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 more 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 she replied 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 him to knock her 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.

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