The Mistmarches

Early morning at the Magistrate's Office

The three cloaked figures, appropriately dressed for the cold morning, continued their quiet conversation and moved away from the team, seeming to head down the street as if they were headed that way already. Their heavy cloaks and padded clothing made it difficult to see exactly what they were wearing underneath their outer clothes; however, they were armed: one with a longbow, another a crossbow, and the last a axe. Such equipment was no uncommon, but it seemed a bit…martial…for so early in the morning Perhaps they’d only just come into town, or were headed out. Regardless, they were strangers, and only glanced at the team for a moment.

The magistrate’s office was four-story stone building, strongly built and with a stout wooden fence surrounding it. A main gate, wide enough for two men to enter side-by-side, faced the cobblestone street, and there was another, even larger, entry on the opposite side, facing the yard where the constabulary’s stables were. More a compound than a building, it was an impressive structure near the center of town, and set on a low hill, which added to its height and prominence.

Smoke rose from the building’s several chimneys, blending with the light fog that enveloped the rooftops of the town.

A single guard stood next to the main gate, one door of which stood open, the formal work day having just begun.

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Breakfast at Toorbyn & Machtha's
and a reunion

Ti’Un woke just as the least of the morning sun started to creep into the stockroom window. Getting out of bed was a painful chore, and after a moment of hesitating he pulled himself up, gritting his teeth at the dull ache in his back and sides and the sharp pain on his arm, where Dale had grazed him.

After dressing and putting on some of his kit he looked at his weapons and sighed: Begglestar did not allow open carry of large weapons, and since he was no longer a Scout he had no claim to do otherwise. His rough elk horn handled dagger would have to do, although he trusted the Oornothi inn as a place to leave the rest of his belongings, as well as Sarick’s armor and weapons.

The Dunswarder made his way out front to one of the long tables where guests sat communally for meals. One of the dwarves brought him a goblet of Bretht, a goats milk and fruit drink, and with it a note. Breakfast itself would arrive shortly.

“It was left for you last night, Ng’Vol, " said with a nod, using the Oornothi honorific for “friend.”

Raising an eyebrow over the folded paper, Ti’ sipped the rich drink and opened it.

‘Nice work on the road. We arrived after midnight and are upstairs. Send for us if it’s not too early. -Genji’


Meta
If you want to head out to the magistrate’s office as a group after breakfast, I will set the scene so that what Ti’Un saw as he headed over there himself is what the group (of three) sees.

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All Hands Meeting at Camp Belgrey
that same evening

Commander Ahtur sent the order throughout the camp at the dinner hour, calling for an all-hands meeting in the main hall at the 9th bell. Aside from a few sentries and the two teams on patrol, everyone assigned to the camp would be crowded into the hall for the unusually late gathering.

The time came and the hall filled, with every bench used and several people standing along the back wall. Ahtur and Buxton were on the low riser at the front of the room, the maps of the region behind them. The black dragon head hung in silence off to one side, the most prominent trophy mounted by one of the teams thus far.

Buxton called the room to order and stepped aside for Ahtur, who looked calm, intense, and perhaps a little downcast.

“Scouts, we’ve had a rough few days, and I don’t need to go over where things have gone wrong – we all know. I will emphasize a few things. First, we lost Krieg, who was a good young man. He would have made a fine Scout, I know. We all know of the concerns he expressed, and then we know, at least based on the accounts provided by the others on his team, what happened. You saw Sarick’s conduct yesterday, and watched, sadly, as Ti’Un lost his bearing and, ultimately, I was forced to demand his resignation. He is no longer a Scout, and has left for, hopefully, some place where he can get his head right and start over.” He paced a little as he talked, making eye contact with different Scouts as he did, sometimes pointing or gesturing for emphasis.

“You heard stories of an invading army, too, and that’s why we’re here now: so I can give you the whole truth, instead of what you’ve been hearing. You are all sworn to the utmost secrecy at what I am about to tell you, and you will all sign statements to that effect before we break for tonight…it’s that serious,” he let the heavy words hang for a moment.

“There is no enemy army to our north, or anywhere else around here. We’ve all heard of the reports of marauders in the south, and those are accurate, but aside from the peoples to north of the gorge, our sector is calm – safe, even. We can explore and work to expand the realm’s borders – we can do our job,” he said with a tone of satisfaction.

“There is no enemy army, as I said, but instead our forces have been forward-positioned to ensure our defenses in this sector. Those are our men, chosen from among the best of the army. You might have heard some of the scuttlebutt about troop transfers. Well, there’s your answer. But this isn’t something that can get out – the King has plans, form what I hear, and he’s keeping a lid on what’s going on. I trust him…don’t you? He’s served us well, and if he’s to continue with the good work he’s done, he needs our support – and our trust, even when we don’t know all the answers.”

Ahtur goes on for a few more minutes, speaking in generalities while he assures his men that they’re doing a great job, that the border north of their sector is more secure than anywhere else, and that the “higher ups” are impressed with the work they’ve all been doing. He concludes with a surprise, which he’s granting to them because of that good work: a bonus leave day for everyone over the next month, a Finder’s Bonus for everyone (gold!), and he adds slyly, as if it’s the result of his cleverness and devotion to them, that he’s got “extra rations” for everyone, right now.

With that, his men open the side doors and wheel in two great beer barrels, along with wooden cups. The crowd gives Ahtur a few “huzzahs!” and descends on the booze, while Ahtur and Buxton mix with the crowd and congratulate individual Scouts on their loyalty and good work.

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Locked up, sort of
what kind of operation are you guys running here?

The guard, Baerl, held the semi-conscious assailant down on the stairs and kept his eyes on Sarick, who was standing on the landing a few feet down, his back against the wall, with his hands up in a non-threatening pose. The guard shouted for backup and within a moment two men ran down the hall, one another guard and his fellow some official, wrapped in a night cloak, his hair a mess from having jumped out of bed.

Within moments the assassin had been picked up, cuffed, and was being roughly dragged off to a first-floor jail cell. Sarick was led to the same office were he’d been given the rundown of the rules earlier that evening and was told to sit, the door closed and locked behind him. The window was shuttered and locked from the outside, and the office was spare – meant to be more of an interview room than a place where an official would do his work.

While waiting, Sarick heard movement and conversation, some heated, in the hall, and within a few minutes the duty officer and Baerl came into the room, remaining standing as the official spoke.

“You’re quite a handful, aren’t you? You come to us provisionally accused of murder, albeit with conflicting accounts and statements – some damning; some in your support. And then you don’t make it a single night without someone breaking in and trying to kill either you or one of my guards. Tell me your story; leave nothing out; we can take all night if we need to,” he says, firmly and with a focus in his eyes that leaves Sarick feeling that this is a man of the law and his word.

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Ti'Un On His Own
It's really cold outside, too

Ti’Un finished arranging the bodies to create the scene of a drug frenzy gone wrong, and rested, binding his wounds and gathering his thoughts. Dale and his goons, hopped up on Death Rattle, had come close to killing him – a few more shots from any of them and he’d have been at their mercy, which he was sure would have come in the form of a slit throat. He could only imagine his body being found alongside the road, eaten by animals and stripped of valuables, and his death attributed to bandits, which would lead to little more than finger-pointing between the Scouts (“we don’t do internal law enforcement!”) and the Rangers (“that’s your area!”).

But that didn’t happen, and now Ti’Un had irrefutable evidence that the leadership at Camp Belgrey was crooked and, worse, murderous. The cold would keep the bodies relatively intact for a few days. Perhaps these dead fools could come in handy, somehow.

After covering his tracks across the road as best he could, the mighty Dunswarder shivered involuntarily, suddenly realizing just how cold he was, what with the perspiration from the fight now chilling his skin. Wrapping his blanket around himself he trudged off down the road toward Aegynton, the town where Sarick had been taken.


It was mid-evening – dark, dry, and crisp – when Ti’Un arrived in the town. There was no palisade or formal town guard post, as this closer to the traditional interior of the realm. True, the Lord-Mayor’s keep was walled, and there were a few constable’s posts spread around, but aside from the lights he saw on the low, flat hill as he approached, there were only houses and commercial buildings to greet him.

Striding now, his sense of ego motivating him to project strength despite the pain in his back and sides, and the additional weight of Sarick’s armaments, he made his way toward the center of town and the one place he could expect to be welcomed. There were some people outside, moving with purpose from one place to another, and no one lingering in the cold, and so aside from quick nods or glances, he interacted with no one.

A few more minutes and he saw the shingle and vertical banner, down the way on his left: Toorbyn & Machtha. The inn was Oornothi, owned by two old brothers and run by their families. Reaching into the folds of his clothes he retrieved the broach awarded to him by clan from the hold, and affixed it to the lapel of cloak, and pushed open the door to a well-lit and warm common room.

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Ahtur's Comment to Genji
this could be taken a few different ways

Said to Genji by Ahtur while the two were in the latter’s office before all the uncomfortable stuff happened:

“We’re on the brink of some big changes, I think, for this realm. Good things,” he says, nodding thoughtfully. “I want you at the forefront, with the rest of us, as these things happen. I want to count on you, Genji. You’ve been noticed by some influential people – far above my pay grade – and I have to tell you, the Mistmarches needs smart, reliable operators, now more than ever. Your team is one of the best – and I mean not just here, but service-wide. And you’ve got a good handle on your men. Let’s work through this, and let the process play out,” he finishes, with a raised eyebrow seemingly expecting assent."

And regarding the army:

“There’s no army about to invade. What you saw was an operation that’s been months in the works, and is part of the insurance we have for our future security.”

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Meanwhile, in Misthaven
The king and his council discuss issues

King Jotwan II sat and thought as Marko, the Count Barrington sat after finishing his remarks. The others in the council chamber completed their notes, pulled at their chins, looked at one another, and seemed to await the king’s initial response.

The Count had presented a picture of the realm that offered some promise, and some significant points of concern. The realm was in good shape, fiscally, keeping taxes relatively low and hiding others in such ways that the broader population did not feel them directly. The kingdom had the funds to cover its needs. The army, at current strength, was funded. Roads, municipal operations, and infrastructural needs were addressed, at least at levels that were considered acceptable. There was, however, not room much room for emergencies or unforeseen needs. That the western and northern borders were secure was a significant point of hope.

This was all comforting news. On the other hand, the odd landforms discovered by the Tuskwater Scouts south and east of the realm were troubling, given the peoples encountered there. Desolate wastes, followed by rugged mountains capped with snow were populated by savage tribes never before encountered. To the north, the strange ‘tree people’ offered the possibility of trade, but also the potential problem of their snake-man masters. Thus, threats existed from the north and south, presenting the possibility of two fronts, which the realm could not handle. Those to the south, however, were both closer and more pressing.

Magic energies were continuing to creep back into the world, albeit unevenly. Spellcasters of all sorts were offering their services to the realm, and the economy of magical items was, for the first time in generations, starting to recover.

The king took a sip from his goblet, looked at his advisers, and began.

“Thank you for your input, Count. Your service is, as usual, outstanding. I feel confident about the realm’s finances, although I believe we should revisit the possibility of a temporary tax levy, perhaps in the form of the bonds you mentioned, to bolster our coffers and make some needed additions to our defenses. I want numbers of projected revenues from the sale of magic items over the next few years so we’re sure about being able to cover the cost of that debt when it comes due.

“Beyond that, and while I am uncomfortable with it in principle, I believe that it would make sense to divert a few units from some of our northern garrisons to our southern border, where the threat seems most acute. General Koff, I want a full proposal from the army by tomorrow afternoon, and if it is acceptable we can move on it as soon as week’s end.”

The king nodded to his chief counselors, and smiled. The meeting was at an end.

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Called to the Commander's Office
Tense secrets

Meta
Only Genji is aware of what’s below, since he’s the only one there. I provide this as public for the sake of building the story.


Genji accepts Ahtur’s request to sit, and the commandant leans on a stout cabinet near the door, crossing his arms and sighing before speaking.

“I won’t belittle you by saying that you wouldn’t understand. I will ask that you accept that there are things going on that you seem to have only partial, and probably distorted information about, and it looks to me like your decisions are based on an incomplete picture,” he begins.

“The kingdom is surrounded by some traditional enemies, a few traditional friends, and a great unknown. That unknown is turning out to be pretty hostile – those lizard people are a great example, right?” he asks, lightening his tone.

“We have a decent king, but he’s picking up the pieces not only from the Storm, but some weak predecessors. We all know this. We need allies, friends, and support, if we’re going to hold onto what’s ours – you want that, don’t you?” he asks, letting his words hang in the air.

“I don’t know what happened out there with Krieg. I do know your team came back without a body, and the admission that Sarick was on watch after the boy, and that his arrow killed him. You must see where that puts me, regardless of your team’s, or Sarick’s accomplishments. I have rules to follow, and law to enforce. You see that, I know,” Ahtur states, his tone resigned and somber.

“Are you so certain of the story Sarick has told you? Think about it. We have laws, and we must honor both them and the traditions attached to them. You know that, too. There must be a proper investigation,” he states, “and we must find the truth, to satisfy the law.”

“And you’ve seen his temper,” he adds.

He pauses to give Genji time to consider his words, then continues.

“We’re on the brink of some big changes, I think, for this realm. Good things,” he says, nodding thoughtfully. “I want you at the forefront, with the rest of us, as these things happen. I want to count on you, Genji. You’ve been noticed by some influential people – far above my pay grade – and I have to tell you, the Mistmarches needs smart, reliable operators, now more than ever. Your team is one of the best – and I mean not just here, but service-wide. And you’ve got a good handle on your men. Let’s work through this, and let the process play out,” he finishes, with a raised eyebrow seemingly expecting assent.

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Crisis at Camp Belgrey
Accusations and answers?

Summary
You folks left the area around the army before anyone found the dead sentry. The army itself was around 600-700, mostly humanoid, and with some monstrous forces added in. There were horses, some wagons, and evidence of good organizations. The camp was spread out to the north pretty far, and it didn’t look like they’d been there long,

The situation at the camp was oddly tense upon your return, and left off with the following situations and locations:

1. Ti and Korrigan are in the lobby of the command building, with two guards and one goon – a guy named Flek, who is one of Dale’s enforcers. He is blocking the way down the hall to where Dale and the other big guy, Rendro, went.

2, Genji is in Ahtur’s office, with the door closed.

3. Sarick just bumped, face first, into Dale as they both tried to go through the office door, surprising one another, and that’s where Dale blurred out something about Sarick being under arrest for Krieg’s murder, which seeemd really out of place, as if it were part of a conversation and process that had yet to take place.

Everyone listed can hear Ti’s loud voice, and Korrigan, where he is sitting, can see down the short hall where Sarick and Dale are face to face. Rendro is turned, so that he can see both the lobby and back up Dale. Flek is blocking the hall and is facing everyone in the lobby. One guard is standing somewhat near Korrigan, and the other is in the open door that leads to the main yard. Genji and Ahtur are in a closed office, the door to which is in the lobby.

The lobby has two chairs, a small table along one wall, and hooks on the walls where some cloaks and other equipment prices are hung. The room is rectangular, and about 12×15. Everyone in it is only a step or two from each other. The walls are half stone half wood – stones and mortar up to about the hips, then wood from there up.

Flek has his hands at his sides and is relaxed and ready. The gurards seem surprised and exchanged somewhat confused glances.

Note: if SOP for the camp isn’t being followed, there will be about 30-40 people in the camp, most of whom will be on duty. There are three scout teams in the camp now, including yours, plus all the garrison and support personnel. Unless there is an extensive conspiracy, most of these folks are innocents on duty, and after a year at the camp, your coworkers and friends.

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Murder in the Woods
March 4907

It’s been a year since each of you joined the Tuskwater Scouts. Each of you has been promoted, lauded for your accomplishments, and have achieved some measure of wealth from your work. Knowledge that there’s corruption at Camp Belgrey doesn’t sit well with any of you, and learning that it’s likely that similar issues exist at some other northern camps is unsettling, at best.

The leaders at Camp Belgrey, and probably some other northern camps, are skimming off the top of their coin and treasure hauls, and aren’t doing their part to secure the northern border. The frontiers of the realm, including the cities of Burmovton and Pitax, and those small communities dotting the landscape away from the core cities, are feeling a growing disconnect from the kingdom, thinking themselves unprotected and forgotten. Disappearances, violence, and banditry are on the rise on the rural roads and the government either isn’t willing or isn’t able to do much about it. Support and troops are promised and are always on the way, but the problems only seem to increase.


Two weeks after returning to Camp Belgrey, in the cold, dry winter, the team went out on two regularly-scheduled patrols, taking young Krieg Oreny with them, in keeping with his new status as squad apprentice. On the third night, before the last watch, stood by Sarick, Krieg muttered to himself as he walked quietly around the campsite. He’d made a list of what he had to do during his two-hour shift, and had meticulously gone about doing everything a few times over.

About 30 minutes before the end of his watch, he prepared to do another circuit around the site, taking care to listen before moving, and to keep his eyes moving, just like he’d been taught. Moving around the far side of a heap of low boulders overlooking a gentle slope downward to the west, he thought he saw a flicker of movement in the distance. Freezing in place – almost a reflex now! – he listened, watched, and tried to perceive. The other Scouts had told him that he needed to “perceive” his surroundings instead of focusing too much on one sense…let each of his senses inform his mind…perceive. He stood stock-still, trying to slow his breathing as he tried to stay calm. The breeze was suddenly absent, and when he shifted in place he realized his feet made no sound. His eyes widened in surprise and quickly growing fear as the oddness of his situation started to sink into his mind. He shifted his feet and heard…nothing.

The arrow came from somewhere down that slope, and slammed into his heart, its tip lodging on the inside of a rib under his left shoulder blade. He gasped, tried to shout, and stumbled backwards. His vision faded quickly as he fell, jerked some on the ground, and arched his back hard as blood fountained out from around the hole in his chest. He kicked once, and then fell flat, a moment from death. The last thing he perceived was a dark form, cast against the brilliant starry sky above, looming over him.


Meta

Obviously there’s some meta here. How would you examine the scene? There’s about another hour or more before daylight when Sarick finds Krieg’s body, about 30 feet from where your main campsite is situated, and on the far side of a few medium boulders. It’s sharply cold, and very dry. There is frost on the ground in some places, and you are among pine trees that are somewhat sparse. The trail you took is to your east, and there is a frozen stream to the west.

What do you do? This will shape how the next session begins, so if you want a hand in impacting that, please sound off.

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