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.