Codex VI-Chapter 2

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When Kaylee and her party came around the bend, Jenika was waiting in the middle of the road. Orensland was blended into her shadow, and he was watching closely. It appeared that none of them noticed him. He smiled. Good.

Kaylee’s three compatriots were also all on horses, one with a bow slung over his shoulder the same way that Rynn carried his, and one a pudgy balding human. That was probably Azkabar. The final companion was an elf, his hair shaved around his ears and braided from the top.

Kaylee drew her horse up short, and for a moment, the two monks just stared at each other. Orensland could see the whiteness of Jenika’s knuckles she was clenching her hands so tightly. The evil monk was dressed in clothes that mimicked the monk’s robes that Jenika wore, but Kaylees were of a very fine linen. Probably silk.

“It’s been a long time, sister.” Kaylee’s tone was mocking. But when Jenika didn’t react, the smile on Kaylee’s face dwindled and then vanished. “I guess there’s no point in asking. You’ve come to die!” With that, Jenika walked forward without a word, and without taking her eyes off of Kaylee.

“Gentlemen, this will just take a moment,” the evil monk said. She dismounted. One of her compatriots followed suit, Azkabar Muldoon. He walked up to pull Kaylee’s horse back away from where the two monks stood. The two monks were completely ignoring anything but each other until they reached a point about 10 feet from each other.

Then, simultaneously, they both dropped into identical battle stances and moved as one.

Back in the grove of trees, Rynn was absolutely astonished at the display of martial prowess. The two monks converged in a whirlwind of feet, elbows, hands, and knees, a kalediscope of punches, blocks, counterattacks, grappling, and kicks. Jenika seemed to be holding her own. With a final glance at the two monks, the ranger drew up to his full height, sighted down his drawn arrow, and loosed at the other men. He simultaneously heard chanting from Sanjin and a prayer from Khaska, and all three of them attacked at the same time.

Rynn’s arrows flew with the Acid Arrow and the Searing Light spells. Sanjin’s spell flew wide, but Rynn managed to hit his target all three times, while Khaska’s spell blazed into the other person. Both cried out in pain and dismounted quickly. Muldoon looked panicked, and quickly began mounting his own horse.

The battle was on.

Rynn had half an inclination to fire at the fleeing man, but just then one of the others dropped to the ground and … turned right before their eyes into a cheetah. It growled once and then sprang forward, even as the other of Kaylee’s associates grabbed his bow and began shooting arrows at them in the copse of trees.

“Druid!” Rynn called out, returning to his original target, which was coming at him fast! It seemed to him that the creature was moving almost as fast as the arrows that suddenly began to fly at him from the other combatant. He managed to get two more arrows into the creature and then it was on him, having covered the ground in an astonishingly small amount of time! And to add insult to injury, Khaska had just finished blasting the archer again, yet the man was still up and still launching arrows at Rynn!

The cheetah bowled into the ranger at full speed, claws raking across Rynn’s chest and arm. The force of the charge spun the ranger around right as another arrow embedded itself in his back. But, concentrating, the ranger drew more arrows and in quick succession buried three of them in the cheetah as it coiled to spring at him once more. Sanjin also coated the cheetah in fire erupting from the wizard’s hands, and the druid managed to attack the ranger just one more time before collapsing literally on top of him. Khaska has just drawn his scimitar, but hadn’t even struck yet.

Back by the horses, Orensland crept quietly up to where the severely burned archer was still letting arrows fly, studied him carefully, and then struck. The human cried out, turning and quickly returning the favor. He managed to get two arrows into Orensland before an eagle came screaming out of the sky, throwing the shadowdancer off as it attacked, mildly scratching his face. Surprised, Orensland momentarily took a step back and then lunged forward, stabbing the man in the chest before he could get off another shot, and before his eagle could circle around for another pass. The man groaned, and then collapsed onto the ground. Orensland ducked down as the eagle flew over again. Nagini had arrived, and the big snake flicked its tongue out at the snadowsancer.

Muldoon was on his horse, and fleeing fast.

Kaylee and Jenika were still wrapped in their own fight, whirling in their tornado of elite monk combat. It was a sight to see. And the women seemed equally matched.

Eryx (DM)
Well, your above-average rolling (especially during the surprise round) coupled with the below-average rolling of your combatants meant that this fight was short and bloody. Here is your current hitpoint situation:

Jenika: 1/39. (Kaylee looks pretty bad, too, though.)
Rynn: 4/41.
Ranna: 29/29.
Orensland: 40/52.
Sanjin: 23/23.
Nagini: 63/63. Poor snake; the cheetah just blew right past him. And the ranger was down by the time he got over there.
Khaska: 35/35.

Jenika can only attack twice per round, DeltaWolf. I’ve taken the liberty of continuing their combat because, well, the rest of the combat is basically over. Jenika’s hitpoints represent 6 full rounds of fighting with Kaylee, who is also pretty beaten up.

As for the rest of you, Azkabar is fleeing on his horse. He was already out of range of Rynn’s bow shots by the time the druid was down. And there’s still the matter of the eagle. Both the druid and the ranger are currently bleeding out, but are not dead yet.

What will you do about the eagle and Azkabar? And will any of the rest of you interfere with the fight between the two monks?

Crosis
Am I in range for shooting Azkabar's horse? If we can injure it, overtaking the fleeing man could be much, much easier. I take it that a horse that has been shot in the flank/anywhere would keep it from running quickly enough for us to care?

Thev
Here's a thought: would Khaska be able to quickly mount one of the other horses and race after Azkabar, firing arrows at the same time? What sort of rolls would that take, if there's time to do it?

BlackWolf
Rynn hefts the smoldering druid body off of him and gets up to survey the scene. Jenika and Kaylee are still going at it. The druid at his feet is bleeding out. Rynn wonders briefly whether he should prevent the enemy from dying, or whether he should just finish him off. How would one tie up or restrain someone who can change their shape so drastically? Anyone traveling with Kaylee on such a mission as being bodyguard for Lady Maramos is most likely evil, right?

How far away is Muldoon? Can Rynn see him? I know you said that he's out of the ranger's firing range, but his bow can fire up to a maximum range of 1,100 feet (although at a -20 to hit at that range). A horse running full out for 3 rounds could cover a distance of 720 feet by RAW. So I'm just wondering if a last ditch attempt to hit him with an arrow would be possible (cross my fingers for a natural 20)? But that doesn't account for terrain or anything, and the 3 rounds of horse running is just a guess.

For now, I'll assume that Rynn cannot see Muldoon fleeing. So he'll ready his bow and prepare to fire at Kaylee, in the event that Jenika falls. The ranger respects his friend too much to interfere before then; besides, firing into such a melee is a risky proposition. He knows that the monk may be able to deflect some of his arrows, but he intends to fire far more than she can avoid.

Round 1: Get up from under the druid.

Round 2: Rapid shot

  • To hit: 17 (rolled 7 + 7 base + 4 DEX + 1 mwk - 2 rapid shot), damage: 5 (rolled 3 + 2 STR)
  • To hit: 18 (rolled 8 + 7 base + 4 DEX + 1 mwk - 2 rapid shot), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)
  • To hit: 23 (rolled 18 + 2 base + 4 DEX + 1 mwk - 2 rapid shot), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)

Round 3: Rapid shot

  • To hit: 16 (rolled 6 + 10 as above), damage: 8 (rolled 6 + 2 STR)
  • To hit: 14 (rolled 4 + 10 as above), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)
  • To hit: 14 (rolled 9 + 5 as above), damage: 5 (rolled 3 + 2 STR)

(Clearly the online dice roller was not as good as rolling actual dice.)

As for Muldoon, Rynn will let Orensland or Khaska chase after him. On horseback sounds good. Which way is he heading, by the way? Toward the town? Back the way they came? Rynn will be willing to try to hunt him down afterward, if needed.

Eryx (DM)
Khaska would have to get over to where Orensland is (where the horses are), get on a horse, and then ride it after Muldoon. I would need a Ride check from anybody who wanted to try that. If that's your plan, give me 3 that I can have on hand, as well as attack rolls. However …

I had been misreading the rules. BlackWolf is right … Muldoon is still within range of everybody, though there will be penalties assessed due to his distance. (He has been riding at full gallop for one round, and was already a bit away from everybody.) If you wish to shoot at him, or his horse, please give me rolls. I assume that's what BlackWolf has done above now that I've realized my error in reading the rules.

And don't forget about the eagle. It's not all that dangerous, but it is there.

Thev
Khaska is going to mount one of the horses in an attempt to chase down Muldoon if he companions can't shoot him.

  • Handle Animal: 12 = 10 + 2
  • Ride: 9

Eegh, not the best. Even if he doesn't manage to get on the horse, he'll fire at Muldoon or the horse, whichever there's a better chance of hitting (if he hits that horse, he'd make sure to heal it if possible once the battle's over).

  • To hit: 21 = 15 + 6
    • Damage: 4 = 3 + 1
  • To hit: 25 = 19 + 6
    • Damage: 6 = 5 + 1
  • To hit: 14 = 8 + 6
    • Damage: 4 = 3 + 1

Eryx (DM)
Oh, one other thing. Rynn can just start firing. The druid collapsing on him is more flavor for the story than a real description of the situation. If he had been trying to grapple with you and pinned you, I would have let you know. You can give me one more round of shots. Will you be shooting at Muldoon first?

BlackWolf
Sure, Rynn will take his shots at Muldoon. Easier than hunting him down later, right? Just apply the appropriate modifiers for distance. Here's one more round of rolls:

  • To hit: 23 (rolled 13 + 10 as above), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)
  • To hit: 26 (rolled 16 + 10 as above), damage: 10 (rolled 8 + 2 STR)
  • To hit: 16 (rolled 11 + 5 as above), damage: 3 (rolled 1 + 2 STR)

DeltaWolf
Sorry about the extra attacks with Jenika, I copied and pasted and got sloppy.

Sanin
Round 1: Move to where that Eagle is.
Round 2: While the Eagle is in the air (but is in range) Sanjin will cast Burning Hands

  • Damage: 12

Round 3: Cast Ray of Frost at Eagle

  • To Hit: 21 (16 rolled +5) * Damage: 2

Nagini
Round 1: Move to Kaylee
Round 2: Grapple Kaylee

  • Grapple Check: 35 (12 Rolled +23)

Round 3: Constrict or Grapple Kaylee

  • Grapple Check: 25 (2 Rolled +23) * Damage: 11

Eryx (DM)
Did you want to roll for Jenika again as well, DeltaWolf?

DeltaWolf
You wrote, "Jenika’s hitpoints represent 6 full rounds of fighting with Kaylee" and the rest of the party has only done three rounds (plus the surprise attack). I thought the rest of the party was behind.

Crosis
Howdy, everyone! Sorry about that, school was getting started and I fell behind.

I'd shoot at the fleeing horse to try to cripple/kill/wound it so Khaska can catch up to the rider. Here are my stats:

To hit: d20+9
Damage: d8+1

*To Hit: 24
*Damage: 3

*To Hit: 12
*Damage: 5

*To Hit: 24
*Damage: 3

Agreed, the online roller is not doing us good right now.

Orensland pulled out a bolt for his crossbow and sighted at Muldoon. Wounding the horse would help. He was sure that Rynn could track the animal if it were wounded or crippled, and especially if it were bleeding. He blew out his breath and loosed his bolt.

Apparently Rynn had the same thought. In the time it took Orensland to load, aim, and fire, the ranger stepped just outside of the trees and fired a quick succession of three arrows. The horse went down, and Muldoon rolled around in a heap of robes as he was thrown clear of the wounded animal, injured, but not dead.

The eagle swooped down by Orensland again, but the shadowdancer dodged it. Sanjin was approaching now, and the eagle, seeing an easier target, dove at him. The wizard raised his hands and bathed the bird in fire, injuring the poor creature badly. As it circled around for another pass, the wizard finished it off contemptuously with a Ray of Frost. The animal dropped down to the ground.

The fight was over … except for the two monks still going at it in their ferocious whirlwind of combat. Kaylee and Jenika both looked haggard, blood and bruises all over their faces and arms and legs, their monk robes torn in various places, dirt all through their hair and smudging on their faces, kicked up by their constantly-shifting feet. Kaylee took a step back, trying to disengage for a moment, to get some bearing on the ferocity that was her opponent, but Jenika was having none of that. Jenika charged at her, grabbing Kaylee around the waist and pinning her arms, knocking her to the ground. The two rolled in the dirt, still fighting, but now Jenika had the upper hand. The sharp crack of bone sounded as she twisted Kaylee’s arm, and the evil monk cried out in pain, trying desperately to get away from the grapple. Jenika was relentless, however, and with a sharp jerk managed to free an arm and elbow Kaylee viciously in the head.

Kaylee collapsed, unconscious.

Jenika disentangled herself from the other monk standing up and looking around, now allowing herself to assess how the rest of the fight had gone.

Muldoon was now fleeing on foot, but he was alone. Both of Kaylee’s companions were down on the ground, and Jenika’s friends were slowly approaching the site of her combat with Kaylee. Rynn half looked back at Muldoon, but just smiled. Khaska had just emerged from the trees, and Orensland and Sanjin were over by the other horses, which had scattered just a little bit.

She had won.

Eryx (DM)
The combat is over. Kaylee is at Jenika’s feet, but is not dead yet. (She is bleeding out.)

What will Jenika do?

Assume that you can catch Muldoon. He has no horse, and is not any kind of athlete. What are you going to do with him? His horse is bleeding out. I believe Khaska wanted to go heal the animal?

The ranger and the druid are dead, and the eagle is bleeding out. Your hitpoints are all unchanged from the last post.

What do you all want to do? How will you proceed now?

Crosis
Seeing as this is not Orensland's personal battle, he feels that (after taking out the fleeing, injured, unathletic dude) it is up to Jenika what they should do at this point. What was her plan, exactly? Kill her? Talk with her before killing her? Some other plan that doesn't involve killing her? If she wanted, Orensland would offer to tie Kaylee up. I believe with synergy for Escape Artist stats my +15 mod increases to +17 in Use Rope when typing people up specifically. Yay again for great dexterity.

Is Muldoon an important character in this whole thing? Would it be advisable to try to extract information from him?

Eryx (DM)
Muldoon seems to be Kaylee's "manager" of sorts. A combination bookkeeper, lawyer, messenger, and accountant.

Thev
Yes, Khaska will heal the horse - after the party has managed to subdue and apprehend Muldoon, and after he's managed to stabilize the party. Like Orensland, he's in favor of Jenika deciding Kaylee's fate; he'll discuss with the others what to do with Muldoon beyond asking him questions. Khaska would advise that they try to win Muldoon over to their side with promises of protection if he defects. If he is unwilling to comply, especially if his noncompliance is born of dogmatic adherence to the Cult of Skyrnyn, Khaska would let Rynn decide what to do with him.

Eryx (DM)
Kaylee and her associates are mercenaries, hired to be bodyguards and escorts; I mean, you don't know for sure, but it is unlikely that Muldoon is an adherent to the Cult of Skyrnyn.

Thev
Great; thanks for clarifying. Maybe he'd respond even better to a promise of amnesty, then.

BlackWolf
Given that he's quite roughed up, Rynn will let Orensland (or whomever else) go apprehend Muldoon. But he'll send Ranna along to use her "Seek" trick, in case the man decides to try to hide or anything. Ranna is quick; I'm imagining her hanging around Muldoon barking and howling.

Like the others, Rynn is curious as to what Jenika wants to do next. He'll keep a silent eye on the captive enemies and wait to see what happens next. He figures that whatever happens to Kaylee is Jenika's choice / responsibility. But Muldoon is another story. The ranger will let Khaska or others do the talking; Rynn wants to hear out whatever they can learn from the man.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will retrieve his staff -then help out however he can.

Jenika, after an inner battle with herself, will decide that she can't just stand there and let Kaylee bleed to death (as easy as it would make things). She will stop the bleeding and ask someone to tie her up good. She doesn't know what to do with her after that -any suggestions?

Crosis
Sorry, Jenika. That's kinda your thing with her. Well, actually, come to think of it… the problem with throwing her in jail is that there is a chance she will escape. But then again, if she in all of her dirty work has picked up shreds of important information about the Cult or other less reputable organizations, we could hand her over to someone we trust to take care of her in the best way possible. Handing her over to that knight we met in the first chapter, for instance. As a personal favor, he could see to it that Kaylee is locked up for good somewhere deep.

Orensland would offer to chase down the man, but would like some backup in case he's stronger than he looks. As for what to ultimately do to him, Orensland would not feel right about killing a man in cold blood. If he's the type of person Orensland normally holds grudges against… well, we'll see if that happens, but killing would likely not be on the list. We'll see what he says first, it'll make deciding what to do with him easier.

Thev
Khaska would suggest that, if Jenika isn't going to dispatch Kaylee, they turn her over to the Knights of the Silver Dragons. The party could accompany Jenika back to Laishtek to do just that; Khaska trusts them to deal with her appropriately and beneficially. Regarding Muldoon, Khaska hopes that we could win him over with promises of protection and hopefully gain useful information that way. There's no reason he would have to die.

“Well,” said Rynn, approaching. “That was quick and bloody.”

“We still have to deal with Muldoon,” said Orensland.

“I approve of you shooting the horse instead of the human,” said Khaska, “but perhaps I can still heal it of its wounds. The animal should not suffer for the crimes of its rider.”

Muldoon had finally untangled himself from his robes and began to run, heavily, away from the group. Orensland sighed. “I’ll go get him.” The shadowdancer moved off in a slow jog.

“Ranna, seek,” said Rynn, pointing at Muldoon. The wolf bounded away. “I’d prefer to stay here,” the ranger said, looking at his blood-stained tunic. Khaska reached out to touch the ranger, muttering a healing prayer as he did so. The ranger instantly felt better as the divine magic mended his wounds a bit. Khaska smiled at him, and then followed Orensland, who was following Ranna, who was pursuing Muldoon.

“What will we do with Kaylee?” asked Rynn. Jenika hadn’t said a word, still looking down at the form of her former monk-sister. The monk reached her hands out, then brought them back. She did this several times before finally kneeling next to the prone form and doing her best to stabilize Kaylee. “You don’t want her to die?”

“I can’t just stand here and let her bleed to death,” the monk replied.

Between the monk and the ranger, they were able to bring Kaylee around so that she was no longer dying. Khaska managed to heal the horse and brought it back. After a few minutes, Muldoon stumbled back to them, prodded by Orensland’s crossbow. The large man was sweating profusely and was very out of breath; Rynn guessed this was more exercise than he was used to dealing with.

“Orensland, can you tie up Kaylee?” asked Jenika. The shadowdancer smiled and nodded, reaching into his pack to pull out the rope. He set to work tying the monk up.

Muldoon sat down heavily on the ground, still wheezing from just the walk back. “What are you going to do with me?”

Eryx (DM)
What are you going to do with him? I wondered if perhaps Thev and I could do a dialogue over IM. The party seems to be deferring to Khaska on that front. If we do that, I’d like a diplomacy roll to determine what Muldoon’s attitude is during the coversation.

Crosis, your bonus for tying up someone is actually +27 (8 ranks, 7 ability modifier, 2 synergy with escape artist, and 10 for tying someone up in general).

Kaylee ain’t going nowhere.

I’ll make you roll if/when she tries to escape. She’s stable, but unconscious. She will probably wake up after a good night’s sleep. You could make sure that she never gets a good night’s sleep without killing her. Just give her a few good non-lethal whacks to drop her hitpoints down more.

I took the liberty of adding a healing spell from Khaska into the narrative. I assumed the cleric would use his spells to help his allies as well. It could easily be retconned.

What do you want to do to get information from Muldoon? Post questions here and have me answer them? Do a dialogue? (My preference, I find those add a bit of fun to the campaign.) A combination of the two?

And DeltaWolf … Kaylee's fate is in your hands. There are some suggestions here, but the group will defer to you on this, it seems. What does Jenika want to do with Kaylee?

Seems your suggested options are:
1. Kill her.
2. Take her to the Knights of the Silver Dragons.
3. Free her.
4. Something else not yet considered? (I would note there's an entire town of evil dragon cultists on your side a few miles away at this point.)

What will Jenika do? Whatever the decision, she will be leaving the group very shortly, so maybe that can be a variable in your calculus of decision-making, from a metagaming perspective.

I'd like this post to end with Lady Maramos' arrival in Uptide. Let's move the story forward so we can get back into the swing of the campaign, if we could.

Crosis
Much of Orensland's thinking is in the last post. If you wanted, though, perhaps when Kaylee wakes up she could make a comment along the lines of "I never figured you (Jenika) to be the sort to hang out with thieves" given Jenika's initial behavior towards Orensland.

Thev
Khaska would indeed use a healing spell on his allies. No need to retcon that!

The first thing we need to do is ascertain what role Muldoon had in the operation. As he seems to be a hired brain, the party shouldn't treat him like the mercenaries. It's unlikely he knows too much deep information about Lady Maramos's operations. For the information he can give, Khaska would be willing to offer the protection of the Knights of the Silver Dragons. He's certain they'd be willing to provide it.

Khaska would also advocate turning Kaylee over to the Knights if Jenika doesn't end up ending her. He wants her out of the way, and feels that the Knights might be the best group to turn her over to. The question, then, is what we'd do with her while We deal with Lady Maramos. Would Jenika be able to lead her to Laishtek alone? Do we entrust her, particularly incapacitated, to the village for safekeeping (and perhaps escape)?

DeltaWolf
Giving Kaylee to the Knights is what Jenika will want to do -as it would serve justice rather then revenge.

Khaska responded. “That depends on who you are. I hope you'll understand that we have little reason to trust your word, so I'll be casting a Zone of Truth spell here to make sure you're being honest.”

“Oh … okay.” Muldoon looked over at the ranger nearby. “And if I'm not the kind of person you like?”

“We will see. But rest assured that we take no pleasure in death. Now I will cast the spell.” Khaska held up his symbol of Teresh and chanted the prayer that invoked the spell. The air around him shimmered for a moment as he completed it. He dropped his symbol down and folded his arms.

“Ask your questions of me,” sighed Muldoon.

“First, please tell us your name, your trade, and your relationship to this party.”

“My name is Azkabar Muldoon. I am a merchant originally by trade. Eventually I fell on hard times and needed to seek employment elsewhere. My list of contacts was extensive, and eventually I became employed by Kaylee. I am her bookkeeper and go-between for many of her jobs.”

“Do you know with whom she is contracted now?”

“Lady Maramos of Darkcrest.”

“Please, tell us everything you know of this Lady Maramos.” Khaska glanced at his friends. They seemed to be deferring to him now, a role he wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

“She's some kind of bigwig from Darkcrest. She's been traveling all over Gallidus the past few months on business, but that's ended now, and she's returning home.”

“Near as I can tell, she works for some Cult as some kind of ally. She influences people to help her organization. People in high places. Gets them to ally themselves with their objectives.”

“This is the Cult of Skyrnyn, right?”

“Yes.”

“What are their objectives?”

“I'm not entirely sure.”

“What have you heard? Do you have any guesses and, if so, what are they?”

Muldoon sighed. He was still sweating profusely, but he had finally caught his breath from the walk back. “When I was a merchant, I helped some people move things to the death side. They paid well, but it was really weird. Lots of construction materials. And things like foodstuffs. Seeds. Potable water. Always people with rings with a certain symbol. I don't know what they're doing on the death side, but it's big. They've been working on it for … years.”

“What was the symbol? Do you remember?”

“I …” He looked around, and then got to one knee and scratched something in the dirt in front of him. Everybody leaned in close. Orensland glanced at the ring on his finger. Muldoon’s scrawling in the dirt was definitely an approximation of the symbol.

Khaska nodded. “Yes, we know that symbol. Thank you. Did you ever hear of people being transported to Darkcrest?”

“To Darkcrest? I don't know where they go when they get to the Death Side. That wasn't my part of any of the contracts I did when I was a merchant.”

“Ah. Did you hear of large numbers of people traveling to the Death Side, then?”

“No. But they must have had a huge organization on the Death Side to keep moving all the things I saw sent over there. I don't know how they keep it staffed.”

Khaska looked around at his friends. They exchanged knowing looks. Rynn in particular seethed at the thought of slavery on the death side. “We think we know. Do you know why Lady Maramos was coming to Uptide now?”

“From the letters, I gather that she's done with her work on Gallidus and is heading back home.”

“Do you know why Uptide would be her port of departure?”

“Easy to slip in and out unnoticed. I think it's how she came to Gallidus in the first place.”

Khaska nodded. “That makes sense. We have also heard that, when she travels, she cares about the length of the night. Do you know any particulars about her travel arrangements and why they may be?”
Muldoon began to look around, looking at each individual present. He opened his mouth, and then shut it, shaking his head vigorously. Khaska was more stern. “For your cooperation, we will do what we can to protect you from reprisal.”

“Then I'll need to not be around when she arrives in Uptide.”

“Our friend Jenika will be traveling to Laishtek before Lady Maramos arrives.” Khaska nodded towards the monk. “I believe you could go with her.”

“Oh lovely. Then she can just track me down and kill me later. Or have one of her lackeys do it. Her family runs Darkcrest! She runs a spy network all over Gallidus! I'm not safe if I give her up!”

Khaska thought it worth trying to appeal to his sense of self-preservation. “We have evidence that she is involved with something much darker than odd shipments across the sea—slavery, murder, deception. If you know anything that could stop it, we have powerful friends who, I'm sure, could protect you in exchange for the information you have.”

Muldoon snorted. “Yeah? Like who?”

“The Knights of the Silver Dragons.”

“Maramos and the Cult have been operating under their noses for years,” he said as he waved his hand dismissively. “You'll forgive me if I don't exactly have faith in them.” He then folded his arms.

“Not so much anymore. The Knights in Hammerdine and Laishtek have discovered evidence of their activities and are pursuing them.”

Muldoon remained there, with his arms folded.

“Any information you have would likely help them protect you. Even the Death Side receives some light to banish the dark.”

No change. Khaska decided another line of inquiry might yield better results.

“Then let me ask you: what other options do you have?”

“All I've told you so far is stuff you could easily find out on your own. Maybe you already knew it. Even if I get captured …”

With that comment, Orensland blurted out. “If? You're captured! Now!” Sanjin snickered.

Muldoon glared at the elf. “I'm not revealing any more.”

With that, Rynn drew his orcish dagger. “Looks like his usefulness is at an end.” Khaska was momentarily surprised, but then realized that it was a bluff, meant to intimidate their captive into talking more.

Muldoon was looking the ranger over. “You're not nearly as scary as Lady Maramos. I'll take my chances with not betraying her over whatever you plan to do to me.”

Khaska frowned. It wasn’t working. Muldoon seemed to have clammed up. Perhaps yet another tactic … letting him know, subtly, that they already knew some details he was likely holding back.

Khaska intoned. “Of course, in the midst of the shadows Lady Maramos likely casts none …”

With that Muldoon started violently, clearly surprised.

“Ah,” said Khaska, a bit smug, “so our strong suspicions are confirmed. If that is the biggest secret you were hiding, know that we already suspected it.”

Muldoon brought his hands together, quite literally wringing them, cringing further down into the dirt. “She'll kill me!”

“You revealed nothing besides confirming something about which we were nearly certain already. You could hardly be guilty of betrayal. She will never know about it.”

“Never know about it! How can she not know about it! She'll show up and there won't be any bodyguards to escort her on the Death Side! She will know something is going on!”

“We can make sure that there are bodyguards when she arrives,” said Khaska.

Muldoon looked right at the Maha’i cleric, confused for a moment. Then his face lit up. “Oh.” He thought some more. “Oh! You read the letters back in Laishtek, didn't you? That's how you knew to be here. You're going to pose as bodyguards for her?” He began to laugh. “I hope you're prepared to face the dangers of the Death Side! We brought our best ranger and our best druid! Hope you are as prepared as they were!” He continued to giggle.

“We defeated them,” said Khaska, without missing a beat.

Muldoon’s mouth snapped shut so hard they could hear his teeth click.

“And let me ask: has she ever heard the name Azkabar Muldoon? You were in Kaylee's employ, not hers, unless there is more you are not revealing.”

“She knows of me. I was the go-between to first arrange the contract.”

“Would she look for you if she thought you were dead?”

Muldoon shied away, his body language drawing back into himself. “Probably not. Why would anybody look for a dead person? If I'm going back to the Knights … I want protection. I want to be set up with a new life. A nice cottage somewhere. Anonymous.”

It was clear that, given the circumstances, this was Muldoon’s best option available. Khaska ran with it.

“My thought exactly. We can inform her that you have passed away while you travel back to the Knights with our friend. I am certain that they would be able to provide you the anonymity you seek.”

“Deal!”

He stood up, laboriously. Orensland almost had to snicker the man was so overweight.

“I feel bad for the man’s horse,” he whispered to Sanjin, who smiled and nodded, taking the shadowdancer’s meaning instantly.

“You're right. She's a vampire. I get the impression that she has other vampires all over Gallidus, and they all work for or with this cult, helping keep things flowing. I think I met one when I worked in Tidewater City, but he never tried to drink my blood or anything. But he was creepy as all the Abyss.”

Khaska nodded. “Thank you. Do you remember his name?”

“His name was Jeremy Bruvial.”

“And do you know the nature of his work?”

“With people in thrall to the vampires, they can grease the wheels when needed to keep their interests alive and doing well. I think Maramos was here checking up on people and making sure all was in order.” Rynn and Khaska exchanged glances. This was precisely the situation with Judge Stoneheart in Hammerdine … in thrall to a vampire, which allowed him to help hide their various doings in the city. “She’s not a member of the cult, but the cult has hired these vampires to make sure that things run smoothly here. They are allies. Temporary partners, perhaps. I don't know the exact nature of their arrangement. How long it's lasted. How long it will last. Things like that. That's all I know, I swear!

“Thank you very much. While you will go into your new life, all Gallidus will owe Azkabar Muldoon its gratitude.”

“Assuming you survive. I'm sure she's very good.” He narrowed his eyes. “I wonder if you're up for taking her on.” He jerked a thumb at Jenika. “Especially if your prized monk isn’t going to be around.”

Sanjin smiled and stroked his staff. “Leave that to us.”

“Now stay there while we confer with ourselves,” said Rynn. He had an arrow half knocked, and brought it up ever so slightly. Muldoon got the message. Running was a bad idea, even though he had already given himself up.

They talked quietly a few yards away. Their options seemed to be either to kill Kaylee, and as deep as Jenika’s hatred ran for her sister-monk, she was reluctant to do so, to take her back to the village, with Muldoon, or to take her back to the Knights of the Silver Dragons in Laishtek.

Ultimately, it was decided that, since killing her wasn’t an option, and since having her and Muldoon in the village was too risky, given Lady Maramos’ impending arrival, that Jenika would escort the two of them back to Laishtek. With Kaylee trussed up as well as she was, and as injured as the evil monk was, it wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

“Won’t Kaylee heal over time? It’s several weeks travel to Laishtek,” Orensland queried.

“Only if she gets a good night’s sleep and isn’t further injured,” said Jenika, who cracked her knuckles. The shadowdancer smiled and nodded. He understood. But he was taken aback by the monk’s next statement.

“Then I guess I should be on my way.” Everybody in the group started.

“Right now?” asked Rynn.

“Is there a reason I should stay longer?”

The group all looked at each other, each wanting the others to perhaps find a reason for the monk to tarry, but in the end, Khaska spoke with the wisdom they all needed, but not that they wanted. “Jenika is right. A further delay only serves to increase Kaylee’s chances of escaping, or of the townspeople discovering our ruse that Jenika is not actually Kaylee. She should leave.”

There was a bit more awkward staring at each other, until Orensland broke the silence. “Well, let’s at least loot the bodies before she goes! Maybe something that she can use!” Jenika rolled her eyes.


After divesting the mercenaries of their gear and dividing it up, it was time for goodbyes.

Muldoon mounted his horse, with some trouble (Orensland and Sanjin exchanged amused glances yet again), and Kaylee was tied to her horse’s saddle. Jenika mounted one of the horses without a rider.

Again the Maha’i cleric broke the silence. “You have been a faithful friend and a sturdy fighter. May Teresh will his face to see our next meeting.”

“I hope that I will see you again as well, my friend,” was her reply.

“I guess you’ll have to find some other thief you don’t like to hang out with,” Orensland said, that goofy grin on his face.

“I doubt I will ever find one that I dislike more than you,” was her reply, through a smile.

Rynn was more stoic. “Good luck with Kaylee. I’ll miss you.”

“I will miss you too.”

Sanjin didn’t have much to say. He really knew her the least of anybody. But Jenika knew what to say. “Take care of them for me. You’re kind of my replacement, now.”

Sanjin nodded at that, and then bowed. “I can tell that I can never replace you, but I will do my best to carry on what you have started with these good people. Be well, Jenika.”

And with that, Jenika turned and kicked her heels into the horse. The horse with Kaylee tied up followed, connected to Jenika’s by a rope. Muldoon came along after.

After they had vanished into the distance, Rynn reached down absentmindedly to scratch Ranna’s head. The wolf whimpered, keying in on her master’s solemn mood.

“Yes, I’ll miss her too,” the ranger muttered. Then he turned to his companions. “So, Lady Maramos should be in town sometime in the next month or so. I assume we carry on as we have for now, but the question is … when she comes, do we just drag her coffin into the middle of a field in broad daylight, then kick it open and drive a stake through her heart, or what?”

Khaska was savvy enough to notice that as Rynn spoke these words, the ranger’s hand rested on his orcish dagger.

“While I’m sure that would bring us much satisfaction,” replied Khaska, “it is true that Lady Maramos is merely a symptom. To treat the disease itself would be a better course of action.”

“I’m with the cleric,” Sanjin said. “Killing one vampire won’t make that much of a different. But escorting her back to her city? Think of what we could learn on the journey? Or especially at Darkcrest itself, once we’ve arrived!”

Orensland shrugged. “Khaska’s probably right, but” he grinned, “Rynn’s plan does have a certain appeal.”

“As much as I’d love to see the look on her face as she turns to dust, we should play the part. Escort her through the deadlands to Darkcrest,” said Rynn. “Perhaps we’ll have the satisfaction of watching the Knights destroy the vampire enclave that’s probably based in Darkcrest someday, but after we’ve collected more information on them and what they are all about.”

“Muldoon say that she was a, what was the term, ‘earwig,’ in Darkcrest. No, that’s not right.” Khaska frowned.

“Bigwig,” said Sanjin. “Whatever that means.”

“Then let us go,” said Khaska. “There is nothing more to be gained here this morning.”


The townsfolk took “Kaylee’s” departure well. With the party having laid the story’s foundation ahead of time, it was easy enough to explain why the monk would no longer be part of their entourage. Master Hodrin wondered if they were prepared for the horrors of the Death Side without the monk, but Rynn assured him that they would be fine. (In truth, the ranger was not overly concerned. Between his time on the Death Side and Sajnin’s journeys there, the group had more than enough experience to safely travel the Deadlands.)

It was now just a matter of waiting for Lady Maramos to arrive.

Eryx (DM)
Sorry for the very long delay. Between initially creating the dialogue between Khaska and Muldoon, and then organizing and editing it, that put us into the holidays and … well, here we are.

These are what you found on the bodies of your defeated enemies. (This is aside from backpacks—all mundane, and various things like rations, extra rope, etc. Things that you’re pretty well stocked up on, so I didn’t bother generating that loot.)

Druid
1. Rhino Hide
2. +1 Amulet of Natural Armor
3. Masterwork longspear
4. Masterwork blowgun, 20 darts. Exotic weapon.
5. 3 doses of Malyss root paste. (A poison)

Ranger:
1. +1 Studded Leather Armor
2. +1 longsword
3. +1 longbow
4. +1 Bracers of Armor
5. Ring of Sustenance
6. A map of the Deadlands (basically what you have on the Map of Jenoa).
7. A more detailed map of the western portion of the Deadlands. (Forthcoming.)

Kaylee
1. Amulet of Mighty Fists
2. Gauntlets of Ogre Power
3. Ring of Protection +2
4. Wand of Cure Light Wounds (34 charges left)
5. 2917 gold in jewels.

Let’s make decisions about who gets what loot here in this box, not in the next chapter. You also now have two new horses. (You had a horse a long time ago from Nathan, way back in Codex I, but I think we all just forgot that you had it. You wouldn’t have taken the horse on the skyship trips with you, so let’s assume you sold it at some point. I’ve added that money to the above jewels from Kaylee.)

So … who wants what?

Thev
Khaska would suggest that Rynn take the wand as a group item; that way, there are two members of the party with the ability to heal on a dime. Unless Jenika wants the Monk items, we should probably sell them; the same with the Druid-specific items. The Ring of Sustenance should probably not go to Rynn or Khaska, who both have some pretty excellent foraging skills. With the weapons, I don't think there's anything better than what we already have, so I think we could probably sell the lot and split the spoils.

Crosis
I'm back!! Sorry about that.

Orensland would like to have the Ring of Sustenance, if possible. His usefulness sneaking around at night instead of sleeping/foraging would be aided greatly. I agree on selling the weapons, though. How much money would be split overall? And is there a way we could sell the goods without raising attention to the fact that we mysteriously gained a bunch of loot?

BlackWolf
Rynn is happy to let Orensland take the Ring of Sustenance; as Thev mentioned, Rynn can catch a meal in a pinch. :)

But Rynn would like to take the +1 longsword and +1 longbow. The sword will definitely be an upgrade for him. The longbow isn't composite, but it is magic which can be very important at times.

So I'll go ahead and guess that's okay, and add them to my character sheet, along with his 1/5 share of the money (583.4 gp worth before we sell things). He'll also hold on to the wand, as per Thev's suggestion.

Finally, not to be greedy, but Rynn could definitely use both the +1 Amulet of Natural Armor and Ring of Protection +2 (since he has neither a natural armor nor deflection bonus). That would increase his AC by 3. So since it seems like nobody wants those, Rynn would he happy to take them. But if anyone else could use them, please speak up!

BlackWolf
Eryx, now that I'm updating my character sheet, I've got a couple questions:

1. Did we earn any XP for this fight? Maybe I missed it, but I definitely didn't record any on my character sheet yet.

2. How much elapses between this encounter and when Lady Maramos arrives? If it's 3 weeks or more then Rynn will probably finish up his masterwork composite longbow. And I don't suppose there might be someone in Uptide who could be paid to enchant his masterwork item (once finished) to make it magic?

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