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Of Conspiracies and Contracts

Started by Cain, May 12, 2020, 07:29:50 AM

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Cloak and Dagger

With the revelation that the same group who had been behind the necromancer in Evermore was responsible for the corruption within the West Skyrim Trade Consortium, the company made the difficult decision to contact an "old friend" referred to them by the captain of the Evermore Guard - a spy for the Daggerfall Covenant's intelligence arm, know as the Ring of Daggers. This is uncomfortable for a lot of reasons, not least the criminal past of several of the company's leadership. In particular, the captain's former stint in the Seventh Legion was a particular concern given that said Legion rooted out the Ring quite bloodily during their conquest of Bangkorai.

Nevertheless, the meeting went ahead, tense as it was and the Ring of Daggers agent agreed to help...but there was, as always, a catch. The thing is he doesn't have access to the information they need, his boss does. However, if he makes his boss look good, then his boss might look the other way if some old files ago missing. To that end, they had an informant report that "something big" was due to go down in Wayrest in the next few days. He deemed it important enough that he wanted to meet in person, only he vanished somewhere along the road between Alcaire and Wayrest.

Tracing his route and interrogating locals, the company eventually discovered there had been a group of bandits in the area who had been not only raiding caravans but also kidnapping for profit. They also found an encoded note left at a campsite which, when deciphered, provided his route. The mercenaries used this to find the bandit camp, but the front was guarded, and the back had been infested by giant spiders, making an approach difficult. One of the mages came up with a cunning plan, however, and used a mixture of fire and telekinesis to "convince" the spiders to run into the camp. While that happened, a couple of the fighters made their way around and concealed themselves near the entrance to the camp. Some of the bandits were chased out by enraged giant spiders, whose absence allowed the company archer and mage line to rain down destruction from above. As they did that, the melee fighters moved in, allowing one of the scouts to slip by and free the prisoner before the bandits could threaten to kill him.

Assassination Games

The informant revealed that a heavy hitter, a Khajiit assassin with links to the Aldmeri Dominion, had made his way to Wayrest. He didn't know where he was staying, or who the target was, only it would be "of significance" and that while he had done killings for the Dominion, the assassin was a freelancer and so they couldn't be assumed to be the clients.

Returning Wayrest with the informant, the mercenaries planned their next move. They eventually settled on two possible plans: the first would be to infiltrate the Admieri Embassy and try to seize any documents they had on the assassin - give his past affiliations, they very likely kept tabs on him. The other was to go through the city's underworld and beat people down until someone spilled something useful. They chose the latter. The encounter was designed so that the Dominion would give them the target, but not the assassin's location, while the criminal underworld would give the location of the assassin, but not his target. Not that they knew that.

Since a lot of the criminal underworld knew he was in the city and that something big was in the works. As such they were remaining very obvious and very much in sight, so that when it did happen no-one could claim that they were involved. Using this, the party put a beat-down on a bunch of innocent smugglers until they learned that a local Nord fence had been hiring muscle of late, and that these might be helpers for the assassination plot. Heading to the Nord's shop, they started breaking stuff until the Nord broke down and told them what they wanted to know - that the Khajiit's base was a ruined tower on an island just outside of the city.

Sending a small team, our valiant mercenaries infiltrated the island and took out the guards, though the Khajiit noticed them from his observation post atop the ruined tower and started to open fire with his bow. Two stayed back, inside the tower entrance to hold off the remaining guards, while another two chased the assassin up the tower, where his bow and his daggers proved less than effective against their heavy armour. Though despite that he was a Khajiit and an experienced assassin beside, so he didn't make it easy. Ultimately he was thrown from the tower and killed. 

Allowing the Ring of Daggers to take credit for foiling the assassination plot, their contact provided them with a dossier on the group he believes was affiliated with the Evermore necromancer - an off the books Covenant military operation that was disbanded after the Stonefalls campaign failed. The project made considerable use of necromancers, dangerous criminals and death squads - all illegally financed and deniable by the Lion Guard. But when the campaign ended, a lot of them absconded with their ill-gotten loot and, despite a kill order being put on the more illegitimate members of the operation, many of them got away and created new identities for themselves. Elements of the Lion Guard who had served honourably before being included in the program were either promoted sideways or retired - like the lieutenant in Evermore. The dossier had a lot of information, but it would take time for the company to work through it and figure out what leads they had to follow.

Edit: lots more updates coming, when I write them.


Treasure and Loot

On returning to Evermore, the company began to notice...things. A build-up of military personnel in the docks, for starters. It seemed the trouble in Western Skyrim, being caused at least in part by one of the Reach clans, had the Bretons on edge. Evermore, indeed most of northern Bangkorai, was considered the traditional territory of the "Greater Reach", which included Wrothgar to the north and parts of Karthald, in Western Skyrim. Beyond that, news of the destruction of Karthwatch at the hands of the Icereach Coven, the aforementioned Reach tribe, had begun to filter in. Despite being a well fortified town, guarded by hardy and suspicious Nords with a history of conflict with Reachmen, the town was destroyed almost entirely. The Reachmen, it seemed, had weapons that could bypass such defences and while the Bretons excelled at magic in the way the Nords never could there were still fears that such a weapon, such an attack, could be deployed on Evermore, hence the Lion Guard reserves.

Beyond that, the company noticed many eyes on them. They were being watched, though it was hard to pinpoint whom was responsible. The urchins the company's spymaster employed vanished. Fearing a possible confrontation was in the making, the captain undertook an expedition into the Fallen Wastes. The Seventh Legion had, during its occupation of the region, established several caches in the desert so that they could continue the fight if the Lion Guard headed south. While the Covenant's forces had seized most of these, they had not found the most isolated ones. And the captain, as a former member of the Seventh Legion, knew where they could be found.

Despite the brutal heat, bandits, undead and, in one particular case, an especially hostile Duneripper attack, the company secured the caches, including the "retirement fund" of a certain Centurion whose untimely death in a fight meant she would forever more be unable to collect it (odd though, how she was stabbed in the back despite the Covenant's soldiers facing them head on). They returned, a caravan laden down with goods passing through the Bangkorai Garrison - not an usual route for goods coming to Evermore from Hallin's Stand, and so not searched by the guard. Not long after, arms and armour flooded the market in the city, adding considerably to the company's coffers

Knives in the dark

However, securing the financial situation of the company did not translate into immediate security. Especially when the captain called a meeting to discuss the problem of the anonymous spies plaguing them, only to never turn up. Worrying, the company made their way to her apartment in the city, only to find it trashed. Two dead bodies were found within, one badly burned, but neither the captain, going by the note pinned to the corpse. She informed them that assassins had struck while she'd been cooking at home, and more were on their way. Another team had also been dispatched to take out another of the company's founders and backers, a noble of House Dres who maintained a private estate in the city. She said she intended to lead the other team off towards the docks, given the large security presence there, and would try to meet them at the Dres estate first.

So of course they went to help the captain first instead. They found her by following a trail of dead guard and assassin bodies around the docks, as well as screaming people trying to run away. On the docks themselves they saw the captain duelling someone who almost couldn't be seen - like they were under the effect of a chameleon spell. They were also attacking very, very fast indeed, and the captain had already been cut several times. Despite outnumbering the assassin, the best they could do was lightly wound them, though that was enough for them to see the situation had changed and they needed to retreat.

The captain chewed them out, thoughl only weakly due to being barely able to stand, and after patching her up they made their way to the estate. Here they found a team, Bretons and Redguards, with the former laying down offensive runes outside the house in preparation for the other founder's return (she was not in at the time). Taking advantage of their distraction they got the drop on the mages and took them out, then turned their attention to the Redguard soldiers guarding them. Interrogating one of the bleeding out mages, they found a bloody note on him authorising the assassination in the name of an "Alard Vette", whoever that was. After taking out the captain and the founder, they were to recovene with another group outside of the city - the plan was to kill the leadership, have everyone meet at the office and then wipe them out there.

The company rallied the Evermore Guard, despite their still tenative relationship with the city authorities and made their way to the rendezvous point, only to find it abandoned. Someone had clearly been there, but either the nightblade assassin tipped them off or the lateness of one of the killed teams did. Either way they had departed, leaving the company with only a name to follow up on. The guard warned them to not leave the city without notifying them first, and the whole incident was covered up as an attack by "Reachman raiders" - as implausible as that explanation was.


The Roaring Rampage of Revenge

After some downtime (that coincided with my IRL moving home), the captain called the company together at a private location in the hills of Mornouth to discuss their response. Obviously this kind strike at the company wasn't going to be taken sitting down. They had the name from one of the unburned letters, an "Alard Vette", who, with a little bit of research, could be found in the dossier of off the book operations the company had received from their contact in the Ring of Daggers. Further digging showed he was a minor noble, a former Lion Guard officer who seemed to be fast-tracked for great things - only to be mysteriously promoted sideways to some minor command, and then resigning shortly after. Since then he'd been involved in a number of commercial ventures, and had resultingly become quite wealthy.

There were two possible locations he could be - his estate near Camlorn, or his summer hunting lodge in the Menevian hills, north of Wayrest. With the latter being the far closer option, the company dispatched a team to investigate. They found Vette had not been seen for weeks, but he retained a skeleton staff to look after the estate, including his seneschal (who normally resided at the larger estate near Camlorn). Trying to question the staff, they ran into a perculiar problem: the staff literally could not speak to Vette's whereabouts, and any attempt to do so caused them considerable pain. Investigating, the company battlemage detected magic leading to a small Ayleid artifact hidden inside the fireplace in the building. When she retrieved it, she was able to deactivate it but it also triggered a trap, spawning a Clannfear daedra in the main hall.

The company managed to send the daedra back to Oblivion, and the staff, grateful to be freed from the mind control spell, told what they knew. Vette had indeed been here, a few weeks past. He took a body of men with him up into the hills, where he owns an old, abandoned mine. Seeing an obvious lead, the company investigated. The guards within surprised the group, mistaking them for their relief - they weren't wearing his house colours, the guards were paid mercenaries like the company, and so the appearance of a rag-tag group in the middle of their poker game did not immediately set off any alarm bells, and the Nord warrior, quicker on the uptake than their reputation would suggest, was happy to play along. The mercenaries told them to have fun guarding the boxes and said they'd make their way back to the Camlorn estate for new orders.

With the guards gone, they quickly cracked open the crates. While some contained gold that had clearly been secreted away as an emergency measure, others contained a strange red ore with an acrid smell. Unable to identify it, they brought it to the company blacksmith and the captain to see what they made of it. The two of them determined that it was "red brittle", also known as nirncrux, an incredibly unstable and usually poisonous ore that was mined in northern Craglorn, a region that bordered Bangkorai, but was also near the Skyrim and Cyrodiil border. In particular the Dragonstar Caravan Company had a mine full of the stuff in the city of Dragonstar. Vette's interest in it was unknown, though some voiced the suspicion that he intended to create a poison weapon with it, to ends unknown.

House of Horrors

Moving on, the company made their way to the Camlorn estate. Here they found - much to their surprise - a group of off-duty members of the Evermore Guard were casing the place. The Guard were, as it turns out, very unhappy about the death of their men during the assassination attempt on the company and they had made their own inquiries. As far as they could tell, nothing had come into or left that house in a week, maybe even longer. They had been debating throwing the place themselves, but with the company here they could look the other way and technically not be breaking the law. So, no help, but also no hinderance.

After some work on the locks, the company made their way in, only to find the scene of a massacre. The guards from the mine had been killed, and posed. So had what looked to be the household staff. All designed to make a macabre welcome for the mercenaries. At the very centre of the estate they found an unpassable barrier, and what looked like a man moving behind it. Once again, the mages set to work, and while they couldn't bring down the barrier they found it was connected to various enchantments throughout the manor. However, much like the device at the other estate, these enchanted items were trapped.

The first summoned the worst fears of each company member to attack them. Credit to the players, I threw this at them with almost no warning whatsoever and responded admirably, with a bunch of interesting fears that I unfortunately mostly don't remember (my character's was her father, though described obliquely enough that the others might not have realised). The second emitted a horrible screeching sound that prevented all spellcasting, most talking and put anyone hearing it in extreme pain. The third, located in the kitchen, summoned rats from the floorboards below to attack (the rats were an illusion). The fourth summoned an illusionary flame atronach, who set the room ablaze. The fifth, by contrast, was an actual mechanical trap, releasing poison in the room designed to weaken those who inhaled it (lowered constitution and strength).

However, they powered through, taking the hits and the psychological damage and managed to get them all, bringing the barrier down. That's when the nightblade assassin, who had previously tried to kill the captain at the Evermore Docks, struck. He had a Chameleon spell protecting him again, and had boosted his speed significantly (Haste) and of course he had expected his traps to put the players off balance and kept them weakened. Which it did, to an extent. However, after the assassination attempt the captain made two purchases. One was an Absorb Health enchantment for her Akaviri sword - enough to keep her alive while in melee with the assassin. The second were poisoned designed to drain magicka, which she had distributed to the other party members.

Needless to say, even with his advantages, it was a five on one fight and the party had prepared to counter his strength, his magical abilities. After he was put down, the company went through his belongings, finding an enchanted ring (fortify Illusion, seal of House Mero of Leyawiin stamped on it), a necklace (able to cast Blur 3x a day) and letters indicating that, once he had finished off the company he was to make his way to Chiselshriek Mine, near Elinhir in northern Craglorn, for the rest of his payment. The company then looted the building of any portable values, mostly jewellery and wine, and then set the place ablaze as they departed.