We continue with the buzz wars, adding a few new rumors, and hearing a few more.
Of note: the rumor that the Empress is under the control of the Usurper (ours, and somewhat true to boot) – caught on fairly well. Also, the rumor that the brutal quashing of demonstrations in the streets by “Empress Guards” are by the Empress’ orders. This idea is not ours… but then, if the Empress is under control, then this could be true without being damaging to our cause…
We find out that the Empress has safely reached Beren’s army, and hear that they are now doing well. They’re expecting to reach Isengard – by the Empress’ very optimistic estimation – in a couple of weeks.
After some debate, we decide that we need to present our own competing “Empress” within the city before the Usurper’s scheduled court appearance. We plan the appearance. The hobsters get involved, finding an actress to portray the Empress when Nwalme’s illusion goes away. There is some discussion over where to present it, and what exactly to present.
It is decided to give a speech about her escaping the Usurper’s control and fleeing the city to avoid being recaptured. Several of the more well-known party members (Guthwyn, Rene, Thaliondor and Nwalme) make sure they are seen with the “Empress” to lend credence to the illusion.
Araphor persuades the group to stage the appearance in more Empress-inclined areas, to best give it a chance to be believed, and for the seed of rebellion to best be planted firmly. He also manages to persuade Thaliandor not to wear his winged helm, to make sure he can be clearly recognized. The latter is perhaps the harder of the two persuasions…
The appearance goes over quite well, but not amazingly so. A lot of people appear to be convinced, and her appearance and words do catch on. An attempt by a hobster to drum up enthusiasm by chanting her name seems to work somewhat, but Nwalme’s attempt at a quip by the Empress falls a bit flat. Something about lacking a sense of humor, perhaps.
The appearance seems to have its intended effect. Keeping an eye on the “Empress” holding court in the Palace via the PalaceCam (and other news sources), we learn that the turnout is well below what the Usurper was hoping for, and the following days show even less turnout.
A day or so later, the Nazgul returns to town, along with some of the soldiers he rode off with. Guthwyn is the first to realize that he has returned due to his failure to capture the Empress before she could reach Beren’s army. The Ring-wraith proceeds to search through the city for the party, seeming to get closer and closer. The party braces, still fairly certain of their hideout and its security, but wary.
Their vigilance is not in vain, and may even have been inadequate. Within days, the Nazgul finds the safe house in which they are esconced, along with a handful of soldiers. He sends two of them around to the back of the building after sending one off briefly, obviously to call in reinforcements. Guthwyn sends Araphor off to guard the rear entrance while she prepares near the front door.
Knowing they can no longer hide, the hobsters, Thaliandor, and Nwalme throw open the windows, launching missile attacks: crossbows & Strike Blind. Thaliandor takes a few shots at the Nazgul, only one of which seems to have any effect whatsoever. Nwalme strikes blind one of the two soldiers at the Ring-wraith’s side.
Somewhere in this, the Nazgul gestures, and the building’s facade and roof burst into unusually bright flame. Araphor notices the light, but remains there to guard the rear door, keeping an arrow nocked, awaiting the coming soldiers. Guthwyn leaps through the flame-ringed door, entering into melee with the Nazgul, while Thaliandor finally gives up on attacking the Nazgul and instead focuses on the still-sighted soldier. Dropping his crossbow after one more round, he wields his mace joins the fray in the street.
Araphor continues to take note of the bright light of the flames on the building, and hears the calls of “fire”, but stands his ground, as two soldiers have rounded the corner of the block and are in view. (He figures to keep the rear exit free so that people can escape the burning building, as the color of the fire makes him suspect his water spells will be of little use.)