[WotD] Chapter One - A Rock and a Hard Place

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Cronono
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[WotD] Chapter One - A Rock and a Hard Place

The knocking on the Archdruid's door should have woken him up at three in the morning, but the halfling was already wide awake. Dressed in his nightshirt, Taron opened the door without his crown of antlers. One of Kendarr's lieutenants, the drow Yuson, stood in his doorway. The drow was scowling.

"Archdruid, the tiefling stonemason is mad about something and wants to talk to you about it." Yuson's voice belied patience. It was clear that Yuson was decidedly uninterested in conveying the message of Dyrakus.

"Send him in, send him in." Taron returned to his desk to pour his irate visitor some tea. Yuson turned on his heel to fetch the nighttime visitor.

"Archdruid, we have been deceived!" Dyrakus' voice was far too loud for this late hour. "Sandstone is worthless for this contruction!" Dyrakus then proceeded to launch into a tirade about various types of rock, the feasibility of fortification construction with each type of rock, and a detailed analysis of the various costs associated with each type. After Taron finished drinking the bowl of tea he never had a chance to offer Dyrakus, he held up one hand.

"My friend, are you saying that I need to send someone to get the right rocks for you?" The Archdruid completely disarmed the tiefling.

"That's exactly what I'm saying, Archdruid!" Dyrakus was exasperated. It remained to be seen with whom.

"Then Yuson will send somebody. I'm sure they will get your rocks quite swiftly. For now, please get some rest."

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Yuson gathered the search party shortly before dawn. In the courtyard of the Outpost along the northern wall, he gave their orders.

"Yesterday, a stone merchant from Wet Rocks sold our tiefling stonemason three wagons of stones. Apparently, these stones are not the stones that the tiefling wanted. For some inexplicable reason, the tiefling paid for the stones anyway. The Archdruid has informed me that you are to follow the merchant and bring back our money or bring back our stones. The merchant is a dwarf named Hollinger, and he works for Hilde, Illitar, Lok'ten, and Associates. He carries a warhammer, but Kendarr says he doesn't know how to use the damn thing. Hollinger has about 20 hours on you. The sun is up in 30 minutes, and I want to be asleep by then. Any questions?"

Yuson is supremely annoyed.

deadDMwalking
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"So the merchant has the stones and the money? How does that make sense? What's the name of the stonemason and can we ask him about it? Maybe he pocketed the money. He is a Tiefling." It doesn't even occur to Able that it might be unfair to assume a Tiefling is a natural thief - everyone he ever knew did the same thing.

Cronono
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"Hilde, Illitar, and the other assholes have the stone. That's what they do for money. Since Hollinger works for them, he may have the money and the stone. Bring back either. You can talk to Dyrakus, as long as you don't bug me more than 29 mintues from now."

Yuson taps his foot.

Dafyd
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Charn nods at the orders given to him by Yuson and asks, "What are your orders about the merchants themselves? I am sure leaving them. . .unspoiled. . .is preferred?"

Cronono
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Yuson shrugs. "Where I am from, you would string him up by his toes and feed him to spiders." The drow spits. "Since I'm not from there anymore, do whatever you would normally do that won't get anyone to yell at me." He frowns. "That should just be your standing orders. Do what doesn't get me yelled at."

MinusInnocence
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"Maybe it isn't fraud, but if something is wrong with the goods, the merchant should offer some kind of compensation for the stonemason's trouble. We will get to the bottom of this."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

deadDMwalking
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"Considering recent events, I would expect orders like 'don't do anything that gets my hand bitten off'. That's why I tell everyone that'll listen that you're the best boss I've ever had."

Cronono
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Yuson sighs at Able's response. "I saved thousands of lives with that hand, Able. I'd give up the other one again in a heartbeat." The drow spits.

FoxWyrd
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Raven Sarifoli

Raven tilts her head at the Drow as he spits and then turns her head to Able.  She doesn't say anything, but she seems intent to watch the conversation and see where it goes.

"You have the same twenty-four hours as me; don't be mad just because you don't use yours like I do." -Tupac Shakur

Cronono
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Yuson nods at the assembly. He points to a well kept hovel with an active chimney. "The blasted tiefling is in there. You can see the smoke coming out of his kiln. If you need anything from him, or if you want to take him with you, that's fine. I'm going to bed. When I wake up tonight, I look forward to stories of your valor recovering rocks."

Yuson walks away from the party, heading toward the barracks. The courtyard is starting to get busy in the predawn light, with the handful of vendors and peddlers who made it to the frontier trying to turn a profit. Yuson manages to slip between a wagon carrying a load of fruit and a merchant yelling at a farmer before he disappears from view.

To the west, the road leading back toward civilization is open. The guards posted at the gate make perfunctory efforts to inspect incoming wares. Archdruid Taron has a more liberal interpretation of contraband statutes than many Imperial barristers; the guards are primarily interested in preventing greenskin and scaled interlopers from emerging inside the pallisade.

Cronono
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Finding the stonemason's home isn't difficult. In the pre-dawn hours, the lingering tendrils of sleep still permeate the minds of the merchants in the Outpost streets like a tranquil unending sea. Like any reasonably sized body of water, a little disruption sends out waves and waves and waves.

"Agitator!" The ultimate insult of the Dictatorial Creed erupted from the angry dwelling of the stonemason. Some of the men and women setting up their carts to sell their goods ignored the outburst. Some of them smiled. Some of them, however, were caught off-guard by the vulgarity.

Peering into Dyrakus' home, it is very clear that the tiefling loves his craft. Carefully shaped stone composes all of the tiefling's furniture, from the tables and the chairs to the bed and shelves. His abode is spartan, but for a rather large pile of a white dust on the floor. Dyrakus himself sits with his legs spread around the pile, holding two halves of what appears to be a rock.

deadDMwalking
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"We need to ask you a few questions about the recent order you refused."

Cronono
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Dyrakus stands up, an impressive task for his 6'5" frame. He holds up one half of the rock in his hand and says angrily: "This. I was deceived about this!" He tosses the rock to Able. As Able catches it, it crumbles.

"My job here is to help rebuild the Outpost into the glory it had when it was Castle Vuzuvaan! I can't do that with inferior materials. Sure, the stone on the exterior of the wagon was a beautiful white adamant, but the interior of the cargo was worthless chalk!" He almost sobs, a faint tear welling up from his good eye.

He asks Able, his tiefling compatriot: "Are you experienced with stone?"

deadDMwalking
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"I have other interests. I trust you to determine the quality of the stone and reject that which is unworthy of your project. What I don't understand is why you paid for the stone that you rejected. Why does the merchant have both the useless stone and your money?"

Cronono
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Dyrakus shakes his head. "I originally thought that the shipment was legitimate and therefore authorized the disbursement from the Outpost's treasury. As Hollinger never gave me the stone we ordered from Hilde, Illitar, Lok'ten, and Associates, I must assume Hollinger still has the shipment we requested. Given that he has the Outpost's money, I would be surprised if he spent it already!" The one-horned tiefling shakes his head.

"Do you need me to go with you? Is that what this is about? If so, I have already packed my bag." He pulls open the top of an ornate stone chest, revealing a backpack.

MinusInnocence
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Caleb nods. "It couldn't possibly hurt, unless you antagonize them further when we get there. At the very least, it would save us another trip, because I know nothing about rocks and might come back with yet another shipment you would be dissatisfied with."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

deadDMwalking
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"Your presence would be a welcome boon. Not only can you validate the quality of any stone we find, you can help ensure we don't accost the wrong merchant."

Cronono
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Dyrakus smiles. His bright white teeth contrast sharply with his remaining black horn.

"An adventure it is, then!" As he picks up his bag, sharp metallic objects striking each other can be heard, along with the rattling of various small objects.

Dafyd
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Charn watches these goings on with mild interest and nods in agreement. "A jolly gallivant it will be, I am sure," he says dryly. "I'm certain that when faced with his array of options," the dragonkin says with an intimidating rattle of his chain mail as he shifts his weight, "our dear business associate will come to agree that making amends peacably is the best course of action." His voice has a low, rumbling sound, a bit like an avalanche rolling off in the distance, and one may wonder if that's the smell of fresh snow on his breath.

Cronono
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There are two roads leading out of the Outpost, both headed West. One takes a northerly route, tracing the outline of the Wet Rocks River, while the other bends sharply to the South, eventually approaching Orcus' Rest. Dyrakus witnessed the merchant taking the northerly road to the Outpost and believes that Hollinger typically takes the northerly road out of the Outpost.

A few hours into the travel, Caleb is the first to notice that a tree bent over the road has a pair of dwarven feet hanging from a branch. It doesn't take long to see that the rest of the dwarven woman is dangling by her neck from a branch. Her boots are gone and her toes dangle about 12 feet off the ground. She still wears the livery of Elector Gladestrider, the ostensible governor of territory that includes the Outpost. From the rest of her heraldry, Charn deduces that she is likely a tax collector. There appears to be some sort of note nailed to her chest, but it is impossible to read from the ground. What is obvious is the stylized C that was painted onto her back. Charn also realizes that this "C" is a rallying mark of communist rebel groups, although it would take a more knowledgeable theologian with better access to the marking to deduce which one.

Dyrakus begins retching at the side of the road.

MinusInnocence
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Caleb makes a face but steels himself. He shrugs the pack off his shoulders and sets it next to the tree, then looks for the most obvious way to safely get her body down from there.

"A moment's rest for any who don't want to help. But I cannot leave her for the crows."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

deadDMwalking
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"Why not? They need to eat, too. It's work to cut her down and more work to bury her. And that means the stone mason gets further ahead, so it's even more work to catch up. We're being paid to settle the masonry business, not to pick sides in a civil war." Able tries to discern if the tree would give him a vantage point to espy the merchant, but he has no interest in the body.