CotH- Chapter Three: Problems in Port Heartlands

Two weeks have passed since the orphan’s escape from the Hill Fortress, deep in the Barrelbog. These two weeks have not been kind to the children. Foraging in the wilderness has kept them alive, but only just. Trial and error with local berries and plants have shown that what seemed to make sense in the bog doesn’t necessarily apply to the wilderness beyond. Suesen’s inquisitive nature developed during these trials in the wilderness, and she grew in confidence in her ability to investigate the world around her.

Over the two weeks that followed the party each spent a total of 5 gold on the most rudimentary of rations horse-traded from passing wagons. A handful of kind farmers offered a hayloft to the party for an afternoon’s work. During this time Kaitja’s developed a desire to become like the knights of old, time practicing with her ancient ovidian shield and sword while riding a draft horse ahead of a cart. Pliskin’s work in chopping wood and carrying water enabled a great change in his mindset, finding a certain zen understanding of his own body and his physical coordination. Having found a fondness of working more directly, he has passed his bow on to Samiya.

For her own part, Samiya’s shyness kept her from working on the farms they passed by, but her time alone in the woods was not without incident. Alone to her own devices with naught but Pliskin’s bow and quiver she found herself confronted by a pack of feral dogs. After running out of places to flee, she was forced to use the bow and arrow to survive. With the death of one of the pack, the others fled. However, this experience has left Samiya with two realizations: being alone is less than ideal in this terrifying world, and a bow is a pretty useful tool.

Aside from this traumatic incident, the chores and kindnesses of the farmers they passed by largely are responsible for the party being alive at this point, and the orphans have come to appreciate that sometimes people out there can be kind (though not all that many). However, even with these small kindnesses they have arrived in Port Heartlands hungry, weak and exhausted. Each of the party has long since learned to ignore the stench of sweat and road debris now permeating all of their possessions though folks on the outskirts of town clearly are wrinkling their noses at them as you pass by.

Jalen has taken the worst of this travel. Years of loyally devoting himself to his studies did little to prepare him for the harsh life in the wild, and his soft feet quickly became bloodied and blistered from the constant exertion. Not wanting to be a burden, he ignored his pain at first, and then hid it wherever possible from his siblings as he tried to treat his own injuries in secret. Unfortunately, the damp conditions of the late fall rains were not kind and his feet became greatly infected. The rest of the family discovered this when he failed to wake with the dawn two nights before, and while everyone worked together to bandage and treat his wounds and fever as best as they could, his fever has still not broken and the party are now taking turns carrying him between their shoulders. All intention of checking the Book of Domesday recently were forgotten due to much more pressing needs.

The party arrives late in the afternoon before the gates of Port Heartlands to see the way before you blocked by the local guards, a full wagon, and several shady looking characters of various kinds. Sneaking forward to see what the commotion was about, Pliskin promptly fell on his face, drawing the momentary attention of everyone before quietly easing back into the line. This provided Suesen with the perfect opportunity to sneak up and overhear the town guards begrudgingly following the orders of a man in a blue shortcloak in searching for five children on the run. Describing them as criminals, it became clear that going through the checkpoint was out of the picture.

Instead the party decided to take Jalen, currently being carried by mastiffs conjured from his Robe of Useful Things arranged as canine litter bearers, over the mostly decorative short wall guarding the town. The wall was about 10ft tall, and Suesen and Kaitsja were able to climb it quickly. Using Pliskin’s leather coat to blunt the metal spikes atop the wall, Suesen flipped over the wall and kept lookout inside while Samiya and Pliskin hoisted Jalen up and over the wall. Suesen was distracted, and forgot to catch Jalen as his limp body fell on top of her, knocking her out cold but breaking his fall effectively. After some trial and error (mostly error) Pliskin was able to toss Samiya over the wall and the party entered Port Heartlands.

They made their way to the local inn only to find themselves drawing the attention of everyone in the common room as they entered. Pliskin quickly tried the diffuse the situation by calling themselves “The Fantastic Five,” a traveling group of performers. Eager to see what they could do, the bartender put them on the spot to prove it. With the blue cloaked agent and the Willy Chainsy, the local guard captain watching, Pliskin performed an incredible feat of acrobatics in catching an arrow fired by Samiya. Suesen showed skill with her hands in juggling her knives. Kaitsja attempted to show a feat of strength by hoisting Jalen above her head, but managed to drop him face down on the floor. Jalen quickly made the best of this by playing it off as humor and, with the last of his energy, throwing a brilliant light display that was supported by the local bards in turning the inn’s common room into a rave party.

Impressed, the Innkeeper offered a room for the night as payment along with a tasty dinner. The cloaked agent, seeing them being fawned over by the crowd, snuck out the door and into the night. Kaitsha saw him meet up with several other blue-clad soldiers, the same soldiers she had seen attack Barrelbog, and became very worried. Inside the inn, the party spoke at great lengths with the friendly local guard captain, Willy Chainsy, about the situation the town was in. They discovered that the local authority, Lord Brush, was an unaffiliated member of the Lord’s Council, the ruling body of Ovid. Apparently there were multiple factions seeking control of the council, and many were seeking the support of Lord Brush and his wealth from Port Heartlands. Because of this, and the pressures of these forces in sending agents to their towns, the local guard could not leave the city as other forces from around Ovid might take it from them in the night. This lead to a problem as Lord Brush’s daughter had gone missing, causing him great distress. After wishing the guard captain well, he paused and gave them all a warning.

Guard Captain Willy Chainsy: “It would be to your advantage to keep a low profile here, good children. While we of Port Heartlands have no reason to see you harm, there are many that do and the political situation is… fragile. Keep your heads down and we’ll have no problems.”

After the captain left, they joined a weathered older man at the bar who bought them each a drink. The man introduced himself as Mills, a Coachman for hire. He was a scarred man who walked with a limp, leaning heavily upon a cane to get about when not on his carriage, but seemed genuine and friendly enough. He had seen them earlier in the day and knew they were the ones being sought after. He offered to see them safely out of the city and to whatever destination they pleased for 100gp each, a small fortune. With that fortune, he promised, there would be no checkpoints, no official entanglements, and no questions asked. The party politely declined and he affably told them that if they changed their minds he would be about town until he found a fare for his carriage.

The party took to their room, with a rotation of guard to ensure no overnight assassinations. Overnight, the Book of Domesday was activated on the Master Page, and their mysterious contact shared the following:

Master Page: I have received word you are in Port Heartlands. This is very, very bad. Our enemy has a steamship with our friends in blue due to arrive in port within the week. In three days they will make port. By then you will need to be gone. I will send a coach as fast as I can by my closest agent is at least two days away.

Jalen:  Who are the men in blue?

Master Page: They work for the Lords Council. Vile men, led by vile lords. But not, perhaps, all of them..

Jalen: How do we identify your closest agent?

Master Page: I have a carriage on it’s way. You will know them by their carriage. It will be black.

Jalen:  Do we still have three days until the steamship arrives?

Master Page: I’d expect it to happen sometime two mornings from now.

Jalen: How did you know Kinley?

Master Page: We were old friends, age has a way of making little differences seem like major issues.

Master Page: For now I know you have questions, but you must trust me in that remaining secret is in both of our interests. If one or more of you are taken by the enemy and they know my identity, I will be of no further assistance to you. I promise that all will be revealed in time, but for now you must trust me and you must leave. Make for the town of Kalen, it is the closest settlement currently under my influence.  Oh, and remember – Lord Brush may seem the fool, but he does have a certain cunning you shouldn’t underestimate. I am not the only one with influence over these lands, and my reach is at it’s limit here..

Master Page: One more thing. It may please you to know at least some of your friends from Barrelbog are alive. Someone named Kat, and at least one or two more.

After a night’s rest and some much needed bathing, the party sought out healing from a local herbalist and cured Jalen’s condition. They also purchased a newspaper with the following headline:

HEADLINE: Tainstville Siege Continues!

Chief Editor: Marlowe

After weeks of no news for Eastern Lockwood, reporters at the Oviedian Neighbor have reliable photos and sources confirming that a Lords Council army has laid a continuing siege on the city. While the cause of the assault varies from officials, it has been confirmed that Lady Blackbriar had been kidnapped from the city only to be foiled hours later. The Night Watchmen have staged a valiant rescue with assistance from the terrorist group: the Eastern Lockwood Alliance (ELA).

However, even with the heroics of these local forces it remains clear that there is no hope for victory against the combined forces of the Lords Council. Lord Brighton, Prime Minister of the council, confirmed that the assault upon Taintsville was an officially sanctioned action of the Lords Council and was in response to ELA activity in the area. Claiming that the initial assault was actually a rescue attempt to extract Lady Blackbriar from ELA control, it is unclear as to what goal the continued shelling of the city serves as he declined to answer further questions.

Lady Waverly Boarhardt has declined any involvement of the Boarhardt Guild in the current hostilities, noting that the purpose of the guild’s forces is not to further internal political ambitions of the various lords and ladies but to serve the people of Ovid.

We will bring you more news as reports continue…

After scaring some cats, visiting the tourism board, and a shopping spree to stock up on food, equipment, and supplies, the orphans found themselves in need of cash and stopped by the local branch of the Boarhardt Guild. There they found a bored woman named Lynne running the local branch (if reading romance novels with her cat could be called running the local guild annex). Learning that she was strapped to find someone to take a local quest, she gave the party an opportunity to serve as an initiate in the guild with the following quest:

Quest [The Missing Daughter]: Out of desperation, I’ll waive the holding fee for this job. Also: nobody has bit on this one for over a week and I doubt you would have any competition. Lord Brush, our local despot, had his daughter Jenna vanish on him a few days back. It’s not the first time this has happened, the last three or four of these requests ended up with a gang of well armed mercenaries busting down the door of a local 20-something farmer or dockworker to find them less than clothed and their landlords less than pleased at our intrusion. We know what young tough she’s slumming with at the moment (a wierdo named Vince or Vick or something), and even the chosen slum (a tiny, broken down farm outside of town). We just don’t have anyone willing to travel 8 hours to drag home a complaining teenaged girl for only 20gp. I’m sick of hearing about it, so if you get her back here today I’ll throw in another 10gp for my peace of mind.

Taking both the job and Junior badges, the party made for the distant farmhouse to seek out what was going on. There they found a large flock of ravens, a guard mastiff, and two bandits with bows guarding an abandoned farmhouse. Sneaking into the basement, they found the farmer’s family dead, their belongings piled up beneath them. After unceremoniously looting their corpses, the bodies stirred and their vengeful corpses attacked. Slaying these undead beasts nearly killed Kaitsja, who was only barely saved by Jalen’s quick healing.

Their fight against the skeletons attracted the attention of the bandit guards who were promptly ambushed and dispatched (though it once again nearly killed Kaitsja). This fight attracted the mastiff, who quickly launched into a dog-version of Marxist philosophy and inspired rebellion amongst Jalen’s mastiffs. After putting down two of the now hostile hounds, Jalen decided that dog ownership wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Upon going upstairs, they ambushed the remaining bandits and found the lords’s daughter, Jenna Brush, being tortured by Valentine, the bandit lord from the Hill Fort weeks before. Stopping him from murdering Jenna, the party quickly dispatched him (though Kaitsja once again nearly died), and helped Jenna decapitate him as immediate (if horrific) therapy for how she had been treated. Jalen’s final hound was given to Jenna as a service animal.

Upon returning home, they saw Jenna returned to Willy Chainsy and went to the Boarhardt Guild to collect their prise money. Upon doing so, they found Lynne acting a bit oddly and she tricked Kaitsja into a jail cell before confronting the party with wanted posters for their arrest. Each of them now had a Boarhardt Bounty of 1,000 gold, or 10,000 gold for all five taken alive. Lynne asked if the party would surrender quietly, and when they refused, she said:

Lynne: Well, it figures. Look, everyone in town knows you’ve been here. So the way I see it I generally would have two options.

First, I scream for the guards at the top of my lungs and hope they arrest you before you lot perform your self-preservationist duty in slitting my throat. Given the effectiveness of Lord Bush’s agents is something of a recurring joke here, option one doesn’t particularly appeal to me.

Second, I let you go without a peap. You probably get out of town, but sooner or later Captain Waverly will hear about how Lynne at that one tiny annex let a big bounty just walk out the door and I’ll be out of a job. And to be honest, this is a pretty sweet gig. I sit here and give out papers, other people do the work, and I make a buck and catch up on my reading. Losing that doesn’t really appeal to me either.

And so: we are at an empasse.

The party solved this problem through locking her in the jail, along with her cat, and then looting the hell out of the local guild. They forged Official Guild Membership Visas using their wanted posters, took all the money they could find, and then stepped outside.

And then all hell broke loose.

A black wagon was waiting for them, with five suspicious gentlemen beckoning them to hurry and get in the carriage. The Master Page’s agents had arrived in town early. So too had the steamship carrying the Lord’s Council forces, with the Horn Helmed Knight and a small army marching towards the orphans from the harbor. Lord Brush had formed up his guards to stand against the invasion of his town, along with the Guard Captain. The last members of Valentine’s bandits appeared on the roofs, seeking revenge for their leader’s death.

And to make matters even more bizarre, Mousey, a famous werefolk hero from the succession crisis, somehow broke out of jail at that exact moment and started unloading on the Mysterious Gentlemen, and nearly everyone but the orphans, to provide them cover.

Milling about in this chaos, the party was saved by Coachman Mills as he took his worn carriage and charged through the Lord’s Council army, trampling many of them, shooting out one of the suspicious gentlemen and calling for the orphan s to jump on his carriage. Oddly, Mousey let him pass and then covered their retreat with her bowgun leaving why she was at Port Heartlands, and why she helped the orphans, a mystery.

As the party fled, the black carriage gave chase and the party fought on top of both carriages until they managed to kill or free the enemy horses and slay each of the five gentlemen. Mills healed up the party with his first aid kit and helped them search the bodies and black carriage for signs of clues. There they found that the inside of the carriage was sealed with lead panes and was essentially a trap rigged with knockout gas.
Realizing that all six of them were likely fugitives back in Port Heartlands, Mills offered to take them to a destination in the heartlands for 10gp each instead of 100g, no questions asked. The party agreed, and they set off to Witchwood via the back roads along the border to the Genevian Highlands; resolute to avoid Kalen and the holder of the Master Book of Domesday at any cost.

Continue to Chapter Four: Defending the Faith…