Mantelderith 25, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’ve never ambushed anything bigger than a pastry before so laying in watch for a coach, I was quite jittery –  although that could have been the flayleaf.  I will say, Crookjaw is indeed quite sneaky for a being of his size.  Lord Sonst on the other hand is hopeless at stealth, but thankfully we got there early enough that he just had to crouch behind a wild mulberry tree.  Crouch awkwardly. 

Erist came clattering around the bend in a ramshackle coach that was filled with trunks and boxes of various sorts.  The horse pulling it seemed far too old for this sort of thing.  I think it may have been mostly blind because it didn’t react at all when Crookjaw sprang out to block their path – Erist did though, and I can’t say as I blame him.  The lanky misshapen ogre makes quite an impression.  Sonst and I came up beside the coach and demanded that he halt (which he already had) and allow us to search his vehicle for fugitives.  He pointed out (accurately) that we had no authority to do so and then asked if he knew me from somewhere.

I said that he had taken me for 350 gold and that we had reason to believe that he was harboring a murder and that we were going to search his coach one way or the other.  Even in the face of Crookjaw’s bellowing, which was very intimidating even to me, he was steadfast in his refusal.  I trained my crossbow on Erist and told Sonst to check the coach.  I would like the record to reflect that he attacked first. Erist cast a spell that shattered the countryside like a clap of thunder and left Sonst and I both stunned. As Crookjaw rushed forward bellowing in anger Erist summoned three massive spiders the size of sheep dogs.

In the melee that followed things looked grim even though I tagged Erist with my crossbow twice, but in the end Crookjaw tripped him to the ground with his hook and landed a massive blow that split him open from collarbone to groin – one of the more gruesome injuries I’ve seen.  Needless to say that took the starch out of him.  Erist asked for quarter, Crookjaw seemed intent on finishing the job but I was able to talk him down.  I kept my crossbow trained on Erist as Sonst, who was quite badly singed from a spell, threw out the empty boxes from the coach to reveal a cowering Madrie wearing a crummy blonde wig. 

I informed her that she was under arrest and she nodded numbly.  We made a deal with Erist – his money and his gear for his life.  He had enough magic left to heal us all, although I was not wounded, and as we took Madrie into custody he cast another spell and literally flew away.  I should have finished it then but Sonst didn’t seem the type to appreciate killing a surrendering foe in cold blood. On the plus side he also wasn’t interested in stolen booty so I took it all, although Crookjaw carried it for me.  He may seem harmless but he’s clearly as no stranger to violence. 

As we headed back to town I asked Madrie to explain to me what happened.  It took some coaxing but she eventually opened up.  Of the seven servants there were two that were the ringleaders of the murderous plot, three others who agreed to actively participate, and Madrie plus another maid who basically went along with the plan out of fear more than anything and did little more than leave a door unlocked and then hide.  I told her that I believed her and that I could help her out of this mess if she helped me find the others – in particular if the two ringleaders were found then the rest of them would be granted leniency.

She said that the other maid Adawen had also been hiding at the temple with her but got scared and returned to her parent’s home in Graltontown.  Whilhye and Wickter, the valet to Lord Voculan and the master of the kitchen respectively, who had masterminded the conspiracy and done most of the violence were still in Graltontown and laying low in Snake’s End.  The other three had fled the city but she didn’t know where they might have gone.

Once back in town after escorting Crookjaw back to his bakery-home, I stashed her with Ambro and Estera, who were bickering like an old married couple, she was shocked that we weren’t turning her over the guard.  I told her to sit tight while we figured out what to do.  What we did first was to visit the homestead of Adawen’s parents.  They tried to stonewall us of course but Sonst seemingly had his blood up still from the fight and bullied his way through their lies.  I got to play the soft touch for a change.  I explained that Adawen wasn’t safe there and we could hide her with her friend Madrie until we could round up the true murders and not poor innocent girls that got caught up in something they had no control over. 

They turned a weeping Adawen over to us and we stashed her away as well.  After that a somewhat impatient Sonst accompanied me to sell Erist’s gear, except his fine crossbow which I kept.  After that we turned our attention to Snake’s End, a name which I had heard bandied about a few times but had never investigated.  The basic set up is an old warehouse that through roof access leds to several other buildings that are sealed from the outside.  This access point was controlled by fellow calling himself the King of Spiders, I guess Snake’s End sounds better than Spider’s End?  The name alone makes you assume this fellow is pretty impressed with himself and probably a bit insane.  Or maybe he just really loves spiders. 

I assumed you would need a password or something to get in but the information we got was there was no such safeguard.  Another testament to the incompetence of the Graltontown guard.  At first I thought we’d need to outfit Sonst with them more appropriate clothing but I realized that his threadbare and out of date noble’s clothing is probably the perfect fit for a place like this.  We would need some muscle though to be on the safe side.  I figured the goons that roughed up Vorifio would suffice.  I could only find two but it’s probably best not to come in too hot anyway.  After making (relatively) sure that they weren’t minions of the Spider King and some coin changing hands we were off.

They were a few enforcers watching as we entered the dingy warehouse but we walked in unmolested.  From there you can access a flophouse/safehouse run by a lisping half-orc, a gambling hall run by twin brothers, a drug den overseen by a very unfunny proprietor who constantly tells jokes and lastly the House of Sand and Fog, a low end brothel with a terrible name.  Interestingly I saw barking for the House in cheap lingerie none other than Alice Kinsey’s niece Teresa Maria. 

Presumably Whilhye and Wickter were hiding out at the flophouse but we went to the “Spider’s Web” to see the man in charge of this insignificant criminal empire.  The guards told us to get lost at first, as you might expect, but once I told them that two of the most wanted criminals in town were hiding out there and eventually the watch was going to figure that out we were granted an audience with the Spider man himself.  He was seated at a table with a sumptuous feast entertaining several other men, although from their overly loud talk I assumed they were people trying to get in his good graces rather than his loyal lieutenants or the like. He had a laughably large silver spider pendant on his chest but I managed to stifle my giggles.

He very magnanimously allowed us to “plea” for his aid, although I got the sense that it might have been in large part to show his guests how important he was.  I explained that we needed to take two men out of the flophouse to save him and everyone here a lot of trouble but that we wouldn’t dream of doing so without his permission.  With bored amusement he explained that he didn’t care what happened to the people under his roof and as long as we didn’t mess with his enterprises he didn’t care what happened with the lisping half-orc.  Not much of a crimelord if you ask me but so much the better.

I thanked and flattered him profusely and he invited us to stay and watch his entertainment – these men were prospects for his crew and he planned to have them fight against his pets, giant spiders of course.  Not something I would be interested in regardless but after the events of this morning even less so.  Still, I didn’t want to insult the lunatic so we stayed for the grotesque spectacle – faking an appropriate level of enjoyment (just like old times).  While doing so I asked if Piltis or Yalis Belko was associated with his outfit.  He said that they paid him “taxes” but weren’t part of his operation.  I asked him what was the appropriate thing to do if I needed to take action against them.  At this point he got an dangerous glint in his eye but said that fifteen hundred gold would appease him if Piltis were to be taken out – Yalis was off limits.  I think I may have misstepped with that question.

After a polite amount of time we excused ourselves to seek our prey.  The lisping half orc had a walleye and a patchy beard as well – not to mention a hat so comprehensively soiled it looked like a middens.  He crumbled immediately, I thought he was going to dive under a bed and hide.  Whilhye and Wickter were taken without incident for the most part.  They crowed a lot about their “supporters” who would rise up to save them, but in the end when not murdering people in their sleep they didn’t have a lot of fight in them.

I dismissed my goons after we left the Snake’s End and Lord Sonst and I marched the miscreants right into the guardhouse – which was only slightly less chaotic than last time.  To say they were stunned is an understatement.  I explained that we could bring in Madrie and Adawen as well who would testify against these two in return for immunity.  And I said that this time I wanted my reward promptly.  After much stammering and hemming and hawing they told us to come back tomorrow.  Typical.

Sonst and I treated ourselves to a meal at the finest restaurant in town (which was only below average by the standards of a decent city) and several bottles of wine.  I thought we might end up in bed together but it became clear that Lord Sonst was pining for another.  Probably for the best, no reason to mix business and pleasure.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 2019 gold 

XP: 10,209

Inventory: Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, noble’s traveling outfit, thieves’ tools, disguise kit (8 uses), land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, masterwork light crossbow

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler , Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus 

Anti-Revenge List: Dorehe the maid

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(60%), murderous Halfling (15%)

Graltontown Unrest – 1

Behind the curtain : An ogre and two almost non-combatants against a 6th level Cleric turned out to be pretty tough sledding.  When Ela almost died from filth fever and I wondered what I would do since I’m really enjoying writing this and I had similar thoughts today – even though Ela only took 1 damage from a spider bite it seemed like combat was going to go against them quickly.  I debated putting the whole combat in narrative form but that’s probably not very interesting. Improbably Sonst hit every turn, aside from the first where he was stunned from a Sound Burst and didn’t act. 

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