Saturday, 3 June 2017

IV.29: Hospitality Ended

Mythic GME Chaos Rank: 5
Scene setup: d10=9 (unchanged)

But I have an unresolved offscreen move for the Lords of Dust.

Front(Lords of Dust): Extract a promise in exchange for a boon: the rakshasa lurking in Newthrone does not want two Templars hanging around, so they make a deal with House Tharashk: get the Templars out of Newthrone, in exchange for maps of the jungle.

Newthrone, Q’barra
Nymm 27, 997 YK

The street outside the speaking stone station had been quiet when they arrived, but with the sun now rising over the hills on the east side of the city, there were now many citizens heading to work. A little further up the street, a magewright had set up her stall in the street, and was hawking goods to the morning crowd. There was a refreshing southerly wind today, bringing cooler, salty air up from Adder Bay.

Esthana leaned against the wall outside the station, while Nyseris stood uneasily beside her. They had come to the speaking stone station yesterday afternoon, so that Anaya could send her report to Commander Tassis, and returned now to see if there was a response from Flamekeep. Lady Anaya seemed determined to confront Rhashaak, but the developing situation in Newthrone was also troubling her, and she had felt it important to ask for assistance or guidance. Esthana had only been in the Templars for a few months now, but it was very different from her time in the army: the chain of command appeared to be only loosely observed, and Flamekeep appeared not to take much of a hand in the work of its Templars outside of the Five. The more that she saw of Anaya’s strength with the Flame, the more than Esthana’s loyalty bound her to Anaya in person rather than the Templars back in Flamekeep.

Show signs of an approaching threat

A commotion down the street drew Esthana’s attention. The wagon had pulled over to the side of the street, and the townsfolk parted to make way for a large group coming up from the docks. Several ogres and a cluster of a dozen gnolls stood out most, but the whole group was around fifty strong—and all were armed.

“Who are they?” asked Nyseris.

“House Tharashk’s first reinforcements,” said Esthana. These were the first Tharashk mercenaries that they had seen marching in files: they were clearly a military unit, even if their marching order was a little ragged. “I was in the Cyrean army for ten years in the Last War, but I never saw a company with so little discipline as this. They can barely march in file.” Her eyes lingered for a moment on the huge club carried by an ogre in the second rank. “Perhaps they are effective as shock troops.”

“Why did you leave the army?”

Esthana turned to look at her companion, sceptically. “Leave? The army ceased to exist when Cyre was destroyed.”


“You have not heard of the Mourning?” It had not occurred to Esthana that Nyseris would know so little of the Five.

Spout Lore(Nyseris): 2D6(4 5) +0 = 9 Partial success.
Vague Information

Nyseris shrugged. “I heard there was a war in the land beyond the mountains–s. The lizardfolk know little enough of what happens even in the human settlements in Q’barra.”

The lead ranks of the mercenaries were abreast of them now. A half-orc wearing chain mail, with a crossbow slung on her back, was the first to pass close to them; she looked sideways at Nyseris as she passed, a hand resting on the hilt of a long belt-knife. Several other mercenaries also threw suspicious glances in the lizardfolk’s direction.

Esthana watched the mercenaries pass, and spoke again, quietly, to Nyseris. “Three years ago, while the war was still on, one day a great cloud of darkness began spreading in Cyre—the country of my birth. This magical evil spread outwards, engulfing all of the land for five hundred miles in shadow. Of those that were caught inside, few escaped; they told of a land stripped bare, where all life withers and dies. My country, over a million people, died that day—only a few thousands of us escaped.”

“Your enemies did this to you? How?” Esthana glanced at her companion; Nyseris was staring at her wide-eyed.

“Nobody knows. But one of the other nations must have been responsible. Why else would the blight stop at our borders?” Esthana shook her head. “Perhaps we will never know who, or what pact they made with some evil force to bring it about. But the Flame is all that stands between us and such evil happening again. I do not know what devastation will happen if this Overlord gets free, but we must prevent it.”

Anaya emerged at last, looking worried. With a quick look to Esthana, she said, “Let’s go.”

The three began walking back towards the halfling quarter of the city. Esthana moved to walk alongside Anaya.

“We saw a company of Tharashk mercenaries—a military unit—arrive up from the docks. I do not know how much longer it will be safe for us to remain here. Nyseris, in particular, caught their attention.”

“They must have had troops already sailing before the King even authorised their presence. House Tharashk is growing bolder here.”

“What word from Flamekeep?”

Parley: information for aid.

Parley(Anaya): 2D6(5 6) +1 = 12 Success!
Okay then

“The Council is astonished at our report of an entire civilisation of lizardfolk that worship the Silver Flame. They promise to send a delegation to speak with the gul siksta, and to the King of Newthrone to urge a peaceful solution to their dispute.”

“And what of the Overlord?”

“Let’s wait until we are off of the street.” Anaya glanced at some bystanders, common folk outside a tavern, that were watching them pass, and Esthana saw them look away, suddenly concious of their own business. The townsfolk had paid them little attention when they first arrived here, seeing a pair of Templars as a mere curiousity; but tensions were rising in the city, and even the common folk had heard about expeditions killed by the lizardfolk. They had seen no other lizardfolk in the city since their return from the jungle, and Nyseris drew every eye.

Reveal an unwelcome truth: While Newthrone isn’t at war with the lizardfolk yet, it is starting to look like that is just a matter of time. And Nyseris is the only lizardfolk brave or foolish enough to be in Newthrone right now. They are at risk of internment.

They were amongst the bright brick houses of the halfling district within a few minutes. They were passing along the main street towards the Dragon’s Bounty, when Nyseris touched Esthana’s shoulder.

“Behind us–s,” said the lizardfolk. “Two humans, warriors by their equipment. They are following us at a dis–stance.”

“Probably House Tharashk,” said Esthana.

Anaya said “Ignore them. They already know where we are staying, no doubt.”

The mercenaries stayed well back, and they reached the Dragon’s Bounty without incident. Passing through the large open doors of the hostel, the Templars’ relief was cut short by the sight of a large half-orc leaning on the bar. She put down a mug of ale at the sight of them, and Esthana immediately saw the dragonne of House Tharashk etched into her breastplate as she stood to meet them. Four Tharashk mercenaries were sitting off to the side at a table, drinking and playing at cards.

Anaya stepped forward, removing her gloves, as the half-orc moved to block their way. The mercenary was nearly seven foot, towering over Anaya, but the cleric looked up to meet her gaze. “Do you have business with me, soldier?”

The half-orc leaned back, and raised her eyes, looking over Anaya’s shoulder at Nyseris, who had just stepped through the doorway. The half-orc looked down again, with a forced smile. “I don’t like the company you keep, Templar.”

Esthana glanced sideways at the other mercenaries: three of them had put down their ale and were turned to look at the confrontation, but they were not getting up yet. Esthana stepped in their direction, moving a hand towards her sword hilt.

Defy Danger(CHA)(Anaya): 2D6(1 4) +1 = 6 Failure!
Aid(Esthana): 2D6(1 4) +1 = 6 Failure!

The mercenaries don’t even want a fight, but our heroes are rolling so bad that they might get into one anyway.

Hireling, Do Your Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 2) +0 = 7 Partial success.
He is informed that Tharashk is here, but did not have time to warn Anaya or prepare for this.

“At least my company is bound to me by more than money,” said Anaya.

The half-orc’s smile dropped, and there was a scraping of wood on the stone floor as the other mercenaries pushed back their chairs and stood, reaching for their weapons.

“The shatarpi must leave the city, now,” said the half-orc. “And since you admit to being friends to its kind, you too must leave, or be taken into custody.”

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +3 = 9 Partial success.
What is about to happen?
Spout Lore(Esthana): 2D6(1 3) +0 = 4 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth

Esthana glanced towards the innkeeper. Bertram avoided her gaze, turning to a mug that he was polishing with renewed interest. None of the hostel’s guards were in sight. The hospitality of House Ghallanda was ended, it seemed.

“Very well,” said Anaya. “We are no enemies of House Tharashk, but we will not leave our friend. We will leave the city directly. The innkeeper will be happy to bring down our posessions for us, I am sure.” She continued to meet the half-orc’s gaze, but raised her voice as if to get Bertram’s attention—though he was surely listening to everything.

“Of course, my Lady.” Bertram quickly spoke to another halfling at the bar, who hurried off to arrange things.

The half-orc leaned back on the bar, with an affected air of satisfaction, but his soldiers remained standing and ready to go for their weapons. Anaya turned to Esthana, and the tension was apparent on the cleric’s face—at least, apparent to her friend—but it was clear that she did not intend to start a fight here. She looked to Nyseris as well, trying to be reassuring.

After two tense minutes, two halflings bustled down the stairs bringing their packs. Esthana hesitated briefly when offered her pack—since it meant taking her hand away from her sword hilt—but then accepted it, shouldering the pack. The pack was heavy, mostly with food ready for the next foray into the jungle. It seemed they would need it sooner than she had expected.

“I am sorry that your stay has been cut short so soon, Templars,” said Bertram. “Since we are not able—since you cannot continue your stay as planned, there is no charge, nothing left to pay. Courtesy of—it is my pleasure.”

Esthana wanted to roll her eyes, but she was too busy watching the mercenaries; they were getting ready to move as well.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” said Anaya. She turned to the others and nodded towards the door.

“We will be happy to escort you to the nearest gate—or to the airship tower, should you prefer,” said the Tharashk half-orc.

“That will not be necessary,” said Esthana. “Since the only threat here is you, we do not want your mercenaries on our heels.”

“I was not asking.”

Interrogator(Esthana): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: you have to actually use violence to make your point.

Esthana declines.

Esthana closed her hand on her sword hilt now, but did not draw it. The half-orc watched her, but continued. “The north gate is closest; we will take you there.”

Anaya clearly did not want a fight here, and Esthana considered that starting a fight might put Nyseris in even greater danger. Grimacing, she turned to follow Anaya and Nyseris out of the tavern.

“Nyseris, lead the way—to the north gate,” said Anaya as they crossed the square outside. “Go slowly and stay close to us.”

“Yes, Templar,” the lizardfolk said.

Anaya fell in beside Esthana, and leaned closer to her. “They won’t attack us inside the city—to do so would blatantly disregard the King’s judgement.”

“But outside, they might?” asked Esthana.

“Perhaps they can pay off the guards on the wall at the gate; or maybe they will wait until we are out of sight of the city.”

“Should we try to get to Vaalyun?”

Anaya glanced back at the Tharashk mercenaries, following a few paces behind. “To do so risks a confrontation; they are surely looking for any excuse. And we do not want to make it too obvious to them that Vaalyun is our ally; he can help us more if they do not see him as working for us. It would put his House here in danger.”

Esthana glanced back. There were eight mercenaries and their commander following now; they must have picked up another group that was waiting outside.

“We can take this group if we have to; but they will have more stationed at the city gate.”

“I want to avoid violence if possible. Hopefully Vaalyun has already heard of what happened; we go slowly until we get to the gate, and he may have time to arrange something.”

Parley(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 6) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Trade: Vaalyun offers continued support in Q’barra to House Ghallanda in exchange for a favour here.

In ten minutes, then reached the gate. The city wall climbed towards the Keep to their right, and the wall to the left went towards Adder Bay; the gate itself was not large, consisting of two iron-bound wooden leaves, just large enough to admit carts going to and from the surrounding farms. Esthana was surprised to see a red-faced Bertram d’Ghallanda waiting for them there.

“Templars, my apologies. My staff overlooked one of your packs when we were emptying your rooms—your departure was rather sudden.” Bertram was a little short of breath; evidently he had run here, though he must have come a different route since he did not pass them.

The innkeeper held out a backpack. Anaya took it, holding it awkwardly—all three of the party were wearing packs already. It was obviously not one of their packs.

“Thanks you, Bertram d’Ghallanda,” said Anaya. “The hospitality of your House lives up to its reputation.”

The mercenaries had come to a halt behind them; the shadow of a halberd was cast near Esthana’s feet. The gate stood open, ready for them.

A voice called down from the wall above. “Bertram, how good to see you here! It is rare to see you outside of your enclave.” Looking up, Esthana saw that it was Vaalyun, leaning casually on the battlements above.

Bertram looked up also. “Vaalyun d’Phiarlan, it good to see you.”

“Perhaps you would join me; it is too long since we talked.”

Bertram gave one last nod to the Templars, and turned away, walking to the nearest stairs leading up the inside of the wall.

“Templars,” said Vaalyun, nodding once to them. “I wish you safe travels. Perhaps we will meet again, as we have done before.”

“Farewell, Vaalyun d’Phiarlan,” said Anaya; Esthana saw that she was smiling.

Nyseris led them out through the gate. Esthana went through last again, glancing back at the mercenaries. Their commander had moved to the front of the group and was facing his troops, but they did not appear to be making a move immediately.

“What was all that about?” asked Esthana, as they stepped out beyond the gate.

“Vaalyun is good at his game,” said Anaya. “House Tharashk might be have been prepared to murder us in the shadow of the gate and pay a few guards to look away, but not with two dragonmarked heirs looking down from the wall above. Those are witnesses that the King would have to listen to, and difficult to buy off.”

Esthana looked back, up at the wall behind them. Vaalyun was leaning on a machicolation over the game, watching them go, with Bertram standing next to him. Seeing her, Vaalyun waved once to Esthana.

“They may follow, and try to take us once we reach the jungle.”

“Yes, but they will have to rush to another gate and come around; it is too obvious if they send people out right after us, in view of those witnesses. We have a headstart.”

“Is Vaalyun staying behind?”

“No; he will join up with us. ‘As we have done before’—we will head to Count Zuokas’ estate, where we camped before following the cultists. He was with us then and will know the place.”

Dragonmark(Concealment)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 4) +2 = 10 Success!
Tracks concealed

As a condition for having continued influence in Newthrone, hearing of events there, and honouring his deal with Bertram d’Phiarlan, Vaalyun has to leave his hirelings behind again. Their bad rolls and hasty departure have cost them the ability to easily return here, or easily leave Q’barra (since Newthrone has the only airship tower in the region).

It was late afternoon when Vaalyun joined them at the camp. The woodland on Count Zuokas’ estate meant that they were at least not easy for Tharashk’s mercenaries to find. Esthana would feel more comfortable once they were beyond the settled areas and out into the jungle itself, where Nyseris’ knowledge would give them an edge over Tharashk’s trackers—and where there were fewer eyes to be bought by Tharashk’ gold.

Esthana had offered to take turns on watch, but Nyseris was too tense to rest while they remained so near to the city and insisted on remaining on watch themselves. So Anaya and Esthana were sitting by their small campfire, checking over their provisions, when Vaalyun suddenly appeared and sat down with them.

Esthana jumped up, instinctively reaching for her sword; the elf had seemed to step out of nothing. He paid her no attention, simply adjusting his robe, and said, “I’m glad that you understood my message.”

“Thank you for your assistance at the gate,” said Anaya.

Nyseris stepped into the small clearing—she had been keeping watch further away—with their bow half drawn. “How did you get past me?” they asked, puzzled.

“You have seen my powers of concealment before, Nyseris—and you, Templar,” he said, looking then at Esthana. “It should not come as such a surprise to you.”

“I suppose not,” said Esthana; releasing her sword, she sat back down. Nyseris simply shook her head and turned back to the woods, resuming her post as lookout.

“Is Tharashk pursuing us?” asked Esthana.

“They have sent out a tracking party. I was able to create some false leads for them, but we should not stay here long. We will be somewhat safer once we are in the jungle, but Tharashk heirs do carry the Mark of Finding, so we should assume that they can follow us anywhere if they choose to.

“How are things back in the city?” asked Anaya.

All in the Family(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
Good information about House Tharashk’s activities

“Tharashk had around two hundred mercenaries arrive today. Those must have sailed before the King gave permission for them to station more troops in the city; Tharashk might have tried to land them away from the city had they been refused, or perhaps they just took the royal approval for granted. But now that they have that approval, they have at least two thousand more being marshalled in the Shadow Marches. They will be here before the end of Lharvion.”

“So many troops arriving within a month—House Tharashk will soon have enough troops stationed in Newthrone that it will be harder for the King to refuse their requests.” Anaya looked troubled.

“What of supplies?” asked Esthana. “Tharashk can hardly hope to hold ground in the jungle without supplies, and it is over three thousand miles to their bases in the Shadow Marches. No-one has ever waged a war at such a great distance.”

Let your moves snowball: we established that Vaalyun is talking to a Phiarlan agent in Sharn, and we know that Tharashk has bases in Breland.

All in the Family(Vaalyun): What Phiarlan agents know, Vaalyun knows
Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!
He knows history

“Ten thousand years ago, the Tairnadal established their presence in Khorvaire from Aerenal, and fought against Dhakaan, across a sea of two thousand miles.”

Esthana spat on the ground. “Those treacherous scum.”

After a slight pause, Vaalyun continued. “Anyway, House Tharashk’s troops come from the west, but they have holdings in Breland—as we saw in Starilaskur. One of our agents in Sharn says that Tharashk has leased a dock there and are buying up stores; starting their supply lines there saves nearly a thousand miles. House Lyrander will handle the shipping—long-distance transportation is their speciality—while House Ghallanda provides the supplies.”

“House Ghallanda seemed helpful to us,” said Anaya. “Do they really want to help House Tharashk?”

“They want to help both sides—for a price,” said Esthana. “Just as in the Last War, the Houses will find a profit in it, whoever wins.”

“Yes,” said Vaalyun. “The other Houses stand to profit regardless of whether Tharashk’s venture succeeds. But if Tharashk succeeds it may be the largest military endeavour ever undertaken by the Houses working together; Tharashk may end up owning this corner of Q’barra. It is as ambitious, in its way, as any operation by the Five during the Last War. Lady Anaya, what of your Templar superiors? Are they able to intervene?”

Anaya replied, “They will send a delegation, to speak with the lizardfolk and the King in Newthrone. I doubt that they can achieve much before the conflict starts, but perhaps they can persuade the King to stay out of the conflict for now.”

“We need to improve their odds. What of the Overlord?”

“The Council is concerned, but not alarmed. They know that many Overlords are unaccounted for, so knowing that this one is here in Q’barra and contained by the lizardfolk is seen as an improvement over the unknown. They cannot send an army of Templars here—without the King’s approval, they could not land in Newthrone, and if they do not come via airship to Newthrone then they will not arrive until Barrakas. By then the fighting will have started in earnest, and they could only be seen as joining the conflict on the side of the lizardfolk. So the Council’s orders are for us to do what we can until the delegation arrives.”

“Can we do anything?” asked Esthana.

“This month may decide the fate of Q’barra,” said Anaya. “The balance of power here—between the gul siksta lizardfolk, the Blackscales, and the human settlers—will be changed one the war starts, and changed forever if a long conflict takes a toll on the lizardfolk. The lizardfolk protect the dragonshards, which keep the Overlord bound. We must improve their chances to win.

“The Flame can cleanse Rhashaak, I know it. If we release the leader of the Blackscales from the Overlord’s taint, it may unite the lizardfolk tribes once more. House Tharashk would have a much harder time beating a hundred thousand lizardfolk united on their own lands.”

“Then that is what we do,” said Esthana. From the descriptions of the lizardfolk, and from Anaya’s vision, they knew that Haka’torvhak was a fortress held by the Blackscales, and there was a long descent into Khyber required to reach the binding chamber beneath it. But Esthana believed in the Flame, and in Anaya—if she said it could be done, then it could be done.

End of Session(All): Learning something new about the world (war is brewing), +1 XP to all.

Anaya: 1 failure; at 10XP.
Esthana: 3 failures; at 11XP.
Nyseris: 0 failures; at 5XP.
Vaalyun: 0 failures, alignment goal met; at 8XP.

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