Dark Presence Rising

Vladmir's Vanguard

Play Session 2

He companions have decided to leave the tavern in search of the magistrate’s mansion before the remaining daylight fades. As they exit the tavern, they can’t help but notice the squalor that the inhabitants of Baldur’s Gate are forced to live in while the magistrate’s mansion is so clearly different. It is almost as if the magistrate has orchestrated his mansion to be a shining beacon of hope or stand as a symbol of might against rebellion.

As the companions make their way up the hill upon which the mansion was built, they cannot help but be awed by the wealth that was put into building the mansion and take note of the obvious distance between lower and elite class structures in Baldur’s Gate. Castiel comments, “Let’s hope this magistrate does not mistreat his people. It would be a shame to see him fall beneath the weight of their bonds.” The adventurers agree that there is much information to be gleaned from this meeting and that they should keep the magistrate at arm’s length lest they be manipulated by him into serving his will blindly.

They enter the main gates and are surrounded by a lush veranda of exotic flora and fauna. It is plain to see that no expense has been spared to display the wealth of the magistrate and they all assume that whatever it is that is requested of them will surely be well rewarded. They enter the main double doors of expensive and rare marble into a wide ballroom antechamber meant to serve as a reception area for guest wishing to see the magistrate. To their left they notice guards quarters conveniently placed in the front of the building to serve as a shield between the magistrate and harm. To their right, they can see a room furnished with tables, chairs, and other furnishings designed to serve as the guest dining quarters. Directly in front of them, is a wide marble staircase with gold and silver balustrades that lead upward to two heavy mahogany doors carved with intricate designs that must have taken many weeks to complete. The guards at the front door lead them upward and announce their presence to the magistrate within. He grants them leave to enter his office and greets them warmly.

“Welcome to my humble home good adventurers! I trust that you are here in response to the summons I have posted abroad?” Zanhorn respectfully replies, “Yes your greatness”. He can tell from the opulence they have seen that deference may be the key to gleaning as much information and gold from the magistrate as possible. He is correct in his assumptions as the first glance they get of the magistrate is one of a short, fat, balding, pasty skinned man who fits the persona of one who thinks too highly of himself and has probably not seen the sun in many days. Zanhorn removes from his pocket the flyer indicating the magistrates summons and asks, “What is it we can do to serve you, your majesty?” The magistrate replies with, “For too long my lands have been plagued with ever increasing troubles. Plagues, famine, monsters, even those secretive masked lords of Waterdeep have given me no end to my troubles. Hmmp!”

Zanhorn assures him that Vladmir’s Vanguard is here to help and assures him that whatever the task is, they will complete this quest. While all of this is happening, Castiel is casually picking through the food on the magistrates personal serving table eating what he can. The magistrate notices this but seems to care little, what is food to him that is paid for by his subjects; especially if it means securing the help of this able bodied group of companions? Throughout the conversation, the woes of the magistrate seem to be vague but at the mention of potential danger and conquering their foes, Variel immediately stands more erect and seems to be more interested. “Bahamut will guide my axe and lend might to arms. We will see these monsters vanquished and bring judgment to the wicked.” Zanhorn calmly takes note of Variel’s interest in combat and stores the thought away for future need.

Zanhorn, being the natural leader of the vanguard decides it is prudent to garner more information about previous adventurers. “A few, maybe more, I’m not sure. They come and they go and none have returned to me yet” replies the magistrate. Castiel seizes this opportunity to try to intimidate the magistrate and determine why adventurers have not returned and that they should be paid more if the mission is that “dangerous”. The magistrate immediately rebuffs Castiel and calls his guards to escort him to the antechamber with orders to “Make sure he doesn’t steal the finery from the guest’s dining room!” Kael quickly tries to defuse the situation by assuring the magistrate that Castiel was merely concerned for the safety of the group and that surely one such as benevolent and wise as himself could see it in his heart to forgive this minor infraction. “If you must, but make sure that he does not do that again! How dare he threaten ME in my own house?” Zanhorn lends his soothing words to Kael’s and together they get the magistrate to agree to forget that this happened. Feeling like he is in control and able to maneuver the magistrate, Zanhorn tries his luck with diplomacy and successfully petitions the magistrate to pay them extra for their services. He agrees to pay each of them 200 gold pieces upon their successful return believing that they won’t return like the others and betting against the odds that he’ll have to actually pay them.

The conversation then turns to how they are to get to Waterdeep to investigate the distance the lords of Waterdeep have widened between his and their kingdoms. “What do I care how you get there?” replies the magistrate. “It is not up to me to determine the path you take but the destination. Figure it out for yourselves.” Zanhorn, realizing that they have pushed his generosity to his limits, should take their leave and ask the commoners what way to Waterdeep would be best. They exit the magistrate’s office and relay all that has happened to Castiel who seems indignant that he should be treated the way he was but makes no mention of his true feelings. The group discusses their options and decides that, due to expediency and cost, they may be better served by joining up with a merchant ship bound for Waterdeep. They easily find the docks and use Zanhorn’s and Kael’s diplomacy to secure passage to Waterdeep on a merchant’s barge in return for protection from notorious pirates along the sword coast. The captain of the barge calls down to them, “Get yer flea ridden carcasses on deck and secure yerselves below in the crews quarters. I’m fer fearing that we may need yer help yet if we’re to make to Waterdeep with our hides intact. Savvy?”

The companions make their way up the gangplank with ease and settle in to the crew’s quarters below deck. The ship is laden with supplies, goods for sale and trade, and precious treasures sure to fetch a good price at the markets in Waterdeep. Shortly after, the ship leaves port and begins its three day journey north-west along the sword coast to Waterdeep. On the second day at sea, the ship is making slow progress and tensions run high. Zanhorn and Arkamydies decide that now is a good time for a nap while Auris and Kael are feeling the sickness of the sea and are below decks having difficulty keeping their lunch from making an appearance. This leaves Variel who is fastidiously praying to his god in the corner with his great axe in hand. He lovingly caresses the holy symbol on the axe head and mutters fervent prayers to Bahamut. Castiel, being as wary and distrustful as he is, decides to position himself on a stool by the stairway to the upper deck with everyone in sight. It is in his nature to be wary of everything that takes place and is good that he is.

From his position, Castiel can barely make out the sound of metal on wood; something that strikes him as odd as a sound to be heard on a ship. It strikes him as odd mainly because he noticed earlier that none of the crew members carried weapons and therefore metal on board should be scarce and no sound above decks should come from metal. Alerted that something may be amiss, he climbs the stairs and, as he crests the top of the stairs, notices the last grappling hook get pulled into place. He rushes up the last few stairs to be assaulted with the sight of a fast looking pirate vessel securing itself to the side of the merchant’s ship. He mumbles to himself, “Dire straits indeed.”

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