Last time, our heroes learned that directly opposing le Grind, influential mill owner and dealer in stolen artifacts, could invite retaliation against a friend. They tried infiltrating the le Grind manor, but retreated when private security raised an alarm.
Gleador and Lucia meet up, hidden in the beet fields just downriver from le Grind’s docks. They don’t want to fight le Grind’s watchmen, but the mysterious figures who sneaked into the drain under the docks must still be on the compound. Our heroes won’t let them get away, so they try a bold tactic: walking up to the watchmen. There are four watchmen in the storage yard with lanterns on poles, looking for the source of the commotion. They hail Lucia & Gleador. Lucia checks if any of them are evil, but none of them are. In her most authoritative voice, she says they are tracking some suspicious characters in a rowboats and demands to see what the watchmen have uncovered. The watchmen buy it and show them the rowboat, which they have dragged up onto the dock. No one has seen the people who were in the boat.
Gleador was able to briefly examine the boat previously, so he knows it has a false bottom. He acts like he’s trying to enter the boat by bracing himself with his shillelagh, and intentionally strikes the false bottom with the club, making a hollow noise. The watchmen think they are very clever for recognizing a secret compartment and open it, withdrawing a few bundles wrapped in cloth. One is a small box with a stack of Saarland coins inside. Another is a fancy oil lamp with expertly worked metal and glass. Both artifacts from Saarland, no doubt! The watchmen are sure this is loot stolen from the master’s mansion. The owners of this boat must be inside robbing the place right now! Roddie, the lead watchman, sends one of his underlings to wake the master! Lucia says someone should fetch the town garrison as well, and Roddie agrees because Lucia just sounds so authoritative!
While they are waiting for the various messengers to return with important people, Gleador asks Roddie to show him where the boat was found. Roddie takes him down some rickety stairs under the main dock to the drain. The dock usually receives large cargo vessels, so it’s high enough for a rowboat to float underneath.
Gleador pretends to be surprised that the grate over the drain is unlocked. Maybe the robbers are in there! Roddie goes up the drain with his lantern pole, then returns a short time later. He didn’t see anyone or anything suspicious. He locks the grate behind him. Gleador stays down by the grate to ponder.
Gavin le Grind, master of the house, arrives. He’s wearing pajamas, but has put on boots and large coat. He demands to know why he’s been so disturbed. Roddie proudly tells him how they found the boat and the stolen items in the hidden compartment, so he sent for Gavin and the town garrison because there may be thieves about. When Gavin hears about the garrison, he makes a displeased face which makes Roddie cower. Gavin looks at the coins and oil lamps and says they aren’t his. That lamp doesn’t match anything in the house. And who is this knight? Why is she here? Did the watchmen ever see anyone sneaking into the house? Roddie shrinks back. This is not going as well as he expected. He confers with the other watchmen. One of them saw an armored figure fleeing downriver. Gavin presses for details: what kind of armor? Lucia here is wearing armor. The watchman can’t say for sure. It was dark and the figure was far away. le Grind finds it very suspicious that an armored figure fled from the watch downriver, then Lucia approaches, in armor, from that same direction and starts leading the investigation. He tells Roddie to escort her from the premises! Roddie rushes to obey and asks if he should kick out the Elf as well. Gavin is furious. There’s another stranger on my property? You didn’t think to mention this? How can you say you haven’t found any suspicious characters when these two are right here? Gavin changes his mind: Lucia and Gleador must stay and explain themselves to the garrison soldiers.
Lucia and Gleador are content to stay, so they spend a few awkwardly silent minutes waiting, unless a detachment of Dwarven soldiers arrive from the fort. The Sergeant approaches and demands a situation report. Lucia steps forward and starts explaining that she and Gleador were following some suspicious character coming up the river in a rowboat. Gavin le Grind cuts her off. He’s the master of the house, he doesn’t know why these strange characters are on his property, and there’s this weird boat and goods that they say are his that he’s never seen before. The Sergeant is annoyed. His squad came out her in the middle of the night to catch thieves, but no one has seen a thief, and instead of goods disappearing, there are extra goods that no one claims. He does take interest when Lucia says the box of coins is from Saarland. He checks the coins and confirms. Strange. Since there does not appear to be any crime happening, the soldiers take the lamp and the coins and prepare to leave. Everyone can jsut go back to bed. Lucia and Gleador are to leave the le Grind property with the soldiers, but after that, the Sergeant doesn’t care what they do. He doesn’t even make sure they have a place to stay for the night.
While Lucia is trying to keep them both out of jail, Gleador is befriending one of the le Grind guard dogs, a small terrier named Rex. He asks what he can do for Rex to secure its help. Rex really likes chasing and catching people. That’s its life’s passion and it doesn’t get to do it often. Gleador agrees to run from Rex and let it catch him if it tells him about any strange scents Rex has noticed. Rex hasn’t smelled any strangers except for Lucia, Gleador, and the soldiers. Gleador wonders about bringing Rex to smell the rowboat, but everyone has handled the rowboat by now. True to his word, Gleador takes off running and Rex chases him. Gleador runs towards Roddie, pleading for him to call of his dog, and the three of them collide and tumble to the ground. Gleador swipes Roddie’s key-ring in the confusion. Gleador is on his back and Rex is standing on his chest barking in his face, but they are really chatting in dog language. Gleador asks to mark Rex, so he can see through its eyes later. Rex agrees, if Gleador will throw a fun toy. Gleador finds something in his adventuring gear, touches Rex to mark it, then throws the tool, which Rex darts off to retrieve. Gleador gets up and expresses relief that he was able to distract that fierce guard dog!
With that commotion over, Roddie escorts Lucia, Gleador, and the garrison soldiers to the front gate, but when he tries to lock it behind them, he can’t find his keys! Gleador suggests that he might have left them in the grate when he locked that. Roddie is well-established as a sucker, so that sounds reasonable to him and he goes to check. Lucia and Gleador leave, but circle around to the river out of sight. Gleador checks on Rex, who follows Roddie down to the grate. Roddie looks in the padlock, and feels in the water at the bottom of the drain, but can’t find his keys. He ponders and realizes that Gleador knocked into him. He hustles back towards the gate.
Fortunately, Lucia & Gleador are nowhere to be found. Somewhere upriver, Gleador transforms into a crocodile with echolocation and fire-breath and with Lucia on his back, he floats silently downriver, back to the drain. Lucia unlocks the grate with Roddie’s keys, and they walk up the drain. The pipe is about four feet around, enough for a Halfing to stand up, but Lucia has to bend over. Smaller drains from above empty into this one, as expected, but at the back of the drain, there is a Halfling-sized door. There’s no lock, just a metal ring to pull. Lucia pulls it open, but the door opens directly into a wooden wall. Lucia carefully taps and prods the wall and finds a latch disguised as a knothole. She feels the latch open when she pushes it, but the door still won’t open. It’s stuck. Gleador takes the lead and uses his reptilian strength to force the wall open. He feels the wood straining and knows it will make quite a noise if he breaks it, but he goes for it anyways. He jams his wedge-shaped head through the wood and into shelves filled with jars of fruit preserves and dry goods. He’s smashed through the back of a cabinet. The glass doors on the cabinet shatter and swing open, shelves break and dump food all over the floor. He looks around and finds that he’s in a storage room. Food, boxes of supplies, a linen closet on one wall. There’s a door to one side t hat appears to lead out to the storage yard where the conversation with Gavin le Grind and the watchmen occurred. On the other side of the room, swinging double rooms lead to a kitchen. This isn’t a secret basement, it’s the le Grind mansion itself! There’s commotion upstairs as the residents are disturbed yet again! Lucia and Gleador must think quickly. The smugglers are probably still in the mansion, but if they push forward they’ll probably have to find the entire le Grind extended family. Gleador decides retreat, but to make this secret entrance impossible to ignore. To draw attention, he breathes fire on the exterior door, setting it and part of the wall ablaze! Back in Elf form, he and Lucia run back down the drain. The watchmen, led by Roddie who is having a very bad time, scramble to organize a bucket brigade to put out the fire. Under the dock, Gleador transforms into a sea serpent. Lucia takes a deep breath, and they swim away underwater and out of sight.
Heading back into the le Grind estate again seems foolhardy. They have exposed part of the mystery, but have been unable to crack it wide open. If they could get the garrison to search le Grind’s house, he’d surely be exposed. Lucia writes an anonymous note, summarizing their knowledge of le Grind’s scheme to hire looters to steal artifacts from Saarland. They suggest that the garrison grab Rose when she returns, since she has first-hand knowledge of the operation. This note, plus the Saarland coins found on le Grind’s estate, plus the obvious shenanigans at the le Grind estate are enough for the garrison to start an investigation, which is an embarrassing scandal for le Grind.
GM Note: Poor Rose. Every time she meets our heroes, she has a bad time. First paralysed, then snatched up into the sky, her protective amulet taken, making her job much more dangerous. Then set down somewhere in the woods and forced to find her way back. When she does arrive, she’ll be arrested immediately and thrust into a high-profile case. Well, she is a graverobber, so maybe she deserves it.