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Quest against the Darkmaster (PbP)

[OOC, City it will be.

VsD favours a low incidence of magic wielders though I think earlier you indicated they are not uncommon in this setting.  I think it would be a fairly rare talent (either a few concentrated in secretive/isolated holdings or a few dispersed and/or secretive) as otherwise if it's common the whole Resonance-effect/Darkmaster hunting you thing becomes odd.

In VsD "Sorcery" would be the dark lores of literally "Dark Sorcery" and "Necromancy" both which are inherently doing things a society would regard most negatively.

nice to hear we're a Middle-Earthy kinder feudalism with less torture, a bit more gender equity and hopefully better dental care and more regular bathing]

One question is what the law here is, in some societies an apprentice would be virtually their master's property and the master would have pretty wide short of murderous latitude dealing with them - corporal punishment being very possible. Most such societies don't have any sort of police force and a town watch was mostly about after-dark street patrols, apprehending criminals was the citizenry's responsibility ("hue and cry") unless the criminal was one a noble would send soldiers to look for etc.

In short, I suggest - there is no expectation of calling in authorities per se unless there is a desire to see official justice impose something such as death, banishment/out-lawing, enslavement, branding and similar 'mutilation' penalties, sentencing to forced labour etc. - in that sort of proceeding the word of the apprentice's master would carry significant weight - societies at this level don't tend to have prisons as punishment just as temporary holding for trial. So short of that this is an "in house" matter and Olwen would understand that - putting things over to the King's Justice is setting him a road he should fear greatly.

As side note, the use of several of the penalties above contributes to the existence of bandits and others who have 'been driven out/forsaken' normal communities.]

Gyantwaka would have left the lamp, having Dark Sight, where trail ends he pauses and looks to see if the ichor pools at all as it would if the creature paused and stood still or just stops as it would if the creature vanished.  After seeing whatever he does, he returns to Ambrosius' chamber and rejoin events there at whatever stage they have reached.  When he returns, arrows are back in quiver.

Leofred suggests the first step is to search Olwen once more, if he was fleeing (appears likely he was trying to use the mirror door to leave while the gnome occupied others) then for example what was he taking, and of course remove his knife that was returned to him earlier. The next step is to search Olwen's room to see if there are 'surprises' such as "used gnome stones" and of course find tincture for Gertrun to assess.  A decision before those steps is premature.

Once Gyantwaka returns, Leofred suggest he stay with Ambrosius with Gwenhild - perhaps once Leofred leaves Olwen will be chattier.  Leofred and Gertrun will search Olwen's room - literacy and her knowledge may both the useful to the search.

This all assumes Ambrosius remains hale and does not suddenly collapse etc.

After Leofred leaves the room, if no more has passed with Olwen the ever-unCharming Leshak will idly remark, "You really don't like Leofred do you Olwen, like most Men he isn't surprised if he's the focus of attention but perhaps Gwenhild observed that though she and I both proved greater threats, the summoned gnome's attention was ever upon Leofred...

I've statted Gwenhild as PC using the point systems' 20/15/10/5/0/0 set did not take any background options that were Drive-point based and other than her Order Allegiance haven't done motivations.

She does indeed get to a 95 wpns skill through various backgrounds etc. (not the ones in the pre-statted Weald given its more diverse backgrounds look like that character has a better Brwn stat than above) and in practice with the shield etc. her effective skill in battle will be +90 again.

She does have the Battle Hardened background that increases hp but means she has a scar, connected with the bandit's arrow wound I said she had just finished recovering from - high in her shoulder, visible whenever she wears female-garb instead of a warrior's outfit.  One thing I did was give her an arming sword instead of the longsword her background called for (or battle axe, bow and arrows etc.) as I feel that suits her more (she doesn't carry a spear and bow etc., also makes more sense under Encumbrance system).

One thing creating her revealed, I had neglected Leofred's Man bonus of +10 to a chosen skill, so his sword skill has just gone up +10.

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Gabe Dybing

The blood trail leads, quite evenly, down the stairs, then stops, just as evenly, on the stone flags. Gyantwaka would conclude that the creature “vanished” as soon as it reached the ground floor.

A search of Olwen is quite revealing. He struggles and favors his right arm. A search of what he might be hiding in the sleeve of his left shows an angry burn all along the length of the inside of his forearm. It is very fresh, stinks of charred flesh, and is suppurating.

The other results of the search are less interesting. He has a kind of knapsack, leather, strapped from one shoulder to one hip. In it is a good deal of Andorasti coins—it might be his entire savings, perhaps TV 2. He also has jars of ink and quills, parchment, a few scrolls in cases, and a few ancient books.

By the end of this search, Gyantwaka rejoins the fellowship, having completed his own scouting work.

[As far as the worldbuilding, I’m in full agreement with what you’ve considered. Magic is rare, though not unknown, particularly in demihuman communities. Justice is lenient or severe, depending on the crime; generally a person has to answer for one’s poor actions through counterbalancing honorable acts. The worst malefactors are exiled from the community, in which case they might as well be Orcs and can be slain with impunity. Gender parity is a consideration, if not a reality in all communities (I have been leaning more into a Tolkienian patriarchy, mostly because it’s simple, but my own best practice, like yours, is to randomly roll NPC gender; I’ll be doing more of this).]

All are there then, and if Ambrosius does not immediately remark, Leofred will resume his apparent role as "prosecutor", before anyone goes on searches.

While Gwenhild keeps Olwen under watch, Leofred takes the knapsack and puts it down where Ambrosius can easily see.  He is mostly talking to Ambrosius but from an angle he can see Olwen, when he addresses Olwen it's more as theatre as he expects no answer.

"So Olwen, it seems you were fleeing your injured master with books [passes-shows them to Ambrosius depending on latter's health/ability to hold], your own property I assume unless you are stealing from the library, and a tidy sum of coin for an apprentice [likewise showing to Ambrosius] - I am not sure what sort of allowance you receive here, perhaps you were augmenting your income from other sources - or perhaps this is borrowed coin?"

  • Opportunity here for Ambrosius to indicate what he knows of the tomes and Olwen's expected wealth.  Suggestion is that a typical apprentice is being "paid" by learning and doesn't get much coin otherwise.  Unless Olwen is from a wealthy family or has a similar source of coin, this is very odd - particularly as these must be fairly high value coins to be such wealth easily carried (not pennies saved or in denominations meant for daily spending).

"That's a nasty burn, you didn't have it when you were locked away.  How did you come by it I wonder?" As he talks he continues examination, opening scroll cases to see what they contain and showing contents to Ambrosius.

Gyantwaka adds, "Perhaps this is part of an invocation to the Black Smith of Hell, such as would summon a creature of the deep, a gnome?"  He is watching Olwen closely (Perception) as he says this to see if the idea seems hilarious, bizarre or "a hit, a palpable hit".  If relevant his check is:

  • d100 68 +70 = 138 before modifications.

Ambrosius readily stands beside Leofred for the examination, and he seems not at all the sickly man from earlier, as if Gertrun’s ministrations have had immediate and remarkable effect. Ambrosius’s presence will add his High Man bonus of +10 to Charisma to Leofred’s ultimate Charisma roll regarding the interrogation.

So Olwen, it seems you were fleeing your injured master with books [passes-shows them to Ambrosius

Ambrosius receives the documents with apparent idle curiosity. Then, as he riffles through them, he looks more intently at one of the scroll cases, then unlatches it and draws forth the paper. After a moment’s inspection, he looks again at Olwen with eyes as hard as flint.

”Olwen,” he says, “this has come from the secret archives.” Facetiously: “Were you hasting on your way to return it?”

and a tidy sum of coin for an apprentice [likewise showing to Ambrosius] - I am not sure what sort of allowance you receive here, perhaps you were augmenting your income from other sources - or perhaps this is borrowed coin?"

Olwen sullenly glares at Leofred, and Ambrosius makes no further reaction to this evidence, as if paltry monetary matters are beneath his dignity.

That's a nasty burn, you didn't have it when you were locked away.  How did you come by it I wonder?"

Again Olwen glares back at Leofred, evidently intent at revealing nothing.

Gyantwaka adds, "Perhaps this is part of an invocation to the Black Smith of Hell, such as would summon a creature of the deep, a gnome?"

1. Gyantwaka may roll Standard (+0) Perception to gain +10 (+5 for Partial Success) to Leofred’s ultimate Charisma roll.

2. The difficulty is Hard (-20), but Ambrosius’s presence adds +10 to Leofred’s roll. So, if Gyantwaka Succeeds at his Perception roll, Leofred’s final roll will be Standard (+0).

But, as the silence following Leofred’s questioning extends, Olwen says, “Why should I tell you anything? If you’re going to slay me, do so. Otherwise, let me go. I’ve been poorly used by your hands ever since you came to our door.

Also, I don’t intend to cut short the roleplaying. I’m happy for it to continue indefinitely. Just giving you the mechanics of the current situation. You probably have follow up questions and maybe want to conduct further investigation. Any of this has the potential to change the roll formula, or even remove the need for a roll entirely.

The roll was above, a standard success, Leofred gains +10 to his Charisma roll to make it standard.

  • Apart from the modifier for Leofred, what did Gyantwaka learn, enough he believes he has verified theory Olwen summoned the gnome?

Leofred is willing to keep on this a bit (for the taking extra time +20 modifier, p.121, if you allow) letting Olwen manufacture his own fears, he will ask Gertrun and Gyantwaka to search Olwen's room as, with no disrespect to Gertrun, he wonders if the cessation of "tincture" treatments has speeded Ambrosius' recovery.

He will remark idly as Olwen talks about being used poorly, "Your fate is in your own hands, not mine and it is for you to try to counterbalance your actions. I am no executioner.  Nor, am I a thief, nor a conjurer setting bound creatures to do murder, nor a traitor to a good-hearted teacher and master, nor traitor to my realm and kin serving the Great Enemy, nor am I a disgrace to my family such that when my deeds are known all of my blood would be shunned. I do not kill out of hand but in defense of the innocent, the just and of our realm.  Nor however do I allow any of those who fit the descriptions I have offered escape due justice. Any who have committed such crimes should prove themselves reformed and useful to avoid the worst consequence."

Out of earshot of Olwen, Ambrosius  will be asked if he knows whether Olwen has any particular friends or haunts he favours, and where Olwen comes from - his family and how he came to be in Master Ambrosius' service.  He explains that it will be for Master Ambrosius to decide whether to release Olwen or turn him over to the King's Justice with a recommendation, about which Leofred has thoughts, and testimony (the full amount of which is yet to be determined).  He also asks Ambrosius's view of the documents Olwen was taking - are they merely valuable such as a thief would take or are they documents relevant to the struggle with the Darkmaster.  Leofred also asks if perhaps this 'secret collection' should be examined to be sure nothing else has been removed or destroyed/tampered with since Olwen has had at least two weeks to do as he pleased with it.

[OOC fine with pace, would like to hear results of room search and Ambrosius' appraisal etc. before what would be rolling the 'turning point' - setting this internally or King's Justice with testimony suggesting the strongest reaction possible].

Correcting above, it's Leofred and Gertrun who search Olwen's room.  Gyantwaka and Gwenhild remain behind.

what did Gyantwaka learn, enough he believes he has verified theory Olwen summoned the gnome?

To Gyantwaka, Olwen’s precise expression is ambivalent. Gyantwaka is certain that Olwen had something to do with the Gnome, but maybe not precisely in the manner that Gyantwaka suspects.

[I did position Gyantwaka’s Perception roll as a form of Helping, pushing towards the PCs’ desired outcome of “Olwen cracks and tells all.” But, as an independently executed Skill roll, I would judge that the roll would be at Challenging (-10), because of the Cultural differences. You probably still succeeded, so I went ahead and gave the above information.]

Leofred is willing to keep on this a bit (for the taking extra time +20 modifier, p.121

[Thanks for pointing this out! Yes, I do allow, and this is good for me to remember in both this game and in my real-time game.]

letting Olwen manufacture his own fears, he will ask Gertrun and Gyantwaka to search Olwen's room as, with no disrespect to Gertrun, he wonders if the cessation of "tincture" treatments has speeded Ambrosius' recovery.

Olwen’s room does indeed contain a small laboratory near the fireplace. Incidentally, a fire burns brightly in the hearth, and a poker, quite warm, is lying idly on the hearthstone.

Gertrun investigates the various roots, herbs and powders on the table. Her brow wrinkles. “I shall need some time with these to identify them, but this isn’t what I would have chosen to treat a nerve poison.” She notices a book near the table, opens it to where it falls naturally, finds a marker in it, and gasps. “Poison! Made from arsenic.” She glances hurriedly at the scattered ingredients. “I believe Olwen was poisoning Ambrosius,” she says, “and masking it with ingredients that may be used to treat such a thing!”

”Moreover,” says a voice from Olwen’s doorway—Gertrun starts and looks at Ambrosius, who is the speaker, and who stands in the doorway with one of the books confiscated from Olwen in hand— “it appears that Olwen was studying the Dark Arts. The scroll that alarmed me so are etchings from the ‘Black Anvil.’ This journal here, written in Olwen’s own hand, is a chronicle of his research in marshaling the powers of the Black Flame.” He looks thoughtfully across the room at the flames and the poker.

Out of earshot of Olwen, Ambrosius  will be asked if he knows whether Olwen has any particular friends or haunts he favours, and where Olwen comes from - his family and how he came to be in Master Ambrosius' service.

“I know of no acquaintances of Olwen’s outside of what we share at the inn of the sign of the Midnight Oil and those few regular patrons of this library. Olwen came to me in very young age. He sought out the library on his own. My understanding is he is the only child of a widow. His father was a soldier, died during a border skirmish in Farrowlay. His widow now lives on the king’s beneficence. She—Hester is her name—seems like an honorable sort.

”These coins Olwen has probably are the most precious of the donations, taken over time and without my knowledge. Many of our patrons contribute for their use, knowing that we use such funds to build the collection, as often as possible.

“Oh, it is clear to me that Olwen has been into the secret collection, where we keep the texts that I have deemed to be too dangerous for public use.”

Before anyone departed to search Olwen's room, Leofred asks Gwenhild and Gyantwaka to take Olwen away, having this man in Ambrosius’ room likely does not help the Master’s rest and just seems wrong. Does the Master have a preference for where they should take him for the moment (e.g., one of the side rooms on lower level)?

G&G then take Olwen along. His hands are tried behind him, Gwenhild has her spear at his back and Gyantwaka has his warclub out – keeping an eye out for any sign Olwen is bolting (see below for what happens once they are out of sight of the rest). Before parting company, Gyantwaka states clearly, for all to hear, “This despicable man is a servant of the Great Enemy. Among my people he would be killed immediately - a worker of evil magic is a danger to be ended swiftly.”

[OCC, I had that prepared to post before above revelations, Gyantwaka may be a bit prescient, maybe that's why the Shaman paid him attention]

(See below for what happens once they are out of sight of the rest), the image of his warclub (statted as light mace, it's a traditional Ojibway warclub)

warclub

Back in Olwen's room.  Leofred is pleased to see Ambrosius returning to good health so quickly. Hearing of Olwen's mother, Leofred explains, I ask about Olwen’s connections to see who may be part of this conspiracy and about his family to know if there are people whose welfare he cares about. Offering to see his coin given to a mother he cares for and to protect her from shame due to his actions might sway him and be within our power as the limits of mercy to him.  Otherwise, the coins are clearly the Library's.

In general with these findings, Leofred says,

We now know he is not just untrustworthy or a thief, I thought he might simply be a wicked man seeking advantage and using foul tools, but now we see he is more likely a willing agent of the Darkmaster. If gnomes be not themselves wicked, he is doubly wicked for forcing such to be his tools – we were fortunate in facing the gnome, the struggle could easily have gone badly.

In any case, Olwen knows about the elves’ message, whatever your researches have been concerning the Darkmaster and the start of the plan that either your advice or you yourself travel to the Elven Court. He cannot be allowed to pass this information on to other agents of the Darkmaster, it lessens the value of your counsel and increases the risk to yourself or those taking your advice to the elves – something we must do as soon as we are able.

We are in a war Master Ambrosius. Even if all do not yet know it, the Darkmaster who destroyed kingdoms and realms before is now active - from the north in dwarf lands taking smiths for forced labour, to the Leshak’s barrows where ancient weapons are stolen from their resting places, to the moors around Southwatch where an elven emissary was murdered and strange clouds haunt the sky and here in Andorast where your death was attempted after the emissary sent to reach you was slain.  I do not believe Olwen just happened to act against you at this time, it is part of his master's plan. We cannot release an agent of our enemy to carry word of our plans to him.

Do you believe the King’s Court will see matters this way? If you bring a charge of poisoning and Dark Magic against him, I assume his sentence will be death. I sense that here in Andorast there may be an unwillingness to yet recognize the Darkmaster's threat. Would it be simpler, yet still truthful, to state he is part of a conspiracy that has seen to your poisoning, that he has used Dark Arts [OOC - I assume that's the sort of thing that earns one capital punishment] attempted to steal from the Library and summoned creatures from beneath the earth to attack at his command to make his escape when visitors suspected him. This is enough reason he be held apart from any other prisoner and not permitted any communication, further that he be held securely lest he work magic to escape.

If Olwen accepts the certainty of his death, are you willing to bargain with him about its method and related consequences?

[Leofred wants to see how certain a death penalty is for Olwen, if Olwen knows he is to die he might accept a 'quiet death off-stage' in exchange for his mother Hester receiving some support and no shame, further who is to say the pension she receives continues if her son becomes known as a dark magician.  Though quick to anger Leofred is a 'why can't everyone be taken care of' sort when not provoked.]

As G&G escort Olwen away, the ever-uncharming Leshak will idly remark to Olwen, "You really don't like Leofred do you Olwen, like most Men he isn't surprised if he's the focus of attention but perhaps Gwenhild observed that though she and I both proved greater threats, the gnome's attention was ever upon Leofred...”

“Your anger with Leofred is not because he struck you, it is because he saw you for what you are and put an end to your schemes. You should be glad it was so merciful a man who did so. Myself, I only wish you would try to escape and I could put an end to your whining.  Just how painful is the form of execution your people use for evil magicians and poisoners - my own people are straightforward about such but I understand southerners make all sorts of things complicated and drawn out.”

Around here they reach the stairs down, he pauses before continuing, “Don’t trip now, be a shame if you broke your neck accidentally.” [perhaps hanging is the actual form of execution].

  • He's verbally poking Olwen to see what reactions he gets, he doubts the man will willingly say anything useful, it's what he unwittingly reveals that might be useful.
  • Gwenhild has never met a Leshak before but she is liking this one. Leofred may be an admirable-shiny-purpose-noble but Gyantwaka knows what’s what (just wait till she finds out he’s from a matrilineal society where a man joins his wife’s family, and it’s the women elders who choose the male war chiefs - which is why it's 'matrilineal' not 'matriarchal').
  • Gwenhild doesn't know that Gyantwaka has his own cultural blinkers, "quite straightforward" to him sums up what is seen as the practical and necessary steps of blinding and cutting tongue out of evil magician (so their spirit/corpse can't work magic either) and then killing them with a firm club to the skull.

 

[Phew! Well, I’d say Olwen’s certainly been through the wringer of intimidation!]

Olwen says, “Fine, I’ll tell you anything you want, as long as you promise to let me go, after.”

A few more things: Ambrosius has an opportunity to mention that, during his convalescence from the “poisoning,” at those regular times when he had possession of his mental faculties, Olwen had him working on research. This is related to the star charts in his study. In short, it relates to a Dwarven legend:

The father of their people, the Master Smith, once forged a hammer that could craft the most terrible of weapons. Repenting of his act, he tossed the Hammer beyond the world itself. It became a comet, cycling endlessly through the galaxy. Yet it was prophesied that it might return on this year and strike the earth. Ambrosius had been doing his best to calculate where it might strike the earth, based on legends of where and when the Master Smith was when he threw it, the appearances of the Hammer in the heavens when it has returned as a comet, and the measured rotation of the earth.

Otherwise, if I understand your characters’ intentions aright, you’re leading Olwen off to the king, correct?

[Not to the King I expect, rather to the King's Court where serious crimes would be charged, assuming the King doesn't trouble himself with administering justice between citizens and instead a judge would sit.]

[Re Olwen, in the words of a prosecutor I used to work with "he bleats like a defendant" - she had a little toy lamb on her desk that bleated if you squeezed it - the model defendant dressed up to look innocent as a lamb]

I assume Olwen's response above is to Gyantwaka?  Gyantwaka shrugs and says, "Not my choice, and you should be glad it's not.  There's only one way I would be 'letting you go' [hefting his warclub]"  If at that poking didn't betray any signs or other exclamations he waits with Gwenhild keeping watch on him.

Before others confront Olwen, does anything more come of questions to Master Ambrosius' concerning questions about the King's Court and whether it is wise to raise the Darkmaster?  Leofred will, if necessary, clarify that other than permitting Olwen to "take the gentleman's path" (suicide) to avoid family dishonour to motivate him to be informative about his connections and what he knows of the Darkmaster (e.g., who was telling him to look into star charts, where was he taking the information), he sees the only proper course is to turn the matter over to the court.  If Olwen has nothing useful to offer, he sees no reason to offer any mercy to one so unrepentant and treacherous.  Bandits on the road are hanged on the spot for less than this man who has been given every benefit for years by Master Ambrosius and it's only that we are within the bounds of a city that has kept him alive this long.

[Bandits already being outlaws and the difficulty of transporting them for trial leads to the summary judgement noted.]

[Note, I'm assuming Master Ambrosius knows whether any of his 'secret papers' about dark magic are forbidden, and Olwen could cause trouble for him over having them, or there is no such risk]

Leofred advises Ambrosius thusly,

"As the wronged party and his master [the one he was apprenticed to], it is for you sir to bring charges against him.  I suggest the charges are theft, attempted murder by poison, the use of dark magic associated with that ancient enemy the Dark Flame of Hate.  You can testify to having seen yourself the sack removed from him with coin, stolen documents and seen in his chambers the evidence of the poisoning - and are the victim of all these crimes.  Gyantwaka and myself may have precipitated discovery of these crimes, but other than testifying to the reality of a summoned gnome, we are not the injured parties nor primary witnesses.  I suggest referring to the Darkmaster by that title rather than one suggesting his role as a smith to avoid revealing our awareness of the latter aspect."

[I'm assuming a legal system in which a complainant is required even in such crimes between people - this was the case in common law until early 1800's or so ~ so assuming that given we're Middle-Earthy as that reflects Anglo-Saxon law though again the ruler's reps would pursue breaches of "the king's peace", I suggest practicing "dark magic" would fall into that category, what else that is not directly a crime against the king/their family/agents would vary, e.g., for Leofred's Order for example, crimes upon the 'king's highway' could be 'king's peace' violations as the king has an interest in travel being unimpeded - how else can he tax it. If Ambrosius was considered still a member of the extended royal household, then an assault on him would also be a "king's peace" matter and more serious than just any assault. Apologies if this is going on about stuff you know].

"If it is possible he would have concern for his mother, the offer of permitting him to avoid trial by taking an honourable path - perhaps making use of those substances found in his chamber - with the assurance his name would not be sullied and his mother receive funds is the only other path I see.  Whether we can rely on anything he says is doubtful, he seems unlikely to realize the reason for his fall is the Darkmaster and that is the one he should be blaming."

Regarding the hammer of dwarf legend, "The Darkmaster doubtless would find use for this hammer, and may be preparing with captive dwarf smiths and stolen weapons that may require re-forging before they are of use to his servants.  If your search was directed by Olwen it was doubtless for the Darkmaster - he must be in communication with other agents somehow.  This makes preventing him sharing any further information doubly vital. If the site of the hammer's return could be calculated, would it be best to retrieve it before the Darkmaster could?  Is this the advice you would have seen given to the Elves or now give them if you are able to travel?"

Unless something else emerges, we are going to Olwen with either "the offer of an honourable exit and family cared for if you reveal everything now to our satisfaction" or simply "on your feet, we're off to turn you over for trial swearing out capital charges, stop whining, save it for the judge".

Leofred will fill Gyantwaka in on what Master Ambrosius said about the star charts and hammer when he has a chance and they are alone.

[OOC, Ambrosius the High Man Sage (non-spellcasting lore) character?]

[The quest for Hammerfall will trick certainly trick the Darkmaster, just as carrying the elves' message involved no elves, finding the dwarf hammer of legend involves no dwarfs!]