Brunner spoke loudly for the benefit of anyone who might be listening outside. “I guess I have a little left. I'd been saving it, but what good is a drink you don't share? Come on in!” He put an arm around Kreemon and, while the motion looked natural from outside, Kreemon felt Brunner's strong arm pulling him in with force. He closed the door and stood aside while the two men spoke.
Kreemon moved away from Brunner and replied quietly. “I tried to do what we were hired to do: Deliver the message. But I was stopped by some self-important scribe who was going to take the message from me. I did what I thought best in the situation but things went very bad. The women had somehow snuck into the castle and pulled me up through the ceiling of the scribe's room into a secret hallway. We fled through the secret chambers of the castle and ended up in the lake. We got separated and I hid out for a little while getting rested up before coming out into public and looking for them. I was told that the women were here.” Kreemon frowned. “By the way, what are you doing here? And why are you in that get-up?”
“You should speak freely in front of Brunner. He has helped me without asking for a reward. I am sure we can trust him. Brunner, now that your guests have gone, I think that you should ask the ladies to join us.”
“Fair enough.” A massive cushioned chair blocked the door that led to the back of the house. Brunner lifted the chair effortlessly and put it down against the wall. Then he tapped on the door and pulled it open. Ardith and Kay were standing in a dark room, looking a bit surprised to see Kreemon with the other two. “We should talk in here,” Brunner said. “I'll close the shutters in a few minutes so nothing will look strange. Boy, this whole thing's made me paranoid.”
“You are right to be paranoid Brunner. I think the guy with the beard at the party tonight was spying on me. This house may not be safe hiding place now.
“To get back to your questions Kreemon. My mission to contact Balban failed. I was ambushed in the forest and forced to turn back. Since then I have been following your trail. I changed my clothes because I was freezing in the snow. Also Rouche people trust me more if I dress like them. I decided it was time I left thoughts of my homeland behind and made my future here. So now I dress and try to talk like a good Rouche knight.
“I am still not satisfied with what you say about your meeting with the second clerk of Huerten. Firstly, too many people died in your escape. Do you not think It would have been better to just hand over the message to him? Secondly, I have heard that you first visited a blacksmith in a secret manner. If you are in contact with some secret group, then you should tell us. Do you have any secrets from us?”
Kreemon laughed. “I wasn't the only one,” he said with a glance at the women, “who attacked and killed guards as we made our escape, so I don't get your point there. Our mission was to get the message to the Baron, and no, I didn't think it would have been better to hand the message over to the scribe. It seems like you weren't the only one to fail in your mission.”
Kreemon took another breath and said, “I didn't know that I met with a blacksmith in a 'secret' manner. If I stopped to use the privy, would that be part of a conspiracy? It is just as well that I visited a blacksmith; sharp weapons were needed in our escape.” He frowned. “And you know what, I don't think I like your inquisition. You haven't earned the right to ask questions of me.” Kreemon then turned away from Sahlman and addressed the ladies. “I met up with Korisca. Are you two alright? I washed ashore away from you; I am not as strong a swimmer.”
“We're fine,” Ardith said. “Kay saved me from drowning, and Brunner pulled us out. You don't –”
Kay interrupted. “But you ruined the scroll! I saw you! After all the trouble we went through to bring it here!”
Kreemon pointed his finger at Kay. “It was that damned scribe, not me!” He took a deep breath and let it out before saying, “Anyway, things don't look too safe here, maybe we should leave town.”
Sahlman answered in a serious voice. “Kreemon. My problem with your actions is that you are too ready to use force. My father, who was a fountain of wisdom, taught me that fighting proves only which of a pair of fools can strike the hardest blow. I followed your trail to Osander village, where the villagers were frightened of you. You are in your present trouble because you prefer to fight than to talk your way out of trouble. Also you do not consult your companions before you make decisions that affect them. I talk for example of visiting the smithy and damaging the scroll. You were followed there and your action was observed. They are not the actions of a man who respects his companions. You must moderate your behavior in future, or you and those who are your companions will be put in unnecessary danger.”
Kreemon snorted. “I really don't give a rat's ass what your father has told you. Did he mention anything about clandestinely following someone being a representation of disrespect as well? Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. And Osander village is full of witches and warlocks who play tricks on your mind.”
Sahlman ignored the insult for the time and continued. “However, that is for the future. Right now, we have three problems. Firstly we need to move your hideout tonight. This house is no longer safe. I hope Brunner can help us there.”
“No, we need to leave the city. Brunner has a boat. He could take us across the lake and we could leave. There is no reason to stay here now.”
“Secondly we need to get the message to the Baron. Do you still have the letter Kreemon? If you all approve, I can attempt to deliver it. I have the greatest freedom to move since I am not hiding from the law. Also I would like to know the contents of the letter. I do not want to play Balban's game with no knowledge.”
Kreemon snorted again and muttered while Sahl spoke. “Have fun delivering the message. I am sure the scribe is more than willing to give it to you – if he hasn't already given it to the Baron.”
“Thirdly. We need to clear your names. This is difficult since you three killed so many guards. The only hope is that the Second Clerk acted above his authority and that the baron will pardon you and punish the clerk. This can only happen if we deliver the scroll. Please give me the scroll?” Sahl held his hand out to Kreemon.
Kreemon shook his head. “I guess you aren't listening. I don't have the scroll, the scribe does. I say we cut our losses and leave this place.”
Sahlman finally addressed Kreemon, who had been interrupting him throughout his speech. “It was not I who followed you, Kreemon. I learnt of your visit to the smithy from someone else who followed you for their own reasons. In any case, I think we are not suited to work together. Best we go our separate ways.”
Turning to Ardith, Sahl said, “I intend to stay in Huerten for a while. I am not guilty of any crime, and this looks like a good place to live. I need time to train my horse and perhaps find some work. If you wish to stay with me, then I will do my best to help you clear your name. Or you could flee, either by yourself or with Kreemon. Please tell me what you decide.”
Kreemon added, “I think we should go find Balban and talk with him about why he set us up. The scribe talked about the message the scroll contained. It said that the bearers of the scroll were to be held as hostage by the Baron. I doubt if your Balban mentioned any of that to you.” Kreemon said in a high, mimicking tone, ”'Your Lordship, here is a scroll we were charged with bringing you. What? Throw us in the dungeon? Well, okay, if that is what the scroll says.” Kreemon ended with a snort. “I want to recover Bork and then be gone from this place. Nothing good will come from staying.”
Instead of showing dismay, Sahl laughed in satisfaction. “Excellent! You are saying that we were betrayed by Balban. That means that we no longer have any duty to him. At last I am free of any duty to that corrupt man. But I will not seek revenge of him, or ask his reasons. My freedom from him is enough. Nor will I join any of you as an outlaw. I had no part in the violence at the castle, and I will not take any of the responsibility for it.”
“Your name and description were on the scroll as well. It is just a matter of time before you get picked up for one reason or another.”
“I'll take my chances. If the ladies want to take their chances at clearing their names in court, then I will try to help them. That is the most that I can do. Oh… and I heard a rumor tonight about a dog causing a nuisance at the castle. That may be your Bork. He may be searching for you at the castle.”
Kreemon frowned. “Still at the castle?” He muttered to himself, “I wonder how hard it would be to swim back through that grate…”
“I didn't say in the castle. I heard there was a dog hanging around the castle. He may be hanging around the gates.”
Kreemon thought for a moment and then shook his head. “I'd drown.” His eyebrows slanted inward as he looked at Kay and Ardith. “Wait, how did you two get into the castle? I could use the same means.”
“We were lucky,” Ardith said, because Kay was still seething. “The guard ran inside the castle when he heard a call for help, probably while you had the Second Clerk by the throat. But is it worth risking all that when you don't even know that Bork is in the castle?”
Kreemon thought for a little bit and then replied, “Korisca… I'll ask her to check on Bork. She is wily enough to find out where he is. I am going to find Bork and then I will return. We can decide what we are going to do then. Whether we part company or what. But I can't make any decisions while Bork is missing.” Kreemon pulled his hood back up and headed out.
At the door, Kreemon stopped and faced Brunner. “Have you ever heard of this signet before?” He described a specific pattern, and Brunner shook his head.
“Before you go Kreemon,” Sahlman said, “I would like to say goodbye and good fortune. I will not be here when you return.” He offered his hand for Kreemon to shake, but Kreemon had already turned his back and was opening the door, so Sahl shrugged his shoulders and took Ardith aside to talk to her privately.
“If I were you,” Sahlman told her, “I would have nothing more to do with Kreemon and his dog. That boy is always looking for a fight and will bring you only trouble. Don't get involved in the search for the damned dog either. A dog is not worth risking your freedom for. I am returning to my inn, Sir F's, to sleep. If you want to stay in town and try to clear your name, then send Brunner to me. Otherwise farewell.”
“I have more sympathy for the dog,” Kay muttered.
Ardith glanced at Kay and then looked at Sahlman. “If you can clear our names, that would be best. I don't think we can run away, and we can't impose on Brunner forever.”
“Well then, You two stay in hiding, see if Brunner can find you some other hiding place, because maybe I was followed here. I will try to contact a lawyer and see if we can say self defense. You say your friend was attacked and you ran to help him, then you had to fight because others attacked you. Perhaps we can get the charge made less, or maybe the punishment reduced to a fine. I will contact Brunner to let you know what happens.”
“Thank you, Sahl. I'm so glad you're back. Oh, you should keep an eye out for a man names Johannes Elternmann. He seems to have connections in Huerten, so he might be able to help. Before all this happened, he wanted us to stay at the First Knight Inn so he'd know where to find us.”
“He's tall,” Kay said.
“Yes, over six feet, and thin.” Ardith went on to give a complete description of Johannes.
After the brief whispered conversation, Sahl gave Ardith a brotherly kiss on the forehead, bowed in courtly fashion to Kay and nodded to Brunner. “I'm going now. Good luck to all of you,” he said, and left the building.
Ardith and Kay were NPCs for this turn.
The experience table has been adjusted. Ardith, Sahlman and Johannes are already on 3E experience, and the others will be by level 5 or 6:
- Kay: 4=6200, 5=3E
- Kreemon: 4=6500, 5=3E
- Ziedon: 5=10500, 6=3E
- Additionally, experience awards will be increased, such that the average is around 400XP per turn, with a range of around 200-600. The average will go up as levels increase. Characters will generally raise in level around once every 6-12 turns, assuming no encounter or story awards.