The Astral Scroll 3: Brewery Heist

Posted on Jun 2, 2024 in Tales from the Table.
Part of a series called The Astral Scroll.

Heists never go as planned.

Date: May 18, 2024

Characters present:

Character level: 3

Getting in Is Half the Trouble

The party hid in an alley, waiting for a hops delivery to Endar’s Brewery to pass them by. Having rolled terribly on their check to gather info before the heist, they had discovered no way into the brewery other than the main entrance.

When the transport finally showed up, Paz ran out in front of it and began playing his bagpipes. It was almost the same situation as when they’d freed the giant spider. Only this time, the horse-drawn trailer carried barrels of hops. Anton and Bib snuck onto the trailer and managed to find two mostly empty barrels to hide in. Yinris crawled beneath the wheels and clung to the undercarriage of the trailer.

The horses didn’t stop and Paz was knocked to the side. Yinris tried to pull him under the trailer, but he wouldn’t fit while carrying his bagpipes. Refusing to let them go, he decided to join Anton and Bib in the barrels. Soon, the transport arrived at Endar’s Brewery.

The main gates of the massive stone fortress opened. This was clearly no ordinary brewery. The horses pulled the transport inside. Struggling to hold on, Yinris could see locked iron doors to the left and right, and a wooden desk ahead.

“Hello Lucy. Got another hops delivery for ya,” said one of the two men driving the transport. From his view under the trailer, Yinris couldn’t see who Lucy was. But she had a high-pitched voice like that of a very small creature.

“Bring it to the hops room. Here, let me unlock the door.”

Yinris knew he had to move from his position beneath the trailer soon or he’d be taken back outside. While the transporters and the one named Lucy were busy with the door, he took his chance. He rolled clear of the trailer and rose to his feet. Looking up, he noticed a set of pipes near the ceiling, coming from the floor above and leading to the room on his left. Just as the men were about to turn around, Yinris stepped up on one of the barrels, using it to spring himself toward the pipes.

Bib, Paz and Anton remained dead quiet as the men picked up barrels they were hiding in and carried them into another room. They heard the door close behind them. Bib noted the distinctive clack of the kind of door that locks automatically when closed. They could be in trouble if there were more of those doors. If someone were to notice them it would be difficult to run away, having to stop and unlock doors constantly.

Waiting a moment, the three of them peeked out of their respective barrels. They were in a square room filled with barrels of hops. Four large wooden tanks automatically dispensed small quantities of hops onto a central conveyor belt leading into a hole in the wall. Next to the hole was another metal door, like the one behind them that they’d been carried in through. So far so good, except Yinris was missing.

Yinris held on to the pipes and managed to climb up on one of them, taking his time to avoid making any noise. Looking down he could see the men taking their transport back out through the main gates. Behind the desk he’d spotted from beneath the trailer sat a gnome woman with huge round glasses on a tall stool. Must be Lucy, he figured. He heard a faint sound coming from one of the pipes and put his ear against it to listen.

It was a woman’s voice. Enraged, by the sound of it. “Look, it’s no coincidence. First, one of our transports gets attacked. The next day, the warehouse is destroyed. How do you explain that?”

It was a deep-voiced man who answered. “I don’t know how it happened. Our employees would never talk, they’re too afraid of Endar. Besides, none of them know what’s going on.”

At that moment, Yinris heard the clicking of lockpicks as the door behind the desk opened. Bib looked into the room, not seeing much other than Lucy and her desk. Lucy looked down at her papers. This was Yinris’ chance. He swung down from the pipe, launching himself at the door, landing in a silent roll. His sudden appearance almost made Bib cry out in surprise. She closed the door behind her and Yinris, Lucy none the wiser.

I Had to Learn Brewing to Create This Dungeon

Each room they entered dealt with a different part of the brewing process. They passed through the boiling and lautering rooms with little trouble, Bib picking the locks as they went, but ran into a pair of brewers when they reached the mashing room. They were dressed in burlap clothing with white aprons. One had a wrench and seemed to be working on the assembly line where the crushing took place, and the other wielded a ladle. The party quickly knocked them unconscious.

Next, they headed into the barley storage room, which looked much like the hops room. They could hear voices from the next door. Peeking through the keyhole, Bib saw a crowd of brewers moving crates and barrels around in a large room. There was a hatch in the floor and a staircase leading to the second floor. Jackpot. The question now was how to distract all those employees while they headed upstairs.

Bib figured someone could put on the clothes of one of the unconscious brewers to blend in and make some kind of distraction. Distractions were Paz’s forte, but he refused, saying the clothes were undignified compared to his garish colors. Yinris refused too—he’d never wear the clothes of a human. Anton said no for cat reasons. Bib was too small.

Paz eventually relented once Bib started calling them all incompetent. Dressed as a brewer, he stepped into the room and told everyone to listen. “I’m sure you all know that today is Steve’s birthday. We’ve prepared some cake, it’s just this way—” He headed for another door and realized he’d forgotten to bring the keys that the brewers were wearing.

“Well, you just go on that way, I gotta go get my keys.” The brewers were suspicious but obedient. Once they started heading for the door, Paz motioned at the others to hurry inside and head for the stairs.

They reached the upstairs hallway with little trouble. There was a door with a sign that said “office”, and another with a more hostile sign saying “absolutely no entry”. A final sign next to a hallway read “to tower”. Hearing footsteps approaching the door from inside the office, Bib hurried to pick the lock on the “do not enter”-door, and everyone headed inside, with Paz closing the door behind him, just as the office door opened. Through the keyhole they saw who it was: Madelena Albicio from the Merchant’s Council. She must’ve been the angry voice Yinris heard through the pipes. The room they’d just entered was a lab filled with scientific notes, beakers, Erlenmeyer flasks, test tubes, and jars of strange powders and liquids.

The notes seemed to contain experiment logs. Looking through them, Bib discovered that whoever worked in the lab had been experimenting with giant lion spider poison. She discovered this just as Yinris opened a door to a room full of giant lion spiders in cages. He promised to come back and release them once they were done heisting.

Another door in the lab led to the experiment room, where homeless-looking people of several different races sat tied to chairs, some of them with the same red eyes that the elves in the underground sewer lab had had. But this lab wasn’t researching a cure. This place was the cause of it all. Yinris made a second promise; to come back and rescue the poor people who had yet to be poisoned. He would make good on neither of his promises.

With the coast clear, they headed for the path with the “to tower”-sign. It led to the first floor of the tower—a foyer of some sort, with expensive-looking tapestries and statues of old people. Heading up the spiral staircase, they arrived at a door with three locks. Bib looked through one of the keyholes—the lowest one—and saw a room full of magic items. To her horror, they were too late; a man was inside, dressed in a black suit, top hat, and a blue cape speckled with stars. Behind him was a stained glass window with a hole shaped just like him in it. He was examining a small wooden box.

The party wasted plenty of time deliberating, both in and out of character. Eventually, a red dragonborn in plate armor heard them making noise and came to see what was going on. The party fought him, of course. Yinris managed to temporarily stun him with a poisoned arrow. Once the effect wore off, the dragonborn foreman of the brewery touched a lapel pin on his robe, and spoke into it:

“There are intruders in the tower. Remember, nothing they can do to you compares to what Endar will do if you fail to catch them.” Then the party killed him dead.

Getting Out Is the Other Half

While the others were firing arrows, magic, and javelins, Bib had been working on the locks. Once she got them open, the party stormed into the room, catching the hatted man by surprise.

Paz asked, “Who the hell are you?”

“I am Quentin the magnificent!” answered the man. He waved his hand over his head and produced a shower of magical sparkles. The party quickly got to work on knocking him unconscious. The poor magician never even got a chance to react. As he fell, Paz conjured a gust of wind to send the wooden box flying into his own hands. The group helped themselves to all the loot they could carry: potions, a strange tree branch, a glass orb, a sailor’s hat, an orange fanny pack, scrolls, a rod, goggles, weapons, and some arrows with rainbow-colored spiral horn arrowheads. Paz opened the wooden box and discovered a triangular blue stone. Jackpot once more. As a mob of angry brewers entered the room, Lazarus picked up Quentin and they all jumped out the window into the ocean as Paz cast a spell to slow their fall.

They swam to some gentler cliffs and made their way back up to the city. Dropping off Quentin on a street corner, they headed back to The Jackalope to discuss their plans. Inside, they ran into no one less than Chauncy Templeton. They harassed him for a bit, inquiring about the magic items and how to use the stone. He told them that the magic word to use the stone was “Xyzzy1,” which Paz immediately tried, and the location of the tower appeared to him in his mind. It was to the west, past the city of Evinder, past the desert beyond it, past Echo’s Cliff, past the border of civilization, deep in the Lonely Woods.

Some of the other stuff they’d stolen used to be Chauncey’s, and he explained what they did: the orange fanny pack was a bag of holding, bigger on the inside than the outside. The tree branch was a wand that did random things, the owl-feathered goggles gave you night vision, and the glass orb could float and glow. But one of the potions they’d found was no potion at all. It was a shard of ice stuffed into a potion vial.

“Be careful with that,” Chauncey said. “It was just an experiment, but it had a dangerous result. That shard of ice will always remain cold2. Best leave it in the vial.”

The party talked about their next steps until evening fell, eventually deciding to head for the library. It was Bib’s idea. On the way there, they found their very own faces decorating wanted posters all over town. They also spotted both Albergotti’s and Endar’s men looking for them in the streets. Changing their plans, they headed for their horses—except Anton who had a donkey—to skip town and head straight for Marlin’s tower and the scroll. They were almost at the bridge when Albergotti’s men caught sight of them.

They rode the last bit through town as fast as they could, carefully navigating around the people in the streets. Yinris took a gamble, thinking he saw a faster path, and split from the group. The path was indeed faster, but before he could make it to the bridge, he was stopped by a giant spider web hanging between two buildings. His fault for letting all those spiders out, no doubt.

The rest of the group headed down General Avenue, straight for the bridge. Between them and their destination was one and a half metric shitloads of pigeons, pecking seeds someone had strewn out in the middle of the street. Bib brought out her brand new tree branch and waved it at the pigeons. A bright flash erupted from the branch, temporarily blinding the whole party and their mounts. At least it made the pigeons scatter. While the others slowed down to control their horses (and donkey), Bib, still unable to see, pointed her branch behind her in the general direction of their pursuers. This time, a lightning bolt flashed from the wand, striking down most of Albergotti’s henchmen.

Once Paz regained his vision, he cast another wind spell at the last one just as they were making their way onto the bridge. The man flew off his horse, off the bridge, and into the water.

With Yinris rejoining the party after his unsuccessful detour, they made their way out of town, past the wheat fields of the coastal mainland, and into the woods where they camped for the night. Their journey toward their deepest desires had begun.

  1. Xyzzy! ↩︎

  2. I sneak ice-nine from Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut into every campaign I run. No one has ever found a use for it. I’m just waiting for someone to throw it into the ocean and destroy the world. ↩︎