S1 E40: The Cliff Maurauders
In which the gang clears a town, and gains a guide...
- The party returns to the dimension-traveling craft and leaves behind Quindarin's demiplane where he has locked himself away from the problem, and the solutions to the problem. In a moment of inspiration, Blizzard and Mae piece together a troubling explanation for Quindarin's reticence in addressing the problem he created - some part of his essence is what gives the life goo its power, and in the amount vested in Borem, destroying Borem might destroy Quindarin. And if this transitive property is true, then to destroy Borem, one might only need to destroy Quindarin - not that this would be simple, but it seems at least more in the realm of reality than trying to destroy a lake of boiling mud that has somehow achieved sapience.
- The vehicle returns them to where they were when they left; without the guiding control of the regulator, the facility is powered down and may not be able to cast any other travel spells save to go back and forth between Quindarin'd demiplane. The group returns to the surface, and Lorfel, his hyperintelligent walnut brain swirling with the possibilities, departs from them quietly to head back to Marleven in order to both study the problem and anchor the party's further intelligence activities, developing connections, research, maybe a spy network, maybe a criminal empire, he's not sure yet. The others make it a short distance from the mine when a pair of guards assigned to watch for them start peppering them with questions.
- In a moment of dramatic genius, Xi Shi decides the best course is to clear people off and scare everyone so they don't go monkeying around in the vehicle below. Blizzard even wants to cut the chain, but there's a distinct possibility they themselves will need to go back, so they decide to leave it, but perhaps lcok it down somehow. Blizzard and Xi Shi create a wave of panic that only increases with distance; and this is a town of relatively able bodied men and women, all workers; no elderly or children, no one truly helpless except the people laid up with the diensional madness at the infirmary; Xi Shi finds a couple of them seem to be cured already - perhaps after Deep Scream went offline permanently - and she's able to remove the curses on the others, who collect their gear and take off in haste as well, just because everyone else already did.
- This leaves the town depopulated; though much more than mere brigands, the gang does poke around and load up on supplies they feel will be necessary - food, mundane items, tools, and the strongbox, which in addition to containing the money Moghadam was going to pay them, also contains the Kannet payroll for the next few weeks. It adds up to about 14,000 gold (about $1.12M in US dollars). They borrow a sturdy wagon and cart horses, loading up supplies and the strongbox, and Zalock also borrows a good horse.
- They head down the East road towards the Blood City, past the Lamellar Flow which is a wide cave opening into which a river of melt water off the Broken Spine mountains simply disappears; word around Ettinston had suggested that Kannet had added dye to the water and confirmed it came out into Lake Timbercut within a few hours, suggesting the existence of a fast-running underground river. They make their way to the cliff gap where the road passes into and through the Broken Spine mountains.
- As they had come to expect, they were attacked in an ambush from behind by a diverse group of cliff marauders, and though their evident leader commands them to hold fire after they send an arrow into the wagon and immediately find themselves in a fight, no one actually backs down. The group is a mix of humanoid races and brigand types, but in the end even with cover they're not much of a match for the party, who run them down until the last one - the leader - stands alone. He readily surrenders, explaining they were simply looking to rob the party, and he knew as soon as it started and their warning shot was met with aggressive counterattack that they were in serious trouble. Now he, Minkus, a grizzles older-looking Hobgoblin with a few battle scars, is the only survivor of his band that once numbered seven. One of them was evidently a new guy and he's not even sure what his name was.
- Minkus explains the workings of their gang, which is spread out in three sections along this road. The first group, his, decides whether to simply straight-up rob the unwary travelers coming their way, or to extort them into paying some protection money, either way letting them return home the way they came or continue on their way if they paid the toll. The second group at the midpoint is the camp, where the brigands can rest, eat, socialize and such, then return in shiftsw to their post; the gang just eliminated the second shift from his position. The third group, close to the Blood City, is the same as Minkus' group but for travelers headed west rather than east. The technique is to wait for a visible sign that the travelers have paid the toll, and if not, to attack from the rear once the caravan has gone by. He assures them he can get them safe passage, and easily, as long as he can join up with the gang once they're through the gauntlet and have made it to the city. He agrees to act as porter and steward in the meantime.