Chapter 04: The Lay of the Land

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Session Number: 47
Date: Sunday 2 May 2010
Venue: Alain's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr6 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal7 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz7 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBC

turtleback_ferry.jpg

It is mid afternoon. The party, now on foot, follow the road into a forest. The road soon hairpins and then opens upon a harbour city that appears almost split in half by a high embankment. The streets are relatively crowded.

Two official-looking men stand ahead on the road. Arrian inquires as to the whereabouts of the Turtle Dove Inn, and is told. The guard asks the party's business in Turtleback Ferry and learns that they are passing through on the way to Fort Rannick. Arrian asks whether the guard can recommend anywhere else to stay.

"Well, there's the Fish Hag, close to the casino. You don't get much trouble there. It's run by the Paradise. It's clean, cheap and cheerful. Otherwise, the Rusty Dragon is a good place. The owner is the daughter of the local glassworker. They are both foreigners, they come from some distant land."

"Short for her age?" asks Rowaine. "Looks young? Funny eyes?"

"Yes! Do you know her? Her name is Amiko. If you want good quality, you go there. It's not as expensive as other places too. It is not far from here - just up this street."

"Is there anywhere in town that I could sell a couple of weapons?" asks Troll.

"There's a guy who makes weapons, Daskorvat, in the upper town. He is a grumpy old fart, and that's putting it mildly. He runs the Red Dog Smithy. It's easy to spot, there's always a couple of big red mastiffs hanging around."

Rowaine asks "Pray tell, where might we find the markets?" The guard gives directions. Arrian asks about temples within the city and the guard points out a huge building on the escarpment, identifying it as a newly-built cathedral replacing the previous that was destroyed by fire five years ago. Rather than being dedicated to one deity, the new cathedral houses separate chapels for six.

Rowaine asks "Do the Black Arrows have any permanent station or residence here?"

"No. They come here at least every two to three days, to buy supplies, to gamble… It has been four or maybe even five days since their last visit. That's a little unusual. They come often - there are thirty or forty of them, after all. When they are here, they often go to the barracks to discuss matters with the sheriff. They do a good job. Years ago we began building a wall around the upper town. It was never finished - the rangers did such a good job of defending the area that the council thought it wouldn't be needed. The Black Arrows deal with the Kreegs mostly. The Grolls live in the forest too, but they're not ogres, they're something in between - some sort of ogre-kin, they say.

Rowaine gets directions for the barracks. She then offers the man a silver piece, which is turned down.

"No, no, lady, I am not supposed to accept this."

"Very well, if it's against regulations… But my thanks is free." She flashes one of her winning smiles.

Arrian is the most city-wise of the group. He recommends that everyone stick together and keep their pouches safely stowed inside their backpacks.

Together they head to the Rusty Dragon. Most of the city's buildings are single-story timber structures with two foot high stone footings (presumably to protect against flooding). The Rusty Dragon is a two-storey building made entirely of well-maintained stone. There aren't many inside at this hour. A short woman with black hair and almond eyes stands behind the bar. Her skin a pale olive complexion. She reminds Rowaine of Anassia.

The woman introduces herself as Amiko. Arrian exchanges pleasantries and arranges three rooms for the night and breakfast in the morning. Amiko gives the price as eight silvers per person. Arrian pays for himself and the destitute Troll, Rowaine pays for herself. Amiko then shows the group to their rooms on the top floor, also mentioning the bathing facilities.

Amiko knows of Kharag Monastery - her father stopped there on his way to Turtleback Ferry a long time ago, he speaks often about it. He is the owner of the glass factory. Amiko has been running the inn for the past six years. Her father emigrated to this land and settled in Turtleback Ferry thirty years ago. His glassblowing factory has quite a reputation - people from everywhere come to buy his wares, even as far as Magnimar. Before settling in Turtleback Ferry he travelled widely and talked often of his travels to his daughter, explaining her keen grasp of local geography.

"Thanks to Black Arrows we might have more trading possibilities in years to come."

"We are heading to Fort Rannick, to join a friend there," says Arrian. "We were supposed to have heard word from him. Have you heard anything concerning the fort?"

"Not really," replies Amiko. "They come every two or three days, you see them in the market. One of them goes to Paradise. It is a bit unusual that we haven't seen them in four days… Perhaps they have had a run-in with the Kreegs. I would not be worried after just one day. Do you know something I don't?"

"We haven't heard from our friend…"

"A letter to Kharag monastery would take two weeks to get there - how is it that you are concerned for your friend over a day's absence?"

"We have our own means of communication, faster than a letter."

Troll asks about places to sell his imithrium knives. Amiko too mentions Daskorvat's smithy, as well as the general store and the barracks as possible venues.

The party move on to the marketplace in the square nearby. Numerous stalls fill the cobbled area, most selling fruit, vegetables and fish. Rowaine doesn't consider that the goods on offer would much interest the rangers, so the group head for the general store around the corner. The building is a large, long, single-storey affair. Inside is a huge variety of wares, from foodstuffs to tools. Troll is taken by the smell of homemade pies.

A middle-aged shopkeeper stands behind a counter. Arrian introduces himself; the shopkeeper's name is Ovid. Arrian asks for trail rations to replace those used on the journey south. The man shouts a summons over his shoulder addressed to "Shosta" and a small woman responds. He whispers something to her and she disappears, returning shortly with two bags of food. Rowaine asks for sunrods but the shopkeeper says he has none - the local alchemist doesn't want to sell them to him. The alchemist has a poor reputation, both with the quality of his goods and in his dealings with other merchants. When asked about business Ovid mentions that the rangers were due to pick up an order yesterday, including ropes, pitons and salt.

The party privately debate whether to set up a portal in the area. Troll and Arrian see value in deploying a portal in Turtleback Ferry; Rowaine wonders whether Fort Rannick might be a better option. The only decision made is to wait.

Ovid describes Turtleback Ferry as the southernmost population centre in the King's domain. Fort Rannick is autonomous, falling in between two realms. Rowaine posits that since Enok was on crown business that he might have reported in to a representative of the King. She asks Ovid whether the city has such a representative. The shopkeeper can only think of the sheriff. Their business concluded, the party leave the shop and head towards the barracks.

The town hall and the barracks are two stone buildings that stand opposite each other farther up the street. Two guards stand outside the barracks; another two guard the entrance to the town hall. No kingly heraldry adorns either building.

King Garen's heraldry consists of a white tower upon a blue background. A white unicorn and white lion stand either side of the tower, both rampant.

Rowaine approaches the guards at the town hall, asking to see the mayor. She announces herself as Lady Rowaine of the Order of the Silver Hand. A guard withdraws to relay her message.

Troll tries unsuccessfully to sell one of his imithrium knives to the remaining guard - it is simply beyond his payscale. He does find out during the process that the casino has its own pawn shop…

The casino is run by a woman. Indeed, Turtleback Ferry has more than the usual number of women in positions of power. But the richest is the man that owns the glassworks. The guard says that his product is of exquisite workmanship and sells far and wide.

The guard returns and admits the travellers, leading them upstairs. A corridor continues at the top of the stairs and ends at a large oak door. A woman sits behind a large desk. She beckons for the group to enter.

Mayor Kendra is surprised to find that the member of the Silver Hand Order is in fact a human, and a female at that. Rowaine tells Kendra about Enok's travel through these parts on the King's business, and asks whether he made official contact. Kendra says she had reports of the ranger's visit - he stayed for a couple of days - but that she had not met him. Rowaine mentions Enok's destination and asks whether the mayor had heard anything untoward regarding the fort. Rowaine speaks of possible danger and again the subject of their quick communication comes up. Arrian explains in broad brushstrokes. Kendra cannot fathom any force that could threaten forty rangers in their stronghold. Rowaine alludes that the price of the communication was great, therefore the danger must have been equally so for Enok to consider using the device. She says it may be wise to alert the city's defences.

"Defences? We have a quarter of a wall, what kind of defence is that? We have, what? 24 militiamen? Damn! Sorry… Would you like something to drink?"

Kendra considers the rangers' unusually prolonged absence and her face conveys the worry she feels. Arrian tells her that they are heading to the fort; Rowaine asks whether the mayor has a message to carry. She has none but asks that the group send word of what they find. If she hears nothing after a week, she will assume the worst.

Kendra considers what a force capable of threatening the rangers' fort could do to her city. She says she will put the city on high alert.

Turtleback Ferry has no local representative of the crown. It was founded 150 years ago by a consortium of merchants. The King claims the domain but the city is essentially self-governing. Kendra says she will call for an emergency council meeting and will inform the party of the the meeting's business the following morning.

Kendra offers the group material assistance, but makes it clear that she has no personnel to spare. Rowaine asks of the road to Fort Rannick. Kendra says that it is relatively good for the first day but then dwindles to little more than a track. She says that the area, Kreeg's Forest, is not always safe. Although the Kreegs proper have been driven farther to the south, their offspring the Grolls are known to frequent that part of the forest and are themselves dangerous and cunning. Rowaine asks whether the rangers have any permanent stopping point on the road. Kendra does not know.

The meeting draws to a close and the party leave, crossing the street to the barracks. The sheriff is not there; in his stead the sergeant comes out. Arrian asks whether Troll might be able to sell his knives to those present but learns that Troll is no longer interested. The sergeant's face flushes.

"This is bordering disturbing the peace… My peace, in fact!"

"Sorry," says Arrian. "It won't happen again."

The party then head for the cathedral, an impressive structure that dwarfs everything else in the city. Rowaine and Arrian unknowingly lose Troll on the way. The excited elf quickly heads to the Paradise casino, a boat moored in the harbour. Inside the covered wharf that leads to the casino is a pawn broker. A gnome appraiser sits behind a glassless window. Troll hands over one of his imithrium knives for appraisal. Troll haggles the gnome's initial offer of 30gp up to 70gp worth of gambling chips. The gnome grumbles under his breath - "They'll kill me!" Troll enters the crowded casino. He picks a game and starts playing.

Meanwhile, inside the cathedral the others find chapels to Corellon Larethian, Moradin, Fharlanghn, Yondalla, Pelor and Garl Glittergold. Rowaine enters the chapel to Moradin and meets Korig, a dwarf priest. There she learns that the cathedral was completed last year. Having multiple deities represented was a priority for the inclusive-minded city; the cathedral's design was something of a compromise to meet that goal. An old artifact consisting of seven stones stands in the centre of the new cathedral; it predates the ruined cathedral, predates the city. The chapel serves around 25 dwarves. The last time Korig saw a member of the Silver Hand was twenty years ago,when Sir Veketh helped battle the Kreegs. Korig is familiar with Kharag Monastery.

Rowaine warns Korig that something may have happened at Fort Rannick. After convincing the dwarf of the possible seriousness of the situation, Rowaine takes no offence at his surprise that Sir Veketh himself did not come. The worried dwarf supplies Rowaine with a flask of beer and promises to pray for her.

Arrian visits Corellon Larethian's chapel. A similar scene plays out. He meets Rowaine afterwards and suggests that for security's sake they all sleep in the same room. It is at this point that they both realise they have lost Troll.

"I don't know where he is," begins Rowaine. "Actually, I do. Let's go." The pair head to the casino. They speak to the half-orc newly on duty and exchange nominal amounts of gold in order to enter. The half-orc scoffs and points the way.

After forty minutes of playing, Troll is ahead. Well ahead. 140gp worth of chips are stacked in neat piles on the table in front of him. Rowaine approaches Troll's table and catches his eye and gives him "the look".

"Hi," mumbles Troll. "I came to the casino just like you said…" Mead appears in Troll's hand.

"So what have you found out?" Rowaine asks.

"I was just getting onto that… I was just getting the… lay of the land."

Rowaine scoops up Troll's chips which provokes a reaction from the staff. "No problem," Troll says.

"Excuse me, sir," a burly staff member says. "We don't tolerate trouble here. Please take this outside."

Troll bets his remaining 10gp of chips on his current hand and loses it.

"Do you have anything to report?" asks Rowaine.

"No," Troll says in a subdued voice. "I forgot, I got all excited. We should go…"

"Yeah we should."

Arrian bets his 5 gold on the way out, losing it as well. Rowaine cashes in the chips and returns the gold to Troll, exiting the casino. Troll babbles excitedly about his experience. A teenage staff member chases after Troll and presents him with a voucher for 50gp of chips on his next visit for being the hour's biggest winner. Troll hands the voucher to Arrian, uninterested.

They all head to the Rusty Dragon. On the way there is more debate regarding whether and where to set up the last remaining portal. Rowaine wonders about setting it up in the cathedral, Troll dreams about the casino. Arrian suggests some private area off the road outside the city. Rowaine considers the portals too valuable to use unless absolutely necessary; Arrian wonders whether that might be too late. They ultimately decide to not decide - perhaps there is a Tower somewhere nearby that would make the point moot? The party all settle down for the night in the middle room of the three given them.

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