Chapter 07: Dicks & Idiots

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Session Number: 96
Date: Sunday 1 May 2011
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr9 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog10 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal10 (Craig) (kills: none)
Tomen Rgr9/Drd1 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz10 (Densial) (kills: one reputation)

XP Awarded: TBA

Troll, flush with knowledge from the past few months, wants to find the mage's guild. The others debate visiting the town hall, and whether to take Uther with them. His identity is well-concealed by Tomen's hat, but can the party trust him to remain in character? He might go septic at the sight of his brother, his captor and tormentor. Or if the party have got it wrong and he is in fact the evil one, he might take the opportunity to kill his brother.

Arrian asks Uther about his brother's capabilities. Uther believes Umbridge studied the magic arts. He describes his experience of being trapped in the armour as having 'shared minds' with his brother. In battles against particularly dangerous opponents, Umbridge lent magical assistance to his brother.

"What does your brother stand to gain from returning in your place, Uther?" Rowaine asks.

"He will take the name of Lawmeron and ruin it," Uther says soberly. "He hates everybody. He hates himself, and he especially hates me. He will wreck the name of Lawmeron, and everything around it. He will want to hurt as many people as he can while doing so."

"You must harbour a massive desire for vengeance," Rowaine states.

"I'm not angry with him," Uther says quietly. "I just want him stopped."

Arrian buffs Rowaine and the party at large before heading to the prince's residence. Prince Dimaan greets them and leads them to his balcony meeting place.

"Welcome, adventurers and friends of Feren. Have you managed to find the hammer?"

"No," Rowaine says. "But has someone else?"

"Yes, Uther has returned," the prince explains, his face breaking into an uncharacteristic smile. "Isn't it fantastic?"

"Um, interesting story behind that," Troll says. Rowaine asks their guest to remove the magical hat. He immediately transforms into the vigor-filled 40-year-old depicted in the city's many statues. Prince Dimaan draws his sword.

"What's going on?"

"Your highness," Rowaine says, palm outstretched, "we believe this to be Uther."

"Well, sure it is," the prince replies, confused. "This is the man who arrived yesterday with the hammer."

"This is not the same person," Rowaine explains. "We believe that whoever has come calling themselves Uther Lawmeron…"

"I don't think this is right," the prince interrupts. "I've talked to Uther. He's over at the town hall now."

"You are aware that Uther had a twin brother?" Rowaine asks.

"No, he doesn't have a brother," the prince says. "Who is this?"

Troll takes a deep breath. "This is someone that looks, sounds, smells, tastes exactly like Uther does. Who do you think it might be?"

"Well, it's not Uther," the prince retorts. "I've met him."

Troll assumes the demeanour of a not overly patient parent trying to explain something to an ADHD child. "Well… You've met someone who looks like Uther, right?"

"Correct…"

"This person, right?"

"Yes. I've met him."

"Then this must be Uther."

"Uther is at the town hall!"

"How do you know?"

"Because I talked to him before. He has gone to the town hall."

"How do you know he's Uther?"

"Because I know he's Uther! We've met and talked!"

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"Yeah yeah," Troll says, "but how did you know he was Uther when you met him?"

"Because he's the same person in the statues."

"But isn't this the person in the statues?" Rowaine asks, indicating their companion. Uther remains calm and quiet.

"Well… yes," the prince says. "I mean, Uther is not quite as well-built as this person, but at a pinch I would say yes."

"OK," Troll says. "So we've got two people who look exactly the same, right?"

"Yes, obviously."

"You are aware of the concept of twins, I presume?" Rowaine says, impatience tinting her words. Troll ignores her.

"…So if we have got two people who look exactly the same, you are saying that one of them is definitively Uther because he came to you first and said he was Uther."

"He also had the Hammer of Lawmeron," the prince says. "And I got in contact with some councillors who recognised him as Uther Lawmeron."

"So," adds Arrian, "he had the hammer that was stolen…"

"But other than that," Troll carries on, "other than the hammer, there is no way of telling them apart, is there?"

The prince turns to Rowaine. "Can you shut this guy up?"

"I'm afraid it would be irresponsible of me to do so, your highness," Rowaine replies. "Troll is trying to make a very valid point."

Troll again vies for the prince's attention. "Other than the fact that he had the hammer, what other proof did you seek to prove that he was Uther?"

"Upon him arriving," Prince Dimaan says, "everyone recognised him as Uther. So I took him to the town hall to see if everyone would recognise him as the man in the statues. He looks exactly the same as the statues, and so we know him to be Uther."

"But sir," Rowaine interjects, "now you have two people that look like the statues. Who do you know to be the true Uther? How do you make that decision?"

"I'll need to talk to my people about this," the prince says. His ego is obviously ruffled.

"You saw what my hat does," Tomen says. "Maybe the other person has something similar."

"I have to talk to my people," the prince repeats. "I want you to leave."

"I have to apologise for the manner of my friend," Arrian says placatingly. "I think it would be better to talk a little more respectfully to the leader of this place, and I apologise." Arrian's eyes turn pointedly to Troll, who completely misses the look because he is in the middle of casting a Detect Magic spell. Troll is convinced that anyone this dense must be enspelled. His spell does not back up that theory.

"Would it be OK to talk with the prince in private?" Arrian asks. The prince glares at Troll, but nods.

"A long as he leaves, and she leaves," the prince says, indicating Troll and Rowaine, "I will continue this meeting."

"Rowaine, I'll meet you in five minutes," Arrian says. Rowaine and Troll leave the building.

"What a dick!" Troll yells once outside. "I'm gonna go. Leave the humans to themselves. This guy is obviously an idiot. I'll be back in a minute… I'm gonna get something to eat." With that, Troll stalks off. Rowaine watches him leave, then looks up at the second storey where her other companions are. Who does she stay with? She eventually satisfies herself with watching where Troll goes, then waits for the others to come downstairs.

Upstairs, Arrian addresses the prince. "Let me tell you what has happened," he says. "You are aware of the giant metal humanoid?"

"Yes," Dimaan says. "And I also heard that you were looking for it."

"We found it, and we killed it," Arrian says.

"Oh. Thank you."

Arrian nods in acknowledgement. "However, the story doesn't end there. We found a scrawny old man held captive inside the armour."

"Was he controlling it?"

"We don't believe so," Arrian replies. "During the combat Lady Rowaine positively detected evil about the creature, but after it fell, the evil was gone - neither man nor armour bore the stench of it. The man inside was very unwell - dehydrated, malnourished, at the point of death. The man we found is the man we have presented to you now. The story he recounted to us is that he was imprisoned within the armour forty years ago, by his brother - a person he describes in very unsavoury terms. Now at this time we cannot say for certain who is who, but it casts some suspicion upon the gentleman you encountered yesterday, claiming to be Uther.

"What I think we need to do," Arrian continues, ensuring his words are being digested, "is determine who is who in some reliable way. But I just wanted you to know, sir, that the person who is passing himself off to you as Uther may or may not be who he says he is. He may in fact be a very nasty character who is responsible for the death over two hundred of your citizens in two of your towns. When this man told us that he was not in control of the armour, it resonated with our experience: when we were fighting it, it seemed there were times when two entities were contesting for control over it, resulting in erratic behaviour. We don't know who was who… but our paladin assures me that this man does not bear the taint of evil, as the armour surrounding him did."

"Interesting story," the prince says. "Allow me to tell you mine. Uther came into Ashhope yesterday, bearing the Hammer of Lawmeron. He started greeting people, who began recognising him from the city's statues."

"What were your thoughts on how the hammer came to be in his possession?" Tomen asks.

"I have a couple of people investigating that," the prince explains. "He says he found the hammer and took it as a sign that he should break his self-imposed exile and return."

"He just found it?"

"Yes. Investigations are under way. I am a little skeptical about that detail. Anyway, he found out where I reside and came to me, saying he wanted to help the city in any way he was able, be it a figurehead, a government official, whatever. My councillors recognised him too, so I declared a festival to celebrate our hero's return. Now, you come brandishing another Uther… This is all very complicated."

"It's a difficult situation," Arrian says sympathetically, "and I think we need to tread very carefully."

The prince spends a few seconds in thought. We need need to organise a meeting. Get them both together. Force one or another's hand."

"I would advocate that," Arrian says, "but with caution. Our Uther believes his twin brother to be a wizard. Do you have mages in your employ?"

"Yes."

"Then I would think it wise to have them near."

"I will sort out something along those lines," the prince says. "We may need your paladin there also. She may be able to identify any evil intent."

"I can also help with a spell that prevents people telling lies," Arrian adds. "How shall we do this? I suggest that we do not commnicate any of this to the other Uther until tomorrow."

"I will seek my father's advice," the prince says. "And the councillors'."

"I urge the utmost in discretion, your highness," Arrian warns. "If the triumphant prodigal son is in fact an evil spellcaster, we could face great difficulty. We must not tip our hand too soon."

"Of course," the prince says dismissively. "Thank you for your tact, Arrian, friend of Ashhope. Can you keep your man's identity concealed?"

"Yes, your highness."

"I'll sort out a location to meet," the prince says. "I believe the mage's guild has a building set aside for their more explosive antics. That might suit. Are you in the same rooms as before?"

"We can be," Arrian replies.

"Don't approach the other Uther," the prince warns.

"As you wish. Thank you, your highness."

"And you. Keep that man of yours in check." Arrian, Tomen and Feren then leave, joining Rowaine outside. Arrian recounts the details of the conversation.

"We should be careful around town," Arrian warns. "If Umbridge could see through the armour's eyes, he may recognise us."

"There are other reasons to be careful," Rowaine adds. "If the prince chooses to side with the other Uther, where does that leave us? He may swoop down upon him, and take us as co-conspirators. For all we know, he's right."

"Troll can teleport us out," Tomen says.

"Why don't we leave town?" Arrian suggests. "Camp outside, then come back tomorrow? We can then send word where we are." Rowaine agrees. Arrian writes a note for the prince, saying that they intend to keep Uther out of town and will return tomorrow morning and make contact. He gives the note to the person at the door of the prince's residence. "Where's Troll? he asks upon his return.

"He went off to 'find something to eat,'" Rowaine says. "I think that's code for 'find something more interesting to do.' He was pretty upset."

"Might he have gone to find Uther?"

"It's definitely within the realms of possibility," Rowaine says. "My guess is he'll look for the mage's guild. He's been on about it for days."

Troll has indeed been looking for the mage's guild, and has found it. Not having any experience of them, he has no idea what to expect. A tall tower? A small but highly decorated castle? An interdimensional portal to another plane? No, Ashhope's mage's guild is a large but simple building in a relatively residential area of the city. Troll knocks on the door. A man opens it and invites Troll inside.

"Are you a mage?" Troll asks.

"I'm not, but this is the mage's guild. How can I help you?"

"I want to see a mage."

"Why do you wish to see a mage?"

"Mage's business!"

Another man in the far corner of the room yells without looking up. "Why do you want to see a mage? If it's to see the speckly thing on your arse, go to the doctor's guild!"

"Are you a mage?" Troll asks the other.

"Yes, why?"

"I want some spells."

"Are you a mage?"

"Yes!"

The man puts on his bureaucratic voice. "You need to join the guild and serve a six month internship first."

"Why?" Troll asks. "That sounds stupid!"

"It's called hierarchy. Order."

"There's your problem right there! Can't I just buy some spells from you?"

The man pauses. "The guild is not averse to financial transactions, but we can't give out spells to just anyone."

"I'm not just anyone," Troll says. "I'm special!"

"As you say, but I have no proof of that. Do you know anyone in this city who can vouch for you?"

"Well… I just pissed off your prince," Troll says. "He's a bit of a dick so it didn't worry me. What?" he says as the man's demeanour hardens.

"We are on good terms with the prince. If you 'pissed him off,' we will not serve you. Your intern time has gone up to two years."

"You are not a very big mage's guild, are you?"

"I want you to leave."

"I want to speak to your superior!"

"I want you to leave!"

"Can I have your name?"

"Leave now, or I will be force to take harsher measures." Troll pauses, then leaves. The man closes the door behind him.

"I'm not very happy about this treatment!" Troll yells. "You know that, don't you?" He stamps off.

"This entire city is screwed," Troll mumbles to himself. "I've had enough of it. I see no value in this city whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned, Uther's brother can level the lot. Bunch of dicks! 'Blah blah our prince is wonderful blah blah bloody blah…'"

Troll almost walks into Rowaine and the others. It is apparent his mood has not improved. Arrian quickly establishes what has just happened.

"Would you like one of us to try to buy you your spells?"

"No. Don't bother. They're not worth anything to me any more. Their prince is a dick and their mages are dicks. Umbridge can have this city for all I care."

"As angry as you are, Troll," Arrian says, "we can't let the destroyer of Zorn and Piltover have his way here too. No matter how stupid the people here are."

"Lives, Troll," Rowaine says.

"Stupid lives. Alright… Whaddaya wanna do then?"

"I think we should all cool off," Rowaine says.

The party leave town and set up camp. The night passes uneventfully. In the morning, the group prepare for what may shape up to be an interesting day.

After striking camp, the group return to Ashhope and send a runner to the prince, informing him of their return and saying they will await his instructions at the Mithral Mug, the dwarven inn.

The party head to the establishment. Arrian buys a dwarven ale, the others sip at water and tea. Arrian engages the barkeep in typical dwarven smalltalk. In a little while a messenger arrives: the prince desires an immediate audience. Arrian finishes his drink and everyone heads to his residence.

The group are greeted in the front room by Prince Dimaan. He asks Lawmeron to remove his hat. Dimaan watches the transformation, shaking his head. There is some tension between Dimaan, Troll, Arrian and Uther: certain people are not initially welcome and are not interested in being here. Finally, Arrian and Feren are invited upstairs to discuss arrangements while the others stay below.

Prince Dimaan has asked the prodigal Uther to a meeting at dusk after a busy day of appointments. The meeting is to take place at a mage's guild facility in the outskirts of Ashhope, one used for some of the guild's more experimental dweomers. The royal family's best mage, their most senior priest and their most trusted military commander will attend. The party are to bring the second Uther. Between them, they hope to determine any ill intent from either of the two brothers. The prince is wary of the confrontation, fully expecting one of the brothers to attack the other. He suspects the prodigal, hammer-bearing brother will make the first move. Arrian and Feren agree to the plan on the party's behalf. The prince gives directions to the facility, which is south by southwest of the city centre. Arrian and Feren rejoin the others and leave.

The group decide to investigate the meeting site ahead of time. Tomen plots an indirect route that has them approach the area from the south. The buildings in the area are widely spaced, surrounded by rolling grasslands. A few copses of trees dot the landscape and the woods begin to thicken to the south. The guild building is a large, flat-roofed stone structure a little more than than two storeys tall. A single door faces the distant road, outside which two men stand. The building appears to have no windows.

Tomen identifies a copse of trees atop a shallow ridgeline that would serve as a stakeout. He then leaves the others there while he scouts the area.

Twenty minutes after Tomen leaves, two men exit the building. They join the previous two and walk towards the road. Several minutes later, a fifth figure runs towards the building and ducks inside. Five minutes later he exits and runs away.

Dodgy!

Troll chooses an area near the edge of the forest that still has an acceptable view of the building and begins studying it as a target for his new Teleport spell. The party then discuss options for the upcoming meeting and a plan begins to take shape. Feren volunteers to use Tomen's hat to assume Uther's identity. This would mean that Uther would not be the initial target should combat ensue, giving Troll the precious seconds he would need to Teleport all to safety. An alternative idea would be to have Rowaine take Uther on Harley, circling underground. Either way, at the first sign of treachery the party hopefully have the opportunity to bug out.

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