In The Bandits of Lope I described a group of NPCs that will figure prominently in a series of related encounters. This article is the first in the series, describing several rumors and stories the party might hear concerning their exploits.
Rumors and Events
A group of prospectors, back in town to resupply and exchange their gold and silver for hard cash, report being approached by a half-dozen men who levied a tax upon them for guarding their claim. The prospectors did not request protection, but it was clear to them that they had no choice in the matter. If pressed they will describe the leader of the group as a soft-spoken middle-aged man with graying hair (Timon). If the party contacts the militia they'll discover no such tax was authorized by the local ruler. Asking around will reveal that this is not the first group to be taxed in this way.
A caravan arrives in town and has part of its goods confiscated. The merchant is jailed for trafficking in stolen goods. The party can find a few caravan guards, Bero, Galim and Tesudo, who will claim the goods in question were purchased from a group of travelers along the road to the north. If prompted with drink or a few coins the guards will share their opinion that the travelers were probably not travelers at all, since they were mounted but didn't appear to be carrying supplies for a long trip. They will describe the group's leader as a dark haired, younger man (Juro).
There is a shortage of horse feed in town. Prices have risen quite a bit, and anyone with a mount will be paying double costs to have their horse stabled and fed. When questioned the stable master will mention Gio, a local farmer, purchased a large supply of feed about a week ago. If the party questions Gio he'll mention selling the feed to a group of prospectors who were passing through his fields and didn't have a wagon available to haul that much grain. There are signs of a temporary camp in one of the farmer's fields that includes the prints of a dozen men and horses.
A stabbing occurred at a local brothel, apparently brought on by too much ale and an argument over a woman. Several locals got into a fight with a group of strangers who had just arrived in town. One of the locals ended up getting stabbed and the strangers departed, riding out the south gate before the militia could arrive. A half-hearted pursuit ended when the riders turned off the main road and muddled their trail in the river. The stabbed man recovered with some help from the local priest. The locals involved can identify one of the strangers as Teshin, a man who over-wintered in town working as a laborer on the docks. He left town traveling north a month or more ago.