Hayden goes to see a man about a something. (He is no longer here. He pulls a batman).
Zephyr jitters while Sheila and Strelok decide not to upgrade the bracelet to include Aeric. Sheila asks Zephyr when she last slept. Zephyr says she would have to check her notes. Sheila attunes Strelok to one of the charms on the bracelet… the charm now takes on the appearance of Strelok’s face. Strelok then leaves to find pickpockets, and tells Sheila not to let Polena follow.
Strelok returns to the warehouse he found the previous night. The window that he broke the night before has been covered with cloth as a temporary fix and stapled into place. He listens for sounds from within, but hears nothing. He dives into the cloth and through the window frame. Luckily, the warehouse is empty. He attempts to put the cloth back, but some staples are rather mangled. Oh well. The loot is not really sorted… the shiniest things go in one pile, regardless of actual worth. There is a chest that seems to be the dumping container for purses, as it containers both currency and pocket lint-type material. Under one pile of stuff, Strelok discovers a trap door. Moving the pile, he opens to door to find a dark tunnel. He uses a light cantrip and reveals that the bottom is ~8ft down. A ladder is built into the wall below the door. Strelok follows the tunnel until it intersects with other tunnels. He guesses that this is the way the pickpockets get around the city unnoticed. He returns to the warehouse and goes through what appears to be their “crap pile”, which contains 2 finely crafted yet simple long swords, a composite long bow, and a fine, sharply fashioned glaive-style polearm. He also finds a set of 6 iron-like rods ~1 ft long each. Strelok is able to determine that they are magical, and he takes them as well. Then he goes to the shiny pile and finds the single most valuable item: a platinum necklace encrusted in fine jewels, set with a diamond the size of his eyeball. Woohoo! He bundles up his loot and sticks it between some boxes near the window. He returns to the money chest and scatters coins in two paths, one leading to the front door, and another to the trap door (which is left open, with coin scattered to the bottom). He then hides atop a tall stack of crates and waits.
Meanwhile, Sheila goes to train, and Zephyr takes a “power nap” before heading back to the mysterious shop.
After ~2.5 hours, Strelok hears voices approaching. They sound muffled and distant, unlike the voices he has occasionally heard passing outside the warehouse; the voices are coming from beneath the trap door. A male and female voice are arguing. Eventually Strelok makes out that the female is angry at the male for not getting a fair share, or something. They burst carelessly through the trap door. Female: half-elf, a little older than Polena, a little younger than Strelok. Male: half something-or-other, ~25. Both have daggers at their waists, girl also has a long sword. They don’t notice the scattered coin. They continue arguing about the male cutting the female out of a deal/heist/whatnot. The male looks vaguely familiar, perhaps from a poster, although not one that Strelok is currently carrying. He is carrying a wanted poster for the girl, however. They empty loot from their pockets and head back towards the tunnel. The girl notices the coin on the ground and absently kicks it towards the coin chest(s). Strelok moves down the pile and reaches the ground, when suddenly the two thieves turn. Strelok hides behind the pile, but they approach his position. Strelok draws his sword, and confidentally walks out towards them. He tosses the girl’s wanted poster at their feet. He gives them options: resist, I’ll beat you up, take you in; or come willingly. Female’s body language becomes flirtatious, and she suggests a third option: I have more money than they are offering, we can deal. Strelok points out that he can turn her in AND take what she has… She approaches, but Strelok takes out a pistol and fires at her feet. She becomes pouty, turns to her companion and whines. Companion his draws dagger and rushes Strelok. They fight while the girl runs to the trap door. Guy gets skewered to floor by sword through the calf. He pleads for his life and gives info freely: the tunnels run throughout the city, he is not sure how many thieves in group… Olivia (girl who got away) and a big orc-ish guy, also little guy he only met once (“maybe human? younger than you…”). He pleads for his life some more. Strelok knocks him out and bandages the guy’s leg.
Meanwhile, Zephyr wakes up. Pallas complains that he is starving. Zephyr feeds him and heads out, planning to return to the mysterious shop. She has trouble finding it at first, but after an hour reaches the place where she could have sworn the shop was… the neighboring shops (molded leather armor, parasols) are right there… but there is an alley where the brick and mortar store had been. She goes down the alley. No magic detected, but on one wall there is a series of scrawled pictures that looks like writing; likely a message. It is in an unfamiliar language. It has elements of elvish, maybe draconic. Zephyr transcribes it for further study. Beneath the writing is a series of dots and an X; perhaps a map? Looking around the alley, she notices a number of barrels in random places, and sees that they correspond to the dots. She approaches the barrel marked by an X on the wall, and opens it. It explodes. Oops. Inside is a necklace… a fireball necklace type IV, which she had been hoping to buy when she returned to the shop. There is also a small piece of paper with a message written in the same loping, unfamiliar scrawl as the message on the wall. It is short; only a few words. Zephyr races off to the library.
Meanwhile, Sheila has a successful afternoon of training. She meets a talented paladin who is somewhat full of himself. They duel, and he turns out to be less charming from the ground. Macho-ness fizzles after repeated trouncing. Sheila gives an inspiring speech about humility.
Strelok follows the tracks of female thief through the tunnels. As he tracks, he gets quite twisted around. She shouldn’t be this fast— he should have caught up to her. He tries to figure out where he is beneath the city, and thinks he is beneath the merchant’s district. There seems to be no pattern to the girl’s “scamperings”; she has gone in loops, doubled back at times, and generally seems to be trying to lose him. Keeping at it, eventually Strelok hears footsteps up ahead. He races to catch up to her, and finally catches sight of her at a crossroads. She squeals and runs down a pathway. He tackles her. She turns out the sexual charm again. Strelok is somewhat annoyed by this, partially because he is tempted. He successfully manages to “keep it in his pants”. He hauls her up and off towards the warehouse. Unfortunately, as the girl predicts, Strelok is lost. And naturally, she is no help. He tries to reason with her, she tries getting teary. Strelok proposes a deal: info for freedom… in addition to the way out, he wants to know how many members are in group, their names, and where they hang out. She can even take a small portion of money from the warehouse. She acts insulted by the “small portion”, but he tells her that he’ll eventually find his way out without her help, and will be much less willing to be lenient at that time. The girl agrees, except that she won’t give up everyone in the group… just the ones she isn’t fond of. As long as those people include the leaders, Strelok says this is acceptable. She lists nine names and gives very basic descriptions. Three are matches to posters Strelok is currently carrying. The male back in the warehouse is Todd. Everyone drops stuff off at the warehouse; the only other place they hang out is a club. She is at first reluctant to say what club, concerned that he will “ruin it”, but Strelok advises that she be long gone by then anyway. The club is called the Black Scorpion, and is in the trade sector.
She leads him back to the warehouse. Strelok unties her, allows her to take some money, and suggests she leave town. She sticks out her tongue and leaves. It is around 5pm.
Meanwhile: Hayden had vanished off to his room at the inn, where inner turmoil/agonizing/character development took place. After about an hour, he emerges (Zephyr napping, Strelok tracking, Sheila training). He gets some coffee and goes looking for a fencing school. He finds an artistic, hoity-toity fencing academy. Their “drop in” hour is 5-6. In the meantime, Hayden walks around the city and just watches people. Although no one is paying attention to him, he is not tempted to steal anything. He is seeing things with a new perspective; seeing people as opposed to a vehicle for something he wants (such as their purse).
Night falls; it is dinner time. Sheila returns to the inn, where Polena is on her third leg of lamb. She only got up a few hours ago. She is eager to meet the mercenary, and solemnly asks if he is very handsome. Sheila says he “is rugged around the edges, but… sure”. Polena squees. She asks if Zephyr left. She digs in her pocket and brings out Pallas, who she says she found in her hair. “He’s kinda pokey… I guess I’ll just hang onto him for awhile…” Polena asks if they can go sight-seeing the next day, since Sheila has declared it a “free day”. She excitedly tells Sheila about the things she saw while out with Strelok.
Strelok heads to the Black Scorpion, taking his bundle of loot and the unconscious pickpocket (Todd). He stops by a weapons shop and asks for a weapon that won’t do much permanent damage; he leaves the loot for selling, takes only a wooden sword, and says he’ll return the next day for the rest of the money.
Hayden goes back to the academy. He has never actually had formal training; he knows dirty tricks and what looks good. He has decided he’d like to learn properly. After the drop-in lesson, he has gained a better understanding of footing, and has learned how to properly hold his sword.
Strelok reaches the Black Scorpion after about an hour. Todd wakes up on the way, and Strelok makes him walk (under threat of being hit again or shot; Todd gives him no trouble). At the Scorpion, Strelok pushes Todd in front of him and tells him to lie down on the ground. He looks confused, so Strelok smacks his leg with the flat of his blade; Todd squeals and falls onto the floor. Strelok calls out the names Olivia gave him. He offers two options: come peacefully, or “join your friend on the ground and I’ll drag you in”. Silence falls. The bartender raises an eyebrow. “What are you doing here, son?” Strelok tells him he is collecting bounties. “I don’t think you’re going to find what you’re looking for here.” Strelok looks around, sees a few people who MIGHT fit the description… he pokes Todd, and asks if his friends hang out here.
Strelok: Well, where are they?
Todd: They, uh…. they only come on thursdays.
Strelok: Do you want me to add another hole to your leg?
Todd: Aw, come on, man, can’t you just let me go?!
Strelok: Make it worth my while.
Strelok: No, your friends.
Todd: I don’t have any frieeeeeeends waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah no one likes me (etc.)
Strelok sighs and sits down on the floor with Todd. He remarks that it has been a long, unfulfilling day, and he is hungry. “Me too,” adds Todd. Strelok takes him to the bar and orders food for them both. He unties Todd with a warning: “if you stab me, I’ll stab you worse.” Todd says that sounds good, and scarfs down food as Strelok considers his options. He tells Todd to get out of here. “Really?” Yes, Strelok says; you are so pathetic… yeah. Just go. He suggests Todd take up farm work. “Like, with cows and stuff?” “…Yeah. Like cows and stuff.”
Sheila and Hayden meet up as each returns to the inn. Sheila asks Hayden what he’s been up to; he says “learning things”. She inquires about what he’s been learning. “Apparently these [rapiers] are a lot more useful than I first thought them to be. So how was your churching and preaching and stuff going?” Sheila presses him on what he learned, so they go outside and Hayden demonstrates. Strelok returns to find them apparently locked in combat. “What is it about today….?” Strelok talks about free money in a vague and confusing manner, but Hayden is immediately curious. Strelok says he should get back to the warehouse before it is cleaned out, and asks Hayden to help him go get stuff. Polena comes out of the inn and remarks about how pretty it is. “It’s a pickpocket’s lair!” Strelok says he’s planning to take some of the loot, turn over the rest (gestures to Sheila). Polena thinks this is an excellant idea, since it’s from bad people anyway, and they wouldn’t have to ask the church for more money… Sheila reminds her that it was originally from good people, and Polena loses some enthusiasm. But there isn’t much chance of returning the goods except for the larger or more unique items. Sheila says she’ll see if there is a list of stolen items reported, but doesn’t otherwise object. Strelok goes back to Van, says he doesn’t have the money for the special gun. He asks for a less special gun, one he can afford. Van is dissappointed, but sells him a gun. Strelok gives him blueprints for a gun he would like Van to make for him, to be paid for when the party returns to the town. Van becomes less grumpy and looks at the blueprints with interest.
Hayden goes straight to the warehouse, having gotten directions from Strelok (who suggested not jumping through the canvas window). He sifts out most of the crap, and gets a lot of swag. He returns to the inn. Zephyr is also returning, having been kicked out of the library when they closed. He reminds her about the hankerchief, but she says she hasn’t had the time, mentioning the potion making and translation work. Polena greets Zephyr and brings out Pallas, saying she found him in her hair… nesting… is he supposed to do that…? After handing over Pallas, Polena nurses a finger than may or may not have been bitten earlier.
Hayden’s loot: 423 copper, 572 silver, 412 gold, 74 plat; lint; ~30lb of fine jewelry. Nothing magical.
The next day, we do last minute shopping. Zephyr’s studies: Note definitely ancient elvish, have developed the beginnings of a cypher, not complete enough to decode. Not same the language as book. Examining hankerchief: herbal compound, some local plants, some she doesn’t recognize. Able to determine that the compound causes mild hallucinogenic state, puts drinker under state of being highly suggestable/influencable.
Hayden disguises himself as a noble. He fills his pouch with copper and walks around trade sector (seediest part of town) in a carefree manner. Someone soon tries to swipe his purse, and Hayden grabs them. It is 15-year-old awkward boy, but talented… his attempted theft would have worked on a normal person. He looks very surprised to be caught. Based on the state of his clothing and cleanliness, he is probably stealing to feed himself. Hayden asks his name. The boy stammers about not knowing… er… “Of course you know what you’re doing”, Hayden says, and again asks the boys name. It is Shawn. Hayden asks: “Why are you doing this?” Shawn says that he is mighty hungry… Hayden advises that most people who have enough to share don’t want to… Shawn asks if he is willing to share; Hayden says, currently, sure. He holds up a gold piece, tells him the location of a shelter, and tells him to drop Sheila’s name if anyone gives him trouble. “You’ve got skill, just be careful what you do with it.”
The party goes to bed having done all the final preparations. We leave the next morning.
Next morning: breakfast! Polena is annoyingly chipper and talkative, and eager to meet the mercenary. We bond each party member to the bracelet. At 8am sharp the mercenary arrives, as previously agreed. Polena comes into the inn and says he needs help with his stuff. She babbles about how handsome he is, and how he has a pony, etc. The rest of us go out to meet him. First impression: big, friendly, charming, handsome set of half plate. And by the way, it’s Marcus. Hayden is not pleased, the rest of us are confused. Hayden calls him out as a cheat, while Aeric denies this and seems not to know Hayden. Aeric offers to demonstrate his skill; Hayden replies that he is not doubting skill, he is doubting honesty. Aeric points out that he was given 4000 plat upfront… there was no reason for him to come here if he were dishonest. Sheila casts Zone of Truth, and asks what’s going on. Aeric denies what Hayden is saying, says he fully intends to fulfill his obligations. Hayden asks his name; “I go by Aeric Ed’aar”. He said he wasn’t familiar with “Marcus”. He also claims not to have been out gambling at night. Hayden thinks the Zone of Truth spell is not working… or that one of the two of them are crazy. Hayden strongly suspects that he himself is crazy, in fact. We all decide to set out, but we are somewhat wary. Aeric discretely slips Hayden one of the wooden die that he— Marcus— used the night at the bar.