The Wild March, Session 0: Good Old Fashioned Legwork

When last we left off, Vasily (Druid), Vitaly (Rogue), Galapas (Fighter), and Tibidi (Rogue) were hired by a secretive nobleman to steal a precious sword from another, more influential nobleman. They're newcomers to the city, however, and will need to gather some intel on their target. That in mind, they follow the advice of their employer and go to Kajus Court...

This whole part of town stinks like a week old otter carcass. It's right down near the river, and was prone to dampness even before the big flood ten years ago, so at this point the whole neighborhood is under at least an apple's depth of water, and sinking every year. The party picks their way across the haphazard planks and boardwalks set up by the locals, and before too long, comes to the plaza called Kajus Court.

"Well, I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home, but the trees are actually quite lovely..."

"Well, I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home, but the trees are actually quite lovely..."

Gangs of rough looking folk are clustered in watchful groups around the court amid derelict wagons and rotting barrels. Most of them have at least one dog with them - nasty, mangy looking mastiff mutts who cock their bloodshot eyes at the party as they pass. Across the square is a clear place where the boardwalks meet - an old stone building, probably a merchant house or bank in its time, now with a shingle hanging from above the door that bears the image of a weeping hound. They look at each other, then at the gangs of toughs, then make straight for the tavern.

The inside is inviting, if a little empty. Aside from the bartender, only one lonely old man sits at any of the tables, and the stone construction makes it seem a bit like a mausoleum. They go up to the bartender, order some drinks, and insinuate that they'd like to speak to Inga Darius. The proprietor's cheery mood falters. he pauses, and then says that he'll see if he can get them a message.

They wait for a few minutes, sipping their drinks and making small talk, when the bartender hurries back with a sullen expression and no explanation. They try to get his attention, but just scoops up their empty tankards without making eye contact. As they watch him, Tibidi notices a group of four men that had been standing outside has come in to sit at a table near the door. Not long afterward, five more enter, taking up seats to either side of the party at the bar. Tibidi notes with sudden panic that, as an old bank, all of the windows out of the common room have iron bars. Another three men enter and take up seats by the back door. By this point, the party is well aware of what's going on.

Before they can formulate a plan, the door behind the bar opens, and out steps a thickset middle-aged woman in leather armor adorned with silk kerchiefs. She motions the bartender away with a jerk of her head, and sidles up to the counter to each of them in the face in turn.

"I understand you have something you'd like to discuss?"

They tell her that they've been contracted to steal from Boyar Petra, and were told that she could help them out.

Inga snorts. "'Help?' that's a loaded word. I'm freelance at best - you tell me what you need, I'll quote you a price, but my professionalism don't extend to charity. Whatever beef you got with this lord? None of my concern."

They falter a little at this. They thought that their employer had told them she would be happy to help them against Boyar Petra. 

Yep. I was a little disappointed they didn't push on this, but that tends to be the way for these players. They're very polite people, but sometimes that means they miss out on opportunities that come from insisting.

See, Inga here used to work for the Boyar they're trying to rob. She was his underworld cat's paw in the capital, but not too long ago he crippled her operation by turning over evidence of her organization in an attempt to bolster his own failing reputation. She wants to screw him over, but she also wants to make a direct profit off of this if possible. If the players had threatened to walk, she would have caved and offered a much reduced price on her services.

They tell her they need information on Ausro Palace, to which she balks a little. With the Lordsmeet happening, security is going to be tighter than usual, which means more risk for casing the joint. They argue back and forth, but eventually settle on two hundred denari for as much info as she can gather by the next day at noon. Tibidi is a bit peeved at having to part with his hard-earned money just to pay someone for something he's already good at, but the rest of the group insists that, since time is a factor, they really do need some local help. Galapas asks Inga a final question - if she knows of anyone who's not going to make it to the ball. She bites her lip a moment, and he rolls his eyes and slides over a few extra denari. She tells them that a wealthy merchant named Saprascu is leaving town this evening with his family, and will likely miss the festivities.

They thank Inga and leave quickly.

In a drier part of town, they stop off in an eatery to get a quick meal and discuss their plans. They agree that they should at least take a crack at infiltrating the palace during the ball tomorrow night. That in mind, they'll need two things in addition to a solid idea of the layout - invitations, and suitable clothing for a high-society event. They know where they can find the first, and Tibidi sets about forging documents that will name him as a servant of the Palace Steward, empowering him to take possession of unused invitation for security. In the meantime, the rest of the group goes to place orders for modestly fancy outfits. 

They pick a tailor not far from Ausro Palace, in the name of getting a look at it themselves. They see that the grounds are encircled by a wall about ten feet high and topped with iron spikes. Within the walls sit three main buildings, which they judge to be the main palace, the King's manor, and the servant's quarters, which together cluster around a wooded garden. More than this, they cannot tell from over the walls, and guards seem to be circling the grounds constantly. The clothing is a touch pricey, but their employer has promised enough money to make it worth it.  They place their orders, along with a little extra to get them done before sundown tomorrow, then go to meet Tibidi at Merchant Saprascu's townhouse.

True enough, the Saprascu family seems to be preparing to leave. Servants are in the process of loading numerous pieces of baggage, and even some furniture, onto the roof of a stagecoach out front. Galapas, Vasily, and Vitaly meet up with Tibidi on a sidestreet, where they peer down at the house. It's narrow but tall, and as far as they can tell from limited scouting, appears to have a courtyard in back accessible from the street via a cobbled path on the right hand side of the house. Tibidi puts on a secondhand doublet that they purchased from the tailor, re-examines his forged document, and marches up to the front door with a practiced arrogance. 

He's stopped by a self-important looking servant. "Begging your pardon, sir, but may I help you?" 

Tibidi puts on his most disdainful expression, looking him up and down as if he were covered in mud. "I should think not," he smirks, and mounts the steps to the front door.

"I beg your pardon?" the servant says, doing his best to block his path to the door.

"I have business with Master Saprascu," Tibidi flourishes his forged letter, "Unless you wish to gainsay Grand Steward Modestas?

The servant harrumphs for a moment at this, suggesting that Saprascu is very busy and that perhaps a little later would be best, but Tibidi's bemused expression and rigid posture sees him through, and the servant leads him into an upstairs study to await the master of the house. While he waits, he takes the opportunity to scout around. True enough, a window in the study overlooks a courtyard in the back, with several stone planters and a small horse stable, as well as a young boy playing at jacks. There are two doors into this room, several chairs, and a modest shelf of books above a desk with parchment and coffers in neat stacks. Tibidi hears the doorknob turning, and smoothly returns to his seat.

Merchant Saprascu is flustered, weary, and clearly on edge, a trim man of about fifty with streaks of grey in his hair and moustache. He greets Tibidi politely, but does not sit. Tibidi explains that he's been sent by the office of the high steward to collect the invitations of those who will not be able to attend the ball. Saprascu expresses his surprise, since he was only planning on sending his apologetic decline of the invitation later that afternoon.

Tibidi smooths this over by saying that word travels quickly, but the Merchant isn't so sure. His eyes flick to a lockbox on the desk, and he asks to see the letter from the Steward. He reads it over, and points out there is no palace seal on the document, only a plain one. Tibidi attempts to bluster his way through, but Saprascu insists - it would be wrong to breach protocol in this way. If he hurries back and attains a properly notarized form, then he'd be happy to turn over the invitations, otherwise his conscience would be clearer taking the invitations with him and his family when they leave in another hour or so. Tibidi protests halfheartedly, but there's not much he can do, and he lets himself be escorted out.

He returns to the group and explains the situation: since he can;t even attempt to forge a seal he's never seen, they'll need to slip in and steal the invitations before the Saprascu family leaves town. Fortunately, Tibidi is fairly sure the invitations are in the lockbox on the desk, but getting in will be tricky. He asks if they can remain on standby to cause distractions as necessary while he tries to infiltrate the courtyard from the other side of the block. 

It's quick work to get into the house around the block - the owner is raving drunk and barely notices him, and Tibidi dislodges a leaded glass window overlooking the courtyard. The young boy is still there, and Tibidi uses a spell that Vasily cast to let them know that a distraction would be welcome. 

This is the spot where Vasily and Vitaly's classes become continuity errors. If Vitaly was a rogue, he'd help with this infiltration, and if Vasily was a druid, he wouldn't be able to cast the spells he uses in this scene. If you don't know the rules of the game super well, just roll with it, and if you do... just bite your lip, nobody's perfect.

Vasily creates the illusory sound of a large pack of wild dogs approaching from up the street, which gets the young boy scampering to the side alley to take a look. Quick as a wink, Tibidi uses a rope to drop from the window to the top of the stable, and from there to the courtyard itself. He's making his way towards the back door when he hears footsteps and scolding approaching back up the alley, and hurls himself down behind one of the planters just before the boy, led by a servant, returns to the courtyard. The servant stays behind to watch the boy as the dog sounds continue. 

Tibidi messages them again, and Galapas fires an arrow that severs one of the ties on the roof of the stagecoach, sending luggage crashing down into the street. The other servants curse aloud and call for their fellow, who rushes back and closes the gate to the courtyard in the process. Tibidi will have to make do with the boy there. 

He decides to bluster his way through. He's still wearing the doublet, and decides that if he walks with enough purpose, that the boy won't question him if he notices him. He stands up, smooths himself up, and walks toward the back door.

"Hey! You!" says the boy.

Tibidi blinks, and turns sharply on one heel with all the officious pomp he can manage. "Yes? Master Saprascu?" he puts on his best Harker accent.

The boy holds up a brass key. "I found this. In the dirt. Can you give it to my pa? I think it's important."

Tibidi leans forward and examines it with mock severity. He clears his throat. "Of course, Master Saprascu." So saying, he takes the key, enters the back door, and lets out a giant sigh of relief.

He's able to find the servant's stair and quickly follows it to the back door into the study. He tries the key that Saprascu's son gave him, and finds that it works. He enters, locking the door behind him. Wasting no time, he moves to the desk, pries open the lockbox with a knife, and seizes out the invitations for Merchant Saprascu, his wife, and his two sons. Having just barely stowed these, he hears the other door opening behind him and just barely manages to hide the invitations as the lady of the house enters.

"Oh!" she  says. "What are - who are you? What are you doing here?" She's quickly nervous.

"Begging your pardon, milady," Tibidi says.

"What? Who are you?" Lady Saprascu suddenly notices the open lockbox on the desk. "What have you -?"

Tibidi suddenly dashes past her, then slams and locks the second door. He rushes to the stairs as Lady Saprascu begins calling for help, which brings the servant out front running. Tibidi dodges expertly into a side passage as they pass, then calmly strides out through the front door.

A heist well executed. Their legwork is all but done - all they need now is gather the fruits of their effort, and brace themselves for the main event.