Let's Make a Deal
Wait - why are we going here?
23 Sexemra, 887
The party spent the night on the defended hill, listening to the sounds of wolves howling in the distance. Nothing came near, however, and they were ready to travel at first light. They gathered their belongings, loaded the wagon, and hit the road. Trading a direct path for ease of travel, they skirted the forested area and found a road that was little more than two wagon ruts.
As they traveled, a tornado touched down in the distance. It was never a danger to them, dissipating before they were within a few miles of it. Later, they saw some farms in the distance, although they never encountered any people. The closest they came was when they saw a flock of sheep grazing in a nearby meadow, but there was no shepherd in sight. As they began to draw nearer, they had time to talk. Carta took the time to teach his young page how to better live the ideals of Adalci and knighthood, while Durdeg and Malcer tried to get more information about what was going on from Sif.
As they closed in on the keep and Carta joined the conversation, Sif began to tell them why she had to come, and what they could expect. She told them of the message in her dream, how one of her brethren had come here, and was in trouble. They saw the keep was in good repair, and had a banner flying over indicating a noble was in residence. Sif began to wonder just which of her brethren she would find, and what exactly the nature of the trouble was. The others joined in her concern.
Carta identified the symbols on the coat, and was able to glean that this was the son of a Count, and that they were dedicated to the God Corinne. He explained the heraldry on the area, and they all entered the gate. The first thing they saw were the guards, but the second was a Nelwyn in what appeared to be a recently constructed pillory, looking up as best he can and waving in Sif's direction.
Sif groaned at the site of Weco, possibly the last member of the Circle she would want to see in this situation. A well dressed servant came from the only doorway they could see, and approached the group. Observing the actions of the Nelwyn, he focused on Sif, asking why they were here, and what they had to do with the thief. Sif most certainly did not want to take responsibility for a heist gone wrong, and couldn't expect anyone else to do so, and tried to focus on what would constitute success instead of just the plight of the Nelwyn.
The butler said it would take some time for the Gentleman to come out, but they could wait and explain the situation. The fast talking Weco tried to explain, but it was self serving and didn't make much sense. When the Gentleman finally arrived, with the help of some goodwill between two followers of the Gods (and maybe a bit of embarrassment for staring at Durdeg), they were able to determine the events that had led everyone together.
It seems that Weco had come to the keep, which was a glorified hunting lodge, looking for a valuable painting of Kolero. His mentor, Venfaren, needed the painting, and had sent Weco to acquire it. (The group later found out that Weco had been provided with an excess of gews and jewelry with which to trade, but decided he'd rather keep the 'shinies' and make off with the painting. He decided this early enough that the payment was still back in Bandar Philia.) Weco arrived and found the keep closed up and empty, and concluded that it was not currently in use. He decided to not bother anyone, and just let himself in. He quickly spotted the painting, and looking wistfully at a number of other items (and only taking a couple), he wrapped it up and headed out the door. Unfortunately, as he was leaving with the painting rolled up and tucked under his arm, the Gentleman's hunting party arrived.
Lord Julian Paniers, the Gentleman at the Manor, asked what they intended to do with Weco. He had planned to keep the thief in the pillory for ten days as an appropriate punishment, but it was already interfering with his purpose for coming to the keep since they had to remain with him in case anything went wrong. Sif remained focused on the painting, asking what it would take to purchase it. Julien informed them that it was his father's, and he could not simply sell it, and he was in Bandar Philia at the time. As they went back and forth, eventually they came to an agreement - if the group would help him with tracking whatever had been attacking people and wildlife in the area, he would release Weco to them, and put in a good word for the party in attempting to purchase the painting. They all agreed, and the group camped in the courtyard for the night.
24 Sexemra, 887
As dawn was breaking, Lord Paniers came out of the keep. He was in gleaming half plate armor with the red heart, silver scales, and golden halo enameled on the breast. His ornately handled long sword rested in its scabbard, and his shield with his full coat of arms was strapped to his back. His butler brought him a massive black and brown warhorse and helped him into the saddle, then handed him a lance. Looking down at the group, he said it was time to ride.
The party saddled up, although Boha, Bolda, and Lews remained behind. Lews promised to obey Boha, and Boha in turn promised to give the child some educational tasks. The party left the keep, and the Lord and his followers led them southeast to a village where some trouble had been encountered. He updated the group on what had happened, starting months previously. A child, not much older than Lews, went missing, followed not long after by his parents. This was not thought to mean much initially, but then livestock began to disappear regularly. It escalated beyond livestock, and the people who were supposed to be protected by the Paniers were being killed. While his father didn't care much about the lowborn, Julien did, and set off to try and find the root of the problem. As they traveled, another earthquake hit, this one much worse than what had come before. The party asked about it, and it seemed like they were coming much more often than in the past.
They arrived at the village, and Sif and Durdeg began questioning people, while Carta and Lord Paniers followed Malcer as he attempted to find a trace. (Weco, meanwhile, used the distrust he had been shown to prevent himself from needing to do much work at all.) The site of the last incident had been well tramples, and it was nearly impossible to make out anything from the tracks. Carta, not trying to make out the tracks, happened to find a tuft of fur on a branch, which allowed them a starting direction. With Sif and Durdeg not having found any truly useful information they had not already heard, they all set out to follow the trail that started with a tuft of fur.
The tracks were easier to follow as they got away from people, but they were going through rough terrain. While Lord Paniers refused to dismount, the others left their horses behind at the village, knowing they would make better time without them. They often left Paniers behind, as he had his retainers moving branches out of his path, but the Gentleman was able to catch up when they stopped to look for tracks. They followed the tracks to a small stream, and after some moments where they lost the trail, the finally identified it turning north along the river. They followed the river for a while, until the trail branched and some of the bigger prints went straight north as the river wound to the north east. By this point, it was clear that the tracks were from some very large canine or lupine beasts, and the party began to think back on the cave that had been a waypoint in Sif's navigation. The tracks there were similar - was that were they were being led, and was the intention of the brief message to get them there?
Before being able to answer that question, they came to an end to the forest, and a return to low, grassy hills. Grazing in the field was a herd of aurochs - large, cattle like beasts, over six feet tall at the withers and covered in shaggy hair. The long, twisting horns could make for a formidible weapon for any who got too close. As the party planned what they would do, Lord Paniers decided for them all. With a cry that tonight, they feast, he spurred his horse onward, lowering his lance. He struck true, breaking the tip of the lance off in the beast and continuing to ride past. With a snort and a squel of pain, the aurochs oriented on him.
The party decided that they would need to help, and entered the fray. The archers Paniers had brought stood back and started to shoot, while the party waded in to optimal attack range. Tigger launched himself at a beast, hoping to pull it to the ground. While his claws raked the aurochs back, it was too big and solid to be brought down. Malcer came in behind his friend, swords whirling and blood flying. The rest joined in, and the aurochs had no defense. The group quickly slaughtered the herd, leaving a blood soaked field. As Malcer began to butcher the beasts, the party came up with a plan. They would leave the offal here as bait to bring whatever was out there to them, and trap them. They placed the traps as best they could in the large area they had, including rigging some deadfalls in the trees and all of the bear traps they had taken from the kobolds lair. Weco ended up tied off to the immovable rod, hung nearly 20 feet above the center of the field, while the rest spread themselves around and settled in to wait. Paniers had sent his butler back to the keep, and he returned with a tent and matress to allow the Lord to camp. While the party tried to explain to him the folly of his actions, the most they could do was persuade him to be out of the general area.
In the middle of the night, Sif's owl spotted an approaching beast. The wolf coming upon them was massive, easily able to do the damage they had seen. With the first wolf spotted, it became clear that there were more, and they were moving stealthily towards the bait. As the party prepared, a howl rose up from the back, and the wolves stopped. A series of howls went back and forth, and after a few tense minutes, the wolves turned tail and quickly fled the scene. While they did not know what ultimately tripped them up, they realized that there was an intelligence at work that was not going to fall to their trap this easily.
1 Septemra, 887
The group followed the fresh tracks, quickly seeing they were leading back to the cave they encountered a few days before. They moved quickly, heading straight for it, hoping to catch the beasts while they slept. They arrived at the cave, and the tracks indicated that the creatures had returned. After checking around and finding no other entrances, they hoped they had the beasts trapped, and set to work turning it to their advantage. First, they piled up wood to make a fire, focusing on green wood that would throw off a lot of smoke. They set every trap they had surrounding it, and with a burst of flame, Sif set it on fire. The smoke rose quickly, surrounding the area, some of it being drawn into the cave. Malcer spotted a crack in the hillside where smoke was beginning to pour out, and worked to close the opening. As the smoke built, Sif used her Wizzard's hat to conjure a gust of wind, blowing a large amoount of the smoke inside and slightly fanning the flames of the smoldering fire.
Noise started to come from the cave, as things were clearly starting to move around. A hiss of water being thrown on the fire definitively answered the question of whether there was a sapient being in there, and Durdeg concluded that it was likely to be a werwolf with a pack of dire wolves at its command. He put this to the test by flinging his thorn whip in the direction of the splashing water. It struck true, and he pulled. A massive creature, wolf like in appearance but standing upright and wielding sharp claws at the end of its front limbs that were much closer to arms that the legs of a wolf, was wrapped in the thorns and was pulled into the fire. Patches of fur caught, and the creature howled in agony. It collapsed on the fire, smothering it in the immediate area. With that, the battle was joined.
The group had stationed themselves around the traps, ready to contain anything that came through. As Durdeg whipped the werewolf again, dragging it towards the traps, it flailed, scattering most of the fire. It somehow rolled and avoided the traps, although the whip was continuing to bite into its flesh. Durdeg poured magic into his arm, ready to do what it would take to prevail. Carta said a prayer to his deity for the strength to fight the abomination, and Malcer and Paniers pulled magical swords from their sheaths. Paniers sword glowed with the light of the moon, cutting through the smoke to stand as a beacon. Weco and the archers started shooting it, but the smoke prevented them from seeing clearly that the arrows were not piercing the magical beasts skin. Suddenly, the wolves started to pour from the cave. They trampled what was left of the fire, burning themselves but smothering the flames with their bodies. They pushed onward, falling into the teeth of the double layer of bear traps. As the powerful jaws of the traps slammed shut on the beasts, they howled in pain and stopped their rush. Arrows flew down from the hillside, and the melee fighters stood at the edge of the traps, thrusting their weapons into the beast over and over again. Sif added her own power to the battle, and layers of webs attached to the top of the cave and stretched forward, engulfing all of the creatures. Immobilized and in pain, the wolves were set up to be slaughtered.
As the wolves were beginning to fall, and the werewolf died and reverted to the form of a Human man, two more hybrid creatures burst free. They were caught up in the webbing, and started to thrash against it. They eventually freed themselves, as Sif closed in, letting the webbing fall as she prepared to channel the breath of a green dragon. The poison spread from her, engulfing the creatures and eating away at them. The wolves fell, but the werewolves pushed forward, looking for an escape or at least vengeance on their tormentors.
Durdeg and Paniers both ended up taking bites from the beasts, although Durdegs hit his mechanical arm instead of flesh. This saved him from the curse of lycanthropy, but Paniers was not as lucky. The stricken look on his face made it clear to the party that they would need to deal with this problem. As the group cleaned up the few beast still standing, Weco decided to slip into the cave and check out what was there. The rest of the party didn't notice until all of the fighting was done. With the bodies littering the ground around them, they paused to rest.
Sign it on the dotted line
23 Sexemra, 887
Sharlot woke in the morning to the sound of her own song coming from the common room. She quickly gathered herself, and headed down to find out who was attempting to steal her music. When she arrived, there was no one on the stage, but the inn itself was crowded with a diverse group eating breakfast with watered down ale. She started to scan the tables, and two in particular caught her eye - a pair of Dwarves that looked familiar, and a dashing Human wearing stylish clothes. His well trimmed beard came to a point, and his moustache was luxurious. The silk cape was an added touch of luxurythat seemed out of place in the inn. There was a short, cloaked being with him that got up and left just as Sharlot entered, although she wasn't sure if this had much to do with her. Between him and the Dwarves, Sharlot's attention was diverted from anyone else.
She approached the Dwarves, and realized that one of them was Merey Battleborne, one of the Dungeoneers they had met back in Custone. She didn't recognize the other one, but Merey recognized her, and invited her to the table. They exchanged some small talk, and Sharlot asked what brought them to Inwood. When the second Dwarf tersely replied, "we're on a mission from Glod," she decided to let that go, and asked if they had heard the music earlier. Merey told her she had heard a snippet, and it came from the dashing gentleman's table. They did not see him with an instrument, so they weren't sure what he was playing, but they were confident that it came from that table. Sharlot asked if they would be around for a while, and they said they would be waiting for the riverboat to leave the next day. Merey and Sharlot made plans to meet for lunch, and Sharlot approached the dapper man.
Sharlot approached the man, and he smiled at her, charm and smarm radiating from him in equal amounts. He rose and bowed, calling her by name and telling her he loved her music. She asked if this is why he was attempting to steal it, and he responded that he had no intention of stealing it, but was looking to make a deal with her. Had she ever dreamed of fame and fortune, her name known across the land and her songs repeated long after we all had gone? Did she want to perform for large crowds of people chanting her name and singing along? Did she want to be rich? He could make it all happen, because of his method for taking her music and spreading it around the kingdom.
Sharlot was skeptical - it seemed that he wanted to take what she had put together and use it for his own ends. The man assured her that this was not the case - while he could make what he called 'recordings', they would simply be a repeat of what she had made. This was perfect for getting more people to know her and her music, and would lead to huge crowds when she put on a show. He told her that if she would let him record her, he would split the proceeds with her, and help her to book larger shows in the future. She became interested, and they agreed to meet for dinner, where the man would return with a contract and a priest of Iuris to seal the deal.
With that, she returned to her investigation of the murders happening along the river. She eventually discovered that there had been a murder in town, although since the victim was a lady of the evening, no one much cared about it. Further investigation led her back to the inn, and eventually to one of the deceased coworkers. She found out that the last person she saw the deceased with was described as quite a lot like her 'record' producer contact, and she started to string together a possible plot. Had the man been travelling the same route as her? Was this all an elaborate method of getting young women alone? She had not thought to see if any of the previous victims had musical aspirations, but it would be part of the investigation now.
She stopped by the courthouse, explaining the situation to the guard on duty. He agreed to be at the inn when she had her meeting, until he found out which inn it was. Immediately knowing which guard would have directed her there, he assured her that that guard would be present, and promised to look into the recent death. Sharlot returned to the inn and had a pleasant lunch with Merey and her companion Folke Brightblade, trading some road stories. Finally, she found the owner of the inn, and asked about any of the special jobs that he had brought up before. After dancing around the issue, and assuring each other that no one wanted to break any laws, she took a job for the evening, to perform loudly on a specific street corner at a specific time. While she had an inkling of why, she also needed the money and determined that she would not be doing anything that she would regret.
As dinner rolled around, the dapper man showed up with a lawyer of Iuris in tow. She verified that the guard was in place, then focused on the man and his henchman. She sat with him, and the tension was high between them. After some verbal sparring, she came right out with it, demanding to know what he knew of the killings. He was taken aback, and seemed to know nothing of it. The lawyer cut in, introducing himself as Andres Narder, and said that he had been working closely with Damien Bartles, the record producer, for a week now and did not believe he could have committed such a crime. This calmed Sharlot, although she realized later that it did not exclude bartles from suspicion as the lawyer did not say where they had been working together. But that thought came later, and for now the contract was being dangled before her, with the promise of a substantial amouont of fame and fortune. She reviewed the part of the document in common, found that it gave the majority of the proceeds to Bartles, but also tasked him with all the work of spreading the music. Eventually she signed, and Bartles said he would record her set that night. As she got up to perform, her eyes were continually drawn to Bartles and his table, to the point that she saw nothing else of the crowd. The short figure she had seen earlier had returned, and eventually she got a decent look under the hood. A long, raven like beak was concealed in the deep hood, but when the being turned it would poke out slightly. She also caught some black feathers poking out of the being's clothing. For the life of her, all she could think of was an enormous raven or magpie tucked under there, walking around like a Human. When she finished, the being looked over at Bartles, and emitted a perfect rendition of what she had just sang. Bartles smiled and passed the being a bag, and it left the room.
Sharlot settled in and completed her performance for the night, making a decent number of tips to split with the innkeeper. Then it was time to perform her side job. She headed to the appointed corner, and pulled out her lute. As people gathered, the roughness of the part of town came out. She did not see what started it, but soon enough those assembled began to push each other. Sharlot upped the ante, playing drinking songs with wild abandon. The pushing soon devolved into a full scale brawl, and Sharlot stayed back and stoked the fires. When her time was up, she gathered the few coins she saw on the street, and headed back to the inn. She went to sleep sure that she had done what was necessary to collect her payday, and wondered what tomorrow would bring.
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