Decaying Lands 16: Search for Ralf

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Caleb, Fighter 2 [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit]

The party left off on the edge of the Lordswood east of Bremmlecht on the trail of Ralf Wegener the bovine butcher. The boy had left a trail so erratic that it was child's play for the party to follow between Jewel's nose and Viggo's experience.

The trail got more narrow and less disturbed as time went on but it was still easy enough to follow. They eventually came into a bit of a break, a small clearing. They checked things out and found a other, much cleaner trail leading into the clearing from a similar direction. Jewel found a little depression where a large man might have curled up for a bit, too. The main feature was all of the broken branches and scuffed dirt in the area leading to a much larger trail that went away from the clearing. It looked to their eyes like something large dragging on the ground.

The party's theory is that some people came into the clearing, fought with Ralf, and then dragged him out the other direction. The drag marks got less erratic and eventually settled into a solid path which the party interpreted to mean that Ralf had given up struggling.

Jewel smelled something on the wind off to the side of their trail as they continued and set off to investigate ("sniff the air"). She found a girl foraging in the woods, basket on her arm. She suspected the girl of not being human but a surreptitious sniff (and scratches!) said she checked out as far as Jewel could tell.

After firm assurance that Caleb was not, in fact, a knight of Lord Taylor, the girl opened up about foraging in the Lordswood. She hasn't seen Ralf but hoped that they would find him because he was always so sweet and kind. Despite what she heard the girl was sure there was some kind of explanation.

They made their way back to the trail they were following and continued on, eventually spotting a large shape thru the trees, probably a building. Viggo and Jewel both snuck forward, the bounty hunter circling right and the very good dog heading left. Viggo was silent as a butterfly but Jewel... Less butterfly. A man sitting outside the building caught sight of her, called out, she ran, and he ran after her, shouting to a "Wenzel" inside the house. Her pursuer had a brace of throwing axes hanging from his belt.

Gaze in wonder at my ms paint abilities. That's a big mound of dirt in the back.

A woman walked out and then a man, both armed. The woman's leather apron was bloody, and she had a cleaver in her hand. They went back and forth with the party, Caleb taking point in the discussion and Viggo remaining hidden in the back of the building. Caleb a d company repeatedly talk about just wanting Ralf, these three folks say they don't know who that is and they're just out here trying to scrape by.

Caleb asked to see some of their antler scrimshaw wares to try get an opening to get more info and get Jewel inside. Unfortunately there were too many competing scents for her to pick up anything definitive. Caleb ended up buying a really sweet helmet though.

Something like this, probably, until Just Yolks give me something else.

While they were in there, Jewel pawed at the door. The woman showing the scrimshaw kicked her, drawing out Caleb's rage, and he pushed past her through the door and into the larger part of the building. All he saw inside was a workshop with various skins hanging on the walls. Somehow there was no violence yet and Caleb slowly backed down and out of the showroom.

Sidebar: I am pretty sure that the only thing stopping Jewel and Caleb from just all out murdering everyone was the fact that their players thought everyone else didn't want to do that. Just wait!

Viggo stayed hidden round back (Solid Viggo! Viggo Snake!) while the occupants of the building shouted and yelled and told them to get the hell away. While the folks in front of the building continued to argue about Ralf / leaving, Viggo heard some voices in the back of the building talking frantically about getting ready.

Jewel gave up on human talk and ran around to the back of the building and started digging in the dirt in the rear. There was very nearly bloodshed but Viggo materialized out of thing air (took off his cardboard box), put his hands up, and said that they were sorry and would be leaving immediately.

They debated pulled back to their original planning point, barely in sight of the building, and debated going back right then, weapons out, and killing them all. Jewel tried to draw something in the dirt but wasn't able to get her message across, so they decided to fall back even farther to the clearing.

Sidebar: I made Rudy use his offhand to draw in roll20 to simulate how shitty a dog would draw. He did a pretty good job but they weren't picking up what he was putting down. This is probably the first time that Jewel's inability to talk to her party members has resulted in frustration and real communication issues.

While they were debating what to do they encountered the same girl they had met previously, making her way back out of the wood. They confronted her again, asking a lot of questions about the house in the Lordswood. She knew about them and how they hunt and sell but got quite uncomfortable about it. "Everybody has to eat, right?" Further prodding coupled with their suspicion that the house held Ralf got her to open up more, however.

The girl told the party that while those folks did indeed steal from Lord Taylor and her wood that it was just a front for another, also illegal activity: an arena, often with fights to the death. The Church would not approve but she has personally escorted a number of nobles and guards to the fights. She's never gone inside, only guided the VIPs through the Lordswood, but she was sure that they must bribe a lot of important people to maintain their operation.

The next arena evening would be in two nights. She didn't want to cause trouble but Ralf was always so sweet and oh she just really hoped he was okay. She quickly bid the party goodbye once they didn't have any more questions for her and hurried off, worry on her face.

Sidebar: I should probably explain that I'm not just throwing this lady at the party. I use Beloch's random encounter scheme LINK (which is great). The first time she came up I hit an.. 8 or 6 for "sense of place." Figured someone foraging in the Lordswood would make sense. The next encounter they had was a 6 or 8 (whichever wasn't the first time) so they cross paths with a large many-pointed buck but couldn't get at it before it fled. The third time an encounter came up it landed on NPC (7) so it made sense that they would run into this girl again. All happened pretty organically, actually.

After she left they spent some time discussing various plans. The options were "go back and murder them" or "go back and try to return this stag helmet and create a ruse to get inside."

"Let's just light their house on fire!"
"Well we do want to save Ralf..."

Tentative Plan: Sneak in at night, almost kick down the door, ultimatum of going into the cellar, looking for Ralf or we'll burn your damn house down. "We'll go in wearing armor, they'll be wearing pajamas."

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