This visit to town has taken much longer than anticipated, in part because one of the chief logistics guys is traveling for work, but also because Things Have Happened (TM). Here's another quasi-organized update. Like the last one, it's a bit of wall of text, and represents several days back and forth with the players. I'm pushing to get back on the regular schedule in time for a Monday turn next week.
The morning of the 27th, Durego is awakened early by someone pounding on
his door. Expecting one of the party members, likely Rawon, drunk, he
opens it, and is surprised to find three of Thambar's guards waiting.
"You're to come with us, immediately," says the sergeant in charge.
Looking past the guard's shoulder, Durego sees several other inn guests
peeking out of their doors, and the innkeeper peering up the stairs from
When Durego agrees to go with the guards, they relax a bit, but when he grabs his mace, the sergeant shakes his head. "May as well leave that. You won't be allowed to bring it into the keep." Reluctantly Durego leaves it behind. With a quick word to Gorvil he's off. The morning streets are already busy, and as he walks, Durego is aware that people are watching his progress. The guards are silent, aside from the occasional, "Make way, official business," to move a gawker from the street.
At the keep entrance, Durego is lead in through the postern gate. The sergeant there gives him a once over, then waves him through with his escort. He's lead into an antechamber outside the great hall, and told to wait. It's a small, comfortable room, with a couple chairs, a bench, and a low fire in the fireplace. A peek out the half-open door shows guards in the hall. An ewer of water and several goblets stand on a small table, and Durego takes a drink to relieve his dry mouth.
A half-hour later, the sergeant returns and gives Durego the nod. He's lead to the great hall entry, where a page announces him to those inside. Thambar is on his modest throne, a simple wooden high-backed chair with deep green leather padding. Calen Gara stands at the foot of the dais, and several councilors / courtiers / pages are gathered at the edges of the chamber. A scribe sits at a small table to the left of the dais. "Durego Van, priest of Erlinga," intones the page at the door.
Sweating a bit, Durego moves forward, hoping he remembers the proper honors. Clearly this is a formal audience. He only stammers a little, drawing a few titters from the courtiers. That, in turn draws a glare from Thambar. Who says, "We have received your group's report, along with certain other missives, concerning recent events, actions, and outcomes. Matters of life and death, so to speak." He stares at Durego, obviously displeased. "Alderman Leatherfoot has sent us a formal complaint, detailing his suspicions regarding the death of his son. This is a serious matter, a matter which could not have come at a worse time. War threatens to the south, and distractions like these are not what we need to maintain peace and order here!"
Durego begins to speak, "My lo..."
"Silence! You will speak when spoken to!" He pauses, taking a drink from a simple silver cup. "This is a difficult matter. The life of a citizen has been taken, the only witnesses, those accused of his murder. The additional legal matters surrounding certain property held for the deceased further complicate matters. Therefore, you will give a full accounting of the circumstances of Lockwood Leatherfoot's death, beginning with your departure from Hustwood in August. Calen Gara, acting as royal judge, and as head of your order, will direct this accounting." Thambar waves to Gara. Gara bows to Thambar and then turns to Durego, eyes cold and hard.
And so begins the hardest two hours of Durego's life. Under Gara's merciless questioning, he recounts the journey from Hustwood to Blackpool. He is as vague as he can be about distances traveled, trying to cover the secret of the spires, but Gara's questions are sharp, it's a difficult task, especially since the party spent several days investigating the spire's destinations. Still, he doesn't make a total mess of it.
Then the questions turn to the descent into the depths: the flooded chambers; the giant bugs; the curious scraping noise from beneath the boulder in the abandoned prison; the first bloody encounter with the trogs, and Durego's less than valorous part in that fight; the retreat; the subsequent successful battle, and finding Tesso in the pit. On then, to the first fiery encounter with the necromancer, the arrival of the owlbear. Retreat again, and return. The bloody message about the prisoners, the traps and tricks, the death pit, and Locky's demise.
The questioning continues, departure, Locky's funeral, the appearance of the gnolls, and the party's retreat. Again Durego skirts the use of the spire, and again, it's difficult to explain how the party escaped a larger faster force while avoiding mention of the magical transport. The end of the trip is covered in less detail, though Nest Tower, Tragor's, and Corpse Hill are all covered. Finally the tale reaches Hustwood, and the encounter with Locky's parents there. Durego is drenched in sweat and dry of mouth by the time the story is all told and silence fills the hall.
Finally, Thambar speaks, "This is a terrible and difficult tale. Await our pleasure while we consider this matter." He waves Durego away and one of the guards steps forward to escort him out. Unthinkingly, Durego fails to bow and back away as he departs, drawing additional murmurs from the courtiers, but Thambar is already speaking with Calen, who has approached the throne.
Durego is led back to the ante-chamber and left there. The ewer has been refilled, and a small loaf and cheese have also been left. This time the door is closed, and locked.
The Party - September 28th - Morning
As the day begins, those staying at the Stag (Raúguey, Rawon, Ingvild, Dagmarten, Tesso) are just rousing themselves and having breakfast (or morning ale), when Gorvil arrives, out of breath and wild-eyed. "He's gone! Guards came for Durego this morning, from the keep. They took him away. They made him leave his mace behind!"
Ohwatoo arrives a few moments later, less out of breath, but obviously distressed. He confirms Gorvil's story, adding, "They were polite about it, but insistent. Something is definitely up. I sent Jonquil to alert the others."
The Party - Later
Despite Raúguey and Ingvild's suggestions that Durego can take care of himself, Maro and Ohwatoo decide to see if they can find anything out at the keep, Gorvil tags along. The others in town plan on shopping (Granny, and the boat), and carousing. Maro belatedly remembers he is supposed to relieve Mordikarr at camp too. Strom and Grendor show up just as the group is heading out, and decide to tag along with the shoppers.
The trio trudges across town to the zig-zag road that leads up to the keep entrance. There they are greeted by the same unfriendly facade, closed gates, guards on the wall, and a stern, "State your business!" Maro asks to speak to the watch commander, holding up the pendant from Thambar (like anyone from atop the wall could see it). As before, the guards allow one across, Maro goes, Ohwatoo and Gorvil wait. The elf speaks briefly with the guard captain, who confirms Durego is inside at the Lord's request. Maro's furthe inquiries are cut off with a brusque, "Lord Thambar's business is his own. You have no business here, I advise you be off before you find yourself in a cell."
The guards are clearly on high alert and very suspicious. Perhaps Durego being taken before Lord Thambar has tainted their view of the party. Maro leaves without a word, sharing his news with Ohwatoo and Gorvil. He suggests they return to the Stag, let the others know, and then go back to the Green Hill so Ohwatoo can do his identify for today. Gorvil and Jonquil can keep watch until the others return. Maro will head to the camp and relieve Mordikarr and Dagmarten.
Speaking of the others, they finally find Granny Smikken's place, a single-room hut on the edge of a small wood, surrounded by beehives, flowers, unusual plants, and vines. Granny herself is old and thin. Her long black and gray hair is wild and unkempt. When the party tells her what they want she's happy to oblige, offering the group several doses of her cure-all at a gold a dose. [3 doses 3 gp] She has various other things for sale, honey, apples, herbs, love potions, hair restoration tonics, perfumes, and assorted other things, but the only other person that buys anything is Grendor, who purchases a bunch of apples.
The next stop is the docks, on the far side of town. It takes a while to get there, noonish by the time they arrive. It seems that turns out to be lucky though. Several sailors from the strange ship are loading a dingy with supplies. A quick word and a few silver to the crewmen reveals that their boss, Bakr Skalla, is a merchant, doing some business with Thambar. From what the sailors say, he's not much for visiting, but one agrees to convey a message that the party may be interested in dealing with him for weapons (he deals in mundane arms primarily), or any unique items that he may have available. Ingvild suggests the party can be reached at the Stag, since that's where many are staying. Message sent, the party heads back to the inn for some fun.
Surprisingly Bakr's messenger shows up at the Stag early in the evening. He says his master will agree to see two representatives of the party tomorrow afternoon aboard his vessel, if that's agreeable. He stipulates no weapons may be brought aboard.
Durego - later that day
Durego cools his heels for a while. Quite a while actually. By the time the guards return and lead him back to Thambar's presence, the sun is well to the west, the great hall gloomily lit by candles and the low central fire. As before Calen Gara stands near the high seat, and courtiers along the side of the hall. Durego remembers the proper forms this time, approaches the high seat and bows properly, despite a near bursting bladder.
Thambar and Gara both give Durego a long and searching look, then Thambar speaks. "Durego Van, you and your companions," he gestures to the scribe, who reads off the list of party members, including hirelings and Tesso, "stand accused of the wrongful death of Lockwood Leatherfoot, son of Brego and Mila Leatherfoot." Durego opens his mouth, but Thambar holds up a warning hand. "Personally, whatever the circumstances were surrounding young Leatherfoot's death, I do not believe it was murder, but the law leaves little choice." He pauses, sips wine, and continues. "The charge has been brought, and the additional complexities created by Lockwood Leatherfoot's estate require us to rule on this. Therefore, hear the formal judgement, which applies to all the aforementioned parties." He turns to Gara, "Vicar General Gara."
The gray-haired priest clears his throat, and watches Durego with his cold blue eyes as he says, "It is the judgement of Thambar the Prudent, Lord of Hembard Wilds, Defender of Highcliff Keep, Recognized Lord of the Peerage of the Kingdom of Jal, Meisterburger of Auslaug, Hustwood, and Brekkevale, that the following persons," he recites the list of party members, "are hereby formally indicted with the wrongful death of Lockwood Leatherfoot. Judgement on this charge shall be held in abeyance for three months and three days from this date, September 28th in the Year of the Badger. The wronged parties, Alderman Brego Leatherfoot, and his wife, Mila Leatherfoot, agree to drop these charges if the accused parties return their son's remains before the term of abeyance expires. Until such time, the accused are banned from Hustwood and its environs. They are also required to return that token of trust granted them by Lord Thambar, specifically, a steel medallion bearing the seal of Highcliff Keep. Durego Van is tasked with returning this token before sunset of September 29th. Should the accused fail to return the token, break the Hustwood ban, or fail to return Lockwood Leatherfoot's remains to his parents, final judgement shall be rendered at that time." He looks back at Thambar and bows.
Thambar gestures at the scribe, who hands a document to a page. The page brings it to Thambar, who signs and seals it, then hands it back to the page, who hands it to Gara. "Vicar General Gara will provide you with a copy of the charges. You are dismissed from our presence."
The old priest bows and backs away from Thambar, Durego does the same. The pair exits the great hall, accompanied by a guard, who follows at a respectful distance. Gara does not speak until you are nearly to the outer gate, then he stops and says, "Here are the formal charges. See that you return the medallion as required. I am very disappointed in this turn of events. You, of all people, should have known better and taken care of those in your charge." Durego begins to speak, but Gara raises his hand. "Do not try to explain your actions! You had your chance to explain before Lord Thambar. You concealed matters then, and now you face the consequences. If you want to prove yourself and your friends innocent, fulfill the terms of this judgement." He slaps the scroll into Durego's hand.