Last time, our heroes teleported into the mansion of a spooky noblewoman on the outskirts of Sugar’s Crossing. They avoided her ire (possibly re-directing it to the mayor of Templeton) and entered the city of Sugar’s Crossing.
Sugar’s Crossing is so named because it straddles a major river, and the beets from the surrounding fields are refined in the three great mills on that river. The owner of the mills are always vying for power in the city. Lady Evelynn owns one mill. The others are owned by the Miller and le Grind familes. The bridge over the river is fortified against attack, and the fort for the garrison is right next to it. Instead of a city hall, there’s a forum: an open area where people give speeches and hold debates to influence policy. The storyteller’s theater is on the west edge of town, near the main road.
The theater has two big plays each day that are free to the public. These are basic, staple stories of the history of Sugar’s Crossing. There are rotating exhibitions that one can pay to see. One can also hire experts to expound on any subject one is interested in. Lucia attends the morning’s free show. It covers the founding of Sugar’s Crossing, and the rivalry of the two old mills that face each other across the river: Miller & le Grind. A pair of star-crossed lovers are torn apart by the family strife, and must meet in secret under the bridge. They decide to abandon their family and flee the strife. Each builds a canoe. They meet in the middle of the river and lash their boats together to form a catamaran, which is more stable than their separate boats. They set off down the river, never to return. The play ends when an actor dressed as Lady Evelynn bursts in, throwing the stage into chaos.
While Lucia is watching this history lesson, Gleador looks for someone to gossip with. He finds a chatty, clever halfling named Pan who runs a food stall. Pan sells ground & spiced meats & starches wrapped in leaves, kinda like Indian samosas. Gleador asks for the latest gossip. There’s always competition and backstabbing between the mills as they vie to control town policy. The harvest party barge came through a few days ago. You just missed it. It sets off from upriver when harvest begins and slowly winds down the river, stopping in each town for a celebration and to buy & sell crops. Gleador asks if Pan heard about all the trouble at the Fairmeadow Fair, especially the living statue that disrupted the auction. The food stall has a split counter: one at halfling-height, the other at human height. Pan climbs up to the human counter to lean in conspiratorially and whisper in Gleador’s ear. Pan says the auction is sometimes used to launder contraband. It’s a bit of an open secret. No contraband was noticed this time.
Gleador and Lucia meet up after their morning expeditions and go back to the theater to hire a specialist. They ask for an expert on the story of Saarland. They are in luck! One of the storytellers who lives at the theater is a refugee from Saarland. They go into a back room and meet Soren, an Elf woman. Gleador coughs significantly at Lucia, trying to send a message. Lucia understands and prays to know what here is evil. Soren is not evil, but she does ask what the performative coughing was about. Gleador explains that they had to be sure she wasn’t evil. Soren isn’t sure how coughing helps them determine that. Gleador says that evil people get mad, not inquisitive like Soren.
They start explaining why they are interested in Saarland. When they mention a robot smashing up the auction in Fairmeadow, Soren has to stop them. She’s unfamiliar with the word “robot.” They explain that the living statue was holding coins like this, and they produce the coin from Saarland. Soren is emotional. Here is a relic of her lost home. She wants the coin. As a survivor of Saarland, she has a claim to it. Our heroes resist, since they promised to give it back to Pepe. Soren says she won’t tell them the story of Saarland unless they give her the coin. Gleador tries to convince her that by telling them about Saarland, she’d make them bearers of the lost city’s culture, inspiring them to get justice! Soren isn’t quite convinced. She wants more assurance. She notices that Lucia is a Paladin, and asks her to swear a quest. Lucia swears to find who stole the coins.
Soren tells the story of Saarland. It was an Elven city in the woods to the north. It was surrounded by a living wall of close-set conifers and brambles 150 feet high. One night, the wall on one side of the city suddenly caught fire. The residents organized to fight the fire, but were ambushed by masked invaders. At the same time, on the other side of town, looters appeared and struck the bank, storehouses, and even took valuable tools from artisans’ workshops. The sudden, coordinated attack threw the city into chaos. The fire spread across the entire wall. Some raiders were killed once the residents re-organized to the new threat, but their bodies burst into flame. There were no prisoners to question, and not much evidence to look through. It took three days to contain the fires, and two more days to account for the missing, injured, and slain. Soren only slept once in that time. The attacks were so precise, people were sure the raiders had inside help. But who? Some people were missing, but did they flee for their lives during the attack, or leave with the raiders? The unrecognizable corpses of fallen raiders might be Elves from the city, or humans, Orcs, plenty of possibilities. Some said that the raiders fire-based attacks proved they were demons. The looting convinced others that these were bandits, although the force was larger and better organized than usual bandits. Still others feared this was the vanguard of an invasion. The community was shattered, and the survivors fled and scattered. Soren has never returned. The roads that led to Saarland have not been maintained, so after 10 years the forest has surely overgrown them. Soren suggests that the sentries that patrol the outskirts of Sugar’s Crossing could find the old paths. Gleador & Lucia thank Soren for all the information and promise to solve the mystery.
The evening show is about to start, and Lucia wants resolution for that cliff-hanger from the last show. This show, about Lady Evelynn’s arrival 20 years ago, is a glitzy musical, as opposed to the more dramatic, serious play from this morning. Lady Evelynn’s outfit is covered in rhinestones. There’s a back-projection system to represent her giant shadow. The three mill owners circle each other, first one direction, than another. Lady Evelynn’s arrival does not inspire le Grind & Miller to team up against her. The two-way duel is now a three-way rivalry.
After that show, Gleador and Lucia seek lodging. In Halfling towns like Sugar’s crossing, family home, apartment complex, and hotel all blend into each other. Homes are large to accommodate extended families. Some homes have rooms set aside for guests, and some homes charge for those rooms. Gleador and Lucia find some extra-large rooms that fit them. Gleador has a debility from a previous adventure, so they decide to stay another day to let him rest. With Lucia’s help, he recovers on the morning of the third day in Sugar’s Crossing. When she’s not healing Gleador, Lucia attends the special exhibitions at the theater. She learns a lot of things that may be helpful in future adventures.
GM note: I made a custom move for listening to stories. Lucia got Hold that she can spend to boost the result of a Spout Lore roll in the future. Spend the Hold and tell us what play or recitation told you this information.
GM note: I was sure they’d at least go look at the river and spot some old foes hiring a boat, but they never left the theater. I could have forced them into seeing what I wanted them to see by putting the theater on the opposite shore, but I didn’t think of it.
GM note: Well, now they are chasing down a legend. This is far from where I thought the secret coins quest was going to go. Lucia swore a quest, so it’s definitely taking priority over learning about the Oolite robot, and after they went through such trouble to get information about the robot!