Part 8: Killer Miller

A great Harn campaign with the esteemed Patrick Nilsson, AKA "The Dongmaster" as GM.

Part 8: Killer Miller

Postby Matt » Tue May 10, 2016 10:45 am

THE BLACK TENTS (session 8, All PCs) ...

The summer stench was worse than ever in Golotha. Some claimed it to be the many deaths of the people who had starved through the winter, a few said the filth in the streets reeked more than ever, while others held to the belief that the Morgathians were up to something. Holding a scented pouch under his nose with one hand Evil Erol wiped the sweat from his brow using a handkerchief with the other. "It reeks worse than ever in this forsaken city. Had I known it to be so bad I would have lingered with Baron Risalin." The last words said with a hint of smugness. The herald had spent a few months with the baron aiding him to make peace between two quarreling vassals. The Baron of Thiri had been so impressed with Erol's work that he had used the herald extensively, keeping him long over due and paying his liege, the Earl of Techen, quite generously. Erol had been sent home at last to the city to entertain a vassal of the earl. When the guests had returned home Erol found himself standing in the shade of the back of The Silk Hat, a place he would normally not haunt if it hadn't been for the fact that Slakka could be found there. They were not alone. Mogger the innkeeper and his drooling bodyguard could also be found at the tavern's backside listening with faked interest. The one missing, Jeremiz, had disappeared when he stole a purse with something valuable from a powerful Coranan mercantyler. The Lia-Kavair held him safe somewhere, from the eyes and swords of the mercantyler's guards.

Though dulled by the heat and the wine, Slakka was as always alert, and snuck into the door when a rider approached. The horseman, only dressed in leather leggings but holding an impressive mace in his lap, eyed the three remaining men with a frown. Mogger rose to the occasion and eyed the soldier, no doubt an Agrikan. "What can we do for you on this fine summer day? Maybe a sample of my tasty ale?" The man on the horse didn't flinch. He was staring at Erol with keen interest waiting for the herald to speak. When the latter didn't Mogger continued. "Too lost for words then. Or maybe you are a relative of Bhurt over here?" The dwarf laughed to his own wit but the soldier simply sat still on the horse. Finally Erol spoke. "What do you want man? And be quick about it because I am no mood for guessing games." The soldier bowed his head to show his respect. "I was sent here to hire the dwarf but I hadn't expected a Lenesque to be at this place. It is obvious to me that you beat my master to it milord. He will not be merciful when I return..." The last part was said with reluctance. Mogger brushed pass the herald to bow in front of the horseman. "Ignore my friend over here master horseman, he was just visiting. Now what can I do for you?" Erol's former smile was turned upside down when being acknowledged as a friend to a midget living in squalor. Mogger always quick to see to the needs of those more powerful added "Erol here is a good employer now and then but he is not here to hire me, simply check on his... ahem... investment." The herald eased to the comment.

The soldier on the horse threw a coin to Mogger and turned his horse around. "My master prays you visit him in his tent over at the tournament in Chakta. Look for black tents with three golden lions. The coin was just for getting your attention though I urge you to visit. For your own good. You can bring your friends..." With those words he rode away. "Hmph... Who the hell does his master think he is, throwing a lousy silver penny like we were beggars." Erol sniffed with disgust in the air. Slakka emerged out to the back as soon as the rider was gone. "Mogger, what's the problem? You look like Bhurt standing there with a slack jaw. Now..." The assassin was cut short when Mogger showed him the coin. Even Erol raised his eyebrows. It was no silver penny the soldier had thrown to the dwarf, it was a gold crown and it sparkled like a star in the sky. "I don't know if you are interested chaps but Bhurt and I are heading towards the tournament. You heard the man, bring your friends he said. I hope you take him up on that." The ugly dwarf tried his best smile but his harelip only made him look uglier still. Erol ingored him. "I should mingle with the powerful so I am game Mogger. Slakka?" The assassin nodded. Ever since Borana had been kidnapped Slakka had been extra careful. Their child had not died nor had the woman and the assassin had sworn to Naveh that he would protect her at all cost necessary. But the gold made him curious and besides Borana had hired an extra guard.

On their way through the crowded and dangerous streets, Erol snapped his fingers. "Three golden lions... Of course. That is the livery of the Bisidril clan. They are so closely related to the Mamakas that I tend to forget their own heraldry. This could get interesting." Mogger on the other hand felt his feet getting heavier. "I just pray the master of the soldier is not the same man that threatened to burn down my tavern. That was one evil man." Crossing the Dedergon bridge the party saw the many tents south of Philidar Marsh, banners and wimples hanging slack from the quiet wind. Reaching the Bisidril tents were easy when Erol was in the lead. People knew him whether they liked him or not, and no one saw any reason to question him or his party about their whereabouts. Outside the black tents, three knights sat playing dice, their scarred bodies getting burned by the sun. One of them hinted with a finger that they were expected and pointed towards the largest of the tents. Opening the flaps the party entered the dimly lit tent. The place smelled strongly of incense and blood and after having their eyes adjusted they could see a half-naked knight kneeling before an Agrikan altar. By his side, chained to one of the beds a young female lay, bruised and battered, her face swollen beyond mercy. Mogger's heart sank. His prayers had been for naught. It was the same knight who had promised to put The Silk Hat to the torch. Two black candles burned on the top of the altar and the kneeling lord put one of them out with his hand as he rose. He turned around wiping tears from his eyes before focusing on the four.

"Agrik can be cruel at times but his ways are never to be questioned." The knight was named Zaurial and his voice was strained with grief. Striding over to a table filled with bottles and small lockboxes, Zaurial kicked the woman, her moan sounding like a growl. He filled his cup with wine and motioned the party to join him. The wine was excellent. "I must say that I am surprised to see you Mogger, I almost thought the gold was not enough." Mogger faked a smile, his voice tight with fear. "Milord had I known it was you I would have come anyway..." Draining his cup the knight started to get dressed. Erol found it odd that there was no squire to help this powerful knight. As if reading his mind Zaurial replied. "One of my squires is helping my younger brother and my ostler with Razor, one of my steeds, and my other... Well that is the reason I have summoned you Mogger of the Lia-Kavair. I see that you have quite the bunch of thugs with you, and a fagget bard or somesuch as well." Slakka chuckled uncharacteristically. Erol not in the mood to be ridiculed objected. "Milord I beg of you to spare me your comments of my looks, I am a herald and a Lenesque and..." The knight cut him short with the sign of his flat hand across his own neck. "No need to get insulted herald, that was not my intention." He strode over to Slakka. Staring into his eyes Zaurial smiled and grabbed the assassin's shoulders. "There is strength in you, I can smell it. You will be perfect." He walked over towards a stool and sat down.

The chained woman howled in pain as she was jerked towards the knight's legs. "Shut up you filthy whore or I will let my men enjoy whatever there is left of your unclean body." Slakka getting tired of the charade stepped forward. "You pay in gold milord and are obviously of some power, but what do you want? I am busy and have other chores to do than watching you torture some wretched girl..." The knight threw a pouch on the floor in front of the assassin who scooped it up with his crossbow. "I want a miller dead and I pay generously for the deed." A miller? What would be next? Getting jewels for catching serfs? "A mere miller sounds to be too good to be true milord." Mogger eased by Slakka's confidence stepped forward. The knight nodded. "You are correct dwarf, he is no mere miller. He is a murderer and a spy. He killed Jarzos, one of my squires, and one of my best men-at-arms lies mortally wounded after trying to save him." He nodded towards the altar. "News of my squire's death reached me only an hour ago and all my prayers goes to my soldier. When you have fought side by side as we have, you bond in a way you thieves would never understand. This miller surprised them both and cut them down with a battleaxe..." Zaurial let the last words sink in.

Slakka stepped up, the small pouch held tight in his left hand. "The miller is dead milord, battleaxe or not. You want the documents he has with his as more important than the miller's life but Zaurial paid for both. Both Mogger and Erol eyed the knight and the assassin with frowns. In another life at a different place, those two could have been brothers in blood. But how had Slakka known? Erol finally spoke. "So whatever you can tell us about this miller will no doubt help us. Though to be honest my lord, a miller sounds suspect, and I would think that he is something else, maybe even a member of a rival clan. You have known enemies?" Zaurial rose from the stool, his eyes focusing on the altar at the end of the tent. "Herald, my clan has more enemies than we do friends but it matters little to me. I want the miller and as your clever friend here has guessed, whatever scrolls of information he has stolen with him. The coins in the pouch will buy you all I would assume. Go with the info I will give you. That is all you need to know. Besides it was more the Lia-Kavair I wanted to hire, not your pretty speeches." Erol nodded but his demeanor spoke that he was not content with the knight's lack of proper etiquette. Mogger who still was a bit nervous about standing in Zaurial's tent ended the chitchat. "Then milord, give us all you can and we will act upon that..."

TWO HEADS FOR ONE SACK OF GRAIN ...

Unknown to Zaurial and his clan the miller isn't just a guildsman spying. He is in fact a priest of the "extinct" Pillar of Fire who has been using his considerable charms on the cellarer of Vinarsa manor to get information to his brothers. The Miller named Hergol (real name Jazun) has been active in the village for slightly over a year. He was sent here by the Mangai to serve at the Bisidril clan's whim. It has turned out better than Hergol had hoped for. His plan was to find out about the weaknesses and strengths of the lords of the manor, knowing fully well that they are behind the power of the Mamakas and their followers. Hergol intended to make sure that he got as much information as possible before leaving silently from the settlement without a sound. He had only a few months left to finalize his plans.

The cellarer, a serf named Jonna, was a plain woman known for her natural brewing skills and her love for cats. Still never a pretty maid she was unable to marry and coming from a poor cottage family the miller had no trouble feigning interest in her persona. Always a great actor Hergol made sure that his interest in the cellarer was widely known even with the lords of the manor. He pledged honesty to Jonna and it took him little time to win her heart. When he had done that he told her to spy for him. In her wildest fantasy Jonna bought Hergol's lies about being sent by Sir Klyrdes because he suspected treason within his own house. Showing of a few Agrikan medallions to increase the claim of his work, the cellarer agreed to spy for the miller. He also gave her an engraved silver cloak pin to prove his love.

For several months the cellarer, who is popular in the Bisidril household, managed to pass mostly minor information to "her lover". Getting frustrated that Jonna was only able to pass on information of minor interest, Hergol proposed that she would "loan" him important documents from within the manor. Suspecting rightly that the cellarer wouldn't be questioned for adding wine to her master's chambers, especially in such a well defended manor such as Vinarsa, he told her to borrow a document here and there and have it delivered to him when she was visiting her parents in the village. Unfortunately for the cellarer she was seen by a servant who thought her to be a common thief. He told the seneschal, Sir Jorgoth Bisidril, about the theft.

Jonna was captured after returning to manor. She had delivered the scrolls to Hergol. The guards dragged into the dungeon for interrogation. Fearing for her life and hoping to save some time so that her lover would get away, she told Sir Jorgoth that she had delivered the scrolls to her father. Not truly believing her but not willing to take the chance, the seneschal had the soldiers collect Jonna's family. There was much commotion in the village and Hergol saw what happened and assumed the worst. He clad himself in full armour and was about to depart when two men, Zaurial's first squire and a loyal man-at- arm approached the mill. Sir Jorgoth is no fool and knows well enough of about the miller and his cellarer. Even if he didn't suspect the miller he was not about to take any chances.

Hergol didn't want to be sent down into the manor dungeon and killed his journeyman (who had done most of the job in the mill). He then waited behind sacks in the mill. The squire and the soldier entered the opened door to fetch the miller. Using his massive battle axe he cut them down from behind, greviously injuring both of the men. Then he fled towards Golotha in all haste using stealth across the fields and smaller roads he had memorized in case he had to flee in the future. It took some time before the two half-dead warriors were found together with the dead journeyman. In a fit of rage, Sir Jorgoth tortured Jonna and her family to death. He learned little except for the gift she had been given (the silver pin) and that she did it for love. Jonna died in agony and the seneschal sent word to Klyrdes who commanded Zaurial to take care of the problem. Zaurial who knows he is all brawns and little stealth, sends for the PCs.

SEA BOUND AND LAND BOUND ...

Zaurial will tell the PCs about the looks of the miller, how long he has worked for them, and hand them the silver medallion they found with Jonna. He will also tell the PCs to seek out the Mangai and ask more questions there. They will get a letter explaining who they are and who they work for. There are really three ways to find the miller though it would be healthiest for the PCs if they deal with Hergol's acolyte. The Pillar of Fire are not many, half of them resides hidden in Golotha while the rest of them haunts the north near Ithiko (the grandmaster amongst them). In Golotha they hide five priests (six with the miller) and six acolytes (older than normal and more experienced than mere boys) as teamsters.

The easiest way to deal with the miller is to find out who he is or at least, who he pretends to be. If the PCs ask around for a bearded and balding heavy set man, who runs around with a battleaxe they will simply get stared at. Though there are beggars who says (for a pence or two) that they have seen such a man hook up with two similar people on a wagon with ox (this is a major clue about the teamsters). Though who they were and were they went the beggars do not know. The following will also be apparent if the PCs try hard enough:

    • The miller named Hergol has a copy of his guild credentials at the Mangai chapter. Getting to see them will be impossible at first though threats about Zaurial's wrath and a few pence will loosen a clerk's tongue and have them shown the papers of the miller's mastership. Should the PCs take these with them and show a master forger, it will become apparent that these are forgeries and the real name Hodel (dead miller) has been erased and replaced by Hergol.
    • The silver pin was created years ago by Dusikan (map key F8). He remember selling several of these to younger chaps, amongst these one metalsmith (living in Dyrisa), one local woodcrafter (map key F4) named Hunar, and one soldier who is said to be dead. If the PCs find Hunar he will tell them that he indeed bought the silver pin but gave it away as a mid-trade to a young teamster. He does not know where the teamster lives but that he comes from time to time with his father to mend their wagon. Though it has been a while since he last visited the establishment. Hunar thinks he saw the the teamster on the docks a few days ago when he was buying fish (Hunar's wife was ill so he did it).
    • The docks are filled with ships and searching them will be cumbersome should the PCs fear that the miller is about to leave the city. If the PCs spend enough coins and money they will find out that a man fitting in by the description of the miller has bought a passage to Ithiko in the north. The PCs will also find out that he had a suspicious looking friend with him (see below) who was bound for Shostim in another vessel. Both are however to depart at dawn in two days.

With the info above it will be easier for the PCs to hunt down the miller. However Hergol knows that he is hunted and have no passion for getting caught to experience the ten thousand ways on his own flesh. That is why he is sending his acolyte to Ithiko with the scrolls. The friend is no friend but in fact a con artist and thief named Elwon. Hergol has paid Elwon money to deliver a few sealed scrolls (blank with the words: We will have our revenge Primate) to a friend in Shostim who will meet him at the docks. The miller has made sure that should his associate in Shostim receive the scrolls as planned Elwon will be well rewarded. In short, Hergol hopes that whomever is hunting him will go for the thief and not his acolyte.

MORE OF THE SECRETS ARE REVEALED ...

Should the PCs watch the docks after two days they will notice one young healthy looking man in his early twenties board one of the ships from Northaven Wharf. He will not act strange and settle amongst others who are bound for the north. The con artist however will be nervous and act suspicious (as the captain on the vessels told the PCs). Should the PCs investigate and question the young man he will tell the PCs that he is a woodcrafter named Kolke bound for Ithiko. He will make sure that his bag is close and should the PCs lunge out to grab it, he will drop it in the ocean. It will sink as a rock to the bottom (because there are stones in it). He will try to make it look like an accident and if that fails try to escape (he wears a mace and leather armour and knows how to use his weapon). Though the PCs will have to have a good excuse to the seamen for attacking honest guildsmen. Kolke will not yield, not even to torture but may slip and curse in Agrikan language.

Should the PCs ignore him and focus on Elwon he will indeed be suspicious and behave quite odd. He will if questioned try to run away. Should the PCs get a hold of the man, he will confess that he was paid by a man (the miller) to deliver a bag of documents to someone who would await him in Shostim. He will know nothing else and if questioned under pain agree to anything to be released.

Following the clue of the silver pin and the young teamster who got it from Hunar will be the easiest. After snooping around and asking the right questions with the regular bribes, the PCs might find out that there lives a large teamster family in the house across the Save-K'nor temple. The descriptions of these men, heavy set with long beards, may add to the suspicion of the miller's appearance (if not the PCs will have to stalk all of the several teamsters living in and around Golotha). Stalking the house the PCs will notice that indeed there is a large family of teamster. They will also notice how similar they look to the miller in description.

If the PCs are smart enough to wait outside (and avoid the few Mamakas patrolling) they will notice a suspicious looking character come early in the morning (Elwon). A woman in the house will hand him a package and a purse (with 60d as first payment). If the PCs follow the man they will notice that he is heading for the docks. The same effect will happen as if they were waiting for Elwon on the docks. He will try to flee but unlike at the docks, capturing him on the streets of Golotha will hardly even raise an eyebrow no matter how much for help Elwon cries for.

The silver pin laid amongst the meager treasure the Pillar of Fire had and Hergol took it to use as a gift to Jonna. He wasn't aware that it could be traced back to this household nor that it had belonged to a local guildsman. The miller intends to lay low for a few days after his acolyte has left for the north and follow him. The papers Jonna stole are not all that important but they tell how much resources in money, treasure, and men the Bisidril clan has access to. Hergol is hoping they will help their cause and intends to take full credit once he reach Ithiko and bow to his master.

CAMPAIGN ADDS ...

Yet again the players amaze their GM by going the other way than I had anticipated. It's not that I want to railroad them or even give them hints, but when they ignore all kinds of varnings, hints and such, and head on their own direction, I must act. Now it could have been worse, in fact it could have been disastrous but luckily for me and them, it went actually smoother than I could have hoped for. Not that the PCs succeded in their mission but they did manage to pull the Pillars of Fire from their hiding place. That is no small feat in itself. And I thought at one time that the PCs would be slaughtered by these Agrikan fanatics.

Time: 17th Larane Golotha
Days: 17th -30th Larane (14 days all in all)
Characters: Slakka, Erol, Mogger, and Bhurt
Players: Dan, Jonny, and Lars
Date: Friday 23rd April 2004
Length: 19:30 - 01:30

Notes: Holy crap... The PCs accepted the mission even though they fear and distrust Zaurial. Heading down to Vinarsa to talk to the seneschal gave them nothing except for the man's distrust of strangers. They were able to scour the mill and search for clues but nothing that gave them any further help. Returning to Golotha they started searching the vast streets for signs of the miller or anyone who had seen him. Paying beggars proved to be what they were looking for. Following the hints by the silver pin they heeded the words of the woodcrafter that he had seen the teamster on the docks only a few days ago. Questioning the various captains and seamen they found out that the miller (the PCs didn't know there was a connection between the teamsters and the miller until they described the miller for the woodcrafter who told them that is what these teamsters look like) fitting the description had paid for two journeys, one for himself and one for a suspicious looking friend.

Well at the docks they waited until the morning of the departure. Not seeing the miller they noticed Elwon and had him captured, dragging his ass off the docks into a dark alley (in Golotha no one except better armed interferes). There they questioned him and took the bag. It became apparent to them that he was just a decoy but at that time the other boat had left for north. The PCs feeling dumbstruck decided to go after the teamsters. After a hunt through most teamsters they stuck with the bearded ones built more like warriors than workers. Slakka always the climber, went by the city walls at night onto the teamsters' roof. Through a chimney he there heard similar chanting that the Agrikans used and returned with the info to Erol. The herald putting two and two together when hearing something about "The Pillar of Fire will rise again". He assumed that the miller was a priest of the lost order and sent for two patrolling Mamakas to help him and his friends to storm a house he suspected included a miller that the Mamakas master wanted (he showed the letter).

The patrolling knights always looking for a fight, helped Erol stormed the house in spite Slakka's advice to tell Zaurial first. This is where things went from good to bad. Attacking the house with two knights may sound like a great option. But when there are twelve similar fighting men in the same building, and haters of the Mamakas, things will not turn out the way one might hoped. Slakka, Mogger and Bhurt fled when they realized the error of Erol's moves. The herald himself was cut down by Pillar of Fire priest being grievously injured in the face and knocking out six teeth. The two Mamakas were killed before the Pillar and their household fled the house to the docks. Their they captured a crew and a ship leaving the owner, a foreign merchant at the docks. The priests fled to the north. Zaurial heard of the deed from Mogger and went to Erol's house where Slakka had dragged the herald home (returning to the teamster house after the Pillars fled). In there Zaurial went berserk when he found out that Erol had let them get away without warning him.

The herald was to live another day with the promise that a Bisidril never forgets (though Zaurial is able to track down most of the Pillar except the miller and the head priests later on)...
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Matt
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