18 Elient, The Manor House of the Stanipavel Family
Having waved Anahita and Connor off on their tour of the dairy and animal hospital, the remaining ‘Stoners head to bed. As they each retire they reflect on the unusual mode of transport that their friends left in, a horseless carriage, or as Vittori and his wife Gabby described it, a Hot Carriage. It looked like an oversize carriage with armour plating attached to it and a large contraption attached to the rear, a contraption which shuddered, hummed and gave off a significant amount of heat. Vittori explained that this was one of his father’s pet projects. Rudyard Stanipavel had always been fascinated with the technical, with building, engineering and with understanding the world around him.
Now, as the family wealth grew to a level that allowed some budget for investigating these passions he found himself heading up the Research and Development branch of the growing Stanipavel concern. The Hotcar is the most significant project that Rudyard is currently coordinating.
The next morning, after a pleasant breakfast, the team are summoned to the office of Dragar and Clara. There they find Dragar staring out of the window, apparently distracted with other matters, Clara seated at the large, imposing desk that dominates the room and two other individuals, Vittori Sn. and Tagen Brunt. Clara introduces Vittori as her eldest son and also the holder of the Stanipavel purse-strings, the CFO, if you will. Dragar explains that Tagen is his son-in-law, husband of his only daughter, Doloreth, and father to three of his four grandsons (the other being Vittori Jr.). Jonathon notices an almost imperceptible moment of recognition between J’Wi and Vittori but the moment is so fleeting that he wonders if it really happened at all. Tagen is an impressive physical presence, standing at least 6’ 3” and moving with that grace and control of someone experienced in the martial arts.
The meeting begins and it becomes clear that Tagen is the military brains for House Stanipavel, his interaction with and interrogation (albeit a polite and positive interrogation) of Jonathon shows that he has a keen tactical mind and some experience with combat. Jonathon, following Maena’s very consciously modeled lead with regards to etiquette, gives a good account of himself, and despite his protestations regarding being the Ankheg expert, he delivers sound, measured ideas and advice for Tagen to start molding into a strategy.
At one point Clara excuses herself and leaves the meeting to meet with another person, a traveler who has arrived from Luskan; Remy, peering around the door frame sees a figure dressed in a traveling cloak and hood, before the door is closed.
Discussion continues regarding tactics and Jonathon asks about how many people might be available for an attack and Tagen tells him that Dragar is comfortable with releasing two of the junior wranglers, Billy Bonny and Bill Hyshock and the two guards they met on the road the previous evening, Toofas Auldenboots and Harda Sneels. Joining the hired help will be Tagen’s three sons, Rufal, Dragar Jr. and Takken. The Brunt brothers are all trained as warriors, although it is with a perceptible disappointment that Tagen mentions that their actual combat experience has so far been very limited.
At this point Clara returns, explaining that she had a short political discussion to take care of with her Luskan visitor, she also mentions in a low-voiced aside to Dragar that Plussa Xange will meet him when his current business is done, in the meantime she is resting in the dining room where she is receiving a meal and drink.
Clara then takes charge of the meeting asking just how miserly her husband and son have been in negotiations. After some back and forth she declares that an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay. That eventually settles on an agreed 10gp per person per day that the Ankheg mission continues and a bounty of 1200gp should the queen be destroyed. Clara also seems to notice that J’Wi has been withdrawn and engages her directly, asking her what thoughts she has on the best way to tackle the infestation. J’Wi replies without hesitation or emotion answering, “Poison the water supply and food sources.”
This to-the-point, no-nonsense reply, delivered with no apparent thinking time, shocks Jonathon, and this time he is convinced that he sees a very real exchange pass between J’Wi and the senior Vittori. He considers asking what is going on but with his usual excellent timing, it is at this point that Remy decides to join the discussion. Previously struggling to concentrate on the talk of tactics and recompense his interest is peaked when Clara asks if there are any other considerations that might interest the PCs; Remy’s mind casts itself back to the games he regarded the previous evening. He asks Clara if he might also be paid in kind, specifically in the form of the the ivory dice set from the lounge. Clara looks mildly amused by this request, but agrees to it, much to Remy’s delight.
Maena also takes this opportunity to ask if there might be the opportunity for Rudyard Stanipavel to travel to Circlestone and become involved in the construction of the new grain store. She has recognised the potential for leveraging Rudyard’s “early adopter” interests to deliver something special to her hometown. Dragar says that he is almost certain that Rudyard would jump at such a chance, and the deal comes together.
Agreeing that an assault combining J’Wi’s poisoning idea, explosives to collapse tunnels and a team, possibly led by Maena’s magical location spells, to hunt down and destroy the queen is the way forward the meeting comes to a close. Dragar says that he will draw up official an contract and also perform the traditional “safe-fasting” of the payment gold; he will call for the team when he is ready to present those.
As the PCs are leaving the office Vittori Snr. asks J’Wi if he might have a moment in private with her. She agrees and the two of them head into the formal reception room opposite the office. Vittori carefully closes the door behind J’Wi and himself.
Remy picks up his dice set, excited to see if such beautiful and expensive dice roll with more luck than regular dice. He is also delighted to have the chance to arm wrestle Brutus Mangle, the household head of security. He loses the bout, but he gains the admiration of Brutus.
The three ‘Stoners then meet up with the wranglers Bonny Billy and Billy Hyshock and spend an amusing amount of time testing out their powder-pushers, handheld projectile weapons that use controlled amounts of exploding black powder to propel metal balls towards a target. These are clearly devastating when they deliver a hit, but they do take experience to use accurately and they require several seconds to reload safely. The 'pushers are another of Rudyard’s development projects, originally constructed as a tool for humanely dispatching cattle, the offensive potential of these experiments became obvious pretty early in development.
After establishing that the 'pushers would be useful against Ankheg, Maena, Jonathon and Remy find themselves standing outside the main house, alone and with time in their hands. Jonathon takes the opportunity to raise his concerns about J’Wi, asking the others if they have noticed any change in her behavior. Remy responds in the negative but Maena confirms that she has noticed a very slight variance.
Suddenly a rider appears, travelling with some speed straight towards the house, and with a slightly stressed looking Harda clinging onto to her around the waist. The rider dismounts her horse and mounts the steps into the house in one fluid motion, rushing past the friends. Maena asks Brutus, who has wandered over to see what is transpiring, if he recognizes the rider, an elven woman, dressed in a way which suggests that she is a ranger of some sort. Brutus confirms that she is called Ayepry L’oniel, a ranger who regularly visits the Manor to share news from the north.
Alfredo then arrives asking if the adventurers are available to join Clara and Dragar, the contracts are ready for their perusal and signing and there is news that Ms Clara feels might be of interest to the friends. They follow him back to the office, with J’Wi joining them en route, leaving the dining room where she appears to have been talking with the visitor from Luskan.
In the office they are quickly introduced to Ayepry (who Remy feels an immediate affinity for, although he has no idea why)as who then goes on to explain that she has noticed disturbing behavior amongst the northern orc tribes. They began gathering at one location some weeks ago, but not with the usual levels of in fighting that one would expect. More concerning there are “other” amongst the orcs, humans (so far as Ayepry could determine) all dressed in identical heavy robes, in her opinion they seemed to belong to some sort of religious order, but not one she was familiar with. She did observe them conducting rituals together at various points, but the language they used was not familiar to her and she did not recognise any of the rites she witnessed. The orcs were gathered at an orc ghetto known as K’ra’tll, it is the largest orc “settlement” in the region. It is about 5-7 days march from Sunrise Pass, itself about a days march from Circlestone.
Ayepry then takes her leave after promising to try and stop in at Circlestone to alert the town as to the potential threat in the mountains.
The afternoon comes to a close with Maena signing the contract on behalf of the group and them all witnessing the depositing of the 1200gp and another 240gps to cover up to 4 days of pay for each ‘Stoner. The gold is placed into a safe built into the wall over the fireplace of the office.
The friends are told to be ready for an early departure in the morning (horses will be supplied) and are left to their own devices, and to await the return of Anahita and Connor.