Last time, our heroes arranged to meet the mayor of Templeton in a magically-protected area, despite the best efforts of the mayor’s special forces. (Why does she even have special forces?!) They disrupted the mayor’s attempt to teleport in, and all three of them ended up somewhere unknown.
They rush up towards the edge of hyperspace, breaking through the surface into water. They rush up through water, breaking the surface into darkness. Their eyes adjust and they realize they are in an indoor swimming pool. One wall and part of the ceiling are covered in thick curtains, so whatever daylight might be outside does not reach in here.
While our heroes and the mayor are trying to figure out what’s going on, the double doors at one end of the room swing open. Light streams in, backlighting a figure in the doorway and throwing a huge shadow on the far wall. It’s a female figure, about human size, wearing the kind of robe that might cover a swimsuit. The last section of each finger is as long as the rest of the finger. Our heroes can’t tell from this distance if they are an extravagent manicure, or claws. She says, “You’re not on the guest list. How did you get into my house?”
The mayor, a female Dwarf wearing a fancy dress is having trouble staying afloat, as in Lucia, the plate-clad Paladin. The lady of the house notices their distress and says, “Let me give you a hand.” The shadow on the back wall peels itself off of the wall, becoming three-dimensional and solid, but still see-through. Its giant hands reach into the pool, cutting dark voids through the water, and waiting, palm up, next to the struggling figures. It would be undignified to snatch them up without their permission. Lucia and the mayor climb aboard and are lifted out of the pool. The shadow’s hands come down on the tile floor surrounding the pool and sink into the surface, so Lucia and the mayor’s feet are gently lowered to the floor as the shadow becomes two-dimensional again. Gleador swims to the edge and pulls himself out. The mysterious woman again demands to know how they got in. Gleador starts recounting the story of last session, an exciting tale of assassins and chases! The mayor interrupts. She’s the mayor, and these two are dangerous criminals. The mysterious woman shuts her down. “First of all, don’t interrupt. As I must often point out, my estate is outside city limits, so I answer to no mayor. Finally, I don’t recognize you. The two ruling class women exchange formal introductions. The mayor of Templeton is named Eroc. Their mysterious host is Lady Evelynn.
GM’s note: Phew, it was a pain not referring to them by name! Narration got much easier from her on.
As Gleador continues, Eroc also continues her protests. These ruffians attacked her and are in league with dangerous forces. They should be locked in a dungeon! Evelynn bristles. “How dare you suggest that I have an dungeon here? What have you heard?” Since Gleador has amused her with his story, Evelynn offers the three of them traditional hospitality: one night’s stay. They are also free to leave immediately if they wish. She is hosting a party tonight, but they simply can’t attend, not in those clothes. Eroc’s dress may have been acceptable, were it not soaked, but that filthy adventuring gear is right out. All three accept the offer of a night’s rest, and Evelynn summons a butler to show them to their rooms. Jayce is a very proper butler, a male human with dark hair going grey at the temples. His square jaw is clean-shaven, and his posture is perfect. As he leads them past Lady Evelynn towards the rooms, Eroc scoffs that she is given the same treatment as her kidnappers. Evelynn grabs Eroc’s mouth between a thumb and forefinger (those long gold fingertips are definitely claws, not decorations), pulls her face close, and hisses, “I have offered you hospitality. Do not disrespect me!” Eroc is thoroughly cowed and scurries after Jayce and our heroes. Evelynn stays in the pool room.
Jayce leads the three of them through the unnecessarily large and twisting halls of the mansion. Each section of hall is separated from the next by large double doors. Jayce pauses at a few doors, listening through them for sounds of the party, then selecting a new route. He offers Gleador and Lucia adjoining rooms, but thinks it best if Eroc’s room was a ways off. Each room has a four-poster bed, big windows, typical mansion stuff. There’s a door to the hall, but also a door from one room to the other. There’s a lock on each side, but Gleador and Lucia want access to each other, so they open both sides. Jayce returns and offers to have their clothes cleaned and dried. He looks them over with a practiced eye and selects nightclothes of the proper sizes from a wardrobe in one of the rooms. (a shin-length shirt and a soft pointy hat with a puff at the tip, like Geppetto wears in Disney’s Pinocchio.) He waits discreetly in the hall for them to change, then takes their dirty clothes. Lucia keeps her armor with her, of course. Before leaving, Jayce asks them to stay in their rooms, and says that breakfast and their clean clothes will be brought up in the morning.
Of course, Gleador isn’t going to stay put. He selects a chimera form for spying on the party downstairs. A gnat for flight and stealth. Sand for toughness. A coral with contact poison to discourage people from trying to mess with him. If a party guest notices and swats him, his tough body will resist the impact, and they will swiftly develop an itchy rash. He flies down to see what he can see. The ceilings are high and there’s a dull roar of conversation, so no one notices the buzz of his wings. There’s a main hall where guests enter from outside, an adjoining hall with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and a third hall for dancing. Side chambers are available for people who want to converse more privately.
Everybody who’s anybody in the town of Sugar’s Crossing is here. Sugar’s Crossing is a mill town on the river a few days travel west of Fairmeadow. The human population of Sugar’s Crossing is small. Party guests are elves, dwarves, and halflings mostly. There are some Naga (kinda like snake mermaids) from down south. The port city on the same river as Sugar’s Crossing is in the territory of a Naga ruler called the Sea Viper. There’s also a Dryad from the forests to the north. She’s roughly humanoid, but made of wood and leaves. She’s bound to a tree, and that tree is in a corner of the room, in a pot with wheels and a handle so she can transport it. The owners of two of the major mills are here. The naga are indeed emissaries of the Sea Viper. Gleador recognizes the Valerie Balfour as the owner of the shipping company whose ledger he read back in Templeton. Gleador also spots Hama, the agent who brought the living metal statue to auction at Fairmeadow. The last important person he notices is Mayor Eroc! She slipped into a side chamber and is trying to attract the attention of some dwarven soldiers. Sugar’s Crossing is a bigger, more important town than Fairmeadow. Pepe and his deputies can keep Fairmeadow safe, but Sugar’s Crossing has a garrison of soldiers to protect river traffic, the mills, and other important infrastructure. The region is a loose federation of independent city-states, and they provide security to Sugar’s Crossing on a rotating basis. Right now, there’s a dwarven garrison, and Eroc probably has some contacts with them.
Gleador doesn’t want soldiers waiting for them at the edge of town, but he’s always got a plan. He flies back to his room, returns to elven form, and rings for Jayce. There’s a small bell mounted on the desk in his room. When he strikes it, he realizes there’s no clapper inside, but he hears a faint tone far away outside the room. Jayve appears shortly, and asks how he can be of service. Gleador says he feels bad about the enmity between him and Eroc, and wants to reconcile. Could Jayce please bring Eroc here so Gleador can make peace? Jayce thinks it’s a mark of civilization and right living to seek reconciliation and promises to bring Eroc forthwith. He returns, taken aback, to report that Eroc is not in her room. Gleador feigns worry. Jayce says not to worry, stay here, he’ll have her found. Gleador and Lucia wait for what seems like a long time before there’s another knock at the door. Jayce isn’t there. This is a servant they haven’t seen before: a petite female Tiefling. She wears a waterproof leather jacket and cap. The bill of the cap is narrow where it joins the cap to accommodate the two vertical horns that extend from her brows to just past the crown of her head. Her skin is red and curved tusks jut outward from her bottom lip. In contrast to Jayce’s perfect posture and diction, she slouches against the doorframe. (She probably works outside most of the time, away from polite company) “Hey, uhh, we found Eroc. She’s fine. Everything’s fine, but y’all need to stay in your rooms. Can’t chat tonight. Maybe in the morning?” Our heroes thank her for the information and start to inquire further, but she’s already turning away saying, “Yeah, yeah” with a half-wave.
Gleador has scouted the party and brought trouble to his adversary for doing the same, both without implicating himself. That’s a good night’s work, and with no other pressing business, our heroes rest for the night. Gleador levels up and gains the ability to transform into pure elements. He can be a buffalo made of fire, or augment his already formidable stealth capabilities by turning into wind.
GM’s note: Gleador is insufferable to NPCs, which means he’s delightful to a GM, and this new power will only make that stronger. I look forward to scrambling to deal with the new level of shenanigans he’ll try in the future. Also, there’s a Druid power to imitate other humanoids, the shocking and unheard-of power that makes Andro so dangerous. Gleador didn’t take that power, thoughtfully preserving my NPCs raison d’etre.
In the morning Jayce brings a cart with trays of food on top and clean clothes underneath. He took the liberty of preparing traditional human and elven breakfast food. Lucia gets delicious bacon and eggs. Gleador isn’t as pleased. He is served river fish, not sea fish like he would get back on the Sapphire Islands. There’s also the breakfast salad of lempins, leafy vegetables which are quite hearty, but less tasty than oatmeal. Jayce did add tasty berries, but Gleador is still telling himself “It’s the thought that counts” When breakfast is over and our heroes are dressed again, they ask Jayce if they can greet Lady Evelynn as they leave. Jayce says he’ll inquire and returns shortly to say that Lady Evelynn will see them off. He leads them to the front door, past Eroc’s room. The door is open, and a servant is already cleaning it. Jayce says she didn’t stay for breakfast. Lucia suspects she never got back to her room after being discovered last night.
Lady Evelynn greets them at the front door wearing a fabulous dress in rose and purple with gold accessories. She wears small round rose-colored glasses that clip to her nose and have no earpieces. She accepts our heroes’ thanks for her hospitality. Gleador prods Lucia and Lucia asks if Evelynn heard about the metal statue that disturbed the auction at Fairmeadow Fair. Evelynn’s lots were called before the statue was activated, so she got paid. Lucia starts awkwardly explaining the strange coins found in the statue’s possessions, and how they are trying to understand the mystery. Lucia produces the large rectangular coin they’ve been carrying, but Lady Evelynn has stopped listening. She sees the coin and says, “Oh no, there’s no charge. It’s my pleasure to host travelers.” Lucia insists. She wants to know about Saarland, the source of these coins. Evelynn instructs Jayce to point them towards the storytellers in town, and ushers them out the door.
As they walk the considerable distance from the front door to the gates of the estate, Jayce explains that Sugar’s Crossing is home to halfling storytellers, a combination of oral historian and actor. They have a multi-storey round building in town (it resembles Shakespeare’s Globe Theater from our world). They walk past a topiary garden. All the bushes are shaped like predators: wolves, eagles, and stranger beasts not native to this area. Lucia asks “What are those?” and Jayce helpfully explains that they are bushes that are grown in special metal frames and trimmed twice a week to maintain specific shapes. With that, they reach the edge of Lady Evelynn’s property. The road before them leads to Sugar’s Crossing.