Dear Diary….lying in wait for blood

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure, “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Well, the morning was quite interesting, too.

I don’t remember who was on watch last, but when we all got up, Targl had untied himself. Must keep an eye on that one.

He seemed very nervous, but he hadn’t run off…and when Ezekiel went over to talk to him, he slunk away toward Mikael and asked him to get his “scary priest buddy” to cool it.

Mikael started asking questions, and Targil started unburdening his heart.

He and Agnar work for the Slave Lords, while Bornthene comes along as their cover because the Slave Lords have his family hostage (he says he used to live north of Fax, so the family might be anywhere by now).

The Broken Rudder, that Elred inn they encouraged us to go to, is run by Agnar’s brother Ragnar…T and A get tips and information from someone called the “Mad One,” to funnel troublemakers or people asking too many questions down to Elred, where Ragnar takes over.

T says he’s not sure if the Mad One really is mad, but that he’s very good at gathering information. Maybe he can scry things — T says the Slave Lords can scry, and use that to check in on their teams from time to time (hence Bo’s fear).

As for those big bosses – he doesn’t know where they are…but his best guess is at a temple in Highport dedicated to “the Earth Dragon” (even Ezekiel wasn’t sure who that was).

He also went on a long tangent about “undermining the rule of law” so the corrupt leaders like Skulljack are thrown down, and then…um, things will be better under the Slave Lords because they aren’t corrupt? I didn’t really follow it all. Anyway, it seems Targl thinks he’s using the Slave Lords to an end, just as they’re using him for their own ends.

He admitted they’ll be pretty mad when they learn he told us all of this, but consoled himself that if he turns us in, they’ll call it even. Apparently he’s more afraid of them than of us…which, I guess there are more of them, and they have more stuff.

After Mikael sang to Buffy a bit and ate mistletoe for breakfast, Agnar piped up with his advice: he said, yeah, we wouldn’t get to Highport in time to surprise anybody (it’s a good week’s journey still) since if he went missing, his brother would notice and raise the alarm.

Bottom line, sounds like there’s no way we can avoid dealing with their base at the Broken Rudder first – so our new “friends” gave us some tips about who we’d have to deal with there.

First, there’s the mighty dwarf Ragar (Targl says he got all the brains of the family). His accountant is Hazard, who also seems to be a magic user of some kind. Finally, the bartender, Karn, used to be a good fighter.

We should enter Elred before the end of the day, so Ezekiel is hashing out a battle plan. I’m not entirely comfortable, but as they say, there’s no real governor in Elred…and if the tables were turned, the servants of the Slave Lords would jump us in a heart-beat (and have).

One other thing. Ezekiel asked Heiron if he wanted to be a full party-member, not just a man-at-arms. (Seems only fair, I guess, since he got kidnapped for our sake.)

I’m not sure he understood the question until Lydia whispered something in his ear. Mikael asked her if she was all right, and I think she said yes, but it was hard to tell since she suddenly bundled her veil in front of her face.

Mikael gathered up some snake-sized sticks, and Ezekiel prayed over our bows. I guess we’ve done all we can.

****

Well, it all went about as well as could be expected.

Elred has gate-guards…but they seem barely interested in what goes on. Someone could be mugged and murdered in an alley right behind them, and I’m not sure they would care.

Most of the residents know that, though…and all the openly-carried weapons seem to keep most people civil. Even the half-orcs wandering all over the place show as good manners as the humans. Such is the Wild Coast, I guess.

When we got to the Broken Rudder, Mikael tried to quietly ask which were our targets. Agnar pointed out the accountant – a bit loudly – and he, Targil, and Ezekiel wove their way through the drinkers and gamblers to talk to a dwarf in the corner with a big longsword.

I lingered on the far end of the bar, near Hazard – my assigned target. I’d be happier waiting in a tree for a deer, but I’m not a kid anymore; I have other duties.

I didn’t catch all the conversation…but apparently Ezekiel and Targl were pretending that we wanted to sign up for jobs, but Agnar “didn’t get it” and tried to “allay suspicion” by assuring Ragnar that we were absolutely NOT here to kill him! (Feels fairer that way, actually.)

Ragnar drew his sword. Ezekiel gestured over his shoulder, and suddenly Hazard was completely silent. I started filling him with arrows as Bornthene disappeared under a bench.

The bartender (Carn) leaped over the bar with a sword, and Hazard bolted out the door. I followed him, and winged him again as he made for an alley…just as Heiron and Lydia (who were coming along later to catch our enemies from the flank) reached the corner of the street.

Heiron helped me take him down, and Raven came running out to collect the body (maybe the guards would care about some things…).

When we got back inside, Carn was frozen in place (not with ice, though), and Mikael was talking to a customer who wasn’t hiding behind a table. He pointed out where Ezekiel and the “friends” had gone to chase the dwarf-boss, so I followed.

Through the first door is a kitchen, and through the next door (past Ezekiel’s bulky platemail self) I could see our target…and I fired.

Ragnar took the arrow in the shoulder – staggered – dropped the glass bottle he was holding – and shot through the air for the open window. Instead of making it through, though, he rammed into the frame and bounced and hovered in the air, kind of shaking his head.

Mikael threw down his sticks, and they started twisting and hissing as they changed into snakes (that’s just creepy. Glad they don’t let the immature, novice druids learn how to do that). Heiron caught up with us, and launched an arrow.

And then it was all over. We gathered the two bodies into the office, and set to searching for clues and other important things.

Apparently Carn’s story is that he lost the Broken Rudder to Ragnar as payment for a debt…but since Ragnar and Hazard are both dead (and no one can say he didn’t do his part to protect them), he’d be just as happy to go back to running the inn. So we convinced him to ignore us, as we have no interest in his business if he wasn’t with the Slave Lords. With that sorted out, the customers mostly went back to their drinks, and we focused on learning what we could from our enemies.

Ragnar had a hidey-hole in the floor full of papers, not to mention a thick ledger of accounts and such. The most interesting of these papers was a fine linen letter, edged with gold, from someone called Edralve or something (fancy writing, too). Sounds like this person is Ragnar’s girlfriend, and she wants his help out-smarting the “other” Masters…trouble among the Slave Lords??

We also found the base’s cash-on-hand – coins and gems. Ezekiel sent Targil out to buy incense, while Lydia looked over some scrolls she found in Hazard’s quarters. They seem to be some kind of diary! – but even though the pictures are quite fancy, he uses some kind of private lingo that I can’t understand. Lydia says she recognizes references to some of the things she’s read, so maybe she can figure them out.

Not sure what Targl and Agnar will do next, but one hurdle at a time, I guess.

****

15 Patchwall

I knew someone should have been watching Targl! He’s disappeared during the night! Now he’s either making himself scarce – or heading to turn us in to his bosses like he promised.

Agnar said “Drak and Than” could be doing, that, too…and when we asked who that was, he said, oh they were more agents of the Slave Lords who saw our fight in the bar yesterday. We pointed out he could have mentioned them earlier…and he agreed that, yeah, maybe he could have – but you can’t really blame him. Not really.

We’ve bought a cart, so Lydia and/or Ezekiel can ride along and focus on reading the journals and ledger, respectively – and we’ll set out as soon as we have everything set. We don’t know if the other agents have horses, but there’s no sense turning this into a race at this point. Especially if the Slave Lords have a habit of scrying Agnar, they won’t be surprised by much we have to offer.

Ezekiel convinced Bornthene to come out from under the china cabinet and come with us, although he’s very worried about his family. Ezekiel tried to console him with his sheep toy he bought (though it looks more silly and juvenile than the last one did)…I think Bo will have to spend more time with us before he quite knows what to make of Ezekiel.

Hazard and Ragnar had some useful gear…but we are not using Ragnar’s sword. I picked it up after the fight, and it started whispering mean and violent things inside my head. So I put it down, and this morning we laid it to rest in the harbor. It doesn’t have a best friend to hunt it down and rescue it like Tressarian does. One day… (Lydia says I chose rightly, but I’m not sure how she would know. It’s not like there were skulls carved all over the hilt or anything…)

Agnar is still with us so far…though he’s kinda disturbed about killing his brother – helping, at least. It does feel like a dirty trick, and I know if someone made me do something like that, I’d be seething mad.

Unless maybe it was Bartholomew…?? Gotta think about that one……

****

21 Patchwall

Reached Highport last night and camped in a knot of trees just outside the city. It was obviously a great city once – the wall is still quite high…and reasonably strong in some place. But here and there the wall seems broken down – then repaired with rubble. Inside the city, some houses are perfectly fine…and others have been damaged, then repaired in a hap-hazard way…and others are plain boarded-up and not lived in. Ezekiel explained that when the humanoids got driven out of Celene and the Keolands, they took over the settlements here in the Pomargj.

Orcs and half-orcs and humans mingle everywhere…as Targl (or somebody) told us, this is a major port for trading the gems they mine in the Pomargj. I guess the whole place is like Fax – only more so.

After a vigorous discussion, we decided to bury our chest from Ragnar’s office somewhere outside the city, and let the horses wander in the area. After all, Raven can communicate with them…and hopefully they won’t get stolen so easily that way.

We did take enough money for an inn (we hope), and for the entry fee. The orc manning the gate told us each zone is run by a different tribe, so we’ll have to pay every time we want to go into someone else’s territory. As long as there’s some kind of sense to it.

We hung out on street corners and listened in shops and to passers-by, and after a bit, the others headed inland – and I followed. They must have heard something, as pretty soon we saw “THE Temple.”

It doesn’t look like much at first glance – but on inspection, someone has been taking care of it. The wall is solid, and wide enough to allow patrols to walk its top at regular intervals. The gate is guarded, and there seems a lot of traffic in and out — some merchant caravans, and other groups that look more like, well, “adventurers.” There also a second, smaller gate that only fits horsemen.

All the ruined buildings have been pulled down for a few hundred yards all around…this won’t be some tavern scrap.

Mikael did a pass as a bird, and says the place looks like it was burned once…long ago, and it’s since been repaired and added to. There’s one main building, and several outbuildings.

He volunteered to go back again tonight – as a bat – and do some more reconnaissance. Raven says the wall should be easy-peasy for him to climb – and if Ezekiel puts his shushing spell on him, he should be able to scout around a bit, too. We have to trust them to take care of themselves, since there’s no way the rest of us could bust in to rescue them. But Mikael took out an entire slave ship basically by himself, so what are we worrying about?

I feel much better after two weeks of actual meals, but still not confident about storming an entire fortress of evil soldiers.

Heiron suggested “Miss Lydia” could just melt the whole fortress down, and she batted her eyelashes at him and said that wouldn’t help Bornthene’s family if they happened to be inside. I think she’s collected a bottle of Buffy’s droppings just in case, but apparently she doesn’t remember how Fireball goes off the top of her head, and neither Hazard nor the ship captain had it written down. Maybe it’s on a later page she just hasn’t gotten to yet. Either way, that’s not something you want to mess up — she says you can accidentally blown your lips off, and Heiron asked if that’s what happened to her face.


Find the previous entry here.

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