Please describe for our other friends what you look like, as you stumble, only slightly tardy, into the room. They don't have your character sheet, and don't have the benefit of knowing what your race is, what you're carrying, etc.
“Ah, a fellow gnome. How delightful. What heroic deed has brought you here today my dear? I was just telling the others of my impressive rat killing. It’s something I’ve allways been quite a natural at really”
Puddin uses both hands to haul a chair backward a foot or so, and the heavy wooden legs grind noisily across the floor. Moments after she finally climbs into the comfort of the cushioned seat, Duchess Morwen sweeps into the room.
She is admired by the people of Daggerford. Though she is nobility, she is known for her steady guiding hand, for general kindness and fairness, and she is lovely, as well. This evening she is in a deep maroon gown, and her brown curls, showing a few streaks of gray, hang to her shoulders.
Greetings, friends. My apologies for keeping you waiting.
As some of you know, from time to time I like to have these little dinner parties for friends of Daggerford: those among you who, whether you live here or are simply passing through, made Daggerford a better place to live. We celebrate even those who protect those passing through, as you, young Fope, have protected the gypsy caravan that camped outside our gates two nights ago.
Now, please let us enjoy our dinner. I hope the chef has prepared something delicious!
The Duchess sits, and dinner is served. The foot is warm and spicy, and the spices are exotic beyond anything you're familiar with from your own background. It's delicious.
As the courses come and go, though, you notice Bartholo glancing curiously at the Duchess more than once. As dessert is served, he finally speaks up:
Your highness, something seems to be troubling you. Is there anything I can do to serve you?
Duchess Marwen shifts a little bit in her seat, and thanks Bartholo for his interest. She offers no more, though it's obvious to all of you that she's holding something back.
It's late, and the dinner party ends. Bartholo and Thia have already left. The Duchess looks thoughtfully at the four of you.
I wonder if I can share this burden with you, she says. The strangest thing happened.
There is a small camp of gypsies on the road east of town. Not the gypsies you were traveling with, Fope. They, your companions, are known to me, and some of them are dear friends. No, this new group is unknown to me. Where are they from? What are they doing?
I don't ordinarily mind travelers near Daggerford. Why not? Add color, music, art, and trade. But recently these have become aggressive, needling passersby for coin, and harassing trade caravans. Not fighting, not even showing any weapons. They're just bothering people, as far as I can tell.
Daggerford is important, of course, because of its situation on several trade routes. Roads in three directions; a river, and an ocean nearby. We simply cannot have a small group of troublemakers bothering those who come and go from our home. So I sent a couple guards to make inquiries. Not to fight, just to make inquiries, and to encourage them to leave. Trained men-at-arms. And they come back two days later, when they could have been there and back in a single day, and instead of bringing me stories of success or at least news about these travelers, all I get is stories about how the travelers were very kind and treated them to all sorts of delights. Trained men-at-arms, talking like children who have been to the fair!
What am I to do, I wonder?
Tell me, friends. Tomorrow, do you think the four of you - Fope, Barnaby, Kif, and Puddin - could go to their camp, and ask them to leave? I don't want any fighting. Please, I will be quite disappointed if there is fighting. Please, though, tell them that they must leave, or we will burn their tents and force them to go. Do not attack them yourselves! I just want you, please, to talk to them. Could you four do that for me?
Your Highness, it would be an honor to assist you with this request. Certainly, my work in striking peace between the local wolf clan and the sheep farmers of Daggerford -- important work that saved your farmers' livelihood, but also many pups born to such a legendary pack-- must be why you sought me here this evening.
She puts down her hand and smiles to herself. The Duchess doesn't need to know that she procured 'peace' by scaring off the wolves with some well-timed thaumaturgy.
Trying to avoid anyone seeing her devilish grin, she looks down and sees that her dark green robes have ridden up to reveal her two meaty calves. Her round cheeks become flushed with red. She quickly stands up, adjusts her robes back into place, readjusts her belt containing her trusty mace, and very carefully, scooches back up onto her seat, thinking no one has noticed.
“Wolfs and sheep? By the shine of my bald noggin, those are both quite a bit larger than rats. Sounds like you’re a fine gnome in a pickle. It should be noted though, that even us tiny gnomes wouldn’t fit in a pickle. Though back in ought five there was a pickle at the Waterdeep fair that weighed 475 pounds. That’s a pickle I could use as a canoe. Do pickles float? Eh, doesn’t matter; I never was much of a paddler anyway.”
“Heh. Right. Um, I would be delighted to undertake this grand quest for my liege, eh, my queen, no, for your highne...uh, for anyone who serves me such a delicious supper,” Barnaby says, but his eyes are on another task, which is sneaking bits of hard salami from the table to the beak his owl, Tulip.
Of course, Master Fope. Complete this task and I will be glad to write a letter for you. I know one such master, and I will find out if there are others whose ear I can bend.
I hope you had the opportunity to discuss the art of the blade with Bartholo, while he was here. He is an accomplished swordsman himself, and more than once has led the charge against evils in and around Daggerford.
Thank you three for being so agreeable. Master Kif?
The Countess looks taken aback for a moment, and then catches herself.
Of course. If you have more pressing matters in the next day or two, please understand that I am not ordering you to do this favor for me. But of course your time is worth coin. When you come back, there will be silver coins for all of you.
This job, as she's describing it, is not one that sounds particularly dangerous. You all are aware that an offer of a few silver coins for each is fair, in this region for this kind of job.
Don't forget, you can all roll insight checks in this kind of encounter, if you have reason to think the speaker might be holding something back. I won't keep reminding you of that point, but I will roll for Kif, here:
Also, Kif, by my calculation your Persuasion should have been a -1, instead of a +3, which would have given you a 1 instead of a 5. The Countess's answer would have been the same, regardless.
If you roll a 14 or higher on your Insight check, have a look here:
She doesn't seem to have anything else to offer, either in information about these mysterious travelers, or in terms of compensation. She seems sincere.
If you roll a 18 or higher on your Insight check, have a look here:
You're pretty darned sure that she doesn't have anything else to offer, either in information about these mysterious travelers, or in terms of compensation. She seems sincere.
The numbers won't always be this high, or this low, but you try to read the mind of an accomplished leader of a small city, you're testing your Insight skill against someone who's pretty darned good at communicating the way she wants.
If you did not roll a 14, it's your general sense that she doesn't have anything else to offer, either in information about these mysterious travelers, or in terms of compensation. She seems sincere.
Thank you all, very much. Please come back tomorrow at eleven o'clock. A writ, giving you the authority to act on this matter on my behalf, will be waiting for you downstairs. You will find these strangers' encampment a half-day's march to the east, along the river road.
Anything else here? I'll leave this open for a few hours, otherwise I'll just move on.
You can also ask questions like, "Given my background as a soldier, have I seen this type of weapon before?" Or, more to the point, "Given my backstory as a mind flayer from under a rock, will anything about these travelers sound familiar?" I'll consider those questions and follow up with checks, when I think it's appropriate to do so.
For now, don't bother. You don't have enough from the Duchess to get any clues about what you're going to deal with. Just take some comfort knowing that, as she said, they didn't appear armed, and haven't hurt anybody, as far as she seems to know.