Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 33: In The Name of Love

Turning to Thrandi as the guards began to lead him away, Jak had parting words for his fellow Dark Lantern. “You think you know me, old man?” he spat.  “You think getting me arrested on false charges is what’s going to get you back to Breland?  I hope you rot here.”  Thrandi shrugged off the harsh words, still completely convinced of Jak’s guilt, and reminded him that the orders for the arrest had come from Captain Kalaes – to which Jak retorted, “but who reported me?”  As the Tharashk guards herded Jak and Aruget out the shop’s front door, with Aruget also manacled now for having interfered with Jak’s arrest, Kayde slipped into the shadows to follow from a distance as Lestok counted on his short stature to make himself overlooked.  However, the already on-edge Tharashk sergeant did see him, and told him he could visit his friends after they’d been jailed, but not to follow them or interfere with the law.  Lestok retorted that he was the one making a scene, and cheekily reported a “public disturbance.”  As the guard became and more agitated, seeming very on edge and trigger-happy, the stubborn gnome who was no stranger to tangles with the law showed no signs of backing down.  However, before things could escalate too badly, he decided to stop following them and use the new magical boots he’d looted from Lt. Sesko of the Emerald Claw to try and beat the patrol to the Tharashk enclave, gesturing at Kayde in the shadows to follow him.

While his friends had tackled this new roadblock head-on, Ivello had been listening at the shop’s back door.  Letting himself in, he was met by Thrandi coming up the stairs, who sharply ordered him out and to the front of the shop as Ivello told him they had something to discuss.  He’d overheard the old man talking to Jak and the guards, and didn’t know who he was, but wanted to know how he was mixed up in this whole awful affair.  As Thrandi shouted at him again to get out,  Ivello told him to turn around and go back downstairs and they would talk, which sounded like a threat to the seasoned agent.  Eyes narrowing, he warned Ivello to leave that instant…and then hopped back as Ivello’s quarterstaff came sweeping towards his legs.  Producing a wand from his pocket, he warned Ivello again that if he didn’t leave now, he wouldn’t leave of his own power.  Ivello begged to know who Thrandi was to Jak, and then promptly slumped against the wall as a ball of acid streaked out of Thrandi’s wand, hitting him square in the chest as the old man disappeared down into the cellar and locked the door behind him.  Frantically brushing the acid off his clothes to save himself from a nasty burn, Ivello still wasn’t ready to give up.  He pulled a scroll out of his stachel and used it to conjure himself a set of lockpicks, but not being a skilled thief or infiltrator, he was unable to do much with them.  Banging on the door, he yelled at Thrandi that he wouldn’t get away with this.

At the Tharashk enclave on the other side of the district, Lestok and Kayde had indeed beaten the patrol to the punch…and the gnome had an idea.  He entered the main building and declared to the half-orc clerk that he had come to file a complaint for the arrest of an innocent companion – a very important contractor of Morgrave University.  As he began to fill out a form under the half-orc’s surly eye, the patrol returned with Jak and Aruget.  Making their way past the desk, the two were stripped of their belongings before being placed in two small cells with a stone wall separating them.  As the female orc who had taken the speaking stone from Lestok began filling out paperwork of her own, Jak noticed that she wasn’t doing it very quickly, and kept taking sidelong glances at him.  Aruget called to her to ask how long they’d be held, to which she replied that his sentence would be up to her captain for obstructing House business, but that Jak would be there a while.  Then she reached into her desk and pulled something out, speaking in a low voice as her eyes narrowed.  She looked directly at Jak this time, came to the cell bars, and held out the speaking stone.  Refusing to take it, Jak accused her of entrapment, to which told him that someone on the other end wanted to speak with him, and that the gnome had wanted him to have it.  Correctly identifying it as a touch-activated speaking stone, she kept a firm grip on it while Jak cautiously placed his hand on it through the bars of the door and heard an all too familiar voice.

“Jak?” Tik called out. As he taunted his captured foe, he told Jak he knew he didn’t have the solitaire, and that Thrandi had been ordered to arrest the whole party, but for some reason hadn’t passed that message along to Tharashk.  He revealed that he’d delivered the report to Kalaes in person, which got Jak’s attention – where was Tik getting his resources?  The Emerald Claw?  Refusing to answer and reminding Jak that it was the word of one disgraced agent against Tik, who was well trusted, he taunted Jak again and told him he would hang for his “betrayal.”  As Jak laid into him, declaring that he would put his skills to good use hunting Tik down, he was met with the sound of laughter and told that he’d never be believed.  Looking up at the orc, Jak replied, “we’ll see about that, did you hear all that?”…to no response from Tik.

The orc looked down at Jak, eyes wide.  “You’re really innocent, aren’t you?”  As Jak took a quick read of her, he sensed that her interest might be more than professional, and debated how to best use that information in his already swirling thoughts.  She confirmed that she’d heard Tik, and Jak begged her to get Aruget free.  She scowled and repeated that that would be difficult, as he’d resisted arrest, but mentioned that she only had orders to capture Jak…and that Citadel agents were on the way to take him back to Breland themselves, to take him to the capital to be hung. Though he had nothing to bargain, Jak begged her to get Aruget out.  The equally stubborn blademark reminded Jak that he had orders to protect the whole party, and that he wasn’t leaving him.  As Jak slumped to the floor and buried his head in his hands, the orc promised to get Aruget released by morning, and told him that his friends had arrived at the enclave.  Jak insisted they weren’t with him and not to bring them in, which Aruget protested.

Back in the receiving area, Lestok continued to verbally and psychologically spar with the increasingly agitated clerk as Kayde told him to hold down the fort while he left to run a mysterious errand that he suggested might help them.  On his way out, he ran into Ivello who had just arrived, and who found Lestok inside, determined to buy Jak time by burying his captors under a mountain of paperwork.  Ivello asked if the guards wouldn’t let them see Jak and Aruget, and suggested to Lestok that they find a rat to send them a message instead.  Lestok slapped his newest completed form down in front of the clerk and promised they’d be back with more, and they left the enclave.

Quickly finding and catching a rat, Ivello whispered to it that he’d overheard Thrandi was working for Kalaes, demanding to know what was going on and why Jak had been burnt, and reminding him that the party was on his side and they’d get him out.  From his cell, Jak replied that he was being taken to Wroat to be hung, that Ivello shouldn’t get tangled up in it, and that he was grateful for his friendship and sorry for the bad blood between them.  As Ivello relayed this fatalistic message to Lestok, the gnome immediately proposed a jailbreak.  When Kayde returned from his errand, Ivello insisted that something about this didn’t add up, and they had to figure out what, to which Lestok replied that finding Tik was the key to everything.  He’d be looking for the Solitaire, which meant he’d be looking for them.  He proposed extracting Jak when the Citadel agents came for him, but said he had a plan to free Aruget sooner.

Back in the jail, the female orc returned after a changing of the guard, looking very concerned.  She whispered to Jak that Aruget would not be released as promised, as the Captain had received new orders from the Brelish government to apprehend the whole party, because they were looking for something the group had – which Jak assumed to be the rest of the Ashen Crown.  He replied that they didn’t have it, Tik did, and begged her to find his friends and get them out of the city.  He was paying for his past, but they didn’t deserve to.  She asked him what word he’d like passed on , and Jak repeated not to come for him.  As she turned to leave, Jak pointed out Aruget’s House Deneith connection in the hope that might help him, and warned her to not tell anyone she’d ever helped him.

Out on the street corner, Kayde suggested to Ivello and Lestok that he could get in and out of the jail unseen and spring Jak and Aruget while he was at it, revealing for the first time that he could impart his powers of magical disguise on others.  The problem would be what happened next.  As they floated ideas on how to escape the city, Lestok saw the female orc guard who had been part of Jak’s arresting patrol walking right towards them.  Telling them to get off the street because Tharashk would be looking for them soon, she led them down a series of back alleys as Lestok and Ivello whispered fears that they couldn’t trust her – worse, what if she were actually Tik?  As she pointed them down another alley, Ivello saw her sleeve pull back from her wrist to reveal the patterning of a dragonmark, recalled that changelings couldn’t easily replicate those, and suspected that a true Mark of Finding would be how she found them so easily and directly.  As they walked, she warned that there were already patrols looking for them on charges of treason and theft, and pulled out the speaking stone, saying that someone named Tik had spoken with Jak and that it was clear he was framing them.  Ivello questioned her helpful motives, eliciting a blush, while Kayde asked if the cells were warded against magic, to which she replied that they were.  

Pausing the group in a small cul de sac, she told them Jak had asked her to get Aruget out alone, but for practical purposes, springing one or both of them would be the same, and she felt she could create an opening for them to escape.  It would be messy, but an opportunity, to which Kayde replied that once they got past the wards, he would take care of the rest.  She asked if they had a quick way out of the city, and warned them that Tharashk might prevent the Kordenga from leaving Graywall until the party was apprehended, but that they might be able to reach it before that happened.  Asking the orc for her name – Korbus – Kayde said he would work with her on the jailbreak.  As Kayde disguised himself as a Tharashk half-orc, Korbus warned them to keep moving as Lestok and Ivello snuck off in the hopes of approaching the Kordenga unseen. 

Back at the Tharashk enclave, Aruget leaned against the cell wall and whispered to Jak that he was hoping to get out of this mess – was Jak?  Jak confided in Aruget his deepest secret: that he was a Dark Lantern who had screwed up for the Citadel in the past, and was now paying the price.  As he tried to whisper the story of his downfall to Aruget, he began to sob, which the guard found very interesting, and he came over to listen in.  As the guard tried to join the conversation, Aruget snapped at him to shut up, asking Jak what he hoped to achieve, to which the downtrodden young man replied that he just wanted to go home.  At that, the door opened, and Korbus told the curious guard that the captain wanted to speak with him.  Unlocking the cells, she handed the keys at Aruget, told him where to find Kayde, and asked her to knock him out and make it look good.  Aruget complied, dropping her to the ground.  But Jak had other plans.

Again refusing to leave his captivity, the young man’s entire body shook in agitation as Aruget entered his cell, draping his arm over Jak’s shoulders.  He told him that when he was a gladiator, he had craved attention and validation, and that craving had gotten his brother killed.  He accused Jak of only caring about himself.  Jak held firm and again told him to run, and that Aruget would be better off if they’d never met.  Aruget nodded, removed his arm from Jak’s shoulders, and turned to leave…and then whipped around and sucker-punched Jak in the head.  As Jak crumpled to the floor, blood streaming from his ears and nose, Aruget scooped him up over one shoulder, hauled their gear over his other, and booked it as the changing of the guard started winding down.

At a safe distance from the enclave, Aruget soon found Kayde.  Telling him to trust him, Kayde reached out and disguised both Aruget and the unconscious changeling on his shoulder.  With that, he declared that it was time to make their way to the Kordenga.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week:  If the Last War went the way you wanted it to, what would Khorvaire look like today?
  • As a reminder, Korbus’ willingness to help Jak and co. is the result of having played the “Love Interest” adventure card at the end of last session…but during this session, at the urging of two little Jak and Lestok devils on his shoulder, Aruget played the “Betrayed!” action card, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Is Korbus going to turn on us?  I can’t imagine who else is left on our side at this point… 😀
  • Next session, we are going to see what happens after Lestok and Ivello both failed their stealth rolls to get to the Kordenga unseen.  Our resident scientist calculated the odds of both of them coming up snake eyes one after the other to be 1 in 864.  Incidentally, the very next roll in the queue was Jak whispering to Arguet, and I crit failed that stealth roll, and apparently the odds of three people all rolling snake eyes on after the other based on our trait dice was 1 in 31104.
  • The “best” roll of the evening?  Aruget’s massive dice explosion to knock Jak out.  Six raises.  Oh boy!
  • Oh boy.  This session was a tough one.  Jak carries five hindrances, and three of them were very relevant to this session: Shamed, Loyal, and Stubborn.  Jak’s first loyalty, because apparently he’s a sucker for punishment, is to the Citadel.  He is blindly, desperately loyal to them, even after everything that’s happened, and is so downtrodden by his past that he’s willing to submit to a false punishment that he in a twisted way sees as fair.  I can’t wait to see his reaction when he wakes up and realizes he’s not in jail anymore.
  • Aruget is now the only character who knows Jak’s deep dark secret! Everyone knows out of character, but I wonder what Aruget will do with this information.
  • All that being said, I did get to bust out the Jak version of Liam Neeson’s iconic “I have a particular set of skills” speech from Taken on Tik.  So no matter what happens next, I’m winning.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 32: In your heart shall burn

As the dust settled and the party took stock of their situation, Kayde suspected that continued lack of patrols meant a changing of the guard while Ivello feared that the witnesses might note that he fired on “Demise” first.  As the mysterious light flowed through Aruget’s hands once more to heal Kayde’s leg, the performer suggested they leave the tent burning as a distraction.  Aruget, not wanting the fire to spread, tried to put it out but wound up fanning burning ash to a second tent instead. As Lestok searched the bodies for the missing pieces of the Ashen Crown and Yeraa’s speaking stone – hoping one of the two would lead them to Tik – Ivello searched “Demise” and found the most remarkable thing about the changeling’s body was a lack of anything that could identify them.  Keeping watch, Jak saw people starting to mill about, and heard shouts to the north, signaling that it was time to go as Aruget quickly closed Yeraa’s eyes and murmured a prayer over her.  Then, the sky began to explode as the fire Aruget started found a crate of fireworks, distracting the guards and causing more panic amongst the already wary onlookers.  As the party ran, Lestok asked Jak where Tik might go if he were injured, and Jak replied he could go anywhere from the shifter healer in Bloodstone, to Hahlo’s house of healing, to back to the Kordenga

Making their way back to the Gold Dragon Inn, Jak and Kayde disguised themselves as a hobgoblin couple to case the inside for danger while the others cased the outside.  With no sign of Tharashk guards – or Tik – they returned to their rooms, and Jak asked Lestok to give him Zaraani’s Solitaire.  As the gnome offered it with a flourish, Aruget tried to contact Tik through his speaking stone once again to no success.  Jak, pale and uncomfortable at the thought of speaking with Dolurrh, sat on the bed and called Yeraa’s name three times.  “Who slit your throat?” he asked the ghostly figure.  “I don’t know”, she replied.  “What happened to you in the tunnels?” he asked.  She replied that they had found Lurtaan’s Cord and were heading out when some sort of gas or mist enveloped them, and then she felt her spirit leaving her body.  Still not having found the answers he was hoping for, Jak tried his last question: “was Tikulti with you the whole time?”  “Yes,” she replied, and dissolved back into the gem.

As Jak advised they get some sleep before going to warn his Dark Lantern contact Thrandi of Tik’s apparent treachery, Ivello wanted to first find a crow to send a message to his Emerald Claw mole and Jak went with him, insisting that no one should be alone at this time.  Ivello whispered his message to the crow and sent it on its way, and then told Jak something startling: that he would never work with a changeling again for lack of trust, at least not if they didn’t show him their natural form first.  Taken aback, Jak reminded him that not all changelings were as open as he was, and that personas were not lies, but Ivello remained firm.  Aruget joined the conversation in an attempt to help Jak see Ivello’s side, which did not go over well, and the three went to bed without resolving anything.  Meanwhile, Kayde and Lestok searched Tik and Yeraa’s room and came up empty, but the inventive gnome rigged a noisemaker on the door so that he would know if anyone returned to it.  Eschewing even a few hours of sleep, he elected to keep watch, sustained by his Burning Harpy spice.

A couple of hours later, the rest of the party had awakened, feeling a little rough but none the worse for wear.  They all decided to go to Thrandi’s shop with Jak, who insisted that none of them should enter the shop for fear that they would spook the old agent whose true identity as a Dark Lantern he had not revealed to them.  Back in the Roar, the early hour meant the plaza was fairly empty of shoppers, and Aruget noted there was still a distinct lack of Tharashk patrols.  As Jak went through the open door of Brelish Ceramics, he found the shop empty.  Worried, he made his way down to the cellar, calling for Thrandi, and found him down there.  Afraid that he might have found Tik instead, Jak asked Thrandi about the gift he’d brought him the day before, and he answered correctly, but looked nervous.  Jak asked if another agent had come to see him this week, and he replied they hadn’t.  Before he could warn Thrandi that he was in danger, the old agent cut him off, saying that he was surprised Jak would come back after what he’d done as House Tharashk guards called out from the top of the stairs and entered the cellar…declaring that they were arresting Jak on charges of betraying the King’s Citadel!  

As Jak began shouting that it was all a mistake, that it wasn’t him, it was Tik, Aruget heard his cries and barreled into the shop to find a crossbow pointed at him with a command to halt.  Upon declaring that he was with Jak, the guard promptly ordered him to disarm and submit himself to arrest, but the paladin whipped out his shield to defend himself instead as a crossbow bolt slammed into the wall behind him.  Making his way for the guards at the stairs, Jak screamed for Aruget to stop as the patrol sergeant manacled him.  Jak futilely tried to de-escalate the situation as Thrandi informed him that he was arrested on Captain Kalaes’ orders and that he would be returned to Citadel to face justice.  As Aruget pushed his way down the stairs, he identified himself as a blademark sworn to protect Jak, and announced that the guards wouldn’t take Jak without him as a crossbow bolt grazed his armour and he bull-rushed the archer with his shield.  At the top of the stairs, he heard Kayde yell out that he demanded answers as a scion of House Phiarlan, to which the sergeant holding onto Jak yelled back that his house held no sway in the Calabas, and to stand down or be arrested himself.  Jak again begged his friends not to make this worse as Aruget lowered his shield.  As Jak pleaded with another guard to believe him, Thrandi coldly told the young agent that he was disgusted with him, and that he would pay for his crimes.  Jak replied that he would welcome being put under a compulsion to tell the truth, as that would prove his innocence.  

As Lestok weaved his way through the guards, saying Tik was on the speaking stone and wanted to talk to Jak, Kayde made an impassioned plea that he be allowed to do so, and a guard waved Lestok forward to hand her the stone as Jak feared what the traitor might say…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: Tell a story of you and your best friend. If you don’t have one, what happened or why not?
  • The conversation about changelings and trust was actually all done in-character when the three of us returned from our mid-session break early. That was pretty cool, it just kind of happened. Turned out the GM who wasn’t at his seat was listening in the whole time, and we all got a bennie for our efforts.
  • Aruget accidentally spreading the fire was the result of a crit fail to put it out, followed up by Lestok spending a bennie to influence the story and put fireworks in the newly burning tent for one epic distraction. Amazing.
  • You may or may not remember Captain Kalaes from like…week six? He is the Dark Lantern captain who recruited the party to this mission, though as far as everyone but Jak knows, he is just plain ol’ Citadel.
  • So, uh, the thing that caused the one guard to be willing to give Jak the speaking stone was the desperate play of the “Love Interest” adventure card on my part. Jak is a professional spy, he is not above flirting with an asset to try to get out of trouble. I’m sure that having a lovesick orc on my tail will never, ever come back to bite me. If nothing else, the timely play of that particular card had the entire table in stitches, so it was worth it.
  • I love, love, love how the GM tailors the game to our characters! First, there was the assassination attempt as a result of Ivello having “Secret” as a major hindrance. And now Jak is in chains, branded as a traitor by an organization he is desperately, blindly loyal to. I can’t wait to see how this plays out next week. 🙂
  • I also love how the entire party is eagerly coming to Jak’s defense, because frankly, he’s a bit of an asshole and hasn’t gone out of his way to make any friends on this trip. It warms my little Grinch heart.
  • This week’s post title is part of a poem from the video game series Dragon Age. It is meant to reflect Jak’s blind loyalty to the Citadel and desperation to get back in its good graces even though everything’s gone to hell, and is also the name of a quest in Dragon Age: Inquisition in which the hero loses everything: “In your heart shall burn / an unquenchable flame / all consuming, and never satisfied.”

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 31: Tricked, backstabbed, bamboozled

As Aruget shrugged off his arm wound and swung around to cut the throat of the bandit trying to take down Lestok, Ivello on the other side of the market laid into Demise with his quarterstaff.  Through his still clouded vision, Kayde saw Demise look back towards Lt. Sesko and company and shout something in a screeching language that sounded an awful lot like the monkey as she gasped in terror and darted forward.  Not wanting to take any chances, Kayde blindly unleashed the effects of his potion of Fernian breath, almost catching Jak and Lestok in the conflagration as Demise lept aside into a tent, and the monkey and tiny shadow creature shrieked and burnt.  As they died, Demise yelled out and seemed caught in a daze

Meanwhile, Sesko wasn’t having any of Aruget’s victories over his people.  He cut deep into the hobgoblin’s chest with his axe, but Jak was right by his friend’s side and paid Sesko back in kind by putting a war pick through his eye, dropping the troublesome dwarf once and for all while Lestok unleashed the power of the Fumigator 9000 to take out the remaining goons.  As Kayde held his spear to Demise’s throat and called for the others, she brought up her wand, forcing Kayde’s hand as he shoved the spear into her and she crumpled to the ground…and changed.  As she died, her skin, eyes, and hair transformed into a shade of cloudy, pale white.  “Demise” was a changeling.

As Lestok patted down his pockets, discovering that Zaraani’s Solitaire was missing, he frantically began digging through an overturned apple cart and found the relic in the debris, singed but none the worse for wear.  Aruget collapsed to the ground as Jak rushed to his side, calling out to the Kech Volaar on his khyber shard speaking stone, but there was no reply.  Disturbed – and badly injured – he clutched at the wound in his chest as Jak began to rifle through his pack for a healer’s kit…and suddenly, the paladin’s hand began to glow.  Light flowed out of it and into his wound, stopping the flow of blood and knitting his flesh back together. As Jak watched, stunned, Aruget concluded that Dol Arrah was smiling on him, and that she had granted him some new power. 

Back on the other side of the market, Ivello inspected “Demise”s body, finding a ring that whispered of magic to him, and got the sense that something about the body wasn’t quite right – he was unsure that she even was a changeling.  Someone who had been transformed by sinister magics, perhaps?  Lestok, meanwhile, was convinced that she was a modified warforged of some impressive and terrifying new construction.  As Jak came over to see if the dead changeling was anyone familiar, Ivello noticed that not all of the merchants had fled, and he bribed them to be on their way and stay silent as Kayde and Aruget heard scratching noises coming from their tent.

Kayde went to take a quick peek inside the tent and saw the goblins of the Kech Volaar begin to emerge from the tunnel, spotting the hobgoblin mage Marduuk – but something was off about the way he was moving.  As he moved into the light, Kayde saw that the mage’s throat was slit, his chest soaked with blood, as he made a guttural sound and took a swing at Kayde.  As Akitani – the Kech Volaar’s toughest warrior – and Yeraa also emerged from the tent, it quickly became apparent that the same fate had befallen them: their throats were freshly slit from ear to ear.  The duur’kala began her song, her voice hoarse and cracked, and for a second Aruget’s thoughts grew muddled but he shook it off.  Confused, he tried to take a closer look at her as Jak’s crossbow bolt whizzed over Akitani’s head and past him, catching the little berserker’s attention as Kayde backed up and let loose his fire breath once again, catching Marduuk and the tent in its blast.  Ivello took that as his opportunity to go in blazing, unleashing lightning that dropped Akitani and Yeraa to the ground, while another warrior lunged at him with his bare hands and got a face full of Lestok’s Zom-B-Gone.  As he evaded the hobgoblin’s grasp and ran over to Yeraa’s body to search for the other pieces of the Ashen Crown, Aruget swung around behind the burning tent and finished off the warrior engaged with Lestok, throwing his Tiger’s Blade deep into the man’s skull. 

With that, the fight was over, leaving the party in different states of confusion.  What had happened to the Kech Volaar?  And where was the changeling Citadel agent Tikulti?  There had been no changelings amongst the undead horde, but there was one lying dead on the ground not too far away.  Was it him?  Had they been betrayed?  These questions and more were at the front of their minds as they stood back to take stock of the situation…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What haunts you the most from the Last War?
  • I feel like I say this every other week, but we set another new record for total session crit fails. Lucky for us, three or four of those were on the GM’s side!
  • What’s up with Aruget’s glowing, healing hand? He took the healing power in his last advance, and this was his first opportunity to use it, and he roleplayed it as receiving a miraculous boon from Dol Arrah and it was awesome. His player is so good with flavour.
  • How can Lestok speak monkey language? Through the mighty power of the “Epiphany” adventure card (gain a d6 in any skill for the remainder of the session) and a GM willing to roll with it, that’s how. He really is the best GM.
  • I told them Tik/Yeraa fans it would end in tears! I told them! And you can quote me on that!

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 30: Old “friends”, familiar faces

Our heroes and the Kech Volaar arrived at the market early in the evening and had no problem claiming the spot they needed to dig down to the shrine from.  As the party finished setting up their pavilion, they could hear the goblins already starting to pry up cobblestones.

Getting down to business, Lestok immediately began hawking his burlap toys, casting an illusion on them to speak, and quickly drawing a crowd of mothers and their curious children.  Aruget began warming up for an acrobatics display, testing his balance and playing with his shield, while Jak capitalized on Lestok’s crowd by selling some of Thrandi’s pottery to the adults.  Ivello decided to shape some of the dirt coming up in the tent into training dummies for contests of strength, which drew the attention of a passing Tharashk patrol that he was able to successfully distract while Kayde played the part of a salesman to perfection.

As Aruget began his shield dance across the front of the tent, the party switched gears from merchants to performers.  Jak accompanied him, singing a local song he’d heard at the Gold Dragon.  Lestok – surprisingly nimble – began juggling daggers, while Ivello got the crowd worked up in anticipation of Kayde taking the “stage”, brashly declaring he’d do an heirloom performance.  Meanwhile, the sounds of the excavation grew quieter and more distant, the only evidence of it being the dirt occasionally making its way to the surface.   

As Jak got on the bandwagon to hype up Kayde’s show, further muddying the elf’s waters by declaring his heirloom performance would be the soliloquy from “Lenore and the Dragon”, a small monkey across the way began screaming and throwing grapes at him.  Unphased, he stared the monkey down, picked up a grape and ate it, and continued with his task.  Kayde, meanwhile, was still rattled by Ivello’s declaration of an heirloom performance, a proud Phiarlan institution he didn’t have any rights to.  Fearful that word of it would get back his House, he rallied himself anyways and put on a good show.  While Lestok continued to juggle, now accompanied by dancing torchlight courtesy of Ivello, Aruget began drumming on his shield to accompany both the juggling and Kayde’s performance.  As the rise and fall of his drumming roused the crowd’s emotions, they seemed more taken by it than the soliloquy, much to Kayde’s dismay.  As Lestok cast one final illusion for the crowd, he declared that the first person to hit the monkey would win a toy, and it scurried back into the market and disappeared.

By this point, several hours had passed, and the crowd began to thin as vendors began packing up…and Aruget’s khyber shard speaking stone crackled to life, jerking him out of his drumming.  As he whispered to Jak that they were done, Lestok looked up to see the monkey screeching at a familiar face: their old nemesis, Lady Demise of the Emerald Claw. On the other side of the tent, Jak turned his head to spot their other old friend, Lt. Sesko, the leader of the group that had captured Yeraa’s scout on the road to the Six Kings.  He also realized that the Tharashk patrols, unusually quiet, hadn’t passed through in a while.

Jak sprung into action, grazing one of Sesko’s goons with a crossbow bolt, while Kayde melted into the shadows and Demise began walking forward as Lestok saw a tiny shadow dart off to her left.  Aiming her wand at Lestok, black, wispy energy shot towards him and he could feel his energy draining and his mind clouding as she stepped back into the alley.  Aruget called out to Jak that they had to hold the line to defend the Kech Volaar’s only exit, and he began his battle dance.  As Lestok split off to give Demise a face full of G.R.O.S.S., it slid right off her as if bouncing off some sort of magical shield.  Lt. Sesko and his group began closing in while Ivello hurled lightning at the gnolls flanking Demise, charring them into oblivion, and she retaliated with a skeletal hand flying out of her wand to grasp at him.  Lestok, joining Jak and Aruget in the battle with Sesko, pumped up his Fumigator 9000 and gave the bandits a good rattling with its crowd of green mist, but they remained on their feet as Sesko called out that the party wouldn’t best him this time.  From his place in the shadows, Kayde noticed a tiny humanoid shadow dart across the street to the other side of the tent, but elected to chase after Demise after before downing the elixir of Fernian breath he’d found beneath the Six Kings.  Ivello cast a burst of strength into his quarterstaff and followed him.  As the remaining vendors fled to the safety of their tents, Kayde closed in with Demise and struck out with his byeshk spear as she turned to face him.  Twisting out of the way, more black energy flew out of her wand, hitting Kayde in the face and darkening his vision.  “I live in the dark”, he retorted, striking out at her again as she tried to run.  

As Jak joined Aruget and Lestok to hold their position against Sesko’s squad, Lestok felt little hands grabbing at him and looked down to see the monkey and the shadow grabbing at his pockets.  After deftly managing to apply some G.I.N.S.U. to Aruget’s axe, he wrenched his can of G.R.O.S.S. away from the monkey and sprayed it all over the tiny fiends – and the Emerald Claw. As Aruget called the Tiger’s Blade back to his hand, Sesko came rushing into the fray, attacking wildly and slicing his axe across the hobgoblin’s arm.  Things were starting to look grim…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What story were you told growing up that you remember the most?
  • The scene of running the tent was done as a Dramatic Task. The assorted complications – the patrol, the monkey, Kayde’s hesitation at getting caught doing an unsanctioned heirloom performance – were all part of the mechanic of drawing clubs cards on initiative, which imposes a -2 on the roll and can end the whole task on a crit fail. I drew clubs three out of four rounds, and on the third finally decided to stop burning my bennies on new cards.
  • We needed a whopping 30 successes in 4 rounds…and we didn’t need to finish round 4. And that’s where we used up all our luck for the night, because we definitely didn’t carry it into the fight. 😀