Codex VI-Chapter 5

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The trip took an entire week, the Ruvalk slowly being dragged across Clearwater Lake by the much smaller Rainbow Javelin. Sebastien woke up on the second day, and was beside himself, crying and lamenting their failure to protect Lady Maramos. The party was still mostly unclear on whether they actually wanted to rescue her, but obviously they didn’t say so around her assistant. Captain Bronzebeard finally plied the young man with some hard liquor and he managed to sleep after two days of despondency. Even after a good sleep, he was annoyingly persistent in asking what their next steps were, discontent with the answer “we have to see what’s going on in Rhun first” that everybody gave him, and generally beside himself with grief. Khaska found the pessimism annoying, until Sanjin pointed out that failure to protect a vampire not only could be personally heartbreaking, but also created the possibility that other vampires might seek revenge. Khaska had not considered that point, and was troubled by that possibility.

They snuck in at night and anchored the Ruvalk a few miles north of Rhun, hopefully far enough away that nobody would notice them until Rynn and Orensland finished their scouting of the village. The Alpips flew their ship to just above the treeline and tied themselves off. It would be difficult to see them through the dense foliage. Just before they left, Alpip handed Orensland a note.

“You can read it if you want,” he said. “My nephew and his wife are the only gnomes in town, so it shouldn’t be hard to find them. If you have a chance to talk with them, this will hopefully let them know you’re on the level.”

Orensland looked it over.

Wilmin and Xala,
We have been freed from Manson, as you probably already know. I can’t imagine he was happy about that. We are parked a few miles north of your town with those who freed us and are working on what we can do to help. The elf, Orensland, one of our new friends, will get this letter to you. If you can talk to him, do so. Give him what information you have about Manson and his forces. If not, that’s okay.
Love, Uncle Pippy and Aunt Hellin

Orensland nodded. “I can probably sneak it into his house. I’ll try and talk to him if I can get away with it.” With that, he and Rynn hopped onto the longboat, and Bronzebeard rowed them to the shore.

Rynn felt more at home moving through the brush than he had in a long time. This was a forest on the Death Side, and its vegetation was more sparse than the counterparts on the living side. He and Ranna moved quietly through the brush and soon the ranger could smell cooking fires and meat.

Rhun was a very small village, the log cabins all made from the evergreen trees that surrounded them. The lake provided a barrier on one side, and the forest another. It was a quiet-seeming idllic town that somewhat reminded the ranger of Silver Meadow, the small village his Juliet had come from. Orensland and Rynn arrived just before sunrise twilight, and were able to observe the village as it was winding down its day.

Unfortunately, it appeared that Manson’s followers had not abandoned it entirely. Rynn and Orensland watched from a distance for a little while (Orensland having borrowed Bronzebeard’s telescope). And after an hour or so, a few things were clear.

There was no sign of Manson or his surviving cleric friend, but there appeared to be about five or six remaining of Manson’s followers. Some of them were on guard duty, dressed in their armor. Drikdare was also still in town. Disturbingly, Skyler was present; at the moment he was not in armor. “I thought you all killed him!” Orensland said, dismayed, when he first saw him.

“Oh, he was dead all right, by Bronzebeard’s account.”

“Well, it clearly didn’t take, then!” The shadowdancer was staring through the telescope at Skyler.

“Manson is a powerful cleric. Perhaps he raised him from the dead.”

“They can do that?”

“Apparently. I would not doubt Bronzebeard’s word on the matter that Skyler was dead.”

“Well, perhaps we’ll just kill him again. Harder this time.”

Rynn snickered. “I think we killed him pretty seriously last time.” Then he got more serious. “Hopefully we can keep him dead this time.”

The sun was dipping behind Pressen, and night was falling. “Well,” said Orensland, “I’m going to take a closer look around town. I’ll meet you back here.” With that, he blended into the shadows and ghosted away.

Rynn couldn’t follow him more than a few feet before he lost him. The shadowdancer’s abilities were certainly handy for scouting.

“Well, girl,” said Rynn, reaching down to scratch Ranna’s head, “it appears that we are alone for a bit. Let’s go look around. I haven’t seen Manson yet, and I wonder if he left. Let’s go see if we can figure that out, shall we?”


Orensland snuck through the town, blended perfectly into the shadows. He and Rynn had watched for some time, but he wanted to make sure that there weren’t people that just hadn’t been outside yet.

Luckily, most of the houses didn’t have locks on their doors. The charms of living in a small village, he supposed. But after checking a few of the places he hadn’t seen people coming and going from he was pretty sure that he and Rynn had accurately surmised the situation. It appeared that the fallen whitecloaks they had seen in the village were leftovers. Manson had left, and it was unclear how many of his followers he had taken. Regardless, it seemed okay to sneak into the gnome house he saw. It was smaller-sized than the others, and he managed to peek in a window towards the back. Wilmin was finishing his dinner, and Orensland watched as Xala left to head to the back of the house. Now, how to approach them? Appearing out of thin air seemed a foolish approach. He would likely startle them and that would be that. A few screams, whitecloaks alerted to his presence. Yeah, that wouldn’t do.

The shadowdancer smiled. Best to have them read the note first, he supposed.


Wilmin was finishing his dinner when he thought he heard the front door open. He got up, grabbing a candle and moving towards the front of his house. The front room seemed colder than it should be. He checked the door, which was secure. Odd.

He turned to glance over the room. A small bookcase with a few volumes, Xala’s spinning wheel, and his rocking chair covered in furs. Nothing out of place. He sat down in the rocking chair, lighting his pipe and taking in a deep breath.

A rustling sound caught his ear and he looked down to see a piece of paper rolled up and tied with a string sitting on the stand nearby the bookcase. Odd. He picked it up, looked it over, then undid the string to unroll and read it. As he did so, his eyes widened.

“Xala!” he whispered harshly. His wife appeared, wiping her hands on her apron. “A note from Uncle Pippy!” She hurried over and read the letter. “But where is this Orensland?”

Just then there was a knock at the door, ever so faint. The two gnomes glanced at each other, and Wilmin reached to his belt and drew a dagger out. He moved to the front door and opened it.

Nothing.

“There’s nobody there!” Wilmin said, closing the door. “Very strange.” He turned … and there, behind his wife back in the hallway, finger on his lips to indicate being quiet, stood an elf stranger.

Wilmin glanced down at the letter.

“My dear, it appears we have a guest.”


Wilmin and Xala confirmed to Orensland his basic assessment of the situation in the town. Manson had left four days earlier with most of his followers, leaving behind a skeleton crew. Skyler was in charge. Drikdare’s family was still being held in a barn on one of the outlying farms. There were six total of Manson’s followers left behind. Three of them were on “duty” at any given moment, meaning they were to keep watch and keep their armor on. One of those on duty was to guard the centaur’s family.

Apparently, upon reappearing, Manson had the locals construct a coffin-shaped box and took all of their chains. When they left, they “borrowed” a large cart from one of the locals. It was unclear what was inside the cart, it being covered up.

Orensland said that he had a pretty good idea, but he didn’t want to share details at this point.

“My worry is that we won’t be able to free you,” he was saying. “We barely survived when Manson and his buddies attacked us on our ship. And it was just three of them!”

“Three? What happened to the fourth? A young man by the name of Harrison went with them as well,” said Xala.

“Oh, that’s right. I killed him. He had been left behind to guard your uncle and aunt, and I boarded their ship and managed to kill him.”

“Well, most of the folks left are acolytes like him,” said Wilmin. “I don’t know that any of us except maybe Jake could take them one on one. Skyler will be the problem. He is one of Manson’s most trusted advisors, and though he seemed rather sickly upon his return, he has since recovered.”

“That’s because my friends killed him. Manson must have raised him from the dead.”

“How can we free ourselves if they can raise each other from the dead?” Xala practically wailed (though quietly).

“If they’re all dead, there’s nobody left to raise them. I’ll go back to the others with this report. We’ll come up with a plan, and see what our next steps are. Is anybody in any immediate danger here?”

“Well, no,” said Wilmin. “The whitecloaks don’t really interfere that much, but they do actually provide some protection. There was a gnoll raid a few months back that was soundly repulsed by Manson and his allies. I suppose there are some advantages to them being here. Though I wish they had all gone and left us in peace.”

“Cedric seemed concerned that wherever they were going, I think Garth Calad, it might not work, so he still wanted our little village as a base of operations. He had to leave a few behind to keep it so, I guess,” Xala responded.

Orensland nodded. “He wants to get back into full fellowship with the mainstream Bringers of Light. So where do his remaining buddies sleep or hang out when not on duty?”

“Jake’s house,” Xala replied. “Right in the center of town. Something about how servants of the Gods should have the best accommodations.”

“Right,” Orensland rolled his eyes. “Self-righteous idiots.”

“Go talk to your friends,” said Wilmin. “We’ll spread the word as best we can to be prepared. You have the full support of everybody in town. I guarantee it.”

Orensland nodded. “Is there anybody out front that would see me open your door?”

“I can check,” said Xala. She took the candle to the front room and opened the door outside, letting in a blast of cold air. Even with the temperature tempering effect of the lake, it was still cold here in Rhun.

“I don’t see anybody.”

“Excellent,” said Orensland. “I’ll be in touch.” With that, he blended into the shadows again, visibly startling both of the gnomes.

“Feel free to sneak into our house anytime,” Wilmin whispered, now into thin air.

“Thank you,” came Orensland’s voice from the front room. It was unnerving. And a little cool. Such allies would hopefully be able to free them from the whitecloaks occupation.


Rynn was waiting back at their rendezvous place when Orensland reappeared. The shadowdancer gave his report, and asked what the ranger had discovered.

“Their story checks out. It appears a decent-sized group of people, including several carts, and number of horses, left a few days ago. Following their trail shouldn’t be too hard through the forest. It might get harder once we get out into the plains.”

“Shall we go report in with the others?”

“I see no reason to gather more information here. I think have enough to make our plans.”

Eryx (DM)
So, to sum up Orensland and Rynn’s findings.

1. There are six whitecloaks left in Rhun.
2. One of them is Skyler, whom you slew back on the Ruvalk. Apparently he was raised from the dead. Khaska would know all about that process. Skyler is one level lower than he was when you killed him.
3. Three of the whitecloaks are fully suited up at any time. That doesn’t mean the others don’t have their weapons with them or armor on, but only three are “on duty” at any given time.
4. Drikdare, the centaur druid, is in Rhun as well. His family is being held in a barn on one of the farms at the edge of town. There is always one whitecloak guarding them.
5. You don’t know the strength of the remaining fallen whitecloaks, but Wilmin is pretty sure that Skyler is the only heavy-hitter among the group. Manson appears to have taken his other powerful allies with him.
6. The village is in a holding pattern until Manson gets back. Given that he and his entourage are walking to Garth Calad … it will be many months before he gets back.

What do you want to do?

Thev
Khaska's heartened that so few Whitecloaks are left in Rhun and that the others will be absent for months. Returning to a previous post, Khaska's preference would be to recruit the Whitecloaks to the party's mission. Given that the party literally killed their provisional leader a short while ago, this might prove somewhat difficult, but Khaska would be willing to testify regarding the party's goals under a Zone of Truth. (With the party's approval, of course. An examination could turn down unusual and improper paths. Of course, if the examination goes poorly or Skyler becomes antagonistic, the rest of the party could be on hand to attack.) One benefit to this, besides potentially making allies and turning people from Manson's service, would be to maintain a sort of garrison in Rhun, leaving it protected.

Another option—if diplomacy/recruitment isn't the way we want to go—would be to ambush the guard watching Drikdare's family to get the WCs down two: one WC and one druid, as Drikdare could join our side in an attack on the others.

Blackwolf
Given that this group has been working with Manson, they are probably outcast Whitecloaks like him. I'm not sure they'd be the most useful allies, at least compared to the "real" Whitecloaks in Garth Calad. If we went with a diplomancy approach, I'd think that we should have an ambush or alternate plan ready, just in case.

But I'm more inclined to pick off Manson's people one by one. If only three are on duty, we might be able to do it quietly too — I'm sure that a sneak attack from Orensland wouldn't be pleasant for them, for example. If we pick a time when the other three are likely sleeping, then perhaps we can catch them unawares too. Rynn would have no compunction about taking these people out.

Crosis
I agree more with Blackwolf on the picking them off one by one. While diplomacy might be the more virtuous route, it is also the least likely to work out, as well making us lose the element of surprise. Orensland would love to sneak attack someone.

Picking them off one by one might not ultimately work as we would hope, as one of them could raise the alarm and bring the other 5 running. But it would still be a good effort, and would allow us to get a few good hits in.

For the sake of not raising alarms, I would vote that we cast silence on my sword or Bronzebeard's axe. That would also prevent clerics from casting certain spells, right? Plus, whoever we attack, it should be while they're asleep. I would vote we attack Skyler off-duty (no armor) first, taking the big honcho out of the picture. Especially with Bronzebeard's help. Would he be willing to help? What does our manpower look like overall?

As another idea to throw out there, if someone wanted to impersonate a white cloak, we do have Harrison's cloak. Perhaps seek to "enlist their help" and draw several of them into an ambush. That's risky, though. Unless someone has an idea to make that plan better, taking out Skyler would be my first choice.

Thev
If the consensus is to carry out an ambush, Khaska would agree that going for Skyler first would be the prudent course of action (or perhaps attack him while he's guarding Drikdare's family? get him out of the way and free Drikdare…). Casting Silence on a weapon is also a good idea, but not on Khaska's—we'll need his spells!

Khaska still would offer the chance to the other WCs to join the party if they wanted. Perhaps we could restrain them and explain our purpose, giving a choice to join us or go into exile.

Eryx (DM)
Bronzebeard is more than happy to assist you in taking these guys out, and recommends against any kind of deal or clemency. "These guys work for Manson, who was so overzealous that the zealots kicked him out. Anybody not on their side is a secret agent of devils or demons or some craziness. They won't want to talk, and besides, if you're identified as the bodyguards of a vampire … yeah, it's a noble thought, but get rid of it."

Thev
Khaska will take Bronzebeard's word for it! And will be glad for his help. Let's go after Skyler first.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin has invisibility sphere spell that should help in a sneak attack. Also he could use crushing Despair to weaken the most dangerous of the group.

The two of them stole back through the woods to the Ruvalk and Rainbow Javelin, where everybody was anxiously awaiting them.

They gave their report, and everybody seemed much relieved. Khaska was very optimistic, but had to temper his idea of recruiting the remaining followers (Orensland dubbed them “Mansonites” after a few minutes of discussion, distinguishing them from the mainstream Bringers of Light) to their cause. After all, Sebastien was still around.

The group decided that attacking at night would be the best solution. True night only lasted for about 4 hours on the death side, when the sun went behind Pressen. That would be the best time to strike. Orensland volunteered to sneak back into town to see what the situation was with the locals and talk with Wilmin and Xala. Rynn came with him, again, to see and watch the Mansonites for patterns they might have to their advantage, while Sanjin and Khaska stayed back and prepared their spells for combat.

Just as sunrise twilight began, there were enough shadows that Orensland managed to sneak into town and into the home of Xala and Wilmin. Wilmin wasn’t around, but Xala managed to fill the shadowdancer in on the details.

Most of the townspeople were scared and didn’t want to fight Manson’s minions, but they were no friends of these occupiers either. Mostly the townsfolk were content to let this play out. They wanted to be rid of the fallen whitecloaks, but were unwilling to fight against such powerful magic-users to do so.

“Whenever you plan to attack, they’ll just stay inside and hope for the best. Like I said last night, only Jake could stand up to these dolts, and probably only the acolytes. Skyler is another matter entirely,” was her final point.

“I understand,” said Orensland. “We plan to attack tonight, so make sure that everybody knows to stay inside their houses. They’ll be out of the way of the fighting then for sure, and have a good excuse to be so.”

She nodded. “I’ll pass the word along.”

Orensland snuck out again, managing to get out into the woods where, by now, the rest of the party had gathered, along with Bronzebeard. His first mate, Sebastien, and the gnomes had remained behind with the ships.

“Well,” said Sanjin, “what’s the plan?” He was gripping his Python staff tightly, itching for some action.

“It appears,” said Rynn, “from what I’ve observed and what the Wilmin told us yesterday, that Skyler sleeps in Jake’s house beginning at nightfall, which is when they change watch, and that one of the acolytes prays in the old house they’ve set up as a shrine before heading to sleep, again in Jake’s house. The third one not on duty may or may not go right to sleep. Sometimes he stays up to drink with the locals. Sometimes he joins in prayers. Sometimes he heads straight to bed.”

“I had a thought that I didn’t want to share with Sebastien around,” said Khaska. “Do you think we might be able to recruit these whitecloaks to our cause? We do serve good, as they do, after all, in a different way.”

“How do you suggest we persuade them?” Rynn asked.

Sanjin snickered. “We killed Skyler just a few days ago. I don’t think he’s going to be much for talking.”

“Certainly approaching them unarmed would give them pause, would it not?” Khaska murmured. “I would think to swear in a Zone of Truth, as was done in the Hammerdine courts, would help convince them I spoke the truth.”

“Khaska,” Bronzebeard said, “these guys work for Manson, who was so overzealous that the zealots kicked him out. Anybody not on their side is a secret agent of devils or demons or some craziness. They won't want to talk, and besides, if you're identified as the bodyguards of a vampire … yeah, it's a noble thought, but get rid of it.”

It was Bronzebeard’s comment that turned Khaska away from his thought. Dragon or not, Captain Bronzebeard was clearly well-traveled and informed, an experienced wanderer on the death side.

They discussed their options, spells, strategies, and tactics as sunrise twilight came to an end and night proper began. Skyler, a man of habit, apparently, disappeared into Jake’s house pretty much immediately. The remaining two off-duty whitecloaks went to the makeshift chapel to pray. There was, of course, one whitecloak guarding the druid’s family, and the other two paced around together with Drikdare, not following any real specific pattern. Sometimes they’d circle the village. Sometimes they would walk through it.

The villagers disappeared inside to their houses. Orensland hoped that Xala and Wilmin had been able to get the word out in the hours since he spoke to her.

But night had fallen. Soon it would be time to execute their plan.

Eryx (DM)
Turns out I had a lot of extra time today on account of CUA’s libraries being closed very early for spring break, so I could write this up pretty quickly.

So … what’s the plan?

Rhun is a Hamlet, by the rules, and only has about 150 people living in it. There are therefore about 30-40 houses in the village proper, and one tavern and a few abandoned buildings. There is one farm to the south, where the druid’s family is being held, long since fallow, and one just further south of that. The people here mostly subsist off of game and fishing.

To be clear, here are the locations for each of the enemies.

1. Acolyte 1 is guarding Drikdare’s family in a barn just on the outskirts of town, on the south side.

2. Acolytes 2 and 3, with Drikdare, are patrolling both inside the hamlet and around its edges. They seem to be moving as a group.

3. Acolytes 4 and 5 are both in an unused house near the east side of the hamlet, in a makeshift shrine used for prayers and the like. They are both still in their armor and are armed.

4. Skyler is in Jake’s house, which is right in the middle of town. You know that he has full plate armor, and therefore won’t be sleeping in it.

And for anybody sneaking into the hamlet, I’ll need Hide and Move Silent checks for you. Unless you are using spells to hide and move silently, because then you’ll automatically succeed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s the plan?

Game-mechanics wise, both Invisibility Sphere and Silence could theoretically encompass the entire party as well as Bronzebeard, if you all stick close together.

Crosis
So, from what I gather, we have a total of 5 members for this fight. It will be 6 on 5 overall, but we have a (hypothetical) Bronze Dragon on our side. This should be good.

Just throwing this out there, it seems we agreed generally that taking Skyler out first when he's unarmed and unarmored seemed the best option. However, we may not need to send everyone at once to do so. If Bronzebeard's in that fight, it seems reasonable to assume he'd wipe the floor with a pretty defenseless and powerless (silence, no spell casting) Skyler, making it so he doesn't require much backup.

Feel free to offer ideas or disagreements, but here's the order of priorities for hitting targets as I see it:

1. Skyler.
2. Acolyte 1, freeing the druid's family and making his aid a ready possibility. Perhaps the family could give us a token he would recognize, or be willing to come from a safe distance to prove they've been set free.
3. Acolytes 4 and 5, for reasons described in the 4th priority.
4. Acolytes 2 and 3. Being the last two standing, we can use the dead bodies of our previous targets to our advantage. We can prove that there is nobody to guard the druid's family, proving they are free and thereby turning him on our side, and we can demonstrate to the remaining two acolytes that surrender is their best option. Being zealots, they may not take that chance, but we may as well offer them the chance to live. It goes in line with Khaska's morality on the subject, at least. Plus we'd have a druid on our side to make up for whatever damage we accumulated in our previous battles.

I feel like we have 2 ways of going about this. Option 1: move together as one unit from target to target, overwhelming them with our numbers. Option 2: Divide and conquer. I'm leaning toward Option 1, but here's the full idea:

Option 1: We cast a the Invisibility Sphere and Silence spells on somebody's weapon. We sneak to each group and take them out in the order listed above (again, feel free to provide input on those ideas) with Khaska doing necessary healing in between, keeping everyone relatively fresh in the fight. We could even enlist Jake's help once we take Skyler out of the picture. Again.

If we go for Skyler, attacking him in a dark room might prove beneficial. I just gained darkvision, and Bronzebeard can probably see in the dark just fine (he has uncanny sight as well as hearing, apparently), so the two of us attacking when Skyler has no weapons, no armor, no verbal spellcasting AND no sight…

The main problem I see with this option is that the Silence spell would hinder our own spellcaster's ability to be in fights. But that would only be a problem for the Skyler fight, as range is a better possibility for the other fights.

Option 2: One group goes to take out Skyler, the second group goes to take out Acolyte 1. We could then regroup and take out the remaining pairs, perhaps meeting at Jake's house. If we were to do this, the spellcasters could go take out Acolyte 1 so the Silence spell doesn't effect them. Bronzebeard should definitely be in group 1, Synn and Khaska in group 2, and Orensland and Rynn split up between the two. Orensland may be better attacking Skyler for sword combat purposes, as range may be important in fighting Acolyte 1, but it's still pretty flexible.

The main problem I see with this option is that our chances of losing the element of surprise are way higher. Whoever attacks Acolyte 1 without some way to silence him would be at risk of being targeted by the other acolytes soon after, putting the druid's family at risk. Can we cast two spells of silence, or would that be limiting our spell possibilities?

So, generally speaking Option 1 sounds better, but I am willing to switch if Option 2 seems more feasible/effective to some of you.

Here are my rolls for whatever we do. If Orensland is in the silent invisible group, you may want to write something in there about how odd it is to not need to skulk about in the shadows. Walking out in the open with no effort at concealment would feel weird. My Hide and move silent checks are if I wind up somewhere else.

*Hide: 42 (18+24 mod)
*Move Silently: 33 (9+24 mod)

Longsword:
To hit: d20+10
Damage: d8+5

*To Hit: 19 (9+10)
*Damage: 7 (2+5) (PLUS 11 (4+1+1+5) IF SNEAK ATTACK - MAKING IT 18)

*To Hit: 26 (16+10)
*Damage: 8 (3+5)

*To Hit: 17 (7+10)
*Damage: 7 (2+5)

All in all, pretty pathetic on the damage side of things. Hopefully Bronzebeard does better. :)

DeltaWolf
Quick question, if a spell has no verbal component does silence stop that spell from being cast?

Eryx (DM)
Yes, you CAN cast spells that have no verbal component while you are under a Silence spell. Great question.

Crosis
I just talked to Eryx, and I realized we can pull a Coup de Grace on Skyler, making overwhelming him not as necessary as we would have thought. Since I now have darkvision and can sneak like a champ, I could probably just steal into his room and kill him in his sleep. With my first roll, he would need to make a Fortitude save of 36 or higher to not die.

Perhaps I could go in, wait for him to fall asleep, then kill him. If for some reason that doesn't work, I can sneak out and we can do something else.

It's a pity assassins have to be of evil alignment. It sounds kind of fun.

Thev
Khaska thinks that the more easily Skyler could be dispatched, the better; he thinks that Orensland getting him in his sleep would be best. Others of the party could be waiting nearby for Orensland's report—or to rush in if something goes wrong. Once Skyler is out, the party should target the acolytes in the shrine

Khaska, personally, would not want to kill anyone at prayer or at a shrine, so he'd be willing to be in a second group going after Acolyte 1. (He'd also encourage the other group to wait until the others have left the shrine, but of course they probably won't pay attention.) He's not exactly the sneakiest—and he's wearing plate!—so he'd like to cast Silence on the weapon of someone going with him. (Two castings of Silence shouldn't be a big deal; they're Level 2 spells, and he has 4 of those per day.) Unfortunately, that'd mean that he'd be limited to melee weapons, but he's pretty handy with a scimitar. These rolls will be for any scimitar usage he has in the fight, wherever he ends up:

  • To Hit: 17 = 9 + 8
  • Damage: 8 = 6 + 2
  • To Hit: 28 = 20 + 8
  • Damage: 8 = (2 + 2) x 2
  • To Hit: 10 = 2 + 8
  • Damage: 8 = 6 + 2

Well, ain't that a mixed bag.

DeltaWolf
So it seems that all of Sanjin spells require him to make sound. So other then use his python rod, he'd be be useless if silenced. So if both groups use the silence spell I don't know how he could best help. Although I suppose he could cast some spells beforehand.

Crosis
Orensland would be willing to go with Sanjin to attack acolyte 1 without a silence spell while the others attack the acolytes in the shrine? After Skyler, of course.

Thev
Could Sanjin (and Khaska, I suppose) merely stand outside the zone of silence and use spells at range?

Eryx (DM)
Of course. You could, for example, use the spells to sneak in, but then jump out of the affected range once combat begins.

You can also, if needed, dismiss spells, ending their effect early.

DeltaWolf
Perhaps we could use silence and have Sanjin use the invisibility sphere to begin with -while others attack. Then we could drop the silence spell if we feel we need spell back up.

Crosis
So, here's what I'm gathering from all this back-and-forth.

We cast silence and invisibility sphere on somebody's weapon. This is primarily for sneaking together as a group without drawing fire from all six clerics. During combat, we may cancel the spell(s) or just have spellcasters cast spells from a distance. Orensland runs in and kill Skyler outside of the sphere of silence/invisibility, although you guys are there for backup, as he'd be a dead man if Skyler wakes up without you guys around. Orensland come out and give the thumbs up that he's dead, or you run in to save the day if you hear commotion.

Is this the general consensus? If we all agree on this, Eryx can move the story up to that point.

As for following Skyler, presuming all goes smoothly, that's where it's still hazy. Do we stay together or split up?

I still vote we stay together, mostly because we don't know the strength of each acolyte/Khaska can heal us, and I vote we attack acolyte 1 first with spellcasters out of range of the silence and invisibility sphere spells.

Eryx (DM)
"Orensland come out and give the thumbs up that he's dead, or you run in to save the day if you hear commotion."

If they're in the area of a Silence spell, they won't hear a thing. :)

Thev
Staying together is primarily a function of how far apart the various clerics are. Could the party go from killing Skyler to getting Acolyte 1 without running into 2-5? I think it might be best to have some go for Skyler and some go for Acolyte 1, and then gang up on Acolytes 4-5, and then 2-3.

Eryx (DM)
You know, I had a thought. As much as I enjoy the back and forth in these gray boxes (because you come up with much more specific plans that are easier for me to interpret), it does take a while. What if we made a new sort of arrangement between your characters. Right now there isn't really a "leader" of the party per se, but it does seem to me that Rynn has taken that role on more than anybody else. I wonder if we could start a new informal system where everybody expresses their preferences, and then BlackWolf decides exactly what "assignments" are given out to the different characters.

For example, it seems you all want to have Orensland sneak in and kill Skyler independent of the group. But how, then, to split the group up to go after the remaining enemies? It's not a decision I, as DM, want to make for you. Perhaps Rynn could say, "Okay, Orensland and Khaska head for the barn to free the centaur family, while Sanjin, myself, and Bronzebeard head for those that are praying in the makeshift shrine. Then we'll meet up at the shrine and assault the final group together." Or something.

It seems that this would be very much in character with Rynn and your group dynamics, and would also have the benefit of shortening the back-and-forth in these gray boxes. Plus BlackWolf knows the D&D rules well enough that he would understand the plusses and minuses of picking course A instead of course B better than, perhaps, Thev. Also, if BlackWolf wants more detail about the area and the setup, he can just call me instead of going back and forth here in the gray box waiting for responses to specific detailed questions.

Thoughts?

BlackWolf
I don't know how I feel about your proposal, Eryx. In character, yes, I suppose that Rynn has the respect of the group and could possibly be considered a leader. But the gray boxes are where we discuss and work out our plans as players — really that's where we actually play the game. So I'd hesitate to change that much. I don't think I as a player need to also be the leader.

As far as the plan of attack, I agree with what's been posted so far. Kill Skyler first, then acolyte #1 to keep the druid's family safe. Then we've just got 4 acolytes left, and possibly some druid help. I think it makes sense to try to play things out to that point — we usually only give 3 rounds of actions anyway. Once that much is done then we can figure out how to take care of the rest.

Rynn will be using his bow, as usual, trying to take out the unsuspecting enemy from afar.

Round 1:

  • Longbow: 31 (rolled 18 + 13 bonuses), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)
  • Longbow: 22 (rolled 14 + 8 bonuses), damage: 10 (rolled 8 + 2 STR)

Round 2:

  • Longbow: 32 (rolled 19 + 13 bonuses), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)
  • Longbow: 19 (rolled 11 + 8 bonuses), damage: 3 (rolled 1 + 2 STR)

Round 3:

  • Longbow: 28 (rolled 15 + 13 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 STR)
  • Longbow: 18 (rolled 10 + 8 bonuses), damage: 8 (rolled 6 + 2 STR)

Thev
To weigh in on Eryx's proposal, I'd like to say that I enjoy the grey boxes when we're able to discuss options in shorter posts. It makes it feel a little like a game (especially for me, how just played his first in-person tabletop RPG this week and has the least knowledge of D&D of the group), and the questions we're debating feel somewhat less intimidating.

They had been discussing how best to approach the situation. Sanjin and Khaska both had spells that would certainly be of use to help them sneak in—specifically Invisibility Sphere and Silence. It was decided that they could cast them on a weapon of one of the party and sneak into the village that way. This was very comforting to Khaska in his full plate armor.

“Cast it on my axe,” Bronzebeard said. “I can keep it out of sight and let you all do your thing. I’ll join in if I think it necessary.”

“You won’t be able to activate the lightning effect on it,” said Sanjin.

The dwarf shrugged. “I do alright without it. I’ll be fine.”

The plan was to sneak in, have Orensland try to simply assassinate Skyler while the Mansonite was sleeping, then move to free Drikdare’s family. With that decided, everybody gathered near Bronzebeard.

“All right, friends,” he said, “stick close to me. Once you leave the area of Sanjin’s spell, you won’t be invisible anymore. Best not to take any chances.”

Sanjin went first, and after his spell was complete there was the faintest ripple effect of the light around them. But since they were inside its effect, nothing else changed. They knew, however, that from outside the spell they were now all invisible.

Khaska reached out to touch the axe, invoking a prayer. Immediately the sounds of the night stopped. The Maha’i was honestly a little startled. The insects. The sounds of the wind through the trees. Even the water from Clearwater Lake lapping at the shore … all had made more sound in the background than he had noticed. Their absence was jarring. Ranna seemed very confused, but Rynn reached a hand out to her and calmed her. Their empathic bond helped him get her attention, and she came with them.

They waited until the patrol passed by their location, and then snuck into the village proper. It was slow going, Bronzebeard making sure that they could all keep up with him. It was agonizing in that they couldn’t hear anything. The patrol could be around the next bend, for all they knew.

In the end, they managed to get next to Jake’s house, and then Rynn signaled to Orensland that he was to enter. The rogue gave a salute, and then blended into the shadows. The group saw the door open, and then shut. There was no way of knowing how much noise it had made—no matter how sneaky the shadowdancer, rusty hinges were rusty hinges. Rynn found himself holding his breath instinctively to hear better. Obviously it didn’t help. Bronzebeard saw him and made motions with his hands to indicate deep breaths. The ranger smiled. The captain had him pegged.


Orensland peered through the room. Even though it was dark outside, some low-light from the eclipse behind Pressen, he could see perfectly in the dark house. He smiled. His shadowdancer abilities were increasing. He could now see in the dark, though there were no colors. But still … This was going to be a cinch!

Jake didn’t seem to be home. It was a sparse house, though a relatively large one. There were two floors, one of the only buildings in town to have an upper level. It appeared that Skyler was upstairs. The shadowdancer crept up the wooden stairs, carefully testing his weight at each step, wary of creaks. The same with the first door upstairs, but luckily it opened quietly and he was able to poke his head in. No Skyler. He crept down the hallway, listening for snoring or anything else that would give away Skyler’s location. The second door opened quietly enough, and there was Skyler, sleeping, but with his sword laid by the side of the bed. Clearly a paranoid kind of person, but Orensland could actually respect that. His sword already drawn, he slunk forward, taking care to try even harder to be quiet. He must be careful. If he failed in this, he would be alone with a high-powered zealot cleric that, armored or not, could put up quite a fight.

Skyler stirred in his sleep just a hair, turning away from where Orensland was. The rogue took his sword and held it in both hands above the man’s sleeping form. Here went nothing!

But he needn’t have worried. The sword sliced cleanly into Skyler’s neck, and the cleric didn’t even wake before he died. Orensland let out a sigh of relief, cleaned his sword on the sheets (apologizing mentally to Jake), and turned to leave.


The shadowdancer emerged from Jake’s house and gave a thumbs up in the general direction of where the others had been. It was now time to move on the guard by the barn south of town, and to free Drikdare’s family.

Luckily, they didn’t encounter the patrol while on their way there. Orensland listened for them, and the seemed to be making a trip through part of the village, but behind them.

At the barn, the solitary guard was pacing back and forth in front of the barn doors, which were locked and bolted with chains. He seemed bored, with his wicked-looking morningstar held on his shoulder. Orensland crept forward and positioned himself nearby. He would wait for the others to attack before dropping his shadowblending and joining the attack.

Two arrows whistled through the air—the shadowdancer thought it weird that there was no “twang” sound from Rynn’s bow—both hitting the Mansonite and lodging in his armor. At the same time, Khaska appeared out of thin air and rushed the besieged man, but man managed to get his shield up, and Khaska’s scimitar grated against it. Orensland rushed forward and stabbed hard with his short sword into the small of the man’s back. He cried out, and heaved his morningstar at the Maha’i just as Khaska made his second swing. The two connected at about the same time, the spikes from the Mansonite biting into Khaska’s arm as Khaska’s scimitar sliced into the space between the Mansonite’s helmet and his shoulderguards. The man gurgled once and dropped to the ground.

Khaska, now outside the Silence spell, turned to look at the village. Orensland also looked, while Rynn moved outside of the spell to listen himself. After a few moments, it seemed that the remaining clerics were unaware of what had happened. So far, their infiltration of the village had been wildly successful.

“So far so good,” Rynn said. “Now, do we divide up and head for different groups, or do we stick together and take them on one at a time?”

Then, from inside the barn, there was some speaking, but in a language Orensland didn’t understand. He glanced at the other two. “Do either of you know that language?”

Rynn and Khaska both shook their heads.

Eryx (DM)
The attempt on Skyler’s life went off without a hitch. He’s dead. Again. You also were able to avoid the patrol and then get the drop on the cleric guarding the barn with Drikdare’s family. He did manage to get a single hit in on Khaska before Khaska’s crit put him in the ground. He’s dead. The barn is bolted and locked with chains. It appears that the combat was heard from inside, but not in the city itself. Drikdare’s family is aware that something is going on, but none of the rest of the Mansonites is aware, near as you can tell. They're also speaking in a language that Rynn, Khaska, and Orensland don't understand.

Khaska is at 47/54 hitpoints.

What’s your next steps? Split up? Stick together? Go after the patrol? The group in the makeshift shrine?

The Silence spell and the Invisibility Sphere will wear off before you can get back into the “city limits,” so to speak, so you can discuss your plan with the group. Khaska has another casting of Silence prepared, but it looks like Sanjin only prepared one of Invisibility Sphere. So you can sneak in, but you can’t be invisible anymore.

May I suggest buffing up before you all head into town to fight the remaining acolytes?

And then give me three rounds of actions against … well, whoever each of you decide to attack.

Edit: Initiative and three rounds of actions. I harbor suspicions these combats won't be resolved as quickly as the last two.

Crosis
In regards to the druid's family, we may as well try to see if they speak our language(s). If they can, great, see let's see if they can help us persuade the druid to switch sides. If they can't, they're probably too scared to do anything rash, so let's just leave them until the fighting is done. Any other thoughts?

My vote is that we gang up on the clerics in the shrine together first, then move on the party with the druid. We may be able to convince him we're on his side by that point, as stated earlier. Is the shrine open like a pavilion, or do you enter via a doorway? Hopefully the former. I would say we put the silence spell back up, but it doesn't affect Orensland as much, so will go with whatever everyone else thinks. I'd like to fit in a sneak attack or two if possible, though, so I'll include some Hide and Move Silently checks as well.

*Hide: 26 (2+24 mod)
*Move Silently: 27 (3+24 mod)

Longsword:
To hit: d20+11
Damage: d8+5

*Initiative: 22 (11 + 11)

*To Hit: 20 (9+11)
*Damage: 9 (4+5) (PLUS 13 (4+5+1+3) IF SNEAK ATTACK - MAKING IT 22)

*To Hit: 31 (20+11) crit!
*Damage: 19 (rolled 8+ 5 + max 8 for crit)

*To Hit: 14 (3+11)
*Damage: 10 (5+5)

This should be an interesting round. Especially that second hit. What a crit!!

Eryx (DM)
Will you open the doors or try to talk to Drikdare's family through them? If you want to open them, I'll let you take 20 on the Open Lock check for Orensland. You've got the time.

DeltaWolf
Sorry, I get confused between the rules of the two editions (I'll be happy when we switch). When casting Lightning bolt and False life -how many dice to I roll? Is it based on my Wizard level, Spell slot?

Eryx (DM)
False Life. 1d10 + 8 (your wizard level).
Lightning Bolt. 8d6 damage for your character.
All 3.5E spells can be found here.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will wait for Orensland to do his sneak thing then attack.

  • Initiative: 11 (9 +2 dex)
  • Round 1:
    • Cast Mage Armor on himself
  • Round 2
    • Cast False Life: Temporary Hit Points: 13 (5 rolled +8)
  • Round 3
    • Cast Lightning bolt at the nearest target -making sure to not catch Orensland: Damage: 23 (rolled 1,1,3,5,5,1,3,4)

Eryx (DM)
Since False Life and Mage Armor both last 8 hours, not rounds, just throw them on your character and give me two more rounds of offensive actions. In fact, if I were you, I would have cast them on Sanjin already (not that it would have mattered so far).

Thev
Khaska would like to release Drikdare's family and at least pantomime to them what has happened. Perhaps it's irrational on his part, but he has an inkling that though he can't speak their language, they may perceive affinity with a fellow hoofy creature. If he can, he'd try to figure out a way that the party could instantly communicate to Drikdare that his family is safe. Would I need to roll anything to communicate this way? (And is there any way that Khaska could use Comprehend Languages or Tongues without having prepared them?)

As for next steps, Khaska understand that it's best to take on the two whose location we know: those at the shrine. But he wouldn't attack them while in the shrine; he'd want to wait until they exited, or provide cover for the party as it attacks, including through a Silence spell. Let me know how other of the party would react to Khaska.

Eryx (DM)
I would like Knowledge rolls from BlackWolf and DeltaWolf, and a Bluff Check from Thevarou.

There is not any way to use spells you have not prepared. You will have to wait a few hours for a new day to cast those spells. Tongues works on more people than just you, but Comprehend Languages will only work on yourself.

BlackWolf
Knowledge roll: 10 (rolled 9 + 1 bonus)

You didn't specify a sub-type of Knowledge roll, so I just used basic INT modifier as the bonus. Rynn does have ranks in local and nature, so if either of those apply then add another +2 or +7 respectively.

If everyone is hanging around with Khaska to see the druid family, then Rynn would keep a lookout on the outside in case the patrols come around. But otherwise, he'd prefer to go hunting the next group of clerics with Orensland.

Hide: 10 (rolled 2 + 8 bonus)

Move Silently: 27 (rolled 18 + 9 bonus)

Initiative: 16 (rolled 12 + 4 bonus)

Round 1 attacks:

  • longbow: 22 (rolled 9 + 13 bonus), damage: 5 (rolled 3 + 2 STR)
  • longbow: 28 crit (rolled 20 + 8 bonus), damage: 19 (8 full damage + rolled 8 + rolled 1 + 2 STR)

Round 2 attacks:

  • longbow: 28 (rolled 15 + 13 bonus), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)
  • longbow: miss (rolled natural 1)

Round 3 attacks:

  • longbow: 31 (rolled 18 + 13 bonus), damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 STR)
  • longbow: miss (rolled natural 1)

Seems like Rynn's luck goes from average to the extremes. Hopefully his Move Silently check and the fact that he's firing a bow from afar will make up for a lame Hide check. Now if I can just see about getting my bow enchanted to add to the damage… :)

Crosis
Orensland would be ok with luring the clerics out of the shrine or waiting, but if the Silence spell is wearing off, he would think it more prudent to attack while we have some hope of keeping the battle contained. He would apologize to Khaska, whom he respects.

Thev
Bluff: 15 (no modifiers)

Eryx (DM)
Not that it will necessarily help you, but BlackWolf's Knowledge check is sufficient to know that Centaur speak Elven and Sylvan. Apparently, the ones trapped in the barn are speaking Sylvan.

I think I have almost enough to move forward to the next breaking point. If I can get Initiative and 3 rounds of actions from Thev, and two more rounds of actions from DeltaWolf, then I'll be good to go.

Thev
Initiative: 8

  • To Hit: 14 = 6 + 8
  • Damage: 8 = 6 + 2
  • To Hit: 16 = 8 + 8
  • Damage: 5 = 3 + 2
  • To Hit: 27 = 19 + 8
  • Damage: 14 = (5 + 2) x 2

DeltaWolf

  • Knowledge: 12 (9 rolled +3)
  • Cast Acid Arrow
      • To Hit: 9 (7 rolled +2 Dex)
      • Damage: 5
      • Damage: 4
      • Damage: 4
  • Cast Acid Arrow
      • To Hit: 13 (11 rolled +2 Dex)
      • Damage: 6
      • Damage: 4
      • Damage: 6

Just then the Silence and Invisibility Sphere spells wore off, revealing the party. Sanjin was startled by the sudden noise that assaulted his ears. The night was noisier than he expected.

“Well,” said Orensland, “I’m gonna let them out.”

“I believe I might be able to find kinship with them,” said Khaska. “Fellow hooved beings and all.”

Rynn slung his bow over his shoulder. “It’s worth a shot.”

Bronzebeard shrugged. “I’m just the muscle here.” He turned to watch the village, in case the patrol came by.

It took Orensland a moment, but he was able to get the lock open. He pulled the chain off from the doors and grabbed one of them, swinging it wide open.

A centaur woman gingerly stepped out, and Khaska had to immediately avert his eyes, as she was topless. She said a few words, but nobody understood them.

“Can you understand me?” Rynn asked, in Elven. She spoke again in the same language, which wasn’t Elven. “Centaurs sometimes speak Elven and Sylvan,” Rynn said. “I would guess she’s speaking Sylvan.”

“Everybody please sheathe your weapons,” Khaska said. “We don’t want to appear threatening.”

Everybody did so, though Bronzebeard merely put his greataxe down and leaned on it.

Two smaller centaurs emerged from the shadows of the barn. One was also a female, but a much younger one. The other was male, perhaps a teenager. Khaska stepped forward, still keeping his eyes from the adult female’s … chest. He tried his best to pantomime what had just happened, pointing to the dead Mansonite and trying to indicate that they were friendly.

However, the teenage male after making getting sufficiently far from the barn, waited to watch Khaska for a moment or two, then turned to the older female, spoke in Sylvan for a few seconds, and then, more quickly than anybody expected, turned and bolted, running straight for the forest.

“Eapas!” the female cried out.

He shouted something back, and then was in the trees and vanished from view. The younger female crowded close to the elder, and the elder put her arm around the younger’s shoulder. The elder glanced for a long moment at the forest where the young male had gone, but then turned to face the party and Captain Bronzebeard. She would be staying, evidently trusting in these new strangers. “Drikdare?” she asked.

Khaska pointed to the village. Then he pointed to himself. He thought this might not be an appropriate time to use his full name, so simply said, “Khaska.” He then pointed to each of the group in turn, saying their names. Orensland gave a sweeping bow when introduced. Rynn gave a short wave. Sanjin nodded his head. Bronzebeard put his hands together and also bowed, but in an efficient manner much less grandiose than Orensland’s.

The elder female put her hand to her heart. “Eloranos,” she said. Then she placed her hand on the younger. “Gwynll.”

“Eloranos,” Khaska said. “Gwynll.” Gwynll was shy, and tried to back up and hide behind her mother. The Maha’i could see that both of them were slightly emaciated. Not dangerously so, but they had not eaten their fill for some time.

“Where to now?” Bronzebeard asked.

“The clerics at the shrine,” Orensland said. “Then move on the party with the druid.”

“I agree, but I will not attack them in the shrine,” Khaska said. “It would be blasphemous to do so.”

“You didn’t have a problem attacking in that shrine back in Hammerdine,” said Rynn. “Why the change of heart?”

“That was a secret shrine to Nerull. As misguided as these whitecloaks are, they serve good gods. I will not attack in a shrine to those gods. Shall I cast another Silence spell?”

Rynn nodded. “I think so. It will help us sneak in, at least. Can we also be invisible?”

Sanjin shook his head. “I’m sorry, I only prepared one casting of that spell. And if we use Silence again, I’ll have to move out of range to cast my spells.”

“That’s fine,” the ranger said. “Skyler was the main threat. The invisibility spell worked to get us into kill him. And if we can keep the clerics from casting and you can cast at them, then we have a severe advantage.”

The centaur woman began speaking rapidly. It was hard to understand what she said, but the name “Skyler” came out several times.

Khaska pointed at the dead whitecloak. “Skyler is dead.”

Orensland drew his sword a few inches from his scabbard and pointed to it. “Skyler,” he said. He pointed at the dead whitecloak. “Skyler.”

The centaur woman relaxed. She seemed to understand. Khaska motioned for her to come closer, and she did so. The younger one did as well, but more cautiously.

Khaska reached out to Bronzebeard’s axe, saying a prayer and casting Silence once more. The sounds of the night once again vanished. The group moved towards the town and crept towards the makeshift shrine.

Orensland poked his head around the corner of a nearby house. The two clerics were inside the abandoned house they had converted to a makeshift shrine. The front door had fallen off its hinges and sat to the side, giving them a clear look inside. The two clerics were at prayer. Orensland looked around for the patrol, didn’t see them, and then motioned for the others to follow. He thought it might be best to lure the two out so that Khaska could join in the fight. He motioned for everybody to stay and then crept forward, drawing his sword. He left the area of the Silence spell but didn’t blend into the shadows. He wanted to be seen when he spoke.

But just then one of the two clerics stood up. “Goodnight, Amelia,” he said, and then turned to go.

Orensland was about ten feet from the entrance. He had been planning to quip, “My friends and I would like to have a word with you outside,” but the moment the cleric turned around, their eyes met, and the shadowdancer knew there would be no time for funny quips. His grip tightened on his sword.

That was just fine by him.

“Amelia!” The cleric snapped, drawing his sword and moving quickly to the wall, grabbing a shield and arming himself.

The other cleric was on her feet instantly, and she had not discarded her shield to pray.

“Skyler!” The male cleric yelled. “Everybody! Intruders!”

And with that, he called a prayer out to Heironeous and charged straight at Orensland. Orensland managed to parry the man’s blow but doing so threw his riposte off. Neither injured the other as the female cleric emerged from the shrine. She pointed her sword at the sky.

“Die, darkfriends! For Harrison!” She shouted a word in elven and her sword erupted in flames as she charged towards Orensland, heedless of the others. Sanjin had moved from the area of the Silence spell and launched a Lightning Bolt at this female cleric. Focused just on Orensland, she didn’t even try to dodge it, allowing it to hit her squarely in the chest. Orensland still just barely managed to dodge out of the way of her vicious strike at him.

Arrows from Rynn landed in the first cleric’s armor, clearly wounding the man. Khaska hesitated for just a moment at seeing that one of their targets was a woman, but the need to help Orensland from her flaming sword overcame his quick reticence, and he engaged her, sparks flying from her sword as she parried his scimitar attack.

“If you kill me,” she said, “at least I will be with Harrison again in the Seven Heavens of Celestia, even if you didn’t give him a proper burial!” Khaska could tell that she had been crying; her eyes were splotchy.

Just then silence descended on them. Bronzebeard had entered the fray, but, oddly enough, did not attack. He seemed content to let the Silence spell from his axe be his contribution.

The other cleric managed to hit Orensland, drawing blood, but it left him open to a counterattack and the shadowdancer’s sword sank deep into the man’s chest. He gasped once, making no sound in the magical silence, and then dropped to the ground, bleeding out.

The female cleric began to cry, tears streaming down her face as she beat futilely against Khaska’s defenses. She managed to catch Orensland off guard as she turned, her flaming sword carving a gash into the shadowdancer’s arm before an arrow from Rynn sprouted from her chest. It hit with such force that she fell backwards onto the ground, where she stayed.

Blazing light erupted into the group. Sanjin could hear the prayers of the patrol—alerted by the fighting, or perhaps by the cries for help, they had just rounded the corner of a nearby house. One of the clerics wielded a huge mace, the other had a smaller mace and a shield. Drikdare, of course, came with them.

“Drikdare!” Eloranos called out. The two centaur had stayed back, and Bronzebeard had moved far enough away that they no longer were in range of the Silence spell.

One of the Searing Light spells from the clerics went wide, but the other blazed into Khaska, and the smell of burnt hair filled the air. Drikdare quickly morphed into a huge brown bear, just as he had on the ship. Sanjin managed to coat one of the Mansonite clerics with an Acid Arrow spell as they entered the Silence spell. They were obviously surprised at the lack of sound, but pressed forward and attacked. Khaska moved to place himself between these newcomers and Drikdare’s family. He hoped the action would help turn the druid to their side.

And indeed, it appeared to do so. Drikdare in a display of animal ferocity, turned on the cleric with the huge mace, savagely mauling him with one paw before biting down on the man’s arm and worrying it, blood flying everywhere.

Eryx (DM)
I took the liberty of moving the combat partially into a fourth round so you could all see that Drikdare has decided to join you in fighting off Manson’s minions. There are two clerics left—you handily dealt with the two in the shrine. (A few good crits will do that for you.)

Give me three more rounds of actions.

Thev
Gah, pulling Khaska's heartstrings! He knows that he did what he could for Harrison on the ship, but to no avail. If Amelia is still alive after the fight, he'll explain that, try to comfort, and see how she reacts. It might be too late, but he'll take any ally he can get. And he will certainly insist on a proper burial for all the other Whitecloaks no matter anyone's objections.

With that, and given the Silence spell, he'll wield his scimitar again:

Initiative: 6

  • To Hit: 10 = 2 + 8
  • Damage: 8 = 6 + 2
  • To Hit: 19 = 11 + 8
  • Damage: 5 = 3 + 2
  • To Hit: 24 = 16 + 8
  • Damage: 3 = 1 + 2

Crosis

Orensland would likely feel some remorse over that one as well, being the one who fairly mercilessly killed Harrison. However, he'd also remember how indifferent these white cloaks have been to underprivileged folk, which would help assuage his guilt.

Orensland would also agree to give the White Cloaks a proper burial.

Initiative: 24 (13 + 11)

  • To Hit: 26 (15+11)
  • Damage: 8 (3+5)
  • To Hit: 24 (13+11)
  • Damage: 9 (4+5)
  • To Hit: 25 (14+11)
  • Damage: 11 (6+5)

Those were oddly consistent rolls. Fortunately, they weren't too bad!

DeltaWolf
Is there a way to use burning hands without torching my allies?

Eryx (DM)
For Thev … Ameila and her companion are both bleeding out. They are not dead. (You also cannot heal or stabilize them in a Silence spell with magic. You can, however, dismiss the spell as an action.) In the campaign so far I have exercised my prerogative as DM to allows NPCs the same chances of dying that PCs do. This is partially because you are all good aligned, and might not want to merely kill everybody. It's also partially because there have been a few instances where you wanted to interrogate one of your enemies. Other DMs simply have enemies die once they fall below 0.

DeltaWolf, there currently is a way you could hit both clerics with Burning Hands. Depending on how things go, that may not last, however. Why would you not use Lightning Bolt? It does way more damage. Or you could specify Burning Hands if possible, Lightning Bolt if not.

DeltaWolf
If Sanjin can use burning hands without hitting his allies he will, otherwise he’ll skip it.

  • Cast Burning Hands (if possible) * Damage: 11 (4,1,1,4,1)
  • Cast Lightning Bolt * Damage: 32 (3,4,2,6,3,2,6,6)
  • Cast Acid Splash
    • To Hit: 13 (rolled 12 +2 Dex)
    • Damage: 3

If he can't use Burning hands..

  • Cast Acid Splash
    • To Hit: 11 (rolled 9 +2 Dex)
    • Damage: 3

BlackWolf
It could be interesting if Amelia lives; mostly because Rynn's reaction might be quite different from the rest of the group. In his estimation, these clerics are either hypocrites or else have let their devotions blind them. Not being much of a worshiper himself, he does not have a basis to relate to them (other than, perhaps, his respect of Khaska's ways), so he falls back to his ranger-colored viewpoints where they are like animals out of control — not inherently evil, but needing to be culled.

And actually, depending on what happens around these clerics, the Whitecloaks in general, and whether we rescue Lady Maramos; I could see a case for Rynn to finally slip from a Neutral Good alignment into Chaotic Good.

But first, we must finish the fight. It sounds like we may be able to easily finish off these clerics, but I was wondering about how much damage we've taken. Perhaps that won't matter until the aftermath. And although Rynn wouldn't object to saving any of the clerics lives, he wouldn't spend his actions to do so himself…

Round 1 attacks:

  • longbow: 15 (rolled 2 + 13 bonus), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)
  • longbow: 10 (rolled 2 + 8 bonus), damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 STR)

Round 2 attacks:

  • longbow: 17 (rolled 4 + 13 bonus), damage: 8 (rolled 6 + 2 STR)
  • longbow: 19 (rolled 11 + 8 bonus), damage: 4 (rolled 2 + 2 STR)

Round 3 attacks:

  • longbow: 30 (rolled 17 + 13 bonus), damage: 4 (rolled 2 + 2 STR)
  • longbow: 15 (rolled 7 + 8 bonus), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)

Wow… I guess something must have thrown Rynn off against these newcomers. I'm guessing most of those will not overcome the enemy AC.

The Mansonite drew his arm back and smashed his two-handed mace into Drikdare’s head, breaking bone and causing some of the bear’s teeth to fly out.

Sanjin finished another incantation and blasted the dwarven cleric fighting Orensland. The man tried to dodge out of the way but was encumbered by his plate armor. The Lightning Bolt blazed into him with full force, small arcs of lightning playing across his metal armor as he used his mace to bash Orensland’s leg, causing the shadowdancer to stumble. But Orensland leapt forward with a snake-like lunge, and his sword glanced over the dwarf’s and into a gap between his arm and chest armor. The dwarf slumped forward and collapsed.

Rynn turned his attention to the remaining Mansonite, but both of his arrows went wide, one embedding itself in the wall of the makeshift shrine, the other skittering across the ground.

Drikdare recoved from the hit he had just taken and took two swipes at the cleric, roaring with full rage—which looked odd, since nobody could hear him. The druid’s claws raked through plate armor and cushioning to savage the man’s chest and arm. He collapsed into a heap on the ground, blood flowing freely from many gashes and wounds.

The fight was over.

Khaska muttered a prayer (even in such magical silence he prayed quietly to dismiss the spell and of course Teresh heard his plea even if nobody else could) and then suddenly the sounds of the night returned to those still in the area of the Silence spell.

Bronzebeard relaxed and slung his axe over his shoulder. “Looks like you didn’t need my help at all this time. Well done. You have freed the town of Rhun.”

As he was speaking, Drikdare morphed back into his centaur self and bounded over to the two females. He embraced them both and began speaking to them rapidly in Sylvan.

Once again, nobody could understand what they were saying, but Eapas’ name came up several times. The female pointed in the general direction that the young centaur had escaped to.

Drikdare turned to the group and spoke in Elven. “I know that you cannot truly be my friends, as you work for Lady Maramos, but I thank you for freeing us even if it was for your own reasons. I also hope that you have already slain Skyler. If you have not, we need to move on him immediately.”

“Skyler was the first cleric we took out,” Orensland said, also in Elven, while wiping his blade with a rag. “I snuck in and killed him in his sleep.”

“We killed him for the second time,” Rynn said, also in Elven. “I hope he stays dead this go-around.”

“Yeah,” Orensland said, sheathing his sword and turning to Drikdare, who had not approached, and who was still holding his arms around the two female centaur protectively. “We thought you might be an ally were we to free your family. Do you speak common?”

“I do not," he replied.

Orensland looked at Khaska and shrugged. “Looks like he only speaks Elven. Sorry.”

Sanjin kicked over one of the fallen clerics, the second one he had hit with a Lightning Bolt. “Hmm,” the wizard said. “This one’s extra crispy, but he’s still alive.”

Eryx (DM)
Three of the whitecloaks are bleeding out but have not yet formally died. The one that Drikdare mauled is completely dead. The druid was taking no chances with his family’s safety, apparently.

Drikdare seems wary of you. His family can only speak Sylvan, but he speaks both Sylvan and Elven. So that means that Khaska will be unable to speak to him unless he uses Tongues and/or Comprehend Languages. Also, his son has run off, and he would like to go find him, but is concerned about leaving his wife and daughter behind while he does so.

And finally, will you stabilize any of the three remaining Mansonites? (Amelia is one of them.)

Rynn, Khaska, and Sanjin get 3500 XP, 3000 for the combat, and 500 for the "quest" of freeing Rhun from these exiled Whitecloaks. Orensland receives only 3031 XP for being higher level.

Thev
First things first: we need to figure out 1) whether to save the bleeding-out Whitecloaks and 2) how to gain the centaurs' trust.

Khaska would lean toward saving the Whitecloaks, especially Amelia, out of mercy and the hope for more allies—perhaps even rescuing the Whitecloaks from their overzealous ways. How the centaurs would perceive such a move would be unclear; would it be negative (because the Whitecloaks had been so oppressive) or positive (because it provided evidence that the party is good)?

In fact, Khaska would like to ask through a translator the centaurs' opinion on saving the Whitecloaks—as well as Bronzebeard and the party.

Once that's settled, he'd communicate to the centaurs (through a translator again) that he'll be able to converse with them the next day through the Tongues spell, and that he'd be willing to do so in a Zone of Truth.

What do you all think?

Eryx (DM)
I'll allow you to deliberate here in the gray box with the other players, but not in the in-game world. Amelia has been bleeding out for some time, and the others look pretty bad. If you want to stabilize any of them, you'll have to do so immediately.

BlackWolf
As I said previously, Rynn wouldn't object to Khaska saving the lives of our foes, but it isn't something he's contemplating himself (if anything, he'd be wondering if any of them needed to be finished off). If asked, he would be taken aback a bit and shrug. Should they be stabilized, Rynn would get to work on removing their gear and tying them up.

"It's true that we served as bodyguards for Lady Maramos," Rynn will say in Elvish to Drikdare, "but we are neither servants of evil nor mercenaries. We deceived the vampire in order to discover the evils her kind are committing in league with the Cult of Skyrnyn. You of all people surely understand how circumstances can lead one to work with an enemy."

Rynn will ask the druid about the Mansonites, especially about how they've treated his family and the townsfolk. He's curious about their motivations and whether any of them have any good in them. He'll happily help translate for Khaska, and also will inquire about Eapas.

Thev
Since there's little time, Khaska will stabilize the Whitecloaks who remain alive, and will approve of Rynn's taking their gear and binding them. That'll give us the chance to learn whether they could become friends.

DeltaWolf
Upon Khaska stabilizing the whitecloaks Sanjin would make a comment about hoping that doing so won't end up coming back to bite us.

Crosis
Orensland would approve of stabilizing and disarming the Whitecloaks for the sake of discussing our options as a party. As for ultimately deciding whether or not we should let them go, Orensland's opinion would depend on how vengeful they seem when they wake up. If they are willing to depart in peace, we can consider that option. If they intend to hunt us down one day… well, that's a different matter.

Orensland would also be willing to talk with the centaur as translator, and would approve of bringing him in on the matter. We can get the gnomes from the ship to back up our story as far as they have witnessed (aka, we are nice folk). We may also ask him to play along when Sebastien comes back onto the scene.

…also, can I call dibs on the fire sword? :)

BlackWolf
I'm fine with Orensland taking the magic sword. Might be a good idea to check if there is anything else of value.

Khaska moved over to stabilize the surviving Mansonites. Amelia’s words had cut him deeply, and he had hoped that, perhaps, one or two of them could be turned from their overly-zealous ways.

Sanjin sighed. “I hope that doesn’t come back to bite us,” the wizard said.

“Well, we can at least relieve them of their equipment in case we have to fight again,” Rynn said. He moved over to the dwarven cleric Khaska had just stabilized and kicked his mace away before picking up the shield and tossing it aside. Khaska was watching the centaur to gauge their reaction, but he found them unreadable.

“It's true that we served as bodyguards for Lady Maramos,” Rynn said in Elven to Drikdare, “but we are neither servants of evil nor mercenaries. We deceived the vampire in order to discover the evils her kind are committing in league with the Cult of Skyrnyn. You of all people surely understand how circumstances can lead one to work with an enemy.”

“And does that make you my enemy as well?” the druid asked.

“I certainly hope not,” Orensland said. “I don’t much like to see innocents caught up in the machinations of others, whether it’s you or the Cloudlovers. Their ship is nearby, as is Captain Bronzebeard’s.”

Sanjin was quietly translating the gist of the conversation to Khaska, who had finished stabilizing the remaining clerics.

“I was heartened to hear that you had freed them. Manson was most put out by the turn of events,” Drikdare continued, “though he did achieve his objective. Ameila was heartbroken. She and Harrison were engaged to be married, and planned to have the ceremony this summer on the solstice, when Pelor would most smile upon their union.”

Orensland looked down at the comatose form of the female Mansonite. “Well, that’s going to be a problem. I chopped his head off. She’s probably not going to like me.”

Khaska then spoke up. “We did bury him overboard with the proper rites, however. Though his path approached that of evil, I hope his soul finds rest.”

Rynn translated, with a quick explanation that Khaska did not speak Elven.

Drikdare nodded, then spoke to Khaska, looking to Rynn to translate. “You seem a noble soul. You are only the second Maha’i I have met, but both of you have been considerate and thoughtful. But now, I must ask if we can depart. My son has run off, fearing recapture, and I would like to retrieve him. Here on the lake we are a few weeks travel from the plains where our clan can be found.”

Bronzebeard hefted his greataxe over his shoulder, and said a few halting words in Sylvan. Drikdare nodded. The captain turned to the others, speaking in common. “I don’t know a lot of Sylvan, but I do know some. I said they would be safe here.”

“I could be of assistance tracking your son,” Rynn said. “I would be happy to do so.”

Drikdare spoke quietly to his wife and daughter. Gwynll especially seemed quite reluctant to see him go, but her mother drew her close protectively and that seemed to calm the girl down, though she still watched the others warily.

“Come,” the druid said. “Let us find Eapas. He is foolish and headstrong, but more than capable of surviving on his own for some time in the wild.”

With that, Rynn and Drikdare departed, heading to the prison-barn to pick up the young centaur’s trail. Just then, Wilmin and Xala approached. “Is it done?” Wilmin asked.

Orensland nodded. “All of them are dead or captured. Your village is free!”

Xala cheered out loud, thanking the gods for their good fortune to be rid of these overzealous rulers.

“May I suggest that we separate the survivors of Manson’s followers,” Bronzebeard said. “No need to have them all grouped together.”

“We should probably do something about Skyler’s body,” said Khaska. “He deserves proper funeral rites as well.”

“I’ll head back to the ships and have mine dragged here by the Cloudlovers,” said Bronzebeard. “Perhaps you’d like to come see your uncle, Wilmin?”

“I would happily go with you to get Uncle Pippy!” the gnome said.

Xala was running from house to house, banging on doors and announcing that they had been freed. People began to gather. There was some low murming when they saw that several of the Mansonites were still alive, though now disarmed, without armor, and tied up. Khaska was also a point of curiosity, people pointing and murming at him.

“My guess would be,” said Sanjin, “that they don’t see many Maha’i here on the Death Side.”

“It is a concern of mine that I will be so readily remembered and identified,” said Khaska.

“That’s a good point,” the wizard mused. “Perhaps we should find some way to alter your appearance. There are spells and magic items that would do so.”

“I would love to hear your suggestions,” Khaska said. “But perhaps later. We should greet these people and begin discussing next steps.”


Between Rynn, Ranna, and Drikdare, picking up Eapas’ trail was simplicity itself. The three of them plunged into the forest, moving quickly and easily falling into a rhythm of mutual cooperation. Rynn could tell that Drikdare was an accomplished outdoorsman.

“I thank you for your assistance in finding my son,” Drikdare said, after a few minutes of silent tracking. “He is headstrong and impulsive, but wants what he thinks is best for the family.”

“Of course. I'm happy to help, though I'm not sure I understand why he thought running off would be best for your family. Do you think he is seeking for help?”

“I suspect that he will try to make his way to the plains and find the tribe. Unsure of how you all will act towards us, he felt the wilds would be the least dangerous option for him, and the one most likely to bring help and assistance. He feels guilty for his part in how we were forced to work with Manson and his minions.”

“Was he the first to be captured by Manson then?”

“Some of Manson’s acolytes captured my wife and children on his orders. They were attempting to find someone who could help them navigate the wilds of the forests here, and then they sent Eapas back to my tribal encampment to retrieve me. Eapas was worried if he warned others what was happening that his mother and sister would come to harm, so he lured me out, and then I too was captured by the circumstances. That was almost a year ago.”

“It sounds to me like he made a wise decision, but I suppose I can see how he might still feel guilty about it. How old is he?”

“He is sixteen. His manhood hunt will take place this summer, and I think many such things weigh heavily on his mind. He feels the weight of responsibility descending upon his shoulders, and fears he has acted unwisely.”

Rynn pointed out a broken twig, another sign of the young centaur’s passage, and then let Drikdare take the lead. “How did Manson and his people treat you and your family?” the ranger asked. “A year is a long captivity.”

“They were looking for a base of operations between Fort Windhaven and the head of the Derring River, as they were expecting Lady Maramos to come back to Darkcrest that way. When we were on the move, I think it was actually worse.” Rynn was still behind him, but the ranger could hear Drikdare’s voice get husky with emotion. “That’s when they had Gwynll and Eloranos in chains. Eapas and I helped scout. The barn here in Rhun was comparatively comfortable. I think they could have spared us some more food, but we weren’t starved or tortured or anything.”

Rynn shook his head. “I don't get it. How can they think that they are doing good when they enslave your family? They're no better than the vampires who make slaves … maybe even worse because since they cannot enthrall you, they resort to threatening your family.”

Drikdare snorted. “The Bringers in general see no reason to negotiate or handle evil in any way other than to slay it. Manson and his kind are even worse–if you do not immediately attack evil, you are a ‘darkfriend,’ an ally of evil. Though they do not immediately kill all such beings they meet, they do look down upon them. My family, and most of the centaur tribes in general, fall into such a category. We are not zealous enough, and therefore not worthy of equal consideration.”

“Pah!" Rynn practically spat. "They should have killed each other then, rather than waiting for us to have to do it. But I guess they don't think of themselves as evil though, do they. Can't see their own folly.” Rynn thought about the remaining Mansonites back in Rhun. How would they react to being accused of being evil? To his mind, if they couldn’t tell that they were so corrupt, then they needed to be put down. “What other things have they done? Have they done anything that is actually good?”

“Well, I have it on good authority that they have captured a very powerful Vampire, a leader of Darkcrest. Such a being is clearly evil, is she not?” Drikdare turned to look at Rynn, half-amused, half-serious.

Rynn smiled. It was a fair question and a good point. “Yes,” he responded, “she is evil. But Manson hasn't captured her for altruistic reasons. He's just trying to get back in good graces with the Whitecloaks. I'm not sure that capturing a vampire—even a powerful one—makes up for what they've done along the way.” It was good to vent, even to a new friend he didn’t know that well, but after he finished, he realized that, really, Drikdare had no knowledge of anything that Rynn and his friends had done in the service of Lady Maramos. They could easily be seen as being just as hypocritical as Manson. “There are times when you have to do something you don't like. Maybe even things you know are wrong in the service of a greater good. But if one isn't careful, he can become corrupted. My friends and I may have been the bodyguards of a vampire, but we haven't stooped to evil acts like Manson and his people have done. We even risked blowing our cover to help Captain Bronzebeard when he pulled into port near Fort Windhaven.”

Drikdare nodded as he splashed into a stream. It wasn’t clear from here where Eapas had gone, so Rynn signaled to Ranna to begin tracking the young centaur by scent. She was able to find his exit from the stream about fifty yards upstream. The boy was clever, trying to hide his path, but Rynn and Drikdare were too skilled for his ruse to succeed. “I think that capturing such a prize as Lady Maramos is more than a mere means of getting back in with the mainstream Bringers. I’ve overheard some of Manson’s men speaking about how their excommunication was not without controversy. Manson may be making a play for the leadership of the Bringers. The capture and execution of Lady Maramos would be a powerful sign that he would be a good leader of their order.”

The thought of Manson as the leader of the entire Bringer organization half frightened, but mostly angered Rynn. “With leaders like him, who needs vampires or the Cult of Skyrnyn?!” Rynn spat out, exasperated. “Under his leadership, Garth Calad might as well be Darkcrest.”

“Have you ever been to Darkcrest?” asked the druid.

“No. When we were back in Gallidus, we learned that some terrible things may be happening there. Large groups of people were being tricked into 'pilgrimages' that we believe were headed for Darkcrest.”

“If they are the groups I am thinking of, Darkcrest is not their final destination. They head for the Marshes, and like all who enter the Marshes, are never heard from again.”

Rynn knew that the druid was speaking of the Zyrbryxion Marshes. Spanning so many thousands of square miles, nobody would say “the Marshes” on the Death Side and mean anything else.

“Why the Marshes? What's the point of leading all those people out there? I had just assumed that the pilgrimages were a front for getting a bunch of slaves into Darkcrest.”

“I don’t know. We have been forbidden to enter the Marshes since before my great-grandfather’s time. It is folly to go there.”

Rynn thought on this. Arandur had mentioned the same thing to him—everybody who travelled into the Marshes simply didn’t come back, no matter how skilled, no matter how well equipped, no matter how brave.

“Do you know any more about Darkcrest?” Rynn asked. “My group has been travelling as Maramos' bodyguards just as a way to get there and learn what is going on there. We don't actually know very much about it.”

“Just what I’ve heard from travelers. The city is quite insulated from the outside, populated by vampires and their worshippers. It is a city filled with violence and debauchery, where the vampire houses vie for power and attempt to one-up each other. The House of Maramos has sat atop the ruling dynasties for centuries now.” Drikdare shrugged. “If the rumors are to be believed. I’ve not traveled there myself, and am wary of trusting all that I hear of it.”

“What kind of travelers?” Rynn found himself thinking about Inyel, the Blood Ranger. She seemed the kind of person who might be interested in working with vampires in some capacity. It wouldn’t have surprised him to hear that she had been to Darkcrest and made some pact with its rulers.

“Some brave explorers occasionally go there. Perhaps a Bringer contingent under cloak of secrecy. Sometimes the vampires have allies—evil folk who can work for them outside the city itself. On a rare occasion, I or others of my clan have met people who claim to have visited the city. Perhaps at Hub or just at a trading site. We do not meet such people often.”

Rynn paused as he scanned the ground for signs of Eapas’ passing. “Drikdare,” he said, after a few moments of thinking, “what do you think we should do about Lady Maramos? I don't like the idea of Manson using her to get back into the Whitecloaks, much less become their leader. Some of my friends think we need to rescue her, but I wonder if letting her return to Darkcrest is too high a price for admittance. I'm wondering if we should destroy both her and Manson.”

“I must admit that has much appeal to me. We centaur consider the undead to be abominations. Vampires the worst of the lot, deliberately created to be immortal, yet still aware of their past lives and intelligent and cunning. Why have you not destroyed her so far? What purpose, aside from a trip to Darkcrest, do you have for your dangerous ruse?”

“You know, honestly, I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. In some ways, I feel like we just fell into it. There was an opportunity for us to learn more about what our enemies were up to, and we played along.”

“Well, I do find it odd that Lady Maramos traveled outside of Darkcrest. Do you know the nature of her business?”

“Not really. I think it was something to do with corrupting the government of Hammerdine. It seems that the vampires have some kind of alliance with the Cult of Skyrnyn.”

“I have not heard of this Cult of Skyrnyn. This is the second time that you have mentioned them. Who are they?”

“They are dragon worshippers. They think dragons should be free, and since there are only evil dragons left, they are trying to free the ones controlled by the Knights of the Silver Dragons. Or something like that.” Rynn shrugged.

“And the vampires serve the Cult?” Drikdare seemed genuinely alarmed. “To what end? It must be a mutually beneficial arrangement, and probably lucrative, to lure Lady Maramos out of Darkcrest to travel on the Living Side.”

“I'm sure you're right, but I don't know much else. We didn't do a lot of talking with Maramos herself, as you might imagine. Even her previous bodyguard didn't stick around a moment longer than he had to in order to get his payment. And her servant, Sebastien, doesn't seem like he's been privy to many details.”

“I wonder if there are other ways to discover the details. Have you searched her coach?”

Rynn was genuinely startled. The thought had literally not occurred to him. “No. I hadn't thought of that; we were so focused on getting to Rhun to help everyone there. And before the battle with Manson, we didn't want to risk getting caught doing anything suspicious by Maramos or Sebastien. But that's a great idea. Hopefully she didn't have all her possessions on her when she was captured.”

“If there is information there that can be useful, it will be up to you to determine what to do with it. But I am curious. This Cult of Skyrnyn … they wish to free the dragons from the Knights. As much as I do not want evil dragons freed on this world, I admit to finding their enslavement distasteful. But then again, we do not interact much with the Knights. They left the Death Side many decades ago in any kind of force, though we may occasionally see a dragon rider in the skies.”

Rynn nodded and thought about what Drikdare had just said about the enslaved dragons. “I agree with you. I've seen and met a few of the dragons, and I didn't like what I saw. If they ever got free, their enslavement would make them all the more dangerous. Maybe organizations just tend toward corruption—I suppose in some ways the Knights and the Whitecloaks are not so different.”

“I am surprised that you have shared so much with me, who you have known so shortly.”

Rynn laughed, startling a bird perched on a nearby branch which took off in flight. “I've never been good at bluffing. I guess now that I'm not hiding my true nature from Lady Maramos, I'm just saying whatever comes to mind. Plus, I think I wanted you to know that we aren't your enemies.

“I suppose that telling you all this could be folly. I've been wrong about people before and the betrayal still stings. But I want to believe that we're on the same side.”

“If your enemy is Cedric Manson, then we are on the same side at least that far. He will not make it back to Garth Calad alive.”

Rynn smiled broadly and nodded in agreement. He felt a surge of enthusiasm because the clouds of doubt that hung over his head seem to be clearing. “Let's find your son so we can get on with that.”

“I am sure that when my family is able to reunite with my clan my father will aid me in destroying Manson. But yes, let us continue to find Eapas. We do seem to have a good rapport in tracking. I think we could be friends, Rynn.”

“I'd like that, Drikdare. So is your father head of your clan?”

“He is. Which means I am the chieftain’s son, and have been missing for an entire year. And now you perhaps also sense why Eapas wishes to go find help himself, to redeem his past error. It weighs heavily on him, as a future chieftain.”

“It is my error that caused mother and Gwynyll to be captured,” came a voice. Eapas stepped out from behind a few shrubs. “You are not quiet, father. Could hear from far away.” The boy was speaking in Elven, but it was clear he hadn’t mastered the language. Rynn appreciated his attempt to speak so that everybody would know what was being said. The two centaur embraced, and Rynn stayed enough away that they could have a private moment, whispering to each other, probably in Sylvan anyway.

When the two separated and began to walk towards Rynn, Eapas was moving just ahead of his father. “Thank you,” he said, to Rynn.

“You are welcome,” the Ranger said. “Let’s get you back to Rhun with the rest of your family. I hear you’ve not been eating well. We can fix that.”

The lad smiled. “I am hunger.”

“Of course you are,” Rynn responded. He saw Drikdare smile, a grateful father that Rynn wasn’t embarrassing his son for his lack of proper Elvish grammar.


Back in Rhun the party had decided to take Bronzebeard’s suggestion and split up the survivors of Manson’s coterie. There was a room upstairs in their makeshift shrine, and that’s where they deposited Amelia. The dwarven cleric went into the prison-barn where Drikdare’s family had been held, and the other human left in the basement of Jake’s house. Apparently, Jake was on a hunting trip for a few days, a concession that Manson and his friends allowed. (Overzealous and controlling though they were, they recongnized that people needed to eat, and that hunting and fishing were the staples of the people of Rhun.)

Rynn and Drikdare returned with Eapas after a few hours. The young centaur seemed chastised, but overjoyed to see all of the family reunited. Eapas knew some halting Elven and could therefore communicate with most of the party. Rynn had an interesting report—Drikdare was sure his clan would be incensed at Manson’s kidnapping of Drikdare and his family, and would likely go on the warpath after him. Though Drikdare was not sympathetic to defending Lady Maramos, the clan might be an ally against the Mansonite caravan on its way to Garth Calad. The druid was quite certain that, if he could get back to his clan, that he could lead a war party to exterminate Manson and his followers. He seemed to relish the idea.

While the party discussed what they might do next as they waited for the ships to come, Khaska decided that now would be as good a time as any to have a conversation with Amelia. He wanted to wake her up using his healing spells. The other Mansonites he would let recover on their own.

He deliberately set aside his weapons and armor (though first checking that she was still unconscious and securely bound) to seem not intimidating, and made sure the symbol of Teresh was visible above his clothing. (The symbol she carried around her neck was identical—she was a cleric of Pelor.)

He reached out to touch her head and say a prayer. The healing magic flowed through his hands to her, and he saw the bruises and cuts on her face heal. She awoke, still injured, but now conscious. She looked at Khaska, but didn’t say anything.

Khaska sat down, to be eye to eye with her. “Greetings, in the name of Pelor. I am Khaska. What may I call you?”

“You serve Pelor?” He saw that she glanced down to his chest, where sat his symbol of Pelor.

“Yes, and none other. I take it that is a surprise to you.”

“You're a darkfriend. How is it that a cleric of Pelor serves as bodyguard to Lady Maramos, vampire sorceress of Darkcrest and leader of the house of Maramos? Does Pelor even answer your prayers, or do you serve the dark Gods and have deluded yourself into thinking you still serve him?”

“That is a long story, if you wish to hear it. To be short, however, I and my friends have uncovered some of the vampires' nefarious works on Gallidus, and we are accompanying Lady Maramos in order to investigate and frustrate their purposes.”

“And she lets you do that?”

Khaska raised an eyebrow. “She does not know. We are impersonating her original bodyguards.”

“Why not just kill her if she trusts you? Is that not what Pelor commands us? To dispatch a vampire, even of her power, during the day would be simplicity itself!”

“We hope to postpone that moment to do greater good saving thousands from death and slavery.”

Amara paused for a long moment. Khaska was content to let her brood on the subject.

“Your greater good,” she said, “meant the killing of Harrison and fighting Cedric Manson, a great man and a faithful servant of goodness and light. Evil is to be eradicated and destroyed, not guarded until a later moment!”

“I am truly sorry for your companions. I have saved those I could. Before you judge our actions, though, I should tell you more about what is happening on Gallidus.”

“Who have you left alive? Skyler?”

“Two of your companions, whose names I do not know. The others were beyond my capacity to heal, Skyler among them.”

“Why keep us alive at all?” She began to cry, a tear trickling down her cheek. “Why not let us die.”

“Because you are servants of good.” She blinked at that. Several times.

“For all the good my service to the Gods has been to me so far.” She looks you in the eye. “You may call me Amelia.”

“Well met, Amelia.” With introductions complete, there was another pause, as if neither quite knew how to move forward in the conversation. Khaska decided to continue. “I would like to tell you more of our mission, but I understand that today has been very difficult for you. If you would like some time alone, I will honor your wishes and return later to talk.”

Her response was a whisper that the Maha’i strained to hear. “Will you pray for me? I wish to commune with Pelor, but … I'm so confused.”

“Most certainly I will. I will return anon.”

“No, I mean, will you pray for me right now?”

“Oh. Certainly. I will do my best to render it in the common tongue. My own prayers are most often in my own language.”

Khaska moved from sitting to kneeling, raising his hands and his head to the ceiling in a gesture of reverence.

“Teresh …” he paused, realizing that he had defaulted to the Maha’i name for their God, “ah, Pelor, thou who lightest all, we are in the night. Turn thy face toward us that we might behold thy paths and set our feet aright.”

Khaska was pleased that his “rendering in the common tongue” had rhymed. He looked at Amelia, and he could tell that she was impressed.

“Thank you. But …” she paused, “how are you in the night? I'm here alone, my friends dead or captured, my fiance slain, my leaders gone, all alone with enemies.” She paused. “Or at least not friends.”

“Well, I have never been to the Death Side of the world before. I am in the company of a vampire and her servant. And I plan to go even to Darkcrest. My night is different from yours, but it is yet night.”

“I've never been to the living side.” She looked down, a slightly wistful expression crossing her face. “My parents were both members of the order, and I was raised to be a cleric like them. Fighting evil.” Then she looked back up at Khaska, her eyes bright and attentive. “What is the living side like?”

“Brighter, for sure. There are more people as well. Fewer dangers.” He paused. “I am from the desert, but there are places on Gallidus where the trees are taller than twenty horns and shine a green like nothing else.”

“And you left such a place to come here and fight for Pelor? You sound like the original Bringers, before the Knights abandoned them.”

“I have not heard the story of the Bringers of Light,” Khaska said. It was true; he knew what they were now, but new nothing of their history and what had caused them to become so militant and overzealous. “I only know that we came to save as many as we could. But I would be curious to hear the story, if you would want to tell it.”

“The Knights came to the Death Side with many cleric and allies, fighting for centuries to rid this side of our moon of evil. Eventually the Dragon Riders thought their time would be spent elsewhere, and they abandoned this side of the moon. Only the most faithful fighters of evil remained behind, and they became the Bringers of Light and now stand against all of the evil the Knights too cowardly to fight on their own.”

“It is a noble quest, certainly. Would you be willing to hear of our quest?”

She looked at him intensely. “Yes.”

Khaska told, as best he could, their encounters with the Cult of Skyrnyn and the vampire Veleria in Hammerdine, and of their goals in hoping to discover more of the deeds of these aligned workers of evil on the Death Side by aiding Lady Maramos and thus gaining access to, it was hoped, more information and understanding. When he was done, he could see that she believed him. He thought it a good moment to try to persuade her to join their side in some capacity. She was a Mansonite, but seemed the most persuadable of those he had encountered so far. So he simply asked. “Would you be willing to help us achieve our ends?”

She waited a few seconds before answering, and Khaska noticed that she didn’t answer the question directly. “What will you do with me if I refuse? And what will become of the others, and my slain companions?”

Add this to what Khaska said before “The dark gathers all across our world, and we need all hands before the Dark Times of Arkenosian invasion.” Khaska sighed. “I will not kill you. But unless you do, I do not think you will be welcome in Rhun. The townsfolk feel that righteousness often untempered by grace is not the best neighbor. You would likely have to leave Rhun. Please think and pray on it. Pelor, whom we call Teresh, might answer yours as he does mine.”

“I will do so. Will you be performing rites over my fallen comrades? If so, I would like to help, if you would let me.”

“I will. And you may help, if you swear yourself to peace. My companions would need assurance that they can trust you out of bonds.”

“I don't think I'll be much of a threat to your entire group without my armor and weapons, but I swear to be peaceful during the services. Did you also perform services for Harrison?”

“I did, as best I could on water.”

“I thank you for that, at least.”

“Thank you for your company, Amelia. May Pelor grant you knowledge and wisdom to choose your path ahead.” He gingerly got up (he had been kneeling since their prayer) and quietly closed the door behind him.

As he left the makeshift shrine, one of the townspeople came running up to him. “Mister Khaska! The ships are here!” And sure enough, in the morning light, he could see the mast of the Rainbow Javelin above the nearby cabins and houses. There wasn’t really much of a dock … a few one or two-person fishing boats on the nearby beach, but Bronzebeard anchored a ways offshore and then began rowing towards the town in his longboat. Sebastien was with him, and the moment the vampire-worshipper stepped off of the boat he went straight to Orensland and pulled him aside.

“Report. Why did you leave some of them alive?”

“Information.” The shadowdancer didn’t want to explain much more than that. Sebastien nodded.

“What information have you gleaned?”

“Enough to be of use. Manson travels with about twenty-one of his followers and acolytes. They are moving slow in a caravan with several wagons, some commandeered by force from the townsfolk here.”

“So we’ll be able to catch up to them easily.”

“Or even get ahead of them if the Cloudlovers will drop us off on the far side of the forests here. It will be slow going for them. They have a few days head start on us, but that’s not going to be a problem at all.”

“That is good news. When do we leave?”

“That has yet to be decided, but we don’t want to waste any time, either. Now that the Cloudlovers are here, we can have that discussion.”

“What of the townsfolk here? Will they be friendly to us?”

“They seem largely ignorant of what Manson’s overall objectives and plans, and don’t know that we serve Lady Maramos. I doubt they would even know who she is. But I don’t know that we should broadcast our purpose more generally.” He leaned closer. “Not everybody is friendly to vampires, of course.”

“I see that the centaur and his family are here. Are they friendly to us?”

“Not particularly, but they are deeply unfriendly to Manson. Drikdare wants to get back to his clan and lead a war party against Manson and his caravan.”

“Perhaps we could ally with them? I have many financial resources at my command still in the carriage.”

“That’s not a bad idea.”


Khaska was using the makeshift shrine for his morning prayers. He had not slept much, but still felt the rejuvenating influence of Teresh buoy his alertness and sharpness. He was mindful of Amelia in the room up the stairs, but was careful not to seem to be overly pious. He was here to commune with his God, not to put on a show to convince her that he was a trustworthy ally.

As he finished his prayers, he stood to turn. He had been thinking that they would have to bury the Mansonites today, and had pondered on what he might say and do over the bodies to properly inter them. He turned to go … and saw Captain Bronzebeard standing there. The cleric hadn’t even heard him come in.

“I didn't want to disturb your morning prayers, but I had a thought I wanted to discuss with you in private,” the Captain began.

“Oh, yes, certainly. Share your thoughts.”

“From your report, Amelia seems that she might be amenable to some arrangement other than being a Whitecloak for the rest of her life. I was wondering what you thought your plans for her might be?”

“I do not know if Rhun would accept her as a guardian, but that could be an option. Otherwise, I am not sure. Perhaps she could accompany us to Darkcrest. Would you have a suggestion?”

“I do, in fact. I am in need of new crewmembers. We roam the lake, and sometimes the seas, looking to fight pirates and slavers and others. A good-aligned cleric would be a welcome addition.” The Bronzebeard leaned in closer, and whispered. “I have a further idea, but wish it to remain between us, for now.”

Khaska also whispered. “I can keep your secret.” He tried not to let his excitement show.

“You cannot yet raise the dead, but I suspect that, if your current endeavor doesn't get you killed, you will someday grow in the grace of Pelor that he would grant you that spell.” With that, Bronzebeard paused, tilting his head for a moment, clearly listening to their surroundings, then continued. “How do you think Amelia would respond if we promised to try to raise Harrison from the dead?”

“I suspect she might disbelieve it, though if I were able to accomplish that, I would win her total trust. But his body is at the bottom of Clearwater Lake. How could we even retrieve it for the spell?”

“Have you heard of the Spirit of the Lake in your travels here on the Death Side?”

“No, I have not. What is this spirit?”

“The locals speak of a spirit that rescues drowning sailors, helps stranded ships, and sometimes eradicates those same pirates and slavers that I try to track. Some believe in it. Others think it a legend created by too many drinks while sailing the lake. But I happen to know that the spirit is a real being, and is capable of a great many things.”

Khaska sat quietly, debating about whether to ask the question he had in mind whether Bronzebeard was the spirit. But he refrained, and asked instead “Could this spirit retrieve Harrison's body? And do you … know that this spirit would do such a thing?”

“I am certain that the spirit could retrieve the body. But I harbor suspicions that he would do so only if a powerful cleric,” and with this, Bronzebeard stared right into Khaska’s eyes, almost unnerving the Maha’i. He was forcefully reminded of the intensity of Loremaster Onasus, or even of the righteous fury of Mirwen Taldiril. Bronzebeard continued, “or a cleric who thinks someday he might be powerful enough, would commit to returning to raise Harrison from the dead.”

“I feel there is something that you know about Harrison—or Amelia—that I do not.” He paused, deep in thought for a moment. “But I trust you that his return would be so valuable. If I survive our venture Darkcrest, and if I advance in my abilities sufficiently, I will return to raise him.”

“I know all that you know about them. I am just aware of the Spirit, and how it might benefit your current cause, and thought I might bring it to your attention.”

“I will take your word.”

“Well, then, I'd best be off. I will go searching for a suitable tree to replace my mast. Please tell the others I have done so. Oh, and don't leave before sunset this evening. I suspect by then you will have a new bargaining chip for Amelia.”

Khaska nods in acknowledgement. “May Teresh guide your steps.”

“I would think it best, once the Spirit of the Lake delivers on my promise, to tell your friends of your goals. I suspect they will simply agree with you that perhaps Harrison and Amelia deserve their chance at happiness, but that you will have to travel a bit out of your way to make it happen. Orensland will take to this goal most naturally. I sense a good deal of guilt from him about his involvement in Harrison's death, though he would not have changed his actions.” He bowed. “Good day, Khaska.”


The party had decided to wait until the other Mansonites were awake before making a final decision about their next steps, but at Sebastien’s behest, Khaska used his magic to wake them up to get things moving forward.

As expected, neither was very open to any kind of negotiations. The human merely ignored them after calling them “darkfriends,” and said nothing else. The dwarf was similarly immovable, but for very different reasons.

“Cedric Manson saved my life several years ago. I owe him my allegience because of that, and I will not betray him until my debt is repaid. And that’s that.”

The party gathered near the outside of the barn, away from the structure itself, but also away from the town. Sebastien had joined them.

“What’s our next move?” he asked.

They were in the middle of discussing the situation when a few of the townsfolk came running. “Jake is back!” one of them said, a young newlywed man carrying a child on his shoulders. “He wants to meet you!”

“It would be rude to not go meet the leader of this town,” Khaska pointed out. “We can finish our discussion in a bit.”

The group walked back to the town itself, a decent crowd having gathered. Rynn watched as people departed with various cuts of meat. Given the amount of people and the number of cuts he saw, it was clear that Jake was a skilled hunter.

As the party approached the crowd, the townsfolk parted and Jake stepped forward.

He was a Maha’i.

Khaska didn’t even try to hide his astonishment, his mouth hanging open. Jake was similarly surprised, stepping forward. The group stopped, leaving the two Maha’i to approach each other.

“I didn’t quite believe it when they told me upon my arrival,” Jake said. “I never thought to meet another of my kind.”

“I am the first you have ever seen?” Khaska gaped. “How can such a thing be?”

“My mentor found me in the plains to the east, a child crying next to a dead female he assumed was my mother. She had many scars on her and still had the shackles of slavery around her neck and hands. She had perished for want of food. He found me and brought me here, taught me to hunt and track before he passed on many years ago. I’ve lived in Rhun as long as I can remember, helping the good people of this town.”

Eryx (DM)
So to sum up what you’ve learned.

1. Drikdare has it out for Manson, and will be heading back to his clan to organize a war party to ambush and kill the remaining Mansonites on their way to Garth Calad. Drikdare is also the next in line to be cheftain of his particular clan. Eapas in line after that.

2. Drikdare is not particularly fond of the idea of helping Lady Maramos, but does feel that he is in your debt for freeing his family.

3. Two of the Mansonites, the male human and the dwarf, are uninterested in bargaining, talking, learning, or really anything except for either escaping or killing you. Or perhaps dying honorably in combat. Amelia, on the other hand, seems more amenable to alternatives. Bronzebeard will be somehow contacting the Spirit of the Lake to bring Harrison’s body back, and suggests that Amelia join his crew. He suggests sticking around at least until this evening. (It’s currently late morning, and none of you really slept last night.)

4. Manson and his group are in a caravan with wagons, which means they’ll be moving slowly through the forest until they can reach the plains and head for the bridge. The Cloudlovers are still willing to drop you anywhere on the Death Side. It would be pretty easy to beat Manson and his caravan out of the forest. (A reminder, Rhun is on the east side of Clearwater Lake, about 20 or so miles south of the mouth of the Derring River.)

5. You have now met Jake. He’s a bit of a community leader in Rhun, and is a decently high-level ranger. He’s a Maha’i found in the wilds on the Death Side next to his dead mother (it was assumed), and doesn’t know squat about other Maha’i.

The loot from the Mansonites is as follows:
1. 4 sets of +1 plate armor.
2. 1 set of +3 plate armor.
3. 2 +1 heavy steel masterwork shields.
4. 2 +2 heavy steel masterworks shields.
5. +2 flametongue sword. (Crosis has called dibs, but only if there are no objections.)
6. 4 masterwork crossbows.
7. One +1 longbow.
8. +1 greatclub.
9. +2 maul, merciful enchantment.
10. 3 +1 Amulets of Natural Armor.
11. 1 +2 Amulet of Natural Armor.
12. Ring of Jumping.
13. Ring of Protection +2.
14. Various coin and jewels totaling 2481 gold.

Loot isn’t really important at this point, as we’re planning on switching over to 5E rules shortly anyway. I’ll have details about how I want to handle that to you in the campaign dialogue page sometime before we hit the end of this Codex.

And finally, a bit of metagaming discussion I’d like us to start to hash out. I did dialogues by IM with Thev and BlackWolf for the conversations with Drikdare, Amelia, and Captain Bronzebeard. As BlackWolf and I did his dialogue, BlackWolf came to the conclusion that Rynn, at this stage, really just wants to drag Lady Maramos out into a field during the daytime, open the top and shout “Rise and shine!” while watching her turn to dust.

I expressed worry about this because I don’t want the actions of one character to impact the fun of some of the players. (Note that I’m making a distinction here between characters and players. Rynn is character. BlackWolf is a player.) D&D is a bit of a social contract game. We have to make sure each other are having fun within some basic limits. What I don’t want to have happen is what this youtube DM-advice-giver talks about starting at about 6:05-7:12 in this video of his. (Incidentally, I’d be curious if you would all watch the video and pick which kind of player you think you are. It might be a beneficial self-diagnosis.) I don’t want one of you to ruin someone else’s fun.

I’ve talked with Crosis about this, and he thinks that Orensland feels so strongly about following the trail of their enemies to Darkcrest with Lady Maramos that he would actually fight Rynn over it. That’s what the character Orensland would do. The player Crosis doesn’t think that conflict between the characters Rynn and Orensland about what to do would actually ruin his fun. (In his words, the only thing that would ruin his fun would be if Orensland died. I pointed out that resurrection is a thing in this world.) I just want to make sure that, if BlackWolf decided to have Rynn drag her out in to the sunlight, that he wouldn’t be ruining anybody else’s fun. Creating inter-party conflict might be an interesting storyline switch, but it comes fraught with complications as the party moves forward from that point. If you’re all going to fight each other over whether or not to kill Lady Maramos, I want basically everybody to agree to do so to see where things go, and that we’ll do our best to not ruin each other’s fun moving forward.

Anyway long post. Long gray box. Thanks for putting up with it all.

What do you all want to do next? And what are your thoughts about a possible inter-party conflict about the fate of Lady Maramos? What will you do with the two incorrigible Mansonites?

Crosis
For the inter-party conflict about the fate of Lady Maramos, I'm thinking such an event would be quite interesting as far as plot development goes. Orensland sees keeping Lady Maramos alive as a key to determining the plot behind the pilgrimages, and as such key to saving hundreds of men, women and children. He would be seeing their suffering in his eyes as motivation for putting up a fight to keep Lady Maramos alive. If he and Rynn fight, and he wins, he'd likely keep Rynn out of commission until Lady Maramos is conscious (Killing her when she's defenseless is one thing, killing her when she's awake and powerful as ever is another). If he loses, I would assume Rynn would kill her then and there, not leaving much choice for the incapacitated Orensland. Orensland would not be happy, but would still want to work with the party, as that is his best chances of averting the evils plaguing the events surrounding Darkcrest.

As for what to do now, I should think we fly over to the tribes and figure out what they are and are not willing to do. Orensland would recommend that we don't tell them about the vampire, and ask that we get the coffin in return for helping with the fight. We should bring the carriage in the ship to help with transportation. I suspect any conflict between Rynn and Orensland would happen after we have actually secured the vampire.

As for the remaining Mansonites, Orensland would be torn over the remaining two stubborn ones. When he steals from the wealthy who prey on the poor, he intentionally avoids looking into their personal life beyond their atrocities. In essence, he avoids feeling guilty about who he has hurt. In this instance, he killed Harrison only seeing the darkness his order was bringing, but with Amelia around and willing to be a better soul, he can't help but feel the humanity of the Mansonites still alive. Killing them would be the simplest option, and one he is inclined to, but he'd rather not be the one to do so. If someone has a better idea, Orensland would be inclined to listen, but only if it a) doesn't tip Manson off that we're on to him or b) they don't continue their zealot ways against the good people who disagree with them. He likes the idea of resurrecting Harrison, but after the resurrection will be on guard for any possible acts of revenge.

And if Amelia is nice to us, Orensland would feel bad about taking the flametongue sword, as she no longer fits the stereotype of people he generally steals from. If he could somehow get it without causing too much grief from her end, he would be down for taking it, but otherwise may just stick to his own sword. Remorsefully. As for the other loot, I should think we should split the financial goods evenly, but Orensland would also like the +2 Ring of Protection, if if that's all right. He doesn't much care for the other goods.

Eryx (DM)
The sword wasn't actually Amelia's. They gave the good weapons to those "on duty," so you can lay claim to any of the loot you want. I suspect that if she goes with Bronzebeard he'll insist that she get at least a set of armor and a sword, maybe a shield as well.

To be clear, the resurrection of Harrison will take place probably months or even years from now. Khaska must be a level 13 cleric to perform that spell, and it costs 10,000 gold (in 3.5 E rules; in 5E rules, it's only 1000 gold, so you have that going for you as we prepare to make the switch). So, he's made a reasonably big commitment here. You all don't necessarily have to be on the hook for the cash, but I figured your characters wouldn't mind doing some extra travel for a good cause at some point in the future.

Crosis
Ah! Well, Orensland would love getting the sword, if nobody is opposed. Also, I didn't mention the +2 Amulet of Natural Armor, but would like that if nobody else wants it. I just find myself in a poor condition to call dibs on more items.

And he would still be good for the resurrecting of Harrison some time down the road.

BlackWolf

First, the issue of Lady Maramos. I'm glad that Crosis as a player is up for some in-game debate (or even conflict) about this. I think it could be interesting since we both are happy to let it play out however it will.

For now, Rynn would talk with the rest of the group and explain his side of things. He's worried that we didn't have a solid plan, and that taking Lady Maramos back to Darkcrest might just end up with us dead and her back home safely. Yes, she is our ticket into the city… but with the information Rynn learned from Drikdare, it sounds like getting into Darkcrest may not be all that we thought it would be. It sounds like the pilgrimages might be part of something else after all. So eliminating Maramos (and Manson) would get rid of them and also free us up to investigate in other ways. It doesn't even completely rule out the possibility of visiting Darkcrest.

Rynn will be open about his objections to rescuing Maramos. It complicates things (both now with Sebastien and later with her) and if she gets to Darkcrest we might lose our only chance to destroy her. But he won't fight Orensland over it at this point. Really, I don't think he would actively fight Orensland (e.g. he wouldn't try to incapacitate his friend in order to get his way), but he might take sudden action that Orensland would have to prevent to get his way.

I'm also interested in what the rest of the party has to say on this matter. But no matter what, I think we should search Maramos' carriage — though we'll have to do so when Sebastien is unaware. I actually think that Orensland is best equipped to do so without leaving a trace, but Rynn will try if needed.

Regarding resurrecting Harrison, Rynn is fine with it if Khaska vouches for Amelia. The ranger will want to ask her a single question, "Which is more evil: shielding a vampire or holding a family captive to enslave their good father?" Her answer to this will determine whether Rynn thinks she has any redeemable qualities, though even if he thinks she does not, he'd still defer to Khaska's judgement. (Likewise he's also fine with Bronzebeard taking her on as crew.)

For the other two Mansonites, Rynn sees them as liabilities. If they got away, they could warn Manson or cause other trouble. If the townsfolk kept them imprisoned that might work, but they would probably still try to escape. Rynn doubts that Bronzebeard would want to take them on as crew.

So, given that they are liabilities and that Rynn sees them as the worst kind of lawful (they do evil things in the name of good because others tell them to instead of thinking for themselves) the ranger would be willing to be the one to execute them if the group agrees that is the thing to do. Like with Adam back in Codex III-Chapter 5, he considers it a necessity and thus would feel no guilt or remorse. It's his ranger training; unfortunate that there is no other way, but nothing to wring one's hands over with indecision. Maybe Rhun has some laws that ought to come into play? This time there is no large government to sit in judgement.

As far as the loot goes, Rynn could make good use of the +1 longbow — at least until we switch over to 5th edition. He really doesn't need anything else.

Eryx (DM)
Thev and I came up with a pretty cool chart to determine which Maha'i tribe (and therefore which earthly antelope he's based on) Jake is from. Here's the google doc. My wife rolled a 55, so Jake is descended from the Mkentek tribe, which means he looks like a Nyala. (Khaska, being from the Mawkhavi tribe, looks like a Gemsbok.)

Thev
Sorry for the delay, guys. Been a busy week and long posts are always somewhat intimidating to respond to!

First, Khaska's torn about the unrepentant Mansonites. He doesn't want to kill them—after all, he himself saved them. However, he also doesn't feel like it's quite his place to mete out justice. He'd rather consult with the townsfolk of Rhun on what would be a proper punishment: ideally, something that would leave them alive but unwilling or unable to continue their harm. Perhaps, for instance, the Cloudlovers could drop them in the forest somewhere along the route to the intercept point with Manson's caravan: let them fend for themselves in the wilderness without gear. I suppose we'll see how they react when Khaska promises to resurrect Harrison?

Second, Orensland is committed to rescuing Lady Maramos, it seems. Khaska's now a little more ambivalent about that prospect, given that the pilgrimages don't seem to be headed to Darkcrest anymore. He would remind them that reviving Maramos would determine the party's next moves, and he agrees with Rynn that they don't seem to have a plan for when they reach Darkcrest (Khaska, again, at least wants to be disguised when entering the city).

However, he's not in favor of reviving her immediately; he thinks it would be better to thwart Manson first and revive her after the battle, if possible, in order to protect bystanders and maintain the party's control of the situation as long as possible. He wouldn't be opposed to joining Drikdare and his tribe in the battle; it would certainly help avoid the situation on the Ruvalk.

Khaska would also be in favor of the party searching Lady Maramos's coach as soon as possible.

3. Khaska is shocked to find another Maha'i on the Death Side. What's more, while he knows the Mkentek clan by look, he's never spoken with one before—they're more aligned with Gtarrei politically, but the border tribes relate as a matter of economic necessity.

Even if Bronzebeard hadn't advised them to wait until evening, Khaska would ask to take time to speak with Jake. He'd introduce himself formally, of course, and then mostly want to field Jake's questions, if for only one practical reason: Khaska realizes that Jake is starting with total ignorance, and isn't quite sure where he'd begin. Some things he'd be sure to mention are the history of the enslavement of the Maha'i along the western coast of Gallidus and his desire to find and free anyone who might still be in servitude on the Death Side. He might even mention the story of Tawru One-Horned.

Regarding loot, Khaska would like either the Ring of Protection or the Amulet of Natural Armor, however he works out the split with Orensland. A +2 mwk heavy steel shield might be nice as well.

BTW, here's Jake for you all:
jake20of20rhun_zps3oe8djlm.jpg

(I would draw everyone, but… I'm not skilled with humanish faces, and they wouldn't look that great.)

DeltaWolf
Sanjin thinks this white cloak girl is a wild card and is opposed to bringing her along. As for the other Mansonites he worries that they would cause trouble and has no qualms about ending them. Never the less he is happy to just turn them over to the town as to get them off the party’s hands.

Sanjin leans towards using Lady Maramos as was their plan. Yet he will make no attempt to stop Rynn if he makes a move to destroy her.

Also on a flavor note: Sanjin is fascinated with undead and as more time goes by his interest will grow -even to the point where he desires to study necromancy. I also think his general language and behavior would reflect this.

“So you don’t know your clan? Your heritage? Your culture?”

Jake bristled a little. “My culture comes from the good people of Rhun and the other nearby villages on the lake.”

“Of course,” Khaska said, “I meant no offense to them, but, Jake, you are of the Mkentek tribe. They dwell among the Shajran forest on the east side of Gallidus, and are a noble and proud people.” He smiled. “Sometimes they are looked upon with suspicion by the others because they swear allegience to neither Jevereshk nor Gtarrei, two rival cities of our people. But perhaps that is not a weakness, but a sign of independence and strength.”

“I would love to speak more of this with you, but I must ask the nature of your business here. You have freed us from the Whitecloaks, but for what purpose? And are there survivors?”

“There are,” said Rynn. “We kept a few alive to learn more about Manson’s plans and where he is traveling to.”

“So you will be tracking Manson, then? I wish you luck in that. He is a cunning and devious cleric, with great powers at his command. What do you want to do with the survivors?”

“There’s some debate about that,” Khaska said. “As a leader of this town, your input would be greatly valued. I do feel obligated to perform last rites for the slain Mansonites. We could bury them in the woods or in a cemetery, if your village has one.”

Jake shook his head. “We bury our dead in the woods or maybe on the lake. There isn’t a designated place for it.”


Khaska presided over the funerals for the fallen Mansonites. A few of the townsfolk came out, but most didn’t participate. The two unrepentant clerics seemed too much a liability, so they remained tied up and under guard. Amelia was allowed to come, and said a prayer over each grave that Rynn and Orensland had dug. Khaska and Jake spoke for a few hours about the Maha’i. The ranger was very interested in hearing the tales of his people, and Khaska told him many that he could remember, even including the Tale of Tawru, though he left a few of the newly discovered details out. They spoke of the enslavement of many of the western Maha’i, and of the likely fact that Jake’s mother had been among them, perhaps even born into a life of slavery. He taught Jake a few of the prayers that he felt the Mkentek tribe might also use, and a few halting words in Maha’i.


Later that day, as Khaska and Jake were walking the streets, the two saw Bronzebeard walking up.

“Khaska!” he said, “I’ve found a suitable tree on the south side of the village I can use to remake the mast for my ship. Perhaps you’d like to come see it with me?”

Khaska knew exactly what Bronzebeard was asking, and he took his leave of Jake and followed the dwarf. About a mile down the shoreline they found Harrison’s body, soaking wet, but still all together wrapped in one of the sails from the Ruvalk.

“I hope this helps,” Bronzebeard said. “At the very least, I think that we can persuade Miss Amelia to come join my crew.”

Khaska hefted the body over his shoulder and began walking, a little unnerved that he could feel Harrison’s head bouncing around in the cloth. But after a few hundred yards, he had to put Harrison down due to the weight.

“I’ll carry him from here,” Bronzebeard said. The dwarf easily hoisted the dead body up and carried it to the outskirts of the village. “Why don’t you go get Amelia, and we can make our bargain.”

Khaska went ahead and gathered Rynn to help guard Amelia. The two of them took the Mansonite out to the edge of town. As they walked, Rynn was assessing his view of this Mansonite. He wasn’t particularly inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

“Amelia,” he asked, “if you were born into the Whitecloaks, why did you follow Manson? He’s been excommunicated.”

“I don’t particularly care for Titanius,” she said. “I find him too cautious and calculating. Cedric might be too far in the other direction, but I find his assertiveness in fighting evil more to my liking.”

“And you like to fight evil?”

“You do not?”

“I recognize the complicated situations we sometimes find ourselves in.” He looked at her. “For example, which is more evil: shielding a vampire or holding a family captive to enslave their good father?”

She looked down at the ground.

“It would depend on what good you could get from the father. I was never quite comfortable with Drikdare’s family working for us, but what choice did I have? If I’d spoken up, I’d be abandoned or worse, summarily executed for being a darkfriend! I’m no ranger, like you. I don’t know that I would survive on my own here in the Deadlands.” With that, she glanced around. “You bringing me out here to kill me and be done with it?” she asked. With that, she turned to Khaska, walking on the other side of her, holding her bound hands up imploringly. “At least pray over me like you did my companions.”

“Captain Bronzebeard has an alternative solution,” Khaska said, pointing to the dwarf who had just appeared around the bend in the trail. “One that we all might find to our liking.”

Bronzebeard approached, carrying Harrison’s body.

“Amelia,” he said, “I have a proposal for you.” He deposited the body on the ground. “Since Manson and his other cleric friends killed most of my crew on the Ruvalk, I find myself in need of more willing to sail with me. We sail the lake and sometimes the oceans, living the free life, unencumbered by ties to the land or to any particular place. We serve others as we can. Fight pirates. Free slaves. Help those in need. You could find a place with us. A cleric would be most welcome aboard the ship.

“This is the body of your fiancé, Harrison. We’ll bury him with the others, but Mister Khaska here has agreed to a condition that might make my offer more viable to you, young lady.”

She had teared up at learning that Harrison’s body was in the tied up sail.

“Amelia,” Khaska said. “I have not yet the grace from Teresh to perform the spell, but when I do, I will return to this town and raise Harrison from the dead if you agree to go with Captain Bronzebeard.”

She gasped at the thought, turning to the Maha’i cleric.

“You would pledge to do such an action? But I have no money to pay! That spell requires …” she paused.

“A good amount of diamonds,” Khaska finished her sentence. “I swear to you, by Teresh, that if I can, I will return to bring Harrison back to you. You two can be married, as was your plan. I do not know how long it will take, or even if I ever will attain the power as a cleric to perform such a spell, but I know that I will do all in my power to do so. It is all that I can pledge to you, but I do so happily.”

Her face was beaming, the tears rapidly having moved from sadness to joy. She turned to Bronzebeard.

“If it will give me a chance to be reunited with Harrison, I accept your offer, and will join your crew. And I swear to be peaceful while here in the village. But,” she furrowed her brow. “If we are sailing the world, how will we know to come back here when Khaska is powerful enough to raise Harrison?”

Bronzebeard smiled. “You’re a smart one, young lady.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out a telescope. “Rynn, I think you should hold onto this. About the time that Khaska can perform the spell, I bet that wizard of yours, Sanjin, will be able to cast Greater Scrying. Having an object of mine will help, and he can contact me through that spell. We’ll immediately return to this village and meet you here.”

Rynn reached out to take the telescope. “You are a kind and generous soul, Captain Bronzebeard. I will keep your telescope in the hopes that it will bring us together again someday.”

“Will you give this same offer to the others?” Amelia asked.

“Your compatriots seem too locked into their ways of thinking,” Bronzebeard said. “I doubt they will accept.”

“I would like to make it a condition of my joining your crew that they at least be given the offer.”

Bronzebeard raised his eyebrow.

“Fine, but don’t be surprised when they call you a darkfriend.”


Bronzebeard was half right. The human cleric literally spat at Amelia’s feet when she presented the offer to him.

“I always knew you were weak, Amelia. Manson would be ashamed of you. You’ve become just as evil as all the darkfriends that we swore to fight when we left the order fo follow Manson. You aren’t even worthy …”

He was cut off as Bronzebeard kicked him in the head, knocking him out flat.

“I told you,” he said.

The dwarven cleric was different. “You have to do what you feel is best,” he said. “But I must stand by my oath to Manson.” He looked at Rynn and Khaska. “What are you going to do with me?”

“Well, to be honest,” Rynn said, “I think Jake and the locals want you two executed. They’re making allowance for Amelia, but you two weren’t as friendly, and are unrepentantly going to try to break free and get away.”

“I would rather not die trussed up like some sheep. No good dwarf wants to be executed as a prisoner of war. Grant me an honorable death, on my feet, and armed. I don’t even need armor, just a weapon and a chance to die gloriously in combat, trying to honorably fulfill my oath to Manson.”

“We’ll consider it,” said Khaska.

Once they left the building, Amelia turned to them. “His sense of dwarven honor has always been strong.”

“Do you think one of us could take him down?” Khaska asked. “How dangerous is he?”

“His power as a cleric is about that of mine, or Harrison’s. I didn’t get the impression that Harrison was the problem when you fought on the lake.”

“It wasn’t,” came Orensland’s voice. The elf came walking up. “He didn’t even get a hit on me once.” He looked Amelia in the eye. “And I am sorry for the pain it caused you. I’m happy that it seems you’ve accepted the deal with Bronzebeard and Khaska.”

“So then one of you could probably easily kill Gill,” she said. “He would be content with such a death. Truth be told, his wanting to die honorably in combat sometimes got him in trouble with some of the rest of us.”


Sanjin was happy to talk to Sebastien to distract the human from the fact that Orensland was going to search Lady Maramos’ coach. Truth be told, the fact that they were working for a vampire was beginning to fascinate Sanjin. He thought it best to ask the vampire’s manservant about the possibility of staying in Darkcrest to study for a bit. He liked this because, well, it was true, and it also assumed that they would be successful in rescuing Lady Maramos. When Sebastien was less panicked about failing his mistress, he was much easier to deal with.

Secretly, the wizard hoped that Orensland was successful.


Orensland took his time searching the coach, which he found impressive. He had only caught snatches of what was inside, but now that he was actually given a chance to inspect it more closely, Lady Maramos did travel in expensive style. Bronzebeard had rowed him out to the ship as Sanjin took Sebastien to the other side of the village for a chat. The dwarf and his first mate were keeping an eye out as Orensland looked around.

And indeed, there was something, a hidden compartment under one of the fine and comfortable carriage seats. Unfortunately, Orensland also discovered a trap guarding it. A magic trap. He cursed under his breath.

“What is it?” came Bronzebeard’s voice.

“Magic trap,” he responded.

“Can you disarm it?”

Orensland grabbed his thieve’s tools out. “I can certainly try.”

He tried and tried to figure a way around the magic detection mechanism he knew was there, seeing if there was some other method of obtaining whatever was in the compartment. He found it quite difficult, and was sweating profusely from his concentration and fine work with his hands and tools.

He removed a panel of wood just below the compartment, and thought that he had it. Now to just reach through and …

That’s when it blew up in his face. A lightning bolt smashed into his chest, blowing him back across the carriage. The arc then jumped from him through the wall of the carriage, and he could hear Bronzebeard and his first mate both grunt in pain. Orensland had set off the Chain Lightning trap.

“Criminitely!” the dwarf said, as he grabbed a bucket of water and quickly used it to douse the flames on the carriage. “You alright in there?”

Orensland groaned. “Not dead, at least.”

“Well, we’ll get Khaska to fix you up. But, well, I don’t know how we’re going to hide the fact that you sprang the trap. Even if Sebastien didn’t know it was there, Lady Maramos did, and you’ll be in a heap of trouble when she finds out.”

“If we can rescue her,” the shadowdancer said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“Anything in there?” the first mate asked.

Orensland looked in at the now-open compartment. There was a bag, a book, and a rolled up scroll. He looked at the scroll, but it was in a language he didn’t understand.

“Do you read this?” he asked Bronzebeard. Bronzebeard glanced at it. “It’s in draconic. Yes I can.”

Orensland flipped through the book. It was a ledger, and after a few minutes of perusal it became obvious that it was a ledger that detailed all of the vampire’s efforts on Gallidus on behalf of the Cult of Skyrnyn. There was a wealth of information here. In the right hands, it could cripple their operation.

The bag contained a massive amount of jewels. He hefted it. “Sebastien kept saying that he had considerable means to help us. I bet he knew about this compartment, and how to get past the trap.”

“Then he’ll know that you sprang it,” Bronzebeard said. He was looking over the water, where several of the townsfolk had gathered, having heard the Chain Lightning strike. Sanjin and Sebastien were not among them. “But he didn’t hear the lightning, so we have that going for us. We’re going to have to hide the damage, or explain it away somehow.”

Eryx (DM)
Orensland took 37 points of damage from the Chain Lightning trap. The carriage is damaged, but just superficially. (It wasn’t targeted by the spell, but the spell did damage it, if that makes sense.) It still works fine.

1. Regarding the Mansonites, Gill wants to die in honorable combat, the human is just an overzealous jerk, and Amelia has agreed to go with Bronzeneard. Jake, and the townsfolk, want them executed. Does someone wish to fight Gill in a duel to give him an honorable death?

2. I coordinated with Crosis offline to get his rolls for trap disarming. Since the carriage is damaged now, Sebastien is going to notice that and know that the trap was sprung. What do you want to do about that? (He didn’t hear the lightning.)

3. The letter, translated by Bronzebeard, says the following.

Lady Maramos,
Once you have completed your tour of your minions on Gallidus, I request an audience. I can come to Darkcrest at your behest once you have returned safely. The carrier pseudodragon can return a message to me at the Citadel, and then I will return to gather the information you have collected, per our arrangement. After our meeting, you and your House will be welcome in the Citadel whenever convenient as we prepare for the Dark Times.
Gulnith Smithsrana

Gulnith, if you recall, is the member of the Cult that Amara took off with, and that was responsible for killing Fan back in Codex IV-Chapter 5. Apparently she has made a pact with just the House of Maramos. You know from Sebastien and Drikdare that there are many great houses/covens of vampires in Darkcrest, and that they sometimes compete with each other for power. An alliance with the Cult of Skyrnyn would certainly be an advantage for one house over the others.

4. Loot.

It seems to me the following is the best way to distribute loot:

Orensland gets the +2 flametongue sword.
Khaska gets one of the +2 heavy steel shields.
Rynn gets the +1 longbow.
Sanjin gets the +2 Amulet of Natural Armor.

It also makes sense for Khaska to take the +3 plate armor, though like we did before you can’t wear it until you have to fixed up for you by a blacksmith to fit Maha’i physiology. If you make it to Darkcrest, you’ll easily have access to one there.

Everybody else already has a +1 Amulet of Natural Armor, so it makes sense for Khaska to take one of those as well. No reason to be wasteful.

And perhaps Sanjin and Orensland can both roll off for the Ring of Protection +2. Roll a d20, and the highest gets it to upgrade from their +1 Ring of Protection. (Khaska could use one too, but he’s got PLENTY of new armor from this fight, haha. That’s what happens when you kill a bunch of high-level clerics. Your cleric makes bank!)

Amelia will take one of the sets of armor, a shield, and the mercifully enchanted maul, as well as one crossbow. The rest can be given to Bronzebeard so he can sell them off and hire a new crew. So the loot goes as follows:

4 sets of +1 plate armor. Amelia. Spares.
1 set of +3 plate armor. Khaska.
2 +1 heavy steel masterwork shields. Spares.
2 +2 heavy steel masterworks shields. Amelia. Khaska.
+2 flametongue sword. Orensland.
4 masterwork crossbows. Spares.
One +1 longbow. Rynn.
+1 greatclub. Spares.
+2 maul, merciful enchantment. Amelia.
3 +1 Amulets of Natural Armor. Khaska. Amelia. Spares.
1 +2 Amulet of Natural Armor. Sanjin.
Ring of Jumping. Spares.
Ring of Protection +2. Roll-off between Sanjin and Orensland.

Sorry, BlackWolf, that you didn’t seem to come out of that very well. I don’t know that Rynn is underpowered for your level, but it does seem he’s underlooted relative to the rest of the party. I don’t know that it matters much as we prepare to switch to 5E, but I thought I’d mention that I’m aware of the disparity.

5. I don't know that we need to spend a lot more time in Rhun. Although, logistically, it'll be tricky and cramped on the Rainbow Javelin, you could get all four horses, the party, Drikdare and his family, the Cloudlovers, and the wagon, all on the ship. A two day's journey would put you on the plains, well ahead of Manson. You do have to get the horses and the carriage off of the Ruvalk, and there isn't a dock.

I've tried to divide the major decisions up and number them. There are 5 of them. What do you all want to do about them?

Thev
1. Rynn seems the most amenable to ending the unrepentant Mansonites, so Khaska would ask whether he’d be open to the duel. Of course, he might also be the least likely to be interested in the WC’s honor. Would Orensland, as Skyler’s slayer, be up for it? Khaska wants to avoid personally killing Gill.

The human WC… hm. Khaska would still be in favor of exiling him or dropping him in the wilderness.

2-3. Is there a way for the party to blame the tampering on someone other than Orensland? Sebastien would notice the damage, but would he have a notion of when the trap was sprung?

Either way, we know more about LM’s dealings: she’s in cahoots with Gulnith, and has information the latter wants. If we’re not particularly interested in the information LM has—which we might never hear, in any case, being just bodyguards—we could just let LM be killed. Perhaps we could also send a letter as if from LM to Gulnith, requesting her presence in Darkcrest, and set off some cascade of political maneuverings among the vampire houses. Disarray among evildoers serves good, after all.

On the other hand, we might just want to accompany her to Darkcrest and see if we can frustrate her plans when we know more about them.

4. Loot looks great to me. Totally reasonable to give the others some of the items, as Khaska gets his fair share!

5. Khaska at least wants to teach Jake the Maha’i gesture of greeting and farewell (hand lying on the other’s face, as described in the story of Khaska and Dhezga) and extend the invitation to come with him to Gallidus, if he so wishes. Is there a way he could leave some memento—an icon of Teresh, perhaps?—with Jake?

After that, Khaska would be ready to depart.

Crosis

For the first one, my character would be willing to do the battle, but lingering regrets over Harrison might lead him to support somebody else doing it.

As for 2-3, I think we're going to have to be pretty tricky. We know that Bronzebeard it's pretty awesome all around, can he memorize what is in the ledger? We could make a copy and Sebastian would never know. Perhaps we could take the overzealous Klarich, smack him with the lightning axe to replicate the traps fact, I make it seem like a petty crook tried to break in to the fancy coach. The deathblow should be from one of us, and should be hit by the flat side of the axe, as it is more likely that my character would kill him then the captain, who didn't get along well with the vampire. That story could also explain why my character got sizzled, as it was a chain lightning spell. In general, though, we should make it look like only the thief try to get a way with the goods. Yes Ikelea, once we are finished reading through the ledger, we should try putting all items back.

The loot distribution looks good to me, too. Rolling a D 20, I got a 3. It looks like I am not getting that ring of protection. :-)

I vote we just take the cart that Manson is using do you carry the coffin. Perhaps we can take the horses?

DeltaWolf
I rolled an 18 -Sanjin would be happy to let Orensland have the ring. It seems like Orensland is more likely to need the extra defense. Either way.

BlackWolf
Thev is correct that Rynn doesn't care one bit about satisfying the Dwarf's honor, so he would not be open to risking a duel. But he would be willing to play executioner (with a preference toward a firing squad scenario) if Orensland doesn't accept the challenge to duel, or just for the other.

But overall, Rynn doesn't have strong opinions in this matter as long as the Mansonites are dealt with. He doesn't trust them, including Amelia — in her case he has no new information since his question to her was ignored in the narration. He's fine with letting Khaska and Bronzebeard decide about her; similarly he's happy to let the townspeople decide the other Mansonites' fate.

Regarding the carriage, Rynn is thinking more and more that we should just kill off Sebastien. Then we don't have to worry about pretending or hiding around him. Of course, without Sebastien, that means we probably have to kill Maramos instead of rescuing her… which is what the ranger wants to do anyway. Given the new information we've learned in the last couple of posts (especially the scroll and ledger), it feels like there is less and less value to rescuing Maramos. We can disrupt their operations via the ledger's information, and maybe even learn more from studying it further.

The only reason to keep Lady Maramos alive (in Rynn's estimation) is to draw out Gulnith. We don't know where the Citadel is, after all, so it may be difficult to find her. But on the flip side, if Maramos is alive and back with her own people… and Gulnith is there too… it just seems like we'd be giving them the home field advantage. And that's assuming that we could even stay on long enough to be part of the audience rather than being paid for our services and dismissed. And it depends on whether Lady Maramos is happy with us for rescuing her, or angry that we failed in our job in the first place.

As a player, I'm up for us going to Darkcrest if that's what everyone wants to do. Sometimes you just have to be drawn into the Death Star and then walk right into the detention block to boot. It can make for a great story to go into the heart of darkness (so to speak). But it's not what Rynn would want to do given the current circumstances, especially since maybe not everyone survives such a trip. (After all, Han didn't choose to go to the Death Star.)

So yeah; Rynn votes we just kill Sebastien, then decide with Drikdare whether we bring his tribe into the hunt for Manson. Either way, the ranger wants to get rid of the threats of both Manson and Maramos while we can. Then we'll figure out the next step for the next enemy.

And finally, regarding loot I'm fine with the distribution. The bow is good for Rynn, but it isn't what he wants. None of it really is. The only use he can get out of it is to sell it to fund what he really wants. Given that we're in the deadlands, that's gonna be harder to accomplish.

Generally speaking, as I've role played more, I'm less and less interested in looting. It just seems to distract from the story, and often leads to the "murder hobo" style of gaming where loot becomes an end unto itself. I understand the need for making sure that Rynn isn't underpowered, since that's how the game is balanced. I just hope that Eryx isn't feeling like he's wasting time on generating loot and whatnot. So that may be a nice benefit of moving to 5e. In the meantime, I'm fine with what we have now, and will continue to concentrate on collecting money over specific items of loot.

Eryx (DM)
You are right, BlackWolf, in that I totally neglected to put your question and Amelia's answer into the narrative. My apologies. I've amended the post and underlined the relevant part to make it easier to find. I hope that helps inform your character's decisions further.

Regarding what to do with the carriage and the damage, it seems we have three options.

1. Blame the damage on someone else. Perhaps the human whitecloak? Maybe have an "accident" as you drag it off the Ruvalk?
2. Just kill Sebastien. I feel obligated to point out that Lady Maramos is currently basically frozen in time. Even if you do rescue her, you don't have to immediately pull out the stake. You could drag her corpse all the way back to Darkcrest and then "wake her up," so to speak. So you don't need Sebastien around to feed her.
3. Don't even take the carriage with you. Just take the stuff from Manson once you raid the camp. Bonus: You're not dragging a sleek black coach with elegant horses across the deadlands with a big "hey, I'm rich, come murder me!" sign on your backs. Haha.

Bronzebeard says that he can't memorize the ledger. "You all seem to have an overdeveloped sense of my abilities." Besides, he's staying behind to fix his ship and then sail on.

Which of these options do you want to pursue?

Maybe I was projecting too much onto you, BlackWolf, regarding loot. One of the things I really enjoy as a D&D player is getting the cool magic items. That doesn't make my character all murder-hobos either. I just want to make sure you're having fun, since that's my job. I'm sensing some frustration from you about how this Codex is going and just didn't want to add to it any more.

Loot looks good. Sanjin gets the ring.

Thev
Thanks for pointing out that Maramos is in suspended animation and doesn't need Sebastien. Khaska would be in favor of blaming the damage on an accident, but is also leaning toward dispatching Sebastien; he's a liability to the party. If we could find a way for him to perish without directly killing him (accident on the skyship, at the hands of Amelia or one of the Whitecloaks, in the battle with Manson), that would be preferable.

For the present, Khaska is alright with going after the Mansonite band. But longer-term, here's an idea: why don't we ourselves take Maramos to Garth Calad? We're not sure how we'd be received, but Khaska would feel much safer going there than to Darkcrest (whether his intuitions are right or not). Perhaps they would have a way of containing Maramos and getting the information she has. And they might subtly approve of our preventing Manson's excesses for good.

Khaska's pretty torn about the duel. He thinks it would be appropriate to give Gill the honorable death he wants, but he's also aware of his own commitments (especially the new one to Amelia) and doesn't want to risk his own death. In the end, I think he'll turn the WCs over to the town, as Rynn would, but he would warn them in their sentencing to put aside anger and hatred, if they have any, in favor of justice. All the same, he would ensure that they received a proper and holy burial.

Crosis
Yes, that is an enormous help. Orensland does not mind killing Sebastien knowing that Lady Maramos does not need to feed on us.

My proposal, then: We dump the carriage in the water, but keep the ledger, scroll and money nearby the village (perhaps bury it). It would likely not do well for us if they were found on our person if we entered Darkcrest. We can utilize it when we return for Harrison's revival.

We go ahead and kill Sebastien.

I'll go ahead and duel with the Dwarf. Preferrably with no armor. Orensland would not mind beheading the final stubborn cleric either, he's kind of gotten into the habit of such executions by this point. Guilt over Harrison is leaving.

I think we all agree that we want to catch up to Manson? If that's the case, I vote we move on to that circumstance quickly. We've tarried here for some time in the campaign.

As for whether or not to kill Lady Maramos, that could well be decided by any fights that break out inside of our party. Whoever wins, wins. That fight doesn't need to happen, but Orensland is not planning on changing his mind. That would likely also determine which city we go to next.

BlackWolf
Thanks for adding in Rynn's question. Amelia's answer definitely helps Rynn understand the bind that she was in. He can sympathize to a degree, but it also further cements his thinking that lawful organizations become corrupt and people end up working against their conscience. Assuming we execute the other two Mansonites, I think that might be an event sufficient enough that Rynn will finally tip from neutral to chaotic alignment.

I like Crosis' idea of caching the money. I think we should do something about the ledger to disrupt our enemies' plans, but we could do that later. Or maybe we could spend some time making a copy of important details, then ask Bronzebeard if he could see it delivered to someone we trust on the light side? Perhaps one of the Knights of the Silver Dragons?

Rynn agrees that we need to catch up with Manson. We could ambush him by ourselves, or we could get Drikdare's clan involved. The latter would be a small detour that would give us some help, but on the other hand, some centaur could get hurt. Rynn would defer to Drikdare on this one.

As far as loot, don't get me wrong — I also like getting the cool magic items and improving my character. But when the loot doesn't really contain anything Rynn needs/wants, then taking the stuff only helps if he can sell it off, and that happens to not align with my concept of Rynn being more spartan/utilitarian. Of course not everybody turns into a murder hobo. I'm just trying to lean further away from that. :)

I don't really feel frustrated about how this codex is going, nor about loot. Rynn is conflicted about what they should do and wishes there was a clearer path, but that's just a story element. Loot wise, Rynn just needs money so he can fund making his own bow magic. If there is any tiny bit of frustration from me as a player, it would be that it took 10 chapters across 3 codices to craft the masterwork bow, and now that it's done there doesn't seem to be any option in the foreseeable future to get it turned into a magic one. In a way it's more satisfying to have to wait to get the really cool/powerful items, though. The +1 longbow is good for Rynn if we have to fight anything where magic weapons make a difference (e.g. bypassing damage reduction). But because it's not composite (which is the type of longbow Rynn prefers), it actually does 1 less damage if he uses it. So it's not really an upgrade for him.

Crosis
That's a really good idea about copying important details and sending them via Bronzebeard. If we go to the centaurs we'll be flying way ahead of Manson and company, giving us a few extra weeks to kill. Spending one of those weeks prepping a ledger copy would certainly not be draining on time. Even if it were, it's a worthy enough task to delay us. We'd have to ask Bronzebeard for cooperation, though.

Thev
Khaska is wholly in agreement with the plan about copying the ledger; depending on its length and our resources, he'd actually recommend making multiple copies.

He's also alright with dumping the carriage in the lake (though perhaps it should be burned beforehand?) to destroy evidence of our passing. He'll voice his opinion that if Sebastien will be a hindrance, he should be separated from the party, but he'll defer to the party on how that should be done.

And, as mentioned above, he'll firmly suggest that the party proceed to Garth Calad with Lady Maramos's prone body. He's not too keen on going to Darkcrest anymore, nor on being around with Lady Maramos awake and fully powered.

“That’s assuming we take the carriage with us,” Orensland said. “I wasn’t really that keen on dragging the elegant black thing with us. Might as well be walking around with gold pieces falling out of our pockets, asking to get robbed.” He nodded at the shoreline. “Let’s head back.”


Sanjin was happy to continue to talk to Sebastien for some time, and was wondering why it was taking so long for Orensland to re-appear. Eventually, however, the young man was tired and decided to head to bed. (He had been offered an unused bed in an abandoned house, like the rest of the party, and though the accommodations were barely more than meager, they were better than sleeping on the ground.)

On bidding him good night, Sanjin left to go find the others. When he finally found them, they were at the shoreline, discussing their options as the final bits of sunlight disappeared. Orensland brought the wizard up to speed.

“We were thinking of caching the money here in Rhun,” Rynn was saying. “We could make a copy of the relevant portions of the ledger to take with us. Perhaps use them in the future to disrupt their operations on Gallidus.”

“Maybe make two copies, and send one to the Knights of the Silver Dragons? Perhaps with Captain Bronzebeard,” Khaska put forth.

“We’ve imposed on Bronzebeard a great deal,” Rynn said. “I’m sure even his patience has limits.”

“That is a good point,” the cleric responded. “But even if Bronzebeard would be unwilling to deliver it himself, I’m sure he could make sure it got to a ship headed to the living side.”

“I know something about sending letters from the Death Side,” Sanjin said. “I send them to my brother at the elven university in Dreqorun. People are usually honorable and pass them along if paid the right amount. I would rather we pay Bronzebeard a fair amount to send such a letter along rather than simply rely on his good graces yet again.”

“A sensible compromise,” Khaska said.

“Now, what to do about Sebastien?” Orensland asked.

“Oh?” Sanjin inquired. “We’re doing something with him?”

“He’ll notice the damage to the carriage,” the shadowdancer said. “It will be obvious that I tried to break in.”

“Ah, that’s why you smell like burning,” Sanjin said. “Trap went off?”

Orensland nodded. “Chain Lightning.”

“Ouch!”

“If we are betraying Lady Maramos, and possibly allying with the centaurs to attack Manson, all while making a copy of her ledger, hiding her cash, and generally doing a great deal of we can to actually undermine her, I feel that Sebastien is becoming a liability,” Rynn said. “We should just kill him.”

Orensland gave a low whistle. “And who’s going to feed Lady Maramos if we do?”

“Nobody has to,” Khaska said. “If she has a stake in her heart she is basically frozen in time. Even if we want to take her to Darkcrest, there’s no need to wake her up before we get there. If we remove the stake once close to Darkcrest, there would be no need for her to feed at all.” The cleric furrowed his brow. “For that matter, maybe we ourselves should take her to Garth Calad, once Manson and his minions are all dead. If she would be a powerful bargaining trip for him, could she not similarly be so for us?”

Sanjin laughed. “I like the idea of dragging around a super-powerful vampire sorceress in whatever way we see fit. I’m so glad I met you guys!”

They talked it over, but between the various things that could go wrong and the liability Sebastien represented, they all decided that he should be killed.

Orensland put his hand on his hilt. “How are we going to explain this murder to the villagers?”

“We’ll think of something,” Khaska said. “You want to do it?”

The shadowdancer shrugged. “I’m the sneaky assassin-type. I’ll go do it right now if we want.”

They all looked at each other.

“We all have to die sometime,” Sanjin said. “Looks like tonight is Sebastien’s time.”

“Could we not do it later, perhaps make it look like an accident?” Khaska asked. The cleric was getting nervous with all of the killing of defenseless people. Skyler was one thing, but now Sebastien, and potentially the remaining Mansonites. All killed by the party and not in combat. (Well, maybe Gill. The Maha’i was beginning to see why perhaps the dwarf wanted to die that way.)

Orensland shook his head. “He’s a liability, and if we’re going to kill him, lets get it over with.” He drew his sword.

“I’ll be back in a bit. You all figure out what we’re going to do with the other Mansonites. I’ll duel Gill if nobody else wants to.” With that, he turned, took a few steps, and then vanished into the night.

He wasn’t worried about killing Sebastien. He had been substantially more nervous about killing Skyler, but in the end, both went about the same. He snuck in, sword drawn, and managed to kill the sleeping human in a single blow. He wiped his sword off and returned to the others.

“I don’t know that we’re going to want to sleep in there tonight,” he said.

“I’ll go tell Jake and ask what we’re doing with the Mansonites tomorrow,” Khaska said.


Jake was disturbed. “You just … murdered him?”

“He was a vampire worshipper who could not be swayed from his path, and was a liability to us,” said Khaska. “There is much evil in the world, and our preventing enslavement and death of thousands of people may very well depend on not getting caught in our ruse. We are not the bodyguards that Lady Maramos thought she hired.”

“And did you kill the bodyguards too?”

“They had murdered and slain other innocents before. Their leader, Kaylee, was a former compatriot of our friend Jenika. Though they had both been raised in the same monastery, Kaylee had turned to evil, and left a trail of misery and even death in her wake.”

“So who gives you the right to decide who dies and who doesn’t?”

“Sometimes the decision is forced upon us. When you fight an animal in the wild, do you stop to discuss the situation with it? Or do you fight to survive? But here, in a village like this, or in a bigger city, there are rules and laws and those that enforce them. For example, what would you have us do with the two Mansonites?”

“They took control of our town, forced us to harbor them and share our food and lodgings with them. But I don’t know if that warrants death.”

“I too am uncomfortable with that, but there seem to be no other good options, and a great many of the townsfolk want them to die for their crimes.”

“A sentence I am uncomfortable carrying out,” Jake said.

“You are the leader of the town,” Khaska said. “We will defer to you.”

There was a knock on the door. It was Rynn, come to invite Khaska to sleep with him on the edge of town, where he was going to set up a small fire. Khaska brought him up to speed on the conversation. Rynn did indeed have something to add. “As a ranger, Jake, you must understand that sometimes wild animals outgrow their niche and need to be put down for the greater good.”

Jake stood. “I understand that, but after you kill the other two, I want you to leave. I know the Cloudlovers have offered to take you elsewhere here on the Death Side. Please go. Tomorrow.” He went to the door and opened it. “You are excused.”

Khaska was disheartened. Their decision to execute the remaining Mansonites did trouble him, though he saw no better way. Even Jake had agreed earlier to execute the remaining Mansonites, though now it seemed the other Maha’i was reluctant to personally carry the execution out. There really wasn’t much crime, so to speak, in such a small village. There was no need for police, or courts, or procedures. People worked out disagreements among themselves or with the help of neighbors.

Rynn, on the other hand, felt relieved. Here was justice, swift and sure, unlike in Hammerdine or Laishtek or any of the other “civilized” cities where true justice was hamstrung by corrupt politicians and conniving merchants, perhaps with the help of shady guardsmen. Here they would just kill those who enslaved others and oppressed them and be done with it.


The next morning Rynn went to go find the Cloudlovers. They assured the ranger they could be ready to go shortly. Sanjin was already there with them, chomping at the bit to get moving.

The ranger thought a public execution might be best. Despite his wanting to just kill the remaining Mansonites, he did understand the need to do so with the townsfolk’s consent, on their behalf. Perhaps, he concluded, it was a small concession to the needs of law. However, when he came into the room with the human Mansonite and explained the situation, the man simply laughed.

“You seek to murder me and make it seem acceptable by doing so in front of the villagers! We’ve saved them! We came here and taught them the light. You darkfriends don’t even know how lost and fallen you are. No matter what you tell yourself you are just as evil as the vampire you serve. At least she knows what she is! You’re just …”

Hearing him go on, Rynn decided that this man could not be redeemed. So he drew his sword and ran the man through. Perhaps it wasn’t a concession to the needs of law after all. The last time he had killed a man tied up before him, while the man had been taunting him, he had wondered if it was the right choice. He had even needed to talk to Khaska about it, to get the cleric’s opinion on his actions. This time … not at all. Ending this man's life was the only way to prevent him from harming others. He, like Manson, couldn't be trusted to live.

The ranger wiped his sword on a clean part of the man's shirt. There would be another grave for Khaska to pray over. And the world was better for it.

Eryx (DM)
Congratulations, BlackWolf. I think that you wanted to make Rynn officially chaotic good.
Now he is.

BlackWolf
Yes, this fits his character progression, and I think you're right in the timing to make it official. But I have one minor quibble — you wrote here that Rynn felt guilt about Adam. That's not correct. Quoting from Codex III - Chapter 7:

"He didn't feel guilt or remorse over what he'd done. After all, the man had been a heartless criminal. But he wondered if it was the right choice. And more than that, he wondered if he'd done it for the right reasons."

And then later:

"I worry that Haalak might not get the information he needs now that Adam is dead."

So really, Rynn never felt guilt about Adam, and none here either. The issue with Adam was really about whether it was the right call; whether the "ranger justice" was the correct way. Rynn wasn't sure before, but further campaign events have changed his mind. He sees no redeeming qualities to this Mansonite, and no reason for him to live on to do more harm. Laws of civilization just interfere with that.

I'm not sure how I feel about Rynn being provoked into the kill like with Adam… there's a lot of overlap, and I'm not sure that "getting his goat" is the trigger for the ranger to kill. I suppose it's fine. But in my mind, Rynn would have been just as willing to just walk away saying something like, "you die at dawn" and then seeing it through in the end. I don't think you necessarily need to rewrite it, but just know that I don't see my character as one that is heading in a path of killing out of anger. I see him more heading down a path of a cold logic — ending these people is the only way to stop them from hurting more people. They can't be trusted to live.

Eryx (DM)
Does that emendation help better convey Rynn's motivations?

BlackWolf
It definitely addressed the issue of whether Rynn felt guilt, and that was the main thing.

The phrase "Rynn had had it," still sounds to me like he's lost his temper though, and I don't see that being a motivation for Rynn to kill. I wonder if something more like, "Hearing him go on, Rynn decided that this man could not be redeemed," would be a bit better? But I'll defer to you as the GM on this; after all, nobody can control their emotions all the time.

Eryx (DM)
I just added your sentence to replace mine. "Rynn had had it," to me, could mean a loss of temper but also just an exasperation with the evil, unrepentant man. "Sheesh, monologuing again?" I appreciate that you defer to me as GM, but you are the player, and I want to do my best to capture y'all's character's traits accurately. I think we're good here.


Gill was thankful for the change to die honorably. Orensland was content to let the dwarf pick any weapon he wanted, as long as he wasn’t armored. The dwarf picked the two-handed mace. The party, with Jake and Amelia, as well as Drikdare and Eapas, escorted them to the outskirts of the town.

“If I win,” Gill said, “then your friends will have to keep fighting me. I’ll keep my oath to Manson. You seem like good folk, but I will not break my oath.” He whispered a command word and the mace shimmered as he activated the merciful enchantment.

Orensland drew his new sword and also said his command word. The sword burst into flame.

“Begin!” the dwarf yelled.

Orensland dropped into a crouch, then lunged forward, quick as a snake. Gill was simply not fast enough. The shadowdancer drew blood and merely danced aside from the ponderously slow blow the dwarven cleric swung at him. Gill swung it back around but in doing so left himself open for another quick strike. The maul hit the ground, cratering in the dirt and sending specks of mud flying, coating most everybody nearby. As he pulled the maul free Orensland came in for an overhead blow. The dwarf moved to block it, but Orensland feinted and then lunged forward. The sword drove right into Gill’s chest, and the dwarf screamed as he brought the hammer down on Orensland’s head. The shadowdancer was protected from any serious damage by the magic of the merciful enchantment, but found himself seeing spots from the blow even as Gill fell backwards onto the ground. Dead.

“Your skill in combat increases,” Rynn said, admiringly.

“Bury the bodies,” Jake said. “I know that you might come back someday to raise Harrison—Captain Bronzebeard has explained the situation, but I don’t know that you will be fully welcome here. You have freed us from Manson’s people, but now I think it best if you leave.”

Khaska was sad, and spoke to Jake for a few minutes as the rest of the party finished loading up the skyship and prepared the graves. Khaska and Amelia prayed over the remaining bodies before interring them. But an hour later it was time to go.

Orensland had stashed the money from Lady Maramos, with Rynn’s assistance, out in the woods somewhere. The ranger would be able to find it again.

Sanjin had spent several hours the night before pouring over the ledger (it too was in draconic) and copying the relevant information. Bronzebeard agreed to try to send it along to the Hammerdine chapter of the Knights of the Silver Dragons for a fee of 10 gold. Sanjin had also made a copy of the relevant information the party could take with them. Khaska wrote a personal letter to Rider Reitman explaining the circumstances, and hoped that it would eventually make its way to the Hammerdine chapter where the party had personally ingratiated themselves with the city officials and with that chapter of the Knights and their leader.

Captain Bronzebeard came up to Orensland. “My sneaky friend,” he said, “I wish you the best of luck. You seem committed to keep jumping in to the jaws of death.”

Orensland shrugged. “If we don’t, then who will?”

The captain reached his hand out. “If you ever need a place to stay or a new adventure to go on, you could find a place with me and my crew if circumstances warrant it. But I hope you are successful with, well, whatever it is you plan to do.”

“Thank you, Captain Bronzebeard,” Orensland said. The two shook hands vigorously.

Khaska said goodbye to Jake, the last to board the ship.

“I know that there has been much awkwardness over our presence and actions,” Khaska said, “but it has been good to meet you, Jake, and to teach you some of the ways of our people. I hope that someday perhaps I might show you more of our lands, should Teresh deem it so.”

“I thank you for your time and conversation, Khaska,” he said. “I perhaps spoke too harshly yesterday evening. If we meet again, I hope it will be less awkward.”

“May Markus guide your steps, Jake of the Mkentek tribe, of the village of Rhun,” Khaska intoned. He stepped forward to give the customary sign of farewell among the Maha’i, placing a hand on Jake’s face.

Jake returned the gesture. “Markus guide you as well, Khaska of the Mawkahvi tribe.”

The Cloudlovers had already said their goodbyes to Wilmin and Xala, and with that, the Rainbow Javelin lifted from the village and sailed off.

Eryx (DM)
That will end this (very long) chapter.

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