The Phoenix of Llael

A Job Well Done

A band of mercenaries get their first job, and set out to earn their first paycheck. A noble in Rynyr has lost his daughter, and he needs all the help he can get.

The band made their way to Rynyr, after a diversion in a mountain pass where each member got to flex their muscles a bit. In town, they met Baron Dexer Bray, whose daughter Kelsey had disappeared a week earlier. He thought she’d been taken by Khador, but truthfully she had run away to stop a Khadoran plot.

The group traced her path to the Glowing Tinder Tavern, but the wily barkeep laid a trap for them. The team struggled to get free, and were able to convince their captors that they were allies. Kelsey appeared and told them of a strange mining operation that was taking place north of town. The heroes debated over the course of action, but agreed to help Kelsey in exchange for her peaceful return to her home.

However, Khador had heard of the adventurers and was preparing a trap of their own. Somehow, the group was able to convince the guards that the situation was under control, and there were higher orders involved here than simply killing the team. The guards marched away and the team escaped with Kelsey to the mines.

There was a great battle at the Oak Hill Mine, and though they took their fair share of beatings, in the end the mercenaries prevailed without any casualties. Inside the mine, they found a strange blue ore that flaked into a strange powder. The powder burned smokeless and hot, much like gunpowder but much stronger. The group took a sample with them, and returned Kelsey to her home, where they received both their pay but also two rare weapons as thanks for their help.

They returned safely to Rhydden and reported back to Commander Torys, who was surprised by their news, and also impressed with their work. He mentioned he may have a job for them coming up soon…

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The Guinea Pigs

Once again, Lt. Torys has called you to his office for an urgent assignment. As you assemble, you notice a crate in the middle of the floor marked DANGER – Explosives. You see Lt. Torys pouring over a map and comparing it to something in his hand. On his desk, sits a lump of the Llaelestone and next to that is a folded open letter and you can see the signature Kelsey Bray.

Lt. Torys is asking you to follow up on a discovery made by the historians in some ancient lore. The historians believe that this mine could be a splinter off a larger vein. This temple was built in honor of the Colossals, but what they believe was the early inventors needed something more powerful and longer lasting than coal to drive these machines. The scholars can only assume it was the blue ore. Thrash has gone ahead to help locate the temple, so hopefully he has left his subtle clues for you to follow. But before the team heads out, they must do some a small favor for the Resistance. They must provide escort to help a band of four Iosans get to Riversmet.

It is up to you to discover a new source of the blue ore, but you must first provide passage to Riversmet, are you up for it?

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They Survived

The team returned and reported that additional work needed to be done on the grenades, but overall they worked really well. They found the lost temple, but there wasn’t much left, but the Resistance may want to send others back to see if they can find anything else useful. The old weapons were turned over to Lt. Troys and he bought the sword from the group, almost without too much fuss. Was that a mistake to give it away so quickly?

The team also saved a troll warlock and this might be very useful in the future. If they ever go that way again, they may want to seek them out.

Oh, they also had to dispatch one of the Iosan adventurers in order to save Gayle, so they say. Wonder how this might impact future relations with other customers when you kill people you are suppose to be escorting.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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