Chapter 03: Leads & Roads

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Session Number: 92
Date: Sunday 3 April 2011
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr8 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog9 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal9 (Craig) (kills: none)
Tomen Rgr9 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz9 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBC

The party resume their questioning. Nothing else has disappeared in the past month, either from the museum or from the guardhouse secure storage facility. Museum staff inventory their collection every couple of months; the last inventory was performed two weeks before the theft. Around twenty items are stored in the guardhouse. The guards are not familiar with the name Argot.

Jemaine says that when he saw Huack outside trying to break up a fight, he went outside to help. Both guards were outside the guardhouse for 5-10 minutes. It is against protocol for the guards to leave their stations, let alone leave the building. Rowaine asks Huack why he did so in this instance; Huack replies that she can talk to Troll about that later. It transpires that Huack left his post because he recognised one of the two drunk protagonists outside: his elder brother, Jacob. He is likely at home, where he lives with Huack and their parents. Jacob does not currently hold a job. Rowaine confirms that the two guards had eyes on the pair at all times, and that they did not enter the guardhouse. Jemaine got a good look at the other brawler while Huack was looking after his brother. Jemaine did not recognise the man. Save the two local beggars, Geoff and Steve, they saw no one else on the street.

Arrian draws the interview to a close, telling everying not to leave town. Arrian then insists that Huack immediately lead him to his home, something that Huack is reticent to do. Rowaine questions the urgency; Arrian tells Huack that he doesn't believe Jacob is directly involved in the crime, he was probably just used. However, Arrian is concerned that whoever killed Argot may have been tying up loose ends and he does not want Jacob to suffer the same fate, particularly now that the investigation has livened up. This is enough for Huack; he leads the way.

Tomen and Troll stay back to investigate the scene of the brawl. They spot two beggars propped up against each other across the street. One is asleep. The other looks up as the pair approach. "Whaddayawant?" he says. Troll smiles while pulling out a wand, pointing it at him. He says the Charm wand's command word and watches as a grin engulfs the beggar's face. "Hi!" the beggar says, amiably. "Do you have any money?" Troll gives him five coppers. "Thank you," he says.

"There was a fight a couple of weeks ago," Tomen says. "One where the guards came out. Do you remember it?"

"Yeah yeah, that one was pretty bad… For two people."

"Was there anyone else around?" Troll asks.

"I don't remember. Got any money?"

"There might be more, if you wake your friend…"

"Hey, Geoff! Wake up! This guy wants to give you money!" Geoff wakes up groggily. "Hi," he says. "What?" Troll repeats his question.

"Do you have any money?"

After repeated questions and repeated coppers, Troll eventually learns that Geoff saw a small male figure with baggy clothes, possibly with dark hair, lurking around the side of the guardhouse moments before the fight outside. He saw him dart into the guardhouse through a window shortly after. He didn't see him exit again. Tomen and Troll leave the beggars to catch up with the others.

Huack's parents' house is a detached building with a low-pitched roof in a reasonable part of town. Huack walks inside, beckons Rowaine, Arrian and Feren to follow and tells them to wait in the front room. Arrian asks whether there is a back entrance. Huack says there is not. Arrian steps outside as Huack disappears inside. He looks for a way to scale the house's wall but hand- and footholds are sparse. He readies his grappling hook, throws it onto the roof, pulls it taught and climbs up. He listens for voices inside, hears two males talking.

In Huack's absence Rowaine casts Eagle's Splendour upon herself. Huack returns to the front room, half-dragging a staggering man behind him. The man rubs his face sleepily. He looks to be a little older than Huack, in his late twenties, and is clearly very drunk. He might once have been well-muscled, but is now well out of condition.

"Jacob, is it?" Rowaine says to the man as he sways on the spot. "How are you?" Jacob struggles to focus on Rowaine, then straightens himself up. "A girl! How can I help you?" Arrian hears the exchange and climbs back down, retrieving his grappling hook and rope. Troll and Tomen arrive.

Jacob reveals that ten days ago he was in the Teared Whale, a bar aroud the corner from the guardhouse, having fun and a few drinks with his mates. They had been there for a couple of hours when a man he'd never seen before started picking a fight with him. Jacob eventually threw a punch and the pair were thrown out. His opponent didn't relent. Jacob tried to calm him down but couldn't get away. Instead, he took the fight to the guardhouse where he knew his brother Huack was on duty. His brother came out, as did Jemaine. Once the other guy seemed to realise that the two newcomers were guards, he broke off and disappeared.

Jacob cannot remember whether the guy was drunk, but he remembered being hit pretty hard. The man was younger than Jacob, probably just out of his teens, taller and of a slighter build. He had fair hair. Jacob has not seen the man since, neither at the Teared Whale nor elsewhere. The bartender, a man by the name of Stephen, hadn't seen him either.

Arrian suggests that Jacob perhaps leave town for a while. Unlikely, as the family have no relatives outside Ashhope. Arrian recommends that Huack keep an eye on his brother. The group leave. Huack returns to the museum.

Troll and Tomen tell the others about their conversation with the beggars. The group figure that the unidentified brawler was probably not Argot himself - more likely he was hired to start the fight. But how did he know where Jacob would go? Perhaps Jacob orchestrated the fight? Rowaine did not sense any falsehood in his words… Arrian suggests corroborating his story with Stephen, the bartender at the Teared Whale.

On the way, Rowaine suggests a theory that the hammer's theft was politically motivated - a move by a foreign entity to dishearten the people, perhaps as the initial salvo heralding an invasion. That town to the north was attacked, after all…

The party head to the bar, a moderate affair that is on the slightly respectable side of average. It is quiet inside, not many people are in. The bartender looks up.

"Welcome," he says. "Haven't seen you before…"

"We're new," Arrian says, introducing the group. "And you are?" Rowaine asks.

"Stephen," the bartender replies. "What'll it be?"

"Do you have any dwarven ale?" Arrian asks. Stephen looks him up and down, spotting the obvious non-dwarvenness. "No, friend… If that's your poison, and I do mean poison, you should visit the Mithral Mug, a dwarven bar further down the road."

Best tavern name EVER.

"Just an ale, then," Arrian says. "Do you have any gambling here?" Troll asks.

"Again, no," Stephen replies. "There is a casino in the other direction."

"We are looking for some information," Arrian says. "Do you remember a man called Jacob getting into a fight?"

Stephen says that Jacob is a regular, but doesn't usually drink to excess. He has been involved in the odd altercation here and there, but doesn't have a reputation for it. He tells of a new patron downing drinks on his own, one after the other - something unusual for this bar. Stephen eventually began watering his drinks. The man then got up and started slapping the heads of Jacob and his friends. Trouble brewed, so Stephen had him and Jacob thrown out. The stranger has not been in since. He was quite tall but slim with lightish hair; Stephen thinks he was about twenty years old. He had a scar that ran down the left side of his neck. Arrian gives Stephen a gold piece and the party leave.

It is getting late. Arrian and Feren prepare to visit the thieves' guild to see whether this brawler is known to them. Rowaine asks Feren to check whether Argot's other recorded larcenies were guild-sanctioned jobs, and also asks whether he might arrange another meeting with the prince. She then takes her leave and heads back to their inn. Tomen and Troll decide to take a stroll past the guardhouse window.

Tomen inspects the exterior of the guardhouse. The dirt outside has been raked over recently. There is a single window to the right of the door. There is nothing unusual about the window frame: no tell-tale dirty marks, no signs of forced entry. Tomen tries to open the window but cannot; it is not designed to be opened from the outside. Troll uses Dimension Reach to open the inside latch and open the window. How did the thief gain access that night? Was he highly skilled or magically gifted? Or was the window left open? Did Huack open it? Are both brothers in on it?

Troll closes and secures the window. He tells Tomen that he is going to "check out that other bar." Once out of sight, he heads to the casino.

At the thieves' guild, Feren and Arrian locate Corky, Feren's friend and contact. They sit down together at a quiet table. Arrian shows Corky the records that Argot kept of his previous engagements. Corky shakes his head in disbelief. He tells Arrian and Feren that five out of the six jobs are from the guild. The exception is the Hammer of Lawmeron. Arrian then gives Corky the description of the brawler. Corky believes he knows the man, by face at least, saying he is a guild member that normally frequents an inn across the road where he occasionally meets others. Not that frequently, however - few people have much to do with him on account of his intimidating manner. Corky agrees to accompany Arrian and Feren to the tavern across the road, and introduce them to the man should he be there.

The tavern Corky leads Feren and Arrian to is downright seedy and in ill repair. Nothing is clean and the place smells like stale beer. Corky points out a man at a table with near-blonde hair. Arrian says that they suspect the man has been involved in nefarious activity unauthorised by the guild; perhaps he might consider letting the appropriate people in the guild know. He thanks Corky, gives him a gold piece and buys a round of beer.

Corky and Feren stay at the bar while Arrian takes his beer over to the man's table. "I'm looking for information," he says. "About you, actually."

The man, although mentioning nothing personally identifiable, is surprisingly forthright. Perhaps it is the five gold pieces Arrian is playing with on the table. He admits that someone paid him ten gold to start a fight with a particular guy in a particular place at a particular time. His employer was a member of the guild, taller than himself, in his teens and with dark hair. He gave no instruction about leading the fight in a particular direction. Arrian gives the man the gold, saying that more would be forthcoming if he could provide more information about his employer. Arrian finishes his drink and leaves, as does Feren. They return to the inn.

Troll has a great time at the casino. He loses some money - not enough to dampen his spirits. He eventually calls it a night.

The next morning, Arrian tells the others of his meeting with Argot's alleged hired hand. Rowaine asks whether the fair-haired man positively identified Argot as his employer. Arrian admits that he didn't, but he did describe his employer as a guild member. Arrian was hoping for information that would point to Argot's employer, but it seems that the man was not party to that relationship. With that lead running cold, the party think about talking to Prince Dimaan. Arrian recalls the prince saying that not many could afford the sum Argot expected to receive for the theft of the hammer. Arrian is wondering how many, and what their names might be. Feren heads off to arrange a meeting.

Rowaine fleshes out her theory. "If I was a foreign spy trying to hire someone local to steal the Hammer of Lawmeron for an exorbitant amount of money, where would I go? Probably the thieves' guild. I wonder if there has been any other new, maybe foreign people asking interesting questions around the guild - discrete questions about off-the-books jobs. Or perhaps this wealthy employer is local… Maybe someone at court. I wonder whether the prince has any espionage agents?"

Feren returns, saying that the prince will meet them now. The party walk to his building and are escorted to the verandah. The prince is there. Arrian tells him about the staged fight with Huack's brother, but concludes that they are exhausting their leads. Rowaine asks the prince whether the realm has any enemies, foreign or domestic. The prince cannot name any. Far from it; his family's kingdom is practically on the cusp of a golden age.

Arrian asks the prince why Lawmeron is esteemed so. His family killed while he was just a young lad, Lawmeron pulled himself up by the bootstraps, chose the right path and dedicated his life to the service of good. He is held up as an ideal that all might aspire to. Rowaine briefly toys with the idea that Lawmeron himself has returned for his fabled hammer, until the prince delicately informs her that if alive, he would be over ninety years old.

Arrian asks the prince how many people might possess the resources to offer 50,000 gold for the hammer's theft. The prince is unsure, but guesses somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15-20. Arrian asks for their names; the prince arranges it, provided it is kept in the strictest confidence. The list will be delivered to the party's inn. Rowaine asks the prince whether he keeps tabs on the kingdom's friends and enemies - might he have an espionage unit that may have infomation on people or groups that might wish ill upon the kingdom and its ruling family? There is such an advisor in the prince's retinue, but he has been sent away on business.

Rowaine asks after the attacked village. The prince names the place as Zorn but is light on detail, only saying that many people there were killed. He says that a second village was attacked last night, further to the north. Both villages are inland. The prince doubts the attacks are connected to the theft of the hammer. He has sent guards and investigators to determine the nature of the attack: uprising, coup, invasion, beast-attack, or something else. He expects his retinue to report tomorrow.

The meeting ends and the party leave, heading back to the inn. They decide not to wait for the prince's list, pack up their belongings and head north on their way to Haul.

Carthenage is a day away; the party enter as the sun fades over the western farmlands. On the walk into the centre of town, Rowaine remembers the destitute halflings she met here. She briefly thinks about catching up, but dismisses the idea. They simply cannot spare the time. They arrange accommodation and spend the night.

At first light the party gather and leave. Not far from the inn, a woman approaches Rowaine.

"Are you a paladin, lady? Can you come pray with us? We are praying for the villages that have just been destroyed." Rowaine follows her, as do the others at a polite distance. The woman leads her to a small group of people. They look at her, pleadingly.

"Tell me the circumstances," Rowaine says tenderly, "that Moradin might intervene as best he can." The woman nudges a young man forward.

"I'm called Jimmy. I'm from Zorn."

"What happened?" Rowaine asks.

Jimmy was in the forests east of Zorn when it happened. He returned to see his village in ruin, a huge metal creature calmly leaving towards the north. Rowaine immediately thinks of the matre she has been pitted against previously, but Jimmy goes on to describe the creature as man-shaped, albeit twice normal size. Jimmy entered Zorn once the creature was out of sight. The village was wrecked. Mutilated bodies littered the town square. He went to his house to find it destroyed, his family literally ripped apart. He could barely recognise them. Jimmy simply ran at that point, ran all the way to Carthenage where the woman who approached Rowaine took him in. Jimmy does not know of any other survivors.

Both Rowaine and Arrian pray with the group, who offer their thanks afterwards.

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