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War for the Crown – Session 9: Skilled Infiltrators, Indeed

Dara, the only one exempt from this plague, was surprised to see the state of his allies. It made sense, of course, given all that they’d been through the previous day. Nell, blessed by his upbringing as he was, had spent the night with a physician due to his physical trauma, and so had access to a doctor once the symptoms of this disease had onset. Also clearly noting Inori’s condition, he told the party that they were suffering from a disease known as “Filth Fever”.

It was far from uncommon in Oppara, even more so in the greater Taldor. An unfortunately prevalent disease, Filth Fever was carried as the name would imply. Rats, feral dogs, even human waste left to rot in the streets of the poorer districts in town were the cause of the infections. The doctor had also told Nell what the party already had assuredly heard themselves before: the disease could easily become lethal.

Inori sighed, before waving her hand dismissively as she turned away from the party and the tavern. Sickened as she was, she needed to head to the nearby Cathedral of Coins, or perhaps the House of Dawn’s Redemption. These two churches stood prominently at the southern end of Oppara, greeting travelers who entered the capital from the Grandbridge stretching across the bay. Both the worshippers of Abadar and Sarenrae would surely have cures if she had coin.

“I actually think I’m gonna go with Inori,” Belor mentioned as she began to trudge away. This kind of a mission was not what he’d signed up for. He was a simple political aspirant, the furthest his plans went was a run at a local Senate seat. He wasn’t prepared to fight hooded assassins in some slum warehouse, and he certainly wasn’t going to do so before he treated his ills. Belor waved goodbye to Dara and Nell as he too turned to the southern chapels.

The pair first passed the Cathedral of Coins. Half church and half bank, this massive monument to excess was the center of Oppara’s Abadarian worship. The god of wealth and society was well represented here; the gold and silver crown of the chapel was chiselled into staggered discs resembling a stack of oversized coins. White marble steps led through flanking statues up to the chapel’s main entrance, with several entrances around the building for various purposes.

The streets outside were crowded with nobles and aristocrats, a rare sight for a middling district beside the city’s central canals. The voice of a preacher rang from all corners of the church itself as Belor and Inori passed, his voice magically enhanced to echo throughout the surrounding roads. He spoke of Abadar’s favor, and his balance in all things good and evil passing through the city. The God of Civilization ensured that in difficult times such as these, all would reap the benefits of their society. This served as a bridge in the sermon, where the voice went from prayer to an offering of counseling and services to all those affected by the Senate massacre, regardless of their faiths.

Inori was unimpressed. She continued onward with her new wizard friend in tow, past this opulence down toward the house of Sarenrae. The Dawnflower was the goddess of healing, after all, and where Abadar’s home of worship was half bank, hers served as a hospital. The smaller Qadiran-style building had surely been build with much less expense, though the rose-gold domes topping its wings ensured travellers that the place was far from poor. It stood out from its much more standard Taldan surroundings, and Inori knew the place well enough. Her work chasing bounties had brought her here for healing more than once before.

The pair headed inside and were quickly met with a cleric inside a small attached clinic. Though they had means to purge the diseases from their bodies entirely, such measures of instant gratification were highly expensive. The cleric instead used his magic to treat Inori’s current symptoms, and recommended them an alchemist for more standard solutions. The Golden Alembic on the hill west of the canal sold antiplagues of high quality. The doctor recommended they not cut corners searching for an even cheaper solution.

Meanwhile, Dara and Nell met with their Pathfinder Society contacts. Valeros and Merisiel waited inside A Hearty Mug, sat across a booth as almost comical opposites. Merisiel was slender, even for an elf, settled back in the corner of the booth with a thin rapier on her hip. Valeros boasted a wide broadsword across his back, and appeared to be already well into what surely wasn’t his first mug of ale. Dara and Nell, armed as they were, stood out from what morning visitors the tavern had, and the pair of Pathfinder noticed them immediately. Their differences extended to their greetings; Merisiel quietly nodded toward them, while Valeros waved boisterously with his free hand.

Nell had a new friend. He grinned, heading toward the bar himself to catch up to Valeros. Dara, all business as usual, came directly to the table and sat across from the energetic adventurer. As he sat, Valeros looked first at him, then turned his eyes to Nell at the bar.

The new fighter downed the rest of his drink and slammed his mug down on the table before meeting Dara’s gaze.

“I thought there were gonna be more of ya? I heard there were, four? Five?” Valeros shrugged slightly, turning towards his elven partner.

“Four,” she answered simply. The rogue slowly shifted her gaze back over to Dara. “Where’s the rest of your team?”

Dara explained the situation briefly to the duo. Valeros and Merisiel had already been down to the Repository to assess the situation, but had little in the way of details to offer. As Nell joined them with his own drink, the group decided that any real planning should wait until the whole party had assembled. There was no use in explaining situations twice.

Over an hour later, the stragglers finally arrived, Inori looking much healthier than she had prior. Introductions were brief, and the group quickly got down to business. All six members of the new team huddled together around the table as they discussed strategy. Since the Marquess wanted to keep the Pathfinders’ involvement to a minimum, the outline of the plan was very simple: The pair would cause a distraction outside the warehouse to draw away guards, and the four from the Senate sublevels would sneak in during the chaos.

“So, what do you think?” Valeros asked proudly, seemingly unaware that this was only technically a plan.

“Sounds pretty good to me,” Inori responded. She was used to working with much less. “Distraction, get us in there, get the job done.”

Some effort was made to hammer out a bit more detail, but the work was difficult, and ultimately fruitless. With no knowledge of the inside of the Repository nor the forces the Brotherhood had assembled, it was impossible to gain any tactical edge. The team was essentially going in blind. They opted for a stealthy approach. Once the sun went down, they would make their move, sneaking into the warehouse under the cover of darkness.

This meant that, once again, the party had another day before them. They could make their attack on the Repository in broad daylight, but this was a poor choice for a variety of reasons. As they knew, the building was in fact a fully functioning business. Not only would the light of day make their attack more apparent to the Brotherhood, they’d be seen as burglars to the town constables. The party didn’t need to be fighting a war on two fronts, and especially not against the law. It would be difficult to straighten things out with the police while Lady Lotheed was still in the kidnappers’ grasp. Unfortunately, the spymaster would have to hold on for another day.

The good news, of course, was a full day to prepare. There was much they could do with this time beyond casing the Repository itself. Most of them had never been on a mission like this, and they needed supplies. Healing potions, ropes and lockpicking equipment, and all sorts of other resources would be useful in their assault. They also had a good deal of gear they’d found underground they could sell for more coin to finance their mission. The party split up, trying to offload the mixture of magical artifacts, alchemical equipment, and trade goods (like the rubies Dagio had nested away) they’d acquired.

As the sun began to sink toward the horizon, the four new allies assembled on the main road a block away from the Repository. Valeros and Merisiel were already there, waiting for them. It was time.

Valeros was waiting on a porch, fully out of view from the Dignified Repository. He had his mug in hand, drinking as it seemed he always was.

“You made it,” he said to the party as they gathered. “And you look better! And you… you smell like potions. You had a fun day.”

The party had, in fact, visited several alchemists during the day. Inori and Belor had not taken the doctor’s advice, instead opting for a very shady establishment simply called “Potionmasters” located in The Narrows.

“It was nice,” Dara answered with a shrug. He seemed a bit confused by Valeros’ complete lack of focus on the task at hand.

The truth was, the pair had seen dozens of similar adventures. Though driven by different motivations, they’d worked together for years on many operations like this. The thrill of adventure drove Valeros on his quests, but much to his dismay, operations like this had almost become mundane. Merisiel, on the other hand, took the situation much more seriously.

“So, what’s the plan?” she interjected curtly.

“What we originally came up with might just have to be what it is,” Dara replied, turning to the elf. “We don’t have any way to look inside, unfortunately. So, we will probably go in from the north side, if you distract from the south.”

A military man through and through, subterfuge was far from Dara’s strong suit. He never saw actual combat in his time with the Taldan army, but his training really only applied in a straightforward confrontation. Stealth missions like this were left to the special forces, or independent groups like the Lion Blades (or the Pathfinder Society). If something like this really needed doing, there were always skilled mercenaries ready to lend a hand for coin. He’d never expected to become one of those rogue adventurers himself.

“Hm. Makes sense,” the rogue nodded. “We’ll do what we can to pull as many of them away for you as possible, and make space for you to get in. I’d advise you subtlety once you’re inside. I don’t know if you’re more the sensible type or the Valeros type, but you’re not going to want to raise any sort of alarm before you have to.

“And we’re going to want to move quickly. Dusk is the best time for an action such as this. Even discounting whoever’s inside and any possible change of the guard, which is more likely now, those who are strolling around outside will have their eyes adjusting to the falling darkness. They’ll be less perceptive than usual.”

Valeros was much less wordy as he stood from the table, mug eternally in hand.

“All right!” he grinned. “Distraction’s at the ready. Just say when.”

With that, the group split to their assigned tasks. The warehouse was near the banks of the canal, meaning that the assault team could only get so close before the Pathfinders gave them their opening. They moved casually down around the outside of the block, waiting near the banks of the canal a building away from the Repository.

Two pairs of guards patrolled the outside, with lamps already lit against the falling darkness. They were diligent, but far from military discipline. They made their rounds slowly and casually, talking and joking amongst themselves as they went. As is the job of most night guards, their mere presence was all the deterrent that was generally required.

Martella’s agents waited. They hadn’t discussed a signal, nor any specific time to attack. None of them were accustomed to situations like this, save maybe Inori, and they began to wonder if perhaps they had under prepared. As their doubts began to rise, however, cries rang out.

They could hear a scuffle at the opposite side of the warehouse, loud shouts and clangs ringing out through the growing dark. After a brief moment of confusion, the patrolmen quickly jogged off to investigate. More shouting ensued, and the party could hear banging on doors and more voices joining the chorus.

It was now or never.

Quietly, they moved to the northern wall of the warehouse. The building wasn’t made to be a fortress, and service entrances ringed nearly the whole circumference of the main stock floor. The storehouse had an attached loading dock on the southern side, one they hoped to avoid entering from this angle. With the attention of the Brotherhood’s minions focused elsewhere, Nell quietly eased the nearest door open into near darkness. They entered from the northeastern corner.

The warehouse was cluttered and crowded, packed full with freight. Stacks of boxes soared above them, stacked nearly 20 feet high. The roof of the warehouse loomed another 20 feet beyond that. The light was near darkness, with a sole source of illumination beaming down from a window up above. They could see what appeared to be a raised meeting area 20 feet above to their left, and several members of the Brotherhood inside.

The group quickly tucked themselves inside and closed the door behind them, taking cover among the boxes. They weren’t stacked particularly cleanly, as they formed near mountains around to either side in a haphazard fashion. No complaints were to be had here, the scattered crates gave them ample cover. As they took up positions to try to peer through the shadows, another light peeked around the corner ahead of them.

Clearly, not all the guards had left, as another patrolling pair passed by near the end of the ridge of boxes that now hid them. 40 feet out, the light from their lamp had no chance of reaching all the way to the group’s hiding places. The Brotherhood must have amassed quite a force to still have so much personnel inside after Valeros and Merisiel’s attack!

Silence and patience were the keys here. The party had to wait and assess the situation, strain their eyes and ears to learn what they could before they made a move. They could faintly hear a group of voices occasionally from the other side of the boxes, but only when they reached their loudest. The patrolling pair moved just as slowly and lazily as the groups outside, even in the face of the Pathfinder’s recent moves. Clearly, they didn’t consider them a formidable enough threat to mobilize properly. All the better for the would-be rescuers.

The patrol passed, back beyond the mountain of boxes nearly dividing the warehouse in half to the western side, and the light faded around the corner. In utter darkness, the party slowly began to feel their way around. Nell followed the northern wall they’d entered from to the east, into the corner.

Suddenly, he stumbled. A metal staircase rose from the ground in front of him, completely unseen. Recovering quickly, he caught himself before falling, and prevented his metal breastplate from making much noise. Only a small shuffle escaped, alerting the party but nobody further. Quietly signaling the group to follow, he began to climb the stairs toward the lit room above. A sliver of light peeked out from the top of the stairs, above and slightly to his right, illuminating a tiny fraction of the wall in front of him.

No matter how they explored the stockroom floor, the guards in this raised room were going to have to be dealt with. They had a commanding view of the whole floor, up above even the peak of the stacked boxes dividing the room. Stacks and piles of freight were nearly everywhere, and they could be used to safely hide from ground patrols, but this room would always be a threat until it was eliminated. Conversely, though, assaulting the room would be risky.

Feeling they had little choice, Nell climbed the stairs hoping his group would silently follow. He could not see them to confirm, but he continued anyway. Reaching a landing at the corner, he could see that the stairs turned briefly to the south, rising a bit further before ending at a door left ajar. A thin ray of light beamed from this room, allowing him to confirm the Brotherhood members inside.

With this meager amount of light, and his eyes adjusting, Nell turned around to see the rest of the party lined up on the stairs below.

“Inori, you should take the lead,” Nell whispered to the magus behind him. “Stealth is not what I’m good at.”

“I’m not exactly a ninja either,” she protested, but nonetheless crept past Nell to the upper landing.

She peered up the last of the stairs into the room before her. She could only see the smallest sliver inside the room, but it was enough to make out at least several guards posted within. They seemed to be entirely unaware of the party’s presence.

“Two, maybe three ahead,” she whispered back down the stairs.

“I do not know, it could be loud,” Dara quietly returned.

“You have a fucking crossbow,” the magus retorted.

“I do, but what if I cannot take them all on? What if I miss?”

As the Osirian replied, the group watched the roaming pair of guards return to their half of the warehouse. On the southern opposite wall, there was a large metal double door leading to the loading area. The patrol stopped there, but on their last route had then continued on up towards the stairs. If they came closer, nothing but a thin metal railing would be between them and the Brotherhood’s guards. They would certainly be seen.

“I have an idea,” Nell hissed, getting the party’s attention. “Dara, do you think if these down here approach, you would be able to take position near the bottom of the stairs?”

“We don’t want to fight on two fronts,” Inori argued, gesturing toward the door above.

“No, I wanna take them down unnoticed.”

“You want to take down the ones downstairs?” Dara asked, confused. He worried that this playing hero had gone to the nobleman’s head. Such a play was incredibly risky.

“The ones in front of us are the problem, not the ones behind us,” Inori continued. She felt similarly. She had grown tired of escorting around a noble-born whelp taking the chance to play fantasy. Nell had proven several times now that he was little aid in a real fight, and the only reason she was still attached with him was their commitment to Martella. She was starting to question her decision to bring him at all.

“Yeah but if we go in there, the ones below us will be alerted,” Nell answered, already beginning to move back down the stairs. “Dara, get ready.”

Nell inched his way back down the stairs, past Belor and Dara.

“Gods dammit,” Inori swore under her breath. She had no power to stop him, not quickly nor quietly.

Dara had purchased a leather facemask during the day in Oppara, to cover the burnt scarring over half his face. He pulled it up over his mouth and nose as he drew his crossbow, leveling it on the metal railing toward the approaching patrol. As he did, the two Brotherhood sentinels began to make their way towards the stairs.

Belor and Inori quickly stumbled down the dark stairs into the cover of a smaller mound of boxes near the base of the staircase itself. Magic was loud and showy, and the pair could do little but watch as Nell put his plan into action.

The guards continued to approach. Right as their lamplight fell across Dara perched on the stairs, Nell made his move. As the guard raised his lamp and squinted towards the stairs, the warrior charged forth. He kept himself low, rushing alongside the piles of boxes stacked beneath the room up above, keeping himself out of view from the window above.

As he reached the guard, he drove his sword out in front of his body, pushing his weight and his blade forward and upward. He aimed for the guard without the lamp first, hoping to take him down quickly. Even caught off guard, the sentry twisted out of the way of the strike, drawing his dagger and driving it into Nell’s unprotected side. He stumbled, and brought the blade back down toward the guard as he tried to recover. His strike was clumsy, and easily dodged once again, as the sentry stabbed him a second time and Nell fell back against the boxes.

Inori’s worst fears were confirmed. Nell was trained in swordplay, surely, but training was just that. The man had clearly demonstrated that he’d never been in an actual fight in his fat life before the previous day below the Senate. Whatever delusions of grandeur this nobleman had, his brash actions were threatening to get them all killed.

Dara fired as Nell attacked, landing a crossbow bolt into the throat of the guard holding the lantern. He quickly followed up with a second shot, dropping the man to the floor. His lantern clattered and rolled across the ground as Nell tried to steady himself on the boxes behind him.

The remaining guard stepped back, still confused and off-guard. As he saw the two bolts strike his comrade, he finally came to grips with what was happening. He turned up toward the window above, and called out.

“Smiles! Alarm! Help!”

The party could only watch in horror as the guards in the room above scrambled to answer the call. Knowing she was the only thing between the new enemy group and Dara on the stairs, Inori took Ciaran in hand and rushed back up the stairs to meet them.

Two more sentries came out the doorway onto the stairs, flinging metal darts down towards Inori and Dara. Behind them, however, was an even more pressing threat: their apparent leader.

Clad in dark brown studded leather armor, the fetchling stood out from his human comrades. Where they were each armed with small darts and knives, he carried a jagged sickle in one hand. He emerged into the doorway grinning, as if excited to meet this new opposition. Alongside him followed what appeared to be five identical copies of the man, shuffling around in the doorway at the top of the stairs, constantly shifting and trading places. He had magic.

As the six of him strode confidently out to the top of the stairs, and his agents moved to engage Inori on the stairs, another pair of guards curiously made their way around the great mountain of boxes to the west. The boxes muffled sound, and even with the cries of his allies the guards on the other half of the warehouse were unsure of what was happening. He made his way into the view of the fight, with a dead guard on the ground near an injured Nell, and more guards rushing down the stairs.

The fetchling turned toward the party arrayed down the stairwell.

“How interesting. First Martella, and now her goons! Isn’t this curious how things just continue to play into their hands?” His words had a strange rhythm, almost like song. “The funny part here is I think that THEY think they can win!”

Magic was interwoven with his words, and his dark comedy bolstered his allies. With Brotherhood guards now closing in from every direction, the party had no choice but to fight for both their own lives, and Martella’s…

 


Check out the Discord server for a text write-up of #TheStorySoFar (that’s the channel) to get a real quick catch-up to the current episode! Or, look into #WarForTheCrown for fully detailed text versions of the adventures! Also, just come hang out!

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