Chapter 07: Covert Ops: Interrogation

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Session Number: 7
Date: Sunday 8th February 2015
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Balassar Brb1 (Tammi absent) (kills: none)
Besheeba Wlk1 (Alain) (kills: none)
Connor Brd1 (Yeran absent) (kills: none)
Johnny Rog1 (Craig) (kills: none)
Nicolai Clr1 (Fergus - remote) (kills: none)
Oskar Mnk1 (Ash) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: 30

"We could lighten the load a bit," suggests Besheeba, sizing up the bandit/ally ratio.

"Good idea," says Johnny. They strip the bandits of armour and weapons, giving them to Besheeba to carry.

Connor clutches his chest. "I'm not feeling so well…"

"What's wrong?" Johnny says. "That was hardly a scratch back there."

"I dunno, I…" Connor nearly drops the bandit he is holding with Nicolai.

"We'd better get going," says Johnny. "I'll come back for you lot, and 'im, in a bit. Stay sharp."

Johnny scouts ahead around 30-40 feet and finds it all clear. He returns, shoulders the third bandit and leads everyone to that point. Despite their best efforts, progress is not stealthy; they are making a considerable amount of noise. Their success hinges upon Johnny's ability to choose a safe path rather than being quiet.

Johnny scouts out three more short jaunts, crossing the river twice and eventually leading everyone to the tunnel entrance unseen. He unlocks the gate, lets everyone in and locks it behind them. Connor nearly drops his bandit's legs and leans heavily on the tunnel wall. "I'm done in, I gotta head to the infirmary."

The prisoners are still unconscious. The party discuss whether to take them directly to Governor Nighthill, or talk to him first. Nicolai is concerned for the prisoners' safety; he does not wish to have them subjected to torture. He proposes that they claim the prisoners as theirs, entitled to all care as their customs and ethics dictate.

"You did see what these bastards just did to that little kid, didn't ya?" says Johnny. "Without thought or question, they just killed 'im, in front of our eyes. I don't think they deserve anything."

"I do not want to descend to their level."

"Good for you. Good to take a stand on these things. Well done."

"What objections do you have to saying that these are our prisoners and that we are willing to turn them over provided that they are willing to commit to treating them decently?"

"I really doubt that they would agree to that," Oskar says.

"Well, then we will have to figure out what to do then."

"I'm not completely against the idea," Johnny says. "It just might put a question in their minds as to what side we're on, that's all. And I quite like them thinking we're on their side. But at least it'd give us a bit of a measure of the men, won't it? See what they say in return…"

"If I have a choice between wanting the Governor and Castellan to think well of us, and acting as my conscience dictates, the choice is clear - even though the choice may result in less safety."

"Alright," Johnny says. "As you wish. It doesn't really bother me at all."

"Can you others live with this?"

"I'd rather stay on the Governor's good side," Oskar says. "He is giving us medical supplies that he might give to his own people."

"It could just be a matter of tact, couldn't it?" Johnny says. "I mean, if we just go up to the Governor and say, 'We've got your guys… Now, you're not goin' to do anything nasty like lop their 'eads off or anything like that, just because they say a word bad, now, are ya?' It's just a matter of 'ow we pitch it, right? I don't want any of us ta go in there, all bloody 'olier than thou, and say 'Right! Thou must obey Moonbow God Seha..' (I don't really know what the f^(& she's called…) Coz that's just gonna get his back up, innit? Maybe I should 'andle this."

"We won't have an hour to discuss what to do if he says no, so we should decide now what to do if he does," says Oskar.

"Well, it's not like we're gonna throw 'em back in the woods, is it?" Johnny says. "For all we know, they were entirely conscious and playing possum on the way here, and now they know where the bloody gate is!"

"Mmm," Nicolai mutters in agreement. "Releasing them would probably be worse. We have no choice but to turn them over to Castellan, but I think we do it with the request that they be treated according to decent moral standards, with our confidence that that will be the case."

"I think that's an alacrity idea," says Johnny.

"Ah, splendid, John. Who would like to present this idea to the powers that be? I have noticed that while I seem to present perfectly good ideas, people don't always react well to them."

"As I said, it's a matter of tact and knowin' who you're talking to."

"Be my guest, Mr. Smith."

"You lot look after our guests 'ere, make sure they aren't playing possum. I'll go and talk to our Governor."

"I would be very happy to help in the infirmary, which is my place after all," says Nicolai. "See to our companions, and those other unfortunate wounded souls."

"It's important to know one's place, innit?" Johnny says. He then adds in a lower voice, "My place is anywhere I bloody well like…"

While Nicolai busies himself in the infirmary, Johnny looks for Governor Nighthill. As he moves about the keep, a phrase the Governor said comes to mind: "I'd give anything to talk to one of the bandits." Johnny wonders just how humanitarian the Governor is willing to be…

Johnny locates Governor Nighthill upon the battlements. "Ah, Governor," he begins. "You might be interested to know that we were successful in finding some people out there that I'm pretty sure aren't from these parts."

"Excellent. Where are these people?"

"Oh, they're being man-handled through the tunnels as we speak."

"Excellent! Thank you so much. They will be very interesting to talk to."

"Yeah. I don't s'pose, you know, just as a kindness, because you know we put our necks on the line and everything… You wouldn't mind if we were actually present while you were talkin' to 'em, would ye? I feel terrible about what's happened to your fair town, and I think if we 'eard it from the 'orse's mouth, we would be able to go out there and serve you that much better."

"I suppose so… It seems like a strange request."

"Oh, just in the interests of, you know, 'know your enemy' an' all that… They're in reasonable shape, they're unconscious 'n' all that, but we got three of 'em."

"Excellent. I'm sure that will give us plenty of … ah … information."

Redundancy?

"Separate 'em out, eh? Divide 'n' conquer."

"The information we require is time-critical, so if you are squeamish I suggest you don't partake in the questioning."

"Oh, I see… Are you gonna be, uh, doin' this behind closed doors and not necessarily in the way that the good folk would like to know about? Puttin' it delicately…"

"We have women and children being killed. We need to know how many there are, where they are, what they're doing. We don't really have the luxury of time. We need to know now what's going on. We can't wait for an hour for somebody to decide it's a good idea to give information."

"Yeah. I'm right with you on that. Well, where do you want 'em?"

"I will send this young man here to fetch a couple of guards, and they will take them to the cells and we'll take it from there. You're quite welcome to be present, if that is still your wish."

"I take no pleasure in this… I'd rather we didn't have to resort to… if we possibly could."

"Absolutely. This is not the way we would normally treat prisoners, but as I said, most of our village is still out there and we don't know what's happening to them. The sooner we know, the better."

"Best not waste any time, then. Follow me."

Johnny leads the man, a sergeant, down to the tunnel. "If you don't mind, I'll 'ave a quick word with me team," he says, then turns and leaves the guards behind.

"'ere," Johnny says to the others in the tunnel. "We've got an open invitation, but I don't think they're gonna be particularly gentle. They need information, and they need it now. I don't necessarily like it, but I understand it."

"I'd like to be present in the room," Oskar says. Everyone turns to stare. "So I can learn what they know," the dwarf adds.

"Maybe I can persuade them to talk," Besheeba says.

"What, do your ol' scary face, shake the ground stuff?" says Johnny.

"No no… But I would need to be…"

"…alone with them for a while?"

"No, I would need to see them and they don't see me… I can talk to them in their minds, saying that all of this is part of the plan; there is an ambush prepared and all they have to do is say what they know because it won't matter."

"You can do that, can't ya?" Johnny says. "It's a bit weird, the voices in their heads. They wouldn't have had that before; why would they trust you?"

"I don't know… But after a couple of hits, it might make my path more attractive… I don't think that these people as particularly loyal either. If it can prevent some pain, they may be more likely to believe."

"Could you pretend to be that dragon?" Johnny suggests. "Could you talk in a really scary voice in their 'eads? Don't you know draconic? You could throw a few words in there… Sound all screechy in their 'eads… They might believe that."

"Maybe, yes."

"Should we put it to the Governor? It's another arrow in 'is quiver, innit?"

"Yes, and it might prevent them being really hurt."

The guards arrive; perhaps they have been briefed to make it quick. "Ready?"

"Yep yep," Johnny says. "We might 'ave a word with the Governor before you.. tuck in, shall we say?"

"Alright."

The guards take the prisoners to the dungeons. Each is placed into a cage inside separate stone cells. "Hold fire," Johnny says. "Where might we find the Governor?"

"Go up top and you will find him on the battlements."

Johnny and Besheeba find the Governor. "'ere, Mr. Nighthill. You remember Besheeba?"

"I do. Hello little girl. Are you OK? Would you like to go play with the other children?"

"Ah," says Johnny. "Now you see what you're doin' there? You're doin' the thing what makes her great. You're underestimating her. Now Besheeba 'ad a bit of a talk to me about an idea that I think you might like to 'ear."

As the Governor's gaze returns to her, Besheeba speaks. "I might be able to persuade them that their capture was part of a plan to ambush forces that you would send, and that all they need to do is to talk - and they would be rewarded by their mistress."

Nighthill considers Besheeba's words. "I think that is a strikingly good idea. What do you need?"

"I just need your guards to hurt them - not too much. And for me to see them without them being able to see me."

"There is a window in the cell door…"

"That would do. I can speak in their minds."

"Oh, that's incredibly… I wouldn't tell anybody that, by the way, if I were you. Well, the show is yours. Give instructions to the guards, let them know what you want them to do. I must warn you though, I only have a certain amount of time to get this information. If it looks like you're failing, then we'll take matters into our own hands."

"OK."

Besheeba and Johnny make their way towards the lower levels. "Besheeba," says Johnny, "would you like, I dunno, a prop? Do you want somebody to do something for you that might make your message that much stronger? Could I wear the mask and the cape, maybe?"

"What do you mean?"

"You want them to believe that this is all a big ruse, and that they are supposed to follow orders, so I'm just wondering whether seeing one of theirs might just persuade them to do that, I dunno…"

"It needs to be supernatural," Besheeba says, considering. "It might just be a bit complicated."

"It could be, you could be right."

"I just need a natural way to do it so that they can believe…" Besheeba stops for a few seconds. "Yes. I know what I will do." She takes out the mask and cape. Outside the cells, she addresses the guards. "Start with the one in the cell to the right," she says - the bandit that once wielded the club. "Go in, close the door, put him on a chair or whatever, and start softening him up. Stand to the sides, don't get between him and the door."

"Shall we use our usual techniques?"

"Like?"

"Well… Um, you probably shouldn't be here for this one, miss…"

"Could you just beat him up - just a bit?"

"OK… That doesn't normally work, does it? We'll give it a shot, I s'pose…"

"Beat him up for no more than a minute, then let's see…"

"OK, whatever you say…"

The two guards enter, as does Oskar, who closes the door behind them. The guards place the man's wrists in chains and haul him up off the ground. They then each don a pair of leather gloves, then douse the man in water until he awakes. They then start punching him in the lower chest. There is the crack of a rib.

"Besheeba, are you sure about this?" Johnny asks. Besheeba puts on the mask and stands at the doorway, visible through the window. She speaks in the man's mind, some words in draconic, then in common: "We know how to enter the castle, thanks to you. We are coming. You can tell them whatever they want to know, it is no matter, they will be dead before the morning."

Persuasion Check: 9. Oh, dear.

Besheeba knows that her performance has had little impact - far less than the physical impact the man is enduring. Inside the cell, the thumping continues. "We gotta stop this," Johnny says. "We gotta stop this now. What about just the truth?"

Besheeba opens the door and enters with Johnny. "Thank you," she says to the guards. "You can wait outside now." The guards file out. Besheeba then addresses the man, obviously badly hurt. "So why are you doing this? Is it worth it now?"

The man coughs. "You're all gonna die…"

Besheeba's voice enters the man's head. "You really think they are coming?"

The man looks uncertain, then shakes his head. "You're all gonna be dead anyway in the morning! We're gonna take this town, and we're keeping it!" Blood oozes from the man's mouth.

"Why this town?"

"We are the Cult of the Dragon! We are collecting loot for the great horde that will usher in the reign of the Queen of Dragons! She shall look over our dragon eggs that we have in our camp and the reign of the dragons shall fall upon the earth and only the believers shall be saved! Only the followers shall be exempt from the fiery death; the rest of you shall die, screaming in pain!"

"So, you are taking people alive, then?"

"We are not here for people, we are here for treasure for our Queen."

"Do you take any prisoners?"

"We have no need of prisoners."

"So you kill everybody that you find?"

"We have no reason to kill everybody that we find."

"But if you are only about wealth, then you don't need this town; just take what it has."

"I don't lead. I follow."

"Where you from?" Johnny asks.

"A place over the sea that you have not heard of. You will never see it, because you will soon be dead! All the unbelievers shall be wiped from the earth; the great Queen shall scour the lands!"

Johnny presses on. "And where are you taking all this loot?"

"To our camp."

"And where's that, then? Y'know, since I'll be dead in the morning."

"Far from here, you will never find it! It is guarded by many of my brethren."

"Hm," Besheeba muses. "You are not very confident, given your foe is supposed to be dead in the morning. What harm is there in telling us?"

"I must be careful in case you pass on the information to others."

"When we found you, you were patrolling the edge of the wood. Why is that, if you are looking for loot?"

"We have to stop people from taking their valuables and keeping for themselves, when they should be the property of the Queen. All hail the Queen of Dragons!"

"This queen got a name?" asks Johnny.

"She shall rain fire upon you all!"

"That's a bloody awkward name…"

"You are telling me that there are other people in the town that are not part of your brethren?" asks Besheeba.

"Well, there are the villagers… Who shall surely die unless they turn and follow the true Queen of the Dragons."

"But how does the queen choose her men like you? How did you become a follower?"

"I have been found worthy. I have proven myself as a loyal follower."

"But were you like one of these villagers once? Raided, and deciding to follow the queen so as not to die?"

"I too was like you - an unbeliever, destined to die a horrible fiery death, but I saw the truth and I saw the light."

"So you are recruiting too?"

The man pauses. "How does one find the truth and the light?" asks Johnny.

"It is a matter of faith."

"They must've been bloody suspicious of you to begin with… You were just a villager in a place that they were sacking… How did you prove yourself to 'em?"

"You'll have to be smarter than that."

"What will happen to you," says Besheeba, "if you die before the queen of the dragons…"

"My sacrifice will be noted for the afterlife."

"That's all very well and good," says Johnny, "y'know, for those who believe in that sorta thing… Maybe you do, maybe you don't. You certainly paint a lovely picture, if you like mayhem and carnage and killing little children 'n' that, that's fine. But I think, just between grown adults here, both you know and I know that your time's up. Alright? So, all this glory an' all this dragon hoopla, doesn't mean the slightest bit of shit, coz you're gonna be stuffed in about an hour…"

"My brethren shall come for…"

"You came from a village that had gods that weren't this dragon, right? What do you think they think o' you, right now?"

"It does not matter."

"You, my friend, have been given a chance that probably not many of you get, and that is to turn your back on this bullshit, and get yourself right with the gods of your family, before you meet your maker. Did you see the look on their faces as they died, the children?"

The man is not swayed. "You shall repent one day, and follow the one true Queen!"

"Right now," says Johnny, "I'm 'appy where I am. I honestly can't say the same for you."

"I shall live forever in her eyes."

"You'll probably live forever in her tummy. Dragons? Giving a crap about the likes of us? Good one!"

"Who is the dragon that was with you?" Besheeba asks.

"He is a true follower."

"This dragon probably has the means itself to destroy this castle. Why are you here?"

"The dragon shall avenge me!"

"It's a pretty lame consolation."

"I have faith in my Queen."

"Probably because you don't have faith in yourself. As my friend said, there's not much time before you breathe for the last time."

"I give my life for my Queen."

"You really think that you will live in the afterworld with your queen? Do you?"

"Of course."

Besheeba removes her hood. "What about the abyss?" The tiefling makes her hair and eyes glow with fire. Johnny starts shrieking, playing along. Besheeba continues. "I will take your soul down there, where even your queen will not be able to reach! Do you know what happens to those that pass the rest of eternity in the abyss? Tell me what I want to know!"

Intimidate check with advantage: 17

"Aargh!"

"Where is your camp?"

"A few hours south of here."

"Who is your leader, the person in the purple cape?"

"Her name is Frulim Mondath, the great warrioress and wizardess."

"Is there any part of town that you haven't looted yet?"

"I don't know what's going on all over town."

"Has the church been looted?"

"We're about to burn it down. There're a whole bunch of people in there and we want to get at the loot that's inside."

"'ave you ever walked away from a town that you started looting?" Johnny asks.

"No. Obviously not. The Queen wouldn't like that, that would be a failure."

"Where are you heading next?"

"I don't know."

"The eggs that are at your camp," Besheeba says, "how many are there?"

"I don't know."

"Are you taking any slaves?"

"We sometimes take prisoners that get in our way, but no, not really."

"Do you know if you have taken any from this town?"

"Not that I know of."

"Who is in command at the camp, now that the great warrioress wizardess is here?"

"I don't know."

"Who do you report to, then?" asks Johnny.

"Sergeant Smith. Sergeant John Smith."

"What does this mean?" Besheeba asks, indicating the mask.

"It is just an ornamental mask."

"It isn't worn by any chosen..?"

"Some of the acolytes wear them."

"How many are you?"

"Hundreds and hundreds."

"How many men have you assigned to burn the church?"

"I don't know, I just know that's what's happening. I suppose there will be a dozen or two."

"How many left back at camp?" Johnny asks.

"I don't know how many came, I just know there are hundreds of us."

"The blue dragon we saw, tell us about it."

"He is one of the exalted dragons, proving that we are followers of the Dragon Queen. Otherwise dragons wouldn't follow us, would they?"

"Did it participate in the battle?"

"Absolutely. We are trying to gather a hoard for the Queen of the Dragons. The Dragon Queen is also their Queen, of course they would participate."

"Do you know the name of this particular dragon?"

"Lemathon."

Besheeba turns to Johnny. "Wait for me here."

"Alright…"

Besheeba leaves the cell and speaks to the guards. "Are there any questions that the Governor has directed you to ask?"

"No, he said you're in charge."

"I see. This one has talked and I believe he knows more than the other two…"

"So we can get rid of the other two, then?"

"They could be useful later; we should keep them alive for now."

Besheeba steps back into the cell and catches Johnny's eye. "I'm going to see the Governor, do you want to come?"

"Yeah," says Johnny. "I will."

Oskar stays with the prisoner while Johnny and Besheeba seek out the Governor. They find him still on the battlements. "Did you get any information out of them?" he asks. Besheeba tells him that the enemy have sacked Greenest to amass a hoard of treasure for their Dragon Queen, that they have dragon eggs at their camp a couple of hours south, and that they are about to burn the church with people inside.

"I wonder… I mean I know I have imposed upon you much already… Could you save the people in the church, please?"

This adventure is officially called "Greenest in Flames". On the Auckland Roleplaying site, it has two other names: "The Long Night", and "The TPK".

"Do you have any other questions for them?" Besheeba asks.

"No, that sounds like all the information we could want. Are you finished with them?"

"Yes, but we should probably keep them alive, they could guide us to their camp later."

"Alright."

"We should get back to the others," says Besheeba. "Somebody should go and get Nicolai, too."

"We'll get 'im on the way," Johnny says.

The sorceror and rogue head towards the infirmary. Along the way, they hear a cry from above and a whooshing, flapping sound of long period.

"Shit, we were right," Johnny says. "We will all be dead by morning."

"We will save the church and lose the castle!"

"We've got to get everybody down, out of the way of whatever it is up there!"

"But there will be nobody to defend the battlements," Besheeba says.

"What are you gonna do up there? Apart from die?"

"I'm just a lowly acolyte. I don't know anything…"

"You go to the others in the tunnel, I'll meet you there. I'm gonna go get Nick! Go, go!"

Johnny heads to the infirmary as Besheeba continues towards the tunnel and the others.

"Oi, Nick!" Johnny yells as he bursts into the infirmary. "We're under attack again! We gotta get down to safety?"

"Down?"

"We ain't got any hope against something with wings that big! I think blue's back."

"The blue dragon we saw earlier?"

"Didn't see it. C'mon, we need to regroup! The others are in the tunnel."

Johnny leads Nicolai to the others in the tunnel beneath the keep. There, Besheeba is bringing everyone up to speed.

"What did you find out?" asks Nicolai.

"With the prisoners?" says Johnny. "They spilled the beans, there's some stuff we know now, they're not dead."

"I am glad. Although eventually we must surrender them to the local authority's justice."

"I think we just did."

"Right. And this thing with the dragon?"

"I s'pose I could have a look-see," Johnny says. "Confirm what I think…"

"But they are about to burn the church, and there are a lot of people in there. We need to go."

"Defend the castle against possible dragon attack," says Oskar, "or save the church…"

"There is nothing we can do about a dragon," says Besheeba, "but we might save people at the church."

"I find that argument compelling," says Nicolai.

"Yeah, we gotta go," says Johnny. "Who's got that potion? Coz I need it." Nicolai hands him the last remaining potion and Johnny quaffs it. "Alright, boys, let's go out there again…"

The four adventurers venture out along the tunnel once more. As they quietly walk, Johnny whispers to Nicolai some of what they learned from the prisoner: that their enemy is a cult of the dragon with a queen, they are looting villages, they have a bunch of dragon eggs at their camp a few hours to the south, their leader is a warrior-wizard called Frulim Mondath, in total they number in the hundreds but they are not all here, and the blue dragon's name is Lenathon.

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