Aboard the Lazy Minnow, the Mercenaries spend their downtime as they steam through the Jones Swamplands pondering their two secret messages acquired during Chapter Two:
Arius: Okay guys. I got the one. I need to look at that numbers shit later:
“Cz uif Nbftusp’t psefst, tfdvsf uif upxo boe ljmm boz xjuofttft. Uif dijmesfo bsf up cf bqqsfifoefe bmjwf. Uif xjudi boe Dibexjdl bsf up cf ljmmfe po tjhiu. Tipvme boz puifs Cpbsibseu nfncfst tipx uifntfmwft tfdvsf boe bxbju gvsuifs psefst.
Op gvdl vqt uijt ujnf. J xjmm opu ibwf bopuifs sfqfbu pg Ubjoutwjmmf.”
“By the Maestro’s orders, secure the town and kill any witnesses. The children are to be apprehended alive. The witch and Chadwick are to be killed on sight. Should any other Boarhardt show themselves secure and await further orders.
No fuck ups this time. I will not have another repeat of Taintsville.”
John Clonter: So, the code is shifting all of the letters to the left?
Arius: Correct. A simple letter cypher.
John Clonter: The Maestro may be a mastermind, but his troops? Not so much. Needs to be a simple code for them, I’d guess.
Arius: I wonder what this reference to Taintsville refers to.
Some hours later, they begin to review the second document, obtained from Chadwick’s corpse in Chapter Two, which appears to be a list made out of numbers.
Arius: The fool’s fable, scribbled at the bottom – is that referring to “The Fool and the Stone King” story?
John Clonter: I’ve met the Fool, his name is Gardenstern.. The long and short of it is: the Stone King hates the Fool. Stuff happened up in Revalia many years ago
Ukko: We have a single tale of the fool… but look here. The third line  could translate to “Barrelbog” if you assume each letter has a matching number, which may not be the case…
Kareese: Hmmm, that seems reasonable.
Arius: Yes. I’m going to replace the numbers with the ones you’ve provided in the other lines and see if anything fits.
Ukko: Using that technique,   would be “roleo arbr,” Roleto Harbor? Is that a place? That sounds familiar, but I don’t have a map.
Kareese: For the record, Roleto Harbor is the capital of the Meridian Isles.
Ukko: The first section is: place names and number of children there. The second section is a message of some kind. Barrelbog 5/5, Roleto Harbor 1/1. There were five children in Barrelbog, the orphans.
Kareese: There’s also whatever the header of the letter is? Maybe who this addressed to wasn’t Chadwick?
Arius: That seems possible.
Ukko: I think the header says Remaining. As in: number of children remaining. Maybe.
Kareese: Though how he/she/they know exact numbers is a mystery unto itself…
John Clonter: They would have to have had a spy at some time. I’m assuming they’ve been watching for 18ish years. Only specifically looking for kids aged the same as Chadwick’s orphans.
Azmaranthe: Hmmmm… I wonder.
Ukko: Ok, I’ve got this! The beginning of the message part says “BURN THIS AFTER COMMITING IT TO… Hmm. Actually, I’ll have the whole thing in a minute.
Arius: Well done, Ukko!
Kareese & Azmaranthe: ~clap encouragingly~
Arius: So assuming this is a list of kids with locations… We gotta find these children ourselves, right? I mean, that is one hundo what I want to do.
Kareese: Hmmm… 1/27 kids in Kingsbridge. Sounds like we’re heading to the right place and we’ve got our work cut out for us… unless that means that all but 1 has been killed.
Arius: I guess once the entire message is decoded we will have a better idea
Ukko: I have it! Check this out:
ROLETO HARBOR, 1/1
Arius: Oh. Yeah. So I have to assume remaining means that there is only 1/27 kids alive in Kingsbridge.
Ukko: Well, the others could still be alive. I think we should work on the assumption that the kidnapped children are being kept alive somewhere. Well, we should reach Highchurch before any of these other places. We should ask around about missing children, see what connects all these kids.
Kareese: Sounds good to me. We might need to start another orphanage …for 18 year olds, i guess. Never-mind, they can care for themselves.
Ukko: I think we could maybe get some of them a job with the Boarhardt Guild. Every place on this list is a major city… but then there is Barrelbog, the tiny swamp village. Who sent this message to Chadwick, though?
Arius: I don’t know…
Ukko: Captain Wavery Boarhardt didn’t know where Chadwick was… So I doubt it comes from the guild.
Arius: Though Chadwick received this message before he was attacked, presumably. So whoever sent it must know that kids are being pursued?
Kareese: I was just going to ask… do we have anything handwritten from Waverly? It’s also interesting that whoever this is didn’t use the Book of Domesday to send the message.
Ukko: We have been taking orders from her for many years, I expect we could recognize her handwriting…. some of us have, anyway.
Kareese and Ukko strain their eyes for a few minutes trying to figure out if Captain Waverly could solve this, but after rolls of 7 and 11 respectively, neither have any clue.
Kareese: Yeah, I just can’t remember at all. I think either Waverly was lying about not knowing where Chadwick was or it wasn’t her writing this message. Nothing else makes sense.
Ukko: Or maybe she sent the message after we told her?
Kareese: And it got here before we arrived? That would be impressive.
Ukko: She has resources.
Arius: I’m not one of you Boarhardt types, but I know some of you are suspicious of Waverley. That goes way back. The lady is ambitious.
Ukko: Though we told her we were heading to Jones Swamp, not specifically Barrelbog.
They ponder this mystery for a while yet, uncertain of what the future holds. Several hours later, Within Kareese’s pack, she feels the Apple-covered journal, taken from Kinley’s corpse, shake. Pulling it out, there is a faint light coming from one of the pages. Flipping to it, she sees that a single page now has script upon it. At the top left of the page is a stylized depiction of a crow.
“Taintsville gets worse by the day. I don’t know how much longer she will hold out unless support is gained. Have you heard from the others? So few remain now.”
After a moment, the text vanishes in a burst of flame and the page is once again clean. A moment later more writing appears:
“Kinley? Are you there?”
The text burns away again as Kareese watches. She flags down the rest of the party and describes what has happened. Interested, Kareese makes an Arcana check to understand how the book works and grasp the basics, relying upon her education in the arcane arts and knowledge of many tales to figure out how the books operate.
Kareese: I’m going to respond, authentically I think. Any problems with that?
Arius: I’m good with it. I generally assume good intentions in others.
Kareese takes a moment, and using the brass pen bound in the book writes the following:
“I don’t know you and I’m sorry you have to hear it like this, but Chadwick and Kinley have been brutally murdered at their orphanage. Me and some of my allies saved as much of the innocents in the town as we could, and fought back where we could, but you’ve lost yet another friend.”
There is a quiet moment, with nothing appearing on the page after Kareese’s text fades away. Several minutes later another line of text appears.
Thank you for your honesty.
Once it burns away, nothing else is written. After a moment Kareese adds:
If it eases your mind at all, the last we knew the orphans were escaping into the swamp. We’ve recovered some missives from our common enemy lamenting “fuck ups” in Taintsville, whoever you are, you appear to be doing good work. Who is this? How can we help?
You may call me Kat.
After Kareese sends this, she ponders the text written and tries to compare it to the two coded messages she has, but was unable to make a match. A few moments later, more text appears in Kareese’s book. When it does, the text appears quickly, almost frantically.
“They escaped? To where? How many? When?”
Reading the script, Arius and Kareese exchange glances.
Arius: I should just smite the book and be done with this. Not that I would, but…
Kareese chuckled, and continued writing:
All five fled the orphanage and into the swamp. I don’t know that they weren’t captured later, but if anyone could survive that swamp and evade capture, I think it would be those five. I cannot tell you where they’re heading now.
Can we help?
After a moment, more text appears.
Possibly. Probably. I will be in touch. Thank you, Kat.
No additional text appears, Kareese and the others will have to wait for now and plan.
Ukko looks over at Kareese and says “Really? A mysterious agent starts asking question about the secrets Chadwick and Kinley dies for and you give them all up instantly without getting an identity?…. “
Ukko: “I am in contact with a Brevardrim prince who needs help moving his Gold out of the country. He just needs your accounts to transfer the gold. You will be lavishly compensated with 10 Billion GP for your help”
Kareese: I feel the rewards outweigh the risks, Ukko. Yes, we have no idea who this person is. There are three options as I see it. Option A) This truly is one of Kinley’s allies, seeking aid and an update. We’ve provided information (s)he needs — Kinley is dead, their orphans they were protecting have fled, and we’ve offered our aid. Option B) This was a ruse from an enemy, meant to pump us for information. I haven’t provided them anything they didn’t already know — Kinley is dead, the orphans escaped, we don’t know anything else. Option C) Someone knew something happened in Barrelbog and took a wild stab that an ally picked up the book and they’d be able to pump them for information. Now you tell me which of these three is least likely? They also know that Maestro’s forces ran into problems at Taintsville. Approach with caution, certainly, but it isn’t important who they are.
Ukko: They dodged the question when you asked for a name. Shady. While it is unlikely to be an ally of maestro, we do not know how many enemies kinsley had. I’m just saying it’s not wise to trust magical disembodied text.
Kareese: A calculated risk, old friend.
Arius: Perhaps this individual is just being cautious. They don’t know for certain who we are, either. Let’s trust them for now and verify their word. We may even have gained an ally.
The party continues to ponder this as they transfer from their steamship to a carriage at the village of Jones Landing, bringing their charge, Lisandra Baptiste, towards her family estate in Highchurch…