Tagavorner Haykakan

Trial and Errors

Caves of Chaos, part 6

Arxire Coilbone, tiefling warlock (Rory)
Erdon Thistleborn, elf cleric (Michael G.)
Felix, gnome wizard (Nico)
Gogh, half-elf rogue (Brian)
-Esh, his donkey
Mathis, human monk (Zach)
Misty, elf paladin (Allie)
Naivara, elf druid (Janine)

RIP:
Beezmo, halfling druid
-Drex, his mastiff
Kiko, Naivara’s ferret
Lichen, drow warlock
Tyriel Morlane, half-elf ranger

Our heroes made camp in Fingerpop’s chambers, while Gogh and Beezmo, who’d returned to the party after some solo exploration, took first watch. Before long, they spotted three hobgoblins approaching quietly from the storage room hallway. While sneaking back to the group, warning them, and formulating a coordinated attack strategy was an option, the two sentries and Drex elected to fire on the creatures from the shadows. The well-trained goblinoids returned fire, striking Beezmo with three cruelly barbed crossbow quarrels, and the Feathered Horde druid fell dead on the cavern floor. His loyal mastiff Drex howled ferociously and leapt forward to avenge his fallen master, but alas, he too was cut down by three swift longsword strokes.

The commotion alerted the rest of the party, who rushed out to help. Felix put two of the hobgoblins to sleep, then covered all three with an unctuous magical grease, which sent the third tumbling onto his back. Erdon and Gogh drew swords and leapt on top of the pile, while Arxire attacked from the rear.

With two of his comrades slain, the lone remaining hobgoblin fled back toward the storage chamber. Erdon and Gogh gave chase, but the elf priest was brought down by the fleeing hob’s crossbow. By the time the rest of the party caught up, the creature had disappeared through the secret door. Searching the bodies of the slain, they discovered orders from a Lieutenant Halwarg, instructing these three to ascertain from Fingerpop who had been attacking the goblins and how the chieftain’s final defense had gone. Felix also discovered a hobgoblin sergeant’s thumb ring, which he decided to wear as a bracelet.

Realizing that they were no match for a hobgoblin army in their current state, the party snuck out of the canyon under cover of darkness. They were surprised to hear the sound of hooves and carriage wheels on the road that was too dangerous for tradesman and civilians to use. They took cover in the bushes beside the road to see who was brave enough to travel here.

It was a single carriage, recognized by Felix as an Emperor’s Justice vehicle. These traveling tribunals roved Cavalcast dispensing what they proclaimed to be Tahsatran justice, and what most commoners whispered was persecution. The party couldn’t see who was inside the ornately carved black carriage, but sitting beside the driver was an enormous creature clad in sooty black plate mail.

Arxire stepped out from hiding and hailed the carriage, at which point the armored creature spread a pair of vast reptilian wings, swept down from the carriage, and held the gleaming blade of this claymore at the tiefling’s throat. The carriage thundered away into the night as Arxire introduced himself as a traveling dignitary who’d been waylaid and needed assistance. He presented the knight with documents backing his claim, which the knight recognized as forgeries. As the rest of the party looked on from the bushes, the hulking armored beast shredded Arxire’s documents, grabbed him by the neck with a gauntleted fist, and flew off into the night.

It was dawn when our heroes marched into Fairbanks, though the arrival of the Emperor’s Justice had clearly unnerved the citizenry. Shutters were pulled tight, taverns were empty, few people were in the streets, and those who were kept their voices down. Gogh and Misty made straight for the town hall, in front of which was parked the black carriage.

Inside they found Lord Mayor Whitebeard nervously presenting the latest news to a sharp-featured, black- and purple-garbed woman seated in a plush throne. Behind her and on either side stood the hulking knight and a plump, elderly woman who giggled quietly to herself.

The mayor introduced Gogh to the magistrate of the Emperor’s Justice, Baroness Talvea Quartermaine, stating that he had been proclaimed a Hero of Fairbanks in recognition of recent deeds. The Baroness peppered him with a few questions, which he fielded respectfully. He then gave a full report on the progress of his party’s mission to eliminate the rising threat in Blackstar Canyon, presenting goblin ears as evidence and for the bounty the mayor had issued. The paladin Misty spoke up as well, and her eloquent request for the return of Felix’s confiscated property was granted.

The Baroness informed them that her colleague Sir Hazzad had captured a brigand on the road the night before, and that he and two others in the town jail would be tried on the morrow. Gogh suggested that those found guilty be turned over to him, so that they might prove themselves useful to his mission or die trying. The Baroness was intrigued, and said that if the accused were found guilty of minor crimes, she would consider it. But that if any of them were guilty of major crimes, they would naturally have to be executed. Gogh and Misty took their leave and found their companions at the Temple of Life.

Felix had presented Sister Marla with a beautiful gold- and silver-threaded tapestry he’s found in Fingerpop’s chambers and had pledged to aid Erdon in his quest to vanquish the source of her labyrinthine nightmares. In return the priestess had named him a Friend of the Temple of Life.

Erdon had donated all of his gold to the temple and then questioned Marla about the Emperor’s Justice. He learned much about the tribunals’ bloody history and questionable interrogation techniques. Erdon confessed that his companion had been arrested the night before and requested that Marla vouch for him at the next day’s trial. She agreed.

Felix disappeared into the archives to learn more about the town jail. He discovered that the builder of the town hall was a prosperous green grocer who’d been elected mayor long ago. He’d used the town hall basement for food storage, and six chutes had been installed to facilitate access to it. When the basement had been converted to the town’s jail, the chutes had been clogged with rocks, and large potted plants had been placed atop their trap doors. Felix then visited the old farrier Pollack Pawstorm, who confirmed this information. He also told Felix that in his youth, he’d seen the dragonborn knight Sir Hazzad fight during Oldberk’s last rebellion. He’d witnessed Hazzad reducing entire legions of dwarves to charred piles with his fire breath, while cleaving hundreds more with his giant sword.

Felix sensed that a jailbreak was the only way to save his companion, so he used his affinity for small woodland creatures to summon a squirrel, who he instructed to sneak into the basement of the town hall and deliver a note to his incarcerated friend.

But Arxire had been plenty busy himself. He’d made contact with two other arrestees, a human and an elf, both accused of theft. The human was inconsolable, but the elf listened intently as Arxire explained his intention to escape the jail, fight his accusers, and escape. The elf swore to help.

Just then, Felix’s squirrel made its way into the basement, then panicked as the guard began chasing it around with his halberd. Eventually, the brave squirrel was cloven in twain, but the half with the note was within Arxire’s reach. The note helped Arxire recognize the plastered-over vegetable chutes in the ceiling, and he and the elf picked through enough of the plaster to reveal the tunnels, tightly choked with rocks but no mortar.

Arxire then engaged the lone guard, a dwarf named Quincy. He bribed the guard with his signet ring, and the guard agreed to speak on his behalf at the trial the next day, if he could do so reasonably and without endangering himself or his family.

Back above ground, our party was down to two options: attempt to break Arxire out of jail that night, or take their chances with the trail the next morning. Seeking guidance, Gogh had paid a visit to the mystic Carlin, who’d given him valuable insight into the nature of this particular magistrate, the Baroness Quartermaine. Armed with the knowledge that she was fanatical and harsh, but unquestionably devoted to justice at all costs, the party opted for the trial and retired for the night.

Unfortunately, Arxire’s evening would not be restful, as he was paid a visit by Lady Wimsette and Lord Hazzad. The latter looked on while the former tortured the tiefling to within an inch of his life. Arxire confessed much, but he gave only the truth, his strong will saving him from confessing to some of the wilder accusations levied at him. Hazzad then tossed him back into his cell to await his fate come morning.

The trial in the market square was sparsely attended. While commoners enjoy the spectacle of a good beheading, the threat posed by the Emperor’s Justice was enough to keep them out of the square, though no doubt many were huddled behind their shutters watching intently.

The elf accused of thievery was first on the docket. There were none who would speak on his behalf, and he could present no evidence in his defense. In desperation, he accused Arxire of plotting a jailbreak the night before and attempting to enlist his help in the scheme. But the guard Quincy stepped forward, stating that he’d been on duty the night before and that Arxire had been a model prisoner: quiet, respectful, and obedient. The Baroness proclaimed the elf guilty, and before he could utter a final prayer, Hazzad’s sword had separated his head from his shoulders.

Next up was Arxire, who stood accused of brigandry, fraud, and forgery. Gogh stepped forward first, stating that Arxire was in fact a companion of theirs who’d gone missing while scouting the canyon. Gogh said he’d been unaware that Arxire was the arrested brigand who the Baroness had mentioned, but that he was an important member of their crew. Felix presented the hobgoblin ring as evidence supporting Arxire’s claims of a direr threat than goblins existed in the canyon. The entire party spoke to his character, all of which was corroborated by the town’s priestess Sister Marla.

With Hazzad’s bloody sword resting on Arxire’s shoulder, the Baroness proclaimed him innocent of the major crime of brigandy. However, he was found guilty of the lesser crimes of fraud and forgery. She drew from him a drop of blood, which she smeared into a massive tome, registering him as a convicted forger throughout the realm. She then turned him over to Gogh, proclaiming that from that day forth, the two were inexorably tied in the eyes of the emperor. If Arxire were to ever commit these crimes again, he would be sentenced to death, and Gogh would share that fate.

Arxire was then released into Gogh’s custody, and after the final accused was found guilty and executed, the Emperor’s Justice took their places in the black carriage once more and drove out of Fairbanks.

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