Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Showing Your Colors: Preparations, Plazas, and Pirates

With the upcoming challenges, the group decides after a short breakfast together to split up and search their respective libraries for information. Rila checks out the books she can find on the challenges in the open-air library of Page & Wisdom, searching amongst its naturally grown bookshelves underneath the barely perceptible spell bubble that keeps the rain off of books. Ariel takes some time to reply to her father via a message spell from a specialty magic communication shop, paying for confidentiality and hoping to get some answers about this blackmailer. Tormenoth does some digging into Huron Tezoa’s past and Leon tries to find some information about the possible whereabouts of Klythmnora along with some necromantic background information. The Klythmnora search turns up mostly useless, giving too wide of a possible search area far enough away from their school teleportation network that without a specific spot to work from they’d spend too much time just searching. Huron Tezoa is discovered to have been a feared Akshi general during his time who excelled at leading construct and undead mixed forces on regular raids and skirmishes, although he stopped being sighted by enemy scouts a few months before the calamitous end of the Akshi Empire. 

Ariel’s discussion with her father is terse and limited by the spell, but he exchanges pleasantries with her and asks about her current studies. When she brings up the letter she received and tries to press her father on the issue, he at first tries to avoid the questions. With a sigh, he mentions that yes there is some intrigue going on but it isn’t anything she should worry about and that she should stay out of the Keep’s Shadow and not hunt for any Mockingjays. Both bring up a few more pleasantries, but the silence between topics grows each time until they both make their goodbyes then end the spell. Rila had a little more luck on her end. She found minimal books about either of the upcoming challenges, having suffered the same fate as the other library books on the Showing of Colors from years past, being locked away to avoid spoiling too much to the competitors or already checked out by other students. However, on checking out one of the remaining books with little helpful information, she did notice a set of tagged crates in the secured areas, the same kind that held the useful books they stole from Warfrost’s library a month ago. When they all regroup for lunch, Rila lays out the rudimentary research about the nature of the Green Meditation being about morality and ethics, tailored to each group, but that results are vague or unclear from the only book she found. They all consider Rila’s idea to break into those secured books for more information, but not today. As the other’s recount their findings and finish their sandwiches, they all look around at each other for a moment when Ariel asks, “So where do we want to go next?”. 

The group eventually decides that Ariel’s family troubles are likely the most pressing and they can take the opportunity to scout out Rhydyr as they visit. Once they arrive in the Blackrun Academy of the Arts teleportation room, they quickly head to the surface to find the Keep’s Shadow. Asking around, they find out it is a neighborhood sitting right below the shadow of the central bastion of the city. The neighborhood is well built and clearly maintained but mostly quiet of any sort of traffic. The few people out and about keep to themselves while giving quick glares at the adventurers walking about. They decide to split up to figure out what the Mockingjay references, but it spooks the locals when they start loudly asking around. Ariel gets pulled into a rough-looking woman’s upholstery and fabric shop with a stern talking to about the danger of that individual. “He isn’t someone you just get directions to, and you wouldn’t be the first to go missing after poking around here.” At the same time, Leon and Tormenoth stop in a seedy tavern, the Rictus Grin, as Rila wanders off to find a city park. Rila soothes her anxiety in being in a crowded, dirty city and spends some time helping the grass grow while nervous children look on. Leon drinks a little too heavily and makes a fool of himself as Tormenoth tries to get some information about the Mockingjay, but they only get asked to leave. Back at the fabric shop, Ariel reassures the shopkeeper that she can handle herself, “But if you don’t know anything I can just keep asking around until I get some answers one way or another.” The woman sighs and replies, “Fine, but you didn’t hear this from me. The Mockingjay is a secret broker. Our whole neighborhood here runs on information”, she points down the street through her front window, “and the blacksmith will be your best bet. I know he knows people, but you’ll have to offer him something in exchange.” Ariel rolls her eyes, retorting “We’ve got money or we can do him a quest…” The woman places a half-finished quilt on a rack as she smirks, saying, “In the Keep’s Shadow, secrets are our coin.” 

Tormenoth and Leon loiter in the street waiting to see Ariel again, but have to quickly jump to it as she walks swiftly past them towards the smithy. She approaches the mustachioed, muscled smith at his forge, raising her voice, “Hey, we heard you know the Mockingjay. HEY. HELLO?”. He continues hammering away as Tormenoth suggests coming back later. As the group hesitates on leaving or waiting he finishes the piece he was working on and turns to them, “You will give me a short time to clean up, then meet me there,” he says pointing to a small shed adjoining his shop. Eyebrows raise between the three but they give him time and in a short while they approach the door of the shed. On opening it, they find him sitting amongst numerous pillows lining the small room around a small fire pit trickling scented smoke. “You seek the Mockingjay, and I can help with this. But we must talk payment. I am Olric,” he states as he sweeps his hands indicating the cushions. As the three of them take a seat and introduce themselves, he continues, “Three strangers to this neighborhood come asking prying things, but I like the look of you. I take a chance and help you. Not for free though, I don’t like you that much.” Ariel starts, “We can pay you in information, but how do you judge the value of secrets?” A deep laugh arises from the man’s throat as he slaps his knee, “A good question, but one that is hard to answer, in this case I cannot get you to the Mockingjay, but I am in with the secret dealers that work for him. For this I would need a small secret. You can trust that I will deal fairly in your secrets, and will warn you if a secret you tell is too great for this favor.” The group quietly confers for a second then decides to trade a secret about the fighting styles of the Exemplars, having faced them back at the auction house. With a nod, Olric stands and motions to the door, “That will suffice then, follow me.” On his way out, he pours a small pot of water on the smouldering coals. Once out the door, he offers his arm to Ariel who takes it politely as Olric escorts them down a few alleys to an otherwise unobtrusive doorway with a small sign with golden lettering, “Bird Cage”. 

Olric disengages his arm from Ariel’s and steps up to knock on the door. A suited man peers out and without emotion nods towards the interior and opens the door fully. Inside is a large bar with marble floors and numerous private booths all lit to a low level by sconces. The place is startlingly quiet despite the two occupied booths seeming to talk animatedly amongst themselves. Olric walks in and is followed by the three as he steps up to the bartender, an older man with a greying but neatly trimmed beard. “These are friends who you may want to know, Ariel, Tormenoth, and Leon. They seek information and have some to trade,” he dissembles. With that, he takes the drink the bartender quickly prepares and then he heads off to one of the booths with people, nodding at the three of them as he passes, “Our deal concludes, I am over there if we are to deal again.” After some pleasantries, the bartender gets the trio their drinks and then mentions, “I can guess what you come here seeking, you want information. I have my ears to the ground and can trade you for many answers, or at least point you to the right person, for a fee of course,” he says with a polite smile. Ariel takes a sip then asks, “And what about meeting the Mockingjay, we were told he has people working for him here?” At the name, the bartender smiles warmly although his eyes don’t seem to match the expression, “Of course, but putting you in touch with a person using that moniker would test my own favors, I could perhaps do such a thing for a huge secret?” During this exchange a half-elf from one of the booths comes down to the bar and gets a tray of drinks that he starts to bring back to his table while he states, “We are also acquainted with a man by that name, and might have a proposition of quid pro quo.” With a look, Ariel gives a nod to the half-elf and follows him to the table with Tormenoth in tow while Leon stays at the bar to chat up the bartender. Leon continues drinking as Ariel takes a seat with the mixed group. Once inside the booth, she is suddenly able to hear their boisterous jokes and banter, but they cut right to the chase. They would be willing to expend some of their secrets getting her in touch with the Mockingjay if she brings them the location of a famous pirate captain’s hideout, Princess Tricorn. She agrees to look into it but declines their invitation to stay and drink, with Tormenoth agreeing. Leon learns that the bartender himself has some connections to this information world, and is well known to be an information merchant as well as an appraiser of secrets, a neutral buyer that secrets can be traded to for future information. With two avenues to pursue towards the Mockingjay, the group decides to go find Rila to confirm a plan that is forming in the trio’s minds. 

When the group finds Rila, they see that while she has spent time growing the grass in the park, her magic hasn’t gone unnoticed. A small mob of suspicious and concerned mothers are gathered with a few at the front yelling at her to leave. Apparently, she had been showing her magic to one of the children and a paranoid mother assumed it was an issue. With backup, she talks down the gathered parents, ignoring the lead instigator and showcasing the harmless, meditative magic she was doing to make the grass in the park healthier. As most of the group scatters, the irate mother that gathered the others storms off in a huff. Now alone, the group recalls their recent findings with Rila and she agrees with their conclusion that trying to find Princess Tricorn will be less costly than giving up a huge secret to the bartender. Also, they could use this as cover to make it seem like they have a secret task to get a pirate hat off the head of a captain, disguising their real task. At this point though, the sun has long set and they are growing tired. On the way back through Blackrun’s halls to the teleportation room, they run into Altreyo, now wearing Blackrun school colors. He jokes about having gotten bored of Warfrost, but decided to come to Blackrun instead, having made some quick friends doing some side work.

In the morning, the group does some digging in the lower dock districts trying to find out something about Princess Tricorn. From a talkative harbormaster, they learn what types of ships she often raids and where she usually strikes. In fact, he helpfully mentions that the Lilliana currently docking will be carrying a hold of dwarven delicacies. Some light bar-hopping also finds the group a vocal half-orc doing some recruiting who mentions some sort of recruitment test for the best crew on the waters that will be happening in the eveninging. Taking a break from information gathering, the group meets up again for lunch at a street vendor, but notice quickly that the normal denizens of the area have cleared out rather suddenly when a volley of bolts are fired at them from the second story windows.

Street toughs and thugs in rough clothes pour out from the surrounding alleyways, drawing clubs and short knives. As the Dissonant Whisperers turn to defend themselves, they quickly make short work of the closest groups. What brings them pause, however, is that the remaining groups still continue to press in and also that a few of the dead start to rise. Necromantic spellwork can be heard echoing from around the corner as the second story snipers reload and fire again. Not wanting to be surrounded, the group aggressively pushes forward towards the estimated location of the necromancer, using big spells to blast apart the incoming groups of armed vagrants and put down the rising dead. Bolts continue to rain down as the group questions where this gang got all these people. Much better armed thugs appear at the back of the many groups, seeming to corral and cajole their whipped up mobs forward, but before long enough of the attackers have been defeated that the remainder break. The dead stop rising not long after, but as Rila shifts forms to try and get a view of the fleeing necromancer, she catches sight of a curious flying cat. Such animals are rare and most notably seen as familiars. Leaving their dropped lunches, they all decide to get out of the lower docks area to preempt more ambushes.

While they wait on heading back to the docks in the evening, the group decides to up their distraction game by pursuing yet another secret task off the Mystery in Blue list, trying to puzzle out the secret of the fountain statue. With Altreyo’s recent move to the city, he has gotten a crash course in it, including the common rumors and urban legends. This one, he believes, likely refers to the legend that the statues in the central plaza hold some secret puzzle that holds the clues to the Blackcap League’s founders’ hidden treasure. Making their way past a guard thanks to Ariel’s polite mention of her title and desire to see the statues, they find themselves in the nicest district in the city. Its wide, colorful avenues are lined with eight plazas holding statues of the founding contributors to the league. At first, there isn’t much to go on as the statues are all in many different poses, but the group notices that only some of the statues are pointing. When they note the pointing statues, the statues that are pointing in any given plaza are all pointing the same cardinal direction. They think this might be directions but without a starting point to work from, they aren’t sure of the viability of that idea. Altreyo has the idea to sum their directions, canceling the ones pointing in the opposite direction. The sum works out to be one south and one east, and the south eastern plaza has a statue of the league’s first prime minister. They take note of his seated position and the fake stone “papers” on his desk but find no clues that hint at the next step of the puzzle. With the sun setting, they decide to table the search and head over to the lower dock district for the recruiting test of that half-orc.

Altreyo is the first one up to the door of the unnamed tavern they met the half-orc at earlier. As he pushes open the door, he finds the tavern in a messy state with two tables full of ale mugs by the door and a group of rough looking characters standing around. The half-orc sees them come in and points to the side of the room where everyone is waiting. After giving it another half an hour, he bellows,  “Can’t have some weak pissants what can’t hold their drink. Or some dirtcrawler that can’t make across the wet planks in storm.” as he gestures at the room which is full of furniture stacked haphazardly or pushed against the walls. The whole area is sopping wet and a couple of wiry sailors are pouring more dirty water over everything. The half-orc points to the table of drinks and tells them all to drink two and then get across the tavern into the kitchen without hitting the ground. Judicious use of a secretively cast water-walking spell and some acrobatics easily carried all five of the group across the jumps and slippery slopes of the haphazard furniture obstacle course. Some of the less skilled or unlucky sailors that started with them were kicked out by the glowering half-orc before he joined the rest in the kitchen. Pulling a coin from his pocket, he shouted, “Follow me to the docks!”.

Once everyone assembled at the water’s edge, looking down into the dark water of the harbor from the fitted stone bank, the half-orc gives his name, Morg Gur-Smith, and pronounces, “Working the seas, it is often that you only got yourself, your skills, and your wits against all the world. Ya gots to use everything you can to keep you and your crew on top.” Then he pulls out a pouch and hands a single gold coin out to each person gathered. He angles his arm and with a quick toss, skips his coin far into the dock, hitting an anchored ship across the way.  “Toss yon coins in the drink.” he growls. After everyone complies, Leon and a couple others drop or toss their coins only a little ways into the water, he chuckles, “Now go in and bring back a coin.” To a chorus of groans, he continues laughing spreading his arms towards the cold, dark water. Leon quickly jumps in to retrieve his right where he dropped it but the rest of the group get some magical help with light spells and water breathing to walk at the bottom to find their coins. They finish quickly and wait for Tormenoth to make his way over to a ladder to pull his heavy-armor-wearing self out. On the way up the ladder, he finds a neatly tied note attached to the ladder that he pockets for later. Before long, most of the other sailors have returned with a coin or given up and left, muttering imprecations at the half-orc while he doubles over with laughter. With the group reassembled, dripping wet, he looks over the group, counting off on his fingers, then nods once and marches back towards the nameless bar. Tormenoth shakes loose some more water and falls to the back of the group, surreptitiously reading the note he found bearing three black numerals of wax holding it closed, III

Huron Tezoa wasn’t always a general. The Iron Tusks were his. Study his past. Judge him, write down your beliefs, and deposit them in the Warfrost library book return. This will be your test..

-Black Tally Society-

During their swim, the tavern had been rearranged. Now all the furniture has been pushed to the walls and a large, muscled man sits in a cross-legged position in the center. Clasping his hand on the shoulder of the large man, Morg affects a gravelly voice, “Now we gotta see what we’re working with in a brawl. No one sets foot on our boat ain’t willing and able to crack a few skulls. Don’t worry about Hart here, worry about yourselves and your surroundings. You break any o’ that furniture ‘long the walls, and not only are you buying our nice barkeep a new one, but you’re out of here. No putting holes in the ship you’re fighting on. No killin’. Last one standing gets an extra share of one haul of their choice.” With no warning, Hart stands up brandishing his fists and everyone pulls out weapons to fight. At first, the brawl is fairly mixed as sailors spread out trying to avoid getting attacked from behind, until Hart starts laying into stragglers at the edge. His fists send people flying and bouncing into one another, but he carefully spreads his attacks out to try and keep stragglers pushed into the main scrum. Before long, the Dissonant Whisperers start to see him as the biggest threat, and start to focus their attacks. This draws his attention and he wallops Leon as Altreyo takes a chance in feigning being knocked around by a sailor’s attack. When the flying blow lands Altreyo on some furniture, breaking it while shouting, “No one does that to Salty Sally”, Morg grabs the sailor to eject him while eyeing Altreyo, “Watch yourself, boyo, I see what you’re pulling and it won’t fly again.” By this point, only a few sailors are still standing while the group battles it out with Hart, trying to rotate out the least injured member of their party to weather the huge man’s fists. When it comes to Ariel’s turn to take the hits, she lashes out with eldritch fury, wounding Hart and giving the group the opening they need to knock him down for good. Morg begins to applaud, then loudly counts out the number of people in their group, and with a smirk says, “Prize can only go to the last ONE standing.”  The adventurers begin to deliberate if they should really fight it out for fun or just take a knee when they realize that Morg is armed too. As one, they turn on the half-orc, knocking him unconscious before he can fully draw his cutlass. Then, they decide Altreyo shall be the victor so they can build up his Salty Sally persona with the pirates.

With this over, everyone is roused with a bit of healing potion from a couple of pirates that enter from the kitchen and from there only about a dozen of the group are given blindfolds, the rest told to leave as he follows it up, “Ya may be expected, half-blind from sleep or surrounded by fog you could nap on, to still make it to your posts. You will put on these blindfolds and follow, but mind where ya step…” Hands on each other’s shoulders, they are led, blinded down through a winding course down through the sewers, past seemingly dangerous drops and hazards until they reach a larger underground cavern. Rila keeps the group safe by arranging her blindfold so she can see and secretly messages the group what is coming. Despite feeling broken glass, rushing water, or swaying rope bridges, she reassures them that they are all fake hazards meant to scare and bewilder. When the group is finally told to stop, it is in a cave filled with the sound of crashing waves. Taking off their blindfolds they find a sparse cavern with a single stone throne bearing a dwarven pirate with a large tricorn hat flanked by two large horned humanoids, one a purple skinned man and the other blue-skinned woman. To their left, a rough tide pushes and pulls the two row boats anchored in the water in front of a tunnel leading beyond. The dwarven woman stands and introduces herself as Princess Tricorn, extending an invitation for those collected here to join her crew. Then, she pauses, chuckling, “Wait I recognize you four, congrats on that second place! So, that leads me to ask then, what is your secret task for the Mystery in Blue that you’re seeking out a pirate captain?” At the question, they all gape for a second before she continues, “Y’see I’m an alumnus myself, and did the Showing of Colors back in my day, so which one did you get, I’m curious? Gotta go get yourself some treasure? Join a pirate crew?” Tormenoth is the first to speak up, “We got the task to raid three merchant vessels and figured that a famous pirate crew would be the easiest way to do that.” To which Princess Tricorn responds, hands on her ivory-handled crossbows at her hips, “Then it looks like we can help each other out, see I’m looking to make the break from Captain to Admiral, and jumping to a fleet is going to need reputation, just the thing you can get me, with your temporary spotlight of fame, so consider yourselves aboard my crew.” She winks and continues, “And as a favor from an alumnus, you’ll even be allowed to leave my crew alive to go back to your studies. NOW, THE REST OF YA, we’re setting off first thing tomorrow at dawn. So you’re either coming back with us on yonder boats or you’ll meet Morg at the docks before dawn after gettin’ yer affairs in order. Don’t care if you’re lazy or chickenshit, if you aren’t there we leave you behind.” 

In the morning, the group meets up at the docks and is brought by rowboat with Morg out to the open water of the lake when all of a sudden they find themselves next to a large sailing ship waiting silently for them. The crew aboard gestures for them to move quietly and they notice the crew acting very carefully to avoid making sound as they lower sails and start to pull up anchor and the rowboat. Now aboard, Captain Princess Tricorn tells the crew to ready themselves as she has a ship in mind for them to hit before they return to their hideout, the Lilliana. Before long, their ship pulls alongside the Lilliana, running silently and using magic to fill the sails fuller than the wind alone would. At the last moment, with a shout, the crew drops gangplanks across to the merchant ship as the illusion hiding the ship vanishes. When they attack the ship though, the merchant sailors aren’t able to put up much fight. Watching from the wheel, the captain gets bored and returns to her quarters below for the crew to do the heavy lifting, leaving her purple and blue first mates in charge. With the merchant sailors herded together on the starboard side, the pirate gets ready to open the cargo hold for looting when the doors burst open. “Everyone here is under arrest by the authority of Rhydyr!” shouts a cadre of uniformed troops brandishing weapons and marching out from below. At the same time, wearing similar coats, the Dissonant Whisperers recognize some of the troops as the Untouchables, the misfit team they had quarreled with previously. As fighting begins anew, it is clear that their fellow pirates are losing the battle as the first mates start to make their way across the gang planks. The Untouchables quickly recognize the group too, and make a beeline to go after them. Seeing the tide turning and thanking Leon for having cast waterbreathing on all of them earlier in the day, they all jump overboard to flee the fight. Rila gives them a quick getaway by way of summoned dolphin aid. Not long after they jump, the Untouchables jump in after them and a dwarven pirate can be seen swinging across the gap between the two ships to join the fray. Wasting no time, the group grabs onto the fins of the summoned dolphins and are carried away back to the shore, leaving the Untouchables unable to catch up to them by swimming.

Reaching the shores, the group laments their short pirate careers, but believe they now have information they can trade about the Untouchables’ secret task. They have dried off by the time they walk back into the city and it is mid-afternoon as they reach the Keep’s Shadow, but on checking the BirdCage, they realize it won’t open until the evening. Using this opportunity, they head back to the central plaza to investigate the statues more closely, and in doing so find a loose plaque on the statue they were most suspicious of, finding a coded riddle on its back face. They stealthily scratch the bronze puzzle, defacing it so no-one else can use it before replacing it on the statue. After a moment spent working it out, Ariel whispers “warforged, that’s what it says”. Without a clue what that means, they decide to hit up the library again and find that there was a famous warforged. He was an assistant to the founder of Rhydyr although he liked to keep his contributions quiet and behind the scenes. There weren’t any warforged among the main plazas’ statuary. With some time, they wander about and try a few neighborhoods throughout the city but don’t find a statue of a warforged. 

The sun begins to set and they find themselves once again the Bird Cage, but this time with bad news for their erstwhile conspirators. They offer up the information they have gathered about Tricorn’s hideout to the mixed group in the same booth as before, noting some rough guesses they have sussed out based on Tricorn’s activity, their analysis of clues they gathered about how her hideout is hidden from some gossipy sailors, and the direction they were planning on sailing once they finished with the merchant vessel. It seems like this might work for the mixed group of secret keepers, but they’ll need time to confirm the results and earn an audience with the Mockingjay. At the same time, the group considers how they might spend the knowledge that the Untouchables were trying to get a pirate captain hat or about their solution to the statue, but decide against selling any information just yet, intending to wait and see what other teams they might have more difficulty spying on. 

With a long day behind them, the group heads back home, with Rila finding a waiting letter from her parents, although the contents set off numerous warning flags in her mind. This letter was written in her mother’s hand but it makes references and turns of phrase that her parents never would. That, and the request that she conclude her studies and head home as soon as possible worries her. 

Dearest Rila,

The tribe gathers around me as I write these words, as we try to summon the right words. The damage our grove has suffered no longer troubles us, the harm halted, and healing to the great pines has begun. We are proud of what you have accomplished abroad, having heard just recently the accomplishments you honor us with on the world stage. You shall, at your earliest convenience, cease your studies and return to us. With our troubles in the grove resolved, furthering your druidic knowledge has been decided against. It is unwise for us to speak to the nature of the solution where others might read of it and come seeking us. Take care daughter, we trust in you.

Blessings of Winter Upon You,

Panras and Rybin Carlis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

mishaburnett

more than one way to skin a cat

Hiverlord's Hijinks

Traveller RPG content, for the most part.

Tryep's Possibly Mythical Stories

Where Myths Are Maybe Real

Sandpaper Sunflowers

Eclectic Modern Farmhouse DIY and More

AnarchyDice

Tabletop gaming, terrain crafting, and other sundry nerdy hobbies.

The Grinning Skull

As soon as your born, your dying. tick tock... Everybody afterwards.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close