Yes, getting kit through customs can be fun. I used to look after a large bag of replica firearms for some chums from Northern Ireland who were sick of the trouble they had getting them into and out of the country.
Onwards to adventure!
Two days have passed uneventfully, and the three adventurers and one wolf are approaching Battlemoor, and at the distance they notice the gates are closed and the walls manned.
A thin cry of "Halt and be recognised!" reaches them on the light breeze, and the three delvers halt in their tracks. Gilthanas makes a few clicking sounds in his throat, and Tok the wolf barks once before heading off away from the city.
"Told him to go hunt his own meals for a few days", grunts the ranger. "Walls aren't his favourite places". (Greg has returned to his home Down South, and Gilthanas is playing a nominal part in this adventure to make sure he gets his share of the cash, but doesn't get in the way)
The three men move slowly forward towards the walls, and Amdor studies the troops' deployment on the walls - he Discerns Realities and notices that they're looking in both directions, and armed with a mixture of polearms and crossbows, so he realises they're alert for threats in both directions.
Amdor cries out their fidelities, mentioning that they're working with the Sheriff, which causes a certain amount of consternation on the gate, which dies away as two soldiers clamber down from the gate and the portcullis is gradually raised, so the three pass through it, before being held up and forced to peace-bond their weapons into their sheaths. I narrate Gilthanas complying first, to encourage the other two to act. No one mentions that Amdor has a big knife concealed in his boot, or that Shanks has several smaller knives about his person, or that Eirik Helmbreaker's warhammer is wrapped in canvas inside a sack over someone's shoulder, and the soldiers don't search them closely. Knowing that they've got options, even if their main weapons are briefly out of commission, the adventurers make their way into the city, chatting among themselves about what's happened to make this settlement so newly suspicious.
And it is. Very suspicious. The group are stopped twice by patrols of soldiers as they move through the town, the first a simple perfunctory check that their weapons are bonded, but the second group contains a soldier who remembers Amdor and Shanks from their stay in the barracks, and a longer conversation ensues.
It transpires that the Sheriff has been poisoned by forces unknown, and with the ruling lords still absent (as they have been for nine months now*), the Lieutenant in charge of the barracks has declared martial law in the city, while the entire town is searched. Shanks realises that's a massive and unwise action, because there aren't enough soldiers to cover the whole settlement very quickly, but has the good sense to keep his mouth shut. The delvers ask if they can see the Sheriff, but are told he isn't seeing anyone right now.
The sergeant of the patrol pulls out a scrap of paper from his sleeve, and scrawls on it with a stick of charcoal - it's a request to the landlord of the Silver Stag Inn to find these good men a bed for the night, and to grant them credit because they can't get their bounty money until the Sheriff recovers.
Amdor and Shanks share a glance at the thought of returning to the Silver Stag, but realise it's probably useless to argue the point, and, bidding the soldiers good luck, the party heads for the Inn.
As they enter the Inn, the innkeeper looks up in the middle of filling a tankard from a cask under the bar and the colour drains from his face as he goes still, and only the dripping of ale on the floor is audible.
"You!" he splutters eventually. "I can't believe you...you came back here". Amdor grins, moving forward with the order in his hand.
"I can't believe it either. Read this and then find us a room, won't you?"
The innkeeper has by now turned a marvellous shade of purple, and Shanks revels in his discomfiture by taking a seat at a table and snapping his fingers at the server.
Eventually, civility reasserts itself, and the three swordsmen are served a meal with wine (the innkeeper's wife realising that if these men are due a bounty, they might have money to spend, and she's keen to help them spend it. Even before they get it)
As the meal is demolished, the three discuss the consequences of the Sheriff's misfortune, and a voice from another table injects itself into their conversation.
It transpires that the owner of the voice is part of a merchant caravan who's got something on his impounded wagons that he doesn't want found, and who'd pay to have someone go and get it without the soldiers noticing them, and naturally, before it got discovered.
He talks around the subject before he gets down to his actual ideas, but Shanks (master of criminal activities), rapidly Discerns what's being offered and discussed here, and that the merchant is offering too little reward when balanced against the risk.
But, they demur, and the merchant gives up the information they need to help him - the markings on his wagon, and the location of the concealed compartment where the contraband is, and the duo of Amdor and Shanks sneaks out into the streets, dodging patrols... (Gilthanas at this point decides he wants nothing to do with this, and remains handily off-screen for the moment)
It's been mentioned that a call has gone out for apothecaries to help the Sheriff, and Amdor and Shanks are naturally curious as to why the apothecary they met last time they were in town hasn't volunteered, and, after they find out her shop is closed, dark and locked and the sign has been taken from over the door, one of her neighbours informs them that it's because she's dead. They piece together the timeline of events, and realise that her death occurred before the Sheriff was attacked, and the manner of her death (choked to death, mouth and throat stuffed with herbs, right arm severed and missing) sounds like the actions of an enraged cutpurse who'd been told there was nothing she could do for his own missing arm, and with horror, the two realise her death is their fault.
Lacking any better options, the two make a visit (dodging more patrols as they cross town) to the only other person either of them can think of in town who might know enough about poisons to aid the Sheriff - Shanks' fence/dealer contact in the milliner's shop.
The sign is still swinging gently in the breeze above the door, and the mistletoe's still depicted in the band of the hat, even if the shop doesn't appear to be open for business, so the two try knocking hard on the hat shop's door. They're just about to give up and leave when a panel in the door slides back, revealing two beady eyes studying them. Shanks gives a code phrase, and the unseen person replies, and asks if Amdor is also a brother to the widow's son (ie, is he also a working thief entitled to professional courtesy).
Shanks answers in the affirmative (not especially truthfully), and the unseen person spits out a curse
"Damnations! If I'd known that, this whole thing would have run differently. Come in and we'll talk about this"
The two are ushered through the unlit front room to the back room, where even more hats are visible in display cases, together with a variety of hat-making paraphernalia. I wonder whether the adventurers are going to mention the Hat of Disguise they've looted recently, but they seem quite reticent.
A stilted and coded conversation ensues, which Amdor completely fails to follow, and his failures to keep up leave their host unconvinced that Amdor is a thief, or entitled to any courtesies from other criminals. However, this doesn't stop him brewing up a pot of delicious tea while the three of them talk about the Sheriff's recent bad luck, and the adventurer's recent exploits in bounty hunting.
Shanks tries to Discern Realities to work out whether their host is adulterating the tea in any way, but Dave rolls so badly that he's happy to take an experience point and remain unaware.
The tea is indeed drugged, and they realise it's affecting them when they both only manage a weak hit each on a Defy Danger -Con roll and I give them a -1 ongoing as the drug hits their systems, clouding their thoughts and making them feel heavy and leaden.
Their host continues on with his conversation, his voice taking on acid tones as he tells them that yes, he knows who poisoned the Sheriff, since he's a member of the Spanterhook Guild too. He helped finger Amdor as a target for the Guild's more light-fingered members, and he was involved in killing the Sheriff's deputy, and furthermore, he's looking forward to seeing what else he can reap from their bodies after the drug takes effect.
Amdor and Shanks leap into action, as their host cackles.
"Go ahead!", he cries "With every move you make, the drug takes greater effect!", and he's right. Shanks tries to grab the tea tray and throw it at him, but all he does is spill it all over the place. Amdor tries to remain calm, and instead of his heirloom blade, he reaches into his backpack and pulls out Eirik Helmbreaker's hammer. Twisting it to shake the cloth wrapping off it, he rises to his feet and attempts to swing it hard against their enemy.
It's at this point that Keith realises that if he isn't using a Precise Weapon, he's rolling +Str to Hack And Slash, so he's not surprised when he misses, smashing the table in front of them to flinders.
Their opponent makes a slash at Amdor's face with a dagger that's appeared in his fist, but Amdor's still awake enough to defend himself - he moves lightly and the swipe that would have opened his face merely strikes a silver-edged gouge in his shoulder armour.
Shanks fumbles for one of his hidden knives, which seems to be buried deeper in his clothing. He struggles, wondering whether to stab with it, or throw it. His opponent moves away from the table, diving over a display of hats, and a "click" is heard from behind the display as a secret compartment is opened.
Shanks dashes across the room to cut off any retreat, and then screams in pain as the sly fence throws blinding powder into his face. He throws his arms out around him, trying desperately to find purchase on his opponent, or something to allow him to orient himself. His groping hand finds a set of shelves, and he pulls hard on them, hoping to topple them over on his enemy.
What actually happens is that Dave's dice turn up another miss, and Shanks pulls the shelves over on himself, hurting himself and forcing himself forwards, closer to his undrugged, unblinded, knife-wielding enemy.
With measured steps, Amdor moves across the room, to get their enemy's attention while Shanks recovers. He takes a few experimental swings with the hammer, getting used to the weight of it. Shanks takes a clumsy step or two forwards, and wraps his arms around their opponent (Dave goes for the Aid Another action, and this is the best he can think of), and, while he's held still, Amdor goes all out with his best overhand strike with the hammer.
Keith's dice turn up a strong hit, and with a Fighter's high damage dice, and an extra d6 for risking damage from the enemy, and an extra d4 for Amdor's being Merciless, and an extra d6 I tell Keith to add in because he's doing exactly what you have to do to activate the warhammer's magic power, the eventual total is enough that there's a noise like someone bringing a rolling pin down on an upturned china bowl full of porridge, and their assailant drops like a stone.
The duo slump to the floor also, the drug wreaking havoc in their systems. They're lucky no one disturbs them while they breath slowly and recover.
Then, the looting begins. Shanks has been here before and seen at least a couple of extra compartments containing illegal thiefly loot, so the two of them tear the workshop apart, Shanks rolling Trap Expert to find all the secret things and potential threats he can, and for once, Dave's dice turn up a nice Strong Hit.
So, I give Shanks two uses of "Miscellaneous Looted Thiefly Kit", to represent things he might pull out of his pack at a later date, and Dave instantly asks "Might I have found a compact black hand crossbow?", and I'm happy to agree that, yes, he might have.
Meanwhile, Amdor has found a pot of black salve which Shanks confirms as Ghostweed poison, a ledger written in coded symbols, and a tiny black glass vial with a mark carved into the base.
A search of the dead guy's body has revealed a few items; a couple of nice rings, an amethyst pendant on a silver chain, a barbed S tattooed on his right wrist, and one more concealed, envenomed knife. Amdor surprises me here by saying "Well, we'll leave that on him. We're not here to rob him, just to find out if he knew about the poison"
And while I'm still gawping at that he says "Now I think we need to summon the Guards in here", and then does exactly that.
Shanks and Amdor then proceed to cooperate with the soldiers when they arrive, and barely protest when the Lieutenant turns up ten minutes later and asks them both to "accompany him to the barracks".
The two are placed under guard while their story is verified as far as possible, and meanwhile, Shanks turns his attention to the ledger.
Using the data he has got, including stuff he's bought from and sold to this fence in the past, he's able to decipher it (well, that and a Strong Hit), and works out that the fence paid a whole lot of money for a few things in the past - the amethyst pendant uses the same code character as the black glass vial, so the vial's either an antidote, or a superbly potent poison, since the amethyst is a periapt against poison. He identifies the ruby ring the fence was wearing as a piece of probably magical jewellery, and then studies the Infinite Folio to identify it as the work of an enchanter noted for his protective items.
Essentially, Shanks is on a roll here. He asks one of the guards to fetch their Lieutenant, and then asks that officer if he can send a couple of soldiers to retrieve the expensive items from the fence's shop, because he thinks they can be used to cure the Sheriff's poisoning. The Lieutenant, after some reassuring words from Amdor, agrees, and men are dispatched, and told to meet with the Lt. at the Sheriff's house, where his men are guarding him. The Lieutenant's slowly becoming convinced that the two swordsmen aren't just a pair of mercenary chancers keen for their bounty, and do genuinely want to help. There's a touching moment when Shanks realises that he really had stopped thinking about the reward money, and was really concentrating on just doing his third good deed.
There's a certain amount of tension between the sheriff's men, and the lieutenant's men, when they all get together but eventually the presence of Amdor and Shanks and the various items helps to convince them that they really do intend to help.
They're taken in to see the Sheriff, who's on a bed in the lower room of his house. He looks terrible, pale, drawn and barely breathing, and also much less imposing without his breastplate on. His eyes are open, but he doesn't seem to be able to focus on anything. At Shanks' direction, the periapt is placed around the Sheriff's neck, and they wait, eagerly, to see if it has any effect.
It doesn't. The ring is placed on his finger, and similarly, nothing of any great import happens.
Shanks swallows, deep in his throat, as he realises it's down to the last coin-toss. He explains that the glass vial contains either a potent restorative, or a presumably deadly poison.
Amdor chuckles "If I were in charge, I'd make you taste it first". Shanks shoots him a venomous glare, and is probably right to do so, because the soldiers and guards exchange glances, and an unspoken consensus forms in the room that that's exactly what should happen.
Shanks licks his finger, dips it into the vial, and then puts the finger in his mouth. After a few sweaty-forehead seconds, he doesn't show any signs of keeling over and dying, and he then lets out one great and sour fart, to the dismay of all the soldiers who were drawing closer to peer at him for any evidence of poison.
Since it's proved non-fatal on Shanks, the remainder of the vial's contents are administered to the Sheriff. He starts to thrash around like canvas in a hurricane, and his men move to hold him down so he doesn't hurt himself on the furniture. Then, the Sheriff emits the most terrible sustained burst of flatulence any of them have ever heard (Ever see that episode of the Young Ones where Vyvyan is convinced he's pregnant, but it just turns out to be an enormous fart? Just like that) before colour returns to his cheeks and he begins breathing again.
"My gods!" he cries out "It smells like a privy in here!", and the tension breaks in the room. Laughter breaks out in every direction, although the guards do also open every window they can find, and one of them says
"It's a good think you can afford a covered lantern, Boss! If your room was lit with candles, we'd all have been killed in the explosion!"
The Sheriff is recovered, and ravenous. He dismisses his men back to their homes and their wives, thanks the Lieutenant, and then demands that everyone give him a moment's privacy so he can put some fresh clothes on and then get himself fed. He takes Amdor and Shanks by the shoulders and orders them to take him to an inn, where they can tell him all their news, and he can eat until he's full.
They do, and we close out the session.
Both Amdor and Shanks are level 4 now, and they've both gone for the same move - Amdor's taken Multiclass Dabbler, reasoning that he's been watching Shanks fight, and has learnt a few lessons about rolling with blows and not getting hurt, so they've both taken the Underdog move.
Dave wonders if Thieves can multiclass, since he's seriously considering taking a move from the Cleric playbook once his divine penance is complete, and I mention that it will be gone as soon as Lhydia, goddess of civilization, home and hearth, next thinks to check.
(I also want to see if I can manoeuvre Shanks near a temple at some point, to have another, rival god make him an offer)