The heroes are scheduled to meet someone named Torrentat the Poison Apple Pub a little before midnight on New Year’s Eve. They are told to enter by the side alley door. With fears of invasion high, the streets are fairly deserted and normal festivities are muted, letting the heroes travel unmolested.
The pub is about a mile from the western city wall in a poorer district filled with slush-covered cobblestone streets and gloomy, snow-filled alleyways. The night is dark and claustrophobic, and the buildings of the city loom over the shadowy streets. There are no lights in most windows.
The pub is a two-story building attached by a rooftop bridge to an abandoned house on the right. A stable is to the building’s left. The front door and windows are boarded up, and the curtains are drawn. An official notice is posted on its door:
The alleys on both sides of the pub are littered with debris and the fetor of drunkenness. An overhead bridge shadows a door on the right side, and the alley is blocked at the end by refuse and broken furniture. When the heroes knock on the alley door, a moment passes, and then it cracks open. A tall, well-tanned woman with short white hair peeks out into the alleyway and looks both ways. She lets the heroes in, gesturing to a single table where she has set up a lamp, map, several mugs, and a small keg of beer.
The darkened pub appears empty, its many tables and chairs pushed to one wall and covered with sheets. A single table with enough chairs for all of you sits in the middle of the room. A small oil lamp and a keg sit on top of it, along with several mugs. Unless the shadows beyond hide more, your group and the woman are the only people in the room.
A staircase leads upstairs, located in a corner of the common room and beside the bar. The windows and door facing the street are closed and boarded up from the outside. On the wall behind the bar hangs a bronze bust of the former emperor of Ragesia, Drakus Coaltongue, a regal, aged half-orc with a scar cutting diagonally across his face.
While you are settling down, the woman picks up a mug of beer and speaks. “Good evening, all. My name is TorrentTorrent. Thanks for coming,” She gestures towards the keg and mugs, and with a wan smile says, “Have a drink. Just because we’re about to go to war doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the New Year.” She then takes a pull of her mug and sits down. For a few minutes, through small talk and friendly banter, the New Year is celebrated.
Torrentgrimaces, straightens in her chair and bitterly sighs, “That’s one year gone.” She shakes her head a little, then looks over the table towards you and quietly says, “I guess it’s time to get down to business.”
“The city’s in trouble. The Ragesian army is marching on us and will most likely be here tomorrow. Before then, we have a mission. I used to study at a magic academy to the south, called Lyceum. They’re good people. So when word reached them about Ragesia’s ‘Scourge,’ they sent out messages calling for anyone fleeing Ragesia to come to them. They want to stand against the Ragesians, and the resistance wants their help. We just need to get a message to them.”
“Normally we would have sent something by teleporting courier, but something strange is going on with planar magic. The last courier who teleported into Gate Pass, well, rumor is that he showed up burnt to a crisp. Not that I have that sort of magic anyway, but if we’re going to talk to Lyceum, we’re going to have to go overland. And that’s a problem because the city’s walls are sealed.”
“Ever since their emperor died, the Ragesians have been trying to show that they’re not weak, and they’re marching an army in our direction because the mountain pass we’re in is apparently ‘strategically valuable.’ Either way, a few idiots on the city council want to negotiate with the Ragesians, and rumor is they’re going to invite a group of Inquisitors into the city to look for ‘magic-users who are hostile to the empire.’ They’ve sealed the gates of the city so no one can escape to make sure they look like they’re cooperating, and only military personnel can get in or out.”
“We’re going to have to get out of the city, and I’m open to suggestions on how. Once we’re out, I can get us safely to Lyceum, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we have a mission tonight.”
“The short version is that we’ve got to meet a contact — a gnome named Rivereye Badgerface — in about an hour at a guarded depository about a half-mile from here. He’s carrying a case of vital military intelligence that he stole from the Ragesian palace, and the heads of the resistance think that it needs to reach Lyceum. We’ve got to get that case, get out of the city, and get far away from here before the idiot city council lets the Ragesian Inquisitors in. Once that happens, the odds of us escaping are
” she finishes off her mug of beer in one long guzzle “ slim.”
“I know I’d love to stay here and fight against the Ragesians, but I’m no soldier, and this mission might be more important. Worst case, you get away from the Ragesians and we can part ways a few days down the road. Best case, you can come with me to Lyceum, and we come back with an army of our own to drive off the Ragesians. But we’ve got to act fast either way.”
“Are you ready for this?”