So, the session begins, with new character sheets again, and wouldn't you know it, the only misprinted ones in the new character sheets are the Fighter and the Thief. The changes to Hit Points cause a certain amount of conversation, with both players keen to see how this, and the new rules on variable monster damage, will work in play.
Also, Keith notices that from the rules on XP, that Amdor's levelled up, and, upon reading the new Moves involving sacrificing Armour to mitigate damage, opts for Iron Hide as his new move.
Dave bemoans Shanks' lagging behind, but I remind him that now misses yield XP, and also his alignment has finally stabilised now that the Chaotic option exists. Especially since he thinks that's the way he's been playing Shanks all along.
So, we open with the two PCs blissfully asleep in a barn, waking up, being given a basic breakfast by Hendrik the miller's son, and then escorted to the road by him, which they pay him for in stories of derring do and bravery. Hendrick may yet reappear, but for the moment, he bids them farewell and lets them on their way to Battlemoor.
Battlemoor! I get a chance to describe it, so it's essentially a big hill-fort, and it's Market Day (because I know the characters want to buy stuff and fence items). Also, I mention the bright tents and banners of a company of travelling players, partly because I've got something I want to do later to the characters involving it, but also as a bit of colour, and an option for them to go and have fun if they want.
First off, the two opt for finding a place to claim the bounty on Grundloch's head, mainly so they don't have to keep carrying around a head in a sack. They find the Sheriff's office, snatch the Wanted Poster of Grundloch from the notice board, notice another poster for a bandit called Eisen Helmbreaker, and head on inside.
The Sheriff isn't in, but one of his lackeys verifies their claim, after some suspicion and a warning that if they've killed someone who just happens to look like Grundloch, their ignorance will not be a defence to a charge of murder.
Stealing quite shamelessly from both Firefly and A Song of Ice and Fire, the deputy recants a tale of a rash of midget murders when a bounty was placed on a notoriously short human arsonist. The characters are curious, and Shanks even dredges his knowledge of Criminal Ways to identify the villain as Keneb Firesprite. Now, I thought this might just have been a throwaway detail, but Keneb may need to make an appearance at some point...
We debate slightly over what Grundloch's head might be worth, and eventually settle on 75g, roughly halfway between a run-of-the-mill killing and an assassination on the price lists. Keith is tickled by the idea of a standard run of the mill killing.
But, eventually the deputy is satisfied, and issues the two of them with a receipt for the head, stamps it to make it official, and heads to another room to unlock the safe where all the cash is. Shanks is too busy listening to the noises from the safe to pay too much attention to what his larcenous hands are doing, which is why, when Dave rolls a miss on attempting to steal one of the official stamps, he accidentally knocks the pot of red ink all over the desk, before attempting to mop it up with various parchments.
Shanks cries out in innocent alarm, and the deputy returns to the main office with a small sack of coins.
"Here you go. 70 gold", says the deputy.
"Erm..." say Amdor, "Didn't we say 75?"
"Minus the Cleaning Up My Desk and Several Destroyed Sheets of Vellum Tax".
Not wishing to argue, an angry Amdor and a red-handed (literally) Shanks leave the office.
Then begins a shopping expedition. Amdor trades in his chainmail and hands over coin to have a breastplate and scale made to fit him, paying extra for quick results. He also notices that the maker's mark on some of the armour in the shop is the same as on the armour on some of the goblins back at the Hall Under The Hill (this is because the Black Gauntlet bought it to supply them, but Amdor doesn't know that) Meanwhile, Shanks hunts for a duelling rapier since he can now afford one, but his first roll on Supply yields another big Miss, hence the weaponsmith he encounters refuses point blank to deal with the scruffy, bloody handed rogue, and tells him to get lost. The weaponsmith doesn't want noble customers frightened off if any of them should happen by to discuss rapiers and finely engraved crossbows.
On a happy note, these two misses have left Shanks with enough XP to level up.
Amdor visits a jeweller's, and is impressed with the security, while trying to fence off the pouch of gemstones they got from Grundloch's pockets. The Imbued status of the gemstones attracts the elven jeweller, who believes this might make the gemstones easier to enchant, or possibly result in magical properties if they're used in crafting, and thus he's easy to persuade. He offers Amdor a large sum of money for the lot (250g), which the fighter gladly accepts.
Meanwhile, Shanks has used his knowledge of Criminal Dealings to Spout Lore that fences and dealers in shady merchandise often have a sprig of mistletoe on their signs to indicate this, and has indeed spotted such a spring sticking out of a hat on a milliner's sign. Hence, he heads in there and casually utters a few code phrases to indicate that he is In The Know, and Willing to Buy and Sell.
The shopkeeper recognises the words, if not the speaker, and the two head into the back to conduct mutual dodgy deals. Shanks comes out of the deal with new throwing knives and a cameo ring for dispensing poison, but sadly, not a blowpipe and darts which he'd hoped for.
The two meet up again in the street, and Amdor notices that Shanks, despite visiting a hat store, hasn't bought a hat. Shanks, for his part, notices that Amdor isn't wearing his armour or carrying his shield. Neither of them notice that they're being scrutinised by a member of the Spanterhook Thieves. Shanks, having given the code phrases, is off-limits as a visiting professional, but Amdor isn't, and thus, unbeknownst to our heroes, a plan is hatched.
Shanks makes one more attempt to find anyone who might be selling fine duelling rapiers, and rolls a Strong Hit on a Supply move. He not only finds one, but gets a decent discount on it.
Meanwhile, Amdor is checking out maker's marks for every seller he can find, and indeed, most of them were also present on the weapons or armour on the goblins and lizardmen he encountered recently. Amdor attempts to Spout Lore regarding goblins and their weapons, but rolls another Miss, so not only does he not reach any conclusions, but he finds at the end of his wandering that his pouch has been expertly slit, and that a good chunk of his coin is missing. Luckily, he paid for his armour in advance.
The two rendezvous at the coaching inn, where they intend to rest up for a day or two, until Amdor's armour is ready, and then head out. Their companions in the inn are mostly merchants and a few caravan guard captains, who mention the dreadful bandit Eisen Helmbreaker again.
The two adventurers dine well, and drink well, exchanging drinks and stories with their companions. Then, entering the common room come the travelling players, or at least, those few of them with portable acts or convincing voices.
"Come!" they say "See the awesome marksmanship of Seamus! Thrill to the tricks of Niknak! Witness the fiery powers of Vladimir! All on show at Novak's Travelling Carnival!" (and here I'm glad that neither of the players attend the LARP I go to, because I have in fact nicked this lock-stock and barrel from there)
And, apart from a juggler and sword swallower doing minor tricks to entertain the crowd, and as a hint at what greater delights might be on offer at the main show at midnight, a fortune teller is making a round of the bar. I describe her as the classic gypsy fortune teller, all silk scarves, bangles and big silvery ear-rings.
Shanks, as a fan of the short con well done, takes her up on her offer and asks her to divine Amdor's fortune. She produces a pouch of runestones, and asks Amdor to draw out five for his fate. Amdor chooses The Sword, The Gods, Life, The Demons, and Death, and is thus informed that his is a hero's fate, and that he will stand between good and evil, life and death, and make his way entirely by his skill with his sword.
Discerning realities, Shanks detects a hint of cold reading in the interpretation of the tiles, but also a worrying hint that there might be more to this than just a clever woman playing on the gullible.
The fortune teller offers Amdor the same choice; does he want to pay to have Shanks' fortune told, and sportingly, he does.
The tiles are returned to the bag, and the bag is re-tied and shaken, before being untied and offered to Shanks.
Shanks reaches into the bag, and feels the tiles almost skitter away from his grasp. He twists his hand left and right and finally grabs a tile and brings it triumphantly from the bag, to the relief of Amdor, who thought Shanks was drawing out whatever joke he was playing a little too long.
The tile is blank. Shanks turns it over in his hand, only to reveal another blank side. The look on the fortune teller's face suggests that this isn't a usual occurrence.
She accuses Shanks of slipping in a blank tile. Shanks protests his innocence, and, in his haste to show that there's nothing up his sleeves, reveals his still faintly-red hands, and the Mark on his left forearm. The fortune teller identifies the symbol on the mark as a combination of Hearth, Home and Children, but maintains that her pouch of runestones doesn't have a blank in it. She demands that Shanks draw again, properly this time.
Shanks reaches into the bag, and withdraws another blank tile. And another. And another.
Colour fades from the fortune teller's face and, all pretence aside, she whispers in a voice suddenly free of artifice and accent "What did you do? What's going on?"
Shanks, continuing to pull blank tiles from the bag, can only shrug.
The fortune teller, suddenly afraid, pulls the bag from Shanks, scoops the tiles back into it, and throws the two gold pieces the adventurers paid her back onto the table, before fleeing. Moments later, all the travelling players are gone from the inn.
The two adventurers sit in silence for a moment or two before Shanks deflates the tension with "Is it my round?" and Amdor gratefully answers "Heck yes!".
Shanks takes a trip to the bar, where he's flirted with by a comely barmaid, and, when he responds in kind, the two of them wander off to "discuss matters in private", while Amdor enjoys a goblet of special mead.
Then, since he's very tired, Amdor heads for bed. The reason he's very tired, is of course, because the mead was drugged. Drugged by the Spanterhook Thieves, those rascals.
Amdor comes to; there's a scent of roasting meat in the air and he idly thinks about breakfast, except that it's still dark outside, and he can see that because the window shutters are open, and of course there's the screaming.
The screaming also wakes Shanks, who is lying in the street behind the inn with a lump on the back of his head like half a pickled egg, from where he's been expertly sapped. A quick and reflexive check of his possessions yields nothing missing, which mystifies him. He shakes his head to clear it and identifies the room the screaming's coming from. The one with open shutters! Their room!
Amdor sits bolt upright in bed. In front of him a skinny human clad in dark grey is desperately trying to loose his grip on Amdor's sword, which remains resolutely stuck in it's scabbard. Furthermore, wisps of smoke and a sizzling noise are coming from the thief's right hand, where the hilt of the sword appears to be burning through his gloves and flesh as if it were red-hot.
Amdor moves his legs under himself and then launches himself at the intruder, knocking him to the floor, but not dislodging the sword, which continues to burn the young man's flesh.
Shanks appears at the windowsill, leaping into the room like a master of parkour. Noises are beginning to come from elsewhere in the inn as the screaming continues.
Between the two of them, the adventurers subdue the intruder. Amdor reaches out for the sword, which seems almost to leap into his hand, cool as a summer stream.
Finally roused, the innkeeper hammers on their door, which Amdor blocked with a chair before he slept. The obstruction is removed, and the red-faced man begins a torrent of hissed words. During this conversation, the thief shudders and dies. Eventually, after a number of confused exchanges including
"I was unconscious outside"
"well, it's never done it before"
the corpse is unceremoniously flung out of the window and dragged by the innkeeper's son to the the midden.
"We'll talk more in the morning", says the innkeeper.
"No. We'll say nothing about this in the morning", says Amdor, and, since it's getting late, we opt for the End Of Session move there. Shanks levels up now, since he's got the pencil out.