Saturday, October 15, 2016

Strigastadt VIII

Tonight's game was with a smaller crew than we're used to, yet it was quite eventful! It turned out to be a super long play report, so maybe grab a cup of tea before you dive in. :)

Characters:
Belina the (mutant) printer [Jackson]
Barbarus the aspiring chicken farmer [Also Jackson]
Roxanne the wrecker [JT]
Cecilly the acrobat [Alex]

The session started with some upkeep / long-term plans. Cecilly is rounding up acrobats, jugglers, and other performers in a scheme to establish a sort of street performers' union backed by the protection of the Stone Cats. She found a few acquaintances willing to join if the Stone Cats established their reputation a little more solidly (Roxanne: "So we're a clown gang now?"). Work was also done to take control of the Belltower, former hangout of the Blind Vipers and crossroads of two inter-building bridges, where Cecilly hopes to establish a sort of soft toll checkpoint. The resident old bell-keeper resignedly sighed and ignored them as she went about her work. The plan is to have a rotating cast of performers that'll play and encourage donations (the gang keeping part of the profits), all while subtly keeping track of the movements of notable folks. Roxanne is working as a laborer until she finds employment as a bodyguard, and Barbarus (halfway healed from the saw-blade trap in the Grey District) managed to find a chicken farmer to apprentice himself to so he'll have expertise when his grand vision of maintaining rooftop coops outside the Roost is finally realized.

Included in the group Cecilly has recruited so far is Raga Sigisdotr. She's known for her imaginative portraits, and plans to ply her trade below the Belltower when that gig gets going. She mocked one Drosta Sibrosky, maker of accurate but dull portraits. She's a bit jealous since Drosta has recently been patronized by Sigga the Wolf.

Regarding the captured Red Demon Knives of Terror... All four agreed to join the Stone Cats, but two deserted the moment eyes were off them. Roxanne rewarded the other two for their loyalty with silver, and is supervising while they help to restore the Belltower, cleaning scorch marks off walls and putting doors back on their hinges.

The Belltower
While going about these tasks I mentioned that there's a feast-day on the full moon in four days' time (now two), the Stormlord's Feast. In honor of Thegthiec, god of storms, vengeance, and vice, the festival involves a great deal of feasting and general excess. Many groups buy out whole bars to provide free drinks to passers-by, including the Hargrave Guards, the Watchers, the Velvet Knights, and many other groups. Even the stingy and unloved Brinston Boys participate, trying to buy the love of the common folk. It'd be a great opportunity for the Stone Cats to earn some goodwill.

The feast-day has drawn the following people to Krüger so far:
Burgrave Aderfeld, who has dominion over several boroughs, including Krüger. Lady Hargrave and Lord Brinston owe fealty to him.
Lord Hammerfist, who has set up just across the bridge from the Belltower.
Hama Thurison, seer of some renown. Able to part the veil and see Truth, for a price.
Chiongo the amulet maker, reputable dealer in amulets to ward off the evil eye and other fell sorceries common folk are powerless to resist.

An amulet for every curse!
The priesthood of Thegthiec has jurisdiction during the feast-day, so until midnight people avoid conflict at all costs, as the priests are known for quite imaginative punishments. The minute after midnight though, a handful are occasionally inspired to honor Thegthiec's vengeful aspect, settling old scores. Barbarus has contacted the Righteous Banner and they're musing over a possible assassination overnight to make use of this cover... Mork requested Barbarus gather information on Lord Hammerfist and Lord Brinston as potential targets while they think it over.

The feast-day has also brought in various sorts looking to profit off the crowds, including several folks peddling a variety of drugs on Coalstreet, below the Roost. Apparently they felt it reasonable to sell there since it's not in any active gang's territory. The party set out to correct that misapprehension. Muscling them out, they made clear Coalstreet is Stone Cat territory, though the act was of mixed popularity with the common folk.

Speaking of reputation, Cecilly was accosted by members of the Watchers while she was out and about. Looking for a brawl, they called her out as a member of the Stone Cats, talking shit and threatening the upstart gang if they ever came back into Watcher territory. Cecilly escalated things with a well-placed throw, knife stuck quivering in a door frame inches from the lead thug's eye, and a retort that perhaps it is they who should learn some respect. Bellowing obscenities the two men charged, mistakenly unintimidated. Not two steps later Cecilly whipped another knife into the front dude's belly, drawing him up short while his friend charged. Distracted by the pain, the wounded guy threw his dagger with all his might at Cecilly, intending to then flee while his friend did the dirty work. Unfortunately he botched his throw, instead burying the dagger in his friend's neck. Cecilly's next throw was rather more effective. She left the bodies bleeding in the street as the bootsteps of the Brinston Boys fast approached. So, the Stone Cats have some more rep, but are definitely known for extreme violence at this point, which'll certainly impact local relations...

Constable Peters
That reputation came into play not long after. On Coalstreet a tipsy whiskey-jug wielding man with rusted helmet and cuirass introduced himself as Constable Peters, drunkenly demanding they come along quietly. Despite his several unsubtle attempts to elicit bribes, Cecilly and Belina actually agreed to spend a night in jail for appearances' sake. Constable Peters is a bit incompetent, a bit corrupt, and does not have much in the way of backup, so he wasn't gonna push his luck with these violent criminals. Locking them in his 'jail' (spare bedroom) he burbled to himself contentedly as he walked off. Belina: "I search under the bed for something useful"... One critically failed luck check later, a dead body was found under the bed instead. Rolling up an NPC and it turns out to be... a signet-ring carrying scion of Lord Hammerfist with several knife-wounds in the back (but a curious lack of blood puddle). A bit of panicking later (Belina: "What if he's a serial killer?!"  Cecilly: "Nah, too incompetent") they pounded on the door and demanded Constable Peters return, who in turn began panicking after assuring himself it was quite impossible they could have smuggled in a dead body while he arrested them. In his panic he decided to throw the body out his window into the canal below (in broad daylight), but Belina and Cecilly eventually managed to convince him to instead go straight to Lord Hammerfist, and claim they found the body in an alley outside. Belina ran off with the signet ring to fetch him while Cecilly stayed behind and made sure Constable Peters did not follow through with his earlier plan (though he did try hard to convince her). On the way over Belina spotted a contingent of 16 of Lord Hammerfist's men heading towards Constable Peters' place at a brisk pace. She hailed them, told her version of events, was clapped in irons, and taken along with.

When they arrived Cecilly immediately betrayed Constable Peters, telling the true version of events. Belina agreed, changing her story (she claimed Constable Peters had threatened them if they did not lie). The leader of Lord Hammerfist's men said this was consistent with what they had heard, which was that the scion was seen entering the building with Constable Peters and then screams shortly afterward. Sadly, Constable Peters collapsed into drunken sobbing and was unable to defend himself coherently. After the questioning of bystanders as to the party's involvement corroborated their story, the PCs were let off the hook for now...

Roxanne and Belina lingered afterwards, managing to sneak a look at some letters on the Constable's desk. One was half-finished and told of his encounter with a man dressed in the livery of the Glass Street Merchant Consortium led by Greta the Pious. He said the man was emerging from the sewers, surely up to shady business, and that he suspected the Consortium was up to something nefarious related to their recent expansion and extensive hiring of guards. The letter was addressed to Lady Hargrave. Unfortunately the men noticed Belina reading the letter and snatched it from her, kicking them out while they continued their investigation. Belina decided to follow up and report the letter to Lady Hargrave, in case the Hammerfists were intent on covering up that particular clue. On the way over Sigga the Wolf was seen escorting the portrait artist Drosta Sibrosky toward the South side of the borough. Sigga directed them to the guard house where Belina's story was rejected by a sleepy-looking guy with "You better be happy I am a deeply lazy man, I ought to lock up a filthy commoner like you for libel of an upstanding member of our merchant community, but I ain't feeling it right now. At least not if you get out of my sight before I come to my senses..."

Sigga the Wolf - Leader of the Hargrave Guards
Converted mini I made from several others
The party in no way believes Constable Peters did the deed, so the mystery remains unsolved for the moment...

The next day, Raga Sigisdotr reported to Cecilly that the Hargrave Guards had put up wanted posters for the arrest of Barbarus, Celeste, and Leonora on charges of theft and murder (reward of 20 silver!). She says she recognizes the uninspired but unfortunately accurate (as if from life!) artwork of Drosta Sibrosky, and warned Cecilly to tell her friends to lay low. She also mentioned gallows had been erected in the market square...

Later that day, the long-imprisoned former leader of the Blackbirds was hung with little fanfare. Barbarus decided to lay low in the Roost until night, when he'd take a boat over to the Grey District and lay low with the Rat King. Unfortunately, just after nightfall a force of the Hargrave Guards stealthily crossed the rooftop below the Roost, intent on his capture. Noticing them before they got too close, Barbarus hastily descended the chain to the rooftop garden on the other side, intending to use the crops as cover as he fled. As he opened the door to the farmer's abode (where there are stairs down into the building) he came face-to-face with two more guards taking that route. Turning heel and fleeing through the garden towards the Sarcophagus bar, Barbarus quickly plotted a route down to the sub-street tunnels and out to the docks. One crossbow bolt narrowly missed him as he burst through the door, and another nicked his cheek as he sprinted across the bridge on the other side. Baseball-sliding under confused soldiers of Dame Nimeria, Barbarus managed to outdistance his pursuers, using his mental map from his days as linkboy as guide.

Barbarus managed to make it out onto the night-darkened docks where he quickly decided stealing a rowboat was safer than hoping to hide among the crates and fishy cargo. As he rowed away lantern-light splashed across the docks and shouts were heard; they knew where he had gone. Heaving a sigh of relief he rowed into the fog... Me: "Ok, but since it's night-time and you're entering the Grey District I'll just check in case there's an encounter as you head over..." aaaaand of course the cruel dice gods spoke. Halfway across the river pale eyes reflected the bright moonlight. Webbed claws parted the water as several shapes swam towards the rowboat. Barbarus reversed course and frantically rowed back the way he had come, but not before the claws reached the boat. One reeking form pulled itself onboard, wielding a rusted meathook as it made for him. Mouth full of needle-like teeth its scaled form inspired terror. The meathook bit deep into Barbarus' thigh, but he managed to boot the thing back into the water and maintain his footing on the rocking boat. More forms pulled their way onboard as he desperately resumed rowing, one lunging forward and taking his left eye with a vicious bite. Barbarus' only hope was making it back to shore and the tender mercies of the Hargraves before he bled out, so he stoically shrugged off the pain and rowed harder. The bloodstained would-be chicken farmer miraculously made it just to the docks (the two guards panicking at the monstrous shapes and firing upon them) but unfortunately his foes were too numerous and intent on feasting upon his flesh, managing to bite into him and pull him down into the icy waters to his doom...

So ends Barbarus. 

The doom of Barbarus
(image by Pasi Juhola [src])
The Hargrave Guards turned over the Roost looking for the other two wanted murderers, but fortunately neither Celeste nor Leonora were there at the time.

On the plus side, the party accomplished several goals during the session! The Stone Cats are now locally known (though currently of ill-repute), the Belltower is now under their control, a murder mystery has begun, the local constable is out of the picture for the time being, and a feast-day is coming up. A possibility for next session was discussed, that looting over in the Grey District may turn enough of a profit that y'all could sponsor a truly glorious night at the Sarcophagus during the Stormlord's Feast, thereby throwing money at the problem and trying to buy the goodwill of the locals (one of the main reason factions sponsor festivals honestly). Laying low in the Grey District seems like a good idea considering the heat those wanted posters are bringing.

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