The Fairmeadow Fair ended last session, with Gleador the secret shapeshifter dodging all the consequences of his weekend of deception. He and Lucia the Paladin had to decide where to go next. There were several events that warranted further investigation.
- A statue with Dwarven markings came to life and smashed up the fair. Who built it? What is it for?
- The statue was carrying strange gold coins, unlike the local currency. Where do they come from?
- A Dwarf named Opal and two accomplices attacked our heroes, were driven off, and fled town in an unusual self-propelled cart.
Gleador and Lucia had one of the strange coins, so Pepe, the town sheriff, tracked them down to get it back before they left town. They convinced him that they would continue investigating the statue, so they should hold on to the coin. Pepe revealed that the statue was brought to auction by Hama, a halfling woman who often acts as an agent for rich clients who want to auction items without personally making the trip. Hama said that she was selling the statue on behalf of the Miller family, one of the great families in Sugar’s Crossing, a town a few days to the west. She had no idea that the statue could move.
Our heroes decide to head for Templeton, a Dwarven city to the west with a famous college. This means not going to Sugar’s Crossing to question the owner of the statue, and not pursuing Opal’s gang south towards the port. Alas, those were the two towns contained the bulk of my preparation. To re-assure Pepe that they were not just running off with his evidence, they told him where they were going. Pepe knows a guy in Templeton. Flint is now a second year metallurgy student, but he took a gap year of sorts in Fairmeadow and volunteered as a deputy. Law enforcement was too intense for him. He’s happier in a classroom. Gleador and Lucia promise to look him up, and leave word with Flint if their travels take them further from Templeton.
Gleador and Lucia set out on the three-day journey to Templeton. There’s a lot of traffic leaving Fairmeadow today, but they got an early start, since they don’t have to pack up booths or wrangle families. When they are out of sight of other travelers, Gleador shifts into a falcon and scouts ahead. There’s not much to report. Near evening, he sees a clearing on one side of the road. There’s room for at least a dozen carts around a big stone fire pit. There’s a stack of charred logs in the pit, and a magical, ever-burning flame in off to the side. An inscription in many languages reads, “As we all share the everlasting warmth of fellowship, so will this fire always keep travelers warm.” It’s a lovely rest stop, with no traps or shady people around.
Gleador reports this to Lucia, and they stop there for the night. As evening falls, several parties on horse-drawn carts, or on foot with handcarts also arrive and set up camp. One group produces logs from their cart, adds them to the pile of firewood, and makes a trail of kindling from the magical flame to the central firepit. A jolly blaze lights and warms the whole campsite. Some starts playing a pipe, and a few people clap and dance along. Gleador looks for the most interesting person to talk to. That’s Selene, a clean-shaven Dwarf woman. She goes to shake her hand, and she extends a metal prosthesis. With certain movements of her shoulder and upper arm, she adjusts counterweights and rods in the mechanical arm to open its fingers and shake Gleador’s hand. Gleador is very impressed! She’s a graduate student at the College of Mines in Templeton. Gleador inquires about the moving statue. She’s unaware of technology that advanced. The mechanical devices she knows are moved by counterweights (like her arm) or pressurized gas. Gleador mentions the name “OOLITE” that was written on the statue, and she thinks the school library would have information about it. She doesn’t know Flint, but it’s a big school, so that’s not strange. Lucia doesn’t participate in the evening activities. She’s communing with her god and gaining a level.
In the morning, Lucia tries to cast Detect Alignment, but instead of a shockwave of holy energy, she produces a physical shockwave, making a loud bang and flapping all the tents and shelters. Lucia and Gleador hastily grab their packs and flee the rest stop in embarrassment. The next two days are uneventful. The terrain becomes hillier and rockier, so the fields of grain and vegetables give way to land for livestock. They find an old barn, abandoned when a newer one was built at the other end of a field, and stay there for the night. Nothing comes ot disturb them but some rabbits and birds, also seeking shelter for the night.
On the evening of the third day they reach Templeton, the city built into a cinder cone volcano. It rises out of the plain alone, visible for miles! Streets spiral up the cone in both directions, since radial streets would be too steep. The side of town closest to the main road is trade and tourism. The Fortinbras College of Mines has an entire sector of the volcano on the northwest. The rim of the caldera is covered with high towers, and inside the caldera are museums and civic buildings surrounding city hall at the very center. Most of the buildings are built for Dwarves, but there are some taller buildings, especially in the tourist section.
Gleador and Lucia check into a tall youth hostel near the college. Their room has five bunk beds and a washroom with a toilet and shower. There’s running water in Templeton. Lucia is obviously a Paladin, and the other youths in the room tease her for looking like a strict authority figure. She heads to take a shower and surprises a Dwarf woman coming out of the washroom in a towel.
The next morning they wake up before the other 7 people in the room. Not a hard task to wake up before college students. There’s cheap but decent food served cafeteria style at the hostel. They head to the campus to look for Flint and the library. The library is not open to the public, only people associated with the school. They ask around and learn that Flint is currently in a lab. The college extends onto the flat ground surrounding the valcano and Flint’s lab is in a building on this flat ground. The building rises only a couple feet, has skylights and vents for a roof, and storm doors for entrances. As our heroes open one of the doors, they hear a voice assure another voice that the delivery of the alloy will be on schedule. There’s a sudden pause, then the voices start talking about experimental procedures and titration. Di that seem shady? Did the people at the door notice? Hopefully not. Gleador and Lucia act like they don’t notice and ask for Flint. He’s the voice promising delivery on schedule. They pass on Pepe’s greetings and ask to meet him after his lab. He’s happy to hear from Pepe and agrees to meet them. Lucia says a quick prayer for guidance and sees that the two dwarfs standing near Flint are evil, but Flint himself is not.
There’s a long, low arc of stone that acts as a sundial, receiving a beam of light from a tower at the rim of the volcano. There are signs warning not to put any item, especially face or eyes, in the beam of light. Near the sundial are some benches and tables with games. The game is somewhat like Stratego, where two players try to defeat each other without knowing the strength of the other’s pieces. The pieces are identical painted metal cubes, each of a different material and density. Denser pieces beat lighter pieces. Quickly judging the density of an item by holding it is a valuable skill for a miner or crafter. At the appointed time (easily seen from the nearby sundial) the two evil dwarves sit a few benches away and start playing. Flint arrives soon after. Gleador plays to lose (easy when he’s never played and Flint is an expert) and engages in small talk, trying to sneakily get Flint to reveal information. The evil dwarves keep playing games. They’re sticking around to overhear. Flint agrees to give our heroes a tour of the campus tomorrow. Maybe he can sneak them into the library. He leaves and the evil dwarves are still playing. Lucia and Gleador leave and ponder their next move.
GM note: I had to scramble because I assumed that the party would go to a different town. On the one hand, I really like the things I improvised: Selene’s mechanical arm, the rest stop, the city built into a volcano, the sundial. On the other hand, when wrapping up one location and moving to another, I should make the party decide where to go at the end of a session, not the beginning, so I can focus my efforts entirely on what they will see. The drama between the three great mills in Sugar’s Crossing was wasted effort, and I kept describing the Dwarven college like a 20th century American university, because that’s what I could think of on the spot.
Also, this is the second time they haven’t gone in the direction of that one NPC that I’m really proud of.