RE: Swamped
Search the thief. Carrying a mask?
RE: Swamped
"If Custard's case is that well-known, she might just be using that as cover," you say. Or maybe she just blurted out Custard. "Arlene, could you do a quick search and see if she's carrying a mask? She might be involved in this other business."

Arlene nods, and the next thing you know she's poking around the thief. A few minutes later, she looks at you again.

"If she's got one, she's hiding it real well. But I did find something else interesting."

She holds out her hand and gives you a note.

"I can't tell what language this is in," you say, glancing at it.

"That's personal," the thief says quickly. "A love letter, and no, I'm not telling you who it's for."

That's the worst bluff you've seen in a good while. It might well be personal and have nothing to do with why she broke in, but you're convinced it's no love letter.

"Well, whoever your lucky paramour is, you'll just have to write them a new letter," you reply, putting it away. And now she looks worried. Now you're pretty sure it's not just personal.

"Shall I just take her to the town guard?" Arlene asks. "Or do you have any other questions for her before I do?"
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We don't have time to be delivering criminals to the town guard. Maybe it'd be possible to enlist her aid. Find out where she stands on the festival, perhaps?
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Considering all you've got on your plate, you have to imagine the town guard is even busier. Which means Arlene probably wouldn't be able to hand her over quickly, leaving you even shorter on help than you already are.

In fact, it would be good if you could get this thief to help you. But it's not as if you have any reason to trust her.

So maybe you can try and work that out.

"Got a quick one for now. Were you planning on going to the festival?"

The thief just stares at you.

"What festival?"

That's not a response you were expecting, and you don't think it's a bluff. Everyone else seems surprised as well.

But you can recover pretty quickly.

"The big one for Nual. Lots of people are here for it. You haven't heard about it?"

She definitely seems thrown off. You've got a guess as to why.

"Maybe you haven't been here long," you suggest. "Only arrived tonight, perhaps. So you haven't noticed all the fuss about the festival."

"Maybe," she says noncommitally. "So what?"

"Then I wonder why you said the name of a local hero, if one whose reputation is in question," you continue. "Or was it a coincidence? Maybe you were just hungry."

She doesn't say anything.

"I wonder if the note mentions Captain Custard," you muse.

She's still not saying anything, but her expression is speaking volumes on her behalf. Whoever hired her must have been desperate for a thief - professionals would be much better at bluffing.

You need to think carefully about where to lead the conversation from here.
RE: Swamped
She's got to be pretty desperate herself to have taken a job like this (or any job breaking into government buildings) in a place that's foreign to her, with no obvious experience bluffing her way out of tight situations. Odds are good that she's looking for any lucky break she can get. And maybe you can give it to her.

"We can help you deliver this note to its intended recipient. And keep you out of trouble with the town guards to boot, if you need an alibi. But you'll have to help us first. The name's Crow."
RE: Swamped
Come to think of it, she can't be having an easy time if she accepted a job like this at her skill level. Even if she can handle the break-in, she clearly had no plan if she were spotted or caught. Which is really risky if she's in an unfamiliar town.

So maybe you can offer her a better deal.

"You're clearly working for someone. Don't know who, or why, but I do know you got a pretty raw deal if they just sent you to some town you don't know the first thing about. Especially on a messy night like tonight."

She gives you the look of someone who's trying very hard to pretend not to be surprised.

"But you know what? I also don't especially care right now. Whoever it is probably had nothing to do with our mess, or they would have given you a heads-up about it. And probably at least a little bit of info about where you were headed. Unless they don't give a damn about whether you get caught up in it, I suppose."

Still no response, but she seems a little hurt by the implication. Maybe there's a personal connection to whoever sent her here. Well, it doesn't seem worth pressing at this point - your goal is to get her on your side.

"Either way, I don't really see you as my problem right now. But I also can't exactly let you go running around and either getting yourself into trouble or causing it. So there's a simple deal here - you help us out, and we don't have to tell the town guard about you."

"Help you out how, exactly?" she asks. She's wary, but desperate enough to hear you out. Good sign.

You think you should be careful how you answer, though. First, of course, you don't know how much you can trust her. But also, if you ask for too much, that might intimidate her. Ask for something too simple, though, and she's likely to think you're up to something. Plus, you want it to be something where you can keep an eye on her.

So you're going to have to think carefully about your request.
RE: Swamped
It's simple enough, just carry this illegal sausage and see what stirs.
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And let's go find Setrus!
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For a start, you don't want to say too much in front of the woman from the orphanage. Asking her to leave should reduce the tension a bit and make your request come along more smoothly. And you've got a good idea on where to begin with that.

"Let's start by taking care of you," you say, turning to her. "I'm not sure how safe it is out here tonight, but the council hall's right over there. If we had someone who could get you in, without breaking the lock, that would probably be the fastest way to get you out of harm's way. Don't know how far off your home is."

"I do think it's not a night to be staying out if I can help it," she agrees. "And home is at least half a mile away. If she can get me in, I'm for it."

The thief looks a little suspicious, but she soon speaks up.

"I can get the door open, and the lock should still be good. Won't take three minutes."

Arlene leads her over, and you follow. She pulls an odd tool out of her belt and gets to work on the door.

You wonder where she got that and learned to use it. But you don't think it's a productive line of questioning right now.

"Done," she says after a bit, opening the door. "Lock it behind you and it'll work just fine."

"Thank you," says the woman from the orphanage. "I don't know what I'm going to do about the rendezvous I was expecting, but I suppose that's not my main concern right now."

She goes inside, and closes the door. You start walking back towards the grove.

"Now we can talk a little more freely," you tell her. "So here's the real mission."

You pull out the sausage.

"This is illegal contraband. Specifically, we think it's illegal contraband somebody wanted to plant on one of their potential enemies."

"And what's that got to do with me?" she asks. She seems real uncomfortable. Maybe she planted something in the council hall rather than stealing it. But she also didn't seem too concerned about letting someone go in there to poke around.

"Well, I don't want to be caught carrying it. But I don't want to just get someone else in trouble. So go figure out a safe way to dispose of it. And see if you catch anyone's attention while you do."

She looks at the sausage, stares for a while, then grabs it out of your hand.

"I don't know any place around here," she grumbles. "How am I supposed to find a place to get rid of this? I don't even know where there's any place with a stove to cook it on."

"Wouldn't advise eating it," Arlene interjects. "There's weird stuff on it. Don't go dumping it into the ocean, either."

"So what exactly does that leave me?"

"I'm sure you can figure something out," Arlene says with a shrug.

She scowls at you, but runs off. So she's sincere, at least - she may just want to be gone, but she's not abandoning the job.

"Don't know what you were thinking, but it's just the two of us now," says Arlene. "So what did you have in mind?"

"The person Mortimer was tracking," you say. "Did he have a pet with him?"

"Didn't notice one. Though Mortimer got a better look than I did. Why do you ask?"

"There was a strange creature nearby. Our guest from a moment ago caught sight of it. I want to track it."

"Sure," Arlene says, shrugging. "How do you suggest we go about that?"
RE: Swamped
A strange creature out of the ordinary? Follow the screams!
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At that moment, you hear another scream.

"Well, that seems like a decent clue to start with," you say.

And Arlene's already running towards the sound by the time you finish talking. You suppose you'd best keep up.

This sound isn't coming from the Grove, but a little past it. You can see Minnie in the distance, and somebody else running away from her, but you don't see any sign of the creature, whoever screamed, or Mortimer.

Arlene's rushing towards Minnie. You consider doing the same, but she's much faster than you. Maybe it would be best if you looked around for the screamer, in case they need help.

But where do you even begin with that?
RE: Swamped
Look for higher ground.
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A better vantage point might be good. Maybe they're just in a place you can't see well from here.

Although, the most obvious high points are the trees and the rooftops. And you're not especially adept at climbing either of those. A hilltop would be nice, or even just a ladder.

Or, by looking up, you could spot a lithe, black-furred creature about the size of a wolf hopping about on the rooftops. That answers one question, at least. Doesn't tell you where the scream came from, though...

Or maybe it does. You spot an open window higher up. Maybe Setrus' pet climbed past it and gave whoever was inside a scare.

Well, Arlene's some distance away, so you suppose you're in the best position to give chase. It's bound to come down sometime, and it's not that fast - though it is rather nimble. You follow it from the ground as best you can.

After passing a few houses, it starts hopping down to a fence and rushing along the top of it. This might be your best chance to catch up. You start running towards it...

And soon come face to face with someone in a rather long coat, wearing a breather mask. You think you can make out the shape of a sword under the coat, as well.

The stranger starts petting the creature, and just stares at you for a while without saying anything. Clearly trying to intimidate you.

You suspect this is Setrus. Not that you have any firm proof. And you're not sure exactly what you'd be doing even if you knew it was.

Well. Intimidating as they might be, they aren't doing anything to you right now. You think it's worth the risk of starting a conversation, though you'll want to be careful about just how you open it.
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You've spent enough time around Rider and Starling to tell just by looking that this isn't someone who got an exotic pet in order to look intimidating. This is someone who cares about this animal, if not necessarily animals in general.

Though there's plenty of guardedness in the body language. So you don't think enthusiasm is the right approach here. No, best to treat this as you would if you were trying to get Rivers to answer a question.

It took you a long time to figure that out. The key was to ask a question she wanted to answer. Then you had an opening to direct the conversation a little towards the actual question.

Not that it was easy, mind. But it was how you started. And the animal is obviously a subject of interest, so that seems like your best opening here.

Pride might be a good angle. Ask a question that lets him boast about it.

"Did you teach them to jump like that?" you ask.

"Nocta was good jumper when I found her," the stranger replies. "I made her great jumper."

Still guarded, but you've gotten somewhere. Now you need to think about where to lead this.
RE: Swamped
Will she be able to jump high enough to evade the gas if need be?
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They use the creature again and again to scare people but never hurt them, maybe the creature isn't actually that letal? Ask him and see if you get a reaction
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"How high can she jump?" you ask.

"High enough to get good start on climb. Nocta is good climber, too. When I found her, she only jump as high as my neck. Now she jump over my head with plenty of space." He laughs. "Which is good. If she were still only up to my neck, she'd need mask too."

Now it makes a little more sense why he hasn't done anything more hostile. He sees your mask and assumes you must be in on the plan. Definitely not an illusion you want to disabuse him of.

Best to establish yourself as a worried subordinate, then. Let him think he's in charge. Showing a little fear would be good, and you have a convenient way of getting on that subject.

"Is she, ah, dangerous?"

"Not more than me."

That seems to be an answer to a different question than the one you asked. You keep it in mind, regardless.

The information that would probably be the most helpful is understanding what he's doing here in the first place. But outright asking that would make him suspicious.

Well. The best way you can think of is to get some information that you're sure about, and make a comment based on that. Then he might reveal more. So what do you know that you can drop into the conversation?
RE: Swamped
Let's see... You have some knowledge of the guild, but not necessarily of the guild history dating to this time... You know about the hospital siege and the sewers... And you know Mortimer is right behind Setrus so you just need to keep talking long enough for him to get the drop on him.
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You were in the Guild, of course, but they didn't tend to bother educating couriers on anything. Especially not on the organization's history. You doubt many people in it even care. So you only have a very general understanding of what Setrus' role in things is. He's clearly not in charge - but he probably works directly for someone who is, or close to it.

Which means he's probably broadly aware of other plans the Guild has going on. Unlikely to be told any operational details - he doesn't strike you as the sort to care about those unless they'll affect him directly. But probably knows roughly what's happening, if only so he can make sure he doesn't get in the way of what anyone else is doing.

Well, that's enough to work with.

"No doubt. But you're probably too big to sneak into the hospital," you tell him. "Nocta isn't."

"Isn't hospital sleeping?"

"Something went wrong, the gas didn't work. And there's some tough customers holding the fort inside. I was wondering if Nocta might be able to at least take down the guy leading them, if she caught him by surprise."

Setrus rubs his chin thoughtfully.

"Hospital not my problem," he says. "Hospital bird's problem. Go see bird."


Ah. He must be referring to the person in charge of the hospital operation. Except, he might be testing you. Maybe the person has nothing to do with birds and he'll know you're a phony if you act like that makes sense.

It's always tricky to know how to play that sort of scenario. Under normal circumstances, anyways. But in this case, Mortimer's got a blowgun aimed at him, so all you really need to do is keep his attention on you and see if you can squeeze a little more info out in the process.
RE: Swamped
If he was testing you he wouldn't have answered our questions or talked about his pet.

Who do you think send me here? Bird says that you know the hospital is more important
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You can't have raised his suspicions that long ago, considering how freely he was talking. But you didn't bring up the supposed problem right away - that might have made him wary.

Well, you have a plan if he is testing you.

"You think I didn't already do that? That's why I'm out here looking for anything to give us an edge, I've got orders to. I thought your little pet might fit the bill."

"Funny," Setrus sneers. "Bird would have asked you to find me. So. Who are you, and where did you get mask?"

The moment he finishes asking, he collapses. So you are looking for a "bird" of some sort. And Mortimer might have a clue as to who that means.

But you can't relax yet - Nocta's still moving, and she's got her eye on you. And Mortimer's gesturing suggests he doesn't have another dart for her.

So you're going to have to handle this yourself.
RE: Swamped
You've handled your share of wild animals, but you don't know exactly what Nocta can do. All you really know is that she's agile, and big enough to be worrying even if she doesn't have particularly dangerous teeth or claws. Which you can't really tell just by looking.

Right now, she's sizing you up, circling you but not doing anything in particular. Maybe she doesn't realize a dart took down her master, and thinks you did something, so she's trying not to be overtly threatening.

She's hissing, though. Definitely upset. But it's more like a warning not to get closer than an actual threat.

You wonder if she'd actually do anything besides run if you did. Then again, it's not like you aren't depending on her overestimating you right now, if you're reading her right. Call her bluff and she might just call yours.

Hmm. But you were bluffing Setrus, weren't you. She might have been confused by your cordial conversation. Maybe she's trying to figure out if you're an actual threat at all.

You relax as fully as you can. And you smile nervously as you approach Setrus.

"He's going to need some help," you say calmly. "You don't mind if I carry him to safety, do you?"

You start kneeling slowly, watching for what she does in response.
RE: Swamped
She goes to help and picks up his feet. Don't know why people think she's scary looking now that you see her up clo-- YIKES! RUN FOR IT!
RE: Swamped
She suddenly bounds to Setrus' feet, and starts pawing at them. Perhaps she's trying to help? Not sure how much she can do, but it's probably safe to start lifting. You carefully sling him around your shoulder... and wow, he's heavy.

But Nocta manages to get his legs onto her back, which does relieve the pressure. Maybe she's stronger than her build suggests.

Well, you may as well get him out of the way, which will hopefully keep Nocta from causing you any trouble as well. You knock on the nearest door.

An old woman who's a good two heads shorter than you answers. She doesn't say anything, just looks at you quizzically.

"Sorry to bother you. Just thought this poor fellow should be kept somewhere. There's some trouble at the hospital, so it's not very safe to take him there right now."

She gets a bit of an annoyed look on her face, then points at a couch inside. Yeah, that should be okay. You carry him in...

She taps her cane. You look back at her, and see her pointing at Nocta and shaking her head. No pets, huh.

"She's not mine, she's his. I'm not sure I can get her to stop, but I'll try." You glance down at Nocta. "Nocta, stay."

And she apparently doesn't like being told what to do, because she rears up on her hind legs and her fur puffs out. The old woman faints, and you nearly cry out in shock. You don't know how dangerous she is, but she sure as the hells can be intimidating.

Whatever you do with Setrus, you're pretty sure you want to find some way to either calm her down or chase her off first. Or, failing that, get out of her way.
RE: Swamped
Scratch behind her ears?