Last week on the Thursday game...
With Trinity and Robert back from their jaunt in the Feywild, the party find themselves with less than two weeks to the Duke's deadline. After some discussion, they decide that their best course of action is to head straight to the Marquis Ald's capital city of Saltfort - eleven days away from Northreach, but just four days away from Islington - and start their investigations there.
The people of Saltfort prove to be a surly and mistrustful lot. Most walk about the streets with one hand on their purse and one hand on their weapons, and for the most part they appear to be especially wary around strangers. Mordai learns from an innkeeper that the local Thieves Guild appear to have "moved away" about a week after the wedding, and that although guildmarks can still be seen everywhere, there is no sign of guild activity anywhere.
The party eventually decide that they should head straight to the castle to get some answers from the Marquis, and they trek up the cliff to demand an audience. After being deliberately left in the cold for an hour, the party are eventually allowed in to see the Baroness and the Marquis in the court's great hall.
There, Mordai and Trinity try to convince the Marquis that there's something wrong with the Baroness - that she's a tiefling or strange creature of some sort - but the Marquis appears to be steadfast in his faith towards his wife and refuses to subject her to any further sort of humiliation. Leave, he warns them, or if they persist in staying here, there's no telling what he or his guards will do to them. However, Borock refuses to leave, and true to his word, the Marquis orders his men to attack the party.
Mere seconds into the fight, the Baroness summons what appears to be a carpet of rats that not only make it difficult for the party to move around, but also constantly bite and nibble away at them. When the party successfully dispatch a few of the Marquis' guards, the Marquis himself leaps into the fray, parrying and stabbing with surprising skill and nimbleness despite his age and lack of a left hand. However, even the most skilled swordsman in the world cannot stand against a band of seasoned adventurers, and Mordai eventually delivers the killing blow with his shortsword, stabbing the Marquis in the ribs with one of his shortswords.
At the death of her husband, the Baroness reveals her true colours by shapeshifting into her actual form: that of a yuan-ti abomination, a snake-like being that is as physically powerful as it is cunning. Seeing how the markguards have dropped their weapons and fled at the death of their lord, the party begin laying into the Baroness with all they've got. It took a while, but the party eventually manage to severely wound the foul serpentine creature, causing it to attempt to flee the great hall.
Thankfully, Robert was ready for this contingency. Using his Thornwhip, he drags the yuan-ti back into the hall. This allowed Trinity to line up the perfect shot, and the planar ranger sends a single arrow straight through the abomination's brain, killing her before she was able to shapeshift back into her human form.
As the rest of the guards pile into the hall, Mordai addresses them, saying that although the Marquis was a just and good man, he was being cruelly manipulated by his shapeshifting wife, and that it was the Baroness who eventually attacked and killed the Marquis when the party threatened to reveal the truth to him.
Seeing that their lord is truly slain, a guard pipes up asking if they should get the Count from the basement. Mordai convinces the guard to show him and the Baron where this Count is, but when they get there, they realise that too late the room was boobytrapped: an arcane sigil explodes, killing their guide outright and knocking the Baron out cold. Thanks to his quick reflexes and his affinity for fire, Mordai remains on his feet and investigates what lies beyond.
The room looks properly ransacked, but the previous occupant left behind a single thing in his haste: a map of Saltfort's sewers. Mordai confiscates this as evidence, and the party proceed back up to the great hall, pondering their next move...
Having received the news through the raven statuette, the Duke is extremely pleased with Borock's performance and promotes him to the rank of Viscount. This promotion comes with more land - specifically, moderately poor farmlands to the south and east of Northreach - and increased political influence.
The lands of the former Baroness Andmar are split amongst her neighbours, and the Duke appoints his cousin as the new Marquis Ald. Saltfort's throne remains empty for but the four days it takes the new Marquis Ald to travel from Islington to the city, and he is received by the exhausted city with little fanfare.
It is currently the ?? of Early Spring.
The party has ??gp, the treasury ??gp, and Mordai's chapter has ??gp.
Notable items in the Keep include:
- Golden Bracelet: the gold of the bracelet frames a thin sheet of marble that features, in the far-eastern bas-relief style of Lacio, the scene of an archer firing a greatbow at a dryad emerging from a pond. Two symbols of Krubivax - the empty circle of the new moon, and a skull with a worm crawling out of its eye socket - appear in the corners of the scene.
Notable guests of the Keep include:
- Nicodemus, chief steward of the keep
- Eldraz, Borock's clutchmate who's missing both his hands
- Tyd, the Azer smith in the keep's forge
- Egoveus, the human wizard living in the keep's tower
- Garle, representative of Ankers & Co.
- Halvenpaul, widowed captain of the guard
- Gilran, lieutenant of Mordai's chapter
|Taxes - Fishing Village||1500gp|
|Taxes - Farmsteads||2000gp|
|Unskilled hirelings x20||200gp|
|Skilled hirelings x10||900gp|
|Stipiend - Wizard Egoveus||200gp|
|Patronage - Ankers & Co.||150gp|
The general morale of both the fishing village and the farmsteads is currently positive, with most people feeling safe and content. The roads are safe, although there have been an increasing number of reports amongst the farmsteads of people having terrifying nightmares. There are no further reports of mimic attacks.
Downtime Action #1
Cariel offers to help organise the funeral, and the knights grudgingly accept her presence. They remain distinctly hostile towards her and the rest of the Viscount's knights, but that hostility is somewhat softened by Cariel's obvious respect for the body of their Marquis.
Count Borock attends the funeral in his full capacity as a nobleman of Druss, and as the priest finishes saying the last rites and lowers the Marquis into his family crypt, Borock is inundated by local courtiers and lesser nobles, each with their own petty schemes and agendas. At least five of them have invited the Count out to dinner the next day, and many more have asked for an audience to propose one thing or another.
Trinity walks around the keep sensing portals, and discovers just two: a small sea cave about 2 hours from the city that leads to the elemental plane of water (blow on a sea shell conch, and everyone within the cave will be transported to the plane), and a portal to the Shadowfell located within the Marquis' family crypt (touch the arch's keystone and walk through it).
Mordai attempts to spread rumours that an evil organisation of thieves are hatching a nefarious scheme to take over the city, but the population seem disinterested. Most of the people he speaks to act as if they already knew that, and that they are helpless to do anything in the face of this evil.
While the funeral is going on, Robert sneaks into the Marquis' bedroom and riffles through his papers in an attempt to find out why the Countess and the Marquis started working together. Just as he was about to give up, he discovers a bundle of letters - dating back several weeks before their marriage - wherein the Countess proposed an alliance between Count Cydeb, the Countess Andmar, and the Marquis Ald: "this so-called Baron may have bested us individually, but together, we will be stronger. Together, we can reclaim Northreach, and wash this humiliation from our family names. Join with me, my dear Marquis, and the three of us will destroy this pretender once and for all."
Downtime Action #2
Count Borock sends a messenger raven to the Duke requesting that, due to certain factions within the city refusing to cooperate with the party's investigations, the control of the city be handed over to him until the new Marquis arrives. The raven will only return tomorrow with the Duke's reply.
Cariel takes one of the men-at-arms aside and attempts to strike up a conversation about the Marquis. Unfortunately, with all of them being a man's man to a man, they are all obviously uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their feelings with anyone else, let alone a dragonborn woman, and the paladin makes little diplomatic headway with them.
Trinity spends 135gp and gets a local priest of Lethae to remove the cursed banshee jewellery from her. It is done with little fuss or fanfare, and Trinity carefully pockets the cursed items in her backpack, that she may re-gift this to some poor unfortunate soul in the future.
Mordai does a little digging and tries to find out more about this new gang of thieves from the local population. Most are obviously afraid and refuse to say more, but the tiefling eventually comes across a drunk merchant who's not afraid to loudly complain about "those damned thieves hiding in the sewers; why, if they would just show themselves, I would show them what for!" Mordai tries to ply him with drinks in the hopes that he becomes more talkative, but his friends are faster and manage to drag him from the tavern before he gets himself into more trouble.
Robert moves amongst the downtrodden of the city and, spending 50gp of the party's own money, spreads some charity around. While doing so, he also tries to improve the people's views of the new Viscount, but they seem disinterested in hearing anything they say. With the thieves on one hand and the draconian laws of the Baroness on the other, life has been tough for the people of Saltfort, and they care for little beyond their own survival.
Downtime Action #3
Mordai, followed by Robert and Trinity, decide to poke around the sewers to see if they can find any clues regarding this gang of thieves. Within moments of ingress, however, the small band of adventurers are immediately accosted by a massive swarm of rats, and no matter how they attempt to outmanoeuvre the swarm, the rats respond in a suspiciously intelligent manner that effectively blocks them from going forward. [Exploration of sewers to be resolved in-game]
Cariel explores the city and discovers that Saltfort is a medium-sized port city on the southwestern coast of the isle whose main export is salt and blackiron. While not the busiest or most important port city on Druss (that honour would go to Seaward on the southern tip), most merchant ships carrying food, ale and wine often prefer to stop at Saltfort as its merchants have historically offered better prices. With the recent inclement weather and the rash of brazen thievery, however, trade has slowed down dramatically these past few weeks.
Count Borock walks the street in his official capacity as a nobleman of Druss. A few people give him strange looks, thinking that he's some sort of lunatic suffering from some delusion of grandeur ("a count walking the streets without any knights, and dragonborn to boot? Psch."), but most simply ignore him. People's views appear to be divided into two roughly equal camps: those who think that nobles are either useless buffoons who cannot do anything for the common folk, and those who think that the nobles are actively working against the people to oppress them.
By the end of the day, the messenger raven returns from the Duke saying that, seeing how the Marquis is by now just a day and a half away, the Count should just hold until he arrives. Should there be any trouble in the city, the Count and his knights are to leave the boundaries of the city and let the Marquis' men deal with it.