Today I woke up in a large four-poster bed – mahogany and Crathes – draped with silk curtains. Beside the bed was a tray of fruits and fine jellies and a carafe of rich Dwarfish wine. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was home. But I’m not. For instance the food made me think that a servant had access to my room – that made me uneasy. Such a thought would never crossed my mind before.
A proper breakfast was waiting in the dining hall where I met a few of the other competitors in what I soon gathered was some kind of gambling event with an open invitation – I found this as mystifying as the attack on Fellstone, why would Grace the Younger be inviting gamblers into his home? This is all very odd. I recognized one of my fellow competitors from court – Sir Bedeweir, a good and loyal knight with a crippling gambling problem. Last I had heard he lost his family’s fortune betting on the Midnight Jousts and his sister had been forced to marry a ninety year old baron to keep them afloat. He seemed happy enough at breakfast though – I suppose that makes sense, he’s not the one who has to submit to the leathery touch of a wrinkled old man-lizard.
Since we apparently have the run of the place I helped myself to the stables and took a spirited young mare for a morning ride to meet with Erist and his pals. They had a campsite set up in a glen a few miles away – in any well-functioning keep they would have been found by patrols within hours but somehow I had the feeling with orcs and wildmen manning the walls military protocol was a little lacking.
“Good morning friends, since its well after sun-up I assume you were just about ready to storm the castle and save me.”
I told them that although it took all of my cunning and guile I was in and that I should have no trouble sussing out what was going on – they just needed to hang tight and back me up. I asked if they had any kind of magical charm or gee-gaw they could give me that would let me tell them if I got into trouble but of course they didn’t. I’m not sure why anyone even bothers with magic. Can it do anything?
When I got back from my ride Akra – Lord Grace’s hangdog assistant – was waiting for me. Turns out I was late for my first “match”. She was highly displeased. I was escorted to a small- and by small I mean tiny – private room where there was a table, my opponent and a judge. The opponent was a short unpleasant looking fellow with stringy dark hair that called himself Blacktooth – not sure why poor dental hygiene is something you’d want to brag about. The judge was a fussy looking fellow with a big head and clothes several seasons out of date – he had the look of a mortician about him. Or maybe I just think that because he looks like a corpse himself.
The game in question is called Maids and Executioners by some, Skulls and Petticoats by others – a needlessly complicated interval betting game involving dice and cards. It’s a game popular with young buck noblemen who like to think they’re gamblers but can’t handle a real game – it’s akin how some men can convince themselves that they’re a real lady’s man when all they’ve bedded is whores.
I knew the rules more or less but I had never played before – thankfully if you have nimble fingers it’s one of the easiest games to cheat at, presumably why a judge is present. It didn’t matter much though – Big Head did spy me pulling a maneuver once but I was able to play it off as a mistake simply enough. I think I cleaned Blacktooth out. Since this is an open invitation I wonder how many rubes there are going to be like him. Maybe Lord Grace just needs the money? Strange way to go about it – especially when you have goons and apparently have no qualms about using them to raid your own lands.
After the match I chatted with some of the other guests but that wasn’t netting me much in the way of information so I decided to do some snooping. I was in the chapel – which didn’t look like it got much use – when Blacktooth came in breathing heavily.
“Those stairs are a real bear aren’t they? I recommend calisthenics every morning – I do a few deep knee bends every day when I wake up and before I go to sleep at night, it does wonders I tell you.”
“I want my money’ he wheezed “You cheated!”
I noticed at this point that he had an ugly shortblade clenched in his hand.
“There’s no reason to be a sore loser my friend, but I don’t think Lord Grace would appreciate his guests killing one another so in order to keep the peace I’ll give you half, how about that?”
He jabbed forward with the blade in a way I assume was meant to be menacing “All the money, now!”
I held my hands up “Fair enough.”
I reached into my Bag of Tricks and produced a wolf that latched onto his forearm and threw him to the ground. He stabbed at the beast desperately with his knife – they’re men out there that can best a wolf in a struggle like that, this rotten toothed fellow wasn’t one of them.
“I can call him off with a whistle but I never learned how. My grandmother used to say just put your lips together and blow but that doesn’t work.”
Once he was dead I managed to drag his body up and dump it out the window – calling to one of the guards to have a maid come in and clean up the blood. He asked what happened and I told him that I had pricked my finger on my embroidery needle. He seemed dubious but I assured him that I was fine.
My second match was with an unremarkable wool merchant – I suppose there’s no other kind really. He was a skilled player but what they don’t tell you is that cheating is usually defeats skill. Little known fact. I wonder if they have better judges hiding in the wings or if I can cheat my way through this entire event.
After the day’s events were over I spent some time mingling with the other contestants until Lord Grace the Younger made an appearance for dinner. Maybe they should call him Lord Grace the Lessor because laying eyes on him he looks like a reduced, less attractive version of his uncle. He didn’t have a lot to say – leaving most of the hosting duties to his very pretty and very vapid wife. I doubt I’ll get anywhere with the Lord himself so the wife seems like a good place to start.
Funds: 8112 gold
Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book
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, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander,
Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother
Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee
Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)
Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)
Graltontown Buildings – Mill
Behind the curtain : There’s lots of different rules out there for adjudicating gambling and most of them allow Bluff to substitute for Profession (Gambler) which makes sense in terms of game design because usually someone will have Bluff and you don’t want the game to grind to a halt – but abstractly it’s kind of unfair (as much as that means anything in this context). Ela’s Bluff bonus is mildly ridiculous.
Ela leveled up to Expert 2/Rogue 4 (Phantom Thief) picking up Innocent Façade as her talent. I was surprised to see that Phantom Thief still gets Uncanny Dodge since they give up most other combat abilities. Ela has a +4 BAB now which doesn’t seem quite right.