Friday, October 31, 2014

Return to Mar Tesaro: Court Intrigue

The players ride hard through the day, arriving in Woodhurst after nightfall. Not wanting to draw attention to themselves, they sneak into town and drop their prisoner off in a safe house.
There was a brewing discussion about where to hide the prisoner. Although the town is loyal to the Brotherhood, parading one of the Queen's lieutenants through the streets would draw too much attention, as would grabbing rooms at the local inn. I didn't want the game to grind to a halt over the issue, so I told them the Brotherhood had provided a small home for just such an occasion. Never be afraid to 
They see to Fariba's comfort before going to confront the Brotherhood's council.  The council meets in a private hall; the players being the group's top lieutenants, their entry is welcomed warmly, but the Hawk has no interest in mincing words.
"All right you bastards, time to politick."
(See the rest below the fold.)
Some explanation of the Brotherhood's council is in order. The faction currently commands the political and military loyalty of the northern cities. In the time of the Triumvirate, when these cities made up the human kingdom, three families vied for power: The Lormans, the Arroways, and the Valthrunes. The Valthrune family held the throne when Alessia took control of the island, but few know the line survived. 
The Brotherhood is lead by a council of five:  The heads of the human families, Garrett Lorman and Magatha Arroway; an orc, Viklor Bloodletter, representing a village of "monsters" cast out by the Queen; Marcus Cerinthus, the militia commander of Crossway; and Dimos Searen, a tiefling Brother from the Family, given voice in the Brotherhood as an agreement to assist them.
The council was supposed to be an opportunity for political intrigue on the friendly side; yes, everyone wanted the Queen taken down, but each of these leaders had their own motivations and desired outcomes. Since the players initially expressed doubts about being the ones in charge of the rebellion, it felt right to put a group of feckless scoundrels in charge. Ultimately, the players found little interest in these characters, or any intrigue with them, and would rather have been in charge of the whole operation themselves. It's just as well; the goal of the campaign was to dethrone the Queen, and dealing with court intrigue and political friendly fire could sideline that goal for far too long. 
The Hawk enters in a storm of anger, demanding of the room to know where Briann has been taken. Arguments ensue, ignorance is plead, much yelling and threatening takes place; the only person who seems to know more than he lets on is Marcus, but he finally excuses himself from the room after a time.
In retrospect, it was a terrible idea to give an NPC the same name as a PC, even if he usually went by "Hawk."
The PCs follow after Marcus, who discovers he is being followed and decides to teach a lesson about respecting one's leaders; it does not go as he planned, as the PCs soundly defeat him in combat. Searching his home, they quickly find Briann, who is rattled but unharmed.

They drag Marcus back before the council, demanding explanation from him. Briann is the daughter of the magistrate of Crossway, a man loyal to the Queen; she went into hiding after her father had Denrick killed. Marcus had discovered her identity and formulated a plan; by returning her to her father, they could convince him to join the Brotherhood.

The room is divided. The plan is plausible, and would accomplish a long-standing goal for the Brotherhood. As distasteful as Marcus's methods may seem, siding with the players over him would be similarly foolish; not only would they lose access to the troops he commands, but he could easily reveal their entire organization to the Queen if he were so inclined. Briann volunteers to return to her father for the sake of the Hawk and the Brotherhood.

The players will have none of it, however. Briann will return home, and Marcus will simply deal with it, or else they'll bring the hammer down on Marcus (and anyone else in the room.)
Do not test the loyalty of your staff. This is particularly true when you hired them for their ability to perpetrate violence.
The matter is put on hold, however, when Briann asks about Thomas. Although Thomas attempted to follow his mother's captors, Marcus says he never saw the boy.

Traster has a spell for just such an occasion; using one of Thomas's belongings, he is able to locate the boy on a map. Somehow, he has ended up deep in the woods to the north of Woodhurst; a dangerous place for an untrained teenager to be, even during the day. The party sets out to track down Thomas.

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