The Road Less Traveled

Sikhandyn finishes his meal, and reaches for his maps.

"My friends, I think we need to talk. There are at least two issues that need addressing, and if you can think of others, do not hesitate: now is the time to raise them."

The wizard unfolds the maps so the party can study the itinerary and make comments.

"First, we need to rethink our approach to cities and villages. Entering the village today as a group and with our horses was probably a mistake. Sofia made a few excellent points before our lunch. I would like to hear your thoughts."

[OOC To Mordae] Could you please give us some indications regarding the presence and size of towns and villages on the 'recommended' itinerary?

The wizard pauses.

"Second- I can think of three major threats during our journey: Imperial soldiers, tax collectors, and bandits. We can fight bandits, but Imperial soldiers and tax collectors can really put our mission in jeopardy, especially if we cannot even explain our presence on the roads or in cities..."

"We need a story to tell soldiers lest they send us to the front. We could also use a story for tax collectors." Sikhandyn concludes

Originally Posted by Leonidas1789 View Post
[OOC To Mordae] Could you please give us some indications regarding the presence and size of towns and villages on the 'recommended' itinerary?
OOCAside from Stony Ford, the rest of your trip through Astan cuts across open terrain and you won't find more than a small village or lone homestead. In Merui, the local towns have been abandoned after the Astan troops invaded.

Wyngrad pipes up. Well, for business, we can say we're spice collectors. Our weapons can be explained as protection from bandits. If anyone asks, I know everything there is to know about spices and dry foodstuffs.

"Well, as for going into towns, Annette is right.", Karn says taking a long drink from his jug, "Going in all at once just draws too much attention. But I don't know if I like the idea of just one person by themselves. Maybe a couple of us so there's someone to watch the others back."

He takes another drink and thinks for a moment, "Hey, what if we all went into a town but separately, you know, two at a time with some time between us and not acting like we know each other. Something like that."

With that he shrugs and hands his jug to Sikhandyn.

Originally Posted by bucheonman View Post
Wyngrad pipes up. Well, for business, we can tax we're spice collectors. Our weapons can be explained as protection from bandits. If anyone asks, I know everything there is to know about spices and dry foodstuffs.

"I don't know, guess that sounds OK to me for tax collectors. Of course we're a pretty strange looking group for spice merchants.", Karn says with a laugh, "but if it's soldiers, I think avoiding them is the best."

"Well I am a spice merchant. Well...back at home at least. I am certain I could talk my way out of the situation.

Pointing to his bastard sword at his hip, he added 'but this would be harder to explain.:"

Sikhandyn grabs Karn's jug with a friendly smile.

"I agree. I think it is fine to have more than one of us visit towns. However, Sofia has a point: no horse, and no large group. Small groups could be okay. We could then send in several small groups to accomplish different tasks - but they should avoid communication."

"Now, regarding our 'stories'... Wyngrad's idea to pose as tax collectors is brilliant." the wizard continues with a mischievous sparkle in his eye.

"I am not certain we could pull it off, however: tax collectors probably have a centralized administration. I personally know little about the way they operate, and close to no one in their hierarchy. If asked to whom we report as tax collectors, I would be at a loss."

"Merchants, however, have a loose organization, which includes traveling merchants. Seeking to establish new trade routes to increase our Prince's wealth could be valid, especially if we have some wares to show."

[OOC to Mordae] Sikhandyn tries to remember what he knows about tax collectors, to check if Wyngrad's proposal could work. Specific questions:
- Organization of tax collectors?
- Names of powerful men in their hierarchy?
- Do tax collectors split their responsibilities by product? (i.e. Does one tax spices, and the other weapons? Or do they all tax all incomes and trades of the people in their jurisdiction?)

Eating little and quickly, Annette only aims to tide herself over for the feast she hopes to catch later tonight. While the others took more time with their meals, she sits listening.

To pass the time, she decides to go through each arrow in the quiver she was given by the Black Crocus quartermaster. With her dagger, she slices and whittles off wood strands and splinters from each arrow's shaft, as well as stray barbs off the feathered fletching. The ritual wouldn't likely improve the arrow's precision
unless you think it would, Mordae...
noticeably, but did help calm Annette's mind and allow her to think clearly. After the first arrow, she sort of zones out, and begins to speak without really meaning to, in a soft, nonchalant, matter-of-factly tone.

"I think perhaps we're over thinking this. If it walks like mercenary, talks like a mercenary, and is equipped like a mercenary...well, you get the idea. I don't have any moral issue with lying, I just don't think I'm that good at it.

"If we're discovered all together, I say our story is one of us is a wealthy spice trader. The rest of us are his hired hands and body guards. That way, when I'm asked why I'm carrying weapons...I'm still lying a bit, but at least I look the part. Wyngrad seems best for the role, though we may want to buy him jewelry or other signs of wealth...

"As for going into town...I say one pair goes in together, playing a couple, or friends or whatever lie works best. But a third tails them, watching at a distance. If the couple gets held up, caught, or worse...the tail can choose to intervene, or go get the others

With the last two words, she broke off the last stray barb of the last arrow to be inspected. She looks up from her completed task and cannot help but blush. She hadn't meant to say so much, and certainly didn't mean to criticize the other's ideas. Her eyes dart around nervously. Seeking to recover, she smirks as she says, sounding much less confident, "But, we could also do something else."

Sikhandyn's eyes turn to Annette.

"I agree with your idea that one of us could pose as a merchant, and the others as his henchmen." the young man answers. "But if we want our little ploy to succeed, we need our merchant to have wares to show... And therein lies the rub: we do not have spice... And spice, when available, tends to be expensive."

"I hear your concern about overthinking this, but I still think it is worth a little more effort. Better to put some thought in a compelling story we can stick to for our entire journey than be caught with no explanation whatsoever."

Sofia frowns a little looking at her food. She's looks sad for a moment, then raises a head.
"And what if the point is we don't have wares? People will believe anything if it means someone is just a fool. Maybe Wyngard was sent by his father, but the spices got stolen by an exceptionally clever thief on the way? Now he's afraid to go home empty-handed so he continues the expedition to at least get some information on costs and demands? I think everyone can manage looking embarassed for several minutes, right? If we look incompetent enough they won't give us a second thought. Maybe just laught at us and wish a safe road."

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