Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 15

The last paragraph of last week's write-up caused a bit of consternation among my players, who had missed Jaeger's player mentioning it to me as we'd packed up for the night.  This spawned a great deal of discussion over the course of the week, and my biggest take-away was that, with eight players at the table, A) I'm not always hearing everyone clearly and B) in-character and out-of-character speech at the table is not always being clearly defined, and comments made at the table are being taken as being in-character and acted upon when they were not meant as such.  So this week I instituted a simple rule - each player was issued a playing card.  When speaking out of character, the card must be held up and be visible.  Otherwise, whatever they said was to be taken as their character saying it.

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4 (out for this session)
Jaeger, Human Fighter 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

Wiseday, the 15th of Rainmont.

Mivahl is stunned in the morning, waking up to Jaeger throwing his old unit badge at him.  "I can tell when I'm not wanted," Jaegar growled, "And this group doesn't want me." Mivahl called an emergency meeting of the group over breakfast at the Golden Boar.  Jaeger laid out why he felt unwanted, despite Mivahl having vouched for him, and the rest of the group explained their attitudes and reasonings.  A lot of air was cleared, Jaeger was welcomed as a member of the adventuring party without reservations, and to celebrate the former bounty hunter bought the group breakfast. 

The party spent the day in preparation - Cor, to read the strange enchanted scrolls found in the dwarven tomb beneath New Dawn once the full moon rose and revealed their concealed text; Kholark, to wrestle the porcine behemoth known as Bawss Hawg behind the Drunkatorium; Jaeger purchased the tools and materials necessary to assemble a breaching charge of the sort he and Mivahl used to use in blowing open wizard hide-outs; and Lasair drew up plans to meet with Ariska, the Red Witch, that evening at the Drunkatorium. 

That night, Kholark threw his gold piece in the bucket and took his shirt off, downing three beers and allowing the dwarven barmaids to slather him in grease to wrestle Bawss Hawg.  Hawg, likewise, was fed a pony keg's worth of ale and greased up.  Wading into the sty with a bellowing call upon the strength of Bormo, Kholark slammed into the giant pig, grappling the greased grunter.  The sinews standing out on Kholark's arms like steel cables, he heaved the half-ton hog over his head and slammed the mighty beast down into the mud and filth, throwing himself atop it.  Holding the squealing monster down in its own semi-liquid waste, Kholark strained to keep Bawss Hawg pinned.  A count of five was announced, and Kholark stood victorious. 

When Kholark seized the bucket of gold that was his due, the bartender yelled, "Wait just a minute!" and hauled up two additional buckets - three years' worth of entry fees from contenders who had tried and failed.  Kholark had won 376 gold pieces, while the party members who had bet upon his victory each walked away with 200 gold. 

As the moon rose, Cor unfurled the scrolls, watching with glee as the silvery runic script unveiled itself under the moon's rays.  One scroll revealed a map, a section of the Worldsfang Mountains, far to the north, an X marking "The City of the First Masons, Where Fell the Hammers of the Gods."

The second scroll revealed a dire warning from Magister Eckhardt, the dwarf whose tomb had contained the scrolls:

May the gods have mercy on me in my weakness, that I feared to burn this map and the information it contains.  Long have I pondered whether to destroy the information within or to release it to the world.  In my weakness I have done neither, allowing indecision to rule.  I am the last of my clan; when I am gone, perhaps this damning sheet of vellum will go with me.  Let none seek what the map shows; let that first, hateful secret of the dwarves be left buried for all eternity. 

Cor's eyes lit up.  This sounded like treasure!

Meanwhile, in the Drunkatorium, Flora received a letter from Ariska, asking her to come - alone - to the back room.  There, Ariska beckoned Flora be seated after closing the door behind her.  "I am fat, drunk and old," Ariska said, throwing back her hood to reveal a heavyset human woman, her hair still mostly coppery, in her mid-50s.  "I'm neither blind, nor stupid, though I suspect your companions may mistake me for such.  They could have tried to keep their story straight from bar to bar."

Ariska explained to Flora that Talia, Vesper's first wife, was no simple case of illness; she'd come to realize - too late - that Talia was being repeatedly dosed with an extremely rare poison - Devil's Foot Root - likely in the form of fumes off a burning source.  She suspects Erzebeta, Vesper's current wife, as the poisoner, but confessed she's unsure how involved Vesper was in the plot - he was away, fighting orcs, when Talia fell ill.  According to Ariska, whatever the cult or coven operating around Craghold was, it had corrupted the psyche of the region; the bizarrely aggressive dogs and wolves were a symptom of this corruption. 

Welcoming the aid of the party in addressing this threat, Ariska gave Flora a polished oval of quartz, explaining that it was an Elemental Gem of Air; breaking it would release an Air Elemental that would serve her for one minute. She also gave her the first dose of a potion that would help with Dormammu's veneral disease; he would need to take a dose a day, for a full week, to clear up his problem, and she'd bring the remaining doses with her to the Golden Boar tomorrow. 

Returning to the Golden Boar (and with Mivahl asking Lasair to join him for a moonlit scroll later), the party went over what they knew and planned their next move.  It was proposed returning to the Whore's Arse to try and get some information out of Borut, the castle bailiff, since the party - especially Kholark - already had a good rapport with him.  Lasair was annoyed that Mivahl was welching on their walk to return to the Whore's Arse with Kholark, and took her annoyance out on Dormammu, who was trying to talk up a barmaid, informing her of Dormammu's unfortunate disease and ordering him back to his room. 

At the Whore's Arse, Kholark, Mivahl, Cor and Jaeger sat down with drinks with Borut.  Asking him about the Sheriff, Edras, Borut declared his boss a good man who was doing a hard job to the best of his abilities and ran a tight ship.  Seeing a nearby guardsman puking, the party proposed carrying the man back to the barracks to sober up.  Borut, deep in his cups, agreed.

At the barracks, Jaeger perused a series of maps of guard patrol routes and various written orders, finding everything above board.  On their way back to the Golden Boar, Mivahl picked a flower, hoping it would in some measure make up for standing up Lasair. 

Reassembled, the party came up with a plan.  Under the guise of concern for Lord Vesper's health and safety, Flora would "bless" the lord's chambers, and Lasair would check on the well-being of his daughters.  They would use this opportunity to further investigate the teleportation circle and see if they could at least copy the runes for translation, to see if they could figure out where it went.  They considered trying to activate it, but feared where it might take them. 

A plan in place, the party retired for the night. 

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