Codex VI-Chapter 3

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Sanjin and Khaska sat huddled over the table, their fingers raw from the cold air that drafted in from the dilapidated shack that they had opted to stay in once the snow began to fall. The fire provided pitiful warmth against the winds that came inland from the ocean. They were playing cards when the door burst open, bringing in a burst of snow flurries. Rynn walked into the room and shut the door behind him, bringing down the scarf he had wrapped around his face for warmth.

“It looks like our esteemed guest has arrived. Lady Maramos’ coach is here. Orensland! You get to do the talking again.”

The shadowdancer was up and awake immediately. The nearly month and a half since Jenika had left had made him bored, but he was immediately on edge.

“Let’s go meet our employer, then,” he said.

Khaska stood, wrapping himself in his cloak, and belting his scimitar around his waist, while Sanjin merely stood, his staff never far from his side already. Rynn nodded at the group, and they left their shack.

Despite the very late hour, many of the townsfolk had gathered to see their new guest. The coach was black and long, an elegantly crafted work with no windows. It was pulled by four horses, each as fine an animal as any of the party had ever seen. The horses were being seen to, and there were two newcomers. One was a young man, sharply dressed, standing in the snow outside Master Hodrin’s hut. The other stood off to the side, a dwarf encased in armor, with a warhammer at his side. The young man approached the group.

“I am Sebastien, Lady Maramos’ manservant. May I assume that you are the bodyguards contracted to journey with us on the Death Side?”

“Yes, that’s us,” said Orensland.

“Good,” came a gruff voice. The dwarf came forward. “Then my contract is over, right Sebastien?”

“Yes, Bodrin, we have made contact with your replacements. You have been paid, and are now excused if you so desire.”

“Gentlemen,” the Dwarf said, inclining his head. “Good luck.”

He turned to leave.

“You’re just leaving? It’s night, and snowing,” Khaska said.

The dwarf turned back. “Lady Maramos pays well, but I’ll not spend any more time around her than I have to. Good day.” He slung the warhammer over his shoulder and began walking away.

Eryx (DM)
Sebastien appears to be a normal human male, probably in his mid-20s. Lady Maramos is inside conversing with Master Hodrin, but will be outside shortly. Bodrin is leaving.

How do you want to handle this initial encounter?

And because you are pretending to be her contracted bodyguards, I will need a bluff check from each of you.

Thev
I realize that this might be somewhat unhelpful, but Khaska will probably try to keep his mouth shut around Lady Maramos as much as he can; he's not very good at bluffing, and we have no idea what the Lady's powers of perception may be like.

Either way, I rolled 18 for the Bluff Check, so I'm guessing that whatever Khaska does, he's relatively safe for now!

DeltaWolf
Like Khaska -Sanjin doesn't want to say much to Lady Maramos. Though he is fascinated with her being what she is (he's morbid like that).

I got a 18 on Bluff as well.

Crosis

Well… this should be fun. Orensland will probably be doing most of the talking. I'd presume Orensland has been listening in on the general townsfolk to get an idea of how he should behave as a member of the Cult. I mean, what else would he have been doing? Also, I'm not sure if his association with darkness as a shadowdancer will make him more amiable around a vampire, but… I would hope so!

Bluff: 26 (rolled 16 + 10 modifier)

Sweet!!! I am so relieved. Even with a 10 modifier, rolling a 1 would have really stunk for the main speaker. Now just waiting on Rynn!

BlackWolf
Sorry that I've taken so long to reply. The gaps between posts had gotten to the point where it had just fallen out of my daily thoughts; sort of like how I haven't been watching season 3 of Agents of Shield because it wasn't available when I finished season 2. Anyway, I apologize and I'll try to get back on the wagon.

Rynn is also terrible at bluffing, so to attempt to compensate, he'll try to tap into his chaotic side a little bit (seeing that he doesn't have a "bad" alignment per se) to try to deflect any suspicion.

  • Bluff check: 18 (rolled 17 + 1 bonus)

Whew! Rynn could also possibly get a +2 bonus vs. Undead or Cult of Skyrnyn members; but I'll let the GM determine whether those would be applicable.

Rynn will be happy to let Orensland take point on talking, but he won't go totally silent either. It seems that Bodrin had a strong mercenary streak going on, so maybe we can play into that too (they wouldn't be surprised by it).

Rynn will speak up about things he knows well, for example, he could mention things about the death side that demonstrate that he has been there.

Though he looked for a moment at Bodrin’s retreating form, Orensland then turned back and stepped forward to be the “voice” of the group, a decision they had all thought would be in the best interest of their party. Despite the fact that they were all bluffing, he decided that his cheery native temperament should still be his default setting.

“Greetings, Sebastien!” He stuck his hand out, but Sebastien ignored it as he reached into the satchel at his side to pull out a single piece of paper.

“And is Kaylee not to join us, then?” the young man asked.

Orensland dropped his hand. “No, and she sends her regrets. But we are her associates and are more than ready to escort you and Lady Maramos back to Darkcrest. I am Orensland, this is …” But as the shadowdancer pointed to Khaska Sebastien interrupted him.

“Special skills and class?” The interruption almost caught Orensland off guard, but he was quickly adapting to this young man’s style.

“I am a rogue and shadowdancer.”

“Hide in plain sight for me.”

Orensland did so immediately, vanishing from sight. The townspeople gasped, and then he re-appeared moments later.

“Excellent. Now, please introduce me to your friends.”

“Khaska is our cleric.”

“A healer is always welcome.” Khaska bowed, but kept his head up so as not to present his horns in a threatening manner. "What God do you serve?"

Khaska and the others had come up with what they hoped was a plausible cover story. Here went nothing. "I serve Teresh, whom you call Pelor," the cleric said, and then immediately put a hand up as if to stay Sebastien, who was already reaching for his dagger. "You are aware, I hope, that not all followers of a God are in perfect harmony with each other. I myself worship him as my father did, but my quest is to seek knowledge, not to enforce certain codes of conduct. I am a researcher, seeking to journey to places my people have never visited. Darkcrest is such a place."

Sebastien looked at Khaska, then at Orensland, thinking for a moment. Then he let go of his dagger.

"I appreciate your forthrightness, mister Khaska. I have seen very few of your people in Darkcrest, and those have all been slaves. Your priority is the safety of Lady Maramos, of course."

"Of course," the Maha'i said. The bluff appeared to have worked.

"When she is safely in Darkcrest, I would be happy to help get you started with any research you might wish to pursue," Sebastien said. He turned back to the shadowdancer. "Please continue, Orensland."
“Sanjin is a wizard who has spent many years on the Death Side of the moon.”

“Where have your travels taken you, Sanjin?” inquired the young man.

“Mostly the lands south of Clearwater Lake and the plains near the Sacrous River. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Darkcrest.”

“Darkcrest is a glorious city. You will find it to your liking, I think.”

“And finally, Rynn Fowler, a ranger who received most of his training in the Deadlands.”

“And where did your travels take you?”

“I traveled mostly the Eastern Deadlands. My hometown of Camden is near the edge on that side.”

“And you know the death side well? Ecology? Animals? Tracking?”

“It would slow us down greatly, but if necessary, I could provide food and water for most of our group.”

“That is good, but I hope such drastic measure are unneeded.” With that, Sebastien turned back to Orensland and handed over the sheet of parchment paper he had pulled from his satchel and handed it to Orensland. “I’m sure Lady Maramos will want to speak more about the specifics, but here is the general itinerary for getting back to Darkcrest.”

“A boat should be here to take us across the South Gallidan Ocean to the Steelhammer Lifts. After a short jaunt from Fort Windhaven, we will charter a boat to take us down the Thifrin River, across Clearwater Lake, and down the Derring River until such time as we disembark. We will then make our way across the Deadlands until we reach the West Gnarzaan river, where we should be safe from any molestation. The militia of our house should provide us escort to Darkcrest proper from there. Total travel time should ideally be fifty-nine days, but I recognize that travel on the death side is likely to not be ‘ideal.’ Nonetheless, that’s the plan. The boat to the Steelhammer Lifts has already been secured, and should be arriving in the next few days, but the rest will be up to us.”

Orensland pulled out their newly acquired map, fresh from Kaylee's ranger friend, and Sebastien pointed out their intended route.

Sebastien reached into his satchel and pulled out a small bag, handing it over to Orensland. “And as far as payment, here is the 1500 gold agreed upon as the half up front, in rubies.” With that, he looked at Orensland, and then at the group. “Are there any questions?”

“What if we are unable to charter a ship to take us down the rivers?” asked Rynn.

“Lady Maramos has considerable means at her disposal, even while traveling, and is of course very patient. We will eventually find a ship captain willing to take us.” He shrugged. “That is why I say the ‘ideal’ trip would take about fifty-nine days.”

With that, the door to Master Hodrin’s shack flung open and Lady Maramos stepped out.

She was tall, with nearly platinum-blonde hair spilling down past her shoulders. She wore an elegant traveling outfit, all made of various shades of dark green or black, and a cloak that seemed to sweep the light from the shack behind her as it billowed in her wake. Her face was narrow and angular, and she was very thin. She seemed almost elven, but it was clear that she had been a human before she had been turned. Her blue eyes, the color of ice, swept over the assembled group. Several of the townsfolk seemed to subconsciously move behind the party, or others of the townsfolk.

Sebastien bowed sharply. “My Lady, these are our bodyguards for our trip through the Deadlands. Master Bodrin has already taken his leave.”

Orensland stepped forward. “My Lady Maramos.” He produced the letter she had sent to Kaylee. “We regret that Kaylee is unable to join us, but are prepared to complete the contract.”

“That is good. Sebastien, please make sure my accommodations are set up. I will be sleeping in Master Hodrin’s …” she glanced it over, as if deciding what to call it, “quarters.”

“Gentlemen, if you please,” asked Sebastien. “I could use your assistance with the Lady’s personal bedding.”

The “bedding” turned out to be a portable coffin-looking box, and it was heavy. It slid out from under the carriage easily enough, but it took the entire party to lift it and to place it in Hodrin’s hut. Lady Maramos and Sebastien disappeared into the hut, kicking Hodrin out of it. They remained there for about 10 minutes before Sebastien emerged, looking decidedly more pale. He indicated that Orensland should go inside, and then asked for food. Master Hodrin provided some quickly, frying a few fish from the day’s catch for the young man, who consumed it greedily.

“Well,” Rynn said out of earshot of anybody but the group, “I think he’s not just the errand boy for Lady Maramos; I think he’s also her source of food.”

“A most disturbing arrangement,” Khaska murmured.

“Probably a vampire worshipper,” said Sanjin. “Poor, deluded soul.”

“I wonder what she and Orensland are talking about?” Rynn said. He tightened his grip on his orcish dagger as he contemplated the possibilities.


“I’d offer you a chair, but there only seems to be one,” Lady Maramos purred as she slid into the seat.

“I’m fine standing, my lady,” Orensland said.

“I am a private person, Mister Orensland. Most of our communication will be through Sebastien.”

The shadowdancer raised an eyebrow. “That suits us just fine, as long as we get paid.”

“You’ll get paid. I assume that Sebastien already paid you the half up front.”

“He did.”

“Good.”

“He seems like a good manservant.” The elf tried to keep a straight face, thinking of the spectacle he’d just witnessed. It almost made him shudder.

“Without peer.” Lady Maramos looked straight at Orensland. “I invited you in here just so we are clear as to who I am and what my needs are.”

“I don’t imagine you prefer doing much travel during the day, my lady? I imagine it would be hazardous to your health, given what you are.”

“And so we’re clear, what am I?”

“A vampire.” Orensland said this with no hesitation. She nodded. “We are aware of your …” he paused, looking for a diplomatic word. “Condition. Again, as long as we’re paid, we don’t mind much.”

“Good. As you can imagine, traveling is difficult for me. I need to sleep in my coffin each day, or over dirt from my graveyard. I feed from Sebastien once every other day. More often if I can find … other sources of food.”

“Does that include us?” Orensland nearly hesitated. That might be a dealbreaker.

“Hopefully not.” He noticed that it wasn’t a hard “no.” "As we travel, during the day we will rest. We will travel at night, when the risk to me is less pronounced, and when, should we be attacked, I can lend my considerable strength in our defense. As sunrise nears, we should find a place to hide as best we can. Your men will keep watch throughout the day, especially.”

“The day cycle on the Death Side is … uneven.”

“Yes. We travel when Pressen is lit. The reflected sunlight doesn’t pose any damage to me.”

“Then I don’t foresee any problems making those arrangements work, my lady.”

“Good. I didn’t think so. Kaylee’s mercenaries come highly recommended. A pity she won’t be able to join us.”

“She sends her regrets, my lady.”

“Yes, of course. You are dismissed, Orensland. I’ll have Sebastien fetch you if you’re needed.”


It was never needed. Lady Maramos mostly kept to her self, occasionally meeting with Master Hodrin. That suited most of the party just fine, as much as they wanted to avoid being detected as fake bodyguards. At least one of them was always stationed outside Master Hodrin’s hut, two of them during the daylight hours.

Sebastien, however, was more social, and freely mingled with the townsfolk and the party. He was a very dedicated fellow, and was serious most of the time. Lady Maramos would “feed” from him every other day. It was clearly a taxing experience, leaving him ravenously hungry afterwards.

This was the state of affairs for nearly two weeks until the ship arrived. A lighter, fast-seeming vessel, yet larger than Godfrey’s skyship, pulled up to the docks while the townsfolk helped secure the ship. The reason for such large docks for such a small fishing village was to help the “pilgrimages” to the Death Side, and it served well for a ship of this size, dwarfing as it did the little fishing dinghies the villagers used.

“We have paid them well,” Sebastien murmured to Orensland, “but they don’t come as highly recommended as you. Be on your guard.” The ship had arrived during the daylight hours, and Khaska and Rynn were guarding Lady Maramos. Sanjin was standing at the edge of the docks, watching the ship’s final maneuvers.

The captain bounded down onto the docks while his men secured the ship. A tall half-elf, he strode over to Sebastien and Orensland, several earrings glinting in the sunlight from his left ear. His right ear, disturbingly, had been mostly sliced off. His hair was short, but not very well-kept, as if he cut it himself, probably with a knife and just when needed. He was obviously not big on appearances.

“You don’t seem to fit in with these quaint villagers,” he said, looking the two of them over. Indeed, thought Orensland, Sebastien with his finery and Orensland in his leather armor probably did stand out in this situation.

“I am Sebastien, Lady Maramos’ manservant. This is Orensland, the leader of her bodyguards.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” the captain said. “I’m Captain Davril of the Caunton. And I’d like to get going as soon as possible. The Teeth of Thanor are already moving into the South Gallidan sea and the journey will be treacherous. The sooner we move, the sooner we can dock at the Lifts.”

“Lady Maramos would like to embark on your ship as soon as the sun goes down.”

Davril stared at him for a long moment. Without changing his expression at all, he then replied. “Then we’ll be ready to set sail at sundown. We need only resupply our water here in the village.”

“Master Hodrin here,” Sebastien indicated the old weathered fisherman, who had joined them, “can assist you and your men at their well just outside of town.”

It was a long day of basically staring at each other. The sailors weren’t much for conversation. Neither were the villagers. Lady Maramos remained in her hut (nobody referred to it as Master Hodrin’s anymore) and the party tried to stay away from everybody. Orensland was amused. Khaska felt more awkward than he had in some time, and given that he had spent the last two months in a village populated by members of the Cult of Skyrnyn, that was saying something. Rynn was mostly taciturn anyway, having tapped a bit into his chaotic side to appear more mercenary. Sanjin was prepared to leave. Had been for some time. He was antsy, ready to move on and excited to get back to the Western Deadlands where he had spent so much time. They did move the horses and carriage onto the boat, putting the animals down in the old and securing the carriage on the main deck, where it sat awkwardly, getting in everybody’s way.

The moment the sun fully set Lady Maramos emerged from the hut, trailing a long black cloak behind her. She was never dressed in robes or clothes that you would think were necessary to keep the cold out, a reminder of what she was. The wind was howling off of the ocean and she paid it absolutely no mind as she stalked through the village, onto the docks, and then onto the ship where she went straight to the quarters that had been assigned to her … those of the first mate, a tattoed Dergon woman by the name of Chish, of the Hulmis tribe. She took up more space than most men and her strength had been amply demonstrated during the loading and unloading of supplies. She was not a woman to be trifled with … and yet she quickly stepped out of the way of Lady Maramos, deferentially avoiding looking at her face.

With that, the ship set sail, tacking into the wind and leaving Uptide behind.

The sailing was uneventful, though a bit nerve-wracking. Captain Davril was an able seaman, guiding his ship around the large icebergs that had formed on the Death Side seas and slowly migrated into the areas they were now sailing through, the so-called “teeth” of Thanor’s Jaws, the large oceans to the north and south of Thanor. After a little over a week of sailing, the Dragonsbane cliffs rose slowly out of the horizon, a series of jagged peaks ascending straight out of the water, their tops lost in dense clouds. As they approached, everybody was overcome with a strong sense of vertigo, especially Khaska.

As they approached the Steelhammer Lifts, Sebastien insisted they wait until night to approach. Again, after a long pause, the captain acquiesced to the request, sailing just out of sight of the lifts until the sun was about to set. Lightning played across the sky, occasionally illuminating a hidden peak or two, and it began to lightly rain. The Steelhammer Lift was similarly unnerving, a very large metal cage, nearly the size of the boat, merely hovering just above the water, held aloft by skyship crystals, a large metal chain ascending upward into the mist, eventually lost to view in the clouds and in the darkness of the waning daylight.

Steering the ship to close enough to the box and then attaching the box to the side of the ship without damaging it was a monumental feat. The captain eventually ordered everybody not of his crew down below to get them out of the way. Sebastien insisted on staying until Chish grabbed him and threw him down the stairs with one hand. “We’ll call you when we’re hooked on. Now stay out of the way,” she bellowed.

The young man picked himself off the ground, muttering under his breath as his brushed himself off.

It was some time later, with much jolting and smashing, that Chish came down and abruptly announced. “The lift is attached to us now, and we’ve put the horses and carriage on board, securing them all. You can come and board now.”

The party did so, following Lady Maramos who swept up in her traditional fashion, completely oblivious to the weather. She went right to the carriage and got in, closing the door and covering the windows with the curtains. Sebastien handed over a small pouch to the captain, who glanced at its contents quickly, nodded, then indicated that the young man should get on the lift. It was cramped inside lift, the rain coming in through the myriad holds in the sides and ceiling.

“Hang on,” said the Dwarf who was “steering” the lift. “But not to the outside. Might smash your fingers on the rocks.” With that, he switched the crystals to facing up, and, with the ropes and chains now no longer attached to the ship, the cage began to rise.

The trip up was terrifying. Buffeted by winds the lift sometimes smashed into the cliffs, and Rynn noted that there were scrape marks nearly all the way up and down. Hitting the cliffs was not an uncommon experience. Khaska shut his eyes and prayed for most of the trip. The chain that attached them to the top of the Lifts was slack much of the time, and Rynn wondered at all how this crazy system even worked.

Sanjin loved it. It felt like he was coming home after all this time. He had been on the Lifts before.

Finally, after what seemed like hours to everybody but Sanjin, they got to the top, and the chain pulled them in gently to the gaping hole in a cliff overhang. A similar hole was next to it, and another cage began to descend as they ascended past a point where the two cages would not hit each other as the wind buffeted them about. When they reached the top inside, the chain unable to wrap itself up anymore on the large spool sitting above them, a pair of Dwarves used long hooks to grab the cage and pull it over, securing it with bolts such that when the door clanged open, it rested on the stone floor near them.

“Welcome to Fort Windhaven,” one of them said. He had to yell to be heard over the howling wind.

Eryx (DM)
And we’re back! There’s much to discuss here in the gray box.

First off, I forgot to award you XP for defeating Kaylee and her compatriots.

For winning the combat you receive 3150 XP, for completing the “quest” to find Kaylee and bring her to justice you receive 500 XP, and for completing the “quest” to infiltrate and pose as Lady Maramos’ bodyguards you receive 500 XP. That’s 4150 XP total. By my calculations, most of you should be Level 8. Orensland, since he was already level 8, earns only 3400 XP total. The handicap will only apply, Crosis, when your character is a higher level than the other players, which will still happen on occasion since you’re generally ahead of them.

Second, the major reason for the delay of this post is a sort of present. This campaign has been going on for over 5 years now (we began in February 2011!) and I wanted to celebrate. To do so, I commissioned a map to be made by the gentlemen who runs this Etsy shop. I have copies of the map your character discovered while looting Kaylee’s friends in Chapter 2, which is linked here, and would love to mail a copy to you as a “thank you” for making these past years so fun. The copies are are 11” x 17”, and come on either white or woodstock colored paper. I have the original, which is 28” x 18.5” and will actually be framing it and putting it on the wall in my little office space. (Because it’s awesome!) I’ll also be sending an email out to this effect, so let’s talk about this privately, as opposed to publicly here on the wiki.

Third, now that the map is complete and we’re getting back on track, I’d like to actually get back on track. We originally had a rule that you had a week to respond to my posts. I am uncomfortable asking you to follow a rule that I myself have not followed for some time, so I will do my best to get the next four posts up in a timely fashion after the last player’s response, after which I propose we re-institute the rule to help things move along. So for the next four posts, please take all the time you need … but do it quickly.

As a reminder, to keep plot points straight, here is the situation:
1. You are in Uptide. It is a small fishing village completely populated by members of the Cult of Skyrnyn.
2. The Cult wishes to free the dragons by bartering for some of their freedom. They are also constructing some fortress on the death side, called the Citadel.
3. The pilgrimages of the Peaceful Children would come here before sailing to the Death Side. In Hammerdine the Peaceful Children were actually a front for an evil cleric of Nerull (Codex III). It’s unclear whether the Peaceful Children as a whole are a front, though information gleaned by Orensland in Chapter 1 of this Codex indicates that the pilgrimages are taken to the Citadel, where they “help build it.”
4. There have not been pilgrimages arriving for some time. The party knows that the most recent pilgrimmage was destroyed back at the shrine to Nerull in the forest (Chapter 1 of this Codex).
5. Lady Maramos is a vampire, working with the Cult to help smooth their work on Gallidus. While it’s unclear if this pattern applies to all of their work, in Hammerdine it involved making an influential judge enthralled to a vampire, addicting him to her blood (Codex III).
6. You are to escort Lady Maramos back to her home, in Darkcrest, as per what Sebastien has said in this post.
Anyway, on to in-game matters. You are all now at Fort Windhaven, on what is knows as “the edge,” meaning the edge between the Death and Living sides of Jenoa. Given the wackiness of the day/night cycle on the Death Side, you should all purchase a mask, or at least some cloth material to cover your eyes. It’s the traditional means of keeping some semblance of a circadian rhythm while traveling in the Deadlands. Please deduct 5 silver from your accounts if you want to buy a mask, 1 silver if you just want some spare cloth to cover your eyes. Or just tear up one of your shirts. It doesn’t matter to me.

I would like you to all roll Spot checks.

I would like you to all roll Constitution checks as well. The DC is 13. Failure will leave Sickened, as per the rules, for 24 hours. This is to represent both the sea trip and the harrowing ascent using the Steelhammer Lifts.

Now that you have a better idea of the lands you will be traveling through, if you want to make any last-minute purchases you can do so in Fort Windhaven. However, it being one of the last bastions of civilization on the edge markup is 150% of normal. (If something costs you 10 gold according to the manuals, here it’s 15 gold.) You can purchase anything 1000 gold or under (1500 gold or under due to the markup, actually).

Also, Lady Maramos is aloof and unsociable, but Sebastien isn’t. He seems standoffish, but not intractably so. If you have general thoughts or questions for him or that your characters would want to know, I would take a diplomacy roll and your questions to see if you might solicit more information from him. If nobody wants to, that’s fine too, but as I wrote the post I realized this is the dynamic between him and the group. Had I thought that through, I would have asked for this at the last post. But sometimes the characters take on a life of their own as I write them; that’s the case this time.

Delta Wolf

  • Spot: 5 (Rolled 1 + 4 Mod)
  • Constitution: 20 (Rolled 20 + 0 Mod)

Sanjin will buy 3 pearls (100 Gp value each) for the marked up price of 450.

Sanjin will ask Sebastien questions about his experience working with a vampire (due to his morbid interest in such things).

  • Diplomacy: 17 (Rolled 18 + -1 Mod)

Crosis

  • Spot: 17 (Rolled 10 + 7 Mod)
  • Constitution: 12 (Rolled 12 + 0 Mod)

…bummer on that last one. Almost, too. Does that mean he's only somewhat sick?

Orensland would like to buy a mask, but aside from that he's pretty lax about purchases at the moment. I will deduct the 5 silver from his account. If there's anything special in this place that would be worth looking at, he might spend a few minutes admiring it, but unless it's truly convenient in an unexpected way Orensland does not need to make any purchases.

Sebastien seems to enjoy chatting, and Orensland enjoys chatting as well. He will generally try to steer clear of going into very personal details and doesn't have specific interests to ask for, but is willing to keep light conversation flowing. He will be interested in any shadowdancers known to be on the Dark Side, but won't push for details too strongly.

BlackWolf

  • Spot: 11 (rolled 4 + 7 modifiers )
  • Constitution: 10 (rolled 9 + 1 Con )

Looks like Rynn didn't enjoy the trip up in the cage and isn't paying close attention. Once his strength returns, he'll go ahead and pick up a mask, but it doesn't look like Fort Windhaven will have anything else that he'd want to buy at this time.

Over time, the ranger would try to casually chat with Sebastien about the pilgrimages. He'll drop a few facts that he knows from the living side and then try to inquire about what the people were used for on in the deadlands. Slaves for manual labor? Food and servants for vampires? Or what?

Aside from that, he'll keep an ear out for any information about areas that he does not know, especially anything mentioned about Darkcrest. Collecting intel will be important to Rynn as he bides his time waiting for an opportune moment to disrupt the evil doings of vampires and cultists.

Edit:
Also, while doing the bookkeeping to level Rynn up to 8, I saw that we had at least 6 weeks between Jenika leaving until Lady Maramos arrived — that was enough time for Rynn to finish crafting his masterwork composite longbow (STR 2)!

I don't suppose there would have been anyone in Uptide or here in Fort Windhaven that could enchant Rynn's new bow (making it a magic weapon)? I'd need a craftsman with caster level 3, and it would take him 2 days. The magic materials would cost 1,000 gp (base cost), and I'm not sure how much the caster would charge (base price is 2,000 for a magic weapon, so probably around that?).

If there isn't anything available yet, Rynn would ask around to see if there are any places in the Deadlands where such magic items are crafted/enchanted.

Finally, would it be possible for Rynn to sell his old bow which he purchased in Hammerdine? And would the 150% markup apply? (The usual sell price is 50%, I think, so 300 gp as a base, but possibly up to 450 if the markup goes both ways?)

Thev

  • Spot: 10 + 5 = 15
  • Constitution: 10 + 0 = 10

Looks like Khaska will be getting ill. Fitting for me: while I've overcome much of my historic acrophobia, one thing that still activates it is traveling in vehicles alongside cliffs. When I was in a pickup bed doing just that this past vacation, I just covered my face the whole way down! :P

After his brief convalescence, Khaska will also purchase a mask (I've already deducted the 5 silver from his account). I don't think he'll need to buy anything else for the time being (unless you have suggestions?).

Sorry to be somewhat boring in this respect, but Khaska will remain mostly silent; he knows he's not good at bluffing, and would rather be taciturn than risk revealing the party's true nature. Of course, if he gets the sense that Lady Maramos's party gets less suspicious over time, he'll offer more commentary. He'll also regularly check in with Rynn, Sanjin, and Orensland to get their perspectives on what's going on and discuss how they'll relate to Lady Maramos's group overall. Khaska will warn Rynn against revealing too much knowledge about what's going on on the Living Side without first establishing a reason to be in the know.

Sanjin strolled out of the cage, happy as could be. Their travels across the living side had been beautiful, and his elven heart sang at seeing the beauty of Gallidus from both the air and then walking. But this was the Death Side. He felt at home here.

None of the others faired as well. The ocean voyage had taken its toll on each of them, and having just spent several hours heading up the lifts had similarly nauseated them. Rynn bore it stoicly. Khaska nearly wanted to hurl his dinner (and he hadn’t eaten that much!) at the feet of the dwarves. Orensland was a bit off himself. He decided that, perhaps next time, they ought not to travel by the Lifts. Of course, Sebastien had assured him that the alternatives took much more time.

The dwarves helped lead the horses from the cage, also helping to move the carriage out with the assistance of the group. The loading and unloading area for the steel cages was quite large, and led to a long corridor carved from the rock. There were nooks here and there to the side, all various sizes and shapes carved to be a stable, a site for vendors, a bar. Various other tunnels vanished into darkness, but there was an impression that there was much more to Fort Windhaven than merely this large central corridor.

“This is the main thoroughfare of the Fort,” Sebastien said as he got atop the carriage, jolting the horses forward at a walk such that the party could keep up. “We’ll stop at one of the stables and then rest at an inn for the remainder of the day. We’ll leave tomorrow just before sunset.”

“Sounds good,” Orensland said.

“Lady Maramos will, of course, pay for your accommodations. But will still need guards per our usual arrangement.”

The howling of the wind outside the fort, and even through the tunnel, made it so they practically had to shout to be heard. Sebastien defly maneuvered the carriage and horses through the bustling main corridor, avoiding the various assembled people, merchants coming and going, vendors setting up to hawk their wares as the day began. Of course, Rynn mused, here, completely shut away from the sun, it was hard to tell whether it was night or day! He smiled. Not that the day and night cycle in the Deadlands was anything like the Living side.

They found a stable attached to an inn where they could park the carriage and have the horses tended to. Sebastien paid up with the stablehands while Orensland went in to book their rooms, finding an arrangement at the end of a hallway where they could guard Lady Maramos’ door without being too conspicuous. Once their rooms were secured, she swept out of the carriage, past everybody in the main dining room, and ascended the carved stairs to their rooms, disappearing inside immediately. Rynn and Sanjin stood watch while Orensland and Khaska were to go to bed first.

The two of them walked outside to give Sebastien the information as to where they were in the labyrinth of tunnels carved for this inn, and as they approached the stables, Orensland noticed someone off to the side. A scruffy-looking dwarf was staring directly at the sleek black coach of Lady Maramos. He said something to another dwarf nearby, who glanced at it, looked it over, and then nodded. The first dwarf said something again, then turned to leave.

Orensland very much got the impression that they had just found something they had been looking for. And that the first dwarf was off to report it to someone.

Lady Maramos’ coach.

Eryx (DM)
Thank you all for responding to the post so quickly. I’m excited to be back on track!

I'll try to work in Sebastien's answers to your questions in the posts to come, but you all need to roll Diplomacy checks to get any answers at all. Only DeltaWolf has done so so far.

Despite being slightly sickened, as per the rules a -2 to all checks, Orensland’s 15 Spot Check was enough to notice the dwarves interest in the coach.

Rynn and Sanjin are back guarding Lady Maramos’ room, but you can still give input on what you would like to happen. Two of you must stay with the room regardless, but if you wanted to, say, follow this dwarf, you could switch out.

What do you want to do?

Any checks you roll will take a -2 penalty due to your being sickened. (Not the Diplomacy checks.)

Thev

Khaska is far too conspicuous for reconnaissance here. (I'm guessing there are no other Maha'i he's met since Laishtek, basically.) He'd be willing to hang back and guard Lady Maramos's room if either Rynn or Sanjin—whoever would be sneakiest and least queasy—would like to follow the dwarves.

Crosis

Orensland would be happy to follow some dwarves. Is there a conceivable way that I could go report it to the others without losing the dwarves? If not, Orensland would start tailing the dwarf/dwarves. Without reporting to the others, he would follow in order to get a location for later recon. If he managed to report it, he'd try to find out more details, possibly with some backup from one of our party members.

  • Diplomacy: 12 (Rolled 6 + 6 Mod)
  • Hide: 27 (Rolled 6 + 23 Mod -2 illness)
  • Move Silently: 28 (Rolled 7 + 23 Mod -2 illness)

Are there any other rolls I should make?

Eryx (DM)
Khaska and Orensland are together right now. Khaska could go back and retrieve one of the others, since he's not going to go do reconnaissance with Orensland. Thev, you are right that Khaska sticks out like a sore thumb here in Fort Windhaven. He hasn't yet seen a single other Maha'i.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin is in favor of staying guard (sneeking is not his thing).

BlackWolf
I think reconnaissance is definitely in order. Rynn has a dim view of the people who live on the death side, so he's not sure what to expect. But it seems clear that we shouldn't just sit idly by.

If these dwarves are somehow allies to Lady Maramos, that makes things easy in a way, yet a problem if we're ever revealed as the imposters we are. On the other hand, if they are enemies of the vampiric mistress, then as her bodyguards we may very well be in danger — regardless of the alignment of their group!

It sounds like Khaska is willing to tag out, so Rynn will investigate. Since Orensland is definitely the more stealthy, he should probably try to tail the dwarf and find out what's up. Rynn can play backup if needed, but he can also do some asking around to get info. A bit overt, perhaps, but disguised in the truth of not knowing what groups/organizations are active in Fort Windhaven.

Here are some potential checks that Rynn might use; the DM can apply as needed:

  • Gather Info: 26 (rolled 16 + 10 modifiers)
  • Bluff: 10 (rolled 9 + 1 modifiers)
  • Listen: 25 (rolled 17 + 8 modifiers)
  • Hide: 11 (rolled 3 + 8 modifiers)
  • Move Silently: 27 (rolled 18 + 9 modifiers)

Should Sebastien ask why we switched up the guards, we can say we're doing our job in protecting Lady Maramos by understanding possible threats. Oh, and here's my other check for any potential conversation with Sebastien:

  • Diplomacy: 20 (rolled 17 + 3 modifiers)

“Khaska, my friend, I think that that dwarf that’s leaving has been looking for Lady Maramos’ coach.”

The cleric paused. “That is worrisome.”

“I’m gonna follow them. You coming?”

“I stand out like a sore toe, unfortunately. I haven’t seen another Maha’i here yet at all.”

“Sore thumb. And good point. Maybe Rynn or Sanjin would like to come?”

“I will go inform them.” The Maha’i cleric disappeared into the inn, and a few moments later Rynn appeared.

“The dwarf with the leather vest, gray-ish hair,” Orensland indicated the retreating dwarf. “He took one look at the cart and then took off. Another friend of his,” Orensland indicated surreptitiously to the side, “is still here watching us. I’m going to go trail the other guy. You coming?”

Rynn shook his head. “Sneaking around is your specialty. But I have an idea of how I might be able to help.” He put his hand on the shadowdancer’s shoulder. “Be careful. This is The Edge, but many denizens of the Deadlands are not to be trusted.” Orensland nodded, and then left to go trail the disappearing dwarf. After a cart blocked his view of the rogue for a moment, Rynn could no longer see him. The hiding in plain sight trick was a useful one, especially in an underground fort built by dwarves.

But in the meantime, he had some urban rangering to do. There was weapons shop a bit back down the main corridor, and now that he had completed his new bow, he might be able to sell his old one. It would be a good place to start asking around, in any event.


Trailing a Dwarf through a crowded city wasn’t that difficult. The stocky figure moved rather slow, getting old, Orensland supposed, and the shadowdancer had no problem keeping up while staying far enough back that it wasn’t obvious he was following. The dwarf didn’t ever turn around anyway.

Orensland’s quarry eventually broke off from the main corridor into one of the side ones, and Orensland followed. Light sources became few and far between and eventually the dwarf disappeared down a branch of the fort that had no light sources. Orensland cursed under his breath. Dwarves could see in the dark. Shadowdancers could, but he had not advanced in his training enough to reach that level of skill. Did he risk following in the dark? Or should he wait for the dwarf to re-emerge?

Eryx (DM)
I technically took 6 days to respond to this post, but as I was out of town camping for 3 of them I feel I’ve responded in a timely fashion. If that’s okay with all of you, I’ll count this as my 2nd “posted in a timely fashion” post.

This is mostly just for Crosis anyway. I’ll post the results of Rynn’s Gather Info and Listening checks in the next post, because I don’t want to prejudice Crosis in this one.

What will Orensland do? You do know that most of the tunnels are dead ends, eventually, slowly moving away from the main corridor out like tree branches. (Think of the main corridor as the “trunk” of the fort.) Do you want to wait, or will you follow the dwarf into the darkness?

If you follow, I’ll need Move Silent and Hide checks from you again, as well as a Listen check. You will take a -10 penalty on both Move Silent and Hide, -12 total since he’s still slightly ill, and the -2 for being ill on the Listen check.

And Rynn can sell his old bow if he desires. And yes, the 150% markup applies, so 450 gold. I’m obviously working your trying to sell the bow into your Gathering Info checks. Makes for a good cover story, since it’s true!

Crosis

Orensland feels like it would be best to follow the dwarf into the darkness. It'll be risky, but sneaking has it's risks.

  • Listen: 20 (Rolled 19 + 3 Mod -2 illness)
  • Hide: 29 (Rolled 18 + 23 Mod -12 illness/darkness)
  • Move Silently: 13 (Rolled 2 + 23 Mod -12 illness/darkness)

Some pros and some cons. Good luck Orensland!! :)

Orensland decided to follow the man into the darkness. After all, sneaking had its risks, and this was one of them. He moved ahead, still trying to move silently and follow the sound of the dwarf’s footsteps. Since he couldn’t see, he was moving slowly, while trying to not lose the dwarf, feeling ahead with his feet (though the floor seemed smoothly carved as had been the case so far) and his hands on the walls of the narrow passageway. It seemed that there were individual rooms carved off to the side, sometimes with a door, sometimes with nothing, sometimes with a blanket. He heard snoring from one, and the sound of someone turning pages and reading in another. Seemed he was likely in the quarter’s area, with rooms for the dwarves who lived in Fort Windhaven.

He was able to follow the dwarf with a little trouble, and eventually the dwarf ducked into one of the rooms with a blanket over the door. Orensland snuck just barely past the door and listened intently. He could hear the dwarf rummaging around, and then the sound of quill scratching on parchment, followed by the folding of that parchment. Then he heard the creak of metal and the fluttering of wings. What was going on? Before he could think it through, however, the dwarf picked something up and began to move towards the door. Orensland backed off, and again started to follow the dwarf.

Eventually they made it back to areas that were lit, making the shadowdancer’s job much easier. Now that he could see, the elf could determine that the dwarf was carrying some kind of bird. They were moving back along the trail to the main corridor of the fort.

Eryx (DM)
Your rolls from the last post can continue here. Your character is ridiculously good at this stuff.

What does Orensland want to do?

Crosis (via text message)
I'm on the move right now and I'm having difficulty logging in to post my reply, but my character would probably just continue following the dwarf. If you wanted to write that in for me, I would not be opposed.

Orensland continued following the dwarf as the man made his way to the main corridor, and from there continued the opposite direction from the Lifts. Eventually, the end of the corridor came into sight, obvious because of the sunlight streaming in. Orensland guessed it must be mid-morning.

However, when the dwarf got just a hair closer, he lifted the bird up and let go. The pigeon, as the elf could now identify it, flew directly towards the entrance, and vanished into the bright light.

The elf silently cursed. The dwarf immediately went to a bar and began to spend lavishly on a tab, assuring the others that he’d just come into some money. It looked like he was going to be a while in celebration, so Orensland left to report his findings.


He found Rynn eating lunch at their inn, the ranger having done some investigating on his own. The shadowdancer dropped heavily into his seat and whispered to Rynn what had happened.

“It seems that he was sending a letter to someone,” the ranger said, “and odds are very good that the pigeon would be able to get the message to that very someone.”

“So what should we do, find out what the message was? How would we be able to find out who it was sent to?”

“Well, it just so happens that I was able to do some digging while you were trailing the dwarf. It seems that several months ago, someone came through here looking for a coach fitting the description of Lady Maramos’ coach. She had long since passed through here to the living side, but he was recruiting people to stay and watch for her to return. Apparently, your dwarven friend was one of them.”

“And why is he so interested in Lady Maramos?”

“Seems that this gentleman, a human cleric by the name of Cedric Manson, was kicked out of the Whitecloaks with some of his buddies. Rumor has it he actually killed other Whitecloaks for not being zealous enough. Bagging a kill like Lady Maramos would certainly be a useful bargaining chip if he wanted to be readmitted to their order.”

“I don’t know much about the Whitecloaks. Who are they?”

“The Bringers of Light is their formal name. I only ran into a group of them once or twice during my travels; we avoided them if possible. Fancy themselves bringers of law and order to the Death Side, but really they’re mostly a bunch of self-righteous idiots interfering with people’s lives. More often than not, I bet, they go after perfectly innocent people on some trumped up charge, as opposed to seeking out and fighting real evil. And they’re dangerous. They’re clerics and fighters, most with years of experience in the Deadlands, and paranoid to boot that evil lurks in every corner.”

“So we’re being hunted by a religious zealot, and now he knows that Lady Maramos is in Fort Windhaven?”

“That about sums it up.”

Eryx (DM)
BlackWolf, you were able to sell your bow, as discussed above. During the course of your wandering and asking questions, thanks to your 26 Gather Info check, you’ve discovered the above information.

To sum up, Cedric Manson is tracking you, looking to kill Lady Maramos. You don’t know where he is. You don’t know his strength. You don’t know his allies. You don’t know his plans. You do know that he was too extreme even for the Whitecloaks, because they kicked him out for being an unofficial Internal Affairs Officer, killing members of the order he deemed unsatisfactorily militant and zealous.

Good luck.

What do you want to do?

Thev
Khaska would point out the following:

  • Learning how strong Cedric Manson is would help us know whether he could defeat Lady Maramos.
  • We would need to determine the relative value of keeping Lady Maramos alive until she reaches Darkcrest, weighed against… well, allowing a being of evil to get killed.
  • Consider the potential damage to the party's safety if they're seen to be subpar or even treacherous bodyguards.

With these in mind, Khaska would recommend that the party warn Lady Maramos and her other attendants as quickly as possible of the danger. It's best to stay out of Manson's way—at least, until the party reaches Darkcrest and learns what it needs to. After that point, set Cedric loose, ha.

DeltaWolf

Sanjin thinks we should avoid Manson if at all possible -he has an invisibility Sphere spell that might help. But if it came down to a fight he feels we should continue with the plan -Manson doesn't sound like a great guy anyways.

BlackWolf
Rynn definitely agrees that we should warn Lady Maramos. As much as the ranger would like to see her dead, she's a means to an end. So we can't just let some whack-job cleric take her down yet.

Rynn almost wishes he had tried to follow Orensland and the dwarf, if only to shoot down the pigeon. :)

After we inform Lady Maramos / Sebastien, I think it's worthwhile to see what other info we can gather about Cedric Manson, just so we can prepare. Rynn will dig around a bit more, maybe try to listen in on some tavern conversations or whatever.

  • Gather Info: 16 (rolled 6 + 10 mods)
  • Listen: 15 (rolled 7 + 8 mods)

Not the greatest rolls… so I guess we'll find out what we find out.

Crosis
Orensland would also like to warn Lady Maramos, and would like to hunt down some more information about our crazy cleric, including possible locations, strengths, etc. Question about that - Orensland would be great at eavesdropping, and in gathering information would likely depend quite a bit on hiding in plain sight. Does that alter my gather info and listening checks in any way? I'll give them all here just in case.

In fact, if we really want to have some fun, we could make some kind of a scene to invoke conversation between would-be informers (like other Whitecloaks that may know him) and have Orensland/Rynn listen in on their conversation after that. For example, we could hire a bum on the street (for a low wage) to run into a bar with Whitecloaks in it, scream curses against the cleric in question, then vacate the premise. For example, "I could kick his trash!" could be shouted to invoke potential humorous conversations on the inevitable death of the bum should such a fight occur, presuming this cleric is a tough fighter, thereby helping us gauge him as a threat. Rynn and Orensland could then be present to listen in on any tidbits dropped by individuals at the bar. One of us could be the bum, but I feel like that would draw attention towards the strangers associated with the coach riding through town.

…anyways. If that's too crazy of an idea and generally discouraged by the party, Orensland wouldn't try to stage it on his own. If the illness is still in effect when generally gathering info, feel free to dock 2 points from each of these, I forget how long we intend to stay in town.

The bluff is for if some kind of lying could glean info from someone in a heretofore unseen situation, like… running into a bar dressed as a hobo.

  • Gather Info: 17 (rolled 14 + 3 mods)
  • Listen: 13 (rolled 10 + 3 mods)
  • Bluff: 22 (rolled 12 + 10 mods)
  • Hide: 24 (rolled 1 + 23 mods)
  • Move Silently: 35 (rolled 12 + 23 mods)

Yikes! Thank goodness for good mods on that hiding check!

The two of them went quickly to tell the others what had transpired. In hushed tones outside Lady Maramos’ room they discussed the complications. In the end, they decided, as much as it might be fun to let this Cedric just kill the vampire, she was a means to an end, and even failing to be good bodyguards could be ruinous and dangerous to their reputations. They decided to tell Lady Maramos and Sebastien about the situation. The human was sleeping, but roused himself quickly once they knocked on his door. He agreed that the situation seemed of immediate importance, and he himself went into Lady Maramos’ room to wake her. She asked to see Orensland, and the rogue entered to report on their findings.

After he did so, the vampire didn’t speak for a while.

“We keep tabs on the Bringers, of course. An entire order of clerics, almost all capable of rebuking a lesser vampire into ashes and possibly even some of my stronger brother and sisters is a constant danger to my kind. But this Manson seems an even more dangerous adversary than your average whitecloak.”

“We are still ready to defend you, but we should be cautious in our travels. The Deadlands are dangerous enough when you’re not being deliberately targeted by a zealot’s zealot.”

Orensland was pleased with his turn of phrase, but Lady Maramos’ face remained neutral. “And there’s the matter of where he is right now.”

“Presumably wherever that pigeon is headed.”

“Here in Fort Windhaven, we are in a most dangerous position. There are only two ways to the fort. Either by way of the sea and the Steelhammer Lifts, or through the pass to the east to the head of the Thifrin River. And we cannot go back; the odds of chartering a boat to head that direction are nonexistent. It would be best if we pressed on to the riverhead as quickly as possible. There are many ways to get to Darkcrest from there.”

“Your man Sebastien suggested that, perhaps instead of sailing all the way up the Derring River we get off sooner, somewhere on the lake, and walk. Either way, everybody seems to agree that we should leave as soon as possible. Manson knows where we are now, and likely knows which direction we’re headed.”

“I agree. Let’s leave as soon as sunrise twilight ends. I recognize that you are all not as … resilient as I am, but time is of the essence.”

Everybody had wanted to rest up in the last vestiges of civilization, such as it was, but aside from a few naps they were able to sneak while switching off guard duty, no rest was to be had.

Both Rynn and Orensland tried to discover more about this Cedric Manson in the hours left during the day, but there was little more to be discovered. Manson’s dwarf informant, by the time Orensland managed to find him again, was roaring drunk and still going on about having just come into some money.

Was nothing more to discover in Fort Windhaven, with the possibility of an ambush from Cedric growing by the minute, the party decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and left the same day they arrived.


The trip to the head of the Thifrin river was, thankfully, uneventful. Sebastian did indicate that while they traveled, an attack on a party would probably be met with hostility from other traveling parties. On the two day journey to the river from Fort Windhaven, they were relatively safe. This proved to be true. It was once they got off of the narrow road down out of the Dragonsbane Cliffs that the real possibility of an ambush became more present.

And now they were out of that narrow road. Rynn was scouting just a little bit ahead, hoping to not get too far from the party that he would to be of assistance, but also ahead of them might be able to provide some advance warning should Cedric and his friends appear. So it was he that first saw the docks.

There were several boats docked at the ramshackle setup, and a few more waiting out in the river itself. Even the boats themselves all seemed like they had seen better days. Rynn wasn’t surprised; this was, after all, the Death Side.

He waited until the group had caught up. Sebastien was driving the coach as usual, while Lady Maramos rode inside. However, since Pressen was visible in the sky, lit up by reflected sunlight, should they be ambushed she would contribute to their defenses. Sebastian assured them that her strength in such a fight would be considerable, but she insisted on staying in the coach to avoid being struck by surprise at the beginning of an ambush.

“Well,” said Sebastien, “here is where we must make our decisions about how to travel to avoid Cedric and his party. But we should be quick. Manson might have informants here at the docks, or that we passed on the way here.”

Eryx (DM)

BlackWolf’s previous Gather Info roll had given you all the information you would have discovered with your new rolls, so there was no new information to be had.

Basically, all need to make a decision about which route you would like to take to Darkcrest. I will lay out your basic options.

1. Follow the plan as outlined earlier in this chapter by Sebastian. Basically, travel as far as possible on the boat, then get off and walk. Pros are that this would be the fastest. Cons are that it’s probably the easiest to anticipate, and when traveling on the rivers boats are relatively vulnerable to ambush by other boats.

2. Just walk the entire way. Pros are that you could almost immediately get far enough away from the beaten path that it would be difficult to track you. Cons include the fact that, if Lady Maramos’ carriage breaks down, you’d have to carry her coffin the rest of the way. There are no roads on the Death Side.
a. If you head north, you would pass Clearwater Lake, Mount Elduin, Hub, and the Putari Forest.
b. If you head south, you would pass the Ruins of Trik’brin, which are said to be haunted. Sanjin has visited there once, but turned away due to the nature of the … well, something was there, and it was encouraging them to leave. The group he was with at the time wanted nothing to do with it, despite their earlier bluster.

3. Take a boat to Clearwater Lake and get off somewhere on its shores. Then walk. Hub occasionally has skyships, but not always, and your odds of chartering one from there are slim. Pros are fast travel and being tracked on the lake is virtually impossible. Cons are that there would be a longer walking period.

Lady Maramos and Sebastien favor 1 or 3, but are willing to do option 2 if the party decides that’s what they want.

What do you all want to do? (Think of this as a cross-continent “dungeon crawl” in some ways.)

Crosis
Orensland would be mostly in favor of option 3. It seems that we would a) be difficult to find and b) get some relative speed on our side, and walking doesn't feel like an issue. The first seems too risky, we'd be easily tracked and not be able to put up a decent fight. For the second, I will be a pessimist and assume the carriage breaks down, so carrying a coffin most of the way sounds like a bad option. Orensland would offer this as his two cents, but feel ready to go with whatever the party thinks is best.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin agrees with Orensland -option 3 seems like the best course.

BlackWolf
Rynn is also in agreement around option 3. It seems like if we can make it to Hub then maybe there's a chance that we can revisit a river-travel option; we might just dodge around Cedric Manson. He's also open to option 1. Option 2 would have been appealing to Rynn except for the necessity of carrying a coffin.

The ranger will be on guard as we approach the docks, and is open to having a few of us go ahead to get negotiations underway before Lady Maramos and her coach approaches.

Thev
With the probability of throwing Manson off the party's tail, Khaska also prefers option 3.

The party had already discussed their various options for travel, and it had been agreed upon that they would charter a boat across Clearwater Lake and would then walk the rest of the way. It hadn’t yet been decided where they would disembark on the lake, but their next step seemed easy enough. They needed to charter a boat. Sebastien, Rynn, and Orensland went forward to check with the various boats and their crews after Sebastien moved the carriage a bit away from the road, got down, and wrapped a scarf around his neck. Orensland had noticed that he did this whenever he was to be around others, concealing any chance they would notice the scars from the “feeding” sessions with Lady Maramos. At this low altitude they were below most of the clouds and mist that had hindered visibility on the way down, but there was a bit of fog that had rolled in off of the water this morning, and visibility was limited.

There were two buildings near the docks, but the saloon and a small inn represented all that had grown around this minor trade hub. And both buildings looked like they had seen better days, much like the docks.

Unfortunately the first few captains they spoke to weren’t interested in taking on Lady Maramos’ coach and horses—one ship was so small they wouldn’t have been able to fit anyway.

“Not to worry,” said Sebastien, “I’m sure that there will be someone willing to take us.”

“Ahoy, the docks!” came a loud voice. All three of them turned to see another ship emerging from the mist on the river. The ship moved slowly and ponderously, even someone as ill-skilled in sailing as Rynn could tell that something was amiss, and as it got closer, it became apparent why.

The ship was dragging another behind it.

This second ship was the worse for wear, completely missing its mast (which had been broken off), sails, and a chunk of railing completely missing on one side.

“We’ve got some wounded here. Can we dock next? I’ll pay well to cut in line and at least get these men off-loaded to the inn.” The booming voice belonged to a dwarf, standing at the front of the first ship. Even in the misty morning light his bright beard was evident, giving off a near-metallic sheen despite the lack of light.

There was some haggling with the other boats in line, but eventually the dwarf convinced them, for a steep price, to let him to the head of the queue. He docked next as soon as there was a place. Rynn moved forward to help with some of the men on the stretchers, his good nature momentarily eclipsing his need to act mercenary.

“Why is he helping?” asked Sebastien.

“This dwarf captain seems a good person. Perhaps ingratiating our group to him will grease the wheels to get us passage on his boat,” Orensland responded.

“Ah,” the vampire-worshipper responded, as if the idea to be altruistic had never occurred to him. Sebastien hunkered down into his coat more, drawing his scarf tighter around his neck. It was cold this morning.

“Thanks for the help, stranger,” the dwarf was saying to Rynn. The two of them were hauling one of the injured sailors from the other craft on a makeshift litter made from a tattered sail and some oars. The dwarf was short, even for his kind, but had arms that looked like they were thicker than Rynn’s legs, a tanned, bronze skin covering rippling and thick muscles. Despite the cold, Rynn noticed, this dwarf was wearing a shirt that had no sleeves.

Rynn shrugged. “You looked like you could use a hand. What happened to these people?”

“Pirate attack.”

“Pirates? On the lake?”

“Just one ship. I wish I could get after Captain Myrmin myself, but never can seem to catch the crafty bugger. He mostly lays low, but sometimes ventures out to attack a smaller boat and steal its cargo, maybe sell its crew into slavery. This time he managed to take out their main sail and board. Some of the men tried to fight them off. Many died.”

“And we have you to thank for saving us,” came a human voice. He was walking off of the dwarf’s ship with a pronounced limp and his right arm was in a sling. “Myrmin left us stranded with no way of moving. We’d still be drifting on the lake if you hadn’t come along, Captain Bronzebeard. Praying that the spirit of the lake would save us, or that the gods would be merciful and grant us a quick drowning death instead of starving on the water if our supplies ran out.”

“The spirit of the lake is a tall tale, my friend. You’re lucky that we came along when we did, but I’m sure you’d do the same for us.”

Rynn watched the human captain’s reaction. He wasn’t sure that the other boat would have done the same for this Captain Bronzebeard.

“I’ve personally known sailors rescued by the spirit myself, Captain Bronzebeard. I believe it is real. But perhaps it is best that you came along. We might have drifted to shore, but certainly not quickly.”

When the injured men had been taken to the inn and given available rooms (all paid for by Bronzebeard) Rynn, Orensland, and Sebastien decided to approach the dwarf.

“Captain Bronzebeard,” Sebastien said, first approaching. “We wish to speak on a matter of business.”

The dwarf looked them over. “Ryx Bronzebeard. Thanks again for your help,” he reached out his hand to Rynn, waiting for a response.

Rynn took his hand. “Rynn Fowler, sir. And it was no problem. This is my associate, Orensland, and our friend, Sebastien.”

“What can I do for you, gentlemen?”

“We wish to book passage aboard a ship, and are willing to pay quite handsomely.” Sebastien said.

Captain Bronzebeard looked them over. “How many folks?”

“Six total, as well as a carriage and four horses.”

“And where to?”

“That is as of yet to be determined.”

“Somewhere along Clearwater Lake’s shores,” Rynn responded, seeing one of Bronzebeard’s eyebrow go up.

“How much?”

Sebastien surreptitiously pulled out a large opal and showed it to the dwarf. “We have more than sufficient money to make our trip very profitable for you.”

Orensland jumped in at this point. “And since you’re down some money because of the inn, which was very nice, by the way, I’m sure you could use some.”

“You’ve intrigued me,” the dwarf said. “My ship is small enough that it will be crowded, but I think we can make it work. Come, see the Ruvalk for yourself.”

His ship was a medium-sized ship, one that could easily accommodate their needs as long as the horses were kept on the deck with the coach. It would perhaps be a little crowded, but, well, it was becoming apparent that travel on any kind of ship, sky or sea, would usually be crowded.

“Horses, captain, really?” One crewmember spoke outloud as Bronzebeard explained the situation.

“Aye, horses! Don’t ya worry your pretty head, I’m gonna make them scoop up their leavings! Don’t want my crew havin’ to do that extra work.” The Captain turned to Rynn and Orensland and Sebastien. “I assume you don’t have a problem being the ones to throw the horse shit overboard?”

“It’s not a problem,” Sebastien said smoothly.

“Then I think we’re in business. We were just sailin’ the lake when we came upon that stranded ship, so we had no cargo to offload. We fish as we go, and the lake is freshwater, of course, so … we’re ready to go whenever you are, though it might take a little bit to set up a riggin’ such that we can get the carriage on board.”

“Excellent!” Sebastien said. “I’ll go retrieve the others. You can start getting set up.” He pulled Rynn and Orensland aside. “I had not hoped to find a boat this quickly, to be honest. What luck!” The young man was giddy with excitement. He took them aside, off the boat and a little ways down the dock, whispering. “And if we get underway shortly, and it seems we can, then Manson’s ability to track us will be severely limited.”
The fog from the river had begun to lift, and in the distance now they could see the sleek black coach and the horses, as well as their friends. Sebastien excused himself to bring the coach down to the docks.

“Well, that worked out nicely,” said Orensland.

“Yes. The chances that we’ll have to fight or deal with Manson are much less now. That is a great relief to me.”

Sebastien had just reached the coach and appeared to be talking to Khaska and to Sanjin. Orensland breathed a sign of relief. The last few days had been very tense, expecting an ambush at any moment, despite Sebastien’s assurances that was unlikely on the trip from Fort Windhaven.

“So here’s my question,” Captain Bronzebeard said, having just come from the ship, which was some forty or fifty feet away, and facing the carriage as Sebastien was climbing up to begin to drive it down. It was just the three of them on the dock as Bronzebeard’s crew had begun to make preparations. “I heard what you were talking about with your young friend here. Since you’re being tracked by Cedric Manson, and it’s obvious from his scarf, even in this weather, that young mister Sebastien serves as the source of food for a vampire, why shouldn’t I just burn your carriage to the ground or kill your horses and leave you to the fallen whitecloak? I don’t like the whitecloaks, over-zealous busy-bodies the lot of them, and I certainly don’t like ones like Manson, so self-righteous they make the rest of their kind look like mere delinquient youths, but I like vampires even less. I assume you have on there in that carriage, the sixth member of your group. I’d love to sail off after seeing the look on his face after we stranded you here.”

Bronzebeard turned to look right at both of them, neither fully able to conceal their shock.

“I assume you’re just the paid bodyguards. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t leave you stranded here?” He flexed his not inconsiderate arm muscles for show. “And believe me, if I want it, you will be stranded here. My crew is standin’ by if I give the signal.” He smiled. “And I really want to give the signal.”

Eryx (DM)
Despite being on the ship, which is very far away from where you are on the dock and where Sebastien was whispering about Manson, somehow Bronzebeard has overheard your conversation, and having seen Sebastien up close and the carriage from afar, has accurately surmised the situation.

As is my purview as the DM, I rolled Sense Motive checks for Rynn and Orensland. You very much get the impression that Captain Bronzebeard is very well-traveled and experienced, and would likely know if you are lying to him.

What will Rynn and Orensland say to him? (The others can weigh in as well, even though their characters aren’t technically present.) You have a few minutes before the carriage arrives.

BlackWolf
After seeing Bronzebeard's generosity toward the others, Rynn believes the dwarf is a good person. Perhaps his simple honesty is getting the better of him after having to surpress it for so long, but the ranger sees no reason to try to hide behind lies.

"Captain, you are as perceptive as you are generous," Rynn will reply. "The carriage indeed contains a vampire: one Lady Maramos. And we are the bodyguards, though not the ones she believes she's hired."

In hushed tones, the ranger will try to hurriedly explain.

"In Gallidus we encountered vampires working with the Cult of Skyrnyn. They are our enemies, yet we need to discover what they are doing with dragons, skyship crystals, and pilgrimages of people who are likely now slaves in Darkcrest. We were able to impersonate her hired bodyguards and now must protect her in order to learn the truth of their schemes. It is an unfortunate evil we suffer in the hope of a greater good.

"I certainly cannot blame you for not wanting to transport a vampire onboard your ship. Turn us away if you must and we'll find another way. Or, if your intention is to fight Lady Maramos, we would help you attempt to slay her."

There's something about this Captain Bronzebeard that makes Rynn recall Akle. So he'll conclude by saying, "You don't know us, so I cannot expect your trust. But I hope you will believe me when I say that we are allies of good, be they the Knights of the Silver Dragons or individuals such as Mirwen Taldiril, the elf of Twilight, or the noble gnome fighter, Akle."

At least, that's what I want Rynn to do. But I'm open to suggestions. Orensland would be the only one at the moment who could actually put his hand over Rynn's mouth to shush him, but on the other hand, I'm sure each of our characters would have had time to discuss what we might do if we encountered truly good people (unlike the Whitecloaks) while in Lady Maramos' employ.

It's a total stab in the dark, but I think that maybe… just maybe Captain Bronzebeard could be a (another?) metallic dragon in disguise. We suspected Akle and Mirwen in the past. Here's an unusually strong dwarf with uncanny hearing and a shiny bronze-colored beard. If I'm totally off-base, there's at least a strong indication that this guy is a good guy.

Thoughts?

Thev
From the same clues Rynn has noticed, Khaska would reach similar conclusions: unless he's doing some intense Method acting, Bronzebeard, with his daring charitable rescue and vehement opposition to vampires, appears to be good. What's more, Khaska's kept his eyes out for any potential hidden dragons since Akle and Mirwen (thanks for the reminder, Blackwolf!), and he believes Bronzebeard would be a good candidate. Perhaps what would be toughest for Khaska would be to conceal his inclination to reverence. Khaska would support Rynn revealing the party's true plans.

DeltaWolf
It sounds like we don't have much other options -I guess we could fight, but that seems like a bad idea.

Crosis
Hey! Sorry about the wait.

Orensland would also be inclined to trust the dwarf. Wait, how good is a vampire's hearing? Presuming we are confident the vampire or other such parties cannot hear us, I vote we tell him the truth. If we cannot assume that luxury, Orensland would offer to speak with the captain in private and tell him the truth away from prying ears. With Rynn too, if the captain is willing, but something tells me one person would be less intimidating.

Orensland would also help explain the situation. However, if Rynn does suggest that we would help slay the vampire right then and there, Orensland would probably interject. We still need her to discover the dilemma at hand. Unless some new, brilliant option becomes available (say, a bronze dragon suddenly being able to tell us everything we need and want to know), I vote against killing the vampire. For now.

After the explanation and presuming the dwarf believes us, Orensland may want to ask the captain how much he knows about the pilgrimages or the Cult itself. If he is inclined to believe us, he may shed some light on the subject at hand. Especially because he is masquerading as a member of the Cult, Orensland is all in favor of learning more about his supposed devotion, and the dwarf may know more than we do.

Rynn and Orensland glanced at each other, looking for some subtle signal of what to do. Orensland smiled, and shrugged.

“You’ve pegged us, though the situation is more complicated than it seems.”

Rynn continued more diplomatically. “Captain, you are as perceptive as you are generous. The carriage indeed contains a vampire: one Lady Maramos. And we are the bodyguards, though not the ones she believes she's hired.”

Bronzebeard whistled when he heard her name. “You have my attention now.”

“In Gallidus we encountered vampires working with the Cult of Skyrnyn. They are our enemies, yet we need to discover what they are doing with dragons, skyship crystals, and pilgrimages of people who are likely now slaves in Darkcrest. We were able to impersonate her hired bodyguards and now must protect her in order to learn the truth of their schemes. It is an unfortunate evil we suffer in the hope of a greater good.”

The dwarf looked at him, then at Orensland. “So you’re not actually a member of the cult?” And with that, the captain pointed at Orensland’s hand, complete with the Cult of Skyrnyn ring.

“Ah, no,” said Orensland. “We acquired this during our ongoing investigation into the cult, and it’s helped Lady Maramos accept our ruse.”

The dwarf raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think you have the slightest idea of how brave that makes you, my roguish friend.”

“Captain,” Rynn said, moving back to the matters at immediate hand, “I certainly cannot blame you for not wanting to transport a vampire onboard your ship. Turn us away if you must and we'll find another way. Or, if your intention is to fight Lady Maramos, we would help you attempt to slay her.”

“No.” Orensland himself was a little surprised at how forcefully he said that. “We still need her to discover the greater truth of things. Leave us here if you must, Captain Bronzebeard, but leave us be. I vote against killing the vampire. For now.”

“You don't know us, Captain,” Rynn continued, “so we cannot expect your trust. But I hope you will believe me when I say that we are allies of good, be they the Knights of the Silver Dragons or individuals such as Mirwen Taldiril, the elf of Twilight, or the noble gnome fighter, Akle.”

There was a very long pause, as Captain Bronzebeard looked Rynn over, clearly assessing the ranger. “I don’t know this Mirwen, but Akle is known to me. He’s been a guest on my boat during his wanderings, and is a good soul. An ally of his would be welcome on my boat.” He pondered for a moment. “So let me see if I understand. You’re faking being the bodyguards of Lady Maramos of Darkcrest, and you, Mister Orensland, a member of the Cult of Skyrnyn, all in the service of finding out what more they’re up to?” Bronzebeard was quiet for a moment. “If what I’ve heard of Lady Maramos is true, I don’t actually know that we could take her out even if we all teamed up. We would have to wait until Sunrise Twilight.” He scoffed. “Or for Manson to show up. How do you know he’s looking for you?”

“He had spies back in Fort Windhaven looking for us. One of them sent a pigeon with a message, but we don’t know where to,” Orensland said.

Captain Bronzebeard took a deep breath, then expelled it. “He might have spies here as well then. You gentlemen play a dangerous game, but I know a little something about sacrificing for the greater good.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “You have your boat. I’ll honor the gentleman’s agreement we just made with Mister Sebastien. But let’s make it quick. I don’t relish the idea of getting between Lorraine Maramos and Cedric Manson.”

The carriage was approaching.

“One question,” Orensland said, dropping his voice a little. “I’m worried that Lady Maramos’ hearing is as good as yours.”

The captain immediately waved a hand dismissively. “That is doubtful, but that is part of the dangerous game you are playing. Come, let’s get set up to get her on the boat. We can be on our way as soon as we get the carriage on.”

Eryx (DM)
That will end this chapter.

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