Thursday, July 9, 2020

Mansion Part 8 - Campfire Confession

Part 8

Campfire Confession


For a time, Annalise focused on cleaning her weapon having dropped it into the mud. She laid out a dark dry towel upon the semi-swept floor of the cave that Sutler had started the fire in. Along with the towel was her repair kit which included drivers, screws, oils, and powders. So long as the rune on the hammer was undamaged, she could replace most any minor part of dissemble the locking mechanism to clean it. The powders were mixed with gathered rainwater to form cleaning compounds while the oils served as metal polish and wood varnish for the respective parts of the weapon. As she worked, she had one eye on the Goblin across from her. Her knife was was in easy reach of her hand, her fingers twitched whenever the Goblin moved. He spent several moments building trust by keeping his distance, approaching only when to throw sticks on the fire. He neither offered his drink or his food as his red eyes gleamed while looking at her.

"So why the change of heart, Sutler?" She asked. While she worked, Sutler told her what he knew.

Lask had a kin working with the kidnappers. The Captain himself never participated, nor did he ferry the Orcs and Goblins who had taken the Bard, Reese Candlelight, to the Guisman Manor. But Lask, like other Goblins who operated in the area, had heard and had either surreptitiously helped by leaving supplies for the crew to find, or looked the other way and kept their heads down. To throw off any suspicion and possibly draw the ire of the Captain and through her connections, the Exiles Mercenary Company, Lask came forward to answer the call for a barge that could take a ransom party up north.

"I think he also hoped that by paying the ransom and getting the Bard back that it would deescalate matters. Sure, the Captain would have lost money, but she has plenty. Once the Bard was safe, the lot that took her could move on and things would settle down. Then Bonnie overhears you lot talking about trying to take the money back, implying you'd get violent, and that's when Captain asked me to scout ahead and try to get the manor to warn them." Sutler had said before going quiet and fiddling with collection of sticks to fuel the fire.

When Annalise asked her question, he responded: "Maybe I've got a feeling about your part. That crew is brave enough to fight pirates or crocodiles, but you're an adventuring party, you even have a magic-user in your ranks. A lot of things can happen. I could have warned whoever is at the mansion, assuming I wasn't eaten, sickened, stabbed, or shot- and they could have prevailed and that would solve our problems." He swallowed at Annalise's narrowed eyes and deep frown, as she expected a sudden turn to treason.

"But I also recognize that you could win out, and worst, find out either by deduction or one of the men uttering in dying delirium that you were betrayed. The Captain might be willing to risk it, but I don't want to put the others at risk," Sutler said, "I'd rather back your side, try to find someway that we either all get out of this alive, or at least minimize the casualties of the crew."

"Would the crew stand with us, or the Captain?" Annalise asked. She managed to wipe down the last of the firearm's fouled parts and had begun to secure them back to the frame of the weapon.

"I don't know," Sutler said, "Maybe if the evidence was revealed that he was helping kidnappers, maybe if they could be convinced it would serve better to side with you and Captain Moonsong, I at least needed to try."

"Commendable," Annalise said, "But nothing can be promised if we don't know the stance of the rest of the crew on the matter." She rose and said, "I have to find the others, Sutler, and I plan to lead them back here. Hopefully you'll hang around and keep feeding the fires until I get back."

Sutler nodded and watched as Annalise vanished into the bush.

<Does Sutler stay? 75% Yes with a result of: 18% - Yes!>

 * * *

The Party

<Weather Check d10 - 5 Mostly Cloudy>

The rolling squalls with their veiling rain punctuated by flicks of lightning had moved towards the coast and left the branch of the Saltmarsh in a clouded night that practically swallowed the silvery moon above. The mood was somber as the single horse pulled away away from the sight of battle with, now shouldering the burden of moving the wagon by itself. A task that it could accomplish, but doing so at a slowed rate. The death of the second horse had hit both the draft animal's morale as well as the others. There were hurts to mend, which Raina treated with her healing kit before utilizing her potent magic.

<Raina makes a healing check - 2d6+1 = 12 Critical!> - Raina managed to treat the party's wounds with minimal use of her kit. She was confident that she had plenty of material needed for future treatments at present <No check needed to see if her kit had run out.>

"Where is Annalise?" Valkira noted sourly. The melding of emotions had her frustrated and short with the others around her. The residue of Nora's kiss lingered on her lips. The concerns of expressing such emotions, given their relationship as mentor and second weighed on her mind. The somber mood over the loss of the horse tugged at her heart. She focused on the path forward as she spoke.

"Surely there is a hollow or somewhere we can stop and wait for her," Grolys said.

"And have a repeat of what went on back there?" Valkira half-turned to ask with fire practically rolling from her tongue.

"He was just making a suggestion, Valkira," Nora replied in defense of Grolys. She took was awash with emotion from their exchange and at the attack that cost a life that had become dear to their party member. She looked back in sympathy at Raina who spent the times sorting her healer's kit or looking backwards in sadness to where they left the fallen horse. They had neither time or equipment to bury the animal, Raina had to be content that the creature no longer suffered.

"He made a suggestion, and he received an answer," Valkira said.

<Annalise has the Survival skill which allows her to track. She is allowed a 2d6 + Wis to determine if she can find her way back to the slow moving party. She rolls ultimately a 7. Partial Success! She does find the party, but invokes a 1-in-6 chance for an encounter. The result is: 3>

Annalise hacked, cursed, tripped (barely), winced, and wound her way through the foliage that lengthened between the trails that were had naturally formed and had been cut during the great war and had yet to be overcome by vegetation. They would not remain so convenient forever, eventually the stricken roots would emerge from the ground and swallow the trail unless the region had a more permanent settlement in the western portion of the Marsh. The path she followed ascended to a rise that bordered the western side of the main trail that she knew the party had been using. After a time walking, she could hear the squeak of wood and metal from what she assumed was the groaning wagon. She had to pick her way through the roots of young saplings and curtains of mosses where bugs lingered in until she spotted the party passing through. She called out from behind them which caused the wagon to halt

"I found a cave," Annalise said as she carefully stepped down from the hillock down onto the trail. She noted the solemn stares as well as a missing horse, "I take it you lot have run into your own perilous journey while I was away." She received a series of nods and confirmations, "I found a cave. There should be a fork in the trail ahead that we can use to get to it and wait out the night.

Valkira nodded and gestured ahead, "Lead on then."

Monday, July 6, 2020

Mansion Part 7 - Overland Route

Mansion in the Swamp
Part 7

Another squall line rolled through the central reaches of the Salt Marsh that lashed the trees and muddied the ground so that the horses trudged and tugged with snorts of protest as the reins tethering them to the cart resisted their forward motion. Every inch was a struggle, every droplet stung as it pelted skin and hair. Clothing clung to bodies and from crown to toes was soaked with warm droplets that meant a soft musty smell would cling to the party until they had a chance to wash and dry their clothes. It would be awhile before anything smelled pleasant, not unless the party happened to pass by a wandering soap merchant, which was unlikely as the rainy season made an overland route to Seaside difficult to traverse, merchants who could afford it would take a sea route from either northern or southern ports or taxi the shorter distance from the larger port in the Borderlands, Port Kyna. Everyone's mood was silent and sour.

"Annalise," Valkira said, she had the shout the name a second time to get Annalise's attention. The gunslinger had trudged with her head down and her eyes forward. The eyes remained cool when they looked up at Valkira.

"Would you mind doing some scouting?" Valkira asked, "See if you can find a spot we could camp at. A hollow, maybe an old bear cave that's unoccupied."

Annalise sighed reluctantly before nodding and jogging ahead of the team and vanishing into the bush. Nora's eyes followed after the gunslinger and she asked, "Should I go with her?"

"Annalise will be fine," Valkira said, "Your senses are stronger than mine, I need you to help me with this cart."

Nora nodded with further argument. Although the words exchanged earlier had left a bitter taste in the Fighter's mouth, she had resolved to repair the strain that had formed between her and her mentor. She continued to watch, to see if she spotted anything that might have darted in front of the horses or lingered at the side. She continued to listen for animal cries or voices on the air. She continued to sense, for at anytime something evil may have lingered that only she or Raina could detect. Her senses were not as strong as a full-blooded Elf, but she was the closest and trusted by Valkira.

* * *
<Annalise begins to track down shelter for the evening. With the Survival skill, she cannot fail, but a greater strain or event occurs if she rolls a 6 or below. She rolls a 2d6+1 for a total of: 10 - Total Success!>

<Is there a random encounter? 1-in-6 chance with a result of: 2 - None!>

Annalise's blue overcoat clung to her tunic as she trudged through the limply hanging brush, listening as her calf high boots splashed and squished against dark and slimy pools that threatened to sink into the rest of the Saltmarsh. Her hands were wrapped around both the wooden underside and the grove of her muzzle loaded runelock. The hammer of the firearm was set to the half-cocked position as she moved forward. She could hear the faint hiss of the fire magic that simmered at the root of the darkened rune that was etched into her weapon. Had she pulled the hammer to full cock, the rune would have been exposed as an angry red. In addition to paying for her honeymoon, Annalise had hoped to purchase a brace of pistols to accompany her musket. A boon in marrying an alchemist was her never wanting of bullets or powder, the soon-to-be married Tharpe, while not so-eager to see his beloved start off for every adventure that offered pay, he was willing to make ammunition in exchange for a kiss and smile of his wife. They excelled at their respective talents.

Happy memories were put on hold after a few steps as she spotted the trail of smoke and the distant orange. Her musket was raised towards the treeline as she started forward.

<Stealth check to sneak upon the camp. The roll is 2d6+2 with a total of: 2 - Failure!>

Although a sharp scout, she either was too focused on the fire or misjudged in a feat of bad luck. She slipped forward and stumbled, her foot never catching enough dry ground in order to steady herself. She toppled into the slime, spraying it over her clothes and skin, a dull pain tore into her side as she felt the butt of the rifle drive into her side. She rolled the sound, groaning as muck enmeshed in her head. Looking up, she saw a mottled figure break from the treeline, standing on a large grey rock with a set of yellow eyes that glimmered from the darkness of the bush. The figure hopped down and started towards her. She froze in place, a crossbow in his two hands with a bolt fixed into the chamber. The Goblin had avoided pointing the weapon to her, but she knew it would be no difficult task to be facing a bolt directly while she carried a musket that she knew would be inoperable from the intrusion and corruption of mud within the mechanism. She could only sit and reach for the knife at her hip. She blinked, recognizing the Goblin that looked down on her.

"Your from the ship," She said, "I saw you last night in the pilot house."

Sutler nodded and said, "That's my campfire you were coming upon when you slipped." He had a thin cigar smoking from between his lips, "You can get up, but let's do anything rash and draw, alright?"

She snorted but stood slowly, her right hand raised empty with palm turned to him. Her left continued to grip the heavy musket. With deliberate slowness, she replaced the musket upon her back, grumbling as she could feel the grit that remained on her strap press against her soiled clothing.

"You looking to talk?" She asked.

Sutler nodded and said, "I'm looking to talk."

* * *

The party had stopped to give Annalise time to scout an optimal campsite rather than dirty their blankets while seeking shelter underneath the leaky bottom of their wagon. The horses were looked after by Raina, whose grace and sparkling eyes seemed to placate the animals which otherwise may have run from the party and the conditions they had been forced into otherwise. Out the present company, she seemed the least fazed by the weather conditions, short of small jumps when the lightning strikes blazed brilliant followed by sudden and jolting thunderclaps that shook the earth. She swallowed and sought comfort from one of the horses that stood next to her eating from the ground. It's companion drew closer to the waters.

Valkira stood underneath a tree and ignored the flashes and rumbles, the tremors that rolled through her boots. Her hand brushed against her sword at every twig snap and footfall her ears picked up. She turned to find Nora lingering behind, "Not the most optimal way to begin an adventure, huh?" Nora asked.

Valkira sighed as she looked further down the trail tree lined trail. Droplets of rain ran down her black hair and either running across her armor of rolling down her neck onto her shirt. She shook her head and said, "No, I imagine a lot of stories don't begin with a pack of strangers marching off into a storm, but that's the job we've been given."

"I'm sorry about earlier," Nora said, "I should not have questioned your authority."

<Gauging Valkira's mood on a 2d6 is an 8 - Credulous> - Valkira studied Nora for a moment. She was eager to bury any ill feelings between the two fighters and reached out to pat her second's shoulder, "It's alright, Nora. There was no harm done..."

"I should have backed your position as the sensible one," Nora said.

Valkira would have preferred it as well, but had kept herself from voicing that agreement. It might have been viewed as unhelpful not teaching the younger Fighter a lesson about respecting the vested authority, but Valkira had grown fond of Nora and was unwilling to burn their friendship over the matter. While Annalise had looked on sternly, no words or actions had come yet that any party would regret later. Valkira knew she would have to watch Annalise during the hand off...

<An encounter is about to affect the party and the die of fate is to be cast. This die of fate is a d10 with a 6+ favoring the party and anything before 6 favors the cruel forces of the fate. The result is: 7! Our heroes are favored with a Notice check from both Raina and Grolys (2d6+1 & 2d6+1 respectively) the ultimate results are: 7 & 12!)>

Grolys remained on top of the rain, his piercing through the veil of rain as he watched the horses sip water or eat grass. Raina lingering near the horses paternally concerned for their well being. He noted Nora and Valkira standing close to each other as they talked about whatever. Perhaps squashing the earlier tension or having it out again, but no, he amended. While he was not Human nor Elven, he at least read enough body language to tell the pair had visibly relaxed. When Valkira leaned forward and her mouth met Nora's in a kiss, he turned his head back towards the dark waters where his eyes widened at the shadow slipping towards the horses. He cried out, "Crocodile!" His crossbow was up and he fired into rigid backside of a massive crocodilian whose head rose from the water with a hiss as a bolt bit deep!

<1d6+1+3 for Backstab by shooting with surprise. The Crocodile has Armor 2 and takes a total damage of: 9-2 = 7 points!>

<Note - Crocodile (Large Animal): Armor 2 / HP: 15 / Bite: d8+3>

Round #1

Grolys fired another shot at the crocodile from the back of the wagon <2d6+2-1 Weather = 7. Partial> His shot lacked the same fortune of striking a vulnerable seam between the crocodiles armored backside <Damage reduced to 1d4+1 - 2 = 1 point>

"Get the horses away!" He cried.

Raina had spoken soothingly, urging the horses away from that of the beast <2d6+2=8 Partial!> Her words and pretty smile had managed to coax the horse she stood next to calmly trot back from the river bank. However, her eyes lit in horrified surprise as the second horse who had lapped water attempted to draw away and was subject to a bite from the crocodile <Damage d8+3 = 5. Horses HP 11 - 5 = 6>. The crocodile's teeth break and sink into the horse's left leg, tearing away and drawing it back into it's maw with its long tongue. The draft horse raised its head in a desperate whiny, dragging hits leg away with whatever it could salvage of its leg. Its gait slowed as exposed muscle was visible in the flash of lightning.

From either side, Nora and Valkira approached with weapons drawn.

"Take care of the horse, Raina," Valkira said in a snap as she closed with her shield raised and sword ready. She ignored the heaviness of her steps as her booted feet sank into mud, the squish of slime as she thrust the sword into the beast <2d6+2 = 11. Success! 1d6+3 - 2 Armor = 6>

At the same time, Nora stepped from the side and brought her greatsword in a overhead swing, hoping to cut into the beast's body <2d6+2 = 7. Partial>. As the heavy sword split through the crocodiles back and into spine, the crocodile's body went into shock, it's long tail wiping towards Nora and striking at her legs <The Gator's tail is equal to 1d6+1 - 2 Armor = 1 dmg> Nora seethed at a superficial cut to her chain clad legs that threw her forward across the back of the dead beast.

Raina hovered over the wounded horse, her eyes full of sadness as she cooed and leveled her hand over the torn flesh, "I hope this may help." <2d6+2 Spellcasting check = 6. Failure> She could feel her energies conjure towards her hand, the warming glow of magic that could have mended flesh and knit bone. Yet it was too late, the horse had given a final weak snort as it laid there. Its chest rose and fell once more and then it was still.

Raina began to weep.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Mansion Part 6 - Landfall

Mansion in the Swamp
Part 6 - Landfall

The storm faded as storms do into a constant drizzle that rippled the waters and disturbed the bright green leaves that jutted from the black waters when the party made landfall on one of the few routes that lead towards the Guisman manor. Captain Lask nodded to each member as they set foot on the land, his goodbye was curt, save for Raina Tanglebrook. To her, the Captain bowed low and swept off his cap in her honor.

"You ensured that those injured survived, My Lady, I am in your debt," He said.

Raina nodded and said, "Please don't forget about us, sir. We will hopefully not be gone long."

The Captain's cheeks turned a soft red at the Lady's command. His head bowed low to her again, his cap remaining pressed against his breast at the sound of her voice as she pitched her request. Her voice was soft, a whisper on the breeze, enchanting as the ringing of a silver bell. Though delicately delivered, the voice commanded attention if not respect. The Captain's hand rested on his chest, surprised by the notion that he would have forgotten the adventuring party that were his passengers. He nodded to Raina and said aloud, "I swear we shall remain for our contracted time and pray to Fortune that the wheel turns in your favor. Please go with these blessings," He said.

Raina smiled and placed her hand upon his shoulder, the Goblin shuddered as she turned and followed the rest of the crew to the shoreline. As she walked, the Elf caught likes of Nora and Annalise smiling at her while Valkira helped Grolys Grofni with both the horses and the luggage that the wagon would be holding.

 <Had either party overhead the exchange? 35% Yes with a result of: 30% - Grofni's ears caught wind of the exchange. Die of fate is consulted in regards as to the Sharpe and it remaining. D20 roll with 11+ being positive. The result is: 3>

Grolys' ears twitched as he tied down the chest of ransom gold, "Our Elf in residence is certainly laying on the charm," He said.

Valkira patted the side of the horse's red snout, she smiled feeding an apple to the first beast before showing such affection to the second, "Whatever will keep the Captain in line is approved by me." She watched as the others approached. Annalise glanced at the heavy iron box and softly whistled before looking at Valkira, "You give anymore thought to my plan about scouting ahead?"

<Does Valkira like the plan? 25% Yes with a result of: 87%>

"You would not like what I have to say on the matter," Valkira said before looking at Annalise, "I must say no to you."

"Even at the risk of not getting more riches for our trouble?" Annalise asked sharply. <What is Annalise's mood? 2d6 = 7 (Skeptical)> "What are we out here for if not maximizing our profit?"

<Is Nora swayed by Annalise's position? 35% Yes with a result of: 28% Yes!>

Nora had the sense not to immediately speak up, but her gaze rested heavily on Valkira as Annalise spoke. The Fighter looked up at the Half-Elf and could sense a tension stewing in her second. The flicker of accusation and demand that rested within the fighter who was either too polite or too cautious to openly question Valkira's authority. Valkira stepped from around cart to face Annalise and Nora. She felt the presence of Grolys lingering behind her, at the same time Raina had turned and had begun to approach the party.

"I will only say this now," Valkira replied, "While some members of this party wish to split off for a bold, but risky plan, my interest is recovering the hostage alive and as unspoiled as possible. I know we wish to maximize profit, but I won't do so and risk both your lives and the lives of our hostage. I would ask that you cooperate, and that we stick to the plan of going through the ransom. If we see a opportunity in recovering the money, then we shall take it," Valkira raised a single finger, "But only after we recover our hostage."

<Valkira makes a Charisma check. She has the Leadership skill which aids her. The result of a 2d6+1 = 9. Partial Success>

Annalise turned her back from Valkira and started down the main trail with her arms stiffly jostling the musket in its place. Valkira turned to find Grolys averting his gaze at once, fearful that he might be caught and burned by the hot fury of the Warrior. His back was to the Human as checked and re-checked the straps on the chest holding it to the center of the cart. Raina said nothing, joining the Goblin in the bed of the wagon, her attention focused on the supplies that Captain Moonsong had supplied them rather than the chest. The look that wounded Valkira deep within was that of Nora, whose blazing glare tempered as the fighter took her place at the seat of the wagon. Valkira sighed when the eyes were away from her, she was alone with the regret that the mood of camaraderie was spoiled and the only hope of restoring would be through some dramatic intervention. An act that could get one of them killed and each recriminating themselves about why they did not come together sooner. She climbed the wagon and clucked her tongue to urge the horses forward.

* * *

<An Event Focus is drawn up with the result of 07 - Remote Event>

The Sharpe

Captain Lask started up the deck his head lowered and his eyes cast upon the deck of his barge, he instinctively knew where to step and what to grab in order to ascend from the gangplank to the deck proper despite the heaviness in his stomach and the quick beats in his heart. Most of the crew busied themselves for the extended stay. They were securing anchor ropes both on the land and dipped below into the Marsh. A pair of Goblins waited on the Captain as he returned. He might have moved slow, but he remained undeterred from the steps he had to take. Captain Lask's yellow eyes flicked over to Sutler who appeared coherent, though with heavy red lines from a night spent drinking.

"You know a trail that can get you to the Manor quick enough?" Lask asked.

"I can make better time than that party can with a horse and wagon over rough country," The Goblin replied. He already had a pack near the gangway that was concealed enough that none of the party voice concern or curiosity over the matter. Captain Lask nodded and said, "Get to them as quick as you can, let Firmi and the others know that they are coming... and that they may try something before the agreed upon time so that they will be ready for them."

"What about us, Captain?" The other Goblin, Hobra was her name, asked with a thin raised brow.

"We anchor here. If its one or two survivors... if it's Miss Tanglebrook, then we take her back in appreciation. If it's the others," He said, "If its the party altogether." The Captain shook his head, "Depending on what went on we either have our kin to avenge or we have to protect the details of the meeting. We have to seriously considering letting the Marsh take the entire party," Lask said. He split from the two to allow Sutler to prepare and slip off. He made his way to the pilot house where he hoped there was drink left for him.