The PCs were travelling out of Kentarre City to investigate what the Red Plume mercenary group is doing. Previously the Red Plume’s had been hired by someone from house Igorov (known as illusionists) to attack White Hall and lost nearly a score of excellent troops. This allowed the PCs to learn the identity of the attackers because only one group had lost so much fighting power. The Red Plume’s were recruiting out of an arena in the Immigrant Quarter of Kentarre City, infiltrated by Rudy. Rudy had determined that a noble family, the Dulo’s, were also recruiting from this arena. Captain Ehrlich, leader of the Red Plumes, had let Jacques know that they had some activities going on in the field which were still profitable for them. Specifically, they were hired to protect a province from hunter raids. Jacques took the PCs past his estate where they met one of Esmerelda’s bardic colleagues, Ophelia, who convinced them to look into the disapearance of an entire halfling clan in the nearby Dutchy of Passau. Ophelia believes that the Red Plumes are abusing their power and only proteting the humans while allowing the hunters to wipe out non-human citizens. Duke Tassilo, in theory, knows about this but has not taken action to stop it. After passing peacefully through the barony of Schalding they entered Passau pretending to be there to investigate some ruins. They discovered the valley where the halflings used to live had indeed been raided, but some humans had laid claim to the lands and were building new houses.
In this adventure
Trouble and Arianwyn spoke to the farms and learned that they were from the next valley over where the land was too rocky and the soil too poor to be successful. When they heard the local farmers in this valley were driven out, they seized the opportunity to seize the land claiming that “hunters don’t often raid the same place twice, besides the mercenaries are here now to protect us”. Trouble and one of the farmer’s sons discussed his desire to become a mercenary because it pays so much more than farming, making the father upset enough to kick Trouble off his lands. Jacques had to intervene and calm down the farmer so that everyone didn’t get kicked off.
Ash decided they weren’t worth saving or helping because they were too weak to protect themselves and too incompetent to find a way to make money in their old valley. They could have become huntsmen, raised goats, or found any other way to succeed, but by becoming opportunists who steal what they cannot earn, she feels they deserve to be left to fail again. Arianwyn came to a similar conclusion for totally different reasons, that being the fact they were mysogynists who felt women needed to be protected and sheltered instead of being willing to let them help.
Ash was able to scout the valley and the burned houses and her keen sense of smell and ability to speak to animals and plants allowed her to find evidence that tall and booted men surrounded the farms, then left in a group with halfling-sized feet. She also found where one lone halfling fled to the neaby stream but was shot in the back with a crossbow and his corpse wedged beneath a log. The bolt had a maker’s mark no one recognized, and the cost and rarity of crossbows (this was only the second anyone in the party had ever seen in their lives) made them worry if Duke Tassilo was involved in the raid. Also they identified that the bolt had been poisoned with Carrion Crawler Juice, a paralytic poison.
Sir Bel ensured that the halfling was properly cremated before the party moved on and after the funeral pyre was lit an elf allowed herself to be seen by the party. She questioned the party but their evasieness bothered her so she left quickly, having claimed that the Red Plumes were responsible for the raid that killed the halflings. Sir Bel was the most succesful at getting information from her as he was nearly as direct as she, and in the end they parted with a mutual salute of respect in Sylvan.
Ash continued to lead the party along the raiders’ trail and again despite her wilderness skills got the party lost so they had to spend a night in the woods at risk of monsters from the mists. Fortunately the night passed uneventfully and in the morning. Ash redeemed herself by finding an ambush from far enough away that the PCs were able to take their time deciding how to handle it. What she saw was two guards at opposite sides of a ruin acting as bait, with the four buildings in the ruin most likely filled with troops. Ash pretended to be a damsel in distress and used her supernatural beauty to trick one of the bait guards that there were hunters attacking her family in the valley with the farmers. Led by their officer, a warlock with fey powers and a pet shadow mastiff, the guards then marched off to protect Captain Erlich’s brother, leaving only two behind to “protect” Ash. They promptly tried to rape her and she drained their life essence to power her beauty and keep herself young.
After some discussion at this point Ash told his quasit familiar to invisibly follow Trouble (Jot had previously been spying on Esmerelda) and prevent her from learning anything magical if she gets suspicious. Jot asked “anything about anything?” and Ash clarified anything magical only.
The party moved on so as to be a safe distance away when the troops returned; and came up on the Red Plume’s camp. Ash led the PCs to approach the camp through usually impassable woods. The camp was in a clearning with a cliff to the north east, nearly impassable woods to all sides except a portion of the south west, and four wagons with cages blocking that one opening which also had a road. In three of the wagons were some halflings, and the fourth had a wild boar. There were a number of Red Plumes about, plus three tents and one very fancy Yurt with Red Pume banners on the front entrance. Arianwyn did note that the Red Plumes were the only fighting force they know of that is exclusively male.
After taking up positions to ambush them, Jacques shot and killed one of the Red Plumes (he was supposed to wait for Arianwyn and Ash to use spells first, but Jacques always forgets the plan). Arianwyn used Ash’s wand of web to trap the yurt, one tent and two guards. Ash summoned a huge ice storm to envelop nearly the whole of the clearing. Trouble, Jacques and Esmerelda flanked the north, Arianwyn and Ash the south, and Sir Bel held the east by himself. Most of the guards started slipping and haing trouble in the storm. Arianwyn used dissonant whispers to scare one into fleeing directly into Sir Bel who promptly cracked open his skull. Trouble and Jacques took down some more, Esmerelda put one to sleep and charmed another to go release the boar. Arianwyn snuck into the storm, mounted one of the wagons and used mage hand to yoke up the horses while driving it and the halfling prisoners to safety.
A half orc magic user came out of the yurt and after getting tangled in the web and storm, put up a frightening amount of defensive powers in one action then started to move against the three in the north. Jacques tried to shoot him but only got a shadow duplicate. Trouble fired a volley of blasts from a magic wand and removed all his shadow duplicates and blew apart invisible wards on him as well. The orc then manifested a two-handed sword into one hand and laid into Trouble with it, simultaneously firing off spells.
The charmed guard released the boar only t find that it immediately mauled him and spooked the horses attached to that wagon who pulled it away draggingthe poor guard with. When the ropes broke the wagon toppled and crushed the guard. The boar then turned on the last wagon whose horses also panicked tipping it over and injuring many of hte prisoners as the enraged pig started smashing the wood trying to get at them.
Arianwyn successfully got the horses from the second wagon to follow hers, rightfully guessing they were trained to work as a wagon train and play follow the leader, getting two thirds of the prisoners to safety. Ash and Bel took down all the guards who escaped the storm working their way to the north, including one Sir Bel killed in an offhand manner while just walking past him. As Trouble started to try and determine how the half-orc could cast so many spells, and such powerful ones, Jot the quasit decided that this violated Ashs instructions and used his terror ability to make Trouble (and only Trouble) see a giant demonic face in between her and the half-orc that screamed “BADGERS” extremely loudly, making Trouble magically frightened. Jacques fired again hitting the half orc who chided him for interfereing with a duel (implied to be against Trouble the Champion of Whitehall), to which Jacques rightly taunted back that he hadn’t called a duel. Trouble then backed Jacques and said “that’s NOT how you do a proper duel and came at him viciously. A Red Plume netted Esmereld and Jacques with a net full of hooks after Esmerelda detonated his sword in his hands. Ash, having come round the storm used a powerful dispel magic to strip the half orc of all his defenses only to be shocked to see that the body crumbled into lumps of clay out of which a small hedgehog crawled, then promptly curled into a ball and started making angry “pfft, pfft, pfft” noises at Trouble.
The last disarmed Red Plume tried to flee as trouble turned on him, plus Sir Bel was by then demolishing the Yurt checking for anyone else hiding, but Jacques shot him dead while stll entangled in the hoocked net, drawing a friendly chide from Esmerelda. Sir Bel teleported to the boar and crushed its hind legs and skull then started using magic to heal the injured halflings as Ash calmed the storm.
As the party spoke to the patriarch of the halfling clan they learned that they had indeed only been attacked by the mercenaries, not any hunters, and they took the wagons to go down the road to visit Duke Tassilo and press the case against them. The halflings also informed them that a group of Red Plumes had gone off to get another wagon so they could use it for some elven farmers nearby. A search of the yurt also revealed a letter to the half orc instructing him to work with the Red Plumes to capture people for the arena in Kentarre and bring them to someone named “M.” who would pay him for them. This letter plus the bodies of the guards and the halflings’ own testimony they felt was enough to ensure their lord did right by them. Ash asked his quasit to follow the halflings invisibly and make sure they got to the Duke’s castle, and also started trying to identify what was up with the hedgehog. She was able to speak to it and learn that it is a normal hedgehog and can’t tell humans apart well enough to know that Trouble was or wasn’t the person who imprisoned him in the clay body.
The party then decided to see about dealing with the two remaining known groups of Red Plumes, the column from the ambush and the ones going after the elven farmers. And that’s where we ended the session.
Behind the Scenes
MVP award definitely goes to Ash for this session.
The DM had the illusion shout “badgers” because apparently there isn’t a giant boar token in any of his fantasy grounds token bundles, so he was using a badger to substitute. Jot was breaking the 4th wall, and it was a nod to the webcomic GrrlPower when the main character is demonsrating he powers while taunting the Agency’s PR Officer.