Codex VI-Chapter 10

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Sanjin turned the wand he had acquired from Gulnith over and over in his fingers yet again. The dragon disciple sorceress remained tied to a tree, knocked out yet again (Greygook was brokering no chances she could free herself, barely allowing her time to eat to keep her strength up).

The Bringers of Light, including Kivessin and their sorceress officer, Sionia, were off to the side, all sleeping (meditating, in Sionia’s case) near the fire along with the former Lancel coven prisoners, who mostly remained on the ship, only coming down for warmth during the cold nights. Feral remained apart, even sleeping on the ship, clearly unsure of herself in this mixed company without Khaska. She and Sionia had arrived three days ago, and Sanjin expected Rynn and the others to arrive yesterday, but they had not. With his lowlight vision, Sanjin could see even during this period of true night, but he hoped the others would soon join them. He didn’t like the idea of pushing on with his research into the voidgates and other things on his own. He especially didn’t like the idea that somehow they had been unable to escape from Darkcrest, victims to some unforeseen, possibly fatal, circumstance.

As sunset twilight came upon them, Sionia rose from her meditation and joined the wizard on watch.

“You are concerned for your friends?”

“I am. I would hope they would have been here by now. I fear the worst.”

“Your friends seem more than capable, and I know my Bringers can give a good accounting of themselves should it become necessary. I am sure they will be here soon.”

And she was right. About an hour after sunset twilight, Sanjin’s sharp eyes caught the distant figures of Rynn, Khaska, Orensland, and the two Bringers approaching from the west. They joined the others at the camp and reported back, finally able to tell their tale of what happened as they left Darkcrest. Everybody was very happy to hear that Lady Drakh had met her end, and the Bringers as a whole were very happy to hear of Khaska’s “epic” moment after finishing her off. Sionia used the sending stone to report the results back to Garth Calad, and received a positive reply back.

Then the conversation turned towards what should happen next.

Lord Titanius has invited you to come to Garth Calad,” Sionia said. “He would like a more full accounting of the events, and I and my soldiers are to return to Darkcrest to continue our work in the city once things have died down. I hope Fynn is okay without our support.”

“I still feel that we should return the baroness’ armor to her hometown of Cyriest,” Khaska said. “I don’t know that it’s immediately pressing, but that’s possible.” He was also thinking of the quest to find the Storm Giant given him by the centaur seeress, but that could wait until everybody was situated.

“What is going to happen to us?” asked one of the former prisoners. “Will you just abandon us here on the Death Side?”

“There’s not enough room on the ship for all of us,” Greygook said. “We’re going to have to split up somehow. Though maybe I could shuttle groups back and forth to Ethir Port or somewhere, and we could take our leave of each other then. My ship is at your service.” He looked at Sanjin. “Mister Sanjin and I have had interesting conversations about the things you have discovered, but perhaps that’s a conversation for after we make sure everybody is taken care of.”

“We certainly have the money that we could outfit everybody at Ethir Port. Make sure folks have equipment and armor and passage home, wherever that is,” said Orensland. Even with just the one bag of holding they had kept, their available cash reserves were more than adequate.

“What do you wish, Feral?” asked Khaska.

The Maha’i woman demurred for a moment. “You have spoken of the lands where our people dwell,” she said. “I have interest in visiting them. Though, the invitation to visit Lord Titanius is also intriguing. The Bringers seem to be good people, helping those less fortunate than others.”

“It seems you all have a decision to make,” Sionia said. “My Bringers and I will return to Darkcrest. Most of the prisoners would like to head to Ethir Port and from thence to wherever they wish. What you do after that is a matter for you all to decide.”

The party then retreated off to the side to have their private conversation. Greygook joined them.

“If we just headed to the other voidgate,” Sanjin said, “the one near the Wastes on the living side, we could explore the entire system much more easily than using the one in the library of the former Maramos coven back in Darkcrest.”

“That’s my vote,” Greygook said.

“Honestly,” Rynn said, glancing over at Gulnith, “after we question her, I’m pretty sure I’ll want to head into the Zyrbryxion Marshes.”

“The Marshes! Are you crazy?” the gnome asked. He folded his arms. “Don’t expect me to fly you there. I ain’t suicidal. If you want to fly yourself there, you’d have to buy your own ship.”

Orensland piped up. “If you taught us how to fly yours, would you be willing to sell it?”

The gnome looked at him sideways. “Perhaps. Even if we go our separate ways, I expect to be well compensated for whatever profit we all get from the voidgates. That was our main motivation for studying them—to be renowned and receive all the benefits from being the discoverers of such an ancient and useful part of our moon’s history.”

“It seems we should at least have Greygook take the people we have rescued from Lady Drakh’s dungeons to Port Ethir. We can easily pay for their transport to a destination of their choosing with the money we have acquired,” said Khaska. “I am also keen to perhaps visit Mount Elduin. Eranaois said a seer there could help me know more of my future.”

“I bet all of us could benefit from that kind of insight,” Orensland said.

“That’s all well and good,” Rynn said, “but the voidgate system will still be there in the future. Baroness Moretti will still be dead. My wife and …” he choked up a little, “… child may be enslaved by the Cult of Skyrnyn in the Marshes right now.”

“There are indications there is a voidgate in the Marshes,” said Khaska. “Perhaps exploring the voidgate system could be an easier way to get into the Marshes than by walking or even flying.”

“Well,” Orensland said, “cracking his knuckles. I think we first need to ask some questions of our friend over there. Do we want to ask questions, or do we want our Bringer friends to ask the questions? Or do you want to take a walk, Khaska?”

The cleric didn’t like the implications of any of those questions. But it was true that finding out what Gulnith knew was of paramount importance to their next steps, whatever those may be.

Eryx (DM)
Gulnith had a +2 Wand of the War Mage on her, made from dragonbone. Congratulations, Sanjin. (Again, 5E rules.)

So basically, there are two questions here.

First, how mean do you want to be to Gulnith when interrogating her? The Bringers would be pretty mean, and would then kill her, per their previous statements.

Second … where are y’all going to head after this? As I see it, here are the options, some of which aren’t entirely mutually exclusive:

1. Garth Calad. You’ve been invited by Lord Titanius to join them there. You know that the Bringers are pretty unforgiving as an organization, but you’ve certainly earned their trust on some level by your actions in Darkcrest.
2. Ethir Port. Could pay for all the prisoners to be outfitted with equipment and journey home.
3. Marshes. Follow the trail of Rynn’s family. Greygook won't sail you there, but he is open to selling you his ship, however. For a steep price.
4. Cyriest. Return the baroness’ armor. See if it can shed light on the origins the armor found in Lady Drakh’s crypt.
5. Maha’i lands. Feral has expressed interest in returning to her homelands. She has a secondary preference for Garth Calad—the Bringers intrigue her as an organization. She would not mind being put on a ship headed to the Maha’i lands. Khaska could certainly write a note of introduction to her clan, to perhaps Simtor (the elderly Maha’i cleric Khaska befriended in Laishtek), or to some other group he felt appropriate.
6. The voidgate near the Niktean Wastes. Could allow you to explore the voidgate system with relative ease, as opposed to the one in the basement of the Maramos coven house.
7. Mount Elduin. The seer awaits?

Crosis
It seems to me that our main focuses are on the story arcs of Khaska and Rynn. Khaska in trying to free the soul of Tawru, and Rynn trying to save (or at least find out what happened to) his wife and child. Both are fairly urgent, and our decisions may be based on what we get out of Gulnith, but some thoughts on what Orensland thinks the best way forward may be:

1. This will depend heavily on what we get out of Gulnith, but it seems our best way into the marshes may be through the voidgates. Literally just appear across enemy lines as opposed to sneaking in from a likely reinforced outside. In light of that, it may be best if we wait until we start exploring voidgates before trying to venture into the Citadel. If it turns out there is no voidgate there, at least we have the Darkcrest voidgate and can attempt infiltration.
2. In light of that, Orensland would vote that we have Greygook drop us off at Mount Elduin. We can get some cosmic insight into our futures, including possibly helping Rynn/Khaska with their quests. While we seek and speak to the seer, Greygook can drop off the prisoners with some financial aid from our bag of holding at Ethir Port. Greygook likely wants to stick to the party, since we intend to finish his brother's research before long. After the seer (and presuming we don't get sent across the continent on an errand from that visit), we could make our way back to the living side and knock out several other tasks. That includes dropping Feral off at the Maha'i lands, visiting Cyriest, and exploring the Niktean Waste voidgate (thereby looking for a way into the marshes and finishing the gnome's research).
3. Perhaps we could stop by Garth Calad later if we find a voidgate near there––– however, it seems to not be terribly high on our priority list, and may distract us from some of our overarching goals.
4. I talked about finding a crystal ball when we first arrived in Darkcrest, but I think we should double down on getting one now that we know about voidgates. Exploring voidgates is a dangerous endeavor because we don't know who may or may not be on the other side of any given voidgate. Technically using voidgates even after we know where they lead would still be dangerous for the same reason. However, if we get a crystal ball, we could check if anyone is outside of a voidgate entrance before we open it provided we have seen the other side at least once before. So exploring the voidgates will be inherently dangerous, but with something like a crystal ball each attempt afterwards doesn't need to be risky.

As for interrogation Gulnith… I vote we start nice and get mean. Orensland could perhaps try to convince her he is still a member of the Cult and is trying to convince his friends to let her go. They have "promised" that they will if she answers a few questions about Rynn's family.

Provided lying and being nice doesn't work, I guess the mean way is the best way. Any thoughts? If the party is an agreeement I'll make my roll checks. With 5e rolls, I presume? We're kind of between worlds right now.

Eryx (DM)
3.5 edition rules until the end of the Codex.

BlackWolf
Friends, the time has come for me to share some disappointing news: I plan to leave the campaign.

As you've no doubt noticed, my posting has grown erratic and usually late. My life circumstances have changed over the (nearly) 8 years we've been playing, and it's gotten to the point where I feel that leaving is best. My style of play is such that I have to engage and that takes time which is hard for me to dedicate. I can't bring myself to play in an "audience" style where my posts are quick. Also, I'm not as excited to play each post like I once was, and I don't want to devolve to the point of resenting a new post.

I chatted with our esteemed DM about this the other day, so he knew this was coming. I wanted to share the news with you all myself. It's bittersweet to leave, and though part of me wants to stay, none of my options seem viable at this point. Perhaps at some future point things will change again.

However! I am committed to playing out Rynn until we get to a satisfying character arc conclusion for him, including converting him to 5e. I am not just mic-dropping here; I will continue to play until the opportune moment.

Therefore, I am really interested in what you all want as players, and what your characters want to do going forward. Rynn is determined now to find his family. Before we met Jared in Chapter 6, Rynn didn't know whether Juliet was alive or dead, so he could justify himself in adventuring and helping other — especially the group. But now he knows she survived and may have had his child. He can't let go of that. They were not in Darkcrest, and staying there gave him a chance to possibly learn more from the cult. So now he's very interested in what Gulnith could tell us.

Since flying to the marshes is apparently out, and walking is said to be certain death, Rynn will be most interested in using the voidgates to get there. But if this doesn't match up with what you all want, I'd rather find a point where Rynn can go off on his own (even if it means walking to the marshes or getting himself enslaved by the cult) than drag you into a storyline that you aren't interested in.

As for Gulnith, I think it's wise to have Orensland speak with her alone at first, just in case she believes he's a real cultist and speaks more openly. Most of all, the ranger wants to learn about their slaves. But eventually Rynn will want her to know a few things:

  • We have not forgotten that she killed one of our friends and led another to their evil ways.
  • We have evidence that there are other dragons alive in the world, so the cult's ends do not justify their means.
  • The day of reckoning is coming for the cult.

I suspect that what we learn from Gulnith may influence what happens next for Rynn and how long I remain in the game. I'll try to post more reliably until we get to that point.

DeltaWolf
I think we should make Rynn's quest a priority. Even if there is a gate in the marshes we don't know where we would end up or even if the gate is asscessable from the outside -as such to reach the marshes via gate seems like a gamble. Sanjin is intrigued with visiting the Seer, and wouln't be oppeset to seeing her first.

Eryx (DM)
I asked Crosis for something more specific on what he wants to do to try and convince Gulnith he's still a cult member in good standing. He sent me this, as he won't have a computer for a few days:

"I was thinking something along the lines of me having a crisis of faith after Narvoth went after my companion. It’s not so much that I am claiming absolute devotion to the cult, but rather I’m experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance at the moment. Part of me feels ashamed for what happened, and that part of me wants to protect Gulnith."

He authorized me to roll a Bluff Check, and said that he will shadowdance over to her to try to talk to her surreptitiously, as if hiding his actions from the group.

Bluff: 15 (roll) + 10 (bonuses) = 25 total.

Thev
Khaska thinks Orensland's plan of action is likely the best: Mount Elduin (while Greygook sails to Ethir Port and back), Maha'i lands (see note), and then Niktean Wastes voidgate, with the object of infiltrating the Marshes. While Khaska would like to pay Garth Calad a visit sometime, seeing their response to Gulnith as a hostage makes him realize that they might judge the party somewhat harshly for certain of our actions while acting as the Maramos bodyguards (do they know of Manson's demise? eesh). A crystal ball sounds like a wonderful idea for the operation of the voidgates, and the party should have more than enough resources for the purchase of one or two.

Note regarding Maha'i lands: while Khaska was originally thinking of taking Feral back to Jevereshk (as Gtarrei is, of course, out of the question), he now has some reservations. First, he's realized that Jevereshk would be a culture shock for Feral, who wouldn't even know the language; and for Khaska himself, who didn't grow up there and who has been changed by his voyaging. Second, Khaska doesn't feel quite ready to return to Jevereshk, and is wondering if there might be other options in life — whether he might use his new knowledge (Tawru, everything outside of the Wastes) and artifacts (Kvanir) for purposes other than returning and qualifying to join a clan. Maybe he can heal some old wounds and give his people a place on the planet.

With that in mind, he thinks it would be preferable to introduce Feral to Simtor in Laishtek, which would be a more convenient stop for the party, anyway. If she wanted, he'd provide her a letter of introduction to his Mawkhavi clan.

More immediately, Khaska trusts Orensland with Gulnith's questioning.

“There must be some way to get information out of her that would not require me to ‘take a walk,’” he replied. “Surely we should explore those options first.”

“Tricking is good,” Rynn replied. “But she needs to pay for her crimes.”

“I have not forgotten that,” Khaska said, “but we seek justice, not vengeance.”

Rynn glanced at the cleric, but held his tongue.

Orensland snapped his fingers, looking over at Gulnith, unconscious and on the other side of the skyship and the campsite. “I have an idea. But I need to take first watch tonight.”


Orensland shadowdanced over to Gulnith a short time later, moving stealthily (even though all his allies were aware of the plan by now) to keep the ruse up. When he reached her, he moved behind her and began whispering.

“Gulnith. Gulnith!” It took a moment … they had not let her wounds heal and she had not eaten much for several days, but eventually she woke up.

“It’s me. Orensland. Look, I’m sorry about what happened back in Darkcrest. My friends turned on Narvoth for their own reasons, and I got caught up in the middle. I’ve managed to keep you alive so far but now that we’re all back together outside of Darkcrest, I don’t know that I can stave off the Bringers anymore, and they want to execute you. You know how their kind is.” He took a deep breath. “I can get you out of here, and we can run, but I of course don’t want to be killed or enslaved by the Cult when we reach some kind of safety, presumably in the Marshes, for not having died defending Narvoth and Rickas. The way I see it, you have two options here. Trust me, or hope the Bringers don’t smash your skull in. I hope you pick the former, because I still want to help the cause, but I’d rather not be flayed alive either. Squeeze my hand if you want to escape tonight and will help me not get killed by the Cult. I’m to take first watch.”

Eryx (DM)
I asked Crosis for Bluff and Sense Motive rolls.

Bluff: 15 (roll) + 10 (bonuses) = 25 total. (This was actually posted first in the last gray box.)

Sense Motive: 15 (roll) + 0 (bonuses) = 15.

She squeezed his hand.

So be it.


A few hours later everybody else was “asleep” and Orensland shadowdanced over to Gulnith, cutting her bonds with a swift slash of his dagger. This was the most dangerous part … if she wanted to try to take on the camp (a risky proposition, but all her propositions at this point were risky) this would be the moment. Orensland tensed, his hand at his longsword, ready to draw it, but she merely rubbed her wrists to restore circulation and then nodded away. They crept quietly away from the camp.

After she ate some of his rations hungrily and after an hour of swinging her arms to get them back to their proper usage from being tied up for days, he felt they were making good time. Still, he wait until they were well away from the camp and had journeyed for several hours in silence before he spoke up.

They had been traveling, walking at quite a quick pace for some time, before Orensland felt he could begin a conversation with her. He thought it best to start with something innocuous, as well as flattering. “Forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, but should I refer to you as Supreme Wyrmhead now?”

“That remains to be seen. Certainly my survival of the assasination attempt on Wyrmhead Rickas and Hierophant Narvoth will be seen as a positive by our membership. I suspect I can push off any rival challengers.” She glanced over at him. “If I ascent to Supreme Wyrmhead, rest assured you'll be rewarded handsomely. How would you feel about being my personal bodyguard?”

“I cannot express how honored I would be. I admit I feared the membership would reduce me to the status of a slave for my past actions— though happy to serve, it would be a minuscule contribution of my more unique talents. To be a bodyguard of such a high-ranking official is more than I dared dream.”

“Your skills are uniquely suited for many things that would be of use. And you played your hand well when your compatriots turned on us, biding your time to save at least me.”

“I will serve to the best of my ability. I am curious of one thing, if I may ask— I have a friend from before my time serving Lord and Lady Maramos who claims her sister joined a pilgrimage with the Peaceful Children who was with child. I am curious if it would be possible to find her (or her child) among the slaves at the citadel.”

“How long ago was this pilgrimmage?”

Orensland had no idea when the pilgrimages would have first started. So he decided to play it safe. “About a year ago.”

“Then I'm sad to say they are probably dead. The Peaceful children were a front for the cult to gain more slaves, but they betrayed us. We obliterated the last pilgrimage as well as all of the high rnaking members of the Children, who were actually priests of Nerull.”

The shadowdancer thought back to the site they had found in the Martumal forest, nearly a year ago. Complete devastation, and a grave insult to the god of death himself. The cult had been responsible for that? Wow. But, his playing it safe wouldn’t actually get him information on Rynn’s family and the fate of the other slaves that actually made it back to the Citadel. “If there’s a chance they made it to the Citadel prior to the Cult’s attack on the Children could they still be alive? I wasn’t given an exact timeline, I’m afraid.”

“If they weren't in the last pilgrimmage, then yes, they are at the Citadel, which is where we are heading.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“You won't be able to tell this friend about his family, you know. Once we get to the Citadel, I intend to stay there until the Dedication, which is years from now.”

“I knew that would probably be the case— it’s merely a curiosity I’ve considered since learning of the prior relation between the Cult and Children. Will our time at the Citadel be a preparation for this ‘Dedication,’ then? May I ask what that entails? I admit I was curious during our meeting with the Maramos household, but the subsequent events prevented me from asking you in private about it.”

“The Dedication is something we only discuss at the Citadel itself. If you recall the conversation with Lord and Lady Maramos, we didn't even tell them. All you need know now is that we have plans to survive the onslaught from Arkenos during the Dark Times. First things first.”

“Even this close to the marshes? Forgive my candor, but is it so sensitive a topic it cannot be uttered in a remote wilderness next to the Citadel as we are in?”

“The decision was not made by me, and I don't intend to be killed for disobeying.” That was interesting. It implied that, even if she was Supreme Wyrhmead, or about to be, there were still things that could be done to get one killed. She wasn’t shedding too many tears of Narvoth and Rickas, after all. Was there someone higher than the Wyrhmead? Or a council or something? Perhaps now wasn’t the time to push for more details on this point.

“Once we get to the Citadel, then we can discuss it.”

“Wise words, I understand.”

“Will we have to walk through the marshes to get to the Citadel? I’ve been told such actions can be quite dangerous.”

She smiled, her teeth showing, each of them now more pointy than the average human tooth. “The Marshes are dangerous because of our forces. They patrol the edges of them quite thorougly. If we can get there, we'll be safe.” She glanced behind. “We'll have to hide well from that skyship if they pursue us.”

“I see. So the rumors of danger are true, just not danger of wild beasts.” He also glanced back, knowing that he would see nothing. Rynn said they would hold back, lest they scare her into panicking. She was weak after several days of being tied up and eating very little. Orensland was on his own, but he was also not very worried, her spellcasting aside.

“I’ll keep an eye out, ma’am, both for them and for potential hiding places if they come. But I took the first watch. It’s likely we won’t be noticed for the entire night, since our pattern had been for the first watch to wake up the second.” He swung the conversation back to the Marshes. “I’m glad to know that we won’t be fighting off wild beasts for hundreds of miles of swamp.”

“The degree to which everybody on our moon is scared of the Marshes is a testament to our forces and how efficient they are at blocking people from going in and out. In fact, so few even try it these past few years I almost wonder if we should draw down our forces patrolling the edges. There are other uses to which they could be put.”

“That is quite a large area to cover. Is the Citadel quite populated, then? How many kinds of people might we find there?”

“The Cult has all kinds of races, any who wish to worship Tiamat or the dragons in general. We also have a sizeable drow army, but they worship Lloth, as is their custom.”

“That would explain Narvoth’s displeasure over their presence, I suppose. How many slaves are there at the Citadel, then? Are they primarily used for construction labor?”

“Yes. The surrounding area has been built as a nightmare of traps and defenses. Any attack by the devils of Arkenos would be not worth it.”

Orensland thought through the implications. Surely the forces of Arkenos would have skyships or flying beasts … or else how would they get here? He thought to ask about this. “Including strikes from the air?”

At this, she smirked. “You don't need to be concerned with our air defenses, but the slaves to not contribute to those.” She was being cagey, but gave off an absolute air of confidence. Perhaps this was a way to inquire about other live dragons. “The only creatures I can think that would evoke that degree of confidence are dragons. Come to think of it, are you not worried the Knights might find out about your base in the marshes and seek to end your enslavement of so many?”

“The Knights abandoned the Deadlands almost a century ago in their attempt to prepare for the Dark Times. Our operation in the most inhospitable place on our moon as far from civilization as possible remains outside their purview. We’ve built up our forces and defences slowly over time, so as not to draw attention. You’d be surprised how much one can accomplish bit by bit, but over decades.”

“Fair enough. But that leads me back to my question … are you not worried about air defenses? We worship dragons, but surely you don’t have free dragons defending the Citadel?”

This time, she did not reply.

Orensland decided to push forward. He tried to look startled, perhaps even hopeful. “You don’t mean to insinuate… there are such things as free dragons?”

She was still smirking, but changed the subject. “We had best keep moving. Our best chance is to get a good distance away this first night before they realize your ruse.”

“I look forward to perhaps meeting one in person one day. But yes, we should continue.”

He hadn’t discussed this next portion with his friends, but he thought it worth the risk—to ask about the potential metallic dragons they had encountered. “I’ve actually suspected such dragons may yet exist. I’ve encountered two individuals that struck me as… oddly powerful. I’ve kept my suspicions to myself, but in thinking about it, they would have been metallic dragons. If they were such, would they serve as a threat to the Citadel?”

Gulnith immediately snapped to attention, reached for the shadowdancer and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling him close. “What?! Who?! Tell me! When was this?!?"

Her reaction genuinely startled him, and he spoke with a bit of a stutter. “W-well… the first was a gnome near Hammerdine about a year and a half ago. I was working a job with him. Why? Are my suspicions true?”

“What was his name?”

“I admit I do not recall, though I suspected he may have been a silver dragon. Again, ma’am, I must ask— is it true?”

She released him, pausing for a long while before finally replying. “It may be.”

Eryx (DM)
At this point, I asked for a Bluff Check, and he got 16 roll + 10 (bonuses) = 26 total.

“Ma’am, what does this mean? If it were true, would that be a danger to the Citadel?”

“Little enough danger to us, but still something we would wish to eliminate. You mentioned several people you thought might be metallic dragons. Who are the others?”

“One other. A dwarf we met at Fort Windhaven. Sanjin, the wizard, was the one who primarily interacted with him and voiced suspicions to me that he was a bronze dragon. An apothecary, Sanjin would remember the name.”

“Ma’am, you were right in that we must make haste. We do not know when they will begin pursuing us.”

She began to walk faster, but still kept the conversation going. “Were there any others?”

“Not that I knew of. What will you do with my suspicions?”

“When we get to the Citadel, we’ll begin investigations. If we can find these Metallics, we will eradicate them in the name of Tiamat.”

“In the name of Tiamat.” Then he reached down and grabbed his sap, smacking her over the back of the head with it in a sudden strike. She went down in a heap quickly, still very wounded from the last few days.

Eryx (DM)
Crosis rolled for the surprise round sneak attack.

Attack: 19 (roll) + 7 DEX = 26.
Damage: 3 (sap) + 3, 1, 5, 6 (sneak attack): 18 damage total.

“That went better than expected,” he said. Then he moved to tie her up and gag her for their wait for the others to follow in a few hours.

Eryx (DM)
So I have enough information to start writing up the next post except for one detail.

What are you going to do with Gulnith?

The plan, as I understand it, is to have the Skyship head for Mount Elduin, then while you explore the mountain/talk to the seer, Greygook will take the former prisoners to Ethir Port and get them all set up. Then he’ll come back to pick you up, and we’ll see where things go from there—the basic plan being to head to the gate by the Niktean Wastes, but there will be several posts between here and there, so we’ll cross those (voidgate) bridges when we come to them. (Ha! A pun!)

And regarding something Thev said in the last box, you don’t think the Bringers were aware of your assassination of Manson, but he was the leader of an excommunicated branch that was vying to come back and take power in the organization, so while they might see it as a bad thing to have killed him, there was no love lost there either. Do with that what you will.

Also, there's a new page on the left sidebar for your convenience: Major Plot Points

Crosis
I vote we let the Bringers try to interrogate her before executing her. He probably wouldn't mention the metallic dragons to the Bringers, but would make clear the very real possibility that free chromatin dragons are ruling at the Citadel. He'd basically tell them everything he learned from Gulnith (except for the metallic dragon bit). Hopefully they can get more info out of her regarding the Dedication, that seems to be the biggest unanswered question mark. We'd want to make sure that Gulnith is executed before leaving. Other than that, on to Mount Elduin, I'd say!

Eryx (DM)
I didn't make one thing clear above. This dialogue between Gulnith and Orensland was done over IM between myself and Crosis.

Thev
Khaska also agrees to turn Gulnith over to the Bringers, and sharing with them the information that Crosis indicated in his above post (withholding the information about the metallic dragons). It seems unlikely that she'll share more information, especially with hostile forces, but the Bringers can make the attempt.

Khaska would also consider notifying the Bringers that they should keep an eye on the Maramos household. They don't need to know about the voidgates, yet, but it would be good to have friendly forces watching over the Darkcrest voidgate.

BlackWolf
Rynn will hang around Gulnith until she wakes. He's sizing her up, thinking about the crimes the Cult has committed and which she is privy to (as opposed to some of the lower-ranking members who are kept out of the darker secrets). He wants her to see him before she is turned over to the Bringers so she'll know that the party she tried to destroy lo those codexes past have brought her to the end of her evil ways.

However, he won't have any words for her — from what Orensland reported, he expects Gulnith to be like Adam: ready to speak her wretched thoughts until the bitter end. Plus it's unlikely we'd learn anything more about the slaves or even Amara from her. So he'll just let her see him, then silently walk away and let the Bringers dispatch her. The ranger knows she must not be allowed to live, but perhaps it's better to let the Bringers deal with her. As Khaska so recently reminded him, Rynn is not impartial with his brand of justice.

As for the plan, Rynn will wait as patiently as he can while the group visits the seer. He likes the idea of Greygook helping transport the prisoners anyway. But mostly he's anxious to head to a voidgate to attempt to enter the Citadel.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin has no opinion on what to do with her.
One of the members of my Pathfinder group expressed real intrest in joining our group -I think he will make a good additon.

He didn’t need to wait long. A little less than an hour later Rynn and Ranna pushed through the nearby grass. About half an hour later the skyship appeared, slowly drifting over the hills they were on.

Orensland reported on what she had said (though omitted the portions about the metallic dragons, wanting to have that discussion privately with the others in the party) and then asked what they should do. There was a long pause.

“I think she told me quite a bit,” he continued. “But if the Bringers can get some more out of her, I say go for it.”

Khaska looked worried, but didn’t respond. Rynn shrugged, and went to sit down near Gulnith.

“Well,” Sionia said, “let’s wake her up and get to questioning her.” She motioned to one of the clerics, who reached out a hand to heal her just barely. The divine magic flowed into the sorceress and Gulnith’s eyes fluttered for a moment, then snapped open and found Orensland. He could practically hear her teeth grating, even through the gag, and her hands opened and clenched impotently.

“We have questions for you,” Sionia said. “I’ll be asking for more specifics than our roguish friend over there.” She brandished a torch and a dagger. “And we’re not going to be as nice about it.”


Some time later, Sionia came over to where the party had made camp, though Rynn had remained over with Gulnith and the Bringers. “We’ve received some more specific intel on how they work the slave trade here in the Deadlands, but I think she’s told us all we’re going to get form her without a more exhaustive interrovation that we don’t have the time for. With your permission, I think it’s time to kill her now, and we can all go our separate ways.”

Khaska stood and beckoned the others. “Come, it is time to see her evil ended.”

As they approached, Gulnith glared at them. Rynn stood to join the others. The Bringer’s fighter stood with sword to Gulnith’s neck. Her gag was gone so she could speak, and her face showed signs of bruises newly forming. A smell of burnt flesh filled the air, and her feet were exposed and blackened.

“I’m glad to see you’ll get what you deserve after all these years,” Rynn said to her. She looked at him. Puzzled. Rynn nodded. “I thought so.” He turned to the others. “She doesn’t even recognize us from Laishtek.” He walked closer and knelt in front of her. “You helped corrupt one of our friends in Laishtek, and in your escape killed yet another friend.”

Her eyes widened at that and she glanced around. “Amara’s friends.” She frowned. “Where’s the monk?”

“Her path has led her away from ours,” Khaska said. “We parted ways with her, though we have our new wizard friend here to aid us.”

“So what is Amara up to these days?” Orensland said. “We have a score to settle with her, too.”

“Serving the cause,” Gulnith said. Then she laughed “You may have inadvertently helped your friend by killing all of us. It remains to be seen who is ruthless enough to rise to Supreme Wyrmhead. Pity she didn’t join us on the trip to Darkcrest. We would have snuffed you out before you even had a chance to try anything.”

“Evil will, in the end, always, turn on itself as it did in Darkcrest. We merely took the opportunity to affect the outcome,” Khaska intoned.

“You have history with this woman?” Sionia asked. “Then perhaps one of you should be the one to finish her. Perhaps you, Rynn, because of the loss of this friend of yours.”

“Her name was Fan,” the ranger said. “And I’d rather not be the one to do this.” He thought back to his moment of anger with Adam. His hand grabbed the hilt of the orcish dagger, not wanting to do that same kind of action. Reckless. Impulsive.

He felt Khaska’s hand on his, atop the dagger. “I do not think this situation is the same as the one you are thinking of. Adam goaded you into action, taunting you. There were, perhaps then, options with the authorities in Hammerdine. But we are here in the deadlands, away from such structures and societal niecities. This woman has committed murder. Slavery. Theft. Has consorted with evil doers and seeks to harm the very moon we walk on with the organization she seeks to lead. If you decide to kill her here, that will be a very different decision.”

“It’s your choice,” Sionia said. “But she’ll be dead shortly whether at your hands or ours.”

Rynn thought for a moment, and then reached into his haversack to draw out his bow. His bow. The one he had spent months crafting. He didn’t take out bonestrike. He didn’t grab one of the other enchanted bows bestowed on him by the vampires. It was his personal bow.

He took a few steps back and nocked an arrow. “Anybody have any last words for our friend here. Or do you have any last words?”

“I hope you keep going after the Cult,” she said. “That’s not going to end well for you.”

“The day comes ever sooner that your name will be forgotten,” Khaska said. “And all that will live on is the memory of your sins.”

Orensland just gave a jaunty wave.

Then Rynn drew the bow back, sighted along the arrow, and loosed it. It hit her heart with a wet thud, and she slumped over, dead.

Khaska hoped, wherever her soul had gone to its rest, that Fan felt some measure of justice. He would have to remember to write to her family, especially to her brother, Orthan.

“Well done,” Sionia said. “You’re sure you won’t come with us to Garth Calad? You would be welcome.”

“No thank you,” Khaska said. “With Greygook, we have other business to attend to on the living side. But we wish you well. If you are returning to Darkcrest, may I suggest you keep an eye on the Maramos’ household. I feel there are secrets there that may be worth watching, even if the vampires themselves are now dead.”

“We’ll keep an eye on everything,” she said, “but thanks for the advice.”

The party loaded up onto the Glittersail skyship, and watched as the Bringers burned Gulnith’s body (to help hinder possible resurrection) until the flames vanished into the distance.

“To Mount Elduin,” Greygook said, “I believe, and then I’ll take these poor folks to Ethir Port, right?” He pointed to the prisoners.

“Indeed,” Khaska said. The possibility of contronting this stone giant seer troubled him. Should one know about one’s future? Perhaps not. But perhaps being armed with foreknowledge could also help prevent future tragedies. “To Mount Elduin.”

Eryx (DM)
With Crosis’ input, I revised the dialogue between him and Gulnith slightly to also discuss the Knights of the Silver Dragons. Gulnith is dead, and you and the Bringers have parted ways.

On to Mount Elduin, I believe, right?

That will end this Codex and with that, end our time in the 3.5 edition rules The holidays are coming up, so let’s take a break and pick this back up in January, eh?

I’ll need Thev to make a decision about what to do with Feral. She desires to return to Maha’i lands. Going to Simtor is her preference.

Thev
I suppose this is one of the places where I'd made a plan but not expressed it in clear terms: Khaska had decided to send Feral to Simtor, and would write a letter of introduction. I suppose, then, that she'll head off with Greygook and the rescued folks, though I almost anticipated that she might remain with the party until the party returns to Gallidus; Khaska in that case would just arrange a face-to-face introduction, and save her the stress and confusion of arranging passage to Laishtek and finding her way around an unfamiliar city. Whichever is her preference, Khaska will be happy to enable.

“But,” Greygook said, “tomorrow. I want us all to get a good night’s rest before we begin flying on a more permanent basis with you all untried sailors.”

“Fair enough,” said Sanjin.


Unfortunately the next morning found them all not that rested. Khaska felt like his head would split from a raging headache, Greygook complained of nightmares of his dead brothers having kept him from sleeping well, and even the elves, Sanjin and Orensland, had found their meditations less than invigorating. Rynn stayed in the bottom of the ship, half wanting a drink to help him sleep better. He didn’t even get up to eat breakfast with the others, a series of cold rations and hardtack. Hardly appetizing.

“Maybe we should take another day. Ugh,” Greygook said. “I mean, we are on the Death Side. It’s not hard to sail at night, since half of the night is actually with sunlight.”

“I will defer to your expertise in the realm of flying and preparartions for flying,” Khaska said, “but I don’t know that staying here for long is wise, either.”

“Ho, the ship!” came a voice. Everybody turned to look.

An elf was approaching the ship, which was hovering about thirty feet off of the ground, tied off to a tree. He had on leather armor that had seen better days, dirty and ragged, but still functional. He had a longbow slung over his shoulder, the same way that Rynn carried his, and a quiver on his back. His long blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, but it was clearly in need of a good wash.

“A bit surprised to see a skyship parked here in the middle of nowhere,” he said, still approaching. “You folks lost? I might be able to help. I’ve lived in the Deadlands for many decades. Could maybe point you towards Hub or Darkcrest or Port Ethir, if you want. I wouldn’t sail east or south, if I were you. You’ll head straight into the marshes and I don’t know that would be such a good idea.”

“What’s your name, friend?” Greygook asked, his hand resting on a crossbow just below the deck line.

“Arandur!”

With that, Rynn stood up and looked over the side. Arandur’s face brightened. “Rynn! By Ehlonna it’s good to see you!”

Rynn was overjoyed to see Arandur, but slightly saddened to see a deep new burn scar across his right cheek. The master ranger had come to some violence in the intervening years since they parted.

Eryx (DM)
So, it turns out that we’re going to extend this chapter by just a little bit. We’ve switched to 5E rules, though.

I think this is mostly Rynn’s show, but what do you all want to do?

Crosis
Well, what a pleasant surprise! Orensland will defer to Rynn by this point. I'd assume, however, that some catching up will be in order, so we should probably get comfortable. Perhaps stay another night.

Thev
Khaska will also defer to Rynn, though he's interested in meeting the person who has shaped his friend's life so significantly. He'd primarily observe how they interact, though he'd be interested to learn what Arandur knows about the Marshes, the Citadel, and slavery on the Death Side — anything that could help the party and, perhaps, the Bringers.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin also is intrested in what Arandur might be able to tell us.

BlackWolf
Rynn is pleased to see his mentor and will spend some time catching up with him. He wants to know how the ranger has faired for the last 2-3 years since they parted ways, and will ask specifically about the obvious scar. And of course he'll want to introduce his friends and tell Arandur about their adventures together. For starters, he'll give the short version of all our adventures, since I don't know how long we'll have together.

After they've had a chance to reconnect, Rynn will ask what Arandur knows of the Zyrbryxion Marshes, since when they were together they never came nearly so far west. Then he'll reveal what he learned about Juliet being sold into slavery while with child, and that the Cult keeps their slaves in the Marshes. Rynn probably will not need to tell Arandur that he means to enter the marshes, given how much the elf already knows the half-elf. Rynn may hint that he has a secret way in, but he won't yet reveal that secret since it belongs to the group and not him alone.

I'm not sure how long we'll spend with Arandur. If he'll come with us for a while, Rynn would love to talk longer to hear and tell more details. But in the meantime, Rynn is concerned that none of us was able to rest properly. Something seems amiss; perhaps magical in nature. Maybe Arandur might have an idea of the cause?

Khaska turned to Greygook to explain who Arandur was as Rynn came down the rope ladder to the ground, carrying Ranna with him. Ranna approached cautiously, but warmed right up to the fellow ranger. Rynn and Arandur embraced.

“How have you fared?” Rynn asked. “I’m sorry to see that new scar,”

“Oh,” Arandur said. “Had a run-in with a pair of ogres on the southern plains. Apparently they didn’t take too kindly to my hunting in their territory. One of them grabbed a log from my fire and smashed me over the face with it in our fight. But at least that one won’t bother anybody anymore. The other fled, and I didn’t feel much like shooting it in the back. But you look well! What brings you back to the Deadlands? What have you been doing since we last parted?”

Khaska cleared his throat, having descended from the ship with the others of the party. Feral, the other freed prisoners, and Greygook stayed up on the ship.

“I should introduce my friends,” Rynn said. He made introductions, and the others were happy to meet their friend’s mentor.

“It is an honor to meet the elf that has shaped my friend’s life so significantly,” Khaska said, giving a slight bow.

Arandur looked at him intently. “A Maha’i. We don’t get many of them here on the Death Side. What brings you to this part of our little moon so far from your homeland?”
“Actually, I seek to help Rynn. He is a good friend, who has helped me in my quests. I desire to return the favor.”

“Quests?” Arandur looked at Rynn. “You’ll have to tell me all about your adventures.”

They sat down by the firepit left by the Bringers and Khaska quickly started a fire with some remaining sticks and branches from one of the nearby groves of trees. Rynn told a shortened version of the adventures they have had. Arandur let him finish, but seemed interested in their adventures near Twilight.

“So you say that you went there to seek an artifact for Khaska here?”

Khaska nodded, and felt like he could respond, though in similarly vague terms. “We had received a tip that a Maha’i artifact had been kept in a monastery near there. When we arrived we discovered that the artifact was actually contributing to the violence and disorder in the area, and we felt obligated to put a stop to it.” He demurred, not wanting to reveal too much. “I beg your forgiveness, I don’t wish to speak too much of sacred things.”

“Well, I hope this artifact has been destroyed or locked away somewhere, so it can’t do any more harm.”

“We have taken care of it temporarily,” Khaska replied, “and currently seek a permanent solution, to cleanse the artifact of demonic influence. I'm afraid I cannot share specifics, but if you would know anything about such matters, I would like to hear any advice you would have.”

“I don't have much expertise in that sort of thing. I think I'd have to see or inspect it to be of further assistance, I'm afraid.”

Khaska thought for a moment, looked at Rynn, then back at Arandur. “Well, I trust my friend, and I trust you, if you swear not to speak of this with people outside of present company.”

“You have my word.”

But then just as Khaska was about to reach for the haversack that sat at his side, Orensland hissed a warning and stood up, drawing his sword.

Everybody turned to follow his gaze to see a human approaching. The man was tall and well-muscled, wearing mithral plate armor. His face was scarred from past battles and his long brown hair hung behind him in a braid. He was holding a pike, and at his side were a Warhammer and an axe, but he held the pike loosely, his other hand up in a non-threatening manner. He stepped forward slowly until he was about twenty feet from the campfire and then he knelt, bowing his head briefly before looking directly at Khaska and speaking to the cleric.

“I saw you slay Lady Drakh in Darkcrest, and I know who you are. I have sought you out to entwine myself with your legend. But first, I desire to speak with you on a matter of great urgency. Privately.”

Khaska looked at this newcomer, analyzing this strange situation. The man was sincere, that he could tell, but he also seemed very worried. And he was focused on Khaska specifically, his eyes pleading.

“I beg your forgiveness, Rynn and Arandur,” the cleric said, cautiously, eyes never leaving this newcomer. “I will speak to this man as he requests.”

Khaska stood, grabbing his haversack and moving towards this human, who stood, but continued to hold his large weapon in a way that would be difficult to attack from.

“My name is Hajir al-Shams,” he whispered, “and I have come to warn you. The elf by the fire, with the bow, is not an elf. The being that brought me here has given me a blessing. For one hour I can ‘see things as they really are.’ And that elf is really a disgusting old woman. What’s more, there are two others in the camp, one on the ship, and another on the ground between the ship and the fire. You are in danger!”

Khaska’s blood ran chill. “Are they watching us now?” Khaska replied, also in a whisper.

The stranger smiled. “I think everybody is watching us.” He grew serious again. “I dare not look directly at them for fear of revealing that I can see them, but the other one on the ground is approaching.”

Khaska’s mind ran through what it might be, and he remembered legends and stories from his training of hags, evil fey creatures corrupted by their own greed and sadism. Mostly solitary, but on occasion working in a coven—always a trio. Night hags could change their forms. He felt the hair on his arms raise in horror.

“Come walk with me,” he said, moving away. Hajir followed, moving sideways with Khaska.

“She stopped moving,” this human said. “She remains closer to the camp than to us.”

Hag covens were extra powerful, but only if they remaind within thirty feet of each other. This man was speaking truth. And Khaska had been about to hand Kvanir over to one of them! The thought made him sick. “Thank you sincerely for the warning. You are describing something with which I have some familiarity, but no experience as yet. Will you accompany me back to the camp, and, if what you say is true, help us to repel these intruders?”

“I will gladly pledge my weapons to you and your allies, Tawru.” Khaska started at being called by that name. This human must have seen him slay Lady Drakh, as he had claimed. But how would he know Tawru’s legend? And how did he find them, a week’s travel from Darkcrest? He had not expected to be personally connected with the stunt back in the vampire city so soon! But, if there were night hags about, those questions would have to wait.

“I will signal my rogue friend to go to the ship. You prepare to attack the one on the ground. I will attack the one posing as my friend’s mentor. When I have you introduce yourself, that is the signal to attack.” He turned to the others … and noticed Orensland was gone.

A new whisper. “Sounds like a good plan to me, but give me a chance to get back into position.” Khaska smiled. Of course the shadowdancer had ghosted over here to listen in on their conversation.

Hajir smiled. “I wondered if you would reveal yourself.”

“You can see me?!?” Orensland sounded offended, even in his whispers.

“Probably only for the next half an hour, until the blessing wears off. You look like the two women, partially visible, to me right now. The one on the ship is at the back, closest to the fire.”

“Alright. Let me get back.”

As they were walking back, Orensland reappeared just behind Arandur, sheathing his sword.

“Orensland!” Khaska called out. “We have a new friend who has followed us from Darkcrest. Go to the ship and find him some breakfast rations.”

Orensland nodded and moved over to the ship where he clambered up the rope ladder. Khaska waited until he had been on the ship for a few seconds, then turned to the group. “This man has followed us from Darkcrest, where he saw me slay Lady Drakh. He has pledged himself to our service.” He held his hand up and indicated for the man to introduce himself.

“My name is Aestus Fellblade,” he said, and then drew his hammer and axe, whispering a command word and causing the axe to erupt in flame, sprinting over to what appeared to Khaska to be thin air and began attacking.

“It’s not working!” he shouted. From Aestus' point of view, his weapons passed right through the creature.

Orensland similarly whipped his sword through the air, hoping it would connect and that this other hag would not have moved. Nothing. Rynn and Sanjin looked startled at the unfolding situation.

“Well of course you can’t attack beings on the ethereal plane!” Arandur said, standing up. That was enough for Khaska … the ruse of these witches was over. So the cleric gave the Arandur clone a faceful of Scorching Ray bolts. Rynn cried out, but stopped as Arandur shrieked an unearthly scream, the sound mutating from something an elf might have made to a high pitched cackle. When the flames finished bathing Arandur, there was another person standing there, a bent over old woman, one eye missing, blood and pus dripping down her face from the gaping socket, her other eye seemingly drifting of its own accord. Her skin hung in tatters, as if she had once been obese but was now rail-thin. Her mouth opened up as she laughed, and it appeared that each of her rotted teeth was capped by a different kind of metal spike. Rynn looked horrified and Sanjin stumbled backwards. Ranna began barking furiously.

She looked over at Aestus.

“I don’t know how you can see us, but the Blight Wives will consume you all! Find the sword!”

From Aestus’ point of view the other two became solid to his eyes, and he saw that everybody else could now see them. Orensland visibly recoiled from the stringy-haired one on the deck of the ship, her long fingernails now leaving marks along the side of the ship. The Maha’i woman screamed and the gnome grabbed his crossbow. The one in front of Aestus was a sight, blotchy yellow warts on purple skin, jaw jutting out from her face like a dog’s snout, and maggots writhing where her hair should be.

“We should focus our attacks on one,” Khaska yelled out. “If they are separated or if one dies, their magic is weakened.”

Aestus was unimpressed by the abomination standing before him. He pointed his flaming axe at her. “You’ll regret the day you met the Fellblade and Tawru One-Horn!” he cried out as he moved back in to attack her.

The entire camp exploded into action.

Eryx (DM)
I’d like to officially welcome our new player, Mushashukou, a real-life friend of DeltaWolf’s. He’s playing Aestus Fellblade, a Battlemaster Fighter, known to very close friends of his as Hajir al-Shams, for reasons that will become obvious when we post his background after this fight is concluded (per his request—we will post it when Aestus has a chance to actually explain who he is to everybody and how he got here). I’ve also been asking some input from Thev and Crosis as this scenario unfolded.

So … Night hags. Please roll initiative and give me three rounds of actions. Also, please just give me 3 d20 rolls that I can use for saving throws against magic spells they will be using against the party, if you would. Just the d20s. I’ll add the necessary modifiers myself as the combat unfolds.

Thev, Khaska noticed that the flames didn’t quite seem to damage the one in front of you as much as he thought they would. They are resistant to fire damage (takes half the damage she would otherwise have taken). And Khaska knows that the coven members must stay within 30 feet of each other for their unique coven magic to function properly, which he has yelled to the group.

I’m going to start experimenting with doing small simple maps to help you all visualize the combats, so it’s not entirely theater of the mind anymore. Here’s a map of the current situation. On a related note, if you want to send me a picture of what you think your character would look like for future combats, that would be great. I randomly picked some photos for everybody except Khaska. There are several non-combatants on the ship near the bow, the other rescued folks from Darkcrest, but I didn’t bother to put them on the map. They’ll just huddle there for the duration of the fight. Moving onto the ship or off of the ship requires 15 feet of movement on the ladder (it’s hovering 10 feet above the ground, and the rope ladder is hard to climb). Or you can jump off the ship and take 1d6 falling damage if you want.

Thev
Welcome, Musha! And what an entrance! I play Khaska, so it looks like we're off to a fascinating start.

As for the Night Hags… Khaska's going to keep blasting away at them with Scorching Ray. Since "Arandur" has taken damage, he'd encourage the others to concentrate their attention on her. (For simplicity, the "to hit" rolls incorporate +9 already, damage rolls added up):

Initiative: 12

  • Round 1 (5th level)
  • Hit: 22
  • Damage: 9
  • Hit: 17
  • Damage: 5
  • Hit: 23
  • Damage: 4
  • Hit: 21
  • Damage: 11
  • Hit: 13
  • Damage: 6
  • Hit: 20
  • Damage: 9
  • Round 2 (4th level)
  • Hit: 20
  • Damage: 4
  • Hit: 15
  • Damage: 3
  • Hit: 11
  • Damage: 8
  • Hit: 22
  • Damage: 6
  • Hit: 10
  • Damage: 2
  • Round 3 (4th level)
  • Hit: 14
  • Damage: 10
  • Hit: 16
  • Damage: 6
  • Hit: 16
  • Damage: 7
  • Hit: 16
  • Damage: 11
  • Hit: 16
  • Damage: 5

Saving rolls: 2, 8, 1

Crosis

Exciting! Welcome Mushashukou!

Orensland would shout to Greygook to take the ship to air. This is both for the safety of those on board as well as maaaybe trying to separate the hag on the ship from the others. To possibly sell the ruse to the hag in front of him, he'd probably throw in "I have the sword they are looking for and the people on board can't fight, we need to run!"

Presuming the hag doesn't jump off the ship first, Orensland would primarily attack her. If she leaves/isn't trying to come back if she falls for my ruse, Orensland would rush over to attack whatever hag is getting the most damage. That would mean leaving the ship–– perhaps a dexterity roll could determine how quickly I get down? I'll throw that in there.

Initiative: 13 (3 + 10)

(for possibly deceiving the hag(s))
Deception: 25 (18 + 7)

…with successful deception being a possibility, you may want to let me know what happens before Orensland decides to do anything else.

Dexterity: 11 (6+5)

And attacks will be with my (flaming) longsword.

Round 1:

  • Hit: 11 (rolled 3 + 7)
  • Damage: 16 (rolled 4 + 3 + 9 flaming damage)

Round 2:

  • Hit: 13 (rolled 5 + 7)
  • Damage: 12 (rolled 1 + 3 + 8 flaming damage)

Round 3:

  • Hit: 13 (rolled 5 + 7)
  • Damage: 18 (rolled 8 + 3 + 7 flaming damage)

Saving throws: 7, 7, 16

…that's bad. Oh well.

Musha
Hi everybody! A pleasure to make your acquaintance and play with you! I've been really excited about this.

Initiative: 10 (8 + 2)

Round 1:

Since there's a horrifying monster right in front of me, I will attack it, but I'm also watching to see which hag becomes the target of focus since Master Tawru recommended we should all focus on one. I agree with that, but since we're all spread out, we need to all close in on one. Once a specific hag is selected, I will focus entirely on that one. To this end, on my first attack, I will use a Maneuvering Attack to have Orensland use his reaction to move up to half his speed and get closer to us and our target. Where possible, I would like to flank with one of my new allies, most likely Orensland. Yes! This is just like back in the arena! Ah, the glory of battle!

  • Attack 1 (flaming axe): 23 (roll 14 + 9)
  • Damage: 9 (roll 4 + 5) slashing + 8 (roll 5 + roll 3) fire
  • Attack 2 (flaming axe): 21 (roll 12 + 9)
  • Damage: 9 (roll 4 + 5) slashing + 7 (roll 6 + roll 1) fire
  • Bonus Attack (warhammer): 10 (roll 1 + 9)
  • Damage: 12 (roll 5 + 7) bludgeoning
  • Maneuvering Attack. Bonus damage: 3 (roll 3). Orensland moves up to half his speed as a reaction.

Round 2:

Hopefully I'm flanking by now and can roll with advantage. Also, by now, we're likely all trained onto one target. I will attempt a Trip Attack on this target.

  • Attack 1 (flaming axe): 28 [rolled first] (roll 19 + 9) / 24 (roll 15 + 9)
  • Damage: 7 (roll 2 + 5) slashing + 12 fire
  • Attack 2 (flaming axe): 24 [rolled first] (roll 15 + 9) / 11 (roll 2 + 9)
  • Damage: 12 (roll 7 + 5) slashing + 9 fire
  • Bonus Attack (warhammer): 24 [rolled first] (roll 13 + 11) / nat 20!!
  • Damage: 17 (roll 5 + roll 5 [crit] + 7) bludgeoning
  • Trip Attack. Bonus damage: 8. Target must make a STR save DC 17 or it falls prone.

Round 3:

I've now observed the fighting style of this elf, Orensland, and would like to create an opening to use it to our advantage and use a Commander's Strike.

  • Attack 1 (flaming axe): 18 [rolled first] (roll 9 + 9) / 18 (roll 9 + 9)
  • Damage: 9 (roll 4 + 5) slashing + 4 fire
  • Commander's Strike (attack 2 + bonus): If Orensland has a reaction, he makes another attack and adds 1d10 bonus damage to his attack. If Orensland has used his reaction, then I will have Rynn do this. Otherwise…
  • Attack 2 (flaming axe): 15 [rolled first] (roll 6 + 9) / 26 (roll 17 + 9)
  • Damage: 11 (roll 6 + 5) slashing + 3 fire
  • Bonus Attack (warhammer): 13 [rolled first] (roll 2 + 11) / 13 (roll 2 + 11)
  • Damage: 9 (roll 2 + 7) bludgeoning

Possible reactions:
Riposte: If one of these creatures tries to hit me with a melee attack and misses, I will attack it.

  • Flaming axe: nat 20
  • Damage: 12 (roll 3 + roll 4 [crit] + 5) slashing + 6 fire + 6 bonus damage

Sentinel:

  • When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the creature's speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn.
  • Creatures provoke opportunity attacks from you even if they take the Disengage action before leaving your reach.
  • If a creature within 5 feet of me makes an attack against a target other than me, I will attack it.
  • Flaming axe: 22 (roll 13 + 9)
  • Damage: 13 (roll 8 + 5) slashing + 8 fire

Save rolls: 4, 7, 9

  • Indomitable: 19

DeltaWolf

d20s: 5 18 16

Initiative: 9

Note If they go invisible again Sanjin will cast See Invisibility

Round 1

  • Cast Ray of Sickness Lv 2 at the Hag in front of Sanjin
    • Hit: 17
    • Damage: 15

Round 2

  • Cast Ray of Frost at the Hag in front of Sanjin
    • Hit: 16
    • Damage: 14

Round 3

  • Cast Ray of Frost at the Hag in front of Sanjin
    • Hit: 13
    • Damage: 11

Wow! I rolled low!

BlackWolf
Shaking off his surprise, Rynn grits his teeth in anger.

Initiative roll: 12 (rolled 7)

Round 1:
He'll back away from the hag near him (heading west on the grid the DM provided just 5 feet), then cast Ensnaring Strike as a 3rd level spell. (It won't do anything yet, Rynn has to hit with an attack within 1 min).

Round 2:
Whipping out Bonestrike from his magical quiver, Rynn will attack, targeting the already damaged hag that had pretended to be Arandur. He'll use his new "Colossus Slayer" 5e ability as applicable:

  • to hit: 19, damage: 14 (rolled 6, then 1,4)
  • miss! (rolled natural 1)

I guess the surprise hadn't quite worn off…

Round 3:
More attacks with the bow:

  • to hit: 23, damage: 26 (rolled 10, then 3,4)
  • to hit: 32, damage: 11 (rolled 19, then 2)

During the 2nd and 3rd rounds, Rynn will continue to back away slowly to position himself well for firing arrows. Hopefully the one hag will be ensnared by Rynn's spell, getting rid of its mobility while also taking damage (which I'll let the DM roll as needed).

Incidentally, along with the change to 5e, I'm now rolling some "Mythica Platinum Aquamarine" metal dice from Die Hard Dice, a company created by some friends of ours!

The abomination that had been Arandur cackled and began to chant, her eyes turning an inky black. She said something in a language nobody recognized, its very harshness assaulting their ears as she waved dismissively at Khaska, who instantly fell over, asleep. The one on the ground pointed up at Orensland, laughing a spell at him, and the shadowdancer felt the magic take hold as he shrunk down, becoming a rat, leaving Greygook, Feral, and the rest of the House Lancel prisoners relatively defenseless. Greygook fired a crossbow, shot, and it went wide …

But it was Feral who screamed and then traced an arcane symbol in the air nearly in panic mode, her horns suddenly glowing white before firing a blast of magic at the hag on the ship. The magic slammed into her, not only burning the hag’s skin, but physically knocking her off the ship. She pinwheeled into the ground where she hit with a thud. She immediately got up and cast a spell at Aestus. He felt the magic take hold, but then steeled his mind against it. It dissipated and he rushed over to the hag that had attacked Tawru, smashing the fiend with his battleaxe and his warhammer in a flurry of blows that left her bloodied and haggard. Sanjin also hit her with a spell, and was certain they had severely wounded her, as he watched her good eye return to its “normal” yellow tinged color and the inky void that had taken over her blank socket also dissipated. She seemed to agree that the situation wasn’t going well, suddenly phasing out.

“I’ll keep an eye on her,” Aestus spat in her general direction. “Coward!” He pointed at the one that had fallen from the ship. “Onward!”

Greygook took the signal and fired his crossbow at her, and Feral also moved to the edge of the ship and launched another arcane blast from her glowing horns. This time, with everybody focused on that hag, they noticed that the Maha’i woman was using arcane magic! That hag took a few steps to the side, lining up Rynn and Sanjin and blasting them with a Lightning Bolt spell. Rynn dodged nimbly out of the way, but Sanjin took the full force of the blast. Angered at the ruse of these creatures, Rynn finally let loose with a pair of arrows. His ranger magic coursed through the first, causing the ground around the stringy-haired hag to erupt with choking vines and thistles. But even bound as she was, she targeted Aestus, who shrank into a rat as her Polymorph spell took hold.

Khaska, now awake, got up and with a prayer to Teresh launched more bolts of Scorching Ray at this hag, the fire washing over her, injuring her quite well, even if not as effective as he would have hoped.

“If you kill the rat forms of Orensland and that new guy,” Sanjin was yelling, “it will turn them back to their natural form. It won’t hurt them. Just do it!”

“None of that! Don’t spoil the surprises!” sniggered the one with maggots on her hair. She cast a spell targeting the wizard, but he just shrugged it off.

Greygook ran over to part of the deck and ducked beneath the side. A moment later Orensland popped back up, fully himself. He took stock of the situation just as Feral launched a third bolt at the stringy-haired one on the ground.

“Feral! You’ve been holding back on us!” the shadowdancer yelled. “Now get out of here. The sword’s on the ship. We’ll take care of them on the ground! You need to run!” He hoped his ruse would help distract these witches.

Khaska was completely dumbfounded seeing the Maha’i woman using arcane magic. He had tested her! He thought so, anyway. What other secrets was she hiding?

Despite being trapped by the vines, vines that were now digging and scraping against her skin, the stringy-haired hag also targeted Sanjin again, but this time he recognized the spell and managed to dodge part of the Lightning Bolt.

Khaska shook his head. Answers about Feral would have to wait. Following Sanjin’s instructions he ran over and stomped on the rat that used to be Aestus, crushing it.

The human snapped back into existence from the small rat form. “Thank you, Master Tawru,” he said. Then turned to see that Orensland was engaged with the stringy-haired hag. Screaming a battle cry, Aestus moved into position, his flaming axe and warhammer blurring. Suddenly flanked by two expert melee fighters, the hag was hard pressed defensively. Aestus smashed her once, twice with his axe, then was about to try to trip her but the second blow proved to be too much. She began to collapse, and Aestus helped her down by smashing his warhammer into her skull and crushing it to the ground. The vines began to wrap more tightly around her corpse. She was gone. Not even giving her a second thought, Aestus whirled to assess the situation, just in time to see the Arandur clone hag reappear near Master Tawru.

“Behind you!” he called. The maggot-haired hag ran at Khaska, slashing at him, but now aware of the flanking maneuver, the cleric managed to shrug off the blows. He did notice, however, that they both seemed to be targeting his backpack, not him. Rynn landed two arrows in the Arandur imitating hag, while Khaska lanced into her with more Scorching Ray bolts. Orensland and Aestus ran towards the maggot-head one and began attacking ferociously.

The Arandur one yelled something in that same harsh language, and a moment later the two of them phased out.

“I can still see them,” Aestus said. “They’re moving off.”

Sanjin cast a spell on himself, his eyes flaring yellow for a moment. “I can see them too.” He and Aestus locked eyes for a second, then turned to watch the seeming thin air near the firepit. After a moment, everybody else saw Sanjin relax. “They’ve teleported away. I suggest we get out of here before they come back. It’ll be hard for them to track us, even on the Ethereal plane.”

The vines from Rynn’s magic were slowly crushing the body of the dead hag, as if she was being returned to the earth. Orensland moved over to her to try to find anything of value.

“Even from an abomination like that?” Khaska asked.

“Always.” Orensland said. He managed to find a black gemstone, but that was it. By the time he was done searching, everybody else was on the ship. He grabbed the rope ladder and began clambering up. “Let’s go,” he said.

“Needing a good night’s rest be damned,” Greygook said. “Let’s get out of here! What were those things?”

“Night hags,” Khaska said. “They would be the reason why we didn’t rest well. They can look into the dreams and memories of people and affect them, making it hard to get proper rest.” The skyship was rising quickly and sailing off to the west.

“Will they be back?” Orensland asked. “It seemed they were after a sword. Kvanir?”

Khaska nodded. “It stands to reason they would be interested in such a blade. Hags try to corrupt people and turn them to evil. A cursed weapon like Kvanir would be a great find in such endeavors.” He turned to Aestus. “We have you to thank for alerting us to their presence. I fear what would have happened had you not arrived when you did.”

“And how could you see them?” Rynn asked.

“And me!” Orensland still seemed miffed.

Aestus laughed at Orensland. “The being that brought me to you and Master Tawru gave me a blessing that would allow me to ‘see things as they really are,’ but just for an hour,” Aestus said. “I imagine your invisibility trick would normally work on me, Master rogue.”

“Orensland,” the elf stuck his hand out. “You’re really good at fighting.”

“It was an honor to do battle with Tawru and his allies. You fought well, Orensland.” The two grabbed hands and shook hard. “You all fought well. I can see why Master Tawru has selected you for his party.”

Truesight,” Sanjin said. “You had that spell cast on you. I have that spell as well. I’ll be able to see magic disguises, invisible creatures, hags in the ethereal plane, things like that, for about another hour or so.” He looked at Aestus. “I imagine yours will wear off first. I’m Sanjin by the way.”

“Rynn Fowler,” the ranger also shook Aestus’ hand. “You said there was a being that brought you here?” Rynn asked. “Can we ask who that was?”

“I do not know what she was,” Aestus said. “But she spoke in my head and could take the form of both a horse to travel on and then an elf maiden as I left her company. She said her name was Alarya.”

“You’ve met Alarya!” Feral blurted out.

Everybody on the ship turned to her. In the excitement and rush of leaving, Khaska had nearly forgotten that she had participated in the combat.

“You know of this Alarya?” he asked.

She looked down, resuming her traditional shy pose. But then she straightened and looked the cleric right in the eye. “She is my patron.”

“Patron?” Sanjin said. “Ah! So you were casting Eldritch Blast! Nice! So you’re a warlock!”

“A warlock!” Khaska was astonished and worried.

“A rare kind of spellcaster,” Sanjin said, “but they do exist. They get their power directly from a powerful patron. Not like us wizards, who manipulate magic, or sorcerers, who are born with it. Their magic is borrowed. Sometimes comes with a price.”

“A price! Feral, what have you done?” Khaska was growing more worried by the moment! Had he failed so utterly in teaching Feral of the ways of their people. This seemed very un-Maha’i!

“Her patron brought me to you and saved us from the hags,” Aestus said. “Are all patrons evil, Master Sanjin?”

“No. Do you know what kind of being Alarya is?”

“She is a unicorn,” Feral replied. “And no, she is not evil. She allows me to do things like this.” And then she reached out to point at Sanjin. Her horns began to glow once again, and divine magic slowly flowed from them to wrap around the injured wizard. Some of his burns lightened and disappeared as she healed him.

“And her name isn’t Feral,” Aestus said, "it’s Farah.” He moved forward, holding his hands out to her. “I thought you dead like your parents. It is good to see you again! What has it been, a decade?!”

Her eyes widened. “Hajir!” She moved to embrace him in a big hug.

Eryx (DM)
Alright, that’s enough exposition for now!

Well done handling the hags! I did make one decision sort of by DM fiat on how to handle the spells they were casting on you. I rolled an Arcana check for Sanjin. DC is 10 + the Spell Level. If he hit that DC, he knew what the spell was, and how to counter it. Hence why he could tell you to “kill” the rat forms of Orensland and Aestus.

With that sort of thing and with the possibility of Counterspell (which you didn't specify and I didn't have Sanjin use in the fight), DeltaWolf, I think you and I need to have a conversation about how to handle these sorts of situation with spellcasters in the future. (With a divine spellcaster, I would do the same thing with Khaska. You must have proficiency in Arcana or Religion to make a spellcasting check like this. I’m kind of borrowing a rule from 3.5e and adjusting it. What do you all think?)

I also wonder if doing combats in rounds of 3 is too much. Basically, you had the entire thing wrapped up by 3 rounds later, and while combat isn’t exactly the focus of this campaign the way it would be if we were sitting around a table, I wonder if my doing things 3 rounds at a time gives me, the DM, too much control over what happens. I think for the next combat we’ll experiment and do it literally round by round, just to see what happens. Maybe we’ll decide we don’t like it, but now that your characters are all getting so much more powerful and more complicated to run, it might be worth doing 1 or 2 rounds at a time, instead of 3.

So . . Feral is a Celestial Warlock, (from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything), level 2 (now 3, with this combat, she’ll be getting a small cherub familiar soon with Pact of the Chain), and her actual name is Farah, easily bastardized to Feral. And she knows Aestus/Hajir. As you journey to Ethir Port, Aestus tells the rest of the party his backstory (BlackWolf, it's been so long I forget how to make the pc:Aestus Fellblade page that you made a template for. Could I beg your indulgence with a little help there to get it up and running?), and how he came to find you (a very short solo campaign) in the wilderness near Darkcrest.

How do you all want to handle dropping the prisoners/Farah off at Ethir Port? How will Khaska react to this development with his protégé? Also, what is Khaska going to do now that Aestus just calls him “Tawru” all of the time.

Orensland took the heartstone from the dead hag. This magic black gem allows you to cure any disease just by touching someone with it. But you don’t know that unless Sanjin casts Identify on it. But I assume he would.

Incidentally, I'm now using Mythical Gold Aquamarine dice. :)

BlackWolf
I have created the templated page for Aestus Fellblade per your request. I also added him to the characters in the menu. I'll do a proper post later, but since you asked so nicely, I figured I could help out real quick…

Musha
Thank you BlackWolf! I'll be fiddling with that page a bit over the next little while to get my details up. I've already had some fun creating pages and making links for my backstory.

@Eryx, Aestus would LOVE to catch up with his "sister," Farah. What happened to her in the mines, did anything else occur other than the mines? And how on Jenoa did she get involved with this creepy elf that can change into a horse? And what does she think that horse was doing in Darkcrest and how did she know me? And what's this about going to Ethir Port? That is, of course, if it's not a burden or a detraction from the game. :)

Crosis
How exciting! On a side note, Orensland is very happy we have a wicked awesome gladiator in the party. In addition to the higher "cool" factor, this will likely also mean flanking enemies (and therefore adding sneak attack damage) will be much easier, as an enemy's attention will likely be on the scarier fighter. Hurrah! :)

As for what to discuss on the way to Ethir Port. In reading through Aestus's backstory, it seems that the man has lived in an informational bubble for most of his life. It looks like he doesn't know about Bringers of Light, and hasn't done very much traveling. While we tell him about our own personal backstories, we may need to fill him in on life outside gladiator fighting/orc tribes in general. For breaking the news that Khaska isn't Tawru, it may be helpful to simply say that we have reason to believe that Tawru's soul is enslaved and we are seeking to free him. In this journey, Khaska thought it meaningful to complete good deeds in the name of Tawru–– including overthrowing the evil of Darkcrest. After a couple more weeks of Aestus in the party, we may feel we can trust him enough with the story of Tawru's turn to evil for the sake of good. This is all, of course, at the discretion of Khaska. Orensland will gladly share all details of his own backstory, such as his time in the shadowdancing troupe, though will likely skim over more sensitive subjects, such as his father's abuse.

In explaining why we are going to Ethir Port, we will simply convey that we are dropping these ex-prisoners off with enough money to get them where they need to go. "They were prisoners of Lady Drakh, the vampire you saw Khaska kill in Darkcrest. Er, Dusklight. We freed them and are just helping them get home." I feel that, while keeping details such as the voidgates privy for now, most details we should feel free to share right off the bat. Visiting Mount Elduin, returning Lady Drakh's paladin armor, introducing Farah to the Maha'i.

If anyone's wondering why I feel Orensland would not share all details, it's me trying not to metagame. We almost lost Kvanir to a night hag that manipulated our trust, I suspect it would take a week or two of warming up to Aestus before we trust him with especially sensitive details. However, he has certainly earned enough trust for most everything else.

Musha
@Orensland. Yes! I'm excited about the synergy I can give the party. Moving ppl into better positions, prevent some AoO, and hopefully getting you lots of sneak attacks! Though I'm not familiar with the Shadowdancer at all. Apparently you can go invisible (super cool!), but what else can you do?

So Aestus did, indeed, come from an informational bubble. Doesn't know a whole lot about the world, and never really cared until now since it really wasn't a possibility before. He knows the basic history: Dark Times, Knights of the Silver Dragons, etc, though most of what he knows about the Knights comes from Maha'i stories and thus he might not have the most favorable opinion of them (they killed Tawru and did nothing to stop the evil of Darkcrest). He does know of the Bringers of Light as he has killed many of them, but he's not sure what to make of them. According to his slavers, they were criminals and troublemakers, but the enemy of my enemy and all that…

From a metagame standpoint, there's still so much I don't know about the story and campaign you guys have played so far, but I'll become more versed as we go. For now, I'd like to know more about Kvanir, the Voidgates, and Ethir Port; I've read what I could on the wiki and don't think I fully understand (I'm just missing the context I think). Now Aestus heard Orensland and Khaska talking about Kvanir and knows the hags were after it, so I'm not sure how secret you'll be able to keep that at this point. Aestus will be asking about it, so how much will you want to disclose? Keep in mind that Khaska is going to have lots of influence over Aestus cause of his belief that he is Tawru lol.

BlackWolf
Eryx, you'll have to let me know if those dice grant you the "luck o' the Irish!" I visited their warehouse the other day; it was awesome.

Though disturbed at being tricked by the Arandur illusion, Rynn's trustful nature will probably win out with Aestus/Hajir, especially since he helped us with the hags. The ranger would be very willing to let the fighter join us (though he'd keep an eye out, juuuuust in case).

But Rynn's main focus is still on getting into the marshes to see if his family is there. It preoccupies his mind like nothing the party has seen from the ranger previously. You'll find him frequently staring off into the distance and seemingly restless. He's ready to move on. He doesn't have a strong opinion about getting the rescued people to Ethir Port, only that he wants to start on whatever that plan is sooner than later.

DeltaWolf

Sanjin is inclined to cast Identify as a ritual whenever time will allow.

Using an Arcana Check to determine Sanjin’s ability to identify spells being cast seems a good way to handle it.

I’ve given Counterspell a lot of thought and this is what I want to do:

  • Only cast Counterspell if Sanjin knows the level of the spell being cast
  • If the spell is lower then level 3: then no Counterspell
  • If the spell is level 3: then Counterspell as 3rd slot
  • If the spell is level 4+: then Counterspell as 3rd slot
  • However I may, based on the situation, decide to match 4th level to 4th slot (5th to 5th).

I like the idea of doing less rounds of combat per post. And during combat I’ll try to post more often so as to not slow down the campaign.

Also I have a suggestion for the DM to consider. In another campaign Musha and I are in -we regularly use knowledge checks to determine what our characters know about the monsters we are fighting. With your approval I’d like to do that to help me determine what spells I should cast (specifically what level of slot is worth expending).

Eryx (DM)
I think I like the idea of of using Knowledge Checks about your opponents. In fact, in this case I had used an old rule from 3.5 to determine if Khaska knew that you were facing a coven of night hags.

So I propose this following rule:

1. When combat begins, the DM will roll Knowledge Checks for relevant players to see what they might know about their opponents. Whatever knowledge you glean from this information I will post in the gray box.
2. Relevant players are players with proficiency in the kind of knowledge relevant to the encounter. There isn't a mechanic for this in 5E, so we will borrow the mechanic from 3.5e (which is probably the same as Pathfinder, for that other campaign DeltaWolf and Musha play in.)
3. The DC is the hit die of the creature to know basic information, with a minimum of 10. Getting a high roll will get you more information.
3. Basic Categories from 5E I've divided in the following ways:
Arcana Check for abberations, constructs, dragons, and elementals.
Nature Check for beasts, fey, giants, oozes, and plants.
Religion Check for celestials, elementals, fiends, and undead.
humanoids—can be rolled by anybody.
monstrosities—DM decision (since this is a catch-all kind of category that doesn't fit neatly into Arcana, Nature, or Religion)
Elementals are in there twice because I think that beings from other planes could fit both with Arcana and Religion checks. (3.5e had a separate knowledge category for the planes.)

The night hags were fiends with a HD of 15, so the DC was 15. Over IM, Thev rolled a 16, so he had basic knowledge about hags—they can polymorph, and can operate in covens of only three, which I had him convey.

What this means is that when Rynn leaves the party, y'all won't have anybody to roll for Nature checks.

Thoughts, comments, philosophical attacks?

Musha
I LOVE this idea and I think you've planned out the mechanics for it VERY well. I'm starting to feel a bit disappointed that I didn't select any knowledge-based skills to be proficient in, but as Crosis pointed out, how would Aestus have any knowledge of any creature anyway, living in that bubble. All of his dealings would be with humanoids so I'm quite glad you would allow all to roll on humanoids. :)

Thev
Thanks for waiting, guys! I had a very busy week and weekend playing Best Man at a very good friend's wedding.

The combat plan seems pretty good, but honestly I'd prefer to keep three rounds per gray box. The story can already move slowly as it is, and I worry that shorter intervals would prolong it more. (I didn't mind "defeating" the hags in a single post, but again, your mileage may vary: Eryx knows that fighting isn't quite my preferred aspect of D&D.)

Regarding nature proficiency: with Rynn's presence in the party, Khaska hasn't often had to exercise his expertise in survival much. But I wonder if he would have some proficiency in nature knowledge, if not nearly as much as Rynn. If not, how might he develop it?

It seems that the major question I need to answer is what Khaska will do with Farah and Aestus.

With Farah, Khaska will express surprise at the depth of her knowledge. "This, then, must be why you inquired about unicorns." He'll ask how she met Alarya, under what circumstances, and — if she's willing to share — what she does in exchange for Alarya's patronage. He'll also apologize for anything he said or did that may have been patronizing, and express that he wishes to learn from her.

With Aestus… it's a little more complicated. Khaska trusts him, given what happened below and the aid that Aestus received from a unicorn; all the same, given what happened between Rynn and "Arandur," Khaska would like to speak with Aestus in a Zone of Truth (if that's still an option).

In general, to put it lightly, Khaska is unsettled by Aestus calling him Tawru. For one, he didn't expect to have to account personally for his speech in Dusklight; he was planning for that to be anonymous, for it to be remembered more like a vision, not quite reality. Two, being called that name makes real some of the concerns Khaska has had recently: avoiding, in his zeal, making the same mistake as Tawru, heedlessly seeking power even for good ends. Three, an inkling arises in his mind: were his words the words of Tawru? was he moved upon to speak and act that way not by his own agency, but another? what knowledge is there about those said to be reincarnations of the deceased?

With this uncertainty, Khaska would want to take Aestus aside for a close conversation. Before saying anything himself, he'd like to hear what Aestus knows about Tawru and Maha'i myth; he supposes that it's different from what he was taught as a child, and certainly different from what he learned from Likran Treewind. When it comes time to speak, he'll clarify that it would be best to refer to him as Khaska and that, to his present knowledge, he's not Tawru. However, he does feel a calling to finish Tawru's work and correct the wrongs that he suffered, healing the wounds between peoples and tribes before the Dark Times come. (He'll mention, for instance, his meaningful collaboration with the Knights of the Silver Dragons since Hammerdine.) As part of that, he has been led to Tawru's sword, Kvanir — the same sword the hags wished to steal — and is attempting to heal it from some evil that infected it in the past. He won't explain the means by which Kvanir came to be infected; that will wait for later.

Khaska will then express his gratitude for Aestus's presence and faith, and will invite him to join the quest as a companion. Khaska realizes that in taking on Aestus as a companion, he's already working to overcome the rifts of the past: before he left the Niktean Wastes, he never would have suspected that humans would follow the precepts of his faith (in whatever variety), and this would be a sort of companionship not quite attempted, to his knowledge, by a Jevereshkan Maha'i and an outsider since Tawru.

Orensland looked at this new human, to Farah, then back to Aestus. “I thought your name was Aestus?” The shadowdancer was skeptical. I mean, they had just fought off “Arandur.” Would this man prove to be a threat in the future as well? Despite his wicked-awesome fighting skills. (Orensland had loved fighting with another in melee combat. That hag hadn’t stood a chance!)

“When I was sold to the House of Araric, I was trained as a gladiator by Farah’s father, Spikes,” Aestus had his arm around the Maha’i woman. “Labiba named me Hajir Al-Shams, which means ‘heat of the sun,’ but my vampire masters thought the language unseemly, and renamed be in Draconic. I go by Aestus, draconic for ‘fire’ and use Fellblade as my surname. That was from my orc owner before I was sold into Darkcrest. I go by ‘Aestus,’ except to my close friends, so I would prefer you use that. I was known as ‘the Fellblade’ in the gladiator arena.”

“Fair enough,” said Sanjin. “Thanks for your help. I shudder to think what would have happened had you not arrived and warned us.”

“Well,” Greygook interrupted, “if it’s all the same to you, let’s take off. These conversations can wait for later! Help me draw up the anchor!”


After a few hours of sailing, the party relaxed a bit. Sanjin assured them that the hags could not easily follow them, though Khaska was quite certain they hadn’t seen the last of them. They would probably not give up on finding Kvanir just because of this one setback. The party would have to be on guard.

Everybody seemed wary of this newcomer, who spent most of the time talking with Farah, catching up. Eventually the cleric thought of a way they could reassure themselves concerning Aestus, and he privately proposed casting Zone of Truth tomorrow so they could speak with assurances he was telling the truth.

“I have been telling you the truth. I could just give you my word while in the Zone that I have done so. Should be enough.”

“That seems a reasonable compromise,” said Khaska. “And would save us some time.”

“I would ask you take the same oath as well,” Aestus replied.

“That also seems fair.”

Khaska and Aestus spoke for several hours, sharing stories and knowledge, the cleric gaging the Maha’i knowledge of this human gladiator. Aestus knew some, but it had been many years. His knowledge of the legend of Tawru was largely based on the Gtarrei version, that Tawru had received vision from Markus (who had been banished to Arkenos by the Knights during the last Dark Times, of course) and called the Knights to repentance. So after he returned from freeing the slaves in Laishtek, he was executed for his temerity. Khaska gently corrected a few of the points—especially the fact that the Knights didn’t exist during the last Dark Times. But he did share some of the more historical facts—that Tawru and the Knights had fallen out, and that he had been killed because of this falling out after freeing the slaves.

“I suppose you would know,” Aestus said. There it was. The implication that Khaska was Tawru.

“I am not Tawru,” Khashka said, “though I seek to follow his path and do good works in his name, healing the wrongs done by others and the divisions that ensnare us. The Dark Times are coming, and the wounds between peoples and tribes must be healed before then. Even in journeying with this friends, two elves, a half-elf, and now a human, I hope I am starting on that path.”

“And yet, you carry a cursed sword. What need do you have of such a weapon, especially if such creatures as these hags seek it? Why not simply destroy it?”

Khaska looked down. “The sword is cursed, but it was not always so. In my travels and in seeking the relics of Tawru, I have found his sword. But it had been corrupted in the intervening centuries. I seek now to cleanse the sword, to return it to its natural state.”

“May I see this sword?” The human warrior held his hand out.

Khaska hesitated. “Forgive my reticense, but I would like to show it to you after you swear tomorrow in the Zone.”

Aestus withdrew his hand, a spot of anger flashing across his face. “Have I not earned your trust in battle?”

“Trust is won in many ways,” Khaska said. “Battle is just one. Though,” he glanced over at Orensland, “I think Orensland is very excited to have you join us. I beg your forgiveness, but the sword is a sacred item and must be kept secret. I am already worried about how these hags knew of it.”

“Very well.” Aestus said, shortly. The moment of silence between them was a bit awkward.

“I am glad that you have joined us,” Khaska said. “But my journeys have given me many secrets and insights into the past, insights that would be damaging if revealed improperly or to the wrong people. It is not you that is at fault, it is I, for being overly cautious and not wanting to further harm my people.”

“I trust your decisions,” Aestus said. “And I will swear tomorrow, and then perhaps I can see your sword.” He stood up to leave, though on a small skyship, he couldn’t go far.


The night passed, and in the morning they could see Darkcrest in the distance off of the starboard side. A haze of smoke and cinders still rose from the city, even over a week after Lady Drakh’s massacre.

As soon as Khaska had meditated and prepared his spells for the day, he cast Zone of Truth. Aestus immediately stepped into it, failed to even attempt to resist it, and swore that he was speaking the truth in all the things he had said. The others in the party similarly swore, and then Khaska went. As the cleric stepped into the zone, Aestus smiled and then asked a question, one that he had apparently been waiting to spring on the cleric.

“Are you Tawru?”

Khaska had already let the magic take hold of him. He could not speak a lie. But a thought had grown in his mind the past few days, and he felt he must share it rather than be silent and incur Aestus’ distrust.

“Not to my knowledge, but I do wonder if, in Darkcrest, I spoke the actual words of Tawru. Was I moved upon by some agency other than my own?”

“What, that you were mind-controlled?” asked Orensland.

“More that I wonder if,” he paused, “I knew such words from a previous life of mine?”

Nobody spoke for a while at that thought. Could Khaska be Tawru reincarnated?

Then Aestus asked to see Kvanir, and with this oath taken, Khaska showed it to him. The cleric felt sick to his stomach as he held the scimitar up, the same reaction he had every time holding the evil blade. Aestus took the scimitar, but didn’t seem to flinch at all. He cocked his head as if listening.

“That’s an odd way of speaking Maha’i. I only get about half the words, I think,” Aestus said.

“It speaks an older dialect,” Khaska said. Aestus returned the blade, and Khaska again felt the drain of holding it before he sheathed it and wrapped it up, returning it to his haversack.

With that, he straightened, and looked to Aestus. “Aestus, known as the Fellblade. You have saved us from enemies, fought by our side, and seek to join us. Your presence and faith give me hope in these uncertain days. I know not what the future holds, but I wish to honor your pledge, and invite you to join me and my compatriots, and bind your fate to that of ours.”

Aestus looked them over. Rynn, the dirty ranger with the wolf companion, Sanjin, the elf wizard, buried in one of his books, Orensland, one with the shadows, and Khaska, perhaps the reincarnation of Tawru himself. They were a good group. And he saw no reason not to trust Alarya, who had reunited him with Farah, his adopted sister.

“In the arena I had faith in nobody but myself and Spikes, when our masters had us fight together. Since his death I have had no faith but the blades at my side and the arms that wield them. I would be honored to join you, and fight with you against all evils that oppose us. He grabbed his weapons and held them aloft, showing off his iron muscles through the shirt he was wearing. I pledge myself to you, Khaska, and your allies, come what may.”

As they spoke for the next few hours, it seemed that Aestus had forgiven Khaska for waiting until after the Zone of Truth to show him Kvanir. Aestus was a plainspoken man, laughing and joking with them, sharing the tragedy of his life, listening to their stories, and slowly knitting himself in with the group, even the Lancel prisoners (several of whom had heard of his exploits in the arena).

Farah, on the other hand, stayed away from all of the others. After a little while, Khaska excused himself to go stand by her, looking at Darkcrest receeding into the distance. By the end of the day, it would be gone, just a memory.

“A new fire has begun in the city,” she said. True enough, he saw orange flames flickering at the edge of the city. He wondered what was happening. But he didn’t come over to make small talk, even if this was a conversation he was slightly dreading.

“I am pleased to now know your real name,” he said. “Farah. It means ‘joy.’”

“I had forgotten, my mother having died so long ago. It’s been years since anybody has called me anything but ‘Feral.’”

“An unfortunate bastardization of your true name,” Khaska said. “I am sorry for all the pain your life has given you.” He took a deep breath. “And I am sorry that I seem to have contributed to it, for underestimating you so.”

She glanced over at him. “How so?”

“You know much more than I thought, and you have some magic skill as well. I wish to ask under what circumstances you acquired it.”

“You were there, during the months in the House of Maramos. That is when I first was contacted by Alarya.”

“And why do you think she made contact with you?”

“Because I had reached out to … anybody who would listen?”

Khaska was troubled. “I have spoken to you of the gods and their power, and even taught you some prayers. Was my teaching inadequate?”

“You taught me a great many things.” She held up her gloved hands. “Do all Maha’i women have to cover their bodies so?”

“No. I have told you of Simtor, a fellow cleric at the city of Laishtek, whom I wished to introduce you to. He lives among Maha’i with different customs than I am accustomed to, and their women are not as covered, and can even become acolytes and clerics.”

She was still looking at Darkcrest. “Laishtek sounds like a city I would enjoy more than Jevereshk, then.”

“I had thought so. Will you be disembarking at Port Ethir, then? I can write a letter of introduction to Simtor. But I think we will be traveling by Laishtek ourselves on our way to our final destination on the living side.”

“I do not know. Let me think on that.” A pause. “Anything else?”

Khaska was hesitant. But still curious. “So you inquired for help and then met Alarya. This, then, must be why you inquired about unicorns.”

“She came to me in dreams, and I did not understand at first what she offered me.”

“And what has she offered?”

“Magic. Power. I experimented a little when you were not present, but it scared me.”

“You did not hesitate when the hags attacked. You aquitted yourself well in the battle. I am proud of you. But, if you feel comfortable sharing, Sanjin spoke of a bargain. I wonder what Alarya has asked of you.”

Farah shrugged. “So far she has asked nothing of me. I don’t know if that will change. I don’t know what will happen if I refuse. She is a unicorn. Are they not noble and good creatures?”

“They are. All beings from the realms of Celestia are. But they may still ask a great price for their help.”

“That will be my decision when the time comes.”

“Of course,” Khaska demurred. “I fear I am doing it again. I wish to apologize for anything I said or did that was patronizing. If you have learned your magic from a Celestial being, I would be grateful if there is anything that I could learn from you.”

She looked at him for the first time in their conversation and arched an eyebrow. “Covering my body to make me invisible? Not even wanting to touch me when you are the first member of my race I’ve seen since my parents? Why would you think that was patronizing? Now that I have power and influence, you want to learn from me, and treat me as a peer? No, thank you.”

And with that, she turned to look back at Darkcrest, but this time angled her body even more from Khaska. The conversation was over.

Khaska was crestfallen, slowly moving away. A few moments later he watched as Aestus went over to her and they began talking in hushed tones.


The journey to Ethir Port only took seven days, the ramshackle seaside town the first sign of civilization, the term used loosely. A far cry from the opulence of Darkcrest, the various huts and shops and inns and guildhouses were all made of wood, much of it rotting, some of it newer. The streets were filled with filth and the people around tried not to look anybody in the eye. There were a great many halflings, and some of the buildings seemed squat. Even some of the inns were designed with two levels, one for halflings, another for more normal sized folk.

Between them all the group was able to find and purchase passage for all of the House Lancel prisoners. One joined a merchant ship headed to his home of Sethrayin. The elf purchased passage on a skyship headed down to the elven lands on Slyn. One purchased a sword and some leather armor and hired himself out as a mercenary for a caravan heading down to Hub. The last merely took her stipend of two hundred gold and disappeared.

“Just need to grab some more supplies,” Greygook said. “Khaska’s magic food is just okay. And I know Aestus is tired of magic food, having eaten it for a week before he even met us! Rynn, you care to join me?”

“I wish to purchase some arcane components,” Farah said. “Perhaps, Sanjin, you could show me how to do so?”

“Sure thing,” the wizard replied.

That left Khaska alone—Aestus and Orensland were back guarding the ship which had settled down near the edge of town, near some others, apparently a bit of an unofficial skyship landing field. With no real desire to stay in this ramshackle city, and seeing several grubby-looking dwarves eyeing him, he thought it best to return to the ship himself.

He found a party.

Orensland and Aestus were on the ground, surrounded by gnomes and halflings, with more arriving all the time. One had brought a bottle of relatively fine wine and some cups to drink, and another was playing a fiddle. There was much talk and merriment. Khaska was immediately suspicious.

“You must be Khaska!” One of the halflings said, pointing to him as he rounded a nearby skyship, a skiff even smaller than Greygook’s ship. “Three cheers for Khaska!”

And they actually gave three cheers, following the halfling’s lead. She clapped her hand as Khaska clambered up the rope onto the ship.

“Apparently your rescue of the gnomes and their ship near, what was it?” asked Aestus.

“Rhun,” Orensland said.

“Right. Apparently you have garnered quite a reputation here. Especially Orensland.”

“Any friend of Orensland Shadowwalker is a friend of ours!” the gnome with the wine bottle said. “Fancy a drink?”

“No, thank you,” Khaska said.

“Suit yourself.” The gnome took a deep swig.

“Save some for the others!” the halfling woman said, swiping the bottle from him.

“How did you learn of us?” Khaska said, sitting down next to the halfling woman.

She shrugged. “Word spread of your help to the people of Rhun from the Cloudlovers. You helped save them from those stupid whitecloaks and risked your own necks. We also saw a sailing ship come through a few months back. Captained by a dwarf. Bronzebeard. He picked up some new crew and sailed off into the Upper Jaw, and spoke of his time with you all when asked where he had come from.”

It was obvious the halflings needed little excuse to throw a celebration, and the mere presence of these “heroes” was enough to justify one. As they waited for the rest of the party to return, other halflings appeared with baked goods or other small gifts. When Greygook returned, the supplies he had bought were immediately bought back and replaced with better supplies. Sanjin and Farah returned a bit later, and Farah immediately clambered up to the ship with a new backpack and staff. Khaska looked to Sanjin, who shrugged.

“I think she wants to try out a new spell she’s been granted recently. Had to buy about 10 gold worth of incense and other things to burn. I’d leave her. She said it would take a while. I suspect she’ll be summoning a familiar.”

Khaska was reminded of Kirza, Amara’s white bird familiar. What form would this new familiar take? But then he was swept back up into the party again, despite his obvious discomfort at the attention.

Khaska continued to keep an eye on the ship. Eventually, he saw a flash of white light, and could no longer help himself. He climbed the rope ladder to look and see Farah. She had completed her spell, and sitting on the deck in front of her was a small human figure with white feathered wings. A cherub. This actually relaxed Khaska. Such a being could only be summoned by a person of good heart, and he imagined that meant her powers had come from a begin with a similarly good heart. The cherub, however, glanced over and saw him.

Farah fixed Khaska with a stare. “Alarya saw value in me as an individual and made it so that I will never be alone and powerless again.” She reached out to touch the cherub’s head, then paused, took her gloves off, and then stroked the small figure’s face. She put the gloves aside, and the cherub climbed up onto her arm, easily hoisted up despite its size.

Khaska closed his eyes, unsure what to say. An apology was all he could think of. “I am sorry that I have failed you so thoroughly, Farah. Do you still wish to continue on to Laishtek with us, or shall we part ways here?”

“You have not failed me completely. I am grateful for many of your lessons. I think I learned a few, however, that you did not intend. I would like to journey to Laishtek with you. It will be faster, and, I assume, safer.”

“There are people here who I’m sure would take you safely there,” Khaska said, “but I, for one, will be glad of the extra company during the trip. We are going to Mount Elduin first, you know.”

“I am aware.”

He turned to go, but then came back up the single run he had descended. “I am sure you would be most welcome here at the party. These halflings are good people. And a break from our worries is always helpful.”

She turned to the cherub, speaking to it in a few hushed tones. She touched it again, then snapped her fingers, and it vanished in a puff of divine light. Then she stood and came to the ladder. Khaska was glad.

The celebration lasted long into the night, attracting a good number of people from the town itself. It was obvious to the party that these kind of events were frequent, based on conversations with the party-goers. Parties happened here among the halflings at the drop of a hat. There was dancing and music and food and drink (some non-alcoholic that Khaska could partake of) until just before sunrise twilight. Eventually things died down and the halflings returned to their homes in the city itself, some returning to the skyships nearby with their gnomish friends.

With the House Lancel prisoners all taken care of, their ship restocked and repaired, and with the blessing of their newfound friends, they departed the next morning. It was time to seek out this Storm Giant seer atop Mount Elduin, and see if he might shed light on their future.

Eryx (DM)
That will end this chapter, and the Codex, 113,300 words later! (247 single spaced pages, baby!)

Also, I feel somewhat obligated to mention at this point that my wife has been acting as a "consultant" on Farah's character and how she would react to the things Khaska has done. What I've learned is not to get on my wife's bad side … she can be incredibly snarky and sarcastic. She read my write-up here and had me actually tone it down a little! But a couple of Farah's lines here were verbatim from her.

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