Blood on the Rocks

First Day in Gresünd

“Hey, take it easy! I’m not looking for trouble. But if you don’t call this off right now, I will call it off for you. I didn’t survive all those months in a gladiator pit to be put down by a farmer and his boys.”

And then Thesdiah casts minor globe of invulnerability.

The man flinches a second, and then appears to strengthen his resolve. “Look, it’s like I told ya! I don’t wanna have to do this. But I got no choice! They run me off my land, and now they’re gonna put it up for auction! That’s my land! I’ve worked that land my whole adult life! That land was given to me by Baron Kahl [whom you know to be the previous owner of the fief of Gresünd before he died and left it to his son, Elvet] for my service to his army during the hobgoblin attacks nigh on twenty and thirty years ago. I’m the one who built the barn, me and Heggar Dunhors (Beih rest his soul), and brought every one o’ them horses into this world. With my own hands! Now how’m I gonna feed my family?” The more he explains his situation, the more his aggression begins to wane into obvious frustration and anxiety, and his tone softens. “Look, I ain’t no brigand. But I ain’t gonna just stand down and die like a stray dog now.”

He continues to stand there, with his pitchfork pointed at you, but still waiting. From behind you somewhere, you hear a teenage boy’s voice call out, “Come on, Pa, let’s just strip him and get on with it, before somebody comes!”

“Sounds like you’re in a tough spot. But I’m not about to roll over for a down-on-his-luck …”

(interrupted by boy)

“… And if you move another muscle back there, you won’t live to see your adult years!” (angrily, to boy behind me)

“Now, if you can settle down, we can talk this over. I’m looking for someone, and I’m willing to pay for information. We can both benefit from keeping cool.”

While keeping his same posture, standing 20 yards back, pitchfork pointed toward you, though almost imperceptibly slackening in his grip as you both talk, the farmer pauses a moment, and then shouts behind you, “Hold off a minute, boys. Let’s hear what the man has to say.”

(Another pause.)

Then, looking at you again, he says, “Maybe I know something, and maybe I don’t. Who is it you’re looking for now?” As he’s speaking, you hear some casual scrambling from the bushes behind you, and turn to see two skinny farm boys in dirty sack cloth outfits walk onto the road about 10 yards behind you. One looks to be about 16, the other a little younger, maybe 14. The older one is holding a short bow, and the younger a sling, though both weapons dangle at their sides in a non-threatening way. Their body language and facial expressions suggest disappointed but absolute obedience to the man’s orders. Still, they keep their distance, clearly taking their cues from the father.

“I’m looking for a tall monster of a man, dog-like in appearance and sometimes in behavior. He was likely travelling in this direction but not so likely to invite attention. He is an old acquaintance, and i owe him a favor.

Maybe you noticed something peculiar about your homestead’s affairs recently?"

Fuck it. Going with Power Word Kill.

The farmer squints and holds that face as you speak, as if looking into a bright light. When you finish, he scratches under his stubbly, sun-reddened neck and says, “Well, can’t say that I have direct knowledge of any such person. Not recently, anyway.”
The younger of the two boys very eagerly chimes in, “But we get hobgoblins through here all the time, don’t we Pa, and once there was this—”
“Not all the time,” says the older boy. “This guy means recently.”
“What’s ‘reasonly’ mean?”
“Like, since we got kicked off the farm.”
“Oh.”
The farmer lowers his pitchfork and says, “Tell you what. I know who might know about a thing like that. I’ll take you to—actually, er, how much did you say you were payin’?”

Finally! Someone who doesn’t really know that kind of stuff!
Hahahahahahahahahaha.

To DM again: what does a farmer earn in a month here? Ish.

Well, I’m not gonna let you just one-stop shop … ever … or even get one thing out of somebody … even something minor and super obvious …

:)
A month’s worth of a typical farmer’s pay would be around 10gp; 5gp for a laborer.

“I can give you five gold coins if you can introduce me to someone who gives me the information I need. You may need to use some of that money to persuade your contact – that’s your business.”

He studies you for a few seconds, looks over your shoulder at his sons, and then says, “It’s a deal. Up front though. But you come with me.”

Thesdiah fishes five gp out of his pack, careful to hide his main wealth. He hands it over, extends his hand, and says, “I’m Thesdiah of Helbsund.”

The farmer takes your gold, puts in his very thin belt pouch, and says, “Helbsund eh? Never heard of it. I’ve heard of Helbsünd, though.”

The older boy says, “Dad, it’s the same thing. He just has a gladiator accent.”

“Gladia—I ain’t ever heard o’ no ‘gladiator accent.’ Anyway, I’m Yeon. Of Handlespinner’s people. If your man has been through these parts, I have a friend who’ll know about it.”
You walk along the road together for a little while at the farmer’s pace (11), toward Gesünd. Not five minutes go by, however, when you all hear the trotting of horse hooves (moving 22, not in a rush) about 150 yds ahead, approaching you. It sounds like there are about 2 or 3 horses.
The instant the farmer and his boys hear the horses, they all dash in different directions away from the road toward the bushes/light woods.
[Anything you do besides standing still will involve an initiative roll.]

Declared action first (as per the rules of dnd) –
Jump to cover ten yards away from anyone else.
Then rolled a “10”.
Seriously.

You make it to cover. What do you do? Are you watching the road, continuing to move into the brush/light forest, or what? (And for how long?)

You watch the road from a position of hiding. The farmer and his boys are nowhere in sight. About 30 seconds later, you see two men in studded leather armor, one with a basset helmet and the other with a yellow cloth tied around his head bandana-style, ride by on light brown horses. They seem to be watching both sides of the road somewhat attentively, but don’t particularly slow down as they pass you. You don’t get a good look at their faces or what type of weapons they’re carrying, except that the one with the yellow cloth has at least a spear.
They travel past you about 50 yards, when you hear them stop and both yell at someone angrily. There seems to be a bit of commotion of the horses stamping and shifting their weight around in place a lot on the road, and movement in the bushes where they are.

Thesdiah creeps forward to the edge of the brush to try to get a better look.

You see that the man with the yellow cloth and the spear (and now, you see, a horseman’s flail as well) is still on his horse, stopped, but the other man has gotten down and, through the legs of the horses and occasional flashes as the horses shift aside, you see that he appears to be grabbing one of the boys by the arm, shaking him violently, such that the boy can barely keep his feet on the ground, and trying to scream him into submission. You can’t make out what he’s actually saying (this is about 50 yds down the road … FYI, if you were to step out onto the road, you’d be visible—if anyone looked in your direction—but pretty easily unheard [Dex check at dex +6]).

Thez (haha, won’t do it again. I promise) steps out into road, but he leaves his weapons in brush. He calls forth, “don’t worry, I’ll get help”. Then he waits for “bad guy” to come for him as he backs into wooded area. There he will snatch up his tridents and fuck the dude. Wait, I mean fuck the dude up.

Going with more if/then responses if possible. Just to cut out the traffic.

So by “bad guy,” do you mean the people who tried to rob you, or the upstanding officers of the law who are out chasing down wanted criminals?

:)

Ok, theriothly …
The man on the horse (yellow cloth, spear, horseman’s flail) turns his mighty steed around and gallops toward you, sweat beading on his furrowed brow, spear held aloft as he cries, “Foul miscreant! Now you shall know the wrath of my steel!” Then, brandishing his horseman’s flail, he leaps from his mount onto the road, raising a swirling cloud of dust.
Ok, THERiothly …
The man on the horse (yellow cloth, spear, horseman’s flail) turns his horse around and comes galloping down the road after you. You have no trouble taking cover again and recovering both of your tridents. He sees you and quickly dismounts. [This gives you an opportunity for a free missile attack at +2 if you want. Otherwise, he gets down and comes after you. If you choose to melee in the bushes, you will both make attacks at -1; if you try to fight in the road, no such penalty.]

Nice. Chaotic Neutral says "we hateses The Law and those who try to roll us.

Hahaha. That was sweet! Ed Greenwood, Weis, Hickman, and Salvatore have nothing on you. Perfectly wretched.

Thesdiah leaps from the thickets, twin weapons raised for battle, and charges forward. Earth kicks up from beneath his pit-worn boots, as his stride quickens. Greater foes have met their end when confronted with His full fury; today will see no different outcome. “Your grave is open. Let me help you in!”, bellows Thesdiah as he lunges for the killing blow …

That actually hurt me a little to do that.

So Thesdiah advances to meet the enemy in melee on the road. He would like to be able to see if anything else is going out out there. And he will probably charge, but I’ll let you k is in a few mins after I check the PHB. I think there’s a to hit bonus, but an AC penalty …

[Peals of laughter from the DM echo in his surprisingly acoustic office.]

Yeah, I think you’re right about the charging, something like +2 to hit, +2 penalty to AC … but my PH hasn’t come in yet, so I’ll let you look that up.

Yep, Thesdiah charges. Spare you details now, but my AC is 1 worse, enemy has 2 better initiative, and I get + 2 to hit.

My initiative roll is 6. SF is 7. Total is 13. Math!

Oops. Other trident rolled 7. Total is 14.

13
And
14

Two tridents.

D’oh, unlucky. Dude got an 11 (or 9, actually) initiative for throwing (not chucking) his spear at you, then hit AC 0. And did 5 pts of damage. Wow.

Hit AC 15 and AC 9

Awful.

If I live to the end of round two, I get four attacks.

Considering parrying, but don’t have your book in front of me.

Your man pulls out his horseman’s flail. Down the road you can see the other guy, with the basset helmet, is still busy with the farm boy. You can’t really pay attention to what’s going on over there and be involved in your own melee, but you can see that for this round, anyway, he’s not coming toward you.

Yellow cloth guy got a 13 initiative with his horseman’s flail.

Initiative 10 and 16

Parry try one = rolled a 2
Parry try two = rolled a 10 (hit AC 9)
Attack one = rolled a 19 (hit AC 0)
Attack two = rolled a 20 (hit)
Dam one = 5
Dam two = 5

So hopefully he doesnt hit me for 5+ dam before my end of round attacks come through. Both parries failed. Did roll to hit like mad though!

He reaches for his flail from the hanger on his left side, but no sooner does he reach his hand across his body than you staple his wrist to his own abdomen with your right trident. Then, with your opponent skewered in place, you plant your left trident in his neck, toppling him over into the road. You then pull out both weapons from his limp body in a spray of blood, as his companion looks on 40 yds away, clearly horrified, and begins to mount his horse.

The younger of the two boys is standing in the road in the other side of the remaining man, his hands bound behind him with a short length of rope.

The rope is long enough that he could have trailed the boy alongside him at a walking pace, but it looks like he’s intending to take off and leave the boy there, either to attack or to flee you.

Thesdiah will try to rush the horseman, enter melee, parry once, attack once, and command, “Surrender your weapon, or I will run you through!”

What am I rolling? Initiative for each weapon? And I’m not “charging”. Just standard combat movement.

He’s engaged in climbing onto his horse and trying to turn it around (in the direction of Gresünd, which is the direction from which you are running toward him). You get a round of free attacks at +2.

Cool. I’m considering an attempt at non-lethal combat too. How should I proceed if I go this route?

Take a look at CFH; but in the meantime I’ll get back to you from C&T stuff too. Lots of options.

Some options for non-lethal combat applicable to this situation, all from Combat & Tactics unless specifically noted:
Sap
Attempt to knock out opponent by hitting them in Spock spot with flat of weapon. Called shot at 8 (normally -4, but if opponent has helmet-aww, bad luck there—it’s -8 to hit). If attacker hits, there is 5% chance per point of damage, up to max of 40% chance, of knocking victim unconscious. Of this damage, only 25% is “permanent damage,” while 75% is temporary. Victim is still knocked unconscious, but not dead, if this total exceeds their total hp without knocking them out. You could also first attempt to remove the opponent’s helmet, but that would require a separate action (grab), which I’ll tell you about if you care in another e-mail. Opponent would probably be long gone by then, since he’s off to transform into an ochre jelly and bring back his wereochrejelly horde before you can sap him helmetless. (Your guy would know that, because again, he’s been around the general area, and talked to a lot of people he killed.)
Unhorse – several options
Knockdown: Strike mounted opponent hard enough to create knockdown chance. Every time you successfully hit with a weapon (ever, since I want to use this optional rule), you roll its knockdown die as well. Trident: (one-handed) d6; (two-handed) d8. If you get a 7 or higher for M-sized creatures (which this rider is), he must roll a save vs. death or be knocked prone. This also works when throwing weapons. From horseback, this will also incur d3 falling damage (my ad hoc ruling, based on d6/10 ft.), which is permanent damage. Especially if he breaks his hymen in the process (my ad hoc ruling).
Damage: Striking a mounted character for 10 or more hp of damage (which I assume means in a given round? or do you think it should be with a single blow? a bit vague there). Similarly, if you do this much to his horse, he’ll have to roll a Dexterity check at -2 (ad hoc based on abstract wording in book about “wounding the mount”) or fall off; and then make another Dexterity check (no penalty) to avoid taking d3 damage from the fall, reflecting whether he lands on his feet or not while coming off the horse (ad hoc). In either case, while coming off the horse, he’ll need plenty of water and a bucket to throw up into, and suffer hallucinations and night sweats for d3 days. A called shot to the horse’s leg might increase the chances of this “bucking” (ad hoc); you’d make a called shot on the horse at -4, and then I guess I’d impose, say, an additional -1 penalty on each of the rider’s two Dexerity checks for every 3 pts of damage you did to the horse’s leg in one attack (ad hoc).
Overbearing: You leap onto the rider and try to drag him to the ground. You make a hit roll vs. his natural armor class (AC 10, plus Dexterity bonus if applicable) … since he’s on a horse and you’re on the ground, I’d impose an additional -2 penalty here on your to-hit roll (ad hoc, based loosely on higher ground idea and pull/trip/overbear tendency to impose -4/+4 penalty per category of size difference; this seems to me to be an in-between case, considering obvious leverage disadvantage and legs forked around a L stable creature, maybe even in stirrups). If this attack roll succeeds, you both roll opposing Strength checks to determine whether he stays in the saddle or is pulled to the ground. The opposed roll means that whoever comes closest to their needed number without going over prevails (The Price is Right); i.e., if you come closer to your Strength than he comes to his, then he gets to “come on down!” and take d3 points of damage, followed by a round of +2 attacks on him for being prone. Once he’s prone, you can make a new attempt in subsequent round to overbear him again, which, if successful, results in him being pinned and restrained. (I assume this would also be made at +2 for you, since the opponent is already prone.) You have to have your hands free at this point in order to restrain one of his limbs (it takes one same-sized creature per limb); otherwise he can still attack you with his free hands, including S-size weapons. Even if you pin him, since you’re alone, he’ll still have at least one arm free (though not necessarily his dominant arm).
Overbearing Jewish Mother: Tell rider he can stay up there on his high horse and ignore his poor old mother, who only went through 35 hours of labor to bring him into this world and then gave the best years of her life and all her dreams and aspirations in order to cook him healthy meals and make sure he had warm clothes and a nice bed to sleep in, but that’s o.k., he’s a grown man now and he can make his own decisions.
Kill Mount: Automatically results in rider being unhorsed. (Unless mount is not a horse. You don’t know my strategy.)
Then there are other things, like grabbing, disarming, tripping … but I don’t want to give you too many specific ideas, or you might feel like I’m the only one playing the game …

Hahaha. Hilarious. And very detailed. Nice to know you have a real grasp of rules in theory and practice. I’ll get back to you.

Okay. Thesdiah will attack the horse with both tridents, hoping to “wound the mount” and cause the rider to be thrown.

Attack one: rolled 11. +1 spec. +2 per DM. AC 6
Attack two: rolled 3. (miss)

Damage vs med. 6
Vs large 10

Large, right?

Lastly, I’m going with dam listed for trident in PHB. But TS a large weapon normally. I remember reading about using trident one handed. Sadly, I’m guessing dam is less. Will look around if I get chance.

J. Verne, it’s Ernest!

Ha! Just thought of that.

Opposing str check options are terrible for my guy. Blah.

I’m waiting for you to say what it was exactly that you were going to do again. I don’t precisely remember.

On another note, just got a big haul of stuff I’d ordered:
DM’s guide (2.5)
PH (2.0, revised)
Wilderness Survival Guide
Monster Mythology
my miniature
So watch out, because now I know all about the broad sword, poison types, what gods the bugbears worship, and when your campfire will go out when you’re all by yourself and trying to sleep …

Because you care …
Having done my homework, I now have much more solid answers from WSG and DMG on precisely the things I ad-hoc’ed in the previous long e-mail. I’ll try to be as concise as possible, but if something’s ambiguous here, I may be able to go back and give more details.
Attacking a mounted rider from the ground
- With a weapon: need a weapon of 5-9 ft., which you have. You get -1 to hit (but net 1 to hit, because I’m keeping the +2 from rider not defending himself this round). If you get a natural 20, you unseat the rider automatically. If you hit, you score damage as normal. If you miss by 1 (that is, due to -1 penalty), you automatically hit the mount instead.
- If rider is unseated: must make proficiency check (if applicable) to land on feet; failure (or no proficiency) means 1d3 damage from tumbling. (Because it’s 1d3 and not 1d6, I’m going to house-rule that this does not imply rider is prone in the following round, which would seem to justify 1d6 damage instead, based on 1d6 damage listed for other situations mentioned below.)
- If mount is wounded: mounts trained for combat (e.g. light, med., heavy war horses) have no effects, but others (such as this riding horse) will bolt unless rider makes proficiency check. If failed (or no proficiency), mount bolts at 1 1/2 movement rate for 1d4 rounds, moving straight ahead unless that’s into more danger. Rider stays on horse, but must make proficiency check to regain control of horse, renewable each round.
- Attempting to grapple/pull down rider from the ground: you have to drop your weapons, make an attack at -4 to hit (so, -2 here). If you succeed, rider must make proficiency check (if applicable) to remain on mount. If you miss, you fall and take 1d6 damage. If you hit and rider fails prof. check (or is unproficient), you both fall and take 1d6. If you hit but rider succeeds proficiency check, you cling to him while he is still in the saddle (with your feet off the ground now), and you must make new successful (unmodified) to-hit rolls each round to stay like that. Failure means you fall (etc.); success means rider must make proficiency check, etc., until this cycle ends with one or both of you on the ground. At DM’s discretion, rider may attack you while being so grappled, but with -2 penalty (which here I would say he could, beginning next round, if you clung to him and he didn’t fall). He has a horseman’s pick and a short bow. In sum: if you try to grapple a guy on a horse, the best you can accomplish involves you taking 1d6 damage as well.
So compared to my ad-hoc proposals before, this 1st ed./2nd ed. mix of rules favors having the riding proficiency; otherwise, it’s really hard to stay on a horse when someone wants you off of it. Not sure whether I like the opposed Strength rolls rule or this Wilderness Survival Guide rule better. I guess what I’d like to do is to impose the opposed Strength rolls in the case of a rider without Riding, Land Based; otherwise, I’d use the WSG rules. That way, a non-proficient rider can still have a chance to fight off an attacker, as a function of their relative strengths, but it’s way harder to do and involves a wider range of luck; and having the proficiency means you’re better at staying on a horse than just your relative strength, which would otherwise favor strong non-proficient riders over proficient riders (including equally strong proficient riders) in all cases. Actually, even better: Proficient riders get to roll against their proficiency, but they also have to do opposed Strength rolls with attacker. The difference between the two Strength rolls becomes the modifier to the proficiency check (
or -). Yeah, that’s it. I like that.
Once again, you can make a decision and re-roll everything if you decide to do something different.
Now that I’ve figured it out, you just gonna let the guy go altogether and bind the companion’s wounds?

Wow. Excellent work. The opposed str checks used as bonus/penalty to proficiency check is a good idea. We should value the proficiency most whenever possible.

It’s funny how dangerous it is to pull someone down from horse. I guess it’s reasonable.

So, I wounded the horseman (6 hp dam), and he galloped away. I was sticking with that. But it’s great that you have BtB rulings for common stuff now. All this stuff needs to be compiled into a giant doc, and you need to devote one day a week to getting it done. :)

Kidding. Like a lot. Don’t do that.

So next post will be Thesdiah binding wounds. I’ll try to get it done soon. Kids and all. Plus Sean came over at 7:00 and left at 12:30. No time last night. We did have good time though. Man, I can’t win that game. Hahaha.

Thesdiah curses the rider’s luck and runs back to the site of his original melee. He looks over the body of his first target for any identifying features or items of value. When doing so, he notices that the man is still alive. “Get here quick!” he commands of the farmers as he begins to bind wounds and stabilize the man.

Thesdiah’s plan is to snatch the dying man’s horse, transport the body to a safe area (farmer’s hidey hole?), speak with contact about Skar, and question rider when he comes to.

I can’t go into any details yet, as I can’t assume much about NPC actions.

Also “We must be quick to leave this place. Our foe might return with reinforcements.”

Ok, because of the bleeding, I’m going to break this down into rounds and ask you to be specific about the order in which you do things:

As you’re moving toward the fallen opponent, the young farmer’s son whose hands are tied asks you to untie him. (Doing so will take you 1d4+1 rounds, I’ll say, unless you have a knife or dagger or something, or Rope Use.) Going after the horse will also take a round.

Do you check the body distinctly before binding his wounds? Am I to understand that your intention is to take any valuables you may find before the farmer & sons can see?

Yep, Thesdiah will bind wounds after spending a round looting his body.

“I’ll free you in a minute. Hang tight.” to boy.
Or the medieval facsimile.

Ok, so you search the body, and find:

- 2 silver rings
- large belt pouch containing 3gp, 16sp, 8cp, flint & steel, whetstone
- studded leather armor
- horseman’s flail

While you’re doing this, the older boy comes out and begins working on freeing his brother, not particularly paying attention to what you’re doing. “We gotta get out of here, mister,” he says to you, as he urgently fumbles with the knot on his brother’s wrists. “We should stay off the road now. I don’t know who those men were, but they weren’t out to help us, so let’s get out of here.”

The horse walks down the road casually, stopping to nibble on grass by the side of the road. The horse also has a small saddle bag tucked up behind the saddle.

You bind the wounds. Soon afterward, the farmer comes out from the trees and shouts to you, “Hey, if you’re coming with us, we gotta hide this body and get outta sight, quick!”

You tell him your intention to nurse the unconscious man back to health and question him, and the farmer says, "To hell with that! What are you gonna ask him? This is Rodd Gelder’s boy. Probably hired by the baron to make good and sure I’m run clear out of town. Their people have always had a tooth against my people. He’d take that kind of blood money in a heartbeat, no doubt about it. Plus … " He pauses, scratches the back of his neck, and looks away. Then, looking at you again with a sidelong glance, “‘Course, I been desperate lately, if you know what I mean. I mean—well—you know how it is; since they took my farm, I’ve had to—me and my boys have had to—brigand a few folks along the way just to feed ourselves, you understand. Not that we wanted to! We just had to! And … well, that don’t do, for tryin’ to run a law-abidin’ town, is all. So it’s partly our fault. ‘Cept really it’s all the baron’s fault.”

Thesdiah grabs the pouch after stuffing the rings inside on the sly. “alright. Hide the body, I will get the horse. Then you can bring us somewhere safe to hide til nightfall. Somewhere this man’s comrades won’t find us. When it’s dark we leave for Gresund.”

Yeon grabs the man’s legs and each of his boys take a shoulder, and they lumber off into the woods as quickly as they can, holding their awkward burden. You grab the horse by its bridle and lead it into the woods behind them. About 50 yards into the woods, they set the man down in on the forest floor, stretch out their arms and backs, and then Yeon tells his sons to collect as many leaves, branches and pine needles as they can find, while he sets about dragging the body into a shady crook between trees and brambles that would best allow for basic camouflage. While he’s in the process of doing this, he turns to you and says, “Hey boss—er, this guy’s still alive. If we leave him here, he’ll probably die of thirst before he comes to. That is, if some animal doesn’t eat him first. But then again, he might wake up. What do you think? Should we risk it? Or should we just … you know … take care of him right here and now?”
[You make some decision about that, and then either way …]
After a few minutes, the two boys return with armloads of sticks, foliage, and pine needles, and proceed to cover up the body until it looks like a crude animal-built structure, like a beaver dam. Then the older son approaches you and says, “Excuse me, sir, but … do you think I could—I mean, don’t you think it would be safer if I carried that flail? I mean, we might get jumped out here by a bear, or who knows what.”
[You make some decision about that, and then either way …]
You walk through the woods for about two hours before you come to the edge of a large fallow field with a farm in the distance, just around the late afternoon, beginning of dusk. Yeon tells you, “This is the Dunhors farm. These are good people; I’ve known them since I were a wee lad. They helped my father when he first set up the shareholding, Helger Dunhors were a right friend o’ mine (till consumption took him, nigh on five year ago, Beih rest his soul), and Old Ma Dunhors been lettin’ us camp up here since we got run off our stead. Now I’ll go in and put up the horse. First thing I gotta do is re-brand him. This here’s a Black Jack horse, from over in Wighthold; anybody come askin’ questions about where you got him, better they don’t have positive proof he ain’t yours. See, I’m a horse rancher myself—and it would look right suspicious if I were goin’ around with a Wighthold horse, and bein’ that one just so happened recently to go missin’, and that there’s no reason I’d-a had one, and you’re comin’ from Helbsünd … well, it just don’t add up, you see. Anyway, it’ll take me about an hour to fire up the forge. Meanwhiles, the boys’ll take you in and y’all can get some supper and Ma Dunhors can bed you up and whatnot.”
He leads the horse across the field toward the barn, and the boys take you into the house, where you see about a dozen peasants ranging in age from about 5 to 45. A few children are playing on the dirt floor, a couple of teenagers are joking around with each other, and four adults—three men, one woman—are sitting at the long central table eating some kind of soup and bread. As the boys enter, nobody particularly reacts to them, until you walk into the room, at which point everyone stops what they’re doing and they turn to you. The oldest man sitting down and eating—a bald, red-faced peasant with rough, squared features and thick fingers—turns in your direction and says, in a stern, but equally cautious voice, “Can I help you, sir?”
Immediately, the oldest of Yeon’s boys answers, “This here’s a gladiator. I’m with Pa, he’s out in the barn. Some Gelder boys were after us, so we killed one and then the other got away, but then we came up here to hide out. We tried to rob this guy, but then he gave Pa some money, and then he saved us.”
The man who spoke previously looks you up and down, suspiciously. Then the older boy says, suddenly: “He’s gonna teach me how to be a gladiator,” and turns to you, with a kind of guilty look on his face.
Just then, a middle-aged woman in a jet black housecoat and black bandana on her head comes in from the kitchen carrying another loaf of bread,
and says, “Well come on in, stranger—you must be famished. You three sit down and have some supper, and we’ll all get acquainted.”
The bald man who’d spoken previously says to you, “A gladiator, huh? What cause you got to be foolin’ around with farmers way out Gresünd way?”
Then the oldest of Yeon’s boys repeats, “We tried to rob him—” but the bald man cuts him off sharply:
“I’m talking to our guest here, son. I’m sure he’s capable of accountin’ for himself.”

In response to first two questions:

“I think it’s best to leave him here in his current state. Destiny can take over.”

Nods to boy, indicating that he may carry horseman’s weapon.

(main post to come, but prob not today)

“He’s got it right. They tried to rob me.”

Thesdiah pauses then continues, “I’m looking for someone that may have passed through this area. He would probably head for Gresund proper after making his way through here. He’s … Well … Not like you at all, and I’m sure you wouldn’t forget seeing him.”

The peasants all continue to look at you, unfazed. The bald man says, “I don’t know exactly who you’re talking about, in those terms …”
A thin, slightly younger-looking middle-aged man with a long nose and close-set eyes sitting across the table from him says, “Maybe he’s talking about Lord Crewe.”
The bald man’s eyebrows raise at this suggestion, and he says, “Yes, you look like just the type he’d be looking for. Lord Crewe came through here not more than five or six days ago looking for sturdy young men to train for the tournament with. He’s one of your noble farmers—owns about fifty acres in these parts—used to be pretty active in Baron Kahl’s service. Now he’s got it in his head to join the tournament in Vighdekort this summer. He’s pretty unusual. That’s probably your man.” He dips his bread in his soup and everyone carries on eating for a minute. Then he says, almost as an afterthought, “And then there’s those slavers who came to town the other day. Strangest thing. They had this wolfman—”
“It waren’t no wolfman,” says the third man at the table, a white-bearded but spry-looking peasant in a dirty red cap. “He were more like a hyena. One o’ them watchacallits.”
“A gnoll,” says the bald man.
“That’s it.”
“But this here waren’t no gnoll neither. More like a, some kind a hyena-wolfman-bugbear-hobgoblin—anyway, but he waren’t like just some savage raider like you normally see. They had him up in chains there, but he stood up like a soldier, like, almost like he were above it all.”
“Where and when was that?” you ask.
“Oh, the day before yesterday?” he asks the other men at the table.
“Yeah,” says the man with the white beard and red cap. “When we went for grainsacks. They were leadin’ him in just as I was talking to old Mudfrey there.”
“Yes sir, the day before yesterday. Why? You lookin’ to buy a slave? You raisin’ some kind of army?”
“Sherrold—” scolds the woman in the black housecoat.
“You’re right, ‘t ain’t none o’ my business. Anyway, they sold him.”
“Baron Elvet bought him,” says the man in the red cap.
“Is that right? How much d’he fetch?”
“Hoo … ! About 1,000 gp I think it was. Bidding started way up around 400 gp, but then there’s the baron’s man come up, says some fool high price like that, way over the current bid, and shut her down just like that, boom, sold, next lot. And that was that. Man, imagine that? You get a tame beast like that to work around this farm—we’d be able to sell Einis, Eric, and Widdly into slavery …”
The teenagers standing around the edges of the room mock laugh in a sarcastic tone that suggests they were clearly the butt of the joke.
“Anyway,” says the bald man, “we been lettin’ Yeon and his boys stay up in the hay loft there since they got run out. You’re welcome to stay as well for a few days while you do your business. It ain’t much, but it’ll do. Just don’t attract too much attention, see, ‘cause they’re all tryin’ to lay low. They’re in a fix. Last thing we need is the shire reeve’s men out here pokin’ around, asking questions.”

“Thanks for the meal and the lodging. I would like to stick around for a few hours to catch my bearings. And while the slave creature and tournament sound interesting, I don’t think it’s my man.”

Thesdiah goes back to eating and trying to keep reasonably quiet.

If nothing significant happens before then, he would like to approach the red-capped man in secret and talk to him:

“Hey. That gnoll is the man I hope to find. I gotta keep my situation very private. He’s a friend, and I intend to set him free. Can you help me find him?”

After the adults are finished eating, the elder woman in the black housecoat clears away the dishes and the men leave the table, immediately to be replaced by the teenagers. You wait around and exchange pleasantries and listen to small talk about farming and weather for a while, looking for an opportunity to get the white-bearded man alone. Eventually, Yeon comes back inside while the teens are still eating and tells you that the horse is taken care of. When the bald man, who eventually introduces himself as Sherrold Dunhors, hears this, he asks you:

“What are your plans for that horse? Do you plan to keep him? If not, I’d give you 20gp for him. I’m a horse butcher. I don’t know what he’s worth alive, but for meat, glue, and hide, I’d gladly give you 20 gp, no questions asked, take it or leave it.”

[Either way:]

At some point the man with the white beard and red cap goes outside to get some firewood, and you casually slip out to talk to him.

“Finding him will be the least of your problems,” he says. “The baron’s the one what bought him, so naturally he’ll have him up in the castle. Unless he plans to use him out in the field somewheres. But I doubt that would be for a while; he looked pretty beat up the other day.”

Having been to Gresünd before, you know that Gresünd Castle is in the center of town, a lightly-fortified structure designed as a peacetime residence for the baron of the fiefdom, easily accessible to the townspeople during the day, with areas where you’ve even seen jewelers and fine clothiers selling their wares from temporary booths within the castle itself.

“If you plan to free him, you must be pretty rich. Like I said, the baron’s man paid about 1,000 gp for him.”

“I need the horse, but I also need money. I’ll sell him to you for 30 gp, but I can’t go lower. That’s more than fair.”
“Thanks for the information. Here’s a couple coins for your trouble and hospitality [gives him 2 gp]. It looks like living under the Baron’s rule will require some extra resources and ingenuity. I’m heading out in a few minutes; time is short.”
Let me know about horse. Will affect things. And I plan on leaving the area, heading for Gresund in 10 minutes after saying a few impersonal goodbyes. Too bad the tridents pretty much act as a neon sign for my guy …

To the first question, Sherrold answers:
“More than fair for someone else, without a doubt. Twenty miles west of here, you probably could find somebody willing to give you 30 gp for that horse, if he’s in anywhere near decent condition—”

Here Yeon interjects, “And he is, too. Good teeth, young adult, close to 16 hands I’d say, taken to the bit, and decent composure from what I seen in the couple hours we had him.”

“… But around here,” Sherrold continues, “we got enough good horses around, that one what has been re-branded after one o’ Gelder’s boys goes missin’, juuuust ain’t quite worth the full price, for the risk and all.” He rubs his bald head with both hands somewhat anxiously for a few seconds, then turns to the woman in the black housecoat. “Ma? Whaddaya think?”

“Well we’re sort of shorthanded at the moment for the butcherin’, what with Cecil gone and all. You gotta tan those hides all day tomorrow and Haffel Olderhorn’s a-comin’ to help you with the fence at some point in the day, too, isn’t he?”

Sherrold says, “Yeah, you’re right, my wife. That means I’d have to keep that horse on my hands for a couple o’ days, not even knowin’ how ye came by him … enh … I don’t like it. I’ll offer you 22 gp, but I’m afraid I can’t do anything more for you in that way. I’d like to help, but solid coin for risky ventures just ain’t my business, my good man. I can offer you a good pair of leather gloves I got in trade recently though. I don’t have much use for ’em, but you might.”

When you give the red-capped man the 2 gp, his eyes go wide and he says, “Oh, thank you, thank you. It’s really too kind of you, sir. Be careful on your way to Gresünd. I’d stay off the road if I was you, until they stop looking for Yeon and his boys. If you was anyway involved, well, I’m afraid you stick out like a black flag the way yer got up, and with those tridents you’re carryin’. I’ll point you out the way to Gresünd—it ain’t far from here. But at nighttime like this, it ain’t really safe. You got wolves, bears, tree devils, hobgoblins, sea hags, brown bunglers, willow hags, jackals, coyotes, boars, bandit spiders, tree spiders, centipedes, wood ogres, tantalizers, and that’s not to mention yer everyday brigands. Better off traveling by daylight. Plus—” and he points to a gash on your left thigh, still moist and bloody from the spear hit you took only a few hours earlier, “you look like you could use a night’s rest. But then again, who am I to tell another man his business. At the very least, let me get you some fresh bandages.”

Hahahahahahahahahaha. Brown bunglers! Willow Hags! Laughed out loud.

And yay, Charisma score!

YOU laughed out loud, or Thesdiah?

That was me. Thesdiah only laughs at racist jokes and knock knock jokes.

“Hmmm. I guess that’s a fair price. I’ll take 22 and the gloves.”

[will add 20 gp to sheet momentarily]

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I will spend the night and leave early in the morning taking care to avoid the road. It’s good advice. You wanna tell me what path to follow now?”

Sherrold goes back into another room in the farmhouse and in a moment comes back with a small sack of gold, out of which he slowly counts 15 gp and 35 sp, which is most of the bag. He hands you a nearly new pair of chestnut brown deerskin leather gloves, which you try on. The fit is very comfortable.

You sleep comfortably in the hay loft at night, after you finally get the oldest boy, Slev, to stop asking you questions about being a gladiator. The night passes without incident. [Gain 1 hp.]

In the morning the white-bearded man tells you, “Go all the way to the end of this field here until the corn stops, then go straight left into the woods. You’ll see a caved-in well. Just keep going straight for about two hours. After the first 30 minutes, you’ll come to a brook—just step over it—then soon after that, there’s a large clearing with a pond. To keep going straight, you’ll want to follow the pond around the right edge, all the way, all the way, until there’s a rise in the land, and at that point you’ll see the woods on the other side have a small logging trail heading back into them. That trail will take you straight to the outskirts of Gresünd, at the edge of a boatyard. Hunters and wood foragers come and go into and out of that trail all the time, so nobody’ll probably bother you. If anyone asks, just tell them you were hunting or something, or come back with a big old bundle of kindling wood—nobody’ll think twice. Good luck!”

“Thanks. One more thing – these weapons are more trouble than they are worth right now. Could you scrounge up a strong sack that I could use to carry them in a concealed fashion? And keep the silver. Those directions are a lifesaver.”
Added hp and 15 gp. Shylock came up way short, but I figured I wouldn’t impale him for it. Today it was a good day.
Going to follow his directions immediately after stowing my tridents (or not, if this guy fails). Is there a dungeon in the collapsed well? You can just tell me.

The bearded man goes into one of two work sheds and then comes back in a few minutes with a large can as tarp. “This is gonna be real bulky,” he says, “but it’s the only thing I got that will cover somethin’ that long. If you catch a deer or something you could try to rig up a litter to carry it with, and nobody’d probably notice, but then you’d have to spend all week hunting up a deer, most likely. Then you’d have to drag it all the way by yourself. I’m afraid this here tarp’s the best I can do. If you was thinkin’ of carryin’ a weapon in secret, I don’t know why you go around like that with them tridents, pretty much telling the whole world you’re a gladiator or some such. I probably got a sickle I can give ya.”

[You have no trouble following the directions the white-bearded man gives you, even after you clear out The Lair of the Frost-Litch Sarkarath hidden beneath the otherwise totally mundane-appearing literal hole in the ground that looked for all the world (except for you, because I rolled a 1 on a d6) like a collapsed well. You find, in total: 3,458 gp, 12,350 sp, four small rubies, a platinum chalice with the word “Everquaff” etched into it, a suit of half-chain/half-studded leather armor which faintly glows in the moonlight (you can just tell, even though it’s 7:00 in the morning), and a pair of exceptional quality tridents, one with a sapphire point on its center tine, and an inscription which reads “By the coldness of death,” and one with an emerald tip on its center tine and an inscription which reads “By the fertility of life.” You can’t tell what kind of magic they might contain, per se, but you can definitely tell it’s the kind of thing that draws more power synergistically, by being used together. Unfortunately, as you walk through a curtain at the end of the last room, you go through a dimension door that drops you into a forest in the Gresünd region again, where you can’t find your loot among the pineneedles on the forest floor (0% chance to look for them, because again, it’s dark—you don’t know your way around this forest, you’ve never been here before). So you make your way to the boatyard carrying your really awkward bundle of two 5-foot tridents wrapped in a canvas tarp.]

As you emerge from the woods, you see the shore about 200 yds in the distance down a light incline of pebbly sand. The boatyard is full of small craft such as canoes, rowboats, and 4-person sailing vessels, many of which are turned over and clearly being worked on, as they are in some stage of disrepair or unfinished maintenance. You see one man in his 30’s wearing knee-high leather boots and no shirt on spreading tar over the keel of a longboat with a large brush, no doubt noticing you but appearing to ignore you as he carries on with his work. About 500 yds away, you see the sea-side of Gresünd, which is not directly on the coast itself, surrounded by a simply palisade of sharpened logs, with its sea gate wide open, and half a dozen peasants walking to and fro either carrying yokes with buckets full of fish or leading donkeys charged with sacks and bundles from the shipyard on the other side of the slope down to the coast, which winds around out of your immediate sight. In between the boatyard and Gresünd is a flour mill [like you see in the first Conan movie], where a group of peasants is busy churning the wheel while others carry large sacks of grain and flour back and forth from a nearby shed.

To churners: “good day. I’ve been on the road for some time, and I’m looking for a place to stay. Any ideas? Name is Dax.”

Without stopping their work, one of the churners answers in a grunting voice, as if pushing out a really long shit, “Two inns in town,” and carries on churning.

Thesdiah stands still, “subtly” insisting on further interaction by doing the manipulative and awkward move that I would have no problem doing in real life cuz I’m a bastard, and says, “Thanks, pal. Which one is better?”

By the way, can I assume that the tridents are normally carried on my back, holstered in an “X” shape? A bit “dude”, and now I’m trying to conceal them, but just for future situations.

The tridents are wrapped in a single bundle, with the heads facing the opposite directions, like you might wrap two really long shovels in a sheet. You have to carry the bundle in your arms, or one arm at a time, switching back and forth pretty frequently, and in any case quite awkwardly. If you want to rewrap them (before, in the woods, obviously) you’d have to have some strong shears or something to cut the canvas with. Even then, I can’t see how you’d arrange to tie them in an X, let alone carry them on your back. This whole situation is really uncomfortable and unusual, and carrying them on your back all wrapped up like that, were it possible, would most likely only draw more attention to you than carrying two tridents out in the open. Note that normally, while remarkable, someone carrying two tridents might attract a passing glance, but not much more. I’m assuming that your concern at the moment is with the fact that someone might be specifically looking for “someone carrying two tridents.” The long, flat bundle is the least conspicuous arrangement I can think of, as it could conceivably pass for a bundle of tools, broom handles, a sail, a big bolt of cloth, or anything like that. Going up and down the few streets of a town for hours with it, though, would risk generating even more suspicion, as nobody would do that with the above mentioned items.
The flour churner answers you, briefly, with a simple, “Don’t much know. Never stayed in one myself.”

Thesdiah clumsily lugs his tridents up into Gresund and looks around for what might be an inn.

You walk through the sea gate into Gresünd among the peasants hauling their wares, sailors and soldiers strolling more casually through the streets, and children weaving around people, mules, and donkeys laden with parcels. You hear animated cries of fishwives advertising the morning’s catch—“Ehgetcherfreshbasshere! Wegottanicefreshtrout, comeandgetttit! Onecopperapound!”—mixed in with the repetitve droning of the dairymaids—“Buttabuttabuttacreameggsmilk, finest in Gresünd, buttabuttabuttacreameggsmilk, finest in Gresünd”—and as you pass the marketplace into the center of town, you hear a flute and drum from a two-man band playing to the crowd, occasionally tipping their hats as rich passersby drop a coin in their basket.
The center of town is dominated by the castle [see below], with a marketplace for temporary stalls in the west of the center ring, several permanent shops under arcades, and two inns—one large [in the southwest of the center] and one small [in the north of the center]. [I’ve circled the two inns in red.]

WHY ISN’T IT IN FULL COLOR!!!! FUUUUUCKKKKKK!!!!!!
Nah, it looks amazing.
Thesdiah trots on over to the northern (smaller) inn. He’s looking to just get a damn room ASAP before drawing anymore attention to his arrival.

Ha ha, you laugh, but I actually did try to make a full-color version; it just didn’t come out very good, so I threw it away. I’d even bought absurdly expensive artist-quality markers for that very purpose. But they may show up again in the future (like when I draw your guy’s corpse with all the crossbow bolts sticking out of it).
As soon as you enter the small inn, you see that the main room is about three-quarters full of patrons drinking and eating, maybe a dozen or fifteen people in all, all of whom are dressed in good quality cloth, velvet, or silk garments—as befits middle- to upper-class citizens—or else they are wearing some type of leather armor. Before you even get a full sweep of the room, however, a boy of about fifteen wearing an olive-colored frock coat trots up to you and asks if you’ll be needing a room, and if so, if you would kindly enter through the back entrance with your bundles. You naturally follow him around back, where you see a small stable with half a dozen horses and a heavy wooden door leading up to the back staircase. He offers to carry your bundle, and [in any case] shows you to a room on the second floor, where there’s a sack cloth pallet in a light wooden frame, a small table and chair, and a chest for your personal belongings with a big iron key sticking out of the lock.
“That’ll be 5 sp for the night sir,” he says, as you set your bundle down. “And meals are served in the tavern midday and night.”

I’m going to assume that I have 2gp in sp. But in future that won’t be the case.
“Hey, kid, I need to buy a sword. Who’s the guy to see?”
Thesdiah hands him 6sp.

He keeps his hand stretched out for a couple of seconds after you put the coins in his palm, his eyes wide open. He appears speechless for a moment, as your question hangs in the air unanswered. Then, coming to himself as he closes his fist around the money, he says, “Thank you sir, thank you thank you. Um well there’s Jenzin the blacksmith down at the castle, Jenzin Twotaker, he makes all kinds of horseshoes and armor and … nails and stuff, and swords and arrowheads. Um. And there’s also Vorrit Kelb, down under the arches. He’s got cheaper prices, mostly does work on demand. So it depends if you have the time to wait. That’s where common folk go. I can see you’re a rich man, though, so I’m not sure what suits you, sir.” He curtsies briefly. “Anything else I can help you with, sir?”

“All good for now, but I will call on you soon, I’m sure. Your name?”

Blacksmiths name is a riot.

“Nivel, sir,” says the boy. “My name’s Nivel. By your leave, sir,” he says, curtsies again, and backs out of your room, then heads down the stairs and out the back door.

Thesdiah tries to tuck trident bundle under bed setup. And then he heads for Jenzin’s shop to buy a long sword. Can’t exactly run around with those tridents for a bit.

You have no problem fully concealing the bundle (were anyone to walk into your room and not specifically search, though if they did, they would certainly find them immediately).

You head to Gresünd Castle, which during the day is wide open with much foot traffic and contains an large area in the center with a series of arcades, where some merchants bring and sell their finished goods, and where on this particular day at least, you see a few cloth merchants, a ropemaker, and a substantial stand with leather goods (bags, saddles, straps, whips, and leather armor). On the outside of the castle’s main structure, Jenzin Twotaker has a full-sized forge in a large openly visible chamber that opens onto a covered lean-to (see map if you care). Under this lean-to is a series of tables upon which are placed good-quality horseshoes, nails, farm implements, and a variety of smaller weapons and helmets.

A middle-aged woman in a brown tabard with thick, light grey braids sits on a stool amidst the display of finished goods discussing the quality of a large bell that a richly-dressed patron is rolling over and over in his hands. In the shop itself, you hear the noises of a grindstone at which a large, broad-shouldered man in a leather apron is seated and peddling away as he sharpens a set of butcher knives and cleavers. Hanging on the walls of this inside part of the shop, you see several larger weapons, including about 8 or 12 swords with various ornamentation, and in what appear to be various degrees of materials, from the simplest iron to fine steel with gold filigrees integrated into the handle.
“Hello, my lady,” you say to the woman, “I’m in the market for a long sword. I hear you’re the best in town.”
“Oh, a sword—then you’ll want to talk to Jenzin,” she says, not registering the compliment, and then turns around and yells, “Jenzin! Man about a sword!”
Jenzin stops his grinding, stands up, wipes the iron filings from his fingers onto the place on his apron that covers his thighs, and walks over to you. His lumbering but not ungraceful gait is that of a man who has obviously worked with heavy things his whole life, and stood stooped over an anvil, skillfully directing a hammer in a repetitive motion, day after day.
“Just look at page sixty-nine in the Player’s Handbook and buy one,” he doesn’t say, because that would be too boring. “What can I do for you, sir?” he says instead, in a respectful tone, as he rests his sausage-thick fingers on his hips and leans backward ever-so-slightly to try to work out a kink in his spine without appearing too impolite.
Then you buy a sword for 3d4+3 x 10% of the book price, cruise around town until you pick up 3 or 4 adventure hooks, and then go to the dungeon.

“I’m passing through town and I thought I might need a (long)sword on account of that gnoll-beast being sighted not far from here.”

“Oh, that? No need to be worried, my friend! We’ve got him locked up here in the dungeon below the castle! But I’ll be glad to sell you a nice sword just the same. Plenty of other things to be worried about out there.”

“I find that hard to believe. From what I heard he was a real fighter. Took out some patrolmen or something. What’s gonna happen to him?”

“Don’t know about that. By the looks of him, sounds likely. They had him up on the slave auction a few days ago, though, and he was just standing there. Baron Elvet bought him up, like he’s been doing lately, and put him in his collection. He’s got quite a few big, strong men down there. Bountyhunters, slavers, and all kinds of men have been bringing them in since the Spring started—maybe the end of Winter?—”

“The end of Winter,” the woman confirms, nodding.

“And the baron’s been buying up the choicest ones,” Jenzin continues. “Don’t know what he plans to do with them. For now, he just puts them down in the dungeon. Probably just going to let them rot for a while, until they’ll be willing to cooperate. Don’t know what for. Maybe he’s planning some kind of military operation. What with the peasants all out of order these days, probably not as easy to levy troops.”
“Maybe he’s gonna go down on the peasants,” says the woman.
Jenzin gives her some kind of knowing look, and she turns her head away. “Anyway, what else can I do for you, my good man?”

“Interesting. Ah, anyway, I’m hoping you’ll give me a good price on your best long sword.”

“My best, eh? Well. That depends what you’re looking for. I have good, strong steel for soldiers in a melee, a few finer weapons with quillions, for the dualist, and a number of pieces that are more ornamental, though they’ll slice and parry just as well if needed. My prices range—for the top-quality, that is—anywhere from 40gp to 100gp, depending on what you’re in the market for. Of course, if there’s something in particular you’d like made, I could discuss a price with you. Otherwise, I have perfectly serviceable swords in the 10gp-20gp range as well. I wouldn’t sell you anything less than that, unless it was to hang on the wall—apprentice pieces and whatnot.”

“Woah. You have some spectacular blades. Yeah, I guess I shot my mouth off a bit there. I’m happy to drop 20 gold on a reliable blade.”

“Very well, sir.” Jenzin goes to the back of his shop, examines a table containing an assortment of swords, and selects a shiny steel long sword with a bronze hilt and square-shaped bronze pommel. “I’ll just sharpen this for you, sir,” he says, and then sits down at his grindstone for a couple of minutes. “It’s not a good idea to leave sharp weapons laying around the shop, of course,” he shouts to you over the noise as he sharpens the sword. “A lesson I learned the hard way. Ah—there we go, as whetted as a baby’s bed linens.” He wipes off the filings with a rag and hands you the sword, point down. “Twenty gold pieces. You look like a man who knows how to use it without hurting himself. Lot of work for someone like that around here. From where did you say you hail? I don’t recall seeing you around Gresünd before.”

“Name’s Dax, and it would be easier to tell you where I haven’t been. I’ll take it. The sword, that is. Now, about that work … "

Yeah, he’s kind of a dude. Oh well.

“Oh, well, if you’re looking for work, there are always caravans looking for help. They’re so short on help at any given time, that they take big risks by going out underprotected. That’s why I’m so glad to be out of that game now, working just at the castle. Vorrit Kelb takes too many risks, if you ask me—but not like the man has a choice, really. So you could ask around in the marketplace or in the castle, and I’m sure you’d have no trouble signing on with a caravan. They do short trips, long trips—they’ll contract you for whatever you want. They need all the help they can get.
Individual traveling parties sometimes hire guards, too. There’s no centralized system for that, but travelers generally congregate around the Ratskellar, or in the tavern of Ulverbelly’s Inn, so whenever I meet a strong guy who’s looking for work, I send them over there. Brother Morritch occasionally goes there when he needs company for traveling, even—though you’d hardly see him step foot in a tavern otherwise.

Apart from that, the baron’s been hiring extra men-at-arms to take care of the peasant farmers lately. They’ve been getting out of hand, resisting seizure, taking to banditry, stealing. Ever since he raised the taxes on them, some of them have been put out of their land, and now we’re feeling the brunt of it here in town and on the roads.

Or if you’re looking for something more permanent, you could always ask the steward whether the baron needs any guards here in town. A bit boring, if you ask me, but relatively safe."

Ah ha! “The Deal!”

Only 90 messages later, too!

Don’t kill me, but …

“Thanks for the 411 (cuz they say that). You know, ‘town guard’ seems like something I could sink my sword into. Can you introduce me to the steward?”

Oh, no, there’s no off-limits stuff; least of all shit that I actually mention.
Jenzin says, “Well, what you’ll want to do is talk to Helhar, the captain of—”
And then, right at that moment, you hear the regular stomping of heavy boots nearby, and Jenzin, his wife, and the other patron all turn to look as a Gresünd guard in chainmail comes around the corner, followed by a tall and very muscular shirtless man with a big, totally disheveled and blood-matted red beard and crazy locks of red hair being led in leg and wrist irons, looped through by a chain that trails under his feet and drags on the ground, behind which two more Gresünd guards in chainmail, the second of which is carrying a halberd, take up the chain’s slack. They pass by at a fairly swift pace, but slowly enough that you can see the prisoner’s body is marked by many large and deep scars and quite a few less serious cuts and bruises that are much more recent. The simple loincloth that covers his waist to just above the knees is filthy and of rough weave, suggesting a primitive manufacture from animal hides. And just as soon as they pass, they turn the corner out of sight. You turn the corner as well to get a look at them, and watch as they lead the prisoner past another guard at his post, and down a set of stairs set into the northwest tower of the castle.
“What was that?” you ask Jenzin.
“Another prisoner,” he answers. “No idea. Anyway, if you want to inquire about a job as a watchman, you’ll want to speak to Helhar, the captain of the guard. He’s easy to find; you just walk into the castle and ask anybody. He’ll put you in touch with Gelisotte, the steward. I don’t know how to contact him otherwise, except that you might see him in the Ratskellar on occasion. If you don’t mind, I’ll be getting back to work. Good day to you, now.”

“Thanks, I’ll be back to get this thing sharpened if I do find work.”

Thesdiah heads over to the Ratskellar to look for the steward. Needs a job so he doesn’t look out of place while he scopes out the sitchee aishun.

You head over across the square to the Ratskellar, in the basement of the large brick building which houses both the council chambers of the various guilds and the larger inn (see map).
The Ratskellar is a significantly bigger drinking establishment than the tavern of Ulverbelly’s Inn, and is full of patrons (about 25 people), most of whom are well-washed, ornamented with flowers, scented pouches, jewelry, and wearing good to very fine garments. Nobody is wearing armor, though many men carry knives, daggers, or the occasional sword (as nobles frequently do, even if they’re not proficient with them). Even the serving wench is dressed in clean, good-quality worsted wool, and wears silver earrings with amber stones in them, and speaks to the customers with a gay tone in her voice and moves about the Ratskellar with a light step, serving tankards of beer, mead, and ale, and overflowing plates of sausages, cabbage, hominy, boar, and loaves of bread.
The proprietor moves about behind the bar, handling used tankards and refilling clean ones from one of four large kegs set into the back wall. He’s a man in his late fifties, balding, with a significant limp that you recognize as the hallmark of the club-footed.

Thesdiah approaches the bar and says, “Good day, proprietor. Fetch me a cold flagon of ale, if you please,” which the man immediately sets about doing without saying a word. “And uh, any chance Gelisotte has been by lately?”
The proprietor nods his head and points a knuckle toward a table in the room, and you turn to see where two men are seated and engaged in animated, amiable conversation. One is a tall, thin man with a blond mustache and goatee in a full-length brown velvet robe with mustard yellow silk trim, with a number of jeweled rings on his fingers, and the other is a short muscular man [N.B. “man” assumes human, unless I say otherwise—you haven’t encountered any demihumans since you left Helbsünd] with a large pot belly, very balding, in a purple satin embroidered shirt. The fat man is eating a plate of boar steaks and cabbage, and talking with his mouth full, while the tall, thin man gesticulates with his hands over his own stein.

Thesdiah gets the attention of the serving wench and asks her to get both men “another one” and let them know that he is looking for guard work but didn’t want to interrupt. “Jenzin sent me”. 1sp tip.

She says, “Why sure—you look the type.” But she refuses your tip. You wait at the bar with your flagon of ale for about five minutes, and eventually she makes her way over to the two men, who by now are laughing and clearly in good humor. She addresses herself to the tall, thin man with the blond mustache and goatee in the brown velvet robe with mustar-yellow silk trim and several rings on his fingers. You see him nod, say something to her, and she makes her way over to you. “Wait until his companion leaves,” she says.

So you wait for another fifteen minutes, during which time the wench brings both men another round (which they drink, but otherwise don’t seem to notice) and then eventually the fat man gets up and bids farewell. You walk over to the table.

“Good day. Name’s Dax. Could I have a minute of your time?”

[assuming he says some sort of ‘yeah’ …]

“I’m new to the area – spent most of my time out west – and the blacksmith here said you might employ me for guard work. I’m okay with a sword.”

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