Last time, our heroes relaxed and learned a lot about the town of Sugar’s Crossing and about Saarland. They promised a survivor of the Saarland disaster that they would find out why coins from Saarland were found in the living statue they fought back in Fairmeadow.
They head to the docks, which are on the west bank of the river, just south of the bridge. Their apartment and the theater is also on the west side of town, so they don’t have to cross the bridge to reach the docks. Most of the boats traffic is barges that drift down the river. They are maneuvered into place by small tugboats. They are really small tugboats because their crews are Halflings. Most people who live in Sugar’s Crossing are Halflings.
One barge has two Giants that push the barge along with poles, like the gondolas in Venice. The Giants are about 12 feet tall, so these poles are 20-foot tree trunks that are long enough to reach the bottom of the river. The Giants look ready to go to a Goth club. They have baggy cargo pants with straps all over, and mesh shirts made out of rope. The Giants maneuver their barge alongside the dock, and a swarm of Halfling dockhands rush in to begin unloading the barge. The Giants act as cranes. They reach up to the top of the stacked boxes, and Halflings use the straps and ropes on the Giants’ clothes to climb up and grab packages. A bustle of carefully coordinated activity.
There are two other barges at the dock. One is being loaded. There’s a line of cargo and passengers. Some passengers have carts that they will roll on, tie down, then roll off at their destination, like a modern ferry. Gleador and Opal recognize some people waiting to board. There’s Opal, a Dwarf woman who assaulted Lucia on her first night in Fairmeadow! She’s with two other figures, one taller and one shorter than her. They have a cart, drawn by a pony and covered by a tarp. Gleador was tranformed into a panther when he met Opal, so she would not recognize his Elf form, but she does spot Lucia! There’s a bit of crowd between the two groups. Lucia hesitates to see Opal’s reaction. Gleador splits off from Lucia, trying to look like an unrelated person who happened to be walking alongside Lucia for a moment. Opal tries to subtly warn her companions about Lucia. They furtively glance at her and the short one checks the tarp to make sure their cargo is hidden. Lucia moves towards them. Opal hails the nearest guard, pointing at Lucia. Sugar’s Crossing is a major port, so there are guards everywhere to protect commerce. Gleador tries and fails to shapeshift into a Elf that looks just like himself, but with fox ears for better hearing: Gleador, but more anime. The guard is convinced by Opal, motions a second guard over, and confronts Lucia. They say, “What’s your business here on the docks. We hear you’re a troublemaker. If you’re not boarding a ship or picking up cargo, you need to leave.” She says she’s sightseeing, and there’s no rule against that. There’s a tourist area at the end of the dock with rides and souvenirs and such. The guards say that, if she’s a tourist, she should go down there and stay out of this section of the docks. There’s heavy cargo moving in and out all the time. She could get in the way or be hurt. She and the guards start moving towards the tourist area.
Lucia: “I’m just wondering, who said I was a trouble maker? I don’t even know anyone here.”
Guard: “You want us to expose that person to retaliation? We’ve heard this one before. We’re not fools.”
Lucia’s path takes her close to Opal’s cart. Lucia wants to reach out and move the tarp to see what’s underneath, but decides that drawing her sword to do that would be foolish. Setting the cart of fire is also a bad idea. Gleador wanders close as well. At this distance, Lucia & Gleador recognize the short person sitting on the cart as the pickpocket that they caught in the Brace of Pigs bar, way back in Session 2. Gleador yells, “Lucia, look! It’s the thieves from the Fairmeadow Fair! The ones we were deputized to stop!” The guards are very motivated to prevent thievery, so they demand an explanation. “What thieves, where? What’s all this now?” Gleador says that they caught the short one picking pockets, and that Opal attacked them at night.
Gleador: “Lucia, don’t you recognize them?”
Lucia: “I do! I bet they were the ones who said we were troublemakers, because we did make a lot of trouble for them.”
The guards aren’t sure who to trust. One stays with Gleador and Lucia, and the other approaches the Halfling to search him. The Halfling cooperates. His cloak does have lots of little pockets, but they are empty. He says, “I’ve only got the one coin purse.” The guard by our heroes calls out, “Check under the tarp. Maybe that’s where they’re hiding things.” The second guard thinks that’s reasonable.
GM note: I thought that Opal and her gang were stuck, but then I remembered that I had planned for this a few sessions back, but it never came up. Now I get to spring my amazing plan!
Several things happen very quickly. Opal yells, “Plan Z!” and shoves the guard away from the cart. Her Human and Halfling companions draw swords and cut the harness holding the pony to the cart. Gleador jams his shillelagh between the spokes of the cart’s wheel to prevent it from moving. The Human runs towards the edge of the dock. The Halfling takes a potion from his belt and drinks it. Opal tries to shove Gleador away the cart. Lucia intercepts and shoves Opal up against the cart. The sound of Opal’s body impacting the cart and her head being thrown back into the cargo under the tarp indicates that both the cart & the cargo are metallic. Gleador runs after the human. The human leaps into the river. Gleador takes a flying leap after her. As soon as he is concealed under the water, he transforms into a chimera with dolphin tail, alligator body, and dolphin echolocation. The Halfling moves some levers on his seat. The cart jerks forward, but the shillelagh prevents the wheel from turning. He backs up the cart to try to break the shillelagh. Lucia is holding Opal against the back of the cart and binding her, so when the cart suddenly backs up, they are both knocked down. Lucia gets up first and holds Opal at swordpoint.
Under the water, the Human swims under the barge and pulls out a potion to drink it. The potion is in a leather pouch, so even though she’s underwater, she can drink it by squeezing the pouch like a Capri Sun. Gleador lunges to make her drop the potion. He tries to bite her legs, but she’s doing the breaststroke kick, so she pulls her legs away from each other and Gleador’s alligator maw closes right between them. She’s very surprised.
The two Dwarf guards move to separate Lucia and Opal. The Halfling is still trying to break the shillelagh and move the cart. Lucia uses “I am the Law!” to command the guards to go after the Halfling while she secures Opal. The guards don’t like having their authority challenged, so they attack Lucia. Lucia defends, but badly. The guards don’t land any blows, but they maneuver Lucia away from the cart. Opal sees her chance, pulls the shillelagh out of the wheel, and jumps on as the cart speeds away without anything pulling it. It crashes through the line of people waiting to board the barge, heading straight for the edge of the dock.
Underwater directly below the barge, Gleador & the Human are facing off, when the cart hits the water above and behind them. Gleador slams the Human against the underside of the barge, taking a sword blow in return. The air is knocked out of her lungs, bubbling all around them. She gasps in a bunch of water and does not panic or begin to drown. Gleador realizes that she drank a potion of water breathing. The cart sinks to the bottom of the river and starts driving downstream, kicking up a plume of mud behind it.
Lucia is in the middle of a panicked crowd on the dock with two guards trying to subdue her. She berates them for letting the real criminals get away and tries to fight her way to the edge of the dock to see what happened to the cart. When she turns away, one guard hooks her leg and knocks her down. More guards are on their way, but have to push through the crowd of people trying to escape the brawl. People on the barges are yelling about stuff happening in the water.
Underwater, Gleador tries to break the Human’s arm with a tail swipe. He’s hit on the way in, but she drops the sword and goes limp. As she slowly sinks towards the river bed, the cart tries to get under her and catch her.
Lucia’s on the ground with two guards standing over her. They won’t be distracted by the cart. Other people will be dispatched to handle it. They are going to make sure that everyone who has disrupted the docks is captured, and that means her. More guards approach and try to get a sitrep. There are at least four people and a cart in the water. What’s pulling the cart? That horse right there was pulling the cart. That’s a pony, not a horse. Also, how can it be pulling the cart if it’s here and the cart is underwater? The guards standing near Lucia are distracted, giving her an opening. She can bolt into the crowd, but if she pauses to pick up her sword, the guards will have enough time to stop her. Is freedom worth the loss of her sword?
GM note: We spent a long time trying to answer that question. How much does a sword cost? How difficult is it to find a supplier? What are the chances I could circle back and pick the sword up? In the future, I need to keep the game moving.
Lucia disappears into the crowd, leaving her sword behind. She goes to the edge of the dock. She can’t see anything underwater. All the actors are under the barge, and the cart has churned up a lot of mud.
Gleador can see, because he’s under the barge with the incapacitated Human and the Halfling driving the cart to intercept her. Gleador grabs her and drags her away. The Halfling pulls out a handheld harpoon gun and fires at Gleador. Gleador uses the Alligator Death Roll ability to evade the dart. He returns to Elf form and pushes the Human to the surface.
Since sound travels so well underwater, Gleador hears Opal say, “Shelley’s weak! Drive on!” The cart starts moving downriver, abandoning their incapacitated buddy. Gleador pops up and hands Shelley off the the onlookers at the edge of the dock. “Help her! She’s injured!” He dives back underwater to pursue the cart. He uses the plume of mud kicked up by the cart to cover his next transformation.
The dock workers have hooks, poles, and ropes to pull Shelley out of the water. Lucia’s Quest requires Hospitality. She must help anyone in need, and right now, that’s Shelley. Lucia would really like to pursue the cart, but doesn’t want to lose the quest, so she uses Lay on Hands on Shelley. She fails. The crowd around Shelley sees Shelley react in fear as an armor-clad person pushes through the crowd and grabs her broken arm. Shelley screams and passes out. Lucia wonders if she has fulfilled her quest’s requirements. Does she have to succeed in helping those in need, or is trying good enough? The dock workers, shocked by Lucia’s apparently cruelty, push her back to the edge of the dock with their tools and call for the guards. Lucia tries to push through the crowd with her shield, but is knocked into the river. Her plate armor drags her down.
Gleador changes his transformation when he sees Lucia fall into the river. He combines a water dragon (water jet breath weapon) dolphin (echolocation) and flying dragon wings. Gleador swims to Lucia and she grabs on. Gleador swims just under the surface, so Lucia’s head is above the surface. As they zoom downriver after the fleeing cart, they look behind them. A giant from another barge jumps into the river and starts poking around in the muddy water with his barge pole, trying to find anyone else who went overboard.
The cart rushes downriver on the river bed, kicking up a big plume of mud. Gleador is gaining, his long water-dragon body just below the river’s surface. Lucia looks like a poor water-skier being dragged behind a boat. She’s out of the water to her waist, cutting a big wake in the river’s surface. As they approach, Opal fires the harpoon gun. Gleador fires a water jet, which swats the dart away, knocks Opal and the Halfling off the cart, and rips the tarp off the cart. The cart’s mysterious cargo is revealed: a metal statue of a dwarf, just like the one that came to life and ruined the auction back in Session 4! The cart keeps going at full speed, without a pony to pull it or a driver to guide it.
The Halfling swims towards shore, but Opal reloads the harpoon gun and plans to grapple herself back to the runaway cart. Gleador carries Lucia to the shore. She’s ready to bash this Halfling with her shield. Gleador pauses to see if she’s going to be alright. The Halfling gets to shore, and sees a fully-armored Paladin and a water dragon waiting for him. There’s no way he’s winning this. He surrenders. Lucia takes his sword and dagger. She can use the Halfling-sized sword as a dagger. She ties him up.
Gleador pursues the cart. Opal has grappled back to the cart and is firing darts backwards as the cart drives itself. Gleador pulls alongside and blasts a water jet at the top of the cart. The cart flips out from under Opal, who is then yanked after it by her line. The statue is flung clear and lands headfirst in the mud at a weird angle. The cart lands upside-down on top of Opal, wheels still spinning. Gleador shoves the cart onto its side. It starts skidding in a circle as the wheels kick up mud. Opal uses the controls to stop the wheels. Once again, Gleador has appeared as a weird monster, so once again, Opal panics and lashes out with her sword. Gleador tries to wrestle the sword away from her, but gets stabbed for his trouble. She swims for the statue. Gleador wraps his long body around Opal and constricts her until she stops struggling. He carries her to shore, within shouting distance of Opal, who has secured the Halfling.
They are out of sight of Sugar’s Crossing now, but a few Naga troops have been mobilized and are quickly swimming towards them. Four snake-like heads skim above the water’s surface. Lucia calls out, “We caught them! The cart is down there!” Two Naga heads turn towards the shore, and the other two heads disappear under the water. A moment later, the two Naga reappear, confirming that the cart is there, and no one else is underwater.
The Naga demand an explanation. Lucia and Gleador explain that these people are thieves and muggers that they encountered in Fairmeadow. They name-drop Pepe. They also warn the Naga not to touch the statue that’s underwater, since a statue just like it what wrecked the auction at the Fairmeadow Fair. Especially do not touch any switches on the statue. We don’t know what they do. The Naga will check on their story, but it seems legit, so they will take Opal and the Halfling back to town in custody. Gleador and Lucia are allowed to accompany the Naga under their own power.
Three Naga come ashore to slither along with their prisoners. One Naga swims ahead to fetch someone to recover the cart and statue from the riverbed. The Naga say that if they were on duty instead of the Dwarfs when all this happened, no one would have gotten past the docks. They are proud of their amphibious capabilities. It took a while for the Dwarfs at the dock to call for the Naga troops, which is why they had such a big head start. Our heroes explain that the statue is very dangerous and unpredictable and leaving it unattended may be foolish. One of the three Naga says, “I’m not scared of your statue. I’ll stay behind and watch it.” The leader warns him not to touch any switches or controls on either the statue or the cart, even though the self-driving cart might be cool.
The party (Gleador, Lucia, Opal, Halfling, Naga commander, one Naga tail-soldier) returns to the Sugar’s Crossing dock. There are lots of Dwarf guards around, but not the two that gave Lucia trouble. The commander of the Dwarf security force is there, identifiable by his fancy hat. There’s also a fancy magical Halfling named Lightfoot who has been brought in to confirm our heroes’ story. Lightfoot is using an enchanted tea set to communicate with Pepe remotely. It’s Halfling tradition to get together and share stories over tea. Halflings think it’s weird that Humans throw out the tea and look at the junk left in the bottom of the cup. That’s silly. Pour the tea, let it sit, and look into the reflection. If your friend is also making tea at the same time, you see your friend in the reflection. It’s quite a sight seeing this fancy Halfling sitting on the floor whispering into a teacup surrounded by grumpy Dwarfs.
Pepe confirms our heroes’ story except for one thing. Opal doesn’t have a statue like the one that wrecked Fairmeadow. It’s the same statue. It was stolen from Fairmeadow’s town hall a few days ago. The Dwarf commander says that Gleador and Lucia are OK. They were telling the truth. The people they were fighting were dangerous known criminals. Just one thing, though. It was really mean of Lucia to break Shelley’s arm when she was already injured and half-drowned. Excessive force, to be sure. Our heroes weapons are returned. A Giant sets out to retrieve the cart and statue on a raft that looks small only because its pilot is so large. When he reaches the wreck, the Giant jumps in, sinks to the bottom and picks the statue and cart up over his head to put them on the raft. He’s really strong.
Shelley is with a healer. Opal and the Halfling (named Billy) are in custody. The poor pony that was pulling the cart has been taken to a stable.
The Giant (his name is Ommm. Exactly three Ms. Omm is his cousin.) returns with the cart and statue on his raft. The Dwarf-sized statue barely passes Ommm’s knees. It looks very non-threatening. Opal yells, “That’s mine! You have no right. It’s my birthright, my property! It was lost. I was taking it back.”
Gleador: How can you prove it’s yours?
Opal: My family name is stamped under the statue’s left arm.
Lucia’s senses can pierce lies and she does not detect any lies.
Gleador: Describe your sense of property ownership.
It’s got my name on it. We didn’t sell them. It has to be stolen. Them? How many are there? She is not sure. This is the first functional one that she’s found. She has parts of maybe five. They are miners.
How do you control them? “It’s easy,” she says, gesturing towards the statue. Everyone rushes to stop her from touching anything. Set it to collect. It collects metal. Then you set it to return and it returns. But how do you get to the switch to change it to return mode? (The statue tossed our heroes around when they tried to turn the switch) Just wait until the pack is full, and then it will stop. Our heroes are shocked that it’s that easy.
Lucia detects that Opal and Billy are evil. Shelley isn’t here, so her status is unknown.
The Oolites built the statue shortly before the Oolite family lost their fortune. Opal was not around to see what happened, but something went bad around the time the Oolites opened a new mine with the robots. The exact disaster is a family secret that the old generation won’t talk about. Opal isn’t content to accept the loss of the family’s old status. She wants to regain it by using these mining robots, but she doesn’t know where to mine, exactly.
GM notes: Players are willing to spend forever asking all sorts of questions, and why not? Their enemy is captured. I need a way to make them ask the important questions and then move on.
The Dwarf captain tells them to wrap it up, so they can get the docks back to working order. Lucia re-iterates how dangerous the statue is. Ommm is not impressed and figures he could just throw it in the river if it went crazy. Gleador wishes Ommm was around when they fought the statue in Fairmeadow.
Lucia wonders what the pickpocket was for. Opal explains that the opening bid for the statue was 500 gold. Oolites aren’t rich anymore, so they had to steal the money to bid on the statue. How did Shelley get involved? She was a historian that Opal consulted and she was impressed by Opal’s goal to recover her family’s artifacts. She’s a softy. The guards take Opal, Billy, the cart, and the statue to the fort. The commander anticipates arguing with Pepe about which town was more damaged and who gets to try them first. As she’s dragged away, Opal yells, ‘I’m not responsible for what people who don’t know how to operate the statue did! If I had been able to buy it, none of this would have happened! It’s your fault!” Gleador yells after her, “Who owned it before the auction?” The commander says, “Didn’t you check the auction records?” Our heroes remember that it was sold by Hama, an agent who did not reveal who she was selling the statue for.
The crowd breaks up, and our heroes are free to pursue whatever they want. Gleador is hurt, but he can heal overnight. Is the statue involved with the coins? They were trying to figure out the Saarland coin mystery and didn’t make any progress. The coins were found in the statue’s backpack, but our heroes theorize that the coins may have been in another item at auction, not in the statue originally. They decide to track down Hama, and learn that she’s staying with Lady Evelynn. Lady Evelynn is scary, and they don’t want to go back into her lair. They will go to Saarland instead. They will head out in the morning. They visit the tourist part of the dock and spend another night in the apartment building