Under the Thirteenth Revolutionary Council
Fireday, 31st Desnus, 4719
While there is no sort of 'official' time that everyone closes their shops, there are tendencies. Usually it's between the sixth and seventh bell after noon; some close earlier, a few close later, but even now, getting into the long days of the year, here in Isarn it's been found to be best to close up, and make sure you're closed up. Shops with windows are few and far between, and those are usually ones with a very, very strong understanding with the local hooligans -- they pay enough, and the hooligans actually do make sure that if their windows are busted out, the people who do it pay for it one way or the other, and usually both.
But it gives employees enough time to go home, get something to eat on the way, perhaps catch up on gossip at their local tavern (which is, after all, still the most common place to get your news). And for certain people, it gives them time to eat and do a few necessary things that their employees would find to be truly odd before they too go out into the darkened city.
Certain people ...
Even in the basement, one can still faintly hear the bells tolling throughout the city. Estelle's employees promptly begin packing up for the day; she's always been insistent that they leave as soon after the sixth bell as possible. That leaves plenty of time for them to eat, drink, and relax before heading home for curfew. Good employees are hard to find, and she doesn't want to lose any to burnout.
The fact that it gives her extra time for her own projects is a bonus.
Upstairs Gerlach is sitting behind the counter, usual scowl on his face as he tallies up the day's earnings. "Any notes for me?"
Gerlach grunts in acknowledgement of the question but finishes the column before answering. "Julien said it was pretty quiet. Only oddity was a young woman wearing a fancy hooded cloak and doing some browsing who left as soon as he tried to talk to her." He glances up at her, thick eyebrows raised. "I told him to let you know if she comes back. You might want to offer her some tea."
Ah. Clients like that were the whole reason Estelle had added a sitting room to the second floor. A quiet, private room where they could spill their tale of woe. Usually jumpy young women were just looking for a way to get access to night tea without their husbands knowing about it. Occasionally though...well there was a reason Estelle kept a small stockpile of poisons.
"Thanks Gerlach. Tell Julien thanks too, if I'm already in the lab when he gets here." Gerlach nods, closing the ledger and handing it to her. Estelle quickly flips through it while he gathers his things, making sure she doesn't have any questions about the day's transactions. "Looks good Gerlach. I'll see you tomorrow." He smiles at her, (more accurately the scowl lessens slightly, but she'd decided long ago that was his version of a smile), and heads out the door. She carefully locks it behind him.
The work day is over, but there's still a few chores to take care of.
She heads through the storage room and opens the back door. "Pascal! Flâneur! Trobhad!" The two bull mastiffs immediately run to her, tails wagging. She gives them both some quick head scratches, then heads back inside to their corner of the storeroom. "Okay now, suidh." Both dogs immediately sit as she fills their food bowls. She pauses, watching for a moment to be certain they don't run for the food until given the command, then relents. "Ùine bìdh."
Estelle was proud of the word she'd done with them. Training animals was far from her area of expertise, but with enough time, patience, (and a few alchemical aids), they were exactly what she'd wanted. Guards were expensive and needed regular time off, but guard dogs would happily watch the shop forever. They weren't perfect of course, but as a deterrent they worked wonders. Thieves could try to get past or kill the dogs, but it was so much easier to go one street over to the shop protected only by a simple lock.
In Isarn, you take what protection you can get.
While the dogs eat their dinner, she gets ready to go out. It's been a while since she visited the tavern, and it's important to keep up with local gossip. (It's important to know when Le Fantôme needs to come out to play.) No armor, but she does put war razors into her wrist sheathes. She shoves an extract of Expeditious Retreat into her belt pouch, along with a few silvers. A few more silvers go into the hidden inside pocket of her clothes.
Looking at herself critically in the mirror, she nods. Respectable craftsperson here. Nothing fancy, nothing out of place. If she does get mugged, she can simply give them what little money she has. If they press the matter, she has the extract to help her run. If worst comes to worst, she can pull out the razors.
No one in Isarn is ever completely safe, but this should be more than sufficient for an evening at the tavern.
Heading back downstairs, she deliberately leaves the back door open a crack. If someone's determined enough to get over the wall and past the dogs, a door lock wouldn't stop them. "Flâneur, Pascal, dìon an àite seo."
Closing and locking the front door behind her, she heads out onto the street. Time to find out what's going on in the neighborhood.
Also, go ahead and make a Diplomacy (gather information) roll; you can roll the 1d4 to see how long it takes you as well, if you like, or I can work that into my next post. ;)
The tavern nearest to Versatile Vials -- any block in any city in the world has the equivalent of a tavern or three, and many an alley in Isarn has a door with a sign scratched into it or hanging above -- is but three doors down, a boisterous place where the laughter has, over the many years you've been here, gained a bit of an edge, a touch of strained artifice. People are laughing less because they're having a good time, and more because they're trying to convince themselves they're having a good time. Pockets are leaner than they used to be, which means that while the beer may be a bit cheaper, it's also watered down more than it once was. A glass of wine is still the same, but ... well, it too tends to be a bit thinner on the flavor and alcohol fronts.
Nonetheless, perhaps because the proprietor has made a determined effort to keep 'The Flock of Doves' a place of cheer (however false), it continues to do relatively good business. A thin-faced bard works a battered lute to keep the 'good times' going, while haggard women with false smiles plastered on their faces bring beer in pitchers and wine in bottles to those who purchase them; a pugnacious half-orc in a battered breastplate sits a stool at the middle of the bar's length, ready to pummel anyone who dares to start something violent.
Really, it tends to be a good place to sift through the news of the day because of the feigned jollity; low-voiced conversations can be had with the raucous songs as cover, and a sharp, well-trained ear might pick out others' conversations if they don't take care.
Estelle's a familiar sight at 'The Flock of Doves,' having been coming here once or twice a week for years. Partly to support local businesses; having a thriving tavern nearby brings more foot traffic to Versatile Vials than would an empty shell of a building. Partly because it's the quickest and easiest way to hear the gossip in the neighborhood.
She smiles at the bartender as she takes a seat next to the half-orc. "Hello Adrien. I'll have the usual, please." 'The usual' was a middling red wine, not so expensive that it would hurt her wallet, not so cheap that it would hurt her tongue.
While waiting for her wine, she turns to the half-orc. "Good to see you again Gabin. How have things been? Had to crack any heads lately?" In her experience, the bouncers usually were the first to know when someone...unpleasant moved into the neighborhood. And while no one would be having quiet conversations near the bar, it was a good middle ground to start getting an idea of where people actually were holding conversation. All the better to 'coincidentally' take her bottle of wine to a seat nearby.
Gather Information, Free Inspiration: 1d20 + 15 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 15 + (3) = 26
Time Spent: 1d4 ⇒ 3
Sorry about the language. I normally do include translations but didn't think of it this time since she wasn't saying anything important.
Trobhad = Come
Suidh = Sit
Ùine bìdh = Food time
Dìon an àite seo = Protect this place
For reference, the dogs know the following tricks: Attack, Come, Down, Exclusive, Heel, and Guard. Anything else (like food time) is just fluff that has no mechanical benefit.
Bartender-and-owner Adrien gives Estelle a quick, brief smile, and amidst the rest of his activities produces a simple and cheap salt-glazed goblet for Estelle, filled about three-quarters full of her usual red. Gabin merely shakes his head, arms across his chest in such a manner as to emphasize his musculature -- not for you, but for the regulars who might've forgotten, and the handful of irregulars and new folk who never knew. "Couple-three nights ago, some young guy came around, got into a chat with Marco. Marco still can't keep any disagreement to 'a chat', so it got a little heated; had to thump him a bit." He shrugs. "New guy wasn't uppity, though. Otherwise, pretty quiet."
'Quiet' is good. Estelle is curious about who this 'young guy' might have been, but if Gabin doesn't think he poses a problem then she can probably ignore him. "Marco's still young, he'll learn to keep his cool eventually." Of course, to Estelle just about everyone is young.
She pays for her wine and takes a seat near the edge of the room. Even if she doesn't learn anything of note, it's still good to get out of the shop for a few hours. She smiles at the regulars she recognizes but doesn't make any attempt to talk to them. Instead she quietly sips her wine and listens to the conversations happening around her.
Perception, Free Inspiration: 1d20 + 14 + 1d6 ⇒ (4) + 14 + (4) = 22
The half-orc grunts. "Doubt it," he opinions from his lofty age of twenty-two; Marco is almost thirty and is definitely one of Isarn's hot-heads, it being a minor miracle of some sort that he hasn't run his mouth off to the wrong people and is still alive.
Settling down and lending an ear to the casual gossip around you, the overwhelming majority of it is the gossip and concerns of the every-day city-dweller -- prices of food, the vagaries of various lives, incidents and accidents, hints and allegations. Talk about someone sleeping with someone else who isn't their spouse or regular lover, talk about a bauble missing, celebration at a lost item found. Politics, though most of the discussion is far from the controversial sort of debates that might be found in, say, Talmandor's Doctrine a quarter-mile away (as the crow flies). No, around here is like around most of the city, accepting that Citizen Goss knows what he's talking about: that Chelish spies remain plotting to seize power in Galt and turn it into a satellite state of Cheliax; that Andoran and Taldor, whether as rivals and as cohorts, are looking for the best opportunity to invade; that agents of the old pre-Revolution nobility seek to return the nation to their aristocratic rule "instead of proper rule by the Revolutionary Council the way it's supposed to be!!"
There is, to be fair, some amount of disgruntlement about the Caydogs and their handling (or mishandling as the case may be) of life in the District. Not long after the ninth bell, however, the Flock of Doves suddenly quiets down in a wave emanating from the door. Three bravos of the gang stand there, in what the Caydogs call 'silver and tan' -- typically tan clothing with silver (rare) or white (usually dirty) trim or accent item; scarves are popular, no doubt for their fast and easy removal and concealment in case of running into a problem they can't handle -- like an equal fight. This trio is a curious one, made up of a dwarf, a half-orc, and an elf, all males, and none of them can be far out of their adolescence, which to be fair is relatively common for the Caydogs; Cayden's Home is one of their main recruiting grounds. The elf might still be considered, at least by other elves, not yet an adult.
The three paused to watch the effect their arrival has on the common people in the tavern, then slowly swagger their way to the bar, apparently satisfied that their dominance is established. The elf makes a point of shouldering Gabin off his stool, onto which the dwarf climbs before pounding a fist on the planking. "Barkeep!! Ale!!"
Adrien hurries to serve the three.
You can see that Gabin is pissed -- you'll see his fist clench down at his hip, concealed from the three -- but he has enough sense to know that making a fuss would be bad for the Doves, not to mention that three-on-one is bad odds, particularly because he can't expect anyone to pitch in on his side.
You also get the sense that the elf knew that, and is deliberately screwing with Gabin, just because he can.
Outwardly Estelle keeps perfectly calm, sipping her drink and ignoring the new 'customers.' Right now she can't interfere without drawing far too much attention of the kind she's been studiously avoiding ever since her first kill. Estelle Delsarte is a respectable business-owner who would never dream of standing up to the Caydogs. Any hint that she might be more than that would have dire consequences. She's good, but she's under no illusions that she could stand up to the entire gang if they came to burn down Versatile Vials.
There's a reason that any hunting she does is under a different guise.
The question then: Should Le Fantôme go hunting? These three are young, cocky, and more than willing to take advantage of the protection offered by their silver and tan clothing. Bullies who enjoy the fear they cause in regular people. But if Le Fantôme went after every bully in the district she'd never be able to take off the hood.
No, the kukris are reserved for the monsters. The ones who do more than just throw their weight around. The ones who prey on the people of the Sud Rivière, robbing, raping, and killing as they please.
Estelle continues sipping her wine, seemingly focused on nothing more than enjoying her drink. Her attention however is entirely on the new group, listening for any clues that might indicate they're monsters, not just bullies. She's also listening for anything that might make it easier to follow them later. Names, favorite hideouts, future plans...
What kind of people are you?
Perception, Free Inspiration: 1d20 + 14 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 14 + (3) = 25
Sense Motive, Free Inspiration: 1d20 + 12 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 12 + (4) = 24
It takes a few minutes -- five, maybe ten -- before the crowd in the Flock of Doves returns almost to normal; the trio of Caydogs settle in to be the center of a mild sort of annoyance. There's nothing especially nasty about what they're doing, but it is a low level kind of harrassment of anyone who has to go past them. The servers have it the worst, of course, and in a certain way Gabin's reputation is suffering, but there's nothing really bad.
Until you catch the word 'corpse' in close proximity to the word 'dispose'. It isn't said very loud -- you'd be willing to bet that in this ruckus, you're probably the only one who overheard -- and while you can't tell just from their body language whether they were the one who created said corpse, there is definitely a certain kind of tension about them. Listening as closely as you can without, you know, looking like you're listening, you do catch one thing - 'Rue le Potage', which you know to be an alley-cum-street not too far from where you now sit.
Another ten or so minutes later, the dwarf turns and pushes himself off the stool he stole from Gabin, and stumps towards the door. The elf and half-orc straighten up, stretch, look around as if they owned the place, and start to follow.
Estelle waits a few minutes, finishing off her wine, before departing herself. "See you later Gabin, Adrien." She strolls to Versatile Vials, paying attention just in case someone was waiting to jump her, then unlocks the front door and lets herself in.
This 'corpse disposal' could be a lot of things. But it was definitely suspicious. Unfortunately Estelle couldn't investigate, for the same reasons she couldn't interfere earlier.
Le Fantôme could.
She makes her way down to the basement, hurrying now that she's inside and out of sight. Heading into the lavatory, she grimaces slightly as she reaches under the seat and feels for the hidden button. It was a good place to hide it, (people generally avoided reaching under the seat), but gods it was disgusting.
She presses the button, and the back wall smoothly moves aside. She'd had the small secret room installed decades ago. Originally it was to keep her valuables from being stolen by any idiot who broke in. Now...now it stored other things too.
Her hands are quickly wiped on a towel kept expressly for that purpose as she heads for her bag. The Handy Haversack had been expensive, but it was fantastic for storing everything she needed in one small lightweight container.
A chain shirt is put on and swiftly hidden underneath a hooded cloak. A face mask covers the lower half of her face, just in case the hood fails her. (Although she always pins it in place.) The war razors are exchanged for her kukris, while all of her prepared extracts and her mutagen go into the haversack. A pair of gloves slip onto her hands. Finally, she reverently takes a holy symbol of Tanagaar and places it around her neck.
Le Fantôme is ready to hunt.
Hooded Reversible Cloak
All prepared extracts
Acid flask (2)
Alchemist’s Fire (2)
Concealable Thieves' Tools
Silk Rope (50’)
Traveling Formula Book
Le Fantôme rolls her shoulders as she conceals the haversack under her cloak and leaves the basement. Between the few minutes she'd waited before leaving the tavern and the few minutes it had taken her to get ready, she guessed she was 10-15 minutes behind the Caydogs.
That should be fine. She knew exactly where they were going, and if necessary could track them from there.
She heads out the back door, (still leaving it ajar), and carefully climbs the back wall. She holds herself at the top for a second, carefully making sure there no one to see her, then drops over the other side.
From there she makes her way swiftly to the Rue le Potage. She keeps to the rooftops when she can and sticks to the shadows when she can't. It's important that she not be seen.
Le Fantôme should never be seen, expect by her victims.
She slows down as she reaches the alley, listening for any indication that her targets are still there. Time to hunt.
Perception - See if anyone is watching her leave: 1d20 + 14 + 1d6 ⇒ (4) + 14 + (3) = 21
Climb, ACP, Gloves - In case she can make a rooftop approach: 1d20 + 2 - 2 + 1 ⇒ (20) + 2 - 2 + 1 = 21
Stealth, ACP - To not be seen traveling: 1d20 + 11 - 2 ⇒ (18) + 11 - 2 = 27
Perception - To find her targets: 1d20 + 14 + 1d6 ⇒ (20) + 14 + (6) = 40
However, a bunch of very good rolls there indeed. ;)
It is notable that a quick character review at this point does highlight something of a problem with Le Fantôme's preferred methodology of getting about (i.e. on rooftops) -- she has an abysmal Climb skill (of only +2) which, though you did roll wonderfully well, has that nasty Armor Check Penalty, and thus the roll is technically not good enough to get you up past the first story or two; going by Urban Adventures, the first (stone) floor or two have a Climb DC of 25, while the upper have DCs of only 21.
She also, as a Vigilante, has a relatively poor Intimidate at +3, though Intimidate gets a further +4 when in Vigilante identity and in Sud Riviere.
I recommend filching at least 2 points from elsewhere to lodge 1 each into these two skills; in each one, 1 point gets you a +4 due to both of them being class skills. I would also recommend focusing to some extent on your Climb skill so that you can reliably scale a building -- +15 is out of bounds at this instant, but later retraining or just skill-point assignment of 5 points at next level gets you to +10 base, and lodestone boots would get you a +4 circumstance (only when climbing rope, granted, and which doesn't stack with the gecko gloves, but still). And for the ACP, only 150gp ... actually, the armor thing I'll address on the Discussion page, because you're not the only one I noticed this on. A mithral chain shirt is 1100gp, though, to keep in mind for near-future purchases. ;)
If you choose to do it, though, I will allow the 2 points worth of filching at this time. ;) And another idea I just had that'll be appropriate for you will go into the Discussion page as well; do check there.
The bartender and the bouncer both say (or in Gabin's case, grunt) their farewells, the half-orc regaining his seat and glowering around at the room; just another night at the Flock of Doves, and for the proprietor of the tincture-shop down the street ...
For Le Fantôme, the night is just getting started.
Feeling the pressure of time -- fifteen, twenty minutes can be forever -- the elf avenger actually gives only a quick glance about before scaling the ruins of the burned-out shop behind her own little enclave, gaining the rooftops in less than a minute. Another swift glance to orient herself, and she is ghosting off across rooftops and past chimneys, avoiding the occasional cloud-gazer, leaping the six- and eight-foot-wide gaps across alleys with steely aplomb. Only a handful more minutes go by before Le Fantôme crouches on the roof of the shortest building that looks down into Rue le Potage, elven eyes picking out the three Caydogs slowly moving towards her through the alley-way, all three of them scowling as they root through piles of debris, trash, and refuse, clearly looking for something.
PER: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (19) - 1 = 18
PER: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 = 20
PER: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8
Hm!! Possible, if you don't roll decently!
I also paid the extra 150 to bump my chain shirt up to masterwork. Not sure why I it wasn't masterwork to begin with. I'll go shopping for other new equipment tomorrow in game time, (aka after this encounter).
Le Fantôme frowns as she spots the three Caydogs. What are they looking for? They said something about disposing of a corpse, but they don't seem to know exactly where it is. Strange. She continues hiding in the shadows for now, hoping that one of them will say something to indicate what they're doing here. Or, if they don't, that she'll at least be able to see what they find.