Session 2, Mission 1: Case of the Missing Grimoires
When last we left our heroes, they had more suspects than they had facts on the ground, and they were going nowhere fast. Aurora had an in with Sarvag, seeing every book he chose, and what sections he needed copied down for his notes. Mairenne and Antis were getting along swimmingly. Annel and and Mercillina had decent successes connecting with their targets of inquiry, but nothing too insightful had come forth. Let alone the possibility of it being the cleaning staff.
The next day arrived and various groups met up. Aurora and Merci were the first of the PCs to arrive, while Sarvag was waiting till dawn's light touched the door, that being the signal that they were open for business. Everyone else rolled in slowly through the morning. Nadezhda started to make friends with Sarvag's soldier's who had set themselves up in the tavern across the way from the library.
Little directly occurred in the morning; however, Sarvag, Crito and Kinarao Epukena all managed to present compelling letters to force Antis to open the vault (i.e., they had sufficiently powerful patrons where it would be unwise to anger) - where the most sensitive of histories and stories, as well as the most powerful of grimoires.
You know, the type that were stolen and recovered well on their way to the Diabolist? Yeah those.
Antis, realizing that he had been outmaneuvered, agreed to open up the vault to all. However, as it would take time to unlock the ensorcelled locks and restrictions on the vault, it would be this afternoon. Antis draws Mairenne aside and asks her for a favor - could she ensure that her vouched for persons (i.e., the party) annoy and disrupt the studying of the other three individuals.
Meanwhile, soldiers are soldiers, and Nadezhda quickly ingrates herself with them. What can we say? Even the Crusader's troops like to bitch and moan. They are here on a detached detail because there are various regulations that state that commanders are not allowed to travel alone. Apparently, all of these rules are in the little black books that every Crusader's soldier carries with them and is expected to have memorized and be able to recite at all times.
Mairrenne spreads the word to the rest of the cadre, and Nadezhda convinces a local stray cat to act as a look out in case action is required on her part on the large meat shield.
Once the vault is opened, sigils pulsing through the green and gold spectrum, the true research for Sarvag, Kinarao and Crito begins. Sarvag and Kinarao make a beeline for the grimoires of summoning, and thus banishing, the demons; while Crito heads to the histories. The Cadre sits and watches while making pretenses to be loud, annoying, and intrusive.
The afternoon passes, and Annel sees Crito, the young priest of the Gods of Light attempt to hide a book on his person. She forthrightly confronts him, and he panics, driving a knee into her abdomen knocking her to ground gasping for breath and he begins to make a break for the exit.
And it is here that I ask for a initiative roll as the Cadre starts unleashing hell upon the poor priest. Aurora zaps him with a massive lightning bolt, and Merci hits him with blast of sound and with the two blast combined, they send books, pages, and paper everywhere, some a bit toasty with the side effects of throwing lightning in a library.
Wielding primal forces of the universe is like that.
Crito, deafened and staggered, continues his mad chase; the party, barring Aurora, pursues at a high rate. She suspects that Crito is a distraction and stays behind to watch Sarvag and Kinarao.
Outside Nadezhda gets involved; while the Crusader's forces in 'hostile' territory and not sure what's going on, are content to watch from the sidelines. Crito is hammered by a holy blast from Mairenne, and Nadezhda finishing him with a massive swing of her axe, though turning it to Crito with the flat of his blade. The poor priest flies about 10' landing in a crumple of flesh on the ground in front of a man dressed in dark leathers, flanked by a massive hulk of a man as well as several other thugs in the crowd.
"Well, I guess I didn't need to come looking for him after all," says Marcus, taking the book from Crito's satchel.
And the cadre, minus Aurora who is still inside, takes the fight to Marcus. And it is a bloodbath, but mostly on the thieves' side as party members drop as not only does Marcus' crew have thugs, they also have archers.
Combined forces? So not fair. Speaking of not fair, let's return inside where Aurora is alone with Sarvag and Kinarao and all the rare and powerful books. Nothing could go wrong, right?
Exactly. Aurora quickly notices that Kinarao is pocketing grimoires and challenges her, praying to the gods that Sarvag isn't in on it with her. There's a brief exchange, and Kinarao calls out "Uzbek, come to my side" and dark flames erupt around her as a demon begins to emerge from another world.
This is so not a good time to be outnumbered and outgunned.
Switching back to the to street fight, Marcus does eventually fall, and the big lunk is on his last legs, but the party is gravely injured (Merci had to make death saves) and the archers are by and large untouched and with better positioning, so it doesn't look good for the home team.
So I, in my benevolence, offer the players a choice, we can continue the double battles, or they can accept a campaign loss to be left alive, but the bad guys get away to fight another day. The players, after a short deliberation accept the loss....
And Sarvag, a massive sword materializing out of one arm and shield from the other arm, charges in, sending Aurora flying out of the way to impact with the wall and lose consciousness as the demon, summoner and forgeborn do battle.
Outside, the lunk grabs Marcus and the book and make a fighting retreat down the street, and plunk a few arrows into Crito to ensure that his story is never told.
The cadre recombines and it has been a war zone - the vault is scorched and damages, the smell of sulfur and brimstone are heavy and rank in the air. The city's militia arrive and begin to assess damage, and Mairenne begins to try and find a story that is something close to the truth, but keeps the party's unacknowledged status of Sigil Bearers intact for a bit longer.
Because as Sigil Bearers, they can just materialize the sigil and all this goes away for the good of the empire. Antis, understanding what happened pulled the young captain to the side and explained the facts of life to him, utilizing his long history and experience with the city to great advantage. (Hey, Mairrenne's schmoozing had to pay off....)
The case was closed, the noblewoman demon summoner escaped, the thieves got the book of demonic history for whatever purpose they wanted it for, and now the cadre has to write an after action report to explain this all to Vasorious Sicam.
Good ole Uncle Vaz.
The session went fairly well except for two things - the PCs split the party AND kicked off the two toughest planned encounters simultaneously. The two fights - between the thugs and the PCs and the summoner and the PCs were both designed to be Level +1 or Level +2 fights, because as a rule I run fewer fights and make them more critical and tougher. The loss of the sorceress's artillery really hampered the PCs, because it turned the archers into a massive force multiplier because while they were mooks, they were mooks who weren't being effectively attacked.
And I think with this fight I'm done with rolling for initiative unless it adds something to the game, I think I'll be switching to "popcorn initiative" as used in other systems, where whoever just went picks the next character to go (NPC or PC) and the round ends once everyone has a turn.