The wrathbreakers are on the trail of two difficult problems: where is Sara, Siladan’s lost apprentice, and who is the mysterious and powerful wizard who is trying to kill them? They know that Sara had a boyfriend in the docks, who they are trying to find, and they know that the powerful wizard uses notes of some kind to direct agents of the underworld in Estona to do his bidding. They continue to search the docks for Sara’s boyfriend, and they have been ambushed by agents of the mysterious wizard. But who are they looking for, and who is trying to kill them? The roster for this session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Quangbae, wandering blacksmith

They are joined today by Alexin, a Rimewarden, and three marines, all working for the Myrmidon Kay. Right now, though, they have no targets to point their soldiers at. What to do?

The rock spider

The first thing they decided not to do was to continue pushing into the nature of the network of child messengers in the town. They knew that this network of messengers was controlled by a central figure, likely an adult, who they decided to call the Rock Spider. They also knew that one of these urchins had lured them into a trap, and they guessed it was because either the Rock Spider was in league with their wizard nemesis, or part of the payment his network of urchins had received included alerting their wizard nemesis if anyone was spying on the wizard nemesis’s dropboxes. They had tried to approach the Rock Spider through their only underworld contact, cashing in the favour they were owned by the barkeep at Charlotte Sometimes to ask him to set up a meeting with the Rock Spider. Unfortunately the barkeep returned to them with a simple message from the Rock Spider: there would be no meeting, and although they were on neutral terms at the moment all that would go out the window if they continued trying to investigate or break into his network of child runners. They decided to put that issue aside for now, because they had sparked enough confrontations with underworld figures already.

Onto the Carousel

They decided to continue their search for Sara by deploying Kyansei into the bars and nightlife of the docks, pretending to be a woman looking for a casual partner. They guessed that the man who had been Sara’s boyfriend was likely a player, and might be well known in the area. If Kyansei spent a night or two carousing and looking for men meeting a certain description, they guessed she might hear of one or two regulars who matched the description. They were right: after two nights of flirting and drinking she was able to rule out a large number of potential suitors, and also learned of a few regulars who might match the man they were looking for. Exhausted and hungover after a long night, Kyansei returned to the Boar and they decided to switch their attention to the search for the wizard nemesis.

Creosote’s story

All they knew about the wizard nemesis was that he or she (probably she) communicated with her agents almost exclusively through notes. But reviewing the case so far they realized they had not asked any of the wizard’s contacts how they first brokered the deal, and any details about how the notes looked or operated. They knew the men they had interrogated so far did not keep the notes, destroying them as instructed, but they knew nothing else about them. They decided to visit Creosote, the only recipient of notes they had left alive, and see if they could ask him more questions about the origin of the notes. Obviously given the damage they had done to his business and his dignity the visit was going to be a little complicated, but they figured they could just hit him a lot if it did not go as they intended. So they set off to his lair.

It took them some time to break him down, but ultimately they were able to come to an agreement with Creosote. He convinced them to owe him a favour, in the form of a job that he would call on them for in the future, if he answered their questions. He told them:

  • The notes were printed, not hand written
  • The notes were intended to be destroyed, and were enchanted so that the sender would know if they were not destroyed
  • The ink on the notes had a particular smell, which Creosote could not describe but would recognize immediately if he smelled it [for the reader: it is the smell of the AD&D Player’s Handbook]
  • The notes were printed on fine quality bone-white paper [1]
  • The job before the Selkie job had been to organize someone to kill a hedge witch called Aelsov and deliver his head to a particular location in the docks. Easy work!
  • The job had originally been organized by a dwarf, about two years ago, whose featuers Creosote did not remember and whose name he did not ask. “Just a generic dwarf,” he told them, who was an agent for whoever sent the notes, and who he never met again.

Creosote also made clear he was not scared of this patron: he destroyed the letters as instructed not out of fear, but because he assumed if he did not destroy them he would lose future business. He seemed unconcerned by the work he had been contracted to organize – as far as he was concerned the notes offered a simple, reliable source of income and the arrangement was far preferable to the usual complex meetings and negotiations he had to engage in as part of his work.

At the cusp of an age

After this meeting the Wrathbreakers rested, and then set to work: they spent a day searching the town for every printing press. They discovered there were two commercial printers and a small independent operation run by a strange bunch of political fanatics called “monarchists” who advocated absolute rule of the land of Hadun by a hereditary strongman, with most of the population held in a form of abject subjection they referred to as “serfdom”. Obvious freaks, they had a printing press of some kind for producing their repulsive propaganda. The wrathbreakers visited the two commercial printers, collecting samples of their paper and inks, and confirmed from Creosote that one of the papers was the one used in the notes. They visited that supplier and determined that indeed, about a year ago an elf had come into the shop and bought a large supply, but they could not remember any more details than that – “A generic elf”, they said. So, it was on to the monarchists.

Itzel attempted to politely negotiate with the monarchists, but their leader, an oily old man who called himself “King” Robert the 1st, offended Kyansei. He mentioned that in future, when he was “King”, the “empty” lands of the far north would be colonized by the people of Hadun. When Kyansei pointed out these lands were actually crowded with wildlings “King” Robert patronizingly suggested to her that she did not understand the language she was speaking, and that rather than saying “crowded” she should use the word “infested”. As the predictable results of this exchange unfolded across the office and the younger members of the monarchist group either fled or cowered from Kyansei’s rage Itzel and Bao Tap walked into the back room to investigate the printing press. It was a ramshackle, shoddy machine with little ability to produce decent type, let alone high quality letters. This was not their target. They waited the length of time required for Kyansei to beat “King” Robert to a pulp, and then left the building with her still raging at the remaining monarchist activists. That did not appear to be a movement with its eye on the future …

They returned to the Boar. Now they knew they were looking for a fourth, unknown printing press. They also knew that the wizard’s agents were a “generic dwarf” and a “generic elf”. They decided that for their next step they would ask around after adventuring groups of that kind. If they could not find answers in that avenue well, they were going to have to find out from the urchin network where they collected the notes. That was going to require a confrontation with the Rock Spider. They were close, and all that remained was to determine how much violence was needed to find their target …

fn1: One of my players, not yet used to the full depravity of my campaigns, imagined that an off white bone-coloured paper might actually be paper, rather something manufactured from the bones of children. He will learn!