gp. I’d like to stay in the light category.

As Nitram and Shylent were sitting under a tree, lost deep in thought, they were approached by a member of the city militia. “There’s a five copper piece fine for loitering you know,” the guard said as he leaned up against the tree. If they looked real close, Nitram and Shylent could barely tell that the guard was indeed, Blend. “We need to talk. Private. Dealing with Gracier, Johan and the militia won’t get you anywhere with the bandits. Let’s go to your room,” he motioned toward the Jovial Peryton. “We can begin to discuss what actually will…killing Cromag.” Blend looked expectantly at both of them.

Shylent looked at Blend intently. She then stood up, went inside the Jovial Peryton and up to her room, where she perched herself in the windowsill and boredly watched the street outside until the other two started planning, at which point she casually listened.

Nitram shrugged at Blend and followed her.

Once Blend was assured that the room was safe, he turned to Nitram and Shylent. “An associate of mine is expecting a shipment of goods delivered soon. He knows Cromag’s men will try and take it. He wants to meet with me tonight to discuss precautions. You want to start chipping away at the bandit threat? Well tonight is a good place to start. Come with me to the meeting tonight and we can get this started.” He waited for a reply.

I’m just trying to think this through, so bear with me as I “think” out loud. I come to Capone as an agent of the authority in Falconaire to meet with authority figures here. Apparently, my associations are well known and – by the look of your dress – potentially harmful to certain citizens. Now, it seems that you want me to be, what I can only assume is, an armed guard for a competing smuggling ring. While I don’t necessarily have a huge problem with that, I am concerned about several things. First, if I help out a competitor, what guarantees do I have that the banditry will stop with a new boss in town? Second, are you okay being associated with us during this meeting? If not, are you expecting us to just wander by? Third, is your associate aware of our potential involvement and is he okay with it? I don’t want to side with someone who will see me as an enemy later. I’m not sure that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies in every instance. Sometimes you just end up with more enemies. Nitram paused to let that last part sink in with Blend and then continued, Fourth, what is the cut for our hired hands? and Fifth, I need to have some idea of what the shipment is. I do have some boundaries.

Blend always had good control over his expressions, but under close scrutiny, one may have noticed his forehead crease briefly with frustration. “First off, let’s clear something up. The militia are not the authority figures in Capone. Coin is. And that means the merchants and the guilds. Your associations are well known because the militia is inept, talk is cheap and you are definitely NOT from around here. I am dressed like this because I have worked hard to avoid notice and I don’t want to be seen associating with someone who makes daily house calls with the militia commander.” Blend was wondering if Nitram and Aeron had been corresponding by letter over the past couple weeks. “Now, to address your concerns. Cromag needs to fall, bottom line. If he doesn’t, your plans for trade routes and progress will never happen. Someone will replace him. That’s the point. Whoever replaces him will be amicable to the endeavors of Falconaire. To your second point, my contact doesn’t really care who I associate with. He knows well enough that I keep my business private and will keep his private as well. You don’t have to worry about him. As far as making friends or enemies later…well, who can tell? Nothing is guaranteed in life. Cross that bridge if you come to it. You sure made an enemy out of that half-ogre the other day and I bet you didn’t think half as long about that decision as you just did about my associate.” Blend wanted to tell Nitram that he would probably make plenty of enemies in his life, mostly ogres by his attitude toward them, but held his tongue. “As far as getting paid, well, that’s awfully mercenary of you. To be honest, I didn’t ask. You can bring it up if you want to if you choose to come to the meeting. However, I’d like to point out that you were ready to fight the bandits for the militia for free just a couple of days ago. As far as what the shipment contains, well, I didn’t ask about that either and I don’t care. You can if you want to and make your decision at that time.” Blend was clearly tired of talking. “I don’t care if you come or not. I could use the help, but if not, then I will figure out something else. I’m a bit surprised though. Didn’t expect to have to try so hard to convince you to get your hands a bit dirty, no pun intended.”

Shylent leaned in from the window and slowly said “Militia has rats…only way to evade much patrols” and then leaned back into place. “Next bandit lord not be?, better for us” she added as she nodded at Nitram.

Maybe you should care about what it is that your are protecting. It tends to say something about your character. I will ask when I get there. Nitram missed Aeron’s ability to absorb Blend’s “convincing”. I agree that Cromag needs to fall for the trade route to succeed and this may be the best way. Where do we need to be and when? Who should I ask for? Nitram looked at Shylent to see if she agreed with his use of the word “we”. Under his breath, Blend could hear Nitram remark, Don’t worry, my hands will always be dirty.

Shylent nodded casually and decided to oil her swords. She relocated to sit on her bed and lay her swords on a footlocker in front of her.

“It’s not about protecting anything. I just want to kick the hornet’s nest and start chipping away at Cromag’s empire. Meet me just outside Moe’s Cantina at half past the eighth bell.”

A means to an end, eh. That may be fine for now. I will meet you at Moe’s. In the meantime, do you have any suggestions on where I can upgrade my armor?

“There are a few reputable merchants in the square that can provide you what you need. However, I assume you are looking for something light and flexible that can turn a blade or arrow. Something a bit more exotic. I would suggest you talk to my associate tonight. If you don’t want to wait, then I have other suggestions.”

OOC: If Nitram doesn’t want to wait, Blend will suggest the merchants he found earlier that can provide leather and studded leather.

I think I can wait. Any idea what to expect tonight? Wanna make sure I’ll be ready.

“Street thugs,” Blend shrugged. “We’ll probably be outnumbered. Make sure you change into something less presentable and dirty. Also, you should probably hang out in a seedy tavern to get rid of that stink. You know…clean air and pine trees,” Blend winked.

10 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
8:30 pm, Moonday.

Blend was ready when Nitram arrived on the street leading to Moe’s Cantina. At first he did not see Shylent, well actually he saw her but did not recognize her. In order to disguise herself Shylent had washed off her tribal markings, covered up the permanent ones with some type of makeup, or both.

Shylent was walking casually about 10 paces behind Nitram. The street was still filled with shoppers and common folk, scurrying back and forth between bums and drunks.

“Hear yea, Hear yea” a young lad pronounced loudly. “Drax tournament finals Thunderday at 6pm, Councilor’s Palace. Finalists are Councilman Drominance, Marcus Fletcher, and Johan Trask, of the militia!”

The lad continued his cries as he moved farther down the street towards the eastern gate.

Blend continued to lean up against a wooden pillar near the entrance to Moe’s Cantina as Nitram and Shylent came into view. He adjusted his hood back slightly and made eye contact with the ranger. Once Nitram confirmed he saw Blend, Blend motioned slightly with his head to follow, readjusted his hood and proceeded to move through the throng of bums and drunks. He made sure to never get too far ahead of the pair, but trusted them to keep up without looking back over his shoulder. Instead, he concentrated on potentially wary eyes and unwanted attention. Petrol’s meeting place wasn’t too far away. Still, Blend remained cautious and decided not to take the most direct route, instead taking a more circuitous path, weaving down certain side streets in order to arrive at the warehouse from a less conspicuous approach.

Where in the Heaven’s are we going? I’m sure I saw that street earlier. Nitram tried to casually stroll through the streets while keeping one eye on Blend and the other on the people in the street. It was harder than he thought. That human almost seems to disappear in these crowds. Hopefully, Shylent is having an easier time following me than I am of following Blend. Nitram’s hand tightened slightly on Kinslayer’s hilt.

8:55 pm, Rum Warehouse (12)

Temp rum warehouse

Blend felt confident that they hadn’t attracted any attention as they approached the rum warehouse. (Per 27). Even the thump he had heard as Shylent knocked out an “admirer” and propped him up against a stoop had caused no more than a chuckle from passerby’s.

The group entered the narrow alley on the eastern side of the warehouse, and saw the door open for them as they approached. Petrol waved them on in, and took them to a small office room with chairs and a table, which conveniently had a bottle of rum perched upon it. On they way they had passed several alcoves with large kegs of rum tucked at least three high and three wide. “That’s the standard quality stuff” Petrol stated as he waved at it.

Once in the room, he pulled up a chair and the bottle, taking a swig before passing it around. He looked at Blend and said “Thanks, this will definitely help things here in Capone. It seems that Cromag may be catching on to “my” smuggling route, and be thinking that he likes it more. Just a small little trick, but very efficient. Outside near the ponds the drainage outlets flow into the water, well there is one drainage outlet that everyone seems to have forgotten about cause its under the water see. So we have an old lock on it so it looks normal, but only we (a couple of contacts and I) have the key. He sighed.

“Somebody dropped copper, but that’s a problem for later. Thunderday the 13th, when most of the town is caught up in the Drax tournament, my buddy and a friend are bringing in some valuables we don’t want to pay tax on see. Well turns out Cromag ain’t so smart, cause I got a copper myself, and I got the word that he was sending four goons to ambush my guys at an intersection under the streets. I figure we ambush the ambushers. You been trained by Clotveil and all, you got ideas Blend, I see you brought muscle.” He looked intently at Nitram and Shylent.

“Only four? You sure?” Blend asked. “Cromag would send guys based on how valuable he thought the shipment would be. For that reason alone, I would like to know what we are dealing with.” Blend respected Petrol’s privacy, but knew that he might hesitate to disclose or lie about what it was he was bringing in under the walls to Nitram. This seemed like a good reason to convince Petrol to be straight with them. “It would be good to scout out the site first as well. Let us know the time and the place and we will be ready.”

Nitram had waited for Blend to respond to his friend’s querry concerning the best way to ambush the ambushers. Hopefully, they didn’t drop more coin to ambush the ambushers of the ambush. This has the potential to be confusing Nitram thought as he listened to Blend.

“I don’t mind being the muscle and don’t really mind breaking a couple of laws. I do however mind a few things that I’m sure you can clear up for me. While I don’t need to know what exactly your “valuables” are, I need to know that they are not living creatures or artifacts of blood magic. Beyond that, I would be happy to help deal a blow to Cromag.” Nitram paused for the confirmation.

Petrol listened to what Blend and Nitram had to say. He then looked at Shylent, who merely looked back at him. He shrugged and waved the group to follow him. “I don’t even know what blood magic is.” he explained.

“I can let you scout now if you like.” Petrol stated. While he walked back out to the warehouse floor, he clarified what they were smuggling. “Simply put…two large diamonds that were stolen from a wealthy “merchant” in Majestrial. She suspects they might be coming through here, and we don’t want to be caught with the goods so to speak." He moved over to a large cask of rum that had its tap padlocked and a sign on it saying “Aging”. He unlocked it and pulled on the tap and a hollow cask was revealed. A wooden panel was pulled from the bottom of the cask and a hole leading down into the sewers was revealed.

Petrol got a piece of parchment and drew a sewer map for the group and handed it to Blend. “Probably take you an hour to work your way through the tunnels and sewers, even though its not actually that far to the outlet.” He handed Nitram a torch.

Nitram looked at Petrol and said “I would be willing to be one of the “two” associates bringing in the valuables to spring the trap. But, I would prefer some better armor to accomplish that.” Nitram looked at Petrol, “Blend said you might be able to provide some better armor than my current set…something a little more exotic, maybe?”

Petrol said he would see what he could acquire for Nitram tomorrow.

Nitram descended into the sewers with the torch. Once they were all assembled at the bottom, he turned to Blend, I’m not sure how much you trust Petrol, but do you want to take point outside the light’s radius…just in case? You can have the map, just make sure you leave something for us to follow at the turns. Are you planning on going all the way to the end and come out under the water? So glad I wore my nice clothes. Nitram thought sarcastically.

Skid, are we getting a map and RPing the sewers this time or just speeding ahead through the “scouting” phase to pick it back up when we are deciding how to counter the trap?

Blend took the map that Nitram had handed him and quickly deciphered the way to the underwater end of the conduit and the ambush site. At least where the ambush site was going to be according to Petrol’s informant.

All was standard adventuring fare until they came to the “slide” portion of the travel. It was slightly disconcerting for Nitram and Shylent to slide down the dark curved sewer tunnel. And damp and smelly. Blend didn’t seem to have any such problem.

At the descent portion, Shylent volunteered to be the last one down, and lowered Nitram down the 7 foot hole in the floor by clasping his arm. She then swung herself over the edge and dropped casually.

The trio continued down the 5 foot wide and 7 foot tall sewer until they reached the cistern location. There were three other exits, and the southern one led to the water conduit and the assumed ambush site. water constantly dripped from the bricks in the walls and the ceiling, and flowing in from three directions, collecting in the center of the room and flowing southward ankle deep for at least 50 feet until it reached the ambush site.

While they paused at the citern, Nitram looked at the map and said, I think we need to scout out the two side passages to the ambush site, but we should also have an idea where these other two tunnels go from the cistern room in case Petrol’s information is inaccurate by one intersection.

After having scouted the northern cistern passage and the eastern cistern passage, the group concluded that they had reached the correct intersection, to which the ambush site lay due south.

The other passages, especially the northern one lead into an unmapped grid-work of up and down sewers of various levels, back towards the center of the town.

From the ambush site (a 15 × 15 square) the western passage went about 35 feet and dead ended in a square room with three smaller conduits, impassable by anything except rats and vermin. The eastern passage went only 15 feet towards the east, and dead ended with a ladder and a square 5 foot wide hole in the ceiling, from which water and moss slowly dripped.

The southern passage, from where the friendly smugglers would emerge, went around 25 feet southward, at which point the trio stood at the water’s edge.

I would suggest that I hide in the western passage and wait for the ambushers to show up. Hopefully, they’ll have a torch. If they can see in the dark like you, we’re in trouble anyway. I’ll engage with my bow and you can get all sneaky and do what you do. If they don’t have a torch, you’ll have to find some way to warn me and shed some light on the situation…or Shylent can bring the light. Nitram waited for comments.

Blend nodded his concurrence. “I’ll try and get behind them. Make sure you and Shylent have spare torches just in case things go bad and you need to get out of here.”

Having finished their scouting, the group worked their way back up to the rum warehouse. Having the map and their keen perceptions, they were able to find their way with little difficulty.

Once the rum cask was closed and locked, Petrol allowed them the use of a water trough and some linens to clean up. They had spent several hours down in the sewers scouting, that plus the previous conversation with Petrol made the current time about midnight. Everyone decided to retire for the night.

11 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
9:00 am, Earthday.

The next morning dawned slightly chilly, with a light rain that seemed set to hang around all day.

Nitram made a small side trip back to visit Petrol to see what he had located in the way of armor.

Petrol’s contacts had provided him with some enhanced armor, that was light and very convenient for skulking. He apologized, saying that this type of armor was what “they” commonly had a market for.

+1 magically enhanced MW leather armor (1,200 gp) or
+2 magically enhanced MW leather armor (4,200 gp) or
+1 magically enhanced MW studded leather armor (1,300 gp)

Nitram spend the rest of Earthday searching for the best deal in armor that he could find. The chilly misty rain cast a somewhat somber aura over the town of Capone. Nitram was not sure where Blend had disappeared to, and Shylent was kicking her heels back in the common room of the Jovial Peryton during the inclement weather.

Nitram was able to find all kinds of armor on Armory Street in the south western portion of the city.

A centrally placed shop named “Dogtree’s” seemed to have quite the selection of standard armors.

He also had three high end items available that caught Nitram’s eye;

The breastplate was decorated in gray iron stain, with silvery embellishments of griffon or wyvern like creatures.

The dragonhide was composed of a finely scaled leather like material, somewhat between a brown and a red in color.

MW Chain shirt

Nitram anguished over the choices available at Dogtree’s, foucsing on the magically enhanced breastplate and the beautiful masterwork chain shirt. He even contemplated getting both, but in the end, his inner woodsman won out and he went with the masterwork chain shirt. Always looking for a deal, he attempted to talk Dogtree out of a little more coin. Diplomacy check
Before leaving, he asked Dogtree Thank you for this fine piece of craftsmanship. By chance do you know of anywhere that I might be able to get it enchanted? Maybe one of the temples has a magic user with that ability?

Nitram (Diplo 21) and Dogtree (Merchant DC 16) haggled and bargained for a while over the supple masterwork chain shirt, finally settling on 213 gp for the shirt.

Dogtree was uncertain about enchanting and magic users, although he granted they could bolster the protection on armor above what a craftsman could. Having said that, locating them was out of his area of expertise.

The rest of the dismal day was uneventful, Nitram re-joined Shylent back at the Jovial Peryton.

The next day…

12 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
9:00 am, Waterday.

Nitram considered his plans. He and Shylent knew that they had to be available tomorrow night for Blend and his cohorts. That left today free. Shylent stated she was going to get some exercise, and would meet Nitram back at the Peryton for dinner that evening.

Nitram took his new chain shirt to the temples to see if he could find someone able and willing (for a price) to provide a magical enhancement to it. He started at the Old Faith temple of Danaan. If he was unsuccessful there, he tries the Imperial Temple. Lastly, he would ask Gracier or someone else in the miltia.

Nitram used his time on the 12th to visit the temples. He soon reached the location of the Old Faith sanctuary. A large oak tree was at the southern side of the building, where the 8 foot tall marble statue of Danaan and the main entrance were.

A tiled sidewalk led from the main road and the oak tree (which had benches scattered around it) towards the main door of the sanctuary. The sidewalk was lined with waist high evergreen hedges all the way to the marble statue, which was on the left side of the main door, gazing at travelers and the oak tree.

Nitram was welcomed by the priestesses of Danaan, who sadly informed him that they had no one with the skill to answer his request. They did recommend the Imperial Temple however.

Nitram approached the site of the Imperial Temple, struck by the differences in style between that and the temple of the Old Faith. Both were beautiful in various ways. The Imperial temple was constructed in the form of a large walled building with towers that had blue pointed tops, and a large blue and gold central dome. The building was either constructed of marble (the columns and pillars) or whitewashed in white paint.

On either side of the main entrance was a large statue of marble. On the right as you approached, was a male knight, dressed in archaic plate mail, weiding a longsword and shield, with the longsword raised to the sky, arching over the entrance doors. On the left was a female dressed in robes, wearing a breastplate and wielding a shield and a spear, with the upraised spear arching over the entrance doors. The symbol and logo of the Imperial Temple was etched in yellow and blue paint on the large double doors.Sword and scales seal

Once Nitram entered the main hallway he was greeted by a young priest who led him to someone who could help him in his quest. He was taken to the side armory, where the lead craftsman, a human named Metronius, worked. After examining Nitram’s chain shirt, he agreed that it was suitable for enchanting, and would make a fine project for one of the apprentices. He also mentioned that a 1,000 gp donation would be required for materials and labor.

Nitram paused before making his donation. Is there any chance you can enchant this bow by tomorrow…late afternoon, early evening? Nitram showed Metronius his composite longbow. I would really appreciate if you could enhance both for 2,885 gold pieces? I have friends in need of your services and would easily recommend they bring their donations here. Nitram smiled. Diplomacy check because I know I’m 115gp short. Also, I don’t know if there are two 8 hr periods between now and then. I think there are.

He spent the rest of the day looking for materials to make the broadhead arrows he had seen Aeron using.

Nitram (Diplo 25, sigh) put forth his best reasons for getting the weapon and the armor completed for a less than normal “donation”. Metronius (“Merchant” DC 22) agreed to have the work completed for 2,700 gp (10% off) but would not agree to rushing the work. And he personally could not adjust his schedule to accommodate Nitram’s request to have it done early on the 13th. He took Nitram’s donation and told him to bring in the bow when he had the time.

Nitram thanked him for his generosity and promised to bring the bow in soon.

Nitram’s search for arrows such as those he had seen his friend Aeron using proved fruitless. It appeared (flying in the face of all logic) that the humans and archers of this area preferred the advantage of distance gained from regular flight arrows.

Of course nothing was stopping them from crafting such arrows. Nitram reasoned that if he brought in a sample and offered a commission, someone might be willing to create a mold and make him some.

Weary from all the diplomacy and running about, Nitram returned to the Jovial Peryton and met Shylent for dinner.

In the corner of the common room there were several amateur games of Drax going on. At one table, there was a large shout of “Razor’s Edge” and a lot of whooping and hollering. It appeared that a rare but famous configuration of play had occurred. The blue player was in a position where he could a chose a move that would decide the winner between the red and the green player. This was a classic configuration where the red and green player, one of which may have been in the lead, were helpless and at the mercy of the third player. The blue player moved his pieces and gave the advantage and win to the red player. There were cheers and good natured boos as the group of players dispersed.

After the table of players had dispersed, Shylent nudged Nitram and pointed to the far side of the room, where to his surprise, he saw Jharron, Daelin, and Aeron discussing something with a young dwarf. Daelin rose and went outside, and a moment later Aeron joined him.

Nitram did his best to move through the crowd unnoticed by Jharron. As he got closer, he said Making new friends, Jharron? Did you get rid of the old ones? He gestured to the door that Aeron and Daelin had exited through. He then sat down and asked, So…what brings you to Capone?

As Nitram gets closer, Fero lets out a low growl that alerts Jharron. Upon hearing Nitram, Jharron turns and stands and welcomes Nitram to the table. “Nitram, how are you? This is Gravnar, an emissary from Chief Stoneblood of Granite Quarry in Rivendeep. He is interested in establishing a trade route with his people. Gravnar, this is a friend, Nitram. Proven in battle and a trusted ally when your backs against the wall.” Jharron makes the introductions and after the pleasantries of meeting are completed, Jharron looks to Nitram and continues “New friends are always a welcome sight but the old friends are like gold. Daelin and Aeron just stepped out for a breather. I was just inviting Gravnar to join us tomorrow at the Drax tournament and then we were planning a “stroll” through the woods to visit some interesting folks. I am still on the hunt for the order that attacked my home but it has proven to be a slow process with just enough traction to allow movement. How are you and what brings you here? Did you manage to accomplish what you set out for? Do you know how Shylent and Blend are doing and where they are at?"

Gravnar is a little bit intimidated by Nitran, he has never seen an elf (or human if the elf part is not obvious) who looked as if he could sweep the floor with him. In fact, he had never met any civilized being—save perhaps the occasional half-orc—who could sweep the floor with him. Eager to change the subject, he hones in on the mention of family, “Your family? What order would attack your family and why? Such offenses cannot go unanswered!”

Nitram looked at the stout dwarf, Well met, Dwarf Gravnar of Granite Quarry. I am Nitram Tam, formerly of Land’s End. Gravnar could see a slight pained expression on the half-elf’s face when he mentioned Land’s End. Nitram turned back to Jharron, Shylent is right here, he gestured to where she stood and beckoned her to come over. Morgan DuBlade sent me here to help work out the trade route between Capone and Catrel. Shylent decided to come along. Unfortunately, the two of us will be attempting to break up some of the local badits tomorrow night, hopefully helping out the Capone militia, so we will not be able to join you at the Drax tournament. Blend is here in Capone as well, although I haven’t seen too much of him. He’s off doing his own thing and tends to find us, not the other way around. It might be best to let Blend explain his own reasons for being here. He thought for a moment and then added, I wouldn’t mind a nice stroll through the woods, but I’m having some work done on my bow and need to stay in town for a few days until it’s ready. He notices Jharron’s clothing and armor haven’t changed since they departed. If your interested in a little more protection, Dogtree’s has a nice set of “enhanced” dragonhide or I’ve found some enhanced studded leather or leather. Dealin may want to take a look at Dogtree’s as well. If you have anything you want magically enhanced, ask for Metronius at the Imperial Temple. Tell him I sent you. That’s what I’m waiting on. Where did Aeron and Daelin go?

Aeron meandered his way back to the tavern table, “Did someone say my Name?” Aeron looked genuinely pleased to see Nitram. “Great to see you Nitram.” Aeron lowered his voice. “You might want to take any discussion of bandits outside. I get the feeling half of this crowd might fall into that category, but let us know if you need any help draining the swamp.” Aeron winked and brought his voice back up to conversational levels. “I would like to speak with you in private when you get a chance, but in the meantime. How were your travels from Castrel to Capone? Do you think it is readily passable by wagon? What of the security?” Aeron then changed subjects. “So what do you think about Gravnar, here. He was interested in demonstrating some of his hometown’s wares for possible trade.”

One of the Jovial Peryton’s servants saw the additional arrivals at Jharron’s table and brought over several more chairs. Shylent grabbed one and sat down, waggling her hand in the universal symbol for a mug of beer. She looked at Aeron sternly and said “Robe?”, presumably making note of his apparel change.

A blast of thunder signaled a late fall storm was approaching, and soon the pounding of rain was heard from all the surrounding rooftops. Many of the inhabitants of the bar had scurried away home, unless they were tenants of the Peryton. Rain could be heard gushing along the streets and into the sewers.

Daelin stepped inside the Jovial Peryton and out of the approachig rain, nodding towards Nitram to acknowlege his presence. Leaning against the door jam he peered outside, deep in thought. I sure hope this trade route business goes easily. With any luck, and the blessing of the gods, it will inadvertently lead to information about the blood druids or moon coven. That would be progress.

Maybe I’m mistaken, he thought. But securing borders seems more important than a making a few coins. I thought that was what the outpost was supposed to be for. Gods be good. My mind tells me I’m on the right path, but the answers I seek in my heart seem to be just beyond the horizon.

After a few minutes of watching the rain, Daelin returned to the table. “Nitram, Shylent, it’s good to see you both,” he said as he pulled up a chair. “How have you fared over this last while?”

“I believe a nice set of enhanced armor would be a nice addition. Thank you Nitram, I will have to see about visiting in the morning.” Jharron then sits back Fero and watches the interaction of the others. I sure hope this puts us in the right direction toward a solution set for who attacked the grove. Maybe once I find out, the dwarf would be interested in helping me ensure the attacks are not made again in this lifetime.

After a few minutes another round of drinks had arrived, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. Instead of being served, the tray was set on the table, and the server (not the serving woman who had been waiting on them all night) took a seat in a chair the group could swear wasn’t there a moment ago.

Hi, Blend.

The talk of enchanted arms and armor and dragonhide made Gravnar’s head spin. He was not a very well paid emissary.

“Well met Nitram Tam and Shylent.”

“I have recently traveled from Castrel. I found relatively little along the route from there to here, but I will provide what information I can, in case it helps. If you will hear it, I will also tell you of the trouble in my homeland, not too distant from Castrel, in case that helps too.” Gravnar gauges the conversation to determine if these travelers are focused only on Castrel, or if they will listen to his tales from his homeland, too. He also gauges the travelers to determine who among them, if any, is the leader.

Gravnar cocks an eyebrow at the server who has suddenly appeared.

Nitram looked at Aeron and bowed his head slightly, Bon soir, mon frere. Porquoi est-ce que tu as vetements nouveaux? We are using French for elven, right? Both my elven and French suck. Castrel to Capone was uneventful. DuBlade had us scouting a trade route and it seems very doable. The wagons’ halfway point will most likely become a town, and I’m trying to make sure its construction and existence doesn’t bother the Mist Grove dragon. I’ve spoken with the militia here and from what I’ve seen and heard, there biggest problem is going to be bandits. Hopefully, the increased patrols between Toreador and Falconaire will have some effect. Maybe we can also provide some input…. He trailed off while looking at the server who he assumes is Blend. is a perception check required for the dramatic entrance?
Nitram looked at the dwarf, Gravnar seems very capable. Is he journeying with you?

Blend acknowledged Nitram’s greeting with a nod. Shylent also received a similar nod. He sat back in his chair intent on listening to the ensuing conversation, ready to answer any questions directed his way.

I think the more important question about the dwarf is the reason for the pipes? That answer addresses your concerns about his potential capability. He doesn’t need to play them…right now anyway. We don’t need any additional attention. Later, I would like to hear them. Nitram grinned and turned back to Aeron, If he can’t play them, why would he carry them? People are bound to ask him to play and when he can’t or doesn’t play well, those people are most likely to get upset. Since he is traveling alone, I would suggest that he can handle himself in those kinds of situations. Pipes can be somewhat polarizing. Most people either like them or hate them, not much in between. So, even if he can play, I would expect there to be those who might be upset by their melodies, especially in establishments such as this. And we are back to the first possibility and his ability to handle himself. Or you could ask him to show you how sharp his axe is.
Now, Gravnar, I would like to hear of the troubles of your homeland and where you are strolling to with my firends. He leaned into the table and took a slow swallow of his newly arrived drink.

Shylent returned Blend’s nod with the usual stoicism of fellow comrades in arms. She slid a mug from the tray towards Gravnar and said in Dethek; “Gut getroffene verwandte, well met kinsman, Nuada segen nach ihnen, Nuada’s blessing upon you.” and took a large swig from her mug.

Aeron nodded to Nitram and Shylent, “I expected our warriors to notice my change of livery. I was sent by the Falconaire Council on a diplomatic mission to Aelvenwode to negotiate the location of a new south eastern outpost. I now wear the colors of the druids of Glenfar to signify my desire for a more balanced world. It is good to hear your journey was uneventful from Castrel to Capone. I too worry about dragon Hah’Zardian in the Mist Grove. I suspect his influence extends beyond that forest and will be a constant threat to any trade route through that region. If we can discover his age and true name, someday, we may be able to remove that threat.”

Aeron unrolled map of southern Falconaire and pointed towards an area just north of Aelvenwode.

Aelvenwode Thumb aelvinwode

“The border outpost is initially planned to be in the Gloaming Hills pass between the south point of the Sacred Grove forest in Falconaire and the north point of the Aelvenwode forest. Jharron, Daelin and I would like you to review this location. The purpose of the outpost is to control the flow of ogres west into the Gloaming Hills from Rivendeep and slow the advance of creatures into Aelvenwode from Spider Bramble. The site is projected to be in the Gloaming Hills pass between where the Aelvinwode forest projects north and the Sacred Grove forest projects south.”

" Nitram, I need your help negotiating the types of soldiers in garrison. Lord DuBlade initially requested a unit of heavy cavalry and Queen Belcadiz wants the troop strength limited to only infantry. I was hoping you could discuss this with Lord duBlade to bring the Falconaire desires in line with Aelvenwode constraints. This forested region will funnel traffic through the eastern outpost, so heavy cavalry mobility should not be needed. The woods also offer excellent cover for infantry archery defense. If you could write to Lord duBlade, I think you could convince him of the tactical superiority of an archer infantry unit over that of heavy cavalry."

Aeron lowered his voice and leaned into the table.
“In the mean time, the bandit problem is a real concern. Establishing a trade route to the eastern outpost will be critical to its continued survival. It is hard to say how much of the threat is bandits and how much is rival merchant guilds competing to control the trade routes. We can help you scythe the wheat, but it might be more effective to weed the garden. If we can locate Blend, he should be able to direct us at the weeds to be removed. He might even be able to identify a likely merchant guild to establish the trade route.”

“Jharron and Daelin have discovered a contact here in town that can guide us to the Moon Coven witches and finally to the Blood Druids. Gravnar has agreed to come with us to help in the matter. Your assistance in that quest is deeply appreciated.”

When Aeron mentioned locating Blend, he raised his eyebrow slightly in amusement, but said nothing. Instead he flashed a small smile toward Nitram and Shylent.

OOC: If the comment was just an oversight on Steve’s part, not realizing I was sitting at the table, then we can play this out differently. However, if it is just Steve RPing Aeron’s quirkyness, then I say roll with it.

Trying hard not to smile foolishly, Yes, Blend could help weed the garden, if we could only find him. He made a concerted effort to look directly at Blend for an uncomfortably long time (3 seconds at least) and then back at Aeron. I would like to help you out, but I will need to stay here for the next two days. I’ve found someone at the temple who is enhancing my new bow and some armor. If you need anything, ask for Metronius at the Imperial Temple. After that, I would be happy to help remove the Blood Druids.
Aeron, regarding the troops at the outpost. I’ve spoken to DuBlade about extra security on the border and I’m sure he would support infantry at the new location. I can verify that with him through a letter if you need, or the next time I see him. But, I’m fairly confident that he is open to having infantry or some other foot soldiers in that area. We can speak more on this in private if you would like.

Gravnar blushes at Shylent’s greeting, “Gut getroffene verwandte, well met kinsman and good lady. Thank you.”

Gravnar hones in on Aeron’s mention of the outpost’s purpose to control the flow of ogres and creatures: “Ogres from Rivendeep? Yes, we have seen ogre patrols marching through my homeland. We think the cause is the fall of Land’s End years ago. This may be the source of the ogre and goblin troubles…one we have not been able to stop. But I would hope we could do more than “control the flow”. We must put them down at their source!"

“Can you tell me more about these creatures from Spider Bramble. Since you call them “creatures”, I gather you do not know what name to call them. We also have un-named creatures, some with goat-like legs and human torsos, and others who appear to be giant lizards…do any of these sound familiar to you?"

“Also, all those troubles have awakened Jawilser, an elder giant of ancient dwarven lore, who has been attacking caravans not far from the area of which you speak. My cousin, Pax Mortar, went to fight this giant, but has not been heard of since. These are the troubles of my homeland, and it sounds as if some of those troubles have spread to your lands, I fear.”

Aeron briefly looked up from the map at Nitram, “I think it would be best if you wrote to Lord duBlade recommending the archer infantry garrison at the new eastern outpost. Lord duBlade respects your opinion, it would go a long way to bring the two parties together on the final treaty.”

Aeron followed Nitram’s gaze to the new extremely unattractive barmaid. Aeron’s eyes narrowed as the sudden realization crept over him. “By the gods, Blend! I thought service here had hit a new low.” Aeron presented a hand to Blend, happy to see the scoundrel.
“Not sure how much of that you heard, but we could use your help identifying a competent merchant guild around here to supply grain to the new Falconaire eastern outpost. We heard there are four competing merchant guilds in the town: the Toreador Mercantile guild seems to be the most influential, Drominance Cargo is led by wealthy Councilman Drominance, Harbor Freight is a wagon and logistics guild trying to compete with Drominance Cargo, and the Profiteer’s Guild led by a merchant named Cromag.”

Aeron looked concerned.
“Not sure how you want to approach this. Perhaps if we can maneuver into one of the guild’s good graces, they might be favorable to establishing a trade route with the new eastern outpost? We need to have a tentative agreement with a merchant guild before we depart Capone, so the supply lines are established to sustain the new Falconaire outpost.”

Aeron slid his beer over to Gravnar and replied to his spirited exclamation, “I like your fighting spirit Gravnar. If your stone is as tough as the dwarves that mine it, the eastern outpost will stand for all time. I do not know much of the specific creatures coming out of Spider Bramble. They leave few survivors to bear witness to their nature. But if Lord duBlade can find a Commander of Nitram’s quality to lead the eastern outpost archers, I suspect they will be able to do more than slow the flow of ogres and creatures into Falconaire.”

Jharron spoke with Nitram quietly for a few moments about the armor merchant. He agreed that the dragonhide would be good idea, as it didn’t use any metal in its components. As Jharron hadn’t used any of the profits from his share of the loot, he felt he probably had enough to purchase the armor, but really wanted Nitram’s help in closing the sale. He asked Nitram if he thought there would be enough time to get his assistance tomorrow, and would he mind doing so.

Nitram replied that he would accompany Jharron to Dogtree’s whenever he wanted tomorrow morning, anytime before lunch. I have a meeting in the afternoon that will take most of the evening as well.

Surprisingly, Blend shook Aeron’s outstretched hand. He looked at everyone around the table. For know he would have to assume that the dwarf, Gravnar, was on the up and up, legitimately looking into expanding trade routes. Everyone else seemed to accept his company, even Aeron. Although Aeron did just extend his hand in greeting, so Blend would have to make sure he wasn’t ensorcelled in any way at a later time. Once he had everyone’s attention, he spoke keeping his voice low to limit the eavesdropping.

“Of those four, only Toreador and Drominance are legitimate. The Profiteer’s Guild run by Cromag is just a front. Cromag is the bandit lord behind all the attacks on the trade caravans. As long as he remains in power and free to do as he pleases, these trade routes will not flourish. Interestingly enough, Cromag leaves the caravans from harbor Freight alone. Harbor Freight is only a merchant company on the surface. They are definitely responsible for the influx of blood magic items into the area. The ogre we killed in the temple was working with them before he decided to go rogue pursuing that blood meteorite. The camp we raided was filled with Harbor Freight goods. They were supplying the ogre and his band until he broke off. Harbor Freight are also in the war profiteering business. They come into prominence around the same time hardship and strife hit a region. You may not know this, but there is a grain shortage in the area. That has Harbor Freight written all over it. I suspect they are using blood magic to affect the crops in some way. The organization ambushed my guild in Aerie, trying to establish a foothold up there. They may be working with one of the Thieves’ Guilds in the area to do the same thing down here. It could be Cromag since he is leaving their caravans alone. However, they could be just paying him off. A second guild, the Street Merchants, led by a thug named Pete Rejo, have recently acquired at least one blood magic item. They may have gotten it from Harbor Freight. I haven’t sorted out the relationships completely at this time. There is a third guild, unnamed and smaller than the rest. They run mostly protection rackets. Bottom line is this: both the Profiteers and the Street Merchants need to be removed before any additional trade routes will flourish. That’s what I am working toward right now.”

Aeron was impressed by Blends knowledge and kept his voice low due to the sensitivty of the situation, “Jharron, Daelin and I have been tracking the blood magic leads. We have information there is a local Blood Druid circle and Moon Witches Coven that may be using blood magic. The use of blood magic items is likely the cause of the blighted crops and the grain shortage. We suspect the druids and witches are receiving blood magic items through one of the local blackmarket merchant guilds. Now we know, the likely network of blood magic items is through Harbor Freight and their local destributor Pete Rejo of the Street Merchants. Pete Rejo is unlikely to just tell us where he is delivering the Blood Druid or Moon Coven blood magic items, but knowing that he possesses a blood magic item, I can locate him within the city.”
Option 1: Raid
“I am not sure how you want to handle it after that. If the Street Merchant guild is small enough, we may be able to eliminate them outright, but I would recommend doing this early in the day. Such types usually do their work at night and may be caught off-guard with an early raid. This option still doesn’t solve our bandit issue.”
Option 2: Talk
“Alternatively, Pete Rejo’s Street Merchants sound like a very minor guild. We may have a common enemy with Cromag’s Profiteer’s Guild. Pete Rejo may just give us the location of the Blood Druids and Moon Coven if we can take out Cromag. That solves our bandit problem and still gives us the Blood Druid and Moon Coven location.”
Option 3: Kick the Hornet’s Nest
“The last option I can think of, is to just start a turf battle within Harbor Freight between their Street Merchant proxy and the Profiteer’s Guild proxy. All we would have to do is attack one group and leave clues going back to the other…assuming no one escapes to reveal the source of the true attack. This could turn against us if the guilds discover what we are doing and band together.”

“Whatever we do, Drominance Cargo seems to have the most to gain if something unfortunate should happen to Harbor Freight(the Street Merchants or the Profiteer’s Guild). If you can speak with Councilman Drominance, perhaps we can negotiate a trade agreement for Capone to supply grain to the new Falconaire eastern outpost contingent on reduced bandit raids and the improvement of the crops. Such contracts could be lucrative for both parties. Remember merchant rule number thirty-five, ‘Peace is good for business.’ Not to be confused with merchant rule number thirty-four, ‘War is good for business.’” Aeron winked at Blend and waited for his recommendation.

Blend appreciated how quickly Aeron grasped the situation. “The Street Merchants and the Profiteers are already at each others throats. I think the best option is to help them along a path of mutual destruction. So your third option is best in my opinion. I’m starting tomorrow night. Cromag is planning on attacking a shipment being brought in by a business partner of my guild and I am going to stop it. The plan is to pin it on Rejo and his thugs. If we can take one of Cromag’s goons alive, perhaps we can get some more information out of him. We need to solidify the relationship between the guilds and whatever is going on out in the hills, as well as what role Harbor Freight is playing in all this. Once is each guild is weakened significantly, they may become vulnerable enough where we can cut off the proverbial head of the snake in each one. It will come down to this. If Cromag and Rejo are allowed to live or escape, they will be able to rebuild and reconstitute their ranks and retaliate in a similar way.”

That’ll teach me to have a singular focus, thought Daelin. It’s really not about trade after all. The trade routes must be legitimized so that the supplies for the outpost can be delivered safely, which in turn will allow for the outpost to be built and secure that border.

Daelin shook slightly, as though waking from a dream. “I agree,” he began. Leaning over the table in an effort to maintain hushed tones, he continued. “Getting these two factions to fight each other is the wisest plan. However, that still leaves us with Harbor Freight. If they are, in fact, the ones perpetuating this, a war between the Profiteers and Street Merchants may not solve anything. It would only slow it, and I fear not by much. That’s not to say it’s a bad idea, by any means.”

“Im just thinking out loud here but for argument’s sake, let’s say Harbor Freight is at the head of this. They may be able to quickly put an end to the infighting we perpetuate. If they discover it to be a ruse, who do they go after for retribution? There is already a grain shortage and I’d be willing to bet that they themselves are not short any grain.

Daelin scanned his companions to gauge their thoughts. “There is rumored to be a benign coven of witches in the hills to the south, as well as a peaceful sect of druids who use Blood Magic. They may be additional resources to help us disrupt these guilds if we can reach them. After all, if you were Cromag, Rejo, or Harbor Freight, who would you blame if things go bad?”

“True, these actions will most lekely only slow down Harbor Frieght, but they are a long term problem. They have a wide reach. I am still identifying the their players in the city. I only have a name…Ashmourne. It was on the ledger we found and he was also implicated in the procuring and distribution of the blood magic items. Harbor Freight may try and stop the infighting, but I don’t think that they will or can. We only need the infighting to cause a distraction long enough for us to remove the leaders. As far as retribution, well, that is exactly what I plan on delivering.”

“My primary concern is the protection of the innocent within the population.” Daelin replied. “If Harbor Freight is unable or unwilling to start any infighting, that alleviated much of my concern. With regard to the removal of leaders, are you only looking at the Profiteers and Street Merchants? Two out of three ain’t bad, but I’m afraid it would make it more difficult to reach the third.”

Raising his hands off the table in a calming motion, Daelin continued. “I apologize if I am slow on the uptake, but I just want to make sure we are in fact solving the problem. Not minimizing it, or sending it elsewhere for someone else to deal with.”

“A quick death by blade is better than a slow death by starvation, which is exactly what is happening to some. I understand your concern, but these are covert organizations. Wide scale slaughter is not their style. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They are killing innocents everyday. They just keep it quiet enough so the militia don’t get more involved, not that they can do much anyway. The smaller guild does not have a leader, at least not one I have been able to identify that would cause their organization to fall apart like the larger ones.”

The minstrel this evening was a mournful crooning type of singer, accompanying his voice with a small guitar. Known to the patrons of the Jovial Peryton as Florid Delgodis, he began to sing a powerful rendition of the sad lament known as “Greensleeves”

Alas my love you do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously;
And I have loved you oh so long
Delighting in your company.

Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my lady Greensleeves.

I have been ready at your hand
To grant whatever thou would’st crave;
I have waged both life and land
Your love and goodwill for to have.

Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my lady Greensleeves.

Thy petticoat of sendle white
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of silk and white
And these I bought gladly.

Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my lady Greensleeves.

“Wide scale slaughter is not profitable, but wide scale coercion is,” Daelin commented. “I just wanted to make sure that no one else would be punished for our actions. It seems though, that my concerns may be unfounded if you are right. If the third guild is small enough to not yet have a definitive head, they may be small enough to think better of their actions after the other two are ‘beheaded’ so to speak.”

“How do you plan to conduct this business, and are you in need of an extra pair of hands?”

Assuming that you let Gravnar hear the discussion…
Gravnar had been listening intently and seconds Daelin’s offer, “If Cromag is indeed a bandit lord who has been perpetrating the attacks on the caravans — and I would like to see this for myself — but if it is true, I too offer my assistance in this worthy fight. I will also assist in finding the source of the blood magic, and I defer to your wisdom and experience on the best course to enact ‘retribution’. I heard mention of the militia…does the militia know that we are working on their side? Should we tell them what we know and what we plan, in case they can assist?”

Aeron listened to the conversation as it seemed to settle, “It sounds like we want to raise the level of conflict between Rejo’s Street Merchants and Cromag’s Profiteer’s Guild to slow or perhaps roll back Harbour Freight’s gains in the region. With a constant eye towards removing Rejo and Cromag, hopefully sending the two guilds into chaos. It looks like we have to take a few pawns before we can check the kings.”

Aeron turned to Blend. “Do the Street Merchants or Profiteer’s Guild leave any tokens or calling cards when they make an attack? Are their attacks carried out a certain way? Dagger? Arrow? Poisoning? Garrott? Are the bodies left in a certain condition or location? We will have to mimic their tactics and have the ability to seal all avenues of escape, so none can flee to reveal the plot.”

Aeron shook his head. “Maybe the pawns don’t need to die. We can bait the guilds. Let the guilds capture an item that I am familiar with and can clearly envision in my mind’s-eye, then I can magically track it back to their secret store rooms. If we steal their funds and burn their storehouses, that will raise the conflict faster than losing a few lackeys. See if you can get them to capture this.”
Aeron slid a stoppered bottle under the table to Blend.
OOC Minor unlabled Potion of Stabilize.

“If we don’t want to bait them, we should take at least one alive to interogate. I have a few spells that will allow us to do that, and may assist in getting information. We will need information about the guild leaders and the location of the Blood Druids.”

Blend turned to Daelin to address his concern. “I do not promise that innocents people won’t get hurt or killed, only that if we do this right, we can minimize the collateral damage.” He then turned to the dwarf and looked him up and down. “Come and get your hands dirty if you want. I force no one’s hand in this group.” Finally his gaze settled on Aeron, truly wondering if some doppelganger had not taken the real Aeron’s place. “We will do both…take the pawns as well as pit them against each other. I have already considered what you have suggested. All worthy pursuits. We need to push the first domino and see what paths and opportunities open up before us. I will look into the respective calling cards and tactics. I will also find a good mark to plant this bottle on. You can help secure the shipment during the Drax tournament if you like. It will take place in the sewers. I don’t think I will need more than myself, Nitram and Shylent, so if we have other endeavors that could be carried out to further our goals then perhaps we should also focus on those. If not, then extra backup never hurt.”

The common room was getting quieter and quieter as the evening wound down. A couple of barlads and barmaids were beginning to wipe down empty tables.

The group had come to a tentative consensus on their “long” term goals, but other than Nitram agreeing to help Jharron purchase the dragon hide armor, the plan for tomorrow was still a little vague.

The group agreed to meet for lunch and determine their course of action. Shylent volunteered the Boar’s Head, with an uncharacteristic grin on her face. Several members stuck together for a few moments the group dispersed, answering each others questions before calling it a night.

13 Septimus, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
9:00 am, Thunderday

Nitram and Jharron had made their way back to armory street, and into Dogtree’s establishment. To Nitram’s relief, the dragonhide armor was still available. Dogtree welcomed Nitram with a wide smile and said the going price for the dragonhide was 1,330 gold, but that it was in high demand, good thing he was here early. Nitram and Dogree haggled for a while as Jharron watched in amazement. Finally, Nitram had given it his best effort (Diplo 26) and convinced Dogtree (Merchant DC 22) to sell it to Jharron for 1,197 gp.

Nitram swung back by the Imperial Temple to pick up his armor and let Metronius know he would drop the bow off tomorrow morning. While he was traveling with Jharron, he voiced one of his concerns regarding tonight’s activities.
If you and the others don’t have specific plans for tonight, maybe you could try to watch the other exits from the sewers. Blend, Shylent, and I will have the south, west, and east sides covered, but there is no telling where the ambushers are going to come from. I wouldn’t mind a pair of eyes on our exit route and maybe some coverage over the other northern passasges. That is most likely where they will come from.

Any chance we can cover some portion of the northern passages and maybe someone to at least watch the warehouse and our exit?

Aeron asked to meet with Blend the next morning at the Central Market to take a short visit to Councilman Drominance. Blend planned on using the next morning to determine the calling cards and tactics of the rival gangs and was not able to assist.

After the meeting with Councilman Drominance, Aeron met with the group for lunch at the Boar’s Head Tavern. “While I don’t like the thought of going into the Capone sewers, I feel I must assist to bring balance to this city. I can help coordinate magical communication and I will need to be nearby to put one of the thieves asleep at the start of the attack. I don’t believe I am saying this, but perhaps it is best to plant some of those that see better in the dark in the tunnels.”
OOC This is a slight modification of Matt’s original plan.

OOC Nitram, Daelin, Jharron and Aeron in western conduit room.
“I can wait with Nitram, Daelin and Jharron in the western room with the three conduits. It is an unlikely entrance and keeps us close enough to support. We can cover the far hall with arrow fire.”

OOC Shylent and Gravnar hidden at the ambush site (central square room).
“Gravnar and Shylent should preposition in the likely ambush site (the central square room) corners. Shylent could use Gravnar’s dark vision to help keep track of approaching thieves and help signal the attack. If they stayed in the corners their placement would be out of sight from most approaches. The square central room is a probable choke point that could use a tough dwarf to help blockade.”

OOC Jharron on the street above eastern ladder.
“Jharron should be on the streets covering where the eastern ladder goes. He can descend the ladder once the attack is signaled or wait for the thieves and pummel them with his quarter staff as they try to climb up the ladder.”

OOC Blend hidden in northern cistern room.
“Blend is the only one stealthy enough to cover the northern intersection cistern. There are too many branch passages from the northern cistern location, so Blend will have to make sure no one makes it past him to escape.”

“If anyone escapes it will be fairly obvious to Cromag that he has a mole and that there is another group in town trying to move in on the Pete Rejo’s territory.”

Feeling pretty proud of the progress he made, Gravnar sleeps like a log through the night and into mid morning. He performs various functions during the morning, and then meets the group for the lunchtime meeting.

After listening to Aeron’s plan, he says, “I agree, and I am willing to stand in darkness with Shylent at the ambush site. I will work out a series of shylent signals that I can pass physically to Shylent. What should we do if things appear to be going completely wrong? Should I blow these bagpipes as loud as I can and charge at the biggest foe I can find?”

Everyone(?) had re-gathered at the Boar’s Head inn for the lunch time meeting. Shylent had secured a table in the corner as a nod to security, and was eating a large steak as everyone else showed up. With potatoes. And corn.

Shylent raised an eyebrow and looked puzzled when Gravnar mentioned a “a series of shylent signals” and then glanced at him suspiciously.

The Boar’s Head common room was large and very popular at dinner time. Lunchtime was a little quieter, and the table Shylent had picked had a good viewing angle on the entire room.

As the group finalized their plans, pausing cautiously whenever the serving maid brought more food and ale, the center of the room got louder as people came in for lunch. It was an eclectic crowd, with several aristocrats, a couple of farmers and masons, the nearly the entire span of Capone society.

Most talk was about the Drax tournament. Some talk about the weather (getting colder earlier). Jharron nodded in agreement with the things he heard about the weather. One traveler, coated in road dust, mentioned that his friend had heard that there had been a slight scuffle up north between the Varencian Empire and the Anguis Imperium. Word was that a Varencian squad may have gone to far north and seen something they should’nt have seen, and got slaughtered to the man.

Shylent snorted, “All dead, who tell story?” and picked up another fork of steak.

Jharron suggested that he and Fero be given a strategic position to cover the group’s entrance and escape. After being briefed about the slide and the route to the location, he glanced at Fero for a moment and declared that the route may provide some difficulty, but that it was not something they couldn’t handle. But he felt their strength was in covering approaches and/or exits, not in a tight main battle of any sort.

Assuming the diamonds are coming north into the ambush site from the water: Nitram listened to Aeron’s suggestions, then added, I like the extra bodies at our disposal. My suggestion would then be for Blend to stay in the eastern passage and make his deadly attacks from that direction. Shylent and the other “merchant” will stop the ambushers from escaping into the water if they have a key. I would put Gravnar and Daelin to block the northern passageway. Gravnar can use his darkvision to set up the blocking action once the ambushers pass his position in the passageway from the warehouse. Aeron can stay with me in the western passage since it isn’t an exit and unlikely that they will try to fight their way through it – not that that would really worry me…us. That should have them boxed in nicely. Jharron and Fero can either watch the warehouse or the water in case we get double crossed by someone.

If the diamonds are going south into the ambush site from the warehouse: Nitram listened to Aeron’s suggestions, then added, I like the extra bodies at our disposal. My suggestion would then be for Blend to stay in the eastern passage and make his deadly attacks from that direction. Shylent and the other “merchant” will stop the ambushers from escaping north into the city. I would have Gravnar and Daelin in the eastern or southern passageways to block the escape in that direction. Obviously, Dealin would need some light to be effective, but Gravnar and Blend could at least begin the counter-ambush before Shylent and the merchant are harmed, then block the east and south while providing some light for the rest of us if the ambushers don’t bring their own. Aeron can stay with me in the western passage since it isn’t an exit and unlikely that they will try to fight their way through it – not that that would really worry me…us. That should have them boxed in nicely. Jharron and Fero can either watch the warehouse or the water in case we get double crossed by someone.

Gravnar says, “Agreed. I will work out some silent signals with Daelin, and recommend the other teams do the same. With no objection, if I see that things are going incredibly wrong (such as two big trolls—one troll is no problem, but two I will sound the alarm!), I will scare the stuffing out of them with my bagpipes, and then we should follow designated escape routes.” Gravnar studies the sketching to determine which escape route he will use.

The group completed their planning and broke up, going their separate ways in order to prepare for tonight. It was decided that they would met at the rum ware house at 4pm. Shylent volunteered to show the magical group the way to the warehouse by wandering past it and pointing out the alley in the next few hours. After that they were on their own until everyone met up inside.

The afternoon passed, and the groups made their individual ways into the rum warehouse, apparently unnoticed. Petrol greeted those he had not met previously by shaking their hand and thanking them. He seemed a little nervous about divulging his secret passage to all the new people as he opened the latch on the fake rum cask.

Jharron and Fero agreed that they would stay with Petrol to cover the escape route. The rest of the party entered the sewers.

Which Rats? Part 2

Unconquered Kingdoms SkidAce