Veil of Whispers 1: The Princess and the Cheese

Posted on Jan 20, 2024 in Tales from the Table. Last updated on Apr 19, 2024.
Part of a series called Veil of Whispers.

A brand spanking new campaign, the first session of which was spent creating characters who would go on to fight evil and consume cheese.

Date: January 13, 2024

Characters present:

Character level: 1

A New Beginning

So there we were; the three who remained in the group after the last campaign, the others having fallen off one by one when life got in the way of gaming, joined by two out of three fresh recruits recently snatched up from the vast oceans of the internet for a good ol’ campaign of D&D 5e. We’d been given the basic rundown in advance: the game would take place in D&D’s standard setting of the Forgotten Realms, specifically in the Western Heartrealms, and just southeast of Baldur’s Gate. There we’d find the DM’s addition of several city-states on the brink of war, with us starting in one called Emberfall. There would be steampunk elements, such as trains and airships, and we’d be part of a group of detectives called the Shadow Chasers.

We began with rolling up characters. I had seen the owlin heritage in the Strixhaven sourcebook and came up with the idea of making a mail owl, like the ones in Harry Potter, except humanoid. Basically a mailman who could fly. Express deliveries and that kind of stuff. I’d spoken to the DM about this before the game and he said he had a way of getting me into the party despite being a courier instead of a detective. It later turned out he did not. Anyway, Montgomery Swiftfeather was a humanoid barn owl in a blue mailman uniform. He flew between cities to deliver important correspondence. Mechanically, he was a gloom stalker ranger because owls are stealthy night hunters. We were allowed a feat at character creation, and I picked Moblie, making him one speedy boy. The idea was for him to be a naive, innocent goody two-shoes with a perpetually positive attitude. Discovering what type of characters the others had made, I abandoned that idea pretty quickly.

Joining him on the adventure was Findus, tabaxi rogue; a cat-person who used to make a living stealing other people’s livings. We all knew where he got the name from. He was orange and black. Next up was Rosa; an axe-wielding half-orc barbarian. She had white skin with black splotches, giving her the appearance of a cow. She also had a nose ring and a nice bow on her head. She was happy as long as she got to hit stuff. Finally, there was Sorigash, the fallen aasimar sorcerer. Her celestial soul had been tarnished by evil gods or something and now she was a bit evil herself. Her player couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t turn on the party. That could be fun—maybe we’d have to kill her.

Findus, Rosa and Sorigash were part of a detective agency called The Shadow Chasers, a name the DM creatively generated using AI. Montgomery had met them many times as he was often the one to deliver their paychecks after jobs well done.

An extremely basic sketch of Montgomery.
An extremely accurate depiction of Montgomery, painstakingly detailed on the back of his character sheet.

A Ceremony, Interrupted

The people of Emberfall had gathered in the town square for the opening ceremony of the new fountain: The Tear of Sylvanus. The half-elven princess Elloween (what the fuck?) was there to cut the red banner. Beside her stood Prince Strulin, presumably human, and a few guards, including the general, Molarek. Our heroes watched from the crowd because they loved fountains. Montgomery was there, distracted by the grand opening while out to deliver a letter to The Shadow Chasers. But that could wait—the sender hadn’t paid for express delivery anyway.

Suddenly a cloud of magical darkness spread around the fountain, and the royalties and their guards were swallowed inside it. At first, the crowd remained silent, perhaps thinking it was some sort of performance; a part of the ceremony. But before long, four men rushed out from the darkness in separate directions, each one carrying what looked like the princess in their arms. The princess was being kidnapped, but which one was the real one? The Shadow Chasers took a moment to discuss what to do. Once they had established that saving the princess might yield a hefty reward, they wasted no time. Findus rushed past the fountain toward one of the escaping men. Sorigash pursued another, shouting at Rosa to follow. Rosa stood there for a moment, apparently confused. Then she followed Sorigash.

Montgomery took to the skies to get a better view, flying after a third suspect. He wasn’t technically an adventurer, but having a job involving transporting sensitive documents and valuables, he knew how to defend himself. He carried a bow with him at all times, which he now drew. Closing one eye and sticking out his tongue to aim better, he fired an arrow at his prey, hitting the man in the back. The man, now visibly in pain, rounded a corner and dropped what looked like a smoke grenade behind him. Montgomery shot him again before it could go off, causing him to drop the princess, who vanished into thin air as she hit the ground. An illusory decoy.

Rosa had run past Sorigash and was getting closer and closer to her quarry. She pulled out a javelin and, somehow, managed to drop it during the windup, sending it flying backward and hitting Sorigash instead. Turning into a narrow street, Rosa pulled out another—gripping it tightly this time—and launched it at a wooden scaffolding before the kidnapper. It hit, and the scaffolding collapsed, sending a dwarven construction worker falling with a high-pitched shriek. Good thing he was wearing a hard hat. The kidnapper climbed through the fallen structure, with Rosa and Sorigash close behind. Once on the other side, he dropped a smoke grenade on the ground. Rosa kicked it, hitting the man in the back of the head.1 He dropped the princess, who was yet another decoy.

Findus weaved through the crowd with ease and was quickly gaining on his target. The man kept turning corners in an attempt to confuse Findus but was unsuccessful. In a last-ditch attempt to shake the feline, he ran into a tavern. Before he did, Findus managed to hit him with a projectile of some kind that I don’t remember, causing him to leave a trail of blood on the tavern floor. Findus entered and followed it out the back door into an alleyway where he quickly caught up with the man, trying to pin him to the ground. The man drew his sword and attacked, causing Findus to give up on his non-lethal approach and stab the man to death with his rapier. The princess, who had been lying in the alley just a moment ago, vanished into thin air. Findus clawed the ground where she had been. “The hell?”

With the hunt unsuccessful, The Shadow Chasers met up at the square once more. It was mostly empty now; there was no crowd and the prince and his guards were nowhere to be seen. Montgomery dropped out of the sky, landing in front of the Shadow Chasers. Rosa’s face lit up: “Do you have any money for us?

“I’m afraid not,” Montgomery answered. “But I do have this!” He produced a letter from his satchel and handed it to Sorigash, whom he knew could read. She opened the letter and, after quietly looking over it a few times, frowning all the while, read it out loud:

“The princess is going to be kidnapped during the grand opening of the new fountain. She will be taken to Duskridge. Signed: EA.”

Rosa, confused once more: “Why would they send a letter telling us about the kidnapping, after the kidnapping?”

“They didn’t,” said Sorigash. “The mailman here just didn’t deliver it on time!”

“Look, if it was urgent, they should’ve paid for express delivery,” responded Montgomery.

After a bit of bickering, the group decided to examine the letter more closely. The initials, EA, could certainly be Princess Elloween Alderic herself. But that wouldn’t make much sense. Sorigash handed the letter back to Montgomery for his professional analysis of the paper and handwriting. “It’s common, cheap paper. Not the kind normally used by royalty.”

As they pondered the identity of the sender, the leader of The Shadow Chasers, a human woman named Dulerius, arrived at the square.

“There you are!” she exclaimed. “The king wants to see you, I’ve been told it’s urgent.”

Being the only one who had previously been to the king’s castle, Montgomery offered to take them there.

The Quest

Atop a throne in his throne room sat the king, as they are known to do, when the four entered, escorted by a group of guards. The king’s name was George. Beside him stood his trusted advisor Snetos and a handsome adventurer with a gloomy expression on his face. The man was Adrian, Elloween’s fiancĂ©. All three men were human and looked exactly the way you’re imagining them. The king informed the party of the kidnapping, unaware they had witnessed it first-hand, and stressed the importance of getting the princess back within thirty days’ time—the date of her wedding, planned to coincide with the marvelous festival known as Snake Day2. He seemed more concerned with not messing up the festival than actually getting his daughter back—something that Rosa remarked right to his face. The king didn’t react, however. Perhaps he was used to not being spoken to like a king.

General Molarek, who had been present at the square during the kidnapping, was now approaching the king, flustered with anger.

“It’s Duskridge, I tell you! Duskridge is behind this! We must mobilize the army, this kidnapping is a declaration of war!”

As the royal advisor Snetos began to respond, groans and eye rolls spread among the servants, guards, and even the king himself.

“If I may interject for a moment, I don’t believe it will be possible for the army to ever arrive in Duskridge. You see, first they need to travel half the distance, and then…”

Snetos had stopped making sense before he even began speaking, and no one was listening.

The king offered the group which, on the king’s insistence, now included his trusty owl courier, a sizable reward for bringing the princess back. The party, being absolute bastards, managed to badger him into making it even more sizable. A thousand gold, half up front. The king informed the group that he had readied an airship that would take them northeast to the city of Duskridge. He also drafted up a letter which he gave to Montgomery, instructing him to take it to a Duskridge resident named Connor Hall, who could be of assistance in locating the princess.

As the group turned to leave, a young man barged through the heavy double doors. He was the king’s paige, and looked exactly like Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace3. He had an urgent message for the king: the princess had been spotted by the Cheesemancer!

“The Cheesemancer” said the sign. It was hanging above the window of a small cheese shop. The group entered and were greeted by a rotund dwarf by the name of Goudar Briebeard. He sold cheese. Every kind imaginable. He began describing them as soon as the party entered.

“WHERE’S THE PRINCESS?!” Rosa was all business. Mr. Briebeard nervously continued his attempt to sell cheese. Findus was eventually convinced to buy some magic mozarella which conferred a minor magical blessing when eaten.

Montgomery, with his 15 passive perception, felt a presence outside, as if someone stood there watching them. He snapped his head around a full 180 degrees, startling Rosa, but could see no one. Strange.

Once the cheese had been bought, the cheesy proprietor was finally willing to tell the party what he knew. He had seen someone running past his store earlier, apparently carrying the princess, and brought her into a nearby alley. The party was keen to investigate.

Stepping back outside the shop, the party was just about to head down the alley in question when they spotted a tavern across the street. They headed inside for lunch, while Sorigash, apparently a regular at the place, chatted up the barkeep in search of juicy rumors, of which he had none. After that short detour, they headed down the alley to find only one building of note: The Grating Cheetah, that one tavern where all the unsavory people hung out. Rosa slammed the door open. There was a bar disk, a small stage, and some tables, one of which had been prepared for a game of dice. No people. Montgomery followed a set of stairs up to a second floor where he found two doors and yet more stairs. Listening to both doors, he heard snoring behind one of them and whistling from behind the other. The party had followed him up, and he snapped his head around—once more prompting a shriek from Rosa—and pointed at the door on the right—the one with the whistling—and Rosa bashed it in, knocking it off its hinges. The room on the other side of the door was a bathroom. A man was inside, taking a bath. He screamed in fear and surprise at the party’s entrance and threw a bar of soap at them. Rosa ran right up and cut his head off. Then she picked up the soap to smell it.

Whoever had been snoring in the other room most likely wasn’t doing so anymore, what with the screaming and decapitation going on on the other side of the wall, and so the party made haste in entering. The other room contained several beds and chests, and a group of hoodlums rushing to arms. A skirmish followed, quickly ending with a group of dead hoodlums and one unconscious Sorigash. Montgomery was making sure she wouldn’t bleed out when the group noticed a woman, looking like yet another hoodlum, getting up from her hiding place behind a bed. She explained that she meant no harm and that she was part of the group of hoodlums, though she didn’t want to be. Her name was Elardoand Azfotha–the “EA” in the letter they’d received, as it turns out. She told them that the thugs were planning on sending the princess to Duskridge by airship the very next day. She asked if they’d received her letter, and Montgomery explained that she should’ve paid for express delivery.

And that’s how it began—the story of how three murderous detectives and their mailman set out to rescue a kidnapped princess in time for Snake Day. Would the party be able to stop the thugs from bringing the princess to Duskridge? Tune in next time and find out that the answer is probably a resounding “no”.

  1. I’m not sure if this killed him or if we just forgot about him, but he was never interrogated or anything. ↩︎

  2. Snake Day was actually my invention—in another campaign, the DM had printed out a calendar to keep track of time. Every session, one player was responsible for noting down our activities in the calendar and keeping track of which day it was. When it was my turn, I wrote “Snake Day” on a random future date. We all looked forward to that day, but the poor DM had no idea what to do with it. Now it’s become an inside joke, and this is the third campaign Snake Day appears in. ↩︎

  3. This was a cameo from one of my NPCs from a really old campaign. His name is Paxton McGee and he’s super lame. ↩︎