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The Road Not Taken

Game Master Vladimir Thomas

A storm stirs over Svorinn. As political instability gives rise to anarchy, will our heroes manage to survive and pursue their destiny?



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[OOC: Story continued from The Tangled Web Forums]

[OOC: Let us assume that everyone is fully healed, and spells have been replenished. You can role-play last night’s events; I will move to the next day to push the story forward.]

The group decides to stay at the inn for the entire evening and night, fearing that venturing outside might lead to yet more undesirable misadventures. The innkeeper has nothing to offer for dinner other than a viscous, foul-smelling porridge. Still, in times of need, even the party’s two nobles are forced to compromise with what they are offered.

Ark decides to remain with Zaracas, choosing not to interact with the newcomer, despite having been healed by the gnome. The rest of the group has dinner in the main hall, where more time is spent chatting with the fellowship’s newly-acquired healer.

Ark and Zaracas

Upstairs, Ark and Zaracas, who seem to be developing some strange kind of respect for each other, continue their conversation. Zaracas reveals that he was a member of the Denizens, until he decided to leave the guild, dissatisfied with the control they exert upon their members.

“I promised you a story, archer. You seem unlike the rest of your companions, choosing to remain with me of your own volition. I trust that you are not friends with that bunch? Besides, your appearance and your conduct imply that you are not on law’s side.

Neither am I, although I fought for the officer at the temple. I reckon there’s no harm in revealing this-I used to be a member of the thieves’ guild. The denizens, as they call themselves. I started with theft, then moving to extortion and intimidation.

Somewhere along the line, people started to seek me out for… let’s say making certain problems disappear. It was alright in the beginning, good pay for just removing nobodies for other nobodies that saw the former as threats. Not much risk, really, and the cash was more than decent.

…As I was offered more and more of such jobs, the stakes were steadily increasing. My targets slowly became more and more important; first merchants, sometimes clergy and eventually minor noblemen. Not to mention their guards and escorts, who also had to “disappear” to avoid any witnesses. Mind you, there was no way of backing down. I was good at killing, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t expendable. So I followed their instructions, accepting one suicidal mission after another, without having a chance to bail out. My last target was a nobleman from house Thoranius. Stupid f~~*er thought he could get away with screwing the guild over…

I failed; the man escaped to Sailor’s Stone. I tried to leave the city as well, but the Denizens got hold of me. Needless to say, they don’t appreciate failure or being betrayed. I was lucky: the prize I had to pay was only an eye. Somehow, I think they still thought I was too good a killer to waste. I did a couple of jobs more for them, but after that incident, I had no stomach to remain in the guild. When that officer gave me the chance to change sides, I jumped on it lime a drowning man clings onto a piece of wood. Things seemed to be turning up, until that whole temple incident. And now, it seems, my fate rests in your hands and those of your companions.”

[OOC: Feel free to chat with him some more; if you ask certain questions I will rewind a bit and give you answers.]

12th of Frer-mánuðr, 2482
The Intoxicated Ice Monster, Lower Andelia

The ordeals suffered during the last few days have taken their toll on the party. Nevertheless, sleep does not come easily to most. As night falls, the noises from outside do not subside. Instead, more soldiers arrive at the district, both on horseback and on foot. The epicenter seems to be close by. The sounds of soldiers are gradually replaced by other noises. In the darkness, all members of the group listen attentively the unmistakable sounds of destruction. Among others, windows can be heard being broken; wooden planks smashed and walls being knocked down. Eventually, these noises give way to the crackling sounds of fire.

[OOC: Random PC=Elana.]

Unable to sleep and wishing to find out what is happening, Elana decides to take a look. She climbs up the stairs to the inn’s roof. Under the dark sky, she is not in any danger of being seen. What she sees verifies her suspicions: the Temple of Delrodin, just a few hundred yards away from the inn, lies in ruins. Next to it, a huge pyre has been constructed, containing all the wood that made up the temple. The fire is large enough to be seen in the entire district. Tired, Elana eventually returns to the room, where she sleeps until the morning.

Ark decides to share the room with Zaracas, convinced that he should keep an eye on the man. He makes sure to tie the man carefully, with some proper rope provided by the innkeeper, so that the thug does not stand any chance of escape. The criminal sleeps peacefully, despite his wound, and does not attempt to escape. When Ark wakes up, he sees Zaracas already awake, observing him from a distance. He does not say anything, giving the archer a creepy smile instead.

[OOC: Random PC=Jules]

Jules

As a new day dawns, Jules is the first to get up and make his way towards the main hall, in hopes of finding something better than last night’s dinner for breakfast. He is offered a slice of stale, dry bread and a bowl of watery soup by the innkeeper, who informs the lordling of recent developments:

“If you had any plans for venturing out today, I have bad news for you. The whole district is under military control. They are determined to leave no stone unturned. If you and your friends are those they are after, fear not: I can hide you in my cellar. There is a secret room they would never find. I don’t know how many days it will take before this whole thing gets sorted, but I can provide shelter for a reasonable fee.”

Jules considers the man’s offer over breakfast. He is eventually joined by the rest of the group, who are also offered the same breakfast as he was.

Ark

As the rest of the companions prepare, Ark decides to go to the roof, like Elana had done in the night. The assassin sees that many soldiers are walking in the streets of the city; navigating the alleys undetected would be next to impossible. The rooftops, however, remain unreachable to the military. Although treacherous and covered with snow, they offer a rare chance for escape from this place. As Ark ponders this, he realizes that his new companions might slow him down: the men might be able to follow him from roof to roof, but the assassin is not so sure about the women. Eventually, Ark decides it would be unwise to think this through on an empty stomach. He climbs the stairs down to the main hall, where he joins the rest of his companions.

Everyone

[OOC: You are free to discuss alternatives, plans of action, what to do with Zaracas etc.]

The discussion over breakfast is interrupted abruptly by loud knocks on the door. “Open up!” says someone from behind the door, in a commanding voice. “In the name of the Senate, open up!” Although unknown to Grunur, Ark and Eva, the authoritative voice sounds vaguely familiar to Jules and Elana; Caithas suspects that it belongs to none other than Langbard.

[OOC: Perception checks-Successes.]


Caithas felt good for the first time since....gods, since when? Before the boat ride...before that damned bar fight...hells, probably before he came to this bloody city.

Grunur woke refreshed and healed as well, though the continued presence of Eva worried him.

"Miss Eva, your healing greatly helped," the dwarf said the following morning, "but I must ask...what now? I am not coming with you; it looks like we're not going anywhere in fact. So I ask you: What now?"

Caithas wondered the same thing.

----------

When the knock sounds and the voice calls, Caithas' normally hidden, tell-tale ears actually perked up.

"I know that voice," the ranger says to the group gathered, "it's Langbard!"

He looks to Jules, then Elana. "Guess we better let 'im in, yeah?"

(OOC: In case folks don't check the FAQ, here's how to roll dice, without spaces of course:

[ dice] normal dice format from TTW [/ dice]

Apparently, it's just like Mythweavers. As for colored text, that I don't know about. Vlad, how do you want to deal with that? Should we all just use black and white, should we bold speech, or is there a color function I'm missing?)


Elana was pondering over what she had seen that night while the others discussed plans. The temple was gone, now. All the priests had been displaced to who knows where. It seemed that everywhere they went they brought misfortune upon the innocent.

She poked at the beans on her plate with uncharacteristic lethargy as her melancholy surfaced.

The knock on the door jolted her back to the present. Since Caithas mentioned it, it did sound like Langbard.

"Alright," she called. "Just a second." She stood up and moved to the door, casting one glance back at the others before opening it.


Ark stood quietly and listened to the story, "Ain't that a shame. I'd have to say they do take failure pretty seriously don't they?" He wasn't really asking, more... communicating the bit of sympathy that he could.

"No Zaracas. Your fate is not up to me nor my friends. It's up to you. I don't know what they want from you, but cooperating is always a good bet. Who knows, maybe your new boss will think you're dead and you can slink away from this place of death. While you still have one good eye." Ark feels the pang of hunger and feels like investigating the new voice, so he leaves the captive man to rest after a fixing some more bindings on him, "Zaracas... Get some rest." Ark removed his mask and hid it away under his cloak before leaving the room.

==========================================================

Ark met a short little woman, who insisted on treating his wounds. To which he had no qualms about. As far as he knew she was just yet another friend. For the rest of the night Ark kept to himself and remained silent unless spoken to.

==========================================================

"Who's Langbard?" He whispers quietly as he draws a cautious dagger beneath the table. "And why are we letting him in?"


Eva woke up lazily as always, the life of a scholar was thankfully a lethargic one, books rarely ran away and she was content to not chase after them until after breakfast.

The question by Grunur was answered with surprising conviction, "I had a feeling you wouldn't return with me on the first day but rest assured I will convince you eventually. Your little quest seems interesting and if knowledge should benefit men, so should I help it on its way. I will stay and assist, unless you and your companions feel the need to force me away."

She then attacked her meal with impressive gusto for a woman her size, looking over at Elana, "Not in the best mood toda-"

The interruption from the door knock gave her pause as she felt for the small knife on her belt, she was officially with the rebels now and she would probably be treated as such by the officials.


Grunur nods at the small woman's words. It was madness, but then, his choices had been mad since he'd used his hammer against an Andellian official. Who was he to judge?

"Very well, Eva. We shall see. If we ever escape this inn, this district, this city...this rebellion...perhaps we'll go pay mum a visit."

As to who this Langbard was that Caithas piped up about, he knew not. But the married noble couple seemed to take great interest in the half-breed's words.


Jules listens to the man's offer of shelter. It sounds nice, and it would give them time to plan, but it would set them back as well. Every day not moving forward was another day the rebellion could be snuffed out by some lucky patrol of guards.But at the same time, running out into a city on alert would do nothing but hurt them.

"Alright, Ah'll think on what you've said," he tells the man without giving a real answer. When the others join him later in the morning he tells them of the owners offer to hide them.

When Caithas mentions that it's Langbard knocking at the door; it surprises him. "We should let him in, but it shouldn't be one of us who opens ze door, he could have unfriendly guards with him."


"Good point," Caithas says to Jules. "See? That's why you do the thinking and I do the cutting."

Grunur steps forward.

"I shall do it. The official never saw me; no dwarf has been sighted with your band."

The dwarf moves to open the door, blessing himself with his mother's gift as he does so, just in case trouble greeted him on the other side. Hammer in hand, armored as always, the dwarf moved to open the door, muttering in dwarven as he went.

1d8 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2

(OOC: That's the 24-hour temp. HP for Grunur, of course.)


Ark and Zaracas

Zaracas silently considers Ark’s words for a few moments, before going to sleep. When he wakes up, he is more willing to talk to the assassin.

Listen: you may not realize it, and your companions are probably not aware of this either, but you’ve tried to f%&+ with the wrong man. You have no idea what he is capable of, or how much power his agency commands. You asked for my cooperation, so here’s my advice: Get the hell out of here, before it’s too late. You just can’t win this one; not without an army backing you along the way. Not me, not anyone can protect you from the man’s wrath when he finds you.

--------------------
--------------------

Later…

The dwarf volunteers himself, remaining in the main hall, next to the door, as the rest of the party moves upstairs. Grunur allows his companions a few moments to hide, before opening the door. He sees a man, tall and wearing a long beard, standing in front of him. Apparently, he had not expected a dwarf to open the door for him. His eyes wonder for a moment before finally spotting the stout warrior. Even when he sees him, he seems reluctant to acknowledge his presence. He brushes him aside, hurrying to the innkeeper without paying any attention to the armiger.

The bearded warrior approaches the owner of the establishment closely, before whispering to his ear. Grunur overhears the conversation as best he can: I am looking for Brother Percy. Can you summon him for me? He gives a detailed description of Jules, or rather the man he was pretending to be, before arguing to strengthen his request: I am his friend. I know he is here, and that he does not wish to be disturbed. I know that you look at me and you see a guardsman, but appearances can be deceiving. All I wish from you is to let him know that Langbard is here.

Despite Langbard’s pleas, the innkeeper claims that he has never seen or heard of a “Brother Percy”. The man may actually be speaking the truth for a change, since Jules has already shed the guise of the wandering priest. Grunur, to whose presence none is alerted, takes the opportunity to sneak away, quickly climbing up the stairs to his companions’ room. He finds Jules and explains that the man, who claims to be Langbard, is indeed alone, but that he doesn’t seem to be looking for him. He describes the soldier to the lordling; Jules understands the situation and decides to leave his room and talk to the man.

The noble catches Langbard as the discussion with the innkeeper begins to escalate. It takes a moment for him to recognize the once-disguised lordling, but he does so eventually. Reassured by Jules’ presence, the old soldier quickly terminates his argument with the innkeeper. Finally, I have found you. We need to talk. Is there a safe place within the inn?

Jules asks the innkeeper to show them to the basement, while the rest of the party joins the two men. Langbard eyes the newcomers suspiciously, before whispering to Jules a few words: They should join only if you trust them. Otherwise, it’d be better for them-and us-to wait outside.

Jules can determine who joins and who doesn’t, but party members who are not invited can also argue with Jules and Langbard, if they want to.

Once downstairs, Langbard makes sure to lock the door behind him. He quickly addresses the group in a tone that denotes urgency, if not distress or fear. Last night, a temple not far from here was burned to the ground. Many of its priests were killed on the spot, while others were arrested. No interrogation was necessary for them to reveal that a man that went by the name of Brother Percy had instructed them to evacuate their church. They also gave descriptions of his companions. I guess I do not need to tell you how these companions looked like…

He looks around at the group, before continuing: The entire might of Legion XI, until recently charged with protecting the government district, has been deployed to comb every alley of this city in search of the rebels. They will not accept failure; they are determined to leave no house or establishment unsearched until the heads of the traitors adorn the walls of the Rector’s Seat.

I know not how you managed to get yourselves in such a situation, and I will not demand answers from you, even though I should. These things will have to wait. I am here to urge you to leave this part of the city before it is too late. Whatever your mission here was, there is no way to accomplish it now. Not with the entire military looking for you. Don’t fool yourselves; Malcom has already given his life for this. Throwing your lives away, while commendable, will do nothing to further the goals of the rebellion. I can give you a way out of this mess. I can acquire some full-body armors from people in the guard who owe me a few favors. Disguised as armor-clad guardsmen, we can leave Lower Andelia by crossing the Knight’s bridge. I will join you; my men will do so as well, after we reach Upper Andelia. We can organize the rebels there, armed with information about the Legions’ strength.

The armor will conceal the features of lady Savain, allowing her to pass of as a soldier. As for the two dwarves, we could pass them off as criminals or rebels led to Upper Andelia for execution. It’s not the most convincing excuse, but it’s the only one I can think of under the circumstances. Langbard looks at Jules seriously, before concluding: Think about it carefully, but answer quickly. Every moment spent here increases your chances of capture and execution.


[OOC: Jules is going to have Ark, Grunur, and Eva wait outside, no offense intended, but he wouldn't feel comfortable with essentially complete strangers listening in already.]

Jules asks the three newcomers to wait behind, while he meets with Langbard. It wasn't a lack of faith in their skills, but Ariel had proven unreliable and nearly doomed them only yesterday. He wouldn't be making the same mistake again.

Jules tries to think through the situation as Langbard explains it to him. If they stay, they die. And if they leave, they lose the Irregulars and all of the supplies and men they could bring. But they had other allies they could draw on in time, and throwing their lives away would get them nothing.

"Ah would like to hear what everyone else thinks before deciding anything, but as for myself, Ah say we retreat. We may have failed to decode ze message, but for all we know it is no longer even relevant. We have allies to gather in Upper Andelia, and zer is still work to be done there.

"But if we leave, Ah want to deal with Zaracas first. He may know something, and Ah want to see if Ah can't get zat out of him."


Caithas spoke before Jules had the words out, "Grunur comes down with us, sir. I promise you that."

The dwarf said nothing, but he crossed his arms. He was insistent.

Caithas continued before heading down stairs, "Jules, you have trusted me before. Trust me on this one. I'll be your blade...but if he's here? He'll be the hammer. Besides, he's my friend."

--------------

(OOC: Assuming Grunur is allowed to join without a fuss, he will be down there with you guys when Caithas says...)

"Jules, I'll take care of the big thug. Just let me know when," the half-elf said with no cruelty in his voice.

Just honesty.

The dwarf continued to say nothing.


Ark looks at Zaracas as he tells them to flee, "You're right. The temple we fought in is now ashes, and the whole military is looking for us like dogs. Well. Not me really. Seeing as you're the only one still alive that's seen my face. Your boss never got a glimpse of me so I'll count that as a saving grace. I'll be sure to pass on the message to the rest of the group though."

Ark mentions a bit of the conversation before they're interrupted. He doesn't bother to mention it again.

===================

Ark allows Jules to dismiss him and he waits outside of Zaracas' door. He could get to know the new comer that healed him... but... He wasn't sure how much he wanted to associate with them.


Eve consents to wait outside, she knew she was new and understood the need for secrecy in a coup. She returns to the table and pulls out a small journal, scribing the events of yesterday in a lore log, noting down the new resistance to the Empire she'd encountered without mentioning specific names.

Her interest is absorbed in writing in the new entry and re-reading what she had discovered about the Empire in the past until the rest return.


"We should retreat," Elana suggested. "With the entire legion out looking for us, we can hardly even move from our room. Staying here doesn't seem to be doing any good."

She crossed her arms and glanced at the door that held Zaracas. "So what do we do about him?" she asked. "We can't take him with us, can we? And if not . . . can we afford to let him go?"


"Let him go? Are you mad? We kill him, that's what we do. This is a bloody rebellion, not a carnival, my lady. The man tried to kill us. We captured him. He has seen our faces and knows our intent. Now we kill him. So it goes," Caithas finished with conviction in his voice.


The discussion does not last long. So it’s unanimous, Langbard concludes, we should flee before it’s too late. I will go gather the men and all that is necessary. Two hours should be sufficient.

Do not do anything other than remain in hiding and await my return … I will bring an extra set of armor for the archer that is waiting for you outside, he says, referring to Ark, in case he chooses to join us. As for the dwarves, a set of plain clothes or rags should be sufficient. He turns to Jules: You seem to be proficient in the art of disguise. I trust you will take care of this.

Langbard makes sure that Jules, Caithas, Elana and Grunur understand everything and agree on the plan of action. Leaving in broad daylight under the nose of the Legions sounds like a desperate plan, but I want you to muster all your courage. Together, we can make this work. He exits the room, bumping into the rest of the party members, who have been waiting outside for a couple of minutes. He does his best to hastily answer any questions they might have, before leaving the tavern altogether.

Langbard’s departure leaves the members of the group to share information and discuss what to do with Zaracas, who remains upstairs. In addition, as Langbard should return soon, there is no time to waste for the final preparations. If the guardsman’s plan works, and if the companions manage to survive this, it might be long before they return to Lower Andelia. Even if they ever would, the circumstances of their return would most certainly be radically different.

Feel free to finish up whatever needs to be done and deal with Zaracas as you see fit. You can also converse with Langbard if you so desire.


Grunur gulps and balks when he hears Langbard say what the disguises are, "Langbard, is it? I...I trust my friend, and he seems to trust you, so I would place my most sacred belongings with another for the first time, you see. Me...my armor, it is...it is my body, you see. Sounds silly, I know...but it is. It is my honor. To trust it to another to complete this task will be hard, but to leave it behind, I'd rather die. Please, if I am to mime a weakling and a captive...swear one of your men can somehow smuggle it to the escape with me. If you can't, I'll go out, hammer in hand, and die facing them now..."

The dwarf sputters a little at the end, and his ruddy cheeks blaze a bit red, but his gaze is firm.

Caithas seems surprised by Grunur's words, but he makes no move to speak or intervene.

He does turn to Jules and Elana and say, "We have two hours. If either of you want anything out of that thug, make your plea and peace. Because I'm cutting his throat before we leave this building."

His hand drops to his blade.

He continues.

"We should inform those other two if they want out. The guard hasn't seen them, perhaps...with Zaracas dead, they both may escape if they wish. If not, they can watch the sonofab*%@! bleed and pay for what he did. And then they can come with us, yeah? Tough to be picky with this rebellion..."


Elana crossed her arms and fixed Caithas with a stubborn look. "I don't think we should kill him. He fought us, yes, but he's a mercenary. He has no allegiance to the Empire. If we have no use of him, we can just stuff him in a barrel and kick him into the river, or something."


Ark eyes the dwarf as she scribbles in her book. He wonders for a moment before walking over to her and sitting across from her. He gives her a warm and coy smile from across the table,

"Thank you. By the way. I'm afraid I neglected to say so earlier." Ark removed the makeshift bandage from around his neck, revealing a long scar which was midway between his adam's apple and his chin. About 4" long, nice and fresh.


Eva looks up as she closes the journal shut, leaving the quill trapped in the middle as a bookmark. "You're welcome, seems like I was timely intervention with that wound of yours."

She gestures towards the meeting they weren't in with a curious look, one that she wore often, "So... I know all their business with the Empire, but what does a man of your skills have in that fight? It doesn't look like much gold comes from a venture such as this."


"Ah, you peg me for someone who'd grovel over coin. I did get two-hundred sovereigns for it. So at least it was worth it, even if it is a bit of a distraction."

He thinks for a moment, realizing what she meant,

"The whole rebellion thing? I'd rather the people won it for sure. When you've grown up in this city with no parents and no one to watch over you... you become a child of the streets. These streets in a way are mine and the people. My life has been a living hell because of the empire. Thievery, extortion, you name it. Of course... I've always tried to guide myself through right and wrong. But sometimes you just can't turn down a job."

He smiles devilishly at the short woman, "What about you half-pint? where did you wash up from? Iron domes or something? What have you here more than anyone?"


Caithas returns Elana's look grimly. He forces his voice lower and speaks with as much respect for the noble woman as he can muster. His eyes dart to Jules, silently pleading with the nobleman to listen to reason and think like a man at war.

"Lady Elana...I understand you have a noble heart to go with a noble name, but please understand...we're at war here. You joined a rebellion; you knew the terms, as did I, as did we all. The man upstairs...he is the only one to see Grunur's or Ark's faces. He tried to kill us all. He's seen you. He's seen me, and Jules. He is the only link, besides the official, to all of this. The official only saw Jules clearly, and likely me as I pursued him. But this Zaracas has seen us all. You're right that he is a mercenary. That means he will sell us all to the highest bidder, make no mistake of that. His life is a compromise to our safety, if such a thing can ever be said to be had in this damned city. He cannot live. So whether I slit his throat or throw him in a barrel and toss him in a river, as you say, the end result must be the same: He must be dead before he leaves this building. I have done as you and sir Amour have said because you are my betters and my friends, but in this, I am adamant. Grunur risked his life and reputation to help me and us; I will not return the favor by sending a coin-hungry thug into the streets with his description, as well as ours. The man dies, Lady. If that means that you no longer wish me to accompany you, so be it; I'll go on my way, as it were, with a heavy heart and much regret. But I will not go before that sonofab+$*& upstairs is dead. That much I promise you."


"We shouldn't murder a prisoner of war," Elana replied. "If we're a part of the rebellion, then we're an extension of that will-be government. Otherwise what difference is there between us and the corrupt soldiers of the Empire who kill indiscriminately?

"I understand your concern over Grunur and Eva, and I agree that we shouldn't put them at risk. Still, if Zaracas is a mercenary then why don't we buy out his services? Why throw away your opponents sword when we can wield it ourselves? You know he's a good fighter, and the rebellion needs every man it can get."


"Because he doesn't fight and kill just for coin! He does it for fun! He is sadistic, Lady, and your squeamishness over killing him will lead to more death, I promise you. He held your husband prisoner and would do so again if freed! Sir Amour, for the love of sanity, speak up and settle this! You're the leader and the tie-breaker. What do you say?"


Jules listens to the plan and agrees to help disguise his friends at Langbard's suggestion. But when the question of Zaracas' fate comes up he find himself falling silent.

They both had good points, and the memory of those heads in jars put Jules in a dark state of min. He wanted to see the man dead, and let him know that the thug wasn't the one holding power anymore. But at the same time Elana wasn't wrong. They were little better than those they fought if they started killing prisoners indiscriminately.

"Let me talk to him. After Ah learn what Ah can, zen Ah'll know what Ah want done with him."

Jules leaves to go speak with Zaracas, and when he finds the man he says, "Zer are some things zat Ah want to know before your fate is decided. And ze first is zis, what is ze name of ze man you serve?"


"A soldier should relish a fight," Elana said, after Jules left. "And for someone who condemns a man for violence, you sure are eager to murder."

She leaned back in her chair, arms crossed. "'For the love of sanity'?" she quoted. "Really?" Elana shook her head and let out a frustrated sigh.


As Jules leaves to talk to Zaracas, Caithas says, "Remember the two hours we have, my friend. Time's running short. Learn what you can; my blade is ready."

Turning to Elana, the half-elf scowls.

"You mistake me then, my Lady. You think me a soldier? I'm no more a soldier than you are. I fight for what I believe in and I protect those I care about. And yes, I'm asking you to be sane. I'm asking you to set aside misguided honor and look at the fact that we have a beast of a man who wants to kill us captured. If he had died in battle, you would not have blinked a damn eye. But now? Now, you choose mercy? It is madness!"


Leaving his companions behind, Jules heads upstairs to address Zaracas, in a conversation that may well determine if the thug lives or days.

Jules and Zaracas

As the nobleman enters and closes the door behind him, Zaracas looks up at him from the corner he is laying, with no fear in his eyes. He waits for a few seconds before giving his answer: ”I thought you had forgotten about me. I thought you’d let me walk. The archer sure seemed reluctant to slay me. But I suppose I ain’t getting away that easily… a man can always hope, though. Right?”

”I don’t know much about the man myself, but he introduced himself to me as Raynald. Whether that is his true name or not, I never bothered to ask. After all, he did pay me well, and I never got into trouble with the Imperials while serving him. He never had qualms about employing me or criminals for his needs, which is unusual for a governmental official. Then again, I don’t suppose he was a plain governmental official, was he? What else do you need to know

Everyone else

[OOC: I’ll try to push the story a bit by making things move in parallel…]

While Jules converses with the thug, the party makes preparations. It takes little more than an hour for Langbard to return, with a mule dragging a cart. He asks for everyone to join him outside. Those who join him observe that the cart is covered with a thick sheet of dirty fabric. Langbard makes sure that no-one is nearby, before informing the party what it contains. ”I managed to get some old armor parts and full helmets. If the gods are with us, we shall be able to escape. Have a look at the armors and see what fits you. Lady Savain, I sincerely apologize, but I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

He then addresses the Grunur and Eva, mistakenly believing that both of them are dwarves: ”I am sorry, but there are no dwarves serving in the Andelian guardsmen. You will have to pretend you are captured criminals. Where is Brother Percy? He should make sure your disguises are convincing.”

Turning to Grunur, he explains: ”I am sorry for this, but we should be able to transfer your armor on the wagon. I could hide it under some supplies; if anyone else has more skill in this, I would encourage him to help me. The truth is, the military is growing suspicious of everyone, even its own men. We might get inspected while crossing the bridge, and we should make our story as plausible as we can.”

[OOC: Everyone except Grunur and Eva can pick up an old, rusty suit of chainmail, a longsword, a small wooden shield and a full-face helmet from the wagon. When Jules is done, and if he agrees, I would like to roll disguise checks. Ross, give me the modifier (depending on whether you use a kit etc) and I will roll for you, twice. If anyone wants to hide Grunur’s armor, please request a stealth check and give me the modifier. As soon as Zaracas is dealt with and you guys are ready, we can move on.]


[OOC: Using the disguise kit will create a +12 bonus to the roll.]

Jules listens to Zaracas' answer, but doesn't put much faith in the answer. The man was a thug, and trying to get worthwhile information from him would be like trying to get a battle strategy from a common soldier. He had just wanted to see the man's willingness to save his own skin.

"The archer...Ah don't even know him, but Ah should, he helped us and didn't turn traitor even when it could have helped him. Ah paid him to fight because he was convenient. You know, Ah was in a similar position to zis recently. We had saved ze life of a guard who we attacked, hoping to use him as hostage for one of our friends, our leader. But eventually we set ze man free, he had a family and wasn't worth killing. And as it turns out, our leader is now lost to us as well.

"But Ah can't see any reason to keep you around. Your master wouldn't let a glorified thug know anything of real value, so you are useless there. Ah can't use you to get close to him.

"My wife wants me to let you live, and my best friend wants you dead. Ah am inclined to agree with my friend. You are a threat, a killer, and Ah very much dislike you. So here is my next question, why should Ah let you live?"


Caithas works with Langbard outside, nervously glancing back at the inn now and then.

Jules wouldn't be a fool here, he tells himself. He looks at Elana, whom he's had trouble meeting the gaze of in the last hour or so.

Dammit, the ranger thinks, as he straps on the make-shift disguise.

"Here, I'm dressed now...I'll do the best I can to hide Grunur's armor here. You all keeping working...maybe if I smear some more mud - sorry, old friend - it'll keep this out of an inspector's eyes..."

(OOC: Caithas +7 Stealth check for helping with the armor.)

Grunur, looking pitiful in rags and miserable without his suit of metal, a thin and sad looking man indeed, grunts to Langbard, "The more plausible's the truth, sir. If yer gonna get us out of this mess, might as well do it without having to remember too many lies. Tell 'em that we're not who we said we are. We're not Iron Domes dwarves at all, but rather Crags' born, come across the sea to spy on their precious colonies. The Empire can't invade The Crags anymore than I can fly to the damned moon, so you canna hurt 'em too much with your words, I pray."

(OOC: I have some friends in town for the weekend, so posting will be erratic; just a head's up!)


Eva raises an eyebrow at the history she was given, growing up on the streets with nothing but your wits was familiar to her, it seemed like she shared more in common with the group than she'd thought.

"Aye, I was from the Domes originally, but that was a good four score years ago. I left to see the world and never looked back, and if you've seen how badly the Empire treats their citizens in the city, you should see the lands when you're travelling the roads. I've watched it for many decades and perhaps its time I did something about it."

==========================================================================
((Question, do the prisoners need Stealth checks as well? Or do I use someone else's mod for looking grungy and beat up?))

Eva consents to giving up her gear, all but the battered journal that she insists on being stuffed down her prisoner's garb. "Trust me, there are observations and notes in here to rise and topple ten Empires, this stays with me."


It was trial and error for Elana as she tried to figure out the clasps and straps of the Empire's armor. Everything seemed too big on her, and even her helmet fit loosely so that if she tilted her head down it would slump forward and cover her eyes.

Langbard kept on apologizing profusely to her, but Elana simply waved his worries away. "No need to fret," she told him as she belted on the sword belt. "You shouldn't apologize for saving us."

As she fiddled with her helmet strap, her eyes caught Caithas' who seemed to be avoiding her. Indeed, she was still upset with his decision regarding the Zaracas issue, so the avoidance was mutual. Jules still hadn't come back, and Elana hoped he'd do the right thing. More so, though, she hoped Zaracas wouldn't prove her wrong if they did spare him.


The half-elf saw Elana's furtive glance and looked away. Then he cursed himself for a fool and walked over to the noblewoman.

"My lady...we will not agree on this, and perhaps not on many other things as well...but that does not mean you don't have my sword, my friendship or my respect. And no matter what the result of this argument comes to be...I hope you know my words to be true."

With that, the half-elf went back to busying himself with covering Grunur's armor with as much mud and refuse as he could. Poor dwarf, he thought, looking at the pitiful man in rags. I've dragged him into a war and have forced his most prized possession to be stripped from him...some g#!#+~ned friend. It's a miracle he doesn't crush my skull with his bloody hammer and be done with it.

But if Grunur shared these feelings, he made no show of it. He was despondent and anxious, but he was not wroth. He just looked like he wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible; as it was, rags or no, he felt like a naked man being paraded through the streets. Neither beggar, nor soldier, nor Queen would appreciate such a feeling...


[OOC: Game back at TTW after popular demand :-).]

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