Codex III-Chapter 10

This page is part of the campaign story. << Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >>

Rynn’s desire to do good had won out back with the High Justice, but he was still frustrated as the emotions of the day still roiled in him. In a way, it was good to be on the hunt again. This was something he could do with no distractions. Machinations and politics and civilized men with their laws weren’t an issue here. There was a quarry to be found.

And find it he would.

Ranna led out, instinctively knowing what was going on. The Captain brought a torch with him, the human man serious, but deferring to Rynn. Jenika and Khaska tagged along as well, the monk as unflappable as ever, and the cleric serious about the situation.

It was obvious that tracking the coach from here would be a waste of time. The front of the Hall of Justice was cobblestones, and the captain assured them that the number of coaches that would have come by since that morning was substantial. Tracks would be impossible to follow on the hard-packed dirt or cobblestoned streets of this government district. Rynn didn’t take long to assess the situation, almost moments, really, before he stood up and proposed going back to their original inn.

“Might it not also be prudent to check at Judge Stoneheart’s?” Khaska inquired.

“How so?”

“We could inquire after the coach itself. Is it missing? Who was to drive it today? These may be important questions.”

“Perhaps. Do you know where Judge Stoneheart lives?” Rynn asked of the Captain.

“Not far from here. He’s just outside the government district.”

“And so the roads there would be about the same?”

“Yes.”

Rynn turned to Khaska.

“Tracking him from there would also likely be impossible. The trail will probably be cold from the house as well. I’m going to the inn. It seems our best chance at finding him. Assuming he hasn’t moved inns, he will have to return at some point.”

The Maha’i nodded. “I will defer to you in such matters, but,” he glanced up as Amara and the other city watchman emerged from the Hall of Justice, “I will accompany Amara and inquire there. I will come as quickly as I can to that inn. Go with Markus.”

The cleric peeled off from the group to join Amara and her companion. Rynn glanced at the others. “Let’s go.” The ranger set a brisk pace, not wanting to miss the trail possibly going colder. The High Justice had been right, time was of the essence. It was a slight gamble to head to the inn, but Rynn thought it the best. He and his companions disappeared into the night.


Amara knocked loudly on the door. Khaska stood at her side, tall and regal, while the city watchman tried to be behind them. Amara had the distinct impression he wasn’t as sure of himself as she and Khaska were. But, she had in her hand a note from the High Justice of Hammerdine himself!

The door opened. “May I help you? Mister Stoneheart …”

“Is currently in the office of the High Justice crying himself to sleep,” Amara rolled right over him. The man took a step back, eyes wide.

“We do not wish to be the bearers of ill tidings, but it is true,” said Khaska.

“Since we do not know what ails him, his caseload will have to be reapportioned.” With this, she held up the document sealed with the High Justice’s seal. “We have been sent to get the paperwork and other things so that the transition may be smooth.”

The well-dressed dwarf took it from her, glanced at the seal, then opened it. He scanned it quickly, then beckoned them inside. The building, from the outside, was squat and flat. It seemed almost out of place compared to its neighbors. Inside, it was immediately apparent why. It was clearly of dwarven make. It almost looked like granite had been imported from the Mountains of Fire themselves! The front entryway was done in exquisite stonework, and led to a stairwell. Apparently most of Stoneheart’s dwelling was underground, carved out into the city itself.

The butler quickly led them to the appropriate room, a large chamber with books lining the shelves. Amara glanced at them cursorily. Books of law and philosophy, mostly. Stoneheart was obviously a well-read dwarf on such matters. The desk itself, carved from the floor, was neatly organized. Finding the papers on Stoneheart’s cases was not hard.

Khaska was outside the door, and he was speaking to the butler, asking questions about the carriages, and who might have taken them. Amara rifled through the papers, realizing that there were many of them. She pursed her lips. It would be difficult to carry all of them back. Perhaps she should limit them down. She began to sort them by date, looking for ones that would be coming up in the next week or so.

“Amara, I am going with the butler to speak with the stable master. We will be back shortly.” The sorceress waved him off.

A few minutes later the pile was becoming much more manageable. She wouldn’t be able to get all of the future trials in this one run, but at least the next week or so. That would be a good start. The High Justice could always send someone else back to get the others, which she was putting in their own pile. It was as she began collecting them together than she noticed that Judge Stoneheart had four different cases coming up this week involving the Sendylus guild. She glanced up at the door, which was partially closed, then opened the papers to one of them.

There were many notes, scribbled in the margins of the different papers. It was about what she expected. There were the affidavits from some local men, apparently who had not been paid well by the Sendylus guild, notes from a city watch Captain, affidavits from the leader of the Sendylus guild, a Feddy Rastirman, and a variety of notes on blank paper-ostensibly from Judge Stoneheart himself. Towards the end, there were some dark smudges on the papers. Amara leaned in. It looked like drops of blood had fallen. Some of the words were smudged, but she was able to see that Stoneheart had already decided in favor of the Sendylus guild. And the trial wasn’t to take place for a few days! Confused, she grabbed another of the files for a forthcoming Sendylus guild trial. It has also been decided-in favor of the guild. In fact, all four of the upcoming trials had been decided in that manner. A cursory glance at other similar files demonstrated that this was not Stoneheart’s typical way of deciding cases. She frowned. Something was up here.

She finished organizing the papers as if she hadn’t discovered this, and then went outside. She wandered towards the sound of voices, and found Khaska speaking to a man who had a nasty bruise on his face. The man was spluttering something about how he had been attacked just after he had taken the coach and knocked unconscious. He had woken up hours later in an alleyway, his servant’s tunic taken from him.

Amara and Khaska glanced at each other.

Seth.

Amara pulled the cleric aside and hurriedly whispered to him what she had found. “I’d like to look more closely at Stoneheart’s personal affects.” Khaska seemed troubled by this, but she headed him off. “This might be our best chance to look at them.” While he dithered, she walked up to the butler. “May I look inside Judge Stoneheart’s personal chambers. There appear to be some files missing. Might they be there?”

“Or in Veleria’s chambers,” the butler said.

“Veleria? She lives here?”

“Yes. She has a private chamber near the servant’s quarters.”

“I would like to see that as well, then. As his assistant, she may also have portions of the missing papers.”

“She did work late into the night many times,” he said. “Though she was very private, if she is missing, perhaps we could find something to help the investigation. Come. Follow me.”

Amara found nothing of note in Stoneheart’s room. Just a bed and some comfortable chairs. She did notice more blood on his pillows. “Does the Judge have frequent nosebleeds or something?” she asked the butler.

He frowned. “Not that I am aware of.”

She pursed her lips. Then she straightened from looking at the bed. “There’s nothing here. Can we see Veleria’s quarters?”

The butler took her down another flight of stairs. They were probably well below the street level by now. “How expensive was this place to build?” Khaska mused out loud.

“Quite. Judge Stoneheart is a man of considerable means, having inherited a large sum from his late father. He came to this city as a young dwarf to study our laws and constitution, and never left. He had this place carved to make himself feel more at home. The servant’s quarters are serviced by an elevator from the back of the house on the street. Here we are.” He pointed at the elevator as they rounded the corner. “All the cooking is done down here as well. It’s as authentically dwarven as he could make it, though,” the butler sighed wistfully, “it’s not as grand as Tir'Kon. Here are Veleria’s quarters.” Her quarters were right next to the elevator.

Amara stepped into the room, the light from the butler’s torch barely helping her see. She glanced around. There was a desk, and Amara glanced through the papers. “Bring the light in here,” she said. The butler did so, Khaska following behind him.

There were a few files from the courts, and indeed they did fill in a few of the gaps she had noticed (she hadn’t been entirely lying to the butler earlier), but there was a locked drawer. She looked around to see what else was in the room, now that the torch was inside it. “This isn’t a dwarven bed, is it?”

“No. Veleria is a human, and had this bed brought from her hometown. Master Stoneheart was quite explicit in his instructions about it.”

Amara glanced around at it. It was sturdy, several feet above the ground, and yet the bottom had no legs—it was as if the bottom part were a box that the mattress rested on. That seemed odd to her, but as she knelt down beside it she noticed a crack in one of the seams. Dirt was pouring out.

She pointed it out to Khaska.

“That is odd,” he said. “Why would someone have dirt in their bedframe?”

Eryx (DM)
I spoke with Thev and Sayya a bit, and had Sayya roll a search check. Actually, we just used the 19 she rolled when she was over here for dinner last week. :)

I would like both of you to roll Knowledge Checks. What you learn from them may affect your next actions, so give me those first. I’ll respond here in the gray box.

Thevarou
What sort of knowledge check? Would I get the same +8 on it that I'd get on nature and religion knowledge checks?

  • Knowledge Check: ? = 15 + ?

Sayyadina

  • Knowledge: 17 (14 + 3)

(unless it's an arcana check, in which case it's 24)

Also, I'd cast detect magic.

The innkeeper at their old inn was not happy to see the Rynn and Jenika. “Lost my best waitress because of you folk,” he said. “I hear rumors of what’s going on in the city. Amy and her kids gone now. She was kind enough to send me a letter explaining the situation from a small town outside the city.” He glanced over at the Captain of the city watch. “But what can I do for you?”

“Is Seth Mytor still staying here?” Rynn asked.

The man looked surprised. “He was until about an hour ago. He came in and cleared out in a hurry. Didn’t even ask for the money back—he had paid until the end of the week. Just grabbed his stuff and left.”

“Can we see his room?” asked the Captain.

“Course! What’s this about?”

“Official city business,” the man said.

The innkeeper just shrugged and gave them the key to the room.

There was nothing of note to find, really. It was still a mess, apparently the innkeeper hadn’t had time to make it up yet. It also smelled funny, but Rynn and Jenika couldn’t quite put their fingers on what it was they were smelling. It was distinctive, though, not just the general stench of messiness and unclean clothes. As Ranna whined and sniffed the air, Rynn glanced at her, then smiled. Ranna lolled her tongue out, happily.

She could track him. The scent was fresh, and now she had it.

They locked the room and left, Ranna and Rynn leading the way. Jenika tossed the key at the innkeeper and yelled a quick “thanks,” as they bolted out the door.

Rynn was surprised at how easily Ranna was able to track it. It was only a few blocks before they managed to find the carriage, parked in an alley and abandoned, the horses clearly thirsty from being out all day. Inside the carriage papers were strewn everywhere as if a fight had taken place. The door was also slightly unhinged, and it also had that smell from the room, more pungent. Ranna had found a bulb of some plant crushed into the carriage floor. That was what gave off the odor.

While the Captain went to go get some other city watchmen to take care of the carriage, Rynn and Jenika asked the people if they had seen someone like Seth. A slightly drunk Halfling was able to help them.

“He went that way not half an hour ago,” he said, pointing down the street. “Came in that fancy carriage, then set off on foot. Came back a few minutes later, then went the other way, down that street.”

Eryx (DM)
Basically, Seth came from the left, then got his stuff from the inn in a hurry, then went right. Will you go left (where he came from) or right (where he went)?

Either way, roll new Survival checks again, please, for both you and Ranna, BlackWolf. Gather Information checks, too, if you want.

The Captain is back with you. Some other men are taking care of the carriage and horses.

Also, since there are two of you, if one of you votes one way, and the other votes the other, I reserve the right to have the Captain be the tiebreaker.

BlackWolf

  • Rynn Survival (track): 15 (rolled 6 + 9 bonus)
  • Ranna Survival (track): 9 (rolled 4 + 5 bonus)
  • Gather Info: 8 (rolled 5 + 3 bonus)

(Hmm, the dice weren't as friendly this time. No matter…)

At this point, Rynn is only interested in following/finding Seth. We'll need to catch up to him if we are going to find out what's going on; Rynn doesn't want to lose any more time. We can backtrack later, if needed.

DeltaWolf
Jenika agrees with Rynn, she wants to follow where he went. Also she wants to study the bulb with the plant making the strong scent;

  • Knowledge: 7 (rolled 6 +1)

Oh wait, its my other character who is a wizard. Oh well.

BlackWolf
That reminds me… we should take a sample of that bulb/herb/whatever-it-is with us. But we need to wrap it up so that the odor doesn't interfere with Ranna's tracking (no help from my low roll either).

Amara and Khaska had the same thought simultaneously. Veleria had said that her skin was sensitive to the sunlight. There were indications that the judge was bleeding a lot, or that someone was. And the only creatures that either of them were aware of that needed to sleep on dirt, specifically from their graveyards …

Vampires.

They glanced at each other. Amara used two fingers by her mouth to indicate fangs, and Khaska nodded. The situation had just gotten substantially more complicated. And dangerous.

Amara stood. “My friend,” she addressed the city watchman, “could you go back to Stoneheart’s office and grab the middle stack of papers on the desk.”

“Um, where’s his office?”

“Perhaps you could show him, Mr… .”

“Warstout. I would be happy to,” said the butler.

“Actually, before you leave, could you force open that locked drawer?” asked Khaska. “There might be something inside that could lead us to the whereabouts of Veleria, but we are not city officials.”

The guy walked over, yanked the drawer open, then turned and left.

As the light from their torch vanished, Khaska turned to her. “Vampire blood is extremely addictive. Perhaps Veleria is working for the Sendylus guild, in exchange for good outcomes of trials involving them?”

“Or maybe they know about her and have kidnapped her so that the judge will continue to rule in their favor.”

“Perhaps Seth knows of this influence, and is simply seeking to right wrongs and get justice restored to the city.”

Amara was going through the drawer’s contents. “There just isn’t enough information.” She held up a letter. It was addressed to Feddy Rastirman, and was sealed. “What do you think?”

“Such a letter should be read. Much would be explained by its contents, I am sure.”

Very carefully, Amara broke the seal and pulled off the wax. She looked over the letter.

Amara scanned the note briefly, eyes darkening a bit. She handed it to Khaska. “Read it. And don’t say anything yet.”

Khaska was able to read the note rapidly.

Lord Maramos,
I have bad tidings. The Peaceful Children were discovered and exposed here in the city, and in such a public way that the Knights must investigate. I know not what that portends for our dealings with them and the services they bring us. Therylassa was killed, and her idiot assistant was captured. I know nothing else aside from the rumors that I have heard. Stoneheart thinks that taking the case will garner us nothing, and I concur. Otherwise, all is well here. Those working for us or under our thrall continue to support our causes.
Veleria

“This is … greatly disturbing,” said the cleric.

“Indeed.” Amara began sorting through the objects on the desk, clearly looking for something. After a moment, she pulled aside two things: Veleria’s seal—matching the one which had originally been on the document—and extra wax. “This will be a matter which requires a great deal of discretion; any mistakes we make will have…unfortunate consequences.”

“Yes… While it could be good to seal the letter and leave it in its place, it would also deprive us of solid evidence and could allow the letter to reach its intended recipient. I think it might be worth the danger to take it.”

“Watch your tongue more closely here—do not speak so freely.” She glanced back at the door to confirm that the guard was not in sight. “This situation could turn out any number of ways. First, it is a war of information. Then of influence. Actual, open conflict will be brief, and probably too late.” Amara motioned for Khaska to hand her the letter, that she might peruse it again.

Khaska handed the letter back. “This…” he indicated the letter, “is incredibly significant, and I do not wish to have our word to become the only evidence of its existence.”

“Wise,” she said shortly. “But dangerous. This goes far beyond what we’d initially suspected. Deciding who to trust is a risky game. The civil justice system is clearly not to be trusted. And…people like this…have many, many ways of exerting influence—even magically. It would be wise to gather more information….but very, very quietly. And then there’s this.” She waved the note.

“I do not think danger is something we can avoid, and potential corruption provides reason to keep the evidence in safe hands.”

“And which hands might those be?” she asked drily.

“Ours. And perhaps the Knights, if they will be involved in these matters further.”

“Let us further consider the options, then," mused the sorceress. "If we leave the note, and reseal it, our enemies will not know that we have read it. If we take the note, they will assume that we have known.” She paused. “If we leave the note, though, he receives information. We cannot yet assess the value of that knowledge to him, but it would likely be better for us if he did not.”

“I do not think our enemies know of the note’s existence, however, and without it they might never know.”

“One of our enemies most certainly knows, since she’s the one who wrote it. But we will see. Perhaps we could leave a more innocuous duplicate. If detected, they gain nothing more than if they notice it missing. At the very least, it would buy us some time.”

“I concur. What should we omit from the note we leave behind? Perhaps diminish the certainly of the asseverations? ‘I fear the Peaceful Children might have been exposed?’” Khaska whispered.

“Hssssh!” Amara glared at him briefly, then pointed to the note, underlining a few phrases with her finger. She drew a line through everything between “tidings” and “Therylassa was killed.” She then indicated striking out the last sentence of the first paragraph.

“The remaining information will not be kept private long, but it is reason for a note. I think this will suffice.”

“Very well. Will you…?” Khaska pantomimed writing.

Amara nodded and reached for a pen, spare ink, and paper from the desk identical to that on which the note was written. She studied the original as she wrote, then tucked it back into the folds of her robe. The new note read slightly differently, some key points having been omitted.

Lord Maramos,
I have bad tidings. Therylassa was killed, and her idiot assistant was captured. I know nothing else aside from the rumors that I have heard. Otherwise, all is well here. Those working for us or under our thrall continue to support our causes.
Veleria

“The original must not be found. What to do with it is a matter I would prefer to discuss in another place, one where we can be more sure of our safety. Let us gather the rest of the things here and leave as soon as possible. I’ll thank the guard for his assistance and tell him we did not wish to open what appeared to be personal correspondence.” She poured wax on the folded forgery and pressed Veleria’s seal into it, making sure to clean it afterwards and set everything back as it had been.

Khaska nodded. “We must find our companions as quickly as possible. They might be in graver danger than us.”

“Perhaps. If they’re tracking, we have no real way to follow them; they’ll return when they are finished. But perhaps we could try. In either case, we should discuss this further first. I’m not sure I trust Rynn to think first instead of charging headlong after ‘justice,’ heedless of the danger.”

“We might be able to find them at the inn we first stayed at,” said Khaska, turning to go.

“Quite possibly. We do have a few more decisions to make first, though.” Amara gathered the rest of the things and headed for the door.

This was the portion of the text that I didn't want to show The Wolf Brothers for fear it would prejudice them in their decisions. However, cat's out of the bag and they're stuck in the situation they are in, so I can reveal this. Thev and Sayya actually wrote up part of the dialogue between the characters themselves, something I would highly like to continue to encourage.

“Do we want to know where he came from, or where he’s going?” asked the Captain, when informed of the drunk’s information.

“I think our priority should be to pursue him,” said Rynn. “I’m most interested in finding him. We can backtrack later, if needed.”

Jenika was approaching from the carriage, which was being now driven off by other city watchmen. She held a piece of the bulb in her hand, and was smelling it.

“I’m pretty sure this is garlic,” she said.

Rynn gave it a whiff, and he nodded. “Yup. That’s the smell that Ranna has been following, too. Here, hand it over. Best to keep it in my haversack so that it can’t interfere with her tracking.” The monk obliged, and a few moments later the three of them were heading down the street.

The trail led them to an inn a few blocks away. None of the bar patrons were that useful, however, but Jenika was able to get the innkeeper, a stout dwarf woman, to concur that Seth had just rented a room, and had left just a few minutes before the party arrived. With that, they were out the door again, and Ranna followed the scent. It went nowhere else than back the way they had come, so it looked like backtracking would happen sooner, rather than the later that Rynn had indicated. The trail at one point branched out … it looked like Seth had gone around a block, but again, it met up with his old trail, and soon it was obvious that the man had been retracing his steps.

Ranna paused at a building for a moment, but then pressed forward. About a block later, then found what they were looking for, apparently. The trail led right to the back cellar door of an older building, a winery. Jenika approached stealthily in the dark, for there was no artificial light in the back of this building, though light from one of the moons made it easy to see about thirty or forty feet. The monk lifted the cellar door slightly. It was unlocked. She glanced back at the two of them, but the Captain just drew his sword. Rynn had to admire that. This Captain was a man of action. The Ranger followed suit and drew his sword. Ranna seemed to grin, but made no noise as Jenika finished swinging the door open.

They padded down the stairs to find themselves in a cold room. There were wine barrels stacked on the left side of the room, and a few exits from the room they were in, which, based on the size of the building, was only a portion of the basement. The smell of the garlic was overwhelming, causing Rynn to cover his nose. Ranna kept pawing at her nose, but, responding to her master’s unspoken command, made no noise.

“Hello?” came a faint voice. “Is anybody there? Help me!!”

Eryx (DM)
You are in the cellar of the winery. You can hear a woman’s faint voice off to the side in one of the other rooms. The Captain still has his torch.

I've sent the update of Amara and Khaska's actions straight to Thev and Sayya. Their characters are learning things about the situation that I don't want to prejudice your actions. It's just the nature of having split the group up. I'll post their parts when everybody is (more or less) on the same page.

What will Rynn and Jenika do? The Captain will follow your lead in all of this.

Thevarou
Congrats on using what Tolkien considered to be the most beautiful words in the English language in this post: "cellar door."

BlackWolf
As is his nature, Rynn will want to investigate and help this woman if she's in danger. But his recent time in another underground location has made him wary. He doesn't want to run headlong into a trap, or tip off Seth/anyone else.

Rynn will search the basement as quietly as possible, heading toward the woman's voice without revealing himself (if possible).

  • Move Silently: 20 (rolled 15 + 5 bonus)
  • Hide: 23 (rolled 18 + 5 bonus)
  • Search 7 (rolled 3 + 4 bonus)
  • Ranna Move Silently: 10 (rolled 7 + 3 bonus)
  • Ranna Hide: 4 (rolled 2 + 2 bonus)

Those are the only actions Rynn will take, pending more information. If Jenika or the Captain want to be more direct, that's fine. Rynn will stay hidden and have their backs.

DeltaWolf
Jenika also wants to be sneaky (sneaky sneaky).

  • Move Silently: 26 (20+6 mod)
  • Hide: 8 (3+5 mod)
  • Spot: 26 (19+7 mod)
  • Listen: 17 (10+7 mod)

Maybe I will see them before they see me…

Rynn brought his fingers to his lips, indicating that he wanted to be quiet. Jenika and the Captain both nodded.

The torchlight illuminated the entrances to the side rooms from the room. Rynn slunk towards the first. Poking his head around the corner, there was nothing in it but more wine barrels. Jenika was able to notice other pieces of garlic cloves on the ground, apparently where the smell was coming from.

“Please! Help me!”

Jenika was able to notice which room the voice was coming from, and she snuck forward to the third of the doors on the right side of the room. The Captain followed, bringing his torch to illuminate, his armor softly clanking. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of crushed garlic on the floor by the threshold to that side room, something the monk pointed out. Poking her head around, she was able to see in.

Veleria was chained to the ceiling at the back of the room. Her arms were twisted high above her head, and her feet were a few inches off of the floor. Blood dripped from her hands, running down her arms and down her body to where it pooled on the floor underneath her. Her fine clothing hung in tatters around her slender body, and it looked to Jenika like the woman was sopping wet—and it was chilly in the basement of this wine cellar. A torch was jammed in between a few barrels in the back corner opposite her, illuminating Veleria’s room, but not casting light out into the room they were in.

“Please, oh please, by all you hold holy! Help me! I can hear you! Oh hurry, before he gets back!”

Eryx (DM)
You’ve discovered Veleria, and she’s in a bad situation. The Captain is wearing full plate and it seems likely that she heard him, since the two of you were quite confident that you were moving very quietly. The light situation is that Veleria can see to the edge of the room, but no further (i.e., the room is 40 feet long, and the shadowy illumination of the torch in there with her would go just to the edge of the room).

BlackWolf
Since it appears that the coast is clear, Rynn will rush into the room to help Veleria. He'll try to get her down and examine her injuries. Then he'll ask the Captain to take Veleria back to safety at the Hall of Justice and to send help.

Rynn plans to stay to wait for Seth. As he sees it, he had two tasks: the first to save Veleria and the second to track down the abductor. He'll hide in the darkness somewhere across the hall from where Veleria was imprisoned with bow ready. He expects that Seth will return and head directly for his prisoner, so hopefully the ranger can get the drop on him. This will also give Rynn some options if Seth doesn't come back alone.

Rynn believes he needs to stay just in case Seth tries to run and must be tracked again. He'll suggest that Jenika help the Captain with Veleria, but won't argue if she chooses to stay.

  • Rynn Hide: 23 (rolled 18 + 5 bonus)
  • Ranna Hide: 4 (rolled 2 + 2 bonus)

DeltaWolf
Jenika would suggest that they leave with Vereria. But if Rynn insist on staying, she will stay with him.

  • Hide: 12 (rolled 7 +5)

I guess a girl that pretty is hard to miss!

BlackWolf
Rynn shows a flash of indecision at Jenika's suggestion. Then with a grimace he says, "If we all leave, Seth will get away. But if I stay, I can delay him or track him if he runs. I know it's not ideal, but we don't have much choice if we want to catch him. I only have to keep him busy for a few minutes until help can arrive."

Without hesitating, Rynn slammed his sword into its sheath and darted forward into the room.

Veleria gave a sob. “Oh thank goodness!”

As the ranger got closer, he could see exactly how Seth had managed to tie her to the ceiling—it actually was a large metal rack, or at least the frame of an unfinished one, for holding more of the barrels of wine. The manacles had been looped over the top, and from the way she was hanging, it looked as if her shoulders had been wrenched from their sockets. However, there was also no way to get the manacles off of the rack itself. Rynn wrapped his arms around her and lifter her up, she was thin, and he was easily able to get her high enough that she was no longer supporting her own weight. The captain and Jenika helped push Veleria to the side, where the manacles slid down the sides of the rack and they could lay her on the ground. She cried out in pain as they did so, weeping, her tears running down her face and mingling with blood coming from her nose. She was indeed wet, and her clothes had been shredded. Jenika sucked her breath in sharply as she examined the poor woman. The shreds in her fine clothing were all marked with blood, and it was obvious that someone had been cutting on her all day from the injuries under her tattered clothing.

“Who would do this?” the monk asked.

“I don’t know who he is,” Veleeria managed to choke out between short, gasping breaths. “He kidnapped me and has been,” she began to cry again. Rynn had examined the chain, and he glanced at the Captain, who nodded. The two drew their swords and, admonishing Veleeria to remain still, began hacking at the manacles. It took a little bit, but eventually the chain broke. They would have to find some other way to get the manacles themselves off of her wrists, but at least she was no longer bound to the rack.

“Captain,” Rynn said. “Can you take this woman back to the Hall of Justice?”

“There should be a guard precinct closer than that, but yes, I’ll take her. What are you going to do?”

“Wait for Seth.” The ranger’s look was one of fury.

Jenika was helping Veleeria to her feet, but the woman could barely keep herself up, and sank again to the floor with cries of pain. The monk was comforting the woman, but glanced up. “I think it would be best if we all went to help her.”

Rynn shook his head. “If we all leave then Seth will get away. But if I stay, I can delay him or track him if he runs. I know it’s not ideal, but we don’t have much choice if we want to catch him. I only have to keep him busy for a few minutes until help can arrive.”

Jenika was running her hands over Veleeria’s back. Suddenly the monk grabbed her arm and wrenched it slightly forward. Veleeria cried out in pain. Rynn knelt down. “What are you doing?”

“I just popped her shoulder back into place.” Jenika was looking at Veleeria’s face. “I can do it to the other one, if you would like.” Veleeria moved her right arm slightly. It obviously still pained her a great deal—she didn’t move it much—but she did move it. Her left arm still hung limply at her side. The woman nodded. Jenika grabbed that arm too, and gave it a quick jerk. Then the monk nodded. “She will need a healer for more than that, but at least I was taught to do that.” She stood.

“I will be able to send for a healer from the precinct,” the Captain said. “Rest assured, she will be taken care of. I will send help as soon as I can,” the captain said. He reached down and scooped the woman up. “Let’s get you out of here.” She nodded mutely, then took a deep, rattling breath. Rynn grabbed the torch from where it was jammed in the barrels to the side and followed with Jenika as the captain left the room.

“So, just hide and then get the drop on him?” asked Jenika.

“That was the idea. He’ll most likely go straight for his prisoner, and we can then trap him in there.”

“I like it.” The both ghosted over to one of the other siderooms. This one was full of barrels lining both walls, but there was room enough around the doorway to hide. Rynn looked at Jenika, and the monk gave a nod of approval. The ranger glanced back at the Captain, who was just at the point where the stairs began.

Veleria’s arms were around the captain’s neck, and suddenly she lunged forward. The man cried out. It was a little difficult to see what was going on, but then the captain unceremoniously dropped her, his hand going to his neck. Veleeria managed to get her feet down on the ground, and continued to wrestle with the captain, keeping her face at his neck. He managed to throw her off, his hand going to his neck as he stumbled backwards. Veleria took one step back and adroitly caught herself, her hand going to her mouth, which was stained by blood. She wiped it onto her fingers and one by one, began to suck the red liquid from them as her lips curled up into a smile.

Eryx (DM)
Veleria has attacked the captain, and, in doing so, has apparently substantially regained her strength.

What will you two do now?

Also, I've added a bit above to wrap up Khaska and Amara's portion of the events. Since you two in this portion here will have to let things play out, I don't worry anymore about prejudicing your actions based on what the other two characters have discovered. It's above, just integrated in the storyline.

BlackWolf
Rynn is stunned. "Wha— what are you doing?" Out of habit or reflex he'll ready his bow. "Why are you trying to hurt him?! We came here to rescue you!"

At this point, Rynn will demand answers. Something isn't right here at all. He'll aim his bow at Veleria, but won't attack unless she makes a move (either to attack or flee). If she does, he'll fight back. It looks like combat is probable, so here are some rolls for Rynn:

  • Initiative: 12 (rolled 9 + 3 bonus)
  • Round 1: Rapid shot
    • longbow attack: miss (rolled 1!)
    • longbow attack: 22 (rolled 16 + 8 bonuses - 2 rapid shot), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)
  • Round 2: Rapid shot
    • longbow attack: 10 (rolled 4 + 6 as above), damage: 5 (rolled 3 + 2 STR)
    • longbow attack: 21 (rolled 15 + 6 as above), damage: 3 (rolled 1 + 2 STR)
  • Round 3: Rapid shot
    • longbow attack: 16 (rolled 10 + 6 as above), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)
    • longbow attack: 15 (rolled 9 + 6 as above), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)

Rynn will also have Ranna attack. (Given his Handle Animal ranks, I won't bother to roll unless the DM requests it; minimum score 13, DC 10.)

  • Round 1: bite: 11 (rolled 8 + 3 bonus), damage: 6 (rolled 5 + 1 STR)
  • Round 2: bite: 9 (rolled 6 + 3 bonus), damage: 7 (rolled 6 + 1 STR)
  • Round 3: bite: 15 (rolled 12 + 3 bonus), damage: 7 (rolled 6 + 1 STR)

If any of Ranna's bites succeed, she'll try to trip. I'm only rolling one trip check though, since her rolls weren't that great:

  • Trip check: 8 (rolled 7 + 1 STR)

“Wha—” said Rynn, shocked. “What are you doing?” Almost without thinking he unshouldered his bow and nocked an arrow. “Why are you trying to hurt him? We came here to rescue you?”

Veleria was finishing sucking the blood from the last of her fingers, lingering on it, and smiling again as the tip left her mouth. The smile grew bigger, from pleasure to anticipation, and her features hardened. “Won’t he be disappointed?”

With that, she dropped into a crouch and sprang back, vaulting up the stairs. Rynn loosed his arrow at her, and it went wide, but as she scrambled up the stairs another of his arrows hit, embedding itself in her left calf.

Jenika gave chase, sprinting after the woman, moving in concert with Ranna. Rynn followed, but stopped momentarily at the Captain to check on the man. He was still bleeding profusely from the neck, but waved Rynn on. “Go! Don’t let her escape.” The ranger nodded, then continued up the stairs.

The light from one of Pressen’s other moons was now illuminating the area, and Rynn looked around. Jenika and Ranna were looking around, but Veleria was nowhere to be seen.

“Where did she go?” he asked, glancing up and down the back alley, another arrow nocked and ready to fly.

“I don’t know. She wasn’t that far ahead of me.”

Ranna was sniffing the ground, but Rynn could also sense the frustration of his animal companion. Veleria seemed to have disappeared into thin air.

Rynn was about ready to being tracking again, for surely Ranna could track the garlic scent again. It might be difficult, for perhaps Veleria had gone the same way Seth had come, and distinguishing their trails might be difficult. He knelt down by the wolf and was about to begin his instruction when a weight smashed into him from above.

Jenika whirled and looked up just as Veleria landed on the ranger. The two went down in a heap, but Rynn was quickly pinned. Veleria grabbed his hair and yanked it back, exposing his neck, and again she bit deep and hard.

The ranger yelled as blood fountained from his neck. Jenika waded in and managed to deliver a severe kick to Veleria’s head, but the woman shrugged it off. Rynn managed to break free of Veleria, but just for a moment. She lunged back at him and he had a moment to glance at her face, her mouth wide open, her teeth jagged and sharp as she bit again into his neck. He tried in vain this time to break free, but this time her grip on him was more solid and he could not, try as he might. Ranna was nipping at Veleria’s feet and Jenika delivered another vicious strike to Veleria’s head, but she kept right on drinking from Rynn’s neck, even as Jenika again smashed her head.

Eryx (DM)
Geez, Deltawolf. Maybe you should let me roll more often for you. Jenika got a nice crit in for maximum damage, not to mention hitting on 3 of 4 of the rounds she could.

Rynn is currently pinned and, aside from the first attempt to break free, has been unable to do so again. (I converted your rolls for the longbow to opposed grapple checks, so I extended this current fight to 4 rounds.) Veleria is drinking from his neck. Despite Jenika’s severe pounding on her, she seems to be doing fine.

Rynn is at 2/24 hitpoints. She smashed him pretty hard on the initial attack/grapple, and has been almost constantly drinking his blood.
Jenika and Ranna are at full hitpoints.

Give me your next three rounds of actions. And if you’d like to roll a Knowledge (Religion) check, you can tell whether or not your characters have figured out, as I’m sure you have by now, that Veleria is a vampire. DC is 12.

DeltaWolf
*Knowlage (religion): 5 (4+1)
I wonder what that vampiric thing can be???

*Flurry of blows:
attack: 23 (17+6) damage: 9 (6+3)
attack: 13 (7+6) damage: 4 (1+3)

*Flurry of blows:
attack: 20 (14+6) damage: 8 (5+3)
attack: 24 (18+6) damage: 10 (7+3)

*Flurry of blows:
attack: 9 (3+6) damage: 8 (5+3)
attack: 16 (10+6) damage: 6 (3+3)

BlackWolf
Well, Rynn doesn't have Knowledge (religion) so he's completely oblivious. Maybe he's heard of vampires before, but he certainly doesn't know anything significant about them. And I looked through our inventories and the description of the area, I'm not sure what we'd do differently if we did know what we are facing.

I'm not sure there is much Rynn can do at this point. So if he dies and becomes a vampire spawn, I apologize in advance for the mayhem that will cause. :)

Rynn is too hurt for trying to fight back; the best he can do at this point is try to escape. If able, he'll try to get back down into that cellar where the captain of the guard is. On his way down the steps, he'll call for Jenika to follow.

Rynn's grapple attempts to escape:

  • Round 1 - 13 (rolled 7 + 6 bonus)
  • Round 2 - 17 (rolled 11 + 6 bonus)
  • Round 3 - 18 (rolled 12 + 6 bonus)

Ranna will continue to attack and try to trip (I don't think damage reduction would stop the trip; the bite just has to be successful even if it doesn't really injure). She will follow Rynn ("down" trick, free action from Rynn) should he escape:

  • Round 1: bite: 20 (rolled 17 + 3 bonus), damage: 3 (rolled 2 + 1 STR), trip: 19 (rolled 18 + 1 STR)
  • Round 2: bite: 5 (rolled 2 + 3 bonus), damage: 4 (rolled 3 + 1 STR), trip: 7 (rolled 6 + 1 STR)
  • Round 3: bite: 19 (rolled 16 + 3 bonus), damage: 3 (rolled 2 + 1 STR), trip: 12 (rolled 11 + 1 STR)

The Captain exploded out of the cellar door in a rush of metal and steel, practically tackling Veleria. With his blow, Rynn managed to scramble free as Ranna savaged the woman’s leg. Veleria kicked Ranna off with a vicious strike that sent the wolf sprawling with a howl. The Captain swung his sword in an arc that bit deeply into the woman’s shoulder, staggering her. She lunged forward at him but he pushed her back. There was a pause in the combat as the three circled the woman. Ranna got to her feet and advanced, growling. Rynn held his sword up. There was nothing more to do but see this through, but he could tell he was badly injured. Veleria smiled. She was unafraid. Jenika had landed some solid blows, and the Captain’s sword had bit deep, but the confidence of this woman worried Rynn. Then he saw something that chilled him. Her clothing was in tatters already, but the Captain’s blow had all but severed one strap of her dress. The wound lay open as the cloth dropped down. As he prepared to close with her once again he saw that the wound was healing itself before his very eyes.

Dread stole over him. But he glanced at Jenika, who caught his eye. The two of them charged, the Captain joining them, shouting for Markus to protect them and guide their hands.

Then another clear voice rang out, shouting words in a language none of them understood. Veleria whirled towards the sound as Seth stepped out of the darkness, a medallion held before him. Light welled up from it as he continued his incantation.

Veleria had a moment for her eyes to boggle and her mouth to grimace. She turned and bolted for the wall, clambering up it like some human spider. She did not get far. Seth finished his incantation and the light blazed forth from the medallion to strike at Veleria. She screamed once, a horrible grating screech that chilled all of them to the bone. Then she exploded in a flash of light and was gone. Her tattered dress floated gently down to the street.

Seth turned on them. “You idiots! You shouldn’t have interfered! Now we’ll never know what she was doing here.” He grimaced. “But you are injured.” He held a hand up. “May I heal you, Rynn?”

Eryx
Seth has arrived, and you would have recognized the spell as the same one Khaska used on the zombies in the basement of the Shrine of Piety-turn undead. It obliterated Veleria.

What will you do now?

Things you will learn in the course of the conversation I'm assuming you're going to have with him (unless you're going to attack him, which seems unlikely):
1. Seth has been trailing Veleria for some time, attempting to discover her purpose here in Hammerdine.
2. After spotting you, he thought it would be prudent to move locations. His stuff has been moved to a new inn. Had you followed his older trail from where you found the carriage, that is where he would have been. He checked in and then came back.
3. He spotted you tracking him, and then trailed you here. He had hoped his interference would not be necessary, and that you would either figure out what Veleria was before freeing her or call for backup before going in.

BlackWolf
Rynn begins to sputter in anger, but then stops and chuckles as he realizes a point of similarity in that Seth has also (apparently) taken up vigilantism. Thus he lets his anger wash away — his normal friendly self is starting to emerge from under the weight of his recent bad mood.

"Yes, I would appreciate that," he'll reply to the offer of healing. "If you didn't want anyone to interfere, then perhaps you shouldn't have acted like a criminal. Kidnapping and torturing a woman isn't exactly a way to endear others to your cause.

"But on the other hand, I've seen first hand how difficult it can be to accomplish anything within the Hammerdine system. I can't say I blame you for taking matters into your own hands."

Rynn will ask Seth to explain what he was doing and why. He'll also ask Seth to return with them to the Hall of Justice so they can get everything cleared up.

Rynn was still staring at the dress as it gently settled on the cobblestones, and he whirled towards Seth, sputtering something. His rage grew, but just for a moment. He relaxed his sword, and at that, so did the Captain. Jenika relaxed herself, but the ranger knew that his monk friend could spring into action at a moment’s notice. After all, it seemed that Seth was also turning to vigilantism. This was something, especially here in Hammerdine, that he could appreciate. The thought made him chuckle.

“Yes, I would appreciate that,” he said to the offer of healing. He sheathed his sword. Ranna’s hackles were still up, but a quick motion from her master shushed her. Rynn could still sense her wariness, though. He shared that wariness—Seth had obliterated Veleria with one spell.

Seth approached and touched Rynn, muttering an incantation. Magic flowed into the ranger’s body and he felt a little better, though still very bruised. The blood flow from his neck staunched instantly, but he could tell it would still be a while before he was completely back on his feet.

Seth held a hand out to the Captain who nodded. Seth also healed him.

“If you didn’t want anyone to interfere, then perhaps you shouldn’t have acted like a criminal. Kidnapping and torturing a woman isn’t exactly a way to endear others to your cause,” Rynn said as Seth stepped away from the Captain.

“That thing,” Seth spat, “was no mere woman.”

“Yes, I think we’ve figured that out,” Jenika said.

“But on the other hand,” Rynn interrupted his friend, “I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be to accomplish anything within in the Hammerdine system. I can’t say I blame you for taking matters into your own hands.”

“Hey!” said the Captain.

“It’s true,” Rynn said. “Our trial earlier today was … not handled appropriately.”

“Stoneheart was your judge, am I right?” asked Seth.

Rynn and Jenika nodded. “That’s right,” she said.

“Well that’s your problem. If it’s something that involves whatever interests Veleria had, then of course the judge ruled inappropriately.”

“Stoneheart was compromised?” the Captain asked. He looked shocked.

Seth nodded. “I’m quite confident that he was in thrall to Veleria. The question is, more importantly, what interests of hers was he protecting.”

“How would he have been in thrall to her?” Jenika asked.

“Any number of ways. The easiest for a vampire would be …”

“A vampire!” Rynn practically shouted. He involuntarily looked at the ratty dress still on the ground as his hand shot to his neck. “Does that mean that I’m going to turn into one of those things?” He glanced at the Captain, whose hand also involuntarily moved to his neck wounds.

“No,” said Seth. “If you were going to become one of those things, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

His meaning sunk in. The Captain moved for his sword. “You mean you would have killed us?”

“Would you rather rise as a vampire spawn?” Seth said, menacingly. He took a step forward and his hand twitched towards one of the maces that hung at his side.

Jenika stepped in between the two men. “It didn’t happen, so no use fighting over it now. And it was a good thing that you came when you did.”

“Yes,” Seth said. He dropped his hands back to a relaxed position, but kept his eye the Captain. “I had moved to a new inn when I knew you had spotted me outside the Hall of Justice, but saw you tracking me.” He glanced down at Ranna. “I assume the garlic made that ridiculously easy for your wolf.” He looked back at Rynn. “I hid, and then trailed you back here. I had hoped that you would figure things out on your own, with the garlic, the silver manacles, and the holy water all over her. But you did not, so I had to intervene.”

“I think the best thing to do would be to come back with us to the Hall of Justice to sort this whole thing out,” said Rynn.

“That would not be in my best interest,” Seth said. “We do not know if there are other vampires, or if other officials have been similarly enthralled. I will not put my life needlessly at risk.”

“Judge Stoneheart did not look well when we left,” Rynn said. “He’s not a threat. I doubt he’s even coherent.”

“She was likely feeding him some of her blood, then. It’s incredibly addicting. I do not envy him his withdrawal over the next few weeks. I've seen it before.”

“You would have my personal guarantee of safety,” said the Captain.

“That, my good sir, will not be enough.” He smiled. “Just tell them what happened, and that I got away. Veleria was a vampire. Stoneheart’s condition is likely a side effect of her enthralling him with her addictive blood. All of this could be sworn to in a Zone of Truth spell, as you Hammerdinians like to do so much. I have no need to get wrapped up in politics and trials, and I doubt that the entire Hall of Justice is compromised, as you put it. I’ll just be on my way.”

“On your way?” Jenika shot back. “You just show up, save us, drop the disturbing truth that a judge of the city has been in thrall to a vampire, and then leave?”

“I do not want to risk exposing myself to any more vampires in the city. I’ll still be around. My work here is not done.”

“And what is that work?” asked the Captain. “You a vampire-hunting vigilante?”

“Precisely,” said Seth. “I hunt the undead in all their forms, particularly vampires. Right now, I’m working on some leads that I do not wish to discuss with an official of the city, especially if high-level officials in the city have already been compromised.”

“That’s your job?” Rynn asked. “You hunt the undead?”

“Yes. I’ve had personal dealings with them in the past.” His expression grew frosty. “Now that my family are … safe, I will spend the rest of my days hunting them. It’s not my ‘job,’ Mister Fowler. It’s my calling.”

Rynn had the distinct impression that the reason Seth’s family was “safe” was because they were dead. At this, Jenika glanced at Seth's neck, and saw two scars to one side. He had been fed upon before. Was he a vampire himself? But no, he had used Turn Undead on Veleria.

“I agree with Rynn,” said the Captain. “You should come in with us.”

Seth smiled. “To what end. You know all that I know. Judge Stoneheart was in thrall to a vampire. Now that vampire is dead. And, now that the situation has been revealed to both a Captain of the City Watch and some upstanding citizens, I have no doubt that uncompromised officials in the Hall of Justice will be furthering the investigation. That is sufficient for me, for now, and will generate new leads to help me get to the bottom of this entire situation.” He inclined his head. “Gentlemen, my lady, I bid you goodnight.”

With that, Seth turned and left. He disappeared into the shadows.

Eryx (DM)
Seth healed Rynn for 8 points, leaving the ranger at 10/24 hitpoints.

Seth managed to talk his way out of going to the Hall of Justice with you. I’m about to post Chapter 11, which will bring the entire group back together. Sayya and Thev can start to post again!

This page is part of the campaign story. << Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >>