Attention turns now to Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn’s tied-up Goblin prisoner. Elroy Wick, Magnus, Dwarf Fighter Eberk, Yorgenson Uberson, Goa Finnbjorn, Corun Dum’man, Armst, and the imposing Druidbarian himself crowd around the angry creature spitting curses in its Goblin language. Bard Wick casts Hypnotism on the Goblin; its attitude toward the party improves from Hostility to mere Indifference.
Speaking in Goblin, Halfling Rogue Goa asks the creature some questions: how it obtained superior-quality weapons; to where it was running away; and why it was raiding Human lands. Either to be cheeky or by virtue of simple-mindedness, the Goblin calmly replies in straight-forward answers: it received the gear from its War Chief; it was running away from the ambush and not “to” any place; and it wanted treasure.
The Hypnotism lasts less than 45 seconds. The Goblin blinks as the spell ends, eyes its captors, and resumes its cursing and struggling. Magnus is done with the creature – the Fighter splits the Goblin’s skull with his Heavy Pick. The scouts are ready to lead when the party is set to follow.
Three hours later, the group emerges from the forest onto wide-open plains. These are farm fields, cleared but not plowed or sown with crops. Armst and his associates know too well the short growing season at home – if seeds are not in the ground before now, there will be no food to harvest come Autumn. Cutting across tracts of fallow plots, the riders find a cart-track and assume its path.
Half an hour later this bare road brings them within sight of the largest city any of the party have ever seen – the faction city of Tannis. Twice the area of North Point and with three times the population, the walled city ahead is most impressive.
A short ride later, something else is visible – a vast tent city blocking their approach to the north gate of Tannis. Yorgenson Uberson fears they have found Tannis under siege. The others note the familiar red-and-black banners of the HOUSE OF DAVIS, their host faction, streaming above the tents.
Slowing, the party and scout escorts pass through this massive bivouac. Around them are walking wounded; soldiers and mounted warriors suffering wide ranges of injuries. Clerics and acolytes swarm the casualties. Those Davis troops wounded in the ambush were brought back here. The healthy warriors remain in the forest, hunting down Goblins and Orcs. Despite injuries, the soldiers’ mood is upbeat. A major victory is theirs.
Neither the sentries of the encampment nor the militia and constables at the Tannis gate take more than passing notice of Corun Dum’man and his friends. Just inside the walls, the group dismounts. The scouts’ leader, JOHN (NPC), offers advice. There is a port town, LYTTEL, three days’ ride west of Tannis. It will be a better place to sell surplus equipment, as the market for war-spoils in Tannis will be depressed by the flood of loot unloaded here by the victorious army. John collects the reigns of the party’s horses, and bids farewell to the northerners.
The party is tired, hungry, thirsty, and bewildered by the sprawl of Tannis. They need some place to gather their wits. Weaving through peasants and clusters of uniformed faction soldiers, Armst glimpses a tavern just off the high street. The party beelines to its doors.
The bartender-owner gives the eight out-of-towners a dirty look when they tumble in off the street. But he sees they are not troublesome faction soldiers, and goes back to ignoring his patrons. The tavern is a decent-looking establishment, warm and clean, with about a dozen customers dotting the place. Magnus claims a long heavy wood table in the far corner. His friends gladly sling their packs against the wall and flop onto the hard, welcoming chairs along the table’s length. This is the first actual room they have been in for over a fortnight.
A bored bar maid senses the party has coin, and fulfils her social obligation to provide basic service. The table loads her with food and drink requests. Dwarf Eberk sputters indignation at the exorbitant price (10-gp) for a meal, drink, and a room upstairs. The bar maid yawns as she wanders away, returning with Eberk’s flagon of mead. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn politely notices that the Dwarf’s girlish choice of drink well-compliments his glittery purse. The table erupts with laughter. Eberk sinks low into his chair.
Platters of roasted meats and pitchers of ale arrive in waves. Between bottomless bowls of the house stew, Goa Finnbjorn reports on the party’s finances. As keeper of the coin, she holds 885 gold pieces and 245 silver…before paying what this meal will cost when the bill comes due. Corun Dum’man guards all things precious. He tallies 42 gems of 10-gp value each; one gem worth 20-gp and one worth 40-gp; 67 stones valued at 50-gp per; and one very nice gem he estimates at 80-gp. 3,910-gp in hard value.
Armst wants to immediately divide these assets between all party members. The Warmage outlines a convoluted dispensation that would see the money and yet-unclaimed value of party-treasure items divided according to each party member’s contribution to fights and encounters since leaving North Point. Magnus objects. Both Yorgenson and Elroy hesitate to whimsically parse out the money without serious discussion first. There is no clear consensus, so for now Goa and Corun will hold the valuables in trust.
Elroy Wick expresses a different concern. While riding from the scouts’ hidden base, Wick had proposed gathering a battalion of volunteers or mercenaries to break the North Point siege, in lieu of Kohn’s defunct standing army. Now the Bard has second thoughts. Such a mercenary company, brought to aid North Point, might turn on the settlement after the Orc threat is dispatched and sack the town or conquer it as their own. Instead, Wick urges the group to hire a boat from the port-city of Lyttel to sail home, see if North Point still stands, and inform their leaders on the state of Kohn.
Surprisingly, Magnus has no interest in returning to North Point – now, or ever. The Fighter is convinced that he and the others were intentionally sent away. Not to find and bring back help, but to escape the settlement’s grim fate and live their lives elsewhere. Eberk is on board with his theory. The others are not so quick to abandon their mission just because it has gotten complicated.
The meal and discussions end. There is light left in the day. Everyone has plans for their afternoon in this sprawling megacity of a few thousand strangers, so they agree to meet here later and go off where they will. Elroy Wick approaches the tavern owner but fails (Profession : Entertainer = 7) to secure a stage to perform tonight. The crestfallen Bard tries to hit up tavern patrons for news (with a Natural 1 rolled for Gather Information for a total skill check of 7) but wastes two hours learning nothing.
Halfling Goa Finnbjorn is far more charming (Gather Information = 19) and manages five very productive hours of conversation. She inquires on a number of topics : stew; the local economy and traders; stew; whether there is word of northerners; the Orc threat and its effect on farming; stew; and the faction military and its successful surprise attack on the Orc army.
One patron is a traveling merchant. He was in Lyttel for several weeks, until a couple of days ago. While he was there, the merchant hadn’t heard anything about people coming in from North Point either by land or by sea.
Fighter Eberk asks the tavern owner about Dwarf settlements. The Dwarf spent a lot of money on drinks today so the proprietor is willing to talk to him. There is a Dwarf fortress along the eastern coast of the former Kohn kingdom, three weeks’ ride from here. That is their main redoubt, though there may be others.
Corun Dum’man ambles off into the city and locates a respectable Magic Shop. He inspects the wares and chats up the attending wizard, making a mental inventory of spells he would like to purchase. The shopkeeper makes casual mention of lodestone, attracting Corun’s interest. It is a mineral the party’s Wizard will some day soon need for his intended Prestige Class.
Magnus leaves the tavern on something of a mission. For a while he wanders the streets of Tannis, curious about the city and its layout. As he intended, he bumps into someone familiar : John, their scout escort leader. Magnus asks if John would introduce him to a faction Officer. Happy to assist the Fighter, the scout brings Magnus out to the military encampment, and into a pavilion tent rich with ranking Davis military officers.
One, LIEUTENANT RICHARD (NPC), agrees to grant Magnus an audience. They step outside and Magnus tells a long short-story. He introduces himself, and explains the situation in North Point, his friends, their mission and their adventures these past two weeks. The Fighter includes details of the Orc siege in North Point and the settlement’s defense. Magnus also shows Lt. Richard the dagger, forged by a Cloud Giant, he took off an Orc.
Lieutenant Richard is suitably impressed by the story. The gravity of the situation is not lost on him. Unfortunately, he does not have the manpower to dispatch on an expedition to the far north. This does not mean the influential Davissian officer cannot help, though. One option is a Sending spell; Lt. Richard has access to Sending scrolls, and Magnus’s Wizard friend could instantly, briefly communicate with someone he knows in the northern settlement. The officer suggests Magnus and his friends return in the morning to give it a try. They make small talk for a while. Magnus gets the sense that Lieutenant Richard has something in mind.
That evening, the party reconvenes in the tavern. Magnus tells of his talk with Lt. Richard and the officer’s idea. The party looks forward to meeting him. Corun agrees to compose a concise message to his Wizard master, Alfred. On the assumption that Alfred is still alive, that is. Øskur would like Corun to ask about SCALIE and CLIMBIE, the two ladders the Druidbarian left behind in North Point. The Wizard delicately mentions a limit to the length of the message he can Send. Laddie’s insisting goes unheard.
Tonight, Goa, Elroy, Corun, Yorgenson, and Eberk will share rooms upstairs in this tavern. The fiscally prudent Halfling will pay for double-occupancy only. Druidbarian Øskur intends to camp outside the city walls, and Armst has not decided where he will pass the night. Magnus arranged a cot out in the encampment, and will sleep with soldiers.
Bright morning. The party collects at the north gate and follows Magnus into the encampment. The considerable tent city outside the walls is shrinking; Davissian military units are packing up and shipping out. In three days they will be gone.
The party meets Magnus’s officer contact. Lieutenant Richard is a sturdy fellow, intelligent and battle-hardened, but friendly in an offhand way. After introductions and pleasantries, Lt. Richard presents Wizard Corun Dum’man with a scroll of Sending. This is a higher-level Arcane spell than Corun could normally cast, but the Wizard need only make the Caster Level check and it will work. Corun is confident of success. Magnus assures Lt. Richard that his friend is extremely capable. The party takes a few precautionary steps back.
Corun Dum’man unrolls the parchment, reads the contents (with a Natural 1 rolled for the Caster Level check) and completely botches the spell. The bashful Wizard makes a Wisdom check and thankfully does not incur any unexpected mishap from the failed attempt – apart from ruining the scroll and losing the spell.
Lt. Richard sighs, shakes his head slightly, and looks up to the sky. Then he leads the party into Tannis, straight to the Magic Shop that Corun visited yesterday. The wizard shopkeeper hands Richard another scroll of Sending, and starts a tab.
Corun tries harder this time, and succeeds in Sending his message to Wizard Alfred :
CORUN’S PARTY GOT THROUGH. KINGDOM IN CIVIL WAR BUT POSSIBLE HELP FOUND. WHAT IS YOUR SITUATION ? CAST SENDING TO CORUN.
A few moments pass. To the party’s surprise, Corun receives an answer :
IDIOTS. NO WORD OF HELP FROM OTHERS. STUDIES IN GOLD MOUNTAIN PROCEED.
The insult was directed at Corun, who forgot that Sending automatically includes a Reply message. From the rest of Alfred’s answer, the party infers that North Point and its surviving residents have retreated to Gold Mountain, and are safe there. Eberk roundly praises his Dwarf brothers’ skill at constructing so invulnerable a redoubt as the Gold Mountain fortress.
Lieutenant Richard is pleased that some of the people of North Point appear to be alive. Regrettably, there is little he can do. Yesterday’s ambush of the Orc army was a considerable undertaking, planned since last winter. To devise and execute a major Davissian military rescue mission to North Point and Gold Mountain, were the troops and supplies available, would take at least a year.
Lt. Richard also cautions against the party seeking mercenary help, unknowingly echoing Elroy Wick. Mercenary companies are notoriously expensive and untrustworthy. They would likely raid and pillage North Point and Gold Mountain when and if they dealt with the Orcs.
The Lieutenant puts an offer before the party. What his faction desperately lacks is intelligence on what inhabits the mountains to the north. House of Davis forces have maps of the region but little detail on what lives there. Magnus and his team would be invaluable in this regard. The officer needs capable, independent scouts to search the mountain ranges and valleys outside of Davis territory, gathering information about who or what manipulates the Orc armies.
Elroy Wick delicately (Diplomacy = 28) asks about procuring mounts, improved equipment, and supplies, for such an assignment. Lieutenant Richard amends his offer to assign the party members to the Davis military payroll at the rank of “Specialist”. So-designated, they will have special access to supplies. The party does not hesitate; they accept Lt. Richard’s offer.
The party’s equipment needs can be met immediately. Lt. Richard brings the party to a large cluster of tents. Here, low-ranking foot soldiers sort captured Orc armor and weapons into neat rows on the grass. A chubby, short-bearded Dwarf named GILLY HAYES (NPC) shouts at the indifferent clerks about an amazing cleaning product called OrcAway!, guaranteed to soak Orc, Hobgoblin, and related draconic blood and guts out of any armor or weapon in one application, gold-back guaranteed !
The tent is a splendid yard sale of quality items. Lieutenant Richard grants his new agents each a masterwork weapon and masterwork suit of armor from what they see here.
Believing it a waste to carry Orc scale-mail he will likely never sell for decent money, Elroy Wick dumps it and his own leather armor. The Bard takes a clean, undamaged suit of studded leather armor that fits him like it knows him. Yorgenson Uberson trades his heavy mace for a shortspear, heavy wooden shield, and studded leather. Eberk selects banded mail and a heavy steel shield, both to his liking. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn already has a greatclub, light pick, Laddie, kukri, and bronze greatsword, but adds a greataxe to his impressive collection. Armst hunts around in the piles, and takes a Small-sized short-sword that can be re-purposed as a dagger for someone of Medium-size.
The party needs time to attend some personal business before heading north. Lieutenant Richard understands. The party can set out on their new assignment when it suits them. Magnus and his team return to Tannis.
Goa and Corun find a gem dealer; the Wizard trades some of their stones for two Pearls, which he uses to cast Identify on the wands of Lesser Orb of Sound and Inflict Moderate Wounds. The former wand still contains 18 spell charges; the latter, 22 spell charges.
The Wizard buys four spells from the Magic Shop : Invisibility, Alarm, Protection From Arrows, and Mirror Image. For the next nine days, Corun will have the laborious task of learning the spells and copying them to his spellbook. To ensure success, Elroy Wick will sing a song to Inspire Competence for Corun’s attempt at each spell. The Bard also stands ready to offer Immediate Assistance if Corun’s Spellcraft check is about to fail.
The Wizard and the Bard stay in Tannis while the others, borrowing horses through Lt. Richard’s procurement channels, ride to Lyttel.
Elroy Wick, on the second day of Corun’s studies, finds another tavern in Tannis but they are not looking to host live entertainment (Profession : Entertainer = 10). Returning to the original tavern on the third day, Elroy Wick promotes himself better (Profession : Entertainer = 20) and gets his chance.
That night Wick gets a feel for the modest-sized crowd’s mood (Sense Motive = 25) and determines their inclination for entertainment. He Summons Instrument for each of a four-song set. His lute playing is enjoyable (Perform : Stringed = 17) but his singing is great (Perform : Sing = 24). The crowd reacts very well. The tavern owner pays Wick his due: 4d10 silver worth of food and drink.
Magnus and the others, meanwhile, reach the huge port-city of Lyttel. Entirely walled in stone, including its massive harbour, Lyttel is three times the size of impressive Tannis and several times as populous. The party is nearly overwhelmed by the sights.
Finding the harbour-master, the party learns that no ships have sailed in from North Point or anywhere up the coast. A ship of the Davis navy recently departed to patrol the straits near the erstwhile ice-bridge. It is long overdue to return and it is believed to have met a suspicious end.
A canvas of local merchants and the constabulary draws no tales of travelers coming from North Point. Goa and her friends seem to be the only one of the four emissary groups from their settlement to have made it to Kohn territory.
(end of the session)