Every so often there is a session that defines the course of a campaign and the party itself. This was most assuredly that session though where it's ripples will take them I still don't know. So we did a flashback in time now that the player of our alchemist, Cerulean, was here so that we could cover her finally meeting our indentured servant, Mikhel.
Mikhel is the fellow swindled them out of 5 gold pieces in a con that netted him a total of 15gp from the entire town. The poverty-stricken party, however, had their eyes dazzled by the high odds and the chance of instant wealth simply for survival and so had started imagining the 360 gold was already in their pouch. They also assumed that the amount of gold Mikhel had procured from those betting against him was quite a high amount, too, and that he had drunk away hundreds of gold worth of winnings rather than a paltry sum of 15gp as most won't bet gold on the loss of more lives.
Once they had tracked him down they took his gear worth around 220gp (masterwork studded leather, cure light wounds potion) but still felt robbed and wanted compensation for the 140gp they were sure he had spent on a single night of debauchery.
So they took him for punishment from the law. Mayor Drolga typically would brand someone for a swindle but she couldn't allow people to cheat the heroes of Torch or else everyone would do it and ignore the imposed 20% voucher. She threatened to lop off his hand and the two good characters (likely due to drugs) chose instead to inflict a punishment of six months indentured servitude to pay back the rest of the reneged bet.
During the morning conversation, they set the tone of future encounters by calling him little more than a pack mule and alternately joking about using him to find traps the more deadly way and threatened to take off his foot if he tried to run. When he pointed out that with promises like that he would be better off with Mayor Drolga, Maxx kept trying to determine if he actually would like to lose a hand as that could always be arranged since she simply saw Mikhel as a liability. In Maxx's mind he was just seeking clarification, but to Mikhel's ears he was being told he'd better shut up about his conditions or else he'd lose the hand for sure. At this point it was starting to look like a better deal.
So then we jumped forward to the current point in time where the group had cleared half the science deck. They proceeded to clear out the various plant creatures who had erupted from the Brigh worshipper's chests, though I played them out to be more primordial and alien than the actual description in the books because it felt more thematically appropriate. When they came across the bodies of the Brigh worshippers they realised that the fungus-encrusted person they had returned to his fiancé would soon burst open himself (if he hadn't already).
The party felt no urgency hurrying back to warn anyone of the impending chest burster (perhaps figuring the fiancé already dead) and thought it better to understand the chest bursters first. It seemed a rational idea at the time, though really they had handled the others well enough with bombs and sword. Still Maxx wanted to do autopsies on the body to learn more about the disease so that they could better deal with it and the others agreed to wait.
Mikhel, though a Chaotic Neutral lowlife, felt greater urgency at saving the lives of those at the Guild Hall and snuck away as he assumed the party too callous to care and as likely to chain him up as to hurry back with him. He left the rest of their gear in the lobby but stole a single masterwork hammer so that he could defend himself, and escaped. Now there was a crowd of people waiting by the lake and he could have told them of the danger but he knew that as an indentured servant, and one little trusted, they'd spend so much time arguing and claiming he was just being a swindler that the Guild Hall merchants would all soon be slain.
So he swam the river awhile, taking advantage of Water Breathing, though he had no swim skill and came out on the river bank to follow the hill around toward the Guild Hall. The Guild Hall stood a very short distance away from his home. He entered through the rear window and saw the creature carving at the door to the store room where the people hid and battered it to death with the hammer. Fearing the party would soon come to chop off his feet, and doubting very much they would care for his heroism, he slipped back out that very same window and crept off home and then down the hill to a small bolt hole.
Along come the party after fifteen minutes of autopsy, finally realising he was missing. Since they thought him a lowlife they never considered he might care enough to try to save those at the Guild Hall. They discuss the matter and decide that the bulk of the party should carry on after the runaway prisoner (tilting toward Law) while a couple head off to inform the right people and save those at the guild (tilting toward Good).
Bort, the blackfire adept, and Cerulean rush off to the Guild Hall and thus get there first. They see the door has been mostly broken down, and the body of the green thing, and see that a dog had been mauled with blood spattered everywhere. They ensure the group is safe and separate the one possibly infected person from the others while Bort races off to get the priests.
Meanwhile, Luna follows Mikhel's trail past the back wall of the Guild House with Nathaniel and Maxx. Her Perception check to follow such a long trail isn't good enough to tell that he hopped in and out of the window and so they follow it to his home and then out down the cliff. Mikhel hears them and flees his bolt hole so Nathaniel knocks him out with telekinetically thrown stones and Maxx picks him up, as well as the hammer, which is smeared with green goop.
They take him back to the Mayor and, not thinking to mention a possible plague of chest bursting creatures (presumably due to the assumption that Bort and Cerulean have it handled), take Mikhel for his punishment. Mayor Drolga chooses not to wake him up, as a kindness, since this could be considered a form of anaesthesia. She uses a Cure Light Wounds to heal the stump afterward, though I chose not to have Mikhel immediately wake up as should happen by the rules because I didn't really want to roleplay his reaction.
Maxx takes the severed hand to examine out in the foyer just as Cerulean and Bort come up to the entrance after following the trail. Bort is horrified, though Nathaniel and Maxx, at least, still feel vindicated for their actions because the man did swindle them and run. The punishment for running away from indentured service is the loss of a hand. Thus it is appropriate. Nathaniel even used a metaphor that if they hadn't punished Mikhel simply because he saved a few lives it would be like killing twenty people to save forty. Besides, they reasoned, he probably only saved them because they were on his way.
Maxx and Nathaniel both agreed that Mikhel should be rewarded for his efforts but by the town and not themselves for he assisted the town, but wronged them.
When Mayor Drolga is informed of the situation, she *is* horrified but maintains that Mikhel will provide caution to those who would swindle the heroes of Torch. However word that Mikhel saved one of the richest families in town and had his hand severed for it would undermine everything she had worked for so she tells them that she will give them credit for the rescue so long as they keep quiet about Mikhel's part in the heroism.
Though the Chaotic Good drugs are wearing off, and even once the drugs are gone he tells Mayor Drolga to give his portion of the reward for rescuing Khonnir Baine to Mikhel when he awakens. He then gets another dose of the drugs from Luna to make himself Chaotic Good again and goes to comfort the people at the Guild Hall. The following day he uses Mending and Prestidigitation to remove the blood and fix the door.
The Guild Hall offer to purchase the three masterwork hammers at 200gp per piece, rather than the typical half price of 150gp, though they lack the gold and instead give store credit which can also be traded at other local stores. What better way to reward their heroes? And the party accepts the line of credit and thus participates in a fraudulent swindle of their own. Maxx doesn't realise the real price of the masterwork hammers, knowing little of economics, though at least some of the others would be aware (and I did mention it in GM talk but it's a big chatty table of five so some information is lost).
They returned to the Science Deck and took out the last few chest bursters and then attacked the two robots in the final room, knocking them down though most of the damage was dealt by the alchemist who had been tripped by the first stun gun. They have yet to explore the final room which will be the beginning of the next adventure.