seekers of the ashen crown week 37: the voyage home

With Captain Delan’s blessing fresh in their minds, the party watched the Kordenga fly away to lead the Citadel on a wild goose chase and made their way into Moonwatch.  A large walled town on the western hilt of the Dagger River, Moonwatch was well-populated by the common races of the Five Nations, and both the people and the architecture were a welcome, comfortable sight after hard times in a foreign land.

While Kayde wandered off to see yet again to his mysterious personal business, Aruget sought out the familiarity of a temple where he could pray to Dol Arrah as Jak and Ivello made their way to the docks to suss out quiet passage to Sharn.  Ivello suggested they look out for people who were down on their luck and less likely to ask questions, and Jak made his way down the pier, chatting with the local dockhands and beggars and greasing more than a few palms.  By the time Aruget caught up with them, they had a lead: a halfling smuggler named Hannval Dain, who could be found at the Sailor’s Duchess.  Aruget entered the tavern ahead of Jak and Ivello to take a quiet table in the corner where he could keep an eye on their negotiations if anything went amiss, and a few minutes later, his friends followed.

Jak procured a bottle of wine and three glasses, and the bartender pointed him towards a slouched, weathered, middle-aged halfling sitting alone.  The man carried none of the contentment that his fellow halflings typically did, and Jak seized on this as an opportunity.  Pulling up a chair and pouring wine for Hannval, Ivello, and himself, Jak entertained a quick joke about the sailor’s gossip that had brought him here and got straight down to business: they needed passage to Sharn, four warm bodies, no questions asked.  Hannval responded with the air of someone who was an old hand at such activities, and after some brief haggling and half payment up front, told Jak and Ivello to meet him at the docks at nine o’clock that night.  The journey across the river’s hilt would take two days, and that timing ensured they would reach Sharn under cover of darkness.  They shook hands and parted ways until nightfall.

Anxious to prepare for his return to Sharn as best he could, Jak led the party to the local House Sivis sending station.  He quickly dictated a letter to his best friend and former Dark Lanterns partner Thom, who Jak was desperate to reunite with, and counting on for help yet again.  Stressing his innocence, he asked Thom to meet him at a familiar tavern in Dragoneyes in two days time, and instructed the Sivis courier to under no circumstances deliver the letter to Thom while he was at the Citadel.  Aruget, seeing the wisdom in warning their few remaining allies that they were coming, did not want to wait on a courier – he had been sitting on no small amount of gold, and decided that the time was right to funnel it into an expensive Sending to his sister Razu, a highly decorated Deneith blademark.  Her reply was immediate, and the clerk quickly transcribed it and handed a folded note to Aruget.  

As the party began to leave the station, Jak hesitated, turned back, and shot off another quick letter to someone he hadn’t spoken with in an even longer time than Thom: his estranged brother, Vil.  Worried that the Citadel may have sent agents to question him, Jak once again proclaimed his innocence while telling Vil something he never had before: that he wished things had been better between them.  Feeling something vaguely resembling closure, he joined the others in leaving the station behind them.  The remainder of the day saw Ivello parlaying his well-honed negotiating skills into the fast but fairly profitable sale of the assorted treasures and trinkets the party had accumulated during their time in Droaam.  One thing they did not part with as they took stock of everything was an otherwise unmarked Kundarak key that they’d taken off of a dead enemy during their first run-in with the Emerald Claw.  Jak mused that it seemed odd for a low-level lackey to have such a thing, and Ivello wondered if his friend had any informants in Sharn who could help them access the box without arousing suspicion.  Jak replied that he did, although it would take some time and money.

Nine o’clock rolled around, and the party made their way aboard the Maiden’s Siren and set sail for Sharn at last.  As they traveled, old habits stirred in Ivello and he offered Hannval his help in managing the sails while striking up a casual conversation.  After an hour or two, they sailed into the middle of the river’s hilt, and a wondrous sight caught Ivello’s eye.  He called the others over to the rail to inspect a large school of vibrant, rainbow-coloured fish that had appeared alongside the boat.  As they enjoyed this peaceful interlude, Hannval mentioned that the meat of these fish had hallucinogenic properties, and that some smugglers had run into problems after unwittingly using them for food.  While Ivello wondered what unconventional use Lestok would have found for such fish, Hannval piped up that he’d made that mistake early in his career, blown off course and desperate for food, and didn’t make it back to Moonwatch for four days while under the influence.  

Still at the rail, watching the fish, Jak’s fingers dug into the wood as he remembered his days as a dreamlily addict and he fought to stop wondering what this particular drug might feel like.  Eager to change the subject, he got some distance from Hannval and waved the others over to join him.  His relationship with the Dark Lanterns, he told them, had not always been so fraught.  He reminisced about his greatest success: foiling an assassination plot against Kor ir’Wynarn, Lord Commander of the King’s Citadel for all of Breland.  Kor had been in Sharn on an inspection tour, and the Lanterns had received a credible threat connected to the city’s most powerful anti-monarchist, Hass ir’Tain.  Though Hass was smart enough to always keep himself ten steps removed from any criminal wrongdoing, the Lanterns knew they couldn’t ignore this threat, and sent Jak to gather more details at one of Hass’ famous parties.  The evening was going well until Jak underestimated the potency of his host’s exotic, top-shelf liquor, and his time came to an abrupt end after throwing up on a guest.  Profoundly ashamed and angry with himself, Jak vowed that he would get the job done no matter what. The next morning, he returned to the manor wearing a different face than the night before.  Finding a pretty maid at the back door, Jak seduced her into giving up Hass’ collaborators and returned to the Citadel with all the information they needed in order to avoid the planned ambush and keep Kor safe.

Ivello had only one question: had Jak made things right with the maid?  Jak insisted that she knew as well as he had that they were making a trade, to which Ivello retorted that Korbus hadn’t.  He pushed his young friend about his history of using people, to which Jak could only reply that it might make him a bad person, but a good spy.  Aruget, remembering Tik’s manipulation of Yeraa, mused that Jak might not be so different.  Jak stared him down, shaking with rage, and declared that if he ever compared him to Tik again, he would not be responsible for his actions.  Ever the peacemaker, Ivello suggested that Aruget didn’t mean it, to which Aruget – after taking a second to regroup – replied that he had.  The situation with Korbus, the story he’d just shared – Jak’s job involved a lot of manipulation, and he questioned if the young agent knew right from wrong.  Ivello exhorted Jak to not lose sight of the trees for the forest as his old alter-ego Quentin had, always justifying his actions for the sake of the greater good.  He was concerned for Jak’s well-being, and didn’t want him to compromise his morals.  Jak snapped that he did what he did to protect people like Aruget and Ivello, regular citizens who had no idea what went on behind the scenes, and that if he didn’t know right from wrong, he’d never have felt the guilt that had begun the downward spiral which ended with him becoming a homeless, jobless dreamlily addict.  Ivello insisted that he believed Jak had done a good job on the road, and that there was a better person inside him, while Aruget told him that he still owed Korbus.  Jak rebutted that it wasn’t all on him – she’d made her own choice to help, and deserved respect for putting herself in a difficult situation.  Aruget wondered if Jak was now grateful that he’d been rescued from jail, and he replied that he had no ill will towards Aruget for taking action – he’d done what he thought was right, what he believed he had to do, and Jak could understand that.

The next night, they sailed into Sharn under the cover of darkness as Hannval had promised.  While Dockside wasn’t as busy as it was during the day, the city never slept, and it was still bustling with activity.  As the smuggler made his bribes to the local watchmen and the party quietly slipped away, Jak was in his element once again.  He easily led the party down back streets, alleys, and less-frequented lifts down to the lower city and the all too familiar sights and smells of Dragoneyes.  Finding a flophouse he’d made use of in the past, Jak directed the party to what passed for beds, and fell into a deep sleep.  He was anxious about what tomorrow would bring, but even that couldn’t dampen the fact that he was home at last.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week:  What is your greatest fear?  Or worst recurring nightmare? The GM sincerely regrets not doing this one sooner in the campaign. Turns out someone is mortally afraid of owlbears.
  • Kayde had to work last night, which is why he was so mysterious this session.
  • Out of character, we learned things about Aruget from his private Sending to his sister. Namely, that his nickname is…Tippy-Toes. I am pretty disappointed that Jak was not party to this and will not be able to capitalize on it in-game. We also learned that his blademark unit, at least, snidely refers to the bounty hunters of House Tharashk as “Trash House.” Spicy. There’s gotta be a good story behind that. Is it a friendly rivalry? Something darker? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • A question that Savage Worlds answers very well is the age-old problem of how to make travel interesting in a TTRPG. It satisfies this by means of a mechanic called Interludes. Players draw cards just like they would for initiative, but in this case, each suit comes with its own set of prompts to effectively sit in the DM’s seat for a few minutes and narrate different ways of passing downtime, a story about the PCs past, or an encounter or obstacle the party faced on their journey. The school of fish was Ivello’s “journey” interlude, and Jak’s tale of his greatest success as a Dark Lantern was in response to the prompt to recount a “great victory or personal triumph.” I did not expect it to lead to a deep probing of Jak’s moral compass, but that is just one more reason why I love this group.
  • I referred a few times to the “hilt” of the river. If you search for a map of Khorvaire and look down in the south central-ish part, you’ll see the Dagger River. It looks like…a dagger. It has a “handle”, a “hilt”, and a “blade”, and Moonwatch is on the western end of the hilt while Sharn is on the eastern end. So if you’ve been wondering what the heck I am talking about regarding a river having a hilt, that’s what’s up.

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