Episode 13: A Dance of Deception
Our adventurers arrive at the scene of the ball, plans mostly hashed out and cover stories mostly in place. Ashton, Laudna, FCG and Chetney attend as Lord Eshteross’ personal guards. Fearne, Imogen, and Orym will act as Dorian’s entourage as he attends the ball using his formal title Bronte Secondsun.
After the initial nerves wear off, the groups begin to set themselves up to corner Armand Treshi and case the party for any possible members of the Chandei Quorum. Dorian and Fearne begin to mingle and draw attention as intriguing outsiders. Chetney, Ashton, and Laudna strike up interesting conversation with Lady Emoth Kade who attended as Armand’s companion, a Lord Preston Drodelon who called himself the Lord of the Quadroads, Gavis Aranda the voice of the Chandei Quorum, and General Ratanish the leader of the rebellious Paragon’s Call mercenaries.
With so many prominent members of society in one place, the gang is feeling the pressure not to make a big scene. Especially after being spotted near the scene of the highly gossiped about Moon Tower explosion. Lay low, get this heist done quietly, and gather as much juicy intel as possible. No sweat. Orym spots someone in the crowd that could throw quite a wrench in these plans. Dorian’s brother Cyrus has come out of hiding and is waltzing around the ball of all places. Orym sends Chetney to investigate why Cyrus might have thought it a good idea to be out in public with a huge bounty still hanging over his head.
Chetney manages to corral Cyrus into a private corner to interrogate him. Cyrus is a bit cagey about his reasons for being at the ball but says that he’s working on getting rid of his bounty. He’s here to do a job for Lady Emoth. He clams up on the details after that, but reassures Chetney that he can take care of himself and not to let the group interfere.
The dance begins to really pick up; Dorian and Fearne know that it’s time to put their plan in motion. They begin to strategically move their way through the dance floor until finally Fearne manages to snag Armand in for a one on one dance. There’s no easy way for Fearne to try and get Armand’s ring off during their dance, so at the last possible second as they’re separating, she gently tugs at the ring and it pops off his hand. He definitely notices though, and Fearne tries to play it cool, letting it drop out of her hand and go rolling across the dance floor.
Ok, ok part one of the plan didn’t so as smooth as hoped, now Dorian, Orym and Imogen are in a mad scramble to try and switch Armand’s real ring with the fake replica. Armand is deadly focused on pushing his way across the dance floor to get his ring back, ordering servants to begin scouring the floor for it. Dorian manages to kick the ring over to FCG, who tucks it away. Orym tries to distract Armand but only succeeds in drawing undue suspicion on himself. Imogen drops to the floor pretending to search for Armand’s ring as she frantically waits for her friends to pass her the fake ring. Orym tosses the ring in the air to Dorian, who nearly fumbles it but manages to tip it to Fearne, who slyly slips it into Imogen’s waiting hands. Imogen triumphantly stands up and presents the fake tracker ring to Lord Armand, who snatches it from her and quickly leaves the dance floor. Mission accomplished.
Meanwhile, Chetney has been doing his best to keep an eye on Lady Emoth and Cyrus. In the chaos of Lord Armand causing a scene on the dance floor, Cyrus and Lady Emoth manage to give Chetney the slip. He heads to the outskirts of the mansion, looking for where the pair may have gone. As he’s peeking into a darkened room, he hears animalistic chittering and growling. He notices the hunched form of Lady Emoth speaking in a strange language to several shadecreepers as they begin to ransack the room. Lady Emoth’s body grotesquely convulses and she reverts back into her more human form and rejoins the party.
As Chetney heads back to the ballroom to inform the group of what he saw, Ashton finds himself in a bit of hot water. He’s caught the eye of a familiar figure in the crowd. It seems that Vali Dertrana, whose office they broke into and discovered the Nightmare King hiding in, has noticed Ashton’s very obvious mask. Maybe going dressed as an imitation of the seedy fey being that caused one of the most talked about attacks in Jrusar wasn’t the best way to fly under the radar. Well, he’s in it now. Ashton notices that Vali calls over General Ratanish of the Paragon’s Call. Ratanish begins to question Ashton about the inspiration for his curious mask. Ashton plays coy, but Ratanish is not here to play. He aggressively rips the mask from Ashton’s face, causing Ashton to retaliate with a slap to Ratanish’s face.
The crowd is appalled by the acts of violence and Ratanish decides to make an example of Ashton. He challenges Ashton to a duel of fists out in the courtyard. Ashton’s in too deep now, and backing out may only draw more unwanted attention to his group. Let’s take this fight outside.
And that’s where we’ll pick up next week!
Ok, so I’ll admit that I personally struggled to hold my attention this episode, even though I believe it is one of the more exciting and story driven episodes we’ve had. It’s probably just my hectic work schedule catching up with me, but I fell asleep through three different rewatches and still had to scan through Flando’s episode highlights on YouTube to catch the full gist of this episode. Now, I don’t think this is in any way a reflection of the episode. Many people on Tumblr and Youtube absolutely loved this episode.
That being said, this was a very dialogue and role play heavy episode. There were also so many new NPC’s introduced in this episode. It was much more helpful for me to isolate each of the NPC conversations during rewatches to keep all the tangling threads and story lines straight.
First up, we had a fun little reference to Campaign 1 when Lord Preston Droledon is introduced. For those unfamiliar, Vox Machina’s barbarian Grog was a bit of a loose canon with a Deck of Many Things, and let a stranger on the streets choose a card. The stranger gained the use of three wishes, the first of which he used to name himself Lord of the Quadroads! So it seems, our Lord Preston has been busy making a name for himself and traveling the world.
Next up was an interesting story thread for Chetney. He meets a man named Gryz, a researcher who works with Ajit Dayal. Ajit was supposed to be Chetney’s contact to the Gorgynei lycans, the group of blood hunters he’s been searching for in Jrusar.
Fearne, Dorian and FCG get a brief encounter with the Voice of the Quorum Gavis Aranda. We learn he’s a bit full of himself and loves to stir up some good gossip. While no other connections to the Quorum seemed to be made during the ball, at the very least, the gang have Gavis to go to if they need more information.
Lady Emoth was introduced as a guest with more shady intentions and provided a sufficient pull and distraction for the group not focused on switching Armand’s ring. Orym and Chetney had their hands full trying to keep an eye on Cyrus and Lady Emoth during the ball. The threads keep getting more and more tangled. Armand Treshi seems to have a hand in every weird encounter the gang has had in Jrusar lately. Treshi employed Vali and the Nightmare King, who was building devices that could animate inanimate objects and build a blood hunter army. Treshi also seems to be involved with the bizarre, man-eating creature in the wall behind the theater. And now, Treshi brings Lady Emoth into the game, making it seem like he also has ties to Duggar and the shade creepers. Call me curious; I can’t wait to see what Mercer has in store for this twisted web of a story.
Perhaps the most dramatic new NPC we got to see in this session was the leader of Paragon’s Call, General Ratanish. The goliath came in with a surprising depth and character. His first interaction with Laudna revealed that he could sense her undead nature, and also pinned him to be a follower of the Duskmaven (aka the Raven Queen). The group also learned that Ratanish was the leader of a rebellion of soldiers with a more sinister reputation, before deciding to rebrand themselves as vigilante saviors of the city. We’ll see what other fascinating layers Ratanish will reveal in the next episode!
Now, all these new NPC’s were just one half of the excitement of this session. The second half of the session focused primarily on Dorian, Fearne, Imogen and Orym as they tried to pull off their difficult ring swap. Dorian’s nerves were apparent throughout the planning sessions and during his interactions with Armand. This was one of Robbie’s first time’s playing such a pivotal role in a session and he did pretty well all things considered! Laura was about to have an aneurism when she had to take a more passive role as Dorian’s servant, and couldn’t convince Dorian to smoothly help her out with her plan. Ultimately, Imogen brought it in for the win regardless of her companions’ bumbling.
There were so many opportunities for the ring switch to go wrong. The dice were making things interesting with so many failed persuasion and sleight of hand rolls. The group just barely managed to keep it together though and save the whole things from devolving to chaos. Who knows where the night might have ended up should the gang have drawn too much notice or failed one more check.
Not wanting to be outdone, Ashton adds his own flavor of chaos to the evening. I love that Ashton didn’t realize how problematic his Nightmare King mask may have been until he was walking into the party. Of course Vali was there and freaked the F out seeing that eerie replica of his strange colleague’s face. And of course no [email protected] given Ashton didn’t have the skills to diffuse things with General Ratanish. So now we get to have our first one on one duel next episode!
Things are definitely heating up at this party. Ashton’s got a reputation to uphold against one of the city’s foremost fighters. And the party still has to investigate just what Lady Emoth and Cyrus have going on in the background. Don’t worry Critters! It’s almost Thursday!