The Phoenix of Llael

Casino Royale, Part V

Thrash kicks open the front door of the inn, with Pascal slung over his shoulder. He sees Lok standing by a horse. Lok has taken his travelling alchemist kit out and is feverishly working on mixing various reagents in hopes of effecting an anti-toxin. Thrash drops Pascal who has fallen unconscious at Lok’s feet. Lok looks up. “Hopefully we are not already too late.” With that he plunges a syringe into Pascal’s neck and injects the anti-toxin.

Several moments pass and there is no reaction or change in Pascal’s condition. Lok checks for a pulse but he detects none. But then Pascal jumps up syringe still sticking from his neck, running and cursing. He yells “Get this thing out of my neck!”, and then yanks the syringe out. Lok runs over to examine him and Pascal’s vitals appear to have returned. He then pushes Lok out of the way and runs back inside yelling, “My hand! I had a full house! I have to get back to the tournament!” As Pascal makes his way back inside, another one of the tournament players stops him in the hall. Pascal recognizes him as the Cygnaran who entered the tournament.

“I am glad to see that you are okay. You did not look well when your troll grabbed you and ran off. Unfortunately, Marx declared you a forfeit for leaving mid game with no explanation. Said you must not have been able to handle the pressure. Everyone got a good laugh out of it. Look, I know you aren’t some travelling merchant. Anybody with a single good eye can see you are a privateer at best. But I believe we have a shared goal. I was sent here by the Cygnaran government to beat Marx. It is in the national interest of Cygnar that Marx not be able to make good his loan to the Kayazy families. You have him worried for some reason and that means you have a chance to win this. With both you and I in the game it is far more likely that we win out than Marx. I am prepared to stake you back into the game. However, if you win, Cygnar has first dibs on Marx and of course we get paid back our stake in full. Do you accept?”

“Don’t have much choice, do I? Let’s get back in there!” Pascal’s pride was wounded more than his gut, though a sharp pain in his side still turned his purposeful stride into a clumsy stumble back towards the room. Sure, this was probably going to cause Vesper’s heart to give out, but Pascal wasn’t interested in leaving Khador with 15,000 crowns of debt. He was sure the more politically savvy could deal with the aftermath of who handled Marx once this was all over, but his new goal was to embarrass the scoundrel. Pascal had no problem with cheating; but Marx had gotten caught, and he just wouldn’t stand for that.

Pascal makes his way back to the tournament room. Upon his arrival, Marx stands up and says “Ah it looks like your nerves got the better of you but it is good to see you at least managed to keep your whiskey down. Sadly, we had no choice to take your sudden absence as a forfeiture. As such you have been eliminated from the tournament.” He wears a smirk across his face, looking quite pleased with himself. But just as soon as he finishes the Cygnaran stands up and replies, “Although Pascal has forfeited his stake, I have agreed to stake him from my winnings. I have much to good a time with him present at the table to see him go just yet.” Several gasps of astonishment come from the crowd followed by applause and cheers.

Marx looks highly displeased and his countenance quickly draws silence from the spectators. “Evidently our crowd is enjoying the show and who am I to deprive them of a good time. Let’s continue gentlemen before this turns into anymore of a farce than it has already become.” The next hand is dealt. It is down to Pascal, Marx and the Cygnaran…

After several more deals Marx has won several hands mostly at the expense of the Cygnaran. Pascal has managed to hold his own and has increased his position to 50,000 GC’s. Marx knocks the Cygnaran out of the tournament shortly thereafter putting him at a whopping 100,000 GC’s. Several more hands transpire with neither player gaining an advantage on the other. Then Pascal finds himself holding a pair of Jacks with the current bid at 25,000. Marx raises to 50,000…

Pascal calmly calls Marx’s bid and pushes his chips into the middle of the table. Marx stares into Pascal’s eyes. “You know, you are not very good at bluffing. I picked up on your tell after just a few hands. Unfortunately for you bluffing won’t save you in this game.” Marx then displays his hand which contains a pair of kings which along with another king and a pair of JACKS in the flop lands him with a full house. Kings over Jacks. He is beaming with satisfaction. Then Pascal turns up his pair of Jacks which along with the pair in the flop win the hand. Marx’ smile disappears. He prepares to say something when a man who is standing behind Marx reveals a small hidden blade and slits Marx’ throat. The man then just walks away. No one does anything to stop him.

Marx’ former entourage starts eyeing the money on the table. It isn’t long before they each greedily start grabbing at Marx’ remaining stake of 50,000 GC which is closest to them. The ones too far away to get at that start eyeing the 100,000 GC sitting in front of Pascal…

Bodger Calmly jumps on the table places one of his pistols on the forehead of the closest money grabber and shoots his other pistol into the ceiling. “No honor among thieves.” He says. “It looks like Marx is out and our player won so get your hands off our money!” And he lowers his pistol he just fired at another money grabber.

At Bodger’s threat the two closest thugs hesitate for a second but then go right back to grabbing at the stacks of crowns. Then Wulfe unslings his rifle, points it towards the group of thugs and shouts at the top of his lungs. Everyone stops what they are doing and looks his way. A few of the thugs take off with the few coins they have managed to grab and make a run for the exit intimidated by the barrel brandished and pointed their way. However, far more reach for their own firearms and start shooting. One of the thugs tips the table up to provide some cover and knocks the remaining gold crowns including all the ones sitting in front of Pascal to the ground. Bodger goes tumbling after. Gold crowns scatter across the floor. Now the other spectators join in the fray as they go after the new windfall rolling in their direction and further chaos ensues as point blank gun fire occurs in every direction.

Bodger gets back to his feet and squeezes off a shot at the nearest person shooting him in the head. He immediately falls to the ground and drops the GC he was scrambling to recover. Several of the remaining thugs turn their guns Bodgers way firing in rapid succession. Bodger’s incredible reflexes and small stature allow him to avoid most of the barrage and scoop up several handfuls of gold crowns scattered about. Unfortunately, Vesper Rand is not so agile and several of the stray shots find their mark in her as she also desperately scrambles to try and recover her families gold crowns. She falls to the floor riddled with several bullets. Lok ignoring the irrational scramble for filthy lucre runs to her aid and pulls her from the room in hopes of stabilizing her injuries. Meanwhile Thrash is scooping even more handfuls of crowns, managing to avoid being shot and shrugging off the shots that do hit him as mere flesh wounds. Lastly he scoops up Pascal and dashes out of the room. As with Vesper not all the bystanders and spectators are so lucky.

A young man standing near the Cygnaran gentleman who staked Pascal in the tournament is struck by another stray bullet from across the room. The Cygnaran looks across the room and sees Wulfe standing with his rifle drawn and pointed in his general vicinity. Although the shot was not fired by Wulfe it is clear by the Cygnaran’s expression that he thinks it was. He raises a pointed finger towards Wulfe from across the room and shouts “You did this! I won’t forget it. You will be a hunted man until my blade finds itself across your throat!” He the gathers the wounded young man and drags him out of the room. Wulfe makes a quick exit before he can be blamed for any further deaths. Out of the corner of his eye he catches a glimpse of Gayle diving behind the bar.

Gayle lands behind the bar and then peeks out from the cover. She spies several piles of gold crowns nearby and begins to concentrate. She weaves her will to gather the gold crowns using telekinesis. She catches movement in her peripherals though. The bartender she berated earlier is still behind the bar and has drawn a scatter gun. He takes a shot but his aim is thrown when a chair comes crashing over the bar. Still many small BB’s embed in Gayle stinging sharply and drawing blood. She pockets the crowns she has levitated over and then makes a dash for the door before the bartender can fire another shot.

In the hall, the party converges on where Lok sits over the body of Vesper Rand. She is not moving and it is clear she has succumbed to her wounds. Lok in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, aside from his sarcastic quips, appears enraged. “Fools! Irrational fools! Drawing and firing guns in a crowded room! Have you no respect for the sanctity of life! Are you no better than brutes, capable of nothing more than murder and assassination! Aside from the deaths caused by your actions, what do you think will happen once the Cygnarans figure out that Llaellese operatives are responsible for the death of one of their own. Do you think it matters whether we fired the shot ourselves? What of our relationship with the resistance once we return with Vespers dead body and a measly $12,000 GC’s to show for it?”

Wulfe speaks up, “But I didn’t even shoot. I didn’t even chase after the gold crowns. Am I not innocent in all this. I simply backed up Bodger.”

Lok regains his composure and more typical stoic demeanor. “Wulfe, firstly it is commendable that you did not discharge your firearm and also that you did not let greed consume you. But the actions of those in your company reflect upon you as much as they. Our companion drew and fired in a situation that logically would result in the likely death or injury of many. Whether or not we actually took a life is irrelevant in determining our culpability and role in the aftermath of what followed. By example, we would be no less culpable than if we were to walk into a crowded tavern and shout fire and in the mad rush to exit several patrons died by trampling. And although your support and aid to Bodger is certainly commendable in a fraternal sense, it only acted to exacerbate an already volatile situation.”

Lok turns to Bodger and continues, “Bodger made an excellent case for drawing in the first place. His premises were that the remainder of Marx’ gambling winnings were Pascal’s by right of forfeiture. A logical conclusion to draw. But the further implied premise is that Bodger believed himself in a position of right to defend those forfeited winnings with threat of violent force. Rarely can one claim right to self-defense when they are first to draw though. But granting even that premise, self defense does not give right to cause injury or harm to just anybody in your immediate vicinity. The amount of force must be measured in such a way that the person claiming said defense does not put bystanders in harms way. The sheer potential for collateral damage in this case overrides the use of violent force in self-defense.”

He cocks an eyebrow, then carries Vesper’s body out to his horse and rides out of Rorschik as quick as he can. He gestures for the rest to follow which considering the shouts from back in the tournament room, is probably a good idea.

Wulfe regrets the loss of life. But his actions were justified. Lok’s logic is flawed but only because he doesn’t know all the facts and variables that are in play. However, now is not the time to reveal such things. In time, all will be known. He joins his comrades on horseback and rides out of Rorshik.

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Casino Royale, Part IV

After Pascal, Thrash and Bodger’s late night escapades they sleep in till noon on the day of the tournament. Wulfe who got a good night’s rest gets up early and has been observing the arrival of the remaining tournament players. Among those who arrive is a Cygnaran by the name of Jeremy Bentham. The word is that he is one of the favored players to win the poker tournament. Wulfe also spots Marx with his usual entourage who greets the tournament entrants as they arrive. Pascal and the rest of the crew get attired and then head down to the main lobby of the inn. A conservatively dressed man, presumably one the tournament ‘officials’, begins to round up the tournament entrants. He then escorts them to the private room where the tournament is to be held. Each player is allowed to be accompanied by their own entourages but no one else is allowed in. There is a small private bar in the back of the room and a waitress is taking drink orders from each of the players. Another tournament organizer is laying out each players stake at the table. Pascal takes a seat in preparation for the first hand to be dealt. Marx sits down across the table from Pascal.

“I hope you found our accommodations comfortable and you are well rested.” he says with a smirk. “Best of luck to you. It would be such a tragedy for you to have come so far and lose so much.” With that he takes a large drink of his Vodka.

The waitress comes over and asks Pascal what he would like to drink.

Instinctively, Pascal barks out “Dry whiskey, neat.” His gruff demeanor and simple drink draws some strange looks from some of the other players, but a dwarven player lets out a hearty laugh and eases some of the tension. “Finally, somebody else orders a REAL drink,” the dwarf says, and Pascal smiles back. It’s tough to put on both his poker face AND pull off his merchant disguise, but he’s thankful for the pass on his first mistake.

The waitress brings Pascal a whiskey, which he slams down in one gulp. Then the first hand of cards is dealt and the tournament begins.

Bodger pulls up a seat where he can watch the players and the exits. He orders a Wilder Ale and nurses it as he watches the game and the players to see if he can catch any tells or cheats. Bodger does not notice anyone overtly cheating, but does pick up that one of the players has a tell. The player to Pascal’s left is a dwarf and every time he bluffs he yanks on his beard. However, apparently everyone else at the table noticed this tell as well, as the players begin calling his bluff every time he does it. After the first dozen hands the dwarf is eliminated from the tournament.

Gayle puts on her best Khadoran accent and storms up to one of the youngest and meekest looking staff she can find in the Gallow Bears Inn, preferably not in sight of any more senior staff. “Who is in charge of the wait staff here?! Mr. Marx is going to be furious if this continues.” She glowers.

The bartender, points to a man standing by the end of the bar. “He is.”

She looks the man up and down. “And what is his name, fool?”

“Who are you calling a fool?” He begins to move for something behind the counter, but before he does the man at the end of the bar motions to him and makes his way towards Gayle. He introduces himself, “Ramos Heidigger, at your service. How can I be of assistance?”

“Mr. Heidigger, why is the Grishka Red (an expensive and generally limited Khadoran vodka that Gayle has noticed is not on the bar shelf) we brought not being served?” Gayle sizes up Heidigger, physically, trying to get a sense of how he’d handle himself in a bar brawl.

Heidigger, who is a man of small stature gives a worried look. “Oh dear, let me check at once”. He rushes off and returns a short time later. “My sincerest apologies, it appears your Grishka has been misplaced. You have my word that someone will be fired for this. Just let me know who you gave it to and I will see that they never lose another bottle again. In the meantime, although we do not have any Grishka Red available, please allow me to serve at no charge one of our bottles of Gallows Wood Black Label Vodka. I believe you will find it a most suitable spirit to tide you over until we are able to locate your bottle of Grishka.”

During the exchange, two more players have been ousted from the tournament. Pascal has managed to stay in the game but is only up 10,000 crowns. Marx on the other hand has amassed a staggering 40,000 crowns total. On the next deal, Pascal finds himself starring at a full house. The bidding starts and quickly escalates to 15,000 gold crowns. The other players fold. Marx ups the bid to 25,000 gold crowns. Pascal is faced with the decision to go all in or fold…

Heidigger calls to the bartender to bring down the Gallows Wood Black from the top shelf but Gayle stops him. “No, no,” says Gayle. “This simply won’t do. I know that bottle is in there, I personally walked it into the stores with some young woman. I insist you track it down. I’m holding you personally accountable. What kind of thieves do you have working here! In fact, I think it’s best if I come with you!”

Heidigger winces a little and then replies, “If the Gallows wood doesn’t suit your taste, then I would be happy to find something else for you. I will personally go down to our stores and find a suitable replacement. I will also check again for your bottle although an earnest search will require a full inventory which I alone am unable to do.” He glances at Marx who gives him a dismissive gesture. “If it pleases you to accompany me then you are welcome to. I think you will find our stores include some most intriguing libations.”

Gayle heads down into the stores, and hopes Pascal is still in the game when she gets back.

Heidigger says, “Feel free to browse, I will do a check of our pull wall to see if your bottle got stuck there. Feel free to take any bottle you want on the house. Not to rush you but we have a full house with the tournament so I need to get back as quickly as possible.” Heidigger walks over to the pull wall and begins a cursory examination.

While Gayle is downstairs, Thrash is growing restless, almost dozes off and falls down causing a slight commotion. So, he decides it is time to size up the rest of the protection in this room. He scans the room and tries to identify someone that might just enjoy chatting about their boss. He notices the bartender, waitresses and of course various members of each respective players entourage that are spectating. Any of them seems just as likely and open to discussion as the next.

With Gayle gone and Thrash doing his thing, Wulfe is trying to keep a close eye on the rest of the players at the table, including the dealer. Looking for anything out of the ordinary. He does not notice anything out of the ordinary from any of the remaining players or the dealer. His best estimation is that this is a stand up game of poker. Of course, Wulfe doesn’t know any of the rules to poker, having only recently heard of it, so he admittedly isn’t sure he would know if something unusual was up or not.

Bodger continues to watch the game for anything out of the ordinary. He notes Thrash’s discomfort and Gayle taking stepping out. Hopefully Pascal can pull this game out. Bodger doesn’t notice anything unusual going on at the table, however, when he looks down at the floor, which is basically just eye-level for one of his stature he does notice something. There is a small empty capsule laying on the ground near the seat occupied by Pascal.

As soon as Bodger notices the capsule he slips out of his chair and slides down to the the cellar unnoticed. He quickly locates Gayle and asks in a hushed tone, “Do they have any antitoxin down here? Pascals going to need it FAST!”

An examination of the store room does not reveal any antitoxin. The selection is largely limited to various spirits and some food items.

“Whoa, whoa, Bodger. Calm down,” says Gayle, trying to be discrete and guide him away from where Heidigger can observe. “What exactly are you talking about?” After Bodger explains, she is puzzled. “Well, I suppose it could be a poison, but it might also be some sort of spying device… Why don’t you see if you can find an infirmary in this place? Or maybe one of the guests is an alchemist?”

Gayle looks about quickly and grabs the finest bottle of liquor she can from the shelves. “Heidigger, I’ll take this for now,” and doesn’t wait for a reply as she heads up the stairs. Gayle grabs a bar towel and glass from the bar, opens the bottle, and pours a tall glass. She puts on her most confident attitude and walks to the table. “Pascal, here’s that drink they’ve been promising you.” She hands him the glass but drops the towel near the capsule. Bending down, she retrieves the towel and the capsule. Then she takes his other glass away.

Bodger slips back into the room unnoticed and takes a quick look around the room to see if anyone might be an alchemist. As he surveys the room he doesn’t notice anybody that looks like an alchemist. Then again the IK’s are full of characters who fit the mad scientist look so trying to figure out who may be one by stereotyping isn’t necessarily the best approach. But as Bodger ponders the idea of just asking if anyone is an alchemist or herbalist he does notice something about a man standing over in the corner. Actually, not a man at all. An elf. The beard and what must be a nose prosthesis disguise the character’s true identity but Bodger would know those pointy ears and widows peak anywhere. The elf is none other than Lok. Bodger takes the capsule from Gayle and makes his way over to Lok.

“Sorry for my absence. A small matter in Rhydden kept me occupied. You say you found this capsule by Pascal’s seat. Let me examine it.” Lok takes the capsule from Bodger, takes a quick sniff of it then touches it to his tongue. “Oh dear, tell Pascal he should meet me in front of the inn immediately.” With that he leaves.

Pascal is still staring at his hand unsure what to do. Hold ’em or fold ’em he thinks to himself. If he folds he knows that Marx can use his significant financial advantage to whittle him down until he is forced out of the game as he has already done to most of the other players. At that moment a sharp pain jolts hims. It emanates from his stomach but quickly the pain moves up his spine and back towards his head. Moments later he begins suffering a splitting headache, blurry vision and it gets ever so hard to concentrate. His heart starts thumping rapidly and he finds his breathing labored. Either Gayle has served him the strongest spirits he has ever come across or someone has poisoned him.

Wulfe notices Pascal not looking well so he gets up and starts walking towards him.

Bodger quickly moves over to Thrash and starts to drag him to Pascal. “We need to get Pascal to the front of the inn NOW! Lock is there and can help him.”

Thrash rushes to grab Pascal to carry him to Lok and in grabbing Pascal he inadvertently bumps the table where the money is stacked.

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Casino Royale, Part III

Sebastian stows his gear and searches the room to check for any listening devices, or other mechanika that might be in place to spy on them. After an extensive search no devices are found. He proceeds to knock on the adjacent door to regroup and find out what the plan is.

With some time to kill, Pascal looks around the inn, trying to size up the situation. The inn is truly beautiful, but there are whole hallways where Khadoran regulars stand firmly in front of the doors, barring all passage. He could easily take three of them without any trouble, but silent combat wasn’t his strength. Perhaps he could ask Sebastian for help later tonight… if they could get their hands on one of the decks they’d be using without anybody noticing, then maybe he’d have a chance at actually winning.

Pascal notices a well-dressed man in what passes for Khadoran high fashion walk towards one of the guarded hallways. A large entourage follows this man. Several appear to be bodyguards, and one is a man of much smaller stature. He carries a small locked wooden case. They proceed past the guards to a door on the right. The well-dressed man produces some sort of mechanika device which he waves in front of the door. Then after a few moments he opens the door and the group proceeds in. A short time later they exit and return in the direction they came.

Pascal notes the event with interest… if those guards left the door to sleep, then he had an anti-magical EMP that could probably get him through that door. He continues to look around the inn, but makes a mental note to revisit that door tonight in the after hours.

After a short nap, Thrash heads to the bar to drown out some of his frustration back at the checkpoint. Who does he think he is, trying to get close to that warcaster and hit him with the dart pen. If they could have knocked him out, the team might have won in a fight, but it is doubtful and stupid. He looks around the room to determine if he can see anything going on that is out of the ordinary. Maybe someone will say something to him about his kriel and a good old fashion brawl will start to lift his mood, then again, one screw up is enough for the day.

Meanwhile, Wulfe crawls into bed for good nights sleep after a long journey.

Thrash sees the small entourage of men returning to the bar and notices Pascal standing down the hallway watching them. He pushes past one of them who gives him an irritated look and says “Watch where your going Troll.” He then turns towards the well dressed man and says “My apologies Mr. Marx. Should we take care of this brute?”

The man identified as Marx speaks up, “No that is not necessary. This troll is our guest. He arrived with one of our tournament entrants this evening, that gentlemen standing back there.” He points back down the hall towards Pascal. “Checked in under the name Pascal. Can’t say that I heard of him before, but our bookmaker guaranteed that his stake had been paid in full two days prior. Have a bottle of our finest Khadoran wine sent to this good troll’s room immediately. I hope you will feel most welcomed.”

The entourage continues on to the bar and Thrash proceeds down the hall towards Pascal. “So much for secret identities.” says Thrash. Pascal tells Thrash regarding his plan to try and get into the locked room. Thrash agrees and they go and find Bodger who is eager to assist. Around 2:00AM they quietly make their way to the hallway leading to the locked room. Bodger is leading the way and just as he is about to turn the corner down the hallway he stops and gestures for everyone to stop and be quiet with a hand signal. He indicates that one guard still stands watch.

Thrash whispers to his companions, “What’s the plan? Do you want me to be the drunken Troll and walk down the hall and hit the guard with the pen? Or what? Let me remind you that my last plan didn’t work so well. Do you guys want me to stand guard outside the room while you go in and we let Sebastian go on the offensive? And where the heck is Wulfe?”

Pascal whispers, “Wulfe’s still in bed… probably for the best. If we manage to get caught, then maybe he’ll be able to pass for ‘Pascal’ and get a seat at the table for us. Can’t believe they ID’d me so quickly, though… that could make things a little tougher.”

“Anyways, if there’s a guard here, there’s also a really good chance there’s more people inside; not armed guards, but people who can raise the alarm. Bodger, you’re sneakier than both of us meat bags, so if we can get you in and out, do you think you could get a good look at the table, and maybe even swipe us a deck?”

Thrash, thinking Pascal said knock out the guard, pulls out the pen giving to him from Q and aims at the lone guard. He takes the shot and it looks like it hits the guard.

As the guard hits the floor, Bodger sneaks up to the door and detonates the EMP. He listens at the door for a moment and quietly opens it and slips in. He hears nothing in the room and as he enters he sees the room appears vacant. He scans the room to find where the decks would be hidden. He immediately notices the small wooden case that Pascal described to him sitting on a table in the center of the room. It is locked but Bodger is easily able to pick the lock to gain access to its contents. Inside as suspected he finds several decks of cards.

“Jackpot…” Pascal grins. He grabs a deck and starts to fold through it. His first pass is to look for the telltale signs of marked cards. He knew of most of them, having marked many of his own decks. None of the obvious tricks seemed to be present on the deck he held, which was backed with a magnificently detailed pattern in a traditional Khadoran style, with red and gold octagons tesselated against a striped background. This was probably bad news… the decks were likely custom-made, and Pascal doubted they could find a similar deck by morning. That meant they’d have to take a deck to use later, but the Marx would certainly notice it was missing and be watching for it.

Pascal grabbed a single card from the deck — the three of clubs — and gently put the rest of the deck back in the box. He turned to his companions; “Time to see if Gayle is good with a pen. I wish Lok was here to do some Alchemy tests on these cards for us, but we’ll just have to hope they’re as dumb as I am. Unless you guys have some chores to do, I’m ready to get outta here.”

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Casino Royale, Part II

You submit your supply requisitions to Q, who nods approvingly at your selection of his gadgets alongside your Khadoran disguises. Pascal takes the EMP device, Thrash grabs the dart pen and Gayle picks up the mirage prism. Q hands you back a requisition receipt and tells you that it contains his signature authorizing up to 500 GC’s to be used on your mission as needed.

“If you show the receipt to Vesper she will release the funds from those she carries. Good luck gentlemen!”

You meet Vesper Rand at the western entrance of Rhydden. As discussed she is already there with horse and carriage waiting for you.

Vesper calls you over and says “We will leave immediately to ensure we arrive in time for the tournament. Our route into Rorschik will take us along The Anvil which we can pick up near Rynyr. Just on the other side of Rynyr lies Laedry. We can expect to encounter at least one Khadoran border patrol between those two towns if not on our way to Rynyr.” She beckons you onto the carriage.

Your journey to Rynyr is uneventful but as you begin your trip West down The Anvil you spot a Khadoran checkpoint ahead of you. There are around 10 Winterguardsman along with a Man-O-War and Berserker Warjack. Vesper suggests you get your papers and cover story ready. As you get closer, another figure emerges from the woods on the side of the road. It appears to be another heavy warjack, but you instantly recognize this is no ordinary warjack. For where the normal head of the warjack should be is instead the agnuished face of a man. You know you are looking at none other than Karchev the Terrible, the man-in-the-machine, one of Khador’s most feared warcasters.

The band eyed the checkpoint warily. Pascal had heard the stories about Karchev, but had never seen him in person. He was the exemplary Khadoran soldier, covered from head-to-toe in his war-torn metal casing. Pascal did his best to seem normal, which for him meant keeping his mouth shut and walking in a straight line.

From his vantage point next to the driver Sebastian assess the checkpoint quickly counting the soldiers and pats his chest pocket to reassure himself that his papers are there. He carfully sets Show-stoper on the seat next to him keeping his hands visible to the checkpoint trying to look as non-threatining as possible. His large mechanics wrench sits propped next to him in case he needs it for repairs.

As you pull up to the checkpoint a winterguards-men approaches the carriage and calls out to you.

“Your an odd looking bunch. A gobber, troll, iosan and three humans. Who are you? What’s your business on The Anvil? Where are you heading? Where did you come from?”

Your silence confounds the guardsmen. He calls for his commanding officer, who starts to run over to your carriage. Two more guardsmen follow with rifles unslung. You see Karchev turn his terrible gaze upon you… They scream orders at you to step out from the carriage hands raised.

Sebastian shouts,“Pardon?” and sticks his finger in his ear wiggeling it around. “I’m having trouble hearing.”

The lead guard looks at him and shouts,“Get Off the carriage!”

Sebasation looks at him with a puzzled look and answers back,“Gorboff’s marriage? I don’t know Gorboff. I’m sorry sir I can’t hear well. Oh, you want us to ‘Get off the carriage.’” the gaurd gives him an exasterbated look as the gobber continues, “There was an explosion in the mechaniks shop two days ago and my hearing hasn’t returned fully.” He hops down from the seat and goes to the carriage door. He knocks on it and shouts, “They would like us to disembark!”

Not wanting to give to the guards any reason of suspicion, Wulfe readies to exit the carriage.

Pascal hops out of the carriage. “Please, there’s no need for trouble! We’re merely a travelling band of merchants and performers, seeking to bring warmth to your cold nights.” He immediately regretted saying so, as he doubted anybody but the Gobber has any sort of performing talent. He himself only knew a few basic card tricks. They would probably pass better as merchants anyways.

The guardsmen appears to buy the story so far. As the commanding officer approaches, he says “A troupe of travelling players. Say their here to bring warmth to our cold nights, but aside from the two wenches I just as well see them freeze in the cold as to hear or see them perform. I asked them where they were heading and where they come from but they continue to dodge the question.”

The officer looks your team over and then asks, “Performers you say, what kind of performers?”

Thrash jumps down from the carriage and pulls himself up to full size. Thrash points to the humans and says “Those guys are actors that do small plays throughout the kingdom. They use me and my strength to manage the props as well as protection when we travel and the gobber over there is responsible for building and maintaining the gear and props. I am surprised you don’t recognize them, have you never seen them perform at Midfest or caught their show at Merywyn? Their reenactment of Khardovic stirring the great Khadoric people as they bring the True Law to the wilds of Khador is always one that brings down the house.”

Wulfe speaks up, “The trollblood can dance”, then gives a little smirk.

Thrash turns to Wulfe and says “Hey, it is very graceful, do you want to start things up again?”

The officer gives you a smile and says, “Khardovic you say. Then I suppose a search of your belongings should reveal the many costumes and props of which you spoke that an acting troupe would require to pay proper homage to such a great wok of the motherland. Men search the carriage.”

He points to the locked chest strapped to the back of the carriage that holds the 15,000 GC that Vesper brought. “Now which of you has the key to that chest? I am sure you must keep a few good props in there right?”

Thrash looks over at Karchev and screams at Pascal “Hey P, is that who I think it is? Could that be the mighty Karchev who we hear about all the time? Do you realize what it would mean if we could get his autograph? We could show it to others when we perform. Can I get your autograph?” Thrash reaches slowly into his pocket and produces a pen and begins to walk towards Karchev.

Pascal gulped. If the rumors were true, Karchev wasn’t exactly the autograph-giving type… he hoped the Troll had a plan. “Oh, is it Karchev? The Man in the Machine himself? What an honor! Of course, I have heard all the legends about him. We must meet him!” Perhaps he was simply part of a distraction, to give the others a head start. It looked like he and Thrash could probably outrun the guards, if worst came to worst… though getting shot at wouldn’t be fun.

Before Thrash takes to steps, the guards all shout orders for him to stop moving and raise their rifles directly at him. They order Thrash to the ground. Rather than take four point blank rifles shots Thrash stops moving immediately. All the commotion draws the attention of Karchev. He begins moving away from the checkpoint towards your group.

As he draws nearer Wulfe calls out, “Thrash, this is a highly revered warcaster. He doesn’t have time to waste on simple folk like us. He’s a busy man with much important tasks to focus on”. “I apologize, master Karchev. We’ve heard so much about you and being able to meet you in person is such an honor. We wish not to waste any of your precious time”.

The officer screams at you to be silent and then speaks to Karchev. “Sir, these insolent travellers are hiding something. They claim to be travelling players but a search of their carriage reveals none of the trappings of such. I have demanded they open the chest you see attached to the carriage but they rebuke my every order and question. No doubt it carries contraband or perhaps even they are Llaelese spies. I will promptly execute the Troll and we will see if we can get some answers. I have matters well at hand, sir!”

Karchev gives a twisted grin.

The officer is about to speak when Vesper steps forward. “Sir, please wait. I apologize for this most unsettling behavior on the part of my company. The troll is simple. We found him wandering in the wilds and surely he would have died to exposure had we not taken him in. We put up with his antics because his size and brashness have proven a deterrent time and again against the bandits and highwaymen we encounter in our travels. I have the key to the chest that you wish to examine. Our hesitation in opening it is it contains the proceeds of our most recent production. He were performing in Rynyr when some resistance agitators caused a huge commotion at a nearby mine. In the aftermath, your forces laid down the insurrection, but in our haste to escape such a lawless place we had to leave behind all our belongings. What’s in that chest is all we have left and desperately needed in order for us to start afresh.”

One of the guardsmen moves to the back of the carriage and shoots the lock off the chest. He then spills its contents to the ground. You cringe expecting 15,000 GC to come spilling out but instead only about 500 GC’s are revealed. Karchev points and says in a most discomforting voice “Donation”.

The officer speaks again “Consider yourself fortunate to be in the presence of one as kind and generous as the great and mighty Karchev. Your contribution to the Khadoran motherland and war effort will spare your lives today and go to slaughtering more of those Llaelese scum. Now move along before he changes his mind.”

You take to the carriage once again and move as quickly as possible through the checkpoint without trying to draw anymore attention. After you are well clear of it, you all give Vesper a quizzical look, that begs the question “Where is the 15,000 GC’s?”. Before you can ask Vesper speaks up.

“What you think I would travel with 15,000 GC on my person, in the company of a band of mercenaries and likely cut throats, such as yourselves? The gold crowns and money exchange have already taken place in anticipation of our arrival and our stake for the tournament is waiting for us in Rorschik. You are fools though. We probably could have gotten through that with a small bribe, instead you almost get us killed or imprisoned! Worse I had to give them 500 GC of my families money. That money could have been used to help equip our army now it will go to help kill our soldiers. Be sure of this, Karchev is terrible but nothing in comparison to what you will face when you sit across the table from Viktor Marx. He is cunning and ruthless. Antics will not prevail in our endeavor. The stakes are too high in this. If we don’t succeed Marx, will almost undoubtedly be able to pay his way back into the good graces of the Kayazy syndicate and help them recover their recent losses. Losses that are one of the first real blows we have stricken Khador with. To have it undone by you lot would be my and the resistances undoing. I think we made a mistake in trusting a bunch of untested mercenaries with this task.”

Silence predominates the rest of the ride into Rorschik. You arrive in Rorschik near dusk and go to the Gallow Bears Inn. It is a vast establishment, boasting 100 luxurious rooms. Your lodgings have been prearranged (included in part of the tournament entry fee). The tournament itself will be held tommorrow evening in one of the Inn’s more private meeting rooms. One of the attendants shows you to your individual rooms which are all adjacent from each other.

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Casino Royale, part I

A few days after your discovery in the sewers of Rhydden, you are paid a visit by the newly promoted Commander Hegel.

“Your team truly proved yourself as a resourceful asset to the Black Hill Knights and to the Resistance as a whole during your recent encounter with the Skagg menace. I have been ordered to bring you another opportunity to prove your usefulness and earn some coin while you are at it. What I am about to divulge is of the highest secrecy so you must guard this knowledge with your life whether you choose to accept the mission or not. The Khadoran forces you encountered in Bray’s Oak Hill Mine were part of a larger war effort lead by a known khadoran terrorist, Viktor Marx. Marx has ties to the Kayazy merchant princes, which is nothing more than a mafia front. It is a vast criminal enterprise with ties throughout Western Immoren. It turns out that Bray’s prior financial success in the Oak Hill Mines was largely funded by Marx who in turn is the financier for several Kayazy families. When you disrupted the Oak Hill Mine operations it resulted in significant losses to those families. The Kayazy harbor grudges easily and hold Bray and Marx as responsible for their losses. Bray has gone into hiding, but Marx has made a gambit to try and recover the lost money in order to repay his debts to the Kayazy families. He has created a high stakes poker match to be held in Rorschik, near the capital of Khador. The match is open to 10 entrants and the entry fee is $15,000 GC and the winner takes all. If we could win the pot it would put tremendous pressure on Marx. Possibly enough to turn him to our side. His financial ties and knowledge of Khadoran military operations is without price. The entry fee is a significant sum for the Resistance but with the right team we think it is a well placed bet.”

Hegel looks at Pascal, “Word is you are quite the poker player”. Then looking to Gayle, “You are fluent in Khadoran and could easily navigate their customs and gain entry into Khadors borders”. Looking to Wulfe, Thrash and Pepe “and no doubt there will be need for miracles, muscle and mechanical know-how”. The Resistance is willing to front your entry into the match. We will send you with one of our top agents who will make sure the money arrives intact and is returned after you win your match. In exchange, if you win, you will get to keep 10% of the proceeds."

Wulfe chimes in, “But does Marx know we had a part mine operation? If so, he may not be so keen to sit across from us playing a game of cards”.

Hegel responds to you each in turn. “Wulfe, I think you over estimate your reputation and esteem. It is your complete lack of notoriety that makes you perfect for this mission. That being said you should take efforts to disguise your true identities and create credible cover stories.” “Pascal, poker players are a dime a dozen. We have resistance loyalists lined up for this mission for free. Consider that as a mercenary you are more likely to end up dead in battle before you see $15,000 gold crowns. More importantly you need to ask yourself, is coin the only end you seek? I don’t begrudge your wanting to be compensated, but sooner or later you have to make choice about what you stand for. So why should I consider giving you 20% of the purse?”

Sebastian looks up at Hegel and responds,“I’m defiantly in for 20% of the purse. I don’t gamble so what can a field mekanich like me do?” He polishes his guns and continues to clean them.

Pascal replies, “Poker players may be a dime a dozen, but I think you’ll find there’re very few Khards like me who would be willing to turn over 100 thousand crowns to the Resistance, and I’d hate to see what would happen if you sat a Ryn at a Khadoran poker game. Hell, I love that you guys are sticking it to the Motherland, and I want to help, but it’s hard to do that with a dagger in my throat. I’ve never been one to lay down my life for some ‘cause’, and your patriotic tricks won’t work on me.”

“Anyways, how about a compromise: 10% will go directly into our hands if we manage to pull this off; but we’re going to need some upfront cash to even do this thing properly. I’ve never actually sat at a table with Kayazy assassins, but I can bet that one false move and they’d cut our throats, and nobody would question it. We’re going to need to buy some friends in Rorschik, and have plenty of cash-on-hand to blend in; I mean, my current outfit wouldn’t exactly fit in at the table. Unless, of course, you’d like to tell us more about how we’re going to pull this thing off?”

“Fair enough,” Hegel says. “We’re trying to get in contact with a friend in Rorschik, who will find you safe lodgings. We’ve got some old merchant identities that we can give you, if you’re willing to actually practice using them. And don’t you think that this is some great money-making scheme for us, either; we’re bleeding money on this thing left and right, trying to keep you safe. You wouldn’t believe what our Ordian contact is charging to exchange 15,000 crowns into koltinas… outrageous. I understand your concern, but if you DON’T win, we’re set to lose a fortune.”

“An expense account sounds fair, but it certainly won’t be 15,000 crowns. I’ll talk to the quartermaster and see how things look. Now, can I get a commitment?”

Pascal laughs. “How could I pass up an opportunity like this? I’m in!”

Hegel leaves to begin making acommodations for you. Within a few hours you are paid a visit by a beautiful Llaelese youth, who introduces herself as Vesper Rand. Gayle recognizes her as a niece of the llaelese warcaster Ashlynn D’Elyse, a high ranking member of the Highborn Covenant. “Gentleman, I will be accompanying you on your journey to Rorschik. It is my family that fronted the money to the Resistance to enter you in the poker tournament. As such I am here to make sure that my family’s interest and by extension that of the Resistance is safeguarded. Lt. Hegel informed me that you would need some money to properly outfit yourself before leaving for Rorschik. Now having met you in person, I couldn’t agree more. My family has authorized me to provide up to 5,000 in funds to you for your mission, conditioned upon the return of any such equipment after the completion of the mission. My family wishes to see such supplies used to further the Resistance war efforts not to further line the pockets of mercenaries who could just as easily be fighting against us in the future. Please be expeditious as possible in provisioning yourselves. We need to leave for Rorschik post haste if we are to arrive in time for the tournament. Gather your provisions and I will meet you at he west entrance of rhydden in two hours. Horse and carriages have already been arranged for our journey.” With that she leaves.

When you arrive at the Resistance supply depot you are met by a dwarf of Rhul who introduces himself as Quartermaster Quine. “Call me ‘Q’ for short, no pun intended. Short in stature I may be, but long in the tooth I am when it comes to the wares of war. You can provision yourself from our general supplies as needed, however I have a few devices that you might find useful for consideration.” He brandishes a small case, which upon opening reveals a hidden compartment containing a trigger.

“Switching this trigger creates a short range electro-mechanika pulse. This pulse or EMP causess disruption to mechanika devices rendering them inert for several minutes.”

Next he pulls out a small clockwork device containing numerous prisms and lens. He flicks a switch on it and a mirage image of ‘Q’ appears 12 feet away. The mirage mimics his movements.

“Never know when you might need to be in two places at once. The alchemical charge in this only lasts for four minutes before it must be replaced.”

Lastly he reveals what appears to be an ordinary ink pen. However he points it at a nearby post and then depresses a hidden trigger and a small dart shoots out and embeds in the post.

“As you can see there is more to this pen than meets the eye. The dart is coated with a toxin that can knockout a raging gorax. Reloading is a bit tricky though, so make your shot count.”

“Take what you think you need and submit your supply requisition to me so I can make sure all is returned at completion of your mission. Best of luck gentlemen, I look forward to seeing you and this equipment returned in one piece.”

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Time to Move

Two days after your return to Rhydden, Gayle broaches the subject of your current lodging to the group over a meal. “I’ve been talking to my brother; he has changed his rooms, and thinks we should do the same. Especially since our names were on that list, and we found that vile little cretin outside our doors.”

She pulls out a piece of parchment which she lays on the table. “I took the liberty of finding us some new potential lodging over off Liola Wharf, called “Rivers Rest.” It’s essentially the same as this place. The bedrooms are a little smaller, but the windows have iron bars and face the streets.” She takes a gulp of wine. “The problem is, our current landlord won’t refund any of the money we’ve already paid for this month. ‘Times is hard,’ he grunted at me. So we would be out of pocket another 35 gold crowns each. I’m willing, but I wanted to put it to the rest of you…”

Gayle looks around the table to see where everyone stands…

Wulfe replies, “Now that we know we are on a hit list, no telling how many bounty hunters may be looking for us”. I agree, I think we need to move to safer quarters. I’ve been on a wanted list for quite for some time now. And while it’s rather unnerving, you learn to always be observant of your surroundings and cautious with anyone you come in contact with." Wulfe takes 35 gc out of his pocket and slides them across the table.

Lok replies, "I agree that a move to a more secure location is most logical. However, there is no need to part ways with our hard earned gold crowns. I have made an extensive study of law and Rhydden civil code (makes law skill check of 15) and in the absence of a written lease a land lord must return the pro rata portion of prepaid rents to a tenant upon vacating the premises. I can go down to the local magistrates office to file the proper complaint if a visit from the sheriff is needed to change our land lords mind.

Pascal says "I’m no stranger to moving…but what does this mean for the Resistance? Are we still going to have jobs to do? Our leaders are being killed, we’re being watched… I hope I don’t have to go looking for more work soon.

Gayle shrugs at Lok. “You’re welcome to talk to the man. I tried to talk him around, but he was very insistent that he was keeping our gold.”

Lok shook his head. “My talking to the landlord after your failed attempt would be illogical. As I stated initially, the proper procedure would be to file a complaint with the magistrate and then have the legal authority, our good sheriff, serve the complaint on the landlord. Following that, if the landlord does not comply with the complaint, we can seek legal enforcement on behalf of the sheriff to collect upon our balance due from said landlord.”

Gayle leaned back in her chair. “What say the rest of you?”

Sebastian pipes in, “I’m all for moving to new digs for safety. But what if we sublet our rooms out to some other folks so they looked lived in? maybe the assassins will think they are us and we can figure out who the assassins are.”

Thrash leans in and simply stats “A crushed skull doesn’t argue the price or a bloated rat thing that explodes under the bed might bring less attention but it would get the job done as well. Either way, I am fine with going with the group on this, even though assassins are welcomed to try to cause me damage. Do you want me to talk to one of my patrons here to see if they can help? They may want us to go fetch them something for their collection, but a little side work never hurt.”

“It sounds like we’re all in agreement that we want to move. Everyone give me 35 gold crowns and I’ll go sign the new lease for us. If you,” she says looking at Lok, “or you,” she says looking at Sebastian, “want to see about getting us out of this lease or re-renting it, that’s fine by me. But I wanted to get settled in our new lodging before I leave town tomorrow.”

After thinking about subletting, Sebastian decides it won’t be easy to find a diverse group like ours so it would be obvious the new renters aren’t us.

“Well why don’t we load up Pepe and move on to the new digs?” He starts to pack up various projects and mechanikal devices he has scattered over the table.

“Sounds good,” seconded Pascal. “I’m already packed!” He grabbed his bed roll, slung a sack with his few belongings over his back, and went to wait outside.

Lok hands over his 35 GC’s and then proceeds to the magistrates office to get the necessary paperwork filed.

The Magistrate’s Office

Lok proceeds to the magistrate’s office, a proper complaint filled out against Marco Russo, the landlord of the Craven Raven, where you have been staying. The office has a surprising amount of bustle to it for a bureaucracy overseeing a city of exiles, and Lok waits behind a tedious number of other matters, including a young man seeking to pay a marriage tax, a farmer seeking to file a complaint against a butcher, and a woman arguing with the clerk about whether her father’s will was properly filed.

The clerk manages to shuffle the angry woman off to some other office, and turns expectantly to Lok. “Yes?” he crooks a finger at Lok and beckons him forward. Lok hands over the scroll and explains the situation. The clerk nods politely while he reviews the scroll.

“Well, it seems pretty straightforward to me. Russo is no stranger to us, eh?” he snickers. “Obviously I’ll need to send a boy out to get his side of the story, but this all looks in order —” he pauses. “Oh, except I need you to put your new accommodations here.” He points to the space under Lok’s seal. “You still have Russo’s rooms listed as your lodgings?”

Lok responds, “Ah yes, being that I am between locations given the circumstances, you can just list my forwarding address as 221B Baker Street. Any correspondence left there will find its way to me.”

The magistrate begins to write, and then looks up at Lok curiously. “221B Baker Street? I’m afraid I don’t know it.” But he scribbles it down. “City gets larger every day,” he mutters. “Okay, I’ll get this filed and send a messenger to that address when we get Russo’s response filed.” He blows on the ink and waves one of the pages from the back of the room towards his desk.

221B Baker Street

Lok is exhilarated and frustrated by a long day of observation, and has returned to his new apothecary lab for some peace and quiet in which to ruminate on his day’s adventures. As he approaches the door, a figure comes bursting out of the evening crowds.

“Ohhhh, I knew it was you, you pointy-earned son of a bitch!” screams Marco Russo, blocking Lok’s path to the door. His jowls shake and spittle flies from his lips as he shakes his fist up at Lok. His face is bright red, and Lok suspects he might actually collapse from the excitement.

Russo waves an official looking parchment in Lok’s face. “I go out of my way to make a home for you and your crazy little band of weirdos! I turn away some honest hard-working refugees who’d pay good money for a bed and this is the thanks I get!” His face approaches purple in color, and he coughs a little and spits at your feet.

Lok tries to get a word in, but Russo charges on. “Well this is what I think of this!” He rips the scroll in two and stomps it into the filth on the streets. Russo makes grunting noises as he bounces up and down in a frenzy. Lok considers what to say or do next, but Russo suddenly drops his trousers, and squats down over the abused parchment, and proceeds to defecate on the remnants of the magistrate’s order. He then pulls up his pants, and without another word or even a look at Lok, he stomps off into the small crowd which has stopped to watch his antics.

“A most highly illogical response.” Lok, then prepares a writ of garnishment and heads down to the Bank of Llael to collect on the judgement granted by the Magistrate’s office.

The Bank of Llael

The next afternoon, Lok stands with the bank manager, still holding the writ in his hand.

“I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Russo has no funds in the bank,” the banker shrugs apologetically. “After we garnished his account a few years back, Mr. Russo withdrew all his funds and made quite an embarrassing scene.” The rotund little man wrinkles his nose as if remember something unpleasant. “I don’t think we’d have him back even if he wished to resume his deposits.”

The banker sighs. “I think your best bet is to take your writ to the constable. He can go around and collect from Mr. Russo…” he smiles faintly, “or at least try.”

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A New Threat Lurks Below the Streets of Rhydden

Wp 000003aImg 0902aImg 0899aThe players uncovered a new threat in Western Immoren in their discovery of the mutated skiggs, known as skaggs, in the sewers of Rhydden. What started as an ordinary morning in the life of a mercenary band was quickly interrupted by the knocking of Lt. Hegel at the mercenaries door. After a brief few hushed words to Lok, both Hegel and Lok rushed off leaving the rest of the party to wonder what was afoot. They stepped out the door only to see Hegel and Lok mount steeds and take off down the street. Gayle and Wulfe, however noticed a short cloaked figure also watching Hegel and Lok dash away. As soon as the figure noticed that he was being observed he immediately took off in the opposite direction. Seeing that the figure was wearing a cloak with Khadoran insignia and also what appeared to be faint blood spatter the mercenary band decided to give chase. Gayle also couldn’t help but notice that as the figure turned to run, a pointed rodent like snout protruded from under the cloak hood for a brief instant.

The ‘heroes’, for lack of a better term, give chase to the cloaked figure that takes them through the streets of Rhydden. Thrash pursues the suspect down a main thoroughfare of Rhydden. With his bulk and intimidating roars he is able to clear the large crowds out of his way but his pursuit is slowed when he rushes through a busy intersection and is knocked down by an oncoming horse and carriage. He manages to roll through the rest of the intersection but has fallen behind. He sees a horse cart to his right, shoves the driver out of the way, jumps on board and rejoins the pursuit atop the cart. After catching up some lost ground one of the cart wheels breaks and Thrash continues pursuit on foot. Meanwhile, Wulfe and Pascal have taken to the rooftops to pursue the cloaked figure from that vantage point. They have to scramble from rooftop to rooftop. Early on some fortunately placed balconies allow them to shimmy between buildings, but soon they are having to leap across what feel like vast empty voids between buildings as the rooftops are broken up by the side streets below. They are almost completely caught up with the cloaked figure when the building they are on runs out of rooftop and they have to perform a tightrope walk across a small beam that connects them to the next rooftop across the street. After successfully navigating the balance beam they run to the end of the new building only to find they have run out of rooftops entirely as the waterfront and river are directly below them. Gayle, decided to try and cutoff the cloaked figure by running down a much less busy side street. Her lack of street smarts though results in a few wrong turns and blocked by a makeshift wooden wall in her path. With little time to spare and observing that most of the wood is rotted, she runs headlong into the wall and busts through unscathed as the rotted timbers disintegrate. She runs into a crowded alley way and asks a woman in the crowd how to connect back to the main street. She points her down another side alley but either forgets to mention or does not know that since the latest Khadoran assassination this street has been barricaded. But with no one around to observe, Gayle casts a TK spell and simple levitates over the barricade. At an intersection she rushes across but much like Thrash is knocked over by an oncoming horse cart. She considered briefly discharging her pistol into the air to try and ‘clear’ the intersection but then realized that firing a gun off in a back alley of Rhydden when every citizen is on full alert because of the recent Khadoran assassinations might end up with her getting riddled with bullets. As she stumbles away from the intersection she sprints down the final length of the alleyway and comes out on the main thoroughfare beside Thrash. Wulfe and Pascal have also just descended from the rooftops and the cloaked figure is but a few 100 feet away with nothing but the waterfront in front of him. As the mercenaries close in the figure jumps into the river, but Gayle acts fast and casts TK on the figure to pull him back out of the water. However, the figure pulls a grenade from his belt and yanks the pin and explodes mid air. At the last moment the TK spell pulls the cloak away from the suspect to reveal an rodent hybrid humanoid. The cloak floats back to Gayle and within she discovers an encoded list and a syringe that contains residues of a flourescent green substance. Gayle is unable to break the code with such a small sample to work with but it is written in Khadoran and it appears most likely to be a list of names.

The team tries to follow up a few leads but ultimately returns to their quarters to await further resistance contact or the return of Lok. After two hours of tense waiting, Lt. Hegel returns without Lok. Hegel takes the team b ack to the resistance headquarters and there they find Lok who is busy inspecting a dead body. The team quickly realize the body belongs to that of Commander Torys and it appears that he has suffered a massive head wound. Wulfe performs his own inspection of the body. He finds that Torys was also stabbed in the back and that it was the most likely cause of death. Further Torys body has been moved between the first blow to his back and the subsequent head wound. No drag marks were noted though. Based on the footprints found and tracked in the blood, there were three distinct people in the room; Torys, Torys’ assassin and a third yet unidentified person. Because of where the blood was pooled it is clear to Wulfe that the third man was the person that inflicted the head wound on Torys. Lok gives Wulfe a quizzical look that belies both amusement and astonishment. Lok compliments Wulfe on his keen powers of observation but then chides him by telling him everything that he didn’t notice. For starters, he mentions that if Wulfe had examined Torys mouth he would have found bits of cloth and flesh indicating that Torys had bitten his assailant. Also an impression on the ground indicate that the third man laid prone for a while, possibly unconscious, before getting up and leaving the room. Most likely the third man was Captain Wittgenstein, since the bit of cloth found in Tory’s mouth bore a Llaelese captain’s insignia and upon inquiry of Hegel, Wittgenstein did not make roll call at the officer’s morning briefing. Finally, a small puncture mark was found on Tory’s arm, indicating that most likely he was injected with something.

Lok, asks the rest of the party if they noticed anything unusual this morning and they recount the tale of the chase of the cloaked rat man through the streets as well as the syringe and list they found. He then asks them what they know about the rodent pest, skiggs which have been infesting Rhydden lately. Wulfe, recounts a great detail of lore he knows about the pests. Lok then notes that skiggs are able to break down and digest blasting powder. The breakdown of the blasting powder is facilitated by the alchemical traits of skigg bile. It is a slow process and can take several days, and the potence of the blasting powder is actually increased during the first 24 hours after consumption, hence skiggs remain unstable and explode if struck during the period until the powder is broken down. Alchemist throughout the iron kingdoms are aware of this process and seek out skigg bile to both increase the yield of their blasting powder as well as to develop neutralizers. A vial of the fluorescent yellow fluid catches a pretty penny on the open market. He then asks the players if they would go and retrieve some samples of skigg bile for him to examine while he follows up on a few other leads.

The players go to the town council to attempt to gain access to the sewers under Rhydden where the skigg infestation is erupting from. The town council however is unhelpful citing that the number of ‘skigg hunters’ that have already been licensed to go into the sewers is at capacity. Further, too many haven’t returned and there is concern that even worse than a skigg infestation is a sewer full of bloated dead bodies of careless skigg hunters. Gayle attempts to charm the civil servant with a call to civic duty and when that fails with a bribe. Neither manage to sway the councilman and ultimately he feigns insult at the attempted bribe and commands Gayle, et al to leave. In the meantime, Bodger is pondering the nature of hydraulics in steamjack construction and design and this leads him to realize that the best entry point into the sewers may be through an egress rather than through one of the heavily guarded entrances. Being a gobber he just happens to know of such an egress located in a small cave system just outside the city.

The players enter the sewers through the cave system. They are almost immediately set upon by a horde of skiggs. Several appear to be bloated and the mercs quickly surmise that those skiggs must have recently consumed blasting powder and are highly volatile. However, a few well placed shots take these bloated skiggs out before they can close in on the players and the resulting explosion from the volatile skiggs takes out most of the surrounding vermin. Another volatile skigg was hidden behind the players near the cave entrance on a ledge. It stumbles down from the ledge and when it impacts the cavern floor it explodes and causes the entrance to collapse. The players have no choice but to proceed forward into the sewers.

As they enter into a wide open chamber in the sewers, Thrash notices something moving through the rivers of sewage before them. Before he can warn his compatriots 5 feral gatormen ambush the party and attack. The party has their back to a wall and little space to maneuver. After taking a few bites though, they are able to push the feral gatormen back and ultimately are victorious in defeating them. They surmise that these ferals must have been living in the sewers for some time and maybe surfaced because of the skigg infestation. Also it might help to explain why so many skigg hunters have gone missing and the mangled bodies that have been found periodically over the last few weeks in the back alleys of Rhydden.

The players proceed further into the sewers. As they round a corner they hear moaning sounds followed by chittering voices. They then come face to face with a horde of rat men similar to the one they saw during the chase. The rat men are standing in front of a pen containing what appear to be many zombies who are fortunately locked up. Also accompanying the rat men are several hulking rat beasts. The rat men chitter back and forth and the only word the players make out is “Skagg”. Then they immediately charge the players. The rat beasts charge Pepe, while a number of smaller rat men try to engage the players. A slightly larger breed of rat men have taken to a cat walk located on a second level of the sewer and begin to open fire with pistols. They shoot indiscriminately without care for whether their fellow rat men are in the line of fire. The players fight back and begin to get the upperhand when a second wave of rat men attack from behind accompanied by some skiggs. These skiggs also appear to have recently consumed blasting powder. Even worse, as they attack the players they begin to eat the ammo carried by them and become even more bloated and volatile. In the end the players prevail in overcoming the rat men forces although not without a good deal of bruising.

After the battle, they find several empty syringes, each containing trace amounts of a green flourscent fluid. Also they find a small package in the pocket of one of the rat men. It contains a small greenish glowing stone. Discarded to the side of the zombie pen is a chest with what appears to be the former belongings of the undead victims. Amongst the belongings they find a pouch containing 1,000GC. They can make out in the dim light that several of the zombies are adorned in Khadoran military uniforms. They also note one zombie that is wearing a llaelese resistance uniform. As they look into the face of that wretched creature they recognize it as the former Captain Wittgenstein. They also notice one of the Khadoran zombies is clutching a parchment scroll in his hand. After retrieving the scroll they find it is encoded the same way as the list they found earlier.

Gayle is able to decipher the code, determining that it is a simple letter swap code. The message is a set of Khadoran military orders instructing the Khadoran office, Kommrade Socrates, to release skiggs into the Rhydden sewers in order to create an infestation. A secondary order is included to then proceed and assassinate Captain Hobbes of the Llaelese resistance. It becomes apparent that the skigg infestation was no accident but a plot by Khador to attempt to disrupt the Llaelese resistance’s supply of blasting powder. Gayle also deciphers the list she found earlier and discovers that the names on the list are their own names along with the deceased Commander Torys. Again the party surmises that they have been marked for assassination. However, since this list was written by the ‘Skaggs’ it appears that Khador is not the only enemies that the group has made.

The party finds a ladder to the surface streets of Rhydden at the back of the sewer chamber and returns to report to Hegel their findings. Lok then reveals what his hypothesis is.

He believes that the rat men, Skaggs for lack of a better name, are in fact mutated skiggs. Mutated by the blue llaelstone. Lt. Hegel informed him that there have been a number of instances of skiggs infesting the stores where the remaining stocks of blue llael stone are kept. If skiggs are attracted to blasting powder, it appears they are even more so to llael stone. It was purely conjecture but he could not deny that there seemed to be a connection between the fluorescent green substance in the syringe, the yellow bile of the skiggs and the blue llaelstone. Further it would seem that the green stone is also related. It is believed to be a warped version of the blue stone. Whatever the effect that blue stone has on the skiggs, it appears the Skaggs have found a way to synthesize an alchemical compound that turns humans into the undead. This would suggest an intelligence, cunning and evil that is far greater than what any may have suspected lurking beneath the streets of Rhydden. As for Captain Torys he was most likely targeted for assassination by the Skaggs because of his knowledge and interest in the llaelstone. This is further confirmed by the list found on the Skagg during the chase. It appears they are trying to silence any who have knowledge of the stone. The very Skagg whom the party chased down was the likely assassin of Captain Torys. What is more chilling though is that the skagg clearly injected Torys with the compound turning him undead. That Captain Wittgenstein found Torys, was subsequently bitten by him and then turned undead as well is a frightening revelation. It means the toxin can be spread like a pestilence if introduced into the general population. It would appear that the Khadorans have accidentally unleashed a far greater threat than they have realized.

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A Visit from Torys

You and the rest of your mercenary crew are enjoying a small meal when a knock comes at the door. Gayle answers to find Lt. Torys and another man at the doorway. After inviting them in Torys introduces his companion, as Lt. Hegel. "

You may have heard the recent stories regarding an assassination of a high ranking officer in the Llaelese resistance. That officer was Captain Hobbes, who was my direct report, a friend and a mentor. With his sudden demise at the hands of those filthy Khadorans, it has fallen to me to take over his work in the resistance. I have recently been promoted to Commander and as my attentions will be directed elsewhere, Hegel here, will act as a liaison to you. The late Captain Hobbes was leading the investigations and field testing into the blue ore you found and now I will be continuing his research and field tests. There have been some interesting developments and we will likely have need of your services soon. Hegel will contact you and brief you when that time comes. Death stalks the streets of Rhydden, especially for those affiliated with the resistance. Keep your heads down and try to stay alive until Hegel returns for you, we have more than enough suicide missions you can lose your head to."

Without a further word, Commander Torys and Lt. Hegel leave.

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Rhydden Gazette

Resistance Officer Assassinated – Khador Agent Suspected

A high ranking officer of the LLaelese Resistance was found murdered in his quarters. Likely suspicion is Khadoran assassin. Sources confirm that new resistance protocals established to prevent further assassination plots. City guard has been doubled in the meantime. Remain ever vigilant fellow citizens.

Skigg Infestation, Bounty Abounds

A recent influx of skiggs into the sewers of Rhydden has led to the town council offering up a 5 GC bounty on Skigg heads. Speculation is that the munitions buildup in the city has created an environment ripe for skigg infestation.

Mutilated Body Found

A body mutilated beyond recognition was found hidden in an alley shortly after dawn. Dead bodies are not an uncommon finding in Rhydden, or the Iron Kingdoms for that matter, but the rumored sightings of killer crocs, a serial madman and the dead walking the streets of Rhydden reported in the last few weeks only fuel the fire that something is afoot in our fair city.

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Urgent Resistance Notice

Due to recent security breaches in Rhydden, the Llaelese Resistance has introduced new protocals for it’s agents and mercenary support. Resistance headquarters will be rotated throughout the city with locations on a need to know basis. Mercenaries and agents will be contacted by their resistance operatives when needed for assignment. Do not under any circumstance make contact with your resistance contacts as this potentially puts our field operatives at risk.

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