Chapter 3: Session 8
“Acquittal the Hard Way”
Cast: Archibald, Bronan, Dellin, Ranthin
Introducing: Daveed, the outlaw-turned-stable-hand (played by Josiah)
Archibald is in the midquarter district of Nuln, visiting his friend Father Klaus. While in town, Archibald stables his horse at Rolph Loffhofner’s Crossed Pikes Inn. Daveed is a stablehand tending the horses at the Inn. Archibald learns of the raid on the Rooster’s Rebellion, but not in time to do anything about it.
Near to Father Klaus’ chapel, Archibald is surprised as a sewer grate goes flying through the air and nearly hits him. The too-curious-for-his-own-good Daveed has followed him from the Inn. Bronan, Dellin, and Ranthin emerge from the sewer hole in the street (now sans-cover), in a panic. Bronan clasps Archibald in a bear hug and won’t let go, blathering on about “demons in the sewers.”
An old woman, a street urchin, and a peddler of Rennie’s Penny Pies witness the commotion. The old woman smacks Bronan with her cane and demands he release the nice young priest immediately. Banter ensues, the street urchin thinks about stealing pies, and the pie vendor is paid to park his cart on the sewer opening. Dellin and Ranthin, famished from their near-death-experience snatch up the vendors pies and scarf them down. Dellin thinks they make him neigh invulnerable, and Ranthin believes that he can see through the darkness. (Yes, both ended up rolling amazingly on the toughness checks against the odd effects of the pies.)
Archibald escorts the frenzied lot back to the inn, to clean them up and have a discussion in a private room. In short order, Archibald gets the general idea that the rest of the gang escaped the raid, wandered in the sewers, happened upon Strussel and his counterfeiting operation, and got into a nasty scrape. The outcome was that Strussel was killed, a demon showed up, and everyone ran away in a panic. No one knows where Rufus, Konrad, and Cedric are. After Dellin’s bath, he realizes he’s losing clumps of hair…Rennies’ Pies Strike Again! As an aside, while at the inn and chatting with the proprietor, characters learn that a famous minstrel is coming in the evening to perform his renowned show! Master Minstrel Manfred Matterly and the Merry Maids of Marionberg!!!
A couple town watchmen arrive at the Inn, and notice Archibald’s horse, which has the same Ostermark branding as the others confiscated in the Rooster’s Rebellion raid. Questions are asked, good answers are lacking. Archibald and the stable-hand are brought (arrested politely) to the mid-quarter garrison and questioned some more. The stable-hand looks vaguely familiar to one of the guards and he’s suspicious that he might be linked to “the gang” in some way.
Meanwhile, Dellin, Ranthin, and Bronan rush to find Captain Tanner and convince them they caught Strussel red-handed, killed him in self-defense, and all the evidence they need to be acquitted is in the sewers…along with a very angry “shrike.” Tanner is skeptical about the monster, but agrees to personally command a large group to escort Dellin and Bronan back to the sewers to verify the claim. They agree to pick up Archi on the way. The Sergeant holding Archibald is not happy about being outranked by Tanner and ordered to release Archibald. So the Sergeant says he must bring a few men and see this outrageous claim for himself.
So…everyone heads down into the sewers…Daveed is forced to go as well. Captain Tanner, the angry Sergeant, and twenty guards form the “escort.” The counterfeiting room is found, because Bronan did his best to memorize the path earlier. The super heavy reinforced iron-bound oak door has been shredded…as in wood-chipper shredded, but there’s no monster to be found anywhere. There is, however, a ton of gore, and Strussel’s head and remains are identified. All the other evidence of the counterfeiting is obvious, the coin press, the forge, the cart with the silver ingots, the counterfeit coin molds, etc. A back stairwell leads up to a money changer’s office, where the furnace’s exhaust is disguised and mingled with the store’s. Everyone at the money changer is arrested, and Captain Tanner, no longer fearing Strussel’s retribution, also arrests the Sergeant for corruption and collusion. All seems well. Tanner sends a trusted escort with the characters to the magistrate with orders to await there in safety until the paperwork can be processed to acquit them of all charges.
Sounds too easy? Well yes indeed! The characters with guard escort trudge to the magistrates as dusk arrives. In a small plaza along the way the shrike, which was crawling upside-down along the roof line of an adjacent building strikes! It jumps down and rips apart the nearest guard, pulling his spine out through his abdomen. Characters and guards alike are shocked with fear, with a couple exceptions. The shrike rips through a few more guards while others struggle to snap out of their terror and form rank. Daveed runs for the hills. Ranthin moves off to the side and tries to shoot the shrike. The shrike shreds metal armor and shields like cardboard, and dodges multiple blows per round as if the attackers were moving in slow motion. Bronan and Dellin form a defensive posture around Archibald and pray for divine intervention.
Archibald summons the power of the holy rod of his order. He is filled with radiance, which bursts out through his eyes and scorches the bone demon. This inspires the allies, who snap out of their fear and help to defend the priest. Daveed recovers and rushes back in to help. At the same time, Manfred Matterly and four very competent female archers (the Merry Maids) come in from a side alley. Manfred is a skilled commander (who would have thought?) and the shrike is peppered with arrows (albeit to no affect). Just as the shrike is about to launch another deadly attack, Archibald again summons the power of light from the holy rod (with a critical success!) He invokes “Banishment” on the demon, which locks him and the shrike in a mental contest of will power. This prevents both Archibald and the Shrike from doing much else, and the Shrike becomes somewhat vulnerable to those who are attacking it…but nothing really penetrates its spiny armor, not even Dellin’s Ulric’s Fury!
Archibald sweats as he slowly loses the battle of wills. He can feel dark corruption filling his soul and worming its way into his head. Dhar swirls in his vision…soon he will be vanquished. But then, as all seems lost, the light prevails! Divine Radiance bursts from the heavens and surrounds the demon! (It rolled a critical failure on the opposed will check) It bursts into a fine black ash, which floats to the blood-damp cobblestones.
Thus ended “Acquittal the Hard Way.” Characters earned bonus XP for defeating another major villain. (Einhorn/Shrike).