It’s a little before midnight on New Year’s Eve on the cold streets of Gate Pass. You have all been told, in one way or another, to meet somebody named Torrent at the Poison Apple pub at this time. You have been told to enter through the side ally door. The pub ha been closed since its owner was arrested, but the owner’s wife has allowed use of the building for the evening. With fears of invasion high, the streets are fairly deserted and normal festivities are muted, letting you all travel unmolested.
The pub is about a mile from the western city wall in a poorer district filled with slushcovered cobblestone streets and gloomy, snow-filled alleyways. The night is dark and claustrophobic, and the buildings of the city loom over the shadowy streets. There are no lights in most windows
The pub is a two-story building attached by a rooftop bridge to an abandoned house on the right. A stable is to the buildings left. The front door and windows are boarded up, and the curtains are drawn.
You all meet up, outside this pub.
Beryl: ….You’re SURE this is the place?
Breora Lif’illian finished her work and proceeded to the pub in her face mask and hood.
Shava: I… think so….
Beryl looks around, pausing in certain places. “Seems… right.”
Laurya walked purposefully from the elven ghetto to the vicinity of the Pub, noting the complete lack of people celebrating on this night. Scowling at the ill-lit place, she leans heavily on her spear, trying to determine where the side door was, and who else might be in wait.
Shava: It seems so…. dark
Beryl: Welp. In we go.
Shava: Are you sure it’s safe?
Shava looks around. Wait, who’s that?
Shava indicating the much taller figure with the spear
Laurya: A small army of people are intent on traipsing in this place, it seems.
Shava: So it would seem. Well we might as well go in
Beryl: Here we are.
Breora Lif’illian (pauses as she notices other people around, she mutters in elven): Crowds to come for all things here…even quiet meetings.
Beryl slowly knocks on the door.
Laurya: I assume none of you are named Torrent?
On the door, you notice a notice.
Shava looks up and down the street
“Trehan Finner, owner of the Poison Apple Pub, has been taken into temporary custody under the protection of the city guard, until such time that he can be questioned by representatives of the Ragesian Empire and found innocent of hostile collusion. The Poison Apple Pub is hereby closed until further notice.”
Beryl: Hello….? Anyone home…? Perferably someone named Torrent?
Shava: Nope, not Torrent. I was hoping you would be her
Breora Lif’illian (reads the note and comments in elven): Translation…do not expect to see him again anytime soon.
Laurya: (elven) Not a horrible thing to be in the crowd on a night like this, ma’am.
Shava smiles wanly
Beryl pushes open the door slowly as she looks about cautiously.
Shava: (elven) True
The door is locked, although you hear movement inside.
Breora Lif’illian moves over to the side door and knocks lightly on it.
Shava waits nervously
Beryl: I’m having doubts here, Shava…
Beryl: And… Oh, hey, people.
Rhakesh had his eyes open into total darkness. It was pitch black and he could see nothing, but he felt something damp and heavy all around him. It weighed down upon him, but not enough to crush his frame. He took a lump of what surrounded him in his hand, and it crumbled away like dry sand. He felt roots and little stones. It was dirt. Rhakesh pushed a hand through the layer of loose, dry soil and felt it go out into the crisp evening air. Soon, the rest of his form followed as well as he heaved himself up and out of where he was. He remembered pain, distinct, sharp pain, but he was so out of his senses. He looked upon himself and saw that he was still in his prison clothes made of sack cloth. His body tingled with numbness, feelings of what he remembered but did not fully understand. Rhakesh stood up and out of the ditch he had been buried in, he felt alive and yet… not, as if the life he had was not fully his own. He looked around and tried to get a sense of where he might’ve been.
Shava: There’re people everywhere
Laurya: The note said to enter through the side door, not that it would be opened.
Beryl: ….Right…. WELL, if you all don’t mind, I’ll get this door open in a second.
Shava: Still, I wonder where this Torrent is. I thought we were supposed to meet her here?
Shava: None of you is Torrent right?
Laurya: Not in this lifetime, at least.
Breora Lif’illian: (Elven) It sounds like a human name.
A moment later, the door cracks open, just as Beryl is beginning to begin work. A tall well-tanned woman with short white hair peeks out into the alleyway and looks both ways.
Shava: (Elven) I thought perhaps it was an assumed name
Beryl stows her things quickly. “HI. Just here for the meeting!”
Shava sighs faintly
Laurya: (Elven) Sounds like a name of a childs hero
Shava: Are you Torrent?
Woman: Come in, quickly.
Shava: (Elven) I agree
Beryl slips inside, eager to get out of the alley.
Shava: Thank you
Shava steps inside
Breora Lif’illian nods as she enters
Laurya moves inside with the others, but is wary of the woman’s jerky movements.
Rhakesh: “My gear…” murmurs Rhakesh as he sees the familiar outline of the Poisoned Apple Pub and starts limping his way towards it, brushing off dirt and soot as he goes until he reaches the door, trying his best to stay out of the light.
Torrent glances to you and ushers you to hurry.
The door closes behind you as you all enter.
The darkened pub appears empty, its many tables and chairs pushed to one wall and covered with sheets. A single table with enough chairs for all of you sits in the middle of the room. A small oil lamp and a keg sit on top of it, along with several mugs. Unless the shadows beyond hide more, your group and the woman are the only people in the room.
Shava looks around the room taking in as much as she can.
Laurya scowls, “So….”
Rhakesh tries his best to stay within the shadows as he asks in a rather dry, raspy voice:
Rhakesh: Water, need water, and my gear…
Shava: Rhakesh, you made it… what’s wrong?
You notice a staircase that leads upstairs, located in the corner of the common room and beside the bar. The windows and door facing the street are closed and boarded up from the outside. On the wall behind the bar hangs a bronze bust of the former emperor of Ragesia, Drakus Coaltongue, a regal, aged half-orc with a scar cuting diagonally across his face.
Beryl: Hold on, I’ll see if there’s anything around.
Torrent looks at Rhakesh curiously.
Breora Lif’illian (sypathetically): My apologizes about the true owner. I would not wish that on-
Breora Lif’illian pauses as she looks at the dragonborn
Beryl skirts around the bar, looking for a glass and something to drink.
Torrent waits for you all to settle down.
Rhakesh: Rhakesh coughs a little, talking pains him but he doesn’t know why. “I woke up in a ditch with a layer of dirt on top of me less than five minutes ago, and my memory before waking up well… I don’t think I should be here.”
Breora Lif’illian sits at the table and waits patiently.
Laurya turns her scowl to the hulking figure that followed them inside., though she says nothing.
Rhakesh looks to Torrent and inquires about getting some water or ale
Shava timidly takes a mug and pours a mug full from the keg
Rhakesh takes it and drinks deeply
While you are settling down, the woman picks up a mug of beer and speaks.
“Good evening, all. My name is Torrent. Thanks for coming,” She gestures towards the keg and mugs, and with a wan smile says, “Have a drink. Just because we’re about to go to war doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the New Year.” She then takes a pull of her mug and sits down. For a few minutes, through small talk and friendly banter, the New Year is celebrated.Beryl: Hurrah. New Year, same as the old, more or less. Breora Lif’illian (nods and for the first time this evening tilts her mask up so she can take a drink): to the New Year.
Rhakesh idly raises his glass to the toast
Shava takes another mug and raises it in a toast before taking a sip
Laurya refrains from drinking, nods to the toasts, but only watches at this point.
Shava: The New Year has arrived.
Shava listening to the bells ringing in the distance
Torrent grimaces, straightens in her chair and bitterly sighs.
Torrent: That’s one year gone.
She shakes her head a little, then looks over the table towards you.
Torrent: I guess it’s time to get down to business.
Torrent: The city’s in trouble. The Ragesian army is marching on us, and will most likely be here tomorrow. Before then, we have a mission.
Torrent: I used to study at a magic academy to the south, called Lyceum. They’re good people. So when word reached them about Ragesia’s ‘Scourge,’ they sent out messages calling for anyone fleeing Ragesia to come to them. They want to stand against the Ragesians, and the resistance wants their help. We just need to get a message to them.
Torrent: Normally we would have sent something by teleporting courier, but something strange is going on with planar magic. The last courier who teleported into Gate Pass, well, rumor is that he showed up burnt to a crisp. Not that I have that sort of magic anyway, but if we’re going to talk to Lyceum, we’re going to have to go overland. And that’s a problem, because the city’s walls are sealed.
Laurya: Laurya’s scowl deepens.
Torrent: Ever since their emperor died, the Ragesians have been trying to show that they’re not weak, and they’re marching an army in our direction because the mountain pass we’re in is apparently ‘strategically valuable.’ Either way, a few idiots on the city council want to negotiate with the Ragesians, and rumor is they’re going to invite a group of Inquisitors into the city to look for ‘magic-users who are hostile to the empire.’ They’ve sealed the gates of the city so no one can escape, to make sure they look like they’re cooperating, and only military personnel can get in or out.
Torrent: We’re going to have to get out of the city, and I’m open to suggestions on how. Once we’re out, I can get us safely to Lyceum, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we have a mission tonight.
Shava: (whispers) They’re going to invite them in?
Torrent: It’s possible.
Rhakesh: They must be looking for their deserter, I hope they find him.
Torrent: The short version is that we’ve got to meet a contact — a gnome named Rivereye Badgerface — in about an hour at a guarded depository about a half-mile from here. He’s carrying a case of vital military intelligence which he stole from the Ragesian palace, and the heads of the resistance think that it needs to reach Lyceum. We’ve got to get that case, get out of the city, and get far away from here before the idiot city council lets the Ragesian Inquisitors in. Once that happens, the odds of us escaping are —
Breora Lif’illian (elven): idiots the lot of them
She finishes off her mug of beer in one long guzzle.
Torrent: — slim.
Torrent: I know I’d love to stay here and fight against the Ragesians, but I’m no soldier, and this mission might be more important. Worst case, you get away from the Ragesians and we can part ways a few days down the road. Best case, you can come with me to Lyceum, and we come back with an army of our own to drive off the Ragesians. But we’ve got to act fast either way.
Torrent: Are you ready for this?
Shava: I’ve always wanted to go to Lyceum, I need access totheir library anyway.
Rhakesh: Give me some time to get my gear and get back in the swing of things and I’m as ready as ready can be.
Laurya: So we need to break this gnome out of a guarded area first?
Breora Lif’illian: The inquisitors methods sicken me to my core. It is a pleasure to give them a black eye.
Rhakesh: A man recovers from a black eye, a man don’t recover from a missing head
Laurya rolls her eyes
Beryl: You’ll be surprised.
Shava: So we want to chop off someone’s head?
Torrent: we don’t have time for detours, we need to get to the depository in an hour.
Shava: Where did you leave your stuff?
Torrent: But first, we should use this time to plan. How should we handle this? We need to find a way to get this case, get out of Gate Pass and get to Lyceum.
Shava: But that aside, how are we going to get out of town once we get to this gnome friend of yours?
Rhakesh: Here, it’s in an armoire upstairs, the thing looks like it’s been through a war, can’t miss it.
Laurya: Right. so gates are sealed. Whats the chance of slipping through them with a well placed bribe. Im often called out of the city to conduct final rites.
Torrent: Then hurry up and fetch it, I don’t know why your gear would be in there though.
Beryl: A bribe? Where you gonna get the gold for that?
Rhakesh heads upstairs and comes back down a few moments later dressed in old hide armor from the Ragesian Army and bearing an axe forged in the Ragesian manner.
Shava: Use your seeing powers to find some?
Laurya slips a few golden coins from her belt pouch. “Where else?”
Torrent looks at Rhakesh with a dark stare.
Torrent: A ragesian?
Rhakesh: Formerly, deserted.
Rhakesh: If they find me they’ll hang me.
Shava: That explains much
Rhakesh: But hopefully I’ll get a few of them
Torrent: I see, then you have a reason to get out of this city as well.
Rhakesh grimaces at Shava
Rhakesh: I didn’t join by any choice of my own
Shava: I’m not sure we can come up with enough gold to get us all out of town
Rhakesh: But when a fellow shows up with a conscription order and several armed guards, and you’ve got nothing else to look forward to in the village well, it’s not as if the choice is difficult.
Beryl: Well, what about magic? Just illusion us as a guard going out or something like that?
Laurya: If the gates are sealed, are the guards even leaving?
Shava: Might work, but I’m not that powerful in magic yet that I can cloak so many in an illusion. I don’t know about the rest of you
Torrent: I suppose you could convince the mages at Gabels school to help.
Shava: Perhaps patrols?
Beryl: Prisoners have to leave somehow. Like that note on the wall said.
Shava: Yes, I might be able to. IF any are still there. THey’ve locked the gates
Torrent: There may be a few, I am unsure.
Torrent: Although I would recommend finding somebody with political power and befriending them, that may be our best way out.
Beryl: Oh right. The bigwigs…
Shava: Well then let’s go to Gabal’s I’m sure I can convince someone there to help, perhaps some sort of spell or scroll or something to help
Breora Lif’illian: Maybe we are thinking about this the wrong way. Perhaps a bit of symathy could go the right way if we were to find the right guards but…no that would require watching them change shifts to find the most…simple minded of them
Laurya: I thought you just said the politicians were all ‘idiots’
Rhakesh: Well, perhaps we could also find a sympathetic individual from within the city guard and obtain some uniforms
Torrent: Yes, the council are idiots for wanting to let the inquisitors in, but I am sure there are a few who are against it.
Beryl: I can think of a few off the top of my head…
Laurya: I dont follow politics much. Who’s on the council that would be most likely?
Shava: Really, you know politicians?
Beryl: More like…. people I’ve run across…
Shava: Or did you dream them up like your ‘visions?
Shava: Any that stood out for being possible Resistance Sympathizers? or More loyal to Gate Pass than the rest?
Laurya: I’d assume most of the clergy are against bringing in the Inquisitors. We’re likely to find some help there.
Beryl: Erdan Menash. He’s not fond of our invaders, if I recall.
Shava tries to recall the name Erdan Menash
Breora Lif’illian (nods slowly): I…can be of some service there. I have ties with The Mercinum but how much help they can provide is…questionable.
Torrent: Erdan Menash? I have never met him, but I certainly know where he lives, his house is impossible to miss.
Rhakesh attempts the same
Beryl: He’s…. eccentric, to be sure….
Shava: Name rings a bell…
Beryl: But yeah. It’s worth a look. He’s got some influence that’s rather… useful.
Laurya: Thats oddly vague…
Rhakesh: Ah yes, ol’ Bashin’ Menash, he’s the one who used to try and get all the merc companies to wear his gear. He certainly had a… questionable sense of taste. And having a glimmering green cloak in the middle of a battle is a great way to die fast.
Beryl: It’s part of my job. Somewhat helpful yet consistently vague.
Rhakesh: He’s a bit odd but I’m sure he would look upon us favorably if we convinced him he could be made the hero of the city if he helped us
Shava: Good thinking
Beryl: That covers the escape. Where’s the gnome… the Depository?
Laurya shakes her head slightly, and taps the raven’s skull broach that holds her cloak around her neck, cocking her head as if to listen to it.
Rhakesh looks over curiously at that gesture
Torrent: A few things I should tell you about him, he was once a spy from Lyceum, acting as a servent in the imperial palace for Kreven, second-in-command of the inquisitors, Apparently, Rivereye is very ugly and blitherly unaware of it.
Beryl: …Should be easy to spot then.
Laurya shrugs and leans back in her chair.
Shava: so not something to be brought up?
Torrent: His normal contact is Peppin Tallman, a human wizard from Lyceum, he occasionally passed information to the resistance, but was found dead a week ago.
Shava: That’s not good
Laurya: Dead? How?
Beryl: …I’m guessin…… fire.
Torrent: We are not sure, but a speak with dead ritual that was used on Tallman revealed an upcoming meeting with Rivereye, but not the killer’s identity.
Torrent: Tallman’s code-phrase and signet ring were also recovered and given to me. I’m worried though that someone else is after the case, and that Rivereye might spook when he sees Peppin is not there.
Shava: So we don’t know what is in the case then?
Torrent: Only that it contains ragesian intelligence.
Breora Lif’illian: It is possible. The killer would logically go after the wayward gnome next.
Torrent: What that intelligence is, we do not know.
Shava: And you accepted that those two words belonged in the same sentence?
Laurya: Or the killer is the gnome.
Rhakesh: That’ll be the day
Beryl: Well, let’s just take you along. You know this Rivereye, right? Shouldn’t be a problem.
Shava: Not if they were each other’s contact
Laurya: People are easily bought… ugly gnomes included
Shava: So we best hurry then. The Depository isn’t that far away, but it pays not to be late
Rhakesh: Aye, that’s true, but I didn’t know you could kill a man by stabbing his feet
Beryl: You’ll be surprised.
Rhakesh: I’ve had enough surprises tonight.
Shava glares at the MUCH taller Dragonborn
Beryl takes another drink.
Breora Lif’illian (archs a brow): You have…“interesting” life experiences.
Laurya says dryly, “Then you are going to hate what she put in your drink.”
Torrent: Yes, but first I must tell you, once we get out of the city, our route to lyceum, there is only one real way we can go to avoid possible persuit by the Ragesian army. A route that avoids impassable roads and well-patrolled paths; a little-travelled road south from the city to the border of the innenotdar Fire Forest, thirty miles away.
Shava: We’re going to THE forest?
Beryl: The what now?
Shava she looks elated and terrified at the same time
Torrent: Yes, decades ago, the Elf Road ran through the fire forest to Dassen, where Lyceum is, but some catastrophe happened during the last war. The forest was set on fire, and it has not stopped burning since.
Shava: (whispers) But I haven’t finished my research yet
Beryl: So…. our plan is ultimately go to a forest that’s…. ON FIRE.
Shava unconsciously places a hand on her left side
Torrent: It is the only way to escape the Ragesians, I doubt they are as prepard as I. I have potions tha will let us survive the intense heat, I doubt any pursuers will have similar magic to follow us.
Laurya: Thats one place that will likely prevent pursuit, but any real bright idea on HOW we plan on doing that?
Rhakesh: Small chance of success by fleeing certain death into the heart of danger, I like the way this is going.
Shava looks curiously at Torrent.
Beryl: I’m…. still a little skeptical.
Torrent: I have enough to last us all 3 days, and it should take us about that long to traverse through the forest.
Laurya: Why wouldnt our pursuers, who we will apparently have, possess that sort of magic?
Beryl: Well… beats dying now.
Beryl: Dunno bout you, but I like living, even if it’s only for a few days.
Shava: its not about possessing the magic, it’s about being prepared for three days of travel through the forest
Laurya: This whole thing seems like a setup.
Shava: I’m sure they HAVE the magic, but it will delay them to gather enough protection to last three days.
Beryl: Like… for a whole army and such.
Torrent: There is no doubt, once we have the case and the ragesians find out, they will try and pursue us.
Rhakesh: We should make duplicates of the case
Shava: Every day of travel we can steal on them would be a day closer to protection of Lyceum
Rhakesh: maybe even put a few out randomly to send a false trail
Torrent: I doubt we have the time for that, as good an idea as it is.
Rhakesh: Aye, but how will they know what the case will look like?
Rhakesh: Who’s to say we aren’t smart, clever folk who disguise it in an ordinary shipping crate, for example?
Torrent: It is a ragesian case of intelligence, it came from them.
Shava: Maybe they have other ways to track it?
Rhakesh: True, that’s my concern more than anything else
Beryl: Eh. They wouldn’t have lost it so easily if they did.
Shava: Maybe the Gnome can run fast?
Beryl: Could always scry it or something when we get it.
Rhakesh: Aye, and they also presumably wouldn’t know if someone opened it and put the contents somewhere else
Rhakesh: I for one, know I would ditch the case itself as soon as I possibly could
Shava: Or maybe it’s his fault the teleportation courier thingy went down in the first place?
Torrent: We have yet to get our hands on the case
Laurya: First things first. We meet this gnome. We can deal with the forest of fire when we get to it.
Torrent: So it is most likely still in its original case
Rhakesh: Well yes, but the Ragesians don’t know this
Shava: Then we need to get the contents out of the case.
Beryl: Right. Works for me. We got a solid plan.
Laurya: So, we need to get the case, then figure out how to get this Mense fellow to smuggle us out of the city? Then tackle a thirty mile hike through a flaming forest.
Torrent: But first, we must get the case.
Beryl: Sounds fun. Let’s get to it.
Beryl stands up and take one last drink.
Rhakesh: Sounds like it to me
Shava: What could possibly go wrong?
Rhakesh: We all die horribly at the hands of Inquisitors but at least take a few with us before that?
Shava raises her mug in a toast, looking at each of the others.
Breora Lif’illian: I would sooner die than go quietly with them.
Rhakesh: I like this one
Shava: I’m in
Rhakesh: And who said I’m going quietly?
Shava: I’ll go quietly, I just plan to take a lot of them screaming with me
Beryl: Eh. Whatever floats your boat.
Rhakesh: Hah! In another life you’d have been a fine shield maiden
Rhakesh: Stand your ground and let ‘em come, that’s the way to go
Shava: Are we all in?
The bells of the city’s celebration suddenly go silent in the span of a few seconds.
Beryl: Yeah yeah. Lemme get my glass
Beryl: A toast! To freedom!
Rhakesh: And to more drinks
Shava: Death to the Ragesians
Laurya refreshes her scowl
Beryl: Did you hear that….?
Shava: No what?
Breora Lif’illian (nods): my name is Breora and you have my blade._
Shava glances around nervously
Breora Lif’illian pauses as she looks up._
Rhakesh: No bells on New Year’s Eve… this makes my nose twitch
Laurya: Now what?
Beryl leaps over the counter, drawing her handcrossbow.
Breora Lif’illian: Ready your weapons…I think we have uninvited company
Rhakesh already had his axe in hand
Beryl: We got someone upstairs. Careful._
Shava pulls her wand and crouches by the table
Breora Lif’illian grips the broadsword on her hip by its hilt and seems ready to draw it at a moment’s notice_
Rhakesh: “Fight well Brerora.”
Laurya slips the wooden shield from her shoulder sling and chokes up on her spear.
Laurya slides over to watch the side door.
At the end of the first “Round” distant muted thumps fill the air, like the sound of ripe fruit landing on the roof of a house.
Beryl: ….That’s… not footsteps…
Shava: What was that?
Torrent: It seems a ragesian assault, may have begun.
TO BE CONTINUED.