Codex VI-Chapter 4

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

Rynn stood at the head of the ship, watching as they glided over the still water of Clearwater Lake. It was amazing to him, this lake. Nearly as large as the Niktean Wastes back on Gallidus, it was the largest body of freshwater on Jenoa, and that meant that it was a great place to just get lost. The crew of the Ruvalk just dropped a bucket in the water when they wanted water to drink, and were able to catch fish at regular enough intervals that there was plenty of food for all.

Captain Bronzebeard walked up to stand by him. “Enjoying the view?”

Indeed, the view was stunning. Pressen hung over the horizon, probably two-thirds of the planet in full view, and as it was night the sunlight refracted around the planet through its rings, casting a weak light over all they could see, brighter here because of the mirrored image of all that was in the sky on the water. The planet itself was gorgeous at night; Rynn had missed its beauty, as he hadn’t been this deep into the Deadlands in years.

“I forgot how beautiful it can be here in the Deadlands at night. And on this lake, it’s ever more gorgeous.”

“Indeed,” the Captain said. “I’ve sailed the world over, but I always enjoy Clearwater Lake. Feels like home to me. I was born on its shores, actually.”

Rynn glanced at him sideways. The ranger had been on the lookout for other possible metallic dragons since meeting Akle and Mirwen, and this Captain Bronzebeard, with his uncanny hearing and unusual strength, not to mention his dedication to goodness and charity, was a prime candidate. The ranger had shared his suspicions with the group their first night on the ship, and Khaska had indicated that he too had considered the possibility. The cleric had been very deferential to the Captain since then, something Rynn suspected the captain found annoying.

“Your parents lived on the death side?”

“They wandered all over, much like me,” he said. “I know that Dad at one point at set up on Slyn, but, really, I didn’t get to know them very much. They died when I was very young.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

The two of them sat in silence for a moment.

“Rynn, I wanted to ask you a question,” the captain said.

“Anything.”

“When you were talking to me back on shore, you mentioned two names. Akle and Mirwen Taldiril. Why did you think to bring them up?”

Rynn shrugged. “Something about you reminds me of them.”

“Ah. I see. As I said, Aklemendorian is known to me. But tell me of this Mirwen. ”

Rynn and he talked about their adventures in Twilight several months before. Rynn did leave out some specifics about Kvanir out of deference to Khaska, and the dwarf didn’t press for details, but did seem interested in how Mirwen and Akle had gotten along. Eventually Orensland joined them, having just come back from speaking with Lady Maramos.

“You are a brave man, Orensland. Being the one who talks to her, I mean, since that puts you in the most danger of being discovered.”

“I have my friends nearby if it comes to that.”

“You have good friends. And how is our honored guest?” the Captain asked.

“She’s fine. We’ve been discussing where to have you drop us off.”

“I’ve been wondering that myself. We’ve been sailing for two days now, and we’ll need to make some decisions shortly so I know where to steer the Ruvalk.”

Sebastien favors heading to Hub where we could resupply and possibly even get a new cart. Travel more inconspicuously.”

Khaska and Sanjin approached, seeing the discussion. Sanjin, as was his usual wont, kept staring at Bronzebeard. Khaska was merely overly deferential. Occasionally Rynn regretted telling them of his suspicions about their dwarven captain.

“I was wondering,” the wizard said, “if we might want to travel on the south side of the Derring River. A bit longer, but smoother travelling to be sure.”

“Or just push through and follow the original plan,” said Khaska. “Get dropped off along the Derring River.”

Bronzebeard shook his head. “You don’t want to be on the river. Since Manson knows that you’re travelling by boat the best chance he has of catching you is to try to ambush you on the Derring.”

Eryx (DM)
Bronzebeard has no new information about the Cult of Skyrnyn and how you could act to better fool people into thinking you are a true member, Orensland. When asked about their activities, however, he’s aware that the pilgrimages by boat sail up the Derring River from Ethir Port, and the people disembark at the gridlines (main map here) between 20 and 21 with I and J, which is the same place you would get off if you choose option 3 below (option 1 from the previous chapter). He doesn’t know where they go from there.

So your options as basically outlined are:
1. Head North.
a. You could resupply at Hub and perhaps change your mode of transportation so you’re not using the inky black, sticks-out-like-a-sore-thumb coach.
b. Or you could just head straight across to the Derring River. Obviously faster, but you couldn’t travel more incognito.
c. Either way, you’ll have to find a shallow place to cross the river, and given the volatility of the weather of late, that could be problematic.

2. Go south, landing on the east coast of Clearwater Lake, and walk. This would be faster as the land south of the river and to Darkcrest from there is more easily travelled. You wouldn’t have to cross the river, but couldn’t change travel arrangements to be more incognito.

3. Follow the original plan and just travel as far as possible on the river. You had rejected this before, but you could technically change your minds. Captain Bronzebeard recommends against this, though.

What do you all want to do?

Thev
Khaska is inclined—and not just out of obsequiousness!—to trust Bronzebeard on this one. Ever since the Steelhammer Lifts, he's been irked by the Death Side, and he'd rather not set the party and Bronzebeard's crew up for an ambush. To avoid attracting attention, for one, he'd advocate going to Hub and trading out Lady Maramos's coach. For that matter, could the party then proceed with the new coach to the eastern tip of Clearwater Lake, and walk from there? That seems the best option; that way they wouldn't be able to be traced by the sudden presence of the coach in Hub.

BlackWolf
Rynn is also in favor of option 1 and head toward Hub. Maybe we could even send a couple of scouts ahead to secure new transportation so nobody even sees us roll into Hub with Lady Maramos' coach.

Eryx (DM)
Just in case it wasn't clear, Hub is at least a two day walk from the shore of Clearwater Lake. The map makes them look relatively close, but what I've stated her is the reality on the ground. I don't think that's necessarily going to change what you have posted so far, but I thought I'd clarify just in case.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin doesn't care what Bronzebeard says. But he will go with the party -and it does make sense to go with option 1.

Crosis
Orensland would also be in favor of option 1a. He also approves of one or two members of the party scouting ahead and securing transportation in advance.

“I am inclined to follow Sebastien’s recommendation,” Khaska said. “It sounds like acquiring a new cart at Hub would be easy enough.”

“I agree,” said Rynn. “In fact, we could send a couple of scouts ahead to secure a new cart. We don’t even have to roll into Hub with Lady Maramos’ shiny black coach.”

Sanjin shrugged. “Sounds like a plan to me.”

Orensland nodded. “Perhaps I should go tell Sebastien and Lady Maramos of our decision while you change course, Captain. Captain?”

Bronzebeard had walked over to the side of the ship and was peering down into the water. His first mate came over. “Something in the water, Captain?”

“Aye.”

The hatch to below decks opened, and Lady Maramos came out. She came over to the railing and also looked down. She and the Captain glanced at each other, then both looked down.

“How did you notice it, Captain?”

“I’ve sailed these waters for many many decades, my lady. If something is amiss, I can tell pretty easy. And you?”

“It’s swimming so close to the ship that I can sense its heartbeat.”

“Yes, I supposed you would be interested in that, wouldn’t you?” She glanced at him sharply. He shrugged. “I’m not stupid. I know what you are.”

“Um, I hate to break up the party,” Orensland said, “but what are you talking about.”

“There’s a shark in the water, and it’s following us,” the Captain said.

“The problem is that there are no natural sharks in Clearwater Lake,” Lady Maramos said. “This is fresh water, not salt water.”

“Druid?” the Captain asked her, almost rhetorically.

“Druid,” she responded.

“If it’s tracking us, you should probably try to kill it.”

“Unless it surfaces, none of my spells can reach it, and if it’s a druid, it’s not going to be foolish enough to surface.”

“I bet you a shiny gold piece it’s allied with Manson.”

“I won’t take you up on that. I don’t want to lose a gold piece. Why would a druid ally with Manson? Whitecloaks don’t usually have druids in their order.”

“I’m sure you can afford the gold piece. Manson, from what I hear, is shady as the abyss. I’m sure he has resources and ways of using them that could gain him such allies. Perhaps even reluctant allies.”

“Let’s talk about defenses.” Lady Maramos said that while actually stepping towards the Captain in a menacing way.

“Alright,” the first mate said. “I’m going to assume that neither the vampire nor the Captain of the ship want a fight amongst ourselves on the open waters.”

After a moment of staring at the captain, Lady Maramos backed away. “Quite right.”

“I assume if we’re attacked that you could lend your not inconsiderable talents to our defense.”

“You have something in mind?”

“Ships don’t respond well to fireballs.”

Lady Maramos actually smiled at that. “No, they do not.”


The shark didn’t stick around much after that, though both Lady Maramos and Captain Bronzebeard said that it likely was not gone, but possibly still following them at a distance. If it did trail them from a distance, there was no way of knowing if it was still there, or if it had left the area.

After sunset twilight had come, Lady Maramos retreated back down below decks. Captain Bronzebeard was at the helm, steering the ship, keeping a watchful eye out.

Rynn approached Sanjin.

“I remember at the docks, that Captain Bronzebeard said that he and his crew might not be able to defeat Lady Maramos, even if they had wanted to. If he is a dragon …”

“Then she is very powerful. I have seen no spellbook, or indication of one, but she spoke of her magic and of casting the Fireball spell. She is probably a sorceress, and a powerful one at that.”

“And if she is concerned about Manson …”

“We might be caught in the middle of a fight that’s a little above our pay grade.”


After another day, Bronzebeard turned the ship towards the north. He knew a relatively out-of-the-way cove that would allow them to disembark easily enough, yet likely not attract attention. The party, with Sebastien, was contemplating exactly how they wished to handle that—take the coach to Hub, take the coach partway to Hub, or not really take the coach at all and leave it on the shore of the lake once a new transport for Lady Maramos’ coffin had been secured.

But that all became irrelevant mid-afternoon.

“Ship!” the lookout called. “Skyship!”

Sure enough, approaching from the east was a skyship. It eventually came to rest just floating high above the lake, then turned to follow them as they passed under it. Lady Maramos came above deck to assess the situation, finding the party all gathered, watching the skyship.

“He’ll wait until sunrise twilight to attack,” she said. “The direct sunlight poses a danger to me and limits what I can do to help.”

“Surely we could just provide shade for you, my lady,” Rynn said. “If you can attack them from a distance with your spells, they need not get close.”

She stared at the ship, glaring at it as if willing it to drop from the sky. “This Manson knows his quarry well. If he seeks re-admittance to the Bringers of Light, he will have to bring me in alive. Slaying me would destroy my body, and thus any evidence of the deed.”

“If he’s as clever as I’ve heard,” Captain Bronzebeard said, approaching, “he’ll also know that you require food. I imagine that Mr. Sebastien will be a target as well.” He glanced at her. “How long can you survive without feeding?”

“Actually, indefinitely. But I’ll go slowly mad after a few months.”

Orensland gave off a tiny shudder at that. If Sebastien died, that would mean that Lady Maramos would require other food … and she had indicated that she would be willing to use the party to sustain herself should that be necessary. He also didn’t like the idea of an high-powered sorceress vampire going mad from starvation.

Eryx (DM)
You are being trailed by a skyship, but it’s staying out of range of any magic spells for now.

As a reminder, the day/night cycle on the death side goes like this: Daytime (12 hours). Light reflected off of the gas giant Pressen provides illumination. Sunrise Twilight (4 hours). The sun rises from the horizon and provides illumination. Nighttime (4 hours). The sun goes behind Pressen, creating low-light illumination. Sunset Twilight (4 hours). The sun emerges from behind Pressen and provides illumination before setting under the horizon. You are currently in the daytime. Sunrise twilight is next, in a few hours. During the twilights, there is direct sunlight, so Lady Maramos would be vulnerable to that.

If the skyship is Manson (which seems a reasonable assumption at this point), you know he has likely several objectives:

1. Capture Lady Maramos.
2. Take her coffin for transport.

These mean that Manson cannot simply destroy the Ruvalk. He’ll need to board.

3. He’ll probably want to kill Sebastien.

Lady Maramos is a high-level sorceress. Bronzebeard is wary of her. Manson is likely to be a high-level cleric (which fits with his being a former high-ranking Whitecloak). The other men with white cloaks are likely his associates, and statistically will likely be clerics.

I’ve paused here to give you a chance to a) plan any tactics you might want to, given the near likelihood of a naval battle, and b) for Sanjin and Khaska to prepare spells. You have been aware that a fight was coming for several days now, so you can prepare accordingly.

What, if anything, do you all want to talk about here/plan for?

Crosis
Because my character is not well equipped for hand to hand combat, I was wondering if there is a way to get him onto the ship, perhaps in some magical way. If not, he'll probably hide in plain sight, find a good sniping position and hide there with his crossbow. He would remain hidden, moving around if need be, and attack from the shadows where possible.

Another possibility is that my character could remain close to Sebastian. If anyone comes for him, he can do a sneak attack. Orensland would be in favor of protecting him, as made clear in the post.

…unless someone has a better idea. If I can get onto the ship, I could try to sabotage it somehow. If anyone can think of a good idea for how to make that work, I am all ears.

Should I make my rolls now?

Thev
I'm assuming Khaska would have consulted with the others about their expectations for an attack in order to plan his spells. What sort of tactics would the others have recommended? I'm guess that most effective might be spells that could damage the opposing ship at a distance—say, fire to destroy its sails or its hull. What do you guys think?

BlackWolf
Rynn likes the idea of hurting their ship from a distance, though he doesn't have anything to help with that. Arrows in their hull probably won't make much difference, and I'm guessing they don't leave their skyship crystals exposed.

Actually, since a fight seems imminent, I wonder if there could be an opportunity for us to take their skyship? Then we wouldn't need a coach. Other than that, Rynn doesn't have much to suggest. He's more in a reactionary mode at this point, figuring that he'll just be shooting his bow once the enemy draws nigh.

Rynn is also somewhat sorrowful that the attack is happening this soon and would affect Captain Bronzebeard, and his ship and crew.

Eryx (DM)
Crosis, when you make a decision like "Orensland will hide in plain sight near Sebastien," then give me an appropriate roll, in this case a Hide Check. Otherwise I'll usually just ask for rolls when necessary. I do not need combat rolls yet. And you sell your character short when you say "my character is not well equipped for hand to hand combat." Your sneak attack rolls are up to 4d6 damage … that ain't nothing'!

In talking with Thev, we realized that he had not yet leveled to Level 8. I'll work with him over the next few days to finish the leveling process and also help him prepare spells (spell preparation for Sanjin and Khaska is the major reason I paused at this point).

However, regarding Rynn's speculation that you might be able to capture the skyship, Captain Bronzebeard indicates that he could probably sail a skyship. As he understands it, it's not all that different from a watership as far as propulsion and steering. It does appear to be a smaller ship than his though … and if you wanted to transport Lady Maramos, you would need to make sure she had somewhere to rest, which means either her coffin or the bag of dirt that she brought with her from her graveyard. You have not, as of yet, needed the dirt, but it is available as backup. The dirt would need to be contained somehow for her to sleep on it. (Veleria, back in Codex III-Chapter 10, had dirt under her bed in Hormon Stoneheart's house, and Khaska knew what that meant; it was one of the clues that identified Veleria as a vampire.)

If you'd like to explore that option further, ask your questions here in the gray box and I'll give you Bronzebeard's answers.

DeltaWolf
I updated the prepared spells Sanjin would have ready for a possible fight. He is in favor of attacking from a distance -as many of his spells can be used at a distance.

“If they plan to board our ship, perhaps we ought to return the favor,” Rynn suggested.

Orensland snorted. “Would certainly cut down on our travel time to Darkcrest.”

Bronzebeard nodded. “I know a bit about skyship sailing. I could do it. The question would be how.” He pulled out a long telescope, put it to his eye and began looking intently at the other ship.

“You would need to have your coffin aboard the ship in order to travel to Darkcrest, correct, my Lady?” asked Khaska.

“Or we could use the bag of dirt from my graveyard held in reserve if needed. It would need to be contained somehow, I can’t just sleep on the dirt itself.”

“I don’t suppose there’s a magic way of getting me onboard the ship, is there?” Orensland asked, staring at Lady Maramos. She shook her head. “Darn.” He drew his sword. “Well, I think it might be best for me to stick by Sebastien, if he is a priority target for them.”

Sebastien drew his dagger. “I can give some account of myself.”

“Stay below decks,” Bronzebeard ordered him. “If you want to guard him, Orensland, that’s not a bad idea, but the hatch down there is a chokepoint. If we can defend the main deck, I don’t think it will be a problem. If we can’t defend the main deck, defending him won’t matter. We’ll have bigger problems to worry about.”

“I’ll stay up here,” Lady Maramos said. “If Manson has done his homework on me, that ship won’t approach while I can see it. Your idea of shade when the sun rises, Rynn, is a good one. Unless that ship is faster than any skyship I’ve seen, it won’t make it close enough to us because of my spells.”

Bronzebeard collapsed his telescope with a sharp snap. “Here’s what I can see. Looks like four men with white cloaks, I presume Manson and three of his buddies. There’s a centaur as well, and it looks to me like the gnome piloting the ship has been chained to the steering wheel. One of them was watching me with a telescope the whole time I was watching them.”

Lady Maramos pursed her lips, making them into a small line on her face as it tightened. “I’ll be right back,” she said, and ducked down below decks. A moment later a bat emerged from the hatch and fluttered off.

A beam of piercing light lanced from the skyship a minute later, and shortly after the bat returned, morphing into Lady Maramos as it dove down onto the deck.

“There’s another gnome on the deck as well, down below the railing where the captain couldn’t see her. She’s tied up and blindfolded, and one of the whitecloaks is standing next to her with a drawn sword. My guess is she’s a hostage, which is how they are getting the pilot’s cooperation. One of them tried to hit me with a Searing Light spell, but missed.”

“Uh, sir,” said the first mate, “fog’s coming up.” Bronzebeard looked at the lake, and, sure enough, fog has just begun to lift from the surface.

“That’s odd,” Bronzebeard said. “There’s no reason …” he stopped and he and Lady Maramos looked at each other again.

“Manson is controlling the weather,” he said.

“He’s cast Control Weather,” she said, at the same time. “In a few minutes, the area around his ship will be completely shrouded in fog.”

“He won’t be able to dissipate it,” Bronzebeard said. “You’ll be protected from the sun.”

“Little good that will do me if I can’t see his ship to launch spells at it!” she snapped back at the Dwarf.

Bronzebeard turned to his first mate. “Arm the men. They are coming.” He went below decks himself, returning dressed in leather armor and wielding a greataxe.

As Lady Maramos had predicted, the fog increased slowly until it was so thick you could barely see from one side of the ship to the other. The minutes ticked by, leaving everybody on edge for a while, but over time they all relaxed a bit naturally when the imminent attack turned out to be … not so imminent.

“So,” Sanjin mused, “they do this weather thing for kicks? It can’t possibly take this long for the skyship to get here.”

“Maybe they can’t find us,” Rynn mused. “Fog affects them just as much as it does us.”

“Yeah,” said Bronzebeard, “but fog on this lake, even magical fog, stays near the surface. They can stay high enough to avoid it if they want.”

It began to get brighter. Lady Maramos pulled the hood of her cloak up around her head and pulled on some gloves. “Sunrise Twilight,” she said. “I should be fine as long as the fog doesn’t dissipate. Once it does I’ll need some shade.”

The crew set up a quick lean-to near the front of the ship that would give her some shade if the fog dissipated, but it did not.

It was about ten minutes later when the lookout up at the top of the ship’s sail (there wasn’t a crow’s nest, but he just had hung himself with a makeshift harness up near the top of the mast) cried out. “Here they come! From the starboard side!”

Everybody turned and, tracking alongside them, moving perpendicular, the skyship was bearing down on them, hovering about forty feet above the lake’s surface and moving quickly.

“They’re trying to take out our mast!” Bronzebeard cried as Lady Maramos chanted in an arcane language and prepared to launch her spells at the approaching ship.

Eryx (DM)
I’m not sure what happened, but I swear I had written up the part for the last post where Lady Maramos scouted their ship out. Anyway, there are 4 whitecloaks, likely all clerics but possibly fighters (you know Manson is a cleric), all in plate armor, a centaur, and two gnomes. One gnome is tied, bound, blindfolded, and gagged, the other is chained to the skyship steering wheel.

The ship is bearing down on you quickly, but you have a few seconds to prepare. It is flying above you about 30 feet above your deck (which is about 10 feet above the water). Due to the angles involved, none of you can see anybody on the deck to fire arrows at or even attack with long-range spells. Lady Maramos looks to be targeting the underside of the ship itself.

What actions do you wish to take, if any?

Thev
They might not only be planning on taking out the mast, but also jumping aboard the party's ship. We should ready ourselves for an attack from over the sides of the skyship. Other than that, it might be best for Orensland to climb the mast and board their ship as it comes near. In Khaska's case, since we can't see those on the skyship directly, now might be the time to summon one or both of his magical creatures, which can attack on their own outside of our line of sight. What do you all think?

Eryx (DM)
If they were planning on boarding the ship this pass, they would likely not be flying so high. Unless they all have Rings of Feather Falling or Feather Fall prepared. And since your animals last only 8 rounds, I'd hold off until you are sure they are boarding. I'll allow you to set up a "trigger," i.e., "if people start jumping off to board, I cast Summon Monster IV."

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will cast Mage Armor on himself.

Crosis
Orensland would feel perfectly at home trying to board the ship, sneak about, and potentially steal the boat (free the gnomes, etc.). It's been a while since he's used his grappling hook (overlooking his time with the Shadowdancing Troupe, of course), but more importantly, I've forgotten the necessary roles. So I'll take a few stabs and tell me if I actually needed to use any of them.

Use Rope: 31 (rolled 16 + 15 modifier)
Climbing: 31 (rolled 20 + 11 modifier)
Hide: 26 (rolled 3 + 23 modifier)
Move Silently: 34 (rolled 11 + 23 modifier)

…Please tell me those were the necessary roles. That would be an epically adventurous scene. Presuming my 3 hiding roll doesn't get me killed, of course.

I presume that, should most of the enemies jump on board the Captain's ship, they would leave a guard behind to keep the gnomes in check. Probably the white cloak already guarding the gagged gnome. If that's the case, Orensland would sneak attack the chum and hopefully take command of the ship. Before doing anything rash at that point, would the team be opposed if I convinced the gnomes to fly out of range of the white cloaks/centaur to put them in a pretty nasty situation?

If the enemies do NOT board the Captain's ship, Orensland may want to go about sabotaging the ship. Light a fire, make an explosion, something like that. Again, input is appreciated before rash action is taken.

Also, should the sky ship manage to effectively cripple our ship, Orensland would realize that such actions could leave both ships crippled, leaving us stuck on the lake that people die getting lost on. He may want to mention that to Lady Maramos before she blows out the underside of the ship. If that be the case, he would probably just board and wait for the opportune moment to do something nasty. No sense charging a horde of warriors that are individually above my pay grade, you know?

Also, what would happen if I just removed the crystals that enable the ship to fly? I presume that Orensland would be passingly familiar with such things, having travelled on sky ships previously. Not saying that would be his course of action just yet, I'm just curious.

As for jumping onto the ship, I am presuming that the back is the safest place to attach. Orensland would consult with Lady Maramos and the Captain before ultimately deciding. If they consider the back to be hazardous in any way, he would follow their advice as to which side is better. If they have no suggestions, to the back it is.

BlackWolf
Rynn doesn't have any suggestions at this point; he's a bit out of his element and just waiting for the attack to come. He'll wait on the highest part of the deck (if applicable) waiting for a chance to use his bow or sword.

I like the idea of Orensland getting up onto their ship. Rynn would want to look for an opportunity as well, though he doesn't expect that he could climb up nearly as well as his friend (the ranger's climbing skill is pretty lousy; not worth an initial attempt at this point).

The only other thing he can think of is that plate armor would be extremely hard to swim in. We should look for any opportunity to knock them into the water.

Thev
It would be fantastic if we could commandeer their vessel—in that case, we might be able to fly to Darkcrest, moving much more rapidly and out of reach of anyone on the ground. Khaska would warn against damaging their ship beyond repair.

That said, given that Orensland will be trying to board the ship, Khaska will cast Water Walking on him (which will apparently last 40 minutes). That way he'll be able to avoid swimming if he falls (crossing fingers that he doesn't!).

The use of most spells will be decided by the exigencies of the moment (Eryx said I could offer "triggers" for further spells, so here are a couple:

  • Summon Monster II: If the Whitecloaks try to board or get close enough to the water, Khaska will summon a squid, which can then attempt to drag the Whitecloaks into the water. As Rynn has thought, swimming with plate would be awful. (For the same reason, Khaska will stay as far from the edges of the ship as he can.)
  • Silence: When the Whitecloaks start trying to cast spells at the ship—especially if they're moving the skyship toward the ship—Khaska will cast Silence on the skyship, rendering anyone on board unable to cast spells for eight minutes.
  • Hold Person: Especially important if any of the Whitecloaks board the ship. Khaska will try to freeze them and, hopefully, toss them overboard. If he can freeze them mid-leap, or over the water, all the better.
  • Bear's Endurance: Eryx suggested that I reserve this for Lady Maramos.
  • Summon Monster IV: When the skyship "parks" near the ship, when the Whitecloaks try to board, or when the skyship comes around for a second pass—all these are options for when this spell could be used. In principle, Khaska wants to make sure it can supplement the party's firepower, overwhelming the WCs with firepower and targets.
  • Greater Magic Weapon: Khaska will decide which weapon needs the biggest boost, whether Rynn's bow or someone's sword (or otherwise) depending on the opportunity people have to use their weapons (range vs. melee combat, for instance).

I'm sure Khaska would have discussed spell strategy with other members of the party in preceding days. Would any of you have made strategy suggestions in addition to or contrary to the above?

“Are they going to board us too?” asked Rynn, nocking an arrow and moving to the upper deck.

“Hard to port!” The captain yelled at his first mate, who was steering the ship. “They’ll come around for another pass, lower and slower to board.”

There was only a few seconds to act, but as the lookout frantically cut at his harness Orensland had the opposite idea. He rushed towards the mast, waving Lady Maramos off, then began climbing up the rigging.

Khaska rushed over. “What are you doing?”

“Going to rescue the gnomes. If I can get onboard without them knowing, and then they board our ship …” Khaska thought for a moment, then reached out and said a quick prayer, touching the Shadowdancer as he did so.

Lady Maramos was undisturbed by Orensland’s frantic motions to stop, and completed her spell. A bead of light lanced from her fingertip, detonating on the bottom of the skyship, setting it partially ablaze.

“Water walking,” Khaska said. “Will help you get back to us if you need to, rather than swimming.” Orensland nodded, and then was up the mast, just as the lookout fell from his perch, having severed his harness finally. The human landed with a thud while Orensland clambered halfway up the mast, grappling hook in hand.

Despite the efforts to steer away by the first mate, the skyship smashed into the Ruvalk’s mast. Orensland was clinging to it about five feet below where the ship hit, and as the mast splintered above him, he was whirling his grappling hook and launched it into the air just as the ship passed overhead. It snagged, and he was violently yanked with it, having wrapped the rope quickly around him. He gritted his teeth, and then blended into the shadows. From the perspective of those remaining on the Ruvalk, he vanished, but the rope and grappling hook remained visible. Captain Bronzebeard rushed to the side, trying his best to see before the ship vanished into the fog.

He stepped back. “I’m not sure he made it, but I didn’t hear a splash, so he didn’t fall either.” The captain took a deep breath, and then hefted his axe.

Then there was a huge splash.

“That would be them landing the ship in the water,” the Captain said. He looked at Lady Maramos. “The Fireball spell was a nice idea. Now that we’re crippled, they’ll be coming to board us, they’ll have the advantage in movement of their ship. Let’s get ready to propel them.”

Sure enough, a few minutes later the ship came sailing out of the fog, which seemed to be lessening. The skyship was hovering just barely above the water, moving at a good clip, and adjusted course so it would basically glance by the Ruvalk on the starboard side.

“Here they come!” Bronzebeard shouted!

Eryx (DM)
I’ve split the fight into two, narratively. While Orensland is on the skyship (metagaming, I will tell you that he’s made it, which was indicated by Bronzebeard in the post), I’m doing his part separate, and asked him not to read the campaign until I tell him to. He’s on his honor not to after this post.

The ship is in the water, the fire from Lady Maramos extinguished, and will be strafing by you in a moment. It has considerable speed and it looks like Manson and his buddies will be jumping on board.

Please everybody roll initiative and give me three rounds of actions. The first round will largely be them approaching, and the second round will be them trying to board, to give you an idea of what you’re reacting to.

DeltaWolf
Initiative: 9 (7 +2 mod)

  • Round 1: Sanjin will cast crushing despair on as many enemies he can catch in his cone (without hitting an ally) Will save DC: 17
  • Round 2: Sanjin will use his action to transform his rod into the snake form.
  • Round 3: Sanjin will cast false life on himself. Nagini (the python) will try to get to an enemy and grapple it; Grapple: 30 (rolled 7 +23 mod)

Thev
Initiative: 7 (do I need to add a mod for this?)

When the Whitecloaks first try to cast spells on the party, Khaska will cast Silence on their skyship. He will Summon Monster II and Summon Monster IV as soon as the skyship gets close enough; the more targets and sources of injury we can amass, the better. Other spells (including the lower-level ones that would affect groups of people generally) he'll cast as the battle demands. Let me know if you need any more info!

BlackWolf
Rynn will focus on taking out as many enemies as he can. Ideally, he'd look for opportunities to hit them as they come off their ship so they stagger in their landings or are even knocked back into their own ship or into the water.

Initiative: 24 (rolled 20 + 4 DEX)

Round 1:

  • longbow 33 crit! (rolled natural 20 + 13 bonuses), damage: 18 (max damage 8 + rolled 5 + rolled 3 + 2 STR; longbow is a crit x3 weapon)
  • longbow 12 (rolled 4 + 8 bonuses), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)

Round 2:

  • longbow 33 crit! (rolled natural 20 + 13 bonuses), damage: 23 (max damage 8 + rolled 6 + rolled 7 + 2 STR)
  • longbow 27 (rolled 19 + 8 bonuses), damage: 4 (rolled 2 + 2 STR)

Round 3:

  • longbow 15 (rolled 2 + 13 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 STR)
  • longbow 16 (rolled 8 + 8 bonuses), damage: 10 (rolled 8 + 2 STR)

Wow, two good crits! Not a bad way to start things off.

The air filled with the sounds of chanting, from both ships, and a number of spells exploded around everybody simultaneously. A pillar of fire erupted at Lady Maramos’ feet as she completed her spell, casting Bear’s Endurance on everybody. Everybody on the Ruvalk felt invigorated by the vampire sorceresses’ spell. At nearly the same time, they all felt a sharp pain as a spell from one of the clerics on the other ship lanced into all of them, causing them all to feel weakened and hurt. Khaska spit blood from his mouth and finished his spell, casting Silence on the human in the middle. It appeared to fail, however, as the man finished his spell and suddenly grew to twice his size!

Bronzebeard just laughed as his huge longbow twanged twice, the arrows landing in the now larger than life cleric. Rynn’s arrows hit another of the humans, finding their mark twice and clearly weakening the man, who cried out in pain. Lady Maramos completed another spell and everybody also felt stronger and more invigorated as well. She had given them Bull's Strength.

As the two ships passed, the skyship grated against the side of the Ruvalk, but all three of the human clerics from the other ship jumped, and with the larger cleric’s assistance, all three of them made it to the deck as the skyship peeled away.

Now the clerics had made their choice. There was to be no retreat, obviously. They were here to conquer or die.

Lady Maramos finished another spell and the two normal-sized humans suddenly seized up, unable to move.

“Focus on the big one,” she yelled out.

Bronzebeard dropped his bow and grabbed his greataxe, whispering a command word. It immediately began arcing lightning up and down the shaft, electricity playing across the axe head. “With pleasure!” he said, charging at the man.

Suddenly the arms of two squids wrapped themselves around the two frozen humans, trying to drag them into the water. Khaska had been successful in summoning monsters to serve him, as Sanjin sent Nagini into battle to grapple with the now large cleric. While fending off the snake, the cleric reached over and cast a prayer on one of his friends, who was released from Lady Maramos’ holding spell. That man shook off the squid’s tentacles as Bronzebeard began smashing his axe into the big man, serious and taciturn in combat.

Maramos and the freed normal-sized cleric glared at each other from across the deck.

“Die, vampire fiend!” he cried, casting a prayer her way.

“After you, Manson! You’re a blight on my kind. I’ll be happy to send you to meet the gods!” She at the same time launched a spell towards them, a duel between a holy cleric and a dark vampire sorceress. Both spells appeared to fail. But their duel was just beginning.

Bronzebeard hit the bigger cleric twice, and Nagini managed to wrap herself around the cleric’s legs and one arm. He was pinned.

Khaska let a prayer towards Bronzebeard, who was still merrily chopping away at the large human, and Sanjin cast a spell on himself that immediately perked himself up.

Just then a hawk flew down into the deck, morphing into a huge bear that lashed out at Khaska, catching the cleric with a glancing blow and drawing blood.

Eryx (DM)
Here is the hitpoint situation:

Rynn—23.
Khaska—11.
Sanjin—11. (I rolled for your casting of False Life.)

Lady Maramos cast both Bear’s Endurance and Bull’s Strength on all of you. I’ve given you the two extra hitpoints, and from now on take the extra strength (+4) into account in your rolls as needed. BlackWolf, I can't alter your google doc, so you'll have to do it all yourself.

There are 4 people who have boarded the ship. One is currently trapped in a Hold Person spell, one has made himself larger than life and is currently getting wailed on by Bronzebeard while also pinned by Nagini, and the third is Manson himself, and he appears to be in a bit of a wizard’s duel with Lady Maramos. The fourth is the druid, and he is a Brown Bear and currently attacking Khaska.

I took the liberty of having Khaska use one of his Level 4 spells to heal Sanjin, who was at 1 hitpoint after that first round of spells from the other side.

If I could get a Knowledge (Nature) check from Rynn and Khaska, please.

What do you all want to do? Give me 3 more rounds of actions.

BlackWolf

Rynn will just continue firing arrows, focusing on the big one as ordered, unless he sees someone else that could possibly be finished off.

Round 1:

  • longbow 31 (rolled 18 + 13 bonuses), damage: 5 (rolled 1 + 4 STR)
  • longbow 10 (rolled 2 + 8 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 5 + 4 STR)

Round 2:

  • longbow 27 (rolled 14 + 13 bonuses), damage: 6 (rolled 2 + 4 STR)
  • longbow 18 (rolled 10 + 8 bonuses), damage: 11 (rolled 7 + 4 STR)

Round 3:

  • longbow 20 (rolled 7 + 13 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 5 + 4 STR)
  • longbow 27 (rolled 19 + 8 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 5 + 4 STR)

I figure that Rynn will be standing away from the enemy as best he can so he can shoot, but there's only so much room on the ship. If he hits an enemy within 30 feet, please add +1 damage for his Point Blank Shot.

If battle comes too close to him, Rynn would switch to his longsword. (Basically the same results as above, though it's magic if that matters, and that last 19 would be a crit with a sword.)

DeltaWolf
Round 1

  • Cast acid arrow To Hit: 10; Damage: 7 lasts for three turns (Damage: 8 & 6).
  • Nagini uses Constrict Damage: 18

Round 2

  • Cast acid arrow To Hit: 9; Damage: 3 lasts for three turns (Damage: 5 & 3).
  • Nagini uses ConstrictDamage: 12

Round 3

  • Cast Ray of Frost To Hit: 20; Damage 1
  • Nagini uses Constrict Damage: 15

Thev
Since he's suddenly found himself in Melee, Khaska will draw his scimitar to engage the druid-bear. (Unless Eryx or anyone else has a better idea!)

  • To hit: 18 + 8 = 26 (Crit!)
  • Damage: (6 + 2) x 2 = 16
  • To hit: 14 + 8 = 22
  • Damage: 3 + 2 = 5
  • To hit: 20 + 8 = 28 (Crit!)
  • Damage: (4 + 2) x 2 = 12

I hope I got the calculations right!

And the other check:

  • Knowledge (Nature): 7 + 4 = 11

The cleric immediately drew his scimitar and began slashing at the creature, carving a gash into the creature’s side. Rynn watched this new battle unfold as he continued unleashing arrows at the larger-than-life cleric, and the ranger noticed something. The bear attacked once, drawing blood, but did not continue fighting as hard as it could. It would make the most sense, indeed, for the bear to grapple with Khaska. But the bear swiped at the cleric half-heartedly, as if wanting to pretend to be fighting, but not really with its heart in it.

Lady Maramos unleashed a lightning-bolt that jumped from Manson to his companions, the sound of thunder echoing across the lake even as the clerics healed each other. Rynn had been worried about that. Traditionally it made tactical sense to attack the healers in an enemy group. But what did one do when all of the enemy group were healers?

Apparently continue to whack away at them, if you were Bronzebeard, who landed another blow, shoot arrows at them, if you were his crew, and cast more spells at them, if you were Sanjin and Lady Maramos.

The vampire sorceress next blasted the three clerics with a spell that detonated, leaving ice everywhere on them and on the ship. Rynn even noticed that the lake behind them froze from the effects of the spell. Nagini, unfortunately, was also caught in the blast, and turned into a staff—having taken too much damage to continue to function. However, the large cleric fell to the deck with a large clank, the ship literally shaking with the impact of the overly large man.

Lady Maramos grinned and stepped forward, an arctic blast erupting from her fingers and coating the remaining clerics once again in ice. But Manson called out a prayer and, as Rynn fired more shots off, he felt the effects of the spell hit him, and darkness overtook his vision as he passed out from the magical damage the cleric inflicted on him.

Sanjin managed to overcome some of the effects of the spell, a Mass Inflict Wounds spell of some variety. He watched as literally everybody except for him and Bronzebeard hit the deck, including Ranna! The bear took one look around and charged right at him, hitting him in the head with his paw, knocking him unconscious.


Orensland clambered up the rope slowly, trying not to make too much sound. He got his hands on the lip and pulled himself up and over, steadying himself as the ship hit the water pretty hard, sending him sprawling on the deck. He got up quickly.

He appeared to be undiscovered.

Quietly as he could he moved back to where the grappling hook was still attached, and grabbed it, stuffing it in his Haversack, where it disappeared as he blended into the shadows. There was a little awkwardness as he pulled the length of rope up and in, but nobody was paying attention, and he tried to position himself directly behind the gnome steering the ship to avoid line-of-sight issues anyway.

Nobody was talking. The humans and centaur used buckets of water to put out a few lingering fires, but the ship appeared to be mostly intact, and still flyable. The gnome pulled them out of the water slowly, angling the skyship crystals with a complicated set of levers and pulleys to bring the ship back out of the water and eventually, above the fog level as he circled around.

The centaur leapt forward, turning into a hawk and circling down into the fog. He came back a moment later, and the gnome followed his lead, dropping the ship into the fog.

One human, a tall man with graying hair by his temples, muttered some words and waved his hand horizontally, dismissively.

“Lord Manson, my place is by your side!” one of the other humans, a young man, said to the tall one. “Let me fight with you?”

“No, Harrison. Do as you’re told. We don’t have much time.” The other human began saying prayers, holding a symbol hanging from his chest, and touching each of the others in turn. Everybody, actually, was casting spells on themselves and on others. They were preparing for war, and all the spell casting took a while as the ship descended further, skimming the surface of the lake and still following the druid. The young man completed his spells on the others, then stepped back.

“Come and get us when we’ve killed them all and secured the vampire.” Cedric said to the young man.

Harrison nodded, then moved to stand by the tied up and gagged gnome, drawing his sword.

The Ruvalk emerged from the fog, and the gnome twisted the wheel ever so slightly, angling their ship so that it would pass right by the other ship. Orensland even wondered if it might scrape the Ruvalk, the gnome was flying so close.

Actually, it did scrape the Ruvalk. The three clerics jumped through spells and arrows to land on the other ship. Orensland watched behind him until the Ruvalk disappeared in the fog. The gnome took the ship up slowly, and Harrison was peering over the side, watching as spell effects lit the fog from below.

Now was the time to make his move. Orensland crept forward, making sure to stay hidden in the shadows from the rigging and sails, and, when he was directly behind Harrison, he struck!

His sword grated on Harrison’s armor and the young man gave a yelp and turned quickly, moving into a defensive position.

“Darn,” the rogue said.

“Die, vampire fiend!” Harrison cried out. The young cleric lunged forward, but Orensland managed to parry his blow.

The cleric was dedicated, devout, and sincere, not doubting for a moment the cause of his righteousness and calling upon his God for protection.

But Orensland was much more experienced. Harrison never even landed a blow on him before Orensland killed him. The young cleric had barely collapsed into a heap on the deck, when Orensland delivered a killing blow. Harrison’s head bounced away after a swift slice of the shadowdancer’s sword cleaved through his neck.

He quickly sheathed his sword and drew a dagger, moving over to the tied up gnome female. She panicked, trying to inchworm away, but Orensland slashed her bounds quickly and then backed away.

The gnome chained to the steering wheel was just staring at him.

“Don’t worry. I didn’t hurt her. I’m on your side.” The shadowdancer said. “Is there a key to your chains?”

“In Manson’s pack. The green one.”

Orensland slid the pack over to the gnome, who began looking through it cautiously, half-keeping an eye on this newcomer.

“I’m a friend,” Orensland said. “I’m the enemy of these men that have treated you so poorly. My name is Orensland.”

“But you’re a vampire,” the woman said.

Orensland burst out laughing. “No, no, no, that’s not me. I just happen to be very good at hiding. See look, I’m in the sunlight. I’d be scorched by now if I were a vampire.”

“But you work for a vampire, right?” she asked.

“I’m traveling in the same company with her, but I’m not on her side.”

“So you don’t work for her,” the pilot said. “You were just traveling on the ship?” He had found the key and was now working to free himself.

“Well, I’m honor bound to not go into the details. For a higher cause, I am helping to transport this vampire to a specific location. Believe me when I say I would rather not be in this job.” Orensland was looking into the fog, where spells still played out, lighting the mist up.

“So what do you intend to do with us?” the female asked. She had approached the pilot, steering well clear of Orensland, and the two embraced.

“I intend you no harm, but would like to ask your help.”

“What do you want us to do? Because I’m inclined to turn around and get the hell out of here!” the pilot said.

“You’ve crippled our ship. There are many good men there who will die if you leave them stranded. Can the druid reach us? Can he see us if we were within telescope sight?”

“The druid can fly fast enough to catch us, but he’s not on their side. Manson captured his family and is holding them hostage.”

Orensland thought about that. It was troubling. Innocent lives were at risk. “Are any gnomes being threatened off-ship? Are they threatening anyone else for you? How were they to contact the ship?”

“Just the druid’s family. They captured the two of us and forced us to fly for them. We were to wait until they had captured the vampire, and then approach to bring her on board.”

“Is this ship his?”

“No, this is our ship. He captured us with it.” Manson seemed to be a world-class jerk. Weren’t clerics like him supposed to be good? Orensland thought back to the fallen cleric Kyrnyn … it seemed Manson was getting dangerously close to that point.

“Look. I just saved your lives, and I’m not asking you to put yourselves in harm’s way.”

“What do you suggest then?” The pilot said. “We’re not approaching that ship unless Manson and his buddies are all dead.”

“Stay far enough away that only the druid could reach us. That way no harm will come to you, but we can still save my friends if they defeat Manson.”

The pilot looked at his wife. She nodded.

“He did rescue us. We can wait to see what happens.”

The husband looked at Orensland. “I can do that much for you. But if Manson wins, we’re sailing off and never looking back.”

“Fair enough. Thank you, my good man. Can you get closer to the lake’s surface?”

“You want to swim over?”

“I can walk on water at the moment.” Orensland looked at the gnomes. “Can I trust you to not leave us? Even though you are out of harm’s way.”

“We will wait. But we will wait far, far away.”

“Agreed. Thank you both very much. Now take us down. You are noble folks.” The pilot adjusted some levers and took the ship down. There were still flashed of light below, enough that Orensland knew where to go. “Thank you for your kindness. Hope to see you soon.”

Orensland jumped overboard, falling a few feet to the lake and stopping on its surface. That was weird, and the surface was a bit choppy. He hoped that he could still help; Manson seemed a genuine psychopath. He took off at a dead run, doing his best to blend into the shadows as he did, hoping he wouldn’t be too late.


He was too late.

Two of the clerics remained on their feet, as did Captain Bronzebeard. The rest of the ship was silent, except for Lady Maramos, who was fumbling about as if blinded. There was also a—bear? Probably the druid.

“As a show of good faith, I will stabilize your men, but only stabilize,” Manson was saying. He and the remaining cleric were moving in parabolas around Lady Maramos, but also avoiding Bronzebeard, seemingly as wary of him as they were of her.

“I accept,” said Bronzebeard. “The vampire is yours. Her feeder is below decks.”

“She is all I came for,” Manson said, and then he began to move towards Lady Maramos, pulling out a wooden stake as he did so. The other cleric began to move towards the bodies that littered the deck.

“You will not take her!” Sebastien came running up from below decks, dagger in hand. Bronzebeard smacked him once with the flat side of his axe and the young man went sprawling, unconscious.

Nobody had yet seen Orensland, but he saw Bronzebeard look in his direction, directly at him. There was no way the dwarf could have known where he was, and yet he was staring right at the shadowdancer.

Eryx (DM)
Here is the hitpoint situation.

Rynn. -8 hitpoints. Bleeding out. I forgot to account for Ranna in the combat. She too is unconscious and bleeding out. She has -5 hitpoints.

Khaska. -6 hitpoints. Stable. (You made one of your d% rolls.)

Sanjin. -3 hitpoints. Stable. (The bear did non-lethal damage to you.)

Orensland. Full health. (Poor Harrison.)

Even though Orensland is the only one who can currently hear and interact with Bronzebeard, Manson, and Manson’s ally, the rest of you can give input.

Lady Maramos is bumping about the deck. She appears to have been deafened and blinded. This happened immediately after everybody was knocked below 0 hitpoints.

Orensland just caught the tail end of the conversation, but it appears that Bronzebeard has convinced Manson and his remaining ally to merely depart with Lady Maramos, whom they can now easily capture. Manson is unaware that you have captured his ship. However, you will discover that he prepared Word of Recall in case the combat went sideways, and can therefore transport himself, his remaining ally, Lady Maramos (with her bag of graveyard dirt, but not her coffin), and the druid away. Bronzebeard will tell you that Manson’s word in this matter is good and that he will depart in peace.

What would you all like to do? What will Orensland say? (You are still on the water, and Bronzebeard appears to be aware that you have arrived.)

Perhaps, Crosis, we could do a dialogue over chat once major decisions have been made about what the party wants to do at this point.

Crosis
Sorry about that. A couple of questions first.

First of all, I thought they needed Lady Maramos alive. Why is Manson pulling out a wooden stake? Should Orensland be panicking?

Secondly, does Word of Recall mean they can teleport to the ship? Or to the mainland?

Orensland would walk over to and communicate with Bronzebeard. Obviously hiding in plain sight, and it appears Bronzebeard can see him anyways. Orensland would inform him quickly that the gnomes on the ship are free and waiting at a distance, with the guard they left behind dead on the deck. If they are teleporting back to the ship, this will be a problem. But we need to know first.

I'll write more soon, I need to run right now.

Eryx (DM)
I came to post an update with a few suggestions and thoughts to maybe get the ball rolling since nobody seems inclined to post, and then discovered that Crosis had posted just a bit ago. I'll answer his quesitons first, and then proceed with my thoughts.

I don't really agree with how the rules treat this, but per the 3.5 rules, "Driving a wooden stake through a vampire’s heart instantly slays the monster. However, it returns to life if the stake is removed, unless the body is destroyed." I wouldn't have used the term "slay" there if they can return to life. Basically, Manson is planning on incapacitating her, not killing her. I am following the rules in this instance.

You don't know where Manson's Word of Recall will take him. That might be a good question to ask him (or have Bronzebeard ask him).

Now to my thoughts:

I feel obligated to point out that Bronzebeard can hear from ridiculously far away.

I see that you basically have 2 options.
1. Let him take Lady Maramos. Then you can:

a) Leave her to her fate. It's not like you all are her friend anyway. Kaylee and her mercenaries get blamed, maybe?

b) Track her down and rescue her. (Do the gnomes know where his home base is? If they don't, could you find out by other means?)

2. Fight. Do you think that you can take the two of them, with Bronzebeard's help, Crosis? Nobody else on the ship is currently in a position to help, and Rynn will likely die in 2 rounds if he isn't stabilized by someone.

3. Something I haven't thought of.

Thev
The most reasonable thing would be to just let Manson go with Maramos, as everyone except Bronzebeard is knocked out and no one knows about Orensland. But we should make certain that we're not condemning the gnomes and the druid to servitude. Can Orensland ask Bronzebeard to ask Manson where his Recall spell will take him? Is there any way that Bronzebeard could prevent Manson from taking the druid with him when he activates the Recall spell?

Crosis
Alrighty. Some ideas.

First things first, I would like to point out what my character is probably thinking. Orensland enjoys stealing from wealthy, arrogant folk that belittle the lower classes. While unsure of Manson's financial status, all this blackmail, kidnapping, and stealing from innocent folk definitely fits the mold of people Orensland goes out of his way to make miserable. So while he would not get into a suicide fight with two clerics, Orensland would be leaning towards tactics that would make Manson… less than happy.

Onward. With Bronzebeard, Orensland would whisper as quietly as possible "can you hear me?" If he gets confirmation, he would proceed to relay information via whispering. If not, he would try to board the ship and move to Bronzebeard to talk.

Orensland would concisely relay what happened - he had killed the guard they left behind, the gnomes were free and waiting to see who won the battle. He would likely also make clear that the druid is being blackmailed into helping the clerics, if Bronzebeard had not already deduced that.

Knowing that Bronzebeard cannot reply without giving away Orensland's location, these questions are one-sided yes or no questions he can relay via discrete nods or shakes, or other small gestures.

Does Manson have any way aside from the flying ship to get back to the mainland?
(If Bronzebeard doesn't know, he can technically ask Manson. This can also solve our Recall location problem. Besides, how is Bronzebeard planning on getting back to land without the flying ship? The ship is crippled. His men will die without some form of transportation.)

I know she is evil, but she is our way into the Cult. If it comes to fighting, would you be willing to fight to protect her? (If that be the case, I could sneak aboard and pull the stake out of her heart. Presuming the blinding/deafening spell has worn off, at least. Do you know how long the spell has left?)

…some things depend on what happens. For example, if Manson discovers that the ship has been commandeered, would he throw a fit and try to kill the barely stabilized crew? He seems the type. At which point, Bronzebeard would be inclined to pulliing out his axe, and Orensland would move into a position to de-stake Lady Maramos.

If Bronzebeard is unwilling to fight, Orensland has no hope in a three-on-one battle. He would wish Lady Maramos a not-so-fond farewell.

…but really, what is Bronzebeard planning in regards to getting back to land? If the peaceful route, he would probably inform the clerics of their stolen ship and advise they use the Recall spell. The druid can stay if he wants. The gnomes then help us get back to land.

If Manson, again, throws a fit or some such and refuses to allow for such negotiations… Orensland would move into position to take the stake out of Lady Maramos' heart.

And whatever happens, Orensland would hope that all action can wait until the men are stabilized. It's kind of pointless fighting for people who are bleeding out on their own.

DeltaWolf
I agree with Thev.

BlackWolf
After thinking about it for a while, I really don't have much input to give. In a way it's fitting, since Rynn is unconscious anyway. I agree with the sentiment that we don't want the gnomes to suffer more, and we'd like to turn the tables if possible. But it seems that our options are limited. We may have to cut our losses and try to come up with something later.

Obviously, I'd prefer it if Rynn did not die here, especially given that his contribution seemed somewhat pathetic, but sometimes that's the tragic turn of events. I wouldn't want him to be saved by deus ex machina, so I suppose I should at least try some saving rolls (d%): 80, 35

And thus it seems that without some quick help, Rynn will be dead. I'm actually okay with that as a player; the situation isn't ideal, but dems the breaks, right? I suppose resurrection of some kind could be possible, but our finances aren't great. I'd rather roll a new character than make a huge deal (or quest) just to raise Rynn.

Edit: derp, forgot to roll for Ranna stabilizing (d%): 30, 58, 54, 43, 28. Looks like her luck is like her master's and will die shortly.

Orensland remembered that Bronzebeard could hear from extraordinarily far away, so he muttered quietly. “Can you hear me?”

Barely perceptibly, Bronzebeard raised his head up and then down. He could.

“The skyship is ours,” Orensland said. “They are staying out of range until things are resolved here, however. If Manson wins, they’ll just fly away. I water walked here, thanks to Khaska. Also, the druid isn’t on their side. They are blackmailing him into helping them.”

“Stabilize the ranger first,” the captain was saying. “He is the most injured.” Bronzebeard moved to the side and propped his greataxe against the railing of the ship, within reach, but not in hand.

Manson’s friend moved over and reached down to touch Rynn.

“The wolf too.”

Manson was moving close to Lady Maramos, then at the last minute rushed her and stabbed her in the heart with the stake. She collapsed instantly.

“I thought he wanted to take her alive,” Orensland said.

“A wise decision, to incapacitate her. You should cover her up in case the fog lifts.” Bronzebeard was saying. Manson took his bloodstained and scorched cloak off and placed it over her. He never took his eyes off of Bronzebeard, who was pointing at the first mate. “Stabilize him next. What will you do now?”

“Summon our ship once the fog lifts. Then we will be on our way.” The other cleric was healing the first mate.

“Yes, I thought we might hit that particular snag,” Bronzebeard said. “The skyship is ours. One of her bodyguards snuck aboard it when you destroyed our mast. I happen to know that he succeeded. You won’t be getting back that way.” He reached down to grab his axe, but didn’t hoist it. “Are we going to have to finish the fight?”

Manson shook his head. “I have no desire to tempt my fate by fighting you more, whoever or whatever you are. I’ll be taking Lady Maramos with me using Word of Recall.”

“What does that mean?” Orensland asked.

“I assume that will teleport you back to your home base? Not the ship?”

Manson touched his face and began to mutter a prayer.

Bronzebeard hefted the axe ever so slightly, dangling the heavy weapon easily in one hand and pointing swiftly with his other. “No healing! You leave as you are now, or we ‘tempt fate’ together.”

Even Orensland was intimidated by the tone of voice the captain used. It surprised him. Manson dropped his hand, holding it away from himself. “Very well. Yes, my spell will return me to my base of operations, not to the ship.”

“I think I could get the drop on them,” Orensland said. “They don’t know I’m here. Do you think that would work? I could sneak and take the stake out of Lady Maramos too, so she would be on our side.”

Bronzebeard shrugged. “The fog is lifting,” he said. “Make sure she’s completely covered. I would hate for something to happen, though I know you would have a few seconds to cover her before she died. You’ve planned this so carefully, but as we all know, fate and chance are enemies on every battlefield. The outcome of my fights, I’ve discovered, is not necessarily in my hands.”

The captain was right. The fog was lifting, and Orensland had crept closer to the ship so as to be in its shadow, the shadows from the fog becoming too unreliable. Bronzebeard had turned to look at Orensland again when speaking last, and the shadowdancer got the message that Bronzebeard was trying to convey in secret—an attack might succeed, but it also might not succeed. And Lady Maramos was in danger from the sunlight as the fog was dissipating more and more. But he was willing to fight. The decision was Orensland’s to make.

“If they leave,” whispered Orensland, “how are we going to get off of the lake? We’re stuck! Also, would the druid fight if we decided to surprise them suddenly?”

“Once you’re gone,” Bronzebeard said, “I’ll have the skyship drag us to shore. Better than being left out here to die.” Orensland managed at this point to hop aboard the ship, making sure to stay near shadow. None of the others, aside from Bronzebeard, knew that he was there.

“I’m sure someone would find you eventually,” said the other cleric. “And it’s not like you would run out of water or fish.” He was stepping closer to Manson and the prone form of Lady Maramos, and snorted. “Maybe the ‘spirit of the lake’ the locals speak of so much will come save you.” Manson gestured to the druid and pointed at the prone form of the dead cleric, who was only now returning to normal size, the Righteous Might spell having worn off. “Come and pick up Skyler. We’ll be going.”

“How did you get a druid to join your cause anyway?” Bronzebeard asked. “I didn’t know whitecloaks had druids in their order.”

“Drikdare serves us for his own reasons,” Manson answered vaguely. The bear shambled over, but slowly.

“I would hope that those reasons aren’t coercion. You walk a fine line as a cleric, Manson. You might find yourself with few allies if you carry on in this way. I have many allies, some old, and some new. It’s the better path.”

Orensland noted the phrasing. Bronzebeard was trying to convey to the druid their desire to have him not be enslaved further to these fallen whitecloaks. He hoped the druid was getting the message. The shadowdancer was close to Lady Maramos. The sunlight was spotty and even when it was foggy (which came and went a bit with the wind) enough of it was peeking through that Orensland worried about Lady Maramos. There was still enough shade for him to blend into the shadows, however. As the light grew stronger, actually, there were plenty of shadows for him to tap into. He remained undetected. But what to do?

Eryx (DM)
Everybody is stabilized, but still unconscious. The cleric gave everybody who was bleeding out a single hitpoint. Everybody is where they were in the last post. (Rynn and Ranna lost a hitpoint, but then gained one as the cleric stabilized them.)

Manson and his buddies, and the druid, are about to leave.

I hope I’ve answered your questions as best you can. Basically.

1. Bronzebeard is willing to fight, but thinks it’s a gamble. You might succeed. You might not.

2. The Word of Recall spell does not take them back to the skyship. The gnomes will be free.

3. The druid is being ordered to go with them. The druid will not be free.

I’ve set this up so that the decision making is still in the hands of the group. Of all the ways the combat could have gone, I wasn’t expecting to have the NPCs be alone and finishing the fight. Bronzebeard has intimidated/coerced/diplomacied them to this point, and so now you have to decide. Let them take Maramos, or fight and “tempt fate” as Manson put it.

What do you all want to do? I can answer a few more questions here if I feel that information would be available and I didn’t do a good job of conveying it through the narrative.

Crosis
It sounds like we are in a bit of a pickle. We can't really fight without risking the lives of everyone on the ship, because if Manson uses another one of his nasty spells all of the "stable" people will die quickly. Plus lady Maramos would not be able to fight with us, as the sun is basically out now. But technically innocent lives are still at stake, as the druid and his family are still in trouble. Plus Manson is a jerk, and I wouldn't mind taking a few swings at him.

For starters, Orensland would Point out to the captain that Mansons spell will not be able to carry their dead friend back with them. He would then encourage the captain to use this information to convince a clerics to free the druid, as they basically need to choose between the two. Perhaps by hinting that the white cloaks would look down on him leaving his fellow cleric behind.

Ultimately, though, it seems that the consensus is letting Manson go. It almost feels immoral to say that, but the odds are stacked against us making it out alive, and my characters priorities lie in protecting his friends. Unless anyone feels strongly that we should fight, we would probably just let Manson go, with or without the druid. My character will probably be racked with guilt for some time over this, and likely try very hard at getting better so he doesn't feel so powerless again.

Eryx (DM)
Point of order, I was misreading the spell when talking to Crosis via texting a few days. Manson can take everybody back with him. Including the dead cleric. Per the spell description, "You can transport, in addition to yourself, any objects you carry, as long as their weight doesn’t exceed your maximum load. You may also bring one additional willing Medium or smaller creature (carrying gear or objects up to its maximum load) or its equivalent per three caster levels. A Large creature counts as two Medium creatures, a Huge creature counts as two Large creatures, and so forth. All creatures to be transported must be in contact with one another, and at least one of those creatures must be in contact with you."

Between Manson, his other cleric friend, and the centaur, they can carry all of them, per my calculations.

Crosis
Ah. Well, that being the case…

I've been rethinking it. Orensland has a lot of emotion on this one. He would be torn, but… he is a rather impulsive character at times. Manson is evil in all the ways that count, perhaps even worse than Lady Maramos, whom we intended to backstab farther down the road. We have a hypothetical golden dragon on our side, so that's handy.

Orensland would fight. Hopefully the druid joins our side as well, that should make things… even more interesting.

Orensland would whisper to Bronzebeard: "The druid's family will always be in danger if we don't end this now, as well as countless others with a monster like Manson running about. Can you get the attention of both clerics as soon as everyone is stabilized? I'm going to pull the stake out of the vampire. We should gang up on Manson, he likely prepared the Word of Recall spell. If he escapes, the druid's family may be in danger."

Presuming such a distraction worked, Orensland would pull the stake out, whisper "attack Manson first, shade is behind you, move quietly" then move (hiding in the shadows as he goes) to get in position to sneak attack. The attention of the clerics will be on Bronzebeard, they won't be looking to spot me. When they turn around for Lady Maramos, she will be way too distracting for them to be looking for me. Hopefully she can get to shade in time, she'd likely have stayed close to the contraption the crew had set up earlier. If Lady Maramos is successful in attacking Manson, Orensland would move to attack the other cleric instead. He's likely somewhat weaker, Manson won't be shooting spells in that direction, and the odds of accidentally getting hit by Lady Maramos would be higher if he's hanging around the head honcho. If she is unsuccessful, he would sneak attack Manson and hope the big guy with the electric axe would be a more important target to focus on.

Any objections? Technically party members can veto this decision if enough are strongly opposed. If it helps, the battle should go quickly. Eryx and I can do it over the phone one-on-one, as I'm the only player technically involved.

Thevarou (via email)
If Khaska were conscious, he'd worry that they'd have a way to kill everyone—except, perhaps, Bronzebeard. He'd lean toward caution and not fighting. After all, as the situation stands the party might have an "out" with the vampires in Darkcrest: they were all unconscious when Lady Maramos was captured, and could advise them on tracking her down again.

Eryx (DM)
If you decide to pull out the stake, Crosis, that will be your action in the "surprise round," and both Manson and his cleric friend seem pretty jumpy, though you are right they are focused on Bronzebeard. Manson is practically standing over Lady Maramos' body.

Crosis
Ok. I talked over the schematics of the boat with Eryx, and decided that an attempt to kill Manson and his cleric in one blow would be near suicidal. I also considered lifting the cloth briefly to kill Lady Maramos and strike some kind of metaphorical blow at Manson, but am aware that would just make the two angry enough to… say, try to kill everyone on board. They are not known for their restraint.

Here's what I propose. We let him take Lady Maramos, with his cleric friend, with the druid. Then I vote that we go try to save Lady Maramos, for three reasons. One, the druid's family may still be in danger. In the dialogue, it sounds like Manson is not keen on letting his druid friend go, at least for some time. Two, if we save Lady Maramos, we would earn her trust far beyond that of mere bodyguards. This can further our plans for the Cult greatly, far more than just showing up on their doorstep and hoping they let us know everything. And third, Manson is a jerk that will likely continue to harm innocents. Our party doesn't do well with people harming innocents and would probably enjoy taking him out.

…and, from a metagaming perspective, we may want to beef up our characters before continuing to explore the Deadlands. This would provide a good, exciting opportunity.

The gnomes may have an idea of where their base of operations is, and their packs (including the druid's) are on the skyship, which can provide clues as to where they may have gone.

So. You guys ready to go on an adventure, saving the damsel in distress? :)

Thev
Crosis speaks sense, I think!

DeltaWolf
I question calling her a "damsel in distress", but other then that… it sounds good.

Drikdare morphed from the bear form into his natural centaur form, and Orensland could clearly see the disappointment on the druid’s face. It almost made him want to draw his shortsword and lunge at the cleric standing near him, but then he hesitated. The shadowdancer almost heard, in his mind, Khaska’s wise and measured thoughts on the dangers of continuing the fight, coupled with Rynn’s tactical assessment of the situation. (Sanjin, with his morbid sense of humor, was indifferent in the shadowdancer’s mind.) The cleric and Manson looked pretty bloodied, but even catching them by surprise (they seemed pretty wary of Bronzebeard, watching him like hawks), and even if Drikdare joined their fight, even allowing just one of them to get a spell off might kill all the remaining members of the crew. Orensland looked at the still form of Lady Maramos under Manson’s cloak, and weighed the possibility of saving her against the possibility of his friends dying.

It was no contest, though he was sure that Bronzebeard could hear his teeth grinding as he looked at Manson. Kidnapping. Blackmail. Assault and killing of innocents to get what he wants (if you considered Bronzebeard’s crew innocents—they were, after all, defending a powerful vampire sorceress). Manson was everything that Orensland hated.

Manson’s cleric friend moved down below decks and came back a few moments later carrying the bag of Lady Maramos’ graveyard dirt. He then grabbed their fallen comrade and draped the dead body over the back of the centaur. Their group assembled, the druid picked up the comatose form of Lady Maramos in his arms, and the three of them touched each other as Manson said a prayer. The light around them seemed to bend and waver, distorting the three of them until there was a small puff of noise as they vanished.

Orensland immediately dropped his hiding in plain sight.

“That hiding in the shadows is a neat trick,” Bronzebeard said. “I wish I knew it.”

“For all the good it did me,” Orensland grated.

“You are a daring one, when the situation demands, Mister Orensland. Yet tempered with wisdom to hold action when faced with difficult choices. You made the right choices. You and your friends live to fight another day.” Orensland could tell that Bronzebeard was impressed with him. The thought of a Bronze dragon being impressed with him made him smile. Bronzebeard’s next words, though, immediately erased the smile from his face. “Unfortunately, it seems most of my crew does not.”

The five sailors of Bronzebeard’s crew were all on the upper deck at the front of the Ruvalk, and had all fallen where the spells of Manson and his cleric allies had slain them. Orensland didn’t know what to say, so, perhaps awkwardly, he didn’t say anything.

The fog was lifting now, almost entirely, and Orensland could easily find the gnome skyship in the distance, lazily floating in the air. Bronzebeard could see them using their spyglass to look at him, while using his spyglass. They drifted close, and then gently landed in the water. Bronzebeard and the gnome woman lashed the two ships together so they wouldn’t drift apart, and then the gnome man left the steering wheel of his ship, hopping across onto the deck of the other ship.

“I am Captain Ryx Bronzebeard, and this here is what remains of my ship, the Ruvalk. I’d appreciate it if you could help me scrub the deck to remove the foul stench of Manson and his cronies. I’d be willing to return the favor.” He looked across at their deck, stained with Harrison’s blood, the body where Orensland had left it, the head still towards the bow of the ship. “It seems we both need it.”

The gnome woman laughed. “I am Hellin Cloudlover, and this is my husband, Alpip. Our ship is the Rainbow Javelin.” She turned to Orensland. “You have my thanks for rescuing us.” Alpip came up to him and hugged the elf, that being a little awkward since Alpip’s face came up to Orensland’s belly. The gnome grabbed fiercely around the shadowdancer’s waist. “Yes, thank you sir. The thought of being enslaved to Manson for longer …” He turned away, wiping his eyes, and composing himself. Then he looked around the bloodstained deck. “What do you need help with. Where should we start?”

“First, let’s get our people up and awake,” said Bronzebeard. “I don’t suppose that you have a healing potion available?”

“I know that Harrison had a few!” Hellin said, and then hopped over to the other boat to bring back the various backpacks from Manson and his allies. Orensland’s face lit up. He hadn’t even considered the possibility that stranding them without their skyship meant that he would have a chance to plunder the things that they had left behind!

A potion of healing got Khaska back on his feet. The Maha’i bolted upright upon the potion being dribbled down his throat, and looked around in panic.

“Whoa, easy there,” Orensland said, holding the cleric’s head, “Manson is gone. There’s no danger to us.”

The cleric groaned, sitting up. “What happened?”

“I was able to free the skyship, but Manson and his friends got away with Lady Maramos.”

“Got away? How?” The cleric was moving to get on his feet, very weak from the damage he had taken in the fight.

“Manson had prepared a Word of Recall spell,” said Captain Bronzebeard. “It was able to teleport them away, despite the fact that they couldn’t get back on their skyship.”

“Ah,” said Khaska. “And I see we have made some new friends.”

The gnomes introduced themselves as Khaska healed himself up a bit to make him steadier on his feet, and then moved to get the remainder of the unconscious up—with the exception of Sebastien, at Bronzebeard’s suggestion, who would remain unconscious for probably several hours. In a few minutes everybody was awake and able to move, despite multiple internal injuries sustained from the magic spells from Manson and his allies. Bronzebeard demurred to be healed.

Bronzebeard and his first mate prepared the bodies for burial, cutting the sail of their ship and wrapping the bodies up and weighting them down. He asked Khaska to pray over the bodies of the fallen crewmembers, which the cleric was more than happy to oblige, though the thought of merely dumping the bodies over the side was a bit strange. Then again, as he pondered on the burial rites he was familiar with, he realized that the attention to the facing of the horns was … not a consideration for the other races. Bronzebeard was unphased by it, as were the gnomes, so Khaska figured it might be a sailor difference more than even a racial one.

After the bodies had been buried at sea, Orensland went through all of the backpacks, but Rynn and Khaska were more interested in speaking to the gnomes and what they knew about Manson and his operation.

It turns out, they knew quite a bit.

“Manson has taken over a fishing village, Rhun, on the east shore of the lake about twenty miles south of the Derring river,” Alpip told them. “The people aren’t very happy about it, but even ruling the town with an iron fist like Manson, there are advantages. Raids from pirates or from others from the land side simply are ineffective, as Manson has substantial followers with him. The three that raided your ship are his most powerful followers, but he does have more low-level recruits to his cause, all whitecloaks from his times with the Bringers. So he protects the town in exchange for their housing him. It is an occupation, though, so I’m sure the people would be happy to see him leave. They also don’t like the way he treated us and the druid’s family. Or the two of us. Basically, we were all coerced in one way or another to help Manson in his ‘righteous cause.’”

“I have been to Rhun in the past,” Bronzebeard said. “I can’t imagine they like being thrown into the middle of Whitecloak politics.”

“Do you know what his plan was if he were to successfully capture Lady Maramos?” asked Rynn.

“Just bits and pieces that I overheard. The plan was to head back to Garth Calad, probably sending a messenger ahead. Manson was excommunicated by the Bringers for overzealousness, and it was thought that bringing back such a prize …”

Bronzebeard held up a hand. “We know Manson’s background. He seeks readmittance to the Bringers of Light. I know the Bringers think it a personal affront to their order that vampires have taken up residence on the Death Side. Bringing Lady Maramos would be a worthy bargaining chip for them.”

“Now that he doesn’t have our skyship,” Alpip said, “they’ll have to walk, and since there’s really only one way across the Sacrous River, we know exactly where they will be. Or at least where they have to go.”

“Unless he steals or somehow hijacks another skyship,” said Sanjin. “Would that be possible?”

“Highly unlikely. It was dumb luck that he captured us. We have relatives in Rhun and were visiting, a nephew of mine and his wife and kids. That’s how they captured us. It’s one of the many reasons the town turned against him. There isn’t a skyship port on the death side, aside from maybe occasionally Hub and Darkcrest, but they certainly would not go to Darkcrest, and Hub is in the wrong direction anyway. My guess is that they’re packing up right now and headed for the South Hagarit Bridge. I’m sure the good people of Rhun are overjoyed.”

“And in a skyship, we’ll be faster than they are,” Sanjin said. “By a lot.”

“We will make sure that Bronzebeard and his ship are first dragged to shore,” Khaska said. “It would be very improper to leave them stranded here.”

“Thank you, Khaska,” the captain said. “The Ruvalk is very salvageable, but we need to make a new mast and install it. Dropping us off at Rhun would be adequate. They are still in the forested area of the shore, and there would be no trouble finding an appropriate tree to serve as a new mast.”

Orensland interjected. “And I don’t think the Cloudlovers are in this fight with Manson with us. They want to drop us off and be gone, am I right?”

The both nodded vigorously. “We are honor bound to help you and your friends, Orensland, because you rescued us, but we will not endanger ourselves or put ourselves in a position to be recaptured. Once we determine where you want to be dropped off at a safe distance from any danger, we will do so, and be on our way.”

“And there’s the matter of Mister Sebastien,” Bronzebeard said. “I knocked him out, but he will eventually wake up. I bet he’ll insist on going after Lady Maramos, or perhaps hightailing it to Darkcrest to get reinforcements on the skyship. And he’ll probably be mad at me.”

Orensland snorted. “Given that you managed to hold your own again Manson and his cleric friends and then intimidated them into not fighting with you anymore, I don’t think you need to be worried if he comes after you.”

“If you wanted to go to Darkcrest, we would drop you off away from the city,” said Alpip. “I have no desire to fly to into the city itself.”

“So,” said Captain Bronzebeard, “it is up to you. As long as my ship gets to shore, I am content, and as long as the gnomes aren’t in danger from Manson, it seems they are content.”

Eryx (DM)
Orensland went through the four backpacks of Manson and his followers and found the following items, as well as the armor and weapon from Harrison. Orensland did not go through Sebastien’s or Lady Maramos’ things, but there’s no reason he couldn’t at the moment. Let me know if you would want to.

1. Harrison’s plate armor (plate armor).
2. Harrison’s sword (+1 longsword).
3. Ring of Protection +1.
4. A Heward’s Handy Haversack. (And 3 regular packs, if you care.)
5. Rations for 36 days.
6. Gold and jewels totaling 748 gold.
7. 5 potions of Cure Light Wounds.
8. Cloak of Charisma +1. (From Harrison, and the cloak is white with silver trim, making it the stereotypical “white cloak” that the “whitecloaks” get their nickname from.)
9. Two sets of manacles.
10. And of course the coach, which was lashed to the deck, and four horses, which were under the deck during the fighting.

For the fight, you all earn 2160 XP, except for Orensland who earns only 900 XP.

Also, consider yourselves fully healed. By the time you get anywhere it will have been several days and you have healed up between Khaska’s spells and your natural rest.

What do you want to do? The Cloudlovers will drop you off basically anywhere you want on the Death Side as long as it doesn’t endanger them, after you drag the Ruvalk off to a location that Bronzebeard can get a new mast for his ship. Sebastien is still unconscious, so you can all freely discuss your options without tipping your hand that you’re not actually on his side.

BlackWolf
I promise I'm trying to get back into the rhythm of posting; pardon my many excuses and delays. But I think things went the right way. Discretion being the better part of valor and whatnot. We lost the battle, but really our position isn't much worse off given that we weren't really on Lady Maramos' side. The real loss is Bronzebeard's crew and ship.

Rynn will take his share of the gold and gems (divided 4 ways, right? 748 / 4 = 187 gp). He'll gladly take any magic items that others don't want so he can sell them off later. But maybe we should let Bronzebeard have some spoil to help defray his costs on this trip?

As far as our next steps go, Rynn definitely agrees with Orensland that Manson needs to pay for his crimes. His "ranger justice" is happy to let that be a swift death in the wild (as Rynn creeps ever closer toward the chaotic good alignment).

But we also originally came here to try to discover what was happening with the pilgrimages, vampires, and Cult Of Skyrnyn at Darkcrest. In some ways having Lady Maramos dead is best, but will we be able to investigate Darkcrest without her?

Some ideas of how we might proceed:

  • Visit Rhun and make sure that Manson's cronies are all wiped out and the village liberated.
  • Track Manson down and try to kill him (possible problem: they already beat us badly here on the boat, though we might be able to ambush).
    • If we kill Manson, we could either liberate or finish off Lady Maramos. The latter sounds better, but the former might help us get into Darkcrest.
  • Beat Manson to Garth Calad (yay skyship!) and try to make allies with the Whitecoats. They certainly should be amenable to helping us against the forces of Darkcrest — even if only in an "enemy of my enemy" sort of way.
    • We know that Manson was kicked out of their order, so maybe we could convince them to imprison or punish Manson?
    • They might know things about Darkcrest that would help us.
    • They could finish off Lady Maramos.
  • Use Sebastien in order to get into Darkcrest. Perhaps convince him that we need reinforcements to rescue her.
    • The big risk in going to Darkcrest is that we might not be well received having failed our bodyguard task.
  • Interrogate or charm Sebastien to learn more about what he knows.
    • Will be going through withdrawal?
    • Was he ever a willing participant in the evil schemes or has he been controlled / manipulated the whole time?
    • I think we had posted in a previous chapter some questions we had for Sebastien, but I don't think they ever got answered.
  • No matter where we go, the horses from Lady Maramos' carriage could prove useful.

Crosis
I am still in favor of rescuing Lady Maramos. From the standpoint of our overall mission, such an action could put us right into trusted circles, circles that would give us both the information we need and the leeway to rescue some pilgrims. Plus, if the druid is still being blackmailed, we could rescue him and his family.

As for how we do that, direct confrontation is not necessary. Lady Maramos comes back to life should the stake be removed from her heart. Will she be in heavy blood withdrawals, or does being incapacitated in such a way postpone the need to feed? Regardless, with the stake removed she can escape in bat form in the night while whoever pulls the stake out (probably Orensland) will make their exit.

That's what I'm thinking, at least. Or reinforcements to fight them. Or reinforcements to fight them AND distract them while someone pulls the stake out, bringing a very strong player back onto the board. Or one of the ideas outlined by BlackWolf.

Eryx (DM)
"Lady Maramos comes back to life should the stake be removed from her heart. Will she be in heavy blood withdrawals, or does being incapacitated in such a way postpone the need to feed? Regardless, with the stake removed she can escape in bat form in the night while whoever pulls the stake out (probably Orensland) will make their exit."

Excellent questions, Orensland. I think that Thevarou could roll a Knowledge (Religion) Check to find the answers, and that Rynn (who has "undead" as a favored enemy) can roll the same if he wants.

BlackWolf has done a fabulous job of outlining the various options you have available. You should probably all bone up on your Deadlands lore here on the wiki so you can better understand the various options.

Garth Calad
Sacrous River
South Hagarit Bridge
Hub
Darkcrest
Bringers of Light
Tribe of Enadul

And though it seems unlikely that you'd head to any of these places:
Prismatic Dunes
Zyrbryxion Marshes
Namordegan Highlands
Ghostmire
Putari Forest

DeltaWolf
Sanjin is in favor of interrogate or charm Sebastien to learn more about what he knows. -The information we receive may help us make a more informed decision on what to do next. Also the more information we have the better position we will be whether we try to save the Vampire or go directly to Darkcrest.

Sanjin doesn't like Whitecoats -he would not be in favor of working with them.

Eryx (DM)
BlackWolf is right that there were a few questions posed earlier to Sebastien in gray boxes that I did not answer well in the narrative as I promised. I've copied and pasted them here for your benefit. These are things that you could have asked him before now, or that you could ask him now when he wakes up. I don't know that there's going to be a need to charm him. He thinks you're on his side, and are getting information that might help track and hunt down Lady Maramos. If you do want to charm him further, how do you suggest your characters go about it? I don't think any of you can charm him aside from Diplomacy rolls (which are unneeded since he is already Helpful towards you according to the rules for Diplomacy checks).

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

A: Sebastien is indeed a Vampire worshipper. In Darkcrest, young people are hired by the great houses as assistants to the vampires. Success and diligence in serving the vampires is rewarded after one's term is completed, usually with money and other such rewards, perhaps a mansion of one's own, with servants (young and attractive, of course, with sexual favors expected from them) sometimes with vampire blood (a potent drug that can be very addicting), or, in extreme cases, with Ascension—becoming a vampire oneself and formally adopted into the vampire house. For people like Sebastien, Ascension is the end goal, equivalent of apotheosis for a vampire worshipper.

Q: 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?

A: Sebastien doesn't know much about the pilgrimages aside from the fact that they exist. He serves Lady Maramos, and tries to keep his head down. A good servant doesn't pry too deeply into his mistresses affairs, but he does know she makes sure that things on the Living Side are well-greased for the Cult of Skyrnyn, which was the reason for their trip to the living side.

Q: Will be going through withdrawal?

A: He isn't addicted to vampire blood. She drinks from him as a food source; it's not the other way around. In fact, he finds the question odd. Addicts are not used as servants, it is a reward for service rendered. Though some people can continue to function while addicted to vampire blood, some cannot. It is seen as too risky to reward a servant with vampire blood to drink while still in service.

Q: Was he ever a willing participant in the evil schemes or has he been controlled / manipulated the whole time?

A: He serves Lady Maramos in hopes of obtaining Ascension, though he has his doubts that he has served her well enough to earn that reward, given that she was just kidnapped by Manson. He's quite heartbroken about that at the moment.

Thev
Khaska would be in favor of questioning Sebastien further; the more information we have, the better.

All in all, it seems that we're now in the thick of people and organizations far beyond our strength. Manson did a number on us on the ship, so facing him directly—even if we can find him—seems inadvisable. Khaska thinks that the party would be better off trying to make some allies, even if they are temporary alliances; and given his personal proclivities, he would prefer going to the Whitecloaks than to Darkcrest. For one, if we can head off Manson and explain our objectives, we'd rescue ourselves from being branded as servants of a vampire and making other enemies. Further, it's possible that the Whitecloaks could provide support/intelligence that would be useful for infiltrating Darkcrest, and they could set a trap for Manson to get him out of the way. What would the Whitecloaks do with Lady Maramos? I'm not sure, but perhaps we could prime them to think of her in a way that'd be useful for our ends.

In fact, perhaps we could take Bronzebeard, the Ruvalk, and Sebastien in Rhun, telling Sebastien to keep his head low while we go off to avenge Lady Maramos's capture (or rescue her, if possible). Indeed, perhaps Bronzebeard himself could monitor/watch over Sebastien. Then we'd proceed to Garth Calad to head off Manson and, hopefully, return to Rhun to liberate the town, then proceeding to Darkcrest.

Here's the Knowledge (Religion) roll: 25 = 12 + 13

Eryx (DM)
What questions would you like to know the answers to, from Sebastien?

From Khaska's Knowledge (Religion) Check, which is higher than Rynn's can even be, so I no longer need a roll from you, BlackWolf, you know that stabbing a vampire in the heart basically freezes them in time. If the stake is removed, Lady Maramos will be at the same hitpoints she was, with the same spells she could cast, and will not be starving from not technically having eaten for many days (she having eaten from Sebastien the night before the attack). In short, she'll be right where she left off, with one exception. The spell that had been cast on her that blinded her will have long since worn off. (The magic energies of the spell are not maintained by her having gone into "stasis," for lack of a better term.)

Also, it seems we have one vote (Thev) for heading to Rhun to assess the situation there. Shall we head in that direction while asking Sebastien questions? It's a trip that will take several days, as you are in the middle of Clearwater Lake.

Crosis
We should definitely get to Rhun before making our ultimate decision. Although if we wanted to stir up trouble for Manson and his buddies, I had an idea. There are centaur tribes in the planes that they are crossing, right? Orensland would… take great pleasure in firing a crossbow into a tribe of centaurs (hidden, of course) while the clerics are camped by at night. Might just cause the distraction needed to try to release Lady Maramos.

…anyways. Just playing Orensland's thought process here.

As for questioning Sebastien, Orensland doesn't really care as long as we don't accidentally make him an enemy. He hopes such an inevitable event will occur much farther down the road.

BlackWolf
I agree that Rhun should be out next stop. It's close at hand and might be our last stop at any kind of civilization for a while.

But I do think we need to decide whether we are going to rescue Lady Maramos or not. If we are, then we need to bring Sebastien along wherever we go and we have to keep up the mercenary act (and he might even question what's up with us in Rhun). Eventually we'll need him so that he can go back to being vampire food. And besides, I don't really feel like we can lean on Bronzebeard any further to babysit Sebastien.

On the other hand, if we're not going to rescue the vampire, then perhaps we should terminate Sebastien. He's an enemy and a loose thread. If he's gone then our enemies lose the trail on what happened to Lady Maramos.

My big worry about rescuing Lady Maramos is whether we'll get in too deep. She's dangerous and I always had half a mind to betray her on the way when she could be killed easily. If we go to Darkcrest as "heroes" can we play things off as just mercenaries doing our job? Will we attract too much attention? What do we hope to accomplish there? Just investigate? Try to free slaves or something? And will things be worse because we helped a powerful vampire get back home?

Maramos is definitely our "in" if our goal is to get inside Darkcrest and learn more. Maybe her going missing is a better way to disrupt their organization? I'm not sure how we'd find another way in though.

Overall, I think I lean more toward not rescuing the vampire. We were going along, biding our time without a real plan. Now fate has given us an opportunity to be rid of her and maybe stop Manson as well. And who knows, maybe dealing with Manson could ingratiate ourselves with Darkcrest (provided that we don't also claim to be the failed bodyguards).

Eryx (DM)
I must say I'm enjoying the back-and-forth here in the gray box. For what it's worth, I'd like to encourage more of this. Sometimes your posts have been vague and there hasn't been much consensus, and I move forward interpreting it as best I can. I can tell that will not be the case this time.

So, the two questions I would like to ask for you all to weigh in on:

1. How do you want to approach Rhun? Scout it out first (maybe Rynn and Orensland after you park a ways away from the village proper)? Just sail on in?

2. Are we rescuing Lady Maramos, killing her, or abandoning her to her fate? Though we have time at Rhun before you that part of the story will move forward, BlackWolf brings up a good point … if abandoning her or killing her, it might be a good idea to kill Sebastien now, while he's unconscious. Then again, maybe you could all string him along for a bit to get more information out of him, and then kill him. So actually, I have three questions:

3. If killing or abandoning Lady Maramos … what are you going to do with Sebastien?

Thevarou (via email to Eryx)
One wrinkle that could come with letting Lady Maramos die (or helping her death along, for that matter) and then going to Darkcrest: Khaska. He basically sticks out like a sore thumb on the Death Side, and people at the Lifts would probably remember his passing through with Lady Maramos and company. An investigation extensive enough to question people at the Lifts would be expensive for those at Darkcrest, but we'd have to be pretty sure to have an alibi for Khaska, at least. (Maybe I recall hearing about some spell/item that would let him wear a disguise?)

That said, Rynn has good points about being conspicuous; they could be in a bad way if they came to be hailed as heroes in Darkcrest, and at least for the moment they could be passed off as incompetent or overpowered, not active agents of sabotage. If we could ensure that Lady Maramos does perish but that no one's around to witness it, that would be preferable.

Regarding Eryx's questions:

1. It would be good to scout out the town first. After all, we know it's under the thumb of Manson's followers, and it would be a good idea to gauge the atmosphere and the forces there.

2. Khaska now leans toward letting her die and trying to find some other way into Darkcrest—maybe we monitor/track Manson until he does the deed, and then dispose of him?

3. Khaska would advocate against killing Sebastien, but would defer to Rynn on that question.

Eryx (DM)
The spell you're looking for, Thev, is Disguise Self, and only Sanjin in your party can cast it, but he doesn't have it in his spellbook. Also, it only lasts 10 minutes per level, so 80 minutes at the moment. A Ring of Chameleon Power or Hat of Disguise have basically the same ability, with some extra perks in the case of the ring.

Crosis

So… between all the maybes and leanings, my words will be strong. Orensland would argue vehemently that we go save the vampire. To be more specific, here are my answers to the questions:

1. Agreed, scouting out the village first would be a good idea. We don't want to put the ships, or the Cloudlovers, at risk. Plus, Manson would love to get his hands on the skyship again, so he may wait/station men at the village to warn him if it comes back. Another Word of Recall spell would let them pop back and take it, or his men could be on orders to steal the ship and bring it to where they are in the plains. Regardless, scouting first would be a good option.

2. I vote we save the vampire, for several reasons. First of all, walking into Darkcrest with no real plan seems like a terrible plan. We could have done that before joining up with Lady Maramos, but felt at the time that she was our best shot. I don't see how hoping an unlikely but greater opportunity show up is better than the fantastic opportunity we currently have, the trust of an individual (evil though she may be) who plays a key role in the plot we are trying to uncover. Also, I don't see how Manson could help us/how we would ever get back at the madman any other way. Dealing with the white cloaks seems like a bad idea, so betting on a paranoid group of zealots to help us deal with an even more paranoid zealot seems like a stretch. It seems our options are hoping something randomly works out as we wander about, or saving Lady Maramos in a daring rescue attempt to bolster our trustworthiness and value in Darkcrest for when we arrive. Plus possibly taking down an evil madman in the process. I don't know about you guys, but the second option sounds way more fun as well as way more effective.

3. And, as that is my vote, Sebastien would be needed, so Orensland would be strongly opposed to killing him.

Thev
Khaska's concerned that either way we go, we'll be biting off more than we can chew (and he knows something about chewing, as an ruminant). That the party nearly entirely perished during the last battle he finds worrisome.

His personal inclinations would lead him to seek out the Whitecloaks; overzealous though they are, at least they operate on a level and for general ends that he understands. He also guesses that a little more zeal might be needed in the Deadlands, with a city run by vampires as a next-door neighbor.

He also worries about being associated with Lady Maramos and Darkcrest more openly or heroically; he doesn't want to draw attention, and as a Maha'i on the Death Side, he knows a little something about drawing attention.

But he also understands that the party has a mission it's taken on: finding out more about the pilgrimages and doing what they can to halt whatever nefarious purposes are behind them. This deed would save thousands and outweigh the personal disadvantages.

With that, he'll reluctantly agree to track down Lady Maramos and rescue her from Manson.

However, he does want to do what he can to make the party's objectives known to those who might otherwise be hostile. With the party's permission, he'd like to observe the leadership structure in Rhun and find to whom he should reveal his identity and purposes on the Death Side. Apart from the party, and definitely away from Sebastien (whom we should keep alive), he'll approach that person and ask to speak with him/her privately. He'd gladly submit to testifying under a Zone of Truth. He'd ask that a messenger be sent to Garth Calad to let them know what's going on and see about potentially establishing lasting contact to plot against the evils in Darkcrest.

How's that sound?

(Also: getting a Hat of Disguise is now his primary goal, item-wise. He'll take every opportunity to seek one out, and if the party arrives in Darkcrest before he's able to find one, he'll wait outside the walls as someone purchases one for him.)

BlackWolf
I agree with you Crosis when you say, "walking into Darkcrest with no real plan seems like a terrible plan." I'm just worried that we don't have much of a plan in any case. Certainly walking into Darkcrest as bodyguards of a vampire makes it easier to get thought the gates (so to speak), but that does not equate to a "plan".

Will rescuing Lady Maramos will draw undue attention to us? Maybe we could just say that rescuing her was part of our bodyguard duty and shrug off the extra attention. That would at least get us into Darkcrest so we can learn more about what they are doing (which was our original purpose).

So I guess I'm coming around to your plan to rescue her… Thev has a good point about biting off more than we can chew though. I wonder if we've been too reckless already.

Meanwhile, Eryx asked me for some rolls to help us approach Rhun:

  • Move Silently: 24 (rolled 15 + 9 bonus)
  • Hide: 26 (rolled 18 + 8 bonus)
  • Survival: 26 (rolled 13 + 13 bonus)

Crosis (via texting)

  • Hide Check: 40 (17+23)
  • Move Silently: 29 (6+23)

“Then may I suggest we head to Rhun,” said Rynn. “You can fix your ship there or nearby and we can evaluate the situation in the town to ascertain what our next steps might be.”

“Do we want to head right to Rhun?” Alpip asked.

Orensland piped up. “I can certainly sneak in and take a look around during the night if need be. Assess the situation before we head on in, or decide that we shouldn’t.”

“I’ll go too,” said Rynn.

“Your ranger and tracking skills would be valuable if Manson has left Rhun behind now that he has his prize,” said Khaska.

It was decided, then. The Cloudlovers and Captain Bronzebeard tied their two ships together, and they began to make their way to Rhun.

Eryx (DM)
That will end this chapter.

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