Codex III-Chapter 9

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It had been a week since the fight at the shrine, and during that time Rynn had worked with Ranna to understand the newfound bond they had developed while fighting in the Shrine of Piety. His training under Arandur had taught him some of the ways of the ranger, but it had surprised him that he had already achieved such a new understanding of his own magic connection to the wild. Ranna embodied the strength that connection had gained of late. He thought back to his mentor and Arandur’s animal companion. Vanya had always been with the elven ranger, having joined Arandur decades before Rynn was even born, the gray hawk serving as a scout and loyal friend to the elven ranger. Rynn had always been amazed at how Vanya seemed to be instinctively responsive to Arandur’s thoughts and moods and even commands. But now that his connection with Ranna had developed, he had begun to understand some of the intricacies he had noticed and wondered on. He had even developed the ability to cast rudimentary spells. He had, just once, ventured outside the city to test out his new spellcasting ability by casting speak with animals. The experience had been slightly frustrating, since the local squirrels weren’t much for conversation, but it did show that his connection with the natural world was increasing in strength. This pleased him.

Amara disappeared every day for long hours with Master Hiddel, and Khaska and Jenika assisted as they could with the investigation into the Shrine of Piety. The city had shut the shrine down, and the clerics were gradually all moving to different locations as they could. Most of the clerics and acolytes had been cleared of any wrongdoing, including Arthur and Natalya, but Amara’s suspicions about Cerlis were correct. The morning after his arrest, unable to cast spells, an undetectable alignment spell wore off, and he was revealed as truly evil. Further investigation had uncovered a few more details.

Therylassa’s personal quarters contained stacks of the flyer, much like the one Jenika had found in the abandoned home near the monastery. They appeared to have been mass-produced, as they were all identical, except for information that may have been written on them by Therylassa. Cerlis, however, was not forthcoming with further information. The connection to the Peaceful Children and Therylassa had not been fully discovered. The Knights assured the party that they would investigate them further. Dragonrider Reitman himself had spoken briefly to Khaska on this issue, assuring the Maha’i that the Knights would make sure that the Peaceful Children were not a danger.

As to the identity of the zombies, nothing was known. The most disturbing portion of the investigation had been that the dead bodies hanging in that room had been killed by human bite marks. Apparently they had been chained in the room with the three zombies and left to be killed. When this news had been received, Khaska had gone to his bed, ill, for the remainder of the night. During the days, the cleric spent more time with the Knights and Sir Ing, or helping the displaced clerics from the Shrine of Piety with moving to other locations now that the city was dismantling the Shrine. He had attended the memorial service for the zombies and other victims in the secret shrine of Nerull.

This morning found Rynn sitting at one of the tables in their inn. Amara had ghosted through on her way to Master Hiddel’s, having barely touched her breakfast. The ranger glanced down at Ranna. The two of them were getting a little restless. Haalak had said that the preparations for the trial might take some time, but still, Rynn was growing impatient. With the exception of the caravan trip, the few weeks he had spent in the city were really some of the most he had spent in one place in a long while, and his wanderlust was beginning to assert itself.

But he had made a commitment, and he wanted to finish this involvement with the Sendylus guild. They had caused enough heartbreak, and though his desire was to continue wandering, and help his newfound friends as he was able, he would see that commitment through. Khaska came down from his room to join the ranger for breakfast. They were eating and talking when a messenger came in, found them, and sat down. “I bring greetings from Haalak, who brings tidings of the trial.”

The messenger spoke in hushed tones of some of the work that had gone on behind the scenes. The judge assigned to the case, a dwarf by the name of Hormon Stoneheart, was known for his quick sentencing, but was known for being fair about things in general. Haalak was not overly excited about the selection of judge, but wasn’t disappointed either. They would likely be served with official summons later that day and would be expected to appear at the Hall of Justice near the center of Hammerdine at the appointed time, likely the day after next. They would appear and give testimony verifying their statements to the precinct captain, Lyndon Jespers, and then await the outcome based on Judge Stoneheart’s deliberations. After that, Haalak was expecting them to make good on their promise to escort a caravan out of the city. There was a big shipment of goods bound for Tir'kon by way of boat from Laishtek next week. Assuming the trial was over, which was expected, then that would be the best opportunity.

Rynn and Khaska assured the messenger that they would pass the word along to their friends, and then the man got up, bowed, and left.

“Good,” said Rynn. “I’m looking forward to moving on. I’ve enjoyed the city, but the open road still calls to me. And Laishtek, that will be good for your investigations into Tawru, right?”

“Yes, I think it will,” said Khaska. “It is where I wanted to go next, so that will be good. Hopefully Teresh will look kindly on us at the trial. I fear too much evil has come from the Sendylus guild’s manipulations. It is time for them to pay the price for their misdeeds. I am glad to have participated in this investigation.”

“Have you told any of the others about your discoveries?”

“I have not. I am not sure if I want to.”

Rynn nodded. They were silent for a moment, both thinking. Jenika joined them at that point, and together they reminisced about the events in Hammerdine. Jenika mentioned Orensland, and they all hoped the quirky rogue was doing well with his new friends.

True to the messenger’s word, a member of the city watch came to their inn later that afternoon to deliver direct summons to the three of them. He left to go directly to Master Hiddel’s mansion to deliver the summons to Amara, as he could not give it to another to give to her. Khaska opened his scroll and read the clean, crisp lettering.

By order of the honorable Hormon Stoneheart, you are hearby ordered to his courtroom, in the Hall of Justice, at 10 am the morning of June 4th.
You will give testimony verifying your statements given to Captain Lyndon Jespers.
Failure to appear will result in a warrant for your arrest, upon which you will be held in the stockades for a week.
If you do not give testimony after your arrest, you will be sentenced to a month in the city stockades.

“Looks like the trial is about to begin,” said Rynn.

“I hope these Sendylus people get what’s coming to them” Jenika replied.

“Yes. This city has seen enough evil of late,” replied Khaska.

Eryx (DM)
As a matter of housekeeping, it is now June. Please pay your upkeep, as outlined in the general campaign rules.

This is mostly a place to pause and ask me any questions you might ask of Haalak or any of the other members of the Kletheira Merchant House about how to go about the trial phase. I’ll mostly answer such questions in the gray box.

The next post will take you into the trial itself, so also post anything in particular you would like to say to Judge Stoneheart while testifying. I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to write it up, but if you all include direct dialogue I’ll do my best to include it. I’m not going to write out the entire transcript of the court proceedings, though. :)

BlackWolf
Rynn has now paid for "common" upkeep. He does so since he's sticking around the group and they've been in the city for a while… but Eryx was very correct in his narration: Rynn is getting restless and is anxious to go on this caravan trip.

I don't really have any questions right now, partly because Rynn wouldn't really prepare for the trial. It just doesn't occur to him. It's one of those official things that doesn't happen in the wild.

As for testifying, Rynn will just say what happened in a matter-of-fact way and answer questions asked of him. He tends to be very honest anyway, so he'll just say what he thinks. As for the incident with Adam, he won't mention it specifically unless asked. If that happens, he'll state that he did what he felt was the best course of action — he knew the man could be a lot of trouble if left unchecked and didn't want him riling up the others. He'll state that as a ranger, he did what he thought was right (he doesn't realize that this may be taken as vigilantism, nor that such a thing might be frowned upon).

Rynn may get slightly emotional during the trial depending on what happens. He strongly believes that the Sendylus Guild should be punished for their crimes, so he may get a little hot under the collar if any manipulations are brought into play.

DeltaWolf
Jinka is paid up for "common" upkeep. She also doesn't have anything prepared to say, she has confidence that the judge will see justice done. Mostly she just wants to be away from this place.

Thevarou
Khaska just paid for common upkeep (thank GOODNESS we're not paying for individual meals, lol).

I can't think of anything Khaska would be concerned about before the trial, save perhaps protocol - are there ways to address the officers of the court, for example, that would be expected?

In the trial, Khaska will cooperate fully with the questions and answer sincerely according to his knowledge. It is his conviction, however, that it such be ascertained whether the Sendylus fighters were truly involved in or cognizant of the nefarious dealings of their superiors. He understands that they could have be deceived into acting as they did, and does not wish for the innocent to be punished.

Sayyadina

Amara has taken good upkeep for the month. At the trial, she'll also report the occurrences with the Sendylus Guild to the best of her knowledge. If input is sought from the party, Amara would recommend that all who were caught in the assault be conscripted in keeping with common Hammerdine policy regardless of whether or not they were aware of their superior's plans—in her mind, there is no justification for resorting to brigandage.

Amara had clearly spent a little extra time on herself that morning. She had done an okay job at not scoffing at the fact that Rynn looked like he did every day, but did give Khaska credit for making sure his armor had been given a polish. Jenika, like Rynn, didn’t have much in the way of clothes, but had made sure that her monk’s outfit had been cleaned the day before.

The party had arrived at the Hall of Justice an hour early. A towering, imposing structure, it was one of the two major buildings that dominated the skyline of Hammerdine—the other being the chapter of the Knights of the Silver Dragons. A clerk had ushered them into a courtroom, where Haalak joined them shortly after. The elf introduced them to the Kletheira Merchant House lawyer, a human by the name of Adelfi Bertrand. Opposite them were the Sendylus guild lawyer and representative. The circular room had stadium seats on each side of it. There was a doorway on one side, between the seats, and at the other end head of it was a large stone chair with a desk-obviously the judge’s chair. A small door to the side of the judge’s chair was presumably where Stoneheart and the other officials would enter. There was a small place off to the side with iron links embedded in the ground for where prisoners were held.

At about 9:50 the doors opened and the mercenaries from the attack were led in, chained together. Each was in simple prisoner’s clothing. The man with the tattoos glared at Rynn as he entered. In fact, the man kept staring at Rynn.

At 10 on the nose a clerk entered and announced in a booming voice that Judge Stoneheart was calling the trial to order. The Dwarf entered, encumbered by various papers and documents, which he set on the table in front of him. A lovely young human woman accompanied him, a tall, pale thing with raven hair and very white skin. She stood behind him, unmoving, apparently an assistant of some kind.

The trial proceeded very quickly. Stoneheart was a gruff, no-nonsense kind of guy. Rynn found himself liking the dwarf as he cut the chatter from the lawyers and proceeded to get to the heart of the situation. Each of the party was called up, one by one, and was made to swear that the statements they had given to Captain Jespers were true. Jespers himself was on hand to verify that they had done so previously in a zone of truth, and apparently Judge Stoneheart had their statements in written form as part of his paperwork.

Stoneheart put his glasses down—he had been wearing them as he looked over the various papers—and began to speak. “Rynn, Amara, Khaska, and Jenika, please step forward, as you are the prime witnesses for the case against the Sendylus guild.”

The party came down from their seats and stood in front of him.

“So, what we have is this. You,” he indicated the party, “found out that you were being followed. Discovered that there was a kidnapping and extortion going on, rescued the boy that had been kidnapped, caught these mercenaries,” he indicated the prisoners, “and now are claiming that they were hired by the Sendylus guild.

“But I have a few questions for you.” He glared.

“Where is this boy, who was kidnapped? And his mother, who was being blackmailed.”

The party glanced at each other. It was Jenika who replied.

“Sir, they have left the city for their own protection.”

“So you cannot produce anybody to verify your claim about kidnapping and extortion?”

Bertrand stepped forward from where he was standing to the side. “I remind his excellency that they have sworn to these statements in a zone of truth.”

“I am aware of that, Mr. Bertrand.” Stoneheart shut him down with a dismissive wave.

“And when you rescued the boy, Jenika, you were with another fellow, this Orensland. Where is he?”

“He has also left the city for his own protection. Family problems, sir. His father and he had a falling out some time ago, and his father wants to kill him and tracked him down here.”

“So he’s gone as well. And he was the one who set fire to the Sendylus building?”

Jenika looked down. “Yes sir, he was.”

“Did he say why?”

“Irrelevant,” said the Sendylus guild’s lawyer. “It doesn’t matter why he cost my employers thousands of gold in damages. He did so! And as his companion, Jenika should be held responsible in his absence!”

Stoneheart also shut him down with a single glance, then turned back to Jenika.

“He said they deserved it, sir,” she continued. “He has a soft spot for children in danger, and Zeke had been unnecessarily placed in danger.”

Stoneheart hrumphed at that, but then continued.

“And who was it who said that the Sendylus guild was also responsible for hiring Jonathan of the Wastes?”

“The man, Adam,” said Khaska.

“And you were the one who heard him say this?”

“No sir. That was Orensland.”

Stonehearted glared at him. “Might have been better if Orensland had stayed. I also wanted to speak to you about this Adam fellow.”

Rynn’s expression did not change, but Amara grimaced. Khaska looked over at the ranger, and Jenika studiously examined her feet.

“You captured him alive, did you not, Mister Fowler?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I don’t see him here.”

“That would be difficult, your excellency, because I killed him.”

“And was that during the battle?”

“No, sir.”

“Please explain to me the circumstances of this man’s death.”

Rynn did so, matter-of-factly. The tattoed man stood, his chains rattling, and he bared his teeth as Rynn spoke. He even growled at the ranger. Ranna took a step forward and growled back, but Rynn reached out to calm her.

“So you admit to killing this man when he was tied, up, unarmed, and had just woken from serious wounds. No trial. No courts. Just you as judge, jury, and executioner?”

“I did what I felt best, your excellency, as a ranger. He needed to be put down for the good of all.”

“And who gives you the right to make such judgments? Can all rangers just kill whomever they please?”

“Someone needed to make the judgment. I was there. I made it.”

“So, you have a tale of kidnapping and extortion, except those who kidnapped and extorted and those who were kidnapped and extorted are either gone or dead. You have a witness who claims that the Sendylus guild also hired Jonathan of the Wastes, but he’s gone too. Further, that witness did a significant amount of damage to property that was not his own.”

“I remind your excellency,” Bertrand said, “that these were all sworn to in a zone of …”

“Yes yes,” the judge cut him off. “The funny thing about that spell is that it doesn’t actually represent reality. You can be perfectly honest about what you believe, but have been deceived. The only evidence we have of the most serious charges against the Sendylus guild is either gone or dead.”

“Your excellency,” the lawyer from the Sendylus guild stood, “if I may interject. We have not heard any evidence that we were behind even the attack. These people were not hired by us.”

“Don’t get me started on you.” He glanced down his papers. The pale woman at his side pushed one forward in front of him. “Esme?”

One of the prisoners stood. Khaska recognized her as the one who had burst into tears at seeing Adam killed. “Is this your statement?” She nodded. “Captain Jespers, can you swear that this was also zone of truthed?”

Jespers stood and nodded. “I can, your excellency.”

“Esme here says that this man, Adam hired her. There was never any mention of the Sendylus guild.” The lawyer for the Sendylus guild beamed and looked over at a well-dressed man on their side of the courtroom—the representative from the guild. “But, she saw him coming out of the Sendylus guild with his two buddies, Kyllys and Fynn a little bit later. You were following him to make sure he was a good investment, right?”

“Yes, your excellency,” she squeaked out. At this the tattooed man screamed at her and bolted towards her. He was in the middle of the chain gang, so there was a little bit of slack. He managed to smash her in the face with his elbow, knocking her down, and kick her twice on the ground before some of the guards managed to bring him under control—or at least away from her. She curled up on the ground, crying, holding her side and breathing in a labored way.

“Not helping your cause, Kyllys,” the judge said.

“You are a coward and a weakling!” The tattoed man yelled. “This man kills a person in cold blood and he walks free, while I languish here in chains?” He lunged forward at Rynn. “I’ll have your head, ranger! I swear by the Gods of the North!”

Stoneheart rose, his face growing red and flushed. “You call me a coward? I was fighting wars for this city long before your father and mother rutted in your unholy rites and spawned you, you Dergon dog!”

Kyllys roared and continued forward, again dragging the group with him. This time the guards were on him in moments, bearing him to the ground.

“That’s quite enough out of you,” the Judge said. “Muzzle him.” The guards forced a rag into his mouth, silencing the stream of profanities that had made Khaska’s eyes widen and caused Jenika to blush.

“What’s obvious from the facts are these. The Sendylus guild hired this group to attack your caravan, Mr. Haalak. As usual, it helps keep the right hands clean to hire people to do your dirty work. I cannot, however substantiate the claim of kidnapping and extortion. Besides which, Adam would have taken the blame for that, and he’s, well, dead. Not the sentence I would have given him, but I guess it will do. Mister Fowler, you would do well not to take the law into your own hands again.”

“He was a despicable person,” said Rynn.

“I have no doubt of that, but we don’t just go around killing despicable people. The world’s full of them.

“Continuing on. However, Mr. Haalak, you have hired these folks to keep your own hands clean.” Stoneheart indicated the party. “This was not as deliberate on your part, however, and I see no indication that their crimes were under your orders. We cannot substantiate the claim that the Sendylus guild hired Jonathan of the Wastes to harass caravans, though that would fit with their other activities. Orensland was the one responsible for the damage to the Sendylus guild’s buildings, but he’s not here, so we can’t hold him responsible.” He stood. “I pronounce my judgment. In the name of Markus, I fine the Sendylus guild 5,000 gold pieces, payable to the city treasury. This for deliberately hiring mercenaries to disturb the peace. In the name of Markus, I fine the Kleithera Merchant House 1,000 gold pieces, payable to the city treasury, for not being careful enough about the mercenaries they hired. In the name of Markus, I sentence all of you except for Esme,” he indicated the prisoners, “to conscription in the Army of Hammerdine. The Dark Times are upon us, and you will fight to defend us! Esme will serve a sentence of one year hard labor working on the new defenses of our city. Mister Fowler, for the crime of vigilantism, I find you 300 gold pieces. Had the evidence against this Adam character been less, you would have found yourself conscripted as well!”

He glanced around the room. “By the authority of the city council of Hammerdine, and in the name of Markus the noble, I declare it to be so. This I speak! My assistant, Veleria, will write and deliver official verdicts to each of you.” He indicated the woman at his side. “Thus is our session concluded. Markus be with you all.” He turned and left, leaving the papers scattered across the desk. Veleria began to clean up.

Haalak was conferring with Bertrand, the elf and the human speaking in soft tones. Haalak left, he was clearly unhappy, and Bertrand approached the group as the guards began leading the prisoners out. Kyllys was still glaring daggers at Rynn.

“Haalak is understandably disappointed,” the lawyer said, “but honestly, with the evidence at hand, I think it was as good an outcome as we could expect. And I’m sure Haalak will realize that he can get the rumor mill going to indict the Sendylus guild in the court of public opinion. That will be good for business. They were, after all, found guilty of deliberately hiring mercenaries for nefarious purposes. Will merchants want to use such a group for the transportation of goods? I think not. Esme was the only one of the mercenaries who turned state’s evidence, and it wasn’t that great of evidence at that, but enough to get her off with a lighter sentence.”

Khaska was half-listening. He was instead watching the woman, Veleria, as she organized and arranged the papers. She stared right back at him, then grabbed a single stack of the papers and left. The only ones left in the room were the party and Bertrand. A lone guard stood by the judge’s seat.

Eryx (DM)
The next post will be fairly quick, but I just wanted to pause here to give you and your characters time to respond. What will they say and think about the trial? Are there any questions concerning the outcome you wish to ask Bertrand?

Also, can I please get Spot Checks from each of you?

Thevarou
Wait a sec. No witnesses to the kidnapping and extortion? What about the monks with whom Amy and her daughter spent the night?

Khaska thinks the fine against Rynn was fair, but he won't comment on it. He's also glad that those who were hired without knowledge received a lighter sentence, for he doesn't think they should be held accountable for things about which they had no awareness.

  • Spot Check = 23 = 20 + 3 (at least I think so. There's something wonky with that skill of mine…)

Sayyadina
Amara won't discuss the trial unless her input is asked; she's essentially satisfied with the outcome.

  • Spot Check: 16 (13 + 3)

Eryx (DM)
You bring up a good point about the monks, but even if you had a monk come testify, all you can prove is that Adam was behind the kidnapping and extortion. You still cannot prove that the Sendylus guild ordered him to do so. So it would not have affected the outcome of the trial.

BlackWolf

  • Spot check: 25 (rolled 18 + 7 bonus).

"That's it? This is what passes for justice in this city? This is why we waited around so long?"

Rynn isn't upset, he's just baffled. "There are some things I don't undertand," he'll say. Here are the questions he has for Bertrand and his friends:

  • "What does money have to do with justice? My new backpack is worth more than the fine our friend Haalak will be paying. I can't believe that the Sendylus guild will miss such a small amount — small compared to what they own, that is."
  • "The judge didn't seem to care about our word, saying it wasn't good evidence. So then why would it have mattered if Orensland or Adam were present other than to be punished? Their evidence would have also just been mere testimony."
  • "What will happen with that cleric of Oldimmara? More of this?"

Rynn isn't sure he exactly understands the crime he is being fined for; or rather he doesn't quite comprehend the strange rules of "civilization". He was expecting the Sendylus guild to be on trial and was surprised to find himself counted amongst those in the wrong. Nevertheless, it's just money, so he'll pay the fine and try to better abide their laws while in their lands (which he's eager to bid farewell to).

The ranger is slightly concerned about the tattooed man, Kyllys. Conscription is no way to keep a maniac from hurting people. He's not bothered by the man's words though; Rynn doesn't feel that he killed in cold blood since he clearly and sternly warned Adam to be silent. Adam put his own life in jeopardy by speaking after that. And sometimes the most dangerous animal is the wounded one that feels trapped. In general, Rynn's conscience has been soothed by his discussion with Khaska.

Rynn is ready to leave Hammerdine as soon as possible; this court has only reinforced his thinking that it's time to move on. He'll probably work on a new bow and hang around the city limits while they wait the week for the caravan to Laishtek.

DeltaWolf
Jenika is glad that that's over. She is ready to leave town.

“That’s it?” sputtered Rynn. “This is what passes for justice in this city? This is why we waited around so long?”

“We waited at the request of Haalak. To have done differently would have been dishonorable,” Khaska intoned. Still, the Maha’i’s ears were still flat against his head, indicating frustration to the rest of the group. Jenika nodded at this.

“And what does money have to do with justice?” Rynn continued, this time asking the question of Bertrand. “My new backpack is worth more than the fine our friend Haalak will be paying. I can't believe that the Sendylus guild will miss such a small amount — small compared to what they own, that is.”

“Well, at least they still have to repair their buildings,” Bertrand said. “Was that more the kind of justice you had in mind?”

“Better at least than some small fine.” Rynn snorted. “The judge didn't seem to care about our word, saying it wasn't good evidence. So then why would it have mattered if Orensland or Adam were present other than to be punished? Their evidence would have also just been mere testimony."

“That,” Bertrand said, “is not entirely true. Judge Stoneheart is correct, the zone of truth spell merely conveys whether one thinks one is speaking the truth. In the case of Adam, we could possibly have discovered whether his actions were dictated by the guild, or whether he had been hired and then let loose. That is a very different set of charges for the guild, even if they let him keep a child prisoner in their complex. If Orensland had been here, he likely would face charges of arson. Justice in this city should be served by the guards, the city militia, the judges, and the Knights, not random vigilantes.”

"So we are not to dispense what we see as justice while we’re here because we’re not members of the militia?” asked Jenika.

Rynn was aghast. “What will happen with that cleric of Oldimmara? More of this?"

“That,” Bertrand’s face darkened, “is another matter entirely. He was serving Nerull, not Oldimmara, and was aware of the secret chambers. Those zombies you slew were citizens of Hammerdine. He will pay for his crimes. At the very least he was aiding and abetting Therylassa. The evidence against him is substantially more than the evidence against the Sendylus guild. All we can conclusively prove of them is that they hired this Adam.”

Rynn shouldered his bow, a signal to leave. “Well, I’m not quite sure what I’m being fined for, but I’ll pay my dues for this ‘civilized’ city. But I think it’s time to put Hammerdine behind me.”

“I’m sure you’ll be served with an official court document about your fine soon,” said Bertrand.

Bertrand thanked each of the party for their help as they left the room. Rynn shook his hand as they exited, then turned and walked off briskly.

Khaska had to jog to catch up. “Are we off to Laishtek, then?” asked the Maha’i.

“It would seem so. We still owe Haalak guard duty for his scrying on Zeke.” Rynn glanced at Khaska, and continued more mutedly. “Perhaps we can find some answers to your questions about Tawru.”

“Yes. And at least the boy and his family are safe. Our involvement in these affairs has not been without benefit.”

Jenika caught up to them, having lingered a moment with Bertrand. “Yes, we have that to be thankful for.” She glanced at Amara, who had been silent. The sorceress was keeping her own council on the outcome of the trial, and nobody bothered to ask her as they exited the building past two armored guards stationed at the entrance.

The sun was high in the sky, and there was not any shadow in the courtyard. However the gallery just behind the arcade of arches in the front of the building still gave shade. Rynn winced as he glanced at the guards standing in front of each pillar. It must be hot. He hoped they would be spelled off as the sun baked the courtyard.

“Incompetent fool!” a voice cried out. “Pull around again. You know how sensitive my skin is to the sunlight!”

The party glanced to their left, to see Veleria standing just inside the shaded area of the gallery, holding a large leather folder full of papers. She waved her hand at a coach nearby, an elegant black thing with dark velvet curtains just outside the shade from the gallery, and the driver goaded the horses forward, moving past the party before circling around the fountain in the center of the courtyard and angling into the shade.

Rynn and Khaska both caught a glimpse of the man’s face. He saw them, and saw that they had seen him, before he ducked his face down.

It was Seth Mytor, Orensland’s friend from their first inn in this city. Rynn had played cards with him a few times. They had not seen him since they had left that inn for the good of Amy and her family. As Seth pulled up, he bit his fingers and nervously twisted the reins, trying to not look at the party directly. He was wearing a tunic that had the same symbol on it as the carriage doors.

Rynn and Khaska exchanged looks as Veleria climbed into the carriage and shut the door. “He is up to something,” the cleric said.

“Let’s go driver,” Veleria’s voice called out from inside the carriage.

Eryx (DM)
I’ve noticed, DeltaWolf and Thevarou, that you have not finished leveling your characters yet. Please do so.

Rynn and Khaska were able to notice that Seth is driving the carriage, and Khaska’s Sense Motive (which I rolled) gives him a gut feeling that Seth didn’t want anybody to notice him, and was startled by the party’s being there. Jenika and Amara have not noticed him.

The carriage is about to pull away. I know I’ve stopped the narrative right at this moment, but I don’t want that to necessarily predispose you to any particular action.

What will your characters do now?

BlackWolf
Does anyone recognize the symbol of the carriage? Veleria is some kind of assistant to the judge, right? This makes Rynn wonder if Seth has connections to city officials. He was around when we first started noticing Amy's problems, but didn't stay to see what we did concerning her.

But Rynn's natural curiosity is currently dampened by the so-called justice of this city. He's not eager to be told again that his actions were criminal, so unless the rest of the group cares much, he'll probably let this Seth situation slide with only a casual mention to his friends.

Also as a side note: Rynn avoids playing cards. I guess I didn't catch that back in Chapter 2, and that's OK. He might play a few hands with a friend, especially if Orensland pressed him on it. I only mention it as a reminder for the future.

Eryx (DM)
Ah, I'll be more careful about the cards thing in the future. We'll just say Rynn was pressed into a game or two and then sat and talked. At the very least, you would have talked to Seth and gotten to know him at least a little bit, enough to know that he's not from Hammerdine, always stayed out late and slept in, and never mentioned why he was in the city or what his "job" was. You did leave that inn relatively quickly, and never really had a chance to say goodbye. And if you asked Amara, it would be odd for a carriage driver to be staying at an inn. Such things are usually reserved for servants, and they usually stay at servants quarters in the house of their master or at least nearby.

None of you recognize the symbol, and yes, Veleria is an assistant to the judge. Something like his secretary, or maybe a clerk.

Sayyadina
Knowledge check for the symbol: 19 (16 rolled + 3 INT)

Amara's mildly curious about his appearance; she'd prefer not to do anything about it now, although later (and in a less public place) she might suggest that Rynn go back to the inn and talk to him. For now, she's primarily concerned with reconciling their duties to the caravan and the potential demands of her teachers.

Eryx (DM)
Amara doesn't recognize the symbol, but in her dealings with Master Hiddel (and from being nobility herself) she knows that it's likely a symbol of some noble house or possibly an important person. Given contextual clues, she thinks it a distinct possibility that it is Judge Stoneheart's symbol, but she doesn't know for sure.

DeltaWolf
I calculated my experience. I didn't add up to a level, perhaps It is because Jenika waited for the party to return and so was behind in experience. Or maybe I didn't do it right… I'm not sure.

Eryx (DM)
By my calculations, you should be at 6310 XP, enough to reach level 4. I added something to your google doc under "leveling" to show you what I have, if you want to check my math.

Thevarou
Khaska doesn't think too much of Seth's appearance; his biggest question is why Seth seemed so worried at the sight of the party, because Khaska can't figure out a reason why such a relatively insignificant acquaintance would be so concerned. In an attempt to allay his own confusion, Khaska will probably ask Rynn whether he has any idea as to Seth's nervousness, but only if more important or pressing matters related to Seth, Veleria, or that symbol surface will Khaska care very much. He's satisfied with the results of the trial and is eager to get on with the caravan trip to Laishtek.

“Who’s up to what?” asked Amara.

Rynn pointed at Seth as the carriage pulled by them. Seth was visibly relieved that he was on his way, his body becoming less stiff. Now alerted to his presence, Jenika watched him as he shifted and sat back into his seat, his body slumping into more of a casual position. He had been tensed up for something.

“Well, I’m going back to the inn,” said Rynn. He strode out into the light just as the carriage disappeared around a bend outside the courtyard.

The party walked in silence, their thoughts mirroring their own individual responses to the trial. Khaska was dissatisfied, as was Rynn. Jenika was more neutral, and Amara was more concerned about the future with the upcoming caravan escort. But she was slightly confused at what had happened with Seth back at the Hall of Justice.

“Rynn, maybe you should go talk to him later,” Amara said. “Back at our old inn.”

“Who?”

“Seth.”

“Oh. Maybe. I’m not sure I want to go looking for trouble anymore, lest I get slapped with more of this city’s so-called justice.”


Later that evening, as Rynn began work on a new bow, Jenika had gone to her room, and Khaska was conversing with one of the displaced acolyte from the now-defunct Shrine of Piety. Amara came back from her studies with Master Hiddel a little out of sorts, and grabbed dinner and sat alone in the corner. That was when the doors burst open and a cadre of city watch soldiers entered.

“Rynn Fowler!” the first one called out, a stocky dwarf short even by dwarven standards, but he had a scar across his face and didn’t look like one to mess with.

Ranna growled, the hair on the back of her neck raising a little. Rynn’s demeanor grew cold and hard. He stood.

“That would be me.”

“You and your friends are wanted for questioning. You are under suspicion of kidnapping an officer of the court. You are to come with us immediately by the orders of Judge Stoneheart!”

Khaska stood, walking right up to the dwarf, his tall slender frame dwarfing the soldier. “We have done no such thing. We have been here in our inn ever since this morning …”

The dwarf waved him off. “I don’t make the rules or argue the charges. You are to come with me. Now.” He hefted the axe at his side, making serious his order. “And your friends.”

“Ugh, can I finish my dinner?” Amara practically spat at the soldier.

“No.” The sorceress unceremoniously crammed a piece of bread in her mouth as she stood up. She walked over to the innkeeper and, through a partially chewed mouthful, gave him a copper piece. “Please send someone to inform Haalak at the Kletheira Merchant House that we have been arrested.” He nodded, and with that she whirled.

“Do we have to give up our weapons?” asked Rynn. His frustration with this city was about to boil over.

“That won’t be necessary. I’m not arresting you, just bringing you in for questioning. Come with me, but don’t cause any trouble.” The dwarf was not about to take any guff, and the party followed, all slightly seething. He didn’t let them talk to each other, ordering them to shut up every time they tried to speak. He set a brisk pace and they were at the Hall of Justice just as the final light from the sun was dimming. The party was led to a different set of hallways a few stories up, they looked more like offices than the nice hallways and rooms that made up the courts on the lower levels. The dwarf soldier knocked on the door loudly. Amara pointed out that on the door was the same symbol that had been on the carriage.

The door burst open and Judge Stoneheart looked out. “Are they here?”

He looked like hell. His eyes were bloodshot, and his skin had a sallow tone to it even in the everburning torchlight. He took two steps into the hallway and grabbed Rynn by the shirt. “What have you done with her? Where is Veleria?” Rynn noticed that his hands were shaking fiercely. He could barely hold onto the ranger’s shirt.

The soldiers seemed a bit taken back by this outburst. Ranna growled and crouched down. “I need her back!” He shouted, spittle flying into Rynn’s face.

Both the soldier captain and Jenika moved to break them up as Rynn shoved him away. “Your excellency, that’s quite enough,” the dwarf said.

“What has happened?” Khaska said, watching Jenika and the soldier wrestling the judge away. Rynn took a step back, straightening his tunic, his eyes flashing from outrage to confusion. Amara just raised an eyebrow.

“It had to be you! She was supposed to go back home for the day, but she never showed up. It had to be you! Who else had reason to attack her?”

Rynn stepped forward, his temper flashing and Ranna began to bark. “I didn’t do anything with your stupid assistant. I want to pay my gold and get out of this gods-forsaken city!”

“What is going on!” came a voice. The party and the soldiers all turned to see another man standing in the hallway. The soldiers all saluted, except the captain, who was still restraining Judge Stoneheart with Jenika.

“High Justice, I was ordered to bring these people here, and have done so.”

“Hormon, what are the charges against them?”

“Kidnapping an officer of the court!”

“We did no such thing,” said Amara. “And we have witnesses to prove our alibis if you want.”

“What officer?” asked the Justice.

“My assistant, Veleria!”

“She is missing?”

“Yes, and they took her.” The Justice was now close enough to see Stoneheart up close.

“By Markus, what has happened to you?” By now Stoneheart was also sweating profusely.

“I need her back!” Stoneheart leapt back at Rynn, but Jenika was able to manhandle him to a kneeling position. “What have you done with her?” He continued to struggle.

“Guards,” the Justice said. “Please take Judge Stoneheart into my office. Put him on the couch. You,” he pointed at one of them, “go find a cleric. Something is obviously wrong here.”

The judge stopped struggling, and began to weep. His mood seemed to have turned on a dime, just like that. He allowed himself to be led away by the captain.

“My apologies, good citizens,” the Justice said. “I do not know what has happened, but it is clear that my compatriot is not in his right mind. You may go. I am sorry for this trouble.” He turned to follow the judge and the soldiers.

Eryx (DM)
Is there anything you would like to do or say at this juncture? Or will you just go back to your inn?

Also, it is now summer vacation. My ability to post the next portions of the campaign will increase rapidly, as is evidenced by the rate at which I have been able to respond this past week. That will likely be the case until classes begin again in the fall, so we can move along at a much more rapid pace. I feel we've lagged a bit at times, and of course Real Life > Dungeons and Dragons, but the lagging won't be the case during these next few months.

DeltaWolf
I must have made a mistake somewhere, anyway I should be all leveled up now :)
Jenika still just wants to leave town, but, as always, she will go with what the party wants to do.

Sayyadina
Amara will ask the Justice what he knows, if anything, of Veleria's staff and share some of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Seth, though not in too much detail: that he was someone she saw often at an inn they stayed at when first in town, that he recognized the party and seemed alarmed, that he was often out for long periods at night. She'd ask if anyone knew when he started working as her carriage driver, and who'd recommended/consented his appointment as such.

EDIT: Also, if the opportunity arises, Amara will likely offer to serve in Veleria's position while her absence is investigated, both as a good-faith effort to demonstrate that the party wasn't involved as well as for the opportunity to make more connections within the city.

Also, I will in general be able to post quite quickly, but the next two weeks or so will be an exception: I'm traveling for a couple of days, then family begins coming into town, then graduation and moving out and starting work will be a bit crazy. After that, however, I'll hopefully be able to post rapidly again.

Thevarou
If Khaska was somewhat disoriented by the summons, this incident in Stoneheart's office has him worried even more. Was Stoneheart that dependent on Veleria? Has he been driven mad by something? Is someone manipulating him somehow, perhaps using Veleria as a hostage or a sort of blackmail? Is he under some maleficent influence?

Khaska would corroborate Amara's testimony of the events of the afternoon and the history with Seth, as far as he knows. As Amara volunteers to step in for Veleria, Khaska will offer to help with what is needed in the investigation. He feels a certain duty to help out even though he is anxious to be on his way.

BlackWolf
Rynn's anger is flaring with indignation. He disagreed with and (still) doesn't fully understand Stoneheart's judgement of vigilantism, but he knows he did kill Adam. Now he's being singled out by name for something he didn't do. His sensibilities are quite offended.

The ranger's anger is leaving him quite conflicted. On the one hand, his natural desires to help people lead him to want to give information about Seth and try to help out however he can — possibly even searching for Seth himself. On the other hand, he has half a mind to tell off these people before storming right out of town and wait for Haalak's caravan some miles down the road.

He'll stand with arms folded and a scowl on his face as he contemplates the situation. He'll let his friends get started on handling things. Once he has a chance to cool down (assuming no one pushes him into storming out), he'll resolve that the best and right thing to do is to take matters into his own hands again. He'll want to clear his good name, help rescue Veleria, and resolve the situation.

Edit: To clarify, when I say that Rynn wants to take matters into "his own hands," I just mean that he'll participate along with the group instead of leaving the matter up to the (incompetent?) city officials. I didn't mean to imply him going solo.

“Sir!” Amara’s voice rang out. The Justice turned. “We have information that may be of use.”

“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow.

“What do you know about Veleria’s staff?”

“Her staff? Nothing I’m afraid. I’m not even sure she has anybody. She is staff to Hormon. I do not know if she has assistants. Why do you ask?”

“We saw a friend, well, an acquaintance, really, of ours driving her carriage.”

“Yes,” said Khaska. “A man by the name of Seth Mytor. We knew him from the inn we stayed in when we first came to this city. I saw him driving the carriage, and his behavior seemed odd. He recognized us, and apparently did not want to be seen.”

“When was this?”

“Just after the trial this morning, High Justice. Just before noon, I would think, though I cannot remember the exact time,” the cleric replied.

“And you know where this Seth is staying?” asked the Justice.

“Where he was staying. It has been many days since we were at that particular inn.”

“So, this afternoon, around or just before high noon, you saw this Seth driving Veleria’s carriage. And since, she has gone missing. Seth was also acting strangely, like he did not want to be seen. Am I correct?”

“Yes, High Justice,” said Amara. “Do you know anything about why Seth might be driving the carriage? Who hired him to do so?”

“I’m afraid I don’t keep track of the other Judge’s assistants and servants. I cannot help answer such questions at all, though perhaps one of Hormon’s head servants could.”

“You there, with the wolf. Ranger or Druid?” the Justice was looking at Rynn. Amara and Khaska turned to look at their friend. He was leaning against the wall, his arms folded. Jenika was merely standing in the middle of the hallway.

“What?”

“Are you a ranger or a druid? I assume that you are one or the other because of your wolf friend. Am I not correct in my assumptions?”

Rynn pushed off of the wall. “I am a ranger. What of it?”

The Justice frowned. “A bit testy today, or are you always this friendly?”

Amara stepped between them, smiling broadly. “Rynn was fined 300 gold pieces today for the crime of vigilantism. He still doesn’t think it fair.”

“The man I killed was a manipulative coward who kidnapped a child, blackmailed a single mother, and organized for us to be attacked and killed while escorting a caravan. He didn’t deserve to live.”

The Justice stared at him. “I see.”

“And now I’ve just been dragged here and blamed for something that I didn’t do.”

“A bad day for you all around.” The Justice was not smiling.

“Yes.” Rynn’s reply was frosty, and he leaned back against the wall.

“I can help,” said Amara. “If Judge Stoneheart is incapacitated, perhaps I could be of assistance. I could step in for Veleria, or something.”

The Justice turned to her. “Qualifications?”

“I am a daughter of the Paladilla House of the Third Citadel of Eskele. I am fluent in Common, Draconic, and Elven, and am apprenticed to Solus Hiddel here in the city.”

“A sorceress, then?”

“Yes.”

“What need does a sorceress have for doing legal paperwork?”

She paused for a moment. “None, sir. But I offer my assistance as a gesture of goodwill.”

“I too, can be of assistance,” said Khaska, “though perhaps we could help investigate what has happened here with Veleria and Judge Stoneheart.”

“A white-haired sorceress, a female monk, a ranger with a wolf, and a Maha’i cleric.” The Justice smiled. “It was you who all discovered what was happening in the Shrine of Piety, am I correct?”

“Yes, sir,” said Amara. “That was us.”

“And Hormon fined you 300 gold pieces? Hrm.” The Justice pondered for a moment, but just for a moment. “Time may be of the essence, so I will go with my first instinct on this matter.”

“Rynn, I cannot guarantee that a revisiting of your punishment will result in a different outcome, but I am in need of your assistance in particular right now. I know you are not beholden to me, nor to the city, and you are not a city watchman. However, if this Seth is to be tracked, then the sooner we send someone the better. If you will take your friends and track this man, with one of my city guards, I promise that I will personally look at your case again. If that offer will not work, perhaps I can simply implore you as one who is deeply worried about his friend,” at that he turned back to look at his door, which was slightly cracked open, shedding a small ray of light into the hallway, “and as one concerned for the safety of the city. You have already done us a great favor in uncovering the horrors in the Shrine of Piety. I ask you for another favor … will you track down this Seth? I fear if I sent for one of the city rangers the trail will have grown colder by the time one was found. It is late, and most likely there are none in the building. But you can leave right now, and know where this inn is.” He turned his head to look at Amara.

“Amara Palladia, your offer of assistance is most generous, but we have plenty of legal assistants who can step in to help. However, perhaps you could go to Judge Stoneheart’s house and retrieve whatever paperwork he and Veleria kept there. I know they worked from the house some days when there was no need to be here in the Hall of Justice.”

He swept his eyes over the group, and smiled at Jenika. “The silent type,” he said. “I assume you stand with your friends. That is good.”

Then he looked right at Rynn. “Will you help, Rynn? Please.”

Rynn unfolded his arms. “I will, if nothing else to save Veleria and clear my name.”

The Justice nodded solemnly. “One moment. Captain!”

The Captain of the guards came out of his office. “Sir?”

“Accompany these people. They will be tracking someone who may be responsible for Judge Stoneheart’s condition and the loss of his assistant.”

“Yes sir.” He stepped forward. “Where to?”

“Follow me,” said Rynn.

“Shall I go to Judge Stoneheart’s?” asked Amara.

“Yes, let me write you an official note to that effect. I will also send you with one of the city watchmen.”

“Be well,” intoned Khaska, as he turned to follow Rynn’s retreating form.

Eryx (DM)
You’ve agreed to help find Veleria and investigate Seth. I had considered stopping right after the High Justice asked if you would do so, but I reread your responses and saw that you had all basically agreed to do so (as long as Rynn wasn’t pushed into storming out, and I don’t think he was).

How will you go about investigating the situation?

For Sayya, what do you want to do or say when you get to Judge Stoneheart’s house? The note the High Justice will give you will explain the situation to the Stoneheart servants (he is a widower with no children living at home at present), so you will be let in.

Also, I should say that Sayya gave me permission to break up the group-Amara is okay going with the city watchman if the group is okay with her going off alone. And Sayya gave me this permission in person! It was nice to finally meet her and catch up with Thev the last few days here in DC. Fun to have you guys down! Congratulations both on graduating from your undergrad programs!

BlackWolf

Hurray for graduations!

Rynn is ready to start tracking down Seth. He'll want to start where we saw the carriage, since there may be some actual tracks to follow. If we can't find anything there, we can ask around at the inn where he had stayed. If we find an opportunity, he'll try to get Ranna tracking by scent too (I'll forgo the Handle Animal check since the worst Rynn could do is a 13 and the normal DC is 10).

  • Survival (Rynn tracking): 24 (rolled 15 + 9 bonus)
  • Survival (Ranna tracking): 10 (rolled 5 + 5 bonus)
  • Gather Info: 23 (rolled 20 + 3 bonus)

(Hey, the dice didn't completely hate me today! Rynn must be determined!)

Thevarou

Khaska will go along with Rynn to investigate, but would also search for clues as to the whereabouts of the coach - whether there is any record of its service, where it should be and whether it has been returned, whether there was anything suspicious about its absence - basically, to question the people who work in Stoneheart's stables/coachhouse.

  • Gather Info: 17 = 15 + 2

Eryx (DM)
That will end this chapter. We'll pick up the chase in Chapter 10!

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