Friday, March 09, 2018

Lark's Landing, Episode 17

Colonial Caerdia: Lark's Landing is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't familiar with this ongoing story, you can follow this link to Once Upon a Tabletop on YouTube to hear the start of it or read the brief summary I wrote when I switched from video to blog.

You can find the previous episode here.

35th - 38th of Waning Spring, 0AL

The adventurers have decided it's time to spend some time at the settlement. The 35th of Waning Spring starts with a bit of a surprise for Gilligan, who wakes up to find Akta looming over him with a blank expression. She doesn't say anything when he asks what's going on - just continues to stare. He threatens to hit her if she doesn't move, but she stays where she is until just as he swings at her, then turns and walks away. She leaves the house and spends the day walking on the beach.

Confused, but only a little shaken, Gilligan goes out and spends the day talking to various people and researching to discover what it would take to turn the displacer beast hide into a cloak without it losing its magical properties. He comes to the determination that it will take a lot of magical materials mixed into tanning chemicals, while magical energy is funnelled into it and it will need to be crafted into its cloak form while still in this mixture. The entire process will take about fifty days to complete.

As part of his research, he visits Feryon, who also gives Gilligan a scroll of the Identify spell written an a brittle paper made of pressed leaves. Stor had requested this in exchange for the bottle of displacer beast blood, knowing that Gilligan was quite distraught about the previous one which he had broken. Gilligan is so touched by this kindness form Stor that he rushes home to hug and thank the goblin - then promptly stashes the scroll somewhere very safe.

Stor has been at home this whole time with Kordak, starting the brewing process for their next concoction: rum. Their mead needs more time to age, so they're eager to make something that will be ready to drink much sooner.

Balasar also spends the day at home, relaxing, but also looking inwards - striving to find some hint of what his life had been like before he woke up with no memory of his past. He can't seem to get past that earliest memory from less than six months ago. He begins to reconsider Gilligan's offer to assist by joining their minds.

Shend spends his day learning fletching from Orfo, who doesn't seem to notice he was gone for a long time. He is also more than happy to attach Shend's magical arrowhead to a new arrow.

That night, as they're going to sleep, Gilligan discovers that his bed is in the wrong place. This is confusing and is a bit concerning because there were people home all day and no one saw it move. He decides to ask Akta about it, since she seems a viable culprit. She doesn't confirm or deny anything, but does say that he doesn't understand - but he will.

Everyone goes to sleep, with Gilligan setting Pablo to keep an eye on Akta. His familiar wakes him in the morning as Akta comes over to loom over him. He does his best to ignore her and heads out, seeking to talk with Feryon again. Balasar, wanting to talk to both Gilligan and the wizard, accompanies him. He asks Gilligan about the mind-meld he'd offered, wondering what it's like and if it'll help unlock his lost memories. Gilligan explains that it's simply the sharing of a memory and that they can certainly try. He says that a relaxing environment will be best, so he suggests Balasar's shrine to Epesta - saying that they can go after talking to Feryon.

As usual, something inside breaks when they knock on the door of the swaying bamboo tower. The wizard answers and Gilligan speaks with him about helping to enchant the cloak. Feryon refuses, saying he's much too busy - admitting, when Gilligan presses him for reasons, that he's needing to pour magic into his tower every day to keep it standing, as he made mistakes while enchanting it. Gilligan accepts this and suggests leaving the displacer beast hide with Feryon for safekeeping until the adventurers can deal with it, but decides not to when Feryon seems a bit too eager to have it.

Balasar then asks about how to determine if some kind of magic is affecting a someone's mind - the wizard suggests a simple identify spell. Thanking him, the two head off to the shrine.

Meanwhile, Kordak has gone out to help with the construction of Wyatt's tavern. The process is going very slowly because there are few workers and it's a very large building. Stor stays at home, fashioning a tiger pelt into a cloak, and Shend goes out to speak with Ardona, who is on a patrol duty around the wall. He asks she can train him to be more observant if he walks along with her - she agrees, and he spends his day training.

Akta goes out for one of her usual walks, but remembers that Angro had asked to speak with her many days ago and decides to find him. The big tiefling is working with Gorbosh on building a forge. He's happy to see Akta, and asks her to sit beside him on the stone wall of the furnace. He then apologises if he was too harsh on her the other night when he'd caught her troubling Naldor. He explains that a lot of people give tieflings a hard time, so it's important not to encourage that reputation. Akta thanks him from his apology, and explains that, because of her upbringing, she's still learning the nuances of right and wrong.

Angro ends the conversation by letting her know that there's nothing wrong with the pranks she likes to pull - they can be great fun - she just has to be careful to prank the people who will appreciate the humor. As Akta stands, there's a squelching sound caused by the mortar she'd been sitting in. She hears a chuckle from the tiefling behind her.

Next she has a conversation with the nearby Gorbosh, who she knows fairly well from the ship and her time in the militia. She tells him that she's struggling with getting along with her companions - and that she wants to tell them something, but she doesn't know how to. She wants his advice. The half-orc thinks for a moment before saying that the group has always seemed friendly and fair to him. He says that his own policy is to be straightforward and honest, and that it's mostly worked for him so far.

Akta thanks him and, before leaving, uses a spell to clean off the mortar and pauses to thank Angro for his prank. She then returns to her walk on the beach before going home. Once Shend and Kordak get home, she tells them and Stor that she has something she wants to tell them - she wants to tell Balasar, too, but since he's still away and she doesn't trust Gilligan enough to tell him, she settles for these three. She explains that she grew up in the Somvidian Empire and was meant to be part of their army. Her father was an officer, but her mother managed to sneak her out - and is now in prison because of it. She says she really doesn't like talking about it, and would appreciate it if they no longer ask her about it all the time. Her friends are very understanding of this.

Out at the shrine to Epesta, Gilligan talks Balasar through a meditation, taking a great deal of time to get him relaxed. He then connects their minds and they wander into Balasar's memories. They start off in his earliest memory, of waking up alone in a room with all of his belongings. Next, they press on, looking further back, but come across some form of barrier. They push against it, trying to get through. Suddenly it snaps! They get a brief glimpse of Balasar, feeling very frightened, lying down and looking up at a hooded figure, then they're ejected from the memory. They come back to reality with severe pain arcing through their minds.

They try to examine what they saw more closely, but don't recall anything beyond what they saw - except for Gilligan noticing that the figure held a staff. But, as he's concentrating, Gilligan finds his eyes drawn to the back of Balasar's hand - where one of his blue scales has turned black.

Panicking, they examine it. There isn't anything wrong with it as far as they can tell - no disease of anything magical about it. It's a natural, healthy scale - except that it's the wrong color. Balasar says he'll need gloves now, so Gilligan gives him his. The dragonborn pulls it on over his hand - the glove is significantly too small; the fingers tear out and the seams stretch, giving it a rough, post-apocalyptic fingerless glove look. He hands the other glove back to Gilligan - who has given himself a once-over and is relieved to find he hasn't developed any black patches.

They decide to try again, to see if they can find out more. They have the same experience, not managing to get any farther - and getting booted out of Balasar's mind with further damage done to their minds. Gilligan, used to the rigours of psychic energy, recovers quickly, but Balasar is left with a headache that will last for the rest of the day. Luckily, there are no more black scales. They believe that they need to give Balasar's mind some time to recover before exploring further.

They head home, where they tell the others - who are very interested in the experience. The conversation gets Gilligan thinking about the possibility of linking the whole group into Balasar's mind so they can all explore his past. However, it is late and it must wait for another day.

Remembering Feryon's advice, Balasar casts the identify spell on himself, trying to determine if this strange memory blockage is being caused by a spell. He finds magics inside himself, but he can't determine if any of it is specifically causing his memory block - but it doesn't seem to be. Kordak suggests the spell be cast on him, for a basis of comparison - Balasar finds no magic, and says, "There's nothing special about you." which Kordak doesn't take very well. Now Stor and Akta want the spell cast on them as well - Balasar obliges, revealing that Stro's body is amazingly generating radiant energy inside, and Akta has magic being funnelled into her from an outside source. Grumpy about seeming to be the only non-magical person about, not to mention there being "nothing special" about him, Kordak stomps out into the night, where he sleeps on the beach.

The others start going to sleep, but before he can, Gilligan discovers that his bed is soaking wet. And there's a fish in it - dead, but fairly fresh. He assumes Akta is responsible and cooks the fish to eat it, but Stor is more concerned. He was at home all day, and he didn't see anyone putting a fish in Gilligan's bed. As Gilligan's about to eat the fish, Stor reminds him of the bear traps that had been set - albeit upside-down - in their house. He suggests eating the fish might not be such a good idea. Gilligan puts the fish aside and pulls out his bedroll to sleep on.

In the morning, Akta is, of course, looming over Gilligan. He ignores her and sets Pablo to guarding his bed. As everyone is heads out for the day, they notice a strange, excited energy in the settlement. People keep pulling each other aside, whispering excitedly. Gilligan decides that the best way to find out what's going on is to ask Triena, so he heads straight to the temple - which he finds a strange sail-cloth tent outside of. His jaw drops and he rushes into the tent - guessing what's going on, but needing to know for certain. The moment he pushes through the tent flap, he's shooed back outside, but his suspicions are confirmed.

The others use more conventional means to gather information - they ask whoever is closest to them and discover that Triena has done into labor - the settlement's fist baby is being born! Akta rushes over and joins Gilligan, where he's pacing and chewing his nails outside the tent. She's never seen a baby before, and is very excited.

The others are happy about the news, but continue about their days. Shend and Stor go off to train with Ardona. Balasar goes to find Kordak, who is helping with the tavern again. He apologises for what he said last night, but only gets a grunt in reply. So he stays and helps with building.

Gilligan and Akta wait outside the birthing tent all day, except for a brief span when Gilligan rushes off to Feryon's tower - he'd left his tea set there some time ago and wants it back. To his dismay, it is no longer there - Feryon had traded it to the crazy people on the herb farm, saying that he didn't know Gilligan wanted it back and, quite frankly, he'd forgotten it was his. Frustrated, Gilligan demands that Feryon get it back for him, then returns to waiting outside the tent, even more anxious than before.

The sun is setting when the child's first cries are heard from within the tent. But there's also the sounds of some alarm. One of the women in the tent comes out, looking around anxiously, then runs off. A few moments later, another woman sticks her head out of the tent, saying that they need a healer. Akta volunteers her medicinal skills while Gilligan rushes off to find Balasar.

In the tent, Akta finds three women watching over Triena, who'd on a cot, looking very pale, and covered in a bloodstained sheet. It clearly was a very difficult birth. Akta tries to help, fumbling with her small collection of herbs, but in her panic she can't seem to remember anything or figure out how to help. Luckily, Gilligan soon returns with Balasar in tow. The dragonborn hurries to Triena's side and pours his healing magic into her.

Outside, Kordak, Shend, and Stor are heading home when they notice a different mood in the settlement - a much fouler one. There seem to be groups of people forming, many with torches, and heading towards the temple. Kordak and Shend find such groups and tag along to find out what's happening. Sensing trouble, Stor runs as fast as he can to the temple and the tent beside it.

In the tent, Triena asks to see her child. One of the midwives says, with a bit of a nervousness in her voice, that it's a boy. She holds the baby out to her and Balasar, Akta, and Gilligan see that he has florescent pink skin and the tiny start of horns - a tiefling. Triena looks at her child with a great deal of love, but also a trace of uncertainty. She looks up at Gilligan and says, "I was going to call him Gilligan, after the hero who helped us on the ship - without you, he may never have been born - but now, I'm not sure that's a good idea...."

Stor slides into the tent just in time to hear this. A quick glance around gives him a good idea of what's going on - a human has just given birth to a tiefling, a race whose origins come from dealing with fiends. He's dealt with enough prejudices to make an educated guess.

"That can wait until later!" He says, drawing everyone's attention. "There's a mob coming!"

Everyone jumps into action, trying to figure out the situation. A quick question reveals that the child's father was human - not a tiefling. Akta doesn't understand what the fuss is all about and is enamoured of the baby, but starts thinking of ways to get the child and the mother out of there.

Balasar, Gilligan, and Stor leave the tent and see a mob of more than 150 people approaching with torches. Luckily, Hargrom, who had picked up on the trouble, also shows up with a number of militia members who set up defensively in front of the tent and temple. Balasar and Stor start yelling at the mob - which is continuing to grow, but has at least stopped at the sight of the armed militia in their way - trying to reason with them. They have very little success, getting responses about demon worshipping and burning the witch.

In the midst of the mob, Kordak also tries some reason, but he loses his temper when he hears some horrible things being said by an off-duty member of the militia. Kordak decks him, laying him out, but in response the mob around him turns on him - punching him and beating him with torches. His armor is only of a little help. Luckily, Hargrom and his milita, seeing the fighting start from outside and knowing it could spell disaster, forces their way into the mob ad drags him out. When Hargrom recognises that Kordak was the start of the fight, he says, "It would be you."

The attempts to reason with the mob continue to go poorly, but amid the shouts, the defenders of the tent recognise a voice yelling deliberately ridiculous things - something about newts. Balasar uses his magic to amplify his voice, telling Shend to get out of the crowd. Having had his fun, the dwarf pushes his way out of the mob and joins his friends.

But the mob is building itself up into a frenzy. From inside the tent, Akta proposes a plan, and the others accept. She and Shend slip out the back of the tent with Triena and the baby. Akta summons up a pair of horses and the four ride off into the jungle, heading for the ruins where they found the tombstones - the closest relatively safe place they could think of.

Meanwhile, the others try to figure out how to calm the mob. They realise that Naldor, who they would have thought was running the show, doesn't even seem to be there. They aren't certain if Naldor will help or make the problem worse, but he's the only one they can think of that the mob might actually listen to. With his psionic powers, Gilligan launches Stor into the air and over the crowd. The goblin's belt of featherfalling allows him to drift safely to the ground, where he takes of running at full speed.

Stor bursts into Naldor's shop to find the man calmly working, unaware that anything strange is happening. Stor quickly explains about the mob and - hesitantly - Triena's tiefling child. Naldor's eyes blaze with fury and he says, "We can't have people doing that!" and joins Stor in rushing back to the temple. Stor fills him in a bit more, and Naldor mutters angrily the whole time about lynch mobs and stupid people.

They arrive to find the mob - thankfully still building it's frenzy. Naldor and Stor make their way through, with the crowd opening up before them when they recognise Naldor. Stor smirks to himself when he notices a number of them excited to have Naldor here, certain he's on their side.

When they get to the front, Naldor asks about getting his voice amplified, but, as that's not available for him, he requests light instead. Balasar casts a light spell on a shovel volunteered by Gilligan to hold above Naldor's head, then Stor and Gilligan send blasts of light into the night sky until the mob notices Naldor and quiets down.

Naldor then succinctly orders them to disperse. The mob protests, but he insists that what they're doing is wrong. He shares their concerns, but this is not the way to deal with the problem. When the crowd seems unlikely to agree with him, he calls out several people by name, reminding them of how he's helped them. He manages to send them off with a promise that this is the council's responsibility and the council will deal with it.

The crowd disperses, and the adventurers are relieved - not to mention astounded that Naldor actually helped them out of this mess. Stor runs off to catch Shend, Akta, Triena, and the baby, while the others tell Naldor about the escape, then head home with Naldor's promise that he'll summon the council tomorrow. Hargrom leaves some guards behind at the temple, partially for show and partially for safety.

Akta's horses only existed for an hour, so Stor is eventually able to catch up. He tells them the good news and brings them back home. They decide that Triena and the baby should stay with them for the night, while the rest of the group takes watches.

Relatively early in the morning, the messenger summoning them to the council arrives. Triena is in no condition for participating, but they bring her and the baby along for safety. Upon seeing the tiefling child, some of the council members are surprised to see that the rumors are true.

Naldor delivers an impassioned speech, about how everyone came here to escape the Somvidian Empire and feel safe, but now - with goblins killing people, imps being summoned, and now tieflings being born to humans - people aren't sure they escaped - and they certainly aren't feeling safe. It's the council's job to make people feel safe, otherwise the people will take matters into their own hands, and there will be blood. And it will be the council's fault for not doing anything to stop it. He proposes separating the settlement into districts, divided by races.

The adventurers' good feelings towards Naldor immediately vanish as an argument breaks out between the whole council. It is eventually calmed down by Duchess Kelenia, an elven woman who frequently serves the role of moderator for the council. She says that this is an extremely important decision, so they must take a vote and every voice must be heard. She then gets each council member to state their opinions and cast their vote on the segregation.

The adventurers listen and watch in horror as many of the council members - some of whom they trust and know to be good people throw in with Naldor, agreeing to racial segregation for a variety of reasons: protecting family from disputants on either side; keeping people apart so they won't fight; people are stupid and will believe what they hear, so there's no other way; there were no problems on the ship, where people were separated.

The vote stands 9 to 3 in favor of segregation when Kelenia turns to the adventurers for their votes. One by one, Gilligan, Shend, Stor, Akta, and Balasar step forward, each making extraordinarily passionate and unique speeches about why they should not split up the races: unity; separation breeding fear; temporary solution; making hateful people believe they are right; weakening the settlement.

9 to 8. Kordak pauses for a long time, considering. He had been swaying to vote for segregation - seeing the logic in keeping people apart to keep them safe from their own stupidity. But it was his companions speeches that make up his mind. He steps forward, making his own grand speech, and stepping over to join his friends.

Kelenia looks to both sides. She expresses that each of them have many fair and valid points. Everything that was said is true, but she agrees that segregation is a temporary solution that will only cause more problems in the future - and she breaks the tie, ending the talk of racial segregation.

Even some of the people who voted in favor of the segregation are relieved by the decision. Naldor says that he won't argue with the decision, but that another solution must be found. The people must feel that they are safe; that the council is doing it's job.

So the conversation turns to the matter of figuring out how to convince an entire settlement that Triena and her child are not evil and that the settlement isn't being threatened from the inside.

And that's where this game session came to an end. What solution will our heroes find to this problem? Find out next week in Episode 18.

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