Erastus 23 The last few days have been clear, dry, and unseasonably cool, making it a welcome respite from the usual summer heat. When she approached you today, you recalled you had seen her before, sometime in the last week.
It is early afternoon at The Drunken Devil. A woman approaches your table while you take in the usual chaos. She might be attractive if cleaned up, but wearing rough working clothes, she’s all business. ”I’m Janiven. Alarra, you’ve been doing a lot to make Westcrown a better place, But, I’d like to work with you to make Westcrown even better. I know you might not trust me, but feel free to check me out. Hells, I know you will anyway. Once you have, meet me at Vizio’s Tavern tomorrow afternoon for an early dinner at 4 o’clock. You can bring tall, scarred, and handsome too.” With that, she stands and quickly leaves the tavern through the crowd.
A soft knock comes at your door, just after sunrise. From outside, you hear the familiar voice of Mother Mudlumm. "Ari…er…Moondark, I need to introduce you to someone." When you open the door, you see Mother Mudlumm and a woman you’ve seen recently. She looks like she could be pretty, but with her rough clothing covering what looks like a chain shirt, she looks like the no-nonsense sort. Mother Mudlumm continues, ”Moondark, this is Janiven. She’s been of assistance to my clan a few times and says she has need of someone with your…talents.” Mother Mudlumm pauses and Janiven picks things up, ”Moondark, I know you share the fears of many in Westcrown. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m gathering a group of people similar to yourself. They have concerns over how things are today in Westcrown, but hope to see our city rise to be the better place it has been before. Please join us. We’ll be meeting at Vizio’s Tavern tomorrow afternoon for dinner at 4. I hope you can join us.” With the request hanging in the air, she melts back off into Rego Cader.
It’s mid-morning. You’re in one of your favorite spots on the walls of Rego Laina when someone calling your name stops you in your tracks. Your turn to see a cute woman standing there in well-worn clothes, a glimmer of chainmail catches your eye. ”Ilthad, I get the sense that there might be more to you than meets the eye. That certainly was a nice stunt you pulled on Aberian’s Folly…sure would like to know how you pulled it off. If you’d like a chance to show up that fool of a mayor again, join me at Vizio’s Tavern tomorrow afternoon at four o’clock. We’ll have dinner and talk about a few similar-minded people I’m pulling together to work for a better Westcrown.” With that, she drops off the wall with an easy way and walks off toward the canal disappearing quickly before you can think to follow her.
You arrive at The Broken Horn in late morning for lunch. Shortly after entering, Aerodius calls to you from his private booth in the back to join him. You walk back and see he’s having lunch with a rough-looking woman that looks familiar. Aerodius introduces her, “Satinal, meet Janiven. She’s an acquaintance from another group much like ours. She’s come to me looking for help, and I think you’re just the guy for a liaison with her organization. Janiven?”[/b] After watching her, you see that she might be prettier than you first thought. Janiven speaks, ”Satinal, Aerodius has had some good things to say about you. I’m putting together a group to work together to make Westcrown a better place. If you’d like to join us, meet me at Vizio’s Tavern for dinner tomorrow at 4, I hope you can make it.” With that, Aerodius beckons you to leave the table, “Janiven and I have a few more things to speak of Satinal. We’ll speak later.”
Arienna pauses at the door a long while considering. Was there any hope for Westcrown? What did this Janivan mean? All Arienna had known since leaving the false security of her sheltered life at the Belialos vira in the Rega Laina was fear; fear of the shadowbeasts that stalked the night, fear of being found by the Dottari or Hellknights and taken back to the family that would damn their daughter just in the off chance of gaining the notice of the Thrice-damned House of Thrune, and fear of the devils that might show up to collect her. Someday she would make her parents pay for their selfishness and pride. Now, however, she was barely surviving; barring the door to her ruined cellar every night and peering fearfully into the darkness until she finnally collapsed in exhaustion.
But what did Janivan mean? And why would Mother Muddlum expose her? She couldn’t be found out. The price was too high. Yet how long could she go on living this way? Maybe she would just listen.
The next afternoon a beggar boy wrapped in ragged robes squats in front of Vizio’s Tavern, smudged face bowed and hidden under the hands raised and cupped as the boy mumbles, ”please, just a copper for some food.”
Disguise check 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
Knowledge: Local to see what, if anything, she knows about this woman: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 23
Jo looks at Alarra a little confused which is not unusual.
"Jo seen lady around town. Not sure who she is. Jo got no plans for tomorrow. So I guess we go see her. How much you pay me anyway?"
"Jo hungry. When food coming!"
Jo looks around to see if he sees anyone he knows from The Pits. He is always wary of others who may try to force him back into ring.
He is also looking for bargirl with food.
Perception Check - 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (5) + 1 = 6
"Where bar girl?"
Going to wait for the rest to catch up. Hopefully you won't be waiting too long
The name does it. You recall hearing of a woman named Janiven that has worked for several guilds and merchants, sometimes as a guard, but more often as a city guide and bodyguard for visiting merchants and business partners that the guilds want to keep out of trouble with local thugs and the shadow beasts at night. You particularly recall a colorful story about her dragging a charge out of a whorehouse half-dressed when he refused to return to a safer part of town before sundown. Everything you've heard has been positive.
There are so many people in the bar that Jo can't seem to focus his sight on anyone he's looking for, but a few minutes later a plump barmaid swings by the table and laughs out loud, "Whoa, you just finished a whole boar and you're looking for more food? Honey, I hope you have the coin to pay for this giant's appetite."
Jo looks at the bar maid and grins a crooked tooth smile.
"Sign say All You Can Eat!" He then snickers to himself at his clever wit.
He looks over at Alarra and notices her concerned look.
"What's a matter? You not feel good?" he asks her.
"You gonna finish your taters?"
Watching Jo eat has deprived Alarra of any further appetite. She wordlessly slides her plate over to the ravenous giant before answering the bar maid. "Yes, I'll pay for it. I just wish someone had warned me how much he can eat," she says, grinning ruefully.
Turning back to Jo, Alarra says "How does five gold sound for you to act as my bodyguard tomorrow? I'd like you to come with me to this meeting. This Janiven woman has a good reputation, but I can't help feeling suspicious about such a strange invitation. After the meeting we can work out a more permanent arrangement. Is that acceptable?"
Once Jo finishes (assuming he ever does), Alarra will pay the bill.
Let me know how much gold I'm out for Jo's snack!
Jo stops licking his plate when Alarra mentions the gold.
"*BURP* Five Gold? For one day?? Heck, you have Jo for week for five gold!"
"You no worry. Jo protect you real good!"
Jo will escort Alarra to where ever she is staying for the night to protect her.
You arrive at Vizio's Tavern about half past two and hear the sound of hammering coming from the tavern as you walk up to the door and push it open. As you enter, the hammering stops and Janiven looks up from the bar.
"Welcome Satinal. I should have known from my talk with Aerodius that you'd be the first. Go ahead and have a seat at that table. Would you like ale while you wait? We'll have an early dinner and talk once everyone arrives."
You arrive at the tavern in early afternoon. It is another very reasonable day considering that it is summer and you have no trouble finding a comfortable place to watch Vizio's. It's obvious that the tavern is not yet open for business. The first person you see show up is Janiven. She looks around, but doesn't appear to notice you and proceeds to unlock the door and go in.
About a half hour later, you hear the sound of hammering coming from the inn. About that time, a cute half-elf walks up to the door. He has black hair and dark eyes and is wearing leather armor with a morning star attached to his belt and a shield strapped across his back. He doesn't pause at all and the hammering stops when he enters the tavern.
The waitress laughs responding, "Lady, that boy eats as much as an ogre, although he's certainly a bit cuter. Your bill is going to be one gold and five silvers. Please come by again soon."
The night passes uneventfully unless you all have anyplace you want to go before Vizio's
You recall that Vizio's is a tavern in Rego Scripta named for the family that used to run the establishment. You've heard it was once popular with merchant guards, but it closed a few months ago when the family patriarch passed away and the rest of the family moved to Corentyn. It has been empty since then, but you recall hearing that new owners purchased it a month or two ago- a half-elf man and a human woman. Now that you think of it, it does seem odd that you don't recall hearing of it re-opening yet.
Let me know if this changes your plans, otherwise, we'll proceed with your arrival at the tavern.
Alarra will endeavor to arrive at precisely 4 PM on the day of the meeting (although Jo may well delay our arrival, I have no doubt). If by some miracle they arrive on time, she will take a seat and make small talk until something interesting happens. In the rather more likely event she and Jo do not arrive on time, she will make her apologies to those kept waiting.
"Jo not make no trouble for pretty lady....Jo only be helpful!"
Jo will assist Alarra to Visio's if no tables are free Jo will "make" one free by finding a loner, picking him and his plate up and carrying them away from the table. Then like the polite gentleman that he is he will hold the chair for her.
Another half hour passes and a Chelaxian youth shows up wearing very stylish clothes if ill-suited for typical summer weather - a black sweater and pants with a coat. He too goes right into the tavern when he arrives. It is now about 3-o'clock.
Assuming you continue to wait...
A little over an hour later, two more people arrive, a tall, thin woman with long brown hair. She's wearing a short-sleeved blue shirt covered with a leather breastplate and a beige skirt. But, towering next to her is the biggest man you've ever seen. At least, you think he's a man, maybe he's part giant.
You proceed to Vizio's at 3-o'clock as planned. Arriving at the tavern, you see that your memory was correct. The tavern has not yet been re-opened for business. You proceed to the door and enter. Inside, you find the main room for the tavern with two people present - a half-elf sitting at a table and Janiven standing behind the bar. She greets you warmly, "Welcome Ilthad. Meet Satinal. Go ahead and get comfortable at that table. Think I have some lemonade in back if you'd like it while you wait. I'm going to keep working on getting dinner ready while we wait for the rest."
A Chelexian youth walks into the tavern wearing very stylish dark clothes. Janiven greets him and waves him over to your table offering a lemonade.
You make your way to Vizio's, angling to arrive at about 4-o'clock. And, if not for that pigeon that Jo decided to chase after about a block away from Vizio's, you would have been right on time. Instead, you're only a few minutes late when you arrive at the door and enter.
"I said I am sorry but that pigeon was all white. Jo never seen an all white pigeon."
Perception Check: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
Geez hope my rolls get better.
Jo looks around and seeing nothing unusual, he opens the door of the tavern and allows Alarra to enter before him.
"Hope they serving something good. Jo's hungry."
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11
Seeing nothing amiss, Alarra will toss 5 silvers to the beggar before entering the tavern.
"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll find plenty to eat," she says to Jo.
"Hello everyone, I'm sorry we're late - we had some trouble with a bird."
Satinal and Ithad spend an hour making small talk with one another and Janiven waiting for the others to arrive. Janiven makes her way back and forth between the bar and kitchen, making sure you are both well-hydrated. Delightful smells begin to fill the tavern with odors of roasting chicken and tomatoes.
Just after 4-o'clock, a strange pair walks through the door. One is a tall, thin woman with dark brown hair. The other is a man so tall, his head nearly brushes against the ceiling...and this after he had to stoop to get through the door. They seem to be in a heated discussion about pigeons when the woman apologizes and the tall man stops in his tracks sniffing the delicious aroma filling the air.
A short time later, a third person walks in the door, a beggar boy that you recall seeing earlier outside the tavern.
Janiven calls from behind the bar, "Excellent, you're all here! Please go join Satinal and Ithad at the table. I'll have food out in a moment. In the meantime, would you like ale or lemonade?"
Jo smells the food and begins to salivate. His stomach growls like an angry bear.
"Der's not much people here. Strange for a tavern dats open."
Jo looks at the setup of the room and moves to the chair next to Satinal. He pulls out the chair to his left and offers it to Alarra.
"Jo take ale. Two!"
If Alarra takes the seat next to him, he sits after her. If not he sits near Satinal turning his chair so he has sight lines of the door. He puts his giant hammer next to him near the fireplace sitting hammerhead on the floor with the handle sticking up within easy reach.
"Lemonade, please," Alarra calls out, making her way over to Janiven and the bar. Once there, she whispers to Janiven, "Be careful - Jo will eat you out of house and home if you let him."
That finished, Alarra makes her way over to the table, where she makes a mock curtsy to the little boy before saying, "A pleasure to meet you too. But surely a real Thrune would have escorts, especially one so young as you?" She says, grinning slightly, before taking the proffered seat. "Anyway, my name is Alarra, and this young man is Jo," she says, patting the giant lightly on the arm.
Flashing a bright smile seemingly full of youth and innocence, “Then I gather you have not heard of me then.” But then his eyes harden, the violet in his eyes darkening ”I would not be so quick to judge by appearances, not everything is what it seems.” And then Ithad is back to smiles and courtly grace, “But come my new associates, lets us break bread together and entreat on our host Janiven's exquisite cooking to transform us all into friends. I'm sure after dinner, her purpose in gathering all of us will be revealed”
Janiven whispers back to Alarra, "Hopefully, I came prepared after seeing him eating yesterday. Bought a little extra at the market this morning."
She pours a lemonade and two ales at the bar, then puts them on a giant platter that also holds a giant wheel of cheese and follows Alarra over to the bar while Ari finds a chair.
"Don't worry big guy, there's more coming. Go ahead and have some of this while I finish dinner. Feel free to talk while I finish getting things together."
She sets the platter down on the table, sliding the wheel to the center and passing a lemonade to Alarra and two ales to Jo.
"Anything for you dear?" she asks Ari.
Ari starts at the mention of Thrune and stares in disbelief at the boy.
"Anything for you dear?" she asks Ari.
Keeping her eyes on Ithad, one of her hands slips beneath her ragged beggar robes to a hidden dagger. "Yes, an explanation and quick. I want nothing to do with the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune!"
Picking up his drink, his grin widening even further, Ithad turns towards the beggar, ”An explanation? For what? Our host has gathered us for a friendly dinner and some civil disobedience.” He takes a sip from his glass before continuing, ”And I am sure that with that stench my relatives feelings are mutual, but since they are not present I would not trouble myself. Now beggar, you seem to have us at the disadvantage, you have our names, but what do we call you?”
Janiven sighs and looks over at Moondark and Ilthad, "I must remember it's always hardest when groups first come together. Moondark, these people, like I, all share your feelings about the current state of Westcrown. You really should get to know one another. In the meantime, I'm going to bring the rest of dinner. After dinner, we'll talk more about why you're here."
She wheels and returns to the kitchen.
"She wants our help with something. She's playing the role of host to make us feel comfortable before she makes her proposal," Alarra responds. "Just relax and make yourself comfortable. I've heard good things about this Janiven - she has a reputation for behaving honorably and for protecting others. That she hasn't told us what she wants of us yet isn't necessarily a problem. After all, she may simply want to get to know us before she asks for our help."
"Okay if you say so. Dah food does smell good."
Jo looks at the others around the table and contemplates some of what was just said. As he bends over to whisper into Alarra's ear his chair cracks and stains under him.
"Psst, Alarra, what's a throon?"
Janiven pushes the door to the kitchen open again. The room fills with the smell of smell of chicken and tomatoes as she approaches with two steaming hot dishes and a stack of plates. She puts a delicious looking dish of roasted chicken covered in tomatoes and shallots down in the center of the table. The other she set in front of Jo. You can see it is two boiled rabbits. She then passes out plates to everyone and dishes out a serving to everyone, including herself.
"All right folks. Let's have some dinner. I'll start. I think all of you know I'm Janiven. I've lived in Westcrown for my entire life. For a long time, I put up with this city's problems. But, I made sure I learned my way with a blade and eventually I became a guard for various merchant interests around the city. I found they often had fellow merchants visiting from out of town who didn't know their way around the city and were at risk from thugs in the day or the shadow beasts at night."
She pauses to pour ale into a tankard and takes a drink.
"I learned one important thing during those years. Other cities don't have these problems, especially the shadow beasts. You're all here because you have similar concerns. You're not alone."
With that, she looks around the table and then starts cutting up her chicken.
Janiven replies, "You betcha Jo. I'll go grab it."
Janiven hops up and heads back to the kitchen. A moment later, the door swings back open and she returns with salt and pepper, handing it to Jo.
"What's the matter big guy. Never had boiled rabbits before? I heard from the market that they're delicious. And such nice large ones too. Must admit I've never cooked them before, but I figured I would have to get a whole coop of chickens otherwise."
Ari's caution is overcome by the delicious fare presented and she helps herself to the food. "Well, I'm sure lots of folks would like to do something about the shadowbeasts, but what? Do you have any idea where they even come from? I half expect certain noble families summoned them to keep us scared and locked in our homes at night instead of burning down their viras." She scowls at Ithad.
Alarra says to Jo, "'Thrune' is the surname of the ruling family of Cheliax. But why don't you ask our young friend here?" She motions briefly to Ilthad. "I'm sure he can tell you more."
After Janiven reveals her theory about the shadow beasts, Alarra says, "That's an impressive theory. Do you have any proof?" Alarra seems vaguely amused by all this.
"Anyway, do you know of a way to rid ourselves of the shadow beasts?" She asks, before adding as an afterthought, "Ways that don't involve getting incredibly drunk, that is?"
”Hell,” Ithad begins in a somber tone, ”Hell is the power of Thrune. An infernal pact brought this country to heel and ended the civil war and enforced law and order. Do these shadow beast do this, no, they spread chaos and confusion. I do not think the shadow beasts are infernal, and I do not believe they represent law or order.”
Ithad takes a moment to spear a shallot on the tip of his knife and pop it into his mouth, ”Delicious by the way. It could be possible that one of my relations released these shadow beasts, but I doubt to consolidate power here in Westcrown. Thrunes had been on the throne for a score of years before the first shadow beasts arrival. The Crown's only interest with Westcrown is as a port and a place to exile their embarrassments... Anyways; think about it, why put Arvanxi here? The man is an incompetent, if you were consolidating power, why would you weaken you stance with him? My relations carry plenty of sins, but laying this one at Egorian's door is a mistake.”
Jo looks at the pot of rabbit. He is not sure what to do. He has never eaten rabbit before. "Maybe it's like rat" he thinks to himself. He has had rat plenty of times when things got tough while he was growing up.
He takes a rabbit leg out and sprinkles it liberally with salt and pepper. He likes spicy food. He takes a bite and is surprised how good it is. "This Jenaaveer or what ever her name is can really cook!" he thinks to himself.
He looks around at his table mates and contemplates what is being said. All this political talk makes his head hurt.
He looks at the Throon across the table. He is still not sure what a Throon is but he wondered if they were all tiny and pretty like this one.
He glances over at the begger boy. Wonders what he is doing here. He certainly doesn't like the Throon.
The Elf next to him has not said a word. He doesn't know what to make of him.
Heck he doesn't know what to make of any of them.
Alarra though, she's so pretty, and she likes Jo. Jo will make sure she is protected from everything!
They mentioned Shadow Creatures. Jo has bad memories of those. Being chased by them when he strayed home too late in the evening. How they kept The Pits well lit inside and out to protect the patrons at night. They even had hired fighters to make sure the guests were safe coming and going. He would like to get rid of the Shadow Creatures.
Jo has finish half the pot of rabbit while sitting there thinking. He starts to sweat profusely as he is eating.
Janiven takes another bite and rabbit looking thoughtful, swallows and then speaks again, "I have no proof, but think of how the government uses that threat to keep people in at night. They only light a few streets at night and keep all others dark. Supposedly to keep criminal activity from taking place since the Dottari are said to be too small to defend against both criminals and shadow beasts. Do you really think our supposed rulers that are all about law and order couldn't come up with additional troops to deal with the problem. No, instead they've left it here for years. They're worried about what this city could be again if they allowed it to be."
Sense Motive (Moondark) 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (6) + 0 = 6
Sense Motive (Ithad) 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (1) + 0 = 1
Sense Motive (Alarra) 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (19) + 0 = 19
Sense Motive (Jo) 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (5) + 0 = 5
Sense Motive (Satinal) 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (17) + 0 = 17
While the conversation and meal are taking place you notice that Janiven occasionally looks out the front window. She seems very forthright in what she is saying, but she appears to be very nervous about something.
"Jo see lots of high officials come down to The Pits to watch fights and gamble."
"What they doing there if they so high and mighty? Jahat always say games illegal but I see them high and mighty playing and watching."
"These high and mighty not so good in Jo's book."
Jo looks around to see what people think of what he said and he then goes back to polishing off his Rabbit.
"Rabbit good, lady!"
“I agree with you there Janiven, no one in the capital wants Westcrown to recover. So why expend valuable resources to fix a problem when instead you can exploit it. All we have is theories and rumors, but we are all avoiding the real question here – how do we stop the shadow beasts?” Ithad emphasizing this or that point while he talks with a little jab of his knife into the air. ”And we need solid information, not just rumors to undertake this task. ”
“Our gladiatorial companion is also correct, the shadow beasts are not the only trouble that plagues this city. Incompetence and greed does much to cripple Westcrown; although I am sure that I speak nothing new to each of you. There are more than just nobles benefiting from these shadow beasts, if we choose this course of action we would be wise to prepare for the inevitable collision.”
Jo drains the second pint of ale and wipes his mouth on his sleeve.
"So lady, why you bring us here? We know streets dangerous at night. We know officials all bad. What Jo and these people can do about it?"
Jo stands and just misses hitting an overhead beam. He grabs one of his empty mugs.
"Where your ale at? No, sit. Jo get."