The Highbower Chronicle

Into the Wilderness
Chapter 02 - In which the party contends with nature

After spending the night with the Crimson Coats, the party awoke to prepare for their journey.

Chester returned to the city to follow up with the prisoners whose execution they had delayed and to ensure their case would be handled properly in his absence. While there, he used his

Upon speaking to the accused, he came to learn that they were once workers in Dandyn Wroth’s factory. When they accidentally learned of the half-orc imprisoned in the factory basement, they were arrested and false charges were fabricated against them. They expressed concern that even if acquitted, that they would need to flee the city to be truly safe. With his best assurances, Chester promised to do his best to see them freed and safe.

Regi and Vlad were left with the question of what to do with the deed Regi had “found” in the pocket of the Wyrmblooded goon they’d encountered a few days prior. It belonged to a plot of land about 15 miles outside the city. After some discussion, they concluded that as they do not live near the city nor intend to stay, that they would gift the property to Ander’s mother, Astrid. Besides, Regi reasoned – her soup was pretty good! With a flourish and a crack of his knuckles, Regi put quill to paper and affixed the name Astrid Mason to the deed. Ander and Haythia were visibly pleased with this arrangement, truly happy to know she would be raised up from her squalor, and hopefully safe from any trouble that may come of the turmoil between the guilds of Highbower.

The four of them took a trip to visit the property and found a farmhouse and stable, with a large field and several horses. They were greeted by a middle-aged balding man and his son. They were family of horse breeders – serfs tied to the land. There were roughly a dozen family members of working age. The father was not terribly surprised to see that the land had been sold, and didn’t bother to ask too many questions.

The idea that the family was bound in service did not set well with Ander or Chester. After some amount of discussion, they reached an agreement – In exchange for continued protection, the family would make payments and eventually be granted their own piece of the property. Chester made plans to draw up the Writ of Emancipation at a later time. For now, they took four horses (with Chester and Regi sharing one mount) in lieu of the first few payments.

The group returned to Highbower to finish out their affairs. Ander returned to his mother’s home to give her the good news. She was overjoyed, and burst into tears. He told her that he had come upon it in his adventures, and in her joy she pried no further. Ander left to say goodbye to his boss, and his fellow courier, Irvine Manyhats. He urged Ander to buy some of his “halfling charms” which he claimed would surely protect Ander on his travels. He took a few, but declined the “magical hybrid” mule. Ander returned to his mother’s with a wagon, and set about packing her meager belongings.

When the party had finished gathering additional provisions, they met Haythia at the gate, smoking a pipe as she waited. They set off toward the Vaulted Marches, taking time to deliver Astrid and her things to her new home.

The first few days of travel were simple. They made do sneaking apples from farmers’ trees, or playing music and making household repairs in exchange for food and lodging. Their third day led them into a forest. The only easy path through was still dense and woody enough to necessitate dismounting to walk the horses through and avoid injury. As they made their way through the forest, Haythia’s keen senses alerted her to the presence of someone lurking in the bushes ahead – a clear ambush. She informed her collagues of the danger, and they slowed slightly. As Haythia made an attempt to form a plan with her companions, Ander jumped astride his horse, riding it quickly down the forest path. The others quickly followed suit, taking off through the woods. The attackers were startled and were not quick enough to spring their trap or to catch them. A frustrated spear flew harmlessly after them as they rode off, but not before Chester made a show of sending back an acidic burst to splash against it.

Once safely away from the ambushers, the five prepared to make camp. They started a fire, and Ander foraged for food, finding nuts and berries to supplement their trail rations. During their evening meal, a colorful bird appeared, catching their attention. To their surprise, it spoke aloud with a message for Chester: the legal case against the three innocents was being handled and was going well. When the bird had delivered its message it flitted off and Chester took the time to explain his involvement in their care. They made little small talk as they prepared to bed down for the evening. It happened that Haythia had been the only among them to bring a bedroll to sleep on; the others huddled near her, Ander with his back against a large log.

In the night, Haythia was awoken by some strange sounds. They were coming from near Ander and his belongings. In the low light, she could bear-ly make out the form of a large black beast rummaging through his pack. She paw-sed to let her eyes adjust, and soon she could see the juvenile black bear, searching through Ander’s pack for food. Trying her best to be quiet, she set about waking up her companions gently to alert them to the grizzly intruder. First, she woke Ander, then Regi, but stumbled on waking Vlad and accidentally struck him hard in the face. Luckily, Vlad avoided startling the creature with his cry. Ander brought his crossbow to bear and aimed it at the beast, urging it to move along. It appeared to recognize the device as a hunter’s implement and shuffled on its way, sufficiently deterred. The party returned to sleep, and the rest of the night was spent without fur-ther incident.

[More to come!]

The Search for Uncle Plunky
Chapter 01 - In which a party is formed and split

Guided by a riddle and a mystic map, Reginald Fucilik Bogaldon and Vladislak Val Jassan Galadiir had come to Highbower in search of Jetto Silverstrings, Regi’s father and Vlad’s beloved teacher. They had enlisted the aid of Haythia, a bounty hunter who agreed to help them with their search.

Recognizing Jetto’s name, she sought out Ander Mason, the son of an old friend who once travelled with Jetto. Ander agreed to meet them in a small establishment in the poorer part of town, and brought with him his childhood friend: Garret “Chester” Tealeaf, an erstwhile barrister and student of the magical arts. It was a small pub that was little more than a glorified soup kitchen; it was the sort of place where the rabbit soup is more hot water than anything else.

As they began to make plans to visit Ander’s mother, a group of cloaked figures burst through the door. Their leader was young, perhaps in his early 20s. His draconic features very clearly marked him a Dragonborn, and his Wyrmblooded sigil was proudly displayed. He stormed his way through to the proprietor, demanding ale. Not being a tavern, none was on hand. The Dragonborn scoffed, sparing a few derisive words for the owner and his downtrodden clientele.

Ander took great offense to this, and threw back an insult as well as a bowl of stew that splattered over the noble’s boots. The dragonborn withdrew an ornately-carved staff with a dragon motif, attempting unsuccessfully to intimidate. Haythia was mortified, much preferring to keep a low profile. Blood boiling, Ander ignored Haythia’s words and accepted the highborn’s offer to “take it outside.”

Regi and Vlad found themselves quite out of their element as they followed Ander outside, the man clenching and unclenching his fists. Haythia looked displeased, but made no attempt to intervene. Chester toyed with the wand inside his cloak while the two men hurled further insults at Ander. In response, Ander gives a token apology with the offered hope that the law would not be involved no matter the outcome. The man agreed to the terms and readied his staff.

Ander’s first punch was easily sidestepped and countered with a sweep from the dragon staff. This proved ineffective as well, but left an opening for Ander to deliver a crushing blow straight into his opponent’s face. Blood spewed forth from the freshly-broken nose, splattering on the both of them. Ander gave a dismissive word, offering to let his foe leave with his dignity; he promptly departed with his cronies, swearing revenge.

While the two men danced around each other, Vlad convinced Regi to see what the men have on them. When the fight was done, Vlad gave a half attempt at reprimanding Ander before turning to see what Regi had acquired: 10 gold and the deeds to an un-built property.

Following Ander’s lead, the group then went to the Ribbon District to meet with his mother, Astrid Mason. Upon arrival, Astrid was initially dismayed to have so many guests in her small dwelling. The place was run down and barely qualified to be a shack. The party put her at ease, assuring her they were not there to for dinner. She barely recognized Haythia, it being many years since they had last seen each other. Haythia seemed a little relieved, but still shifted uncomfortably. As Astrid spoke with them, Chester withdrew his wand and immediately began making minor repairs on the house; Mrs. Mason was happy to see him “doing better.”

Of course, Astrid did know Jetto Silverstrings. Racking her memory, she claimed that the last time she saw him was a couple of months ago. He loved to talk and hated to be interrupted, so she’d simply listened as he spoke. He had been speaking to a Duke on some matter about being an ambassador, and kept speaking about “the wolves,” though she did not understand what he meant. He had also spoken of the magical musical map – Vlad played the song so she could see it. She didn’t know what it was, but said that Jetto was looking for something called the Frozen Flame, a gemstone rumored to have great powers. To the best of her knowledge, the last place he was seen was working with Dandyn Wroth, member of the Watchmakers and well-known for the factory he ran, making gadgets for the noble and the rich.

Before leaving to investigate, the party is reminded of the hanging taking place in the square. Surely everyone from the factory would be there, which would make it trivial to sneak into the factory to look for more information. Regi and Vlad expressed curiosity about the accused; they were two men and a woman, charged with sedition and for worshipping foul Lusran, It That Devours. Chester’s knowledge and experience, suggested that their case reeks of noble tampering, though he’d need time in order to prove it. Haythia initially expressed doubt that they will be able to prove any wrongdoing in time, but the group comes to agreement that if they were truly innocent, they deserved another chance.

And so the party goes their separate ways: Vlad made for the gallows to distract the builders and buy time for Chester, who ran to the courthouse to dig through records. Meanwhile, Ander, Haythia and Regi set off for the factory to seek more information on Jetto and his whereabouts.

In the center of the square, men worked to build the gallows that intended to execute the prisoners. Vlad took the platform for his own stage, announcing himself to the crowd with instrument in hand. Mirna Beldum, head of the Marshals, believed Vlad to be a distraction and made to escort him from the “stage.” With a winning smile, Vlad offered that his music was in no way a distraction, and was simply for her pleasure and for those gathered in the square. Still slightly skeptical, she is wooed by his charm and advises him to leave the stage once it is built. Vlad’s music is exemplary, and even the builders working to erect the gallows pause to take note.

Meanwhile, Chester ran as fast as his halfling legs were able to get into the courthouse, and into the office loaded with legal paperwork. Due to the hanging, nobody was about except two 12 year old legal aides. Though he was not truly a lawyer, Chester was able to convince them to let him into the courthouse. Finding the correct paperwork, he was able to confirm his suspicions: the accused are neither seditionists nor cultists, and their charges were largely fabricated by noble hands. With a bit more fast-talking, Chester pressured the boys to tell him where the judge was: sleeping in an office. With proof in hand, he was able to convince the judge that signing a stay of execution would suit the best interests of the Gavelkind (and allow him to return to his nap). Rather than risk his own hide, he had one of the young boys sign the paperwork – still valid, without the judge having to risk himself. Chester ran back toward the square to present the stay of execution order and hopefully to prevent the execution.

At the factory, Regi, Haythia, and Ander found themselves in front of a huge chain link fence. Two large guard dogs waited for them on the other side. Using his natural affinity for animals, Regi was able to calm the dogs, keeping them quiet and friendly. Haythia cupped her hands together to make a step for Regi, who, placing a small boot in her gloved hands, vaulted flawlessly to the top of the fence. With a flourish, he jumped gracefully to the other side and gave one of the dogs a high five. Ander, defying physics as naturally as breathing, simply walked up the side of the fence, over the top, and down to the other side. Haythia managed to scramble over the fence as well.

At the entrance to the factory, the trio are blocked by a huge metal door. No windows were visibile on the side of the building, and no other obvious entrances. While Regi and Ander argued briefly whether or not to climb the roof and go through a skylight, Haythia deftly popped the lock on the door with ease.

Inside the factory, they found an open floor with many workbenches and tables. The workers were gone to the hanging, and their work – trinkets and gadgets for rich consumers – were lying around. There was a rather obvious office area toward the back. As they made their way in that direction, they passed an open container of finished handheld lighters. They were clearly worth a pretty penny, and usually reserved to the higher echelons of society for that reason. One of the baubles found its way into Regi’s pocket as they passed, and several more into Ander’s; Haythia was tempted but abstained, hoping to leave as little evidence of their passing as possible. They also passed a trap door sitting roughly in the middle of the room, marked with paint and chained shut for the moment.

In the office were a bunch of paper files, books, and a lockbox. Getting to work, Ander helped Haythia search through some files. To their delight, there was in fact a file on Jetto. Both he and Dandyn Wroth were interested in the legend of the Frozen Flame, and Jetto was seeking help in funding en expedition to find it. He claimed to know its location with certainty. However, they were unable to find much assistance – most dismissed the Frozen Flame as a legend and were unwilling to risk their time and resources in looking for it. Furthermore, Jetto’s claims would lead them to the Hellstooth Mountains, a deadly and unforgiving place if ever there was one; this further dissuaded potential backers from providing assistance. According to the notes, something called the CA Project had prompted Jetto to leave and end his relationship with Dandyn and his team.

As Haythia and Ander were reading, Regi had taken a crowbar from Ander and used it to force open the lockbox. Inside was (???) and a curious book – it appeared to be used and well-worn, but there was no visible writing on it. It seemed important – Regi decided to keep it to bring back to Vlad and the others. Haythia sighed in exasperation – these two were clearly either uninterested or incapable of being stealthy. With the lockbox blown open, announcing clearly that someone had been here, she grabbed a handful of files, including the one on Jetto before leaving the office.

As they made their exit, they once again came upon the trapdoor to the basement. Ander and Regi were extremely curious, and insisted on investigating. The lock was a complicated puzzle-type lock, and took several minutes for Haythia to open, but soon they were staring down a ladder into darkness. The ladder seemed to go down about fifteen feet into the dark, and a repetetive clanking noise could clearly be heard from below. Ander used one of his new lighters to ignite a torch, and they descended the ladder together. Once in the basement, they were captivated by a large set of ornate metal wings on a workbench. The only other occupant was an half-orc of some kind – glowing orange tubes and metal parts were connected directly to the back of his head, leading to a large steam machine. His eyes also glowed eerily in the low light. He was clearly working on the wings with a hammer, explaining the clanking noise. He did not seem to acknowledge their presence if he was even aware of it, and continued working regardless.

Unable to gain his attention, Ander approached, and took the wings from the bench. The half-orc’s eyes glowed red now, and he lunged at Ander. He bit Ander’s leg, still managing to cause some harm even through his armor. Ander drew an axe to defend himself, and drove it into the half-orc’s flesh. Rather than blood, high-pressured orange liquid sprayed forth from the wound. Leaping into action, Regi pulled a knife and severed the tubes tying the half-orc to the large machine. His eyes went dark, and he immediately went limp. Orange liquid spurted from the tubes in great volume, burning like acid. The pool reached a reagent cabinet against the wall, which burst into flames. The crew took this as the perfect opportunity to leave. In their haste, they didn’t bother to close up after themselves, though Ander dropped 5g as recompense on their way out.

Back at the square, Chester arrived with ten minutes to spare. He presented Mirna Beldum with the stay of execution documents, and true to form, the hanging was called off. She ordered the crowd to disperse. With another smile, Vlad convinced her to continue performing until the stage was dismantled. With relish, he continued his performance. Without warning, he was joined by a woman wearing a red coat and playing a flute. Unimpressed by her performance, he shoed her off stage, but not before she leered at him, telling him he was not the only one who knew the song of Jetto Silverstrings. She gave her name as Melariel, and her coat marked her as a member of the Crimson Coats. She hinted that she’d see him later and disappeared into the crowd. As Vlad finished his performance and was leaving the stage, he was approached and given a note requesting his presence at Master Byron’s next birthday party.

The party met once again in the square. Chester and Vlad had obviously been successful, but the other group had much to tell. Following Ander’s lead, they headed to a flophouse where they could speak more freely of what they had seen, though they were not quite sure exactly what that was. Haythia shared the files on Jetto with Vlad, and Regi showed him the empty book.

Vlad noted that the book was similar to one of his own – one whose pages would not hold ink. To test this, Ander wrote, “Ander rules” upon the first page – the writing remained. Vlad also felt it pertinent to test this theory, scratching out Ander’s words and writing a lengthy and elaborate signature over the rest of the first page. His writing was visible here as well. Looking the book over, Chester took a turn examining it. His magical training made it obvious to him that there was some sort of hidden writing there. Though he did not posess the spell necessary to read it, he knew where to get it: his academy.

As they made plans to gain the necessary spell and reconnect on the morrow, they were approached by a half-orc. He was drunk beyond drunk, and spoke to Haythia on the matter of locating his lost brother, who had last been known to take a job in a factory run by Dandyn Wroth. The party blanched, but said nothing about his brother’s fate.

Chester paid a visit to his academy, who agreed to give him the spell and the materials to transcribe it to his spellbook, in exchange for an unspecified favor to be paid to the academy at a later time. He accepted, and began the process of transcribing and preparing the spell. Vlad, Ander, Regi, and Haythia head instead to a restaurant called the Happy Gnome in order to eat, drink and rest.

While everyone else went to sleep, Ander snuck out on his own to visit his lover, a noble’s daughter. He told her of what he had seen, and she urged him to be cautious and not to get himself in trouble.

The next morning, the party found Chester sitting on a bench at the college campus poring over the worn old book. Chester appeared frightened, exclaiming that he just finished reading the scariest book in his life. The book, he revealed, was a ledger. It contained records for truly astounding volumes of obscure magical materials, some of which were unknown even to a student of the magical arts such as he. More than that, it contained sketches and diagrams, schematics for the construction of a Clockwork Angel. Reviewing the ledger, the last shipment received was a large quantity of nethicite, an extremely dangerous ore. It was received about two months ago, around the time that Jetto Silverstrings had left town.

Taking Melariel’s mention of Jetto as a potential clue, Vlad led the party to find the Crimson Coats’ camp, just outside of town. The caravan welcomed the party with open arms, claiming that any friend of Jetto Silverstrings is a friend of theirs. They joined the Crimson Coats in their feast, but found little new information about Jetto – no-one had seen him since he left town a few months back.

Vlad, not attracted to Malariel, instead sought out her brother, Turiel for more information. Turiel had a hand injury that he acquired at a protest at the mines in the north at Hellstooth Mountain – the Baert Company’s nethicite mining operation. Turiel had also born witness to Jetto’s Magical Musical Map; Jetto had said it would lead to the Frozen Flame. He informed Vlad that Jetto had left town in a hurry – heading into the Vaulted Marches.

The party rested for the night, and resolved to follow Jetto into the Vaulted Marches.


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