The Phoenix of Llael

The Arms Must Flow part 2

After discovering the Kayazy are following them the group met with Commander Hegel. They discovered he had taken over the offices of Davos. Commander Hegel sends them to Riversmet to escort a merchant barge, The Steaming Boar, to the Cygnar border. As they leave his office his secretary gives them a mysterious package with a curious device inside. On the way to Riversmet they discover that the escort is a cover for their true mission. The resistance is running low on material supplies for their weapons due to a blockage in the
smuggling supply chain, there is also a mole in the resistance.

In Riversmet the party runs into trouble with some local thugs only to find out it was again the Kayazy hot on their trail. They board the steam boat and head downriver with Captain Stubbing (a trollkin), First mate Gillian, Marco Ollop the navagator and Artur Bishop a dwarf mechanik. On the boat the captain gives them some more information about the smuggling operation and where it seems the problem is. Stubbing agrees to drop the party off north of FishHaven for them to investigate further. He tells them to Find Brogan Oreblood a dwarven smuggler. The party is attacked once more by a group of gatormen and Wulfe barely survives.

In Fishhaven they go to the Drunken Duck and try to find Brogan Oreblood, only to be drugged knocked unconscious and dragged to their certain doom. Turns out a colleague of Davos’, named Eagan, had taken over the operation. Escape is their only hope. They wake in cells to find their gear stripped the real Brogan locked away. Freeing him and fighting their way through the smugglers caves they confront and take out Egan and his cohorts so Brogan can reopen the smuggling lanes. Stubbing gave the adventurers a ride back to a point where he could drop them off and make their way to Ryhden in safety in the resistance controlled Lalle.

some rumors heard:
Khador is moving troops down river and passage will be blocked for week or more. (turns out to be true closing Riversmet port to trade)

Blue stone has been found in the mountains north of Rynyr. (we know this to be true)

There’s been an odd mist over the Sea of Graves.

There are strange rats in the sewers of Rhydden. (We’ve met them)

Trolls are wandering the woods south of Riversmet. (We met some)

Khador is buiding a ‘jack factory in Laelle.

Things the group found out:
The Kayazy have a price on our heads and are distributing wanted posters.

There is a mole in the resitance.

We have friends in Riversmet at the Dancing Pig and on the border of Laelle and Cygnar in a small fishing village of Fish Haven.

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The Arms Must Flow

As you are all eating lunch together one fine Malleus 2nd (2nd week of the month 2nd day – Tuesday), talking about current happenings and wondering when your next adventure will be, a small boy runs up and hands Gayle a note and runs off.

Bodger looks over at Gayle, “Are you going to read and share the note with the rest of us?”

Gayle studies the boy for a few more seconds, then looks over at Bodger. “Sorry, I was trying to see if I could gather anything about our messenger.” Gayle glances around to see if anyone noticed the hand off. She lays it on the table and reads.

The boy seems to be one of many street boys that runs around trying to earn a quick coin here or there, often delivering messages for people for a kettle (a copper coin). They are used due to their inability to read.

Pascal laughs. “Yeah, for all the luck we’ve had, that boy will probably end up trying to kill us or burn our stuff. Can’t be too careful, eh Gayle?”

The note says:
Hegle message

Big Sister is watching. Supplies are low. Meet at the house of Rowan on the fifth rising.
H
The handwriting is very familiar.

Pascal realizes that the house of Rowan must be referring to one of the small chapels in the Cathedral of Marrow here in town. Rowan is one of the ascendents, the patron of the poor and downtrodden. (Asc. Rowan (f) ascended 289 BR
Patron of the Door and downtrodden
Lived during height of the Occupation. Renounced all material wealth and spent her life alleviating the suffering of the enslaved Immorese. Achieved enlightenment through self-sacrifice.)

With Khador cracking down on smuggling and the recent smuggling ring shut down in Laedry (see the Rhydden Gazette entry), you realize that the “supplies are low is referring” to the resistance feeling the pinch of not having the arms needed to supply the resistance as it has.

Neither Pascal nor Thrash has any clue on who might have sent you this note or what the rest might mean.

Wulfe feels sure it is Commander Hegel’s handwriting and the H looks like his H signed on other documents he’s seen. He also feels sure that “Big Sister” refers to Khador and the fifth rising is sunrise five days from now.

After discussing the note quietly amongst yourselves you feel sure Hegel has summoned you to a meeting five day from now in the chapel of Rowan at sunrise.

The group can go around town and find supplies, restock, make ammo or whatever for that time. Bodger has been working to repair and make some items and Gayle’s new armor should be ready before Hegel wants to meet. It will just need the runeplates inserted into the various places to fully power it.

As you go about town for the next few days you get the distinct feeling you are being watched and followed at various times. Is there anything you wish to do until your meeting?

As the meeting approaches you continue about your normal routines, dressing in women’s clothing and hanging around in bars. Ok, just hanging out in bars and other places you frequent. You hear rumors of some resistance cells in Northern Llaele being swept up by the Khadorans, of Khadoran spies being thrown out of Rhydden or killed, and a rumor that the Kayazy are searching for a group of mercenaries that broke up a poker game and cost them a lot of money.

The wait
Gayle slips out of the lodgings making sure she is unnoticed and wends her way to her appointed place to watch and wait. It is still dark out and many of the nights torches have mostly burned out. She settles in to wait for dawn and beg.

As Gayle waits she dozes off a little bit. She’s startled to full consciousness as she hears the city watch approaching. They don’t seem to have noticed her yet but are going to pass very close to where she is positioned.

Gayle quickly and quietly scurries further back into the alley and hides behind some crates. She does her best to remain inconspicuous.

The guards walk by talking and joking amongst themselves. They stop briefly to check some of the doors along the way to make sure they are locked. Apparently some of the people pay for extra protection here.

A little later a cart rumbles by with a picture of a cow on it and Gayle hears the distinct clink of bottles rattling inside it. It pulls to a stop about ten feet from Gayle and a man in a white uniform hops off, grabs some bottles and sets them on the front steps of various houses. He hops back on his cart and drives down the street only to repeat the process.

Gayle barely notices one of the shadows peel away from a corner. A small boy appears, grabs a bottle off the stair and disappears around the corner. There are other people about apparently, who else is hiding in the shadows that might be missed? Gayle starts to hear the nearby houses coming to life as lights appear in windows. She smells smoke from fires being stoked and fresh food being baked. A door opens down the street and a matronly woman bends down to retrieve the bottles left by the man from earlier. Gayle catches the lady saying something about always being short a bottle.

As the sun continues to rise the streets start to come to life. Guttersnipes and street boys start to appear out of nowhere scurrying around. Street vendors start to haul in their carts and set up shop as the vendors on the street open their front windows. Smells of fresh baked goods start to waft through the air and people start to shout to each other greetings and vend their wares.

As you sit and beg one of the pie vendors approaches you, “Good mornin’ mum.”

Gayle looks at him desperately, “Oh please sir. Can you spare something t’ eat?”

“Yes mum. ’Ere you go” he hands you a fresh meat pie. “Don’t be spectin’ ’and outs everyday round ’ere. Not everyuns as nice as ol Tom.”

Gayle nods, and frantically devours the pie, as if it was the only thing she had eaten in days.

The street continues to get a more crowded as people start to move about their daily business. A couple people toss you coppers as they pass by. You notice a young man standing across the street, a little out of the way of traffic. He seems to be watching or looking for something.

Gayle keeps an eye on the young man, knowing that Pascal will be departing soon. Perhaps he will react then. But she continues to survey the street, knowing that watchful eyes are all over the city for a number of reasons.

Gayles sees the young man wave and looks to where he is waving to see a pretty young lady walking towards him. He jumps into motion almost taking out a vendor, apologizes and greets the young lass with a bear hug. They continue to walk down the street.

Gayle has noticed a couple of bad pickpockets working the street and some thugish looking fellows hanging out in an alley not doing a good job at being inconspicuous.

Gayle notices Pascal coming down the street, at the same moment she notices a flash of light from one of the higher windows. The flash is like a reflection off a mirror used to signal someone, but Gayle can’t tell who is being signaled.

As Pascal walks down the street being conspicuous, buying a pie from a vendor and talking to those who pass by. He continues down the street and Gayle notices one of the pie vendors is meandering behind him selling his wares. She also notices a damsel who entered from a side street a little after Pascal, eyeing him. As he continues down the street and around the corner Gayle notices a man in a dirty blue jacket watch him and cut down an ally that parallels the street Pascal turned onto. The pie seller and the damsel all seem to be headed the same direction as Pascal.

Gayle cautiously eyes the buildings and makes note of the window from which the flash appeared to come. With Lok’s help, they should be able to find something of interest there later. But for now, she has an appointment to keep. She fumbles with her coins, carefully tucking them away, treating her alms as if they are the most important thing in the world to her. She scurries to a nearby bread vendor, bargaining hard for yesterday’s nearly stale loaves. Then she shovels chunks frantically into her mouth, making her way towards Lok’s alchemy lab.

Gayle notes another beggar two doors down from the lab, and so takes up position on the opposite side of the lab, but with a clear view of the street in the direction that Pascal should approach, if he kept to their pre-arranged plan. She cautiously searches the high windows for more mirror signals, and also looks for specifically for the pie vendor, the damsel and the man in the dirty blue jacket.

Gayle takes up her position and after a little bit she sees the damsel enter the street and go into one of the shops. After a few minutes Pascal walks into the street heading towards Lok’s workshop. The damsel exits the shop with some parcels, looks at Pascal, smiles and winks and heads off. Gayle notices a man step into the street from a side street eating a pie. He looks the damsel up and down, like a wolf looking at a sheep and smirks, then walks down the street keeping his eye on Pascal.

Gayle keeps half an eye on the damsel, but focuses most of her attention on the man eating a pie. If the woman continues out of her view, Gayle will make note of the direction she went, but consider her secondary for now. When Pascal enters Lok’s lab, she wants to note what the man with the pie does. She considers her options: Approach the man with the pie and beg for his leftovers? What if the woman lingers in a nearby store? Approach Pascal as he leaves the lab, and beg for alms and try to communicate with him about his potential tails? All these options run through her head as she watches the damsel and pie-eating man from her position…

Thrash has been so obsessed with honing his weaponsmith skill, he didn’t realize just how many days had passed since the last time he say his comrades. He leaves the workshop of a friendly blacksmith that has been letting him work there and heads over to the Painted Weasel to see if there is any tidbits of news he can pick up and well, get a drink or twenty.

As Thrash sits drinking and making some new friends he hears a couple rumors of the undead waking Lyren, The woods to the west having more wild creatures in them. Trolls roaming around the outside of Riversmet and Khador causing unrest to the north with troop movements. Nothing too exciting.

Pascal enters into the alchemy shop and the man eating the pie walks past the door and steps into the next alley, standing where he can watch the door to the shop. The lass with the parcels walks down the street and disappears into the crowd.

Gayle clumsily knocks over her cup of alms and bends over to pick it up. Carefully concealing her hands beneath her ragged tunic, she casts Telekinesis to push open the door to Lok’s lab, hoping to both focus the attention of the man in the alley on the doorway, and get Pascal to investigate. She then moves as swiftly as she can without drawing attention to herself to cross the street to the building on the other side of the alley in which the man stands, so that she is approaching the man from his rear (or at least the opposite direction from where his attention is focused on the door). She puts on her most pitiful face, approaches and begs “’scuse me, sir. Are you finished with that pie? Anything to spare for a hungry refugee?”

The thug jumps as his hand reaches for a blade at his side. He looks at you, drops his hand and hurriedly replies, “Uh, yeah,” and tosses you the crust. He turns back to watch for Pascal.

Gayle gobbles greedily at the pie crust, trying not to think too hard who had just been eating it. “Oh thank you, sir,” as she puts her hand on his arm. “Anything else you can spare? I…” she pauses as if uncertain, “I’m desperate. Please. I’ll do anything.” She moves into his personal space, trying to make it difficult for him to draw his blade without moving her aside. She listens for footsteps from the lab or Pascal’s voice…

Thrash gets bored and decides to head out of the bar and go visit Lok. In a recent outing for one of his patrons, he found an unusual plant and was wondering if Lok would be able to tell him if it would be of any value in the alchemy circles.

As Gayle steps into the hoodlums personal space he looks a little confused, and steps back into the wall. As he realizes that he can’t back up more he makes to hold Gayle back and push her out of the way. Gayle begins to wonder what’s happening with Pascal and why he’s not showing up.

Gayle allows herself to be shoved out of the way and falls to the ground with a cry, making sure that the runes from the spell she is about to cast will be blocked by her body from the man’s view…

The man glances at her as she falls, but pays her little mind, after all what’s another homeless refugee. He keeps his attention on the door where Pascal disappeared.

The thug is thrown back against the wall and slumps to the ground with a groan. Struggling to stay conscious he looks at Gayle with surprise and confusion in his eyes.

About the same time Thrash is coming up the street and notices a thug and homeless woman having a slight scuffle in the alley next to where Lok’s lab is and sees the thug get thrown back into the wall and slump to the ground.

Gayle looks around quickly to see if her assault drew any attention from the street. Thrash’s giant form stands out, and she lets out sigh of relief. She moves as if to pick the man up and casts Telekinesis, lifting him off the ground and moving him towards the door of the lab, hoping to get him inside and off the street. She tries her best to make it look like she is moving the man (however odd that might seem given her size), not floating him with magic.

Nobody seems to pay Gayle or the man any mind as Gayle lifts the man up and carries him. He doesn’t struggle as he’s barely conscious. As Gayle steps into the street the thugs chest blossoms into a red flower of blood and he goes limp. Gayle is shocked. It looks like a gun shot wound erupted on his chest but there was no gun report.

Gayle dives for the door dropping the body. She scans the buildings in the direction the shot would have come from but can’t tell where or who might have fired. With no report it makes it even harder to tell. No one on the street seems to notice what happened, although a couple are looking curiously at a beggar woman huddling down in a doorway looking around.

Her cover obviously blown, Gayle decides to reverse tack. She lets out a scream – “Help! Help! He’s been shot!” and dives for the man and holds her hands over the wound. She looks pleadingly at the couple looking at her, and anyone else nearby. While she looks around as if frantic for help, she tries to see if anyone seems to be moving away from the scene in an unusual manner, especially now that she’s causing a scene – or if she sees the damsel with the packages…

Some people run over to see what the noise is, others quickly clear off the street, no one looks out of place and there is no sign of the woman with the packages. One man pushes his way to the front and bends down. He reaches for the thugs neck, placing two fingers on it and bends his ear to the man’s mouth. He looks up at Gayle with with a look of sadness, “Sorry, ma’m your friends dead.”

Thrash makes it to the lab as all this is happening along with 3 city guard who start to move people back. “What happened here?” one asks sounding authoritative. The man who pushed his way stands up and addresses the watch. “I heard a scream from over here and this beggar lady yelling for help that someone had been shot. Being a healer, I thought I might be able to lend a hand but the man there was dead when I got to him. The shot must have killed him instantly as it hit him in the heart. Crazy thing is, I never heard a shot and the one that did him in was not a close range shot.”

Gayle chokes back some tears. “I don’t even know his name. He was so kind – gave me some food he had, and we were about to walk over to buy some more. It’s so hard to find such generosity in the city these days. If only I could offer my condolences to his family… do you think he might have something on him that could help us find out who he is?”

One of the watch bends down and rifles through his pockets. As he does so the thugs shirt opens revealing his upper chest and a small tattoo. “Only a few kettles here a knife and a sap.”

Gayle studies the tattoo, in the hopes of describing it later. Perhaps it is a clue to whoever has been following them. “Such a shame,” she shakes her head, and looks at the guard. “Anything else you need from me? I feel like I should go. This is so disturbing…”

The guards move for Gayle. “Ma’am you will be ok, right? So sorry you had to witness such a thing.” He hands you the 10 kettles the thug had on him. “Find a little something to eat.” He turns back to cleaning up the mess, while the other guards start to move the crowd away. Gayle notices that Thrash has walked up.

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Rhydden Gazette
Rhydden may Feel the Full Effects of the War

Rhydden may Feel the Full Effects of the War

Due to the Khadoran liberation of Lllael trade with Cygnar has been suspended. Other cities in our fair country have started to go on rations due to the slow flow of goods from neighboring countries. Riversmet is still rebuilding after being liberated by the Khadoran army and Leryn is has started to ration its food.

The Khadoran High Command says this is only temporary and is do to Cygnar attacking the supply lines meant to feed the people of Llael. Trolls have been sighted raiding farms and stripping the land of the harvest. Thankfully, for us in Rhydden, we have been sparred these atrocities but our food supplies are being called to serve the Empress.

Smuggling Ring Shutdown

The Khadorn High Command has shut down a smuggling ring attempting to bring military supplies into Llael from Northern Cygnar. These arms were intended to go to the futile resistance that was trying to be formed in Laedry.

Such acts of treason against the Empress will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely. If you hear of such treasonous acts report them immediately to your local Khadoran regiment for further investigation.

Riversmet Continues to Rebuild

Even with opposition from the locals and Cygnar insurgents Riversmet is continuing to rebuild after meeting the Empresses wrath. The walls are erected once again and commerce is starting to flow. The recent reopening of the docks has grown the population as people relocate from the north.

Our new Empress is a shining example of what a leader should be in these times of war. Her hand of mercy has extended to us and we should be grateful. Riversmet will be a shining example of her benevolence.

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Shadow Games: Meanwhile... Across Town
Shadow Games Part 2

As the group races off to Rivers Rest, a crowd swarms with people running with you carrying buckets and axes – and with people running frantically the other way, as if to get away from something horrible. Large wagons filled with barrels of water and men hanging off the sides rumble down the streets pushing people out of the way. A massive column of black smoke arises from the direction of the main thoroughfare through Rhydden – in fact, it looks like about where you would find the Craven Raven.

As you approach the Craven Raven, several people are shouting “Fire!” and running to knock on doors nearby, as fire pours from the upper story of the inn, and the roof begins to cave in. Russo sits blackened and bloodied on the back of a nearby wagon, being tended to by a young woman and interviewed by two town guards. Lok recognizes these two men as the guards he saw arguing on the porch of the Red Bearded Dwarf a few days ago. When Russo sees you approaching, he jumps down off the wagon, pushing past the town guards, and runs right at you, screaming “You! You! You did this! You cost me everything!”

Russo ignores your attempts to talk to him and runs right up to Lok, putting his finger on his chest. “Your fault!” Spittle flies from Russo’s mouth, and he has the crazy eyes. “You brought this on me!” People stare at you, and the guards put their hands on their swords and walk slowly your way.

After a little back and forth, Russo calms down and explains what happened: “He came in and asked for you. Wanted to know where your rooms were! I told him you moved out.” He looks at Lok, “I told him you were at Baker Street and he just laughed at me! Said it was a library or a kitchen or something.” He shakes his head. “So he started beating me with his fists. Had that other man hold me down. Said to stop lying to protect you.” He glowers at you. “Like I’d want to protect you lot!” He lowers his head and spits blood. “Couple of guests heard the ruckus and tried to help. He and his goons cut them up.” The fight has gone out of him. “They knocked over a lamp in the fighting. Pretty soon the whole place was on fire. They left me for dead. If not for my girl, Maryna, I’m sure I’d be dead, too.” He falls to the ground, and sits in the mud, his head in his hands, sobbing.

The Guards approach cautiously, hands still resting on the hilts of their swords. Lok is positive now these are the two men who were at the Red Bearded Dwarf, and suspects they may be somehow on the take from Mr. Davos. “What’s all this now?” the larger of the two men asks. The smaller one pipes up, “Yeah, what’s this going on about this being your fault?” He points at Lok.

The guards back down when Lok and Wulfe turn the tables on them about their role in the matter. They look around anxiously, and exchange looks before nodding at each other. The smaller one lifts Mr. Russo off the ground and helps him away. “Come on, Mr. Russo, lets get you some help for those cuts.” The large one turns to you, “Look, we don’t want no trouble. No one was supposed to get hurt. We was just supposed to be here to take down Mr. Russo’s report and…” he looks around sheepishly… “make sure that we found a suitable culprit — if you know what I mean.” He looks at you expectantly, then continues when you don’t acknowledge. He sighs, “Russo doesn’t make a lot of friends, and there are plenty of vermin in this town that could benefit from being… well, from trying to escape while being arrested.” He winks.

When you ask about the Red Bearded Dwarf and/or Mr. Davos, he looks uncomfortable, but finally relents. “Yeah, we was being paid by Mr. Davos to… occasionally look the other way. Or help out in a pinch,” he says, pointing his thumb over his shoulder at the inn. He sees the disapproval on your faces and quickly adds, “Look, we got friends who’ve told us Mr. Davos is a big name in the resistance. We didn’t see anything wrong with taking a little extra pay to help out the cause.” He seems sincere about this.

When you ask where Mr. Davos is now, he kicks his foot in the ground. “He had us show up here about an hour after sunrise, just to keep people out while he talked to Mr. Russo. He had a couple wagons with him, and two men to help him. They was joined by a third wagon with that Trollkin of his, and two other men, including the sneaky little bastard I’d like to throw in a dungeon somewhere. Mr. Davos came out in a hurry, they loaded up the wagons, and rode for the city’s east gate. He laughed and said ‘Mr. Russo might need some help,’ as he rode off. We didn’t think nothin’ of it,” He shrugs. “We didn’t even know there was a fire until his girl pulled him out and smoke came pouring out after her.”

After this, Lok examines the scene. It doesn’t take much more than a quick survey of the area for Lok to piece together what happened. Fresh horse feces and tracks on the mud show two wagons sat side-by-side here. 3 men went inside. A third wagon joined them shortly thereafter, and two men and a trollkin got out. All three wagons departed together, heading east down the main thoroughfare. Near the back of where it seems the third wagon sat, you also find a shattered glass jar and a stopper that has your initials etched into the side, something you often do to mark your concoctions as your own. Residue inside tells you it was vial of bottled light. Clearly a jar of your bottled light fell from the wagon. With what you learned from Russo of the group’s intentions, you believe the third wagon came from your alchemy lab, and that you will find it ransacked. And you are certain that the meeting with “Mr. Davos” was all just a clever ruse to get you all out of the way for this specific window of time. You actually admire the level of intelligence it took to orchestrate such a complicated plan. But you also surmise that Davos had no idea where your current lodgings are, or else he would not have wasted his time here, and so he is obviously not quite worthy of your admiration.

Lt. Hegel appears at the edge of the crowd, spots you, and walks towards you. “Hello, gentlemen. What in the Urcaen is going on here?”

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Shadow Games: Waiting Room Blues
Shadow Games Part 1

You are waiting in the sparsely decorated lobby of the Red Bearded Dwarf, although what furnishings there are in the office are of fine quality. Morna Morosini sits behind a desk of light wood, which blocks access to a large double office door behind her. A small scrivener’s cubby recesses into the wall to her left, and seems neatly kept. The area between her desk and the front door is filled with four exceedingly large chairs, each apparently stuffed with extra padding and covered in a fine silk. They look most comfortable, and are arranged around a handwoven floor rug of deep purple, and are currently filled with Thrash, Wulfe, Bodger and a middle-aged man with dark hair and a healthy build that Bodger has introduced to you as Brok Dormio.

A map of the Iron Kindgoms hangs from the wall to your left. It is textured to show the geography in bumps and ridges, and is one of the most fascinating representations of Immoren you have seen. It is currently be studied by the infamous bounty hunter, Birk Kurgan, a man in his mid-40s, dressed in worn tailored plated and a long black cloak and dull black boots, carrying a large satchel on his back. A sword hangs from his right hip, a golden pistol from his left hip, and matching pistol is tucked under his right arm. A nasty looking trench knife is strapped to his right leg. His dyed-blue hair is his calling card.

You note a small service cart sits to the woman’s right, containing crystal goblets and a number of fine vintage wines and liquors, and several juices. You do not notice any other entrances or exits.

You’ve spent the last few minutes catching up on each other’s stories, and it is now about 10 minutes after the appointed meeting time. Birk Kurgan stomps over to Morna’s desk and knocks on it to get her attention. Morna looks up from her cross stitch. “Yes, Mr. Kurgan?”

Kurgan points with his finger to the ad in the newspaper and bluster, “Now see here. You said to be here an hour after sunrise, ‘sharp.’ Where is this Mr. Davos? If he’s so insistent about being on time, why isn’t he here!”

Morna picks up a slender white tree branch on the desk and starts to chew on it. (Lok knows it as a branch of the phytora tree, which is a mild stimulant.) “Mr. Kurgan, Mr. Davos is a very busy man. I’m sorry if he is inconveniencing you.” Smack. Smack. “He assured me he would be here this morning, but it is possible he was delayed by some urgent matter.” Smack. Smack. “I’m sure if you have more important things to do, Mr. Davos will happily employ these other gentlemen.” She gives a long draw on the tree branch, then resumes chomping on it.

Kurgan looks at the assembled crowd in the room, and glowers at Lok. “Give me some of that juice,” he grumbles, and Morna happily walks to the cart to pour it.

You briefly wonder if Birk might be the sort of guy you could just muscle out of the picture, but while Lok has no respect for Kurgan as an investigator, he knows it would be folly to engage him in a physical altercation. Lok has no illusions about Kurgan’s ability to be brutally savage.

Time passes, and you begin to debate how long you should stay. You begin to suspect it’s some sort of test — of patience, of skill… or something else. Brok chimes in. “I’ve had to wait a couple of hours before for Mr. Davos, but it’s always been worth it.”

You consider entering Davos’ office. The double office door of Mr. Davos’ office has two key locks and sixteen bronze pegs protruding from a plate on its face. The locks themselves are of average quality. The problem is, you must enter the correct combination of pegs on the keyplate, and with the newness of the lock, you can’t tell even tell how many pegs are in the combination. When you ask, Morna says, " He said you could try to open his office door. Well, he didn’t actually say it like that. He said, ‘ If anyone tries to open my office doors, don’t stop them.’" She lowers her voice, although you know everyone in the room can still hear her. “Personally, I think it’s some kind of test.”

As you descend further into argument about what to do next, Lok realizes what has been bugging him: Whoever Davos is, he is obviously a man of means and intelligence. He crafted an elaborate series of meetings with everyone here, appealing specifically to their personalities, all designed to maximize the likelihood that you would all be here at this specific time and place. But why would he spend so much energy to get you here, and then not be here, himself? Why instruct Morna to do everything she can to keep you here? It’s almost as if… this whole thing is not about making sure you were here at the appointed time… but making sure you weren’t somewhere else!

You decide to head out, and Morna runs out from behind the desk, begging with you. “Please, please, please don’t go.” She grabs Pascal by the arm. “Please wait. Mr. Davos said I should do my best to keep you here, that it was very important that you not leave the office.” That seals it. Everyone heads out the door, racing to their new lodgings at Rivers Rest.

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Lok: The Advertisement

And you should totally read that in the British way: ad-ver-tis-ment.

As Lok peruses the Rhydden Gazette, in his daily review for interesting tidbits, something in the advertisements catches his eye:

Businessman in need of discrete investigator.
Apply in person at the Red-Bearded Dwarf.

The Inquiries

Lok takes some time the day after the advertisement runs to inquire in a number of his local haunts and with street contacts to learn what he can about the “Red Bearded Dwarf.” Lok ascertains these facts: It is located on Merchants Street, in a block of offices owned by the Scrivener’s Guild. The prior establishment in that building was the law office of one Barlowe Martyn, who fled the city when Merywyn fell. The office had remained unoccupied until 6 to 8 months ago, when the Red Bearded Dwarf opened. The proprietor is not, in fact, a red bearded dwarf, but an average looking, well-dressed Ryn named Mr. Davos. He has hired a local woman, Morna Morosini, as his assistant.

The rest, Lok can tell, is merely rumor and speculation: Mr. Davos is the agent of a red-bearded dwarf in Rhul, ensuring their trade routes stay open in the war. Mr. Davos is a Khadoran spy. Mr. Davos is a high-ranking agent of the Llaelese resistance. Mr. Davos is a wealthy playboy having an affair with Mrs. Morosini and his office is an elaborate cover. Mr. Davos runs a fencing operation to fund the Resistance. Mr. Davos is an agent for an armory in Cygnar selling weapons on the black market. Mr. Davos buys corpses for a slaughter house in Merywyn to fill the bellies of Khadoran militia. A thief named Sculler was found dead outside the Red Bearded Dwarf – his throat had been slit, or his head had been ripped off, or a wolf had disemboweled him, or nothing but his head had been found.

No one Lok speaks to, though, has actually had any business dealings with Mr. Davos, nor been inside his offices. In this time of war and intrigue, it seems the average cretin in Rhydden wants no part of a man who is rumored to be tied in with larger schemes.

The Observation

Early the next morning, Lok heads out to Merchants Street near the Red Bearded Dwarf, and does his best to fit into the crowds: perusing the Gazette (Lok notices the advertisement has run again), shopping at nearby vendors, or just moving with flow of the crowd, generally working to remain inconspicuous.

The office of the Red Bearded Dwarf is on the first floor of a two-story building, with what Lok presumes to be 3 offices on each floor, based on the arrangements of the doors, windows, and signage. A fourth door on the bottom floor presumably leads to an interior staircase to the 2nd floor rooms. A covered wooden landing provides shelter to the lower doorways, and is reached by two steps up from the main street. The Dwarf occupies the bottom left office space. A wooden sign depicting a grinning dwarf with a full red beard hangs from chains above the office door. The middle office is announced by a purple quill and a tall inkwell. The office on the right has a sign made from wood that is obviously of higher quality of the other two, and has no images, merely the words “Gervaes and Wythsten.” All three office windows are barred by closed shutters. Three smaller boards are linked together in front of the stairway door: the topmost shows a stack of gold coins, the middle depicts an orange quill, and the bottom shows the words “Viscario and Sons.”

Lok has not been there long, when about 45 minutes after sunrise, a woman approaches the steps to the landing and proceeds to the door of the Dwarf. She is of average height, with short black hair and attractive features. Lok would place her in her mid-20s, which fits the description he received of Mrs. Morosini. She is dressed in the latest fashions for a middle class woman, which Lok knows is not easy or cheap these days. Large silver hoops adorn her ears, and she is carrying a small black leather pouch in her left hand. It is clearly new, as well. And yet it strikes Lok that the way she carries herself and the crop of her hair is what he would expect of a woman of the lower classes. Lok is certain that she has recently come into a decent amount of money, and given what he learned yesterday, he presumes the new-found wealth comes from her relationship – whatever it may be – with Mr. Davos.

The woman reaches into her pouch and retrieves a key, which she places in the lock. Lok then sees her push at a number of wooden blocks on the door handle, although he can’t quite make out the sequence from here, but her hand definitely pushed in four times. She enters and closes the door behind her. Moments later, the shutters open, and she pulls some sort of white gauzy drapery to cover the windows, permitting light to enter, but blocking a clear view of the interior from the street.

Lok is so caught up in watching Mrs. Morosini enter the building, that the fruit vendor grabs the peach from Lok’s hand and puts it back in his cart. “Are you here to buy my fruit or gawk at her’s?” he says with a grunt. Lok chastises himself for being so conspicuous and grins at the man. “What can I say, I like fresh peaches,” and tosses the man coins for two peaches, which Lok takes from the cart. The man laughs a little and gives Lok a wink, and goes back to pitching his wares. Lok thinks he’ll have to avoid this patch of street for the rest of the day.

The other offices open shortly thereafter, and a few men and women and a couple of boys come and go from them, but no one that piques Lok’s interest. However, no one else comes or goes from the Red Bearded Dwarf. Foot traffic increases heavily as people begin their daily business, and the occasional cart rumbles through the narrow streets, forcing people up into the markets and porches of nearby establishments. Lok catches a glimpse of a balding man who appears to pause and glance at the door of the Red Bearded Dwarf, but he moves on and continues wandering down through the markets.

About mid-day, a man in his mid-40s approaches the door of the Red Bearded Dwarf and knocks firmly on the door. He is dressed worn tailored plate and a long black cloak and dull black boots, and carries a large satchel on his back and a copy of the Rhydden Gazette gripped in his left hand. A sword hangs from his right hip, a golden pistol from his left hip, and matching pistol is tucked under his right arm. A nasty looking trench knife is strapped to his right leg. But his dyed-blue hair gives it away first… Lok has crossed paths with Birk Kurgan before, but he didn’t know the obnoxious old bounty hunter and self-styled “detective” was in Rhydden. Lok has no respect for Kurgan’s investigative skills; he relies on brute force and bribes to find his prey. Kurgan knocks once more, then opens the door. He disappears inside for about 5 minutes, then re-emerges onto the porch. He says something to someone inside which Lok can’t make out over the hustle and bustle of the street, then he closes the door and puts his hands on his hips, gazing out over the street. Lok would say Kurgan looks disgruntled, but then, Kurgan always looks that way. He blows out a large sigh, tucks the Gazette into his satchel, and heads off west down Merchants Street.

As mid-day turns into late afternoon, Lok is beginning to wonder if anyone comes to the Red Bearded Dwarf. Aside from Kurgan, no one has come or gone from the office since Mrs. Morosini arrived. Lok makes a quick circuit of the alleys around the building, but see no other exits. At the rear of the building, a thick wooden door provides access to the crawl space in the foundation, but Lok is certain from the ground and the condition of the lock that the door is used infrequently and has not been used anytime since the last rain, which was over a week ago. There are windows on the back of the building, but the ones on the rear of the Red Bearded Dwarf are still shuttered, and, as the rear of the building is actually one story higher than from the front due to the steep ground here, Lok does not see how anyone could climb to the windows unaided, and he sees no sign of any ladders or grappling marks. Lok begins to think he will need to investigate the 2nd floor offices to see if there is some interior means of access.

As Lok returns to the front of the building from the rear alley, he sees a boy of about 13 years holding a scroll and standing at the foot of the porch. Lok is certain he saw the boy at the magistrate’s office yesterday – he is not the boy the clerk waved over, but Lok remembers him from the filing drawers. The boy has stopped mid-step and is gazing at the door to the Red Bearded Dwarf. He frowns, and then turns around and heads back down the street in the direction that would take him towards the magistrate’s office. Following his gaze, Lok sees something he hadn’t noticed before. A small statue of a dwarf, about a foot tall, is standing near the door to the office. It appears to be a stone sculpture, painted in blues and greens, with bronze skin, and a bright red beard. But Lok can only see the beard from this vantage point because the dwarf is facing the wall – with its back to the street.

Lok casually makes his way over to the general store across the street, and stands in the window, ostensibly perusing some of the latest glass vials and bottles. Suddenly, the scene comes alive. Lok sees a sergeant he knows to be with the resistance ride by in a wagon. The sergeant slows to glance at the dwarf by the door, and then lashes the horses onwards. Then a prostitute who Lok believes to be a courier for the Niclaeys crime family feigns interest in a man departing the Purple Quill, but to Lok’s trained eye she is clearly checking on the dwarf statue, and she continues trolling after men down the street after she sees it is turned backwards. Lok purchases a bottle, then moves about over the next two hours, and his suspicions are confirmed. A Trollkin carrying a sack stained with dried blood pushes through the crowd, grunts as he spies the dwarf, and pushes off down the street. Two men from the town watch stop on the porch and eye the statue, then have a brief argument before continuing their patrol. A young girl pushes a hoop down the street with a stick with great skill, but “accidentally” loses control of it and has to stop near the porch to retrieve her hoop, stealing a glance at the statue, before continuing her game.

As the bells ring from the church announcing evening prayer, Mrs. Morosini pulls the curtains back to close and lock the shutters. No one aside from Kurgan has actually entered the office, but Lok wonders how many visitors he missed before he saw the dwarf. Moments later, she closes the front door and locks it with her key. She looks exactly as she did when she arrived, and carries her leather pouch close to her body in the departing crowds. She heads east towards the river districts, instead of towards the middle class quarters.

The peach man chuckles at Lok, and the detective grimaces as he realizes the vendor has rolled his cart up behind him, and Lok is blocking the peach man’s path out into the cart traffic in the street. “You must have real hankering for peaches,” he grins a creepy grin and gives Lok a knowing wink. “Too bad I’m all sold out!” Lok quickly moves down the street, as his laughter chases the detective through the crowd.

The Red Bearded Dwarf

Lok approaches the Red Bearded Dwarf the next morning, about 3 hours after sunrise. No one seems to recognize him, and the fruit seller is happily selling his peaches in a stall further down the street today. It appears a bread vendor got to yesterday’s spot first.

The windows are open and draped as yesterday, and the dwarf statue still faces away from the street. As Lok gets closer, he can clearly see that it rotates on a heavy stone base, and that there are several indentations which Lok presumes must be pushed in properly to allow the statue to turn. He approaches the door and notes that the lock assembly appears to be relatively new due to the lack of scratches and wear, and was likely installed when Mr. Davos became the new tenant. Eight wooden pegs stick out of an iron plate on the door. There are no numbers or symbols on them, but Lok can see that the four middle pegs have received more use than the outer four. However, he cannot decipher the sequence in which they have been pushed.

Lok knocks on the door, and Mrs. Morosini beckons from within. “Come in!” Lok enters and closes the door behind him.

The office is sparsely decorated, although what furnishings there are in the office are of fine quality. Mrs. Morosini sits behind a desk of light wood, which blocks access to a large double office door behind her. A small scrivener’s cubby recesses into the wall to her left, and seems neatly kept. The area between her desk and the front door is filled with four exceedingly large chairs, each apparently stuffed with extra padding and covered in a fine silk. They look most comfortable, and are arranged around a handwoven floor rug of deep purple. A map of the Iron Kindgoms hangs from the wall to Lok’s left. It is textured to show the geography in bumps and ridges, and is one of the most fascinating representations of Immoren Lok has ever seen. What really strikes Lok is that the colors marking the borders of the kingdoms appear to be very up-to-date. Lok notes a small service cart sits to Mrs. Morosini’s right, containing crystal goblets and a number of fine vintage wines and liquors. All but 2 bottles have some amount of liquid missing from them. Lok does not see any other entrances or exits, but he does note that the double office door behind Mrs. Morosini has two key locks and sixteen bronze pegs protruding from a plate on its face. Lok can deduce from the dimensions of the building and the area in which he stands that the back office takes up at most one-quarter of the available space.

Lok steps forward and introduces himself as John Locke, a consulting detective, responding to the ad in the Gazette.

Mrs. Morosini has just set down a cross stitch she has been working on, which Lok sees will be of a woman doing a cross stitch. She is chewing on a branch of a phytora tree, which Lok knows is a mild stimulant. She continues to chew on it as she says “Oh, excellent. You’re only the second inquiry we’ve had. I told Mr. Davos we should just ask my brother, Jonni, but he said that we had t’ run the advertisement.” Her voice is pleasant, aside from the smacking on the tree branch, and she smiles at Lok with much charm. But he can tell from her accent and the state of her teeth that she is definitely from the river districts, and not the middle class quarters her clothing and jewelry might aspire to.

Then she just chews on her tree branch and seems to wait for Lok to say something. Smack. Smack.

“So… may I inquire with Mr. Davos?” Lok asks, not quite sure what she is waiting on.

She looks surprised and then says “Oh, I’m sorry,” she says waving her hand in the air. “See, I keep forgettin’,” smack smack, “I’ll tell you what I told Jonni and that other fella. You be here on the second of the month, and Mr. Davos will be receiving the inquiries.” Smack. Lok does the math in his head and notes that the 2nd of the month is just 3 days away. “And one hour after sunrise. Mr. Davos is a very busy man, and he don’t like to be kept waiting.” Smack smack. “You ain’t here, I’m sure he’ll give the work to Jonni.” Lok wonders why she just doesn’t tell him the wrong day or time so that her brother gets the work, but his conversation with Mrs. Morosini so far makes him think that might be a level of critical thinking that’s beyond her.

“Why do you think your brother Jonni would be good for the job?” Lok asks.

“Well aside from the fact that Jonni is my li’l brother and needs the work to feed his babies,” smack , “although I guess I shouldn’t call them babies no more, seein’ as how Tyryo is nearly 6,” she winks at Lok and grins. “But aside from that, he’s quite good at puzzles.” Smack. “I always said that Jonni is the best puzzle-doer I know, and he once found our missing cat in just two days.” Smack smack. “You lose a cat in our end of town, it don’t often come back, you know what I mean?” She points her tree branch at Lok and pauses for him to agree.

Then she proceeds, “Honestly, between you and me…” she stops chewing, lowers her voice, and leans forward as if to share something privately with Lok, although she and Lok are the only two people in room, “I think Mr. Davos just don’t want to put my baby brother at risk.” She glances around and says in a hushed voice, “I’m sure this job is dangerous.” Then she sits back up and returns to chewing her branch. Smack. She looks Lok up and down. “You don’t look as tough as that other fella with the blue hair.” She shrugs. “But then, what do I know? That’s for Mr. Davos to decide.” Smack, smack.

“I happen to know the blue haired lout you mentioned. Only one person with blue hair in this town that would respond to an ad soliciting an investigator, Birk Kurgan. But believe you me, he is no more an investigator than Dog, the Trollkin Bounty Hunter. I see you like the Phytora branch. I dabble a little in that as well. How would you like to try one of my special homebrewed pick me ups.” Lok offers her a vial of simple stimulant.

She takes your offered vial and pops off the lid, giving it a sniff. She smiles at Lok and quaffs it down. “Now that’s good stuff,” she says with a giggle, and shivers in the chair.

Lok continues, “Now then, don’t you think Mr. Davos would be mighty impressed with your initiative and wit, if you were to weed out the chaff like Birk Kurgan and go ahead and introduce me to him. As you said your brother is too valuable to risk on such a dangerous mission and certainly you don’t want to see him come to harm. Birk is sure to botch things up. So really it is only logical that you should introduce me to him at the earliest convenience. When it comes to solving puzzles and investigations, the longer one waits the colder the trail grows. Best if we expedite things don’t you think?”

“Oh, no. I could never go against Mr. Davos’ instructions,” she says with a look of horror crossing her face. The she recomposes herself, and waves a hand at Lok. “Besides which, sweetie, I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to. I have no idea where he is. He calls that ’need to know,” and I don’t need to know that." She smiles at Lok and winks. “I just know that he’ll be here on the 2nd, and you can come an hour after sunrise or not.” She has, at least, mercifully stopped chewing in the tree branch. She appears to have a good buzz going from your stimulant.

She digs into her pouch for something. “I think you’re right, though. I’ll go ahead and tell Jonni not to come. Now that I seen the likes who’ve shown up, I can tell this is a job he ain’t got no business doin’.” She pulls out a silk tissue and wipes her eyes. “Now that was some good stuff. Got any more of those?” She looks at Lok hopefully. “I can pay?”

Lok hands her another vial and says, “On the house.” Then he turns to leave.

“Thank you so much,” she offers as Lok walks out. “If I see Mr. Davos earlier, I’ll tell him you stopped by and were very impressive!”

View
Pascal: The Gambler

Pascal hasn’t been to the Gob’ Hole in awhile, so one evening he makes his way there to have a couple drinks and make some easy coin. However, when Pascal first arrives, he sees its mainly the regulars. Pascal doesn’t care to play against the good ones, and the poor gamblers already know him well enough to avoid losing any more money to him. So Pascal settles in for a lukewarm ale at a table in the back and awaits some fresh faces and fat purses.

Pascal is about halfway into his second ale, and maybe it’s the rain, but the prospects aren’t looking so good. He has just about decided to leave after this ale, when a Rynnish man of medium build, dark brown hair and youngish features enters the door. He is dripping wet, but carries a fat purse and nice clothes, and a dagger that speaks to at least modest wealth. Pascal notes a brand new leather pouch on his hip, with the images of two dice etched into the bag – just the sort of thing the Gaming Guild sells to rookie gamblers who don’t know any better.

He walks to the barkeeper and orders an ale, then seems to look around as if not knowing what to do next. He fondles the dice bag self-consciously, and glances around from table to table, while he waits on his beer.

Knowing the advantage of being an easy mark’s first “friend”, Pascal makes his way over to the bar and sits next to the man. “Hi there pal, haven’t seen you around before. What brings such a distinguished gentleman to a dive like this? Barkeep, put his drink on my tab.” Pascal tries to size up the man and see, first, what kind of money he could hopefully make, but second, if this man was hiding anything. Men without scars or torn clothes almost never turned up here, and when they did, they were usually looking for help with some sort of “unsavory” job. Since this guy obviously wasn’t meeting anybody specific, Pascal couldn’t even think of how the man could have known the bar was here.

The man looks grateful, but nervous, and looks Pascal up and down. “T-thank you,” he mutters. “My name is Eduardo,” he extends his hand to meet Pascal’s. “I… I understood this to be a gambling establishment.” He pats his dice bag, and glances around. “But… I don’t see any gaming going on?”

Pascal sips his ale and lets the silence sit.

Eduardo takes this as an opportunity to elaborate. “M-my friends and I, see, we have been playing Traitor’s Dice, but while I love to put money on it… they don’t see the appeal of real risk.” Seeing that Pascal is at least listening, he opens his purse and pulls out a small handful of gold crowns. “I come to play,” he says with a grin. Pascal can clearly see many more glittering coins in that fat purse of his.

He seems genuine, but Pascal has never heard of Traitor’s Dice. Maybe it’s a home ruled version of Liar’s Dice? Or is he really so green as to not even know the name of the game?

Pascal tries to find out more without embarrassing the man. “Well, I’m sure we could find a table for some Liar’s Dice… it’s probably the same game, maybe just the name differs by region. Where do you hail from?”

“My family was in Merywyn before the fall,” he says somberly, as if that should be explanation enough. “My friend, Mylo, taught us… maybe it’s the same thing? Does everyone roll five dice and you hide them, then bid how many of a number you think there are?”

That sounds like Liar’s Dice to Pascal, although he knows there are a number of house rules.

Pascal replies: “Tell you what, I’ll rustle up a couple of guys, and we’ll play a few rounds, cash free, to make sure we’re all on the same page. Then we can get some real wagers in! How’s that sound?” Before Eduardo can decide whether to respond, Pascal nods to some of the rookie hustlers who were listening nearby. They spread chairs around a table and scrounge around in their bags for their dice. Eduardo grabs his purse tightly, but Pascal relaxes him. “Don’t worry, pal, you’re with me. These two-bits may smell worse than a troll in the summer, but they’ll give you a fair game. Isn’t that right boys?”

Eduardo, Pascal, and three young men all group up and lay their dice on the table, eyeing each other while doing their best to give a believable poker face. “Now, gentlemen, Eduardo here has called the game, and it’s Traitor’s Dice. He tells me it’s a lot like Liar’s Dice, so we’re going to play some dry hands so you don’t get upset when you break the rules and Eduardo gets your lunch money.” Pascal smiles and turns to Eduardo, encouraging him to begin explaining.

Eduardo explains the rules, and the five gamblers get busy playing. Pascal gently chimes in with a few customs that are known to reduce the risk of a fight over cheating in the gambling dens, and after a few rounds, Eduardo seems to loosen up and start playing freely with his coin. Pascal actually thinks Eduardo is pretty good – not quite as good as Pascal believes he is, but Eduardo and Pascal split the small pile of crowns of one of the men, who slinks out to the streets to find easier pickings.

Eduardo seems to have a good grasp on the odds of the dice, and Pascal and he continue to win the majority of the hands. After another 30 minutes, Pascal cleans out the second man, who declines to empty more of his purse onto the table, and instead goes to the bar for a drink.

Now it’s just the three men. Eduardo is making calls that Pascal wouldn’t – until Pascal thinks through the math and realizes that Eduardo did actually make an optimal choice. Pascal is actually quite certain that Eduardo is better than he is. But yet, Pascal keeps winning hands, even as Eduardo drives off the third man, who bows out when it’s clear that he’s about to lose all his crowns. Despite some really lousy rolls on Pascal’s part, Eduardo seems to make some really risky bets, and loses several rounds to Pascal. Pascal starts to wonder if maybe Eduardo just got lucky earlier? Because he’s really not making smart choices anymore. How many ales had he had? Maybe he was just drunk.

In the final hand, Eduardo makes an insane gamble, and tosses up his hands when he loses. “Ah! I can’t believe that,” he says with a grin as he shoves all his remaining money into Pascal’s pile. “I guess I should stick to my buddies.” He stands up and extends his hand to shake Pascal’s. “Well, thanks for the game, friend,” he laughs, “and for teaching me a lesson!” He walks toward the door, and leaves Pascal sitting in front of a large pile of gold crowns.

Pascal lets the cool feel of honestly-earned cash wash over him as he sweeps the coins into his own purse. Eduardo will be just fine… he’s clearly got a head for the rules, if not the temperament to go with it, and he’d even make a passable hustler if he set his mind to it. He’d soon learn the difference between people who play for fun, and people who play so they can keep eating.

As Pascal collects the coins into his purse, he finds a piece of parchment sealed with wax hidden in the pile of winnings. And, because he’s counting, Pascal finds he won 88 gold crowns.

Pascal walks up to the bar and slides his customary 15 crowns over to the bartender, who smiles and kneels down under the bar to the cabinet where he keeps the truly decent drinks that were usually wasted on the drunks who frequented the Gob’ Hole. He pours Pascal a brandy that had been “forgotten” by a wealthy merchant who had stumbled in. Pascal drinks it slowly, savoring the flavor, but also glancing around the bar to see if anybody was taking an unnatural interest in his winnings.

Pascal had gotten some strange requests before, but this was the first time they’d come with such a fun cash advance. Pascal turns his glass upside down and nods to the barkeep, who lets Pascal walk out the back exit.

Out in the street, Pascal walks briskly back towards his new room. The parchment was intriguing, but it wasn’t safe to stop and read for too long in this part of town, especially with a full purse. Pascal pulls up his coat and glances over his shoulder, then ducks into an alley and makes his way back home.

After stashing his winnings in a loose floorboard, he sits on his cot and breaks the sealed wax.

Pascal unfolds the parchment, and finds the following inside.

I hope you will consider this a starting bonus. I could use a man with your skills.
Come to the Red Bearded Dwarf on the 2nd of the month. 1 hour past sunrise – sharp.

Pascal knows that is in 3 days time.

Pascal chuckles to himself. Whoever Eduardo really was, anybody who paid cash up front was alright in Pascal’s book. He decides to see exactly what sort of thing this man needed done. The rest of the group was used to his irregular hours, so when the morning came he got up quietly and made his way to the Red Bearded Dwarf.

View
Thrash: The Painted Weasel

Of the several taverns Thrash has visited in the last few months, the Painted Weasel has really started to grow on him. The ale is good for the price, the crowd is rowdy, and the furniture was obviously bought with some Trollkin bodies in mind.

Even better, it’s only a few blocks from their new lodgings in the river district, and that is where Thrash finds himself tonight.

The crowd is lively this evening, and the tables are full. Thrash arrived early enough to get a seat near the bar, and has been ordering his ales three at a time, as the serving wenches have their hands full with the bustle of the place.

Thrash is just into his second round when two men approach his table. They are young but weathered. The red-headed one has a patch over his left eye, and the one with black hair has scar running from his right ear down to his chin. Thrash takes them for river boat sailors – but whether bandits or traders, he can’t tell, although he’s not sure there’s much difference these days. Rusty daggers hang from their belts, and the smell of old leather and human stink wafts off them as they grab two chairs and sit down.

The black-haired one reaches out and slides the two ales Thrash isn’t drinking in front of him and his companion. “Thanks for keeping our table for us,” he says. “You can go now.” The red-headed man sets his dagger on the table as he takes a swallow from your extra ale and eyes Thrash with his one good eye.

Thrash looks at the red-headed man with his one good eye, and a smile creeps across his face which turns to a chuckle and then to a guffaw. He grabs his belly as he laughs — and suddenly stops and draws his gun, pointing it at the red-headed man. Thrash brings his warhammer down on the table with a crash, spilling the drinks. “Gentlemen, us Trollkin salute courage and gumption, but hate stupidity. Let’s say I buy us another round and salute your courage and discuss how we lost our one eye due to courage, or do you lose your other eye because you are stupid?”

The crowd around the table gets hushed, and backs away. Thrash definitely made an impression on them.

Unfortunately, the men do not appear intimidated at all. The red-haired one pushes his chair back and throws his beer in Thrash’s face, splashing it in his eyes.

Thrash stands up and readies his hammer, “Outside” he says. He turns 90 degrees or to the other guy and smiles squeezing his hammer’s handle flexing the gun show, so everyone could see, for no ticket was needed to that show.

The other man smiles. " ‘Ey now, isn’t that noble." He leaps at Thrash and grabs the Trollkin with both arms in a grapple.

The red-haired man grabs his dagger off the table and stabs at Thrash, but the blade glances harmlessly off his armor.

Thrash flexes his arms to break the grapple, and bursts out of the man’s grip! The man swears in shock.

The black-haired man draws his sword and swings at Thrash. He is obviously rattled, and catches his sword on the back of the chair.

The red-haired man makes to cut Thrash again, and once again, his dagger fails to penetrate the Trollkin’s armor.

The crowd around the table has started cheering and money is exchanging hands as the tavern’s occupants place their bets.

Thrash swings at the black-haired man, crushing him square in the chest. He crumples like a rag doll to the floor, not even needing the follow-up blow Thrash had intended. The red-haired man is quicker, and Thrash almost misses him, but the Trollkin manages to bring the butt of his hammer up into the red-haired man’s chin, sending him sprawling into the crowd behind him. Several onlookers try to push the man back towards Thrash, but he collapses at their feet.

The crowd mutters and there is a mix off boos and cheers, as money exchanges hands.

No one argues with Thrash as he searches the bodies of the two men. He finds a total of 8 gold crowns, between them. Thrash seizes a collection of rather ordinary weapons: a dagger, pistol and sword. Then he gives the tavern owner 4 gold crowns.

A man steps up beside Thrash at the tavern bar as he pays the owner. The man has short cropped black hair and is dressed in fine merchants clothing. He lays 6 gold crowns on the bar, and says “Rufus, some replacement ale for this fine warrior. 3 pints of the good stuff from Cygnar. And one for me, please.” He offers his hand to Thrash. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Mr. Davos.”

Thrash takes hold of Mr. Davos’s hand and holds it very firmly “If you buying, I am accepting, even if those guys are with you,” pointing to the two guys on the floor. “That wasn’t a test, was it?”

Davos smiles. “I don’t employ fools like that,” he waves a hand dismissively. “However, I am always on the lookout for new talent. A trollkin with your… special talents,” he glances at the two men, “could be useful to me from time to time.”

Thrash smiles “Tell me what you need and if the price is right, I will be happy to provide my services.”

Davos sets a small purse on the bar. “There’s 50 gold crown in there.” He nods at Thrash. “Consider that a retainer. If you’re interested in learning more, come by the Red Bearded Dwarf on Merchant’s Street on the 2nd of the month – that’s in two days time.” Davos finishes his ale. “1 hour past sunrise. Try not to be late. I have other matters to attend to.” He slides his mug across the bar and stands to leave.

Thrash takes the purse, shakes it, eyes Davos and says “I will be there — and this better not be a setup, or what happened to those guys will be nothing to what I do to you.”

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Bodger: The Junkyard Swap

The Rhydden scrap yards are filled with old wagon wheels, busted jack parts, and discarded metal, wood and stone construction debris. With the war ongoing, the amount of junk making its way into the scrap yard has actually increased, although the number of scavengers have as well. There is a tidy profit to be made in finding spare parts for the armies fighting across Immoren.

Bodger has come to know some of the regulars by sight — a young boy with grease-streaked blond hair, who always looks like he’s short a few meals; a older woman with grey hair and a hard face, who pushes a wooden cart that you can tell was once painted a bright red, but now has faded and chipped to grey wood almost the color of her hair; and a middle-aged man with dark hair and a healthy build, who always nods and smiles at Bodger, and greets him with a pleasant “Hello, and good hunting.”

One day, Bodger is approaching the middle-aged man and expecting his customary greeting of “Hello, and good hunting,” when he smiles at Bodger, but instead stops, and says: “Hello. Say, you mostly look for laborjack parts, don’t you?”

“Yes I do,” Bodger replies, “have you found something interesting?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know,” he replies. “Jack parts aren’t really my thing. But I do know that a large wagon pulled up just an hour ago and dumped a bunch of them by the eastern fence. I thought you might find it of interest.” He points over to the corner of the lot.

“Why thank you.” Bodger flips the man a coin and heads over to see what’s in the pile.

The man catches the coin, but quickly says: “Before you go… perhaps you could keep an eye out for something for me?” Bodger turns and the man says, “I’m in need of a silver wagon wheel spike. I know that’s very specific, but… it comes from a specific wagon. I keep hoping it will turn up here.” He pauses. “There’s a nice reward for it.”

“I’ll see what I find and let you know if I find it.” And Bodger heads off through the pile.

Bodger sifts through the pile of scrap and doesn’t find anything really special. But he does find a number of working replacement parts for a labor jack, which Bodger thinks he could sell for about 75 gc.

Three days later, Bodger is following his normal routine of shifting through the newest deposits to the scrap yard when a peculiar glint off something catches his eye. He pushes aside a busted gear assembly and sees a large silver spike, the sort that might be used to fix a wagon wheel to its axle. Despite having been buried in debris, it maintains a polished shine, and is engraved with the letters D.F.

Bodger extricates the spike from the pile bad and starts to head out to find the scrapper. While he walks, he wonders what DF stands for. He tries to think of whose initials they may be.

Bodger knows that it is common for mechaniks and other craftsmen to put their initials in specialty products, but in his time in Rhydden, he does not recall meeting any person with the initials D.F. But then, if it was a silversmith instead of a mechanik, he wouldn’t have necessarily had cause to hear of them.

Bodger finds the middle-aged man sorting through a pile of lumber, and approaches him. He smiles at Bodger and says “Hello! How’s been the hunting?”

“Greetings” replies Bodger, “I think I may have something that interests you.” He produces the silver spike.

“Ahhh…” the man smiles, taking it from Bodger and looking it over. Bodger notes that the man glimpses at the letters and nods. “Mr. Davos will be so pleased.” The man starts to put it in an old leather satchel, and then pauses, and looks at Bodger.

“No, this wouldn’t be right. You found it,” he extends it back to Bodger. He looks around and says in a low voice, “Mr. Davos has a way of knowing things, and I don’t dare claim the finders fee.” He glances around again, and leans closer to Bodger. “Take it to the Red Bearded Dwarf on Merchants Street. He’s a generous man, I’m sure he can make it worth your while.” He puts his hand on Bodger’s shoulder. “He told me he would next be in town on the 2nd of the month. One hour past sunrise is when he meets me.” Bodger knows that is in 3 days time. “Don’t be late. He doesn’t wait around,” he grimaces. “I lost some good money that way one time.”

The man stands up and smiles. “Good hunting,” and he makes to return to his lumber pile.

Bodger starts to walk away then pauses. Turns to the man and says, “Why don’t you meet me there and we can split the bounty since you were the one who told me to watch out for it? After all, I wouldn’t have known about it if you hadn’t said anything.”

The man nods at Bodger. “Oh, you are much too kind. But I was sure I could count on you.” He smiles. “I accept, friend.” He extends his hand for Bodger’s. “It’s a deal, then. I’ll see you on the 2nd.”

“The 2nd it is.” and Bodger heads out of the scrap yard to find some food and get back to his room to unload and stash his goods.

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Wulfe: Prayers

A Moment of Silence

Wulfe is quietly sitting minding his own business, praying, communing and thinking deep thoughts. Despite lots of open spaces, a man kneels down next to him. Wulfe opens his eyes, but the man has sunk into a deep and thoughtful prayer pose. So Wulfe returns to his own thoughts, although a little uncomfortable that the man has chosen to kneel right beside him.

Wulfe finishes his prayers, and merely lowers his head, thinking of wrapping up when the man mutters, "It feels good, doesn’t it, Brother?

Wulfe is suspicious, and eyes the man carefully. He’s definitely not a religious sort. He’s here for some other reason. But he’s not wearing any visible weapons. He’s Llaelese for sure. Or at least excellent at disguising himself. Wulfe says, “Sometimes I just need to get alone and just be with my own thoughts. Are you here to pray to some particular god?”

Wulfe is pretty sure the man is here to talk with him, but the man replies “Yes,” still keeping his eyes closed. “I’m here to pray to Menoth. For guidance in dealing with some things I don’t understand. Some…. creatures… that are not of his making.” He casts a glance at Wulfe. “You know what I mean, eh?” The man turns back to his meditation.

“Why do you assume I know what you’d mean,” as Wulfe starts to feel a little uneasy.

“Don’t be coy. The rat things,” the man says, making symbolic movements with his hands as if in deep prayer. “It could be greatly in your benefit if you would talk to me about them. I could… well, what could I offer a man like you?”

“Again, why do you think I’d know about rat things,” Wulfe starts to scope out the area in order to get a good feel of his surroundings in case any action was needed to be taken. He had learned this well when being trained by the Order.

After a pause the man says, “Maybe there are some men you’d rather not know about you? It would be a shame for them to find out where you are…” He looks up from his prayer and casts a sad smile at you.

Wulfe is now fully on guard. He leans into the stranger, firmly grasps his upper arm, "Listen ‘brother’, if there is something you want to tell me, then do it quick. Since you seem to know so much about me, then you know I do not respond well to threats. There’s a reason those that might be interested in me have never found me.”

“Now, now. Let’s not cause a commotion. There are so many people about.” The man looks back to his prayer, ignoring your grasp. “Just tell me what a you found down there and I won’t have ever been here.”

“Pray tell, since you know so much about, who are you that I would share any information with you?”

“A concerned citizen. With friends who want to know. Don’t you think it is selfish for a group of busy bodies to keep such secrets? If half the rumors I’ve heard are true, all of Immoren could be in danger. I just need to hear from a man who has seen the danger we face. To…. dispel the rumors… So responsible people can act.”

“Well then you know as much as I do. There’s a skigg infestation under the city. Hopefully your ‘responsible people’ can clear out a few rats,” replies Wulfe.

“Well, maybe that’s right.” The man makes his final signs. "Don’t worry, you have nothing to fear from me, priest.” He moves to leave.

“Wait…” Wulfe calls after him. “…It seems maybe there’s more to the skiggs? I know of parties going down there to clean out the sewers. What should they be expecting to find and how do you know so much about?”

He ignores you and continues walking.

Wulfe calls out: “Good luck with a skaggs!”

The man stops.

“Hmmm…got your attention? But this is going to be a two way conversation. And it starts with you,” says Wulfe.

“Not here.” The man thinks for a minute. “I’ll be in touch.” he turns and moves quickly to the doors.

The Message

Wulfe is on the way to his daily prayers, when a boy bumps into him. “’Scuse me” he says, as he darts off into the crowd. Wulfe feels a piece of parchment has been shoved into his hand.

The parchment is tightly folded and sealed with wax. Upon opening the parchment, Wulfe finds a message scrawled in an odd looking green ink. It says:

Brother – come to the Red Bearded Dwarf. 1 hour after sunrise. 2nd of the month.
Yours in service, Davos

Wulfe knows this is in 3 days time. As he watches, the inks begins to bubble and the parchment dissolves in his hands.

Wulfe thinks, “I’ll be there.”

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