Back to the Territories, and this session was more of a laid-back chatty roleplaying one; I think it’s important to have one of those after a combat-heavy session so that people can catch their breath and we can get some plot underway.
In Attendance: John Dwyte (Darryl), Magnus Dwyte (Trev), Jebediah Underwood (Joe).
An’ naturally, I’ll be servin’ as the Lawman.
So, last time the Dwyte brothers and Jeb snuck into the Krupp warehouse and found it was full of strange duergar relics. After tangling with the Red Brands and one of the Quiet Brothers, they burned the warehouse down and escaped with some of the relics, but not before they found out that the relics were due to be shipped off to Tributary Falls, a town on the border of aelfar territory.
After hiding out at the old Dwyte Manor for a few days to let some of the heat die down, the group head down to the docks to see if they can arrange travel down the Azure to Tributary Falls. As luck would have it, there’s a merchant steamer called The Spirit of Lancaster due to head out that morning! The group asks to see the captain so that they can book passage. The captain of the Spirit is a woman called Iris Hawke.
World building time! We decided that we wanted the Territories to be more advanced in attitudes towards women and ethnicity compared to actual 19th-century America was (i.e. a bit rather than not at all), but the general consensus was that it would still be unusual for a woman to be the captain of a merchant vessel; so basically an excuse to make Iris – who was going to serve as a glorified taxi service – more memorable than Generic Man Number 38. I thoroughly recommend that DMs involve players part of the world-building process – when I need a NPC or town name on the fly, I now ask the guys to pitch me something; it keeps them engaged and gets them a bit more invested in the game world.
As the face, negotiation for transport falls to Magnus, who immediately turns on the charm with Iris. Trev rolls really well, and Iris manages to look past that he’s a criminal who stinks of arson, so she accepts them as passengers, though she warns them that she doesn’t tolerate lazy travelers, so they’ll have to pitch in with the chores on the journey. She then tells them that they’re due to set off for Tributary Falls soon.
The guys board and ingratiate themselves with the crew. However, they notice that a search party led by the local sheriff and Mr. Krupp has shown up at the docks! They go and hide below decks, and Magnus asks Iris to cover for them. Again, Trev rolls really well and manages to convince Iris that they’re the good guys.
While hiding below decks, the three of them hear the sheriff and Mr. Krupp board the Spirit and speak with Iris. They tell her that they’re looking for dangerous criminals who killed some of Krupp’s employees, stole from him, and burned down his warehouse (technically all true). Iris keeps her word and covers for the guys; she lies and said that she refused to take them as passengers, and the search party leaves. However, she’s pissed that her new passengers weren’t entirely truthful with her and confronts them.
“Captain, please… it’s a long story. I’d be happy to tell you all about it.” (produces a bottle of Dwyte Orchard Red) “Maybe over a few drinks?”
Well, how could anyone turn down such an offer?
So the Spirit sets off for Tributary Falls, a three-day journey down the River Azure. John pitches in and bonds with the crew, Jeb manages to dodge doing any work (claiming that it wouldn’t be appropriate for a MAN OF THE LAWRD), and Magnus and Hawke swaps pillow talk; Magnus tells her about their escapades, and Iris tells him what she shows about the Aeolus, the ship chartered to collect the relics from the Krupp warehouse. She knows the captain is called Edwin Drake, and he’s a bit of a dick, but nothing comprehensive.
After an uneventful three days, they dock in Tributary Falls and do what they usually do; hit up the sheriff’s office, and the local saloon. While walking through town, they see a couple of Red Brand gang members. At the sheriff’s office, there’s a few low-pay bounties… but nothing on the Red Brands. Clearly the gang has more influence in this smaller town than they did in River’s End. At the saloon, a group of Red Brands are getting drunk and boisterous. The guys still have a couple of Red Brand scarfs from their raid on the warehouse which they didn’t turn in for bounty, so John and Magnus put them on and ingratiate themselves with the Red Brands, passing themselves off as fellow gang members from River’s End. Jeb lingers nearby and plays the piano, keeping an ear out.
As John and Magnus talk with the Red Brands, they learn two things; that someone called Dutch is worried about the missing shipment and is waiting for instructions from Morgan, and, more importantly, that the gang has captured an aelfar warrior!
Background Break! Aelfars are the setting’s elves and serve as the obligatory Native American proxy; you know, in touch with nature, a clan structure, ancestor spirit worship, fighting back against the expansion of the colonists… all that stuff. They’re the indigenous people of the Territories, and they’re probably the only ones who know what actually happened to the duergar.
Then Dutchie, the local Red Brand leader, walks in. He’s a big guy; your stereotypical wall of muscle bruiser.
“Right boys, let’s go.” *points to John and Magnus* “Who the hell are you two?”
“We’re… Hank and…”
“Errr… yes…? Hank and Sting. From River’s End. Morgan sent us over, figured you could use some extra help around here with that shipment.”
“It hasn’t arrived yet, but you’re welcome to hang around until then. Funny… Morgan said it should be here by now.”
The Dwytes go with their new Red Brand buddies back to their hideout in a waterfront warehouse. As they’re walking, Magnus asks a few question about the aelfar prisoner. Dutchie says that they’ve been keeping him because “those creepy guys in black” have some questions for him. No prizes for guessing that the creepy guys in black are the Quiet Brothers. John proposes that they may be able to get some answers out of the aelfar. Dutchie shrugs and lets them have a go. “Don’t go easy on the pointy-ears though,” he says. What a dick.
At the warehouse, John and Magnus go down into the basement and sure enough there’s an aelfar warrior chained up. John manages to intimidate the Red Brand with the keys and convinces him that he’s not going to hang around and see what they’re going to do the aelfar. The Red Brand hands them the keys telling them to lock up when they’re done and leaves. The Dwytes then try to convince the aelfar that they’re on his side. He’s more than a little suspicious, obviously. While talking to him, Magnus notices that the aelfar’s tribal tattoos have some similarities to the markings on the bow owned by Jeb. Magnus makes the educated guess that the aelfar is from the same clan, the Selai-Thua, and drops the name, which manages to get the aelfar’s attention.
While John fakes up a lot of noise to give the impression that they’re actually beating the crap out of the aelfar, Magnus asks him what the Red Brands are doing with him.
“Men in black clothes. They come to me, with things made by duergar hands, and things from the old place of grey houses. They ask me questions, but I tell them nothing except that they are fools and they meddle with the treasures of the spirits.”
“Listen, we’re going to get you out of here. We’re friends of Jebediah Underwood. He’s a friend of your clan. The preacher with the golden eye?”
“Spirit-Eye is here? It is as the clan elder foretold; his wanderings will lead him back to my people, so that he may once again aid us in a time of trouble. I will come with you, friends of Spirit-Eye.”
A plan is made to come back later that night and spring the aelfar from captivity. Magnus uses his always prepared ability to produce a bar of soap and uses it to make casts of the keys to the room and to the aelfar’s manacles. They then head out, telling Dutchie that the aelfar didn’t tell them anything, and that they’re just going to go and loiter around town. With nothing else going on, Dutchie lets them go without question.
Back at the saloon, Jeb, with nothing else to do, has been playing piano all this time. The Dwytes come and grab him and tell him about the captured aelfar. They bribe an apprentice blacksmith in town to make replica keys out of the impromptu casts (which led to an educational break as we Googled how long it would actually take to forge a key), and then head back to the hideout.
Jeb waits outside while the Dwytes go in. There’s only a few Red Brands hanging around, and Magnus distracts them with booze and dirty jokes while John uses the forged keys to get into the store room where the aelfar is kept and free him.
While waiting outside, Jeb sees Dutchie and a few more Red Brands approaching. He steps out of the shadows and confronts them.
“Gentlemen, good evening.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“My name’s Father Harper. I’m an associate of Mr. Krupp.”
… which gets me and Trev really excited at the brass balls that Joe’s displaying.
“Oh my god, Joe, that’s such an awesome idea to pass yourself of as one of the Quiet Brothers!”
To which Joe pauses.
(OOC) “Oh. Oh! Yeah, that’s a much better idea than what I was going to say!”
“Yeah, I was going to say I was just some guy who worked for Krupp, but yeah, pretending to be one of the Quiet Brothers is a much better idea! Thanks!”
Let this be a warning, my fellow DMs; never give your players ideas. Though to be fair we all had a good laugh about it, which is the important thing at the end of the day.
So while Jeb keeps Dutchie distracted, John sneaks the aelfar outside. Seeing his brother get out, Magnus then makes his excuses and ducks out, just as Dutchie finishes talking to Jeb and comes inside. All according to plan! When they all meet up in a quiet part of down, the aelfar shows great respect to Jeb and says that the clan leader will be pleased to see him again.
“He ain’t the only one. I got some questions that I figger he’s got answers for.”
With their new friend leading the way, Jeb and the Dwytes sneak out of town and head into aelfar territory…