CotH – Chapter Eight: With Some Vengeance (Part One)

As the East Star Festival arrived once more, Arius, Azmaranthe, John, Kareese, and Ukko ride via carriage towards the royal capital of Kingsbridge, seeking the truth behind the attacks on them by Mysterious Gentlemen, the Lords Council Army: Special Division, and now the vampires of the Black Court. Aiding them, Lord Murray-Baptiste furnished them with a carriage ride to the city, a long rest, and an additional 1,000gp each to ensure they have the resources necessary to achieve their purpose upon arriving in Kingsbridge. In addition, he took the thief into custody with a notable enthusiasm promising to “track down the truth to her claim and to put it to rest as nonsense!” before ushering the party out to their carriage and off towards their goal.

That goal, of course, was to infiltrate the Castle Crownbridge, the headquarters of the Lords Council Army: Special Division, led by Kareese’s long-standing enemy Captain Taric. They were the men who attacked Barrelbog killed their friend Chadwick, they were the ones trying to kill them, and they were the ones doing… something to children kidnapped from across the country. Whatever their sinister plan is, the party meant to stop it. And with dedication in their hearts, and the incredibly precious Crown of the Heartlands in Arius’s safe possession, they traveled to Redbridge, a ruined village just beyond the city. Arius and Azmaranthe decided to stay with the wagon and guard the crown, while Kareese, Ukko, and John went into the city to get some intelligence on what the city was like, and how they might get into Crownbridge Castle.

Redbridge village remained much as it has for the past 20 years. The charming river village, once delightfully old fashioned and echoing a rusticness of a century or two before, was empty. While the town did not burn, in the chaos of the sacking it was largely killed off by bandits, looters, and soldiers. Those who survived didn’t stay. To this day it remains almost park-like in its quiet decay. Empty, quiet, with weed-choked streets. Few use the Redbridge. Crownbridge and Southbridge are the main highways, but those that do are either looking for a quiet way in and out of town, and are willing to deal with the largely destroyed road and potential bandit raids, or are looking to engage in such banditry themselves.

The carriage driver left the three adventurers at the edge of the village. The roads won’t allow for you to ride through without going around to the Crownbridge, and with the Lords Council Army: Special Division looking for them – that didn’t seem to be a great idea. The party walked through the village on foot. Listening to the eerie calm. They felt like they were being watched, though none of them could spot just who was doing so. At one point three crows flew up from one house, noticing this and choosing to believe it to be a sign from his goddess, Ukko entered the building. Inside the party found it had been the “North of the River” inn and tavern once. Now largely abandoned. However, one table had a serious of new maps, and some recently cooked meal, mostly finished, beside it. The maps were new, and marked both the Boarhardt Guild and the Bank DuBious with knives stabbed into the table through the map. Whatever plot was being hatched, those who were doing the hatching had left. Leaving behind only their maps.

Kareese compared the map to one she found in the tombs of Faiths Fortress, a schematic of ancient Kingsbridge, and made the discovery that the circles on the map might be former entrances to the ancient catacombs under the city. But how to enter them remained elusive. Kareese managed to find an ancient club of great magical power hidden in the otherwise picked over town, before the party moved on to the Redbridge proper. As they left the town, Ukko noticed movement as a single figure fled into the distance. Too far away to chase.

Crossing the ancient bridge, they were approached by a rickety looking construct marked with the Boarhardt Guild logo.

Construct: I. AM. “ARP.” ALSO KNOWN AS ARTIFACT RECOVERY PROTOTYPE. ON BEHALF OF MASTER RUPERT BOARHARDT, PLEASE REPORT TO THE ARENA AT FESTIVAL SQUARE. AVOID THE GUILDHOUSE. WAVERLEY IS LOOKING FOR YOU, BE WARNED.

The party spoke with the robot for a time, learning that Rupert Boarhardt had been suspended from the guild and now spent his days running the Pig’s Pride Tavern and generally getting drunk, until this morning when he made his way over to the parade grounds before sending ARP, one of the many guildsman “still loyal to Rupert” to find them before going on his next mission. Waverly, it seemed, was getting very full of herself and ordering increasingly large amounts of guild members on harder and more dangerous missions. Rupert wasn’t liking it, and didn’t like how political she was making the guild. The party agreed to meet with Rupert, and bade the robot a fond farewell as it trembled across towards the village of Redbridge.

The city of Kingsbridge is a massive place, and wandering the streets the party stopped by a number of locations. They visited the City Planning Office to see if they could find more information on their maps, and after Kareese flirted their way to the top floor they found an ornate rococo door with a massive bar-latch on the outside, sealing whatever was inside from escaping. After some nervous laughter, they opened the door and found themselves in a long, winding labyrinth of great opulence. On each of the paneled walls, a single map, schematic, or drawing of the city or a building within it was framed in brilliant gold leaf. At the very center of the labyrinth they found an office with a beleaguered, curley haired man with a beard and sullen eyes chained to a massive oak desk. Piles of papers, showing maps in progress and being crafted, lay scattered about. After restoring the man to consciousness with Pear-Brandy and some much needed healing, it was revealed this being was the City Planner of Kingsbridge. Chained to keep working on the city with his mighty powers. After consulting with Kareese over her maps, he indicated that the only place where an entrance to the old tunnels or spillways could be would be near the Financial District. For this information, the party freed the planner from his chains, causing him to laugh maniacally and explode with light. When it faded, all that was left in his chair was an ornate bronze and mahogany fountain pen. With the entire building roused in alarm at the loss of their prisoner, the party managed to sneak out of the building and back into the streets.

The party visited the Golden Rooster Hotel, where things were quite rich but otherwise too expensive for them to stay. They passed by the Hardt and Trust insurance company, where the receptionist Alfred prevented them from entering without an appointment. They watched the hustle and bustle of the Financial District square as people spilled in and out of the Bank DuBious. Whats more, they began finding East Star Festival Eggs across the city and enjoyed their treats. They also managed to do some shopping, stopping by Smithy Square and then the Gypsy’s Curse Magical Emporium. Kareese managed to get a good deal, but was soon beset by the old woman who runs the store as the minute long Friendship spell expired. Still, as they fled from the store past the Coachman Transit authority, they discovered a large number of carriages had gone missing, 30 in fact, along with a massive amount of black paint.

Eventually, the party made their way to Festival Square and to Rupert, where he was staggering with a hangover and deeply upset about being suspended from the guild by Waverly. As they pondered why, a massive construct appeared and attacked the party, eventually exploding and killing several civilians. As the party surveyed the damage, an LCA: Special Division Operative arrived along with Chief Inspector Gulert, of the city police. As they discussed the attack with the party, the bomb bot revealed that it’s radio had not died. The voice on the far side of the wire spoke with the party:

Robot: Said Simple Simon to the pie man going to the East Star fair, “Give me your pies… or I’ll cave your head in. ” You see, This bot was just to make sure I had your attention. Is there a Mercenary named Rupert there?

Rupert: I’m on suspension

Robot: Not today. Today you will be going to the Clocktower District wearing a specific sign. Wear the sign and show up, or …. There will be penalties.

Gulert: What kind of penalties?

Robot: Severe. More bombs. Obey. Goodbye (blows up robot)

LCA Operative: We must step in. This kind of chaos can’t reign.

Gulert: Absolutely not. OUtside the city you may have free reign, but this city is mine and you will not enter unless I give you authorization. Am I clear?

The LCA Operative grudgingly agreed, before finally noticing the party. After a brief farewell, he tore off into the streets wide eyed, looking back at the party several times.

Gulert: Rupert, I cannot step in here. We got murders in Redbridge, 30+ wagons were stolen from the Coachman Authority in the market district, and bombs now. Time for the guild to step up. Do what this Simon says, for now.

Rupert: Someone should tell my sister about this, at some point. And goddamn, what a day to have a hangover.

The party, however, found the LCA Operative to be their highest priority. They chased her down across the city, eventually catching up with her in a back alley in the Clont District.

Here they fought her to the ground before accidentally killing her before getting enough information on their goals.  From her corpse they found a detailed description of both the mercenaries and Chadwick’s children, along with a bulletin that some “unknown force” was active in the city and to be on their guard.

Worried about Rupert, the party ran to the Clocktower District, a massive ruin now mostly inhabited by the city’s poorest citizens. Mostly Werrefolk. There they found Rupert walking down the street in a sandwich-board sign that said “I hate furries.”

John Clonter: Maybe we shouldn’t have let the city planner go. This part of town could use his touch.

Rupert was soon confronted by a Lapine man named Zeus who was warning him to take off the sign. As he did, they were ambushed by a number of Lupine werefolk ready to kill Rupert. Kareese’s quick talking managed to sooth over the situation and send the werefolk home. They learned that Simon was putting Rupert Boarhardt through a series of crazy stunts. As Simon came on the radio, Kareese insulted the man. Telling her not to try his patience, he hung up the line. An explosion almost immediately rocked the city. They ran to it’s source, to find the Financial District in chaos.

Upon arriving they found nearly the entire city police force had been brought to this one location to protect the Bank DuBious and to ward away the hole in the ground. Speaking with Gulert, the party learned that Simon was actually Peter Simon Luger, brother to Hans Luger the war criminal who attacked the Lockwood Abbey years ago, before being eventually killed by General Preacher and Rupert Boarhardt when they threw him off the roof of the abbey. He was after Rupert now.

Before more could be learned, Simon contacted Rupert again to tell the party that a bomb had been planted in the Brewery District of the city, but not which brewery. Rupert could not find the bomb in two hours he would detonate it. If any of the City Police entered the district, he would detonate it. If the district were evacuated, he would detonate it. If the kegs were emptied, he would detonate it.

Gulert resolved to stay at the financial district, but not before calling all LCA soldiers in the city to help with the search.

Gulert: This will leave much of the city undefended, but if another bomb goes off, especially near a brewery, we could have mass destruction on the scale of the sacking once again. The police may not be able to enter the Brewers District, but literally every other force can!

With this plan in motion, the party investigated the witnesses. They discovered that the explosion came from a black carriage, parked by a muscle-bound man with a blond moustache. John recognized his description as the man they fought in Highchruch just the night before. They wondered who these men in black were, and what they were up to.

Ukko felt something about the situation wasn’t right, and as they left the Financial District they noticed Waverley Boarhardt down the street running quickly towards the Newcastle with her entourage. Knowing she wasn’t at the guild, they made their way to the guildhall and with some smooth moves on the part of Kareese talked their way past Saburo and into Waverley’s Office.

 

Inside her office they found a bulletin board with a large amount of information upon it. In addition to this, they found a stack of letters on her desk. Some investigation revealed that there were tears on many of them, tears that didn’t make sense given their mundane natures. In addition they found a large amount of empty Gladbaegol Reserve bottles and other signs of distress and alcoholism.

On the far side of the room was a suspicious filing cabinet with a heavy magical ward upon it. Kareese discovered that opening the cabinet would immediately trigger a warning to Waverly, showing her the face of the person who opened her files and warning her immediately. Deciding the risk was worth it, Kareese tripped the spell and found she had a moment of time where she could see Waverley as well, gasping in surprize as she sat in the middle of a council meeting at the Lords Council in the Newcastle. Guessing they had time, she began to rifle through the files:

Ukko: Dependable, willing to kill. Assign to assassination missions. Class 3 Expendable. Homing spell at 23% active. Suggested for upgrade to Class 2 Dreadnaught.

Hamfast Boarhardt: This file is incredibly old and seems almost oily, as if frequently touched and handled. It has been stained heavily with tears. Under his operational handle, it only says “MIA”

Chadwick Broham: Chadwich’s list of actions is long, it is one of the thicker binders in here. Of particular note are two files. One conjecturing his relationship and time frame between his courtship of Enzia and when he left the guild in incredible detail. The other file is an exhaustive report on where he came from, which led to very little answers and cost a great deal of money.

Kareese: Dependable, though potentially over loose on use of mind altering spells. Class 3 expendable. Homing spell at 100% active. History issues if working with Special Division. Avoid missions to Lockwood.

John Clonter: File is of odd quality, mostly blank with hurried markings here and there updating to present. No homing spell is active. Possible source of priority 1 information on “the plot.” Try to get tracking spell active upon next checkin.

Arden Gearston Mills: This is another of the longer files. Of particular note is a section on his connections within the Adairian Barons, his family was deeply connected to all but House Yentz, making him a political necessity to Sadine Yentz and a priority to the guild to keep tabs on House Yentz. The second point of interest is a section on the founding of the Lords Council, which flags him as potentially dangerous as his Special Division was getting more and more access and information. A considerable piece of this is marking possible spies, including the Stovepipe Work Gang, one of the building teams responsible not only for building the guildhall, but “what lies beneath”. Special marking here is to find and kill Izaya as possible priority informant. Final page concerns his death, in which she states “Who killed him. She has a list of potential killers, and has been going through them one by one to eliminate them. She has concluded that none of the Lords killed him, and suspects “IT” did it.

Bruce Richards: Tracker offline (not sure how?). What is his connection to HATMAN?! Are they working together? Look for informants!

Lady Blackbriar: A detailed list on her history and lineage, detailing her connection to the original line of Ovid Kings (Kinemos Regalum). Details on her activities, particularly the danger of her getting control of House Silverbell just before the succession crisis. Has detailed plan for “containment” of Lady Blackbriar, starting with fomenting revolution in Carillon and leading to long term goals. Long Term goals: lead to further containment, possibly including Preacher’s current role outside Taintsville.

Vincent Dubious: Age: Unknown. Power: Unknown. Wealth: Unknown. Location: Unknown. Note on the bottom of the page: Where did you go, you bastard. What are you up to!?

General Preacher: A detailed list of his service, including forming the Carillon Musketeers and eventually the Lords Council Army. His service record is laudible, though she notes that he has pushed back at critical junctures, especially with attacks against civilliuan Taintsville targets.

Rupert Boarhardt: Dear, sweet, idiot brother. Status: Suspended. Please just tend to your drinks and enjoy your war stories. Maybe go visit your wife. I can’t let it happen again.

Maestro: There is a file. It is empty of everything except for a single line: “The blood is the key.”

Gardenstern: Peddlar, oddly helpful. Strangely resilient to harm. Target to be monitored for possible use for the Guild. A small scrap of paper dated last year marks an update: “Opened ‘Gardenstern’s Tools and Tackle’ in revalia, appears out of reach for now.”

Jalen Broham: Child of Chadwick and ?. Magic user. Blonde. Abilities appear to be focused on illusion.

Kaitsja Broham: Child of Chadwick and ?. Uses sword and shield. Red hair. (this is underlined). Assigned agent Gaelan to find and secure. This last note was dated two days ago.

Gaelan: Class One Operative. Assassination specialist. Archer. Shadow Mage. Murderer. No tracking required. On assignment.

Lord Baptiste Murray: Lesser noble holding fiefdom over Highchurch. Married into the Baptiste family, cannot claim the throne. A possible problem given the crown lockdown inside Faith’s Fortress. Suspected working with Alethian Bishop in hiding possible heir codenamed “The Bandit”

Charles Tenmar Yentz: Non-blood “heir” to Sadine Yentz. Has no blood connection to crown, but holds considerable wealth and loyalty amongst defunct Clockwork Army minions. Odd activity noticed at several key points in last three years. Large sum of money in national coffers vanished three years ago. Charles no longer makes public appearances. After this time operatives appeared. What his angle is, is unclear. Appears to be seeking something across the country, something requiring a great many men and gold.

OL Sooty Rasalian: Class 1 Danger. Seek shelter if spotted. Former Class One Operative turned rogue weapon of mass destruction. Suspected potential to level 3.4 miles before elimination if brought into conflict. Monitored as presently safely “contained” in Versity: Abrogatic Lab. Continue to send funding to keep secure and inert as long as humanly possible.

Lotte the Lucky: Class One Operative. Lotte’s file seems plain, almost boring, until you note a second page containing photographs. One is dated 30 years ago in Meridia, showing her standing beside Vincent DuBious. Another is dated 70 years ago, with her looking largely the same but in one of the first lithographs invented in classical Merrydale fashion. A small painting is photographed dated 200 years ago from Orlandia. Another is dated 300 years ago, this time a photo of a document detailing out a witch of similar description near Kernaugh. A final image is of a stone embossing that looks oddly like her carved into some mossy structure. Location: Unknown. Class 2 inquiry. Assign Kinley to investigate (dated almost 25 years ago).

Arius: Waverley’s files on Arius are oddly detailed, and cover his movements for a considerable amount of time before one would think she would have noticed him. It notes his birth to Mustadio and Agraries Goltanna. Definitely long before his friendship with Chadwick in the Barrelbog. Several notes are placed on his file, especially during the parts discussing his childhood. One in a margin read “First Redeemer?” while another circles the word parentage and states “Wardens!?” There is a picture of an old tower, mostly ruined and covered in moss. In front of it are eight men and women, rough looking but smiling with a note on the back stating “Wardens, Bentley Castle, 1531.” Finally, there is what looks to be a photo of a small, bent piece of metal that vaguely looks like it had been a rampant beast of some kind upon a shield, though the top half, including the head, had been melted by fire. On the back is a note “Recovered from home in Clocktower District, child missing.”

Upon casting a detect magic spell, being concerned about the mention of “homing spells” Kareese discovered that their Boarhardt Guild badges had tracking spells upon them. Kareese dispelled hers immediately, and the party hurried from Waverley’s chambers and out into the city, seeking to escape her wrath and find Arius and Azmaranthe to share what they had learned.