Sunday, January 12, 1400
The imaginary clock moves past midnight as our brave heroes bravely run away from the Catilus manor, Denica in tow, fire raging in the background. Upon reaching the bottom of the manorial hill, our heroes decide that right now is the time to argue over where to go. About ten minutes later, it's decided: "We'll head back to town, then figure it out." Denica decides that now is the time to ask about all of the blood on Callidus’ armor. He cleverly deflects the question. “It’s nothing to worry about.”
Kottenberg is a ten to fifteen minute walk over from the bottom of the Catilus' hillside. As the group arrives, a town guard is fast asleep, blanket warmly sitting over his huddled form, empty wine bottle fallen over by his side. The group loudly clangs by, thousands of copper coins jingling, as the guard continues his deep slumber.
Our protagonists walk through the quiet nightscape of Kottenberg. All of its inhabitants are soundly asleep. Not a whisper could be heard, except for loud yelling about "where do we go now" and "how do we get there?" Milan (2-3 days walk away), Rome (a simple ferry from Genoa), Nice (2-3 days walk or a day’s sail), and Switzerland (2-3 days walk from Milan) are all brought up. After only a modicum of walking and arguing in the dead of night, a decision is reached: the group will find a log, ford down the river with it, and go back to Genoa.
In the northern part of the city, a small saw mill powered by water turbine sat idle across the backdrop of the star-filled sky. Using his herculean strength, Lucius drags a massive log from a platform and into the river, with him and everyone else barrelling into the river. The cool mountain water serves to obscure tracks, smell, and sound as the long hike south-southeast to Genoa begins.
Fording a river is tough work. Our emancipators and their emancipatee move at half-speed.
About two hours past midnight, right near where the “legitimate unemployed” were milling about, a strong smell of venison filled the air. Our party decides that it's not worth investigating now since it wasn't before.
Genoa is another two hours away at this pace. An hour and a half in, everyone hops out of the river, soaking wet. A guardpost is passed without issue before the group enters the town proper at a nice, relaxing 4am.
Jean, ever-paranoid, decides that a hotel is out of the question. Instead, a house abandoned from the black death on the outskirts of town is broken into. The house is a small duplex, with a main living area. Jean examines the abandoned, dusty home for traps but comes up short, save for a chair with a leg on the verge of breaking. An uncomfortable couch and a dusty rug are claimed for sleeping quarters instead of the ample bedroom space upstairs.
Six hours of sleep later, our heroes decide that a trip to Callidus' old contact, quest-giver, and smuggler, Hopi, is in order. The group, Denica included, move out into Genoa proper towards Hopi and the bathhouses. En route, careful observation notes far more police and guards milling about than before. Something has them on edge.
Our heroes arrive at the central bathhouse and discreetly enter through the back. Past a corner and down the hallway is Hopi’s office, near one of the boilers. As our conquerors arrive to the bathmaster's door, a police officer barges out, nods to our protagonists, and goes on his way.
Hopi's office is as barren as ever- a scant few papers on a few wooden boards he calls a desk. Hopi is seated at his desk, more tired than usual. “Ah, my friends,” he greets the party with all of the warmth and energy he can muster, “what can I do for you?”
“We need to leave,” says almost everyone in unison. Aspen disagrees- there's unfinished business at the Catilus Manor. The party by in large disregards any moral compunctions the black of bird of terror may have and asks for advice on getting the hell out of dodge. Additionally, Callidus wants forged freeman paperwork drawn up for Denica before their disappearance into parts unknown.
“Well,” Hopi began, “your slave’s paperwork won't be problem. As for leaving, here are the options for you that I see,”
- Leave by way of smuggler’s vessel. Hopi knows the captains of the Tryphus, the Augustus, and the Acasta, right on the far Western side of town (all members of the Simplicorum Shipping Societas).
- Run away from Genoan guards through the city's sewer system.
- Just walk out of the city and pray to Nyx that no one knows who the party is.
Once everyone has escaped, the options are to go to Milan (Roman), Nice (French), Rome (Roman) and Switzerland (Holy Roman). Each has benefits and maluses.
- Milan- closest major Roman city, 2-4 days away
- Nice- closest French city, coastal, and 2-4 days away. Only 1 day away by boat. French means they presumably won't be wanted.
- Switzerland- 2-5 days north of Milan. Holy Roman, so our protagonists would likely get a heroes’ welcome. Unfortunately, must pass through Alps and a warzone to get there.
- Rome. Surely the bizarre flag from the previous chapter could be identified in the largest city in the West.
Callidus points out that no one knows who any of them are since no one has really seen them, nor do they know of their crimes (murder, infanticide). Some vigorous discussion about the knowledge and nature of their crimes ensues in Hopi's office, tipping the bathmaster off that this mobilization of the police force is for our heroes.
Despite this man of ill-repute knowing their secret, the group offers Hopi ten gold for some paperwork falsifying Denica as a free woman and the bathmaster's eternal quiet and confidence. The healthy discussion (and healthy amount of coin) prompts Hopi to offer up a private room in the back of the bathhouse for the party to discuss further.
In the private bath with high walls of white Italian marble and clear, warm water showing the decorative tiling underneath, our heroic murderers reconvene to discuss further. A servant girl walks in to fill their goblets of wine (gratis with the room, of course) as Aspen and Callidus jump right into the steaming pool. Jean thanks the girl, beckons her out, and stands- with the usual amount of paranoia- at the door.
Once the coast is clear (even though it always was), the discussion rages again. Jean believes the best course of action is one that gets the party away from Genoa. Lucius points out that Aspen, who was unusually quiet, points out that there are still unwilling slaves at the Catilus Manor that must be rescued. This presents an interesting idea: everyone expects our chain-breakers to run away, not to head back to the scene of the crime.
Before such a decision is made, Jean and Lucius decide that examining the ship angle out to a foreign city is a worthwhile course of action. The pair leave the comfort and warmth of the genoan bath house and make their way to the westernmost docks, home to our three ships.
As they approach the Augustus, the first of three holks, they come across two familiar faces: the two lucky criminals from chapter one. “What are you doing out here,” Jean asks, noticing their fully functioning, entirely-attached hands.
“Just working the docks,” the pair of ne’er-do-wells reply, "the chief is trying to get us on the straight and narrow.” Jean never trusts someone who may have regrown his or her limbs, especially dockhands with extra hands. He moves onto the Acasta without asking the pair for their names yet again.
At the Acasta, the pair find a more reasonable captain. “How much for berth to Rome for four,” Jean asks.
“30 gold,” the Captain responds, “and you are?”
“jyeeeaaaawwwwnn,” the mercenary responds in his haughtiest tone.
“Sounds french. Forty gold, then.”
“Fine, but we’ll pay when you set sail tomorrow.”
Negotiations done well.
Meanwhile, after leaving Aspen in the baths to slowly turn into a slow-cooked bird, Callidus wanders the streets hoping to understand the increased police presence. An orcish couple, several young adults playing a popular card game (Dragoncards: the Dragoning), and 4 black leather clad bards with thick German accents claiming to be nihilists yield nothing except a waste of two hours. When the streets yield nothing, Callidus makes his way to the man- Genoa’s main police station- hoping his history and connections as an urban bounty hunter will yield fruit.
And what fruit they yielded! Callidus walked into the station headquarters, happening upon a very bored looking human woman at a desk of dark wood. “Can I help you?” With great investigative tact, Callidus uses his reptile wiles to ask why there are so many guards around. “I heard some big shot was killed over in a small town nearby,” she whispered.
“Really? I heard about that,” replies our most roguish rogue, “and the undead!”
The receptionist immediately grabs the detective assigned to the case. Callidus is whisked away to a small interrogation room whereupon he repeated his information. The detective nods and grabs the chief.
The chief, a tough-as-nails elvish veteran and citizen, steps in moments later, asks a few more questions. Callidus cleverly doesn’t reveal anything incriminating while prying information from the chief. He learns that:
- The Catilus estate had been under investigation for over a year, back when they still lived in Genoa, for mysterious disappearances of slaves (who, on paper, still have some basic rights not conferred to, say, cattle, under the Roman Empire)
- Aulus Lucretius Catilus was a patrician (a high-ranking nobleman).
- There are no laws against necromancy in the Eternal Roman Empire and the largest school of necromancy is in Rome itself, in the catacombs.
- The chief had met who she believes to be the assassins two days ago. “A pair of heretic mercenaries or assassins from the Holy ‘Roman’ Empire. Both humans, heavily armed, and heavily armored.”
The chief asks if Callidus would be interested in another bounty, this one coming right from the Imperator. “A thousand gold pieces per assassin- alive- less if dead. If you come back tomorrow, the sculptor will be finished with their busts. They’ll be remade across the empire.” Whoever this Catilus person, he must have been an important person to the Empire.
It was at this point that our rogue, with his clerical wisdom and wizardly intelligence, noted the information, thanked the chief, said he’d get right on that, and got the fuck back to the baths. After relaying the information above to our remaining protagonists, a new plan was formulated around 17:30: get back to Kottenberg, free the remaining slaves, and make way for the Holy Roman Empire with a symbol of their kill in tow to be treated to a great triumph. If they were going to be called assassins, they might as well act like it. Failing that, there was always Nice, a French fortress city on the border with the Romans.
Before departing, Callidus passes Hopi another 5 gold for his silence and assistance with and for the beloved Denica. The old chef will work for Hopi in an official capacity for a fair day’s wage. Furthermore, Hopi agrees to send a message to the police explaining that the protagonists booked passage on the Acasta to Rome for 40 gold. Finally, Callidus gives 10 gold to Denica for her well-being and reminds her never to trust Hopi. "I'd never trust an egyptian," she responds.