The Wild March, Session 0: Something Rotten

There was one more session before The Wild March really started, and this one does more to inform what happens later in the campaign - though the Wyvern Hunt does have a cogent detail or two.

One thing to keep in mind is that we actually rain out of time or energy (both, really) before finishing this session, so the actual resolution will be my presumed summary.

This story begins in Harjevo, the closest thing the sleepy kingdom of Harmark has to a city. Made up of barely ten thousand residents, the city is built on the banks of the River Artur, which burst its banks a decade ago and put some areas under as much as eight feet of water. The river has long since returned to its usual levels, but much of the city remains waterlogged and sick with rot, with some of the poor areas still having streets under perpetually deep puddles. Packs of wild dogs roam the streets - fed and admired by the populace in the strange custom of Harkers. 

Image shamelessly stolen from the talented Pawel Zych, click the picture for his DeviantArt

Image shamelessly stolen from the talented Pawel Zych, click the picture for his DeviantArt

The Harkers take pride in their simplicity and neutrality - they don't involve themselves with foreign affairs, and their land is fertile enough to provide a surplus most years, which they gladly sell to the Iron Principalities on their western borders. The average Harker has never seen the sea, which might explain their contentedness to while away their years in agrarian tranquility rather than seeking the wider world.

In Cooper's Square, three men meet near the entrance to the public gardens. All of them are here for the same job - a mysterious posting circulated through the city underground calling for dangerous and discreet out-of-towners in search of good money. Fairly standard sort of advertisement for adventurers, but any adventurer with a few years under their belt understands that "standard" doesn't mean "simple." 

The two humans cock their heads toward the half elf among them. They were led to believe that they would be working with his brother as well, but Vasily waves them off, assuring them they they would meet up with him at the fairground later.

The humans (a thief named Tibidi and an ex-army archer named Galapas) shrug, and the three of them head into the gardens to meet with their employer. 

"Canon" here gets a little weird. Galapas is back from the Wyvern Hunt, and he'll be in the main campaign. This is also the first appearance of Vasily and Vitaly, but... uh... 

Okay, originally, Vasily was a Warlock and Vitaly was a Paladin. That's what they were in this game, though it never really came up. At the beginning of the next session, some folks still didn't know for sure what characters they'd be playing, and there was a scramble as people re-jiggered their characters for the sake of fun and balance.

It doesn't matter much, and Druid and Rogue work just as well or better for their characterizations. I'll go on writing this as if they had their "canonical" classes.

They follow the instructions they received earlier and enter the brambly, overgrown hedge maze. The flood proved disastrous for the gardens, so a once verdant public space has become a muddy graveyard of dead trees and mossed cobbles. The hedge maze hasn't been tended in months, and they don't meet with any other park-goers as they take two lefts, then a right, then straight past three turns, before turning left again and coming face to face with an armored knight. They come up short, caught off guard as the knight peers down his nose at them, before Tibidi clears his throat and says that they're here about the job. The knight grimaces in derision and gestures for them to pass under an archway and into a small courtyard with a stone bench and a broken fountain filled with stagnant water.

Sitting on the bench is a weedy looking young man in dark but elegant clothing - clearly an official or noble of some stripe. At all three entrances, knights stand guard, and no crest or coat of arms is to be seen anywhere. The man gives a thin lipped smile and gestures for them to sit. 

"Thank you for coming," he says. "I presume there will be no objection to getting straight to business?" The group doesn't speak, and the man continues. "I need an object acquired. Or, to be more accurate, I need an object removed from someone else's possession. As newcomers to the city, I expect none of you are familiar with the Boyar of Salk?"

There's another pause, and Galapas asks "What exactly is a Boyar?"

The man sighs. "Lord Valdas Petra of the Salk province, is a sinister figure in politics around here. For decades, he's wormed his way into power he has no right to, bullying lesser nobles into his policies, using a history with Tsar Jurgis II to shield himself from scorn, and generally acting as a deal-maker and puppet-master who has eroded the authority of the crown."

Tibidi clears his throat and suggest they get back to the thieving. The man smirks.

"Of course. He gains a certain amount of legitimacy from a sword he carries - a masterful piece of craftsmanship spun from silver and gold, linked to the esteemed Tsar Jurgis I. I want his legitimacy undermined. He's been weakened thanks to the combined efforts of Boyars loyal to the crown, and he's brought the sword to court in a show of bravado."

Vasily cocks his head. "What is he doing in court, anyway?"

"Many Boyars have come to the capital. We - they -" He scowls at his mistake, "we have been summoned for a Lordsmeet to discuss certain issues of foreign policy which are to be voted on in three days time. The sword must be out of his hands before the vote, otherwise I cannot guarantee payment. Any other questions?"

Tibidi speaks up; "Where is he likely to be keeping the sword?"

"Uncertain. It's seen as a symbol of martial significance - he was quite an able fighter in his youth - but as a valuable relic, my guess is that he would keep it under guard in his apartment in Ausro Palace. Security is likely to be tight, so I hope you're up to the task."

Galapas asks "Any vulnerabilities in his movements?"

"His schedule is known in broad strokes. Tomorrow night, a ball will be held in Ausro Palace, and he will certainly be out of his rooms to rub elbows with the majot players in Harjevo. The day after, all of the Boyars will be attending a meeting at Castle Barbas." Seeing their blank expressions, he elaborates. "Military headquarters. Used to be the palace, back when invasion was a problem. The next day, of course, he will be in the House of Lords for many hours. You must steal the sword during one of these times. Otherwise, I cannot be certain of an ironclad alibi for myself or my men."

The group looks at each other. This is quickly getting complicated.

"If you need information on operating in Harjevo, I understand that a local player named Inga Darius operates operates out of a tavern in Kajus Court who should be happy to help you lay dear Valdas low. Four days from now, if you have succeeded, I will be here to take possession of the sword and pass along your payment."

Tibidi asks if he's worried that they'd take the sword and sell it themselves.

"Hardly. It's a significant relic likely to be recognized anywhere in the country. I'd rank your chances of selling it cleanly somewhere between "slim" and "none," and you need to get rid of it cleanly if you don't want Boyar Valdas sending men after you." He looks them up and down. "Come to think of it, you'd do well to vanish for a while anyway."

The group briefly confers, then agrees to the terms. Their employer bids them farewell and good luck, any they head back out to Cooper's square, discussing their plans as they go. Tibidi wants to head straight to Kajus Court and get more information, but Vasily reminds them that his brother is waiting for them. 

Vitaly's player wasn't quite done building his character, so we had him waiting elsewhere. This made a certain amount of sense, because Vitaly was lawful and would likely need some pitching to go along with the heist.

The fairgrounds are a mess. It's been a rainy spring, and no tourney or festival has been held here in some time. Deep puddles are everywhere, and scraps of pennants and rotting stakes litter the fairgrounds, which has become little more than a no-man's land in the middle of the capital, picked over by beggars and dogs. They find Vitaly sitting on a stump-like chunk of wood near the middle, feeling the remains of a red flag between his fingers. He doesn't react to the others as they approach, but when Vasily greets him, he begins reminiscing about their childhood, when their mother would bring them to the Highsummer fair here. Vitaly seems to have been hit harder by the return to their native land than his brother.

It takes a little work, but Vasily manages to sell the heist to Vitaly, mostly as a "balancing of the scales," which appeals to his lawful nature. Galapas and Tibidi suspect that Vitaly tends to defer to his brother anyway. The party thus gathered, They set off to meet with Inga Darius.