Into Dragon's Den, Part 1

En route to Zarash'ak, the party was ambushed on their boat by a group of dolgaunts occupying varying levels and roles. One vainly demanded that they hand over the silver key, while the rest positioned themselves atop the cabin thanks to a combination of high Dexterity scores and training in Stealth. Well, except for the two artillery trawling a raft to the side. They were safely out of melee range and had a clear shot at most everyone. Moxie and Hawkeye wanted to resolve things peacefully, or perhaps just delay initiative rolls for a bit since Lwaxana and Heien were...well...indisposed. With an "Endurance-based skill challenge". *cough cough*

Obviously, words failed, initiative was rolled anyway, and half the party was forced to fight without pants. Although I was able to grab almost everyone at the start, Hawkeye was able to take out the pair of artillery on the raft almost instantly thanks to a crit and area-effect attacks. I think that, despite the defender having no armor and people being outnumbered, things were made far too easy thanks to most of the party testing out fresh level 5 daily attacks. At one point, a dolgaunt managed to snag the silver key to everyone's chagrin, but as predicted he was frozen and then shattered on the following turns. Yes, I predicted that turn of events. My players seem to enjoy selecting powers that specifically fuck with me.

They rolled into Zarash'ak without further incident, except for the part where we spent a half hour discussing how they would sneak into the city without paying for documentation that would have allowed them to loot freely and not be taxed and/or arrested for it. Eventually they took the honest route and told a guard what happened, visited with one of the House Tharashk leaders to explain things in detail, and learned that there was a lot more going on than they expected: in addition to mass citizen unrest in the city, mining camps were being overrun by bizarre monsters or razed by orc warbands. Hawkeye immediately volunteered to speak to orc leaders to the House patriarch's delight. He granted them claim over all treasure previously discovered with the exception of dragonshards (since they were now a hot commodity).

The next item on the agenda was to fence a bag of holding's-worth of gilt fish idols. I informed them that they could only trade so many to merchants, and after prompting them for various skill checks that they easily succeeded at, managed to ditch 1,000 gp worth. Afterwards the party split up, with Hawkeye and Moxie going to fence their gilt fish idols while Heien and Lwaxana sought council from elan Signers.

The talk with the Signers was brief, but Heien and Lwaxana learned that the documents found in Obed's shrine pertained to creating gates linked to Xoriat, corrupting the Gatekeeper seals, and communing with old stars drifting through the far reaches of the Astral Sea. Fearing that their foe might very well be one of the old stars, he decided to send missives to other Signers to determine the best, if any, course of action, and informed the pair that he'd get back to them in a week's time.

To make a bad day worse, Moxie and Hawkeye ran into one of Dragon's catspaws, an eccentrically crazy orc with an aberrant dragonmark named 'Nogs, whom both knew of as an extremely dangerous criminal throughout most of western Khorvaire. He informed Moxie that she had three days to deliver 600 gp of dragonshards, after which Dragon would permit him to do whatever he wanted to her. Not in so few nor pleasant words, mind you.

Once the party met back up, they exchanged information and determined that they didn't quite like Moxie being threatened by that. This resulted in another lengthy debate about whether they should just leave and try to find those orc clans causing so much fuss, try and trick Nogs into thinking that Moxie got the dragonshards and beating his ass, or kicking in the door of another dragonshard smuggler and taking his stash. Eventually they settled on option three and through another series of easily succeeded skill checks found out that a dwarf named "Red"--Moxie's employer and one of Dragon's right-hand men--was holed up in an abandoned warehouse in the seediest side of a port district.

They went there and found only a single half-orc sitting by the door. Moxie wanted to try the diplomatic route, got told to fuck off, and went around back. I feel bad because Beth (Lwaxana) fired up Glib Limerick and words of friendship, but none of them detected the trap on the backdoor. I mean, Hawkeye suspected as such, but only one person tried Perception and failed. I figured that they'd all give it a look for good measure and a +6 Aid Another bonus. The trap was several flasks of alchemist's fire rigged to the other side to the tune of 3d6 + 3 fire damage and a push, which alerted a pair of arbalesters situated in a storeroom. They opened fire on a prone Lwaxana, which basically ruined her plan to take the lair by farce.

The arbalesters opened up on a bunch of prone targets, which was beneficial since they got a -2 to hit. They beat on them for a round before some of Red's thugs peeked in to see what the ruckus was about. Heien managed to more or less block them in a crowded room, allowing Hawkeye to mow them down using at-will attacks since most were minions. I'd also placed an arcane crane in the room, which Lwaxana was able to use to pick up and drop an arbalester in the water after a few rounds of fiddling with the controls. One the minions almost got away, but Moxie planted an enchanted dagger in his ass, whose dying screams alerted a warforged on the catwalk that something was amiss. Rolling out numerous encounter attacks, he hammered almost all the party at once with area-effect force attacks before being scrapped.

We called it there due to time, but the encounter wasn't over since another gaggle of thugs are scheduled to arrive before the five-minute mark.

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