You’re still loitering in the street in front of the Nymphs Arms. The guards are eyeballing you. Fluttering at the top of the hotel you can see a coat of arms (presumably for Geoff): a shield divided in half lengthwise, black on the left, white on the right, with a griffon rampant facing left, colored the opposite of the background. There’s a specific heraldry-esque way of explaining this, but you don’t know what it is.
Yudhisthir: “Alright, we found it. Now let’s find somewhere cheap to sleep.”
Arjun: “That’s awfully hasty. We should at least check out the inside.”
Cyr- “Yeah, we should. You never know what you’ll find.”
Yudhisthir rolls his eyes heavenward. “Whatever.” He starts walking to the entrance, followed closely by his brother.
The guard on the left eyeballs you harder. “Papers, please.” He’s not friendly.
Yudhisthir and Arjun show their papers
Arjun “Afternoon, sir! We’re supposed to meet Yurval here in the morning the day after tomorrow. We thought we’d see what the place is like. We’ve heard a lot about it since arriving in town.”
The guard’s expression warms up a bit once you name drop Yurval. “Hmm, fine. I doubt the hotel will let you stay here, cause you don’t look like their kind of people, but go on in.”
Arjun: “Many thanks, man!’
He checks everyone’s papers as you file through. Cyr is last, and you hear the guard say something like, “Huh, you don’t really dress like a monk, Brother Swift.”
Phaedra - “Well, that went all right, I suppose.”
Yudhisthir mutters to Arjun “You talk too much, and that Cyr is really starting to make me suspicious.”
Arjun smiles serenely “You say that, but it got us in, didn’t it?”
Right behind the ramparts are some marble steps, and beyond those is what used to be a really nice inn. The larger holes have been patched, badly. The inside is the same, a high-class establishment with a couple of 400-lb rocks sitting in divots in the marble. One is conveniently located right in front of the reception desk, with a mostly patched skylight above it.
Cedric’s Snooty Cousin looks down his nose at you as you walk in. There are a couple of guards toward the corners, and one or two people who look like government functionaries of some kind, but it’s mostly pretty deserted. One guy in particular has a peg leg, but he ignores you as he hobbles by.
Arjun waves at CSC “Good evening, sir! We are supposed to meet Yurval here the morning after tomorrow, and we were wondering about you lodging rates?”
Saluki starts wandering around, seeing if the government functionaries are doing anything interesting without getting too close.
CSC- “...indeed. Formerly we charged 30 gold griffons per day, but in our reduced circumstances the remittance from you would be 50.”
The functionaries appear to be mostly following up on earlier conversations and calling it a night.
Phaedra - “Well, it sounds like everything is pretty straightforward as far as the meeting goes, why don’t we look around elsewhere for a bit more, I suppose?”
CSC looks displeased that you’re still around, but doesn’t tell you to leave. There is some kind of bar restaurant thingy to the left of the grand staircase, and a hall off to the right.
Arjun: “Agreed! We wouldn’t want to drive away the other customers.” He waves to CSC again and ambles out into the street.
You notice that most places either extinguish all their lights, or have heavy shutters. It’s nearly as dark as the countryside.
Phaedra - “I suppose the lack of light gives the giants fewer targets.”
Arjun hums affirmatively and goes over the guard they talked to on their way in. “Question for you, my man - are there any inns here that might let us stay?
Guard- “Yeah, head that way” he points down the street “two blocks, turn left, and you’ll find a couple inns. They’ll have a candle in front if they’re in business.”
Arjun: “You’re a life-saver, man” He hands the guard a silver and calls to the others.
The coin disappears instantly.
The group heads down the way the guard indicated.
This street is by far the liveliest you’ve seen, in that there are people around at all. You do see a couple of establishments with a single candle lit in front of closed and shuttered doors and windows, but most of the inns have either a greasy looking man or a rather scantily clad woman standing in front. They all eyeball you as you walk by.
Saluki - “Welp, one candle is as good as another!” He chooses a random candle inn and opens the door.
It’s livelier inside, although still pretty subdued. There are a few people sitting around chatting (pretty mercenary looking types), and Cedric looks at you levelly as you walk in. There is also a scantily clad dwarf woman sitting at the bar, chatting with him.
Yudhisthir strides to the bar and, ignoring the dwarf, addresses Cedric. “We’re in need of lodging for tonight and tomorrow. Do you have any rooms available?”
Cedric- “Ha! Only all of them. Do you also want dinner? That’s a gold griffon for two meals a day, and the room is a gold griffon each night.”
Yudhisthir. “That’s fine.” He pulls out a couple gold coins. “Are these the right amount? I know they’re not local currency.”
Cedric shrugs. “These days, who cares?” He takes the money.
Phaedra and Saluki will also purchase rooms for themselves and two meals. Arjun as well.
Cyr pays also. Most of the party finds a table to sit at.
Saluki also orders a beer, if such things exist here, and seats himself next to the dwarf woman. “Saluki of the Mountain Wolves, at your service. And you are…?”
The dwarf smirks, chuckles, and checks him out. “Honey, I’m Kratha, proprietor of this establishment and most of the others on this street. You’re new in town?”
Saluki - “We are indeed, just rolled in with the most recent caravan of new recruits. Though I think my compatriots and I are looking for more specialized work than the average good soldier.”
Her eyes narrow a bit. “You all do look like more than the average soldier. What kind of work are you looking for?”
Saluki - “Well, we’re open to different opportunities… messengers, spies, covert strike team, who knows? We have a meeting later with Yurval about it, he seems pretty famous around here. You know of him?”
Kratha- “Ha, he’s just a recruiter for the Duke, not really important, but yes, he’s very well known.”
Saluki - “Is the Duke in charge of this town?”
Kratha- “He wants to be. Gran March, the country across the river, wants to annex this area as payment for helping the Duke fight off the giants, so he moved here a couple weeks ago to prevent that.”
Saluki - “I can’t imagine those of you that have been in this town a while appreciate him moving in like that.”
Kratha- “Who cares? He doesn’t interfere with me, and before he came back, the giants and orcs had the run of the place. I was stuck in Orlane until Hochoch was retaken, and believe me, honey, that was no picnic.”
Saluki smiles. “Well, I’m glad it was retaken too then! You must be pretty important yourself if you own this whole street.”
Kratha smirks again. “Depends on who you ask. Cedric, can you ask around and see if anyone has any employment for this fine man and his friends? I’m sure we can come up with something.”
Cedric- “Certainly, ma’am.”
Saluki - “Delightful! We’d be happy to help the citizens of Hochoch however it is needed.” He hems a bit. “I should run any particulars by my group first, of course.”
Kratha extends her hand. “It was pleasant to meet you, Saluki. I’m going to be the boss for a few hours, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing you later.” She winks, downs her drink, and heads out.
Saluki grins. “Absolutely, madam.” He rejoins the others at whatever table they’ve acquired.
The others are well into their meals.
Saluki - “Looks like Yurval isn’t the only game in town, Kratha there owns this whole street and says she’ll keep us in mind for jobs as well.”
Arjun: “Well that’s good to know!”
Yudhisthir finished his meal and goes the bar to talk to Cedric.
Cedric- “Good evening again. What can I do for you?”
Yudhisthir: “My Brother and I are looking for a man who goes by the name of Zod.” He describes Zod and his companions again.
Cedric- “Hmmmm...Zod is a pretty notorious criminal, but I would have to ask around for some specifics....which can get pretty expensive. I do know that he is back in the region, or at least is said to be.”
Yudhisthir slides two gold across the bar. “We have some questions to ask him, so anything you can find would be appreciated.”
Cedric takes the coins. “Around here, information isn’t cheap.”
Yudhisthir slides two more gold across the bar “I see that.”
Cedric takes the third and fourth coins. “I’ll see what I can do. Are you and your friends mostly settled for the night?”
Yudhisthir “I expect so. We’ll be around town tomorrow and probably back here that night.”
Cedric- “Delightful. Then I’m sure I’ll see you in the morning.”
Yudhisthir “You have my thanks.” he returns to the table.
Yudhisthir: “He knows of him. But like everything else here, information is at a premium.”
Arjun shrugs: “So be it. We have plenty.”
Cyr looks pretty interested in going to bed. It’s been a long day.
<Cue nighttime sleeping music!>
The boys come down for breakfast.
There is a youthful looking man behind the counter who is NOT CEDRIC. HAS THE WORLD COME TO AN END?
Man- “You guys want breakfast?”
Cyr also comes down at this point.
Arjun; “If you please! Eh… somehow I expected Cedric to be manning the bar…”
Man- “He said he had some errands to run today, so it I’m filling in. Name’s Herzog.”
Arjun: “Huh. Nice to meet you!”
Saluki also comes down, chipper as ever. He only looks surprised for a minimum of moments before ordering breakfast.
Eventually Phaedra emerges as well. She looks put together, but also glares at the morning sun a bit.
You sit down and get some food. Herzog brings it over to you, and only nearly trips and drops everything a couple of times (but manages not to). While you’re eating, you see Yurval walk in. He looks around.
Arjun calls out; “Yurval! Good morning!”
Yurval- “Oh! There you are. My boss is ready to meet with you as soon as you’re done with breakfast, over at the Nymph’s Arms.
Arjun: “Already? Alright.”
Yurval- “Yeah, apparently they have something specific they want to interview you for. Anyway. Just go to the front desk and ask to see Vincent.”
Phaedra - “We’ll be there soon, I suppose!”
Herzog- “Man, you guys are working for Vincent? Wow.”
Yudhisthir: “You know him?”
Herzog- “I know OF him. He’s the Duke’s right hand man. You can’t miss him, he’s only got one leg. I think he lost it fighting the giants during the invasion.”
Yudhisthir: “What kind of man do people say he is? Fair? Hard? Honest?”
Yurval is long gone by this point.
Herzog- “All three, I guess.”
Yudhisthir: “Anything else?”
Herzog- “Not really. He does work for the Duke, so whatever you do, don’t screw it up.”
Arjun: “Thanks for the advice!” He leaves a gold on the table as he gets up to leave.
Everybody heads over to the Nymph’s Arms! As you leave the inn, you note that it’s called the Flying Castle.
Phaedra - “Didn’t a guy with a peg leg walk past us in the Arms yesterday?”
Phaedra - “I wonder if he called us over early because he saw us and thought we were….” She glances over the group, “ah…. Perfect for the job?”
Yudhisthir mutters “Expendable.”
At the barricade, it’s the same guards as last night, looking really tired. They recognise you though, and let you through after glancing at your paperwork again.
Cedric’s Snooty Cousin sighs in dismay when you walk in. You can hear this from 30 feet away.
Arjun: “Morning, sir! We’re here at Vincent’s bidding to meet with him”
CSC- “...certainly you are.” He summons a bellhop, who runs off, presumably to find Vincent. After a few minutes the bellhop returns and says “Please follow me, lady and gentlemen.”
The group follows the bellhop.
He takes you to what was probably a private dining hall at one point, but has been converted into some kind of command center. It’s fairly busy, with various unifomed types heading in and out, and the old, kinda crusty, peg legged guy sitting at the end of the table. He stands as you walk in.
Vincent- “Are you the mercenaries Yurval sent here?”
Phaedra - “Yes sir, that is us.”
Vincent- “Good, have a seat and get some coffee. What brings you to this part of the world?”
There’s a coffee service on a table next to the wall.
Arjun: “My brother” He gestures to Yudhisthir ”and I are seeking a thief and his companions. These others seek adventure and have agreed to help us with ours.”
Vincent- “Huh. What do you think of Gran March?”
Vincent squints. “No opinion, then? What thief are you chasing?”
Arjun: “One by the name of Zod, who, last we saw traveled with four other men, one of whom wields a red-glowing sword.”
Vincent- “Huh, that bastard. He’s small potatoes compared to what we’re dealing with here, but he is a nuisance, and no mistake. He’s wrapped up in a slave trading ring, runs some other stuff too. Well, if you accept this job, your pursuit for him will be your hobby, not your job.”
Phaedra - “We’re waiting on information about him currently anyway, so we’re free. And it sounds like he’s well known here, so I’m sure there will be plenty of time to find him once your job is finished, I suppose. What type of job is it you’d like us to undertake?”
Vincent squints more, and hobbles over to a map. He points at Hochoch. “This is us. See this town, called Midwood? It was attacked eight years ago, like every other town west of here. But the reports since then all say it’s peaceful and prosperous. All you have to do is go there, find out the truth of this, and report back. That’s all.”
Phaedra - “A scouting mission, then. And according to the map, it seems like it’s only a day or two’s journey away, I suppose.”
Vincent- “The cartographer placed the town wrong. It’s on that river to the west, so it’s around 35 miles away if you travel by road, which you shouldn’t do if you want to survive. This mission is your job interview. Do well, and I’ll have other work for you.”
Phaedra - “Seems reasonable. Pay for this job would be upon our return as well, then?”
Vincent- “The pay for this job is whatever you can take off any orcs or giants you can kill, plus the prospect of future employment.”
Phaedra smiles thinly. “Well, as long as the future employment pays a bit better, I suppose this is acceptable….?” She looks around at the others.
Arjun: “That’ll work for now.”
Yudhisthir sneers but says nothing.
Cyr- “Yeah, that’s fine.”
Vincent snaps his head around when Cyr talks. “From Sterich, I hear? Hmm, we’ll see how this goes. I’ll not have an infiltrator working for us.”
Cyr goes pale. “I haven’t lived in Sterich for years, I’m, uhh, as mercenary as everyone else here, you don’t need to worry about me.”
Phaedra - “He travelled with us all the way from Moffat, I can confirm he hasn’t been here recently.” She looks a little concerned at Vincent’s reaction.
Vincent glares for a minute. “Get you going, we have other things riding on the information you bring back.”
The party leaves.
Once they’re outside, Yudhisthir speaks. “I need to go back to our inn before we leave.” He walks off in that direction without waiting to see if anyone else follows. Arjun follows him ,but more slowly.
Phaedra turns to Cyr. “I suppose this country must have some disagreement with Sterich?”
Cyr sighs. “Yeah, look, Sterich is the next country south, and Geoff’s old capitol, Gorna, is near the old border. The giants took it and most of Sterich, but that’s all been recaptured. Sterich is probably just trying to carve their piece out of Geoff, just like Gran March is.”
Phaedra - “His ire seemed rather more than simply that, I wonder if something else has happened since you were last here. We’ll have to be careful.”
Cyr- “I have no idea.”
Back at the Flying Castle, Cedric is once again behind the bar. He greets Yudh as he walks in.
Yudhisthir: “I don’t suppose you’ve any news of Zod?” He orders a drink.
Cedric- “For the amount you paid, all I could learn is that one of Zod’s slaving routes starts inside the Lost Lands, and allegedly runs near here. That’s all.”
Yudhisthir counts out 10 gold. “Alright. We’re leaving presently, but should be back at some point.”
Cedric- “This’ll help for next time. Stay safe.”
Yudhisthir “Thanks.” He finishes his drink and leaves to rejoin the others.
It doesn’t take you long to find the main gate, which looks like it’s been smashed down and repaired more than once. The guards look pretty incredulous when you ask to head out, but open the gate a crack regardless.
Except for a few insects, it is dead silent outside the walls.
Arjun: “Well, off the road then.” The group sets out due west, sticking to cover as much as possible.
You see the occasional old moldered residue of battles from years past (but not that many years past), but for the whole morning you don’t encounter anything but plants (non-carnivorous).
Phaedra and Saluki hear something, Arjun sees something, and Yudh does both. The something is a pair of orcs, walking along with weapons drawn.
Arjun and Yudhisthir both pull out their ranged weapons and get behind the nearest concealment.
Yudhisthir points out the orcs to Phaedra and Saluki.
Phaedra nods, mutters something quietly, and then climbs the nearest tree. Saluki draws a scimitar.
Cyr also saw them, and drew his crossbow, which he’s loading. Cyr steps on a really dry branch, which snaps loudly.
The orcs look in that direction and see at least one of you. They stop, and one turns and shouts something behind him in orcish.
Cyr fires his crossbow really quick, nailing one orc in the throat and dropping it.
Yudhisthir slings a stone at him. The last orc stumbles but doesn’t fall; you bounced the rock off his head (a non-vital organ).
The remaining orc drops his sword and pulls out a javelin to throw at you, while still yelling. He throws a javelin, and misses handily. You can definitely hear more orcs (or at least more shouting).
Phaedra fires an eldritch blast from her perch!
The orc dodges it, but just barely. He has a really weird look on his face. Something between awe and horror.
Saluki looks back at Phaedra, confused, as he’s never seen that kind of magic before. He then shrugs and moves to the front of the group, to take on any orcs that approach.
Arjun grabs the orc’s javelin and tests its heft. Seems like a pretty normal javelin to you.
A bunch more orcs (you count six initially) arrive huffing from the woods. A slightly larger one is shouting at them in orcish; they all have javelins out, except for the leader, who has a scimitar.
Cyr picks a random minion and fires again, but misses.
Yudh targets the same orc as he hit earlier, but his stone goes wide. He drops his sling and draws his swords.
The orc sneers at you and promptly throws his javelin into the ground about 15 feet ahead of him.
Saluki runs to the orc Yudh injured and strikes it with his sword. He was pretty woozy from the sling stone, so Saluki cuts his throat pretty easily, and he drops.
Phaedra blasts the orc to the left of Saluki. He is slightly singed. Looks like it took a bit out of him, though.
Arjun throws the orc’s javelin back in its general direction. And misses. Yudhisthir shouts at him “Stop goofing off!”
Saluki - “Don’t give the weapon’s back! This isn’t dodge ball!”
Cyr loads and fires at the singed orc. And misses. “Dammit!”
Three orcs throw their javelins at Saluki, cause he’s convenient. One has to take a 5’ step. Only one of them hits, though.
Yudhisthir runs toward the nearest orc and slashes at him. He connects at the neck, nearly decapitating the orc, who dies immediately.
Saluki sidesteps to the right, and hit the orc there. You hit him hard enough that he passes out, but he’s still breathing.
Since another orc has moved just inside Phaedra’s range, she’ll fire at him! She hits! He’s still up, but doesn’t look happy about it.
Arjun, since he’s out of range of just about everybody, will move closer and throw a javelin at the guy to the left of the party. The orc drops, but doesn’t sound dead.
Cyr doesn’t have a clear shot, so he moves over to his left, but far enough that that’s all he’s doing.
Yudhisthir advances and attack the nearest orc (ruining Cyr’s sightlines undoubtedly). You slash the orc soundly, but all he does is draw his sword and swing back. Or tries to, he drops the sword while drawing it, leaving him unarmed. Yudhisthir takes advantage and strikes with his longsword, killing the orc.
The only remaining orc on the front line turns to run away! Two of the others throw javelins at Saluki, while the leader steps toward Yudh. One misses, but the nearer one hits pretty hard. Yudhisthir takes a hard hit from the orcs’ leader.
Phaedra climbs down from her tree and advances, moving around the large one to a place she can hit the others from.
Saluki moves into flank the big guy! He swings and hits, but the orc doesn’t drop.
Phaedra fires at javelin guy! He falls over, gently cooked.
Arjun draws his sword and move (so slow) to assist Yudhisthir.
Yudhisthir is stunned from his injury and can’t get his swords to work right. He misses his attempts at the orc leader.
Cyr loads and fires yet again, planting a crossbow bolt in the orc’s face. He dies.
The orc leader swings back…but misses.
Phaedra and Cyr can hear the running orc shouting at someone.
Saluki stabs the orc in the back and he collapses all gurgly and stuff.
Arjun runs for Yudhisthir and lays hands on him, healing most of his injury.
Phaedra - “We should go, I suppose, more are coming.”
Cyr- “Start running north?”
Phaedra - “That’s the direction he ran, across the river first is better!”
Saluki and Yudh both notice that the lead orc’s scimitar is extremely high quality, as are four of the javelins laying nearby.
Saluki will grab it, saying, “Ooh, I’ve been looking for second one of these!”
Yudhisthir grabs the javelins, shoves them at Arjun and goes to look for his sling, which he finds immediately.
Cyr is quickly rifling through the nearest orcs pockets. And then shoots him in the face, cause he was still alive.
Phaedra will do a quick rifle herself, since she’s near a bunch. And will fry the one near her that’s still alive. The only thing she finds is a kind of crumpled note.
Arjun “Let’s go! We should set up an ambush!”
Phaedra - “I don’t see a good spot for it, if we cross the river they shouldn’t be able to follow very easily.”
Cyr- “Unless whoever he’s running to is still on the other side.”
Arjun notices that Saluki is injured and grabs him for a quick heal
Everyone runs to the river.
By the time you get there, you can see three orcs, plus two other people, who look like they’re chained up, splashing onto the opposite bank.
Phaedra urgently signals everyone to turn around until they’re not quite so obviously in sight.
Arjun “There’s only three of them. Let’s get them!”