- Arrival at Gurum
- Troubles at Gurum
- Nighttime trip to the Marchlands
The next morning the expedition is roused by Duffy, as per usual. Tig attempts to tell Melissa and Duffy about his foray into the fog the previous night, which interests Melissa, but irritates Duffy greatly: “I didn’t hire you to go die in some evil fog: I hired you to kill ants! This is a problem we can look into later, but for now, we’re on an ant hunt. Wander off again and I’ll kill you myself!”
The party proceeds south and east through the foothills to the location that has been indicated to Duffy. Now that the expedition is off of the roads, travel with the cart is more difficult and a journey of only fifteen miles ends up taking a good part of the day.
The emissaries are waiting for the party when they arrive. The rendezvous location is on a large flat hilltop that sits in the middle of a wide valley. The emissaries have set up a camp for themselves here- nine tents of high quality red and gold fabric are arranged in a circle. Each is emblazoned with a sigil of three gold rings pulling at the apexes of a strangely dimensioned central triangle.
The emissaries all wear masks that conceal their faces. Likewise, they don red monks robes and gauntlets so that every part of their body is covered.
Duffy, Melissa, Joey and Bill go to meet with the emissaries while the rest of the party is told to hang back.
The players, from a distance, watch a conversation start between Duffy and the leader of the emissaries- this proceeds for a few minutes until a few of the emissaries step away to pull back the fabric from one of the tents, which turns out not to be a tent at all, but a cage that had been draped with fabric. The emissaries continue to pull away the fabric from two mare cages. Duffy looks astonished for a second, then begins to gesture and shout angrily.
Cross words are exchanged between Duffy and the emissary, with Melissa watching the interchange with a look of disgust. Then Duffy and Melissa hang back to consult with Joey and Bill, theres more angry gestures and shouting between the four while Duffy holds his head like he has a huge headache. Finally Duffy throws his hands into the air in a gesture of defeat, then walks back with Melissa to talk to the emissaries.
Melissa starts discussions with the emissaries this time. She gestures to Duffy, then gesture to the cages. The emissary says something to which Duffy responds with some angry fist waving and yelling. The other emissaries reach for their swords, then Melissa holds up her hands and say something that diffuses the situation.
The emissary says a few more words. Duffy and Mallisa nod a few times, then turn back to Joey and Bill. They all consult one more time, then come back to the group. Duffy climbs up onto one of the wagons and delivers the following speech:
_“Men (and ladies): I’ve done you a bit of a disservice. Through a misunderstanding between myself and our patron for this expedition, I’ve put ourselves into a much more dangerous situation than I previously understood and presented to you upon hire.
We are not here to slay ants and collect the corpses. We are here to capture live ants and deliver them here in cages that will be supplied to us.
In defense of my own oversight, there was no talk of cages mentioned or required when we were hired, which led me to understand that we were to be engaged in the act of killing only. Now that we have arrived, our employer has provided us with his own cages for our use.
Obviously this is a much more dangerous task. I’ve negotiated with our liaison for a higher price per ant- an additional 200 silver per ant.
Additionally: I’m a man who pays for his mistakes, and I owe you all something extra for this one. Out of my own pocket: five extra silver per ant to all of you… on top of the lay you’re getting. And even more so: I will pay five gold to the first of you to come up with a safe and effective scheme for capturing these ants alive.
We have five days to capture as many ants as we can. There’s great money to be made here! And you lot are the crew to do it! Can I count on you?”_
There are a few grumbles from the group, but most shout their assent. One of the redshirts, however, grabs his pack and departs towards Gurum.
The carts are then rolled over to the emissaries’ tents, where the three large cages are waiting. The cages are incredibly light despite the construction, which has the bars placed close together. Long bars for carrying the cages are welded about four feet up from the bottom of the cages and give them the look of sedan chairs. Eight men can carry the cages with a safe distance between them and the ants that will be placed inside. One side of the cage slides up to open and a bolt holds it locked in place when closed.
Some rearrangement of the equipment in the carts is made. The ants , the party is told, can be found farther in, to the east as indicated by the main emissary. This is the first time any of the player characters has heard the emissaries speak, and they’re alarmed to discover that the voice of the emissary is suspiciously throaty with strong hints of a lisp.
The party departs from the emissaries’ camp and travels a mile or two farther up the valley where they set up their own camp.
- Reports from scouts of an ant trail to the northeast
- Scout ant arrives in camp & is captured