Episode 9: Thicker Grows the Meal and Plot
Fearne finds herself in hot water when her not so sneaky espionage is discovered. The two guards and their boss quickly surround and detain Fearne and begin to question her. She evades their questions, pretending to be warning the guards of a wild attack from a pack of direwolves at the gates. Not surprisingly, no one believes her and she quickly pivots her focus, now claiming to be a jilted lover of Gurge. The guards still don’t fall for her, frankly, terrible attempt at lying and begin to become more hostile.
Thankfully, Fearne manages to reach out to Imogen at the last second and ask for the gang’s assistance. Unfortunately, a locked door stands between her and her friends and…well we all know the true nemesis in any DnD campaign. The situation continues to devolve as the gang fail to pick the lock, break the door down cleanly, and resort to slowly hacking at the hinges until the door finally pops free.
All the noise has sent the guards into action, leaving Fearne a free hand to finally cast Charm Person on the boss man. He is instantly assuaged by Fearne’s sweet talk and they walk out arm in arm towards the gates. Fearne’s companions are a bit surprised to see Fearne acting so chummy with the guards’ captain, since her last message made it sound quite life or death.
Before parting ways with the guards, the gang learns that they worked with a prominent bounty hunter named Artana Voe. They decide to take this tidbit of information to their sponsor, Lord Eshteros and see if he has any leads.
Back at the Eshteros estate, the gang catch their employer up on what they’ve been up to in the past couple days. He gives them a lead on finding Artana at a local tavern called the Soot and Swill. The group thank Eshteros for his help again and head back to the Smolderspire to check out the tavern.
At the Soot and Swill the group connect with the bartender, Preio, who Eshteros told them to find. Preio is a bit shifty when the pleasantries change to questions about Artana’s location. Orym notices that Preio keeps glancing back at the kitchen and makes a note to check into that. Orym, Dorian, Ashton and Chetney peek into the back of the house and see a large ogre manning the stoves. They’ll need a distraction to really poke around back here.
Thankfully, Fearne and FCG are masters of distraction! FCG entertains the main crowd with an impressive bottle trick, while Fearne gets the ogre chef out of the kitchen by asking to complement the unique dinner she was served.
While Fearne, Laudna, and Imogen sweet talk the surprisingly adorable ogre named Pretty, Chetney and Orym manage to locate a secret living space behind a hidden panel. They begin to sneak into the room and are met with a loaded crossbow to the face. A very angry bounty hunter begins to threaten the intruders, who insist they really just want to talk.
It takes some time, but they do finally manage to convince Artana that they come in peace. A hefty amount of gold later, they manage to learn that Artana was hired to bring in Gurge by an elven man named Vali Dertrana. She also mentions that Gurge was afflicted by some kind of werewolf disease and to be cautious if they are going to be poking around him.
They thank Artana for being so forthcoming and begin to retreat from her room. Dorian happens to ask about his brother’s bounty and Artana suddenly pieces together that these intruders may be a great lead on the largest bounty in Jrusar. Before he does any more unintentional damage, Dorian rushes out and rejoins the group.
As the gang leave the Soot and Swill they share all the information they’ve managed to gather. Fearne, Laudna and Imogen also reveal that the’ve somehow walked away from their interaction with Pretty with a triple date later that evening. The evening is still young and there may still be time to try and meet this Vali Dertrana and locate Gurge.
The gang make their way to the Corespire and find the Moon Tower where Vali’s office is located. They are turned away at the guarded gate and told to either come back with an appointment or a pass to get into the grounds. Not ones to be deterred while on a mission, the group quickly revisit Eshteros, snag a letter from him that will grant them passage, and return to the guarded gate.
This time, things go a bit more smoothly. The make it all the way to the outside of the Moon Tower when the attendant informs them that Vali Dertrana is out for the day and they’ll have to come back again tomorrow. Imogen manages to create a distraction and Chetney is able to invisibly sneak all the way into Vali’s office.
Chetney can’t believe his luck! This mission is going so well. Gurge must be around here somewhere. He notices that there is a hidden panel behind a bookshelf that may hold a secret cell. He just has to find the mechanism to unlock it. Chetney heads over to Vali’s desk to poke around. He snags a beautifully detailed map off the desktop, and unlocks two top drawers. The first contains a beautiful chest containing 100 platinum pieces.
In the second locked drawer he finds another large bag of money, a ledger that describes a familiar bounty on Gurge from an unknown figure named The Nightmare King, and just under the lip of the drawer, a switch.
Chetney finds the mechanism to open the secret doorway and sneaks a few feet into the darkened staircase. He hears two voices conversing below. A smooth, elven voice urgently pushes for the second figure, named Ira to speed their plans up as their patron is demanding results. Ira replies in a haunting voice that the beautiful pattern they’ve laid over the city cannot be rushed. They request more offerings, people that won’t be missed from the streets, maybe a child or two. The elven voice replies with disgust and spits that Ira needs to complete the plan and be gone from his life.
The elf then begins to climb back up the stairs into the main office and Chetney scrambles to hide in a darkened corner of the room. Thankfully, his invisibility is still active. The elf, who can only be Vali, suddenly notices that his map and several other objects form his desk are missing and he begins to search his room for an intruder. Vali grabs a saber from the wall and begins to slash wildly around the room.
In a moment of desperation, Chetney breaks loose from the corner and crashes through the stained glass window. Falling through the rain down to the ground below as Vali Dertrana rushes to the ledge to give chase. And that’s where we’ll pick up next week.
Well, this episode took a few unexpected turns! I was ready for a bit of a fight to get Fearne away from the guards. But this gang seems slightly less murder-hobo inclined than the Mighty Nein may have been. Ashley is fully leaning into her comedic abilities this campaign and Fearne is all the more amazing and chaotic for it. Ashley really has some fantastic improv moments, now if only her dice will cooperate with her to get some of them to work.
While this episode may be a little light on the action this week, it leans a bit more into the role/ play and story driven angles. The gang are quickly working their way through the many many loose threads they’ve managed to unpick so far. Even though they’ve got multiple story leads spinning at once, they are able to buckle down and follow the Gurge thread to an incredibly interesting end.
Eshteross seems to be a never ending ‘get out of jail free’ card for this group. He had endless contacts, information, and the ability to get the group in anywhere and everywhere they are trying to go. Not to mention he also pays them to do all this crazy work! Quite an amazing set up. I wonder how long it’ll last.
The excitement of Fearne’s near miss encounter with the wrong side of the law wasn’t quite enough for the group this session. They manage not one, not two, but three heisty missions in one episode! I think they’ve found their strongest ability as a group. The ladies are becoming quite proficient at creating useful, if not imaginative, distractions. Case in point, wooing Pretty the chef into a date so the gents can get a face full of bounty hunter crossbow. All in all though, the Soot and Swill break in was one of their most successful and least bloody encounters so far.
Following Artana’s thread from Soot and Swill all the way to Vali Dertrana and the Moon towers proves to nearly be their undoing. Maybe the high of two rather exciting break in missions in one day got them feeling a bit cocky. The group pushes their luck, and continues to bolster their increasingly eccentric reputation and manages to get Chetney into quite a pickle.
Not all is lost though! Chetney’ solo mission goes almost incredibly flawlessly! He manages to grab a massive pay load, an awesome map, the name of the entity that put the bounty on Gurge, and overhears some rather alarming sinister plot. Too bad he gets found out and the whole mission ends in quite a dramatic fashion. The cliffhanger is almost as memorable as Bertrand’s final moments. I think we’re all a little fresh off a character death and constantly worry that every breath could be Chutney’s last. This lucky little gnome seems to have some fight in him though. So we’ll see what he has in store for next session.
How about that new story thread Chetney picked up on!? A terrifying new name: The Nightmare King. A sinister sounding plot about some strange… pattern laid out across the city? Human sacrifices? A character named Ira? Is anyone else getting some serious Somnovum vibes??? The last character named Ira appeared in campaign 2 as one of the mad mages that turned an entire city into a living nightmare that tried to end the world. The Somnovum were also obsessed with a ‘pattern’ that slowly turned people into their mind-melded slaves. Now…it could be completely possible that there are two characters named Ira in Exandria…that are both obsessed with evil patterns…. But does Mercer ever do anything without a grand story line purpose?! Who knows, this could be our first major red herring for any fans of campaign 2. Maybe we’re still reeling a bit from knowing that Laudna may have the last vestige of the TWICE killed Delilah Briarwood residing in her brain.
We’ll have to see where these juicy story bits lead! For now, we continue the Search for Gurge, inch closer to a meeting with the mysterious Anger, and hope that Dorian’s brother Cyrus can hang on for a few more days until they can get him to safety.
Next session promises to start with a bang. And if Chetney has his way, it’ll end in a spectacularly unexpected way.
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