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Wagneri visibly stiffens as they enter the tavern. He is far more accustomed to quiet libraries and regimented military offices than this boisterous gathering place. The obvious criminal element makes him once again question with whom he has allied himself. The knight's eyes narrow further as he sees what kind of patron the group reports to.
Maintaining proper decorum as usual, Wagneri steps forward, removes his helmet, and bows slightly in greeting. "*ahem* I am Wagneri Azazel," then a little louder than necessary, "Knight Guardian of Iliyanbruen, Companion of the Sword Guard of Astrazalian." He pauses for a moment, hoping that his titles and attempt at regal bearing will carry some authority (or at least mask his nervousness).
(1d20+9) Intimidate, to see if he comes off as authoritative and confident, or nervous and posturing.
Continuing his story, "I had heard of the stolen children, and of the cultists nearby. I attempted to face the evil-doers myself and rescue the young ones, but was defeated instead. These brave warriors rescued me, and so I owe them my allegiance."
Having grown up among the Serestal's Vhaeraunian Drow, Mal wasn't unfamiliar with the Autumn's Fury even though it catered to a different sort of "criminal element," so when it became apparent where his allies in this mission were headed he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow (which he had to repeat with the eladrin knight's not-entirely-unexpected introduction). Even so, considering the nature of what they were investigating the company they keep shouldn't be a surprise, he thought.
"Hmm, you may call me Mal," he finally replied to Salera in hushed tones, and he made a point of shifting his Eilistraeean holy symbol into view. "In this matter, I represent my people's wish to help."
Dredge stands slightly back as the newcomers make their introductions, then clears his throat with a rattle.
"Since noone has seen fit to clarify yet, the cultists were not holding any children - just an assortment of adult fey, who are now all freed due to our truly valiant efforts."
He eyes Salera suspiciously. "But I think you might have already known what we should expect to find there. That's a nice big smile you're wearing considering the matter at hand is as-yet-unresolved."
He waves a hand impatiently. "Anyway, enough messing around. This contact of yours is arriving tomorrow - when and where should we expect her? We must have adequate time to prepare. I like to know exactly what situation I'm walking into."
Insight to figure out why Salera seems so cheery - and Eira too, if she's also wearing a big dumb grin. (1d20+2)
Salera raises an eyebrow at the growing number of legitimate types in her establishment, but shrugs it off. Her expression turns dark when Dredge makes his accusations, however.
"I most certainly did not know what you'd find there. As I've said, I don't make it a habit to spy in massive detail on all of my clients, especially not a bunch of kooky cultists," she says, her voice cool. "Perhaps you've been dead a little too long, dear, but it's common courtesy to act pleased to see people that you're... Oh, I don't know, actually pleased to see. And given that you just came back, I certainly didn't know the outcome yet, either. Seldarine, you dead types just have absolutely no sense of courtesy." She tosses her hair indignantly and sits back down, motioning for the group to join her and Eira. Eira, for her part, has maintained a look of jaded disinterest since the group arrived, though once everyone is ready to get down to business she springs to life, opening a ledger and pushing it across the table for everyone to see, standing up and pointing to a line and flipping through other ledgers as she speaks in her business-like voice.
"She made an appointment just this morning. Tomorrow, early, before the sun comes up. She usually comes from the East when she arrives, and always travels alone. She prefers to meet alone as well, though she'll tolerate a guard or two. You should have two chances; she always gets a delivery, to a different place each time, and our people have reported that she shows up at the delivery." She finishes and sits back down. Salera leans forward.
"Too bad the cultists weren't responsible. They were good customers. Ah well, their kind usually gets wiped out sooner or later. There's always another customer. Still, that makes it much more likely that it's her." She frowns, pondering. "So, how do you want to go about this? Guards? Deliverymen? I know how I'd do it, but you lot probably can't pull that off, what with all the galumphing about in plate armor." She eyes Wagneri and winks. "So noisy, and so in the way..." Eira wrinkles her nose at Salera's flirting and Salera lays a comforting hand over hers that brings a rare smile to the elf's face.
True, this armor we knights wear is cumbersome, but it is not always as much of an issue as it looks, says Baruk with a smile, as his plate armor fades and is replaced by standard fey clothes woven in shades of black, red and blue. A moment later, the armor reappears. My mount and armor come when they are called, not before. If you've some subtlety planned, it may be feasible.
The dead man shrugs off Salera's indignation, not caring that he'd insulted her.
"We can send in our heavily-armoured friends as guards, and have those who are able hide nearby. Personally, I could hide myself and one other up in a tree - though," he adds with a slight smirk, "you'd have to find your own way back down when the time came."
While not quite sure what the deal is with this 'contact' currently being planned to ambush, Nistra assumes it is simply a way of rescuing these children. Her ears perk up at the idea of being stealthy and she smiles brightly.
"If stealth is what you need, I'm the Gnome you want!" Nistra and Bloom vanish from sight. "You've got one of the best thieves on your team now."
Growing even more uncomfortable with the topics being discussed, not to mention Salera's withering gaze, Wagneri clears his throat once more, "I've pledged my loyalty to my rescuers, and promised to rescue the lost Eladrin children, but I will not be coerced into harming an innocent person. I hope for your sake that whatever plan you have in mind does not ask that of me."
With a polite bow, Wagneri puts his helmet back on and turns to his new-found allies, "I must check in with my instructors at the temple. They will be concerned for me, and need to hear what happened in the caves. I will return as soon as I can." He taps his helmet in salute to Baruk, looks sideways once more at Salera, and heads out to the street.
As you wish, brother. May all the Old One's children smile upon you, he replies, mirroring the salute. Perhaps, Dredge, it would be prudent to explain the situation more completely to our newfound allies? There appears to be some confusion as to our plans, he says as Wagneri moves away. Salera here is a dealer of goods not commonly available at market. In the interests of saving these innocent children, she and Eira here have identified some of their clients that might be responsible for the kidnappings. We aim to confront and ambush the second such client to interrogate them and see what they know about the disappearances.
Dredge's lips curl up in a dry smile at the phrase "not commonly available". It would seem the paladin isn't above a bit of selective blindness when it came to completing the job at hand. Maybe he wouldn't be so awful to work with after all.
"That pretty much covers it, I think," he chimes in when Baruk is done. "Except that our employers here can tell us next to nothing about their client, besides her gender and schedule."
In that case, Jalix is frantically scribbing on one of his myriad notepads. Imagine that scene in Harry Potter where Harry's taking notes in Snape's class - if someone directly addresses him, he'll look up, but until then he's in a sort of academic transcription "zone".
"That will work fine," Salera says, eyeing Baruk. "You aren't exactly the type we usually employ as guards, mind you, but we can rub a little dirt into you so you aren't quite as sparkly, I'm sure," Salera says dryly, smirking as she shifts to lean back in her chair.
"As for the rest of you, we'll show you where the good hiding spots are so you can watch. Try not to spook her too much, though, at least not until after I've gotten a delivery location from her. Might find something there, after all." She holds up a hand and makes a 'come here' motion with a finger in the direction of the bar. Lyrr comes over, the elderly bartender raising an eyebrow.
"No, Llyr, you've always been better at disguising people than I have. See yon knight in shining armor? I need him to be a lot less shiny while I show the rest of this lot where to not be utterly obvious." Lyrr nods.
"I'll go and get my kit. Such an ugly sad business all this is. Hopefully this time we can be over with it." He sighs before he turns and leaves through the back to head upstairs.
Mal shifts in his space, a bit put off by all the banter, but as it appeared to subside after Salera's exchange with the bartender he finally put in his two coppers' worth.
"I...work best from the shadows, unless you'd rather me be more visible," Mal said cautiously, and after looking over his muddy, travel-worn outfit offered his own attempt at banter. "And I'm sure I'm dirty enough as it is."
"Well, I can always have one of my men guard as normal," Salera says, shrugging. "Unless that other sparkly guy comes back and wants to volunteer." Lyrr returns then, and motions to Baruk.
"Come, let's get you roughed up a bit, child," he says, grinning. "I used to do theatre on the side along with bartending, you know. Never took much to acting, I always preferred to be behind the scenes helping the magic happen. Had quite a reputation for my skills with makeup and costumes." He smiles in fond nostalgia as he sets to work on Baruk, and by the time he's done Baruk looks less a Paladin of the Old One and more like Thrunk's cousin.
Salera, meanwhile, leads the party outside and begins showing them various spots around the outside of the tavern and the surrounding buildings that the Bloodied Leaves use as hiding spots from time to time. There's a wide variety to choose from, anything from covering incoming routes to hiding just outside the main tavern and listening in through the walls.
Surveying the surrounding area, Dredge points at a couple of tall trees.
"As I mentioned, I can fly myself - and one other, if desired - up into one of these trees to cover the incoming routes. This would let us identify any unexpected surprises before this woman walks in the tavern door. If you give me time while I'm up there, I can even fly us back down again when needed."
He then swings around and indicates one of the hiding points close to the tavern that Salera identified. "We'll want at least one person right outside, who can react quickly to anything happening inside."
Finally, he nods towards the door. "And our not-so-shiny Paladin would be inside, of course. So, what have I missed?"
I do not understand all this talk of sparkle. I am a holy warrior of an ancient and powerful force. Just because I see the good in everything does not mean I won't kill it anyway, grumbles Baruk; though he complains, he seems perfectly comfortable in the disguise laid out for him.
The sky is just beginning to lighten as you find yourself set up in your hiding places and posts, the first hints of the warm red glow of dawn beginning to show at the horizon. Soon the world will be bathed in the rising sun's crimson flame, but for now it's merely dark and silent and still.
As promised, Salera's client soon comes riding from the east, a heavily cloaked figure riding side-saddle on a beautiful white unicorn with an iridescent mane that catches even the scant amount of pre-dawn light. She looks around suspiciously as she nears the tree, before dismounting and tying the animal up at a hitching post near the base of the steps.
The paladin disguised as a thug raises an eyebrow at the sight of the unicorn, but says nothing. He does his best attempt at a sluggish, brutish posture; it comes naturally after a moment of recollection. You can put a half-orc in shining armor and teach him Elven, give him nice clothes and a pretty moral code, but in the end, he's still a half-orc.
Wagneri leans stiffly against the wall, just inside the tavern entrance. Covered in a long, hooded robe, wooden mask, and dirty leather gloves (courtesy of Lyrr's seemingly endless costume supplies), there is nothing to be seen of the proud Knight's regalia. Even his quarterstaff has been wrapped in bark and twine, looking like nothing more than a hefty tree branch.
The eladrin shifts nervously, hoping to appear as just another hired brute keeping the bar patrons from getting too rowdy.
Tugging nervously at the circlet Wagneri insisted he wear, Jalix surveys the oncoming rider from his vantage point across from Dredge. Even with the copious amounts of schoolwork and training he's worked through, actually participating in an adventure is thrilling and unnerving! Though cleverly camouflaged by Salera and Llyr, he still activates his cheater's cap, then breathes more calmly as the memories of several of his more talented classmates flood his mind.
Using the Exceptional Factotum Helm to gain training in Stealth, then applying it. Stealth (notwithstanding any modifiers from Salera/Llyr) - (1d20+8)
Already invisible, Nistra cautiously watches the rider approach from behind a nearby building. She holds both of her crossbows at the ready just in case, as she realizes she has no idea what to expect to happen, and does her best to remain out of sight until she's needed.
Perched awkwardly in the tree, Dredge was beginning to regret his choice of vantage spot when the client rides in. Ignoring the rough bark and uncomfortable position, he rearranges himself so as to best hide himself from the woman's view.
He prepares the spell necessary to (literally) launch Jalix and himself into action, should the situation turn sour.
Salera nods to Wagneri and Baruk as she hears the clatter of the unicorn.
"Come. We'll meet on the second floor on the balcony, but she always wants us to come down first." She leads the way down the ramp that spirals down to the street and bows slightly when she reaches the bottom. "Well, hello again, dearie! More already?" The woman shrugs noncommittally.
"I've come for more, yes. The reason is none of your business. Besides, it's much more fun this way." She brushes past Salera and the 'thugs' and starts ascending the ramp. Salera fumes briefly before heading back up, whispering to Baruk and Wagneri as she passes them.
"I hate that woman."
Soon the meeting is convened on the second floor, the woman throwing back her hood to reveal a tanned eladrin woman with golden hair and violet eyes. Even from your various perches, she does not look happy.
"Care to tell me why you're spying on me? I saw your lookouts. Is this some kind of game? I love games, but now's hardly the time. Maybe if my employer were here, but that's not the case..." She purses her lips. Salera, to her credit, doesn't even pause.
"Of course there are lookouts, dear, it's to make sure you're safe and not being followed! There's all sorts of uproar going about the city right now, some disappearances from what I hear, and there have been all sorts of fools running about causing trouble. I'm just doing my part to safeguard my important clients!" The woman looks skeptical, but after a moment she shrugs.
"Well enough. Now, we need more manacles. About a dozen pairs, six sized for gnomes, three sized for eladrin and three sized for pixies. Also four dozen arrows." She folds her hands on her lap and looks impatient.
"Perfectly doable, we've got all of that in stock right now. 1,000 gold?"
"Ridiculous. No more than 500."
"Fine," the eladrin woman says, reaching for a pouch at her waist and tossing it over.
"Thank you. Where do you want it delivered to?"
"There's a small clearing in the forest a few miles to the west of Senaliesse with the ruins of some ancient mage's tower. Deliver it there."
"Ah, I know the place. I'll have my agents bring the items there. Anything else I can help you with today?"
"No, that will be all. And train your spies better." She stands and sweeps out.
OOC: DC23 History or Nature check to know about the delivery location.
Wagneri does his best to maintain the illusion of an uninterested bouncer, half-asleep at the door, while the eladrin woman glides past pulling her hood back on as she leaves the tavern.
Releasing a breath he hadn't realized he was holding, the Knight drops his shoulders and pulls off his mask. Eyes darting back and forth in concentration, Wagneri thinks hard on the client's delivery place. "...ruins of some ancient mage's tower... west of Senaliesse..." he mumbles, remembering something from his studies of the area.
Baruk recalls from his lessons the story of Pavick Roslow, ancient master of the arcane arts. He was a gnome of great magical skill and power whose mastery of portals and illusion magic was said to rival even that of Corellon himself. His tower was a glorious masterpiece of magic and trickery, and it and he were frequently visited by an archfey called the Lady of Mirth, whose demesne was nearby. Legend tells that he disappeared long ago into worlds beyond the knowledge of even the gods, having fooled death itself with his illusions. Some say the Lady misses him to this day.
The tower now lies half-ruined, the long centuries since his disappearance having taken their toll on the structure. Few visit it, believing it to either be trapped or haunted. An ideal location for a secret delivery.
The proposed drop site is the derelict lair of a one-time grand master gnome illusionist, Pavik Roslow. Legend holds that his illusions were so convincing, they fooled death itself and he has ascended to some state unknowable even to gods. Few frequent it, save perhaps the archfey known as the Lady of Mirth, who he entertained often long ago. Ideally isolated for use as a delivery location, low odds of the package being picked up by the wrong party. Let us hope that Roslow's dweomers have expired; his knowledge of things arcane was said to rival that Corellon himself, explains Baruk to his colleagues.